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

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

Posted on by TP1.COM in Columns, Featured | Comments Off on 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 haven’t yet written about. For all of our sakes, I tried (and mostly failed) to keep write-ups Tweet length. Songs are in no particular order.

Duggie x Odunsi (The Engine)
“Nightshift” (f/ Omagz)

Sojourn (out now on Blac-Apollo)
I’ll start the list by breaking my own rule. Though I wrote about the criminally under-reported Nigerian producer’s masterful debut EP on my Albums List, I couldn’t make this list without mentioning my possible song of the year so far. “Nightshift” is a beautiful marriage of styles that injects an Afrobeats heart into a smooth late-night R&B body, resulting in a borderless sound that mirrors our increasingly borderless musical world. Odunsi (The Engine) is quickly becoming one of the key figures of Nigeria’s ultra-exciting, new alté generation, and his versatile, playful delivery beautifully matches Duggie’s busy percussion and aqueous synths. Omagz rounds things off with a sublime, laid-back verse that sums up the track’s effortless magic.

Orville Peck
“Turn To Hate”
Pony (out now Sub Pop)
Blessed with a booming baritone and a razor-sharp pen, the masked man from Nevada dropped one of the most interesting debut records of the year. “Turn to Hate” is a rich, evocative country rocker that perfectly sums up Peck’s nontraditional, yet traditional country sound. You can hear classic crooners like Roy Orbison and Chris Isaak in his voice, but there’s a palpable modern edge to his music, which defies characterization and stands out from the rest of the scene.

Azjah
“Spotlight”
Digital Single
The talent coming out of LA is insane right now, but the Princess of Compton is as exciting as anybody. Besides being a whole slap, “Spotlight” highlights Azjah’s impressive ability to switch up her flow on a dime, weaving between playful, melodic singing and stinging barbs with ease. “Spotlight” is the kind of track that sticks in your head the moment you hear it and is a press push away from being a smash.

Rabit
“Kno U See It”

THE DOPE SHOW (self-released)
I probably should have included the Houstonian’s syrup-soaked screw tape in my best albums list, but this Young Joc flipping, molasses-thicc creeper more than stands on its own. Though OG Ron C was always quick to remind you that his music was “chopped up, not slopped up,” Rabit leaves all the slop in, layering dense waves of sound alongside the pitched-down, infernal vocals. What a glorious mess.

Triad God

“Gway Lo”

Triad (out now on Presto!?)


“Know what the fuck I’m saying?” mutters the Vietnamese-born, South London-based Vinh Ngan on this dreamlike track. And even though his words are hard to make out (and sometimes in Vietnamese), if you listen closely, you’ll start to get it. Triad God keeps his voice down low, repeating a few mantras over and over, on top of a gorgeous vocal sample and angelic strings from producer Palmistry. The effect is hypnotic and affecting, and if you listen closely, you’ll realize what the fuck he’s saying much quicker than you think.

La Dispute
“Fulton Street I”
Panaroma (out now on Epitaph)
Though I wasn’t familiar with the Grands Rapid emo vets, this frenetic, wild-eyed freak-out reached out and grabbed me. This track gives off serious At the Drive In and mewithoutyou vibes, and vocalist Jordan Dreyer’s wild-eyes vocals and frantic questioning are as cathartic as anything either band ever delivered.

Dan Bodan
“I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes…)”
Digital Single
Though the Berlin resident has mostly kept a low profile since his wonderful 2014 DFA debut LP, “Soft,” he popped his head up on this magical piano ballad that recalls the timeless sound of Cole Porter. Blessed with one of the sweetest voices around, he’s also an affecting, impactful songwriter, who will hopefully be hearing more from this year.

The BoyBoy West Coast
“Bottoms Up”

TikTok Snippet
Though we’re still waiting for the full version, I have a feeling that it won’t be able to match the bonkers magnetism of the “Bottoms Up” original viral snippets. Everything about the clips is striking and unique — from the low-rent, iPhone auto-tune to the eyebrow/goatee combo to the cheeseball mannerisms. It’s abundantly clear that BoyBoy is cut from a different cloth… and that cloth is fire a velour hoodie.

