Thursday, May 16, 2019

video review: 'the juice: vol. 1' by emotional oranges

So yeah, this was concentrated wonderful - absolutely killer project, definitely a debut with a ton of potential, you all need to hear this!

Now for the next couple of days I'll be at Sonic Temple, so uploads might be a little more sporadic, but stay tuned all the same!

album review: 'the juice: vol. 1' by emotional oranges

So we're venturing back into the muted, murky R&B rabbit hole and let me pose to you a somewhat unique prospect: a duo, comprising of both a guy and girl working together on vocals, picking up slick elements of 80s funk, some of Janet Jackson's sultriness, but a lower timbre overall to play to a more sultry and "mature" vibe. Would you bet on a group like that?

Hell, you probably would have sold me based on the R&B duo dynamics alone - I've long held the private belief that mixed gender groups with effective balance can rarely be matched and it's been decades since you've had one with consistent success. Hell, the surprisingly long running success of Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum in country have proven there's a lucrative market, but if you look at R&B or hip-hop, you typically get the 'token' girl who winds up having as much talent as everyone else combined, like with City High and arguably The Fugees. The closest I can think of to making that balance work is Doomtree with Dessa holding up her end with the rest of the crew, but again, that's hip-hop, not R&B. So when I started hearing underground buzz for Emotional Oranges - and when I say underground buzz I mean the measurable promotion through the Joe Budden Podcast and a certain manager who will go unnamed - I figured like with Asiahn I'd give them some airtime. So, eight songs, just under a half hour, what did we get from The Juice: Vol. 1?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

video review: 'confessions of a dangerous mind' by logic

Yeah, this was bad... but really, was that a surprise to anyone?

Anyway, I've got this Emotional Oranges review I'd like to finish up before tomorrow and I leave for Sonic Temple, so stay tuned!

album review: 'confessions of a dangerous mind' by logic

I can pinpoint the exact time when I stopped actively looking forward to new Logic projects.

And believe it or not, it was actually earlier than Everybody, his famously polarizing 2017 release that took its concept and angst into messy territory across the board. No, for me it was the first Bobby Tarantino tape in 2016, a trap-leaning project that seemed unlike the high-concept textured hip-hop that had been his bread-and-butter... but it snagged chart success. And indeed, outside of the suicide hotline pop crossover riding the misspent star of Alessia Cara and the genuine rising tide of Khalid, the songs from Logic that have attained success have arguably been him at his least interesting or potent, mostly on trap production where he'll flow his ass off and say so little along the way. And while discussions of what caused that switch in sound and approach have been interesting, spanning from allegations of being an industry plant to just the wrong industry influences pushing him away from his organic following to even just Logic having bad creative instincts... at the end of the day the music has stopped being good or interesting enough for me to care all that much.

So yeah, I skipped over his reportedly terrible alt-rock soundtrack dalliance with Supermarket earlier this year and I was seriously considering skipping over this too - it's not like he wouldn't have chart success with it, and I did know coming after the conclusion of his Young Sinatra series that he'd probably skip away from that old fanbase forever, so there wasn't that much incentive to cover this... but I figured why not. Even on most of his worst projects he's delivered at least a few songs that are decent, so what did we get from Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 18, 2019 (VIDEO)

Okay, here we go - pretty bad week, but at least the Bazzi song was good, right? Right?

Anyway, I've got Logic or Emotional Oranges to be covered next, we'll see - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 18, 2019 yeah, there are weeks where I'm wrong, and then there's this week, where I might have been expecting a slowdown - which in some categories we did get - only for a few big singles to disrupt the top 10 from out of nowhere and force me to re-evaluate where the chart could be going in the next few weeks. Now granted, one of those singles is coming from an album that's also out of nowhere - and boy oh boy, I can't tell you how much I don't want to cover it - but still, this is one of those cases where I feel I should have seen this coming, and I'm kicking myself that I didn't.

video review: 'divided by darkness' by spirit adrift

So yeah, this was pretty great and pretty much out of nowhere for me - definitely worth a lot of attention, check this out!

Next up... you know, Logic can wait a bit, I've got something else that might be fun after Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

Monday, May 13, 2019

album review: 'divided by darkness' by spirit adrift

So over the past couple months I've seen more than a few heated arguments surrounding the concept of genre and if how in the era of streaming and blurring boundaries whether it even matters. And while I've been a staunch force for arguing that there's still a place for it at least in terms of adequate classifications of certain music, I'm amicable to the idea of subgenres and blurring lines... but if you wanted to come to me and say that genre was always more of a marketing scheme than clear demarcations of sound, I'd be willing to hear that argument.

And to support that argument, you only need to look at heavy metal, a genre that's well-known for fiercely entrenching its lines and barriers... until you take a look at the list of tags tacked onto every Bandcamp release, which are less about defining the sound and more about hitting as many search results as possible. So I'll admit I found it a bit rich when I checked out Spirit Adrift, one-man project of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nate Garrett, this time paired with drummer Marcus Bryant, and how in their own marketing they said they were often pigeonholed as doom metal - and then saw 'doom metal' in their tags - but upon reflection, I could see why that connection might have been drawn. While they had faster passages, you could sketch some loose parallels to how Black Sabbath was touching that sound in the late 70s or the very earliest progenitors of the genre in the early 80s - and yet like with Sabbath, I'd argue if you were looking for that sound proper, I wouldn't go to Spirit Adrift. To me their sound was at its best rooted in the hook-driven, more conventionally structured and melodic heavy metal that showed a clear lineage to the past, but brought the chunky, grimy muscle that characterizes a more modern scene and acts like Baroness or Mastodon, and in going back to their first two albums, I heard a lot in which I found really damn promising! So yeah, it's been a while since I've given a proper metal review - what did we get out of Divided By Darkness?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

video review: 'fishing for fishies' by king gizzard and the lizard wizard

So yeah, this wasn't good... eh, it happens?

