Posts Tagged ‘Kanye West’

Music Journal, June 6th 2016

June 5, 2016

IMG_6952

Islah by Kevin Gates

The great contradictions of a person make them interesting, like when Vin Diesel goes to give a woman a kiss. Kevin Gates is the greatest embodiment of contrast, with moments of real empathy and openness right alongside tracks where he goes on and on defending his decision to assault a fan at a show. The music is good to great across the board, lush and full without being overproduced, the beats aren’t particularly showy but never generic. Islah has Gates offering footrubs while his lady talks about her day, juggles his two phones(business and pleasure) and he loves to fuck. He can also rap, sing the hook, and eschews guests. Kevin Gates is too real.

Ξ by The Toxic Avenger 

The overhanging menace is a bit much. No attempts to dance. I think there is a GG Allin sound bite. A good reminder that blog house is dead too. Closing track “Together” aspires to some kind of lights in the sky, hands up in the air losing it moment but that dark menace, for whatever purpose it is supposed to lend, just sucks the air out of the room. This is so tasteful it might as well be hors d’oeuvres tray.

The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us by Beach Slang

The lead singer has that nice grit in his voice that makes guys like Ryan Adams and Walter Schreifels so appealing. The majority of these tracks rip it up, and “Dirty Lights” might be the rippiest of them all. My favorite part is this line in “Ride the Wild Haze”:

Get really high
Stay up for days
I come back down and somehow things are all the same

That’s fucking life, man.

The Life of Pablo by Kanye West

7 for 7, or 8 for 8 if you count Watch The Throne. For all the mess of the release and the fact that you still can’t buy it unless you have a Tidal account, TLOP is a winner. I’ve been listening to it incessently and it’s one of my favorite things he’s ever done, just like Yeezus before it. Kanye doesn’t seem interested in being a rapper anymore, and his twitter bears this out, but his curating and production abilities are still without peer. Is this a mess? I feel like Late Registration was a messier album, plus it had those terrible skits. TLOP doesn’t have any skits, it does have more prayers but it also has the drops and misogyny and that certainly gives you whiplash but that’s every Kanye album.

Post Pop Depression by Iggy Pop 

Iggy has made hints that this is a retirement record and it sounds like it. More subdued than one would expect considering the Josh Homme assembled band, Iggy Pop gets some jabs and wails in but he mostly sounds like someone who is tying up loose ends. A nice record to go out on, just don’t expect him to tear the world down around him while he exits.

Don’t You by Wet

This album is boring and sucks.

Majid Jordan by Majid Jordan

This is nice and pleasant and then you’ve fallen asleep on the couch.

Hotel Paranoia by Jazz Cartier

Fake Drake songs bump into fake Meek Mill songs into fake everybody else. Guy has no personality of his own. He is sure of himself though, so shouts to his self esteem.

I Don’t Think It Is by Say Anything

This is the worst album Say Anything have ever made. The production is either purposely bad or they literally had no budget. I kinda think it’s the latter. Max Bemis does more of the same from the last couple Say Anything albums, but with weaker hooks and a thin sound. I would say it’s a cry for help but every Say Anything album is a cry for help. This one just sounds more desperate.

Khalifa by Wiz Khalifa 

Wiz Khalifa is the owner of the most bored tone in rap, maybe tied with Big Sean. He just never sounds that interested in anything he is saying. The production on this one is not bad, always good to see Lex Luger getting a check. Strictly for the die hard Wizheads, or whatever they’re called.

10 Ways to Steal Home Plate by Wolfgang Gartner

We’re ten years removed from the Summer of 06, the beginning of the blog house era, an incredible time to be alive and have an internet connection. We’re now in a sort of post EDM era, so guys like Gartner, who as recently as 2011 were dropping mega opus albums with 8 minute tracks, are turning around and making 3 minute pop tracks featuring rappers. Not complaining, you have to work hard to put food on your family. 10 Ways gets the job done.

Views by Drake

I guess I’m back off the Drake train again. After the back to back delivery of Nothing Was The Same and it’s run of all timers (“Worst Behavior”, “Hold On We’re Going Home”) with 2015’s If You’re Reading This Its Too Late I figured Views would be a slam dunk. But instead Drake has delivered his first dirge record. Rapping at a minimum, singing and whining cranked up to 11, all over 40’s “The fridge is running” production soundscapes. No one needs these cold bummer tracks for such a hot summer.

