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04.13.21 tec's 2021 Q1 - Top 1504.07.21 tec’s KING CRIMSON, Ranked
03.31.21 tec’s GODFLESH, Ranked03.22.21 tec’s THE SMITHS, Ranked
03.11.21 tec’s RADIOHEAD, Ranked 03.01.21 tec’s THE NATIONAL, Ranked
02.22.21 tec’s BJORK, Ranked 02.18.21 Breakfast Cereal Tier List
02.03.21 tec's DAVID BOWIE, Ranked 01.20.21 tec's SONIC YOUTH, Ranked
01.05.21 MUSIC: tec's Top 50 of 2020 11.23.20 2020 // 25 UNDER 25
10.27.20 Just got Nintendo SWITCH10.07.20 tectac's Electric Wizard, Ranked
08.26.20 tec's Top 100 Albums of All Time 08.21.20 FILM: tectac's Kelly Reichardt, Ranked
07.07.20 Top 25 of 2020: So Far! (Sept.)05.27.20 FILM: tectac's Hayao Miyazaki, Ranked
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tec's 2021 Q1 - Top 15

Favorite releases of Q1 2021. (Technically the GY!BE album shouldn't count because it was released publicly on 2 Apr 2021, but thanks to my belated creation of this list and the salacious means by which music is often acquired preemptively, I'm counting it here.)
16The Besnard Lakes
...Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings

*HONORABLE MENTIONS* (In alphabetical order):

The Besnard Lakes — “The Besnard Lakes Are the Last…”
Five the Hierophant — “Through Aureate Void”
Julien Baker — “Little Oblivions”
LICE — “Wasteland: What Ails Our People Is Clear”
The Notwist — “Vertigo Days”
Piana — “Raula”
Pino Paladino & Blake Mills — “Notes With Attachments”
Rapture — “Malevolent Demise Incarnation”
Suffering Hour — “The Cyclic Reckoning”
Various Artists — “Indaba Is”
A Magnificent Day for an Exorcism


The term “rap rock” alone makes me instinctively cringe and recoil in terror, but Pharoahe Monch and Daru Jones (a/k/a TH1RT3EN) understand the importance of proportioning and never saturate their hip-hop verses too heavily with stale cereal rock phrases. You get the occasional guitar solo and drum roll, but the lyrical wizardry remains at the forefront and the cumulative aesthetic remains consciously angry and aggravated (as one would expect heavily political hip-hop to be) rather than corny or inappropriately bundled. Perhaps not coincidentally, the biggest mistake here was letting Cyprus Hill influence as much as an entire track, which is easily the album’s weakest link. That is precisely the sort of “rap rock” I hate.
14Work, Money, Death
The Space in Which the Uncontrollable Unknown...


Two seventeen-minute tracks enigmatically titled “Dusk” and “Dawn”, a depressing-but-true ensemble name, and maybe the wankiest album title to emerge so far this year—I mean, what more could you ask for from modern-day spiritual jazz? In all seriousness, this is a lovely half-hour trip down long jazzy corridors, strangely evocative of the sun-states after which the sides are named—at once warm and nocturnal, soothing but anxious, simple yet complex. It takes its time, it evolves slowly, but it brings with it such a balanced composure that could best be described as a deep tissue massage for one’s brain. When it comes to contemporary jazz, I tend to prefer the more avant-garde and offbeat approaches, but every now and then, someone gets the classics just right.
13The Body
I’ve Seen All I Need To See


The closer things get to anything resembling a “harsh noise wall”, the more likely I am to retreat quietly to my safe space, sobbing for the health of both my psyche and my already-damaged eardrums. But for as crackling, noisy, and discombobulated as this often gets, there’s always an undercurrent of tonality or meter or structure or something audibly tangible that tethers the craziness together in a way that makes it digestible. Not sure I’d define this as “metal”, but I would imagine the Venn Diagram with that fanbase would have a large overlap. (I think it’s more noisy-industrial than anything, but…splitting hairs, I suppose.) This is kind of like a soundtrack you’d expect in one of your nightmares, embodying the sort of grotesquerie that, despite being uncomfortable, makes it difficult to look away.
12Slant (KOR)


