Lil Uzi Vert, "New Patek"


Lil Uzi Vert "New Patek" Digital Single Easily one of most joyful songs of the year, the hyperactive, hypertalented Philadelphian returns with six (6!) electric minutes of swirling, tuneful hip-hop. Over Dolan Beats' glorious crystallized piano keys and tiptoeing hi-hats, Uzi goes the fuck in as only he can, slaloming through the beat Read more

Images & Words: How To Dress Well, "Nonkilling 6 | Hunger"


How to Dress Well "Nonkilling 6 | Hunger" The Anteroom (out 10.19 on Domino) Though it was a little bit buried on my "Favorite Songs of 2018, So Far.." list, I'm extremely excited about the experimental direction Tom Krell seems to be going in on his fifth LP. This stunning two-parter pairs Read more

Wild Pink, "Mount Erie"


Wild Pink “Lake Erie” Yolk in the Fur (out now on Tiny Engines) Though I’m about six months late to the NYC trio’s outstanding second LP, I’m extremely glad that I finally found it. While their AM Radio sound has been relentlessly compared to War on Drugs, frontman John Ross is such Read more

Mitski, "Two Slow Dancers"


Mitski "Two Slow Dancers" Be The Cowboy (out 08.17 on Matador) Every slow dance with someone you care about feels like a moment suspended in time. I mean, that's the point, right? Your hands are tied, your bodies are connected, and even your gaze is limited. Mitski, the fantastic New York songwriter, Read more

Future, "Hate the Real Me"


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 Read more

Album Reviews

Under the Radar: Yaroze Dream Suite, Yaroze Dream Suite

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screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-11-48-40-amYaroze Dream Suite
Yaroze Dream Suite
Local Action
Back in October, grime futurists Yamaneko and Mr. Mitch dropped a delicious, sparese 4-song collaborative project that I somehow neglected to write about. The duo’s emotional, genre-bending sound may not grab you at first listen, as it isn’t big on hooks. But the more time you spend with it, the deeper it’ll drag you out to the outer reaches of its galaxy, exposing new surprises along the way with each successive listen.

Album Review: m83, Junk

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M83
Junk
Mute Records

On the dawn of his seventh album — more than 10 years into his career as M83 — Anthony Gonzalez was confronted with massive stakes. His sky-scraping power ballad “Midnight City” had catapulted the unassuming Frenchman on to the mainstage of the festival circuit and mainstream rock radio, changing both his financial position and his artistic one. He could have easily cranked out another album of life-affirming, neon synth pop and spent the summer melting the faces of adoring festival crowds. But ever the contrarian, Gonzalez returned with the strangest album of his long, varied career.

Junk is a sprawling journey into the emotional heart of a kid who came of age in the 80s, obsessed with the magic of daytime radio and cable TV. You can hear traces of Jean Michel Jarre, Bruce Hornsby, acid house, 80s sitcom themes, late disco, and even some Andrew Lloyd Webber on this thing, but Gonzalez’s ever-present voice keeps it all together — usually in synthesizer form — benevolently guiding you onward, like that giant flying dog from the Never-Ending Story. And while there are a few big whoosh, Coachella jams (“Road Blaster,” “Go!”), much of these tracks are a million light-years away. There’s the wistful, Crocodile Rock of “Atlantique Sud,” a beautiful duet sung all in French. Standout “Walkway Blues” features Balearic touches and a dramatic chorus. And the instrumental, Vaporwave-y “Moon Crystal” sounds like a game show theme, while “Tension” features gently arpeggiated guitar that recalls Queensryche (seriously!).

All that said, the best of Junk comes in a stunning trio of ballads. “For the Kids” could have been lifted from the golden age of musicals, with the incredible Suzanne Sundfør gliding over a timeless piano melody. Gonzalez takes back over vocal duties on “Solitude,” which feels most like a traditional, M83 ballad. His vocal is enveloped in a lush, stirring string arrangement that builds way to a gloriously schlocky crescendo. He saves the best for last, signing off with the crushing, celestial “Sunday Night 1987.” Penned for the late, legendary sound engineer, Julia Brightly, it is a quiet, contemplative way to sign off on a loud album that is full of ideas.

“Julia, Alexander. Let me feel you all, love” sings Gonzalez in closing, offering us insight into the driving force behind why he makes the kind of music he makes. He could have used his newfound mega-stardom to try to blow out a direction he’s already nailed, but when faced with the biggest stakes of his career, he decided to follow his heart and take the biggest possible risks.

Listen to the whole thing on Spotify.

Album Review: Tink, “Winter’s Diary 3”

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Tink
Winter’s Diary 3

This one’s been out for a while, but I feel like it hasn’t really gotten the play its deserved. The third installment of her bulletproof Winter’s Diary series, this tape is a lean, sharp collection that skews toward her R&B side rather than her rap one. That’s good news for me, as her lovesick slow jams couldn’t be any more up my alley, and tearjerkers like “H2O,” “I Like” and “There’s Somebody Else” recall the golden period R&B that melts my little 90s heart.

That said, the ten-song set is balanced with some edginess, courtesy of bangers like “Very Very Special,” “Route 42 to San Fran,” and the masterful, surprisingly poppy “Afterparty.” The latter is another example of the Chicago native’s exceptional versatility, and it would probably be a radio smash if it was a Rihanna track. The traces of her highly publicized and not particularly fruitful working relationship with Timbaland are conspicuously sparse here with Timbo relegated to production of a single song, the tame “L.E.A.S.H.” While I worry that her new mentor and unrealistic expectations (“New Aaliyah” LOL) may hold her long-awaited debut LP back, as long as she keeps churning out mixtapes this good, who really cares about a great album?

