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: 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.

Images & Words: One Direction, “Perfect”

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One Direction
“Perfect”
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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Grimes
“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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Wet
“Weak”
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
“Downtown”
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.