Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Are You Onto Yung Jake? Listen to "Both" (feat. Charlie Heat)

Yung Jake is still a pretty elusive, digitally-focused character in the rap game. He demanded he give his first major interview with Complex over text message. His internet hit "Unfollow" was accompanied by a video where he danced all over different social media platforms talking about, well, unfollowing a girl. He's that dude who makes unreal portraits of celebrities using only emojis. And now he's back with "Both," which features G.O.O.D Music producer Charlie Heat and was teased on Snapchat, in a pretty roundabout way (you had to follow his two accounts and hold two phones together to catch the visuals properly).

That mish-mash of internet dabbling might not have been enough to make Yung Jake a household name, but this "Both" single could be what does it, because it's lit. Jake lays his rhymes over Heat's unequivocally addictive beat, and although one could argue that anyone would sound good over earworm production like that, I think Jake's particular flavour of laissez-faire proclamations are what make this track so interesting. As you can guess from the first rhyme, the song is about having both of everything he might have to decide between - women, drugs, drinks, etc. - and while the mean beat is what hooks you initially, the momentary doses of shaky organ and soul piano are what highlight both artists' chops.

"Both" will drop as part of Charlie Heat's upcoming album The Good Way, which will also feature Vic Mensa and Freeway, to name a few.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fall Ready: Listen To Half Moon Run's New Single "Hands in the Garden"

I try to listen to as much of everything as possible, but this has been such a strong year for hip-hop, that I feel like I've been paying a little less attention to the all-encompassing rock genre. That will likely change soon, because with the first sweep of fall, that genre is where I always end up finding the best pieces for my seasonal soundtrack.

A little less than a month ahead of their sophomore album, Montreal indie-rockers Half Moon Run have dropped their third single "Hands in the Garden," which qualifies as one of those great autumn songs. More accessible than some of their darker experimental moments, the folky ode's laid-back piano and acoustic guitar are straightforwardly pretty, even when shaken up with a jangly harmonica intermission. As is usually the case with any HMR spin, the boys' harmonies are what make this one so charming.

You can grab the band's new album sun leads me on on October 23.

Friday, September 25, 2015

TGIF: 5 Essential New Songs For Your Weekend

What a week for new music. As I'm sure you can imagine, In The Round is a special kind of organized chaos. Some (very rare) days I go to bed or wake up with absolutely nothing to write about and scramble or just give up, but 99 per cent of the time I have an extensive content calendar lined up detailing new albums, singles, live shows, surprise album rumours, etc. But, alas, I can't plan for everything - because in this free-for-all digital age, people can release music wherever and whenever they please. And I'm not complaining.

Needless to say, this has been one of those weeks when so much new shit has dropped that I find my calendar getting pushed back and rearranged so that I can prioritize new, important, (in some cases) unexpected releases that are whipping on to my radar at lightning speed. 

SO. I'm just going to kill five birds with one stone and dish out a handful of new gems to start the weekend. These are five songs that were getting lost in the mix and need to be brought to your attention now, if they aren't already. Enjoy!

1. Live From The Gutter - Future & Drake: You know, I had planned a much more comprehensive breakdown of these two rap Gods' (relatively) surprise mixtape What A Time To Be Alive, until the days passed and I realized it was unlikely I'd write something you hadn't already read 10 times elsewhere. Straight up, this is Future's album. By way of his too-cool-to-care mumbles, we all know that. Drake shows up a little, but comes out mostly undermined while talking about girls and the throes of success next to Future's blasé honesty about about drinking lean and fighting demons. We love you, sweet Drizzy (especially on the dope "30 for 30 Freestyle") - but Future has actually been in the gutter, and it makes his WATTB glory all the more powerful. (You can listen over at Apple Music or iTunes - the whole thing is worth it.)

2. No Time To Crank The Sun - EL VY: Well, shit. Just when I thought EL VY, the new side project from The National's Matt Berninger, might produce a little less heartwrenching music than his famed band, they go and drop their second single which is a bonafide drink-wine-and-reflect tearjerker. All they've released so far is the live acoustic version, featuring Berninger hanging off his mic while Brent Knopf (of Menomena and Ramona Falls) plays twinkling keys, and we all know those things have historically sent us to sob city. Looks like there's no chance of drying your Berninger-induced tears any time soon, but it's fine, because the song is beautiful.

