"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
"Ain't Missing You" (f/ Jenn Em)
It's remarkable how far Chief Keef has come in the two and a half years since his one and only Interscope LP, Finally Rich. Far away from the beady eye of label suits who never understood him and the ruthless media scrutiny Read more
Carly Rae Jepsen
Emotion (out 09.21 on Interscope)
I have wanted to write about the third single from Canadian popstar's third LP since wonky versions of it started appearing online a couple of weeks ago, and today we finally get a proper studio quality version. A nice bridge between the anthemic, punchy Read more
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
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
The second installment of Drake’s OVO Sound Apple Radio show will mostly be remembered for its host’s characteristically polite Meek Mill diss, but the real keeper came in the form of the crushed-velvet vocal stylings of Toronto’s next R&B wunderkind. “Get You Good” is sporting some serious House of Balloons vibes, and Roy Wood$ is one of the few vocalists who can match the Weeknd’s vocal virility and raw power. Like Abel at his best, the rising crooner knives through a spacious, typically OVO beat, delivering each couplet with both force and grace. Thankfully, he avoids the former’s tiresome brand of Tumblr-friendly masochism, instead making music that real people might want to dance, hang out, and get down to. Like Biggie said, “sky’s the limit.”
“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 off in 2014. However, the reality stands in stark contrast to that notion, as she she has released a consistent stream of excellent material since, capped off by her mega-underrated Sell Sole mixtape. This year, she’s also dropped a handful of potent features (exhibit A, B & C), the snarling “Like A Hoe,” and the re-tooled “Me U & Hennessy,” which is arguably been even bigger than “Try Me.”
Her understated hot streak continues on her solid, six-song EP, featuring this excellent collab with everyone’s favorite hip-hop romantic. Like Future’s best duets, there’s real chemistry here, and they sound effortless and natural together. We’ll have to see if it ages as well as classics like “Loveeeeeee Song,” “Neva End,” and “Anytime,” but it certainly feels like a keeper at this point.
Carly Rae Jepsen
“Run Away with Me” E•MO•TION (out in the USA 09.21 on Interscope)
I’ll keep writing about Carly Rae’s triumphant third LP until it gets every ounce of credit its pop perfection deserves. Following in the footsteps of the inch-perfect title track and the ubiquitous “I Really Like You,” the disc’s fourth single is an undeniable, life-affirming number that sees a rising pop star at the peak of her power. The Canadian’s vocal is confident and effortless. The arrangement is taut and efficient. The hook is soaring and infectious. While it may be a tried and true blueprint, it’s exceedingly difficult to nail it like this, and anyone who loves pop music knows how precious it is when everything comes together like it is for Carly Rae right now. Absolutely, one of the best albums of the year.
Oscar Key Sung
“Brush” Altruism (out now on Warner)
The standout from the low-key Melbourne native’s recent EP gets striking visuals. The spot-on styling and choreography helps tell Key Sung’s relatable, affecting tale of wanting to approach someone in a club but getting cold feet. It’s a feeling that anyone who’s ever gone dancing has experienced, and it’s expressed impossibly gracefully in this clip.
“Feel You” Have You in My Wilderness (out 09.25 on Domino)
The announcement of a new Julia Holter album is always cause for a celebration, especially when its coupled with a first single that’s this strong. “Feel You” is a gorgeous chamber pop song that pairs the 30 year-old’s graceful vocal with a sweeping, romantic string arraignment and buoyant drums. Like much of her best work, it pairs traditional instrumentation (peep that harpsichord) with progressive, modern songwriting, resulting in a sound that is both timeless and fresh.
“Blow a Bag” Dirty Sprite 2 (out 07.17 on Freebandz)
The #FutureHive is abuzz since last Friday, when the ATLien announced the long-awaited successor to his classic, 2011 mixtape, Dirty Sprite. DS2 appears to be the most ambitious of the four triumphant projects he’s put out this year, and its dynamic first single does nothing but fuel those lofty expectations. “Blow a Bag” is pure, turnt-up Future, along the lines of summer anthem “Fuck Up Some Commas” and recent burner “Real Sisters.” Any track that boasts production credits from Metro Boomin, Southside, and Sonny Digital is going to be a banger, and the 31 year-old’s hyper-melodic flow is the perfect match for the Dream Team’s rolling hats and interstellar synths. Future has absolutely owned 2015 so far, and it doesn’t look like he’s planning on relinquishing control of the back half of the year either.
