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


Felicia Atkinson

The Flower And The Vessel

[Shelter Press]

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[LISTEN · READ]

Felicia Atkinson’s The Flower and the Vessel is different every time we listen to it. Initially, it could be the shimmering synthesizers and resonant overtones that attract attention. On a second listen, it might be the plethora of field recordings and found sounds, while during another moment it’s Felicia’s whispered, affecting poetry. No matter what emerges to the forefront of a given listen, these multi-faceted layers reel us in, combining to form what isn’t so much a collage as a space of its own — and a surreal one at that. But as irresistibly magical and alien as it is, The Flower and the Vessel is in the end about the human experience. And it might just be Felicia Atkinson’s best album to date.


Slug Christ & Nedarb

DEEP (un)LEARNING

[Self-Released]

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Slug Christ’s divine mythos has always existed within the recognizable world, though the Atlanta rapper/producer’s esoteric leanings hint at astral origins. While past output has confined Slugga’s metaphysical studies of the Demiurge, plant mentality, and transfiguration to the staid structures of grimy trap instrumentals, collaborator Nedarb Nagrom has awakened his period of DEEP (un)LEARNING. Culling aesthetic cues from Bandcamp bedroom pop and the early 4AD Records catalogue, the EP marks a creative breakthrough — Slug’s hedonist lyrical hallmarks are shed for deeper, more inscrutable introspection, while the aural clouds that incubate him feel as prickly and immersive as a Fennesz soundscape. From the depths of unlearning, a new salted slug hatches.


(Sandy) Alex G

House of Sugar

[Domino]

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File under: slacker guy pounds back a lager and lands a kickflip while belching out a tune but ah fuck it was actually pretty good and really fuckin’ smooth and it got a small response from the group but really just one unanimous “heh” because we were too surprised and impressed to fester up much more and dude I’m pretty sure you teared up a bit didn’t you I bet you did actually it kinda reminded me of your big brother man haven’t seen him in a while is he doin’ alright what’s he been up to ah shit sorry to hear it man fuck that’s rough hope he can find the space to heal and grow it’s pretty hard out there and inside too.


Barker

Utility

[Ostgut Ton]

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[LISTEN]

With Utility, Barker finally gave us a full-length of his elegant, “no kick drum” techno, stretching out and relaxing in a space where the propulsiveness of techno and the drift of ambient are rendered one and the same. It’s a vivid, alert slide, bright trance synths shimmering and pulsating, skittering in and around crests of white noise and glistening sustains. The attack of the synth envelope begins as percussion, instantly becomes sustained harmony, decays, releases — a note here is a point and a wave, a beat and a tone. In lovely, luxuriant fashion, Barker crafts the liminal space where rhythm and melody and harmonics merge, where movement and dissolution are one and the same, where we are left alert and bright-eyed but joyously adrift, joyously unmoored.


Caleb Giles

Under the Shade

[Self-Released]

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[LISTEN]

It wouldn’t be a stretch to describe Under the Shade as a fleeting moment of levity. Released in the grip of another cruel summer, the album plays with the same sonic and lyrical thematics that the oftentimes too-weighty There Will Be Rain did, both above and below the surface; the overall vibe is breezier, but nonetheless languid, wondering. For all of Caleb Giles’s bundled-up ennui, though, I can’t help but feel a diffuse sense of hope shining through these beats and bars, like sunshine spilling through the cracks. That much seems true right from the get-go, wherein he’s “liv[ing] exhausted, but able.” The dark of the shade can be overbearing, but always know that out of darkness cometh light. Or, in Giles’s phrase, “the light and the dark are both beautiful, and there’s a lot to take from both.” That duality is manifest at every interstice of Under the Shade, safe in the knowledge that the come-up must necessarily follow the comedown.


Slikback & Hyph11E

Slip B

[SVBKVLT]

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[LISTEN]

What is made of titanium, weighs two tons, & moves at 200 km/h? If you guessed Slikback, you’re in for a nice surprise: these tracks are twice as fast, five times as heavy, & brought up red-hot to the melting point. Sponsored by Nyege Nyege Tapes on a residency across various Chinese cities, Slikback alloys the entropy of singeli & the East African club scene with the slick velocity of the Shanghai underground on this collaborative EP with SVBKVLT producer Hyph11E — oh, & it’s hype indeed. We’re moving way past corporatized globalization here; time’s up for We Are the World & neoliberal solidarities. With interconnectivity increasingly co-opted for profit, these two producers are showing us the way toward the disassembly & reassembly of new pathways of horizontal communication: No more layover between Nairobi & Shanghai!


Bill Callahan

Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

[Drag City]

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[LISTEN · READ]

Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest speaks to an acceptance that’s been missing since Bill Callahan dropped his Smog veil. Where once he retreated, naked from the pseudonym he shed, Shepherd in a Sheepskin finds him not clothed in the titled garment, but finally taking it off to reveal his starkness. He tells us that, looking back, he sees “salt… or sugar” — a lustful tendency to cast off the opportunities of anger in favor of happiness now fulfilled by family. Yet, in contentedness, he reconnects with those lost opportunities to lambaste corruption through the disguised visage of the Four Horsemen. We see the fear, worry, and acceptance that comes with parenthood. Even as he has emerged through the smoke that once cloaked him, we also see in his nudity the frailty of continuing doubt, thrust upon those inured with loved ones. It was once distant, but now it rattles close — perhaps too close — to home.

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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