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

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of March & April

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I skipped last month’s album Round-Up to bang out the My Favorite Tracks of the First Quarter list. So this month’s album list features my picks from March and April. Possibly the strongest batch of the year so far, 2017 is shaping up to be another incredible year in music.

mounteerie-600-5Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked At Me
P.W. Elverum & Sun
I can’t remember two albums released back-to-back that provide such stark, unflinching looks at death as Mount Eerie’s incredible, A Crow Looked at Me, and Sorority Noise’s brutal You’re Not As ____ As You Think.

And while I can relate to some of the tragedies that color the Sorority Noise LP, I cannot even begin to fathom the loss that Phil Elverum chronicles on his ode to his late wife Geneviève Castrée, who passed away from pancreatic cancer at the impossibly early age of 35. Elverum was always crafted deeply affecting songs, but he was also an intensely private figure who seemed to craft albums from some faraway galaxy.

Well, on A Crow Looked At Me, Elverum eschews every inch of that privacy. He lets us all into the deepest crevices of his life — from their bedroom to moments with their daughter to uncomfortable conversations at the grocery store to the life they shared deep in the Washington woods. Though the arraignments are skeletal in the extreme — mostly consisting of Elverum’s strained vocals and meandering, nylon string guitars — each of the eleven tracks are incredibly rich. Not with just information about the characters, but with legitimately insightful, universal wisdom that only this kind of grief can leave behind. An absolute masterpiece.

Listen to it on Spotify.


sorority-noise-pr-photo-pat-nolanSorority Noise
You’re Not As ___ As You Think
Triple Crown
While Elverum penned his record about losing the one you love, the Sorority Noise album is about the especially unsettling feeling that takes place when you are young and lose multiple friends in quick succession. When you feel like every time the phone rings, you will be confronted by another tragedy that you won’t be equipped to deal with. When you start to believe that death is around every corner.

“Just this year I lost a basketball team to heaven” sings Cam Boucher on “Disappeared.” Artists tend to wrap loss in metaphor to soften the blow, but Boucher (like Elverum) is not here to make you comfortable. There are a number of moments on the record that are physically unsettling, as if you are reading someone’s deeply personal journal behind their backs.

It’s not a walk in the park, but as the album moves, little rays of hope start to cut through the clouds. Much of that comes from their raw, yet tuneful riffs and Boucher’s sneaky catchy choruses. It also comes from the knowledge that as the days go by and the shock wears off, it becomes easier to remember your friends as they were in life, not in death.

Listen to it on Spotify.

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 4.58.22 PMMr Mitch
Devout
Planet Mu
On the total other end of the spectrum comes the longtime TP-favorite’s second LP. Absolutely teaming with life, the disc is bookended by two gorgeous love-letters. The first is to his partner, which features Mitch’s young sons on vocals. And its heartfelt closer sees Mitch singing to his second son while he was still in the womb.

These are just two of the truly heartfelt, affecting moments on this special album. Mitch has always been a master of building hyper-melodic, emotional soundscapes that drive miles beyond the parameters of grime. But the songwriting on Devout far surpasses anything else he’s put out in his already glittering, genre-redefining career. Probably my favorite album of the year so far.

Stream it now on Spotify.

Read more

Images & Words: HEAVEN, “It’s Not Enough”

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Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 11.57.52 AMHEAVEN
“It’s Not Enough

Digital Single 
It doesn’t take a musicologist to hear producer Johnny Jewel’s fingerprints on this romantic, slow-burning new single from the newest signing to his label, Italians Do It Better. Though details about the artist remain scarce, this luxurious, stylish ballad is a strong enough statement to stand on its own and hints that we may be hearing a lot more about her (them?) in the future.

Hot Jam of the Day: Mac Demarco, “One More Love Song”

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Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 1.03.13 PMMac Demarco
“One More Love Song”

This Old Dog (out 05.05 on Captured Tracks)
Though he’s spent much of his career lapping up critical plaudits, the 26 year-old’s hipster goofball persona never resonated with me. Maybe I’m a killjoy, but I always struggled to find any real heart or heft in his music. However, his third LP’s pre-release tracks have been consistently excellent, and this windswept ballad is the best of the bunch.

