Lana Del Rey, "Doin' Time"


Lana Del Rey"Doin' Time"Sublime OST (out soon on Universal)If you grew up in California in the early 2000's, it was just about impossible to get in someone's car or go to a party that wasn't playing one of those two Sublime albums. Evidently, the same was true in wherever Read more

Images & Words: Stormzy, "Vossi Bop"


Stormzy"Vossi Bop"Digital SingleAfter a little while away, the London kingpin looks to be getting back in the game. "Vossi Bop" is a perfect comeback track because it is such a pure distillation of what makes Stormzy a true-one off. Over a tasty, yet simple beat, Big Mike goes in Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019 (1st Quarter)


Even though we're a solid week into the second quarter, better late than never right? Here's a quick round-up of some of my favorite songs of the last three months. To keep numbers manageable, I didn't include anything from any of my favorite albums list and prioritized songs I Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of 2019 (First Quarter)


Gah, I can't believe we're already 25% through 2019. That said, Spring is in the air, and we've enjoyed an excellent, diverse crop of music during these first three months. Have a look at some of my favorite LPs of the year so far in no particular order. Dawn Richard
 “New Read more

Chief Keef, "Ain't Gonna Happen"


Chief Keef "Ain't Gonna Happen" GloToven (Glo Gang / RBC) The Chicago stalwart's new project with the legendary Zaytoven is unsurprisingly full of weird and wacky sounds, moving in innumerable unexpected and exciting ways. Its most powerful moment is its starkest, as a heartbroken Keef floats freely over Zay's gorgeous piano. "Face dried Read more

Mall Grab, “Sleepless”

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Mall Grab
“Sleepless”
Growing Pains (out now on Looking for Trouble)
The talented Aussie producer has had a busy 2019, dropping a pair of potent dancefloor-ready EPs. The first, May’s super bassy “Moogie,” was all dark corridors and strobe lights, but “Growing Pains” (released last week) adds a little more sonic variation without sacrificing his ravey roots. The 4-song EP’s leadoff single pairs modern grime rhythms with neon synths for a thrilling late-night joyride.

Blood Orange, “Dark & Handsome”

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Blood Orange
“Dark & Handsome”
Angel’s Purse (out now on Domino)

Though I’m trying not to get too carried away, the first few spins of Dev Hynes’ new mixtape, “Angel’s Pulse,” are extremely promising. “Angel’s Puse” feels like the Londoner at his loosest and most experimental. The Toro y Moi-assisted “Dark & Handsome” is an early standout featuring faraway keys, some screw vocals, and an unexpected rap verse from chill-lord Toro y Moi. It’s a useful window into the vibe of the freewheeling vibe of the project.

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019, So Far (Honorable Mention)

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As promised, here is the rest of my favorite tracks of the year that didn’t quite make the cut for my main list.

Songs are in no particular order.

Chromatics
“Time Rider”
bahahahahah (Italians Do It Better)
“Dear Tommy” is obviously never coming out. But I did get to hear this slinky new track and see the legendary quartet live in Brooklyn, so I can’t be too angry at Johnny Jewel and co. “Time Rider” is exactly the kind of track that makes the “Dear Tommy” thirst so strong. Sleek, stylish, and sonorous, Jewel weaves a taut, tasty arrangement for Ruth Radelet to effortlessly strut across. They really do it better, don’t they?

FKA Twigs
“Cellophane”
Digital Single

On her first single in three years, the South Londoner paints an evocative portrait of her struggle to maintain a relationship under an unrelenting spotlight. It’s unclear whether it was penned for either of her famous exes (Robert Pattinson, Shia LaBeouf), but you can feel the weariness and strain in her voice, which is beautifully magnified by the skeletal arrangement. There’s still no word of an upcoming project to go with it. But once there is, it will quickly become one of the most talked-about of 2019.

