Images & Words: SOPHIE, "It's Okay To Cry"


SOPHIE "It's Okay to Cry" Digital Single Every once in a while, somebody puts out something that takes your breath away. "It's Okay to Cry" is absolutely one of those moments. After spending her early career lurking behind faceless, chaotic, schizophrenic experimental dance music, the 32 year-old has stepped into the light and up to the microphone. The result is Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: King Krule, "Logos"


King Krule "Logos" The OOZ (out now on XL) Archy Marshall's excellent new album feels like a collection of those wonky dream states that exist somewhere in that nether region between being wake and sleep. Though I'm still digesting all 19 of its songs, the hypnotic, jazzy "Logos" immediately stuck out. Over languid jazz chords Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, "For Robin"


The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die "For Robin" Always Foreign (Epitaph) There are many, many awful things about addiction, but little is as insidious as the way it pushes its victims away from loved ones from their previous life and deeper into their illness. Anybody who has lost someone to Read more

Images & Words: Stormzy, "4PM in London"


Stormzy "4PM in London" Digital Single Turning freestyles into anthems is nothing new to the ultra-talented Londoner. And though the ravenous "4PM in London" was probably written, it feels alive in the same way that many of those aforementioned tracks did. Unlike Drake (the man who originally rapped on this beat), Stormzy's got the rare ability to Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of The Third Quarter


As you may have noticed, I've done my annual "fall behind on a monthly column" thing over the last couple months. That said, that just gives me more ammo for a proper Q3 round up, featuring the best records of that period in alphabetical order. 21 Savage Issa Album Slaughter Read more

Hot Jam of the Day (04.03.12): Dent May, “Best Friend”

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Dent May
Best Friend
Do Things (Paw Tracks)

Dent May seems like a fucking weirdo. Not like a check-out-how-weird-I-am/play-one-on-TV type weirdo. But, like a legitimately weird as fuck, weirdo. If the Jackson, Mississippi-based singer-songwriter owns less than six cats, it’s only because his mother doesn’t let him keep them in the house or it’s because he’s already set them on fire. Ok, that’s probably taking it a bit far, but his twisted take on 60’s pop-rock and  Sexy People-style promo photos make it hard not to draw those kinds of conclusions. He thrust himself into the pop music zeitgeist with one of 2009’s best songs, the glorious, piano-driven “Eastover Wives,” which doubled as a inch-perfect slice of Beach Boys-era nostalgia and a bizarrely cautionary tale about the dangers of women getting involved in sex and marriage too young. This, the first single from the long-awaited Do Things, is more of the same, an ode to a best friend that is so earnest and cheesy, I almost thing he’s fucking with us. But I doubt it.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/41348119″ iframe=”true” /]


Album Review: Chromatics, Kill For Love

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Chromatics
Kill For Love
Italians Do It Better (2012)

Johnny Jewel and his suddenly red-hot label Italians Do It Better have never been big on minimalism. His recently-released Scenes From An Imaginary Film that was, wasn’t, definitely was, totally wasn’t could have been the original soundtrack to the Gos’ Academy Award-nominated Drive clocks in at a cool 37 tracks, and his label’s flagship group, Glass Candy, are known for their slinky, frenetic nu-wave cuts that often come run north of the 7-minute mark. So it came as no surprise to anybody that the full version of Night Drive, the I.D.I.B. debut from the Portland-based quartet, Chromatics, came in at Metallica-esque 79 minutes and 33 seconds.

While many (myself included) thought Night Drive dragged in places, it didn’t stop the quartet from biting off another huge mouthful with their 80-minute follow-up, Kill For Love, a particularly risky move considering that the Internet has given us the attention spans of amoebas. Incredibly, it’s an altogether engaging, listenable affair that is filler-free and coherent. They’ve always had a knack for genre bending, but they take it to the next level here. Striking a potent balance between sexy 80’s darkwave (the superlative title track, “Lady”), moody down-tempo melancholia (“Into the Black,” “Candy”), driving 80’s guitar rock (“The Page”), and left-fielders (the instrumental “The Eleventh Hour,” “Running From The Sun”), the album expertly toes the line between sounding fresh and exciting without being disjointed.

