Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Sunday, December 8, 2019

video review: 'romance' by camila cabello


Yeah, before I get to Fen I might as well talk about this - stay tuned!

album review: 'romance' by camila cabello

The popularity of Camila Cabello seems to have to do with everything except the music itself.

And that's a loaded statement, but let's run through it: the widely-publicized split from Fifth Harmony, a well-managed Instagram glam presence when a lot of mainstream pop acts don't really play that game conventionally, and the increasingly cringe-worthy back-and-forth she has with Shawn Mendes with seems to be trying a little too hard to be believable or likable. And in the 2019 mainstream pop market, that might be enough to stand out... even as I can't help but see a faint whiff of similar marketing that Jennifer Lopez used over fifteen years ago in the early 2000s.

And like that era of J.Lo, Camila Cabello's music is bad and riding way more on a faint approximation of style than vocal talent or quality. By far the worst vocalist from Fifth Harmony thanks to her breathy, chewy delivery and weak shrillness, her debut Camila was an exercise in amateurish production that provided more texture than her by-the-numbers forgettable material deserved. And like J.Lo ahead of her, her popularity translating to success lives and dies on the hits, and when you look at her solo output that's not a sterling record. Yes, 'Senorita' was massive, but let's be real: swap out Camila for Becky G or Karol G and doesn't the song get immediately better, maybe because the song is more reliant on brand and marketing? Because when Camila has been required to carry hits by herself, 'Shameless' was a flop because it was a flagrant attempt to co-opt the darker pop edge, and even with the benefit of the crossover Latin market 'Liar' has underperformed. So to hear that her label was dumping this album in early December - I mean, it's not January like last time, but to me that screams like Epic and Syco - the latter of which, I should remind you, is run by Simon Cowell - dumping a turd that doesn't even have a 'Havana' for crossover, especially given the messy recording process that was Camila in 2018. So yeah, this likely wasn't any good - what did we get?

Friday, December 6, 2019

video review: '2020' by richard dawson


So I'm thinking I might skirt controversy by being late on this one... we'll have to see. Anyway, tomorrow seems a little overstuffed with things for me to get done, but I still do want to get this Camila Cabello review done (sigh), so stay tuned!

album review: '2020' by richard dawson

Yeah, this one has been long in coming.

Okay, some context: I first became aware of Richard Dawson in 2017 for his album Peasant, which got the sort of critical acclaim that prompted me to take a look at his back catalog - hell, at some point I'm fairly certain he was added to my schedule and I just ran out of time to cover him, because 2017 was like that. But I checked out his early albums and... well, I've always been a little uncomfortable with the term 'outsider artist', but especially on those early projects full of half-formed, ramshackle folk music with oblique lyrics and awkward singing, it did feel appropriate. And it wasn't my thing - not helped by the fact that his songs and albums ran long - but I got the impression that if things tightened up I could get into it. And going back to Peasant now, it has the feel of pastoral folk music from the middle ages run through warped contortions both in the writing and composition, taking the odd romanticism to which some treat that particular era of history and making it as realistically grotesque as possible across its fables. Which... okay, I appreciate deconstruction and satire and even this era of history, but I struggled to see what deeper point he was trying to make about that era, and despite slightly more conventional structures, I wasn't really loving the music enough to go for the deep dive.

So when his newest album 2020 was proclaimed his most accessible project to date and one moving its satire to the modern age to a lot of critical acclaim... look, I've seen a ton of people love this album and I do like some folk weirdness, so what did we get on 2020?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 7, 2019 (VIDEO)


So it might not be obvious, but I've had a fucking miserable night trying to get all of this put together. Jesus Fucking CHRIST, YouTube can fellate several shotgun barrels, their horrible UI design and worthless back-end deserves all the scorn in the world and every developer and QA tester should be fired into the goddamn sun.

