Hot Jam of the Day: Jae Stephens, "24k"


Jae Stephens "24k" Digital Single Fuck one of the best debuts of the year. The LA-based newcomer just dropped one of the best songs of the year out of thin air. Featuring inch-perfect production from Jam City, Stephens weaves a devastating slow jam that captures the growth of a relationship from anxious first Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of May 2017


After a pair of phenomenal months of music, May's slate looked decidedly more low-key. However, now as I look back at it, there was still a handful of solid releases that deserve your time. Here are a few of my favorites. J Hus Common Sense Black Butter When I looked at the release schedule Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Lil Durk, "Pressure"


Lil Durk “Pressure” Digital Single Five years into his career, the Chicago native seems to be at a crossroads. After kicking off his career with a string of devastating mixtapes (including my favorite song of 2013), the 24 year-old has been a bit up and down of late, crafting a slew of Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Kommode, "Fight or Flight or Dance All Night"


Kommode “Fight or Flight or Dance All Night” Analog Dance Music (out June 2017 on Random Two Syllable Word) Good things come to those who wait, and Kings of Convenience fans have been waiting for the debut from Eirik Glambek Bøe’s side project for more than 10 years. Since announcing this project Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Jlin, "Holy Child"


Jlin "Holy Child" Black Origami (out 05.19 on Planet Mu) Though there's only one more day until the Gary, Indiana footwork innovator's second LP drops, this brilliant and beguiling cut is more than worthy of standing on its own. Like her masterful debut, Dark Energy, this track features multiple, intricate polyrhythms that collide freely without Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Kommode, “Captain of Your Sinking Ship”

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Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 1.08.51 PMKommode
“Captain of Your Sinking Ship”

Analog Dance Music (out June 2017 on Random Two Syllable Word)
After swooning all over the first proper single from Kings of Convenience’s Eirik Glambek Bøe’s long-awaited Kommode project, you won’t be shocked to learn that I also love the second one. “Captain of Your Sinking Ship” is another languid dance song that pairs Bøe’s impossibly smooth vocals with a tasty bassline, windswept guitars, and even a tasty horn line (which is soooo K.O.C.). Simply put, the track is impeccably written, graceful, and perfect for the long days and hot nights that await us.

Hot Jam of the Day: Jae Stephens, “24k”

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Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 11.51.59 AMJae Stephens
“24k”

Digital Single
Fuck one of the best debuts of the year. The LA-based newcomer just dropped one of the best songs of the year out of thin air. Featuring inch-perfect production from Jam City, Stephens weaves a devastating slow jam that captures the growth of a relationship from anxious first fling to a fully realized adult thing. Her vocals are transfixing — seductive, yet powerful — and Jam City’s unexpected choices (see: the dissonant guitar chord at the beginning of the hook, the chopped “dun-dun-dun” in the final chorus) are consistently sublime. At this point, there’s not much info about Stephens going around, but I’ll definitely be on the look-out.

Images & Words: Toro Y Moi, “Girl Like You”

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toro-y-moi-surprise-album-samantha-download-715x418Toro Y Moi
“Girl Like You”

Boo Boo (07.07 on Carpark)
Throughout his nearly 10-year career, Chaz Bundick has blown hot and cold for me. He’s a solid songwriter, but often his singing voice felt slight and polite to me, too timid to make a real dent. However, on his breezy new single, “Girl Like You,” the 30 year-old treats his vocals with some light autotune, which adds that little bit of oomph that much of his old work was missing. It’s a subtle but impactful adjustment, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Hot Jam of the Day: Japanese Breakfast, “Boyish”

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Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 10.59.14 AMJapanese Breakfast
“Boyish”
Soft Sounds from Another Planet (out 07.14 on Dead Oceans)
Only one year removed from dropping one of the best albums of last year, Philly songwriter Michelle Zauner is back with what is shaping up to be her best project so far. “Boyish” is the second single we’ve heard from the record (somehow I neglected to write about the wonderful, “Machinist“), and on it, Zauner channels heartache and rejection into a gorgeous synth-kissed ballad. The lyrics are brutal and characteristically candid (“I can’t get you off my mind / I can’t get you off in general”), but the soaring melody brings hope that our narrator can find the love they deserve.