Queen Key
“Hey”
Eat My Pussy Again (Machine Entertainment Group)
Find me a song that bangs harder than this. Seriously. Find it and send it to me because I cannot wait to hear it. The only thing that hits harder than the ridiculous sub-bass is the Chicago native’s raw, unapologetic bars. Though she is still insanely slept on, tracks like this should wake people up quick.

Duendita
“Magdalena”

Direct line to My Creator (The Vanguarde Craft and Creative)
Though it originally appeared on her 2018 debut, this stunning single’s re-release is too good not to mention. A breathtaking goodbye ballad to her late aunt, “Magdalena” surrounds the Queens native’s affecting vocals with careful pianos and warm synths. And that video. 😭

Joey LaBeija
“Dry Your Eyes” (f/ Nina Sky)
Tears in My Hennessy (coming for blood)
We all need a positive affirmations every once in a while, especially when we’re going through a break-up. Though much of the Bronx producer’s post break-up project is heartsick club music, late in the record he enlists Nina Sky to help remind him that everything will be ok in time. It might be a simple sentiment, but it’s an important one that is perfectly delivered here.

Jayda G
“Move to the Front” (Disco Mix)
Significant Changes (Ninja Tune)
As more and more self-serious techno bros flood into dance music, artists like Jayda G become more important than ever. Significant Changes imagines a more welcoming dancefloor — an inclusive, joyful place to put your phone down and connect to someone real. Her slippery sound fuses deep house, R&B, soul, and disco with buoyant vocals to exquisite effect, resulting in a sound that’s about bringing people in, not keeping them out.

Roddy Ricch
“Out Tha Mud”
Digital Single

At first listen, you could mistake “Out The Mud” for just another mid-tempo, hyper-melodic party track. But if you pay attention, you’ll hear claustrophobic paranoia seeping out of every pore of the track.  Even when he’s having fun, the rising Compton MC is always wary of his surroundings — scanning relentlessly for jealous people, cops, and even those close to him.

Georgia
“About Work the Dancefloor”
Digital Single
As much as I hate to do it, it’s just so hard to write about the Londoner’s empowering new single without mentioning Robyn. The “Dancing on My Own” vibes are strong here, and the goopy John Hughes movie synths are a glorious foil to the rolling bass-line and help the chorus take flight.

Sky Ferreira
“Downhill Lullaby”
Digital Single

The LA-native’s first new track in the better part of five years is well worth the wait. “Downhill Lullaby” creeps along like a venomous spider ready to strike, pairing Sky’s faraway vocals with a rumbling Type O Negative bassline and romantic Nancy Sinatra strings. I’d be surprised if the rest of her long-awaited follow-up to “Night Time, My Time” sounds like this, but I’d be into it.

Weyes Blood
“Everyday”
Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)
Don’t let its nightmarish video fool you, Natalie Mering’s fourth LP is a Laurel Canyon delight. On centerpiece “Everyday,” the LA-based singer-songwriter cranks up the good vibrations, pairing her evocative, powerful voice with big Beach Boys harmonies, pounding drums, and plenty of Hammond organ. The aesthetic is pure 1972, but this is far from mere pastiche.

Stormzy
“Vossi Bop”
Digital Single
Before he was known as one of the most versatile, visionary artists in music, Stormzy was mostly known as a dude who could flat rap his ass off. “Vossi Bop” recalls his epic early Wicked Skengman freestyles with the Londoner absolutely going in over a mantric, undulating beat. It feels a little more like the aperitif than the main course, but fuckin’ ‘ell, it’s tasty.

Hayden Thorpe
“Stop Motion”
Diviner (Domino)
The former Wild Beasts frontperson misses the baritone of his former vocal wingman, Tom Fleming, but his evocative falsetto is in glorious form on his debut solo LP. Though the consistent project has many subtle highlights, “Stop Motion” highlights Thorpe’s prowess as a composer and writer, as well as a vocalist. Over nimble and delicate beds of piano, the Lake District native considers the way we get trapped in patterns long after they continue to serve us and the fear that accompanies trying to break them.