Sam Binga x Paul Wall
“AllCap”
Digital Single
A Houston vet and a UK bass-music futurist might seem like an odd couple, but they combine deliciously on this slithering single. Binga’s delicious, cinematic keyboard filigree and bouncy bass is the perfect tonic for Wall’s relentlessly quotable bars (“Pockets fatter than a pregnant giraffe”) and evergreen charisma.

Laura Stevenson
“Living Room, NY”
The Big Freeze (out now on Don Giovanni)
On one of the high-points of the Hudson Valley singer-songwriter’s undeniable fifth album, Stevenson injects a little extra urgency into her modern folk stylings. The result is a simple, yet spellbinding tune about yearning to be with someone (or somewhere) and the way those urges can dominate every inch of your thoughts.

Lucinda Chua
“Feel Something”
Antidotes 1 (out now, self-released)
The London composer’s debut single, “Somebody Who,” was one of my favorite tracks of 2018. And this year, Chua gave it a worthy project to belong to. The EP’s first track injects a little bit of quiet storm into her sound and pushes her mega-soothing voice a little higher into the mix. The results are subtly stunning.

Hayden Thorpe
“Diviner”
Diviner (out 05.24 on Domino)

Though Wild Beasts are rarely mentioned among the best bands of their generation, the Lake District quartet was always one of my favorites. And though I was disappointed that they broke up last year, I’m optimistic about vocalist Hayden Thorpe’s forthcoming solo work. First single, “Diviner,” pairs his odd, quivering falsetto with sparse, twinkle-toed pianos to delicious effect.

Townes Van Zandt
“Sky Blue”
Sky Blue (out now on Fat Possum)

Posthumous releases are always dicey, even when it comes to legends like TVZ. “Sky Blue” is a bit of a grab-bag — mostly covers and live versions of well-known tracks — but its title track is a rare gem. One of the disc’s two previously unheard originals, the Texan sounds utterly miserable here, just a lonely picker, struggling to find meaning in it all.  It’s that certain kind of melancholy that he made his name on and is tailor-made for his worn, but warm voice.

Carly Rae Jepsen
“No Drug Like Me”
Dedicated (out 05.17 on Interscope)
Carly Rae is the queen of the pre-chorus. Nobody in modern pop does a “big build to a chorus” better than 33 year-old, and “No Drug Like Me” is one of her absolute best. The way she slightly hangs on “starry-eyed” and “open wide” ratchets up the tension beautifully before the chorus hits and lets the song breathe again. It’s a clever trick that ensures that each of her hooks feel like big releases, and she’s an absolute master at it.


Dave
“Streatham”
PSYCHODRAMA (out now on Neighbourhood)
To be honest, I just haven’t quite gotten to the South Londoner’s debut LP yet, but fuck, “Streatham” is hard. Over crawling piano melody, the 20 year-old weaves a pair of vivid, characteristically sharp verses about the neighborhood that made him who he is. Dave’s got this unique ability to drop heavy bars without weighing down the tracks, allowing him to hit on serious topics without coming off preachy. A huge talent.

Colin Self
“Survival”
Siblings (out now on RVNG Intl.)

Though the record came out on the back-end of last year, I had to mention this swirling, swelling single from the Berlin-based multi-disciplinary artist. The disc deals with searching for a home for yourself in an often unfriendly world, and “Survival” is its soaring centerpiece. Self delivers one of the most unforgettable vocal performances of the year, as a bed of strings and monstrous drums rise around them.

MURLO
“Outer Body”
Dolos (out now on Coil)
The Manchester producer’s long-awaited debut LP is a labyrinthine jungle of sound built around Blade Runner synths and skittering futuristic grime percussion. Early standout, “Outer Body,” undulates and wobbles like an open ocean without doing too much and getting the listener seasick.