Anti by Rihanna

It is easy to declare “Best Rihanna Album” on first listen. It seems so cohesive! I went back and listened to Rated R, Loud, Unapologetic and Talk That Talk just to be sure and those albums basically have the same success/failure rate as Anti, though Anti has less obvious A&R trend chasing.  Without any bangers, much of Anti’s runtime is given over to moody midtempo slither. “Needed Me” and “Kiss It Better” have a simple majesty and as a singer Rihanna has never sounded better and maybe one day she’ll make a true front to back burner. “Work” still sounds like RiRi’s “The Lady I Know” and that Tame Impala song is now a Rihanna song, sorry, no take backs.

Hymns by Bloc Party

A couple years ago I went to my cousin’s high school graduation party and I happened to mention an upcoming Bloc Party concert. “No one cares about Bloc Party anymore”, my cousin informed me. Hymns will not change that view. The title is taken in a literal sense, with endless soft paeans to a higher power that have no interest in strong hooks or melodies. Now running without Matt Tong’s iconic drumming or Gordon Moakes bass work, Bloc Party has taken on the guise of one of front man Kele Okereke’s tedious solo records. This guys used to be the jam. A real bummer.

Transmission by Death in Vegas

Richard Fearless is now partnering with Sasha Grey on his ventures as Death in Vegas, and while it’s a better album than 2011’s endless drone Trans-Love Energies it doesn’t play as much more than extended interludes. Grey doesn’t add much to the mix besides some monotone vocals, and besides functioning as a kind of white noise, I’m not sure what anyone is supposed to do with this music. It never elevates to the point of interesting art and instead functions as elaborate “on hold” muzak.

Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper

I still can’t take Chance’s voice for too long. Too thin, always sounds like he’s on the verge of a gasp or a crack. And if he tries to sing, it’s even worse. Sorry Chance, you’re no Kevin Gates. Still, Coloring Book has his best songs so far. “No Problem” has an incredible hook and some pretty good verses from 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne and “All Night” is the kind of party banger that you have to put on repeat because 2 minutes and 21 seconds isn’t long enough. Chance says his favorite Kanye album is The College Dropout and Coloring Book is slathered in it’s influence. Not a bad place to start.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Lorin’s Favorite Music of the year 2013

December 30, 2013

2013 turned about to be the year when every major artist in the game dropped a big album and maybe half of them were any good. For every triumph like Yeezus or Hesitation Marks you’d have a disappointment like Magna Carta Holy Grail or Random Access Memories. I could write a whole thing on the let down albums this year. Nah. Too easy.

20) Stay Trippy – Juicy J

Those Rubberband Business mixtapes were my shit and Stay Trippy was a long time coming and totally worth the wait. All bangers about strippers and drugs, which is what we as human beings want from Juicy J. “All I Blow Is Loud” and “Gun Plus a Mask” are instant classics and “The Woods” is probably the best thing Justin Timberlake did all year.

19) Heartthrob – Tegan and Sara

“Love They Say” is pure beauty and sadness. So is “Closer”. Whole thing has this weird mix of happy/sad going on. I’ve never really cared for Tegan and Sara before this album and I know there was talk about Heartthrob as some kind of craven grab at popularity but these songs sound real good, and real true. Getting a budget doesn’t mean you can’t still be true! And everyone wants to be popular! Who are we to tell Tegan and Sara they can’t put food on their families?

18) Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke

If this guy could dance he would have the world on a string. Still, everything on this album is better than both those bloated 20/20 thuds. Breezy and fun, done in 40 minutes.

17) Trap Lord– A$AP Ferg

All you need to know about this album is that the chorus to “Dump Dump” is

“I fucked your bitch, nigga, I fucked your bitch

I fucked your bitch, nigga, I fucked your bitch

She suck my dick, nigga, she suck my dick

She suck my dick, nigga, she suck my dick”

16) Artpop– Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is overstudied and not nearly as good as she thinks she is. And yet, this album is fire. So many bangers, just vicious shit. Purposely ugly in all the ways that appeal to me, yet with these huge neon hooks. The hook for “Sexxx Dreams” is like a laser to the face. “Aura” is a monster.

