Wednesday, December 27, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 3, 2018

I think I was expecting a lot more to actually happen this week than actually did. Sure, it's the holiday season and that usually meant things were slower - with the exception of The Voice, but we'll get to that - but we had big releases from Eminem and G-Eazy that had hype, and also from N*E*R*D, which with the continued single success could have streaming crossover... and yet that didn't happen. Sure, Eminem got a few songs, but people must have been satisfied by what they got otherwise because this was a slow week on the Hot 100. Not complaining, mind you - sorting out year-end lists is pretty difficult as it is - but still, I was expecting more.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

the top ten best hit songs of 2017 (VIDEO)

Always the one that's the most entertaining to put together, a real treat here. Enjoy!

the top ten best hit songs of 2017

So as I said in my last list, I haven't considered 2017 nearly as bad of a year as some critics have, especially when it comes to the hits. Yeah, there was a lot of stupid, misinformed, or just outright offensive garbage that clogged up the charts, and I can see if you weren't willing to dig beyond the top ten you might dispirited in the dreary trap slog, but the truth is that the songs that did break away from that sound or mold - or hell, even a few of the tracks within it - were true gems across multiple genres. Yeah, country struggled in the mainstream this year, but there was real greatness in pop, hip-hop, EDM, R&B, and even some rock-leaning tunes. I wouldn't quite say the overall quality or sheer number of hits is comparable to 2015 or 2012, but it is up there. 

And what surprised me in a great way was the truly amazing hits of this year were strong enough to maybe even reach my year-end list of my favourite songs of 2017, not just the hits! And you know, for as many obscure or weird albums as I cover and then love, this is still a great feeling, that sometimes quality does win out and rise to mainstream prominence for everyone to share, and that's good for culture everywhere! Yeah, I know some of these picks might be controversial - especially in my Honourable Mentions - but as always they debuted on the year-end Hot 100 for 2017, and I did manage to find some quality here. So let's start with the Honourable Mentions, particularly one that if you saw my worst hits last year might shock you a bit...

Monday, December 25, 2017

the top ten worst hit songs of 2017 (VIDEO)

It's here, it's already controversial, and apparently the damn video malfunctioned because after rendering the damn thing three times I can't catch a break. Ah well, best hits of 2017 is coming in a day or two, stay tuned!

the top ten worst hit songs of 2017

There have been years where writing this list is easy. Sometimes it's like 2015 or 2012, where the bad songs can't diminish otherwise diminish a strong or interesting year - or on the flip side we get years like 2016, where the avalanche of awful is so pronounced I almost have too much material, and while that list might be painful to revisit, sheer rage makes it all surge out.

2017 has not been that year, and it's a little tough to explain why. You could make a comparison to 2014 in how so much of this year defaulted towards average instead of a more pronounced brand of awful - I'm certainly not as angry towards this list as I've been in previous years - but the truly excellent hits were much stronger in 2017. What I think has befuddled some critics is how pop was effectively overtaken by the hip-hop and R&B aesthetic on the Hot 100 - it might have become more pronounced in 2013 but in 2017 the takeover was complete, and if you weren't paying more attention to streaming instead of radio, you were going to be left behind. And thus in 2017 the truly bad songs are a bit of a mix of the pop songs tumbling towards the monogenre and the lazy, bargain-barrel dumpster fire that is the dregs of trap. And again, to establish the rules the songs had to debut on the year-end Hot 100 list for 2017, and purely boring doesn't just cut it for me. Given how much of this I've covered on Billboard BREAKDOWN, I've long been numbed to the endless swirl of interchangeable trap bangers and their brand of disposable mediocrity. If you want to land on this list, you need to really irritate me or piss me off, so let's get going with some Dishonourable Mentions!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

video review: 'saturation iii' by BROCKHAMPTON

You know, this might have taken a bit to grow on me, but I'm really genuinely happy that it did. Fun stuff.

Anyway, probably one last album review proper before I duck into lists and one big catch-up video... stay tuned!

album review: 'saturation iii' by BROCKHAMPTON

Not going to lie, I had mixed feelings about this the second I heard about it. Hell, they're the same mixed feelings I have whenever a band or act decides to drop multiple projects in a year when they could combine them into one uniquely strong record...