Weyes Blood
“A Lot’s Gonna Change”
Titanic Rising (out now on Sub Pop)

Though I haven’t gotten to it yet, I will write more about the Natalie Mering’s bewitching fourth album soon. For those who haven’t dug in, its first song is a perfect place to start. The LA singer lays her powerful voice on top of an impossibly lush bed of strings and piano, singing to her younger self about the rocky road that lies in front of her. She doles out the kind of advice we could all have used in our younger years but never would have actually listened to.

NoCap
“Ghetto Angels”
Digital Single
A modern hymn for anybody who has ever had to bury a close friend, the rising Alabama artist absolutely pours his heart out over spare 808s and Sunday Mass pianos. The verses are dripping with all the feelings that accompany a tragic loss: the initial shock, the hollow feeling that follows, and finally, the steely determination you’re left with to live for your friend and honor their memory. The feelings are heavy, but the music is light — ascendant even — and it drags NoCap’s lonely, weary vocals to the finish line, until they’re finally raised high by the rest of his friends who join him on the last chorus. Hard to find a better song than this one this year.

Russ Splash
“Gun Lean

Digital Single
No song called “Gun Lean” should be this innocent and carefree, but the UK driller’s breakthrough single is as buoyant as anything I’ve heard this year. A massive viral dance craze in his native England, the Gun Lean has been lighting up everything from TikTok to Premier League pitches and shows no signs of slowing down.

03 Greedo
“Traphouse” (f/ Shoreline Mafia)

Digital Single
Though he sits incarcerated in Texas for a non-violent crime, 03 Greedo’s presence still looms large. The LA native’s whiny refrain (“no sheets on top of my behhdddd”) drives this weightless West Coast banger and outshines solid verses from members of the city’s most popping group, Shoreline Mafia. It’s a testament to how much Greedo can do with a single line and a sad reminder that he was cruelly denied the moment that his elite talent deserved. Free Greedo.

Steel Banglez
“Fashion Week” (f/ AJ Tracey & MoStack)

Digital Single
Quickly becoming one of the most consistent hitmakers in the UK, the East London producer seems primed for a stateside takeover. On “Fashion Week,” Banglez enlists a few of the usual suspects on one of smoothest songs of the year. Over steel drums and syncopated drum patters, AJT and MoStack go verse for verse, dripping with dangerous levels of charisma and confidence.

Lil Uzi Vert
“Free Uzi”

Digital Single
The Philadelphia rapper is quickly developing into the rarest kind of superstar: the one with enough resources to do exactly what they want and the guts to do it. A few months after announcing his retirement (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), Uzi dropped this ultra-dynamic, frenetic new single out of the sky and shut the internet down. Very few people have this much power and even fewer choose to wield it in such an exciting way.

The Japanese House
“We Talk All The Time”

Good At Falling (out now on Dirty Hit)
I never would have guessed that Imogen Heap would become one of the dominant influences in indie-pop, but here we are, and I’m not mad about it. Nobody does Garden State-core better than the Japanese House (né Amber Bain), and “We Talk All The Time” is probably my favorite song she’s ever written. An affecting elegy on the last days of a relationship, Bain beautifully chronicles the gradual, painful way that two lovers can pull apart at the seems — with physical intimacy often being the first casualty.

Laura Stevenson, “Value Inn”

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Laura Stevenson
“Value Inn”

The Big Freeze (out 03.29 on Don Giovanni)
Though the Long Island singer-songwriter has been at it for nearly 10 years, “Value Inn” is my first taste of the Laura Stevenson experience, and goddamn, it is a delicious one. “Value Inn” is a stark, brooding piece of electric folk that pairs her bewitching voice with reverb-soaked guitars that start as a drizzle before building into a dense storm. Recorded in her childhood bedroom, the track crackles with dark clouds of dread that are only parted by her piercing vocals. One to watch.

