Sade, "The Big Unknown"


Sade "The Big Unknown" Windows Soundtrack (out now on Sony) Though she's only a few months shy of her 60th birthday, Helen Folasade Adu remains a force like nobody else. On the stunning "The Big Unknown," Sade proves that her quiet storm is still a Category 5, as she glides effortlessly over oceanic, Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


Miya Folick "Thingamajig" Premonitions (out 10.26 on Terrible) With each new single, the talented LA vocalist is strengthening the case that her forthcoming LP could be one of the best debuts of the year. Her flexible vocals always stretch further than you expect, and she uses her seemingly unlimited range to exact maximum Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


Welp, this is embarrassing. The week I roll out a new round-up column, I respond by posting exactly zero times. My editorial staff (of one) was pretty slammed this week, but that's no excuse. Hopefully this piece can make up for it, dear readers. I'll do better this week, because, Read more

Since U Been Gone: The Best Of What I Missed Last Week


I was on vacay in England last week, and as I sat back down at my desk this morning, I realized that a massive amount of new music came out while I was gone. I'm going to try something new with quick one to two sentence recaps of some Read more

Lil Uzi Vert, "New Patek"


Lil Uzi Vert "New Patek" Digital Single Easily one of most joyful songs of the year, the hyperactive, hypertalented Philadelphian returns with six (6!) electric minutes of swirling, tuneful hip-hop. Over Dolan Beats' glorious crystallized piano keys and tiptoeing hi-hats, Uzi goes the fuck in as only he can, slaloming through the beat Read more

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

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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 shake off. The arraignments predominantly consist of just piano, voice, and ambient sounds captured during recording, most notably the passing train that closes the record. The way she uses the train to slice through the disc’s most gorgeous moment is such a microcosm of what makes Harris’ music so true and so alive. Instead of giving us a fully-realized closing ballad, she reminds us how ephemeral and precious beauty is by highlighting the way life can cut it short when you least expect it.
Start Here: Just listen to the whole thing.

Card B
“Invasion of Privacy”
Atlantic
When Cardi B defiantly declares “My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” on the final track of “Invasion of Privacy,” you really believe her. And it’s not because of her looks, magnetic personality, or any marketing bullshit. It’s because she just proved that she’s one hell of an artist.

On her major label debut, she shows herself a clever, flexible MC and an impressive writer, capable of dropping LOL punchlines right next to penetrating insights from a life dogged by struggle. Oh, and she can sing a little too. You don’t have to believe me, but if you give this record a real chance, she’ll make a believer out of you. One of the best rap records of the last five years.
Start Here: “Get Up 10,” “Ring (f/ Kehlani)

Elysia Crampton
Elysia Crampton
Break World
People will tell you that originality is in short supply in 2018. Those people obviously aren’t listening to Elysia Crampton. Though she’s been mostly nomadic, Crampton’s roots are in Bolivia and Chile, and her fourth LP is another beguiling collection that bridges the ancient sound of her ancestors with the modern, experimental feel of today. The result is a totally unique sound that lives in its own mystical space.
Start Here: Again, just listen to the whole thing.

Nines
“Crop Circle”
XL

Never one to follow trends, the London MC melds his city’s lyrically-focused roots with the modern generation’s melodic mastery. On “Crop Circle,” Nines pulls from a seemingly limitless arsenal of bars, pairing engaging storytelling with subtle melodies. Though it seems to be short on pure singles, the consistent project is sure to delight his growing legion of and fans and should continue growing his rep as one of the UK’s most underrated young stars.
Start Here: “I See You Shining” “Rubber Bands” (f/ RAY BLK, Skrapz)

Pale Waves
“All The Things I Never Said”
Dirty Hit

The 1975-cosigned Manchester quartet cranks up the goth-pop drama on their super promising debut EP. Lead vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie feels like a star in the making, lacing undeniable vocal melodies over glistening beds of synth and razor-sharp riffs. Standout track, “My Obsession,” is pure stadium laser and cigarette lighter magic, beautifully highlighting their ambitious sound and boundless potential.
Start Here: “My Obsession”

J Cole
“KOD”
Dreamville
Though it’s never been less cool to love J. Cole, to my ears, the North Carolina rapper’s fifth LP is his best to date. Though it’s still too preachy too often, the second half of the disc features some jazzy, To Pimp A Butterfly-esque production, solid storytelling, and some interesting insight on the way addiction has touched Cole’s life. It’s not a game-changer, but it’ll definitely make me take a look back at some of his other work that I’d previously ignored.
Start Here: “Once An Addict – Interlude” “FRIENDS” (f/ kiLL edward)