15) B.O.A.T.S II: #MeTime – 2 Chainz

2 Chainz goes front to back here, just casually dropping bangers and classics like it is just the most natural thing in the world.

14) Save Rock and Roll – Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy are one of my favorite bands. Their three album run in the mid 2000’s is some hall of fame shit. They don’t get any respect though because their audience is largely girls and old men like to write rock history. Save Rock and Roll is weird and actually doesn’t have a ton of guitars on it, but it still has great hooks, fantastic singing from Patrick Stump, and a song about masturbation. The boys are back.

13) Nothing Was The Same – Drake

2013 was my year of Drake. I know why people don’t like him and sometimes I still don’t like him but I think he has more songs I like than dislike and Nothing Was The Same is pretty good. I think it could have used a couple more bangers like “Started From The Bottom” but that wasn’t what he was feeling at the moment. But did you hear “Trophies”? Shittttt.

12) Excuse My French – French Montana

This may be the last we hear from French Montana. The album flopped and people have already moved on but this album has tracks. Hot fire all over and these beats, son. Diddy paid good money for these beats and it would be a shame for all of us to ignore them. Also, the ignorance of “Pop That”, “Marble Floors” and “Ocho Cinco” all on the same album is awe inspiring. May French continue to be worried about nothing.

11) Dynamics – Holy Ghost!

The first three songs are kinda eh but then it makes a huge jump in quality and you can forgive those first tracks and come to like them a little bit. I saw these guys live this year and they aren’t very interesting performers but the songs sounded good and while they can’t really pull off their ballads live, those tracks are the best songs on Dynamics. “I Want To Be Your Hand” is an instant classic.

10) Matangi– M.I.A.

This album should have been called Bangers. M.I.A. never fell off, really. I’ve gone back to MAYA a few times and it is still hit and miss but who doesn’t have a moment like that? We keep giving Jay-Z second chances. Matangi is easily M.I.A.’s best album, no contest. The production is vicious, she still doesn’t give a fuck, and unlike her other records it isn’t back loaded, it’s just loaded.

9) My Name Is My Name– Pusha T

I still listen to Hell Hath No Fury all the time. I bought Till The Casket Drops even though the reviews were bad. I listened to No Malice’s solo album(terrible, btw). I rocked that Play Clothes mixtape for like half of 2009. I’ve listened to the Re-Up Gang record at least 4 times. I really really like The Clipse. My Name Is My Name is largely flames, Pusha T goes hard, Kanye hooked him up with some hot beats(“No Regrets” oh shit), dude is back. I wish The Clipse were back but this is great. Best Pusha track of the year is “Millions” off of the Wrath of Kaine mixtape.

8) Hesitation Marks – Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails have never made a bad record. This is a fact. Look it up. Every album is good to great, though us hardcore Nailheads can argue over which is which. (Year Zero is my shit). Hesitation Marks isn’t a return to form, thank god, it’s just the next step. There are dancey songs and funky songs and songs that are slow like “Hurt” and it is all fine and good.

7) Black Panties– R. Kelly

What do I do with you, R. Kelly? How do I reconcile your past actions with the music you made and continue to make? It’s tough. And tougher for the victims of your crimes. Black Panties is a really good album. The track with Future is next level. “Legs Shakin'” is bananas. “Every Position”, totally nuts……Man. I dunno.

6) Long.Live.A$AP – A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky is a cool dude. That’s what he sells, being cool as shit. The first half of this album is like riding in a haze of cool(and weed smoke). Then he drops “Fucking Problems” and “Wild For The Night” and your heart level jumps up and you freak out and start breaking things and then you simmer down again. Then “Ghetto Symphony” comes on and you level a city.

5) Old– Danny Brown

If you ever bad mouth Danny Brown on Twitter, Danny Brown Stans will come out of the darkness and flood your mentions with anger and vitriol. “Danny Brown is the truth!”, they will scream. “Danny knows what is going down in these streets!” He does! I agree! This album is great, leave me alone.