8.5/10

The Most Anticipated Albums of The Fall (Part 2)

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Dan Bodan
Soft
(10.28, DFA)
After what feels like an eternity, the Berlin-based crooner is finally ready to drop his debut LP. I instantly fell in love with Bodan’s lithe, gracefully salacious sound on 2012’s bulletproof Aaron/DP 12″ single. Since then, he’s continued to crank out diverse, unclassifiable tunes that consistently challenge how pop music is supposed to sound and what pop singers are supposed to sing about. In his music, nothing is taboo. Whether it’s a lounge lizard sax solo, trancey synths, an earnest cover of a jazz standard, or a soliloquy about a particularly memorable blowjob, everything is in play. And that’s what makes Bodan such a fearless artist and one of the most fascinating musicians of 2014.
Giddy-O-Meter: 10/10

Future
Monster
(10.28, FREEBANDZ)
Fresh off the crushing (for me and presumably, them) dissolution of his relationship with Ciara, Future graces us with his second full-length release of the year. While his eyeroll-y recent collab with Wiz Khalifa, “Pussy Overrated,” gives me pause about this release, the presence of executive producer Metro Boomin and the 30 year-old’s stellar track record gets me back on board.
Giddy-O-Meter: 8/10

Young Chop
Still
(10.28, Chop Squad)
Last week, I wrote about the Chicago producer’s impressive maturation over the last two and half years. After taking over the world with the ubiquitous “I Don’t Like,” Chop has steadfastly refused to be put in a box, and pre-release singles suggest that Still will serve as a culmination of 30 months of non-stop work and melodic experimentation. In interviews, Chop (né Tyree Pittman) comes off as a gregarious, genuine, super driven guy, and it’s great to see all of those traits keep paying off for him.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Grouper
Ruins
(10.31, Kranky)
Liz Harris recorded much of her 10th LP, Ruins, all the way back in 2011, whilst on an artist’s residency program on the southwestern coast of Portugal. Evidently, the Oregon resident stumbled upon a new kind of alchemy while there, because she managed to bottle up the region’s impossible beauty and distill it into eight gorgeous songs. Armed with mostly just a piano and her intimate, disarming voice, Harris crafted an album to savor and one of her most human, direct statements ever. It’s another unique effort from one of the finest musicians working today.
Giddy-O-Meter: 10/10

Arca
Xen
(11.04, Hippos In Tanks)
I’ll be honest, I have no idea what to expect when it comes to Alejandro “Arca” Ghersi’s debut LP. The eclectic, Venezualen producer has lit up high profile collaborations with Kanye West and FKA Twigs, and last year’s beguiling, &&&&&,was one of best mixtapes of 2013. That said, Xen seems likely to be a different animal altogether, and its mesmeric lead single, “Thievery,” features unsettling, witch-housey (I know, I know) instrumentation and an intoxicating, shuffling backbeat. I have no clue what the record will sound like, but when it comes to Arca, that’s kinda the point.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Dean Blunt
Black Metal
(11.04, Rough Trade)
Speaking of “who the fuck knows,” the mercurial Londoner’s second solo release is also sure to confound and delight openminded listeners. After his split with Inga Copeland — who dropped the incredible Because I’m Worth It back in May — the ex-Hype Williams man has continued his prolific, mellon-twisting output as a solo artist. The Redeemer was one of the most divisive, peculiar records of last year, and the songs we’ve heard from Black Metal point to a slightly more streamlined, albeit still pretty fucking weird sound.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.5/10

Deptford Goth
Songs
(11.04, 37 Adventures)
Life After Defo, the southeast London songwriter’s debut LP was one of the most underrated albums of 2012, and I actually don’t blame music critics for that Everything about Daniel Woolhouse is understated. His warm, restrained vocals. His spare, windswept arrangements. Hell, even his face in promos is mostly obscured, either by his sadboi poses or his barista-level beard. That said, if you spend some time with his music, you’ll likely find that it’ll open up to you and reveal its quietly majestic properties.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Ryan Hemsworth
Alone for the First
(11.04, Last Gang)
If you’ve been following the Canadian DJ/producer’s career somewhat closely, you saw this one coming. Wiped out by the late nights, constant travel, loud music, and lonely hotel rooms of life as a touring DJ, Hemsworth’s second LP is the quietest, most reflective work of his career. The 7-song set is led by his lovely Dawn Golden-assisted, long distance relationship jam, “Snow in Newark.” Not much of a singer himself, Alone for the First Time enlists a talented guest-list, including Alex G, Lontalius, and lithe Swedish vocalist Little Cloud.
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.5/10

18+
Trust
(11.11, Houndstooth)
Like an NC-17 version of the XX, the shadowy duo’s darkly seductive jams will slink their way on to that “special” playlist we all have on our laptops. Built around the dual vocals of members Samia and Justin (who also serves as their main beatmaker), 18+ stews elements of hip-hop, goth, bedroom R&B, and downtempo electro into an intoxicating sonic elixir. While last year’s mixtape showed incredible potential, Trust boasts much improved production value that should take them to the next level.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.5/10

Antony and the Johnsons
Turning
(11.11, Secretly Canadian)
While it’s not really a new album, Antony’s concert film/live album that chronicles the extraordinary stories of 13 women over the backdrop of the Mercury Prize winner’s exquisite chamber pop looks like a revelation. Besides being one of the finest live performers I’ve ever seen, Antony’s music and personal stories (and surely the ones featured in this documentary) are extremely inspiring and enlightening, and I personally can’t wait to sit down an enjoy Turning in full.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Andy Stott
Faith in Strangers
(11.17, Modern Love)
Let’s be real, no matter what the pre-release singles sounded like, a fanboi like me was always going to fawn over any new Andy Stott record. That said, when they’re this fucking good, you can’t really blame me. The two songs in question — “Violence” and “Faith in Strangers” — highlight his mastery of managing sonic space and his originality as a producer and songwriter. The Mancunian producer’s last LP, Luxury Problems, made my Top 5 of 2012 list, and there’s no reason his next one can’t do one better this year.
Giddy-O-Meter: 10/10

RL Grime
Void
(11.17, WeDidIt)
It’s been a helluva year for the futurists in LA’s WeDidIt Collective. 2014 saw quality releases from core members Groundislava and Shlohmo, along with a stream of exquisite remixes and one-off singles. So it’s only fitting that (arguably) their biggest star, RL Grime (né Henry Steinway), is set to bookend their year with his debut LP. Akin to maximalist, hands-up producers like Hudson Mohawke, it’ll be fascinating to see how Steinway balances club bangers with more pop-focused tracks, like his swirling collaboration with How to Dress Well.
Giddy-O-Meter: 8/10

The Most Anticipated Albums of the Fall (Part One)

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Summer is over, and the best part of the year is upon us. 2014’s fall release schedule is already packed with tons of sonic goodness, which, at any moment, could be bolstered by the emergence of long-rumored new releases from the likes of Kanye, Kendrick, Frank Ocean, and many others. Here’s part one of our round-up of the best stuff with firm release dates.

