Tuesday, July 31, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 4, 2018

You know, I'm always hesitant about saying the charts are back to 'normal' at any point, especially in 2018 where we have album bombs every other week and especially in comparison to years where we got fewer entries... but outside of one new top ten entry in particular, this week was pretty typical. Not precisely great by any margin, but it doesn't appear to be that bad either...

video review: 'TA13OO' by denzel curry

Yeah, not that surprised about some of the blowback from this one. Eh, it happens.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, stay tuned!

resonators 2018 - episode #007 - 'double nickels on the dime' by minutemen (VIDEO)

Have to say, I'm really proud of how this turned out, especially with as much work as I put into it. Definitely take the time to find this record, it's something special!

movie review: 'mission: impossible fallout' (VIDEO)

Yep, definitely got some backlash on this one... and while I'm not surprised, I'm a bit annoyed at its intensity, especially considering the fans will forget this exists in a month.

Anyway, let's move on to something FAR better...

album review: 'TA13OO' by denzel curry

So I always tend to get a flurry of comments whenever I cover trap music or Soundcloud rap that it's not intended to be lyrical or deep, it's just looking to be flashy or brutal or direct, relying on sheer raw power or its presentation to stick the landing. And while there is some truth to this, my counterargument is always 'well, you can have both, you know', as there's such a thing as visceral, hard-hitting hip-hop that can also be fiercely lyrical - Kendrick Lamar, Doomtree, Run The Jewels, Sage Francis, Death Grips, etc. Now the counterargument to that is often, 'well, it's too underground or too conceptual or too weird, what about easier subject matter?' And then I point at ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Styles P, Freddie Gibbs and you all get my point, but then the feeble defense is 'well, they're older and more traditionalist and I can't relate', so then I point to BROCKHAMPTON and that does tend to work, but then you get the charmers who get put off by all the gay content and who argue how they just want a new MC that appeals to pure trap rage for teenage white boys to live out the fantasy - because it is always white boys here. 

And while my natural inclination is to be dismissive and vaguely contemptuous - too late - my other response is point at Denzel Curry and say, 'are you happy now'. Most often their answer is no because they want me to validate their Soundcloud waifus who make me think they really should reconsider BROCKHAMPTON, but I honestly think Denzel Curry hits a really damn satisfying middle ground, especially coming off of his 2016 project Imperial. Explosively melodic production, bellicose but well-structured flows, and the sort of layered, self-flagellating content that unfortunately saw a lot of people dismiss his material as shallow but revealed significant depth in between the lines. Now my perennial issue with Denzel Curry has been on the production side, but when I heard that TA13OO - album complete with edgy spelling - had opted for even more abrasive and explosive production, I was definitely curious, especially as noisier experimental hip-hop is still relatively uncharted ground besides Death Grips and blowing out your subwoofer. So okay, what did we get from Denzel Curry on TA13OO?

Monday, July 30, 2018

resonators 2018 - episode #007 - 'double nickels on the dime' by minutemen

So when I started Resonators my general expectation was that I was going in cold - I might recognize a couple singles from punk compilations but beyond that I wasn't really familiar with the records I'd be exploring at length... but there was always going to be one exception, and it's this one.

