Arthur Russell, "You Did It Yourself"

Arthur Russell"You Did It Yourself"Iowa Dream (out 11.15 on Audika)There's something very fitting about a new project of recordings by the late, great Arthur Russell dropping 6 weeks before the end of the decade. In many ways, the multi-instrumentalist's sound feels at home along the wildly experimental, genre-fluid music Read more

Images & Words: The 1975, "People"

The 1975"People"Notes on a Conditional Form (out 02.22.20 on Dirty Hit)The Used, Head Automatica/Glassjaw, Primal Scream, Marilyn Manson, Blur, The Refused. And that's only six of the roughly 600 random bands that the new 1975 track brings to mind. And somehow, just like mother-fucking always, they pull it off. Read more

Caroline Polachek, "Ocean of Tears" & "Parachute"

Caroline Polachek"Ocean of Tears" / "Parachute"Pang (out this fall on Columbia)Ok, now I'm getting really excited about the ex-Chairlift vocalist/composer's first album under her real name. Following up on her wonderful first single "Door," these two new tracks highlight Polachek's spellbinding voice and evocative, powerful songwriting. Though you can Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of the 2nd Quarter

Ana Roxanne~~~Leaving RecordsThe Oakland bedroom artist’s debut project is a staggering slice of ambient music that pulls subtly from the R&B and pop vocalists that she grew up on. Her voice sounds far away but pulls you in close (think: Grouper’s “Ruin”) and is ready to tell you its Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019, So Far (Honorable Mention)

As promised, here is the rest of my favorite tracks of the year that didn't quite make the cut for my main list. Songs are in no particular order. Chromatics “Time Rider”bahahahahah (Italians Do It Better) “Dear Tommy” is obviously never coming out. But I did get to hear this Read more


Arthur Russell, “You Did It Yourself”

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Arthur Russell
“You Did It Yourself”
Iowa Dream (out 11.15 on Audika)
There’s something very fitting about a new project of recordings by the late, great Arthur Russell dropping 6 weeks before the end of the decade. In many ways, the multi-instrumentalist’s sound feels at home along the wildly experimental, genre-fluid music that has defined this decade.

Like many of his best songs, “You Did It Yourself” defies categorization, featuring touches of dance, folk, pop, and indie. And even though he passed away almost 30 years ago, it still feels impossibly modern, underling what a genius he was and how impactful his art still is. Posthumous albums are always kind of dicey, but I can’t think of a better person to bookend this weird, wonderful decade of music.

Images & Words: The 1975, “People”

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The 1975
Notes on a Conditional Form (out 02.22.20 on Dirty Hit)
The Used, Head Automatica/Glassjaw, Primal Scream, Marilyn Manson, Blur, The Refused. And that’s only six of the roughly 600 random bands that the new 1975 track brings to mind. And somehow, just like mother-fucking always, they pull it off.

“People” is easily the most ferocious ever track from the Mancunians. Opening with crashing, driving toms, Matty Healy smears his vocals all over the place, screaming manically about who we are and why we’re fucked. The track does a wonderful job of fusing Healy’s love of (mostly) American (scr)e(a)mo and swaggering Brit Pop, balancing them to perfection and finding their shared spirit. Though I’m not sure I need an entire album of #mattyrage, “People” is yet another thrilling reminder that these four guys are capable of doing just about anything… except being boring.

Caroline Polachek, “Ocean of Tears” & “Parachute”

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Caroline Polachek
“Ocean of Tears” / “Parachute”
Pang (out this fall on Columbia)
Ok, now I’m getting really excited about the ex-Chairlift vocalist/composer’s first album under her real name. Following up on her wonderful first single “Door,” these two new tracks highlight Polachek’s spellbinding voice and evocative, powerful songwriting. Though you can hear hints of a few different things in her sound (on this one, I’m getting a little Bjork and some Imogen Heap), her work is unique and getting better from project to project. Can’t wait to hear this one.

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of the 2nd Quarter

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Ana Roxanne
Leaving Records
The Oakland bedroom artist’s debut project is a staggering slice of ambient music that pulls subtly from the R&B and pop vocalists that she grew up on. Her voice sounds far away but pulls you in close (think: Grouper’s “Ruin”) and is ready to tell you its secrets… if you’re down to take the time to listen.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

AJ Tracey
AJ Tracey
He made us wait for it, but the talented Tottenham boy delivered on his debut LP. It’s probably five or six songs too long, but Tracey’s versatility is on full display here, potently mixing modern grime with Island pop, American rap, and touches of classic 2-step and garage.

Stream it on Soundcloud.

A.A. Bondy
Fat Possum
You might think that synths don’t really belong in folk music, but the Louisiana native doesn’t agree with you. On his incisive fourth LP, Bondy cleverly injects hazy synths to the mix, which add delicious sonic texture to his mopey, mature songcraft.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Bird Songs of a Killjoy
Azniv Korkejian outdid herself on the follow-up to her understated yet excellent 2017 debut. “Bird Songs of a Killjoy” boasts all the stately, pastoral beauty of her debut, but with the added bonus of subtle string arrangements and touches of percussion. An album to drape yourself in.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Big Thief
The Brooklyn quartet’s third album in four years proves that in some cases, you don’t need to choose between quality and quality. A moody, mellow collection of swelling folk music, “U.F.O.F.” wraps Adrianne Lenker’s wispy voice and affecting lyrics in warm, lived-in string arrangements.

Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
Drag City
On his seventeenth (17th!) studio LP, the lo-fi legend glides into (cool) dad-hood with consummate ease. The 20-song project is dripping with insight, grace, and more than anything, gratitude. It’s wonderful to hear Callahan so at ease with where he is, and the disc consistently brings my thoughts back to all the many, many things that I’m thankful for in my own life.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Bruce Springsteen
Western Stars
I can’t lie, I never would have imagined putting a new album from the Boss on a list like this. But fuck, Western Stars is good. A vulnerable, weary slice of Americana, Springsteen shares nearly 70 years of lessons, allowing himself to reminisce about the past while always keeping one eye on the future.

Cate le Bon
Though she recorded her fifth LP in relative solitude, Le Bon’s fifth LP feels anything but lonely. On her best project yet, the Welsh singer-songwriter wraps her evocative vocals in smart, lush chamber pop arrangements that recall late 60’s psych but still feel modern somehow.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Field Medic
fade into the dawn
Run For Cover
Though he tends to get lumped with the emo revival groups, Kevin Sullivan’s music feels a lot more “No Depression” than “Alternative Press.” Fade into Dawn reminds me a lot of Whiskeytown, pairing Sullivan’s rickety voice with Southern-fried, sweet & easy pickin’.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Hayden Thorpe
A few years on from Wild Beasts’ break-up in 2017, Hayden Thorpe and his dulcet falsetto is back with a contemplative, seductive first solo LP. Though the mood stays pretty consistent, the emotional resonance of Thorpe’s vocals and his soft songwriting touch keeps things ticking over and feeling fresh.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

J Balvin x Bad Bunny

Superstar team-ups like this often work better in theory than in practice, either due to shaky chemistry or each artist vying for top billing instead of sharing the spotlight. J Balvin and Bad Bunny’s surprise collab suffers from no such thing, as the pair bring the best out of each other, playfully cruising through eight weightless, gleefully flirty cuts.

Holly Herndon
On her fifth LP, the San Francisco artist takes us deep inside the soul of the robo-verse, teaming up with a cast of talented musicians and an AI program, lovingly called “Spawn.” The result is a towering, chaotic collection of genreless sound, which feels equal parts alien and human.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Kevin Abstract
Question Everything
To my ears, the Brockhampton frontperson works best as a solo artist, as it allows him to fully explore his eclectic sonic tastes, which include R&B, rap, soul, pop, and jazz (to name a few). Though it’s only 11 songs, ARIZONA BABY is a mature, hyper-thoughtful, modern project, which is dripping with perspective and insight.

Kim Petras

A pure pop powerhouse. Each track features melodies that are Gorilla Glue sticky, and Petras turns out a superstar performance, gliding over the arraignments without breaking a sweat. Though Dr. Luke’s presence is hard to reckon with, hopefully the contract will be short-lived. And it doesn’t completely diminish the excitement of a trans pop star making sexy music music for the masses.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Klein Zage
Womanhood EP
The London producer’s excellent new EP uses samples like a weapon — astutely flipping ultra-earnest affirmations on their head to explore what it’s actually like to be a woman. She pairs them with undeniable, lo-fi house grooves that will get your feet on the dance-floor while the samples stick in your head.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Kyle Bobby Dunn
From Here To Eternity
If you’ve got good speakers or headphones, fire them up and throw on the Montreal producer’s expansive new project. Almost more of a sound designer than a songwriter, KBD is a master of mood, looping endless layers on top of each other until they form something subtly breathtaking. 

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Loom Dream
Not to be confused with Le1f, the electrifying New York rapper, the Welsh producer’s new project is a stunning, gentle wash of sound. Though it is broken into six tracks, it plays like a single 35-minute journey through his home country’s gorgeous rolling hills, placid lakes, and windy, expansive shoreline.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Lil Keed
Long Live Mexico
Though an early co-sign from Young Thug was crucial to the 21 year-old’s early success, “Long Live Mexico” proves that Lil Keed is ready to stand on his own. Sure, the Thugger influence is obvious, but the way Keed’s squeaky, pitched-up flow dances around the beat is undeniable. Feels like he’s got all the tools to go a long way.

Stream it on Soundcloud.

Lucinda Chua
Antidotes 1

The Londoner’s staggering debut is a 4-song collection of delicate, pure ambient pop music. The only thing softer than her arraignments is her voice, which is so soothing it should be prescription-only.

