The 27 best albums of 2019 so far
We've already taken stocks of our favourite bangers of the year so far, and now the record-breaking heatwave summer is fully in swing, it's time to turn our attention to lengthier music collections for kicking back to and soaking up/frying in the sun.
There's still plenty of club heat contained within, among rowdy rap, blissful house, pumping techno, honeyed r'n'b, experimental dancehall, introspective grime, unbridled jazz, and lots more. We hope you enjoy the selections as much as we do.
In no particular order, here's our favourite albums of the year so far....
Erika de Casier 'Essentials'
Erika de Casier’s love for late 90s/00s r’n’b started out of necessity. MTV was the only non-Danish channel she could watch when she moved to the Scandinavian country in 1998, having previously lived in Portugal and the US, and a world of TLC, Brandy, Timbaland beats and rappers in luxury cars beckoned. 11 years later and De Casier’s influences have coalesced into her debut album ‘Essentials’, a sugary sweet concoction of shimmering sounds and angular beats topped by rhythmic and playful vocals. But it’s no homage album. While nostalgia will always reign supreme, this collection of 11 lovelorn bangers two-stepping in Air Max 95s bridges the gap between 2000 and 2019 exquisitely.
A large part of this is the production of fellow Copenhagen resident El Trick aka Central (who’s carved out his own niche of superbly produced music across various dance genres) which follows the blueprints laid out for him by the likes of Timbaland and The Neptunes to stunning effect. From twinkling chimes to a guitar sound straight out of an Ibiza Chillout compilation on ‘A Little Bit’, ‘Essentials’ delivers all the hallmarks of early 00s r’n’b and poppy UKG with aplomb while De Casier’s vocals drip over El Trick’s beats, providing the oxygen this album breathes.
Whether it’s singing about ignoring her baby’s call because she’s at the club on ‘Do My Thing’ or getting frustrated at the distance of her significant other on ‘Good Time’, every subject is delivered with a hypnotic flow that’s privy to evoking various emotional milestones. Where the album ultimately succeeds is in De Casier’s grounding. The grandiosity of those late 90s MTV videos (an era in which P Diddy regularly spent millions on his epics) were a hallmark of the genre. But De Casier makes the lifestyle feel achievable. From the homegrown production to swapping a hummer for her bicycle in her own music video. It’s r’n’b revisited for a generation whose only regular large-scale expenditures are student loan repayments. Louis Anderson-Rich
DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess ‘One Place For The First Time’
DJ Marcelle is the antidote to homogenised dance music. A true rebel, the long-serving Dutch DJ and producer doesn’t give a fuck what you think and always, always does her own thing. Her DJ sets are wild attacks on the senses where multiple genres meet at the crossroads marked ‘banging’ and her productions unfurl with the unpredictability of her own imagination.
An album from this cult figure, then, is always welcome and ‘One Place For The First Time’ is the perfect package: the sleeve comes adorned in items relating to the tracks, including a series of woolen hats, and the titles reveal Marcelle’s playfulness and politics (‘Respect Caged Animals’, ‘She Plays Vinyl’, ‘Technicians And Their Smoke Machines’). Sonically, this latest album could be described as weird house but that’d probably be doing Marcelle a disservice as she definitely summons more of a mood: strange, fuggy, dubbed-out, and incessantly rhythmic.
We need more artists like DJ Marcelle. Do your bit and support this. Seb Wheeler
Little Simz ‘GREY Area’
Little Simz found herself in a “confusing headspace”, a “grey area”, entering her mid-twenties. At 25-years-old, the London-born artist is the same age as I am. But ‘relatability’ has nothing to do with why I love this album. Little Simz has always crafted personal, introspective music. Her refusal to spin broad themes for late-millenials to latch onto seems to be a reason why - two albums, five EPs and a co-sign from Kendrick deep into her career - she’d been plagued with well-meaning tags like ‘underrated’ and not quite received her dues among mainstream audiences. Insecurities were a struggle while writing her third album, but in processing these feelings, her resolve only strengthened. ‘GREY Area’ is the sound of Little Simz overcoming self-doubt and leaning hard into being the type of artist she wants to be. It’s magnificent.
