Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #2-1

#2. Flesh Without Blood - Grimes: With the first single and (bizarre) video from Grimes' long-awaited follow-up to 2012's Visions, Claire Boucher peeled off every obscure indie layer to reveal her new, triumphant pop intentions. With all of Art Angels, but especially this song, Grimes is perfectly unforgiving in both embracing the power of pop and dealing with scorned ex-lovers. On this earworm, Grimes delivers the double-middle-finger of the year, over and over again, with her masterful production and lyrical jabs like, "If you had every chance you'd destroy everything you love" and "I don't see the light I saw in you anymore... and now I don't care anymore." If you were looking for a reason to believe in female-led pop again, or even just yourself, everything about "Flesh Without Blood" is the expertly crafted ticket.

#1. Alright - Kendrick Lamar: There are endless amounts of important songs out there; songs that sound good, speak to your individual circumstances, provide a sense of community to likeminded listeners, make you think, songs that might even encourage a shift in historical discourse. Rarely does one song, or a number of songs on a single album, tick all of those boxes in the way that Kendrick Lamar's genius To Pimp A Butterfly did. Although critically celebrated, the masses struggled with this album; nearly inaccessible, Lamar traded any previous party rap notions for the tough to stomach but essential conversations around one of the most brutal, unjust years in recent memory. While minorities fought for their voices to be heard and lives to be valued in an age when they should already be f**king heard and valued, Lamar used his podium to comfort those communities, and anyone else, really, with this album and four simple words: "We gon' be alright." Those four words, which eventually became the soundtrack for nationwide marches and protests, came from an equally tired ex-Compton hip-hop prophet who had a powerful public voice amid all of the higher-up inaction - and managed to establish a feeling of faith in the future. Through song - both the catchy jazz riffs and Pharrell's gleaming chant - our minds were collectively focused on the fact that although the turmoil hasn't in any way let up, we have to believe that we'll still be alright. And that right there epitomizes the power of music.

Thanks for following! You can listen to and download this playlist on Spotify.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #5-3

#5. I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times) [feat. Young Thug and Popcaan] - Jamie xx: This is the second time a song from Jamie xx's In Colour appears on this list, because this year, few albums shone as bright as his eclectic debut. And when it comes to this single, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything else that felt quite this good. The reggae-rap summer anthem was an unexpected but welcome diversion from the rest of In Colour's melodic rave cuts; pairing a dusty sample from The Persuasions with steel drum synths and Thug's bouncy rhymes, "Good Times" was a slow wining, sun-streaked dose of hope for what's next in music. And, every time they chant they know there's gonna be good times, it's hard not to feel like there might be a little bit of hope for yourself, too.

#4. Hotline Bling - Drake: When "Hotline Bling" dropped in July as the sole non-diss track in a handful of albumless Drake singles, there wasn't a question people were going to eat it right up. That cha-cha shuffle, Drake's oddly alluring sing-rapping, his vulnerability at the hands of yet another ghost of his romantic past - this song was just good, with all the fixings of R&B gold. While it glided slowly upwards, it was actually the October video release - in the year we've called the "return of the rap video" - that did it. Drake works his way through fluorescent rooms and feelings of neglect with corny two-steps and shimmies that will go on to be imitated until the end of time, proving that in this visual age of virality, a few right moves can go a very, very long way.

#3. Sunday Candy - Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment: In 2015, there was no album I overplayed more than Surf - the free bundle of 16 songs, featuring major rap and R&B guests, that was assembled by Chance the Rapper's instrumental collective. Surf was by no means a Chance album - although the Chicagoan carried a lot of the narrative - it was chock full of shiny and downtempo instrumental cuts, playful wordplay and romantic thinkers that felt like, one by one, they were revolutionizing the way we think a rap album should sound. On album single "Sunday Candy," the childlike, horn-filled ditty led by Chance and singer Jamila Woods, it felt nostalgic - almost safe, in a good way - with its sugary sweet talk of love and family. And that's the thing; this whole album conveyed that sentiment - friends coming together through music, with little to no agenda outside of creating something with spirit, something happy and uncomplicated that, against all genre conventions, will still most definitely stand the test of time.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #7-6

#7. Can't Feel My Face - The Weeknd: Years after having first perfected his dark, sexy brand of R&B, Toronto's Abel Tesfaye took things in a very new direction this summer with "Can't Feel My Face," the first single off his second album Beauty Behind The Madness. Big, discoey and obviously going to be his most infectious radio hit to date, the funk of this MJ-reminiscent jam was clear indication that we were witnessing the dawn of a new Weeknd era - one that wasn't going to scrap the candid, druggy undertones, but would add some accessible flavour in order to make him a mainstream market shoe-in. As expected, the rest of BBTM was insanely good, start to finish, and The Weeknd's reign doesn't look like it will be ending anytime soon.

