• The Beautiful Game: Shabazz Palaces' Enthralling, Convoluted 'Lese Majesty'

    The Beautiful Game: Shabazz Palaces' Enthralling, Convoluted 'Lese Majesty'

    Navigating through Lese Majesty, the new record from Shabazz Palaces, is kind of like adventuring your way through the new-ish isometric puzzle game Monument Valley. Like the game, a personal quest is made mentally and emotionally textural because of the careful sculpting of its attributes. In the game, it is stylized challenges and rendered vistas. On the album, it's the freefall of improvisational sounds, which can only be appreciated through dedicated study and partnership. Folded into the Lese Majesty liner notes is an actual architectural plot.

  • Marsha Ambrosius Flaunts Her Rap&B Bona Fides on 'Friends & Lovers'

    Marsha Ambrosius Flaunts Her Rap&B Bona Fides on 'Friends & Lovers'

    Ever since her days adding soulful gravitas to poet Natalie Stewart's gravely raps as part of the early '00s British neosoul duo Floetry, Marsha Ambrosius has always stood out. Since the group's dissolution, Ambrosius has simmered below the surface, writing songs for Alicia Keys, Jamie Foxx and Michael Jackson (the incredible, probably underrated "Butterflies"), and ghosting in Mary J. Blige’s waning stead with melty, emotional vocals on tracks by all the rappers, like The Game, Common, Freeway and Nas. Though she didn't musically break like Blige, Ambrosius is canonical to rap&b. Even Kanye called her up for a feature on Cruel Summer.Friends & Lovers is her second studio album, following 2011's well-received Late Nights & Early Mornings.

  • Ark Analog

    Ark Analog Warp Bright Synths Into Trippy Video for 'Was That It?'

    Every musician has a secret (or not-so-secret, thanks to YouTube) past, when they were making mistakes, finessing a sound or playing guitars instead of synths. Toronto singer Maylee Todd is a little less linear in her approach to figuring it all out: she releases bright-eyed soul under her own name, and tackles plunky beatmaking via a tenori-on iPad app as Maloo. But it's in Ark Analog, with fellow dabbler Dan Werb of indie-pop band Woodhands, that Todd finds a middle ground, mixing the brilliance of her cheery, cherry-red vocals with the beat.On the new Dirty Power EP, mixed by Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, Werb and Todd channel dark disco energy, marrying algebraic synth-loops with comely vocals.

  • Trey Songz Is Superbly Seductive on 'Trigga,' Equates Cake With [Redacted]

    Trey Songz Is Superbly Seductive on 'Trigga,' Equates Cake With [Redacted]

    With his sixth album Trigga, Trey Songz returns, ribald and ready, to swat middling crooners out of his lane. Ty Dolla $ign, Future, Justin Bieber, Drake, Chris Brown, The Weeknd: In the two years since Songz's first chart-topping album, Chapter V, a wave of mutable rap and R&B heartthrobs has crested. The genres have always had a certain lugubrious energy in common, but now, more than ever, rappers are dabbling in 3D songwriting and R&B singers are borrowing, or creating, cadences that channel popular hip-hop. It's a beautiful time to be in the club.But where Bieber and Brown lack subtlety and Drake and his ilk are limited singers, Trigga finds Songz in peak form and right on time.

  • J. Lo / Photo by Getty Images

    J. Lo Teases With Fun Singles, but 'AKA' Is Mostly Mawkish Melodrama

    Fifteen years ago, having already earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her starring role in Selena, Jennifer Lopez launched her recording career with a pair of hoop earrings, some killer dance moves, and a record whose title paid homage to the Bronx, On The 6. Flush with the radio-friendly rap production then-boyfriend Diddy had infiltrated commercial R&B with, On The 6 — which occasioned that cutting edge webcam POV video for "If You Had My Love" — presaged Lopez's longevity as a pop culture icon. While there was no hiding the fact that Lopez — soon to become "J. Lo," the leading lady/fashion designer/perfume slinger/American Idol judge — couldn't sing, she knew we liked looking at her, and she knew that might be enough.Lopez's entire musical career has been a sleight of hand.

