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 15 Favorite Songs: Q3 2019

Another three months gone by, another Favorite Songs list! This really might be my best one yet. I feel like there’s a song on here for everybody’s palette. Artists discussed include BJ the Chicago Kid, Banks, Rick Ross, Taylor Swift (yes, Taylor Swift) and much more!

And as always, here is the accompanying Spotify playlist if you want the full sh-bang (how do you properly spell that? Schbang? Sch-Bang?) with ten additional honorable mentions. Check out my remarks on the Top 15 below:

 

August 2019 Album Round Up!

What’s up guys! Another month, another Album Round Up. And August was absolutely ACTION-PACKED! Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:

Illenium – Ascend: Quite disappointed with album number three from this EDM wunderkind. While I enjoyed its predecessor Awake quite a bit in 2017, Ascend finds Illenium leaning full-on into the bland, bubblegum Top 40 Dance/Pop hybrids that he only winked and nodded at previously. He seems to be going the way of Kygo. But to be fair, you knew it was doomed when a Chainsmokers collaboration was involved. What a shame. Notable tracks I enjoy in spite of this continued distillation of his sound are “Hold On”, “Crashing”, and “Every Piece of Me”. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Joell Ortiz- Monday: As I explained here in detail, the veteran Brooklyn spitter and former Slaughterhouse member continues to distinguish himself from the pack on Monday, which arrives only 10 months after Ortiz’s excellent Mona Lisa project with Apollo Brown. Rich in lyricism, narrative, and introspection, Hip-Hop fans won’t want to miss this one. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Killswitch Engage – Atonement: To my dismay as a longtime KSE fan, album number three in the Jesse Leach Era 2.0 is shockingly middling. The majority of this short track list is lyrically repetitive, musically derivative, and contains no sense of exploration outside of its Killswitch-by-the-numbers songwriting formula. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Rick Ross – Port of Miami 2: While 2017’s exceptional Rather You Than Me put Rick Ross in my good graces with several years of leeway, I found Port of Miami 2 to be a slight step backwards. While you have certified bangers like the intro track “Act a Fool”, a familiarly luxurious cut like “Vegas Residency”, and even the jazz-tinged “Running the Streets”, the  hooks are in short supply here. “Big Tyme”, “Maybach Music VI”, and “Rich N*gga Lifestyle” – all of which utilize somewhat forced-sounding guest appearances to achieve their ends – exemplify this. But still a solid release from Ross, who continues to impress me as an MC. RECOMMENDED.

Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold: One of 2019’s greatest blessings for me has been getting into Sleater-Kinney. I’m utterly addicted to the sass of Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker. The Center Won’t Hold is certainly much sleeker and more polished than the band’s raw mid-90s material (which I tend to prefer) but “Can I Go On”, “Hurry On Home”, and “The Future Is Here” have all been in steady rotation for me since this came out. RECOMMENDED.

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind: With the notable exception of Tool-mania,  I’m not sure a Metal release in 2019 has landed with quite the splash that this one did. While We Are Not Your Kind winds up somewhere in the middle ranks of Slipknot’s catalogue (which speaks more to this band’s accumulated artistic achievements thus far than anything else), I’m so thrilled by the combination of forward-thinking 2019 Slipknot (“Spiders”, “My Pain”, “Nero Forte”) and vintage early-2000s Slipknot (“Red Flag”, “Critical Darling”, “Orphan”) that makes this track list so well-rounded. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Taylor Swift – Lover: Um, I actually like this. This is my favorite Taylor Swift album thus far, and for me to admit that must mean that the “Swifties” are going absolutely insane over it. The defiant feminist anthem “The Man”, the break-up ballad “Death By a Thousand Cuts”, the slightly mawkish but enjoyable title track, the tender Dixie Chicks collaboration “Soon You’ll Get Better”, the carefree “Paper Rings”…I could go on and on. Sure, I’ve got plenty of gripes about it too, but Lover is a well-thought out and very well-executed Pop juggernaut. RECOMMENDED.

Young Thug – So Much Fun: Quite the misleading title, Thugger. A sprawling 19-song track list with a few great moments here and there (“The London”, “Hot”, “Jumped Out the Window”) is the opposite of fun. I guess So Much Arduousness wasn’t as snappy. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Like:

Brockhampton – Ginger

Carnifex – World War X

Clairo – Immunity

Common – Let Love

Drake – Care Package

Knocked Loose – A Different Shade of Blue

Lana Del Rey – Norman F*cking Rockwell

Tool – Fear Inoculum

 

Dislike:

A$AP Ferg – Floor Seats

Trippie Redd – !

Ugly God – Bumps and Bruises

Vic Mensa & 93PUNX – 93PUNX

Volbeat – Rewind, Replay, Rebound

Joell Ortiz Did It Again: Check Out His New Album “Monday”!

So, while Tool-mania consumed every pretentious music nerd on the planet this past weekend (the Prog Metal darlings finally emerged from hibernation after over 13 years with a new hour-and-a-half of dorkiness), my attention was focused elsewhere, to the chagrin of many a Tool fan on my YouTube channel.

Turns out I had bigger priorities. Joell Ortiz – a.k.a. “The Yaowa” – dropped album number five! And no, I had no idea it was coming out. And yes, it’s fire.

As the intro track explains, “Monday is for the hustlers; for those who work the hardest. Shit gets done on a Monday”. And several Mondays have passed – just shy of 10 months’ worth, actually – since Ortiz’s exceptional Mona Lisa project, a collaboration with Apollo Brown.

The Brooklyn-bred spitter and former Slaughterhouse member dazzles once again with a healthy mix of the autobiographical (“Momma”), the introspective (“Anxiety”), and loads of clever bars (one of my favorites is on the track “Champion”, when he raps, “my wife pops Rose like Jack did in Titanic”).

I also find myself engrossed in the nostalgia of “Screens”, which finds Ortiz bemoaning the decline of childhood in the modern day and I SWEAR uses the same sample as Nas’ “Black Girl Lost”. Doesn’t it? Somebody look that up for me!

“Learn You” is another highlight – a vulnerable, touching ode to Joell’s children and confession of his shortcomings as a father. Ortiz has never failed to let us into his life in a major way, and that’s what always keeps me coming back to every single one of his releases, as opposed to the lyrical miracles of his former group-mate Kxng Crooked, whom I know I can “check in” with every couple years and not miss a whole lot. If you skip an Ortiz project, you’re gonna miss a whole part of his life.

Please don’t sleep on this one, guys! For every last one of you who constantly bemoan the cultural dominance of “mumble rap” and the decreasing emphasis on lyrical skill in Hip-Hop, well, here’s your chance to vote with your ears.

Monday is available now on all major streaming services, via Mello Music Group. Check out the complete project below:

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.