Aphex Twin
Syro
(09.23, Warp)
We’ll kick off the list with the big one: electronic music demigod Richard D. James’ first LP in 13 years. One of the most influential, restless artists in modern music, James has made a career out of refusing to sit still and make the music others want him to. Syro looks set to be another fascinating chapter in his illustrious career.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.999/10

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The Best Albums of 2014 (So Far)

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As I am writing this the day after the NBA Draft, I’ve decided to break my favorite albums into tiers. These are my current contenders for Album of the Year. Dig in.


TIER 1: THE FAVORITE

Sun Kil Moon: Benji (Caldo Verde)

Not a lot of people make their greatest album at age 47. Of course, the difficulty of that feat is compounded when you have a back catalogue as essential as Mark Kozelek. I’ll probably need at least five years to decide whether the near-perfect, Benji, will age like the seminal RollercoasterGhosts of the Great Highway, or Songs for a Blue Guitar. Hell, last year’s Mark Kozelek & Desertshore, an album nobody seemed to give a shit about, was my second favorite album of last year. Suffice it to say, the former Red House Painter has previous.

But the fact that I (and many others) am even considering its place in the Koz’s canon means Benji is one hell of an album. It is. Its 11 songs set a new standard in musical storytelling. Over his trademark, masterful mostly nylon-stringed pickin’, the Ohio native digs into his past, weaving insightful, poetic narratives about the ensemble cast that has stumbled into his life. Yes, he almost always starts at the end. But if you think this album is only focused on death, you aren’t listening carefully. This is an album about life. It’s about finding depth and beauty in the tiny lives we live and the deaths we die. If you ever wondered whether anything we do has any meaning, give Benji a spin, and see if you can’t be convinced.

TIER 2: THE CONTENDERS

How to Dress Well: What is this Heart? (Weird World)
One of the (many) great things about Tom Krell’s unforgettable debut, Love Remains, is that its architect was shrouded in mystery. We had a name, but there was no face, no printed lyrics, and hardly a clear, human voice under all that sonic mist. Like watching a gripping drama through drawn curtains, it was beautiful but sometimes totally incomprehensible.

Now, four years later, the curtains haven’t only opened. Krell has stuck his head out the window and invited us into his bedroom to flip through his dream book and read all the letters under his bed. The result is a masterpiece of craft and bravery, as the Chicago resident leads us on an arresting journey through his myriad influences (pre-release mixtape, NO WORDS TO SAY, is essential listening), psyche, and desire to understand the things that make us most human. A fucking knockout.

August Alsina: Testimony (Def Jam)
While the critics have mostly ignored the New Orleanian’s first proper LP, Testimony is one of the best debuts I’ve heard in a long time. Anyone with ears can appreciate his vocal talent, but he’s one of the rare vocalists who also brings serious songwriting and storytelling chops to the table. Really, it’s that storytelling that really sets him apart. For a 21 year-old, he has a bewildering array of stories to tell. Whether he’s dealing with the death of his brother (“Testify”), being homeless (“Right There”), or admitting his flaws as a lover (“You Deserve”), Alsina’s honesty and erudite perspective is a breath of fresh air in a scene where those kinds of feelings are at a premium.

Anybody who has successfully navigated such pitfalls better have a buoyant, resilient spirit, and the Radio Killa has that in spades. He attacks every topic with a weightless swagger, manifested by his effortless tenor. He is as adept at crafting club bangers (last year’s monster hit, “I Luv This Shit”), as he is classic love songs (“Kissin’ On My Tattoos”), gospel-tinged numbers (“Benediction”), moody strip club cuts (“Get Ya’ Money”), and feelingz-free boner jams (“No Love”). Hell, even the clumsy, Kellz-ian raunch of “Porn Star” works, even though it should be a disaster. Debut albums are meant to introduce you to an artist, and Testimony tells me that Alsina is one of the most talented new R&B singers in recent memory and one who will be around for years to come.



Future: Honest (Epic/Free Bandz)
It’s easy to forget how different hip-hop was in April 2012, when Nayvadius “Future” Wilburn released his audacious, influential debut, Pluto. When it dropped, nothing, I mean nothing, sounded like it. He was initially derided for not being a non-lyrical, non-singing (UGH AUTOTUNE) sensitive thug, who wasn’t really enough of anything to move the needle. However, those who listened closely found that Pluto was the sound of an infinitely creative, sonically curious artist who had the balls to deal openly with his feelings.

Two years later, everybody sounds like Future. What does the consummate outsider do when he becomes Empire? Just keep doing you. Honest still sounds like an album only Wilburn could make, highlighting his elastic voice, evocative songwriting, and singular personality. In fact, the only clunkers on the lean, sharp 12-song set are the ones where he sounds least like himself, namely the just-ok, radio-rap-by-numbers “Move That Dope” and the forced Andre 3000 collab, “Benz Friendz” (Whatchutola). Its best, most Future moment is saved for last. On gorgeous closer, “Blood, Sweat, Tears,” where Wilburn free associates a heartfelt confessional about how he got here and where he’s going. At this point, it seems like the 4.67 billion miles to Pluto is merely a rest stop on an even greater journey.

