Mitski, "Two Slow Dancers"

Mitski "Two Slow Dancers" Be The Cowboy (out 08.17 on Matador) Every slow dance with someone you care about feels like a moment suspended in time. I mean, that's the point, right? Your hands are tied, your bodies are connected, and even your gaze is limited. Mitski, the fantastic New York songwriter, Read more

Future, "Hate the Real Me"

Future "Hate the Real Me" Beastmode 2 (out now on Epic) The peak of a quietly excellent year, Future goes super deep on his worthy follow-up to 2015's legendary "Beast Mode" tape. Of all its stirring moments, nothing emotionally hits harder than its last track, as Future pours his heart out over Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2018 (So Far...)

Somehow, some fucking way, 2018 is more than half over. And though it might feel like I always say this, I think this was the toughest list I've had to make yet. There's been an overwhelming number of exciting, vital new voices popping up and plenty of fantastic follow-ups Read more

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

Images & Words: Zayn Malik, “Pillowtalk”

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Zayn Malik
Mind of Mine (out 03.25)

It’s hard to decide which is more smoldering — Zayn Malik’s bone structure or his first post-One Direction single. “Pillowtalk” brilliantly balances Malik’s sadboi lothario (think: Drake circa Take Care) tendencies with his blockbuster vocals. That voice allows him to veer toward a darker, moodier sound, while retaining the lightness and innocence of his early work. In other words, it’s the kind of song that hordes of teenagers can sing (read: scream) along to in a packed arena, or that two real-life adults might consider having sex to. There aren’t a ton of songs that work for both scenarios, and those tend to be reserved for only the most interesting pop artists.

Zayn’s just getting started as a solo artist, but Mind of Mine officially just vaulted to the top of my “Most Anticipated Albums of 2016” list. Something tells me I’m not the only one.

Images & Words: Stormzy, “Standard”

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Digital Single

Michael Omari’s storming (pun intended) 2015 continues with this ravenous new single, debuted on the first episode of his Beats 1 show, #MERKY. While the South Londoner is also an accomplished singer, he brings an extra helping of bars to “Standard,” and they come in an unrelenting series of waves, like a Mauricio Pochettino press. There’s a real magnetism to Omari’s lyrics, and while he’s far from a punchline rapper, each line seems to stick in your head and is made to be shouted along with a mass of people. Hell, even his freestyles have become anthemic. At this point, there’s not much else to say, but I’ll need to think of something for my year-end “Best Of” list. All hail.

Images & Words: One Direction, “Perfect”

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One Direction
Made in the A.M. (out now on Columbia)

It’s kind of incredible that the world’s biggest boy band and one of the most popular male artists dropped albums on the same day. And while the Biebs’ fourth LP has grabbed most of stateside column inches, One Direction first post-Zayn effort deserves more acclaim than it has received. Sharp, joyful, and chock-full of unforgettable melodies, Made in the A.M. is the rare 17-song album that doesn’t feel bloated, thanks to its lean, efficient songwriting. Standout single, “Perfect,” is a perfect example of the disc’s muscular craft, as it packs one of the strongest hooks of the year. Throw in a fantastically bitchy Taylor Swift kiss-off from ex-Harry Styles (“if you’re looking for someone to write your breakup songs about”), and you have another unstoppable 1D anthem, sure to captivate arenas and Twitter feeds around the world.

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: 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.

Images & Words: Tory Lanez, “Say It”

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Tory Lanez
“Say It”
Digital Single

If we’re being all the way real, the Ontario native should be exponentially percent more poppin’ than he currently is. Maybe he doesn’t have an Internet ready look like Post Malone or the co-sign of someone like PartyNextDoor, but the artist born Daystar Peterson has been cranking out a steady stream of some of the sharpest, strongest R&B out right now. On his recent heater, “Say It,” the 23 year-old gets extra sentimental, smearing his graceful tenor over a delicious flip of Brownstone’s classic “If You Love Me.” It’s basically the musical equivalent of the heart eyes emoji, and if there’s any fairness in the music world (hint: there isn’t), it should turn into a massive hit.

Images & Words: Club Cheval, “Discipline”

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Club Cheval
Discipline (out later this year on Parlophone)

After the laid-back deep house vibes of debut single, “From the Basement to the Roof,” the French production supergroup of Canblaster, Sam Tiba, Myd, and Panteros666 return with a sweltering, mid-tempo banger. Built around soulful vocals and a delicious bassline, “Discipline” is the kind of crossover single that feels equally at home on the dancefloor as it does on your earbuds. It’s poppy and catchy enough to have serious Duke Dumont/Disclosure crossover potential, but the group’s pedigree hints that mainstream attention effect their sound.

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.

Images & Words: Mas Ysa, “Margarita”

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Mas Ysa
Seraph (out now on Downtown)

In an indie music landscape increasingly focused on restraint, Thomas Arsenault has no chill. His booming voice and powerful presence stand in stark contrast to much of the ‘less is more’ aesthetic that currently populates the buzz blogosphere. His affecting debut LP, Seraph, will likely appeal to fans of fellow chill-free emotionalists Majical Cloudz, Sean Nicholas Savage, and Autre Ne Veut. My favorite moment on it, “Margarita,” gets stunning visuals, courtesy of director Kris Moyes and the beautiful volcanoes, beaches, and waterfalls of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Get swept away.