Friday, September 21, 2018

video review: 'room 25' by noname

So yeah, this is something special - definitely check this out!

And yeah, I was planning on Metric next, but considering how much folks want me to cover a certain hip-hop boy band... yeah, stay tuned!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

album review: 'room 25' by noname

I'm still kicking myself a little bit that I didn't review Noname's Telefone in 2016. Frankly, I had no reason not to - it wasn't like I didn't cover multiple women breaking out in thoughtful, low-key Chicago hip-hop that year - but for some reason she slipped out of mind for me and by the time I wanted to get the review together it was too late. Granted, I don't quite think the mixtape would have impacted my year-end list choices, but that's more because Telefone and Noname fell into a weird category for me where everything just seemed ever so slightly 'off'. Rhythms and melodies would feel off-kilter in strange ways, Noname's flows would bounce and curl around them, and even the content, despite feeling really clever, rested more on a tangled emotional spectrum than a regular logical throughline. Definitely a fascinating project that had some really damn solid grooves, and Noname had enough subtle charisma to pull me back, but I had a tough time really sinking into her material...

And then I wound up catching an early set of hers at Reading Festival this year, and in a live setting it oddly seemed to click. Her backing band lent an organic touch that made the odd turns feel naturalistic, and Noname's low-key charisma bubbled up in interesting ways, naturally infectious in a way that made the cleverness of her writing all the more enticing. In other words, even though at the time Noname was saying Telefone would be her only project, I'm a little glad that she wound up recording a full-length debut... basically in her own words because she had to pay rent and she wanted new music to play on tour. And there was no way in hell I was going to miss covering her this time, so what did we get on Room 25?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 22, 2018

I've said before that certain weeks can seem deceptive on the Hot 100, and this is one of those weeks, where both more and less than you'd expect happened. On the surface, it just looks like a regular cooldown week, but dig between the margins and you'll see a fair amount of movement coming out of the summer... but whether that movement matters is a different question altogether.

album review: 'palms' by thrice (ft. the rock critic) (VIDEO)

So this was a tricky record to dissect, and even with The Rock Critic teaming up on this video, this was still tough to deconstruct. Thanks for Crash for coming onboard, this was intriguing.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and Noname, so stay tuned!

video review: 'cry pretty' by carrie underwood

So yeah, this is a bit of a mess... but hey, it happens. 

But on a slightly different note...

Monday, September 17, 2018

album review: 'cry pretty' by carrie underwood

I can't believe that I'm actually getting to the point where I'm starting to feel sorry for Carrie Underwood.

Because I've said it before that I'm not exactly a fan of hers - she's made a few scattered songs I like, mostly telling stories where folks wind up dead, but the albums are consistently inconsistent, handicapped by frustrating production choices and Carrie Underwood having a tendency to rely more on raw power than subtlety or a genuine edge. I'm not saying she's a bad artist by any stretch - although if I never have to hear 'Before He Cheats' or 'Jesus Take The Wheel' again in my life I'd be happy - but that I've always been less enamored of her material than most.

But the more I've read about the lead-up to this album, the more sympathy I feel for her. Putting aside the fall where had to get surgery, Cry Pretty marked the shift to a new label at Capitol Nashville, as well as a complete change in production team from the folks she had been working with at Arista Nashville. That's a sizable step... and yet the rollout does not seem to have been handled well, with country radio not throwing support behind a reasonably well-received title track and her label yanking promotion a few weeks before the album's release... both suspiciously timed right behind Carrie Underwood making statements criticizing the failure of country radio to play any women and instead shoveling out more interchangeable meatheads who have just as much of a pop focus - or worse still, promoting women in pop for the easy crossover while ignoring women in country or even pop country. And before you think radio executives wouldn't be that petty... well, they are, but the larger question is what this means for Carrie Underwood going into the album, because people can get sick of an artist if they don't deliver quality, and when you pair it with sloppy or sabotaged promotion, that could be a big red flag. But hell, I was still curious about Cry Pretty, especially with Underwood taking a much bigger hand in the songwriting, so what did we get here?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

video review: 'paraffin' by armand hammer

And here it is - yes, it took a little longer to get to this than I'd prefer, but that's why I'm going to be revamping my Patreon in the next few months, so stay tuned for that.

