Wet, "There's A Reason"

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 Read more

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

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 Read more

Grouper, "Parking Lot"

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 Read more

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

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 Read more

Kacey Musgraves, "Space Cowboy"

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,” Read more

Images & Words: KAMI, “Payload”

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Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 5.00.44 PMKAMI
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
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
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
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
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
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

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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“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

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

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.

Images & Words: Smerz, “Have Fun”

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“Have Fun”

Digital Single
The rising Norwegian deconstructed electro-pop duo come through with one of their most potent tracks to date. Vocalists Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg nonchalantly glide through proceedings, mantrically repeating “nothing is embarrassing” over lazy sci-fi synths and bouncy percussion. In short,”Have Fun” sounds like a disassociated party jam for an event that probably looked a lot more fun on Instagram than it actually was to attend.

Prins Thomas, Å (Pional Piano Mix)

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Prins_Thomas_promo_1000x664Prins Thomas
“Å” (Pional Piano Mix)
Prins Thomas 5 (out now on Prins Thomas Musikk)
On Friday, the Norwegian vet dropped a tasty new collection of his trademark spacey disco. Though the record is totally worth your time, my favorite song from the project actually wasn’t even on it. This sweltering remix from Spanish producer Pional raises the excellent “Å” to rapturous new heights with some languid, super effective piano work. Like the best house music, this track builds gradually, rising and receding deftly before building to an ecstatic climax.