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



18+

FORE

[Self-Released]


Sexy and sleek, like the best he-said she-said R&B, FORE’s full of trappy anthems for the coked-up camslut lurking inside every bloated body on the internet. Following up on 2014’s excellent Trust, 18+ throws art-school ambition at the sex-playlist genre. It’s House of Balloons with PC Music pretext, music that knows when to shut up with the specifics and hit you with naughty feelings. Collaborators Justin Swinburne and Samia Mirza both live in L.A., but they prefer to work separately, sending each other files of their recent projects, and we can hear that disconnect in the smothered emotions that filter through standout tracks like “headinmyway (drone).” Like a knockout Tinder match who feeds you pills the moment you meet, this one’s worth adding to your rotation.



Kendrick Lamar

untitled unmastered.

[Top Dawg/ Aftermath/ Interscope]


The body wheels an elbow over its attacker, pivots on its heels, and with sneakers smacking hardwood, an Atlas shoves. The body breaks away from the Earth, a fadeaway liftoff, the Olympian ascending. Watch the lips: “levitate, levitate, levitate, levitate.” The body, Lebron, lands, hauls down a basket and untitled unmastered. What’s it sound like, Lebron? “It’s not the funk monograph of Butterfly, maybe because what we need now is the fractured unknowns, the wash of artist as young black man. The damn thing has been pimped and we are in flight; Kendrick can’t be untitled unmastered ever again, right? And it’s all over the songs, the sureness, the dread, the glee, the abandon. It starts with a come-on, ends in the manic groove, who we? what now? And he just raps, trapping the things we crane for in the space between palette and teeth. It’s the sketch of the artist as the young man sketching. It’s not the Finals. It’s an intake, the shootaround, a levitation. But you have to be there when it’s the game’s best. It’s the body and the voice that you want taking the shot as the clock hits zero.”



Yearning Kru

Copper Vale

[Planet Mu]


In this day and age, the hard and simple truth is that it’s not that difficult to find strange, disorienting electronic music. We certainly aren’t complaining here at TMT (as this list might’ve tipped you off), yet still, there’s something special about Copper Vale, Yearning Kru’s debut release from Planet Mu. The gurgling mutations strewn about Copper Vale aren’t merely the latest iterations of an ever-fracturing digital landscape, but rather the moldy residue left in the wake of that progress. These lurching processionals, hewn to pieces then melded back onto one another to yield maximum stickiness, speak to a between-ness that’s all too rare in the dialectic of artistic upheaval. The discomfort that seeps through the pores of Copper Vale is numbing to the point that it actually breaks through our preconceived barriers of what “psychedelic,” “tactile,” and “futuristic” mean, achieving a newer and more alarming liberation. Referring to these nine pieces as “tracks” feels unfair; though the claustrophobia of the laptop is present here, Yearning Kru takes our emerging neofuture and flattens it into a paste, rejecting the kind of directional movement or acceleration we might crave from our ever-improving fifth appendages. Instead, he serves us up a different theory: the final frontier isn’t in the stars — it’s stuck to the bottom of our shoes.



DJWWWW

Arigato

[Orange Milk]


If Meek Mill said, “It’s levels to this shit,” then DJWWWW was like nah, frick that and instead made Arigato, just the type of EVERYTHING MUSIC jumpoff we lust for ‘round TMT to surgically prod and homeopathically massage out that primeval, “what even is music?” curiosity from our jaded, literally perfect bone structures. ‘Cause foreground/background, macro/micro, source/sample: they got literally bodied therein, like, err’body a formless organ unto another freek constellation. Like, time is a texture that ain’t always soft, and this joint was spiny! Vines and rappers, straight Ideas and shit pulled up, dressed like samples, and spit a rousing chorus of “Whatup, doe?” ‘Cause DJWWWW’s the type of DJ who makes you forget there was a DJ. Like it was God rode the razorback particles of cybertime out this Transformer heart. Arigato put the Fear of God in us, b.



Babyfather

Platinum Tears

[Self-Released]


The streets have a bad grudge and, for Babyfather (Blunt, Dean), the only refuge is in the surface of everything. In the merciless duration of a sample repeated in a bizarre rhythm, as if arguing against rhythm. In the “background” of muddy, middley frequencies, the navigation of which is considered so difficult that Idris Elba called Blunt “brave” for sticking to it. The surface brings freedom. It brings power, in that even your sufferings and cryings are manifested only as the shallow glisten of platinum — to be untouchable. These Platinum Tears are filled with pretty violins and murmurs of transgression and bliss. One of them sounds like Skid Row. They form the shallow fields on which Blunt’s characters play the games of war and brotherhood, of love and scorn. All of these are ghostly, intimated only by rough particulars. Good driving music. For lurking and loving. For the dark and the light, and certainly for gray days. Dean, will you ever respond to my letters?


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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