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

If you do not wish to perform the functions described in the event of an emergency, please ask a flight attendant to reseat you.

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


As we stumble into the final quarter of the year, TMT would like to temper the political incoherence and informational carelessness of the last few months with another transmission from our trusty quarter-list propaganda machine. And you, dear reader, are invited!

Whether it was transcendental smackdowns (Young Thug) or moonlit ruminations (The National), unlistenable prayers (Lingua Ignota) or symbol play (Giant Claw), 2017’s summer sounds found our bodies trembling (Pan Diajing), swiped like a shoe along concrete ($3.33), and glowing with deceitful charm (White Poppy). It didn’t matter if it was coming from the Dar Es Salaam underground (Nyege Nyege Tapes), a modded 70s Speak & Spell (White Suns), or Jack Rabbit’s Palace (Twin Peaks); it didn’t matter if it was evinced by lurker auteurs (Nmesh), sonic ecologists (Avey Tare), or one Pretty Bitch (Lil B). In the face of an ever-increasing shitshow, the last three months of music carried on like if often does: with a mix of hope, absurdity, and some exquisite world-building, with hearts both heavy (death’s dynamic shroud) and gentle (Mark Templeton).

The full list can be found below, but first check out our ridiculously long list of releases that didn’t make the feature proper. And thanks, as always, for reading!

Shortlist: Yves Tumor’s Experiencing The Deposit Of Faith, Nate Scheible’s Fairfax, Tzusing’s 東方不敗, Jay Glass Dubs’s Glacial Dancehall, Shabazz Palaces’s Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines, HKE’s HEEL AESTHETIC, Windy & Carl’s Blues For A UFO, Shabazz Palaces’s Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines, woopheadclrms’s Meeting Room + Rare Plants (Ukiuki Atama), Youngboy Never Broke Again’s AI YoungBoy, Costanza’s George, Mount Kimbie’s Love What Survives, Femminielli Noir’s Echec & Mat, I am just a Pupil’s CRYSTAL PAIN, Léo Hoffsaes & Loto Retina’s Early Contact, Arve Henrikson’s Towards Language, Schneider Kacirek’s Radius Walk, S.W.’s The Album, Damien Dubrovnik’s Great Many Arrows, Alan Vega’s IT, chris†††’s social justice whatever, and Ariel Pink’s Dedicated to Bobby Jameson.


Nmesh

Pharma

[Orange Milk]

[WATCH · LISTEN · READ]

With Pharma, lurker auteur Nmesh has both legitimized and destroyed the vapor-non-genre, virus-like, from within. Now entombed in some lo-poly pyramid, we can see the ‘wave for what it was: a dig through the garbage-dump archives of the 1990s to recover, warp, and recontextualize whatever memories got lost beneath the pile. The samples and annotations would be nothing, though, without the music, and lucky for you Pharma delivered well on this front. Not only is this Nmesh’s best album to date, but these 26 tracks (plus many remixes) ran rings around an entire micro-era of electronic music, wearing it out until the soul within was revealed. Plus, how brazen is that Ferris Bueller sample?


Pan Daijing

Lack

[PAN]

[LISTEN · READ]

Abstract music, even “noise” if you want, is too often discussed in relation to absence. Absence of harmony, of “form,” of the philosophy of separation underpinning musical tradition per se. I imagine that, in witnessing a performance by Pan Daijing, who discusses her music along the lines of embodiment and the “acting out” of sound, it becomes difficult to persist in this manner of speaking. With Lack, a document of that performance practice, she rattles the consciousness of the home listener from its critical distance back to where it belongs: the wanting, lurid presence of the body. “Practice of Hygiene” breaks words — “above, below,” “excuse me,” “why do I have to” — into moaning, groaning, and almost-human creaking, cradled in the bleed of a low, repeating piano note. A dissonant arpeggio dances for five minutes across “The Nerve Meter,” a synthesized pattern that seems to shake the receiver as if having passed through air from a nearby amplifier. At the climactic moment of “Lucid Morto,” the final track, delayed vocals combine with the unsure, three-note melody of a meaty trance lead. In different and captivating ways, this album takes advantage of the notion that sound is a physical encounter; its Lack is not of form or substance, but the one that lives in all of our hungering, trembling bodies.


