Sade, "The Big Unknown"


Sade "The Big Unknown" Windows Soundtrack (out now on Sony) Though she's only a few months shy of her 60th birthday, Helen Folasade Adu remains a force like nobody else. On the stunning "The Big Unknown," Sade proves that her quiet storm is still a Category 5, as she glides effortlessly over oceanic, Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


Miya Folick "Thingamajig" Premonitions (out 10.26 on Terrible) With each new single, the talented LA vocalist is strengthening the case that her forthcoming LP could be one of the best debuts of the year. Her flexible vocals always stretch further than you expect, and she uses her seemingly unlimited range to exact maximum Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


Welp, this is embarrassing. The week I roll out a new round-up column, I respond by posting exactly zero times. My editorial staff (of one) was pretty slammed this week, but that's no excuse. Hopefully this piece can make up for it, dear readers. I'll do better this week, because, Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


I was on vacay in England last week, and as I sat back down at my desk this morning, I realized that a massive amount of new music came out while I was gone. I'm going to try something new with quick one to two sentence recaps of some Read more

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

Featured

Sade, “The Big Unknown”

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Sade
“The Big Unknown”

Windows Soundtrack (out now on Sony)
Though she’s only a few months shy of her 60th birthday, Helen Folasade Adu remains a force like nobody else. On the stunning “The Big Unknown,” Sade proves that her quiet storm is still a Category 5, as she glides effortlessly over oceanic, minor-key keys and languid percussion. As the fires crackle and swell, so does she, and her mesmerizing vocal drives the track toward its devastating crescendo. “I will rise again,” she declares defiantly. You’d have to be an idiot not to believe her.

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week

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Miya Folick
“Thingamajig”
Premonitions (out 10.26 on
Terrible)
With each new single, the talented LA vocalist is strengthening the case that her forthcoming LP could be one of the best debuts of the year. Her flexible vocals always stretch further than you expect, and she uses her seemingly unlimited range to exact maximum feeling from all of her songs. This, the fourth track from “Premonitions,” is a sublime, gorgeous ode to doing one of the most important things that so many of us struggle to do: apologize.

Adrianne Lenker
“Cradle”
abysskiss (out now on Saddle Creek)
Though I don’t have anything against Big Thief, their front-woman Adrianne Lenker’s first solo album, to me, eclipses both of the Brooklyn quartet’s two efforts. A hyper-talented guitar player, Lenker’s plainspoken, yet affecting voice sounds so clean over her nimble, solo fingerpicking. “abysskiss” is an album worth spending some time with.

Kodak Black
“ZEZE” (f/ Offset & Travis Scott)

Digital Single
Veteran producer D.A. Doman comes through with an addictive island-flavored beat that is so good, it almost doesn’t matter who is on it. And when you’ve got two A-listers and the troubled but undeniably talented Kodak Black in the booth, you know it’s going to pop. The way the trio bop weightlessly over the steel drums and hi-hats will have you dreaming of the summer just passed.

Boy Pablo
“Sick Feeling”

Soy Pablo (out now on 777)
The Norwegian chillboi’s second EP dropped on Friday, and its best tune is a surprisingly potent, emotionally direct song about the way heartbreak smacks you in the face when you are young. Don’t let the goofy Guitar Hero prop fool you, Pablo sounds legitimately lost as he retraces his steps, wondering where it all went wrong.

Kevin Gates
“Wrong Love”

Luca Brasi 3 (out now on Bread Winners’ Association)
Kevin Gates doesn’t ever hold back. And he pours out his heart on his new mixtape, the first since serving nine months in federal prison. Though the project is uneven, Gates shines on soulful, confessional tracks like this one where he unflinchingly speaks on his heavy drug usage, suicide, and being an absentee father. Like the man himself, it is powerful, uncomfortable, and as real as it gets.

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week

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Welp, this is embarrassing. The week I roll out a new round-up column, I respond by posting exactly zero times. My editorial staff (of one) was pretty slammed this week, but that’s no excuse. Hopefully this piece can make up for it, dear readers.

I’ll do better this week, because, let’s be honest, I can’t do any worse.

Jessie Ware
“Overtime”

Digital Single
Deep house Jessie is the best Jessie, and holy shit does the Londoner deliver with this late-night banger. Buoyed by a nasty sub-bass line and atmospheric synths from Bicep and Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford, “Overtime” feels like something that could’ve come from her classic debut, “Devotion,” and is easily one of her strongest tracks in years.