Lil Chicken
“Like I Never Left”
Digital Single
The rising rapper with the ridiculous name has been bubbling up in his native Milwaukee for the last few years, but he looks set to break nationally. “Like I Never Left” is the most potent example of his gloriously messy style that isn’t beholden to a specific vibe or even sometimes the beat. Keep an eye out for this guy.

Erika de Casier
“Good Time”
Essentials (Independent Jeep Music)
There’s nothing like a great first date: the spark, the possibility, the surprise of an instant connection. The Copenhagen producer captures that intoxicating afterglow on the seductive “Good Time.” There’s an unexpected urgency in her voice, which highlights how fleeting the feeling can be and how quickly it can fade if both sides don’t act on it.

Solange
“Dreams”
When I Get Home (Columbia)
There are a bunch of high-points of Solange’s underrated follow-up to A Seat at the Table, but I keep coming back to the mantric, heady “Dreams.” “Dreams, they come a long way, not today,” she repeats over airy keys and a meandering bass-line, setting a scene that’s beautifully simple and simply beautiful.

Tink
“Different”
Voicemails (self-released)
Ugh, Tink deserves so much better. Messed around by out of touch men (ahem, Timbaland) and bullshit label drama for almost five years, she’s only recently re-finding the form of her Winter’s Diary projects. “Different” highlights the easy confidence and defiant bravery of the early work, which made her one of the most promising young artists in R&B.

Bruce Springsteen
“Moonlight Motel”
Western Stars (Sony)
One of the most pleasant surprises of the year, the Boss’ nineteenth studio album is a gorgeous, age-appropriate collection that can stand up to just about anything in his legendary back catalog. Its closer is an apt representation of what makes “Western Stars” work so well. Springsteen pairs his wise and weary tenor with a delicate, fingerpicked guitar and tasteful strings. The naked arrangement lets the all the wrinkles in his voice out, providing gravity and grace to proceedings.

Slowthai
“Inglorious” (f/ Skepta)
Nothing Great About Britain (Method)
Tension is at the core of the Slowthai experience, so much so that even the jokes have sharp edges. Of course, this is because the Northampton rapper’s music is meant to mirror the pressure-packed world that he grew up in and still inhabits. On “Inglorious,” a high point from his excellent debut LP, ‘Thai gets an assist from his spiritual big bro, Skepta — another guy who knows a thing or two about inner city pressure — to craft one of his most potent songs to date.

Young Nudy x Playboi Carti
“Kid Cudi”
Digital Single
The weirdest, most Internetty success story of the year, the Atlanta rappers’ leaked collaboration is pure sonic joy. Though the song still hasn’t actually came out yet and has appeared under multiple names and by multiple fictional artists (shout out King Zay), one thing’s for certain, I’ve watched that Nets video (Google it) about 4 million times this year.

The National
“Hairpin Turns”
I Am Easy to Find (4AD)
Your mid-level manager’s favorite miserabilists are back with another collection of first world problems. “Hairpin Turns” is a crushing, incisive look at a damaged relationship. But instead of focusing on sorrow, anger, or fear, Matt Berninger explores a lesser-considered, but equally impactful element of breaking up: confusion. The feeling of not knowing how to fix things and, moreover, not knowing whether they’re actually worth fixing.

Julien Baker
“Red Door”
Red Door / Conversation Piece (Matador)

After taking over the world last year with boygenius, Julien Baker is back on her own and ready to take your soul. “Red Door” is a stark, confessional number that injects an extra dose of clever, nimble guitar work into her stark, plaintive sound. An absolute master.

Lucki
“4 U – City Girl”
Freewave 3 (Self-Released)
I haven’t done any kind of drug in about 4,000 years, but the Chicago MC’s underwater flow sounds like what I’d imagine modern drugs feel like. On “4 U – City Girl,” Lucki is floating in a sea of sub-bass and slithering keys, barely keeping his head above water.

