Hot Jam of the Day: Julien Baker, "Appointments"


Julien Baker "Appointments" Turn Out the Lights (out 10.27 on Matador) "It's the hope that kills you," goes the old saying. But it can also be the thing that saves you and drives you through life's dark stretches. It's what the 21 year-old is reaching for on this breathtaking first single from her highly-anticipated second Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Kelela, "LMK"


Kelela "LMK" Take Me Apart (10.06 on Warp) Our agonizing wait for the first taste of Kelela's proper studio debut* is finally over, and my GOD, our girl came through with a banger. In lieu of just typing 4,000 fire emojis, I'll just say that "LMK" is such a perfect distillation of what makes Read more

Images & Words: Jessie Ware, "Midnight"


Jessie Ware “Midnight” Digital Single In the years I’ve been covering music, I wrote more about Jessie Ware’s early career than just about anyone else. I first covered her back in 2011 and tracked her progression from a promising, mostly unknown, quiet storm prodigy to a true powerhouse who could command any room she was Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of 2017, So Far...


Rating albums at the mid-point of the year, just to re-rate them in six months seems dumb, so I decided to go with an NBA Draft-style tier system to pick out a few of my favorites so far. TIER 1: THE FAVORITE Stormzy Gang Signs and Prayer #Merky The Londoner's debut LP is an Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Jae Stephens, "24k"


Jae Stephens "24k" Digital Single Fuck one of the best debuts of the year. The LA-based newcomer just dropped one of the best songs of the year out of thin air. Featuring inch-perfect production from Jam City, Stephens weaves a devastating slow jam that captures the growth of a relationship from anxious first Read more

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Album Review: Chromatics, Kill For Love

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Chromatics
Kill For Love
Italians Do It Better (2012)

Johnny Jewel and his suddenly red-hot label Italians Do It Better have never been big on minimalism. His recently-released Scenes From An Imaginary Film that was, wasn’t, definitely was, totally wasn’t could have been the original soundtrack to the Gos’ Academy Award-nominated Drive clocks in at a cool 37 tracks, and his label’s flagship group, Glass Candy, are known for their slinky, frenetic nu-wave cuts that often come run north of the 7-minute mark. So it came as no surprise to anybody that the full version of Night Drive, the I.D.I.B. debut from the Portland-based quartet, Chromatics, came in at Metallica-esque 79 minutes and 33 seconds.

While many (myself included) thought Night Drive dragged in places, it didn’t stop the quartet from biting off another huge mouthful with their 80-minute follow-up, Kill For Love, a particularly risky move considering that the Internet has given us the attention spans of amoebas. Incredibly, it’s an altogether engaging, listenable affair that is filler-free and coherent. They’ve always had a knack for genre bending, but they take it to the next level here. Striking a potent balance between sexy 80’s darkwave (the superlative title track, “Lady”), moody down-tempo melancholia (“Into the Black,” “Candy”), driving 80’s guitar rock (“The Page”), and left-fielders (the instrumental “The Eleventh Hour,” “Running From The Sun”), the album expertly toes the line between sounding fresh and exciting without being disjointed.

While vocalist Ruth Radelet’s confident, alluring coo is one of the album’s key driving forces, she takes a back seat on its most fascinating track, the sparse, detached “These Streets Will Never Look the Same.” It’s indicative of what makes Chromatics so special; just as soon as you think you’ve got their sound pinned, they hit you with a sprawling, auto-tuned slow burner that manages to sound nothing like the group, while simultaneously sounding like something only they could have made.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/41479829″ iframe=”true” /]

It may have taken the group five long years to unleash a successor to Night Drive, but after a few spins through the LP, you’ll know why. They could have released a nicely-packaged, 10-song synth-pop album, and nobody would have complained. But that just wouldn’t be Chromatics, Johnny Jewel, or Italians Do It Better. It also wouldn’t have been this versatile, this enigmatic, or this remarkable. It also certainly wouldn’t have been one of the best albums of 2012.

Full Album Stream After the Jump.

