Thursday, May 31, 2018

video review: 'DAYTONA' by pusha-t

Took a while to get to this one, but MAN I'm happy I did. Great project, damn great project...

Next up, Trailing Edge - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 2, 2018 (VIDEO)

Oh man, this was a messy damn week.. but eh, I'll take it...

Anyway, now for something better - stay tuned!

album review: 'daytona' by pusha-t

This is one of those reviews where I'm actually incredibly grateful I didn't jump the gun and review this early, if only because it feels like this week for Pusha-T might be one of the most tumultuous for hip-hop in 2018, and even now it feels like we're only joining the story in progress. And indeed, there's a part of me that just wants to focus on the beef with Drake, how Drake seemed to think he could put away Pusha-T's career with 'Duppy Freestyle' like he had Meek Mill, only to put Pusha-T's fiancee on wax and for Pusha-T to declare all bets are off with 'The Story Of Adidon', which might just join Jay-Z's 'Super Ugly' in the realm of diss tracks that seemed to step over the line. And yet for me... there's a part of me that feels Drake brought this on himself and has been pushing this line with too many people for too long, and not only did Pusha-T seem fully aware of the gravity of his references, the framing of all of it was highlighting the twisted cycle of abandonment that Drake was perpetuating from his father, be it his closest producer or his previously unrevealed son. For someone of principles - even the warped code of bleak, nihilistic pragmatism that Pusha-T adheres to - this is a much higher crime.

And yet it already seems like some are forgetting how the release of DAYTONA had been mired in some controversy of its own, with Kanye West operating as sole producer yanking the album art to replace it with a photograph of Whitney Houston's bathroom for a sum of $85,000, and that's before you got the lingering questions whether just seven songs from Pusha-T would be enough. Granted, I did just cover Minor Threat's Out Of Step less than a week ago, and that was about as long with nine tracks, but seven songs meant Pusha-T had no room for error or dead weight, and while the critical acclaim was really damn encouraging, I was cautious, especially as it seems like this might be the abortive substitution for the long-delayed KING PUSH - but hey, that didn't mean it wouldn't be good, right?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 2, 2018

This was a weird week. A pretty busy one, to be sure, and some things did turn out as I had predicted, but overall... it's not often you can say that our new arrivals span between k-pop, Lil Baby, Kevin Gates, and the Backstreet Boys - yeah, we'll be getting to that one, I did not see that coming at all! And that's very telling of the Hot 100 right now: there doesn't seem to be any one musical movement that's driving the pop culture conversation with any sustainability, and we're ripe to see everything blow apart.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

video review: 'love is dead' by CHVRCHES

So this night turned out to be way crazier than I thought it would be... and it's a shame that this middling review of a middling record will get lost in the shuffle.

But hey, Billboard BREAKDOWN is up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'love is dead' by chvrches

I was worried about this record.

Actually, 'worried' isn't quite the right terminology there, because that implies a level of uncertainty that something wouldn't turn out to the standards that we all expect and hope from CHVRCHES, who at least for me have hit two line drives out of the park with their first two albums. Many cite The Bones Of What You Believe as the stronger release with its sharp, garish early-80s synths, but I actually stand behind their follow-up Every Open Eye as the better record: the gloss has been buffed to a mirror shine, the lyrics focused the abstract narrative into a more emotionally nuanced package, and the hooks were easily among the best in synthpop. Both records would wind up making year-end lists for me, but it was Every Open Eye that broke my top ten, and for damn good reason.

But I did have a concern coming out of that sophomore record, and that was, in essence, CHVRCHES had just copied their own formula, including much of the thematic arc from their debut, and I at least had a concern they could fall into that same trap yet again... until I saw the production credits for this record. A switch in labels put them with producer Greg Kurstin, the first time any of their records had not been produced entirely in-house... which sure, could net them a very different sound, but Kurstin has had a bad habit of suffocating his mixes in reverb and even if CHVRCHES was acknowledging they were heading towards conventionality, it would require a very delicate balance to do so without compromising their sound and style. But hey, if this was their big pop swing, they had been primed for this off of Every Open Eye, so Love Is Dead might just work, right?

Monday, May 28, 2018

video review: 'shawn mendes' by shawn mendes

So I sincerely doubt this video will be dislike-bombed in the same way the last Shawn Mendes review was... but hey, you never know?

Anyway, I've got Billboard BREAKDOWN and a lot of other reviews to get through this week - stay tuned!

resonators 2018 - episode #005 - 'out of step' by minor threat (VIDEO)

You know, I was kind of expecting this Resonators episode to feel longer... but when you have hardcore punk records this incredible and direct, you really don't need to say much at all!

