Hot Jam of the Day: Jae Stephens, "24k"


Jae Stephens "24k" Digital Single Fuck one of the best debuts of the year. The LA-based newcomer just dropped one of the best songs of the year out of thin air. Featuring inch-perfect production from Jam City, Stephens weaves a devastating slow jam that captures the growth of a relationship from anxious first Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of May 2017


After a pair of phenomenal months of music, May's slate looked decidedly more low-key. However, now as I look back at it, there was still a handful of solid releases that deserve your time. Here are a few of my favorites. J Hus Common Sense Black Butter When I looked at the release schedule Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Lil Durk, "Pressure"


Lil Durk “Pressure” Digital Single Five years into his career, the Chicago native seems to be at a crossroads. After kicking off his career with a string of devastating mixtapes (including my favorite song of 2013), the 24 year-old has been a bit up and down of late, crafting a slew of Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Kommode, "Fight or Flight or Dance All Night"


Kommode “Fight or Flight or Dance All Night” Analog Dance Music (out June 2017 on Random Two Syllable Word) Good things come to those who wait, and Kings of Convenience fans have been waiting for the debut from Eirik Glambek Bøe’s side project for more than 10 years. Since announcing this project Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Jlin, "Holy Child"


Jlin "Holy Child" Black Origami (out 05.19 on Planet Mu) Though there's only one more day until the Gary, Indiana footwork innovator's second LP drops, this brilliant and beguiling cut is more than worthy of standing on its own. Like her masterful debut, Dark Energy, this track features multiple, intricate polyrhythms that collide freely without Read more

The Round-Up

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of May 2017

Posted on by TP1.COM in Featured, The Round-Up | Comments Off on The Round-Up: The Best Albums of May 2017

After a pair of phenomenal months of music, May’s slate looked decidedly more low-key. However, now as I look back at it, there was still a handful of solid releases that deserve your time. Here are a few of my favorites.

untitled-article-1444923100J Hus
Common Sense
Black Butter

When I looked at the release schedule back in April, the Londoner’s proper debut was the only thing that really jumped off the page. Unsurprisingly, Hus came through with a classic — a diverse, razor sharp collection of the kind of worldly, melodic bangers that made him one of the UK’s real rising stars.

Every one of the disc’s 17 tracks features at least a couple of tasty hooks, and Hus effortlessly handles a dizzying array of beats that touch on Afrobeats, grime, dancehall, 90’s American rap, and pure pop (to name a few). His voice can shift from booming to soothing in an instant. And lyrically, he’s also impressive, speaking on all elements of his life with his tone changing from playful to serious to menacing to grateful. In short, he does just about everything well and is a true original who is only just getting started.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 3.59.01 PMLil Yachty
Teenage Emotions
Quality Control
Speaking of originals, let’s talk about the 19 year-old Atlanta native. His debut “studio album” (whatever that means) picks up where his excellent mixtapes left off, digging deeper into the gleeful, creative world that he built for himself and his friends. Besides the music, the best thing about Teenage Emotions is that Yachty simply refuses to change — to bow to naysayers, gatekeepers, or major label demands. If anything, he’s even weirder, more sincere, and making more divisive music than ever before.

From ecstatic opener, “Like a Star” to heartfelt closer “Momma,” he charges headfirst into a variety of styles and ideas with reckless abandon. Many of them work. Some do not. I think it’s pretty obvious which songs fit into each category. While many have opted to focus on the latter batch, I prefer to focus on the former. I promise it’ll be a hell of a lot more fun if you do.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.08.13 PMJlin
Black Origami

Planet Mu
To my ears, the Gary, IN footwork deconstructor’s second LP is even more powerful than her critically-acclaimed debut, Dark Energy. Along with being rhythmic savant, Jerrilynn “Jlin” Patton’s melodic chops have grown so much. On standouts like “Kyanite,” “Holy Child,” and “Nandi,” the harmonic interplay between the samples and synths are actually just as engaging and unexpected as her signature percussive magic. And though there still aren’t really “hooks” in any traditional sense, there are more footholds in this project than previous ones, which hopefully will open even more people’s ears to her fascinating, singular sound.

Stream it on Spotify.


c9f7938b
Slowdive
Slowdive
Dead Oceans
After more than 20 years away, the legendary British shoegazers returned with their fourth album. The disc is beautiful and sprawling, and it showcases their rare ability to use a few, simple parts to craft moods that stick with you long after the music stops. Its haunting closer, “Falling Ashes,” best sums up that quality, as the groups repeats a simple piano melody and a soothing vocal mantra (“thinking about love”) for more than eight minutes. Somehow, it doesn’t feel one second too long and gently carries you away.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.15.38 PMForest Swords
Compassion
Ninja Tune
The experimental club producer has kept a pretty low profile since his excellent 2013 debut, Engravings. However, the understated Liverpool native’s second LP was well worth the wait, expounding on his abstract, stripped sound. Though few tracks stand out, they combine to form an affecting statement that both mirrors the uncertainty of our world and demonstrates the power of human compassion.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.31.14 PMJohnny Jewel
Windswept

Italians Do It Better
Let’s be real, Dear Tommy is probably never coming out. Sure, JJ teased us with some news about it recently, but I’ve basically given up hope at this point. However, as a goodwill gesture, the ever-slippery producer dug into his archives and tossed us this hodgepodge collection of goodies. And while more than half of it is sort of aimless synth riffing, there’s some tasty neon, Italo morsels on here.

