Jack Larsen Credit: Brittany McPherson

About six months before rapper-producer Kevin Abstract launched wildly popular hip-hop boy band Brockhampton in early 2015, he dropped his debut mixtape, MTV1987. Abstract had tapped a few guests to contribute vocals, including an aspiring pop artist from Chicago’s west suburbs named Jack Larsen—that’s him singing the sublime hook for “27.” Larsen has since joined the roster of Chicago hip-hop label Closed Sessions, and in October it released his ambitious debut album. Larsen had battled repeated respiratory infections as he started sketching out its songs, and earlier this year he discovered that his illness was caused by mold growing in his apartment. In response, Larsen decided to call the record Mildew, but despite that grimy title, his ornate, trippy pop gleams so bright that it seems pristine and indestructible. He processes his vocals till they shimmer, which makes it hard to understand what he’s singing—thus inviting repeated listens as surely as his beatific instrumentals do. Larsen’s songs are so dreamy it sometimes he sounds like he’s trying to lull you to sleep, but he also understands pop’s power to rejuvenate—whatever he struggled through to make Mildew, he emerged sounding sharp and confident.   v