Thursday, June 22, 2017

video review: 'crack-up' by fleet foxes

Warned you all this'd be controversial, and I wasn't kidding. Ah well, the music industry cycle moves fast, people will get over it.

As for what's next... honestly, no clue, so stay tuned!

album review: 'crack up' by fleet foxes

I'm surprised I haven't gotten more requests for this record.

Okay, there's a part of me that isn't that surprised - indie folk always falls into a weird category when it comes to how much people want me to cover it, but Fleet Foxes is a fascinating case in their own right. For one, I wouldn't quite define them as straightforward folk music, given how much they pulled on sunny 60s pop, alternative country, and some of the hollower Celtic elements that enriched their vocal harmonies on their first two records. And while the impressionistic lyrics could make for a complicated listening experience to decode, a lot of people were just content to let the words and richly organic instrumentation wash over them, from a star-making self-titled debut to the darker yet no less compelling Helplessness Blues a few years later.

And yet there's a part of me that feels like Fleet Foxes might have been forgotten a bit - between the years between records in an increasingly quick hype cycle, even in the indie scene, to say nothing of the rise of one-time drummer for the group Josh Tillman to dominance under the moniker Father John Misty, it might have been easy for Fleet Foxes to get forgotten, especially given as their very earnest and heartfelt brand of folk was later copied ad nauseum in the early 2010s by far less complex or interesting acts. And yet six years after Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes are back after an extended hiatus, minus Tillman and on a new label with their longest record to date. And if only to soak in those harmonies, I really wanted to check this out, so what did I find on Crack Up?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

video review: 'melodrama' by lorde

So yeah, this is great - but let's be real, you all already knew that.

Next up, though... something where the greatness might be questioned a little more. Stay tuned!

album review: 'melodrama' by lorde

So here's a hidden truth about critics: as much as there should be a certain self-awareness that the vast majority of the mainstream won't care enough about your opinion whether to buy something, deep down critics love to think they can shape the pop culture conversation by their praise of certain art. And I'm not immune to this - I'd love to think that through my reviews I'm helping enshrine some albums with the historical weight and importance they'd deserve.

And yet with Lorde... going back to my review of Pure Heroine, I think I might have blown it. Yes, part of this comes with context - I was in my first year of seriously covering records, there is a learning curve, and even then I'll admit that I may have missed the mark there. Going back to Pure Heroine I criticized it for being able to categorize the frustration behind the sound without proposing a solution, or on some level catering to similar populist power fantasies as the party artists she criticized, just with different framing. And while these are somewhat salient points, they're countered by the acknowledgement that Lorde was still a teenager, and Pure Heroine in retrospect does bear some of the marks of that adolescence - not in the writing, but the framing, and even then Lorde was self-aware enough to realize that even if she had a grand vision of change, it's not like she had the cultural power to make it happen.

And thus I can't help but notice the irony in the fact that Lorde's Pure Heroine hasn't just been elevated to critical acclaim, but also became alarmingly influential - and I say alarming because for as much as I missed the message, other critics and pop stars missed it harder. The monochromatic production with greater percussion emphasis may have felt a little drab at the time, but fast-forward to so many modern pop stars seizing it as a method to be taken seriously and it's led to years of utterly forgettable tunes. Sure, abuse of autotune was eased back, but it was replaced by a crop of husky-voiced starlets who had nowhere near the charisma or intensity of emotion that always coursed through Lorde's best work, to say nothing of far weaker writing. And then there's Lorde herself: people were drawn to her charisma and seemingly vast wells of potential as an artist, but it also seemed like so few people knew how to contextualize her music or her distinct writing and presentation, which seemed to culminate in a connection to Taylor Swift who in recent years has piled up layers of artifice to reflect an increasingly artificial persona, which flew in contrast to Lorde's more raw, almost unnerving edge - earnest and heartfelt, but with the poise and confidence to pivot wildly and stick the landing. Hell, it's one of the reasons why so many critics, including myself, were convinced that Lorde wouldn't be long for pop at all, and that she'd join indie acts in the vein of Bjork or Swans where she'd have more artistic freedom to harness and refine that intensity... and yet she didn't do that. She's too much of a populist, instead enlisting Jack Antonoff as a cowriter and producer - which if you saw my last Bleachers review you'll know makes way too much sense - and calling her newest record Melodrama and describing the loose thematic ties as a breakup at a house party... well, shit, when you think about it in context it makes way too much sense, and yet I'm stunned that I missed it. But you've all waited long enough here: how is Melodrama?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 1, 2017 (VIDEO)

Well, look at that, a pretty damn good week on the show - and with Lorde coming up, it looks to be even better.

And speaking of Lorde... well, stay tuned! 

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 1, 2017

This week surprised me. In more ways than one actually, and for the most part they seem to be good surprises, where songs I was not looking forward to didn't show up, and a few that I never dared to dream would chart actually cracked through. To me, this is the sort of good news I've been conditioned not to expect going into the summer slowdown, and considering next week we'll probably get a big push for Lorde... yeah, maybe things are looking up?

Monday, June 19, 2017

video review: 'the nashville sound' by jason isbell & the 400 unit

Well, this was amazing. One of the best of the year... although everyone saying this is challenging for the best of the year may need to consider the other Jason who dropped a country record in 2017, just for reference...

Beyond that, it's Billboard BREAKDOWN and Lorde up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'the nashville sound' by jason isbell & the 400 unit

So as a general rule, I try to read a lot of music reviews after I finish mine, try to get a sense of the general discourse around a record and maybe for a little passive acknowledgement that I was at least on the right track when it came to my interpretations. And yet in 2015, I don’t think I read a review that missed the point harder than that of Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell – and if you know anything about that record’s critical reception, you all know exactly what publication put it out. Now on some level every critic is entitled to their opinion, and it's not like Jason Isbell makes easy music, especially in alternative country, so you can expect misinterpretations, but what I found a lot more exasperating was the assertion that since he was a left-leaning alternative country songwriter and a longtime veteran of a number of acts that his record should be speaking more to the social ills and issues of the time to have any sort of relevance, especially if it was as forward-looking as it was.

