Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q4 2020

Happy holidays everybody! It’s time for our fourth and final quarterly songs playlist of the year!

As usual, October was insane for new music and a good chunk of these tracks come from that period. Lots of of Hip-Hop made it in this time around, and we’ve also got representation from the worlds of EDM, Hard Rock, Pop, Country, and whatever the fuck you call that amazing Greg Puciato song “Temporary Object”.

You can find the full Spotify playlist with honorable mentions below the video, and I can’t wait to share my Year End Lists with you guys!!

November 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:

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.

Enjoyed

Dark Tranquillity – Moment (Metal)

Jeezy – The Recession 2 (Hip-Hop)

Within the Ruins – Black Heart (Metal)

Didn’t Enjoy

Kodak Black – Bill Israel (Hip-Hop)

Meek Mill – Quarantine Pack EP (Hip-Hop)

Sodom – Genesis XIX (Metal)

NAME THAT CHILDREN OF BODOM SONG!

What’s up guys! It’s about time for another “Name That Song” contest!

For this episode we’re competing with Children of Bodom, one of the top bands of my adolescence. This was an absolute blast to do and we got lucky because a LOT of deep cuts popped up. After all, you don’t want too many softballs. So if you’re a fan of the band this is a must-watch!

Of course, be sure to comment below the video with your score and see if you beat me!

And this is a good time to mention that if you haven’t yet, be sure to do the Slipknot one, the Lamb of God one, the Pantera one, the Trivium one, and….I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple but head over to my YouTube channel for the rest!

Discography Ranking: System of a Down

What’s up, guys! I am beyond excited to share this video. Please join me for a deep dive into the catalogue of Armenian Alt-Metal legends System of a Down!

FAIR WARNING: my picks here are extremely unpopular among the typical System fan, which is the kind of thing that, quite frankly, makes me overjoyed. What’s the fun in agreeing with each other on everything? My hope is that you’ll find my rationales entertaining, and be sure to comment below the video with YOUR personal ranking!

I hope you guys enjoy and thank you so much for watching!

October 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:

Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment: A significant improvement over 2018’s slightly dumbed-down A New Kind of Horror, one of my favorite Extreme Metal bands of all time comes roaring back with a powerful 11th album. It may not be as essential as 2001’s Codex Necro or 2009’s In the Constellation of the Black Widow, but stellar highlights on here like “The Age of Starlight Ends”, “Punish Them”, and the title track showcase the group’s unique ability to find bright melodies in the most chaotic of places. Meanwhile, there are songs like “Singularity” that simply hit like a sledgehammer. My bias is surely showing, but this is gonna be one of my favorite Metal records of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Ariana Grande – Positions: In the eyes of the public, Ariana Grande has been virtually incapable of wrongdoing for at least half a decade. Dangerous Woman, Sweetener, and thank u, next in particular have achieved the difficult combination of extraordinary popularity among the masses, and accolades among the stuffiest of critics. Listening to Positions, I get the sense there’s gonna be more mixed opinions on this one – I, for one, can’t get into how surface level the record feels. The hypersexualized sophomoric moments like “34 + 35” (69, get it! You can almost hear Billy Madison yelling it in a classroom) are a bit much, and “Nasty” finds Grande overselling her Kehlani impression. The title track, the classy and understated “Motive” and a couple other moments stick, but the LP as a whole is spotty at best. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Benny the Butcher – Burden of Proof: As if being a lyrical powerhouse in his own right wasn’t enough, Benny continues to attract enviably high-level performances from the perfect guests – everybody from Lil’ Wayne (in one of his best post-2010 verses) to Freddie Gibbs to Rick Ross steps up to round out this project. Hit-Boy – who is having one of the best years of any producer in recent memory – also provides a fitting set of backdrops that range from soul-driven (“One Way Flight”, “Thank God I Made It”, “New Streets”) to rousing boom bap (title cut, “Legend”). RECOMMENDED.

Carcass – Despicable EP: These Liverpool legends took seven years to release a four-song EP that sounds exactly like Surgical Steel, so I can’t sit here and pretend to be over the moon. That being said, all four of these tracks are solid, and I’m still holding out for their next full-length Torn Arteries, which is due in 2021. RECOMMENDED.

