Starting V: The Best of Jens Lekman, Postcards


While working out his follow up to 2012's wonderful, I Know What Love Isn't, Swedish crooner/ThunderPenguin fave, Jens Lekman has been quietly releasing a new track every week on SoundCloud. Don't let the paltry play numbers (most average around 6-10k streams) or the lack of blog love fool you, there Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Real Lies, "Seven Sisters"


Real Lies "Seven Sisters" Digital Single With four inch-perfect singles already under their belt (including 2014's best song), the North Londoners' forthcoming debut LP is one of the most anticipated albums of the year around these parts. While we've already heard a radio rip of the still-unreleased "Lovers Lane," this is the Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: DJ Rashad, Nick Hook & Machinedrum, "Understand"


DJ Rashad, Nick Hook & Machinedrum "Understand" Movin’ Forward (out 04.24 on TEKLIFE) A few days before the one-year anniversary of footwork legend DJ Rashad's tragic passing, Machinedrum (né Travis Stewart) releases this gorgeous collaboration with the late DJ and Nick Hook. In the press release, Stewart wrote about the difficulties of Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Samantha Urbani, "1 2 3 4"


Samantha Urbani "1 2 3 4" Digital Single The first line of the Soundcloud blurb for the ex-Friends singer's new single reads "written, arranged, performed & co-produced by Samantha Urbani." Assumedly, this was meant to avoid the shadow of her boyfriend Dev Hynes, whose figure looms ubiquitously over nearly every act he Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Jamie XX, "Loud Places" (f/ Romy Madley-Croft)


Jamie XX "Loud Places" (f/ Romy Madley-Croft) In Colour (out 06.02 on Young Turks) Like so much of their work as the XX, "Loud Places" snared me quickly. 18 seconds to be exact. The XX's brokenhearted first two albums have a number of lyrical gems, but the first stanza of this single Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Elysia Crampton, “Lake”

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Elysia Crampton
“Lake”
Moth/Lake (out now on Boomkat Editions)

The architect of one of the strongest, most singular efforts of last year, Elysia Crampton (formerly E+E) is set to release her proper debut, American Drift, this summer. Luckily for us, she treated us to this lovely, 2-song appetizer. Inspired by the lakes of the Shenandoah Valley, “Lake” is an amphibious, humid sonic world full of crickets, foreboding hand drums, and droning synths. “Moth” isn’t currently streaming online, but it is also very much worth your time, and I’d highly recommend heading to Boomkat before the 300-press vinyl sells out. American Drift is quickly becoming one of my most anticipated albums of 2015.

Starting V: The Best of Jens Lekman, Postcards

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While working out his follow up to 2012′s wonderful, I Know What Love Isn’t, Swedish crooner/ThunderPenguin fave, Jens Lekman has been quietly releasing a new track every week on SoundCloud. Don’t let the paltry play numbers (most average around 6-10k streams) or the lack of blog love fool you, there is real magic in the 21 diverse songs released so far. Some are fully realized compositions, while some are skeletal sketches. Either way, it’s a fascinating set from a versatile songwriter whose only constraint is time, freeing him to dig deeper into disparate influences and half-baked ideas. Here are my five favorites to date.

“Postcard #7″ (02.14.15)
One of the finest pieces of Lekman’s career, “Postcard #7″ is a swooning affirmation that sees the perpetually romantic 34 year-old falling all over himself in the early days of a love affair. Metaphors are generally tricky to pull off and often ring hollow, but he delivers his words with a disarming, palpable earnestness that will leave you sipping on the sweet nectar (buh doom pish) of your most naive, lovedrunk moments. Pour me another.

“Postcard #17″ (04.25.15)
Lekman’s always had a way with samples, and many of his best tracks (“Rocky Dennis’ Farewell Song,” “Maple Leaves”) draw heavily from recontextualized obscure disco and pop songs of the 60′s and 70′s. He goes to that well again here, grabbing a few languid piano bars from jazz demigod Charles Mingus’ lovely “Myself When I’m Real.” Lekman’s melancholic vocals are well-suited for the chopped up piano chords and forlorn horns, and the deft arrangement allows plenty of space for the Gothenburg native to glide into.

