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

Images & Words: How To Dress Well, "Nonkilling 6 | Hunger"


How to Dress Well "Nonkilling 6 | Hunger" The Anteroom (out 10.19 on Domino) Though it was a little bit buried on my "Favorite Songs of 2018, So Far.." list, I'm extremely excited about the experimental direction Tom Krell seems to be going in on his fifth LP. This stunning two-parter pairs Read more

Wild Pink, "Mount Erie"


Wild Pink “Lake Erie” Yolk in the Fur (out now on Tiny Engines) Though I’m about six months late to the NYC trio’s outstanding second LP, I’m extremely glad that I finally found it. While their AM Radio sound has been relentlessly compared to War on Drugs, frontman John Ross is such Read more

Mitski, "Two Slow Dancers"


Mitski "Two Slow Dancers" Be The Cowboy (out 08.17 on Matador) Every slow dance with someone you care about feels like a moment suspended in time. I mean, that's the point, right? Your hands are tied, your bodies are connected, and even your gaze is limited. Mitski, the fantastic New York songwriter, Read more

Future, "Hate the Real Me"


Future "Hate the Real Me" Beastmode 2 (out now on Epic) The peak of a quietly excellent year, Future goes super deep on his worthy follow-up to 2015's legendary "Beast Mode" tape. Of all its stirring moments, nothing emotionally hits harder than its last track, as Future pours his heart out over Read more

Mount Eerie, “Distortion”

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29-ogMount Eerie
“Distortion”
Now Only (out 03.16 on P.W. Elverum & Sun)
Less than a year since his stunning LP, “A Crow Looked At Me” (my 3rd favorite album of 2017), Phil Elverum is back with another project. And if its rambling, powerful lead single is anything to go off, it is going to be a doozy. Over beautiful but messy beds of classical guitar, the 39 year-old touchingly sings about his late wife, fears about fatherhood, an early pregnancy scare, his great grandfather, and countless other subjects in between. Though some have compared it to Mark Kozelek’s stream-of-consciousness recent work, to my ears it is a totally unique sound that makes its 11-minute runtime feel like it’s over in a snap. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the this album.

Jorja Smith, “Let Me Down” (f/ Stormzy)

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Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 11.02.27 AMJorja Smith
“Let Me Down” (f/ Stormzy)

Digital Single
Two of Britain’s biggest talents link up for a dramatic, yearning piano ballad. Though I’m never going to complain about a Stormzy verse, its the 20 year-old vocalist who is the star of the show, gliding dramatically over sedated, Adele-ish pianos. Smith wrote “Let Me Down” as her version of a Bond Theme, and my god, you can feel it. Her voice aches as she accepts her places as somebody else’s afterthought. It’s a heartbreaker, but it’s also triumphant.

Images & Words: KAMI, “Payload”

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Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 5.00.44 PMKAMI
“Payload”
Superstar (Self-Released)
Not sure how I missed the Chicago native’s 2017 EP, Superstar, but I’m damn glad I found it. The Savemoney affiliate just graced the disc’s second track with a similarly energetic video. Kami is one of those rappers who doesn’t save hooks for choruses, and his bars are teaming with melodies that will get stuck in your head. Definitely one to watch in 2018.

Sufjan Stevens, “Tonya Harding”

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sufjan-stevens-stalkers-album-dumpster-mp3Sufjan Stevens
“Tonya Harding”

Digital Single
One of those songs that came out while I was writing my year-end list, I wanted to come back to Sufjan’s wonderful, heartfelt tribute to fellow Oregonian Tonya Harding. Though he seems like an interesting guy, Stevens excels at writing about others — approaching his subjects with a journalist’s eye for detail and a screenwriter’s narrative touch. There’s a palpable tenderness and love in those songs, and it’s clear that the 42 year-old goes to great lengths to get inside his characters, presenting them wholly… flaws and all.

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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Best of ’17: The Best Songs of 2017

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So that’s it. 6 years of ThunderPenguin are in the books. As always, here’s a round-up of my favorite songs of the year. This was one of the toughest lists I’ve ever made, and I hope something on this list brings you the light it brought me. Thanks so much for reading this year. Love you guys.

