Tuesday, July 23, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 27, 2019

Let's be honest: there's one primary narrative going into this week. I could talk about the mini-album bomb unleashed by Ed Sheeran, or the other scattered arrivals, but the reason anyone is paying attention to the Billboard Hot 100 right now, be you in the music industry or outside of it, is the race at the very top, where a record is being tested as we speak and barring any unforeseen circumstances could be broken next week... and all from a track that I thought would flame out in a week or less, goes to show how much I know!

video review: 'order in decline' by sum 41


So yeah, this was a nice pleasant surprise here, good stuff.

Anyway, next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN, but what to be next... stay tuned!

Monday, July 22, 2019

album review: 'order in decline' by sum 41

I think a lot of Canadians have a weird relationship to Sum 41.

Hell, given this is the first time I'm talking about the band... I think pretty much ever, mostly because I'd describe myself as a casual fan at best, Sum 41 is one of those breakthrough punk acts in the early 2000s that might have notched a few singles in the U.S. but were damn near ubiquitous in Canada, to the point when I went through an old greatest hits compilation I was stunned how many songs I knew from memory. But that was the rub with Sum 41: for me they've always been more of a singles band who drilled into insanely catchy hooks and infectious energy more than consistent refinement, especially lyrically. And hey, a blunt wallop can be fine for a shot of adrenaline on the radio, or even for a surprisingly raucous crossover metal song, but Sum 41 also had a tendency to overreach into ballads of questionable quality or political subject matter that where the writing occasionally had more heart than focus. So when even Canadian audiences lost track of them... I'll be honest, I didn't even notice they were gone.

But by 2016, with the band now on an indie label and long out of an obligation to court radio play - plus the return of their original lead guitarist to make them a five piece act - the band regained some critical attention on their album 13 Voices that year, which signaled a slow shift to a darker, more melodic hardcore and alternative metal-leaning sound that wasn't precisely great but was more likable than I expected. And when I heard the group was getting even darker, heavier, and more political on their newest album... look, it's always a little weird to see Canadian punks write about American politics, but apparently they weren't going to snub some of the toxicity leaking in up here, so hell yeah I was interested, especially given how the band didn't seem interested at all on coasting on nostalgia. So okay, I'm intrigued and a little stunned that I'm doing this, but what did we get from Sum 41 on Order In Decline?

video review: 'singular: act ii' by sabrina carpenter


Ehhh... look, it was a quick one to knock off my list, happy I got it done.

Next up, something I'm actually more interested in dissecting - stay tuned!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

album review: 'singular: act ii' by sabrina carpenter

Alright, round two, shall we?

Now for those of you unawares, this will be my second time covering a Sabrina Carpenter project, as I reviewed Act I of this series last year - and to my mild surprise, got a fair amount of traffic - and backlash - for it. And while some of this might be rooted in me just having heard too much of this style of pop before - not helped by being stuck on Hollywood Records where this sound has been utterly recycled and poorly produced time and time again - there were still blatant parallels to mainstream acts that Carpenter was mimicking, and not particularly well. And like with most vanity projects - which especially if you considered the content of the last project it felt like it was - it was made to serve the fanbase and nobody else, but I had to think she could try a little harder for some originality than this!

But hey, apparently she's still putting out projects with this being part two, and folks kept on requesting it even despite the last review, and it is short enough to make for a quick review while I crunch through meatier projects, so what did we get Singular: Act II?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

video review: 'big k.r.i.t. iz here' by big k.r.i.t.


Alright, another mild disappointment, it happens I guess...

Anyway, next up... well, I had plans for something, but they might have to change for tomorrow, we'll see - stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

album review: 'big k.r.i.t. iz here' by big k.r.i.t.

So I'll be very honest, folks: when I heard where Big K.R.I.T. was planning to go with this new project, my level of surprise was split between "greatly" and "not at all". 

Because on the one hand, hearing that Big K.R.I.T. was trying to make a mainstream-accessible trap album seemed like the last thing you would have expected from him - I get that Def Jam royally mismanaged your deal and promotion and your music has always had crossover potential, but why in the Nine Hells would you go independent to just release the same style of music in an over-saturated subgenre of rap? Especially coming off of 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, you'd have thought that Big K.R.I.T. would delve further into experimental territory that the label would balk at, not release another album for the pile that would wind up getting overshadowed by acts in the same subgenre with better distribution and publicity!

