First Quarter Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2014 (So Far)

Quite a few of my friends have asked me for new music, which is kind of insane, considering this has been an incomprehensibly strong year of music so far. We've seen a handful of brilliant LPs and some absolutely breathtaking singles. Here's a super quick round-up of about 25 absolutely essential songs that came Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Young Thug, "Treasure" (f/ Zuse)

Young Thug "Treasure" (f/ Zuse) Digital Single If you're still not sold on Atlanta's Jeffrey "Young Thug" Williams, I don't know what to tell you. Since the release of 2013's brilliant, 1017 Thug mixtape, Williams has cranked out envelope-pushing, breathtaking deconstructionist trap anthems, crafting tracks as unpredictable and fractured as his public persona. In classic Internet Read more

April Showers: 17 Releases That Demand Your Attention This Month

S. Carey, Range of Light (April 1, JagJaguWar) What: Bon Iver member/multi-instrumentalist/classically trained folky Sean Carey’s 2nd LP Where: Eau Claire, WI Sounds Like: Sensitive bros sitting around a lake, reflecting on life, sipping PBR’s, and shit. Giddy-O-Meter: 8/10 Four years since his ornate, orchestral-folk debut, All We Grow, Carey returns with a gorgeous, Read more

Hot Jams of the Day: Yung Lean, "Gatorade" (Lido Remix) // Disclosure, "Latch" (Lido Remix)

Yung Lean "Gatorade" (Lido Remix) Disclosure "Latch" (Lido Remix) Last week, I went to see Cashmere Cat and Trippy Turtle at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and while Cash Cat is always a great show, I was completely floored by the still-anonymous opening act. While Trippy Turtle is best-known for his ravenous Jersey Club Read more

Album of the Week: The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream

The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream Secretly Canadian It's been a remarkable musical year already, but the hazy Philly rockers' third album has been one of the picks of the bunch. For better or worse, frontman Adam Granduciel has always been compared with fellow Philadelphian and former W.O.D. guitarist Kurt Vile. Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Sd Laika, “Great God Pan”

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SD Laika
“Great God Pan”
That’s Harakiri (out 04.28 on Tri Angle)

I’ve devoted plenty of words to spooky Wisconsin producer, Peter Runge, in recent weeks, but we just got the second taste of his uber-hyped debut effort for Tri Angle. “Great God Pan” isn’t quite as harrowing as the outstanding, ”Meshes,” but it packs the same slaughterhouse vibezzz. It’s impossible to really call anything original nowadays, but Runge is coming close here, as it’s extremely hard to put your finger on what this sounds like. We’ve heard terms like “deconstructed grime” and “industrial” thrown around, but none of them quite fit. It’ll be fascinating to hear how his uncompromising sound works over 30-40 minutes, and I cannot wait to find out.

Images & Words: Tommy Kruise, “Hers”

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Tommy Kruise
Upcoming EP

This is a really beautiful clip, in which the Montreal native chronicles the story of one of his fans, Bogdan Chiochiu. Chiochiu suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and uses music to help him navigate through his life, much like so many others (myself included). Though its protagonist is not where he wants to be at the moment, there is a real undercurrent of hope and an underlying beauty that runs through the whole clip.

It is expertly soundtracked by the buoyant Quebecois producer, whose outstanding original takes a bit of a supporting role to Chiochiu’s story. That said, “Hers” still stands out with its twinkling synths and pounding backbeat, undulating languidly and gracefully over the affecting images. An overall knockout.

Hot Jam of the Day: Kid Smpl, “Silo Tear”

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Kid Smpl
“Silo Tear”
Silo Tear EP (out 05.05 on Hush Hush)

The Seattle producer’s enveloping sound lies somewhere between the dancefloor and the factory floor, gorgeously weaving between an alluring human touch and the cold steel of heavy machinery. Opening with some post-Burial vocal longings, “Silo Tear” glides into an aqueous, mantric groove, punctuated with sporadic percussion and drippy sonic filigree. It ultimately resolves to an industrial, chaotic movement before disappearing without a trace. It’s an excellent stand-alone piece, but it’s the kind of single that feels like it is best heard in the context of a full statement. Roll on May 5.

