Wednesday, May 23, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 26, 2018

I'm not sure how to evaluate what happened on the Hot 100 this week. Obviously there was going to be some slide towards conventionality as Post Malone's album bomb continues to fade, but there seemed to be more going on here, songs from artists I've never heard of showing up and other songs changing in ways I wouldn't predict or expect - or in some cases, not really changing much at all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

video review: 'light of mine' by KYLE

Alright, the review is done, but we still have Billboard BREAKDOWN for tonight, so stay tuned!

album review: 'light of mine' by KYLE

I'll admit to being a little surprised this record is on my schedule.

Actually, let me back up a bit, I'm surprised this record garnered as much attention as it did on my schedule given that it seems like it's dropping a good year later than I expected. Don't get me wrong, I really liked 'iSpy' when it first came out, and if it hadn't been for Lil Yachty it probably would have had a shot for my year-end list of hits in 2017, or at least the Honourable Mentions. And it was primarily because of KYLE - I liked him as a presence in hip-hop and R&B, almost a little reminiscent of Chance The Rapper but with more of an R&B angle and an oddly childlike optimism, which tended to take the edge of the sleazier parts of songs like 'iSpy'. 

Now granted, 'iSpy' was really all I was familiar with from him, but I was a little surprised it took this long to get a major label full-length follow-up, given that his last mixtape with real hype dropped in 2015 and you'd think he'd be trying to ride the early wave with an EP or an tape or something early last year - don't get wrong, he had two tapes, but it didn't seem like anyone really cared as much. Instead, it looks like KYLE redoubled his focus to taking his time and pulling together a debut with features spanning from 2 Chainz to Khalid, from Alessia Cara to Kehlani. And hell, with as many votes as this was getting, I had some hopes the extra time had been worth it, so what did we get with Light Of Mine?

Monday, May 21, 2018

video review: 'echoes from eta carinae' by alrakis

Yes, I know this has been LONG in coming, but I'm happy I got this out - great atmospheric black metal, really enjoyed this.

Next up... hmm, let's do KYLE and Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'echoes from η carinae' by alrakis

Oh, I'm happy I finally got this one, the sort of project that I was originally going to put on the Trailing Edge but took off specifically to cover here in a full review, I was that excited about it...

Well, perhaps 'happy' isn't the right word, because today we're going to be talking about a brand of black metal that is pretty controversial - yes, even for black metal. This sub-subgenre is labeled DSBM, an acronym for depressive suicidal black metal, where the tones were more dreary and drone-like, the lyrics more nakedly introspective and dark... and that's the polite way of getting around how some of these acts could dig into some of the most transgressive and masochistic material both on and off the microphone. And if you do some research into what some of these bands did it can be shocking, enough to push away from exploring more - especially for me, given that I'm not really a huge fan of drone or doom metal and I'm behind schedule as it is - but more research unearthed some articles describing the raw catharsis this subgenre could trigger, that its exploration of such themes through the agency of art gave the artist and by extension the audience some form of release. And while I'm not quite sure I can buy into all of those themes, especially when the bands pair those tones with more conventional, naked aggression, it at least gave me some context.

And even with that, I'm not sure I needed to dig that much deeper with Alrakis - from my research, he's a German artist known for blending DSBM tones with a more atmospheric soundscape, which some have branded 'cosmic' black metal. He broke out in 2011 with Alpha Eri, but it's been seven years since, and he had a behemoth project here: a single track, over fifty two minutes long, with the title 'Echoes of Eta Carinae'. And while I initially thought I wouldn't have enough to say - after all, it's just one song - a single listen changed my mind and convinced me I would have to cover this at length. So what was so compelling about this that I took it off the Trailing Edge?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

the top ten best hit songs of 2012 (REDUX) (VIDEO)


And now to get back on schedule. Lots to do, folks, stay tuned!

the top ten best hit songs of 2012 (REDUX)

So this top ten list is going to be a little different than the previous few I've put together - mostly because I've made it before.

