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 (7.17.12): Danny Brown x Araabmuzik, “Molly Ringwald”

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Danny Brown x Araabmuzik
“Molly Ringwald”
Single (Yours Truly)

“Just found out that my name is synonymous with “ecstasy” in hip-hop circles. Proof to my parents that I’ve accomplished something in my life.” — @MollyRingwald

Any song that inspires the woman who played Claire Standish to Tweet this (and inexplicably put quotes around the word ecstasy) is already a win in my book. And while the Tweet was amazing, it doesn’t hold a candle to this super dope collaboration between the country’s hottest young(ish) rapper and its hottest young producer. Over a characteristically ambient, bulldozer of a beat from the Providence-based producer, Detroit’s finest goes the only way he knows: hard as fuck. Brown and Araab (né Abraham Orellana) are perfect bedfellows because both have been able to maintain their experimental spirits, while staying incredibly consistent and digging out original, distinctive sounds. In other words, you’ll never know what either will do next, but you know it’s going to be dope. There aren’t a lot of artists you can stay that about.

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Check out a video of them making the track. I fuckin’ love Danny. It’s also amazing to watch Araab’s creative process; dude makes it look so easy.

Hot Jam of the Day (07.16.12): Holy Other, “Held”

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Holy Other
Held (TriAngle)

Of the many things I love about Holy Other, I think my favorite thing about him is his incredible use of vocals. In recent times, nobody has been able to touch Burial’s ability to use broken up vocal samples to tell affecting, fully-formed stories, but this Mancunian is getting closer. His music has always worked in movements, and like much of his best work (especially Held‘s first single, “Love Some1”), “Held” resolves itself in a stunning final stanza that packs an emotional wallop. Its punch is largely due to its undulating, suffocating vocals. It’s just about a month until we get to hear his debut LP in its entirety, and I cannot wait.

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Hot Jam of the Day (07.15.12): The XX, “Angels”

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The XX
Coexist (Young Turks)

Finally, the wait is over. I recently wrote about my hopes/thoughts/expectations for the South Londoners ultra-anticipated sophomore LP, and if you missed it, I’m really fucking excited about it. Yesterday, we got our first real taste of Coexist, in the form of this characteristically vulnerable, crushing new love song. Driven by Romy Madley Croft’s delicate vocal and a single-string guitar line, “Angels” captures much of what made the trio’s debut resonate with so many people in such a penetrating, enduring fashion. While the XX is never going to be a singles band, thanks to the subtly of their work, this is one of the singles that excited me most this year — predominantly because it signals that Coexist is likely going to bark up the same tree as XX, which is one of my favorite albums of the last five years. Roll on September 11.

Hot Jam of the Day (07.14.12): Teengirl Fantasy, “End”

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Teengirl Fantasy
Tracer (True Panter/R&S)

It goes without saying that great instrumental music taps into the same real estate that is set off by the evocative lyrics to the songs that we love. Phillip Glass can say things with 52 keys that not even the greatest lyricist can when they are armed with hundreds of thousands of combinations of letters. That said, it takes real talent to hit that mark — talent that Brooklyn electro duo, Teengirl Fantasy, has always shown they have. This, the second single from their follow-up to 2010’s scintillating 7AM, highlights the group’s ability to write emotive, affecting tracks that are also inherently danceable. Though this falls on the decidedly reflective end of the Teengirl Fantasy experience (probably not one to spin at the party), there’s an enduring, sensual groove just below the surface, which makes it ideal for after-party festivities (should you be lucky enough to find someone to have them with).

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Hot Jam of the Day (07.13.12): Taken By Trees, “Dreams”

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Taken By Trees
Other Worlds (Secretly Canadian) 

If there was only one word I could use to describe Swedish vocalist Victoria Bergsman’s music, it would be alive. Since she burst on the scene with her first band the Concretes, she always looked destined for greatness, and her subsequent project, Taken By Trees, has confirmed her early promise. On the back of two beautiful, lush LPs — 2007’s Open Field and 2009’s essential East of Eden — comes her third release under the TBT moniker, which from preliminary listens looks set to be her best yet. Its first single contains all the hallmarks of what made me fall in love in the first place: her gentle yet alluring coo, celestial swaths of guitar and synth, and its overall feels-like-laying-in-a-breezy-field-of-long-grass-on-a-gorgeous-fucking-day-ness, which is the most important bit. Honestly, I really feel like this is is the kind of music you have to be kind of a dick to not like. If it doesn’t bowl you over, that’s fine. But anybody who doesn’t enjoy music this aesthetically pleasing and soothing should seek help. It’s like not liking golden retriever puppies, afternoon sun, or over-the-pants handjobs. (ED NOTE: That’s the kind of objective, hard-hitting criticism that TP has come to stand for in its long, illustrious history. If Scott Templeton can win a Pulitzer, so can TP. Journalism!)

Taken By Trees: “Dreams”

Hot Jam of the Day (7.11.12): Kendrick Lamar, “Swimming Pool (Drank)”

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Kendrick Lamar
“Swimming Pool (Drank)”
 good kid m.A.A.d city (Top Dog)

I must admit that I can’t tell exactly what drank LA-based MC Kendrick Lamar is talking about dranking here. At first I thought he was talking about alcohol, but I’ve drank a fair bit in my life, and no booze has ever made a disembodied voice talk to me. I tried lean one time in college, but that didn’t make me this nervous. It just made me want to lay around, nap, and listen to screwed up Fat Pat tapes, so probably not that either. Maybe it’s got bath salts in it. Whatever it is, it totally fucks you up.

