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: 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 Round-Up: The Best Albums of October 2017

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

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.34.52 PMKelela
Take Me Apart
Warp Records
The album I was most excited to hear this year, the 34 year-old’s Warp debut simultaneously delivered the goods and left me a little lukewarm. The more time I’ve spent with it, the more I realize that any disappointment I had was my fault, not hers.

“Take Me Apart” is unarguably excellent — a futuristic R&B odyssey that deftly amps up her pop ambitions without alienating the alternative club sound that made her so exciting in the first place. That said, after her stunning debut “Cut 4 Me” (my favorite mixtape of 2013) and TMA’s incredible first single, “LMK,” I was definitely guilty of overstanning and saddling the disc with unrealistic expectations. That said, the further I get away from the hype, the more I fall in love with this record. Get back to me in December.

Hottest Jams: “LMK” “Frontline”

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 2.28.31 PMGrizzle
Consort
Liminal Sounds
The most exciting instrumental grime debut since MssingNo’s classic 2013 EP, “Consort” is a delirious, 20 minute funhouse ride, dripping with adhesive melodies and pounding, nimble rhythms. Each track undulates gracefully in between movements, deftly building to monstrous crescendos that creep up behind you. Rising Tottenham MC ShaqyDread also comes through with a couple of tasty verses on “Sermon,” which proves that the Manchester producer’s stellar sound is just as potent with a vocalist in the mix.

Hottest Jams: “Consort” “Eleusis”


kelsea-ballerini-smile-press-2016-billboard-1548Kelsea Ballerini

Unapologetically
Black River
To my ears, the 24 year-old is the biggest young talent in country music. Preaching a bold, uncompromising message in a genre dogged by the Nashville scene’s misogynistic roots, “Unapologetically” gleefully shits on lame dudes (“Get Over Yourself,” “Miss Me More”) without letting them sabotage her joy (“Roses”) or stop her from telling her own, unique story (“In Between”). Easily one of the best country records of the year.

Hottest Jams: “Roses” “In Between”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.45.59 PMJulien Baker
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
The 22 year-old’s long-awaited second LP lived up to every ounce of the hype. It is a gorgeous, heartbreaking collection of carefully-crafted, subtle indie folk. She sings about mental illness, heartbreak, and loss with a clarity and incisiveness that is truly rare. And though darkness is around every corner, she always manages to let just enough light in, often in the form of stunning, late-song climaxes. Just an incredible talent.

Hottest Jams: “Appointments” “Sour Breath”

offset-21-savage-metro-boomin21 Savage, Offset, Metro Boomin
Without Warning

Slaughter Gang
Instead of sitting back and riding the waves of their brilliant recent LPs, the Atlanta MCs got back at it and dropped a surprise project, guided by the steady hand of Metro Boomin. The 24 year-old’s skeletal style is the ideal canvas for the pair, and Offset’s nimble, loquacious flow is the perfect foil for 21’s minimalist raps.

Hottest Jams: “Ghostface Killers” (f/ Travis Scott) “Darth Vader”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.52.37 PMThe Weather Station
The Weather Station

Paradise of Bachelors
When you think about folk music, what adjectives come to mind? Calming, windswept, pastoral, therapeutic. Tamara Lindeman brand of folk has traces of all those things, but it’s also much different. It’s fierce, rugged, and powerful — more Ani DiFranco than Cat Stevens. The Toronto native’s fantastic fourth album is the most impressive of her career, outfitting her gorgeous, warm vocals with an arsenal of sticky melodies, fingerpicked guitars, swelling strings, and thought provoking lyrics.

Hottest Jams: “Thirty” “Power”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.54.03 PMSlaughter Beach, Dog
Birdie

Lame-O
Jake Ewald’s main band, Modern Baseball, has had a tumultuous 18 months, and you can hear it on his pleasant, soft solo album. An intoxicating brew of sweetness, sadness, and safety (think: coming home for summer from college), “Birdie” is built around Ewald’s kind, warm vocals and considerate songwriting. It’s the kind of record that is so relatable that it’s almost guaranteed to transport you back to some specific moment of your young life.

