What’s up guys! Another month, another Album Round Up. Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:
Chris Stapleton – Starting Over: When I complain about hipster music bloggers who prop up one token Metal band every year in a shallow attempt to be “diverse”, I often fail to mention that they do the exact same thing to country. And since Devin Dawson didn’t put anything out this year, their lone alternative has luckily hit another home run! Chris Stapleton’s fourth studio album in five years is exceptionally well-written – equal parts folksy, blues-y, and pop-influenced, it’s exactly what the neckbeards need in order to feel like they’ve listened to some real Country in 2020. I enjoy the twangiest moments here (“Devil Always Made Me Think Twice”, “Hillbilly Blood”) as much as I the crossover material (“Starting Over”, “You Should Probably Leave”) and I continue to be impressed by Stapleton’s ability to satisfy so many different audiences at once. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Eternal Champion – Ravening Iron: Metalheads love to champion (pun intended) Bandcamp albums because, as if listening to Gorguts won’t do the trick, it somehow makes them feel more subversive. And perhaps no Metal LP on the site got as much love this year as Eternal Champion’s Ravening Iron, with its mammoth Power Metal riffs, blazing solos, and fantasy-filled lyrics. If you love Dio’s early material but always wanted to hear meaner guitars in it, this album is for you. RECOMMENDED.
Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night: Continuing the suggestions for my readers with a taste for classic-sounding Metal, this one will ALSO do the trick! Fates Warning combine crisp production, huge late ’80s Metal songwriting, and slight winks and nods to the prog heads for a highly enjoyable listen front-to-back. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Hatebreed – Weight of the False Self: In a year where every quarantine-stricken gym rat could’ve used a stellar Hatebreed album to push us through the last few weeks until the holidays, we got an average one instead. Alongside 2009’s underwhelming self-titled effort, this is my least favorite Hatebreed album. Some of the lyrics are difficult to swallow, especially motivational-Twitter-posts-turned-Metal like the title cut, “This I Earned”, and “Set It Right (Start With Yourself)”. I also struggled with the frustratingly slow tempos of tracks like “Cling to Life”, “Let Them Rot”, and “A Stroke of Red”, which all feel like they would’ve been bangers if you just add 12 BPM and a grittier guitar tone. I love this band and will probably still put this on for the occasional run, but you’re better off with just about anything else from their catalogue. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Megan Thee Stallion – Good News: In the rap world, 2020 has undoubtedly been the year of Megan Thee Stallion. She’s been such a ubiquitous presence, in fact, that I totally forgot that her excellent Suga EP actually came out THIS YEAR! Between all her critical acclaim, her string of head-turning guest appearances (including this summer’s controversial “WAP”), and umm…getting SHOT, Good News came at the perfect time for her to capitalize. It was gonna be her Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Unfortunately, she just didn’t bring the songs to back that up. Remember, we all made fun of Big Sean early in his career for singing “ass ass ass ass ass ass ass” and calling it a hook, so I’m not about give Megan a pass for “body-ody-ody-ody-ody” just because she’s being more…err, wholistic. Her rhyming prowess is on full display for much of the album – most notably on my favorite track “Outside” – but song-wise it’s far from a consistent body of work. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts: If Miley Cyrus twerking and collaborating with Juicy J in 2013 was “bad gurl Miley: HOOD EDITION”, then Plastic Hearts is “bad gurl Miley: RAWK EDITION”. I will say, the RAWK EDITION goes over much better. This era of Cyrus feels more natural, and has produced some of her best music to date. I just eat up those cheeseball synths and crunchy guitars on “Night Crawling”, and Miley does her best to resurrect ’80s balladeering on “Angels Like You”. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a curiosity spin. RECOMMENDED.
2 Chainz – So Help Me God: So I guess me and 2 Chainz are gonna have a “one album on, one album off” relationship. He followed up 2017’s career-best Pretty Girls Like Trap Music with 2019’s stagnant Rap or Go to the League, and just when I counted him out, he came back with another awesome project filled with grade-A production. Whether it’s the dramatic Jay-Z sample on “Southside Hov”, the Hall ‘N Oates-flipping “Can’t Go for That”, or the stripped-down and sentimental “Vampire”, Mr. Tauheed Epps offers up quite the diverse, well-rounded platter of tracks here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Dark Tranquillity – Moment (Metal)
Jeezy – The Recession 2 (Hip-Hop)
Within the Ruins – Black Heart (Metal)
Kodak Black – Bill Israel (Hip-Hop)
Meek Mill – Quarantine Pack EP (Hip-Hop)
Sodom – Genesis XIX (Metal)