First Quarter of 2015 Mini Round-Up: The Best Songs I Missed


It's been a busy three months for me, and while I've still had time to listen, I haven't been able to keep up with what has turned into a blinding first quarter. Here are a handful of my favorite songs that I haven't been able to write about. Stormzy "Know Me Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Courtney Barnett, "Depreston"


Courtney Barnett "Depreston" Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (out 03.24 on Mom + Pop) Since the dawn of modern civilization, procreation and land ownership have been the principle goals of humanity. While much has been written about the personal collateral damage brought about by the former, substantially less Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Heems, "Home" (f/ Dev Hynes)


Heems "Home" (f/ Dev Hynes) Eat Pray Thug (out 03.10 on Megaforce) Surprise releases may be played out in 2015, but the New Yorker's new single is a totally different kind of surprise. His heartfelt new single is a stunning stylistic U-Turn for an artist who is best known for his brainy, Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Kendrick Lamar, "The Blacker The Berry"


Kendrick Lamar "The Blacker The Berry" Digital Single People like narratives. We like bad guys and good guys, assholes and heroes. We want to know what side we're on and who else is with us. However, life rarely complies and often confounds us with frustrating shades of grey. While many plow ahead Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Chromatics, "Just Like You"


Chromatics "Just Like You" Dear Tommy (out soon on Italians Do it Better) After months of waiting, we finally get a taste of Chromatics' hugely anticipated fifth LP. And my god, it's tasty. Gauzy, moody, and sedately delirious, "Just Like You" is both a reminiscence of a past relationship and a sobering Read more

First Quarter of 2015 Mini Round-Up: The Best Songs I Missed

Posted on by TP1.COM in Columns, Featured | Comments Off

It’s been a busy three months for me, and while I’ve still had time to listen, I haven’t been able to keep up with what has turned into a blinding first quarter. Here are a handful of my favorite songs that I haven’t been able to write about.

Stormzy
“Know Me From”
Digital Single
Like a lot of American teenagers, I was enamored by the exciting world of grime thanks to early efforts from The Streets and Dizzee Rascal. Unlike a lot of American teenagers, it stuck, and it’s still sticking as tightly as ever. Original Pirate Material remains one of my three favorite albums, and it has led me to discover heavyweights like Wiley, Skinnyman, Kano, and Roots Manuva, as well as less celebrated folks like the Mitchell Brothers, Sway, Tempa T, and Devlin.

For that reason, I’ve loved the recent American interest in grime. A wicked new wave of producers, as well as artists like Skepta, JME, Novelist, AJ Tracey, and Stormzy guarantee the genre’s bright future. The breakthrough banger from the 21 year-old Londoner is probably my favorite song of the year so far, and hopefully, it will continue to grow the genre enough to finally kick off the US grime takeover that I predicted in the late 90s… or at least, a couple of long-awaited American tours.

Kanye West
“Only One” / “All Day” / “Wolves”
So Help Me God (out ??? on GOOD Music)
I somehow missed writing about all three of these gems, and when considered together, they’re indicative of Kanye’s incredible versatility and duality as an artist. A heartfelt, disarmingly direct piano ballad to his wife and child; a delirious, maximalist turn-up anthem; a spare, claustrophobic rumination. They illuminate the many facets of Mr. West. And though he’s on fire, in love, and surrounded by all the cool kids, there is still lingering loneliness, isolation, and self-doubt all over these tracks. Those are the contradictions that make him the greatest artist of his generation.

The-Dream
“Fruition”
Crown (out April 14 on Radio Killa)
Though his blazing T.I. collab, “That’s My Shit,” took most of the plaudits, the slow jam B-side is the real keeper. The palm-muted guitar lick and graceful keys elicit the kind of serious “Human Nature”/”I’m Still in Love with You” vibes (the best kind!) that he nailed on last year’s under-appreciated beauty, “Lake Michigan.” King Terius tops it off with the effortlessly earnest vocals that the inch-perfect arrangement deserves.

Kendrick Lamar
“How Much a Dollar Cost”
To Pimp a Butterfly (out now on TDE)
Picking a single song off an album as exquisite and utterly complete as To Pimp a Butterfly is a worthless exercise, but keeping him off this list altogether feels unforgivable. As good as the storytelling is here — and nearly everywhere else on the record — the songwriting is even better. Kendrick goes in over arpeggiated piano chords, lush melodic filigree, and an emotional, earworm vocal hook from LA crooner James Fauntleroy. It’s a perfect microcosm of this rare record that’s just as thought-provoking as it is fun to listen to.