Hottest Jams: “Phoenix” “Acolyte”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 5.58.39 PMKing Krule
The OOZ

True Panther
King Krule played two nights in Brooklyn last week, and secondary market tickets were going for about $400. That’s an insane price for a guy who is making legitimately fucking weird, genre-less music. The OOZ is easily his strangest project yet, pairing behind-the-beat jazz chords and lonely synths with howling vocals and lyrics so opaque it’s hard to tell whether they’re poetry or pure gibberish. Somehow, it all works, and the more time you spend with it, the easier it is to see what all the fuss is about.

Hottest Jams: “Logos” “Lonely Blue”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.03.30 PMColleen
A flame my love, a frequency

Thrill Jockey
The specter of death looms large over the shapeshifting French composer’s excellent sixth album. She was in Paris on the night of the horrifying 2015 terror attacks and worked on much of this album while a loved one was battling a crippling illness. Her deep lyrical examinations are balanced by her soothing vocals and fields of oceanic, ambient synths, which swell to capture the fear that envelops our modern times and recede to highlight the isolation.

Hottest Jams: “Winter Dawn” “Separating”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.02.07 PMFuture x Young Thug
Super Slimey
Epic
Though it disappointingly didn’t make much of a dent in today’s uber-saturated market, Thugger and Future’s collaborative LP is far from a throwaway (get it? get iiiit?). Thug, especially, sounds rejuvenated here (Future’s been pretty consistent recently), which isn’t surprising considering that both artists tend to bring out the best in each other (think: 2014’s classic “Chanel Vintage”). Standout track “Three” is the best example of this, as they both snap on their verses with Thug recapturing some of the unpredictable magic that made his early work so compelling.

Hottest Jams: “Three” “Cruise Ship”



Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.04.44 PMCircuit Des Yeux
Reaching For Indigo
Drag City
Nobody, I mean nobody, sings like Haley Fohr. Her expressive baritone toes the line between emotive and performative — constantly flirting with community theater melodrama without ever falling into it. “Reaching for Indigo” is arguably her most direct effort yet, pairing experimental folk instrumentation with legitimately catchy hooks (see: lead single, “Black Fly”) and overwhelming crescendos. A true one-off.

Hottest Jams: “Black Fly” “Paper Bag”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.10.36 PMLil Durk
Signed To The Streets 2.5
Only The Family
Admittedly, this isn’t Durk’s most vital project of the this year, but this tape is worth writing about because it underlines what an incredible 2017 the Chicago MC is having. Along with a handful of excellent loosies, STTS2.5 is his third quality project of the year and is a reminder that very few artists are making better melodic street rap in 2017 than the 25 year-old.

Hottest Jams: “Make it Out” “India”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.12.58 PMJessie Ware
Glasshouse

PMR
A welcome bounce back from 2014’s uninspiring, “Tough Love,” “Glasshouse” recaptures much of the magical quiet storm of her glorious early work. Now 33 with a family of her own, Ware writes about the joy and melancholy of growing into a real-life adult with insight and emotion. Her voice is still a rare instrument, especially when it’s given room to operate. And thankfully, “Glasshouse” is gleefully short of the overcooked arrangements that bogged down her last record.

Hottest Jams: “First Time” “Midnight”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.16.57 PMCitizen
As You Please
Run For Cover
Though they tend to get lumped into the fourth-wave emo crowd, to my ears, the Ohio group’s excellent third LP sounds a lot more like the 90’s radio-rock that I grew up on than Mineral or Rites of Spring or something. I mean, its pre-release singles lifted melodies from Nirvana and the Primitive Radio Gods; it doesn’t get much more mid-90’s MTV than that. Label it however you want, but the record is an impressive collection of rock-solid, guitar-driven songwriting, elevated by Mat Kerekes’ muscular vocals.

Hottest Jams: “In The Middle of It All” “World”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 6.19.35 PMTy Dolla Sign
“Beach House 3”

Atlantic
Though he still hasn’t really found the mega-smash single to elevate him to the very top level as a solo artist, the 32 year-old is still one of the most consistent R&B singers around. I like Ty best as a mid-tempo balladeer, as his slightly raspy voice adds a nice touch of edge to ultra-smooth production. Tracks like “Droptop in the Rain” and “All The Time” scratch that itch and provide a nice balance to the rest of the club-friendly setlist.

