Images & Words: Real Lies, "The Checks"


Real Lies "The Checks" Digital Single Longtime TP favorite and the trio behind my favorite song of 2014, London's Real Lies are back with their first new music in a couple years. Few artists are as good at capturing the mood of being young and on your own in a big city like Read more

Father John Misty, "Just Dumb Enough to Try"


Father John Misty "Just Dumb Enough To Try" God's Favorite Customer (out 06.01 on Sub Pop) Though his last LP "Pure Comedy" had its moments, it was an overwritten project that was weighed down by grand, mostly superficial proclamations about the frivolity of modern life. His usually sharp pen often landed with Read more

Images & Words: Yxng Bane, "Vroom"


Yxng Bane "Vroom" Digital Single When I first wrote about the East Londoner back in July 2016, he didn't even have CDQ versions of his tracks on SoundCloud. In less than two years, Bane's career has grown like wildfire with multiple videos doing crazy numbers. The hot streak looks set to continue with Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of The First Quarter


To be totally honest, I'm not sure it's been a vintage first quarter for music, as I had fewer albums that I wanted to write about than usual. That said, there are some truly excellent albums on this list, and there's a lot to look forward coming up soon. Kacey Read more

Kacey Musgraves, "Golden Hour"


Kacey Musgraves "Golden Hour" Golden Hour (out now on UMG) At this point, you probably already know that the 29 year-old Texan’s new album is something special. The disc is a stunning collection of impeccably sung and written modern country tunes, all of which deserve your time. However, I wanted to Read more

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Kacey Musgraves, “Space Cowboy”

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Kacey Musgraves
“Space Cowboy”
Golden Hour (out 03.30 on UMG)
Very few country artists can crush my heart like the 29 year-old Texan. Whether it’s the swooning, wedding-worthy, “Late To The Party” (one of my Top 5 Songs of 2015) or the heartfelt, sad-sack tale about small-town life “Merry Go ‘Round,” Musgraves has that rare ability to capture the beauty or pain of a moment and distill it into four empathic, gorgeous minutes.

Now we can add “Space Cowboy” — the first single from her third proper LP — to that list. A touching ode to the moment you realize that no matter what you do, the person you love will never truly commit to you. It hurts like hell, but there’s also a freedom that goes with it — a realization that it’s finally okay to let go and find someone who will appreciate you. A little part of you is relieved. And Musgraves captures both of those emotions masterfully here. One of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Images & Words: oklou, “Friendless”

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oklou
“Friendless”
The Rite of May (out 03.16 on NUXXE)
It’s impossible not to get swallowed up by the rising French vocalist’s spellbinding breakthrough single. “Friendless” is a an aqueous, sensuous track that undulates like the calm sea depicted in the video clip. Though the production is spot-on, Marylou “oklou” Mayniel’s vocals are the real star of the show, aching for the love of someone who is far away. One to watch in 2018.

Images & Words: Jamie Isaac, “Doing Better”

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Jamie Isaac
“Doing Better”
Digital Single

After a year or so away, the low-key Croydon singer-songwriter returns with the first song from his forthcoming sophomore LP. “Doing Better” is another tasty slab of the bleary-eyed, late-night soul that made his debut, “Couch Baby,” my 14th favorite album of 2016. Isaac is blessed with a warm, soft tenor and is a talented piano player — both of which are on full display on this broken-winged ballad. More like this please, Jamie.

Images & Words: Mabel x Not3s, “Fine Line”

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Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 12.01.22 PMMabel x Not3s
“Fine Line”

Digital Single
Mabel and Not3s both appeared on my “Best Songs of 2017” list as solo artists, so it’s not surprising that their second single together is an absolute heater. “Fine Line” has more crossover potential than anything either artist has released before, bringing an anthemic, radio-ready chorus to go with their signature, lithe, Afropop and R&B infused sound. Though Not3s is a rising star in his own right, Mabel sounds incredible here, and it’s starting to feel like she’s the next UK artist who will make true waves in the American pop landscape. Probably my favorite song of this young year.

Images & Words: 03 Greedo, “Never Bend”

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https_cdn.evbuc.comimages354975762160791799801originalO3 Greedo
“Never Bend”

Money Changes Everything (out now on Golden Grenade Empire)
Not gonna lie, I slept on 03 Greedo last year, but I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. The Watts rapper is one of the most unique, exciting new voices rising today, pairing soulful crooning and sticky bars for a sound that is as bluesy as it is joyous. My favorite track, “Never Bend,” is a perfect example of that dichotomy, as Greedo revels in his resilience without running away from the pain that revealed it. One of the most exciting young artists around.

Best of ’17: The Best Songs of 2017

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So that’s it. 6 years of ThunderPenguin are in the books. As always, here’s a round-up of my favorite songs of the year. This was one of the toughest lists I’ve ever made, and I hope something on this list brings you the light it brought me. Thanks so much for reading this year. Love you guys.

Though it’s missing some things, you can listen to most of this list on this Spotify Playlist.

ALEXG66. (Sandy) Alex G
“Sportstar”
Rocket (Domino)

Easily the weirdest song ever written about sports, “Sportstar” is a cracked chronicle of fandom. Alex’s heavily processed vocals and spacey guitars give the whole thing a dissociated vibe that seems to mirror an obsessed fan’s imaginary relationship with his or her favorite star. As with any one-way relationship, there’s deep pain intertwined with the infatuation, and he does a really nice job of highlighting that both lyrically and sonically.

65. Ariel Pink
“Feels Like Heaven”
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (Kemado)
Every few years, something weird happens, and I really dig an Ariel Pink song. It’s always the poppiest thing on the album (i.e. “Round and Round,” “Put Your Number in My Phone), and it’s almost always the only thing I like from it. Though “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson” is better than most of his records, nothing jumped out at me like this little blissed out slice of 60’s psychedelia. Feels like heaven, indeed.

