Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Are You Onto Chance The Rapper's Brother Taylor Bennett?

During SXSW, I pushed through the throngs of sixth street meanderers to make it to OG Chicago rapper Rhymefest's show, only to arrive a little early to catch his opener Taylor Bennett. The name rang a bell, but with a perpetually dead phone and unknowing bystanders, I knew nothing else about the guy.

My initial (far away, beer-buzzed) reaction to the dimly lit, sparsely attended showcase was pure shock, because I thought we were being treated to a surprise Chance the Rapper set, and that people should have been losing their damn mind. The soft, quick rhymes and piano-jazz instrumentals, paired with the identical appearance and mannerisms - all of it - clearly it wasn't actually Chance, but the whole thing was so mind-blowingly uncanny. And then I remembered Chance(lor)'s real last name is Bennett, so, I was watching someone in the family.

After moving past the head tilts and eye squints, it became clear that catching a Taylor Bennett - not Chance the Rapper's brother - show was something pretty special. Sure, partly because the brothers' musical and physical similarities were kind of fascinating, but more so because Bennett has an undeniably distinct flavour and drive.

His debut album Broad Shoulders is 10 sample-free songs that feature Donnie Trumpet, King Louie and Chance, to name a few, and were produced in collaboration with Detroit producer Ludlow. They're upbeat but unadorned, and allow Bennett the spotlight he needs to carve his own path as an incredible wordsmith and live performer. Even though he knocked all 24 socks in the crowd off, there's no way the 20 year-old rapper is going to be playing for a dozen people for much longer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Listen to The War on Drugs Cover Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey"

In May, The National will be releasing a massive 59-song box set tribute to Grateful Dead, with star-studded contributions from Jenny Lewis, Justin Vernon, Phosphorescent, Wilco, Courtney Barnett and so many more.

Last week, a handful of singles and their accompanying videos were released in advance of the five-plus-hour box set, and I was thrilled to hear The War On Drugs were delegated to cover "Touch of Grey," one of my favourite road-tripping anthems of all-time. Frontman Adam Granduciel's breathy vocals lend perfectly to the (completely intact) original melody, all in all sounding like something that would have fit right in on their 2014 album Lost In The Dream.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Best New Track: Charles Bradley - "Changes"

Word of Charles Bradley's forthcoming new album has been circlulating for awhile, as has his cover of Black Sabbath's "Changes," which Bradley featured on a 7" and started playing live in 2013. Yesterday, an early stream of his third studio album dropped, and there it was, the polished and formidable title track nestled alongside ten other lush cuts.

I'm a big fan of the more subdued original, but what the celebrated singer has done with it is exactly what the essence of the ballad calls for - big, melancholic, horn-driven soul that conveys one thing perfectly: the loss of a woman. Bradley's achy voice makes it hard not to feel the regret emanating from the lyrics, and although the heartbreak is palpable from start to finish, it's powerful - and maybe enough to really spark some change in a person.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Listen to Niykee Heaton: "Dream Team"

I just got back from a wild week at SXSW in Austin (the reason for my week-long silence here) where I party-hopped, ate everything, drank everything, met countless new people and watched over 50 artists perform. Needless to say, I'm pretty run-down, but as I regain full cognitive function I'm starting to mentally sift through the stand-out music and artists that are definitely worthy of further exploration.

One of the most surprising of the lot was Niykee Heaton, who I happened to catch at the Universal Music showcase while waiting for my main man Vince Staples (hands praying emoji). Heaton is a 21 year-old YouTube sensation turned R&B artist who, thanks to her capable pipes and shamelessly scandalous Instagram photos (truly NSFW), has become something of an underground pop star. Not typically my style, but when you're in a room watching her work a stage, it's pretty hard not to pay attention.

While Heaton has a huge social following and recently teamed up with Migos, I still wouldn't say the mainstream listener knows her well; that is, until they hear "Dream Team," a Jeremih-meets-Ciara jam off her March 18 Bedroom Tour Playlist EP, which she silenced the rowdy crowd with. While she slid across the stage, intermittently twerking and cooing the steamy lyrics, I couldn't help but wonder how long it would be until this song skyrockets - followed by a baby boom nine months later. Check it out below.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Pete Yorn is Back: Listen to "She Was Weird"

It usually takes me about one minute to realize I'd like to share a song on here and maybe even what I'll say about it. Since that one minute passed, I'm still not really sure what else there is to say about this new Pete Yorn song, other than the fact that I really like it.

Although I risk sounding like a Dad, the only thing I can think of is that it just brings me back. With Arranging Time, Pete Yorn's first solo album in six years, there's no shortage of early-2000s-reminiscent pop-rock sounds, but with "She Was Weird," the nostalgia is oh-so-potent. Like, are you sure I'm not listening to the Dawson's Creek Soundtrack potent. The keyboard effects and percussion, Yorn's fragile voice, the beachy guitar strums - all of it - I feel like I'm back in sixth grade, listening to my Discman in the backseat of the family van, and I love it. 

