So much new music is released every day that unless you’re as obsessed as I am, it’s difficult to keep up with it. Not to worry! I’ll spend every week compiling the best new sounds to bring them here for you every Monday (except for today which is obviously a Wednesday).
I’m aiming for maximal thoroughness (my speed-read blogroll numbers well over 100), but it’s likely I’ll miss some key releases and for that I apologize. Be sure to comment and submit your own favorites so that we can perhaps feature them in the coming week’s post.
In the first edition it’s worth mentioning that this feature was conceived as a weekly mixtape for friends. The song order is intentional, and the mix titles may or may not be …
The verity of Rick Ross’ thug persona has long been questioned, but since launching his career as one half of Clipse, Pusha T has been known as much for the authentic grittiness of his subject matter as for an inimitable style. Though his verses on “Millions” are steeped in a dangerous past of illegitimate activities and plentiful dirty money, “I restore the feelin’ of when n*ggas made a killin’ / hidin’ choppas in the closet, half a million in the ceilin’” the only addiction he’s fostering now is to his rhymes, with each line a testament to his capacity for vivid wordplay and exquisite craftsmanship.
With The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual just a few months away, it’s hard not to point out the influence of the seminal Swedish group on newcomer Kate Boy. The lightly reverbing chorused vocals sit atop a wall of industrial sounding, percussive synth fills in this decidedly pop gem that brims with the stunning splendor of its eponymous natural phenomenon and its romantic subject matter.
With a regular stream of remixes and originals, dance outfit Oliver has steadily developed the quality of their productions. Released on A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold Records, Oliver’s most recent Mechanical EP showcases the duos inventiveness and originality. The electro infused disco house sound that has become their undeniable trademark is on full display on “Night Is On My Mind,” a particularly dark track that oozes the sensuality of an across-the-dance floor stare come face to face.
4. Joey Bada$$ – Unorthodox” (Produced by DJ Premier) (PolicyMic must hear!)
Despite how much of a statement Joey Bada$$’s spectacular debut 1999 was, “Unorthodox” could very well be the ProEra frontman’s anthem. Openly acknowledging his affinity for hip-hop’s “Golden Age,” Joey’s understated delivery belies a ferocious flow that more and more seems to belong among the all time greats. The song’s best boast is emblematic of what once would have been demanded of rappers in the spotlight “I’m the chosen one so you can expect more offerings / I be sonning n*ggas so expect less offerings / best rapper alive hear that line used less often” but in an era of endless hype and commercialism it’s simply “Unorthodox.” Living legend DJ Premier (Gangstarr) wouldn’t lend his skills to a rapper of a lower caliber.
The consistency of Arc, throughout which you can hear moving vocals, impeccable production, dynamic percussion, and inventive guitar and synth lines, makes it nearly impossible to single out one element from Everything Everything’s ensemble. It’s this seamless synchrony that is the band and the album’s greatest strength, but Jonathan Higg’s vocals are what make the songs memorable as individual pieces. As “Torso of the Week” shows, the song’s internal chaos, its tenderness, intensity, and longing are all cued and punctuated by Higg’s unique (tonally and emotionally) vocal range.
Zeds Dead has always pushed the boundaries of North American bass music and new EP Hot Sauce takes their genre bending sounds further from their roots than ever before. As the title suggests, “Rave” belongs at such an event, but the breakbeat at the heart of the song indicates this is a rave of the UK bass sensibility. Though the dubstep “wobble” is front and center it’s embedded within UK funky and garage flavors that cement Zeds Dead as one of the most original and inventive electronic acts.
7. Autre Ne Veut – “Play By Play” (PolicyMic must hear!)
The song’s opening cascades summon a crashing and receding surf, a brilliant musical introduction for a song about an inescapable cycle. The musical intro suggests something already in motion, so when the first words out of Arthur Ashin’s mouth are “And I said, baby” we’re thrust headfirst into the drama that would elicit such a ritualized plea. The rhythmic schizophrenia of the song captures the endless shifts of Ashin’s emotions, at one moment longing for perfection “come stay with me so we can be much higher” and at next rejecting it “I don’t wanna be there tonight.” That’s to say nothing of Ashin’s vocal performance, devastatingly sincere as he wails the utter manifestation of his fear: “don’t ever leave me alone.”
8. Milwaukee – “Alone (Amtrac Remix)” (PolicyMic must hear!)
Mournful and triumphant all at once, this song is a journey that everyone will experience differently. Driving with the top down, running through the rain or sitting around with friends has given this song so many different meanings for me that I just hope you’ll find it as enlightening.
Beautifully harmonized vocals, metronome-precise guitar work, and an exquisitely appropriate bass-percussion combination – what iconic British band could I be describing? It’s actually American and New Zealanders Unknown Mortal Orchestra, whose album opener for II is so strong I could hardly get past it. Rarely have I heard a band execute such simple parts while avoiding half-hearted performances, but don’t mistake simplicity for a lack of musicianship – like the Beatles’ George Harrison, Ruban Nielson’s razor sharp guitar playing is restrained for the majority, and the good, of the song
FaltyDL aka Drew Lustman has widespread roots in jazz, rock, and UK bass music, but his rich creative palette often resulted in productions that sounded like everything else, with no mark of his own. Then came Hardcourage, and with it a shift towards a singular artistic vision – FaltyDL had been embedded inside his music all along, but now it’s just him. The collection of deep tunes includes highlight “Uncea,” a shimmering, ethereal tune anchored by a lively, precise bassline. The transformation may have to do with his current girlfriend, who he met while making the record, and who Lustman says “became my muse,” further revealing that “I didn't make this album with the intention of sharing all of it … most was made for one person.”
11. Local Natives – “You & I” (Policy Mic must hear!)
In spite of the band’s many strengths, Local Natives lives and dies by frontman Taylor Rice. “You & I” is a favorite from magnificent Hummingbird, a collection of borderline theatrical, bite-sized narratives. The songs rest as firmly on gorgeous soundscapes as they do on poetic lyrics, but Local Natives are at their best when Rice has the spotlight.
Not featured but worthy of a mention:
Guilty Pleasure Selection: Kreayshawn – “Babycakes”
Disclaimer: There’s a lot that is “out” on the internet, but since it’s not officially released you won’t see it here unless you’ve got to wear out the replay button on SoundCloud or YouTube until it’s released.