The stylish, heartfelt ballad “Saturday” is one of my favorite IDIB tracks of recent years, and “Missing Pages” and “Slow Dreams” are two of Jewel’s most lyrical instrumental pieces. Plus, we get an updated version of Ruth Radelet doing Elvis, which is always fun. In short, it’s an inconsequential collection that Jewel probably scrounged together after dinner one night, but when your archives are as strong as his, you’re bound to find something that sticks.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.21.06 PMNite Jewel
Real High

Gloriette
From one Jewel to another, the always under-appreciated Ramona “Nite Jewel” Gonzalez’s second LP of the last 12 months is a strong collection of slick electro-pop that is made more for the bedroom than the dancefloor. Always an explorer, Gonzalez digs deep into classic R&B and quiet storm. And those kinds of arrangements fit her graceful, potent vocals to a T. Tracks like “Obsession” and “Part of Me” are more seductive and emotionally raw than much of her previous work, highlighting her power and vulnerability in equal measure.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.37.44 PMSun Kill Moon / Jesu
30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth
Caldo Verde
Being a Mark Kozelek fan is a simultaneously frustrating and rewarding experience. Since 2013, the 50 year-old has cranked out more than 10 releases. Three of them — Perils from the Sea, Benji, and Mark Kozelek & Desertshore — are legitimate classic albums and incredible feats of songwriting and storytelling. On the other hand, two of them — Universal Themes and Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood — are horribly uneven with borderline unlistenable songs. The rest range somewhere between “meh” and “alright, I guess.”

Though its inconsistency keeps 30 Seconds far from the classic category, its highlights elevate it above much of his recent output. “A Dream of Winter” is a gorgeous, nylon-stringed love song that feels like something from 2010’s Admiral Fell Promises, and “You Are Me and I Am You” is a powerful rumination about how we become our parents. And the meandering, Red House Painters-recalling guitarwork of “Twenty Something” will give any long-time Koz fan some warm fuzzies. It’s far from his best work, but he’s also not the joke many make him out to be.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.29.51 PMThunder Dreamer
Capture

6131
In a musical landscape obsessed with quick characterization, the Evansville, IN quartet doesn’t play ball. Mixing traces of heartland indie rock, second wave emo, folk, and 90’s alt-rock, Thunder Dreamer’s sounds is both familiar and difficult to put your finger on. The disc’s eight tracks are ultra-tuneful and full of hooks yet still retain a little bit of edge. The interplay between the dual guitars and Steven Hamilton’s strained, dulcet vocals is the disc’s standout quality, resulting in a collection that is consistently compelling and full of sonic footholds.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.27.57 PMNightlands
I Can Feel the Night Around Me

Western Vinyl
While his main band, the War on Drugs, was whipping up one of the most-anticipated albums of 2017, David Hartley quietly released this gorgeous collection of windswept dream-pop. His third LP as Nightlands features some of TWOD’s nostalgic, AM radio tendencies, but Hartley’s ultra-lithe falsetto gives the disc an even more wistful feel. The vocal harmonies are also insanely rich and often recall groups like the Beach Boys and the Eagles.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.29.09 PMCroatian Amor
Finding People

Posh Isolation
Throughout Danish producer/musician Loke Rahbek’s career, he’s been nearly impossible to tie down. He’s made dark synth-pop with Lust For Youth, droning industrial noise with Damien Dubrovnik, and deconstructed dance music with Croatian Amor. The latter is my favorite LK project, and this recent four song EP is the most cohesive of his career. Finding People has many of the nuts and bolts of dance music, but they are rearranged in a totally unexpected order. Percussion dips in and out, and vocal samples pop up in strange places. The resulting world is often disorienting but always worth stumbling deeper into.

Stream it on Spotify.

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of March & April

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I skipped last month’s album Round-Up to bang out the My Favorite Tracks of the First Quarter list. So this month’s album list features my picks from March and April. Possibly the strongest batch of the year so far, 2017 is shaping up to be another incredible year in music.

mounteerie-600-5Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked At Me
P.W. Elverum & Sun
I can’t remember two albums released back-to-back that provide such stark, unflinching looks at death as Mount Eerie’s incredible, A Crow Looked at Me, and Sorority Noise’s brutal You’re Not As ____ As You Think.

And while I can relate to some of the tragedies that color the Sorority Noise LP, I cannot even begin to fathom the loss that Phil Elverum chronicles on his ode to his late wife Geneviève Castrée, who passed away from pancreatic cancer at the impossibly early age of 35. Elverum was always crafted deeply affecting songs, but he was also an intensely private figure who seemed to craft albums from some faraway galaxy.

Well, on A Crow Looked At Me, Elverum eschews every inch of that privacy. He lets us all into the deepest crevices of his life — from their bedroom to moments with their daughter to uncomfortable conversations at the grocery store to the life they shared deep in the Washington woods. Though the arraignments are skeletal in the extreme — mostly consisting of Elverum’s strained vocals and meandering, nylon string guitars — each of the eleven tracks are incredibly rich. Not with just information about the characters, but with legitimately insightful, universal wisdom that only this kind of grief can leave behind. An absolute masterpiece.

Listen to it on Spotify.


sorority-noise-pr-photo-pat-nolanSorority Noise
You’re Not As ___ As You Think
Triple Crown
While Elverum penned his record about losing the one you love, the Sorority Noise album is about the especially unsettling feeling that takes place when you are young and lose multiple friends in quick succession. When you feel like every time the phone rings, you will be confronted by another tragedy that you won’t be equipped to deal with. When you start to believe that death is around every corner.

