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"


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 Read more

Rae Sremmurd: "Offshore" (f/ Young Thug)


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 Read more

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


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 Read more

Images & Words: Oneohtrix Point Never, "Black Snow"


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) Read more

Lolina, “The River”

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Lolina
“The River”

The Smoke (out now, self-released)
The ever-chameleonic Inga Copeland is back with a bizarre, but beautiful new album.  On ” The River,” the former Hype Williams vocalist refuses to be boxed, deadpanning through disorienting keyboards and pounding, tribal drums. Like any Copeland project, it’s going to take some time to decipher what the fuck is going on. But once you do, you’ll rarely be let down.

Wet, “There’s A Reason”

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Wet
“There’s a Reason”
Digital Single

I’ve gone back and forth about the subtle stylistic shift that the Brooklyn group has made on their first single as a duo. After enjoying widespread acclaim early in their career, their debut LP was met with tepid reviews, which mostly complained about their dogged commitment to their stripped-down, simplistic mope-pop. As someone who fell in love with their original sound, the critics didn’t move me, because I hadn’t come to them for lush, complex arrangements in the first place.

“There’s a Reason” feels like a bit of a response to those dissenting voices. It features one of their peppiest, fullest choruses with swelling strings and and busy drumming. Of course, we’ve heard similar elements in the climaxes of tracks like “Weak” and “Move Me,” and we don’t know how this song fits into the context of the LP. That said, my favorite parts of this song are its sparsest, most Wet-ish bits; the verses and bridge give vocalist Kelly Zutrau plenty of sonic space to emotionally connect with the listener.

I like it, but I’m not sure I’d like a whole album that sounds like this. And though every group must evolve, I hope they don’t lose the parts that made them so special to being with.

The Round-Up: The Best Tracks of January and February

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I’ve been a little slow to get cranked back up in 2018, but I quickly realized that a shitload of great music has dropped in January and February. Here’s a quick wrap-up of a few of my favorites.

Bad Gyal
“Internationally”
Worldwide Angel (out now on Puro)
It sounds hyperbolic, but I could have picked almost any song from the Catalan reggaeton alchemist’s recent mixtape. So I’ll go with the one that banged hardest when I saw her in Brooklyn last week. Bad Gyal is a huge star in the making, and I can’t wait to see how far she goes.

Mabel
“Fine Line” (f/ Not3s)
Digital Single
Jorja Smith isn’t the only young, hugely talented British singer who’s poised to take over the world. After a super promising 2017, the Londoner went to the next level with the breezy, intoxicating “Fine Line,” a legit smash that has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic.

Creek Boyz
“Trap Digits” / “Loco”
Digital Single
Baltimore’s most inspirational group are back with a pair of sticky sing-alongs. Though they haven’t quite blown up like “With My Team” did, both cuts deliver the same electric elements, bursting with melodic gang vocals and emotional bars. 2018 needs a Creek Boyz album so bad.

Slowthai
“T N Biscuits”
Digital Single
Though UK rap has never been bigger, there’s a bit of a dearth of promising, traditional-ish grime MCs. Enter, Northampton’s Slowthai. More interested in tounge-twisting wordplay and rhythmic versatility than catchy melodies, this cut highlights why Thai is buzzing so much right now.

Sevdaliza
“Human Nature”
Digital Single
It’s been under a year since the Iranian-Dutch vocalist released her gorgeous, labyrinthine debut LP. But she’s back at it with this bewitching, trip-hop ballad. Her voice is slathered in effects, but her humanity bleeds through, forming one of the most arresting songs of 2018.

Dave
“Hangman”
Digital Single
Not a lot of artists can speak to the youth quite like Santan Dave. Whether he’s talking city politics (“Question Time”) or mental health (“Panic Attack”), Dave has that rare ability to craft conscious, thought-provoking music that isn’t preachy or contrived (sup, Logic).

03 Greedo
“Substance”

The Wolf of Grape Street (out now on Alamo)
Addiction is everywhere in 2018. It’s in every community — in our families, friend groups, offices, and increasingly, our art. 03 Greedo’s yearning “Substance” is a visceral, affecting view into the insidious ways drugs invade users’ psyches and dominate their thoughts.

Kacey Musgraves
“Space Cowboy”
Golden Hour (out 03.30 on Mercury)
If the Texan megastar’s inch-perfect farewell ballad doesn’t break your heart, you haven’t got anything in there. Musgraves is an incisive, insightful writer with a pristine, spotless voice. At her best, she’s capable of timeless tracks like this.

Tink
“Breakin’ Me”
Digital Single
The most important part of “Breakin’ Me” isn’t the music. It’s the fact that it coincides with her release from Timbaland’s dastardly clutches. Now that Tink is finally free, she can get back to being one of the most vital, unique voices in music today. Ay fuckin’ men.