So let's back up a little - as many of you know, I started on YouTube in July of 2013, but I had begun writing about music a good two years earlier, first on Facebook and in 2012 on my personal blog, where I started by assembling my list of the top ten best hit songs of 2012. And while I've made reference to that year on Billboard BREAKDOWN and in year-end lists, I've never actually converted that list to video, which is what I'm going to be doing today... with a twist. See, my opinions have evolved and changed over the past six years and I figured it wouldn't be a bad step to revisit the year-end Hot 100 of that year and see if my greater critical acumen and hindsight had shifted my opinion... and while for the most part it hasn't, I am going to making a few changes from that original list, so there's no guarantee you'll know what shows up here.

But if there is one thing that has been solidified by this relisten, it's that 2012 stands head-and-shoulders above the majority of this decade with some of the best hit songs of the 2010s. Pop was still riding out the club boom to a fair amount of success, country was only in the early years of the growth of bro-country and landed some real quality on the charts, R&B was notching some genuinely forward-thinking tunes, and hip-hop... okay, maybe more of a transitional year overall, but there were highlights. But what makes the 2012 chart so vibrant was the indie boom, a flashpoint of out-of-nowhere crossovers from indie folk, pop and rock that for a brief shining moment redefined what a hit could be in the mainstream. And while it's dispiriting how much of it would fizzle away in the coming year - and indeed, if we're looking at a theme for this list it would be high points of potential never quite achieved again - it still left us with a list of tracks where I actually had to cut some great songs, something you can't say about years like, say, 2016. So as always, the rules are that the song must debut on the year-end Hot 100 in this year, and let's get started with...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

video review: 'providence canyon' by brent cobb

So this was pretty cool - it's pretty niche and probably won't be for everyone, but still worth a listen or two, definitely check it out!

Next up... hmm, something from my backlog, I think, so stay tuned!

album review: 'providence canyon' by brent cobb

So I'll admit I regret not talking about Brent Cobb sooner - but in all due fairness to myself, I can imagine a lot of folks maybe overlooking him. The cousin of acclaimed indie producer Dave Cobb, he got the attention of the indie country scene by satirizing bro-country in 2015 with 'Yo Bro', but he came to much greater attention thanks to his appearance on the compilation Southern Family, which remains one of the best records of the 2010s and one of the few I've ever given a perfect score. And yet even with that, Brent Cobb seemed to slide into the background: I really liked his detail-rich, earthy songwriting, but they guy had the misfortune of being placed in the track order between Jason Isbell and Miranda Lambert, who delivered much more impressive songs.

But in digging into his 2016 album Shine On Rainy Day, I came to realize that unassuming, low-key charm was less a bug and more a feature of Brent Cobb - primarily acoustic, with the sort of roughscrabble detail and texture in his lyrics that reward repeated listens to really sink into the vibe. And 'vibe' is a key qualifier, because while there are a few exceptions like the excellent 'South Of Atlanta' and 'Let The Rain Come Down', that record was perhaps a little too low-key for its own good - comfortably riding the firm bass, hints of smokier guitars and rich acoustic warmth to really kick up a groove, the sort of background music that brought a ton of welcome texture and would definitely be an underrated gem for folks who like indie country, but amidst an avalanche of excellent country in 2016, it's no surprise it might have faded to the background. 

Well, that's not quite the case in 2018, and if the buzz was true and Cobb has cranked up the tempos to lean into the southern Georgia funk influences that had been lurking beneath his sound for some time, we could have something pretty unique and interesting here, so what did we get on Providence Canyon?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

video review: '7' by beach house

Man, I knew this record was getting critical acclaim... it's nice to come into that mold on my own, though, I really did think this was pretty great. Definitely recommended if you want to get back on the Beach House train, it's worth it.

