Driftless Ambient 1 (out 09.23 on Driftless)
Montreal’s Michael Silver drops a lovely, gauzy piece for an upcoming compilation from Joel Ford’s Driftless Records. Though Silver has been putting out more vocal music in the last year or so — especially on 2013′s brilliant, Outside — he returns to his instrumental roots here, crafting a lithe piano rumination to get lost in. Though it starts quietly, “Prisma” deftly builds to a satisfying climax that recedes nearly as quickly it presents itself.
Swim Deep EP (out 10.27 on Wichita Recordings)
About six months on from his tasty Flags mixtape, shadowy vocalist/producer Brolin returns with a supple, romantic new single. There’s not a lot of personal info about the soft-voiced Brit floating around, but his penetrating vocals and heartfelt lyrics tell quite the story. Like much of his work, “Swim Deep” carries a vulnerability that is disarming and relatable, and his direct songwriting brings you into his reality immediately.
“Call Across Rooms”
Ruins (out October 31 on Kranky)
Any day Liz Harris announces a new album is a good day to be alive; and when that announcement comes with a new song, life is just the best. “Call Across Rooms,” the first single from the Portlander’s forthcoming 10th LP, is a slab of trademark Harris gorgeosity of the highest order. Her delicate vocal creeps over a weary piano line, sounding simultaneously present and a million miles away. Many ambient artists struggle to let the listener in, due to the roots of the shutters closed, otherworldly genre. However, Harris has always been able to tiptoe that line, drawing the blinds just enough to let cracks of light illuminate the overwhelming beauty of the shrouded interior. Listen up, because this is the sound of a genius at the peak of her powers.
There are plenty of fascinating things about the Detroit MC’s blazing viral hit: her singsong flow, its twinkling beat, the fact that a Drake co-sign basically guarantees millions of plays in 2014. Most interestingly to me is when, at 2:40, she sings, “I ain’t signing to no label, bitch I’m independent.”
While it must be tough to resist a record company advance (which she may or may not get offered), at this point, it seems like a wise career move. Compare Migos to Trinidad James. The Atlanta trio may not have gotten that advance, but James’ career has totally stalled. So often, in the arms race for young talent, labels sign artists that they have no clue how to empower. Or, maybe she should just stick with Drizzy. It certainly seems to be working for ILoveMakonnen.
“minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]“
Syro (out 09.19 on Warp)
After 13 years in the woods, Da Gawd Richard D. James is finally ready to grace us with another full-length effort, his sixth. Our first taste of it is this aqueous, surprisingly accessible affair, especially when you consider his last LP, 2001′s challenging Drukqs. James mixes up a buoyant bass-line, heady synth filigree, and a disembodied vocal to form a stunning five-minute opus that cries out for repeat listens. It’s exactly the kind of piece so many hoped for, in that it sounds like James is mining new territory, while staying true to his Aphex Twin-osity. James has never been a singles artist (save, perhaps, the timeless “Come to Daddy”), which fills me with hope that the rest of Syro will live up to this high standard. Bring on the 19th.
“Jaws of Life”
Soft (out 10.28 on DFA)
I awoke Tuesday morning to a delightful email. The Berlin-based crooner’s long-awaited debut LP finally has a release date, and in “Jaws of Life,” I got a third taste of the ten-song effort. Like nearly all of his bulletproof back catalogue, “Jaws of Life” lurches along at a languid pace, smearing Bodan’s pillow top soft tenor over a romantic arraignment. He’s always been an exquisite storyteller, armed with a disarming, graceful voice. However, his exceedingly rare ability to weave lustful tales that tiptoe on the borderline between romance, playfulness and downright lecherousness is what really sets him apart. I mean, not a lot of artists can make “tourist dick” sound charming, but somehow Bodan can. “Jaws of Life” is yet another positive step towards what may culminate in one of the best albums of 2014.
“Leave Me Alone” (f/ Shay Lia)
So Bad EP (out this fall on XL)
The lead single from Kaytranada’s new effort is a gorgeous, downtempo effort and yet another reminder of how well the 21 year-old treats female vocals. Kay builds a sweltering arrangement around the muted coo of fellow Montreal resident, Shay Lia. Like a lot of his work, “Leave Me Alone” lives in the the grey area between R&B and deep house, resulting in a track that works as well in the club as it does on your earbuds.
“Hold You Down” (f/ Jeremih, August Alsina, Chris Brown, Future)
I Changed A Lot (out this year on We The Best)
DJ Khaled is probably an amazing dude. He’s the guy who knows absolutely everybody and has an encyclopedic contact list. He’s always down hang out, and he’ll probably even drive and smoke you out on the way. Basically, he seems like the best dude ever. For that reason, he’s responsible for some of the most fun crew anthems of the last few years, and “Hold You Down” qualifies as one of his best. Enlisting four of the hottest vocalists in R&B/hip-hop, Khaled coordinates a slow jam as palatial and luxurious as the foyer in his Miami mansion. If live was fair, this would be the song of the summer. Another one, indeed.
Make sure to check out the equally lavish video, if for no other reason than to enjoy Khaled’s wonderful acting. YOU SMAHT. YOU VERY SMAHT.
“Come Down Softly”
Minus Tide (out Sept 9 on Cascine)
In the last few months, the Brooklyn-via-San Francisco outfit has quietly unleashed three tasty pre-release singles, and “Come Down Softly” is the kind of nostalgic synth ballad that they excel at. Frankly, I was surprised that their 2012 LP, Diver, didn’t make more of an impression, and it feels like they should be a much bigger band than they are. Hopefully Minus Tide will be the thing that finally breaks that door down.
After the End (out August 25 on 4AD)
In the unrelenting deluge of new music that greets listeners every week, it’s impossible not to completely whiff on a number of very good bands. Merchandise is one of those bands for me. Even though I am complete sucker for their brand of moody, atmospheric The Smiths/The Cure/Depeche Mode worship, both of their critically acclaimed efforts — 2012′s Children of Desire and 2013′s Totale Night — flew right across my radar screen. Luckily, I gave the Tampa group’s deftly majestic, “Green Lady,” a spin. Vocalist Carson Cox’s sneer-y baritone hints at a lifetime of listening to the great British singers of the 80′s (and 90s-ish). His voice is highlighted by an evocative arrangment, washed with swabs of synth and reverb-laden guitars. I may be late to the party, but I’m glad I finally decided to show up.