Showing posts with label rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rock. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

video review: 'help us stranger' by the raconteurs

Well this is... actually, I have no idea if this is going to be super controversial or not, we'll have to see.

Anyway, time to venture into a review that I'm genuinely surprised I haven't seen more folks approach - stay tuned!

album review: 'help us stranger' by the raconteurs

Of all of Jack White's side projects, this was the one I least expected him to revisit.

Hell, I thought he had moved on years ago, mostly because The Raconteurs felt like a precursor to everything Jack White would do in the 2010s, laying a foundation of classic rock for Jack White in the latter half of the 2000s to springboard his weirder retro-blues and garage side to wildly varying results in the 2010s. And I'll admit they were always the act that tended to draw the least of my attention, even as you could argue they were the most consistent Jack White side project. I attribute a lot of this to co-frontman Brendon Benson who had a much more measured, conventional rock tone to his song structures and compositions, but that might stand as the most telling drawback of the group, because of every stylized stab into rock Jack White made, The Raconteurs were the most backwards-looking and conventional. And sure, the albums were fine - probably getting the most interesting when they mined the compositional tension between White and Benson - but they were projects that didn't really add much great or boundary pushing in rock in comparison to Blunderbuss, or even Boarding House Reach, an album I'm mixed on to this day but at least was taking chances.

And I bring up Boarding House Reach because it's hard not to feel like the mixed reception or even backlash to that project might have prompted Jack White to reunite with Benson - sure, it's been teased for a while, but if he wanted an easy way to appease an increasingly unpleasable audience, a new album from The Raconteurs over ten years since Consolers of the Lonely would probably help. But at the same time I had low expectations - the songs would probably be fine, but firmly indebted to classic rock and blues and nothing great or challenging. But hey, I'm open to being wrong, so what did we get from Help Us Stranger?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

sonic temple 2019 - review / vlog

Yeah, a little late with this one, but I had a lot of footage to cut together and a lot of reviews to push out the door - still, I'm pretty proud how all of this came together, enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

video review: 'desperate man' by eric church

So... not sure how this'll be received, but it was an interesting album to talk about, even if I didn't quite love it as much as I wanted.

Next up, Ron Gallo and then I'll probably sneak out to see A Star Is Born at some point, so stay tuned!

album review: 'desperate man' by eric church

There's a part of me that wishes I had a firmer clue where Eric Church was going.

See, it seemed simple enough in the early 2010s, where he adopted a brand of swaggering rock-tinged country that could come across a little overblown but tended to have enough details, hooks, and nifty ideas bending around the genre of country music that critics gave him a pass. Then came The Outsiders in 2014, an album that was critically beloved at the time but in retrospect seems to have held up as worse for wear, at least in the circles I run. I'd argue that the record earned a lot of points for its novel steps towards progressive rock and metal that were damn near unheard of at the time, and the sheer balls behind the risk won acclaim... even though even then I was calling it a bloated, overwrought, sloppily produced mess that overplayed its hand, especially in comparison to the other boundary-pushing country albums of that year, and I reckon my opinion has held up a little more strongly than some of that critical acclaim.

And nothing was the strongest rebuke to The Outsiders' awkward reception was Eric Church's follow-up the next year with Mr. Misunderstood, a much needed course correction that still was on the outskirts of country - more roots rock and Americana - but showcased a fair bit more temperance and nuance in Church's songwriting and compositions, still taking risks but with a little more of a level head. And from there, all the buzz seemed to indicate his long-overdue album this year would follow in a similar path - still more rock and blues inspired than outright country, still with a casual blend of genres that thankfully Jay Joyce's much-improved production would flatter, only this time picking up more of a southern, swampy edge that would reflect Church's dogged commitment to pushing the genre into territory not quite untapped but certainly neglected. And given how much I liked Mr. Misunderstood, I had a lot of high hopes for Desperate Man, especially with its terrific lead-off self-titled single. So what did we find with this?

Friday, October 28, 2016

video review: 'integrity blues' by jimmy eat world

And that's two for tonight. Whew, this went down a lot easier than I expecting, really quite pleased with it too. Did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did, that's for sure...

And next up, Tove Lo and... well, this Avenged Sevenfold record is bound to be interesting, I suppose... stay tuned!

album review: 'integrity blues' by jimmy eat world

Of the albums I was expecting that I'd eventually cover this year, a new record from Jimmy Eat World was not one of them.

