Saturday, August 31, 2019

video review: 'may the lord watch' by little brother / 'whatever usa' by hoodie allen / 'brandon banks' by maxo kream

And that should be the last of my vacation footage - special thanks to Hoodie Allen for showing a quick cameo at Reading Festival, he was certainly cool to let me film the review in front of him and the conversation afterwards was illuminating. For an act still running the independent hustle, I've got a ton of respect for his refinement.

In the mean time... no idea where to go next, we'll see - stay tuned!

Friday, August 30, 2019

video review: 'no man's land' by frank turner

And here we go - honestly, I was preparing to bucket this with another review in a vacation review structure, but I honestly just had way too much to say - enjoy!

Anyway, next up... frankly, I've got no idea - stay tuned!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

album review: 'no man's land' by frank turner

Am I the only one who feels like Frank Turner can't really win these days to save his life?

And yes, I'm fully aware that a chunk of that statement comes from me being a fan of the guy - hell, I was actually kinder to his 2018 album Be More Kind than pretty much everyone, a project balanced on the precipice of hopepunk and existential emptiness that sadly didn't have nearly as much of an edge as it really needs to secure that balance - there was a wonky stiffness and cleanness to his production and delivery that really hampered that project as a whole. But throughout the majority of the 2010s it's been hard for me to shake the feeling that for as much as Turner is trying desperately to do the right thing artistically, he's either stuck chasing past glories or is facing an increasingly unpleasable audience with sky-high expectations - most of the time both. And while I've been feeling this to some extent since at least Tape Deck Heart, it really came to bear with the backlash to Be More Kind, where Turner was trying to provide hope both to his audience and himself and it didn't seem like he pleased either... mostly because with the exception of the furious and potent '1933', the songs themselves were not his strongest by a long shot.

So I had to hope that No Man's Land would click this time - but again, it did seem like Turner was setting himself up to fail. A folk rock project full of songs celebrating the famous and forgotten women of history on the surface seemed like a winning idea, especially in this climate with his recruitment of plenty of women behind the scenes, but a more cynical 'progressive' audience already seemed to have their pitchforks on standby for his audacity to tell those stories - hell, from what I can tell the backlash to this was even stronger than to Be More Kind, it's his worst-reviewed project to date! So yeah, I was expecting the worst with this... and yet how was No Man's Land?

video review: 'lover' by taylor swift

Hmm, I'm a bit surprised this hasn't been received as being more contentious than it is... funny, that.

Anyway, I really think I have to give Frank Turner a full review next, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

album review: 'lover' by taylor swift

I want to stop overanalyzing Taylor Swift.

I mean, in theory it should be easy as hell - she makes mainstream-accessible pop music that shouldn't require or demand such in-depth analysis, it shouldn't be difficult to do so. And yet when I reviewed reputation in 2017, it wound up one of my most lengthy, overwritten pieces that still wound up as inconclusive on the album - and what's frustrating is that upon revisiting reputation, I still feel that way. I still think the flaws are too glaring to ignore - it's too long, it's self-indulgent without feeling truly self-critical, the sequencing is terrible, the bad songs are among the worst in her career - but at the same time there's depth and complexity that can't really be ignored.

And yes, a huge part of it is bigger than the music and can't really be extricated from the artist. Hell, if you want to make one of the most striking examples for never separating the art from the artist, it is Taylor Swift - the emotional power comes not just from the personal details and the relationship to her life, but then how they can translate to the every girl, or at least an increasingly broad representation of what that is. It's one big reason why both she and Drake have translated to a massive audience this decade - the detail and the personal vulnerability that anyone might connect to is what hooked the audience, their flaws and humanity are on display to the point where you wind up as the villain in your own stories where your moral justifications are increasingly flimsy, and the fact that despite all your control, your image becomes so big that it can be anything to anyone means that you're heading for a crisis of self. For Drake it's been the paranoia that has consumed his work since 2015 but especially on Views and Scorpion and for which there hasn't been a proper correction, for Taylor Swift it was the heavy subtext of alcohol abuse and trying to build an emotionally resonant story out of quicksand that was reputation, which is one reason I find that project so fascinating.

