Wednesday, July 27, 2016

5 New Songs (I Think) You Need to Hear Now

OK, so it's been way too long since I last blogged. As always, life has been insane and I haven't had the chance to sit down and pen a few thoughts on what I've been listening to - even though, trust me, I have been listening. I currently have a backlog of things I need to get on here, but to start, here are five fresh tracks I've had on constant repeat these days.

1. Happy - Your Boy Tony Braxton: If I told you that Shad, Canadian artist and host of CBC's Q, had released a surprise new project - chances are you'd assume it's the follow-up to his hopeful, socially-charged 2013 hip-hop album Flying Colours and be very excited. And you still should be excited, even though this new Shad is sort of the exact opposite, but in the most magical way. Morphing into his newfound alter ego Your Boy Tony Braxton, Shad has gathered years of his sung, 90s-laced pop-rock material (think early John Mayer, Jason Mraz) and assembled it into an upbeat collection titled Adult Contempt, which might be 2016's most unexpected Canadian earworm to date. 

2. R.E.D. - A Tribe Called Red featuring Yasiin Bey: Sticking to that dope Canadian note, there's probably no song I've jammed harder to in the past week than this one from First Nations electronic trio A Tribe Called Red. Enlisting the help of Yasiin Bey (AKA Mos Def), MC Narcy and the drumming group Black Bear, ATCR deliver a palpable stomp with this huge banger, which is the first single from their forthcoming September album We Are The Halluci Nation.

3. It Ain't Wrong Loving You - HONNE: Also dipping into the 90s pop-rock handbook, this track off the London duo's debut LP is a pleasant, rom-com-ready ditty that, unlike the rest of the album, felt like it warranted some repeat plays. I've always been a fan of Andy Clutterback's raspy, blissed-out vocals, and paired with this sweet message and melody, I don't see why this shouldn't be the band's next single.

4. VRY BLK - Jamila Woods: You might recognize Jamila Wood's sugary pipes from Chance the Rapper's "Sunday Candy" or Macklemore's "White Privilege II," but her powerful debut is proof that although she rolls with hip-hop's coolest new class, this is an artist completely equipped to stand on her own. An honest, spiritual album about black girlhood, this standout track is nothing short of exquisite, with its wobbly, childlike production acting as the perfect minimalist platform for her words on systemic racism.

5. Timmy Turner - Desiigner: The blogosphere is pretty divided on the merit of "Timmy Turner," the highly anticipated, highly curious follow-up to Desiigner's breakout single "Panda." The song got its legs as a simple XXL freestyle, turned piano duet with Mike Dean, before dropping as a fully-produced, shockingly impactful single last week (that's already been remixed hundreds of times over). All the while, the thing is still founded on a cartoon reference and is 75% incomprehensible (because, Desiigner). Yet, potentially genius G.O.O.D. Music promotional ploy aside, the song itself can't be overlooked. From the dark chanting to the layered effects and that melodious last-minute key change - all of it might prove that Desiigner has more up his sleeve than expected.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

TBT: Ariel Pink - "Baby" (Donnie and Joe Emerson Cover)

The tale of Donnie and Joe Emerson's lost album, Dreamin' Wild, is easily one of my favourite music stories. 

In 1979, the teenage Emerson brothers spent their days driving tractors around their isolated Fruitland, Washington farm, listening to AM/FM soft-rock radio and dreaming of someday creating their own sound. In a brave act of parental encouragement, their father took out a loan and built the brothers a home studio on the property, where they wrote and recorded Dreamin' Wild before printing 2,000 copies that they haphazardly peddled around town. Most of those recordings went to neighbours, crowded record bins, or collected dust in their home studio.

Fast forward 29 years when a record collector phoned up the brothers, who remained in their native sleepy town, thrilled with the $5 album he'd dug up, which featured the Elvis jumpsuit-clad brothers. Soon enough, word of the decades-old soul-pop debut Dreamin' Wild and its golden lost recording, "Baby," spread in the form of Pitchfork reviews and celebrity praise. Then in their mid-50s, the Emerson brothers were suddenly responsible for a classic record they had made as kids on the farm.

Four years after Dreamin' Wild was unearthed, Ariel Pink put a similarly soulful spin on the album's seminal blue-eyed ballad, maintaining its romantic, drive-in vibe and adding only a bit more psych-pop grit. I only discovered it last week, and while nothing can top the original, the slightly modern edge freshens up the lost hit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Listen to "Map of the Moon" - Daniel Woodhouse (Deptford Goth)

I like to think I have a pretty good idea of when a song or artist is worthy of more widespread attention; when they have "what it takes" to blow up. For the most part, the music journalism community is pretty on-point with collectively agreeing a piece of music is is going places. That's why people sometimes read what we have to say.

