Jesse Boykins III - Plain

Unquestionably, JB3 is one of my favourite upcoming R&B/soul acts. Arguably, he was one of the early pioneers behind the alt-R&B sound that’s penetrating the mainstream bit-by-bit, though in the intervening years he’s added many more strings to his bow, and arguably now thrives when in a more positive, livelier soundscape.

That’s precisely what we get from the lead single from his anticipated Love Apparatus LP (landing on 22nd April). The production is built on vibrant percussion, adding a quick (but not intimidating) speed to proceedings, tempered by the gentle melodies floating above it, with the soft synths and samples being almost lullaby-esque when isolated away from the collected piece. It’s a good combination of soulful melodies and a more modern style; it’s a testament to good craft (and mastering) when such divergent layers fit seamlessly together. That unique backdrop sets Jesse up perfectly, as his vocals move beautifully between his trademark drifty, airy style and a more energetic, extroverted delivery. His vocal gifts have never been questioned, and it’s another strong performance from one of the most naturally gifted acts on the scene today.

He’s even demonstrating new tricks in the video, with a fun, high-energy visual of Jesse breaking out some slick dance moves from start to finish. His carefree nature makes for an infectious positivity, and definitely makes this a good watch. Hopefully, this single is the one that breaks him through that next barrier. Available now.

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Lupe Fiasco - Snitches 2

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It was a choice between one of three tracks Lupe’s released in recent days, and it was this (the sequel to one he released on the very same day) that grabbed me most. For reference though, Snitches (featuring Ty Dolla $ign) and DopeBoysAtAllStarWeekend (featuring Gizzle) are available here. Of the two, the former is unquestionably better, for what it’s worth.

On first listen, it’s a very ‘un-Lupe’ production. I’m not sure what this whole Drogas thing is about (is Lupe suddenly a Hispanic drug dealer?) but it’s resulted in a thumping, club-ready production that many of today’s mainstream rappers would be quite happy to get on board with- you can quite easily hear the likes of Rick Ross having a great time with this, and to Lupe’s credit, he does a good job of adjusting his style enough to not sound out of place himself.

Packed full of street raps (from the third person, interestingly), it’s a pretty solid performance, and though Lupe’s inflections and emotions aren’t exactly at peak intensity, his flow is as watertight as ever and it’s an easy to follow, uncomplicated effort, which makes for a degree of change as far as Lupe’s lyricism goes. Worth a listen, and hopefully Tetsuo and Youth isn’t far away.

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Klaxons - Children of the Sun

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When these guys first exploded onto the scene in around 2006, it felt like they could go on to be as big as they wanted to be. The sky seemed the limit for their tripped-out yet accessible sound, and with a litany of ready-made hits packed into their debut album, the signs were good after the first hurdle. Sadly, their second album landed in 2010 to much less fanfare, a situation which was worsened by the poor product they released – they’ve been missing from music ever since, with very few asking where they might be.

Their first album was a perfect medium between jagged indie and crowd-pleasing pop, and the second probably leaned to heavily on the former. Having returned with the disco-funk stylings of There Is No Other Time a few days ago, it looked like there the catchy, more pop-driven style had wrestled most of the control back, but Klaxons have thrown up another switch with this second effort.

It’s got hallmarks of a mid-90s Britpop anthem, evoking memories of Blur and the like, with a midtempo pace held together by a mesmerising and almost military percussion line, accompanied by crunching guitar work that really does throwback to the early and mid 90s era of British indie. It’s a definite switch in direction, but it works purely by being fairly unique in today’s scene, and it’s a positive step by the band in recovering some of their lost audience. Expect more soon, as the new album lands this summer.

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Flatbush Zombies - Demos

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There is something about these two that entertains me. The music is generally good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as if they’re constantly dropping 10/10 material. However, they exist beyond the music, and it’s utterly ridiculous imagery like this that enamours the duo to me.

