Showing posts with label the mountain goats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the mountain goats. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

video review: 'in league with dragons' by the mountain goats

So yeah, I've had this album on repeat for about the past week and a half... tough project to talk about, but I think I did it justice?

Eh, Billboard BREAKDOWN is up next, and then I have Resonators and entirely too many reviews up behind it... stay tuned!

album review: 'in league with dragons' by the mountain goats

...I mean, sometimes it's just too goddamn good to be true.

Granted, I think I would have been looking forward to this album regardless: when it comes to amazingly well-written singer-songwriter indie material, the Mountain Goats are long-running veterans, and seem to be taking this time in their careers to venture into the strange nooks and crannies that frontman John Darnielle finds interesting, not just as a fan but as someone looking to comment on those subcultures and eras. He did it in 2015 with pro wrestling and Beat The Champ, he elevated his game to a different dimension with Goths in 2017 - which, for the record, was my top album of that year - and in 2019, the new album was announced to be called In League With Dragons.

Look, I've said before that I'm a nerd, and by that I mean I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons for about fifteen years across multiple editions. I was a passing fan of wrestling at best, goth culture was something for which I've always felt a little on-the-outside-looking-in as much as I've appreciated it, but D&D and that brand of fantasy is formative for me, to the point where the stakes were raised before I even heard the album. Now I did trust that they'd do an excellent job - Darnielle is only growing as a writer and this is a band with the pedigree to do this justice - but I also knew that the reason Goths worked and was a little controversial was because of its subversive and deconstructionist side taken to the goth community, and given how close I've been to tabletop roleplaying, I wasn't sure I was ready for this. And I was also wary for the possibility that said dragons could well be a larger metaphor or idea - the track listing seemed to be placing at least chunks of the album in the modern era, which could mean anything. But regardless of those concerns... man, I was excited: so what did the Mountain Goats deliver on In League With Dragons?

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...

Friday, June 30, 2017

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2017 (VIDEO)

And there is THAT weight off my shoulder. Whew, ton of work to get that out... and yet it's not over, as I've got another special video dropping soon, so stay tuned!

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2017

There have been a lot of people who have said that 2017 has not been a good year for music, on the charts or otherwise... and from a certain point of view I can see it. Hip-hop in particular has had a really rough past few months, and between pop stars flopping, mainstream country continuing to spiral, and entirely too many records from established acts not living up to their potential, indie or mainstream, I can see why people are calling 2017 a disappointment.

I can also say that I don't buy it for a second, because for me, 2017 has been awesome. I already have plenty of songs to line my list of the best hits, and going into this point at the midyear, I have more records that I've scored 9/10 than ever before. Granted, it also seems like one of those years where the critical darlings aren't quite crossing over in the same way, and if you haven't heard of most of my favourites, that would be why - and that's not even counting the stuff I had to cut, and man, there were a few rough choices there. I think part of this comes from Patreon helping to shape my requests - once the scheduling got figured out as part of this experiment, things began to click and I started covering a lot of stuff I really loved. 

So you all know the drill by this point: twelve albums in order - an order that could shuffle by the end of 2017 - twenty-four songs in chronological order of my reviewing them (yes, I'm expanding the list, it's that kind of year), and keep in mind that if they don't make this list they've still got a real shot for the list at the end of the year, so let's get this started with...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

video review: 'goths' by the mountain goats

Man, this record... it just cut deep in the best possible way. Holy shit, I loved this.

What's coming up next, though... well, we'll see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'goths' by mountain goats

Before we get into this review, I think there need to be two things placed in context: my relationship with the goth subculture; and my relationship with the music of The Mountain Goats - and in both cases, it gets complicated in a hurry.

See, if you've seen me rambling on Twitter at some point late at night, I'll typically have wandered into one of my favourite goth club haunts for some music that actually has an edge and to soak in the atmosphere, but whether I'd call myself a goth... well, people have been arguing about that qualifier for decades now, but I'd probably say it's not really a label that fits me exactly. I like a lot of gothic music and fashion and it's easy for me to feel comfortable in goth clubs - you're not going to find a crew as openly accepting of oddballs like myself despite appearances as that subculture, along with markedly more likable music - but for me there's a time and place for it, never quite a scene I've completely embraced.

And here's the funny thing: I get the impression John Darnielle might feel the same, which leads us to the Mountain Goats. Full disclosure, while I may have been introduced to them through Nash over at Radio Dead Air - check him out, he broadcasts online live on Monday evenings, his content is excellent - I've never really done a deep dive, and thus I've spent the past three or four weeks exploring all fifteen full-length records in their backlog, from their roughscrabble early days in the 90s to their slightly more polished indie folk side in the 2000s to the steps towards indie rock that has come in recent years. And while I would definitely call myself a fan, I wouldn't really say I'm a big one, mostly tied to the energy and strength of the melodies along with Darnielle sticking with more defined stories instead of some of the abstract pieces that sometimes can feel a tad scattered. It's also one of the reasons I have a hard time citing a favourite Mountain Goats record or ranking them - for me, unless they've got a unified thematic arc I tend to like bits and pieces, although if I had covered Beat The Champ back in 2015, it would have had a serious shot to make my year-end list, that record hits so many of the same moments that made Darren Aronofsky's movie The Wrestler click so deeply for me, it's startling. But their album this year Goths... well, with the comparisons to the writing of Nick Cave of course I was on board, but I was a little concerned that Darnielle had opted to abandon his guitar entirely for the record, which could lead to a very different sound and one sure to piss off the diehard lo-fi Mountain Goats fans. But hey, what did we get out of Goths?