One new song a week, every week. Peep below for the full playlist, as well as a quick breakdown of each track:
December 10, 2018: “Break My Heart by Benny Blanco (feat. Ryan Beatty)
Benny Blanco’s a busy dude. The singer-producer has laid his hands on literally dozens of pop mega-hits over the past decade, from Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” to Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” to everything in between.
With so much industry clout, and an equal amount of buzz surrounding his decision to finally produce under his own name, Blanco probably could’ve made the pop album of the year if he wanted. But his debut, FRIENDS KEEP SECRETS, is a total shrug to the sort of mainstream stardom he’s created so many times in the last ten years.
That fact is never more clearer than on “Break My Heart,” the album’s final track. The song is a gorgeous, lovesick mess of super-compressed drums, screeching auto-tuned vocals and spaced-out guitar chords. It’s weird, it’s experimental and it’s a tantalizing preview of just how exciting Blanco’s solo career could be.
December 3, 2018: “Don’t Forget” by Jeff Tweedy
Will Jeff Tweedy ever run out of song ideas? From his early days in Uncle Tupelo to Wilco’s still-dominant indie presence to his various side projects and collaborations, the 51-year-old alt-rocker has put out approximately 32 albums over the past three decades.
But, surprisingly, WARM, the 11-song album Tweedy released last Friday, is his first ever as a solo artist. Unsurprisingly, the record delivers on every level, giving fans all of the grizzly earnestness and soothing alt-country riffs they’ve come to expect from his gargantuan career. The album is strong from top to bottom, but it’s never better than on “Don’t Forget,” where Tweedy croons, jams out and contemplates existence the way only a true veteran can.
November 26, 2018: “The Mint” by Earl Sweatshirt (feat. Navy Blue)
Remember “Free Earl?” It seems like decades ago that Odd Future fans were campaigning for the teenage rap savant to run away from his Samoan boarding school and return to hip-hop. Since then, Earl Sweatshirt has created his own exile, remaining almost completely silent since releasing his sophomore record nearly four years ago.
But then there were murmurs. And a new single. And Vince Staples tweets. And finally, with a stronger, second song and the announcement of a full album this Friday. If “The Mint” is any indication, them the Earl comeback might be nigh: the track’s hypnotic, lo-fi beat feels like the perfect home for Sweatshirt’s nostalgic ramblings, which, as always, he delivers with the sort of mind-blowing proficiency that had so many fans trying to extradite him back in 2011.
November 19, 2018: “6 Summers” by Anderson .Paak
As I’ve written about before, Anderson .Paak thrives on a very wacky, very distinct since of self-assurance. Paak has a Midas touch for braggadocio, and “6 Summers,” the fifth song of his new album, Oxnard, is as swagger-drenched as anything he’s every made.
It’s weirdly political, but only in the same, confusing way that everything feels in 2018 (“Trump’s got a love child, and I hope that b**** is buckwild”). It also features a completely mind-numbing beat change, during which the instrumental transforms into a gorgeous, up-tempo jazz build and Paak, as always, shoots his shot—constantly repeating his confidence that “this s*** gon’ bang at least six summers.”
November 12, 2018: “KOVERT” by Smino
There’s a link to the audio for “KOVERT” on the website for Zero Fatigue, the Midwestern musical collective Smino co-founded in 2014. Just below the embed, on a banner across the bottom of the group’s homepage, sits a two word reminder: “DON’T SLEEP.”
For the 27-year-old rapper, whose sophomore album, Noir, came out last Friday, it feels like more of a description than a mantra. Smino’s songs are endlessly energetic, filled with the sort of clanking, off-beat drums and sporadic flow changes that could only be the creations of some sort of tireless, over-caffeinated mastermind.
“KOVERT” opens the record like shot of espresso: as the beat builds, Smino welcomes listeners to his new project with rapid-fire bars about nostalgia and love, jumping in and out of gorgeous harmonies and wild instrumental breaks that are as beautifully as unwearied as everything he does.
