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!

November 2017 Album Round Up!

Greetings, fellow music fans of the (still “neutral” for now) Internet! Welcome to my second-to-last Album Round Up of 2017! As I type this, I’m already deep into the hours and hours of fierce internal debate that I pour into List…..ok, look. My first instinct was to write something about “List Season”, because naturally, I’ve been gleefully combing through 2017’s release calendar compiling those “best of” lists that consume all of my Decembers. But knowing myself as well as I do, I had this funny feeling that I had made some equally dumb comment about “List Season” at this time last year, and sure enough, I was right. And since I’m not a member of AC/DC, I don’t get some sort of pathological satisfaction out of constantly repeating myself. So maybe I just won’t acknowledge “List Season” this time around. Although….since I’ve now used the term “List Season” four times in this very paragraph, I guess I’m kinda committed.

In all seriousness, there’s a reason List Season is my favorite time of year. With the exception of my “Worst of” list, I literally have an excuse to just sit on my ass and listen to every single piece of auditory greatness that 2017 gave us for hours and hours on end! More over, I get to really dig into any records that got swept under the rug while I was busy drinking, procrastinating, or random bullshit like arguing with Geico about my premiums or shopping for a new massage chair.

As it turns out, November gave me a ton of material for this Round Up– at 23 albums, I think this might be the most different releases I’ve covered in one of these things – so I really hope you get something out of this! Even if there’s just ONE album that I turn you on to/steer you away from, then it’s all worth it to me.

Reputation – Taylor Swift

You know, I gave this a genuine chance. I was even willing to forego that gimmicky “leave it off streaming platforms for three weeks” marketing plan that Swift and the Suits dreamed up. But Reputation is a big step back from 2014’s Pop juggernaut 1989. Swift’s sixth album features ill-advised experiments with dance music (“I Did Something Bad”, “Look What You Made Me Do”), a really awkward Ed Sheeran collaboration (“End Game”), enough vocal manipulations to make T-Pain gawk, and cheaply invokes sexuality at nearly every turn (“…Ready for It?”, “Delicate”, “Dress”).   All that being said, Reputation has already passed 2 million sales worldwide and is currently occupying the top slot on the Billboard charts for the third week in a row, so as always, the joke’s on me. NOT RECOMMENDED

Radio Silence – Talib Kweli

 For his eighth solo release, the veteran Brooklyn MC and social activist – not to mention, one of Twitter’s most incessant self-righteousness finger-pointers – added another solid installment to his prolific catalogue. While a few late-album cuts like the title track and “Let It Roll” are underwhelming momentum-retardants, there are three songs in particular – “All of Us”, “She’s My Hero”, and “Chips” – that make everything worthwhile. “All of Us” is a soulful collaboration with singer Yummy Bingham that boasts I think, like, the SECOND Jay Electronica verse of all of 2017. “She’s My Hero” is a tear-jerking ode to abuse victim Bresha Meadows. And “Chips” is a rousing collab with none other than Waka Flocka Flame, who sets it on fire with one of the most surprisingly dope guest verses I’ve heard all year. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED

Ashes EP – Sinsaenum

 This Extreme Metal “supergroup” – featuring Joey Jordison of Slipknot, Frederic Leclercq from Dragonforce, Attila Csihar from Mayhem, and others – came roaring back on the heels of their 2016 debut Echoes of the Tortured with a five-track EP that impressively upped the ante . Whereas their debut was more of a vintage Death Metal record with elements of Black Metal theatrics sprinkled in, Ashes finds the best of Black Metal and Death Metal in a furious seesaw that keeps getting more and more exciting as the tracks unravel. In particular, the opening trio of “Ashes”, “Monarch of Death”, and “2099 (Heretics)” are all absolutely essential listens. While I’ve been rooting for this band since day one, they are now top priority for me when it comes to their next release. Here is a full review. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

 Red Pill Blues – Maroon 5

For their third album as Adam Levine Plus Hip-Hop and Dance Beats, Maroon 5’s painful transition into by-the-numbers Z100 wallpaper fully crystallizes. Featuring production and songwriting contributions from every “hit-maker” imaginable – Diplo, Ben Billions, Charlie Puth, Teddy Geiger, Julia Michaels, Jason Evigan, etc. – Adam Levine and his buddies deliver a platter of instantly forgettable songs that are unlikely to have the same chart mojo that the pre-albums singles (“Don’t Wanna Know”, “Cold”, “What Lovers Do”) were able to maintain. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED

Laugh Now, Fly Later – Wiz Khalifa

 Instead of just letting fans wait a little longer for his hugely anticipated Rolling Papers 2 album, the Khalifa Kush CEO succumbed to the pressure and decided to squeeze out this little turd for anybody still lurking at the bottom of the toilet bowl praying he’ll redeem the last six-and-half years of mediocrity. This 39-minute mixtape consists of about 19 minutes of ad-libs and 20 minutes of bars about smoking weed. Even if you blaze religiously, there’s still no way that sounds appealing. And aside from a couple of decent moments – the “Weed Farm” beat goes hard, and Casey Veggies steals the show on the opener “Royal Highness” – it isn’t. it’s torturously boring. But all of my vitriol, I’m still holding out hope for Rolling Papers 2. Until then, no more “hold-over” projects Wiz, please and thank you. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED

