2017: Third Quarter Favorites From Avey Tare & Angelo Badalamenti to White Suns & White Poppy

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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


Mark Templeton

Gentle Heart

[Graphical]

[LISTEN · READ]

Dabbling your fingers in the water, you misremember Virginia Woolf. “About here,” you think, “a ship had sunk.” Dreamily half asleep, you murmur, misremembering, “how we perish, each alone.” Like sand and the sea, time conquers all. Yet, ceaselessly spilling fragments on the shore, it forgives even as it forgets. “Will you fade? Will you perish?” These fragments haunt us, not because they yearn to be remembered, but because they yearn to be absolved, and us, with them, forgotten. “Alone” you hear him say, “Perished” you hear him say. Listen as he unweaves these voices void of self, memories devoid of all but this yearning to dissolve. For a moment, you cease too. “Whatever else may perish and disappear, what lies here is steadfast.” A gentle heart, forgetting, forgives. Forgiven, a gentle heart stops beating. But why do I hear its echoes?


Tay-K

Santana World

[Self-Released]

[WATCH · LISTEN]

This summer, Tay-K was featured in The New York Times, who took unusually little care in titling their coverage “Tay-K Was a 17-Year-Old ‘Violent Fugitive.’ Then His Song Went Viral,” as if the latter sentence meant a thing to the former. It’s impossible to deny the voyeuristic pleasure of discovering an artifact like “The Race;” too often, however, the real-life consequences of this sort of thing simply don’t cross the listener’s mind. In a rap landscape increasingly devoid of the traditional, obsolete “real,” listeners and mythmakers have developed a troubling tendency to mis-diagnose abject deplorability as authenticity. I’d like to think of “The Race” as proof positive of rap meritocracy, the idea that real songcraft can overcome any obstacle, but it’s not. The song’s rise is inseparable from and nearly entirely due to the circumstances of its creation, a hard, carceral reality that will long outlive Tay-K’s moment in the public eye. In the form of a T-shirt, “FREE TAY-K” rings hollow; in the face of a cultural phenomenon, “ignore Tay-K” is not an option. In a year, all we’ll have is “remember Tay-K?”


White Suns

Psychic Drift

[The Flenser]

[LISTEN · READ]

White Suns came through Seattle on an unseasonably cold July night, over a decade since they had formed and a month after Psychic Drift was released through The Flenser. The members of the trio had been living apart in various corners of the mainland, and their reunion was made manifest on tables littered with wires, pedals, a thrift-store suitcase, and a modded 70s Speak & Spell. The type of sound White Suns transmits puts me in a state of self-reflection, creating a hole deep enough to be wary, but with a bottom for support. The temperature of the space warms to a level where my very physicality becomes pronounced, where my head becomes heavy and I realize I’m dehydrated, my body tired and stiff from bad posture. My vision blurs and the space eventually cools. Like a small ego death, I’m eventually back in the room and in reality. The air of guilt from falling away is there, but I’m awake now and the band is still on.


death’s dynamic shroud

Heavy Black Heart

[Orange Milk]

[LISTEN]

Our own Jackson Scott beautifully highlighted the ways in which Giant Claw expands compositional practice, and now death’s dynamic shroud, another pioneer in the hazily defined post-vaporwave world, is doing something similar/something else, integrating the compositional methods of R&B, dancehall, grimy DIY techno, and (oddly?) early 2000s indietronica. It’s not just samples or textures, though; it’s a careful and effective application of their structural building blocks, which means that the groove isn’t just something to gesture toward, which means that they’re taking hold of the production of joy and propulsion, which means you can dance to it, and that you want to dance to it. Compositional exploration can be euphoric and the half-remembered past doesn’t have to be nostalgia; it can be an eternally recurring blissful present with plenty of helium vocals. Heavy Black Heart is exactly that.


Lil B

Black Ken

[BasedWorld]

[LISTEN · READ]

It’s probably hard for you mortals to believe, considering how much of an influence The BasedGod has had on “SoundCloud” rappers, “mumble” rappers, “lit” rappers — really, any genre-defiant hypebeast rapper. But it’s true: Lil B has never released an “official” mixtape, until now. The Pretty Bitch himself “took two years off to perfect his pen,” and indeed, the first rapper “ever to write and publish a book at 19,” the “historical online figure” and godfather of memes, celebrity worship, uplifting aphorisms, appreciation of nature, oddball flows, and cloud rap beats has finally graced us with his first official release, Black Ken. And in every way, the long-anticipated release defies expectation, which is Lil B’s trump card, after all. Or is it? He introduces himself as the “new DJ” BasedGod, back for the very first time, reminiscing about hip-hop tropes of decades past in the idiosyncratic slang for which we adore him. Lil B returns to a world where his stark flows, perplexing boasts, and unusual vocalization are all commonplace, in a scene dominated by rappers who are all aspiring individualists, but all disappointingly similar. Thank you BasedGod for giving us throwback tracks like “Hip Hop,” backpack rap on “Da Backstreetz,” DJ Mustard funk on “Go Senorita Go,” club anthems on “Global,” and for channeling your contemporaries, who owe you so much. Y’all better know that The BasedGod is your best friend.

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


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