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

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2018 (So Far...)


Somehow, some fucking way, 2018 is more than half over. And though it might feel like I always say this, I think this was the toughest list I've had to make yet. There's been an overwhelming number of exciting, vital new voices popping up and plenty of fantastic follow-ups Read more

Images & Words: The 1975, "Give Yourself A Try"


The 1975 "Give Yourself A Try" A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (out in October on Dirty Hit) Though it's been out for about two weeks, I've listened to the Manchester quartet's new single roughly two million times. Compositionally, it's totally unremarkable. Built around a repetitive, simplistic guitar riff and three chords, Read more

Images & Words: The Rhythm Method, "Chin Up"


The Rhythm Method "Chin Up" Digital Single Every two years*, I get afflicted with the same illness. It usually starts up a few weeks before every major international football tournament and lasts until somewhere around the quarterfinals. Who knows how long my believesthatEnglandcanwinthewholething-itis will last for this year, but I'm hoping that Read more

Images & Words: Chromatics, "Black Walls"


Chromatics "Black Walls" Dear Tommy (out PROLLY NEVER on Italians Do It Better) Goddamn it, Johnny Jewel. Just when I'd moved on from the idea that I'd ever hear "Dear Tommy," this guy drags me back in with a luscious new track and a (probably fictional) release date for Fall of 2018. "Black Read more

Snail Mail, “Let’s Find An Out”

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Snail Mail
“Let’s Find An Out”

Lush (out 06.08 on Matador)
Though I’ve somehow not written about them yet, I’ve been loving the Baltimore trio’s pre-release singles for their hotly-anticipated debut LP. The stripped-back third single, “Let’s Find An Out,” is my favorite of the bunch, pairing songwriter Lindsey Jordan’s plaintive vocals with beds of fingerpicked electric guitar. She captures the freedom and trepidation of making the decision to start over with grace, humanity, and wisdom that belies her 18 years. Magic.

Natalie Prass, “Lost”

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Natalie Prass
“Lost”

The Future and the Past (out 06.01 on ATO)
I’m a few weeks late to this one, but this gorgeous, heartsick ballad is too good to ignore. A sharply-written look at the way a bad relationship can keep dragging you back in, “Lost” sees the fed-up 32 year-old refusing to fall into the traps of an ex. It’s the kind of thing that just about everyone has been through, and the way the track makes you feel will directly relate to how far away you are from that kind of relationship.

Images & Words: Lil Peep, “4 Gold Chains” (f/ Clams Casino)

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Lil Peep
“4 Gold Chains” (f/ Clams Casino)
Digital Single
Posthumous music is always dicey, but this druggy, heartbreaking new single from the late Lil Peep is too haunting to ignore. Over dreamy, reverb-soaked guitar chords, Peep grapples with the dichotomy of a fame that he never seemed comfortable with but was seemingly destined for. You can see it in the way he interacts with the camera. Though he spends much of the clip trying to avoid the camera’s unrelenting gaze, in the moments that he gives in, his piercing eyes command it like only a true star can. What a loss.

joan, “i loved you first”

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joan
“i loved you first”
Digital Single
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, first of all, thank you. I see you. Secondly, you’ll know that I have a soft spot for power ballads, and holy fuck, the Arkansas sweetboyz come through with a big one. Complete with verses that sound like the Backstreet Boys, a cheesy ass guitar solo, and a glorious group vocal climax, “i loved you first” hits all the right beats and will leave you seriously considering texting your ex*.

*don’t

Skepta, “Pure Water”

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Skepta
“Pure Water”

Digital Single
As UK hip-hop continues to grow at an astonishing rate, it’s easy to forget that nobody has meant more to this iteration of the genre than Uncle Skeppy. Luckily for us, the 35 year-old came though with a reminder of his unrivaled power with this muscular, razor-sharp new single. Like the best Skepta tracks, there’s not one ounce of fat on “Pure Water” — just a banging beat, two magnetic verses, and an infectious hook. He’s not reinventing the wheel here, but with a style that’s this groundbreaking and singular, he doesn’t have to.

Rae Sremmurd: “Offshore” (f/ Young Thug)

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Rae Sremmurd
“Offshore” (f/ Young Thug)

Swaecation
Though I’m still processing the Mississippi superstars’ excellent, new 27-song project, the free-flowing “Offshore” feels like an instant classic. Producer Mike Will is a genius at negotiating sonic space, and his gooey, descending synth chords leave plenty of room for Thug to play in. And my god, does he oblige.

