13. Lone, “Airglow Fires”
Lone is the rave-influenced project of UK producer Matt Cutler. He suffuses his music with an airy propulsive-ness and “Airglow Fires” is no exception. The layers of synths are somehow both billowy and deliriously off-kilter. Something this anthemic has never sounded so drunk. –Alex Naidus
12. Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven
Daniel Lopatin’s fourth album as Oneohtrix Point Never is built from sounds that recall the early days of commercial synthesizers, with preset tones and textures that often sound like the soundtracks of ’80s PBS shows warped into surreal abstractions. –Matthew Perpetua
11. Doldrums, Lesser Evil
Doldrums lean hard on harsh electronic tones and screeching treble, but despite that, Lesser Evil is oddly serene at its core. It can seem random and abrasive at first, but once you get to know the record, its grace becomes apparent, and it feels like finding a calm center in the midst of total chaos. –M.P.
10. Jon Hopkins, Immunity
An accomplished musician and producer who’s worked with everyone from Brian Eno to Coldplay, Jon Hopkins has created a detail-packed, soaring techno masterpiece with Immunity. Cramming stuttering percussion, static-y overdrive and thumping bass frequencies into every track, the record feels like a completely bewildering and immersive world. –A.N.
9. Eric Copeland, Joke in the Hole
Black Dice member Eric Copeland has a great skill for building tracks that give off a strong sleazy vibe without being tremendously obvious about it. All of the tracks on Joke in the Hole imply a sweaty, furtive atmosphere, but not so much that it’s too creepy to bear. –M.P.
8. The Range, Nonfiction
James Hinton’s first album as The Range owes a lot to late ’90s IDM, with tracks that rework elements of house and hip-hop into music that is better suited to solitary, introverted experiences. Nonfiction may feel like being trapped in your head, but the music has a lot of warmth and heart, particularly when the record leans in a more hip-hop direction. –M.P.
7. Octo Octa, Between Two Selves
Teenage years spent in New Hampshire don’t necessarily lead to a career in making expansive, melodic house music, but Michael Bouldry-Morrison (aka Octo Octa) is the exception. His debut full-length, Between Two Selves is a strangely emotive, sample-packed house record with an almost breathy aura. –A.N.
6. Four Tet, Beautiful Rewind
Kieran Hebden’s greatest strength as an artist has been his gift for drawing a lot of emotion out of snippets of often wordless vocals. Beautiful Rewind, his latest record as Four Tet, leans heavily on this, but while his previous record There Is Love In You pushed those samples in a more dramatic direction, this album is far more ambient and meditative. –M.P.
5. Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest
Boards of Canada’s first record in eight years is the bleakest suite of the duo’s long and celebrated career. It sounds like it was recorded in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Imagine the score of a zombie film, but much less cheerful. Tomorrow’s Harvest is a challenging record, but if you can tap into its dark, hopeless core, it can feel incredibly cathartic. –M.P.
4. The Field, Cupid’s Head
The Field’s music can feel like moving and being frozen in place at the same time, or like being at the center of some kind of time glitch. Axel Willner’s loops and micro-samples are so brief and tight, like oddly clipped animated GIFs of sound, but his arrangements are much less static, slowly shifting around subtle beats, sounds, and tones. Cupid’s Head, Willner’s fourth album as The Field, has a much darker and colder tone than his last two records, but the bleaker sound has a deeper emotional resonance. –M.P.
3. Jessy Lanza, Pull My Hair Back
A sparkling and spare electronic R&B record, co-produced by Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys. There’s a real sneaky buoyancy in the slightly off-kilter rhythms and soft synth details on Pull My Hair Back. It’s an elegant record that manages to feel both languid and pleasantly overstuffed with detail. Lanza has studied jazz performance and Greenspan has said that she is “the only person I’ve met who knows the chords to every great R&B song of the last 15 years.” –A.N.
2. Tim Hecker, Virgins
Tim Hecker’s seventh album is a move away from the decaying, melting treated sounds of his most recent works in favor of exceptionally eerie live instrumentation. The album may feel more “organic” on a superficial level, but even the most straight forward tracks veer off into unsettling abstraction as sounds fall out of phase or clash with digital hums. –M.P.
1. The Knife, Shaking the Habitual
The Swedish duo The Knife’s fifth album is one of the most physically and emotionally evocative records in recent memory: a collection of songs that explores issues of identity and gender with the visceral urgency of a great horror movie. “Full of Fire,” the record’s lead single, is a dance track that is so frantic and disorienting that listening to it can feel like self-induced schizophrenia, while the 19-minute-long ambient track “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized” is like an abyss that dares you to have the guts to stare into it. It’s not at all easy listening, but it is the rare piece of music that accurately conveys the emotion that makes people feel so passionately about social justice issues. –M.P.
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