2015: Third Quarter Favorites 20 picks from the third quarter of the year

This feature is made possible by Cymbal, a music-sharing app powered by friends, not algorithms. Download and join Tiny Mix Tapes, Domino, Spotify, The Needle Drop, Def Jam, NPR, and many more. [What is this?]

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

Before we enter the final, release-heavy months of 2015, we take a look back at some of our favorites from the last few. And compared to the first two quarters of the year, there was much less consensus this time around at TMT. While Elysia Crampton’s American Drift and M.E.S.H.’s Piteous Gate were near-unanimously praised, albums like Carly Rae Jepsen’s E•MO•TION and Titus Andronicus’s The Most Lamentable Tragedy were refreshingly contentious. Call it an inconsistency of gluttony: from Chief Keef’s devastating weightiness on Bang 3 and Phil Minton’s bold voice experiments on A Doughnut’s End, to the indelible dream pop of Helen’s The Original Faces and the critical esoterica of albums by Yves Tumor, In Media Res, Khaki Blazer, and Eyeliner, the last several months saw our attention being pulled in wildly different directions, our quixotic outlooks stretched out and fried under the hot, boiling sun.

And before you freak out, it should be noted that we were too late to vote on newer releases like Julia Holter’s Have You In My Wilderness, Young Thug’s Slime Season, and Drake & Future’s What A Time To Be Alive, among others. But that’s why we have a year-end feature coming up soon, right?

Scope our favorite 20 releases from the third quarter of 2015 below, followed by a bunch of others that didn’t quite make the cut.

Piteous Gate


At a time in history when even our selves have been spectacularized into a bricolage of alienating images, Berlin’s M.E.S.H. is forging a way out, by forging a way in. The arrhythmic tech-neurotics and disembodied haze-tronics of his debut plunge him further into the artificial tropes that reduce lesser mortals to piles of homogenized click-fodder, yet in his case, they’re melded with such inimitable finesse and singular determination they endow him with more individuality, not less. The explosive clicks and synthetic whoops of an “Epithet” distinguish him from the faceless huddle, while the digitized throbs of the title track imply that behind such manufactured distinction there beats a genuine heart. Yes, a genuine heart, since even if the spectacle may have M.E.S.H. in its clutches, the Berlin-based producer has used it to his advantage and for his own ends, thereby neutralizing its de-individuating effects at the same time as producing what no doubt will prove one of the strongest electronic records of the year.



Future drinks two ounces of codeine and then claims to feel better, over and over. We don’t believe him. We imagine his personal abyss of equal opportunity drug use, new toys, and rich sex, and maybe we avoid glorifying his lifestyle. Or, with DS2 as the twisted template, maybe we aspire to it on some miniature scale. We come back again and again to spend time in the abyss. Over some of the most atmospheric productions to date from Atlanta mainstays like Metro Boomin and Southside, Future lays out every verse as a stream of earworm moments, every chorus an anthemic mantra fit for an infinity of memes and Vine edits. Baroque synth arrangements chime behind foregrounds of crushing percussion patterns. Future hammers his preferred subject matter so consistently that his boasts and his grievances blend together, track after track, into a thick thematic murk that hangs over the album — at once binding it into a remarkably cohesive listen and alienating those who would seek some variety, some reprieve from the purple haze. To the invested, DS2 captures our prophet at the peak of his practice, suspended in liquid, gazing down through the glass at his empire.

Jerusalem In My Heart
If He Dies, If If If If If If


With yearning vocals sung in Arabic and an array of Arabic instruments, the most powerful element of Jerusalem In My Heart’s latest release ends up being its commitment to specificity. Centered around highly expressive playing of an acoustic buzuk and wisps of Arabic pop, the album eschews the universalizing and atheistic spiritualist tendency found in much of drone music’s integration of non-Western musical elements, with central musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (who splits his time between Montreal and Beirut) approaching this synthesis from a perspective that utilizes globalization as a reference point, not as a justification or summation. This allows the historical antecedents of its sounds to come to the forefront in a manner that’s at once powerfully political and deeply moving, situating real historical legacies in a contemporary context. Less fragmented than its predecessor, the album shows little clear divide between “songs” and “soundscapes,” resulting in a tensely heterogeneous and melancholy fabric that feels acutely keyed to a neoliberal age. Treating its production elements as markers of tension and charting its geopolitical context through pools of accumulated static and moments of clarity, If He Dies, If If If If If If earns its title: anxious and committed, desperate and fierce.

