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)

 

September 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:

As I Lay Dying – Shaped By Fire: Seven years and one attempted murder charge later (yep, I went there), Metalcore veterans As I Lay Dying are back in business. And I had a lot to say. Some of my key critiques of this album include whiny, poorly executed clean choruses, copy-and-pasted songwriting for their last few releases, and at least one track that’s just bad across the board. But I (pun intended) WARMED up to this album as time went on, and ended up finding a lot to enjoy. Full review here. RECOMMENDED.

Betraying the Martyrs – Rapture: I’m glad I finally swallowed my pride and gave a true-blue “Verb-the-Noun” band a shot. Sure, I had plenty of critiques for Rapture (the French Deathcore upstarts’ fourth LP to be released on Sumerian Records), but I went in hoping to be pleasantly surprised, and I WAS, mainly by the pure Death Metal fury of the title cut and the “Iron Gates” as well as the formidable two-guitar songwriting on the single “Down”. Full review here. RECOMMENDED

Blink-182 – NINE: All the way back to my formative years, I’ve never been a Blink fan. So why I keep taking their new releases exceedingly seriously (2016’s California being another example) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As I explain here, I’m always gonna cherry pick a couple of instantly catchy tunes and discard the rest. And that’s what I did here with the ballad “Heaven”, and to a lesser extent cuts like “Black Rain” and “I Really Wish I Hated You”. See you guys in 2022 for another three songs! NOT RECOMMENDED.

Cashmere Cat – Princess Catgirl: Possibly my favorite album I heard all month, Cashmere Cat’s ability to pull so much emotion out of cheesy Kanye-esque chipmunk vocals and glitchy EDM tropes astonished me. Dude, it’s 19 minutes long. Do yourself a favor and go listen to it. It’ll make you feel like you’re in a romantic, utopian video game. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Opeth – In Cauda Venenum: Far and away the worst of the “screamless 2010s” era of these Swedish Prog Metal legends, I found In Cauda Venenum to be dreadfully boring. Songs like “The Garroter” make me feel like I’m trapped for hours on end in the most depressing vintage record store ever, surrounded by rare Pink Floyd vinyls that not even Pink Floyd themselves give a shit about, wondering how the hell the owners can afford their rent. I’m not opposed to “screamless Opeth” – I think it’s fantastic that Mikael Akerfeldt and co. had the balls to drastically change course two decades into their career – but I AM opposed to soullessness. And In Cauda Venenum is egregiously soulless. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding: After Postie Boy shocked me (and virtually all music writers) with the excellent Beerbongs & Bentleys last April, I thought to myself “gee, I hope he doesn’t rush-release an overly commercial follow-up”. I guess I forgot to knock on wood. Ironically, Hollywood’s Bleeding boasts excellent singles – the irresistible Young Thug collab “Goodbyes” is perhaps my favorite Top 40 Radio song of all of 2019, and the unexpected shoegaze-y guitars in the “Circles” intro still get me every time – but once you get to deeper cuts like the nursery rhyme chorus of “Myself”, or the failed Weeknd attempt “Allergic”, the LP doesn’t hold up. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Sturgill Simpson – Sound and Fury: Simpon’s brand of Alt-Country is one of the only modern shades of the genre granted full acceptance by the “music writer crowd”, and listening to tracks like the rock-influenced “Remember to Breathe” or the funky synth-infused “A Good Look”, in which Simpson’s hearty twang is the only noticeable “Country” element anywhere in sight, you can see why. But that’s not Simpson’s fault. He continues to be a fearless experimenter and poignant lyricist on album highlights like “Make Art Not Friends”, the aforementioned “A Good Look”, and “All Said and Done”. A must-listen! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Zac Brown Band – The Owl

WOW. This is a (potentially unequivocal) contender for Worst Album of the Year. And “OMW” – in which the band recite a texting acronym and pass it off as a chorus – is an equally fierce contender for Worst Song of the Year. If “OMW” and “Me and the Boys in the Band” are the type of music Zac Brown and Co. want to make, then just go be Florida Georgia Line. Or join Florida Georgia Line and make one giant Pop-Country conglomerate with 32 members. It’s actually MORE offensive to me when they try to “return to their roots” with a late-album cut like “Shoofly Pie” buried in the tracklist. NOT RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed:

Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear

Eclipser – Pathos

Korn – The Nothing

The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights

Tegan and Sara – Hey, I’m Just Like You

Didn’t Enjoy:

Charli XCX – Charli

JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs

Starset – Divisions

December 2017 Album Round Up!

