2019: Third Quarter Favorites 28 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


A projection onto curved space. Hyper-pluralism. Machine-gun chatter chants. Punchline-worthy sound effects. Body-free. A memoir of purgatory. A burnt-sugar-embrace. The half-smirking, half-sneering view from the top. The slick velocity of the Shanghai underground. The overdetermining ethnophilosophical suppositions of “spontaneous unanimity.” The Artist Statement. Absence. Decay. Sacrifice. ⛽

We’re almost there. The end of 2019. The end of the decade. The end of music? We’ve warned you about it before, and it’s already in motion. We’re not kidding.

Until then, enjoy our favorite releases of Q3 below, cobbled together informally and presented lovingly to the people we appreciate most: you readers! <3


Fire-Toolz

Field Whispers (Into The Crystal Palace)

[Orange Milk]

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From “Old Town Road” to 100 gecs, 2019 has been a flash point for interdisciplinarity in pop music. Meanwhile, Orange Milk has been a home for maximalist, genre-bending music for a number of years now. Field Whispers (Into The Crystal Palace) from Fire-Toolz is an especially potent example of the label’s hyper-pluralistic ethos. While at home in the waning, yet still vital, milieu of vaporwave, Field Whispers is different — it has its few-seconds-long sojourns into noise, screamo, soul, trance, and ambient, and above all else, its spirit of acceleration and play. Unlike better-known examples, Field Whispers doesn’t challenge the conventional idea of the album as the primary unit of an artist’s body of work. While it never seems concerned with the task of deciding what it is, it is certainly a bounded, discrete accomplishment, with a consistent set of tendencies and references. These are, nonetheless, varied and exhilarating. From the gated strings and compressed drums of “mailto:spasm@swamp.god?subject=Mind-Body Parallels” to the mukbang ASMR conclusion of “Smiling At Sunbears Grooming In Sunbeams,” Field Whispers is thrillingly committed to its lack of commitment.


Kelela

AQUAPHORIA

[Warp/NTS]

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Pardon the lazy expression, but it’s probably “saying something” that, when this hour-long mix — consisting of Kelela drizzling her distinctively addictive avant-R&B vocal syrup over a creamy, fattening sundae of instrumental tracks from the likes of Aphex Twin, Oneohtrix Point Never, Autechre, and Jaco Pastorius — first materialized back in June as part of Warp Records’s 30th-anniversary NTS Radio broadcast WXAXRXP, we were actually too indisposed listening to it to even hype it up to you properly. And actually, considering the woooooonderful narcotic effect that such a decadent confection is likely to have on anyone who dares take it internally, it’s a wonder I’m able to operate this machine cogently enough to tell you about it while I listen NOW. But not for long, I fear… Between the warm bulk of the mix’s harmonic near-stasis and burnt-sugar-embrace of Kelela’s unintelligible melodies, my own words’ meanings are failing me… Civic and filial responsibilities…one by one, fading. Rhetorical desire… ughh, unimportant now. Confusssed… Stars… blinking out. Extinguissssshhhhhh… Happi, or…maybeeeeeeee? Shhhhhh…serenity. All.


Dorian Electra

Flamboyant

[Self-Released]

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When the Met Gala announced earlier this year that the theme of their 2019 fashion show would be “camp,” many words were spent disputing the meaning of such a concept, with people debating endlessly over whose ludicrous outfits were truly campy and whose weren’t. Dorian Electra’s glammy self-released debut album, Flamboyant, invites no such uncertainty. From front to back, Flamboyant finds the Charli XCX collaborator demonstrating a theatrical ability to inhabit whatever costume suits their fancy, whether it be the lusty workaholic of “Career Boy,” the self-obsessed Mozart wannabe of “Musical Genius,” or the stunting sugar daddy of “Daddy Like.” Every portrait is as ludicrous as the last, each song juggling punchline-worthy sound effects and body-moving hooks with the ease of a court jester, even when Electra dives into more tortured subjects like the gender dysphoric man at the heart of “Emasculate.” Flamboyant is equal parts sexual exploration, character study, and over-the-top confessional (just LOOK at this music video), and evidence that as a non-binary voice rising in a new generation of left-field pop stars, Dorian Electra is on a catwalk all their own.


I Jahbar & Friends

Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash

[Bokeh Versions]

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As overuse of the words “soundclash” and “dancehall” threatens to render them meaningless, the dubvotees at Bokeh Versions and riddim-wreckers of Duppy Gun unite to burn down Babylon from within. Or some such bombast — emphasis on the bomb, of course. Frantic machine-gun chatter chants punctuate booming sub-bass and spacy synth bursts, such that systems rattle not only dirt and concrete, but also the air itself. As a result, spasmodic fits of dance are more an effect than affectation. One might rattle a dozen think pieces per track, but as the sun rises, the only question that matters is: “Who you got, A side or B?” (I say B, C says A.)


Lingua Ignota

Caligula

[Profound Lore]

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It’s never the right time for this. Life is supposed to just go on. But once properly immersed, Kristin Hayter’s music ably leaves its mark. Caligula is undeniably powerful, but its power is not the sort that fuels revelry or a hearty run. Thus far, a performance or album from this artist is less a deliberated-on selection than a gleaming double-barreled number that rolls around the dreaming bend, forcing the sleeper to reckon. There are so many whom deserve the specifically targeted curses she renders that one needn’t look far for a transposable “you.” And these are the most stentorian of damnations. For when mercy isn’t what’s needed. When strength and wretchedness weirdly prop each other up. When all you see is brilliant gushing, righteous red. Caligula wasn’t necessarily about healing, but damn if it didn’t redeem the notion of catharsis while drawing from genres that’ve routinely commodified it.


Klein

Lifetime

[ijn inc.]

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Religion and anxiety go hand and hand, feeding each other like an eternal ouroboros. It can’t be stopped, only documented. Lifetime gives us evidence that Klein understands this. This is true evangelical music, thrashing and worming at itself and everyone else, gripping and paralyzed with dread. Klein takes us on a spiritual journey, juxtaposed with mundane recordings; each moment consecrates the last. Her devotion to warping every last sound and nuance only breathes more paranoia into Lifetime, fashioning it into a memoir of purgatory. You are on the ride, and you can’t let go. Let Klein help you.


Young Thug

So Much Fun

[300 Entertainment/Atlantic]

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[LISTEN]

Classify him as you will; postmodern poster boy Young Thug is one of the best rappers operating, and all he does is get better. So Much Fun is an album that is the flipside to everything dark and threatening that has ever brooded Thugger’s music to this point. As Thug says, “Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” and So Much Fun is indeed entertainment. But even casual fans know by now that nothing about Thug is typical or boring. The production is masterful and most of the (many) collaborations are colorful, but it’s Thug’s album, and So Much Fun is as cliché-ridden and deep and silly and surreal as ever.

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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