Matt Kivel
last night in america
I’ve been buying stock in the Kivel brothers for the better part of a decade. And to these ears, the dusty, placid “last night in america” is the younger Kivel’s finest work yet. Though the production is lo-fi, the sonic cinematography is widescreen, as the Texas transplant casts his eye (and pillow-soft voice) across a country on the brink.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Orville Peck

Sub Pop
The Nevada crooner’s masked melodrama captures country music’s delightfully camp roots and drags them to the 21st century. Blessed with a cannon of a tenor, Peck patrols the lonely prairie, triumphantly belting out intoxicating songs of love, loss, and lust. Yee fucking haw.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

The more the Londoner (né Benjy Keating) slithers away from dancehall pastiche, the better. On his tasty second LP, he mostly lends his impossibly soft, sweet-boy coo to low-key, affecting pop arrangements. Sure, the Jamaican influence is there, but on this project, the sounds feel more like inspiration than source material.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019, So Far (Honorable Mention)

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As promised, here is the rest of my favorite tracks of the year that didn’t quite make the cut for my main list.

Songs are in no particular order.

“Time Rider”
bahahahahah (Italians Do It Better)
“Dear Tommy” is obviously never coming out. But I did get to hear this slinky new track and see the legendary quartet live in Brooklyn, so I can’t be too angry at Johnny Jewel and co. “Time Rider” is exactly the kind of track that makes the “Dear Tommy” thirst so strong. Sleek, stylish, and sonorous, Jewel weaves a taut, tasty arrangement for Ruth Radelet to effortlessly strut across. They really do it better, don’t they?

FKA Twigs
Digital Single

On her first single in three years, the South Londoner paints an evocative portrait of her struggle to maintain a relationship under an unrelenting spotlight. It’s unclear whether it was penned for either of her famous exes (Robert Pattinson, Shia LaBeouf), but you can feel the weariness and strain in her voice, which is beautifully magnified by the skeletal arrangement. There’s still no word of an upcoming project to go with it. But once there is, it will quickly become one of the most talked-about of 2019.

Queen Key
Eat My Pussy Again (Machine Entertainment Group)
Find me a song that bangs harder than this. Seriously. Find it and send it to me because I cannot wait to hear it. The only thing that hits harder than the ridiculous sub-bass is the Chicago native’s raw, unapologetic bars. Though she is still insanely slept on, tracks like this should wake people up quick.


Direct line to My Creator (The Vanguarde Craft and Creative)
Though it originally appeared on her 2018 debut, this stunning single’s re-release is too good not to mention. A breathtaking goodbye ballad to her late aunt, “Magdalena” surrounds the Queens native’s affecting vocals with careful pianos and warm synths. And that video. 😭

Joey LaBeija
“Dry Your Eyes” (f/ Nina Sky)
Tears in My Hennessy (coming for blood)
We all need a positive affirmations every once in a while, especially when we’re going through a break-up. Though much of the Bronx producer’s post break-up project is heartsick club music, late in the record he enlists Nina Sky to help remind him that everything will be ok in time. It might be a simple sentiment, but it’s an important one that is perfectly delivered here.

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019 (So Far)

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A little bit late this year due to real-world commitments, but here is my annual list of the best songs of the first half of 2019. Look for my honorable mention coming later in the week.

This year, instead of going with an actual ranking system, I’m going to going to break them up by tiers.


“Night Shift” (f/ Odunsi & Omagz)
Sojourn (Blac-Apollo)
Even though it features two of Nigeria’s most exciting young stars, somehow not a single American publication has covered this magical late-night jam. As we learned with “Drogba” — last summer’s song of this summer — the States are often slow to catch up with all the exciting sounds of the Continent. But still, “Night Shift” deserves better. Duggie’s gorgeous, flexible keys form a perfect platform for Odunsi (The Engine) and Omagz to do what they do best. Though the latter is driving the bus vocally, the former drops a stunning, low-key verse that is dripping with sauce and sensuality. If somebody is going to put out a better song than this, it’s going to be a classic.


03 Greedo
“Trap House” (f/ Shoreline Mafia)
Still Summer in the Projects (Alamo)
03 Greedo can say more with one line than most rappers can do on an album. And to steal the show on this airy banger, all he needs is “NO SHEEETS ONN TOPP MY BEAAHHHDD.” Aside from my favorite hook of the year, “Trap House” features a pair of watertight verses from the likely Angelinos of Shoreline Mafia and unsurprisingly tasty keys from the artist formerly known as DJ Mustard. The best song of the summer.

Lucinda Chua
“Feel Something”
Antidotes 1 (Self-Released)
So much about modern life is about our ache to connect with another. There are a million different ways to do it now, but nothing speaks to us like the visceral connection of being with someone real. The Londoner’s stirring, contemplative ode to that desire is one of the finest pieces of music that I’ve heard this year. It’s the kind of song that makes you stop in your tracks, look up, and appreciate the world around you. It definitely did that for me this year.

Colin Self
Siblings (RVNG Intl.)

In our world where civil rights are constantly under attack, the fight for survival for many members of the LGBTQ+ community is as urgent as it’s ever been. The multi-instrumentalist Colin Self focuses on this struggle on the spellbinding, “Survival.” With a soaring voice, Self cries out “in the night, I fear my life is growing short as I resist.” It’s so powerful to hear Self give a voice to a largely unheard population, though many more should be heeding his words.