The Aces
“When My Heart Felt Volcanic”
Red Bull

The Provo quartet’s breakthrough LP is a sharp collection of hook-laden power pop. Vocalist Cristal Ramirez is the star of the show, slathering her breathy vocals all over the taut guitar melodies and her sister’s pounding drums. Frankly, I’m surprised this album hasn’t made more of a dent, but it certainly feels like they are on the path to something big.
Start Here: “Volcanic Love” “Stay”

Tink
“Pain & Pleasure”
Machine / Winter’s Diary

After three years in a Timbaland-led label hell, Chicago’s most promising young artists is finally free. And though it’s not the big, sweeping statement some hoped for — that will likely be reserved for the forthcoming Winter’s Diary 5 — it’s a down-tempo, low-stakes affair that leans on the sensual, R&B side of her sound. It may not be a classic, but hopefully it’s a sign of more to come from the 23 year-old.
Start Here: “Faded” “Get You Home”

The Weekend
“My Dear Melancholy”
Republic

Though it’s not of the same quality, Abel is certainly back on his “House of Balloons” shit on this surprise EP. The disc was penned in the wake of a painful break-up either with Selena Gomez or the Hadid sister who isn’t with Zayn Malik, and cuts like “Wasted Times” and “I Was Never There” certainly serve up a lot of same intoxicating misery that made H.O.B. such a classic.
Start Here: “Wasted Times” “I Was Never There”

Quando Rondo
“Life B4 Fame”
Self-Released
One of the most promising new voices in music, the Savanah, Georgia’s proper debut project is teaming with emotional, heartfelt street rap. Unwilling to be pigeonholed by a single sound, Rondo switches effortlessly from rapper to singer — sometimes in a single line — sharing his passion and pain over an exquisite collection of melodic beats that still knock. Keep an eye on this guy.
Start Here: “Paradise” “I Remember” (f/ Lil Baby)

Aisha Badru
Pedulum
Nettwerk Music Group

The New York native’s beautiful debut is a testament to crafting beauty our of sorrow. Though it’s probably an unfair comparison, there’s a little bit of Bjork on this project. Like the Icelander, Badru pulls maximum emotion out of her gentle voice by framing it with stirring arrangements that seamlessly meld analog and digital instrumentation.
Start Here: “Bridges” “Mind on Fire”

Ross From Friends
“Aphelion”
Brainfeeder
You wouldn’t expect dudes with names like DJ Seinfeld, DJ Boring, and Ross From Friends to be cranking out emotional, expertly-crafted dance music, but this is 2018 and nothing makes sense anymore. “Aphelion” is the latter’s most accomplished work yet, featuring four slabs of engulfing deep house magic. Though vocal samples are at a premium, the South Londoner wields them to perfection, injecting humanity into every track.
Start Here: “There’s a Hole In My Heart”

Anna Leone
“Wandered Away”
Half Awake

Not to be confused with Australian DJ/Apple Music radio host Anna Lunoe, the 24 year-old Swedish singer-songwriter’s debut EP is an stirring collection of heartfelt of modern folk. Powerhouse voices like Leone’s are usually reserved for festival-friendly pop in 2018, but her spare arrangements are a refreshing, unexpected match for her rare vocal talent.
Start Here: “I Never Really”

Saba
“Care For Me”
Saba Pivot
The nimble, talented Chicago rapper offers brutal and beautiful look at loss and life on this stunning project, penned in the aftermath of the murder of his beloved cousin and rising rapper, Walter “dinnerwithjohn” Long Jr. Though he’s racked with sorrow, Saba refuses to let Long’s tragic, senseless death define him, sharing the joy and light that he brought into Saba’s life.
Start Here: “PROM / KING” “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME”

Images & Words: Nines, “I See You Shining”

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Nines
“I See You Shining”

Crop Circle (out now on XL)
Though not as flashy as many of his peers, the 27 year-old Londoner is one of the UK’s biggest talents. His new project, “Crop Circle,” is a consistent collection of heartfelt, insightful lyrics and cracking, versatile production that lives somewhere between grime, road rap, and modern American trap. “I See You Shining” is a great get-to-know-you track, as it highlights Nines’ low maintenance style, sharp storytelling, and subtly catchy flow. Don’t sleep on this guy.

Images & Words: Oneohtrix Point Never, “Black Snow”

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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) knows how to craft the kind of ballad that can suck all the air out of you.