Sheck Wes
“Never Lost”

MUDBOY (out now on Interscope)
Most of the talk about rising star Sheck Wes is about his booming voice, not what he has to say. However, the hyper-unique Harlem rapper has a ton of compelling tales to tell on his break-out debut, MUDBOY. On “Never Lost,” Sheck digs into his mother sending him back to their native Senegal to shape up when he was in high school. A fascinating story, well told.

Tomberlin
“I’m Not Scared” (Live @ Paste Studios)

At Weddings (Saddle Creek)
Though I whiffed on Sarah Beth Tomberlin’s incredible debut when it dropped this summer, I’ve been more than making up for it over the last two weeks. The Kentucky native’s plaintive, fearless songwriting is only matched by her powerful voice, which is on full display throughout this stunning performance. What a talent.

Bedouine
“Hey, Who Really Cares” / “Come Down in Time”

Digital Single
Azniv Korkehian, the Angelino behind one of my favorite albums of 2017, is back with a gorgeous pair of pastoral folk covers. Though the Elton John tune is fantastic, her cover of folk master Linda Perhacs’ magical 1970 song is the showstopper. Her impossibly soft voice is a dead ringer for the perma-soothing Perhacs, and she captures every ounce of the kindness that radiates from the original.

Blueface
“Respect My Crypn”
Famous Cryp (out now on 886011)
The next in line of super original stylists from LA, Blueface dropped new visuals from another track off his breakthrough debut. It may take a few spins to get used to his choppy, off-beat flow, but once you find the beat, you’ll find yourself running it back again and again.

Lil Durk
“Downfall” (f/ Young Dolph & Lil Baby)
Digital Single
With his label drama now behind him, Lil Durk can now fully focus on music, and it shows. After enduring a down period thanks to a bumpy relationship with Def Jam, the Chicago native has been dropping consistently excellent music for the better part of two years. And it feels like he’s well set up for a second act that’s even better than his blazing first.

Mariah Carey
“With You”

Digital Single
Don’t look now y’all, Ms Mariah’s still-unannounced new album is officially 2 for 2. Though it’s a totally different vibe to the sharp-tongued “GTFO,” the DJ Mustard-produced “With You” is infused with the exact same heart and honesty. Let’s. Fucking. Go.

Nicholas Krgovich
“Lido”

OUCH (out 10.26 on Tin Angel)
Though he’s been at it for a few years, the Canadian crooner’s sweet sound was a new discovery for me last week. A little folky and a little lounge-y, “Lido” begins as a sadsack break-up tune but is boosted by its hopeful resolution. I’m officially curious to hear the rest of this project.

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week

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I was on vacay in England last week, and as I sat back down at my desk this morning, I realized that a massive amount of new music came out while I was gone. I’m going to try something new with quick one to two sentence recaps of some songs I loved. And we’ll see, maybe I’ll start doing this every week.

Mariah Carey
“GTFO”

Digital Single
It’s been out for a few weeks, but I keep coming back to Mariah’s stunning new kiss off ballad. It reminds me so much of “H.A.T.E.U.” — her most underrated perfect song. And though it’s likely too low-key to become a smash, her ability to deliver a track this emotive and raw more than 30 years into her career is remarkable. She’ll always be remembered as a legendary vocalist and artist, but her bravery and the emotional heft of her music is just as special. People should be making more of this song.

Robyn
“Honey”
Honey (out Oct 26 on Konichiwa)
Robyn SZN is rapidly approaching, and “Honey” is our second taste of the project. Though it seems a bit of an off-speed pitch following the anthemic “Missing U,” it is also one of the most directly romantic Robyn tunes of recent years and is growing on me with each listen.

SOB x RBE
“Vibes”
Gangin II (out now on EMPIRE)
Vallejo’s finest returned with a follow-up to their excellent “GANGIN” tape from earlier in the year. Though I haven’t been through it all yet, low-RPM banger “Vibes” is a perfect example of the lyrical interplay and Bay Area slap that makes them such standouts.

Empress Of
“Love For Me”

Us (out 10/19 on Terrible)
Somehow, I didn’t write about Lorely Rodriguez’s irresistible lead single “When I’m With Him” (don’t worry, it’ll be HIGH on my year-end list). Her new track, “Love For Me,” is a bit more pulled back, but she still sounds beautiful on it, gliding over a characteristically clever, synth-driven arrangement from DJDS.