And to be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure why that is, probably not helped that I'm pretty divided on the group as a whole. I've always considered the band something of a mess of contradictions: the lyrics treading right up to the line of emo with frontman Jim Adkins tending to underplay his delivery... paired with instrumentation that went straight for power pop and never turned back, most of which led to songs that had swell and impact instrumentally but weren't always well matched by their content. It was always a balancing act for me with Jimmy Eat World - at their best, they hit anthemic rock beats that could match the broader scope of their writing, or managed to precisely nail a sweet spot that would make them influential in emo throughout the next decade. 

Granted, by emo standards Jimmy Eat World were never great songwriters - Say Anything never had anything to worry about - which is why I tended to like their more anthemic stabs like Futures and Chase The Light a fair bit more than most, and am willing to forgive some parts of Invented. But 2013's Damage was a frustrating listen, an attempt to go 'back to basics' with their scope and sound, and ditching Mark Trombino's production to do it left with middling results at best - not a bad album, but certainly not one anybody remembered. But there's a part of me that was kind of curious about their album this year Integrity Blues, mostly because they were working with Justin Meldel-Johnsen on production - and even though I've definitely come down hard on his production work in the past, he has injected more personality into his work and that could be a good fit for Jimmy Eat World, who as a band I've always thought could use a little more flash. So okay, how as Integrity Blues?

Monday, April 4, 2016

video review: 'weezer (white album)' by weezer

So I can only imagine how this review will be received... eh, whatever, it happens.

Next up, hopefully a more busy episode of Billboard BREAKDOWN, followed by plenty of new projects on my list, so stay tuned!

album review: 'weezer (the white album)' by weezer

I don't normally talk about artistic legacy on this show, mostly because it'd be unbelievably arrogant of me to assume that I could ever dictate the course of history with one of these reviews. At the end of the day, history is going to proceed as it may, and how much any critic's singular opinion might matter is a complex question. Maybe in the years where singular critical voices had more power and were more recognizable - which paradoxically in the age of YouTube personalities might become a 'thing' again - but when most people read Rolling Stone or Pitchfork, they consider the review a reflection of the outlet's opinion, not of the individual critic who wrote it, and those outlets have more clout than I can see myself having for several years, at the very least.

That said, when you consider the artistic legacy of an act like Weezer, how can you best describe it? A few solid to excellent albums in the 90s, a return to form in the 2010s with Everything Will Be Alright In The End, and between them a wasteland of records that at best were okay and at worst were asinine and insufferable. Because make no mistake, Weezer's been around now for over twenty years, and that length of time becomes significant when you realize how much of their discography doesn't hold up as strongly as you'd hope, especially in comparison with their best. And sure, I can appreciate the relief that Weezer fans must have felt with that record in 2014 actually being good... but at the same time, I have not had any urge to go back and relisten to it in the same way I might Pinkerton or The Blue Album.

And as such I had a lot of mixed feelings about their upcoming newest self-titled record, otherwise known as the 'White Album' - ha, ha, very clever. And yet I had a lot of reservations about covering this, the first being that they pitched long-time collaborating producer Ric Ocasek for Jake Sinclair, the producer you might recognize behind 5 Seconds Of Summer or Taylor Swift. It also didn't help matters that the buzz was suggesting that not only was this record a concept album, but Rivers Cuomo had once again descended down the lyrical rabbit hole - or up his own ass, it's really interchangeable at this point - and I can't be the only one who has long ago ran out of patience for that. I mean, I like eccentric, out-there lyricism that can be tough to decode, but I have a line, and Rivers Cuomo frequently steps over it. So with all of those reservations, how did the 'white album' turn out?

Monday, September 22, 2014

video review: 'songs of innocence' by u2

I went into this hoping this was going to be good or that U2 was actually going back to their roots. Wishful thinking, I know, but man, still a disappointment.

Okay, I need to talk about some country and clear my head, so probably Tim McGraw next. Stay tuned!

album review: 'songs of innocence' by u2

On September 9th of this year, Apple unveiled its newest tech lineup, which included the newest iterations of the iPhone and the Apple Watch, the latest tech gimmick to try to replace the common wristwatch and will likely fall into the same fate unless Apple fetishists embrace it. But that wasn't the only thing revealed at that press conference - because rock band U2 announced that their newest album Songs Of Innocence would be arriving in your iTunes that very day for free should you choose to pull it off the iCloud.

