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:

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)

 

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!

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)