Anyway, I think I might need a better rock project as a pick me up (and hopefully I can put off the Logic project for a bit too), so stay tuned!

album review: 'fishing for fishies' by king gizzard and the lizard wizard

So I'll be honest, I'm always a little tentative to tell any sort of artist that what they're looking to pursue is a bad idea. Because you never know, right - I've been surprised time and time again by acts who are willing to make wild pivots and stick the landing with their experimentation, and who the hell am I to say otherwise?

And I say this because... well, when I heard the buzz that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard were going to make a shuffling blues rock project with an emphasis on 'boogie', I had concerns. Not that it was inherently a bad idea or something that the band couldn't pull off - they've jumped across genres with aplomb and going back to the roots of the groovy garage rock tones where they've pulled inspiration has promise, especially if they took a year off in between this and the five albums they put out in 2017. Granted, the critical reception has been more mixed than normal, but again, no guarantee of what could connect - and while several critics were highlighting the increased environmental themes as a point of contention, that's been in the lyrics going back a few albums anyway especially on Gumboot Soup, so I was ready for that. So what did we get on Fishing For Fishies?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

video review: 'hellbent' by randy rogers band

Hmm, this was probably a project I could have put on the Trailing Edge, but I figured a quick review was worth it for an act I like, especially if Hold My Beer Vol. 2 drops some time soon.

Next up... see, I've got King Gizzard on the docket, but I've got a top 10 I'd like to finish too - stay tuned!

album review: 'hellbent' by randy rogers band

So speaking about acts that nearly got lost in the shuffle...

Yeah, this is somewhat inevitable when we look at the bands with less traction in the mainstream or even less natural groundswell outside of a strong local scene - and while I wouldn't usually want to slot the Randy Rogers Band into the latter category, it's a little hard avoiding it nowadays. Just to catch you all up, the Randy Rogers Band was a Texas country act who landed a major label deal in the mid-2000s and yet never really saw the momentum on the singles charts... mostly because the Nashville industry can't stand Texas country and they were playing a much more neotraditional stripe of it. But the band was willing to try and cross over, even working with Jay Joyce in 2013 for their album Trouble... and when that went nowhere because of the bro-country wave, the band split for their own label and returned to a sound that was more comfortable. And let me stress while I was hard on their 2016 album Nothing Shines Like Neon, it was more because of the comparison to Randy Rogers' excellent collaboration with Wade Bowen a year earlier called Hold My Beer Vol. 1, which was one of the best albums of 2015 and featured one of my favourite songs of that year in 'El Dorado'. So while the rumor mill hasn't really given me any dates surrounding when their follow-up compilation might drop - and Wade Bowen is content to make great solo albums like Solid Ground from last year - we got this project Hellbent, so how did it turn out?

video review: 'hurts 2b human' by p!nk

Yeah, this was a disappointment...

But hopefully this new Randy Rogers Band album will hold up? We'll see, stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

album review: 'hurts 2b human' by p!nk

Did anyone care this came out, besides me?

I mean, I'm a bigger P!nk fan than most, and I could make the argument I nearly missed it, just one more project caught up in a tidal wave of releases in which I'm still trying to catch up, and it seems like everyone else already moved on to the new Vampire Weekend! But here's the thing: P!nk moved a lot of units because she does have a diehard fanbase and is one of the few pop acts of her era still making... quality? 

And I frame that as a question because the 2010s have not been kind to one of my favourite mainstream pop acts of this decade, and even if I'm inclined to be more forgiving than most, if we compare what's she's released since The Truth About Love to what came off of Missunderztood or I'm Not Dead or even Funhouse, it's not really in the same ballpark. Now a big part of this is not P!nk's fault - pop devolving into pale trap imitations instead of the aggressive pop rock where her natural timbre worked, it's something that has wreaked havoc on so many pop acts. But I think part of this comes from P!nk just not being as provocative as she used to be - yes, years in the industry will do that to you and her diet riot grrl approach to gender politics in her music was never that transgressive if you're closer to the indie scene, but she was one of the few mainstream acts who got political and in your face about it in the mid-2000s - that's why she stood out. Strip away that muscle and intensity and the songs get a lot more bland and forgettable - a great voice could only redeem so much.

Now granted, I had no idea where Hurts 2B Human was going, mostly because 'Walk Me Home' sounded exactly like the sort of bombastic but kind of hollow P!nk song we've gotten this decade... but also like the material fun. was putting out at the beginning of the decade, more rooted in indie rock tropes that went nowhere and probably deserved a longer shelf life! Now that made sense - one of the cowriters was Nate Ruess - but when I saw the newest list of cowriters that spread across Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, Khalid, Teddy Geiger, Julia Michaels, Ryan Tedder, Sia, Beck, and Chris Stapleton, it gave me no clue where she would take this. But even if it's just me and the diehard fans who care about this, I still do - so what did we get from Hurts 2B Human?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 11, 2019 (VIDEO)

Hmm, so here we go - not a great week, but this is alright enough.

Next up, let's finally handle P!nk - stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 11, 2019

I think the best way to describe this week would be a deflation of expectations - yeah, I knew this week wouldn't quite have the same impact as what happened with album releases, but I was open to the possibility of larger hits from acts like ScHoolboy Q or P!nk or even AJR. Now thankfully for a change we mostly missed this and seemed to walk away with about as good of a result as we could hope for, although with still more quiet weeks ahead it begs the question where the hell the Hot 100 could even go in the next week or two.

Monday, May 6, 2019

video review: 'father of the bride' by vampire weekend

UGHH... you know, I'm expecting a backlash, the only question will be how pronounced.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and then I'm going to talk about P!nk, so stay tuned!

album review: 'father of the bride' by vampire weekend

You know, when I first started my channel, I just managed to skirt most of the messy conversation around Vampire Weekend - so who wants to have fun examining decade-old wounds and talk about cultural appropriation?

