We're only five weeks into 2016, and Future has already #blessed us with two records — mixtape Purple Reign and album EVOL. While his recent prolificacy has delighted his ever-growing core fanbase, I know a lot of casual fans who are finding it difficult to keep up with his relentless Read more
If Jens Lekman can write, record, and produce a new song every week, I can write a monthly blog post rounding up my favorite musical goings-on from the last 28-31 days. These aren't in order, and this isn't a Best Of List. Rather it's a random collection of ten things (i.e. Read more
"Not Above That"
RED*emp*tion (out soon on Our Dawn)
I'm consistently disappointed by the lack of Dawn Richard remixes lying around the Internet. That's partially because she remains criminally underrated, but it's also because few pop and R&B artists have embraced progressive dance music as fully as the New Orleanian. Many Read more
Mind of Mine (out 03.25)
It's hard to decide which is more smoldering — Zayn Malik's bone structure or his first post-One Direction single. “Pillowtalk” brilliantly balances Malik’s sadboi lothario (think: Drake circa Take Care) tendencies with his blockbuster vocals. That voice allows him to veer toward a darker, moodier sound, Read more
"Weak" (Live on the Tonight Show)
Don't You (out 01.29 on Columbia)
I don't normally write about live performances, but I was just so struck by how far the Massachusetts trio has come in the last two and a half years. I first wrote about Wet in September of 2013, Read more
“I Know It’s Over” You & I (out 03.11 on Legacy)
While it doesn’t hold a candle to the live version from the mid 90′s, it’s still nice to hear one the best singers of all-time sing one of the best songs of all-time by one of the best bands of all-time (especially on one of the best blogs of all-time). Joking aside, I’m a little unsure about how I feel about the fact that we’re still tilling the soil for unfinished, JB demos, nearly twenty years since his tragic death.
Sure, it’s great to hear Buckley’s pure, innocent vocal and strummed acoustic guitar give levity to one of the Moz’s most crushing songs. However, it’s hard to imagine that he would have actually wanted any of these songs seeing the light of day. And as much as I want to be open to these releases, part of me feels like the still-perfect Grace, the nearly as good Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, and the random live bootlegs are way more than enough.
We’re only five weeks into 2016, and Future has already #blessed us with two records — mixtape Purple Reign and album EVOL. While his recent prolificacy has delighted his ever-growing core fanbase, I know a lot of casual fans who are finding it difficult to keep up with his relentless pace. For that reason, I picked out five of my highlights from the two albums, which will hopefully provide a foothold into both discs and give you a vibe of where he’s at.
1. “Fly Shit Only” from EVOL, produced by DJ Spinz EVOL‘s beautiful, swirling final track is the pick of both discs, thanks to the mournful mastery of DJ Spinz. Built around an arpeggiated guitar riff that somehow simultaneously recalls Danzig and Radiohead, Future picks through the bones of life at the top. Reminiscent of 2015′s best song, “News or Smthn,” “Fly Shit Only” is basically a trap power ballad, and his doleful vocals are at their melodic, magnetic best — capable of turning any line into a hook that you won’t be able to get out of your head.
2. “Inside the Mattress” from Purple Reign, produced by Nard & B As you’ll notice, most of my favorite moments from Purple Reign and EVOL are the downtempo ones. However, there’s plenty of #turnup Future on both records, and “Inside the Mattress” is likely the most potent of the bunch. This isn’t surprising considering that Nard & B produced his most ecstatic song, “Straight Up,” which is also the first Future song I ever loved. While it doesn’t match that track’s frenetic energy, it’s a reminder that Super Future is always ready to make an appearance.
3. “Lie to Me” from EVOL, produced by DJ Spinz Spinz strikes again, crafting an incredible beat with glistening keyboards and spare percussion. The neon keys give “Lie to Me” a late night drive feel, and Future gleefully grabs the wheel, guiding you through the back roads and flickering lights of his psyche.
4. “No Charge” from Purple Reign, produced by Southside Futrue always sounds great on a Southside beat. The 27 year-old is the architect behind “Fuck Up Some Commas” and “Trap N**gas” (among many others), which are arguably the two most popular songs from Future’s recent purple patch. And he delivers again with this spacious, airy beat. Like the aforementioned singles, “No Charge” features Southside’s trademark hi-hat wizardry and deep synths — the perfect canvas for Future to smear his melodic vocals over the top of.