And consumers revolted. Suddenly the big story was the backlash leveled against U2 for not only allying with Apple - which they've done extensively in the past - but that U2 had suddenly injected their newest album into everyone's iTunes library whether they wanted it or not. And the response was emphatic: people did not want this album, to the point where Apple released a tool specifically designed for iTunes users to get rid of the album instead of just waiting for the iCloud download window to expire. And honestly, I was a little shocked by this reaction - I mean, it's free music from one of the biggest rock bands on earth who hadn't dropped an album in five years, why the backlash?

Well, I suspect part of it is that people tend to be protective of what they put in their iTunes libraries, but the larger truth is that many people tend to have complicated feelings regarding U2. They started as one of the most potent and explosive mainstream rock acts of the 80s, known for earnest, explosive power, sweeping scope, and socially-minded lyrics... until Rattle & Hum exposed the mind-boggling pretentiousness and swaggering rock arrogance beneath it that made the band come across as more than a little preachy. Without warning, the band pulled a 180 and went straight for the self-aware shields of irony with Achtung Baby, throwing earnestness aside for a highly artificial image of cool that paid diminishing returns as the 90s wore on and U2 drifted more towards electronic music. This experimentation eventually ended in the flashy and intentionally empty-feeling record Pop, the mixed reception of which pushed U2 back towards the earnest, politically-minded anthems that made their fortune in the 80s. Unfortunately, the shift took a while to stick, mostly because the instrumentation lacked visceral punch and Bono's lyrics had taken a turn for the self-indulgent. And while they would fix some of the former - it was plainly apparent U2 was never going back towards the explosive power of War any time soon, which would probably be my favourite U2 album after The Joshua Tree - the lyrics remained spotty across 2004's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and 2009's even more scattershot No Line On The Horizon. And considering the opening buzz for this album was that it was going to be produced by Ryan Tedder, Paul Epworth, and Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse, the last whose work has taken something of a downturn this year on the new albums from Broken Bells and The Black Keys, I wasn't really looking forward to this album. But hey, it's U2, one of the greatest rock acts of all time, surely they could pull something together, right?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

video review: 'fading west' by switchfoot

Well, glad this is out of my system. Next up should be a few country albums and then I think I'll tackle Little Mix's Salute, just to finally get it out of my system. Stay tuned!

album review: 'fading west' by switchfoot

The worst thing you could ever say to a rock band is that they're boring.

I'm serious here. Think about it from a larger historical context - there have been plenty of bad rock bands throughout the years, especially whenever certain 'movements' of rock have gotten any sort of prominence in the mainstream. But there's a place in conversation about aggressively bad rock bands, because they're at least interesting to talk about even if it is to viciously slag them over and over again. The name remains embedded in the cultural conversation, and ten years later when we're talking about bad bands, we'll remember them for being awful. As much as so many people hate Nickelback or Linkin Park (and really, there are so many worse bands than either of these two - trust somebody who knows), all the hatred they've received hasn't exactly stopped them and won't wipe from the history books when musical scholars have the misfortune to examine the first decade of the 21st century.

But calling a rock band boring is so much worse - because they might not be bad, per se, but being 'acceptable' or 'passable' often translates in a few years outside of a hardcore fanbase into 'forgettable'. And really, the more I look back on the post-grunge scene of the late-90s and 2000s, the more I see bands in this vein completely disappearing from the cultural memory within a few more years. And you want your music to last... well, I can't think of a worse fate.

And now we come to Switchfoot, one of the most strikingly anonymous rock bands to which I've ever listened - mostly because they sound very much like the watered-down versions of whatever style of music was big at the time. Of course, that didn't exactly surprise me given that they started in the Christian rock scene in the late 90s, and they haven't exactly left that genre behind (I'll come back to this). And while Switchfoot has never really had an evangelical bent, those first five or so albums felt very neutered and lacked a certain edge of them, especially in comparison with their contemporaries like The Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age. They were inoffensive, lightweight rock that didn't take any chances, and considering how much they were cribbing from other bands - first the mainstream post-grunge, then a very poor man's Queens of the Stone Age and then moving towards some of the lighter adult alternative in the mid-2000s. They were never as bad as Skillet or Creed, but neither were they anything close to being worth recommending.

But around their album Oh! Gravity, someone apparently told the band that a shift to a more serious, rougher tone might work better for them. On the one hand, the guitars got harsher and more ragged and started reminding me of Foo Fighters minus the memorable riffs - but on the other hand, the tone got darker, and that made the band a whole lot less tolerable. And it was a number of factors, too: Jon Foreman isn't remotely convincing as a heavier singer, the lyrics still weren't much to write home about, and there was an awkward defensiveness (especially on Vice Verses) that really got on my nerves. Despite the fact that Switchfoot never went evangelical, their lack of real humour or wit began to make their preachier songs a lot less tolerable. So I wasn't exactly enthused when I geared myself up to listen to Fading West. I mean, after seven goddamn albums of lightweight, not-particularly memorable Christian rock, did Fading West manage to surprise me?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

video review: ' clockwork' by queens of the stone age

Well, that should take care of the last of my major retrospectives, and it's a great one to end off on, I think.