#6. Eventually - Tame Impala: All of Tame Impala's psychedelic third album Currents was stellar enough to find a spot on this list; you had your woozy ballads and power-pop points - with little to no filler pieces - and Kevin Parker's dreamy vocals spilling his most honest confessions yet. But something about "Eventually," the glitter and reverb-laced synth ballad that was the last pre-album single, felt different and multi-angular. Following the album's theme of Parker admittedly letting people down (for various reasons) both the grand and soft moments on "Eventually" are all-consuming and emotional, with the ability to sort of slow time down and hit you like a ton of bricks with each listen.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #9-8

9. Depreston - Courtney Barnett: Most of Barnett's incredible first album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is a flurry of grunge-laced storytelling; a perfect dichotomy of chunky, fuzzed-out guitars and her laidback Aussie drawl, which aptly walks us through her quirky observations. Nestled alongside the bigger (awesome) garage moments is "Depreston" - a sleepy, almost country-sounding ode to house-hunting in Preston, which is exactly as sad and boring as it sounds thanks to her sliding guitar and barely-there delivery. That's the thing about Barnett, this song and the rest of the album - maybe we never needed to hear about (De)Preston and its coffee shops, but the picture she paints of this juncture in her simple life, and all of its mundane accoutrements, still ends up feeling so worth the listen.

8. Where R Ü Now - Jack Ü (feat. Justin Bieber): When I first looked at the track listing for Skrillex and Diplo's debut album as Jack Ü and saw Justin Bieber's feature credit, based on his recent track record, I predicted that would hands-down be the song I'd like the least. After one listen to the tropical house-heavy collection, I realized the exact opposite and had an inkling we were at the beginning of a bonafide Biebs redemption. Sure enough, the melodic banger (that was apparently a hopeless solo Bieber cut before being dolled up by Skrillex) skyrocketed to a place of summer year-long domination, and Bieber was off to the races thanks to those crafty beatsmiths.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #11-10

#11. Gosh - Jamie xx: Jamie Smith is a member of the xx and renowned British DJ, and maybe I speak for myself, but I still didn't expect his long-awaited debut LP to be this good. Well, until I finally heard its first two singles - this halycon electronic builder and "Loud Places," his collaboration with xx bandmate Romy. From there, more of In Colour trickled out and officially dropped - featuring guest spots from Brian Wilson, Alicia Keys and Young Thug (to name a few) - and it was solidified that the last six years of experience and material he'd been gathering made this album one hundred per cent worth the wait. Whatever happens in this guy's head, whatever colours and sounds he sees before bringing them to life - it's all so complex, so perfectly across the spectrum, resulting in this breathtaking mess of sensory beauty that honestly, hundreds of listens later, never gets old.

#10. Norf Norf - Vince Staples: Former Odd Future member and Def Jam signee Vince Staples took the hip-hop world by storm this year with easily one of the most conscious coming-of-age rap debuts of the decade. According to Staples, life on the streets "is a choice," but the power of fear in that environment, the pressure, the precedent - all of it wreaks havoc on a young person's sense of self in a way that can rarely be detailed through music (the closest recent narrative is good kid, m.A.A.d city). Every last emotion, rhyme and production nuance on Summertime '06 is real - and "Norf Norf" is one of those tracks that blended each dark ingredient together to seamlessly craft one of the most eye opening, but likeable, hip-hop cuts of the year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #13-12

#13. Know Yourself - Drake: What a time to be Drizzy. Still riding the late 2013 success of Nothing Was The Same, Drizzy went on to drop the least mixtape of all mixtapes this year - in that it was exceptionally crafted, yet somehow not worthy of the album stamp - If You're Reading This It's Too Late. He then fired off a handful of one-of singles and diss tracks aimed at Meek Mill, proving the kid doesn't need time or a ghostwriter to take the game by surprise. As if that wasn't enough, he teamed up with fellow 2015 all-star Future on What A Time To Be Alive - a good, accessible listen that, if anything, proved neither players can be stopped; they just have too much to say. But, "Know Yourself" off If You're Reading This did something for Toronto that we couldn't have seen coming; it gave us a citywide anthem, a handful of essential new terminology and the knowledge that, every time someone, anywhere around the world, chanted "running through the six with my woes" - Toronto had made it.