TIER 3: THE FRINGE CONTENDERS

The War on Drugs: Lost In The Dream
With song titles like, “Disappearing,” “Suffering,” and “In Reverse,” it doesn’t take a genius to decipher that the man behind The War on Drugs’ third LP might have been going through a bit of a tough time. Surprise, surprise, frontman Adam Granduciel spent much of the early process going through a break-up, and goddamn, you can feel it. That said, this is far from a sad-sack affair, as Lost in the Dream poignantly and deftly captures the range of emotions you go through when you have to start over. While there may be precious little lyrical light to be found, the Philly native’s warm synths and cleansing guitar work act as a sort of sonic flashlight, reminding you that there is always light just around the corner. The result is an affecting post-mortem, that feels more like a refueling than a dead end.

Lewis: L’Amour (Light in the Attic)
Light In The Attic’s reclamation of the forgotten Canadian singer-songwriter’s only recorded LP (originally put out in 1983) was one of the fascinating stories of the year. We may never learn anything about the man who created it, but now, at least, we can celebrate his achievement. Though it is oft-compared to Springsteen’s Nebraska (probably one of the ten best LPs of all-time), I see it as a really singular album, like a musical message in a bottle that just washed ashore one day. Lewis’ hushed, sometimes unintelligible vocals are unforgettable, especially when paired with this caliber of arrangements, ripe with transportative synths and impeccable finger-picked guitar. It’s an artifact that we are damn lucky to have.


Copeland: Because I’m Worth It (self-released)
It takes Inga Copeland all of two minutes of her proper debut LP to reintroduce us to her Inga-ness. First track, “Faith OG X,” opens with lurching, delicious dollops of sub-bass. Just when it sounds like the beat’s going to kick in, a piercing, high-pitched tone materializes, leaving the rest of the song a painful experience to get through. Even on the most streamlined, digestible album of her career, the ex-Hype Williams member wants to challenge you. The rest of the disc’s seven tracks highlight her singular sound and prodigious talent. Because I’m Worth It somehow manages to sashay into nearly all corners of the musical spectrum (sometimes in just one song) without ever feeling disjointed or slapped together. It’s a rare trait that she (and her ex-partner in crime, Dean Blunt) has carried with her for her whole career. We have never had any clue where she is going next, but wherever it is, we know she’ll bring her Inga-ness with her.

Ricky Eat Acid, Three Love Songs (Orchid Tapes)
You’d be hard pressed to find an artist who has wielded more influence over music than Aubrey Drake Graham, and that influence doesn’t end in hip-hop. Take, Maryland-based bedroom producer, Sam Ray. If it wasn’t for the incredible, tongue-twisting Drake sample he employed in “In My Dreams We’re Almost Touching,” his gorgeously esoteric debut album would have likely never made its way into my earbuds. Lucky for me, it did, because Three Love Songs is an album that is alive like few others: a collage of sonic polaroids, dusty backroads, and fire-and-brimstone preachers. These days, few albums have such an engulfing quality, drawing you into a 360-degree environment in the way that great films, literature, and TV do. Though the story is challenging, opaque, and quite creepy at first glance, successive listens will draw you deeper into Ray’s fascinating, murky world, revealing an underbelly of resplendent light, understanding, and love just below the surface.

Real Estate, Atlas (Domino)
There are very few bands who start their career with three great albums, but even fewer of those groups have gotten better with each successive LP. The Brooklyn-based quintet’s exquisite third LP puts them in that rarified air, thanks to their understated songwriting mastery and signature lush guitarwork. Real Estate albums have always sounded brilliant, but none has said as much as Atlas. Lyricist/principle vocalist Martin Courtney is recently married and is about to have a child, and instead of focusing on nostalgia and growing up, he turns his focus to the present tense, writing articulately about the fears of commitment that so many of us share. Songs like “How Might I Live?” and “Crime” are dripping with self-doubt and anxiety, and “Talking Backwards” deals with struggling to communicate in a frayed relationship. No matter how deep Courtney goes, he is always balanced by his band’s light, breezy arrangements, which (as music does in real life) keeps things from going off the rails. Yes, there’s darkness on the edge of everything, but there’s more than enough light to balance it out.

TIER 4: THE STRONG PLAYOFF TEAMS

Young Thug x Bloody Jay: Black Portland (self-released)
Collaborative albums (i.e.,Watch the Throne, Ferrari Boyz, Like Father Like Son, The Best of Both Worlds) rarely become more than the sum of their parts and almost always yield little more than the hot single or two. However, like he has in most aspects of his life, Young Thug proves the outlier. His mixtape with the similarly iconoclastic ATLien, Bloody Jay, is a consistently explosive collection that celebrates both artists’ spastic, exhilarating styles. There aren’t many who can keep up with Thugger, but Bloody Jay proves to be up to the challenge.



Wild Beasts: Present Tense (Domino)
Four records in, the Lake District quartet have established themselves as one of the most distinctive groups in music. Their Wikipedia page lists them under a whopping nine different genres, and while there’s some truth in all of them, none of the qualifiers come close to encapsulating their nuanced, singular sound. Most conversations about Wild Beasts center around frontman Hayden Thorpe’s warbling falsetto, but that isn’t the only thing that makes them stand out. Musically, Present Tense is focused on building moods rather than structures. The utilize washes of synth, churning guitars, and deft percussion to match the dramatic timbre of Thorpe’s graceful interplay with Tom Fleming’s vulnerable baritone. It’s a delicate balance, and it’s taken them four albums to absolutely nail it. We’re lucky they have.

Kyle Bobby Dunn: Kyle Bobby Dunn & The Infinite Sadness (Students of Decay)
As is true in modern life, it’s hard to be quiet in today’s music world. Artists have roughly 2.3 seconds to catch the ear of potential fans, and if you don’t make your point loudly and quickly, it is going to be real tough to get heard. However, that hasn’t discouraged Montreal ambient/drone composer, Kyle Bobby Dunn. His warm, exquisite double album is among the quietest releases of the year, but if given the proper time, it will open itself up in a way that few albums will. Built around his aqueous, endlessly looped guitar, the delightfully-titled Infinite Sadness bobs up and undulates through two engulfing, disarming hours. If you decide to go, it will gently draw you out into its calm, soothing waters, which are also vast and deep.

