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 (08.13.12): Jessie Ware, “Sweet Talk”

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Jessie Ware
“Sweet Talk”
Devotion (PMR, out 8/21)

One more week. That’s all that’s left until we finally get to hear the debut album from London-based siren, Jessie Ware. I’ve spent so much of this year writing about her that I’m running out of superlatives, so let’s keep this one short. “Sweet Talk” is the fourth single from Devotion, and it sees the sultry, versatile vocalist slide into some seriously Sade-esque territory. Earlier this year, she stated that she was interested in making music that worked at home or on a night out, a la Chaka Khan and the aforementioned Ms. Adu. It’s safe to say she’s achieved that and a hell of a lot more. The best new artist of 2012 by a country mile.

Hot Jam of the Day (08.12.12): Jens Lekman, “I Know What Love Isn’t”

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Jens Lekman
“I Know What Love Isn’t”
I Know What Love Isn’t (out 9/4) 

I’m going to make declaration here, and it might be hyperbolic, short-sided, or downright insane, but I’m going to make it anyway. Jens Lekman is the best pure singer/songwriter of his generation. Armed with an irresistible wit, advanced melodic/compositional chops, an impossibly easy tenor, and the ability to write frankly and emotively about life, the 31 year-old Swede brings so, so much to the table. That said, it could be argued (though not particularly convincingly) that he is yet to write a true masterpiece (2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala qualifies for me and many others).

But even that flimsy argument is set to be put to bed by the impending I Know What Love Isn’t. Penned in the wake of a dissolved relationship (a citizenship-based marriage), Lekman’s third proper LP is an arresting, breathtaking exploration of love, loss, and moving on. The disc’s title track highlights his rare ability to simultaneously write about the minutiae of everyday life (first verse) and the most important moments (second verse) with the same understated grace and in a way that is totally relatable to the listener. It’s one of the main things that sets him apart from other songwriters; he knows that the devil is in the details, and oftentimes the most trivial aspects of our lives say as much as our biggest. Should be one of the albums of the year, if not the album.

Hot Jam of the Day (08.11.12): Teengirl Fantasy, “EFX” (f/ Kelela)

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Teengirl Fantasy
“EFX” (f/ Kelela)
Tracer (True Panther, out 8/21)

Upon first listen, this track didn’t knock me out. But after listening to the Brooklyn-based duo’s second LP, Tracer, I looked at it totally differently. Their debut, 7AM, featured a few of the best songs of 2010 (the inexorable “Cheaters” and the sultry “Dancing in Slow Motion) but was uneven and a little incoherent. The duo — Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss — have never been short on ideas, and Tracer is the sound of their best ideas coming to fruition. While none of the songs stood out quite like their aforementioned hits, it works incredibly well as an album and seems to hint at could hopefully be the future of dance music. Really one of the discs to look out for in the coming weeks.

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Hot Jam of the Day (08.08.12): Wild Nothing, “Paradise”

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Wild Nothing
Nocturne (Captured Tracks, out 8/28) 

After listening to “Paradise” for the first time yesterday, I was struck by how much Blacksburg, VA-native Jack Tatum has grown as a songwriter since his impressive debut Gemini dropped two years ago. I remember playing Gemini for my ex, and her response was “if I wanted to listen to the Cure, I’ll just go listen to the Cure.” While I disagreed, she certainly wasn’t wrong. We got a taste of his progression on 2010’s lovely Golden Haze EP — the one that really made me fall in love — but nothing on that feels as fully realized what we’ve heard so far from Nocturne.

Tatum’s voice is still as Breakfast Club-y as ever, and the Cure/Smiths references are still very much intact, but this is no hollow pastiche. At some point, people got over the fact that m83’s Anthony Gonzalez loved John Hughes movies, and just started appreciating his starry-eyed, earnest celebration of that moment for what it was: fucking brilliant. And I feel like people should/are going to start doing the same for Wild Nothing. We may have heard this sound before, but we’ve never heard this voice before. Now that Tatum seems to have truly found his, it’s up to all of us to sit up and pay attention.

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Check out Nocturne‘s first single, “Shadow.”

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Hot Jam of the Day (08.07.12): The xx, “Chained”

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The xx
Coexist (Young Turks)

There are plenty of things about the xx’s debut album that made it stand out from all the other albums released that year, but its most defining characteristic is undoubtedly its restraint.The fact that the sexiest British album in years was defined by its restraint isn’t unexpected, but it was astounding to hear a group so young with such an advanced understanding of space. xx never tries to be sexy; it just is. And a lot of that is based on what was left unsaid and unheard. The trio is back to their old tricks on their sophomore LP, Coexist, and its second single is a perfect example of their impressive knack for writing subtlety gorgeous tunes. Twin vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim are born to sing together, and their voices slither over a sparse, lulling arraignment only punctuated by a trademark single-string guitar line. Like, “Angels,” the disc’s first single, it isn’t going to blow anybody over on its own, but it foreshadows an album that looks set to live up to its superlative, sublime predecessor. Roll on September 10.

