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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Hot Jam of the Day: Sampha, “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano”

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Sampha-Noisey-1-7Sampha
“(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano”
Process (out 02.03 on Young Turks)
The soft-spoken Londoner’s delicate piano ballad feels like the first truly great song of 2017. Over his nimble, mantric piano melody, Sampha bares his soul, expounding on the way music can allow you to be yourself beyond the constraints of your everyday life. The song conjures up the image of a young, shy kid, running his fingers across the keys, slowly growing into the instrument as he grows into himself. It might not have been a piano for you — maybe it was a basketball hoop, a tree you used to climb, or (like me) your father’s guitar — but the experience is just about universal and illustrated beautifully by Sampha here.

Best of ’16: My Favorite Albums of 2016

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Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 2.13.01 PM31. Huerco S
For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)
Proibito
Though the K.C.-producer’s debut LP Colonial Patterns enjoyed overwhelming acclaim, he seismically shifted his sound for his second one, veering from opaque beat music to oceanic, drifting synthscapes. Though it’s a risky move, it pays big dividends, and the disc plays like a single transportive track, destined to sweep you away.

Stream it on Spotify.

30. Mélanie De Biasio
Blackened Cities
Le Label
Don’t let the fact that the Belgian jazz singer’s rumination on modern city life is presented as a single 24-minute song turn you away. It’s a surprisingly digestible listen with more than enough footholds to latch onto. Though the instrumentation is free-wheeling and improvisational, De Biasio’s gentle vocal is always there to guide you, appearing and disappearing at just the right times.

Stream it on Spotify.

29. Lil Uzi Vert
Lil Uzi Vert Vs The World
Atlantic
From his hair to his sound, everything about the Philly native is vivid and colorful. LUVvsTW is nine songs of boundless, youthful energy with some of the most adhesive hooks of the year. And though his subject matter is pretty consistent, Uzi is adept at switching his flow up, often a few times in one song. One of the most fun releases of the year.

Stream in on Spotify.

28. The Hotelier
Goodness
Tiny Engines
Instead of trying to recreate the pain of their brutal, beautiful breakthrough LP, Home, Like Noplace Is There, the Worcester, Mass trio let some light and (ahem) goodness into their sound. Cathartic as they may be, the disc’s 13 songs tend to focus more on life than death, picking out a number of small, tender moments and blowing them out with their signature nimble guitars, pounding drums, and Christian Holden’s unique, strained vocals.

Stream it on Spotify.
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Best of ’16: My Favorite Songs of 2016

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2016 was trash, but goddamn, the music was good. Here is a handful of the songs that kept me positive, no matter how bad the news was. Thanks to everyone for the continued support and readership.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-6-15-06-pm61. MUNA
“I Know A Place”
About U (out 02.13.17 on RCA)

The LA trio’s ode to the healing power of sweaty dancefloors took on an even deeper meaning, as it was released only a few hours before 36 people tragically passed away at a 100% Silk event at Ghost Ship in Oakland. And though I’ve never been to that particular venue, I grew up going to many similar spaces around the Bay Area. As rents soar and cities continue to prioritize condos and Whole Foods’ over then its long-term residents, these spaces are becoming less regulated, more dangerous, and more important than ever.

60. Grizzle
“Entreaty”
Black Label II (Blacklink Sound)

Though little is known about young UK producer Griffin Haworth, we do know that his debut single is a goddamn banger. “Entreaty” twists a line from Trey Songz’s middle school dance classic, “Can’t Help But Wait,” in Eagle Scout-level knots, then slowly lets it unravel over skittering hi-hats and kaleidoscopic synths. It’s the kind of single that should be setting dancefloors ablaze around the world, but I guess my earbuds will have to suffice.

59.Lloyd
“Tru”
Digital Single

Everybody loves a comeback story, and the velvety-voiced Atlanta crooner is hopefully gearing up for a big one. Over bluesy, contemplative guitars, the 30 year-old lays bare the scars of 20 hard years in the music business. And weary as he may be, his voice has retained the same playful, youthful timbre that we first fell in love with all those years back.

58. JSTJCK
“Honest” (f/ Yxng Bane)
Digital Single

There’s more than a hint of vintage Craig David vibes on this ultra-slick single from the rising East London vocalist. The recipe is straight forward — nimble keys, a tasty hook, jazzy drums — but the execution is first class, leaving me hungry for more from him in 2017.