Milo

who told you to think??!!?!?!?!

[Ruby Yacht/Alpha Pup]

[LISTEN · READ]

Ghiath Matar is dead, roses are not armor,” goes the first rapped line, and if you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that Milo’s strictly a “college rapper,” you might also be assuming that Ghiath Matar is the name of some ancient Eastern deity or protag of a Russian fantasy novel. But it’s not. He was, I know now, a Syrian activist who gave flowers to soldiers, then was arrested, tortured and killed. The next line goes, “In my neighborhood, it was become a poet or a farmer.” Writing amazing, beautiful, weighty verse is part of Milo’s job, as is performing. But geeky flights of fancy aren’t gone, they’re just getting pointier. Also in the first song, he says, “Hold the self like J’Zargo in Winterhold,” referring, of course, to the fictional cat wizard and mage college in Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Did I mention this is the album’s first verse? It goes deeper still, metaphors atop one another like racks. I haven’t cracked the seal on my vinyl copy yet, because it looks so snug sitting in its shrinkwrap beside Down With People’s self-titled album. One more unsolicited thought: if Nostrum Grocers ever drops, there are going to be a lot of professional poets out there burning their own chapbooks.


Avey Tare

Eucalyptus

[Domino]

[LISTEN · READ]

Ever since Campfire Songs we’ve known Avey Tare is a sonic ecologist, attuned to the environments and relationalities that bloom and burble through his terraformed recordings. Lately, though, his work has dripped somewhere Down There, somewhere murky and suffocating, goopy and fecund. But, aerated and sun-drenched afresh in the Eucalyptus, Avey Tare sounds like he can breathe again. Awash but not overwhelmed, the atmospheres that populate Eucalyptus oxygenate the expansive melodies Portner has always nursed — from “Chocolate Girl” to “Amanita” — only this time, they can photosynthesize something delectable out of the coral, salt, soil, air that have always permeated, always tickled, always snickered. There’s a spaciousness in the hebetic sonic environments here, room to snuggle and inhale. Like the calyx that protects the budding eucalyptus flower, Eucalyptus chaperones us into a nourishing amnion. We can’t help but curl up and sink in.


Various Artists

Twin Peaks (Music from the Limited Event Series) / Twin Peaks (Limited Even Series Soundtrack)

[Rhino]

[WATCH · WATCH · WATCH]

IRRATIONALLY ESSENTIAL. There’s no other way to put it. For Twin Peaks fans, this was the Summer of Frost/Lynch. We watched, listened, pondered, argued; we breathed it, ate it, shit it, and then sniffed the shit for more clues. By the time the 18-part series that first infected us back in May fully metastasized at the beginning of September, we were zombies. Our gray matter was hollowed into cheese by Dougie-Cooper’s Disease, characterized by the frenetic drive to bathe ourselves in anything connected with the story in any way — e.g., these two albums, featuring Angelo Badalamenti’s iconically eerie scores, plot-pregnant songs from each of the show’s Roadhouse bands, and a few of Lynch’s maniacal manipulations. Even now with the series in the spooky, Lynchian rear-view, the obsession lingers. The past dictates the future. There’s no going back.

