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

Images & Words: The 1975, “Give Yourself A Try”

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The 1975
“Give Yourself A Try”

A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (out in October on Dirty Hit)
Though it’s been out for about two weeks, I’ve listened to the Manchester quartet’s new single roughly two million times. Compositionally, it’s totally unremarkable. Built around a repetitive, simplistic guitar riff and three chords, “Give Yourself a Try” would be a trifle in most singers’ hands.

As we know, Matty Healy is not fucking most singers. That this track feels so life-affirming is almost impossible and entirely indebted to his ultra-rare charisma, unique lyrics, and passionate, magnetic vocals. Here, Healy wholly embodies and pokes fun at the special kind of feckless world-weariness that only exists among people in their late 20’s and early 30’s who spend way too much time in their own head (slash, on the Internet). He manages to be both self-deprecating and totally committed, skewering his (our) generation and himself while simultaneously giving us something we can feel.

Images & Words: The Rhythm Method, “Chin Up”

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The Rhythm Method
“Chin Up”
Digital Single
Every two years*, I get afflicted with the same illness. It usually starts up a few weeks before every major international football tournament and lasts until somewhere around the quarterfinals. Who knows how long my believesthatEnglandcanwinthewholething-itis will last for this year, but I’m hoping that Southgate’s men will make this a long, emotionally taxing bout.

And every great English World Cup run needs an equally excellent tune, and London duo The Rhythm Method came through with one of the strongest in years. It may not be official, but it features the doe-eyed hope, gallows humor, and cheeky arrogance (via a friendly shot at neighbors Scotland and Wales) of all the best ones.

Now, it’s time for the squad to deliver on the pitch. Will they? Probably not, but it’s always fun to see them try.

*Except 2008

Images & Words: Chromatics, “Black Walls”

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Chromatics
“Black Walls”
Dear Tommy (out PROLLY NEVER on Italians Do It Better)
Goddamn it, Johnny Jewel. Just when I’d moved on from the idea that I’d ever hear “Dear Tommy,” this guy drags me back in with a luscious new track and a (probably fictional) release date for Fall of 2018.

“Black Walls” is the exact kind of track that makes the forever pushed-back project so frustrating, as it’s another reminder that nobody else makes music that sounds like this. The snyths are impossibly romantic and lush, and they’re beautifully framed by chunky guitars and vocalist Ruth Radelet’s forever haunting vocals. If this album comes out this year (it won’t), there’s nothing else that I’m more excited to hear.

Snail Mail, “Let’s Find An Out”

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Snail Mail
“Let’s Find An Out”

Lush (out 06.08 on Matador)
Though I’ve somehow not written about them yet, I’ve been loving the Baltimore trio’s pre-release singles for their hotly-anticipated debut LP. The stripped-back third single, “Let’s Find An Out,” is my favorite of the bunch, pairing songwriter Lindsey Jordan’s plaintive vocals with beds of fingerpicked electric guitar. She captures the freedom and trepidation of making the decision to start over with grace, humanity, and wisdom that belies her 18 years. Magic.

Rae Sremmurd: “Offshore” (f/ Young Thug)

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Rae Sremmurd
“Offshore” (f/ Young Thug)

Swaecation
Though I’m still processing the Mississippi superstars’ excellent, new 27-song project, the free-flowing “Offshore” feels like an instant classic. Producer Mike Will is a genius at negotiating sonic space, and his gooey, descending synth chords leave plenty of room for Thug to play in. And my god, does he oblige.

For nearly three minutes, Thug treats us to a single unbroken, spellbinding verse, showing off the idiosyncratic vocal gymnastics that made so many fall in love with him in the first place. A true natural, he seamlessly slaloms between choppy, magnetic bars and legit R&B crooner vocal runs, stretching his voice in ways that both keep the listener on their toes and make perfect sense together. It elicits the kind of feeling that only peak Young Thug can deliver and is a reminder of what a singular, special talent the 26 year-old really is.

The Round-Up: The Best Albums from April ’18

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Grouper
“Grid of Points”
Yellow Electric
Though only 21 minutes, the haunting beauty of Liz Harris’ eleventh studio LP will linger for many years to come. Penned and recorded in just 10 days, “Grid of Points” feels like a moment suspended in time — a distant memory that you just can’t shake off. The arraignments predominantly consist of just piano, voice, and ambient sounds captured during recording, most notably the passing train that closes the record. The way she uses the train to slice through the disc’s most gorgeous moment is such a microcosm of what makes Harris’ music so true and so alive. Instead of giving us a fully-realized closing ballad, she reminds us how ephemeral and precious beauty is by highlighting the way life can cut it short when you least expect it.
Start Here: Just listen to the whole thing.