See, that's the loaded thing about Vampire Weekend - I know just by mentioning that band and the term 'cultural appropriation' I've triggered flashbacks for anyone who was involved in the indie blogosphere of the time, but the conversation has always been more complicated, especially since their debut. Because yes, like Paul Simon before them and tUnE-yArDs after them, they borrowed from African rhythms for a jaunty, generally likable, and very marketable brand of literate but safe indie rock that won a lot of predominantly white liberal critics over, but did leave a few of the more progressive ones questioning how much they should really praise them, especially given how the band always got wary and weirdly defensive whenever that topic got brought up, both on and off record. What I always find amusing is that so many critics turned themselves inside out trying to justify their fondness for this band despite the cultural appropriation conversation - which for the record I think is a valid accusation, especially given the band isn't really taking steps to uplift the originators of those sounds or even deliver them with much texture or context of their roots - and they skipped the band's over-educated deflective ego and awkward voyeuristic streak around women, especially on Contra, a pass that a few insightful critics made sure to highlight how a less privileged or well-connected band probably wouldn't have escaped so easily. And if you don't believe that, I just need to point to how Kyle Craft was treated by certain critics last year - and that's where the text was on his side!

And thus it should come as some surprise to everyone I just pissed off that their third album Modern Vampires Of The City - which I hold to be their best - wound up on my year-end list in 2013, so how can anyone justify that? Well, a lot of that comes down to really good compositional instincts and the band finally picking up some momentum along with jettisoning the antiseptic African flourishes that I never bought in the first place, but it brought at least a few more traces of self-awareness to bear, even if upon reflection that album does still have a few too many sour notes. And since then... honestly, I had no idea where Father Of The Bride would go - Rostam Batmanglij is long gone, members of the band have been writing behind the scenes for other acts for years, and it has been six years since the last Vampire Weekend album. So without hearing any of the singles - and stepping into a very different hype environment for any indie pop or rock act - what did we find on Father Of The Bride?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

resonators 2019 - episode #016 - 'fan-tas-tic vol. 1' by slum village (VIDEO)

Well I wasn't surprised this wasn't going to draw huge numbers... have to hope it'll pick up a bit more traction in a bit.

In the mean time, looks like folks want me to cover Vampire Weekend before P!nk (sigh), so stay tuned!

resonators 2019 - episode #016 - 'fan-tas-tic vol. 1' by slum village

So here's something that probably doesn't get highlighted enough when it comes to the indie hip-hop of the late 90s, and a problem to that age that just isn't as applicable today: distribution. Yeah, Soundcloud and Bandcamp and YouTube are overflowing with acts which means that oversaturation could prevent you from even being heard... but in 1997, pressing CDs or vinyl or making cassettes costed money, and if you were on an indie label, that was something you often didn't have.

Now I've talked about limited distribution before in the last season of Resonators with hardcore punk in the 80s, but if you want a golden example of a project that would only become widely available commercially years later, we need to talk about the Detroit act Slum Village, a Detroit hip-hop trio that in 1996 consisted of childhood friends and MCs T3, Baatin, and producer Jay Dee... who you might better know as J. Dilla. Now it's important to highlight that even early on, J. Dilla had already attained some considerable fame thanks to production work - already he had credits on the fourth Tribe Called Quest album, as well as for Busta Rhymes and The Pharcyde a year earlier - but keep in mind we're talking about the mid-90s and a highly localized scene outside of the major meccas of American hip-hop, where producers might be well-known if their style and sound was unique enough - as Dilla's was - but they wouldn't quite have the same notoriety as even Dilla would achieve a few years later. As such, the initial run of this project was extremely limited, primarily a run of cassettes that wouldn't receive a CD or vinyl pressing until the 2000s - but if you were in the underground hip-hop scene in the late 90s, this was a project that spread like wildfire, especially in the wake of several songs getting revamped for the 2000 album Fantastic, Vol. 2. But given that we have digital distribution, I wanted to go back to the source, back to what really set the scene on fire and had this trio hailed as the next coming of A Tribe Called Quest - so here we go, this is Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 by Slum Village, and this is Resonators!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

video review: 'neotheater' by ajr

So it was written... so it was done.

Okay, next up I want to handle either Resonators or that P!nk album, we'll see. Anyway, stay tuned!

album review: 'neotheater' by ajr

...well, second time's the charm, right?

But before we get into this, let me set the scene: it's the middle of July in 2017, I'm churning my way through my schedule, and I figure on a lark I'd check out this new project from a band for which I had no expectations. Yeah, their first album had been an inflamed cyst upon the bowels of 'indie' pop rock, but reportedly they had "left" their major label to deliver this themselves - a facade easy enough to blow through when you consider the connections they had and the copyright claims they leveled and any access to Billboard and RIAA documentation, but I respect the persistence to hold up the illusion and call me a liar directly for pointing it out. But I'm getting ahead of the story, because at that point, while I had zero expectations the album would be good, it couldn't be that bad, right?

And you know the story: I took in the album and despite being quite ill at the time - and speak of the devil right now - I got in front of the camera and gave it the thorough flensing it deserved as an incoherent fusion of genres and malformed ideas that was still screamingly convinced of its own transcendent power. To this day it is the worst project I've ever "reviewed" on my channel - and I say that more because there's a part of me still faintly sickened by the pastel-shaded cumshot wrought upon the tears of an evangelical youth group taking their first hits of a bad joint laced with PCP. And while one can recoil in absolute revulsion from the sound on display, what I took the strongest umbrage with was how it was a complete thematic failure: sure, the lyrics might be overstuffed and drooling over with dunderheaded pop culture references that fostered a lingering suspicion the trio was more brand deal than band, but at its core it was an attempt to complete similar arcs to what twenty one pilots did with Blurryface or Jon Bellion did with The Human Condition in examining the arc of their success, taking the novel approach to avoid owning any real drama by making the mother of bad faith decisions to wallow in over-privileged non-action. That's what made the project feel so hideously wrong to me, clearly deluded into believing there's dramatic impact through their framing and delivery, and then delivering something the antithesis of all of it - it'd be worthy of Dadaist horror if there was any trace of subversive thrill instead glassy-eyed, autotuned scatting.

