2017: Second Quarter Favorites From Laurel Halo & Ryuichi Sakamoto to Playboi Carti & Chino Amobi

If you haven’t already done so, please stow your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you. (Image: Paolo Čerić)

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


Half of the year is over, and we have done absolutely nothing with our lives. Very pathetic. The good news is that we use our ears to listen to music, so to celebrate, the TMT staff has once again come together to share our favorite releases of the last three months (give or take), compiled in the best format known to humankind.

This time around, we were outside the club (Jlin), in the Devil’s book (Sarah Shook & The Disarmers), and on Google Hangouts (Kendrick Lamar), broadcasting live using algorithm-free YouTube (Future City Love Stories). There was glittery slime (cupcakKe), naturalistic abstractions (Lieven Martens), and condensed chunks of cut-open human organs (Pharmakon), with a range that went from pop (Lorde), narkopop (GAS), and contorted pop (Laurel Halo) to rock-star rappers (Playboi Carti), airbrushed nightcrawlers (99jakes), and mutilated tunes on the DAW floor (Khaki Blazer).

Check the full list below, and as always, please take note of the shortlist, as these particular releases either weren’t heard enough yet to make the list or just fell short for various reasons. All worth a listen.

Shortlist: The Caretaker’s Everywhere at the end of time: Stage 2, Upgrayedd Smurphy’s HYPNOSYS, Actress’s AZD, Slowdive’s Slowdive, $3.33’s DRAFT, Perfume Genius’s No Shape, Peace Forever Eternal’s Nextcentury, Cloud Rat & Moloch’s split, Babyfather’s Cypher, Russian Tsarlag’s Gel Stations Past, Ducktails’s Daffy Duck In Hollywood, Elysia Crampton’s Spots y Escupitajo, RITCHRD’s GREATEST HITS, and Tara Jane O’Neil’s self-titled album.


Laurel Halo

Dust

[Hyperdub]


Dust’s single “Jelly” was a surprising teaser for fans of Laurel Halo, soberly announcing her return to vocal music with a big result. As the song resembles and contorts pop product, it’s vocoder — emblematic of 2012’s viscous and spacey Quarantine — serves the punctuated delivery of a funky Parliament-esque hook (“You don’t meet my standards for a friend…”), while collaborators Klein and Lafawndah deliver the remainder. The far-reaching influences found on “Jelly” came to be representative of Dust at large, an album that moves through its vibrant landscape of sounds and grooves in a way new to the artist behind it. “Moontalk” delivers a second blast of lopsided feel-good pop, Sam Hilmer’s saxophone rips on “Arschkriecher,” Michael Salu takes the stage on “Who Won?,” and the album ultimately subsides, taking space to explore old territory with the help of composer Eli Keszler. Dust is an exciting and adventurous release that couldn’t be more matter-of-fact.


Playboi Carti

Playboi Carti

[Interscope]


“I’m a rockstar” asserts Lil Uzi Vert in the intro to “wokeuplikethis,” the collaborative lead single off of Playboi Carti’s self-titled debut. Given the Atlanta native’s penchant for distorted, guitar-like synths and driving rhythms that often exceed 160 BPM, it wouldn’t be a stretch for us to extend the title to Carti, too. While “wokeuplikethis” is undeniably a track indebted to early rock & roll’s chugging groove — although one could even deem it pop-punk, taking its sparkly lead melodies and raspy, slacker vocals into consideration — Playboi Carti is evidence that its creator is something even greater. He’s sedimentary rock, a walking pastiche, the zeitgeist. He culls the best of 2016’s SoundCloud wave — its gravelly basslines, its chiming riffs — and blends it with well-curated bits of other subcultural ephemera. The transcendent beatswitch midway through “Location” integrates Macintosh Plus’s sloppily chopped aesthetic. “New Choppa,” featuring A$AP Rocky, delves into its own dark interpretation of chiptune. “Lame Niggaz” feels like a barebones deconstruction of PC Music’s unbridled optimism. Cash Carti’s everything that’s cool. He’s everything that’s ever been cool.


GAS

Narkopop

[Kompakt]


Whatever happened to program music? We tend to think of the entire instrumental-pop umbrella, typically cast over both ambient and techno, as purely abstract. Wolfgang Voigt’s marriage of the two styles as GAS has especially been painted as a project concerning itself with the musical absolute. And yet, when you put your ear to the impenetrably thick walls built around Narkopop’s heartbeat-like low-end and contemplate the album’s wandering melodies and swift, unpredictably-resolving chord progressions, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s a story there. Not just the depiction of emotions or a mood, not just the aural rendering of “a nightclub in a forest,” but a plot, a character, and a conversation (or their multitude). Is it the movement of people through the European continent in its war-ridden past (or equally foreboding present)? Or is it more of a personal strife, the tale of a human struggling and succeeding, to various degrees, at finding solace? He would likely respond that there is none, but my question stands: What’s the story, Wolfgang?


Khaki Blazer

Didn’t Have to Cut

[Hausu Mountain]


Pat Modugno when donning his Khaki Blazer is most known for his juddering, hypercaffeinated cut-ups and off-the-grid percussive discursions (scope the contemporaneous Speed Rack Willy), but on Didn’t Have to Cut, he seems to be taking our boy Gotye’s words to heart. Not only do we choose when and where to cut, but we could also decide not to do it at all. Modugno, thinking of all those tunes left mutilated on the DAW floor, must’ve had a change of heart, a turn away from the neo-dadaist massacres he seemed to so gleefully perpetuate. He still collages with the best of ‘em, but Didn’t Have to Cut gives each sound a little more room, a little more time to express itself. From the complete wheezer of “Comfortably Grey” to the slow-tone torture of “Saturn Rings” to the sheer psychic insinuation of “Hold Your Breath and Count,” everyone swarms and squiggles and sighs and squawks a little more thoughtfully. Still, the crowning achievement is the strung-out electric allolalia of “Death Bedhead,” featuring some famous singer I used to know. Didn’t Have to Cut is perhaps the most truly strange thing of 2017 so far, a melted, lopsided chimera roaring, bleating, and hissing its way into our hearts.


Félicia Atkinson

Hand In Hand

[Shelter Press]


Hand in hand, I’m watching the places where fingers tip into edges where I end. The fingernail barriers blood vessel and lymph and nerve from the wilderness. The fingernail keeps the self-stuff safe. Keratogenous upkeep is self-atomizing with clipper and file, a breaking for building to remind us that split bone is trauma but broken nail is health. All sounds are found in the breaking. All found breaks are Hand in Hand, the discarded sounds we shed to be. Voice is a buzz a bass a kiss a house a dance a poem. It sounds in slivers, these uncovered discards, this mode of droned bone jutting into distal digits. Dis-uncovery is wiping it away while rubbing it in. It’s in us. Félicia splints (our) nervous material like steel kissing keratin. Slip pinches hangnails. Bones break flesh, in-grown you. Infections are plausible. Fungi whine in crevices. In clips. Is imperfect. She skitters. We whisper. Listen. I’m following you. Take care.

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


Most Read