Images & Words: SOPHIE, "It's Okay To Cry"


SOPHIE "It's Okay to Cry" Digital Single Every once in a while, somebody puts out something that takes your breath away. "It's Okay to Cry" is absolutely one of those moments. After spending her early career lurking behind faceless, chaotic, schizophrenic experimental dance music, the 32 year-old has stepped into the light and up to the microphone. The result is Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: King Krule, "Logos"


King Krule "Logos" The OOZ (out now on XL) Archy Marshall's excellent new album feels like a collection of those wonky dream states that exist somewhere in that nether region between being wake and sleep. Though I'm still digesting all 19 of its songs, the hypnotic, jazzy "Logos" immediately stuck out. Over languid jazz chords Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, "For Robin"


The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die "For Robin" Always Foreign (Epitaph) There are many, many awful things about addiction, but little is as insidious as the way it pushes its victims away from loved ones from their previous life and deeper into their illness. Anybody who has lost someone to Read more

Images & Words: Stormzy, "4PM in London"


Stormzy "4PM in London" Digital Single Turning freestyles into anthems is nothing new to the ultra-talented Londoner. And though the ravenous "4PM in London" was probably written, it feels alive in the same way that many of those aforementioned tracks did. Unlike Drake (the man who originally rapped on this beat), Stormzy's got the rare ability to Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of The Third Quarter


As you may have noticed, I've done my annual "fall behind on a monthly column" thing over the last couple months. That said, that just gives me more ammo for a proper Q3 round up, featuring the best records of that period in alphabetical order. 21 Savage Issa Album Slaughter Read more

Images & Words

Images & Words: Fear of Men, “Island”

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Fear of Men
“Island”
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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Rostam
“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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ANOHNI
“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
“Nebula”
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.

Images & Words: Raider, “4 In The Morning”

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Raider
“4 In The Morning”
Digital Single

The Wolverhampton hard-hitter returns with an introspective new clip. A grime veteran who hasn’t gotten the shine that his consistent work deserves, Raider laces muscular, no-frills bars over a spare piano sample and buoyant percussion. Hopefully, grime’s recent international revival will highlight some of the genre’s solid contributors rather than just lifting up a few big stars (i.e. Stormzy, Skepta). That said, Raider seems like he’ll continue doing him regardless, mainstream recognition or not.

Images & Words: Jeff Buckley, “I Know It’s Over”

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Jeff Buckley
“I Know It’s Over”
You & I (out 03.11 on Legacy)

While it doesn’t hold a candle to the live version from the mid 90’s, it’s still nice to hear one the best singers of all-time sing one of the best songs of all-time by one of the best bands of all-time (especially on one of the best blogs of all-time). Joking aside, I’m a little unsure about how I feel about the fact that we’re still tilling the soil for unfinished, JB demos, nearly twenty years since his tragic death.

Sure, it’s great to hear Buckley’s pure, innocent vocal and strummed acoustic guitar give levity to one of the Moz’s most crushing songs. However, it’s hard to imagine that he would have actually wanted any of these songs seeing the light of day. And as much as I want to be open to these releases, part of me feels like the still-perfect Grace, the nearly as good Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, and the random live bootlegs are way more than enough.

Images & Words: DJDS, “I Don’t Love You”

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DJ Dodger Stadium
“I Don’t Love You”
Stand Up And Speak (out now on Loma Vista)
One of the standouts from Samo Sound Boy and Jerome LOL’s excellent second album together gets striking visuals from Daniel Pappas. “I Don’t Love You” employs a number of slow-motion, up-close shots, which are reminiscent of a pair of clips from Samo’s recent LP, Begging Please. That style fits especially well with their hyper-emotional, cinematic songs, which slowly unravel over their running time.

Images & Words: Zayn Malik, “Pillowtalk”

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Zayn Malik
“Pillowtalk”
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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Stormzy
“Standard”
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.