Hot Jam of the Day: T-Pain, "Textin' My Ex" (f/ Tiffany Evans)

T-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 Read more

Images & Words: SOPHIE, "It's Okay To Cry"

SOPHIE "It's Okay to Cry" Digital Single Every once in a while, somebody puts out something that takes your breath away. "It's Okay to Cry" is absolutely one of those moments. After spending her early career lurking behind faceless, chaotic, schizophrenic experimental dance music, the 32 year-old has stepped into the light and up to the microphone. The result is Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: King Krule, "Logos"

King Krule "Logos" The OOZ (out now on XL) Archy Marshall's excellent new album feels like a collection of those wonky dream states that exist somewhere in that nether region between being wake and sleep. Though I'm still digesting all 19 of its songs, the hypnotic, jazzy "Logos" immediately stuck out. Over languid jazz chords Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, "For Robin"

The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die "For Robin" Always Foreign (Epitaph) There are many, many awful things about addiction, but little is as insidious as the way it pushes its victims away from loved ones from their previous life and deeper into their illness. Anybody who has lost someone to Read more

Images & Words: Stormzy, "4PM in London"

Stormzy "4PM in London" Digital Single Turning freestyles into anthems is nothing new to the ultra-talented Londoner. And though the ravenous "4PM in London" was probably written, it feels alive in the same way that many of those aforementioned tracks did. Unlike Drake (the man who originally rapped on this beat), Stormzy's got the rare ability to Read more


Images & Words: Frank Ocean, “Nikes”

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Frank Ocean
Blonde (out now on Boys Don’t Cry)
About two minutes into his long-awaited new album, Frank Ocean’s pitched-up vocal hangs in the air and sings “RIP Trayvon. That n**ga look just like me.” With that simple lyric, Ocean humanizes a young man whose life was taken in the most inhumane way possible before being dehumanized repeatedly by media vultures and the uniformed, endless social media echo chamber. Throughout his career, the 28 year-old has consistently demonstrated this ability to nonchalantly craft disarming, truly powerful poetry in layman’s prose — rewriting the rules of engagement with a shrug of the shoulders. It’s perhaps the most valuable and rarest of his very many talents.

In many ways, Blonde feels like his best work yet, surpassing the hugely underrated Nostalgia, Ultra. That said, I want to sit with it for a week before I make a judgement, but early returns are incredibly impressive.

Hot Jams of the Day: Lydia Loveless, “Same To You” / “Longer”

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Lydia Loveless
“Same to You” / “Longer”
Real (out now on Bloodshot)
While I — along with the rest of America — spent most of my weekend in a Blonde-induced k-hole (more on that later), I took a detour today to give the Columbus, OH singer-songwriter’s fourth LP a couple of spins. What I found was rock-solid songwriting and delicious guitarwork with a welcome dose of Whiskeytown vibes. The disc’s first two tracks — “Same to You” and “Longer” — highlight all of those traits, along with Loveless’ powerful, evocative vocal. At first listen, Real will hit all of your alt-country nostalgia pressure points (if you have them). But I have a pretty good feeling that over time, it will do a helluva lot more than that.

Hot Jam of the Day: serpentwithfeet, “blisters”

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blisters (out 09.02 on Tri Angle)
Though it’s been out for a couple of weeks, I had to write a little bit about the second single from Jonah Wise’s debut EP for Tri Angle. Like the spellbinding, “flickering,” “blisters” is a mesmeric, unique ballad with devotional touches that pairs Wise’s haunting vocals with a deft, orchestral accompaniment. While he dials back the trill a touch, his vocal remains aching and stretched, overflowing with emotion and heart. True originality is hard to find in 2016, but with every track, Wise is further cementing his status as one of the rarest working today.

Hot Jam of the Day: Lil Yachty, “Pretty” (f/ Burberry Perry)

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Lil Yachty
“Pretty” (f/ Burberry Perry)
Summer Songs 2 (Quality Control)
The Atlanta native’s excellent, youthful new mixtape, Summer Songs 2, is full of highlights, but none are as disarming as this emotional love song. “Pretty” is the type of track that makes you text your girl/boi or pine for the one that got away. Along with BFF Burberry Perry, Yachty expresses his devotion over a delicate bed of synths. You just don’t hear many love songs this direct, which gives it a weight and a realness that is so affecting. This might be one of my favorite songs of the year.

The Round-Up: The Best Records of the Second Quarter

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Instead of just rolling through the best of June, let’s round up the finest music of the second quarter of 2016. Coming off last week’s Best Tracks list, here are my favorite albums of the year.

