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

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Listen to Bad Girls – “Try"

A few days before the release of their debut EP Youth Culture, fix your ears on three-piece Toronto indie-rockers Bad Girls and the opening track of their latest, titled “Try.” Channeling that fuzzed-out garage-rock sound mastered by The Strokes in the early 00s, lead singer Andrew Silvestro’s raspy vocals go hand-in-hand with the uppity rockabilly undertones. 

This Saturday, be sure to catch Bad Girls at their EP release show at Adelaide Hall.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Favourite New Track: Santigold - "Chasing Shadows"

I live for finding my new favourite song. It really doesn't happen that often, but when it does, despite attempts at tossing other tunes into the mix, I just can't bring myself to listen to much else for a good, long while. 

"Chasing Shadows," one of three singles released ahead of Santigold's anticipated new album 99 Cents, is currently that song. It's pop magic, start to finish. The reggae pulse, sugary piano, Santigold's laid-back vocals - all of it together is one irresistible dose of warmth that shows, although her music has had its ups and downs, there's no doubt Santi still knows how to to craft a flawless pop song.

Look out for 99 Cents on February 26, via Atlantic Records.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Best New Track: Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar - "No More Parties in L.A."

Holy smokes. Kanye West just dropped "No More Parties in L.A.," his first ever collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, and it's one of the best things I've heard this year.

So, there's a lot to process here. Firstly, this is the latest installment since announcing his plans to drop Swish on February 11. Secondly, old school Kanye is back on this Madlib-produced track. Maybe most importantly, though - Kendrick and Kanye are finally paired up, despite touring together for Yeezus in 2013. As expected, it's six straight minutes of stupidly clever, rapid-fire verbal jousting between the two greats.

Listen to "No More Parties in L.A." below.

Friday, January 15, 2016

TGIF: Water - Ra Ra Riot & Rostam (of Vampire Weekend)

New York's Ra Ra Riot are back with the first single from their forthcoming follow-up to 2013's Beta Love, and it's the definition of feel-good. Produced and co-written by Rostam Batmanglij (of Vampire Weekend), which you can hear in the sunny arrangement, "Water" is all about the journey.

Need Your Light drops on February 19 via Barsuk Records.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Listen to The Notorious B.I.G. vs David Bowie: "Biggie Stardust"

I live for a good mash-up. I also live for Biggie and Bowie, and have been sufficiently mourning the loss of the latter all week (and the former for over a decade), so this brand new blend from mash-up connoisseur Terry Urban is a welcome addition to the rotation.

Have a listen to "Biggie Stardust" below.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Listen to Jeff Buckley Cover Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman"

It's recently been announced that a 10-song collection of unheard recordings from Jeff Buckley, one of the greatest, but most tragically short-lived artists, will be released on March 16. 

Three years before his shocking drowning in 1997, Buckley released his sole studio album, the classic Grace, which will go down in history as one of the most beautiful, soulful rock albums of all time. 

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant heralded Grace as their favourite album of the decade, David Bowie named it the one album he would take with him to a desert island and Bob Dylan called Buckley "one of the most important songwriters of the decade." As it turns out, Buckley recorded studio covers of songs from most of the aforementioned artists, including Dylan's "Just Like A Woman," which has been released as the first taste of the unheard collection. It's heartbreaking.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Watch Beck Remake Bowie's "Sound and Vision"

Almost exactly two years ago, alt-rock genius Beck assembled a 157-piece orchestra to perform David Bowie's "Sound and Vision" with "no limitations, no restrictions." 

It's the best and most accurate way to describe what he, acclaimed conductor (and his father) David Campbell and their massive ensemble did when they reimagined Bowie's 1977 classic into a sprawling, majestic display from atop a rotating stage for an invite-only audience of just under 300 people. The 10-minute long fusion of strings, brass, choir, yodellers, guitarists, xylophones, mandolins, marching band drummers, samba players and so (so) much more were the perfect homage to one of Bowie's most beautiful songs.

Have a watch below and get some full-body chills:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rest in Peace, David Bowie: 17 Essential Songs

The world lost one of its most legendary musical artists yesterday when, just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, David Bowie passed after an 18-month battle with cancer.

Everyone knows Bowie in some capacity. Whether or not you can hear a song and pinpoint it as one of his isn't as likely, considering the artist's 45-year long career was decorated with some of the boldest, most eclectic ventures in the history of music. Blasting to fame following the release of "Space Oddity" in the early 70s, Bowie went on to explore his artistry as glam alter-ego Ziggy Stardust; Brian Eno, Queen, Jagger and Turner collaborator; folk-rock, psychedelic funk, new wave star of the late 70s and 80s and open-minded, hungry participant in the changing contemporary rock landscape of the 90s and 00s.

27 studio albums, nine live albums, 46 compilation albums, five EPs and 111 singles later, David Bowie was one of the most involved artists who has ever lived, and his music and legacy will continue to influence everything from this day forward.

