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Kanye West – White Dress

October 15, 2012

It feels like a long time since I’ve heard the Kanye West I love. Cruel Summer, Kanye’s Good Music compilation, was an album full of radio songs. It was full of gimmicks, and sounded like every other mainstream hip hop album out there. Maybe it’s because Kanye works better when only his name is attached to the product. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a masterpiece, the apex of Kanye’s potential. But that was almost two years ago, and I miss Kanye. Thankfully, he’s back. “White Dress” is a song on the soundtrack of RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists. It has a great soulful beat packed with piano licks and dreamy guitar. Kanye’s rap is more fluid then ever, starting slow and getting faster and faster throughout the song. He is calm and controlled, as if he recorded it in one take. With Kanye’s untitled solo album hopefully coming soon, man am I glad that Kanye still enjoys making music like this.

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Claire de Lune – Declaration

October 4, 2012

Man, I haven’t heard a piano riff this good in a long, long time. “Declaration” off Claire de Lune’s New Lion is ultra-sexy and swanky. The track is so accessible, so immediately catchy, that it is hard to turn away. The whole album is full of great R&B hooks and bluesy riffs, but here is where it really all comes together. It’s a simple formula: put an emotional voice on top of a piano looped beat. But hell, if the formula works, it works.

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Death Grips – I’ve Seen Footage

September 28, 2012

The reaction I had to hearing Death Grips’ “I’ve Seen Footage” for the first time was very similar to when I first heard Sleigh Bells’ “Tell ‘Em.” You are definitely torn a little between thinking, “What the hell is this shit?” and thinking, “This is crazy, and I freakin love it.” It’s hard not to be shocked when you listen to Death Grips. You can only understand about three words in the words in the song and it sounds like it was meant to be played in a dumpster somewhere in Brooklyn. But the more I listen to it, the more I want to be in that dumpster jumping around. This song is crazy, and I freakin love it.

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Dum Dum Girls – Lord Knows

September 20, 2012

With the classic rock styled opening clack and pop of the drum-kit on “Lord Knows,” it’s clear that the Dee Dee and the Dum Dum Girls are no longer your proverbial female noise-pop outfit, but a band that is looking to tackle something more. Dee Dee’s balladic vocals are unlike anything we’ve heard from her before, and they demonstrate a skill-set, both as a songwriter and a singer, that take her to another artistic level. In short, “Lord Knows” is an ambitious track that the Dum Dum Girls completely own; they shot for the stars and made it look easy.

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Grizzly Bear – A Simple Answer

September 19, 2012

Grizzly Bear, although one of the most ubiquitous indie rock brands in the world today, has always felt like a band of small stories and intimate environments. But tunes like “A Simple Answer” indicate a subtle generic shift for Grizzly Bear, from their signature strain of bedroom rock to a genre of greater scope and ambition.

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Petite Noir – Till We Ghosts

August 20, 2012

Petite Noir is a fitting name for South African producer and vocalist Yannick Iluga, in that his sound is so evocative of ethereally dark visuals, it can almost be described as cinematic. It’s not just the mix; it’s his voice — a drowning, almost maudlin croon that could be mistaken for a bad Matt Berninger impression…but we mean that in the absolute best of ways. The mix on “Till We Ghosts” serves as a haunted house that Iluga is meant to explore, and the result is a track that is overflowing with with nostalgia for a time that never existed and desperation for relief.

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Passion Pit – Constant Conversations

July 24, 2012

Passion Pit has a hard-candy exterior: it takes a bit of work to get past the thick saccharine shell that coats the mass of crippling darkness that lies their collective center. And Manners, because of its face-value, sonic accessibility, became the proverbial crossover album of the indie rock landscape, with both Williamsburg hipsters and sorority sisters attempting to mimic Michael Angelakos patented falsetto. But on new album, Gossamer, there are cracks in veneer — bits and pieces of Michael Angelakos neuroses leak out and infect the hyper-pop sound that put Passion Pit on the map. The result is tracks like “Constant Conversation,” a devastatingly raw and complex tune that exhibits Passion Pit’s transformation from a stock indie-rock character to a band of depth and vision.

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Menomena – Heavy Is As Heavy Does

July 23, 2012

Although Mines got some love in the blogosphere, Menomena could still be called one of the more under-appreciated bands of the last decade; they are prolific, dynamic and have a sound that is entirely their own, and yet they seem to slip through the cracks of our sonic consciousness –- seriously, when was the last time you opened iTunes so that you could blast a Menomena track? Well, the Portland indie rockers have a new album coming out September 18th titled Moms that is said to be about “family and aging.” “Heavy is as Heavy Does” follows that thematic thread, exploring the domestic politics of families — the simultaneously simple yet awesomely complex dynamic between father and sons.

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Frank Ocean – Pink Matter (ft. André 3000)

July 11, 2012

It’s a strange thing to commodify vulnerability and honesty, to sell it on iTunes in the same way Britney sold sex. In truth, it probably says more about us as consumers than it does Frank Ocean as an artist. But whether Ocean’s brand of unmediated, raw and exposed R&B is the result of evil genius calculation or complete and utter social bravery is not the point. What matters is that tracks like “Pink Matter” find Ocean presenting himself to us so emotionally and sonically naked, that you’ll find yourself tempted to look away in embarrassment. He’s giving us — complete strangers — access to parts of himself that feel as though they should be hidden and buried, and yet, Ocean revels in his questions and his demons. “Pink Matter” is another feat of emotional strength in that it’s an exhibition of emotional weakness. “Channel Orange” is out now on iTunes, a week before its retail release.

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Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Baby

June 14, 2012

Talk about a curveball: Ariel Pink follows up his most accessible and palatable album, Before Today, not with a return to form — you know, that patented uber-low-fi, almost hokey take on some chronologically unplaceable version of psychedelic pop — but with a cover of the Joe and Donny Emerson’s “Baby” that is said to be a single from his upcoming album, Mature Themes. Predictably unpredictable, Ariel Pink is either releasing this one while giggling behind gritted teeth or with complete sincerity. Either way, it’s an absolutely beautiful track that is true to the original incarnation of the song but still dripping with bits of Pink’s dark and twisted sonic tricks. Even while he may have his tongue in his cheek, Ariel Pink has still got serious soul.

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