The album exudes style and confidence from the off, with a punchy jazz beat underpinning assertive bars (“Me again, allow me to pick up where I left off / The biggest phenomenon and I'm Picasso with the pen”) on ‘Offence’. That track continues with bravado, from verses like “I'm Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days” to the spirited “I said it with my chest and I don't care who I offend” refrain of the chorus. There’s a cheeky joking-but-not energy to the swagger, that Simz pulls off without any pomposity in her composed tones.
She hits on a number of different notes across ‘GREY Area’. ‘Venom’ opens with horror film-esque strings and lashes out at misogyny; ‘Therapy’ is a self-help attempt at dealing with dark moments in her life; ‘101 FM’ is a sentimental trip through her early life and come up in the rap game, elevated by a dizzyingly sweet beat from her childhood friend Inflo, who produced the bulk of the album. By the close of Little Simz’s magnum opus it’s clear: those opening bars aren’t boastful, they’re valid points. Patrick Hinton
Thom Yorke ‘Anima’
Whenever there's even a slight rumbling online of new Thom Yorke or Radiohead material, people tend to get quite hysterical and this time was no different as Yorke dropped his third solo album 'Anima'. Backed with an enchanting and mesmerising short film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the album, produced by Nigel Godrich, delves even further into his electronic tendencies with a flurry of nightmarish and melancholic cuts. It feels like a deeply personal endeavor, and while most of his material does, 'Anima' is some of his most cohesive solo work to date. To put it simply, it's a brave and extremely well-rounded body of work and one that we've had on repeat since its release. Funster
Skepta 'Ignorance is Bliss'
For a genre that so often trades in bravado, there’s something stark about a grime MC in a deep reflective state. And from the moment Skepta opened his latest album with the line "Like a bullet from a gun it burns / When you realise she was never your girl, it was just your turn" before going on to exude the simple joys of getting home to see his newborn daughter in her cot, we were hooked.
Following the Mercury Prize winning ‘Konnichiwa’, which saw Skepta cement his position as grime’s top dog in defiant fashion, ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ saw Skepta close ranks somewhat. A handful of collaborations aside from the likes of J Hus and Wizkid, Skepta’s latest album saw him eschew big name producers and guests to work largely with a close knit team of producers and MCs. And the album is all the better for it. In an age when the temptation is to overload a record with tracks and collaborators in a cynical attempt to rack up the streaming numbers, Skepta plied us with 13 tracks of all killer, no filler material that subtly updated the grime template and once again showcased Skepta’s prowess as a lyricist. Oh, and there’s an expertly deployed Sophie Ellis-Bextor sample too. Sean Griffiths
Special Request 'Vortex'
We love a good, floor-ready earworm here at Mixmag. You know the kind I mean. An inescapable, repeat-worthy banger that filters its way in to your everyday playlist, office stereo or even your set (if you’re DJ inclined), with no end date or expiry period as far as the eye can see. Special Request’s, aka Paul Woolford, ‘Memory Lake’ was that track for me for a substantial - perhaps medically - unsafe portion of the year so far.
As I’ve shared in my writing, too many times to date by now I reckon, my chosen genre is EDM. Wait - please keep reading. BY EDM I mean: emotional dance music. Are you back in the room again? Thanks. Emotional dance music is probably the only common denominator bringing my favourite artists, albums and tracks together this year, and any other. And somehow, Woolford has managed to create an album that hits your heart and your eardrums in equal measure, earning it a place in my EmoDM hall of fame.