Santi
“Sparky”
Mandy & The Jungle (Monster Boy)
One of the leaders of Nigeria’s exciting new alternative sound, Santi has this uncanny ability to just float over the beat, morphing his voice into an easy, island breeze. “Mandy & The Jungle” is full of ultra-lithe grooves, but “Sparky” is a great place to start.

Bill Callahan
“Watch Me Get Married”
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (Drag City)

Gratitude is seeping out of every pore of Bill Callahan’s wonderful 17th LP: an earnest look at fatherhood and aging. And though it’s just about impossible for me to pick out a favorite, “Watch Me Get Married” feels indicative of the album’s core thesis, which is to take a moment to pick out the beauty that exists in the everyday.

Faye Webster
“Room Temperature”
Atlanta Millionaires Club (Awful)
“I should get out more” goes the Atlanta singer’s swooning ode to post-breakup wallowing. Her sage wisdom is delivered over easy guitars and faraway pedal steel that somehow would be a good soundtrack to both the Hula and the Square Dance.

Jessica Pratt
“Crossing”
Quiet Signs (Kemado)
On “Quiet Signs,” Jessica Pratt weaves another stunning collection of witchy lullabies that whisper and hiss their way under your skin. “Crossing” almost feels like something you’d hear at Red Faire, but with a depth and power that will take your breath away if you let it. 

Tinashe
“No Guidance”
Digital Single
As a long-term fan of the LA singer, it’s been so frustrating to watch how her career has unfolded over the last five years. Her last two LPs have frustratingly buried her undeniable talent in overwrought, overcooked arrangements and endless label hiccups. For that reason, it’s so nice to hear her toss out a loosey like this one that highlights her playful side. More like this please, Tinashe.

Polo G
“Dyin Breed”
Die a Legend (Columbia)
From what I gather, the kids are reallllly into Polo G, and it’s not hard to see why. His sound is laced with passion and pain, and the Chicago native pours his heart over this piano-driven, mid-tempo cut. Unlike many of his peers, Polo doesn’t sugarcoat or glorify what he’s been through, preferring to paint vivid, honest portraits that are elevated by a nearly endless supply of catchy melodies.

Field Music
“Fade Into the Dawn”
Run For Cover (Matador)

Kevin Sullivan’s ramshackle, wistful lo-fi folk-pop speaks to the 90’s kid in me. His nostalgic strummers conjure up memories of a Sharpie on a mixtape and a crumpled up note to a crush. Sure, it’s not a particularly novel sound, but I’ll always be a sucker for it.

Lil Nas X
“Old Town Road” (f/ Billy Ray Cyrus)
7 EP (Columbia)
Life is too short to be mad about this song or this incredibly delightful kid. It’s great. It’s catchy. You know you love it. Just embrace it.

Images & Words: Octavian, “No Weakness”

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Octavian
“No Weakness”
Endorphins (out now on Black Butter)

The rising Londoner comes through with new visuals for his ice-cold break-up track, set in the late-night Parisian skies. The French-born MC is one of the most versatile young artists in the city, and “No Weakness” highlights his undeniable melodic gifts and star power.

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019 (So Far)

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A little bit late this year due to real-world commitments, but here is my annual list of the best songs of the first half of 2019. Look for my honorable mention coming later in the week.

This year, instead of going with an actual ranking system, I’m going to going to break them up by tiers.

TIER 1: THE EARLY FAVORITE

Duugie
“Night Shift” (f/ Odunsi & Omagz)
Sojourn (Blac-Apollo)
Even though it features two of Nigeria’s most exciting young stars, somehow not a single American publication has covered this magical late-night jam. As we learned with “Drogba” — last summer’s song of this summer — the States are often slow to catch up with all the exciting sounds of the Continent. But still, “Night Shift” deserves better. Duggie’s gorgeous, flexible keys form a perfect platform for Odunsi (The Engine) and Omagz to do what they do best. Though the latter is driving the bus vocally, the former drops a stunning, low-key verse that is dripping with sauce and sensuality. If somebody is going to put out a better song than this, it’s going to be a classic.