Now if you’ve heard Something More Than Free – and I highly recommend you do, it’s easily in my top five of the best records of 2015 – you’d know that wouldn’t remotely fit with the complicated and deeply personal thematic arcs underscoring the project, and that said projection was pretty damn short-sighted and ignorant. But then again, it’s not like said publication is known for its well-considered or well-articulated points on country music - and yet despite that, I get the impression Jason Isbell might have been listening. Granted, considering the current American political climate and the fact that Isbell was looking to kick some of the rock elements back in with the 400 Unit, that might have been inevitable, but he’s a canny enough artist to pivot when he needs to, or to make a point. Which, of course, said publication then called this album an one-note backslide in their review and called him more of a pop songwriter, even despite him doing exactly what they wanted, so maybe he shouldn’t have cared. Or maybe he doesn’t care at all and I shouldn’t either, and after all this is probably one of my most anticipated records of 2017, so fuck it: what did we get from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on The Nashville Sound?

video review: 'ctrl' by sza

By the Nine Hells, I should have had this review out and ready on Saturday... but again, SZA is one of those artists that's just difficult for me to cover well, apparently. GAH.

Okay, Jason Isbell is up next, and then Lorde - stay tuned!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

album review: 'ctrl' by sza

So I'll admit when I covered SZA's debut EP Z three years ago - although this looks like it was retroactively called a EP for branding purposes, given I remember considering it as a full-length debut as it was about forty minutes long - it was far from one of my best reviews. Part of the issue is that I wasn't really all that strong on it one way or the other - I really dug parts of the concept and the writing, but SZA's delivery and the oddly wonky and synth-heavy production left me feeling underwhelmed. And going back to the record now... you know, I might appreciate it a little more given my greater familiarity with alternative R&B, but that doesn't mean my issues with the fragmented and cavernous production or the guest stars that frequently eclipsed SZA had gone away. At the end of the day I was left feeling SZA was a compelling writer, but maybe a little more focus and refinement in the execution could bring things together better on a future project...

A project that didn't seem to be coming. Again, Z came out in 2014, and while SZA had contributed guest verses here and there - the most notable probably coming opposite RIhanna on ANTI last year, although she'd grace plenty of fellow TDE records - I was initially surprised that the follow-up took this long to get released. Maybe it had to deal with the fact that she was now signed to RCA, and when you factor in a major label you immediately lengthen timelines, but it also seemed like there was more rebranding going on: instead of being called A as advertised, it was retitled to Ctrl. And hey, that's not a bad thing, and if she had taken the time to get the production and execution issues worked out, I was curious how her writing would translate. So, given that this is her major label debut, what do we get from Ctrl?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

video review: 'heart break' by lady antebellum

So yeah, this happened... overall not a bad record, there are a couple good songs, but as I said in the review, if I remember most of this record, it's going to be surprising.

Anyway, next up I've got SZA and then a crop of reviews that I'm really excited about, so stay tuned!

album review: 'heart break' by lady antebellum

So I'm going to say something pretty controversial here, and I want you all to understand this is not coming from a place of disrespect. Long time fans know that while I've been critical of Lady Antebellum, it's more because I see tons of potential that just doesn't materialize as often as it should. And you should also all know that when Charles Kelley put out his solo record last year, two songs from that album made my year-end list of the best songs of 2016 - and one song, 'Leaving Nashville', topped that list, it was my favourite song of last year, across the board.

So now that you all have that context, let me say this: going into this record, I was convinced Lady Antebellum should have stayed on hiatus, or maybe just broken up entirely. As a group together, they always felt uneven to me, hitting some tremendous high points that balance emotional maturity and great harmonies, but it's always felt imbalanced to me, skewed towards Hillary Scott instead of an even balance between her and Kelley. And with that more middle-aged approach to country, catering a little more to the adult alternative crowd, I've expected the writing to build to a level of sophistication that just hasn't materialized in the same way. I know they're in their thirties and they're not Little Big Town - who are all in their forties and their music is starting to sound like it - but I started to get uneasy when I saw the main producer behind Heart Break is busbee. And don't get me wrong, he can be tolerable with the right people, but nearly always more on the younger, trendier pop country mold, which just struck me as the wrong fit for Lady Antebellum, and lead-off single 'You Look Good' didn't help my feelings. But hey, I was willing to give this something of a chance, so what did I find on Heart Break?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

video review: 'wolves' by rise against

Hoping to like this a little more, but eh, it's still pretty solid all the same.

Next up, some country (if you can even call it that...), so stay tuned!

album review: 'wolves' by rise against

I'll admit I came to Rise Against late.

I mean, I knew their singles, I knew they had a few really strong early records before one of a few 'sell-out' moments, depending who you talk to. I remember there was discussion surrounding how much you could take their very earnest political material, especially when they tended to paint broad strokes, or how as years wore on and the band seemed to fade from relevance with the rest of rock radio. Most of this I only discovered years after the fact... and yeah, while I have no qualms bucking against popular consensus, this tended to be true, with their first two records holding up to this day and while I've always admired their pop sensibility, you can't deny that it did starting coming through on records like Siren Song Of The Counter Culture and especially by Appeal To Reason.

That said, when I covered The Black Market with Jon over at ARTV back in 2014, I actually really liked it, more than I expected. It was an older, slower, more weary-feeling record, but it used that time to refine the compositions and writing to cut more deeply, and I stand by it being underrated to this day. Hell, I put 'People Live Here' on my year-end list of the best songs of 2014, and if that song showcases what can happen when Rise Against focus their material, I had some hopes going into their record this year called Wolves. And obviously it was going to be touching on the election last year - they're a political band, that was happening regardless - but what caught more of my interest is that they had parted ways with long-time producers Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, thanks to a move to a new label. On this album they were working with Nick Raskulinecz, who has been behind records from Mastodon, Deftones, Korn, and that Ghost record before Meliora that nobody cares about - so okay, what did this mean for Rise Against?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 24, 2017

So yeah, another pretty rough week here... but on the plus side, I've got an interesting record on the docket next (in fact, a fair few of them) so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 24, 2017

Do you ever have the feeling looking at the Hot 100 that no matter what happens, it's not going to be a good week? Yeah, that was my gut feel going through the Hot 100 this week - which yes, did slow down a bit as things settle in for the summer with no major releases, but at the same time, looking at some of these new arrivals... well, we'll get to it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

video review: 'witness' by katy perry

So this was lousy - actually a bit worse than I was expecting too, more because it's just a slog. Eh, it happens...

