The Best Albums of September 2018

Treble staff
Emma Ruth Rundle best of September

When it rains, it’s a relentless thunderstorm. It’s not like there’s been a bad month for music in 2018, but September’s offerings have been absurdly good. So much so that we capped our round-up of favorites at the ominous number of 13. And naturally those favorites have come in all different forms, be it the continuation of a prolific streak from one Richard D. James, the triumphant new album from a doomy and dreamy singer/songwriter, a surprise release from a shape-shifting art-pop innovator, a genre-breaking epic from a titanic metal trio or the highly anticipated debut album from a fiercely independent and remarkably talented Chicago emcee. Across 13 different albums there are just as many different sounds to take in, and that in a nutshell is what makes this feel like the richest month for music all year, though there’s still a couple more on the horizon before we lay out our 50 favorites of the year. And boy is that going to be difficult. In the meantime, clear out your day to listen to the best albums of September.

Aphex Twin Collapse review Album of the WeekAphex Twin – Collapse EP

(Warp)

What We Said: These five- to six-minute songs seem to each fly by in half the time, while Collapse taken as a whole burns as much of your effort and energy as a release twice its length. Aphex Twin’s particular vision of the rise of the machines imagines them in a glitched, staccato tarantella. And we readers of these new, compelling chapters of his history of music’s future are finding it harder and harder to put the book down. – Adam Blyweiss

Eric Bachmann No Recover reviewEric Bachmann – No Recover

(Merge)

What We Said: Bachmann’s work here isn’t most striking when viewed line by line, but as a full piece: a 34-minute novella with chapters that intertwine in way that reference both each other and his work throughout an over-25-year career. It’s easily his most nuanced and striking work since the days of Archers, and one that warrants a multitude of listens. – A.T. Bossenger

best albums of September 2018 Exploded ViewExploded View – Obey

(Sacred Bones)

While it still feels like not nearly enough people have heard Exploded View’s outstanding, experimental debut album, there’s still time to make up for that. And for that matter, their second offering Obey might be the one to get more listeners to reach back through their catalog. The Berlin/Mexico City group’s second album finds them embracing more structured songwriting, prettier textures, a smattering of disco beats and some subtly tweaked pop songs. It’s not Exploded View gone commercial, though it’s far more immediate than the band’s previous offering, with a balance of dream pop, industrial, darkwave and krautrock sounds, all of which come out washed in the band’s stunningly psychedelic filter. – Jeff Terich

Gouge Away Burnt Sugar review Album of the WeekGouge Away – Burnt Sugar

(Deathwish Inc.)

What We Said: Burnt Sugar doesn’t in any way resemble a straightforward punk or hardcore album, and in many ways doesn’t even resemble the band that recorded , Dies just a couple years ago. Gouge Away, named for a particularly great Pixies track, stretching themselves into newly complex melodic territory and stepping outside of hardcore’s most common tropes. What they don’t sacrifice is intensity. – Jeff Terich

Tim Hecker Konoyo reviewTim Hecker – Konoyo

(Kranky)

What We Said: Unlike so many of his peers, Hecker’s movements are rarely longer than an average pop song. In a genre, full of 20-minute soundscapes, the rarity of a seven-plus-minute track once set Hecker apart. Here is an economical sound artist. Konoyo departs from this immediately, “This Life” stretching to nearly nine minutes. Elsewhere compositions push the ten-minute mark and the album closer even a cool 15. The shift to longer pieces highlights Hecker’s ability to both get in and get out or conversely stretch the rubber band of tension to its near breaking point. – Wesley Whitacre

Horrendous Devotion Essential TrackHorrendous – Idol

(Season of Mist)

