After running the numbers on a huge spreadsheet full of lists and scores, some of our contributor's favorite albums didn't make the cut for our Mid-Year List. Still, we stand behind these records and wanted to highlight a couple close runners up.
An entrancing project of melancholy, introspective bars floating over jazzy atmospheric beats.
For a sophomore EP, Wicked City packs the oomph of a debut. It’s bold and declarative, while also retaining a sense of mystery. Wicked City proves that Jockstrap have no shortage of creativity, as these five tracks have more than enough ideas to fill a whole album. The London duo's mind-bending future-pop is dizzying, discombobulating and unmissable.
Elysia Crampton opts for a mixture of Latin percussion and discordant synth washes on this latest release. ORCORARA 2010 is a lively album that creates a strong amount of imagery, incorporating spoken word on many of its tracks to paint an impressive and powerful picture.
After a over decade-long career, one of Canada’s best kept secrets returned with a long awaited new album. RIP is a near perfect musical statement from a group of artists at their prime. The stellar, layered production provides an immaculate backing to the thoughtful, heartfelt, lyrics and vocal performance. This prog-pop opus is sweeping and lush, filled with immense anthems and intimate ballads. It feels like a culmination of the best parts of their discography, distilled down to their purest and most honed form.
I first found Beardy when they sent me the link to their album response to me retweeting their hilarious Fiona Apple meme on Twitter. I bought it on bandcamp with zero expectations and was surprised with how good it was. Satellite etc. on the surface contains glitchy and bouncing electronic rap songs, but deep down is a impressive (and sometimes hilarious) story of growing up queer in the digital age. The slight mixing issues on some tracks can be overlooked because when this album shines, it shines bright. From the soaring outro of “ur atmosphere” to the absolute bop that is “in love”, Satellite etc. gives me hope that Beardy has a bright future ahead of them.
William Crooks is one of the most exciting new voices in the world of alternative rap. He combines the experimental nature of artists like JPEGMAFIA with the emo rap sensibilities of artists like Lil Peep, all alongside PC music production flourishes. With a delivery that is at times soft and other times scathing, Thunderbird keeps you engaged the whole way through.
Her most transparently danceable release yet, Arca shows us her celebratory side on this wild, iconoclastic, deconstructed electronic record. This one didn’t make the cut simply by being released a little past our cut-off date.
This release from the adolescent collective FROMTHEHEART flew under the radar. Comparable to 100 Gecs, FROMTHEHEART provides hyperpop jams ruminating on young adult experiences. This collective leans on each other in order to hopefully conquer an uncertain future.
Sporadic breakbeat to freeform jazz this album will keep you on your toes. Electronic, but fresh. Experimental, but digestible. There’s something new to discover in each track.
Looped up beats from Charlotte’s Dirty Art Club. Superb sampling over lofi hip-hop drums, Gardens is perfect for hazy days spent on the porch, my go-to album this year.
Upsammy returns with a lush album focused on detail that’s both hypnotic and playful. Intricately layered, forward thinking IDM that’s better with every listen.
What's Tonight To Eternity is not an easy album to digest. Recorded by Cindy Lee with their younger brother on drums, we find an album with a purely lo-fi sound, in which the songs go at their rhythm. What's Tonight To Eternity embodies yin and yang, in which soft melodies and ruthless ugliness are in almost perfect balance.
Made in collaboration with Silver Jews’ David Berman, Strange To Explain channels Woods’s reaffirming, joyous energy into newfound pristine production and complexity. Sonic flourishes satisfy like a crisp Lager, while ominous snippets hint at a thunderstorm rollicking along with the summer breeze.
Shopping's fourth LP is its closest to justifying the sound that many call disco-punk. The angular guitars and dancey rhythms of the group’s past work give way to more synths and electronic production on All or Nothing. And yet, the band's post-punk punch remains totally intact.
Emo is often considered the stomping grounds of angsty teenagers looking to complain about how their mom didn’t give them the 20 bucks they needed to buy beer for Jesse’s party last night (but to be fair, you would’ve been so cool if you showed up with beer and MOM JUST DOESN’T GET IT). Spanish Love Songs takes the same angsty approach but chocks the lyrics full of references to the ails of hitting your early thirties. Gentrification and wage slavery all make stark appearances on this incredible record, and not a single bit of the snotty emo sound has been toned down.
Xenobiotic delivers a ripping version of technical death metal that is sure to appeal to anyone who grew up listening to groups like Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage. Clearly understandable lyrics and a fresh sheen (though not too fresh) on the production make this album approachable without sacrificing an ounce of heaviness.
With a single stroke Zebra Katz has already established himself as a must-watch figure in hip-hop. LESS IS MOOR blends club focused beats, a laid back delivery and endlessly playful lyrics into a single package, and it works better than anyone could have intended. Whether Katz is waxing poetic about keeping asses “bump bumpin’” or dropping bursts of noisy static, it’s all essential listening.
Doom metal is making one hell of a comeback this year. Between this record and the latest releases from Blacklab and Frayle, Stoner Doom is set to take over most any metal playlist. This record pulls liberally from early Sabbath, but does so in a way that showcases the freshness of the Sabbath sound without sounding like a straight ripoff.
This dense, beautiful, drum n’ bass release from Sewerslvt has quickly become one of my favorite records of this year. It’s full of sweeping synths, and every track is a thick, lush, deeply layered masterpiece. It puts me into a very specific, almost meditative headspace when listening to it all the way through. This album feels very “internet” in a way that not much else I’ve heard does, the controlled chaos present here invokes the feeling of growing up in the digital sphere.
This is a vibrant jazz album that takes a large influence from the music of the Gnawa in northern Africa. Bekkas teams up with a trio of Swedish musicians to provide a hypnotic fusion that is achingly gorgeous in many spots. This is the type of peaceful album that is just a little too moving to be simply ambient.
A gorgeous space ambient work that ebbs and flows with absolute ease. It may wear its influences on its sleeve at times, but who really cares about that when the music is this entrancing. A beautiful, droning concept album that succeeds in being completely immersive.
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