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 reason 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 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

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

As you may have noticed, I've done my annual "fall behind on a monthly column" thing over the last couple months. That said, that just gives me more ammo for a proper Q3 round up, featuring the best records of that period in alphabetical order. 21 Savage Issa Album Slaughter Read more

Images & Words: Creek Boyz, "I'm The One"

Creek Boyz "I'm the One" Digital Single It's still very early in their career, but the soulful, melodic Baltimore County crew feel like one of the freshest new groups out. Following up their magnetic debut single, "With My Team," "I'm the One" is a triumphant, buoyant anthem that showcases their versatile talents as Read more


Hot Jam of the Day: DJ Rashad, Nick Hook & Machinedrum, “Understand”

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DJ Rashad, Nick Hook & Machinedrum
Movin’ Forward (out 04.24 on TEKLIFE)

A few days before the one-year anniversary of footwork legend DJ Rashad’s tragic passing, Machinedrum (né Travis Stewart) releases this gorgeous collaboration with the late DJ and Nick Hook. In the press release, Stewart wrote about the difficulties of finishing the songs he had worked with Rashad on, explaining that they “seemed impossible to finish after he passed.” Fortunately for us, the North Carolina native was able to complete them, and they’ll be released on a tribute album for the great man next week. A year on, Rashad’s influence and legacy remains stronger than ever, highlighted by excellent work from rising artists like JLin, DJ Earl, and Machinedrum himself.

“Teklife to tha next life.” RIP Rashad.

Hot Jam of the Day: Samantha Urbani, “1 2 3 4”

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Samantha Urbani
“1 2 3 4”
Digital Single

The first line of the Soundcloud blurb for the ex-Friends singer’s new single reads “written, arranged, performed & co-produced by Samantha Urbani.” Assumedly, this was meant to avoid the shadow of her boyfriend Dev Hynes, whose figure looms ubiquitously over nearly every act he produces (Carly Rae Jepsen, Solange, Sky Ferreira etc). While the 80s pastiche and funky bassline are decidedly Hynes-ian, “1 2 3 4” is punchier than many of Hynes’ moody, occasionally overcooked arrangements (see: Jepsen’s sleepy, “All That”), and it bangs in a way that only his best work does. Over a buoyant synths, Urbani channels peak Benatar and early Madonna, delivering sticky verses and a devastating chorus with the blasé confidence of a seasoned pop star. It’s the rare pop song that is light as a feather, yet hits like a (shit)ton of bricks. More like this, please.

Hot Jam of the Day: Jamie XX, “Loud Places” (f/ Romy Madley-Croft)

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Jamie XX
“Loud Places” (f/ Romy Madley-Croft)
In Colour (out 06.02 on Young Turks)

Like so much of their work as the XX, “Loud Places” snared me quickly. 18 seconds to be exact. The XX’s brokenhearted first two albums have a number of lyrical gems, but the first stanza of this single is one of Croft’s best yet. “I go to loud places. / To search for someone to be quiet with, who will take me home. / You go to loud places. / To find someone who will take you higher than I took you.” Once I heard that, I was in for the ride, but unlike so much of their previous work, I was legitimately surprised where it took me.

After the downcast, decidedly XX-ian start, “Loud Places” blasts out of her lonely bedroom and on to a buoyant, ecstatic dance-floor. It’s a welcome display of power from an oft-forlorn, vulnerable voice. And when Madley-Croft gets to her last line (“You’re in ecstasy without me. / When you come down I won’t be around.”), you can’t help but want to cheer for her — like she’s your recently-single friend who’s finally moving on from her ex and making out with a random at the bar.

First Quarter of 2015 Mini Round-Up: The Best Songs I Missed

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It’s been a busy three months for me, and while I’ve still had time to listen, I haven’t been able to keep up with what has turned into a blinding first quarter. Here are a handful of my favorite songs that I haven’t been able to write about.

“Know Me From”
Digital Single
Like a lot of American teenagers, I was enamored by the exciting world of grime thanks to early efforts from The Streets and Dizzee Rascal. Unlike a lot of American teenagers, it stuck, and it’s still sticking as tightly as ever. Original Pirate Material remains one of my three favorite albums, and it has led me to discover heavyweights like Wiley, Skinnyman, Kano, and Roots Manuva, as well as less celebrated folks like the Mitchell Brothers, Sway, Tempa T, and Devlin.