TIER 2: THE CONTENDERS

03 Greedo
“Trap House” (f/ Shoreline Mafia)
Still Summer in the Projects (Alamo)
03 Greedo can say more with one line than most rappers can do on an album. And to steal the show on this airy banger, all he needs is “NO SHEEETS ONN TOPP MY BEAAHHHDD.” Aside from my favorite hook of the year, “Trap House” features a pair of watertight verses from the likely Angelinos of Shoreline Mafia and unsurprisingly tasty keys from the artist formerly known as DJ Mustard. The best song of the summer.

Lucinda Chua
“Feel Something”
Antidotes 1 (Self-Released)
So much about modern life is about our ache to connect with another. There are a million different ways to do it now, but nothing speaks to us like the visceral connection of being with someone real. The Londoner’s stirring, contemplative ode to that desire is one of the finest pieces of music that I’ve heard this year. It’s the kind of song that makes you stop in your tracks, look up, and appreciate the world around you. It definitely did that for me this year.

Colin Self
“Survival”
Siblings (RVNG Intl.)

In our world where civil rights are constantly under attack, the fight for survival for many members of the LGBTQ+ community is as urgent as it’s ever been. The multi-instrumentalist Colin Self focuses on this struggle on the spellbinding, “Survival.” With a soaring voice, Self cries out “in the night, I fear my life is growing short as I resist.” It’s so powerful to hear Self give a voice to a largely unheard population, though many more should be heeding his words.

Dawn Richard
“Vultures / Wolves”
New Breed (Our Dawn)

The centerpiece from her wonderful fifth LP could double as a pretty solid summation of the New Orleans visionary’s career. For six enthralling minutes, Richard lays her flaws bare, admitting that she “keeps getting in her own way,” without losing an ounce of the resilient spirit that permeates all of her music. It is beautiful, heartbreaking distillation of the Dawn Richard experience — one that I’ve enjoyed immensely over the last five years. 

XanMan
“Section 8”
Digital Single

I recently watched an interview with the DMV native, and what’s striking about it is how uninterested he seems to be in being famous or being a part of the mainstream rap zeitgeist. You can hear it in his music too. His bars simply refuse to adhere to any modicum of structure, veering in and out of the beat with reckless abandon. His YouTube is a treasure trove of rapid-fire, joyful street rap with clever melodies sprinkled in alongside his punched-in bars. His star continues to grow at a rapid rate, especially as he’s newly out of prison, and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. 

Future
“Shotgun”
Save Me (Epic)

Though you could argue that his consistency has faded a touch since his unimpeachable 2014-2017 run, the Atlanta native can still hit heights* no one else can. For me, he’s at his best when he’s got maximum space, and Detail gives him a ton of room to fill with a spare beat, built around rolling percussion and tasteful keys. Special note must be made for the engineering touch of long-time collaborator Seth Firkins, who passed away in 2017. Nobody else treated Future’s voice with quite the light touch of Firkins, and “Shotgun” is a testament to his masterful craft.

*depths

Ariana Grande
“ghostin” (acoustic version)
thank u, next (Republic)

The 26 year-old has been through unimaginable public tragedy in the last few years. A terrorist attack at her show in Manchester, a messy public divorce, and the death of her ex-fiancé Mac Miller. And though she’s touched on all of these things at times in previous music, she’s never been more direct than on this stunning goodbye to Miller. Wrapped in layers of warm, surging synths (which, of course, sample Miller’s “2009”), Grande mourns his loss while apologizing to her current partner for struggling to get over it. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and a testament to Grande’s bravery and empathy as a singer and a writer.

