Monday, October 16, 2017

album review: 'MASSEDUCTION' by st. vincent

I often feel like using the word 'evolution' to describe Annie Clark's ongoing career under the name St. Vincent isn't quite accurate. I think 'mutation' is the better word - and believe it or not, that's a compliment! She may have started in the more poised and polished realm of baroque pop with tasteful strings accenting her admittedly unorthodox style of guitar work, but as early as Actor things started to shift. The guitars got more processed and blocky that somehow still managed to support potent melodic grooves, the strings began giving way for synthesizers and tones that felt all the more alien, and while her voice kept its same ethereal quality - for the most part - the content and its connection to the human experience was contorting into something more primal, for lack of a better word. Oh, the empathy, complex framing, and willingness to bend taboos was always there, but its mode of expression was warping into something less and less recognizable, with the compositions and framing maybe losing a bit of their populism but opening up new depths of sound for her to explore.

And I'm a fan of it - a pretty big fan, actually. I'd still slot Strange Mercy as a shade stronger than the self-titled release just in terms of overall consistency, but with songs like 'Psychopath', 'Severed Crossed Fingers', 'Digital Witness' and the absolutely mind-blowing 'Bring Me Your Loves' St. Vincent was making a case for the more twisted sonic adventures having potential that was just as rich and promising. And considering that her newest record MASSEDUCTION was looking to be going even deeper in a thematically dense direction, I was most certainly curious where the hell she'd take this. So what did I find on MASSEDUCTION?

Friday, October 13, 2017

the top ten best hit songs of 2010

I have to admit, when I first added the highest tier option to include requests for a top ten list, I had no idea what was going to be requested. Opening up the vast decades of Billboard history meant this could go in any direction, and that could mean a wealth of new discoveries. And thus our first Patreon request is for the best hit songs of... 2010.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

album review: 'heaven upside down' by marilyn manson

So here's one of the byproducts of the weird way I got into metal and industrial music: almost by accident I completely missed Marilyn Manson. Seriously, it's actually a little bizarre how until very recently I had just completely missed covering the industrial iconoclast or even hearing much of his music beyond the covers that managed to cross over - as I've said in the past, I never had an angry white boy phase, and I found goth music and culture more through symphonic metal, black metal, and early post-punk and industrial music more than the mutated hybrids that came out in the 90s and 2000s that spawned acts like Marilyn Manson. 

Now that's not saying that Manson doesn't have a place in pop culture - he most certainly does, from his 90s breakout records produced by Trent Reznor to his numerous artistic pivots throughout the early 2000s - but in retrospect you often get the impression that his image has persisted a lot longer than his music has. It's one of the reasons I actually respect his pop sensibility - if you're aware your currency is in shock value, you might as well pair it with tunes that can be pretty damn catchy that'll at least stick when all but the professionally outraged set grows up. But that's the thing: folks who grew up with Marilyn Manson did grow up, and he was still making music, and after severing ties with Interscope you could tell he was probing different territory, going for metal with Born Villain and even pivoting towards blues with The Pale Emperor, with the backing of producer and composer Tyler Bates. But I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before he pivoted back towards what made his career, and given that buzz was suggesting the political undercurrent was going to be flowing again, I figured Manson's natural gift for provocation could actually pay off here. And even if, again, I'm no big fan of the guy's music - I could easily rattle off a slew of other gothic acts that I find more potent than Marilyn Manson - I figure I might as well take a look. So, what did we unearth here?

video review: '' by poppy

So this was cute. Fun record too, really happy I covered this.

And now onto something just as cute in its own way... ;)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

album review: '' by poppy

You know, it's very tempting for me as a YouTuber to start this entire review with a Poppy spoof. The washed out aesthetic and slightly offkilter delivery, full of fragmented non sequiteurs, internet soundbites and memes, the sort of layered satire of pop stars in the age of internet culture directed by Titanic Sinclair which has blown up into something I'd need the next hour to fully deconstruct and explain. To reveal more would be to strip away some of the charm of the original videos which you should all watch, but suffice to say, for the most part, I'm a fan of Poppy as an internet personality.

But I'm not reviewing an internet personality or a meme - I have enough trouble keeping reviews monetized as it is - I'm talking about the music, of which Poppy has touched since the very beginning with covers and eventually original songs that would leverage some of the satire against a technocolor backdrop. And while I've liked her pop music, I've always had my concern that her online persona would overshadow her records, that she wouldn't quite be able to capture the subtle twists and potency of her videos. Now you have to wonder if she'd even bother to try in some cases - around this time last year she released the ambient project 3:36 (Music To Sleep To), and despite certain eerier textures it was far more abstract than her usual content - but it also felt more like a digression, not the blur of k-pop, dance punk, and electronic synthpop I expected we would get on her debut. So okay, what did I find with Poppy.Computer?

video review: 'all i ever see in you is me' by jillette johnson

You know, this is one of the vids where the prospects were never good - even if I wasn't months late it'd still be a tough sell to get to a mass audience, she's pretty underground...

