October 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:

Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky: Following the acclaimed Metal-tinged Hard Rock of 2013’s Fortress and 2016’s The Last Hero, “Creed plus Myles Kennedy” changed it up for album number six, with mixed results. The uplifting, positive, “zen” (their words) emotional direction of Walk the Sky inspired some thoughtful lyrics, and a profound exploration of existential angst, but the music got a bit “vanilla-fied” in the process, to coin a term. That being said, the band’s experiments with elements of Synthwave represent some of the LP’s notable high points, and hopefully in the future they’ll explore this some more. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N.: I thought this was supposed to be a “Metal supergroup”? The L.A.-based band’s lineup – which includes ex-members of God Forbid, Devildriver, Divine Heresy, etc. – seems to suggest so. Well, I guess not. This is one of the worst and most egregiously pandering “Butt Rock” albums I’ve heard all year. YIKES. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Cigarettes After Sex – Cry: An absolutely mesmerizing second album from one of the very best in the modern Dream Pop movement. This record will become the most indispensable late-night drive soundtrack you never knew you needed in your life. And beneath its ethereal sheen, it’s got quite a visceral and even sexually-charged spirit to it. Getting into this band a few months ago was one of my best decisions of 2019. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Act: I could never get into The Devil Wears Prada. Better yet, I don’t think I even gave them a fair shake. Maybe it was the “Christian Metalcore” tag that turned me off as a rage-filed 14-year-old. But as Three Days Grace once told mopey depressed teenagers, “it’s never too late”, and that rings true for me here. The Act is not only downright vicious at times, but the tortured lyrics are something to behold, most notably the haunting portrayal of depression on the single “Chemical”. The crushing retrospective longing of “As Kids” is nothing to sneeze at either. The depth of this record really took me by surprise! RECOMMENDED.

Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave: To be fair, there was no way Insomnium was gonna match the brilliance of their 2016 masterpiece Winter’s Gate, but Heart Like a Grave is a substantial drop-off. Tracks like the plodding “Mute is My Sorrow” and the sluggish “And Bells They Toll” weigh down otherwise excellent songwriting on the title track (which pulls off the impressive feat of carrying essentially one melody through most of the song and maintaining interest), the Winter’s Gate-esque “Twilight Trails”, and the dynamic “Pale Morning Star”. Now, do I hold these Melodic Death Metal masters to an unreasonably high standard? Yes I do. This is still a good record, albeit one that I’ll be cherry-picking from rather than revisiting front-to-back. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Jimmy Eat World – Surviving: Album number ten from these Pop-Punk legends is a decent, if uneven, platter of tracks. If you stick with this LP for a couple listens, though, you’ll find a song here or there to come back  to. The most paper-thin and poppy material (“555”, the title cut, “One Mill”) disproportionately populates the beginning of the tracklist, obscuring otherwise classic Jimmy Eat World moments that come a wee bit too late on the back end, like “Recommit” and “Congratulations”. But personally, I’m gonna stick to Clarity and Chase This Light. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Kanye West – Jesus is King: I’m not sure what makes me cringe harder, a bunch of pretentious neckbeards hating on this album for not conforming to their nihilistic  worldview, or religious conservative pundits like Dennis Prager pretending to support Kanye now because it conveniently conforms to theirs. The reaction to Jesus is King has been sickening, especially because we should instead be focusing on the following: the songs here are memorable and well-crafted, the displays of genuine humility, modesty, and self-examination from West are as pleasantly surprising as they are inspirational, and the worthwhile values espoused in these lyrics are urgently necessary in a modern society decimated by an epidemic of loneliness and lack of purpose. This is another landmark moment in Kanye’s career. It’s just a shame everyone chose to witness it with their ideological blinders on. RECOMMENDED.