While vocalist Ruth Radelet’s confident, alluring coo is one of the album’s key driving forces, she takes a back seat on its most fascinating track, the sparse, detached “These Streets Will Never Look the Same.” It’s indicative of what makes Chromatics so special; just as soon as you think you’ve got their sound pinned, they hit you with a sprawling, auto-tuned slow burner that manages to sound nothing like the group, while simultaneously sounding like something only they could have made.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/41479829″ iframe=”true” /]

It may have taken the group five long years to unleash a successor to Night Drive, but after a few spins through the LP, you’ll know why. They could have released a nicely-packaged, 10-song synth-pop album, and nobody would have complained. But that just wouldn’t be Chromatics, Johnny Jewel, or Italians Do It Better. It also wouldn’t have been this versatile, this enigmatic, or this remarkable. It also certainly wouldn’t have been one of the best albums of 2012.

Full Album Stream After the Jump.

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Hot Jam of the Day (04.02.12): Dirty Projectors, “Gun Has No Trigger”

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Dirty Projectors
“Gun Has No Trigger”
Swing Lo Magellan (Domino)

These Brooklyn-based indie-rock experimentalists’ are the purveyors of one of the most anticipated albums of 2012. Their 2009 breakthrough Bitte Orca was a breathtaking, frenetic affair that highlighted the mufti-faceted collective’s inspiring, fascinating take on pop music. This, the lead single off said album, is the group at their glorious best. While sparse is never going to be considered the group’s primary M.O., they nail it here, as band leader/vocalist David Longstreth’s strained howl is perfectly framed by some impossibly mellifluous oooh’s from Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian and a naked-except-for-drums accompaniment. I don’t think it’s given us much of a clue about the album’s sonic direction, unless “awesome” counts.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/41218921″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (03.30.12): Jai Paul, “Jasmine”

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Jai Paul
“Jasmine” (Demo)
From Upcoming Release on XL

Somebody forgot to tell soulful British crooner Jai Paul that this is the Internet age, and if you are a young artist with a bit of buzz, you are supposed to release new tracks music about every 3.6 seconds. It’s hard to believe that it’s taken Paul nearly two years to follow up on the buzz from his unfuckwitable (see what I’ve done there?) breakthrough single “BTSU” (which was actually written all the way back in 2007), but the wait was certainly worth it. “Jasmine” is a moody, groovy slow burner that comes as a less robotic take on Daft Punk’s classic “Something About Us.” Above anything, it shows that the enigmatic vocalist is no one-trick pony, and hopefully 2012 will be the year that we finally get to hear a full-length from him.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/41479635″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (03.29.12): Elite Gymnastics, “Here, in Heaven 4 & 5” (CFCF Rework)

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Elite Gymnastics
“Here, in Heaven 4 & 5” (CFCF Rework)
Ruin 4

I can’t remember a track in recent years that has undergone as many fascinating incarnations, as “Here, in Heaven,” the ghostly centerpiece of the KPOP-obsessed Minneapolis natives’ breakthrough debut LP. “Here, in Heaven 1” is a chaotic, claustrophobic affair, while its second manifestation is a shadowy, murky slowjam that would make a perfect last dance at Morticia Addams’ first post-Gomez eHarmony marriage. We’ve heard How To Dress Well (né Tom Krell) lend his signature falsetto to a typically sparse, typically affecting version, and now we’re treated to Canadian synth-meister CFCF’s instrumental, ethereal re-work that builds to an impossibly beautiful climax.

Vegas has the over-under at 8 versions of this song by February 2013, and I’m pounding the over. And, honestly, as long as artists this creative and talented keep tackling it, I’ll keep listening.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/40739134″ iframe=”true” /]

Check out HTDW’s stunning version. Originals after the jump.