But you don't have to steer into the skid, and with the change in labels and slight adjustment in pop sound that came with the new singles - especially with the stark self-awareness that characterized 'The Archer', I had the hope that she had corrected - hell, I had the biggest hope in the longest of times that I might really like a Taylor Swift album, especially with the producers and guest stars behind her. So how about it, what did we get on Lover?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 31, 2019 (VIDEO)

And we're back on somewhat normal schedule. I do have a few reviews that will be shot in vacation format, but I think I might get to Taylor first... stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 31, 2019

Not to get hyperbolic about it, but it seems like the entire purpose of the Billboard Hot 100 charts this year has been to get me to look stupid. Sure, we got another new #1 this week that I predicted, but everyone has been calling that for weeks if not months, and yet just as soon as I was musing that this year has been quiet on the album bomb front, here comes Young Thug with a proper album leaving the Hot 100 in disarray. And yes, to get in front of this now, album bomb rules are in effect and will probably will remain in effect if Taylor Swift does the same next week, we'll have to see - I just got back from vacation, I have a ton of catching up to do, just hold tight on this one.

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 24, 2019 (VIDEO)

Ugh, here we go - messy Billboard BREAKDOWN while shot on vacation, thank fucking GOD I can shoot the next one at home... stay tuned!

video review: 'the center won't hold' by sleater-kinney / 'don't you think we've had enough' by bleached / 'how do you love?' by the regrettes

Okay, this actually turned out pretty decently - shame I couldn't quite get more vacation footage, but it does happen... enjoy!

video review: 'we are not your kind' by slipknot / 'CALIGULA' by lingua ignota / 'patterns of mythology' by falls of rauros

So yeah, I did miss out on posting a few videos and updates - I was on vacation, it happens - and in any case, I've got updates here now, so enjoy!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 17, 2019 (VIDEO)

So, lengthy episode, but I am happy I got to it all the same - good stuff!

Next up... well, I'm on vacation, so I'd venture over to my instagram to keep up to date on what's coming, so stay tuned!

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 17, 2019

You know, I should just give up making these sorts of predictions one of these days. Here I go thinking that we wouldn't get much of an impact this week, that things would slow down, some of it even based on the evidence that the last time Drake reissued a project - that being So Far Gone - it didn't hit the charts that strongly. And yet apparently just enough time as passed to get a sizable compliment to hit the Hot 100, along with a bunch of assorted pop country because Billboard wants to make my life difficult before I go on vacation - go figure.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

video review: 'i, i' by bon iver

Okay, here we go - this is one of those reviews I can imagine will be controversial... but eh, we'll see.

Next up is a really meaty episode of Billboard BREAKDOWN and then I'm venturing off on vacation - stay tuned!

Monday, August 12, 2019

album review: 'i, i' by bon iver

Alright, let's try this again.

So, Bon Iver, the primary venture for singer-songwriter-producer Justin Vernon and a rotating cast of players, and one of the critical darling acts that has never quite won me over. Don't get me wrong, for the most part I like this project, especially the more propulsive, windswept indie folk side that was instrumental in partially jumpstarting that movement in the late 2000s, but the more Bon Iver has ventured towards synthesized electronic music, the more I've been torn on them, respectful of the ambition but rarely satisfied with the results. I do think it's unfortunate that the first time I was talking about Bon Iver I was covering the project's worst album thus far by a considerable margin - that being 2016's 22, A Million, a project that wrapped itself in a lyrical tangle trying to parse the larger divisive world before scolding the audience for trying to understand it, along with some of the most scattershot, fragmented production yet - because I think it may have given off a more negative impression... but that doesn't mean I'm going to mince words here either. Hell, I was probably too nice to 22, A Million in retrospect.

And yet seemingly out of nowhere we had a new Bon Iver project, released three weeks early online and with Justin Vernon describing it as his most 'honest' and 'adult' album to date. What caught my attention was not only more producers allowed in the room, but also collaborators like James Blake and Aaron Dessner and even Bruce Hornsby - the latter shouldn't be that much of a surprise, given that he has worked with Vernon in the past, but still! And you know what, I really was hoping this would turn into something special, so what did Bon Iver deliver this time?

video review: 'first taste' by ty segall

Okay, this was a bit of a letdown and I'm already seeing the backlash creep in... though I don't think I'm wrong with this one, just saying...

