The Spring 2016 Pregame Playlist

This past December, this blog received a generous helping of douche when I gave a candid account of the embarrassingly basic music I had been pregaming to during the Fall semester of my senior year of college. As much as I am loath to admit, those songs continue to soundtrack my increasingly frequent alcohol consumption as college comes to a close. Still, my pregame playlist this Spring semester has also welcomed several new faces, some just as corny and white girl-y, but that have become mainstays nonetheless.

Kidding aside, it is overwhelming to think that years from now, these songs will likely trigger some intense nostalgia for that time period “before life stepped on my dreams”. Anyway, if you’re an alcoholic millennial like me, here are a few pregame and party jams that may or may not already be in your life:

Lush Life – Zara Larsson

Maybe it was because it was Boston in January and Ms. Larsson repeatedly mentions Summer. Maybe it was even because I was crushing a bit at the time myself (#relatable). But somehow, this sickeningly sugary tune thrust itself into my life rather forcefully. And granted, it doesn’t sound as fresh as it did at the beginning of the semester. But it’s still there. And it’s still nearly as much of a familiar face in my weekends as Jack Daniels himself.

Perdoname – Deorro

In 2012, “Gangnam Style” proved beyond a shadow of doubt that fans of Pop music do not give a flying FUCK about lyrics. Evidently, if it bumps, it can be in another language for all we care (or even fucking notice). The irresistible synth line in this Latino-flavored banger is the kind that inspires the goofiest, silliest, and most carefree bodily reactions (read: humiliating dance moves) of any of these songs.

Big Catzz – Rustie

As I repeatedly emphasize, I do not – nor do I pretend to – know jack shit about EDM. From time to time, I simply hit up a reliable connoisseur friend of mine for some periodic education. And one Friday last month I was feeling particularly EDM-y (yep, I’m inventing new emotions by the minute) and requested that he drop some knowledge. The same dude that has fed me gems like Madeon’s Adventure and Porter Robinson’s Worlds recommended Rustie’s EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE album from last year. Its massive single “Big Catzz” quickly became a pregame staple for me. It’s a song that’s bursting with energy, but its melodic content is ultimately what drives it home.

Zoney – Wiz Khalifa

Released in February, Wiz’s Khalifa album wasn’t too exciting for me for the simple reason that his music is, to put it lightly, topically stagnant. But nevertheless, several songs on the LP offer little retrospective glimpses into his brilliant Kush & OJ era, “Zoney” being a prime example. It’s four hundred and twenty different types of chill, with a mesmerizing instrumental and some smooth, sentimental crooning from Wiz. And that appearance by his son at the end is fucking adorable.

1234 – Wallpaper

I finally got around to seeing the new Blue Mountain State movie the DAY BEFORE my Spring Break began (yeah, there’s definitely some subconscious forces at work there). So you can only imagine how I felt when I heard “1234” during the film’s absurd, drug-riddled party montage. Fused with some electronic flavors, the acoustic instrumentation is what allows this song to channel Radical Something’s “Santa Barbara” reasonably well.

Make Me Like You – Gwen Stefani

Ok there’s a HUGE asterisk on this one. When she put out this little ditty as single number two to her upcoming record This Is What the Truth Feels Like, I was smitten and even somewhat amped to hear the LP. Well, sometimes life leads you down unfortunate roads. Now that I have heard the album, I can’t even enjoy “Make Me Like You” anymore without Stefani’s cringeworthy Iggy Azalea-meets-Fergie attempt on “Red Flag” lurking in my mind’s darkest, most masochistic corners.

Famous – Kanye West

I made it about a month. I successfully ignored The Life of Pablo and its overwhelming hype until the end of March. And I’m proud of each and every one of those days. I suppose it was my twisted way of proving to myself that I have an ounce of self-restraint. But once it hit Apple Music, “Famous” floored me. Undoubtedly, this one will go down as one of Kanye’s shining moments as an artist. The provocative bars, the Swizz Beatz ad-libs, Rihanna’s chorus, and that tuneful, eargasmic breakdown do all the arguing for me.

