Thursday, November 27, 2014

Theophilus London feat. Kanye West: "Can't Stop"

Ah! I've been a bad blogger this week. Needless to say, sh*t has been cray around here. In fact, things have been so nuts that the below tune, which I consider to be one of the best songs of winter so far, isn't really that new by my standards. It was released within the month, but it's good enough that, normally, I would have written about it right away. 

I can't stop listening to Theophilus London's "Can't Stop." (See what I did there.)

The Brooklyn rapper's sophomore album took him two years to make, with the help of executive producer Kanye West and his all-star team - and you can hear it. Between London's punchy rhymes, solid production and throwback beats, I think Vibes is the album that will push London out of the alternative hip-hop realm and into the mainstream, alongside the likes of other genre-sampling big shots Pharrell and maybe even West himself. It never hurts having the aforementioned producer featured on the album's most soulful track, "Can't Stop," which has sexy classic written all over it. London's dreamy rhymes and that deep beat will woo anyone, trust me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jack White Covers Dean Fertita's "Parallel"

Jack White just released a his Lazaretto track “Would You Fight For My Love?” as a single, with the B-side featuring a cover of touring band member Dean Fertita’s “Parallel”, which was co-written with Brendan Benson. Fertita, who tours with White during his solo efforts and is also a member of the Dead Weather, The Raconteurs and Queens of the Stone Age, released "Parallel" in 1999 as part of his debut solo effort, Hello=Fire.

Needless to say, White's cover is electric. Building slowly from its harmonic, twangy beginnings, White's version turns rock rampant before the first chorus. While it sways in and out of country lullaby, soon enough, every instrument is on deck, jamming alongside White's urgent howl.

This is an anthem for the books. Yowzas.

Friday, November 21, 2014

TGIF: Two New Beyoncé Singles

The upcoming deluxe platinum edition of Beyoncé’s self-titled album comes with two original songs, which yesterday we heard snippets of, and today we'll hear in full. Amen.

Ring Off” and “7/11” fit right in with the rest of Queen B's powerful new direction, while still pulling tricks from the lighthearted funk of 4 and other past albums. The two new tracks, which range form mid-tempo balladry to booming hip-hop, can be heard below in all of their glory.

TGIF! And of course, bow down.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Best New Song: Jessica Pratt's "Back, Baby"

There's no shortage of times that I turn a shoulder to some buzz-generating artist because, after one lousy listen, I feel like I can't hop on board just yet. This can usually be attributed to laziness on my part, if for some reason the track doesn't grab me right away.

I can admit that this was initially the case with Jessica Pratt's acclaimed new single, "Back, Baby," which seems ridiculous to me now that I can't stop listening to the melancholy folk ballad. When I first heard Pratt's vulnerable coo and 1960s Greenwich Village-sounding guitar, it took me some time to get into it, which is crazy considering that era of music is one I cherish. But, after many listens to the song's complex (yet simple-sounding) genetics and Pratt's other-worldly vocals, I've caught on to how she might be fit for indie-folk stardom. I'm actually obsessed.

The San Francisco songbird's new single is sad - there's no doubt about it. Dreaming of rain and devising love stories in her head while her tender strums and harmonies dance beneath that pixie croon, Pratt is unabashedly lonely, and, like many before her, a genius to put it into song.

Look out for Pratt's second album, On Your Own Love Again, on January 27th, 2015.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New TV On The Radio Album: Seeds

What a week! I've been running around like a mad woman, happily hosting company and, still listening to my weekly dose of new releases.

One of them being TV On The Radio's fifth album, Seeds. 10 years after the band's inception, their soulful grunge remains totally in tact, but with a thick, awesome layer of that seasoned accessibility most rock bands fall into after that long in the game. That's a positive thing, in my books, because Tunde Adebimpe's pipes are still bone-chillingly powerful, while the band's instrumentation still constructs those lush melodies that leave you anywhere form toe-tapping to speechlessly reflective.

The band hasn't had an easy run, either. They split from Interscope a ways back and lost their longtime bassist, Gerard Smith, to a battle with cancer. But, on soaring opening tracks like "Quartz," despite lacking the political feistiness of their early days, the band's vast hopefulness is palpable. And good-sounding. Which, after a decade together and many highs and lows, sounds like a fine direction for our beloved TVOTR to go.

