Weezer’s fourth self-titled record is their also their most uninteresting since Make Believe. With the exception of “California Girls” and “Jacked Up”, Weezer is largely unmemorable and sounds more like a Weezer impression than the band itself. Rivers’ ability to write peerless powerpop melodies is mostly absent, perhaps due to a lack of Ric Ocasek. Lyrically, awkward references and bizarre allusions replace quaint details and self-deprecation, making the face-palming even more painful. Creating pop music that sounds effortless is difficult; listening to pop music where the effort (and resulting failure) is patently obvious is even moreso.
Heron Oblivion | s/t
Imagine if The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” filtered through Television’s Marquee Moon were an entire album. Modern trends in rock music? Fuck that. You can read my full review here.
Kendrick Lamar | untitled unmastered.
Work-in-progress demos / B-sides from the To Pimp A Butterfly sessions from an artist that continues to travel deeper into his own Penrose Stairs-esque mind. The amount of enjoyment you’ll get from this is directly proportional to the amount of weight you give to the pretentious, capital-A Artistry of Pimp over good kid‘s coherence and restraint. He’s still the among the best rappers alive and easily hip-hop’s most interesting writer, for what it’s worth. Visit My Hundred Word Review here.
Brian Fallon | Painkillers
Painkillers is further proof that Fallon’s greatest strength as a songwriter is his willingness to fully embrace his unabashed earnestness. Yes, he can be cheesy and nostalgic, but his commitment to selling it sells the songs themselves as a result. This is a fine hold-over until The Gaslight Anthem comes back from their hiatus. Read my Hundred Word Review here.
Amon Amarth | Jomsviking
The tenth (!) record from the viking metal stalwarts is another solid
release, as expected. A few odd songwriting choices aside, it’s a great, if
inferior, follow-up to Deceiver of the Gods, the band’s creative peak. See
my Hundred Word Review here.
Young Thug | Slime Season 3
Less an album than eight stray songs cobbled together, the third installment of the Slime Season series is also its breeziest, both in terms of music and run time (a brief 28 minutes). London on da Track is as much a star of this as Young Thug, providing the majority of the minimalist, space-y production that gives YT plenty of room to play with cadence, tone, and Auto-Tune. If only every artist could come up with something this much fun as a result of a leak.
Iggy Pop | Post Pop Depression
Pop’s 17th album is also his best in a quarter-century (even with two of his silliest songs ever). PPD is yet another clinic in less-is-more songwriting. Songs are built from the rhythm section up. Since producer (and collaborator) Josh Homme has always preferred to use the guitar as a rhythmic, rather than melodic, device, his stabbing guitar style meshes nicely with the rubbery, elastic basslines – especially on “Gardenia” and “Sunday”. You can sum up this record – and, really, his entire career – in one lyric: “It’s all about the dancing pricks”.
Kadda / Patton | Bacteria Cult
Second collaboration between Mike Patton and John Kadda, meaning it’s Patton singing over Kaada’s gently gothic orchestral arrangements. Before hearing a single note, you’ll know if you like this or not. While there are no lyrics, the singing is (unsurprisingly) top-notch, as is the music. The only real surprise here is that there isn’t one. Cult of the most straight-forward releases of Patton’s career.
Killswitch Engage | Incarnate
Incarnate picks up right where Disarm the Descent left off – which is to say, no metal band writes catchier choruses than KsE. Their songwriting hasn’t progressed much over the last decade, so you mostly know what to expect at this point. That said, some fantastic riffs and strong choruses don’t address the staleness of it all by album’s end – even an acoustic intro to “Quiet Distress” is a wasted opportunity, as the song devolves into more stock metalcore. Incarnate might be Jesse’s best vocal performance to date, but it’s sorta wasted on “been there, done that” material.
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.
Girl, call me a bridge ’cause I’m over you.
And I’m outie like a belly button.
First 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.
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.