4) Beyoncé– Beyoncé

Like the rest of you, I’m still digging into this one, but it’s highlights are plentiful. “Drunk In Love” and “Blow” were early favorites, and “XO” gets better with every listen. I was rocking “Bow Down/I’ve Been On” since January so “***Flawless” is of course my shit. Frank Ocean is still boring, though.

3) Yeezus – Kanye West

I like how nothing is going right for him in “I Am A God”, which everyone seemed to miss. Oh well, Kanye foreverandeverandeverandever.

2) For Professional Use Only – Araabmuzik

Araabmuzik got shot this year by some guy trying to steal his chain. Araab lived, dropped a sick remix album, kept on keeping on. Plus, you’re asking for trouble trying to rob the guy who made “This For The Ones Who Care”.

1) Paramore – Paramore

I started to like Paramore a lot after those two guys left the band and some astute blogger somewhere pointed out that all the songs on their last album were about how those two guys were just a bunch of assholes. That they quit because they were concerned about “keeping it real”, whatever that means in the pop/punk scene, which is the phoniest scene around. This album is a great rebuke to those guys, and really anyone who shit on this band, because the songs are sooooo good. Songs about being adults, and moving forward, and living your life after hard shit happens. I listened to this album a lot, and it was a no brainer when I had to pick my favorite of the year. “Ain’t It Fun” is a nice final “fuck you” to those guys who quit, but it could also just be about lazy people. There are levels to this shit.

Best songs of 2013
1) “This For The Ones Who Care” – Araabmuzik

2) “Fo Real” – Future featuring Drake

3) “Do What You Want” – Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly

4) “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – Drake featuring Majid Jordan

5) “Fucking Problems” – A$AP Rocky Featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar, & 2 Chainz

6) “Suit And Commercial” – The Hood Internet (Daft Punk/Justin Timberlake)

7) “Higher” – Just Blaze x Baauer featuring Jay Z

8) “All You’re Waiting For” – Classixx featuring Nancy Whang

9) “Going With You” – Sebastien Grainger

10) “I Told Em” – French Montana

The Best Music of 2012. Sorry for the lateness. (I’m not sorry)

February 5, 2013

I have been messing with this list for so long that I almost let 2013 pass me by. 2012 was good. I saw The Afghan Whigs live. I started doing improv which has completely changed my life for the better. I celebrated a year of marriage to the love of my life. THE RAID: REDEMPTION came out. Banner year all around. Let’s get to the tunes!

20130202-131424.jpg

25. Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game
I’m not a hardcore Wainwright fan. I like his upbeat stuff more than his ballads, I don’t have any interest in his reenactments of Judy Garland concerts. His last album was horribly self indulgent but this Mark Ronson produced record is Rufus taking the hint to have fun, be loose, and sing songs about Rashida Jones. I’m at the point in my life where the artists who once sang of wild nights and hedonism now sing songs about island vacations with their husband and kids. That album title is heavy.

20130202-132046.jpg

24. 2 Chainz – Based on a T.R.U. Story
I think we all inflated our expectations for this album. 2 Chainz was murdering guest appearances all over the place, being the best part of every song he popped up on. A whole album of 2 Chainz? Yes please. The highlights tend to be the guests like Drake on “No Lie” and Kanye West on “Birthday Song” but 2 Chainz has charisma and a knack with hooks so you have a pretty fun ride. Delete the Mike Posner track on sight.

20130202-132209.jpg

23. Blinker The Star – We Draw Lines
90’s could-have-been drops a sleeper. Is this alt or indie? We Draw Lines is super hooky and well produced, which I guess means it isn’t indie. With so many 90’s groups returning with absurd twists on old sounds and songs, Blinker The Star came out with just great tracks that manage the trick if being reminiscent of the old sound without being derivative.