Enjoy a snippet of "Quartz" - I can't take it off repeat.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Slow Magic - Waited 4 U (ODESZA remix)

I'm anything but surprised that ODESZA have jumped on an already-excellent Slow Magic track and whipped it into one of their typically colourful, dreamy remixes.

The young Seattle-based electronic duo have had the best year of their careers so far - releasing In Return late summer to heaps of critical praise, and dropping more of their impromptu pretty spins to boot. Featuring those lighthearted chipmunk vocals and bursts of sunny synth, this romanticized version of "Waited 4 U" is bliss. Long live ODESZA.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Best New Music: BØRNS' EP is Sweet Like Candy

Earlier this fall, I pointed my readers towards the magical sounds of Garrett Borns, now better known as BØRNS - a 22 year-old California implant whose fittingly sunny synth-pop and funk tunes have materialized into a debut EP that's garnering boatloads of praise. Don't be fooled though, although BØRNS may be a newcomer to big critical reception, he's no newcomer to making music. Performing under different monikers since his early teens, BØRNS hopped from his native Michigan to New York and finally Los Angeles to live in a treehouse and conceptualize the infectious singles heard on his debut EP. Yes, a treehouse, and man, did it do him right.

Although anything but typical, the songs from Candy capture exactly what we'd dream of hearing from a soul-searching twenty-something, living off the grid, alongside limitless sunshine and romantic musings. The intelligent production and soulful coastal vibes - which, at different times, evoke memories of everything from Beach Boys or even Queen to Jeff Buckley vocally - are surprising and worthy of a head scratch upon remembering that this is a debut. You might expect this kind of lively genre-sampling and mesmerizing vocal ability down the road, but very rarely on a seemingly out-of-nowhere EP, which I think is shaping up to be one of the best of the year.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ryan Adams Is The New Classic

I like to think I grew up with a handful of influential guys. The typical ones: a girl's father, brother, best friends. And then the not-so-typical ones: Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams. Although there's about a 20 year age gap between the two, both solo artists (and their respective backing bands) have robust, seemingly endless discographies that, quite literally, have walked me through all of my life's endeavours.

Which is one of the reasons why, when I was finally able to attend Ryan Adams' live show at Massey Hall last night, after years of waiting for him to come around near me - I was on another level of overwhelmed.

I can't say it enough: Ryan Adams is one of the only of his kind. And last night reaffirmed that. Unadorned, passionate, rock 'n roll. Ranging from blues, to Americana, to simple folk singer-songwriter ballads - Adams is genuine. He's timeless perfection. He's been making this music since 1991.

Yet, I still get these bewildered looks when people ask who my favourite artists are. Bryan Adams? Isn't Ryan Adams kind of blah? Who? Many people (outside of the sold out concert halls of kindred devotees) still don't know what they're missing. They're missing fourteen albums featuring all the fundamentals of genuine solo rock: effortless vocals, dreamlike melodies and messaging that means so much.

To quote a kidding Adams last night, as the crowd roared with each new strum, "Here's another song about feelings":

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hump Day Treat: Kendrick and T-Swift Mash-Up

I think we all know how this goes. We unabashedly praise Kendrick (for everything), and maybe publicly scoff at T-Swift, but secretly blare her 1989 ear candy when alone in the privacy of our bedrooms. But then, Kendrick publicly endorses her music and suddenly we feel a bit more merited in our secret Swift infatuation. And then, The Hood Internet go right ahead and do what we've all secretly - or not-so-secretly - been waiting for: mash a Kendrick classic with a Taylor Swift (now) classic, to make some of the greatest, so-wrong-it's-right sounds the world has ever heard.

At least once a month I get frustrated that I can't buy or download The Hood Internet's deliciously illicit mash-ups because, damn - "Backseat Shake It Off" is some of the best blending I've heard since the reign of Girl Talk.

