Saturday, March 31, 2018

resonators 2018 - episode #003 - 'milo goes to college' by the descendents (VIDEO)

I kind of feel like I had to cover this one, but man alive, I'm expecting a pretty sizable backlash here...

Anyway, working on the Trailing Edge next, so stay tuned!

resonators 2018 - episode #003 - 'milo goes to college' by the descendents

So let's change gears for a bit on this series and talk about something light, something with a little more melody and upbeat charm - and frankly, this is a side of punk that you'll often get on the poppier side but I'm always a little mystified that it doesn't translate to the other subgenres as often. And it's also something I'd argue can drive a lot of people away from punk in the long-term, especially the more political stuff. Yes, punk often deals with serious issues and the furious intensity of hardcore means that it's naturally suited to emotions that are more negative or angry, but the truth is that said material can burn out a lot of listeners, especially when you consider the puritanical straight edge side that came out of hardcore as the 80s continued on. And yes, there is absolutely a place for that, and when I finally get a chance to talk about Minor Threat we'll discuss it in detail... but there's a reason why bands that at least seem like they're having fun have a little more longevity in popular culture. And while some will look down on that, it's hard to deny a sense of humor and raw populism might spread the message even further - even the bad or misguided ideas Dead Kennedys had have stuck around thanks to Jello Biafra's delivery and wit.

So let's discuss one of the more influential acts in that mold across hardcore and pop punk, who released their full-length debut in 1982 and titled it with the expectation that their frontman Milo Aukerman was going off to college, after which the band went on one of their many hiatuses. They had seen some groundswell a year earlier with the Fat EP - just to give you an idea of the sense of humor we're dealing with - and had actually been produced by Spot, the guy who worked in-house for most of SST and co-produced Black Flag's Damaged, among many others - expect his name to come up a lot more, especially when it comes the California scene. But this group was the furthest thing thematically from Black Flag - a band of hyper-caffeinated teenagers on the goofy side that in 1982 were actively looking to buck the serious, destructive, borderline anarchistic side of the scene... and in doing they made one of the most influential melodic hardcore albums of all time and inspired countless groups, especially the pop punk mainstream breakthroughs in the mid-to-late 90s. That's right, folks, we're talking abut Milo Goes To College by The Descendents, and this is Resonators!

Friday, March 30, 2018

video review: 'may your kindness remain' by courtney marie andrews

Yeah, it took a little longer than I was expecting to put this together, but I really wanted to be sure... and now I am, easily one of the best of 2018, hands down.

Next up... well, I have Resonators, the Trailing Edge and this A.A.L. record, plus whatever's coming up on the schedule plus this Patreon update - lots going on, so stay tuned!

album review: 'may your kindness remain' by courtney marie andrews

I got to reviewing Courtney Marie Andrews way too late in 2016 - and honestly, for as critical as I was of it, I may have been a little too hard on it as a whole. Part of this is that she was facing some really stiff competition in 2016 that made for apt comparisons - the list of women in country who dropped literate, intensely emotive records that year is considerable and she had an uphill battle. But the truth was that some of my criticisms of her last record Honest Life did feel a tad forced, as it was certainly a record intended to grow through the understated details and subtext, rely more on gorgeous vocal delivery and production to carry the deeper message - and I'll admit that in my headlong rush towards the end of the year, I probably didn't take it in as deeply as I'd prefer - and yet even with that her absolutely stunning track 'Only In My Mind' notched a well-deserved spot among my best songs of 2016, a late entry that was very well-deserved.

Well, there are no such excuses for me this time around, and given how much critical acclaim this follow-up is receiving for fleshing out more of the lyrical details against arrangements I know are bound to sound terrific, I was really looking forward to giving this my full attention before both Linda Ortega and Kacey Musgraves sweep in to grab the spotlight in a few days. So what did I find on May Your Kindness Remain?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

video review: 'new material' by preoccupations

So, uh, this was really great and I enjoyed the hell out of it more than I thought I would. Easily the best thing these folks have assembled since Women, highly recommended!

And next up, something also very underground but very promising all the same, so stay tuned!

album review: 'new material' by preoccupations

So at least for me it's been difficult to tell exactly where Preoccupations have been going with their music. The transition from the crushing, grinding riffs of Viet Cong to their self-titled record under this name came with a sonic shift towards a more synth-infused, drone-like post-punk that was brighter and didn't quite feel as implacable as their debut, or as wiry at tight as what most of the group was doing with their previous band Women. And yeah, it wasn't a bad shift but it led to tonal choices that didn't always seem to cleanly match their compositions - a potent listen, but misshapen around the edges, and definitely transitional.