In a generous spirit, Erick of the Zombies let loose this collection of nine unreleased tracks from 2012 sessions, possibly around the time of the recording/release of the breakout D.R.U.G.S. mixtape, in what appears to be a very popular release. Whilst it’s all offered as one long mix (much to the detriment of us iTunes librarians!), the feedback is convicing enough to give it a go anyway- the Childish Gambino feature on one of the tracks doesn’t hurt either. Check the whole thing out below, and look out for more from the Zombies soon.

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Childish Gambino - Die Without You (P.M. Dawn Cover)

Everyone has relatively obscure songs that they remember from their childhood. When it comes to them, A) you expect no-one else in your generation knows or remembers them, and B) you’re fiercly protective of them and won’t accept sub-standard covers or remixes. The P.M. Dawn original is a masterpiece in my world (because my mother listened to it religiously, essentially burning it onto my brain), and hence seeing that Gambino covered it last week not only drew surprise, but also a heavy serving of caution.

Thankfully, it’s actually good. Not only can I appreciate his choice of something 20+ years old, and with personal value to me (the latter is clearly why he picked it), but his execution is strong. Of course, he’s not going to perfectly recreate the smooth, gentle emotion of the original in such a setting, but he gives it a very admirable effort.

The vocal work is really likeable, and given that most of his radio performances are rap-oriented, it’s good to hear him exclusively sing on this one, and do so in a manner that doesn’t seem too far at all from his studio work. There’s enough rawness here to keep it true to the original, whilst the variety in his performance demonstrates his ability with a few difficult notes, and will definitely win over some of the more mainstream heads. A worthy cover of a legendary original, and I’d be keen to see if he offers up a studio version at some point.

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Jamie xx and Four Tet - Seesaw

It is only a radio rip, but what an excellent piece this is from two of our fair country’s best upcoming producers. The Young Turks labelmates come through with a laidback instrumental that has all the hallmarks of their best work, yet manages to sound like nothing either has produced individually.

It’s quite brilliant what a few easygoing synths and a quickfire percussion can do. The layers intertwine wonderfully throughout, and between an electro-styled synth, a drifty, airy vocal sample, assorted blips and short melodies, there’s something surprisingly cohesive and deliciously bright throughout. It’ll certainly evoke a summer feeling for many, and credit goes to the duo for incorporating both the eclectic style of Four Tet’s work with the laidback effortlessness often associated with Jamie XX.

No word on an official release (or none that I’ve seen), but fingers crossed this will emerge in full, high-quality glory soon. Or at least in time for the week of summer that we’ll get.

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Kelela - The High

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Kelela was one of the standout contributors to Solange’s phenomenal Saint Heron compilation of last year, and though her name has popped up intermittently during my various travels across the internet, it was that album that really brought her to my attention.

Her Cut 4 Me album is another of last year’s strong releases, featuring a great mix of dark, atmospheric production and diverse vocals, and certainly presented Kelela as an upcoming talent to be watched. This latest release, not announced for any particular project, is a good addition to her growing catalogue, and again paints the singer in a very favourable light. The production is supremely moody, built up on a brooding bassline that plods through the track with power and intent, whilst the supporting cast of gentle synths just about hang in there, buzzing around the driving bass but never dragging it into any other direction. It’s a good backdrop too, as it allows for plenty of flexibility on the vocal layer, as Kelela primarily offers a gentle delivery, blending well with the sombre production, but intersperses that with both higher-pitched blasts and soft harmonising.

The whole lot combines into a very replayable piece of R&B/soul, and one that’s certainly in a style that encapsulates this rising “alternative R&B” movement.

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J. Cole and Dreamville Records - Revenge of the Dreamers (Mixtape)

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What a few days Cole has had. His Dreamville imprint (featuring Bas and Omen, both OTU alumni) has been picked up by Interscope, an announcement made on his 29th birthday. With a relatively solid track record with rapper’s imprint labels, it’s a great home for him to develop the brand, and to cap it all off, Jay-Z was kind enough to gift young Cole with an original Rocafella chain at a recent NYC show.

