Blood Orange returns with the beautiful Freetown Sound

It’s been known that Freetown Sound, the new album from Dev Hynes’ Blood Orange moniker, would be out on July 1. But Hynes surprised everyone by releasing his album late Monday evening. The album is true to its title – with Hynes using his third Blood Orange release to showcase his warmest, most diverse collection of songs yet. There’s a fluidity to Freetown Sound that can be heard once every other blue moon. The songs on the album seem to just pour out of Dev Hynes, and they’re either the most triumphant or most dejected Hynes has sounded on record, all depending on what you bring to the table. While the album is Hynes at his most political – the opening “By Ourselves” and “Hands Up” most explicitly address current social and political issues – it’s also the multi-faceted artist at his most comfortable. With his own voice, his own words, his own skin. Yet when the album ends with a brief snippet of last year’s “Sandra’s Smile,” Hynes makes it clear that as confident and triumphant as Freetown Sound is, that confidence and triumph can be taken away at any moment. That’s what is most radical about Freetown Sound. In the face of horrible injustices to people in his community, instead of running away, Hynes and his friends – including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kelsey Lu, Vince Staples, Ashlee Haze and others – stand tall and proud. Freetown Sound is a wish, a dream, an ideal. And now, thanks to Devonté Hynes, it’s now a reality.

Listen to Freetown Sound now via the streaming service of your choice.

CURRENT: Terror Jr – “Say So”

The latest from Terror Jr – the largely shadowy group that we know consists of Felix Snow and David Singer-Vine, and not much else – is a short, sweet ode backed by a great, airy (and at this time, uncredited) vocal performance. Despite all the electronic flourishes of “Say So,” it’s a decidedly simple composition underneath, as if the collaborators knew the song’s strength lies in its sincerity. “Shut me down when I’m fatal,” pleads the unnamed vocalist at one point. At least for now, they’re staying on-line.

ALBUM REVIEWS: YG, Mitski, the Hotelier and Fear of Men

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YG Still Brazy

DEF JAM 15 June 2016

YG’s latest, his sophomore effort, has the sound of a senior at his craft directing his thesis in ways completely singular and triumphant, resulting in one of the year’s premiere rap albums. Still Brazy is an unapologetic, gravity-pulling effort, one that forces its listeners to see the world from its auteur’s view. YG’s voice is as personal as it is universal; he’s as relatable as he is intimidating. Still Brazy smartly examines why YG is as, in his words, brazy as he was on his debut LP. As much progress as we pretend we’ve made, YG makes sure we all are aware of the superficial promises we’ve made, and how the response is out of our control.     82

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Mitski Puberty 2

DEAD OCEANS 17 June 2016

Puberty 2 finds Mitski at her most anxious, unsure of whether life is one giant loop on repeat or part of some greater design. Whereas “Your Best American Girl” projected Mitski as an aggrieved, resilient warrior, Puberty 2 is a portrait of an artist attempting to bridge the gap between how she sees herself and how the world sees herself. Comparisons to St. Vincent abound – especially as Mistki expresses desire to “see the whole world” on “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” (btw, isn’t that the most St. Vincent not-St. Vincent song title ever?) – yet Mitski shows herself to be a formidable artist on her own terms, with the promise being delivered on tracks such as “Dan the Dancer” and “Thursday Girl.” “Please, tell me no,” sings Mitski on “Thursday Girl,” yet it’s damn near impossible to cut her short. At least in this case, she’ll have to learn on her own.     80

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The Hotelier Goodness 

TINY ENGINES 27 May 2016

Goodness is the type of album that can make you re-believe in the world again. The album strikes with an irresistible vitality, and as the feeling bleeds through lead-singer Christian Holder’s vocals, you wish you could bleed the same. Click here to read Michael Tedder’s excellent cover-story on the band, from Stereogum.     80

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Fear of Men Fall Forever

KANINE 3 June 2016

Fear of Men’s sophomore effort, Fall Forever, stands in as one of the strongest synth-pop albums of the year, lead by vocalist Jess Weiss’s emphatic, clear delivery. A few years ago, an album like Fall Forever would be viewed as groundbreaking. In 2016, it’s sounds can be traced back to other releases, other artists, yet the life behind the music is something only Weiss, guitarist Daniel Falvey and drummer Michael Miles could conjure.     77

CURRENT: Maggie Rogers – “Alaska”

Maggie Rogers is gaining a lot of traction on the heels of her single “Alaska,” even getting attention from Pharrell Williams, whose reaction to the track has gone viral since ending up on YouTube. You can see him get emotional, and it makes sense considering how effortlessly gorgeous and energetic Rogers’ “Alaska” is. It isn’t often an artist arrives out of the gate with such a profound statement, but “Alaska” is a sure-fire winner from the first note. Maggie Rogers’ journey is just beginning.

CURRENT: Kanye West – “Saint Pablo” [ft. Sampha]

“We’re all self-conscious, I’m just the first to admit it,” rapped a young Kanye West on The College Dropout standout “All Falls Down.” With that one line, he sealed his place as one of rap’s most charismatic, honest, refreshing voices, traits he’s both used and abandoned on his following albums. Listening to his past two albums – Yeezus and The Life of Pablo – it can be hard to hear Kanye as self-conscious over brash claims such as “I made that bitch famous,” or “I am a god.” Yet I’m reminded of that College Dropout single when I listen to the latest track added to the ever-evolving Life of Pablo, “Saint Pablo.” A main reason is West’s candid lyrics, where he discusses his self-proclaimed financial struggles during the first verse, before turning his own struggles into something universal on the second verse. “400 years later we buyin’ our own chains,” he proudly raps at one point, seeing how far he’s come. But no matter how far he comes, Mr. West stays the same. “I feel like I’m the only one not pretending,” he reminds us at the beginning of the track. It’s there it becomes clear that his multitude of claims – as outlandish as they may seem  – are just a manifestation of all the things we aspire to be. If one thing is for certain, it’s that Kanye West is real.

Stream “Saint Pablo” via Apple Music.

CURRENT: YG – “Police Get Away wit Murder”

While I’m still digesting YG’s Still Brazy, released late Tuesday night, one thing is clear: YG isn’t afraid to speak his truths, and the truths of many within his community. After the privatized My Krazy Life, YG opens up the narrative and allows space for other stories, other reactions. The adjusted template gives way to YG’s most political work to date, and Brazy‘s closing track, “Police Get Away wit Murder” is the politically charged song its title makes clear. “We put our hands up and they still shoot, motherfucker,” he passionately asserts at one point, a claim that’s been drilled into our heads with the countless stories of police shooting unarmed black men. Later, YG reaches his limit and takes matters into his own hands when he protests “we don’t give a fuck” on the hook. Yet from the sound of his voice, he clearly gives a damn.

Still Brazy is out now.

CURRENT: Disclosure – “Boss”

Following the tepid commercial and critical response to Caracal, Disclosure are back with a new three-song EP titled Moog For Love. The set is led by the excellent “Boss,” a house-inspired track that wouldn’t sound out of place on their masterful debut Settle. Whereas Caracal relied too heavily on the brothers’ list of collaborators, “Boss” finds them taking charge once again, this time hopefully for good. “Yeah she’s the boss and I’m an old romantic doing favours, don’t look good on paper,” goes the vocal refrain, certainly sounding good in practice.

The Moog For Love EP is available now.