That was 2017. I posted the review, it went about as viral for me as any album review is wont to do, to the point where Angel Olsen's embittered 'they made a meme out of my legacy, darling' from Alex Cameron's 'Stranger's Kiss' echoed whenever I thought about it. That the revolting thing about the acts you lambast in the era of internet content creation, because in addition to their somehow real fanbase, they have picked up waves of infamy thanks mostly to yours truly. And thus in the only way they'd understand when they see this review - a pop culture reference - I thought of the Joker near the end of The Dark Knight and the line, 'I think you and I are destined to do this forever'. And so we have Neotheater - reportedly a bit better and a bit darker from the trio, and with no obvious featuring credits to jeopardize that illusion they aren't managed or distributed through the major label system. And considering you all want it, what did we get?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

video review: 'crasH talk' by scHoolboy q

Well, that was disappointing. Kind of predicted it and tried to shoot it as much bail as possible... but there was a limit, and even if I got it, I just didn't like it much. Eh...

Anyway, it's about to get much worse, so stay tuned!

album review: 'crasH talk' by scHoolboy q

I had a bad feeling about this.

And oh dear god, that sinking feeling of dread in your gut when you have every expectation the album you're about to hear is going to be nowhere close to as good as it should be is among the worst possible experiences you can have as a critic. Don't get me wrong, there were albums that dropped on April 26th that were bad, no way around it, but it's not like I expected quality out of AJR - hell, for them, if they somehow got worse, that'd at least be fascinating in an excruciating sort of way.

But with ScHoolboy Q... look, I know it's been years since Habits & Contradictions, which I still hold is a fantastic album. I know he's in a different place as an MC than when he made Oxymoron or even Blank Face LP, an album so many folks loved and that I like despite its messiness. I know that he was shaken badly by the deaths of Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle and I was expecting that to creep into his work. I know that for as much as critics like to place TDE on a pedestal that it's shakier in 2019 across the board than it was even three or four years ago, even if nobody wants to admit it. And with the singles rolled out for CrasH Talk and the features list... look, I was worried, I'm not going to dance around this, even with the acknowledgement that of the crew, ScHoolboy Q has always been willing to dive into flashier, mainstream-accessible tendencies. And hey, if your expectations are in free fall, maybe it can only go up from there, so screw it: what did we get from CrasH Talk?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 4, 2019 (VIDEO)

And here we are... messy and mostly not good week, but it'll be entertaining at least? Ehh, I have no idea these days...

Anyway, next up is ScHoolboy Q, and then I want to get this episode of Resonators done... oh wait, what's that? You want an AJR review? Well, that will be done when it's done, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 4, 2019

So this week was... weird. I had the suspicion it'd be more transitional because the big album drop that made my life a lot more hectic occurred last Friday - seriously, eight albums that I'd otherwise want to cover, a situation not helped by me getting sick and what's depressing is that most of them aren't close to good - and for the most part, it is. But I get the impression this is a week that buries its biggest lead, and the sharper changes will take effect next week based off of what happens here.

video review: 'in league with dragons' by the mountain goats

So yeah, I've had this album on repeat for about the past week and a half... tough project to talk about, but I think I did it justice?

Eh, Billboard BREAKDOWN is up next, and then I have Resonators and entirely too many reviews up behind it... stay tuned!

movie review: 'avengers: endgame' (VIDEO)

Okay, yeah, this is a bit of a weird review, but I really did love this movie and the reshot review without spoiling I think turned out okay. Enjoy!

album review: 'in league with dragons' by the mountain goats

...I mean, sometimes it's just too goddamn good to be true.

Granted, I think I would have been looking forward to this album regardless: when it comes to amazingly well-written singer-songwriter indie material, the Mountain Goats are long-running veterans, and seem to be taking this time in their careers to venture into the strange nooks and crannies that frontman John Darnielle finds interesting, not just as a fan but as someone looking to comment on those subcultures and eras. He did it in 2015 with pro wrestling and Beat The Champ, he elevated his game to a different dimension with Goths in 2017 - which, for the record, was my top album of that year - and in 2019, the new album was announced to be called In League With Dragons.

Look, I've said before that I'm a nerd, and by that I mean I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons for about fifteen years across multiple editions. I was a passing fan of wrestling at best, goth culture was something for which I've always felt a little on-the-outside-looking-in as much as I've appreciated it, but D&D and that brand of fantasy is formative for me, to the point where the stakes were raised before I even heard the album. Now I did trust that they'd do an excellent job - Darnielle is only growing as a writer and this is a band with the pedigree to do this justice - but I also knew that the reason Goths worked and was a little controversial was because of its subversive and deconstructionist side taken to the goth community, and given how close I've been to tabletop roleplaying, I wasn't sure I was ready for this. And I was also wary for the possibility that said dragons could well be a larger metaphor or idea - the track listing seemed to be placing at least chunks of the album in the modern era, which could mean anything. But regardless of those concerns... man, I was excited: so what did the Mountain Goats deliver on In League With Dragons?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

video review: 'amidst the chaos' by sara bareilles

So yeah, this is one that I've left on the back burner for some time, but I'm happy I got a chance to review it just the same - not sure how many will care, but still, pleased to go back.

Next up... well, this Mountain Goats album is a thing, but I am seeing Avengers Endgame tomorrow, so stay tuned!

album review: 'amidst the chaos' by sara bareilles

You know, of all the releases over the past couple of weeks, it seems like this is the one that's flown under the radar the most.

And it's not hard to see why: outside of the singles, most of the mainstream seems to have had a touch-and-go relationship with Sara Bareilles' brand of sharply written adult-alternative indie pop - they're not going to complain about getting tunes like 'Love Song' or 'King Of Anything' or even 'Brave', but they're not really going to go out of their way to find more from her. Which is a shame, because while I'd struggle to put her among the upper tier of piano-driven pop rock - it's a crowded field, and while I think her albums are consistently pretty good I'd struggle to call her great across the board - I think Sara Bareilles has a lot going for her with a strident vocal tone, well-structured lyrics, and a pop sensibility that can give her a sense of accessibility and make her easier to revisit than many of her peers.