3. Shadow - Chromatics: As we swing into the cooler weather, a dreamy nighttime ode from one my favourite synthpop bands fits the bill perfectly. Although we already heard a demo of this song last year, the finished version is so much more lush. Ruth Radelet's echoey vocals and those nostalgic pulses of synth leave this one feeling like it's 30 years too late for the slow dance scene in a Molly Ringwald movie.

4. Nelly - Isaiah Rashad: Yes, the boy is back. Isaiah Rashad, one of rap's most promising young stars, has remained relatively low-key since his debut album Cilvia Demos was released on Top Dawg Entertainment a few years back. Yesterday, Rashad resurfaced with "Nelly," a mellow lookback on his life where he talks about being the jam, even if not number one, over a slow bump and doo wop bellows. No one knows when the new album will drop, but Rashad has recently tweeted that it's finished, so, fingers crossed.

5. Weak - Wet: No surprise here; Brooklyn indie-pop trio Wet released another tender ballad that will leave you weak in the knees. And, it's fittingly called "Weak." While Kelly Zutrau's most sincerely heartfelt vocals yet plead "Baby, please don't leave me/ You are all I ever need," the notes soulfully pluck away in the background - which isn't an offbeat formula for the skilled balladeers, but one that never fails to make you want to feel feelings and share them with someone. Now, can this debut album finally drop, please?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Big Grams Share New Track "Goldmine Junkie"

Ahead of their first collaborative album as Big Grams, due out tomorrow, Outkast's Big Boi and Phantogram have shared their third single "Goldmine Junkie."

The swirling piano backtrack and heavy bass lend nicely to the verbal wordplay between Big Boi and Phantogram's front woman Sarah Barthel, who even tries her hand at a little talk-rapping in between delivering one of her coined hooks.

Following the upbeat "Fell In The Sun" and especially Phantogram-y "Lights On," this twisted love song is their most soulful yet.

You can pick up their 7-song BIG GRAMS EP (so, the four songs you haven't heard yet and appearances from Run The Jewels and Skrillex) tomorrow via Epic Records and catch them on Jimmy Fallon tonight.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Baby! In The Round Turns 5

Happy 5th (!) birthday, ITR! It's hard to believe that five years ago, I fulfilled my every stereotype and started a music blog while sitting in Starbucks. New to the whole blog thing (it was a very different landscape at the time), I remember writing maybe five posts at once because I just had so much to say. It was years of verbally begging people to listen to songs all pent up and finally spilling out on to this strange, newfound platform.

I started In The Round because I wanted to be a music writer, and a pretty famous music writer who I nagged for advice told me to start with one of "those blog things." Now, whenever someone asks me how to best penetrate the seemingly impossible music writing industry (or any other creative realm for that matter), I say the same thing. It may not be in the form of a blog, but just carve a space for your voice where it might not otherwise exist. And then keep doing that consistently, over and over again. I can say from experience that you'll eventually be heard, your craft will develop (looking back at my earliest posts is cringeworthy for me) and you will find wild opportunities sprout out of your decision to be a bit louder.

So, if you've only read ITR once or twice or every day, I love you all the same and can't begin to express my gratitude! Sharing music is, and always will be, my favourite thing - and it means so much that you've come along for the ride. I sure don't plan on stopping any time soon.

Rather fittingly, here's Jose Gonzalez's "Let It Carry You":

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ODESZA Remixes Porter Robinson's "Divinity" (feat. Amy Millan)

This time last year, North Carolina DJ and producer Porter Robinson enlisted the help of Stars' female lead singer Amy Millan on his soaring new banger, "Divinity." This past weekend, Seattle electronic duo ODESZA (my favourite guys in the genre) breathed powerful new life into their remix of the song, which will be the album opener for Robinson's new Worlds remixes album.

While the original is a sonic rollercoaster juxtaposed with quiet, twinkling moments and wild crescendos, this ODESZA twist is a haunting midtempo trip. The boys strip away the booming moments, add awesome layers of live drums and push Millan's ethereal coo into the spotlight - making this a typical ODESZA classic, start to finish.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Best New Album: Ryan Adams Covers Taylor Swift's Entire '1989' Album

Oh, man. Where to begin.