Hottest Jams: “Droptop in the Rain” (f/ Tory Lanez) “All The Time”

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

Posted on by TP1.COM in Featured, The Round-Up | Comments Off on 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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 3.48.01 PM21 Savage
Issa Album
Slaughter Gang
What: The heartfelt, personal debut solo studio LP from the sharp-tongued MC
Where: Atlanta, GA
In a Tweet: Issa adds more deft, subtle melody to his singular, nihilistic, uncompromising sound. 21 is ready for prime-time. On God.
Start Here: “Nothin New” “Famous” “Bank Account”

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 11.55.47 AMBruno Major
A Song For Every Moon
July Records
What: The velvet-voiced, cheeseball crooner’s debut LP, built off one year of monthly singles
Where: London, UK
In a Tweet: Journey deep into the heart of a modern softboi. He matches R&B and adult contempo influences with a jazzy heart.
Start Here: “Cold Blood” “Second Time” “On Our Own”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 3.49.41 PMDJ Python
Dulce Compañia
Incienso
What: Brian Piñeyro’s first LP under this moniker. You might know him as DJ Wey, Luis, or Deejay Xanax.
Where: Queens, NY
In a Tweet:
The kind of gentle, deep house that’s easy to get lost in with just enough touches of reggaeton and dembow to maybe dance to. So well balanced.
Start Here: “You Ran (Do)” “Todo Era Azul – Siempre Dub” “Acostados”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 3.50.46 PMJapanese Breakfast
Soft Sounds From Another Planet
Dead Oceans
What: Michelle Zauner’s follow-up to her gorgeous, dream-pop debut, “Psychopomp” (2016)
Where: Brooklyn, NY
In a Tweet: MZ drags her dreamy sound even deeper into space. Slinky pop jams collide with heart-crushing ballads. A writer with rare honesty.
Start Here: “Machinist” “This House” “Road Head”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 3.52.02 PMJay Boogie
Jesus Loves Me Too
Self-Released
What: The new mixtape from Jay Boogie, his first since 2015’s “My H.O.E.”
Where: Brooklyn, NY
In A Tweet: Sonically versatile and adventurous, Boogie’s breakout LP is modern and magnetic, driven by his melodic flow and exuberant storytelling.
Start Here: “Malandrina” “Venti”(f/ Lily The Body) “Featherweight”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 3.52.42 PMJim-E Stack
It’s Jim-ee
Self-Released
What: The EP is the LA producer’s first project since his 2014 breakthrough, Tell Me I Belong
Where: LA via SF
In A Tweet: Driven by a break-up, it’s a taut, sharp collection of emotional dance music. Beautiful exploration of how club music can heal the heart.
Start Here: “I Did The Best I Could” “Moments Noticed” “Deadstream”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 3.53.36 PMKodak Black
Project Baby 2
Atlantic
What: The follow-up to his breakthrough Project Baby mixtape from late 2013
Where: Pompano Beach, FL
In A Tweet: The walls are closing in on the troubled 20 y/o, but PB2 hints that he knows that he must change if he is to fulfill his infinite potential.
Start Here: “Change My Ways” “Versatile” “Transportin'”

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 5.37.31 PMKommode
Analog Dance Music
Random Two Syllable Word
What: The guy from Kings of Convenience who isn’t Erlend Øye’s long-awaited side project
Where: Bergen, Norway
In A Tweet: Romantic, luxurious dance(ish) music with the voice of a Scandinavian man-angel. Beautiful, sharp, languid, and disastrously underrated.
Start Here: “Not The Bigger Picture” “Fight or Flight or Dance All Night” “Lady-Logic”