But it looked like Preoccupations was going to keep on shifting, with the songwriting turning introspective and the tones reportedly sounding even brighter and more melodic. And I'll admit that I wasn't at all sure how this would turn out - part of losing that impact was why their last record hadn't resonated quite as well, and while there had been some influences reminiscent of The Cure I didn't exactly see Preoccupations making any strides towards pop. But hey, if this was a record looking to hit rock bottom with better tunes than ever before, I'd give it a listen, so what did I find on New Material?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 31, 2018 (VIDEO)

Heh, this turned out WAY more controversial than I expected... eh, it happens.

Next up, something way better than everything I'm talking about here - enjoy!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 31, 2018

You know, given how the past week has been it's been very tempting of me to just step up in here, say the Billboard Hot 100 shit itself inside out like most of the rest of this year - and let's not mince words, it's about as bad as I've seen it in the past few years - but hey, it could have been worse, right? We didn't get a full album bomb from XXXTENTACION, and while I sure as hell don't think our replacements are anything close to good, I have to keep reassuring myself with the thoughts that this could be a much more miserable experience than it is.

Monday, March 26, 2018

video review: 'boarding house reach' by jack white

And here is round two - and I imagine this'll be the contentious one, with nobody being all that satisfied with the conclusions I draw. Eh, it happens.

Next up, the living hell that's going to be tomorrow's Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!

album review: 'boarding house reach' by jack white

So here's something paradoxical I've noticed with Jack White: for as much as his presence and influence seems to loom over so much modern rock music, I don't think about him that much these days. You'd think I would, given his work with The White Stripes or The Raconteurs or even solo, but for as much as I really liked Blunderbuss, there was a certain distance I still have towards Lazaretto even despite liking it a fair bit. And this is coming from someone who has seen White live in concert and who generally likes his southern gothic, jagged, almost hermetic approach to his sound, spiraling down into twisted rabbit holes that might stumble towards blues rock lyrical cliches but nearly always had the tunes to back it up.

But here's the thing: not counting that overstuffed release of b-sides two years ago, this is the first proper Jack White record in four years, and I was genuinely curious how it would stick out in comparison to so many artists trying to chase some brand of his sound... or hell, even outright surpass it in the vein of artists like Ron Gallo or Kyle Craft. And I'll admit a certain amount of concern about this one: I won't deny that it was likely a natural step for White to step away from conventional blues rock in favour of a more diverse or eclectic sound, but he's never been a great lyricist and if he was refocusing there at the expense of good riffs, with even reportedly a rap-inspired song on this project... yeah, I had room to worry. But what the hell: how was Boarding House Reach?

video review: 'staying at tamara's' by george ezra

Okay, this was pretty decent, but it's not the only thing we're getting tonight - stay tuned!

album review: 'staying at tamara's' by george ezra

And now we've arrived at the second primarily acoustic singer-songwriter who has somehow sold over a million copies around the world based off a single hit that seemed to peak a fair bit later than the actual album did... and yet the more I think about it, George Ezra is a very different sort of artist than Vance Joy, even despite playing with what might seem like a similar genre and sound. For one, George Ezra actually had some rich baritone in his vocal timbre and knew his way around lyrics that could back up their metaphors and loose sense of imagery, but that actually ties to something peculiar about Ezra's presentation: roughness. And I'm not talking about the sort of edge you typically got out of adult-alternative acts that trended in the 90s - with some of the touches of blues, firmer low-end grooves, and slightly more earthy, haggard feel overall, many pinpointed Ezra's influences as much older, calling back to the folk singer-songwriters of the 60s or early 70s that were just adjacent to the mainstream in production if not the songwriting. And yes, some of this affection is linked to how much 'Budapest' has become a karaoke staple for me, but even if the writing hadn't quite gotten there yet George Ezra was at least a more compelling presence behind the microphone...

But like the singer-songwriters of the day, the music media would aim to frame the conversation as competitive, and I've seen a lot of comparisons to Ed Sheeran in the buzz leading up to this release, a sophomore record four years later... and not one that I found had much merit, at least coming off of Ezra's debut. As much as I might hope for otherwise, Ed Sheeran trends more towards pop and R&B than blues or soul or rock, which looked like a more natural landing point for George Ezra - although I did have the twinge of worry that given how well Ed Sheeran and those seeking to rip him off have done, it wouldn't be a far stretch to nudge George Ezra in that direction, regardless of whether that'd fit his style or presentation. So okay, what did we get on Staying At Tamara's?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

video review: 'we beefin?' by wendy's (MEME REVIEW)

I feel I might owe some of you an explanation for this.

and I don't feel like giving one - someone paid for it, they got it. Jack White and George Ezra next, enjoy!

movie review: 'love, simon' (VIDEO)

Yeah, a little late to this one, but pretty happy with it overall. 