ANYWAY, I have no idea what I'm going to review next, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 7, 2019


So regardless of any scattered tidbits of information we might get the next week or two, I'm at least confident that this week is in the 2020 Billboard year - a pretty busy week too, mostly thanks to the abortive mini-album bomb of Trippie Redd and the return of Christmas music, but I guess I'll take what I can get here as the charts continue to slow down as we head deeper into the holidays?

resonators 2019 - episode #023 - 'internal affairs' by pharoahe monch (VIDEO)


Oh, this is going to piss people off... eh, I stand by it. Billboard BREAKDOWN is up next, so stay tuned!

resonators 2019 - episode #023 - 'internal affairs' by pharoahe monch

I think I'm in the quarter of Resonators entries where I'm just going to be reviewing acts that I otherwise know and and like a great deal already - a little different than the discovery and research that came from last year's genre, but when the albums are pretty consistently great, am I supposed to complain?

Anyway, the story of this artist begins in the late 80s with the duo with the very timely name Simply II Positive MCs - in a desire to remain more marketable in changing times they'd rename themselves to Organized Konfusion and begin releasing critically acclaimed cult albums throughout the the 90s. And while the critics adored them for forward-thinking content and a unique sound in the era of gangsta rap, their eclectic and varied delivery and lyricism meant they never really saw mainstream success - kind of a damn shame because they didn't skimp on hooks or catchiness either, but that happens more than it should in the underground even today. But three albums in and after a particularly ambitious but mostly failed 1997 project The Equinox, the duo decided to split amicably and go their separate ways to chase solo crossover - and when you consider both had been rapping and producing their own projects through the entire decade, it's not surprising they wanted to thin out their workload and narrow their focus. It would take a relatively long time for member Prince Po to land his solo debut with The Slickness in 2004 to generally positive coverage, but the other rapper would receive immediate acclaim with his release in 1999 on Rawkus, featuring a murder's row of collaborators and later highlighted as one of the best hip-hop debuts of all time. And given that I've talked about this artist before and it's near the twentieth anniversary of its release - and the long-awaited re-release on streaming platforms long thought impossible thanks to sample clearance issues - it's time we go back to the source: this is Internal Affairs by Pharoahe Monch, and this is Resonators!

Monday, December 2, 2019

video review: 'ghetto cowboy' by yelawolf


Okay, so Resonators is going to be dropping at some point tomorrow evening along with Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'ghetto cowboy' by yelawolf

So when I reviewed Yelawolf's Trunk Muzik III earlier this year, I made the observation that you could tell he wasn't happy with his label Shady, under the purview of Eminem. Actually, that's probably an understatement, because with every listen I gave that album I got the unpleasant impression that not only did it feel like a slapdash rush to get something out that would get him away from Shady, he did it by getting a verse from Machine Gun Kelly to boot as a final middle finger to them. And on some level I couldn't really blame Yelawolf - at this point Shady's inability to promote any artist who is not named Eminem towards mainstream success is becoming common knowledge, and given that he could have easily made a killing in a year where hip-hop and country crossovers were surging in the mainstream, it's more than a little depressing that didn't happen.

But at the time I also said that I was worried Trunk Muzik III didn't leave Yelawolf in the best place going forward if he wanted to hop to another label - but that was assuming he was going to chase another major label at all. Instead, less than a year later we have Ghetto Cowboy, where Yelawolf has trimmed down his features for a leaner project on his own label Slumerican for a pretty quick rebound, and while I tend to be skeptical of artists releasing more than one album in a year, given what he was leaving I was inclined to be supportive. And hey, I'm a Yelawolf fan and I was pleased to see this sell a bit better than I was expecting, so maybe there was something worthwhile here, so what did we get on Ghetto Cowboy?

Saturday, November 30, 2019

the top ten best hit songs of 2011 (VIDEO)


And here we are - great list to put together, really happy y'all seemed to enjoy watching it, and it's the last of the retro lists finished for the 2010s!

Next up, I've got an episode of Resonators coming so stay tuned!

the top ten best hit songs of 2011

You know, I've said a number of times that my favourite lists to make are the top ten hits of any respective year, mostly because I have peculiar taste when it comes to my favourites and any chance to compliment songs people have actually heard... well, it's a nice boost. And once this is done - and with the exception of 2019 - I will have created these top tens for every year in the 2010s, and given that seemingly everyone is doing a retrospective, it does feel nice to place everything back in context.