And to explain why it's an exception, we need to go back to 2015, when I reviewed Return To The Moon by EL VY, a side project from the frontman of the National Matt Berninger that's one of the most criminally underrated and satirical projects of the decade, not to mention one of the best of the year. Throughout that record, Berninger repeatedly made reference to the band we're talking about today, Minutemen, a signee to SST and who started putting out records in the early 80s, alongside Black Flag and with Spot on production. But it rapidly became apparent that for as quick as Minutemen were in cranking out songs, they were significantly more ambitious than most of the hardcore punk acts we've covered here, dabbling with bassy post-punk even earlier and picking up chunks of jazz and experimental rock as they moved forward. Now of course it helped that the band was really good, thanks to D. Boon's jittery guitarwork and wild, guttural vocals, Mike Watt's frenetic basswork, and George Hurley's pretty damn solid drumwork, all of which fed into songs that could be as witty and genuinely funny as they were catchy - this was a group that relied more on raw wit than bellicose presence, making their first two records, both well-deserving of their critical acclaim, really stand out amongst their peers. And yet in 1983, when they heard their labelmates Husker Du were putting out a double album, they went back into the studio to expand their single disk into what some have held up not just as a hardcore classic, but one of the best records of the 1980s - a four disc, eighty minute beast overstuffed with ideas, inside jokes and off-kilter abstraction. And it's this record for which I started exploring back when I covered EL VY... and now I'm back to finish the job. That's right, folks, we're talking about Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime, and this is Resonators!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

video review: 'marlowe' by l'orange & solemn brigham

So this was great, definitely going to be overlooked by a fair number of folks this year (sadly), but definitely is worth your time, check it out!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

album review: 'marlowe' by l'orange and solemn brigham

So I'll freely admit I don't cover or listen to a lot of instrumental hip-hop. I'm not against it by any stretch - especially when the producers bring in a more grainy, textured collage of samples that can have its own distinctive personality and tone, that's so up my alley - but it's the sort of thing for which I need to be in the mood, and where I want to do my due diligence ensuring I understand the producer's foundations, which can involve some lengthy listens.

Such was the case for L'Orange, producer affiliated with Mello Music Group and who has been steadily putting out both instrumental projects and collaborations with MCs across the 2010s... and I'll admit that I might be more of a fan of his production than the rappers he brings onboard! There's a warmth and aged grime to L'Orange's collage of samples pulled from old movies and an uncanny knack for blending them into low-key but remarkably catchy grooves - some have cited comparisons to Madlib but across more projects I'd argue L'Orange's work can feel a bit more cohesive and understated, pulling from a different, older set of reference points for his recontextualization... so much so that I'd argue some MCs just aren't quite in sync with his thematic ambition. Now he's definitely had his high points - my favourite might be The Mad Writer although last year's The Ordinary Man had a special kind of magic to it - so I was optimistic when I saw he was teaming up with Solemn Brigham, who had done reasonably well in his features on that last album and were set for a full-length self-titled collaboration under the name Marlowe. Seventeen tracks, but clocking below forty minutes to keep things surprisingly brief, I was definitely curious where this could go, so what did we get from Marlowe?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 28, 2018 (VIDEO)

So bit of an overstuffed week, but it happens - I'm frankly amazed I just managed to get it out on time.

But next up... again, as I said, underground. Stay tuned!

video review: 'hive mind' by the internet

Yes, it's more of a vibe project than anything, but it's got its charms... I just wish I liked it a bit more. Still good though.

Next up... let's go underground for something weird, stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 28, 2018

And here I was thinking this week was going to be easy. Well, okay, all of that has to be put in perspective - we were going to see the continued fallout of Drake songs, but what threw me a bit was how neither Future or Meek Mill could sustain much coming out of last week, which led to a healthy crop of new arrivals that probably makes this chart as interesting as it's been in some time... for better or worse.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

album review: 'hive mind' by the internet

So groups like The Internet pose an interesting quandary for me - over the three albums they've released I've consistently noted a general upward trajectory when it comes to their quality, but they seem to be sidestepping singular elements in their sound that could have made for a great record with a little more refinement. And yes, I even include their debut Purple Naked Ladies in that category, which in terms of synth choices was legitimately ahead of their time. But frontwoman Syd hadn't really evolved as a presence behind the microphone in her delivery or her lyrics and the band didn't have a lot of focus so the record got mixed reviews at best. Then they followed it with a slightly more polished but also more conventional and neo-soul/jazz affair with Feel Good, which featured some of their best ever playing but Syd hadn't really improved and many of the songs just so happened to go on way too long.