Next up... whoo boy, Jack White - enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

video review: 'punk' by eric taxxon

Wow, this went... long. Really damn long, but I think I got to the right point.

Next up, something to knock out of my backlog, so stay tuned!

album review: 'punk' by eric taxxon

The last few projects from Eric Taxxon I've put on the Trailing Edge. Not entirely by choice - I ran out of time with The Art State at the end of 2017, I really did want to give that one a full review given the richer set of ideas and more abrasive experimentation, but One Pop didn't give me a lot to say, and while 'Guns' is a damn great song, the rest hasn't quite stuck with me in the same way as, say, Paul did.

But this was one of the projects I wanted to review in full, mostly because Eric Taxxon was going into a territory few producers or artists dare anymore: plunderphonics, taking a plethora samples and musical fragments to vividly recontextualize them for his own work. Now this is not unfamiliar territory to him - I distinctly remember his project Copy from 2016 that actually sampled me from one of my videos - but Punk seemed more ambitious, more driven by Taxxon's acrid distaste for modern copyright law and a desire to make a pointed and layered statement about it. Now keep in mind sampling for free mixtapes has not gone away, but the fact that one could pay for Punk - this project is available on Bandcamp, not DatPiff - means this was definitely in questionable territory, because I'd put money on none of these samples being cleared. And that's always a murky legal territory even if it is free given authorial consent - that's always been one of the big grey areas with fanfiction - but on the other hand I've just had a week where I've had multiple videos either stripped of their monetization or blocked outright by copyright bots without any proper third-party arbitration and despite Fair Use and Fair Dealing conditions on YouTube, so I'm just about in the proper mood to enjoy the hell out of this! So okay, what did I find on Punk?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 24, 2018 (VIDEO)

My God, this was a weird week... honestly not a terrible week, but overall, I'm going to cherish what I have here before XXXTENTACION next week.

Next up... ooh boy, this is going to be crazy, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 24, 2018

You know, there's a part of me that's really getting sick of the streaming album bombs, mostly because it feels like it makes covering the albums in a full review kind of redundant... even though by covering them at some point on my schedule I'd probably get more traffic overall, which is all the more exasperating. But why get one album when you can get two, because this week, the big competition comes between Logic and Lil Yachty, the latter who I literally forgot dropped a mixtape a week or so back even despite some critics giving it praise. Eh, given that it's less of an album bomb than a scattering of songs in between Logic, we'll see what we get there.

Monday, March 19, 2018

video review: '?' by xxxtentacion

None of you should be surprised by this. Fuck, I'm just waiting for the backlash train to roll in, especially considering some of the comments I made about relatability.

Whatever - I've got better hip-hop on the horizon to care about than this dreck, but before that, Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: '?' by xxxtentacion

The key word of this review is enablement - because while I've gone off a number of times on Billboard BREAKDOWN how given the changing times and cultural norms it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense that a rapper like XXXTENTACION would have a career, much less flourish the way he has. You'd think given the domestic abuse charges and how so much of his art has not just referenced it but coaxed it through a blurry haze of malformed self-loathing to seemingly justify or excuse his actions that he would have thrown to the curb... and yet he accumulates hip-hop cosigns from artists you'd think would know better and ever-increasing chart success.

But I know the answer - and even if you're not a fan and you're just here to see me rip this record to shreds, you're probably not going to like my answer, because it's the sort of uncomfortable indictment of our relationship to artists that especially younger audiences probably aren't ready to address and why their defense of said acts in the face of critics like me seem so much angrier - just like it was with nu-metal nearly twenty years ago, just purified down by a social media environment that gives us the feeling that we are closer to the artist than ever before. But with certain Soundcloud rappers like XXXTENTACION it runs deeper - you don't aspire to be XXXTENTACION so much as you relate to him, reinforced by the homegrown, amateurish style that lets you imagine and project yourself onto him as the artist using the excuse of deeply held art to excuse your own acts. And it becomes personal, a siege mentality when critics or the rest of the world calls it out because by extension they're calling out a part of you out, a part you feel you already have to repress in the larger world, especially against a rising tide of culture that speaks against it. And thus come the blind eyes and the free passes en masse and as the success grows with the culture it nearly always becomes toxic for the artist with any self-awareness given the groundswell of enablement, and thus you see one of three cases: they turn on their audience outright, they acquire the means to ascend past their audience and sacrifice some of their relatability, or they burrow into that niche, an ever-shrinking ouroboros that will eventually consume itself. And if you think this hasn't happened before in artists that haven't trafficked in relatability, especially trending towards darker impulses, the stream of examples can seem endless with the benefit of history. Eminem. J. Cole. So much of nu-metal and pop punk and emo. Taylor Swift. 