Parkwood / Columbia
The album that stopped the world on its axis (and made me and my girlfriend 40 minutes late to a dinner), Beyoncé’s incredible, genre-spanning sixth effort needs no endorsement from me. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best albums of the year, but you probably knew that. As I’m sure I’ll be writing about it in December, I’ll spare you for now. All hail.
Hottest Jams: “Love Drought” “Pray You Catch Me”

The Hotelier
Tiny Engines
Another album that I’m sure to be writing about in December, the Worcester, MA quartet’s follow-up to 2014 masterpiece Home, Like Noplace Is There, isn’t as bleak as its predecessor but packs just as much catharsis. The “emo” label never really fit right and isn’t even close now, as the group has established themselves as much more than a nostalgia act. Goodness is a dense, varied collection that is equal parts grit and grace, meshing melodic riffs with crashing drums and Christian Holden’s distressed tenor to absolute perfection. Easily, one of the best indie rock albums of the last few years.
Hottest Jams: “Soft Animal” “Opening Mail For My Grandmother”

Anderson .Paak
Steel Wool
For all the rave reviews, big tours, and TV appearances, I still somehow feel like the Oxnard native’s beautiful second LP hasn’t gotten its due. In short, this thing should make Paak one of the biggest artists in the country. Over 60 engaging minutes, he proves that he can do just about everything well. He sings with the easy confidence of a seasoned soul singer. He raps with depth, cadence, and touch. He plays jazzy, swinging drums that drive the album forward. And, more than anything, he demonstrates his incredible gift as a storyteller, crafting Malibu into a living, breathing world that it’s impossible not to get sucked into. To me, this is cut from the same cloth and absolutely deserves to be in the same echelon as recent classics like To Pimp a Butterfly, Channel Orange, Lemonade, and the like.
Hottest Jams: “The Season / Carry Me” “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance”

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The Round-Up: The Best Songs of the Second Quarter

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Like we did back in March, let’s round up the best music of the second quarter of 2016. We’ll kick things off with the best tracks of the year so far. My album list should be out later this week. And so as not to repeat myself, I didn’t include anything from any of those albums on this list.

Kanye West
“Champions” (f/ Gucci Mane, Quavo, Travis Scott, Yo Gotti, Big Sean, Desiigner)
Cruel Winter (release date TBA on G.O.O.D. Music)
The Life of Pablo could be the best album of the year, but it probably doesn’t not even contain Kanye’s best song of 2016. “Champions” beautifully highlights what makes West such a musical genius and explains why his music is more vital than ever, a near impossibility for a hip-hop artist 15 years into his career.

Sure, his lyrical skills aren’t as sharp as they used to be, but that’s not the point. Rather, West has opted to work like a great head coach or creative director, surrounding himself with the young talent and placing them in the best position to succeed. Yeezy only gives us four new bars, but everybody else shines, resulting in a thrilling posse anthem in the spirit of classics like “Mercy” and “Clique.”

Gucci Mane
“1st Day Out The Feds”
Digital Single
At some point, it was almost as if Gucci Mane became more of a meme than a man. All the trouble and noise had reduced one of the most influential, important rap artists of all-time into an interminable stream of cheap “Bitch I Might Be” LOLz. For that reason, it’s been brilliant to see him spend his first month as a free man with a seemingly sound mind and sharp focus, dropping a string of potent singles. None is more affecting than this suffocating, paranoid tale of life in one of America’s most notorious prisons.

“Rep Your County” (Dave Luxe remix)
Digital Single
I’ve already written a ton about Thast this year, and I’m assuming that she’s only getting warmed up. On this tasty remix, MTL beatsmith, Dave Luxe laces an airy arrangement that leaves plenty of space for the rising Tampa native’s booming, voracious flow to gobble up the yards. She’s promised that new work with Zora Jones and Ryan Hemsworth is just around the corner, and I could not be more excited to hear it. Without a doubt, one of the best rappers in the country right now.

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Stream This Shit: Karun (aka Runka), Indigo

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Karun (aka Runka)
East African Wave
The Kenyan singer/songwriter’s gorgeous, 7-song project is the latest release from the excellent, Nairobi-based collective East African Wave. The arrangements are generally sparse and down-tempo, as the disc’s most prominent producers — Jinku and Nu Fvnk — mostly favor resonant, deep keys and use percussion as an accent, rather than a driving force. The restrained arrangements leave plenty of space for the singer (né Karun Mungai-Runkah) to dig into emotional, intimate spaces. My early favorites are “A Million Emotions” and “Need U The Most,” a pair of duets with her partner Joseph Kiwango. The former deals beautifully with the trepidation of falling in love, while the latter delves into being apart from home and the person you love. They are the kind of topics that just about everyone can relate to, but few can express with this much clarity and grace.

Monday Round-Up: ABRA, Rae Sremmurd, and the Rest of What I Missed

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“Lady Vengeance”
Fuck Marry Kill (out now on GHE20G0TH1K)
The first proper release from NYC collective GHE20G0TH1K, Fuck Marry Kill is nine exhilarating, unique club tracks from the Philly producer. While the whole thing deserves your time, its lead single is a great place to start — pairing latin rhythms and synth droplets with a mantric vocal sample. More than anything, it’s the kind of song that makes me horribly miss the packed, sweaty dancefloors of New York City. Someone take me back.

Listen to the whole thing, here.

