Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 3, 2018 (VIDEO)

Huh, this is up... WAY earlier than usual. And when the week is this decent, I'm all right with that!

Next up... well, we've got the Trailing Edge, but after that stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 3, 2018

Okay, I made the statement last week that things were likely to slow down - I didn't expect it to slow down this much. Of course, it was still a modestly busy week within the charts - fair number of gains and losses, sizable number of returning entries, even some top ten activity - but we only have two new songs this week, so regardless of what I do this is going to be pretty short... at least until 6ix9ine crashes in next week, but we'll deal with that engorged appendix when it explodes.

Monday, February 26, 2018

video review: 'chime' by dessa

I think I stunned a couple people with the score I gave this one... hell, I even went back to the others I scored the same to check to see if it deserved to be on the same pedestal. But the truth is that I couldn't find a problem with it - every song sent a chill down my spine, the sonic themes meshed perfectly, the emotional throughline was wonderfully balanced, and the writing is top-of-the-line, analytical but never sacrificing the emotional core. This is the album to beat in 2018, and really, it deserves the score.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!

resonators 2018 - episode #002 - 'fresh fruit for rotting vegetables' by dead kennedys (VIDEO) know, I was expecting WAY more critical backlash than what I've received thus far... but I think I've just got to give this one time, I reckon.

Anyway, now for the real event...

album review: 'chime' by dessa

So I've covered a lot of truly excellent records in February... and I can't help but feel it's all been building up to this, the newest, long-awaited solo release from one of my favourite-ever MCs, most notable for her work in the Doomtree collective but also for the diverse, genre-twisting blend she brought to her own work...

And yet I'll admit I was nervous about this, mostly because Dessa's solo work is very different than the fire she typically spits with Doomtree. I might love A Badly Broken Code as an underrated near-classic, but it's meditative and restrained in an uncanny way, and certainly took a lot of listens to grow on me as much as it did. And her 2013 follow-up Parts Of Speech, even though that record made my year-end list, it was a pivot towards more R&B and less hip-hop, and I was a little unsure whether it played enough to her strengths - she's an absolutely excellent rapper, but not quite as expressive or potent as a singer. And thus when I heard that her newest project Chime was pivoting even further, moving closer to mainstream-accessible pop... well, it's not like I couldn't have seen it coming, given her contributions to The Hamilton Mixtape and her own wild creativity to be more than just a spitter, and I was sure there was bound to be real density and punch in the content, and it's not like Lazerbeak or Cecil Otter would steer her astray on production - okay, maybe I was worrying too much over nothing, I'll admit it. But again, Dessa is an all-time favourite MC of mine, I really wanted this to be amazing, especially given some of the critical buzz about this release and that she had brought in Andy Thompson to augment her sound with more classical elements... so, what did we get on Chime?

resonators 2018 - episode #002 - 'fresh fruit for rotting vegetables' by dead kennedys

So for the second episode of this series, I wanted to tackle something a little more widely known - and we immediately hit a quandary, because in the 1980s, hardcore punk didn't cross over to the mainstream, not unless you had a hot single or managed to snag the popular zeitgeist for one blistering sharp moment in time. And that also means that I'm going to be talking about a lot of records in this series that even decades later didn't sell at all. 

Today, we're going to be talking about one of the exceptions, one that actually predates Black Flag's Damaged by about a year, from a band further up the west coast that were a fair bit more political, but possibly dating themselves in the process, a band that had a legit underground single that led this record to actually move units and win certifications, even spots on the UK charts! But of course it came with a fair amount of controversy, protests, and holds a much more contentious spot in the hardcore canon. But when it comes to bands bridging the gap between traditional punk and hardcore, they do deserve attention, even if they're far from the purest expression of the genre. In other words... strap in, folks, we're talking about Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables by Dead Kennedys, and this is Resonators!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

video review: 'what it's like to fly alone' by courtney patton

So it took me a while to get to this, but it really is damn great - definitely check this out!