Hot Jam of the Day: Lana Del Rey, “West Coast”

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Lana Del Rey
“West Coast”
Ultraviolence (out this summer on Interscope)

Though she’s released a string of dross since the stunning 2011 singles, “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans,” the 27 year-old manages to recapture some of that Old Hollywood magic that made her early work remarkable. It could be down to the touch of producer Dan Auerbach, but I’d also imagine that stepping away from the harsh glow of the limelight was a good thing for Ms. Lana. All of her post-”Blue Jeans” work has been listless and tepid, the sound of a person beaten down by years of life in front of the camera.

Sounding like an artist well into her 40s, it looked like she was already a spent force, but “West Coast” shows signs of life. While it has its fair share of eye-rolling lyrics (“Down on the West Coast, we’ve got a saying. / If you’re not drinking, you’re not playing.”), her voice glides over a taut, single-note guitar riff that unfolds into an expansive, breezy chorus. Auerbach’s influence is all over this thing, and his bluesy sensibilities form an effective foil for her carefree, vapid vocals, giving her music a weight that it has been sorely lacking in recent years. It remains to be seen whether this is a one-off or a sign of things to come, but it’s nice to see her get her mojo back.

Hot Jam of the Day: MNEK, “Every Little Word”

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“Every Little Word”
Upcoming Debut LP (out soon on Virgin)

After a handful of fantastic singles and a slew of production credits, the 19 year-old is finally ready for his close-up. Lead single, “Every Little Word,” distills much of what makes the Londoner (né Uzoechi Osisioma Emenike) such a rising star. Built around a buoyant arraignment  “Every Little Word” matches inch-perfect craft with progressive, sticky songwriting, resulting in a great pop song that sounds great too. Though MNEK’s work is littered with timeless 80s and 90s references, his tracks always sound incredibly current, and this is no exception.

Hot Jam of the Day: Young Thug, “Stoner” (Evian Christ Remix)

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Young Thug
“Stoner” (Evian Christ Remix)
Digital Single

The rising Liverpudlian producer’s having a pretty awesome year so far. He recently confirmed that he will be a part of Kanye’s new project, and his 4-song EP, Waterfall, got excellent reviews across the board. He laces his industrial-tinged touch to Thugga Thugga’s ubiquitous original to devastating effect. The resulting is a sparse, imposing three-minute sonic roller coaster.

First Quarter Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2014 (So Far)

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Quite a few of my friends have asked me for new music, which is kind of insane, considering this has been an incomprehensibly strong year of music so far. We’ve seen a handful of brilliant LPs and some absolutely breathtaking singles. Here’s a super quick round-up of about 25 absolutely essential songs that came out this year.

How to Dress Well: “Repeat Pleasure” // “Words I Don’t Remember”
Longtime TP-favorite, Tom Krell, continues to make arresting pop(ish) jams that sound like nobodye else. What is This Heart? is undoubtedly my most anticipated LP of the year.

Sean Nicholas Savage: “Heartless”
Ultra-prolific, weirdo crooner crafts a devastating break-up jam with notes of Arthur Russell. Melodrama at its absolute finest.

Young Thug: “Danny Glover”
Probably the song of the year so far, the 21 year-old ATLien is starting to make the establishment really nervous (Jay-Z is shaking in his slippers) with his devastating delivery and ear for progressive arraingments.

Que: “OG Bobby Johnson”
LeBron’s favorite song makes the list thanks to an undeniable, post-Lex Luger beat and the rising Atlanta native’s raspy, intimidating flow.

Small Black x Frankie Rose: “Lines of Latitude”
The shapeshifting Brooklynites dust off their boat shoes and head for warmer climes in this seductive slow-burner.

Future x Ciara: “Anytime”
It’s like “Drunk in Love”… if “Drunk in Love” was sexy.

Ratking x King Krule: “So Sick Stories”
The NYC crew certainly evokes memories of NYC’s golden age of hip-hop, but this brilliant effort reminds me most of Skinnyman’s still seminal, Council Estate of Mind.

Lewis: “I Thought the World of You” (Light in the Attic re-issue)
A heartbreaking whisper from years gone by, the anonymous vocalist’s statement is still profound, nearly 30 years after it was created.

