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 Songs of 2019 (So Far)


A little bit late this year due to real-world commitments, but here is my annual list of the best songs of the first half of 2019. Look for my honorable mention coming later in the week. This year, instead of going with an actual ranking system, I'm going to Read more

Lana Del Rey, "Doin' Time"


Lana Del Rey"Doin' Time"Sublime OST (out soon on Universal)If you grew up in California in the early 2000's, it was just about impossible to get in someone's car or go to a party that wasn't playing one of those two Sublime albums. Evidently, the same was true in wherever Read more

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Hot Jam of The Day (04.06.12): A$AP Rocky (f/ H-Town All-Stars), “Purple Swag” (Remix)

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A$AP Rocky (f/ Paul Wall, Bun B, Killa Kyleon)
“Purple Swag” (H-Town All-Stars Remix)
Live Love Purple

To deride Harlem’s rising star A$AP Rocky for leaning too much on a sound that isn’t his own would be missing the point completely. Harlem may be more than 2,000 miles away from Houston’s syrup-soaked south side, but in the internet age, it really doesn’t matter. If the world’s leading Chillwave scholar can reside in one of the most decidedly un-chill locales on the planet, A$AP can be inspired by whomever he wants. And while Rocky relies heavily on his influences, he is always quick to big up his inspirations. He shows love to three of his biggest inspirations by getting out of the way entirely, letting three of Clutch City’s most diverse voices get their shine on. You can’t be mad at that.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/40838550″ iframe=”true” /]

And just for the hell of it, here’s one of my favorite ever H-Town (by way of Port Arthur) tracks.

Hot Jam of the Day (04.04.12): jj, “Beautiful Life”

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jj
“Beautiful Life”
jj n° 4 (2012)

It’s always a good morning when you wake up to an email from the Sincerely Yours folks. It means your day is going to start with a new, enigmatic slice of (mostly) Swedish pop magic. My excitement was magnified by the email I received this morning, thanks to its subject line: “l to the o to the.” Hoping it would be another warped take on a track by The-Dream — SY released Sail A Whale’s ghostly re-work of “Love King” a couple years ago — I (virtually) tore into it.

Though it’s decidedly not Terius-related, I was pleased to hear a typically shimmering, expansive new cut from the label’s most famous artists, the mysterious jj. The duo continues with their American radio-rap obsession, vocalist Elin Kastlander celestially blows “dro in this bitch” (to the extent that such a thing is possible) over a trademark  Joakim Benon arraignment: carefree, sparse, and just-a-little-bit Balearic.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/42001334″ iframe=”true” /]

Sail a Whale’s “Love (The-Dream) King”

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/8048241″ iframe=”true” /]

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.