December 2017 Album Round Up!

Happy New Year everyone! It’s 2018 and here I am a week and a half into the new year playing catch-up on everything that should’ve been finished before…well, whenever it was I blacked out on the night of the 31st.

The problem is, I was too busy pouring my heart and soul into year-end lists like this one and this one and this one, obsessing over every little detail and second-guessing every single candidate for hours and hours on end, to keep both eyes on the release calendar all December. So I definitely missed a few albums. But I do feel like I managed to hear all the important ones. For instance, it was absolutely CRUCIAL that I set aside enough time for both Eminem AND the Star Wars franchise to disappoint me on the same day (which happened to be my half-birthday, no less). Boy, that was fun.

But whether you’re a reader, a viewer, or just a serial angry commenter, thank you so much for your support in 2017! It means the world to me. I felt like the quality of my content grew exponentially this past year, and my goal for 2018 is to kick this shit up about ten notches! Which, that’ll mostly happen on my YouTube channel, so if you haven’t already, please subscribe and tune in every week!

But as long as I love to write, this blog lives on. And what the fuck is this blog without my monthly keyboard diarrhea about “disappointing new album” this and “corny overused descriptive adjective” that? Exactly. That’s what I thought.

So without further ado, the last Monthly Round Up of 2017!

Revival – Eminem

Annnnnnnd, after over a decade of remarkably inconsistent output, see-sawing constantly between unbearable nadirs and soaring highs, the day has finally arrived. The undeniable WORST release of Eminem’s legendary career. On the 44-year-old rapper’s eighth LP, everything falls apart. The production – whether it’s Rick Rubin’s appallingly lazy sampling of “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” on the song “Remind Me”, or it’s the syrupy Ed Sheeran collab “River” with its hideous Rock-ish bridge – shits the bed. And Eminem’s bars? They kind of shit the bed too, especially when he’s making horrible “shit” puns (“shit on my last chick/she has what my ex lacks”). On Revival, Eminem has so little sense about how to make his virtuosic rhymes sound musical. He’s like a malfunctioning “bar machine” that randomly generates intricate syllable combinations while ignoring the fact that there’s supposed to be “songs” going on here. Quite unfortunate to see one of my heroes take such a late-career nosedive. NOT RECOMMENDED

Kingdoms Disdained – Morbid Angel

 With the bar set impossibly low by the disastrous Industrial attempts on 2011’s Illud Divinum Insanus, these legendary Death Metallers could’ve put out pretty much anything and their fans would’ve gobbled it up, because hey, “at least it’s not that other one”. Enter Kingdoms Disdained, a suffocating, impenetrable, aggressively mediocre pummelfest that was welcomed with rave reviews. Well, from everyone expect me anyway. Even though I dug a couple tracks here and there, I found this LP to be swamped with filler and ultimately brought down by its completely one-dimensional brutality. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED

Pop 2 – Charli XCX

After my surprising love affair with her Number 1 Angel mixtape back in March, I was hoping for this feisty Brit to bring a second jolt of to the predictable Pop world before the year was up. But unfortunately, while Charli’s slightly brash approach to Pop music is still undeniably cutting edge, the punches didn’t land this time around for me. Whether it’s the flat hook on “Unlock It”, the mind-numbingly repetitive “I Got It”, or the underwhelming electro-tinged snoozefest that is the opener “Backseat” (yes, even with my girl Carly Rae on it!), I just couldn’t vibe with this project. Though I do enjoy the (cleverly titled) closing track “Track 10” and the EDM flair with which it crescendos toward the end, I’m gonna have to go against the overwhelmingly positive grain here and declare this one a no-go. Sawwy. NOT RECOMMENDED