But with YouTube dicking over the sub boxes for this as well, I'd still like to see it get some traction, so I'd urge you all to check it out.

Thankfully, I've got some content coming that should boost my fortunes, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 21, 2017 (VIDEO)

Okay, so this was... actually a pretty lousy week, not helped by YouTube dicking over my sub box (which apparently happened for multiple users, but still wasn't all that fun). At least this'll have some longevity...

album review: 'all i ever see in you is me' by jillette johnson

So after the last album review I feel something needs to be clarified, namely with respect to the folks supporting me and voting on my schedule on Patreon - and a lot of it is gratitude. Seriously, with YouTube demonetizing the majority of my videos the second they go up, you guys have been a life saver, and you've introduced me to music that I would never have covered otherwise. Some bad - I'm not sure I'll ever forgive you guys for AJR - but a ton of it good.

And as such, given the rather peculiar state my schedule is in right now, I think it's time we handle some old business and review a record that took a long time to get to the top - and yet if I had done my homework I would have been pushing this months ago. For the majority of you who do not know, Jillette Johnson is a New York singer-songwriter who has been attracting comparisons to Fiona Apple, but really her style and instrumentation reminds me more of a split between Feist's personality, Regina Spektor's hyper-detailed writing, Florence Welch's power, and Vienna Teng's knack for slightly off-kilter indie pop production that could lead to phenomenal hooks all the same. Her debut album Water In A Whale came out in 2013 and my god, it is something special, full of the sort of indie pop that throws in enough left turns to keep you intrigued and enough bombast and creativity to suck you in. It's a terrific debut and it makes all the more sense why she actually turned down an offer to go on The Voice so she could focus on her career - she's a far more intriguing artist than what that show would have her do. In any case, she dropped a sophomore album in mid-July, and if it's anything like her debut I was definitely excited to see where this would fit. So, what did we get?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 21, 2017

So I've been predicting for the past few weeks that the charts are on the verge of something breaking - and thus far, the Hot 100 has been doing a fine job of making me look like a fool by not really doing much of anything. Worse yet, the predictions I did make about pop divas making a splash blew up in the face and, as so many of you predicted, the biggest splash we got this week was from the debut album from A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. I have to be honest, this wasn't even on my radar or schedule, so might as well take a dive into that, especially considering our other new arrivals this week!

Monday, October 9, 2017

movie review: 'mother!' (VIDEO)

Whoo boy, really wish I liked this a lot more... eh, it happens, I just hope I managed to clarify my point effectively, this was a pretty scattered vlog all things considered.

But next up, I've got a bit of old business before the 30k video, and of course Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

video review: 'life changes' by thomas rhett

Hey, if it was truly awful believe me I would have said so. As it is... well, made for a good bait-and-switch with the thumbnail. :)

And next up... hmm, interesting, we'll see what we get here. Stay tuned!

album review: 'life changes' by thomas rhett

There's a part of me that doesn't even want to pretend I care about this record, to basically pull a bait-and-switch and talk about something that actually dropped this week and that got forced back on my schedule because according to my Patrons I should just 'get this over with'. Because that's the optimum attitude going into an album review, right?

In all due seriousness, I should have vetoed this from my schedule. I didn't because I've got a morbid sense of curiosity surrounding this guy's inexplicable popularity... you know, I can't even say that! I know what Thomas Rhett is popular, he makes doofy pop music for people terrified of the raw sexuality of Bruno Mars. I've always found it contemptible that he's still advertised on country radio, because let's be honest, he belongs on the pop stations - but he'd also be consigned to the same territory as the b- and c-list like Andy Grammer or just get stuck playing catch-up to Charlie Puth, Shawn Mendes and Ed Sheeran if he's not going to rip them off entirely. 

My larger point was that going into Life Changes I didn't expect the genre-defying abomination that was Tangled Up, I expected something more 'normal' and sedate after the success of 'Die A Happy Man', a set of pleasant, underwhelming milquetoast pop that'll be forgettable to listen through and absolute torture to review. But, at the same time it's not like 'Craving You' or 'Unforgettable' were bad songs - they weren't country but they were at least passable, and you really have nowhere to go but up after Tangled Up, so maybe this would be at least inoffensive?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

video review: 'the hype' by hoodie allen

Well, despite YouTube dicking me over again with monetization, here we go. Can't say I loved this, but it was passable enough I guess.

And now onto something far less interesting... well, stay tuned.

album review: 'the hype' by hoodie allen

So let's get into territory that can be a touchy subject for hip-hop heads: pop rap. And i can already see some of you scoffing, but let's be real: there have been artists who have played for lighter and sillier material since hip-hop's inception, some who are even now held up among the greats or at the very least respected. But don't get me wrong, I get the stigma, because when people think of pop rap in the modern day, they tend to treat the music as utterly disposable songs by utterly disposable artists, and while they aren't often wrong, you could make the argument that some of these acts can actually flow better than the endless stream of utterly forgettable mumble rappers, or who might actually have a turn of phrase that's interesting or funny - something that an increasingly humorless mainstream hip-hop scene tends to ignore. But when you also factor in the subset of white pop rap artists who tend to be using hip-hop just as a vehicle to make bad comedy - Lil Dicky - it doesn't help a stereotype of sanitized, corny, and ultimately forgettable acts that you listen to briefly in college and ever again.

