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

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of The First Quarter

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To be totally honest, I’m not sure it’s been a vintage first quarter for music, as I had fewer albums that I wanted to write about than usual. That said, there are some truly excellent albums on this list, and there’s a lot to look forward coming up soon.

Kacey Musgraves
“Golden Hour”
UMG Recordings
What: The country rising star’s transcendent, all-conquering third studio album
Where: Nashville, TN via Golden, TX
In a Tweet: A balanced, stunning collection of well-sung, beautifully written modern country. Simultaneously extremely consistent and full of highlights. An album to fall in love to, break up to, then get back together to. Kacey is a fucking star.
Start Here: “Space Cowboy” “Golden Hour”

O3 Greedo
“The Wolf of Grape Street”
Alamo
What: The uncompromising, exhilarating breakthrough project from the hyper-prolific MC
Where: Watts, CA
In a Tweet: Possibly the most exciting, unique talent since Young Thug. The 30 year-old is a true iconoclast, crafting emotional, unpredictable modern rap that twists and turns without warning. “Grape Street” is too long, but smart listeners will find absolute gold on this record.
Start Here: “Never Bend” “Zoning”

Bad Gyal
“Worldwide Angel”
Puro
What:
The new mixtape from the rising Spanish reggaeton innovator Alba Farelo
Where: Barcelona, Spain
In A Tweet: Over an electric array of modern, genre-fluid beats, Farelo ratchets up the heat with a sweltering new collection that further cements her unique sound and vital voice. Though it’s true to the sound of her excellent “Slow Wine” tape, it makes subtle upgrades and shows exciting growth.

Negative Gemini
“Bad Baby”
100% Electronica

What: An emotional 6-song EP from the experimental producer, Lindsay French
Where: Brooklyn, NY
In a Tweet: Good luck tagging a genre on this project. Whether its the breathy, deep synth-pop of the title track or the underwater power ballad, “My Innocence,” French is forever confounding but nails everything she does with aplomb. A true original who deserves a lot more shine than she gets.
Start Here: “Bad Baby” “You Weren’t There Anymore”

Tatsuya Shimazaki
“in my”
Self-Released
What:
A breathtaking ambient release from the Japanese composer
Where: Tokyo, Japan
In A Tweet: Though there isn’t much information about Shimazaki around, he’s got an extensive, excellent array of carefully crafted, therapeutic mood music to explore. His work combines delicate pianos, plucked ukulele, resonant synths, and little pangs of percussion — all used judiciously and subtly to extract maximum emotion.
Start Here: “remnent” “disposition

Haley Heynderickx
“I Need To Start a Garden”
Mama Bird
What:
The gentle, woodsy debut from the graceful-voiced singer-songwriter
Where: Portland, OR
In a Tweet: Though you’d probably file it under “folk,” Heynderickx’s excellent LP is delightfully difficult to categorize. She mixes bits of garage rock, indie, and Americana in here — all deftly held together by her elastic voice and nimble guitarwork.
Start Here: “The Bug Collector” “Show You A Body”

Camp Cope
“How To Socialise & Make Friends”
Run For Cover

What: The Sophomore LP from the young sometimes noisy / sometimes quiet Aussie trio
Where: Melbourne, Australia
In a Tweet: A worthy successor to their crushing, beautiful self-titled debut. Vocalist Georgia Maq is one of the bravest, most insightful artists around, and she tackles topics like death, sexual abuse, and loneliness with a directness that will strike you in the head and the heart.
Start Here: “The Face Of God” “I’ve Got You”

Lil Durk
“Just Cause Y’all Waited”
Only The Family Entertainment
What:
The 25 year-old’s first post-Def Jam release
Where: Chicago, IL
In A Tweet: Now that he’s free from a major label deal that never really made sense for him, Durk sounds rejuvenated here. Though there are better rappers and crooners out there, not many do both as well as Durk, and he strikes a potent balance between them on this consistent, heartfelt project.
Start Here: “How I Know” (f/ Lil Baby) “Instigator”

DJ Taye
“Still Trippin’”
Hyperdub
What:
The long-awaited Hyperdub debut LP from the legendary Teklife crew’s biggest young talent
Where: Chicago, IL
In A Tweet: Released a month short of the 4-year anniversary of his mentor DJ Rashad’s death, “Still Trippin’” is the kind of frenetic, exhilarating project that would have made Rashad smile. Though deeply rooted in footwork, Taye beautifully stretches the boundaries of the sound in fresh ways.
Start Here: “I Don’t Know” (f/ Fabi Reyna) “2094”

