Showing posts with label 2014. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2014. Show all posts

Saturday, July 11, 2015

video review: 'cilvia demo' by isaiah rashad (two year anniversary)

Man, it's been a great two years. Thanks again for all of your views and support, it's definitely appreciated.

Next up, Between The Buried And Me and Years & Years - stay tuned!

Friday, July 10, 2015

album review: 'cilvia demo' by isaiah rashad (two year anniversary)

I have no idea why I didn't cover this in 2014.

Well, okay, I have some idea. This record dropped in late January of last year, and I'll admit I was still very much on the learning curve of album reviews at that time, especially when it came to underground hip-hop. And part of it was a cheap justification on my part - I rarely if ever cover EPs, and Isaiah Rashad had said Cilvia Demo was an EP, even despite being longer than some full hip-hop albums.

But upon reflection, it's one of those records I probably should have covered regardless. Critics following hip-hop are always wise to keep a keen eye on Top Dawg Entertainment, and Isaiah Rashad was one of their first recruits beyond the original four rappers of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock, two who dropped solid albums in 2014, one who dropped a near-classic this year, and one who has been keeping us waiting an exasperatingly long time for new material. A southern MC that had a knack for balancing more conscious bars with slightly more hedonistic material, at first glimpse it's almost a little surprising Isaiah Rashad didn't get a hell of a lot bigger in the mainstream, given his style.

And while fellow new arrival SZA generally underwhelmed me with her debut Z, I had some hope going into Cilvia Demo. The reception had been generally positive across the board, earning its fair share of critical accolades and probably only slipping off some lists due to being releasing in January and being forgotten, which can happen if you have a record with more of a subdued vibe. So I definitely took the time to dig deep into Cilvia Demo - was it worth all of your requests?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

album review: 'viet cong' by viet cong

So I've talked before about how various musicians in indie rock have a reputation for having multiple projects running simultaneously in order to try out different styles and sounds or simply find the one that manages to catch fire. The funny thing is that in the age of the Internet, acts can very quickly build an underground cult following, and with sites like Pitchfork covering many of these projects, it means that critical acclaim can befall an act without sales or additional popularity coming along. And if the artists want to move along and try new things, it can mean they leave their fanbases hungry for more and following after whatever these artists try to assemble next.

And the more I started digging into Canadian indie rock group Viet Cong, the more I expected that some of the hype surrounding this band was coming from this phenomenon. Two members of the group, drummer Michael Wallace and bassist Matthew Flegel were previously from the critically acclaimed art rock group Women, who briefly made a splash in the late 2000s with two pretty damn great records before breaking up midtour, which took a jangly lo-fi yet exceptionally melodic and hook-driven sound and paired it with skeletal production that drew comparisons to a darker, more stripped-down Beach Boys or especially The Velvet Underground. As such, I could definitely see the interest now being taken in Viet Cong - even though that band was advertising their sound as having a much stronger post-punk influence. But hell, I like post-punk, so I made sure to give Viet Cong's self-titled debut a couple deep listens - what did we get here?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the top 25 best albums of 2014 (VIDEO)

And that's it for me for 2014! The last of the lists, probably one of the more controversial ones, but hey, it's what you get.

I want to thank all of you for sticking with me this long - if it wasn't for you crazy cats, I wouldn't have gotten this far or I probably would have spent my time elsewhere long ago. As it is, let's keep up the hustle, and I hope to see you all with more album reviews, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and maybe something new in that new year. Stay tuned!

the top 25 best albums of 2014

And now, the final list, the most important and likely the most hotly debated selection, the top 25 albums of 2014. Some of these entries you will recognize as they've been acclaimed by plenty of publications already, but there are a few surprises here that definitely need their due consideration.

One thing to preface this list: while I have seen many year-end lists, these are all my personal choices based upon what stuck with me the most this year. And to qualify, they have to be one of the 210 albums I reviewed in full this year. And believe me, this list had a few painful cuts, but I'd prefer to keep this list smaller and respect the cream of the crop rather than reward albums that might not deserve the same acclaim.

