Top 10 Albums of 2019: NON-METAL EDITION

And to cap things off for 2019, our Year-End List is the Top 10 Non-Metal Albums of 2019! Artists discussed include Cigarettes After Sex, Dizzy Wright, Mannequin Pussy, Joell Ortiz & more!

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to anybody and everybody who tuned into a YouTube video on my channel, read a blog post, or supported me in any way in 2019! It means the world to me, and I can’t wait to kick things up a notch (or 10) for you guys in 2020. Have a safe and happy New Year everyone!

Check out the full video below:

Top 10 Albums of 2019: METAL EDITION

Year-End List Number Three is here! My Top 10 Metal Albums of 2019! This was a fantastic year for the Metal genre as a whole. And hopefully this wide range of exciting album I’ve selected – from bands new and old, high-profile and under-the-radar – reflects that. Above all, these lists are always a wonderful opportunity for a moment of gratitude. So THANK YOU to all of these bands for pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into their music and making all of our lives more manageable in the process! Artists discussed here include Allegaeon, Venom Prison, Liturgy, Fit for An Autopsy and more!

Check out the full list below:

10 Songs that Defined 2019 For Me

Year-End List Number TWO! This is definitely the most personal and emotionally-driven list for me to make. These are the ten songs that, for the rest of my life, will instantly pop into my head anytime the year 2019 is mentioned. This was my soundtrack to the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past twelve months.

Oh, and I got to make fun of Taylor Swift too. Even though I cut her from the list.

Check out the full video here:

Top 5 WORST Albums of 2019

List Season is officially here!! For my first of four Year-End lists, I tackle the five WORST albums I heard all year. Yes, I could only manage five. Ten would’ve just been masochistic.

Kidding aside, this is definitely the most fun and cathartic list to do! I got a lot off my chest. Check it out here:

 

Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q4 2019

What’s up guys! Time for the final 2019 installment of my quarterly Favorite Songs segment, where I pick apart the tracks that have soundtracked my life for the past three months. As I note in the video, this stuff is mostly from October and November, since December was such a ghost town for new music this year! Seriously, unless you wanted to listen to One Direction solo albums or Drake saying the word “ting” over and over again or (God forbid) The Chainsmokers, there wasn’t much for you to check out during the holiday season.

As usual, there is an accompanying Spotify playlist with ten additional honorable mentions, which you can find here. Artists discussed in this one include Cigarettes After Sex, The Weeknd, Yelawolf, Tame Impala and more! Check out the video below and I’ll be back real soon with my Year-End Lists!

Rittz – Put a Crown On It Album Review

Annnnd, our last review of 2019! I dig into the latest LP from one of my very favorite rappers in the game, Rittz.

For those of you unfamiliar, Rittz is a ferociously proficient double-time spitter from Gwinnett County, GA. His first big break came from his appearance on Yelawolf’s classic “Box Chevy” track (off of 2010’s equally classic Trunk Muzik mixtape), and Big Break Number Two came when he signed a four-album deal with Tech N9ne’s Strange Music, inc., for which he would go on to be one of the label’s top-selling artists.

Put a Crown On It is Rittz’s first album since leaving Strange, released through his own label, CNT. How does his first post-Strange music stack up? Check out my thoughts below:

Yelawolf – Ghetto Cowboy Album Review

What’s up guys! Got two more album reviews for you before List Season kicks off.

I gotta say, it feels good to talk about Hip-Hop again. It’s been too long! This LP I actually lived with for over six weeks before recording my thoughts. But in case you missed my Year-End Hip-Hop list on Instagram, I may or may not have already hinted at my opinion

That being said, Ghetto Cowboy is Yelawolf’s first release since leaving Eminem’s Shady Records. How does Catfish Billy’s final music of the decade stack up against the rest of his catalogue? Check out my thoughts below:

 

 

November 2019 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:

Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas: I was ready for the Metal Album of the Year here, but that’s not what I got. Cattle Decap lean a bit too far toward generic Death Metal and, disappointingly, leave some of the pulverizing grind behind. That being said, these guys are still quite a talented bunch and I do enjoy the record – in fact, I’ll even nominate the amazing Black Metal-tinged “Bring Back the Plague” for Top 5 Songs By the Band Ever – but over the long term, I have a feeling this won’t stack up to genre-defining releases like The Anthropocene Extinction, Monolith of Humanity, or The Harvest Floor. RECOMMENDED.

Gang Starr – One of the Best Yet: What a treat it was to see this slew of high-profile guests – everybody from Q-Tip to Royce da 5’9 to Talib Kweli, J. Cole, Jeru the Damaja, etc. – come together to pay tribute to the late Guru over some vintage DJ Premier boom-bap production. Toward the LP’s latter half, the whole “pasted-together posthumous rapping” vibe starts to wear a little thin, as it has tended to for similar albums like UGK’s UGK 4 Life after the passing of Pimp C, or more radically, something like 2Pac’s Loyal the Game, but One of the Best Yet never ceases to be a good-natured celebration of the Hip-Hop legends that brought us Step into the Arena. RECOMMENDED.