Dawn Richard
“Vultures / Wolves”
New Breed (Our Dawn)

The centerpiece from her wonderful fifth LP could double as a pretty solid summation of the New Orleans visionary’s career. For six enthralling minutes, Richard lays her flaws bare, admitting that she “keeps getting in her own way,” without losing an ounce of the resilient spirit that permeates all of her music. It is beautiful, heartbreaking distillation of the Dawn Richard experience — one that I’ve enjoyed immensely over the last five years. 

“Section 8”
Digital Single

I recently watched an interview with the DMV native, and what’s striking about it is how uninterested he seems to be in being famous or being a part of the mainstream rap zeitgeist. You can hear it in his music too. His bars simply refuse to adhere to any modicum of structure, veering in and out of the beat with reckless abandon. His YouTube is a treasure trove of rapid-fire, joyful street rap with clever melodies sprinkled in alongside his punched-in bars. His star continues to grow at a rapid rate, especially as he’s newly out of prison, and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. 

Save Me (Epic)

Though you could argue that his consistency has faded a touch since his unimpeachable 2014-2017 run, the Atlanta native can still hit heights* no one else can. For me, he’s at his best when he’s got maximum space, and Detail gives him a ton of room to fill with a spare beat, built around rolling percussion and tasteful keys. Special note must be made for the engineering touch of long-time collaborator Seth Firkins, who passed away in 2017. Nobody else treated Future’s voice with quite the light touch of Firkins, and “Shotgun” is a testament to his masterful craft.


Ariana Grande
“ghostin” (acoustic version)
thank u, next (Republic)

The 26 year-old has been through unimaginable public tragedy in the last few years. A terrorist attack at her show in Manchester, a messy public divorce, and the death of her ex-fiancé Mac Miller. And though she’s touched on all of these things at times in previous music, she’s never been more direct than on this stunning goodbye to Miller. Wrapped in layers of warm, surging synths (which, of course, sample Miller’s “2009”), Grande mourns his loss while apologizing to her current partner for struggling to get over it. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and a testament to Grande’s bravery and empathy as a singer and a writer.

Jai Paul
“Do You Love Her Now”
Do You Love Her Now / He (4AD)

After seven years away, the mercurial Londoner returned with two new tracks and an updated version of the album he worked so hard on, which leaked without his consent a few months before its release date. Along with the music, Paul wrote about how much that leak hurt him, which is instructive of the dangerous way modern music fans demand control of their favorite artists’ careers.

The singles were also a reminder of his special talent and singular sound, which combines elements of soul, funk, and R&B and runs them through his unique worldview. It’s unclear whether more is coming, but with Jai Paul, you’ve just got to savor what you can get.

Kevin Abstract
ARIZONA BABY (Question Everything)

The San Antonio native put his acclaimed Brockhampton project on hold long enough to craft a worthy follow-up to 2016’s exquisite “American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story.” Its best moment is its most introspective, as the 22 year-old digs deep into his relationships with his friend, a boyfriend, and crucially, himself. Abstract’s best solo work always feels cut from the same cloth as Frank Ocean’s classic “Nostalgia, Ultra,” and “Mississippi” is no exception.

Kim Petras
“Sweet Spot”
Clarity (BunHead)
Nobody is making better pure pop in 2019 than Kim Petras. Katy Perry and Taylor Swift would have killed to put out most of the nine (9!) new singles she’s already dropped this year, which are absolutely jammed with meaty hooks and her obvious star appeal. Though her continued collaboration with Dr. Luke casts a severe damper on things, it’s hard not to appreciate the importance of a trans woman who is making unabashedly sexy pop music for the masses. It’s unclear just how much influence Luke has had on these songs and if he will continue to be involved, but musically and culturally, it’s hard to ignore what the German-born artist is doing.

Orville Peck
“Hope to Die”
Pony (Sub Pop)
The masked Nevada crooner’s revelatory debut is finally starting to get the widespread coverage it deserves. An absolute one-off in modern music, Peck makes unabashedly camp country that sounds like 1962 but feels like 2022. And though there’s no shortage of melodrama on Pony, but he really outdoes himself on its penultimate song — a preening, posing powerhouse performance that somehow recalls a young Morrissey in chaps. Sign me the fuck up.

Big Thief
“Open Desert”
U.F.O.F. (4AD)

The centerpiece of the Brooklyn quartet’s lauded third LP serves up a heavy dose of “Ghosts of the Great Highway” vibes, pairing Adrianne Lenker’s evocative vocals with a haunting, open-string heavy arpeggiated guitars. Though its not clear what Lenker is on about, the atmosphere is laid on thick and leaves one hell of an imprint.

Lana Del Rey, “Doin’ Time”

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Lana Del Rey
“Doin’ Time”
Sublime OST (out soon on Universal)

If you grew up in California in the early 2000’s, it was just about impossible to get in someone’s car or go to a party that wasn’t playing one of those two Sublime albums. Evidently, the same was true in wherever Lana grew up (Westchester, I think), because her cover of the Long Beach skate-rats sun-scorched classic features the care and love that can only be delivered by a true Badfish. Del Rey manages to walk the line between paying homage to the original while making the new version her own. Summer can finally start for real now, y’all.

