Sade, "The Big Unknown"


Sade "The Big Unknown" Windows Soundtrack (out now on Sony) Though she's only a few months shy of her 60th birthday, Helen Folasade Adu remains a force like nobody else. On the stunning "The Big Unknown," Sade proves that her quiet storm is still a Category 5, as she glides effortlessly over oceanic, Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


Miya Folick "Thingamajig" Premonitions (out 10.26 on Terrible) With each new single, the talented LA vocalist is strengthening the case that her forthcoming LP could be one of the best debuts of the year. Her flexible vocals always stretch further than you expect, and she uses her seemingly unlimited range to exact maximum Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


Welp, this is embarrassing. The week I roll out a new round-up column, I respond by posting exactly zero times. My editorial staff (of one) was pretty slammed this week, but that's no excuse. Hopefully this piece can make up for it, dear readers. I'll do better this week, because, Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


I was on vacay in England last week, and as I sat back down at my desk this morning, I realized that a massive amount of new music came out while I was gone. I'm going to try something new with quick one to two sentence recaps of some Read more

Lil Uzi Vert, "New Patek"


Lil Uzi Vert "New Patek" Digital Single Easily one of most joyful songs of the year, the hyperactive, hypertalented Philadelphian returns with six (6!) electric minutes of swirling, tuneful hip-hop. Over Dolan Beats' glorious crystallized piano keys and tiptoeing hi-hats, Uzi goes the fuck in as only he can, slaloming through the beat Read more

Hot Jam of the Day

Wet, “There’s A Reason”

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Wet
“There’s a Reason”
Digital Single

I’ve gone back and forth about the subtle stylistic shift that the Brooklyn group has made on their first single as a duo. After enjoying widespread acclaim early in their career, their debut LP was met with tepid reviews, which mostly complained about their dogged commitment to their stripped-down, simplistic mope-pop. As someone who fell in love with their original sound, the critics didn’t move me, because I hadn’t come to them for lush, complex arrangements in the first place.

“There’s a Reason” feels like a bit of a response to those dissenting voices. It features one of their peppiest, fullest choruses with swelling strings and and busy drumming. Of course, we’ve heard similar elements in the climaxes of tracks like “Weak” and “Move Me,” and we don’t know how this song fits into the context of the LP. That said, my favorite parts of this song are its sparsest, most Wet-ish bits; the verses and bridge give vocalist Kelly Zutrau plenty of sonic space to emotionally connect with the listener.

I like it, but I’m not sure I’d like a whole album that sounds like this. And though every group must evolve, I hope they don’t lose the parts that made them so special to being with.

Grouper, “Parking Lot”

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Grouper
“Parking Lot”
Grid of Points (out 04.27 on Kranky)
Every time Liz Harris drops a new track, it’s up to us to savor it and appreciate it for the little miracle that it is. It may sound like hyperbole, but everything she’s put our since her wonderfully shut-in 2007 LP Cover the Windows and the Walls, has been teeming with delicate, ghostly beauty. Best of all, her songs grow and develop like living organisms, subtly revealing new layers of their beauty with each successive listen.

For all those reasons, there was much rejoicing at Thunder Penguin HQ* (aka, my desk) when Harris announced her follow-up to the incredible “Ruins” — my third favorite LP of 2014. Lead track “Parking Lights” contains the same bewitching intimacy that’s in much of her best work. Built around a forlorn piano melody, the Oregonian brings her haunting vocals up way up in the mix. And though it’s difficult to make out her words, the tone of her voice says more than enough.

The countdown to April 27th starts today.

Christina Vantzou: “Some Limited and Waning Memory”

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Christina Vantzou
“Some Limited and Waning Memory”
no.4 (out 04.06 on Kranky)
The lead track from the Kansas City-born, Brussels-based composer’s fourth LP is a ghostly, gorgeous piece that balances haunting strings with a delicate, meandering piano line. Film and photography has always been at the heart of her work, and this track is sure to evoke strong visuals and distant memories of days long gone.

Swae Lee, “Hurt To Look” (f/ Rae Sremmurd)

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Swae Lee
“Hurt To Look”

Swaecation (out soon on Ear Drummers)
Sremm Season is rapidly approaching, and on Wednesday, the venerable Mississippi brothers treated us to the first three tasters from their upcoming triple disc. Each of the three deserve some shine. “Powerglide” is the kind of airy, hyperactive banger that they built their name on, and Slim Jxmmi absolutely snaps on his electric debut solo single, “Brxnks Truck.”