Father John Misty
“I Went to the Store One Day”
I Love You, Honeybear (out now on Subpop)

Every great story needs an equivalent ending, and the finest moment of Josh Tillman’s excellent second LP is its finale. A masterful love song, the 33 year-old’s ode to marital bliss is heartfelt, romantic, sardonic, and legitimately funny, mirroring the key traits that make I Love You, Honeybear such a success.

Real Lies
Lovers Lane
Digital Single
Though still not properly recorded, the London trio’s newest single trawls the same emotional and sonic space of their spellbinding previous work, including my favorite song of 2014, “North Circular.” Restrained, atmospheric, and direct, “Lovers Lane” is hopefully the first taste of a sparkling debut LP from a band that is operating completely in their own (ahem) lane.

The song is taken from a live Zane Lowe session; skip to 18:18 to hear the performance… or just listen to the whole damn thing.

Silk Road Assassins
“T”
Peace Edits Vol. 1 (out now on Gobstopper)

Everything about Gobstopper’s 4-song Peace Edit compilation is a delight, but its slow-motion closer is perhaps its finest moment. The UK production collective flips T-Pain’s buoyant “I’m Sprung” into a gauzy, molasses-soaked bedroom jam. Now, if they’d only make it available to download…

Sufjan Stevens
“Should Have Known Better”
Carrie & Lowell (out March 31 on Asthmatic Kitty)
The Soof is back, and he brought his acoustic guitar and/or banjo! It’s been nearly ten (10!) years since, Illinois, Stevens’ last folk(ish) full-length was released. Sonically, Carrie & Lowell seems more akin to 2004′s seminal Seven Swans, which is about the highest possible praise I can lavish on it.

Chromatics
“I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around”
Dear Tommy (out ??? on Italians do it Better)
Speaking of highly-anticipated albums, Johnny Jewel and friends are back for another night at the Disco Italiano. 2012′s brilliant, Kill for Love, is going to be a tough act to follow, but based upon this and the moody mastery of debut single, “Just Like You,” Dear Tommy is shaping up to be their best effort yet.

Jens Lekman
“Postcard #7″
Digital Single
The best project that nobody is writing about, the Swedish songwriting master has been writing, recording, and giving out a new song every week this year on Soundcloud. I’m going to write more about it this week, but considering the timeframe, these songs have no business being as good as they are. My favorite of the very, very good bunch is this beautiful extended metaphor — a devastating lovesong that stands up among anything in his spectacular canon.

Kelela
“A Message”
Hallucinogen (out May 5 on Fade to Mind)
Nobody does tension quite like Kelela, and this Arca-produced tearjerker is dripping with it. A relationship exorcism, the D.C.-native prepares for the end with crushing darts like “I won’t shed a tear, cause waterworks are easy.” It’s a special single that sets the table nicely for her forthcoming follow-up to the exquisite, Cut 4 Me.

Lōtic
“Slay”
Heterocetera (out now on Tri Angle)
He may be Houston-bred, but J’Kerian “Lōtic” Morgan’s sound is anything but classic Texan. A key cog of the flourishing Berlin beat scene, Morgan’s music is simultaneously beguiling and inviting — challenging enough to keep you guessing, yet visceral enough to work on the dancefloor. Sign me up.

Tala x How to Dress Well
“The One”
Digital Single
Yours Truly’s Songs from Scratch series only works when there’s natural chemistry between artists, as is the case here. Tom Krell’s virile falsetto is a good match for Tala’s expressive delivery, and while there isn’t a ton of vocal interplay between the two, it sounds far from slapped together.

Samo Sound Boy
“Baby Don’t Stop”
Begging Please (out April 28 on Body High)

The first taste of the Body High head honcho’s debut LP is a warm, inviting one. Like much of his best material, Sam Griesemer zeros in on an affecting vocal sample and frames it with a meticulously crafted, unraveling arrangement.

Big Sean
“One Man Can Change the World”
Dark Sky Paradise (out now on GOOD Music)

I now live in a world where a Big Sean track made me tear up on my way to work. I miss you, Grandma.

Belle & Sebastian
“Nobody’s Empire”
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (out now on Matador)

Stuart Murdoch’s brutal seven-year struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome has long been a key part of the Belle & Sebastian story, but the Glaswegian has never really written about it with this much clarity. “Nobody’s Empire” is as beautiful as the disease sounds horrible. It tells the powerful story of despair turning to hope, thanks to the power of love, faith, and (surprise, surprise) music.

