July 2020 Album Round Up!

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:

Chevy Woods – Since Birth: After nearly two decades in the game, Taylor Gang’s Chevy Woods FINALLY drops his debut album. I’ll forgive the whole “baby on the cover” cliche here, because this project is excellent. Pop-Rap tracks like “Heartbroken” find Woods nimbly adapting to the newer generation of Drake-indebted artists, whereas cuts like “No Drama” come straight out of the early-2010s Datpiff era of which he was always a part, albeit on the periphery. Since Birth proves that he’s deserved centerstage all along. RECOMMENDED.

Defeated Sanity – The Sanguinary Impetus: A truly revolting mixture of Slam, Grindcore, and traditional Death Metal, Defeated Sanity’s sixth LP is perfect for Metalheads who view the genre with an inverse relationship between quality and listenability. This corner of the Extreme Metal world is where I usually lose interest, and this record is no exception, but I can’t deny that it’s intricate, well-executed, and downright disgusting at times. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Ellie Goulding – Brightest Blue: I’ve always loved Ellie’s voice, but it’s been a long time (fact check: 10 years) since that voice was paired up with a set of (mostly) good tunes. This will likely be one of my favorite LPs of 2020 to come out of the Blockbuster Pop world. Goulding’s lyrics feel personal and authentic, especially when she tackles themes of self-love (“New Heights”, “Ode to Myself”) and identity (“Woman”), and I also enjoyed the range of production influences on here, from the Hip-Hop infused (“How Deep Is Too Deep”) to the EDM genre (“Tides”). RECOMMENDED.

Ensiferum – Thalassic: Though I’ve been a voracious Ensiferum listener in the past – 2009’s From Afar is particularly close to my heart – I found Thalassic to be about as generic as Folk Metal gets. I also struggle to take the band seriously on tracks like “Rum, Women, Victory”, which water down their sound with cartoony lyrics and a cheeseball Power Metal influence that overruns their otherwise aggressive sound. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Juice WRLD – Legends Never Die: Thankfully, this posthumous collection from the late Juice WLRD (a.k.a. Jarad Higgins) comes across much more like a celebration of his life and logical extension of his discography than a cash-in. Higgins’ penchant for Emo Rap bangers is on full display here, and while I’ll never pretend to have been a voracious listener while he was alive, Legends Never Die is a fitting exclamation point for a guy who made a remarkably big impact on Hip-Hop in such a short time. RECOMMENDED.

Logic – No Pressure: After one of the worst five-year runs in Hip-Hop history, Logic comes through with a truly enjoyable “retirement album” here, against all odds (no seriously, he’s apparently retiring after this). You see, despite obvious trolling by the likes Lupe Fiasco, I’ve never considered Logic to be in the “lyricist” conversation. I’m pretty sure even Sugarhill Gang would agree that rhyming “God damn, I’m the man, do it ’cause I can” is an instant disqualifier. That being said, Logic has always been a likable guy, and when you get him on top-notch production (which is what happens here), great things can happen. I’m especially impressed by his entertaining and flippant dismissals of his old priorities on the song “Dadbod”, as well as his sincerity and honesty on “Amen”. RECOMMENDED.

My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II: Kentucky Alt-Rockers My Morning Jacket come through with a superb eighth record that feels like a giant breath of fresh air for true Rock fans. The ballads (“Spinning My Wheels”, “Welcome Home”) make up some of my favorite moments, but the twangy “Climbing the Ladder” and the stomping “Magic Bullet” aren’t far behind. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Summer Walker – Life On Earth EP: While it has a few undeniable high points – most notably the sensual closer “Deeper” – I couldn’t get into Life On Earth, as it felt more like a surface-level, choppy collection of b-sides than a definitive artistic statement. The tasteless “White Tee” is a particular momentum killer in the third quarter. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Enjoyed

Brandy – B7 (R & B)

Kiko Loureiro – Open Source (Instrumental)

Lupe Fiasco & Kaelin Ellis – HOUSE EP (Hip-Hop)

Westside Gunn – Flygod is an Awesome God II (Hip-Hop)

Willie Nelson – First Rose of Spring (Country)

Didn’t Enjoy

The Acacia Strain – Slow Decay (Metal)

Bury Tomorrow – Cannibal (Metal)

Kilo – Somewhere in Oakland (Hip-Hop)

Olive Tree – Ugly is Beautiful (Alternative)

Top 10 Mid-Year Albums of 2020: METAL EDITION

What’s up guys! Time for the first half of my 2020 mid-year list – a.k.a. the Metal half.

