COURTESY OF REACH RECORDS

Spinning Singles: Lecrae, “Blessings”

For a genre whose lyrics are typically built off of braggadocio and pride, hip-hop has been taking a humbler stance recently. Maybe “humble” is not the right word, but amidst the bombastic bangers and club hits, a few artists have put out introspective tracks acknowledging where they were in the past and thanking those who have helped them achieve success. Big Sean’s third single “Blessings” from 2015’s Dark Sky Paradise was an eerie and spectral track which saw him shout out his grandma and mom for their support. Likewise, the infectious, gospel-inspired “Blessings” off of Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book though much more light-hearted, continued this same theme, with Chano expressing gratitude to God. So in 2017 when Lecrae releases a new single of the same name, does he offer anything new?

Carolina

The Purest Form of Adulation: “Carolina”

The Mexican music scene is highly underrated, especially when it comes to anything that isn’t bachata, reggaeton, cumbia or other mainstream genres. Right now, one type of music that truly represents art is a hybrid of acoustic and indie with a splash an indescribable psychedelic element, which not many Mexican artists have mastered. It’s the type of music that you don’t have to understand in order to sway along to it or have it end up stuck in your head like a sweet daydream playing over and over again. I’m talking about music by artists like Siddhartha, León Larregui, Zoé and now Salvador y el Unicornio. However, if you do understand the lyrics, the experience is much more lucid and indulging.

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Spinning Singles: PWR BTTM, NAO

“New Hampshire” — PWR BTTM 

PWR BTTM is a pretty unilateral band. A great and unashamedly unilateral band, but one-sided all the same. Frankly, there are only so many types of sounds a guitar-drum rock duo can concoct, and it’s not like PWR BTTM, even at their best, have been bounding through any boundaries, sonically. Ugly Cherries was remarkable more for what it was (a thrashing, vulnerable paean to queerness and what it can mean in all its iterations) than for how it sounded (pwr chords and pwr vocals that both, in turn, skidded from blared to whimpered with the click of a distortion pedal). As I heard it, their last album’s noises were auxiliary, secondary to and supporting the inescapable choruses, bleeding confessionals and brash, almost gaudy humor that stood at the top of the soundpile.

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Spinning Singles: Mitski, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alicia Keys, Steve Gunn

CORRECTION APPENDED

“Happy” — Mitski

“Happy came to visit me, he brought cookies on the way.” Mitski softly spills out the words in a ghostly, vibrating mumble, over a quick, blasting automatic weapon-esque drum machine pulse on her single “Happy” — the second pre-released track from her forthcoming, sophomore sum, Puberty 2. The track is a beautiful mystery: a queer, sad, riddle of a song. The track recounts the memory of a visit from Happiness (who goes by male pronouns) who laid her down, told her it would all be okay, then vanishes while she’s in the bathroom, leaving a mess and reminders of the visit in his wake for the singer to clean up. In the song’s three brief verses, Mitski crystallizes the intoxication of happiness — the everythingness of small moments, the sun-filled room, cookies and tea with a lover — and the violent hangover of the come-down, the desperation to get it back. However, the most haunting emotion on the track, is Mitski’s apathy about the whole affair: that she is not heartbroken, screaming or crying: just a little bit sad, as she quietly cleans up the debris: “And I turned around to see/All the cookie wrappers/And the empty cups of tea/Well I signed and mumbled to myself/Again I have to clean.”

As it turns out, ambivalence about heartbreak is much sadder than heartbreak by itself.

Spinning Singles: James Blake, “Modern Soul”

What has remained constant throughout James Blake’s career — from his basically instrumental, sample-heavy, early E.P.s, to the steady turn toward full-scale R&B documented by his two studio albums — is that he has always seemed to be an artist in the process of evolving. For this reason, I was surprised when I turned on “Modern Soul,” a song Blake debuted on BBC1 last week. A possible selection from his forthcoming studio album Radio Silence, the song would have seemed right at home on Blake’s more recent L.P., 2013’s Overgrown. Like so much of Overgrown, “Modern Soul” is piano based and melodic, but also features electronic instrumentation and distortion. All is set to the background by Blake’s soulful baritone, sounding great, but pretty much the same as ever.

Macklemore's personal politics are admirable, but his rapping still leaves something to be desired.

Spinning Singles: Macklemore, “White Privilege II”

Macklemore knows what you think of him. He’s aware that he is viewed as a lightweight YouTube rapper, a privileged thief who unfairly profits from black culture. “White Privilege II” is his response, and it’s pure Macklemore: unabashedly sincere, clearly communicated and blatantly uncool. What rubs many people the wrong way about Macklemore isn’t his whiteness as much as his complete lack of guile. Remember, this is the guy who didn’t get that it would be tone-deaf to publically apologize to Kendrick Lamar after beating him out for a Grammy.

The Sun’s Top 10 Songs of 2015

1) “I Really Like You” — Carly Rae Jepsen

 

I guess that guy finally called Carly Rae after her endless melodic pleading because now she really, really, really, really, really likes him. Unless this is a different guy? In which case, Carly Rae, you little minx! The perfect song for when you’re just getting to know someone and aren’t quite sure where Netflix and chill’s going to lead: “Late night watching television/but how’d we get in this position?” Jepsen delivers exactly what we expect from her: a feel-good, catchy, pure pop song we can wail along with whose repetitiveness is offset by her sweet, breathy voice. —Gwen Aviles

2) “FourFiveSeconds” — Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney

Just when we were thinking we had enough and might get a little drunk if Rihanna released another auto-tuned track, she produced a refreshing acoustic guitar-driven tune with Kanye West and Paul McCartney.

Pg 10 Arts Chance

Spinning Singles: Chance the Rapper, Beach House

“Angels” — Chance the Rapper

Rappers are infamous for leaving home when they make it big: to live somewhere prettier, more glamorous and more insulated. Chance the Rapper does not seem tempted by that prospect; in fact, he is gleeful in his determination to stay home (in his local Chicago) and help his community. At the beginning of his new single “Angels,” he brags, “I got my city doing front-flips, when every father, mayor, rapper jump ship… Clean up the streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play.”

At a time when rap is dominated by different shades of negativity, from Drake’s depressed narcissism to Future’s void-staring nihilism, Chance is refreshingly positive. “Angels” is yet another Chance song that is joyful and optimistic without being sappy or corny, featuring some of Chance’s most exuberant rhyming since 2013’s Acid Rap supported by a slang-laden hook from fellow Chicagoan artist, Saba. “Angels” makes good use of Donnie Trumpet, the trumpet player in Chance’s touring band and collaborator, The Social Experiment.