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)

 

February 2016 Album Round Up!

We’re just over two months into 2016, and we’ve already – somewhat surprisingly – been blessed with a ton of exciting releases in the midst of typically low-key winter months. When this calendar year is in the books, will we be looking back at January and February as the peak of 2016? Pretty unlikely. But I still feel like I’ve had a fairly reliable, steady stream of high-profile albums to look forward to (some delivered, some did not). And yes, Kanye dropped. But I’m fucking determined to go as long as I possibly can without hearing it. Not for lack of interest either. Just ‘cause. Anyway, here’s a quick recap of nine albums NOT named The Life of Pablo that I spent some time with this past month. Looking forward to what March has in store!

Khalifa – Wiz Khalifa

In the first project of his I’ve enjoyed since 2011’s smash hit Rolling Papers, Wiz dropped some…well, smoking and drinking music. The production and hooks are significantly more effective – to my ears, at least – than O.N.I.F.C. and Blacc Hollywood (save those two albums’ singles). If you’re looking for great lyricism, steer clear, but I definitely found myself coming back to this record quite a bit for some day drinking and pregaming, especially two exceptional, Kush & OJ-style tracks, “Zoney” and “Elevated”. RECOMMENDED

For All Kings – Anthrax

Welcome back Anthrax! About ten listens in, I’ve evaluated For All Kings as “dangerously close” to the Thrash mastery of 2011’s Worship Music. The difference is really just a filler track or two. But the middle chunk of this record is some of the best Anthrax music I’ve ever laid ears on. Joey Belladonna gets the MVP. My full review is available here. YouTube review here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Day One – From Ashes to New

This studio debut from Lancaster, PA outfit From Ashes to New made me want to vomit. They’re like an even more cheesed-up version of Twenty One Pilots meets Crown the Empire. I appreciate what they’re trying to do, but it just made me cringe. This guy Matt Brandyberry sounds like an even more melodramatic Mike Shinoda when he utters (well, raps) the words: “I lay awake and look at the ceiling and wonder why/I’m so afraid to face all these feelings and want to die”. And that dubstep-y breakdown? Fuck outta here wit dat. Not to mention the clean vocalist sounds fucking IDENTICAL to the guy on Escape the Fate’s self-titled album. I mean, is Day One heavy and appropriately angsty? Passionate even? Sure. And it’ll dominate with the Hot Topic crowd. But holy fuck is it not for me. NOT RECOMMENDED

Sittin’ Heavy – Monster Truck

Simply put, this band’s sophomore effort is the best fucking throwback hard rock record I’ve heard since perhaps Kyng’s Burn the Serum. It’s all there: it’s energetic, passionate, and wholeheartedly convincing. Fans of ‘70s and early ‘80s Rock should check it out immediately! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

This one certainly hurt. Macklemore is someone I really root for, if not always for his talent but for his passion, honesty, humility, and sometimes ruthless self-awareness. The Language of My World is phenomenal, The Heist is a near-classic, but Mess, his second with Ryan Lewis, is a huge disappointment. Save a few shining moments (“Light Tunnels”, “Kevin”, and the must-listen “Need of Know”) this thing is all over the place in a BAD way this time. My full review is available here. NOT RECOMMENDED

I Like it When You Sleep – The 1975

Ok, LP number two for these guys, who seem utterly ubiquitous at the moment. I am absolutely in love with the tracks “This Must Be My Dream” and “Somebody Else”. On the latter, those snare drums with the 80s-style reverb are borderline euphoric. While we’re on the topic of the 80s, the standout “She’s American” could’ve squeezed right into an early Huey Lewis and the News disc. But we didn’t need 17 frickin’ songs here. “UGH!” kind of drags in the wake of hit single “Love Me”, and are BOTH “If I Believe You” and “Please Be Naked” necessary when the title track brings all the dynamics this album needs? Still, at a bare minimum this is a wonderful soundtrack to a night drive in the city. Though I tend to think it offers a whole lot more. And yes, I do think Matt Healy eerily resembles Patrick Stump at times. But we’ll agree to disagree. RECOMMENDED

Victorious – Wolfmother

Ugh. This record has one of the strangest dichotomies in any track listing I’ve ever encountered. The first 5 songs are excellent and on par with some of the best moments on Wolfmother’s debut, and the second 5 songs are pure throwaway filler garbage. “Uneven” is an understatement. My full review is available here. NOT RECOMMENDED

X (No Absolutes) – Prong

Album number 11 for Prong – but their 10th of original material – wastes no time with opener “Ultimate Authority”, some excellent Crossover Thrash which would be right at home on a classic like Cleansing (although I know mentioning that record is understandably played out). I love the dissonant yet super-catchy riff in “Without Words” (and, for that matter, “Soul Sickness”) X (No Absolutes) has an impeccable combination of melody and heaviness that all these scream/sing Metalcore bands can only dream about. It stays completely true to the Prong aesthetic, and it’s a set that is sure to devastate in the live environment. I have yet to catch these legends live, so I’m hoping to get the chance on the cycle for X. RECOMMENDED

Dead Dawn – Entombed A.D.

Dead Dawn (Deicide anybody?) is the second album from Entombed 2.0 since the legendary band’s legal battles and break up. One of Entombed’s distinct qualities is how much more groove-oriented they are than the majority of Death Metal, showcased in the title track, and they’re not afraid to get downright melodic, like in that song’s bridge, which sounds like something Arch Enemy would do.There’s nothing in these ten tracks that’ll blow your mind, but there’s some certainly some heavy-ass (surprisingly fun) metal! I’m especially a fan of “Down to Mars to Ride” and the dynamic “Hubris Fall” And it’s still really not THAT far off from Left Hand Path, so there’s that. RECOMMENDED