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

Images & Words: How To Dress Well, "Nonkilling 6 | Hunger"


How to Dress Well "Nonkilling 6 | Hunger" The Anteroom (out 10.19 on Domino) Though it was a little bit buried on my "Favorite Songs of 2018, So Far.." list, I'm extremely excited about the experimental direction Tom Krell seems to be going in on his fifth LP. This stunning two-parter pairs Read more

Wild Pink, "Mount Erie"


Wild Pink “Lake Erie” Yolk in the Fur (out now on Tiny Engines) Though I’m about six months late to the NYC trio’s outstanding second LP, I’m extremely glad that I finally found it. While their AM Radio sound has been relentlessly compared to War on Drugs, frontman John Ross is such Read more

Mitski, "Two Slow Dancers"


Mitski "Two Slow Dancers" Be The Cowboy (out 08.17 on Matador) Every slow dance with someone you care about feels like a moment suspended in time. I mean, that's the point, right? Your hands are tied, your bodies are connected, and even your gaze is limited. Mitski, the fantastic New York songwriter, Read more

Future, "Hate the Real Me"


Future "Hate the Real Me" Beastmode 2 (out now on Epic) The peak of a quietly excellent year, Future goes super deep on his worthy follow-up to 2015's legendary "Beast Mode" tape. Of all its stirring moments, nothing emotionally hits harder than its last track, as Future pours his heart out over Read more

Featured

The Round-Up: The Best Tracks of January and February

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I’ve been a little slow to get cranked back up in 2018, but I quickly realized that a shitload of great music has dropped in January and February. Here’s a quick wrap-up of a few of my favorites.

Bad Gyal
“Internationally”
Worldwide Angel (out now on Puro)
It sounds hyperbolic, but I could have picked almost any song from the Catalan reggaeton alchemist’s recent mixtape. So I’ll go with the one that banged hardest when I saw her in Brooklyn last week. Bad Gyal is a huge star in the making, and I can’t wait to see how far she goes.

Mabel
“Fine Line” (f/ Not3s)
Digital Single
Jorja Smith isn’t the only young, hugely talented British singer who’s poised to take over the world. After a super promising 2017, the Londoner went to the next level with the breezy, intoxicating “Fine Line,” a legit smash that has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic.

Creek Boyz
“Trap Digits” / “Loco”
Digital Single
Baltimore’s most inspirational group are back with a pair of sticky sing-alongs. Though they haven’t quite blown up like “With My Team” did, both cuts deliver the same electric elements, bursting with melodic gang vocals and emotional bars. 2018 needs a Creek Boyz album so bad.

Slowthai
“T N Biscuits”
Digital Single
Though UK rap has never been bigger, there’s a bit of a dearth of promising, traditional-ish grime MCs. Enter, Northampton’s Slowthai. More interested in tounge-twisting wordplay and rhythmic versatility than catchy melodies, this cut highlights why Thai is buzzing so much right now.

Sevdaliza
“Human Nature”
Digital Single
It’s been under a year since the Iranian-Dutch vocalist released her gorgeous, labyrinthine debut LP. But she’s back at it with this bewitching, trip-hop ballad. Her voice is slathered in effects, but her humanity bleeds through, forming one of the most arresting songs of 2018.

Dave
“Hangman”
Digital Single
Not a lot of artists can speak to the youth quite like Santan Dave. Whether he’s talking city politics (“Question Time”) or mental health (“Panic Attack”), Dave has that rare ability to craft conscious, thought-provoking music that isn’t preachy or contrived (sup, Logic).

03 Greedo
“Substance”

The Wolf of Grape Street (out now on Alamo)
Addiction is everywhere in 2018. It’s in every community — in our families, friend groups, offices, and increasingly, our art. 03 Greedo’s yearning “Substance” is a visceral, affecting view into the insidious ways drugs invade users’ psyches and dominate their thoughts.

Kacey Musgraves
“Space Cowboy”
Golden Hour (out 03.30 on Mercury)
If the Texan megastar’s inch-perfect farewell ballad doesn’t break your heart, you haven’t got anything in there. Musgraves is an incisive, insightful writer with a pristine, spotless voice. At her best, she’s capable of timeless tracks like this.

Tink
“Breakin’ Me”
Digital Single
The most important part of “Breakin’ Me” isn’t the music. It’s the fact that it coincides with her release from Timbaland’s dastardly clutches. Now that Tink is finally free, she can get back to being one of the most vital, unique voices in music today. Ay fuckin’ men.

Lauren Auder
“These Broken Limbs Again Into One Body”
Who Carry’s You (out 03.16 on True Panther)
The 19 year-old French goth-pop miserablist turns up the drama on his breakthrough single. His evocative baritone mopes through dense layers of guitars and synths, dripping with the kind of existential, teenage angst that hurts so good.

BlocBoy JB & Drake
“Look Alive”
Digital Single
Youthful energy is contagious, and Drake sounds revitalized on this electric collab with rising Memphis rapper, BlocBoy JB. 10 years his junior, JB is half man, half spark-plug, bouncing off the walls and inspiring Drake to drop the tough-guy facade, let his hair down, and just have some fucking fun.