Next up, probably the next episode of Resonators as I work on Rhye and Dessa, so stay tuned!

album review: 'what it's like to fly alone' by courtney patton

You know, it's a bit of a shame that I haven't had a chance to discuss Courtney Patton's solo work as much as I have her material with her husband Jason Eady - so let's rectify that, shall we? And the first thing to note is that while she's worked in indie country with Jason Eady, her own lane is a little different than his, less of a straightforward traditionalist and more leaning towards Americana or even folk. Now this means she typically brings a little more lived-in detail to her songs, and while the structure of her writing can feel a bit more ragged and rough around the edges, it doesn't detract from the mature framing and painfully realistic pictures she paints - perhaps not quite as elegant as Lori McKenna, but she'll bring a more direct edge in her writing and delivery that McKenna might balk at, and sometimes, that's exactly what you need.

Now on the flip side to that, for as much as I like her last few records So This Is Life and Triggering A Flood, her production can sometimes feel a tad inconsistent as well, which is why some of the critical buzz suggesting this was more of a country affair than Americana was intriguing. Of course, those same critics were also raving that this might just be one of the best records of the year, full of complicated songwriter-driven stories than more of an overarching narrative. So okay, given that this has flown under the radar of pretty much everybody except the diehard indie country set, I really wanted to give this a listen, so what did we get on What It's Like To Fly Alone?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

video review: 'room inside the world' by ought

So yeah, I was expecting this to be better... and the fact that it's not was kind of painful, but eh, it happens.

Next up... hmm, how about some Courtney Patton and then something off my backlog, so stay tuned!

album review: 'room inside the world' by ought

I'm not going to lie, as much as I was looking forward to this release, some of the buzz leading up to it had me, well, more concerned than I wanted to be. 

Because look, I like Ought for their smart, amazingly well-textured and nervy post-punk that especially with their record Sun Coming Down in 2015 saw greater refinement in its melodic grooves and complex transitions. And for as much as Tim Darcy could sound like he was splitting his David Byrne impression with that of Elias Bender Ronnenfelt of Iceage, this sort of artistic but deeply felt indie rock is an easy sell for me. And that's before you consider how well they can translate the anxious tension at their core into the sort of unstable core where you literally cannot predict its shifts. 

But in the rollout for Room Inside The World, I starting hearing buzz that the band had changed labels and this record was embracing more new wave and synths and streamlining things even further - and I was really conflicted on this, mostly as the critical reception seem a little more reticent. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Ought looking to intensify their internal sense of logic and composition within the songs - the improvisation is a nice touch but it can lead to mixed rewards - but there is such a thing as over-polish when you look at a band like Ought where you can lose some of the wild spirit that makes them distinct. And considering the mixed reception to Tim Darcy's solo project a year or so back, I wasn't sure how that would translate onto this project, but what the hell: what did we get on Room Inside The World?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 24, 2018 (VIDEO)

Hmm, so this turned out all right... filmed it the same day as the Ought review dropping tonight, so stay tuned for that, but overall it was a pretty decent week.

Okay, so next up, Ought and Courtney Patton, then probably something from my backlog, then Resonators - stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 24, 2018

This is one of the weeks where everything seemed muted - I made predictions about what was coming, and while most of those predictions came to pass, the impact was less than expected. Sure, I was planning for the Black Panther soundtrack to make an impact, but it wasn't much of an album bomb, and there were larger debuts that disrupted the top 10 and Hot 100 more. Not precisely bad, sure, but in a year where I have felt oddly disconnected with a lot of the songs that have shown up, it leaves me with a very weird feeling.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

video review: 'solid ground' by wade bowen

Yeah, I'm very much aware reviews like this don't generate huge traffic... but goddamn it, when you have such a solid slice of indie country, you need to give it props!