Card B
“Invasion of Privacy”
Atlantic
When Cardi B defiantly declares “My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” on the final track of “Invasion of Privacy,” you really believe her. And it’s not because of her looks, magnetic personality, or any marketing bullshit. It’s because she just proved that she’s one hell of an artist.

On her major label debut, she shows herself a clever, flexible MC and an impressive writer, capable of dropping LOL punchlines right next to penetrating insights from a life dogged by struggle. Oh, and she can sing a little too. You don’t have to believe me, but if you give this record a real chance, she’ll make a believer out of you. One of the best rap records of the last five years.
Start Here: “Get Up 10,” “Ring (f/ Kehlani)

Elysia Crampton
Elysia Crampton
Break World
People will tell you that originality is in short supply in 2018. Those people obviously aren’t listening to Elysia Crampton. Though she’s been mostly nomadic, Crampton’s roots are in Bolivia and Chile, and her fourth LP is another beguiling collection that bridges the ancient sound of her ancestors with the modern, experimental feel of today. The result is a totally unique sound that lives in its own mystical space.
Start Here: Again, just listen to the whole thing.

Nines
“Crop Circle”
XL

Never one to follow trends, the London MC melds his city’s lyrically-focused roots with the modern generation’s melodic mastery. On “Crop Circle,” Nines pulls from a seemingly limitless arsenal of bars, pairing engaging storytelling with subtle melodies. Though it seems to be short on pure singles, the consistent project is sure to delight his growing legion of and fans and should continue growing his rep as one of the UK’s most underrated young stars.
Start Here: “I See You Shining” “Rubber Bands” (f/ RAY BLK, Skrapz)

Pale Waves
“All The Things I Never Said”
Dirty Hit

The 1975-cosigned Manchester quartet cranks up the goth-pop drama on their super promising debut EP. Lead vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie feels like a star in the making, lacing undeniable vocal melodies over glistening beds of synth and razor-sharp riffs. Standout track, “My Obsession,” is pure stadium laser and cigarette lighter magic, beautifully highlighting their ambitious sound and boundless potential.
Start Here: “My Obsession”

J Cole
“KOD”
Dreamville
Though it’s never been less cool to love J. Cole, to my ears, the North Carolina rapper’s fifth LP is his best to date. Though it’s still too preachy too often, the second half of the disc features some jazzy, To Pimp A Butterfly-esque production, solid storytelling, and some interesting insight on the way addiction has touched Cole’s life. It’s not a game-changer, but it’ll definitely make me take a look back at some of his other work that I’d previously ignored.
Start Here: “Once An Addict – Interlude” “FRIENDS” (f/ kiLL edward)

The Aces
“When My Heart Felt Volcanic”
Red Bull

The Provo quartet’s breakthrough LP is a sharp collection of hook-laden power pop. Vocalist Cristal Ramirez is the star of the show, slathering her breathy vocals all over the taut guitar melodies and her sister’s pounding drums. Frankly, I’m surprised this album hasn’t made more of a dent, but it certainly feels like they are on the path to something big.
Start Here: “Volcanic Love” “Stay”

Tink
“Pain & Pleasure”
Machine / Winter’s Diary

After three years in a Timbaland-led label hell, Chicago’s most promising young artists is finally free. And though it’s not the big, sweeping statement some hoped for — that will likely be reserved for the forthcoming Winter’s Diary 5 — it’s a down-tempo, low-stakes affair that leans on the sensual, R&B side of her sound. It may not be a classic, but hopefully it’s a sign of more to come from the 23 year-old.
Start Here: “Faded” “Get You Home”

The Weekend
“My Dear Melancholy”
Republic

Though it’s not of the same quality, Abel is certainly back on his “House of Balloons” shit on this surprise EP. The disc was penned in the wake of a painful break-up either with Selena Gomez or the Hadid sister who isn’t with Zayn Malik, and cuts like “Wasted Times” and “I Was Never There” certainly serve up a lot of same intoxicating misery that made H.O.B. such a classic.
Start Here: “Wasted Times” “I Was Never There”

