Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q1 2020

What’s up guys! First of four of these bad boys for 2020. Can you believe we’re already over 25 percent through the year? I know this COVID shit has put quite a damper on things as of late, but I personally had a fantastic quarter – personally, professionally, and of course, musically!

There’s been ton of great music to get excited about . Hip-Hop in particular is already having a better year than 2019, which was a significantly below average year for the genre, at least from where I was sitting.

Artists discussed in this installment include: Jay Electronica, Pet Shop Boys, Grimes, Joywave & more! And be sure to check out the accompanying Spotify playlist for honorable mentions!

Essential Metal: Between the Buried and Me – Colors

It’s funny – despite the fact that I don’t actually listen to that much Progressive Metal, a huge chunk of my desert island Metal albums happen to fall under the Prog umbrella. Scenes from a Memory, Blackwater Park, Operation: Mindcrime, Temple of Shadows, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son….and yes, Between the Buried and Me’s 2007 masterpiece, Colors.

I think it’s mostly because Prog bands put so much more effort into ALBUMS as complete bodies of work. An ALBUM is the perfect vehicle for an ambitious narrative concept, for densely layered tracks that reward multiple listens, and for the occasional detour into instrumental fireworks for its own sake. These are all things that Prog bands excel at. They’re things that work great in the context of an album, but work terribly from the perspective of a record label trying to sell singles. So as a result, a lot of the greatest ALBUMS – when considered front-to-back and not as a consequence of their hits – come from the Prog world.

Colors is an incredibly special album. There’s nothing quite like the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to Metal that BTBAM adopt on these eight tracks. And it was important to me to at least ATTEMPT to convey that. I poured my heart out trying explain why I love this fucking record so much, and I hope you guys enjoy it! Full video here:

 

 

 

Code Orange – Underneath Album Review

You knew I couldn’t let this one go unreviewed!

Three years ago, Code Orange wowed every hipster music critic on planet Earth who needed a token Metal band to prop up – but underwhelmed me – with Forever. Now it’s a new decade, and the Pittsburgh Metalcore outfit is back with major label release numero dos. Does it live up to the exorbitant Hipster Hype? Or is it another intriguing but directionless mishmash of abrasive Hardcore, tepid Alt-Metal, and sporadic Industrial flourishes, like its predecessor? Full review below:

 

Body Count – Carnivore Album Review

What’s up guys! New releases are really starting to heat up now. Back for album number seven is Ice-T’s Metal band Body Count, whose last record Bloodlust I reviewed quite favorably  – and to this day get more feedback than any other video from viewers who got turned on to the band through the positive things I had to say about them. Which is awesome – that’s why I do this!

The only remaining question is: can Body Count follow that up with something equally strong? Singles like “Bum-Rush” sure seemed to point in a positive direction. But does all of Carnivore deliver? Watch the full review here:

 

Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man Album Review

The Ozzman Returneth! Well, sorta.

As I discuss below, Ozzy Osbourne’s 12th studio album is a complete standalone effort in his 40-year solo discography. It doesn’t share the sound of his other albums, it doesn’t share any of the personnel of his other albums, it doesn’t share the emotional messages of his other albums…it’s a truly singular moment for the legendary Heavy Metal frontman.

That being said, is the uniqueness of Ordinary Man a good thing or a bad thing? Considering I haven’t liked a single Ozzy Osbourne album not made in the ’80s, do the Roaring ’20s signal a new era for him? Watch the full review below:

 

AVENGED SEVENFOLD: Top 10 Deep Cuts!

One more Avenged Sevenfold video! That Diamonds in the Rough re-release really has me on a roll.

This is one of the best videos I’ve ever done, and a must-watch for Avenged fans! After much deliberation (don’t worry, honorable mentions are included) I dig into my picks for the 10 best deep cuts in the A7x catalogue. From Sounding the Seventh Trumpet to Diamonds in the Rough to The Stage, this is a comprehensive trip through the band’s discography for their most devout fans to enjoy.

Watch the full video here:

Suicide Silence – Become the Hunter Album Review

What’s up guys! You knew I HAD to cover this one. Three years after the unmitigated disaster that was the 2017 self-titled record, Deathcore leaders Suicide Silence are back and looking for redemption.

After the self-titled LP triggered so much backlash (some of which included the band tussling with their own fans online), I was curious to see how they bounced back. Two potential mistakes they could make here are a) double down on this heavily criticized new direction, or b) run scared and play things too safe, resulting in a borefest.

Did they manage to avoid these pitfalls? Here is my full review of ‘Become the Hunter’:

 

Discography Ranking: Nevermore

This is without question one of my favorite videos I’ve ever done! I take a deep dive into the catalogue of Seattle Metal legends Nevermore, ranking their albums from Worst to Best. Admittedly, #7 and #1 were actually pretty easy to place, and the rest of the spots were quite the struggle! Really hope you guys enjoy this, whether you’re brand new to Nevermore and want advice on how to navigate their catalogue, or you’re a longtime fan looking to yell at me in the comments section over my picks. Watch the full video below:

Avenged Sevenfold – Diamonds in the Rough: The Four ESSENTIAL Songs!

What’s up, guys! Happy album release day to all of you.

