Thursday, January 31, 2019

album review: 'everything's for sale' by boogie

So I'll admit I was a little surprised how much hype this project was getting.

And to explain why, we need to talk a bit about hype cycles. I've mentioned this before but when an artist gets a single or a project with momentum, ideally the label signing or backing them wants to have a project waiting in the wings to truly take off, best capitalize on that momentum. And about three years back, it seemed like Compton MC Boogie was one of those guys. Three reasonably well-received mixtapes that showed a progression of improvement, a lot of bars, some surprisingly well-structured melodies and content that was at least trying to be a bit introspective, it would seem like any major label could make a killing pushing him, especially given how trap was moving the next few years.

So perhaps it was the worst possible luck that Boogie signed to Shady Records and Interscope, which if we've been observing the career path of nearly every act under them for the past decade seems to have a bad habit of not being able to kickstart momentum, and that's before you consider the increasingly questionable Eminem factor in the past two years. And if I was Boogie, I'd be furious about how despite his last mixtape coming out in 2016, we're only getting a full album now, with a lot of the conversation seemingly monopolized by Eminem putting one of his most humiliating verses yet on it. So yeah, on some level I kind of wanted to give this a proper review if only to change the narrative a bit, give a promising talent some insight his label seems to be fumbling, so what did we get from Everything's For Sale?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

resonators 2019 - episode #013 - 'funcrusher plus' by company flow (s02e01) (VIDEO)

So to be very honest, this is the season of Resonators for which I'm most worried, especially given how many self-proclaimed 'hip-hop historians' would love to jump down my throat, especially given the fact that I was slightly critical here... but hey, honesty is more important.

Next up... hey, another rap album, so stay tuned!

resonators 2019 - episode #013 - 'funcrusher plus' by company flow (s02e01)

There's a tendency among music historians and critics to say that after certain moments, nothing would ever be the same - and in the 1990s, many would agree there were two concrete moments where this would be the closest to being true. The first was in 1991 with the release of Nevermind by Nirvana, an album that would redefine rock music in a fundamental way. The second seemed more gradual but its ripple effects would shake the foundations of a different genre: the twin deaths of two of the greatest hip-hop legends of the era, Tupac Shakur in September of 1996, and The Notorious B.I.G. in March of 1997. It was a moment that shook gangsta rap to its core, and in the mainstream would prompt a hard shift towards brighter, glitzier subject matter on both coasts.

But true historians of that era would tell you it's never that simple. You could easily make the argument that Puff Daddy was laying the foundation in the last months of 1996 with Ma$e for a more polished and opulent sound, coupled with the signing of the Telecommunications Act in 1996 that would enable radio companies to buy up local stations and deliver nationally syndicated programs, which bucked against the regionality and feuds of the time. And that's not ignore the pushback building against the monopolistic presence of gangsta rap in the mid-90s, which had marginalized pop rap and the more conscious artists who had seen their momentum short-circuited after 93. But in 1997, with pop rap quickly gaining ascendancy, there was no incentive for national radio conglomerates to play the conscious, forward-thinking, or outright weird hip-hop that was starting to bubble forth again, especially given its instrumental palette seemed stuck in the past on a surface listen. And the rap industry began enforcing a divide, where major label success and hits were deemed worthy of critical acclaim while smaller, underground shops were disdained for not having the same maximalist appeal and sound and budget. And while there would be outliers like DMX and Eminem to keep the anger alive, to some extent they served a different audience and purpose, and even at the time rap publications like The Source would not always give them their due. 

But we're not even talking about them. No, for this year we're staying strictly underground - only indie hip-hop for 2019, many albums of which would garner critical acclaim from those in the know, but rarely accumulate the same praise or commercial success as even a few of them could have seen but a few years earlier. Marginalized as backpackers, weirdos, hipsters, and freaks, they would nevertheless keep a flame of lyrical and experimental hip-hop burning against an industry that would ignore them at best and spurn them at worst... and yet you could make the argument their influence lingers far more powerfully to this day. And there's really only one place where we can start: that's right, folks, for 2019 we're talking late-90s/early-to-mid 2000s underground hip-hop and we have to start with Funcrusher Plus by Company Flow - and this is Resonators!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 2, 2019 (VIDEO)

And here we are - man, this took forever to put together, but I'm pretty happy this all came together with a minimal number of copyright hits.