20130202-132255.jpg

22. Usher – Looking 4 Myself
“Climax” is great and we should be happy just to have that. That the rest of Looking 4 Myself turned out as well as it did is kind of a miracle. Usher doesn’t strike me as the best barometer of taste, and I still recall how bad “Love In This Club” and “Moving Mountains” were, so the style experiments that work on this are nice surprises. The two Swedish House Mafia tracks aren’t mindless EDM like “O.M.G.” and most of the lyrics on the album are introspective in ways I never would have predicted. “What Happened To You” is a particular higlight in this regard. At the same time, the sexual confidence of Usher is largely unfettered and very hilarious. I think we’re like one album away from a song that will have the subtext of “I sexed her so hard she died. My bad.” Can you keep up with Usher sexually? He is doubtful.

20130202-132345.jpg

21. R. Kelly – Write Me Back
Dude can’t stop. Write Me Back falls right in line with 2010’s Love Letter. Good to great throughout, with the exception of two songs that you can delete from your iPhone like I did. “Feelin’ Single” is one of the greatest songs R has ever written, and “Share My Love” endorses impregnating as many people as possible. See you in July, Robert!

20130202-132427.jpg

20. A-Trak – Tuna Melt EP
Four bangers and then he steps back to let you collect yourself. A-Trak is one of those “genius takes hours of practice” kind of guys and his time and effort shows on this pretty flawless little EP. I think this bodes well for the years of classic bangers to come.
20130203-032859.jpg
19. Gucci Mane – Trap God
Gucci Mane also dropped Trap Back last year but Trap God  is just a little bit better. I’ve finally come around on Gucci’s mush mouth style and I like it quite a bit. Of course it’s best when coupled with someone frenetic like Waka Flocka Flame, who elevates a track like “Rollies Up” to classic status. Also, do you guys know how much a rolex watch costs? A lot! Having multiple rolexes seems financially irresponsible. Plus who owns a watch nowadays? The time is on your phone, Gucci!
20130203-033022.jpg
18. Katy B – Danger EP
It only took a year and change for all the dubstep people to switch up their style to actual danceable EDM and what a joy it is to behold. Apparently just a teaser EP for an upcoming full length, B sets the bar high. Even the ballad is good. True story, I listened to “Aaliyah” four times the first day I heard it.
20130203-033035.jpg
17. Waka Flocka Flame – Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family                          