And, ICYMI, he’s going to release four albums “he made in his underpants” in the coming months. Hats off. The first of the four, the aptly-titled, incredibly fun ‘Vortex’, is built up of “bowel-excavating” bangers that successfully encapsulate the sound Woolford has previously celebrated and showcased through his Special Request alias. Between breakbeat, rave, jungle and ‘hands in the air like you just don’t care’ euphoria, it’s an album that masterfully weaves between old and new, and light and dark. ‘Vortex’ is the kind of double trouble release that leaves ravers dying to yell ‘Fuck affffff’ when they hear it played out in the club, and, I don’t know, maybe shed some tears or something, gun fingers held high. Maybe we should just call that the Woolford effect, or the special reaction perhaps? We’ll leave that one to you. Jasmine Kent-Smith
Gene On Earth 'Local Fuzz'
What drives an artist to suddenly release an album by surprise, without any announcement or press? It’s a bold move, no doubt, especially when it’s their debut album. That said, when Limousine Dream label boss Gene On Earth decided to drop his ‘Local Fuzz’ LP on a Thursday in June, the underground community was buzzing with excitement. Having only released a handful of EPs only available on vinyl, the growing amount of fans following this fresh talent are eager to get their hands on new material whenever it surfaces. And he never disappoints. His bubbling, squelching textures layered over hypnotic house rhythms have been lighting up dimly lit dancefloors for the past few years and he’s garnered a cult-like following.
With ‘Local Fuzz’, Gene On Earth reveals the scope of his sound profile with ten tracks touching on boom-bap, stripped-back electro rollers, ambient excursions, swinging house heat, soaring cosmic ballads and all that dancefloor magic that he’s become known for in such a short time. With such a strong batch of material the record was flying out of shops all over the world. And with that, Gene On Earth is soaring at the moment. It’s easy to see why. All eyes on what he will do next. Harrison Williams
Konx-om-Pax 'Ways Of Seeing'
Tom Scholefield, better known under his Konx-Om-Pax moniker, is a Scottish audio-visual artist and graduate of the Glasgow School of Art that has created stunning music promo videos, sleeves and visuals for the likes of Warp, Mogwai, Underground Resistance, Oneohtrix Point Never, Hyperdub, Advanced Beauty and LuckyMe. Beyond this, he's an incredibly talented producer with a knack for crafting tantalizingly mellow and precisely confident dancefloor cuts. Experimental to his core, Konx-Om-Pax's third album 'Ways Of Seeing' - which was released this past June on Planet Mu - is an unruly 11-track album with vignettes for every underground mood. With silvery, zen-like cuts such as 'Missing Something' and 'Paris 5am' scatted amongst breaks-imbued thrashers like 'Optimism Over Despair' and the electro-driven jam 'I'm For Real (feat. Nightwave)’, the album's numerous spirits culminate in an overall feeling of late-night joy that we can't get enough of. Cameron Holbrook
The Comet Is Coming 'Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery'
"All the many corpses begin to speak," Kate Tempest says on 'Blood Of The Past' four tracks into The Comet Is Coming's 'Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery'. Such a morbid lyric isn't the kind you'd expect to hear in a jazz track, but then this band doesn't do jazz conventionally, whatever that's supposed to be. If you clocked their inclusion in our 38 best tracks of 2019 so far list, then the album holding a spot in this list isn't exactly surprising. Psych-charged trip 'Summon The Fire' was picked for the tracks of the year, but there's a whole bunch of ripping jazz packed into the album. The harrowing 'Birth Of Creation', ripe for a jazz-inspired horror flick soundtrack, follows the same dark theme of 'Blood Of The Past', while the relentless saxophones of 'Super Zodiac' leave you gasping for air by the end of the four minutes. There's a chance to catch your breath on lighter moments such as the broken beat-channeling 'Timewave Zero' and the breezy 'Unity', though. It's a bit of mystery what goes through these guys' minds in the studio but we're properly here for it. Dave Turner
K Trap ‘No Magic’
2019 has been a year of firsts for K-Trap. In June, the South London rapper removed his trademark mask on camera for the first time in the music video for ‘Big Mood’. The track was released on ‘No Magic’, his debut release on Black Butter which has also put out albums from J Hus and Octavian.