From a Room: Volume 2 – Chris Stapleton

 In terms of raw singing talent, Chris Stapleton is, without any debate, one of the best in the Country business. But on From a Room: Volume 2 – Stapleton’s second release of 2017 – what makes him stand out even more is his range. From the folk-y minimalism of “Drunkard’s Prayer” to the loud Country Rock of “Hard Livin’” to the soulful balladry of “Nobody’s Lonely Tonight”, the man’s versatility makes this 32-minute record feel like 10 minutes that’s over all too soon (cue the easy jokes about my sex life). In a year where I put a ton of effort into acquiring a taste for Country music of all kinds, Chris Stapleton made the kind of songs that required no effort at all. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 Pressure – Jeezy

 If you had told me in 2006 that 12 years later, (then “Young”) Jeezy would still be relevant, I would’ve laughed in your face. But here we are, and though Jeezy hasn’t been terribly concerned with evolving his sound, he’s still pumping out the kind of bangers that make me wish I gave this thing a proper review. Exhibit A: the triumphant, bravado-laced “Spyder”, with D. Rich’s hard-hitting production giving the LP an immediate lift. And later on, of course, “American Dream” is a huge moment, given that it finds Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole joining forces on the same beat (Cole in particular kills it), adding even more intrigue to that rumored collaborative project between the two of them. Oh, and there’s also “In a Major Way” where guest Payroll Giovanni is an absolute monster. Sure, Pressure is far from perfect – you’ve got the generic “Floor Seats”, you’ve got straight unjustifiable duds like “This Is It”, and you’ve got bars like “two bitches, double date/diamonds floatin’, levitate” dragging the record down- but Jeezy continues to remind us why we still care about him after a decade and a half.

Virtual Self EP – Virtual Self

As I gushed on this very blog a few months back, our first taste of Porter Robinson’s Virtual Self side project (why he feels compelled to trade in his own MONEY-PRINTING household name for a generic pseudonym here, I have no idea) was nothing short of rapturous. The song in question, “Eon Break”, had everything; it had drops like fireworks, it had these rapturous major key synth melodies vaulting it into the stratosphere…not to mention its explosive climax at the end, featuring frenetic drum programming that felt like a distant cousin of Metal music. Well, I am happy to report that Porter’s debut EP as Virtual Self lives up to the hype generated by its first single. There’s the futuristic Trance adventures of “Ghost Voices”, there’s the twitching glitches of the most unique track on here, “a.i.ngel (Become God)”, and there’s perhaps my personal favorite, the so-sugary-and-blissful-it’s-almost-too-much-but-it’s-actually-beautiful “Key”, the latter of which most adheres to the “Eon Break” blueprint. All reasons to go check this EP out immediately. C’mon, it’s 20 minutes! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

War & Leisure – Miguel

Another capital W for one of the de facto leaders of the R & B genre. While Miguel’s fourth album War & Leisure might’ve reeled me in with the Travis Scott-assisted lead single “Sky Walker” – I wrote about that HERE – it quickly proved to me that it had a lot more to offer. The blissful, tropical-tinged “Pineapple Skies”, the entrancing “Banana Clip”, the jazzy J. Cole collab “Come Through and Chill”…Miguel did it again. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

In Becoming a Ghost – The Faceless

 Kudos to The Faceless for continuing to push the boundaries of what Technical Death Metal can be. After half a decade, they’ve come roaring back with a fourth LP that manages to be their most dynamic yet. I’m still hesitant to call it their “best” – that honor remains with 2008’s genre-defining Planetary Duality – but masterful Metal compositions like the delightfully dissonant “Digging the Grave”, or “Cup of Mephistopheles” with its snake-like riffing, or the head-spinning closer “The Terminal Breath” certainly qualify In Becoming a Ghost as a must-listen. And I should mention it’s all brought together by Ken Bergeron’s raspy vocal performance – he is far and away the best frontman that this band has ever had. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

A FEW MORE:

LIKE:

Dedication – Chief Keef

Material Control – Glassjaw

Reflective Pt. 2 EP – Bassnectar

Songs of Experience – U2

Say Less – Roy Woods

DON’T LIKE:

Asking Alexandria – Asking Alexandria

The New Reality – Operation: Mindcrime

Double or Nothing – Big Sean & Metro Boomin’

Wednesday – Chris Webby

 

Porter Robinson’s “Eon Break” Single (As Virtual Self)

Time to talk some EDM.