November 5, 2018: “Outside!” by Vince Staples
Vince Staples is nothing if not concise. At a runtime of just over 22 minutes, the Los Angeles rapper’s latest record is shorter than most episodes of The Big Bang Theory. Simply called FM! the part-EP, part “special project” is crisp, compact and to-the-point (not so different from a certain music blogger’s monthly column, if you happen to like that kind of stuff).
The album’s best moments come when Staples is at his most expedient: “Outside,” a two-minute-drill of a rap song full that slaps the reader in the face with popping bass drums and grimy gang-life imagery, then promptly scurries off on its way, is about as efficient as a hip-hop track can get.
October 29, 2018: “Ketchum, ID” by Boygenius
Idaho is really lame—at least that’s what the state’s residents would like everyone else to believe. In reality, the Gem State (yes, that’s its real nickname) is one of the country’s most beautiful and awe inspiring places, an underrated national treasure preserved in anonymity by the people who live there.
On “Ketchum, ID,” one of three previously unreleased songs unveiled with Boygenius’ debut EP, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker long for the chance to quit it all and settle down in some sleepy, forrest-clad nowhere town, leaving behind their former lives of touring and recording. It’s a shockingly honest thought—one that, despite the supergroup’s alt-rock credentials, is delivered as a simple, old-country ballad with a painful refrain: “I am never anywhere, anywhere I go,” the three women sing in harmony, begging for just a few seconds of unscrutinized rest.
October 22, 2018: “Timberlands” by Empress Of
There aren’t a lot of memorable details from the 1997 Disney movie Flubber, but if there’s one takeaway, it’s this: Flubber is really, really hard to control. About 75 percent of the film’s scenes involve the Flubber—which, and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t remember, is essentially a green, gooey ball of bouncy green goo—flying around, confusing the frantic scientist who is usually too slow or too concerned with making bathroom jokes to catch it.
That’s what listening to Empress Of feels like. An elastic, impossibly adaptable songwriter, Lorely Rodriguez uses her charming honesty and soaring vocal range to create music that hops instantaneously from Latin dance to Lorde-esque alt-pop to everything in between. “Timberlands,” an insatiably catchy song off her latest record, feels like every permutation all at once: it’s musical Flubber at its most unpredictable, and its most exciting.
October 15, 2018: “ZEZE” by Kodak Black (feat. Travis Scott & Offset)
Andy Warhol once said that “art is what you can get away with.” If that’s true, then Kodak black is a true artist. The Florida-born rapper has spent the past two years feasting on extravagantly catchy beats, while mostly phoning in his hooks and delivering all-around unmemorable verses.
It’s hard to name a single standout line from “Tunnel Vision,” or “Patty Cake,” or “Transportin'” or any of the other seven or so Kodak songs that have earned more than 100 million Spotify plays since 2017, but does it matter? The music bops, and, quite honestly, that’s enough. The same goes for “ZEZE,” the Instagram video turned meme-generator turned actual song that, like almost everything Kodak does, sounds so irresistibly nice—no matter what lyrics he throws over it.
October 8, 2018: “To the Boys,” by Molly Burch
Molly Burch might be a time traveller. Raised on pop classicists like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the Austin-based songwriter croons and wails like she was cryogenically frozen inside a 1950s doo-wop.
At the same time, her sound couldn’t feel more modern. Burch has an incredible knack for dragging staple love song formats into the 21st century, splashing in addictive indie rock riffs and clever, subversive lyrics along the way. On “To the Boys,” one of the many standout tracks off the her latest record, Burch sounds equal parts nostalgic and revolutionary, fusing about 70 years of music history into one simple, fantastic pop song.
October 1, 2018: “Está Rico” by Marc Anthony (feat. Will Smith & Bad Bunny)
Heat checks all around on this one. The latest effort by Marc Anthony and Bad Bunny—both Latin pop megastars with nearly 40 million monthly Spotify streams between them—”Está Rico” is yet another coming out party for a genre that’s been working its way deeper into American charts over the past two years.