Happy New Year everyone! It’s 2018 and here I am a week and a half into the new year playing catch-up on everything that should’ve been finished before…well, whenever it was I blacked out on the night of the 31st.

The problem is, I was too busy pouring my heart and soul into year-end lists like this one and this one and this one, obsessing over every little detail and second-guessing every single candidate for hours and hours on end, to keep both eyes on the release calendar all December. So I definitely missed a few albums. But I do feel like I managed to hear all the important ones. For instance, it was absolutely CRUCIAL that I set aside enough time for both Eminem AND the Star Wars franchise to disappoint me on the same day (which happened to be my half-birthday, no less). Boy, that was fun.

But whether you’re a reader, a viewer, or just a serial angry commenter, thank you so much for your support in 2017! It means the world to me. I felt like the quality of my content grew exponentially this past year, and my goal for 2018 is to kick this shit up about ten notches! Which, that’ll mostly happen on my YouTube channel, so if you haven’t already, please subscribe and tune in every week!

But as long as I love to write, this blog lives on. And what the fuck is this blog without my monthly keyboard diarrhea about “disappointing new album” this and “corny overused descriptive adjective” that? Exactly. That’s what I thought.

So without further ado, the last Monthly Round Up of 2017!

Revival – Eminem

Annnnnnnd, after over a decade of remarkably inconsistent output, see-sawing constantly between unbearable nadirs and soaring highs, the day has finally arrived. The undeniable WORST release of Eminem’s legendary career. On the 44-year-old rapper’s eighth LP, everything falls apart. The production – whether it’s Rick Rubin’s appallingly lazy sampling of “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” on the song “Remind Me”, or it’s the syrupy Ed Sheeran collab “River” with its hideous Rock-ish bridge – shits the bed. And Eminem’s bars? They kind of shit the bed too, especially when he’s making horrible “shit” puns (“shit on my last chick/she has what my ex lacks”). On Revival, Eminem has so little sense about how to make his virtuosic rhymes sound musical. He’s like a malfunctioning “bar machine” that randomly generates intricate syllable combinations while ignoring the fact that there’s supposed to be “songs” going on here. Quite unfortunate to see one of my heroes take such a late-career nosedive. NOT RECOMMENDED

Kingdoms Disdained – Morbid Angel

 With the bar set impossibly low by the disastrous Industrial attempts on 2011’s Illud Divinum Insanus, these legendary Death Metallers could’ve put out pretty much anything and their fans would’ve gobbled it up, because hey, “at least it’s not that other one”. Enter Kingdoms Disdained, a suffocating, impenetrable, aggressively mediocre pummelfest that was welcomed with rave reviews. Well, from everyone expect me anyway. Even though I dug a couple tracks here and there, I found this LP to be swamped with filler and ultimately brought down by its completely one-dimensional brutality. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED

Pop 2 – Charli XCX

After my surprising love affair with her Number 1 Angel mixtape back in March, I was hoping for this feisty Brit to bring a second jolt of to the predictable Pop world before the year was up. But unfortunately, while Charli’s slightly brash approach to Pop music is still undeniably cutting edge, the punches didn’t land this time around for me. Whether it’s the flat hook on “Unlock It”, the mind-numbingly repetitive “I Got It”, or the underwhelming electro-tinged snoozefest that is the opener “Backseat” (yes, even with my girl Carly Rae on it!), I just couldn’t vibe with this project. Though I do enjoy the (cleverly titled) closing track “Track 10” and the EDM flair with which it crescendos toward the end, I’m gonna have to go against the overwhelmingly positive grain here and declare this one a no-go. Sawwy. NOT RECOMMENDED