As I discuss at the beginning of this video, the first six months of 2020 were unusually slow in terms of good Metal (for me, anyway). I haven’t accumulated the huge stack of honorable mentions that I typically do by the time July 4th rolls around.

But don’t let that get you down! I’m still immensely excited to share these 10 records with you. They truly run the gamut of the genre – Doom Metal, Prog Metal, Black Metal, legible logos, illegible logos, household names, unknowns, you name it – and accurately represent what I’ve been raging to since January. Hope you guys enjoy these picks and be sure to comment below the video with YOUR list!

Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q2 2020

What’s up guys! Time for another (late) edition of my quarterly favorite songs segment! In this video, I run through 15 of my favorite songs from April – June of 2020. Or, in the event that you have the attention span of a five-year-old, here is a quick excerpt and here is another quick excerpt and here is ANOTHER quick excerpt and then check out the Spotify link below for the full playlist with honorable mentions:

June 2020 Album Round Up!

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:

Gone West – Canyons: This is one of the most spectacular pieces of crap I have heard all year. You thought actual Pop-Country was bad? Wait until you hear a bunch of non-Country singers (Colbie Caillat, Justin Young, Jason Reeves) give it a whirl. Yikes! NOT RECOMMENDED.

Lamb of God – Lamb of God: Half a decade after VII: Sturm und Drang, the second best record in their whole catalogue, Lamb of God came trotting back with pure mediocrity. Nothing on this record is offensively bad or poorly written, and you could give it a solid spin during a work out, but instrumentally it feels like a collection of uninspired b-sides, with recycled riffs and half-assed ideas that drag down virtually every song. The one shining element here is frontman Randy Blythe’s rage-fueled political lyrics, which are on surprisingly equal footing with the dark and introspective themes of Sturm und Drang. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Metrik – Ex Machina: I’m no Electronic music connoisseur by any means, but I’ve been really digging this record! To me it sounds a lot like the Drum ‘N Bass groups like Pendulum that I used to listen to non-stop in the early 2010s. That being said, Ex Machina does feel like a time machine back to that brief mainstream moment in the sun that occurred a decade ago for harder, more masculine-sounding forms of EDM. It FEELS stuck in the early 2010s, and that may be a significant drawback for many listeners, but I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the hard-hitting percussion, the buzzsaw synth riffs, and Tom Mundell’s song-centric approach. RECOMMENDED.