Then there’s Will Smith, who, coming off his very public and very scary 50th birthday celebration earlier this week, sounds strangely comfortable over the track’s electro-salsa beat. The Fresh Prince might be too old to be cool, but his simple, confident bled perfectly with Anthony’s silky-smooth hook.
September 24, 2018: “White Bronco” by Action Bronson
Action Bronson isn’t a man, he’s a conglomerate. No rapper in the past five years has been more successful at making himself into a cohesive brand: Need vape pen recommendations? Check out his latest video feature for GQ. Want to find New York’s best Puerto Rican food? Peep a recent video from his always-incredible VICELAND series. Headed to Barnes & Noble? Snag a copy of his critically acclaimed cookbook.
At this point, it all begs the question: do we even need Action’s music? We probably don’t, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Bronson’s songs are more of an aperitif than the main dish they used to be, but the quality is just as good as it’s ever been. “White Bronco,” his latest single, is no exception—it’s fun, it’s got a hilariously bold line about alligator shoes and it might have even predicted Tiger Woods’ most recent comeback.
September 17, 2018: “Ace” by Noname
Same ingredients, new recipe. The last time Noname collaborated with fellow Midwesterners Smino and Saba, it was on “Shadow Man,” the gospel-infused standout track from her incredible 2016 tape, Telefone. “Ace” puts the trio back together, but this time on a jazzed-up flex-off, with all three showing just how far they’ve come over the past two years.
Smino handles the hook and first verse, but the track belongs entirely to Noname. Just like every song on the slam-poet-turned-rapper’s debut album—the already critically adored Room 25—“Ace” oozes with the type of rapid-fire wisdom-spouting that made Telefone such a revelation. It’s evidence that Noname’s style isn’t just repeatable, it’s upgradeable: she’s at the height of her powers, and she’s still only getting started.
September 10, 2018: “OPENING” by The Blaze
Guillaume and Jonathan Alric don’t have a normal type of fame. The cousins, who record music together as The Blaze, first grabbed the Internet’s attention after releasing the music video for their first single, “Virile,” in 2016. The video is stunning: passionate, transfixing and beautifully shot, it immediately launched the duo’s career and ensured that every subsequent track they released (especially 2017’s “Territory,” which might be the year’s best video) would be judged not by its sound, but by its accompanying visuals.
As a result, it can be easy to forget that, first and foremost, The Blaze is a musical group—and a really, really talented one at that. The Alrics create gorgeous, sweeping dance-trance anthems that transcend their own genre, usually with no more than few drum loops, some loose piano refrains and a half-sung French vocal track.
“OPENING,” the first song off the group’s first full-length album, serves as a reminder of this fact: letting listeners and critics know that their songs can inspire just as much emotion as their stunning videos.
September 3, 2018: “Boca Raton” by Bas (feat. A$Ap Ferg)
Summer’s almost over, but Bas is still on vacation. The Dreamville-signed rapper’s third studio album, Milky Way, is a humid heatwave filled with trap-injected R&B and tropical dancehall anthems. At its best, the record is atmospheric in a way that few of the summer’s biggest rap releases have been (sorry, Eminem, but “I SoundCloud rap” isn’t really a vibe).
“Boca Raton,” which features A$AP Ferg, might be the best example of Bas’ masterful mood-setting: the track finds two New York rappers trading bars over a bubbly keyboard loop, bragging about eating healthy and vacationing in one of Florida’s most famous retirement havens.
August 27, 2018: “Orlando” by Blood Orange
First impressions are everything. “By Ourselves,” the opening track from Blood Orange’s 2016 album, Freetown Sound, introduces Dev Hynes’ R&B masterpiece with a swell of dark vocals, free jazz and impassioned slam poetry. The song feels dramatic and grandiose, setting up not just the record’s tone, but also its weighty, high-concept ambitions.
On, Negro Swan, Hynes’ latest album, we get an entirely different welcome. “By Ourselves” gave us a tour of the house as soon as we got there, but “Orlando” is a more laid-back host, opting instead to take our coat, pour us some wine and settling us down onto a comfy couch in the family room. The opening track is a sugary-sweet R&B groove with a simple, sleepy drum beat that lulls into a state of funky relaxation—perfectly ready to soak in the album that lies ahead.