For that reason, I’ve loved the recent American interest in grime. A wicked new wave of producers, as well as artists like Skepta, JME, Novelist, AJ Tracey, and Stormzy guarantee the genre’s bright future. The breakthrough banger from the 21 year-old Londoner is probably my favorite song of the year so far, and hopefully, it will continue to grow the genre enough to finally kick off the US grime takeover that I predicted in the late 90s… or at least, a couple of long-awaited American tours.

Kanye West
“Only One” / “All Day” / “Wolves”
So Help Me God (out ??? on GOOD Music)
I somehow missed writing about all three of these gems, and when considered together, they’re indicative of Kanye’s incredible versatility and duality as an artist. A heartfelt, disarmingly direct piano ballad to his wife and child; a delirious, maximalist turn-up anthem; a spare, claustrophobic rumination. They illuminate the many facets of Mr. West. And though he’s on fire, in love, and surrounded by all the cool kids, there is still lingering loneliness, isolation, and self-doubt all over these tracks. Those are the contradictions that make him the greatest artist of his generation.

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Hot Jam of the Day: Courtney Barnett, “Depreston”

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Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (out 03.24 on Mom + Pop)

Since the dawn of modern civilization, procreation and land ownership have been the principle goals of humanity. While much has been written about the personal collateral damage brought about by the former, substantially less has been written about the latter, especially in the world of pop music. The 26 year-old Australian’s rumination on a trip to look at suburban homes with her partner is a beautiful dive into the realities of leaving the city for some land of your own. The large garden, the parking space, the peace, the comforting permanence. The isolation, the realization of the family you’re replacing, the boredom, the crushing permanence.

The story is left unresolved with the resolution to Barnett’s future replaced by a languid slide guitar, explaining that there is no answer to this question. It’s the sound of two people looking at each other uneasily on the ride home, hoping that the other knows what to do. It’s a masterful example of non-verbal storytelling that caps off an extremely well told verbal story; in other words, the perfect ending to a song that’s just about the same.

Hot Jam of the Day: Heems, “Home” (f/ Dev Hynes)

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“Home” (f/ Dev Hynes)
Eat Pray Thug (out 03.10 on Megaforce)

Surprise releases may be played out in 2015, but the New Yorker’s new single is a totally different kind of surprise. His heartfelt new single is a stunning stylistic U-Turn for an artist who is best known for his brainy, acerbic, and extrospective flow. While he hasn’t completely shied away from sharing in the past, Heems (né Himanshu Suri) has never written a song this direct and personal, as he picks through the bones of a failed relationship and his personal demons in striking detail.

Touched by inch-perfect production from Dev Hynes, the 29 year-old weaves couplets that land like crushing body blows (“You addicted to the H-Man. I’m addicted to the H, man”), masterfully combining brutal honesty and insight with his trademark wit. Though his voice sounds road-weary and downtrodden, Suri’s songwriting and storytelling voice has never been stronger, and I cannot wait to see where it progresses from here. Easily, one of my five favorite songs of 2015.

Hot Jam of the Day: Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker The Berry”

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Kendrick Lamar
“The Blacker The Berry”
Digital Single

People like narratives. We like bad guys and good guys, assholes and heroes. We want to know what side we’re on and who else is with us. However, life rarely complies and often confounds us with frustrating shades of grey. While many plow ahead undeterred, determined to develop their Fox News or MSNBC-driven worldview, artists like Kendrick Lamar remind us of the futility of such myopia.

Like much of the 27 year-old’s exquisite canon, “The Blacker The Berry” is full of contradictions and dichotomies. He takes aim at both sides of the fierce racial battle being waged in America, while saving a heap of verbal artillery for the man in the middle, Lamar himself. He begins each verse with “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015,” and the “I’m” in question is all of us, struggling to apply our personal morality to a nuanced, amoral world. Like the most powerful statements in any disciple, the record raises more questions than answers, and with each thought-provoking release, Lamar further cements his status as one of the leading, most challenging voices in 2015… hypocrite or not.

Hot Jam of the Day: Chromatics, “Just Like You”

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“Just Like You”
Dear Tommy (out soon on Italians Do it Better)

After months of waiting, we finally get a taste of Chromatics’ hugely anticipated fifth LP. And my god, it’s tasty. Gauzy, moody, and sedately delirious, “Just Like You” is both a reminiscence of a past relationship and a sobering realization that the protagonist has moved on to someone new without actually moving on. Vocalist Ruth Radelet is both removed and present — like talking to someone who is thinking about something else — as she delivers line after crushing line. Johnny Jewel’s beautiful, minor synth lines frame Radelet’s words, further cementing the overwhelming gravity of the cycle she’s found herself in. Basically, it’s “Time is a Flat Circle” set to downtempo electro, and the result is one of the best songs of this young year.