This is the last big week for album releases, so I'll endeavor to knock back some of the big ones and a few last retrospectives before my year end lists, so stay tuned!

album review: ' clockwork' by queens of the stone age (RETRO REVIEW)

For the longest time this year, I ignored Queens of the Stone Age and their newest album entirely.

And really, that was a big mistake, mostly linked to the fact that I had a few major misconceptions about the band that I only really knew from the few singles I heard from Era Vulgaris six years ago. As I've said a number of times, I skipped over most rock throughout the 2000s and jumped straight into metal, and Queens of the Stone Age were one of those bands I just ignored because I assumed they were just another post-grunge or hard rock band that somehow managed to get rave reviews. 

As I said, big mistake, and I've spent the past three weeks listening through the band's discography and realizing the major errors in my thinking. For one, Queens of the Stone Age are one of those acts that really defies genre classification: they've done hard rock, they've flirted with psychedelia and alternative metal, and while they've worked with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, I wouldn't call them a post-grunge act by any stretch. Also, they're awesome, as in one of the best rock/metal acts of the decade. I stand by my opinion that Era Vulgaris is their worst album, but it's by no means bad (it mostly suffers from the same listlessness that Tonight... Franz Ferdinand had when they made a 'nightlife' album). As to my favourite Queens of the Stone Age record, I'm honestly going to go with Lullabies To Paralyze, simply because the nightmarish fairy tales that Josh Homme wrote about added a lot of twisted flavour to the songwriting, and the album had simply phenomenal grooves and melodies that I really loved.

And thus, having completed my heel-face turn on Queens of the Stone Age, I was psyched to listen through their newest album ...Like Clockwork - albeit six months too late. And I'd be remiss not to mention the importance of this record, or the troubled production process that preceded it. Long-time Queens of the Stone Age drummer Joey Castillo was fired about a third of the way into the recording and replaced by Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme recruited singers like Trent Reznor, Alex Turner, Jake Shears, Elton John, and even former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri for backing vocals. And this was their first album in six years - did ...Like Clockwork manage to work?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

video review: 'lightning bolt' by pearl jam

Man, I had so much fun making this review. It really did remind me why I like doing this, and I had a ton of fun talking about a band I like and a genre of which I'm not the biggest fan. Not gonna lie, I feel really invigorated going forward.

Next review is for Icon For Hire, then I'm going back to country with Scotty McCreery. Stay tuned!

album review: 'lightning bolt' by pearl jam

Well, I knew this was only a matter of time. With the onset of 90s nostalgia, I knew it wouldn't be long before one of the iconic genres of the decade would come back. It's also a genre with which I have a, well, let's call it complicated relationship.

Of course, I'm talking about grunge.

It's hard to argue that grunge didn't play a huge role in 90s music and culture, particularly considering its explosive birth in the underground in the late 80s and its eventual mainstream debut in the early 90s, smashing hair metal, synthpop, and whatever was left of the 80s into the dust to be deemed as 'gay' for a good decade to come. Centered around Seattle, grunge led alternative rock into the mainstream to dominate throughout a good portion of the 90s, with some iconic anthems and classic albums... before devolving into post-grunge in the latter half of the decade and ultimately being responsible for allowing acts like Nickelback and Three Days Grace to become popular.

But in all due seriousness, every time I return to grunge, I find both more and less that I like each time. Yes, the riffs can be potent, yes, the anger can sound righteous, yes, it contributed to the rise of the second punk wave in the mainstream and gave critical acclaim to a bunch of acts that would have remained lodged in the underground for decades otherwise... but man, grunge can get pretty damn insufferable at points, particularly lyrically. Perhaps I'm not blinkered by Gen X's nostalgia for grunge, but too much of the genre just doesn't connect with me, mostly because the instrumentation was at best simplistic (drawing from hardcore punk roots crossed with heavy metal) and at worst haphazard and drowned in feedback. And that's not even touching on the lyrics, which were dour, humourless, more pretentious and serious than they had any right to be, and only capable of touching the idea of 'fun' if it was approached ironically. 

