Caroline Polachek, "Ocean of Tears" & "Parachute"


Caroline Polachek"Ocean of Tears" / "Parachute"Pang (out this fall on Columbia)Ok, now I'm getting really excited about the ex-Chairlift vocalist/composer's first album under her real name. Following up on her wonderful first single "Door," these two new tracks highlight Polachek's spellbinding voice and evocative, powerful songwriting. Though you can Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Albums of the 2nd Quarter


Ana Roxanne~~~Leaving RecordsThe Oakland bedroom artist’s debut project is a staggering slice of ambient music that pulls subtly from the R&B and pop vocalists that she grew up on. Her voice sounds far away but pulls you in close (think: Grouper’s “Ruin”) and is ready to tell you its Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019, So Far (Honorable Mention)


As promised, here is the rest of my favorite tracks of the year that didn't quite make the cut for my main list. Songs are in no particular order. Chromatics “Time Rider”bahahahahah (Italians Do It Better) “Dear Tommy” is obviously never coming out. But I did get to hear this Read more

The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019 (So Far)


A little bit late this year due to real-world commitments, but here is my annual list of the best songs of the first half of 2019. Look for my honorable mention coming later in the week. This year, instead of going with an actual ranking system, I'm going to Read more

Lana Del Rey, "Doin' Time"


Lana Del Rey"Doin' Time"Sublime OST (out soon on Universal)If you grew up in California in the early 2000's, it was just about impossible to get in someone's car or go to a party that wasn't playing one of those two Sublime albums. Evidently, the same was true in wherever Read more

Images & Words: Weekly Video Round-Up, 11.11

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When MTV stopped playing music videos, many prognosticators claimed that the music video would go the way of the dodo. How wrong they were. Nowadays, music videos are better than they’ve ever been, and every weekend, I’m going to round up the best music videos released that week.

Note: Please read all of the blurbs in a sultry, Daisy Fuentes accent.

5. Desire: “Tears from Heaven”
The Italians Do It Better faves returned this week with their first new material in the last three years. Consisting of IDIB mainman Johnny Jewel (Chromatics, Glass Candy, etc.), vocalist Megan Louise, and Nat Walker (Chromatics), the group’s comeback track follows in the footsteps of their synth-pop masterclass, II. If you’ve seen a Johnny Jewel video, I don’t need to tell you about Alberto Rossini’s lo-fi, sepia-toned directorial style. If you haven’t, you’ll get it.

 4. Tensnake: “Mainline” (f/ Syron)
German house DJ Marco Niemerski has never hidden his love for the 90s, but he’s really taken things to a new level with his C+C-tastic new clip. Driven by an intoxicating vocal from brash, South London-native Syron (who does a pretty decent job of channeling Robyn), Niemerski crafts an exhilarating, buoyant, bass-driven slab of classic electro magic. An absolute banger.

3. Kool AD, “Manny Pacquiao”
One half of BK-weirdo hip-hop duo Das Racist, Victor “Kool AD” Vazquez is still riding high off his criminally underrated solo LP, 51. The San Francisco-native weaves his signature laid-back, non-sequitur-heavy flow over a spare, devastating beat from fellow Bay Area boss, Trackademicks. The video is typical Das Racist fare…basically a buncha hipsters doing sweet dances. You know you’re into it.

2. Tamaryn, “Heavenly Bodies”
Though it hasn’t quite blown up like I’ve hoped, San Francisco-based artist Tamaryn’s second LP, Tender New Signs, was one of the best shoegaze albums of the year. Driven by her gauzy vocals and Rex Shelverton’s emotive, reverb-soaked guitar work. This, the first video released from the album, fits the emotive, underwater feel of the song brilliantly. Plus it reminds me of that one Meat Puppets’ “Backwater” video, so extra points for that.

1. Chad Valley (f/ Glasser), “Fall 4 U”
Full disclosure  I love cheesy ass music. Sorry. So, it’s unsurprising that Oxford-born Chad Valley’s Wham!-tastic duet with Glasser (né Cameron Mesirow) has been one of my favorite, favorite songs of the entire year. And while writing this good of a slowdance/make-out jam is an accomplishment, it takes balls to make a video that goes for it this hard. Though many critics have rolled their eyes at the Brit’s debut LP, Young Hunger, his unabashed earnestness has been a breath of fresh air for a scene that still often hides behind irony, anonymity, and pastiche. In short, he fucking owns it, and I really respect him for that.