But it's not the only video coming out tonight, so stay tuned!

album review: 'shawn mendes' by shawn mendes

Yep, let's do this again.

So if you all remember the last time I talked about Shawn Mendes in a full review, it didn't go well by any stretch of the imagination, mostly because he had taken the promising upbeat Ed Sheeran-knockoff tones into the most blandly-produced, insufferably written and performed acoustic pop I've heard this decade. Let me reiterate that for those in the back: Illuminate by Shawn Mendes is a bad record, and 'Treat You Better' is one of the worst hits of the 2010s, by far the worst hit song of 2016. And yes, I'll freely admit my disappointment bled into that review, because Shawn Mendes had potential coming out of Handwritten - hell, so long as he had consistent momentum on his songs he could deliver quality - but doubling down on the 'nice guy with acoustic guitar' template was about the worst potential direction he could take. And while a fair amount to blame lands on Teddy Geiger, ultimately it was Mendes who stuck with this direction.

And then something happened. Maybe it was the success of the tacked-on bonus track 'There's Nothing Holding Me Back' that actually restored a glimmer of hope Mendes could deliver again, maybe it was a renewed focus on expanding his sound instead of doubling down on the worst tropes of his genre, but Mendes' newest singles were heading in a slicker, more groove-centric direction and I couldn't complain. Yeah, I wasn't pleased to see a collaborating credit with Julia Michaels on this self-titled release, but if Mendes was going the way of Charlie Puth in tightening up his sound and writing, I was willing to give him another chance. So Shawn Mendes fans, I'm burying the hatchet and going in with some optimism - he's got nowhere to go but up with me, so what did we get from Shawn Mendes?

resonators 2018 - episode #005 - 'out of step' by minor threat

Well, we're finally here: the topic that I've danced around a fair bit with hardcore punk but one that really is quintessential for understanding the scene - and like with most things hardcore punk it got chronically misunderstood and stigmatized by organizations and systems not willing to see nuance, and partially consumed from within by complications at its core. Yes folks, we're getting political here again, because it's time we talk about straight edge. 

And with this comes a huge disclaimer: I'm not straight edge, and I probably never will be. I don't smoke because lung cancer and heart disease killed my grandfather and I don't do drugs mostly because I'm not really interested or have the time or money to get into it, but I do like craft beer and good wine and entirely too much bourbon. I know folks who are both edge and ex-edge, and I've got no room for judgement for either group - not only is it emphatically not my place, the choice to go edge is an individual one, and one for the record I do respect. Also keep in mind that in the early 80s when straight edge began as a true grassroots movement, it was on some level reactionary but that does not diminish its power or relevance - coming out of the late 70s and very early 80s, a lot of punks died from drug and alcohol abuse, and when you factor in that most of the hardcore punk scene was in their very early twenties, it's completely understandable if broad action was taken without a lot of consideration for what straight edge would become throughout the rest of the decade and into the 90s. If we ever talk about Earth Crisis on Resonators I'll weigh in more significantly on the more complicated activist side of the movement, but the early 80s, it was a movement to help protect a lot of kids from substance abuse that most weren't prepared to handle and provide them a space where they weren't marginalized for not partaking, both in the bands and outside of them. And as such, when edge advocates say that straight edge probably saved a lot of punks' lives, I tend to agree with that.

So today we're going to talk about the artist that coined the phrase 'straight edge' in a 1981 song of that title: Washington D.C. native Ian MacKaye, and his band Minor Threat. Now I do not have enough time to go into a full history of Ian MacKaye - again, if we get to Fugazi I'll speak more on him - but in 1981 he was gaining traction with the second of his bands Minor Threat. Also worth keeping in mind he was nineteen at the time and was running his own DIY label Dischord Records, where Minor Threat released two EPs in 1981 and almost by accident started the straight edge movement. He also racked up some negative publicity for a song called 'Guilty Of Being White', and if you remember some of the conversation about race from the Bad Brains episode, you might understand why this might have been controversial. To MacKaye's credit, I do buy that it's not intended to be read as racist, but man it has not aged well, and when you factor in how straight edge was already starting to become more of an activist movement, it's no surprise Minor Threat went on hiatus while founding guitarist Lyle Preslar went to college. But the band reformed after one semester and started recording the record we'll be talking about today - the only full-length record released by Minor Threat, and nowadays widely touted as one of the most influential records in hardcore punk. That's right, we're talking about Out Of Step by Minor Threat, and this is Resonators!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

album review: 'tell me how you really feel' by courtney barnett

I feel like I've opened up a lot of my reviews in recent weeks with, 'when I covered this artist last time, it didn't go well'... and yet while I'll definitely question my presentation in those older reviews, the more I've gone back to the actual points I was making, the more I'm convinced that my opinions haven't really changed.