Best of 2014: The Best Albums of 2014

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25. SD: Truly Blessed (iHipHop Distribution)
It takes guts to step out on your own. It takes real guts to walk away from a successful situation to go solo. Sadiki “SD” Thirston has a lot of things (talent, vision, originality), but more than anything, he’s got guts. Stepping away from GBE and the Chicago drill scene that he came up in, Thirston’s debut is filled with wonky, druggy melodies and anthemic, extroverted choruses that are well-balanced by drill’s insular roots.

24. 18+: Trust (Houndstooth)
Coming off like the XX’s delinquent older cousins, the LA duo’s proper debut saw them going deeper down the rabbit hole they started exploring with their early mixtapes. The boy/girl vocals hold a palpable tension and sensuality that is often lacking in such acts, and the sparse arrangements and sneaky hooks form the perfect seabed for their breathy pillow talk.

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Best of 2014: The Hottest Jams of 2014

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Only a few days late this year, but behold, my Favorite Songs of 2014! Hopefully, everyone had a safe new year and is looking forward to what should be a brilliant year of music in 2015. Thank you for your continued support and readership. It means a lot.

65. Angel Olsen: “Windows” from Burn Your Fire for No Witness
The final song from the St. Louis-raised folkie’s glorious second LP doesn’t employ many words, but it says a helluva a lot. Olsen’s desperate plea to a loved one who is seemingly uninterested in helping themselves is especially moving, as you can hear the weariness in her voice. It’s something that anybody who has been in her position can relate to. Here’s hoping that there was still enough strength in that voice to get through to whoever it was meant for.

64. Shamir: “On The Regular” (digital single)
One of the most playful songs of the year, the 20 year-old Las Vegan introduces himself to the haters and swats them away like Dikembe in one fell swoop. Armed with just some MIDI keys and a cowbell, Shamir Bailey’s enthusiasm is overwhelming, sing-rapping through a frenetic, explosive three minutes that’s perhaps the best indication of why there’s so much hype around him and why it’s so warranted.

63. Doss: “The Way I Feel” from Doss
Ephemera was a powerful weapon in 2014, but few captured wielded it as deftly as this anonymous American producer. This dreamy, romantic single straddles the line between mid-90’s, E’d-out rave and jilted teen’s LiveJournal, bubbling with both an intense desire for human interaction and crippling insecurity. So, you know, it’s basically the sound of high school.

62. Lauryn Hill: “Black Rage” (sketch) (digital single)
A song like this reminds us how much we miss the former Fugee’s powerful, distinct voice. As she is her wont, Hill speaks the truth here, laying out some harsh realities over the once-innocent melody from “My Favorite Things.” Hopefully, this “sketch” will result in some more fully realized paintings in the coming year. Lord knows we need them.

61. Throwing Shade: Sweet Tooth (f/ Emily Bee) from 19 Jewels
The kind of song that you can just melt into, the London producer’s ode to the human face is just as delicious as its title would suggest. Bee’s playful, flitting vocal is the perfect fit for Nabihah Iqbal’s ocean of synth molasses, and its wonky drum pattern gives it the tension it needs to keep the kettle boiling over. The whole thing hangs on a tightrope, constantly threatening to tip over but catching its balance at just the right time.

60. Jacques Greene: “No Excuse” from Phantom Vibrate
When I caught the talented Canadian live earlier this year, it became increasingly clear that with every project, he is moving further and further away from the constraints of the club world that he came from. While his music has always straddled that line (#sensitivehouse), the Marques Houston-sampling “No Excuse” seems more crafted for personal use than professional use, and that is by no means a bad thing. He’s always been a phenomenal DJ and producer, but it’s a joy to watch him grow as a songwriter, and I’d love to see what he’d do with a full-length album.

59. Tommy Kruise: “Hers” from Fête Foreign
From one Montreal native to another, Tommy Kruise’s “Hers” is a ghostly, evocative cut that is almost too pristine to add vocals to. Built around a timid keyboard line and his go-to trap hi-hats, Kruise laces a double helping of emotionality with two disembodied voices, floating menacingly above the fray. Also, make sure to check out its touching music video below, which is one of my favorites of the year.

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