Music Journal, December 10th, 2015

 

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Confident by Demi Lovato

My beloved “Cool for the Summer” is one of the few bright moments on this surprisingly serious album. In fact, “Cool” is an outlier thematically, with just about every track branching from the title song’s empowerment message of confidence against naysayers and heartbreak. Lovato is coming from a real place, and I commend that, but by the time you get to the ode to her dead father* you’re going to be scrambling for something more upbeat, like say one her early albums. Great voice but this just isn’t much fun.

*Songs about Demi Lovato’s father are an expected feature on every album, like how every U2 album features a song about God.

 

Revival by Selena Gomez
Great production, terrible lyrics. Gomez has a nice husk to her voice even though she packs more groaner lines than I thought imaginable. Much of the time, Gomez sings the way Bjork talks, if you can imagine that. Selena Gomez might just have a really interesting, strange album in her just yet.

 

E•MO•TION by Carly Rae Jepsen

This one was a real grower, every listen getting better and better. It has more in common with 2012’s Kiss than anyone wants to admit. That album was a rock solid pop record, and this one is even better, though “I Really Like You” turned out to be a big whiff. “Run Away With Me” is an instant classic, “Boy Problems” sounds like Taylor Swift shade, the whole thing is a blast. A lot was made about working with supposed left field indie producers like Dev Hynes but this album doesn’t sound that different, production-wise, from other pop records. If anything, it sounds better than I expected considering that she didn’t work with Max Martin and his ilk. Saying you didn’t work with those people like it is some sort of badge of honor makes no sense. Those guys make great hits! But I digress, this album rules.

 

Big Grams by Big Grams 

Great for Phantogram’s career. Not for anyone else. Was going for chocolate + peanut butter, ended up with vinegar chips and vanilla ice cream.

 

I Changed A Lot by DJ Khaled

Come for the Future features but leave before the reggae dancehall track. These albums are consistent to a fault. By track ten it feels like the production is stomping on your face with a steel toe boot, leaving a “We The Best” imprint in your cheek.

 

As If by !!!

!!! are now eight years and three albums removed from their career peak, Myth Takes. That album sounded like a band opening their arms and letting in the world, while subsequent recordings Strange Weather, Isn’t It? and THR!!!ER have ended up sounding reserved and almost conservative. As If is no Myth Takes Part 2 but it is a step in the right direction. It struts harder, gets weirder, and seems just on the edge of really, truly losing it right as it closes. Don’t stop, you guys.

 

Purpose by Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is an uninteresting vocal presence. On Purpose, Bieber sings nearly the entire album in a flat stage whisper and when he does aim for a high note, it ain’t much to tell your friends. The production is consistent with the Diplo/Skrillex/Major Lazer sound of the summer, repeated and remixed until it all starts to sound like the same chirpy bird sample has taken up residence in your ear canal.

The promo cycle for this album was all about redemption, but for most of Purpose Justin Bieber sounds unrepentant and passive aggressive. The first line of “Sorry” is “You gotta go and get / Angry at all of my honesty / You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies”.  Way to put it all on us, Bieber. This woe is me theme pervades the album. On “I’ll Show You”, JB pulls the old poor little rich boy line. “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing / When the pressure’s coming down like lightning / It’s like they want me to be perfect / When they don’t even know that I’m hurting”. Wow! The lack of self-awareness is about the only thing I can recommend about this album. Song after song of this shit. The gall!  When Justin Bieber isn’t apologizing while knocking bowls off the table he’s worried about the children of the world. I know this because he seriously, truthfully, I am not fucking kidding, starts a dance track(!) with the lyrics “What about the children?” I’m kinda in awe.

But seriously fuck this guy.

 

Get Weird by Little Mix

This is what kids in 3rd grade call “edgy”. Terrible album.

 

Bang 3, Pt. 2 by Chief Keef

Chief Keef is actually an incredibly consistent artist. Bang 3 was fire, this is fire, Chief Keef is forever on fire.

 

Unbreakable by Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson is a legend. Her career was sadly derailed by prudes, but the quality of the work never really dipped. Damita Jo is flames! Now with Unbreakable, Jackson delivers more wonderful songs, perhaps not as sexually driven as previous albums, but still undeniably personal. Working again with Jam & Lewis, Unbreakable is a front to back album, not a dud to be found. We are not worthy.

 

Vega INTL. Night School by Neon Indian

The first half of Vega INTL. Night School sounds like it was recorded underwater. The synths bloop and bleep like they’ve been submerged in goo and are trying their best to make a sound. I hated it on the first listen and it has grown on me but a version without the bloopy soaked effect would definitely sound better. The latter half of the album is pretty much fire, best thing Neon Indian has ever done, still not as good as the old Ghosthustler tracks and demos this guy started with, but that is my problem.

 

 

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