But really, if you're examining 2011 in any way, shape, or form, it's a year that defies easy contextualization. Generally a really good year - although I still give a slight edge to the best of 2012 and 2015 - but not one that seemed to fit with any specific trends or sounds. If anything, it felt more like a year dominated by personalities, from the dueling pop divas to the rise of Adele's thunderous 21, an album that seemingly defied all expectations with its success. Yeah, rock was kind of non-existent on the Hot 100 - and you could argue hip-hop was kind of a mixed bag sliding through transition from the club boom - but between pop, soul, R&B, and a surprisingly bright year for country, there was a lot to like about 2011. More importantly, it was a year where the great songs were consistently great, where I didn't even have much difficulty filling out a solid - albeit surprising - list of Honourable Mentions. As always, the songs had to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end list in 2011 to qualify, so let's get things started with...

Thursday, November 28, 2019

video review: 'desert dove' by michaela anne


Well, about time I got to this... genuinely great album, so happy I can finally cover it.

Next up... whoo boy, I've got a top ten list, Resonators, and a review that's probably long-overdue... stay tuned!

album review: 'desert dove' by michaela anne

So here's the problem with discussing trends in an independent or underground scene: they're much tougher to contextualize. Some of this comes from the inability to hear all the acts that might be creating or shifting the sound - there are always more than you might think - some of it is rooted in the uneven speed in which such trends evolve, as some sounds will stick for years while others are gone before you know it. And in some cases just classifying the sounds as a 'trend' might be painting with too broad of a brush - there is such a thing as coincidence, after all, and sometimes a bunch of acts land in the same territory all at once; it can happen.

Of course, the success of one act relative to the mainstream can kick all of this into high gear and spread the influence further... so let's talk about the current wave of more 'atmospheric' country music, which I'm going to coin as 'dream country' in the vein of dream pop because I feel like it. And it's not far afield either: while the mainstream might have touched against some of the reverb-touched swell and spare sweep of it all in passing before hopping on the next snap beat, the indie scene has been delving deeper into the sounds with increasingly regularity, especially among the women who have been carving into this niche alongside jazzier tones and rockabilly. Often bringing in a lot of folk tones or a splash of psychedelia, you could point to crossover acts like Casualties of Cool or First Aid Kit, the sound has picked up more traction in recent years thanks to crossover projects like The Weight Of These Wings by Miranda Lambert and especially Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves, and that's not to snub fantastic indie acts like Courtney Marie Andrews, Angeleena Presley, or even the last country artist I covered here Caroline Spence who have delved into these tones with some regularity. And while similar tones have suffocated indie folk and indie rock in recent years, what I like about 'dream country' is how acts don't just suffocate themselves in a blissed-out 'vibe' - the tones only accentuate huge voices, jagged touches of texture, and a lonely vibe that gives space to dig into the details. It's also a sound many have highlighted has its roots in California or the folk-leaning 'canyon' sound... which finally takes us to Michaela Anne. She's another artist who slid onto my backlog early thanks to how I liked her pretty straightforward 2014 album Ease My Mind, but I'll admit my interest cooled a bit with her followup Bright Lights and the Fame from 2016, which embraced more dream country textures on some of the deep cuts but also felt weirdly messy at points and trying for more neotraditional country jauntiness that it could convincingly land, at least for me. Unfortunately, her label started going through financial trouble, which stymied the album's promotion and left her in trouble, so she took the risk to move to California, sign to another indie label, and take a major financial risk to write and create Desert Dove. And given the buzz was some of the best she'd seen to date, what did we get here?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 30, 2019 (VIDEO)


Oh boy, this was a total mess... and about the last time I'm properly rendering a video in 4K, because I'm not entirely pleased with how this turned out when it came to this timeline. Anyway, next up... not sure, as the schedule gets messy, but we'll see how it turns - enjoy!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 30, 2019

You know, normally Billboard is a bit more organized when they delineate when their tracking year begins and ends - not this year. A lot of this is tied into some of the messiness that came when they adjusted their tracking week to be closer to current activity instead being so far post-dated, but since the calendar doesn't exactly correlate, this could well be counted as a 53rd week in this year... or the first next year. It's annoying, to say the least, but I'll adjust my records and thumbnail as we get new information.