Next up... whoo, this'll be an obscure one, stay tuned!

album review: '7' by beach house

So I'll admit the last time I talked about Beach House three years ago - the first time I ever had on my channel - it didn't precisely go well. Part of that was inescapable - while I do love Teen Dream and Bloom I appreciate those records most because they expand and heighten the mantra-like dreamy melodies at the core of the duo's sound, compensating for poetic and well-considered but occasionally underweight lyrics. But on the flipside you get records like Depression Cherry which served to strip away so much of that atmosphere where it became much harder to get lost in the mist, and elements that could prove playfully eccentric on one record could feel undercooked or even pretentious when stripped of their packaging. It was hard to ignore the feeling that both Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars in 2015 felt like a regression, albeit for different reasons - I didn't formally review Thank Your Lucky Stars, so here goes: I appreciate the return of more atmosphere and more layered production, but the melodies and songwriting felt even more threadbare and like a retread of past records. Not bad, but not exactly a project I'd revisit over their best work.

So I can't tell you how excited I was to cover 7, Beach House's newest record and one that buzz was suggesting was their most dark and experimental in some time. Departing from longtime producer Chris Coady, Beach House acknowledged that when they worked with an outside producer at all it was Peter Kember, known for his work with Spacemen 3, MGMT and Panda Bear as well as for electronic records under the alias Sonic Boom. And while I expected Beach House to continue with their typical sound - this is not a band that takes dramatic sonic risks - I did hope that they were heading towards the heavier direction pushed on Bloom, which I'd probably consider my favourite of their projects to date. So alright, what did I find on 7?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 19, 2018 (VIDEO)

And it's out... and that means I might be able to go to bed on time on a Tuesday... nice.

Anyway, looks like it's Beach House next, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 19, 2018

So I've said a number of times that the most interesting weeks on the Hot 100 are not those of the album bombs, but the week right after, when things seem to reset to some form of equilibrium and the charts regain some sort of stability, for better or worse. And in the week following two album bombs in a row, you'd expect the recovery to be more pronounced... and then Childish Gambino unleashed 'This Is America'. And unsurprisingly, that's the much bigger story to discuss later on this show, but make no mistake, we will be talking about it, albeit with more of a focus on the song than the video.

Monday, May 14, 2018

video review: 'voicenotes' by charlie puth

And here we go, second review of the night... and arguably the better one! Really nice to see this done, step in the right direction.

Next up, Beach House, but first Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!

album review: 'voicenotes' by charlie puth

So the last time I talked about Charlie Puth, it did not go well in the slightest. That review of Nine Track Mind was a collaborative review with Jon over at ARTV, and to say we tore into that record would be underselling it. The vocal delivery was utterly unconvincing, the production was painfully flimsy, and the less we say about the underweight, milquetoast lyrics on that project, the better. And yet what caught me off-guard was how it was not just Jon and I calling that record out - indeed, the negative critical reception for Nine Track Mind was among the harshest I had ever seen, the sort of thorough panning that mainstream music critics rarely ever deliver.

And yet maybe Charlie Puth took some of that criticism to heart, and from the lead-off single 'Attention' I started to get the impression that Voicenotes might be a very different animal, especially when Puth described his primary influences to be late 80s R&B, New Edition and new jack swing. And if you had told me this two years ago I would have laughed in your face - come on, the guy who wrote 'let's Marvin Gaye and get it on' with Meghan Trainor is calling back to this era of R&B - but again, 'Attention' did have that groove. And when you factor in rumors suggesting that Nine Track Mind was pushed in a different direction than what Puth wanted towards a much cleaner pop sound... well, it would make sense, but I wanted hard evidence before I could buy into it completely. So alright, what did we get on Voicenotes?

video review: 'tranquility base hotel + casino' by arctic monkeys

So here's the first review of the night, bound to be the most controversial... but we're not done yet, so stay tuned!

album review: 'tranquility base hotel & casino' by arctic monkeys

Most of you probably don't remember the last time I reviewed the Arctic Monkeys. It was nearly five years ago, I didn't have a proper camera yet, but I was mostly positive towards the record and I did think it had some moments that worked for me...