Soccer Mommy
“Clean”
Fat Possum
What:
The breakthrough project from 20 year-old prolific bedroom singer-songwriter Sophie Allison
Where: Nashville, TN
In a Tweet: “chill but kinda sad” goes Allison’s self-deprecating bio, and it’s actually a pretty apt (if understated) synopsis of this record. “Clean” is full of the kind of broken-winged, yet open-hearted feelings (#feels) that color your early 20s… and, for some of us, early 30s too. 😄
Start Here: “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)” “Scorpio Rising”

awakebutstillinbed
“what people call low self​-​esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you”
Tiny Engines

What: As the album suggests, this shit is obviously emo
Where: San Jose, CA (woooooo)
In a Tweet: An emotional cyclone of an album led by the raw, honest songwriting of Shannon Taylor. Across nine noisy, but super melodic tracks, Taylor shrieks, shouts, and shares her innermost feelings and struggles, finding solace and strength in the chaos around her. Though not an easy listen, it’s a rewarding one.
Start Here: “floor” “opener”

American Pleasure Club
“A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This”
Run For Cover
What:
The eclectic new album from Sam Ray’s (Ricky Eat Acid) band
Where: Baltimore, MD
In a Tweet: After jettisoning one of the worst band names in music, Teen Suicide, Ray crafted the best album of his career. There’s fuzzy stoner rock, sweetboi ballads, and even a track with a breakbeat. In short, it’s all over the place, but somehow it works, which is a testament to Ray’s taste.
Start Here: “this is heaven & id die for it” “all the lonely nights in your life”

Kalle J
“Aros Catering”
Emotion
What:
The Swedish-language solo debut of Karl X Johan’s Kalle Jönsson
Where: Stockholm, Sweden
In a Tweet: I’ve been waiting years for a Karl X Johan debut, but this melodramatic project from ‘Karl’ will suffice. Though I kind of wish it was sung in a language I speak, the cracked power ballads, sweeping melodies, and dramatic, gauzy arrangements are tasty in any dialect. Get out your lighters.
Start Here: “Strand” “BDSM”

Kacey Musgraves, “Golden Hour”

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Kacey Musgraves
“Golden Hour”

Golden Hour (out now on UMG)
At this point, you probably already know that the 29 year-old Texan’s new album is something special. The disc is a stunning collection of impeccably sung and written modern country tunes, all of which deserve your time. However, I wanted to give one of its most low-key moments a little extra shine: this gorgeous ode to the simple pleasures of spending time with the person you love.

Kacey’s always been so adept at making little moments feel momentous (see: my all-time favorite, “Late to the Party“). And at its heart, “Golden Hour” is about appreciating the way our partners ground us, how they give us someone to rely on in an unceasingly unreliable world. Sure, it’s simple. Sure, it’s cheesy. But, it’s true. And, it’s yet another example of Musgraves’ uncanny ability to highlight the beauty in her everyday life, then distill it into a song that can help us appreciate that beauty in our own.

Now, Now: “AZ”

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Now, Now
“AZ”

Saved (out 05.18 on Trans- Records)
It’s taken me nearly a month to make my mind about the buzzing Minneapolis duo’s new single. At first, I struggled with the “klopp” snare drum sound and the track’s pace, which felt a bit plodding compared to their lithe, aerodynamic best stuff. However, the more I listened to it, the more “AZ” grew on me. I’m realizing that the slow pace makes the two synth-fueled climaxes feel even bigger, especially when the pitch-shifted vocals come in at the end, which has become one of my favorite moments in music in 2018.

Though following music on the Internet is great in a lot of ways, I do think I often give tracks less time than I should. And “AZ” is a great example of that. Sorry Now, Now; I’ll never doubt you again.

Wet, “There’s A Reason”

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Wet
“There’s a Reason”
Digital Single

I’ve gone back and forth about the subtle stylistic shift that the Brooklyn group has made on their first single as a duo. After enjoying widespread acclaim early in their career, their debut LP was met with tepid reviews, which mostly complained about their dogged commitment to their stripped-down, simplistic mope-pop. As someone who fell in love with their original sound, the critics didn’t move me, because I hadn’t come to them for lush, complex arrangements in the first place.

“There’s a Reason” feels like a bit of a response to those dissenting voices. It features one of their peppiest, fullest choruses with swelling strings and and busy drumming. Of course, we’ve heard similar elements in the climaxes of tracks like “Weak” and “Move Me,” and we don’t know how this song fits into the context of the LP. That said, my favorite parts of this song are its sparsest, most Wet-ish bits; the verses and bridge give vocalist Kelly Zutrau plenty of sonic space to emotionally connect with the listener.

I like it, but I’m not sure I’d like a whole album that sounds like this. And though every group must evolve, I hope they don’t lose the parts that made them so special to being with.

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.