As usual, most of the music I’m diving into today is brand spankin’ new (Green Day, Sepultura, Galantis, God Dethroned, etc.), but I can’t shake this strange feeling that I’m in some sort of time machine….

That’s because even though last I checked it’s February 2020, Avenged Sevenfold are releasing a b-sides album for their 2007 self-titled album. Nearly 13 years too late.

OK, that’s not entirely true. They’re repackaging and updating 2008’s Diamonds in the Rough for streaming services, and even including one brand new unreleased song for good measure.

Since there’s undoubtedly a lot of Gen Z A7x fans who didn’t even know these songs existed, I figured it’d be fun to take a trip down memory lane and dissect what I believe are the four essential tracks from this rarities collection. Because contrary to what the band clearly believe, some of the material on Diamonds in the Rough was completely worthy of inclusion on the self-titled album. But of course, that’s for us to debate!

You can find the full video here:

 

January 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:

Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic: An absolute delight for old school Thrash Metal fans! Jeff Waters and co. come through with a ferocious album that, while sucking you into the genre’s late ’80s heyday, still feels modern and exciting in terms of production and performances. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Bleed the Sky – This Way Lies Madness: The first album in nearly twelve years from this reformed Orange County Metal act is a (borderline embarrassing) high-speed collision between the Deathcore sounds of 2008 and the Metalcore sounds of 2004. And yes, it’s just as monotonous and redundant as you’re imagining in your head right now. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Echosmith – Lonely Generation: My first new love of 2020! Echosmith are an indie act I was unfamiliar with prior to this album, but the opening one-two punch of the title cut and “Diamonds” immediately won me over. Frontwoman Sydney Sierota’s voice is irresistible, especially when placed against the dream-like backdrop of tracks like “Stuck” and “Scared to Be Alone” (the latter showcasing her impressive falsetto). I’ll forgive the mawkish ballad “Everyone Cries”, which is a minor speed bump halfway through an otherwise smooth ride. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Eminem – Music To Be Murdered By: In 2020, hating on Eminem has become the path of least resistance amongst music critics. In fact, it’s become almost as trendy as it was to constantly fellate him as the “GOAT” in 2013. But the truth is, there are a lot of worthwhile tracks on here. Hearing Em spazz on the ferocious opener “Premonition”, hearing him weave together an impressively intricate double entendre in the song “Darkness”…these are direct answers to the (justified) criticism of his last half a decade of material. But here’s the best part about Music to Be Murdered By that no one is mentioning: THE FEATURES!! Eminem actually raps alongside a bunch of great MCs here. Think back to albums like RecoveryRelapse, MMLP2, etc – these are LPs with ONE significant rap feature apiece. Now contrast that with Music to Be Murdered By. Hearing a reunited Slaughterhouse, Young M.A., Q-Tip, Black Thought, and a whole host of others going toe-to-toe with Marshall was what truly differentiated this one. RECOMMENDED.

Ke$ha – High Road: Here’s an early contender for my “Worst Albums of 2020” list this December. It’s a truly disastrous combination of repellent immaturity, cheap hypersexuality, and genuinely poor songwriting. I’m glad I’m not a parent of middle-school aged children because if I were, I’d be seriously concerned about them being exposed to something like this, if not for the damage it might do to their ears than for its repulsive worldview. A shame because I (not so secretly) enjoyed some tracks on her last album. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Moneybagg Yo – Time Served: HERE’S a surprise! Who said I didn’t enjoy any newer Trap?? Though Future’s many babies often bore me to tears, Moneybagg’s flow is  nimble, his bravado is magnetic, and his beat selection is excellent. Favorites on here include “Federal Fed” (with his musical daddy, Future), the lovestruck “Match My Fly”, the Jay-Z-esque “Thug Cry”, and opener “Speak 4 Em”. RECOMMENDED.

Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot: Do these synth-pop legends ever disappoint? I know it’s only January, but the radiant single “Happy People” will likely be one of my Songs That Defined 2020. I can’t get enough of it. And the Years & Years collaboration “Dreamland”, the acoustic tinged slow jam “Burning the Heather”, and the Eurythmics-esque “I Don’t Wanna” are all dangerously close behind. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Selena Gomez – Rare: As I maybe should’ve expected, I was bored out of my mind with this one. Selena’s sound is so plain and interchangeable that any of these songs could’ve easily been recorded by Camila Cabello and I wouldn’t have known the difference. I partially blame songwriter Julia Michaels, who had a hand in some of the most forgettable moments on Rare (“Fun”, “Look at Her Now”), as well as Justin Tranter, who’s been responsible for plenty a torturous moment in the modern Pop landscape (Halsey’s “Bad at Love”, Maroon 5’s “Help Me Out”, and  Imagine Dragons all come to mind). I admire Selena’s resilience in the face of her personal demons, but I wish she had surrounded herself with collaborators capable of helping her channel them into songs with more depth. NOT RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed

Lorna Shore – Immortal (Metal)

Mac Miller – Circles (Hip-Hop)

Poppy – I Disagree (Pop/Metal)

Russ – Shake the Snow Globe (Hip-Hop)

Didn’t Enjoy

Krewella – Zer0 (Dance)

Little Big Town – Nightfall (Country)

Theophilus London – Bebey (Alternative)