Last Wednesday, one of my favorite Dance songs of the year dropped out of nowhere and it was from some douchebag I had never heard of. His chosen moniker was Virtual Self, and I could only assume he was another anonymous Swedish teenager about to take the music world by storm.

Just kidding. Virtual Self is Porter Robinson. And I knew that going in. Why else do you think I would’ve immediately stumbled upon such a thing?

My first question: why does Porter Robinson need an alter ego? While I really don’t understand, the answer may lie in the drastic stylistic transformation that he undergoes in “Eon Break”. This track embraces a subgenre known as Happy Hardcore, a jubilant, Major-key spin on Hard Techno and Gabber. If you need a quick introduction, this is a great place to start. Or, as it has been explained to me by my friends who really know EDM: “when you think Happy Hardcore, think Dance Dance Revolution”.

While I don’t know jack shit about this style of music, I DO know that I love this fucking song. Its minute-long build is effortless in execution, and the drop is absolutely rapturous. The towering synth melody is accompanied by a background of fluttering cymbals and propelled by a simple quarter-note kick-snare combo that gives it more of a stomp than a pulse.

I’m also fascinated by the final 30 seconds of this song, because those drum rhythms are – no joke – exactly like the drums you’d hear in a Thrash Metal song. It almost made me chuckle at first. First there are those grinding triplets, and then at around 3:14 they erupt into machine gun-like bursts to close out the song. But you know what? I’ll save the EDM-Metal parallels conversation for another time. ‘Cause it’s a big thing I’ve been working on.

Oh, and what a stunning visual that accompanies this single! When you watch the video, be sure to pause the video at around 13 seconds and read all the sentences (questions on the left, statements on the right) that quickly wiz by on both sides of the screen.

In short, this song is absolutely magnificent. And I can’t wait to hear what this Carolina wunderkind has in store next, Virtual Self, Real Self, Porter Robinson, or otherwise.

 

My Summer ’16 Soundtrack: The Top 20 Songs

Well guys, the first day of Fall – or the “autumnal equinox” if you’re pretentious – is upon us, as is our official goodbye to Summer Sixteen. What we’re left with, aside from a month-long hangover and a couple genital warts, is a bunch of memories. More specifically, we’re left with the memories and the songs that accompany them. Seriously, the sheer power of the music-memory connection is mindblowing. (Example: two years ago, I had a severe panic attack in the middle of the Taconic Parkway in upstate New York while Wiz Khalifa’s “Bout Y’all” was playing, and to this day, I still can’t hear that track without losing my shit. It’s a shame, ‘cause it’s a banger.) This potent connection is bested only by the smell-memory link (Olfaction to Hippocampus), which any Neuroscientist will get a sizable boner explaining to you.

So whenever a meaningful chapter in my life closes, it always gets me thinking: what was my soundtrack? What are the songs that, until my liver finally calls it quits or an ex-girlfriend stabs me in my sleep, are gonna be intertwined with the good, the bad, and the ugly of this time period in my life? With Summer Sixteen coming to an end, I reached into the depths of my neurotic mind and these are the songs I yanked out. Below are brief thoughts on each one, and I’ve even compiled a Spotify playlist at the bottom for your listening pleasure.

This is what my Summer sounded like, and consequently, it’s what soul crushing nostalgia is gonna sound like for me in 2040. What did yours sound like? Let me know in the comments. I hope you’ve already given day one of Autumn a swift kick in the ass! Peace out Summer Sixteen!

(Girl We Got A) Good Thing – Weezer

If you ever wondered what summer “sounds like”, here’s your answer.

Sometimes – Ariana Grande

My favorite Pop song of the entire year. Max Martin’s impossibly smooth production reminds me of his work on Backstreet Boys’ Millenium.