Next up... you know, it's been a while since I've covered some metal, let's do that!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 15, 2018

So this is still somewhat in copyright hell, so we'll see how long it lasts up... but for now, check it out. 

And on that note...

album review: 'paraffin' by armand hammer

I'll admit to being surprised that we got a new Armand Hammer record in 2018. Not to imply the duo of billy woods and Elucid haven't been consistently churning out thorny, complicated projects throughout the 2010s, but 2017 was a busy year for billy woods both with a solo release and Armand Hammer's Rome, which I covered late in the year with Beezy430 over at Dead End Hip Hop. And while I definitely hold that Rome is not for everyone - the hooks are sparse, the rhymes are tangled, the conspiratorial vibe can make delving into the themes a tough sell - I still hold it's a great record.

But Paraffin looked to be a different animal. Where Rome was fragmented and apocalyptic, Paraffin looked to be digging deeper into weirder territory, exhuming the bones picked clean from the remnants of a society burned before, not so much a sequel but a deeper dive into similar ideas. So yeah, after relistening to Rome and reminding myself why it's a fantastic hip-hop record, I geared up for Paraffin - so what did we dig up this time?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 15, 2018

I think you all might be expecting me to be more angry about this album bomb than I am - given the review and how much vitriol I spewed, you'd probably think seeing it all show up here would piss me off all the more... and yet if I'm being brutally honest, in viewing the songs outside of the larger, slightly nauseating context of the record, I reckon some of them might hold up better on their own, and given that it's an album I covered at length, I'm definitely going to streamline the coverage here.

Monday, September 10, 2018

video review: 'villains' by emma blackery

So yeah, this was... actually a lot better than I was expecting, go figure. I've got hopes that the review will do well, but we'll see.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN with what looks like an Eminem album bomb so... ugh, just stay tuned!

album review: 'villains' by emma blackery

So I'm not going to lie, I was not expecting this would have the staying power it did to rise up my schedule, because even on a slow week it can get awkward talking about records from fellow YouTubers who more likely than not will see this video. And since there's a very good chance this might wind up in a reaction compilation somewhere - possibly by her - I wanted to ensure I gave this my due diligence, especially as I've watched a fair number of her videos in the past.

So, Emma Blackery - from the U.K., she started on YouTube about a year before I did as a way to promote her music, blew up considerably over the past several years, and while her collection of channels have gone through a number of permutations, the music has been a consistent feature, even if I'll freely admit a certain limited familiarity with her singles ahead of time. In going back to revisit them, she hit something of a stride with a bratty, pop punk sound that got smoothed into a pop lane that feels very close to something Paramore would have released around the turn of the decade. Now I'll freely admit I have issues with Paramore in that era, and I was genuinely curious whether she'd follow the same path they did for her independently released debut album - apparently she was going electro-pop this time around, which could definitely work with the right producers and if she had the hooks. I'll freely admit I was a little skeptical, but hey, Troye Sivan had stuck the landing when I covered him last week, I hoped Emma Blackery would be in the same boat here, so how did Villains turn out?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

resonators: #008 - 'hear nothing see nothing say nothing' by discharge (VIDEO)

And yes, I know it's late, but I'm glad it's here - enjoy?

Next up... honestly, not sure what's going to get a full review yet, so stay tuned!

video review: 'bloom' by troye sivan

Forgot to post this earlier, but this is a solid pop record - enjoy!

resonators: #008 - 'hear nothing see nothing say nothing' by discharge

So for this episode of Resonators, we're going to switch things up a bit, because while I've discussed at length the burgeoning hardcore punk scene across different parts of the United States, I haven't really delved into what was going on in punk in other parts of the world. And you'd think that since the U.K. was one of the main drivers of punk coming out of the 70s, they'd have a significant hardcore presence, at least in the underground at the time...