Corey Taylor – CMFT: I’ve always maintained that I love people who “earn” their egos, which is why I’ve never had any animus towards Slipknot’s talented, self-obsessed frontman and his nonstop Blabbermouth headlines. I was happy to see him completely indulge himself here with a proper solo album, even if the results are a bit mixed. The blues-driven Hard Rock of cuts like “Halfway Down” and “Samantha’s Gone”, along with the occasional Stone Sour-esque Octane radio moment like “Black Eyes Blue”, represent the high points, while Taylor attempting to rap his way through his own 2002-era wrestling theme on “CMFT Must Be Stopped” is the kind of thing you wish you could un-hear. RECOMMENDED.

Pallbearer – Forgotten Days: I’m continually impressed with the ability of these beloved Doom Metallers to crank out albums that are as layered and intelligent as they are dirge-y and foreboding. Forgotten Days is the funeral that you drive through a thunderstorm to attend. And Randall Dunn’s production walks a balance not unlike that of the songwriting, between dirty and polished, hideous and refined. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Devildriver – Dealing With Demons I: Even though everything I listened to growing up SOUNDED just like Devildriver, they never released an album that completely connected with me. Maybe a song or two here and there. That’s why it’s so strange that as a grown-ass man, the first full Devildriver record I’ve truly enjoyed is this one. Granted, it’s Part One of a double album, and it JUST starts to wear out its welcome by the end. But since Dez and co were smart enough to release each part separately, they get credit for a tight ten-track outing with enough Extreme Metal-tinged brutality (“Keep Away From Me”), surprisingly melodic moments (“Wishing”) and New Wave of American Heavy Metal standards (“Nest of Vipers”, the title cut) to keep you engaged throughout. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Rittz – Picture Perfect: I know I didn’t particularly love my favorite Strange Music alum’s last record, but he bounces back here with a more lighthearted set of tracks that dial back the campy melodrama just a tad and welcome a few exciting features into the fold. The stomping “Bring Me Down” is one of my favorite instrumentals I’ve ever heard Rittz on (and Merkules and Snak the Ripper both slaughter their guest verses), while the metallic Tech N9ne-assisted title track and the dreamy Last Call-esque “Pain Killers and Paint Colors” are instant favorites as well. RECOMMENDED.

Enjoyed

Armored Saint – Punching the Sky (Metal)

Bring Me the Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror EP (Rock)

Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator of God (Alternative/Experimental)

Necrophobic – Dawn of the Damned (Metal)

Spirit Adrift – Enlightened in Eternity (Metal)

Venom Prison – Primeval (Metal)

Didn’t Enjoy

Enslaved – Utgard (Metal)

Gorillaz – Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (Alternative)

Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo (Metal)

Sevendust – Blood and Stone (Rock)

Smoke DZA – Homegrown (Hip-Hop)

Essential Metal: Def Leppard – High ‘N’ Dry

What’s up guys! I am super excited to be back with another installment of my Essential Metal series, where I unpack must-listen albums from across the Metal spectrum.

Today we’re going old school with Def Leppard’s sophomore release High ‘N’ Dry, an album that – as discussed below – foreshadows the entire ’80s Metal explosion in one tight 42-minute seesaw of AC/DC-esque Blues Rock and forward-thinking New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Check out my full thoughts on this classic record below. Thanks for watching!

Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q3 2020

What’s up guys! Time for our third quarterly songs “playlist” of 2020!

Referring to it as a “playlist” is particularly suspect this time around, because the songs are so diverse and have virtually nothing to do with one another – there is absolutely NO way they would flow together continuously! Of course, I’m glad that’s the case since I use these videos to (hopefully) expose my viewers to wide array of new music they might’ve otherwise skipped over.

That being said, the full Spotify playlist with 10 honorable mentions can be found below, in the (unlikely) event that you’re in the mood to hear Willie Nelson and Marilyn Manson back-to-back on shuffle. I hope you guys enjoy the video and let me know in the comments which songs are your favorite!

September 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:

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.

Enjoyed

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)

Didn’t Enjoy

Cloudkicker – Solitude (Instrumental)

Fleet Foxes – Shore (Alternative)

August 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:

Aluna – Renaissance: No George, just Aluna this time. As one half of the duo responsible for smashes like “You Know You Like It”, Aluna sets out to prove herself as a formidable solo artist, to mixed results. Renaissance feels like she’s trying to be a “renaissance woman” of popular music – mixing piano balladry with Reggae (“Surrender”), experimenting with the sounds of Trap (“Off Guard”), Dancehall rhythms (“Back Up”), and a little bit of Disclosure-lite (“Body Pump”). It doesn’t feel like an album as much as it does a collection of disparate singles. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Avatar – Hunter Gatherer: Avatar pack a compelling, eclectic fusion of Trad Metal, Groove Metal, the Melodeath of their native Sweden, and a whole lot more into the 45-minute runtime of Hunter Gatherer. Despite all the hype behind its predecessor, 2018’s Avatar Country, this just might be my favorite release from the band to date. There’s a little something for every type of Metalhead to enjoy. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Dave East – Karma 3: This Harlem-born Nas protege – much like his idol these days – has stagnated on recent projects. What I hear on Karma 3 is a less complex and less tuneful version of early 2010s J. Cole – that is, transparently indebted to the giants of the ’90s without bringing anything new or original to the lyrical equation. For much of this LP, I find myself able to finish Dave’s rhymes before he does, and since he doesn’t bring a ton in the way of hooks, I’m not left with any reason to return to it. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Disclosure – Energy: I can’t believe this is only Disclosure’s third album! It feels like they’ve been a central fixture in Electronic music for so long. They delivered again on here, with a healthy mix of fantastic guests (Kehlani’s appearance on “Birthday” is my favorite), deep grooves (“Douha”), and chart-ready bops (“Watch Your Step”). RECOMMENDED.

Kiesza – Crave: Infectious Pop euphoria abounds on this short-but-sweet sophomore full-length from Canada’s Kiesza. The opening cut “Run Renegade” sets the tone with its ’80s throwback aesthetic and hard-hitting percussion, and Crave never lets up from there. With its concise nine tracks, it never has time to be boring anyhow. “Sky Ain’t the Limit” would make M83 proud (although does The Weeknd get a check for that vocal line from “Starboy”?) and the single “Love Me With Your Lie” is also likely to reel listeners in on the first go ’round. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Nas – King’s Disease: One of my Top 5 (maybe Top 3?) MCs of all time, and I have to admit that he’s past his prime at this point. 2012’s Life is Good is the last great Nas album. While the Kanye-helmed, partially-completed mess of 2018’s Nasir has been outdone tenfold on King’s Disease – due in no small part to Hit-Boy’s earworm production – it’s difficult to find any meaty lyrical theme or narrative to grab onto here. Nas is living purely off nostalgia with tracks like “Car #85” and “Full Circle”, and when artists like Lil’ Durk or A$AP Ferg pull him bleary-eyed into the present, he just doesn’t have much to say. The Nas I love is part storyteller, part provocateur, and part wisdom, and I didn’t get much of any of that from King’s Disease. Between the great beats and Nasir’s consistent flow, I can’t say anything nakedly bad about the album, but I’m relatively indifferent. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Ulver – Flowers of Evil: We still love them for the Black Metal they made almost thirty years ago, but the truth is that Ulver’s foray into Depeche Mode-influenced, synth-driven Pop music has been just as interesting. Flowers of Evil is about as gothic and dramatic as a Pop record can get while still somewhat warranting that categorization (cuts like “Russian Doll” and “Nostalgia” especially make the case), and although a lot of the grooves end up sounding familiar by the end of the LP, I’ve found myself returning to it constantly, if occasionally merely out of intrigue. RECOMMENDED.

Victoria Monet – Jaguar: While this may be just one of three installments that will comprise Monet’s long-awaited debut album, these nine tracks alone amount to one of the best R & B releases of 2020. The irresistible “Experience” is an instant favorite, as is the title cut with its blaring horns, but it’s the softer moments that say even more, like the sensual “Touch Me” and the relationship drama in “Go There With You”. I’m blown away by everything about Victoria Monet on here – her voice, her versatility, her well-crafted and incisive lyric-writing….I can’t WAIT for part two and three! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Enjoyed

Death By Stereo – We’re All Dying Just in Time (Punk)

The Front Bottoms – In Sickness & In Flames (Alternative)

John Petrucci – Terminal Velocity (Instrumental)

The Killers – Imploding the Mirage (Alternative)

Lovelytheband – Conversations With Myself About You (Alternative)

Onslaught – Generation Antichrist (Metal)

Didn’t Enjoy

Incantation – Sect of Vile Divinities (Metal)

Top 10 Mid-Year Albums of 2020: NON-METAL EDITION

Better late than never! I’m back on the horse this week with part two of my Mid-Year list (you can check out part one here!).

It was an interesting experience putting a list together in late June (i.e. when this video was supposed to come out) and filming it two months later. So much has happened this Summer that it felt like trying to explain what a past version of myself thought!

Luckily for me, June 2020 Ryan and Labor Day Weekend Ryan have very similar music taste. In other words, I don’t evolve that much.

Kidding aside, I found that these ten records are still a perfect representation of what I’ve been listening to so far in 2020, and I hope you guys enjoy my commentary and find an album or two to add to your life!