Of course, there are cultural consequences to all of this, and the list of artists that realize it is slim indeed - hell, Eminem got it as early as the first Marshall Mathers LP and has been making self-conscious reference to it ever since. But for XXXTENTACION, he has nothing to pull him out of that spiral of enablement except when his audience gets bored and moves on when the music doesn't engage further - the fickle price of maturity and a refusal to evolve artistically in favor of doubling down, which is dangerous but expected when riding the subtle tides of cultural backlash... unless, of course, XXXTENTACION pulls a fast one and surprises his audience. Unfortunately, we're still in the midst of that wave's ascent and my role here is the critic who must smack this down as the amateurish dumpster fire that it's likely to be... but in theory I get the appeal of a record like this, and if it provides me the constructive context to address it properly, we might be able to address this properly. So fine, what did we get on ? ?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

video review: 'seasons change' by scotty mccreery

And I'm happy I got to knock this off my list, you'll definitely enjoy it too!

Next up... not nearly as enjoyable, so stay tuned?

album review: 'seasons change' by scotty mccreery

So here's the ugly truth about not being an a-lister in mainstream country: you have no room for error. It doesn't matter if you have one bad song that strikes in the middle of a trend that would otherwise be excused, if that flops then your career is pretty much toast. A-listers in country... well, depending on their clout they've got a little more wiggle room, especially if they manage to correct their course and deliver another hit. But even if you have a grassroots following, if you're not a major star in an already oversaturated market, a flop single likely will consign you to the dustbin of history.

And for the longest time, that's what everyone thought happened to Scotty McCreery - coming off of American Idol his major label debut moved over a million copies, and while his follow-up See You Tonight in 2013 was hedging his bets in the tide of bro-country, it still moved a lot of units... and on one of its deep cuts produced one of the best songs of the decade. Yeah, in case you're wondering why I'm bothering to cover this, 'Feel Good Summer Song' is the reason, a tremendously emotive and borderline subversive song that basically ripped the guts out of bro-country three years early! Why nobody bothered to release this as a single... well, if you take a look at Mercury Nashville's criminal failure to market any of their good artists worth a damn, I'm going to blame them. I'm also inclined to blame them for 'Southern Belle', that flop single that Scotty McCreery released in 2015 and for intents and purposes effectively killed his career, which led to him leaving the label and signing to Triple Tigers, a new country label built as a partnership between acclaimed indie distributors Thirty Tigers and Sony. And in comparison to his last effort, this looked to be a much more neotraditional affair, bolstered by the release of the pretty damn good 'Five More Minutes' and a much more streamlined production team. McCreery had writing credits on every song, he looked to be more in his comfort zone, and with 'Five More Minutes' suddenly becoming a hit, I had a fair amount going into this... so is Seasons Change the comeback story we've all been waiting for?

Friday, March 16, 2018

video review: 'season 1' by epic beard men (sage francis & b. dolan)

Yeah, I know I'm late to the punch with this one, but I'm thrilled to cover it all the same - definitely check this one out, you've got no excuse not to!

Next up, let's head towards a country return long in coming - stay tuned!

album review: 'season 1' by epic beard men

It's hard for me to get excited about a lot of mainstream hip-hop these days. Of course that's not saying that it's all bad or that we don't have artists who stand out, but when even Kendrick phones in his verses and the #1 song on the Hot 100 is a Drake song that I still don't think I could remember if I tried, it's not exactly a good situation. And then I see artists like XXXTENTACION and 6ix9ine who feel so damn one-dimensional and I'm left thinking about the artists who paved the lane for emo rap but who could still turn in with aggressive production and bruising wordplay...

And enter Sage Francis and B. Dolan, two Rhode Island MCs known for spoken word poetry, thorny, hard-hitting bars, and the sort of raw, vulnerable subject matter that most MCs would never dare put on wax. Both of these men have made my year-end lists - Sage Francis with Copper Gone and B. Dolan with Kill The Wolf - and considering their long-running friendship and mighty beards, I knew it'd only be a matter of time before we got a team-up of some variety. And yeah, it's just a free eight song EP, but considering it's not much shorter than that upcoming XXXTENTACION album with eighteen songs, I'd prefer to hear from the genuine article in this scene first, even if again I'm a little late to the punch covering it. So all right, what did we get on Season 1?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

video review: 'firepower' by judas priest

So this was a lot of fun - not especially as heavy as the last one, but sometimes it doesn't need to be, definitely worth checking out!