Next up... you know, it might be Resonators or Boogie, I'm not sure yet - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 2, 2019

So I'm not going to say I'm surprised by everything that happened this week - sure, I expected the Future album bomb, but I also expected that it would be more muted than ones in the past, and I seemed mostly correct about that. But beyond that, this is the sort of week that I expected would eventually come in 2019, where the new year begins to start shoveling away the last... although note that none of this guarantees said new year is good, we'll have to see.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

video review: 'amo' by bring me the horizon

And there you have it... a bit surprised I haven't seen a hardline bit of backlash yet, but we'll see how this goes.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!

Monday, January 28, 2019

album review: 'amo' by bring me the horizon

So this conversation is long-overdue.

And as such, it's difficult where to begin, especially as my lack of coverage of Bring Me The Horizon, especially in recent years, has felt conspicuous. Hell, I wound up seeing them live at a festival last year before I actually covered any of their albums, and while I've talked around them at very points, I've rarely addressed them directly. 

So let's piss off everyone all at once: Bring Me The Horizon is the classic example of an act that got a lot better by selling out, and selling out hard. They started off as a middling deathcore act that was about as intolerable as they came, but they quickly made a hard pivot towards regular metalcore and as early as 2013's Sempiternal began pulling from more accessible pop rock and electronic music. And while the content still wasn't all that gripping - lyrics have remained consistently underwhelming for this group, at least for me - it was the pivot that won the band a lot of traction, helped along by a major label contract with RCA and Sony. And from there, with every layer of electronics and softening of frontman Oliver Sykes' voice, the band saw more and more success, and by the time That's The Spirit dropped in 2015, they were getting critical acclaim to boot... and I just couldn't get into them. Yes, like everyone I can admit that 'Avalanche' is a fantastic song, but I've already mentioned my issues with the lyrics and I've never quite been grabbed by their hooks and I'd point to the larger issues being one of dynamics. For as anthemic and huge as Bring Me The Horizon try to be, the production rarely showcased the subtlety or colour to drive it home, and for all the symphonic bombast... look, I come from symphonic metal, I've seen it done right, and Bring Me The Horizon just never stuck the landing.

But hey, apparently with Amo they're going even more mainstream with even more synthetic layers, 'eaten by the Imagine Dragon' to quote my friend and fellow critic Crash Thompson aka The Rock Critic - go check his stuff out, it's excellent - and other critics have already started over-praising it, so what the hell: what did Bring Me The Horizon bring with amo?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

video review: 'dna' by backstreet boys

So okay, I'm pleased enough with the review... less pleased that I only was reminded during the upload about the allegations against Nick Carter. Left a note in the description surrounding that whole business... yeah, ugly stuff, and Brian Littrell's response was even worse, gross.

Anyway, next up looks like Bring Me The Horizon, so talking about controversy, stay tuned!

album review: 'dna' by backstreet boys

So here's a difficult question: what does a Backstreet Boys album sound like in 2019?

Here's a better question: what should a Backstreet Boys album sound like 2019? Because while I'd argue there might be a market for the long-running boy band to deliver a project that imitates the sound of what made them famous twenty years ago, the group has always striven to update their sound with the times, from the pop rock flourishes on their underrated mid-2000s output to the Red-One-infused club boom pivot of 2009 to the embrace of broader, sunnier textures in 2013 for In A World Like This, of which I defended in one of my first ever reviews because it gave all of them the space to really exercise their harmonies. Yeah, there were some dull acoustic moments, but big flashy pop has always been a good fit for them and I really enjoyed that album - hell, a song from it even made my list of the best songs of 2013!

But in 2019... look, pop music is not really in a healthy place, and I wasn't at all convinced the Backstreet Boys would be able to persist amidst trap beats and an increased unnecessary reliance on Autotune - I hadn't been a fan of 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' for succumbing to those cliches, and I had no reason to believe this new album wouldn't face similar issues. And again, this is coming from a fan who has seen them live twice and could compile a healthy list of favourites from all of their albums... but I call it like I see it. especially when I saw their list of co-writers and producers. But hey, I had to hope, right, so what did we get off of DNA?