Jai Paul
“Do You Love Her Now”
Do You Love Her Now / He (4AD)

After seven years away, the mercurial Londoner returned with two new tracks and an updated version of the album he worked so hard on, which leaked without his consent a few months before its release date. Along with the music, Paul wrote about how much that leak hurt him, which is instructive of the dangerous way modern music fans demand control of their favorite artists’ careers.

The singles were also a reminder of his special talent and singular sound, which combines elements of soul, funk, and R&B and runs them through his unique worldview. It’s unclear whether more is coming, but with Jai Paul, you’ve just got to savor what you can get.

Kevin Abstract
“Mississippi”
ARIZONA BABY (Question Everything)

The San Antonio native put his acclaimed Brockhampton project on hold long enough to craft a worthy follow-up to 2016’s exquisite “American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story.” Its best moment is its most introspective, as the 22 year-old digs deep into his relationships with his friend, a boyfriend, and crucially, himself. Abstract’s best solo work always feels cut from the same cloth as Frank Ocean’s classic “Nostalgia, Ultra,” and “Mississippi” is no exception.

Kim Petras
“Sweet Spot”
Clarity (BunHead)
Nobody is making better pure pop in 2019 than Kim Petras. Katy Perry and Taylor Swift would have killed to put out most of the nine (9!) new singles she’s already dropped this year, which are absolutely jammed with meaty hooks and her obvious star appeal. Though her continued collaboration with Dr. Luke casts a severe damper on things, it’s hard not to appreciate the importance of a trans woman who is making unabashedly sexy pop music for the masses. It’s unclear just how much influence Luke has had on these songs and if he will continue to be involved, but musically and culturally, it’s hard to ignore what the German-born artist is doing.

Orville Peck
“Hope to Die”
Pony (Sub Pop)
The masked Nevada crooner’s revelatory debut is finally starting to get the widespread coverage it deserves. An absolute one-off in modern music, Peck makes unabashedly camp country that sounds like 1962 but feels like 2022. And though there’s no shortage of melodrama on Pony, but he really outdoes himself on its penultimate song — a preening, posing powerhouse performance that somehow recalls a young Morrissey in chaps. Sign me the fuck up.

Big Thief
“Open Desert”
U.F.O.F. (4AD)

The centerpiece of the Brooklyn quartet’s lauded third LP serves up a heavy dose of “Ghosts of the Great Highway” vibes, pairing Adrianne Lenker’s evocative vocals with a haunting, open-string heavy arpeggiated guitars. Though its not clear what Lenker is on about, the atmosphere is laid on thick and leaves one hell of an imprint.

TIER 3: THE BEST OF THE REST

A.A. Bondy
“Fentanyl Freddy”
Enderness (Fat Possum)

Though I’m not super familiar with the mopey Louisiana native’s back catalog, “Enderness” really got under my skin this year. Bondy cleverly injects synths and drum machines into his folk-rooted sound, framing his desolate voice with rich, vivid moods. There are a number of standouts I could have chosen, but this ghostly rumination sits just above the other thanks to its misty keyboards and heartrending subject matter.

Default Genders
“sophie (emphasis mine)” (f/ Beth Sawlts)
main pop girl 2019

Usually when it’s hard to pick a standout song, it’s because an album is really cohesive and zeroes in on a specific sound. James Brooks’ wondrous second LP has the opposite problem, hitting on so many different kinds of sounds from breakbeats to gooey pop to lo-fi drone. “Sophie” is soft and wistful yearner that sees Brooks imagining a problem-free life that will never, ever be theirs.

NoCap
“Ghetto Angels”
The Backend Child (self-released)

The Mobile native’s crushing “Ghetto Angels” isn’t a rap song; it’s a blues song. And a damn potent one at that. Over rolling percussion and gospel keys, the 20 year-old croaks out crushing stories of love and loss, laying out the sad fate of way too many of his friends. It is heartbreaking, but hopefully their memory can push NoCap to fulfill his monster potential and continue to glorify their influence on his life.