Actually, I'm not sure I stand by that in the same way anymore. The fact remains that I've covered a fair few artists over the course of this show who have dropped more than one project in the course of a year, sometimes with a radically different focus and style where the quality remains consistent - look at billy woods or Eric Taxxon. I think my bigger issue with BROCKHAMPTON is that while both Saturation I and II are good albums, they're a shade away from greatness, and it's hard not to feel like the thematic arc is retreading familiar territory without really evolving on it. And then there's the other big concern: burnout - quite simply, churning out multiple records in a year with a distinct promotion and marketing arc, especially when you're an independent collective, while it might be easier in the internet age it's also the sort of work that can push working relationships to their limit. And thus when Kevin Abstract made his fakeout post that Saturation III was their last hip-hop record, I believed it - artistic collectives have broken up over far less.

Now of course that's not quite the case, and we'll probably have more BROCKHAMPTON coming up, along with solo projects, but in the mean time, the critical buzz behind Saturation III was promising, so what did we get with this?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 30, 2017 (VIDEO)

And this week was pretty damn rough too... goddamn it, 2018 is not looking good going forward...

But okay, we've got some better hip-hop coming, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 30, 2017

So as I've been predicting, the charts are heading into the lull around the holiday season - and I mean that more than most, because I don't think I've seen the Hot 100 this static in months, with only a pretty sparse crop of new arrivals to bring any real disruption. Hopefully that means I can keep this episode short and get to work on my last few reviews before year-end lists, but hey, you never know, right?

Monday, December 18, 2017

video review: 'revival' by eminem

So yeah, this one hurt. Man, I wanted to defend this record... but I can't. Sorry, folks.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and hopefully some even better hip-hop - stay tuned!

album review: 'revival' by eminem

So do you ever have the feeling before going into a movie or game or record that while you desperately hope it's going to be good, you know deep down it probably won't be? That slow, sinking feeling as your rational mind overrides the sense of hype and the feeling that nothing could live up to your expectations, even if they aren't all that high?

Yeah, that's how I felt going into Revival - and if anything, it was even worse because I've been an Eminem fan for decades. I'll admit to being one of the fans for whom Eminem was my introduction to more hip-hop, that can rattle off multiple Eminem songs from memory - and not just the singles but deep cuts and diss tracks too. And as I grew and matured as a critic and heard so much more hip-hop and Eminem's flaws came more sharply into view, it also led to a different sort of artistic appreciation for even his worst projects - while Encore is far from good it was the sort of record that understood its purpose of artistic suicide, and I still hold Relapse is criminally underrated to this day, where Slim Shady was revealed to be as perverse and deranged as he always was before, this time without any veneer of 'cool'. And even though I'd likely agree with the assertion that Eminem becomes less impressive as an artist the more hip-hop you hear, I don't think even the best in the game would deny his talent for wordplay, his charisma, and his uncanny knack for mainstream crossover success.

And thus, when I heard Em was looking to get more political for his upcoming record, not only was I not surprised I was also extremely encouraged. For many white people Eminem was one of the few rappers they would listen to or cite as a favourite, he spoke across demographics and genres and he's never been uncomfortable speaking truth to power, especially given how much he continued to identify with his working class roots in Detroit. But in the lead-up to this release - and especially after the track and feature list was released - I had a really bad feeling going into this, with names showing a lot of potential for pop crossover but few if any of the relevant acts making conscious hip-hop right now. You'd think someone of his stature would use this opportunity to put some names over instead of pass over more production to Alex da Kid and hooks to goddamn Skylar Grey - an artist who has never been interesting or compelling and who has been neutering the power of Em's hooks for too long - but if Eminem wasn't willing to venture out of his comfort zone to make his political statement, this could be pretty rough. But again, I'm an Eminem fan, I've defended records from him that many brand as legendarily terrible - can I defend Revival?

movie review: 'star wars - episode viii: the last jedi' (VIDEO)

Whoo boy, this one got a lot of anger from a lot of people... and really, I don't think it deserved it, this is a great film.

Now what's coming up next might just deserve the anger... stay tuned?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

video review: 'laila's wisdom' by rapsody

Man, about damn time I got to this one. Really is a terrific record, if you haven't already definitely make time to check this out!

Unfortunately, we've got a big one coming that I'm praying isn't a dud, but might well be. Stay tuned...