“Just this year I lost a basketball team to heaven” sings Cam Boucher on “Disappeared.” Artists tend to wrap loss in metaphor to soften the blow, but Boucher (like Elverum) is not here to make you comfortable. There are a number of moments on the record that are physically unsettling, as if you are reading someone’s deeply personal journal behind their backs.

It’s not a walk in the park, but as the album moves, little rays of hope start to cut through the clouds. Much of that comes from their raw, yet tuneful riffs and Boucher’s sneaky catchy choruses. It also comes from the knowledge that as the days go by and the shock wears off, it becomes easier to remember your friends as they were in life, not in death.

Listen to it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 4.58.22 PMMr Mitch
Devout
Planet Mu
On the total other end of the spectrum comes the longtime TP-favorite’s second LP. Absolutely teaming with life, the disc is bookended by two gorgeous love-letters. The first is to his partner, which features Mitch’s young sons on vocals. And its heartfelt closer sees Mitch singing to his second son while he was still in the womb.

These are just two of the truly heartfelt, affecting moments on this special album. Mitch has always been a master of building hyper-melodic, emotional soundscapes that drive miles beyond the parameters of grime. But the songwriting on Devout far surpasses anything else he’s put out in his already glittering, genre-redefining career. Probably my favorite album of the year so far.

Stream it now on Spotify.

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The Round-Up: The Best Songs of the First Quarter

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It’s insane that 2017 is already one quarter over, but it’s been a tremendous three months of music. Here are a few of the best tracks I’ve heard this yera. For both of our sakes, I’m going to (try to) keep my write-ups Tweet length (LOL).

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 11.27.55 AMStormzy
“100 Bags”
Gang Signs & Prayer (#Merky)
“Dear Mama” for the year 2017, “100 Bags” is a rare beacon of unobstructed light in these turbulent times. The Londoner makes the song cry for four breathtaking minutes, sharing the boundless, genuine love he has for his Mumzy. “Take a selfie, show ’em how you look mum. Flex on ’em, let ’em know that we’re good mum” is easily my favorite line of the year and makes you root so hard for both of them.

Frank Ocean
“Chanel”
Digital Single
In a world increasingly obsessed with living in black and white, ambiguity is rarer and more important than ever. On “Chanel,” Frank refuses to adhere to anybody’s labels or expectations, gleefully weaving together macho flexes, references to gay sex, drug talk, and ernest affirmations of love without breaking a sweat. It’s subtle but unflinching, inviting listeners to dig a little deeper and not turn away from the grey areas that color all of our lives.

OMB Peezy
“Lay Down”

Digital Single
Born in Alabama but based in Northern California, OMB Peezy takes cues from both regions to cook up a hell of a stew. “Lay Down” matches Bay Area slap with a Southern drawl for a throwback sound that is also purely modern.

Jens Lekman
“How Can I Tell Him”
Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)
The Swede’s gorgeous fourth LP is full of affecting storytelling, but nothing hits quite as close to home as his struggle to reconcile his love for a friend with outdated, damaging notions of masculinity.

future-net-worth-getty_573x300Future
“Fresh Air”
HNDRXX (FreeBandz)
It came out in February, but “Fresh Air” is pure NYC summer. It’s a crackling anthem, built to bump out of cars, apartments, and sweaty ass clubs. God knows we need as many of those as we can get.


MoStack
“Let It Ring”
Digital Single
The next name to know in the popping UK rap scene. MoStack’s breakthrough single glides like a summer breeze, bridging Afrobeats, dancehall, and the North London sound with ease.

RunTown
“Mad Over You”
Digital Single
As African influence spreads across the music world, don’t forget to check out the source. The 27 year-old Nigerian’s gorgeous, sashaying love song has a palpable warmth that is hard to find in modern music.

J Hus 
“Did You See”
Common Sense (out 05.12)
He kept it low-key last year, but the Londoner is primed to drop his proper debut (even though, oh my god, download The 15th Day) and take over 2017. Already getting love on both sides of the Atlantic, his earworm flow and wavey melodies should be the sound of the summer.

Khalid
“American Teen”
American Teen (RCA)

While I’m not sure I love the record as much as many do, its lead single is a heavenly bit of nostalgic pop. The El Paso singer’s pristine vocal captures the freedom and fear of being young.

Don-E ft. Nado
“You Alright Yeah?”
Digital Single
Sunshine in a bottle, the anonymous Londoner’s first single features a nuclear hook that will dig its hook into your brain and leave you asking everyone you see, “You alright, yeah? How’s your mum? She good, yeah?” It just feels so goddamn good.

KWAYE
“Cool Kids”

Digital Single
The best debut pop single of the year, the London vocalist slides through an ultra-slinky, guitar-driven quiet storm, making a strong statement about acceptance in a truly stylish manner.

DaVido
“If”
Digital Single
Already a mega-star in Africa and Europe, the Nigerian vocalist looks poised to make the jump across the Atlantic. “If” is yet another example of the boundless joy his sound delivers.

Chief Keef
“Reload” Feat. Tadoe & Ballout
Digital Single
Though the blogosphere is mostly ignoring him these days, the 21 year-old continues to crank out esoteric, experimental work for his loyal army of fans. On “Reload,” Keef turns the trap house into a Super Mario Bros ghost house, riding triumphantly through dramatic, off-kilter church organs.

Dave
“Samantha” (f/ J Hus)
Digital Single
The rising Londoners link up for a gospel-tinged ballad that pairs Zeytoven-ish piano noodling with the duo’s trademark melodic vocals and personal bars. Though they seem like quite different characters, they sound perfect together.

