Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Artist to Watch: Tor Miller

Last week, I had the pleasure of checking out Glassnote Records up-and-comer Tor Miller as he rolled through town to perform at The Drake. I'd already been listening to his Headlights EP and infectious new single, "Carter and Cash," but was totally blown away by his live energy and powerful vocal delivery. To boot, he's just a really nice guy.

Although the Brooklyn-bred 21 year-old only has a handful of songs at this point, the late-night city ballads and soulful pop-rock showcase his mature songwriting capabilities, which, paired with that raspy voice and boy wonder look, make me think he's in for some sure shot longevity.

Check out the beautiful title track from his debut EP and "Carter and Cash" below.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Watch Leon Bridges' Powerful Video for "River"

Although it might have not been the most acclaimed song, Leon Bridges' "River" was easily my favourite song of 2015. I still remember the first time I heard it, a month or so ahead of the release of his debut album Coming Home, and it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. The story of redemption and guitar melody are timeless, and every time I hear those opening strums, my heart still flutters.

Today, Bridges released a powerful video for the song, coupled with a really moving message regarding its meaning. On "River," Bridges said:

"A river has historically been used in gospel music as symbolism for change and redemption. My goal was to write a song about my personal spiritual experience. It was written during a time of real depression in my life and I recall sitting in my garage trying to write a song which reflected this struggle. I felt stuck working multiple jobs to support myself and my mother. I had little hope and couldn’t see a road out of my reality. The only thing I could cling to in the midst of all that was my faith in God and my only path towards baptism was by way of the river."

Friday, January 29, 2016

Best New Album: Rihanna - 'ANTI'

To be quite honest, before 2015, I can't recall ever paying attention to Rihanna. Not because she wasn't talented or her celebrity wasn't something of a spectacle - but in a sea of Beyoncés and Nicki Minajs, her edge didn't seem obvious to me. Until last year.

Something of an obvious, well-marketed reinvention later - physically, sonically, emotionally - with the help of executive producer Kanye West, Rihanna began the hype rollout for ANTI, her eighth album and first in four years. The release of a left-fielder collaboration with Paul McCartney and Kanye and the year's pushiest anthem ("Bitch Better Have My Money") later, Rihanna felt newly formidable and impossible to ignore.

And then yesterday, with no warning or sign of the aforementioned hit singles, she leaked ANTI the bold 13-song (now 16, as of today's deluxe drop) collection that feels like three albums in one and bears almost no resemblance to the club-ready island jams she's slung for years. It's stoner R&B, sex-smathered reggae - hell, a Tame Impala cover - and huge, achingly soulful balladry that already feels like the beginning of a new era and challenge to all female artists to be better, stronger and more indulgent in their own tastes.

Regardless of your prior opinions of the pop star, this eclectic rebirth shows how serious she is about this next chapter in her career - somehow without taking herself too seriously. In its song-to-song unpredictability, ANTI is outstanding and all together proof that right now, the world is Rihanna's oyster.

Listen to some of my favourite ANTI tracks over on Spotify.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Watch the Video for Jordan Klassen's Sweet New Single "Baby Moses"

With a personality just as sweet as his songs, I'm a longtime fan of Canadian indie-folk artist Jordan Klassen, and was therefore thrilled to learn his new album Javelin is dropping this February.

The 10-track release will follow his outstanding 2013 album Repentance, which was full of lush folk odes that spurred several international tours for the Vancouver performer. "Baby Moses," which was released in early December but got a nice little video this week, is exactly what I hoped for when I learned of the new material. Subtly upbeat, "Baby Moses" is sweet and ethereal and, according to Klassen, "A song I wrote looking back at my twenties and wishing that I'd known then what I know now. Truly Rod Stewart-esque. I wanted to be honest about my disappointment, but also humble enough to not just blame everyone else for my own shortcomings."

Look out for Javelin via Nevado Records on February 19.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Best New Track: Rihanna and Drake Team Up for "Work"

While we all lose our mind waiting for Rihanna's next-level-anticipated upcoming album ANTI, she's gifted us the latest taste with "Work," which features longtime collaborator, Drake. As expected, this track is all sorts of fly. RiRi's cool, autotune-laced vocals glide over Boi-1da's pulsing production, while Drizzy uses his cameo to croon rather than rap, sounding deliciously 2010.

Have a listen over at Pitchfork, or get the official track on Tidal.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Listen to Earl Sweatshirt's New Track 'Wind in My Sails"

Last night, Earl Sweatshirt dropped three new songs on Soundcloud: instrumentals "SKRT SKRT" and the Kanye-sampling "bary," as well as the vocalized "Wind in My Sails." Sampling a snippet of Eugene McDaniels' "The Parasite (for Buffy)" and the beat from Madlib and Flying Lotus' "Children of the Atom," the soulful "
Wind in My Sails" is a smoother, more accessible cut compared to the rest of last year's I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside. Lyrically, however, through that coined nonchalant drawl, you'll still find Earl confronting his personal demons, fatherless upbringing and questions of faith.

Friday, January 22, 2016

TGIF: 20 (Very) Relaxing Songs

Friday, what's good?

Like everyone else, I had a whirlwind week that made me feel like I was (literally) all over the map. With weeks like these, although there's always lots of revelry, I cherish the down time when I get to plug in my headphones and mentally disconnect from everything else. I'll never understand people who don't like being alone or even just being alone with their own mind for a hot minute. Those are probably my favourite minutes. 

Anyway, I always turn to a few essential tracks that just ooze mellow vibes. Here are 20 of the most relaxing songs, tried and tested over many years, in order of importance and effectiveness. Also, here's a Spotify playlist if you want to listen there or offline. Enjoy!

We Used To Dance - James Murphy

I Love NYE - Badly Drawn Boy

Easy Living - Billie Holiday

Pilot Jones - Frank Ocean

Ce Matin-Lá - Air

I Know You Are But What Am I? - Mogwai

Sea and the Rhythm - Iron & Wine

Tommib - Squarepusher

By Your Side - Sade

Everything That Rises - Moby 

Embryonic Journey - Jefferson Airplane

Kusanagi - ODESZA

Rideaux Lunaires - Chilly Gonzalez

Madame George - Van Morrison

Fountains - M83

Nothing Came To Me - Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment

Killing the Blues - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Wash. - Bon Iver

Romeo and Juliet - Dire Straits

A Kiss To Build A Dream On - Louis Armstrong