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and I have no clue what'll come after- stay tuned!

album review: 'witness' by katy perry

Does anyone else think that Katy Perry is trying way too hard?

Now that's a pretty harsh statement to make about any artist, but I've been considering the adage of while a good artist pushes their artistic boundaries, a truly great artist pushes while understanding their strengths and limitations, and I'm not sure Katy Perry does. I might have issues with One Of The Boys and Teenage Dream, but they worked for shallow, frequently ridiculous and and stupid pop music - and I don't mean that to denigrate it, believe it or not. Great pop doesn't necessarily need a lot of brains if the melody, color, and charisma is there, and while I'd make the argument Perry has always had more volume and presence than actual charisma or sex appeal, looking back there are some singles I can appreciate around the turn of the decade.

Then Prism happened, and while it was one of my very early reviews in 2013, I mostly stand by it. Katy Perry was trying to split the difference between tasteless sex appeal that forced way too many double entendres, and heartfelt power ballads where she just did not have the presence or intensity to compensate for weak writing. And when she split the difference... the most we got were mid-80s inspired synthpop grooves that Tegan & Sara had already done better earlier in the year. What was disheartening about the whole affair is that Katy Perry was very plainly trying, there was effort on display, and to see her repeatedly stumble was tough to hear.

So after taking some time to collect herself, tour with Kacey Musgraves to refine her writing chops, and connect with Hillary Clinton's political campaign to attempt to add weight to increasingly hollow anthems, we have a new album from Katy Perry. And I'll be blunt: I did not expect this to be good. 'Chained To The Rhythm' has only felt more myopic and self-serving with every listen, 'Swish Swish' has nowhere close to the impact it thinks it has, and 'Bon Appetit' was staggeringly misconceived in every way - and Katy Perry is a singles artist, so if this is what she's leading with, I was genuinely worried this would suck - does it?

video review: 'wrangled' by angaleena presley

About damn time I got to this one... and not the only review dropping tonight, so stay tuned!

album review: 'wrangled' by angaleena presley

So as I've said a number of times recently, country is at a bit of a crossroads moment right now. Between the generally inoffensive pop country, the neotraditional and Texas tones picking up market share, the insurgent indie scene, and whatever sterile garbage Nashville is churning out to try and recapture a bro-country audience that has mostly stopped listening, the mainstream could tilt in many different directions and there hasn't been a lot of clarity where the chips will fall. But in the aftermath of bro-country's collapse, there is something that needs to be addressed: if you're looking for women on mainstream radio, you're going to be left in the cold. It's not saying that there aren't a few mainstream success stories - Kelsea Ballerini, Lauren Alaina and Maren Morris playing to the pop crowd, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert continuing to mostly chalk up hits as veterans - but especially when you look at the indie crossovers, I'm a little perplexed why we haven't seen that woman who can stand up with Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, or Sturgill Simpson. Because these indie acts definitely exist - hell, I've covered a fair few of them, along with the artists who have a mainstream sound and could easily have radio presence if given the chance.

Take, say, Angaleena Presley. A member of the Pistol Annies along with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe, with her 2014 solo debut American Middle Class she won over critics in droves. And I dearly wish that I had covered it three years ago, because of the Pistol Annies while Miranda Lambert sanded back her edge for the mainstream and Ashley Monroe played to restraint, Angaleena Presley didn't have any compunctions embracing her inner hellraiser, her production more ramshackle and grimy to match writing that didn't mince words in its cutting approach to small town Americana. Kacey Musgraves might get cute about it, and Brandy Clark and Lori McKenna might showcase complicated melancholy, but there was intelligent fury and venom from Presley that was willing to get nastier. And let's be real, despite good connections conservative country radio tends to get very skittish with this sort of content, especially considering Presley never played as broad and accessible as Lambert or Carrie Underwood in her delivery or writing. And yet fast-forward to 2017: with the indie doors broken open these days for mainstream crossover, I have to admit I was a little surprised her second album Wrangled wasn't inspiring more conversation beyond the indie critical set, especially if it was at all comparable in quality to American Middle Class. So despite being late to the punch, I dug in - what did I find?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

video review: 'planetarium' by sufjan stevens, nico muhly, bryce dessner & james mcalister

My lord, this was a weird listen, but eh, it happens.

Next up, hoping to knock out two reviews tomorrow, so stay tuned!

album review: 'planetarium' by sufjan stevens, james mcalister, bryce dessner & nico muhly

I don't even know where to start with this one. When I saw that this album had not only been requested early, but had received by far the most votes on my schedule thanks to Patreon, I was blown away. Not for Katy Perry, not for Rise Against, this - but hey, I was curious too, these sorts of supergroup collaborations don't come around every day.

So background here: apparently this started as a commissioned orchestra piece that was performed live back in 2012, but never properly recorded, so Sufjan Stevens rounded up a murder's row of talent to take this score into fresh territory. And we've got heavyweights here: Sufjan is a powerhouse in his own right, but when you add in the guitarist of The National Bryce Dessner, classical composer Nico Muhly, and drummer James McAllister, you've got a stacked lineup of talent. And considering these are all songs written about space and our solar system... look, we don't get enough good music celebrating space, I'll just say that right now. Now on the one hand I was really excited to dig into this, but I also know that this could very well play like that Lights & Motion record I covered months ago, a potent piece of music that can feel a little unengaging or abstract to the point of frustration. But still, I was fascinated by what this quartet could do with this material - it's too odd and distinct of a concept to ignore, so what did we find in Planetarium?

video review: 'renaissance' by the underachievers

Damn, I'm really getting bad at posting these on time... well, anyway, here's the episode that dropped back on Thursday, as Sufjan Stevens and crew come later tonight, stay tuned!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

album review: 'renaissance' by the underachievers

I can't be the only one who feels that hip-hop hasn't exactly had a banner year, am I?