Friday, January 25, 2019

video review: 'malibu ken' by aesop rock & tobacco

Man, I kind of expected this would be a lot of fun, but it really did connect in a great way. Not quite better than The Impossible Kid, but still worth a lot of listens regardless.

Next up... yeah, Backstreet's back, folks, stay tuned!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

album review: 'malibu ken' by aesop rock & tobacco

Ooh, I've been looking forward to this one.

And yes, this review might be later than you'd otherwise expect, but for Aesop Rock I wanted to give myself the space and time to fully digest this. As a rapper I'll freely admit I got into Aesop late and it took me a while to fully absorb his dense production and even more dense and layered rhymes and content, but The Impossible Kid took two big steps towards accessibility in 2016 and it wound up being one of my favourite hip-hop albums of that year, and one that I return to regularly to this day. And what I really admired was the change in tone - many of his projects could have a heavyset grimness that could be hard to process if you weren't in the right mindset, and yet for as creative of a wordsmith as Aesop was, I really liked the steps towards a more varied tone, if not precisely a lighter one.

And that takes us to Tobacco - signed to indie label Anticon, he's a psychedelic-funk electronic producer and frontman of the critically acclaimed band Black Moth Super Rainbow. Now they've worked with Aesop Rock before over ten yeas ago - Aesop even brought a verse to a breakout single 'Dirt' - but here they've teamed up for a full collaborative album that looked to bring a very different, borderline silly tone to bear. And I'll admit that Aesop was looking to bring a bit more levity to bear, this could be a really fun album, so what did we get with Malibu Ken?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 26, 2019 (VIDEO)

So okay, nearly forgot to post this - a shame, really, as I think this was an above-average week, need to be more on top of this...

Anyway, next up is one I'm really excited about - stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 26, 2019 yeah, it's another slow week, and again, I'm not about to complain, especially when we're all staring down the barrel of that Future album bomb coming in - and while I'm not at all convinced it'll be that big, given the mixed reception at best, the lack of serious competition means it has the capacity to do a lot of damage. But in the mean time, not only did this seem like a slow week, but also the sort specifically designed to irritate me regardless.

video review: 'assume form' by james blake

Honestly, I'm really proud of how this review came together, generally one of the better ones to put together - I dig it.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then I think I've finally got time for Aesop Rock - stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

album review: 'assume form' by james blake

So am I the only one who is a little bit surprised there's so much hype surrounding this album? Or indeed around James Blake at all - I get that he's quietly racked up the sort of credits and connections for production details and work you'd be hard-pressed to notice, but it's not exactly the sort that seems designed to build a following, let alone a mainstream one.

Granted, it's not like James Blake has been entirely in the indie scene - he's had hip-hop verses as early as his second album Overgrown, of which I go back and forth whether it's better than his debut, and again, he's had credits on songs with Beyonce and Kendrick. And I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that he'd have crossover appeal - in comparison with any number of experimental electronic artists he's probably one of the most accessible - but I remember in my review of The Colour In Anything that I said I wasn't sure if he'd ever cross over, or if he even wanted that. Granted, if said crossover was going to help him tighten up a flabby album that lacked a lot of the character that made his first two projects so striking - seriously, that album has aged rather poorly since 2016 and I think I was too nice on it even then - I wasn't going to be against that, but I was skeptical about this. While Overgrown had credits from the RZA and Brian Eno and The Colour Of Anything had Frank Ocean and Bon Iver, this album... has credits from Metro Boomin and Travis Scott. Now granted, it also has a verse from Andre 3000 and the critics have been praising this to high heavens so I had reason to believe this could be great, so does James Blake deliver on Assume Form?

Monday, January 21, 2019

video review: 'remind me tomorrow' by sharon van etten

Okay, bit of weirdness today getting this all together (and filming was a living hell - stupid sirens), but looks like I'm on track here.

Next up... alright, let's handle James Blake, shall we? Stay tuned!

album review: 'remind me tomorrow' by sharon van etten

Before this album, it's been close to five years since Sharon Van Etten put out Are We There which I reviewed way back in 2014, a really damn good album that I didn't quite love as much as I wanted despite some sterling cuts - maybe it's just me, but I thought epic was just a shade stronger and more consistent. And I'll admit that for as much as I liked those songs, I've only gone back to Sharon Van Etten sporadically - which is more than 'not at all', but for as powerful of a singer as she is, I've still been waiting for her potential to coalesce and for her to really drive it out of the park, at least for me, and it's not like she's short of more prolific competition either.