Though it’s missing some things, you can listen to most of this list on this Spotify Playlist.

ALEXG66. (Sandy) Alex G
“Sportstar”
Rocket (Domino)

Easily the weirdest song ever written about sports, “Sportstar” is a cracked chronicle of fandom. Alex’s heavily processed vocals and spacey guitars give the whole thing a dissociated vibe that seems to mirror an obsessed fan’s imaginary relationship with his or her favorite star. As with any one-way relationship, there’s deep pain intertwined with the infatuation, and he does a really nice job of highlighting that both lyrically and sonically.

65. Ariel Pink
“Feels Like Heaven”
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (Kemado)
Every few years, something weird happens, and I really dig an Ariel Pink song. It’s always the poppiest thing on the album (i.e. “Round and Round,” “Put Your Number in My Phone), and it’s almost always the only thing I like from it. Though “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson” is better than most of his records, nothing jumped out at me like this little blissed out slice of 60’s psychedelia. Feels like heaven, indeed.

64. Desire
“Saturday”
Windswept (Italians Do It Better)
The year is 2047. Our robot overlords have condemned us to a life of servitude. There is no sun, and a thick perma-fog hovers like death over the only inhabitable villages left. Johnny Jewel tweets “DEAR TOMMY: COMING 2048.” I glumly close my browser and turn on one of three excellent IDIB comps that he had put out that year.

63. Kommode
“Fight or Flight or Dance All Night”
Analog Dance Music (Random Two Syllable Word)
I must admit, when I first heard that the long-awaited side project from Kings of Convenience’s Eirik Glambek Bøe was called “Analog Dance Music,” I worried that it might be a little bit “old man yells at cloud” dance music. However, it turned out to be a rock-solid collection of breezy, languid disco that didn’t feel that far from KOC’s best up-tempo tunes. This, its lead single, is a perfect representation the record: well-constructed, well-sung, and well pleasing.

62. Mayorkun
“Mama”
Digital Single
The Nigerian charts were on fire this year, a veritable goldmine of inspiring, genre-fluid sounds from artists scattered all over the continent. This ecstatic love song from one of the country’s brightest young stars was a real standout. Mayorkun’s voice has a playful, innocent feel, which interacts beautifully with the track’s nimble guitars and clavé beat. He’s one to watch in 2018.

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River Tiber, “Patience”

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Tommy_Paxton-Beesley-e1438888595507River Tiber
“Patience”

Digital Single
It’s year-end list season at ThunderPenguin HQ, so I’ve been a little slow on new music. That said, this soulful new track from the Toronto R&B singer stopped me in my tracks. “Patience” begins as a smoky-room, late-night jazz ballad before building to a pair of unexpected, powerful crescendos.

The-Dream: “It’s Yo Birthday”

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The-Dream-press-cr-Miguel-Starcevich-2017-billboard-1548The-Dream
“It’s Yo Birthday”

Digital Single
Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of The-Dream’s classic debut, “Love Hate.” And to celebrate, San Terius dropped with sleepy, low-key bedroom cut that feels like it could have been a B-side from those sessions. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for the 40 year-old who has long been hinting that a new project is on the way.

Nicolas Jaar, “Wildflowers”

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71359ce3d2ae34368b6545fc5479aee7Nicolas Jaar
“Wildflowers”

Sirens (Deluxe Edition) (out now on Other People)
One of the new tracks from the re-up of his excellent 2016 album Sirens, “Wildflowers” is a perfect distillation of Jaar’s rare ability to craft a singular sound that’s both recognizable and amorphous. In other words, his sound is impossible to explain, but you also know it when you hear it. Built around aqueous guitar chords, drippy percussion, and his faraway falsetto, the track meanders through layers of sonic haze before resolving with an emotional crescendo.

Images & Words: G Perico, “Affiliated”

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G-PericoG Perico
“Affiliated”

2 Tha Left (out 12.08 on So Way Out)
Though he’s already dropped two rock-solid projects this year, the LA MC isn’t done feeding the streets this year. “Affiliated” is yet another example of Perico’s potent sound, which recalls a bygone era when California ruled the hip-hop. That said, the 29 year-old is far from an imitator and is infinitely more interested in writing new history than trying to recreate someone else’s.

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