May Music Round-up

Brand New | “I Am The Nightmare”

New year, new single. But no album. It is, however, the most infectious melody Jesse’s written since the Your Favorite Weapon days. The circular guitar riff is both catchy and a roundabout way of calling back to their early days. Given the recent t-shirt they put out, it may also be a signal for the beginning of the end. And ending it on this song wouldn’t be the worst way to go out.

Death Grips | Bottomless Pit

You already know if you will love or hate this. Death Grips are, without question, the most original group of the 2010s, so whatever you think of what DG do is irrelevant. Their biggest strength is the sheer self-belief in their unique brand of audio agitation. That said, whether you prefer this over other records, or find it any more or any less disorenting, depends on your personal taste. Their entire aesthetic is some combination of immaculately produced and curated noise terrorism that oscillates between being more “rap” based and more punk based; Pit seems to lean towards the latter. Nothing here is as striking as “Get Got”, but there are some serious earworms to be unearthed in the madness.

PUP | The Dream Is Over

When you’re the vocalist in a punk band and your doctor tells you that you can’t sing, yell, or scream anymore, the only logical reaction is to do all three louder – hence, TDIO. It’s more immediate and more personal than their debut: Instead of speaking to and about the rest of the world, Patrick Stickles yells and screams to and about his own bandmates – and the way he does it, you’d think they came to blows during recording. That kind of bitching would get old quickly if Stickles wasn’t one of the most Twitter-worthy lyricists in music. Gems like “You wanna know if I’m still a prick?/ Well, I am” and “I’ve been blessed with shit luck/ There’s some things that’ll never change” are found throughout the record’s 31 minutes. This is an end-of-your-rope kind of record, and it’s only their second. I can’t wait to see if they kill each while writing the next one.

Radiohead | A Moon Shaped Pool

Thing about Radiohead is, would these songs matter if they were written and recorded by ANY other band? Or, is the impact and weight of them purely because of who it is? Radiohead has managed to transcend being a band that makes great music through the curation of a seemingly unfuckwithable identity. The songs themselves are almost beside the point – which is unfortunate, because there’s some fantastic material here. Yet, “Do I like this record?” or “Is this record any good?” aren’t the questions you should ask yourself. Instead, ask yourself if you even give a shit.

You can also read my Hundred Word Review of the album.

April Music Round-up

Weezer | Weezer (white)

So-called return to form is more like a Weezer impression than an album by the actual band. Rivers’ ability to write earworms that stick after only one listen is still present, but one wonders why he didn’t do this for every song. Hire Ric Ocasek or don’t bother.

Read my review of it, also.

Deftones | Gore

A mixture of their most beautiful and most brutal music to date, Gore is Deftones solidifying their name as a consistenly great metal act. A truly interesting metal record is tough to come by these days, so appreciate them when they do arrive.

My Hundred Word Review is here.

Sturgill Simpson | A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

Country music’s best kept secret follows up a fantastic bluegrass record in the only way he can: he throws out the banjos and adds ’60s Mowtown brass and ’70s hard rock guitar. Simpson writes memorable melodies, but they’re not like the ear candy heard on country radio; these songs take a few listens to fully appreciate. No self-respecting producer woulda let Simpson stray this far from a winning formula like Metamodern Sounds, and for good reason. That Simpson self-produced this brilliant album just makes you appreciate him as an artist even more.

Aesop Rock | The Impossible Kid

Hip-hop’s wordiest MC releases his leanest and best record to date, a month before he turns 40. Rap is NOT a young man’s game anymore. (Was it ever?) All beats by Rock himself and not a single guest verse would be a gamble for a lesser artist. Being that Rock is among the most fascinating voices in music, that decision was a a logical one. Hopefully we don’t have to wait four years for a follow-up.

Hundred Word Review of this record is also available.

Drake | VIEWS

Lotta words have been written about this record, so I’ll simply say this: It’s not a bad album, but it is boring. His last two were better, so listen to those instead.

Hundred Word Reviews: Aesop Rock | The Impossible Kid

impossible kid record review

In which Aesop finds something that’s eluded him for 20 years: a record without bloat. Much like Skelethon, TIK is a one-man show with the paranoid synth self-production and no guest verses. It’s also Rock’s most personal offering to date, and his least obtuse. Kid lacks anything as visceral as “Zero Dark Thirty” or as hypnotic as “None Shall Pass”, and better for it. No one song stands above the rest, allowing the songs to hang together as a cohesive whole. Aesop turns 40 in a month, and somehow made a career-high album while showing no signs of rust.

Hundred Word Reviews: Deftones | ‘Gore’

gore deftones album review

A mix of White Pony and Deftones, Gore is surprisingly great from the veteran alt-metal act. While it never veers too far from their signature floating seasick paranoia, the album offers some of Deftones’ most aggressive (“Doomed User”) and most beautiful (“Hearts/Wires”) music to date. Chino’s thoughts are as esoteric as ever, but patience unearths gems: “Now I’ve become this core of rotted will/ My heart is black and I will never feel”. Few bands have the consistency of Deftones (especially in metal), and even fewer can legitimately argue they’ve made their best record in their third decade.

Hundred Word Reviews: Weezer | ‘Weezer’ (White)

weezer white record review

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.

March Music Round-up

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.

 

Hundred Word Reviews: Amon Amarth | ‘Jomsviking’

jomsviking record review

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.

Hundred Word Reviews: Brian Fallon | ‘Painkillers’

brian fallon painkillers

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.

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.