5. “Low Life” (f/ The Weeknd) from EVOL, produced by Metro Boomin, Ben Billion$ & The Weeknd
Future’s music is great, even when he isn’t. Fueled by fellow nihilist the Weeknd, the duo let their misanthropic flags fly, weaving through Metro Boomin’s cinematic synths and rolling percussion. Originally released on Christmas Day, the track is basically hip-hop “Bad Santa,” with its protagonists reveling in how good being the bad guy can be.
If Jens Lekman can write, record, and produce a new song every week, I can write a monthly blog post rounding up my favorite musical goings-on from the last 28-31 days. These aren’t in order, and this isn’t a Best Of List. Rather it’s a random collection of ten things (i.e. scenes, songs, albums, new directions, etc) that caught my attention. I’ll mostly be picking things I didn’t have a chance to write about, so as to avoid repeating myself. Let’s see how this goes.
1. The back half of Rihanna’s ANTI The biggest release of the year seems like a good place to start. Don’t let the pre-release Tidal apocalypse or its lukewarm, Drake-featured first single, “Work”, fool you; ANTI is a fabulous, understated collection that finds one of the world’s biggest stars at her creative and vocal peak. Aside from the wonky Tame Impala cover, the disc’s second half is unassailable — from the venomous break-up jam, “Needed Me” to its stunning piano ballad closer, “Close To You.” The latter is probably my favorite song of the year so far and is one of the most engaging, honest moments of RiRi’s career. Plus, it almost always makes me want to cry, then call everyone I love, then cry again. Her weary, expressive vocals go places others can’t, dripping with the kind of mournful beauty that is unmatched by any modern pop star. The same goes for the wonderful “Love on the Brain,” “Yeah, I Said It” and “Higher.” It may not have the hits, and “Work” is a dud, but ANTI is one of the strongest releases of her career.
Because Tidal is the worst, you can’t stream any of it here. Pick it up over at Apple Music. Jk, it’s out on Spotify now. Stream it here.
2. The dreamy R&B of King’s We Are King Rihanna made my favorite song, but the LA trio’s long-awaited debut LP is definitely my top album of the young year. A remarkably consistent 12-song set, We Are King is a balanced, updated take on the soul-infused R&B of people like Sade and Prince. While it’s a totally unfair comparison, it’s far from baseless, and there are so few artists nowadays who are writing such lush arrangements and full, rich vocal melodies. There’s just so much love on this album, and if it feels this good to get swept up in the waves, why would you fight it?
3. We got a new MssingNo EP Truth be told, I’ve only been able to listen to it once or twice since it dropped this morning, but after two years of waiting, it sure feels like the mercurial Londoner’s incredible, genre defining self-titled debut EP has a worthy successor. After putting out a handful of inch-perfect remixes and one-offs, it’s so exciting to hear another long(ish) form statement from the still-anonymous producer. I’m sure I’ll write more about this when I get a little more time with it, but early returns are fucking massive.
4. Ryuichi Sakamoto comes back from cancer treatment with the Revenant Soundtrack In July of 2014, the legendary Japanese composer announced that he was taking a some time off to deal with oropharyngeal cancer. Last summer, we got the good news that he was in good health and looking to get back to work. This January, we got to hear that work, and goddamn, that work is beautiful. Alongside Alva Noto with assistance from the National’s Bryce Dessner, Sakamoto crafted 23 tracks of affecting mood music. I haven’t seen the film, but if I enjoy it half as much as I did the soundtrack, it’ll be one of my favorite movies of the year.
Digital Single I know I just wrote about Tory last week, and *ughhhhhhhhhh you only write about the same ten people*, but if he keeps putting out great songs, I’m going to write about them. “LA Confidential” is a new look for the Toronto native with hi-gloss production from heavyweights Cashmere Cat, Benny Blanco, and Pop Wansel (of Pop & Oak) and a songwriting assist from Mr. Wildheart himself, Miguel. The latter’s fingerprints are all over this one. From the taut guitars to the soaring chorus (“I get lohhhhhh-nley”), “LA Confidential” is so reminiscent of his mega-smash, “Coffee.” While no new ground is broken here musically or lyrically (spoiler: he’s got a side-chick in LA), it certainly has the potential to be a big radio single and could be the follow-up to “Say It” that the 23 year-old has been desperately searching for.