But enough, wasting time, let's get this started!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

the top 50 best songs of 2014 (part ii: 25-1) (VIDEO)

And there's part two. One last list to come, stay tuned!

the top 50 best songs of 2014 (part i: 50-26) (VIDEO)

That's part one, now part two!

the top 50 best songs of 2014

And now onto the third list, and by far one of the hardest to make. This year I discussed 210 albums and from there I had just under 700 songs that I considered eligible for this list. From there, the task of narrowing it down and ranking them was excruciatingly difficult, because I want to make sure this list was of the best of the best, and even with that I had to make some painful cuts. And once again, keep in mind these are not the hits. We have singles and deep cuts here, from artists who are defiantly mainstream to those lodged deep in the underground. And one more thing: for a song to land on this list, it has to have been released from an album I reviewed this year. If it was just a single, it doesn't cut it - but on a contrary note, if the single dropped last year or even the year before and the album was only released now... well, it qualifies in my books.

But enough wasting time, let's get this started with...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

the top ten best hit songs of 2014 (VIDEO)

And here's list #2. Yes, I know it's excruciatingly early, but I'm posting this from the airport, it happens. Enjoy!

the top ten best hit songs of 2014

And now onto our second list, and the one that doesn't give me heart palpitations whenever I think about it, the Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2014. 

Once again, let's go over some of the main rules: the songs need to debut on the year-end Billboard Hot 100 list this year - so while there are songs like 'Counting Stars' and 'Wake Me Up!' that came out last year and still made this year's Billboard 100, they already had their shot to make the list.

What gets a little frustrating because while the year-end Billboard Hot 100 didn't have as many outright terrible songs as last year, I'd also make the argument it didn't have as many genuinely awesome smash songs either. 2014 tended towards average all around, with only a few genuinely great songs and a whole sea of songs that were pretty solid but didn't evoke a huge amount of reaction from me, one way or the other. And once again, this is my list of my favourite hits - the list of the songs from across the entire year that never touched the charts is on its way - but that's not ripping into these songs, most of which had real genuine quality behind them.

But let's not waste time, let's get to the Honourable Mentions!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

the top ten worst hit songs of 2014 (VIDEO)

First of our year-end lists, and sadly the one that will probably get the most traffic. Go figure.

Next up is the list of the best hit songs - stay tuned!

the top ten worst hit songs of 2014

So, another year, another Billboard Year-End list, another assorted collection of hits and misses, and another year end list from me where I take a long hard look at the biggest charting songs of the year and pick out the best and worst.

Now for those of you who aren't familiar, let's go over the rules. A song can only make this list if it first landed on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End chart for 2014. There may be songs from last year that qualify - I can think of a few - but it needs to hit the list this year. And of course there were worse songs that I heard this year on albums that could easily outstrip huge chunks of this list - I'm not going to mention them, they don't deserve more attention - but I want to make the point that we're looking at the hits that got under my skin and annoyed or angered me. Songs that are just excruciatingly boring don't really make the cut here - 'boring' can be a factor, but there needs to be something aggressively wrong with the song to join this august company.

The other important thing to mention is that 2014 has, on average, been a stronger year than 2013, or at least more consistent. Up until the frantic reshuffling at the end of the year, this has been a pretty stodgy year with a few absolutely massive hits that wouldn't go away and prevented a lot of turnover. What this has meant is that many of the songs that have landed on this list don't inspire the same amount of real anger from me - of the majority I wouldn't say they are as deserving of vitriol as some of the really terrible tracks from last year.

That said, I think it's time for our dishonourable mentions!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

video review: 'anybody wanna buy a heart?' by k. michelle

And that's the last of the album reviews for 2014. Bit of a short one, but I'm glad I got there.

Next up, we've got a whole slew of lists coming up, the ones you've all been looking for. Stay tuned, folks, it's gonna get crazy up in here!

Monday, December 22, 2014

album review: 'anybody wanna buy a heart' by k. michelle

If we want to speak about one of the biggest trends of 2014, we need to talk about R&B. Not only did it come back in force and with the exception of Taylor Swift do a number on mainstream pop, it also showed itself willing to experiment and brought a ton of different sounds to the table. I might not have been a real R&B fan a year ago, but I'm think with artists like FKA Twigs, Jhene Aiko, and the return of stalwarts like D'Angelo, I think I'm on board this time.

And since I'm one of the few critics who has covered the entire spectrum of R&B this year, from the stuff gunning for mainstream airplay to the underground, I figured that I should check out one last artist before the year's end - and one that I had significantly mixed feelings on going in. K. Michelle was signed to Jive Records back in 2009 before they bought out her contract, but she quickly accrued a lot more fame tied to the VH1 reality show Love & Hip-hop: Atlanta. I suspect some of that fame coloured the release of her debut album Rebellious Soul last year on Atlantic. Which was a bit of a shame, because it wasn't really a bad album. Not a great one, but if you're looking for some early 2000s-inspired R&B with modern synths and a surprising amount of texture from a woman with real pipes. Now I'm not going to say that era of R&B was always my thing, but I could definitely respect it and that K. Michelle had some real talent behind her.

