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
"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
"The Blacker The Berry"
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
"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
25. SD: Truly Blessed (iHipHop Distribution)
It takes guts to step out on your own. It takes real guts to walk away from a successful situation to go solo. Sadiki "SD" Thirston has a lot of things (talent, vision, originality), but more than anything, he's got guts. Stepping away from GBE and the Chicago Read more
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“The Blacker The Berry”
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.
“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 patients, God, 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 disclooks set to be a stark rumination on the one character who has been most elusive in his rich catalog: the man himself.
“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 realization that the protagonist has moved on to someone new without actually moving on. Vocalist Ruth Radelet is both removed and present — like talking to someone who is thinking about something else — as she delivers line after crushing line. Johnny Jewel’s beautiful, minor synth lines frame Radelet’s words, further cementing the overwhelming gravity of the cycle she’s found herself in. Basically, it’s “Time is a Flat Circle” set to downtempo electro, and the result is one of the best songs of this young year.
“Nothing Less” Eyes on Me (self-released, out 02.24)
While the Bay Area scene is traditionally a tight knit one, it is far from insular. Home to a litany of sonically liberated, iconoclastic artists (dude, Lil B’s from here), the Bay’s always played well with others, and Richmond’s Iamsu is no exception. The 25 year-old and the members of his exciting HBK Gang have risen to be one of the most progressive collectives in modern music, and his twinkling collab with LA super-producer DJ Mustard is yet another example of that. “Nothing Less” is a laid-back look for two artists who have crafted their fair share of bangers, with Su’s easy flow gliding over Mustard’s surprisingly mellow keys. If you think the Bay’s only about hyphy, this is the kind of track to remind you what’s going on.
“Dru” (Peace Edit) Peace Edits (out in February on Gobstopper)
The Londoner’s incredible flip of Dru Hill’s classic “How Deep is Your Love?” is so much more than your standard remix. A master of vocal samples, Mitch manages to outdo himself here, twisting Sisqo and co’s vocals into a tightly coiled rope that unravels over five delightful minutes. Sparse, subtle melodic elements are then sprinkled in, perfectly framing the undulating vocals. With every new Peace Edit, the sound is moving further into a free-standing genre that is one of the most exciting in modern music.