DJ Dodger Stadium
“I Don’t Love You” Stand Up And Speak (out now on Loma Vista) One of the standouts from Samo Sound Boy and Jerome LOL’s excellent second album together gets striking visuals from Daniel Pappas. “I Don’t Love You” employs a number of slow-motion, up-close shots, which are reminiscent of a pair of clips from Samo’s recent LP, Begging Please. That style fits especially well with their hyper-emotional, cinematic songs, which slowly unravel over their running time.
D∆WN “Not Above That” RED*emp*tion (out soon on Our Dawn)
I’m consistently disappointed by the lack of Dawn Richard remixes lying around the Internet. That’s partially because she remains criminally underrated, but it’s also because few pop and R&B artists have embraced progressive dance music as fully as the New Orleanian. Many of the songs producers would be likely to rework — “Calypso,” “Billie Jean,” “Warriors,” “Dance” — are already packed with the kind of dance breaks, unique instrumentation, and vocal manipulation that remixers tend to employ.
The sweltering “Not Above That” is another example of this. Along with the ever-consistent Machinedrum, Richard crafts another banger that exists somewhere in that delicious nether zone between your duvet cover and the dancefloor. She has spoken about her desire to remove gender, color, and genre from her music, and lyrically, she challenges gender roles again on this record. ”That’s why I call you up at 4 in the morning cause I’m not above that” could be a throwaway lyric from a Drake/Future/insert rap dude track. But when it comes out of Dawn Richard’s mouth, it is both a command and an invitation that carries disarming power. Last year’s Blackheart was a masterpiece, and RED*emp*tion is shaping up to be more than a worthy successor.
It’s hard to decide which is more smoldering — Zayn Malik’s bone structure or his first post-One Direction single. “Pillowtalk” brilliantly balances Malik’s sadboi lothario (think: Drake circa Take Care) tendencies with his blockbuster vocals. That voice allows him to veer toward a darker, moodier sound, while retaining the lightness and innocence of his early work. In other words, it’s the kind of song that hordes of teenagers can sing (read: scream) along to in a packed arena, or that two real-life adults might consider having sex to. There aren’t a ton of songs that work for both scenarios, and those tend to be reserved for only the most interesting pop artists.
Zayn’s just getting started as a solo artist, but Mind of Mine officially just vaulted to the top of my “Most Anticipated Albums of 2016″ list. Something tells me I’m not the only one.
AMTHST “Thug Passion” Euphoria (out 02.17 on Sick Wid It)
California natives and vowel haters, Ramona Gonzalez (Nite Jewel) and Droop-E, combine forces on a new EP. Gonzalez has been pretty quiet since 2012’s quality, One Second of Love, but it looks she’ll be busy this year, also dropping a long-awaited new NJ record this summer.
“Thug Passion” sounds a lot like a Nite Jewel track with languid synths and a slow-mo bassline that beautifully frames her graceful, alluring vocals. Droop-E — a talented producer and rapper — mostly chills behind the boards here, only using his voice for some Netflix and Chill ad-libs. It’s a strong start to what should be a tasty EP and a big year for Gonzalez.
Father John Misty “Maybe, Sweet One, You Won’t Have Nightmares Tonight” Digital Single
The other morning, my girlfriend and I were talking about how weird it was that in dreams everything seems normal, no matter what. You might be taking a wildebeest on a Tinder date with earthworms for fingers, but while you’re dreaming, it all feels as normal as showing up for a morning meeting.
Josh Tillman explores this phenomenon on this lighthearted track, originally written for the Colbert Show. Like much of his recent songwriting purple patch, this song walks the line between silliness and sincerity. And the earnestess in his voice on lines like “and you realize your penis has become detached” keep this from veering into Weird Al territory. There’s a tenderness that gives it real heart and takes me to those bizarre early-morning conversations that we have with loved ones about the weird ass places our brain went while we were fast asleep.
Tory Lanez “Say It” (Shlohmo Remix) Digital Single
Fresh off the release of a pair of mixtapes, the Toronto crooner gets a fresh coat of paint on his 2015 smash, courtesy of regular collaborator Shlohmo. You can tell that the two have worked together before by the way the Angelino treats Tory’s soaring vocal track. Shloh’ heaps mounds of foreboding sub-bass and layers of percussion into the mix before deftly pulling back and leaving us with delicate resolution. Hopefully, this is just another brick in the wall of a successful long-term partnership.