That said, the flip side to this is if she can't deliver the hooks or a more striking performance, it's easy to brush her music aside, and as much as I think there are some underrated album cuts on her 2013 album The Blessed Unrest, underwhelming compositions and slightly oversold production combined with weaker writing did leave the album as rather forgettable, or at the very least not as cutting as she's been in the past. Now that review was one of the first I ever put to video, so I was curious to revisit her material over a thousand reviews later, especially given this new album was coming off a lot of well-received stage work and was looking to get a lot more political. What caught more of my interest were cowriting credits from Lori McKenna - who I still hold as one of the best writers working in music of all genres right now - so I'll admit I had some high expectations yet again, so what did we find from Amidst The Chaos?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

video review: 'morbid stuff' by PUP

I know, I'm late to this... and will be late to my next review too, so stay tuned! 

album review: 'morbid stuff' by PUP

You know, it's funny, I was talking with a fellow Canadian music writer when I was catching a few punk bands performing in downtown Toronto and mostly making fun of the label guys who are clearly too cool for any of this and aren't nearly as inconspicuous as they think they are, and I was wondering why the hell they were even here. Sure, punk can move units on the festival circuit, but that scene is nowhere close to the market share it was even a decade ago. But then she pointed out something obvious: they had to be there. Even if the majority of those bar bands would turn out to be nothing or would flame out or become the underground lifers for which music is a hobby, every so often you'd get an act like Fucked Up or Japandroids or PUP, and whatever's left of larger rock/punk labels would need to find them somehow.

And it was that conversation that leaped to mind when I went through PUP's back catalog again for this review: because man, I've heard a lot of pop punk bar acts that fit close to what PUP is delivering. Huge abrasive riffs, shouted vocals, far better guitar and drum work that you wouldn't expect from the old pop punk set in the 2000s thanks to a lingering post-hardcore influence, lyrics ripping sheets from the third wave of emo - really, the bands that blow up with this sound are the ones that actually can write sticky songs and hooks, and that's what PUP had. I'll freely admit not quite loving what PUP brought to the table - I've long felt the band had missed some tightness in their first two projects even if the hooks were there, especially on the debut which I think I like more than The Dream Is Over - but given how much critical acclaim has fallen on their third album Morbid Stuff, which many have suggested is their most refined and paradoxically raucous project to date, I really had to make time to check this out, so what did we get from Morbid Stuff?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 27, 2019 (VIDEO)

Kind of crappy episode here, to be honest - not a lot to really be said with these, unfortunately. 

Now time to tidy up some old business before I get to the eight (!!!) albums I want to talk about all dropping this Friday, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 27, 2019

I get the funny feeling that a lot of folks are going to forget this week pretty quickly, the sort of Billboard BREAKDOWN probably more notable for what's not happening than what is. No album bomb, no significant chart shakeups that seem like they're going to last - and yes, I know for some either the BTS arrival or Lil Uzi Vert's continued attempts to get something to stick will contradict me, but while I've been wrong predicting what will last, I get the feeling I'm not going to be that wrong with this one.

Monday, April 22, 2019

video review: 'cuz i love you' by lizzo

You know those reviews where you're just certain that you're going to piss off a lot of folks, and certainly the artist should she see it? Yeah...

Anyway, I've got Billboard BREAKDOWN next and then probably this PUP album - stay tuned!

album review: 'cuz i love you' by lizzo

I get the feeling, looking at Lizzo's career arc, that her story could have been a lot different.

And to explain this, you need to go back to her debut project in 2013 Lizzobangers - and if you're familiar at all with her larger discography, this project will surprise you in sounding very little like her major label work. For one it's a lot more hip-hop, produced mostly by Lazerbeak of Doomtree - which makes sense because she had moved from Houston to Minneapolis and you can tell how her sound was influenced by the tropes and genre-blending that came out of that. Which was awesome, I've always been a huge fan of that sound, and while she took steps towards thicker indie R&B atmospherics on her 2015 follow-up, it's a tone and style of hip-hop that I'd love to see get more traction... but that was quick to evaporate by the time she signed to Atlantic, mostly because executives probably saw her huge personality and great singing voice and knew she'd probably have a bunch of crossover appeal. 

So Lazerbeak is gone and replaced by Ricky Reed, Oak, and X Ambassadors - and look, this doesn't have to be a bad thing, but when I listened to her EP Coconut Oil and then saw a tweet from a fellow critic suggesting Lizzo might be falling in the line of Bruno Mars... look, it's an easy and unfortunate comparison to make. But there's truth in it: a great personality who ultimately is more palatable to a larger audience making pastiches of sounds and styles that are not uniquely hers alone, only redeemed by the fact that she's a legitimately great talent behind the microphone - certainly better than when Ricky Reed tried a similar schtick with Meghan Trainor nearly five years ago! But suffice to say my expectations for Cuz I Love You were considerably diminished going in, but this could still be a good album, right?

album review: 'no geography' by the chemical brothers (ft. the wonky angle) (VIDEO)

Couple quick points - for one, I think I'm nearly recovered from this weekend (it was my birthday, things happened, it was wild), and that's the reason I didn't put out any videos. Also, trying to get my schedule in order before the insanity coming on the 26th (stupid overstuffed release date...).

Anyway, next up is Lizzo and probably PUP soon as well - stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

video review: 'hiding places' by billy woods

Okay, here we go - and after the rough as HELL night I've had, I'm glad to be on schedule and working effectively.

Next up...hmm, this could be very interesting, so stay tuned!

album review: 'hiding places' by billy woods

So I'm going to do something a little different with this billy woods review in comparison with previous albums I've covered from either him or his group Armand Hammer, where for the most part I've given some high scores... and then a few months later by the end of the year I find that I just haven't revisited the albums in the same way.