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Hot Jam of the Day (03.28.12): Princeton, “Florida”

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Princeton
“Florida”
Remembrance of Things to Come (Hit City USA, 2012)

It’s fitting that this Santa Monica-bred, Eagle Rock-based chamber pop quartet is named after a place (Princeton St. in Santa Monica, not the University), because frontman Jesse Kivel’s lyrics constantly revolve around feeling particular ways in particular places. Their breakthrough EP was called “Bloomsbury” — after the district of London that was once home to Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf Kivel and where Kivel and his bass-playing brother Matt lived in during college. There was their breezy 2010 single “To The Alps.” There was their debut album’s best track, “Stunner Shades in Heaven,” that saw Kivel wax lyrical about “summer nights in San Sebastian,” San Diego, Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

All of Kivel’s work (he is also the lead singer of one of 2010’s best new bands, Kisses) is so reminiscent of Jens Lekman, and it’s not just because of his warm blanket of a voice. Lekman is a master of matching detailed, honest descriptions of very personal moments in his life in particular locales (see: “Friday Night at the Drive in Bingo” & “The Cold Swedish Winter”) with relatable, over-arching truths and evocative, sweeping melodies, leaving you feeling nostalgic for moments that you may have never had. “Florida” is full of snapshots of a life that probably isn’t yours (“driving drunk home from a local club”), but is probably just a bit like yours. And it’s hard not to get swept away.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/35150477″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jams of the Day(s) (03.27/8.12): Air France, “Collapsing Outside Your Doorstep” & “No Excuses”

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Air France
“Collapsing Outside Your Doorstep” & “No Excuses”
No Way Down (Sincerely Yours, 2008) 

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/10455212″ iframe=”true” /]

“It’s like a dream, isn’t it?”
“No, better.”

I can’t think of a better way to describe Swedish duo’s seminal (yeah, I said it) second EP than by borrowing the cherubic sample that permeates the song that made me fall in love with the group in the first place. Though it sounds strange to call an album influential only four years after its release, this is this Internet age and this is what’s happening now. Along with criminally underrated fellow Swedes, Boat Club, nobody was more responsible for the rise of today’s hugely popular airy, Balaeric-twinged pop — and its red-headed bastard child, Chillwave — than Air France. While they weren’t the first, they were certainly the best at marrying the blissed-out Ibizan dancefloor sound with a strong pop sensibilities.

For that reason, there was a staggering outpouring of praise and disappointment when the group announced they would be splitting on Monday. The group’s members — Joel Karlsson and Henrik Markstedt — stated an inability to match the quality of the devastating No Way Down, and while that is ostensibly understandable, it’s also surprising because their brilliant, undulating 2011 single, “It Feels Good To Be Around You” suggested huge things for the group in 2012.

While it’s tough to say goodbye, we’ll always have the memories, and in Air France’s case, they’re particularly spectacular (so fitting for a group that made music dripping with nostalgia). Besides helping shape the sound of countless breakout artists (Toro y Moi, Washed Out, jj, etc) and launching the most interesting record label of the last five years, No Way Down is truly special because of its wide-eyed, unbelievably lush six tracks. It’s the perfect collection — an incredible set of anthemic, blissful Balearic pop earworms, ready to wriggle their way into your heart and get your head dreaming of “wamer climes” (sorry, had to). For someone who grew up over 5,000 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, it opened me up into an entirely new sound.

Whether or not this is really the end remains to be seen, but whatever happens, I’ll continue to be grateful to Karlsson and Markstedt — not only for forming one of my three favorite bands of the last five years — but for all the music they turned me on to and all the excellent (and not-so-excellent) bands they influenced.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/555111″ iframe=”true” /]

A Track for the Weekend: Beach Fossils, “Shallow”

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Something light and breezy for the weekend, check out this sumptuous new-ish single from Brooklyn dreamers Beach Fossils.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/35427375″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (3.23.12): Ice Choir, “Two Rings”

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The debut single from the 80’s-influenced, moody Brooklyn synth-pop duo, this is fucking excellent. Listen to it.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/36079974″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (03.21.12): Danny Brown, “Grown Up”

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Too exhausted to blog, thanks to my cross-country flight to New York City (biggest first world problem, ever). Simply put, I love Danny, and you should too.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/40625899″ iframe=”true” /]