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


The Round-Up: The Best Records of the Second Quarter

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Instead of just rolling through the best of June, let’s round up the finest music of the second quarter of 2016. Coming off last week’s Best Tracks list, here are my favorite albums of the year.

Parkwood / Columbia
The album that stopped the world on its axis (and made me and my girlfriend 40 minutes late to a dinner), Beyoncé’s incredible, genre-spanning sixth effort needs no endorsement from me. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best albums of the year, but you probably knew that. As I’m sure I’ll be writing about it in December, I’ll spare you for now. All hail.
Hottest Jams: “Love Drought” “Pray You Catch Me”

The Hotelier
Tiny Engines
Another album that I’m sure to be writing about in December, the Worcester, MA quartet’s follow-up to 2014 masterpiece Home, Like Noplace Is There, isn’t as bleak as its predecessor but packs just as much catharsis. The “emo” label never really fit right and isn’t even close now, as the group has established themselves as much more than a nostalgia act. Goodness is a dense, varied collection that is equal parts grit and grace, meshing melodic riffs with crashing drums and Christian Holden’s distressed tenor to absolute perfection. Easily, one of the best indie rock albums of the last few years.
Hottest Jams: “Soft Animal” “Opening Mail For My Grandmother”

Anderson .Paak
Steel Wool
For all the rave reviews, big tours, and TV appearances, I still somehow feel like the Oxnard native’s beautiful second LP hasn’t gotten its due. In short, this thing should make Paak one of the biggest artists in the country. Over 60 engaging minutes, he proves that he can do just about everything well. He sings with the easy confidence of a seasoned soul singer. He raps with depth, cadence, and touch. He plays jazzy, swinging drums that drive the album forward. And, more than anything, he demonstrates his incredible gift as a storyteller, crafting Malibu into a living, breathing world that it’s impossible not to get sucked into. To me, this is cut from the same cloth and absolutely deserves to be in the same echelon as recent classics like To Pimp a Butterfly, Channel Orange, Lemonade, and the like.
Hottest Jams: “The Season / Carry Me” “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance”

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The Round-Up: The Best Songs of the Second Quarter

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Like we did back in March, let’s round up the best music of the second quarter of 2016. We’ll kick things off with the best tracks of the year so far. My album list should be out later this week. And so as not to repeat myself, I didn’t include anything from any of those albums on this list.

Kanye West
“Champions” (f/ Gucci Mane, Quavo, Travis Scott, Yo Gotti, Big Sean, Desiigner)
Cruel Winter (release date TBA on G.O.O.D. Music)
The Life of Pablo could be the best album of the year, but it probably doesn’t not even contain Kanye’s best song of 2016. “Champions” beautifully highlights what makes West such a musical genius and explains why his music is more vital than ever, a near impossibility for a hip-hop artist 15 years into his career.

Sure, his lyrical skills aren’t as sharp as they used to be, but that’s not the point. Rather, West has opted to work like a great head coach or creative director, surrounding himself with the young talent and placing them in the best position to succeed. Yeezy only gives us four new bars, but everybody else shines, resulting in a thrilling posse anthem in the spirit of classics like “Mercy” and “Clique.”

Gucci Mane
“1st Day Out The Feds”
Digital Single
At some point, it was almost as if Gucci Mane became more of a meme than a man. All the trouble and noise had reduced one of the most influential, important rap artists of all-time into an interminable stream of cheap “Bitch I Might Be” LOLz. For that reason, it’s been brilliant to see him spend his first month as a free man with a seemingly sound mind and sharp focus, dropping a string of potent singles. None is more affecting than this suffocating, paranoid tale of life in one of America’s most notorious prisons.

“Rep Your County” (Dave Luxe remix)
Digital Single
I’ve already written a ton about Thast this year, and I’m assuming that she’s only getting warmed up. On this tasty remix, MTL beatsmith, Dave Luxe laces an airy arrangement that leaves plenty of space for the rising Tampa native’s booming, voracious flow to gobble up the yards. She’s promised that new work with Zora Jones and Ryan Hemsworth is just around the corner, and I could not be more excited to hear it. Without a doubt, one of the best rappers in the country right now.

