Showing posts with label marianas trench. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marianas trench. Show all posts

Sunday, June 30, 2019

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2019

So for one of the first times when I'm making this midyear retrospective, I have to introduce a major caveat: I'm putting together this list before listening to the long-awaited return collaboration between Freddie Gibbs and Madlib. Make no mistake, I want to hear it and it'll probably get a ton of praise from me given how much I loved Pinata, but it's also going to be a project I'll need time to process and I don't want to rush a review before the midyear and risk delays, so if you're wondering why that's not here, that's why.

But it's also important to highlight that even if that album is as amazing as I hope it'll be, it would face some stiff competition this year! I highlighted last year how even despite getting a pretty reasonable spread of albums it was easy to put things in position, and I wanted to say it'd be same here... until I truly took a look at how many truly stunning albums we've gotten in the first half of 2019! Country has delivered in spades, underground hip-hop is firing on all cylinders, I've got solid cuts from rock and punk and metal, and even pop and R&B have given me some choice cuts. As such, this is one of those years I've had to make some painful cut to whittle this list down to twelve albums and twenty-four songs outside those albums, and just like last year, I have to stress just because an album didn't make this midyear list is no guarantee it won't make the year-end, or that positions won't evolve or change. Also - and I feel this important to emphasize - if you're expecting to see some big name critical darlings here... well, suffice to say 2019 has been a year where I'm flying down a very different path than many mainstream critics, so if you're looking for certain albums... go check to see if I've reviewed them, that's all I'm saying.

And given that this is the sixth one of these lists I've assembled, I've got twelve albums, twenty four songs not otherwise on those albums, and let's start with...

Thursday, March 7, 2019

video review: 'phantoms' by marianas trench

So yeah, little disappointing here, but still pretty great all the same.

If you want the larger disappointment... well, stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

album review: 'phantoms' by marianas trench

So I won't mince words: I was nervous about covering this album.

And I'm not sure why - Marianas Trench is the sort of stridently Canadian pop rock act that has never let me down, with two albums under their belt that are damn near classics: 2009's Masterpiece Theater and 2015's Astoria, which if you all remember the latter was my top album of that year! And I'll admit part of it was just nervous jitters that aren't all that rational: frontman Josh Ramsay is one of the most powerful vocalists working today and a terrific technical songwriter, he's one of the big reasons most of you know who Carly Rae Jepsen even is, and you'd think that would be enough for me to have faith this would be incredible.

But I'll admit I was nervous regardless - it had been four years since Astoria, and pop rock has changed a lot since 2015. Too many promising acts in their lane have either gone pure pop to diminishing returns or outright collapsed, and while Marianas Trench have been unafraid to chase their own lanes before, the few moments I didn't like on Astoria did come through succumbing to questionable modern trends. And more to the point, Astoria had felt like a culmination of larger stories that had run through Masterpiece Theater and Ever After, a semi-autobiographical narrative put to bed for new beginnings ahead, and I just had no idea what to expect. I hadn't checked out any of the singles, I was going in cold to take in the full album experience - for as relentlessly catchy as the singles can be I still hold Marianas Trench as an album act - so what did we get off of Phantoms?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 21, 2017 (VIDEO)

And to catch up on Billboard BREAKDOWN... this. Man, I wish this week had been better...

In any case, it's FINALLY time to talk about Run The Jewels, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 21, 2017

This is one of those oddly deceptive weeks that you occasionally see on the Hot 100 - yes, I will have things to say about our new number one, but the big story there is masking what would seem to be a mostly static week, especially in our top 40. But if you look closer and deeper and beyond a pretty sparse list of new arrivals, you'll see that there's a fair bit more coming downstream - maybe not as many gains as last week but a significant list all the same that does show an interesting shift on the horizon.

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...

Friday, January 1, 2016

the top 50 best songs of 2015

And now we're onto the list that's always the hardest for me to make, mostly because it requires by far the most work: the best songs of the year, overall. Not just hits, but singles and deep cuts from album ranging from widely successful to barely out of the underground.

And this year was harder than most, mostly because it was a damn great year for music. The charts may have been strong, but that was nothing compared to the cavalcade of great music we got, which meant that cutting this list down from thousands to around 630 to 165 to the fifty we have meant that there were a lot of painful cuts, so much so that I seriously considered instituting a one-song-per-album rule. In the end... I couldn't do it, because there were some records that were so unbelievably good that I had to include multiple entries. Now we'll be covering those albums in greater detail a bit later this week, but in the end I held to the rule that at most I could put three songs from any one album on this list - and that we easily had more of those makes my argument that was a damn solid year of music, probably better than last year's, all the more powerful. 

One more thing before we start: while I can describe music well and why it works for me on a technical level, most of the songs on this list cut a fair bit deeper than that, and thus I'll endeavor to provide some emotional context as to why they worked so well beyond a purely intellectual exercise. And of course it's my picks - there might some common overlap between my choices and other critics, but it would be disingenuous to choose tracks for 'cultural importance' rather than what really got to me more deeply.