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 6.05.33 PMLil Durk x Lil Reese
Supa Vultures – EP
OTF/EMPIRE
What: A collaborative project featuring two of the key members of Chicago’s mid-10’s drill scene
Where: Chicago, IL / Atlanta, GA
In a Tweet: Two of drill’s core innovators link up for an EP that’s much more than a nostalgic exercise. Both sound fresh and compliment each other so well.
Start Here: “Distance” “Unstoppable” “Nobody Knows”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 3.59.16 PMLomelda
Thx
Double Double Whammy
What: The second LP from wistful singer/songwriter Hannah Read
Where: Silsbee, Texas
In A Tweet: Heartsick, imperfect guitar pop from Smalltown, USA. Captures the loneliness of outgrowing your hometown but also the fear of leaving.
Start Here: “Out There” “From Here” “Only World”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 3.17.31 PMMhysa
Fantasii
Halcyon Veil
What: The experimental, proper debut LP from the multi-platform artist
Where: Philadelphia, PA
In a Tweet: Arty and seductive deconstructed R&B that dips its toe in many sonic pools. That said, listeners will get more the deeper they dive in.
Start Here: “Bb” “Spectrum” “Strobe”

Moneybagg-YoMoneybagg Yo
Federal 3X
N-Less

What: The third installment of the 26 year-old’s Federal mixtape series
Where: Memphis, TN
In a Tweet: We already knew that Moneybagg has bully bars for days. But on F3X, he spices them up with extra understated hooks and melody. Tasty.
Start Here: “Important” “Blog” “Mind Frame”

la-et-ms-moses-sumney-20150729Moses Sumney
Aromanticism
Jagjaguwar
What: The critically-acclaimed debut from the genre-fluid mystical singer/songwriter
Where: San Bernardino, CA
In A Tweet: Good luck categorizing this LP. He pairs his unforgettable falsetto with indie, chamber pop, blues, soul, and about 4,000 other sounds.
Start Here: “Self-Help Tape” “Plastic” “Lonely World”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.08.21 PMThe National
Sleep Well Beast
4AD
What: The seventh studio LP from the road-weary, stately indie rock quartet
Where: Brooklyn, NY
In a Tweet: The best of the recent indie-rock old guys revival, SWB is boosted by a gorgeous, heartfelt B-side. A big upgrade from their last effort.
Start Here: “Carin at the Liquor Store” “Dark Side of the Gym” “I’ll Still Destroy You”

Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.11.12 PMPhoebe Bridgers
Stranger in the Alps
Dead Oceans
What: The debut LP from the promising, young singer/songwriter
Where: Los Angeles, CA
In a Tweet: A spooky, heartbreaking collection of folk dirges that are granted levity by her gentle, gorgeous voice and tender guitarwork.
Start Here: “Smoke Signals” “Funeral” “You Missed My Heart”

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 10.32.40 AMTurnover
Good Nature
Run For Cover
What: The post-emo trio’s follow-up to 2015’s much beloved Peripheral Vision
Where: Virginia Beach
In a Tweet: Or, how an angsty east-coaster moved to Cali, fell in love, went vegan, got into Real Estate*, and crafted a heartfelt, optimistic guitar-pop masterclass.
Start Here: “Pure Devotion” “Breeze” “Super Natural”
*the band, not like flipping houses

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 12.59.53 PMTyler, The Creator
Flower Boy

Columbia
What: A softer, more mature follow-up to 2015’s noisy, frustrating Cherry Bomb
Where: Los Angeles, CA
In a Tweet: Though he isn’t screaming anymore, his voice has never yielded more power. Over gooey, delicious beats, Tyler speaks his truth with stunning results.
Start Here: “See You Again” (f/ Kali Uchis) “911/Mr. Lonely” (f/ Frank Ocean, Steve Lacy) “Garden Shed” (f/ Estelle)

the-war-on-drugs-tickets_10-05-17_17_591203405f659The War on Drugs
A Deeper Understanding
Atlantic
What:
Adam Granduciel and co.’s all-conquering successor to 2014’s “Lost in a Dream”
Where: Philadelphia, PA
In a Tweet: The LP that saw the stringy-haired sadsacks take over indie-rock. Granduciel is a master of making unspecific ennui feel life-affirming.
Start Here: “In Chains” “Pain” “Clean Living”

waxahatchee_wide-75076e668c79e2e0c496c3eb67963bb1d5ed0f0b-s6-c30Waxahatchee
“Out In The Storm”