Granted, it's not like she hasn't been busy - she got married, she had a kid, she did some acting work, she went back to school, that's a lot to cram into five years as well as record what many have described as her most lush and expansive project to date. And while I wouldn't say I was incredibly excited to cover this - the hype has been a long, slow boil - I wasn't about to let it slip past me, so what did we get from Remind Me Tomorrow?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

video review: 'future hndrxx presents: the WIZRD' by future

Honestly, I probably should have known better than to cover this... but eh, live and learn, right?

Okay, next up... see, I took a poll on Twitter and folks selected KONGOS... but that album is leaving me in a weird spot and I'm not sure how viable it'll be for a full review, we'll see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'future hndrxx presents: the WIZRD' by future

So I skipped reviewing Future's twin album release in 2017. 

In fact, I've skipped covering a lot of Future's albums and mixtapes since I reviewed Dirty Sprite 2 in 2015 - three albums and five mixtapes, as a matter of fact - mostly because I know that a significant chunk of them will wind up on Billboard BREAKDOWN, but the principle remains. Think about that for a second: Future has put out eight projects that have had charting presence on the Hot 100 in three years - even by Drake standards, that's the sort of flood of content that runs the very real risk of flooding the market, especially if they don't have moments that really stand out or feel distinctive, and how often has that really happened?

And I'm deadly serious about this, because you can burn out an audience by giving them too much material too quickly - flooding the market only can work if you can wring out enough hits or distinctive moments to stand out. And more than ever I'm getting the impression that Future is hitting diminishing returns with every project he's pushed out - you can only take so much empty flexing, dead-eyed nihilism, and swamped out trap beats with Future's half-formed croon-rapping before you ask for something more, especially when they don't play to the pitch-black darkness and rage that gave Future his strongest cuts.

So why cover this now? Well, from the extensive round of interviews Future has put out, it seems like not only is he the most clear-headed he's been in a long time, he's also showing a surprising amount of introspection. He's seen the depressant-soaked landscape of modern trap and was afraid to admit he quit lean a while ago in fears of losing an audience who is accustomed to it, and while I can't speak to how well the possible album bomb will hit, underwhelming lead-off singles from a quick rollout for another long album give me the impression even Future's diehard fans are starting to move on - bad news for a rapper who has coasted on a limited skillset and dimensionality. So might as well get ground-level seats for what Future manages to extract from this, whether we get a late-game shot of quality and maturity or whether disaster is eminent, so what did we get from The WIZRD?

the top 50 best songs of 2018 (VIDEO)

Honestly, I forgot to post both the videos here, but I'm generally pleased with how all of this came together. Hope y'all enjoy!

video review: 'outer peace' by toro y moi

Ehh... I've had this one for a while, still not all that much of a fan. It's decent, but I'm not going to remember much of this.

Next up... let's get Future out of the way...

video review: 'why hasn't everything already disappeared?' by deerhunter

And here we go... man, this was a mess. Enjoy?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

album review: 'outer peace' by toro y moi

...I remember the last time I talked about chillwave, back in 2015 when I reviewed Neon Indian - and that's saying something because I'm getting the impression that whole genre designation is something music critics nowadays want to forget ever happened.

See, there's a phenomenon especially among music critics and writers to apply genre branding to sounds for quick categorization, especially if it was a trend on the rise. This seemed to hit its peak in the blog-and-Pitchfork dominated era of the late-2000s and very early 2010s, mostly to the indifference and distaste of the artists or indeed anyone besides music writers. And looking back on it now, it's hard to ignore how manufactured it felt - not an organic label by the artists, who had approached their gauzy blend of shoegaze, lo-fi synthpop, ambient, and psychedelia with a variety of different tones and styles, but a branding that soon led to a saturated market and a broad misunderstanding of how anyone was to approach it. And I want to use Toro y Moi - stagename for Chaz Bear - as an example against easy classification... mostly because while his initial tones might have started in that loose subgenre, he didn't stay there. A few albums in he was expanding into house music, by 2015 he was pulling on that jangling 80s indie rock sound, and he had always had a taste for funk, choppy hip-hop-esque samples and a crooning that owed a considerable debt to indie R&B. So yeah, Toro y Moi was really tough to categorize...