New Found Glory – Forever x Ever x Infinity: These Pop-Punk veterans played it a bit too safe for me on Round 10. The reason I loved 2017’s Make Me Sick so much was that it expanded the band’s sound into risky and unforeseen territory. Here we have by-the-numbers, juvenile songs about sitting on the same side of the booth at the diner (no really, that’s what the song “Same Side Sitters” is about), punctuated by the same old power chords and grooves. And then one randomly heavy song called “Himalaya” that feels like A Day To Remember-lite. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Phoebe Bridgers – Punishers: Wow, what a gorgeous voice Phoebe has! She’s been a prominent figure in the Alt-Singer/Songwriter scene for nearly half a decade, but this is my first experience with her music.  I can’t tell you how many late nights I’ve sat up listening to “Moon Song”, “Savior Complex”, and “Halloween”, letting her silky voice take me away from whatever challenges that day presented. I enjoy her cheeky brand of lyricism too, which is full of non-sequiturs about everything from Good Will to the cost of payphones to how overrated “Tears in Heaven” is. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Protest the Hero – Palimpsest: This is a truly remarkable Prog Metal record! Impeccably produced and performed, loudly flamboyant and off-the-wall, it’s everything (most) Protest the Hero fans fell in love with on 2008’s Fortress. I feel like I’ve been overlooking much of this talented band’s recent material (though it’s been seven years since a proper studio release) and I’m thrilled to have been brought back into the fold with Palimpsest. I loved it so much that I had to make a last minute spot for it in my Mid-Year Metal list! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Run the Jewels – RTJ4: The legendary Killer Mike and the criminally underrated El-P team up once again to rage against the machine, this time with an even more tense and fractured political climate than usual in which to voice their frustrations. Oh, and they got some help from Rage Against the Machine frontman Zach de la Rocha himself on a track too. This might be my favorite LP of theirs to date, with such an electrifying combination of content, bars, and the aggressive beats to match. If the following Killer Mike bars from “The Ground Below” don’t convince you to give this a listen, I’m not sure what will: “Not a holy man but I’m moral in my pervertedness/So I support the sex workers unionizing their services”. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Wale – The Imperfect Storm EP: Along with Charli XCX’s lockdown-themed How I’m Feeling Now, Wale’s politically-charged EP is a perfect example of the immediacy of the modern music landscape. Many of the industry’s middlemen have been rendered irrelevant by the ability of artists to simply press record on their laptop and upload songs directly to streaming services. Not saying this was Wale’s exact process for The Imperfect Storm, but the fact that he released this project – which bluntly address police brutality throughout –  just 24 days after the tragic death of George Floyd does prove my point. And it’s that instant, reactionary nature that makes The Imperfect Storm such a compelling listen. Plus, Wale’s sharp rhymes, nimble flow, and great production choices don’t hurt either. RECOMMENDED.

Enjoyed

Flatbush Zombies – Now More Than Ever EP (Hip-Hop)

The Ghost Inside – The Ghost Inside (Metal)

Teyana Taylor – The Album (R & B)

Ulthar – Providence (Metal)

Didn’t Enjoy

Eric Bellinger – Hors D’oeuvres (R & B)

Iann Dior – I’m Gone EP (Hip-hop)

Mushroomhead – A Wonderful Life (Metal)

Lamb of God – Lamb of God Album Review

What’s up guys! It’s good to be back doing reviews! Took a couple months off while work exploded. Before a historic pandemic started ravaging the country’s economy, I might’ve followed that up with some sort of whiny complaint, but I think I speak for all the working folk when I say we’re incredibly grateful to have jobs right now.

Anyway, five years after the career high that was 2015’s Sturm und Drang, Virginia Metal powerhouses Lamb of God are back with an album that they were too lazy to title. I guess half a decade wasn’t enough time to come up with something catchy. Maybe former drummer Chris Adler – who’s been conspicuously replaced by Art Cruz (Prong, Winds of Plague) on this one – came up with all the other album titles?

I was definitely curious to hear an LP that received such an immediately mixed reaction from fans. As my viewers and readers know by now, I prefer to sit with a new release for a while and reserve judgment, so that was all just noise to me. But were they right? Or do I get to go against the grain here?

Check out the full review below:

May 2020 Album Round Up!

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:

…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother: A RIPPING Black Metal record! It’s sinister, it’s dark, and the production absolutely overwhelms you. In a post-Behemoth landscape where every extreme band feels like they have to blend in equal parts Death and Black Metal in order to make a splash, Cosmic World Mother is a refreshingly BLACK METAL release through and through (with a touch of the symphonic for good measure), and a shoe-in for my Mid-Year Metal list! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Firewind – Firewind: Littered with lazy songwriting and endless cliches of the genre, these Greek Gods of Power Metal have returned to the middle of the pack for me following 2017’s surprisingly awesome Immortals. However, band leader Gus G continues to be one of the best lead guitar players in the business. Despite how mediocre the songs themselves are, every single one of his solos is impressive! NOT RECOMMENDED.

Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo: While I’ll take Freddie Gibbs paired with Madlib any day of the week (in case you’ve forgotten my Bandana love), the guy just can’t miss lately, regardless of who’s behind the boards. I love his commanding flow, his lived-in narratives, and his partner-in-crime Alchemist does deliver on cuts like the jazz-infused “Something to Rap About” and the dreamlike “Scottie Beam”. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Joell Ortiz & KXNG Crooked – H.A.R.D: As the enormous Slaughterhouse fan I am – yes, I even defend the Pop Rap-infected Welcome To: Our House to this day – it is always a treat to see any sort of fractional reunion of the group, even if it’s just for one track on an Eminem album. But getting an entire half hour project from two members was something I DEFINITELY didn’t see coming! While Crooked has always been the better lyricist of the two, Ortiz holds his own against him, and these eight tracks fly by with a heartbreaking quickness. The surprisingly hooky “Get Ya Money” and the moving closer “Memorial Day” are particular highlights. Hope to hear more from these two! RECOMMENDED.

Kehlani – It Was Good Until It Wasn’t: Kehlani literally has no other subject matter besides racy sexual encounters and failed relationships, does she? Seriously, even 2014 Lil’ Wayne had more to talk about than she does on here. But the lyrics are my only complaint about this otherwise smooth, sexy, collection of bedtime jams driven home by one Kehlani Parrish’s agile pipes. Her 2019 mixtape While We Wait was one of my favorite R & B projects of the year and this one will likely wind up in a similar spot for me by December. Still giving it some time to sink in. RECOMMENDED. 

Lady GaGa – Chromatica: As a Metal commentator, it’s difficult for me to discuss Lady GaGa without my words being misinterpreted as coated in all sorts of irony, but the truth is, I’ve been a non-ironic follower of GaGa for over 10 years . And that being said, Chromatica is easily her best record since her debut. A lazy but appropriate comparison here is to Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor – a wholehearted latter-career embrace of Dance-Pop but with subtly meaningful lyricism. The difference, of course, is that much of GaGa’s past music has been classifiably Dance-Pop, but Chromatica is the first time she’s gone “all in” on the genre for an entire LP. And she could not be a better fit vocally as she alternates between a playful monotone and a powerhouse singing voice over these upbeat EDM tracks, many of them produced by titans of the genre like Madeon, Skrillex, and Sebastian Ingrosso. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Moby – All Visible Objects:  Electronic music’s favorite vegan returns with yet another evolution following 2019’s aptly named Long Ambients 2. The production on All Visible Objects does slow to a crawl by the end of the LP, but the bulk of the material here is invigorated, slap-happy, in-your-face EDM with an unyielding knack for atmosphere amidst all the noise. Some of the afterglow of my first listen has worn off, but I’ve still been returning to it quite a bit. RECOMMENDED.

Paradise Lost – Obsidian: The ultimate album for “grey days”, Obsidian finds these English Doom Metal pioneers continuing to build on their legacy after over thirty years. Nick Holmes’ mesmerizing baritone commands your attention on sharp-shooters like “Ghosts”, but it’s his harsh vocals that clear the path for the Agalloch-esque “Serenity” and the lumbering Death-Doom closer “Ravenghast”. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Enjoyed

Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now (Pop)

Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor (Pop)

Havok – V (Metal)

Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (Alternative)

The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form (Alternative)

Didn’t Enjoy

Asking Alexandria – House on Fire (Rock)

Kygo – Golden Hour (Dance)

Vader – Solitude in Madness (Metal)

 

April 2020 Album Round Up!

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:

Abysmal Dawn – Phylogenesis: One of the finest Death Metal albums of the year thus far and a strong candidate for my upcoming Mid-Year Metal list! Abysmal Dawn combine dizzying technicality with a truly hideous aesthetic, capping it all off with an impressive cover of Human-era Death. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