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Stream This Shit: Karun (aka Runka), Indigo

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Karun (aka Runka)
East African Wave
The Kenyan singer/songwriter’s gorgeous, 7-song project is the latest release from the excellent, Nairobi-based collective East African Wave. The arrangements are generally sparse and down-tempo, as the disc’s most prominent producers — Jinku and Nu Fvnk — mostly favor resonant, deep keys and use percussion as an accent, rather than a driving force. The restrained arrangements leave plenty of space for the singer (né Karun Mungai-Runkah) to dig into emotional, intimate spaces. My early favorites are “A Million Emotions” and “Need U The Most,” a pair of duets with her partner Joseph Kiwango. The former deals beautifully with the trepidation of falling in love, while the latter delves into being apart from home and the person you love. They are the kind of topics that just about everyone can relate to, but few can express with this much clarity and grace.

Monday Round-Up: ABRA, Rae Sremmurd, and the Rest of What I Missed

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“Lady Vengeance”
Fuck Marry Kill (out now on GHE20G0TH1K)
The first proper release from NYC collective GHE20G0TH1K, Fuck Marry Kill is nine exhilarating, unique club tracks from the Philly producer. While the whole thing deserves your time, its lead single is a great place to start — pairing latin rhythms and synth droplets with a mantric vocal sample. More than anything, it’s the kind of song that makes me horribly miss the packed, sweaty dancefloors of New York City. Someone take me back.

Listen to the whole thing, here.

Princess (out 08.20 on True Panther/Awful)
The Darkwave Duchess is back with a follow-up to last year’s exquisite LP, Rose. “Crybaby” is the kind of sweltering, new wave-indebted R&B that she’s been pumping out for the last couple of years. Boasting an earworm chorus and an undeniable baseline, it also packs one of the strongest bridges of the year. To top it all off, the Atlanta resident handled all production and songwriting here, further cementing her status as one of the brightest young talents in music today.

Alexis Taylor
“Lonely Vagabond”
Piano (out now on Moshi Moshi)
If you, like me, prefer your Hot Chip in ballad form, their frontman’s second solo album is for you. On nearly every track of Piano, Taylor frames his innocent, doe-like tenor with only a grand piano. While its skeletal arrangements will likely be too narrow in scope to captivate the masses, the disc stands as testament to Taylor’s underrated, nuanced songwriting and the affecting vulnerability of his gentle voice.

Angel Olsen
My Woman (out 09.02 on Jagjaguwar)
Falling in love with someone new is an incredibly fun experience that nobody wants to do again. On the first song from her forthcoming third LP, the ever-consistent Olsen considers this subject with her usual lyrical acuity and depth. What’s unusual about “Intern” is that her trademark guitar is replaced by lonely synths, framing her beautiful vocals in a fresh new way.

Rae Sremmurd
“Look Alive”
SremmLife 2 (out 06.24 on EarDrummers)
Just two weeks before their second LP drops, the all-conquering duo gives their mid tempo banger gets a characteristically lit new video. Even though the BPMs are turned down here, their irrepressible energy comes through loud and clear. Like much of their best tracks, infectious vocal melodies aren’t reserved for the chorus, as each of their verses boast better vocal hooks than most songs’ refrains.

Hot Jam of the Day: Local Natives, “Villany”

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Local Natives
Sunlit Youth (out 09.09 on Loma Vista)
I left Los Angeles about nine months ago, and nothing makes me miss it more than certain music. A DJ Mustard beat, anything that sounds remotely Balearic, Father John Misty, fingerpicked guitars, the first two Frank Ocean records, and so on. This LA group certainly makes the list, and the second single from their third LP is giving me a severe hankering for the city and all its smoggy, dry-skinned, decrepit glory.

They’ve always written fantastic vocal harmonies, and “Villainy” is one of their strongest and stickiest. The melody is lithe without being flimsy, and it is expertly framed by a (surprisingly) guitar-free arrangement. It’s a strong statement from a group that’s been a way for a couple of years, and a little more inspiration for me to plan a weekend trip back down the 5.

The Monday Round-Up: Clams Casino, Sampha, and the rest of what I missed

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After spending last week in Hawaii, the Monday Round-Up is back with the best of what I missed last week.

Clams Casino
32 Levels (out 07.15 on Colombia)
After breaking out in 2011 thanks to a string of successful beat tapes, the New Jersey cloud dweller has spent the majority of the last couple years producing beats for A-list rappers like A$AP Ferg, Vince Staples, and Danny Brown. And though it’s been a while since we’ve heard Clammy by himself, this single proves that he remains a compelling solo artist. “Blast” is built around a warped vocal sample and his trademark celestial keyboards and staccato hi-hats. It’s the kind of track that countless Mixcloud DJs will be saving up for their new summer sets, and I’m not at all mad about it.