So where does Hoodie Allen fall in? Well, it's tough to say - you could definitely make the argument that his debut had its fair number of pop rap singles, blending in Drake and Ed Sheeran-esque vocals with loose bragging and plenty of stealing your girlfriend - a cliche I don't like regardless of genre - but unlike so many of his peers he had remained entirely independent, and his followup Happy Camper early last year grounded itself with a little more self-awareness and maturity, slightly groovier production, and a style that pulled more from Chance The Rapper than anything like Ed Sheeran. Now he could still slip towards corniness at spots and some of his production choices and collaborators are certainly dubious in my books, but he was on the right path, and considering he reached out himself for me to cover The Hype, I figured I might as well give it a chance - what did I find?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 14, 2017 (VIDEO)

And that's all the posting for tonight... man alive, this takes a while to get through everything, but here we are. Okay, next up... well, it'll depend on what Patreon gives me, so stay tuned!

video review: 'tell me you love me' by demi lovato

Always forget to post these... shame the record wasn't better, though.

And now onto tonight's event...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 14, 2017

So okay, maybe I'm just bad at predicting when things are going to shift. I've been saying for a few weeks now that the Hot 100 feels precarious, on the cusp of something really shaking up the established order... and yet it didn't happen here, because outside of country rolling some new songs out, very little actually happened in any significant way. Not like I'm complaining - I like a shorter episode every once and a while - but there is a part of me that feels like the Hot 100 needs a good shakeup, and I'd prefer that happens before Taylor Swift drops reputation and blows everything wide open.

Monday, October 2, 2017

album review: 'tell me you love me' by demi lovato

Not gonna lie, I had a bad feeling going into this record. And given how much I've been rooting for Demi Lovato over the past few years, this was not a feeling I wanted to have - there had been promise on both DEMI and Confident, and as you all probably know 'Cool For The Summer' was my favourite hit song of 2015! I had every hope that Demi Lovato could rise and take on the female pop rock mantle in the mainstream that had been left vacant for so long - she had the pipes, she had the attitude, she was taking more of an active cowriting role...

But the more I started hearing tracks in the build-up to Tell Me You Love Me - a bad album title and about the last thing I would want or expect to hear from Demi Lovato - the more I was worried. As much as you might not like Max Martin, he did do a significant amount behind the scenes on her better singles and likely contributed to the rock elements, and the problem I had with Confident is that instead of tilting towards that in production and delivery, she relied on flimsy, desaturated modern pop tropes that didn't flatter her, often tilting towards R&B or soul in a way that didn't fit with her voice and delivery all that well. And with the lead-off singles for Tell Me You Love Me it looked like more steps in that direction, which didn't bode well for this record, especially when you notice her token rap collaboration is with Lil Wayne on a DJ Mustard beat. But the other reviews were suggesting this is the point where Demi Lovato hit her stride, so despite all the evidence to the contrary in the lead-off singles, I checked this out - what did I find?

video review: 'a fever dream' by everything everything

Again, I know, it's late, but it was an interesting conversation regardless.

But we're not done yet... stay tuned!

album review: 'a fever dream' by everything everything

So here's one of the more exasperating things I've had to experience as a music critic: hearing a lot of music that is certainly good and passable and agreeable but it just a shade away from true greatness, and at least to your ears you could hear the exact change they could make to get there and it's just not materializing, no matter how much you want it. You might like the band, you might like the ideas they're trying to explore, you might like their experimental progression... but it's just not assembling in a way that connects for you.

Now for Everything Everything they definitely didn't start there - they may have had a knack for catchy melodies and willfully oblique writing that walked the line of insufferable, but between some truly awful synth choices and the caterwauling of their frontman Jonathan Higgs, their debut Man Alive just did not connect for me whatsoever. And then something weird happened: the band got better, streamlining their sound, punching up their groove, and taking their lyrics into territory that was still odd but a shade more accessible all the same. Arc was a good first step, Get To Heaven was even better, damn near on the cusp of greatness... and yet every time I'd go back to it I'd feel oddly distant from it. The hooks were better than ever, Higgs' voice had grown on me a bit, and the greater focus on rhythm was potent... but I always got the feeling the band didn't always have a firm grasp of their strengths, which led to distracting non sequiteur moments or mix choices that never flattered the group as much as they should.

So while there was a part of me that was a bit concerned when I heard Everything Everything was heading towards a more 'conventional' sound on their newest record, I had at least the hope it'd come with sharper production choices and a little more focus overall rather than blunting their experimentation entirely. They had changed up producers again, bringing in James Ford who is most well known for working with Arctic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine... but on the flip side he had also worked on the last Depeche Mode and Mumford & Sons record, and how much he'd guide the sound was anyone's guess. So what did Everything Everything deliver on A Fever Dream?