Unfortunately the next indie act I've got on my docket aren't quite up to the same spot, but before we get to that disappointment, probably Billboard BREAKDOWN up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'solid ground' by wade bowen

So about three years ago, I covered a collaboration record between two Texas country veterans called Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. This project, assembled by Randy Rogers of the Randy Rogers Band and Wade Bowen, was, to put it simply, goddamn excellent, comfortably landing on my year-end list of the best records of 2015, with the deep cut 'El Dorado' being my third favourite song of that year, and if I could somehow find a damn copy of it on vinyl anywhere that'd be greatly appreciated! 

But putting my fruitless vinyl search aside, while I've covered the Randy Rogers band since, I've always had a certain amount of curiosity about Wade Bowen's greater discography... and unsurprisingly, it was worth the relisten, given that he's a sharp songwriter and has good instincts for a brand of Texas red dirt country that's accessible but still willing to cut a little deeper. And his career arc was similar to that of Rogers - he started off in the regional Texas scene independently, got signed to a major label, and then ended up independent again with more success than ever - but his time in the majors was considerably shorter, given that his label BNA was restructured after releasing only one record called The Given in 2012. And yes, that record is definitely a hidden gem if you want to check it out, but I'd probably still recommend his excellent 2008 record If We Ever Make It Home or even his self-titled 2014 record as more textured and interesting standouts for straightforward, no-bullshit country music.

So okay, why haven't you heard from him for a while? Well, he put out a record of gospel songs in 2016 dedicated to his mom, and a live record with the Randy Rogers Band, and now, but now we've got a Wade Bowen release proper, and given that country radio still has no damn clue what it's doing, I'd like to see Bowen stick the landing here. So, did we get it with Solid Ground?

Monday, February 19, 2018

movie review: 'black panther' (VIDEO)

Man, this was a tricky review to get out, believe it or not. Terrific, layered movie... really need to think about it more.

Next up, we've got Wade Bowen (finally) and Ought, so stay tuned!

the top ten best hit songs of 2004 (VIDEO)

Well, this was long in coming... and overall, a pretty solid list. Not sure it's my wittiest list, but for those of you who remember the era, I think it works.

Next up, Black Panther and Wade Bowen, so stay tuned!

the top ten best hit songs of 2004

So this is the third big top ten outside of the current year that I've put together, and I think it's conducive to describe how this year differed in trends and sounds in comparison with those I discussed before. 2010 was at the height of club boom overexposure, and everything that charted, good or bad, was either informed by it and painfully dated, or ignoring it and sliding rapidly towards novelty. 1967... well, that was a year heralded by many as overstuffed with classic songs, but you could make a credible argument it was an 'off' year for many established greats, more transitional than anything else.

2004, meanwhile, has some elements of both. On the one hand, the charts were very much in the throes of the crunk explosion, but by proxy it was heralding hip-hop's utter dominance of the Hot 100. Yes, in 2004 indie rock was blowing up like you wouldn't see again for nearly a decade - most of which would hit the charts a year later - but 2004 hit the sweet spot where the kinks of southern hip-hop were getting ironed out and allowing for more diversity beyond New York and L.A.. And that was only a good thing, as 2004 was a huge breakthrough year for a number of acts that are now touted today with a ton of critical acclaim, either for landmark debuts or critical highpoints they'd seldom if ever reach again. And when you tack on the fact that pop rock was beginning its own rise, country hadn't started sliding to vapidity, and R&B was holding its own. The only genre that seriously suffered was mainstream pop, but that's more because hip-hop crossovers were doing it so much better, and when you consider that it really didn't have the stark lowpoints of, say, 2007, you can make a very credible argument that 2004 was one of the best years of the 2000s, at least for the Hot 100. And I can't even really say it was colored hugely by my nostalgia - yeah, I know and like a ton of this Hot 100, but it's hard to deny in a year flush with the debuts of Kanye West and Maroon 5, Usher's best album, Alicia Keys' best album, plus high points for Avril Lavigne and OutKast that we got something really special in 2004. And if you think that spoiled a lot of my list... well, maybe a bit, but you haven't seen nothing yet, so let's get this started!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

video review: 'little dark age' by mgmt

Well this was... genuinely kind of awesome, I'm really happy to actually get on board with MGMT here for a pretty damn fun record! There's flaws, of course, but it's still really damn solid and I'm happy that for once I can join the crowd on this!