And let me make this clear, this can happen with more hip-hop than I'd rather admit - it's lyrical, it's dense, it's fascinating stuff to talk about and review... and yet outside of rare cases, a lot of the songs don't wind up on my year-end lists or regular rotation in the same way outside of very specific moods. Now that's not to disparage its quality - as I implied, there'll be times that the only thing I'll want to hear is hyper-dense lyrical hip-hop and I'll have a ton of albums to pull into rotation, but billy woods said something in the lead-up to this project that caught my attention and surprised me: namely that sometimes, it's not that deep, and those who can't grasp it might not have the same life experiences. And that got me thinking, because there probably is an audience who can put on a billy woods album at any time and maybe I'm just not that, but it did make me consider that I might not want to overthink the newest project from billy woods, where he teamed up with producer Kenny Segal for twelve tracks where yes, I'm late to the punch again. And while woods is saying he's at his most direct here... well, I wasn't sure how much I bought that, but I didn't want to overthink the analysis with this one, so what did I find on Hiding Places?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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

Alright, this came off a tempestuous day behind the scenes (and I'm still fighting to get over something... GAH), but I'm on track now and hopefully I can have this billy woods review finished tomorrow. 

So yeah, stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 20, 2019

And here I was making the assumption that this was going to be a pretty mild week on the Hot 100... and maybe in comparison to a regular album bomb it is, but I'll admit I completely forgot that Khalid put out a project that did spark some significant shifts on the Hot 100 for his surprising number of charting singles. I'd still argue it doesn't quite move the needle that much and this still does feel like a post-album bomb week, but it's worth mentioning at least, even if the album will wind up being a perennial occupant of the Trailing Edge.

Monday, April 15, 2019

video review: 'ventura' by anderson .paak

Well this was... honestly a little underwhelming, but given how many listens I gave it, I really don't hope this is one that grows on me tremendously when I'm a little healthier (yeah, I've been ill all weekend, it happens :( ). 

Next up, looks to be a more interesting week of Billboard BREAKDOWN than I expected as we get a slightly slower schedule - stay tuned!

album review: 'ventura' by anderson .paak

Admit it: if you're an Anderson .Paak fan, you're not surprised by this release.

But before we go further, let's talk a little further about the aftermath of Oxnard, his release late last year that I still think is good... but was a disappointment, not on the same tier as Malibu or Yes Lawd! or even Venice if we're being honest. Instead of taking the strengths of Anderson .Paak - a phenomenal performer and a pretty good songwriter with buckets of charisma - and pairing them to the loose, eclectic production that made him a star, he was given a bunch of highly synthetic, regimented grooves that had nothing close to the organic warmth and texture that made Malibu so striking, and the writing hadn't exactly evolved along the way. And while the album got some critical acclaim from a few people, it was not the shot into the mainstream that you'd expect from the big expensive marketing push he received, and many people were quick to point out the project had more of Dr. Dre's fingertips in its sound than what had previously worked. And on one hand, I could see that working - after all, I might be alone in saying that it worked on the 2015 Compton album, but I still hold that project as one of the best of that year - but Anderson .Paak had evolved considerably and trying to place him in Dre's comfort zone smacked of real mismanagement. 

So I expected the course correction - maybe a mixtape, maybe something loose and thrown together to placate the diehard fans and maybe win over the few people who loved Oxnard - but what I didn't expect was it coming so fast! Nor did I expect the pedigree of acts behind him: Smokey Robinson, Jazmine Sullivan, Brandy, a sample of the late Nate Dogg, and even Andre 3000 - who frankly seems like a natural partner for Anderson .Paak given the broad similarities in their style, certainly more than Dre. And I'll be honest, I'm stunned the label threw this kind of money for a course correction - getting these samples and guests do not come cheap, especially if there was to live instrumentation - because that takes a keen executive to recognize something has been mishandled by them and they need to give the artist space to make it work. That takes a level of self-awareness I did not think that Dre had, but enough wasting time: what did we get on Ventura?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

video review: 'guns' by quelle chris

So unsurprisingly this is pretty great - in fact I'd argue it's more accessible than ever- but it is a later review than I'd prefer. Apologies for Quelle Chris for the delay - the day he dropped the competition was nightmarish and I still haven't gotten to billy woods (it's coming, I swear).

But next up... not sure, we'll have to see - stay tuned!

album review: 'guns' by quelle chris

Yeah, I'm a little late to the punch with this one.

But in all due fairness, due to the density you find on Quelle Chris albums, that does make a certain amount of sense, even if they might be excellent from top to bottom. And given how much he's just been on a tear the past few years - with my first proper introduction coming in 2017 with my review of Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often and then his fantastic follow-up last year with Everything's Fine with Jean Grae - I really wanted to ensure I gave this my full consideration. In this case probably more than ever, as this seemed to be a very in-house operation: writing, production, album art, animating the music videos, and surging into a loaded, fractured picture of society's relationship with guns and who might be truly culpable in the usage of such a weapon, the person or the tool. Heavy stuff, especially given the critical acclaim he's received from both me and a ton of other critics, which set a pretty damn high bar... so what did we get from Guns?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

video review: 'empath' by devin townsend

And here we go - a little late here, I understand, but still a really damn good album, and fascinating enough to be worth the time.

Next up, continuing through my list of projects I should have covered before...

album review: 'empath' by devin townsend

So I'll be very blunt here: I've long ago stopped having any expectations for a Devin Townsend album. I can't know how it'll sound or even what genre it'll be as he'll flit between a half dozen different subgenres or even step out of metal entirely for ambient music or pop or even country! All I know is that the tones will be polished to a mirror sheen, there'll be scattered moments of indulgence, and while he'll bring in guest stars, there's no real clue how much they will be emphasized, especially if some of the tightness goes out the window. And to be very blunt, while I got a lot of backlash to my harsh review of his last album Transcendence in the Devin Townsend Project, going back three years later I don't think I'm all that wrong, especially in comparison with the other standouts with that group.

