Showing posts with label destroyer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label destroyer. Show all posts

Saturday, January 6, 2018

the top 25 best albums of 2017 (VIDEO)

Well, nearly forgot about this one... but not to worry, it's still here. Enjoy!

Next up, the debut of The Trailing Edge - stay tuned!

the top 25 best albums of 2017

Of all the years I've put together year-end lists for albums, this might be the hardest it's been - and believe it or not, it's for the best possible reason: I covered an abundance of incredible music in 2017, arguably more than I ever have before! Even though I didn't give out any perfect scores, this year showed multiple genres giving us the goods, from a revitalized rock scene to several country gems to underground hip-hop making a major resurgence to pop putting forward its best showing in years - and that's not even getting to the genre-defying oddities that utterly blew my mind!

But what this also meant were cuts... in a year where I could put together a top 50 and still feel like I'm leaving stuff off, this was particularly brutal. Once again, I was very tempted to expand this list, but again, I'm highlighting the best of the best, and that means while these could have made it in a weaker year, for 2017 they didn't cut it. I won't deny that hip-hop got hit hard in this, as I really wanted to include records from Quelle Chris, Jay-Z, milo, Armand Hammer, Tyler the Creator, Rapsody, Yelawolf, and yes, Kendrick Lamar on this list and I can't. And queue the outrage by everyone that DAMN. is not making this list, but considering there are  five hip-hop records that beat him out to get here, there isn't room for complaining. And I don't want to hear anything from the indie set either than Father John Misty, Kirin J. Callinan, Spoon, The xx, St. Vincent, and Alvvays missed the cut too - all great records, to be sure, but not quite good or consistent enough. Honestly, the most painful cuts for me came in rock - where Creeper, Chelsea Wolfe, and Ayreon all missed it - and especially country, where Natalie Hemby, Angaleena Presley, Dori Freeman and Chris Stapleton all didn't make it - again, great albums, but limited slots. Finally, we have three records that would have sparked controversy had they landed on the list so there is a part of me they just missed the cut: Jhene Aiko, Brand New, and Niall Horan - although there is another part of me that would love to see everyone's expression if Niall made my year end list and Kendrick didn't.

But again, those are my Honourable Mentions... and now onto the list proper.

Friday, October 27, 2017

video review: 'ken' by destroyer

I honestly think this might be one of my best reviews - what can I say, Destroyer brings out the poetic side of my writing in a really good way, I dug this.

Next up, some older business I should have covered a good month ago, so stay tuned!

album review: 'ken' by destroyer

It's hard to talk about Dan Bejar's work as Destroyer. Not just for its sheer diversity of tones and sounds that have flipped through a dozen different genres over the decades, but also because getting a grip on his writing... well, most people don't. Hell, even with every listen to his records I don't quite feel I always get his turns of phrase, and I've struggled to articulate why that is. Even on songs where he does get more direct - and there's been less and less of that with his work in the 2010s - the implications and subtext of his work often linger longer than the actual text, sometimes picking up enough of a foundation like in the cinematic swell and grounded themes of Poison Season, but other times... look, I like Kaputt, but that record can get lost in its own slick 80s-inspired sophisti-pop atmosphere, and I often find myself going back to the more grounded but still potent Thief, or Streethawk: A Seduction, or my personal favourite, the melodically stunning Your Blues.

But one tone I've always felt can be hit-and-miss for Dan Bejar was instability, mostly because I've always found him most compelling at his most refined and measured and emotionally expressive, where you can tell the structure reinforces and propels the emotional transcendence that his most poetic lines and delivery can hit. Without that structure, you get records like Trouble In Dreams and This Night, frequently compelling but messy in a way that gives you the suspicious feeling Bejar might be trolling his audience - and even if he swears he's not, it's not a feeling that goes away. Such was my concern with ken, which was reportedly scaling back from the grandiose power of Poison Season for something a little smaller and sleazier, with chill murky tones playing for noir but potentially tilting in over-stylized but conceptually underweight kitsch - in other words, the buzz was not exactly promising. But I wanted to dig into this for myself - Bejar is too good of a writer and too innovative a composer for me to not give this a chance, so what did I find in ken?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

the top 25 best albums of 2015 (VIDEO)

And now we've got the last of the lists - damn, this video took WAY too much work to get online...