Obviously I'm not saying it's a bad year - we got solid records from Kendrick and Joey Bada$$, and that Quelle Chris record was an underappreciated gem, but at the same time, it's kind of telling that my favourite rap record thus far in 2017 has come from an album that was surprise early-released on Christmas of 2016, that being Run The Jewels - and yes, I'm going to count it as a 2017 release for year-end list purposes, just deal with it.

But maybe it's just the hip-hop I've covered in the first half of 2017, but there's been a lot of underwhelming to flat out crap records that I've covered, and I'd like to think I'm not missing anything big here out of the mainstream or underground. So you can bet I was happy that there was a new record from The Underachievers coming up my schedule to cover, seemingly with little-to-no actual buzz! And that kind of blows my mind: sure, I wasn't really crazy about that It Happened In Flatbush mixtape last year, but Evermore: The Art Of Duality was a really damn solid sophomore album that tackles big ideas with really solid bars and some fascinating dualistic production, so I was hoping that Renaissance might be the shot of life hip-hop has needed in 2017 - was I right?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

video review: 'dua lipa' by dua lipa

Not really a tremendous amount to say about htis one - it's a good pop record, generally enjoyable, it connected for me.

But next... whoo boy, I've been looking forward to this one, stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 17, 2017 (VIDEO)

Well, this was a rough week. But eh, I got through it. Next up... well, it's Dua Lipa, but after that, I need to tackle some old business - enjoy!

album review: 'dua lipa' by dua lipa

Well, it's about time this got released - and while I don't often claim to be ahead of the curve when it comes to pop music, I can definitely say I was in this case. I was covering Dua Lipa on World Hit months if not over a year ago on Billboard BREAKDOWN, and while I knew her throatier tones and poise would make her a natural fit for the Europop markets, I wasn't really expecting her to cross over to the United States. But then 'Blow Your Mind (Mwah)' hit the Hot 100, and Martin Garrix brought her on for 'Scared To Be Lonely', and the clock was set on that major label debut, which has been in development since early 2015. 

And I have to be honest, I had a hard time setting expectations - 'Be The One' is a terrific pop song, but it's one of six singles that Dua Lipa released trying to give this some traction, and from the nearly two dozen producers and songwriters backing her, I had the uneasy feeling that this was a record that's long been in development, maybe even overworked. Props to Dua Lipa for having writing credits on every song except 'Be The One', but at the same time, would this be the jump-off point for crossover success, or would Dua Lipa fall into the list of so many good but not great pop debuts that often become forgotten months later, especially on this side of the Atlantic?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 17, 2017

So I was predicting that this week would actually be a little slower going in - after all, it didn't look like the top ten was shifting at all, there wasn't any major album releases on the horizon, we'd have another week in a holding pattern... and yet that's not what we got, pretty much thanks to the record that never hit my schedule and that I would have had no interest in covering if it had. Yep, folks: this is the week of Bryson Tiller, accounting for half of the new arrivals... joy.

Monday, June 5, 2017

video review: 'gone now' by bleachers

And that's two... whew. Good record too - wish it was great, but it happens.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and probably All Time Low next, but you never know - stay tuned!

album review: 'gone now' by bleachers

I distinctly remember not expecting to love Bleachers' debut album Strange Desire as much as I did in 2014. Hell, I remember watching and reading the other reviews, which gave it some token appreciation for 'I Wanna Get Better' and then proceeded to tear into it.

And here's the thing: I completely understand where the majority of those criticisms came from. Is it a shameless 80s pastiche with a frontman who doesn't have the range and presence he thinks he has, relentlessly overwritten with an earnestness that pushes it between aggressively corny and embarrassing? Yeah, absolutely - and yet to some extent the overwritten earnestness, when paired with Jack Antonoff's uncanny knack for huge hooks and a deceptively potent album concept lurking beneath the surface, it lead to a record that hit me like a tidal wave and I still return to fairly regularly, even moreso since I got it on vinyl. And since then, he's popped up all over the place as a behind-the-scenes songwriter for Sara Bareilles, Lorde, the best song Rachel Platten has ever made, and a little someone called Taylor Swift. Yeah, you want to know the reason so many of you idolize 1989 as a pop record beyond the singles, most of the thanks you can direct here.

So you can bet I was looking forward to this - I hadn't listened to any of the lead-off singles, I was excited to go in cold and just take it all in, especially considering he brought on board both Lorde and Carly Rae Jepsen to back him up. So what did we get for Gone Now?

video review: 'relaxer' by alt-J

Hey, this was a request, so to some extent you all were asking for this (well, probably not for this review specifically, but I had to set my cards straight, and it'll be fascinating how many subs I lose in the end here).

Anyway, not the only review dropping tonight - Bleachers coming up next, stay tuned!

album review: 'relaxer' by alt-j

Oh, I'm not going to make any fans with this review. Mostly because there is very much a reason I've avoided talking about alt-j, a breakthrough UK indie pop group that I've found a fair bit more frustrating than actually likable, not helped by comparisons to Radiohead I never thought we deserved.

See, I've listened to An Awesome Wave and This Is All Yours, and to some extent I see the appeal - they can take some obtuse methods of hitting melody, they have a liquid approach to guitar grooves that I'd normally like, they have a frontman with a distinct voice and writing that on the surface seems somewhat approachable, they dabble in other subgenres adjacent to rock... yeah, note the word 'dabble', because every listen to alt-J gives me the impression there is nothing all that striking or compelling beneath all the 'weird' indie pop pivots. The biggest consistent criticism with their first two records are that they're overstuffed messes, but that can be redeemed if they add up to something with an edge or something to say, whereas every listen I've given to alt-j just finds it all the more hollow to me. I can tolerate weirdness for its own sake, but frankly, this doesn't feel alien or imposing or challenging, just obtuse and sterile and sexless, the music marketers think the lowest common denominator of hipsters like. Sure, there are a few pretty vocal harmonies, especially on This Is All Yours, but that doesn't disguise the fact the records are dreary slogs that think they are a lot more interesting than they actually are. And it's not helped by the fact that I find Joe Newman a particularly unengaging and unlikable frontman, especially when you dig into the lyrics - it's one of the reasons I've never found the Radiohead comparison made any sense, because even though I'm not really a fan, Yorke's writing and intensity was far more compelling than this, and he certainly aims higher.