Accordingly, he manages to incorporate more colourful and soulful textures into his razor sharp sound, particularly on the aforementioned ‘Big Mood’, the warm and introspective ‘Change’ and ‘Young Fly’ which features a swaggering hook from AJ.
Unmasked, he manages to maintain the bite he’s been known for up until this point. T0ake ‘Badness’, an ice cold, M1 On The Beat and NatsGotTracks-produced cut that boasts the brand of breezy yet assertive narcotic braggadocio that he’s best known for (“Threw ice in the Pyrex, the grub came back rapid / Yeah, they might be trappin' but we overlappin’”). Mask on or, fuck it, mask off, K Trap keeps on delivering. James Ball
Nkisi '7 Directions'
At the start of the year, rhythmic mastermind Nkisi released her debut album ‘7 Directions’ on Lee Gamble’s UIQ, amidst a run of similarly stunning releases also dropping on the label. For us, ‘7 Directions’ landed at the perfect, perfect time. The bleakness of winter and the pressures and possibilities of the new year were very much alive, kicking and aided by an album as reflective and soul-soothing as this. It makes sense, right? That in a season solely marketed and driven towards self-awareness and introspection and all of that ‘new year, new me’ lark, we yearn for music that offers a kind of respite, comfort even, while remaining well within our syncopated beat comfort zone. Well, for me anyway.
The seven-tracker (simply titled ‘I’ through to ‘VII’) was dedicated to the late academic, and author of African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo, Dr Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau and saw London-based, DR Congo-born artist Nkisi fully realising her interests in spirituality and traditional percussion. That’s not forgetting her aptitude for no-holds-barred, reactive, cosmic club material, which is explored throughout in a way that felt wholly natural. Unlike her sets, or even some of her previous offerings, the album stepped away (but not too far) from the harder techno, gabber and trancey sounds that first drew me to Nkisi. But don’t be alarmed, she definitely didn’t hold back on the intricate, emotionally-laced polyrhythms, urgent flushes of breathlessness and overarching sense of carefully-crafted atmospherics – which thankfully never veers into hotel lobby ambience.
“The most important direction for self-healing is the walk inwards,” Nkisi told me earlier this year; explaining the spiritual concept of a ‘seven direction walk’ that inspired the album’s title. “I feel like this album really forced me to do that, and I feel like a changed person.” And after listening to this for weeks and weeks and weeks on end, so did I. Jasmine Kent-Smith
Nathan Micay ‘Blue Spring’
We've been long-time fans of Nathan Micay under his Bwana-guise. His 'Capsule's Pride' album on LuckyMe was a stunning Akira tribute that had fan-boys and girls around the world in a frenzy with its sparkling display of his production prowess. Under his own name and still with LuckyMe, Micay released 'Blue Spring' in May and it's furthered his creative-vision with anthemic rave stylings and ambient lullabies. The album came complete with an anime-styled comic book that imagines a young raver from the future getting embroiled in a dystopian world where music is the release. It's a delicate and at times dazzling album that has you reaching for lasers one minute and for a box of tissues to wipe your tears the next. A real beauty of a project. Funster
It was in the middle of 2018 that Moodymann was due to release his highly-anticipated new album, the follow up to his critically acclaimed self-titled release in 2014. However, the release date came and went, leaving fans puzzled as to when they would get to hear the new record. It was later revealed that it would never get an official release, apparently at the request of Moodymann himself. Was it a licensing issue? Was he simply not happy with the material? Whatever the case, the untitled LP was only given out to select friends of the enigmatic producer and copies have sold for upwards of $500 on Discogs. Die hard fans were thus left extremely thirsty for new Moodymann material.
