Describing his club-inspired passion project Daphni, Dan Snaith-- best-known for his work as Caribou-- said, "I'd fallen back in love with moments in small, dark clubs when a DJ puts on a piece of music that you could not have conceived of existing before you heard it." This crowd-pleasing dance track "Yes, I Know" fits perfectly with Snaith's mission. The producer draws something refreshing and new from the juiciest bits of Buddy Miles' 1971 screamer "The Segment", counteracting the comfort-food goodness of Miles' ripe horns and buttered croons with deep bass and woozy synths. Much like Teengirl Fantasy's "Cheaters", "Yes, I Know" leans heavily on a sample but never seems limited by it. --Zach Kelly
Daphni: "Yes, I Know" (via SoundCloud)
One interesting byproduct of R&B's recent growth in stranger and sparser new directions has been watching its more traditional practitioners adapt to the new landscape. As a vocalist, "Birthday Sex" hitmaker Jeremih hasn’t moved too far from his origins but his willingness to indulge the more experimental whims of his producers has been crucial to his sustained success. So "773 Love" primarily thrives on the imagination of Future and Gucci Mane beatsmith Mike Will Made It.
The structure of the track isn't all that far from all those stripped-down, pseudo-sensuous post-Drake numbers that bumper the bangers on urban radio-- it's what happens in the empty space that sets it apart. The organs slowly mutate-- first they crackle warmly, then thin into a filter as if someone had sucked all the air out, before finally expanding into something more digital and expansive. Meanwhile, Jeremih's vocals drown in their own layers, clipping and scratching in no discernible pattern. It's nice to think of these effects as intentional sonic metaphors for the crackling cell-phone conversation about panty drawers and stimulation that is about to take place, but they're just as welcome as meaningless flourishes of style. And while 773-779-5683 probably won't touch "867-5309" levels of ubiquity, it very well could become a "777-9311" with time. Which is to say that someone in Chicago has likely been receiving some very salacious texts since this song's release. (C'mon Jeremih, you never include the area code!) --Andrew Nosnitsky
There's a line in "Goldie" that illustrates why A$AP Rocky is such a success. He raps, "It's just me, myself, and I... and motherfuckers that I came with." As much as Rocky's success can be pinned to his slippery voice and malleability, he's also surrounded himself with a crew of exceptional producers, most notably Clams Casino and, here, Hit-Boy, whose beat twinkles and thumps with clarity. "Goldie" is Rocky's most high profile step away from Clams' primordial ooze and it's a good one: "Cristal go by the cases/ Wait, hold up that was racist/ I would prefer the Aces/ Ain't no different when you taste it," is both a flippant take on Cristal managing director Frederic Rouzaud's unfortunate 2006 statement about his distaste for rappers co-opting his champagne and a good natured jab at Jay-Z's luxury brand. It's an effortless moment that could easily get swallowed by Hit-Boy's production, but Rocky makes it stick, his voice welling in the back of his throat in a gummy half-mumble. --Sam Hockley-Smith
There's no Deerhunter. And no Bradford Cox. And no damn monolith. Just Lockett Pundt. In his day job as the guitarist behind one of semi-underground rock's loudest personalities, the Lotus Plaza leader lets his pedals-- and, increasingly on 2010's Halcyon Digest, his songwriting-- speak for him. Opening with a circular-sounding list of negations that recalls John Lennon in soul-baring Plastic Ono Band mode, this sun-baked dream-pop anthem from Pundt's second solo album is a statement of self-belief so convincing it exhilarates. The geometrically precise guitars and the wide-eyed, stoner-friendly lyrical content stay true to the understated artist, while the passionately delivered vocal harmonies suggest he's realized his truths are communal. --Marc Hogan
Lotus Plaza: "Monoliths" (via SoundCloud)
Chief Keef's first new single since signing with Interscope over the summer is important for what it is, and what it isn't. Though he's one of the most talked about new rappers of the year and the quarterback of Chicago's drill squad, Keef's music is defiantly hard; the only song on his breakout Back From the Dead tape aimed at the opposite sex is called "Save That Shit" and it's about how women should stop falling in love with him because he doesn't care like that. Once again: That was his ladies' track.