Mike Posner – Keep Going: Shocked at how much I enjoyed this! After – in Posner’s own words – “losing 2018 to broken heart”, Michigan’s favorite two-hit wonder comes roaring back with his most mature, well-written, and satisfying project to date. Notably enlightened, and dare I say “spiritually-tinged” songs like “Amen”, “God’s Lottery”, and “Slow it Down” show that Posner’s complete breakdown brought him an immense amount of clarity, insight, and inner peace. What a delight to hear. Oh, and his lyricism as an MC reaches a career peak on Keep Going as well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed:

Danny Brown – U Know What I’m Sayin’? (Hip-Hop)

Exhumed – Horror (Metal)

Fit For an Autopsy – The Sea of Tragic Beasts (Metal)

Lacuna Coil – Black Anima (Rock)

Mayhem – Daemon (Metal)

Wilco – Ode to Joy (Alternative)

1349 – The Infernal Pathway (Metal)

 

Didn’t Enjoy:

Gatecreeper – Deserted (Metal)

Gost – Valediction (Electronic)

Wale – Wow…That’s Crazy (Hip-Hop)

May 2016 Album Round Up!

Here it is everybody! Below is a recap of ten releases from this past month that I was checking out. I fucking finished college while these albums were dropping…so I’m finally free to allocate more precious brainpower for passions like this! Looking ahead, I’m incredibly psyched for the avalanche of big records dropping this coming month. Stay tuned for reviews, rants, and one of my personal favorite endeavors, mid-year lists!

(PS: I did not include Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool here because I STILL haven’t wrapped my head around it. I’m not going to disingenuously hurry my thoughts in the absence of a firm verdict.)

The Concrete Confessional – Hatebreed

Hatebreed’s seventh album is a solid offering, with crushing modern classics like “A.D.”, “Remember When”, “Seven Enemies”, “Serve Your Masters” and the near-perfect “Something’s Off”. For much of the LP, Jamey Jasta veers away from the typical Hatebreed optimism and dives into some dark and confrontational subject matter, which adds substantial muscle and does wonders for the album’s vicious aesthetic. Unfortunately, there are three or four fillers weighing the track list down. But overall, diehards will be stoked. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED

Misadventures – Pierce the Veil

I went into this one completely cold. Sure, Pierce the Veil is a name I’ve heard tossed around a fair amount. But I’ve never heard a note of their music. Given that I haven’t loved a post-hardcore record in quite a while, it was time to take a crack at something like Misadventures. And my God am I glad I did. These 11 tracks feature fantastically written hooks and tight, reasonably heterogeneous compositions. It’s an efficient 44 minutes, whether it’s the explosive pop-punk of “Circles”, the thumping midtempo of “Bedless”, or doses of Metal on “Dive In”. A worthy successor to genre benchmarks like AFI’s Sing the Sorrow, yet revitalized for 2016. RECOMMENDED

At Night, Alone. – Mike Posner

This was so fucking frustrating. Not only did Posner have a stellar pop smash on his hands with Seeb’s remix of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”, but I was 100 percent on board with the concept of At Night, Alone. “Maybe this’ll be another Man on the Moon type album,” I thought to myself gleefully. And the first four tracks suggest that – the subdued version of “Ibiza” is great, with an additional third verse that rounds the song out, and “Be as You Are” is some sweet mother-son bonding. But all that is quickly ruined by the stomping “Silence”, the acapella “Only God Knows”, and the bouncy “Jade”, all of which completely disrupt the mood of the LP. I can barely listen to these songs at all, much less at night alone. Posner is talented, and I still believe in him, but At Night, Alone failed to commit to and execute its theme. NOT RECOMMENDED

Top of the Line – Rittz

“Third time’s the charm,” says Georgia double-time spitter Rittz on the opener to album number three. The standard edition of Top of the Line clocks in at just under 75 minutes, but it’s remarkably consistent despite its lengthy run time. A workhorse, the Strange Music signee and Yelawolf protégé is incredibly meticulous with his bars, making for a rewarding listen for lyricism purists. The LP is often deeply and heartbreakingly personal, addressing fun and bubbly topics like infidelity, drug addiction, and suicide. Rittz isn’t afraid to give the white rapper perspective on racial tension on “Until We Meet Again”, and delivers plenty of jaded rhymes against an industry full of “a bunch of wanna-be Futures”. His execution of his own melodic hooks is also as sharp as ever. People need to wake the fuck up and support awesome Hip-Hop like this. Seriously, shame on Complex for not even reviewing this. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Dangerous Woman – Ariana Grande