AJ Tracey x Dave
“Thiago Silva”
Digital Single
A couple of rising stars link up on this undeniable ode to Paris Saint-Germain’s towering Brazilian center back. Tracey and Dave (aka Santan Dave) play off each other effortlessly, interchanging with dynamic, memorable verses over a classic Ruff Sqwad beat. One of the best things about the current batch of young grime MCs is how collaborative they are with each other, and this is just one of many excellent link-ups that we’ve heard this year.

“Timmy’s Prayer”
Digital Single
Speaking of voices we’ve been missing, Sampha’s dulcet tones returned to our lives this week with this gorgeous little ballad, his first solo single in almost three years. The South Londoner sounds absolutely heartbroken here, pining over languid, meandering keyboards. At time of writing, there’s no news of a follow-up to his excellent 2013 EP, Dual, but it’s good to know that he’s back at it.

Yumi Zouma
“Short Truth”
Yoncalla (out 05.27 on Cascine)
To no real fault of their own, I’ve never totally been convinced by the New Zealander’s starry-eyed, Balearic pop. It’s mostly because the groups that they are most reminiscent of — Air France,  Boat Club, Korallreven, The Radio Dept — are some of my all-time favorites. However, on the eve of the release of their debut LP, I’m starting to change my tune. The disc’s third single, “Short Truth,” is the best of a strong bunch, pairing glittering synths with a driving backbeat and an adhesive hook.

Father John Misty
“Real Love Baby”
Digital Single
It sounds like it was recorded on an iPhone 2, but that doesn’t stop Father John Misty’s new loosey from exuding all kinds of golden AM radio vibes. The 35 year-old is still riding high off last year’s excellent, I Love You, Honeybear, and hopefully his current purple patch will continue for a long time.

The Monday Round-Up: Skepta, James Blake, and the Rest of What I Missed

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An avalanche of important new albums dropped last Friday, so this week’s Monday Round-Up is dedicated to my early favorites from that batch.

Konnichiwa (Boy Better Know)
There are a bunch of great lines on the London rapper’s monstrous fourth LP, but my favorite comes about 90 seconds in. “Boy Better Know, man went to the BRITs on a train. / Man shutdown Wireless, then I walked home in the rain.” That image of UK hip-hop’s biggest star walking back to his apartment after setting London’s biggest music festival on fire is indicative of not only his approachable, everyman image but also his commitment to the culture and his city. Konnichiwa is the biggest UK-to-USA crossover record since Boy in Da Corner (2003) and Original Pirate Material (2002), and it’s great to know that Skepta didn’t need to compromise his roots to achieve his massive success.

A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)
Judging Radiohead albums on pre-release singles is always dicey. So if you were unmoved by the muted lead single, “Burn the Witch,” don’t let that put you off. Second single, “Daydreaming,” is an impossibly gorgeous piano ballad that recalls past classics “Pyramid Song” and “Videotape.” It begins restrained and gentle, but it gradually swells to a stunning, swirling crescendo. There’s life in the old dog, yet.

James Blake
The Colour in Anything (Polydor)
For the most part, the sprawling, experimental The Colour in Anything is an opaque, hazy affair. Buried in the sonic and emotional fuzz is  “f.o.r.e.v.e.r.” — a stunning, direct moment of clarity. Recalling his near-perfect cover of “A Case of You,” Blake strips everything back, proclaiming his naked devotion over nothing but a sparse, touching piano line.

Julianna Barwick
Will (Dead Oceans)
While I hate to pick one of the pieces out of Barwick’s third LP, “Bleached” is a microcosm of the album’s sublime, subtle beauty. Will is her most instrumentally rich LP yet, and the cinematic pianos and strings frame her vocals so well that it’s almost hard to go back to the a cappella sounds of her wonderful breakthrough, The Magic Place.

“I Don’t Love You Anymore”
HOPELESSNESS (Secretly Canadian)
Frankly, I haven’t listened to this album enough to begin to comment on it, but this Oneohtrix Point Never-produced organ ballad grabbed me most at first listen. It reminds me of another of her previous collaborations with OPN, the sparse, gripping “Returnal.”