Old Thing Back (Matoma Remix) – The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Ja Rule

I was unfathomably late to this irresistible rager, but I still have every right to enjoy it! Crazily enough, we’re at the point where this remix is technically one of Biggie’s top songs on Spotify. Babuh BAYBUH!

Pedal to the Metal – Wiz Khalifa

New tunes like the aforementioned “Zoney” had me revisiting Kush & OJ quite a bit – a mixtape that just floods me with nostalgia and immediately makes me feel like a 16-year-old kid with dreams, aspirations, and all those other things we had in high school. “Pedal to the Metal” is far away my favorite from the mixtape. I love the way the chorus is able to drum up an ever-so-slight sense of drama while maintaining an impossibly fly (can I say that if I’m white?) aesthetic.

Aurora – RL Grime

The most recent edition to my Ultimate Playlist of Douche, “Aurora” caught me completely flat-footed. For the most part I can’t stand trap (the EDM OR the Hip-Hop subgenre, mind you). The former has always felt lifeless to me, almost like Electronic’s off-kilter answer to Heavy Metal that’s less abrasive than Dubstep was. But on a whim, I took a peak at Apple Music’s Electronic A-List playlist and was blown away by “Aurora”. It’s fucking hypnotic. It has definitely sparked a bit of curiosity for me in the Melodic Trap department.

 

 

 

 

March 2016 Album Round Up!

What did I think of what the music industry had to offer in March 2016? Meh. There was the excitement of some new Kendrick Lamar (which I didn’t include here since it wasn’t an official LP per se) in addition to a few other high profile Hip-Hop releases. There was a pair of excellent albums from Metal staples Killswitch Engage and Amon Amarth. There was The Knocks. And then there was a whole lot of uninteresting shit. Regardless, below is a recap of eight records I was checking out in the midst of obsessing over my college basketball bracket.

Incarnate – Killswitch Engage

The roaring return of original vocalist Jesse Leach for 2013’s Disarm the Descent set a new standard for Killswitch Engage. Incarnate, that LP’s follow-up, smacks its remarkably high expectations right on the nose. Tracks like “The Great Deceit”, “Hate By Design”, and “Alone I Stand” have the makings of future Killswitch classics. And while Howard Jones-era albums The End of Heartache and As Daylight Dies are excellent, the three Leach records (not including the original self-titled effort) have floated to the top of the KSE discography for me. Here is a full review (I also did a print one here). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

This Is What the Truth Feels Like – Gwen Stefani

Between “Naughty” and “Red Flag”, Gwen Stefani has two of 2016’s worst pop songs, and we’re only three months in. The latter is an especially horrifying Iggy Azalea-meets-Fergie attempt sure to leave helpless ears in varying states of deformity. It’s a shame, because “Make Me Like You”, “Used to Love You”, and “Truth” are all highly listenable, radio-ready pop tunes. But then the 46-year-old Stefani makes a cringe worthy song like “Send Me a Picture”, and any album highlights are immediately drowned out. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

3001: A Laced Odyssey – Flatbush Zombies

Full disclosure here. I am brand new to Flatbush Zombies and have yet to hear their highly regarded BetterOffDead mixtape. But an act’s full-length debut is as good a place to start, isn’t it? Well, maybe not in Hip-Hop, but you get my point. Anyway, it didn’t take long for Flatbush Zombies to win me over, as Zombie Juice attacks the album’s first verse with a frantic inflection and a Grandmaster Flash shout out. Erick the Architect and Meechy Darko immediately follow with nimble flows and I was swoon. I have no context surrounding this LP aside from the group’s association with high profile collaborators like Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson (appearances they shy away from on here). What I can say, however, is 3001 is chalk full of charisma, grade-A lyricism, and unique production. If this is the future of Hip-Hop, the genre is in quite capable hands. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

