The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019 (1st Quarter)


Even though we're a solid week into the second quarter, better late than never right? Here's a quick round-up of some of my favorite songs of the last three months. To keep numbers manageable, I didn't include anything from any of my favorite albums list and prioritized songs I Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of 2019 (First Quarter)


Gah, I can't believe we're already 25% through 2019. That said, Spring is in the air, and we've enjoyed an excellent, diverse crop of music during these first three months. Have a look at some of my favorite LPs of the year so far in no particular order. Dawn Richard
 “New Read more

Chief Keef, "Ain't Gonna Happen"


Chief Keef "Ain't Gonna Happen" GloToven (Glo Gang / RBC) The Chicago stalwart's new project with the legendary Zaytoven is unsurprisingly full of weird and wacky sounds, moving in innumerable unexpected and exciting ways. Its most powerful moment is its starkest, as a heartbroken Keef floats freely over Zay's gorgeous piano. "Face dried Read more

Tierra Whack, "Only Child"


Tierra Whack "Only Child" Digital Single Tierra Whack's 2018 debut "Whack World" was one of the most promising debut albums I've heard in a very long time. However, I found it super hard to write about (and ultimately, fall in love with), because of her decision to chop all the tracks off Read more

CFCF, "Closed Space"


CFCF "Closed Space" Liquid Colours (out 03.01) Though I haven't listened to it as much as his ree-fucking-dick-u-lus J.Lo remix (aka: the best song of 2019 so far), the first single from Montreal mainstay Michael Silver's new album is an instant keeper. It kicks off with luxurious beds of neo-geo synths that Read more

Hot Jam of the Day

Westerman: “I Turned Away”

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Westerman
“I Turned Away”
Confirmation Single (out now on Blue Flowers)
I’ve been curious about the young London songwriter (and Tottenham fan) for most of this year, but his low-key, experimental pop hadn’t quite grabbed me fully until I heard this beautiful, wistful track. Though it’s drawn Arthur Russell comparisons, it oddly reminds me of some of Springsteen’s quieter moments on “Nebraska” and “Tunnel of Love.” Maybe it’s the consistent backbeat or the way the reverb-soaked guitar resonates, but “I Turned Away” has the same haunting quality of those records.

Mr. Mitch, “Creep (Take You Home)”

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Mr. Mitch
“Creep (Take You Home)”
Digital Single
The London producer digs into the smarminess of many men’s attitude toward approaching women on this low-key track. Like much of Mitch’s best work, “Creep” builds slowly and carefully around a repetitive, hypnotic sample. In this case, however, the refrain is grating, unsettling, and mildly threatening, aiming to recreate the feeling that many women deal with every single day.

Tracey Thorn, “Air”

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Tracey Thorn
“Air” (f/ Shura)
Record (out now on Unmade Road Ltd)
At 55 years old, the former Everything But The Girl frontwoman could have easily rested on her laurels and impressive back catalog. However, the Hertfordshire native sounds rejuvenated on her excellent fifth solo LP, especially on this sashaying disco stunner.  Alongside rising pop vocalist Shura, Thorn sings beautifully about feeling overlooked in her youth and searching for warmth in a cold world.

Now, Now: “AZ”

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Now, Now
“AZ”

Saved (out 05.18 on Trans- Records)
It’s taken me nearly a month to make my mind about the buzzing Minneapolis duo’s new single. At first, I struggled with the “klopp” snare drum sound and the track’s pace, which felt a bit plodding compared to their lithe, aerodynamic best stuff. However, the more I listened to it, the more “AZ” grew on me. I’m realizing that the slow pace makes the two synth-fueled climaxes feel even bigger, especially when the pitch-shifted vocals come in at the end, which has become one of my favorite moments in music in 2018.

Though following music on the Internet is great in a lot of ways, I do think I often give tracks less time than I should. And “AZ” is a great example of that. Sorry Now, Now; I’ll never doubt you again.

Sam Buck, “Redo”

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Sam Buck
“Redo”
Borderline (out 05.04 on JMC Aggregate)
Though he isn’t the first openly gay country artist, Sam Buck’s music naturally challenges all sorts of stereotypes. His lovely new single, “Redo,” is about Buck wasting his time dating frustrating men who won’t leave their wives and fully commit to him. Though the lyrics may make some country fans uncomfortable and hit very close to home for others, the story is relatable to anybody who’s ever been a side piece (let’s be real, we’ve all been there). Plus, it’s delivered in an exquisite, sharp musical package (the drums are subtly impressive) that should appeal to any fan of the genre. This guy has a ton of potential.

Lolina, “The River”

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Lolina
“The River”

The Smoke (out now, self-released)
The ever-chameleonic Inga Copeland is back with a bizarre, but beautiful new album.  On ” The River,” the former Hype Williams vocalist refuses to be boxed, deadpanning through disorienting keyboards and pounding, tribal drums. Like any Copeland project, it’s going to take some time to decipher what the fuck is going on. But once you do, you’ll rarely be let down.

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.