For nearly three minutes, Thug treats us to a single unbroken, spellbinding verse, showing off the idiosyncratic vocal gymnastics that made so many fall in love with him in the first place. A true natural, he seamlessly slaloms between choppy, magnetic bars and legit R&B crooner vocal runs, stretching his voice in ways that both keep the listener on their toes and make perfect sense together. It elicits the kind of feeling that only peak Young Thug can deliver and is a reminder of what a singular, special talent the 26 year-old really is.

The Round-Up: The Best Albums from April ’18

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Grouper
“Grid of Points”
Yellow Electric
Though only 21 minutes, the haunting beauty of Liz Harris’ eleventh studio LP will linger for many years to come. Penned and recorded in just 10 days, “Grid of Points” feels like a moment suspended in time — a distant memory that you just can’t shake off. The arraignments predominantly consist of just piano, voice, and ambient sounds captured during recording, most notably the passing train that closes the record. The way she uses the train to slice through the disc’s most gorgeous moment is such a microcosm of what makes Harris’ music so true and so alive. Instead of giving us a fully-realized closing ballad, she reminds us how ephemeral and precious beauty is by highlighting the way life can cut it short when you least expect it.
Start Here: Just listen to the whole thing.

Card B
“Invasion of Privacy”
Atlantic
When Cardi B defiantly declares “My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” on the final track of “Invasion of Privacy,” you really believe her. And it’s not because of her looks, magnetic personality, or any marketing bullshit. It’s because she just proved that she’s one hell of an artist.

On her major label debut, she shows herself a clever, flexible MC and an impressive writer, capable of dropping LOL punchlines right next to penetrating insights from a life dogged by struggle. Oh, and she can sing a little too. You don’t have to believe me, but if you give this record a real chance, she’ll make a believer out of you. One of the best rap records of the last five years.
Start Here: “Get Up 10,” “Ring (f/ Kehlani)

Elysia Crampton
Elysia Crampton
Break World
People will tell you that originality is in short supply in 2018. Those people obviously aren’t listening to Elysia Crampton. Though she’s been mostly nomadic, Crampton’s roots are in Bolivia and Chile, and her fourth LP is another beguiling collection that bridges the ancient sound of her ancestors with the modern, experimental feel of today. The result is a totally unique sound that lives in its own mystical space.
Start Here: Again, just listen to the whole thing.

Nines
“Crop Circle”
XL

Never one to follow trends, the London MC melds his city’s lyrically-focused roots with the modern generation’s melodic mastery. On “Crop Circle,” Nines pulls from a seemingly limitless arsenal of bars, pairing engaging storytelling with subtle melodies. Though it seems to be short on pure singles, the consistent project is sure to delight his growing legion of and fans and should continue growing his rep as one of the UK’s most underrated young stars.
Start Here: “I See You Shining” “Rubber Bands” (f/ RAY BLK, Skrapz)

Pale Waves
“All The Things I Never Said”
Dirty Hit

The 1975-cosigned Manchester quartet cranks up the goth-pop drama on their super promising debut EP. Lead vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie feels like a star in the making, lacing undeniable vocal melodies over glistening beds of synth and razor-sharp riffs. Standout track, “My Obsession,” is pure stadium laser and cigarette lighter magic, beautifully highlighting their ambitious sound and boundless potential.
Start Here: “My Obsession”

J Cole
“KOD”
Dreamville
Though it’s never been less cool to love J. Cole, to my ears, the North Carolina rapper’s fifth LP is his best to date. Though it’s still too preachy too often, the second half of the disc features some jazzy, To Pimp A Butterfly-esque production, solid storytelling, and some interesting insight on the way addiction has touched Cole’s life. It’s not a game-changer, but it’ll definitely make me take a look back at some of his other work that I’d previously ignored.
Start Here: “Once An Addict – Interlude” “FRIENDS” (f/ kiLL edward)

The Aces
“When My Heart Felt Volcanic”
Red Bull

The Provo quartet’s breakthrough LP is a sharp collection of hook-laden power pop. Vocalist Cristal Ramirez is the star of the show, slathering her breathy vocals all over the taut guitar melodies and her sister’s pounding drums. Frankly, I’m surprised this album hasn’t made more of a dent, but it certainly feels like they are on the path to something big.
Start Here: “Volcanic Love” “Stay”

Tink
“Pain & Pleasure”
Machine / Winter’s Diary

After three years in a Timbaland-led label hell, Chicago’s most promising young artists is finally free. And though it’s not the big, sweeping statement some hoped for — that will likely be reserved for the forthcoming Winter’s Diary 5 — it’s a down-tempo, low-stakes affair that leans on the sensual, R&B side of her sound. It may not be a classic, but hopefully it’s a sign of more to come from the 23 year-old.
Start Here: “Faded” “Get You Home”