And yet if we're talking about one of my most contentious reviews, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett stands as one of the big ones - and what was all the more exasperating is that I definitely understood the appeal. The flat disaffection masking deeper wells of depression, the jagged garage rock tones, the well-framed self-deprecating passive aggression, it had a very stark mid-90s indie rock veneer that I could respect... to a point. And that was the frustrating thing - I kept expecting this project to actually cut more deeply in its content and production, but that would require a greater amount of investment and focus that it didn't seem like Barnett brought to the table in comparison with her sharper peers, and while she provided a firm rationale why caring wasn't on her menu, it also meant I didn't really have the same interest either. And that disaffection couldn't help but feed into her collaboration with Kurt Vile last year Lotta Sea Lice, which I may have liked more if it had felt like a cohesive or engaging project than an extended workshopping session.

And thus I had some serious concerns about the critical reception to this record, nearly all of which was pointing a finger at those Kurt Vile sessions as an indicator of what was to come in neutering any sense of direction or edge or deeper punch... most of which I'd question was on there in the first place, but hey, it's not like my expectations were going to get any lower: what did I find on Tell Me How You Really Feel?

video review: 'wide awake!' by parquet courts

So this was genuinely great - not quite 'best of the year' material, but I'm generally happy with it regardless.

Next up, though... well, it'll be interesting - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 26, 2018 (VIDEO)

Can't believe I nearly forgot to post this... but still, it was a pretty rough week overall, and I really have no idea what's coming next.

Thankfully, what's up next...

album review: 'wide awake!' by parquet courts

So I'll freely admit that Parquet Courts can be an obtuse band to talk about. Drenched in tones half pulled from the Velvet Underground and Wire but also contorting into weird spaces with lyrics that feel socially resonant but making sense of any of them can be a real effort, the group has always skirted being a personal favourite of mine in comparison to acts pulling on similar material - think Preoccupations or Ought or even Iceage. Granted, that's not to dismiss their records - their last album Human Performance landed its title track on my top fifty favourite songs of 2016 - but I've been waiting for that moment where they really deliver.

So could Wide Awake! be that moment? Reportedly the band was looking to make this a 'punk record you could put on at parties', and for production they brought in Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse, a producer with whom I have a very complicated relationship from his work with The Black Keys and Broken Bells to production he's provided The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Portugal. The Man. Suffice to say in recent years I've found his material increasingly desaturated and dreary - about the last thing I'd want to hear paired with a 'punk record you could put on at parties', but hey, this could still be pretty fun, right?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 26, 2018

I'm not sure how to evaluate what happened on the Hot 100 this week. Obviously there was going to be some slide towards conventionality as Post Malone's album bomb continues to fade, but there seemed to be more going on here, songs from artists I've never heard of showing up and other songs changing in ways I wouldn't predict or expect - or in some cases, not really changing much at all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

video review: 'light of mine' by KYLE

Alright, the review is done, but we still have Billboard BREAKDOWN for tonight, so stay tuned!

album review: 'light of mine' by KYLE

I'll admit to being a little surprised this record is on my schedule.

Actually, let me back up a bit, I'm surprised this record garnered as much attention as it did on my schedule given that it seems like it's dropping a good year later than I expected. Don't get me wrong, I really liked 'iSpy' when it first came out, and if it hadn't been for Lil Yachty it probably would have had a shot for my year-end list of hits in 2017, or at least the Honourable Mentions. And it was primarily because of KYLE - I liked him as a presence in hip-hop and R&B, almost a little reminiscent of Chance The Rapper but with more of an R&B angle and an oddly childlike optimism, which tended to take the edge of the sleazier parts of songs like 'iSpy'. 

Now granted, 'iSpy' was really all I was familiar with from him, but I was a little surprised it took this long to get a major label full-length follow-up, given that his last mixtape with real hype dropped in 2015 and you'd think he'd be trying to ride the early wave with an EP or an tape or something early last year - don't get wrong, he had two tapes, but it didn't seem like anyone really cared as much. Instead, it looks like KYLE redoubled his focus to taking his time and pulling together a debut with features spanning from 2 Chainz to Khalid, from Alessia Cara to Kehlani. And hell, with as many votes as this was getting, I had some hopes the extra time had been worth it, so what did we get with Light Of Mine?

Monday, May 21, 2018

video review: 'echoes from eta carinae' by alrakis

Yes, I know this has been LONG in coming, but I'm happy I got this out - great atmospheric black metal, really enjoyed this.

