Future, "Hate the Real Me"


Future "Hate the Real Me" Beastmode 2 (out now on Epic) The peak of a quietly excellent year, Future goes super deep on his worthy follow-up to 2015's legendary "Beast Mode" tape. Of all its stirring moments, nothing emotionally hits harder than its last track, as Future pours his heart out over Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2018 (So Far...)


Somehow, some fucking way, 2018 is more than half over. And though it might feel like I always say this, I think this was the toughest list I've had to make yet. There's been an overwhelming number of exciting, vital new voices popping up and plenty of fantastic follow-ups Read more

Images & Words: The 1975, "Give Yourself A Try"


The 1975 "Give Yourself A Try" A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (out in October on Dirty Hit) Though it's been out for about two weeks, I've listened to the Manchester quartet's new single roughly two million times. Compositionally, it's totally unremarkable. Built around a repetitive, simplistic guitar riff and three chords, Read more

Images & Words: The Rhythm Method, "Chin Up"


The Rhythm Method "Chin Up" Digital Single Every two years*, I get afflicted with the same illness. It usually starts up a few weeks before every major international football tournament and lasts until somewhere around the quarterfinals. Who knows how long my believesthatEnglandcanwinthewholething-itis will last for this year, but I'm hoping that Read more

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

Best of 17: My Favorite Albums of 2017

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kendrick-lamar-variety-hitmakers31. Kendrick Lamar
DAMN.
Aftermath/Interscope
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
Prisoner
PAX-AM
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
“Sportstar”
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
“Saturday”
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
“Mama”
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
“Patience”

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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The-Dream-press-cr-Miguel-Starcevich-2017-billboard-1548The-Dream
“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
“Wildflowers”

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
“Affiliated”

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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das-duo-smerz-erklrt-dir-1490023826Smerz
“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.

Hot Jam of the Day: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “Dead in the Water”

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landscape-original-noel-gallagher-december-esquire-43-jpg-292eb7dbNoel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
“Dead in the Water”

Who Built the Moon? (out now on Sour Mash)
I’m not sure I’ll love Noel’s experimental, psych-influenced third post-Oasis LP, but I’ll always be a sucker for a good Gallagher ballad. Tacked on at the end of the disc, “Dead in the Water” has all the hallmarks of the stripped down, sing-along strummers that made Oasis one of the greatest bands of the 90’s. Vague melancholic nostalgia? Check. A knockout chorus melody? Check. A reimagined Beatles lyric? Check fucking mate. While I suppose it’s somewhat admirable that Noel isn’t spending his time trying to recreate past glories, I really like it when he does… even just for a few minutes.

Images & Words: DaVido, “Like Dat”

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download (1)DaVido
“Like Dat”

Digital Single
Who needs albums when you drop singles like this? While the world waits with baited breath for official album news, the 25 year-old mega-star doesn’t have time for all that, preferring to drop smash after smash. By my count, “Like Dat” is the Lagos native’s 10th single of the year. And like the vast majority of those songs, it fucking bangs. His warm vocals are second to none, and they slither through a seductive deep house chords and bouncy percussion. Album or not, this guy’s on fire.