Future Brown x Sicko Mobb
“Big Homie”
Future Brown (out now on Warp)

Though the discussion around Future Brown’s debut was often more interesting than the LP, the diverse collection does have some standouts. None surpasses the buoyant, “Big Homie,” that combines Sicko Mobb’s rampant, shit-hot vocals with a wobbly, off-kilter arrangement.

Ghostpoet
“X Marks the Spot” (f/ Nadine Shah)
Shedding Skin (out now on Play it Again Sam)
On his third LP, Obaro “Ghostpoet” Ejimiwe’s subtle sonic shift makes a massive difference. After two intriguing LPs of sparse street poetry, Shedding Skin fills out the arrangements and ups the melodies, freshening up the sound without losing its original vibe.

Best Coast
“California Nights”
California Nights (out May 5 on Harvest)

The Angelinos tend to make one song a year that I really like, and “California Nights” figures to be that track. Though the lyrics are still benign in the extreme, Bethany Cosentino’s vocals sound massive here, and they stretch gracefully over a guitarline as expansive as the city that inspired it.

Hot Jam of the Day: Sicko Mobb, “Kool-Aid”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Hot Jam of the Day | Comments Off

Sicko Mobb
“Kool-Aid”
Digital Single

It’s been a miserable winter for most of the country, even by the Windy City’s high (er, low) standards. However, Chicago’s Crown Princes of Bop don’t seem to be suffering any signs of seasonal affective disorder. Their anthemic new single is more fit to soundtrack weekend barbecues than a frigid trudge to the ‘L’. Unlike much of their frenetic back catalog, “Kool-Aid” is a mid-paced glider that is made for the gentle breeze of the slow lane. It boasts one of the strongest hooks of a young career packed with sturdy melodies. If the upcoming summer feels half as good as this sounds, it will have been worth the chill.

Hot Jam of the Day: Grimes, “REALiTi”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Hot Jam of the Day | Comments Off

Grimes
“REALiTi”
Digital Single

Though Claire Boucher penned this single back in 2013, “REALiTi” sounds much more congruous with last year’s ever divisive, “Go,” than her 2013 debut, Visions. As someone who is staunchly pro Pop Grimes, this track is great news, and it’s another example of her razor-sharp songwriting and vocal hooks. There’s a lovely directness to her most recent work, which is well-tempered by her naturally experimental tendencies. When that balance is right (as it is here), there are few stronger forces in modern music than the 26 year-old.

Hot Jam of the Day: Courtney Barnett, “Depreston”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Featured, Hot Jam of the Day | Comments Off

Courtney Barnett
“Depreston”
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (out 03.24 on Mom + Pop)

Since the dawn of modern civilization, procreation and land ownership have been the principle goals of humanity. While much has been written about the personal collateral damage brought about by the former, substantially less has been written about the latter, especially in the world of pop music. The 26 year-old Australian’s rumination on a trip to look at suburban homes with her partner is a beautiful dive into the realities of leaving the city for some land of your own. The large garden, the parking space, the peace, the comforting permanence. The isolation, the realization of the family you’re replacing, the boredom, the crushing permanence.

The story is left unresolved with the resolution to Barnett’s future replaced by a languid slide guitar, explaining that there is no answer to this question. It’s the sound of two people looking at each other uneasily on the ride home, hoping that the other knows what to do. It’s a masterful example of non-verbal storytelling that caps off an extremely well told verbal story; in other words, the perfect ending to a song that’s just about the same.

Hot Jam of the Day: Skepta, “Shutdown”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Hot Jam of the Day | Comments Off

Skepta
“Shutdown”
 Konnichiwa (out soon on Boy Better Know)

Even though he’s been a force in grime for the better part of ten years, it feels like the 32 year-old Tottenham native is just getting started. Following what was probably the best year of his career — watermarked by my third favorite song of 2014, “That’s Not Me” — “Shutdown” is the first taste of Konnichiwa, the most anticipated album of his career. Based on this, the pressure hasn’t gotten to Skep, as he sounds like he’s having just as much fun as ever. While he’s a multifaceted artist and a fierce lyricist, much of his best work is his most joyful, which is the case here. Built on an earworm hook and three ravenous verses, “Shutdown” is the sound of a mature, developed artist rounding into his prime and razor focused on fulfilling his unlimited potential. I may have only heard one track, but Konnichiwa already feels like a classic.