“Postcard #10″ (03.07.15)
In my experiences with loss, I’ve found that I miss the small stuff about a person more than the bigger, more profound moments I’d shared with them. I tend to especially miss things like stupid jokes, discussing trash TV, and G-Chatting about God knows what, and Lekman captures the power of the minutiae that fills our lives with a rumination on his late grandfather. Borrowing its melody from the series’ jokey opener, “Postcard #10″ memorializes him with the kind of affecting Christmas story that everybody can relate to.



“Postcard #6″ (02.07.15)
“Remember… I gave you a chart for morse code,” is one of the most Lekman-y opening lines of all time. While it may make little sense at first listen, it draws you in. And Lekman — ever the expert storyteller — pays it off with an emotive tale about moving on and letting go. Sporting swirling synths, jazzy piano, and dramatic strings, the lush arrangement shows that these are developed, fully formed pieces, far from the throwaways that their fanfare-free release would suggest.

“Postcard #21″ (05.24.15)
We’ll end this list with the most recent track, a cut that recalls some of Lekman’s early, lo-fi, vocal-driven work like “Do You Remember The Riots?,” “A Man Walks Into a Bar,” and “The Cold Swedish Winter.” The latter is the first Jens song I ever heard and began my love affair with his music. There was a homemade feeling to that early work — like he was in your living room, singing without a microphone. Fittingly, he’s currently on tour, playing living rooms and community centers in tiny towns in Sweden and Norway. No doubt, he’ll be leaving fans with intimate memories like the one I have of him playing for 10 to 15 of us in a parking lot after a gig in San Francisco. I have a lot of rich memories involving his music, but that’s the one I cherish most.

Stream This Shit: Mila J + BC Kingdom, “Press Start” EP

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Mila + BC Kingdom
Press Start EP
Self-Released

While her kid sister, Jhene Aiko, was busy blowing up the Internet with shopping metaphors, the artist formerly known as Mila J was digging into some dark places with progressive LA-based production/vocal duo BC Kingdom. Their collaborative six-song EP is a knockout, balancing Kingdom’s dark, downtempo arrangements with Mila’s breathy, expressive vocals. Her breathy delivery is a perfect foil for BC members Damon DeGraff and Jesse Coren’s moody, New Jack crooning, resulting in a collection that will hopefully turn as many heads as any booty-eating reference Ms. Aiko can conjure.

Hot Jam of the Day: Novelist, “Ignorant and Wot”

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Novelist
“Ignorant and Wot”
Digital Single

The Lewisham MC has spent much of his impressive young career lacing electrifying couplets over hyperactive, skittish beats that would confound lesser lyricists. On his most recent single, the rapper (né Kojo Kankam) is behind the boards and gives himself an uncharacteristically spacious beat with ample space for him to dig into the myriad concerns that are clogging up his head. It’s an engaging invitation into his over-saturated headspace, and the droning synth is an effective metaphor for the constant noise that must follow a rising star like Kankam… no matter what road he’s on.

Hot Jam of the Day: Skales, “Always” (f/ Davido)

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Skales
“Always” (f/ Davido)
Man of the Year (out 05/18 on Baseline)

Already a star in his homeland, the rising Nigerian vocalist is set to release what will hopefully be his breakthrough LP. With a lovely assist from his superstar countryman, Davido, “Always” is an electric, hyper-buoyant declaration of love with the twin vocalists’ warm vocals smeared over ecstatic keyboards with calypso-influenced, shuffling percussion. It’s a beautiful representation of what first love feels like — that obsessive period where the butterflies in your stomach are more like drunk parrots crashing against your insides. It’s the kind of track that will be blazing dancefloors around the world, and with any luck, American ones won’t be left out.