Dan Bodan (2014) publicity

Dan Bodan
“I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes…)”
Digital Single

The Berlin-based singer-songwriter’s voice has always had a timeless timbre to it. So it’s no surprise that he knocks this jazz standard from 1939 out of the park. Its careful, stepwise piano melody provides an ideal canvas for Bodan to smear his evocative vocals over. Hopefully, we’ll hear more from him this year.

Chief Keef
“Ain’t Gonna Happen”
GloToven (Glo Gang)

There are some other established artists who have consistently made surprising, unexpected choices, but few have experimented as successfully as the 23 year-old in recent years. On this weepy jewel from his excellent collaborative LP with Zaytoven, Keef pours his heart out over Zay’s trademark, nimble piano playing. “Face dried up, from of all of tears I done cried up,” he laments, wondering why he’s been put through so much while reveling in the man all those tragedies has made him.

The Tallest Man on Earth
“Hotel Bar”
I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. (Rivers/Birds)

“Hotel Bar” finds the Swede sitting by himself on the road, wondering how the people around him are feeling and what will become of him. Though the loneliness is palpable, there is hope pouring out of this track. And it’s not just the affirmative chorus. It’s the triumphant horns, the dramatic pianos, and his evocative falsetto that punctuates the bridge beautifully, providing the sweetest moment of relief. Things will be fine, indeed.

Lana Del Rey
“Doin’ Time”
Digital Single

If you grew up in California in the 90’s, it would be just about impossible not to know at least 6 or 7 Sublime songs. Whether you were in the back seat of your boy Corey’s Jeep, at a school dance, or waiting for your prescription at Walgreen’s, Bradley Nowell’s perma-chill tenor would be forever transported into your eardrums. Evidently, the same was true in Westchester County, which is where a young Elizabeth Grant was soaking up the same low-key vibes. Who knew?

Holly Herndon
“Last Gasp”
PROTO (4AD)
The San Francisco-based drags you deep down the silicon coated rabbit hole that is modern life. Armed with an “AI Baby” and a gaggle of inspiring collaborators, Herndon considers our robo-future and wonders if we’re a hell of a lot closer to singularity than we think. Its final track — the aptly-named “Last Gasp” — features possibly the clearest example of humanity on the project: Herdnon’s mostly-unobstructed voice. That said, it’s unclear whether she’s singing from the perspective of a robot or a lover, which, of course, is kind of the point, right?

Skepta
“Bullet from a Gun”
Ignorance is Bliss (Boy Better Know)
How do you follow up a watershed LP? If you’re Skepta, it’s easy. Just keep doing the shit you’ve been doing. On his fifth LP, the London legend keeps new ingredients to a minimum, instead opting to focus on his lycra-tight verses and off-kilter, self-produced grime beats. On “Bullet from a Gun,” Skeppy embraces his big brother role, doling out words of wisdom and reminding everyone that if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.

Tierra Whack
“Only Child”
Digital Single
Man, is it nice to have some new Tierra Whack songs that are longer than 60 seconds. Though last year’s “Whack World” was teeming with fresh, exciting ideas, the project felt frustratingly unfinished, due to the fact that each song was limited to one minute. That said, she’s been on an absolute tear in 2019, dropping a number of shapeshifting, genre-bending singles, like the playful, “Only Child.” We’re still waiting on a full-length debut LP, but when we finally get it, it’s going to be worth the wait.

Vampire Weekend
“Harmony Hall”
Father of the Bride (Spring Snow)
From the moment I heard their first LP, I knew that Vampire Weekend wasn’t for me. My parents didn’t raise me on Paul Simon. I don’t own boat shoes and have no fucking clue what a Mansard Roof is. And though each project has grown on me, I haven’t found an album that I’ve related to anywhere near as much as their spectacular fourth. It’s a clever, earnest look at adult love, typified by this wonderful, tuneful take on the way we often try to hold on to long-term relationships even once they’ve passed their sell-by date.