Have a listen below, and check out the rest of Arranging Time, out now via Capitol Records.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Listen to Miguel's 'Rogue Waves' EP

I usually think that EPs or singles featuring multiple versions of the same song can come across as a little self-indulgent and unnecessary. Then there are other times, when it's done so right; the song isn't just electronically kneaded into an unrecognizable entity, but altered creatively, with the original makeup in tact.

Enter certified R&B god Miguel and his new EP Rogue Waves, which features five star-studded new takes on his song "waves" off last summer's outstanding release, wildheart. Ranging from the typical dance tinkerings of remix masterminds RAC to a trap-infused Travis Scott feature, each version of "waves" is diverse and ear-catching enough to make you want to listen to the song five times, and maybe even reevaluate how much you liked the original. While it's a great song, "waves" wasn't a major favourite of mine off wildheart  - but now I can't get enough.

The two standout remixes on the EP, however, come from beloved Aussie rockers Tame Impala and breakout country princess Kacey Musgraves. Tame Impala's Kevin Parker imparts his disco-ey, psychedelic touch on the track, making it a colourful beach anthem, while Musgraves and Miguel trade lines over sweet spaghetti western guitar strums. Hearing Miguel's (always) sexualized metaphors delivered via Musgraves' soft coos is kind of funny at first, but not enough to distract from the song's beautiful transformation.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Best New Track: Mating Ritual (feat. Lizzy Land) - "Cold"

Oh wow. This song is giving me so much life.

Mating Ritual is the newest synth-pop project from Ryan Marshall Lawhon, formerly of Pacific Air, and "Cold" is one of four tracks off last week's self-titled debut EP, which Lawhon says lyrically navigates the modern-day mating ritual. Clocking in at five lush minutes, "Cold" must represent the lovely parts of dating - because there's just so much beauty going on here. The thumping percussion, duelling male and female verses, airy production, whistling (I'm a sucker for whistling) - all of it is indication that Mating Ritual is ready to stand out and make a huge splash in the sea of electro-pop efforts.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Kendrick Lamar Drops Surprise 'untitled unmastered.' Album

In the spirit of all great 2016 hip-hop and R&B albums so far, Kendrick Lamar just surprise dropped a collection of unreleased tracks, which he's called untitled unmastered.

The surprise project follows news from Top Dawg Entertainment's CEO (or, top dawg) promising that he'd drop a juicy TDE project this week, as well as whispers of album art and collaborations popping up all over social media this week. Although not an official follow-up to To Pimp A Butterfly, in its 8-song untitled glory, this thing is one hell of a Friday treat.

A collection (presumably, a fraction) of K-Dot's 'untitled' cuts which were kept off TPAB due to clearance issues or other hold-ups, untitled unmastered. is where they'll live in their (more so) mastered, immortal glory. Subtly similar to TPAB (I do appreciate his final choices on that record), the soulful instrumentals, visceral samples and repeated proclamations ("pimp, pimp, hooray!") are still what punctuate the quick-spitting narrative here. But, song to song, you'll find stark contrasts in both the sonic flow and Kendrick's sensibility. 

On "untitled 02," which was first partially debuted on Fallon last year, the dark, slinky jazz illuminates Cornrow Kenny's ever-present questions of faith, God and temptation. "untitled 06" is a bright, 70s groove about a woman. The endurant three-part "untitled 07" features production credits from SwiZz BeatZ and Alicia Keys' five year-old son, a jab at Drizzy ("I just wanna Drake you down") and tongue-in-cheek responses to the sad current state of affairs ("Head is the answer/ Head is the future"). "untitled 08" is some jaunty "King Kunta"-style funk. Maybe it's only eight songs, but it's a fucking marathon; it's exquisitely spastic, exhausting and reassuring. The best, and maybe now only, kind of Kendrick.

Although he's calling this just a "project," uu. allows more of a comprehensive glimpse into Lamar's genius, complicated brain than you'll get with most other contemporary leaders. Even if it's just an interlude before the next official chapter, any art like this is what the world needs.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Listen to M83's new single: "Do It, Try It"

Following the announcement that M83 would be releasing their seventh album Junk in early April, the French outfit has also now premiered the first single, "Do It, Try It."

Ditching the atmospheric electro-rock ballads for a cartoonish, disco-infused - albeit no less epic - dance floor anthem, "Do It, Try It" sounds very little like the M83 we're used to, and more like the funky singles of Daft Punk and Justice eras past. Everything we know about Junk, from the goofy album art to frontman Anthony Gonzalez's current fascination with art and the abyss ("anything we create today is going to end up being space junk at one point anyway"), points to this release being their biggest departure yet. 

On the significance of Junk, Gonzalez said, "All my albums have layers of eclecticism to them, but with this album I wanted to take that even further."

The radical change is a little peculiar, but I, for one, am still so excited. M83 is hands-down one of my favourite groups and like all great art, a little change-up is bound to keep things interesting - so, I'm choosing to stay optimistic on this one. Listen to "Do It, Try It" below and pick up Junk (the album, or literal) on April 8, via Mute. Also, be sure to catch them on their upcoming tour - their live show will knock your socks off.