Quando Rondo
“Bacc To The Basics”

Life After Fame (out now, self-released)
One of my favorite new rappers of the year, the Savannah MC just dropped an excellent new tape. Lead single, “Bacc To The Basics,” highlights Rondo’s raspy delivery and evocative, personal storytelling. One to watch for 2019.

Col3trane
“Tyler”
BOOT (out now on Cole Basta)
The rising London vocalist with the awful name feels like a star in the making. Though it’s hard to write about the teenager’s music without mentioning its palpable Frank Ocean influence, his easy tenor and evocative songwriting stand on their own.

Pinegrove
“Paterson & Leo”

Skylight (self-released, out now)
Without wading into the morality of songwriter Evan Stephens Hall (read these pieces, make up your own mind), the first few spins of their restrained new project have been encouraging. This subdued, pretty track captures the specific kind of big-hearted feeling that makes their best songs so special.

Westerman
“Albatross”
The Arc EP (out 11.09 on Blue Flowers)
Another curious song from the elusive London singer-songwriter, “Albatross” is a gorgeous slice of synthetic folk music. He balances synths and drum machines with washes of electric guitar and his forlorn voice in a unique way, resulting in tunes that live between a ton of different styles but are beholden to none.

It Looks Sad.
“Bike”

Sky Lake (out 11.02 on Tiny Engines)
Besides being the clear favorites for “Best Band Name of 2018,” the Charlotte duo has been cranking out sweet, gauzy dream pop this year. New single, “Bike,” is a languid late summer jam that pairs reverb-soaked guitars with Jimmy Turner’s laid-back vocals to deliciously nostalgic effect.

Lil Uzi Vert, “New Patek”

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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 with ease.

What’s most impressive is the way that he commands your attention for all six minutes, and if anything, it feels like “New Patek” could have been even longer. Already one of the true singular stylists in music, somehow Uzi keeps revealing new abilities and stretching his creativity beyond our expectations. What a talent.

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

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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 his evocative falsetto with a rave-y backbeat and opaque, occasionally harsh instrumentation.

If you follow his social media, you’ll know that he is deep into uncompromising, blistering techno, and he does such a good job of marrying those influences with his love of heartfelt pop music on this track. His tender vocals immediately soften the rough edges and inject palpable humanity into the mix. Though it may not appeal to genre purists (I can hear the FACT writers sharpening their daggers), it’s an exciting, unique sound and a more natural home for Krell than the streamlined pop of his last album.

Wild Pink, “Mount Erie”

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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 a more emotionally direct songwriter than Adam Granduciel. And his illustrative lyrics are a beautiful foil for their windswept, expansive guitar rock.

“Lake Eerie” is a potent example of just how good Wild Pink is when both elements of their sound are hitting on all cylinders. The first thing you notice is the gorgeous, reverb-soaked arrangement — the kind of thing that just screams “open road, windows down.” But after a few spins, Ross’ lyrics start to dig in. A coming of age story, the New Yorker considers the journey we all take from adolescence to adulthood and why we never really change.

Mitski, “Two Slow Dancers”

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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, captures the transportive moment of a last dance — the way it can silence even life’s cruelest realities for a few minutes. An absolutely magical ballad.

Future, “Hate the Real Me”

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Future
“Hate the Real Me”

Beastmode 2 (out now on Epic)
The peak of a quietly excellent year, Future goes super deep on his worthy follow-up to 2015’s legendary “Beast Mode” tape. Of all its stirring moments, nothing emotionally hits harder than its last track, as Future pours his heart out over triumphant, lush keys from the masterful Zaytoven.

It’s hard to imagine another A-list artist speaking this honestly about his own pain and addiction (especially, while making it sound so damn beautiful), but Future is a one-off. And though it hurts to hear him detail the depths of his anguish, it’s also exciting to hear him get back to his musical best. That dichotomy has been central to the Future experience and is precisely why his music has connected so viscerally with so many people.

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

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Somehow, some fucking way, 2018 is more than half over. And though it might feel like I always say this, I think this was the toughest list I’ve had to make yet. There’s been an overwhelming number of exciting, vital new voices popping up and plenty of fantastic follow-ups from people I already loved.

Here’s my best effort at whittling the list down to about 30. I split it into two tiers.

TIER 1: The Best of the Best: Early contenders for Song of the Year (alphabetical order)

03 Greedo
“Never Bend”
The Wolf of Grape Street (out now on Alamo)
Lemme spell it out for you clearly; 03 Greedo is the most exciting, original, and talented rapper to come up Future and Young Thug, bar none. Though it technically came out last year, “Never Bend” is, for me, the clearest distillation of what makes the LA native such an innovator. Greedo’s music is elated sorrow, triumphant misery. The sound of a weary soul who has been taking punches his entire life, but remains confident — no, certain — that his resilience and commitment will be rewarded with total victory.

That’s one of the biggest reasons why his recent 20-year jail sentence (for a non-violent drug crime) feels so unfair, because he was basically there, against all odds. However, it’s also what gives me hope that this isn’t the end of his story, that somehow Greedo will realize his vast potential and get the validation and financial security that his singular talent so richly deserves.

André 3000
“Me&My (To Bury Your Parents)”
Digital Single
The inimitable ATLien surprise dropped this beautiful jazzy ballad on Mother’s Day. An evocative ode to his late parents, André sketches a few dreamy, yet vivid childhood memories of the kind of simple moments that we tend to miss most when someone we love passes. The rolling pianos and the graceful woodwinds give the track a real “Court and Spark” feel, so much so that I thought it was a Joni sample on the first few listens.

Obviously, nobody knows whether this will usher in a new body of work that will expand on the sound (I hope). But if there’s anything the lyrics teach us, we should enjoy things for what they are because we never know how long they’ll stick around for.

Camp Cope
“The Face Of God”
How To Socialise & Make Friends (out now on Run For Cover)
Few singer-songwriters can tackle difficult topics as gracefully as Georgia McDonald, and she does it again on this heartbreaking track. A harrowing firsthand account of being abused by “a boy in a band,” the Melbourne native’s booming voice offers insight, honesty, and grace, as she takes on an epidemic that is sadly shared by so many others. It’s extra powerful as the trio has just signed for Run For Cover — a label that has poorly dealt with similar situations among some of its biggest bands (Turnover, Pinegrove, Whirr).

Chromatics
“Black Walls”
Dear Tommy (out ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ on Italians Do It Better)
Whether or not “Dear Tommy” ever comes out, tracks like this illustrate exactly why the thirst remains so strong, more than two beyond its original release date. Its chunky rhythm guitars snake together masterfully between washes of keyboard and Ruth Radelet’s angelic croon. In short, “Black Walls” is just a perfectly crafted song, with not a single sonic hair of its perfectly coiffed pompadour out of place.

City Girls
“Where the Bag At?
Period (out now on Quality Control)
Life isn’t fair, but this one is especially galling. Just as her music career was taking off and life-changing money was coming in, JT (né Jatavia Johnson) — one half of the super talented, rising Miami bass duo, City Girls — had to turn herself in to do a two-year prison bid on an old credit card fraud charge.

Still only in her mid 20’s, hopefully their excellent debut “Period” and bandmate Yung Miami will be able to keep their momentum going long enough for this not to be career wrecking. It only takes one spin of this electric, strip-club anthem to realize why their rare combination of charisma, razor-sharp bars, and joie de vivre has so many people talking about them. 

Ella Mai
“Boo’d Up”
READY (out now on 10 Summers)
Yes, it originally came out last year. But if a stunning R&B ballad falls in the Internet and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

A classic in any era, the 23 year-old Londoner’s ode to puppy love is guaranteed to take you back to the sweaty palms and sleepless nights of youthful infatuation — the time where a single glance can make your heart stop. And for those of us washed boys and girls who have been wifed up for a minute, it’ll take you back to those everyday, subtle moments when your partner does something random that reminds you just how dope they are and how stupid lucky you are to be Boo’d Up with them.

Father John Misty
“The Songwriter”
God’s Favorite Customer (out now on Sub Pop)
It feels like everyone is officially sick to death of the Father John Misty schtick. And evidently, so is he. On his bleak, exhausted fourth LP, Josh Tillman tears down the “self-referential raconteur” facade and exposes himself for what he actually is: a shitty husband, a frightened man-child, an addict, and crucially, an incredible songwriter. Crestfallen and alone in a hotel room, he turns the harsh glare back on himself on the album’s haunting, brutal centerpiece. For once, Tillman the man considers the damage Father John Misty the character has had on the person he loves most.