Hot Jam of the Day: Nicolas Jaar, “The Three Sides of Audrey and Why She’s All Alone Now” / “No one is Looking at U (feat. Lorraine)”

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Nicolas Jaar
“The Three Sides of Audrey and Why She’s All Alone Now” / “No one is Looking at U (feat. Lorraine)”
NYMPHS II (out now on Other People)

It’s taken me a few days to digest the two tracks that make up the NYC-via-Chile prodigy’s fist solo 12’ in four years, but it’s been more than worth the attention. Fifteen minutes of sparse, flittering sound, the two cuts blend together to form one engulfing, undulating sound collage. He’s a master at mood setting, creating sonic ecosystems that don’t draw you in with direct hooks or vocal melodies. Rather, they draw your feelings out with atmosphere, inviting you to get  comfortable and let yourself sink deeper into the open water.

Hot Jam of the Day: Real Lies, “Seven Sisters”

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Real Lies
“Seven Sisters”
Digital Single

With four inch-perfect singles already under their belt (including 2014′s best song), the North Londoners’ forthcoming debut LP is one of the most anticipated albums of the year around these parts. While we’ve already heard a radio rip of the still-unreleased “Lovers Lane,” this is the first official taste of the record. It’s nearly impossible for me to write about them without bringing up nostalgia, and “Seven Sisters” is sporting some serious Italia ’90 vibes here… with Christian Maggio in the Gazza role and Gillian Gilbert’s twinkling, technicolor keys swapped for some stabbed, deep house chords. And though the influences are overt, Real Lies continue to sound like a band in their own lane in 2015. A group adept at balancing the music of their youth with a strong, personal voice, the result in a sound that feels both familiar and breathtakingly fresh.

Hot Jam of the Day: Post Malone, “Too Young”

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Post Malone
“Too Young”
Digital Single

Though it’s easy to write Post Malone off as a flash in the pan thanks to his white boi cornrows and the viral success of debut single “White Iverson,” it’s getting more and more difficult to ignore his steadily growing catalogue of impressive singles. His fourth single, “Too Young,” continues along the same druggy, Soundcloud-friendly lines of his early work. The young Texan emotes over the spare keyboards and machine-gun hats of the in-form Atlanta production duo, Fki, and songwriting vets, The Mekanics. Regardless of where Malone goes from here, his delivery and passion are arresting, especially when he pushes his auto-tune-washed vocals into the upper register.

Images & Words: Kehlani, “You Should Be Here”

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Kehlani
“You Should Be Here”
You Should Be Here (out now)

While there’s a lot to love about the rising Oakland singer’s debut mixtape, Kehlani Parrish’s ability to simultaneously exude confidence and vulnerability sticks out the most. There’s real stakes to her music, but she refuses to let them overwhelm her. Her voice has the power and bombast of a Ariana Grande with the world weary, lived-in melancholic tinge of someone like Dawn Richard. Lyrically, she tells piercing, fractured loved stories that are heavyhearted and self-critical, while maintaining an eye toward a brighter future and undying belief in the self. Compositionally, her music is direct enough to be radio-friendly, but nuanced and versatile enough to blaze its own path. Basically, its a hell of an achievement for anyone, let alone a 20 year-old artist who is still getting started. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.

Images & Words: Ciara, “Dance Like We’re Making Love”

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Ciara
“Dance Like We’re Making Love”
Jackie (out 05.04 on Epic)

The second single from CiCi’s long-awaited sixth LP does what it says on the tin. Joining a rich lineage of tracks about late-night, back-corner-of-the-club dry humping (see: “Love in this Club,” “Too Close,” every Jodeci song ever), “Dance Like We’re Making Love” is a surprisingly restrained slow-burner at the perfect BPM for drunkenly rubbing your jeans against someone else’s. The Atlanta native’s vocals are the star of the show, glacial and decisive, flowing to fill the ample negative space left by veteran producer Dr. Luke. Frankly, I’m not convinced this will hit like “Body Party” — as it seems intended to — but it’s a solid follow-up to the excellent, “I Bet,” and it certainly doesn’t make me any less excited to hear the rest of Jackie.

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