Quando Rondo
“Life B4 Fame”
Self-Released
One of the most promising new voices in music, the Savanah, Georgia’s proper debut project is teaming with emotional, heartfelt street rap. Unwilling to be pigeonholed by a single sound, Rondo switches effortlessly from rapper to singer — sometimes in a single line — sharing his passion and pain over an exquisite collection of melodic beats that still knock. Keep an eye on this guy.
Start Here: “Paradise” “I Remember” (f/ Lil Baby)

Aisha Badru
Pedulum
Nettwerk Music Group

The New York native’s beautiful debut is a testament to crafting beauty our of sorrow. Though it’s probably an unfair comparison, there’s a little bit of Bjork on this project. Like the Icelander, Badru pulls maximum emotion out of her gentle voice by framing it with stirring arrangements that seamlessly meld analog and digital instrumentation.
Start Here: “Bridges” “Mind on Fire”

Ross From Friends
“Aphelion”
Brainfeeder
You wouldn’t expect dudes with names like DJ Seinfeld, DJ Boring, and Ross From Friends to be cranking out emotional, expertly-crafted dance music, but this is 2018 and nothing makes sense anymore. “Aphelion” is the latter’s most accomplished work yet, featuring four slabs of engulfing deep house magic. Though vocal samples are at a premium, the South Londoner wields them to perfection, injecting humanity into every track.
Start Here: “There’s a Hole In My Heart”

Anna Leone
“Wandered Away”
Half Awake

Not to be confused with Australian DJ/Apple Music radio host Anna Lunoe, the 24 year-old Swedish singer-songwriter’s debut EP is an stirring collection of heartfelt of modern folk. Powerhouse voices like Leone’s are usually reserved for festival-friendly pop in 2018, but her spare arrangements are a refreshing, unexpected match for her rare vocal talent.
Start Here: “I Never Really”

Saba
“Care For Me”
Saba Pivot
The nimble, talented Chicago rapper offers brutal and beautiful look at loss and life on this stunning project, penned in the aftermath of the murder of his beloved cousin and rising rapper, Walter “dinnerwithjohn” Long Jr. Though he’s racked with sorrow, Saba refuses to let Long’s tragic, senseless death define him, sharing the joy and light that he brought into Saba’s life.
Start Here: “PROM / KING” “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME”

Images & Words: Oneohtrix Point Never, “Black Snow”

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Oneohtrix Point Never
“Black Snow” (f/ Anohni)
Age of (out 06.01 on Warp)
Though the Massachusetts native is probably best know for his otherworldly, chaotic experimental electro, some of his best tracks are his quietist. Whether it’s his recent stunner with Iggy Pop or the beautiful Anohni-lead “Returnal,” OPN (né Daniel Lopatin) knows how to craft the kind of ballad that can suck all the air out of you.

Though “Black Snow” — the first single from his forthcoming eighth studio LP — is somewhat similar in feel to the aforementioned tracks, it differs in one significant way. Lopatin’s voice has never appeared this clearly before. Sure, it’s delivered in a dissociated robo-croon, but it is also one of the most direct lines to the man behind the music that we’ve ever recieved. Of course, we don’t know if it’s representative of the rest of the album, but it’s certainly a very exciting development.

Images & Words: Real Lies, “The Checks”

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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 Real Lies, and “The Checks” is another intoxicating, nostalgic journey through the neon lights and rain-soaked streets of their (or, your) hometown. Recalling prime Pet Shop Boys and Underworld, this may not be what the DJs are playing on a night out anymore (at least, not in New York), but it definitely feels like the perfect soundtrack to the long ride home. Welcome back, guys. I’ve missed you.

Father John Misty, “Just Dumb Enough to Try”

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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 a thud as it shot for insightful and landed closer to Abe Simpson.

For me, Papa J. Misery is at his best on direct, confessional love songs like this one, a mid-tempo stunner from his upcoming fourth LP. This lovely ballad is the sound of Tillman coming out the other side of his excellent marriage LP, “I Love You, Honeybear.” Misty admits to being a shitty husband and underlines his commitment to make things right with his wife. It is an affecting and insightful track that hopefully signals that this new record will be driven more by the heart than the head.

Images & Words: Yxng Bane, “Vroom”

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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 this hyper-catchy, wobbly heater. “Vroom” is a microcosm of how Bane’s sound has developed from the retro, Craig David-ish two-step of “Honest” to the essential Afro-swing/Afrobeats sound that has infiltrated the pop charts. Though we’re still waiting for a debut full-length project, Bane is proving to be an even move vital voice with every successive single.