Our favorite releases of 2018

I asked my friends and they got back to me

I like to make lists because I think it’s important to remember the things that matter to me. Down the line, five or ten years from now, I’ll want to look back at the artists that resonated with me, the albums that I kept on repeat, the songs that defined moments in my life. It’s all personal — what I love is different from what somebody else loves. So this time I asked some of my friends to send their own lists. Thank you Reis, Danika, Alex and Sav for contributing.

Reis and I love to write about music and not get paid for it (ha ha). As such, we wrote a few blurbs about our favorite releases. Feel free to read or skip down the line, though I think that dude has a way with words. Most of all, I encourage you to listen to anything that stands out to you that you haven’t heard before. I’d love to know what you think.

My favorite releases

Albums:

1. Saba — CARE FOR ME

Like Earl Sweatshirt, another artist on my list, Saba seems to speak for an entire young generation through his own detailed, woven stories on CARE FOR ME. His narratives — on love, fighting, online behavior, perseverance, and, throughout the entire album, loss — resonated so strongly with me in a year filled with my own personal and at times lonely explorations. The instrumentals were as emotive as his lyrics, such as the moody guitars in “FIGHTER” and the twinkling keys in the closer “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME.” Saba is a storyteller, and in CARE FOR ME he found a formula that got us paying attention. I look forward to listening to what he has to say next.

2. Skee Mask — Compro

Exploring sonic boundaries through rhythm, in a way that makes for music that is both accessible and alien, is rare. Skee Mask did both with his second album, Compro, a strong collection of ambient soundscapes and grainy breakbeats. By grounding himself in a genre stretching back decades, the Munich producer went off in unexpected paths, such as the pulsating “Rev8617” and the churning “Soundboy Ext.” The whole thing sounds like you’re listening to it from inside a dust storm — desolate and obfuscated, completely unaware of what might come your way.

3. Rosalía — El Mal Querer

For a new voice in pop music, it can’t get much better than Rosalía, a 25-year-old Catalonian whose flamenco background makes the foundation for her second album, El Mal Querer. But Rosalia and co-producer El Guincho don’t hold themselves back. Instead, they craft minimal structures using experimental instrumentation whose closest predecessors are the club sounds from the influential Night Slugs label. It’s her breathtaking voice, however, that rises above all, somehow making the least consequential songs on El Mal Querer the most important of all.

4. Tirzah — Devotion

There is something incredibly intimate and up-close about Devotion, an album that is more a collection of demos than a polished debut. But perhaps it is better off that way. Tirzah’s voice, coupled with Mica Levi’s elemental production, is so pure that it’s difficult to look away. The effect is hypnotizing, with the repetition of songs like “Fine Again,” “Affection” and “Devotion” slowly enveloping the listener. The ultimate message — that love and heartbreak are some of the most human emotions one can feel — is overwhelming.

5. SOPHIE — OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES

Just take the sweetest, stretchiest, wiggliest, fizziest, poppiest, hardest, most metallic, most pink, most extravagant SOPHIE song you can imagine. Now make an entire album out of that. Yeah, it’s that good.    

6. Tim Hecker — Konoyo

A formidable entry into the Tim Hecker catalogue, sprawling with raw, dense and organic compositions that make Konoyo the more hopeful sibling to Ravedeath, 1972 and Virgins.

7. Ricky Eat Acid — am I happy, singing_

While it’s only three tracks (and was apparently recorded sometime near 2014), this is some of the most beautiful, shimmering glitch music I’ve heard in recent years. am I happy, singing_ breathes new life into the ambient genre.

8. Cosmo’s Midnight — What Comes Next

This sweet, nostalgic record is the best 2015 album of 2018. The long-awaited debut from Cosmo’s Midnight showcases what only few electronic artists — many of them coming from Australia — know how to do well: create carefree, buoyant pop music free from any current trends or concerns.

