1. Sebenza LV (Hyperdub)
A collaboration between east-London production squad LV and South African MCs Spoek Mathambo, Okmalumkoolkat and Ruffest, Sebenza (Zulu for "work") is a jumbled feedback loop of cultural exchange and languages, all duel-continental slang splattered with hyper-colored synths and kwaito rhythms. "Sebenza -- only rest in December."
2. Classical Curves Jam City (Night Slugs)
With a conceptual package that includes well-matched artwork and a slew of related minimalist YouTube videos, Classical Curves articulates a particular kind of retro-futurism that is currently surging through the zeitgeist of forward-thinking club culture, restructuring tropes and signifiers from dance music's past into the framework of the future via the antiseptic luster of the ever-present Ableton Live grid. On Classical Curves one doesn't hear the dancefloor so much as the reverberant spaces around it, and all the crashing glass and pulsing subwoofers within.
3. The Face of Earth Jessika Kenney & Eyvind Kang (Ideologic Organ)
Drawing heavily from their research into ancient musical forms, this married couple explore the atmospheric overlap and possible combinations within them, here working with poetic forms like the Persian gazal and the Javanese wangsalan in a muted, intimate setting.
4. Pluto Future (Epic)
With an emotionally charged delivery that triangulates rapping, singing and autotune, Future sounds as if he's speaking through a prism, and what comes out isn't too far from the pain felt in a weathered folk singer's whisky-choked rasp. With the help of wonder producer Mike Will, he abstracts trap-rap and maximalist club-anthems into something more untethered and urgent than much of what sticks to the dials in the current landscape of radio R&B.
5. Channel Orange Frank Ocean (Island)
Does more really need to be written about this? Though Miguel's "Adorn" deserves a nod for the most ubiquitous/unifying song of the art-school R&B era, Frank obviously takes the cake for the album. The ghosted-vocoder background vocals on the second half of "Pyramids" alone are enough to justify the critical shitstorm.
6. Mature Themes Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (4AD)
7. Forty-Nine Views Andrew Chalk (Faraway)
8. Clear Moon Mount Eerie (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
9. Space Zone Young Smoke (Planet Mu)
10. It's The Arps Todd Terje (Smalltown Supersound)
Spencer Doran is a musician and sound engineer born in Arcata, now living in Portland, Ore.