Friday, May 31, 2019

video review: 'flamagra' by flying lotus

Okay, so this was a little messy, but still quality, still worth talking about too.

Next up... I think I've got Resonators and maybe a Top 10 list, so let's see what happens, stay tuned!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

album review: 'flamagra' by flying lotus

So I'll admit I had to go back and relisten to Cosmogramma and You're Dead! before making this review - and it probably was the first time in five years that I've done so.

And that looks bad, obviously, as both are genuinely great albums that take tangled, jazzy experimentation in their electronic tones and dive into rabbit holes rife with strange samples, twisted analog synths, and the sort of alien vibe that commands the sort of pit-in-your-stomach dread as much as it does my respect and wonder. And that's the funny thing for me: Steven Ellison aka. Flying Lotus creates thematically cohesive, amazingly intricate, and remarkably textured albums that can synthesize genuine beauty... but often cycle around existential themes and central ideas that can be deeply unsettling if you stare into that abyss, and are really best consumed as one long look. People tend to forget that certain tones of Cosmogramma were synthesized from samples of vital-sign monitors and respirators in his dying mother's hospital room, and it's also one reason I've always found it strange that Flying Lotus recruits guest artists for verses on projects like You're Dead! for isolated pieces that feel like fragments separated from a larger album - what might be more startling is how often it manages to work.

So we're dealing with prodigious amounts of talent here... so why has it taken us five years to get a new album when they normally come around a fair bit more quickly? Well, Ellison put out a contentiously received anthology film called Kuso in 2017 and he's been contributing music to other projects, but this year we got news about his newest and longest project planned to date, a concept album surrounding fire, filled with guests from long-running collaborator Thundercat to notable names like Anderson .Paak, Solange, Denzel Curry, and Shabazz Palaces, all the way to surprises like George Clinton, Tierra Whack, and David Lynch. So okay, what rabbit hole is Flying Lotus pulling us into this time?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 1, 2019 (VIDEO)

Frankly I'm surprised this video is holding up as well as it is... well, we'll see where everything lands as I work on Resonators and that Flying Lotus album - stay tuned!

sonic temple 2019 - review / vlog

Yeah, a little late with this one, but I had a lot of footage to cut together and a lot of reviews to push out the door - still, I'm pretty proud how all of this came together, enjoy!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 1, 2019

So I'll admit I didn't quite predict this. I knew that Tyler, The Creator would have his album bomb - and with just enough songs to squeak into my qualifying rules, for the record - but I'll admit I did not expect DJ Khaled to do as well as he did. Now part of that is the suspicion that DJ Khaled didn't have the blowout single ready to hit beyond a song like 'No Brainer' - which was released last year, packaged on the album, and didn't re-enter the Hot 100 here - but he did see enough measurable chart success that I have to pay attention... even if I have less than zero interest in reviewing the album and it'll probably wind up on the Trailing Edge at best.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

video review: '4REAL 4REAL' by yg

Well, this was better than I expected - and I'll admit I was close to calling it really good, but it did just fall short at the end.

Anyway, I'm thinking I'll have my Sonic Temple wrap-up video today (just need to add in my b-roll footage and some music, and in the mean time I've got Resonators, Billboard BREAKDOWN tomorrow, and Flying Lotus, so stay tuned!

Monday, May 27, 2019

album review: '4REAL 4REAL' by yg

Believe me, it was not my plan to start liking YG's music.

Because for the first half of the 2010s, I didn't - he had some singles to start the decade and I still don't really like My Krazy Life. Not really a bad hip-hop album, but it was a project drilling into the bare bones in production courtesy of DJ Mustard at his peak and the content... and little else. I understand the everyman appeal, don't get me wrong, but it didn't nearly stand out as much as it could, and I'd argue that you could put any number of more capable MCs in the same spot with the same production and you'd probably get a better album.

But then Still Brazy came out in 2016, and YG took west-coast revivalism with more expanded production, a genuine sense of humor, and a blunt political angle that actually packed a wallop in a generally underwhelming year for mainstream hip-hop... which might be why that album didn't produce notable singles on the charts to my vast irritation. And thus I can't blame him that much when Stay Dangerous returned to a similar formula to My Krazy Life and actually got some singles success - the only problem was that it was lazier and generally worse, but it did make sense he'd be able to turn around a follow-up more quickly. Hell, it would have been released earlier than even this if it hadn't been for his friend Nipsey Hussle's tragic passing. And I'll be blunt, I didn't have high expectations, mostly because the production team hadn't changed much with singles like 'Go Loko' it looked like things were getting even worse... but hey, maybe it'd work out on 4REAL 4REAL?

movie review: 'pokemon: detective pikachu' (VIDEO)

Well, this turned out better than I expected - great stylism married with some solid acting performances and shows a ton of promise going forward. 

Anyway, next up was an improvement I did not see coming - stay tuned!

video review: 'fever' by megan thee stallion

Okay, this turned out a bit more interesting than I expected - wish there was a little more to the project as a whole, but it happens, I guess...

Anyway, now onto something legit great!

Friday, May 24, 2019

album review: 'fever' by megan thee stallion

So I'll admit I was a little surprised to even consider this review - it's not like there aren't other albums I could cover on my schedule, so why this? Why review a project for which you're fairly certain you won't have much to say and if you do might be best suited for the Trailing Edge?