“The Great Longing”
Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing (Mute)
Another that I need more time with, ex WU LYF frontman Ellery James Roberts and Ebony Hoorn’s debut features a number of maximalist, feral anthems. That said, its closer highlights the disc’s diversity. A bit like a twisted campfire song, “The Great Longing” pairs the duo’s raw vocals with strummed acoustic guitars and faraway horns.

“Got it Good” (f/ Craig David)
99.9% (XL)
The Montreal producer’s long-awaited debut is a vibrant collection that features touches of 90’s R&B, hip-hop, radio pop, light house, and astral jazz. My early favorite is this warm collaboration with TP favorite Craig David. Kay uses a languid vocal sample and jazzy drums to create the perfect canvas for Mr. Born To Do It to do what he does best.

The Monday Round-Up: Pity Sex, Young Thug, and the Rest of What I Missed

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Because there’s so much music coming out every week, there are always tracks that I want to write about but don’t get around to. I’m going to try to remedy that a bit by writing a weekly round-up of the best of what I missed, spending just a couple of sentences on each song. Let’s see if this works.

Pity Sex
White Hot Moon (out now on Run for Cover)

Vocalist/guitarist Britty Drake’s heartbreaking ode to her late mother is likely the saddest song of the year. Heartbroken as she is, Drake is able to contextualize the crushing loss with incredible clarity, even looking outside her own grief and into her father’s.

Young Thug
“Texas Love”
Digital Single

Thugger dedicates his newest loosey to the victims of recent flash flooding in Houston. This melodic, emotional gem is one of the strongest singles he’s released in the last year, and you can tell that he has real affection for the city and its people.

Digital Single

Not to be confused with Just Jack, the garage DJ of “Starz in their Eyez” fame, JSTJCK is one of London’s freshest new voices. “Noticed” is a laid-back, personal slab of R&B that is a solid successor to his brilliant, slept-on recent single, “Honest.”

Dawn Richard
Digital Single

It isn’t clear whether this will be on the New Orleans native’s hugely anticipated new LP, Redemptionheart, but it is clear that this heartfelt collaboration with Kingdom is a fucking banger. Album deets remains scare, but as long as she keeps trickling out singles like this and “Not Above That,” I won’t be complaining.

Nite Jewel
“Kiss the Screen”
Liquid Cool (out 06.10 on Gloriette)
We’re just one month away from Ramona Gonzalez’s long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s One Second of Love. The disc’s second single is a potent, slinky mid-tempo synth ballad about falling in love in the digital age.

Starting V: The Best Prince Songs on the Internet

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As you know, Prince Rogers Nelson passed away on Thursday at the young age of 57. I am always loathe to pontificate too much about people I’ve never met, but Prince was a special case.

In my opinion, he was the single most influential and important pop artist/musician of all-time and the second best electric guitar player ever, trailing only Jimi Hendrix. He did more to push culture forward than any other modern pop musician, challenging people to live more freely while making popular culture a safer space for true self-expression. He made people nervous, excited, scared, ecstatic, and uncomfortable (often all at the same time) and challenged damaging norms relating to race, gender, and sexuality more than any other mainstream musician. You can feel his influence in just about every inch of popular music, and many of current music’s most creative artists are direct descendents from his rich musical and stylistic family tree — from Kanye to Rihanna to Young Thug to Frank Ocean to André 3000 and so on.

And then there was the music. Over a 40-year period, he released nearly 40 studio LPs that spawned a litany of unbelievable musical moments. His first album, 1978’s For You, fused classic soulful, R&B (“My Love is Forever,” “Baby”) with nasty 70s funk (“Soft and Wet,” “I’m Yours”). Incredibly, Prince wrote and played every instrument on the disc’s lush, refined arrangements. As great as that record still is, you never would have guessed that it would precede the journey it did. And he spent the next 40 years of his life exploring, mastering, and re-imagining countless genres (rock, R&B, pop, soul, jazz, etc) and writing a diverse array of some of the most beloved pop songs of all time for other artists (example A, B, C, D).

It’s a career that couldn’t be summed up by a thousand think-pieces, but I wanted to pick out a couple favorites to write about. Any Prince fan knows how fervently he protected his copyright and how few of his songs are available to stream, so there’s no “When You Were Mine,” “Erotic City,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” or “With You” on this list. That said, there are plenty of looseys that I’ve streamed throughout the years to deal with Prince cravings during work-hours. Here are my five favorites.