Next up, let's knock something equally as fun off the list that's a little older - stay tuned!

album review: 'firepower' by judas priest

You know, I don't even I've ever mentioned my opinion on Judas Priest in any of my reviews before now. And for a band that's one of the foundational groups in the creation of heavy metal, it surprises even me that I haven't really weighed in on them... although if I'm being very honest, I can't really say my opinion is all that controversial this time. Even despite the fact that I'm not the biggest fan of straightforward thrash, revisiting the entire Judas Priest discography before this review reminded me why I still really like these guys. Granted, I am one of those fans that will call Stained Class as his favourite record from Judas Priest and will admit he's not quite as crazy about their synth-infused mainstream breakthrough in the 80s in comparison to their 70s work - although Painkiller was a pretty damn great return to form - but that's more because some of the glitzier 80s production choices haven't quite aged as well, especially around the drums and vocals, less about some pretty great compositions themselves. As for the 90s and 2000s records... look, are were very few if any bands that are consistent twenty or thirty years in, especially given the massive upheavals in metal around that time, and it's not like Judas Priest always had the most consistent discography even in their glory years.

So fast-forward to 2014, and despite having lost one of their founding guitarists K.K. Downing, Judas Priest releases Redeemer Of Souls, and for many it's cited as a big return to form, thanks to a welcome shot of energy from newcomer Richie Faulkner and Rob Halford remaining a powerhouse in front of the microphone. Granted, Judas Priest records have felt increasingly overlong in recent years and that project was no exception, but Firepower looked to be calling back to the past, slimming down under an hour and even bringing on their old producer Tom Allom to assist, along with Andy Sneap to add some modern touches. And like with when I covered Deep Purple's inFinite last year, I was preparing myself for this to be Judas Priest's last: Glenn Tipton had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and couldn't tour anymore, and as much as Rob Halford could still deliver, the band's debut came out in 1974, forty-four years ago - so okay, what did we get with Firepower?

video review: 'cocoa sugar' by young fathers

Yeah, I knew this review would be controversial... but hey, it happens, I've got to be honest.

Next up, Judas Priest - stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

album review: 'cocoa sugar' by young fathers

I'm genuinely surprised it's taken me this long to talk about Young Fathers at all. It's not like I wasn't aware the group existed, but they always seemed a little adjacent to the music that's normally on my radar, so this review was going to be a learning experience for me.

So okay, Young Fathers: a trio from Scotland that started on the indie label Anticon with a particularly off-kilter brand of hip-hop to which I couldn't really trace a clear sonic lineage. The melodies were cavernous and droning, the beats were blocky but still carried an impressive amount of groove, and the two MCs presented a brand of unsettled melancholy that used blunt but heavy language to convey increasingly bleak ideas, along with harmonies that were surprisingly stirring. I'm not really certain it was my thing - I do think the songwriting took a dip for the full-length debut Dead along with a weird synth-rock pivot with a smattering of alternative R&B, but it was compelling in a curious way, not quite with the level of propulsive power I'd see in a group like Algiers or Injury Reserve or Death Grips, but I got the appeal. But then they shifted again towards a lo-fi, indie pop rock sound a year later for a record with the loaded title White Men Are Black Men Too, and... honestly, while I think it's a solid enough record, I think I might like it more for some of the ideas the trio was trying to explore conceptually than the sound itself, as the pop or rock-leaning elements could feel a tad hit-or-miss against their production style. But hey, who knows what direction they could be taking with this project, now on the Ninja Tune label proper, so what did we get on Cocoa Sugar?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 17, 2018 (VIDEO)

And here we go - took a lot of processing power to get it out the door, but it turned out pretty well as I still keep tweaking my camera.

Next up, looks like Young Fathers - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 17, 2018 I said last week that most of my general predictions surrounding the week came true about the expected activity, and while I also did say that I expected Meghan Trainor to break through this week, I also made the statement that I didn't expect much else to happen. And boy, was I wrong in the worst possible way, as despite a few very select gems, XXXTENTACION and Chris Brown of all people showed up to remind me that the charts might just be at their most intolerable since 2016, and there's far from enough good songs to save them!

Monday, March 12, 2018

video review: 'american utopia' by david byrne

So this review isn't quite getting pilloried just yet... okay, I'll roll with that, and just expect the mass subscriber exodus to come later.

Anyway, next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN and Young Fathers, so stay tuned!

album review: 'american utopia' by david byrne

So I've talked a little before about legacy acts, artists who were a fundamental part of the evolution of a specific genre or sound and who have won a certain amount of popular and critical acclaim for whatever they choose to do next, often with a measure of clout and collaborative pull that few could approach. But let's ask an uncomfortable question: what do you do with said acts when the legacy starts to get reexamined, and you come to the realization that while the emperor probably still has some clothes, it's a fair bit less than one might expect?