And everyone hated it! Yeah, I'll admit I was still very much in the learning curve for making album reviews, but the backlash I got to being mostly ambivalent on this indie darling was pretty pronounced, mostly because my review consisted of some... let's call them mixed opinions on their back catalog. Suffice to say, Arctic Monkeys broke around the same time as a lot of other bands in a similar noisy, post-punk revival brand of indie rock, and when you paired it with observational songwriting that might have had moments of self-awareness but was often way too sour and acerbic to really resonate with me, as a group they just never clicked more deeply with me. Yes, you can make the argument that Alex Turner was one of the wittiest and smartest guys in the room, but if you know it and want everyone else to know it, any amount of self-deprecation doesn't make you any less of a dick! It's absolutely no surprise the band became a Gen X critical darling in the mid-2000s - and also no surprise that as they got older and arguably more mature and their fury curdled into detached, snide bitterness, said fans mostly stuck around... provided, of course, they could get behind the shifts in sound. Yeah, that was the other thing - Arctic Monkeys may have started in some furious, borderline punk territory, but they got way slower and more indebted to a conventional rock canon with every record, especially as they started embracing stoner rock elements on Humbug and psychedelic elements on Suck It And See and AM. And that was the frustrating thing for me: this band is clearly talented and had the capacity to take sonic risks and write some damn catchy songs... but the content and a lot of Alex Turner's delivery left a bad taste in my mouth.

Still, when I heard the band was taking a stark departure in their sound for lounge-inspired smooth jazz and spacey pop tones... yeah, you might have seen traces of that coming on previous records, but this sounded like something far out, and a record that has proven quite polarizing for a lot of fans. And hell, I was intrigued - maybe if Alex Turner could get out of his own head in terms of content, he could write something interesting, so what did we get with Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

video review: 'virtue' by the voidz

Yes, I know it took way too long to get to this, but honestly I could say more that was interesting here... sadly not.

Next up, something more current - stay tuned!

album review: 'virtue' by the voidz

Let's talk briefly about being weird in music. 

And this is actually a topic I don't think gets enough attention, mostly because for something to be called out as 'strange' or 'weird' there's at least some element of surprise, and in the era of 'nothing surprises anybody anymore' thanks to the Internet, the bar for weird gets pretty high. And for a critic it gets even higher, and not just because of the insanity you can dredge up out of /mu/ or Bandcamp, but because there is a grand tradition of outsider artists that have existed outside the mainstream where their brand of oddity might be just as catchy, but also brings with it elements that the public majority just are not willing to process. And yet again, in the Internet era where it's so easy for influences to crossbreed and mutate or become memes, the public might seem more willing to embrace these outsider acts... but it becomes a balancing act, both for the artists and the fans, because for as much as you want your favourites to do well, you know that artistic eccentricity can get eaten alive by the industry.

And then bridging between artist and fan you have someone like Julian Casablancas, frontman of The Strokes and his own defiantly odd band The Voidz. And I'll freely admit that he didn't flip that 'weird' alarm for me with records like The Voidz' debut Tyranny in 2014 - offkilter and paranoid and scattershot, absolutely, but it was also overlong and not quite as challenging as it thought it was. But it wasn't that record that compelled any interest from me so much as a series of manic interviews before this record that revealed Casablacas was a huge fan of Ariel Pink - which made sense, especially when you start digging into certain thematic parallels, but it was also telling that while Pink might be the genuine article and an act like MGMT be the studied devotee, Casablancas was the fan that didn't always grasp the intricacies but adored the aesthetic. Now reviews of Virtue were suggesting this could be changing, at the very least in terms of sonic fidelity and tone, but given this record also came with signing to RCA and producers most well-known for working with The War On Drugs, Weezer, and Beyonce, I had my doubts about this. But hey, it's nearly an hour long, surely they could have gotten things working, right?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

video review: 'SR3MM / swaecation / JXMTRO' by rae sremmurd

You know, I need to get back into the habit of using flames in my title cards for records this bad... but honestly, it's more that it improved and is just an overlong mess than anything else.

Anyway, next up is me tackling some much older business, so stay tuned!