Friday, December 15, 2017

album review: 'laila's wisdom' by rapsody

So there's no good excuse for me not getting to this sooner.

Yeah, I know, believe me, I should have covered this months ago - but I'm certainly happy I'm going to be covering this before the end of 2017, especially given the mountains of critical acclaim it has received. And if anything I feel it was a long time in coming, because if there was a woman in modern rap music who has been on the cusp of really breaking through in recent years and schooling the majority of her counterparts regardless of gender bar for bar, it'd be Rapsody. Yes, Dessa will always have a special place in my heart and I'll continue to speak up for MCs like Dreezy and Noname for their respective lanes, but through her mixtapes and her pretty damn solid debut album in 2012 The Idea Of Beautiful, Rapsody made it clear she deserved more attention... which she got through big collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak, which likely helped her snag a record deal with Roc Nation and propel this album into the spotlight. And she was going big for this - her full-length albums have always been pretty hefty affairs, but getting Kendrick, Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes, Black Thought, Terrace Martin and primarily produced with 9th Wonder and the rest of the Soul Council was a very promising sign, I was excited for this. So yeah, I know I'm late to covering this album - I effectively had to vote it up my schedule single-handedly when nobody bothered to add it - but let's not waste time, what did we find on Laila's Wisdom?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

video review: 'kimberly: the people i used to know' by k. michelle

Well, this was frustrating... honestly, I would have probably preferred to burn something out of my backlog that do this, but these reviews all do pretty well, so we'll see.

Next up, something from that backlog and I've been looking forward to this one, so stay tuned!

album review: 'kimberly: the people i used to know' by k. michelle

This is the third K. Michelle record I will have covered on this show... and at this point, I'm questioning why I'm even bothering again beyond the fact that it's the end of the year and there aren't that many new releases getting added. And yet going back to my last review, I discovered to my amusement that I was asking these exact same questions and yet ultimately made the decision that I'd probably wind up covering her again - she was such a powerhouse of blunt personality that I kept venturing back in the hopes that there'd be some refinement in her writing or that she'd fix her consistently exasperating production problems. 

But going into this record, which was promising to be more focusing on a more vibe-driven R&B sound - and was planning to do so by bringing in Chris Brown and Jeremih, lovely - I also remembered that for as mostly positive as I've been on K. Michelle's work in the past, I've rarely felt all that compelled to go back to either of the records I've reviewed from her. Now granted, K. Michelle is enough of a personality that her plans to delve into figures in her past could be entertaining, if a bit melodramatic - she's not one to shy away from airing dirty laundry - but at the same time, it was also over an hour with over twenty songs, and there aren't many artists who can sustain that sort of momentum. And yet did K. Michelle manage to surprise me here?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

video review: 'pacifisticuffs' by diablo swing orchestra

Ugh, I wish I had liked this more... but it happens, I guess...

Anyway, next up is a record I'm a little unsure if anyone beyond the Patron who requested it cares about, but we'll see - stay tuned!

album review: 'pacifisticuffs' by diablo swing orchestra

I get the feeling that just about every element of this particular act is going to require an explanation, including why in the Nine Hells I'm covering them in the first place - because while there are weird metal acts, Diablo Swing Orchestra sits in a category mostly by itself.

And the bizarre thing for once is that I can say I've mostly been a fan of this Swedish group for years. I was introduced to their debut and arguably best project The Butcher's Ballroom in university by a friend given my liking for symphonic metal, but that's only a component of the madhouse of this group, which blends in elements of swing, jazz, and classical music to their sound with a manic vaudeville approach, blending male and female vocals of all varieties against some pretty aggressive and yet remarkably catchy progressive metal, complete with strings and horns sections to boot! And yet at the same time they were always a band that I kept a little at arm's length, mostly because they could slip towards the deeply silly despite their wit and vaudeville kitsch does tend to test my patience, even though I would say all of their work is remarkably accessible all the same. Still, I did appreciate their follow-up records in 2009 and 2012, and I was curious to check out their newest project, with a new female singer stepping in. Granted, I was a little concerned that this record had to be delayed for a year in order to correct mixing issues, but hey, we've got it now, how is Pacifisticuffs?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 23, 2017 (VIDEO)

So yeah, this was actually a pretty decent week. What will come next... I'm honestly not sure, will need to check the schedule - so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 23, 2017

This is one of those weeks where I'm not really sure how to evaluate things, where I had a big prediction that came true faster than I could have predicted, and the rest that... didn't, because this turned out to be a slightly busier week than I predicted, partially triggered by the mass return of Christmas music - most of which I've already talked about in detail a while ago, so hopefully this'll be pretty short?

video review: 'what makes you country' by luke bryan

So this wasn't good... at all, but hey, is anyone surprised at this point?