Next up... hmm, let's do KYLE and Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'echoes from η carinae' by alrakis

Oh, I'm happy I finally got this one, the sort of project that I was originally going to put on the Trailing Edge but took off specifically to cover here in a full review, I was that excited about it...

Well, perhaps 'happy' isn't the right word, because today we're going to be talking about a brand of black metal that is pretty controversial - yes, even for black metal. This sub-subgenre is labeled DSBM, an acronym for depressive suicidal black metal, where the tones were more dreary and drone-like, the lyrics more nakedly introspective and dark... and that's the polite way of getting around how some of these acts could dig into some of the most transgressive and masochistic material both on and off the microphone. And if you do some research into what some of these bands did it can be shocking, enough to push away from exploring more - especially for me, given that I'm not really a huge fan of drone or doom metal and I'm behind schedule as it is - but more research unearthed some articles describing the raw catharsis this subgenre could trigger, that its exploration of such themes through the agency of art gave the artist and by extension the audience some form of release. And while I'm not quite sure I can buy into all of those themes, especially when the bands pair those tones with more conventional, naked aggression, it at least gave me some context.

And even with that, I'm not sure I needed to dig that much deeper with Alrakis - from my research, he's a German artist known for blending DSBM tones with a more atmospheric soundscape, which some have branded 'cosmic' black metal. He broke out in 2011 with Alpha Eri, but it's been seven years since, and he had a behemoth project here: a single track, over fifty two minutes long, with the title 'Echoes of Eta Carinae'. And while I initially thought I wouldn't have enough to say - after all, it's just one song - a single listen changed my mind and convinced me I would have to cover this at length. So what was so compelling about this that I took it off the Trailing Edge?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

the top ten best hit songs of 2012 (REDUX) (VIDEO)


And now to get back on schedule. Lots to do, folks, stay tuned!

the top ten best hit songs of 2012 (REDUX)

So this top ten list is going to be a little different than the previous few I've put together - mostly because I've made it before.

So let's back up a little - as many of you know, I started on YouTube in July of 2013, but I had begun writing about music a good two years earlier, first on Facebook and in 2012 on my personal blog, where I started by assembling my list of the top ten best hit songs of 2012. And while I've made reference to that year on Billboard BREAKDOWN and in year-end lists, I've never actually converted that list to video, which is what I'm going to be doing today... with a twist. See, my opinions have evolved and changed over the past six years and I figured it wouldn't be a bad step to revisit the year-end Hot 100 of that year and see if my greater critical acumen and hindsight had shifted my opinion... and while for the most part it hasn't, I am going to making a few changes from that original list, so there's no guarantee you'll know what shows up here.

But if there is one thing that has been solidified by this relisten, it's that 2012 stands head-and-shoulders above the majority of this decade with some of the best hit songs of the 2010s. Pop was still riding out the club boom to a fair amount of success, country was only in the early years of the growth of bro-country and landed some real quality on the charts, R&B was notching some genuinely forward-thinking tunes, and hip-hop... okay, maybe more of a transitional year overall, but there were highlights. But what makes the 2012 chart so vibrant was the indie boom, a flashpoint of out-of-nowhere crossovers from indie folk, pop and rock that for a brief shining moment redefined what a hit could be in the mainstream. And while it's dispiriting how much of it would fizzle away in the coming year - and indeed, if we're looking at a theme for this list it would be high points of potential never quite achieved again - it still left us with a list of tracks where I actually had to cut some great songs, something you can't say about years like, say, 2016. So as always, the rules are that the song must debut on the year-end Hot 100 in this year, and let's get started with...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

video review: 'providence canyon' by brent cobb

So this was pretty cool - it's pretty niche and probably won't be for everyone, but still worth a listen or two, definitely check it out!

Next up... hmm, something from my backlog, I think, so stay tuned!

album review: 'providence canyon' by brent cobb

So I'll admit I regret not talking about Brent Cobb sooner - but in all due fairness to myself, I can imagine a lot of folks maybe overlooking him. The cousin of acclaimed indie producer Dave Cobb, he got the attention of the indie country scene by satirizing bro-country in 2015 with 'Yo Bro', but he came to much greater attention thanks to his appearance on the compilation Southern Family, which remains one of the best records of the 2010s and one of the few I've ever given a perfect score. And yet even with that, Brent Cobb seemed to slide into the background: I really liked his detail-rich, earthy songwriting, but they guy had the misfortune of being placed in the track order between Jason Isbell and Miranda Lambert, who delivered much more impressive songs.