#12. Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins) - Father John Misty: On maybe the oddest, or the most oddly endearing, love song of 2015, Josh Tillman's handsome voice serenades his now-wife Emma on their honeymoon, alongside an uplifting blend of folky guitar, horns and big harmonies. Some of the in-joke love declarations range from the eccentric ("lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in") to the honest ("I haven't hated all the same things as somebody else since I remember") and quite sweet ("people are boring, but you're something else I can't explain") - all proving that Tillman might be one of the most daring but comprehensive songwriters of our time.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #15-14

#15. Sorry - Justin Bieber: I mean, this is just a perfect pop song. When the world heard the first trop-house notes of this and "What Do You Mean?" (which was a close contender for this Bieber-reserved spot), it was no longer a question whether or not the kid was making a full-fledged return to glory - he was back on top. And, if in your opinion he wasn't on top before, there wasn't a doubt in hell he was going to be this time around. Produced by Skrillex, the irresistible ear candy on Purpose is what we all wanted to hear, whether or not we were willing to admit it.

#14. Should Have Known Better - Sufjan Stevens: Sufjan has been an indie-folk staple for over fifteen years - consistently releasing spiritual thinkers that challenged my generation to step out of the easy mainstream box and into his whimsical world. All of his most recent album, Carrie & Lowell, is his best and most important work yet - heartbreaking, start to finish, but candid in its search for clarity around his empty family. A full-circle sonic and lyrical journey from loneliness to revival, from an almost motherless childhood to solace in his newborn niece, "Should Have Known Better" is stunning.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #17-16

#17. Want To Want Me - Jason DeRulo: Because of some of DeRulo's insufferable, name-checking efforts these past few years, when this single dropped, it didn't immediately get the critical attention or airplay it deserved. The masses smartened up, though - recognizing that "Want To Want Me" has all the glimmers of 80s-pop magic that put it alongside The Weeknd and Bieber's hooky hits - and it rightfully became the biggest selling single of the summer.

#16. River - Leon Bridges: Had "River" had a larger cultural or historical impact on this year, which it should have, I would have put it at #1. The first time I heard those opening strums, which were a departure from the other uppity soul singles he'd released in preparation for his incredible debut album, my heart melted. Although the Motown trappings heard on the rest of Coming Home were amazing, this hymnal is perfect in its stripped-down instrumental and lyrical basics: a guitar, tambourine, gospel choir and plea for redemption.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #21-18

#21. Excuse Me - A$AP Rocky: I'd say the majority of singles off A$AP Rocky's sophomore album At.Long.Last.A$AP could have squeezed their way on to this list; it was Rocky and the late A$AP Yams' final narrative together and the former's most mature yet. There's inevitable fashion and drugs fluff, but for the most part, Rocky is self-assured on ALLA - especially on tracks like "Excuse Me," where the perfect orchestral backing holds up his laid-back, dismissive claims.

#20. Hello - Adele: I might have been the last to jump on the bandwagon of this record-shattering one-word proclamation. The sleepy intro, sepia-tone video and formulaic flow did nothing for me at first, until I listened a little harder (50 or so times harder), and came to wholeheartedly appreciate the swelling show of bravery seeded deep in this vulnerable ode.

#19. Coffee - Miguel: Whether this original version or the Wale-assisted cut that swaps "coffee in the morning" for "f***ing in the morning," Miguel's recent dose of shamelessly carnal R&B, as always, somehow comes across as equal parts earnest and romantic. His contribution to the genre, and approach to sex, are still so different from his fellow risk-taking classmates; while they long for it, have a hard time with it, get it around the clock - Miguel's guide to intimacy and the worship of a woman is careful, raw and never unsacred, even in its grittiest moments.

#18. Elegy to the Void - Beach House: Beach House has a way of bringing you to your knees with a simple chord progression and only five smoky words from Victoria Legrand. This happens on the enchanting "Elegy to the Void," off their second release of 2015, where guitarist Alex Scally and Legrand's voices weave together as the song quietly thunders forward. Sounding a little reverb-laced, like a page out of Teen Dream, but emotive like Bloom, "Elegy to the Void" is one of their most timeless ballads yet.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015: #25-22

Here we are again - winding down another good, weird, music-filled year that warrants a little reflection on a number of fronts. It's safe to say that between my job, freelancing, this blog and a number of other opportunities, 2015 might have been the year that, day-to-day, I was the most preoccupied with music. Obviously I always have been, but not to this degree. Looking back, it felt like every hour was spent listening, writing, curating, and just consuming, constantly - and hopefully that will make for one of my best year-end round-ups yet.