Regardless of your affinity towards either artist, don't waste one more minute of this windy Wednesday ignoring this. sick. beat. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wolf Saga & Lyon Cover The Strokes

I take The Strokes, and every spin-off project around The Strokes, every seriously. I wouldn't say I've spent much time writing about the band these past few years (outside of Julian Casablancas' and Albert Hammond Jr.'s solo projects), but that doesn't mean they weren't one of the most influential bands in my life, who I had on repeat from age 12 to 18. They were the best thing to happen to rock music at that time.

So, when I find out that two Canadian artists (whose individual songs I've never really taken to) took a crack at one of the best Strokes songs, "You Only Live Once," I was hesitant to take a listen. But, as I watched the rest of the blogosphere dive in and praise, I figured it was safe to give it a go, and am I ever happy I did. They did it awesome justice. Driven by Wolf Saga's pulsing chords and beat, LYON's tiny croon handles the vocals nicely. Sounding nothing like the original, aside from the sweet melody and original YOLO narrative, this electro-pop twist is very welcome in my books.

Monday, November 10, 2014

New Major Lazer and Ezra Koenig Collab: "Vegan Vampire"

So, Diplo's Major Lazer project is getting an FXX cartoon show, based on the electro-reggae act's macho-rasta persona. And, Vampire Weekend front man Ezra Koenig (the apple of my eye) will voice a character named "Ryland," a 'Vegan Vampire,' which also happens to be the name of Major Lazer's new song. Did you catch all of that? I think I covered everything.

Either way, the Koenig dialogue-laced track is actually another one of Major Lazer's rad, reggae-flavoured dance efforts. The reggae sway is pushed forward by a soulful lead vocal, guitar strums and a deep stomp good enough to make the aforementioned strange details forgivable.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Essential Throwback Thursday: For Emma, Forever Ago

I think it goes without saying that, the second the air chills and the leaves fall, there's one staple album that's been coming back into serious rotation since it dropped in 2007.

Holed up in a cabin in Wisconsin, Justin Vernon managed to assemble one of the most profound albums of...well, all time. Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago is that rare collection of melancholy folk (seems limiting to call it that) which exudes a remoteness so palpable that each new strum weighs on your chest. It could be the strong memory of listening to the album repeatedly in that winter of '07, but Vernon's soulful falsetto and those painfully reflective lyrics sound so real every time this season rolls around. Despite the fact that these ballads evoke pretty strong feelings of isolation, there's also that unprecedented beauty in them, which I find myself returning to, wholeheartedly, year after year.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New José González Single: "Every Age"

On this particularly sunny autumn morning, I can't think of anything I want to listen to more than a new José González song.

Another one of his perfectly spare acoustic odes, "Every Age" is an existential lesson made more beautiful when delivered by Gonzalez. Along with the slow, echoey thump of his strings, Gonzalez's famously hushed vocals chant things like: "Every branch of the tree has to learn to grow/ find its way/ make the best of this short-lived stage... Take your time/ build a home/ build a place where we all belong." Leave it to José to make you contemplate your world on a Wednesday.

González's brand new solo album, Vestiges And Claws, is set to release on February 17.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Best New Hip-Hop: Run The Jewels 2

Everyone has a day when they need hip-hop like this, whether they want to admit it or not. I could evaluate what I post on here based on the general public's likes and dislikes. Or, like Run The Jewels, I can say "f**k it" and post abrasive, crowd-dividing hip-hop like theirs, because it's worthy of acclaim and conversation. 

Despite being some of contemporary hip-hop's most formidable MCs, El-P and Killer Mike's Run The Jewels 2 is so much greater than expected. Like their studio and live repertoire, their second album is another harsh lyrical vendetta against anyone who they generally disapprove of (enemies, authority, politicians, some religious figures and many, many more), but with a polished sheen of progressive and frantic production only fit for bold rhymes like these ones. Between those percussive and conscious verbal blasts, and dope cameos from the likes of Zack De La Rocha and Travis Barker, it's hard not to get into this dynamic show of take-no-prisoners hip-hop. As if we questioned them before, in its almost unprecedented make-up, Run The Jewels 2 is evidence this relentless tag-team aren't new to this game, and have too much to say to leave any time soon.