 It is tough to follow a classic. That’s right, Flockaveli is a classic. Deal with it. Triple F can only pale in comparison but Waka still brought the heat. “Lurkin” is an instant classic and “Candy Paint and Gold Teeth” is laidback fun. “Rooster In My Rari” is the kind of crazy fierciness I expect from Waka out the gate. I’m not entirely on top of the vernacular but I’m pretty sure “Rooster” is about getting head a in Ferrari. I COULD BE WRONG.
20130203-033044.jpg
16. G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
Hey, I know there are a couple crap songs on this, but it also has “To The World”, “Clique”, “Mercy” and “New God Flow” right in a row at the beginning. And that Cudi song ain’t bad either. “Cold” is fire. Every Kanye verse is a career highlight. This thing is great! Great! (I deleted “Sin City” off my iPhone long ago)
20130203-033054.jpg
15. Skrillex – Bangarang
I don’t think I’ve come around on dubstep so much as the artists who know what they are doing have managed to make dubstep’s more abrasive elements more fun and listenable. So Bangarang is just uptempo bangers, with very little of that that slowed down drop garage that was the Skrillex calling card on previous releases.
20130203-033103.jpg
14. TNGHT – TNGHT
Someone somewhere pointed out that this album is just trap beat instrumentals. Good description, person I can’t give proper attribution. Every beat knocks, 16 car shaking minutes.
20130203-033112.jpg
13. The Presets – Pacifica
This is actually a heck of a lot like the last album by The Presets, Apocalypso. Best tracks are in the middle, kind meanders at the end, fun experiments all around. They do seem more earnest now. Hey, we all get older. It’s fine. “Fall” and “Promises” are dance songs with real emotion within them.
20130203-033121.jpg
12. Gossip – A Joyful Noise
This is the best Gossip album, full stop, no debate. Total dance party, great production, and Beth Ditto sounds amazing. Worst album art of the year though.
20130203-033128.jpg
11. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
This album took me a couple months to really start digging. These guys rock faces and do that “Whoa oh!” singing that is a lot of fun to sing along with in the car. “Continuous Thunder” is a great closing track which is saying something since most rock album closing tracks are total bummers. You know who knew how to close an album? Rage Against The Machine. The last song on their first album is “Freedom”, which is a balls out classic. End with a classic. Make me happy I stuck around til the end.
20130203-033136.jpg
10. Death Grips – The Money Store
I’m not going to lie to you, some of this album is terrible. But it is mostly awesome. The drums and the synths will suddenly merge out of their isolated chaos and sync up into a joyous union of laser anger. That is a pretty accurate way to describe “Hustle Bones”. The guy can’t really rap and the lyrics make no sense but it all comes together on “Hacker”, which goes all disco ball synths out of nowhere and reminds us that angry punks still like to kiss girls.
20130203-033143.jpg
9. Vitalic – Rave Age
Vitalic drops some hall of fame bangers on this one. “No More Sleep”, “Stamina”, “Next I’m Ready”, all monsters. No one has dropped an all banger, all monster tracks dance record since the duel headed releases of MSTRKRFT’s Fist of God and The Bloody Beetroot’s Romborama in 2009 but this comes pretty close.
20130203-033153.jpg
8. Future – Pluto/Pluto 3D
You can listen to either version of this album, I’ve just been listening to the 3D release because it has the “Same Damn Time” remix on it and Diddy’s verse is amazing. Also I think having “You Deserve It” as the first actual song is a better look. Future is a hook machine and all of his tracks are hits or hits to be. Like Waka, he knows how to make his guests shine, like T.I. on “Magic” and especially R. Kelly on “Parachute”, where Robert basically hijacks the album to tell all his haters that he is back and better than ever. Truth.
20130203-033158.jpg
7. DMX – Undisputed
Got intensely into DMX in 2012. It started when i caught his appearance in the concert film Backstage where he suffers no fools, leaves it upon his wife to properly greet Chuck D and answers Chuck’s question about the tour experience saying that every moment not spent on stage is pure misery. Then I watched DMX in Belly and my mind was blown. This guy is too real. I believe everything he says. It isn’t always nice(it is never nice) and it is frequently ugly and it is riveting. DMX is an amazingly consistent artist. His discography is largely dud free and his previous two albums have an incredibly high ratio of bangers to not-bangers and while Undisputed is more 50/50 bangers to not-bangers, X stays X. He’s passionate, he’s angry, and he has a great ear for beats. Swizz Beatz stays DMX’s greatest collaborator. “Y’all Don’t Really Know” is an insta-classic X/Swizz collaboration.
20130203-033209.jpg
6. Hot Chip –In Our Heads
Such beautiful songs. Hot Chip at their most sincere, at least to me. I haven’t watched any of the videos off this album but all the videos for their previous albums seemed to undercut the emotional sincereity of the songs, like Hot Chip were worried about being too real. These songs sound like they come from a pure place, like they’re talking and “it’s just me and you”. (h/t Kanye) Closing with the one-two punch of “Let Me Be Him” and “Always Been Your Love” is an emotional wallop.
20130203-033216.jpg
5. Torche – Harmonicraft
It’s all about the tones, man. I don’t know how to play guitar so I don’t know if they’re tapping, plucking, or flicking the strings with a guitar pick but it sounds majestic. And powerful. And delivered with a brevity unseen in metal. Next song! Next Song! Is this metal? It seems too poppy and clean, yet it roars. I’ll leave that for someone else to worry about.
20130203-033228.jpg
4. Carly Rae Jepsen – Kiss (Deluxe Version)
I still don’t care for “Call Me Maybe” and that horrid song with the Owl City guy but just about everything else here is fantastic. A couple club bangers(“Tonight I’m Getting Over You”, “Wrong Feels So Right”), great pop tracks(“This Kiss”, “Hurt So Good”, basically every other song) and nearly every single one is about forbidden love or risky romance. I think at least a quarter of these songs are about the queasy feeling you get when you first develop feelings for someone, and the rest are either about hooking up with someone even though Jepsen’s character is involved with someone else, or in the case of “Tonight”, dancing away the pain of a breakup. All produced to glistening perfection. Shit’s great. I also deleted all the ballads long ago. We are truly in the future.
20130203-033238.jpg
3. Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Is this the best Deftones album? Maybe. These guys just keep getting better and Koi No Yokan hits all the sweet spots and never falters. This is easily the best collection of Deftones midtempo slow burn ballad monsters that they’ve been trying to perfect since the self titled album in ‘03. If “Entombed” doesn’t become a metalhead wedding staple I will be very surprised. It still has plenty of blazing riffs but it’s pretty great to hear these gorgeous ballads, with Stephen Carpenter’s guitar just wailing into (what I imagine is) the night sky.
20130203-033245.jpg
2. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
“Oh!”
“Whoa!”
“Oh man!”
“This album ain’t kidding around.”
“Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?”
“C’mon, that isn’t fair.”
“…..shit.”
– Me listening to this album the first time.
My reactions haven’t changed. Killer Mike and producer El-P go hard for the entire running time, with Mike covering Reagan’s poisonous legacy and telling enjoy stories about Jojo’s conversations with a phantom Ghostface. El-P’s beats are across the board hall of fame shit and “Big Beast” is the kind of monster track that is so perfectly constructed and powerful with two great guest spots from T.I. and Bun B that continues their tradition of being better on other people’s records than on their own.
20130203-033255.jpg
1. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Kaleidoscope Dream is the best album of 2012 because it is infused with joy and ingenuity. Miguel is locked in to what he wants his music to sound like and he doesn’t chase any trends, he is undeniably himself. The production is lush and expansive but the focus is always on Miguel’s voice and his lyrics, which are really good. I love The-Dream but the guy traffics in a kind of smart-dumb style, same with R. Kelly at times. Miguel writes himself characters and scenarios that are interesting and funny and sad. “Pussy Is Mine” manages to sound like the deepest lark ever made. “Oh, I was just messing around in the studio on this heartfelt paeon to a woman who I think is going to leave me. No biggie.” Anyone else get goosebumps from the first 30 seconds of “Don’t Look Back”?