Each year I count down what I feel were the top songs (sometimes 50, this year 25, because, life); the tracks that, within the tiny capsule that is one year, either changed the game or contributed to it in some significant way. It's safe to say that 2015 was one of the best years pop - the all-encompassing genre that includes plenty of rock and hip-hop, as well - has ever seen. The spectrum of worthwhile music was so vast, and it became clear early on that no one was about to start predicting, or subsequently judging, what would be considered meaningful in 2015. I liked that.

#25. Wake Me Up When It's Over - Jazz Cartier: According to Toronto's - or, Canada's - most promising up-and-coming rapper, his first full-length offering Marauding in Paradise captured the "sounds of Toronto." Ranging from deep bangers to melodic, horn-infused jams like this one, it's seriously hard to hone in on just one bit of Cartier's collection, because everything the homegrown poet touched in 2015 was fire.

#24. AM // Radio (feat. Wiki) - Earl Sweatshirt: On his darkest work yet, I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outsideformer Odd Future member Sweatshirt, who's easily one of my favourite rappers, continues to work through his demons with more conviction than most rappers double his teenage years. "AM // Radio" might be one of the sonically lighter tracks off the gloomy album, but Earl's statements are nothing less than weighty.

#23. Falling Apart (feat. Brian Wilson & Andrew Wyatt) - Emile Haynie: This year, famed New York producer Haynie stepped out with his excellent debut solo album, We Fall, which included help from 13 of music's biggest players (Lana Del Rey, Dev Hynes, Lykke Li, to name a few). Haynie enlisted the unlikely combination of Beach Boy Brian Wilson and Miike Snow member Andrew Wyatt's vocals on this poignant ballad, and between their harmonies and those soaring strings, "Falling Apart" is beautifully hard-hitting.

#22. Antidote - Travi$ Scott: If I had to pick one song I surprisingly played the most this year, "Antidote" might be it. La Flame's anticipated debut LP Rodeo wasn't as widely received as his mixtapes, but this mindless party single was one of the most unexpected turn-up tracks of the year with its earworm lyrics and moody production (c/o Toronto's very own Wondagurl and Eestbound). On "Antidote," Scott proved that genius is sometimes founded in simplicity.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Best New Track: "Under The Sun" - DIIV

DIIV mastermind Zachary Cole Smith's hardships have been publicly well-documented. His wild relationship with Sky Ferreira, substance abuse, arrests - all of it has undoubtedly given shape to the New York band's hazy shoegaze offerings to date.

Their brand new single "Under The Sun," on the other hand, sounds exactly like its title; it's Smith at his most exposed, his most triumphant - which he attributes to being in love. On the bright, guitar-driven single and his path towards redemption, Smith commented on Tumblr, "I don’t think I would have made it out if it weren’t for love." You'd be hard-pressed to consume the airy track in full and not find traces of that sentiment.

Stay tuned for DIIV's upcoming double LP, Is The Is Are, out February 5 via Captured Tracks.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Listen to "Breathless" - FAIRCHILD

I stumbled upon six-piece Aussie indie-rockers FAIRCHILD last week, and was surprised to learn that they've actually been on the scene for a few years - touring globally in support of their debut EP, but somehow still flying under the North American radar.

"Breathless," the latest single from that 2014 EP, is a lush synth-rock gem that, in all of its 80s-evocative glory, sounds like it might be their ticket to widespread indie airplay. If you're into Neon Indian, the xx or Foals, check out the slow-burning cut below and keep an eye out for new FAIRCHILD material in 2016.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Watch Beach House Perform "Somewhere Tonight" on Conan

I noted earlier this fall that Beach House's second release this year, Thank Your Lucky Stars, was far and away their greatest work since what I consider to be their seminal album, Bloom, dropped in 2012.

Thank Your Lucky Stars is a dark, heartfelt collection of songs that sonically range from the fuzz-rock heard on their earliest albums to the sleepy retro ballads they've mastered in recent years. Having never seen them live, Victoria Legrand's perfectly solemn delivery of this dreamy waltz gave me full body chills.