And amidst it all, this new mixtape was released to celebrate the Dreamville signing. It’s a mixture of tracks from Cole and the two aforementioned signees, with previously-unheard music from Cole including an alternate version of Born Sinner single Crooked Smile. It’ll be interesting to hear Bas and Omen hold up their end of the deal here – whilst they’ve proven their talents on occassion in the past, this is about as lofty a pedestal as they’ve been put on thus far, and to avoid wilting under Cole’s shadow, you’d hope the material they’ve selected is amongst the best they’ve offered to date. Nonetheless, I’d expect to see plenty of development from both in their new partnership, and keep your eyes peeled for any more additions to the roster – not to do anyone’s job for them, but someone like ANTHM has always seemed a great fit for a team such as Dreamville, and it’ll be interesting to see if they pick up anyone of his ilk. For now, grab the 3-man, 11-track tape below.

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Banks - Brain

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It’s been almost a year since we first brought you coverage of Banks, and it’s fair to say that in the last 3 months, her stock has risen considerably. If you’re keeping score, that’s about the 50th act we’ve broken with a promise of wider recognition. We’re that good.

Her first release of the year is more important than it would be for most acts, purely because of the lavish praise and coverage she recieved from many outlets, as part of endless end of year lists and 2014 predictions. Thankfully, she does not disappoint, coming through with her unique spin on the dark R&B/electro soul style once more. The production is helmed by the gifted Shlomo, who engulfs a blend of gentle electronic melodies and synths in a thick bass coating, giving the track’s atmosphere plenty of depth and gravitas. The development of the beat for the track’s second half is excellent too, throwing forth more percussive elements for a climactic finish, and it’s a strong showing from the upcoming producer.

Banks’ vocals are as seductive and sultry as ever, winding through the first half of the track at a slow, reflective pace, before exploding into life for the second half with an empassioned, powerful delivery that showcases a range we’ve not seen a great deal of thus far. It’s a very strong show of variety, and certainly demonstrates that she has far more in her arsenal than some may believe. Another excellent release, and the buzz for her debut LP will stand to increase even further as a result.

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Audio Push - Turn Down (Video)

Despite Come As You Are being a release I was looking forward to, listening to it seems to have inadvertently slipped down my queue, and hence it still remains untouched. One listen to this track, and the foolishness of my ignorance will impact you as much as it did me.

Who knew that the duo were capable of laidback, easygoing hip-hop of this ilk? They both surprise and impress with this effort: the mellow production is instantly captivating, with feathery guitar plucks accompanied by a combination of delicate synths for a smooth upper layer, and a strong (but thankfully, not dominating) percussion holding things together in the background.

It’s a fantastic production that many would associate with the likes of Wiz Khalifa’s weed raps, and credit goes to the pair for taking it far beyond that, with two verses geared around the relaxation of a female subject, or her “turning down”, whilst the third verse is a little smarter and reworks the turn down notion into one of people living beyond their means. It’s an enjoyable set of verses, backed up by a chilled out and catchy hook, and hence comes out as a strong all-rounder.

The video is a simple one, featuring the duo rapping behind grainy, retro filters, interspersed with story footage of the aforementioned female, capping off a great release from one of the best new duos in the hip-hop game today. Get the mixtape now.

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YG - Who Do You Love? ft. Drake

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How does DJ Mustard do it? I can’t claim to have completed his entire production discography, but I’ve certainly caught a big chunk of it, and I’m always impressed. After breaking through with Tyga’s Rack City, he’s steadily delivered a mixture of mainstream favourites and slept-on speaker rattlers, and here he serves YG with what’s sure to be another big hit for him.

The common factor in Mustard’s production is sheer simplicity (and clean mastering), and that trait continues here. Those clean layers work their independent magic here, with those trademark dark synths accompanied by ominous keys, catchy claps and a healthy dose of bass; each layer is very distinct from the others, and not only does that contrast allow for appreciation of each element, but it’s the track’s pacing and rhythm that ties them all together into a bouncy, head-nodding affair. At heart, it’s quite a sombre, moody production but the sum of the parts ends up being a much funkier listen than it has any right to be, though of course that’s helped by the contributions of YG and Drake, who both ride along this beat smoothly. YG’s rougher delivery works with the grittier elements of the production well, whilst Drake’s quicker flow is a great compliment to the percussion work, and arguably steals the show.