SADAF

SHELL

[Outside Insight]

[LISTEN · READ]

An album gets called cinematic when the music elicits the feeling of a wide shot, of a soundtracked scene, of prestigious drama. SHELL is cinematic because it’s a movie. Vestigial, footgazing, inflammable, SHELL is a movie with no stars, a movie with no film, that unfolds in unfolding, getting ahead of itself. Even the pronoun is in the can before she means to. So you hear SADAF: just trust your eyes. Audition requires participation, and here, off the top of her head, participation means filmmaking. The unmaking of, in stereo. Although there are no bangers, there’s still the magic of SADAF’s multiplying VOICE, playing over scripts. (Little fires, drowning onscreen, disowned from the spark that lit the faucet. Its instructions crossing themselves out, the skipping noise and scraping strings roll like credits, hand in hand, like the tide, a substitute for reaching through to the other side.) “Though there is stillness, I can feel your heartbeat. Though I can’t see you, I can hear a sound.” Fear that you hear yourself, but you don’t listen.


Various Artists

Sounds of Sisso

[Nyege Nyege Tapes]

[LISTEN]

It’s fair to say that Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Tapes has left a rather sizeable imprint on the TMT hivemind this year (see: Otim Alpha, Mysterians, and first-quarter fave Riddlore <3), and if the only M.O. is “outsider music from around the region and beyond,” why not? Yet those archival gems still couldn’t prepare us for Sounds of Sisso. A truly graceless anthology of the Dar Es Salaam underground, the Sisso sound is one of urgency and defiance, an afromutation that wrenches its influences from the midst of local traditions and spits them back out as garbled dispatches from the field — haphazardly arranged, intensely-paced, but something altogether anew. Between the discordant pitch-jamming of Csso’s “Shobo” and the propulsive insistence of MC Dogo Niga’s choicest cuts, Sounds of Sisso is a strident finger on the pulse of another way, a better way, to move in the ever-expanding, rapidly disseminating dance music movement the world over. No amount of theoretical body talk could ever explain this, so don’t bother. Take C’s lead and “let the relentlessness sink in.” These Sounds do the moving for you.


White Poppy

The Pink Haze of Love

[Self-Released]

[LISTEN]

Love applied a conceptual naïveté to the human world, as...

...is the man behind a girl half his size telling her she's the biggest person on the subway, to keep pushing her way through hoards of people crowing and entering that train-car, calling her, "Sis."

...it fills an elevator of three ladies who don't speak the same language but are all laughing at one of their dogs jumping around in circles because "She's waiting for a treat."

...a toddler in her stroller sandwiched by two older ladies on park benches, joking with the little girl until a lull happens, and she leans back on her pillow, out of site of the benches, squinting her eyes and smiling big, completely quiet.

...absolute infinity in willful dumbfoundedness.

Listeners are blessed to bare the blissful struggle of love in White Poppy's therapeutic-pop release of The Pink Haze of Love. Feel her feels of feeling all the facets of love gleefully out of sync, without all the frill and pom, but the deceitful charm of Earth’s enchantment. And most importantly: let’s get over it together!


Bill Orcutt

Bill Orcutt

[Palilalia]

[WATCH · LISTEN · READ]

Where have I heard this before? For most, it’s from Pinocchio or from before sports games where players kneel in protest against a nation that’s betrayed its promises of freedom. White Christmas for America’s first white president. A Shape of [Blues] to Come. For Bill Orcutt fans (people who read TMT), it’s from his last acoustic release, A History of Every One, plus a few more for good measure. This is a patient, patience-testing variation on a theme that’s been reproduced again and again and again for generations, but this time, it’s plugged in and ringing with feedback. Through steady, clenched teeth, this is Orcutt pleading that it’s time we plug in too and notice which notes are missing, which have been replaced by screams or by silence. Where have I heard this before? I think it’s from some 1930s musical, but I don’t remember it sounding this… vehement, this… irrepressible.


