Thursday, July 12, 2018

video review: 'a laughing death in meatspace' by tropical fuck storm

So unsurprisingly this got flagged to hell and back already... eh, whatever, it's a great record, I'll take the loss for this, the record is certainly worth it.

Next up... hell, whatever comes off of the schedule, we'll see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'a laughing death in meatspace' by tropical fuck storm

So this is one of those cases where my scheduling process can get aggressively irritating - because I should have been out of the gate first with this review.

I'm serious about this: when Tropical Fuck Storm were first added to my schedule months back when their debut dropped, I didn't really have anything to go off of but a great band name and there were so many established acts on my schedule that got more votes first. And thus it fell back to lower tiers but eventually got the organic groundswell to rise up my schedule for me to be covering it now... two months late and after critics both on and off YouTube are cheering its praises. Maybe I should have taken the steps to engineer coverage earlier, but I can only do it for so many acts and it sadly becomes a real balancing act what I get to cover and when, especially if I'm trying to aggressively stay on top of new releases.

But enough of my complaining: Tropical Fuck Storm! An Australian indie rock act, affiliated with King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and formed by the former frontman of The Drones Gareth Lilliard - a band that probably deserve to have been a lot bigger stateside in the past decade - and already developing a reputation for wildly colourful rock music for those in the know - as in pre-Pitchfork coverage, although they'll be saying otherwise when this band blows up as big. And sometimes you just need some unstable riffs to compensate for the inevitable fact any video I make will get flagged to hell and back by YouTube. But since I'm not about to censor a good 'fuck' here, what did we find from A Laughing Death In Meatspace?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

video review: 'i'm all ears' by let's eat grandma

So apparently the general response here is that nobody really gives a shit about this album and me covering it. /sigh

Anyway, next up... hmm, we might have a surprise coming, stay tuned!

album review: 'i'm all ears' by let's eat grandma

So this is going to be a strange one - and this time, I don't have any excuses, I put this on my schedule myself when I started seeing the critical acclaim rolling in. And I'll freely admit that when I discovered this was an indie pop duo from the UK who met as children and starting writing reportedly these strange, off-kilter songs, I thought I had a firm idea what I was getting into.

And after listening to their debut... well, I still think I do, but that's more because the weird kaleidoscope of sounds that Let's Eat Grandma incorporates does make a strange sort of sense. Yes, the obvious comparisons can be made to the dream pop scene with the spacey textures and extended song structures that all go on way too long, but the more obvious comparison was a subgenre I haven't touched on in a long time: anti-folk. You know the types, the ones that take the more earnest songwriting tropes of folk music and bend them until they snap, and considering how much of the debut read like an extended, slightly twisted subversion of fairy tales - and how much pop has disappeared up its own ass in the 2010s, even in the mainstream - Let's Eat Grandma was intriguing but not particularly gripping, at least for me.

But that debut, mostly comprised of songs the girls had written in their younger years, got a lot of attention, including from experimental pop producer SOPHIE who keeps showing up in my reviews this past month. And given that she was stepping in alongside David Wrench on production made me think I'm All Ears might be a sonic departure, heading towards more glittery synthpop than the anti-folk that gave Let's Eat Grandma such a distinctive presence in the scene. But hey, considering all of the critical acclaim I was certainly curious, so what did we find on I'm All Ears?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 14, 2018 (VIDEO)

Not gonna lie, I've had more fun engaging with folks in the comments and my random chicanery around this whole endeavor than I did making the episode. Heh, maybe I should keep that in mind going forward.

Also, by some miracle this avoided copyright bullshit, so next up... I feel like something languid and weird, so stay tuned!

video review: 'pop 2' by charli xcx (5th year anniversary!)

Okay, this was a treat to cover (lot better than the anniversary video I was stuck with last year...).

Anyway, now that Billboard BREAKDOWN is out of the way, I think I'm in the mood for something kind of similar to this... stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 14, 2018, I'm not happy about this. Really, if you consider the long term, nobody should be happy about this week, where every single song from Drake's Scorpion impacted the charts. That meant twenty-two new arrivals from that album alone, which broke all kinds of records for Drake and surely cements his dominance in popular culture... but does it really? I've seen more critics pan the record than praise it - and not receive backlash for doing so - and when you hear that Spotify is having to issue refunds to paying customers for the Scorpion spam - I'm sorry, custom graphics package that of course Spotify made out of the goodness of their hearts and premium playlist placement that surely wasn't paid for by the label directly or otherwise we'd have the modern version of payola, right? But the ugly truth is that Drake might be the one who suffers the worst out of this in the long run - cultural overexposure is very much a thing, and considering the goodwill he still had with 'Nice For What', you'd have to wonder if he'd have been better off holding back, especially when the product is overwhelmingly mediocre at best. Hell, even becoming the quintessential silent majority act doesn't look good overexposed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

album review: 'pop 2' by charli xcx (five year anniversary!)

