@ blog world, sorry for the neglect. I’m still here. I’m still listening to lots of new music and, more importantly, tweeting about it to ensure I have receipts when I later claim “knew them before they were big.” I wrote a few things over at local music blog Capitol Sound (here and here). And I was working on a lengthy self-indulgent Japandroids piece for a while that will eventually be released into the wild. I’m here now to shout out some of my favorite music from January, February, and March. Q1 2017 didn’t produce a blockbuster album event like last February’s The Life of Pablo slop-fest or the collective freak-out about To Pimp a Butterfly in March 2015, but there’s still good stuff out there! I promise!
Jay Som – Everybody Works
Melina Duterte of Jay Som is like the college ball player you draft after a promising freshman year but before they really dominate the NCAA. There was a lot of upside with last year’s Turn Into, it was a warm and immersive listen that still sounds fresh. It functioned more as a sampler for Duterte’s sound – I could rarely remember the song names or hum the choruses from memory. On Everybody Works, she levels up big time. I have anthemic chants of “EVERYBODY WORKS! EVERYBODY WORKS! EVERYBODY WORKS…” stuck in my head all day. There’s a chorus that could be on Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion. There’s noise rock and trumpets. These songs have clarity and this record is the real deal. She’s starting in the All Star Game in her rookie season. Trust the process.
Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
There’s a lot of confidence on this record. The first song sounds like a claustrophobic apocalypse and then there’s another track about naming a band “Burger King.” My favorite parts are when the traditional guitar-bass-drums combo is joined by outsider friends – a saxophone, a cello, bongos (I think?), piano. Priests are multi-dimensional punks (or maybe post-punks, the lines are blurry) and Nothing Feels Natural is so masterful and nuanced that it’s shocking that it’s a debut album. After years of increasing reluctance claiming Wale as the DMV’s hometown hero, we finally have a more deserving artist to carry the torch.
Smino – blkswn
Smino is a stylist. The STL rapper throws his voice up and down, constantly hitting high notes like vocal acrobatics. He’s talented enough to sing the choruses and rap the verses, all with a signature spastic energy. Monte Booker’s production provides the sunny and danceable backdrop we’ve come to love from the post-Acid Rap Chicago scene where Smino honed his art. 18 tracks is probably overkill for any album, but Smino is a reliably exciting performer with a bright future.
*NOTE: Since the tracklist is a little overwhelming, check out: “Spitshine,” “Netflix & Dusse,” “Anita,” and “Innamission” to get a feel for the project.
Alex G – “Bobby”
This is the best song of the year so far, which shouldn’t be surprising to hear me say. I’ll always ride for Alex G. There’s no one I’ve listened to more over the last two years. Now, what he did here is essentially create a weirdo-indie rock version of “Wagon Wheel.” And don’t act like you don’t love that. I listened to it on repeat walking through a quiet neighborhood DC after a Tim Darcy concert, the dueling vocals bringing me in a little “Bobby” world, and it was perfect.
Five Good Rap Songs
Charli XCX featuring Starrah and Raye- “Dreamer”
More PC Music production for rappers please. I keep hearing Chance’s “Mixtape” flow in other artists (Starrah, in this case). You heard it here first (but you probably don’t care).
Mike WiLL Made-It featuring Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane, and Kendrick Lamar – “Perfect Pint”
This Kendrick verse has me more pumped for his upcoming record than either of the singles he released. He’s best when he’s not trying so hard to fit the whole dictionary in every song. Also, “You know the clean lean jump like trampoline” is a perfect rap lyric. If the Sremmlets stay by Mike WiLL’s side forever, they’ll be set.
Jefe featuring Kash Doll – “Over The Hills”
Jefe aka “The Artist Formerly Known As Shy Glizzy” has one of my favorite rap voices out now. I don’t know who Kash Doll is, but her verse is what makes the song – simple yet deftly delivered.
Lil Uzi Vert – “XO TOUR Llif3”
I’m so intrigued by Uzi wailing “She say I’m insane, yeah / I might blow my brains out.” The emo revival is truly in full swing. I’ve never been a huge fan of his before but he really goes for it. BUT, there’s this annoying clicking sound in the beat that is going on throughout the song, right? I’m not crazy!
Starlito & Don Trip – “Bookshakalaka”
I haven’t paid much attention to the NBA for seven or eight years, so I have a soft spot for this album, which name drops both Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu.