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

Hot Jam of the Day (10.08.12): How To Destroy Angels, “Keep It Together”

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How to Destroy Angels
“Keep It Together”
An Omen EP (due out 11/13 on Columbia)

“Keeping it together” and Trent Reznor haven’t always gone hand-in-hand over the years, and on his new single, when Reznor and his wife Mariqueen Maandig whisper the mantra “I can keep it together,” it sounds more of a hope than a belief. Musically, it has all the hallmarks of a Reznorian track: a minimalistic arraignment, a throbbing bass, and an ever-present feeling of tension. That tension exists in all of the former Nine Inch Nails-frontman’s best work, most interestingly in the fraught/frayed, yet gorgeous soundtrack to David Fincher’s The Social Network. It’s not 1994 anymore, and I can’t imagine this making much of a dent, but you get the feeling that Reznor is going to keep churning out fascinating, difficult music for his hoards of die-hard fans, whether mainstream radio gives a shit or not.

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Images & Words: This Week’s Video Round-Up

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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. Sky Ferriera: “Everything is Embarrassing”
I know that I just claimed that this was a round-up of the “best” videos of the week, but this is not a good video. In fact, it’s a pretty awful video that looks like it was shot for a student project. The lighting is weird, the shots uneven, and worst of all, the gorgeous part-time model that is supposed to be the star of the show is trying way, way, way too hard to be sexy here. Ferriera oozes allure and probably would look sexy mowing the lawn, so all of her hair-tossling, lip-pouting, and body-arching comes across as complete overkill. Luckily, it’s soundtracked by one of the best singles of the year, so it still makes the list, but only just. Some serious Lana Del Cray potential here.

4. Echo Lake: “Another Day” 
Road videos will never go out of style, and “Another Day” beautifully explores the healing powers of being out in nature with people you love. Though the Londoners tragically lost drummer Peter Hayes earlier this year, they are continuing to press on, and with work this excellent, his legacy will be well honored.

3. AlunaGeorge: “Watching Over You”
The video for the new single from the highly-touted Londoners takes us on a night drive through God-knows-where and the conscious of someone who is dreaming about cartoons, Mario Brothers, and nebulous galaxies. The clip nicely highlights the dreamy mood of the track and captures those totally random thoughts you have on long drives.

2. Solange: “Losing You” 
Probably how they should have handled the Ferriera clip, Beyoncés sister galavants aimlessly around beautiful South Africa in quirky digs being whimsical and looking sincere. Well done whoever directed this. An incredible track to boot.

1. Perfume Genius: “Take Me Home”

Seattle-based vocalist/chronic over-sharer Mike Hadreas is no stranger to striking videos. “Hood,” the lead single of his crushing second LP Put Your Back N 2 It, was originally banned by YouTube, due to images of the diminutive singer cuddling up to gargantuan porn star Arpad Miklos. YouTube was rightly chastised for their homophobic response and quickly reinstated the video. As powerful and affecting as his previous videos are, “Take Me Home” goes even further, seeing Hadreas strut, gyrate, and devour a Twinkie as a disheveled, cross-dressing streetwalker. Though his videos force the viewer to confront things that may make many of them (myself, included at times) uncomfortable at first, they all have really incredible moments of beauty that hopefully will serve to open up some of the viewers minds just that little bit. That’s what makes them so special.

Hot Jam of the Day (10.05.12): araabMUZIK, “Runaway Bass”

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“Runaway Bass”

I used to be annoyed by the “you are now listening to araabMUZIK” sample that the young Rhode Islander dropped in every song, but now I’m starting to think that it’s just totally unnecessary. The producer (né Abraham Orellana) has created a sound all his own, and this single exhibits all the hallmarks of an Araab-banger: impossibly overworked MPC percussion, maximalist arraignments, and impressive melodic dynamism. Unlike many of his biggest tracks — “Feelin’ So Hood,” “Streetz Tonight,” “I Remember” — “Runaway Bass” doesn’t have a moody, EDM vocal hook to go with it, but his bulldozing synths and block-breaking drops more than make up for it. He has become one of the most in-demand producers in music, and cuts like this show why.

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Also, check out his devastating remix of Sleigh Bells’ “Never Say Die.”

