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

Hot Jam of the Day (02.03.13): Autre Ne Veut, “Play By Play”

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Autre Ne Veut
“Play By Play”
Anxiety (due out 2/26 on Software)

Brooklyn future-synth/laseR&B* vocalist Autre Ne Veut (né Arthur Ashin) is finally about ready for his close-up. His self-titled, 2010 debut came a few years too early, but his progressive style is perfectly poised for a break-out in the current atmosphere. While Anxiety‘s first single, “Counting,” was a lot more accesible, “Play By Play” highlights Ashin’s pliant, hyper-expressive vocals and cuttingly personal lyrics. The arraignment is pure vaporwave, with Ashin’s powerful delivery drenched in cascading MIDI twinkles and colorful globs of neon synths. I think ANV might still be a little too weird (and too weird-looking) to hit the heights of some recent progressive R&B artists, but in truth, his music sounds a lot more like Miguel than it doesn’t. This could easily end up being one of the albums of the year.

*feel free to insert your own preferred made-up genre title here

Hot Jam of the Day (02.02.13): LIZ, “XTC”

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LIZ
“XTC”
Digital Single (out now Mad Decent)
 

Don’t look now, but we may just stumbled across the first truly great pop single of the young year. While little is known about Ms. Liz, we do know she is from Tarzana, has some famous friends, listens to a shitload of 90’s pop and R&B, and wants you to “love her like your Xbox” (Lana shout-out?). Her debut single, “XTC,” has more than a few shades of 2012 favorite and fellow Angelino Sky Ferreira’s devastating, “Everything is Embarrassing.” We’ll see if it sticks the same, but it certainly has the same kind of timeless, wistful keytar-tastic melody and nostalgic feel. We’ll see if she has any more tricks up her oversized army jacket, but the mysterious Valley Girl’s debut single is just about everything I want in a pop song.

Hot Jams of the Day (01.30.12): Sky Ferreira, “Everything is Embarrassing” remixes

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Sky Ferreira
“Everything is Embarrassing” remixes by Krystal Klear, Twin Shadow, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Digital

Sky Ferreira remixes are like London busses — you wait ages for one to come and then three show up at the same time*. Even though it has been out for the better part of a year, the part-time model’s lovelorn, dancing-in-my-room jam never really got a worthy remix until recently when George Lewis Jr of Twin Shadow, Mancunian serial remixer Krystal Klear, and PDX-via-NZ trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra all took a whack at it. All three artists left Ferreira’s intoxicating vocal line in tact but took decidedly different spins on the arraignments. Lewis’ is a delicious, synth-slathered lazer show of a synth jam, while Krystal Klear flips it into a scintillating Euro house jam — think sexy Jazzercise — that is my pick of the bunch. While I still like it, UMO’s take is my least favorite of the three, as the group’s drum-heavy version feels a touch ponderous at times. Either way, I’m just glad that the brilliant original finally gets the remixes that it deserves.

*other things that are like London busses: job opportunities, sexual partners, triplets

Krystal Klear

Twin Shadow’s Remix

umo made it.

Starting V: My Favorite Albums of 2012

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A couple people have asked me what my favorite albums of 2012 were, so I figured the new Starting V column would be a good place to put them. Had to bend the rules a touch because I couldn’t quite fit just five in there.

Honorable Mention:
The xx, Coexist (most underrated album of the year)
Future: Pluto (most caffeinated album of the year)
Chromatics: Kill For Love (most chichi album of the year)
Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city (most introspective album of the year)
Chief Keef: Back From the Dead (most divisive album of the year)

5b. How to Dress Well
Total Loss
Acéphale 

The Chicagoan’s devastating debut, Love Remains, was my favorite album of 2010, and while Total Loss falls a bit short of that, it is a million miles away from a sophomore slump. On the engulfing LP, Krell stripped away much of the excess noise that characterized Love Remains and let his powerful falsetto creep out. His aesthetic isn’t quite as unique as it was, but the songs are arguably even better and more personal. Easily one of the most distinctive voices (vocally and compositionally) in music today.

Hottest Jams: “Ocean Floor for Everything,” “& It Was You,” “Running Back”

5a. Andy Stott
Luxury Problems
Modern Love

Luxury Problems is a celebration of impeccable craft and pure human emotion. Progressive artists are guilty of spending too much time on the former and eschewing the latter, but the veteran Mancunian’s third LP nails both with quiet aplomb. On its surface, it’s a difficult and inaccessible collection, but if you give it your time, you will not be dissapointed.

Hottest Jams: “Numb,” “Hatch the Plan”

 

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Hot Jam of the Day (01.28.12): Local Natives, “Colombia” (Live for KCRW)

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Local Natives
“Colombia”
Hummingbird (out tomorrow on Frenchkiss)

Earlier this year, someone I love very much tragically lost their mother, many years before her time. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to say to that person, which was complicated by the fact that I didn’t know what to say to myself. Do these tragedies happen for some clandestine reason? Or do they happen because the world is a fundamentally amoral place filled with beings with fundamentally fragile bodies?

During the production of their second LP, Local Natives’ vocalist Kelcey Ayer lost his own mother. As many great writers do, the Angelino finds words — beautiful, poignant words — for the kind of loss that renders the rest of us speechless. When he admits to asking himself every night whether he’s “loving enough” and “giving enough,” it is simultaneously heartbreaking and  redeeming. It reminds us that, no matter what, the people we love are always with us to guide us and remind us what is really important. It’s a truly beautiful sentiment and the centerpiece of what will undoubtedly be one of the most important albums of 2013.

Hot Jam of the Day (01.25.13): BenZel, “Fallin’ Love”

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BenZel
“Fallin’ Love”
Digital Single

I spent most of late December putting my “Hottest Jams of 2012” list together instead of covering new music, so I wanted to take the time to come back to one of my absolute favorites from that time: the yankin’ (can I use that word like that?) new single from the Japan-cum-NYC teenage duo. The group is formed by Umi Takahashi (15) and Yoko Watanabe (16), two kids from Osaka who met in New York while on foreign exchange. They entered the zeitgeist with their devastating cover of Brownstone’s 90s-boner-jam “If You Love Me,” with TP-favorite, Jessie Ware, and now we have their swirling, breezy debut single. Its smart, flawless construction belies their youth, while its spirit and bounce highlights said youth. While we still don’t know much about their backstory, you get the feeling that they have a massive future ahead.

Hot Jam of the Day (01.23.13): Memoryhouse, “Shades of our Life”

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Memoryhouse
“Shades of our Life”
Unreleased

I’m not a big napper, but if I was, Memoryhouse would be the soundtrack to my midday naps. I’ve been a huge fan of the Canadians’ celestial sound since their seminal debut EP, The Years, and this surprise single sums up so much of what makes me love them. Composer Evan Abeele deftly crafts lush, fluid arraignments for vocalist Denise Nouvion to glide over, resulting in tracks that are warm blankets to sit by the fire under. They are rarely complicated or flashy, but they are always arresting and alluring — calling you to forget your problems for a moment, lay down on that couch by the window, and drift off to sleep. This year, I’m gonna work on my napping, and Memoryhouse is going to guide me to sweet, sleepy success.

Hot Jam of the Day (01.22.12): Dawn Richard, “Tug of War”

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Dawn Richard
“Tug of War”
Goldenheart (self-released, out now)

Dawn Richard is an utterly fascinating creature. Miscast early in her career as the squeaky clean mouthpiece of Diddy’s radio R&B group, Dannity Kane, the New Orleans native has flourished since the group folded in 2009. Richard’s triumphant post-DK debut LP is a swirling, mystical rumination on the end of a relationship that highlights Richard’s diverse palette of influences (R&B, electro-pop, hip-hop, Eastern music), impeccable taste, and unique voice. Though it is probably six songs too long, it is full of golden moments, namely this emotive, slow-burner that somehow both recalls The-Dream and Stevie Nicks. Richard chronicles the way that break-ups turn into power struggles, and as she’s shown throughout her career, she’s in no mood to back down. The diverse, challenging nature of Goldenheart may turn off a high percentage of R&B and pop fans, but those who are willing to persevere with it will be rewarded handsomely  One of the albums of the young year.

Listen to Goldenheart on Spotify.

Hot Jam of the Day (01.21.12): Disclosure x AlunaGeorge, “White Noise”

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Disclosure x AlunaGeorge
“White Noise”
White Noise single (out 3/24 on PMR)

The hits just keep coming from the Howard brothers, and their new collab with fellow UK blogosphere favorites, AlunaGeorge, sounds exactly like you think it does: slinky, sexy, and utterly infectious. We are supposed to get debut LPs from both duos at some point this year, and if their back catalogs are anything to go by, they’ll be some of the best of the year. If you aren’t yet familiar, get familiar. This is what the new wave of dance music sounds like, and long may it continue.

Hot Jam of the Day (01.18.13): Blue Hawaii, “Try to Be”

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Blue Hawaii
“Try to Be”
Untogether (out 3/5 on Artbus Records)
B

BRAIDS frontwoman, Raph Standell-Preston, has always had the kind of voice that’s hard to shake. On “Try to Be,” we get to hear that voice front and center, as the duo deftly frames her nostalgic coo with gentle acoustic guitar and airy percussion. Blue Hawaii is the perfect name for her collaboration with fellow Canadian Alexander Cowan, as the group crafts beautiful, transformative soundscapes (the “Hawaii” part) that have just a sprinkle of melancholy (the “blue” part). If this contemplative number is any indication, expect Untogether to be a touching, evocative statement.