So then fast-forward to 2015 and Ego Death, the record where The Internet started getting real critical acclaim, mostly thanks to Syd seriously stepping up in terms of songwriting and delivery - sure, Jhene Aiko had a similar delivery and overall was more compelling to me, but this was territory I liked. Unfortunately, it came with the band opting for a much more conventional R&B affair - especially in the more leaden percussion lines - and while the band had tightened things up a little bit from Feel Good the compositions didn't quite have the textures and tone for me to get on-board nearly as much as I wanted. And in the mean time, their backing crew Odd Future collapsed and while The Internet had always been more out of their orbit with each record, so I had no clue where this was going to go - it was still almost an hour long, so it didn't look like things tightened up that much, and buzz was suggesting this was more of a 'go with the flow' vibe album... which is kind of a loaded proposition because The Internet had never had a problem with this - in fact, I'd probably say my biggest issue is that they could have a tendency to fade into the background. But fine, what did we get with Hive Mind?

video review: 'the tree' by lori mckenna

Yep, already said plenty in the review: one of the best records of 2018, definitely make sure you hear it.

But on the flip-side of that... well, that's not fair, it's not quite bad, per se... just stay tuned!

Monday, July 23, 2018

album review: 'the tree' by lori mckenna

So here is how the average music fan discovers Lori McKenna. They may have noticed her name alongside mainstream acts like Tim McGraw and Little Big Town in the credits of Grammy wins, or her own justifiable set of nominations. More likely they've seen her name pop up among certain indie country critics in the know praising her record The Bird And The Rifle, maybe even ringing up praise as one of the best records of 2016. And then they check out that record to discover it's goddamn amazing from McKenna's songwriting to Dave Cobb's production and makes them all ask the question why the hell they hadn't heard of her before - and then they discover that McKenna has been putting out records since the early 2000s and was once signed to a major label for other releases like 2004's Bittertown and 2007's Unglamorous, so how in the Nine Hells did she fall off everyone's radar? It couldn't have been just going indie, because 2011's Lorraine was damn near a masterpiece...

And keep in mind it's not just me who has gone through this arc of discovery - hell, the self-professed 'dean' of music critics Robert Christgau freely admitted he lost track of Lori McKenna and then made up for it by covering the majority of her discography en masse and then writing a well-deserved profile piece! But it's sadly not uncommon for music critics and listeners even in the internet age to lose track of indie country acts, especially ones who are not flashy or actively seeking the spotlight - and in comparison with other genres, country is still years behind when it comes to web presence and the sort of audience that that would love McKenna's music if only they knew it existed. And that means I wanted to make it a serious priority to cover this album as soon as possible... so what did we get from The Tree?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

video review: 'time will die and love will bury it' by rolo tomassi

So I will freely admit I did not expect for this to be nearly as good as it was, especially given their previous records... but yeah, I really did like this months late to the punch. If you haven't heard it, you definitely want to find time to do so, it's great!

Next up... well, I'm working on a top ten, but man that Lori McKenna looks tempting... stay tuned!

album review: 'time will die and love will bury it' by rolo tomassi

So this one's been taking its time rising up my schedule... and one that I've been rather perplexed about covering, not just because of its critical acclaim but also because it's received some popular backlash for possibly simplifying and streamlining their sound, which may have been that step needed to win over critics but would have alienated the diehard fans.

And speaking as someone who is definitely not one of those diehard fans, some of that might have been helpful, because Rolo Tomassi are not exactly close to an accessible act - screamo vocals balancing with female clean singing, wild shifts in time signatures and structure that recall something closer to jazz fusion than progressive rock or even mathcore, and let's not forget the synth tones that somehow picked a mutation of chiptune that gives me a splitting headache every time I listen to them. Yeah, let's not beat around the bush, having listened to all of Rolo Tomassi's records, I had a really hard time getting into them - sure, I can respect the sheer talent and there were some of the more restrained, atmospheric moments I liked, but I also get the impression that said moments were not the ones that are winning over the most acclaim from the diehard fans. But hey, Astraea was heading in a slightly more refined direction - as was Grievances in its own twisted, much darker way - and if Rolo Tomassi were looking to double down on those tones for future releases or even just accessibility a decade into their careers... well, it's a balancing act. So how is Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

video review: 'lamp lit prose' by dirty projectors

Okay, so this was a mess... but again, I haven't seen much of a backlash yet, so this'll be interesting...