That said, if I hadn't started getting requests - and I mean a lot of them - for this album, I probably would have passed it by - but then I started seeing other things, like how the critics who did talk about it called it one of the best R&B records of the year. That's a lot of high praise, and considering this was looking to be a mainstream accessible R&B record with no rap features - which is rare - I definitely gave a listen. Does it live up to the hype?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 27, 2014

This week, it was all about upward momentum. As the rest of 2014 continues to drop away, the new 'hits' for 2015 are rising to take their place, whether we want them or not. Plus, with the continued onslaught of Christmas music and The Voice, the biggest surprise arrivals came from the biggest album of the week that debuted with little promotion and no open airplay - and in a really nice change of pace, some of the best songs from that album are the ones that landed on the charts, which is awesome.

I'll elaborate more on that in a bit, but it's time to start with our Top 10! Lots of movement this week... well, outside of the top two, that is. Unsurprisingly, 'Blank Space' by Taylor Swift has a stranglehold on #1 thanks to finally taking the top in airplay to match her dominance in sales and YouTube, but Hozier's 'Take Me To Church' isn't going down without a fight, with steady airplay gains supplementing strong sales and absolutely monstrous streaming. Yet right below that we've got 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars reaching a new peak at #3, with a very similar pattern to Hozier in that they're just waiting for airplay to catch up to strong sales and streaming. And at #4 we've got 'Lips Are Moving' by Meghan Trainor, who owes most of her success to YouTube, with only decent streaming and sales keeping her solid as her airplay slowly picks up. And with the first movement in three weeks we've got 'I'm Not The Only One' by Sam Smith stepping up to #5, who really owes his success to just being consistent across the board and those above him losing steam and dropping out. 

Now we'll get to those, but now we've got to talk about our surprise new arrival to the top 10 at #6, 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran, who really owes the majority of his success to massive streaming and YouTube and pretty damn solid sales as his airplay struggles to catch up. Honestly, I'm not the biggest fan of the song - it's a little too sleepy and Ed Sheeran has better songs off of x - but I've got nothing against the song and it works for what it is as a sincere, passionate love song and it's nice to see a guitar solo in the Top 10. But beneath him are two songs that look to be on the way out, 'All About That Bass' by Meghan Trainor at #7 and 'Animals' by Maroon 5 - effectively for the same reasons too, hemorrhaging airplay and weaker numbers across the board, with only YouTube giving Meghan Trainor the edge. 'Love Me Harder' by Ariana Grande ft. The Weeknd steps up to #9, holding steady thanks to consistent airplay gains and huge streaming even despite a weak sales week, which leaves 'Shake It Off' by Taylor Swift to cling to #10 pretty much on YouTube alone. I see it dropping out of the Top 10 next week, unless it somehow gets a boost.

Next up we have our drop-outs and losers, and there was a fair number of the former. '0 To 100/The Catch Up' by Drake, 'Day Drinking' by Little Big Town, and thankfully 'Burnin' It Down' by Jason Aldean all drop to recurring, but 'i' by Kendrick Lamar and 'Look At You' by Big & Rich lost even more steam to drop off after even less. And it looks like there's a few more on a similar path - 'Fireball' by Pitbull ft. John Ryan drops to 88, 'Yellow Flicker Beat' by Lorde continues its tumble down to 86 as more people forget about Mockingjay, and mercifully the disaster that I spoke at length on - 'God Made Girls' by RaeLynn - drops back to #71. Only wish I could claim credit for it. As for the other losers, there are only two major drops, 'Make It Rain' by Ed Sheeran - unsurprising, given it was a song tied to Sons of Anarchy and the show ended just over a week ago - and 'Mary Did You Know?' by Pentatonix. And I would be surprised this song dropped again, especially given the Christmas season, but it's been bouncing around since its debut, so no real surprise.

