Sign up for the Word on the Tree newsletter

  • Green Line: New York’s weed-inspired rap sounds

    From Princess Nokia to Wiki, the sounds of New York's 420-friendly rappers make up this week's playlist.

    December 8, 2017
    By Ned Powley

    Wiki likes to smoke weed — the Ratking lynchpin is pretty up front about it. Last year, he sold a line of T-shirts blessed with the phrase “smoke weed in the park.” On his single ‘Pretty Bull,’ released earlier this year, he flaunts his preference for a tight zoot, lambasting a friend for rolling a J that looks like “a dad pouch.”

  • Did You See: The genre-averse stew brewing in London

    This week's playlist features the sounds of a new strain of UK hip-hop, from the cheerful ode to pot that is 'Marry Juana' to the emotive sounds of 'Hurtin' Me'

    December 1, 2017
    By Ned Powley

    Naira Marley’s ‘Marry Juana’ is one of the most ebullient odes to reefer ever written, period. Marley adorns the low-slung BPM percussion of dancehall with bleeping laser synths, topped off with a lolloping, lightly auto-tuned vocal. It’s representative of both the joyous potential that weed has as a muse and a new strain of U.K.

  • Trance Abstractions: A new wave of artists haunt the rave

    New artists that break apart the sonic architecture of trance make up this week's playlist, from the deconstructed sounds of Lorenzo Senni to the saccharine tunes of Toxe

    November 22, 2017
    By Ned Powley

    Trance is often misunderstood. Thought of as a goofy genre, its proto-EDM is seen as overblown festival fodder, which has done a lot to sully its reputation. But Teki Latex’s 2014 mix Deconstructed Trance signaled a reappraisal of the genre, opening the door for a wave of new artists to break its sonic architecture apart and assemble something new out of its skeleton.

  • Sinista Funk: The narcotic darkness of Memphis rap

    The heavy sounds of Three 6 Mafia make up the core of this week's playlist, alongside tunes from the likes of Indo G and Gangsta Pat

    November 10, 2017
    By Ned Powley

    Memphis rap is essentially the product of Three 6 Mafia. DJ Paul, Juicy J, and Lord Infamous found the perfect formula: molasses-slow beats, muttered and threatening lyrics, horror-movie samples and a laissez-faire approach to audio quality. All they had to do to change the game again was turn down the distortion.

  • That’s Why I Be Grinnin’: The sensory experience of Chicago bop

    This week, we venture through tempos with the likes of Stunt Taylor, Sicko Mobb, and Yemi Marie.

    November 3, 2017
    By Ned Powley

    In the history of Chicago’s music scene, there’s an emphasis on genres that lean on heightened tempos and angular percussion, such as ghetto house, juke, and footwork. But there’s also a jagged offshoot of these sometimes stark genres that is perfect for this time of year — when the temperatures drop and we all feel the need for a potent dose of sunshine.

  • Stoned and Starving: Songs to get lost in

    Meandering, fuzzy songs take us for a hazy journey across the U.K. and U.S. in this week's playlist.

    October 27, 2017
    By Ned Powley

    It isn’t the job of a song to express a linear narrative; more often than not they draw and color with shapes and patterns instead. Though the songs in this week’s playlist aren’t strictly narrative tracks, they all share a meandering quality, with fuzzy vignettes of city-wanderings and vast landscapes.

  • Sail Beyond the Sunset: Psych-jams with Elephant 6

    This week, we bring you the sounds of American millenium-era collective The Elephant 6 Recording Company.

    October 20, 2017
    By Ned Powley

    Few songs manage to capture the feeling of a drowsy head-high properly; the sensation of your brain lifting away from your body and taking you someplace else is hard to express. But Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘Engine’ pulls it off through meandering lyrics drifting atop an otherworldly theremin.

    ‘Engine’ kicks off this week’s playlist,