Next up... hmm, something from deeper on my backlog or an indie country project, we'll have to see, so stay tuned!

album review: 'little dark age' by mgmt

I remember vividly the last time I covered MGMT.

Now most of you probably don't - that was very early in my critic career on YouTube, before I even had a proper camera, and thus me taking a pretty lukewarm at best stance on a critical darling band got me a small but significant backlash... even if history seems to have proven me right on this. Part of the problem is that I've never really been a huge MGMT fan: there were some great moments on Oracular Spectacular, Congratulations has only warmed on me in recent years and it's probably underrated but I still wouldn't call it great, and in contrast I've only soured on the self-titled record more and more. Part of it was the return of producer Dave Fridmann continuing to embrace his blown-out, more compressed sound that he worked to far greater effect with The Flaming Lips that same year on The Terror, but a larger part of it was the sense that MGMT were falling towards a bait & switch trope in psychedelia I've never really liked. I get the appeal in using that quasi-surreal gloss for something dark and twisted beneath it, but it's like a lot of shock-horror, it doesn't have the same replay value for me, especially when the tunes just didn't coalesce. l said in that review that MGMT were continuing on a path to alienate their audiences, but the truth is that they just weren't playing to their strengths: they had a great knack for hooks and the willingness to embrace weird textures and ideas, and when you compromise the former to indulge more of the latter... well, it doesn't always help you.

And thus I found it really interesting that five years later it seemed like MGMT had pulled a 180, teaming up with Patrick Wimberly of Chairlift and Ariel Pink - another guy who can struggle to hold the right balance between texture and phenomenal hooks - to make more of a synthpop release! And hell, while I like psychedelia, this sounded so much up my alley I really wanted to check it out before now! So, what did MGMT deliver on Little Dark Age?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

video review: 'always ascending' by franz ferdinand

So this... it took a while to really click, but I'm thrilled it did - definitely enjoyed it!

And on the topic of stuff I'm anticipating, we've got MGMT up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'always ascending' by franz ferdinand

So okay, maybe it wasn't a good idea for The Wombats to release their newest groove-heavy, sleek indie rock record the very same day as Franz Ferdinand doing a very similar sound... 

Or at least that's what I was expecting. The truth is that while I was looking forward to this record even more than The Wombats, I also knew my expectations would have to be even further qualified - it's been five years since the last solo Franz Ferdinand project, and while their collaboration with Sparks in 2015 was certainly entertaining, it wasn't quite as tight or fun as Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. And more even than that, Franz Ferdinand were fighting off the loss of their lead guitarist Nick McCarthy who was choosing to spend more time with his family, and a lot of bands really can't come back from that. Granted, calling back old 90s member Dino Bardot for guitar and recruiting remix artist Julian Corrie could have potential, and recruiting electronic musician Phillipe Zdar could have some potential, but all of it was reflecting a band focusing less on straightforward indie rock and more electronic tones. And while my concerns were not huge - they had Todd Terje work on their last record, it's clear they've got solid taste in electronic music - I will say I was a little skeptical, as my favourite Franz Ferdinand record remains You Could Have It So Much Better, and further pivots from rock could dampen some of that electric energy. Not quite the same as what happened to The Wombats, but similar in principle.

But again, these guys are veterans with a canny eye towards great songwriting, and this was one of my most hotly anticipated records of 2018 - did they stick the landing with Always Ascending?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 17, 2018 (VIDEO)

Okay, so this was... actually pretty all over the place, but I'm happy I got the episode up regardless, it was a tough weekend to recover from.

