2018: Third Quarter Favorites 25 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


Teyana Taylor

K.T.S.E.

[G.O.O.D. Music]

[LISTEN]

Across eight tracks, twenty-three mercilessly short minutes, and “no fade outs,” Teyana Taylor and executive producer Kanye West make good on their titular promise to “keep that same energy.” And it’s a special energy. Ty Dolla $ign harmonizes with himself on the ebullient “Never Would Have Made It,” Mykki Blanco bellows like he’s hosting a ball on “WTP,” and Taylor showcases her unique range of vocal and affective tones on every last track. Her lyrics are caught in the balance between sexual desire and familial and professional anxieties; K.T.S.E. sees her through three-ways, questions of infidelity, and the need to defend wearing multiple hats (“‘What do she do?’ I do everything”). While the album unmistakably revolves around Taylor’s voice, much of the critical conversation about K.T.S.E. has focused on Kanye. In this case, that’s understandable, because it’s one of the best things with which he’s ever been involved. While it’s in danger of being overshadowed by the four other albums he’s produced this year (to say nothing of his further promises), K.T.S.E. is on a different plane. It’s explosively powerful and a significant return to form for Kanye as a producer. It makes a good case that he shines brightest in the service of unique, iconoclastic voices that aren’t heard as frequently as his own.


die Reihe

Vocoder

[anòmia]

[LISTEN · READ]

The MTA trains new recruits to maintain the 3rd rail at Morgan, Jefferson, DeKalb. When teaching high-voltage to rookies, intelligibility is key. And so, Jack Callahan makes sure he is intelligible as he breezes through the history of the Vocoder. “I hope that I have reached a happy medium and you are able to understand this part of the monologue,” says Callahan via single carrier signal. His exploration of the vocoder’s potential for saw wave slapstick perks our ears up, while his folk café journaling includes us in the interiority of the process, where compositional strategies in continuity and sibilance are just barely there, like a thong designed by Hajime Sorayama; meaning, Vocoder is minimal and mechanical and enticing — on the G-string side of threadbare — unlike many other clinical sound concepts. Who among us doesn’t wish to become robotic, encoded, and enhanced? And why be major when you can be major seventh? Even Ike Eisenhower, we learn, “did not want to sound like a chipmunk.”


SahBabii

Squidtastic

[Casting Bait Music Group]

[LISTEN]

SahBabii, who you might know because of this, is a rapper from Atlanta. People like comparing him to Young Thug, like it’s a bad thing (it isn’t), and while there’s certainly a Jeffrey-esque flavor on Squidtastic, it’s not overpowering, and SahBabii, in my book, maintains a distinct approach. That aside, Squidtastic, his fourth tape, is striking in two ways: unlike most post-breakout releases that are replete with big guest spots, this tape has only one feature — his brother T3. Second, it pulls off a gimmicky premise quite well. While we do love gimmicks here at TMT, we know that they can make or break an artist, and it’s sometimes a self-sabtoging crutch. But the beachy gimmick works: Squidtastic truly is Squidrific, which is to say it’s warm and meandering, oceanic and euphoric, the production relaxed and innovative, the ad-libs fun and rhymically goofy (I am partial to the guttural “ya dig,” on Behind the Scenes). It’s hard to follow a song with 50 million YouTube hits, but Squidtastic convinces us that SahBabii is worth keeping around. Listen up and watch out for the barnacles.


Magnétophonique

Une Cartographie Idéale

[Not Not Fun]

[LISTEN · READ]

Creating psychedelic soundscapes that evoke a surreal tropical paradise isn’t exactly new terrain for underground music — artists like Dolphins Into the Future, Spencer Clark, Sun Araw, and Mondo Lava have all waded into this tide pool plenty — and yet on Une Cartographie Ideale, Magnétophonique still manages to wring a special kind of beauty from this imaginary world. A compilation spanning the work of Lyon, France’s Charles Belpois (former roommate and label partner of New Age pan-pipe pro Les Halles), Une Cartographie Idéale speaks to all the alluring warmth and weary emptiness of such idealistic postcard fantasia. Forested tape loops swell to peaks of impossible color and detail, only to fray away into reflective synth elegies as lonesome as a walk on the beach in the early morning. Belpois’s warbled field recordings, tumbling hand drums, and pocket-sized keyboard melodies have a way of bringing everything both closer and further away from reality, making Une Cartographie Ideale an otherworldly haven to soak in, albeit one that must inevitably fade away; like the vivid dream from last night that you now just can’t quite seem to grasp.


Fire-Toolz

Skinless X-1

[Hausu Mountain]

[LISTEN · READ]

“How would you describe the music of Chicago’s resident transcendent transfemme Angel Marcloid? Huh? If it’s so easy, why don’t you do it?” OK, OK, TMT colleague Lijah Fosl, I’ll give it a crack, but no promises. I definitely didn’t get it right the first time, so the chance that somehow I’ll find the words to do it justice this time is pretty slim. I mean, think about it: a Fire-Toolz record is essentially a musical manifestation of Marcloid’s mind, a fascinating place, to be sure, where synapses and electrical relays fire off in all different directions, often simultaneously. Given audio space, those mental processes take form as unique and unrelenting stimuli, ever-shifting in tone, timbre, and rhythm. Take “✓ iNTERBEiNG” for example: tranquil synths meet breakbeats and guitar, add in metal singing and Peter Gabriel keyboard runs (Peter Gabriel’s been on the radio a LOT lately), and you’ve got a winning template. Extrapolate those elements, those ideas, those emotional whiplashes out to album length, run them through computer programs and processors and pedals, chop them to bits, and there you have it: Skinless X-1, a huge evolutionary leap in Fire-Toolz’s compositional and songwriting skills. The searing energy of its atoms bombarding you will rip your skin right off, just as the title promises. No Peter Gabriel tune ever did that to anybody.

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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