Kaytranada: “Glowed Up” (feat. Anderson .Paak)

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Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up” begins with a spacey, alien-sounding intro before the beat comes in behind Anderson .Paak’s smooth, rambunctious flow. “I’m glowed up” he repeats through much of the song, perhaps referencing his recent string of guest appearances following his major-label debut Malibu. “Lately I’ve been glowed up… Feeling like the only one out here / Even if I slowed up / Got enough purp to last the whole damn night here” he sings over the track’s prominent big synth line, giving it an anthemic chorus. But then the track takes off in a new direction, and the bassy, jazzy, Flying Lotus-esque bridge/outro gives .Paak a chance to reflect on his fame and success. “Not just another name / Not just some wannabe,” he sings, and you have to agree that Anderson .Paak is pretty well here to stay – Malibu is still the best album of the year so far. But teaming up with Kaytranada here takes his talents to another level, backed by slick production and one of the most interesting beats of the year, recalling the production on Outkast’s ATLiens and updating it to rival that of Drake’s most recent work.

Freshly Squeezed’s 20 Best Albums of 2014

20. St. Vincent: St. VincentSt_Vincent_artwork

Annie Clark’s self-titled fourth album as St. Vincent blended her unique post-punk sensibilities with her sharp-witted lyricism and edgy guitar playing. Eccentric, dynamic, and calculatedly cool, St. Vincent is a truly modern rock record.


19. SBTRKT: Wonder Where We LandWonder_Where_We_Land

The highly anticipated follow-up to 2011’s self-titled debut SBTRKT showed off a different side of Aaron Jerome’s production, highlighting the names it featured rather than the SBTRKT enigma itself. Wonder Where We Land attempts to redefine the role of the producer in 2014.

Read the full review here.


18. TV on the Radio: Seeds Tvotr_-_seeds

TV on the Radio’s first album in three years following the death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011 found the band back on their feet and still creating some of the most anthemic art-rock around, even after all these years. A band that will define the 2000’s for millennials.

Read more about TV on the Radio here.


17. Phantogram: VoicesVoices_album_cover

Voices embodied a kind of dualism, exploring big themes of life and death, and pushing further into the separate territories of electronic and rock music, seamlessly combined here. A record for music lovers of all kinds.


16. Ryan Hemsworth: Alone for the First Timehomepage_large.ba499333

Ryan Hemsworth has undeniably changed the face of electronic music in the last few years, and on Alone for the First Time, he challenges its conventions further, blending swaddling, pillowy production with guest vocalists from his Secret Songs label.

Read the feature here.


15. Flying Lotus: You’re Dead!You're_Dead!

A jazzy, electronic tour de force, You’re Dead! is a psychedelic trip into the mind of Steven Ellison, and its collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Thundercat are just the tip of the iceberg.


14. Chet Faker: Built on GlassBuilt_on_Glass_album_art 

Chet Faker’s hotly anticipated debut lived up to the high expectations from 2012’s Thinking in Textures EP. A spanning, double-sided album, Built on Glass features Faker’s easily recognizable croon and clever lyricism atop gorgeous electronic production.


13. Spoon: They Want My SoulThey_Want_My_Soul

Hands were clearly a common theme of album covers in 2014.

Spoon’s unique brand of indie rock lived on on They Want My Soul, which soundtracked the end of the summer for the discerning listener. One of the best albums of the year by one of the best bands of the last decade.


12. Glass Animals: ZabaGlass_animals_zaba

Glass Animals’ textured, tropical debut was one of the best breakout surprises of 2014, and one of the most under-appreciated albums of the year. A brilliantly poppy, catchy debut, Zaba combined jungle sounds and drum loops to create a multi-layered, captivating electronic production.


11. Tycho: AwakeTycho_-_Awake

The follow-up to 2011’s Dive, Awake features more of Scott Hansen’s stunning electronic instrumentation as Tycho. Awake is an album to get lost in; for planes and trains and long car rides. Its combination of electronic production with live instrumentation is what makes it a truly modern record, for listeners of all genres.


10. Sharon Van Etten: Are We ThereAreWeThere

Sharon Van Etten’s beautifully honest self-portrait on Are We There made for easily the best singer/songwriter record of 2014, showing off a lighter, more playful side of Etten, but whose sense of lyricism still carries the weight of the world. And it featured one of the best album covers of the year.


9. Alt-J: This Is All YoursAlt-J_-_This_is_all_yours

The hugely anticipated follow-up to 2012’s An Awesome WaveThis Is All Yours took listeners further into the parallel universe in which Alt-J exist, through Nara, its mythical and musical utopia. This Is All Yours is an album to do what you want with, and lose yourself in in the process.

Read the full review here.


8. Jungle: JungleAlbum_66_296_ff6

The self-titled debut from the mysterious London soul collective Jungle redefined the genre in 2014, with timeless tracks like “Time” and “Busy Earnin'” giving listeners just a taste of the funk that permeates Jungle. Dancy, groovy, and so so fresh, Jungle is what’s good in 2014.


7. The War on Drugs: Lost in the DreamLostinthedream

The War on Drugs’ third album chronicled Adam Granduciel’s battle with depression, exploring themes of death and loneliness. A true work of genius, Lost in the Dream channels the greats of 80s-era classic rock in its swirling, authentic production. A record stuck in the past and yet somehow so modern and relevant.


