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Come, children, gather – the Second Quarter Report is upon us.

Back in March, we totted up our favourite 20 albums released in the first three months of 2014 – and mighty impressive it was too, with early AOTY contenders from Untold, Perc, Sun Kil Moon and others.

As we nudge towards the height of summer, we’ve done the same again, picking the 20 best albums released in April-thru-June. We’ve encountered fewer sock-it-out-the-park doozies, but there’s been a broad spread of strong records across a wide range of genres – if not a purple patch, then certainly a very respectable stretch of lavender. Prepare for Irish freak-techno, stripper symphonies, bop for days – and, not one, but three long-lost albums, all hitting shelves for the first time in 2014.

Note: later this week, we’ll be publishing full individual lists of our contributors’ favourite albums and singles of the year so far. In the meantime, check out last year’s equivalent albums charts and tracks charts.

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2Beatking

BEATKING
Gangster Stripper Music 2
(Self-released)

“Thinking about stripper music these days, your mind likely fixates on Atlanta – the US’s de-facto strip club capital – but things are a little different in Houston. BeatKing’s music is slower and a damn sight bassier, and it wears the city’s heritage like a badge of honour. It might geared towards polished poles and cascading singles, but the bloodline of these tracks goes right back to the days of subs, rims and neons – and that gives BeatKing a real edge over many of his peers.” – full review

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3BlackBananas

BLACK BANANAS
Electric Brick Wall
(Drag City)

As the former queen of Royal Trux, Jennifer Herrema dealt in exhuming, album by album, the rabid ghosts of ’60s garage rock, ’70s FM radio and ’80s moody pop. Now onto her second LP with current outfit Black Bananas, Herrema is currently taking perverse pleasure in squeezing the sleaze from Funkadelic, Zapp and Prince’s most funk’n’roll moments, slapping on her signature hair metal rifforama then dousing the whole thing in an outrageous squall of distortion and crushed electronics. Like rhinestone and leopard print, it should be wrong, but it’s just so right.

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4Aphex

CAUSTIC WINDOW
Caustic Window
(Kickstarter release)

It’s a heartwarming tale of an obsessive fan forum and their quest to disseminate – in the most democratic, rule-abiding manner possible – their holy grail of great lost records. Amazingly, after a 20-year wait, the Caustic Window LP totally lives up to expectations, from the insectoid bounce of opening track ‘Flutey’ to the punishing techno thwack of ‘AFX Tribal Kik’ via widescreen euphoria ‘Mumbly’, absurd piano rave (‘Squidge in the Fridge’) and unsettling lounge noodlage (‘Jazzphase’) – all of it utterly ageless, despite its advanced years.

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1Sonno

ALESSANDRO CORTINI 
Sonno
(Hospital Productions)

The Nine Inch Nails keyboardist enters the House of Fernow with this sparse collection of instrumentals, constructed with Roland MC-202 and a delay pedal. The results? Frowzy, featherweight synth miniatures, full of dread and gloom – think an ultra lo-fi Boards Of Canada, minus the (turquoise hexagon) sun.

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6DaVinche

DAVINCHE & KATIE PEARL
DaVinChe & Katie Pearl
(Self-released)

Timing! Just weeks after we catalogued r’n’g’s greatest moments and lamented the disappearance of the genre’s should’ve-been-a-star singer Katie Pearl, producer DaVinChe ups Pearl’s never-released debut album to his Soundcloud! R’n’g stans will already be well up on ‘Leave Me Alone’ and ‘What Time It Is’, but they’ve lost none of their lustre, while the unheard ‘Should I Give It To Ya’ is just one highlight from a collection that already feels sorely unappreciated.

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11Lana

LANA DEL REY
Ultraviolence
(Interscope / Polydor)

“With Ultraviolence, Lizzy Grant completes her metamorphosis into Lana Del Rey: a pop star ouroboros that forces the listener to question the artifice inherent in pop culture. While Born To Die laid out a template for the Lana Del Rey persona, Ultraviolence addresses it head-on, acknowledging, confronting and toying with the audience’s expectations across an LP that feels more like an album than a collection of songs.” – full review

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8Eomac

EOMAC
Spectre
(KILLEKILL)

“We seem to be going through a real purple patch for tunes that hit in rugged, physical fashion: the Sd Laika and Untold albums, vast torrents of stuff coming out of Bristol – especially Livity Sound and Pinch’s CO.LD compilation – and now this album, from an Irish producer on a consistently great Berlin acid house / techno label, which is basically a bit of a classic.” – full review

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7Moondawg

DJ MOONDAWG
We Invented the Bop 2
(Self-released)

“Bop still hasn’t moved far from the Chicago state lines, but here we have another sixteen examples of why it’s still a concern, and its young protagonists’ unwillingness to compromise[…]We Invented The Bop 2 shows, above everything, that bop’s potential for crossover success might be just around the corner, and if that has the backpackers up in arms, we’re all for it.” – full review 

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19Aylvan

SYLVAN ESSO
Sylvan Esso
(Partisan)

Enjoyed rummaging through our history of indietronica list? Here are your new great white (what else?) hopes – two twinkly-eyed exiles from psych-folk outfit Megafaun and Bella Union signings Mountain Man. Boho folky singer-songwriter stuff, tricked out with electro-pop touches and judicious digital detailing, and a damn sight stronger than it probably deserves to be.

