2018: Second Quarter Favorites 26 incredible music releases from the last three months

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


TMT’s Musical Innovation Summit, now in its 14th year, is the oldest meeting of its kind in the industry. Like last quarter’s summit, roughly 10 music professionals from TMT gathered in New York to discuss the latest musical breakthroughs and make predictions on which releases will spark future awe-inspiring innovations.

To help make the predictions, we interviewed 45 random fans, 30 venture capitalists, and a handful of media who cover the music industry across the country to get their collective thoughts on what’s imminent. That list is then honed by eliminating long-shot candidates, followed by a double-elimination round to get rid of shitty artists. Nominees are thoroughly vetted, and the groups eliminate candidates throughout the process.

Today, we are proud to present the results: the BEST 26 releases of the last three months (with a shortlist at the end). We predict that these releases will change music forever.


SOPHIE

OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES

[Future Classic]

[WATCH · READ]

Now’s raw doubt flanges in this memory’s mercury, and we’re back in the basement dark, floor paved with silver marbles. We will shine a light on one, outline the floor with reflecting. I ask are you sure of this? and you say no, never not of any thing. You squeeze your foreign-feeling shoulder, slim quick doubt. Then you hold a marble up to your eye, unclipped cuticles before corneas, a silver pearl. It’s okay. Flashlight on. We gape. There is no neat sequence. No light is set Surface contorts seeing. The shining is bent in coils. There is no straight path, just what we can move into in this whole new world. Roll the flashlight, and it’s a world warping, brilliance refracted, reflections re-membering. The world we built in the dark teaches us how being between might be. Our un-insides, SOPHIE’s sound, teaches us that brilliance doesn’t diminish its self, that light and self and is what we call it. And you say call me Vivian. Becoming who we’re becoming, “no matter where I go, you’ll be here in my heart.”


Playboi Carti

Die Lit

[Interscope/AWGE]

[LISTEN · READ]

The arrival of Playboi Carti’s debut album proper, following last year’s crucial self-titled mixtape, could seem like a mere victory lap, an easy cop-out that plays up to the well-established framework of overstuffed rap albums in the streaming age. What a pleasure, then, that Die Lit implodes that logic. The heady balance of mood pieces and out-and-out anthems that characterized Playboi Carti is further refined here, but even without that baggage, Die Lit is a success on its own terms, a flickering visage that compounds Carti’s most enticing impulses — barely-there vocals, Reichian repetition, knotty Pi’erre Bourne beats — with all the best facets of the album form. And if Carti is only incidental on the mic, the tracks left in his wake are anything but. Herein lies a set of real Ohrwürmer, the inner soundtrack to your day, long after the album subsides. The cloud bursts forth; lightning really does strike twice.


DJ Healer / Prime Minister of Doom

Nothing 2 Loose / Mudshadow Propaganda

[All Possible Worlds]

[LISTEN · LISTEN]

On DJ Metatron’s 2 The Sky, the anonymous artist threaded a Jake Gyllenhaal interview through intricate waves of house music that helped give rise to this enigmatic and highly gifted producer. This year, his efforts have come twofold, with a double release under two new monikers that plot the same channels of intricacy but through two very different means. In place of the Donnie Darko reflection that deepens the narrative of 2 The Sky is a 2002 Whitney Houston interview with Diane Sawyer, where the troubled singer discusses her drug problems and an unnerving sense of optimism that inevitably collapsed 10 years later. Essentially, the music that accompanies both of these otherwise unrelated samples is the atmospheric gel that binds them together; an actor speaking about his fascination with a perplexing story line, and a generational icon battling with herself, fighting to overcome the very thing that took her life. That disparity lies at the heart of this joint release, which merges two highly distinctive personalities while linking them through religious and personal overtones. Mudshadow Propaganda is perfect in its projection of minimal techno tracks that build on the traits of our secretive producer’s expired alias, The Prince of Denmark, while Nothing 2 Loose is almost confessional in the sincerity that it lays bare. But where both records celebrate the dexterity and imagination of a single producer, they also paint a picture of human existence at its most conflicted, from the carnal and the primitive to the haunted and the divine.


Grouper

Grid of Points

[Kranky]

[LISTEN · READ]

In seven tracks and less than 30 minutes, Liz Harris sought to take us nowhere. So she stranded us anywhere. Giving up on finding anything instructive or stabilizing in the passing moan of a stray vocal, the odd cluster of muted piano keys, or the occasional sharp gust of static, it became clear that the only place where anything “new” could happen was in a place where nothing old and familiar was left. “Where are we?” started to sound more like “Where aren’t we?” It might have been some heavenly shoreline where the water was the same perfect gunmetal color as the sky, but it might just as likely have been the vacant parking lot of some long-since-demolished Disneyland. It didn’t really matter. Anyplace we chose to stand and look from was just as good (or bad) as another. “Might as well call this the center,” we figured. Gotta start somewhere.


Seth Graham

Gasp

[Orange Milk/Noumenal Loom]

[LISTEN · READ]

A symphony of perversions and memories that ignites every time you rapid-fire through your Instagram stories. Refried beans left over from the camping trip you took to a closed beta somewhere off the coast of Spy Kids 4D. A million splintered renderings of classical text that you half-scrawled onto the back of your hand before you realized that you were actually just passed out on the keyboard again. Gasp is like a raw feed of how music itself operates in 2018; brief bursts of genius materializing right before us, only to be swept away and digested into something unrecognizably new. The entire sum of human history rubbing elbows with that ASMR video you had to rush to minimize before your roommate could ask you what the fuck you were just watching. A guy as unassuming as Orange Milk label head Seth Graham conjuring up untold universes of possibility from his home in Dayton, OH, his bank of MIDIs a window into our gentle, distraught, and hilarious world.

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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