2019: First Quarter Favorites 23 incredible 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


ana roxanne

Immortality

[Leaving]

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[LISTEN]

Sometimes my vision flickers, and I think it’s the lights, but I’m blinking. Immortality isn’t meant to be grasped. Works meant to be built, envisioned. Choreography of landscape. This world wasn’t presented to us; Earth is torn into our reality. Daily, we accept the nature that unfolds. Woody Guthrie was and represents police. A white bowtie and cummerbund full of crumbs. Listening to ana roxanne where you please: as an infant, cooking my family’s dinner, feeling myself. Immortality is a learning experience. Listen up, frfr! It don’t matter the blinks that it takes; the light’s been steady, so stay clear in your vision sometimes.


Yugen Blakrok

Anima Mysterium

[I.O.T]

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[LISTEN · WATCH · READ]

One of the easiest ways to achieve a trance state is through overstimulation. Anima Mysterium short-circuits attuned brainwaves by loading concepts to critical mass. It’s not just a matter of Yugen Blakrok’s technique — though that’s plenty impressive unto itself — it’s about sheer substance, the laws of gravity. In an era when rap seems to be getting shorter and crunchier, Yugen blasts off in the opposite direction. Every exploratory song on Anima Mysterium clocks in at over three minutes, and each beat bangs big as both words and music seek the infinite. With guest verses from Historian Himself (a professional dinosaur illustrator), Jak Tripper (a folk legend of horrorcore and battle-rap), and Kool Keith, there are no weak links, only burnt synapses.


DJ Healer

Lost Lovesongs / Lostsongs Vol. 2

[Planet Uterus]

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[LISTEN · READ]

DJ Healer’s music is deceptively pure. Last year’s Nothing 2 Loose, one of our favorites of 2018, confronted how I typically evaluate ambient music; I kept dropping it into my personal top 50 and then taking it off and then dropping it back in a few spots higher every few weeks. How could something this simple, this unadorned sound so… fresh? Can clean synth pads, a looped Eli Keszler-esque beat, and vocal samples that sound like they could have been lifted from a Goldie record or a New Age self-help tape rival a GAS or Huerco S. album, much less a DJ Sprinkles mix? Lost Lovesongs and Lostsongs Vol. 2 shut down these concerns by shutting everything else out. Phenomenal ambient music is rare, but perhaps even rarer is music this committed. When DJ Healer is playing, it’s all that has ever existed, and even in its own private universe, it feels like a hard-earned hit.


Nivhek

After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house

[W 25th./Superior Viaduct]

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[LISTEN · WATCH · READ]

On the day this was written, Scott Walker died. I think of this as I think of Liz Harris.

To become risky, to go beyond. That’s something really difficult to do in music. People want you to be something static, remember you as something particular. It’s a problem with music lovers: The demand for familiarity. When you get older, people simply expect a variation of your past, enraptured as they are in the nostalgia-industrial complex.

To grow, you have to become something beyond the anchor of nostalgia. Perhaps you can’t be the musician you once were. So escape the pastiche that confines you. Then you become dangerous.

Liz Harris hates all of us.

No, no! Nite Flights. Remember this. The indifference is the same. She has a right to change. Her path is her own; we can only bear witness. I think of Liz Harris and the implications of being in love. I think of Scott Walker walking into the void of the American heart. I think of Liz Harris, understanding death better than anyone can. I think of Liz Harris.


Helado Negro

This Is How You Smile

[RVNG Intl.]

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[LISTEN · WATCH · READ]

Extracting his album name from a 1978 New Yorker short story (only about a three-minute read), Helado Negro takes his soothing blend of acoustic songs and finds beauty in an era of political unrest. It’s easy for all of us to become angry — some to the point of violence — but what happens when we turn the other cheek and smile? Helado’s relentless optimism in the face of adversity is a shining example of how we could all comport ourselves, a reminder that we can find positivity even in the darkest, most trying times.


Crystallmess

Mere Noises

[Self-Released]

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[LISTEN]

In 2019, we are dancing with our demons and our loved ones. For the dropouts: when the floor drops out so we swivel on air, getting by, making way, somewhere between flutter and flail, grace and grunt. Knowledge ain’t gonna get you nowhere. Cracked screen, garbled entry: luminous calibration in the tangle of the undecided. Wesh wesh, qu’est-ce qui se passe? We tune in, and what we hear are Mere Noises, limber but lumbering nevertheless, undisciplined but not undeliberate — because what is left but intention? — surging out in memory of logobi, congealing an ecstatic archive of a Black French present. We refuse amnesia as a method said Aimé Césaire in 1956 and Christelle Oyiri in 2018. And just like that, dedicated to the spiral, we circle back in refulgent torsion, coupé-décalé, but all the more whole for it.

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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