Anyway, I've got my meaty challenge cut out for me next: Bon Iver. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

album review: 'first taste' by ty segall

I'll be very honest, I thought Ty Segall had run out of ways to surprise me. 

Granted, for a guy who cranks out as many albums as he does, I was open to the possibility, but even with the return to form that was Freedom's Goblin last year, I really thought that was testing the boundaries of how far Ty Segall was going to venture out of his comfort zone: ground himself in garage rock scuzz, tack on some added instrumentation venturing into other subsets of proto-punk, early metal, and even glam around that era, but likely not venture much further. I thought he'd probably stay in this territory, maybe tighten up the writing and production, and he'd have enough fertile ground to harvest for... well, given how quickly he releases albums, another three years or so.

So I'll admit when I heard that his newest album First Taste was ditching guitars altogether... well, it reminded me at first of when news broke the Mountain Goats were leaving guitars behind for Goths, but even then singer-songwriter material like that had proven ground to expand, whereas I'm not sure I can count many garage rock acts that don't have a guitar lead! So I had no unearthly clue how he was going to tack on strings and keyboards to make this work, but I definitely wanted to hear it - so okay, what came out of First Taste?

Friday, August 9, 2019

video review: 'cheap silver and solid country gold' by mike and the moonpies

Well damn, this came right the fuck out of nowhere! Great project, absolutely worth hearing, make time to check it out!

Next up... honest to god, not sure, I'm going to be out of town this weekend, so we'll see what happens soon - stay tuned!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

album review: 'cheap silver and solid country gold' by mike and the moonpies

So fun question: if you're an indie country act who puts out an album that only your diehard fanbase hears about, does that count as a 'surprise' album?

Okay, snark aside, I did not see this coming: I figured after Steak Night At The Prairie Rose, we might not hear from Mike and the Moonpies for a little bit as they started slowly building their groundswell outside of their native Texas. And at least to me that made sense - even despite the feeling that Texas country was building a more defined mainstream or at least mainstream-adjacent place in recent years, planning this sort of expansion might take some time - and hell, even in the indie scene country doesn't move at the same pace as trap or pop, they probably could have afforded to take their time.

And yet with this project, Mike and the Moonpies didn't just deliver more of the same - which given their strengths and a reportedly terrific live show, they probably could have and the indie country set would have been just fine. Instead they flew out to the U.K. and recorded with the London Symphony a short selection of songs that they released the same day as Tyler Childers and damn near flew under the radar of everyone except the indie country set, who promptly lost their shit over it. And considering one of my criticisms of the group was that they were perhaps a little too set in a traditional sound, I did get excited to hear this, so let's not waste time: what did we get on Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold?

video review: 'country squire' by tyler childers

Yeah, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did... eh, it happens.

On the plus side, I found a surprise country album that actually dropped the same day that wound up being way more up my alley - stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

album review: 'country squire' by tyler childers

You know, I keep looking back on the last two years of Patreon scheduling with some degree of exasperation - nothing against you guys, a huge part of the problem was me taking on way too much without a clear way of focusing or managing it, but it also meant that I just missed covering acts that you'd think would have been on my radar. And when you build a reputation for covering a lot of indie country and for some reason you don't cover an act who is building a ton of hype and groundswell... well, I'm not sure how many cared, but I certainly felt exasperated about it.

Such was the case with Purgatory, the long-awaited sophomore album from Kentucky native Tyler Childers that was released in 2017 that caught the indie country scene by storm, thanks mostly to a defiantly country palette full of ragged fiddle and a notable production credit from Sturgill Simpson. It was loose and raw and sleazy but in the right way, rife with flavour that just felt a step away from greatness for me thanks to feeling a bit underwritten and meandering at points - good thematic cohesion and it did grow on me with repeated listens, but it probably wouldn't have made my year-end list in 2017, but also Childers was definitely someone worth keeping an eye on. And his buzz caught fire in a big way, nabbing him a major label deal on RCA on the condition he'd maintain artistic freedom - which to me was a very positive sign, all the more evidence that any courting of Nashville radio is something the indie scene just doesn't care about; hell, that album cover should make that plain enough! So okay, let's make up for some lost time here, what did Tyler Childers deliver on Country Squire?