And yes, I get that by me making that statement even in connection with David Byrne I've set myself up for backlash... but it's hard not to feel like in recent years the narrative has shifted. His reputation as the mastermind behind The Talking Heads has shown more than a few holes in the past couple of years - a reputation many have suspected he achieved by stifling other voices in his group - and while his work with Brian Eno won critical acclaim, many have questioned how influential those pieces were. Even his film scores, one of which netted him an Academy Awards, while the quality is often appreciated in the 80s it gets a lot less listenable when you head into the and parts of the 2000s.

And look, as a fiercely intelligent personality in modern culture and music, I like David Byrne, but the more I delved into his content and themes the more I found myself questioning how much perceptive depth has really been on the table this whole time. I mean, I like self-obsessed deconstructions and wry observations as much as any critic, but just being more clever than everyone else doesn't always add up to more, with the most glaring instance of this being his collaboration with St. Vincent Love This Giant, a stiff and absolutely frustrating affair where two artists who have enough similarities to challenge each other but are instead content with mirrored stiffness. And thus when I say I was skeptical about his newest project American Utopia, a project that Byrne admits was searching more for some abstract uplifting feeling and possibilities than engage with reality, to offer a shred of hope. To me... well, it wasn't a bad idea, and he brought onboard Brian Eno, Sampha, and Oneohtrix Point Never to help, so I had some faith this could be at least interesting over ten tracks running less than forty minutes, so okay, what did he give us on American Utopia?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

video review: 'khrysis & elzhi are jericho jackson' by jericho jackson

Man, I really wished I could call this great... but I just can't. It's on the cusp, but there are problems I can't quite ignore. Meh, it happens.

Okay, next up... David Byrne. Whoo boy, that'll be a doozy, stay tuned!

album review: 'khrysis & elzhi are jericho jackson' by jericho jackson

Man, I wanted to get this review out earlier. 

And that's the problem with certain indie hip-hop projects: you might see the duo name and shrug unless you know who it is, and when I heard it was actually the Detroit MC Elzhi teaming up with veteran indie producer Khrysis to assemble a project, I definitely wanted to get in front of it... but it fell back on my schedule and I just never got the chance to push it up before now. Not ideal by any means, but considering how this seems to have flown under the radar for a lot of critics, both on and off YouTube, better late than never!

And while most of you should know Elzhi from his work in Slum Village or his mid-2000s breakthrough The Preface, newer listeners might have caught his 2016 release Lead Poison, the sort of layered hip-hop overflowing with great storytelling that hooked me very quickly, even if I wouldn't quite call it a personal favourite of mine that year. Now with Khrysis... hell, dig into the liner notes of Justus League, Little Brother, Rapsody and Jean Grae and you'll see a list of credits going back to the early 2000s, infused with the sort of textured, jazz-influenced samples that'd be a natural backdrop for Elzhi to dominate. So with them teaming up for a tight collection of songs just under forty minutes, I had a lot of high hopes for this, so what did we get from Khrysis & Elzhi Are Jericho Jackson?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

video review: 'superorganism' by superorganism

I'm not sure how many people will care about this review - or hell, how many people even give a shit about this group, I might be seriously misreading the buzz they have - but really, I think more folks should give them a look, if only because the BROCKHAMPTON comparison is bound to turn a few heads in the right direction.

Anyway, next up is some old business - stay tuned!

album review: 'superorganism' by superorganism

So I make reference all the time to how in the modern age there has been an explosion of music for audiences to find and access over the internet, more than I'll likely ever be able to cover. But there is a second side to this, and it comes in the creative side - namely that the Internet makes meeting and collaborating with fellow musicians so much easier, especially if you're not all in the same place. 

And while there are some cases where the members send in their parts remotely and only come together to tour, in recent years the DIY collectivist side of many acts eventually draws them together - we saw this with BROCKHAMPTON and now it seems like we're seeing it again with Superorganism. Now originally this was more of a conventional band, a four-piece New Zealand group called The Eversons that put out a few records in the early 2010s, but when they connected with future frontwoman Orono Noguchi, they made plans to emigrate to London and all live together, eventually bringing on board two other singers from New Zealand named Ruby and B and a South Korean singer named Soul, who has not yet joined the collective in London. From there, it seemed like an indie pop version of what BROCKHAMPTON had done halfway across the world, just this time focused more on indie pop and dance - and they've had a surprising amount of success, including a single on the FIFA 18 video game and a minor charting hit on the alternative charts. So there was certainly buzz with their self-titled debut and I'll admit I was curious, so what did we get from Superorganism?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

video review: 'no news is good news' by phonte

Well, this was pretty excellent - honestly, I think I like it more than his solo debut, it's tighter and the rhymes click way more effectively.