So let's start with a track that completely threw me off-guard.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

video review: 'astoria' by marianas trench

Man, this review was so satisfying to do. Such a great band, they definitely deserve more recognition.

Anyway, next up... hmm, I've already got a review filmed and I just need to polish up editing, but I think I have the perfect idea for a follow-up here...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

album review: 'astoria' by marianas trench

This is one of the big ones, folks. This is one of the albums I've been looking forward to all year, from a Canadian pop rock band that's been quiet too long. A group that may have started with a debut that seemed to come at the tail end of a commercial boom before quietly becoming an absolute powerhouse up here with hit after hit after hit. A group that for no adequately explained reason has ever really crossed into the US even despite having irrepressibly catchy songs, solid production, excellent songwriting, and one hell of a frontman. Why is that?

Honestly, I'm not sure. I'd argue a big factor was distribution - the band's star-making, damn near classic record pop rock Masterpiece Theater didn't hit the US until September of 2010, over eighteen months after it was released in Canada, and while we couldn't get enough of them across 2011 and 2012 with the excellent record Ever After, the US charts were in a profound state of turbulence in the collapse of the club boom, I'm not really blaming them here. Thankfully they got that settled through a deal with Cherrytree and Interscope, but a bigger part of it is that Marianas Trench were a different sort of pop rock act, taking much of Fall Out Boy's theatrical ambitions and writing and marrying it to a far more lean and melodic sound, trading the obnoxiousness for populist cleverness. By their second album they had built a three-act structure for a loose conceptual framework, by their third album they embraced all-out narrative storytelling, and after the EP Something Old/Something New that contained satirical tracks like 'Pop 101', one could think that Josh Ramsay's writing was in danger of disappearing up its own ass. But I wouldn't agree here, and when I heard the loose conceptual framework behind their upcoming record Astoria, instrumentally inspired by 80s fantasy and adventure films, I realized we might have something so damn earnest that it transcends irony or satire and just becomes flat out epic - and that's not a word I ever use lightly. So you can bet I was psyched to hear Astoria - does it live up to my high expectations?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

special comment: 'pop 101' (in defense of the genre: pop) (VIDEO)

It's another one of these videos I've been looking to make for a while, and I think it turned out surprisingly well. Might have to do more of these at some point...

Okay next up... well, I need a bit more time to tackle a bunch of acts, so we might be talking about another random debut. Stay tuned!

special comment: 'pop 101' (in defense of the genre: pop)

On August 4 of this year, the Canadian pop rock band Marianas Trench released their music video for a new song titled 'Pop 101', a song that sought to satirize pop music tropes and sounds throughout the past decade, from 2006 Justin Timberlake to 2013 Miley Cyrus. And like Maddie & Tae's 'Girls In A Country Song', The Roots' most recent album ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, and any number of self-aware punk records released since the dawn of the genre, Marianas Trench are commenting upon and satirizing the trends in their own genre of music, and they made a pretty damn solid song along the way.

But the release of that song and the usual slew of comments I get saying, 'Dude, you clearly just don't like pop music, so why bother reviewing it' finally spurred me to put some serious thought into a discussion that's worth having. And this discussion will be centered around three questions: what is pop music? Why do I like it? And is it worth defending? And to answer that question, I'm going to use the example of a Canadian pop rock band who wrote 'Pop 101' and who definitely deserves more attention on both sides of the border.

Monday, November 26, 2012

transgression, sensitivity, and art: a discussion

So the Grey Cup, the final game of the Canadian Football League, is wrapping up as I write this. I honestly don't give a damn about who won either way, but watching the Twitter feed, I did notice a few things that struck my interest regarding the half-time show. First was antipathy, given as Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen were cited as performers. Now, promoters, I get that these two are some of the biggest names in Canadian pop radio right now, but you have to realize that they aren't exactly the kind of acts you want for a championship football game. Personally, I think a rock act would be a lot better. Hell, Gordon Lightfoot, who also performed, would be a better choice, if only because he'd have more name recognition amongst an older Canadian crowd. 

And incidentally, I saw all the tweets ripping on Lightfoot and asking for Bieber to come back on stage - on the one hand, they don't know any better, but on the other hand, it's still fucking infuriating. Diversify your tastes in music, youth of Canada, and stop proving all of my suspicions about your generation correct!

But besides that point, the final act was a small step in the right direction with Marianas Trench. Now, granted, Marianas Trench are a pop rock act that probably has a fair amount of overlap with Bieber's audience, but they put on a good show and they are a pretty solid act. So when I checked out Twitter, I was expecting to see the typical fangirl squeeing.

Instead I saw a number of tweets accusing Marianas Trench of making fun of people with speech impediment by performing their song 'Stutter', a song from their 2011 album Ever After