Are You Alone? (out 10.16 on Matador)
Though he's still very much a rising artist, Majical Cloudz frontman Devon Welsh is quickly becoming one of the most powerful lyricists in music today. Blissfully free of wordplay and $10 adjectives, the Montreal native excels at direct, plainly poetic prose aimed Read more
As you may have realized, posting has been a little sparse around these parts in the last couple weeks. I’ve been moving house from Los Angeles to San Francisco over the last few weeks, so I wanted to get into a quick round-up of some of my favorite recent Read more
WILD (out now on Universal Australia)
I first heard about the Australian YouTuber turned pop-star when I read Alex Frank's excellent piece for the ever-reliable, Fader Magazine. Among other things, the 20 year-old stressed the importance of writing and speaking openly about LGBT relationships and issues in mainstream pop Read more
Inevitable (09.18 on Dropping Gems)
If there's any fairness in the universe, Natasha Kmeto's gorgeous new single will achieve widespread attention by soundtracking a pivotal first kiss in a teen movie (i.e. the 2015 equivalent of when Liv Tyler finally makes out with A.J. on the roof of Read more
"Hey There" (f/ Future)
#AndSeeThatsTheThing (out now on Columbia)
From the moment the Detroit native's unavoidable first single, "Try Me," blew up, the common narrative was that the 24 year-old was just another in the line of one-hit, viral rap sensations (see: Bobby Shmurda, OT Genasis, OG Maco, etc) that popped Read more
“Downtown” Are You Alone? (out 10.16 on Matador)
Though he’s still very much a rising artist, Majical Cloudz frontman Devon Welsh is quickly becoming one of the most powerful lyricists in music today. Blissfully free of wordplay and $10 adjectives, the Montreal native excels at direct, plainly poetic prose aimed at the common experiences we share: love, fear, loss, and the like. The gorgeous devotional, “Downtown,” has a few stunners that deal with the former. Lyrics like “There’s one thing I’ll do If it ever goes wrong. I’ll write you into my all of my songs. / And if suddenly I die. I hope they will say that he was obsessed and it was OK” speak for themselves and beautifully define what love feels like and what it can mean. A truly special statement from what should be one of the albums of the year.
If we’re being all the way real, the Ontario native should be exponentially percent more poppin’ than he currently is. Maybe he doesn’t have an Internet ready look like Post Malone or the co-sign of someone like PartyNextDoor, but the artist born Daystar Peterson has been cranking out a steady stream of some of the sharpest, strongest R&B out right now. On his recent heater, “Say It,” the 23 year-old gets extra sentimental, smearing his graceful tenor over a delicious flip of Brownstone’s classic “If You Love Me.” It’s basically the musical equivalent of the heart eyes emoji, and if there’s any fairness in the music world (hint: there isn’t), it should turn into a massive hit.
Jesu / Sun Kil Moon “America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek and John Dillinger” Jesu/Sun Kil Moon (out 01.21.16)
“That’s an account of my last few days,” sings Mark Kozelek on the first single off his new collaborative LP with Godflesh/Jesu frontman, Justin Broadrick. The refrain (along with the song title) is a cheeky, thinly-veiled allusion to the Internet backlash to the rambling lyrics of his recent work. While Kozelek’s combative nature has been a constant of his long, rich career, it’s hard not to feel like his interminable squabbling with the press, other bands, and even his own fans is starting to overwhelm his work. The incidents have ranged from mostly harmless to downright pathetic, and it really seemed to infect his most recent LP, June’s Universal Themes, one of the weakest of his career.
And though there’s not a ton of buzz surrounding Jesu / Sun Kil Moon, I’m betting that Broadrick’s laidback persona will bring balance to proceedings and inspire more restraint in Kozelek. Hopefully, it will follow the blueprint of his recent collaborative successes with Jimmy LaValle on 2013′s sterling Perils from the Sea and his excellent LP with Desertshore. While this single doesn’t really allay those fears — dude reads a piece of actual fan mail at the end — it’s far from the shambling mess that much of Universal Themes was, and the warm electric guitar-lead and synths encouragingly hint at the scope of Broadrick’s influence.
As you may have realized, posting has been a little sparse around these parts in the last couple weeks. I’ve been moving house from Los Angeles to San Francisco over the last few weeks, so I wanted to get into a quick round-up of some of my favorite recent tracks, now that I’m finally situated.