August 20, 2018: “BLACKJACK” by Aminé
Is it possible to have 350 million streams and still be underrated? If you’re Aminé, the answer is definitely yes. The 24-year-old became a Spotify Godzilla when he dropped “Caroline” in 2016, but—despite some Billboard chart buzz and a XXL Freshman Class nod—he’s mostly failed to reach the same level of viral superstardom.
You know who else is underrated? Jack Black. On “BLACKJACK,” a two-minute adrenaline rush of a track from his new ONEPOINTFIVE mixtape, Aminé invokes the Kung Fu Panda on more than one occasion, finally asking listeners a simple question: “How could you not like Jack Black?” The line is as poignant and reflective as anything referencing the star of Nacho Libre can be, and also begs the follow-up: how could you not like a rapper who raps about Jack Black?
August 13, 2018: “Hash Pipe” by Toto
There’s nothing quite like the exhaustive, frighteningly powerful force of a meme run wild. It’s one thing for internet culture to enact real world change (see: our reality), but it takes real tenacity to see that an online joke is pushed completely to its logical end.
It’s for that sort of effort that we owe Weezer fans—and Weezer themselves, for that matter—a big, ’80s-style high five. After months of Twitter campaigning, the band finally caved to the pressure and finally released its own cover of Toto’s “Africa” in May. Now, Toto has responded with an assurance that this joke can absolutely not be taken any further, putting out their official version on Weezer’s 2001 hit “Hash Pipe” over the weekend. The reversal is an expected move, but it’s a beautiful, synth-drenched, guitar-shredding expected move, so that’s OK.
August 6, 2018: “WHO? WHAT!” by Travis Scott (feat. Quavo & Takeoff)
When Travis Scott dropped the credits for his new album last week, it almost felt like a joke. ASTROWORLD, the Houston native’s third album, seemed like a parody a record—an obnoxious, no-holds-barred collab-fest of exactly the sort of feature-heavy music Scott has long been criticized for leaning on.
But then the project dropped, and it…was…good? More Avengers: Infinity War than Justice League, the album shines through its diverse ensemble cast, all while giving Scott the chance to showcase his own vision and decision-making. “WHO? WHAT!,” which is almost just a Migos track, is one of the best decisions on the entire record: the song sets the table, brings out the fine china and lets Quavo and Takeoff feast.
July 30, 2018: “Heavy California” by Jungle
Jungle isn’t into rocking the boat. The London-based soul group, whose self-titled debut came out more than four years ago, found a formula for success that they have zero problems with applying over and over again.
And that’s not an issue at all—especially when that formula is so, so right. “Heavy, California,” the latest single from the band’s upcoming record (called For Ever, and due out September 14), is a relentless, big-band groove from start to finish. It’s a three-minute track full of charming falsettos and airtight guitar flourishes that splash around between explosive choruses and head-bobbing breakdowns. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
July 23, 2018: “I Might Need Security” by Chance the Rapper
Pusha-T may have revived the art of rap beef, but Chance turned it into a science. “I Might Need Security,” the best of Chano’s new, four-song release, is sophisticated, politically astute and intellectually piercing—it’s like if The New Yorker released a diss track.
Over a beat that is literally just a repetition of the words “f*** you,” Chance flexes his political aptitude just as much his lyrical prowess, calling out Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and even announcing his purchase of a local media outlet.
July 16, 2018: “1999 WILDFIRE” by BROCKHAMPTON
There’s an incredible, two-second scene from “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” where Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge, after a year of denying Lord Voldemort’s return, finally sees the dark wizard firsthand. Fudge, supposedly the magical world’s most powerful figurehead, had ignored all of the signs, dispelled all of the evidence and is ultimately flabbergasted when he learns the truth.