Next up... well, the record I was looking to cover I'm saving for a possible collab, and then there's a top ten list to work on, so maybe it's time to go into the backlog for what's next... stay tuned!

album review: 'lamp lit prose' by dirty projectors

So stop me if you've heard this one: a rock band breaks out in the mid-2000s, releases a critically acclaimed record in the last few years of the decade... and then abruptly, everything seems to go awry, as what many critics perceive as the greatest draw of the group depart, leaving a solo frontman who decides to double down on his own ego and talents under the band name for an increasingly pronounced pop pivot with questionable returns...

But enough about Panic! At The Disco, we're here to review Dirty Projectors, right? And the parallels aren't that exact - Dirty Projectors managed to get a second well-received record off of Bitte Orca with Swing Lo Magellan before a sizable chunk of the band quit, even if my opinions on the band remain pretty mixed to this day - but the more I thought about it the more it kind of fit in a twisted way. Hell, delve into the songwriting and it's not hard to see similarities between David Longstreth and Brendon Urie in wildly overwritten ego-driven posturing, especially in the face of Urie losing his entire band and Longstreth facing the departure of both Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman, whose unique harmonies would probably be highlighted as the most distinctive facet of the band to any casual fan. And then you have to look at them both doubling down on long-standing influences, with Urie focusing on musical theater and vintage pop and Longstreth stepping into a weird R&B/indie pop blend on a self-titled project that may have been passable but felt way more awkward and uncomfortable than it should have, especially in the content. But hey, now Longstreth is looking in a more positive, upbeat direction with an album cover that seems to be openly aping Bitte Orca - a loaded callback if there is one - so hopefully this would connect more strongly, right?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 21, 2018 (VIDEO)

Sorry this is late, folks - fell asleep while the damn thing was rendering, whoops. 

Anyway, next is Dirty Projectors, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 21, 2018

Okay look, I knew that any cooldown week coming out of an album bomb like Drake's would not be small, if only for the massive shifts within the Hot 100 itself... and then I remembered that both Future and Meek Mill dropped projects that so happened to get some traction within their circles - two projects that I'll freely admit I forgot about because nobody cared to request either of them. And when you factor in the twenty one pilots breakthrough that's likely to get pretty big pretty fast... yeah, this week wound up busier than I thought, go figure.

Monday, July 16, 2018

video review: 'automata i & ii' by between the buried and me

I keep thinking that this review is going to wind up more controversial than it probably will be... eh, still interesting enough to talk about, I guess.

Next up, hopefully a quiet week of Billboard BREAKDOWN and whatever else will show up this summer - enjoy!

album review: 'automata i & ii' by between the buried and me

So I've made it no secret that I don't tend to be a huge fan of death metal, especially once we get to the more technical, punishing territory, but I've always had one big asterisk in that category and that was Between The Buried And Me. As I've said before, I got into the band in university, and while the wild tonal shifts and overall presentation took a while to grow on me, I still stand up for Colors and Alaska to this day.