Isabella Lovestory
“me gustas”
Juguete (out now, self-released)
I can’t think of anything that’s been more therapeutic for me than the Honduran singer’s debut project. In a year that’s been defined by the boundless suffering of brown people, I’ve found myself reflexively turning to the disc’s simple and sweet Spanish-language love songs to combat the deluge of heartbreaking news that greets me every day.

At first, I listened to it mostly to help me hide from what is really going on (self-care?), but her optimistic spirit and soulful writing has reconnected me to the sounds I grew up on and reminded me how much joy and light there is in our part of the world. More than anything, it has helped drive me to get involved again and actively support other people with Central American roots who don’t have the privilege that I do. That’s what music should be for, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Kacey Musgraves
“High Horse”
Golden Hour (out now on UMG)
I could have gone with a handful of tracks from the 29 year-old’s bulletproof third album, but “High Horse” is a tasty example of the disc’s genre fluidity and her versatility as a songwriter and singer. A modern “You Don’t Impress Me Much,” Kacey glides over an effortless disco backbeat (#RandomAccessMusgraves), rolling her eyes at all those annoying dudes who have opinions about everything (i.e. what country is supposed to sound like).

Mitski
“Nobody”
Be The Cowboy (out 08.17 on Dead Oceans)
Can someone who was already a break-out star break out again? Judging by the pre-release singles from the follow-up to Mitski’s beloved 2016 LP “Puberty 2,” the 27 year-old has her sights set on world domination. “Nobody” is disco-tinged anthem that makes loneliness feel triumphant in a way that is reminiscent of Robyn’s seminal “Dancing on My Own.” Raw and honest, she details the hunger for human connection that is only found in the driest of dry spells. We’ve all been there, whether we want to admit it or not.

Playboy Carti
“Shoota” (f/ Lil Uzi Vert)
Die Lit
Sometimes what you take out is more important than what you put in, and influential Philadelphian Maaly Raw proves that with his ecstatic production on “Shoota.” For most of it, there’s a conspicuous absence of drums, which builds a palpable tension under Uzi’s characteristically tuneful opening verse. Then, when the drums come in for Carti’s second verse, the release is absolute magic, one of the most purely joyful musical moments of the year. Even though it’s only 2 and a half minutes, Maaly’s clever production makes it feel like an epic.

 

Rae Sremmurd
“Offshore” (f/ Young Thug)
SR3MM (out now on Ear Drummers)
Even though it’s on the Rae Sremmurd record, let’s be real “Offshore” is all about my guy Jeffery. For three magical minutes, time stops as Thugger goes all the way in, morphing into the R&B Jackson Pollock and smearing his kaleidoscopic vocals all over the space in completely unexpected ways. In a scene that too often celebrates derivatives, there’s nothing like listening to a true original do the thing that only they can. And it’s also nice to remember us that at least one of our faves would still “slap the shit outta Donald Trump any day.” Assemble all of the praying hands emojis.

Snail Mail
“Pristine”
Lush (out now on Matador)
One of the best indie rock songs I’ve heard in a long time, “Pristine” is a stunning slice of guitar music that brilliantly captures the specific feeling of trying and failing to make someone you’re into see you the way you see them. Anybody who has ever been young with a crush will be able relate to this track.

Each heartbreak just feels so formative at that age, and it’s so easy to see somebody as the answer to all your problems, even if you’d only known them for a short time. What’s even more impressive is that singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan is still an actual teenager, capturing these feelings with such insight and perspective while she’s theoretically still wrapped up in them.

The 1975
“Give Yourself A Try”
A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (out in October on Dirty Hit)
With his signature combo of earnestness and self-deprecation, Matty Healy doles out advice to the mass of modern millennials gripped by their quarter life crises. The simplistic arrangement feels like a dud in any other hands, but Healy has that rare knack for tapping into the romantic, hyper-emotional, mostly dumb teenage feelings that we learn to suppress but never totally leave behind. The best band in the world right now.

Troye Sivan
“Bloom”
Bloom (08.31 on EMI)
There’s a lot in 2018 to be disappointed about, but it’s exciting that the best pure, major label pop song of the year is by an openly gay artist singing overtly and clearly about sex. Cheekily described by Sivan as “bop about bottoming,” “Bloom” captures the thrill and trepidation that comes just before doing something for the first time and revels in the trust and connection that is formed between both parties in the aftermath. Though the pronouns might surprise, the feeling is universal. We’ve all been there before and will likely (hopefully) be there again as we grow and develop throughout our lives.

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