Frank Ocean – “Provider”

Courtesy of Beats 1

Four singles released post-“Blonde” — not including features — and Frank Ocean still holds the title as the most elegant singer in the mainstream. His best solo track since “Chanel” finds the enigmatic singer shouting out the late Stanley Kubrick on a catchy bridge and reminiscing on a former lover on a dreamy hook backed by airy production. It’s a sweet four-minute cut and the most candid of Ocean’s singles, maintaining the mellow spirit he’s known for. The track’s break calls back to the starry-eyed moments on “Blonde” where Ocean’s direction goes adrift, working to its benefit in the same way a wall of sound would benefit a My Bloody Valentine or ambient Aphex Twin song. It’s not getting any easier to wait for that next project when he’s dropping these incredible singles, damn it!

-Julian Medranda, SSW

Brockhampton – “Saturation II”

Courtesy of Empire

Brockhampton is a boyband and they just so happen to have dropped two of the year’s most essential hip-hop records. “Saturation II” may not be as wall-to-wall fresh as its predecessor, partly because both albums feel like one extended project separated only by time and a numerical distinction, but it cements the group’s style and, more importantly, level of quality. Kevin Abstract continues to push the envelope in the realm of masculinity in hip-hop on “Junky” like he did on “Saturation’”s “Star,” joining the ranks of top-tier queer artists in rap like Mykki Blanco or Cakes da Killa. The rest of the posse put their best feet forward in the songwriting, with the members who got the least time on wax on “Saturation” (namely Joba and Matt Champion) shining throughout the project. When “Saturation III” drops later this year, they will have a hell of a standard to achieve.

-Julian Medranda, SSW

Corbin – “Mourn”

Courtesy of Wedidit

Corbin, FKA Spooky Black, is still sad on “Mourn.” But it’s not the kind of sad that sounds like shit to hear in a song like one edgelord domestic abuser who will go unnamed (just kidding I’m talking about XXXtentacion because he sucks). It’s the kind of sad that physically hurts to listen to, but sounds too good to put down. “Mourn” is one of the rawer records to be released this year, largely in part due to the 19 year-old singer’s desperate, desolate singing coming across as harsher and more intense than ever before. Corbin’s soft and understated singing, soulful as it were, is replaced by impassioned yelling on songs like “ICE BOY” and “Revenge Song.” The album’s producer, Shlomo, takes influence from the likes of darkwave and new wave artists like Bauhaus and The Cure to concoct sorrow-ridden, often bouncy beats with rich gothic atmosphere. One of the year’s brightest and most appealing albums? No. One of the best? Easily.

-Julian Medranda, SSW

Kitty – “Miami Garden Club”

Courtesy of Pretty Wavvy

Summer bops come aplenty on Kitty, FKA Kitty Pryde’s, newest record, “Miami Garden Club.” “Miami Garden Club” is a wonderful showcase of Kitty’s bonkers-ass production, a powerhouse of dancey, sultry pop. It’s fun as hell and if you like fun music and have no pretension of musical elitism, it’s an album that can easily be on repeat for days. As far as songwriting is concerned, while pop music (especially pop music noted for how dancey it is) is generally a genre where that department is pushed to the side for catchiness, Kitty delivers on that front. It’s the best of both worlds and not without its cute or funny moments like Sam Ray of Teen Suicide and Ricky Eat Acid calling in requesting one of the album’s best bangers, “Mass Text Booty Call,” during the song’s intro.

-Julian Medranda, SSW

Song of the Summer:  Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”

Courtesy of Atlantic

Instagram skits turned to full fledged flexes on Cardi B’s ferocious “Bodak Yellow.” Cardi’s thick annunciation over the skeletal goth hip-hop beat leaves no ambiguity for mercy. It’s on sight — she boasts, “let all these hoes know that none of their niggas is safe.” Cardi’s deep tonation pumps heavy bars at her doubters while remaining completely enchanting in her delivery, making for a rapturous rhythm. Her flow interpolates Kodak Black’s on  “No Flockin”, adding vigor and flair. The end result is all the women at the function scream-rapping over “Bodak Yellow’s” gale force. The song is projected to be the number one song in America trumping over Taylor Swift’s vapid agony on “Look What You Made Me Do,” which would be a victory lap for Cardi B’s come-up.

