Showing posts with label open mike eagle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label open mike eagle. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

video review: 'what happens when i try to relax' by open mike eagle

Well, this was a great little project - definitely worth your time, check this out!

And now for a much less appealing project...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

album review: 'what happens when i try to relax' by open mike eagle

I missed covering the last time Open Mike Eagle put out an EP. And if you know anything about the hip-hop content on this channel and how often Open Mike Eagle has made my year-end list, I won't be making that mistake again.

And really, I'm not sure why I didn't review A Special Episode Of in 2015 - it was already a pretty strong year for hip-hop, I wouldn't have objected to another great project on the pile, especially considering my rules for EPs were flexible at best, even then. And yet when you consider the other years of which I've covered him... well, Dark Comedy was only beaten back by Run The Jewels and Jason Eady, and Brick Body Kids Still Daydream was only narrowly beaten out by the Mountain Goats, and even Hella Personal Film Festival with Paul White was my favourite hip-hop album of 2016 - if that's not a stirring indictment of how lyrical and potent of an MC he is, I don't know what is!

But Open Mike Eagle has had a busy year regardless - between podcasts, a show on Comedy Central, and a pro wrestling bout that showed him holding his own in the ring on the indie circuit, I was a bit amazed he had time to cut and promote another project... but hey, six tracks on his own new label, I wasn't about to sit this one out even amidst a strong year for hip-hop, so what did we get from What Happens When I Try To Relax?

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.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

the top 50 songs of 2017 (VIDEO)

And there we go. Massive videos, really proud with how they turned out - enjoy!

the top 50 best songs of 2017

I said on Twitter a few months ago that of all of my year-end lists, this one is always the most complicated - because it's by far the most personal. With the constraint of a list of hits or talking about records in aggregate, you've manufactured some distance - but if you're just going through the list of the songs that spoke the most to you regardless of whether they were a single or not, there's no separation or barrier.

And when you add to the fact that 2017 was a tumultuous year - not just for me but for most of the world, although I did have my own share of trying times - it's a little unnerving to go through the cutting process and realize how dark it truly got. There isn't much escapism in this top 50, and what escapism does show up is very much colored by consequences waiting in the wings. I'm not saying it's downbeat - in comparison to the melancholy that colored a lot of last year, there are more pronounced moments of joy and triumph - but it is by far the most unsettled, pulling the least punches and ultimately producing a psychological profile of my year in 2017 I'm still not quite sure what to do with. But hey, all of these came from albums I covered this year, and I wouldn't have spent a month pruning this list to its form now if I didn't have faith in it - even though I can guarantee there'll be a fair few conspicuous entries that aren't here if you're comparing to other critical lists. So let's get this started...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

video review: 'brick body kids still daydream' by open mike eagle

Whoo boy, this was a bleak, but potent as hell listen. I really can't recommend this highly enough, it is something special...

But up next, we've got Foo Fighters and Billboard BREAKDOWN - which will be first? Stay tuned!

Monday, September 18, 2017

album review: 'brick body kids still daydream' by open mike eagle

Okay, it's been a tagline across many of my hip-hop reviews this year that hip-hop hasn't really had a strong 2017... and yeah, I think that's mostly true, but I don't want to focus on that this time around, because like it or not, there has been good to even great rap music that's been released. I've already talked plenty of times at length about Run The Jewels who started off the year, but between the mainstream dominance of Kendrick, the stronger-than-expected returns from Jay-Z and Tyler, The Creator, a solid sophomore follow-up from Joey Bada$$, and potent underground success from Uncommon Nasa, Quelle Chris and Milo, there have been albums worth talking about.