And speaking of Christmas, let's take a look at our gainers, two of which owe their success to the holidays. Mariah Carey unsurprisingly rises ten slots to #40 with 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', and Ariana Grande leaps back up #64 with 'Santa Tell Me'. And in other, less obvious examples of holiday cheer, Carrie Underwood continues finding Jesus with 'Something In The Water' rising to #38, Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe sing about exes trying to find solace together on 'Lonely Tonight' jumping considerably to #54, Usher's 'I Don't Mind' continues its steady climb to #37 by not judging a woman who's a stripper, and 'I Lived' by OneRepublic has that general uplifting holiday feel so I'm guessing that's why it jumped up to #67, along with 'Heroes (We Could Be)' by Alesso ft. Tove Lo bounced up to #35, the latter proving EDM isn't quite dead yet. Yet, there are other songs that got a boost that have significantly less holiday cheer. 'G.D.F.R.' by Flo Rida ft. Sage The Gemini and Lookas gains to #87 despite being the blatant 'Talk Dirty' ripoff that it is, and 'Just Gettin' Started' by Jason Aldean goes to #84 because 'Burnin' It Down' is gone and the charts need something to replace it. And yet worst of all, 'Only' by Nicki Minaj ft. Drake, Lil Wayne & Chris Brown rocketed up to #12. That's right, this is within spitting distance of the Top 10. I'll keep this quick: Nicki Minaj is the only redeeming feature of this song, the synth line is pathetically underweight, every single guest star embarrasses themselves, with Drake probably sounding the worst, and it's easily the worst track on The Pinkprint and single-handedly responsible for knocking that album back. It's an atrocious track coasting by on cheap gossip and controversy to be successful, and the fact Nicki put this garbage on her album instead of 'Win Again' or 'Truffle Butter' - the latter of which has Drake and Lil Wayne on it - is a sign Young Money's management need their heads examined. Preferably with 2x4s.

But ignoring that piece of shit, let's talk about our recurring entries!

Oh wow, I didn't expect this. I've never been a fan of Darius Rucker or his former band Hootie & The Blowfish - they were the sort of adult-alternative act that bored the piss out of me and generally catered to those who wanted the least threatening music possible. So Darius Rucker transitioning to make country didn't surprise me, but 'Wagon Wheel' was a damn good song - mostly because it was cowritten by Bob Dylan, but still! This, though - wow, talk about selling out. From the incredibly clean production to the by-the-numbers forgettable songwriting that features repeating words to fill up space for no good reason to Darius Rucker trying to add swagger to his voice and failing miserably, this is desperation personified in a song. Darius Rucker is desperately trying to leap on the bro-country bandwagon, but this is the end of 2014, and outside of a few exceptions, bro-country has effectively collapsed. This... this is just embarrassing for everyone involved. Next!

Yeah, I can't even lie, I think this song is actually pretty damn good, regardless of whether this song is about Harry Styles or not - it's got that retro-old school glam vibe with the tight 80s synthpop guitar line that actually carries a melody throughout the whole song, punchy beat, and Taylor giving a surprisingly passionate performance. Yeah, there is an element of self-love to this song, but it's also balanced out by both partner in the relationship recognizing their own flaws and screw-ups. There's balance and nuance here, and I can appreciate that.

Okay, now we're onto our list of new arrivals - most of which I've already talked about in some capacity, which hopefully means this will be pretty easy. Starting with...

100. 'Break The Rules' by Charli XCX - I've already talked at length about this song in my Sucker review, but I will say it's got one of the better melodies from the record, especially in the synth breakdown right after the chorus. But as much as I like most of this song, there are still problems - the EDM crescendo over the chorus always feels a little overstuffed to me and detracts from a pretty damn solid textured bassline and lyrically... seriously, 'discotheque'? Who says that? And seriously, if that's her definition of 'breaking the rules', I'm not all that impressed.

98. 'When I Was Your Man' by Chris Jamison - we got a lot of piano ballads in 2013, and 'When I Was Your Man' by Bruno Mars was one of the better ones - pretty basic, but filled with genuine regret for being a shitty boyfriend, and Bruno Mars does a lot to sell it. But honestly, I might honestly like Chris Jamison's version even more. The thinner piano tone, the fragments of organ, and Jamison throws himself into it with a ton of passion and that falsetto... it was impressive, and it's not surprising he landed in the finals... only to lose, but we'll get to that.

95. 'No Role Modelz by J.Cole - of the two J.Cole songs that landed on the charts this week, this is definitely the weaker one, and it highlights a lot of the problems I had with 2014 Forest Hills Drive, especially with J.Cole's issues with women. Yeah, there's self-awareness in the song, about how thin his fame might feel being a 'b-list celebrity', and yeah, it's got a pretty damn slick melody line, but it highlights the incredibly shaky moral high ground on which J.Cole is standing. For as much as he rants about not wanting reality show starlets, he's still screwing them anyway and behaving like a condescending dick about it, spending most of the outro calling her shallow. Sure, it's the life she chose - hell, it's the life he chose too, and he tries to justify it by saying 'no role models', but with the self-awareness undercutting the track it doesn't justify his actions, and it sure as hell means you should treat her with some respect. And it really bugs me when he ends his verse with a shout, 'Martin Luther King would have been on Dreamville'! Yeah, evoking one of the most important figures in the civil rights movement on your track about calling women shallow - self-awareness or not, that makes you look like an asshole. The more I hear this song, the less I like it.

