Dear Tommy (hopefully out soon on Italians Do It Better)
It's fitting that in the week we finally got the album formerly known as Boys Don't Cry, another long-awaited project looks set to poke its head out. The Johnny Jewel-fronted quartet famously announced that their follow-up to 2012's beloved Read more
Blonde (out now on Boys Don't Cry)
About two minutes into his long-awaited new album, Frank Ocean's pitched-up vocal hangs in the air and sings "RIP Trayvon. That n**ga look just like me." With that simple lyric, Ocean humanizes a young man whose life was taken in the most Read more
"Same to You" / "Longer"
Real (out now on Bloodshot)
While I — along with the rest of America — spent most of my weekend in a Blonde-induced k-hole (more on that later), I took a detour today to give the Columbus, OH singer-songwriter's fourth LP a couple of spins. What I Read more
blisters (out 09.02 on Tri Angle)
Though it's been out for a couple of weeks, I had to write a little bit about the second single from Jonah Wise's debut EP for Tri Angle. Like the spellbinding, "flickering," "blisters" is a mesmeric, unique ballad with devotional touches that pairs Wise's haunting vocals Read more
"Pretty" (f/ Burberry Perry)
Summer Songs 2 (Quality Control)
The Atlanta native’s excellent, youthful new mixtape, Summer Songs 2, is full of highlights, but none are as disarming as this emotional love song. “Pretty” is the type of track that makes you text your girl/boi or pine for the one that Read more
“Dear Tommy” Dear Tommy (hopefully out soon on Italians Do It Better) It’s fitting that in the week we finally got the album formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry, another long-awaited project looks set to poke its head out. The Johnny Jewel-fronted quartet famously announced that their follow-up to 2012′s beloved Kill For Love would be out in time for Valentine’s Day…in 2015. Now 18 months later, we still don’t have a release date, but we have a tracklist — A TRACKLIST! — and its gorgeous, amorphous title track.
This is is the sixth of 17 songs we’ve heard from the record, and along with “Just Like You” (one of the best songs of last year), it’s one of the strongest of the lot. The best Chromatics songs are their most dramatic and cinematic ones. And “Dear Tommy” sounds like it should be soundtracking a Wilder or Polanski movie with its palatial keyboards, slow-mo bassline, and Jewel’s evocative falsetto. We may not have a release date yet, but as Frank taught us this week, good things come to those who wait.
“Nikes” Blonde (out now on Boys Don’t Cry) About two minutes into his long-awaited new album, Frank Ocean’s pitched-up vocal hangs in the air and sings “RIP Trayvon. That n**ga look just like me.” With that simple lyric, Ocean humanizes a young man whose life was taken in the most inhumane way possible before being dehumanized repeatedly by media vultures and the uniformed, endless social media echo chamber. Throughout his career, the 28 year-old has consistently demonstrated this ability to nonchalantly craft disarming, truly powerful poetry in layman’s prose — rewriting the rules of engagement with a shrug of the shoulders. It’s perhaps the most valuable and rarest of his very many talents.
In many ways, Blonde feels like his best work yet, surpassing the hugely underrated Nostalgia, Ultra. That said, I want to sit with it for a week before I make a judgement, but early returns are incredibly impressive.
“Same to You” / “Longer” Real (out now on Bloodshot) While I — along with the rest of America — spent most of my weekend in a Blonde-induced k-hole (more on that later), I took a detour today to give the Columbus, OH singer-songwriter’s fourth LP a couple of spins. What I found was rock-solid songwriting and delicious guitarwork with a welcome dose of Whiskeytown vibes. The disc’s first two tracks — “Same to You” and “Longer” — highlight all of those traits, along with Loveless’ powerful, evocative vocal. At first listen, Real will hit all of your alt-country nostalgia pressure points (if you have them). But I have a pretty good feeling that over time, it will do a helluva lot more than that.
“blisters” blisters (out 09.02 on Tri Angle) Though it’s been out for a couple of weeks, I had to write a little bit about the second single from Jonah Wise’s debut EP for Tri Angle. Like the spellbinding, “flickering,” “blisters” is a mesmeric, unique ballad with devotional touches that pairs Wise’s haunting vocals with a deft, orchestral accompaniment. While he dials back the trill a touch, his vocal remains aching and stretched, overflowing with emotion and heart. True originality is hard to find in 2016, but with every track, Wise is further cementing his status as one of the rarest working today.
Digital Single In the D***ld Tr**p Era, we need as many sweet love songs as we can get, and Young Deja comes through with a heartfelt swoon-fest that is sure to chase the Newsfeed blues away. To my ears, she’s at her best when she’s jumping genres, effortlessly shifting between singing and rapping, as she does here and in classics like “Easy Love,” “Me U Hennessy,” and the smash Lil Durk collab, “My Beyoncé.” The track’s sunny keyboards and bouncy percussion (courtesy of regular collaborator Izze the Producer) are the perfect match for her light, playful vocals. She’s likely too versatile to consider doing a full album of down-tempo songs, but if she does, I’ll be first in line to pick it up.
The Tallest Man on Earth
Digital Single Swedish folk singer, Kristian Matsson, returns with his second new track of 2016. “Rivers” is a potent example of the 33 year-old’s light, dexterous fingerpicking and evocative, Dylan-inspired vocals. I tend to like Matsson most when his arrangements are at their sparest, which made it tough to get into the fuller sound of his 2015 LP, Dark Bird is Home. That said, he’s back to his best here, as he impressively frames the track’s gentle guitar with delicate touches of horns and strings, adding a subtle dynamism to proceedings.
“Done” Camp Cope (out now on Poison City) I completely whiffed on the Melbourne trio’s excellent self-titled LP when it dropped back in June, so you can consider this my apology. Driven by singer-songwriter Georgia Maq, the eight-song project is full of cathartic, intimate songwriting and jangly, sticky guitar melodies. And while lead single, “Done,” isn’t quite at the top of my list of standout songs (I’d go for “Song for Charlie” or “Flesh and Electricity“), it is an effective primer for the record and a fantastic window into Maq’s unique, fascinating perspective.
Jacques Greene “You Can’t Deny” Digital Single The ever-reliable Montreal producer has been uncharacteristically quiet since 2014′s purple patch, but his new single proves that he’s still on top of his game. Built around bouncy snyth droplets and a pitched-up vocal sample, “You Can’t Deny” is a delicious, swirling slab of modern house that I’ll look forward to hearing in a packed, sweaty room when I next catch one of his bulletproof sets.
How to Dress Well
“Lost Youth / Lost You” Care (out 09.23 on Domino)
“Lost Youth / Lost You” is the first taste of the longtime TP favorite’s forthcoming fourth LP. It’s a lush, emotional love song that continues his progression from ambient, weirdo lo-fi toward direct, powerful adult contempo-inspired pop. I’m getting light Celine Dion/Jon Secada/Everything But the Girl vibes from this one and even hearing little touches of “Drops of Jupiter” in the chorus. If that sounds like it’s up your alley (it’s WAY up mine), then you’ll enjoy getting swept away by this one.
Digital Single After a monster 2015 (and one of the best songs of last year), the London MC had been conspicuously quiet in recent times. However, he emphatically broke that silence this week with this massive new single. Living in the sweet spot between grime and dancehall that he’s made his own, “Playing Sports” is yet another example of his sharp, hooky songwriting and intoxicating sound. More like this please.