9. Earl Sweatshirt — Some Rap Songs

Some Rap Songs is the best encapsulation (so far) of a sound that was birthed by Earl in I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside and carried on by NYC experimentalists MIKE and Medhane. It’s the brief moments when the dust clears and his voice re-emerges (“Cold Summers”, “December 24,” “The Bends”)  that you remember why the 24-year-old is revered as a poet for a stressed and subdued generation.

10. A.A.L. (Against All Logic) — 2012-2017

These rich and soulful house cuts have been deep in Nicolas Jaar’s sets for years now. 2012-2017 finally make them available at our disposal. On multiple listens, it’s clear that tracks like “Cityfade,” “This Old House Is All I Have” and “Now U Got Me Hooked” can only come from someone deeply invested and educated in the history and power of dance music. As fitting for the headphones as for the big room.

11. Mount Eerie — Now Only

12. DJ Koze — Knock Knock

13. The Internet — Hive Mind

14. DJ Healer — Nothing 2 Loose

15. Pusha-T — DAYTONA

16. Noname — Room 25

17. Playboi Carti — Die Lit

18. Mac Miller — Swimming

19. Aphex Twin — Collapse EP

20. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy

Singles:

Tyler, the Creator and A$AP Rocky — “Potato Salad”

Ariana Grande — “thank u, next”

Sheck Wes — “Mo Bamba”/“Live Sheck Wes”

Drake — “God’s Plan”

Kacey Musgraves — “Butterflies”

Playboi Carti — “R.I.P.”

Oneohtrix Point Never — “Toys 2”

Snail Mail — “Pristine”/“Heat Wave”

Rosalía — “Pienso En Tu Mirá”

DJ Snake (with Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B) — “Taki Taki”

Reis’ favorite releases

Saba — CARE FOR ME

Saba made the best, most complete album of the year. Forged in fires of loss and newfound success, CARE FOR ME documents Saba’s ascendant career and the killing of his cousin and best friend. The storytelling on “PROM/KING” is like Chicago’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, the tragic sequel to the paranoia Chance sang about in “Pusha Man” five years ago. On other songs, like “SMILE” and “CALLIGRAPHY,” Saba rhymes about escape and coping. “Write it away, just write it away” he raps on the latter.

Mac Miller — “Jet Fuel,” “2009” and “So It Goes”

It was one of the most powerful trios of songs any artist strung together this year. “Jet Fuel” is energetic and boastful, a 26-year old rapper showing off. “2009” is reflective, but not exactly somber. “So It Goes,” a nod to Vonnegut, caps an album that Mac could only have made after years of ups and downs. On the penultimate track, he reminds us, “A life ain’t a life ’til you live it.”

The first time I listened to Swimming, it was these final three songs that convinced me: Mac Miller was about to make the best music of his life. He died 100 days after the album dropped, and at the top of his game.

Noname — Room 25

On the opening track, Noname twice asks her listeners — after dropping a couple flat-out crazy bars — a question both rhetorical and completely unnecessary: “Y’all really thought a bitch couldn’t rap, huh?” Even before she made one of the best albums of the year, the answer was obvious. The question is addressed to her legion of misogynistic doubters who still don’t take female rappers seriously. Those people are stupid, and Noname has solidified her position among the highest rungs of a Chicago scene bursting with talent.

Mitski — Be The Cowboy

It’s Mitski’s fifth album and she has, by now, mastered the art of crafting songs that make you want to dance or cry or do both at the same time (or crawl around on the beach). “Nobody” is a perfect example. Against a synth-rock background, Mitski sings, “My god, I’m so lonely.” But by the song’s bridge she has taken the word “nobody” from sad refrain to joyful exclamation. It’s Mitski at her best.

KIDS SEE GHOSTS — “Reborn” and “Cudi Montage”

These were the two best tracks from the star duo’s eponymous first album. Kid Cudi finally sounds comfortable again, and the chorus on “Reborn” announces that comeback: “I’m so, I’m so reborn; I’m moving forward, keep moving forward.” Kanye and Cudi have always sounded great together. When both are healthy and focused, amazing things happen. These songs are exhibits A and B.