Purple Rain
Live in 1983 in Minneapolis

I had to start with the big one. The first ever performance of the best pop song of all-time, this clip captures every ounce of his greatness — as a performer, as a vocalist, as a guitarist, and most of all, as a songwriter. Featuring an extra verse and an extended solo, this clip captures a legend at the peak of his powers. Supposedly, they sourced a lot of the studio version from this performance, which is one of the reasons that version feels so much more immediate and human than most studio recordings.

There’s this great moment (at about 3:14) when Prince approaches the mic and opens his mouth to sing the first verse, but just steps back at the last second to collect himself, seemingly overcome by the moment. Maybe he just did it for effect, but it’s also a little window into the ocean of emotion (it’s not hyperbole if it’s about “Purple Rain”) that he’s tapping into here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this thing over the years, but each time I do, it gives me something new.

Stream it over at

“Do Me, Baby”
Live at the Capitol Theater, 1982
This is my favorite cut from one of the only legit concert recordings available online, captured at a New Jersey date of the Controversy tour. Many of Prince’s best bedroom jams have a divine, gospel-esque quality to them, almost like the Purple One is laying down and worshiping at the altar of somebody’s mind-blowing (ahem) talent. This performance of “Do Me, Baby” is one of the greatest examples of that. Backed by one of the classic Revolution line-ups, his virile vocals are flawlessly framed by the great Lisa Coleman’s starry-eyed keyboards, Dez Dickerson’s sublime, echo-y guitar filigree and a filthy baseline by Brown Mark. The whole show is more than worth your time, but this is the high point for me.

“Always in My Hair”
Live at the Arsenio Hall show, 2014
One of the things that makes Prince’s death so sad is that it felt like he had so much more music left in him. Incredibly, 40 years into his career, his level never seemed to really drop. In his 50s, his fingers remained just as nimble and his vocals just as potent as they were in his 20s. In fact, I cannot think of a single musician from his generation aged so gracefully, save possibly Springsteen (maybe). He was never a nostalgia act, consistently putting out work that broke new ground and took real chances.

This ripping performance of the classic B-side turned single, “Always in My Hair,” is perfect evidence that he emphatically still had ‘it’ late in his career. He pays tribute to a loyal lover with effortless swagger and a face-melting guitar solo. His backing band, 3RDEYEGIRL, is also a reminder of his lifelong commitment to empowering female musicians, which will always remain a key element of his lasting legacy.

“A Case of You”
A Tribute to Joni Mitchell
As people, Prince and I probably don’t have very much in common (as much I’d wish), but one thing we can definitely agree on is Joni Mitchell. And because she’s likely my favorite artist ever, Joni covers are always a dicey proposition to me. However, Prince handles “A Case of You” with trademark grace and subtle virtuosity. From the lovely, sprightly piano playing to his easy falsetto, he treads the line between putting his own stamp on it and staying true to the perfect original.

“Sometimes it Snows in April”
OK, so this one is kind of cheating, but I found it on YouTube today, so I’ll say it passes the copyright test. I’ve been coming back to Prince’s devastating rumination on the loss a friend a lot recently, as I’ve had to say goodbye to three of my own in the last 12 months. They happened in quick succession, hitting me hard and leaving me with endless questions. As the months have passed, I’ve gained some perspective and understanding on what Prince eloquently sings about here, namely to do your god-damnedest to appreciate the time you’ve got with the people you love. It’s a simple lesson, but it’s the biggest one there is. Every day, I’m trying to do a better job remembering it. And whenever I need a reminder, this record has been there for me.

“Sometimes it Snows in April” is just one of the many gifts that Prince gave us in his incredible 57 years on this planet, which is such better place to live on because of his contributions. RIP.

“All good things they say, never last.
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past.”

Hot Jam of the Day: Palmistry, “Club Aso”

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“Club Aso”
Pagan (out 06.17 on Mixpak)

After a string of tantalizing solo singles and an underrated EP, Palmistry (né Benjy Keating) is finally ready for his close-up. “Club Aso,” the lead single from his long-awaited debut LP, pairs the Brixton artist’s sentimental tenor with warm synths and subtle, dancehall-influenced percussion. Unlike a lot of artists making pop music in the indie space, Keating is an A-Grade songwriter, rather than just a vibe creator or mood setter. And it’s easy to imagine the track being a radio hit in the hands of someone like Bieber or Drake. That said, I’m glad he kept it for himself, as it likely wouldn’t have maintained the restrained feel that makes “Club Aso” one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

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