Though “Black Snow” — the first single from his forthcoming eighth studio LP — is somewhat similar in feel to the aforementioned tracks, it differs in one significant way. Lopatin’s voice has never appeared this clearly before. Sure, it’s delivered in a dissociated robo-croon, but it is also one of the most direct lines to the man behind the music that we’ve ever recieved. Of course, we don’t know if it’s representative of the rest of the album, but it’s certainly a very exciting development.

Images & Words: Anna Leone, “My Soul I”

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Anna Leone
“My Soul I”

Wandered Away (out now on Half Awake)
Though this stirring ballad has been out since last year, it bears re-consideration, as it leads off the Swedish folk singer’s excellent, recently-released debut EP. Though the instrumentation is delicate, Leone’s voice has main-stage power that recalls her compatriot Lykke Li. That extra touch of drama elevates the five tracks on “Wandered Away” from simple, direct love songs to something rare and difficult to shake off.

Images & Words: Quando Rondo, “Project Kid”

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Quando Rondo
“Project Kid”

Life B4 Fame (out now, self-released)
One of the standouts from the rising Savanah rapper’s excellent new mixtape, “Project Kid” is an open-hearted slab of melodic Southern rap. In his tuneful, yet raspy delivery, Rondo unleashes evocative, insightful lyrics with a weariness that belies his youth. In a scene that is overflowing with young talent, this guy is one to keep an eye on.

Images & Words: Real Lies, “The Checks”

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Real Lies
“The Checks”

Digital Single
Longtime TP favorite and the trio behind my favorite song of 2014, London’s Real Lies are back with their first new music in a couple years. Few artists are as good at capturing the mood of being young and on your own in a big city like Real Lies, and “The Checks” is another intoxicating, nostalgic journey through the neon lights and rain-soaked streets of their (or, your) hometown. Recalling prime Pet Shop Boys and Underworld, this may not be what the DJs are playing on a night out anymore (at least, not in New York), but it definitely feels like the perfect soundtrack to the long ride home. Welcome back, guys. I’ve missed you.

Father John Misty, “Just Dumb Enough to Try”

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Father John Misty
“Just Dumb Enough To Try”

God’s Favorite Customer (out 06.01 on Sub Pop)
Though his last LP “Pure Comedy” had its moments, it was an overwritten project that was weighed down by grand, mostly superficial proclamations about the frivolity of modern life. His usually sharp pen often landed with a thud as it shot for insightful and landed closer to Abe Simpson.

For me, Papa J. Misery is at his best on direct, confessional love songs like this one, a mid-tempo stunner from his upcoming fourth LP. This lovely ballad is the sound of Tillman coming out the other side of his excellent marriage LP, “I Love You, Honeybear.” Misty admits to being a shitty husband and underlines his commitment to make things right with his wife. It is an affecting and insightful track that hopefully signals that this new record will be driven more by the heart than the head.

Mazzy Star, “Quiet, The Winter Harbor”

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Mazzy Star
“Quiet, The Winter Harbor”
Still (out 06.01 on Rhymes of an Hour)
Though I was a little young for their heyday, like so many others, I fell in love with the Santa Monica group’s seminal, swooning “Fade Into You.” And though this new track will likely not hit the same dizzying heights, it packs much of the same hazy, mysterious beauty that the 1994 single did. Its simple step-wise piano melody and emotive slide guitars form the perfect canvas for Hope Sandoval’s dreamy, doleful vocals to carry you away. More like this, please.

Images & Words: Yxng Bane, “Vroom”

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Yxng Bane
“Vroom”
Digital Single
When I first wrote about the East Londoner back in July 2016, he didn’t even have CDQ versions of his tracks on SoundCloud. In less than two years, Bane’s career has grown like wildfire with multiple videos doing crazy numbers.

The hot streak looks set to continue with this hyper-catchy, wobbly heater. “Vroom” is a microcosm of how Bane’s sound has developed from the retro, Craig David-ish two-step of “Honest” to the essential Afro-swing/Afrobeats sound that has infiltrated the pop charts. Though we’re still waiting for a debut full-length project, Bane is proving to be an even move vital voice with every successive single.

Images & Words: slowthai, “North Nights”

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slowthai
“North Nights”

The Bottom / North Nights (out now on TOYITOYI)
Though this video’s been out for a while, I wanted to write it up anyway because I’m realizing that I’ve barely written about one of my favorite artists of the year so far. The Northampton rapper (né Tyrone Williams) is a thrilling, relentless grime MC who harkens back to the roots of the sound — where busy, unexpected flows trumped sticky vocal melodies. “North Nights” is a perfect example of this, as it completely eschews a chorus. Instead, ‘Thai cleverly hides a couple of repetitive hooks in his magnetic bars, which will leave you knowing all the words in no time.