For anyone denying BROCKHAMPTON’s meteoric rise over the past year, this is your Fudge-Voldemort moment. The group released three mixtapes (containing a total of 48 songs!) over in 2017, then returned this summer with “1999 WILDFIRE,” which is possibly the group’s most catchiest and most melodically mature song yet. All other rappers beware—hip-hop’s most powerful force is only getting stronger.
July 9, 2018: “Better” by SG Lewis x Clairo
He’s one of London’s most in-demand DJs. She writes electropop songs about Cheetos. It may sound like some awful, “opposites attract” rom-com from the early 2000s, but it’s actually the recipe behind the summer’s best dance record.
Like nearly every movie in Hugh Grant’s IMDb catalog, it’s the story of a pairing that looks wrong at first, but will really have you in your feelings by the end. Clairo’s relaxed, half-asleep vocals absolutely float their way through SG Lewis’ electro-funk beat, which fizzes, sizzles and pops like a shaken-up can of musical orange soda.
July 2, 2018: “Weight” by Freddie Gibbs
From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the Russian national team to Lance Stevenson, it was a great week to be an underdog. Rap music was no different: while Drake underwhelmed fans with a 25-song exercise in musical perseverance, Freddie Gibbs came through with the weekend’s best rap record.
Gibbs’ fifth album, Freddie, is a shockingly brisk display of swagger and technical ability that feels sort of like watching John Wick fight 50 guys at once while still managing to keep his tie completely straightened. “Weight,” the album’s first and most focused track, is nothing but raw power—it’s aggressive, lyrically crisp and full of brags like: “In love with the paper, took my money on a date.”
June 25, 2018: “Whatever Comes to Mind” by MorMor
Seth Nyquist doesn’t like to smile. The Toronto artist, who records music as MorMor, fronts an expressionless stare everywhere a photographer might catch him—in the bio image for his Facebook page, in the press images he sends media outlets and on the cover of his debut EP, which came out last Friday.
You wouldn’t know that from listening to the five-song record though, which is full of bubbling, melodic choruses and tons of emotional depth. It’s atmospheric and deeply peaceful music, yet somehow also feels the sort of risky science experiment that can push a newborn career straight into adulthood. It’s already gotten Pharrell’s stamp of approval, and it feels like it’s only a matter of time before MorMor is infiltrating Spotify “Discover” playlists for months to come.
June 18, 2018: “APES**T” by The Carters
If trap drums existed in 30 B.C., then Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s mixtape would probably have sounded something like “EVERYTHING IS LOVE.” The new album, released by music’s (and arguably America’s) first couple Saturday evening, is pure, opulent celebration. There’s no subtlety here for Bey and Jay: their power is unprecedented, their talents undeniable, their marriage unshakeable.
This message is clear seconds into the record’s second track, a victorious, inescapable black hole of swagger called “APES**T.” There’s so much to say about this song—which shrugs at the Grammys, says “nah” to the Super Bowl halftime show and takes a victory lap through the world’s most prestigious art museum—but the ultimate takeaway is simple. You can’t stop The Carters, so seriously, don’t even bother trying.
June 11, 2018: “Reborn” by KIDS SEE GHOSTS
With everything Kanye’s been going through during the past few months, it’s easy to forget just how tough the last few years have been for Kid Cudi. First, the singer-rapper cancelled his “Especial” tour due to personal issues, then after a pretty ugly feud with none other than Kanye himself, he checked himself into a rehab facility, saying he needed time to work on his depression.
On “Rebirth,” probably the best track from the duo’s very excellent new joint album, Cudi assures us he’s moving forward. For Cudi, who’s spoken out about his own mental health for years, the declaration feels genuine and inspiring in a way that ye didn’t always come across as being. Everything isn’t perfect, the song’s lyrics tell us, but slowly, surely, he’s working on it—and that’s completely alright.
June 4, 2018: “Oh My” by Natalie Prass
Sorry Kanye, but the weekend’s best new album didn’t come from a ranch in Wyoming. While ye makes listeners work hard to reach some not-so-profound revelations, Prass’ latest does the exact opposite: it makes finding wisdom easy, or better yet, really, really groovy.