Images & Words: Stormzy, “Vossi Bop”

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“Vossi Bop”
Digital Single
After a little while away, the London kingpin looks to be getting back in the game. “Vossi Bop” is a perfect comeback track because it is such a pure distillation of what makes Stormzy a true-one off. Over a tasty, yet simple beat, Big Mike goes in like only her can, effortlessly dropping ultra-charismatic, memorable bars in the spirit of the early freestyles that made him an instant legend. There’s no word on whether an album is coming, but like most of his tracks, “Vossi Bop” is strong enough to stand on its own.

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019 (1st Quarter)

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Even though we’re a solid week into the second quarter, better late than never right? Here’s a quick round-up of some of my favorite songs of the last three months. To keep numbers manageable, I didn’t include anything from any of my favorite albums list and prioritized songs I haven’t yet written about. For all of our sakes, I tried (and mostly failed) to keep write-ups Tweet length. Songs are in no particular order.

Duggie x Odunsi (The Engine)
“Nightshift” (f/ Omagz)

Sojourn (out now on Blac-Apollo)
I’ll start the list by breaking my own rule. Though I wrote about the criminally under-reported Nigerian producer’s masterful debut EP on my Albums List, I couldn’t make this list without mentioning my possible song of the year so far. “Nightshift” is a beautiful marriage of styles that injects an Afrobeats heart into a smooth late-night R&B body, resulting in a borderless sound that mirrors our increasingly borderless musical world. Odunsi (The Engine) is quickly becoming one of the key figures of Nigeria’s ultra-exciting, new alté generation, and his versatile, playful delivery beautifully matches Duggie’s busy percussion and aqueous synths. Omagz rounds things off with a sublime, laid-back verse that sums up the track’s effortless magic.

Orville Peck
“Turn To Hate”
Pony (out now Sub Pop)
Blessed with a booming baritone and a razor-sharp pen, the masked man from Nevada dropped one of the most interesting debut records of the year. “Turn to Hate” is a rich, evocative country rocker that perfectly sums up Peck’s nontraditional, yet traditional country sound. You can hear classic crooners like Roy Orbison and Chris Isaak in his voice, but there’s a palpable modern edge to his music, which defies characterization and stands out from the rest of the scene.

Digital Single
The talent coming out of LA is insane right now, but the Princess of Compton is as exciting as anybody. Besides being a whole slap, “Spotlight” highlights Azjah’s impressive ability to switch up her flow on a dime, weaving between playful, melodic singing and stinging barbs with ease. “Spotlight” is the kind of track that sticks in your head the moment you hear it and is a press push away from being a smash.

“Kno U See It”

THE DOPE SHOW (self-released)
I probably should have included the Houstonian’s syrup-soaked screw tape in my best albums list, but this Young Joc flipping, molasses-thicc creeper more than stands on its own. Though OG Ron C was always quick to remind you that his music was “chopped up, not slopped up,” Rabit leaves all the slop in, layering dense waves of sound alongside the pitched-down, infernal vocals. What a glorious mess.

Triad God

“Gway Lo”

Triad (out now on Presto!?)

“Know what the fuck I’m saying?” mutters the Vietnamese-born, South London-based Vinh Ngan on this dreamlike track. And even though his words are hard to make out (and sometimes in Vietnamese), if you listen closely, you’ll start to get it. Triad God keeps his voice down low, repeating a few mantras over and over, on top of a gorgeous vocal sample and angelic strings from producer Palmistry. The effect is hypnotic and affecting, and if you listen closely, you’ll realize what the fuck he’s saying much quicker than you think.

La Dispute
“Fulton Street I”
Panaroma (out now on Epitaph)
Though I wasn’t familiar with the Grands Rapid emo vets, this frenetic, wild-eyed freak-out reached out and grabbed me. This track gives off serious At the Drive In and mewithoutyou vibes, and vocalist Jordan Dreyer’s wild-eyes vocals and frantic questioning are as cathartic as anything either band ever delivered.

Dan Bodan
“I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes…)”
Digital Single
Though the Berlin resident has mostly kept a low profile since his wonderful 2014 DFA debut LP, “Soft,” he popped his head up on this magical piano ballad that recalls the timeless sound of Cole Porter. Blessed with one of the sweetest voices around, he’s also an affecting, impactful songwriter, who will hopefully be hearing more from this year.

The BoyBoy West Coast
“Bottoms Up”

TikTok Snippet
Though we’re still waiting for the full version, I have a feeling that it won’t be able to match the bonkers magnetism of the “Bottoms Up” original viral snippets. Everything about the clips is striking and unique — from the low-rent, iPhone auto-tune to the eyebrow/goatee combo to the cheeseball mannerisms. It’s abundantly clear that BoyBoy is cut from a different cloth… and that cloth is fire a velour hoodie.

Sam Binga x Paul Wall
Digital Single
A Houston vet and a UK bass-music futurist might seem like an odd couple, but they combine deliciously on this slithering single. Binga’s delicious, cinematic keyboard filigree and bouncy bass is the perfect tonic for Wall’s relentlessly quotable bars (“Pockets fatter than a pregnant giraffe”) and evergreen charisma.