My Favorite Songs of 2018

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70. Ross From Friends
“There’s a Hole in My Heart”
Aphelion (Brainfeeder)
Don’t let the jokey name fool you, the London deep house producer is cranking out some of the most emotional dance music around. This expansive, meditative cut is maximum tears on the dancefloor, pairing a heartbroken vocal sample with expansive synths and subtle, inch-perfect percussion. I still haven’t seen an episode of “Friends,” but maybe this’ll make me give it a shot.

69. Christina Vantzou x Echo Collective
“Some Limited and Waning Memory”
No. 4 (Kranky)

The KC composer’s is fast becoming one of the most consistent, driving forces in ambient music. And to my ears, her fourth LP is her strongest yet. This cut is absolutely haunting, as it bleeds from lush strings to choral voices to naked piano without the slightest hitch. Some of the piano passages are Sakamoto-esque and among the most aesthetically beautiful moments of instrumental music recorded this year.

68. Nicholas Krgovich
“October”
Ouch” (Tin Angel)
If you can’t relate to Nicholas Krgovich’s placid jog through Portland, I can’t relate to you. A beautifully, simple song about trying to move on from a long relationship, “October” captures those confusing early post-breakup months where your feelings seem to shift with the breeze. He veers from the rush of meeting someone new into waves of bitterness about his ex into missing him into enjoying his freedom. Through it all, Krgovich’s ultra-lithe beam* of a voice keeps it all together, and the way it slices through the autumn chill and all the insecurity reminds us it’ll all be ok.

sorry*


67. Lil Uzi Vert
“New Patek”
Digital Single
I can’t imagine what buying a 2.5 million dollar watch would feel like, but the Philly megastar sounds pretty fucking stoked about it. In fact, he seems so overcome with post-Patek purchase ecstasy that if Dolan Beats wouldn’t have cut the beat at the 6-minute mark, Uzi probably would have just kept rapping forever. Woulda worked for me.

66. Yves Tumor
“Honesty”
Safe in the Hands of Love (Warp)
It feels criminal to put a track from the Turin artist’s incredible, shapeshifting 3rd LP this low on the list, but the project is just so cohesive, it’s hard to pull out any one song from it. Among the fascinating cacophony of sounds that range from ambient noise to club to alt-rock, I settled on the late-night groove of “Honesty.” The way Tumor balances the sticky, sung melodies (which kinda remind me of Marilyn Manson, somehow) with legit bass music is so effective, as is the way he wields the undulating beat to maximum effect.

65. Peggy Gou
“It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)”
Once EP (Ninja Tune)
No DJ made the leap in 2018 quite like the Incheon, South Korea native, graduating from promising talent to legit star. The 28 year-old headlined festivals all over the world and dropped the best music of her young career. This electro disco banger was the pick of the bunch, pairing her sing-song voice with a nasty baseline, well-placed vibraphones, and an extra helping of 90’s house grooves.

64. Foxing
“Nearer My God”
Nearer My God (Triple Crown)
The St. Louis indie rock crew’s third album is the sound of a band saying “fuck it, I’m going for it.” And nothing sums up that approach better than its title track: a cavernous emo ballad that sees Conor Murphy pleading with us to just fucking love him. It is direct, unabashed, and features one of the absolute monster crescendos of the year, which will leave you wondering if anybody out there wants you at all.

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Best of 17: My Favorite Albums of 2017

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kendrick-lamar-variety-hitmakers31. Kendrick Lamar
DAMN.
Aftermath/Interscope
After pouring so much — sonically and emotionally — into his masterful, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” it’s understandable that Kendrick followed it up with the most stripped-down record of his career. Though nowhere near as essential as TPAB (or even “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”), there’s a ton to like on the back half of this disc, from ridiculous feats of storytelling (“FEAR.” “DUCKWORTH.”) to a pair of tender, insightful love songs (“LOVE.” “LOYALTY.”).