55 – The Knocks

It’s hard to believe we’re a year and a half removed from when “Classic” dropped, isn’t it? Either way, a fuck ton of A-listers grace this duo’s highly anticipated debut. While there’s certainly tracks like “Tied to You” and the X Ambassadors collaboration “Comfortable” that I don’t care for, 55 has a remarkably high batting average. The track list comes out of the gate 5 for 5 and doesn’t really slow up. And most importantly, the guest appearances actually do the LP a service rather than simply get in its way. Cam’ron kills it. Wyclef kills it. Later on, Carly Rae kills it. 55 is diverse yet focused. It’s instantly likeable. It’s truly how EDM and Pop SHOULD merge (I’m looking directly at you, Avicii!). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Jomsviking – Amon Amarth

Amon Amarth’s tenth studio album and first full-blown concept record just might be their best in a decade. The Viking Metallers’ tried-and-true formula is accompanied by a trio of stylistic risks – the singalong chorus in “Raise Your Horns”, the blatant Maiden worship of “At Dawn’s First Light”, and a vocal duet with Doro Pesch in “A Dream that Cannot Be” – that ultimately pay off and help diversify the band’s sound. The cohesive storyline enriches the listening experience, recalling Amon Amarth’s best story-based moments (“Prediction of Warfare”, anyone?). Doro’s guest vocal appearance at the narrative’s climax (the aforementioned “A Dream That Cannot Be”) generated perhaps the most unique moment in Amon Amarth’s discography to date. Here is a full review. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Black – Asking Alexandria

Sometimes a simple lineup change is enough to shove a new record into my ears from a band I have loathed from the beginning. And many a time I regret this morbid curiosity getting the best of me. Such is the case with Asking Alexandria’s fourth album The Black, their first with new vocalist Denis Stoff. Despite all the hype about stylistic departures and whatnot, it’s still more or less the faceless Metalcore of their first two LPs, albeit with a bit of traditional Hard Rock and Heavy Metal hastily thrown in. For instance, those chunky verse riffs in “Just a Slave to Rock ‘n Roll” have no business alongside the overly sappy melodic chorus – the track is completely Frankenstein’d together. In general, The Black offers a lot in the way of melodrama, but little in the way of thoughtful song construction or compelling musicianship. Hey, I did give this one a fair shot though. NOT RECOMMENDED

Collegrove – 2 Chainz & Lil’ Wayne

2 Chainz and Lil’ Wayne’s collaborative album (on 8 of the 13 tracks, at least) feels more like a mixtape most of the time, but in 2016 what the fuck is the difference anymore? Whatever label you feel is appropriate, this project is jam packed with lazy fucking hooks that tested my attention span and my nerves (see “Blue C-Note”, “Bentley Truck”, or “Not Invited”). It’s especially disappointing since the effective lead single “Gotta Lotta” surpasses any post-Carter IV music Wayne has dropped. And I did enjoy the cinematic trap beat and clever Weezy verse on “Smell Like Money”, as well as the production on “Dedication”, which sounded like something Wiz Khalifa would’ve spit over five years ago. But beyond that, Collegrove didn’t hold my interest. But I did learn the magnificently pretentious word “portmanteau” from its title. NOT RECOMMENDED.

That’s Hip Hop – Joell Ortiz

The four members of Slaughterhouse have been dropping projects as if they’re actively trying to outpace each other. Joell Ortiz did the !llmind collaboration Human last summer, Joe Budden dropped All Love Lost, Crooked I (aka Kxng Crooked) put out Statik Kxng with Statik Selektah, and now Royce da 5’9 has a new mixtape Trust the Shooter out that directly precedes Layers (out April 15th), and supposedly has ANOTHER full-length album on the way. Whew. I’ve never had to take a deep breath after typing something before. What caught my eye about Joell Ortiz’s new record That’s Hip Hop– aside from my Slaughterhouse fandom – is that he coaxed one of my favorites, the legendary Kool G Rap, onto a song with him! So I had to listen to the album. At 30 minutes and nine real songs, it’s got the feel of either Illmatic or a brief mixtape – whichever comparison you goons prefer. It’s also exponentially more aggressive than 2014’s House Slippers ,the last Ortiz project I gave thorough, repeated listens. While I did enjoy House Slippers, the Puerto Rican is rapping like he has something to prove again. That’s Hip Hop lives up to its name and then some! RECOMMENDED.