Titus Andronicus
The Most Lamentable Tragedy


No need to dance around it: The Most Lamentable Tragedy is Patrick Stickles’s Notes From Underground. Similar in themes and construction to Dostoyevsky’s novella, the album could be described as a semiautobiographical tale of Stickles’s struggles with mental stability. Thus, fitting a five-act metaphorical dive into manic depression, TMLT is built around cycles and mirrored structures: represented by sunrise and seasons, or a medication-addled doppelgänger who encourages the album’s hero to “look on the bright side,” with the songs moving from punk tirades ready to soundtrack a low-serotonin day, through classic-rock vignettes and downright subdued interludes — callbacks to +@’s past work aplenty. Those who have perceived such characteristics as flaws seem to miss that the album (excessive, laborious, self-sabotaging) could not be any other way, for it essentially is a Menippean satire. Take it from a bipolar, Catholic-raised, 30-year-old punk with an eating disorder — shit, Stickles and myself even look alike. Few works of art could approximate our(?) experience as this album does, but that’s incidental. These songs have the potential to reflect any human being with an inconvenient passion, willing to journey into the subterranean spaces of the self, no matter if the proverbial canary has long fallen dead. And that’s what makes TMLT a work of gnothi seauton for the ages.

The Original Faces


The best argument made for why albums withstand our fabricated constraint of time often boils down to… well, time and place. Helen clearly have knowledge on the subject, because what makes The Original Faces seemingly “timeless” just a few weeks after its release is how detached it is from the current timeline. The product of a happy accident at thrash, The Original Faces turns out to be the best case for why dream pop always comes back in fashion. The Chitlin Circuit bass (“Grace”), splashy Frankie-and-Annette drums (“Covered in Shade”), and otherworldly vocals appear out of thin air: a best-case Doc Brown experiment. Take a little of this, a dash of that, and you have Wyld Stallyns. It may seem a weighty proposition, but we’ve been waiting 25 years to escape this bogus journey. Turns out, enduring that interim mad world was well worth it.

Elysia Crampton
American Drift


Terrence Malick’s The New World opens with an incantation by Pocahontas: “Come spirit, help us sing the story of our land. You are our mother; we, your field of corn. We rise from out of the soul of you.”. Elysia Crampton’s American Drift also begins with a prayer: “Here, limit with us, narrow place, stretched and frightfully flayed, oh thing, toad whose home is the rib cage/ Water clench the rock, river run footless, trace the bend, oh bluff wrapped in light, oh talice sloped speared summit, oh earthwork and eyeball, varicose and branch/ Garden, night, cup, calcified/ Garden, night, cup, calcified, here… here.” American Drift is itself an invocation, a culled bustling of a nature whose elements are not all quite natural: of borders drawn from seas before their watery graves were sketched, of attempts at reclaiming what grows within those imagined borders, of ageless rivers rushing with ever-mutating microbes. Rather than explicitly politicizing these so called “Virginial” spaces already shaped and reshaped and fucked by colonization, Crampton lets each atom speak for itself on American Drift, calling into focus a messy, violent, and ultimately true picture of collision at every level. Elysia, help it all sing as it washes over our feet, wiping away our dirt as it wraps our feet in weeds.