From a Room: Volume 2 – Chris Stapleton

 In terms of raw singing talent, Chris Stapleton is, without any debate, one of the best in the Country business. But on From a Room: Volume 2 – Stapleton’s second release of 2017 – what makes him stand out even more is his range. From the folk-y minimalism of “Drunkard’s Prayer” to the loud Country Rock of “Hard Livin’” to the soulful balladry of “Nobody’s Lonely Tonight”, the man’s versatility makes this 32-minute record feel like 10 minutes that’s over all too soon (cue the easy jokes about my sex life). In a year where I put a ton of effort into acquiring a taste for Country music of all kinds, Chris Stapleton made the kind of songs that required no effort at all. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 Pressure – Jeezy

 If you had told me in 2006 that 12 years later, (then “Young”) Jeezy would still be relevant, I would’ve laughed in your face. But here we are, and though Jeezy hasn’t been terribly concerned with evolving his sound, he’s still pumping out the kind of bangers that make me wish I gave this thing a proper review. Exhibit A: the triumphant, bravado-laced “Spyder”, with D. Rich’s hard-hitting production giving the LP an immediate lift. And later on, of course, “American Dream” is a huge moment, given that it finds Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole joining forces on the same beat (Cole in particular kills it), adding even more intrigue to that rumored collaborative project between the two of them. Oh, and there’s also “In a Major Way” where guest Payroll Giovanni is an absolute monster. Sure, Pressure is far from perfect – you’ve got the generic “Floor Seats”, you’ve got straight unjustifiable duds like “This Is It”, and you’ve got bars like “two bitches, double date/diamonds floatin’, levitate” dragging the record down- but Jeezy continues to remind us why we still care about him after a decade and a half.

Virtual Self EP – Virtual Self

As I gushed on this very blog a few months back, our first taste of Porter Robinson’s Virtual Self side project (why he feels compelled to trade in his own MONEY-PRINTING household name for a generic pseudonym here, I have no idea) was nothing short of rapturous. The song in question, “Eon Break”, had everything; it had drops like fireworks, it had these rapturous major key synth melodies vaulting it into the stratosphere…not to mention its explosive climax at the end, featuring frenetic drum programming that felt like a distant cousin of Metal music. Well, I am happy to report that Porter’s debut EP as Virtual Self lives up to the hype generated by its first single. There’s the futuristic Trance adventures of “Ghost Voices”, there’s the twitching glitches of the most unique track on here, “a.i.ngel (Become God)”, and there’s perhaps my personal favorite, the so-sugary-and-blissful-it’s-almost-too-much-but-it’s-actually-beautiful “Key”, the latter of which most adheres to the “Eon Break” blueprint. All reasons to go check this EP out immediately. C’mon, it’s 20 minutes! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

War & Leisure – Miguel

Another capital W for one of the de facto leaders of the R & B genre. While Miguel’s fourth album War & Leisure might’ve reeled me in with the Travis Scott-assisted lead single “Sky Walker” – I wrote about that HERE – it quickly proved to me that it had a lot more to offer. The blissful, tropical-tinged “Pineapple Skies”, the entrancing “Banana Clip”, the jazzy J. Cole collab “Come Through and Chill”…Miguel did it again. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

In Becoming a Ghost – The Faceless

 Kudos to The Faceless for continuing to push the boundaries of what Technical Death Metal can be. After half a decade, they’ve come roaring back with a fourth LP that manages to be their most dynamic yet. I’m still hesitant to call it their “best” – that honor remains with 2008’s genre-defining Planetary Duality – but masterful Metal compositions like the delightfully dissonant “Digging the Grave”, or “Cup of Mephistopheles” with its snake-like riffing, or the head-spinning closer “The Terminal Breath” certainly qualify In Becoming a Ghost as a must-listen. And I should mention it’s all brought together by Ken Bergeron’s raspy vocal performance – he is far and away the best frontman that this band has ever had. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

A FEW MORE:

LIKE:

Dedication – Chief Keef

Material Control – Glassjaw

Reflective Pt. 2 EP – Bassnectar

Songs of Experience – U2

Say Less – Roy Woods

DON’T LIKE:

Asking Alexandria – Asking Alexandria

The New Reality – Operation: Mindcrime

Double or Nothing – Big Sean & Metro Boomin’

Wednesday – Chris Webby