“Blackmarket Blues” Real Life (out in October on Marathon Artists) If you read this site regularly, you know how I feel about Real Lies. We’re now just weeks away from the release of their debut LP — an album I’ve been waiting for since I fell in love with their first single, “Deeper,” back in the summer of 2013. “Blackmarket Blues” captures an intoxicating balance between urban ennui and the eternal hopefulness of youth in a way that just cuts through me. I don’t know how many other ways I can keep saying it, but I fucking love this band so much. And so should you.
“You Don’t Have to Be Alone” / “In The Flames”
Digital Single Samo Sound Boy has already made a great solo album this year, but his personal success hasn’t pushed his project with Jerome LOL onto the back-burner. The LA-based (Westlake, stand up!) duo formerly known as DJ Dodger Stadium, dropped a pair of sweltering, mantric singles this summer that will hopefully lead to a follow-up to 2014’s excellent, Friend of Mine.
Miles From Kinshasa
Digital Single This one’s an absolute stunner. The London-based newcomer’s debut single pairs a foreboding bassline with lithe, infectious vocals, resulting in a track that feels both menacing and breezy. Unlike many of today’s pop songs, it’s tough to track the sounds that influenced “IVRY.” Miles cooks up a beautifully divergent sonic stew here, using stabbed electric guitars, syncopated hand-drums, and Pet Shop Boys synths to create a perfect soundtrack to life in a multi-cultural community.
“Where is the Loud” (Goon Mix)
Digital Single While Craig David rightfully lapped up the plaudits for his flip of Jack Ü’s ubiquitous ”Where Are Ü Now,” under-appreciated crooner Tim Vocals quietly dropped an excellent version of his own. The Harlem native waxes poetic about his love for weed in his gentle, yet powerful falsetto, gliding over the verses’ buoyant piano chords and Skrillex and Diplo’s infectious chorus drop.
“Weak” Don’t You (out 01.29.16 on Columbia) After what has felt like an eternity, the emotional trio’s debut LP finally got a release date. Lead single “Deadwater” is one of my favorite tracks of the year, and the skeletal “Weak” is a worthy follow-up, pairing Kelly Zutrau’s piercing, plaintive vocals with delicate guitar chords and a bouncy drumpad pattern. 2016 just got its first must-hear album.
“Come Back” / “Brought to the Water” New Bermuda (out now on -ANTI) The Bay Area sickos responsible for my fave album of 2013 are back with a vengeance. If these singles are anything to go by, New Bermuda will pick up where the masterful Sunbather left off. If anything, these cuts tend to skew even heavier and darker than their past work, hinting that success has done nothing but make them even more relentless.
“Dance” RedemptionHeart (TBD) For obvious reasons, not many artists who make music as nuanced and challenging as Dawn Richard are prolific, but the New Orleans powerhouse has been on an absolute tear of late. She only dropped her beguiling, brilliant third solo LP, Blackheart, back in January, just four months removed from a solid effort from her original group, Danity Kane. Now, she’s preparing the final chapter of “ The Red Era” series, which includes Blackheart and 2013’s Goldenheart. Its delightful lead single, “Dance”, shows that the 32 year-old is committed to bringing both quantity and quality to her ever-growing fanbase.
Digital Single Baltimore producer eu-IV’s matches an interview with civil rights activist, Angela Davis, with a smooth, jazzy arrangement. It’s a powerful, affecting statement that reminds us that though over 40 years have passed since Davis first spoke those disarming words, they are still more pertinent than ever.
“Moodswung” Odyssey (out 11.06 on Mixpack) The grime-leaning producer recently announced his most ambitious project to date, a new 8-song EP that will likely highlight the Londoner’s diverse palette of influences. “Moodswung” is a shapeshifting, otherworldly soundscape that is offbeat and unpredictable without losing its coherence and form. Built around delicious MIDI harps and skittering percussion, it feels like the perfect soundtrack to deep space travel…or just the run of the mill chaos of your morning commute.
Digital Single Summer might be over, but I guess nobody told this virile, Swedish dream pop trio. When you consider the length and bleakness of the Stockholm winter, it’s easy to understand why the group is struggling to suck a few more drops out of summer. It’s almost as if they believe that Mia Bøe’s defiant cries and powerful m83 synths will be warm enough to keep winter away for a few extra, precious weeks.