Lingua Ignota

All Bitches Die

[Self-Released]

[LISTEN]

If signifiers of evil and harshness for their own sake are all played out, Lingua Ignota is the place they’ve come to die. And to be reborn. Kristin Hayter’s project explores her own experiences of abuse at the hands of a partner and of self-punishment, and she believes in salvation though suffering. The act of listening to her music, which lies somewhere between power electronics and Catholic liturgy, may therefore be salvific in itself. She’s selling indulgences, but paradoxically, it’s a Faustian bargain. Tim Holmes, in the liner notes for Teenage Jesus And The Jerks’ Everything, recounts “the parable of the ‘seven minute shows’: ‘…not a minute too short…’ according to a putative witness, ‘but worth every dollar…’” Similarly, I couldn’t bear to listen to All Bitches Die a second time. It’s an album that offers no mercy. But “where, then, the voice of the unheard language?” These are female martyrs refusing martyrdom, singing murder ballads de- and re-sacralizing their own deaths. Aileen Wuornos’s interstitial presence signifies the way in which these victims become monsters, become killers. All Bitches Die plumbs the depths of the cauldrons of pitch, lead, oil, and brimstone in which innumerable legions of female saints were plunged. Their metal-lipped mouths conduct to a submerged cathedralic space, in which Hayter intones prayers vast, un/listenable, and terrifying.


Young Thug

Beautiful Thugger Girls

[300 Entertainment]

[WATCH · READ]

Beautiful Thugger Girls is Thug’s sheer hellish melisma — his automatic writing and his deranged far side — an irreducible golden putty of Year of the Cock vocal resilience. We know well that his voice can be boundless, cascading, ascendant — a force we can’t reckon with (*spit*). The album is a series of hybrid Thugger songs that have drifted into mutation, triumphs of human intonation and modulation pitched and thrown in ecstatic measures: playing to the gallery, but lost in the riffraff. A bona fide snake-in-the-boot thriller, Thugger Girls is a cataract of every funny-but-insane gibberish joke you’ve ever dribbled out in moments of absurd delusion, a humorous moment-of-clarity revealing itself as a violent, genius vision. I’ll let slip a threadbare phrase from the ol critic’s notebook: the album is a “tour de force” of human vocalization, a transcendental smackdown featuring the loose letting loose, unfurling great octave leaps and glissandos peaking in sharp cries, projecting a beautifully unfettered freedom while “Riding on a bike/ On a very late night,” face to the moonlight, the yeehaw rising.

Lomelda

Thx

[Double Double Whammy]

[LISTEN]

Like the simple sensation of unfolding a map by the side of some barren rest stop along I-70, Thx is a small reminder of the innocence that comes with not knowing exactly where you are. Across the album’s 10 tracks, Lomelda’s Hannah Read sings songs you’ve probably heard before, her high whinny a familiar tone to anybody who’s grown up on folk music and acoustic guitars. But the quivering sounds here aren’t in service of some purposefully skewed vision; Read’s music meanders about with a calm, stately uncertainty, drifting along in its search for whatever it is that’s really out there. Songs that begin in plain view slowly dissipate into rustic sound, and countryside ballads that seem to weave a story leave us out in the wilderness before we’ve been able to piece together what the strands really mean. It’s in that absence of answers that Lomelda finds a reason to sing, offering Thx to whatever highway spirits might be listening, her wandering voice echoing softly against the breeze.


DJ Escrow

Universal Soulja Vol. 1

[Self-Released]

[LISTEN · READ]

I sit still. Silence I can't see. I have no eyes? At least an I. Listen. At least silence. At least unspeaking. Breathing, unhinging. The heave of the not me not mine. It starts in. Noise that gnashes listening nerves. Silence shatters. Next, noise looks to mouth. It seeks teeth. Mouth mine, teeth me. And me, now no see no speak. Noise wants me. Will I? "Yeah.” Voice through noise scopes us. “You think I don’t see you but I fucking do.” Voice of “yeah” affirms the unstill I and the terrible subliming noiseness of it all, shout in dark. “Yeah” is a shriek of what I cannot shriek of and without. Silence oppresses so “yeah” and Escrow improvises rides, unstills I through you. Noise opposes silences. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” so scrap scraping by. Chew back and devour stillness. Get terrible, get it in. In the breaks? Beats, you and “yeah.” Universal Soulja Vol. 1, alive and a riot, that great unsilenced thing has backs. Its voice feeds noise. Its noise needs voice. I needs noise. No frame without. No thing in silence. I affirm. I acclimate. “Yeah.


