Images & Words: Jamie Isaac, "Doing Better"


Jamie Isaac "Doing Better" Digital Single After a year or so away, the low-key Croydon singer-songwriter returns with the first song from his forthcoming sophomore LP. "Doing Better" is another tasty slab of the bleary-eyed, late-night soul that made his debut, "Couch Baby," my 14th favorite album of 2016. Isaac is blessed Read more

Images & Words: Mabel x Not3s, "Fine Line"


Mabel x Not3s "Fine Line" Digital Single Mabel and Not3s both appeared on my "Best Songs of 2017" list as solo artists, so it's not surprising that their second single together is an absolute heater. "Fine Line" has more crossover potential than anything either artist has released before, bringing an anthemic, radio-ready chorus to go with their signature, lithe, Read more

Images & Words: 03 Greedo, "Never Bend"


O3 Greedo "Never Bend" Money Changes Everything (out now on Golden Grenade Empire) Not gonna lie, I slept on 03 Greedo last year, but I'm not going to make the same mistake twice. The Watts rapper is one of the most unique, exciting new voices rising today, pairing soulful crooning and sticky bars for a Read more

Best of '17: The Best Songs of 2017


So that's it. 6 years of ThunderPenguin are in the books. As always, here's a round-up of my favorite songs of the year. This was one of the toughest lists I've ever made, and I hope something on this list brings you the light it brought me. Thanks so Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: T-Pain, "Textin' My Ex" (f/ Tiffany Evans)


T-Pain “Textin’ My Ex” (f/ Tiffany Evans) Oblivion Tomorrow, T-Pain drops his long-awaited fifth LP, the culmination of the most trying era of the R&B innovator’s career. Through no real fault of his own, Pain (né Faheem Najm) went from the jolly ringmaster of a multi-million dollar radio empire to a Read more

Images & Words

Images & Words: Wiley, “U Were Always Pt. 2” (f/ Skepta & Belly)

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wiley-006Wiley
“U Were Always Pt. 2” (f/ Skepta & Belly)

Godfather (out 01.13.17 on CTA)
Though known more for his muscular bars, the Godfather indulges his soft side on this sultry new single from his hotly anticipated 11th album. The cut is a little reminiscent of Skepta’s “Ladies Hit Squad,” as the three MC’s put their exes on blast over some delicious, laid-back Adina Howard vibes. Just like on the other pre-release singles, the 37 year-old sounds refreshed and sharp here, and Godfather is shaping up to be one of the standout albums of the early year and potentially one of the strongest efforts of Wiley’s legendary career.

Images & Words: Matt Kivel, “Forgiveness”

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screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-5-33-21-pmMatt Kivel
“Forgiveness” (f/ Bonnie Prince Billy)
Fires on the Plain (out now on Driftless)
Over the years, I’ve written a lot about the LA singer-songwriter’s brother Jesse but haven’t written much about the younger Kivel, Matt. Kivel is the architect of two really interesting folk-ish albums this year — February’s Janus and October’s excellent Fires on the Plain — and he gives one of his standout tracks some creepy visuals. His soft voice interchanges beautifully with Will Oldham’s, and his careful, delicate guitar-work forms a beautiful bed for the two to lay on. Though Fires on the Plain remains one of the most underrated albums of recent months, it does feel like more people are slowly coming around to it.

Images & Words: Tornado Wallace, “Trance Encounters”

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screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-5-23-48-pmTornado Wallace
“Trance Encounters”

Lonely Planet (out 11.28 on Running Back)
From no apparent reason, New York decided to bring back summer for the last couple of days. It’s sunny, the subway is sweaty, and the Melbourne native’s sweltering, trance-inspired house is just about the perfect soundtrack to the mid-afternoon heat. Wallace’s sound is expansive and easy with choppy electric guitars glistening over beds of synth and a languid backbeat.

Images & Words: Chromatics, “Dear Tommy”

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Chromatics
“Dear Tommy”
Dear Tommy (hopefully out soon on Italians Do It Better)
It’s fitting that in the week we finally got the album formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry, another long-awaited project looks set to poke its head out. The Johnny Jewel-fronted quartet famously announced that their follow-up to 2012’s beloved Kill For Love would be out in time for Valentine’s Day…in 2015. Now 18 months later, we still don’t have a release date, but we have a tracklist — A TRACKLIST! — and its gorgeous, amorphous title track.