57. Boosie Badazz
“Wanna B Heard” (f/ Slim Thug)
Out My Feelings In My Past (Self-Released)
If there’s one thing we aren’t doing in 2016, it’s hearing one another. For the last 15 years, the Baton Rouge native has been dutifully speaking for our country’s most marginalized, historically disenfranchised folks. On the striking “Wanna B Heard,” the 34 year-old shares the stories of members of his community, aiming to highlight their humanity that is constantly threatened by the media, police, politicians, and trash people on social media.

56. Skepta
“Man”
Konnichiwa (Boy Better Know)
An anthem in an album full of them, I could have picked a number of tracks from Skeppy’s Mercury Prize-winning fourth LP, but I decided to go with the unapologetic, cocky swagger of “Man.”  Over an unexpected Queens of the Stone Age sample, the 34 year-old lets us know how awesome and annoying it is to be the face of UK hip-hop.

gemininegative55. Negative Gemini
“Body Work”
Body Work (100% Electronics)

Queens producer Lindsey French’s second LP is one of the best balanced electronic albums of the year. Living somewhere in the nether zone between the dancefloor and the bedroom, Body Work is filled with rave music with heart. Its standout track is a perfect distillation of that potent sound, as French’s longing, wistful vocals float between trance-inspired keys, new wave drum pads, and an energizing bassline.

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Hot Jam of The Day: MUNA, “I Know A Place”

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muna3MUNA
“I Know A Place”

About U (02.03.17)
The fact that this emotional, heartfelt single dropped the same week as the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland is the cruelest irony. This gorgeous single champions the kind of special, inclusive space that Ghost Ship purported to be — places where people can safely lose themselves under neon lights and loud music. As a Bay Area native who has spent many nights in such places, it breaks my heart to know that more than 30 people lost their lives, simply looking for that feeling. Though anthemic at its core, “I Know a Place” feels elegiac to me now — both as tribute to those we lost that night and to the people who are fighting provide safe, enriching spaces that are driven by love and respect, not profit.

Images & Words: Wiley, “U Were Always Pt. 2” (f/ Skepta & Belly)

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wiley-006Wiley
“U Were Always Pt. 2” (f/ Skepta & Belly)

Godfather (out 01.13.17 on CTA)
Though known more for his muscular bars, the Godfather indulges his soft side on this sultry new single from his hotly anticipated 11th album. The cut is a little reminiscent of Skepta’s “Ladies Hit Squad,” as the three MC’s put their exes on blast over some delicious, laid-back Adina Howard vibes. Just like on the other pre-release singles, the 37 year-old sounds refreshed and sharp here, and Godfather is shaping up to be one of the standout albums of the early year and potentially one of the strongest efforts of Wiley’s legendary career.

Hot Jams of the Day: Burial, “Young Death” / “Nightmarket”

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screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-2-34-09-pmBurial
“Young Death” / “Nightmarket”
Young Death / Nightmarket (out now on Hyperdub)
Just in time for the holidays, the legendary South London producer (né William Bevan) returns with two tracks that help make 2016 suck just that little bit less. The emotional former jives nicely with his incredible 2014 EP, Rival Dealer, matching a hopeful, comforting vocal sample with spare keyboards and percussion. The latter is built around a snake-like keyboard riff that slowly builds to an overwhelming, yet gorgeous crescendo. Both cuts are reminders of what a special talent Bevan is and the unique sonic space that he inhabits.

Under the Radar: Yaroze Dream Suite, Yaroze Dream Suite

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screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-11-48-40-amYaroze Dream Suite
Yaroze Dream Suite
Local Action
Back in October, grime futurists Yamaneko and Mr. Mitch dropped a delicious, sparese 4-song collaborative project that I somehow neglected to write about. The duo’s emotional, genre-bending sound may not grab you at first listen, as it isn’t big on hooks. But the more time you spend with it, the deeper it’ll drag you out to the outer reaches of its galaxy, exposing new surprises along the way with each successive listen.

Hot Jam of the Day: The xx, “On Hold”

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The xx
“On Hold”
I See You (out 01.13.17 on Young Turks)
The world is in desperate need of healing. While the kind of healing it needs obviously can’t be mended by a relaxing new album, we’re also really not in a place to turn one down. Late last week, the soothing London trio announced their third LP, led by this spellbinding new single that matches their signature down-tempo lullabies with tasty drum programming and a tongue-twisting Hall and Oates sample. I was one of the few who loved their 2012 sophomore LP, Coexist, and took a hard pass on Jamie xx’s sterile, lifeless In Colour. And thankfully, “On Hold” feels much more in tune with the former rather than the (bizarrely) critically-acclaimed latter. At least that’s one thing we can look forward to in 2017….