And man, I wish I liked it more. Again, like most genre-hopping bands with this pedigree there were a number of things that just did not work for me, and ironically they started with the opposite problem I had with Neon Indian, in that I liked the gummy, lo-fi chillwave touches in the production that felt more like accent texture than drowning the mix. But the further he stepped away from it, the less interesting the music became. Part of this was increasingly easy parallels to better acts, but with Toro y Moi's voice moving more to the forefront, the undercooked writing and odd feeling of petulance really started to wear on my patience, especially as the albums got longer with less momentum. Granted, when I heard this album was going even more synthetic and taking more steps towards funk I was intrigued, but I've had mixed luck with this brand of funk and I wasn't sure the trappings of chillwave are what I needed to make it work, but what the hell: how is Outer Peace?

Friday, January 18, 2019

album review: 'why hasn't everything already disappeared?' by deerhunter

So it's been a very long time since I talked about Deerhunter, at least on this channel in a formal review - I discussed Monomania in the very early days of my channel, but when it came to Fading Frontier in 2015, I actually teamed up with the Indieheads podcast to discuss the album at length... and yet somehow I wound up as the guy who was the stick in the mud who didn't really care much for the album.

And what's frustrating is that whenever I've listened to a Deerhunter album in recent years, I've come away with the understanding of exactly why a lot of critics adore this band... and yet it never clicks as well as so many of their peers. Don't get me wrong, there are projects in their back catalog I enjoy, but I struggle to put any of their albums on a pedestal in any respective year - Halcyon Digest might get close, but even then it's dicey. And what's exasperating is that it's never just been one thing: the most consistent frustration probably comes with frontman Bradford Cox's improvised song construction and persistently underwhelming nihilism, but when you factor in distinct production and tonal inconsistencies, it leaves me never quite liking or disliking a Deerhunter album in the same way. And coming off of Fading Frontier... look, it's not bad, but revisiting it highlights a lot of repeated lyrical issues from earlier albums and the more placid tone and instrumentation continues to show how that brand of mid-to-late-80s Americana has been done better elsewhere by a lot of acts in recent years. That said, I was curious about this new project, as buzz was suggesting more elaborate instrumentation could make this Deerhunter's answer to The National's High Violet - a comparison of which I was immediately skeptical because say what you will about that band, Matt Berninger can write cohesive songs and outside of their last album has consistently great production. But fine, I can appreciate more ambition, so what did we get from Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?

video review: 'love train 2' by asiahn

And here we go - really damn good little project, definitely deserves to get Asiahn more attention.

And next up... yeah, let's deal with the controversy now...

Thursday, January 17, 2019

album review: 'love train 2' by asiahn

So I'm in a bit of a funny place with R&B right now, especially the stuff that's more mainstream-accessible - namely that I get the impression that the more sensual tones are due for a subtle shakeup, both in tone and the artists involved. And while I'll wholeheartedly admit a big part of this is me waiting for the inevitable Jhene Aiko breakup album that tears into Big Sean, part of it is linked to how pleasantly surprised I was with Mariah Carey's last album and how indifferent I've been feeling with Ariana Grande recently - mostly because I'm surprised at the relative lack of competition! Hell, last year we got some spicy takes surrounding who the 'king of R&B' is prompted by Jacquees of all people, why does it seem like the modern era of queens are ceding the crown to Ariana so quickly?

And while I could make a bunch of excuses - SZA is between albums, Ella Mai is just starting out and doesn't quite have the pipes, H.E.R., Alina Baraz and Kali Uchis are still underground, Teyana Taylor got screwed by Kanye, Janelle Monae is too weird and amazing to even be a part of the conversation, and I don't even want to get into Tinashe right now - the truth is that a lot of major labels are losing money by not capitalizing on that lack of competition. So I'm stuck going into the underground to find those artists with the chops to compete - and early in 2019, I actually found one. Meet Asiahn, a singer-songwriter who also goes by Asia Bryant who you might recognize if you dig through the liner notes behind some pretty sizable acts, but she started coming into her own with the release of the Love Train EP back in early 2017. And going back to it now, I'll admit I'm a little surprised she didn't get more traction - thanks to her work behind the scenes she's racked up a few Grammy nominations, but more than that, her debut EP is actually really good! I'd struggle to call it precisely great - a stunningly subtle voice and solid lyricism can only get you so far if your production and hooks aren't the sharpest - but she had a lot of taste and potential and I had hope for this full-length follow-up, so what did we get out of Love Train 2?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 19, 2019 (VIDEO)

I really need to be better at posting these things on a timely basis... 