The record, called The Future and the Past, was poised as a response to the Trump election, an event that caused the Virginia-based singer to rewrite her entire album. Over the course of twelve songs, Prass delivers on this promise, but not in the way you’d expect: instead of screaming in rage, she funks, jams and jubilates her way into protest, demanding you dance along with each and every one of her rebellious challenges.
May 28, 2018: “The Games We Play” by Pusha-T
New hyphen, same hustle. Pusha-T may have added the dash back to his name, but otherwise not much has changed. On his latest record, DAYTONA, the Virginia Beach rapper still reminisces on his cocaine-dealing days; he still bemoans the lyrical shortcomings of modern rappers; and, most importantly, he still spits absolute bars.
It’s amazing how little Pusha-T has changed since 2013’s My Name is My Name. The crazy thing? He hasn’t had to: Push has cemented himself as the hip-hop Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—no matter how old he gets, or how predictable his signature move may be, he can still always, always, score in isolation. Pusha-T gets his iso on this track. Give him a stripped-down Kanye West beat, clear the lane and let the ageless, changeless wonder go to work.
May 21, 2018: “Bubblin” by Anderson .Paak
This week’s blog post is all about the frightening, Sith lord-esque power of Anderson .Paak, so I’ll keep this one short. The Oxnard, California artist’s latest track is a balls-to-the-wall banger, and possibly the best brag-rap song of the year. It’s full of Jackie Chan references, impressive one-liners and some very impolite words about your mom.
May 14, 2018: “Sunday Roast” by Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett has a knack for finding wisdom in the mundane. On 2016’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, the Australian songwriter’s most profound revelations came from stories about house hunting, produce shopping and awkward elevator conversations.
Sunday Roast, the fourth and final single from Barnett’s second full-length album, strays from this formula. Instead of pulling epiphanies out of tongue-in-cheek digressions, the track is an unadulterated, uber-honest ballad. Like everything Barnett makes, it’s simple, it’s relatable and it’s lyrically gripping, but it’s also emotionally straightforward in a way that’s unlike anything she’s ever done before.
May 7, 2018: “This Is America” by Childish Gambino
I’ve already devoted about 700 words (which you could? should? read here) to saying why this song is so important to Donald Glover’s career and legacy, so there’s not much else to say here.
Actually, there is though. The new track, released just hours after Glover had finished his night as SNL’s host and featured performer, is a leviathan of symbology, easter eggs (look, it’s SZA!), technical mastery and cultural commentary. It might be the best song Childish Gambino has released to date, and it’s certainly his most important.
April 30, 2018: “Heat Wave” by Snail Mail
Apologies to Post Malone, who definitely dropped the hottest Disney Channel-referencing track of the year on Friday, but Snail Mail still had the week’s best song by a long shot.
“Heat Wave,” the newest single by 19-year-old songwriter Lindsey Jordan, is summer love song perfection: the 5-minute punk epic is full of reverb-laden guitars, sloppy, crashing drums and lyrics about romantic uncertainty. If Say Anything was set in 2018, this would be the track blaring through John Cusack’s speakers.
April 23, 2018: “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All” by Father John Misty
Father John Misty may sound—and look—like your friendly neighborhood indie rocker, but he’s really a comedian at heart. The songwriter is at his best when he’s at his cheekiest, using his caustic, halfway-philosophical point of view to make witty observations about love, society and culture.
“Disappointing Diamonds,” the first of two excellent new singles, is jam-packed with what made Misty so compelling to begin with: to put it simply, the dude’s got jokes. Featuring lines such as “like a pervert on a crowded bus, a glare of love bares down on all of us,” the track is a laugh-out-loud ballad.
April 16, 2018: “Pynk” by Janelle Monáe (feat. Grimes)
Everyone loves a superhero team-up. In just one more week, Avengers: Infinity War will come busting into theaters, powered by a mind-boggling number of A-list stars (most of whom are either named Chris, or have really big beards or are people with really big beards also named Chris).