Jacques Greene
“True” (f/ How to Dress Well)

Feel Infinite (out now)
The MTL producer’s debut LP is full of highlights, but nothing tops his reunion with longtime collaborator, Tom Krell. The Chicago vocalist sounds back to his best, floating over a slice of characteristically emotional house.

Sampha
(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano
Process (Young Turks)
The most aesthetically perfect song of 2017, this beautiful track is more than an homage to the first piano Sampha ever ran his fingers over; it’s a testament to the way that music can help you find your identity and figure out who you are.

Screen-Shot-2017-04-12-at-13.43.27-970x550Mr. Mitch
“VPN” (f/ Palmistry)

Devout (out 04.21 on Planet Mu)
While I remain undecided about dancehall tourist/weepy softboi, Palmistry, “VPN” is all about the glorious synth arrangement, courtesy of the always innovative Mr. Mitch. Devout is shaping up to be one of the albums of the year.

Ryan Adams
“Shiver and Shake”
Prisoner (PAX AM)
“Shiver and Shake” is the most powerful moment from his best record in more than a decade. Adams is at his lowest point, grappling to rebuild a life that heartbreak has reduced to rubble, as “Tunnel of Love” plays in the background.

Father John Misty
“Pure Comedy”
Pure Comedy (Sub Pop)
FJM is A LOT, and somehow the record is even more. But “Pure Comedy” is a powerful distallation of how sharp his pen can be and how strong his voice almost always is.

Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF
“In a Landscape – Rework”
Cascades (Arts & Crafts)
The two Montrealers’ collaborative EP is full of minimalistic, contemplative piano interplay. Their take on John Cage’s modal masterpiece reinterprets the cinematic splendor of the timeless original.

Phoebe Bridgers
“Smoke Signals”
Digital Single (Pax Am)
The rising LA folk singer’s breakthrough single captures the darkness and light of old Hollywood monster movies, telling a story that is both spooky and alluring.

Migos
“T-Shirt”
Culture (Quality Control)
The jewel of the standout commercial rap release of 2017, “T-Shirt” highlights the group’s unmatched lyrical interplay and Quavo’s underrated hook-writing chops.

AJ x Deno
“Ride or Die”
Digital Single
Like an increasing number of young artists, it all started for 14 year-old Londoner Deno Driz on Instagram. Unlike many others, his youthful, elastic tenor (think: early Chris Brown) works just as well in a real recording studio as it does on social media. A young star in the making.

The XX
“Replica”
I See You (Young Turks)
In recent interviews, bassist/vocalist Oliver Sim has bravely disclosed his struggles with hereditary alcoholism. And he sums it up beautifully on this heartrending track, asking “do I chase the night or does the night chase me?”

grouper-ws-710-385Grouper
“I’m Clean Now”
Paradise Valley (YELLOWELECTRIC)
At the end of one of the most chaotic years in recent history, the angel Liz Harris came down from on high to bless us with one of the most peaceful, soothing songs of her career. If only 2017 sounded like this.

Calvin Harris
“Slide” (f/ Frank Ocean, Migos)
Digital Single
The Scot’s first two albums are two of my guiltiest pleasures, so I can’t say “Slide” is a total surprise. That said, I did not see Harris being the man behind one of the strongest pop tracks of the year so far.

RaeLynn
“Love Triangle”

WildHorse
T. Swift probably isn’t ever coming back to Nashville, but there’s a ton of talented young singers who are here to fill that void. The 22 year-old’s debut LP is full of polished, sharp songwriting like this windswept, heartfelt ballad about divorce.

SahBabii
“Pull up with ah Stick” (f/ Loso Loaded)
Digital Single
One of the stickiest, sweetest melodies of the year, the Atlanta native’s breakout single is yet another example of the positive way Young Thug has impacted the sound of the city’s young creators.

(Sandy) Alex G
“Bobby”
Rocket (out 05.19 on Domino)
I’ve never really been an Alex G guy, but his recent pivot toward a dustier, less noisy sound has worked a treat for me. “Bobby” is a cutting look at the way neuroses can keep people from the ones they love.

SamHuntSam Hunt
“Drinkin’ Too Much”

Digital Single
“Marvin’s Room” with a twang. I don’t know exactly what the former quarterback/current fuckboi is up to here, but it certainly sounds like nothing else coming out of Nashville.

The Round-Up: 10 Albums Released in February That You Must Hear

Posted on by TP1.COM in Columns, Featured, The Round-Up | Comments Off on The Round-Up: 10 Albums Released in February That You Must Hear

We just said goodbye to an incredible month of music. One with the strongest slate of releases that I can remember in a really long time. Of all the interesting releases that dropped this month, ten stood out above the rest. Here’s my round-up of them.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.05.00 PMStormzy
Gang Signs & Prayer
#Merky
In a month that yielded a clutch of excellent LPs, nothing could touch the South London MC’s gorgeous, gospel-tinged epic. Over 16 diverse, consistent tracks, the big man (né Michael Omari) vacillates between sticky, booming bangers (“Big For Your Boots,” “Mr Skeng,” “Cold”), heart- wrenching confessionals (“Lay Me Bare,” “100 Bags”), and even a few gooey love songs (“Velvet,” “Cigarettes & Cush”). The result is an impressive, fully-formed statement that leaves you feeling closer to the artist and reeling from his incredible talent and storytelling. An early favorite for Album of the Year.

