Second Quarter Report: The 20 best albums of the last three months

By , Jun 18 2010
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Having delivered our First Quarter Report back in March, it’s now time for us to cast our eye over the last three months – April, May, June – and present the A-Z of our 20 favourite albums from the period.

From the beach-friendly pop of Washed Out (pictured) to the isolationist house of Actress, via Erykah Badu’s exemplary neo-soul and Emeralds’ cosmic synth explorations, there’s something for every taste.


01: ACTRESS
SPLAZSH
(HONEST JON’S)

“I’ve lived in Splazsh since the first promos were sent out, and it seems crude to compare it to [Actress’s debut album] Hazyville. Both are unique, and sit alongside each other in the oeuvre of an artist who deserves the wider audience he’ll surely find as a result of this record. Hold a gun to my head though, and I’ll tell you that this is the one that goes down as a classic; an album that soothes and excites as often as it takes you to deeply uncomfortable places.”full review


02: ALTERED NATIVES
TENEMENT YARD VOL.1
(EYE4EYE)

“There are occasions when Tenement Yard seems almost too much; too pungent, almost, for everyday consumption. It’s a long (80 minutes) album, and the loop-based trackiness of its take on UK Funky may not be to all tastes. But, God, there are many moments here that are utterly thrilling. As tough, as uncompromising, and – most importantly – as fun a House set as you could wish to hear, this summer or any summer.” – full review


03: ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI
BEFORE TODAY
(4AD)

Before Today has been billed as Ariel Pink’s most accessible and commercially viable release to date. To an extent that’s true, though it’s still a pretty weird record, and one wonders if it will win him a new audience beyond his extensive hardcore following. To that hardcore following, it’s simply more manna from heaven, a sun-spoiled “pop” suite of the highest and headiest order.


04: ARP & ANTHONY MOORE
FRKWS VOL.3
(FRKWYS)

A range of instruments and strategies were employed in the making of this soaring, contemplative record, including tape loops, cello, violin, piano and analogue synthesizers. Fans of Arthur Russell, Steve Reich and the more pensive, organic end of kosmische music will find much to admire here.


05: CARIBOU
SWIM
(MERGE)

Whether as Manitoba or Caribou, Canada’s Dan Snaith has always made reliably sensitive, quietly innovative music. We thought we’d got his number, and nothing prepared us for the stylistic shift that Swim represents – here Snaith embraces the dancefloor, teaming the bump of Chicago house with some of his most immediate songwriting to date, and comes over like a natural heir to Arthur Russell.


06: DADAWAH
PEACE & LOVE
(DUG OUT)

You should know by now that every release from Dug Out, the reggae reissue imprint run by Rhythm & Sound’s Mark Ernestus and Mark Ainley of Honest Jon’s, is must-have tackle. So far the label has largely concerned itself with digi-killers from the 1980s, but their first LP offering is a more organic and spiritual affair.

Though a prime example of nyabinghi (Rastafarian devotional music), Dadawah’s Peace And Love – originally released on Wild Flower in 1974- is no regular jah-praising platter. Rather, it’s as bottomless and revelatory as an acid trip (but without the paranoia); in Ainley’s estimation, it’s the closest reggae comes to psychedelia. In particular check ‘Zion Land’ – Ras Michel’s languid vocals levitating over pungent keyboard parts which sound as though they were recorded in a cathedral, the red-eyed studio genius of Lloyd Charmers and George Raymond in full effect.


07: DRAKE
THANK ME LATER
(UNIVERSAL/ISLAND)

Thank Me Later is as strong a debut as the rap genre has had for years now, and with it Drake deserves to be popular and acclaimed to boot. His story might be different, his style might be quirky, but his relevance right now can’t be denied; this album could be as important for hip hop as Merriweather Post Pavillion was for contemporary indie rock.


08: EMERALDS
DOES IT LOOK LIKE I’M HERE?
(EDITIONS MEGO)

Shimmering guitar and synthesizer excursions from the internet-adored US outfit. “It’s a fine line between dynamism and patchiness; you do get the feeling that while they may not quite be there yet, but Emeralds have it in them to walk that line with aplomb.” – full review


09: ERYKAH BADU
NEW AMERYKAH PART 2: RETURN OF THE ANKH
(UNIVERSAL MOTOWN)

“Erykah Badu is undoubtedly one of the most unique recording artists in Western music. The first woman of the nineties Neo-Soul movement, she’s defined the genre ever since and is one of the only vocalists who can seamlessly fuse jazz, RnB and hip-hop with the level of eccentricity she’s become known for. Her vision, creativity and admission of being a complete control freak (her record label is even called Control Freaq) makes her one of the best. It’s been three years since New Amerykah Part One was released, and it’s only just left my stereo. True story. And after some extensive listening, it’s likely Part Two will at least be there for the foreseeable future.”full review