Milo — “stet”

Milo’s music almost always demands multiple listens. Sometimes I’ll come back to it with the song lyrics in hand, the better to understand his occasionally scattershot references to philosophers and metaphysics. Other times — as on “stet” — I return with the volume turned up and just listen as the Milo deftly mixes the clever with the cocky over a perfectly-matched beat.

Pusha T — DAYTONA

This album might be best remembered for escalating the Drake-Pusha T beef that culminated in the revelation of Drake’s newborn son. But those diss tracks shouldn’t overshadow what was one of the best rap albums of the year, delivered by a true legend.

Lana Del Rey — “Venice Bitch”

A friend and fellow Lana Del Rey fan once told me that Los Angeles was her spirit city — vapid and gorgeous. It’s Lana’s city now, too, and it’s a lot like the music she makes. Even though Lana is now a landmark at the famous beach, “Venice Bitch” is a song for concrete California, a supercut of ripped jeans, skate parks and smog. It’s her longest track yet, and it’s one of her best ever. I’m excited again for a new Lana Del Rey album, due in 2019, and not just because of its title.

JPEGMAFIA and Kenny Beats — “Puff Daddy”

Wire-to-wire, JPEGMAFIA had a great year. In January, he dropped Veteran — an immediate and lasting contender for hip hop album of the year — and followed it up 10 months later with “Puff Daddy.” The wired song is a perfect distillation of all the best stuff from Peggy’s frenetic full-length record

Mountain Men — “Rang Tang Ring Toon”

The second album from this trio, who met as college students in Vermont, is good from start to finish, but this song is a standout. The opening seconds set the scene: “Beans boiling in the pot, I’m dancing from room to room.” The spare instrumentation lends a folksy feel. It’s a song about and far water-side bonfires, camp food and skinny-dipping.

benny blanco, Khalid and Halsey — “Eastside”

benny blanco’s debut single is that rare song that bottles nostalgia in a new, catchy way. Two of my pop music favorites, Khalid and Halsey, lend vocals to this track about hometowns and high-school love.

Chance the Rapper — “I Might Need Security” and “65th & Ingleside”

What a year Chance had. From his foray into local news and rumors about a burgeoning political career, the Chicago rapper made more headlines for his work outside the booth than in it. And maybe that’s fine, because the handful of songs he released in 2018 were largely lackluster — this one being the obvious exception. On “I Might Need Security,” the beat is infectious and playfully offensive, as Miguel pointed out earlier this year, and Chance’s lyrics are political and poignant. On “65th & Ingleside,” Chance is at his autobiographical best, rapping about the house he lived in with his then-girlfriend (now-fiancée) when they were in their late teens. All year I returned to these songs when I needed a dose of classic Chance.

Haley Heynderickx — “Oom Sha La La”

Haley Heynderickx apparently made this song in a day, the response to a songwriting competition at a friend’s house, but its depth belies this haste. The chestnutty title and refrain punctuate her croons of mid-20s existential crises with piercing irony. Near song’s end she shouts her urgent solution: “I need to start a garden! I need to start a garden!” She’s not alone.

Flatbush Zombies and Dia — “U & I”

The second single off the Brooklyn crew’s Vacation In Hell, “U & I” set a high bar for that album. Even though the record didn’t live up to it, this song was still good enough to be one of the year’s best, sporting classic Flatbush Zombies energy and an extra-long walk-off verse from the inimitable Meechy Darko.

The National — Boxer Live in Brussels

A year after the Cincinnati-bred indie mainstays released what some critics (like Miguel) dubbed their best album yet, The National dropped a Record Store Day special, revisiting their 2007 classic. Played in full and 10 years later, Boxer still drips with singing-in-the-shower nostalgia. As usual, the band sounds great live — particularly on the B side — and the album serves as a reminder that, though their recent work is great, it’s hard to top Boxer.

