Hot Jam of the Day: Julien Baker, "Appointments"


Julien Baker "Appointments" Turn Out the Lights (out 10.27 on Matador) "It's the hope that kills you," goes the old saying. But it can also be the thing that saves you and drives you through life's dark stretches. It's what the 21 year-old is reaching for on this breathtaking first single from her highly-anticipated second Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Kelela, "LMK"


Kelela "LMK" Take Me Apart (10.06 on Warp) Our agonizing wait for the first taste of Kelela's proper studio debut* is finally over, and my GOD, our girl came through with a banger. In lieu of just typing 4,000 fire emojis, I'll just say that "LMK" is such a perfect distillation of what makes Read more

Images & Words: Jessie Ware, "Midnight"


Jessie Ware “Midnight” Digital Single In the years I’ve been covering music, I wrote more about Jessie Ware’s early career than just about anyone else. I first covered her back in 2011 and tracked her progression from a promising, mostly unknown, quiet storm prodigy to a true powerhouse who could command any room she was Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of 2017, So Far...


Rating albums at the mid-point of the year, just to re-rate them in six months seems dumb, so I decided to go with an NBA Draft-style tier system to pick out a few of my favorites so far. TIER 1: THE FAVORITE Stormzy Gang Signs and Prayer #Merky The Londoner's debut LP is an Read more

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

Hot Jam of the Day: Ryan Adams, “The Empty Bed” / “Broken Things”

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Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 11.15.47 AMRyan Adams
“The Empty Bed” / “Broken Things”

Prisoner B-Sides
In much of the press surrounding his excellent 16th studio LP, the ever-prolific songwriter talked about writing nearly 100 songs for the album and struggling to cut it down to just 12. Last Friday, he proved he wasn’t lying when he surprise dropped 17 of those b-sides. And though they don’t all shine, it makes you appreciate how difficult it must be to make these cuts.

Two of its early standouts are a pair of acoustic tearjerkers: its closer “The Empty Bed” and “Broken Things.” When I initially heard that the record would deal with Adams’ divorce, I assumed that it would sound a lot more like this, rather than the 70’s stomp and Tunnel of Love vibes that permeate the disc. I get why he decided not to go that route, but it’s great to hear a couple of stripped down moments from the sessions.

Listen to the whole thing on Spotify.

Images & Words: Rostam, “Gwan”

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Rostam
“Gwan”

Digital Single
Anybody who has ever lived in New York knows the restorative power of an aimless stroll through the city. On the clip for his new string-driven, chamber pop single, the former Vampire Weekend man enjoys one of those long meanders, heading toward a destination that is unclear both for the viewer and the walker. Though we still don’t have details, it’s starting to feel like his long-awaited album is just around the corner, and if it sounds anything like the rest of the pre-release singles, it should be a classic.

Images & Words: DJ Khaled, “I’m The One” (f/ Quavo, Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne)

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dj-khaled-lil-wayne-justin-bieber-chance-the-rapper-quavo-shoot-music-video-for-im-the-one-malibu2DJ Khaled
“I’m The One” (f/ Quavo, Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne)

Digital Single
At this point, DJ Khaled’s tracks are basically musical text chains between the biggest artists on the planet. It’s kinda like he just puts out late-night mass “U Up?” text to his entire contact list, and the first four that respond get a verse. It’s a high variance strategy. But it works for him, because as easy as it is to discard the songs that don’t pop, it’s impossible to avoid the ones that do.

This airy, trop-housey summer tune is one of the latter, evidenced by its 42 fucking million views in four days. And those numbers are no surprise, because it’s got all the hallmarks of a Khaled classic. Intoxicating, catchy chorus? Check. Tuneful, sticky verses? Check. Khaled ad libs? Obvi. Most importantly, it got the green light from the greatest young A&R man in the business, Asahd Khaled. Bless up.

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.

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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.