But on the other hand, I do get it - trap is a variant of southern hip-hop, and Big K.R.I.T. has always been one to point that out in how the style has been co-opted by other regions and even genres time and time again. So in essence if he was going to try and make the definitive trap album to put everyone else to shame, frame it as a sequel to his 2010 mixtape... well, it wouldn't be how I'd best push his talents and versatility, but I'd understand the appeal, especially if he was looking to flesh out his setlist for any festivals ahead. I was a lot more alarmed that it didn't look like he had any production credits this time around and had included a few songs from earlier mixtapes here - seemed like a questionable move for a guy whose projects always ran long - but fine, what did we get from Big K.R.I.T. Iz Here?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 20, 2019 (VIDEO)


Okay, so a bit of a rough episode, but it resolved alright enough...

Anyway, back to disappointments - stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 20, 2019

So am I the only one who feels like all the album bombs I've been predicting just are not happening in the same way they used to? Maybe it's a matter of diminished hype or maybe the charts hitting equilibrium surrounding streaming so that larger numbers are demanded to break through, or hell, maybe it's just a lack of the truly big names shaking up the charts, but I was expecting impact from Dreamville and while we got a couple of songs, it really wasn't that many, which led to another slow week this summer for which I'm not complaining, but still seems bizarre.

video review: 'showboat honey' by kyle craft & showboat honey


So yeah, this isn't great... but it is still good and worth a few listens, so definitely give it a chance, I think Kyle Craft has real potential regardless if they iron out the kinks.

And before we get to the next possible disappointment, let's handle Billboard BREAKDOWN next, so stay tuned!

Monday, July 15, 2019

album review: 'showboat honey' by kyle craft & showboat honey

I feel like I should be less surprised we already have a new Kyle Craft album.

And here's the thing: when you look at how much music Kyle Craft has put out in the past couple of years, it shouldn't be surprising, given how between Dolls Of Highland and Full Circle Nightmare he did put out a covers project, and given that he now has a full backing band called Showboat Honey, it makes sense that he'd want to have something for the general public sooner rather than later. And of course I wasn't about to complain: Kyle Craft has been one of the most startling breakout talents in the 2010s and his two albums of original material have been in my top 10 for their respective years - a huge voice, a distinctive instrumental style, and some of the best writing you'll get in rock - period.

That said, when artists start churning out projects every year, I get worried that the content and refinement might suffer, and given how potent Kyle Craft is as a writer, I genuinely wondered if he'd have enough fresh material. But apparently he and his band were working at such a pace that apparently he had an album ready even earlier, but then a quick gut check moment had him step back and record another project full of material, which from there the best songs were chosen. What was even more promising, at least to me, was the fact that Craft had apparently brought back some of the recording and production style he had back on Dolls Of Highland, my one serious nitpick from the last album, so this could well kick a lot of ass too. So alright, he's not wasting time and neither should I - what did Kyle Craft deliver with Showboat Honey?

video review: 'no.6 collaborations project' by ed sheeran


Hmm, a little surprised by how well this is getting received... guess the benefit of low expectations will take something a long way...?

But on the flip side, speaking of expectations... yeah, that's coming tonight, stay tuned!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

album review: 'no.6 collaborations project' by ed sheeran

So I brought this up originally on Billboard BREAKDOWN a month or so ago and I think it's important to state it here to provide some context: sometimes if you're an artist and you finally get the clout, popularity, and influence to create your dream project, it's worthwhile going back to when you first conceived of this dream and ask whether it was a good idea to begin with. I'm not saying this is an easy task - it demands self-awareness, the willingness to acknowledge your roots but also how far you've come, and will likely not be helped by the crowd of enablers you've accumulated thanks to your success - but it's one worth doing.

Now if you're an Ed Sheeran fan at this point you're probably a bit scandalized - he's proven himself time and time again that he can work with other acts, from writing to singing alongside them, why shouldn't he be allowed to curate a massive collaborative venture as a natural expansion from the EP he self-released in 2011? And if me saying that out loud didn't highlight at least some level of ridiculousness to this whole affair, it should come in understand what No.5 Collaborations Project was, an independent fusion of his brand of pop folk with a slew of grime acts that are not common names stateside. And while it becomes abundantly obvious that Ed Sheeran's writing has tightened up considerably since the beginning of the decade... well, it's leaner and darker and surprisingly cohesive, something that I didn't expect at all would be the case for this new album, which spans from Justin Bieber to Eminem, Stormzy to Skrillex, Chris Stapleton to Young Thug and Cardi B! And given that I've had kind of mixed results with the singles he's released thus far... look, I expected this to be a mess, or at the very least nowhere close to his best - when you have too many cooks in the kitchen, that happens. But okay, what did we get from No.6 Collaborations Project?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

video review: 'schlagenheim' by black midi


And here we go, a project that I'm genuinely surprised I liked as much as I did, but am very pleased that I got to cover it. 