A probable mainstream hit, and a definite addition to any car playlist worth its salt.

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Odesza - If You Don't ft. Cumulus

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This is about as an extreme a late pass as I’ll ever hand in, given the song is over a year old. However, having stumbled upon it by pure chance (it played automatically after something else I was listening to), my life is much better for having done so, and yours will be too.

Occasionally, a track arrives that seem to perfectly fit both a summer day and a winter night. Usually, they sit in some deliciously rare grey area between being chillout and upbeat, and that’s a zone Odesza have almost perfected with this effort. The percussion really commands this song, keeping things at a deceptively high pace throughout, but disguising that by muting many of the percussive elements in the “verses” (do instrumentals technically adhere to the verse/hook structure?), and bringing the sharper pieces back in where required to boost the song once more. Underpinning that further is a bright, summery synth that bounces through the track with vivacity and combines well with the percussion, whilst the drifty vocal samples add both calm and atmosphere, holding up the pillars for the track’s more mellow aspects.

It’s really a sublime piece of production, and one that I don’t see leaving my playlists any time soon. You can get the entire Summer’s Gone album for free at Odesza’s site, along with some newer material.

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Actress - Rap

There’s nothing worse than finding a good artist just as they’re beginning to wind down or pursue other endeavours. UK producer Actress falls firmly into that category: already four albums in, it seems there’s some disillusion with music in general, and hence his upcoming Ghettoville album is said to be the “black tinted conclusion of the Actress image.

For a new listener like myself, pressing play on a song called Rap from an album called Ghettoville comes with certain expectations. They couldn’t have been more off the mark, and I couldn’t be happier: this is a slow-winding, unhurried track that moves with a pace that belies it’s listed time of just under 3 minutes, and with no raps in sight. Instead, it’s an R&B-esque production, combining chunks of bass with gentle electronic touches and a dash of additional percussion into a style that lands somewhere between 90′s R&B and modern-day electro soul. Throw those distorted, groany vocals on top, and the song starts to ooze suffocating levels of sleaze, but given the short length of the piece, and that’s not a problem at all. In fact, the sheer thickness with which it’s all laid on combines into a pretty engaging few minutes, and most certainly a bedroom-ready bit of music.

Fans of XXYYXX, Ta-Ku and the like will definitely enjoy this. Be sure to support the Ghettoville album release tomorrow, and who knows- maybe we’ll get more of them.

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Pandr Eyez - Heartbreaker

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Technically, this is a Mariah Carey remix/cover, but the first time I heard this, that didn’t occur to me at all. Call me stupid if you like, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s more of a testament to the original spin that Translatlantic duo Pandr Eyez have put on the old school classic.

Every element of the bubbly original is thrown out (besides the lyrics, of course) in favour of a spaced-out, mellow style that gives the track a dark wintery vibe, and hence opens it up to a whole new audience. That’s courtesy of luxuriously airy synths, winding through the track at will and intertwining effortlessly with the smooth vocals on offer, whilst the occasional flashes of background vocals and additional melodies pads out the soundscape rather well. The vocals deserve plenty of credit for showing versatility throughout- with a sombre production of this ilk, a consistent delivery would end up nullifying any attractiveness the track’s modernism has by boring everyone to death, and hence the mixture of subtle and not-so-subtle delivery changes is a wise play here.

Worth a go for sure, and look out for more from the upcoming duo. Their Present EP lands on 4th February.

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White Sea - Prague

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Circumstances (including a lack of good music) have resulted in a month-long silence over here, but allow me to return tonight covered in all of my former glory. And blood.