Then in 2019 Moodymann stormed back and surprised fans with another album titled ‘Sinner’. It mysteriously popped up in record shops in Detroit during Memorial Day Weekend and was sold at an intimate BBQ that weekend as well as Movement Electronic Music Festival. While the music is different than the ‘Untitled’ album of 2018, the wait for new Moodymann was well worth it. Over seven tracks he delivers a raw, soulful, eclectic and gritty batch of ballads as only he can provide. Whether it’s the deep acid textures of ‘I’ll Provide’, the banging percussion on ‘I Think Of Saturday’, the sensual melodies of ‘If I Gave U My Love’, the jazzy journey in ‘Downtown’ or the brilliant sample work littered throughout ‘Sinner’, the album is a crowd pleaser for Moodymann fans both old and new. And that’s definitely not a bad thing. Harrison Williams
Anthony Naples 'Fog FM'
Since breaking onto the scene with his infectiously groovy debut EP 'Mad Disrespect' in 2012, New York City-based DJ-producer Anthony Naples has taken his musical craftsmanship to new and astonishing heights with his second full-length studio album, 'Fog FM'. According to Naples, the 10-track album, which dropped this June on the artist’s ANS imprint - is "a house music transmission filtered through fluorescent static" that comes to us "from a station out of place and time." As its title implies, his latest work is a collection of beautiful compositions that zip and dive through the dense clouds of haze that frequently permeate our dancefloors. From the dub techno fluctuations of tracks like 'Lucys' and 'Unhygenix' to the joggled groove of 'Benefit', Anthony Naples album of "camouflage bangers" (a term he used during an interview with Stereogum) will move your feet and soothe the soul. Cameron Holbrook
Equiknoxx ‘Eternal Children’
The five members of Jamaican production powerhouse Equiknoxx have all worked together over the last decade, but this album is the first time all five have been on the same record. It was certainly worth the wait. The collective’s off-kilter take on dancehall has won fans in the likes of Major Lazer and Toddla T, and entrances and draws you in over the album’s 35 minutes. Lead single ‘Brooklyn’ is a stone cold banger while downtempo album closer ‘Rescue Me’ would be pushing a billion streams if Diplo had produced it and stuck MØ on vocals. In its subtle twisting of Jamaican staples, the album had distant echoes of Tricky or even M.I.A at points. But don’t doubt, Equiknoxx are doing their very own thing. Sean Griffiths
The Mauskovic Dance Band ‘The Mauskovic Dance Band’
If you had the willpower to get up at 11.30am on Friday morning at Glastonbury this year, you would’ve heard sounds from another era wafting over from the West Holts stage. Rattling percussion, inviting low end, spacey vocals - they’re sounds that make people leave YouTube comments like "they don’t make them like this anymore". Except they do. Because it wasn’t a deep-digging DJ spinning beat up 7-inches, instead it was Amsterdam space disco-ites The Mauskovic Dance Band playing tunes from their debut record. Released on Soundway, the self-titled album by the Mauskovic ‘brothers’ captures the sounds of afro-latin psychedelia in the 70s and 80s in a way not heard since, well, the 70s and 80s. It’s an impressive homage with not just the styles of elanque, champeta and classic afrobeat melding into a fresh pot of cosmic disco, but the lo-fi production absolutely on point too. On ‘Dance Place Garage’ and ‘Alto In Vacanza’ it’s almost as if they’ve turned reissued disco into its own genre. But there’s no limited output for these guys, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Louis Anderson-Rich
Kornél Kovács ‘Stockholm Marathon’
Sometimes you have those mornings when you wake up and it seems as though there's one big, dark cloud - ready to unleash a ton of rain - hanging over your head. Thankfully there are producers like Kornél Kovács out there for moments like that, just a 'play' button away from transforming your weary self into one of spright jubilation with his Starburst-flavoured tracks. Second album 'Stockholm Marathon' is an invigorating sugar hit from start to finish, from the serene, child-like 'Purple Skies' to the gliding synth-led 'Ducks'. He hits the euphoric bullseye with album closer 'Baltzar', a proper emotion-tickler and one prime for that moment we all love to reminisce about every now and then. Sugar in high amounts might be bad for you, but we're happy to be fed spoonfuls if Kornél's the person handing it out. Dave Turner
M Huncho ‘Utopia’
Escaping the trap is one of rap’s main tropes but in M Huncho’s case he doesn’t just want to escape his situation, he wants to transcend it. “Tranquility yeah that's all I need, yeah / I'm pouring my heart on a trap instrumental / I went through some shit that fucked up my mental,” the North West Londoner states at the beginning of ‘Utopia’, the mixtape that hits as hard as a studio album, which he dropped in April.