But, as an eternal sucker for smooth R&B, Swae Lee’s solo single was the one that really stood out to me. Lee doesn’t sing, he glides. His vocals are effortless, and they just cruise over any arrangement he encounters, especially mid-tempo, luxurious Mike Will beats like this one. On “Hurt To Look,” he plays the role of a jilted lover, looking sadly over at what could have been. It’s a role he was born to play, and I cannot wait to hear what he does with an entire album of his own.

Kacey Musgraves, “Space Cowboy”

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Kacey Musgraves
“Space Cowboy”
Golden Hour (out 03.30 on UMG)
Very few country artists can crush my heart like the 29 year-old Texan. Whether it’s the swooning, wedding-worthy, “Late To The Party” (one of my Top 5 Songs of 2015) or the heartfelt, sad-sack tale about small-town life “Merry Go ‘Round,” Musgraves has that rare ability to capture the beauty or pain of a moment and distill it into four empathic, gorgeous minutes.

Now we can add “Space Cowboy” — the first single from her third proper LP — to that list. A touching ode to the moment you realize that no matter what you do, the person you love will never truly commit to you. It hurts like hell, but there’s also a freedom that goes with it — a realization that it’s finally okay to let go and find someone who will appreciate you. A little part of you is relieved. And Musgraves captures both of those emotions masterfully here. One of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Bad Gyal, “Internationally”

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Bad Gyal
“Internationally”
Worldwide Angel (out now on Puro)

Though I haven’t yet written about it, the Catalan reggaeton alchemist’s new record has been in heavy rotation in 2018. A lean, 8-song collection, “Worldwide Angel” sees Alba “Bad Gyal” Farelo working on a grander scale than she ever has before. Of course, I’m not saying it’s better than her breakthrough “Slow Wine” tape, only time will tell. But she’s unarguably shooting for the fences more than ever before.

The disc’s towering leadoff track is a perfect example of that. Boasting production from two of the hottest around, Jam City and Dubbel Dutch, “Internationally” is Farelo at her most potent, switching between languages and deftly slithering through the beat. Though the it’s a bigger statement, much of the immediacy and intimacy of her work remains. Or in other words, there’s more people at the club, but it still feels like she’s only singing to you.

Frank Ocean, “Moon River”

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Frank Ocean
“Moon River”

Digital Single
Every time Frank Ocean puts out a new song, it feels like an event, no matter what it is. Case in point: this loose, simple cover of a song from the original Breakfast at Tiffany’s Soundtrack basically shut down the Internet when it dropped on Valentine’s Day. Reminiscent of his cover of the Isley Brothers-penned Aaliyah classic “At Your Best (You Are Love),” it’s a pretty faithful rendition that mostly works because of that rare, beguiling quality of his once-in-a-lifetime voice.

Julianna Barwick, “Garland”

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Julianna Barwick
“Garland”

Digital Single
When Julianna Barwick sings, I listen. On “Garland,” she pairs her celestial, angelic voice with a slow-burning pulse that deftly rises to a stunning climax. Though there’s no official word, hopefully this track will foreshadow a full-length follow up to her wonderful third LP, “Will.”

Soccer Mommy, “Still Clean”

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Soccer Mommy
“Still Clean”

Clean (out 03/02 on Fat Possum)
I was a little late in discovering Sophie Allison’s bedroom guitar-pop, but this forlorn heartbreaker hooked its fangs into me real quick. “Still Clean” is a downcast track about the way young love makes you learn that what’s real to you isn’t always real to someone else. Over a delicate, but busy guitar-line, Allison realizes she’d mistaken love for lust and that it’s time to move on. No matter how universal that feeling is, it’s such a difficult pill to swallow.

Warren Wolfe, “Careful U”

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Warren Wolfe
“Careful U”
Digital Single
Released as an unfinished demo on SoundCloud, “Careful U” is my favorite thing the rising Brooklyn singer-songwriter has put out yet. Though he’s best known for his gorgeous, aching falsetto, he dials back the vocals here, using his angelic voice as hypnotic window dressing rather than the main focus. The result is a swirling slice of dark-wave that wouldn’t sound out of place on a packed dance-floor. Whether it’s a one-off or a sign of a stylistic pivot to come, it’s an encouraging sign that Wolfe won’t be tied down to one particular sound.