Lauren Auder
“These Broken Limbs Again Into One Body”
Who Carry’s You (out 03.16 on True Panther)
The 19 year-old French goth-pop miserablist turns up the drama on his breakthrough single. His evocative baritone mopes through dense layers of guitars and synths, dripping with the kind of existential, teenage angst that hurts so good.

BlocBoy JB & Drake
“Look Alive”
Digital Single
Youthful energy is contagious, and Drake sounds revitalized on this electric collab with rising Memphis rapper, BlocBoy JB. 10 years his junior, JB is half man, half spark-plug, bouncing off the walls and inspiring Drake to drop the tough-guy facade, let his hair down, and just have some fucking fun.

SOB x RBE
“Carpoolin'”
Gangin (Empire)
The first few times I heard the Vallejo crew’s “Carpoolin’,” it felt like it was stuck on 1.5 speed. That said, once my brain caught up with the beat, I fell in love. It reminds me of when your first friend got their license, and you’d just mob around the city with all your boys. *single tear*

Soccer Mommy
“Blossom (Wasting All My Time)”
Clean (out now on Fat Possum)
The best moment from Sophie Allison’s excellent new LP is about seeing your future with somebody who can’t see theirs with you. And then, once you step back from them, you have the sweet realization that they were never right for you from the start. Lucky you.

Gunna
“Almighty” (f/ Hoodrich Pablo Juan)
Drip Season 3 (out now on YSL)
The Young Thug protégé dropped one of the strongest rap records of the first few months. And this slithering slow-burner is a good indication of the hazy delights on the disc. Gunna is a tuneful, charismatic rapper, and he tip-toes through the beat like a young Thugger here.

Camp Cope
“Last One”
How To Socialise & Make Friends (out now on Run for Cover)
I wrote a ton about the Melbourne trio’s beautiful 2016 debut, and their follow-up is more of the same. Its final track, “Last One,” is a beautiful farewell to songwriter Georgia Maq’s late father that is full of insight and emotion. Just an unreal talent.

YBN Nahmir
“Bounce Out With That”
Digital Single
The Birmingham native’s tracks are over so quickly, it’s impossible to only listen to them once. Similar to his break-out single, “Rubbin Off The Paint,” this track is two minutes of pure, lean ear candy. It’s easy to see why he’s one of the hottest young rappers in America.

Haley Heynderickx
“The Bug Collector”
I Need To Start A Garden (out now on Mama Bird)
The Portland folkie’s debut LP is one of the best of the year, and “The Bug Collector” is a perfect example of her nimble guitarwork, warm voice, and unique songwriting. Over descending, arpeggiated guitars, she sings about protecting a loved one from dangers, real and imagined.

Migos
“Supastars”
Culture II (out now on QC)
Though the Internet mostly decided that “Culture II” was a letdown, I beg to differ. Sure, it’s inconsistent. Find me a Migos project that isn’t. It’s still full of that special sauce that only they can cook up.

Off-kilter, intoxicating melody
Glorious wordplay
Inch-perfect percussion

Jens Lekman
“Who Really Needs Who”
Correspondence (With Annika Norlin)
On the first of the Swedish sweeties once-monthly singles series, Lekman writes about friendship and loneliness with the deft touch that only he has. The other two tracks are also worth checking out. So much more to come from this one.

Listen to the whole project, here.

Payroll Giovanni & Cardo Got Wings
“Thing Or 2”(f/ Jade Djones)
Big Bossin Vol. 2 (Def Jam)
Payroll & Cardo bring the 90’s back with this air-tight collection of throwback bangers. Though the whole album is worth your time, this lithe, easy hustler’s anthem is indicative of the potent sound this duo always seems to cook up together.

Yxng Bane
“Corner” (f/ Maleek Berry)
Digital Single
Very few artists have paired the sound of Africa with the UK more seamlessly than the East Londoner with Congolese and Angolan roots. “The Corner” is his strongest cut yet, boasting a floaty hook and melodic verses that will stick in your head. The sky’s the limit for Yxng Bane.

Mount Eerie
“Distortion”
Now Only (out 03.16 on P.W. Elverum & Sun)
A key, rarely discussed element of grief is the confusion that it brings. That feeling is highlighted by this rambling, freeform track that sees Phil Elverum remembering his late wife by touching on everything from a youthful pregnancy scare to the first time he saw a dead body.

Grouper, “Parking Lot”

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Grouper
“Parking Lot”
Grid of Points (out 04.27 on Kranky)
Every time Liz Harris drops a new track, it’s up to us to savor it and appreciate it for the little miracle that it is. It may sound like hyperbole, but everything she’s put our since her wonderfully shut-in 2007 LP Cover the Windows and the Walls, has been teeming with delicate, ghostly beauty. Best of all, her songs grow and develop like living organisms, subtly revealing new layers of their beauty with each successive listen.