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and then something a little... strange. So stay tuned!

Monday, December 11, 2017

album review: 'what makes you country' by luke bryan

About a year and a half ago, during my review of Cole Swindell's sophomore record You Should Be Here, I made the statement that some might not see it that way, it should be considered the 'final' bro-country record. It was a record of endings, showing new paths forward, and while there have been attempts by some artists to reboot the subgenre, I still mostly believe that assertion. Yes, we will be dealing with 'Body Like A Backroad' in a few weeks but that seems more like the corpse of a genre that's still twitching, because we still have no information surrounding if Sam Hunt will ever release another record. Now whatever replaces bro-country is anyone's guess: between the neotraditional sound, the still-burning sparks in the indie scene, and even pop country that you might not like, but on average it is still better than what we were getting three or four years ago.

And thus I have to be brutally honest: I kind of feel sorry for Luke Bryan. I shouldn't - over the 2010s he went all in on bro-country and made some truly awful music as one of its biggest figureheads, especially when deep cuts made it plain he was capable of better - but this is now an artist who is being left behind. People tend to forget that Luke Bryan is in his forties, and while his big bet on bro-country means he'll fill stadiums for the rest of his career, artistically you get the impression he has no idea where to go next. There was a recent profile piece published in the New York Times that discussed Luke Bryan, and while the entire thing was incredibly cringey, what stood out to me the most was how Luke Bryan wanted to get coffee with Sturgill Simpson, and at least until Sturgill provided the full quote in context, he didn't seem to have any interest whatsoever in Luke Bryan - whoa. Think about what this means: it might not have been the Kurt Cobain vs. Axl Rose beef of country, but it's hard not to see a similar dynamic between them - but you have to wonder with the Luke Bryan industry and machine around him whether he'd even be allowed to take a real artistic risk. And all of that is the reason I didn't just veto this album from my schedule when it was added. From the lead-off single I didn't expect a change in sound or content... but at the same time, Bryan has to be somewhat aware the ground is slipping away beneath him, and with his label choosing to release it in December, it might be a sign that he's trying something they don't view as commercially viable to the same extent. Of course, it could also mean even they think it's complete garbage, so what the hell: what did I find on What Makes You Country?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

video review: 'between the walls & the window' by ché aimee dorval

So glad I got to cover this... actually, I'm more glad there was an interest in me reviewing this record, that's rare for stuff this underground (she doesn't have a label at all, seriously).

But unfortunately, after the cream must come the crap, so stay tuned!

album review: 'between the walls and the window' by ché aimee dorval

So, about three years ago around this time, I reviewed the self-titled debut from Casualties of Cool, yet another side project of extreme metal artist Devin Townsend. And while I could talk a fair bit about metal artists making a shift towards country, to this day Casualties of Cool remains unlike anything I've ever covered. The sinuous melodic grooves rooted in old-fashioned progressions yet decidedly new, paired with a mix as atmospheric and textured as any Devin Townsend Project record beforehand. A record playing more with subtle abstractions and ghostly metaphor than its direct narrative - which involves space travel and a sentient moon because of course it does - it was near-impossible to properly classify. Post-country, atmospheric country, it was a sound that confounded most indie country fans and metalheads alike - and yet I would posit that anybody who has actually heard the record would testify it is one of the best albums of the decade.

So why mention any of this? Well, for as much as Devin Townsend shaped the sound and production, he did have one other major collaborator: fellow Canadian Ché Aimee Dorval. She's been active in the underground for the past decade, her sound pulling on similar country atmospherics to Casualties of Cool, but also drawing on soul, blues, and rock to anchor her hypnotic and sultry melodic grooves and sharp writing. She put out a record in 2009 and an EP in late 2014, and thanks to PledgeMusic, she was able to put together another full-length record for this year that's bound to go slept on by pretty much everyone. Well, I'm not going to stand for that, so I wanted to cover Between The Walls And The Window - what did I find?

movie review: 'the disaster artist' (VIDEO)

You know, I see why people like this film... I just wish I liked it a hell of a lot more. Oh well.

