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

Kanye West

The Life of Pablo

[GOOD/Def Jam]

“What if Kanye made a song about Kanye?” Truth is, every Kanye song is about Kanye, just as every tweet, album drop, or fashion show is flecked with that miscreant persona he’s been cultivating ever since the days of pink polos and backpacks. The Life of Pablo is at once a toast to the douchebag, a “topology of monstrosity,” and a love letter: to the beautiful mornings, to Equinox, to wives and mothers; in which Mr. West rediscovers his formerly lost soul. Kanye, like Barth before him, knows that we are all cut from divine cloth — just listen to “Waves” or that Sister Nancy flip and feel his beatific vision, the god dream, shine like sunlight filtering through the blinds. But it’s hard to be a god, and perhaps TLOP will never truly be perfect as a consequence of its own Desiign/er, as a living, breathing, changing creative expression. Such is the nature of what Kanye is staking here, an attempt to shift from the ossified concept of an Album and rendering it mutable to its creator’s mercurial whimsy. And so, I say this: “I belong to Pablo” (Which / One?), and as we grow and thrive in the coming months, TLOP can only do so too.




Water resistance is a drag, a dance revolution: abrasive and erosive, resplendent and viscous. Like the apocalypse-pastoral cross-section of its (Chino Amobi) cover, SAN BENITO is something that shapes and overflows our perspective with the beautiful force of rupture, sounding against the fibreweb hold of history’s invisibalizing horizon. It’s pleasing; it’s pained. MORO’s decolonizing dance music for NON (not doing; not involved with; not of the kind or class described) WORLDWIDE (extensive; diasporic; not international) is the reclamation and defamation of tango from Argentina’s whitewashing shallows, seaweed-fed and scary. Beneath the surface tension of the noise is the skin friction that this release listens against. A rhythm treasure that beats with stormy, declarative purpose, it remembers who woke up killed in action, passage after passage. No petrichor without ash, no sleep without bloodshed. MORO rewrites the conclusion in howling wolves, unsheathed swords, fluttering wings, half-halted screams, air raid sirens, detonating shells, emotional organs, and all along the endless undertow push and pull of the tide against the shore. The water you’re waiting for.


Cocaine Daughter

[Hospital Productions]

Slow-roasted corpse wrapped in pay-by-the-hour motel bedding. Six dead after a bus driver lost control, crashing into the highway below. Two dead after a home invasion; hear the chilling 911 call. A child walks alone in the woods. This weekend will see four feet of snow. A nurse pulls the plug and she breathes. The door was open. Child drowns during a six year old’s birthday party. The police are under investigation after video emerges of a man being shot point blank in the chest. There’s a cabin above us. A city searches tonight for a young girl last seen playing in her yard. A drug ring expands their reach. A past death buried, watered, and trimmed. She was last seen wearing a green coat, jeans, and white shoes. The market fell again as tensions with the East rise. Drone strike appears to have hit a schoolyard. Old names recycled into new existence. Pretend your past is relevant. Six months into sleeping under the Western Ave bridge. Body found. A tape recovered.

Young Thug

I’m Up

[300 Entertainment/Atlantic]

No one in their right mind would claim that I’m Up is one of Thugger’s finest releases to date. With Slime Season 3 just released and his much-anticipated/-delayed official debut, Hy!£UN35, due in the summer, we highly doubt that I’m Up will even be the best record he puts out this calendar year. Nevertheless, I’m Up’s value isn’t really measurable by the Aspergian systems of ranking that we call music criticism; to the contrary, this minor album’s considerable merits are correlated more to its dashed-off effortlessness than to any sense of ambition. This is a demonstration of Young Thug at his most nonchalant, coolly showboating between touchdowns, a welcome reminder for old fans — and perhaps an assurance to new ones — that winning isn’t always the best reason to play the game. Not that Young Thug really seems to do anything but win, mind you. Just look at that artwork: this is Young Thug’s world; we just inhabit it. He’s not just gonna let success slip away from him, major label machinations be damned. I’m Up is his way of letting us know that he doesn’t have anything else to prove. He’s ready. He’s happy. He’s next. He’s up.




Trip Metal is a phrase associated with confusion and the acceptance that such a feeling is universal and should be embraced. An ecosystem, in a telluric sense, devoid of organic growth, devolves into total self-consumption and eventual obliteration. In a mellifluous sense, flourishment abides by no soil-based rules. A parrot will often not leave its perch while caged. The height must give into the instinct of being above it all. Shaken stimuli is cut clean along border paper and white-walls with #expensive ART hung, as glum tummies fold against glum tummies. Within this confounding human bash, ADR’s Deceptionista runs alongside the stagecoach and the hovercraft.

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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