Hottest Jams: “100 Bags,” “Big For Your Boots,” “Lay Me Bare”

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.14.53 PMFuture
FUTURE // HNDRXX
Freebandz / Epic
After enjoying one of the all-time hot streaks from the middle of 2014 through the end of 2015, the indomitable Atlanta native was showing signs of slowing down last year. However, he came through with a pair of triumphant projects this month. Though the first is a solid, yet uneven effort, HNDRXX is an exhilarating return to form. Melodic, confessional, and full of earworms, it feels like his most well-rounded, focused work since his legendary trilogy of Monster, Beast Mode, and 56 Nights. Future Vandross > All.

Hottest Jams: “Fresh Air,” “Incredible,” “Solo” (HNDRXX)
“Mask Off,” “Feds Did A Sweep,” “Draco” (FUTURE)

Stream HNDRXX on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.14.08 PMJens Lekman
Life Will See You Now
Secretly Canadian
On most other months, the venerable Swede’s fourth LP would have topped a list like this, but timing has never been his strong suit. That said, Life Will See You Now is a phenomenal feat with ten tracks that could only be penned by a master storyteller. Whether he’s dealing with the perils of masculinity (“How Can I Tell Him”), crippling anxiety (“Postcard #17), or a struggling friend (“Hotwire the Ferris Wheel”), he always writes with a rare empathy, offering penetrating insight into the lives of his characters and, often, his listeners as well.

Hottest Jams: “How Can I Tell Him,” “Dandelion Seed,” “Wedding in Finistére”

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.13.24 PMSampha
Process
Young Turks
This month has produced so many great records that it’s almost hard to remember that the 28 year-old’s beautiful debut dropped back on February 3rd. Process was a couple years in the making, and you can tell. He begins the record exhausted and anxiety-ridden, feeling like a plastic bag that is melting in the summer sun. Longing for home, he takes us on the road with him to his new life as an adult and shares nostalgic daydreams about the piano he grew up with. It’s a beautiful, affecting journey that ends as they often do… back home at the place where it all started.

Hottest Jams: “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” “Plastic 100°C,” “What Shouldn’t I Be?”

Stream it on Spotify.

rs-ryan-adams01-4b269365-c7e6-47af-82f7-d2b9388ffe9bRyan Adams
Prisoner
PAX-AM
The strongest Ryan Adams record in a decade, Prisoner finds the 42 year-old writing himself out of the post-divorce rubble, inspired by Tunnel of Love, Tom Petty, and Johnny Marr. Though Prisoner has a clutch of the kind of crushing, quiet moments you’d expect from an Adams break-up record (“Shiver and Shake,” “We Disappear”), they are well-balanced by mid-tempo tunes (“Haunted House,” “Prisoner”) and noisey AM radio rockers (“Do You Still Love Me?,” “Anything I Say to You”). In fact, the latter tracks are kinda the most intriguing part of Prisoner. As he sounds surprisingly refreshed and primed for the next phase of his life and career. And that’s something worth celebrating.

Hottest Jams: “Prisoner,” “Shiver & Shake,” “Haunted House”

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.19.18 PMTeen Daze
Themes For Dying Earth
Flora
Jamison Isaak’s sixth album is one of the most surprising efforts of the year. I’d really only ever known him as a sort of chillwave also-ran, but Themes for a Dying Earth is a gorgeous collection of lush, affecting ambient indie-pop with hushed but heartfelt vocals. The record sounds like a foggy morning in the mountains, inspired by the perma-hazy British Columbia wilderness it was recorded in. It’s both a tribute to the beauty of Isaak’s surroundings and also a quiet warning about what’s at stake as we continue to bury our heads in the sand as our planet suffers.

Hottest Jams: “First Rain” (f/ S Carey), “Cycle,” “Dream City”

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.23.49 PMVagabon
Infinite Worlds
Father/Daughter
Lætitia Tamko’s proper debut is fresh, vibrant, and packed with affecting and daring songwriting. From its gut-wrenching leadoff track, “Embers,” that explores power dynamics in relationships to its heartbreaking finale, “Alive and A Well,” Infinite Worlds is a powerful collection from an artist with a unique and necessary voice. The disc’s eight tracks feature an interesting mix of piercing, fingerpicked folk, alongside crashing rock moments and electronic touches. Tamko is one of an exciting new batch of young female singer-songwriters like Julien Baker, Georgia Maq, Mitski, and Michelle Zauner (Japanese Breakfast). It’s a generation of artists who don’t fit into old ideas about what folk is supposed to sound like and who is allowed to make it.

Hottest Jams: “Fear & Force,” “Embers,” “Alive And A Well”

Hear it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.26.39 PMElbow
Little Fictions
Polydor
Ryan Adams isn’t the only old favorite who dropped a rejuvenated effort this month. The Manchester crooners are coming up on their 20th year in existence, and they toasted the anniversary with one of the strongest albums of their career. They’ve always been at their best when they’re balancing melancholia with hope, crafting weirdly anthemic ballads that work as well in a quiet pub as the Glastonbury Festival. Tracks like “Magnificent (She Says)” and “All Disco” feel like they hit that mark and hint that they’re not content to continue as a mere nostalgia act.

Hottest Jams: “Gentle Storm,” “Magnificent (She Says),” “Kindling”

Kingdom-RotatorKingdom
Tears in the Club
Fade to Mind
The Fade to Mind mainman has been an important member of the LA club scene for the better part of a decade, but Tears in Club still feels like a maiden statement. The disc is 50%  pop-oriented tracks that feature exciting young vocalists like SZA, Syd, and Shacar, and 50% instrumental, hyper-melodic dance tracks. Though I tend to gravitate to the former, they are well framed by the latter, resulting in a compelling, versatile body of work.