Monday, November 25, 2019

video review: 'hyperspace' by beck


And here we go - I think some folks might be a little surprised by this one, but still a decent project. Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and then maybe something out of my backlog a bit overdue, so stay tuned!

album review: 'hyperspace' by beck

I didn't even do a full review of Beck's last album.

And I wanted to, believe me - I've been a fan of Beck for years, his genre-blending combined with an uncanny knack for hooks and some ridiculously sharp songwriting has made him one of those artists emblematic of the mid-90s alternative scene, and often praised as an innovator... and yet time has not been all that kind to him. There hasn't been a serious critical reexamination of Beck's legacy by mainstream rock critics and I think I understand why: if they did, they might come to the abrupt realization that his motley pile-up of genres was more novelty and streamlined craftsmanship than genre-pushing experimentation. To quote music critic Steven Hyden, part of his charm was that he was a jack of all trades and a master of none, but that can be a curse years later when the genre fusions become routine and folks are no longer impressed - or in the age of broader music distribution and access to a broader array of underground albums that might not have been heard widely at the time, you realize even the genre fusions aren't that innovative. 

Granted, some of this wouldn't matter if Beck's music had aged a little better or kept up consistent quality. Yeah, Sea Change is heartbreaking and he always tends to wring out a solid single, but I'm not at all surprised that people were underwhelmed by Morning Phase, even if I still think it's a pretty great album with some phenomenally warm, well-blended textures. But it was also signifying that a guy who had once been framed as breaking from the establishment was very much becoming a part of it simply by getting older, and Colors was sadly a glaring example of this, not helped by Greg Kurstin giving him a sound that was paradoxically colourless - hell, even leaving it on the Trailing Edge I probably overrated it. Yes, I still like 'Wow' despite myself for being just kooky enough to connect, but if you want the biggest example of how Beck is in a very different space now than he was twenty years ago? I'll tell you: when I saw U2 a few years back, he was the opening act - yeah.

And thus, again, I had rock bottom expectations when it came to this new album. Yes, the fact that it was being co-produced with Pharrell of all people intrigued me - especially as I can see some real common ground between their brands of weirdness - but the last time Pharrell strayed into oddball production outside of hip-hop proper, we got sweetener from Ariana Grande, Wanderlust from Little Big Town, and Man Of The Woods from Justin Timberlake. So with all of that in mind, how is Hyperspace?

Sunday, November 24, 2019

video review: 'everyday life' by coldplay


Anyone who thinks critics enjoy making these kinds of reviews... yeah, no, this wasn't fun. I wanted to like this WAY more than I did.

And while I'm on that subject, I've got Beck up next - stay tuned!

album review: 'everyday life' by coldplay

It feels like it's been longer than it's actually been since I talked about Coldplay.

Now for you all that has more to do with Warner Music Group throwing a copyright block on my review of the last album to take it down worldwide only days after it was posted - because spineless violations of journalistic fair use are fun for the family - but the larger truth is that I just haven't had much incentive to seek or discuss Coldplay in the 2010s. Sure, they had a single pop up on my year-end list of the best hits of 2016 - that being 'Hymn For The Weekend' with Beyonce - but to be perfectly candid, it was more of a factor of the Hot 100 in 2016 being an absolute garbage fire rather than the song being a credible standout.

And yet this isn't coming from someone who as a critic dislikes this band, even if they've given me plenty of credible reasons - for the most part I like Coldplay, and they're incredible live. But if I were to compare the cyclical melodic progressions, strident crescendos, and willowy wistfulness of their best material across the 2000s, the 2010s have seen them flailing with pop and electronic pivots that don't fully play to those strengths, rarely bad but frequently underweight and bland. Granted, it didn't help the production quality took a nose dive when they ditched Brian Eno, but I'd argue the bigger problem was a collapse in dynamic range - at their best, Coldplay could take their broad abstractions to soar, feel like so much more than was present explicitly in the text, but with every layer of stiff percussion and underweight electronics, I just got no emotional impact. 

And thus I was worried about Everyday Life, because at this point, Coldplay's pop pivot wasn't going to stop, especially given Max Martin cowriting with them. And yet while this album was being advertised as a double album, in reality each disc was pretty short so this project still clocked under an hour - thank god. But hey, rock bottom expectations, there's nowhere to go but up, right, so how is Everyday Life?