I'm a diehard fan of Ryan Adams - the alt-folk icon who drops a new solo album every 15 minutes (not really, but has practically released one or more a year since '00). And, I'm a human being, therefore I appreciate that Taylor Swift's 1989 was one of the best pop albums ever released, and consumed it pretty heavily.

So, put the two together - in the form of Adams releasing his own interpretation of every. single. song. on 1989 - and I'm sort of a ball of mush today. It's all of the pop magic that dropped almost one year ago, but reinterpreted in a beautiful, Ryan Adams-y way.

With Adams' 1989, he maintains essential elements of Swift's original, thoughtfully constructed pop genius (that's why he took the whole album on - he was admittedly amazed by the intricacy and impact of each song). Only, he respectfully peels back the thick layers of dance-pop production - drum pads, synthesizers, snappy beats - and repaints each with his coined Americana textures. The relationship-focused lyrics and big, gleaming melodies, which made the album so hard-hitting in the first place, stay perfectly untouched.

On 1989 2.0, Adams masterfully upheaves what we came to love and makes us fall in love with it again, under a new light. He plucks and shakily croons "Blank Space," refocuses "This Love" into a haunting piano ballad and "Shake It Off" into a Springsteen-esque highway thinker. He turns the already triumphant album opener "Welcome to New York" into an alt-rock anthem, "Style" into a retro stomp and "Out of the Woods" into a timeless waltz.

Maybe the best part of this reimagined collection is the worlds it will bring together. The millennial Swifties will listen and maybe tell their parents, who will mistakenly think "Bryan Adams" pulled this off, and the diehard Ryan Adams heads will unknowingly come to adore Taylor Swift's masterpiece. Unexpectedly uniting the masses is really what good music is all about.

In the end, everyone wins with 1989 - whichever way you cut it.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Best New Track: Naughty Boy and Beyoncé Just Dropped "Runnin' (Lose It All)" and It's Perfect

Save for select remixes, momentary Destiny's Child reunions and a pure fire collab with Nicki Minaj last year, the Beyoncé well of new music has been mostly dry since Christmas 2013.

2013, guys.

So, imagine my surprise when I'm scrolling through my beloved Twitter feed before bed last night to see that Queen Bey, Arrow Benjamin and British producer Naughty Boy (behind Sam Smith's "La La La" and some Zayn Malik drama) are together for a brand new power ballad titled "Runnin' (Lose It All"). The melodic new single, which begins with Bey's effing perfect, soulful vocals and some of Naughty's slowly building production, swings into an upbeat, but no less gorgeous, slapper after her first verse. From there, Naughty Boy jumps in to round out the song, which preaches that age-old truth of having only yourself at the end of it all.

So, the Queen has spoken, and you are now allowed to start your weekend. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Kings of Leon's Perfect Performance of "Beautiful War"

I've been a longtime Kings of Leon devotee, all the way from their long-haired, dirty Southern rock beginnings to their more commercialized recent years. While their musical efforts have had quality highs and lows, there's no denying the Followill brood knows how to write a damn song. And perform it, no less.

I've seen the Kings about six times in concert (never at a festival), and have grown not to expect any fireworks or decorative on-stage antics - just the songs, played perfectly. In their more sober years, it's what the boys can promise to do well.

Of the newer Kings of Leon songs, Mechanical Bull's "Beautiful War" is undoubtedly one of my absolute favourites - and this early, sun-streaked peformance of the song at 2013's Global Citizen Fest just melts my heart, time and again. Caleb and Nathan's impeccable harmonies, the way every note rings crystal clear, the calm vibe - all of it. I think I've watched this clip about 200 times over the years.

Also, Caleb Followill anything... just... I can't. Enjoy!

image via adela loconte

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Deerhunter Release Dreamy New Single "Breaker"

Following Deerhunter's excellent 2013 album Monomania, the Atlanta indie-rock outfit are back with the second single from their forthcoming album, Fading Frontier, which will drop later this fall.