Kids in Love – Kygo

For his second studio album and follow-up to last year’s overly commercial, monumentally disappointing Cloud Nine, the one-time prince of Tropical House doubles down and gives us 29 minutes of Kidz Bop EDM with the same quality and sophistication of The Chainsmokers. I find it strange that, seeing as Kygo has enjoyed international hits like “Firestone” and “Stole the Show”, he feels the need to make such desperate radio grabs. To be fair, he now has the Sony Music engine behind him, which may or may not have something to do with the bullshit on Kids in Love. Either way, this whole constant-vocals-with-one-small-drop format effectively qualifies this as Pop music – the fact that there’s a OneRepublic feature on a song titled after one of 2017’s biggest television phenomenons (“Stranger Things”) and a True-era Avicci knockoff (“Never Let You Go”) should say it all. Kygo doesn’t seem to have any interest in standing out in any way. He’s just falling in line. It’s a real shame to see it happen to yet another talented EDM artist. NOT RECOMMENDED

The Dusk in Us – Converge

In just a couple years, Converge will hit their thirtieth year as a band. That these New England Metalcore legends are still churning out material that sounds as fresh, fluid, and completely singular as The Dusk In Us is beyond my capacity of understanding. They always deliver. Every. Single. Time. The phenomenal “A Single Tear” single and music – released days before the album – was what initially stoked my excitement for this LP, but the chaotic riff fests that are “Under Duress” and “Broken by Light”, as well as the record’s more delicate moments like “Thousands of Miles Between Us” and the title, all further reinforce my belief that Converge are one of the preeminent Metal bands of the last two decades. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 Red Before Black – Cannibal Corpse

Just when I think these Death Metal legends are finally running their formula dry, they deliver more genuinely satisfying assault and battery on Red Before Black, their fourteenth studio album in nearly thirty years as a band. While a track like “Destroyed Without a Trace” is so dime-a-dozen in CC’s catalogue – seriously, it could’ve been on Evisceration Plague, OR Torture, OR A Skeletal Domain OR, well you get the point – this LP does have a few subtle differences. For one, the Tech Metal element that has crept into recent Cannibal releases has been noticeably dialed back – tracks like “Firestorm Vengeance” and “Code of the Slashers” are basically Thrash tunes with Death Metal growls on top. Second….well there is no second. And that’s why this band’s status quo approach never excites me. There’s very little on Red Before Black that I can’t get from the last TWENTY YEARS of Corpsegrinder-era material (which, by the way, I enjoy the hell out of his performance here!). So look, if you’re into this shit, you know the deal. And if you’re not, either go listen to Kill or, like, go do anything else with your time. The same thing the fourteenth time over isn’t gonna sway you. RECOMMENDED

No Dope On Sundays – CyHi the Prynce

 Kanye’s most promising – and yet, perpetually shelved – protégé has been waiting in the wings since impressing Hip-Hop heads across the board with his guest spot on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And as one of those people eagerly awaiting his turn in the limelight, I’ve been frustrated right alongside him. Seven years later, his debut album has finally seen the light of day, and I’m thrilled to say that it’s one of the few super-delayed Hip-Hop debuts that’s actually worth the wait. With an insightful running theme that contrasts spirituality with street activity, CyHi rips through track after track of eloquent lyricism, thoughtful song structure, and invigorating collaboration, which include the likes of Pusha T, ScHoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, Travis Scott and Mr. West himself. All in all, No Dope on Sundays is a strong candidate for my Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of 2017, which will be posted on this blog in the coming weeks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 Post Self – Godflesh

 Despite having an overwhelming fondness for Godflesh’s game-changing industrial classics like Streetcleaner and Songs of Love and Hate, as well as an appreciation for the venerable comeback record that was 2014’s A World Lit Only By Fire, this new one is just too damn esoteric for me. I can’t get into it. For my taste, there’s too much emphasis on ambience and exhaustive repetition and not enough in the way of riffs, which Godflesh have always managed to weave into their sound, regardless of the experimental terrain it has traversed over the years. While the rhythms of tracks like “Parasite” may hit you like an 18-wheeler, there’s almost no semblance of “notes” or musicality, just raw rhythmic noise. And I’m sure, given Godflesh’s stature as the critical darlings of this corner of Metal, they’re being lauded for it by some bloggers. But if I’m being completely honest, Post Self was so over my head that I even scrapped my planned review of it. NOT RECOMMENDED

A FEW MORE:

LIKE:

The Thrill of It All – Sam Smith

BB – Mod Sun

I Am Legion – Witchery

Dark Flag – Phinehas

DON’T LIKE:

Psychosis – Cavalera Conspiracy

Reputation – Taylor Swift

No Shame – Hopsin

What If Nothing – Walk the Moon

Kaskade Christmas – Kaskade

Oblivion – T-Pain

SYRE – Jaden Smith

Stranger – Yung Lean

Friday On Elm Street – Fabolous & Jadakiss