Highly Suspect – MCID: If the phrase “discount Twenty One Pilots” didn’t have any prior meaning to you, it will now. As someone who grew up a dedicated Rock fan, I always get excited when the term “Rock music” is even mildly associated with a commercially successful album by a young band, and that’s what happened when Highly Suspect dropped their debut Mister Asylum in 2015. So I’ll always have a certain curiosity here. Unfortunately, the intriguing eclecticism suggested by an album featuring both Metal heroes Gojira and superstar rapper Young Thug manifests more as a directionless identity struggle . They can’t figure out whether they want to be painfully edgy (“These Days”) or play things safe (“16”). Are they Twenty One Pilots (“Tokyo Ghoul”) or a different version of Twenty One Pilots (“Freakstreet”)? They should probably answer these pressing questions on LP number four. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Lindemann – F & M: The less shocking part: I never tire of hearing Rammstein frontman Til Lindemann’s bellowing baritone. The shocking part: F & M – a second collaboration with Hypocrisy’s Peter Tagtgren – might be better than the actual Rammstein album that dropped in May. This thing is frickin’ awesome. I recommend starting with the Industrial Metal romp “Gummi”, the radio-ready title cut, and the tender ballad “Wer Weiss Das Schon”. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Madeon – Good Faith: FOUR YEARS. FOUR. YEARS. That’s a hell of a wait since Madeon’s exhilarating, party-ready Adventure (one of my favorite LPs of 2015). Turns out the French wunderkind was hard at work these past four years honing a much more mature and vocal-centric approach for Good Faith. Whether fans will prefer this over Adventure is in the eye of the beholder, but I find the lead single “All My Friends”, the irresistible “Miracle”, and the longing ballad “Heavy with Hoping” as compelling as anything on Adventure, albeit for completely different reasons. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Nile – Vile Niliotic Rites: One of my Death Metal gateway bands is still delivering after all these years! Vile Niliotic Rites is another worthy installment in the Nile catalogue. It’s noticeably more accessible than much of their recent work, but keep in mind that when I say “accessible” I’m mostly referring to positive traits like the clarity of the production and the snappy catchiness of the riff-writing. Some purists will long for the relative muddiness of early Nile (for some reason), but I’m perfectly fine with 2019 Nile. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Rittz – Put a Crown On It: At any point over the last five years, if you asked me who my Top 5 MCs in Hip-Hop were, my list would always include Rittz. The one-time Yelawolf protege is a supremely talented lyricist with the smoothest double-time flow in the game, a knack for beat selection and hook writing, and a disastrous personal life that makes his vulnerable, soul-baring tracks all the more hard-hitting. Unfortunately, I have to report that Rittz’s first album since leaving Tech N9ne’s Strange Music (and fifth overall) is the first of his that I don’t enjoy. Whether he’s beating his tried-and-true formula to death (“Wake Up Call”), treading into cringeworthy “edgelord” territory (“Politically Incorrect”) or just sounding uninspired (“Live It Up”), this LP is spotty at best. There are a few tracks with replay value, but if you’re new to Rittz you’re better off sticking to his first four albums, as well as his seminal White Jesus mixtape. Review coming soon to YouTube. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Yelawolf – Ghetto Cowboy: For his first LP since leaving Eminem’s Shady Records, Catfish Billy continues to explore the Country-Rap fusion that made 2017’s Trial By Fire so captivating. Ghetto Cowboy, however, is a less bold and more streamlined approach. While the Folk-y guitars that populate tracks like “Opie Taylor”, “Renegades”, and “Country Rich” add a rich sonic layer to the album’s production, there are also bland (“Ghetto Cowboy”) and uninspiring (“Here I Am”) tracks that drag the album down a bit. Review coming soon to YouTube. RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed:

Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark (Metal)

Beck – Hyperspace (Alternative)

Brother Ali – Secrets & Escapes (Hip-Hop)

FKA Twigs – Magdalene (Electronic)

Liturgy – H.A.Q.Q. (Metal)

Milky Chance – Mind the Moon (Alternative)

Didn’t Enjoy:

Fire From the Gods – American Sun (Metal)

Pardison Fontaine – Under8ed (Hip-Hop)

Coldplay – Everyday Life (Pop)

 

Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N. Album Review

What’s up guys! It’s time for another album review, and this week I had some STRONG words for Metal supergroup Bad Wolves. Their sophomore album follows the rapid success of last year’s debut Disobey, which came complete with a platinum-selling cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”, as well as several high-profile tours with the likes of Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, etc.