And yet this is one that I was most excited about, falling in the last category of underground heavyweights aiming to drop the cerebral and experimental project that gets all the hip-hop heads talking... although what I've found amusing is not only is Open Mike Eagle affiliated with all of the underground acts I just mentioned, he's also building a pretty impressive bit of traction himself off of well-deserved critical acclaim and a cult following. I may have missed A Special Episode Of as an EP, but I loved Dark Comedy in 2014 and his collaboration with producer Paul White - who later went on to unleash madness with Danny Brown on Atrocity Exhibition - with Hella Personal Film Festival is just as remarkable to this day. But Brick Body Kids Still Daydream was looking to be different: a concept record exploring the Robert Taylor Homes, a housing project in the south side of Chicago that was torn down in the faceless rush of gentrification and yet was never rebuilt. Immediately my mind went to The Hope Six Demolition Project, a potent if slightly directionless project from PJ Harvey last year that touched on similar themes, but given Open Mike Eagle's penchant for storytelling and empathy, this seemed like it would cut far deeper. In other words, you can bet this was a top priority for me to review, so what did I find on Brick Body Kids Still Daydream?

Monday, January 9, 2017

the top 25 best albums of 2016

And now, the final list, the one that always gives me the most anxiety but also the one that I'm always happy to have finalized by the end of the year - or by the first few days of next year, I'm going on vacation for the first week of January and I'm in a bit of a rush to get packed and ready on time, so this video might be a day or two late. 

But in an odd way that's kind of representative of 2016's albums as a whole, as I've definitely not seen a lot of common consensus surrounding picks - and fair warning, that'll be very true with these as well. Great records in 2016 came in fits and spurts, with a lot of big returns that didn't quite impress me, some debuts that blew me out of the water, and a predominant theme of endings that ran through a lot of albums that I covered and loved this year. I'm not quite sure if it's reflecting the tempo of the times or my personal feelings surrounding the year, but this list really feels all over the place, all albums I loved but coming from radically different locations, styles, and genres than I expected. In other words, there are albums that you will not recognize on this list, and a few major exclusions.

But it also runs deeper than that: for instance, this is the first year I've ever given out a perfect score on this channel - and then I did it twice. I'll get more into this when I talk about the albums at length, but I would recommend you consider my top two choices as interchangeable at best, I flip back and forth with them every day. There's also a whole bunch of albums that narrowly missed the cut, from punk veterans like Against Me!, White Lung and Jeff Rosenstock, to metal and experimental rock like Swans, Savages, Epica and Tarja to hip-hop powerhouses like clipping., Ka, LMNO, Elzhi, and Denzel Curry. And as I've mentioned a number of times, country had one of its best years in recent memory, and that led to some extremely painful cuts, from the superb pop country of Jennifer Nettles to the neotraditional tones of Cody Jinks and Mark Chesnutt to the stripped back indie starlets like Karen Jonas and Dori Freeman. Everyone I just mentioned dropped albums this year you can consider honourable mentions that I couldn't rank if I wanted to and are all worth your time, but now it's time for the list proper, starting with...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2016 (VIDEO)

Well, this video was a ton of fun to make. Took me less time than I expected too, but it's always one of my favourites every year.

Next up... look, I've never had any interest in Blink-182, so I kind of want to cover the Weval record or Blood Orange... but we are coming up to my third year anniversary, and you all should remember what that means, so stay tuned!

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2016

There will be a lot of headlines that suggest that 2016 has not been a good year for music - and if you follow the mainstream between the losses of several legends and a haphazard set of releases that slide between underwhelming and disappointing, that's easy to believe.

Of course, that view is not really reflective of reality, because if you look away from the Billboard Hot 100 - which I would advise, it's been a rough six months there - there is quality here. I think the big issue comes in that there have been fewer than normal outright smashes and instant classics as there were at the midyear of 2015, which was really frontloaded with incredible records. 2016 has been more scattershot, with a lot of great records that don't quite rise to the level of immediate classics, and also a fair bit more diverse. Country and folk, for one, have been a great year across subgenres, underground hip-hop has been pretty solid, and there's some great R&B, metal, and rock music that I've liked a fair bit. And that's before you get the genre-bending stuff that sticks the landing incredibly well, and I'd argue we've seen a lot of that thus far.

What this means is that it's been excruciating trying to narrow this down to my usual top twelve, in that the top half was very straightforward but the bottom half is a lot harder to cut. So while I almost chose to open things up to a top fifteen albums of the mid year, I figured I might as well stick with tradition and keep it at twelve, which meant some painful cuts - some of which I think will surprise you. So without further ado, let's start with...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

video review: 'hella personal film festival' by open mike eagle & paul white

So this album is fantastic. Again, bit of a hot streak with pretty damn solid records to make up for how slow this year started. I'm enthused, so let's check out that Cobalt record next - stay tuned!

album review: 'hella personal film festival' by open mike eagle & paul white

Well, this is a bit awkward.