The tears of the clown motif is old and tired, but it’s damn near impossible to avoid when writing about “One More Love Song.” Over languid jazzy chords and a timeless piano chorus melody, DeMarco examines the moment when the freedom of playing the field is replaced by a deep desire to find real connection. More than anything, he just sounds exhausted here — sick of the whole goddamn thing. And in my experience, that’s usually when you meet someone. So hang in there Mac, I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for soon.

Images & Words: Laurel Halo, “Jelly”

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download (1)Laurel Halo
“Jelly”
Dust (out 06.23 on Hyperdub)
The lead single from the Berlin-via-Michigan producer/vocalist’s forthcoming third LP is one of the poppiest and most direct tracks of her career. I mean, it’s Laurel Halo, so it’s fucking weird. But it features a mostly clean, surprisingly smooth vocal line that guides the listener through the off-kilter drum patterns and eclectic instrumentation. The result is an exciting, unexpected trip that isn’t a drag to get through.

Hot Jam of the Day: How to Dress Well, “Strong Enuff”

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Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 5.13.02 PMHow to Dress Well
“Strong Enuff”

Our First 100 Days (for Stereogum)
To this day, there’s still nothing that sounds like Tom Krell’s early, pre-Love Remains work. And though his development has been extremely impressive, it’s nice to hear him lurking back in those sonic swamps on this gorgeous Sheryl Crow cover. Krell has always been a wizard at reinterpreting pop songs and dragging them to unexpected emotional places. “Strong Enuff” is another example of this, fitting in well with other magical versions of R. Kelly’s “I Wish,” Janet’s “Again,” and Smog’s “Teenage Spaceship,” among others.

Hot Jam of the Day: War on Drugs, “Thinking of a Place”

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Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 7.39.30 PMWar on Drugs
“Thinking of a Place”
Digital Single
“Thinking of a Place” is first new piece of original music from the Philly group since Lost in the Dream — one of the best albums of 2014. And, my god, was it worth the wait. An expansive and beautiful mid-tempo ballad, it features some of Adam Granduciel’s richest and most melodic songwriting.

Over windswept acoustic strums and a restorative lead riff, Granduciel yearns for a fading connection with an affecting restlessness and melancholy. You can feel him reaching for something that he can’t quite grab and trying to find his way back to a place that doesn’t exist anymore. Most rock songs have no right to go on for 11 minutes, but this one could go on for twice as long. Just stunning.

The War On Drugs – Thinking Of A Place from Record Store Day on Vimeo.

Stream This Shit: Kara-Lis Coverdale, Grafts

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Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 3.07.11 PMKara-Lis Coverdale
Grafts
Boomkat
Rejoice! The ever-reliable Montreal musician dropped a characteristically contemplative surprise album yesterday. Across three aqueous tracks, Coverdale blends soothing synth drones with splotches of piano, which forms a masterful mood that ebbs and swells for 22 gorgeous minutes.

Hot Jam of the Day: Julianna Barwick, “Wade In”

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new-web-juliannabarwick_0Julianna Barwick
“Wade In”
Our First 100 Days (for Stereogum)
Though Julianna Barwick’s music tends to glide ethereally above the clouds, this cut feels grounded, anchored down tightly and rooted in concrete. It isn’t surprising that she wrote a song like this for a compilation about the president. And it’s easy to imagine her sitting at her piano, shaken but not defeated. Though “Wade In” is heavy and doleful, there’s still hope and beauty seeping through the cracks. As there always is.

Hot Jam of the Day: Playboi Carti, “Magnolia”

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Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.47.07 AMPlayboi Carti
“Magnolia”
Playboi Carti (Interscope)
It’s mid-April. The weather’s warming up. And it’s about that time we start thinking about songs of the summer. “Magnolia” — the best moment from the 21-year old rising star’s debut LP — is an early candidate for the crown. For three exhilarating minutes, Carti rides a magical wave of delayed synths, provided by the previously unknown Pierre Bourne. What he lacks as a lyricist, Carti makes up for in raw charisma, dropping a handful of quotable bars that I’m looking forward to hearing blasting out of windows all summer long.

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of the First Quarter

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It’s insane that 2017 is already one quarter over, but it’s been a tremendous three months of music. Here are a few of the best tracks I’ve heard this yera. For both of our sakes, I’m going to (try to) keep my write-ups Tweet length (LOL).