When I think “hardcore punk”, the first bands that come to mind are ones I can barely stomach: Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Black Flag, Bad Brains. (Sorry punk-scene purists, those guys [inclusive] have never done much for me.) Between some of the genre’s tamer redeemers and its purposefully shitty production and assemblage, I’ve grown a disdain for its music which I in no way find enjoyable. But occasionally, a band releases an album that ropes in a wider range of influences and wisely foregoes the expectations of insufferable composition and bam: Something rebellious, raw, and pleasant (albeit in its own, odd way). The whole album lasts less than seventeen minutes, but it’s so blistering and densely packed that it feels like twice that. The vocals are absolutely on point (this chick’s got incredible pipes) and it’s only lo-fi in the sense that it doesn’t embellish shit beyond what’s necessary, but lo! I can recognize individual instruments!


Another modern jazz entry, this one a bit more upbeat and playful, going so far as to entwine influences as far-reaching as ethnic rock, tribal funk, Turkish folk, and even mild reggae. Listening to this feels like a transcontinental experience, blending sounds both Western and Latin making for an incredibly unique journey. So thick, too, that it often approaches a sort of cosmic texture, transcending earthly pleasures and going full-on spectral. Each track has several layers to work through, so revisits are not only pleasurable but massively rewarding. Part of me wishes more artists were making this sort of music nowadays, but the realist in me knows that not many can pull it off with this level of aplomb.
10Filmmaker (COL)
Vlad Tapes


Feel like I’m leaning on this caveat a lot lately, but its true: I’m typically not keen on most techno and its various permutations, especially not to the extent that I’d subject myself to ninety minutes of it while working on my laptop, lifting weights at the gym, or, hell, driving to Meijer to pick up groceries. But this four-sided beast taps into an eclectic breed of 8-bit industrialized electronica that makes me strangely happy. Even the album art approximates that demented Castlevania aesthetic closely, each side appropriately named for its corresponding letter of the alphabet (Side Alucard, Side Bathory, Side Count Orlok, Side Dracula). Each twentysome-minute track has an organic progression that feels neither hurried or sluggish—what more could you want?


The big-band assemblage of Fire! (aptly named Fire! Orchestra) is responsible for my favorite album of 2019, which has also found its way relatively high up on my list of all-time favorites. So, naturally, anything stemming from similar braincells is bound to catch my attention. For what this lacks in monstrous orchestral compositions and elegantly layered female vocal tracks it makes up for with improvisational ingenuity and melodic disillusionment. It’s significantly more bare-bones than you’d get from a large ensemble, obviously, but this more minimalist approach grants more exploratory space to the fewer individual components, meaning, for example, we get five uninterrupted minutes of a trumpet or a trombone telling us a story. Fans of free jazz will enjoy this immensely, I think.
8Naked Days
My Head Hz


Wasn’t expecting much from this, but the warm and genuine sentimentality knocked me for a loop right from the first track and never fully released me from its grasp in a way that so few albums do nowadays. This is what I expected from the new Notwist album…but significantly more heartfelt and honest for reasons that escape me entirely. There’s an apparent bittersweetness that permeates every track here without getting too soupy or cloying, capturing that soured end-of-summer nostalgia that even the best emo records have trouble fully replicating. I wouldn’t blame anyone for interpreting this as unnecessarily treacly, however—there’s just something about the understated vocals, mellow instrumentalism, and unobtrusive melodies that rattle my nerves accordingly.
7Home Is Where
I Became Birds


I’ve seen this labeled as a contemporary Midwest Emo release by pretty much every publication that’s covered it, and I just think that’s a massive stretch at best. Straight up “emo” would be more appropriate, but I think this has a lot more in common with the Post-Hardcore movement, folk-influenced punk, or unabashed Indie rock than it does bands like American Football, Cap’n Jazz, Sunny Day Real Estate, or The Brave Little Abacus. (The only major similarity is the strained vocal performance, which is too vague a connection to make and not an exclusive trait of Midwest Emo anyway.) In any case, whatever you want to call this, it absolutely rules, teems with aggressive, pent-up angst, and cuts through said angst with a poetic softness that ebbs and flows over the album’s short nineteen-minute runtime. Passionate if somewhat messy, but the messiness is essential to its character.
6Black Swan (USA-NY)
Repetition Hymns