Next up, hopefully something much better, so stay tuned!

Friday, December 8, 2017

video review: 'forced witness' by alex cameron

Yeah, this was a lot of fun. I know I'm late to the punch on it, but you definitely all want to check this out, it's legitimately great.

Next up, something I've been anticipating all year... or maybe a movie, not sure yet. Stay tuned!

album review: 'forced witness' by alex cameron

I'm not sure there's an easy way to begin this review, because to do so I need to explain Alex Cameron as an artist and the high-wire act he's walked throughout his career over the past ten years - and I'm not sure there's a way to do that without feeling like I'm walking through a hall of mirrors. Don't get me wrong, I like it when artists make art that is commenting on the artistic process and entertainment industry, but it's also the sort of ouroboros, Charlie Kaufmann-esque approach that can get a little exhausting to the audience.

So to lay some groundwork, Alex Cameron got his start in the electronic group Seekae but in the 2010s began developing his solo act, and the 'persona' that he initially adopted was that of a failed performer... but not exactly one that was fully self-aware that he had failed, and infused with some 80s-inspired alpha machismo and 'cool' to boot. Much of his debut Jumping The Shark was infused with this character, balancing wonky electronics with slick touches of 80s synthpop, actively taking the piss out of any sense of cool this character might have... but also playing it just straight enough to reclaim a little of it to a cult audience. From there he developed relationships with indie bands with a flair for retro grandiosity like Foxygen, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and even Brandon Flowers of The Killers, which got him a record deal with Secretly Canadian and a few writing credits behind their last album. And yet with this persona it also led to a collaboration with fellow Australian musician Kirin J. Callinan on a little song called 'Big Enough' on his record Bravado this year... which took his cult status and fused with a meme and his popularity got considerably bigger. And considering on his new album he was looking to explore similar themes of masculinity that Callinan had touched and had roped in both Brandon Flowers and Angel Olsen of all people for support, this was a record I had to hear... even despite, again, getting to this entirely too late. But hey, was it worth it?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

video review: 'war & leisure' by miguel

So yeah, I do wish this was better, but eh, I know this'll definitely have an audience. Probably should have dropped in August, but oh well.

Next up, though... should have gotten to this one sooner, so stay tuned!

album review: 'war & leisure' by miguel

So I have a hard time writing about an artist like Miguel, mostly because as a critic I like categorization, finding a way to place an act in the context of their genre. And while you might have been able to do that early on with records like Kaleidoscope Dream, in that like acts like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd he was digging into new sounds and tones within R&B in order to expand the genre. But their paths diverged very quickly: The Weeknd harnessed his love of 80s pop to attain crossover success, Frank Ocean found a ramshackle yet powerfully organic and spacious sound to win critical acclaim, and Miguel...

Well, in 2015 he released Wildheart, an album that I definitely praised upon its release for its genre-bending and grand, emotive ambition in capturing a specific Prince-inspired, oversexed, hyperstylized mood... but it was also all over the place and it hasn't exactly aged as well as you might think, feeling less and less cohesive in its tangled blur of sounds and without a lot of tighter writing to back it up. I'd definitely argue it's a good album and I really did love how far Miguel was willing to push his material, but in the wake of Frank Ocean's blonde it was an album where the high points might resonate but the weaknesses in contrast glare all the more strongly. And as such I didn't really know where he was going to take his follow-up this year War & Leisure - reportedly it was trending towards psychedelic funk, but he also had names like J. Cole, Travis Scott and Rick Ross as features, and it looked like this was going to be a slightly more grounded affair... which might not be a bad thing, because Miguel is the sort of artist with effortless charisma who could knock that material out in his sleep. So yeah, I definitely wanted to cover, this, so what did I find on War & Leisure?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 16, 2017 (VIDEO)

Lighter week, for sure, but I wouldn't really say a better one, to be honest.

Thankfully, next up is both lighter and better, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 16, 2017

So this is a point we typically hit around this time of the year: the charts start to slow down for the holiday season, we get a few extraneous songs from The Voice - just one thus far - and a sense that barring a major disruption, we're going to have some stability. Granted, said stability could be disrupted by that Eminem record dropping in just over a week, but that'll remain to be seen.