YG: My Krazy Life (CTE/Def Jam)
A couple weeks before YG dropped his excellent debut LP, he released a star-studded trailer full of some of the biggest artists in rap (A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Young Jeezy, Rich Homie Quan) dropping a dizzying array of praise and superlatives on the rising 24 year old. I remember sort of scratching my head like, “damn, how did this dude get these guys to go that deep?” The answer? My Krazy Life is a fuckin’ monster. It’s been years since an artist has distilled the classic West Coast/LA experience and sound as well the Compton native does here. Kendrick and the Black Hippies are great, but they don’t embrace that vibe quite like YG does. Super producer DJ Mustard is the perfect sidekick, lacing his signature bounce to most of the album’s 14 tracks. The West Coast has been waiting a long time for an artist to bring the good times back, and YG is just the man to do it.

Owen Pallett, In Conflict (Domino)
The Canadian composer/songwriter’s music is almost always spoken about in staid, almost academic terms. While his harmonic construction remains of an incredibly high caliber, his fourth LP features some of the strongest, most emotive songwriting of his career. He’s always been a bit of a chameleonic musician — tough to get to know — but In Conflict is by far the clearest window we’ve had to the man behind the violin. Don’t let its pre-release billing “concept album on mental illness” fool you. It’s far from the scholastic, faceless experience that the description would make it seem. Pallett writes with great depth and bravery about alcoholism (“The Riverbed”), inter-generational intimacy (stand-out “The Passions”), and having children (“I Am Not Afraid”). Its most arresting moment comes on center-piece, “The Secret Seven,” a rumination on the tragic suicide of Rutgers student and fellow violinist, Tyler Clementi. When Pallett mournfully sings “It don’t get better/ The hunger, even back in his arms,” he may be nominally singing to someone else, but it’s clear that he’s sharing parts of himself he never has before.

Ana Caprix, For Seven Nights This Island is Ours (self-released)
Though the London producer remains anonymous, his (I think) debut LP is chock full of personality and character. Along with pop re-constructionists Doss and the PC Music camp, Caprix crafts music that lives in the netherworld between the cheesy and the brilliant. It’s easy to get turned off by the Emoji artwork and the silly song titles — “:))” is an absolute beauty — but the record is far from a joke. Caprix has a knack for crafting moving, electo/trancey soundscapes that also don’t take themselves too seriously. Like a lot of of internet culture, it’s hard to tell where the samples end and the original work begins, and it seems like that is by design. Some will feel uncomfortable with it, but you shouldn’t fret. It’s just the Internet, y’all.

April Showers: 17 Releases That Demand Your Attention This Month

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S. Carey, Range of Light (April 1, JagJaguWar)
What: Bon Iver member/multi-instrumentalist/classically trained folky Sean Carey’s 2nd LP
Where: Eau Claire, WI
Sounds Like: Sensitive bros sitting around a lake, reflecting on life, sipping PBR’s, and shit.
Giddy-O-Meter: 8/10

Four years since his ornate, orchestral-folk debut, All We Grow, Carey returns with a gorgeous, reflective follow-up.

Gucci Mane & Young Thug, Young Thugga Mane La Flare (April 1, Brick Squad)
What: Atlanta iconoclast/trap poet laureate vs. the City’s most fascinating, promising young weirdo
Where: (Only in) Atlanta, GA
Sounds Like: A garbage fire at a gas station.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.2/10

The indomitable Gucci may have finally met his match, as he takes on the most generally combustible, original, exciting MC to emanate from the scene since the Guwop himself came up nearly 10 years ago.

Pure X, Angel (April 1, Fat Possum)
What: The mopey, pastoral slowcore four-piece’s third LP.
Where: Austin, TX
Sounds Like: Smoking waaaay too many cigarettes.
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.5/10

Fresh off 2013’s ace, Crawling up the Stairs, the mellifluous Texans return with another emotional-yet-chill effort. Great for: drinking beers in the summer with friends, weeping in the winter by yourself.

Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, Enter the Slasher House (April 8, Domino)
What: The second solo LP from the Animal Collective frontman
Where: Los Angeles, CA via Brooklyn, NY via Baltimore, MD
Sounds Like: 3 parts weird. 1 part pop.
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Animal Collective member makes super weird/potentially brilliant solo album. Maybe you’ve heard this one before?

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Fall 2013 Album Preview (Part Two)

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September was a fantastic month of music, but it looks like October will be even better. Here’s a round-up of every album that demands your attention this month.

Kelela
CUT 4 ME
October 1 (Fade to Mind)
Los Angeles, CA
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.7/10

Already responsible for one of the singles of the year — her delicious collaboration with Kingdom, “Bank Head” — Kelela Mizanekristos finally drops the full-length debut we’ve been craving. The owner of a voice that is both malleable and distinct, the Washington, DC-native has the rare ability to glide over a sparse, austere ballad in one breath, then move into a busy, future garage track in the next. That versatility is challenged by the disc’s laundry list of progressive, uncompromising producers (Nguzunguzu, Morri$, Jam City, Girl Unit), but the dreamy vocalist is always up to the challenge.

Download for free, here.

“Go All Night (Let Me Roll)”

Haim
Days Are Gone
October 1 (Polydor
)
Los Angeles, CA
Giddy-O-Meter: 8/10

About a year after releasing their hyper-buzzy debut EP/single, Forever, the sororal trio from the Valley are ready for their close-up. They’ve done about everything a young band should do early in their career, cranking out a steady cavalcade of skin-tight, razor-sharp, whip-smart (I could go all day), shabby-chic, saccharine-sweet (OK, that’s enough) singles. Reminiscent of Laurel Canyon’s halcyon days, there is plenty of Fleetwood Mac-ish magic to go around.

Stream on Spotify.

“Falling”

Oneohtrix Point Never
R Plus Seven
October 1 (Warp)
Brooklyn, NY
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.5/10

Admittedly, some of Brooklyn-based synth experimentalist, Daniel Lopatin’s music goes right over my head. That said, his Oneohtrix Point Never project is the source of some of the most consistently engaging, beguiling progressive electronic music out. The sonic equivalent of Tuesday morning at Grand Central, his music simply refuses to stay still, challenging the listener to follow its wildly vacillating, ultimately thrilling course. A true visionary.

