Caroline Polachek, "Ocean of Tears" & "Parachute"


Caroline Polachek"Ocean of Tears" / "Parachute"Pang (out this fall on Columbia)Ok, now I'm getting really excited about the ex-Chairlift vocalist/composer's first album under her real name. Following up on her wonderful first single "Door," these two new tracks highlight Polachek's spellbinding voice and evocative, powerful songwriting. Though you can Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of the 2nd Quarter


Ana Roxanne~~~Leaving RecordsThe Oakland bedroom artist’s debut project is a staggering slice of ambient music that pulls subtly from the R&B and pop vocalists that she grew up on. Her voice sounds far away but pulls you in close (think: Grouper’s “Ruin”) and is ready to tell you its Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019, So Far (Honorable Mention)


As promised, here is the rest of my favorite tracks of the year that didn't quite make the cut for my main list. Songs are in no particular order. Chromatics “Time Rider”bahahahahah (Italians Do It Better) “Dear Tommy” is obviously never coming out. But I did get to hear this Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019 (So Far)


A little bit late this year due to real-world commitments, but here is my annual list of the best songs of the first half of 2019. Look for my honorable mention coming later in the week. This year, instead of going with an actual ranking system, I'm going to Read more

Lana Del Rey, "Doin' Time"


Lana Del Rey"Doin' Time"Sublime OST (out soon on Universal)If you grew up in California in the early 2000's, it was just about impossible to get in someone's car or go to a party that wasn't playing one of those two Sublime albums. Evidently, the same was true in wherever Read more

Images & Words

Images & Words: Novelist x Mumdance, “1 Sec”

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Novelist x Mumdance
“1 Sec”
1 Sec EP (out now on XL)

Coming off a monster 2014, Kojo “Novelist” Kankam celebrated his 18th birthday by releasing his debut EP for XL, along with some cinematic visuals for the project’s devastating title track. 1 Sec sees the Lewisham MC rekindling his fruitful partnership with fellow Londoner, Mumdance, who provides him with a characteristically challenging arrangement to annihilate. Novelist gleefully accepts and weaves rapid-fire couplets that move like Frogger, maneuvering through the treacherous terrain with the greatest of ease.

Images & Words: SD, “Circles”

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SD
“Circles”
Truly Blessed (out now on Truly Blessed)

Long one of the most distinctive voices coming out of a Chicago hip-hop scene filled with distinctive, creative voices, Sadiki “SD” Thirston has consistently defied trends and co-signs, breaking ground as a solo artist and carving out his own lane. After a string of quality mixtapes and his move away from Chief Keef’s GBE Imprint, the 20 year old recently dropped his long-awaited debut studio LP, Truly Blessed. While I’m still not all the way through the record, its palatial, mantric lead single “Circles” has been on heavy rotation since it dropped last month, and it finally gets similarly unbalanced, wonky visuals.

Images & Words: August Alsina, “Grindin'”

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August Alsina
“Grindin'”
Digital Single

September 15, 2014. Roughly two weeks after his 22nd birthday, August Alsina dropped the video for his “No Love” remix. Featuring a verse and appearance from one of the biggest stars on the planet, Nicki Minaj, the clip looked set to cap off the biggest year of his life and announce him as an A-List R&B talent. Instead, the best day of his career turned into one of the worst of his life. On the night of the 15th, the New Orleans native found himself fighting for his life. He was placed in a medically induced coma after collapsing on stage in New York.

After three days spent in a hospital bed suffering multiple seizures, Alsina was brought out of the coma, safe and happy to be alive. That kind of experience would shake and humble even the most confident individual, and according to this single and his recent appearance at the Breakfast Club, it’s certainly affected his perspective and lifestyle. “Grindin'” sees the upfront vocalist salute those who stuck with him in his time of need, while reminding naysayers that he’ll respond to this setback the same way he has to the myriad roadblocks he’s already encountered. Stronger, undeterred, and more focused than ever.

Images & Words: SOAK, “SHUVELS”

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SOAK
“SHUVELS”
B a noBody 7″ (out now on Rough Trade)

17 year-old Bridie Monds-Watson has been putting out personal, affecting folk music for a few years now, but this might just set a new benchmark for the Northern Irish singer-songwriter. Nothing she’s ever released has sounded like it could have been created by a teenager, and that’s never been more apparent than on this, her newest single. The Derry resident crafts songs that are mature in conception and construction — matching lyrics full of depth and insight with simple, yet developed arrangements and her curious, compelling voice. Listen up, because she has the raw materials to  go very, very far.