Watch them perform "Somewhere Tonight" below.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Listen to "Something About You" - Majid Jordan

OVO Sound is on the move again. You might know Toronto crooner/producer duo Majid Jordan from being featured on Drake's 2013 smash hit (and arguably one of his best, ever) "Hold On, We're Going Home." Signing to Drake's label, Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman went on to drop their debut LP as a duo in 2014, which led to a young, loyal OVO following, but not much other noise until this summer, when they dropped the Drake-assisted single and video for "My Love." Even with the help of the big boss, they still weren't nearing earworm territory, but, in their defence, it would be mighty hard to stand out as a Drizzy R&B protegé during the year of The Weeknd.

Last week, Majid Jordan dropped the smooth new groove "Something About You," which is easily their most commercially viable single to date. Evoking major hints of early-00s pop swagger, Majid's raspy falsetto slinks around this track like a pro - making me think, despite doubts about his live capabilities, their slow-building momentum is leading to good places, and soon.

Friday, December 11, 2015

TGIF: Listen to Sia's Power Pop Ballad "One Million Bullets"

Alright, so, I've been a terrible blogger this month. Between work, personal, travel, getting sick - things have been b-a-n-a-n-a-s. No excuses though. Let's get back to regular programming.

I have to admit that this recent Sia craze - the interpretative dances, not seeing her face (I mean, I know what she looks like, don't you?), her poppier new direction - has been sort of lost on me. I really enjoyed Sia in the early millennium years, and was a wholehearted supporter of her return to the mainstream and pop makeover, but quite simply, just haven't been hooked on any of her songs.

Until last week, when I was curating a playlist for the teen crowd and came across one of the latest singles off her forthcoming January album, This is Acting. "One Million Bullets" has just about every anthemic ingredient needed for a full-blown top-of-chair, chest pumping episode that only the most triumphant power-pop songs deserve (think: most things Adele).

Anyway, my love for this song has surprised me, and tells me that I'm ready to welcome her next batch of tunes with open arms. Have a listen.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Different, But Equally Important: Kendrick and Taylor Lead Grammy Nominations

My sweet brother Sam has been paying attention to the Grammy's chaos and had a few thoughts on two of the highly juxtaposing albums leading the nods. Have a read.

When the Grammy nominations were announced this week, I was thrilled to see two of the year’s best albums leading the nominations – Taylor Swift’s swagger-filled pop masterpiece 1989 and Kendrick Lamar’s introspective and genre-pushing classic To Pimp A Butterfly

The two pieces of art are a telling statement on the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences realizing, after 2014's hip-hop album of the year incident best known as "the Macklemore," that this is an era when more attention needs to be paid to hip-hop that's potentially less accessible, but historically more important. It's also a statement on music today in general - the artistic spectrum is wide, and what's significant on it, varies.

Taylor comes into her own in a way that makes her deserving of every accolade. Her songwriting is clean and engaging, but, paired with an unapologetic (but long-coming) shift from her country-pop style, she created something memorable.

Kendrick’s TPAB is an artistic achievement unparalleled in recent years. It shares some similarities with Swift and her album - reinvention while staying true to form – but, it is a vastly different body of work. With jarring subject matter, musical experimentation, and no clear single, Kendrick created a beautifully difficult record. They are not the same, but they both deserve respect.

While the Grammy's are about artistic achievement - and Kendrick deserves to be honoured – they also represent the structure he rejects. They are a party and To Pimp A Butterfly is not. Recently, my sister and I were discussing the validity of different genres and how it’s unfair to disregard something based on where it lands on the musical spectrum. She pointed out that, despite its genius and her love for it, if someone put on TPAB at a party she might “kick them the ___ out.” Funny, but not wrong. Out with friends on a Friday, drinks flowing, it is not the album to listen to. There’s power and redemption, but there is no resolution, hooks or answers. It is uplifting, but it is difficult.

Much of 1989 is about rising above, but the content and presentation is easier. It's played at parties and it’s catchy as hell. If Kendrick swept the awards, no doubt some cuts would be played at his celebration. Songs like “Blank Space” and “Wildest Dreams” talk of romantic pain, not of being existentially at war with themselves.

Which are you blasting from a stereo at a BBQ? Just because something isn’t challenging doesn’t mean it's without merit.