Start With: “LOYALTY.” (f/ Rihanna) / “LOVE.” (f/ Zacari)

30. Ryan Adams
Prisoner
PAX-AM
It was a weird year to be a Ryan Adams fan. After nearly a decade of critical apathy, his Mandy Moore break-up LP suddenly started garnering legitimate buzz, like it was 2005 again. The truth is, the biggest difference between the Springsteen-obsessed disc and the rest of his secretly solid recent work is the easily digestible narrative. “Prisoner” isn’t a game-changer, but it is a well-made collection of mid-tempo, heartfelt rock songs by one of the best craftsmen working in the genre today.

Start With: “Shiver and Shake” / “We Disappear”

29. Sorority Noise
You’re Not As _____ As You Think
Triple Crown
The Connecticut emo/alt-rock quartet’s third album is a really impressive record that’s also reeeealllly tough to listen to. Death, fear, lost faith, and despair are around every corner here, bravely and insightfully chronicled by 24 year-old singer/songwriter Cameron Boucher. Though it is certainly uncomfortable at times, it’s one of those rare records that has become a very important album to a great deal of young people, and much of that is owed to Boucher’s gutsy decision to open up and let the world in.

Start With: “Second Letter From St. Julien” /  “No Halo”
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The Round-Up: The Best Albums of October 2017

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

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Instead of just rolling through the best of June, let’s round up the finest music of the second quarter of 2016. Coming off last week’s Best Tracks list, here are my favorite albums of the year.

Beyoncé
Lemonade
Parkwood / Columbia
The album that stopped the world on its axis (and made me and my girlfriend 40 minutes late to a dinner), Beyoncé’s incredible, genre-spanning sixth effort needs no endorsement from me. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best albums of the year, but you probably knew that. As I’m sure I’ll be writing about it in December, I’ll spare you for now. All hail.
Hottest Jams: “Love Drought” “Pray You Catch Me”

The Hotelier
Goodness
Tiny Engines
Another album that I’m sure to be writing about in December, the Worcester, MA quartet’s follow-up to 2014 masterpiece Home, Like Noplace Is There, isn’t as bleak as its predecessor but packs just as much catharsis. The “emo” label never really fit right and isn’t even close now, as the group has established themselves as much more than a nostalgia act. Goodness is a dense, varied collection that is equal parts grit and grace, meshing melodic riffs with crashing drums and Christian Holden’s distressed tenor to absolute perfection. Easily, one of the best indie rock albums of the last few years.
Hottest Jams: “Soft Animal” “Opening Mail For My Grandmother”

Anderson .Paak
Malibu
Steel Wool
For all the rave reviews, big tours, and TV appearances, I still somehow feel like the Oxnard native’s beautiful second LP hasn’t gotten its due. In short, this thing should make Paak one of the biggest artists in the country. Over 60 engaging minutes, he proves that he can do just about everything well. He sings with the easy confidence of a seasoned soul singer. He raps with depth, cadence, and touch. He plays jazzy, swinging drums that drive the album forward. And, more than anything, he demonstrates his incredible gift as a storyteller, crafting Malibu into a living, breathing world that it’s impossible not to get sucked into. To me, this is cut from the same cloth and absolutely deserves to be in the same echelon as recent classics like To Pimp a Butterfly, Channel Orange, Lemonade, and the like.
Hottest Jams: “The Season / Carry Me” “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance”

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Images & Words: Wet, “Weak” (Live on the Tonight Show)

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Wet
“Weak” (Live on the Tonight Show)
Don’t You (out 01.29 on Columbia)
I don’t normally write about live performances, but I was just so struck by how far the Massachusetts trio has come in the last two and a half years. I first wrote about Wet in September of 2013, after falling in love with their debut single, the crushing break-up ballad, “No Lie.” A few months later, I caught (what I think was) their first ever gig in Brooklyn. They seemed uncomfortable in the spotlight that night, but you couldn’t hear in the way they played. Vocalist Kelly Zutrau stood out, stoically pushing through her nerves to deliver a heartfelt, affecting performance. Guitarist Marty Sulkow added beautiful counter-melodies to the sparse arrangements, while Joe Valle, their most energetic performer, banged away at a skeletal electric drum-kit.

