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: Future, “Blow a Bag”

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Future
“Blow a Bag”
Dirty Sprite 2 (out 07.17 on Freebandz)

The #FutureHive is abuzz since last Friday, when the ATLien announced the long-awaited successor to his classic, 2011 mixtape, Dirty Sprite. DS2 appears to be the most ambitious of the four triumphant projects he’s put out this year, and its dynamic first single does nothing but fuel those lofty expectations. “Blow a Bag” is pure, turnt-up Future, along the lines of summer anthem “Fuck Up Some Commas” and recent burner “Real Sisters.” Any track that boasts production credits from Metro Boomin, Southside, and Sonny Digital is going to be a banger, and the 31 year-old’s hyper-melodic flow is the perfect match for the Dream Team’s rolling hats and interstellar synths. Future has absolutely owned 2015 so far, and it doesn’t look like he’s planning on relinquishing control of the back half of the year either.

Images & Words: Kehlani, “You Should Be Here”

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Kehlani
“You Should Be Here”
You Should Be Here (out now)

While there’s a lot to love about the rising Oakland singer’s debut mixtape, Kehlani Parrish’s ability to simultaneously exude confidence and vulnerability sticks out the most. There’s real stakes to her music, but she refuses to let them overwhelm her. Her voice has the power and bombast of a Ariana Grande with the world weary, lived-in melancholic tinge of someone like Dawn Richard. Lyrically, she tells piercing, fractured loved stories that are heavyhearted and self-critical, while maintaining an eye toward a brighter future and undying belief in the self. Compositionally, her music is direct enough to be radio-friendly, but nuanced and versatile enough to blaze its own path. Basically, its a hell of an achievement for anyone, let alone a 20 year-old artist who is still getting started. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.

Images & Words: The Square, “Lewisham McDeez”

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The Square
“Lewisham McDeez”
Digital Single

Though the South London collective dropped this song late last year, the delirious crew cut finally gets a proper release and some Macky D’s-heavy visuals. Novelist may be the biggest name in the Square, but each of its members brings the goods here, lacing memorable verse after memorable verse over staccato hi-hats and an earworm bassline. No word on whether “Lewisham McDeez” will be a part of a follow-up to 2014’s mixtape, The Formula, but it’s yet another window into the group’s bright future.

Images & Words: Hot Chip, “Need You Now”

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Hot Chip
“Need You Now”
Why Make Sense? (out 05.19 on Domino)

Though a good portion of their recent dance floor focused material leaves me a little cold, I am — and will always be — a sucker for a Hot Chip ballad. From Alexis Taylor’s beautiful, 2014 solo cut “Without a Crutch (2)” to 2012’s devotional, “Let Me Be Him,” to one of my all-time favorites, 2010’s “Alley Cats,” the Londoners’ last few records have been littered with heartfelt, transportive ballads that deliver just the right amount of cheez. They get the balance right again here, matching Taylor’s gorgeous tenor with a slinky, deep house-influenced arrangement. In classic HC style, the song is matched by an excellent video, highlighting the way we tend to beat ourselves up in the wake of a failed relationship.

Images & Words: Deadboy, “It Did Not Feel Right”

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Deadboy
“It Did Not Feel Right”
It Did Not Feel Right (single) (out now on CrazyLegs)

The Southeast Londoner returns with a lovely flip of 90s fave Tamia’s, “Tell Me Who.” The ever-consistent producer frames the pitched up vocal with viscous, cinematic synths that are oddly reminiscent of a slowed-down water level on Donkey Kong Country. #sadboi as it may be, the way the arrangement is sort of suspended in space around an emotional vocal hits me straight between the ribs, forcing me to come to grips with the depth of my #sadboiosity.

Images & Words: Tobias Jesso Jr., “How Could You Babe”

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Tobias Jesso Jr.
“How Could You Babe”
Goon (out March 17 on True Panther)

Another new single, another timeless piano ballad from the rising Canadian crooner. While neither the subject matter nor the execution are particularly novel, this is the kind of weepy, anthemic piano ballad that speaks to the starry eyes and broken hearts in all of us. We’re not all going through brutal break-ups like the one Jesso sings about here, but we all have, and “How Could You Babe” is so good that it kind of makes you happy that you did, just so you can relate to a song with emotions this strong.

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.