So maybe it's not entirely surprising that my favourite of the grunge bands to explode out of Seattle was the one that did the most experimenting and drifted furthest from the traditional grunge sound - which, of course, brings us to Pearl Jam. To me, they've always been a band I've liked but never quite loved, and also yet another act that peaked with their first album Ten (which, despite my hangups with grunge, is awesome). They followed it with Vs. and then decided they were too good to be popular, so they started experimenting with Vitalogy and never went back. It's a shame, then, that their next six albums... well, they weren't bad but they weren't anything all that special or mind-blowing, even with some of the U2-esque bits of experimentation. Out of the selection, I probably like Riot Act the most, but I couldn't help but feel that even on that album that some of the hard rock edge was gone and it wasn't coming back.

Thus, I had some trepidation when going into Pearl Jam's newest release Lightning Bolt. On the heels of the The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here from Alice In Chains - which was basically a heavier version of what they had done before - I had the feeling that Pearl Jam wasn't about to attempt to recreate Ten or Vs.. They were going to make a rock album, not a grunge album, which could be both bad and good: on the one hand, Pearl Jam's experimentation has tended to be interesting, but it has also left the band without a definitive identity besides that of a grunge rock act that isn't really aging gracefully. So, is Lightning Bolt an experiment that bears fruit, or just another grunge rock album that slides into the grey morass of mediocrity?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

video review: 'a.m.' by chris young

So, new camera. I have to be honest, I'm still trying to get a handle on it with focusing and lighting, but it's a good set-up (and hopefully one I won't have to sink much more cash into).

As it is, I dug this album. Certainly a lot more than the other two disasters I listened through today... oh yeah, the storm's coming.

Stay tuned!

album review 'a.m.' by chris young

I've written a number of times about how modern country music, particularly that which has had some appeal to the mainstream, has lost something of its edge and texture in favour of catering to a larger audience. Now, I've reviewed a few of these acts who have either gone straight towards pop country (this is your Keith Urban or Taylor Swift) or towards what's been branded 'bro-country' (this would be your Luke Bryan and Billy Curringnton, for example). Now what needs to be stressed is that, in country music, this shift towards the mainstream has happened a few times before - it happened in the 80s, it happened in a big way in the 90s (although there were a lot more factors in that particular shift, given the rise of alternative rock and Garth Brooks) - and it's happening again today.

And at each point in these shifts towards popularity and a subsequent loss of culture, there has been pushback in the form of what some have deemed 'neotraditionalist country'. This is country music that harkens back to the bluegrass and traditional country of the 50s and 60s, and there have been some highly successful acts who have led the charge here, like Alan Jackson, George Strait, Randy Travis, Tracy Byrd, and (to a much lesser extent) Vince Gill. Now as somebody who likes country on both sides, both moving towards the mainstream and those who would prefer to maintain the homegrown culture of the past, I can see both positives and negatives in the neotraditionalist country movement. After all, it's a good thing to know your history, and I certainly prefer this sort of culturally-minded country music compared to the offensive pandering put forward by the Nashville album-producing machine. That being said, if you stay too close to the well of the music of the past without innovation, you can occasionally run into stagnation. Fortunately, this hasn't happened (a big sigh of relief from me), and thus, it goes without saying that I'm fond of the neotraditionalist country movement. 

But for a while, I was starting to get concerned that there wouldn't be that push back in country music against the mainstream that would achieve sort of success. Would I be forced to retreat into alternative country or outlaw country to find any country music with texture and culture and quality anymore?

Fortunately, outside of the mainstay stalwarts, we do have a newer country act who's willing to bear the torch of neotraditionalist country music, and he comes from an unlikely source: Chris Young. For those of you who don't know, Chris Young started his career quite young when he was encouraged to try out for Nashville Star, a country-oriented version of American Idol. And when he won, it'd be the reasonable assumption this guy would immediately start making the sort of polished pop country that gets popular...

And that didn't happen. Chris Young pulled something of a 'Kelly Clarkson' in the country music scene and began working to take control of his own career, particularly in songwriting and artistic direction. It definitely helped matters that Chris Young has a great voice that is born to sing traditional country music: rich, powerful, impressively deep, and loaded with heartfelt emotion. And after several assorted successes (including several number one songs and the critical hit 'Gettin' You Home'), he's finally come roaring back with his new album A.M. this year. So, how did it turn out?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

album review: 'crash my party' by luke bryan

Let's talk a bit about supply and demand.