And this is where things get complicated, because in the early 80s in the U.K., punk was in a weird place. Sure, post-punk and new wave were laying the foundation for what would become the second British invasion, and anarcho-punk was curdling in its own artsy, far-left corner, but that didn't mean hardcore punk didn't have its own unique foothold, but it came from a different source: Oi! I've mentioned this style before in its adaptation of folk sing-a-long structures and working class populism, but by the late 70s the genre had gotten co-opted by skinheads and right-leaning white nationalist groups, which tainted the genre in the media discourse for decades to come despite the protests of some of the bands. But there was an offshoot of this, adapting a distinctive cymbal-snare-bass drum pattern and more blunt lyricism, that would later lay the groundwork for additional offshoots like crust punk and street punk to come in later years and even cross the Atlantic. This was d-beat, and while bands like The Buzzcocks had sparked initial interest in the sound, the band for which it was named would break onto the scene after a string of well-received EPs in the early 80s with what one could argue is one of the most influential releases of the time. And even if the band wouldn't stay in pure hardcore for long, it's important we talk about it all the same: the debut album from Discharge, Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, and this is Resonators!

Friday, September 7, 2018

album review: 'bloom' by troye sivan

I'm not going to lie, I'm a little surprised that we've wound up in this place - or more specifically, how Troye Sivan wound up in this place. I'm sure diehard fans remember this, but he started off in the burgeoning LGBTQ vlogger community on YouTube before transitioning into music, and there was definitely a time where I was convinced that the major label system would eat him alive like it has so many other musicians who originated on this platform we reluctantly call home.

And that didn't quite happen, mostly because Blue Neighbourhood went down among audiences and critics with a respectable amount of success, helped along by working with good producers and cowriters and showing Sivan evolving as a songwriter and performer - he never quite wowed me in that brand of pop, but there was a lot of promise. And yet even then, taking three years between albums did raise some questions for me, especially when his lead-off single was released months ago and didn't seem to pick up a ton of traction, even if it did look like he was going to be getting looser and darker. And some of his new production and writing team did raise questions for me: yes, Ariel Rechtshaid is always a promising addition, but seeing Allie X as a cowriter did raise suspicions, especially as I did not really like her project from last year. That said, he kept the majority of his production team from the last album and somehow even netted a featuring credit from Ariana Grande, and he was smart enough to keep this a brisk ten songs near thirty-five minutes, so I had some hopes this would turn out as strong as Years & Years' sophomore project, which played in the same lane and also dropped earlier this year as a modest improvement. So what did we get from Bloom?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

video review: 'kamikaze' by eminem

I humbly await your backlash.

Next up, Troye Sivan - stay tuned!

album review: 'kamikaze' by eminem

I was afraid of this happening. I honestly didn't expect it to happen - while there has always been blunt self-aware commentary in Eminem's work even with regards to his previous records, the fallout coming from Revival was particularly concerning, and I honestly just hoped that Em would leave it at the remix of 'Chloroseptic' and just move on, or maybe hunker down in the studio to cut together a sharper project, or heaven forbid get out of Detroit for a bit so he could take in the cutting edge of modern hip-hop and start really pushing the gauntlet again. About the last thing I would have wanted him to do was build an entire project as a response, because it's not the first time he's done this. I've always read Encore as a layered artistic immolation, intentional self-sabotage of his curdled legacy, and Recovery was explicitly framed as a response to the underappreciated Relapse, and somehow wound up even worse, to say nothing of sounding dated as all hell.

But Kamikaze looked to be simultaneously something different but familiar: a surprise album framed as a response and return to form, burning down everything in his path in acrid contempt for a mainstream hip-hop sound that threw him and Revival aside, with features from Joyner Lucas and Royce but also hooks from Jessie Reyez, about the last person I cared to see hop on a hook for anyone given her barely adequate and depressingly conventional pop vocal timbre. It was an album designed to court controversy with an impressive number of names getting dropped and insults getting thrown that all had the feeling of Eminem taking the critical rejection of Revival way too seriously and worse still not learning the lessons of why that record didn't work... but again, I'm an Eminem fan and defender and I have been for years, so I wanted to give this project its due time to sink in, to see if it could rise above its questionable origins... so how is it?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 8, 2018 (VIDEO)

And here we are, Billboard BREAKDOWN back on regular schedule - enjoy!