Hot Jam of the Day (08.06.12): Kisses, “Funny Heartbeat”

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“Funny Heartbeat”
Upcoming 2012 LP (IAMSOUND)

I fell hard for the debut from Princeton frontman Jesse Kivel’s side-project, and this is the first taste from the LA duo’s still-untitled sophomore LP. “Funny Heartbeat” continues with the group’s beachy, breezy yacht rock sound and has a little more of a disco/Balearic feel than some of their earlier material. It showcases Kivel’s mellifluous, Jens Lekman-reminiscent vocals, and the group’s ability to craft smooth, danceable tracks that seem to coax the sun out from behind the clouds. In a San Francisco summer, that quality is especially needed.

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Hot Jam of the Day (08.05.12): A$AP Rocky, “Pussy, Money, Weed”

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A$AP Rocky
“Pussy, Money, Weed”

I have to admit that I keep kinda expecting 23 year-old Rakim “A$AP Rocky” Mayers to fall off, but he continues to prove me wrong. Over a characteristically syrupy, hypnotic beat, the Harlem native drops three excellent verses with his UGK-meets-BoneThugz flow. Usually when independent rappers with a distinctive sound make the leap to a major label, much of what makes them special is drained out of them (remember that Wiz Khalifa guy?), but Rocky seems destined to avoid this cruel fate. If this and the super dope “Goldie” are any indication of how LONGLIVEA$AP is going to sound, sign me up.

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Hot Jam of the Day (08.02.12): Grizzly Bear, “Yet Again”

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Grizzly Bear
“Yet Again”
Shields (Warp)

Admittedly, it’s a little strange to hear Grizzly Bear do something this straightforward, but damned if it isn’t lovely. They’ve always had the ability to write incredible pop songs (“Two Weeks” springs to mind), but they’ve generally refused to play nice, opting for a more experimental, ramshackle approach. “Yet Again” is the sound of the group stripping back some of those layers and focusing on writing a beautiful, heartfelt, easily digestable acoustic pop-rock song. Unsurprisingly, they nail it, but it seems like more than just another excellent Grizzly Bear track. It feels like a rustic signpost pointing toward a kinder, gentler sound. Though Sheilds’ first single, “Sleeping Ute,” is rougher around the edges, it has undoubtable pop sensibilities. It really looks like this could be the album that transforms Grizzly Bear from indie darlings to bonafide superstars, and if that change keeps sounding this good, I’m more than OK with that.

Hot Jam of the Day (08.01.12): Anna Lunoe, “Up and Down”

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Anna Lunoe
“Up and Down”
Fool’s Gold Clubhouse Vol. 1 (Fool’s Gold)

If Thunder Penguin ever gives up chasing saucy penguettes and gets into human women, I’m pretty sure Anna Lunoe would be the girl of his dreams. Already an accomplished producer and DJ, the multi-talented Australian is set to take the indie pop world by storm. On the back of her sultry Real Talk EP, “Up and Down” is an impossibly sexy jam with understated vocals and some Nicolas Jaar-esque percussive magic. The hook has a hint of “Boom Boom Boom” to it (the “if I cannot be with you, maybe I could have a taste” part), which, in my opinion, is nothing but a bonus. Either way, I’d be shocked if this one doesn’t turn into a sleeper hit of the summer, as it feels readymade to soundtrack those summer relationships that are as ephemeral as the setting sun.

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Hot Jam of the Day (07.31.12): Antony, “Landslide”

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Antony Hegarty
Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac (Hear Music/Concord)

If Antony Hegarty ever decided to quit being a brilliant singer/songwriter, he could become the world’s best lounge singer. Though he is known for his enchanting, lush arraignments, a good chunk of Antony and the Johnsons frontperson Antony Hegarty’s finest moments are his quietest, and for whatever reason, a few of those seem to be his covers. Don’t get me wrong, I believe he is one of the five best, most important pure songwriters of his generation, but he also has an incredible knack for knocking out beautiful, subtle covers. Along the lines of his showstopping takes on Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home” comes his newest cover: an arresting, sparse take on Fleetwood Mac’s classic, “Landslide.” Taking on a song with that much cultural capital is dangerous, but the California native handles it with incredible care, deploying his delicate warble to staggering effect. His new symphonic LP, Cut the World, is out next week, and this should do well to tie us over till then. Lovely.

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And just because it’s incredible, here’s the video for his cover of “Crazy in Love.”