2018: First Quarter Favorites From sheaves of harsh noise & asphalt batida to trap-rap hybridity & obscure Japanese video game music

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


Hannah Diamond

Soon I won’t see you at all

[PC Music]

[LISTEN · READ]

You don’t see Concrete angelsforegrounded, in cover, on Hannah Diamond’s latest EP — until it’s too late. And speaking of concrete, Miss HD (as she’s styled on the cover artwork) is not, or at least not on this EP, so much in the business of construction as deconstruction. PC Music always treads a line between doing pop and taking it apart, and Soon I won’t see you at all falls more toward the latter than Diamond’s earlier singles. Buildups never quite arrive, or if they do, they’re too wonky to dance to. That moment of yearning for the drop is suspended exquisitely, in perpetuity. We’re post-post-modern here, though; Diamond wants you to know that she’s sincere while making music that’s clearly, shimmeringly (but not transparently) all about surface. It’s the aesthetic of the teen crush, sly glances, and holding hands; the plastic hyperreality of her imagery and sound conveys this without a hint of schoolgirl fetish, which it exchanges for the slightest flavor of uncanny valley, of an 80s shy girl refracted through vaporwave aesthetics. She’s pretty in pink… and blue.


Pendant

Make Me Know You Sweet

[West Mineral]

[LISTEN · READ]

Ambient music, as per its name, has always been here; this much is evident. Accessing it has always been about privileging space; it’s this precise attention that distinguishes music from noise, and yet there’s always a cadre of listeners who, every so often, identify a new trend in ambient music, drawing parallels between oppressive temporal ambience and distinctive equalizer shapes. Often, ambient music’s affectiveness is framed as nepenthe, medicine for sorrow; in times of political turmoil, escape; in times of rapid technological advance, antidote for accelerationism. Within this simplistic framework, an ambient album’s success can be surmised by examining how convincing it is as an interactive object made up of negative space. Contrarily, what makes Pendant’s Make Me Know You Sweet a phenomenal ambient album is its unfathomable depth, its unknowable shape, its enigmatic purpose. It is extraordinary by virtue of its potentiality rather than its materiality, signifying it as a site for infinite reflections, if not new, then cast back with striking resonance.


U.S. Girls

In a Poem Unlimited

[4AD/Royal Mountain]

[WATCH · READ]

Backed by an exhilarating blend of only the finest sounds of the 1970s, Meg Remy’s latest as U.S. Girls is her most accessible yet. From the bouncing strut of “Mad As Hell” to the endless Remain in Light-esque groove of “Time,” In a Poem Unlimited could easily be the premier roller-disco soundtrack this side of Xanadu. At the same time, though, as seemingly every day brings to light the horrific actions of powerful people, there too is In a Poem Unlimited. Throughout, Remy calls out the many kinds of men who fail women. And as society begins to reckon with changes that are long past overdue, Remy’s words on opener “Velvet 4 Sale” — without taking its rape revenge plot literally — particularly resonate. Protect yourself from those who would do you harm, tear them down and make them fear you, and do whatever it takes to make sure they never get an opportunity to hurt you again.


C. Spencer Yeh

The RCA Mark II

[Primary Information]

[LISTEN · READ]

If I were to stand in front of one of those old synthesizers from the 1960s, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I mean, I’ve never even played a MiniKorg, so it stands to reason that I may have responded similarly to C. Spencer Yeh, who stumbled upon the RCA Mark II sitting idle at Columbia University, unused since 1997. But instead of composing with the seven-foot-tall, wall-length, $250,000 apparatus (which he couldn’t do because the thing’s straight busted), he set up some contact mics and recorded the sounds of the machine itself as he “twisted knobs, pushed buttons, flipped switches, pulled plugs, and rubbed the metal exterior.” (He probably also put his mouth on it, because why wouldn’t he?) The edited results comprise The RCA Mark II, an otherworldly glitch wonderland where dust motes and metal filings dance around the room long after Yeh’s left it.


Organ Tapes

Into One Name

[Genome 6.66 Mbp]

[LISTEN · READ]

Drowned in artifice and draped in the hopelessly optimistic veil of youth, Organ Tapes’s Into One Name sounds like a lot of things, but most of all it sounds like the future. Tim Zha’s latest release bears all the intimacy and claustrophobia of a bedroom confessional, albeit one that trades in the Elliott Smith and acoustic guitars for Alkaline and Auto-Tune, pulsing along on a hushed string of miniature dancehall riddims and soft, twinkling MIDIs. Halfway between a mourner’s procession and an adolescent profession of love, Into One Name splits itself in multiple directions at once, as joyous as it is filled with remorse, as swaggering as it is broken. It’s an apt waypoint on the continually fracturing path that we’ve all found ourselves wandering down, a gently written love letter that promises to remain sincere even as our world seems to drift further and further out of reach.

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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