Starting V: The Best Prince Songs on the Internet


As you know, Prince Rogers Nelson passed away on Thursday at the young age of 57. I am always loathe to pontificate too much about people I’ve never met, but Prince was a special case. In my opinion, he was the single most influential and important pop artist/musician of all-time and the Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Palmistry, "Club Aso"


Palmistry “Club Aso” Pagan (out 06.17 on Mixpak) After a string of tantalizing solo singles and an underrated EP, Palmistry (né Benjy Keating) is finally ready for his close-up. “Club Aso,” the lead single from his long-awaited debut LP, pairs the Brixton artist's sentimental tenor with warm synths and subtle, dancehall-influenced percussion. Unlike a Read more

Album Review: m83, Junk


M83 Junk Mute Records On the dawn of his seventh album — more than 10 years into his career as M83 — Anthony Gonzalez was confronted with massive stakes. His sky-scraping power ballad "Midnight City" had catapulted the unassuming Frenchman on to the mainstage of the festival circuit and mainstream rock Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of 2016 So Far


Instead of just rolling through the best of March, let’s round up the finest music of the first quarter of 2016. Coming off last week's Best Tracks list, here's are my favorite albums of the year. Kanye West The Life of Pablo G.O.O.D. Music Hottest Jams: "Ultralight Beam" / "Father Stretch My Hands Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Tracks of 2016 So Far...


Instead of just rolling through the best music of March, let's round up the best music of the first quarter of 2016. We'll kick things off with the best tracks of the year so far. My album list should be out later this week. And so as not to Read more

Images & Words: Stormzy, “Scary”

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Stormzy
“Scary”
Digital Single
As thrilling as a new Stormzy single always is, the most exciting part of his new clip for “Scary” comes right at the beginning when “THE ALBUM IS COMING” scrolls across the screen. A lot has changed for the Londoner since 2014, when he dropped his only proper project, Dreamers Disease. With success comes pressure, but the big man seems gleefully impervious to any of it, rapping with the same ravenous, joie de vivre flow that he came in the game with. He’s basically the musical version of that one dickhead friend who is so clever that he can make you laugh, even as he’s roasting you in front of everyone. That mischievous, playful spirit is essential to the Stormzy experience, and his commitment to being himself is one of the main reasons that I’m so excited to hear his forthcoming debut LP.

Hot Jam of the Day: The Hotelier, “Soft Animal”

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The Hotelier
“Soft Animal”
Goodness (out 05.27 on Tiny Engines)
The Massachusetts quartet’s breakout LP, Home, Like Noplace Is There, was a breathtaking, cathartic tour de force that dug into the darkest, most uncomfortable recesses of suburban American life. The themes weren’t new, but vocalist/lyricist Christian Holden’s fearless, penetrating writing and his bandmates’ evocative, melodic post-rock guitars and crashing drums made the record one of the hardest to shake off of 2014.

Two years on, they are no longer just four friends from a nondescript Boston suburb; they are critical darlings and one of the driving forces behind an exciting movement of young bands who are breathing life into an emo/post-hardcore scene that seemed dead in the water (Into it. Over it., The World is a Beautiful Place…, Modern Baseball, etc). For that reason, it’s not surprising that Goodness‘ third single is dripping with nostalgia and recalling a simpler time. In his throat-shredding wail, Holden tells the story of an innocent, peaceful moment in nature, destroyed by the crushing reality of human intervention. It’s hard not to see it as a thinly viewed metaphor for the hatful of new challenges that creating a special album can bring. Obviously, time will tell if Goodness will be the successor that the great HLNIT deserves, but early returns are highly promising.

Starting V: The Best Prince Songs on the Internet

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As you know, Prince Rogers Nelson passed away on Thursday at the young age of 57. I am always loathe to pontificate too much about people I’ve never met, but Prince was a special case.

