Wet, "There's A Reason"

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 Read more

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

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 Read more

Grouper, "Parking Lot"

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 Read more

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

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 Read more

Kacey Musgraves, "Space Cowboy"

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,” Read more


Images & Words: Grimes, “Flesh without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream”

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“Flesh without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream”
Art Angels (out 11.06 on 4AD)

While the blogosphere rages about whether Claire Boucher has ‘gone pop’ (whatever the fuck that means), the 27 year-old has simply got on with it. Over the last 18 months, she’s crafted a clutch of bangers that defy labels and genres (other than “fucking great”), and it all looks to be building up to what could be a 2015-defining LP — her fourth full-length, Art Angels.

This week, we got our first real taste of it with the propulsive, elastic “Flesh without Blood” and the heady, emotional ballad, “Life in the Vivid Dream.” The former strikes the perfect balance between Boucher’s distinct, experimental core and her impeccable ability to craft streamlined, inarguable hooks. And though the latter runs under two minutes, it is far from an afterthought, highlighting the disarming power she holds in her vocals and lyrics. #PopGrimes or not, it’s a breathtaking, vital sound that is all her own.

Images & Words: Lontalius, “All I Wanna Say”

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“All I Wanna Say”
Digital Single

The young New Zealander began his burgeoning career on Soundcloud and Bandcamp by uploading affecting, spare covers of popular rap and R&B songs, armed with only a Casio keyboard and a little bit of autotune. In the last year or so, the 18 year-old (né Eddie Johnston) has focused on original material, and new single, “All I Wanna Say,” is the best of it so far. Like in his covers, Johnston’s solo work is disarmingly direct and poignant, thanks mostly to its simplicity. A mantra like “all I have to offer is my love” would seem trite and cliché coming from most artists, but the innocent timbre of Johnston’s voice makes it feel like he really means it. Like, he believes that literally the only thing he can offer someone is his undying devotion. And that is a feeling that nearly anybody who has ever been a awkward, self-doubting, lovestruck teenager can relate to.

Images & Words: Wet, “Weak”

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Don’t You (out 01.29 on Columbia)

During a week where Bachata Papi grabbed most of the headlines for his phenomenal drunk Uncle swag, another of TP’s favorite vocalists also broke out some heartfelt moves on a new clip. For four spellbinding minutes, vocalist/songwriter Kelly Zutrau pours her heart out in front of a crowd of zero, pining for a lover to reconsider walking away. Director/choreographer Holly Blakey beautifully captures the evocative performance, highlighting the raw, exorcismic (not a real word) power of dance in one of the strongest music videos of the year.

And, if somehow you haven’t seen it yet, check out Aubrey’s “Hotline Bling.” It’s also great.

Images & Words: Majical Cloudz, “Downtown”

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Majical Cloudz
Are You Alone? (out 10.16 on Matador)

Though he’s still very much a rising artist, Majical Cloudz frontman Devon Welsh is quickly becoming one of the most powerful lyricists in music today. Blissfully free of wordplay and $10 adjectives, the Montreal native excels at direct, plainly poetic prose aimed at the common experiences we share: love, fear, loss, and the like. The gorgeous devotional, “Downtown,” has a few stunners that deal with the former. Lyrics like “There’s one thing I’ll do If it ever goes wrong. I’ll write you into my all of my songs. / And if suddenly I die. I hope they will say that he was obsessed and it was OK” speak for themselves and beautifully define what love feels like and what it can mean. A truly special statement from what should be one of the albums of the year.

Late Summer Catch-Up: The Best Stuff I Missed

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As you may have realized, posting has been a little sparse around these parts in the last couple weeks. I’ve been moving house from Los Angeles to San Francisco over the last few weeks, so I wanted to get into a quick round-up of some of my favorite recent tracks, now that I’m finally situated.

Real Lies
“Blackmarket Blues”
Real Life (out in October on Marathon Artists)
If you read this site regularly, you know how I feel about Real Lies. We’re now just weeks away from the release of their debut LP — an album I’ve been waiting for since I fell in love with their first single, “Deeper,” back in the summer of 2013. “Blackmarket Blues” captures an intoxicating balance between urban ennui and the eternal hopefulness of youth in a way that just cuts through me. I don’t know how many other ways I can keep saying it, but I fucking love this band so much. And so should you.

“You Don’t Have to Be Alone” / “In The Flames”
Digital Single
Samo Sound Boy has already made a great solo album this year, but his personal success hasn’t pushed his project with Jerome LOL onto the back-burner. The LA-based (Westlake, stand up!) duo formerly known as DJ Dodger Stadium, dropped a pair of sweltering, mantric singles this summer that will hopefully lead to a follow-up to 2014’s excellent, Friend of Mine.