As good as they were that night, I never thought that in just two years, I would be seeing them perform on Network TV. Their performance on Fallon was assured and confident, like a band that has been doing TV shows for years. Again, Zutrau was especially impressive. Much of Wet’s magic comes from the amount of negative space in their arrangements. That space often leaves Zutrau’s voice totally exposed, maximizing its impact but also the pressure placed on it. On what must have been the most stressful performance of their career, she came up trumps, confidently staying in tune and adding an emotional wallop to one of the strongest songs of their glittering young career. The performance isn’t just a reminder of how far they’ve come; it’s an exciting indicator of just how far they can go.

First Quarter of 2015 Mini Round-Up: The Best Songs I Missed

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It’s been a busy three months for me, and while I’ve still had time to listen, I haven’t been able to keep up with what has turned into a blinding first quarter. Here are a handful of my favorite songs that I haven’t been able to write about.

Stormzy
“Know Me From”
Digital Single
Like a lot of American teenagers, I was enamored by the exciting world of grime thanks to early efforts from The Streets and Dizzee Rascal. Unlike a lot of American teenagers, it stuck, and it’s still sticking as tightly as ever. Original Pirate Material remains one of my three favorite albums, and it has led me to discover heavyweights like Wiley, Skinnyman, Kano, and Roots Manuva, as well as less celebrated folks like the Mitchell Brothers, Sway, Tempa T, and Devlin.

For that reason, I’ve loved the recent American interest in grime. A wicked new wave of producers, as well as artists like Skepta, JME, Novelist, AJ Tracey, and Stormzy guarantee the genre’s bright future. The breakthrough banger from the 21 year-old Londoner is probably my favorite song of the year so far, and hopefully, it will continue to grow the genre enough to finally kick off the US grime takeover that I predicted in the late 90s… or at least, a couple of long-awaited American tours.

Kanye West
“Only One” / “All Day” / “Wolves”
So Help Me God (out ??? on GOOD Music)
I somehow missed writing about all three of these gems, and when considered together, they’re indicative of Kanye’s incredible versatility and duality as an artist. A heartfelt, disarmingly direct piano ballad to his wife and child; a delirious, maximalist turn-up anthem; a spare, claustrophobic rumination. They illuminate the many facets of Mr. West. And though he’s on fire, in love, and surrounded by all the cool kids, there is still lingering loneliness, isolation, and self-doubt all over these tracks. Those are the contradictions that make him the greatest artist of his generation.

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Best of 2013: The Best Tracks of 2013 (Honorable Mention)

Posted on by TP1.COM in Best Of '13, Columns, Featured | Comments Off on Best of 2013: The Best Tracks of 2013 (Honorable Mention)

It’s the time again — time to pick over the bones of an incredible year of music. Over the next few days, I’ll roll out my favorite tracks of the year. Let’s kick things off with 10 songs that didn’t quite make it out of the incredibly crowded field. That said, they absolutely deserve your attention.

Willis Earl Beal: “Too Dry to Cry” from Nobody Knows (XL)
While I’ll never claim to be a great blues historian, I do know that the Chicago-native’s sophomore LP felt as authentic as anything out nowadays. Listening to Beal sing is like watching someone lift a car; it’s a physical experience. You can feel him straining every sinew as he pours his heart into every ravenous come-on, perfectly verbalizing human nature’s most visceral, virile instinct.

Darkside: “Golden Arrow” from Psychic (Other People)
Picking one song off Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington’s excellent debut LP feels idiotic, as (like their debut EP) Psychic demands to be heard in one immersive sitting. That said, its 11-minute opener sets a spooky, emulsifying tone for the whole record. Harrington’s delicious, palm-muted guitar line wraps itself around a forlorn falsetto, resulting in a track that is both alluring and unsettling.

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