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 10, 2019 (VIDEO)

Okay, here we go - bit of a wonky episode, all things considered, but overall pretty good - enjoy!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 10, 2019

Am I the only one who thinks that this year has just felt like an extended cooldown from the chaos of 2018, where it felt like the chart was facing upheavals every other week? Of course, some of that stability on top has to trickle down, but some of it feels rooted in a summer that feels increasingly listless and bereft of impact releases, true album bombs to shake the charts - yeah, we got a few songs from Chance The Rapper this week, but not the tidal wave we would have seen last year.

Monday, August 5, 2019

the top ten worst hit songs of 2012 (VIDEO)

A long time coming, but I'm actually really pleased how well this turned out - enjoy!

the top ten worst hit songs of 2012

So I've said before that 2012 is probably among the best years of the Hot 100 this decade, and I stand by that - there was a plethora of fantastic songs, both well-remembered stalwarts and forgotten gems, and multiple genres were in the throes of transition, which gave indie music a breakthrough window to the benefit of everyone. Pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop, country, they all notched real success and were above average overall, all of which bolstered the fact that there's just not that many awful songs this year. And even if they were here, by the overall standards of any other year, they didn't seem that terrible - more grating production choices and sloppy writing than anything offensive or in overwhelmingly bad taste. I could get angry at the worst of 2016 - for the majority of the list, I can laugh at the worst in 2012.

But we did get bad songs, and it's worth pointing out where they came from... and really, most of them are clustered in saccharine music across pop, pop-country and adult alternative that just utterly missed the point, or in hip-hop where the genre was going through a transitional year between pop rap club bangers and what would become the darker, heavier trap sounds throughout the decade. And it wasn't helped by a few artists in particular having a bad year in 2012 specifically, but I think it's time we get to the list proper. As per usual, the songs had to debut on this year-end list to qualify - so 'Sexy & I Know It' is reserved for 2011 - and if you previously saw my worst hits of 2012 originally published on my blog that year, I recommend you stick around regardless, as things have shifted a little bit. 

Okay, got that? So without further adieu, let's dig into a year that for the most part wasn't really that bad, starting with...

Friday, August 2, 2019

video review: 'the lost boy' by ybn cordae

And here we go - honestly a good surprise with this one, although I think YBN Cordae has some steps to go to hit greatness. He'll definitely get there, though.

Next up... it looks like a pretty light week ahead, which means back catalog and maybe a year-end list over the long weekend... stay tuned!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

album review: 'the lost boy' by ybn cordae

I'll admit I'm a little surprised I'm choosing to cover this project.

See, I try to keep my ear to the ground when it comes to certain rap crews, but there are others that I've missed the boat on. One of them in the early 2000s was A$AP Mob, but in recent years it feels like it's been the YBN crew. Part of this is another sprawling lineup that seems to be more hype than with credible music to back it up, but another part was the YBN Nahmir song 'Rubbin Off The Paint' which was fine, but not all that interesting. And given that he was considered one of the leaders, I didn't have a ton of incentive to check out YBN Cordae if that was what the crew was going to deliver.

But then he kept showing up - and spitting his ass off. One of the sole saving graces on the last Logic album, a few other scattered features, nabbing enough buzz to hit the XXL Freshman list this year and with a freestyle good enough to drive momentum into an upcoming album on a major label deal with Atlantic, I figured why not - could wind up interesting, so what did we get from YBN Cordae on The Lost Boy?

video review: 'fever dream' by of monsters and men

And here we are - better than I expected, to be honest, thought I really wish this band would get a different producer so we'd actually get some different texture and depth.

Anyway, next up... hmm, we'll see. Stay tuned!