But hey, you guys wanted me to talk about Relaxer thanks to Patreon, so maybe three records in alt-j will have found something workable?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

video review: 'wonder woman'

Well, this was interesting... again, I think this'll ultimately tilt into greatness for me overall thanks to a tremendous lead and some great chemistry, even if the third act does frustrate me. But still, for so many audiences, this is a film they've waited their whole lives to see, and the fact they stuck the landing this well is worth noting. 

Next up, Bleachers, and (sigh) probably alt-j, so stay tuned!

video review: 'hopeless fountain kingdom' by halsey (ft. ARTV)

Well, this was a fun conversation. You'll want to check out the full video on Jon's channel, we go in depth there, but beyond that... yeah, this was solid.

Next up, though, I've got another movie on my docket, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

video review: 'goths' by the mountain goats

Man, this record... it just cut deep in the best possible way. Holy shit, I loved this.

What's coming up next, though... well, we'll see. Stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 10, 2017 (VIDEO)

Well, this episode generated a lot of backlash... eh, it happens. Overall, pretty happy with it, all things considered. 

Next up, though... really excited, have to say, so stay tuned!

album review: 'goths' by mountain goats

Before we get into this review, I think there need to be two things placed in context: my relationship with the goth subculture; and my relationship with the music of The Mountain Goats - and in both cases, it gets complicated in a hurry.

See, if you've seen me rambling on Twitter at some point late at night, I'll typically have wandered into one of my favourite goth club haunts for some music that actually has an edge and to soak in the atmosphere, but whether I'd call myself a goth... well, people have been arguing about that qualifier for decades now, but I'd probably say it's not really a label that fits me exactly. I like a lot of gothic music and fashion and it's easy for me to feel comfortable in goth clubs - you're not going to find a crew as openly accepting of oddballs like myself despite appearances as that subculture, along with markedly more likable music - but for me there's a time and place for it, never quite a scene I've completely embraced.

And here's the funny thing: I get the impression John Darnielle might feel the same, which leads us to the Mountain Goats. Full disclosure, while I may have been introduced to them through Nash over at Radio Dead Air - check him out, he broadcasts online live on Monday evenings, his content is excellent - I've never really done a deep dive, and thus I've spent the past three or four weeks exploring all fifteen full-length records in their backlog, from their roughscrabble early days in the 90s to their slightly more polished indie folk side in the 2000s to the steps towards indie rock that has come in recent years. And while I would definitely call myself a fan, I wouldn't really say I'm a big one, mostly tied to the energy and strength of the melodies along with Darnielle sticking with more defined stories instead of some of the abstract pieces that sometimes can feel a tad scattered. It's also one of the reasons I have a hard time citing a favourite Mountain Goats record or ranking them - for me, unless they've got a unified thematic arc I tend to like bits and pieces, although if I had covered Beat The Champ back in 2015, it would have had a serious shot to make my year-end list, that record hits so many of the same moments that made Darren Aronofsky's movie The Wrestler click so deeply for me, it's startling. But their album this year Goths... well, with the comparisons to the writing of Nick Cave of course I was on board, but I was a little concerned that Darnielle had opted to abandon his guitar entirely for the record, which could lead to a very different sound and one sure to piss off the diehard lo-fi Mountain Goats fans. But hey, what did we get out of Goths?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 10, 2017

So it looks like the charts have settled down for a bit heading into the summer months, and that means for me, things seem fairly normal. Hell, even the big shifts I expected coming off of records that I thought had a chance to cross over... well, it didn't happen. Instead, for once, things almost look straightforward or at the very least a little predictable, especially when we get to our new arrivals.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

video review: 'teenage emotions' by lil yachty

You know, I was expecting to pull a Rae Sremmurd on this project... but no, it actually has a few decent moments. Points where they're due.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and we'll see from there - stay tuned!

album review: 'teenage emotions' by lil yachty

I think there is a misconception surrounding why certain critics - particularly those who like oldschool hip-hop - are a little... let's say reticent towards Lil Yachty and the mumble rap crowd, often surrounding comments like 'oh, you don't get it, it's music for the kids, it's more about the vibe and flow than the actual words that are being said - after all, it's upbeat, it's happy!'

And yet here's why it doesn't really fly with me surrounding Lil Yachty: maybe it's because I've become accustomed to this sort of flow and style, or that I've been listening to rappers who flow with more speed and intensity for years now, but he's always been very understandable for me. And while I've never really liked his flow or delivery or the fact that he's a sloppy MC who clearly has the potential to be a better rapper and just doesn't care, that's never been at the core of my issues with him. No, it's something that's far more common and jarring than many people have given credit: for as much as Lil Yachty wants to project a dualistic nature between his rapping and sensitive crooning side, the issue has always been tonal dissonance between his delivery and approach and his content. Let's put aside the fact that instrumentally hip-hop is slowly becoming less dreary and bleak and that sonically Lil Yachty isn't breaking down barriers, but when you combine it with how he's still rapping about many of the same bargain barrel subject matter I've been hearing for decades, I'm not impressed! Because yes, I went back to listen through Lil Boat, and aside from being too long, the best thing I could say about it were some decent melodic hooks and a few cute samples - in terms of content, it wasn't interesting or subversive, and it certainly wasn't well-constructed. And even with all of that, I had a bad feeling going into his upcoming record Teenage Emotions, where with his lead-off single with Migos it looked be trending towards tones and sounds that pivoted towards the mainstream and removed the few things that made Lil Yachty sound somewhat different! But hey, surely there'd be something on this twenty-one track seventy minute record, right?

Monday, May 29, 2017

video review: 'all the beauty in this whole life' by brother ali

Well, this happened... I'm honestly not sure how the response is going to be to this, but we'll see... anyway, it's undoubtedly going to be better than what's up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'all the beauty in this whole life' by brother ali

Oh, I've been looking forward to this one - because sometimes when you listen through an extended backlog in preparation for a review, it can be strenuous or exasperating or just plain exhausting even if there was a lot of quality in just huge volumes... whereas in this case, it was fun.