In the months since Carly Rae Jepsen released the unexpectedly phenomenal Emotion last August, I’ve been on the hunt for another bubbly Pop album to shamelessly enjoy. I never thought it would come from the somewhat vanilla Ariana Grande, but I’ll take it! Her third LP is full of slick smashes that show just enough teeth. Particularly recommended are the roaring title track, the smooth “Sometimes”, and sensual numbers like “Into You” and “Let Me Love You”. Even Nicki Minaj, who I am not a fan of, delivers an attention-grabbing verse on “Side to Side”. The second half of the LP does peter out slightly, but Dangerous Woman is one of the best Pop releases of 2016 thus far. RECOMMENDED

Terminal Redux – Vektor

If you’re a Thrash guy but you need a little less ‘80s rehashing and a little more forward thinking to keep you interested, this band’s first two records should’ve caught your ears. But Terminal Redux, their third, should fucking floor you. It’s a concept record that’s as intricate and crushing as any Metal release in 2016. I’ve got a feeling this one’s gonna mosey its way into the “album of the year” conversation. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Ripcord – Keith Urban

Bleghhh. First, I’ll give serious kudos to the track “The Fighter”, an awesome duet with Carrie Underwood, and “Wasted Time”, a decent nostalgia trip. And I enjoyed other moments on here. But this watered-down Pop Country stuff takes years off of my life. And even though Ripcord is definitely listenable compared to its contemporaries, Country music needs more Sturgill Simpsons and less Luke Bryans. NOT RECOMMENDED

Trust No One – Devildriver

Let me begin on a positive note. “Daybreak”, “Testimony of Truth”, and “My Night Sky” are kick ass Metal songs. And if I heard this in 2009 (a.k.a. Pray for Villains, a record I dug the shit out of), I might feel differently. But there’s nothing on here that hasn’t already been done by now-defunct bands like As I Lay Dying and Chimaira, and this redundancy leaves me indifferent to Trust No One. Dez Fafara’s lack of range as a vocalist also grows monotonous as the album drones along, and his occasional Nu-Metalish lyricism on songs like the title track and “Above It All” is a turn off as well. Look, don’t get me wrong, Devildriver are a ripping band. And if you’re looking for another balls-out 21st Century American Metal record, give Trust No One a spin. But personally, I feel I have elsewhere to turn. NOT RECOMMENDED

Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper

Man, I was taken aback watching the hype for Chance’s third project reach the level of insanity it did. At this point when he drops music, the Chi-town indie sensation gets the same frenzied response that Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Beyonce get. And only off of two – now three – mixtapes. It’s remarkable. Chance has enjoyed universal acclaim for Coloring Book so I’m not gonna be another blogger shoving it down your throat. Give it a listen and enjoy it at whatever level it speaks to you. Oh, and check out my throwback review of his debut. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Cloud Nine – Kygo

Frequent readers may be aware that I don’t know shit about EDM. But if an album crosses my path, I’ll give it a casual chance. Numerous times I’ve been enamored by what I’ve heard, as with Madeon’s Adventure and Porter Robinson’s Worlds (and stuff like Tiesto’s Elements of Life if we’re reaching back a ways). This Kygo album is NOT one of those times. It might have several decent bangers like “Stole the Show”, “Raging”, and the over-a-year-old “Firestone”, but that’s where its merits abruptly end. Just listen to the giant, cheeseball hook on “Raging”. Or that piece of shit “Happy Birthday”. Borderline offensive. This is by-the-numbers nonsense that makes me wanna head straight for the zoo and leap into the gorilla cage like that dumb little kid did. NOT RECOMMENDED