Laura Stevenson
“Living Room, NY”
The Big Freeze (out now on Don Giovanni)
On one of the high-points of the Hudson Valley singer-songwriter’s undeniable fifth album, Stevenson injects a little extra urgency into her modern folk stylings. The result is a simple, yet spellbinding tune about yearning to be with someone (or somewhere) and the way those urges can dominate every inch of your thoughts.

Lucinda Chua
“Feel Something”
Antidotes 1 (out now, self-released)
The London composer’s debut single, “Somebody Who,” was one of my favorite tracks of 2018. And this year, Chua gave it a worthy project to belong to. The EP’s first track injects a little bit of quiet storm into her sound and pushes her mega-soothing voice a little higher into the mix. The results are subtly stunning.

Hayden Thorpe
Diviner (out 05.24 on Domino)

Though Wild Beasts are rarely mentioned among the best bands of their generation, the Lake District quartet was always one of my favorites. And though I was disappointed that they broke up last year, I’m optimistic about vocalist Hayden Thorpe’s forthcoming solo work. First single, “Diviner,” pairs his odd, quivering falsetto with sparse, twinkle-toed pianos to delicious effect.

Townes Van Zandt
“Sky Blue”
Sky Blue (out now on Fat Possum)

Posthumous releases are always dicey, even when it comes to legends like TVZ. “Sky Blue” is a bit of a grab-bag — mostly covers and live versions of well-known tracks — but its title track is a rare gem. One of the disc’s two previously unheard originals, the Texan sounds utterly miserable here, just a lonely picker, struggling to find meaning in it all.  It’s that certain kind of melancholy that he made his name on and is tailor-made for his worn, but warm voice.

Carly Rae Jepsen
“No Drug Like Me”
Dedicated (out 05.17 on Interscope)
Carly Rae is the queen of the pre-chorus. Nobody in modern pop does a “big build to a chorus” better than 33 year-old, and “No Drug Like Me” is one of her absolute best. The way she slightly hangs on “starry-eyed” and “open wide” ratchets up the tension beautifully before the chorus hits and lets the song breathe again. It’s a clever trick that ensures that each of her hooks feel like big releases, and she’s an absolute master at it.

PSYCHODRAMA (out now on Neighbourhood)
To be honest, I just haven’t quite gotten to the South Londoner’s debut LP yet, but fuck, “Streatham” is hard. Over crawling piano melody, the 20 year-old weaves a pair of vivid, characteristically sharp verses about the neighborhood that made him who he is. Dave’s got this unique ability to drop heavy bars without weighing down the tracks, allowing him to hit on serious topics without coming off preachy. A huge talent.

Colin Self
Siblings (out now on RVNG Intl.)

Though the record came out on the back-end of last year, I had to mention this swirling, swelling single from the Berlin-based multi-disciplinary artist. The disc deals with searching for a home for yourself in an often unfriendly world, and “Survival” is its soaring centerpiece. Self delivers one of the most unforgettable vocal performances of the year, as a bed of strings and monstrous drums rise around them.

“Outer Body”
Dolos (out now on Coil)
The Manchester producer’s long-awaited debut LP is a labyrinthine jungle of sound built around Blade Runner synths and skittering futuristic grime percussion. Early standout, “Outer Body,” undulates and wobbles like an open ocean without doing too much and getting the listener seasick.

Weyes Blood
“A Lot’s Gonna Change”
Titanic Rising (out now on Sub Pop)

Though I haven’t gotten to it yet, I will write more about the Natalie Mering’s bewitching fourth album soon. For those who haven’t dug in, its first song is a perfect place to start. The LA singer lays her powerful voice on top of an impossibly lush bed of strings and piano, singing to her younger self about the rocky road that lies in front of her. She doles out the kind of advice we could all have used in our younger years but never would have actually listened to.

“Ghetto Angels”
Digital Single
A modern hymn for anybody who has ever had to bury a close friend, the rising Alabama artist absolutely pours his heart out over spare 808s and Sunday Mass pianos. The verses are dripping with all the feelings that accompany a tragic loss: the initial shock, the hollow feeling that follows, and finally, the steely determination you’re left with to live for your friend and honor their memory. The feelings are heavy, but the music is light — ascendant even — and it drags NoCap’s lonely, weary vocals to the finish line, until they’re finally raised high by the rest of his friends who join him on the last chorus. Hard to find a better song than this one this year.

Russ Splash
“Gun Lean

Digital Single
No song called “Gun Lean” should be this innocent and carefree, but the UK driller’s breakthrough single is as buoyant as anything I’ve heard this year. A massive viral dance craze in his native England, the Gun Lean has been lighting up everything from TikTok to Premier League pitches and shows no signs of slowing down.

03 Greedo
“Traphouse” (f/ Shoreline Mafia)

Digital Single
Though he sits incarcerated in Texas for a non-violent crime, 03 Greedo’s presence still looms large. The LA native’s whiny refrain (“no sheets on top of my behhdddd”) drives this weightless West Coast banger and outshines solid verses from members of the city’s most popping group, Shoreline Mafia. It’s a testament to how much Greedo can do with a single line and a sad reminder that he was cruelly denied the moment that his elite talent deserved. Free Greedo.