I’ve been describing this to people as: “Imagine if Basinski’s Disintegration Loops weren’t just loops, and didn’t actually disintegrate,” which sounds totally flippant and vague and abstract, but I can’t think of a better or more appropriate way to capture how absolutely moving and monumental some of these compositions are. Captures the conflicting feelings of despair and hope, at once peaceful and foreboding, uplifting yet condemning. Meditative and hypnotic and, if I might be so bold, utterly transcendental—this is probably as close to vicarious spiritualism as my atheist ass will ever get, and I’m more or less fine with that. When I die, I could imagine this record playing ad infinitum at my funeral; despite how it seems, I mean that as a very endearing complement.
5Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The LSO


I stumbled upon two different comments online that summarize this album better than I could ever hope to: “Like watching each and every brick of a pyramid float slowly into space,” and “It’s like the Donkey Kong Country water level music grew up and went to jazz school.” Perhaps the first a bit abstract and the second somewhat reductive, but neither is very far from the truth: This is an absolutely beautiful record, but one that specializes in minimalism, excessive restraint, and thoughtful repetition—three qualities that many might mistake as flaws. This is meant to be the sonic equivalent of edging, with lush and tranquil soundscapes backgrounding a veteran jazzman as he makes sweet, sensual love to his saxophone. Officially separated into nine movements, but this should definitely be consumed as one piece in totality. Indulge and let your mind float into the abyss.
4Godspeed You! Black Emperor


My personal favorite Godspeed record since (the massively underrated) YANQUI U.X.O. I’m part of the resounding chorus of people who lament the post-reunion drone-heavy direction toward which Godspeed veered on their last three albums, but this is a miraculous return to form that somehow avoids lazy regurgitation. The music starting from the movement “Cliffs Gaze” until the finish is some of Godspeed’s absolute best material.
For the Glory of Your Redeemer


This is everything I want my black metal to be: Gargantuan, dissonant, angular, relentless, impenetrably dark, hostile, and, most of all, divorced from the absurd traditionalist bounty that the genre must exhibit the production quality of a microwaved russet potato. (Like, I get it—I enjoy early Burzum and Mayhem as much as the next guy, but not every black metal album needs to sound like it was recorded in the middle of a Nova Scotian forest with a Playskool Mr. Mike toy.) The vocal delivery is a big component to a metal album’s personal success or failure, and I love how they’re done here: Contorted and tortured with a thick and meaty reverberation to give each holler a guttural and overpowering presence (again, as compared to the treble-heavy shrieks that many of the modern-day homage bands employ). Three tracks, thirty minutes, and not a single second that threatens to cauterize the bloodletting.
2Asian Glow
Cull Ficle


Imagine if THE GLOW PT. 2 sustained the melodic undercurrent and modulated energy of its first three tracks across the entire album. Again, the quaint and occasional ambient loopholes and somnambulant detours are precisely what makes that album a masterpiece, but I’ve often caught myself wondering what the record would sound like if the opening vigor were extrapolated for one full hour, and I think CULL FICLE—an album whose title I still can’t wrap my head around—comes awfully close to reconciling that theoretical void. It musters a similarly lo-fi and laid-back ambiance and stays true to its slacker-rock forefathers while exploring a decidedly more poppy and noisy incarnation of the traditional genre staples. If you’ve been wondering who might carry the torch once Phil Elverum fades away from the scene forever, look no further.
1Black Country, New Road
For the first time


“Sunglasses” was my top track of 2019, but left me aggravated that a band could create a song so marvelous and then leave the world hanging with almost no new material one+ year thereafter. The wait was worth it, though, and the English band’s first-ever full-length sounds exactly like you might expect an album containing “Sunglasses” to sound. The delicate mix of unconventional genres is strangely appetizing—from the celebratory Jewish influence of the instrumental opener to the no wave back-half of the aforementioned “Sunglasses” to the post-rock cadence of “Opus”—with acerbic, spoken-word post-punk serving as the main binding agent. On one hand, I sympathize with everyone upon whom I’ve forced this album that ended up hating it, because it’s a bitter cup of tea with a somewhat bizarre and potentially off-putting flavor profile; but, if you happen to find those particular flavors not only palatable but especially delicious, you’ll be in for quite a treat.
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