Janelle Monáe and Grimes are not the Avengers, but they might as well be. The two artists have been some of music’s most uncompromising creative forces over the last several years, and hearing them work together feels like a team-up we’ve been waiting on for ages, whether we knew it or not yet. The result of their superhero alliance, “Pynk,” is a bass-booming, electro-grooving pop anthem that oozes with ambition and style.
April 9, 2018: “Hunnybee” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
For such a complicated musician, Ruban Nielson has some pretty simple goals. Back in February, the Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman announced the group’s newest album would be called Sex & Food, and then on Friday the band delivered an album that exactly fulfills its title’s promise.
The record is just as intimate and introspective as something named after such simple desires should be, and, at his best, Nielson plays the role of R&B crooner better than an Australian psych-rocker should be able to. “Hunnybee,” the album’s best track, is a warm, grooving, mess of sensual bass riffs and falsetto proclamations: it’s everything a love song should be.
April 2, 2018: “Okra” by Tyler The Creator
Tyler, The Creator can rap. Like really, really, rap.
There aren’t many other ways to react to “Okra.” Tyler’s latest is a Grammy-nomination celebrating, Timothée Chalamet-referencing flex of a hip-hop song, and a counterpoint to anyone who thought 2017’s R&B-heavy Flower Boy meant the former Odd Future leader didn’t have bars anymore.
“Okra” is like running a 4.3-second 40 yard dash the night after drinking 15 beers and downing a full All Star Special at Waffle House. Tyler isn’t the least bit hungover, and he wants to make sure we all know it.
March 27, 2018: “Hide” by Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Life gets a whole lot easier when it’s warm out. As it turns out, so does making indie rock.
“Hide,” the latest single from Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s upcoming album How to: Friend, Love, Freefall, might have been just another poppy, summer-splashed indie track if it was released at a less crucial time of year. Instead, the, which came out just days after the first day of Spring, is an undeniably catchy anthem for the impending warm weather.
March 19, 2018: “Japan” by Famous Dex
2018 is officially the year of the short rap song. In a post-“Gucci Gang” (2:04 in total runtime) world, the youngest generation of rappers have been fighting crawling over each other in a fight for the catchiest, briefest micro-rap hit.
Take a look at Spotify’s most streamed tracks for an example. As it stands now, the top songs by XXXTENTACION, Rich the Kid and Ugly God are all under three minutes in length. YBN Nahmir’s “Bounce Out With That,” played more than 38 million times in total, is only 1:37 long. Meanwhile, Famous Dex’s “Japan” slides in at a crisp 2:24, still managing to cram in three full choruses, 15 references to his “baby girl” and a seemingly unlimited amount of energy.
March 12, 2018: “66” by Lil Yachty (feat. Trippie Redd)
“Quality” has always been a subjective term when describing Lil Yachty’s music, but his new album is, objectively, not good. A chronological follow up to last year’s disappointing Teenage Emotions and a spiritual follow up to the mixtape that made an online phenomenon, Lil Boat 2 is full of strange attempts at actual, serious rapping.
Here’s the problem though: For a rapper, Lil Yachty isn’t really any good at rapping. Instead, the 20-year-old artist is at his most compelling as a crooner—lackadaisically floating auto-tuned vocals over airy, synthed-out trap beats. Thankfully, there’s plenty of what we love about Yachty on “66,” even if the rest of the album falls flat.
March 5, 2018: “Addictions” by Lucy Dacus
Lucy Dacus is immune to pressure. After the wildly successful release of her 2016 debut, No Burden, the then-20-year-old had a mountain of expectations piling up around her: Labels were fighting to sign her, critics were jumping to praise her and media outlets were advertising her impeding stardom as an inevitability.
Still, Dacus responded last Friday in the same way James Harden does after crossing up a defender—she didn’t just take her shot and make it, she paused, made sure everyone was watching and then shot the ball while glaring directly at anyone who doubted her. Thanks to tracks like “Addictions,” the singer’s new record, Historian, is every bit as good as the world imagined it would be, and then some.