Hot Jam of the Day (11.08.12): Schwarz Don’t Crack, “Lay You Down”

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Schwarz Don’t Crack
“Lay You Down”
Digital Single

Springing from the suddenly scalding Berlin club scene, Schwarz Don’t Crack is yet another group that is striving to refine and redefine R&B. Their sound is built by the Crisco-smooth tenor of American vocalist Ahmad Larnes and the emotive, herky-jerky production of Germany’s Sebastian Kreis. The duo form one of the most exciting new groups of the second half of this year, and it certainly feels like we’ll be hearing a lot more from SDC — and the city they call home — in 2013. Though they’ve only fully released two songs this year, I’m calling it; they are going to be absolutely huge in eight months time. If you don’t believe me, check out the rest of the snippets on their Soundcloud. Fucking huge, I tell you.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/49551076″ iframe=”true” /]

And, just cuz, check out their killer previous single, “Miami.”

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/32534488″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (11.01.12): Angel Haze, “Song Cry”

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Angel Haze
“Song Cry”
Classick (Out now and self-released) 

It’s amazing how quickly exhilaration turns to tedium in music, especially in hip-hop. In the last few years, I can rattle off a laundry list of rappers who looked set to stamp their unique voices on the industry — Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks — but fell at the first hurdle, crushed by the weight of expectation and major label commercial expectations. I have a different feeling about Detroit-cum-NYC rapper Angel Haze. One of the most talented young MCs to rise this year, Haze’s new mixtape, Classick, highlights both her incredible lyrical talent and impeccable taste. Her brutal, unbelievably affecting remake of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet” has rightly taken much of the plaudits, but her remake of the Jay-Z classic also highlights her impeccable storytelling, loquacious flow, and mature voice. Hopefully, Universal will stay out of her way and let her do her thing on her highly-anticipated major label debut. If they do that, she’ll have an incredible career.

Angel Haze: “Song Cry”

Hot Jam of the Day (10.31.12): Hot Natured & Ali Love, “Benediction”

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Hot Natured & Ali Love
“Benediction”
Benediction 7″ (out now on Hot Creations)

A jam for a great Halloween night, “Benediction” has spent the summer blowing up dancefloors around the world, and now that it’s out, it’ll probably spend this winter blowing up earbuds.

Life. Affirming.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/65237029″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (10.30.12): Roosevelt, “Soleil”

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Roosevelt
“Soleil”
Sea (out now on Greco-Roman) 

Around 2009/10, I had a running joke with my editor about my inability to get through my old singles column without using the word ‘Balearic’ at least once. Artists like Air France, jj, and Boat Club expertly enmeshed the dancefloors of Ibiza with the gentle breeze of Scandinavian pop to devestating effect. No matter what the weather was like, it was always sunny in my speakers. And while I’ll always have a sweet tooth for that sound, it hasn’t been quite as en vouge in the last few years (I blame Witch House).

That said, there are still a ton of excellent artists doing it — Chad Valley and Beat Connection spring to mind — and this young Hamburg native is definitely one of them. “Soleil,” the b-Side of his breakthrough single, is a buoyant, shimmering slice of Balearic Bliss with an engaging, gentle vocal and a languid, beachy arraignment. In short, it’s a great way to hang on to the last flittering strands of summer, and it serves to remind us that summer is a state of mind, not a season.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/62679342″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (10.29.12): Christopher Owens, “Lysandre’s Theme/Here We Go”

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Christopher Owens
“Lysandre’s Theme/ Here We Go”
Lysandre (out 01/15/13 on Fat Possum)

When singer/guitarist/songwriter Christopher Owens left SF critical darlings earlier this year, there were many digital tears shed. Though they were only really culturally relevant for about three years, Owens’ unabashed passion and fearless songwriting  built the group a large, devoted fanbase that stretched well outside their beloved San Francisco. And while I was certainly disappointed to see them call it a day, I certainly didn’t think we’d seen the end of Owens; frankly, when you are as talented a songwriter as he is, you don’t simply quit writing music in your early thirties. The first taste we have of post-Girls Owens is delicious and understated, as the emotive vocalist weaves one of his signature effeminate (I mean that as a complement, FYI) love-songs over a delicate, fingerpicked melody and Renaissance Faire flutes (shouldn’t work, but it does). I recently got tickets to see his first post-Girls live performance, and I’d imagine it will go a long way to help me get over the break-up of one of my favorite new bands of the last five years.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/64468627″ iframe=”true” /]

Images & Words: Weekly Video Round-Up, 10.27

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When MTV stopped playing music videos, many prognosticators claimed that the music video would go the way of the dodo. How wrong they were. Nowadays, music videos are better than they’ve ever been, and every weekend, I’m going to round up the best music videos released that week.