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Hot Jam of the Day (10.04.12): Alexis Taylor, “Under A Cancer Sky”

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Alexis Taylor
“Under A Cancer Sky”
Under A Cancer Sky Single (out 10/7 on DFA)

Berlin-based singer/producer Dan Bodan has been one of my favorite new artists of the year, and evidently I’m not the only one with that view. On the b-side of Bodan’s shadowy new single, “Under A Cancer Sky,” Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor provides his own lovely version. One of the few men on earth with a voice that’s as smooth as Bodan, Taylor’s puts his own mellifluous, better-produced spin on it. No word yet on whether/when Bodan will release a debut LP, but you can bet I’ll be all over it.

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Here is Bodan’s understated “demo” version.

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Hot Jam of the Day (10.03.12): Solange, “Losing You”

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“Losing You”
Losing You Single (out 11/06 on Terrible)

Everybody’s doing it, so why can’t she? In the last 12 months, we’ve had stunning singles from models (Sky Ferreira), failed models (Lana Del Cray), and whatever the fuck Kreayshawn was doing before she was Kreayshawn, so why wouldn’t the alt sister of the biggest pop star on the planet get into the act? Penned by Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and Lightspeed Champion — he’s also the guy who did Ferreira’s knock-you-the-fuck-out “Everything is Embarrassing” — Solange coos all doe-eyed and dreamy over Balearic percussion and spacious synths. Like “E.I.E.,” the track is all about Hynes’ devastating hook, and it increasingly seems like it’s time for Hynes to leave his day-job and just start writing John Hughes-recalling pop songs fulltime. I wonder who his next victim will be? I think he should write his next one for Jay Cutler. I’d buy that record.

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Hot Jam of the Day (10.02.12): Darkstar, “Timeaway”

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News #1-10 (out 11/13 on Warp)

After jumping from one critically-acclaimed, progressive dance label  (Hyperdub) to another (Warp), we appear to be inching closer to a proper follow-up to the group’s magisterial debut, North (2010). “Timeaway” is the first single to be unleashed from it, and it’s a characteristically meticulous, reflective number that drifts into a subtle conclusion. Darkstar is never a singles band, and it’s not going to tear up any charts, but it’s a nice to welcome such a talented outfit back into our headphones.

Darkstar: “Timeaway”

The Hot Jam Round-Up: End of September Edition

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Well, as you probably noticed, Thunder Penguin has taken a few weeks off. Something about going the Patagonia’s wireless connection, no doubt. But never fear, the little manbird has returned to round up the end of the month’s hottest jams. Dig in…

Aaliyah: “Rock the Boat” (Tony Quattro Refix), digital release
The NY-based DJ crafts an airy, engulfing new take on one of the ultimate classics of modern R&B. More than ten years since its release, “Rock the Boat” continues to sounds aeons ahead of its time.

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AlunaGeorge: “Your Drums, Your Love” (Friendly Fires Remix) from Your Drums, Your Love single (out 10/7 on TriAngle)
The St. Albans trio have long been flexing their significant remixing muscles, and their most recent is one of their best. A brilliant re-work of one of the songs of 2012.

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alt-j: “Tessellate” (SARM Acoustic Version), original from An Awesome Wave (out now on Infectious)
A stripped down take on one of the best take of the year. Though they haven’t received a lot of love in the American press, An Awesome Wave remains one of the most idea-packed, versatile albums of the year.

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Andy Stott: “Numb” from Luxury Problems (out 10/29 on Modern Love)
The debut single from the esoteric Brit’s highly-anticipated follow-up to his stunning discs, Pass Me By and We Stay Together (both 2011). One of the most thrilling, challenging, unique voices in dance music.

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Chief Keef, Kanye West, Pusha T, Jadakiss, Big Sean: “Don’t Like” (Remix) from Cruel Summer (out now on G.O.O.D. Music)

Though Kanye and co.’s hotly-anticipated Cruel Summer was a bit of a damp squib, it yielded some massive singles. And none were bigger than this monstrous re-touch of the biggest hip-hop song of the year. Expressing the rage and chaos of one of Chicago’s bloodiest summers ever, Keef’s original is both a sad indictment of the state of many parts of the city and an example of Chuck D’s assertion that hip-hop is the CNN of the Ghetto.