But in digging into his 2016 album Shine On Rainy Day, I came to realize that unassuming, low-key charm was less a bug and more a feature of Brent Cobb - primarily acoustic, with the sort of roughscrabble detail and texture in his lyrics that reward repeated listens to really sink into the vibe. And 'vibe' is a key qualifier, because while there are a few exceptions like the excellent 'South Of Atlanta' and 'Let The Rain Come Down', that record was perhaps a little too low-key for its own good - comfortably riding the firm bass, hints of smokier guitars and rich acoustic warmth to really kick up a groove, the sort of background music that brought a ton of welcome texture and would definitely be an underrated gem for folks who like indie country, but amidst an avalanche of excellent country in 2016, it's no surprise it might have faded to the background. 

Well, that's not quite the case in 2018, and if the buzz was true and Cobb has cranked up the tempos to lean into the southern Georgia funk influences that had been lurking beneath his sound for some time, we could have something pretty unique and interesting here, so what did we get on Providence Canyon?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

video review: '7' by beach house

Man, I knew this record was getting critical acclaim... it's nice to come into that mold on my own, though, I really did think this was pretty great. Definitely recommended if you want to get back on the Beach House train, it's worth it.

Next up... whoo, this'll be an obscure one, stay tuned!

album review: '7' by beach house

So I'll admit the last time I talked about Beach House three years ago - the first time I ever had on my channel - it didn't precisely go well. Part of that was inescapable - while I do love Teen Dream and Bloom I appreciate those records most because they expand and heighten the mantra-like dreamy melodies at the core of the duo's sound, compensating for poetic and well-considered but occasionally underweight lyrics. But on the flipside you get records like Depression Cherry which served to strip away so much of that atmosphere where it became much harder to get lost in the mist, and elements that could prove playfully eccentric on one record could feel undercooked or even pretentious when stripped of their packaging. It was hard to ignore the feeling that both Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars in 2015 felt like a regression, albeit for different reasons - I didn't formally review Thank Your Lucky Stars, so here goes: I appreciate the return of more atmosphere and more layered production, but the melodies and songwriting felt even more threadbare and like a retread of past records. Not bad, but not exactly a project I'd revisit over their best work.

So I can't tell you how excited I was to cover 7, Beach House's newest record and one that buzz was suggesting was their most dark and experimental in some time. Departing from longtime producer Chris Coady, Beach House acknowledged that when they worked with an outside producer at all it was Peter Kember, known for his work with Spacemen 3, MGMT and Panda Bear as well as for electronic records under the alias Sonic Boom. And while I expected Beach House to continue with their typical sound - this is not a band that takes dramatic sonic risks - I did hope that they were heading towards the heavier direction pushed on Bloom, which I'd probably consider my favourite of their projects to date. So alright, what did I find on 7?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 19, 2018 (VIDEO)

And it's out... and that means I might be able to go to bed on time on a Tuesday... nice.

Anyway, looks like it's Beach House next, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 19, 2018

So I've said a number of times that the most interesting weeks on the Hot 100 are not those of the album bombs, but the week right after, when things seem to reset to some form of equilibrium and the charts regain some sort of stability, for better or worse. And in the week following two album bombs in a row, you'd expect the recovery to be more pronounced... and then Childish Gambino unleashed 'This Is America'. And unsurprisingly, that's the much bigger story to discuss later on this show, but make no mistake, we will be talking about it, albeit with more of a focus on the song than the video.

Monday, May 14, 2018

video review: 'voicenotes' by charlie puth

And here we go, second review of the night... and arguably the better one! Really nice to see this done, step in the right direction.

Next up, Beach House, but first Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!

album review: 'voicenotes' by charlie puth

So the last time I talked about Charlie Puth, it did not go well in the slightest. That review of Nine Track Mind was a collaborative review with Jon over at ARTV, and to say we tore into that record would be underselling it. The vocal delivery was utterly unconvincing, the production was painfully flimsy, and the less we say about the underweight, milquetoast lyrics on that project, the better. And yet what caught me off-guard was how it was not just Jon and I calling that record out - indeed, the negative critical reception for Nine Track Mind was among the harshest I had ever seen, the sort of thorough panning that mainstream music critics rarely ever deliver.

