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:
Alicia Keys – Alicia: Alicia’s eponymous seventh record strikes a great balance between its politically-charged context and the universality of its themes. While a track like “Perfect Way to Die” plainly addresses the current police brutality conversation in a powerful way, it also double as a moving meditation on mortality in general. Perhaps my favorite cut on the record is the uplifting “Authors of Forever”, in which Keys teaches her audience to turn struggles into ownership, and turn pain into hope. RECOMMENDED.
Big Sean – Detroit 2: Three-and-a-half years after 2017’s overrated but admittedly career-best I Decided, Big Sean has now dropped his ACTUAL greatest project. In this sequel to his 2012 mixtape, Sean’s lyrics are as honest as they’ve ever been, his bars are as sharp as they’ve ever been, his flows are as nimble as they’ve ever been, and a whole host of A-listers (most notably Hit-Boy) bless him with the best production he’s ever rapped over. Some particular highlights include the Lil’ Wayne-assisted “Don Life”, the Mike Will-produced “Harder Than My Demons”, and “Deep Reverence” featuring the late Nipsey Hussle, in which Sean finally addresses the long-rumored Kendrick Lamar beef. RECOMMENDED.
Deftones – Ohms: I know I do this little dance every time Deftones drop a new album, but Ohms just might be my favorite Deftones record to date. As a ’90s kid who feels zero nostalgia toward the Alt-Metal craze that helped make Deftones a household name, I hear substantial flaws in otherwise codified classics like White Pony – Chino Moreno’s pitchy vocals, the dated rap-rock tropes, some uneven mixing here and there – that have arguably vanished from the band’s 2010s output. In yet another step forward for the group, Ohms keeps much of soaring melody of 2016’s Gore while bringing heavy, loud guitars back to the forefront. And once again, no one in the universe sounds quite like Deftones, love ’em or hate ’em. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets To My Downfall: The Hip-Hop world might’ve been shocked to learn that Colson Baker had reinvented himself as a discount Pop-Punker in 2020, but not me. I could’ve told you this was gonna happen five years ago. Aside from the fact that he teased these aspirations on one of the worst albums of 2017, consider the following: Machine Gun Kelly and early-2000s Pop-Punk have almost exactly the same fanbase; whiny white teenagers who love tattoos, substance abuse, and wallowing in their perpetual existential crises. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that – I think it was a smart move on Kelly’s part and the sound fits him surprisingly well, especially with the help of Travis Barker. I might’ve even been a fan….if this had come out in 2006. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos: Now in his 50s, America’s favorite cultural scapegoat of 1999 is STILL reinventing himself album after album, long after anybody cared. It’s too bad, because people don’t realize that there is a ton of interesting Manson material outside of his holy trinity of ’90s classics (Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holy Wood). We Are Chaos is his most interesting evolution in over a decade, as Marilyn and co-producer Shooter Jennings succeed in crafting real Rock anthems – the Industrial eccentricities of years past are conspicuously absent, as are the metallic edges, not to mention the Alternative leanings explored in 2015’s The Pale Emperor. What we’re left with is a stripped-back, accessible Marilyn Manson that WORKS – the anthemic title cut, the closing ballad “Broken Needle”, and the stomping “Infinite Darkness” are all prime examples. RECOMMENDED.
Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism: On their first full-length release in half a decade, these British legends add to their towering legacy once again with a blistering mix of Death, Grind, and pockets of Groove to keep it all contained. My bias towards the Death Metal-infused Fear, Emptiness, Despair era of the band may lead me to fawn over this record more than the average fan would, but it has rightfully earned its place in my Top 10 Metal Albums of 2020. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Ozuna – Enoc: I’m proud to say that my first heartfelt attempt at an album by this Latino superstar was a success. As soon as I got past the sameness of the production (a vast majority of these tracks center on that same all-too-familiar syncopated Latin dance rhythm), I was able to find some passive enjoyment song-to-song. I know enough Spanish to get by, and cuts like the Trap-infused “El Oso del Dinero” offer an interesting take on American Hip-Hop. I’m not likely to leap out of my seat at the next 20-track Ozuna project that comes out, but his sound undoubtedly has its merits. RECOMMENDED.
YoungBoy Never Broke Again – Top: I took a flyer on YoungBoy with this one and enjoyed a chunk of what I heard. It’s not the most lyrically sophisticated or the most forward-thinking in terms of production, but it’s well-executed across the board, with NBA’s spacious sing-song flows and hyper-aggression playing off one other for about an hour. Trim about 40 percent of the fat on this LP and I’d be a repeat customer. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Conway the Machine – From King to a God (Hip-Hop)
Fit for a King – The Path (Metal)
The Flaming Lips – American Head (Alternative)
Kataklysm – Unconquered (Metal)
Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? (Hip-Hop)
Cloudkicker – Solitude (Instrumental)
Fleet Foxes – Shore (Alternative)