Images & Words: KAMI, “Payload”

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KAMI “Payload” Superstar (Self-Released) Not sure how I missed the Chicago native’s 2017 EP, Superstar, but I’m damn glad I found it. The Savemoney affiliate just graced the disc’s second track with a similarly energetic video. Kami is one of those rappers who doesn’t save hooks for choruses, and his bars are teaming with melodies that will get stuck in your head. Definitely one to watch in 2018.

Sufjan Stevens, “Tonya Harding”

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Sufjan Stevens “Tonya Harding” Digital Single One of those songs that came out while I was writing my year-end list, I wanted to come back to Sufjan’s wonderful, heartfelt tribute to fellow Oregonian Tonya Harding. Though he seems like an interesting guy, Stevens excels at writing about others — approaching his subjects with a journalist’s eye for detail and a screenwriter’s narrative touch. There’s a palpable tenderness and love in those songs, and it’s clear that the 42 year-old goes to great lengths to get inside his characters, presenting …

Best of 17: My Favorite Albums of 2017

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31. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. Aftermath/Interscope After pouring so much — sonically and emotionally — into his masterful, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” it’s understandable that Kendrick followed it up with the most stripped-down record of his career. Though nowhere near as essential as TPAB (or even “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”), there’s a ton to like on the back half of this disc, from ridiculous feats of storytelling (“FEAR.” “DUCKWORTH.”) to a pair of tender, insightful love songs (“LOVE.” “LOYALTY.”). Start With: “LOYALTY.” …

Best of ’17: The Best Songs of 2017

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So that’s it. 6 years of ThunderPenguin are in the books. As always, here’s a round-up of my favorite songs of the year. This was one of the toughest lists I’ve ever made, and I hope something on this list brings you the light it brought me. Thanks so much for reading this year. Love you guys. Though it’s missing some things, you can listen to most of this list on this Spotify Playlist. 66. (Sandy) Alex G “Sportstar” Rocket (Domino) Easily the weirdest …

River Tiber, “Patience”

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River Tiber “Patience” Digital Single It’s year-end list season at ThunderPenguin HQ, so I’ve been a little slow on new music. That said, this soulful new track from the Toronto R&B singer stopped me in my tracks. “Patience” begins as a smoky-room, late-night jazz ballad before building to a pair of unexpected, powerful crescendos.

The-Dream: “It’s Yo Birthday”

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The-Dream “It’s Yo Birthday” Digital Single Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of The-Dream’s classic debut, “Love Hate.” And to celebrate, San Terius dropped with sleepy, low-key bedroom cut that feels like it could have been a B-side from those sessions. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for the 40 year-old who has long been hinting that a new project is on the way.

Nicolas Jaar, “Wildflowers”

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Nicolas Jaar “Wildflowers” Sirens (Deluxe Edition) (out now on Other People) One of the new tracks from the re-up of his excellent 2016 album Sirens, “Wildflowers” is a perfect distillation of Jaar’s rare ability to craft a singular sound that’s both recognizable and amorphous. In other words, his sound is impossible to explain, but you also know it when you hear it. Built around aqueous guitar chords, drippy percussion, and his faraway falsetto, the track meanders through layers of sonic haze before resolving with an emotional crescendo.

Images & Words: G Perico, “Affiliated”

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G Perico “Affiliated” 2 Tha Left (out 12.08 on So Way Out) Though he’s already dropped two rock-solid projects this year, the LA MC isn’t done feeding the streets this year. “Affiliated” is yet another example of Perico’s potent sound, which recalls a bygone era when California ruled the hip-hop. That said, the 29 year-old is far from an imitator and is infinitely more interested in writing new history than trying to recreate someone else’s.

Images & Words: Smerz, “Have Fun”

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Smerz “Have Fun” Digital Single The rising Norwegian deconstructed electro-pop duo come through with one of their most potent tracks to date. Vocalists Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg nonchalantly glide through proceedings, mantrically repeating “nothing is embarrassing” over lazy sci-fi synths and bouncy percussion. In short,”Have Fun” sounds like a disassociated party jam for an event that probably looked a lot more fun on Instagram than it actually was to attend.

Prins Thomas, Å (Pional Piano Mix)

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Prins Thomas “Å” (Pional Piano Mix) Prins Thomas 5 (out now on Prins Thomas Musikk) On Friday, the Norwegian vet dropped a tasty new collection of his trademark spacey disco. Though the record is totally worth your time, my favorite song from the project actually wasn’t even on it. This sweltering remix from Spanish producer Pional raises the excellent “Å” to rapturous new heights with some languid, super effective piano work. Like the best house music, this track builds gradually, rising and receding deftly before …