The best under-the-radar finds in hip-hop, rock, dance, and more

It’s impossible to hear all the music that comes out everyday, but with this list we hope to direct your attention to generally overlooked albums our writers and editors have been returning to over the last few months. None of these releases were named Best New Music and, in some cases, they weren’t reviewed on Pitchfork. But they’re all worth a listen.

(All releases featured here are independently selected by our editors. When you buy something through our Amazon links, however, Pitchfork may earn an affiliate commission.)


  • Clone
Sunshine 3 artwork
  • Aleksi Perälä

Sunshine 3

Sunshine 3 starts abruptly, midway through a tone—as if the Finnish electronic producer has been performing for hours, and some enterprising soul just now pressed record. Perälä’s third album for the Clone Dub label offers a peppy update to the subtle, intuitively strange terrain of classic IDM, proposing wide-open spaces of ringing, graceful tones that softly shift and ripple like puddles in a rainstorm. –Stacey Anderson


  • K7
Happy Earthday artwork
  • Bjarki

Happy Earthday

The Icelandic experimental techno producer Bjarki kicked off his career with three consecutive triple-vinyl LPs for Nina Kraviz’ трип label, all within one year. He’s since slowed down, both literally and figuratively. Happy Earthday, his first album in three years, trades the frenetic, kitchen-sink approach of his early work for more nuanced sounds. The skittering breaks and plangent synths suggest he still hasn’t completely gotten out from under the shadow of Aphex Twin, whose influence looms large, but Happy Earthday’s greater emotional depth suggests an artist gradually homing in on what makes him unique. –Philip Sherburne


  • Nude Club
Careful artwork
  • Boy Harsher

Careful

Jae Matthews and Gus Muller, the former film students who make up Massachusetts duo Boy Harsher, are just as influenced by the surrealistic, sinister works of filmmakers Harmony Korine and David Lynch as they are by post-punk predecessors like Suicide. Their second album Careful sounds like the perfect backdrop to a horror film: Its visceral darkwave invokes the same seductive dread as a Lynchian thriller. Muller’s stark synths and propulsive, techno-adjacent drum programming set the scene for Matthews’ vocals, deep moans that shudder with paranoia and masochism. Like the works of the filmmakers that inspired the album, Careful is captivating in its twisted destitution. –Michelle Kim


  • Sweat Equity
I Don’t Know How to Be Happy artwork
  • Deli Girls

I Don’t Know How to Be Happy

“You will never win because you will never be as angry as the rest of us,” Deli Girls howl near the end of I Don’t Know How to Be Happy. Considering the vehemence of their rage and the audible agony of their vocal cords, there’s little room for argument. On their newest record, the NYC duo of Danny Orlowski and Tommi Kelly unleash a barrage of hardcore thrash, industrial glitch, and gnarled dance beats against the injustices of social discrimination, hypocritical posturing, and police brutality. The record sounds like an exorcism of human cruelties, and by the end, a fearless affirmation of existence. –Quinn Moreland


  • ATO
Scenery artwork
  • Emily King

Scenery

Emily King’s “Can’t Hold Me” could very well be the classiest pop song about masturbation ever recorded. “Thought you were my only love/But I found someone with the perfect touch,” she sings on this satin-smooth ode to self-love, her breathy vocals sounding like Norah Jones doing her finest Prince impression. The song doubles as a subtly damning kiss off to an underperforming ex, like a spiritual sister to Robyn’s bittersweet anthem of overcoming, “Dancing on My Own.” It’s just one example of the expertly constructed, exquisitely performed pop-soul found throughout this 33-year-old New York artist’s third album, Scenery. With traces of ’60s folk, ’70s R&B, and ’80s new wave, the record nods to bygone eras in both sound and subject matter. On “Teach You,” King patiently offers a lesson on basic human decency—call people when they’re down, look up from your phone every once and a while—over a featherlight shuffle. This is pop music as it used to be, and how it still can be. –Ryan Dombal