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Hot Jam of the Day (04.02.12): Dirty Projectors, “Gun Has No Trigger”

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Dirty Projectors
“Gun Has No Trigger”
Swing Lo Magellan (Domino)

These Brooklyn-based indie-rock experimentalists’ are the purveyors of one of the most anticipated albums of 2012. Their 2009 breakthrough Bitte Orca was a breathtaking, frenetic affair that highlighted the mufti-faceted collective’s inspiring, fascinating take on pop music. This, the lead single off said album, is the group at their glorious best. While sparse is never going to be considered the group’s primary M.O., they nail it here, as band leader/vocalist David Longstreth’s strained howl is perfectly framed by some impossibly mellifluous oooh’s from Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian and a naked-except-for-drums accompaniment. I don’t think it’s given us much of a clue about the album’s sonic direction, unless “awesome” counts.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/41218921″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (03.29.12): Elite Gymnastics, “Here, in Heaven 4 & 5” (CFCF Rework)

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Elite Gymnastics
“Here, in Heaven 4 & 5” (CFCF Rework)
Ruin 4

I can’t remember a track in recent years that has undergone as many fascinating incarnations, as “Here, in Heaven,” the ghostly centerpiece of the KPOP-obsessed Minneapolis natives’ breakthrough debut LP. “Here, in Heaven 1” is a chaotic, claustrophobic affair, while its second manifestation is a shadowy, murky slowjam that would make a perfect last dance at Morticia Addams’ first post-Gomez eHarmony marriage. We’ve heard How To Dress Well (né Tom Krell) lend his signature falsetto to a typically sparse, typically affecting version, and now we’re treated to Canadian synth-meister CFCF’s instrumental, ethereal re-work that builds to an impossibly beautiful climax.

Vegas has the over-under at 8 versions of this song by February 2013, and I’m pounding the over. And, honestly, as long as artists this creative and talented keep tackling it, I’ll keep listening.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/40739134″ iframe=”true” /]

Check out HTDW’s stunning version. Originals after the jump.

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Hot Jam of the Day (03.28.12): Princeton, “Florida”

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Princeton
“Florida”
Remembrance of Things to Come (Hit City USA, 2012)

It’s fitting that this Santa Monica-bred, Eagle Rock-based chamber pop quartet is named after a place (Princeton St. in Santa Monica, not the University), because frontman Jesse Kivel’s lyrics constantly revolve around feeling particular ways in particular places. Their breakthrough EP was called “Bloomsbury” — after the district of London that was once home to Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf Kivel and where Kivel and his bass-playing brother Matt lived in during college. There was their breezy 2010 single “To The Alps.” There was their debut album’s best track, “Stunner Shades in Heaven,” that saw Kivel wax lyrical about “summer nights in San Sebastian,” San Diego, Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

All of Kivel’s work (he is also the lead singer of one of 2010’s best new bands, Kisses) is so reminiscent of Jens Lekman, and it’s not just because of his warm blanket of a voice. Lekman is a master of matching detailed, honest descriptions of very personal moments in his life in particular locales (see: “Friday Night at the Drive in Bingo” & “The Cold Swedish Winter”) with relatable, over-arching truths and evocative, sweeping melodies, leaving you feeling nostalgic for moments that you may have never had. “Florida” is full of snapshots of a life that probably isn’t yours (“driving drunk home from a local club”), but is probably just a bit like yours. And it’s hard not to get swept away.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/35150477″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jams of the Day(s) (03.27/8.12): Air France, “Collapsing Outside Your Doorstep” & “No Excuses”

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Air France
“Collapsing Outside Your Doorstep” & “No Excuses”
No Way Down (Sincerely Yours, 2008) 

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/10455212″ iframe=”true” /]

“It’s like a dream, isn’t it?”
“No, better.”

I can’t think of a better way to describe Swedish duo’s seminal (yeah, I said it) second EP than by borrowing the cherubic sample that permeates the song that made me fall in love with the group in the first place. Though it sounds strange to call an album influential only four years after its release, this is this Internet age and this is what’s happening now. Along with criminally underrated fellow Swedes, Boat Club, nobody was more responsible for the rise of today’s hugely popular airy, Balaeric-twinged pop — and its red-headed bastard child, Chillwave — than Air France. While they weren’t the first, they were certainly the best at marrying the blissed-out Ibizan dancefloor sound with a strong pop sensibilities.

For that reason, there was a staggering outpouring of praise and disappointment when the group announced they would be splitting on Monday. The group’s members — Joel Karlsson and Henrik Markstedt — stated an inability to match the quality of the devastating No Way Down, and while that is ostensibly understandable, it’s also surprising because their brilliant, undulating 2011 single, “It Feels Good To Be Around You” suggested huge things for the group in 2012.

While it’s tough to say goodbye, we’ll always have the memories, and in Air France’s case, they’re particularly spectacular (so fitting for a group that made music dripping with nostalgia). Besides helping shape the sound of countless breakout artists (Toro y Moi, Washed Out, jj, etc) and launching the most interesting record label of the last five years, No Way Down is truly special because of its wide-eyed, unbelievably lush six tracks. It’s the perfect collection — an incredible set of anthemic, blissful Balearic pop earworms, ready to wriggle their way into your heart and get your head dreaming of “wamer climes” (sorry, had to). For someone who grew up over 5,000 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, it opened me up into an entirely new sound.