Okay, next up... well, it's Rachel Platten, so nobody cares, but after that is Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

the top 25 best albums of 2015

We're now onto my final list, the one that always produces a certain amount of frustration as I struggle to recognize the best of the best. And as I said in my last list, it's always difficult to narrow it down to the best of the best. And this year was probably the hardest yet, mostly because it started so damn strong and was able to sustain that momentum into late this year. And while I was able to trim this list down to 25. And thus for the sake of my own conscience, I need to mention a few Honourable Mentions in no particular order that just missed this list. 

Because believe me, when you have comeback records like No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney and Tetsuo & Youth by Lupe Fiasco that show huge returns to form, they deserve at least a shoutout. Hell, an album that features a creative rebirth like Baroness' Purple which dropped very late in the year deserves it too. And then you have underappreciated gems like Escape From Evil by Lower Dens, one of the great unsung synthpop records of this year. And on that note, as much it might be a bit of a contentious statement to say that hip-hop had a great year, I stand by it - when you have Earl Sweatshirt, Jay Rock, The Underachievers, Yelawolf, Pusha T and Czarface dropping stellar sophomore records, coupled with comebacks of unexpected quality from Ludacris and killer debuts from Joey Bada$$, all of which might have had a shot for this list in a weaker year, that's saying something. And that's not counting the list itself that's at least twenty percent hip-hop, but we'll get to that - hell, might as well start with...

Monday, September 28, 2015

video review: 'poison season' by destroyer

And about time I could get this done! Fantastic record, so highly recommended!

Next up, the next of my extremely deep backlog before the tidal wave of CHVRCHES, Kurt Vile, Julia Holter, Silversun Pickups, The Underachievers, and so many more! Stay tuned!

album review: 'poison season' by destroyer

Let's talk a little about lyrics. I've often been told that in comparison with most music critics, I pay much more attention to the writing than the sound of the album itself, and in a few conversations with other critics, I've come to realize that I might be the exception than the rule with that approach. Where the conversation gets interesting is when it comes to the mainstream public, because where I'm fairly certain I care about the writing more than some critics, I know for certain I care more than most audiences, and even then it breaks down by genre how much one might care - lyrics matter more in folk and country and arguably most of hip-hop than they do in, say, electronica. Now I could argue that I care more about lyrics because I'm a writer myself and I love to decode poetry good and bad alike, but I reckon even in the cases where they're easy to ignore good writing plays a purpose. It's the primary method for the songwriter to convey their art's story or meaning to the audience, with the sonic palette around them being what sets the mood and atmosphere. For me, writing and instrumentation need to have a certain amount of balance when I consider an entire piece, with strengths and weaknesses in both being enough to save or sink an album.

That's why, believe it or not, when I hear about records that are highly touted for their lyrics above all else and aren't hip-hop albums, I'm intrigued but cautious. Sure, I'm predicated to like this sort of thing more, but that means as a critic I have to make sure I'm not giving undue praise when it's not earned. Thankfully, today we're talking about Destroyer, the project of Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Bejar and an artist whose lyrical eccentricities often are matched by eclectic and interesting instrumentation that at its worst can feel sloppy or indulgent but at best can be genuinely breathtaking in beauty and melodic composition. Affiliated with critically acclaimed indie rock group The New Pornographers, who really have a disturbingly high record of producing great side projects from their members, the most striking thing about Destroyer is the choice to switch up musical sounds with nearly every album. From the tight cohesion that defined the excellent Streethawk and Thief to the meandering and yet compelling mess of This Night to the synth-touched and goddamn spectacular Your Blues to the drunken cacophony of Trouble In Dreams. Now since his 2011 album Kaputt - which I thought had some great writing and some gorgeous melodies but could meander a little in late-80s easy listening territory, Dan Bejar has been taken longer and longer between releases, and now he's finally got a new album: Poison Season. And with it came the explosion of critical acclaim: was the album actually worthy of it?