For all those reasons, there was much rejoicing at Thunder Penguin HQ* (aka, my desk) when Harris announced her follow-up to the incredible “Ruins” — my third favorite LP of 2014. Lead track “Parking Lights” contains the same bewitching intimacy that’s in much of her best work. Built around a forlorn piano melody, the Oregonian brings her haunting vocals up way up in the mix. And though it’s difficult to make out her words, the tone of her voice says more than enough.

The countdown to April 27th starts today.

Images & Words: serpentwithfeet, “bless ur heart”

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serpentwithfeet
“bless ur heart”
soil (out 06.08 on Secretly Canadian)
After fawning pretty heavily over his debut EP, you can imagine my excitement about Josiah Wise’s forthcoming debut LP. Its lead single, “bless ur heart,” beautifully balances his ultra-intimate early work with lusher instrumentation, resulting in a sound that feels evolved without sacrificing an inch of what made it so special in the first place. For four spellbinding minutes, Wise ecstatically extols the way loved ones can help us level up, smearing his spectacular, trembling vocals over a waltzing piano and subtle percussion.

Christina Vantzou: “Some Limited and Waning Memory”

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Christina Vantzou
“Some Limited and Waning Memory”
no.4 (out 04.06 on Kranky)
The lead track from the Kansas City-born, Brussels-based composer’s fourth LP is a ghostly, gorgeous piece that balances haunting strings with a delicate, meandering piano line. Film and photography has always been at the heart of her work, and this track is sure to evoke strong visuals and distant memories of days long gone.

Images & Words: MoStack, “What I Wanna”

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MoStack
“What I Wanna”

Digital Single
We’ve officially entered that annoying part of winter where spring feels close but also further than ever. On days like these, we need sunny jams like the buzzing Londoner’s breezy, Big Pun-sampling new single. Though Stack’s bubbly flow may not bring the sun back out, it is guaranteed to put a little extra bounce in your step as you trudge through the dog days of winter.

Swae Lee, “Hurt To Look” (f/ Rae Sremmurd)

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Swae Lee
“Hurt To Look”

Swaecation (out soon on Ear Drummers)
Sremm Season is rapidly approaching, and on Wednesday, the venerable Mississippi brothers treated us to the first three tasters from their upcoming triple disc. Each of the three deserve some shine. “Powerglide” is the kind of airy, hyperactive banger that they built their name on, and Slim Jxmmi absolutely snaps on his electric debut solo single, “Brxnks Truck.”

But, as an eternal sucker for smooth R&B, Swae Lee’s solo single was the one that really stood out to me. Lee doesn’t sing, he glides. His vocals are effortless, and they just cruise over any arrangement he encounters, especially mid-tempo, luxurious Mike Will beats like this one. On “Hurt To Look,” he plays the role of a jilted lover, looking sadly over at what could have been. It’s a role he was born to play, and I cannot wait to hear what he does with an entire album of his own.

Kacey Musgraves, “Space Cowboy”

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Kacey Musgraves
“Space Cowboy”
Golden Hour (out 03.30 on UMG)
Very few country artists can crush my heart like the 29 year-old Texan. Whether it’s the swooning, wedding-worthy, “Late To The Party” (one of my Top 5 Songs of 2015) or the heartfelt, sad-sack tale about small-town life “Merry Go ‘Round,” Musgraves has that rare ability to capture the beauty or pain of a moment and distill it into four empathic, gorgeous minutes.

Now we can add “Space Cowboy” — the first single from her third proper LP — to that list. A touching ode to the moment you realize that no matter what you do, the person you love will never truly commit to you. It hurts like hell, but there’s also a freedom that goes with it — a realization that it’s finally okay to let go and find someone who will appreciate you. A little part of you is relieved. And Musgraves captures both of those emotions masterfully here. One of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Bad Gyal, “Internationally”

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Bad Gyal
“Internationally”
Worldwide Angel (out now on Puro)

Though I haven’t yet written about it, the Catalan reggaeton alchemist’s new record has been in heavy rotation in 2018. A lean, 8-song collection, “Worldwide Angel” sees Alba “Bad Gyal” Farelo working on a grander scale than she ever has before. Of course, I’m not saying it’s better than her breakthrough “Slow Wine” tape, only time will tell. But she’s unarguably shooting for the fences more than ever before.

The disc’s towering leadoff track is a perfect example of that. Boasting production from two of the hottest around, Jam City and Dubbel Dutch, “Internationally” is Farelo at her most potent, switching between languages and deftly slithering through the beat. Though the it’s a bigger statement, much of the immediacy and intimacy of her work remains. Or in other words, there’s more people at the club, but it still feels like she’s only singing to you.