Next up... well, it's coming fast, stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 17, 2018

So I've often said that the most interesting weeks on Billboard BREAKDOWN aren't the album bombs themselves, but the weeks right after them, where you see what survives, what continues on the downwards spiral, and what rushes in to fill the gaps when so much falls away. Now up until a few weeks ago I was certain that Justin Timberlake would be the one to fill much of what Migos spewed in with Culture II, but with an underwhelming Super Bowl performance and Man Of The Woods being panned as hard as it has been, that didn't really happen. As such, we're stuck with a pretty wild assortment... at least until the Black Panther soundtrack has a mini album bomb of its own in a week or two. But hey, if that means a mildly short week for me on the Hot 100, considering how much catchup I have to do after being laid up with food poisoning, I'll take what I can get!

video review: 'beautiful people will ruin your life' by the wombats

Okay, this was... underwhelming. And kind of really disappointing, but hey, I've got Franz Ferdinand up next, so that should connect, right?

Anyway, Billboard BREAKDOWN will be dropping tomorrow because it's still rendering and I need sleep - stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

album review: 'beautiful people will ruin your life' by the wombats

I said there were a lot of albums coming out in February I was anticipating - and this is next up on the docket.

And this might surprise some people, given that The Wombats don't exactly have a sterling critical reputation. Oh, they won critics over in a big way with their debut A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation with its nervy brand of post-punk and indie rock that seemed a little wilder than many would expect, but they took steps towards conventionality on their next two records, even venturing more into synthpop. But here's the thing: despite thinking their debut is probably still their best work, their 2015 project Glitterbug was remarkably strong, with huge hooks, a ton of energy, and a refreshing amount of maturity in their songwriting and framing - hell, that record and a few songs from it made my year-end lists!

But I will say I was worried about this album - early singles hadn't really stuck with me and let's be honest, the 80s-inspired synthpop that drove Glitterbug is nowhere close to the same preeminence it was three years ago, which likely means the band evolved again... but into what? Part of The Wombats' fundamental appeal was their energy and ability to swerve, but they're a band that have been together a long time and age does creep in - and while The Wombats have always gotten some mixed reviews, this time it looked like slowing down had hurt them even more. In other words, even though I had a lot of high hopes that this would kick ass, I was also setting myself up for possible disappointment - so what did we get?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

video review: 'here come the runts' by AWOLNATION

Okay, this... well, the t-shirt mostly fits. :)

Next up... I honestly have no idea, it'll depend what winds up on the schedule, so stay tuned!

album review: 'here come the runts' by AWOLNATION

You know, for as wild and messy as AWOLNATION's records have been, I'm a little surprised I don't think about them more often. Seriously, it's been about three years since I covered Run on this channel and I don't think I've revisited even a single song since - which is kind of strange, because I do mostly remember that record's problems in overly-broad songwriting and utterly slapdash production, and I remember the backlash I got pointing that out - hell, probably more than I remember any individual song.

But that's the funny thing about AWOLNATION: they always seemed like a weird, misshapen hybrid of an electronic rock group that somehow struck gold when 'Sail' almost by accident became a monster hit in 2013, a full two years after Megalithic Symphony came out. And yet that song made a certain amount of sense at the time: AWOLNATION could be a band that made hits if the disparate elements came together, but the cracks in their formula ran so deep - and were exacerbated by their 2015 follow-up Run - that it seemed incredibly unlikely the alchemy would come together again.

And yet for some reason their next album showed up on my schedule - and what was strange was the buzz around it, namely that everyone was admitting it was messy, but this time the whiplash transition had actually worked? Encouraging, sure, but I'd believe it when I heard it... but I'm also not going to say I wasn't morbidly curious. So okay, what did I get with Here Comes The Runts?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

video review: 'johnny nocash & the celtic outlaws' by johnny nocash & the celtic outlaws

Again, pretty local act, but I'm happy I got a chance to talk about it all the same.