Rainbow Kitten Surprise — “It’s Called: Freefall”

They haven’t yet been able to sustain it for an entire album, but Rainbow Kitten Surprise has a knack for churning out well-crafted, uber-catchy songs with unique vocal arrangements (see “Cocaine Jesus”). “It’s Called: Freefall” hits the sweet-spot on my chant-croon matrix and it’s totally addictive.

Kamasi Washington — Heaven and Earth

Tim Hecker — Konoyo

Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future and James Blake — “King’s Dead”

JID — “151 Rum”

Smino — “L.M.F.”

King Princess — “1950”

Janelle Monáe — ”Django Jane”

Action Bronson — “White Bronco”

Travis Scott and Drake — “SICKO MODE”

Cat Power and Lana Del Rey — “Woman”

Leon Bridges — “Bad Bad News,” “Shy” and “Beyond”

Drake — “God’s Plan”

John Coltrane — Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album

Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar — “Tints”

Scov’s favorite albums

Boygenius — boygenius

Neko Case — Hell-On

Ariana Grande — Sweetener

Mitski — Be The Cowboy

Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer

Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour

Robyn — Honey

SOPHIE — OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES

Tierra Whack — Whack World

U.S. Girls — In A Poem Unlimited

Vince Staples — FM!

D-Worth’s favorite albums

Boygenius — boygenius

Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer

Ryan Beatty — Boy In Jeans

Mitski — Be The Cowboy

Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy

Hayley Kiyoko — Expectations

Haley Heynderickx — I Need To Start A Garden

Cupcakke — Ephorize

Various Artists — Black Panther The Album

Brandi Carlile — By The Way, I Forgive You

Sav’s favorite releases

1. Kero Kero Bonito — TOTEP

2. Car Seat Headrest — Twin Fantasy

3. Mount Eerie — Now Only

4. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour 

5. DJ Healer — Planet Lonely

6. Sons of Kemet — Your Queen Is a Reptile

7. Snail Mail — Lush

8. Mid-Air Thief — Crumbling

9. Kyle Gann — Hyperchromatica

10. Sleep — The Sciences

11. Dear Nora — Skulls Example

12. Julia Holter — Aviary

13. Yo La Tengo — There’s a Riot Going On

14. Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer

15. Low — Double Negative

16. Migos — Culture II

17. Skee Mask — Compro

18. Earl Sweatshirt — Some Rap Songs

19. The Submissives — Pining for a Boy

20. Parquet Courts — Wide Awaaaaake!

If you have your own list, or just some stuff that you couldn’t stop listening to, I’d love to see it. Send it my way via DM or e-mail at m_otarola@yahoo.com.

Dissecting my listening habits

I’m thankful to our streaming overlords for making something worthwhile and seemingly not evil.

Cataloguing your listening is an overwhelming and time-consuming affair. It’s not like watching films or reading books, where you make a concerted effort to ingest something you’ll likely enjoy. Once you’ve finished, you remember and you move on. Your year-end tally for both of these mediums probably won’t be very high.

This is why I always look forward to when Spotify releases my Top 100 songs of the year playlist. I can’t remember what I was listening to a month ago, let alone at the beginning of the year. Much of it is dependent on my mood and cravings, which go in waves of a couple of weeks at a time. (My Four Tet wave earlier this fall, and the Lone wave that followed it, were dope.) I’m grateful to our streaming overlords for using our data to make something worthwhile and seemingly not evil.

I haven’t read anything which lays out the science behind the playlist, though I’d be surprised if it went beyond “these are the songs you listened to the most this year.” My friend Brandon offered a hypothesis:

“I assume they’re roughly ranked in some kind of order but I think e.g. if your top three songs were the first three songs off sweetener, they would find a way to space them out rather than run those as the first three,” he wrote. “I think they may also be privileging stuff from earlier this year over more recent stuff so that you’re more likely to go ‘ohh yeaahhh’”.

They must have cut it off a few weeks ago, too, since songs I’ve been playing nonstop in Q4, like “Potato Salad” or “thank u, next,” are nowhere to be found. It also makes complete sense that radio hits such as “God’s Plan” make the cut, because sometimes you have to do it for the kids.