Hottest Jams: “Down 4 Whatever” (f/ SZA), “Nothin” (Club Mix)” (f/ Syd), “What is Love” (f/ SZA)

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.30.44 PMVermont
II
Kompakt
We’ll finish off the list with a lovely ambient effort from Danilo Plessow and Marcus Worgull. II is packed with warm, swirling synths that set a placid, wintery mood. Though percussion is at a minimum, you can really hear Balearic influences in the synth melodies, and it’s easy to picture yourself looking out the window in Vermont and dreaming of warmer climes.

Hottest Jams: “Norderney,” “Demut,” “Chanang”

Stream it on Spotify.

The Best Of What I Missed (January, 2017)

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I’m gonna try to bring back the monthly Round-Up/Best-Of column. Except this year, I’m only going to focus on the stuff that I haven’t previously covered. So if you want to hear my thoughts on Sampha, Mount Eerie, Stormzy, Julie Byrne, J Hus, The xx, Father John Misty, etc, all you have to do is scroll down.

1484012575_afea34802e6a9a95aa9777d1f4c65c00The Migos Rightfully Claim The National Spotlight
Though their commitment to staying independent was questioned by many, the Migos’ unquestioned rise to the top of the rap universe (and Billboard charts) is both a vindication of their rare talent and their refusal to kowtow to major labels. Their second studio LP, Culture, is joyous and triumphant effort that showcases all three of their members and a clutch of some of the best producers on the planet (Metro Boomin, Cardo Got Wings, Nard & B). As influential as they always were, they’ve been slept on way too long, and it’s fantastic to see the world wake up.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 3.51.27 PMRyan Adams Is… Back?
I’ve spent the last 10 years trying talking myself into decent but flawed Ryan Adams albums, almost like I’m trying to trick my brain into caring as much about them as I did Love is Hell, Cold Roses, and Pneumonia. Frankly, it’s not been that effective (even though I swear Easy Tiger is underrated), but early returns on his new breakup LP have been incredibly exciting. While lead singles “Do You Still Love Me?” and “To Be Without You,” are solid, but not spectacular late-career Adams, I’ve been obsessed with a pair of Tunnel of Love-recalling live songs: the title track and the heart-crushing “Haunted House.” I never listen to live YouTube rips, but these feel like the two best songs he’s written in a really long time, and I’m dying to hear the rest of it.

PNB_ATL_ArtistHeader1400x700PnB Rock Drops His Long-Awaited Debut
After falling in love with his 2014 RnB 3 collection, the Philly native’s major label debut was high on my most-anticipated list. The 24 year-old didn’t disappoint, as GTTM: Goin Thru the Motions is an engaging collection that lives in the potent nether zone between R&B and street rap. A talented vocalist with knack for crafting unescapable earworms, Rakim “PnB Rock” Allen is fast cementing himself as one of the genre’s foremost rising stars.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 4.06.26 PMOur Ol’ Pal Jens Returns
Five years on from dropping my favorite album of 2012, I Know What Love Isn’t, the amiable 35 year-old is dropping his fourth full-length. Early returns — a pair of singles and live set I caught late last year — have me eagerly awaiting its arrival. Lekman is one of the most talented, unique songwriters we have, and Life Will See You Now looks to be another sonically versatile, unexpected collection that deals with life’s innumerable grey areas and micro-moments that are hard to pin down but form the meat of our lives.

Note: A new version of “Postcard #17” will also feature on the LP.

31654-akirakosemura-04piAkira Kosemura’s Enchanting Piano Playing
On his contemplative EP, Our Own Picture, the Tokyo resident strips everything back for a trio of gorgeous and naked piano compositions. Though he doesn’t get a ton of American press, Kosemura is one of the most talented pianists working today, and this bite-sized collection will hopefully inspire people to check out the rest of his fascinating catalog.

Stream it on Spotify.

M.-Lamar-photo-by-M.-Lamar-1-copy-e1458089281520M. Lamar’s Ghostly Avant-Opera: Funeral Doom Spiritual
Though I haven’t listened to this challenging, unique LP nearly enough to come to any conclusions, the first few listens have been quite stunning. Funeral Doom Spiritual is a striking LP that fuses Lamar’s operatic, ultra-expressive vocals with melodramatic melodies, spectral piano, spiritual influences, and occasional harsh electronic elements performed by Liturgy frontman, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. In short, I’ve never heard anything like it, and I’m looking forward to getting to know it even better.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 4.03.21 PMKing Terius Drops a Low-Key EP
It won’t be mistaken for a project from The-Dream’s god level, four-disc run between 2007’s Love Hate and 2012’s Terius Nash: 1977. However, Love You to Death is a tasty little collection that will hopefully serve as an aperitif to his forthcoming full-length Love Affair, which is meant to drop in March. Nash keeps the BPM as low as the lights and glides through five, easy slow jams in the way that only he can.

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 4.07.11 PMSinai Vessel’s Convincing and Cathartic Brokenlegged
The North Carolina trio’s Sophomore LP is a packed with evocative indie rock with nimble, jangling guitars and hooky songwriting that reminds me of the 90’s alt-rock that I grew up on. Frontman Caleb Cordes has a steady, expressive voice and a restless spirit, and his songwriting helps separate Brokenlegged from the rest of the crowded emo/indie-rock world.

strand-of-oaks-15-pStrand of Oaks Yearns For His Youth
Crushing, crashing, bashing, smashing, thrashing, face melting, head exploding, etc. You can pick your fave rock writer cliche when talking about the leadoff single from Timothy Showalter’s upcoming LP, Hard Love. Though I’ve never been a huge fan, “Radio Kids” is miles away the best Strand of Oaks track yet. It is built around a huge guitar riff that is powerful enough to drag his pedestrian vocals and sadboi biker dude schtick to the transcendent heights that he’s always shot for but never come anywhere near.