Stream on Spotify.

“Zebra”

Laura Groves
Thinking About Thinking
October 1 (Deek)
London via Bradford, UK
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Known for her golden work with the trio Nautic, velvet-voiced Laura Groves’ soaring EP more than stands on its own, especially considering that she wrote, produced, and arraigned all the tracks. Written in the direct aftermath of her move to London, Thinking About Thinking boasts four evocative, lushly-produced tracks that are dripping with wonderment, excitement, slight resignation, and nostalgia — you know, all the feelings you get when you move somewhere new. At the heart of everything is that voice: warm, graceful, and enchanting. Like everything great, the record ends too soon, crying out for repeat spins and a worthy follow-up. Truly one of the best-kept secrets of 2013.

Stream on Bandcamp.

“Pale Shadows”

Yuck
Glow & Behold
October 1 (Fat Possum)
London, UK
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.5/10

When the British shoegaze/dream pop/90’s alt-rock group lost singer and principle songwriter, Daniel Blumberg, it looked like the end of a really promising group. However, the remaining three members picked themselves back up and crafted a follow-up to their self-titled debut. To my great surprise, lead singles “Rebirth” and “Middle Sea” were possibly even better than their old stuff — thanks to the more muscular vocals of guitarist Max Bloom and the energetic, guitar-driven songwriting. Instead of deflated, they sound refreshed.

“Middle Sea”

The Field
Cupid’s Head
October 1 (Kompact)
Berlin, GER via Stockholm, SWE
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.5/10

Swedish mastermind, Axel Willner, is back with another cavernous, icy collection of minimalist techno to try to wrap your head around. Like his previous work, there’s nothing easy about Cupid’s Head, as the six-song set stretches to nearly 60 minutes of visceral, labyrinthine music. In the past couple of years, Willner has cemented himself as one of the leaders of progressive electronic music. If this, his fourth LP, is anything to go by, he’s certainly showing no signs of stagnating or getting too comfortable with his status.

“A Guided Tour”

Glasser
Interiors
October 8 (True Panther)
Los Angeles, CA
Giddy-O-Meter: 10/10

Cameron Mesirow’s engulfing 2010 debut, Ring, cemented her as a highly promising, technically gifted songwriter with an experimental spirit. My only real quibble with Ring was that it sometimes aimed for the brain and neglected the heart, but on Interiors, she has struck that elusive balance. Reminiscent of Bjork’s early work (yeah, I fuckin’ said it), Mesirow’s second album straddles the line between craft and emotion to absolute perfection. Simply put, Interiors is a stunning collection of future pop and a real candidate for album of the year.

Stream the album, here.

“Shape”

Danny Brown
Old
October 8 (Fools’ Gold)
Detroit, MI
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.5/10

The always colorful 32 year old’s reputation precedes him these days. While his good dude/party bro persona has obviously been a net positive for his career, there’s a lot more to the Detroit native than molly, women, and weed. While he can talk about the aforementioned topics with tremendous aptitude, he is also an incredibly intelligent, incisive writer whose struggles and experiences grant him one of the most fascinating perspectives in modern music. Old explores both sides of the artist, and while it’s sequenced clumsily (serious tracks: side A, TURNUP tracks: side B), Brown’s ravenous flow and prodigious talent more than makes up for it.

Stream on Spotify.

Non-album track, “ODB.”

Pusha T
My Name is My Name
October 8 (GOOD Music)
Virginia Beach, VA
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.4/10

The former Clipse man’s debut solo album was starting to feel like the hip-hop Chinese Democracy. After about a trillion delays, My Name is My Name (shout out to Marlo Stanfield) is finally set for release, and we can expect a deluge of exquisite beats laced with the 36 year-old’s impeccable coke tales. Say what you will about him (dude still needs solo hit), Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton’s flow is as filthy as ever — delightfully pure, and gimmick-free.

“Millions” (f/ Ricky Rozay)

Darkside
Psychic
October 8 (Other People/Matador)
New York, NY
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington’s collaborative project looks to be one of the most divisive of Jaar’s young career. Harrington’s palm-muted, meandering blues guitar lines are aural Vegemite and won’t appeal to all of the experimental producer’s core fans or critics. There also sounds like there will be substantial vocals on it, and on recent single, “Paper Trails,” they tiptoe a little close to 70’s schmaltz land (a bit Tom Waits fanboy-ish). Like any Jaar album, it’s going to be impeccably crafted and sonically uncompromising.

Stream the album, here.

“Paper Trails”

KWES
ilp.
October 15 (Warp)
London, UK
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.7/10

After his 2012 breakthrough EP, the brainy, South-London progressive R&B producer/vocalist has finally readied his debut full-length. Its lead single, “Rollerblades,” is an undeniably lovable summer jam, and follow-up, “36,” is an alluring, slinky cut. Both tracks highlight his effortless falsetto and earnest, expressive songwriting. Everything Kwes (né Kwesi Sey) touches is always spot-on production-wise, and ilp. sounds to be no different.

“Rollerblades”

Tim Hecker
Virgins
October 15 (Kranky)
Montreal, QUE
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

The Montreal-based ambient producer’s follow-up to the outrageously good 2011 LP, Ravedeath, 1972, is likely to be another expansive, overwhelming affair. Very few artists can produce work as engulfing and heady as Hecker, who is constantly toeing the line between the extraterrestrial and human. It’s the kind of thing Fox Mulder would have listened to on his morning jogs: creepy, cinematic, and ultimately breathtaking.

“Virginal II”

Cass McCombs
Big Wheel and Others
October 15 (Domino)
Where Ever He Lays His Head, EARTH
Giddy-O-Meter: 8/10

Freewheelin’. Ramblin’. Rustlin’. Cass McCombs is one of those people who renders the end-of-adjective-‘g’ totally redundant. The nomadic 35 year-old’s seventh album is a hefty 22-song double LP, full of the kind of dusty, rudderless Americana that is both driven and tortured by his restless spirit. It simultaneously basks in the freedom of the open road and is cursed by the weight of never truly having a home, which, of course, makes more some pretty compellin’ storytellin’.