But fine, this is a brand new solo album from him - and when I say solo, I mean bringing together many of the same guest stars that he's been consistently working with, such as Anneke Van Giersbergen and Che Aimee Dorval, along with a few surprises like legendary guitarist Steve Vai and even Chad Kroeger of Nickelback! Apparently that was a result of Townsend mashing all of his disparate influences into one project, which to me suggests a glorious mess that at least might feel more dynamic than Transcendence, but okay - what did we find on Empath?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 13, 2019 (VIDEO)

And here we go... I'm expecting a bit of a mess with this one, but it was a busy week and it looks like this came out early than I expected... heh, go figure.


billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 13, 2019

You can make the argument that this is one of the weeks where the Billboard Hot 100 will attract the MOST attention. Not just because of the expected album bomb from Billie Eilish or the posthumous charting entries from Nipsey Hussle - a damn shame he didn't achieve them when he was alive - but because of our new #1. And I'll be blunt, I'm a little surprised that the Streisand effect delivered so much controversy that we got this #1 - but there's a number of factors that got us to this point, and considering the hot takes and spin we've seen around it, I'll continue the work to set the record straight.

Monday, April 8, 2019

video review: 'stronger than the truth' by reba mcentire

Okay, this was genuinely great - definitely take some time to check it out, it's absolutely worth it!

Next up... oof, busy episode of Billboard BREAKDOWN ahead, stay tuned!

album review: 'stronger than the truth' by reba mcentire

Okay, so I should probably provide some context why I'm choosing to cover the newest album from Reba McEntire, an artist who I grew up with and remain a huge fan of to this day, both behind the mic and the camera - hell, normally that'd be enough, but legacy acts like her don't tend to get huge attention these days except from diehard critics. But for as few detractors as country music fans have towards her - and really, she's so universally beloved at this point of her career even despite some wild swings and choices - I've never really considered Reba an 'album artist' where I'd rush out to find a new album. Yeah, her incredible line of singles and even a couple of deep cuts have staying power to this day, and it should be noted she has producer credits on the majority of her albums... but not writer's credits, an artist more known for great performances and curating great pieces than writing them herself.

Now most of the time nobody really cares about this - Reba is one of the few acts who has such phenomenal presence behind the microphone that nobody gives a damn, and she's also old and wise enough to back up her words with genuine substance, so if she's making comments in the lead-up to this album suggesting that she's going to make this more of a neotraditional project... well, against the odds I was inclined to believe her. And it's not like she hasn't been through some real personal turmoil in the past few years - notably a divorce from her longtime partner and steel guitarist - so if she wanted to assemble one hell of a country record, I was at the very least curious, especially given how the critical reviews have been considerable - so what did Reba bring together on Stronger Than The Truth?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Thursday, April 4, 2019

video review: 'trunk muzik iii' by yelawolf

So yeah, this was... really disappointing, tbh. I had a lot of hopes for this, and they just did not come through...

Anyway, I'd like to get the next episode of the Trailing Edge out the door and I need more time with billy woods, Quelle Chris, and Devin Townsend, so stay tuned!

album review: 'trunk muzik iii' by yelawolf

So look, as much as I don't want to go here, there's no way to talk about the current intersection of country and hip-hop than this whole Lil Nas X debacle. Now I gave my opinion on all of this fairly recently - there are weird conversations of cultural exchange, not helped by 'Old Town Road' being a joke song that could feel vaguely credible with the genre especially given what's been let in recently and then was spun in a disingenuous nature after the song was yanked from the Billboard Country Charts, which I'd put up more to Nashville and Music Row interference than anything else. But there's a question that's not being answered in most of this conversation, and it's this: putting aside blatant opportunism, did Lil Nas X really care about landing on the country charts? Was he looking to carve out a space in the genre, or was just aiming to grab the free playlist promo?

And I bring this up because there are acts that are trying to carve out a niche in both country and hip-hop, to be credible and respectful of the sound in both lanes and treat this seriously - and the most prominent in the 2010s is Yelawolf. He might have started out in straightforward southern hip-hop, but by 2015's Love Story he was actively fusing in country tones that worked better than anyone expected, which he followed up in 2017 in Trial By Fire. And while the mainstream music press had a hard time grappling with the sonic fusion, his raw sales success and organic groundswell proved there was something there that could work... but since he's signed to Shady, his mainstream promotion was non-existent and neither album seemed to have the impact they should, especially Trial By Fire. Thankfully, his new project Trunk Muzik III was his last project before he could get away, and a straightforward return to southern hip-hop - which I'll admit seemed to be a disappointment coming from manufacturing a distinctive lane, but if that's what's needed to recapture the mainstream attention before he goes indie or re-signs to another label, I guess I'll take it for now. What irked me more was how he had stepped away from the producer's chair, but fine: what did we get on Trunk Muzik III?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

video review: 'greetings from... jake' by jake owen

So yeah, as I've emphasized a few times, this was a fair bit better than I expected (go figure). If you're looking for a lightweight fun project, you can do a lot worse than this, so check it out.

Next up... you know, let's go for hip-hop, so stay tuned!

album review: 'greetings from... jake' by jake owen

So I'll say this right now: Jake Owen frustrates the absolute hell out of me.

And unlike most of the indie country scene, I'd argue it's not because he's a bad artist, but more how he's never quite lived up to his potential in a consistent way. You have an artist who is easily one of the most charismatic act working in country, with a warmth and good-natured openness that's incredibly charming, and on every album he'll deliver at least a handful of deep cuts that are genuinely fantastic - in multiple years where he's put out projects that are incredibly uneven, he's still nabbed slots on my year-end lists! So I can't dismiss his presence in country... but at the same time, despite being an act who seemed to comfortably survive the bro-country era better than so many peers, I'm left with the feeling that his albums should be much better than they are. Part of this I blame on Joey Moi's overblown production, but a bigger factor just seems to be a pileup of silly or uneven ideas that miss as often as they hit, which you can likely blame on Jake Owen's lack of personal writing credits.