But now I think it's time for something weird... how about some Superorganism, so stay tuned!

album review: 'no news is good news' by phonte

So I've never really talked much about Phonte in any of my work - and unlike cases where I just haven't had the chance to delve into an MC's back catalog, this is more a case of timing rather than ignorance - the last full Phonte record dropped in 2011, before I started even writing these reviews, and while he did put out a collaborative record with Eric Robertson in 2016, I honestly didn't hear much buzz around it, critical or otherwise, it never came up on my radar. 

Which is kind of a shame, really - Phonte has gotten flagged by critics as a 'rapper's rapper', more known by MCs who can appreciate his hard-hitting wordplay but not moving significant units, and this is a reputation that goes all the way back to his work with Little Brother in the mid-2000s on records like The Minstrel Show. Critically acclaimed - and going back to that record, deservedly so - but bad promotion by Atlantic meant it didn't sell nearly as well as projected, so Phonte went back independent for his future projects.

And yet if I'm being honest, I'm not sure Phonte couldn't flourish in the mainstream - his bars were tight, sure, but he knew his way around great hooks and accessible production, and when you factor in how he had a pretty damn solid voice to sing his own hooks, which he has proven time and time again with his work in The Foreign Exchange, he really should have been bigger, especially considering the veterans he surrounded himself with like Elzhi, Evidence, Pharoahe Monch, and even follow-artist-who-really-should-have-crossed-over-to-the-mainstream-but-for-label-bullshit Big K.R.I.T.. So when I heard he was dropping a new solo project at a lean thirty-three minutes, I muscled this up my schedule and prepared to dig in deep: what did we get from No News Is Good News?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 10, 2018 (VIDEO)

And here we are - I'm actually a little surprised with as many debuts as we got this is actually out on time.

Okay, Phonte is up next, stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 10, 2018

So it's pretty rare I get surprised on the Hot 100 - I've been doing this for three and a half years and I have chart records going back to the 2000s, I generally have an expectation what'll land here and be successful, and I've been long conditioned by disappointment to not expect the best. But it seems like this week we got a few welcome surprises that not only met my low expectations for this week, but might have even exceeded them. I'm not saying it was precisely a great week or that any of these new arrivals will last, but some of these are encouraging.

Monday, March 5, 2018

video review: 'nation of two' by vance joy

And this sucked. Look, it was a low-key kind of suck, the sort you have to think about a bit, but yeah, I'm not excusing this.

But next up... well, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then either Phonte or Oceans Of Slumber, so stay tuned!

movie review: 'annihilation' (VIDEO)

Huh, this was fascinating. Not really a great movie, but definitely one worth thinking and talking about.

But on the opposite note... well, stay tuned!

album review: 'nation of two' by vance joy

Okay, so if you've been following my schedule, you'd realize that this isn't quite what I was looking to cover today. I was looking to give Oceans Of Slumber this slot, but a few listens in made it clear it was either going to wind up on the Trailing Edge or that I was going to need at a few more listens to really process its weight - and when it's over an hour and embraces a lot of doom tones and textures to compliment its progressive and melodic death metal side, that's not something I approach lightly. And given that Phonte was going to demand some serious, lengthy consideration too for his long-awaited sophomore project, I looked to the elevated tiers, and once I moved past the sort of absolutely weird, quasi-insane bandcamp project that I'm not sure my mind is fully fit to process, and a top ten list that's going to take some time to rework, I wound up with this - and I had the sinking feeling that all of that deliberating would wind up more interesting or listenable than Vance Joy.

But that's the thing with silent majority acts like this Australian singer-songwriter - critics are often left bewildered or shrugging with albums like his 2014 debut, maybe able to highlight one song that stands out - usually the big single - while the others are left high and dry. And with Vance Joy, while he released seven singles from Dream Your Life Away, the one that caught everyone's attention was 'Riptide', which peaked at #30 and somehow got enough points to wind up on the year-end list in 2015. And while the strength of that song got Vance Joy to move two million copies of his debut record... I couldn't stand it. Seriously, it was the last song to get cut from my worst hit songs of 2015, the sloppy brittleness, weak vocals, utterly wimpy or misconstrued lyrics, gutless skitters backing up a tempo shift that never paid off, the pop culture references that made less and less sense with every listen, the only thing I could respect about it was how it laid the foundation for Ed Sheeran to take a similar cadence and sound to success with 'Shape Of You'. And if that was considered the strong point of his debut, and even sympathetic critics weren't finding that same magic on the follow-up, we could have something pretty bad on our plate here. But again, there's more people listening to this than every record I would have otherwise covered in its stead, and I've been surprised in this lane before - hell, Niall Horan came out of nowhere last year with Flicker and there's at least similar creative DNA with Vance Joy, so what did I find on Nation Of Two?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

video review: 'you're not alone' by andrew w.k.