I'm not surprised this beat out everything else on the docket by a considerable margin. Yes, J.I.D. and N.E.R.D. got close and thankfully those sadists who wanted me to review Heartbreak On A Full Moon never really got groundswell, but if there was a project that attracted considerable attention very late last year, it was this one.

And when you think about it in a traditional context, it's a strange one too, but that's more because Charli XCX's entire career has been bizarre. Her debut True Romance in 2013 never really got traction - mostly because it was painfully mediocre - but she still had 'I Love It' with Icona Pop and her follow-up Sucker a year later had a genuine hit with 'Boom Clap' and seemed like the perfect project to break her through into the mainstream with a distinctive sound and style... and then that didn't happen. Instead, she decided to join the cutting edge of modern pop production by linking up with the P.C. Music crew and SOPHIE, which led to a lot of critical acclaim and a diehard cult following, but not really any hits. Instead, we got EPs like Vroom Vroom and mixtapes like Number 1 Angel and the one we'll be talking about today, Pop 2. And given that I only opened my schedule to EPs and mixtapes as of this year, I didn't really weigh in on either project, so let me handle that now: they're pretty good. I will say it's notable how much SOPHIE's sound has evolved since her production work on Vroom Vroom and that Number 1 Angel definitely had its high points - most notably when cupcakKe showed up - but for as much hype as Charli XCX has gotten for this work, I was a little underwhelmed. Granted, I'm the weirdo who still thinks 'Need Ur Luv' is her best ever song by a considerable margin, but I think my larger issue is that the main synth melody lines felt kind of undercooked when we got them at all. But hey, neither of these have received the level of hype that Pop 2 got, so hopefully that was the one that really clicked, right?

Monday, July 9, 2018

video review: 'palo santo' by years & years

So yeah, this was a lot better than I was expecting - definitely make the time to check this out, it's worth it!

And now for that fifth year anniversary video before (sigh) Billboard BREAKDOWN, stay tuned!

album review: 'palo santo' by years & years

So I was really harsh the last time I reviewed Years & Years, back in 2015. I think part of it was the expectation I was going to like it more than I did - electronic and synth-driven pop with prominent, forward-thinking sexual themes in the midst of a synthpop wave that really crested that year in the indie scene - but between vocals that never really gripped me, production that was more concerned with washing everything out, and lyrics that definitely trod into some questionable territory without the smarter framing to back it up. Oh sure, 'Gold' was a fantastic song that I still revisit to this day, but beyond that... I didn't really have a lot of interest when this got added to my schedule. 

That being said, I was intrigued by some of the buzz around Palo Santo, most notably that frontman Olly Alexander was doubling down on the religious iconography of his writing and flipping it for a more transgressive edge - hell, the title of the record is a name for an incense used by the Inca culture to cast out evil spirits and is loosely translated to 'holy wood'. Well, it's better than what Tove Lo did in 2016, but I'll freely admit I tend to be a sucker for religious subversion, so hopefully a few years away could lead to a more refined execution - so what did we get on Palo Santo?

Friday, July 6, 2018

video review: 'scorpion' by drake

My god, I'm so happy this is over with... well, at least until the Drake stans come rushing in, but that's just a matter of time...

Anyway, next up, something different - stay tuned!

album review: 'scorpion' by drake

Hey folks, are you sick of Drake yet? Or are you well past that point and are just sick of people complaining about being sick of Drake? Or have you reached the point where you've just accepted Drake in the same way you do the movement of the tides and the stars, that once a year he'll vomit out over an hour of mediocre hip-hop and R&B and it'll bulldoze over the charts and by the next year you'll forget any of it ever happened outside of maybe the singles muscled onto the radio.

If you're in that third camp... congratulations, happy to have you. I get the feeling I was early to reaching this place thanks to Billboard BREAKDOWN, where my annoyance at Drake overexposure began in 2015, worsened in 2016, and finally faded into exasperated shrugs by 2017. I've weathered multiple album bombs, I've seen the shifts from pitch-black Future collaborations to utterly misconceived flirtations with grime to a lingering obsession with midtempo tropical tones that serve as perfectly serviceable background music. And for those of you who expect your R&B and hip-hop to have passion or intensity or wordplay that doesn't sink into a quagmire of concern trolling or unwarranted paranoia... heh, you must be new here.