So yeah, Brother Ali - I've been hearing praise for this guy for years now, as a populist political MC hailing from Minnesota who has the wit and insight to back it up and who also has the skills of a battle rapper. And what initially caught my attention were the comparisons to Sage Francis, in terms of his origin and initially a fair amount of his content in balancing the intensely personal with fearsome skills - hell, they even battled once. But their trajectories broke in very different directions, with Brother Ali's material shifting to a much more political direction working alongside Atmosphere producer Ant - and this is the political hip-hop I like to hear. It's nuanced and detailed with a lot of great storytelling and framing, but it has the passion and populism to keep it grounded and human, and when you pair it with remarkably solid groove and punch, it leads to relentlessly enjoyable records with rare slip-ups - there's no serious dud in his discography.

Granted, he hasn't always worked with Ant - he switched things up for Jake One on 2012's Mourning In America And Living In Color, which was pretty damn solid - but it has been five years since Brother Ali put out a full-length solo project, and if I was looking for a political rapper to speak definitively on our current situation, I'm not sure I could ask for many more better candidates, and a reunion with Ant could only be a good thing, his production work was easily the best thing about that most recent Atmosphere project I covered on vacation last year. So what does Brother Ali have to say on All The Beauty In This Whole Life?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

video review: 'united states of horror' by ho99o9

Man, I wish I liked this more. It's not bad, per se, but it's so inconsistent and lacking in impact lyrically... eh, it happens.

But on the topic of tackling old business, let's move onto a record I'm really excited to discuss, so stay tuned!

album review: 'united states of horror' by ho99o9

There's a part of me that's surprised by this... but it's counterbalanced by the part of me that has known this was kind of inevitable - it just might have taken more time to get there. After all, when you have a group like Death Grips who quite literally pioneered a distinct sound and style in modern hip-hop, eventually it's going to inspire people to jump towards their lane.

But there haven't been many to try. Obviously the most prominent person to try noise rap was Kanye West on Yeezus four years ago, but even though I do mostly like that album, it really is the pale mainstream imitation of a sound and style that Death Grips landed better, and it wasn't long before they themselves went in a more punk and noise rock-inspired direction on a record like Jenny Death. Hell, even clipping, a noise rap group who I gravitated to the most, they went into high-concept space opera territory, they weren't exactly interested in following Death Grips towards punk. Hell, even if you take a look at the current crop of distorted Soundcloud rappers like XXXTENTACION they aren't really punk so much as they want to blow out your speakers.

Enter Ho99o9, a hip-hop duo from New Jersey who have attained some buzz for absolutely manic live performances, stabs at gruesome horrorcore, and a significant punk influence - in fact, some would argue they're closer to the punk scene than hip-hop, given how many hardcore and metalcore bands they've supported on tour. They've put out a few singles and EPs, but now they've got a full-length debut ready to go, so what did Ho99o9 bring to the table?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

video review: 'black origami' by jlin

Well, this happened... man, I wish I liked this album more. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, and I think if it's your thing you're going to really like it... but I'm just kind of meh on it overall.

Up next, though... oh boy. Stay tuned!

album review: 'black origami' by jlin

So I've always been very upfront with the fact that when it comes to me and electronic music, I can feel a little out of my depth, especially on the more experimental fringes where the compositions push into twisted, visceral territory. Now this is less true than when I was first stepping into the genre in 2015, but there's a part of me that's always a little unnerved and yet thrilled venturing into the weirder subgenres, that touch upon tones and sounds that never really touched the mainstream.

And so you can all imagine how much a record like Jlin's Dark Energy had on me a few years ago. Wrenching the tempos and intensity of footwork into twisted yet razor-tight atmosphere full of fragmented samples, industrial muscle, and African textured percussion, it was an experience unlike any other electronic record I had heard in recent memory, and while I did take some time to delve into footwork after hearing Dark Energy, it's a record that has lingered in my mind even years later. Hell, a record that experimental, strident and confrontational and yet willfully abstract and opaque can be easy to respect for how much it sticks in your head, even if going back I still find parts uneven enough to like but not love.

So when I heard that Jlin was doubling down to produce something even more challenging, aggressive, and imposing for her sophomore release, I was definitely on board, even if there was a part of me that was a little terrified where the album could take us. So where does Black Origami go?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

video review: 'no shape' by perfume genius

Man alive, I enjoyed the hell out of this record, and I really do think this is one of my better reviews too. So thrilled I finally got to it, definitely will land on year-end lists.

The next record, though, is even more critically acclaimed... well, stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 3, 2017 (VIDEO)

Well, this was an interesting week at least... eh, fun stuff all around, enjoy! 

Next up, though... whoo boy, I've been waiting for this one!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 3, 2017

So this is one of those weeks where I expected a lot of activity... and I didn't get it. This was supposed to be a week where Harry Styles and to a lesser extent Paramore impacted the charts... and it didn't happen. In fact, if we're looking at a week where summer grooves seems to be settling into gear, it's here, which led to a little more stability than I expected.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

video review: 'connect the dots' by misterwives

So this was a ridiculously fun record. Not a huge amount to say about it, and a pretty simple record to discuss, but man, what a great one.

Next up, though, time to tackle some old business, so stay tuned!

album review: 'connect the dots' by misterwives

So I've talked before about the idea of a 'silent majority' act, groups that critics tend to treat indifferently or ignore for being bland, but attract a huge mainstream following for being just accessible enough to get airplay or a lot of sales, even if the buzz for the group is never that big. But there's a flipside to this, and I'm struggling to come up with the right term. Maybe you all could help me with this: this is a group that typically sits near the underground, never really builds up enough buzz to break through, and while critics tend to like them a decent bit when they release new material, they also tend to get lost in the shuffle a bit, never really getting a tremendous amount of attention.