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CHVRCHES: “The Mother We Share” from The Mother We Share (out 11/5 on National Anthem)
Sky Ferriera isn’t the only artist who recently dropped an undeniable synth-pop single this quarter. This Scottish group’s break-out single will bounce, burrow, and wriggle its way through your earbuds and into your heart. An absolute earworm.

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Crystal Castles: “Wrath of God” from III (out 11/8 on Casablanca)

Though their style is very much indie dance á la mode, the Canadian duo still sport a sound all their own. They’ve always been brilliant at creating moods, and Alice Glass’ feral shriek is still captivating.

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Dan Bodan: “DP” from DP/Aaron (single) (out now on DFA)
I know it’s been out for a while, but not enough people are talking about this Canadian crooner’s graceful sound. Channeling past luminaries like Bryan Ferry and Arthur Russel, Bodan’s vocal twinkles above a deft piano line with arresting ease. Perfect.

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Plenty more after the jump….

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Hot Jam of the Day (09.12.12): Bat for Lashes, “Marilyn”

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Bat for Lashes
The Haunted Man (Parlophone, out 10.23)

We fell in love with the London pixie’s powerhouse last single — the captivating, old Hollywood ballad “Laura” — and now the impish Natasha Khan has bequeathed her sophomore LP’s second single on the shivering masses. Though it’s undoubtedly cut from the same dramatic cloth as its predecessor, “Marilyn” has much more of a new-age feel, as Khan unleashes her graceful falsetto over washes of synth twinkles and reverb-soaked electronic drum pads. Bat for Lashes has always worked best when Khan is shooting for the stars (ie dialing up the drama), and she seems to have realized it. If the rest of The Haunted Man is nearly as good as its two debut singles, it’s going to be one to remember.

Hot Jam of the Day (09.11.12): Kanye West, “Clique” (f/ Big Sean, Jay-Z)

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Kanye West
“Clique” (f/ Big Sean, Jay-Z)
Cruel Summer (G.O.O.D. Music, out 09/18)

In honor of the recent release of Cruel Summer‘s tracklist, I’ve decided to do things a little different. On his excellent new single, the Louis Vuitton Don repeats “ain’t nobody fuckin’ with my clique” roughly 2,193 times, and that got me thinking.

1. Who exactly is in Kanye’s clique?
2. Which of said members would I be most likely to fuck with?

So I decided to do a little research and make a list of potential clique members and rate them in descending order, from ones I most back myself to fuck with to unfuckwitable. Here goes nothing.

Tier 1: The Krissy Humphries: “Immanently Fuckwitable” Group

2 Chainz: The artist formerly known as Tity Boi leads our list. Honestly, does Kanye owe his dad a favor or something? How he continues to get on hot tracks/what he brings to the table remain the greatest unsolved mysteries Carlos Boozer’s hair. He makes Murphy Lee sound like Andre 3000.

Big Sean: He comes in just above 2 Chainz, thanks to his cool hat collection, past collaboration with The-Dream, and the fact that my buddy Sean thinks he’s hella handsome. Comes in second-to-last because his flows are as interesting as a JWOWW TED Talk.

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Hot Jam of the Day (09.10.11): Fear of Men, “Mosaic”

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Fear of Men
Mosaic 7″ (Too Pure)

Another sumptuous single from the British dream-pop quartet, “Mosaic” is a gauzy, immersive number driven by vocalist Jess Weiss’ heartfelt vocal and miles of jangly guitar goodness. Despite its downtrodden refrain — “Break me into pieces to feel safe/Like I’m no one” — it remains hopeful, breezy and youthful, like love could still come through in the end. It feels like a lost cut from the Empire Records soundtrack. In fact, I can just see Liv Tyler listening to this on her discman, while sitting on that roof — brokenhearted and angsty. She’s alone until the last chorus, when that handsome dude with the bad sweater comes up and tells her exactly how he feels about her….all while poor Joey Lauren Adams overdoses on diet pills, and Marc (with a K) creeps out all the girls who come into the store. I digress, but suffice it to say, I really love this band and am feverishly looking forward to a full-length from them.

Fear the Men! Save the Empire! Buy the limited single, here.

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Also, check out their incredible single “Green Sea,” which was released earlier this year.

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