Images & Words: The 1975, "Give Yourself A Try"

The 1975 "Give Yourself A Try" A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (out in October on Dirty Hit) Though it's been out for about two weeks, I've listened to the Manchester quartet's new single roughly two million times. Compositionally, it's totally unremarkable. Built around a repetitive, simplistic guitar riff and three chords, Read more

Images & Words: The Rhythm Method, "Chin Up"

The Rhythm Method "Chin Up" Digital Single Every two years*, I get afflicted with the same illness. It usually starts up a few weeks before every major international football tournament and lasts until somewhere around the quarterfinals. Who knows how long my believesthatEnglandcanwinthewholething-itis will last for this year, but I'm hoping that Read more

Images & Words: Chromatics, "Black Walls"

Chromatics "Black Walls" Dear Tommy (out PROLLY NEVER on Italians Do It Better) Goddamn it, Johnny Jewel. Just when I'd moved on from the idea that I'd ever hear "Dear Tommy," this guy drags me back in with a luscious new track and a (probably fictional) release date for Fall of 2018. "Black Read more

Snail Mail, "Let's Find An Out"

Snail Mail "Let's Find An Out" Lush (out 06.08 on Matador) Though I've somehow not written about them yet, I've been loving the Baltimore trio's pre-release singles for their hotly-anticipated debut LP. The stripped-back third single, "Let's Find An Out," is my favorite of the bunch, pairing songwriter Lindsey Jordan's plaintive vocals Read more

Rae Sremmurd: "Offshore" (f/ Young Thug)

Rae Sremmurd "Offshore" (f/ Young Thug) Swaecation Though I'm still processing the Mississippi superstars' excellent, new 27-song project, the free-flowing "Offshore" feels like an instant classic. Producer Mike Will is a genius at negotiating sonic space, and his gooey, descending synth chords leave plenty of room for Thug to play in. And Read more

Images & Words

Images & Words: Ian Isiah, “247”

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Ian Isiah
Digital Single
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the NYC, experimental R&B crooner, but his lovelorn new single is well worth the wait. Isiah’s underrated 2013 LP, The Love Champion, emitted much of the same sultry, romantic vibes of “247” — most notably in the stunning single, “Freak U Down” (one of my favorite songs of that year). Isiah’s tender vocal glides over a warped piano melody from the always brilliant Sinjin Hawke, resulting in a ballad that feels both fresh and nostalgic. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a big year for Isiah.

Images & Words: Danny L Harle, “Ashes of Love” (f/ Caroline Polachek)

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Danny L Harle
“Ashes of Love” (f/ Caroline Polachek)
Digital Single

I’ve mostly been lukewarm on the whole PC Music Crew, but this ecstatic slab of future pop tickles all of my brain’s pleasure centers. On “Ashes of Love,” Harle manages to gaze into the excessive, bombastic 80’s looking glass without falling down the self-indulgent rabbit hole that many of his label-mates reside in. The Europop, trance synths are here, but they aren’t overwhelming. And they’re balanced nicely by Chairlift front woman Caroline Polachek emotional, starry-eyed vocals. Polachek is such an underrated artist, and she’s such a force when she is scratching all of her kitschiest, poppiest itches. This track is definitely that. And that is great.

Images & Words: Stormzy, “Scary”

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Digital Single
As thrilling as a new Stormzy single always is, the most exciting part of his new clip for “Scary” comes right at the beginning when “THE ALBUM IS COMING” scrolls across the screen. A lot has changed for the Londoner since 2014, when he dropped his only proper project, Dreamers Disease. With success comes pressure, but the big man seems gleefully impervious to any of it, rapping with the same ravenous, joie de vivre flow that he came in the game with. He’s basically the musical version of that one dickhead friend who is so clever that he can make you laugh, even as he’s roasting you in front of everyone. That mischievous, playful spirit is essential to the Stormzy experience, and his commitment to being himself is one of the main reasons that I’m so excited to hear his forthcoming debut LP.

Images & Words: Reeko Squeeze, “Normal Dude” / “Like That” (f/ AJ Tracey)

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Reeko Squeeze
“Normal Dude” / “Like That” (f/ AJ Tracey)
Digital Single
The former member of rising South London crew Section Boyz has been on fire recently, dropping a handful of bangers over the last year or so. Stylistically, Reeko’s aggressive, uncompromising style feels more influenced by Southside Chicago than North London, and his rolling flow is at home alongside spare keys and trap hi-hats. His low-key charisma makes the adhesive  “Normal Dude” one of my favorite hip-hop singles of the year, and his flow is the perfect companion for fellow Londoner AJ Tracey’s effortless delivery. Undoubtedly, one of the most exciting young talents around.

Images & Words: ERAS, “Angels” (f/ Grace Hall)

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“Angels” (f/ Grace Hall)
Purified (out 05.27 on Track Number)
Two Angelinos link up for a harrowing journey through a place as dark as death. Producer Nathaniel Eras’ gloomy waves of synth wash over the Skin Town vocalist, leaving her no choice but to repeat the mantra “it’s really dark outside.” “Angels” highlights the simultaneously disquieting and soothing nature of darkness in a visceral way that’s hard to shake.

Images & Words: Fear of Men, “Island”

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Fear of Men
Fall Forever (out 06.03 on Kanine)

Anxiety has always been a core ingredient of the Fear of Men experience. From their name to their sound, the Brighton trio’s previous work is dripping with concern. Anxiety is a relatable emotion, but it’s also a self-sabotaging one. And as cozy and affecting as their early work is, it always felt like they were holding something back, self-conscious about trying to do too much or play too loudly.

For that reason, the first line from their second album’s lead single feels especially powerful. “I’m like an island, I don’t need to feel your arms around me” sings vocalist Jess Weiss, her vocals newly high in the mix and confident. What follows is the group’s most ambitious single to date, featuring a stirring guitar-line and a lush earworm of a chorus that recalls the Cranberries’ seminal “Dreams.” As the song moves and they really go for it, you can feel the anxiety melt away and all the light come streaming in.

Images & Words: Rostam, “Gravity Don’t Pull Me”

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“Gravity Don’t Pull Me”
Digital Single
Since he announced his departure from Vampire Weekend back in January, Rostam Batmanglij has been busy, dropping a pair of new singles that will hopefully lead to his debut LP as a solo artist. The second of those, “Gravity Don’t Pull Me,” is a potent combination of musical opacity and lyrical directness. Over waves of kaleidoscopic synths, the 32 year-old expresses his deep regret about a failed relationship. Even though the relationship has been over for years, he admits that there are still some days where his ex drags on his thoughts. His candor and vulnerability are impossible not to relate to and be affected by. If Batmanglij’s storytelling continues to be on the same level as his unarguable musicianship and songwriting, his debut could be one of the best of 2016.

Images & Words: ANOHNI, “Drone Bomb Me”

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“Drone Bomb Me”
HOPLESNESS (out 05.06 on Secretly Canadian)

We got the first taste of the new ANOHNI (FKA Antony) LP late last year with her uncompromising look at climate change, “4 Degrees.” While it was one of the best songs of last year, it still felt like the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended). And yesterday, we got a little closer to the disc’s core with the stunning, heartbreaking clip for second single, “Drone Bomb Me.”

On its face, the concept of a white British artist writing a song about drone warfare from the perspective of a young Afghan girl sounds dicey. But the 44 year-old has always been a deeply empathetic artist, and she succeeds in giving a heart and voice to the myriad victims of modern war. Drone warfare is designed to be clandestine and inhuman, and they’re built to move like street sweepers, coming in the night to dispose of unwanted people like litter in the gutter. It is an unimaginably cruel, often random fate that is a tragic fact of life for a rising population. Any effort to bring that horrific truth to light should be valued, and when it’s this penetrating and powerful, it deserves to be lauded.

Images & Words: Julianna Barwick, “Nebula”

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Julianna Barwick
Will (out 05.06 on Dead Oceans)
As I’m writing this, Donald Trump just won two more states in the primary. If there’s any time in human history that the world needs the healing properties of a new Julianna Barwick album, it’s now. Luckily for our undeserving asses, Barwick announced her third album today with this beautiful, restorative first single to hold us over until May 6.

While her trademark layered, celestial vocals retain their prominence, a haunting, mantric synth melody drives the song in a way that feels different to much of her vocal-led canon. The difference is subtle but apparent, and it hints that Will might be a slight shift in approach for one of the most distinctive, affecting voices in modern music. I cannot wait to find out if that’s the case.

Images & Words: FKA Twigs, “Good To Love”

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FKA Twigs
“Good to Love”
Digital Single

Tahliah “FKA Twigs” Barnett knows that stripping things out is often the way to make the biggest statements. Visually, musically, and lyrically, the 28 year-old deals in simplicity and directness, giving a rare, powerful intimacy to her music. Ambiguity is easy, and we’re overstocked with lyricists using a lot of words to not say much.

True to form, her most recent single, “Good to Love,” says a hell of a lot, as she plaintively asks her partner to move past their baggage and let her in. The arrangement is spare and her voice unwavering; there are no distractions. For the next four minutes, Twigs assuages his fear while asserting her own power. “It’s not your fault that I’m loved to my limit. I’ve had plenty so I know you’re mine” is as stunning a lyric as we’ve heard this year, morphing past sexual experiences from a source of jealousy into one of strength. It’s something that anybody who has ever been in a relationship can relate to and an example of how real empathy can break down the barriers that keep us apart.