Images & Words: MoStack, “Screw & Brew” (f/ Mist)

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Cg5en1HWsAI3CH6MoStack
“Screw & Brew” (f/ Mist)

High Street Kid (MizerMillion)
If you’ve been reading my site, you’ll know that the North Londoner is one of my favorite new artists of the year, and his excellent debut mixtape will do nothing but make that flame even bigger. His third single, “Screw & Brew,” perfectly exemplifies his intoxicating sound: a little bit Afropop, a little bit grime, a little bit of dancehall, and a whole fuckload of melody. Sleep on MoStack at your own peril; this boy’s got the tools to go all the way to the top.

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of May 2017

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After a pair of phenomenal months of music, May’s slate looked decidedly more low-key. However, now as I look back at it, there was still a handful of solid releases that deserve your time. Here are a few of my favorites.

untitled-article-1444923100J Hus
Common Sense
Black Butter

When I looked at the release schedule back in April, the Londoner’s proper debut was the only thing that really jumped off the page. Unsurprisingly, Hus came through with a classic — a diverse, razor sharp collection of the kind of worldly, melodic bangers that made him one of the UK’s real rising stars.

Every one of the disc’s 17 tracks features at least a couple of tasty hooks, and Hus effortlessly handles a dizzying array of beats that touch on Afrobeats, grime, dancehall, 90’s American rap, and pure pop (to name a few). His voice can shift from booming to soothing in an instant. And lyrically, he’s also impressive, speaking on all elements of his life with his tone changing from playful to serious to menacing to grateful. In short, he does just about everything well and is a true original who is only just getting started.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 3.59.01 PMLil Yachty
Teenage Emotions
Quality Control
Speaking of originals, let’s talk about the 19 year-old Atlanta native. His debut “studio album” (whatever that means) picks up where his excellent mixtapes left off, digging deeper into the gleeful, creative world that he built for himself and his friends. Besides the music, the best thing about Teenage Emotions is that Yachty simply refuses to change — to bow to naysayers, gatekeepers, or major label demands. If anything, he’s even weirder, more sincere, and making more divisive music than ever before.

From ecstatic opener, “Like a Star” to heartfelt closer “Momma,” he charges headfirst into a variety of styles and ideas with reckless abandon. Many of them work. Some do not. I think it’s pretty obvious which songs fit into each category. While many have opted to focus on the latter batch, I prefer to focus on the former. I promise it’ll be a hell of a lot more fun if you do.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.08.13 PMJlin
Black Origami

Planet Mu
To my ears, the Gary, IN footwork deconstructor’s second LP is even more powerful than her critically-acclaimed debut, Dark Energy. Along with being rhythmic savant, Jerrilynn “Jlin” Patton’s melodic chops have grown so much. On standouts like “Kyanite,” “Holy Child,” and “Nandi,” the harmonic interplay between the samples and synths are actually just as engaging and unexpected as her signature percussive magic. And though there still aren’t really “hooks” in any traditional sense, there are more footholds in this project than previous ones, which hopefully will open even more people’s ears to her fascinating, singular sound.

Stream it on Spotify.


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Slowdive
Slowdive
Dead Oceans
After more than 20 years away, the legendary British shoegazers returned with their fourth album. The disc is beautiful and sprawling, and it showcases their rare ability to use a few, simple parts to craft moods that stick with you long after the music stops. Its haunting closer, “Falling Ashes,” best sums up that quality, as the groups repeats a simple piano melody and a soothing vocal mantra (“thinking about love”) for more than eight minutes. Somehow, it doesn’t feel one second too long and gently carries you away.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.15.38 PMForest Swords
Compassion
Ninja Tune
The experimental club producer has kept a pretty low profile since his excellent 2013 debut, Engravings. However, the understated Liverpool native’s second LP was well worth the wait, expounding on his abstract, stripped sound. Though few tracks stand out, they combine to form an affecting statement that both mirrors the uncertainty of our world and demonstrates the power of human compassion.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.31.14 PMJohnny Jewel
Windswept