Note: Please read all of the blurbs in a sultry, Daisy Fuentes accent. 

5. M83: “Steve McQueen”
In an era where fully realized albums are few and far between, Anthony Gonzalez’s decision to make the most important album of his career into a double LP was incredibly balsy. Luckily, it paid off, as Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming managed to hit heights not even reached by its seminal predecessor, Saturdays = Youth. The best thing about its length is that a year later, we’re still digesting it, and gems like “Steve McQueen” (the album’s 19th track) keep popping up as I go back through the album. It’ll take some time for the true scope of the Frenchman’s vision to become crystal clear, and you can’t help but feel that a few years from now we’ll be looking at it as one of the high watermarks of this decade.

4. Chromatics: “Looking For Love”
Who wants to spend five minutes checking out a bunch of people who are taller, better looking, and more stylish than them? When it’s backed by a track this deadly? Everybody.

3. Wild Nothing: “Paradise”
My roommate and I had an argument/heated discussion about Michelle Williams last week. I argued that she is a criminally underrated, extremely versatile actress, while he argued that she wasn’t nearly as good as his two favorite actresses, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Katherine Heigl. Ok, that’s not true, but basically, it boiled down to Michelle Williams vs. Heath Ledger. And while emoting into what looks like a flip-phone camera isn’t going to necessarily help my argument, it certainly won’t hurt it…especially when it’s soundtracked by one of the 10 best songs of the year.

2. Connan Mockasin: “Faking Jazz Together”
First off, thanks to my buddy Dan for tipping me off to this. The new video for the trippy Kiwi’s “Faking Jazz Together” is easily one of the most visually stunning of the year. Taking place in a forest scene that is very The Crucible/”An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge,” something very strange is afoot. Like the best videos, it perfectly captures the mood and feel of the song: shadowy, esoteric, affecting, and ultimately beautiful.

1. Trinidad James: “All Gold Everything”
Now, I’m aware that no credible music writer would rank this video over the preceding four (especially “Faking Jazz Together”), so it’s good that I’m not a credible music writer, because this has to be the best video of the week. How come? Ten reasons.
1. Adorable puppies used as rap props/accessories.
2. “Pop the molly, I’m sweatin'” rhymed with “mama said, boy, count yo’ blessins.”
3. A preponderance of cheetah print clothing. All worn by men.
4. Gold (painted) baseball bats and bikes.
5. Stuntin’ in a panda mask.
6. Chick w/ two gold teeth.
7. James has a Dungeon Family tattoo on his hands. Not a member of the Dungeon Family.
8. Velvet slippers.
9. 4 CHAINZZZZ.
10. Soundtracked by one of the best rap songs of the year and starring one of the most entertaining, seemingly affable new rappers of the year.

Hot Jam of the Day (10.22.12): Local Natives, “Breakers”

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ED NOTE: I started a new job and moved house last week, and I have obviously fallen desperatley behind on my Hot Jams. Instead of going back and filling days, I’ll just pull double duty this week. Thanks! TP

Local Natives
“Breakers”
Hummingbird (out 01/29/13 on Frenchkiss)

Simply put, the Silver Lake-based quartet’s debut album, Gorilla Manor, was one of my favorite albums of 2009. Nowadays, it’s rare to see young bands allow more than 18 months or so to go by in between successful albums, so four years feels like an absolute eternity. And while I’m sure the sunny harmonizers could have cranked out 12 more slabs of Laurel Canyon-influenced magic a little sooner, it’s refreshing to see a rising band take the time to reflect on an impressive maiden statement and carefully craft a follow-up. While first single, “Breakers,” has many of the LN hallmarks — evocative melodies, delicate vocals, busy percussion, strong vocal harmonies — it also has a more than a touch of extra grandiosity and a quasi-arena-rock feel that wasn’t quite evident on Gorilla Manor. Wherever it goes, it will definitely be a fascinating statement, and it’s certainly going to be one of the most anticipated albums of first part of the new year.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/63913097″ iframe=”true” /]

Hot Jam of the Day (10.10.12): Various Artists, “West Coast Cypher ’12” from the BET Hip-Hop Awards

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(In Order) Xzibit, YG, Kurupt, E-40, DJ Quik, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg/Lion/Baby Cat
“West Coast Cypher ’12”
BET Hip-Hop Awards

There are ten things that I really enjoy/think about about this performance.

