2015: Second Quarter Favorites 20 picks from the second quarter of the year


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For each year's first three quarters, we celebrate by sharing a list of our favorite music releases. Unlike our year-end lists, these quarter features are casually compiled, with an aim to spotlight the underdogs and the lesser-heard among the more popular picks. More from this series


Disgusting hybrid outgrowths. Nebulous movements of rhythm. Ontological nihilism. The last three months can’t be easily reduced to pithy storylines, but there were certainly themes that arose from our favorite releases. From Jenny Hval’s apocalypse to Angel-Ho’s death drops to Prurient’s suffocating aesthetics, many of our picks had an oppressiveness to them, a weight that simultaneously crushed us and opened up new environments. In fact, a privileging of “place” was explored quite thoroughly — both implicitly and explicitly — by artists like Hafdís Bjarnadóttir, Jessica Smurphy, and Beat Detectives, who complemented the world-building, re-/de-constructive efforts that took the voice (C. Spencer Yeh), the beat (STAYCORE, Dr. Yen Lo), the signifier (Holly Herndon), and the medium (D/P/I, Lil Ugly Mane) to task. The reach, as always, became ever extended, whisking us away in bustling moments of ecstasy (Container), expansion (Jlin), and nuance (Young Thug), leaving us writhing in its dizzying, unrelenting onslaught. And we’re only halfway through the year! <3 <3

Check out our favorite 20 below, with 25 other releases listed at the end that didn’t make the final cut. Our favorites from the first quarter can be found here.


Sicko Mobb
Super Saiyan Vol. 2

[Self-Released]

As boundaries between modalities historically arranged in hierarchies continue dissolving and recalcifying, TMT, like all publications, has been challenged with embracing cosmopolitanism while retaining a critical and idiosyncratic voice. In our EUREKA! section, we’ve made room for narrative sincerity, appreciated slight but significant shifts within genre, and even forgone rubrics all together. Certainly, a sense of generosity has been integral in finding value amidst a growing pile of shit, but bumping Super Saiyan Vol. 2 feels like penance for ever thinking shit like this needed our generosity. Soe Jherwood’s review wasn’t simply an argument for its inclusion; it was an echo of our collective praise, a compendium of examples of why we should be actively looking for EUREKA! moments both in front of our faces and in the shadows. Super Saiyan Vol. 2 violently bucks every stereotype that syrupy, populist music is inherently regressive; every second here is aggressively forward-thinking, never breaking for ANYTHING or ANYONE. So when you see us bopping along, it isn’t a consolation; it’s a declaration of freedom from our outdated systems of aesthetic gerrymandering. Super Saiyan Vol. 2 is a document of “finding it!” but our response is just as much a statement of its stupefying power.

Angel-Ho
Death Drop From Heaven

[NON]

Call it Arcadia — a mountainous place offering peace and simplicity — or Elysium — the blessed abode of the dead — Angel-Ho is cut from above, a celestial, albeit salacious, attendant to the supreme. The suggestive Death Drop From Heaven fell nigh to Ho’s “Luxurious (Credit Card Mix)” and tracks from Chino Amobi and Nkisi, with the launch of NON — “a collective of African artists, and of the diaspora, using sound as their primary media, to articulate the visible and invisible structures that create binaries in society, and in turn distribute power.” DDFH, from the materially Cape Town-based Angelo Antonio Valerio, had us especially parched; there’s a hellish heat in contact with otherwise chilling segments in this 27-minute mix. Embarking on frantic percussion, the mix dissolves into dark synths and a choral glaze, while fracturing flashes of miscellany and hard-hitting kicks repeatedly interpose “I ain’t playin’ with these…”

Sufjan Stevens
Carrie & Lowell

[Asthmatic Kitty]

Death is written all over Carrie & Lowell, just as it’s written all over us. The “one-winged dove,” whose flight endows our regrets, afflictions, failings, and mistakes with a radical finality, burdens Sufjan Stevens’s embroidered guitar and forlorn melodies with more weight than he can possibly carry. Yet it’s not death itself that lends the Michigander’s haunted eulogies their poignancy; it’s death as a symbol of the essential distance, absence, and longing that separates us from each other while we’re all still alive. Through the unbridgeable gap of death, Stevens’s fragile picking and humane poetry remind us that there’s always an unbridgeable gap separating us from our loved ones, and that even if I manage to move a little closer to you over the course of our lives, there’s always a “black shroud” that tears us apart even before it tears us apart.

Jlin
Dark Energy

[Planet Mu]

But I don’t want to become a stereotype.” And I suspect there is no greater threat to the reception of a work of art than its predetermined categories and the ways in which they strip an object of its emotional resonance by virtue of their solidity. But categories aren’t starting points; they’re negotiations, worked and unworked out — in jest and in terror — over time. A steel worker from Gary, Indiana doesn’t make an album, but is borne from it: “This album took my entire life to make.” So to listen to Jlin’s Dark Energy is to negotiate its dark matters — beyond the posturing of identity and genre alike — and thrust into its in/human aggressions, its uncomfortably permeable boundaries, and its ceaseless bearing into the future of itself — and beyond: It’s who I am. And it’s a remarkable work of art, whoever you are.

Prurient
Frozen Niagara Falls

[Profound Lore]

If only the new sincerity were the self-lacerating and ulcerous tones of Frozen Niagara Falls and not the bland, non-denominational yearnings of David Foster Wallace and The Arcade Fire. A monument to a 15-year career of bitter musical cynicism across many forms, with each dragged out for their most blunt emotional effects — apocalyptic neofolk, noise, EBM, harsh noise, cold wave, etc. — Frozen Niagara Falls is as diverse, emphatic, and heartfelt a work as any from those sensitive souls. But it also has a fevered cynicism and ontological nihilism that those works fail to muster, making it a far better moss icon for a shattered contemporary urbaninity. A sweeping and fractured rendering of NYC, the core of abasement that runs through Fenrow’s career defaces the self-seriousness of both its most maudlin moments — “I promise to only fuck prostitutes” — and its hyper-specific suicide souvenirs while leaving their brute force intact — “waking up in Beth Israel.” Almost absurdly epic while, of course, a resolute anti-epic, it’s perhaps the first Prurient release to connect, even as it laughs bitterly at the idealism of connection (let’s remember not to take the blunt emotion of those 80s keys at face value, even if they still hurt) and plunges its head into both a searing vat of noise and the ceaseless churn of fetid NYC human bodies. Connection as abject dispersal, harsh noise as melodramatic modern song.

For each year's first three quarters, we celebrate by sharing a list of our favorite music releases. Unlike our year-end lists, these quarter features are casually compiled, with an aim to spotlight the underdogs and the lesser-heard among the more popular picks. More from this series




This feature is made possible by ChangeTip. Tip your favorite artists via SoundCloud, YouTube, and Twitter. [What is this?]


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