And then I immediately questioned why I thought any of that - yeah, Megan Thee Stallion might have gotten her initial traction off of Instagram twerk videos and being hotter than hell, but she could spit her ass off better than a fair few of her male counterparts, her mixtapes had some genuine sizzle over pretty solid trap production - again, better than a lot of her competition - and it wasn't like Cardi B hadn't surprised me with the longevity and flair of some cuts from her debut album; I might be the only one who still genuinely thinks 'Money Bag' is a great song, but if Cardi is settling into a comfort zone, I wanted to find someone where the fire was still lit. Sure, the content wasn't about to be all that deep beyond flexing, sex jams, and taking guys for all their worth, but her meteoric rise did prove there was an audience for that sort of material, and my general liking for 'Big Ole Freak' proved that she had the charisma and command of her mix to make it work. So I figured why not give that debut a listen and ignore that mess of a new DJ Khaled project, what did we get from Fever?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

video review: 'i am easy to find' by the national

Okay, this actually turned out way better than I thought (thank god), and I'm actually a bit surprised I was able to pull the review together this effectively, but hey, I've got some momentum right now, might as well use it.

Next up... hmm, I really do need to get this Sonic Temple stuff down, but there are albums to be reviewed... we'll see, stay tuned!

album review: 'i am easy to find' by the national

You know, when a band you really love is on a hot streak, you do feel a little nervous before opening up any new album, with the high hopes they'll continue it but the niggling feeling in your gut they're going to slip up. And that possibility of the slip-up does have more weight in terms of expectations than I'd like to admit, because it can blow a big hole in how much you might care about a new project, especially if it hasn't quite received the avalanche of critical acclaim the band might have used to get.

And can you tell I'm talking about The National here? But let's back up, because after 2013's potent Trouble Will Find Me, I've noticed my opinions on the indie rock veterans tend to diverge from the popular consensus, from my passionate love of frontman Matt Berninger's side project EL VY and its release Return To The Moon in 2015, to my much more lukewarm at best reception to the band's 2017 release Sleep Well Beast, which took philosophically questionable ideas and married them to underwhelming production compromised in groove and overall tone. To me it stood as their worst album to date, but being in the minority of that opinion, I had no earthly clue if The National would double down on those tones and get even worse, or whether they'd pull a sharp face turn and recover... and frankly, I wasn't sure I was all that enthused to hear them fumble a response, especially given how ponderous their albums could be. But hey, who knows, maybe divorced from some of the questionable political reaction that contorted too many albums in 2017, this would be a return to form, so how was I Am Easy To Find?

video review: 'IGOR' by tyler, the creator

Yeah, guess it just wasn't for me...? It happens, folks.

Next up... see, it might be Megan Thee Stallion, it might be The National, we'll have to see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'IGOR' by tyler, the creator

At this point, what can you even expect from Tyler, The Creator anymore?

And I say this as someone who can admit to being more tolerant of the guy at his most foul and abrasive, but also someone who never quite celebrated him at his various peaks either, at least not in comparison to the diehard fans. Don't get me wrong, at his most shocking I've always been convinced there was more damaged pathology than even he would admit, but as much as I really dug Flower Boy, damn near the polar opposite of those early albums, it wasn't a project that stuck with me longer as much as others, or one that in this era I quite found as revolutionary as most in its content, which at points could feel underwritten. Hell, what I found most striking was the production, which had its off-kilter edge and clear influence of Pharrell, but also attracted a peculiar, homegrown beauty that Tyler could make his own. So when I heard that more than ever this project IGOR, dropped with little warning or promotion, was even further away from conventional hip-hop in his delivery and had reportedly picked up even some production elements from the messy, much-maligned but fascinating Cherry Bomb for a bittersweet breakup album... well, it was sure to be unique. So okay, how is IGOR?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 25, 2019 (VIDEO)

Another pretty lightweight week overall (thank GOD for that), but now it'll be fascinating to see how Tyler hits next week.

And perhaps on that topic...

video review: 'dedicated' by carly rae jepsen

Okay, so this is actually better received than I would expect... huh, interesting...

Anyway, I think it's Tyler coming next, but before that...

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 25, 2019

So I'll be honest, I'm so happy this week is a slower one: I just got back from Sonic Temple in Columbus, Ohio - I'll have a recap/review video dropping in a few days and there'll be plenty of other videos I'll pop up in - and when you consider last Friday was one of the biggest release weeks of this month, I've got a lot to catch up on, so the relative lack of stories is encouraging.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

album review: 'dedicated' by carly rae jepsen

I'll admit to being surprised it took this long to get this album.

And sure, some of this comes of a question of momentum, which for a cult act like Carly Rae Jepsen might not matter - and I'll admit it's strange to refer to her as a cult act when in 2012 'Call Me Maybe' was nearly the biggest song of the year but seems to have mostly vanished from even a more nostalgic conversation. But I remember actually being ahead of the curve when it came to E.MO.TION, where I covered it as a fan who was fond of her earliest stuff and then saw the hipster crowd embrace her in spades, which carried into her short follow-up the next year on Side B. And then... well, the singles kept coming and the hype was there, but the reception felt increasingly lukewarm, and it wasn't like mainstream pop was in the best of places for the sort of crossover she probably deserved earlier. So when I started hearing the mixed reception for this album, I'll admit to being worried, especially with no credits from Josh Ramsay or Devonte Hynes. Still, I'm still a fan and I wanted to believe she could stick the landing, so what did we get from Dedicated?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

video review: 'divided by darkness' by spirit adrift

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

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

album review: 'divided by darkness' by spirit adrift

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

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 9, 2019

video review: 'hellbent' by randy rogers band

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

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

album review: 'hellbent' by randy rogers band

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

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

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

Yeah, this was a disappointment...

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

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

Did anyone care this came out, besides me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 11, 2019

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

Monday, May 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 2, 2019

video review: 'neotheater' by ajr

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

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

album review: 'neotheater' by ajr

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

video review: 'crasH talk' by scHoolboy q

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

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

album review: 'crasH talk' by scHoolboy q

I had a bad feeling about this.

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

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