Next up, let's go bigger - stay tuned!

album review: 'johnny nocash & the celtic outlaws' by johnny nocash & the celtic outlaws

I don't normally do full reviews for EPs... but I'm making an exception for this one. 

And yes, in this case I'm very much going to be talking about a relatively unknown band that I'm most familiar with from my local scene just like I did with Sex Master about a month ago, but this group actually falls in line with territory that deserves some scrutiny: the cross-section between country and metal. Now there's been southern rock on the heavy side for years, but fusing outright metal elements like growled or screamed vocals or much more distorted tunings... it's not exactly common. That's not saying it doesn't exist - I've reviewed Panopticon's introduction of bluegrass, folk, and country elements on their black metal records, and of course you get the groove metal bands that interject rockabilly elements like Hellyeah or Volbeat, and towering over most of the conversation you have the punk and metal elements embraced by Hank Williams III... but let's be honest, most of these are outliers.

...except not as much anymore. More often than not you're seeing metal artists taking a renewed interest in country and they tend to treat the genre's legacy with more respect than huge chunks of Nashville - which makes a lot of sense, given that metal is also obsessed with its own historical legacy. And thus you get acts like Devin Townsend making Casualties of Cool, or Cody Jinks coming from thrash, or the deep outlaw country appreciation you hear from a lot of metalheads... which takes us to Johnny Nocash. He's been around for a while - go to his YouTube channel and you'll find songs recorded going back over a decade ago - but in recent years his material has taken more shape, infusing elements of folk and metal to refine and expand his country sound, which leads to his backing band the Celtic Outlaws and this EP. Five songs, probably a quick enough listen, how did it turn out?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 10, 2018 (VIDEO)

Alright, this went up late... and really, this one was painful to put out, so much fucking Migos...

But now onto something a little more local - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 10, 2018

...well, we all knew this was coming. There were two pretty disruptive events on the Hot 100 this week and we all had a rough idea of the ramifications: the Grammys would trigger some shifts, and more importantly, Migos would unleash the album bomb of Culture II. Friendly warning, since I already covered that release my recaps of individual songs are going to be pretty short, and given we have seventeen new arrivals and there really isn't much to say about individual tracks from that record, I'm sure you'll understand.

Monday, February 5, 2018

video review: 'man of the woods' by justin timberlake

And that's the second review of the evening. Have to say I'm pretty pleased with this one too, especially considering I'm now (mostly) back on schedule!

So next up, I've got a local project to cover, but of course we've got Billboard BREAKDOWN too, so stay tuned...

album review: 'man of the woods' by justin timberlake

It's been a while since I've seen such a backlash against a pop artist, this sudden, this intense, as if folks have been waiting for just the right target for their knives. With Taylor Swift and reputation there was some of it, but the 'snake' heel turn first exploded in 2016, and the meltdown took over a year and a half to truly coalesce. With Justin Timberlake, with the combined double whammy of his album release and second Super Bowl performance, it seemed like all the cultural backlash was finally coming to a head...

And I'm already sick of it, partially because it feels like I'm one of the few who are taking notes surrounding the relative complexity of Timberlake's issues, and the level of historical revisionism going on really does not sit well, especially among some critics. What, you're only now taking issue with the fact the production on Justified was originally intended for Michael Jackson, and how Timberlake has been relatively remorseless in building his stage persona wholesale from Michael and Prince and other, better artists, even having the nerve to diss them? What, you're only now angry about how Timberlake seemingly got away scot-free with that stunt at the 2004 Super Bowl where Janet Jackson's career was shattered? What, you're only now realizing that so much of Timberlake's professional career has been the sort of audacious, ego-driven, style-over-substance, I-can't-believe-how-much-I'm-getting-away-with-this act that translates to his records being overblown, self-aggrandizing, and more sloppily written than anyone dared say? What, did you all forget he wrote 'Carry Out'?

