Introducing: Billionaire

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Few people have a better understanding about the difficulties that arise between socioeconomic classes than the Brits. There’s a reason George Bernard Shaw also founded the London School of Economics.

John Sterry (a.k.a. BILLIONAIRE) is the latest London artist to offer his take on class struggle and what it means for individuals overstepping society’s lines. “Poverty Line” meshes a lo-fi sound with a dark message, a combination that makes for a double whammy when the chorus hits. Lines like “Nobody will every love you when you’re at the poverty line” may be blunt, but the song’s minimalist, brooding sound is the perfect vehicle to deliver this kind of message. Stream “Poverty Line” below.

STREAM: BILLIONAIRE – “Poverty Line”

Frank Ocean x Mick Jones x Paul Simonon x Diplo – Hero

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Converse released this year’s “Three Artists, One Track” today, their ninth installment in what has become the musical equivalent of Groundhog Day: the track that answers the question of when summer is coming, and what it sounds like. This year’s collab, “Hero,” features two members of The Clash (Paul Simonon and Mick Jones), producer Diplo and a dormant-since-Channel-Orange Frank Ocean. These collaborations are typically an exercise in proving that the quality of your product is never based on the quality of your ingredients, as fitting far-flung combinations of sound and style together ends up delightful yet never completely well-rounded. This year our artists not only hit the right balance, but went for a children’s choir as backup, which everyone everywhere can get on board with. Sounds like it’ll be a soulful, heady summer. Stream “Hero” below.

STREAM: Frank Ocean x Mick Jones x Paul Simonon x Diplo – “Hero”

Cloud Nothings – Psychic Trauma

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“Psychic Trauma” is not only the name of the new song from the Cloud Nothings, but it’s also how you might feel once the steady, even-keeled track — spoiler alert! — transforms into a completely different song at the forty-five second mark. In one quick step it accelerates from pleasant, low key, low-fi rock to driving, blasting, cymbal-crashing punk. It’s a fantastic little bait-and-switch in which the switched-to tune is far more engaging, compelling, and raucous than the bait. Stream it below.

“Psychic Trauma” will appear on the Cloud Nothing’s upcoming album Here And Nowhere Else, out April 1st via Carpark/Mom + Pop.

STREAM – Cloud Nothings – “Psychic Trauma”

Introducing: Idiot Son

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Brooklyn trio Idiot Son slips heavy doses of ’90s indie rock into their EP Trajectory Of A Nod. Affected vocals, fuzz, and discordant guitars abound in these four tracks along with spare, quiet moments giving way to crashing walls of noise. The swaying melodies of “Oh Dee” and “Heroin Machine Love Song” are hardly peaceful when delivered with such a dissonant edge, but remain strangely hypnotic and comforting like the swirling buzz of early emo acts Shellac or June of 44. Jangly riffs pepper the record that seem like they sprang from Isaac Brock’s guitar during the Lonesome Crowded West recording sessions, with the resemblance particularly strong in the loud/quiet/loud switches on “Person Is Awake.”

I could spend days namedropping influences for the sort of distorted, shambling, clamoring jumble contained in the four songs on this release, but suffice it to say that if you’ve loved anything with messy guitars, sharp chords, melodic progressions and raspy vocals, you should probably take a listen to the pay-what-you-like tracks streaming below.

STREAM: Idiot Son – Trajectory Of A Nod

Nick Leng – Crawled Out Of The Sea

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It’s too cold outside. Don’t dance too hard––you won’t melt, just shatter. Nick Leng’s “Crawled Out of the Sea” is the quiet thawing out necessary for the coldest day of the year. Leng released this song in the heat of summer, a warmth that carries over in his track’s gentle layers, underwater bliss and slowly emerging beat. An experimental artist from San Diego, specializing in “chill out ambient drones over trippy stuttering beats,” Leng has released a handful of singles over the last months, hopefully with more to come. Until then, stream “Crawled Out Of The Sea” below.