Where other young UK rappers rely solely on swag brags and threats to steal your girl, Huncho’s bling and sexual conquests arrive intermittently as superficial adornments that hang uneasy on writing that deals with paranoia, grief, guilt and depression, like a Rolex in a puddle of pitch black oil. On ‘Broken Bottles’ he explains how he sold crack to a user who went on to overdose: “Life of finer things / Nice diamond and rings / But it's not nice when you sleep at night wrapped up in these sins / Life was great until I started learning things / Now my heart is fed up with this world that I'm stuck in.” Huncho knows the trap isn’t sustainable, that there’s more out there. That there must be more out there.
And he’s determined to get there – the rapper wears a mask to remain anonymous, aiming to reach a place in his life where he finally feels safe, able to take it off and ride quietly into the sunset off the back of rap money. Until then he’s visualising this future, situating himself in the middle of picturesque moorland on the cover of ‘Utopia’ and calling in lush, low-slung beats that feature strings and choirs, evoking space and grandeur a million miles from inner city London.
The mixtape boasts two of UK rap’s biggest tunes of 2019 in ‘Rock Bottom’ and ‘Ocho Cinco’ and sees Huncho ride alongside peers such as D Block Europe and Nafe Smallz as lyricists with a woozy, melodic bent. But credentials aside, Huncho’s willingness to discuss his vulnerabilities and cook up killer vocal hooks marks him out as one of the most important voices in the UK right now. Seb Wheeler
Efdemin ‘New Atlantis’
Ostgut Ton has been on a mean streak this year, kicking off with Pom Pom’s ‘Untitled II’ in January, and following with Vatican Shadow’s ‘Berghain 09’ and other quality releases from Barker, Mark, Martyn, Ryan Elliott and Substance.
However, Efdemin’s ‘New Atlantis’ is seriously special, welding a weighty album narrative - named after Francis Bacon's uncompleted utopian novel of the same name - to tightly woven productions which capture a creepy tone that is maintained throughout.
Some tracks are more dancefloor friendly, particularly the perpetual shimmer of ‘Good Winds’ and ‘Black Sun’, a swirling bit of 132 BPM techno which then abruptly slows down to a sludgy, sinister crawl. Others are beatless and equally as moody, especially the damp, Salad Fingers-style atmospherics which course throughout ‘At The Strangers House’.
Sometimes concept albums can feel overladen by poor execution or concepts that simply don’t work; ‘New Atlantis’ isn’t one of them. It’s an album that deserves all the plaudits it should receive.James Ball
Denzel Curry ‘ZUU’
“I’m comin’ out the ZUU!” raps Denzel Curry on the opening track of his fourth album, tender to start then barking the final word with the vigour of a caged animal breaking free from captivity. But unlike its menagerie homonym, the ‘ZUU’ he’s referring to is no prison. The title takes its name from the Miami rapper’s neighbourhood Carol City, and his intensity is fuelled by love for the place he was born and raised. This celebratory energy courses through the LP, not letting up from open to close, forming the backbone of a raucous rap record that brims with the essence of South Florida.