This, the second single from Lamar’s major label debut, is a perfect example of why so many people I know fucking love this dude. His music has the unique ability to totally engulf the listener in the world he creates, and this track’s anxious, woozy backbeat combined with Lamar’s paranoid, tense flow creates a perfectly inebriated atmosphere. Chuck D famously referred to hip-hop as the black CNN, meaning the genre’s duty is to report what was going on in the black community, but the Black Hippies (Lamar, Ab Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock) take it a step further. They want the listener to physically feel the weight of their reality, as drugged-out and disquieting as it is.

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Hot Jam of the Day (07.10.12): Frank Ocean, “Bad Religion”

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Frank Ocean
“Bad Religion”
Channel Orange (Def Jam)

The reason why Frank Ocean’s decision to open up about his sexuality is so important lives right there in the first line of that iconic Tumblr post. “Whoever you are, wherever you are…I’m starting to think that we’re a lot alike.” That’s what this is all about, and that’s what I hope the primary (pop) cultural legacy of Ocean’s statement proves to be. What’s so arresting about “Bad Religion” isn’t that he’s singing about a man. It’s that he is feeling exactly what we feel. What the 17 year-old boy crushing on the hot girl at the cafeteria feels. What the suburban girl who’s in love with her best male friend feels. At first, much of the talk will be about the pronoun he uses, but the enduring impact of the song will not be that pronoun. It will be the way his quivering voice perfectly captures the crushing burden of holding unrequited love in your heart — loving somebody who just won’t fucking love you back. Frank Ocean’s decision to come out isn’t important because he’s special or different. Frank Ocean’s decision to come out is important because he is just like everyone else. “Bad Religion” is not special because it is about being a homosexual. It is special because it is about being a human, and he captures a universal, deeply personal aspect of our humanity in heartbreaking totality. It may seem an elementary reality of modern life, but when we are cut, we all bleed the same color. And I believe that Channel Orange will teach a huge amount of people that, which will hopefully lead to greater understanding about ourselves and each other.

Hot Jam of the Day (07.09.12): Passion Pit, “Constant Conversations”

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Passion Pit
“Constant Conversations”
Gossamer (Columbia)

I’m not quite sure how I feel about the new, moody Passion Pit. Via an article on Pitchfork, I was surprised to read Michael Angelakos say that the Cambridge group’s second LP, Gossamer, was going to be an introspective, melancholy affair. The Passion Pit that we knew from the group’s breakout debut, Manners, was bouncy, sunny, and bursting with life. It seemed unlikely that the group would be able to capture that aesthetic successfully, and I also wasn’t sure whether I was interested even if they could. I haven’t been floored by any of the three pre-release singles, and this is probably more interesting than enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, “Constant Conversations” is an well-crafted slab of white boy soul with truly personal lyrics (having to do with alcoholism) and some soaring vocals from Angelakos. That said, it just lacks have the immediacy of their early work, which makes is what set them apart from their peers. I’m not ready to write it off yet, but the jury is most certainly out.

Hot Jam of the Day (07.08.12): Blur, “Under The Westway”

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“Under the Westway”
Under the Westway 7″ (Parlophone)

It’s coming up on ten years since we’ve heard a full album from the London brit-pop legends, but they’ve been hinting at it, and it certainly feels like we’re getting closer to it. Until then, we’ll have to tie ourselves over with this new 2-song single released in anticipation of their big Hyde Park performance for the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. This, the a-side, plays like Blur’s very own “Hey Jude” (sans the “na na na na’s”) and should be the perfect soundtrack for some Hyde Park swaying and sing-a-longs, which is really what brit-pop’s all about right? They ain’t the Stone Roses, but it’s to have Damon and co. back.

Hot Jam of the Day (07.07.12): Frank Ocean, “Sweet Life”

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Frank Ocean
“Sweet Life”
Channel Orange (Def Jam)

It may have been one of the best albums of 2011, but Frank Ocean’s nostalgia, ultra was also just a mixtape. It’s easy to forget that while you are listening to it, but after listening to his recently-released stuff, it dawned on me how far he’s come in the last year or so and how truly terrifying that must be for other R&B singers. If a Frank Ocean mixtape is that good, how good can a proper Frank Ocean LP be? Early returns say it’s probably gonna be pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty fucking amazing. So far, we’ve heard three songs off Channel Orange: the simultaneously heartbroken and seductive “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” the all sorts of Stevie Wonder “White,” and the audacious, 10-minute epic “Pyramids.” The first is a testament to his hit-making ability and penchant for articulate, emotive lyrics. The second is a celebration of his dulcet, resonant tenor. The third is a demonstration of the true scope of his vision, evidence of his fiercely independent spirit, and probably the best song released this year by anybody.

Now we get to meet “Sweet Life.” An adopted Angelino by way of New Orleans, Ocean has never shied away from writing about his adopted hometown. Buoyed by a jazzy, soulful arraignment, Ocean lets his hair down and cruises effortlessly through his lightest, most playful song yet. A sort of half condemnation/half celebration of Tinseltown excess, Ocean tells us the story of a pampered socialite who is consumed by the pills, pools, and palm trees of Ladera Heights (aka the Black Beverly Hills). Honestly, this track feels so good that when Ocean croons “so why see the world, when you got the beach,” I can’t help picturing myself sinking into one of those floaty rafts with a Pacifico and begin asking myself if I should give up the grey San Francisco summer and move back to LA, though I know it’s meant to be a critique.

That feeling is indicative of Ocean’s ability to transport the listener into the story he is telling, and I think it’s the main reason he writes such powerful love songs. And it’s one of the reasons why I would wager that Channel Orange is going to end up being the best album of the year. Obviously, there’s still a hell of a long way to go, but it’s the current leader in the clubhouse.

Frank Ocean: “Sweet Life”