The Weekend
“My Dear Melancholy”
Republic

Though it’s not of the same quality, Abel is certainly back on his “House of Balloons” shit on this surprise EP. The disc was penned in the wake of a painful break-up either with Selena Gomez or the Hadid sister who isn’t with Zayn Malik, and cuts like “Wasted Times” and “I Was Never There” certainly serve up a lot of same intoxicating misery that made H.O.B. such a classic.
Start Here: “Wasted Times” “I Was Never There”

Quando Rondo
“Life B4 Fame”
Self-Released
One of the most promising new voices in music, the Savanah, Georgia’s proper debut project is teaming with emotional, heartfelt street rap. Unwilling to be pigeonholed by a single sound, Rondo switches effortlessly from rapper to singer — sometimes in a single line — sharing his passion and pain over an exquisite collection of melodic beats that still knock. Keep an eye on this guy.
Start Here: “Paradise” “I Remember” (f/ Lil Baby)

Aisha Badru
Pedulum
Nettwerk Music Group

The New York native’s beautiful debut is a testament to crafting beauty our of sorrow. Though it’s probably an unfair comparison, there’s a little bit of Bjork on this project. Like the Icelander, Badru pulls maximum emotion out of her gentle voice by framing it with stirring arrangements that seamlessly meld analog and digital instrumentation.
Start Here: “Bridges” “Mind on Fire”

Ross From Friends
“Aphelion”
Brainfeeder
You wouldn’t expect dudes with names like DJ Seinfeld, DJ Boring, and Ross From Friends to be cranking out emotional, expertly-crafted dance music, but this is 2018 and nothing makes sense anymore. “Aphelion” is the latter’s most accomplished work yet, featuring four slabs of engulfing deep house magic. Though vocal samples are at a premium, the South Londoner wields them to perfection, injecting humanity into every track.
Start Here: “There’s a Hole In My Heart”

Anna Leone
“Wandered Away”
Half Awake

Not to be confused with Australian DJ/Apple Music radio host Anna Lunoe, the 24 year-old Swedish singer-songwriter’s debut EP is an stirring collection of heartfelt of modern folk. Powerhouse voices like Leone’s are usually reserved for festival-friendly pop in 2018, but her spare arrangements are a refreshing, unexpected match for her rare vocal talent.
Start Here: “I Never Really”

Saba
“Care For Me”
Saba Pivot
The nimble, talented Chicago rapper offers brutal and beautiful look at loss and life on this stunning project, penned in the aftermath of the murder of his beloved cousin and rising rapper, Walter “dinnerwithjohn” Long Jr. Though he’s racked with sorrow, Saba refuses to let Long’s tragic, senseless death define him, sharing the joy and light that he brought into Saba’s life.
Start Here: “PROM / KING” “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME”

Images & Words: Nines, “I See You Shining”

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Nines
“I See You Shining”

Crop Circle (out now on XL)
Though not as flashy as many of his peers, the 27 year-old Londoner is one of the UK’s biggest talents. His new project, “Crop Circle,” is a consistent collection of heartfelt, insightful lyrics and cracking, versatile production that lives somewhere between grime, road rap, and modern American trap. “I See You Shining” is a great get-to-know-you track, as it highlights Nines’ low maintenance style, sharp storytelling, and subtly catchy flow. Don’t sleep on this guy.

Images & Words: Oneohtrix Point Never, “Black Snow”

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Oneohtrix Point Never
“Black Snow” (f/ Anohni)
Age of (out 06.01 on Warp)
Though the Massachusetts native is probably best know for his otherworldly, chaotic experimental electro, some of his best tracks are his quietist. Whether it’s his recent stunner with Iggy Pop or the beautiful Anohni-lead “Returnal,” OPN (né Daniel Lopatin) knows how to craft the kind of ballad that can suck all the air out of you.

Though “Black Snow” — the first single from his forthcoming eighth studio LP — is somewhat similar in feel to the aforementioned tracks, it differs in one significant way. Lopatin’s voice has never appeared this clearly before. Sure, it’s delivered in a dissociated robo-croon, but it is also one of the most direct lines to the man behind the music that we’ve ever recieved. Of course, we don’t know if it’s representative of the rest of the album, but it’s certainly a very exciting development.

Images & Words: Anna Leone, “My Soul I”

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Anna Leone
“My Soul I”

Wandered Away (out now on Half Awake)
Though this stirring ballad has been out since last year, it bears re-consideration, as it leads off the Swedish folk singer’s excellent, recently-released debut EP. Though the instrumentation is delicate, Leone’s voice has main-stage power that recalls her compatriot Lykke Li. That extra touch of drama elevates the five tracks on “Wandered Away” from simple, direct love songs to something rare and difficult to shake off.