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!

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

So I don't tend to cover label or posse collaborations projects, and believe it or not, I actually do have a reason. They're rarely focused or well-curated, the spread of talent isn't all that consistent, and it can be tough to pin down the exact mood of the thing, especially if you've got a collaboration with a bunch of bonafide spitters. Because on the one hand, they're trying to go bar-for-bar and there's some level of intensity... but on the other hand, it's all supposed to be casual and making a few moments of magic in the studio while you pass the blunt around, which can lead to some real tonal dissonance.

And if anything, I expected that to be all the more pronounced on the newest Dreamville collaboration. Now full disclosure, I did go back to hear the first two, and while they both had some striking moments, it was exactly what you'd expect from a label headed up by J. Cole, where in addition to my other issues, the early criticism is that a lot of his acts either sounded like him or were R&B singers - not always the best thing when the songs started losing focus. And given that I'm not the biggest J. Cole fan by any metric, I didn't have high expectations for Revenge Of The Dreamers III - yeah, J. Cole is in a very different space than he was in 2015 and he has a more diverse and well-rounded group around him, but I hadn't been impressed by the song that had charted and I wasn't really buying into the hype. Sure, it's longer - have to get those streams somehow - but isn't the point of a label collaboration to emphasize and promote that talent, not bring in guest appearances from over a dozen other acts?

But fine, this is going to be one of those overblown collaborations trying to simultaneously create hype and sound relaxed and creative, so again, low expectations... but what did we get out of Revenge Of The Dreamers III?

Sunday, July 7, 2019

video review: 'scared of you' by laura imbruglia


Well okay, I was way late to the party with this one... but yeah, special type of indie rock, and she's entirely independent and deserves a lot of attention.

But now onto something way more hyped... stay tuned!

album review: 'scared of you' by laura imbruglia

I can imagine that some of you are looking at this review and have questions. For one, if you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen this album on my schedule and are thinking, 'Wait, wasn't this supposed to be on the Trailing Edge?', or you're seeing the name of the artist and if you know the 90s at all you might be thinking, 'Wait, she's got a new album?'.

And I'm here to say that, in your own way, you're both wrong. For one, you're probably thinking of Natalie Imbruglia, most well-known for her 90s staple 'Torn', and while Laura Imbruglia is related, her music has been way more interesting this past decade and is our primary focus here. For one, Laura Imbruglia has been far more punk in her releases, and while she may have had a famous older sister that might have opened doors for her in the industry, the sound she was pursuing would have slammed those doors in her face, embracing an artsier side of punk rock, indie rock, and even alternative country, complete with a distinctly Australian jagged side that led to weirder song constructions and lyrics that took more chances. Yeah, her back catalog is uneven - mostly on the country side where her song structures got a bit more conventional but not always to her benefit - but for the past fifteen or so years she's been working in the indie circuit and the albums have been well-written, nuanced, and incredibly catchy. And since this is her first album since 2013, I wanted to give it some airtime even if it was going to wind up on the  Trailing Edge, so what did I find in Scared Of You?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

trailing edge - episode 014 - april-june 2019 (VIDEO)


Okay, long time overdue to get this done, but I'm happy it's here.

Next up... probably handling Thom Yorke if I don't put him on the Trailing Edge, and then Dreamville - stay tuned!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

video review: "let's rock!" by the black keys


So yeah, slightly complicated feelings on this one, but I did wind up mostly liking it a fair bit more than I thought I would. Huh, go figure.

Anyway, I think it's about time I get the Trailing Edge out the door before I handle Thom Yorke, so stay tuned!

album review: "let's rock!" by the black keys

The last time I reviewed The Black Keys was five years ago, when I covered Turn Blue - and I can't be the only one who thinks that some of the backlash I've received even from the fans in hindsight might be undeserved.

Because I did get backlash when I covered Turn Blue, one of those cases where I was lukewarm on a project that nowadays is widely held as one of The Black Keys' weakest albums, the culmination of the sour, desaturated tones that Brian Burton had been giving them for years and lyrics that actually probably don't get enough credit but still culminated in an unpleasantly cohesive experience. But that album is something of an outlier to The Black Keys' formula, and for many folks' first exposure to me talking about the band, it might have presented a skewed picture. As I've said before, every guy of my generation or older will have a Black Keys phase, and mine lasted about three months - they've got a great knack for scuzzed out melody and hooks that Burton to his credit was able to ramp up, but as songwriters they frequently tested my patience and the decidedly mercenary approach they took to churning out albums led to some wild variance in quality. 

So I'll admit I actually had some expectations for this new project, "Let's Rock!", not just because Brian Burton was not producing it, but also how given the band's long absence, the sound and ideas could be revitalized. Granted, I didn't expect greatness - for me the band hasn't been consistently great since Thickfreakness or Rubber Factory - but hey, the group is coming off their worst album thus far, I had some hopes: so what did we get from "Let's Rock!"?

video review: 'bandana' by freddie gibbs & madlib


Well, this was... frustrating to some extent? A great album, to be sure, but with the sort of expectations it had, I'm not surprised why it felt a little disappointing overall.

Anyway, next up is something that has no expectations and is bound to be fun to talk about - stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

album review: 'bandana' by freddie gibbs & madlib

I'm genuinely curious how many people remembered the narratives surrounding Freddie Gibbs five years ago.

Because while he was respected by those in the know, you could make the argument his profile had suffered or been marginalized by the split with Jeezy and his debut album ESGN not really hitting as strongly as it should after a string of well-received mixtapes. And while there had been some build-up for his collaboration with Madlib through a couple of scattered singles, there was considerable skepticism, because Madlib does not make easy beats to ride, and his sample-heavy, claustrophobic, and occasionally lo-fi production did not match anything close to the trap for which Gibbs was known.

And while hindsight is 20/20 and in the wake of Pinata being one of the best rap albums of the decade it's easy to say that Freddie Gibbs had just been criminally underrated, I think it's important to highlight how much he has stepped up his skills in the past five years. Not only did his lyricism improve by leaps and bounds but so did his flow and structure and command of melody, and while his past couple projects I've been lukewarm to positive on - the one I didn't review was Fetti and while I was cool on that, it's more because I'm not really a big fan of Curren$y - the hype for his return to working with Madlib was considerable, especially considering the guest talent he was recruiting along the way. Pusha-T was obvious - they play in the same lane and the combination was bound to kick ass - but getting Killer Mike, Anderson .Paak, Mos Def and Black Thought too? As I had to say in my midyear review, the fact I had not covered this album was a considerable asterisk I had to add to the list, because I just hadn't heard enough of it in time to process and think it over. But now I found the time, and the moment is here: what did Gibbs and Madlib deliver on Bandana?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 6, 2019 (VIDEO)


Honestly, I've been tinkering with the past few episodes in the audio mixing and thus far it's turning out well - generally nice.

Next up, though... Gibbs is coming, folks. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 6, 2019

So remember when I said last week that it looked like things were about to be changing? It's hard not to look at the Hot 100 right now and think that the disruptions are starting to come en masse - not the album bomb I expected from Lil Nas X, sure, but we still got four new songs in the top quarter of the charts, as well as a few shifts I definitely did not predict - we could be in for an interesting summer, just putting it out there.