Hot Jam of the Day: The Tallest Man on Earth, “Sagres”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Hot Jam of the Day | Comments Off

The Tallest Man on Earth
“Sagres”
Dark Bird Is Home (out 05.12 on Dead Oceans)

After a prolific start that included three LPs and one EP in four years, Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson returns with his first project since 2012. While he’s long outgrown the Dylan worship of his early career, “Sagres” hints that Dark Bird is Home may feature the fullest, most lush arrangements of his career. That said, no matter how they’re framed, Matsson’s expressive vocals and lyrics have always been at the core of his music, because regardless of how his style changes, he’ll always be a folk singer at heart.

Images & Words: Deadboy, “It Did Not Feel Right”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Images & Words | Comments Off

Deadboy
“It Did Not Feel Right”
It Did Not Feel Right (single) (out now on CrazyLegs)

The Southeast Londoner returns with a lovely flip of 90s fave Tamia’s, “Tell Me Who.” The ever-consistent producer frames the pitched up vocal with viscous, cinematic synths that are oddly reminiscent of a slowed-down water level on Donkey Kong Country. #sadboi as it may be, the way the arrangement is sort of suspended in space around an emotional vocal hits me straight between the ribs, forcing me to come to grips with the depth of my #sadboiosity.

Hot Jam of the Day: Heems, “Home” (f/ Dev Hynes)

Posted on by TP1.COM in Featured, Hot Jam of the Day | Comments Off

Heems
“Home” (f/ Dev Hynes)
Eat Pray Thug (out 03.10 on Megaforce)

Surprise releases may be played out in 2015, but the New Yorker’s new single is a totally different kind of surprise. His heartfelt new single is a stunning stylistic U-Turn for an artist who is best known for his brainy, acerbic, and extrospective flow. While he hasn’t completely shied away from sharing in the past, Heems (né Himanshu Suri) has never written a song this direct and personal, as he picks through the bones of a failed relationship and his personal demons in striking detail.

Touched by inch-perfect production from Dev Hynes, the 29 year-old weaves couplets that land like crushing body blows (“You addicted to the H-Man. I’m addicted to the H, man”), masterfully combining brutal honesty and insight with his trademark wit. Though his voice sounds road-weary and downtrodden, Suri’s songwriting and storytelling voice has never been stronger, and I cannot wait to see where it progresses from here. Easily, one of my five favorite songs of 2015.

Hot Jam of the Day: Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker The Berry”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Featured, Hot Jam of the Day | Comments Off

Kendrick Lamar
“The Blacker The Berry”
Digital Single

People like narratives. We like bad guys and good guys, assholes and heroes. We want to know what side we’re on and who else is with us. However, life rarely complies and often confounds us with frustrating shades of grey. While many plow ahead undeterred, determined to develop their Fox News or MSNBC-driven worldview, artists like Kendrick Lamar remind us of the futility of such myopia.

Like much of the 27 year-old’s exquisite canon, “The Blacker The Berry” is full of contradictions and dichotomies. He takes aim at both sides of the fierce racial battle being waged in America, while saving a heap of verbal artillery for the man in the middle, Lamar himself. He begins each verse with “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015,” and the “I’m” in question is all of us, struggling to apply our personal morality to a nuanced, amoral world. Like the most powerful statements in any disciple, the record raises more questions than answers, and with each thought-provoking release, Lamar further cements his status as one of the leading, most challenging voices in 2015… hypocrite or not.

Hot Jam of the Day: Sufjan Stevens, “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Hot Jam of the Day | Comments Off

Sufjan Stevens
“No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”
Carrie & Lowell (out 03.31 on Asthmatic Kitty)

Considering he’s a popular artist who built his career on making intensely personal, affecting music, we really don’t know much about Sufjan Stevens. He’s written crushingly beautiful pieces about serial killers, single-parent homes, cancer patientsGod, and myriad other topics with the kind of clarity that suggests a real-life connection. However, part of Stevens’ allure is the blurred line between where personal experience ends and his expansive imagination begins. While that ability to seamlessly embody those he writes about is one of his greatest strengths, it also leaves the listener asking questions about the man behind the music.

Now, on the eve of his 12th proper solo project, it looks like Stevens is ready to start answering some of those questions. In a must-read Pitchfork piece, the 39 year-old details the traumatic circumstances that inspired the creation of Carrie & Lowell — named for his late, troubled birthmother and stepfather —  and offers a rare glimpse into his own personal life. The disc looks set to be a stark rumination on the one character who has been most elusive in his rich catalog: the man himself.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 51 52   Next »