Such was the case for MisterWives, a group I actually caught live opening for Bleachers in 2014 before I actually reviewed their debut album a year later. And for the most part, I really quite liked that album - there were points that were uneven or overstated, but the energy and vibrancy made it clear this was a group that you should hear. Hell, I even put the excellent closing track off that album on my top 50 songs of 2015... and yet before this week, I wasn't even aware MisterWives had a sophomore album ready to go, or that people on Patreon were so eager for me to cover it. That, to me, was encouraging - I didn't have huge expectations, but if they had managed to refine some of the ideas and writing on their debut while keeping those big hooks and real momentum, this could be really fun. So what did we find on Connect The Dots?

album review: 'no shape' by perfume genius

So there's a critical preconception about singer-songwriters that the more layers of instrumentation they add, the less intimate their music is perceived. Now this is more observed on the flipside - that when artists strip things down they're working to intensify the closeness of their music - but I've always found it to be a bit of a misconception, and not really taking into account the music as a whole. Sure, when you strip things back to place all the emphasis on the singer, you can get that intimacy for sure, but just because the instrumentation becomes lush or more expansive doesn't mean the focus has to necessarily change - you just need a performer who can captivate with bigger emotions.

Enter Mike Hadreas, who sings under the moniker Perfume Genius. If you remember when I covered his absolutely incredible third record Too Bright back in 2014, I highlighted that despite being his most expansive record to date, he still managed to leverage his incredible intensity and charisma into a powerfully intimate experience - which is stunning considering how much that album held a mirror to the audience to confront discomfort with Hadreas' open sexuality while actively confronting the insecurities projected upon him. It was a powerful step that might have eschewed the direct storytelling of his previous records, but the combination of rich themes, potent vulnerability, and an incredible lead performance certainly won me over.

But what fascinated me was that instead of returning to raw, quieter material, Hadreas was going bigger. Buzz was suggesting that it was a more baroque record, with grander opulence in its tones and aiming for high decadence in its romance, and the second I started hearing comparisons to Kate Bush I knew I had to find some way to muscle this up the schedule so I could talk about it. So no more wasting time, considering this review is late already, what did we get with No Shape?

Friday, May 19, 2017

video review: 'one more light' by linkin park

So this happened... eh, from the looks of the early response most people are coming down even harder, but that doesn't quite surprise me, given the change in sound.

But next up... ooh, this'll be fun, so stay tuned!

album review: 'one more light' by linkin park

So recently Linkin Park made some headlines in probably the worst way possible: telling their fans to 'move the fuck on' from their debut album Hybrid Theory

And I want to unpack why this was possibly the last thing you want to say going into the release cycle and promotion of a new record - because on some level I get it. Credit where it is due, Linkin Park have shown themselves willing to evolve and push their sound - not exactly in a way that's revolutionary, but it takes a band with some stones to follow Minutes to Midnight with A Thousand Suns - which, for the record, I'm still on the record liking probably a lot more than many Linkin Park fans. Fans that probably discovered you thanks to Hybrid Theory selling millions of copies and being a permanent staple in many people's collections. And even though I think that album has aged pretty badly, I get why people love it, and it does have its moments.

So while I get that Linkin Park wants to move on and I completely understand their frustration with entitled fans who want them to make another version of it, maybe it's not the best marketing decision to call that out right before you want them to slap down money and buy your newest record! And this is not Linkin Park at their strongest either: rock radio has changed dramatically and downsized considerably, hip-hop and electronic music has moved into wildly different territory, and their lead-off single hoping to cross over to pop radio 'Heavy' with Kiiara has not exactly been well-received, especially by those Hybrid Theory-era fans that will be your most guaranteed source of income! Worse still it comes across less like Linkin Park are pushing into new territory sonically and more just trying to keep up with the mainstream, even if it's not an intentional artistic choice - which to some extent I get after their 2014 album The Hunting Party failed to cross over to the Hot 100, but they're at the point where they could easily headline festivals for the next thirty years and not give a damn about mainstream radio! Either way, it was not a good sign going into the new album One More Light, and despite only being a casual Linkin Park fan, I was nervous. So how did it turn out?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

video review: 'bloom' by machine gun kelly

So this blew - but thus far the reception to the review has implied that everyone already expected this. Eh, no surprise there.

Next up... ooh, this'll be a big one, so stay tuned!

album review: 'bloom' by machine gun kelly

So let's talk about selling out, because while I've opened up reviews with this topic before, I think a refresher is in order. To make this abundantly clear, going 'pop' or changing your genre and style isn't in and of itself 'selling out' - just because an act goes for what be deemed is a more accessible sound isn't inherently bad if the core of what makes a specific act unique and special remains, instead of just nakedly following commercial trends less because you're going to do anything interesting with them and more because it's guaranteed to produce a hit of dubious quality. And even then, it's not inherently a bad thing for an artist to want to cash in and make money, and some acts only discover their pop appeal when they try this. My point is that 'selling out' is often a misused term, it's not always a bad thing.

With Machine Gun Kelly, it was a bad thing. Look, I'll admit right now I was never a huge fan of this Cleveland MC: I always tended to slot him in the Tech N9ne mold of cranking out impressive flows and delivery but saddled with production that was too thin or flimsy to back up its pretensions to bombast, and could also slide towards corniness or some utterly wack bars. But even then, I was a sucker for a good flow, and while his full-length debut album Lace Up was pretty far from great - it's was overlong, his reliance on crass party bangers that he didn't have the personality or wordplay to back up - there were definitely moments of flow and energy I could appreciate. Most of this went out the window for his second album General Admission, which aimed to play darker and more personal but also did so by compromising the delivery and much of the intensity that made his early work at least likable. There are a few choice tracks and stories being told, but when you factored in the production, he wasn't doing anything any number of more aggressive, insightful, and honest MCs didn't do already, and that's before you get to the Kid Rock collaboration!

Then 'Bad Things' happened - which is apt in referring to both the godawful duet with Camila Cabello and the likely trajectory of Machine Gun Kelly's career. Because thanks to 2016 giving a pass to entirely too many boring white rappers in the mainstream, MGK got his breakthrough with his most pop-accessible flows and least interesting content to date. In other words, I was expecting Bloom to suck, and I'm only covering it because at least it looks shorter than his last two albums and because I need it off my schedule on Patreon so I can cover Perfume Genius. So on that promising note, what did I find off of Bloom?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

video review: 'welcome home' by zac brown band

So yeah, pivot back to comfortable territory, I just wish I liked it more. Oh well, it happens.

Next up, though... it's gonna be bad, folks, strap in!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 27, 2017 (VIDEO)

Yeah, pretty short week overall, but not a bad one in my books.