Khaki Blazer
Moontan Nocturnal

[Hausu Mountain]

An inconsistency in design, an aesthetics of illegibility, a mutation within a mutation. Do you know anything about techno? Moontan Nocturnal, Pat Modugno’s latest album as Khaki Blazer, is a metaheuristic optimization algorithm in repose, a playing out of sloppy, suffocating loops, samples isolated in frozen chambers, clanky beats breathing life into themselves before transmutating into rhythmic holograms at the event horizon. Khaki Blazer is primal and headed for cosmic, a psychotically-calibrated, electronically-executed, digitally-compressed, toxic-screening journey through sonic grooviness: a distorted chord played with pained expression. The world is coming to an end, but we feel the b[e/u]rn, because we’re moontan nocturnal, vinyl-consuming animals controlling the vibe, manipulating the madness, and sucking in the energy. Hardcore neutronic mutilation. Text out of order. Copy+paste as evolutionary paradigm. Our pointer fingers erect, saying: “just one sec.”

L’Orange & Kool Keith
Time? Astonishing!

[Mello Music Group]

In a recent TMT interview with L’Orange, Samuel Diamond began by asking about the jazz samples (specifically ragtime and gypsy) used in the Kool Keith MC’d release of Time? Astonishing!. The beat-maker responded by explaining that he liked “the lo-fi recording and the sloppiness of not only being able to do it once, but the precision to be able to do it once.” Not only does L’Orange’s admiration for musical talent fit hand-in-hand with Kool Keith’s breathless lyrical flow, but also the effort he most likely spent digging, ripping, producing, and mixing these samples can be compared to the refined skill and talent of Django’s left hand. And the album is (loosely) about time-travel, giving L’Orange room to explore dream-state rhythms and melodies, while Kool Keith is allowed “to be abstract and indulge in his non-sequitur style.” Yes, Time? Astonishing! is conceptual and old-school, two musicians getting together and proving faith-based music-making still works. Fuck with it when you have the time.

Carly Rae Jepsen


Are you ready for the future? Sponsored content. Data-driven work and play. The internet is nowhere and nothing, my void, my home. The first banality most rock critics will tell you about modern pop music is that it’s “all about the shareholders.” Return on investment. Middle of the road. Data-optimized. Still, I feel like the easiest way to make a lot of money in entertainment is to make really funny Vines. In the future, every normie will get a Tesla for their 16th birthday. But actually: modern pop music is, like, the most liberal-democratic music ever. I listen to bangers, Interscope™ peeps my data, CRJep makes more bangers. The body politic. Is that how it works? idk. Universal themes get boring. Why did anyone ever think it made sense to compare culture to a road or a system of roads? Still, this music whispers and shouts of moonlit backstreets, lovers’ lanes of resistance, in every American town. The “real” environment beyond the right-swipe. The flesh obscured by data, 5’11”, Christian, not looking for hookups. Private places to practice the cultural vulgarity of some vulnerable, truthful utterance. I Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Like You!

In Media Res
リンキンパーク: Quindecim, Triginta Septem, and Viginti Sex

[Exo Tapes]

The pathway through Whatever into the middle of things: This trinity/trilogy contains within each of its entries the codes to its entirety. 15, 26, 37, and the secret affective interzones between chanting and looping and sampling. Quindecim (EXOCDR005): You’re young, you love creation. “Vereda” means sidewalk, its offset (stolen?) sequenced strings map/dream your self-becoming pace. Viginti Sex (EXOCDR006): You’re older, you love destruction. “It’s a damn cold night” for some Eccojaming, and you’re pretty sure the song resembled something else before it was reassembled. Triginta Septem (CDR007): You’re older still, you had to find God. The order and disorder exist within the cloudy (vapor-ous) confines of the transparent (checkered) sleeve, a vessel of confession that betrays clarity for confusion, a mess of intention and carelessness. But the sequence of all numbers above is a little too neat for our/their purposes. Repeatedly, and delayed. An infinite body reaches out its giant claw to cradle our spirit. In Media Res makes this cradle a capsule that inspires devotion to the suspending sprawl of Whatever. But we don’t feel numb, when there’s all that we can do with this emotion.