See, those who have followed me for the past few years know that I covered Open Mike Eagle's Dark Comedy in 2014 - so much so that it landed on my year end list of my favourite records of that years at #3. And really, that record gets better every single time I hear it: a glitchy, frequently funny, often heartbreaking hip-hop record with so much unique wordplay and thought-provoking ideas that it showed Open Mike Eagle at the top of his game.

And yet even though I really loved that project, I kind of missed both of the projects he dropped in 2015. The first is a little more explainable - A Special Episode Of was an EP, I don't normally cover EPs, and while I did hear it and thought it was really solid, it wasn't really something that captured my attention in the same way Dark Comedy did, and I've always felt that Open Mike Eagle's thoughts are best expressed on fully formed albums rather than short form. The second project is a little less explicable - a collaboration with Serengeti under the name Cavanaugh, something that just slid through the cracks at the end of the year with mostly positive reviews.

But I'm not missing out this time and even though this is also a collaboration project, it strikes me as a little more of a traditional Open Mike Eagle project, as Paul White is a UK-based producer known for working with Danny Brown that handles the majority of the production here. And considering the sound was reportedly more sample driven and soulful - and yet of course still containing that glitchiness you'd expect from Open Mike Eagle that seems to characterize his anxious neuroses - I wondered how well a greater focus on melody would complement Open Mike Eagle's occasionally sing-song rapping cadence. Either way, a blend of old-school sounds and progressive hip-hop is right up my alley, so I dug deep into Hella Personal Film Festival - what did I get?

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, July 15, 2014

video review: 'dark comedy' by open mike eagle

Wow, this was incredible. The record may have taken a long time to review, but it definitely was worth covering. Trust me, get this album, it's awesome.

Next up is Weird Al and some real solid comedy. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 14, 2014

album review: 'dark comedy' by open mike eagle

So, how many of you are absolutely sick of the songs about money, cars, drugs, and hos in hip-hop music?

Look, I'm of the belief that you can talk about anything and everything you want to in music, so long as you do it well, but to say that certain subjects in rap music can wear me out shouldn't be all that surprising. I'm usually a fan of when rappers take established cliches and subvert them or heighten them for parody or satire, like what Clipping and The Roots did on their most recent records, or when they at least can present the cliches impressively with good rapping technique, flow, or poetic language. 

But there's another side to hip-hop outside of gangsta rap: the vaguely defined yet endlessly interesting subgenre of alternative hip-hop that tends to avoid traditional rap cliches and draws upon richer wells for their instrumentation and style, like jazz or soul or reggae or electronica or even country and folk. Originally rising in parallel with alternative rock throughout the late 80s and early 90s, it was unfortunately sidelined and shoved into the underground by the fast rise of the more commercially-viable, hard-edged gangsta rap. Thankfully, with the rise of the internet, more of these acts have risen to prominence and critical acclaim, even if the radio doesn't want to play material that intelligent or political or experimental.

And at the intersection of all three of those adjectives you'd find Open Mike Eagle, an alternative hip-hop artist originally from Chicago before going to LA, he first came to my attention in 2011 with his shockingly intelligent and unsettling record Rappers Will Die Of Natural Causes, partially because of his plain-spoken yet attention-grabbing flow, partially because of his dark, yet varied melody-driven production, and partially because there was a certain frank honesty and punch to his wordplay that spoke of some real maturity and knack for telling interesting stories and assuming his audience was smart enough to keep up. He followed it up with 4MNL HSPTL, a much glitchier and darker record that pulled back on the humor and targeted some much more serious subject matter - like the financial crisis, articulated in plain, easy-to-follow language that was rich with references to history and culture that proved that Open Mike Eagle knew exactly what he was talking about. So while this review is almost a month late, I knew I had to sit down at discuss Open Mike Eagle's newest record Dark Comedy, and for this record I took my time and over a dozen listens to really unpack and decipher it - what did I find?