"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
Autre Ne Veut
“World War Pt. 2″ (Jazz Version) Age of Transparency (out 10.02 on Downtown)
After a few weeks of downtime thanks to the good folks of GoDaddy.com, the lights are back on at Thunder Penguin. Our first post back comes from longtime fave Arthur Ashin. I’m not crazy about the album version of the discs first single, “World War Pt. 2,” due to its overzealous “ay, ay, ay, ay” vocal sample constantly clashing with what is, at its heart, the kind of spare vocal ballad that the Brooklyn resident does so well.
Luckily for me, he dropped this jazzy, paired down arrangement. The delicate pianos and a walking standup bassline jives so much more naturally with his potent vocal track. While I’d expect that Age of Transparency will sound much more like the original version, this version is a tasty reminder of Ashin’s sonic versatility and a welcome look into the beating heart of his new single.
“Silver Car Crash” Are You Alone? (out 10.16 on Matador)
There’s nothing romantic about car crashes in real life, but Majical Cloudz’s beautiful love song “Silver Car Crash” isn’t so sure. Joining Morrissey’s seminal “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” the first single from the duo’s second LP uses a car crash as a breathtaking metaphor for true love. Vocalist Devon Welsh is not a man known for his jocular demeanor, but there’s always been a gallows humor and a deep romanticism in his lyrics. That said, this cut is by far the most direct love song we’ve ever heard from him, and when he delivers lines like “I’m so hopelessly for you” in his intense, expressive voice, it’s impossible not to feel every inch of what he feels. And anytime those feelings are this strong, you know it’s a very, very special piece of music.
I remember a scene in Journey’s Behind the Music where guitarist Neal Schon claimed that vocalist Steve Perry’s solo side project led to their decision to fire him. Schon’s issue wasn’t with Perry making music outside the band — Schon and key songwriter Jonathan Cain were both in other bands. Rather, his solo work sounded too much like Journey, which for some reason, infuriated the frizzy haired axeman.
Now, something tells me that the internal politics of the seemingly affable Real Estate are quite different than the terminally bickering San Franciscans, but singer-songwriter Martin Courtney’s debut single is very Perry-ish. “Vestiges” shares the languid beauty and jangly riffs of the New Jersey nice guys’ best work, and when you throw in Courtney’s perma-chill vocals on top, it’s nearly unrecognizable from a new Real Estate tune. Luckily, Real Estate tunes are almost always great, and this is no exception. Hopefully, Alex Bleeker and Matt Mondanile don’t pull a Schon and fuck this up for all of us.
One of the grime’s brightest young talents goes in over the Game’s recent single “100.” As he’s done consistently over the last year or so, the 22 year-old delivers muscular bars with a sharp wit that will make you want to run it back and listen again. Though this single is very much a digital loosey, its outro is noteworthy, as it’s one of the first times we’ve heard Stormzy’s use his pristine baritone to sing (see: G FrSH’s underrated, “Sometimes”). Something tells me it won’t be the last time…
Another day, another dirty Ciara remix. This one comes from Chilean producer, Imaabs. Picking up where, Disntacia, his underrated EP for rising Mexican imprint NAAFI leaves off, this sweltering remix flips a standout from Cici’s 2013 self-titled album into an spacious, instrumental grime-leaning masterclass. His acuity of percussion is on full display, as he deftly pairs rolling double-time timbales with the hot and bothered vocal, resulting in a piece that feels as well suited for tropical climes as a drizzly London High Street.
In an indie music landscape increasingly focused on restraint, Thomas Arsenault has no chill. His booming voice and powerful presence stand in stark contrast to much of the ‘less is more’ aesthetic that currently populates the buzz blogosphere. His affecting debut LP, Seraph, will likely appeal to fans of fellow chill-free emotionalists Majical Cloudz, Sean Nicholas Savage, and Autre Ne Veut. My favorite moment on it, “Margarita,” gets stunning visuals, courtesy of director Kris Moyes and the beautiful volcanoes, beaches, and waterfalls of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Get swept away.
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.