Merge
What: The fourth LP from Katie Crutchfield’s alt-rock project, mostly dealing with the end of a relationship
Where: Philadelphia, PA
In a Tweet: Their quietest and most affecting LP yet. Crutchfield picks through the bones of her relationship, writing honestly and singing forcefully.
Start Here: “Recite Remorse” “A Little More” “Sparks Fly”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 12.55.02 PMYoungBoy Never Broke Again
AI YoungBoy
Self-Released
What:
The 17 year-old’s first project since his breakthorough 2016 mixtape “38 Baby”
Where: Baton Rouge, LA
In a Tweet: One of the most promising young talents in music. He raps with the poise, versatility, and precision of artists twice his age. Don’t sleep.
Start Here: “Untouchable” “Left Hand Right Hand” “No Smoke”

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 12.53.16 PMYves Tumor
Experiencing The Deposit of Faith
Self-Released
What: A new compilation from the shadowy ambient-leaning producer. His first since 2016’s exquisite “Serpent Music”
Where: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In A Tweet:
Few create sonic worlds as engulfing as Yves. This mantric, confounding collection is his best and hardest to pin down yet.
Start Here: “Ayxita, Wake Up” “My Nose My Lips Your Head Shape” “E. Eternal”

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of 2017, So Far…

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

Rating albums at the mid-point of the year, just to re-rate them in six months seems dumb, so I decided to go with an NBA Draft-style tier system to pick out a few of my favorites so far.

TIER 1: THE FAVORITE

_91353679_stormzy976_paStormzy
Gang Signs and Prayer
#Merky
The Londoner’s debut LP is an epic in every sense of the word. Gang Signs and Prayer very much feels like that special kind of debut that took an artist’s whole life to make. From the powerful opener “First Things First,” where Stormzy (né Michael Omari) unloads on topics like racial profiling, mental health, and respectability politics with a depth and maturity that belies his 23 years.

Like many others, I fell in love with his charismatic, highly quotable bangers like “Shut Up” and “Know Me From,” but I was floored by GSAP’s many reflective, emotional moments. Whether he’s toasting to his mother (‘Mumzy) on the touching “100 Bags” (my favorite track of the year), looking to the heavens (“Blinded by Your Grace”), or letting himself fall in love (“Velvet”), Omari knocks just about every kind of track out of the park. Unlike some of his more heralded peers (*cough* Chance *cough*), none of it feels forced or constructed; it’s simply a man pouring his heart out to the world.

He might be in his feelings a lot on this album, but don’t get it twisted, there’s still plenty of old school Stormzy here, in the form of delirious, fun grime tracks like “Cold,” “Big For Your Boots,” and “Mr Skeng.” They balance the record beautifully and highlight what a rare talent he is. If there’s gonna be a better album this year, I can’t wait to hear it.

Stream it on Spotify.

TIER 2: THE STRONG CONTENDERS

Mr MitchScreen Shot 2017-07-18 at 9.33.01 PM
Devout
Planet Mu

The Londoner’s stunning debut LP is all about growth. First, there’s his growth as an artist. Devout is the sound of a production wizard stepping out from behind the safety of the boards and into the spotlight. His signature prog-grime production is all over this thing, but he supplements that with sharp songwriting, well-chosen guest vocalists, and for the first time ever, his own voice.

Secondly, and more importantly, it’s about his personal growth. Mitch recently had his second child, and the disc is a love letter to his growing family. He begins the record by serenading his partner (“Do you remember when we made our love?”) and ends it waiting to meet his second son, Oscar. They are beautiful bookends to an album that is filled with stunning, deeply human moments.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 9.46.38 PMJulie Byrne
Not Even Happiness
Ba Da Bing
The rising folk singer’s second LP is a gorgeous travelogue, crafted by a weary nomad who is seeking a home that is right for her. She lays out the disc’s mission statement on the first song, singing, “To me, this city’s hell, but I know you call it home. I was made for the green, made to be alone.” From there, she explores this complex issue, wondering why she can’t settle anywhere and questioning whether she’d even really want to.