Anyway, here’s my list.

For me, this list is a cause for self-reflection. What does it say about me that “Magnolia” by Playboi Carti is my most-listened song? How did all those Rhye songs sneak their way to the top? When the hell did I listen to “Finesse” by Bruno Mars? What was going on in my life when I was bumping all that Isaiah Rashad?

“There’s more Tim Hecker and Bibio than I expected,” my friend Reis told me over text about his own list. “That kind of year I guess”.

It most definitely was that kind of year. Let’s do some analysis.

There really can’t be any explanation for these songs cracking my Top 100 other than my college reunion trip to Phoenix in March. You know what they say: When in doubt, play “Man of the Year.”

OK, I can explain “No Brainer” — that was a late-summer entry into the SOTS race, a song with production and performances I genuinely enjoy. But I really have no answer nor alibi for “Bartier Cardi.” I mean, it bangs and all, but I can’t recall a situation where I thought, “You know what I really want to listen to right now? ‘Bartier Cardi.’” The radio gave me enough of that.

I went on an unforgettable road trip along the Spain-France border with some good friends in October. We made a tried-and-true playlist for the ride, and “Self Control” and other songs off Blonde were on heavy rotation. As for “Pete Standing Alone,” I had a short but powerful BoC phase around the 20th anniversary of Music Has The Right To Children. That was also a nice little time. “Heat Wave” and “50 Euro to Break Boost” are two of my favorite songs of the year.

Let’s look at something a little more straightforward:

These songs are just Classic Miguel™. The colorful electronic music, the footwork, the Four Tet, the Bryson Tiller feature, “OUI.” Not sure if a screenshop has better encapsulated my music taste. Plus, it has the best track off an album I initially hated but grew to love over the year. Backing down on my previous statements? You know it!

This one shows some of my early 2018 love. I learned of Gianluca during my trip to Chile for the holidays, and I first heard “On My Mind” in late 2017, so it rolled over to this year. I’m honestly surprised “Droogs” isn’t higher (ha), since I played it a stupid amount of times upon first listen this summer. And Curren$y put the Pilot Talk trilogy on Spotify, so I went in. We do this for Trademark and Young Roddy.

Finally, these are the songs at the top of my list. What you can’t see is “Magnolia,” which was a consistent track on my commute to work, and “Montego” by Cosmo’s Midnight, another short and sweet highlight. “Piñata,” a regular around the Otárola household, got some more play after Mac Miller died. Why his songs off Swimming didn’t make this list, I don’t know.

That Rhye album did keep me nice and warm during the worst days of winter, and “Planet Hase” was the cool down for the summer. Like my friend Brandon speculated, I think any of the songs off CARE FOR ME by Saba and Compro by Skee Mask could’ve made the cut here.

One thing I was disappointed in was the lack of non-male artists on my list. It’s probably not a good look for my listening habits, even though albums by Rosalía, SOPHIE, Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy and Tirzah were some of my favorites of 2018. Again, it’s a time for self-reflection, to see the ways I can improve my own personal listening when nobody is paying attention.

If you’ve read all the way to the end, please share your lists with me! If you wanna talk them out, just hit me up online.

Break and break and break again

Tracks from Skee Mask, Ross From Friends and Virtual Self breathe life into classic drum breaks.

Illustration by Ben Kothe. (Thanks, Ben!)

By Miguel Otárola

On occasion, small sounds travel through time and space to become something bigger than themselves. Most of the time they are accidental — an error, an improvisation, a result of live performance. Today you will likely hear them as producer tags or newly discovered samples, such as a woman coyly saying “Uh huh, honey” in Kanye West’s “Bound 2.”

Two of these sounds come from a 1972 single by Lyn Collins, a funk and soul singer born in Dime Box, Texas, and a close collaborator with James Brown, well-known for his own signature sounds. This single, “Think (About It),” was produced by Brown and printed on his label. It features not one, but two distinct drum breaks. You probably know the first one, the “Yeah! Woo!” sample in Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s song “It Takes Two.”

