It’s cuffing season, peeps. That means sending lots of strategic texts, grabbing someone warm, and firing up the latest Young Thug single. And to help you wade through the first month of cold, here are some piping hot takes on the latest from our favorite (and least favorite) musicians.
1. Yung Lean, Hoover
This track goes hard. It starts with a maddeningly trippy siren sample and then quickly goes into beast mode, with industrial sounds and crispy snares clashing with the most confident flow this kid has ever tapped into. He might be forever be a #sadboy, but this is some angry weirdo rich kid white boy swag music right here and I love it. This shit makes me feel good about myself and my place in the world and that’s dope. 9/10 -JFJ
2. Goldlink, Spectrum
When Goldlink came out with The God Complex last year, there was a bit of novelty buzz around the young DMV rapper – “he goes in over… EDM beats?!?” Since then, the rest of hip-hop seems to have caught up (not in small part due to the ascendence of Link’s own Soulection crew), and it’s no longer so weird to hear Waka going in atop Steve Aoki or Puff spending late Ibiza nights with Guy Gerber. However, the more apt comparison for Mr. Goldlink is to LaGuardia High School alum and international hell-raiser, Azealia Banks. Like Banks, Goldlink floats and dives under house-leaning beats not with any sense of pandering or novelty, but in a naturally aggressive comfort zone. This is a zone where Goldlink can let his mouth run and not fear the repercussions – and it fucking works. The high-BPM synth stabs are superbly funky, the Missy Elliot lead vocal sample is simply on-point, and the totality of his energetic, darkly sexual vision is impeccable. The rest of the new album, titled “And After That, We Didn’t Talk”, is pretty fantastic, but this one’s the winner. 9/10 -JFJ
3. Wet, It’s All In Vain
The main distinctive thing about the band Wet is how perfect they are. They’re in the vague soul-electro-pop realm, a little bit CHVRCHES, a bit Dev Hynes; a smidge of Sampha. There’s nothing groundbreaking about their melodies or instrumentation, or singer Kelly Zutrau’s crystalline vocals. But their debut album, coming January, might be one of the best in 2016, because of how immaculate and seductive every single second of every released single has been. The mix is pristine, as Zutrau’s voice hovers and swims over lithe harmonies and hesitant hi-hats. The bass and synthesizers are enough to put you under: I’m pretty sure I could have gotten my wisdom teeth out just with Wet blaring on repeat. 8/10 -ARC
4. Pusha T, Untouchable
If you start a track sampling the king, you best not miss. The new prez of G.O.O.D. Music does not, over two knotty verses. Pusha has sometimes has the tendency, like Biggie did, to get so immersed in the density of a rhyme scheme so as to lose track of song construction as a whole. But goddamn if this isn’t some amazing shit aurally:
Ignore most requests for the feature
Unless it’s getting played on the beach in Ibiza
While she fucking Nesha and she sucking shisha
Can’t you see my Total; Pam, Kima, Keisha
In other news, Timbo put in work on this one! It’s menacingly minimalistic; the snare weirdly matches the tone of Pusha’s high-ish voice. 7/10 -ARC
5. ILoveMakonnen, Second Chance
He’s singing in time! And it’s super pretty! The second Makonnen-Mustard hook-up is nothing that we wouldn’t expect from the duo, with cheeseball balladry, faux poignant piano chords, thuddy kicks, and stock big-room synth sounds. I don’t think Makonnen will ever recreate the oddness and overnight sensationalism of Tuesday, but this is a solid track that shows that Mr. Superchef can be comfortable in a bit of a more traditional setting. 7/10 -JFJ
6. Adele, When We Were Young
After listening to this for the first time I immediately went on an Elton John marathon, and then got into a loud argument in the office over whether or not Elton John is one of the greatest pop stars ever. (Whereas my editor says “shlock,” I say “king.”) And while this Adele song (written by Tobias Jesso Jr.) is quite lovely, so much of its DNA—the wistfulness, the patient build, the story development, the chord movement from minor to major—is pure Elton.
Adele sounds really great here, though, and there are few better at bringing emotions out of slightly tepid lyrics. The playful jump on “movie,” the anguished prolonging of “young,” and especially the mammoth difference in tone between “sad” and “mad.” I hope “25” sells a bajillion records. 6/10 -ARC
7. Abra, Sick Girl
The organ sounds like one of the corny presets on my Yahama keyboard. But it holds the track down, hypnotically, as Abra, a member of Awful Records, murmurs sweet nothings. I actually love how hoarse she sounds, and how she can’t quite reach the highest notes, but doesn’t care.
And actually, I wonder what a fully-produced Abra project would sound like, because she’s so completely conquered this lo-fi space. She would probably go the way of Mustard x Makonnen and it would suck. Stay tru, Abra. 6/10 -ARC
8. Missy Elliott, WTF
I’m one of those uneducated fucks who had never heard Missy spit until her Superbowl Halftime appearance (in fact, I didn’t realize it was her on the aforementioned Goldlink song until a minute before publishing this piece). So, I don’t know how this falls into her history per se, but I would definitely say that it fits into contemporary radio sonics perfectly. It’s a silly, fun, rhythmically confident song and the hook is delivered in a cadence so perfectly snotty that it won’t stop seeping out yo nose. And although I’m a devoted Miley fan, I still love when people attack her (cuz drama is the best and white ppl are mad funny under pressure lol). And with lyrics like “the dance that you’re doing is dumb” and “what ya doin’ with your tongue?”, a side-eye attack is exactly what this is. Fuck Pharrell’s shit though… he ruins the whole song. 4/10 -JFJ
9. Taylor Bennett ft. Chance the Rapper, Broad Shoulders
If you told me this was purely a Chance the Rapper song, I would believe it. His little bro’s voice and cadence are crazy similar–especially when he interjects, “I just be tweaking tho.” Meanwhile, Chance, ever the youthful sprite, gets a turn to play the world-weary father figure. He sounds like either he just woke up or he’s been smoking a lot.
Overall, the hook and instrumentals are pretty bland. But man, the Bennett family seems real loving and compassionate and supportive, I wonder if they have room for another son? jkjk love you mom & dad 4/10 -ARC
10. Young Thug, Hercules
So, they were friends, and then they weren’t and now they are again? Shit must be crazy in ATL right now. Anyway, Thug is truly a superbly consistent MC – not in the sense that every song he croaks out is great, but simply in that his outrageous personality oozes from every line regardless. Either you’re all-in on Thugger or you aren’t, and whether a particular track is your cup of tea probably comes down more to the production than the specifics of the man’s bars and melodies. Personally, I love hearing him over melodic, pop-facing beats – generally, less street-oriented shit than what this is. So although this song is significantly better than so much of the other trap shit that people are into right now, on the Thug scale it just ain’t doing it for me. 3/10 –JFJ