There are far more questions than answers, because, of course, there are no answers to the kinds of questions she asks. And by the time she gets to her stunning final song (which actually sounds kind of like Enya*), “I Live Now as a Singer,” she accepts her current situation and revels in the home that music can provide.

*This is a complement.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 9.42.57 PMVince Staples
Big Fish Theory
Def Jam
Still only a few years into his career, the Long Beach native is building one of the most versatile catalogs in hip-hop. His debut, Hell Can Wait, was a sharp, tight collection of updated G-funk, while his breakthrough Summertime ’06 was a sprawling double LP that often featured skeletal, claustrophobic beats.

For his third album, Staples zagged again, drawing inspiration from sweaty UK club nights. Leadoff track, “Crabs in a Bucket,” features house vocals, rave keys, and a two-step backbeat. “Alyssa Interlude” is a down-tempo number that almost sounds like Burial and Jamie Woon, while “BagBak” features a bassline that you’d expect to hear on a techno white label, rather than a rap record. The new sounds are well balanced by the classic West Coast swing of tracks like “Big Fish” and the magical, twinkling keys of “745.” As always, the disc is knitted together by Staples’ multifaceted flow, penetrating storytelling, and sharp social commentary, which allows him to explore new spaces without losing his roots.

Stream it on Spotify.

i-want-to-make-music-that-means-something-that-lifts-the-spirit-j-hus-talks-us-through-his-debut-common-sense-1493747911J Hus
Common Sense
Black Butter
It only took a few spins of the Londoner’s 2015 debut mixtape, The 15th Day, to realize that the kid was going to be special. Blessed with a crazy ear for melody and a razor sharp tongue, the disc featured a delicious blend of afrobeat, grime, American street rap, and just a teeny bit of pop to create a unique sound that was catchy enough for the club and mean enough for the road.

On Common Sense, Hus basically amped up of the elements that made its predecessor so great. The hooks are catchier (“Did You See,” “Good Time”), the bars cut deeper (“Who You Are,” “Claritin”), and Hus’ is better able to communicate his unique perspective — all the joy, sorrow, humor, and love — on his life in London.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 9.57.02 PMSevdaliza
Ison
Twisted Elegance

It may be because I live with an Iranian woman (hi boo!), but I have long been fascinated by the Tehran-born, Dutch-bred artist’s shapeshifting sound and unique point of view. On her early EPs, The Suspended Kid and Children of Silk, she beautifully touched on her complex identity and the duality of having roots in a country with traditional value systems but feeling at home in a modern, progressive world.

Ison goes far, far deeper, and across its 16 songs, Sevdaliza (né: Sevda Alizadeh) crafts heartfelt tracks that touch on a variety of relatable topics in fresh, affecting ways. Even though she doesn’t really sound like any of them, her work belongs alongside iconoclasts like Bjork, FKA Twigs, Beth Gibbons, and Kelela. Just a huge talent.

Stream it on Spotify.

1161195Arca
Arca
XL
It only takes about 45 seconds of listening to realize that this isn’t your typical Arca album. For his third LP, Alejandro “Arca” Ghersi stepped far outside the confines of the experimental electro/IDM sound that he was known for, dug deep into his soul, and stepped to the mic for the first time. His haunting, dramatic vocal is the star of the show here — quivering, stretching, and aching over skeletal, orchestral soundscapes.

Standout tracks like “Anoche,” “Piel,” and “Sin Rumbo” are insane mixtures of ranchera music, gospel hymns, and operatic arias. These stunning ballads are balanced by his signature, swirling instrumentals (“Casteration,” “Urchin”), which give the disc an even more cinematic feel. Listeners who speak Spanish will be even more rewarded by the richness and depth of the lyrics, which match the beauty and heft of the voice that delivers them.

Stream it on Spotify.