Monday, December 4, 2017

video review: 'the good parts' by andy grammer

Well this was a real disappointment... but hey, they can't all be good, I guess...

Anyway, should be much more interesting next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'the good parts' by andy grammer

So for some bizarre reason my most viewed video at this point is my Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2015 - and to be honest, I'm not really a fan of that video. There are gratuitous editing mistakes that make cringe every time I go back to it, but I guess controversy sells, because there were some eclectic and loaded picks on that list - and while my #1 choice triggered the most controversy, one of the other entries was just as inflammatory: 'Honey, I'm Good' by Andy Grammer, a top ten hit that a lot of critics hated, especially for its cloying, tough-to-watch music video.

And yet I never did, and it's hard not to feel like a lot of people missed the point of that track, mostly because Grammer is a pop artist from a different time. If he had broken through in the 50s and 60s, I could imagine him being far more successful for his unabashed cheerfulness and sincerity, which our more cynical time tends to view as a mask or inauthentic, which they projected onto that song. Hell, I've said the same thing about many of the acts that hopped on the retro pop trend in the past few years... but I've heard Andy Grammer's albums, and it felt authentic and not a studio calculation, if a little over-earnest and corny. It makes sense when you hear that his father made a lot of music for children and was actually nominated for a Grammy in that category in 2005 - which also probably explains how Grammer got some traction opening for the Plain White T's, Natasha Bedingfield, and Colbie Caillat, basically some of the whitest, least-threatening artists in modern music - hell, his list of inspirations include Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Coldplay, OneRepublic and The Fray! Now his first album in 2011 actually did have a single that hit the bottom half of the Hot 100, but it was his second album Magazines & Novels that really took off, because after a failed single cowritten with a member of AJR he released 'Honey, I'm Good' and broke the top 10. And yet even in 2015 I'm not sure if Andy Grammer could have sustained a longer career there - he was defiantly uncool, and his follow-up single over a year later was 'Fresh Eyes', a song I mostly liked but didn't love... and yet was intended as a charity single so don't we all feel bad now. And thus I was kind of worried that it took over a year for the new album to drop, and now only in December. Not a good sign coming from his label... but on the other hand there's a song from LunchMoney Lewis on this, I can't get too mad at it, so how did The Good Parts turn out?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

video review: 'from a room: volume 2' by chris stapleton

...and THAT's two for tonight. Whew, pretty happy with this overall, it's a pretty great record. Next up... well, we'll see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'from a room: volume 2' by chris stapleton

I feel I have no choice but to start this review with this statement: I wish to God I loved Chris Stapleton as much as so many of his diehard fans do. And for two reviews in a row I've seen their frustration that I haven't given him the same critical acclaim as they think he deserves.

And make no mistake, I would love to be there with you. After the CMAs where Chris Stapleton picked up a few well-deserved awards, I wanted to be right there with you trumpeting his praises - but I need to be honest, it wasn't even the best Dave Cobb-produced record on that ballot. And that's the key point of frustration: for as great of a performer and as good of a writer as he is, Chris Stapleton has yet to bring it all together for me, mostly because his production has never given him enough consistent bite - which is an persistent issue with Dave Cobb's attempts at rougher sounds - and his writing has never felt as meaty as his peers. And when you factor in distinct issues like the overextended Traveller or the painfully thin and abbreviated From A Room: Vol 1, I can't put Stapleton on the same pedestal as Jason Isbell or Sturgill Simpson, at least not yet.

And look, I'll make things worse for myself and say I had serious reservations going into this: I've never been a big fan when artists release two part projects within the same year at different times, especially if the sound is pretty close. It's not an issue with a guy like Eric Taxxon or King Gizzard And the Lizard Wizard, because they'll drop four or five projects in a year and they'll all sound radically different, but I had this problem with BROCKHAMPTON and I had the uneasy feeling I'd have it with Chris Stapleton - because as I've said before, I'd rather have one fantastic project with all of the best material than spreading the highlights across two pretty good but not great projects. Now I could be wrong: From A Room: Vol. 2 could be the record that hits greatness, so does it get there?

movie review: 'coco'

This one is a pretty straightforward review - remarkably easy to talk about it too - but man, it's a good one.

But it's not the only thing dropping tonight - stay tuned!