The summery "Breaker" is one of the band's most accessible songs yet, feeling like it's a few months late with that beachy guitar and lead singer Bradford Cox and guitarist Lockett Pundt's relaxed duet. An atmospheric synth intermission breaks up the song's contemplative storytelling before returning to that pretty, meandering melody - all the while feeling like a warm breeze.

Fading Frontier drops October 16 on 4AD.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Best New Track: Sjowgren's "Seventeen"

I only know three things about indie-pop band Sjowgren: they're from the Bay Area, they have four songs on Soundcloud and they're way, way too good to be so completely under the radar. Oh, and I'm also unsure how to pronounce their name.

A few days ago I stumbled upon what appears to be their lead single, "Seventeen," and about 100 plays later I can attest to this being one of the catchiest songs of the year. Made up of downtempo verses and an addictive, rosy hook, "Seventeen" has that garage-pop glimmer that stems from nonchalant vocals and a likeable melody that's sticks in your head like glue.

A tune like this can be timeless; if only more people heard it, and we knew more than four things about the mystery outfit. Here's hoping there's more from Sjowgren soon.

Monday, September 14, 2015

On Repeat: Kurt Vile's "Life Like This"

A little over a week ahead of Kurt Vile's sixth solo release b'lieve I'm goin down, the follow up to his acclaimed 2013 album Wakin' On A Pretty Daze, his newest single "Life Like This" is just about all I'm listening to.

The introspective, piano-founded jam is one of Vile's most lush yet. While the guitar genius still builds in some psychedelic strums, the song's laidback life lessons are what make this folk-pop ditty a true gem.

Watch out for b'lieve i'm goin down on September 25, via Matador.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Best New Track: Raury and Tom Morello Team Up on "Friends"

Best new track is a huge understatement here. This is a fucking anthem.

On my morning run today, The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey'" came on shuffle, and while it's in no way a running song, I took a hot minute to recognize the pure, uplifting beauty of a big melodic song like that 1985 classic. One of those timeless songs that sends you soaring, but doesn't come around all too often.

Within 20 seconds of the percussive opening and glittery first notes, of Raury's new single "Friends," I knew we had another one of those on our hands. And, thank goodness. Crafted by the 19 year-old boy wonder from Atlanta, who only released his first mixtape this time last year, the track features help from legendary Rage Against the Machine guitar god, Tom Morello. A thundering blend of soul, folk and global peace lyricism, "Friends" sounds like it will be the perfect intro to Raury's debut album All We Need which he has said will "aim to change the world and how the masses are listening to music, period." 

Raury appropriately credits Morello's history releasing progressive music in the 90s as why he wanted him on this kind of track. Similar things are happening with hip-hop right now (he cites Chance the Rapper and Joey Bada$$, specifically), and the rising star wants to make music that's equally "awake."

Amen. Look out for All We Need next month.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Bravestation Release Beautiful New EP 'V'

It was five years ago that I first stumbled across self-described apocalypse-pop outfit Bravestation, and watched intently as they found their bearings in Toronto's crowded market of up-and-coming indie acts. Experimenting with everything from bedroom pop to cover songs and dreamy new wave, all of their persistence and eventual signing to Culvert Music has led to this - the band's most accessible, cohesive project yet.

On Friday, the morning after the live unveiling of their new EP to The Drake Underground's crowd (who were also there to hear Young Empires' debut played in full), the Brockville-bred trio dropped V, a four-song follow-up to their first two EPs, Giants and Dreamers (2012) and IV (2013). While V dabbles in both danceable and downtempo spaces, it never fails to radiate that coined Bravestation glimmer, furthered by lead singer Devin Wilson's breathy vocals and their melodic, retro instrumentals.

Have a listen:

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Monday Listening: The Arcs

If you're starting to feel Black Keys withdrawal, after over a decade of new albums every two years or less, I have two remedies for you: stop worrying, another album will obviously surface within the year, and check out The Arcs, who are the next closest thing.

Dan Auerbach, the busy Black Keys frontman whose scroll of production credits and collaborations is floor-length by now, dropped a debut album with his new project, The Arcs, on Friday. Yours, Dreamily pulls in the same funk-infused 70s psychedelia that most of Auerbach's other projects do, and does it well, with even with less inhibitions than if it were one of his more mainstream ventures.

