Showing posts with label sturgill simpson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sturgill simpson. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

video review: 'SOUND & FURY' by sturgill simpson

You know, I kept thinking I'd get more backlash to this one... eh, we'll have to see whether it firmly kills as much of Sturgill's career as he's clearly trying.

Anyway, next up is Temples, but probably first some Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

Monday, September 30, 2019

album review: 'SOUND & FURY' by sturgill simpson

I think at this point it doesn't make sense to have expectations for what Sturgill Simpson makes. Sure, I was drawn most initially to his experimentation in country music, where he would stick with that foundational sound before pushing into psychedelia or the Muscle Shoals sound or even alternative or southern rock, but everything he has done in recent years has suggested he'd never stay there, and more to the point was not particularly interested in chasing the easy follow-up. He could have easily remained a stalwart in indie country just by retracing the same paths of Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, but A Sailor's Guide To Earth was not that. And in his writing especially while his primary reference points in composition seem to have roots in country, his time stationed in Asia sparked a fondness for anime, and that's not even touching on his politics, which are generally left of the dial and aren't that far removed from conspiracy theory territory.

And I bring all of this up because while he won a Grammy for A Sailor's Guide to Earth, his contempt and general disinterest in the machinations of the music industry meant that regardless of what his label might want, he was going to make music with little care for marketing or even genre, let alone the possibility of radio play - yes, Nashville was never going to play him anyway, but it seemed like he was going out of his way to give them excuses. So when I heard that SOUND & FURY was less indie country and more a curdled blend of fiery southern rock and 80s synth rock... well, it's not like I haven't seen misfires like this before, but Simpson is a great enough writer and producer to stick the landing, and that's not even getting into that anime film he released along side of it which as per usual I'm not going to cover - the album has to stand alone. So okay, what did we get with SOUND & FURY?

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...

Monday, April 18, 2016

video review: 'a sailor's guide to earth' by sturgill simpson

Man, this record is incredible. It creeps up on you for sure, definitely a grower, but I can see this sticking with me a lot this year, if only because of how defiantly unique and potent it is. Definitely great.

Next up, Tim Hecker, coming up soon!

album review: 'a sailor's guide to earth' by sturgill simpson

I want to start this review by clarifying something important: I've talked a lot in the past about genre and how it can play a role in how artists are marketed and sold, but at the end of the day I really don't care all that much which genre an artist chooses. If an artist wants to take a pivot into uncharted territory for them, I might be skeptical of the choice, but provided they pull it off well, I'm generally pretty accepting of it.

And thus when Sturgill Simpson made his incredible sophomore album Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, I had no problems at all that he was blending in elements of psychedelic rock - after all, he did it well, one of the many reasons that record is one of my favourites of 2014. But what started to irk me was the aftermath of it all, and one you can expect when an artist starts getting crossover attention from the hipster crowd. And by now, anyone who has followed Sturgill had heard the comments: 'oh, I don't like country music, but I like Sturgill Simpson', as if they'd like to pretend that country was never a factor because they'd never want to be associated with it. Seriously, those pretentious twits can blow me, mostly because country is just as viable of an artform as any other genre and denying the role Sturgill has played does a disservice to everyone, especially his producer on that record Dave Cobb, who recently released with Southern Family one of the best country records and albums period that I've heard in the past few years.

That said, I had heard that Sturgill Simpson was going to be taking his country influences even further afoot with his upcoming record A Sailor's Guide To Earth, beyond psychedelia and into more soul tones, including a full horns section, and combined with Sturgill not working with Dave Cobb and producing the entire record himself, I was a little concerned. Sure, it was bound to be a very good, probably great record, but this sort of experimentation was pushing into uncharted territory, and if the fundamentals are compromised, this could get messy. But look, the man has incredible talent and I had hope that A Sailor's Guide To Earth might stick the landing: did Sturgill pull it off?

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 1, 2014

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2014

Holy shit, this video took hours. Really happy with it... except for some of the volume levels on the music, but that was such a pain in the ass to get right that I'm fine with where they are.

Next up, Mastodon. Stay tuned!

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2014

I've been debating with myself pretty consistently over the past few weeks whether or not to make this. It's a pretty common thing with critics to take stock of their favourites at this point of the year, and considering I've covered 108 albums thus far this year, in terms of sheer volume it'd make sense for me to go back and take stock of what I've heard and what deserves consideration going into the second half of the year. And while I'm leery about spoiling my year-end list, long-time fans will probably be able to figure that out anyways, so why not go the extra mile and draw a spotlight to some acts that are definitely worth the consideration. 

So without further ado:

Monday, May 12, 2014

video review: 'metamodern sounds in country music' by sturgill simpson

Holy shit, this album is amazing. Man, I needed an album like this, because this record is phenomenal.

Okay, the Black Keys next. Stay tuned!

album review: 'metamodern sounds in country music' by sturgill simpson

So here’s a friendly tip for all of you new music critics out there: if you’re going to start doing a review series like I do and want to make a year-end list of the best albums of the year – as of course you’ll want to do – it’s a very good idea to keep an eye on the genre charts and fellow critics to track albums that you may have missed early in the year. Because trust me on this, you do not want to discover midway through the next year that you might have missed a record that could have had a chance to make that year-end list.

Now granted, it’s damn near impossible to hear every record that gets some manner of acclaim – especially because even aggregators like Metacritic aren’t perfect, especially when you have albums that are removed from the mainstream. And nowhere is this truer than in country music, especially from the independent circuit. And thus, when I put out my year-end list of my top albums of 2013, I got questions why High Top Mountain, the critically acclaimed debut album from Sturgill Simpson, did not make my list. Well, the truth of the matter was that I hadn’t had the chance to listen through it when I made my list, a mistake that I knew had to be rectified as soon as possible.

So now that I’ve heard High Top Mountain, would it have made my year-end list? Well, it would have been damn close, that’s for sure. The album is great across the board, with great raw texture in instrumentation and Simpson’s thick accent, and the songwriting brings the same rich flavor to the table. Most intriguing to me was that through the hazy guitar tones, the album was rooted the psychedelic country tradition, an outgrowth of the hippie-movement throughout the late 60s and 70s. A distinct oddity in an typically conservative genre, Simpson’s socially-conscious lyrics about weed, crime, and unemployment rang all too true in crossing outlaw energy with psychedelic texture, creating a unique album that easily deserved the acclaim it got.

And thus, it wasn’t surprising that country music critics – myself included – were extremely interested in Sturgill Simpson’s follow-up record, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, a record that promised to be even weirder and more experimental than his last record, something that only enthused me even more. And determined not to miss him twice, I took a look at the album: how did it go?