The Round-Up: The Best Tracks of the Third Quarter

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screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-12-45-56-pmPrince Bopp
“Bandit”
Digital Single
In short, the Cincinnati native’s heartfelt single is the most slept-on great song of 2016. In just three and half minutes, the independent newcomer comes full circle, detailing his struggle to bounce back from losing his first love and his journey to find hope. The track’s bleak opening finds the young man battling through heartbreak, drugs, and deep loneliness. But as “Bandit” moves, the darkness slowly fades into light, as he moves far enough away to enjoy the new perspective difficult experiences often yield. If there’s one song I hope you listen to on this list, it’s this one.

rae-sremmurd-announce-first-annual-sremmfest

Rae Sremmurd
“Black Beatles” (f/ Gucci Mane)
SremmLife 2 (out now on Ear Drummers)
Youthful joy distilled into sound, the Brown brothers’ towering, brash anthem sets fire to prehistoric rockist notions about what substantive music is supposed to sound like. For five glorious minutes, Slim Jimmi, Swae Lee, and Gucci Mane gleefully piss all over your idols, declaring themselves the rightful kings of the youth once and for all.

 

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-11-51-09-amJenny Hval
“Conceptual Romance”
Blood Bitch (out now on Sacred Bones)

An early single from an album that will assuredly be on my Year End List, the Norwegian singer-songwriter is one of the most fascinating, original artists working in music today. Composed and analytical without sacrificing an ounce of emotion or humanity, Hval has spent her career exploring the depths of what keeps us connect… to the ones, to our society, and to ourselves. An absolute treasure.

cug9-pxxyaawr_mYoung M.A.
“Ooouuu”
Digital Single

I moved back to Brooklyn in August. And one of my favorite parts of being back is the way a hit song will just naturally permeate through the city — from car speakers to apartment windows to Bodegas to earbuds on the train. Since I’ve been back, the Brooklyn native’s loose, easy banger has been the soundtrack, perfectly in sync with the rhythm of the best city in the world.
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The Round Up: The Best Albums of the Third Quarter

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freshezaleEzale & DJ Fresh
The Tonight Show
Foreal Foreal Ent
Hottest Jams: “Day Ones,” “Stop Come On”

For the first time in my lifetime, the Warriors are good and East Bay rap is popping at the same time. 2016 has seen a clutch of young Oakland rappers like Kamaiyah, Nef the Pharoah, and Eazle make a dent in the national scene, while trumpeting the unique culture and sound of the city. The latter’s glorious 10-song debut uniquely blends the slap of hyphy with production legend DJ Fresh’s warm, glowing g-funk. The result is a deliriously fun, endlessly quotable collection that doubles as one of 2016’s most consistent hip-hop records.

freetown_sound_coverBlood Orange
Freetown Sound
Domino
Hottest Jams: “Best To You,” “Chance”
Dev Hynes is man of many dichotomies. He is both an adept soloist and a keen and successful collaborator. He’s a sonic chameleon (see: Test Icicles, Lightspeed Champion) and a man with a signature, easily recognizable sound. He’s as comfortable a leading man and he is a hired gun. This, the finest album of his career, is dripping with those ambiguities. On slinky standouts “Augustine” and “E.V.P,” he’s in full pop-star mode and in total control of proceedings. He also shines just as bright while supporting Empress Of and Nelly Furtado on “Best To You” and “Hadron Collider” respectively. All of these contradictions contribute to the sonic world that makes Freetown Sound such a fascinating journey.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-00-38-amCamp Cope
Camp Cope
Poison City
Hottest Jams: “Song for Charlie,” “Flesh and Electricity”

Like all truly great cathartic albums, the Melbourne trio’s debut album is equal parts comedy and tragedy. Over the stunning LP’s eight songs, songwriter Georgia Maq tackles the death of her father (the incredible “Song for Charlie”), the dissolution of a relationship (“West Side Story,” “Lost: Season One”), and workplace disaffection (“Flesh and Electricity”) with stunning insight, bravery, and most of all, humor. I’ve found that when confronting loss you have to keep laughing — to keep remembering the things about your loved ones that made you smile. Georgia knows that, and she highlights that truth on just about every song on this very special album.

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The Round-Up: The Best Songs of the Second Quarter

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Like we did back in March, let’s round up the best music of the second quarter of 2016. We’ll kick things off with the best tracks of the year so far. My album list should be out later this week. And so as not to repeat myself, I didn’t include anything from any of those albums on this list.

Kanye West
“Champions” (f/ Gucci Mane, Quavo, Travis Scott, Yo Gotti, Big Sean, Desiigner)
Cruel Winter (release date TBA on G.O.O.D. Music)
The Life of Pablo could be the best album of the year, but it probably doesn’t not even contain Kanye’s best song of 2016. “Champions” beautifully highlights what makes West such a musical genius and explains why his music is more vital than ever, a near impossibility for a hip-hop artist 15 years into his career.

Sure, his lyrical skills aren’t as sharp as they used to be, but that’s not the point. Rather, West has opted to work like a great head coach or creative director, surrounding himself with the young talent and placing them in the best position to succeed. Yeezy only gives us four new bars, but everybody else shines, resulting in a thrilling posse anthem in the spirit of classics like “Mercy” and “Clique.”