The Round-Up: The Best Tracks of the Third Quarter

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screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-12-45-56-pmPrince Bopp
“Bandit”
Digital Single
In short, the Cincinnati native’s heartfelt single is the most slept-on great song of 2016. In just three and half minutes, the independent newcomer comes full circle, detailing his struggle to bounce back from losing his first love and his journey to find hope. The track’s bleak opening finds the young man battling through heartbreak, drugs, and deep loneliness. But as “Bandit” moves, the darkness slowly fades into light, as he moves far enough away to enjoy the new perspective difficult experiences often yield. If there’s one song I hope you listen to on this list, it’s this one.

rae-sremmurd-announce-first-annual-sremmfest

Rae Sremmurd
“Black Beatles” (f/ Gucci Mane)
SremmLife 2 (out now on Ear Drummers)
Youthful joy distilled into sound, the Brown brothers’ towering, brash anthem sets fire to prehistoric rockist notions about what substantive music is supposed to sound like. For five glorious minutes, Slim Jimmi, Swae Lee, and Gucci Mane gleefully piss all over your idols, declaring themselves the rightful kings of the youth once and for all.

 

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-11-51-09-amJenny Hval
“Conceptual Romance”
Blood Bitch (out now on Sacred Bones)

An early single from an album that will assuredly be on my Year End List, the Norwegian singer-songwriter is one of the most fascinating, original artists working in music today. Composed and analytical without sacrificing an ounce of emotion or humanity, Hval has spent her career exploring the depths of what keeps us connect… to the ones, to our society, and to ourselves. An absolute treasure.

cug9-pxxyaawr_mYoung M.A.
“Ooouuu”
Digital Single

I moved back to Brooklyn in August. And one of my favorite parts of being back is the way a hit song will just naturally permeate through the city — from car speakers to apartment windows to Bodegas to earbuds on the train. Since I’ve been back, the Brooklyn native’s loose, easy banger has been the soundtrack, perfectly in sync with the rhythm of the best city in the world.
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The Round Up: The Best Albums of the Third Quarter

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freshezaleEzale & DJ Fresh
The Tonight Show
Foreal Foreal Ent
Hottest Jams: “Day Ones,” “Stop Come On”

For the first time in my lifetime, the Warriors are good and East Bay rap is popping at the same time. 2016 has seen a clutch of young Oakland rappers like Kamaiyah, Nef the Pharoah, and Eazle make a dent in the national scene, while trumpeting the unique culture and sound of the city. The latter’s glorious 10-song debut uniquely blends the slap of hyphy with production legend DJ Fresh’s warm, glowing g-funk. The result is a deliriously fun, endlessly quotable collection that doubles as one of 2016’s most consistent hip-hop records.

freetown_sound_coverBlood Orange
Freetown Sound
Domino
Hottest Jams: “Best To You,” “Chance”
Dev Hynes is man of many dichotomies. He is both an adept soloist and a keen and successful collaborator. He’s a sonic chameleon (see: Test Icicles, Lightspeed Champion) and a man with a signature, easily recognizable sound. He’s as comfortable a leading man and he is a hired gun. This, the finest album of his career, is dripping with those ambiguities. On slinky standouts “Augustine” and “E.V.P,” he’s in full pop-star mode and in total control of proceedings. He also shines just as bright while supporting Empress Of and Nelly Furtado on “Best To You” and “Hadron Collider” respectively. All of these contradictions contribute to the sonic world that makes Freetown Sound such a fascinating journey.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-00-38-amCamp Cope
Camp Cope
Poison City
Hottest Jams: “Song for Charlie,” “Flesh and Electricity”

Like all truly great cathartic albums, the Melbourne trio’s debut album is equal parts comedy and tragedy. Over the stunning LP’s eight songs, songwriter Georgia Maq tackles the death of her father (the incredible “Song for Charlie”), the dissolution of a relationship (“West Side Story,” “Lost: Season One”), and workplace disaffection (“Flesh and Electricity”) with stunning insight, bravery, and most of all, humor. I’ve found that when confronting loss you have to keep laughing — to keep remembering the things about your loved ones that made you smile. Georgia knows that, and she highlights that truth on just about every song on this very special album.

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