Anyway, going to be deviating from my schedule a bit, I think - this new R&B album I found might deserve a review, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 19, 2019

...well, okay, I can't say I didn't predict this would happen. I knew that eventually the drought on mainstream album releases would start to impact the Hot 100 directly which would lead to a short week... but man, I didn't expect I'd be handed one of the slowest weeks in recent memory! Now I'm not complaining - gives me that much more time to get ahead on other work and plans, and, you know, take care of myself - but I will say it was a bit of a pleasant surprise. Less so when I saw the new arrivals, but sadly you have to take what you can get.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

video review: 'prehysteria' by t-rextasy

So I honestly don't expect this band to get a ton of traffic thanks to this review - hell, I don't expect this review to get a lot of traffic - but it's a goofy and fun little project, definitely worth a listen!

album review: 'prehysteria' by t-rextasy

So one of my plans for 2019 was getting a bit more freedom to venture into weird places to find new music, and given how slow things are starting this year, it's a good time to build a nice routine in finding it. And nowhere is more overstuffed with offkilter weirdness than Bandcamp and talk about the sort of act that immediately becomes tricky to talk about, mostly because they defy easy categorization.

So yes, let's talk about T-Rextasy, a New York-based punk group that broke out in the mid-2010s with their debut Jurassic Punk - and if by some of those names you might be thinking we're dealing with a joke act... well, I could definitely see it, but I'm not sure I'd entirely agree. It's definitely true that this group has a broad, cartoonish blend of vintage garage rock and art punk, splitting the difference between twee and riot grrl so subtly you might be convinced neither are truly applicable, and all delivered with a bratty yet comedic theatricality that at its best can feel wry and clever but at its worst can feel like Brooklyn hipster community theater that's both grating and entirely too impressed with itself. What I am stressing is that this sound can be very niche, especially given the thick accent of Lyris Faron... but it's certainly catchy and colourful, and I enjoyed their debut album enough to check out their follow-up Prehysteria, so what did we get?

video review: 'magnolia' by randy houser

So I have no goddamn clue where this came from, but it's awesome - go hear it, I want this to be a hit, goddamn it.

Next up, let's go to Bandcamp for something that emphatically will not be a hit, shall we...

Saturday, January 12, 2019

album review: 'magnolia' by randy houser

You know, it feels a little weird that this the first time I'm speaking at length about Randy Houser - but also not all that surprising if you've been aware of the mainstream country ecosystem outside of the biggest stars. And indeed, Randy Houser has been a prominent opening act for many of those stars over the past decade with a fair few hits of his own, so what is holding him back from the big leagues?

Well, in preparation for this I relistened to his entire back catalog and the first thing to note is that as a performer and presence within country, he's long been on the cusp of entering that category - hell, if you just listen to his tremendous vocal chops, you'd think he'd already be there. And like many aspiring acts, he worked behind the scenes as a songwriter in the mid-to-late 2000s... and the less said about some of his breakthrough writing credits, the better. But he accrued some solid writing credits for his second album on Toby Keith's Show Dog-Universal which translated to a pretty good album in They Call Me Cadillac... that went precisely nowhere, so he left and signed to Stoney Creek and began seeing real success in the 2013 bro-country wave. And I'll put Randy Houser in the same category as guys like Chris Young: a little older, presumably a little wiser, able to bring a shade more gravitas to otherwise pretty disposable lyrics in the trend, generally a cut above if not precisely great. But bro-country was never built to last, and while the full force of it was placed behind his 2016 album Fired Up, it only produced one hit and only exposed the larger conundrum with Houser: a great singer, sure, but if the compositions and production weren't there to provide him foundation or richer country tones, it didn't turn out well. I'll give him a few points for avoiding the forgettable pop-adjacent pablum that Chris Young started shoveling out, but I'll admit some concern about this newest project. For one, it had been pushed back from its November release date last year, and for another, while I did appreciate Houser taking a much greater role in the writing process, I was a bit concerned he was co-producing this project too, a first for him and reportedly paid for by him too so could ensure the sound he wanted. Thankfully, he had recruited his old collaborator and veteran of both mainstream and indie scenes Keith Gattis to assist - seriously, he's worked with everyone from George Strait to Randy Travis, Wade Bowen to Jon Pardi, all the Pistol Annies to Brandy Clark - so this could be the pivot that Randy Houser needs to stand out, so what did we get with Magnolia?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 12, 2019 (VIDEO)