Membership of M83 is always a weird thing to figure out, especially as most of the coverage seems to go to Anthony Gonzalez, but as both a tour and studio contributor to M83′s work since Saturdays = Youth, it’s fair to consider Morgan Kibby a member of the band. Here, as White Sea, she branches out on her own with a light, laidback effort that’s not a million miles away from some of her work with M83. An easy thing to say given the enormous spectrum of styles they’ve worked within, but whatever. Deal with it.

Those familiar elements come via the reasonably loose structure of the song, with pulsating industrial-esque hooks broken up by verses that jump in where and how they can. Morgan’s drifty, high-pitched vocals combine well with the soft synths and samples in the verse for an atmosphere that’s gentle, whilst their delicateness is contrasted superbly in the hook by an industrial, sharp-edged production, built on crunching percussion, jagged synths and even a dash of distorted guitar work. It’s a strong listen from start to end, and sign that M83′s individual parts may be just as good as their collective presence.

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JD Era - Break From Toronto (Remix)

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Toronto native (and Raekwon signee) JD Era comes through with a remix of PARTYNEXTDOOR’s single, in another show of appreciation for the young R&B star’s excellent track (and album).

The instrumental is left largely intact, save for a couple of looped sections to extend it out a little further, which is no bad thing as the crunching bassline of this one has yet to grow boring in my world. JD’s raps aren’t bad at all, and though (much like MeLo-X’s remix) they aren’t as addictive as the rap/singing hybrid that PND offers, as an independent performance it’s a good showing: the flows are varied yet with an unerring tightness, and the raps themselves are packed with touches of cool and flashes of aggression. Lyrically, it’s the expected arrogant raps, as per the original, and it’s fair to say that JD Era does make the most of what he’s working with here, in terms of the thunderous production. Worth a go if you liked the original, or if the original was “too R&B” for you.

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Like (of Pac Div) - Sao Paulo

Mibbs dropped an EP earlier this year, and now Like comes through with some solo work, letting loose a feelgood jam that’ll have you longing for the summer.

A quick blast that comes in at just over 2:30, Like’s supplied with a jazzy production built on distorted keys, punchy percussion and a dash of strings that combines into a bright, vintage soundscape oozing a nostalgic summer appeal. I daresay there’s an infusion of a 90s hip-hop vibe running through this one (or maybe it’s just that it evokes the same memories and imagery that Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith’s Summertime does), but in any case it’s an excellent production that would light up any summer.

Like’s performance is strong throughout, flipping between his husky singing voice and a few sharp, slick raps for a good mix of elements. The raps are easygoing and descriptive, performed as “a letter about the city“, whilst the airy singing on the hook is a lovely complement to the uplifting production, and does a great job in finishing off that sunny day feel. Add the bright, positive video to the mix and you’ve got an excellent dose of summer vibes to warm you up until the season rolls around.

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Kendrick Lamar - Poetic Justice (Vestige Remix)

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Consider this one of those odd situations where I’ve been listened to a track for quite a while, but just forgot to share it with everyone. It’s been a fixture in my playlists for a couple of months after stumbling on it completely accidentally (it got automatically played by Soundcloud right after I was listening to something else), and offers a nice refresh of the popular single from Kendrick’s GKMC album.

The original’s production wasn’t exactly lacking in gentle or smooth qualities, but this takes those elements and really enhances them a great deal. The entire original beat is stripped out, and in its place come airy, delicate synths, feather-light piano touches and light, unobtrusive percussion- it combines into a relaxing production that feels excellently suited to a summer evening. Kendrick and Drake’s raps were far from aggressive on the original incarnation, and hence here their laidback qualities are enhanced even further, with the production infusing a more easygoing vibe into their flows and vocal work, versus the occasional jagged edges (not a criticism) found in the Janet Jackson-sampling source work. Definitely worth giving a go, and a simple yet effective twist on the enjoyable original.