A previous iteration of Interscope may have teamed Keef up with one of their up-and-coming R&B starlets and tried to force some sort of bad-boy-makes-good pop megahit. That didn't happen. "Love Sosa" is a testament to artists' power in 2012, even at the highest levels. It's also remarkably, cinematically grim. The ominous intro-- in which we hear Keef come up with the hook, like a meta/mini making-of documentary-- could've awesomely soundtracked several scenes from The Dark Knight. With kindred producer Young Chop once again backing him, the song is like a pristine ripening of Keef's known sound. And while the track's amorous title may read like capitulation on paper, it's actually born of the same electrifying arrogance that got him this far; hate him or love him, he's not going to change. --Ryan Dombal
Major Lazer and Amber Coffman are not artists you look to for subtlety. So much of Diplo's work in his reggae-leaning project is aggrandizing and provocative, reliant on vivid, sparking yowls bursting out of the mix, while Coffman's voice often blares. Yet "Get Free" is a woodsy shoreline lap, dancehall pared down to the slowest, sexiest shimmer, so slinky and melismatic it would've fit (and probably improved) the latest Rihanna album. Coffman's vocals here completely carry this track, and the weight of the world. Get free from what? Government oppression, homophobia, poverty, society, dangerous, displacing weather? They're all there when she bleats, "I just can't believe what they've done to me," the increasingly incredulous external factors that force a person to believe in their own dreams, and dreams alone. - --Laura Snapes
Major Lazer: "Get Free" [ft. Amber Coffman] (via SoundCloud)
"If you consume all the music you want all the time, compulsively, sweatily, you end up having a cheap relationship to the music you listen to." Lower Dens' Jana Hunter didn't mince words when describing her relationship to streaming services, but she may have misapplied them. "Brains", the first single off the band's sophomore album, Nootropics, is something you consume compulsively, sweatily. The ceaseless rhythm conjures images of fingers bleeding, and the murmured verses and creeping background organs oppress with the intensity of a receding fever. "Don't be afraid," Hunter sings low and expressionlessly, downplaying and exacerbating the song's intensity in equal measure. "Brains" holds the listener in its post-apocalyptic clutches like an addiction, only to leave an empty depression behind when the layers dissolve into a single, resolute guitar at the end of everything. --Harley Brown
How to Dress Well's Tom Krell elegantly merges climatic melody and anti-climatic sentiment on "Cold Nites". Had it been on his lo-fi debut Love Remains, the lyric "cold nights and harder days" would've prefaced a descent into frayed, blurry melancholy. But in amped-up second album mode, Krell fully commits to the joy in the pain. The desire to unburden himself through song is a motif he's long reached for, but on "Cold Nites" his confidence is palpable. His newfound emotional clarity has a lot to do with that. Consider the all-star crew he's rolling with on this Total Loss standout: Krell's no-holds-barred emoting is backed by an original beat from elusive UK producer Forest Swords and sumptuous production by Rodaidh McDonald (the xx, Adele, Gil Scott-Heron). Musically, the real star of the piece-- Clipse-inspired regimented drums aside-- is that offbeat synth croak masquerading as an airhorn. It's almost obscenely inappropriate to the content of "Cold Nites", but that’s precisely why it works. --Ruth Saxelby
"There He Go" doubles as a boast track and a birth announcement: Here I am, it says, and I am awesome. For Q, that means having a house with a decent view and dressing his daughter in style. Over a pretty piano loop sampled from Menomena's "Wet and Rusting", he takes himself to the mall, gets with a girl there, then runs into her boyfriend, who’s not even mad because Q is that great. Later, he loses money betting on a Lakers game but earns some from iTunes royalties-- a minor victory made major by the sheer joy in his voice. Q isn't a mogul or master of the universe here, and ultimately, that's why "There He Go" works: Instead of superhero myth, he builds a daily affirmation for the just-good-enough. --Mike Powell
"No. 1 Against the Rush"
Liars told us the title "No. 1 Against the Rush" was inspired by the San Francisco 49ers. It's a defensive superlative, perhaps about playing not to lose rather than to win. Similarly, the music is low-key and devoid of any obvious crescendos-- it's the mellowest, most introverted Liars single to date. Lyrics about "pushing off" and "want[ing] you out," sung by Angus Andrew in a dejected hum, suggest a desire to repel and withdraw, to self-defend. But for something so reticent, "No. 1 Against the Rush" is pretty attractive. And after a few spins, the final chorus actually does seem to soar, even if it never overtly begs for your attention. It's boldness by way of restraint; offense by way of a good defense. --Marc Masters
Liars: "No. 1 Against the Rush" (via SoundCloud)