TIER 3: THE FRINGE CONTENDERS

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 9.52.28 PMKendrick Lamar
DAMN.
Aftermath
Though not as sprawling or grandiose as the seminal, To Pimp a Butterfly, DAMN. is another impressive, substantive statement from an artist who is used to making the extraordinary seem ordinary. At a tight 14 songs, DAMN. is meant to be lapped up in one go, but I keep finding myself on its impeccable b-side. It’s a near-perfect run, from the superlative duet with Rihanna (“Loyalty.”) to its dizzying closer “Duckworth,” which features a twist ending that would make Vince Gilligan drool with jealousy. It’s the rare album that will consistently reveal new elements of itself, months after first listen.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.24.54 PMMoStack
High Street Kid
MizerMillion
Every time I start to believe that UK rappers are starting to get the respect they deserve over here, something like High Street Kid happens. The Londoner has a fresh sound, a legitimate hit single in the UK, and the strongest debut album of the year, but can’t even get an American publication to review it. Frustrating as it is, it hasn’t slowed the young MC down at all, riding high on this excellent LP’s wave.

The disc is an airtight collection of breezy, melodic songs that are influenced by the music of Africa, the Caribbean, and the multi-cultural metropolis that he calls home. He’s the newest member of the incredible run of second-generation Londoners with African roots and the ears of the city on lock. If you’ve read this site before, names like MoStack, J Hus, Abra Cadabra, and Kojo Funds aren’t new to you. And if there’s any fairness in the world, they won’t be new to the rest for that much longer.

Stream it on Spotify.

Mount EerieScreen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.01.13 PM
A Crow Looked at Me
P.W. Elverum & Sun
“Death is real. Someone’s there and then they’re not. It’s not for singin’ about. It’s not for making into art” sings Phil Elverum in the first seconds of his ode to his late wife Geneviève. It’s a sobering statement that reminds us just how little the things we value (music, music websites, lists on music website, etc) matter in the face of cold, unforgiving fate.

That synopsis drives the disc’s unflinching nature. Directness takes precedence over prose and clarity over melody. Sure, it’s incredibly artful at times, but communication is the real goal here. Phil’s reminding us to value the shit out of the ones we love while we have them, because once we don’t, it becomes hard to value much of anything.

Stream it now on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.26.35 PMBedouine
Bedouine
Spacebomb
Azniv Korkejian’s low-key, gorgeous folk debut is one of the real hidden gems of the year. Her voice may be quiet, but the statement is anything but. Though her voice has some Joni to it, her music and aesthetic really harkens back to the British pastoral folk of people like Nick Drake and Tim Buckley. The record also has a real rambling, road feel to it, which is driven by her restless lyrics and rolling, dusty arrangements. It’s the kind of album that may not bowl you over at first but will grow on you with every single listen.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.06.30 PMFuture
HNDRXX / FUTURE
Freebandz
I don’t know how it happened so quickly, but all of a sudden early last year, it started to feel like Future really needed a hit record. As preposterous as it was considering he’d just ripped off a legendary streak of mixtapes and dropped two solid LPs in 2016, there was a vibe that his blazing streak might be starting to simmer a little.

Just like he did after Honest got a lukewarm response, the 33 year-old came out swinging, dropping back to back monster projects that let us know he wasn’t planning on going anywhere. Instead of taking them individually, I’ve tended to mash them together, making one fantastic collection that features him at its most melodic (“Incredible,” “Fresh Air,” “Use Me”) and muscular (“Poppin’ Tags,” “Mask Off,” “POA”). Still one of the driving forces in modern music.

Stream HNDRXX and FUTURE on Spotify.

TIER 4: THE STRONG PLAYOFF TEAMS

fjmmainFather John Misty
Pure Comedy
Sub Pop
Way way way way too many words have been written about Father John Misty, his third album, and his marmite personality, so I’ll keep it brief. I initially struggled with the one-paced Pure Comedy, as it felt bloated and overwrought compared to its predecessor — the lovely wedding LP, I Love You Honeybear.

At first, I was stuck on the fact that were nowhere near enough ideas in here to satisfy its 74-minute runtime. But the more time I spent with it, the less I cared. Sure, it’s hard to tell which languid piano ballad is which (see: “Birdie,” “The Memo,” “Smoochie,” “So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain”). But my god, they are beautifully sung and well-written. And that’s got to count for something.