While the buzzy, upbeat numbers are necessary to maintain the expected tempo of an Auerbach album, if I had it my way, I'd have kept this an album of woozy blues ballads like "Stay in my Corner" and the acoustic guitar and piano-founded, "Searching the Blue" (which sounds so perfectly ELO I could cry). After all these years, slower songs like these are Auerbach-touched gems we actually don't have enough of.

Friday, September 4, 2015

On Repeat: Travis Scott Drops His Debut Album 'Rodeo'

People expect a lot from Travis Scott. Based on my healthy obsession with the guy and years of waiting for more from him, you could say I do too.

So, today, when the Houston artist's anticipated debut album Rodeo dropped - reviews have been (so far) mixed. Scott doesn't rap enough, Scott littered his release with impressive collaborators to overshadow a lacklustre effort, blah, blah, blah - these are all things you might pick up on if you give the haters a minute. In my humble opinion, this is all bullshit; people need to get their expectations in check and consume the album at face value - a woozy, wild trip that proves that, sure, maybe Scott isn't the rapper we all hoped he'd be throughout all 16 tracks. But at times, he is, and he's about a million other things on Rodeo.

His exceptional early mixtapes aside, this is a de.but.album. It's early enough in his likely long career - let's let him make it what he wants to make it?

The all-star cast and eclectic song-to-song production on Rodeo are mindblowing. Deep and long, sample-heavy cuts from a bonafide hip-hop punk; sometimes swag city, other times spacey and a little emotional - making sense of year-round ragers and newfound fame. Whether the melodic, Kacy Hill-crooned "90210" or the mental (pee-covered) "Piss On Your Grave," which boasts an unexpected alt-rock/trap balance and some pretty perfect aggression from his mentor, Kanye, or the hypnotic earworm of the summer "Antidote" - Scott shows up on this. Maybe just in different ways than some expected. 

At the end of a few close listens, and following the months of hard-to-live-up-to hype, nothing about Rodeo has me denying what Kanye has previously claimed: Scott could still be the future.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kacy Hill Debuts New Single "Foreign Fields"

Over six months after Kanye signed model, dancer and singer Kacy Hill to his G.O.O.D. Music label, the 21 year-old songstress has finally pushed out a dreamy new single titled "Foreign Fields."

Set to appear on her debut EP Bloo, which will drop sometime this fall, the new track is a minimalist R&B cut, founded on her echoey bedroom vocals and some James Blake-reminiscent piano. The delicate finger-snap beat keeps things downtempo, until the song's hazy moving pieces speed up for a passionate climax.

Have a listen:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Introducing Thunderbitch: Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard's New Side Project

"Thunderbitch. Rock 'n' roll. The end."

That's what the bio for Thunderbitch, the new side project from Alabama Shakes' formidable lead singer Brittany Howard, reads. Based on that alone, you can count me in.

Yesterday, Howard and members of Clear Plastic Masks and Fly Golden Eagle surprise dropped their new album as Thunderbitch, a rowdy Brit-meets-Surf rock group that has little of the softening Shakes' recent Sound and Color had. As evidenced by the big, rattling riffs and tracks named "I Just Wanna Rock 'n' Roll" and "Wild Child," Howard needed a platform to rip and holler without any of the glitter, and Thunderbitch is that.

You can purchase the album on iTunes, or stream it in full on the Thunderbitch website.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Are You Onto The Voyagers?

Unlike certain American communities where hip-hop greatness has historically manifested, Connecticut might not immediately come to mind when paired with mention of the genre. Still, Connecticut has produced a worthwhile batch of competitive rappers in the past, and it looks like new quintet The Voyagers are ready to put New York's neighbour back on the map.

For The Voyagers (not the cast of the 80s TV series or Dutch dance duo), Hartford, CT has been the lab for concocting clever, challenging material that, in my opinion, puts them up with some of hip-hop's most intriguing collectives. Ripping a page right out of the 90s playbook, The Voyagers' effortless and punchy flows pop over the smacking, old school beats and scratches. Their plucky rhymes are a solid dose of reality which are good enough to make commonplace talk of chains and b*tches seem pretty trivial. 

Keep an eye out for this crew, and listen to their latest single "Lock n Load" below.

img via