Seeing that their lineup consists of former members of bands like Devildriver, Bury Your Dead, In This Moment, and Divine Heresy, yet they appear to be catering more towards a Hard Rock audience, I was curious to check this out. Will they be an important band bridging the gap between Hard Rock and Metal? Or is this more insufferable Butt Rock? Find out in the review below! Thanks for watching:

 

October 2019 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:

Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky: Following the acclaimed Metal-tinged Hard Rock of 2013’s Fortress and 2016’s The Last Hero, “Creed plus Myles Kennedy” changed it up for album number six, with mixed results. The uplifting, positive, “zen” (their words) emotional direction of Walk the Sky inspired some thoughtful lyrics, and a profound exploration of existential angst, but the music got a bit “vanilla-fied” in the process, to coin a term. That being said, the band’s experiments with elements of Synthwave represent some of the LP’s notable high points, and hopefully in the future they’ll explore this some more. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N.: I thought this was supposed to be a “Metal supergroup”? The L.A.-based band’s lineup – which includes ex-members of God Forbid, Devildriver, Divine Heresy, etc. – seems to suggest so. Well, I guess not. This is one of the worst and most egregiously pandering “Butt Rock” albums I’ve heard all year. YIKES. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Cigarettes After Sex – Cry: An absolutely mesmerizing second album from one of the very best in the modern Dream Pop movement. This record will become the most indispensable late-night drive soundtrack you never knew you needed in your life. And beneath its ethereal sheen, it’s got quite a visceral and even sexually-charged spirit to it. Getting into this band a few months ago was one of my best decisions of 2019. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Act: I could never get into The Devil Wears Prada. Better yet, I don’t think I even gave them a fair shake. Maybe it was the “Christian Metalcore” tag that turned me off as a rage-filed 14-year-old. But as Three Days Grace once told mopey depressed teenagers, “it’s never too late”, and that rings true for me here. The Act is not only downright vicious at times, but the tortured lyrics are something to behold, most notably the haunting portrayal of depression on the single “Chemical”. The crushing retrospective longing of “As Kids” is nothing to sneeze at either. The depth of this record really took me by surprise! RECOMMENDED.

Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave: To be fair, there was no way Insomnium was gonna match the brilliance of their 2016 masterpiece Winter’s Gate, but Heart Like a Grave is a substantial drop-off. Tracks like the plodding “Mute is My Sorrow” and the sluggish “And Bells They Toll” weigh down otherwise excellent songwriting on the title track (which pulls off the impressive feat of carrying essentially one melody through most of the song and maintaining interest), the Winter’s Gate-esque “Twilight Trails”, and the dynamic “Pale Morning Star”. Now, do I hold these Melodic Death Metal masters to an unreasonably high standard? Yes I do. This is still a good record, albeit one that I’ll be cherry-picking from rather than revisiting front-to-back. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Jimmy Eat World – Surviving: Album number ten from these Pop-Punk legends is a decent, if uneven, platter of tracks. If you stick with this LP for a couple listens, though, you’ll find a song here or there to come back  to. The most paper-thin and poppy material (“555”, the title cut, “One Mill”) disproportionately populates the beginning of the tracklist, obscuring otherwise classic Jimmy Eat World moments that come a wee bit too late on the back end, like “Recommit” and “Congratulations”. But personally, I’m gonna stick to Clarity and Chase This Light. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Kanye West – Jesus is King: I’m not sure what makes me cringe harder, a bunch of pretentious neckbeards hating on this album for not conforming to their nihilistic  worldview, or religious conservative pundits like Dennis Prager pretending to support Kanye now because it conveniently conforms to theirs. The reaction to Jesus is King has been sickening, especially because we should instead be focusing on the following: the songs here are memorable and well-crafted, the displays of genuine humility, modesty, and self-examination from West are as pleasantly surprising as they are inspirational, and the worthwhile values espoused in these lyrics are urgently necessary in a modern society decimated by an epidemic of loneliness and lack of purpose. This is another landmark moment in Kanye’s career. It’s just a shame everyone chose to witness it with their ideological blinders on. RECOMMENDED.

Mike Posner – Keep Going: Shocked at how much I enjoyed this! After – in Posner’s own words – “losing 2018 to broken heart”, Michigan’s favorite two-hit wonder comes roaring back with his most mature, well-written, and satisfying project to date. Notably enlightened, and dare I say “spiritually-tinged” songs like “Amen”, “God’s Lottery”, and “Slow it Down” show that Posner’s complete breakdown brought him an immense amount of clarity, insight, and inner peace. What a delight to hear. Oh, and his lyricism as an MC reaches a career peak on Keep Going as well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed:

Danny Brown – U Know What I’m Sayin’? (Hip-Hop)

Exhumed – Horror (Metal)

Fit For an Autopsy – The Sea of Tragic Beasts (Metal)

Lacuna Coil – Black Anima (Rock)

Mayhem – Daemon (Metal)

Wilco – Ode to Joy (Alternative)

1349 – The Infernal Pathway (Metal)

 

Didn’t Enjoy:

Gatecreeper – Deserted (Metal)

Gost – Valediction (Electronic)

Wale – Wow…That’s Crazy (Hip-Hop)