Elysia Crampton, Kelela & Adrian Piper
“Final Exam” / “Reference Track TF Scrape”
Anthem (The Vinyl Factory)
Experimental composer Elysia Crampton has been playing with Kelela’s voice for the last few years, so it’s exciting to hear the duo properly collaborate on two new tracks for the upcoming Total Freedom-produced soundtrack to the Read more
Dear Tommy (hopefully out soon on Italians Do It Better)
It's fitting that in the week we finally got the album formerly known as Boys Don't Cry, another long-awaited project looks set to poke its head out. The Johnny Jewel-fronted quartet famously announced that their follow-up to 2012's beloved Read more
Blonde (out now on Boys Don't Cry)
About two minutes into his long-awaited new album, Frank Ocean's pitched-up vocal hangs in the air and sings "RIP Trayvon. That n**ga look just like me." With that simple lyric, Ocean humanizes a young man whose life was taken in the most Read more
"Same to You" / "Longer"
Real (out now on Bloodshot)
While I — along with the rest of America — spent most of my weekend in a Blonde-induced k-hole (more on that later), I took a detour today to give the Columbus, OH singer-songwriter's fourth LP a couple of spins. What I Read more
blisters (out 09.02 on Tri Angle)
Though it's been out for a couple of weeks, I had to write a little bit about the second single from Jonah Wise's debut EP for Tri Angle. Like the spellbinding, "flickering," "blisters" is a mesmeric, unique ballad with devotional touches that pairs Wise's haunting vocals Read more
Itasca “No Consequence” Open to Change (out 09.30 on Paradise of Bachelors)
Just a week away from the most anticipated release of her career, Kayla Cohen drops Open to Change’s beautiful, dusty third single. The LA-based singer-songwriter has a knack for crafting gentle, soothing folk music with a hints of darkness and palpable atmospheres. And on “No Consequence,” she uses a languid slide guitar line to get the desired effect, expertly framing her sublime vocals and nimble fingerpicking. Suffice it to say, I cannot wait to hear the rest of this thing.
Elysia Crampton, Kelela & Adrian Piper “Final Exam” / “Reference Track TF Scrape” Anthem (The Vinyl Factory) Experimental composer Elysia Crampton has been playing with Kelela’s voice for the last few years, so it’s exciting to hear the duo properly collaborate on two new tracks for the upcoming Total Freedom-produced soundtrack to the 9th Berlin Biennale. Part of the joy of Crampton’s music is its ambiguity, and these tracks both live in that space — part finished product, part work in progress. Kelela’s aqueous, evocative vocals are the perfect foil for Crampton’s productions that are often both soothing and chaotic. While there is no inkling of a potential collaborative album between these two longterm Thunder Penguin faves, it won’t stop me from dreaming about it.
Abhi / Dijon “Ignore”
Digital Single We all have at least one “DON’T ANSWER” in our phonebooks, and the ultra-smooth Maryland R&B duo’s new single is an ode to the goons of our past who had either broke our heart, creeped us out, or let us down. And next time you are contemplating picking up when they invariably call or text, remember the sage wisdom of this song. One word, six letters: I G N O R E.
How To Dress Well “Can’t You Tell” Care (out 09.23 on Domino) Ignoring the awkward, highly sus “consent pop” tag that Tom Krell is running with, Care‘s third single should delight the Colorado native’s growing fanbase. “Can’t You Tell” is a slab of swooning soft pop that is mostly about the very legitimate joys of fucking someone you actually care about. Sonically, the single also affirms Krell’s love of the emotional radio pop of yesteryear and highlights its increasing influence, recalling artists like Everything But the Girl and Simply Red.
“Period Piece” Blood Bitch (out 09.30 on Sacred Bones) We are now just two weeks away from hearing the Norwegian composer’s hugely anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Apocalypse, girl — my second favorite album of last year. Third single, “Period Piece,” tells the story of a trip to the OBGYN with an foreboding bassline, spare percussion, and faraway synths. Though the mood is unsettling, Hval reassures us that we shouldn’t be afraid because “it’s only blood.”
“The Best You Ever Had” Bury Your Name (out 09.23 on Sacred Bones) After already gracing us with one album of her trademark pastoral folk this year (the gorgeous, Strangers), the Boston singer-songwriter is supplementing it with a spare collection of home recordings. Our first taste, “The Best You Ever Had,” strips back Strangers‘ fuller arrangements to little more than a contemplative fingerpicked guitar, her evocative vocals, and light touches of keys. It’s both a satisfying nod to her early work and an indication of just how far she’s come over the last 10+ years.
Cusp “Adam” Digital Single (out now on TAR) Cusp is a collaboration between three up-and-coming UK artists — Xeno, Buchanan, and Kai Whiston (pictured) — and Louisiana-based producer Joe Petersen. While details about the group are still scare, this track is a tasty, noisy slab of future grime, pairing busy percussion with shadowy walls of synth. Any track this dense runs the risk of tipping over, but “Adam” strikes a balance masterfully, exploding with ideas without overflowing into a mess.
“Dear Tommy” Dear Tommy (hopefully out soon on Italians Do It Better) It’s fitting that in the week we finally got the album formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry, another long-awaited project looks set to poke its head out. The Johnny Jewel-fronted quartet famously announced that their follow-up to 2012’s beloved Kill For Love would be out in time for Valentine’s Day…in 2015. Now 18 months later, we still don’t have a release date, but we have a tracklist — A TRACKLIST! — and its gorgeous, amorphous title track.
This is is the sixth of 17 songs we’ve heard from the record, and along with “Just Like You” (one of the best songs of last year), it’s one of the strongest of the lot. The best Chromatics songs are their most dramatic and cinematic ones. And “Dear Tommy” sounds like it should be soundtracking a Wilder or Polanski movie with its palatial keyboards, slow-mo bassline, and Jewel’s evocative falsetto. We may not have a release date yet, but as Frank taught us this week, good things come to those who wait.
“Nikes” Blonde (out now on Boys Don’t Cry) About two minutes into his long-awaited new album, Frank Ocean’s pitched-up vocal hangs in the air and sings “RIP Trayvon. That n**ga look just like me.” With that simple lyric, Ocean humanizes a young man whose life was taken in the most inhumane way possible before being dehumanized repeatedly by media vultures and the uniformed, endless social media echo chamber. Throughout his career, the 28 year-old has consistently demonstrated this ability to nonchalantly craft disarming, truly powerful poetry in layman’s prose — rewriting the rules of engagement with a shrug of the shoulders. It’s perhaps the most valuable and rarest of his very many talents.
In many ways, Blonde feels like his best work yet, surpassing the hugely underrated Nostalgia, Ultra. That said, I want to sit with it for a week before I make a judgement, but early returns are incredibly impressive.
“Same to You” / “Longer” Real (out now on Bloodshot) While I — along with the rest of America — spent most of my weekend in a Blonde-induced k-hole (more on that later), I took a detour today to give the Columbus, OH singer-songwriter’s fourth LP a couple of spins. What I found was rock-solid songwriting and delicious guitarwork with a welcome dose of Whiskeytown vibes. The disc’s first two tracks — “Same to You” and “Longer” — highlight all of those traits, along with Loveless’ powerful, evocative vocal. At first listen, Real will hit all of your alt-country nostalgia pressure points (if you have them). But I have a pretty good feeling that over time, it will do a helluva lot more than that.