  • Lost Appeal
Devour artwork
  • Ghostie

Devour

Baltimore’s Ghostie is one of the most versatile members of the thriving ANTI-WORLD crew, and his self-produced album Devour shows him bringing all of his styles together. No two songs on Devour are similar: He’s nearly emo on “I Smile When It Rains,” a purist on the soul sample-heavy “Talking ’Bout Guns,” and on “Don’t Wait for Them,” he sounds ready for a horror movie. The only point of consistency is that every drum is programmed to blow the hell out of your speakers. –Alphonse Pierre


  • Last Resort
First Appearance artwork
  • G.S. Schray

First Appearance

G.S. Schray hails from the same Akron, Ohio, network that spawned Aqueduct Ensemble and their dreamily Balearic 2018 album Improvisations on an Apricot. (Schray is credited on that album, too.) First Appearance, the follow-up to his 2017 album Gabriel, is cut from the same cloth—linen, or possibly seersucker, from the sounds of things. Meandering keyboard melodies sluice through warm pools of reverberant guitar; omnipresent echo and the occasional saxophone conjure memories of Talk Talk and the Durutti Column. Far from its Rust Belt origins, First Appearance is a teasingly blurry snapshot of a tropical fantasy, summoning images of palm-shaded hammocks and phosphorescent tides under the full moon. –Philip Sherburne


  • Nyege Nyege Tapes
Tatizo Pesa artwork
  • Jay Mitta

Tatizo Pesa

How does one map the work of Tanzanian producer Jay Mitta, whose tireless and inventive take on singeli music feels 100 light-years from its closest neighbor star? On Earth, coming out of your stereo, Tatizo Pesa collects the beats of galloping horses, sci-fi reggaeton rhythms played on cartoon accordions, and the warped sound of a Xerox machine breaking down in tears. It’s as much an experiment in maximalist pleasure as it is dance music. –Matthew Schnipper


  • Self-released
Diaspora artwork
  • Joy Postell

Diaspora

“So often, music doesn’t make me feel anything anymore,” Joy Postell told Baltimore Magazine late last year. “I just want people to feel.” On her debut album Diaspora, the Baltimore native fluidly blends singing and rapping, hardly ever wasting a moment. Diaspora takes a broad approach to social commentary, referencing Freddie Gray over a hand-knocked lunch-table beat on “No Sunshine,” and reflecting on the connection black Americans have with their hair on “Intro (Know Your Roots).” Postell’s songwriting is specific, clever, and feels true to her own experiences, allowing us a glimpse at the life of a woman growing through her music. –Alphonse Pierre


  • Captured Tracks
La Onda de Juan Pablo artwork
  • Juan Wauters

La Onda de Juan Pablo

Juan Wauters will revitalize your commute. On the Queens-via-Uruguay singer-songwriter’s third album—and first sung entirely in Spanish—he sings a gorgeous ode to public transportation, “Blues Chilango,” cataloguing the busy, intriguing folks who cross his path: “Un carnicero, un electricista, un carpintero, un relojero” (“a butcher, an electrician, a carpenter, a watchmaker”). Fittingly, the entire album was recorded in motion, with the local musicians Wauters encountered while on a trip through Latin America. He admiringly incorporates their folkloric styles, including bolero ranchero to candombe, into his own gentle, winsome synth folk. His onda spreads out generously to touch much of the world. –Stacey Anderson


  • Polyvinyl
Crushing artwork
  • Julia Jacklin

Crushing

Prolonged monogamy can make you feel like nothing is wholly your own, even your own body. What comes next—the hard work of untangling and reclamation—serves as fodder for Julia Jacklin’s stunning second album. One part Burn Your Fire for No Witness-style personal manifesto, one part breakup record, Crushing is filled with striking scenes from emotional purgatory. When Jacklin tries to “get out there again” on “Pressure to Party,” the music bursts with the brightness that only comes from suppressed anxiety. Other times she’s so low, she gives herself an on-record pep talk, set to simple folk strumming barely above a whisper. At every point, you find yourself hanging on her every word, rooting for her as she carves a wide-open path forward. –Jillian Mapes