Kendrick discovers his place in the world through painful introspection while Taylor shakes her issues off on the dance floor. Both are well-crafted, but I won’t be surprised if 1989 takes home more trophies. Comparing the two is apples and oranges. The Grammy’s are not always a place for difficult; they can be a party and for Kendrick to be nominated is enough. It is an extremely important record, but he wasn’t aiming for the Grammy’s. Conversely, just because Taylor made an accessible album doesn’t mean she should not be recognized. Both records are brilliant and both deserve to be applauded.

- Sam Huddleston

image via 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Listen to SOULS': "I Wait For You"

The debut single from SOULS is, for the most part, sort of a mystery. We know that SOULS is the new project from UK producer David Gledhill, and that his debut single "I Wait For You" includes unearthed 1930s vocals from Alan Lomax's archival collection American Voices. Other than that, the larger picture is a little blurry.

Apparently, Gledhill has crafted a collection of 20 tracks, each with dusted-off vocals from Lomax's archive, and it's set to be released in 2016. If "I Wait For You" is any indication, with its masterful production and similarity to something from Moby's beautiful Play-book, SOULS' full-length shouldn't be missed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Toronto's New Class of Soul: Listen to Daniel Caesar's EP 'Pilgrim's Paradise'

Something has been happening in Toronto for awhile now. The city is slowly becoming less musically known for its indie-rock community which, for the most part, is relatively self-contained, and more for the up-and-coming class of soul stars who are either a household name by now (The Weeknd) or emerging with some of the most impressive solo work and international collaborations this city has seen in some time. 

Some say it's thanks to Drake that all of this is happening, and there's no doubt the young rap and R&B players gained some confidence from his global championing. But, what this group is doing, this fearless flavour of soul that they're producing together in creative, incestuous music communities, is now so plentiful it's overflowing at the city's seams. They need a name, really - because they're not OVO, but they could end up comparable.

One of those artists is Daniel Caesar - a 20 year-old singer-songwriter rolling with the likes of Toronto producers Frank Dukes and River Tiber, dropping short, emotive bodies of work that affirm his status as one of the ones to watch in the soul-folk space. Just a few weeks ago, Caesar released his second EP, Pilgrim's Paradise - a powerful seven-song release that includes six originals (ranging from impassioned soul to Frank Ocean-esque hip-hop collabs) and "Streetcars," a Toronto-spun cover of Kanye West's "Streetlights." 

After one listen to this EP, there's no doubt that Caesar could be one of the most important R&B storytellers in Toronto right now. And with the nurturing and support of his crew, his community - it's safe to say they'll see to it that we hear plenty more from him (and the rest of them) soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Best New Track: "So Long" - Leon Bridges

Leon Bridges has undoubtedly been one of the biggest breakout stars of the year, thanks to his exceptional debut album album Coming Home, sold out tour, recent collaboration with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and soundtrack contribution to the new Will Smith film Concussion, titled " So Long."

The latter is my favourite side of Bridges. There's no doubt his uppity, '60s soul revivalist approach is outstanding, but it's the deep, guitar-driven hymnals like "So Long" (and Coming Home single "River") that take my breath away, time and again.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Missy Elliott Is Back: Watch The Crazy Video For "WTF"

Anyone close to me knows that I love Nicki Minaj oh-so-much and consider her the best female rapper of all-time. No question.

But there was one key pioneer before her, one whose similarly genius rhymes (as well as squeaks, yelps and other oddities), boss bitch attitude and unexpected genre melding paved the way for there to even be a Nicki Minaj. Missy Elliott, a close second, if not tie, for the best female rapper ever, boldly carved that space for any young woman attempting to infiltrate the tough, male-dominated (understatement of the century) rap game.

And, thank goodness for all of us, Missy is back with a new video after seven years. This morning, Elliott dropped the futuristic-meets-dancehall single "WTF (Where They From)," featuring longtime collaborator Pharrell - and it's pure fire. You might have heard snippets of the frantic banger earlier this fall when ESPN started using it in NBA promos, but here, in all of its full-form glory, "WTF" and its wildly choreographed visuals are things for the books.

"WTF" marks Elliott's first solo single since 2012, although the two Timbaland-produced singles from that year never made it onto an album. So really, this is the first solo Missy in a decade (!), since The Cookbook

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Listen to "LA" - Ty Dolla $ign ft. Kendrick Lamar, Brandy & James Fauntleroy

This isn't the first variation of "LA" that we've heard, but it looks like it will be the final. Set to appear as the opener to Ty Dolla $ign's hyped new album Free TC which drops this Friday (after three years in the making) - this slowed-down, star-studded spin is all sorts of nice.