This is is the sixth of 17 songs we’ve heard from the record, and along with “Just Like You” (one of the best songs of last year), it’s one of the strongest of the lot. The best Chromatics songs are their most dramatic and cinematic ones. And “Dear Tommy” sounds like it should be soundtracking a Wilder or Polanski movie with its palatial keyboards, slow-mo bassline, and Jewel’s evocative falsetto. We may not have a release date yet, but as Frank taught us this week, good things come to those who wait.

Images & Words: Frank Ocean, “Nikes”

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Frank Ocean
“Nikes”
Blonde (out now on Boys Don’t Cry)
About two minutes into his long-awaited new album, Frank Ocean’s pitched-up vocal hangs in the air and sings “RIP Trayvon. That n**ga look just like me.” With that simple lyric, Ocean humanizes a young man whose life was taken in the most inhumane way possible before being dehumanized repeatedly by media vultures and the uniformed, endless social media echo chamber. Throughout his career, the 28 year-old has consistently demonstrated this ability to nonchalantly craft disarming, truly powerful poetry in layman’s prose — rewriting the rules of engagement with a shrug of the shoulders. It’s perhaps the most valuable and rarest of his very many talents.

In many ways, Blonde feels like his best work yet, surpassing the hugely underrated Nostalgia, Ultra. That said, I want to sit with it for a week before I make a judgement, but early returns are incredibly impressive.

Images & Words: Camp Cope, “Done”

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Camp Cope
“Done”
Camp Cope (out now on Poison City)
I completely whiffed on the Melbourne trio’s excellent self-titled LP when it dropped back in June, so you can consider this my apology. Driven by singer-songwriter Georgia Maq, the eight-song project is full of cathartic, intimate songwriting and jangly, sticky guitar melodies. And while lead single, “Done,” isn’t quite at the top of my list of standout songs (I’d go for “Song for Charlie” or “Flesh and Electricity“), it is an effective primer for the record and a fantastic window into Maq’s unique, fascinating perspective.

Images & Words: How to Dress Well, “Lost Youth / Lost You”

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How to Dress Well
“Lost Youth / Lost You”
Care (out 09.23 on Domino)

“Lost Youth / Lost You” is the first taste of the longtime TP favorite’s forthcoming fourth LP. It’s a lush, emotional love song that continues his progression from ambient, weirdo lo-fi toward direct, powerful adult contempo-inspired pop. I’m getting light Celine Dion/Jon Secada/Everything But the Girl vibes from this one and even hearing little touches of “Drops of Jupiter” in the chorus. If that sounds like it’s up your alley (it’s WAY up mine), then you’ll enjoy getting swept away by this one.

NOTE: Video is borderline NSFW.

Images & Words: Kodie Shane, “Losing Service”

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Kodie Shane
“Losing Service”
Little Rocket (self-released)

A member of Lil Yachty’s Sailing Team crew, Atlanta singer/rapper Kodie Shane is rapidly cementing herself as a compelling artist in her own right. “Losing Service,” the standout from her excellent recent EP, highlights her romantic, hyper-melodic sound. Over syrupy keys and rolling hi-hats (courtesy of DJ Spinz, Matty P, and D. Clax), Shane gleefully laces a modern day sonnet about a lover, capturing that special swoon that summer love brings.

Images & Words: Chairlift, “Crying in Public”

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Chairlift
”Crying in Public”
Moth (Columbia)
Everybody has cried in public at least once. Chairlift’s gorgeous ballad reminds me of riding the subway to work a few years ago, while reading the last third of Junot Diaz’s beautiful, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The book had brought me to tears a few times, but I’d mostly kept it together. However, one particularly gut-wrenching passage just crushed me one afternoon, and my silent, choked-back tears morphed into an emotional tsunami. And in an instant, I was that guy, blubbering on the train in front of everyone. I hopped off at the first available station and spent the next ten minutes composing myself for the rest of the ride home, where I could finish the book and weep like a 5 year-old in the privacy of my own apartment.

Images & Words: Francis and The Lights, “Friends” (f/ Kanye West, Bon Iver)

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Francis and The Lights
“Friends” (f/ Kanye West, Bon Iver)
Digital Single
I have a lot of questions about this song/video:

*Who is actually singing?
*What is Kanye doing?
*Why is that Francis guy is trying to Esco Step?
*Which piece of Justin Vernon’s outfit is most appalling?
*When/how did this song burrow this deep into my brain?