KISA – Rittz

On Rittz’s brilliant, hard-hitting Top of the Line, the sappy love song also happens to be my favorite. Bite me.

Roses – Carly Rae Jepsen

Every single track on last month’s Emotion: Side B EP is a contender, but “Roses” takes the cake for me. It’s moody by Carly Rae standards, and perhaps that’s why I have a slightly deeper connection with it than peppy songs like “First Time”.

Everything– Atmosphere

Slug’s hyper self-aware rhymes and Ant’s knocking production make this a quintessential Atmosphere track.

Do You Mind – DJ Khaled

I love this sensual banger from DJ Khaled’s absurdly hyped Major Key LP. The production is a bit of a call back to Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle”, and Future’s guest verse is low key one of the best moments of his career.

Collapse – Vektor

Vektor’s Progressive Thrash opus Terminal Redux is still my number one Metal album of 2016 thus far. And yes, it’s fucking blistering, but it’s actually the LP’s pseudo-ballad that I’ve found myself coming back to the most.

Shelter –Porter Robinson & Madeon

 My two favorite EDM artists broke the Internet with this collaborative single, and it sounds exactly how I had hoped – like Madeon’s Adventure and Porter’s Worlds enjoyed some good ol’ passionate shtupping.

John Muir – ScHoolboy Q

Q’s menacing delivery and Sounwave’s throbbing boom bap – complemented by a touch of Jazz in the hook – are a lethal combination.

Whatever, Wherever – Band of Horses

Another stare-up-at-the-stars-and-think-about-life song from Band of Horses. Gorgeous, calming…everything I’ve come to adore about “Factory”, “Infinite Arms”, “The Funeral”, and the softer moments in the band’s catalogue. I often wonder if other listeners extract the same mood from these songs that I do – if not, chalk another thing up to my weirdness.

Hologram – Crown the Empire

 Histrionic metalcore angst at its most shameless. Normally it doesn’t fly with me, but “Hologram” is so fucking catchy.

Night Drive Loneliness – Garbage

Over two decades after their self-titled masterpiece, Garbage are still killing it. This standout from their new record Strange Little Birds – which came out in June – is the perfect sonic execution of its titular concept.

Stranded – Gojira

In stripping down their pulverizing sound for something a bit hookier, Gojira took a huge risk with Magma, the band’s sixth album. But it’s the most commercial song on it that ended up being my favorite!

 Cleaving Giants of Ice – Revocation

The mammoth closing track from Great Is Our Sin proves that Death Metal and clean vocals DO mix when done right! Prominent Enslaved influence here.

Stole the Show – Kygo

Overall, I was pretty turned off by the excessively commercial sound of Kygo’s debut, but “Stole the Show” was, ironically, my most beat-to-death party song of the summer ‘16.

Dive In – Pierce the Veil

I’ll give Pierce the Veil the gold medal for biggest surprise of 2016 thus far. I usually avoid verb-the-noun bands like the plague, but their new record Misadventures and its explosive opening track are undeniable.

The Fighter – Keith Urban

As with Kygo, I hated the album, but fell in love with a select track. “The Fighter” is a powerful duet with Carrie Underwood.

Something’s Off – Hatebreed

One of the very best songs of Hatebreed’s two-decade career. What a monstrous main groove! And in the bridge section, Jamey Jasta’s foray into clean singing is an absolute triumph.

Ideology is Theft – Saosin

For some reason, the bridge in this song yanks a tremendous amount of emotion out of me every single time I hear it. That addicting lead guitar riff in the chorus doesn’t hurt either.

Love Drought – Beyonce

 This is the song Drizzy Drake wishes he could pull off

 

The Fall 2015 Pregame Playlist

As I prepare for yet another Jack Daniels-sponsored night of played-out top 40 hits, increasingly horrific dance moves, and general sloppiness of many incarnations, it comes time to reflect. Time to reflect on a semester in which I’ve experienced a monumental methodological shift in my weekly partying and the copious alcohol consumption that operates in tandem. For the last three months or so, I have been accompanied by a playlist.