-Hugo Cervantes, CW

Bonus: Music Festival of the Summer: FYF

Courtesy of FYF

I saw Frank Ocean live and all I got was the time of my life.

-Julian Medranda, SSW




“Good Time”

Courtesy of A24

“Heaven Knows What” is a movie that made me want to shower immediately after watching it, a movie that devastated me and kept me thinking about it long after I finished it. Its directors, brothers Ben and Josh Safdie, made visible their too-close-for-comfort style of filmmaking, fearless of displaying the ills of drug abuse and emotional dependence. The Safdie brothers continue to showcase their visceral style of filmmaking in “Good Time,” a thriller masterwork relentless in pacing and execution. It centers on Connie Nikas, portrayed by the excellent Robert Pattinson in one of the greatest roles in his career, as a street-smart New Yorker trying to help out his mentally-handicapped brother (played by co-director Ben Safdie) who’s in trouble with the law. Oneohtrix Point Never’s score is a heart pounder, adding to the white-knuckle thrills with one of the best experimental soundtracks to a film in recent memory.

-Julian Medranda, SSW

“A Ghost Story”

Courtesy of A24

“A Ghost Story” is not a horror movie. I love A24 but their films often get the short end of the stick because moviegoers either forget or don’t understand that they focus on artsier flicks. That said, “A Ghost Story” is still a film that metes out dread, but of the existential variety, whose impact is matched only by its ability to instill a sense of wonder at the “enormity of time” as Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson notes. It’s a challenging film that is so incredibly easy to disregard as pretentious without respectfully taking to heart some of the ideas it posits. Seeing Rooney Mara eat pie for what feels like an eternity fucking sucks, I won’t deny that, and having some of the film’s core ideas being presented in a scene that feels like thematic exposition is less than ideal for a film that is otherwise immaculate and full of awe. And that sense of awe is what makes “A Ghost Story” such an enjoyable experience.

-Julian Medranda, SSW

“Baby Driver”

Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

Edgar Wright continues to prove why he’s one of the most exciting filmmakers working in the mainstream film industry today. “Baby Driver” is the most fun one could have had in a theater this whole year, just short of watching Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” and hearing all the pissed-off viewers express their distaste for it. It’s a film that glides smoothly through its two-hour runtime with an intense pacing, not unlike everything Wright’s put out before. Per Wright’s standards, “Baby Driver” is smartly written and makes ample jokes with over-the-top set pieces and mushy romantic plots. Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm are antagonistic wildcards that are a pleasure to catch on screen, and Ansel Elgort surprises in his suave role as the titular Baby.

-Julian Medranda, SSW

Movie of the Summer: “IT”

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

“IT” did to the box office what Mayweather did to McGregor (is that topical enough?). Its success was enormous due to its smart marketing and the cult status of the source material. While Tim Curry can not and will never be replaced as the iconic demonic clown Pennywise, Bill Skarsgard took the role on and ensured that Stephen King’s character would be done justice. More importantly, the kids in the film make the coming-of-age aspect of the film such a treat to watch. The humor provides some tranquility and a nice a cushion for audiences to fall back on from the horrors meted out by It. Which brings us the point that “IT,” as solid a film as it is, embodies the worst of horror movies. Jumpscare, jumpscare, jumpscare. It’s telling that the film with the most buzz this year also happens to be poisoned by the industry’s preference for stupid scares; what’s worse is how creepy the atmosphere is before said jumpscare that pairs with an equally stupid loud startling noise. In all its god-awful stupid horror cliches, “IT” is still the film that took the world by storm this summer and one that will be exciting to revisit if for nothing else but to revisit the wonderful cast of children.

-Julian Medranda, SSW

Bonus: Worst Movie to Watch With Grandma*: “Kuso”

Courtesy of Brainfeeder Films

This movie stinks. Literally.   * or by yourself

-Julian Medranda, SSW