Steel Banglez
“Fashion Week” (f/ AJ Tracey & MoStack)

Digital Single
Quickly becoming one of the most consistent hitmakers in the UK, the East London producer seems primed for a stateside takeover. On “Fashion Week,” Banglez enlists a few of the usual suspects on one of smoothest songs of the year. Over steel drums and syncopated drum patters, AJT and MoStack go verse for verse, dripping with dangerous levels of charisma and confidence.

Lil Uzi Vert
“Free Uzi”

Digital Single
The Philadelphia rapper is quickly developing into the rarest kind of superstar: the one with enough resources to do exactly what they want and the guts to do it. A few months after announcing his retirement (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), Uzi dropped this ultra-dynamic, frenetic new single out of the sky and shut the internet down. Very few people have this much power and even fewer choose to wield it in such an exciting way.

The Japanese House
“We Talk All The Time”

Good At Falling (out now on Dirty Hit)
I never would have guessed that Imogen Heap would become one of the dominant influences in indie-pop, but here we are, and I’m not mad about it. Nobody does Garden State-core better than the Japanese House (né Amber Bain), and “We Talk All The Time” is probably my favorite song she’s ever written. An affecting elegy on the last days of a relationship, Bain beautifully chronicles the gradual, painful way that two lovers can pull apart at the seems — with physical intimacy often being the first casualty.

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of 2019 (First Quarter)

Posted on by TP1.COM in Featured, The Round-Up | Comments Off on The Round-Up: The Best Albums of 2019 (First Quarter)

Gah, I can’t believe we’re already 25% through 2019. That said, Spring is in the air, and we’ve enjoyed an excellent, diverse crop of music during these first three months. Have a look at some of my favorite LPs of the year so far in no particular order.

Dawn Richard
“New Breed”
Our Dawn
Probably my favorite project from my favorite R&B artist of the last ten years, “New Breed” is the New Orleans native’s most personal statement to date. In just over half an hour, Richard guides us through the eclectic, electric sound of her hometown, talking her shit and telling her story without fear, apology, or one ounce of bullshit. Truly a one of a kind.

Read my longer review for No Recess, here.

Default Genders
main pop girl 2019
Aka “Love in the Time of Fentanyl,” James Brooks’ (formerly of Elite Gymnastics) second LP was one of my favorite musical surprises of the last few years. Though his previous work is pretty patchy, this project is absolutely breathtaking and impossible to categorize. The Minneapolis native paints twelve affecting portraits of young people on the brink, with Rockwell’s eye for detail but none of his idealism.

Read my longer review for No Recess, here.

“After its Own Death / Walking in a Spiral Towards the House”
When a new Liz Harris project arrives out of the blue, you don’t ask questions. You just thank your lucky stars and hit play. I don’t know what a “Nivhek” is and why this isn’t a Grouper record, but I do know it feels like a welcome callback to her (even more) experimental early work. Though it only has four tracks, it’s her longest project in years, stretching almost to an hour. Each of the songs have movements that shift between ambient moments of stillness, harsh synth drones, and the odd bit of singing. It’s the kind of thing that will give back what you put in and only start to reveal itself on repeat listens.

Various YouTube Videos
Trying to keep up with the rising PG County rapper’s music is a full-time job. There’s basically no info about him online or a hub for his thrilling, unpredictable music on Spotify, DatPiff, Soundcloud, or social media. So, YouTube searches and random clicks are as good as it gets. And honestly, that sense of random discovery and lack of context is a perfect microcosm for Xan’s music, as his stream of consciousness, oft-arrhythmic flow doesn’t fit into categories or marketing best practices. It just fucking goes.

Jayda G
“Significant Changes”
Ninja Tune
The ground is thawing, the days are getting longer, and New Yorkers are emerging from their holes at a rapidly increasing rate. It’ll never be a better time to throw yourself into the gorgeous, multi-faceted dancefloor odyssey from Berlin-via-Vancouver artist Jayda Guy. The incredible disc’s nine tracks touch on everything from deep house to 90s rave to R&B to straight up disco with the touch of a master DJ who knows how to intertwine a bunch of different sounds to craft one cohesive, exhilarating set.

A real hidden gem, I literally have found zero information online about the Lagos-based producer or his magnificent new EP. However, everything you need to know about this guy can be heard on this incredible project, featuring three near-perfect slices of modern R&B-meets-Afropop. The intoxicating first is a silky devotional, sung by rising crooner Kaysnap, while “Popular” is a playful, late-night number with dancehall touches. The third, “Nightshift,” is probably my favorite, pairing two strong voices from Nigeria’s alté scene on a track that deserves to be a global smash. I need to do some more digging on Duggie, but context be damned, these are three of the absolute best songs I’ve heard in 2019.

Listen to the EP on Spotify.

