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


serpentwithfeet

soil

[Tri Angle/Secretly Canadian]

[WATCH · LISTEN · READ]

It’s crazy to think that soil is serpentwithfeet’s debut album. The queer, pagan singer, a former choir boy from Baltimore, emerged in 2016 with blisters, a set of mesmerizing slices of new age R&B delving into faith, superstition, and love. His voice and composition live up to the lofty themes; delicate and meandering, serpent recalled the acrobatic opulence of 90s R&B with brooding, industrial production from The Haxan Cloak. The most visionary artists are those who sound like nothing other than themselves and exhibit a gravitational aura that inspires imitation, lust, and disbelief. soil lurches and waltzes, while Josiah Wise, who prefers to go by “serpent,” remains fully exposed in the mix, employing innovative vocal stacks that whisper, conjure, and croon behind him like a choir of restless spirits. Despite the divine quality to serpent’s voice, which is at times shellacked with layers, often battling against static noise and its own quivering vibrato, the subject matter of soil is immediately relatable and quotidian: the navigation of a shifting dating landscape, the sublime essences of individuals, intimacy and grace in heartbreak, the projection of sorrow onto the world. serpent doesn’t want to be “small sad,” but “big, big sad,” to the point that he’s sure his friends are “tired of him talking.” The domesticity infects us all: How can we properly grieve? How can we redeem ourselves? The occult instrumentation falls away to reveal a queer individual who is merely describing their personal desires.


Sarah Davachi

Let Night Come On Bells End The Day

[Recital]

[LISTEN · READ]

I walked through the streets barefoot, clothed only in a robe. The bells were ringing, playing their ancient song, letting the world know that the night had begun. My feet were bleeding from the cobblestone streets, which is how they found me in the morning, just outside of town in the woods. I didn’t drink that night. The evening swept me up, and some tribal instinct forced me outside in virtually nothing. My neighbors looked and closed their curtain as I kept walking, holding the hand of the force that was dragging me. I remember parts like my head hurting and my eyes watering. I remember spinning in the center of town underneath a street lamp. I don’t remember why I left town and headed toward the woods. I don’t know why I left my house. I remember being woken up by the police and being embarrassed to face to my neighbors. They took me home and put me in bed, because the medic cleared me at the site. I’ve never spoken of it since, and I still clench up when the night comes on and the bells end the day.


Jenny Hval

The Long Sleep EP

[Sacred Bones]

[WATCH · LISTEN · READ]

Roping in some of her favorite jazz musicians to explore ideas, Jenny Hval has managed to escape the noose of her recent collaborative concepts and delve within to produce yet another stunning act of imagination. The pure reach and weight of The Long Sleep is extraordinary. Hval moves across emotional ground with certainty and delicacy, capturing the subtlest of feelings. Like a soundtrack to a brilliant short, Hval plays with recurring motifs first presented in the “conventional” “Spells,” but then swerves genre expectations along the way, through the piano-led clap frappe of “The Dreamer Is Everyone in Her Dream” to the blissful title track drone. On “I Want to Tell You Something,” her presence is so powerful, as she attempts to express trance closure through an oblique narrative before realizing simple words are all she needs. Fecund, savage, and irresistible, The Long Sleep demonstrates once again why Hval is so intriguing.


Gemini Sisters

Gemini Sisters

[Psychic Trouble]

[LISTEN]

How does one describe something so beautiful and uplifting — a beacon of light in a shroud a darkness. I was wallowing deep in the muck and mire, desperate to claw out of it rather than sinking down into it. But that tar pit of sorrow and defeat is thick, and it cares not about your will. But I saw the light and followed it. It led me to two helpful, outstretched hands. Jon Kolodij and Matt Christensen met my palm with a hardy grasp and a hefty pull. And I felt the warmth of Gemini Sisters. The sprawling, uplifting sonic aura of the duo’s debut speaks to energy from whence Kolodij and Christensen are christened: the two having their daughters born on the same day of the same year (and those offspring being Geminis). It shows with the delicacy of their aural attack. It is spiritual, reaching toward the heavens to pluck the constellation and bringing its brightness to our darkest places. Right now, the flesh is weak and the mind wavers. But our essence remains pure and chaste. Thanks to Kolodij and Christensen, I have traded the hastened quicksand for a tether to the sprawling galaxy.


Christina Vantzou

No. 4

[Kranky]

[LISTEN · READ]

When you’re in a vehicle moving at a slow, constant speed, sometimes you can convince yourself that you aren’t moving at all. No. 4 moves me like that. I know how tired that metaphor is, and if you listen to gentle drones like “At Dawn” and “Remote Polyphony” and think I’m a hack for digging the spatial metaphor up once again to describe slow, deliberate music, I understand. But I feel that uneasy compromise between motion and rest deeply and at every strange, shimmering moment of the album. It’s in the bells of “Percussion in Nonspace,” ringing in a sort of dual presence and absence; in the little arpeggio that creeps up through “Doorway;” in the pitch-affected choral chant that closes out “Sound House.” Whether we interpret track titles as thematic hints or as mere word games, the names of the tracks on No. 4 suggest, along with the music, that Christina Vantzou wants to domesticate and eventually upend and denature space through sound. Usually a device for ordering abstraction, she turns that hackneyed spatial metaphor into one for abstracting order. This record moves at no speed, in no direction, and toward no goal, except maybe to suspend us temporarily in a kind of beauty without dimension, not far from terror.


Kanye West

ye

[G.O.O.D./Def Jam]

[LISTEN · READ]

Just because an album sparks cathartic conversations doesn’t mean it’s good, and not all good albums invite candid dinner table discussions concerning their mercurial merits. Kanye, however, has just as big of a reputation for arousing furor as he does for leaving listeners speechless. Meanwhile, critics scramble for thoughtful words that won’t get them blacklisted for being associated with that black magic that has been infiltrating every aspect of daily life since Cain murdered Abel, thus birthing division. Calling ye a divisive document at TMT would be an understatement, and attributing its inclusion here to justifying countless hours of collectively unpacking just over 23 minutes of noise would obscure what ye actually contains: disturbing spoken word admonitions about premeditated murder, breathless bars on prescription drug addiction, ironic fantasies about butts of sex scandals, gorgeous gospel keys and beautiful dark twisted harmonies, celebratory reflections on fame and success, spectral arena rock vibes, and staggering room for growth cleared out by fear and love and loyalty. Regardless of our own individual feelings, ye keeps reminding us that this music shit that gets us through each day often requires plunging into dark places and reemerging with our own beacons of light. Believe it or not, I still love it, and like watching a bright-eyed child grow up in a world this dark, I’m terrified and excited for what’s next.


The Shortlist: King Vision Ultra’s Pain of Mind, Shygirl’s Cruel Practice, Oneohtrix Point Never’s Age Of, Ashley Paul’s Lost In Shadows, James Ferraro’s Four Pieces For Mirai, Larry Wish’s How More Can You Need, Jon Hassell’s Listening To Pictures, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement’s Red Ants Genesis, Parquet Courts’s Wide Awake!, The Carters’ EVERYTHING IS LOVE, Bernice’s Puff LP, Carla Bozulich’s Quieter, Pinkshinyultrablast’s Miserable Miracles, Duppy Gun Productions’s Miro Tape, DRINKS’s Hippo Lite, Valee’s GOOD Job, You Found Me, and Frog Eyes’ Violet Psalms.

 

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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