From its Miami bass rooted production (helmed by Australian duo FnZ) to sampling of local rap forefathers and contemporaries like MC Cool Rock & MC Chaszy Chess and SpaceGhostPurrp to lyrical content covering strip clubs, parental wisdom and street hustling, the album is a chest-thumping ode to Denzel’s home. And with tracks that hit as hard as ‘Birdz’, P.A.T’ and ‘Ricky’ (the "most aggressive song about treating people well that I've ever heard" in the words of one YouTube commenter), it’s impossible to not get swept up in his moment. Patrick Hinton
Kelsey Lu 'Blood'
I’m a fairly recent convert to the cult of Kelsey Lu. Late last year I heard her sing live for the very first time at a Honey Colony showcase at London’s Southbank Centre alongside the likes of Lafawndah, Tirzah, Nídia and more. Los Angeles-based, North Carolina-born Lu opened with her mesmerising cover of 10cc’s The Virgin Suicides lullaby ‘I’m Not In Love’. And, understandably, I’ve been obsessed ever since.
Lu has been around far longer than this though, and has co-signs from the likes of Jamie xx, Skrillex, Solange, Blood Orange, Rodaidh McDonald, and Adrian Younge, with many of these names on hand for production duties on her debut album ‘Blood’. Released earlier this year, ‘Blood’ saw Lu offering up an alternative, imaginative vision of what classical meets electronica (Is ‘electronica’ even a thing anymore? Let’s discuss) could sound like for a new generation. A generation eager to indulge in everything from r‘n’b, ambience and dreamscape pop, all in one place, all at once. This, of course, came complete with strong, stunning visual identity and a whole host of beautiful, mesmerising videos.
She’s far from just a singer though, even with a voice as angelic and powerful, as hers. As a vocalist, classically trained cellist and producer (and frequent fashion industry darling), she’s worked and shared stages with the likes of OPN, Sampha, Mariah Carey and more, all while building and nurturing her own path on her own. That being said, alongside her cover, another album highlight for me was her Skrillex co-produced anthem ‘Due West’. It’s a tranquil, distinctly West Coast-infused cut that wouldn’t sound out of place in a summer road-trip flick. Obsessed. Jasmine Kent-Smith
Mount Liberation Unlimited 'Mount Liberation Unlimited'
Fun is at the forefront on this debut album from Studio Barnhus duo Mount Liberation Unlimited. The Swedish pair have been working together for over a decade and everything from house, disco, balearic and psychedelia are put through their blender and given a ramshackle GarageBand feel. Not since The Avalanches' debut in 2001 has there been an act who’s ‘throw it at the wall and see if sticks’ approach has resulted in such joyously fun results. Sean Griffiths
Shinichiro Yokota 'I Know You Like It'
There is no denying that Japan is a hotbed for warm, emotive, smooth and gripping house music. If you’ve yet to dive into this vast musical landscape, start with the legendary duo behind Far East Recording, Soichi Terada and Shinichiro Yokota, the latter of which just released his second solo album that’s simply a triumph from start to finish. Aptly titled ‘I Know You Like It’, the album consists of 10 masterfully producer house excursions complete with shimmering synths, soothing melodies, driving rhythms and intricately woven arrangements. Equally enjoyable at home, on a sweaty dance or an open air festival, whether during an opening set or peak-time, this is pure house music to comfort the soul.
Shinichiro Yokota has been a staple in the Japanese scene since the early 90s, but now with ‘I Know You Like It’ he delivers arguably the best material of his career. Like many producers from his country, he flies under the radar, but don’t sleep on this record that could arguably be the best house music album of 2019. Harrison Williams
Jayda G ‘Significant Changes’
Canada born, and based between Vancouver and Berlin, Jayda G’s debut is a cutting-edge disco album. It serves up a blend of funky disco that is heavily influenced by piano-driven Chicago house, inducing peaceful vibes.