In my opinion, he was the single most influential and important pop artist/musician of all-time and the second best electric guitar player ever, trailing only Jimi Hendrix. He did more to push culture forward than any other modern pop musician, challenging people to live more freely while making popular culture a safer space for true self-expression. He made people nervous, excited, scared, ecstatic, and uncomfortable (often all at the same time) and challenged damaging norms relating to race, gender, and sexuality more than any other mainstream musician. You can feel his influence in just about every inch of popular music, and many of current music’s most creative artists are direct descendents from his rich musical and stylistic family tree — from Kanye to Rihanna to Young Thug to Frank Ocean to André 3000 and so on.

And then there was the music. Over a 40-year period, he released nearly 40 studio LPs that spawned a litany of unbelievable musical moments. His first album, 1978’s For You, fused classic soulful, R&B (“My Love is Forever,” “Baby”) with nasty 70s funk (“Soft and Wet,” “I’m Yours”). Incredibly, Prince wrote and played every instrument on the disc’s lush, refined arrangements. As great as that record still is, you never would have guessed that it would precede the journey it did. And he spent the next 40 years of his life exploring, mastering, and re-imagining countless genres (rock, R&B, pop, soul, jazz, etc) and writing a diverse array of some of the most beloved pop songs of all time for other artists (example A, B, C, D).

It’s a career that couldn’t be summed up by a thousand think-pieces, but I wanted to pick out a couple favorites to write about. Any Prince fan knows how fervently he protected his copyright and how few of his songs are available to stream, so there’s no “When You Were Mine,” “Erotic City,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” or “With You” on this list. That said, there are plenty of looseys that I’ve streamed throughout the years to deal with Prince cravings during work-hours. Here are my five favorites.

Prince
Purple Rain
Live in 1983 in Minneapolis

I had to start with the big one. The first ever performance of the best pop song of all-time, this clip captures every ounce of his greatness — as a performer, as a vocalist, as a guitarist, and most of all, as a songwriter. Featuring an extra verse and an extended solo, this clip captures a legend at the peak of his powers. Supposedly, they sourced a lot of the studio version from this performance, which is one of the reasons that version feels so much more immediate and human than most studio recordings.

There’s this great moment (at about 3:14) when Prince approaches the mic and opens his mouth to sing the first verse, but just steps back at the last second to collect himself, seemingly overcome by the moment. Maybe he just did it for effect, but it’s also a little window into the ocean of emotion (it’s not hyperbole if it’s about “Purple Rain”) that he’s tapping into here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this thing over the years, but each time I do, it gives me something new.

Stream it over at Antiquiet.com.

Prince
“Do Me, Baby”
Live at the Capitol Theater, 1982
This is my favorite cut from one of the only legit concert recordings available online, captured at a New Jersey date of the Controversy tour. Many of Prince’s best bedroom jams have a divine, gospel-esque quality to them, almost like the Purple One is laying down and worshiping at the altar of somebody’s mind-blowing (ahem) talent. This performance of “Do Me, Baby” is one of the greatest examples of that. Backed by one of the classic Revolution line-ups, his virile vocals are flawlessly framed by the great Lisa Coleman’s starry-eyed keyboards, Dez Dickerson’s sublime, echo-y guitar filigree and a filthy baseline by Brown Mark. The whole show is more than worth your time, but this is the high point for me.

Prince
“Always in My Hair”
Live at the Arsenio Hall show, 2014
One of the things that makes Prince’s death so sad is that it felt like he had so much more music left in him. Incredibly, 40 years into his career, his level never seemed to really drop. In his 50s, his fingers remained just as nimble and his vocals just as potent as they were in his 20s. In fact, I cannot think of a single musician from his generation aged so gracefully, save possibly Springsteen (maybe). He was never a nostalgia act, consistently putting out work that broke new ground and took real chances.

This ripping performance of the classic B-side turned single, “Always in My Hair,” is perfect evidence that he emphatically still had ‘it’ late in his career. He pays tribute to a loyal lover with effortless swagger and a face-melting guitar solo. His backing band, 3RDEYEGIRL, is also a reminder of his lifelong commitment to empowering female musicians, which will always remain a key element of his lasting legacy.