Miles From Kinshasa
Digital Single
This one’s an absolute stunner. The London-based newcomer’s debut single pairs a foreboding bassline with lithe, infectious vocals, resulting in a track that feels both menacing and breezy. Unlike many of today’s pop songs, it’s tough to track the sounds that influenced “IVRY.” Miles cooks up a beautifully divergent sonic stew here, using stabbed electric guitars, syncopated hand-drums, and Pet Shop Boys synths to create a perfect soundtrack to life in a multi-cultural community.

Tim Vocals
“Where is the Loud” (Goon Mix)
Digital Single
While Craig David rightfully lapped up the plaudits for his flip of Jack Ü’s ubiquitous “Where Are Ü Now,” under-appreciated crooner Tim Vocals quietly dropped an excellent version of his own. The Harlem native waxes poetic about his love for weed in his gentle, yet powerful falsetto, gliding over the verses’ buoyant piano chords and Skrillex and Diplo’s infectious chorus drop.

Don’t You (out 01.29.16 on Columbia)
After what has felt like an eternity, the emotional trio’s debut LP finally got a release date. Lead single “Deadwater” is one of my favorite tracks of the year, and the skeletal “Weak” is a worthy follow-up, pairing Kelly Zutrau’s piercing, plaintive vocals with delicate guitar chords and a bouncy drumpad pattern. 2016 just got its first must-hear album.

“Come Back” / “Brought to the Water”
New Bermuda (out now on -ANTI)
The Bay Area sickos responsible for my fave album of 2013 are back with a vengeance. If these singles are anything to go by, New Bermuda will pick up where the masterful Sunbather left off. If anything, these cuts tend to skew even heavier and darker than their past work, hinting that success has done nothing but make them even more relentless.

RedemptionHeart (TBD)
For obvious reasons, not many artists who make music as nuanced and challenging as Dawn Richard are prolific, but the New Orleans powerhouse has been on an absolute tear of late. She only dropped her beguiling, brilliant third solo LP, Blackheart, back in January, just four months removed from a solid effort from her original group, Danity Kane. Now, she’s preparing the final chapter of “ The Red Era” series, which includes Blackheart and 2013’s Goldenheart. Its delightful lead single, “Dance”, shows that the 32 year-old is committed to bringing both quantity and quality to her ever-growing fanbase.

“Nothing’s Changed”
Digital Single
Baltimore producer eu-IV’s matches an interview with civil rights activist, Angela Davis, with a smooth, jazzy arrangement. It’s a powerful, affecting statement that reminds us that though over 40 years have passed since Davis first spoke those disarming words, they are still more pertinent than ever.

Odyssey (out 11.06 on Mixpack)
The grime-leaning producer recently announced his most ambitious project to date, a new 8-song EP that will likely highlight the Londoner’s diverse palette of influences. “Moodswung” is a shapeshifting, otherworldly soundscape that is offbeat and unpredictable without losing its coherence and form. Built around delicious MIDI harps and skittering percussion, it feels like the perfect soundtrack to deep space travel…or just the run of the mill chaos of your morning commute.

Digital Single
Summer might be over, but I guess nobody told this virile, Swedish dream pop trio. When you consider the length and bleakness of the Stockholm winter, it’s easy to understand why the group is struggling to suck a few more drops out of summer. It’s almost as if they believe that Mia Bøe’s defiant cries and powerful m83 synths will be warm enough to keep winter away for a few extra, precious weeks.

Images & Words: Troye Sivan, “WILD”

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Troye Sivan
WILD (out now on Universal Australia)

I first heard about the Australian YouTuber turned pop-star when I read Alex Frank’s excellent piece for the ever-reliable, Fader Magazine. Among other things, the 20 year-old stressed the importance of writing and speaking openly about LGBT relationships and issues in mainstream pop music, saying “I just wanted to write normal pop songs, and when the time comes to use a pronoun, I’ll use the word ‘he.'” It’s a simple yet powerful statement from a young artist who seems entirely unafraid of his sexuality impacting his ambitions as a pop-star.

That confidence is apparent on the powerful, affecting new clip for the title-track from debut EP. “WILD” captures the youthful innocence and abandon of falling into first love. It’s the kind of pop song that people have been fawning over for decades — a love-story that everybody can relate to. Musically, it’s equally inarguable, from its expertly moody pre-chorus to its earworm of a hook to Sivan’s devastating vocal. “WILD” has all the essentials of those timeless pop ballads that remind us that we are the same — hopeless romantics, looking for someone to love us. It’s that message of implied unity that makes Sivan’s music so radically human and his huge success so encouraging.