To be honest, I’m not sure when the Memoryhouse composer put out this EP. Bandcamp says it was released in August of 2014, but I feel like it hasn’t existed in this 5-song form since last year. Either way, it’s new to me, so I wanted to write about it. I stumbled on this collection on a recent visit to the underrated Guelph native’s excellent Bandcamp, hankering for the reflective ambient goodness he serves up as a solo artist.
III has its fair share of his trademark solo sound: spare, piano-based pieces (see: the lovely opener “Williwaw” and centerpiece “You Don’t Have to Love Me Back”). That said, it is well balanced by the expansive, powerful “An Airing” and the washes of guitar reverb and gentle vocal filigree of celestial closer, “Hialeah, pt II (Em).” While we’re still awaiting details on Memoryhouse’s forthcoming second LP, III is more than a worthy aperitif — both an harbinger for exciting things to come and an impressive statement in its own right.
“Dream ’15″ Earthly Versions (out 10.02 on Night Slugs)
Jack Latham’s excellent Dream A Garden gets a little remix love on the recently-announced EP, Earthly Versions. The Londoner reworks two of the disc’s standouts — “A Walk Down Chapel” and “Crisis” — and graces us with this tasty new single. Like much of his brilliant LP, “Dream ’15″ matches dreamy synths and textures with banging percussion and evocative, faraway vocals. As heady as his arrangements are, there’s a powerful urgency to much of Latham’s recent work, and this single captures the feeling of having your head in the clouds but your body in the warp-speed grind of modern life in the city.
“Rewind” Hallucinogen (out soon on Fade to Mind)
Even though mid-September is a little bit late to be talking about “songs of the summer”, it’s been about 8 billion degrees in LA for the last few weeks, so the gorgeous new track from Kelela still qualifies for consideration. This lithe, breezy jam is strong enough to brave the sweltering days and muggy nights of the season, and the LA-based vocalist barely breaks a sweat, as she bodies shuffling percussion and etherial synths courtesy of production heavyweights Kingdom, Nugget, Obey City, and Girl Unit. While the highly anticipated Hallucinogen still doesn’t have a release date, “Rewind” makes the wait a little more bearable.
“Over and Even” Over and Even (out now on No Quarter)
The Kentucky-based singer-songwriter’s third LP is a beautiful collection of direct, folsky Americana, built around Shelley’s remarkably mellifluous vocals and gentle, expertly crafted guitar melodies. As strong as the arrangements are, that voice is the star of the show — evocative, transportive, and laced with the kind of magic that takes your mind to log cabins, gentle rivers, and long, easy days. The excellent disc’s title track frames a single-string electric guitar riff with tasteful touches of banjos and lap steel, creating the perfect pensive, pastoral canvas for the Louisville native to paint her beautiful voice all over.
“Discipline” Discipline (out later this year on Parlophone)
After the laid-back deep house vibes of debut single, “From the Basement to the Roof,” the French production supergroup of Canblaster, Sam Tiba, Myd, and Panteros666 return with a sweltering, mid-tempo banger. Built around soulful vocals and a delicious bassline, “Discipline” is the kind of crossover single that feels equally at home on the dancefloor as it does on your earbuds. It’s poppy and catchy enough to have serious Duke Dumont/Disclosure crossover potential, but the group’s pedigree hints that mainstream attention effect their sound.
“WILD” WILD (out now on Universal Australia)
I first heard about the Australian YouTuber turned pop-star when I read Alex Frank’s excellent piece for the ever-reliable, Fader Magazine. Among other things, the 20 year-old stressed the importance of writing and speaking openly about LGBT relationships and issues in mainstream pop music, saying “I just wanted to write normal pop songs, and when the time comes to use a pronoun, I’ll use the word ‘he.’” It’s a simple yet powerful statement from a young artist who seems entirely unafraid of his sexuality impacting his ambitions as a pop-star.
That confidence is apparent on the powerful, affecting new clip for the title-track from debut EP. “WILD” captures the youthful innocence and abandon of falling into first love. It’s the kind of pop song that people have been fawning over for decades — a love-story that everybody can relate to. Musically, it’s equally inarguable, from its expertly moody pre-chorus to its earworm of a hook to Sivan’s devastating vocal. “WILD” has all the essentials of those timeless pop ballads that remind us that we are the same — hopeless romantics, looking for someone to love us. It’s that message of implied unity that makes Sivan’s music so radically human and his huge success so encouraging.