Stream it now on Spotify.

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.27.49 PMG Perico
All Blue
So Way Out
Though YG is still the king of LA rap, the South Central MC is easily the city’s biggest rising star. All Blue is the 28 year-old’s proper debut album, and it paints a vivid picture of Perico’s current life, which is buoyed by a promising, glamorous career but still fraught with peril. Behind every flex, there’s a warning. Before every party, there’s a precaution. And instead of focusing solely on what’s around him, he does a beautiful job on reporting on what’s going on inside — touching on the heavy emotional toll his surroundings have had on him. It’s all set to a glittering, bouncy West Coast soundtrack that keeps things ticking over and the wheels moving.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.30.22 PMMigos
Culture
Quality Control
Culture is one of those rare albums where commercial superstardom is driven by true, artistic originality. There are no imported pop stars, manufactured narratives (ahem, 4:44), or hired gun songwriters; there’s just three ridiculously creative and talented young artists, staying true to their sound and cooking up a sonic stew that only they can. It goes without saying, but the rapping on this thing is incredible. Each member has his own strengths and distinctive voices, but they are happy to interchange with each other, sacrificing their individual spotlight to bring the song to the next level. That interplay guarantees that no matter how much they are imitated (the most), the clones will always fall short.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.10.53 PMSZA
Ctrl
Top Dawg
The thing that sticks out most about the St. Louis vocalist’s proper debut is her bravery. Never one to sugarcoat her failings or insecurity, she goes deeper than many artists do, sharing her compelling story over a versatile smattering of neo soul arrangements. As the disc moves, it becomes clear that her strength comes from that vulnerability and the power that total honesty can deliver.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.18.14 PMRyuichi Sakamoto
async
KAB
Over the last few years, the legendary composer has enjoyed an incredible purple patch. The 65 year-old put out two incredible soundtracks last year (The Revenant and Nagasaki: Memories of My Son) and followed them up with his first solo effort since 2012. Unbound by the need to fit in with a film, Sakamoto is free to go where he pleases, and he pairs signature, contemplative numbers (“ubi,” “ZURE”) alongside peculiar, experimental tracks with unexpected instrumentation (“walker,” “async,” “tri”). The result is a fascinating, well-balanced LP that proves that even 40+ years into his career, Sakamoto is still breaking new ground.

Stream it on Spotify.

Chief-Keef-ig-firstChief Keef
Thot Breaker
Glo Gang
After teasing his “singing” record for more than two years, Keef finally dropped it early this summer. (You probably won’t) Believe me…. it was well worth the wait. The 21 year-old has long been underrated by the *listens to “Don’t Like” once* crowd, not getting the credit he deserves for being an innovator, explorer, and influencer (see: Soundcloud rap). On Thot Breaker, he is in full Jacques Cousteau mode, trying his hand at trop pop (“Can You Be My Friend”) and druggy R&B (“Drank Head”). He even tosses in a couple straightforward love ballads in for good measure. Like most of Keef’s recent projects, it’s a sensory feast and full of pure, unadulterated joy.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.22.48 PMJacques Greene
Feel Infinite
LuckyMe
Full-length dance LPs are notoriously tough to craft, and the Canadian waited more than 7 years to finally drop his own. Unlike many producers, Greene keeps guests to a minimum — the only vocal feature is from long-time collaborator How to Dress Well — but that doesn’t mean the project lacks a voice. Green is a master at pulling maximum emotion out of vocal samples, whether he’s flipping a singer from the past (the legendary Mary Wells) or present (Tinashé). The result is a rare, R&B-influenced dance record that is cohesive but not repetitive.

Stream it on Spotify.

Others Receiving Votes: Lil Yachty: Teenage Emotions //Kollaps: Duprass // JLin: Black Origami // Sampha: Process // Nightlands: I Can Feel The Night Around Me // Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now // Ryan Adams: Prisoner // The XX: I See You // Young Thug: Beautiful Thugger Girls // Jean-Michel Blais x CFCF: Cascades

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of May 2017

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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

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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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