“Ain’t Missing You” (f/ Jenn Em)
It’s remarkable how far Chief Keef has come in the two and a half years since his one and only Interscope LP, Finally Rich. Far away from the beady eye of label suits who never understood him and the ruthless media scrutiny that threatened to consume him, the Chicago native has quietly gotten his mojo back, crafting fascinating, gleefully experimental sounds with a rotating cast of characters in the LA suburbs. While recent releases like Sorry 4 the Weight and Back From the Dead 2 garnered little mainstream coverage, they’ve earned well-deserved love from sharp critics and (more importantly) have been well received by his growing, sonically open-minded fanbase.
That said, I don’t think anyone was expecting a twangy, pop-country ballad, but as he’s proven time and time again, Keef doesn’t give a shit about other people’s expectations. And you know what? It’s brilliant. “Ain’t Missing You” is a disarmingly powerful eulogy to the 19 year-old’s older cousin, Mario “Big Glo” Hess, a fellow rapper and mentor who was slain in Chicago in the aftermath of signing a lucrative record contract. Keef’s verses are gut-wrenching — particularly the second. He speaks candidly about his relationship with Hess, during what must have been an unimaginable transition from a 16 year-old in one of the poorest communities in America to a multi-millionaire celebrity. It’s the most clear-eyed, emotionally direct song of his career, and yet another example of Keef’s unarguable talent and relentlessly creative spirit.
Though he’s been making quality music for nearly ten years, the Mancunian dubstep (né Joe McBride) early adopter is only now getting around to releasing his first proper LP. While everything about the musical landscape has changed — including the meaning of the word ‘dubstep’ (Burial, not Skrillex) — Synkro’s sound really hasn’t. Like much of his excellent past work (see: 2008′s beautiful, Brandy flipping, “Everybody Knows” or 2013′s breakthrough single “Acceptance”) “Changes” layers evocative, faraway vocal samples over meticulously crafted, roomy keyboards and just enough percussion to keep things moving along. It’s remained a winning formula, due to McBride’s deft, restrained touch with vocal samples and his talent for crafting mood and atmosphere. Sometimes the best way to whether the changing times is just to keep on doing what you’re doing.
Thundercat The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam Out Now on Brainfeeder
An EP only in title, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner’s gorgeous 16-minute reflection on the metaphysical feels like a singular composition. While I was considering writing about one of disc’s two key middle tracks — the soulful bounce of “Them Changes” and the labyrinthine “Lone Wolf and Cub” — much of their power is lost outside the context of the four songs that frame them.
On this record, Bruner shows off his strongest, most streamlined songwriting ever, keeping the noodling to a minimum and restricting his technical virtuosity to lines that serve only to improve the songs. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of bass wizardry here — notably on the backside of “Lone Wolf and Cub” — but it’s not the album’s enduring takeaway. Rather, it’s the realization that Bruner’s songwriting and underrated singing is finally catching up to his prodigious playing, which is a truly mouthwatering proposition.
There’s making the song cry, then there’s what production vets Nard & B did to Future’s newest single. When faced with one of the weepiest tracks you’ll ever hear, the 30 year-old summarily beats the breaks off the track in signature style. The ATLien is in the heart of one of the great mixtape runs of the last decade (see: Wayne ’06-’07 and Gucci’09-’11), and “News or Somethn” is one of the high points of this hot streak. While the popular Future narrative has always been melodicism over lyricism, he’s recently been painting incredibly somber portraits with vivid, expressive lyrics. Lines like “know a few real ones ain’t gon’ see they next birthday” and “it’s a full moon in the middle of the day” connect with breathtaking thuds. And by the time the emotive outro guitar solo hits, you’re left staring into the heart of American desolation, and the only thing you can do is run it back again.