Whether or not this is really the end remains to be seen, but whatever happens, I’ll continue to be grateful to Karlsson and Markstedt — not only for forming one of my three favorite bands of the last five years — but for all the music they turned me on to and all the excellent (and not-so-excellent) bands they influenced.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/555111″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (03.22.12): John Talabot, “Will Be Now” (Young Edits Club Mix)

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John Talabot (f/ Pional)
“Will Be Now” (Young Edits Club Mix)
Original Available on ƒIN

When it comes to remixes, sometimes less is more. This is extremely evident on rising Australian producer Young Edits’ tasteful, sunny take on Talabot’s glistening single. Edits (né Luke Foskey) is smart enough to mostly get out of the way of the Barcelona Balearic beat merchant’s swirling, repetitive original, happy to fall back and deftly add minor sonic accoutrements that highlight the tracks biggest strength: it’s hypnotic, mantric quality. It’s getting to be that time of year, and this is the kind of cut that makes you feel like summer is just around the corner. If you haven’t heard the rest of ƒIN, do yourself a favor. It’s a keeper.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/39710287″ iframe=”true” /]

Download Here.

Hot Jam of the Day (03.20.12): Odd Future, “Oldie”

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Odd Future
“Oldie”
The OF Tape Vol. 2 (Odd Future Records)

LA-based troublemakers Odd Future roll deep as fuck on this, the final cut of their highly-anticipated new album. If an alien came down from Mars and asked what kids in 2011 are into/like, this is what I would show them. Love ’em or hate ’em, nobody has changed the landscape of pop culture like Odd Future has in the last 18 months, and this gargantuan celebration of the group’s incredible recent run serves as the perfect bookend to the first chapter of their career.

As Tyler is wont to do, he sums things up brilliantly with his last line of this 10-minute rhymefest with, “They say we ain’t actin’ right, always tryin’ to turn my fuckin’ color into black and white./But they’ll never change em, never understand em, “Radical” is my anthem, turn my fuckin’ ass up/So instead of critiquing and being mad as fuck, just admit not only are we talented, we’re rad as fuck.” Amen.

Hot Jam of the Day (03.19.12): Sean Blackthorn, “The Spirits”

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Sean Blackthorn
“The Spirits”
Unreleased

While nobody’s going to confuse it with Motown, there’s something special going on in Toronto. We all know about Drizzy, the Weeknd (and all his cronies), and Melanie Fiona, but not many have been talking about Sean Blackthorn — partially because there isn’t a hell of a lot of info about him kicking around online. One thing’s for sure though, his lead single is a beautiful, arresting bedroom R&B ballad that shows off Blackthorn’s haunting, emotive tenor. Stunning.

Hot Jam of the Day (03.18.12): Airhead, “Wait”

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Airhead
“Wait”
Wait “10 (R&S Records)

Airhead has long been lumped in with post-dubsteppers like Lapalux, Mount Kimbie, and James Blake (with whom he’s collaborated with) and while that’s a pretty decent group to be in, this is the sound of a young artist coming into his own and carving out his own sound. Riding an eerie acoustic guitar line (how un-dubstep is that?), the London-based producer (né Robert McAndrews) chops a sultry vocal sample to bits, resulting in a fresh take on the sound that’s captivated us over the last two years. The real payoff comes at the end, when McAndrews interjects a fresh guitar line that recalls the best of the XX. This single promises big things for his full-length due out later this year, also on R&S.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/39959714″ iframe=”true” /]

The Best Tracks of 2011 (10-1)

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10. WU LYF
“Dirt”
Go Tell Fire To The Mountain (LYF)

The weight of expectation can be difficult to bear, especially for a bunch of kids in their early twenties. After a couple majestic 2010 singles (“Heavy Pop” and “Spitting It Concrete like the Golden Sun God”) and a few equally frenetic small shows, many (myself included) listed the shadowy Mancunian collective’s debut as one of the most highly anticipated of the year. Though, admittedly, I was ready to be let down, the quartet shattered my expectations by both sticking to their sonic guns and building on their burgeoning, expansive sound.

Through ten cathartic, relentlessly earnest tracks, the group unleashes the true scope of their sonic palette: two parts art-rock, one-part hardcore, a few pinches of psychedelia, and that fucking organ. The group’s sense of dynamics is their biggest strength. The celestial, reverb drenched guitar and organ lines beautifully frame vocalist Ellery Roberts’ feral howls, simultaneously abrasive and melodic (a good microcausim for the groups incredibly unique sound). Sometimes a band can be crushed by the weight of expectation. Other times, expectation is just a goddamn great way to get the word out about a special group. Lucky for us, it’s the latter in this case.

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