Princess (out 08.20 on True Panther/Awful)
The Darkwave Duchess is back with a follow-up to last year’s exquisite LP, Rose. “Crybaby” is the kind of sweltering, new wave-indebted R&B that she’s been pumping out for the last couple of years. Boasting an earworm chorus and an undeniable baseline, it also packs one of the strongest bridges of the year. To top it all off, the Atlanta resident handled all production and songwriting here, further cementing her status as one of the brightest young talents in music today.

Alexis Taylor
“Lonely Vagabond”
Piano (out now on Moshi Moshi)
If you, like me, prefer your Hot Chip in ballad form, their frontman’s second solo album is for you. On nearly every track of Piano, Taylor frames his innocent, doe-like tenor with only a grand piano. While its skeletal arrangements will likely be too narrow in scope to captivate the masses, the disc stands as testament to Taylor’s underrated, nuanced songwriting and the affecting vulnerability of his gentle voice.

Angel Olsen
My Woman (out 09.02 on Jagjaguwar)
Falling in love with someone new is an incredibly fun experience that nobody wants to do again. On the first song from her forthcoming third LP, the ever-consistent Olsen considers this subject with her usual lyrical acuity and depth. What’s unusual about “Intern” is that her trademark guitar is replaced by lonely synths, framing her beautiful vocals in a fresh new way.

Rae Sremmurd
“Look Alive”
SremmLife 2 (out 06.24 on EarDrummers)
Just two weeks before their second LP drops, the all-conquering duo gives their mid tempo banger gets a characteristically lit new video. Even though the BPMs are turned down here, their irrepressible energy comes through loud and clear. Like much of their best tracks, infectious vocal melodies aren’t reserved for the chorus, as each of their verses boast better vocal hooks than most songs’ refrains.

Hot Jam of the Day: Local Natives, “Villany”

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Local Natives
Sunlit Youth (out 09.09 on Loma Vista)
I left Los Angeles about nine months ago, and nothing makes me miss it more than certain music. A DJ Mustard beat, anything that sounds remotely Balearic, Father John Misty, fingerpicked guitars, the first two Frank Ocean records, and so on. This LA group certainly makes the list, and the second single from their third LP is giving me a severe hankering for the city and all its smoggy, dry-skinned, decrepit glory.

They’ve always written fantastic vocal harmonies, and “Villainy” is one of their strongest and stickiest. The melody is lithe without being flimsy, and it is expertly framed by a (surprisingly) guitar-free arrangement. It’s a strong statement from a group that’s been a way for a couple of years, and a little more inspiration for me to plan a weekend trip back down the 5.

The Monday Round-Up: Clams Casino, Sampha, and the rest of what I missed

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After spending last week in Hawaii, the Monday Round-Up is back with the best of what I missed last week.

Clams Casino
32 Levels (out 07.15 on Colombia)
After breaking out in 2011 thanks to a string of successful beat tapes, the New Jersey cloud dweller has spent the majority of the last couple years producing beats for A-list rappers like A$AP Ferg, Vince Staples, and Danny Brown. And though it’s been a while since we’ve heard Clammy by himself, this single proves that he remains a compelling solo artist. “Blast” is built around a warped vocal sample and his trademark celestial keyboards and staccato hi-hats. It’s the kind of track that countless Mixcloud DJs will be saving up for their new summer sets, and I’m not at all mad about it.

AJ Tracey x Dave
“Thiago Silva”
Digital Single
A couple of rising stars link up on this undeniable ode to Paris Saint-Germain’s towering Brazilian center back. Tracey and Dave (aka Santan Dave) play off each other effortlessly, interchanging with dynamic, memorable verses over a classic Ruff Sqwad beat. One of the best things about the current batch of young grime MCs is how collaborative they are with each other, and this is just one of many excellent link-ups that we’ve heard this year.

“Timmy’s Prayer”
Digital Single
Speaking of voices we’ve been missing, Sampha’s dulcet tones returned to our lives this week with this gorgeous little ballad, his first solo single in almost three years. The South Londoner sounds absolutely heartbroken here, pining over languid, meandering keyboards. At time of writing, there’s no news of a follow-up to his excellent 2013 EP, Dual, but it’s good to know that he’s back at it.

Yumi Zouma
“Short Truth”
Yoncalla (out 05.27 on Cascine)
To no real fault of their own, I’ve never totally been convinced by the New Zealander’s starry-eyed, Balearic pop. It’s mostly because the groups that they are most reminiscent of — Air France,  Boat Club, Korallreven, The Radio Dept — are some of my all-time favorites. However, on the eve of the release of their debut LP, I’m starting to change my tune. The disc’s third single, “Short Truth,” is the best of a strong bunch, pairing glittering synths with a driving backbeat and an adhesive hook.

Father John Misty
“Real Love Baby”
Digital Single
It sounds like it was recorded on an iPhone 2, but that doesn’t stop Father John Misty’s new loosey from exuding all kinds of golden AM radio vibes. The 35 year-old is still riding high off last year’s excellent, I Love You, Honeybear, and hopefully his current purple patch will continue for a long time.