See, it's very basic economics that if you have a lot of demand and the supply stays constant, the price will go up. Similarly, if you keep the demand constant and increase the supply, the price will go down. And you might not believe it, but a similar conceit applies to music - if you have an influx of artists who are making similar versions of the same basic genre and no added increase in demand, how much people care about said artists will decrease. And if you think I'm kidding, think back to the boy band explosion of the late 90s or the crunk boom of the early 2000s - there might have been a few standouts, but the music industry pumped out a lot of very similar artists in order to capitalize on presumed trends.

And really, that's one of the few explanations I have for the current massive influx of male country acts on the pop charts right now. As of now, there are about twenty unique male country acts occupying spots on Billboard's Hot 100 - that's a fifth of the chart. In comparison, there are precisely two female country acts (Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift) and I have a hard time calling either of them pure country acts!

So how to explain this sudden influx? Well, if I were to hazard a guess, I suspect it might be partially linked to the indie rock explosion last year, where a more organic sound and 'greater authenticity' became more attractive to the mainstream public in the aftermath of the club boom. So at some point the industry executives looked up from their cocaine buckets and thought, "Well, we could go into the indie or folk rock scene and find some new acts - but oh man, they have distortion and a grittier sound and occasionally challenging subject matter and that just makes my brain hurt!" And then some bright young jackass in the board room thought, "Hey, what about those country guys? They're inoffensive and easy enough to market - we've been doing it for years, after all - and the country music scene is so polished it's practically pop anyways! Let's leave the folk rock to Mumford & Sons and Phillip Phillips, leave Kurt Vile twisting in the wind, and force Kacey Musgraves to tour with Kenny freaking Chesney if she wants to build any buzz! See, problem solved!"

Ugh. So there you have it, folks, the reason why we have over a dozen practically interchangeable male country acts dominating the charts. Sure, there's a few bright spots - Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley routinely have a fair amount of quality, and Lady Antebellum and the Zac Brown Band will always get a few crossover hits - but certainly not many. The pandering insincerity of it all makes me sick, even if it doesn't surprise me.

And speaking of acts that don't surprise me and also kind of make me sick, let's talk about Luke Bryan.

Now let me qualify this a bit and say Luke Bryan is better than the majority of his peers. For starters, he actually has a personality, some charisma, and a distinctive voice that has country flavour. I wouldn't quite say he has a sense of humour in the vein of Brad Paisley or Toby Keith, but he's sincere enough and his delivery tends to be believable. His instrumentation is a bit more of a mixed bag, but occasionally can have some real texture and rock energy. And better yet, he doesn't tend to engage in the heavy-handed political moralizing that taints acts like Jason Aldean and Justin Moore, preferring to have a much smaller, more intimate focus (there is still some southern pandering, but it's a modern country album, there'll always be that out of Nashville). Hell, I'd even argue that he's a reasonably talented songwriter, at least on a technical level.

Here's my big problem, though: Luke Bryan can really be an asshole, sort of in the same vein as Adam Levine from Maroon 5. He's not nearly as catty, but there definitely can be that undercurrent of leering douchebaggery that really rubs me the wrong way, mostly because of the delivery and framing of the songs. Take 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye' from his album Tailgates and Tanlines (which is just an album title that tells you more than you ever needed to know about Luke Bryan's priorities), which is basically 'One More Night' by Maroon 5 with a country twist. It's a song about a toxic relationship that only works when Bryan and his partner are having sex, but it's set up as being so romantic, when it reality it's unrealistic, sleazy, and a little misogynist, all traits that are amped to eleven on 'Country Girl (Shake It For Me)'. And look, I like my share of rap and hair metal debauchery, but when Luke Bryan tries to fuse in a call list of items of southern pride, it sounds both pandering and leering in the worst possible way. And then, of course, there's 'I Know You're Gonna Be There', where Luke Bryan cheats on his wife/girlfriend in plain sight of her just to make sure she still cares about him, with no consideration for his wife or the other girl (who he flat out admits he doesn't care about), and it's another song that's framed as him just testing her love. I honestly shouldn't have to explain everything that's wrong with that. (EDIT: I'm been informed by a trusted source that my interpretation of 'I Know You're Gonna Be There' is likely incorrect, with Bryan not referring to a current relationship, but an ex-girlfriend he's not over. I'm still of the opinion it doesn't make things better.)

But with all of that being said, I took a look at Luke Bryan's newest album Crash My Party, curious to see if some of the texture and good songwriting I liked made it over and the asshole behaviour had been dropped. For once, did I get lucky?

YouTube review after the jump