93. 'Come Join The Murder' by The White Buffalo & The Forest Rangers - okay, we've got another song from Sons of Anarchy on the chart, and unlike 'Make It Rain', this one is more on the country side of folk. And it's less of a murder ballad than a song about falling to temptation thanks to the darkness in oneself - and yet the tone of the song is a little weird to me. A lot of major chords on the chorus melody, reasonably clean guitar tones, the backing vocals coming in for the later choruses, it feels a little too upbeat, not quite as dark as one would expect for the subject matter. Solid guitar solo and some good texture, and the songwriting has some power, but I think this song could have afforded to go a little darker, and it does feel a little long. Still good, but it could have been great.

90. 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' by Sam Smith - okay, when you think of Christmas singers to evoke a jovial atmosphere of holiday cheer, Sam Smith would not be the artist topping my list. That said, 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' is one of the better choices for him, as it can be played with a melancholy touch, which Sam Smith does. As it is - look, I'm not a Sam Smith fan. He's got a good voice, but he's got a certain austerity to his delivery that lacks real driving soul to me, which means even by the standards of depressing Christmas songs, this doesn't really do much for me. Sorry.

81. 'Make It Rain' by Matt McAndrew - I already talked about this song last week when it was covered by Ed Sheeran, so with its sudden success I wasn't surprised to see it land on The Voice. And yet it doesn't work nearly as well, mostly because Matt McAndrew's voice or instrumentation doesn't have the snarl or raw potency to make it all that gripping. I can see playing it a little closer to gospel, but Ed Sheeran's rougher, more hollow production is just a much better fit for the song. In other words, McAndrew's cover fails because of something he really can't control - he's on a reality show designed to appeal to the mass-public, and what was once a song accompanying a grimy show about a biker gang becomes neutered as a result.

73. 'Wet Dreamz' by J.Cole - see, this is so much better, and it gets there by being a much better representation of J.Cole at his best. I've already talked about this extensively when I reviewed 2014 Forest Hills Drive, so I'll restate what I said before: one of the best songs of the album that works thanks to a great old-school beat and melody and J.Cole's deeper, more vulnerable songwriting in a story about losing his virginity. The details are what makes the song work as well - you can buy this high school story about him trying to be a big shot to win over a girl even though he was a virgin, only to realize she was relying on him for the exact same thing. It's the sort of aggressively real song you rarely ever see on the Hot 100, and the fact that this song landed while J.Cole's actual single from the album didn't even crack the chart is very tell. Damn great song.

59. 'The Old Rugged Cross' by Craig Wayne Boyd - okay, there's a bit of a story behind this song, which was written over a hundred years ago by George Bennard and has held up as a reliable country gospel standard that's been covered by dozens of artists from Johnny Cash to Al Green, from George Jones to Merle Haggard, to Alan Jackson to Brad Paisley. So after listening to a whole slew of those covers before checking out Craig Wayne Boyd - the best being a toss-up between Al Green and Alan Jackson - how does his turn out? Well, considering it's a country gospel song being played on network television, about as well as you can expect. It's not surprising Craig Wayne Boyd won The Voice, because he's one of the few singers who has vocal texture, but I can't say I loved the overstated vocals or bombast of his cover with the belting. Granted, I prefer it over Merle Haggard's downbeat monologue over one of the verses, but there's a middle ground, and I'm not sure he got there. Incredible voice, though.

So that's our week - overall, a pretty damn good week for new chart arrivals, which makes my choice of a favourite this week tricky... oh, who am I kidding? Despite my harsh words, 'Wet Dreamz' by J.Cole easily walks away with it, with probably 'Style' by Taylor Swift as the runner up. Worst is no contest - Darius Rucker's ridiculous and embarrassing stab at bro-country with 'Homegrown Honey', with Matt McAndrew not managing to follow Ed Sheeran's lead with 'Make It Rain'. Overall, though, I can't complain, and let's hope it's a good sign for weeks to come - although knowing what I do in terms of album tracks that'll probably chart next week, I doubt it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

video review: 'black messiah' by d'angelo and the vanguard

Damn, this was definitely worth the wait. Fantastic record, one of the best of the year, and it's a good thing I didn't finalize my year-end lists yet, because this might just land on it.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and one final album review - what will it be? Stay tuned!