Caracara
“New Chemical Hades”
Better EP (Memory Music)
The Philly rockers channel their inner Verve Pipe for a mopey but affecting look at the way addiction separates people from the ones they love and then, from themselves. Vocalist William Lindsey starts things off on a somber note, saying  “I have become too apocalyptic for my friends to want me around.” He then shifts to pleading with them (and likely himself): “I can chay-anhe into something different. Many more characters I can play.” His directness is effective and unsettling, bringing the listener in to his fractured reality but offering a small touch of hope — the possibility of better choices and a healthier tomorrow.

American Football
“Uncomfortably Numb” (f/ Hayley Williams)
American Football (Polyvinyl)
The beloved emo quartet’s third LP is extremely dad rock but not in the traditional sense. The disc is an unflinching, unsettling look at fatherhood. Don’t let its jokey name fool you, “Uncomfortably Numb” is fucking brutal, as vocalist Mike Kinsella wonders how he’s going to connect to his child or his wife, considering how much he’s struggling to connect to his own feelings. Paramore’s Hayley Williams comes through with a vital contribution, playing the role of the long-suffering wife, who is more frustrated than concerned. I have no idea what parenting is like, but fuck, it sounds intense.

Images & Words: CFCF, “Healing Kurage”

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CFCF
“Healing Kurage”
Liquid Colours (out 07.12 on BGM)

Michael Silver is back with a new collection of extremely pure moods, ready to soundtrack beautiful summer sunsets. “Healing Kurage” does what it says on the tin, laying out languid, therapeutic synths that are impossible not to get lost in. The disc is streaming now at Bandcamp, and I highly recommend getting over there and checking it out.

Images & Words: Florist, “Time is a Dark Feeling”

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Florist
“Time is a Dark Feeling”
Emily Alone (out 07.26 on Double Double Whammy)
Emily A. Sprague makes folk music that is both haunting and haunted. She beautifully frames her forlorn vocals and heartrending lyrics with arpeggiated guitars that hang in the air like fog. Her newest song is stark even by her standards, stripping the arrangement of everything save her voice and a choked-up acoustic guitar.

Lucy Dacus, “Forever Half Mast”

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Lucy Dacus
“Forever Half Mast”
Digital Single (Matador)
The Virginia native is such a sharp songwriter, and her new 4th of July single beautifully considers what it’s like to live in a country that you kind of love but just won’t stop letting you down. “Yes you’re evil, but you’re not that bad,” Dacus muses over wistful pedal steel and strummed acoustic guitars. Unsurprisingly, the clear skies don’t last long, giving way to chunky layers of distorted guitars and pounding drums, which mirror the chaos and disorder that accompanies every element of modern American life.

Laura Stevenson, “Jesus Etc.”

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Laura Stevenson
“Jesus Etc.”
All God’s Money, A Tribute to Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (out 07.10 on Better Yet)

I’m not a huge Wilco guy and rarely write about covers, but Laura Stevenson’s stripped back take on one of Jeff Tweedy’s best ever songs is just too gorgeous not to write about. Over descending acoustic guitars, Stevenson lays down a wonderful pedal steel line which elevates the original’s simple, yet potent melody and touching lyrics. Fuck, this is pretty.

Caroline Polachek, “Door”

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Caroline Polachek
“Door”
Digital Single

The former Chairlift frontperson’s music just gets better and better. “Door,” the first track released under her name, is a expansive rumination on the way our reality shifts as we move into different spaces. Her voice is warm and confident, knitting together the swelling instrumentation and keeping things on track. Though we still don’t have any details, this is meant to be the first single from an upcoming solo project, and I cannot wait to hear it.

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