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: Blood Orange, “Augustine”

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Blood Orange
“Augustine”
Freetown Sound (out now on Domino)
Late last night, Dev Hynes dropped his third record under the name Blood Orange: the massively-anticipated Freetown Sound. While I’m not even close to digesting all 17 tracks, its lead single is an example of why so many have been looking forward to this thing. It pairs an elastic arrangement with an adhesive hook and solemn, heartfelt lyrics in a way that is uniquely Hynes. Excellent as this is, it feels like it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Images & Words: Ian Isiah, “247”

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Ian Isiah
“247”
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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Stormzy
“Scary”
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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ERAS
“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
“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.