Gucci Mane
“1st Day Out The Feds”
Digital Single
At some point, it was almost as if Gucci Mane became more of a meme than a man. All the trouble and noise had reduced one of the most influential, important rap artists of all-time into an interminable stream of cheap “Bitch I Might Be” LOLz. For that reason, it’s been brilliant to see him spend his first month as a free man with a seemingly sound mind and sharp focus, dropping a string of potent singles. None is more affecting than this suffocating, paranoid tale of life in one of America’s most notorious prisons.

Thast
“Rep Your County” (Dave Luxe remix)
Digital Single
I’ve already written a ton about Thast this year, and I’m assuming that she’s only getting warmed up. On this tasty remix, MTL beatsmith, Dave Luxe laces an airy arrangement that leaves plenty of space for the rising Tampa native’s booming, voracious flow to gobble up the yards. She’s promised that new work with Zora Jones and Ryan Hemsworth is just around the corner, and I could not be more excited to hear it. Without a doubt, one of the best rappers in the country right now.

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Monday Round-Up: ABRA, Rae Sremmurd, and the Rest of What I Missed

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LSDXOXO
“Lady Vengeance”
Fuck Marry Kill (out now on GHE20G0TH1K)
The first proper release from NYC collective GHE20G0TH1K, Fuck Marry Kill is nine exhilarating, unique club tracks from the Philly producer. While the whole thing deserves your time, its lead single is a great place to start — pairing latin rhythms and synth droplets with a mantric vocal sample. More than anything, it’s the kind of song that makes me horribly miss the packed, sweaty dancefloors of New York City. Someone take me back.

Listen to the whole thing, here.

ABRA
“Crybaby”
Princess (out 08.20 on True Panther/Awful)
The Darkwave Duchess is back with a follow-up to last year’s exquisite LP, Rose. “Crybaby” is the kind of sweltering, new wave-indebted R&B that she’s been pumping out for the last couple of years. Boasting an earworm chorus and an undeniable baseline, it also packs one of the strongest bridges of the year. To top it all off, the Atlanta resident handled all production and songwriting here, further cementing her status as one of the brightest young talents in music today.

Alexis Taylor
“Lonely Vagabond”
Piano (out now on Moshi Moshi)
If you, like me, prefer your Hot Chip in ballad form, their frontman’s second solo album is for you. On nearly every track of Piano, Taylor frames his innocent, doe-like tenor with only a grand piano. While its skeletal arrangements will likely be too narrow in scope to captivate the masses, the disc stands as testament to Taylor’s underrated, nuanced songwriting and the affecting vulnerability of his gentle voice.

Angel Olsen
“Intern”
My Woman (out 09.02 on Jagjaguwar)
Falling in love with someone new is an incredibly fun experience that nobody wants to do again. On the first song from her forthcoming third LP, the ever-consistent Olsen considers this subject with her usual lyrical acuity and depth. What’s unusual about “Intern” is that her trademark guitar is replaced by lonely synths, framing her beautiful vocals in a fresh new way.

Rae Sremmurd
“Look Alive”
SremmLife 2 (out 06.24 on EarDrummers)
Just two weeks before their second LP drops, the all-conquering duo gives their mid tempo banger gets a characteristically lit new video. Even though the BPMs are turned down here, their irrepressible energy comes through loud and clear. Like much of their best tracks, infectious vocal melodies aren’t reserved for the chorus, as each of their verses boast better vocal hooks than most songs’ refrains.

Monday Round-Up: Gucci Mane, Jenny Hval, and the Best of What I Missed

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Gucci Mane
“First Day out the Feds”
Digital Single
After about two years in the same federal penitentiary that was home to Timothy McVeigh, Radric Davis emerged in one piece and ready to get back to work. Unsurprisingly, his first single is suffocating and profoundly sad. Davis shares the mental scars of a lifetime of trouble with startling detail and admits that he “did some things to some people that was downright evil.” He sounds weary but not defeated, like a man with plenty more stories to tell.

Thast
“Rep Your County” (Dave Luxe remix)
Digital Single
The Canadian producer puts a fresh coat of paint on Queen Thast’s 2014, track “Rep Your County.” The Central Florida native recently teased new material with Ryan Hemsworth and Zora Jones, and this delicious Dave Luxe remix will be enough tie us over until the new tracks drop. She is without a doubt one of the most exciting young artists on the planet right now.

Jenny Hval
“Female Vampire”
Blood Bitch (09.30 on Sacred Bones)
Rejoice! Jenny Hval, the artist behind my second favorite album of 2015, is blessing us with another full-length this year. According to the press release, Blood Bitch will be a concept album that explores menstruation, vampires, and 70s horror films. Sign me the fuck up.

Gundam
“Intimate” / “Too Late”
Intimate / Too Late (out now on Goon Club Allstars)
The Essex producer’s lovely, Cassie-flipping “Intimate” has been floating around the Internet for a few years, but it finally gets a proper release by Goon Club Allstars. One of the leaders of the recent R&G (rhythm & grime) resurgence, Gundam first appeared on my radar via 2014’s excellent LP, Flirtation, and his work is highly recommended for those who love their club music with maximum 90’s R&B emotion.

Ryley Walker
“The Halfwit In Me”
Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (out 08.19 on Dead Oceans)
I struggled to get into the Chicago folker’s critically well-received 2015 LP, Primrose Green. For all its tasty guitar-work (and, he is a great fucking guitar player), I struggled to find a foothold in the songwriting. So suffice it to say, I was surprised to keep coming back to his dusty, gentle breeze of a new single.