That soulful piano and bass are fitting intros to "LA"'s groovy multi-tracked vocals - which includes a raspy verse from Kendrick (natch, on any track about the City of Angels) and harmonies from OG songbird Brandy and James Fauntleroy. For all of your late night needs and reflections, trust that this druggy R&B ode does the trick.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Best New Album: Grimes - "Art Angels"

Ever since 27 year-old Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, stepped on to the indie scene in 2010, her presence has been a sort of heroic, double-middle-finger to the music industry's conventions. Or, just every convention a woman faces.

Her first three experimental electro-pop albums, challenging visuals, decision to scrap a whole collection of work and ever-present criticism of industry confines are just a few of the things that have hurled the awesomely unusual Montreal artist to the forefront of the alt-pop brigade and kept her there, against plenty of odds, all the way through to her brand new, already-acclaimed fourth album, Art Angels.

Dropped last week via 4AD, Art Angels is deservedly being hailed as Boucher's best work yet. An even stronger double-finger to the industry, her relationships, perceptions of her - Art Angels is accessibly bold in its song-to-song array and the process behind it.  Wholly conceptualized and produced by Boucher, Art Angels is, for the most part, beautifully voiced, auspicious pop that could sonically exist on Top 40 charts. But, what makes it so inspiring is how the brazen lyrical sentiments and woman behind them (i.e. the furthest thing from what we've historically coined a pop star, or construction of male-led teams), are likely the reasons they won't make it there. But, whether Grimes' feminist contributions ever live in the big mainstream or not, she'll undoubtedly continue to redefine music in more ways than we can even predict, and that's more than enough.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Best New Track: Matt Corby's "Monday"

Swoon. Australian singer-songwriter Matt Corby is back - with a single that's made up entirely of sounds produced by his own body and voice - and it's beautiful.

On his new single "Monday," a spine-tingling gospel that comes after nearly two years of recording and scrapping material that he didn't like, Corby's souful croon slinks around the choral harmonies and clap beat in a way you knew he was capable of, but wouldn't have heard on his previous four EPs. 

On releasing this new single and his debut LP, due out in 2016 on Elektra Records, Corby says, “It took me a year and a half to clear my head of everything that happened, accept my failures, reboot and have the balls to do it again.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Listen to Half Moon Run's "I Can't Figure Out What's Going On"

I strongly believe that Half Moon Run are one of the most underrated bands. Not Canadian bands - just bands, in general.

The Montreal indie-rockers recently released a lovely follow-up to their debut album, Dark Eyes, which swaps out most of their earlier melancholic balladry for 13 sun-streaked, borderline alt-Americana songs, appropriately inspired by a California road trip. Considering the band has admitted their certified gold debut and exhaustive touring led to trying times in their personal lives, even in their soul searching, these reflective new songs often come across as nothing short of heartwarming.

On the upbeat second track "I Can't Figure Out What's Going On," the repetitive, glimmering guitar and string section (which appears throughout most of the album) slowly build to a jaunty place that lays the foundation for frontman Devon Portielje's bluesiest vocals yet.

Have a listen, and pick up Sun Leads Me On (via Indica Records) today.

Friday, October 30, 2015

TGIF! Listen To The New EL VY

Apologies for the spotty posting this week - I've been away on vacation (and will be until Tuesday). But, I've been listening hard to a few things, mostly the debut album from EL VY - The National frontman Matt Berninger's side project with Brent Knopf, previously of Menomena and currently of Ramona Falls.

While not a complete upheaval of The National's coined sound, this bouncier collection might be one of the year's best albums. Have a listen to my new favourite off Return to the Moon, and have a great weekend.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Best New Track: "Flesh Without Blood" - Grimes

It's been a rollercoaster of a wait for new music from Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, the 27 year-old experimental pop artist from Montreal who took over 2012 with her acclaimed third studio album Visions. A little over a year ago, she dropped the (perfectly fine) follow-up single "Go," off what would have been REALiTi, the fourth album she later scrapped because "it sucked."

And that brings us to yesterday, when Grimes finally dropped the video for both "Flesh Without Blood" and "Life in the Vivid Dream," two polar-opposite songs from her (actual) forthcoming album Art Angels, mashed together as an exceedingly bizarre, Boucher-directed montage of tennis, Elizabethans, bloody death and quirky dance parties.