Images & Words: Jacques Greene, “1 4 Me”

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Jacques Greene
“1 4 Me”
After Life, After Party EP (out 11.11 on LuckyMe)

Just six months removed from releasing his best EP yet, Phantom Vibrate, the Montreal producer returns with an early Christmas present in the form of a surprise two-song (plus remixes from Suicideyear and Sei A) EP. Lead single, “1 4 Me,” is the kind of sublime, emotive quasi-deep house magic that we’ve come to expect from Greene (né Philippe Aubin-Dionne) over the years. I can’t wait to hear the title track and sink my teeth into those remixes.

Images & Words: FKA Twigs, “Two Weeks”

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FKA Twigs
“Two Weeks”
LP1 (out 08.12 on Young Turks)

The incredible, shape-shifting Tahliah “FKA Twigs” Barnett makes a strong claim for both song and video of the year with the gelatinous, alluring lead single from her full-length debut. Barnett’s spellbinding, EP2, announced her as one of the most fascinating, talented young artists in music. From the sound of this, it may have just been scratching the surface.

There is a clutch of interesting stuff going on here, but the variety of vocal melodies is especially impressive. Very few people can fit multiple memorable melodies into a pop song without it feeling disjointed (MJ and The-Dream spring to mind), but Barnett does it with ease here, moving gracefully with the amorphous, gauzy arrangement. She’s just a huge, huge talent.

Images & Words: Liu Bei, “Infatuation”

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Liu Bei
“Infatuation”
Infatuation (out now on Paradyse)

The rising London trio’s gorgeous, widescreen power ballad gets fitting visuals. The track sees vocalist Richard Walters’ beautifully chronicling the painful process of cleansing your life of a lost lover who, over time, has permeated every aspect of your life. Anyone who has gone through this type of break-up knows that it isn’t simply about finding someone new to fuck, watch Netflix with, or call before you go to bed (sorry, Ben). It’s about remembering how to live without that person, how to stand on your own two feet. It’s fucking hard, but it’s also fucking freeing, exciting, and empowering. “Infatuation” nails that dichotomy in a way that few records can.

Images & Words: Real Lies, “North Circular”

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Real Lies
“North Circular”
North Circular / Dab Housing (out this summer on Marathon Artists)

This is big one. The London trio’s affecting ode to the 25.7-mile stretch of road that borders the northern part of their city is a gently disarming number that beautifully meanders like the steady flow of midnight headlights. Reminiscent of Mike Skinner’s seminal “Weak Become Heroes” — still one of my 20 favorite tracks of all-time — “North Circular” feels like a massive achievement. It could be the incredibly rare song that distills experiences and feelings of a particular generation in the way that Skinner did 12 years ago.

It beautifully sums up the possibility and the ennui of growing up in suburban sprawl — the melancholy joy of cruising down your streets with your people with fuck all to do. Topped off with a shuffling backbeat, graceful synths, and a far-away guitar line, “North Circular” is the perfect soundtrack for the muted euphoria of a late-night drive through the a-road pubs, petrol stations, and suicide bridges of our suburban childhoods. While my streets may lay more than 5,000 miles to the west, for these 4-and-a-half minutes, the North Circular certainly feels like home.

Images & Words: Alexis Taylor, “Without a Crutch (2)”

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Alexis Taylor
“Without a Crutch (2)”
Await Barbarians (out June 10 on Domino)

Throughout his nearly 15-year career with Hot Chip, Alexis Taylor has penned a glut of gorgeous, lovelorn ballads. Whether the romantic “We’re Looking for a Lot of Love” or my personal favorite, “Alley Cats,” Taylor’s delicate, evocative falsetto is simply built for the kind of breathtaking life-affirmers that leave you searching for either your lighter or your phone to text your ex. All those years on, the Londoner is finally ready to unleash his debut LP, and judging by its two pre-release singles, Taylor is aiming Await Barbarians straight at your heartstrings. History proves he knows exactly you keep them.

Images & Words: Vic Mensa, “Down on My Luck”

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Vic Mensa
“Down on My Luck”
Digital Single

The 20 year-old Chicago native’s surprisingly punchy foray on to the dance-floor gets some delightfully Groundhog Day-ish visuals. While Mensa’s omnivorous previous work suggested that he wasn’t interested in being your everyday rapper, “Down on My Luck” is still a startling left turn for him. That said, it is executed to absolute perfection, and it has to be considered a potentially star-making move for the XXL Freshman Class of ’14 member. Very few rappers are able to toe the electro line this skillfully, and Mensa manages to channel the best of Disclosure without losing his voice. This could be one of the biggest songs of the summer.