And on this album, it seemed to be more of the same. I did appreciate how much Owen had tried to embrace Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman on production on his 2016 album American Love, but thanks to some poor single choices, it likely didn't hit the way it should have, and he was back to Joey Moi for this project on the new label Big Loud Records. But what worried me more was the guest stars: I know that Jake Owen is more open to sounds outside of what would be expected in country, but was it worth getting Kid Rock and Lele Pons on this? And with more cowriters than ever... look, even from what I know with Jake Owen, I was preparing for disaster - so what did find on Greetings From... Jake?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

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

Okay, I'll be honest, I was worried about the shift to a new channel - but damn near a thousand subs in a day is exactly the sort of moment I needed for this, so thank you all so VERY much for this! This copyright nonsense has been a tremendous pain in the ass, but this was exactly the shot of adrenaline I needed!

Next up... let's kill all that adrenaline with a new Jake Owen album - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 6, 2019 know, it's probably a good thing that I'm starting new episodes of this series on a new channel this week. Relatively slow and gradual, nothing too crazy or out of the ordinary, the Billie Eilish album bomb just around the corner - and with those consistent streaming numbers, it's absolutely getting there - about the best possible time for a pivot to leave the copyright takedowns behind and start afresh with a channel that's not deprioritized into the dirt. So yeah, welcome onboard, folks - this week we have Nav, Logic, and Bebe Rexha! 

Monday, April 1, 2019

video review: 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?' by billie eilish

So this was remarkably fun to put together - good album, some nice tweaks for the editing, cool stuff.

Tomorrow... well, that's Billboard BREAKDOWN, but I HIGHLY advise you pay attention when and where it is dropping, so stay tuned!

album review: 'WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO' by billie eilish

This wasn't supposed to be a controversial review.

I mean, regardless of the album's quality where I step in and somehow piss off everyone - that's expected - but even going into the conversation, there's already a backlash in full-swing against Billie Eilish and I've yet to pin down any place where it makes sense or isn't industrial grade stupid. She's been accused of being an industry plant - mostly by people who don't know what 'artist development' is because their Soundcloud waifus aren't getting it - along with people who find her "edgy" presentation a theatrical act that isn't scary and I really don't have the patience to watch a bunch of disaffected edgelords stroke their e-peens. 

But I reckon it runs deeper than that, because if you just look at the music in context, it's hard to deny the quality. I'm not about to give Billie Eilish a pass because she's young, but there is a parallel to Lorde in presenting lyrics with interesting framing and haunted by wisdom and talent beyond her years. But where Lorde was dialing into raw intensity to amplify her pop, Billie Eilish was spiraling into a different direction, coaxed out by the darker sides of trap and Soundcloud rap and all the rest of the disposable music marketed at teenagers that seemed to have more going on. And Billie Eilish's desire to alienate and shock kind of amplifies preexisting antipathy from certain quarters that would have hated her regardless of quality: an act going dark and creepy with real subtlety and depth but without an obvious point of appeal in pop for guys in terms of sex appeal or immediate shock value, it's almost as if she's being positioned to appeal to an audience that's not them or something!

And make no mistake: it's working, and indeed, the slow growth and maturity of Billie Eilish's development by Darkroom and Interscope, guided by her cowriter Finneas deserves attention - its development that reflects a longer rollout and wells of potential and longevity many of her peers don't seem to have. And it's worth mentioning that Billie Eilish is still a relatively unique performer - she might have started in territory to close to Lana Del Rey and Lorde but the brand of creepypasta crossed with subtle slow-burns that's deliberately avoiding obvious sex appeal is rare in any genre, let alone pop and for a female performer. And once you start seeing things from that angle - and realize that the backlash towards anything teenage girls could like is tired and one of the most utterly petulant bitchfest gestures an opposing audience can bring - I was excited for this project; I've liked the majority of what Billie Eilish has released, and I wanted to see her stick the landing - so what did we get from WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

video review: 'this was supposed to be fun' by epic beard men (sage francis & b. dolan)

Okay, and this ruled too - enjoy!

Next up... man, I really want to finish off that Trailing Edge episode for the quarter, but Billie Eilish is right around the corner afterwards, I promise - stay tuned!

album review: 'this was supposed to be fun' by epic beard men (sage francis & b. dolan)

Not going to mince words: this was one of my most hotly anticipated hip-hop projects of 2019.

And if you're familiar with Epic Beard Men from their killer EP Season 1 last year - or hell, from any of the solo projects of Rhode Island MCs Sage Francis or B. Dolan - you'd completely understand why. Hell, I'm a little stunned why there doesn't seem to be more hype within the hip-hop underground: stellar MCs with expressive delivery that helped lay the groundwork of emo rap, delivering a collaborative project off a really strong EP that's sure to be rife with progressive and activist politics in an era where that is more the rage than ever, if there's a moment for this duo to be dropping an album, it's now! And while the EP had primed the pump, I knew that the full album was probably set to solve my minor gripes with that project, giving more room to modulate tone and incorporate a broader subset of acts and production to lend the project diversity. And considering they picked up Slug from Atmosphere, Wu-Tang affiliate Blue Raspberry, and Yugen Blakrok, whose great sophomore project dropped earlier this year, it looked like all the pieces were in place for this to work - so no more wasting time, what did we get from This Was Supposed To Be Fun?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

album review: 'panorama' by la dispute (ft. the rock critic) (VIDEO)

So yeah, this kicked all amounts of ass - massive thanks to Crash Thompson aka The Rock Critic for joining in to celebrate this album!

And yet the tide of amazing music is not over - stay tuned!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

resonators 2019 - episode #015 - 'mos def & talib kweli are black star' by black star (VIDEO)

Man, this album was a lot of fun, really happy I gave it a lot of breathing space. Good stuff.

So there might be a slight delay on me getting to La Dispute - just some coordination with how I'm putting that review together - but I did finish filming everything for the Trailing Edge and I did get a few albums early, so stay tuned!