  • World’s Fair
Dangerfield artwork
  • Lansky Jones

Dangerfield

Lansky Jones is a New York rapper through and through: An African-American Ashkenazi Jew from Queens and Roosevelt Island, he cut his teeth making party rap as a member of the trio Children of the Night and collective World’s Fair. A focused, bars-first rapper, he’s straightforward and agile on the beat. But on his solo debut Dangerfield, Lansky adds a dollop of sensitivity to the hard-nosed New York archetype. Dangerfield’s opener “Ode to Big Allis (Ravenswood No. 30)” is a tribute to the people and places that raised him, while “Know the Type” advises stoicism over pomposity. On “Governor,” he says, “New York is gritty like the back of sanitation trucks.” But as his nimble rapping demonstrates, the city’s not just hard, it’s pliable. –Matthew Strauss


  • TSO
Love Is Love artwork
  • Lor Choc

Love Is Love

When Lor Choc is high off of love, not much else matters. Filled with lush melodies and sparkling hi-hats, the singer/rapper’s Love Is Love cycles through the highs and lows of any developing relationship: “Get Away” finds stuck Choc in a dream, while on “Vibe,” she is taken aback by the strength of her feelings. Love is no panacea, and though the pain and trauma of a childhood growing up in Baltimore lingers, Choc seeks hope in the midst of darkness. –Alphonse Pierre

  • Avenue 66
Light Surfing artwork
  • Lowtec

Light Surfing

Light Surfing is the first album in 17 years from Germany’s Jens Kuhn. He has spent most of that time at the helm of Workshop, a label known for slow, murky, after-hours house music, and here he brings the same qualities to moody, mysterious tracks fashioned from lumpy drum programming and detuned washes of analog synth. Between his label and his music, Kuhn has long set the gold standard for lo-fi house, and here it takes the form of treasure rescued from a centuries-old shipwreck: battered, tarnished, and crusted with barnacles, but gleaming nonetheless. –Philip Sherburne


  • Self-released
Freewave 3 artwork
  • Lucki

Freewave 3

The Chicago rapper Lucki is not quite monotone on Freewave 3, but he’s not bursting with vocal affectations, either. His words arrive with an alluring flatness, recalling Earl Sweatshirt’s delivery on Some Rap Songs or MIKE on War in My Pen. Freewave 3 is a survey of addiction, heartbreak, and Lucki’s own bad behavior, approached with a documentarian’s eye: It’s rap without rights or wrongs, presenting life as simply an unfiltered collection of sensations. –Matthew Strauss


  • Interscope
The Jungle Is the Only Way Out artwork
  • Mereba

The Jungle Is the Only Way Out

On her major label debut The Jungle Is the Only Way Out, singer-songwriter Mereba blends earthy American folk with cosmic R&B, blurring the lines between two mystic genres. The sumptuous record was inspired in part inspired by her late father, who immigrated to the U.S. from his home country of Ethiopia, and the ancestors who came before him. On standout track “Black Truck,” she uses the titular car as a metaphor for making it in America. As she sings with the wizened grace of Tracy Chapman, a chorus of arpeggiated bloops, spacey synths, and ghostly background vocals envelop her luminous voice. It’s a gorgeous tribute to her predecessors, calling forth their memory while simultaneously bringing them into the future. –Michelle Kim


  • UIQ
7 Directions artwork
  • Nkisi

7 Directions

It’s easy to misidentify Nkisi’s 7 Directions as a piece of dance music. The album takes influence from many current electronic dance music scenes, and in ways feels akin to the cutting-edge, rhythmically vibrant music played in clubs globally. Think of it that way, and it may seem less bombastic or exciting than its peers. But if you consider 7 Directions less as a smaller version of something big, and rather a big version of something small, its powers unfurl. Nkisi is a co-owner of record label NON Worldwide, which has released plenty of wild, abrasive music; if she wanted to make that, she would. Instead, she crafts floating echoes and inquisitive harmonies, controlled tentacles of sound creeping across each track. Listen in the same slow, curious way you might taste a strange new food, and then recognize that what you have in front of you is delicious. –Matthew Schnipper