Next up... okay, let's handle Ed Sheeran next - stay tuned!

Friday, July 12, 2019

album review: 'schlagenheim' by black midi

So full disclosure, the reason I'm choosing to cover this is exactly what you think it is: it got a ton of acclaim from critics I otherwise trust, and on a slow week, I figured I might as well knock it off my list. That also meant I could be setting myself up for that kind of album that I'm lukewarm on and everyone else loves, but hey, that seems to have been the running theme for most of 2019, so why not keep it up!

Anyway, black midi - English post-punk/noise rock group that seems to play fast and loose with genres, formed in 2015, released a couple of singles, performed at SXSW in 2018, got signed to Rough Trade, and now we have a debut album. Again, this is a project for which I'm going in cold and a little perturbed about what we could get with this: I kept hearing 'no wave' and 'math rock' show up in discussions of the debut with a very distinctly German-sounding name which translates to 'hit home', and I'm not the biggest fan of either genre. And the producer Dan Carey didn't really enthuse me either - I know him most for producing the worst Franz Ferdinand album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, but other than that... again, going in cold here, so let's not waste any more time: what did black midi deliver with Schlagenheim?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

video review: 'veteran' by JPEGMAFIA (6th year anniversary)


A little late posting this, but I will say that I'm grateful for all of y'all who have stuck around to read and follow this - thanks again!

Next up, let's knock something out of my backlog before I start with the week ahead, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

album review: 'veteran' by JPEGMAFIA (6th year anniversary)

Well, this won by a landslide this year. Seriously, it was not very close whatsoever, the only close competition had about half as many votes and that was Twin Fantasy by Car Seat Headrest - don't worry fans, I'll be handling the next Will Toledo album when he puts it out, I've just never been all that interested in covering a remake of a project I heard years ago.

But in a sense, I'm a little baffled why I didn't cover JPEGMAFIA early in 2018. I think part of it might have been rooted in how the Patreon scheduling got out of hand and I just couldn't find time to tackle it - one of the reasons I did shelve it for 2019 but may bring it back in the future with a little more containment and structure - but for another, what I did heard of JPEGMAFIA I was more wary of than outright positive. Because I actually did go back to his earlier projects and my issues weren't due to the experimentation - taking a slightly more jagged, offkilter approach to slightly more conventional tones adjacent to an act like clipping - but more to the content, which seemed to land in a strange sort of very Internet/meme culture political provocation, which meant that certain points of insight and transgression struck some weird notes, at least for me; definitely an acquired taste. And that's not even getting into the messy controversy surrounding his now infamous song 'I Just Killed A Cop Now I'm Horny', in which actual audio of a policeman being killed was mixed into the song and which requires a pretty layered conversation surrounding transgression, art, and the modern cultural role of police that probably deserves to come up at a later date. And when you factor in some structural issues and a hit-and-miss record for hooks or groove, I can see how his first two projects - Black Ben Carson and The Second Amendment - might not have gotten the same universal acclaim that Veteran did two years later, although I would say Black Ben Carson has a certain nightmarish, amorphous quality that reminds me of B. Dolan's The Failure - and I intend that as a compliment, I do think it's a surprisingly compelling and pretty great album. But from the outside, Veteran did look to be the most streamlined project to date and certainly getting the most critical acclaim in experimental hip-hop, so I was open to this kicking ass: so how about it, going back to 2018, was Veteran worth it?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 13, 2019


Okay, bit of a slower week, but kind of a mess too...

Anyway, tomorrow is the sixth year anniversary, and I've got something fun planned, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 13, 2019

Am I the only one who thinks that we all dodged a bullet this week? I figured there was a real possibility that given the sparse set of releases we could get something disruptive and unpleasant like a week full of Chris Brown, but he only managed to lodge one new song on the Hot 100 and otherwise... looks like a pretty relaxed week. Not precisely a great one, but thankfully a bit slower.

Monday, July 8, 2019

video review: 'revenge of the dreamers iii' by dreamville


Well, this was a mess... but if you had heard the past two compilations from this label, it shouldn't be that surprising.

Anyway, I've got my sixth year anniversary come up on Wednesday, but first, Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!