And yet maybe Charlie Puth took some of that criticism to heart, and from the lead-off single 'Attention' I started to get the impression that Voicenotes might be a very different animal, especially when Puth described his primary influences to be late 80s R&B, New Edition and new jack swing. And if you had told me this two years ago I would have laughed in your face - come on, the guy who wrote 'let's Marvin Gaye and get it on' with Meghan Trainor is calling back to this era of R&B - but again, 'Attention' did have that groove. And when you factor in rumors suggesting that Nine Track Mind was pushed in a different direction than what Puth wanted towards a much cleaner pop sound... well, it would make sense, but I wanted hard evidence before I could buy into it completely. So alright, what did we get on Voicenotes?

video review: 'tranquility base hotel + casino' by arctic monkeys

So here's the first review of the night, bound to be the most controversial... but we're not done yet, so stay tuned!

album review: 'tranquility base hotel & casino' by arctic monkeys

Most of you probably don't remember the last time I reviewed the Arctic Monkeys. It was nearly five years ago, I didn't have a proper camera yet, but I was mostly positive towards the record and I did think it had some moments that worked for me...

And everyone hated it! Yeah, I'll admit I was still very much in the learning curve for making album reviews, but the backlash I got to being mostly ambivalent on this indie darling was pretty pronounced, mostly because my review consisted of some... let's call them mixed opinions on their back catalog. Suffice to say, Arctic Monkeys broke around the same time as a lot of other bands in a similar noisy, post-punk revival brand of indie rock, and when you paired it with observational songwriting that might have had moments of self-awareness but was often way too sour and acerbic to really resonate with me, as a group they just never clicked more deeply with me. Yes, you can make the argument that Alex Turner was one of the wittiest and smartest guys in the room, but if you know it and want everyone else to know it, any amount of self-deprecation doesn't make you any less of a dick! It's absolutely no surprise the band became a Gen X critical darling in the mid-2000s - and also no surprise that as they got older and arguably more mature and their fury curdled into detached, snide bitterness, said fans mostly stuck around... provided, of course, they could get behind the shifts in sound. Yeah, that was the other thing - Arctic Monkeys may have started in some furious, borderline punk territory, but they got way slower and more indebted to a conventional rock canon with every record, especially as they started embracing stoner rock elements on Humbug and psychedelic elements on Suck It And See and AM. And that was the frustrating thing for me: this band is clearly talented and had the capacity to take sonic risks and write some damn catchy songs... but the content and a lot of Alex Turner's delivery left a bad taste in my mouth.

Still, when I heard the band was taking a stark departure in their sound for lounge-inspired smooth jazz and spacey pop tones... yeah, you might have seen traces of that coming on previous records, but this sounded like something far out, and a record that has proven quite polarizing for a lot of fans. And hell, I was intrigued - maybe if Alex Turner could get out of his own head in terms of content, he could write something interesting, so what did we get with Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

video review: 'virtue' by the voidz

Yes, I know it took way too long to get to this, but honestly I could say more that was interesting here... sadly not.

Next up, something more current - stay tuned!

album review: 'virtue' by the voidz

Let's talk briefly about being weird in music. 

And this is actually a topic I don't think gets enough attention, mostly because for something to be called out as 'strange' or 'weird' there's at least some element of surprise, and in the era of 'nothing surprises anybody anymore' thanks to the Internet, the bar for weird gets pretty high. And for a critic it gets even higher, and not just because of the insanity you can dredge up out of /mu/ or Bandcamp, but because there is a grand tradition of outsider artists that have existed outside the mainstream where their brand of oddity might be just as catchy, but also brings with it elements that the public majority just are not willing to process. And yet again, in the Internet era where it's so easy for influences to crossbreed and mutate or become memes, the public might seem more willing to embrace these outsider acts... but it becomes a balancing act, both for the artists and the fans, because for as much as you want your favourites to do well, you know that artistic eccentricity can get eaten alive by the industry.

And then bridging between artist and fan you have someone like Julian Casablancas, frontman of The Strokes and his own defiantly odd band The Voidz. And I'll freely admit that he didn't flip that 'weird' alarm for me with records like The Voidz' debut Tyranny in 2014 - offkilter and paranoid and scattershot, absolutely, but it was also overlong and not quite as challenging as it thought it was. But it wasn't that record that compelled any interest from me so much as a series of manic interviews before this record that revealed Casablacas was a huge fan of Ariel Pink - which made sense, especially when you start digging into certain thematic parallels, but it was also telling that while Pink might be the genuine article and an act like MGMT be the studied devotee, Casablancas was the fan that didn't always grasp the intricacies but adored the aesthetic. Now reviews of Virtue were suggesting this could be changing, at the very least in terms of sonic fidelity and tone, but given this record also came with signing to RCA and producers most well-known for working with The War On Drugs, Weezer, and Beyonce, I had my doubts about this. But hey, it's nearly an hour long, surely they could have gotten things working, right?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

video review: 'SR3MM / swaecation / JXMTRO' by rae sremmurd

You know, I need to get back into the habit of using flames in my title cards for records this bad... but honestly, it's more that it improved and is just an overlong mess than anything else.