Italians Do It Better
Let’s be real, Dear Tommy is probably never coming out. Sure, JJ teased us with some news about it recently, but I’ve basically given up hope at this point. However, as a goodwill gesture, the ever-slippery producer dug into his archives and tossed us this hodgepodge collection of goodies. And while more than half of it is sort of aimless synth riffing, there’s some tasty neon, Italo morsels on here.

The stylish, heartfelt ballad “Saturday” is one of my favorite IDIB tracks of recent years, and “Missing Pages” and “Slow Dreams” are two of Jewel’s most lyrical instrumental pieces. Plus, we get an updated version of Ruth Radelet doing Elvis, which is always fun. In short, it’s an inconsequential collection that Jewel probably scrounged together after dinner one night, but when your archives are as strong as his, you’re bound to find something that sticks.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.21.06 PMNite Jewel
Real High

Gloriette
From one Jewel to another, the always under-appreciated Ramona “Nite Jewel” Gonzalez’s second LP of the last 12 months is a strong collection of slick electro-pop that is made more for the bedroom than the dancefloor. Always an explorer, Gonzalez digs deep into classic R&B and quiet storm. And those kinds of arrangements fit her graceful, potent vocals to a T. Tracks like “Obsession” and “Part of Me” are more seductive and emotionally raw than much of her previous work, highlighting her power and vulnerability in equal measure.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.37.44 PMSun Kill Moon / Jesu
30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth
Caldo Verde
Being a Mark Kozelek fan is a simultaneously frustrating and rewarding experience. Since 2013, the 50 year-old has cranked out more than 10 releases. Three of them — Perils from the Sea, Benji, and Mark Kozelek & Desertshore — are legitimate classic albums and incredible feats of songwriting and storytelling. On the other hand, two of them — Universal Themes and Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood — are horribly uneven with borderline unlistenable songs. The rest range somewhere between “meh” and “alright, I guess.”

Though its inconsistency keeps 30 Seconds far from the classic category, its highlights elevate it above much of his recent output. “A Dream of Winter” is a gorgeous, nylon-stringed love song that feels like something from 2010’s Admiral Fell Promises, and “You Are Me and I Am You” is a powerful rumination about how we become our parents. And the meandering, Red House Painters-recalling guitarwork of “Twenty Something” will give any long-time Koz fan some warm fuzzies. It’s far from his best work, but he’s also not the joke many make him out to be.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.29.51 PMThunder Dreamer
Capture

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In a musical landscape obsessed with quick characterization, the Evansville, IN quartet doesn’t play ball. Mixing traces of heartland indie rock, second wave emo, folk, and 90’s alt-rock, Thunder Dreamer’s sounds is both familiar and difficult to put your finger on. The disc’s eight tracks are ultra-tuneful and full of hooks yet still retain a little bit of edge. The interplay between the dual guitars and Steven Hamilton’s strained, dulcet vocals is the disc’s standout quality, resulting in a collection that is consistently compelling and full of sonic footholds.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.27.57 PMNightlands
I Can Feel the Night Around Me

Western Vinyl
While his main band, the War on Drugs, was whipping up one of the most-anticipated albums of 2017, David Hartley quietly released this gorgeous collection of windswept dream-pop. His third LP as Nightlands features some of TWOD’s nostalgic, AM radio tendencies, but Hartley’s ultra-lithe falsetto gives the disc an even more wistful feel. The vocal harmonies are also insanely rich and often recall groups like the Beach Boys and the Eagles.