Rabit & Chino Amobi
The Great Game: Freedom From Mental Poisoning

[Halcyon Veil]

Not that it’s strictly possible, but as a sort of game, go ahead and try to imagine the sounds on Rabit and Chino Amobi’s The Great Game: Freedom From Mental Poisoning as this thing scraping this thing, over and over. The swelling stabs that open the mix are here to clear the gunk you’ve collected. Imagine bubbling chirps in the background space acting as one-to-one representatives of you guzzling gallons of this stuff, the carbonated beverage that sponsors your soul on every lunch break you’ve ever taken. Challenge yourself to feel the fizz well up and pulse your nervous system as it funnels out this stuff, all the while filling the spaces behind these things ever faster with what used to be this stuff. And imagine all of that making its way again through veins and arteries toward, again, this thing, which is, don’t forget, repeatedly being cleaned up by this thing under the watchful eye of this thing. It’s not a sport because, in the end, none of us will win or lose. It’s a game.

Galcher Lustwerk
I Neva Seen / Parlay


One of the great tragedies of 2013 is that TMT did not give 100% Galcher a five-star review. Hell, the mix’s confident effervescence, sublime charm, and undeniably hypnotic vocal delivery should soundtrack only the most transcendent night drives and party comedowns well into the next decade, as only the best deep house cuts can (e.g., Aly-Us’s “Follow Me,” Theo’s Parallel Dimensions). As far as I’m concerned, the work is one of the great mixes of our time, a piece so confident in its delivery that it seems by mere chance that it propped its feet up on the hell-bar of early tween 2010s, sleepy-eyed and best-dressed in the troublesome context of contemporary electronic music — as if to say, “calm. the fuck. down.” So, naturally, many of the mix’s best cuts are getting released on vinyl by Lustwerk himself on his own imprint. He’s been laying down the lax synths and steadily blithe rhythms onto wax, undoubtedly the sexiest of formats, primed for our bedrooms rather than the aux-cable-and-soundcloud format that’s preferred by sloppy car DJs (me) who wear down the “grooves” of the stream-feed into the 100,000 play count on drunken nights. “Parlay” is a triumph — if you don’t know it yet, maybe you never will. I was invited to go check out Galcher spin his new discs in the MoMa sculpture garden a few weeks back; dude’s vibe was making De Kooning, Björk, and really all of MoMa look like they had no chill.

Chief Keef
Bang 3

[FilmOn Music/Glo Gang]

Since its original release date of Christmas 2013, the enigma that was Chief Keef’s follow-up to Finally Rich pushed Bang 3’s speculation to near Yeezy levels. Will it ever come out? Did Keef scrap the whole album again? Did Interscope mess with the album? Even the Glohive here at TMT was stretching thin in ways to describe our uncertainty. Then BANG BANG: August 1 hits and Bang 3 comes out three weeks earlier than its latest proposed release date. Pessimism gone – Bang 3 was finally here. The heavily auto-tuned, syrup-soaked turn Keef took after Finally Rich – a span that had more ups (Nobody, Almighty So, Back From The Dead 2, Almighty DP) than downs (Big Gucci Sosa, Sorry For The Weight) – is buffered to a minimal in Bang 3, putting it closest to his studio debut in Keef’s discography. But his mixture of newfound introspection and past street domineerings separates itself from the rest. The Mac Miller-featuring “I Just Wanna” has Keef listing what he wants, which is nothing exuberant: to get by, live his life, to shine. Over an incredible flip of “Every Breath You Take”/”I’ll Be Missing You” by The Animaniacs, Keef, with the help of Jenn Em, is as direct as he’s ever been, detailing the death of his cousin Big Glo and reflecting on life back in Chicago – a now-distant world from his new life in Southern California. These songs are plugged between weed-loving, gun-toting, money-getting monologues, with drill-esque beats that make Bang 3 worth the weight.