American Football
American Football
A double helping of #dadfeelings, the emo legends’ wonderful third LP features some of their most beautiful guitar-work and Midwestern mope master Mike Kinsella’s most cutting lyrics. Built around endless layers of impossibly twinkly guitars, Kinsella uneasily tries to ease into fatherhood, wondering how they hell he got here and whether he’s the right man for the job. Jokes aside, it’s an affecting, considered look at growing up, accompanied by tuneful, tasteful musical virtuosity.

“Future Hndrxx Presents: The WZRD”
San Nayvadius’ hot-streak continues on this uneven, but exciting new project. Admittedly, it’s probably 8 tracks too long. But this is 2019, make yourself a playlist. Tuneful, upbeat pre-release singles “Jumpin on a Jet” and “Crushed Up” both delivered the goods, but Future really gets in his bag on the back-half of this project. Whether he’s crooning his ass off on “Baptize” or trading daggers with Young Thug and Gunna on “Unicorn Purp,” the 35 year-old still has so much to give.

“M for Empathy”
Double Double Whammy
At just 16 minutes for 11 songs, you could be forgiven for writing off the Texas folk experimenter’s new album as inessential sketches. You’d be wrong, of course. But I’d understand. The truth is, her third LP is a powerful collection of tracks that explore empathy and care (for herself and others) with arresting insight and a real intent to connect. Some may find her earnestness off-putting, but in this world, we need it more than ever.

Chief Keef
Glo Gang
Chief Keef and Zaytoven have so much in common. Though they are good collaborators, the duo basically operate in their own respective lanes, creating sounds and vibes that are all their own. So it’s no surprise that their joint LP is a fantastic, surprising journey into the minds of two of the great sonic auteurs of the last ten years. Zay serves up a tasty, multi-faceted collection of beats — from muscular street rap (“Sneeze,” “Han Han”) to reflective, luxurious piano magic (“Ain’t Gonna Happen,” “Petty”) — and Keef switches his flow up to match each of them, bringing out some of his most forceful, personal raps.

Ariana Grande
“thank u, next”

Though it doesn’t feel quite as ubiquitous as her other projects, this sharp, consistent LP is probably my favorite Ari record front to back. We all knew the lead single was a classic going in, but playful swooners like “needy” and “bad idea” are among the most weightless, joyful pop songs that you’ll hear. That said, centerpiece “ghostin” stands on its own. The spellbinding, farewell ballad to ex- fiancé Mac Miller beautifully underlines trauma’s ripple effect — the way the death of a loved one spreads far beyond the person you lose and wriggles into all the corners of our lives. An absolute masterpiece.

“When I Get Home”
Frankly, I’m surprised by the fairly tepid response to Solange’s long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s beloved “A Seat at the Table.” Maybe its unhurried, subtle elegance is anathema to the way we consume culture in 2019, or maybe it was just missing a breakthrough single. Whatever the case, the jazzy “When I Get Home” extremely deserves your time. The disc takes listeners on a personal, loving journey through her hometown, revealing so much about what drives her and what makes her the artist that she is.

Jessica Pratt
“Quiet Signs”
Even though she’s quite well-known, Jessica Pratt’s music feels like a secret — like you found it at the bottom of a box of records in your grandma’s attic. Her hushed third LP is another direct hit, deftly expanding on the pastoral folk of her first two albums with well-chosen moments of pan flute, organ, and strings. The results are languid, soothing tracks that can’t help but conjure up memories and spark daydreams.

Croatian Amor
Posh Isolation
Danish producer Loke Rahbek has the ability to conjure up both dreams and nightmares, often in the scope of a single song. “Isa,” his sixth LP, delivers plenty of both, striking a deft balance with aqueous ambient synths, industrial percussive touches, and the odd, fleeting human voice. The result is an engulfing, cinematic journey into our increasingly robotic hearts, considering where the organic material ends and the digital begins… or if there’s even a line at all anymore.

“Freewave 3”
The Chicago native’s new project feels like it’s submerged in 10 feet of water. Over a cavalcade of downtempo, downtrodden beats, he lays out his bleary-eyed reality, dogged by addiction and tragedy. Few artists tackle addiction with the unglamorous, brutal honesty of the 22 year-old, and in a scene that often glorifies drug use, Lucki does anything but.

Better Oblivion Community Center
“Better Oblivion Community Center”
Dead Oceans
Though the Phoebe Bridgers/Conor Oberst collab is probably my least favorite Bridgers-related project, BOCC still has a handful of lovely moments. The duo sound best to me when the arrangements are spare (see: “Dominos” and “Didn’t Know What I was in For”) and Bridgers takes the wheel. Ultimatley, there’s just too much of Oberst’s creaky voice on here for me, but hey, some Phoebe is better than no Phoebe.

“Better EP”
Memory Music
“Sounds kinda like Lifehouse and Third Eye Blind” may not sound like a compliment at face value, but the Philly four-piece’s updated take on the 90’s mod-rock sound of my youth tickles all my musical pleasure centers. Led by the solemn vocals and evocative writing of front-person William Lindsay, the “Better EP” explores the cruel wages of addiction that he observed both from his North Philly neighborhood and in his own life. Though it’s only three songs, it has a hell of a lot to say.

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