6. Little Dragon: Nabuma RubberbandLittle_Dragon_-_Nabuma_Rubberband

Little’s Dragon’s first album since 2011’s Ritual UnionNabuma Rubberband, was a complex, conceptual record that further cemented the Swedish band’s unique sound and style as one of the most consistently brilliant crossover electronic acts in the world.


5. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2RunTheJewelsRTJ2

Darkly funny, politically timely, and underminingly brilliant, Run the Jewels 2 dropped a proverbial bomb on 2014’s otherwise lacking year of hip-hop. Killer Mike and El-P are “the jewels runners, top tag team for two summers” and have their sights firmly set on taking over the world.

Read the full review here.


4. Mac DeMarco: Salad DaysMac_DeMarco_Salad_Days

Mac DeMarco’s follow-up to 2011’s inspired a whole generation of youngsters to grow their hair out, quit their jobs, and chase their dreams. Well, not really, but listening to Salad Days sure feels like you’re doing everything just right.


3. Todd Terje: It’s Album TimeTodd_Terje_-_It's_Album_Time_album_cover

The Norwegian disco king Todd Terje released his debut album It’s Album Time this year to widespread critical acclaim. A jumpy, playful record that’s almost entirely instrumental, the album’s centrepiece, a cover of “Johnny and Mary” by Robert Palmer featuring Bryan Ferry cements It’s Album Time as an instant classic.


2. FKA twigs: LP1FKA_twigs_-_LP1

If you didn’t like FKA twigs’ debut, then you didn’t spend enough time with it. Cerebral, evocative, and boundary-pushing, LP1 represents an innovative approach to songwriting in 2014 and should be sticking around for years to come. A perfectly crafted pop record, FKA twigs’ debut shows us why we don’t need to listen to Nicki Minaj in 2014.


1. Caribou: Our LoveCaribou_Our_Love

Dan Snaith’s fourth album as Caribou, and the follow-up to 2010’s Swim, Our Love, explored pop music’s most universal theme in its inviting 42 minutes of euphoric dance music. “Can’t Do Without You” and “Our Love” are album highlights, but Snaith entreats you to enter his world on Our Love, and it’s hard to come back.

Read the full review here.

Run the Jewels: ‘Run the Jewels 2’

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The unlikely pair of Killer Mike and EL-P have made a name for themselves as “the jewels runners, top tag team for two summers…”

A few months ago, the hip-hop tag team Run the Jewels (EL-P and Killer Mike) had the internet buzzing when they released the full details of Run the Jewels 2 online, which included a number of ridiculous pre-order packages such as the “Self Righteousness for Sale Package,” priced at $350,000.00 USD, and the “Run the Jewels Retirement Plan Package” for 10 million that would see the pair retire from music to make only one song a year for the lucky owner. However, the packages all come with a disclaimer: “run the jewels reserves the right to take your money and not fulfill any of the obligations outlined in any package priced 35k or more.” Ironically, the only package that garnered a serious response, the “Meow the Jewels Album Package,” is priced at 40k, and promises a re-recorded version of the album where the music is made using only cat sounds. Someone created a Kickstarter, and now EL-P and Killer Mike are looking for tonally-gifted cats. The Kickstarter has surpassed its goal of $40,000 by over 25k, and the project is still receiving funding every day.

Run the Jewels are just doing what they do best: running the motherfucking jewels. The unlikely pair of Killer Mike and EL-P have made a name for themselves as “the jewels runners, top tag team for two summers” with their abrasive style and heavy flow, rapping about crime, sex, and conspiracy with a politically-charged fervor unmatched by any other rappers in the game right now. RTJ2 is a statement stronger than anything they’ve done before, both collectively and independently, and shows them to be in a league of their own within the hip-hop world. If Run the Jewels proved that [they] was fuckin’ brutal,” on RTJ2 they have the authority to back it up, and the sharp-witted lyricism of songs like “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” maintains its punch even against EL-P’s hardest-hitting production to date.

The low synth-line of “Jeopardy” opens the album after an introduction by Killer Mike, whose bragging rhymes build into a solo-ing guitar riff and electronically modified horns. EL-P finally comes in after a washed-out break in the middle of the song, establishing two very different rapping voices from the outset, although they merge into one on the following track, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” when EL-P says “I do two things, I rap and fuck,” and Killer Mike picks up where he left off with “I fuckin’ rap.” RTJ2 is full of this interchange between its two main protagonists, “one black, one white,” but both “shoot[ing] to kill,” and Run the Jewels uses their dynamic to go straight for the jugular, taking down any and all systems of power in their wake.

Guest spots are filled judiciously: Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Rocha appears for a verse on “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck),” Travis Barker of Blink-182 drums on “All Due Respect,” and Gangsta Boo features on the sexually-overt-to-the-point-of-being-cringe-worthy “Love Again (Akinyele Back).” Beyonce-collaborator BOOTS takes the production to another level on “Early,” and Foxygen’s Diane Coffee adds to the slower vibe of “Crown.” “Angel Duster” ends the album with a trap-acid-jazz feel in a similar vein to Flying Lotus, jamming out on a jazzy keyboard line and a classic Run the Jewels repeated loop for the album’s final minute and a half.

The funny joke-turned-PR-stunt that has accrued so much of the hype for RTJ2 and its forthcoming Meow the Jewels remix album have only propelled Run the Jewels into new crossover territory; their latest announcement was for a project called ‘Tag the Jewels,’ for which graffiti artists all over the world have been enlisted to put up graffiti representations of the album’s cover. All of this shows that Run the Jewels know how to engage a modern audience. But there’s still a hell of a lot of darker social and political commentary running beneath the surface to be discovered.