Prince
“A Case of You”
A Tribute to Joni Mitchell
As people, Prince and I probably don’t have very much in common (as much I’d wish), but one thing we can definitely agree on is Joni Mitchell. And because she’s likely my favorite artist ever, Joni covers are always a dicey proposition to me. However, Prince handles “A Case of You” with trademark grace and subtle virtuosity. From the lovely, sprightly piano playing to his easy falsetto, he treads the line between putting his own stamp on it and staying true to the perfect original.

Prince
“Sometimes it Snows in April”
Parade
OK, so this one is kind of cheating, but I found it on YouTube today, so I’ll say it passes the copyright test. I’ve been coming back to Prince’s devastating rumination on the loss a friend a lot recently, as I’ve had to say goodbye to three of my own in the last 12 months. They happened in quick succession, hitting me hard and leaving me with endless questions. As the months have passed, I’ve gained some perspective and understanding on what Prince eloquently sings about here, namely to do your god-damnedest to appreciate the time you’ve got with the people you love. It’s a simple lesson, but it’s the biggest one there is. Every day, I’m trying to do a better job remembering it. And whenever I need a reminder, this record has been there for me.

“Sometimes it Snows in April” is just one of the many gifts that Prince gave us in his incredible 57 years on this planet, which is such better place to live on because of his contributions. RIP.

“All good things they say, never last.
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past.”

Download This Shit: Tommy Kruise, Memphis Confidential Vol. 2

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Tommy Kruise
Memphis Confidential Vol. 2 (self-released)

The merry Montreal producer’s successor to 2012′s Memphis Confidential is a delicious, Third coast beat tape inspired by the city’s legendary rap scene. Kruise nails the spirit of the Memphis sound — one where beauty and darkness live together in harmony.

For example, “HEAD SPIN” is built around a synth line that is both foreboding and enticing, and “BIG 9″ opens with soft, atmospheric synths before graduating into a pounding slab of midwestern house. Interestingly, its two interludes — “MY GROOVE” and “SQUEAKY TEXAS CALLS” — are real highlights, and the former features two very different vocal samples, knitted together to create some real magic. At just six tracks, MC2 is easy to sink your teeth into and bursting with flavor.

Hot Jam of the Day: Palmistry, “Club Aso”

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Palmistry
“Club Aso”
Pagan (out 06.17 on Mixpak)

After a string of tantalizing solo singles and an underrated EP, Palmistry (né Benjy Keating) is finally ready for his close-up. “Club Aso,” the lead single from his long-awaited debut LP, pairs the Brixton artist’s sentimental tenor with warm synths and subtle, dancehall-influenced percussion. Unlike a lot of artists making pop music in the indie space, Keating is an A-Grade songwriter, rather than just a vibe creator or mood setter. And it’s easy to imagine the track being a radio hit in the hands of someone like Bieber or Drake. That said, I’m glad he kept it for himself, as it likely wouldn’t have maintained the restrained feel that makes “Club Aso” one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Hot Jam of the Day: Skepta, “Man”

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Skepta
“Man”
Konichiwa (out 05.06 on Boy Better Know)
It’s been nearly two years since the North Londoner announced the name of his fourth LP, and now we are just about three weeks away from finally hearing it. The build-up might be have been Chinese Democracy, but it’s looking like Konichiwa will be pure Appetite for Destruction. Fifth single, “Man,” is another elbows-out banger in the vein of “Shutdown,” with the 33 year-old spitting muscular, memorable bars over a delicious, unexpected Queens of the Stone Age sample. It’s the kind of track that he’s been bodying for the better part of a decade, and it’s great to hear him at the peak of his powers, finally getting the international recognition he deserves. Roll on May 6th.

Hot Jam of the Day: James Blake, “Timeless”

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James Blake
“Timeless”
Radio Silence (out TBA on Polydor)
For a man who has collaborated with Kanye West, Justin Vernon, and Brian Eno, James Blake has kept a pretty low profile over the last couple of years. His 2014 EP, 200 Press, was a sneaky good nod to his beat-based past, but it didn’t make much of a dent.