August Alsina: “Kissin on My Tattoos”
The NOLA lothario unleashes the kind of classic-cum-modern slow jam that used to be reserved for his mentor, The-Dream.  Impossibly sexy.

Jacques Greene: “No Excuse”
The consistent Canadian delivers again, lacing a vulnerable vocal over a swirling, wonky arraignment. Try not to get lost in it.

SD Laika: “Meshes”
The shadowy Wisconsin native weighs in with one of the most uncompromising, singular statements of the year. As uncompromising a take on dance music as you are ever going to find.

IYES: “Breathe”
The Brighton duo’s sweltering single sounds like the XX after a couple of Red Bull vodkas. Understated, moody, and seductive, but still looking to have a good time.

The War on Drugs: “Eyes to The Wind”
AM Radio makes its long-awaited comeback! Vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Adam Granduciel summons the wistful spirit of Springsteen to chase the heartache away. The highpoint of one of the albums of the year.

Wild Beasts: “Pregnant Pause”
The sensuous Brits get their “concerned friend” on over a gorgeous, mellifluous piano arraignment. Falsetto enthusiasts rejoice!

Mssingno: “Brandy Flip”
The shadowy Londoner’s Mssingo EP was one of the finest of last year and his wonky, grime-influenced production is second to none, right now. BRB, praying to the Based God for a debut LP.

Motions: “To The Sea”
Nearly eight minutes of house bliss to get lost in, Brendan Neal (ex-Grown Folk) builds an arpeggiated, undulating masterclass that swallows you whole.

YG: “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)” (f/ Kendrick Lamar)
The Compton native sets the way-back machine to 1993 on this Doggystyle-channeling cut. YG isn’t known for his lyricism, but even the Dogfather himself would be proud of his storytelling here. That Kendrick kid’s pretty good too.

Kevin Gates x Doe B: “Amnesia”
The murder of 22 year-old, Glenn “Doe B” Thomas, was one of the saddest stories of last year. However, he’s in great voice here, combining with the always, brilliant Baton Rouge Bully to devastating effect. RIP.

I do not love: “I Like you most”
I’m not quite sure how I stumbled on the Massachusetts-native’s gorgeous EP, IDNL., but I’m glad I did. It’s got a little bit of goth, a little bit of pop, and a whole hell of a lot of teen angst.

Lil’ Herb: “On The Corner” (f/ Lil Durk, KD Young Cocky)
The rising Chicago spitta certainly isn’t the first to write about the explosive intersections of American cities, but few are writing about the sobering state of America’s second city with the lyricism and depth of the 17 year-old. This dude will be the next Windy City rapper to blow.

Sun Kil Moon: “Micheline”
Mark Kozelek’s incredible, Benji, remains the high point of 2014, and I could have gone with many of its 11 songs. In the end, I’ll take the beautiful “Micheline,” a powerful example of Kozelek’s unparalleled storytelling and songwriting.  Stop trying to fight it.

Yumi Zouma: “It Feels to be Around You” (cover)
I’m with Yumi Zouma; I fucking miss Air France too. The dreamy Aussies’ take on one of the legendary duo’s best songs with real care and craft, and it shows what a huge influence the Swedes continue to have.

Todd Terje x Bryan Ferry: “Johnny and Mary”
The legendary Roxy Music vocalist lends his now-raspy pipes to the Norweigan DJ’s gorgeous Robert Palmer re-do. Terje’s swelling, lush synths provide the perfect foil to Ferry’s breathy, spare vocals, resulting in a song that is difficult to shake off.

Future Islands: “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
If you’ve ever hoped that you could change somebody you loved… If you thought your love, devotion, and forgiveness could make that someone realize what huge fucking mistakes they were making… And if, one day, it dawned on you that you were wasting your fucking time with that person… And if that revelation made your life a thousand percent better, then this is your fucking song. This is my song, too.

Bok Bok feat. Kelela – ‘Melba’s Call’
Kelela is a vocalist who likes a challenge. She could lace her graceful, expressive voice over just about anything, but she’d rather bob and weave over something a little bit more daunting. Something like this herky-jerky arraignment from Night Slugs stalwart, Bok Bok. Too fresh.