But here's the thing: I get it. The 2000s were a weird, twisted decade that allowed Timberlake's embrace of futuristic artificiality to flourish, and it certainly helped he was backed up by some of the best producers of that time with The Neptunes and Timbaland. It was so easy to throw Janet and Michael and Prince under the bus - all of whom were straining under the weight of their own legacies with music that increasingly didn't measure up - all in the face of that veneer, which to his credit Timberlake could carry almost on ego and raw talent alone. And even into 2013 with his two 20/20 Experience records, he still got critical acclaim by many of the folks now lining up to crucify him - and if you go back to both of my reviews, I didn't share that acclaim, because I've never really been a Justin Timberlake fan at any point. Sure, he was a decent enough pop star, I don't think all of his success is unwarranted, but it's why so much of the historical revisionism here bothers the hell out of me - don't act like you guys weren't propping up the institutions that allowed Timberlake to get away with as much as he did, especially in 2013 where you let a Justin TImberlake ripoff named Robin Thicke dominate the charts with 'Blurred Lines', or last year, when it seemed like the quickest way to blow up as a trap rapper is to have sexual assault cases! And just like with Robin Thicke and Paula, when it looked like Timberlake was going to be exposing a more personal side of himself on Man Of The Woods, everyone saw this as the moment of vulnerability to pounce, especially if there was any sign the music might have slipped in quality. Now Timberlake has not helped himself here - the fact that he was tone-deaf enough to think he could get away with a Prince projection along side him at the half-time show was gross on a number of levels - but currently Man Of The Woods has a lower Metacritic score than Maroon 5's Red Pill Blues, and if that's not a sign the backlash has flown off the rails, I don't know what is, especially as I didn't think 'Filthy' or 'Supplies' were that bad! But okay, maybe like Paula it was that bad and Timberlake deserved it all... so what did we get on Man Of The Woods?

video review: 'full circle nightmare' by kyle craft

Well, this was something... and honestly, I'm pretty pleased with how it all came together, especially as I got to go deep into themes and find a lot more to like in its defense (a defense that shouldn't have been necessary but that's Pitchfork for you).

Next up, the one you've been waiting for - stay tuned!

album review: 'full circle nightmare' by kyle craft

So I may have mentioned this on Twitter, but the lineup of records released in February that don't just seem good but damn near great or better... well, at last count I was up to at least ten, and that's damn near unprecedented for this time of year, especially when you consider they span a half dozen different genres and styles. In other words, if you start seeing me give out high scores like candy... again, this much quality concentrated this early in a year is rare, but pretty damn thrilling all the same.

And we're starting out with one of the big ones, one of my most hotly anticipated records of 2018 - and if you heard his star-making debut in 2016 with Dolls Of Highland, you'll understand why. Kyle Craft was the sort of talent that came out of nowhere: a singer-songwriter-producer from the Deep South who moved to Portland, signed to Sub Pop, and recorded the sort of awe-inspiring debut that floored nearly everyone who heard it. A huge, theatrical voice and bountiful personality that recalled Meat Loaf in his prime, production that took 70s glam and fused it with southern-fried gothic rock - emphasis on goth - and writing that was impeccably detailed, wonderfully textured, and yet framed with a modern eye for progressive melodrama so he never felt like a throwback, he was the sort of talent where critics started making unprompted comparisons to Dylan and Bowie - all the more stunning considering that debut was recorded with DIY equipment in his laundry room! Hell, I found the record pretty much by accident browsing Pitchfork and it rapidly became one of my favourites of 2016 - hell, it could have topped that list had Lydia Loveless not blown in with her own genre fusion and those two other two albums to which I gave perfect scores! 