However, it seems that the Londoner is returning in a major way soon, recently announcing his third LP, Radio Silence. We still don’t know when it drops or whether “Timeless” or the very good, “Modern Soul,” will make the cut, but we do know that Blake is back in form.

Images & Words: Reeko Squeeze, “Normal Dude” / “Like That” (f/ AJ Tracey)

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Reeko Squeeze
“Normal Dude” / “Like That” (f/ AJ Tracey)
Digital Single
The former member of rising South London crew Section Boyz has been on fire recently, dropping a handful of bangers over the last year or so. Stylistically, Reeko’s aggressive, uncompromising style feels more influenced by Southside Chicago than North London, and his rolling flow is at home alongside spare keys and trap hi-hats. His low-key charisma makes the adhesive  ”Normal Dude” one of my favorite hip-hop singles of the year, and his flow is the perfect companion for fellow Londoner AJ Tracey’s effortless delivery. Undoubtedly, one of the most exciting young talents around.

Album Review: m83, Junk

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M83
Junk
Mute Records

On the dawn of his seventh album — more than 10 years into his career as M83 — Anthony Gonzalez was confronted with massive stakes. His sky-scraping power ballad “Midnight City” had catapulted the unassuming Frenchman on to the mainstage of the festival circuit and mainstream rock radio, changing both his financial position and his artistic one. He could have easily cranked out another album of life-affirming, neon synth pop and spent the summer melting the faces of adoring festival crowds. But ever the contrarian, Gonzalez returned with the strangest album of his long, varied career.

Junk is a sprawling journey into the emotional heart of a kid who came of age in the 80s, obsessed with the magic of daytime radio and cable TV. You can hear traces of Jean Michel Jarre, Bruce Hornsby, acid house, 80s sitcom themes, late disco, and even some Andrew Lloyd Webber on this thing, but Gonzalez’s ever-present voice keeps it all together — usually in synthesizer form — benevolently guiding you onward, like that giant flying dog from the Never-Ending Story. And while there are a few big whoosh, Coachella jams (“Road Blaster,” “Go!”), much of these tracks are a million light-years away. There’s the wistful, Crocodile Rock of “Atlantique Sud,” a beautiful duet sung all in French. Standout “Walkway Blues” features Balearic touches and a dramatic chorus. And the instrumental, Vaporwave-y “Moon Crystal” sounds like a game show theme, while “Tension” features gently arpeggiated guitar that recalls Queensryche (seriously!).

All that said, the best of Junk comes in a stunning trio of ballads. “For the Kids” could have been lifted from the golden age of musicals, with the incredible Suzanne Sundfør gliding over a timeless piano melody. Gonzalez takes back over vocal duties on “Solitude,” which feels most like a traditional, M83 ballad. His vocal is enveloped in a lush, stirring string arrangement that builds way to a gloriously schlocky crescendo. He saves the best for last, signing off with the crushing, celestial “Sunday Night 1987.” Penned for the late, legendary sound engineer, Julia Brightly, it is a quiet, contemplative way to sign off on a loud album that is full of ideas.

“Julia, Alexander. Let me feel you all, love” sings Gonzalez in closing, offering us insight into the driving force behind why he makes the kind of music he makes. He could have used his newfound mega-stardom to try to blow out a direction he’s already nailed, but when faced with the biggest stakes of his career, he decided to follow his heart and take the biggest possible risks.

Listen to the whole thing on Spotify.

Hot Jam of the Day: T-Pain, “Look At Me”

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T-Pain
“Look At Me”
Digital Single

Millennials. Aren’t they just the worst? With all their goshdern cell phones, emojis, and lack of eye-contact. T-Pain certainly thinks so. On his new single, the Tallahassee Hero decries courting in the Snapchat era. He spends the song shaking his walking stick at a 23 year-old he meets in a club who has the cheek to ignore his beautiful face and focus on the warm glow of her iPhone. The lyrics are predictably ridiculous (sample line: “Emoji. Emoji.”), but that’s never derailed his singles in the past, and it certainly doesn’t here. It might be hella dumb, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

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