2019: Second Quarter Favorites 25 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


Aldous Harding

Designer

[4AD]

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[LISTEN]

Every line that Aldous Harding sings on Designer comes clutched tightly by uncompromising mixtures of percussion, keys, and strings. Her vocal outpour distills reckless experiences through a measured delivery, and while each piece is generous in its narrative, her humble assortment of instruments hold on to her words like a protective plume, a restrained air that fits perfectly around her thoughts, confessions, and memories. Her recollections here are intimate; she sings of kisses, glances, strokes, hinting at once in admiration and regret as she refers to unfathomable dreams and wild, welling eyes. Harding’s impressions then gently fade away, alluding to another world of hissing lawns, fruit trees, and glow worms, while the distinct pressure points of Designer remain forever engrained and impossible to forget.


billy woods & Kenny Segal

Hiding Places

[Backwoodz Studioz]

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[LISTEN]

Coming out of the fog like weary soldiers, billy woods and L.A. beat veteran Kenny Segal deliver hip-hop’s “Wasteland.” Whether it’s the state of the rap industry, the American military-industrial complex, or the lingering scars of past colonial conquests, the pellucid rage of Hiding Places leaves you shell-shocked. billy’s delivery is clear and direct, his cadence never falters; he articulates gothic tales of a surveillance age over slurring, hypnagogic beats — the contrast that makes this collaborative album distinct. His lyrics contain myths and odysseys — the ranting evokes magical realism — tracing lines through histories of atrocities. From Saddam in the Spider Hole to King Leopold in the Congo, the grim world is exposed for its cowardice. Kenny Segal cuts a ghostly foil. Hiding Places renders the apocalypse in High Definition, in all its banality and bureaucracy. “This is America,” billy reminds us, “it’s not for the weak of stomach.”


Helm

Chemical Flowers

[PAN]

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[LISTEN · READ]

For over a decade, Luke Younger has been a reputable source of genre splintering pseudo-drone envelopment. With Helm, the listener wades in placid, while the murky water steadily seeps out of comfy containment. Despite producing some balmy, bonfire ASMR drone, Younger continues to make you earn that rusty glow with some blackhole-listing, de-composing and skeletal process segments. The feeling is akin to when it’s just between you, a passenger, and the world. When your pocket distractions fail you and there’s nothing more needed than to plainly take in everything you possibly can of your surroundings. Even at its quietest (the immaculate stillness of “Leave Them All Behind” is For Those Who Have Never…-level mesmerizing), Chemical Flowers is an invigorating, steely-eyed gulp of incidental air and a proper reaffirmation for this keen curator of the strange space between restlessness and resolve.


Wizard Apprentice

Dig A Pit

[Ratskin/Cruisin]

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[LISTEN · READ]

An album about recovering from “intimate partner violence.” Nonetheless welcoming. Warm, soft-spoken, bold, melodic, vulnerable, and most of all smart. Tieraney Carter (a.k.a. Wizard Apprentice) comes off as emotionally hyper-intelligent in a way that few others are. Like, can you say you’re a virtuoso at the instrument that is your brain? I mean your heart-brain, the thing behind the eyes, where the tears come from, where the choices are made. I mean, really, where the choices are really made. I just started practicing the damn thing. Carter could give a masterclass. This is where the tears come from, the good ones. Necessary.


Holly Herndon

PROTO

[4AD]

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[LISTEN · READ]

It’s impossible to write around the influence that artificial intelligence had on PROTO. Namely, it’s the fact that — along with a heavily prominent choral ensemble and a host of other contributors — Holly Herndon made her third studio album in collaboration with an A.I. “baby” named Spawn. Raised on a healthy diet of vocal coaching and a sense of community, Spawn’s function was not to stand out or replicate an approximation of previous Herndon works, but to be embedded in the creative process itself, part of the generation of something entirely new. The results are at times mind-blowing, a melding of electronic music with traditional Sacred Harp singing, and super future techniques like, oh I don’t know, an A.I. that’s learning to sing and appreciate group dynamics. In Holly Herndon’s vision of the future, humanity isn’t destined to be overthrown, harvested, and turned into mulch by an uprising of sentient artificial intelligence. PROTO brings the organic and the artificial together, crafting an environment for the two to work and blossom in creative harmony.

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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