1. Everything about Kendrick Lamar’s flow is captivating. One of the best rappers on the planet right now. No doubt.

2. Besides his hair, DJ Quik’s commitment to percussion is truly exceptional (even though he couldn’t keep up). Didn’t know a plastic fork could count as an instrument.

3. I wonder how much Xzibit’s people must have paid the producers to get him at that table. I’m setting the over-under at $250,000.

4. Along the same lines, YG. Really???? The producers needed a young, up-and-coming rapper to go with Kendrick, and they came up with YG? What, Tyler The Creator, Lil B, Earl Sweatshirt, Kool A.D., Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Hopsin, and Mondre M.A.N. were all busy? Hell, I would have even accepted Tyga’s non-rappin’ ass. Puhreeese.

5. I’ve never been his biggest fan, but E-40 has got to be one of the most charismatic, likable rappers on the planet. I wish he was my uncle.

————————————————————————————————————————————

Quick Tangent: Because I’ll never have as seamless a segue to this again, here is my family fantasy team of rappers.
Dad: Jay-Z –>Has experienced more than many would in 10 lifetimes. Seems like a level-headed, non-insane person. Would give the best b-day presents.
Mom: Pepa from Salt ‘N Pepa–>Seems like she would be a fun mom that would also teach discipline and raise you right. Also, if anyone ever fucked with you, she’d fuck them up first.
Big Brother: T.I. –>Has made a bunch of mistakes but has come through them. Feel like he’d give great guidance/advice. Seems wise.
Little Brother: Curren$y–>The current frontrunner of the prestigious “rapper I’d most like to play NBA Live/FIFA with.” That’s what little brothers are for, right?
Big Sister: Missy Elliot–>Clearly the cool older sister who you could follow around, but would also be sweet to you. Would def have hot friends.
Cooky Uncle: E-40–>Obvious.
Cool Uncle: Rick Ross–>You wouldn’t see him often, but whenever you needed something he’d help you out. Also, you could go visit him in South Florida and hang out on his yacht without him getting all in your shit. Also, would probably smoke you out for the first time and not tell your dad. Also, good birthday presents.
Cousins: Odd Future–> You wouldn’t want to hang out with them everyday, because they are completely insane, but they would definitely spice up boring family gatherings and would probably have weed/m80’s/skateboards/etc to play with.

————————————————————————————————————————————

AANNNNNDDD, we’re back!

6. WHERE THE FUCK IS SHORT DOGGGGGG????????? SO-CAL BIASSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!

7. “I don’t gotta prove I’m fly…parrot.” I just…

8. I love that Kendrick Lamar mentions eating Now and Laters before playing ball. Good to know that the kids in the burbs have at least one thing in common with kids from Compton. Dr. Pepper and N&L’s are the perfect pre-game meal for middle school ballers…and Lamar Odom.

9. America needs a new Kurupt/Dogg Pound album. I predict that both would be huge hits in today’s market.
(EDIT: There have been two Dogg Pound albums and a Kurupt album released in the last three years. They sold a combined 11 copies by our count. We called around.)

10. Possible candidates for the 2013 edition: Shifty Shellshock, Travie McCoy, Afroman, The Azn dude from Black-Eyed Peas, all three of the Delinquentes, residents of the Cali Swag District.

Hot Jam of the Day (10.09.12): Jessie Ware x Wild Beasts, “Night Light”

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Jessie Ware x Wild Beasts
“Night Light” (Wild Beasts Rework)
Original on Devotion (out now on PMR)

For a bunch of art/indie rockers, provincial Brits Wild Beasts have crafted some damn good remixes down the years. However, I’d hesitate to call their take on Jessie Ware’s blazing new single just a remix. The group intertwines their signature dramatique vocals with Ware’s sultry original to create a totally new track, which is more cover than remix. Whatever you want to call it, it’s fucking brilliant, and it’s damn good to hear from the boys from the Lake District. No word on a follow-up to their splendid 2011 LP, Smother, but this will go some way to tying me over.

PS: If somehow you’ve missed it, the Jessie Ware album is really, really, really, ridiculously good looking , er sounding. Good sounding. That’s right. I guess it looks good too, but mostly it sounds good.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/62647573″ iframe=”true” /]

And just because, check out Hot Chip frontman Joe Goddard’s nuvo-disco version of “Night Light.”

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/61927669″ iframe=”true” /]