100s: “Ten Freaky Hoes”
The Too Short to YG’s Snoop Dogg, the Berkeley MC’s filthy IVRY mixtape channels the Bay Area sound of the mid-90s to absolute perfection.  It was about time we had some new Cocktails in the Bay.

Francis Lung: “A Selfish Man”
The ex-members of WU LYF have certainly kept themselves busy since their surprise break-up, and former bassists Tom McClung’s debut single is the best of the lot. With a shuffling beat and puncturing guitars, “A Selfish Man” opens up to a gorgeous rumination on one of humanity’s greatest shortcomings.

ZMoney: “Dope Boy Magic”
The Chicago MC’s monstrous single knocks harder than just about everything. The catch? “Dope Boy Magic” does it almost entirely without percussion, relying on ZMoney’s byoant flow and trunk-rattling sub-bass to make one hell of an impression.

James Blake: “40455”
The South London mastermind brings out some seriously 2010 vibes on the unofficial single, harkening back to his glorious R&S days.

Linda Perhacs: “Prisms of Glass” (f/ Julia Holter)
When you don’t make a record for more than 40 years, I’d imagine you’d have a hell of a lot to say.  The reclusive fringe folk singer finally graced us with a follow-up to her magical 1970 debut, Parallelograms, and it was more than worth the wait.

Ricky Eat Acid: “God Puts Us All in the Swimming Pool”
Baltimore-native Sam Ray’s emotionally striking LP seemed to fall out of the sky, which was fitting thanks to its celestial feeling. Though it should be experienced as one full album, this cut shows Ray’s mastery of mood and vocal manipulation.

Yung Lean, “Motorola”

Hot Jam of the Day: Future x Kanye West, “I Won”

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Future x Kanye West
“I Won”
Honest (out 04.22 on Freebandz/Epic)

Considering the number of words I’ve devoted to these two, it’s no surprise that I fucking love this. I’m as excited about Honest as any album in the last few years, and tracks like this are indicative of the main reason why. On his brilliant debut, Pluto (2012), Future (né Nayvadius Wilburn) flashed the potential of a true crossover superstar, hinting that he might be able to grow from a thrilling, risiung MC into a full-fledged, progressive songwriter, who could have a major hand in dragging pop music forward. From early returns, the 30 year-old is set to fulfill that promise, carving out a new brand of pop music and leaving a trail of copycats in his wake. While potential is certainly precious, fulfilled potential is one of the rarest commodities on earth, and it’s beautiful to watch it bloom in front of our very eyes.

Hot Jam of the Day: Young Thug, “Treasure” (f/ Zuse)

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Young Thug
“Treasure” (f/ Zuse)
Digital Single

If you’re still not sold on Atlanta’s Jeffrey ”Young Thug” Williams, I don’t know what to tell you. Since the release of 2013′s brilliant, 1017 Thug mixtape, Williams has cranked out envelope-pushing, breathtaking deconstructionist trap anthems, crafting tracks as unpredictable and fractured as his public persona. In classic Internet fashion, the narrative has focused on the least interesting facets of the 21 year-old (who he’s sleeping with, what he’s wearing) rather than his revelatory music. Simply put, Williams has the potential to take the throne from Gucci Mane as Southern rap’s most fascinating, influential fringe MC, and tracks like this are the ticket to get him there. Producer Dun Deal (who also produced Thug’s ubiquitous, “Stoner”) deserves a mention as well, as his distressed, wonky arraignments provide the ideal canvas for Williams to smear his frenetic delivery over.

Hot Jam of the Day: How to Dress Well, “Repeat Pleasure”

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How to Dress Well
“Repeat Pleasure”
What is This Heart? (out 06.24 on Weird World)

On Thursday, St. Tom Krell blessed us with the second single from his upcoming third LP — my most anticipated album of 2014. Though Krell has been lumped with the rest of the progressive R&B scene, that has always seemed an awkward, superficial marriage. In reality, the Chicago resident has always operated outside the boundaries of any genre — crafting a sound and aesthetic that is all his own. When you consider tracks like this and recent single, “Words I Don’t Remember,” it’s remarkable how far he’s come from his shadowy, noise-soaked early work, while remaining true to his singular, original spirit. It reminds us that you can grow and develop without losing yourself along the way.

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