10: FLYING LOTUS
COSMOGRAMMA
(WARP)

Cosmogramma is an ambitious work. And like other similarly ambitious works it tends to leave people firmly divided. After first feeling like it was an incoherent mess, a mish mash of ideas loosely strung together, I now see a coherence to it, both musically and I guess spiritually, that makes it the perfect continuation of Lotus’ sonic explorations to date.” – full review

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11: GUIDO
ANIDEA
(PUNCH DRUNK)

“Forget experimentation and its implications, Anidea is just an album that’s easy to sit down with and effortlessly enjoy. It would be easy to say that Guido can now join the pantheon of Important Dubstep(-ish) Albums along with Burial, Shackleton, Kode9 and Peverelist, but with his unique grasp of melody, colour and instrumentation, maybe he deserves a section all to his own.”full review


12: IKONIKA
CONTACT, WANT, LOVE, HAVE
(HYPERDUB)

“A completely instrumental album, Contact, Love, Want, Have manages to keep to a particular set of sounds without getting boring – in fact, it gets better with repeat listens – and at various points across its course is thrilling, beautiful, melancholy, funky and ultimately triumphant.” – full review


13: jj
jj n°3

(SECRETLY CANADIAN)

“Nostalgia is, obviously, all over this record, but rarely do artists pull it off as naturally, and with as much composure in their end of the night (or end of the summer) sadness as jj. This is a band whose music is fragile, often pastel-toned, and maybe even disposable on the surface, but who reward repeated listening in a way that very few other artists around can.” – full review


14: MADLIB
MEDICINE SHOW 5: THE HISTORY OF THE LOOP DIGGA
(STONES THROW)

“There is an innocence about this work, and an isolation too; like much of Madlib’s best, it’s a reflective and personal journey, a diary of sketches that are now footnotes on the road to success. But despite the inherent nostalgia in such an outing, it’s a fitting and timely reminder of who the pioneers really are and what “making beats” was originally about, given the global popularity, market saturation and cultural re-branding and revival of the “experimental beat making” meme today.” full review


15: ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER
RETURNAL
(EDITIONS MEGO)

“I’ll admit that there have been moments over the past year when I’ve wondered whether Oneohtrix Point Never might just be a convenient and arbitrarily assigned poster-boy for the escalating global synth scene, and that his music is as popular as it is because it provides a nice unobtrusive soundtrack to internet surfing, babysitting, college assignments. In short, I thought it was ambient. The riveting, often terrifying Returnal makes me ashamed for thinking any such thing: Daniel Lopatin is the real deal, deserving of his current elevated status, and even if he never makes another good record again, this one will endure.” – full review


16: PURSUIT GROOVES
FOX TROT MANNERISMS
(TECTONIC)

“All in all, despite this being her fourth album, it’s an excellent introduction to Pursuit Grooves for the wider world, and a bold release by Tectonic, unlike anything the label’s put out before.” – full review


17: RATATAT
LP4
(XL)

“It’s hard to draw an overall conclusion with this album, which is testament to it. The last three tracks, ‘Bare Feast’, ‘Grape City’ and ‘Alps’ feel like they’re treading ground that the album has already worn down, but it’s hard to criticise Ratatat for that when they’ve arrived at a formula that’s so effective; taken individually, these tracks are stunning … Not a perfect album then, but certainly one of the year’s most expansive, rich and frequently rewarding.” – full review


18: RENE HELL
PORCELAIN OPERA
(TYPE)

“Unlike so many albums from the new wave of synthesizer music, Porcelain Opera engages the emotions, and does so with a confident and distinctive voice. As its title suggests, it’s a winning combination of the fragile and the overblown, and a contemporary genre classic at the very least.” – full review


19: T++
WIRELESS
(HONEST JON’S)

“Its four tracks pressed reverently across two 12”s and clad in beautiful photographic artwork portraying their African part-provenance, Wireless feels like the culmination as well as the denouement of an important phase in Profrock’s career. It’s not without sadness that we bid adieu to T++, but it’s a sadness speckled with gladness: I for one am very happy that this unique and questing body of work draws to a close with its dignity and mystique inviolate.”full review


20: WASHED OUT
LIFE OF LEISURE
(MEXICAN SUMMER)

Originally out Stateside and via import in 2009, Washed Out’s charming Life of Leisure mini-album finally got a long-awaited UK release this month. Though his music has much in common with the beachside psychedelia of Ducktails and Real Estate, it’s actually less sketchy and a great deal more accessible, with hummable melodies and submerged dancefloor throbs aplenty.  Don’t be surprised if his next LP gets picked up by a major.

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