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9Fhloston

FHLOSTON PARADIGM
The Phoenix
(Hyperdub)

“King Britt has a knack for folding disparate threads into his own design, here drawing on sci-fi film soundtracks, Afrofuturism, techno, ambient and soul […] The Phoenix’s title alone hints at its ambitiousness, but even given the sheer wealth of variety and detail Fhloston Paradigm crams in, it’s never lofty or inaccessible; instead, it both upholds an electronic music convention even as it carves its own singular niche.” full review 

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6FlavaD

FLAVA D
FlavaD.com Vol. 5
(Self-released)

Butterz’ sets have been leaning more and more towards bassline house of late – looking for that same sweet spot between bassline, grime and garage as affiliates DJ Q and Champion – and Flava D’s fifth Bandcamp collection follows a similar vein. The skippy drums are what we’ve come to expect from Flava at this point, but the basslines are more warped, taut and twisted than ever before.

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BenFrostAURORA

BEN FROST
A U R O R A
(Mute)

“Frost’s brand of menace has always been intricate and complex, but where on By The Throat and Theory Of Machines he would counter harsh noise with softening ambient and post-rock touches, A U R O R A feels more purely cathartic, though never one-dimensional or static.” – full review

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10Lownt

KIT
Lownt God Rising
(Self-released)

“While 2013’s NewWavey was helmed by The-Drum’s Jeremiah Meece, KIT has turned to fellow Chicagoans Supreme Cuts on this go-round, and the results are tighter and a little less woozy than last time[…]KIT boasts that “You ain’t seen shit like me / you ain’t seen shit like this,” and while there are a few kids keeping things dark in Chicago (Ibn Inglor and God among them), he certainly is making his case.” – full review

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12MicaLevi

MICA LEVI
Under The Skin OST
(Milan)

Micachu’s journey from post-punk magpie to fêted screen composer has been a joy to watch, and her OST for Jonathan Glazer’s jawdropping Under The Skin feels like a genuine arrival moment. Her score, all scrimmaging violins and wheezing synths, pulls from Penderecki, exotica and Vangelis; it’s a stunning listen, even without the accompanying sight of Scarlett Johansson liquidising randy weegies.

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16Officer!

OFFICER!
Dead Unique
(Blackest Ever Black)

“In Dead Unique, Blackest Ever Black have scored something of a coup – a genuinely lost Officer! LP, recorded in 1995 and, for reasons that remain unclear, left to rot. The results are excellent – muddled, sozzled indie-pop that doesn’t hide its light under a bushel. This 18-track set darts between slap-happy indie-pop, dub chamber experiments , goofy whimsy, and knock-kneed stoner rock. A jolly good wheeze all round; fine work, chaps!” – full review

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13Popcaan

POPCAAN
Where We Come From
(Mixpak)

Vybz Kartel pupil Popcaan makes good on collabs with Dre Skull and Dubbel Dutch on this stunning collection of summertime sadness – dancehall effervescence with a dash of post-Drake navel-gazing. Full-throated and heavy-hearted, it’s a delight from top to tail (and a tried’n’tested picnic slayer to boot).

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ProtectU

PROTECT-U
Free USA
(Future Times)

The Future Times old muckers return with a debut album that’s essentially a manifesto for the Washington D.C. label – lucent synths, rattling drum programming, cheeriness to burn and a fluttering Chicago house heart. FACT challenge: get through it without grinning, and we’ll send you some office tat as an endurance prize.

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15SDLaika

SD LAIKA
That’s Harikari
(Tri Angle)

“Peter Runge’s take on grime is, as with the gold-toothed child on the album’s cover, infantile, threatening and absurd in equal measure. Plenty of new producers are doing interesting things on the outer fringes of the style – Filter Dread is probably Runge’s closest contemporary – but nobody sounds quite like this.” – full review

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18Swans

SWANS
To Be Kind
(Mute)

“You could argue that To Be Kind is Gira’s first rock ‘n’ roll album, and though Swans’ records are invariably seedy, To Be Kind is downright sexy, tender like a snake, and surprisingly intimate.” – full review

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20Terje

TODD TERJE
It’s Album Time
(Olsen Records)

It’s Album Time turns out to be much less of a victory lap than we might have expected. It’s more of a prog extravagance, in fact. There are live instruments everywhere – drums, strings, woodwind, all handled with real skill – and a newfound taste for suite-like structures.” – full review

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