“There Can Be Only One”

CFCF
Outside
October 22 (Dummy)
Montreal, QUE
Giddy-O-Meter: 10/10

In his short 4-year career, composer/pianist Michael Silver has gone in a number of different directions. From his electronic-leaning debut, Continent, to the Sakamoto-obsessed masterpiece, Exercises, Silver has achieved the rare feat of constantly refreshing his sound, while keeping an incredibly high standard. His new album, Outside, is the successor to this year’s brilliant, Music for Objects, and it will be his first album to truly feature his contemplative vocals. Frankly, I’ve always wanted more vocals from him, and for that reason, it’s one of my most anticipated releases of the year.

“Jump Out of the Train”

Active Child
Rapor
October 22 (Vagrant)
Los Angeles, CA
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.3/10

After falling hard for his celestial debut EP, Curtis Lane, I surprisingly wasn’t crazy about Pat Grossi’s critically acclaimed follow-up, You Are All I See. The ambivalence quickly dissipated when I heard the lovelorn devotional, “Evening Ceremony,” which is one of my favorite tracks of this year. My appetite for his harp-driven sound is renewed, and his new EP seems poised to touch the heights of his bewitching first.

“Evening Ceremony”

Ryan Hemsworth
Guilt Trips
October 22 (Last Gang)
Halifax, NS
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.3/10

The Canadian producer/DJ/remix king has been on fire for the last 18 months, consistently releasing referential, yet forward thinking tracks that drift in the spaces between R&B, hip-hop, dance, and pure pop. While there is a big difference between creating tasty singles and building a cohesive LP, Hemsworth’s first solo LP should succeed because he has crafted a signature sound, which is no small feat for an artist this chameleonic and remix-focused. With an unsurprisingly impressive guest-list (e.g., TP-homies Baths, Sinead Harnett, Tinashe), Guilt Trips looks to be the album Hemsworth fans have been waiting two years for.

“Against a Wall” (f/ Lofty305)

DJ Rashad
Double Cup
October 22 (Hyperdub)
Chicago, IL
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Chicago footwork vet Rashad Harden has had one helluva year. Fresh off releasing two dope EPs (Rollin’ and I Don’t Give a Fuck), the laid-back DJ is set to release the main course, his debut LP for Hyperdub. Besides being a true percussion wizard, Rashad’s music has the impressive ability to be heady and otherworldly, whilst always retaining its humanity. Even when he’s twisting a vocal sample to maximum WTF levels, it always feels direct and emotional, even when its dragging you on to the dance floor.

“Double Cup” (w/ Spinn Snip)

Shy Girls
Timeshare
October 29 on Hit City USA
Portland, OR
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.3/10

Shy Girls burst on to my radar in February with the devastatingly sexy slow jam, “Under Attack.” Led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Dan Vidmar, it felt a little bit Dan Bejar, a little bit 90’s boner jam, a little bit 70’s loungey troubadour, a little bit power ballad (aka: a lot in my wheelhouse). They went a bit quiet after that, but Vidmar recently resurfaced with a pair of brilliant singles (Timeshare‘s “Still Not Falling” and the Cyril Hahn collabo “Perfect Form) and this fresh, six-song EP. It’s definitely one of my most anticipated EPs of the year.

“Still Not Falling”

Laurel Halo
Chance of Rain
October 29 (Hyperdub)
New York City via Ann Arbor, MI
Giddy-O-Meter: 9/10

Just 16 months after releasing her stellar debut LP, Quarantine, the rising experimental artist is back with another full-length. Halo’s music is never been of the accessible variety, but if given time and attention, her shadowy, deep electro will burrow its little spirit into you and become quite difficult to shake. The mercurial singer/songwriter has kept details close to the vest, but if it is half as fascinating as Quarantine, Chance of Rain will be an absolute must-listen.

“Ainnome”

Arcade Fire
Reflektor
October 29 (Mercury)
Montreal, QUE
Giddy-O-Meter: 7/10

Honestly, I’ve struggled to get excited about this album, no matter how essential their previous work is. Perhaps, it is because their needle has been pointing downward since their all-conquering, near-perfect debut (hmmmm). Perhaps, it is because I listened to less guitar-driven music than I used to (mehhh). Perhaps, it is because a herculean number of other great albums have just dropped/are dropping this month (that’s probably it). I haven’t listened to much of Reflektor, but I will at some point because they are the Arcade Fire, and they are a very good band (but you already knew that).

Fall Albums Preview (Part One)

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After a bit of a slow summer, we’ve got a handful of huge releases coming in the next two months. Let’s check out the best of September.

The Weeknd
Kiss Land
Sept 10 (XO, Republic)
Toronto, ON
Giddy-O-Meter: 8/10

Sure to be one of the most divisive albums of 2013, Sad Abel’s back with 10 more emo/slimeball sex jams for all of us to over-analyze. It’s going to be misogynistic, creepy, juvenile, disorienting, and maybe even a little bit boring, but it’s probably also going to be exhilarating, alluring, engaging, and kinda brilliant. Honestly, I haven’t heard enough of it to have a definitive opinion yet, but I look forward to having one.

AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING ON SPOTIFY. 

“Kiss Land”

Holy Ghost!
Dynanics
September 10 (DFA)

New York, NY
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.8

DFA’s favorite sons are back for their second LP. Though their sound remains rooted in the kind of disco that their label is famous for, Dynamics features welcome, fresh new-wave influences, that give their buoyant sound a moody, dark sheen.

AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING ON SPOTIFY.

“It Must Be the Weather”

FKA twigs
EP2
September 10 (XL)
London, UK (via Gloucestershire)
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.5

25 year-old Tahliah Barnett has the rare ability to craft songs that are brutally intimate and simple, while remaining perplexing and esoteric. A sonic chameleon, she stirs up trip-hop, new-wave, R&B, and future garage to create an intoxicating stew, all her own.