The weird-ass video and second song aside, straight up - "Flesh Without Blood" is Grimes' biggest, most accessible pop song to date. Her pixie vocals jump around the danceable punk guitar and clap-beat and, also surprisingly, deliver a pretty straightforward message about kicking a former love to the curb.

The best part about this pop anthem is that it's still got Grimes written all over it - those ethereal vocals fly high and the dark undertones of her coined electronic mixing are visible through the bubbly layers. It's just a new kind of Grimes - one that is definitely going to make the rest of our wait for Art Angels more bearable.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Get Your Hands On BØRNS' Debut Album 'Dopamine'

Garrett Borns, better known as BØRNS to his new cult of adoring fans, is good at a lot of things. Aside from his buttery falsetto, expert production and nomad lifestyle (he conceptualized/recorded his debut in a Los Angeles treehouse...), it's his unwavering ability to pen real earworms - songs that stay with you, that you don't tire of - that's pretty remarkable, considering he only fell onto the mainstream indie radar about a year ago. 

Two weeks ago, BØRNS (finally) dropped his highly anticipated debut record Dopamine and it's everything his prior EP hinted at: candy sweet melodies, beachside vibes and that voice - that beautiful set of pipes which guide each track to majorly dreamy territory.

Track to track, there's something for everyone on Dopamine - psychedelia, theatrical, Queen-like rock,  synth-pop. But, my new favourite is "Dug My Heart" - an understated love song that will chug its way into your heart. Enjoy.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Best New Track: Bieber's Done It Again With "Sorry"

Justin Bieber's newfound proficiency for voicing trop-house anthems that bring nations of men and women to their knees in the club is... astounding, to say the least.

The two biggest questions of the summer, "Where Are Ü Now" and "What Do You Mean?" - Bieber's record-breaking cry-dance anthems - have finally been answered with a single, equally addictive declarative statement: "Sorry." Bieber dropped the latter melodic slapper last night, along with a #dancegoals video that will be mimicked infinitely, and after one listen - hell, after 25 seconds - I bet you'll feel that your world has changed a little. 

And, it doesn't hurt that Bieber's lyrical intentions - apologizing to a past lover he misses (or his fans for being a certified d-bag for 5 years?) - remain quite endearing on this one.

Maybe even more than "What Do You Mean?" - the Skrillex-produced "Sorry" will keep you going, through your tears of joy, until the end of time.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Best New Album: Beach House's 'Thank Your Lucky Stars'

I don't know what we did to deserve another Beach House album within the span of two months, but whatever it is, I'm thanking my lucky stars.

While this August's Depression Cherry had a few gleaming moments, I found it sounded more like their reverb-filled earlier efforts and less like the cohesive masterpiece that sort of changed my life, or at least my 2012, Bloom. Not that sounding like Bloom is a Beach House pre-req, but start to finish, that album was beyond beautiful. Anything that edges towards it immediately has my heart.

Enter Thank Your Lucky Stars, last week's out-of-nowhere release - where the emotive melodies and all-consuming sonics are enough to make you weak in the knees. It's no secret that mortality is a prevalent theme in all Beach House music, and Thank Your Lucky Stars is one of their darker, more romantic takes on the subject. Lead singer Victoria Legrand rarely overextends her husky vocals over the course of the nine songs, seamlessly matching the downtempo serenades that hover somewhere between dreamy indie-doo-wop and slow-burning statements like "Elegy to the Void" (which is easily one of their most magical anthems to date). 

As the winter chill rolls in, this should be exactly the collection of sounds you want in your ears.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Please Watch Drake's "Hotline Bling" Video

Unless you live under a rock, you're well aware that last night was a big night for Canada. Fresh Prime Minister, fresh Blue Jays win, fresh Drake video. But, not just any video. Possibly the best video the Toronto superstar has ever released, for "Hotline Bling," his highest charting solo single since 2009's "Best I Ever Had" and 2013's "Hold On, We're Goin' Home."

I mean, the best way to describe this video is to not describe it at all and just let you watch it. Let you watch Drake shake his tailfeather, two-step and thrust his pelvis for five minutes straight. So corny, yet so, so wonderful.

Needless to say, Drizzy's moves live up to the song it draws the most similarities to -"Cha Cha" from D.R.A.M., who last night on Twitter said he felt "jacked." Pipe down, D.R.A.M. This is music video gold, it's not even close to the same song, and it will only do good things for you.


And, if you don't care for this song, please watch this Future Islands-infused version instead: