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Images & Words: Ruston Kelly, “Faceplant”

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Ruston Kelly “Faceplant” Dying Star (out 09.07 Rounder) If you’re like me and have a soft spot for early Ryan Adams (specifically, Whiskeytown), Ruston Kelly’s sadsack alt-country will locate it and stick its talons straight through it. “Faceplant,” the fourth single off his second big project, is an honest, unflinching look at a time in his life where he was getting fucked up and fucking up, delivered through dusty, languid acoustic guitars. Though it’s far from a new sound, Kelly …

Future: “Translator”

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Future “Translator” Digital Single Fresh off one of his best projects, Fewtch is keeping the momentum going with a pair of tasty loose singles. Though “Scammalot” is a solid schemer’s anthem, the ultra-smooth “Translator” is the pick. The delirious vocal melodies recall a few of his classics — “Neva End” and “Magic” —  and this cut doesn’t nothing to dampen the feeling that the big man is well and truly back. 

Images & Words: DJ Khaled, “No Brainer” (f/ Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper)

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DJ Khaled “No Brainer” (f/ Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper) Father of Asahd (out in 2018 on Epic) Though the perennial Dad of the Year’s new star-studded single has been panned by some joyless outlets, “No Brainer” is the exact kind of breezy, summer blockbuster that Khaled and co. are so apt at cranking out. The Michael Bay of music, Khaled’s not going to be winning any gold statuettes with this one, but his A-list cast comes through with …

Images & Words: Foxing, “Nearer My God”

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Foxing “Nearer My God” Nearer My God (out 08.10 on Triple Crown) Though the St. Louis quartet has never hid their sonic ambitions, it feels like they’re REALLY shooting for the stars on their hyped third LP. First single, “Slapstick,” hinted at that, but the disc’s title track really underlines their widescreen ambitions. Vocalist Conor Murphy puts forth a sky-scraping vocal performance here, stretching his pained tenor right along with the ecstatic arrangement which wouldn’t sound out of place on an …

Images & Words: Blood Orange, “Jewelry” & “Charcoal Baby”

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Blood Orange “Jewelry” / “Charcoal Baby” Negro Swan (out 08.24 on Domino) Devonté Hynes returns with the first two tracks from his upcoming fourth LP as Blood Orange. Both tracks are affecting slices of the unique sound that he’s crafted, which features pieces of soul, R&B, indie rock, jazz, and pop. Though I’m trying not to get too carried away at this stage, both tracks feel important and could be big pieces of a truly special collection.

Images & Words: Tyler, The Creator x A$AP Rocky, “Potato Salad”

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Tyler, The Creator x A$AP Rocky “Potato Salad” Digital Single This super easy new single reminds me of two of my favorite videos: Odd Future’s freewheeling “Oldie” and A$AP Mob’s Pitchfork freestyle. Though both guys are capable of crafting thought-provoking music (especially, Tyler), they are both so potent when they’re having fun on toss-off tracks like this. I’d love to hear an entire project with the two of them going bar for bar.

070 Shake, “Accusations”

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070 Shake “Accusations” Digital Single (G.O.O.D. Music) Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music has been around for almost 15 years and has produced exactly one bona-fide star: Travis Scott. Aside from him, you’ve got perpetual nearly man Big Sean, professional mumbler Kid Cudi, and Teyana Taylor whose biggest musical moment involved dancing in a someone else’s music video. Not great, Kanye. Not great. For that reason, I’ve been a little slow on the 070 Shake bandwagon. Sure, her performances on Kanye’s turgid new …

Images & Words: Wet, “Lately”

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Wet “Lately” Still Run (out now on Columbia) I’ve waded slowly into the Brooklyn duo’s new project, mostly due to its pre-release singles being a little bit all over the place. However, the more I listen, the more I’ve found myself impressed with Kelly Zutrau’s evolution as a songwriter and — for all intents and purposes — solo artist. She deals most openly with this change on album centerpiece, “Lately,” the sweetest expression of frustration you’ll ever hear. Her voice …

Future, “Hate the Real Me”

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Future “Hate the Real Me” Beastmode 2 (out now on Epic) The peak of a quietly excellent year, Future goes super deep on his worthy follow-up to 2015’s legendary “Beast Mode” tape. Of all its stirring moments, nothing emotionally hits harder than its last track, as Future pours his heart out over triumphant, lush keys from the masterful Zaytoven. It’s hard to imagine another A-list artist speaking this honestly about his own pain and addiction (especially, while making it sound …

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2018 (So Far…)

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Somehow, some fucking way, 2018 is more than half over. And though it might feel like I always say this, I think this was the toughest list I’ve had to make yet. There’s been an overwhelming number of exciting, vital new voices popping up and plenty of fantastic follow-ups from people I already loved. Here’s my best effort at whittling the list down to about 30. I split it into two tiers. TIER 1: The Best of the Best: Early …