Next up, Zac Brown Band and followed by one of the worst records I've covered thus far this year - stay tuned!

album review: 'welcome home' by zac brown band

To explain why this album exists, we need to go back a few years. It's 2015, and anticipation was high for the newest album from the Zac Brown Band - but of course there were concerns. Everyone knew the band was capable of delivering quality - even if they had a penchant for laid-back beach fare they had still put out three remarkably solid records with great melodies and harmonies and lyrics that, while not exactly great, could hit some real potent emotions. And for me, they had been responsible for some of the best mainstream country songs in recent years, a beacon of real talent in an increasingly oversaturated bro-country scene. But the lead-off singles here seemed different, increasingly stepping outside of country in favor of rock...

And yet little did we expect what Jekyll + Hyde turned out to be. Putting it simply, despite how much I liked the record it was a mess, full of stylistic pivots into rock, metal, reggae, EDM, and even occasionally country music! And again, there were great moments - Zac Brown has a knack for hooks like few in mainstream country - but the pileup of genres alienated a lot of the group's fans, especially those who had followed from their loose, jam-band roots. And again, even though I did like that project and think their experimentation did occasionally stick the landing - I hold 'Tomorrow Never Comes' is as close to a country/EDM mix that actually works that has ever been made, and the rock-leaning tracks definitely have their fans - for a lot of country fans it was a step too far.

And so in the lead-up to Welcome Home, you can tell they were doing everything they could to re-establish their country credentials. Zac Brown himself contributed to a song on Dave Cobb's Southern Family compilation - which I still hold is the best album of 2016 - and apparently they connected so well Dave Cobb was pulled on to produce the entire new record. And despite this reassuring step, I was still a little concerned - I wasn't against Zac Brown experimenting, he had stuck the landing a fair few times, I just wanted the cohesion to be there and the songwriting to connect. But hey, if we're going to get a solid, grounded country record, this is something the Zac Brown Band can do well, so what did we get?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 27, 2017

So we're now at the halfway point of the Billboard year - and wow, 2017 has been something, that's for damn sure. I'm still not quite sure how to evaluate it as a whole. One thing's for sure is that it's been a turbulent year thus far - Ed Sheeran might have held the top for a measurable time, but ever since then it has been song after song seizing the #1, showing the sort of turnover that you'd more expect on the UK charts than the United States.

Monday, May 15, 2017

video review: 'after laughter' by paramore

Look, maybe the group just isn't for me at this point... but still, I had hopes for this and am a little dispirited they didn't materialize.

But on the topic of failed hopes... well, after Billboard BREAKDOWN, stay tuned!

album review: 'after laughter' by paramore

I think somebody needs to explain to me what is the hype behind Paramore - because the more I listen to their material, the less I'm seeing it.

That's not saying they're bad - their first three records are a respectable slice of emo-leaning pop rock, with Riot! probably being the best of them, but even then I was never really wowed by the writing or the performances or the production - good music, sure, but nothing I'd actively seek out or that I thought stood out against the rest of the pop rock boom. Then there was the self-titled album in 2013 that I actually reviewed for a year-end anniversary, an album released after the lead guitarist and drummer quit... and again, for mid-2010s pop rock released on Fueled by Ramen, it certainly checked off the boxes, but I did not understand all the critical acclaim that was piled on that record. There were a few catchy singles, sure, and Hayley Williams' brand of colorful theatrics had its moments - helped by self-aware songwriting that was getting better - but at the end of the day I was lukewarm on the project at best, and I have not had any inclination to revisit that album since.

So I wasn't remotely surprised when they decided to pivot towards retro-new wave for their newest record - sure, their bassist was now gone, but producer Justin Mendel-Johnsen was filling in and they actually got their old drummer Zac Farro back. Hell, I wasn't even surprised by the change in direction - punk acts have gone new wave to stay relevant since the late 70s, this is not new. What did catch my attention was the emphasis on how trying this recording session apparently was, and how much that struggle had translated into the rather dark themes contrasting with the brighter instrumentation - again, this isn't new, but as a more polished spin on their emo-leaning lyrics in the past it could make for an interesting listen, so how does After Laughter turn out?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

video review: 'harry styles' by harry styles

So yeah, this happened. Actually pretty good all things considered, which kind of caught me off-guard, but hey, might as well enjoy it!

Next up, Paramore - stay tuned!

album review: 'harry styles' by harry styles

I think it's worth mentioning how we got to this point, and I think it's also worth mentioning that there's no real way to discuss this debut record without placing it context of the other One Direction debut projects that have been released or are launching as we speak. Because when I reviewed Mind Of Mine by Zayn, I made the commentary that it hard to ignore how much history was repeating itself, a boy band breakaway making a sleek, sexy R&B project that was already eclipsing the band in terms of success...

But this is where things get complicated, because while Zayn may have gotten that #1, the critics were not exactly kind to him, and he spent the rest of 2016 with steadily diminishing returns. But the larger surprise was that unlike previous boy band projects, the other members were splitting off in wildly different directions. Louis split towards modern pop, a direction that seems to be echoed by Liam given his upcoming single release in a week with a feature from Quavo - kind of fascinating, given that for as much as these two were the main 'songwriter' types in One Direction, the one who pivoted towards the acoustic folk version of that type was Niall Horan, who has been making music I'd argue is way better than it's been given credit.

And then there's Harry Styles, who many people thought would be the breakout star as the face of the band and easily its most popular and recognizable member - even though, unlike Justin Timberlake, he wasn't one of the bigger contributing songwriters in One Direction. So I think everyone was blindsided when he released 'Sign Of The TImes', which was a direct callback to 70s classic rock - and it also was really good! Granted, if you look behind the scenes, it's not that surprising - Styles had pulled Jeff Bhasker on board, along with Tyler Johnson, who was the main producer behind the criminally underrated pop country debut from Cam in 2015. This is a team of producers and writers who know how to put together a strong album, even if it probably would feel like a shameless throwback. Still, while he might have won over the critics who have been desperately looking for reasons to praise something connected to One Direction, I was a lot more skeptical, because if you're going for that brand of rock, eventually the edge would have to materialize and I hadn't heard it yet. So okay, what did this self-titled record deliver?