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Flying Lotus - Ideas + Drafts + Loops (Compilation)

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To celebrate reaching 300k followers a few days back, FlyLo let loose of a .zip file full of remixes, draft tracks, loops, unreleased material and much more for his evidently growing fanbase. Given the amount of material some artists sit on (looking at you Dre), it makes you wonder why more acts don’t just do the same with tracks they never intend on doing much else with, though in fairness recieving this from someone the calibre of Flying Lotus at least comes with the comfort that even his cast-offs will be good material.

Plenty of his previous collaborators are invovled, from Thundercat to Earl Sweatshirt, whilst it seems the remix of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead has been one of the releases from the pack gaining the most traction thus far. Add to that the inclusion of material from his “side project” as Captain Murphy, and you’ve got plenty of potential contained in this archive, and enough to keep fans going until the next album. That being said, there’s another of these generous offerings planned before his next LP release- we’re basically spoilt.

Flying Lotus – Ideas + Drafts + Loops

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MeLo-X-Break From Flatbush

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PARTYNEXTDOOR’s self-titled album/mixtape is easily one of the most underrated projects this year, and whilst Break From Toronto was recently given the video treatment, it’s probably fair to say that amongst those who did enjoy PND’s project, that track gets a little underappreciated as it’s rather short. Nonetheless, MeLo takes it for a spin here, and gives some extra shine to what is an excellent production.

No surprise with the formula: the atmospheric yet bassy sound of the original is completely intact, and MeLo just chooses to kick some rhymes over the top, throwing forth some fairly solid work that works well with the slow pace of the production. Whilst it’s missing that mix of both rapping and singing that PND offers, MeLo’s raps are generally clever and he switches through a handful of flows to offer a little variety. Nothing complicated, but a good remix and nice appreciation for an overlooked gem. MeLo’s GOD: Pièce de Résistance is available now.

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The National and Bob's Burgers - Sailors In Your Mouth (Video)

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It’s weird and trippy, and yet hilariously brilliant. The National’s slow, sombre song is given an animated twist by the creators of the excellent Bob’s Burgers (if you don’t watch it, cancel your subscription to life). Watch the video here.

If you close your eyes and just listen to this first, there is absolutey no way you can expect this to be the video. The vocals are sombre, the instrumentation is downbeat and morose, and there’s a general moodiness that seems more suited to sitting alone in a field of snow rather than accompanying one of TV’s finest animated comedies. That being said, a closer listen reveals the lyrics to be rather well-suited to the video, given that they’re focused around gravy and other food, and it’s a fun, slightly brilliant contrast with the vibe of the instrumentation.

As good as the song is (and it is good), the video is the highlight, featuring the band as the gravy sailors who gradually make their way into Bob’s mouth. They do so in an expresionless, dour manner that again makes for the most hilarious contrast, before performing slightly more emotionally inside his mouth. The attempt at seriousness is great fun, and the video closing with the kids frolicking in the gravy (except for Tina, who steals the show by doing nothing) finishes off what is an utterly ludicrous and clever effort. Very fun video, and a surprisingly good song too.

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Childish Gambino-Telegraph Ave.

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Every track that lands from Childish Gambino’s upcoming because the internet suggests we’re in for a late album of the year contender. He seems to really have settled his sound down a lot (just listen to the variance between Camp and Royalty), going for a sound akin to the former, but with much improved lyrical and vocal work- you sensed that he felt obliged to deliver something “harder” around the time of Royalty, and hence it’s nice to see him shed that pressure and get on with making good music that suits his skills.

There’s something about this track that has a So Far Gone vibe about it, and that’s definitely not a bad thing at this time of year. The production is a fantastic combination of atmospheric synths, thunderous bass and light, airy melodies, creating an easygoing vibe yet one with enough intensity to stop it becoming too laidback. That classic versatility is on show too, as Gambino moves from gentle, distorted vocals on the hook to a hybrid delivery on the verses, and throws in a rapped verse towards the end- such is the difference between the cadence and softness of the two styles, it almost feels as though he’s a ‘guest’ on his own track. It’s really just an excellent all-rounder that will most definitely be a favourite with CG fans. Free download, including the uptempo Ta-Ku remix below, available here.