Anyway, next up is me tackling some much older business, so stay tuned!

album review: 'SR3MM / swaecation / JXMTRO' by rae sremmurd

I know what all of you want me to do in this review. You're all waiting for the seething anger, the extended rant on the vapid nonsense that this duo passes off as party bangers, how both of their previous records have been among some of the worst hip-hop to be released in the 2010s...

And yet I can't do it this time. Look, I don't regret anything I said for either SremmLife 1 or 2 - they're both bad records crippled by grating lead performances, awful lyrics, and production that wants to substitute overweight murky lumps courtesy of Mike Will Made It for anything fun or with significant force - I've got nothing against party bangers, but when you can't match even mid-tier crunk from the 2000s, you have serious problems! But then 'Black Beatles' - unquestionably the best song Rae Sremmurd ever made - became a #1 hit, and then I started hearing Swae Lee refine his cracking, nasal delivery into something a little smoother, and Slim Jxmmi add a little more structure to his bars, and I came to the realization that I may have actually been a shade too hard on SremmLife 2 - it's still pretty bad, but there were improvements there that deserved more attention.

So okay, maybe the follow-up could rise to being passable, I told myself, maybe these kids had something in them... and instead of doubling down on a tight record of bangers, they decided a good idea was a triple album! Now I've said in the past that even double albums can be a dicey proposition, but three records from this duo - one from them together, and one each from them solo, called Swaecation and Jxmtro respectively - is the sort of overstuffed choice where I can count the number of times it's worked in the history of recorded music - outside of live albums and greatest hits collections - on two hands! Seriously, we've got Joanna Newsom, Smashing Pumpkins, Kamasi Washington, maybe the Magnetic Fields or Swans or Prince - it screams of overplaying their hand or at the very least misunderstanding their appeal for Rae Sremmurd to try this. And yet my Patrons wanted to put me through this, so fine: what did we get on SR3MM?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

video review: 'beyondless' by iceage

Well, this was pretty damn great - shame about what's after it on the schedule, though, but might as well get it over with... stay tuned!

album review: 'beyondless' by iceage

I'll freely admit I had no idea what to expect with the newest Iceage project - and a huge part of that is directly linked to what happened with their third record Plowing Into The Field Of Love in 2014. Originally they had put out some post-punk that was explosive and twisted but didn't really have a lot of internal direction or consistency, but that changed in a big way with this record, pulling upon more elaborate arrangements that expanded their sound while still maintaining that nervy, unstable edge and killer melodic grooves. More than ever the comparison was less Bauhaus and more Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and given that the writing had stepped up considerably to match, I was onboard for this sonic progression.

And thus maybe I shouldn't have been that surprised when I heard that Iceage might be slowing things down a bit for this record, expanding their instrumental palette, even recruiting Sky Ferreira to play the P.J. Harvey to Elias Ronnenfelt's Nick Cave. Now granted, any more predictions would be almost certain to fail - I certainly don't think I could have called the progression for other post-punk acts like Ought and Preoccupations this year into more melodic territory, with one not sticking the landing and the other producing one of the best of their career thus far - but that doesn't mean I wasn't curious, given how long it took for us to get this record. So alright, how was Beyondless?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 12, 2018 (VIDEO)

So I thought I was going to be ahead of schedule getting this up last night... and then goddamn WMG claimed a clip and blocked it in all countries, so I had to rerender this shit and do it all again.

Anyway, it's Iceage next - stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 12, 2018

And now we have round two, the second record-breaking album bomb in as many weeks and one from an arguably worse record... and yet somehow it doesn't quite feel as big, at least to me. It's still sizable - we have eighteen new arrivals this week - but since the majority of it is Post Malone and I already reviewed the record and likely will have even less to say, it feels less noticeable overall. Or maybe I just feel better because at the end of June Billboard will be releasing new streaming rules that'll likely curtail some of this mess, but that's a story for another day.

Monday, May 7, 2018

video review: 'be more kind' by frank turner

I really do admire how damn hard this record is trying - really, I do - but man, I wish I liked this so much more...

Still, I'll savor what I've got here in comparison to this next episode of Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned...

album review: 'be more kind' by frank turner

At this point, I literally have no idea what to expect from Frank Turner.