“Water Me”

Banks

LONDON
September 10 (Harvest)
Los Angeles, CA
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.6

Next time somebody bitches to you about how the Internet is ruining music, bring up Banks. The excellent, LONDON, is indicative of how the ‘webz allows for new sounds thanks to international, sonic cross-pollination (think: musical mixed-race dating). The record seamlessly combines the breezy, suburban lightness of LA pop (Banks) with the slate grey urban skies of London bass music (the UK-based producers) to devastating effect. The result is a record that doesn’t live in one particular city, rather a space in time. It might just be the most essential EP of the year.

AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING ON SPOTIFY. 

Willis Earl Beal
Nobody Does
September 10 (Hot Charity/XL)
Chicago, IL
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.7

Willis Earl Beal’s story reads like that of a classic bluesman, and that story is reflected in his sound. Beal’s debut, Acousmatic Sorcery, was an intriguing, if rough-around-the-edges collection, and he’s taken a step forward — compositionally, production-wise, and vocally — with this album. You’ll have to spend some time with it, but if you give it your time, you will be rewarded.

AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING ON SPOTIFY. 

London Grammar
If You Wait
September 10 (Warner)
London, UK
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.5

It’s hard to believe the young band with the big sound released their breakthrough single “Hey Now” nearly a year ago (If You Wait, indeed). They’ve kept their cards pretty close to the vest, letting a string of slowly-trickled out singles do the talking for them. Vocalist Hannah Reid has some of the best pipes in the game right now, and it’ll be great to finally hear these singles in context.

AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING ON SPOTIFY.

“Strong”

Lil’ Durk
Signed to the Streets
September 16 (OTF)

Chicago, IL
Giddy-O-Meter: 10

Lead single “Dis Ain’t What U Want” is still easily one of my favorite three songs of the year, and this is definitely one of my most-anticipated releases of the year. Though many have written him off, Durk actually has a unique, fascinating sound and story, juxtaposing his melodic, auto-tuned vocals with aggressive, hi-hat heavy, Young Chop-style beats. He’s got a chance to be special, if he can duck the myriad pitfalls of his incredibly complicated young life, which he explained so eloquently and affectingly on his break-out single (below). 

“Dis Ain’t What U Want”

Bill Callahan
Dream River
September 17 (Drag City)

Austin, TX via Silver Spring, MD
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.5

The legendary alt-country singer-songwriter has kept his fifth solo album (18th, if you count his seminal work as Smog) under wraps, releasing not a single second of Dream River. That said, going by his catalog, it’s pretty safe to assume that we are in for a stellar set of dusty Americana magic.

“One Fine Morning”

Gang Colours
Invisible in Your City
September 17 (Brownswood)
Southampton, UK
Giddy-O-Meter: 8

Smooth, down-tempo producer Will Ozanne sophomore LP has rightfully received heavy buzz, thanks to the enduring quality of his excellent 2012 debut, The Keychain Collection. We haven’t heard too much from Invisible in Your City, but it sounds like the contemplative vocals and delicate piano playing have been dialed up and some of the electro influences have come down. Should be a fascinating listen.

ALBUM STREAM, HERE.

“Led By Example”

Keep Shelly in Athens
At Home
September 17 (Cascine)
Athens, GRE
Giddy-O-Meter: 9.6

Greece may be failing, but their leading Balearic pop group is going from strength to strength. On the back of two excellent EPs, the dreamy duo is finally ready to unleash their debut LP. Their sound is crafted around Sarah P’s ephemeral vocals drowning in a hypnagogic seas of synth. Simply put, it’s music to get lost in.

ALBUM STREAM AT PITCHFORK ADVANCE.

“Oostende”

Frankie Rose
Herein Wild
September 24 (Fat Possum)
Brooklyn, NY
Giddy-O-Meter: 8

Though Frankie Rose’s solo debut — last year’s hooky Interstellar — was a very strong record, it was just a little short of the kind of hearty musical protein that sticks with you. From what Rose has said, she kind of felt the same way. For her second LP, she said she focused more on lyrics and adding more substance to her spacey arraignments. That all sounds good to me, because you simply can’t buy the kind of hooks that she writes.

“Sorrow”

Drake
Nothing Was the Same
September 24 (OVO Sound / YMCMB)
Toronto, ON
Giddy-O-Meter: 10

Look, I’ve consistently undervalued Young Angel since I started writing about him, and I’m not going to do it anymore. Simply put, it should be one of the best albums of the year, just as Take Care was two years ago. Sorry, Drizzy. I’ll never doubt you again.

“Hold On, We’re Going Home” (f/ Majid Jordan)

Chvrches
The Bones of What You Believe
September 24 (Glassnote)
Glasgow, SCO
Giddy-O-Meter: 8.8

Like London Grammar, the Scottish trio has slowly built up a buzz by releasing a steady stream of excellent singles. Now, the electro-pop trio (think, a non-annoying Passion Pit with lady vocals) are finally poised to release their debut. Expect a consistent barrage of synthy hooks and Lauren Mayberry’s saccharine coo.

“Gun”

Thunder Penguin’s Most Anticipated Albums of 2012

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1. The-XX: Coexist
September 11th, XL

I’m not quite sure why, but the XX’s fragile, incredibly beautiful self-titled debut always felt like a one-off to me. I’m not sure whether it was their seemingly reclusive personalities, vocalist Romy Madley Croft threats of never making another record, producer Jamie XX’s bubbling solo career, or the true distinctiveness of the album, but I always kinda assumed that it would the only real statement we’d get from the shadowy London trio. Earlier this year, we started to hear rumblings about a new album, and those rumors were actualized by their performance at this year’s Primavera. Though I tried to avoid it, it would have taken Hannibal Lecter-style restraints to keep me from pouring over the low-quality crowd footage that popped up on YouTube. Unless the songs sound way better on someone’s iPhone than they do in the studio, that second statement is gonna be one to remember.

Check out its lead single, “Angels.”

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/53400606″ iframe=”true” /]

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