DaBaby – Blame It On Baby: Jonathan Kirk (a.k.a. “DaBaby”) has put out three full-length studio albums in just over a year. I’m fucking exhausted by it, so I can’t imagine how he feels. This “quantity-over-quality” thing really starts to bleed his sound dry on Blame It On Baby, which must’ve been made quite hastily since there are multiple references to COVID-19 within it. Despite a few banging beats (SethintheKitchen’s “Rockstar”, London On Da Track’s “Nasty”, and a couple of joints from DJ Kid), I found this LP pretty forgettable. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters: Here’s a singer/songwriter – a Grammy-winning one, no less – whose work I was completely unfamiliar with until the “music writer crowd” compelled me to take a listen. Fiona’s intimate, conversational style of vocals is endlessly charming and has such an authentic vulnerability to it. From the personal narrative of “Shameika” to the downright uncomfortable “Under the Table”, I’ve enjoyed escaping into her neurotic world. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Purity Ring – Womb: God, what a gorgeous album. Everything I fell in love with when I first heard Shrines is still intact. The way Purity Ring combine Megan James’ ethereal, angelic vocals with a bellowing bottom-end and fairy dust keyboard flourishes sends me to a whole other universe. From the uptempo groove of the closer “Stardew” to the heartbreaking IDM-tinged “Femia”, this is my Album of the Month right here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Strokes – The New Abnormal: I had no idea how much I missed The Strokes. One of the foremost Indie Rock bands of the 21st century returns to the fray with the Rick Rubin-produced The New Abnormal. This was never gonna unseat favorites of mine like 2011’s Angles or 2003’s Room on Fire, but the delightfully cheesy, Synth-Pop infused “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” and the appropriately titled “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” are worthy additions to the band’s catalogue. RECOMMENDED.

Testament – Titans of Creation: Following some misguided experimentation  on 2016’s Brotherhood of the Snake, Chuck Billy and co revert to the status quo for a solidly enjoyable platter of old school Thrash tunes with a modernized sound. As usual, my favorite moments are when the band briefly flirt with Extreme Metal, as on the blistering “Curse of Osiris” and “The Healers”. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Trivium – What the Dead Men Say: As a Trivium fan for over half of my life, I am as qualified as anyone to take the following deeply unpopular position: this album ISN’T GOOD! Sorry. From the half-baked guitar tones to the Pop-Metal songwriting to the lazy, recycled solos, this is one of Trivium’s worst moments, outdone perhaps only by 2015’s Silence in the Snow. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed

August Burns Red – Guardians (Metal)

AWOLNATION – Angel Miners & the Lightning Riders (Alternative)

The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous (Metal)

Dvsn – A Muse In Her Feelings (R & B)

Katatonia – City Burials (Metal)

Like Rats – Death Monolith (Metal)

Thundercat – It Is What It Is (Jazz Fusion)

 

Didn’t Enjoy

All Time Low – Wake Up, Sunshine (Alternative)

Trivium – What the Dead Men Say Album Review

What’s up guys! Time for one of my biggest reviews of 2020.

As I’ve talked about here and here and here and demonstrated here and here, Trivium’s music has been a big part of my time for a long time.

After what I’ve deemed a “latter career revitalization” with 2017’s excellent The Sin and the Sentence, I was curious to see if the band could continue the momentum with this one.

As it turns out, I’ve taken quite an unpopular position on this record, which is always fun! Check out the full review here:

 

Name That Pantera Song!

What’s up guys! Time for another long overdue “Name That Song!” challenge. I always forget that these are low key my favorite videos to make. Even though I detest the “reaction” video ecosystem of the Internet, I totally get why creators do it, because it’s really fun to just shoot the shit about music (or other content) AS you’re listening to it.

Pantera hit me the other day as an obvious choice for one of these, as their catalogue isn’t too huge (five albums), it’s almost universally loved by my viewers, and I have strong opinions about all of it, as you’ll see in the video.

Basically, the way this works is we compete to see who can identify that most out of 20 Pantera songs, using only the first 30 seconds of each track.

And if you’ve missed any of the other episodes in this series, be sure to check out the similar challenges I’ve done for Slipknot, Trivium, Machine Head, and Killswitch Engage.

Best of luck, and be sure to comment below the video with your score!

Testament – Titans of Creation Album Review

What’s up guys! Time for album review number seven for 2020. This time around I’m digging into the thirteenth studio album from Thrash Metal legends Testament, who seem committed to only dropping new music while the country’s trying to pick a new president.

Looking back at 2016’s Brotherhood of the Snake (or in Testament’s terms, the “Trump album”), I significantly overrated it in my review. It was actually the band’s weakest release of the 21st century thus far, and I’ve been crossing my fingers that Titans of Creation (the “Trump v Kamala” album….ok fine, the “Trump/Biden/his secret female VP” album) blows it out of the water.

Well, did it? Is this Testament’s lucky thirteenth album? Check out my detailed thoughts below: