Hundred Word Reviews: Kendrick Lamar | ‘untitled unmastered.’

kendrick lamar album review

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.


February Music Round-up

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.

Hundred Word Reviews: Megadeth | ‘Dystopia’

Dystopia record reviewFirst things first: this isn’t Super Collider 2, thankfully. Aided by newcomers Chris Adler and Kiko Loureiro, Dystopia sees Megadeth righting the ship: in this case, a return to the radio-thrash of Countdown and Youthanasia as the basis for Mustaine’s songwriting. There are killer guitar parts (“Dystopia”, “Bullet to the Brain”); flashy solos (“Death from Within”, “Conquer or Die”); and overall memorable songwriting (“The Threat is Real”, “The Emperor”), a welcome distraction from Dave’s cringe-worthy lyrics and high school-level rhymes. Despite that, Dystopia isn’t a bad record per se but it’s not particularly interesting or essential, either.

Hundred Word Reviews: David Bowie | ‘Blackstar’

Bowie Blackstar review

He hired a free-form jazz band. He sings, “Where the fuck did Monday go?”, and sings in the language from “A Clockwork Orange”. He opens the record with a 10-minute mutating pop gem. This is David Bowie making music for himself and all the while giving no fucks. Blackstar may be Bowie’s weirdest album—which is saying something—and it’s easily his best in 35 years. Saying goodbye is certainly a morbid note to leave on, but what a note it is: “I’m not a pop star/ I’m a blackstar”. Indeed your are. Your genius will be missed.

A Word on the Packers’ 2015 Season

Tomorrow, the Packers play the Redskins for the Wild Card spot. Depending on the outcome, their season continues or ends.

I don’t know what will happen in the playoffs for the Packers. We can only wait to find out. I, much like all of Packer Nation, hope they win. I always want my team to win.

What I do know, however, is this: whether our season ends tomorrow or not, we all have to admit that this season has been one for the books. It’s been a helluva ride, with most excitement since the 2010 season.

I think my brother Todd said it best a few weeks ago: the heart-attack Pack is back. Perhaps not fully, but there are shades of HAP this season – including shades of Favre-esque, last-minute hurrahs.

From the good (the hail-mary against Detroit) to the bad (the embarassing loss to Arizona), it’s been a thrill-a-minute for sure. Whether you define this roller-coaster as “fun” is up to you – but I certainly do.

Explain how we went from 6-0 to 10-6 any way you want. The media certainly has, with plenty of blame to go around. And even if we didn’t get the Division title this year, we still have five titles under McCarthy – including four straight. That’s not nothing. This season hasn’t been the best, to be sure. But it’s still been one for the books. The highs approached the Heavens and the lows descended towards Hell.
And, you know what? I don’t think I’d have any other way. After all, Packers football is the closest thing I have to a religion.

Album Review: Ella Eyre | Feline

The following review was rejected by some editors at Best Fit, so I’m posting it here instead.


Being stuck inside of major label pop record confines can be frustrating, both for artist and listener – especially when it’s obvious to the latter that the former has so much more to offer than what’s on record. With Ella Eyre’s debut, Feline, this is certainly the case.

The UK rising star clearly wants to make it as a pop star, as witnessed by fantastic guest turns on Bastille’s version of “No Scrubs,” Rudimental’s “Waiting All Night”, and DJ Fresh’s “Gravity” (which, curiously, is included in this set).

Problem is, it seems Virgin wants to pigeonhole Eyre as an pop star and nothing more. Much of Feline is milquetoast EDM produced for the masses without much care for creativity. Which is unfortunate, given the team of songwriting and producers in the liners, including Wayne Hector, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Paul Berry.

Most of the songwriting here is good, not great. Synth stabs and processed drums paint most of the arrangements here. As a result, the first four tracks bleed together, and not even a strong personality like Eyre can make these compositions interesting. They’ll play well in clubs, sure, but so what? Even when horn-driven chorus of “Together” or the piano flourishes of “Worry About Me” can salvage the sheer blandness of it all.

Interestingly, the lyrics are the bright stop. The album discusses relatable topics like philandering men, uneven love and empowerment, but largely does so in a mainstream fashion: ” About time the bird flies/ About time that I try” is cringe-worthy and the driving/racing metaphor used in “Two” regarding a failed relationship is awkward at best.

That said, for every bland dull line (of which there are many), there’s a diamond in the rough to be found. “You know I’ve worked so hard to give you all that you need/ And from the start you never gave a shit about me” and “This is a bad idea/ It’s the fuck-up of the year” are effective in their directness, and demonstrates that Ella Eyre is captivating despite the claustrophobic production around her.

But perhaps the best line comes from the album’s best song, “Comeback”. Here, Ella Eyre offers advice for every woman who’s been fucked over (literally and figuratively) by cheating men: “We’ve all been played, we all get hurt /Just take the pain and let that motherfucker burn”. It’s as silly as it great, and gives Eyre some room to express her own identity. It’s just too bad she wasn’t given more.

A Word on the Charleston Shooting (and Guns)

What happened last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a tragedy, to be sure – despite what Bill O’Reilly says. (Apparently, an act of terror can’t result in a tragedy – as if they’re somehow mutually exclusive.) The pain resulting from the loss of nine innocent lives shouldn’t sting more because of racial motivation, but somehow it does. Racism in America still exists, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Watch Jon Stewart’s moving and heartfelt monologue for what will probably be the most reasonable and intelligent reaction to what happened in Charleston.

For my part, it’s fucked up and my heart goes out to all those affected.

But that isn’t my point or what I’d like to discuss. Instead, let’s talk about the weapon of choice here (a gun) and its consequences. Yes, I’m going to politicize this (if not come dangerously close) because a few things need to be said and reiterated.

Jon Stewart rightly prophesied about the aftermath, “[W]e still won’t do jack shit” about gun control or regulation. “And that’s the part that blows my mind.” How many shootings have to occur before we can sit down and finally have a serious debate about actual gun regulation?

Between 1982 and 2011, the US had 69 mass shootings, or about one every 200 days. Since then, the rate has almost tripled to about one every 64 days. Basically, one every two months. That’s insanity. (Note: The unofficial standard for a mass shooting, according the FBI, is four or more victims.) The data used excludes mass killings in domestic cases, making the data used here focused on public shootings.

Of course, having the right to own a gun – as we do – comes with consequences. As James Fox argued on CNN:

We treasure our personal freedoms in America, and unfortunately, occasional mass shootings, as horrific as they are, is one of the prices that we pay for the freedoms that we enjoy.

Yes, that’s true. And it’s also a ludicrous argument. The Second Amendment protects the people of this country from government tyranny, we get it. But the regulation of gun ownership as a attempt to prevent – or even lower – future needless violence is somehow seen as infringement.

It’s funny, because we have laws regulating the sale of alcohol and laws against drinking and driving…but that’s not seen as infringing on our ability to have a beer. Then there’s the argument gun control won’t work because bad guys will always find a way to obtain a firearm. Yes, much like illicit drugs, that will probably always be the case. However, the idea that regulation simply seeking to lower the rate of gun deaths is pointless because we can’t completely prevent them is absurd. By that same logic, we shouldn’t have laws against cocaine or marijuana at all.

The change in attitude towards drunk driving over the last 25 years, and the resulting increase in penalties, has seen a steep decline in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (down 36% since 1991) and in drunk driving fatalities with those under 21 (63% in the same time). Even more impressive, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities between 1982 and 2013 went from 21,113 to 10,076 – that’s a 52% decrease.

Legislation and lobbying efforts didn’t completely erase drunk driving-related injuries or deaths, but that doesn’t negate or even minimize in any way the progress already made. Similarly, gun control – even something as simple as mandatory background checks on any and all gun sales – could prevent some gun-related deaths. Trying to prevent any amount of gun violence – even one death – via regulation has nothing to do with your flag-waving bullshit. We on the side of gun control don’t want to take away rifle from a hunter or a collector. What we want is to remove the chance of another racist or mentally unstable person or felon or any otherwise run-of-the-mill nutjob from acting out their murder fantasies with a firearm.

A gun isn’t inherently dangerous – which is to say, a gun placed on a table and left alone won’t hurt anyone. Much like dynamite, a gun requires an outside agent for it to serve its purpose. I’ll concede the point that, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” because it’s true. That said, guns sure make it easy. And that’s the problem.


Untitled Short Story

So I wrote a short story way back at the end of 2009. I haven’t read it since – til today. Of all the writing I’ve ever done it’s all been non-fiction. The following is the only piece of fiction I’ve ever finished. I uploaded it exactly as it was written then.


I’m not entirely sure why I did it. I know that I did. I stood over it, trying desperately to figure out why. I mean, I know why in the sense that I wanted it. But the why in the sense of the reason behind the desire eludes me. I suppose it doesn’t matter any more. He’s dead. I’m alive. There isn’t really much more to it.

The blood wasn’t telling me anything, either. It’s a shame, too, because fresh, warm blood is quite the beautiful sight. No film has ever gotten it quite right, I’m afraid. It’s too thin or too red or too bubbly. Never the right texture – does water have texture? – or the right shade of maroon burgundy red. Beautiful.

I must say, his body bled for some time. Probably explained by the fact that there’s a knife embedded in his chest. And a giant gash in his neck. And stab wounds in his stomach. Yep, bled for a long while. Might be done by now. Another shame: the carpet will be ruined. Perhaps the next tenant will appreciate the splatter pattern. No, it’s not ruined. Me and my friend here just did some redecorating. The carpet, the walls, the ceiling. It’s wonderful. Upon consideration, it’s quite a marvel of luck.

Humans never die in a romantic pose, either. This guy’s proof of that. Did he really have to look like that, like a crack addict mid-freakout, limbs akimbo and tongue hanging out? I don’t like it. It spoiled my enjoyment of the scene. I could’ve repositioned them, perhaps, but that would’ve disturbed the moment. I dunno, I did it ‘n all but changing the image just seemed… wrong. It’d be like burning a photo. We can’t have that. I mean, I don’t like it but this is the way it is. I can’t change that.

It’s amazing no one came knocking at the door. The screams were loud. Rather loud, in fact. Someone should’ve been banging on the door. “Are you alright in there? Should I call 911?” they should’ve been asking. But they did not. Oh well. The authorities were alerted soon enough. I can’t remember if I called them first or after. Doesn’t matter.

Oh, that’s right. I called after. There’s blood on my cell. On the buttons. It was just a waiting game at that point. It was a good thing, too. Otherwise I woulda had to go replace these clothes. My favorite pair of jeans, now these are ruined. My favorite t-shirt – done. But, like I said, they don’t need replacing. My shoes, either. Poor, poor shoes. Even that ivory liquid shows up on black leather. Neat stuff if you look at it objectively. Subjectively, it’s sorta irritating ‘cause I love these shoes.

The knife, however, that’s just a meaningless tool. It’s a catalyst, really. Hm, there’s a word you don’t get to use too often in conversation. Or ever. I do like that word. Pretty much anything with ‘lyst’ in it is aesthetically pleasing. Syllogism, I like that one, too. It’s fun to say. And symbiotic, my favorite word. Good thing I can’t get blood on it, that would not be nice. I should think that if symbiotic had blood on it, it would be a nasty thing.

I wonder if this guy’s friends are going to miss him. His wife? Kids? Parents? It probably doesn’t matter in an objective sense considering I can’t undo this. I don’t think that I’d want to even if I could. The act is just so definite, so final. Seems like being able to undo it would be like undoing gravity. Just doesn’t feel right. I like that. It’s simple and yet complex. I should try writing a book of aphorisms someday, just to see if I can. I bet that would be fun.

No, you know what? Come to think of it, the carpet is definitely ruined. He pissed himself. And then shit. Yeah, now calling the carpet guys is the only option. Stabbing him without his pants on, not the best call I’ve ever made. But he was coming out of the shower and I couldn’t wait any longer. They’ll understand, right? Seeing red, all that stuff. Blinding rage. It wasn’t a gay thing. I was just impatient. He was wearing boxers, that’s something at least.

What was the order? Slit his throat then rammed it in his chest and then his stomach? I think that was it. The throat was absolutely first. Maybe the stomach next. I don’t recall. He didn’t fall to the ground after his throat was opened up. I found that odd. The first stab didn’t take him down either. Tough sum’bitch. But that third wound. Yes! It was the chest third, ‘cause he was bent over holding his stomach – oddly enough, considering his neck was practically a firehose – so, yes, I jammed the knife into his chest as the final injury. Then he went down. Don’t know if I hit his heart, but I probably ripped something open beyond his skin. Lung maybe. I have no idea. I never was interested in anatomy.

Seemed like there should’ve been some music playing. The silence sounded weird. Something should’ve been filling the aural void. “Let It Be”? No, too cliché, too obvious. “I Stab People?” No, didn’t want people knowing I listen to them. Something ironic, possibly. Jeff’s version of “Hallelujah?” Too indie. Zooey Deschanel isn’t starring in this. “Free Bird?” Too… Monty Python. “Back Stabbers”? Too Pynchon. I instead decided to go grab my iPod put it on shuffle, let it decide for me. Then I thought I’d just go with “Ride of the Valkyries.” At least they’ll think I got taste that way. I mean, I do but I want them knowing I do. And, this way the press won’t go after some current pop star just because his or her song was playing when five-oh came to the door.

How fucking dumb is that anyway? Just because two know-nothing fuck-ups listen to Manson, he’s the reason – the sole reason at that – they mowed down classmates? Fuck that. I hid my copy of “Grand Theft Auto,” too. Didn’t want Rock Star sued, either. They make great product after great product. Be a shame if suddenly they went bankrupt because of one decision made by one person completely unconnected to the company.

OK, I just needed to do it. It’s as simple as that. There isn’t a real reason qua reason why I needed to do it. You could list the usual ones: loud music wakes me up, that haircut, whatever. But none of that is an actual, legit reason why I did it. I just didn’t find his existence to be relevant to the rest of reality. He didn’t deserve to exist any longer. Borrowed time. That seems fair.

Jealousy? No, I guess not. I had just as good a job. The family? Nah, I didn’t want any of that. Less expenses. I just wanted to slightly alter reality. Ya know, change one part, a coupl’a particles in the universe. People reason this way all the time. The difference is that I chose to act. I’m better than everyone else because I’m honest. I don’t wish, I do. I don’t know if I was better than him, though. So many ways to measure that. Seems like a lotta work. Stabbing is easy. That’s a great band name, a death metal band I bet. Ladies and gentlemen, here to play their new hit single, “I Like Knives,” Stabbing Is Easy. Crowd goes wild. Sure, why not?

Eventually I’m gonna have to explain this to someone. That’s gonna be some work. I can’t even explain it to myself. Well, at least thoroughly or with any kind of authentic rationale. Maybe that will come to me one day.

Maybe if I had stared at those eyes, those (quite literally) dead eyes for just a little longer. They’re not quite blue-green but damn close. Most women have probably said something akin to “Those are pretty eyes.” I wonder if he liked hearing that. Men don’t often hear “pretty” directed at them. Usually, when they hear it, it’s leaving them and going towards someone else.

I should post a Twitter update. No one will be able to beat my tweet. “Killed a guy, stood over the body. lol.” Beats the shit outta your “goin clubbin wit da girlz.” Not a single word spelled right. And that person has more followers. Christ. Hopefully that changes. I should tell Alex to attach a photo from the paper to the tweet. That would be the ultimate.

No, that’s really more of a Facebook thing. I could have an entire album devoted to it. The pics of the body, the arrest, the trial, everything. Title it “My first murder.” Awesome. Ought’a get a dozen more friends. I should be writing all of this down. These thoughts are fleeting and need to be saved somewhere beyond my brain. Maybe add some videos to Youtube. That might garner a few more subscriptions. That’s what it’s all about after all. It’s a numbers game. The binary code keeps track of the number of friends. Is that ironic or not? I can’t tell.

That is, digital friends. Certainly not real friends. Given the average Facebook user, how many of said user’s friends have they met in real life? Fifty percent? Seventy-five? Not all of them. I doubt anyone on Facebook has actually met every single friend they have. Same goes for MySpace. In fact, I bet the percentage is less for MySpace. Way less. Like, it’d be comparing a puddle to the Pacific.

I have four hundred seventy-one friends on Facebook. I’d bet the average to be around one-fifty or two. That’s twice the average. I’m ahead of the curve. Well, the arbitrary curve set by me. But it’s probably right. Or close, anyhow.

Real life friends, though? I dunno, ten maybe. Of them, maybe two can truly stand my presence. I’d say that any given month I probably socialize for a good three to four hours face to face. Five to six on an abnormal thirty-day stretch. Rest of the time is spent feeling disgust for the human race. I think it’s most likely based on the fact that I don’t consider myself human. Sub-human or meta-human, whatever. I don’t care either way, just as long as I’m not lumped in with Homo sapiens. I’m not like them, never will be.

I guess that’s the answer to your question. To my question.

“So you killed him?” the detective inquired.

Oh yes.


I wanted a human connection.