In the case of South Londoner Daniel Woolhouse (AKA Deptford Goth), I've been less than spot-on about his potential, or direction towards mainstream success, since I first heard his music in 2013. It kills me.

Don't get me wrong - he has a solid following. And his lack of mainstream exposure could be a result of some supposed anxiety around live shows, or shifting between monikers (he's released music as Deptford Goth and Group Music up until this forthcoming third album). He has different websites for Woolhouse and Deptford Goth music. And, it's possible he isn't hungry to be heard or understood the way artists traditionally are. It's just that, years later, he never fails to catch my ear; every new release is filled with intimate indie-soul that, in my opinion, carries almost the same gravity as Bon Iver or James Blake's most widely received work. I still want more people to hear him.

"Map of the Moon," the first single from Woolhouse's new release, is typically poignant - hitting hard via his lonely drawl and retro-sounding piano and synth melody. On the new track, Woolhouse tells Gold Flake Paint that, “it felt like the right song to introduce people to the new record as it has some familiarity in relation to my previous releases, but I think also displays some different ambitions. It feels to me like a complete song and sound, one that was written earlier on in the process of making this album, which gave me the confidence to keep writing.”

I really do hope he keeps writing. I'm still convinced I'll be right about him one of these days.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Best New Track: "Friends" (feat. Bon Iver and Kanye West) - Francis and the Lights

I fell in love with Francis and the Lights in 2010 when I heard this track, and again in 2013 when I stumbled upon this single, and again this summer when my beloved Chance The Rapper sampled and featured Francis on the Coloring Book standout, "Summer Friends."

The theatrical pop artist ("The Lights" refers to the stage, not band members) is back with a brand new video for "Friends," the full song behind the "Summer Friends" sample, which features vocal help from Bon Iver and Kanye West. While 'Ye sways solemnly, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon joins Francis for a cute and quirky choreographed dance sequence.

The star-studded video is worth a watch, but the main event is easily the dreamy, deep-beated R&B song itself and its sweet message, which resonates strong after this week's events.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Watch Jamie xx's Astounding New Video for "Gosh"

A little over a year ago, Jamie xx premiered a video for "Gosh," the album opener off his amazing debut solo album In Colour. Featuring outer space shots of Mars in orbit, this first video was gorgeous - as in, more than suited to the standout single that proved Jamie xx had a vision unlike any other contemporary DJ.

That is, until last week (a year after In Colour's release) when he dropped a new five minute-long video directed by Romain Gavras (Kanye West, Jay-Z, M.I.A.) which, in my opinion, is easily the most extraordinary of the year so far.

During an era that pretty consistently demonstrates the lost art of the music video, it feels insufficient to classify this as anything less than an inexplicably executed short film. There are no special effects or trickery (outside of some incredible drone shots) - which, knowing in advance of viewing, makes the entire experience even more mind-blowing. With more than 400 extras and a powerfully stoic lead actor with albinism, this new "Gosh" is set in Tianducheng, an abandoned Chinese suburb that was modelled to resemble Paris when constructed in 2007. It shifts from a dark virtual reality lounge into a car and synchronized final scene, showing intensifying visuals that perfectly match the arc of the song - something sort of monotonous and robotic, that blossoms into a big, gleaming finale.

Gavras tweeted "please watch full screen with loud speakers or headphones," and I totally agree. You can watch "Gosh" below or over at Apple Music.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Listen to "Teddy I'm Ready" - Ezra Furman

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ezra Furman is one of the most interesting artists making music. He's been around for nearly a decade, yet somehow only broke out after 2015's Perpetual Motion People, which was chock full of his doo-wop and psych-infused rock. His raspy voice shifts between nonchalant and desperate to shriek out a strange story, making it tough to tune him out, while his colourful, gender-fluid aesthetic fits his DGAF attitude like a glove. The guy is a star.

A month and change ahead of his new EP Big Fugitive Life, which Furman describes as "a group of our favorite orphaned songs that have banded together to form a unit," he's dropped "Teddy I'm Ready," a dreamy ditty that sonically and lyrically announces he's ready to rock and roll. Starting a little 60s and ending more Springsteen, there are so many details that make this one an earworm - particularly the sax that starts honking midway through. Everything's better with sax.

Big Fugitive Live is out on August 19 via Bella Union.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Listen to "Lil Wayne" - Jazz Cartier

And there you have it. As if Toronto rapper (and self-proclaimed prince of the city) Jazz Cartier wasn't already creeping on to the broader hip-hop radar with each new release - his bouncy new tribute track "Lil Wayne" has all the makings of a viral summer hit. Aside from the spitfire verses that boast repeated mention of Tunechi's name and bling-decorated legacy, the Lantz-produced trap beat is hard not to move to. Added bonus: Weezy seems to really, really like it.