Jayda G recorded the record while completing her environmental toxicology master’s degree in Resource and Environmental Management. Considering the stress of studies mixed with studio deadlines, it’s a remarkable achievement. Her studies bleed into her music, with themes of environmentalism present within the album and tracks like ‘Orca’s Reprises’ (the LP title refers to the most commonly used phrase in her thesis, which scrutinised the impact of human activity on killer whales in Vancouver’s Salish Sea). It’s great to see an artist using her musical platform to spread an environmentalist message.
Following in the style of an array of EPs and singles, her debut full-length also takes inspiration from soul and 90s r’n’b. The tunes radiate hippy like happiness. Vibes. Billal Rahman
Flying Lotus 'Flamagra'
One of the most anticipated albums in electronic music over the past few years, Flying Lotus' sixth album was well worth the wait. Released on Warp this May, 'Flamagra' builds brilliantly on the recontextualized style of hip hop that first came about with his debut LP ‘Los Angeles; back in 2009. From the birth of his neck snapping LA beat scene pedagogy to the jazz musings of 2014's 'You're Dead', 'Flamagra' sees Flying Lotus combining his vast sonic dimensions into a toothsome, unpredictable and prolific 26-track album. Featuring the likes of George Clinton, Little Dragon, Anderson .Paak, David Lynch, Tierra Whack, Denzel Curry, Shabazz Palaces, Thundercat, Toro y Moi, Solange and more, the LP perfectly demonstrates the beat maestro's rhythmic dexterity and the intense amount of influence he's procured in numerous musical circles. Cameron Holbrook
‘Afterglow’ is Just von Ahlefeld, aka Dionne, and Julius Steinhoff’s second album under their collaborative Smallpeople moniker. The pair run the Hamburg-based Smallville Records store and label, the latter of which continues to put out really fun and lovingly crafted releases (check any of the STL bits they’ve released via their Bandcamp - all superb).
Everything on the album is deftly produced and comfortably euphoric without being overwrought, absorbing various club music cues — such as the acid flecks on ‘Benevolent Receiver’, the polyrhythmic shuffle of ‘Beyond’, or the Parrish-esque 313 groove of ‘Camera Obscura’ — and diffusing them through a muted, sun-kissed lens.
It’s an album tailor-made for taking in the finer things in life, from walks in the park to walks around the M&S food on the move section, scouring for reduced goods. Listen to ‘Sonic Winds’ while gorging yourself on a discounted mango pack for maximum impact. La vida loca, baby. James Ball
Rian Treanor ‘ATAXIA’
Rian Treanor doesn’t really ‘do’ track titles. His individual cuts tend to just attach A1, A2, B1, B2, etc., tags to the name of the release. Like the indistinguishable sequences of Aleksi Perälä or the occasional keyboard mashings of Aphex Twin, this can make it difficult to distinguish different tracks in your mind, and no doubt has DJs cueing through vinyl grooves/playlists at hyperspeed when tracking down a desired selection. It makes sense, though, for every track on Rian Treanor’s debut album to bear the name ‘ATAXIA’, meaning “the loss of full control of bodily movements”. His wild rhythmic experiments make commanding your limbs impossible.
Sparse percussion collapses into moments of pneumatic clattering on opening track ‘ATAXIA_A1’, while a detached voice recites eccentric phrases like “I like to shit, you like to shit, we like to shit. This is shitting.” The jarringly deadpan tone somehow adds to the spiralling mania of the beat. ‘ATAXIA_B2’ opens with a sample from Pakistani singer Naheed Akhtar, promptly disrupting the sweetly sung vocal with scattergun bass throbs and percussive hits at 150 BPM; ‘ATAXIA_C1’ sounds like it could have been made by chucking a studio setup into a spinning tumble dryer. In fact: heat and head-spinning chaos is ‘ATAXIA’ all over. A strait jacket couldn’t hold me back from this one. Patrick Hinton
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