It happened completely by accident. Because of the sheer variety of music I enjoy, coupled with my abnormally low tolerance for repeated listens, I have always been a staunch opponent of Party and Work Out playlists. For God’s sake, change it up. There’s so much out there that’s not Drake, it’ll blow you away. Anyway, due to my Baby Boomer level of technological savvy, it took me until Summer 2015 to discover the wondrous beauty of YouTube to MP3. Upon this life-altering revelation, I began to accumulate various “turn up” songs that I would never necessarily own but have always enjoyed pregaming to via YouTube, many of them extremely questionable to everyone else. Without even realizing it, I had curated a fucking playlist.

Now I assume nearly everyone’s familiar with the basic, triadic college night structure – 1) drinks with a small crew of close friends, 2) the larger scale “official” pregame, and 3) the main event, at which you hope to either get laid, hang with casual friends you don’t often see, get completely obliterated to celebrate/mourn an occasion, or if you have a banner night, all of the above. For some odd reason, I’ve always taken Phase 1 very seriously, except I execute it in utter solitude. In order to boost my mood, transition from work to fun, and enter the headspace required for a successful night of partying, it has always been crucial for me to have a few drinks alone to the exact party music that I want to hear, and have whatever “deeper” thoughts I need to have before I go mingle with a sea of people I pretend to like, to a soundtrack that I also – for the most part – pretend to like. This 30-minute ritual has slowly evolved into the routine that no good night of mine can start without. Sometimes it’s complemented in various douche-y ways like pushups, pullups, or a nutritious snack, but that’s a whole other issue.

So my newly acquired YouTube rips had a function all of a sudden. Starting at the beginning of the Fall semester in September, they were my soundtrack to Phase 1. I figured that as the semester wore on I would make some sort of changes to the playlist, but I guess that as I age (a whopping 21 years now), familiarity becomes more appealing. Before you know it, I’m going to have a monogamous girlfriend. Anyway, because of the narcissist that I am, I felt eager to share this playlist. I guess it was a big deal to me, at least. Just picture it: I’m pouring my first homemade Jack and Coke, putting on some sort of button down that I’d never wear if I could be socially accepted otherwise, and contemplating whether we actually have any sort of control over our own destinies. Who knows, maybe somebody somewhere else is doing the exact same weird shit.

1) Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix) – so basic it hurts

2) Sum 41: In Too Deep (Kasum Remix) – a great EDM remix that invigorates an otherwise tired, unwelcome throwback

3) ‘NSync: Tearin’ Up My Heart – yep. One of my all time favorites. Wish I were kidding

4) Backstreet Boys: Everybody (Rock Your Body) – see number 3

5) David Guetta: Titanium (feat. Sia) – how this hasn’t gotten old is beyond me. Still possibly my favorite party song for its mix of danceable beat and dramatic vocals

6) Waka Flocka Flame: No Hands (feat. Roscoe Dash & Wale) – as effective as it was in 2010

7) ScHoolboy Q: Man of the Year – that mesmerizing beat puts my mind in a place that only this song can

8) Porter Robinson: Sad Machine – who knew EDM could make you feel so intensely?

9) Cascada: I Need a Miracle – see numbers 3 and 4

10) Future: Same Damn Time – I never fuck with trap. But THIS…

11) Jay-Z: We Made It (Remix) [feat. Jay Electronica] – the fucking bars on this track. This one should be automatically programmed into every sports locker room

12) Flashdance: She’s a Maniac – do you NOT pregame to 80’s dance anthems?

13) Ariana Grande: The Way (feat. Mac Miller) – Big Pun beat plus Easy Mac plus hot chick? Sign me up.

14) Kaskade: Disarm You (feat. Ilsey) – I wrote about this here

15) The Killers: Smile Like You Mean It (Madeon Remix) – Madeon flipped this gem from Hot Fuss into something equally special

16) Madeon: Adventure (entire fucking album) – THE party album of 2015. Just mindblowing