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 11.27.55 AMStormzy
“100 Bags”
Gang Signs & Prayer (#Merky)
“Dear Mama” for the year 2017, “100 Bags” is a rare beacon of unobstructed light in these turbulent times. The Londoner makes the song cry for four breathtaking minutes, sharing the boundless, genuine love he has for his Mumzy. “Take a selfie, show ’em how you look mum. Flex on ’em, let ’em know that we’re good mum” is easily my favorite line of the year and makes you root so hard for both of them.

Frank Ocean
“Chanel”
Digital Single
In a world increasingly obsessed with living in black and white, ambiguity is rarer and more important than ever. On “Chanel,” Frank refuses to adhere to anybody’s labels or expectations, gleefully weaving together macho flexes, references to gay sex, drug talk, and ernest affirmations of love without breaking a sweat. It’s subtle but unflinching, inviting listeners to dig a little deeper and not turn away from the grey areas that color all of our lives.

OMB Peezy
“Lay Down”

Digital Single
Born in Alabama but based in Northern California, OMB Peezy takes cues from both regions to cook up a hell of a stew. “Lay Down” matches Bay Area slap with a Southern drawl for a throwback sound that is also purely modern.

Jens Lekman
“How Can I Tell Him”
Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)
The Swede’s gorgeous fourth LP is full of affecting storytelling, but nothing hits quite as close to home as his struggle to reconcile his love for a friend with outdated, damaging notions of masculinity.

future-net-worth-getty_573x300Future
“Fresh Air”
HNDRXX (FreeBandz)
It came out in February, but “Fresh Air” is pure NYC summer. It’s a crackling anthem, built to bump out of cars, apartments, and sweaty ass clubs. God knows we need as many of those as we can get.


MoStack
“Let It Ring”
Digital Single
The next name to know in the popping UK rap scene. MoStack’s breakthrough single glides like a summer breeze, bridging Afrobeats, dancehall, and the North London sound with ease.

RunTown
“Mad Over You”
Digital Single
As African influence spreads across the music world, don’t forget to check out the source. The 27 year-old Nigerian’s gorgeous, sashaying love song has a palpable warmth that is hard to find in modern music.

J Hus 
“Did You See”
Common Sense (out 05.12)
He kept it low-key last year, but the Londoner is primed to drop his proper debut (even though, oh my god, download The 15th Day) and take over 2017. Already getting love on both sides of the Atlantic, his earworm flow and wavey melodies should be the sound of the summer.

Khalid
“American Teen”
American Teen (RCA)

While I’m not sure I love the record as much as many do, its lead single is a heavenly bit of nostalgic pop. The El Paso singer’s pristine vocal captures the freedom and fear of being young.

Don-E ft. Nado
“You Alright Yeah?”
Digital Single
Sunshine in a bottle, the anonymous Londoner’s first single features a nuclear hook that will dig its hook into your brain and leave you asking everyone you see, “You alright, yeah? How’s your mum? She good, yeah?” It just feels so goddamn good.

KWAYE
“Cool Kids”

Digital Single
The best debut pop single of the year, the London vocalist slides through an ultra-slinky, guitar-driven quiet storm, making a strong statement about acceptance in a truly stylish manner.

DaVido
“If”
Digital Single
Already a mega-star in Africa and Europe, the Nigerian vocalist looks poised to make the jump across the Atlantic. “If” is yet another example of the boundless joy his sound delivers.

Chief Keef
“Reload” Feat. Tadoe & Ballout
Digital Single
Though the blogosphere is mostly ignoring him these days, the 21 year-old continues to crank out esoteric, experimental work for his loyal army of fans. On “Reload,” Keef turns the trap house into a Super Mario Bros ghost house, riding triumphantly through dramatic, off-kilter church organs.

Dave
“Samantha” (f/ J Hus)
Digital Single
The rising Londoners link up for a gospel-tinged ballad that pairs Zeytoven-ish piano noodling with the duo’s trademark melodic vocals and personal bars. Though they seem like quite different characters, they sound perfect together.