Hot Jam of the Day: Natasha Kmeto, “Your Girl”

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Natasha Kmeto
“Your Girl”
Inevitable (09.18 on Dropping Gems)

If there’s any fairness in the universe, Natasha Kmeto’s gorgeous new single will achieve widespread attention by soundtracking a pivotal first kiss in a teen movie (i.e. the 2015 equivalent of when Liv Tyler finally makes out with A.J. on the roof of Empire Records). The crushing vocals, the technicolor synths, the “I always wanted to be your girl” mantra. Everything about “Your Girl” feels like those special moments are supposed to feel, which isn’t surprising considering she wrote the song for her partner before embarking on a long tour (via TheFader). It’s dripping with equal parts devotion and regret, which is so relatable to anyone who is in a long distance relationship (like me) or often travels for work. It may not soundtrack any big-screen love affairs, but it will certainly soundtrack some real ones. And that’s what matters most.

Hot Jam of the Day: Dej Loaf, “Hey There” (f/ Future)

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Dej Loaf
“Hey There” (f/ Future)
#AndSeeThatsTheThing (out now on Columbia)

From the moment the Detroit native’s unavoidable first single, “Try Me,” blew up, the common narrative was that the 24 year-old was just another in the line of one-hit, viral rap sensations (see: Bobby Shmurda, OT Genasis, OG Maco, etc) that popped off in 2014. However, the reality stands in stark contrast to that notion, as she she has released a consistent stream of excellent material since, capped off by her mega-underrated Sell Sole mixtape. This year, she’s also dropped a handful of potent features (exhibit A, B & C), the snarling “Like A Hoe,” and the re-tooled “Me U & Hennessy,” which is arguably been even bigger than “Try Me.”

Her understated hot streak continues on her solid, six-song EP, featuring this excellent collab with everyone’s favorite hip-hop romantic. Like Future’s best duets, there’s real chemistry here, and they sound effortless and natural together. We’ll have to see if it ages as well as classics like “Loveeeeeee Song,” “Neva End,” and “Anytime,” but it certainly feels like a keeper at this point.

Images & Words: Chief Keef, “Ain’t Missing You” (f/ Jenn Em)

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Chief Keef
“Ain’t Missing You” (f/ Jenn Em)
Digital Single

It’s remarkable how far Chief Keef has come in the two and a half years since his one and only Interscope LP, Finally Rich. Far away from the beady eye of label suits who never understood him and the ruthless media scrutiny that threatened to consume him, the Chicago native has quietly gotten his mojo back, crafting fascinating, gleefully experimental sounds with a rotating cast of characters in the LA suburbs. While recent releases like Sorry 4 the Weight and Back From the Dead 2 garnered little mainstream coverage, they’ve earned well-deserved love from sharp critics and (more importantly) have been well received by his growing, sonically open-minded fanbase.

That said, I don’t think anyone was expecting a twangy, pop-country ballad, but as he’s proven time and time again, Keef doesn’t give a shit about other people’s expectations. And you know what? It’s brilliant. “Ain’t Missing You” is a disarmingly powerful eulogy to the 19 year-old’s older cousin, Mario “Big Glo” Hess, a fellow rapper and mentor who was slain in Chicago in the aftermath of signing a lucrative record contract. Keef’s verses are gut-wrenching — particularly the second. He speaks candidly about his relationship with Hess, during what must have been an unimaginable transition from a 16 year-old in one of the poorest communities in America to a multi-millionaire celebrity. It’s the most clear-eyed, emotionally direct song of his career, and yet another example of Keef’s unarguable talent and relentlessly creative spirit.

Hot Jam of the Day: Carly Rae Jepsen, “Emotion”

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Carly Rae Jepsen
Emotion (out 09.21 on Interscope)

I have wanted to write about the third single from Canadian popstar’s third LP since wonky versions of it started appearing online a couple of weeks ago, and today we finally get a proper studio quality version. A nice bridge between the anthemic, punchy “I Really Like You” and the moody ballad, “All That,” “Emotion” is a mid-tempo masterclass — the special kind of song that bottles up post-first kiss butterflies and serves them up to you again and again. Over 3 glorious minutes, the 29 year-old pours her heart out, beautifully framed by taut guitars and delicious swaths of synth. While the 80s, John Hughes influences are obvious here, this is a rare timeless pop song that can appeal to any person in any era. All you need is a beating heart.