And it wasn't just me, as Kyle Craft's cult following starting blowing up fast, and he signed on as an opener for the Drive-By Truckers all the while dropping a few sly but heartfelt political tracks and an album of covers last year, all of which I've really liked but I did find some of the covers a tad too restrained, even if it wasn't every day you get Craft covering TLC, Sharon Van Etten, Hurray For The Riff Raff, St. Vincent and Blondie! No, I was excited for his true sophomore project, which gave him a full backing band, Chris Funk of The Decemberists on production, and an actual studio. Now naturally I was a bit reticent - many an indie act has stumbled towards indulgence in going bigger, and I loved the rich textured atmosphere of Dolls Of Highland so much that I was concerned it'd be compromised here... but hey, the guy has great instincts and he's a tremendous talent, if anyone could stick the landing, it'd be him. So, what did we get on Full Circle Nightmare?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

video review: 'starfire' by caitlyn smith

So yeah, this was genuinely great, pleased I made time for this... and now onto one of my most anticipated records of 2018, so stay tuned!

album review: 'starfire' by caitlyn smith

So this was a record I didn't plan on covering, at all. And I can imagine for those of you in the know going in before this album came out, a lot of my assumptions might seem justified... but that's just it, they were assumptions, and from the critical buzz, they might have been the wrong ones.

So okay, background: odds are you don't know who Caitlyn Smith is unless you've been reading through the liner notes of very specific records. If you knew her at all outside of country it was for 'Like I'm Gonna Lose You', that big duet hit between John Legend and Meghan Trainor that came out a few years back, but what caught my eye was writing credits on 'Wild Boy' for Danielle Bradbery, and while her career may have gone off the rails in spectacular fashion, 'Wild Boy' was a really good song, and apparently Caitlyn Smith was a powerhouse vocalist on her EPs...

And then she signed to Monument Records. If you recognize the imprint at all it's probably for a ton of music that dropped in the 60s and 70s, but after some mismanagement the imprint was solid and then rebuilt as a short-lived country label in the late 90s-early 2000s. Most recently it's been revived by mainstream country megaproducer Shane McAnally, and while I've said a lot of good things about him in the past, inflicting Sam Hunt upon us in recent years killed a lot of good will and signing Walker Hayes as the first artist to Monument killed the rest. So while I knew Starfire was never going to be as bad as boom was for Hayes, I had no reason to believe McAnally was going to push Caitlyn Smith in a good direction... and yet apparently all the critics are going crazy over this, so there must be something I'm missing here. So I decided I'd check out Starfire - was this country debut I've been waiting for in 2018?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

video review: 'freedom's goblin' by ty segall

Not really sure how this is going to evolve, but this was a trickier review to put together, and I'm pretty pleased with how it worked.

Next up, time to tackle something on my backlog... stay tuned!

album review: 'freedom's goblin' by ty segall

At this point of Ty Segall's career I've given up on expectations. His sound in rock has careened across a half dozen different genres from lo-fi garage to more ornate psychedelic tones, with plenty of twisted sounds and ideas at the core and an uncanny knack for really great hooks... and yet I'll be honest, it's been a while since I've really loved a Ty Segall record. The closest was probably Manipulator back in 2014, but both Emotional Mugger and the self-titled record last year felt lyrically undercooked and the cohesion was starting to slip too. It didn't mean he couldn't put together good individual tracks, but given that he was now facing some serious competition in the garage rock space for me in Ron Gallo, I wanted to hear Ty Segall push a little harder.

And to my amazement I think he might have stepped up with something, as Freedom's Goblin was a nineteen track double album, clocking around seventy-five minutes that reportedly sprayed its stylistic influences even further afield. Which yes, was concerning given the cohesion issues on the self-titled release, but there was nothing saying he couldn't tie it all together and when you consider that he somehow got Steve Albini back to co-produce parts of this, it did feel like a vote of confidence - Albini doesn't work with slouches, at least not more than once. Still, I was wary about a double album coming here, but this could be something special, and with a little more runtime maybe Segall could really flesh out a solid set of lyrical ideas, so how is Freedom's Goblin?

trailing edge - episode 002 - january 2018 (VIDEO)

Well, this was... interesting? I'm surprised how well this series has done thus far, tbh. 

Next up, Ty Segall, so stay tuned!