  • Clipp.Art
If U Want It EP artwork
  • 박혜진 Park Hye Jin

If U Want It EP

It’s easy to sink deep into the dreamy house and techno of If U Want It, the debut EP from South Korean producer and vocalist 박혜진 Park Hye Jin. Alternating between English and Korean, Park’s lyrics reveal slivers of interiority in self-administered pep talks and lovelorn chants. Though she may use only a handful of words to express her thoughts, her ever-shifting delivery conveys the complexity of her emotions. Flitting between sing-song rapping, gentle whisper-singing, and spoken word, Park fills an ocean of subtle feelings and delicately complex club music. –Michelle Kim


  • Pias
In a Galaxy artwork
  • Rina Mushonga

In a Galaxy

If the title In a Galaxy comes across as a little lofty, don’t worry: Rina Mushonga’s sophomore record more than lives up to the name. The Dutch-Zimbabwean artist pulls no punches, her protean voice serving as the unwavering anchor, while ’80s-inspired synthesizer piles up and spacey dub delays swirl around her. In a Galaxy is an antidote to the surface-level “internationalism” often bandied about by artists inspired by cultures beyond their own; by drawing equally from Afropop and indie rock, Mushonga shakes off restrictions and compels us to imagine a brave new world. –Noah Yoo


  • Allpoints
Fantasy & Facts artwork
  • Roses Gabor

Fantasy & Facts

In the vast lane of electronic music that focuses on vibes, feel, and that little two-inch lift off the ground you get when the beat comes in, you can’t do much better than Roses Gabor. The debut album from the UK singer (born Rosemary Wilson) has deep, technical production that draws a line from avant-soul to cosmic club music. One song rattles the ribcage (“Rush”) while the next fills the dance floor (“Turkish Delight”). But it’s more about the overarching mood that Fantasy & Facts conjures, the neon vapor that trails behind her voice, the desire and longing that fills her verses, the image of twirling freely down the middle of a city street at night that almost every song evokes. As songs drift between perfect romance and pitiless heartbreak, Roses Gabor captures the surreal middle-ground between the flex and the reality, the dream and real life. –Jeremy D. Larson


  • Presto!? Records
黑社會 Triad artwork
  • Triad God

黑社會 Triad

If you ever thought that dancehall couldn’t be a sullen and introspective genre, Triad God will change your mind. On 黑社會 Triad, the London experimental artist’s first album in seven years, Vinh Ngans keeps his Cantonese rapping and singing so soft, it sounds like he’s holed up in a tiny broom closet and singing into a microphone two centimeters from his face. But even though Ngans seems to be reaching deep within, production by longtime collaborator Palmistry opens up the project to far-reaching corners of the world—incorporating elements of minimalist dancehall, glacial choral singing, and Chinese traditional music. There’s a striking intimacy to 黑社會 Triad, but it doesn’t ever feel confined. –Michelle Kim


  • Run for Cover / Luxury
Westkust artwork
  • Westkust

Westkust

On their self-titled sophomore record, Westkust breathe new life into fuzzy dream pop. Over nine tracks, the Swedish quartet swoons from warm guitar jangle to dark shoegaze bliss before circling back to sunshine again. All the while, Julia Bjernelind’s wistful voice floats alongside the soaring melodies. As winter stubbornly transitions to spring, Westkust is guaranteed to melt the last bit of ice off your heart. –Quinn Moreland


  • Anti-
The Same but by Different Means artwork
  • Yves Jarvis

The Same but by Different Means

The new LP by Yves Jarvis (formerly Un Blonde) is difficult to pin down. To plainly call it a singer-songwriter record would be reductive; 22-year-old Jean-Sebastian Audet moves freely between genres, dabbling in everything from D’Angelo-esque funk jams to whispery field-recording-folk and ambient balladry without missing a beat. His songs have a naturalistic feeling to them, evoking the lo-fi vitality of DIY. The nearly two dozen tracks on The Same but by Different Means were recorded by Audet across three years, oftentimes using musical equipment that would break down before his eyes. The result is a rewarding album best enjoyed on headphones, where one can close their eyes, rest amidst the textures, and discover something new in each passing moment. –Noah Yoo


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