2016: First Quarter Favorites 20 picks from the first three months of the year

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

Just a quarter into 2016 and it already feels like we’ve experienced the full emotional and sensorial spectrum of a year’s worth of music. And given how much we listen to these days, we sorta have, comparatively speaking: We got the big album (The Life of Pablo), the critically acclaimed album (untitled unmastered.), and the pop album (Vroom Vroom); the misfit (LEXACHAST), the mixtape (Purple Reign), and the miscellaneous (Arigato). But try as we might to sanctify and fetishize just 20 out of an increasingly ridiculous amount of great music being released, our favorites this quarter are already looking to the future. From Dean Blunt’s Babyfather and Young Thug to Charli XCX and 18+, more than half of the artists on this list have either already dropped a new release or are planning one (or more) for later this year. Crazy times.

Before we get to the list, here are releases that we loved but didn’t make this cut: Lucrecia Dalt’s Ou, Blithe Field’s Face Always Toward the Sun, Lil Yachty’s Lil Boat, Eric Copeland’s Jesus Freak, Why Be’s famished 003, LIL UGLY MANE’s Oblivion Access, Katie Got Bandz’s Drillary Clinton 3, The Body’s No One Deserves Happiness, Sicko Mobb’s Super Saiyan Vol 3, Future’s EVOL, Josephine Foster’s No More Lamps In The Morning, Lil B’s Thugged Out Pissed Off, Aluk Todolo’s Voix, Matmos’ Ultimate Care II, Mikael Seifu’s Zelalem, Pinkshinyultrablast’s Grandfeathered, Space Camp 1991’s Space Camp 1991, and David Bowie’s Blackstar.

Brood Ma


[Tri Angle]

Yah, dystopia reeks. Anthro-alphabetic paradigms keep getting written into rocks. We are overtaken and infatuated with intensely overstimulating our small, shitty human brains that regularly ruin everything. We consume byte-sized grains of regime. We file them in arrays of ridiculous, jumbo images. Images drip as Hard Wear, as Thorium and NRG. Images drip as sonic precodes shifting and producing essential strands of malignant code. Images rot like organic structures throbbing with diseased life. Brood Ma’s trance-inducing gamification of image-sound spawns music as flighty, small, and vexing as it is leviathan. Metallurgic textures descend into plate-shifting blasts of geo-sound. Silvery video game dust is blown all over the mix. Molten cores of human-hatred pool — attempting to melt shoddily-built structures back into primordial shapes — a cloud of poisonous gas, a mesa of weird ore. DAZE is a bitter, harsh cloning of geologic sound functioning as an unforgiving critique on net-concrete “club” musicology. Early in 2016, we see the crusts of net-movements cast as an elemental friction between planet and image — with tension building evermore, no release in sight.

Charli XCX

Vroom Vroom [EP]

[Vroom Vroom]

Keep up! High-heeled socks were manufactured for this world of fierce friction. And 2016 will be the hardest year yet. So meet me at Jeff’s party around 9? Danny L Harle is doing a DJ Challenge in the city after 1 AM. We’ll warm up while living-room dancing to Charli XCX’s Vroom Vroom EP [SET TO REPEAT]. Featuring an infinite jest of racket from Hannah Diamond and queen-bee SOPHIE, Vroom Vroom is the experience needed in leveling up life to its(!!!!!!!!!!!!!) fullest. Success is within reach. Buckle up, bb-boii. Charli XCX is your getaway driver. Let’s ride this secret together.

The Savage Young Taterbug

Shadow of Marlboro Man


In spite of how you may feel after listening to The Savage Young Taterbug for the first time, Charles Free is everything but a mystery man; he’s the wind in your hair, a soft bandage on a fresh wound, and the first sip of sweet lemonade on a hot summer’s day. The gooey hum of his deep-fried folk offers a fumbling hand onto a degraded scene of melancholic posturing and harmonious distortion. His nonchalant charm creeps through the cracks of confessional lyrics that tug on our heartstrings through the most warped, rugged instrumentation. And for all those rough-edged production tropes, the music comes saturated in a demeanor that’s unmistakably sincere. On “The Paperstud,” Free’s first single from Shadow of Marlboro Man, the frazzled loops of Journeyman’s Cheddar are evaporated to reveal the tender skeleton responsible for shaping his most contorted and distinct abstractions. Whether he’s grumbling over a potential love interest or distorting his voice to fit the frazzled wave of his guitar strings, Free’s latest tape exists as a glistening gemstone while remaining one of the most humble recordings of the year so far.


Savage [EP]

[Purple Tape Pedigree]

Gettin’ real savage out here. These streets, on unseen knees, in the dark, breaking through a fence, into a riddim, with the hi-hats on fire. Neotropical like say global warming again. Sweating in a bed in the darkness, inhaling fumes, dying fast. Sword-wielding enemies come out of the amplifiers. Dancehall, dancehall. Jamaica, Jamaica. UK armor; melody as sword, bass as shield. Endgame’s fantasy that music can do damage, not just to eardrums, but to limbs and neurons. Enter the Territory of the Jamaican Samurai. Action figures, comic books, comic book stores. Dirty newspapers dancing in a momentary whirlwind. There will be aggressive stares in the club, but Endgame’s music can handle them. Murders, there will be more murders in the world. Dead bodies piled up. Alive bodies bodied up in a dark space. Samurais walking in the fog. Endgame, in the fog.


Late Nights: The Album

[Def Jam]

Lately, I’ve been feeling down about my generation’s preferred method of exchange and what that says about what we supposedly value in our relationships “these days.” We Netflix and Chill, Snapchat split-second booty calls, swipe right for a good time. And we’re into it, for as long as our favorite show is free to stream. Until that awkward lull between seasons, between text messages, between Drake single releases. And it feels good while it lasts, until it doesn’t. Lately, I’ve been bumping this shit nonstop, wondering when it’ll all wear off like that glint peeking out th’ blanket top, 20 minutes in, 3 months down. And then it hits me, like when New Girl trips you up because you notice yourself somewhere in Zooey’s hair: this Jeremih dude’s finding it in between blunt hits and blimp rides, and yet there’s nothing dispassionate about it. And now I’m sitting on my couch with 16 inches of bacon cheese bread, finished with every available season of Louie, but I’m on like my 10th spin of Late Nights this week, liberated by its charm, feeling like the world is mine.

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

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