  • Kaytranada

    Kaytranada Channels Dilla, Embraces Up-Tempo Neo-Soul

    Don't ask Kaytranada to make another remix. The young Haitian-born, Montreal-based producer (real name Kevin Celestin) did indeed rise to international recognition by way of cheeky dance-floor edits: His tribute to Teedra Moses' R&B classic "Be Your Girl" and his soulful remix of Janet Jackson's "If" brought him over a million plays on SoundCloud. Transforming unassuming tunes into joyful, percolating club singles has made him a marquee-name DJ who can readily play L.A.'s popular Do-Over party one week and a Hong Kong club the next. But he doesn't want other artists' works to define him. "All those remixes are whatever to me," says the producer over the phone from Montreal. He's at the mall with his brother the same day they've dropped a mixtape, made together as the Celestics, called Supreme Laziness. "I can’t be mad at it.

  • Fatima Al Qadiri Conjures a Cinematic Din on Exceptional Debut, 'Asiatisch'

    Fatima Al Qadiri Conjures a Cinematic Din on Exceptional Debut, 'Asiatisch'

    Someone needs to hire Fatima Al Qadiri to score a film. If all of the experimental electronic producer's releases to date were soundtracks, they'd be paired with movies that are variations – maybe a franchise! – on hypercoloured, speculative fiction tales, stories that shift between glass-and-steel big cities, desolate natural expanses, and cosmopolitan clusters of the developing world. An aesthete's take on club music, her work uses visceral tension and synthetic sound to explore ideas of mysticism and conflict. On 2011's Genre Specific X-Perience, Al Qadiri channeled the fraught tranquility of jungles and oases via steel pan synths and tense, ricocheting percussion. Lock-and-load effects echo through the sparse beginning of 2012's Desert Strike EP giving way to melodically-dense bubbling below.

  • Motions

    Stream Motions' Atmospheric Club EP 'All Gone'

    It's a common gripe among Canadian dance music producers: you've got to leave the country to really make it. Motions is Brendan Neal, a former Montrealer who appears to have heeded that talk and wound up in London. On All Gone, due on Samo Sound Boy and Jerome LOL's Body High imprint on April 29, Motions appears to have absorbed the ribosomal funk of British dance music. This is a four-song collection of deep and melodic dance tunes that bears an elemental understanding of the emotional saturation needed to keep bodies writhing and stepping in the club. (In addition to the gruff, heady click clack of "Orion," try not to move/cry as angelic sighs reach a climax on his remix of Samo Sound Boy’s "Open.")All Gone is a clean slate for Motions, previously one-half of club duo Grown Folk with fellow Montrealer Drew Kim.

  • A Tribe Called Red

    Watch A Tribe Called Red's 'Sisters' Turn Their Day Into a Dance Party

    Back home in Canada, A Tribe Called Red just took home a Juno Award for Best Breakthrough Group. It's the first time an indigenous act has won an award outside of the Aboriginal Music category. (And in a land traditionally hostile to anything that’s not guitar music, it’s the first time a non-rock entity has won in the Breakthrough category since the Parachute Club in 1984). The win was partially orchestrated by the Ottawa, Ontario-based DJ trio themselves: they didn’t even submit for the Aboriginal Music category to avoid being marginalized.A Tribe Called Red was borne out of a long-running party series called Electric Powwow, but myth-busting is central to its musical mandate. The video for "Sisters," from the 2013 album Nation II Nation, links these political sympathies with a more universal theme; getting ready for the rave (while flying a Mohawk Warrior Flag).

  • Ratking Resurrect Backpack Rap on 'So It Goes,' and It Doesn't Suck

    Ratking Resurrect Backpack Rap on 'So It Goes,' and It Doesn't Suck

    Nostalgia is so irritatingly inexorable it can resurrect even the nerdiest of musical subgenres: backpack rap. Some might claim the earnest, hyperlyrical, outré faction of underground hip-hop never died, but a decade out from peaking in response to Diddy and the rise of the South, backpackers have dispersed as independent rap has become more diverse and inclusive than ever. Maybe Kanye is to blame. Long before he anointed himself God, he was the backpacker demigod, a basement-dwelling beatmaker turned semi-conscious firebrand.No wonder Ratking – rappers Wiki and Hak, and producer Sporting Life – hail Yeezy as one of the greats.

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