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Kanye West - Bound 2 (Video)

Yeezus was a pretty hit-and-miss album by all accounts, but this seemed to be the sole track that garnered universal praise. It clearly evoked memories of Kanye’s older, more soul-driven work (I daresay it would have slotted in smoothly on Late Registration), and whilst I wasn’t massive on the track at the time, it’s one of the very few that I can endure listening to from the LP these days.

The wild roaming horses, motorcycle ride in front of expansive scenery, windy portrait shot and so on add up to a generally positive video, though one that is immeasurably corny. It exclusively features Kanye and Kim Kardashian essentially engaging in some heavy petting on a motorbike, whilst the screen behind them shows a range of classic rural American scenery (Monument Valley, if I’m not mistaken)- Kanye will pass this off as super creative and so forth, but it’s hardly the case. Instead, it’s just a bit boring in truth, and whilst Ye’s ability to hold back a little on the snarling, brooding expressions helps create a more feelgood vibe, it’s still not the most inspiring or engaging work he’ll ever release. Nonetheless, I’m sure many will be glad to be reminded of the track’s qualities, and I doubt many will complain about seeing Kim Kardashian writhing around, so at least it serves some purpose, whether intended or not.

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Death Grips-Government Plates (Album)

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Of all the groups that you’d consider an acquired taste, Death Grips have to be somewhere near the top. The sheer anarchy of their sound is somewhere between insane and addictive, with the harsh, discordant combination of punk, electro, hip-hop and alternative being entirely unique and yet with strands of familiarity lying within the chaos.

They famously cancelled many of their live appearances this summer, to the disappointment of their rabid fanbase that had lapped up the two free album releases on 2012. Thankfully, it seems that time wasn’t exactly wasted, with this new album release landing way ahead of its original 2014 schedule. 11 tracks make this one up, and I fully expect it to be another eardrum-tearing, cacophonous ride through their own inimitable style. You can stream and/or download the album below.

Death Grips-Government Plates (Stream)

Death Grips-Government Plates (Download)

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Childish Gambino-Melrose

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Because the Internet is rumoured to land on 10th December, and though this track was only released as part of a tweet to Jhene Aiko (who, contrary to semi-accepted belief, is not romantically involved with Gambino), it’s probably fair to accept it’ll land on the album given that it’s potentially only a month away.

Compared to recent releases (and arguably anything since Camp), it’s much lighter and soulful in nature, featuring Gambino exclusively singing throughout over a melancholy production. A lot of the longtime Gambino fans will be quite pleased to hear this, as it’s much closer to his early work and a departure from the harsher style Royalty came with (and arguably didn’t really succeed with). The production begins with sombre piano notes, before involving a strong percussion line and a little more melody to thicken up the backdrop, and eventually throwing forth a synth-driven, comparatively cacophonous final third. It’s good progression throughout, and despite that last third being far livelier than the first third, it still maintains an air of reflectiveness, which matches up to the desperate, lonely vocals that Gambino delivers throughout. There isn’t much variety vocally, as it’s essentially just Gambino crooning out a hook and a couple of adlibs, but that simplicity works quite well here in synergising with the production to create an atmospheric, introspective vibe, and deliver what is a fairly likeable effort.

Childish Gambino-Melrose

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PARTYNEXTDOOR-Break From Toronto (Video)

Since PND’s self-titled album release in July, I can honestly say that I’ve had no less than 9 of the project’s tracks on a very regular rotation. Given that it’s only a 10-track album, that is an incredible ratio that betters almost any other album this year. Arguably, two of the three efforts he released ahead of the album (Make A Mil, Wus Good/Curious) were the weakest of the bunch (though the latter is still very good), and it seems like a bit of faith paid off as the rest of the LP thoroughly delivered.