Another, more subtle break happens 13 seconds later and lasts exactly two seconds. It isn’t made up of many parts: just drums and a tambourine, anchored by a man’s grunt. Though he doesn’t say anything intelligible — “dah duh — his ad-lib is an integral part of dance music. To me, it’s the perfect loop.

While doing research for this, I found a video of someone breaking down this second sample, drawing special attention to the man’s yelp. “It’s kind of fun how that little chant has become so familiar as part of liquid drum ‘n’ bass,” the video’s narrator tells us, although we know its use goes beyond that genre. It’s been sped up, slowed down, chopped up and rearranged thousands of times. Here is a particularly generous example.

Though they have been sampled into oblivion, three electronic producers this year have breathed new life into the “Think” breaks. Each approaches it from a different angle and each shows the limitless possibilities you have with these sounds, making something minuscule have a major impact.

The first instance occurs in “Soundboy Ext.”, a standout from Skee Mask’s spectacular album Compro. While the German producer messes around with breakbeats for much of the record, it is here where he truly showcases his talents, taking the second “Think” break out for a spin. As synths drift around like the air on a muggy day, he stabs the man’s voice onto a thumping bass kick, although it isn’t a man’s voice so much as a child’s, sped up to the song’s breakneck speed. He teases it (and us) in and out as chopped drums swirl around like scissors in a washing machine. It isn’t until the halfway point that those drums finally appear in clear view and the voice lands on something tangible, if only for a little while.

The second occurs in the opening track to Family Portrait, the debut album from lo-fi house producer Ross From Friends. “Happy Birthday Nick” is a palate cleanser, briefly introducing sounds we’ll likely hear for the rest of the record. One of those is the “Yeah! Woo!” screams, not sped up but stretched and echoed, zooming across the channels. The sample’s appearance is blunt and startling, conveying the iconic place it has held in electronic music throughout the decades.

Lastly, the third example takes place inside “ANGEL VOICES,” the latest single from Porter Robinson’s über-nostalgic Virtual Self project. A 166 bpm sugar rush, “ANGEL VOICES” sets out to cover as much of trance and rave history as possible in six minutes and 30 seconds. This includes three different uses of the second “Think” break. The first introduces a pounding drum blowout, the “dah duh” high-pitched and metallic, caught up in the impending drop. The second happens in between the second blowout, the drums once again clearing away for the voice and tambourine. The third transitions the song into its outro, which is, that’s right, more thumping drums.

Electronic music is often made with the mindset of progressing the genre, of pushing it into uncharted areas. That doesn’t mean producers can’t or shouldn’t look backwards, or ground their work in familiar sounds. If it ain’t broke, you can break it and break it and break it again.

RIYL

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Resident Advisor selected Ascetic House, a microlabel birthed in Tempe, Ariz. as its “Label of the Month.” Matt McDermott’s feature goes deep on the label’s aggressive, twisted path across a variety of genres, including noise, punk, ambient and techno. Some of the best nights I ever had in Phoenix were spent inside dark warehouses for Threshold shows, surrounding a pair of CDJs while Jock Club and whatever producer they managed to book spun techno and demented Young Thug remixes.

As previously stated, Ross From Friends’ debut album, Family Portrait, is out now on Brainfeeder. This record stands out from the other lo-fi releases of recent past, with plenty of variety and some touching, ethereal moments (hear: “Pale Blue Dot”). Though the mixing is poor at times and some of the samples are questionable, I’m still finding plenty to come back to here.

What are you listening to or reading? Can I be doing better? Let me know at m_otarola@yahoo.com, or even better, tweet at me @motarola123.

If you like what you read, tell your friends to subscribe: loops.substack.com.

#LoopsIsBack

New look, "Boo'd Up," Chance and more.

Illustration by Ben Kothe. (Thanks, Ben!)