Horrendous have already established themselves as one of death metal’s most progressive bands of the moment, having delivered three solid and increasingly more innovative albums of riffs, melodies and complex, labyrinthine structures. But with Idol, they find their best balance yet between dynamic songwriting and dazzling instrumental displays. And though the band’s old-school influences are just as prominent, they’re not the defining characteristic, the Philly/D.C. band using old-school aesthetics in favor of something contemporary and forward-thinking. It’s a high point for death metal this year and an album that yields ever more rewards with repeat spins. – Jeff Terich

best albums of September 2018 Human PeopleHuman People – Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears

(Exploding In Sound)

Human People’s brilliant debut is crammed with hits, channeling the scrappy twee of Tiger Trap and dynamic song structures of The Pixies. Tying swift melodies with existentially focused lyrics, The Brooklyn quartet leaves no room for filler on Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears. From the elated opening shrill of “Radiator Water” or ceaseless pop appeal of “In My Speakers” and “Radio Flyer,” the album keeps up an incredible consistency through 12 unforgettable tracks. – Patrick Pilch

Low Double Negative reviewLow – Double Negative

(Sub Pop)

What We Said: These compositions drone rather than offer the kind of more traditional paths to songwriting the band has followed in the past, and that allows them to abandon the more common destinations of the verse/chorus format with often interesting results. Another common thread that becomes a pattern of sorts is, in the last minute of each song, they fade out into ambiance. Yet while the atmosphere disintegrates into ether, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s voices are stalwart, having stood up well over the years and their presence a more essential quality to the pulsing atmosphere Low indulge in here. – Wil Lewellyn

Noname Room 25 reviewNoname – Room 25

(Self-released)

What We Said: You could say that Room 25 is a personal album, but not in the traditional sense of “personal” where the word connotes oversharing or naked sentimentalism or whatever. Room 25 is personal because it’s an expression of personhood, a project only Noname could write and rap and assemble. She moves fluidly between personas and topics, equally capable of embodying and addressing each. – Ben Dickerson

Emma Ruth Rundle On Dark Horses reviewEmma Ruth Rundle – On Dark Horses

(Sargent House)

What We Said: It’s perhaps an overstatement to say that this feels more freewheeling and fun than Rundle’s past efforts, but it’s also not too far from the truth. On Dark Horses is her most overt rock record, sometimes unapologetically grungy and prone to moments of righteous thunder. Yet she’s sacrificed none of her ambiance or grace in the process. – Jeff Terich

best albums of september 2018 Spirit of the BeehiveSpirit of the Beehive – Hypnic Jerks

(Tiny Engines)

On their latest, Spirit of the Beehive employ warm subsurface textures, steeping the band’s hypnagogic bedroom psychedelia into some of their most engaging tracks to date. Hazy song fragments waver and taper between movements, shifting ideas into and out of focus with varying depth and clarity. Hypnic Jerks is like an illogical dream sequence that somehow continues to make sense, embracing accessibility while persisting in its own otherworldliness. – Patrick Pilch

Sumac Love In Shadow review Album of the WeekSumac – Love In Shadow

(Thrill Jockey)

What We Said: Just as John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders channeled powerful, spiritual expressions on their greatest albums, Sumac is tapping into feelings that transcend riffs. Love In Shadow is about exploration, both in terms of music and the self. It might require some extra time or attention, but the potential to take away something new and soul-nourishing with each listen makes it a worthy investment. – Jeff Terich

Yves Tumor Safe in the Hands of Love reviewYves Tumor – Safe In the Hands of Love

(Warp)

What We Said: The underlying aesthetic of Safe In the Hands of Love is a gorgeous one. While “Licking An Orchid” doesn’t hit the pleasure centers with quite the same impact as “Noid,” it’s a wonderfully haunting gothic trip-hop track, following a classic guitar loop and featuring the angelic vocals of James K. Likewise, the darkly alluring “Lifetime” balances a frantic rhythm against a layered, intricate series of gauzy synth layers. “Lifetime” is a song that’s continuously building and growing, piling on piano, horns and Bowie’s own cries of “I miss my brother” until the track becomes both cinematic and heart-wrenching. It’s art-pop at its most soaring and affecting. – Jeff Terich

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