Whilst this is one of the shorter tracks on the album, it’s still a strong example of what he’s all about. The production has atmosphere in abundance, combined with a thudding bass that adds a strong hip-hop flavour to the otherwise soulful soundscape, and hence the track ends up landing in the hallowed middle ground between laidback listening and speaker-crunching head-nodder. That versatility ends up amplifying PND’s own adaptability, as he switches between the rapped verse and brief sung hook with relative ease- the video’s final third gives his Autotuned singing a little more spotlight too, borrowing a snippet from the aforementioned Wus Good/Curious. The clip plays on the track’s atmospheric vibe with a nightime city setting, whilst the arrogant lyrics are reflected in the various activities taking place. Frankly, it’s good camera time for Drake’s young protege, and hopefully there’s more coming in 2014. For now, get that album.

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The Killers-Just Another Girl

The Killers have a greatest hits album due out on 11th November (after four albums, is it a little too soon for one?), which is set to feature a couple of new tracks, including this effort.

Admittedly, their last two albums really haven’t struck a chord with me, which is bitterly disappointing as I listened to the first two religiously, but this track does undo some of that bad work. Whilst it does carry much of the electronic influence that was rife in their most recent pair of albums, it’s tempered by enough ‘organics’ to keep it on the right path, particularly the acoustic strums in the verses and the bubbly, instrument-packed hook. That being said, the general vibe of the track has a driving quality that will reel you in, and that ends up being the result of a successful marriage between the electronic and rock elements included, with the end result being a far better synergy of the two than they’ve previously managed. Brandon’s vocals are typically catchy and will rattle around your head for weeks, throwing forth an extremely infectious hook that should set this up for plenty of radio play, and they cap off what could turn out to be a fairly popular song over the next couple of months. Available on the Direct Hits album, landing next week.

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Audio Push-So Far To Go ft. Preston Harris (Video)

If one of the better duos in the rap game want to have a go on an underappreciated J Dilla beat, I’m paying attention. Audio Push are slowly cementing themselves as a force to be reckoned, and given hip-hop’s lack of true duos (and that doesn’t mean two artists coming together for a one-off project), they’ve definitely got a chance of filling the void that, arguably, was last housed by the Clipse.

The beat is a bonafide classic. Dilla captured a perfect chillout vibe with a bassy hip-hop edge, Common did justice to it on the Finding Forever album, and now Audio Push revive the soulful production for this quick release. Their verses are as solid as ever, with some likeable moments of biographical storytelling laid alongside good raps about their current lives- the latter is actually quite refreshing as rather than focus on the typical ‘bragger raps’, there are moments of honesty and insight that strip away the arrogance and suit the reflective nature of the production. It would be an easy move to stick with the brash, confident raps and just apply them to this beat, but they certainly deserve credit for adjusting their game where many artists in their position probably wouldn’t have bothered, whilst Preston’s soulful hook caps things off smoothly.

If you haven’t already, grab their Come As You Are mixtape now (sadly, this isn’t on there though).

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Yuna-Rescue (Video)

It’s rare, but sometimes I really do disappoint myself. Yuna’s easily one of my favourite vocalists to have emerged in the last couple of years, and I completely overlooked the release of her second album, Nocturnal, late last month. Foolish. There’s something about her voice that’s just inherently mesmerising- it’s incredibly engaging and you’ll rarely give anything of hers only one play.

This single is from the aforementioned album and offers great hope for the rest of the LP, as well as being a good introduction for those unfamiliar with Yuna. It’s much more extroverted and upbeat than some of her previous work, throwing forth lively, island-esque percussion and gentle piano touches for easy-to-digest verses, and a more extravagant soundscape for the hook, with guitar strums, stronger percussion and plenty more entering the fray. Yuna’s vocals are excellent as always, remaining controlled and smooth in the verses, and scaling up to an explosive, soaring style for the hook which you can’t help but get caught up in, purely for the sheer positivity emanating from every note. The heavy anchoring around the chorus is classic structuring that serves to make that section about as feelgood as anything you’ll hear, whilst giving the verses a more lyrical focus. A fantastic piece of pop, accompanied by some good camera time for Yuna, who delivers bright, uncomplicated visuals with a nice touch of fun. Worth a watch, definitely worth a listen, and be sure to get that album now.

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