64. Desire
“Saturday”
Windswept (Italians Do It Better)
The year is 2047. Our robot overlords have condemned us to a life of servitude. There is no sun, and a thick perma-fog hovers like death over the only inhabitable villages left. Johnny Jewel tweets “DEAR TOMMY: COMING 2048.” I glumly close my browser and turn on one of three excellent IDIB comps that he had put out that year.

63. Kommode
“Fight or Flight or Dance All Night”
Analog Dance Music (Random Two Syllable Word)
I must admit, when I first heard that the long-awaited side project from Kings of Convenience’s Eirik Glambek Bøe was called “Analog Dance Music,” I worried that it might be a little bit “old man yells at cloud” dance music. However, it turned out to be a rock-solid collection of breezy, languid disco that didn’t feel that far from KOC’s best up-tempo tunes. This, its lead single, is a perfect representation the record: well-constructed, well-sung, and well pleasing.

62. Mayorkun
“Mama”
Digital Single
The Nigerian charts were on fire this year, a veritable goldmine of inspiring, genre-fluid sounds from artists scattered all over the continent. This ecstatic love song from one of the country’s brightest young stars was a real standout. Mayorkun’s voice has a playful, innocent feel, which interacts beautifully with the track’s nimble guitars and clavé beat. He’s one to watch in 2018.

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Hot Jam of the Day: T-Pain, “Textin’ My Ex” (f/ Tiffany Evans)

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Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 4.23.55 PMT-Pain
“Textin’ My Ex” (f/ Tiffany Evans)
Oblivion
Tomorrow, T-Pain drops his long-awaited fifth LP, the culmination of the most trying era of the R&B innovator’s career. Through no real fault of his own, Pain (né Faheem Najm) went from the jolly ringmaster of a multi-million dollar radio empire to a sullen, unfashionable has-been — the Chad Kroger of R&B. He’s been surprisingly open about how much the whole process hurt him, specifically chagrined by how little credit he’s given for his undeniable influence on the current sound.

The story around “Oblivion” — his first record in six years — centers around a man who’s gone through the meat grinder and is primed for redemption. Bruised but unbroken, an older, wiser Pain is ready to translate everything he’s been through into the most potent, affecting work of his career. Unfortunately, none of that was apparent on its lead single, “Goal Line.” It’s a flaccid, ineffectual trap snoozer, more the work of a follower than a leader.

However, the pre-release promise starts to show on this swooning second single. A duet with rising R&B singer Tiffany Evans, “Textin’ My Ex” is a classic T-Pain song in so many ways — a well-written, well-sung ballad that tells a simple story. However, there’s a subtle difference. There’s a palpable ache in his voice that gives you the feeling that there’s higher stakes here. Maybe it’s because of all the bullshit he’s been through, or maybe it’s just that texting your ex is a much riskier proposition in your 30’s than it is in your 20’s. Whatever it is, it’s effective, and it’s made me so much more excited to hear what else is on “Oblivion.”

Images & Words: SOPHIE, “It’s Okay To Cry”

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Screen-Shot-2017-10-19-at-9.05.23-AM-1508418344-640x328SOPHIE
“It’s Okay to Cry”

Digital Single
Every once in a while, somebody puts out something that takes your breath away. “It’s Okay to Cry” is absolutely one of those moments. After spending her early career lurking behind faceless, chaotic, schizophrenic experimental dance music, the 32 year-old has stepped into the light and up to the microphone. The result is pure magic.

Built around a twinkling, celestial piano melody, “It’s Okay To Cry” plays out like a tender, ultra-modern Disney ballad. Her voice is sweet and confident, as she consoles a heartbroken loved one. The depth and power of the message is ratcheted up by the stunning visuals, which depict Sophie as an angelic figure. More than being Sophie’s first public appearance, it’s also the first time she’s clarified which pronouns (she/her) she’s using. It’s a massive statement in so many ways, and truly one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Hot Jam of the Day: King Krule, “Logos”

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King-KruleKing Krule
“Logos”

The OOZ (out now on XL)
Archy Marshall’s excellent new album feels like a collection of those wonky dream states that exist somewhere in that nether region between being wake and sleep. Though I’m still digesting all 19 of its songs, the hypnotic, jazzy “Logos” immediately stuck out. Over languid jazz chords (think: 7’s and 9’s) and faraway sax, a mumbling Marshall welcomes us into a world that is both racked with childhood terrors and infused with an medicated calm. It’s a perfect example of his rare ability to craft engulfing sonic worlds that draw you in and keep you there.

Hot Jam of the Day: The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, “For Robin”

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Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 11.53.21 AMThe World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
“For Robin”
Always Foreign (Epitaph)
There are many, many awful things about addiction, but little is as insidious as the way it pushes its victims away from loved ones from their previous life and deeper into their illness. Anybody who has lost someone to addiction will relate to this crushing funeral dirge’s first lines. “Mike called once a week, and then he called once a month. / He called once every few years, which turned into never at all.”

When a friend dies, you’re obviously robbed of a future with that person, but I’ve found that the years that you had already lost hurt more. The ones where you’d slowly floated apart, the common cords that once held you together — the interests, passions, and shared experiences — snapping one-by-one, clipped by the all-encompassing nature of addiction. And all of a sudden, you’re left with your remaining friends trying to make sense of how we all let that person drift so far and why you’d not made the most of your time together. That’s what this song is about. It may be the stunning, versatile post-emo disc’s quietest moment, but it’s also its most powerful and haunting.