album review: 'black messiah' by d'angelo and the vanguard

So imagine you're a music critic for a major publication, and you've just finished submitting your picks for your year-end list of the best albums of the year. A stressful choice, and a list that will inevitably be inundated by angry protests and comments why other albums weren't chosen, but you're secure in your picks - it's not like anyone drops albums worth caring about in December, right - 

Wait, didn't I say all of this last year with Beyonce's self-titled album that came out of nowhere? Well, if anything, this release might be even more surprising, from one of the most critically acclaimed and respected and yet reclusive R&B artists to ever chart, one of the men responsible for starting the neo-soul movement in the 90s with music drenched in the iconography of the past while still making music that felt relevant and modern.

Yep, we're talking about D'Angelo, an R&B star who emerged a wave of potent buzz in the mid-90s with Brown Sugar, which eventually became a commercial success but was a critical darling right out of the gate. And having revisited that album since, I can see why: D'Angelo wasn't a forceful presence behind the microphone, but he didn't need to be - the man wrote slick, beautifully textured music, had buckets of charisma and sensuality, and was a pretty damn good songwriter to boot. This was a guy who was a peer of Usher, R.Kelly, Raphael Saadiq and Boyz 2 Men, and yet he stayed away from much of the histrionics of the times to stick with more subtle, restrained, yet just as passionate music. As such, his albums have a timeless feel to them that's impossible to fake. This is a guy who could cover Smokey Robinson's classic 'Cruisin' and do it justice, and that's pretty damn impressive. 

From there, D'Angelo took several years off and came back with Voodoo in 2000, and while I can't say I was the biggest fan to move more in a groove-centric direction over melodies, it doesn't make the album any less great. And make no mistake, Voodoo is a damn great record: smooth as hell, funky, poetic, and sexy as all hell. It was Voodoo's commercial hits that led to D'Angelo becoming a sex symbol in R&B - which sadly was one of the reasons he stopped touring. Between that and some personal problems, he took a long hiatus from recording his own projects, vanishing from the spotlight outside of a few scattered guest appearances. And while there had been rumours D'Angelo was going to make that third album, it was often compared to the long-nascent project Smile by Brian Williams - a record that was actually completed ten years ago after decades in development and is goddamn amazing.

And yet, in one of the biggest surprises of the new year, D'Angelo is back with a new album, and from the rave reviews and sheer panic from sites that already published their year-end lists to praise it, I had to hear this record. So I checked out Black Messiah - how is it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

video review: 'sucker' by charli xcx

Well, this happened. Honestly wish it could have been a little better, but it is a step in the right direction.

Next up... okay, D'Angelo for sure, but what else... either way stay tuned!

album review: 'sucker' by charli xcx

There are a lot of pop acts that I wish I liked a lot more than I do, acts that might be very popular or who get a ton of critical acclaim and yet for many reasons just don't connect or click with me whatsoever. Because even though I'm a critic who likes all sorts of off-beat, weird material, I also cover the pop charts, and since there's nothing wrong with liking pop music in principle, I just wish more of it managed to connect with me.

Charli XCX is one of those artists, and how much I've liked or appreciated her music is really all over the map. 'I Love It', her feature on the smash hit from Icona Pop, was one of my favourite hit songs of last year, but having relistened to her last album since I reviewed it in written form, it still doesn't grip me. The heavy, fuzz-saturated beats, the gothic textures that recall a lot of darkwave's heaviness without the killer melodies, the lyrics that were sketched so broadly to be borderline insubstantial, and Charli XCX herself not presenting a consistent or all that likable persona. True Romance was trying to play itself as portentous and serious, but the writing or performances were rarely strong enough to hold up, and I was just left disappointed every time I tried to relisten to the album.

So with that in mind, I had a certain amount of trepidation in approaching her newest record Sucker, cited as a massive change in genre and focus to more of a pop rock sound. And while that was interesting, I haven't exactly been wild about either of her two biggest performances this year, her chorus on 'Fancy' with Iggy Azalea or her solo hit tied to The Fault In Our Stars 'Boom Clap'. It's not like they were bad, just lacking in distinctive flavour to really grip me, so I wasn't sure what I was getting with this record. But since this record has been getting rather shocking amounts of critical acclaim, I figured what the hell and dove in - what did I get?