 STREAM: Nick Leng – “Crawled Out of the Sea”

Introducing: SOLO

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Australian newcomer SOLO (Sophie Lowe, get it?) makes music with warmth and polish. That’s a difficult balance to strike, but she walks the tight rope perfectly on new track “Dreaming.” Jangling, scratchy guitars strum behind her lightly reverbed vocals, and actually form the beat as well. As the title might suggest, this is music that evokes staring up at a blue sky, lying on a grassy hill. If that’s hard to imagine in the middle of the snow, keep in mind that Sydney is plenty warm this time of year. Lowe’s voice is emotive, but soothing. She sings, “I am dreaming. You take me by surprise.” When it comes to her easygoing, but affecting pop, Solo is the most pleasant of surprises. Check it out below.

STREAM: SOLO – “Dreaming”

Wet – No Lie

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If someone took the sound of The Weeknd and put a Y chromosome behind the vocals, the result would be pretty comparable to Brooklyn three-piece Wet. Next month the up and coming act will begin their assault on the music industry with the release of a special 10″ EP (produced by them and Xaphoon Jones) on Neon Gold Records and some live shows at CMJ in New York City. With a rubber stamp of approval from the always brilliant Neon Gold, we have to say we’re very excited to see what these three have got up their sleeves. Check out their debut single, “No Lie,” below.

STREAM: Wet – “No Lie” 

INTRODUCING: Bayou

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My introduction to “Varsity Jacket” was simply, “For fans of Jai Paul.” If you throw out a description like that, you damn well know I’m going to listen. And personally, I am picking up what Bayou is putting down. Bayou is a producer, singer and songwriter out of London with sultry pipes and a knack for lo-fi downtempo beats. His work is smooth as the earlier comparison would imply; “Varsity Jacket” could have easily found a home on that leaked Jai Paul “album” that found its way online earlier this year. Stream it below.

STREAM: Bayou – “Varsity Jacket”

Neko Case – Man (Ft. M. Ward)

Indie rock journeypeople of various acclaimed ensembles, projects and collaborations? Check. Love of folk fundamentals but an even greater love of blowing up those fundamentals and pushing stylistic envelopes? Check. Purveyors of nu-Americana (Numericana?) committed to genre pluralism and deconstruction of — don’t fall asleep on me, this is going somewhere! Neko Case and M. Ward, the hardest-working alt-country crooners in show business have been teaming up since Ward’s 2006 album Post War. It makes a lot of sense given their career parallels and stylistic similarities, namely their proven willingness to make any kind of music under the sun, so long as it’s good.

Enter “Man,” which could be the soundtrack to a road trip from college radio-era Athens to Riot Grrl-era Seattle. Crunchy guitar riffs and blistering drum fills are the coins of this realm. Case’s vocals, accustomed to driving, take a backseat. The gender bending directness of the lyricism is very punk, if the smooth production belies a reluctance to go all the way down the rabbit hole. But who cares, Case seems to be saying – “Man” isn’t just a subversion of the gender binary, but stylistic pigeonholing too. Case is no Kathleen Hanna, and she’s well aware, but there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.

Tea Leigh – Rushing In

Brooklyn’s Tea Leigh makes haunting, ethereal folk-fi with close harmonies and close-to-home lyricism; if you’re not careful with lines like “we laugh at terrible things,” they will cut you. Her influences run the gamut from Sufjan to Cocorosie, but you might hear a little Mountain Man in the shimmering finger-picking and the soft but occasionally menacing chimes of the vocal blend, or the first Youth Lagoon album in the wary, youthful understatement that characterizes Leigh’s tone. The video for “Rushing In” gives us an intimate, but ultimately unrevealing portrait of the artist; sun-drenched medium shots eschew focus and in close-ups, various fabrics and hair strands protect Leigh’s face and eyes. It works: the visual and aural texts converge on an air of Sphinx-without-a-secret mystery, and the feeling that the closer we’re getting, the further away we really are. Watch above.

STREAM: Tea Leigh – “Rushing In”