Stream it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 4.29.09 PMCroatian Amor
Finding People

Posh Isolation
Throughout Danish producer/musician Loke Rahbek’s career, he’s been nearly impossible to tie down. He’s made dark synth-pop with Lust For Youth, droning industrial noise with Damien Dubrovnik, and deconstructed dance music with Croatian Amor. The latter is my favorite LK project, and this recent four song EP is the most cohesive of his career. Finding People has many of the nuts and bolts of dance music, but they are rearranged in a totally unexpected order. Percussion dips in and out, and vocal samples pop up in strange places. The resulting world is often disorienting but always worth stumbling deeper into.

Stream it on Spotify.

Hot Jam of the Day: Lil Durk, “Pressure”

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redeye-lil-durk-redeye-cover-shoot-20150601Lil Durk
“Pressure”
Digital Single
Five years into his career, the Chicago native seems to be at a crossroads. After kicking off his career with a string of devastating mixtapes (including my favorite song of 2013), the 24 year-old has been a bit up and down of late, crafting a slew of solid material that probably hasn’t quite done the numbers that he’d want.

He seems to be a little stuck a little bit between his street rap roots and romantic, R&B fare (á la, the recent gold-certified, “My Beyoncé). For me, his best recent work has tended to veer toward the latter, as this lusty new single does. Durk’s always managed to sing with auto-tune so well, using it to pull even more emotion out of his vocals. And they sound brilliant here, over this airy, luxurious mid-tempo beat. I’m not sure “Pressure” is going to be the big, crossover single that he is clearly looking for, but to my ears, it sounds like a step in the right direction.

Images & Words: BAD GYAL, “Jacaranda”

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img_20170415-105650_badgyal_11-kieG-U421709349948e5-1126x636@RAC1-WebBad Gyal
“Jacaranda”
Digital Single
Fresh off dropping one of the most thrilling debuts of last year, the rising reggaeton alchemist returns with her first release of 2017. Hailing from Spain’s sleepy Catalan coast, about 20 miles from Barcelona, Bad Gyal (né Alba Farelo) has cooked up a sound that feels anything but local. Reggaeton is the most obvious ingredient, but there’s also strong hints of dancehall, bachata, R&B, and merengue (to name a few) in her wildly versatile sound. But no matter where the arrangements go, Farelo’s laid-back, seductive vocals are ever-present, keeping things ticking over and running smoothly. One to watch in 2017.

Images & Words: Vince Staples, “Big Fish”

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custom299be6c8b27b518485fb5c4544625af6Vince Staples
“Big Fish”

Big Fish Theory (out 06.23 on Def Jam)
A couple of years ago, the 23 year-old Long Beach rapper caught a bunch of (mostly unfair) shit for calling 90’s music overrated. If you’d never heard a Vince Staples track before that, you’d be surprised when you first heard his music, as much of shares the spirit and aesthetic of 90’s West Coast rap without sacrificing any modernity. “Big Fish” is a perfect example of that fine line Staples walks, as he flows over a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Too $hort album. That said, his flexible flow and impressive storytelling guarantees his music remains contemporary and vital.

Hot Jam of the Day: Kommode, “Fight or Flight or Dance All Night”

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Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 5.37.31 PMKommode
“Fight or Flight or Dance All Night”
Analog Dance Music (out June 2017 on Random Two Syllable Word)
Good things come to those who wait, and Kings of Convenience fans have been waiting for the debut from Eirik Glambek Bøe’s side project for more than 10 years. Since announcing this project all the way back in 2006, the group has released only two vaguely official singles, and it was starting to feel like the disc would only exist in KOC fanfic. However, earlier this month, the low-key Norwegian surprisingly announced that the quintet’s debut LP would be dropping in June.

Best of all, the news came with this phenomenal, buoyant first single, which conjures up memories of one of KOC’s finest tracks — the one that started my 10+ year love affair with the group — “I’d Rather Dance With You.” Bøe’s voice is calming and flexible, and it glides beautifully over a descending keyboard riff, nimble electric guitars, and swinging drums. Incredibly, not only is it as good as I’d hoped it would be all those years back, somehow it’s actually better.