And yet a bizarre parallel to Opeth, as Between The Buried And Me shelves more of their heavier side for progressive tendencies, I've tended to like them a lot less, as those shifts seem to have come at the cost of smart mix balance, intensity, and with the addition of synthesizer tones I don't think anybody wanted. And I can't tell you how aggressive irritating that is, because it's clear that Between The Buried And Me is trying to get more experimental and incorporating a richer cross-section of sounds and progressions, but more often than not those sounds wind up not complimenting the compositions nearly as well as they should. And I'll say it: I was probably too nice to their 2015 record Coma Ecliptic when I reviewed it formally, because while it was not a bad record, it was absolutely a measurable step from the band at their best and really has not been anything I've wanted to revisit

And I'll be blunt and say I had big concerns about this project too: a double album, the first half released in early March of this year with the second coming out now, and while I've never liked it when bands pull this release strategy for double albums, it did give me some forewarning that Automata might be a bit of a mess, especially with some of the wilder rumors I had heard about the second half. But hey, maybe Coma Ecliptic was transitional and they'd stick the landing here, right?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

video review: 'ordinary corrupt human love' by deafheaven

So this review was incredibly frustrating to put together, but overall a welcome reminder to do your fucking research before you put out a loaded statement in a review. Either way, enjoy!

album review: 'ordinary corrupt human love' by deafheaven

I remember where I was when I reviewed New Bermuda - and when I say that I'm referring to my position with respect to black metal. Sure, I had done some of my research to familiarize myself with the trends in the genre, but I still felt very much like I was on the outside looking in, the hipster music critic using a band like Deafheaven for his inroads into the larger genre but getting scared off when it got too real...

And yet that didn't happen, and while I still wish I could find more black metal records to cover here, I'll freely admit my personal preferences within the genre have deepened and matured in the past three years - not the point where I'll outright dismiss the success Deafheaven has found in taking atmospheric black metal to a larger audience, but to me they've never risen past being just a gateway act. In fact, I'll be blunt: outside of maybe the occasional cut from Sunbather, I haven't really revisited Deafheaven in a long time, and I certainly wouldn't put them up against stronger material from the black metal that's made my year end lists the past three years. But on a similar note, I'm not really about to dismiss Deafheaven either - yeah, frontman George Clarke has not endeared himself to me whatsoever in some of his comments off the mic, but at their best Deafheaven can tap into the soaring crescendos and high points that drew me to atmospheric black metal in the first place, and where New Bermuda stumbled was trying to simultaneously double down on the heaviness and brighter rock segments where the clash felt discordant. So when I heard that Ordinary Corrupt Human Love was heading back in the direction of Sunbather to re-embrace their prettier atmospherics, I was actually looking forward to how this could turn out, especially as the band can be pretty intriguing on a lyrical level as well. So alright, what did we get from Ordinary Corrupt Human Love?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 14, 2018

...no, I'm not happy about this. Really, if you consider the long term, nobody should be happy about this week, where every single song from Drake's Scorpion impacted the charts. That meant twenty-two new arrivals from that album alone, which broke all kinds of records for Drake and surely cements his dominance in popular culture... but does it really? I've seen more critics pan the record than praise it - and not receive backlash for doing so - and when you hear that Spotify is having to issue refunds to paying customers for the Scorpion spam - I'm sorry, custom graphics package that of course Spotify made out of the goodness of their hearts and premium playlist placement that surely wasn't paid for by the label directly or otherwise we'd have the modern version of payola, right? But the ugly truth is that Drake might be the one who suffers the worst out of this in the long run - cultural overexposure is very much a thing, and considering the goodwill he still had with 'Nice For What', you'd have to wonder if he'd have been better off holding back, especially when the product is overwhelmingly mediocre at best. Hell, even becoming the quintessential silent majority act doesn't look good overexposed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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

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

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

video review: 'palo santo' by years & years

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

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

album review: 'palo santo' by years & years

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

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

Friday, July 6, 2018

video review: 'scorpion' by drake

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

Anyway, next up, something different - stay tuned!

album review: 'scorpion' by drake

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

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

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

Thursday, July 5, 2018

video review: 'the now now' by gorillaz

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

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

album review: 'the now now' by gorillaz

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

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But now onto something a lot better...

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

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

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

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

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

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

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 7, 2018

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