The National

Sleep Well Beast

[4AD]

[LISTEN · READ]

The National’s Sleep Well Beast is the band’s darkest and most ambitious album, in many ways surpassing its predecessor Trouble Will Find Me. Blending glitchy guitars, compellingly-executed electronics, dramatic woodwinds and strings, and deep-pocket drumming, this one is a major triumph in keeping rock music sounding interesting and fresh. Singer Matt Berninger’s moonlit ruminations on the topics of drug use, familial woes, and general despair are never too dry or maudlin — no, this is an album by adults and for adults, which is a rarity today. You probably won’t find a better record about loneliness in 2017, so maybe put the kids to bed or take a night away from the significant other before turning this one on — not for their sake, but for yours.


$3.33

Drill

[Noumenal Loom]

[LISTEN]

From August to October 2016, New York’s Signal Gallery hosted Madeline Hollander’s Drill, a durational dance performance scored by Celia Hollander, a.k.a. $3.33. Drill, released on cassette by Noumenal Loom this past July, is $3.33’s 31-minute adaptation of her own live score, with all album proceeds going to prison-abolition organization Critical Resistance. The cassette begins with 10 minutes of atmospheric fuzz, some flappings, a heavy bass beat, and what, to me, sounds like a dull, wailing siren. Slowly, these parts begin to cohere into techno, and with the addition of some extra kicks, things feel more clubby than gallery midway through. The pieces that $3.33 arranges and layers are simple and cavernous, like bodies. Bodies swiped like a shoe along concrete, or charcoal on paper. Pressing rewind, see bodies slowed, warped, hulking forward, shrugging back, imagined. Imagining the dancers in the gallery as they reinterpret the floor and walls; dancers moving to this in a club, subtly, wildly; inmates moving through halls, opened gates, in lines, each day a series of drills toward the next, as that vague siren howls until the end.


Giant Claw

Soft Channel

[Orange Milk]

[WATCH · LISTEN · READ]

Blooming, blossoming, Bliss

Imagine a room: blank and empty ... Soft white senility Save the walls, so studded with switches "The damn TV keeps switching changing channels!" All unlabeled, but you know they all do something:::::::::::something A dislocation so severe it constitutes its own space … Each thing you use is an extension of you ;by that logic, what are you an extension of??? … A profusion of symbols one each of which Signals its own of profusion symbols sometimes ifearthat allofours peechisan a man of thin filament … actofself He's glows glows amputatio glows glows Perhaps we should just stop talking and cracks


Tyler, The Creator

Flower Boy

[Columbia]

[WATCH]

“I kind of didn’t want to rap a lot on it,” Tyler, The Creator said of his fourth studio album, Flower Boy. “So I kept all my rap verses short, and everything I said, I made sure it was really, ridiculously important.” Upon its release, critics made much of Tyler’s openness on Flower Boy, describing it as a welcome step toward emotional maturity for the 26-year-old rapper. Sincere lyricism aside, Tyler’s warm, jazz-heavy production work is the real star here. The album’s sound is expansive and unpredictable, as string flourishes and sticky melodies fill the empty spaces. At 47 minutes, Flower Boy is also the least bloated of Tyler’s albums, supplying a balance of melody-driven tracks and more straightforward rap cuts (“Foreword,” “Pothole”). The influence of Frank Ocean’s Blond(e), which Tyler has admired publicly, extends to the album’s loose, wandering structure. And while instrumental outro “Enjoy Right Now, Today” is a rare instance of filler, Flower Boy represents a step forward for Tyler, The Creator in every sense. At 26, the obnoxious kid genius has figured out how to make music as an adult.

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


Most Read