By Miguel Otárola

It was nine months ago when the last edition of Loops came out. Thank you for the #BringBackLoops or #BringLoopsBack or “where’s loops” business, which actually made me feel as if this newsletter was something you liked to receive and read. To all my “Loopers” who, whether seriously or jokingly, told me to start it up again, this one’s for you. (Now we can shift our attention to getting my friend Danika to revive “mews weekly,” a roundup of photos of cats with progressive views.)

I don’t know exactly how often I’ll be posting, nor if there will be any special sections or contributors. I guess it will happen whenever I feel I have something to say or share. Doesn’t this look a little neater now, too? Now, on to the music!

In Defense of “Boo’d Up”

Earlier this month, Loops was called up on a one-day contract to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis to share my annual Song of the Summer list. To be honest, I’ve been quite worried there aren’t enough contenders this time around. “I Like It” will still likely win, but even the two Drake tracks I mentioned seem to have fallen off. (May I suggest, in their place, “Nonstop”?)

But there is one new song I want to add to this race, an underdog that could give Cardi B a worthy fight. That is “Boo’d Up,” the breakout hit by British singer Ella Mai. I won’t pretend I know anything about the origins of this song, let alone exactly who Ella Mai is. What I do know is that “Boo’d Up” is a loin-burning banger, one with the power to unite people in momentary bliss.

“Boo’d Up” sounds timeless the moment you hear it, so much so you could mistake its progression for an 80’s soul sample. It shares the same quality that made SweetSexySavage by Kehlani (who Ella opened for on a recent tour) and Yours Truly by Ariana Grande so pure: A comfort that feels detached from any time or place, as if floating above the nighttime clouds.

One particular chord progression, which descends back to the beginning of the loop, hit me so hard I had to go on YouTube and watch four different piano tutorials to learn what it was. (It was Cdim7 to Faug to Bbmin11.) Ella, whose voice is a mix of her touring mate and SZA, will hopefully have more coming her way. For now we have this song, which you will hear more as the summer drifts along. And no, I ain’t talking about the remix.

Thiel the Rapper

There are four new Chance the Rapper songs out now, released last week after maybe erroneously telling the Chicago Tribune he would release an album instead. There is one standout from the bunch, with the bunch sounding more or less like the opening theme to a Discovery or PBS kids show. “Dragon Tales,” perhaps?

The real star of “I Might Need Security” is a vulgar sample from a Jamie Foxx comedy special, the backbone of its instrumental. It’s the perfect example of clever indecency that Chance excels at, the type you can’t help but love. He also borrows from Lil Wayne, dropping similes, double entendres and playful threats to craft his verses. (You can’t tell me pre-Recession Tunechi didn’t already say “I’ll make you fix your words like a typo suggestion.”)

Chance drops a bomb in the song’s second verse, claiming he bought the shuttered Chicagoist “just to run you racist bitches out of business.” The “racist bitches,” as disclosed earlier in the verse, is the Chicago Sun-Times, which ran a front-page editorial about Chance’s custody issues last year. Listen, I understand feeling attacked by that given its placement. But maybe threatening to destroy another newspaper isn’t the best solution, especially if your goal is to help your city. Don’t you know the difference between editorial and news, Chance? This is a vengeful diss track, written with questionable intentions. Even Pusha wasn’t that mean.

RIYL

Nothing super-new has piqued my interest, though I am head over heels for the latest release from RVNG Intl., для FOR by Kate NV. It’s a clear and concise record filled with beta melodies and instrumentation, a fresh play on vaporwave (featuring K.K. Slider on vocals). I am also just diving into the experimental jazz and rap scene coming out of New York, led by artists such as MIKE, Standing On The Corner and Medhane. Gritty, heart-wrenching and surreal.

#LoopsIsBack. Who knows for how long?

What are you listening to or reading? Can I be doing better? Let me know at m_otarola@yahoo.com, or even better, tweet at me @motarola123.

If you like what you read, tell your friends to subscribe: loops.substack.com.

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