February 26, 2018: ‘Psycho’ by Post Malone (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
Despite looking strangely like a scruffy, rat-tailed version of Shia LaBeouf, Post Malone has managed to position himself as one of rap’s smoothest hitmakers over the last two years. The 22-year-old hip-hop megastar can seemingly do no wrong: His hooks are undeniable, his collaborations are top-of-the-line and his crooning vocals flow effortlessly from track to track.
“Psycho” isn’t just the latest demonstration of Post’s abilities though—it might also be the best song he’s put together so far. From the song’s gentle, zoned-out melodies to its instantly quotable lyrics (including references to a diamond-studded bolo tie), the track might be the breakout track of spring 2018.
February 19, 2018: ‘Middle America’ by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Stephen Malkmus couldn’t have picked a more fitting name for his new single. Splashed with the kind of homegrown nostalgia and backroads-driving guitar twang that has permeated so much of indie rock in recent years, “Middle America” is an anthem for a much more rustic time.
But that’s exactly what makes the track so addictive. At 51 years old, Malkmus is in total dad mode with his ageless brand of alt-rock, and he’s never sounded better.
February 12, 2018: ‘The Ways’ by Khalid (feat. Swae Lee)
Even if Black Panther is as awesome as critics are saying it is, there’s still a chance the film’s music completely blows the movie itself out of the water. The official soundtrack, which executive producer Kendrick Lamar blessed the universe with last Friday, is as full of undeniable bangers as it is famous guest appearances.
Still, the album’s standout is easily “The Ways,” a laid back, trap drum-laden love song that finds two of music’s catchiest hitmakers at their best.
February 5, 2018: ‘Attention’ by Rich Brian (feat. Offset)
For an 18-year-old, Brian Imanuel sure has a lot of responsibility. The Indonesian rapper—known first as Rich Chigga and now as Rich Brian—is doing it all on Amen, handling the hooks, verses and production duties for his debut studio album.
“Attention,” which includes a reputation-validating appearance from Offset, showcases Rich Brian’s full artistic scope, and does exactly what the song’s title promises: It makes the teenage artist completely impossible to ignore.
January 29, 2018: ‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’ by James Blake
James Blake is at his best when he’s experimenting. The half dub producer-half-R&B crooner has only gotten weirder and wiser since 2016’s The Colour In Anything, and his newest release is no different.
The track features a slow, driving groove and some fascinating sample work. We don’t even hear until nearly two minutes into the song: He seems happy letting his beat-making do the talking.
January 22, 2018: ‘Find Me’ by Porches
No one does depression pop better than Porches. Pool, the New York-based band’s fantastic 2016 full-length, was defined by the combination pounding, synth-laden backbeats and despondent, isolated lyrics.
It’s the same exact formula that makes “Find Me,” the standout song from the group’s latest record, The House, so captivating. A bass-heavy synth groove that feels more like standing in the corner than hitting the dance floor, the track is just as infectious as it is heartbreaking.
January 15, 2018: ‘After the Storm’ by Kali Uchis (feat. Tyler, The Creator & Bootsy Collins)
Kali Uchis is definitely in heat check mode right now. 2017 was a huge year for the Columbian-American singer, who spent the collaborating with the Gorillaz, Tyler, The Creator and Miguel and racking up her first Grammy nomination.
Now Uchis is back with a new track that showcases her range in a major way—like a let me just go ahead and make a funk song with one of the greatest funk artists of all time type of way.
January 8, 2018: ‘Jesse’ by Frankie Cosmos
New Year’s resolutions are overrated. Starting out 2018 with a new single, “Jesse,” which is the exactly type of quaint, heartwarming indie tune we’ve come to expect from the Brooklyn-based singer—this track is basically the musical opposite of your annoying friend that screams “new year, new me!” every time they order a salad at lunch.
January 1, 2018: ‘Stir Fry’ by Migos
There are fewer simple pleasures in the world than listening to Migos rap about food. Name dropping Popeyes, Five Guys and Chinese cuisine, the trio is at the height of their powers on this Pharrell Williams-produced beat, which feels like an absolute victory lap around whatever extra-planetary track the group was running in 2017.