Poison Season


It’s almost every day that something Dan Bejar has sung comes to mind unprompted, always sort of smug, clever, usually brilliant. “It’s hell down here, it’s hell.” Down here? Probably anywhere mortal. “Girl, I know what you’re going through/ I’m going there too.” A new Destroyer album feels like a new used car, someone else’s familiarity translating slowly into your own. Maybe you decide to keep that politically unclear, faded bumper sticker left caked on by a previous owner, out of some dedication to a vaguely objective sense of history. Similarly, Poison Season develops its sound out of Kaputt, without trying to subvert that album’s many successes. Bejar dives deeper into the soul of that nocturnal sound he revived a few years back, finds down there chaos and cocktails too sweet to finish. Messier and more prone to diversion, Poison Season still works with a Bejarian logic, organizing itself around and between several chapters of “Times Square” songs, like snakes at work on a caduceus. Destroyer sounds triumphant on “Dream Lover,” desperate on “Hell,” teary and poignant on “Bangkok,” a little funky and gnomic on the new, dubby recording of “Archer on The Beach.” Poison Season is another Destroyer album, another map/treasure dyad for us to wrap ourselves absolutely around.

Buy Now

[Beer on the Rug]

Luke Rowell’s online hub, or “Internet Resort,” features a back-catalog of his projects as both Disasteradio and Eyeliner. It’s a brightly-colored collage of anti-sleek paraphernalia that introduces his approach to the production and musical styles he holds dear — a broken mirror of cheesy pop, funk, and New Age jams that might fit nicely alongside a 90s in-house, team-building presentation. Indeed, the New Zealand-based artist latches on to those clichéd and corny aesthetics, and fuses them with moments of boogie and trance to create his own superficial, corporate vibe. But whereas Eyeliner has previously been about negotiating tacky, throwaway commercial samples and repackaging them, Buy Now has been pumped full of soul to give it an almost frightening feeling of sincerity. Each track is slick and refined, breathing new life into a musical era that grossly misread its own potential; the album’s tangy overlap into modern dance music results in some wonderfully catchy melodies and heady buildups. When taking into account the foundation of this project and the styles that form its unique qualities, that’s a pretty staggering feat. No other album on this list will have been birthed from a musical style that sounds so “bad,” and for that, Buy Now deserves a place as one of our unrivaled favorites.


[Mexican Summer]

A Year With 13 Moons, Everything Else Matters, Sleep Through It, I Wasn’t Born to Lose You, The Original Faces, and Static Daydream — these are the cream-of-the-crop shoegaze albums that have come out in 2015. I feel like Tamaryn’s Cranekiss deserves a slot here, too. For two albums prior to it, Tamaryn and guitarist Rex John Shelverton cranked out incredibly dense, guitar-heavy dream-pop; if many of Tamaryn’s other fans had their way, Cranekiss would sound a lot like The Waves and Tender New Signs. But choosing this time to work with Weekend’s Shaun Durkan and getting Ariel Pink/No Joy producer Jorge Elbrecht to work the boards resulted in a significantly different album. When Tamaryn told V Magazine that she was attempting to reference both Art Of Noise and Madonna while still working within the realm of shoegaze, she wasn’t kidding. Her overtly pop vocals rub up against the kind of synthetic textures common in works by Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro, yet these things swim here in a fog of ethereal reverb and glide guitar that tie it into the shoegaze realm. And in a genre known for its latent sensuality, Tamaryn upends expectations by foregrounding sexuality itself and, in the process, ends up with some of her best work yet.

Yves Tumor
When Man Fails You


Rolling drums, noodling guitars, and ephemeral words. The exact nuances of meaning expressed by each layer were second in line to the overriding texture of opening track “Mssng Naw.” The single effect produced by the harmonious whole was powerful and persuasive. It was also symbolic of Yves Tumor — the alias of an elusive totality, whose other projects include Bekelé Berhanu, Shanti, Rahel Ali, and as part of Silkbless. Before Yves’s feature on Dogfood Music Group’s C-ORE — a compilation of united voices — the tracks on When Man Fails You sounded like single bodies, pushing microscopic solidarity in sound beyond its aural confines through an abiding synthesis of lush piano loops and affected Kylie Minogue on “Slow (Subcutis Version)” or the harsh noise of “Keloidal (Porto Novo),” with a gothic air.

Heather Woods Broderick

[Western Vinyl]

Glider comes at you softly, carefully, as a gentle presence, assuring and understanding. It’s been here before, it knows your feelings. They’re something familiar, of course, and it has stories to tell you to take your mind off your problems. But at first, you find it too cold, too frail, and you’re shocked at how slow it moves from faded guitar to soporific piano to mouthy multi-track — perhaps you don’t believe it. In fact, you say it’s an alien, a ghost; you say it’s barely there. You don’t want to hear it drone on; in fact, it reminds you of death. But then a strange, keen mind emerges; you spot it from a shrewd turn of phrase you can’t ignore, a sudden rush of human warmth and sympathy glowing from Heather Woods Broderick’s voice and the soft music that aligns just right, and you realize it’s just trying to connect with you and share something that it’s learned. Can you just listen for a second?

Phil Minton
A Doughnut’s End


Aren’t we all living the endgame? Austerity. Fiscal collapse. Corporate greed. The senescence of the body itself. A Doughnut’s End is a culmination of sorts, what with it being the purported final album in Phil Minton’s solo singing series and a decidedly less optimistic outlook, but it’s not without its contradictions. Too exploratory to provide any kind of eschatological closure, A Doughnut’s End is an exercise in revolting vocal technique and mangled language, flitting between any and every (in)conceivable function of the larynx, teeth, and lips. Alternately resonant and breathless, Minton’s improvisations are as much a vocalization of collective discontent as a personal one: few albums this year have evoked disgust and terror quite as excitingly as here, a record documenting the wordless yelps of one man. The abandonment of existing lexicon and narrative is a challenging prospect, yet Minton pulls it off with both intrigue and humor. “After all, singing is only living flesh and muscle vibrating in air.”


[Halcyon Veil/NON]

Angelo Valerio’s ANGEL-HO was born from the artist’s performance practice: a weaponized body launched by means of race- and gender-shattering theater at all those fixed and oppressive boundaries of culture and state. Translated to the mode of pure sound and co-transmitted via Rabit’s Halcyon Veil and Chino Amobi, Nkisi, and Valerio’s co-founded NON, ANGEL-HO becomes an even greater force. All the moorings slip, the bass aerates, the body ascends — ASCENSION bumps by its own fundamental laws. Wide-open space, acidic noise, and globally-sourced dance rhythms react by a paranormal physics. The rapidly globalizing sound of Jersey Club coils with the still quite local South African style of Qgom. It wire-walks above sheer musique concréte. Dogs bark, demonic horses whinny, tires squeal, and guns blast in nigh incidental rhythmic fashion. The idea of space and its power asserts itself above all. Valerio has spoken of the EP as a dredging up of the oft-ignored dislocation and fracturing of colored peoples throughout his home of Cape Town’s violent history. In this light, ASCENSION becomes a metaphor for the way club music can produce emancipatory, but never thoughtless or sterile, public space.


Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss

Color Plus - Netcika
DeJ Loaf - #AndSeeThatsTheThing
easyFun - easyMix
EVOL - Flapper That

FKA twigs - M3LL155X

Frog Eyes - Pickpocket’s Locket
Good Willsmith - Snake Person Generation
Helm - Olympic Mess
Kane West - Expenses Paid

Kuedo - Assertion of a Surrounding Presence

Laughing Eye Weeping Eye - Once Was You
Machine Girl - Gemini: HEAVEN/HELL
Miguel - Wildheart
Patrick Higgins - Social Death Mixtape

+you - World Tour

RetcH - Finesse The World
RP Boo - Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints
Tink - Winter’s Diary 3
toiret status - ObenjO

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 Cymbal, a music-sharing app powered by friends, not algorithms. Download and join Tiny Mix Tapes, Domino, Spotify, The Needle Drop, Def Jam, NPR, and many more. [What is this?]

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