Jacques Greene
“True” (f/ How to Dress Well)

Feel Infinite (out now)
The MTL producer’s debut LP is full of highlights, but nothing tops his reunion with longtime collaborator, Tom Krell. The Chicago vocalist sounds back to his best, floating over a slice of characteristically emotional house.

Sampha
(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano
Process (Young Turks)
The most aesthetically perfect song of 2017, this beautiful track is more than an homage to the first piano Sampha ever ran his fingers over; it’s a testament to the way that music can help you find your identity and figure out who you are.

Screen-Shot-2017-04-12-at-13.43.27-970x550Mr. Mitch
“VPN” (f/ Palmistry)

Devout (out 04.21 on Planet Mu)
While I remain undecided about dancehall tourist/weepy softboi, Palmistry, “VPN” is all about the glorious synth arrangement, courtesy of the always innovative Mr. Mitch. Devout is shaping up to be one of the albums of the year.

Ryan Adams
“Shiver and Shake”
Prisoner (PAX AM)
“Shiver and Shake” is the most powerful moment from his best record in more than a decade. Adams is at his lowest point, grappling to rebuild a life that heartbreak has reduced to rubble, as “Tunnel of Love” plays in the background.

Father John Misty
“Pure Comedy”
Pure Comedy (Sub Pop)
FJM is A LOT, and somehow the record is even more. But “Pure Comedy” is a powerful distallation of how sharp his pen can be and how strong his voice almost always is.

Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF
“In a Landscape – Rework”
Cascades (Arts & Crafts)
The two Montrealers’ collaborative EP is full of minimalistic, contemplative piano interplay. Their take on John Cage’s modal masterpiece reinterprets the cinematic splendor of the timeless original.

Phoebe Bridgers
“Smoke Signals”
Digital Single (Pax Am)
The rising LA folk singer’s breakthrough single captures the darkness and light of old Hollywood monster movies, telling a story that is both spooky and alluring.

Migos
“T-Shirt”
Culture (Quality Control)
The jewel of the standout commercial rap release of 2017, “T-Shirt” highlights the group’s unmatched lyrical interplay and Quavo’s underrated hook-writing chops.

AJ x Deno
“Ride or Die”
Digital Single
Like an increasing number of young artists, it all started for 14 year-old Londoner Deno Driz on Instagram. Unlike many others, his youthful, elastic tenor (think: early Chris Brown) works just as well in a real recording studio as it does on social media. A young star in the making.

The XX
“Replica”
I See You (Young Turks)
In recent interviews, bassist/vocalist Oliver Sim has bravely disclosed his struggles with hereditary alcoholism. And he sums it up beautifully on this heartrending track, asking “do I chase the night or does the night chase me?”

grouper-ws-710-385Grouper
“I’m Clean Now”
Paradise Valley (YELLOWELECTRIC)
At the end of one of the most chaotic years in recent history, the angel Liz Harris came down from on high to bless us with one of the most peaceful, soothing songs of her career. If only 2017 sounded like this.

Calvin Harris
“Slide” (f/ Frank Ocean, Migos)
Digital Single
The Scot’s first two albums are two of my guiltiest pleasures, so I can’t say “Slide” is a total surprise. That said, I did not see Harris being the man behind one of the strongest pop tracks of the year so far.

RaeLynn
“Love Triangle”

WildHorse
T. Swift probably isn’t ever coming back to Nashville, but there’s a ton of talented young singers who are here to fill that void. The 22 year-old’s debut LP is full of polished, sharp songwriting like this windswept, heartfelt ballad about divorce.

SahBabii
“Pull up with ah Stick” (f/ Loso Loaded)
Digital Single
One of the stickiest, sweetest melodies of the year, the Atlanta native’s breakout single is yet another example of the positive way Young Thug has impacted the sound of the city’s young creators.

(Sandy) Alex G
“Bobby”
Rocket (out 05.19 on Domino)
I’ve never really been an Alex G guy, but his recent pivot toward a dustier, less noisy sound has worked a treat for me. “Bobby” is a cutting look at the way neuroses can keep people from the ones they love.

SamHuntSam Hunt
“Drinkin’ Too Much”

Digital Single
“Marvin’s Room” with a twang. I don’t know exactly what the former quarterback/current fuckboi is up to here, but it certainly sounds like nothing else coming out of Nashville.