Huh, I was expecting this review to be way more controversial than it is... guess most people are lukewarm on it too.

Okay, next up, the movie review of Annihilation, stay tuned!

album review: 'you're not alone' by andrew w.k.

I remember when saying you liked Andrew W.K. as a critic was a much more polarizing statement than it is today.

And let's not mince words: when I Get Wet first came out, there was a vast gulf between the critics that adored it and those that hated it with a passion. And a lot of that was a factor of the time: it was late 2001, hard rock was making a hard pivot to the dark and serious, and here comes an artist with the simplest of lyrics, the most obviously overblown sound and production, all driven by strident piano compositions that seemed deceptively simple. For a set of cynical critics coming out of the 90s, it had to be a corporate calculation gone wrong, or a parody years out of date, all of it so damn stupid that nobody in their right mind could ever take this seriously!

In retrospect, time has been way kinder to Andrew W.K. and I Get Wet specifically because of the gradual revelation that it wasn't a gimmick. Yeah, it was broad and goofy and ridiculous, but there was a method to that deceptive simplicity that cut across critical faculties into something damn near transcendent, rooted in sharp melodic songwriting and the real earnestness and optimism that Andrew W.K. brought to the table. Sure, it was a little one-note in terms of content - although the sound would eventually dive towards mainstream rock before going for outright piano rock on later records - but like with Lil Jon in hip-hop, as a collective society we've decided to keep Andrew W.K. around, if only because that good-hearted earnestness is only a net positive, be it on the multiple J-pop cover records or his motivational speaking tours! 

That said, when Andrew W.K. announced his first full-length record in nine years, I won't deny that I was skeptical, mostly because I Get Wet still looms above so much of his musical career, and even if he had found a way to remake that party magic seventeen years later, the album was still going to run fifty-two minutes and sixteen tracks - you can only hit one note so many times. But hell, I wanted a good time, so how is You're Not Alone?

Friday, March 2, 2018

video review: 'all at once' by screaming females

I can imagine given how much critical acclaim this record has gotten that my slightly cooler take might be divisive... folks, I still like it, just not as much as everyone else, it happens.

Next up... hmm, probably Annihilation, but we'll see what shows up on the schedule come tomorrow, so stay tuned!

album review: 'all at once' by screaming females

So here's a hidden truth about being a music critic: in the age of the internet, you haven't heard everything, and you will never hear everything. And learning to reconcile that on some level is pretty much the only reason I haven't burned out nearly five years into this, and one reason I am so grateful Patreon provides some structure in my schedule. It doesn't mean I'm any less curious about everything that's out there or that I'm not kicking myself at the end of every year when I miss some record that's notched critical acclaim that I just didn't get a chance to cover, but it softens the blow a bit, especially considering my Patrons have a nice habit of pushing me outside my comfort zone, which is definitely healthy. That being said, since it's my policy to try and hear a band's entire discography before reviewing them in depth, it gets a tad exhausting when you see yet another indie rock band with considerable critical acclaim and a discography close to double digits wind up on my schedule. And it's not even that the bands are bad - it's typically got enough of a punk edge to stay exciting, the writing is often passable to pretty strong, the riffing is usually pretty well-developed, and at some point they typically get Steve Albini behind the production boards - but I also won't lie and say that unless the sound shifts significantly these records can start to run together a bit. 

Fortunately, it seems like five records in, Screaming Females realized this and started shifting up their formula after four pretty damn solid releases - my personal favourite favourite of those being Power Trip. For their fifth record in 2012 called Ugly, they brought in Steve Albini, tightened up the production and riffs, and crystallized their sound... only to swivel on their next full-length towards a crunchy brand of metal in 2015 on Rose Mountain that while was pretty likable didn't always flatter their more melodic guitar digressions or Marissa Paternoster's incensed, throaty vibrato. So when I heard they were heading closer towards mainstream rock radio on their newest collection... well, I had mixed expectations, given that they had kept Matt Bayles on production - and he's most well known for working with Mastodon on their pre-Crack The Skye years - and a swivel towards power-pop or pop punk seemed like uncharted territory, even if the critical consensus has generally been unsurprised by the pivot. Granted, said critics have also been giving this album the most praise Screaming Females have gotten since Ugly, so what the hell: how was All At Once?