SOB x RBE
“Carpoolin'”
Gangin (Empire)
The first few times I heard the Vallejo crew’s “Carpoolin’,” it felt like it was stuck on 1.5 speed. That said, once my brain caught up with the beat, I fell in love. It reminds me of when your first friend got their license, and you’d just mob around the city with all your boys. *single tear*

Soccer Mommy
“Blossom (Wasting All My Time)”
Clean (out now on Fat Possum)
The best moment from Sophie Allison’s excellent new LP is about seeing your future with somebody who can’t see theirs with you. And then, once you step back from them, you have the sweet realization that they were never right for you from the start. Lucky you.

Gunna
“Almighty” (f/ Hoodrich Pablo Juan)
Drip Season 3 (out now on YSL)
The Young Thug protégé dropped one of the strongest rap records of the first few months. And this slithering slow-burner is a good indication of the hazy delights on the disc. Gunna is a tuneful, charismatic rapper, and he tip-toes through the beat like a young Thugger here.

Camp Cope
“Last One”
How To Socialise & Make Friends (out now on Run for Cover)
I wrote a ton about the Melbourne trio’s beautiful 2016 debut, and their follow-up is more of the same. Its final track, “Last One,” is a beautiful farewell to songwriter Georgia Maq’s late father that is full of insight and emotion. Just an unreal talent.

YBN Nahmir
“Bounce Out With That”
Digital Single
The Birmingham native’s tracks are over so quickly, it’s impossible to only listen to them once. Similar to his break-out single, “Rubbin Off The Paint,” this track is two minutes of pure, lean ear candy. It’s easy to see why he’s one of the hottest young rappers in America.

Haley Heynderickx
“The Bug Collector”
I Need To Start A Garden (out now on Mama Bird)
The Portland folkie’s debut LP is one of the best of the year, and “The Bug Collector” is a perfect example of her nimble guitarwork, warm voice, and unique songwriting. Over descending, arpeggiated guitars, she sings about protecting a loved one from dangers, real and imagined.

Migos
“Supastars”
Culture II (out now on QC)
Though the Internet mostly decided that “Culture II” was a letdown, I beg to differ. Sure, it’s inconsistent. Find me a Migos project that isn’t. It’s still full of that special sauce that only they can cook up.

Off-kilter, intoxicating melody
Glorious wordplay
Inch-perfect percussion

Jens Lekman
“Who Really Needs Who”
Correspondence (With Annika Norlin)
On the first of the Swedish sweeties once-monthly singles series, Lekman writes about friendship and loneliness with the deft touch that only he has. The other two tracks are also worth checking out. So much more to come from this one.

Listen to the whole project, here.

Payroll Giovanni & Cardo Got Wings
“Thing Or 2”(f/ Jade Djones)
Big Bossin Vol. 2 (Def Jam)
Payroll & Cardo bring the 90’s back with this air-tight collection of throwback bangers. Though the whole album is worth your time, this lithe, easy hustler’s anthem is indicative of the potent sound this duo always seems to cook up together.

Yxng Bane
“Corner” (f/ Maleek Berry)
Digital Single
Very few artists have paired the sound of Africa with the UK more seamlessly than the East Londoner with Congolese and Angolan roots. “The Corner” is his strongest cut yet, boasting a floaty hook and melodic verses that will stick in your head. The sky’s the limit for Yxng Bane.

Mount Eerie
“Distortion”
Now Only (out 03.16 on P.W. Elverum & Sun)
A key, rarely discussed element of grief is the confusion that it brings. That feeling is highlighted by this rambling, freeform track that sees Phil Elverum remembering his late wife by touching on everything from a youthful pregnancy scare to the first time he saw a dead body.

Grouper, “Parking Lot”

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Grouper
“Parking Lot”
Grid of Points (out 04.27 on Kranky)
Every time Liz Harris drops a new track, it’s up to us to savor it and appreciate it for the little miracle that it is. It may sound like hyperbole, but everything she’s put our since her wonderfully shut-in 2007 LP Cover the Windows and the Walls, has been teeming with delicate, ghostly beauty. Best of all, her songs grow and develop like living organisms, subtly revealing new layers of their beauty with each successive listen.

For all those reasons, there was much rejoicing at Thunder Penguin HQ* (aka, my desk) when Harris announced her follow-up to the incredible “Ruins” — my third favorite LP of 2014. Lead track “Parking Lights” contains the same bewitching intimacy that’s in much of her best work. Built around a forlorn piano melody, the Oregonian brings her haunting vocals up way up in the mix. And though it’s difficult to make out her words, the tone of her voice says more than enough.

The countdown to April 27th starts today.

Swae Lee, “Hurt To Look” (f/ Rae Sremmurd)

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Swae Lee
“Hurt To Look”

Swaecation (out soon on Ear Drummers)
Sremm Season is rapidly approaching, and on Wednesday, the venerable Mississippi brothers treated us to the first three tasters from their upcoming triple disc. Each of the three deserve some shine. “Powerglide” is the kind of airy, hyperactive banger that they built their name on, and Slim Jxmmi absolutely snaps on his electric debut solo single, “Brxnks Truck.”

But, as an eternal sucker for smooth R&B, Swae Lee’s solo single was the one that really stood out to me. Lee doesn’t sing, he glides. His vocals are effortless, and they just cruise over any arrangement he encounters, especially mid-tempo, luxurious Mike Will beats like this one. On “Hurt To Look,” he plays the role of a jilted lover, looking sadly over at what could have been. It’s a role he was born to play, and I cannot wait to hear what he does with an entire album of his own.

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.”