But I will admit I did have a smattering of curiosity about Scorpion, at least at first. 'Nice For What' was a really damn good single, and when Pusha-T delivered a wounding blow with 'The Story Of Adidon', it became known that Scorpion had to be good to save Drake's career. And those hopes were promptly dashed when it was revealed that Scorpion was nearly an hour and a half, 'I'm Upset' was a mediocre slog of a song, and that Drake was going to make an R&B track over an unused Michael Jackson song that came from the same Paul Anka session that spat out 'Love Never Felt So Good' a few years ago - Justin Timberlake didn't get a pass, and you can be sure as shit that Drake's not going to get one either for this brand of graverobbery. So yeah, my patience was burned away years and dozens of forgettable songs ago - so will this Scorpion survive or get crushed beneath my merciless boot?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

video review: 'the now now' by gorillaz

Well, this was underwhelming. I'd like to say I'm surprised... but then again, I've always had a weird relationship with this group, so I'll take it as it is.\

But the next one... hell, it's Drake, you know what's coming. Stay tuned!

album review: 'the now now' by gorillaz

I can't be the only one a little floored that we have a new Gorillaz record already, can I? I mean, I thought Humanz was a good if uneven return last year, but it was the sort of project that didn't really herald an era of increased productivity for Damon Albarn's cartoon band... but apparently Albarn enjoyed the process of touring and felt that spark of inspiration return so frequently that before long he had another record ready to go. 

And I'll freely admit some of the buzz was... well, let's be honest and say kind of questionable, as Albarn was looking to frame this record as a lightweight point of reconciliation, something to bring people together across untenable divides before the apocalyptic framing of the last album really snapped into place. And sure, that could be an admirable intention, but as much as I liked the groove behind 'Humility', I wasn't sure Gorillaz would be able to mine the same emotional pathos and punch out of those tones - there's always been an understated murky edge to the group at their best that I hoped wasn't going to be left behind, and that's not even getting into the socio-political subtext that could very well continue from Humanz and that sort of comprised middle-ground might not be the best place for Gorillaz to land. But alright, what did we get from The Now Now?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2018 (VIDEO)

Legit surprised that I forgot to post this - well, enjoy!

video review: 'high as hope' by florence + the machine

So, uh, yeah, this was surprisingly great. Definitely recommend you all check this out, it's certainly worth it.

But now for something... huh, this'll be interesting. Stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 7, 2018 (VIDEO)

And that's the first here - overall a pretty messy week but there was some quality...

But now onto something a lot better...

album review: 'high as hope' by florence + the machine

I'm a little stunned that I haven't heard more about this record.

See, I remember in 2015 when Florence + The Machine unleashed How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful with 'What Kind Of Man', arguably one of the band's best ever songs and one of my favourite songs of that year... and yet I was lukewarm to the record itself. Unlike that song, more of the album couldn't sustain the oversold bombast from the production or Florence's heavily multi-tracked delivery, which was a damn shame because the writing had never been better. And yes, I know I'm very much in the minority when it comes to opinions on that record, but returning to it I was continuously struck by how damn uneven it felt. 

And thus I was interested to hear how much High As Hope was pivoting out of this territory, instead reportedly going for a brand of minimalism that seemed almost antithetical to Florence + The Machine's approach across their career, and that's before you note how they had switched producers to Emile Haynie, who primarily got his start in hip-hop before racking up credits across the mainstream for the past decade, from Kid Cudi to Eminem, from Kanye to Lana Del Rey. So yeah, while critics have been pretty receptive, I wasn't sure what we could be getting with this, especially as it's Florence + The Machine's shortest record to date. So okay, how is High As Hope?

album reviews: 'hatsukoi' by utada hikaru / 'bark your head off, dog' by hop along / 'living proof' by state champs / 'manor of infinite forms' by tomb mold (VACATION!)

And that's the last of the vacation reviews... next up, let's talk about Florence + The Machine and hopefully it'll go better than last time - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 7, 2018

Not gonna lie, I needed an easy cooldown week. There's a couple big releases on the docket that I'm working towards and I'm coming up on my fifth anniversary on YouTube so there are other things I'd rather focus on, so just a moment to catch my breath before the avalanche of Drake... yeah, that's very welcome.