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!

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:

10 Songs that Defined 2019 For Me

Year-End List Number TWO! This is definitely the most personal and emotionally-driven list for me to make. These are the ten songs that, for the rest of my life, will instantly pop into my head anytime the year 2019 is mentioned. This was my soundtrack to the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past twelve months.

Oh, and I got to make fun of Taylor Swift too. Even though I cut her from the list.

Check out the full video here:

Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q4 2019

What’s up guys! Time for the final 2019 installment of my quarterly Favorite Songs segment, where I pick apart the tracks that have soundtracked my life for the past three months. As I note in the video, this stuff is mostly from October and November, since December was such a ghost town for new music this year! Seriously, unless you wanted to listen to One Direction solo albums or Drake saying the word “ting” over and over again or (God forbid) The Chainsmokers, there wasn’t much for you to check out during the holiday season.

As usual, there is an accompanying Spotify playlist with ten additional honorable mentions, which you can find here. Artists discussed in this one include Cigarettes After Sex, The Weeknd, Yelawolf, Tame Impala and more! Check out the video below and I’ll be back real soon with my Year-End Lists!

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

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

Top 10 Mid-Year Albums of 2019: NON-METAL EDITION

What’s up guys! Time for the Yin to the Yang that is my Mid-Year Metal list! Here are all the killer albums from the first half of the year that had nothing to do with Metal. As you’ll see, several of these picks were HUGE (pleasant) surprises for me, and I’m not sure there’s anything more rewarding than giving music a chance that ends up adding incredible value to your life.

Speaking of adding incredible value to your life, I really hope this list turns you on to some awesome stuff you wouldn’t have otherwise checked out. Thanks so much for watching!

Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q2 2019

Hey guys! Another quarter of a year has (almost) passed us by. If I were running a Fortune 500 company, I might refer to it as a “fiscal quarter”, but I’m writing a relatively anonymous music blog, so something about the word “fiscal” just doesn’t feel appropriate….

But it’s a quarter of the year nonetheless! And with each quarter of a year that inches me closer and closer to my impending doom, I celebrate on my YouTube channel with a list of my Top 15 Favorite Songs of the past few months. These lists deliberately exclude Metal, as it’s all about shining a light on the broad spectrum of tunes that have been soundtracking my life.

And I’m not sure i’ve ever been more proud of one of these lists. This fucking group of songs (which I spent a surprising amount of time narrowing down) has it all: EDM, Pop, Indie Rock, Hip-Hop, R & B, Instrumental music – you name it, it’s here.

Be sure to check out the accompanying Spotify playlist – complete with 10 additional honorable mentions – here. Full video below. Thanks for watching!