Well okay, that's not quite true, but from his departure from post-hardcore towards indie folk and indie rock - and given that I didn't hear any of his singles going in - I literally had no expectations where this was going to go. Granted, there is a certain earnest sonic palette in his music that's familiar - surging guitars, big hooks, generally in the realms of indie folk rock - but beyond that, they were shades of a recognizable formula. So, even while I consider Love, Ire & Song his best work - and one of the best albums of the 2000s - it's not even that far removed from his last record Positive Songs For Negative People, arguably his biggest play for mainstream-adjacent attention courtesy of production from Butch Walker and even rumors of a Taylor Swift collaboration that didn't materialize - and while given what has happened to her in the past few years we'd probably consider that a blessing, there is a part of me that wishes that maybe some of Frank Turner could have rubbed off on her, that could have been really cool.

Instead, I started hearing odd things about this release, with influences spanning from Gang Of Four and Wire to mid-period records from The Cure, maybe even a pivot into 80s pop. This would unquestionably be a departure for him, and this has led to some of the most polarized reviews I've seen surrounding this project, especially when you hear there's a pretty stark political element to it. Now here's the thing: Frank Turner's political writing has always been complicated - go back to the title track of Love, Ire & Song and you'll realize he's never been some hard-line punk or leftist. And while my own tendencies have pushed me more in that direction, I'm up for the nuanced, difficult conversation, especially when you remember that Frank Turner is not American and even if a stylistic departure like this might wind up being an outlier for him long-term. So alright, what did we get on Be More Kind?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

trailing edge - episode 005 - april 2018 (VIDEO)

So yeah, tons of mediocre crap here... eh, let's just move on. Got some interesting records on the docket and that top ten list I need to finish - stay tuned!

video review: 'beerbongs & bentleys' by post malone

Honestly, I'm not even angry at this record... just kind of tired overall. Eh, it happens.

But if you want records more deserving of tired discontent...

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

album review: 'beerbongs & bentleys' by post malone

I've made it no secret that I have issues with Post Malone. Hell, most of you probably have seen my review of Stoney where I panned the record for being flaccid, sloppily produced, excruciatingly performed, awfully written, and generally a complete chore to get through, or you've seen how he's wound up on multiple year-end lists for the worst hit songs of various years. And that's before we get to his comments surrounding hip-hop as an artform and how if you're looking for emotional, evocative music, don't listen to hip-hop, which reveals far more about the mercenary attitude beneath the good-natured, doofy demeanor that makes all the posturing look utterly transparent. And frankly I didn't know how he can walk away from that - for Post Malone to be within the culture and not aware of artists who can deliver a poignant, powerful message, he'd have to be impressively ignorant, utterly callous, or a complete moron - possibly all three.

But the unfortunate truth is that he has been enabled and allowed to walk away from it, because his massive audience of white kids just looking for something to vibe to don't give a shit about hip-hop culture that inspires the art form and aren't going to stop listening to him on Spotify, which is why this album is breaking streaming records. But I do care about hip-hop culture and history: yes, I know I'm not really a part of it but I can sure as hell respect it, and when I look at my long-standing qualifiers for artistic culture exchange - know and respect the foundation points and history, work with those in the community, and then deliver something of quality - Post Malone at most gets one out of three. And thus while I knew for this channel's viability that I had to cover this record - yeah, 'Candy Paint' is on it, but so is 'rockstar', a song I genuinely despise, and the damn thing is over an hour long - I cannot say I was looking forward to it. But hey, Post Malone has made songs that are tolerable, maybe this won't be that bad?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 5, 2018 (VIDEO)

Man, this week was rough, and from the looks of things is going to get even worse next week.

But on that topic...

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 5, 2018

I'm going to pose a question that's been on my mind ever since we started getting stream-trolling album bombs on the Hot 100 and one that became glaring with KOD by J. Cole: is anybody thinking about the long-term impacts of any of this? Sure, it's an indictment on streaming platforms who take label payola to dump entire records on their playlists, and an even more scathing indictment on the public who won't bother to build their own damn playlist or find new things, but really, who does this benefit long-term? Do you even remember anything from Logic's middling album bomb a few months back, or do you remember a single that's been properly promoted and managed, where precision growth can lead to even greater success. We'll get to more of this in our top ten, but if you want the most prescient example of how the album bomb might hurt an album's public lifespan long-term, look at Drake and More Life last year, and compare it to his current singles rollout in 2018.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

resonators 2018 - episode #004 - 'bad brains' by bad brains (VIDEO)

And WOW, this was a fun listen. So glad this wound up on Resonators, it was a TON of fun.

Next up... okay, Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

video review: 'dirty computer' by janelle monae

Yeah, this project kicked ass... I'm a tad disappointed it seems like it's being dismissed as being too blunt and mainstream friendly (seemed like Kendrick got away with that with DAMN....), especially when there's a lot more insight lurking beneath the surface. Definitely worth your time, check this out!