Man alive, this took so damn long to finish... oh well, let's see what I can do next - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 12, 2019

So this is one of those weeks on Billboard BREAKDOWN that can be draining to talk about, mostly because it's easy but time-consuming to explain at length. To put it simply, if you look at the Hot 100 a full half of it advanced ten positions or more, we have a ton of returning entries, and a full slate of fourteen new arrivals - and no, there wasn't an album bomb. No, as I said, I can explain this fairly easily: along with the album bomb from 21 Savage drying up, all the Christmas music exited the chart and a lot of older music this week picked up radio spins thanks to year-end countdowns, and given that there was no big releases to plug in the gap, the flood of music to replace it is all over the damn place and really shows no indication of what could last long term.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

the top 25 best albums of 2018 (VIDEO)

And that's the last of year-end list promotion...whew.

Next up... honestly, no idea, we'll see - stay tuned!

the top 25 best albums of 2018

Normally this is the list that feels like the greatest relief to make - it's the final moment where we can lay a year to rest chronicling the best of the best, the sort of release that comes with it being the last list but also one that feels the most professional, for lack of better words. I'm having fun with the lists of the best and worst hits, I'm getting more personal with the overall songs list - this list for critics is staking claim, drawing our lines in the sand, and as such, it's normally the most professionally rewarding.

But I have to say, in comparison to previous years, this list was not that hard to make. Even though I covered far more albums in 2018 than ever before, it felt like I hit greatness less often on average. Which is probably not completely true, but it sure as hell feels like it, especially given that the cuts weren't that painful this year, or it certainly seemed like there was less of them to make. And while I don't do an Honourable Mentions segment for this list, I will say I'm a little regretful that I have to leave Rolo Tomassi and Against All Logic off this list, and I'm sure I'm going to surprise some folks by saying that Beach House and Kacey Musgraves also missed the cut - sorry, but especially in country, Kacey had stiffer competition. But really, if we're to highlight a genre that turned out in spades in 2018, it was hip-hop - and no jokes here, this is more hip-hop on this albums list than I think there has ever been before... which yes, means that there were two painful cuts in the form of Marlowe and Armand Hammer. But you know, let's start off with hip-hop here...

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 5, 2019 (VIDEO)

Yeah, I was late posting this in multiple places... vacation happened, folks, dunno what to say. Enjoy?

resonators 2018 - episode #012 - 'feed us a fetus' by dayglo abortions (+interview!)

And here's the final episode of this series for 2018 - let's see what genre I hit for 2019!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

the top 50 best songs of 2018

The tagline that I've always had with this list is that it's the hardest to make, but let me qualify it: it's the one that easily requires the most work. And considering this is the year where I reviewed more albums than ever before, you'd think for the sheer volume of material this would be excruciating to assemble...

But in truth, this top 50 list actually fell out pretty quickly, at least with respect to the volume of music I've consumed. It still takes a lot of refinement to go through the best songs of any given year, but the truth about 2018 was that for as many songs as I loved, most of them were concentrated onto specific albums, which might lead to a slightly less diverse list as a whole. And if there was a year where my qualification that I can only put up to three songs from any given album on this list was tested... yeah, it was here. And yet even with that qualification, this list is kind of all over the place - little more hip-hop heavy than previous years and we'll get into why on my final list - and I'll freely admit there isn't quite as much metal or electronic music I'd prefer, but I needed to be honest with this one. Keep in mind songs from albums I covered on the Trailing Edge are eligible, and that if you don't see any songs from an album I loved earlier this year, there's no guarantee it won't show up on a different list - some albums don't put out the best individual songs and vice-versa. 

But no more wasting time, let's get this started!