Few metal bands are as consistent(ly great) as Amon Amarth, and they’re in fine form here. Vikings aren’t known for sprinting, but over the last few records that’s what AA’s music has largely been doing – and for the better. As usual, the misses occur when AA stray beyond five minutes, the added length hindered by a lack of commitment. Additionally, a few questionable choices mar an otherwise solid effort: an appearance by Doro is awkwardly out-of-place, and the melody of “Raise Your Horns” is nursery rhyme-esque. A bit of editing and you’ve got one of the year’s best metal releases.
Painkillers finds Fallon trading the punk stylings of his main band for an attempt at a singer-songwriter record (read: an acoustic-based affair). Fallon does a little experimenting, too: “Long Drives” sports some country-rock flavor and “Mojo Hand” is a solid bar band impression. The anthemic nature of his writings remain, too – “Smoke” and “Nobody Wins” match the highs of his best sing-alongs. Lyrically, it’s not as heavy as TGA’s Get Hurt; however, Fallon still sings about the pain of lost love and past mistakes. Painkillers is gravelly-voiced jangle-pop that’s polite, inoffensive, and without risk. On those terms, it’s a success.
Kendrick Lamar’s glorified B-sides collection from the TPAB sessions. As a window into his creative process, it’s infinitely fascinating. As anything else, not so much. The wonderfully broken jazz of Butterfly is on full-display here, allowing Lamar room to explore every possible mental alleyway. His trust in his listeners to follow him regardless of how weird he gets is his greatest strength and weakenss. The brevity here (34 minutes) is welcome, despite an aimless, eight-minute stitch-job. As both rapper and writer, he’s the best alive. Still, as with TPAB, this demonstrates the difference between being an artist and making art.
Rihanna | ANTI
Finally, THE singles artist of the decade decides to make a listenable album start to finish. ANTI is as efficient as it is love-drunk in its songwriting. Sure, there aren’t any monsters like “We Found Love” or “Umbrella”, but they wouldn’t fit here, anyway. This is personality as a compositional device – a hypnotic, no-fucks-given endeavor that largely avoids studio filler. Musically, it’s her least-maximal, allowing her vocals to seethe, sway, slink, and swoon around the un-radio-friendly, hazy grime of the production. It’s no accident that her best vocal performance is on her best album.
Mind Enterprises | Idealist
Debut from Italian-born EDM producer who loves the ’80s. Compsitions are surprisingly mature given his young age. 21st Century dance music that’s smart – whoever heard of such a thing?
[You can read my full review here.]
Collision | Satanic Surgery
Standard crossover thrash (leaning towards punk) with Entombed’s guitar tone and edge-of-sanity vocals – nothing special or overly original. That said, this record is a fucking lotta fun. And it’s only 26 minutes, so it’s over before you can hate it. Bonus points for the song titles: “Operation Meatcleaver”, “All You Need is Hate”, “Necromantic Love Affair”, and “Touch Me, Jesus”.
Animal Collective | Painting With
Ever OD’ed on Skittles? Imagine the colorful, most joyous moments of Merriweather Post Pavilion and multiply by a billion – that’s Painting With. AC paints with pinballing colors packed so tightly together that superfluous “Wipeout” and Coke ad samples leaks out. Naturally, there’s little, if any, room for subtlety; without it, these songs are children constantly yelling their parents’ names simply for the the attention. It’s all ADHD bright colors without requiring any real patience to abosrb the music – which is to say, the perfect album for the Spotify generation.