Soul Love - David Bowie (my favourite Bowie song)

Young Americans - David Bowie 

Heroes - David Bowie

Under Pressure - Queen & David Bowie

Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie

Starman - David Bowie

Sound and Vision - David Bowie

Rock 'n Roll Suicide - David Bowie

Changes - David Bowie 

Five Years - David Bowie

All The Young Dudes - David Bowie

Fame - David Bowie

The Man Who Sold The World - David Bowie

Rebel Rebel - David Bowie

China Girl - David Bowie

I'm Afraid of Americans - David Bowie

Space Oddity - David Bowie

Friday, January 8, 2016

Watch Kendrick Lamar perform "Untitled 2" on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Oh man.

You see, Kendrick Lamar rarely does talk show appearances, and all week I was aware that he would be performing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, therefore, you could say I had a few days to mentally prepare for what was inevitably going to be an outstanding performance. 

What I didn't see coming was the reveal of a brand new masterpiece, "Untitled 2," even though he pulled the same stunt on The Colbert Report in 2014, when he surprised audiences with "Untitled." Much like the latter, there's a good chance this song won't be formally released, which is disappointing, but also part of Kendrick's magic. Calling himself "Cornrow Kenny" throughout the heated funk track, Kendrick absolutely goes off - referring to Top Dawg Entertainment as the "mafia of the west" and spitting thoughtful wordplay ("I love God/ but I'm scared of God speed sometimes" and "I could put a rapper on life support/ guaranteed something that none of you want") with his coined punchy conviction. And then there's the swelling ending to the performance which is just... something else.

The best thing about Kendrick is exactly what he does here. He drops a perfectly written track, overflowing with intensity and wit, with no warning, no intention other than his delivery in that moment in time. He's legendary, time and again. Watch it below to fully understand - it's really quite insane, and Fallon's reaction is entirely appropriate.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Listen to "Reichpop" - Wild Nothing

In the middle of our first painfully cold week this otherwise bearable winter, it's nice to hear a shimmery new song that sounds like it should have been released six months ago.

Maybe that was Wild Nothing's thinking with "Reichpop," the third single released ahead of their forthcoming album Life of Pause - give the cold people what they need. The pretty, tinkering xylophone intro, which sounds like it was assembled by the likes of Kevin Shields or Air, could be minutes longer, in my opinion - but when "Reichpop" slides into a Smiths-meets-Phoenix-esque indie-pop bounce that bleeds light with every riff, the transition is worth it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

10 Song Intro to Pusha T

You might remember grindin' up on a high school honey to one of Clipse's early-2000s jams, or you might be more familiar with the unmistakable rhymes nestled in a number of Kanye's recent G.O.O.D. Music bangers. Or, you might just know one half of Clipse, the solo artist, the legend himself, Pusha T, for being one of contemporary hip-hop's most clever, involved voices. Active since the early 90s, the recently named president of Yeezy's G.O.O.D Music label also dropped his second studio album Darkest Before Dawn in late December - and, unsurprisingly, it's fire.

If you're interested in an intro to Pusha's seasoned career (including his latest album), or even just a little Tuesday lookback at some of his greatest tracks, I've listed ten of (what I consider to be) El Presidente's most important efforts below. You can also find and download this Pusha T playlist over on Spotify.

1. Nosetalgia (feat. Kendrick Lamar) - Pusha T

2. Alone in Vegas - Pusha T

3. F.I.F.A. - Pusha T

4. New God Flow - Pusha T

Trouble On My Mind (feat. Tyler, The Creator) - Pusha T 

My God - Pusha T

7. N
umbers on the Boards - Pusha T

Crutches, Crosses, Caskets - Pusha T 

9. Pain (feat. Future) - Pusha T

 10. When The Last Time - Clipse

Monday, January 4, 2016

15 Feel-Good Songs For The New Year

Happy New Year! I'm sure everyone's super pleased about being back at their desk today, so I thought I'd assemble a gaggle of uplifting, feel-good songs about new years, new beginnings and all that good stuff. Cheers to what I hope will be a really nice 2016 (and here's a Spotify playlist link, if you'd like to listen offline).

1. Luscious Life - Patrick Watson

2. Gravity Rides Everything - Modest Mouse

3. In The New Year - The Walkmen 

4. Rise - Eddie Vedder 

5. I Believe In You - Cat Power (Bob Dylan cover)

6. Radio - Lana Del Rey

7. New Soul (ft. Yael Naim) - Wale

8. Bandages - Hey Rosetta!

9. Chicago - Sufjan Stevens

10. Brand New Day - Van Morrison

11. You Only Live Once - The Strokes

12. Wondering Where The Lions Are - Bruce Cockburn

13. Can't Hardly Wait - The Replacements

14. Head Underwater - Jenny Lewis

15. Wake Up - Arcade Fire

(PS. ^ #15 is arguably one of the best songs ever written.)