Best songs of 2012

1. “New God Flow” – Kanye West, Pusha-T, Ghostface Killah
2. “This Kiss” – Carly Rae Jepsen
3. “Feeling Single” – R.Kelly
4. “Sweet Life” – Frank Ocean
5. “My Life” – Rich Kidz feat. Waka Flocka Flame
6. “Big Beast” – Killer Mike feat. Bun B, T.I. and Trouble
7. “Climax” – Usher
8. “I’ve Seen Footage” – Death Grips
9. “Don’t Look Back” – Miguel
10. “Aaliyah” – Katy B x Geeneus x Jessie Ware
11. “No More Sleep” – Vitalic
12. “Birthday Song” – 2 Chainz feat. Kanye West
13. “Lurkin” – Waka Flocka Flame feat. Plies
14. “The House That Heaven Built” -Japandroids
15. “Snakes Are Charmed” – Torche
16. “Hacker” – Death Grips
17. “Bad Girls” – M.I.A.
18. “Bangarang” – Skrillex feat. Sirah
19. “Fuckin’ Problems” – A$AP Rocky, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz
20. “Hot Cheetos & Takis” – Y.N. RichKids

The Best Albums of 2011: A list

January 20, 2012

Do you need an introduction? Well, I liked all these albums.

20) Patrick Stump – Soul Punk

Fall Out Boy stan for lyfe. Stump has his Timberlake moment and he nails it. The lyrics are cheesy but that’s because he has no time for winks and artifice. Dude wants to dance, girl.

19) Wild Flag – Wild Flag

Carrie wanted to rock again so she assembled a wrecking crew and done wrecked some shit.

18) Spank Rock – Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is a Fucking Liar

Spank Rock has important things to say and ideas to relate but thankfully he still makes booty jams. Go with what you know.

17) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

In the Foo Fighter’s documentary Back and Forth, Dave Grohl points out that it was miraculous that There Is Nothing Left To Lose won a Grammy and it was recorded in his basement. He was equally incredulous when Wasting Light was nominated this year since it was recorded on tape in his garage. For his next one he should put Butch Vig in his pantry and Pat Smear in the laundry room.

16) Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Lost In Translation

A really good rapper who loves to rap about being under appreciated and getting head. Well, someone appreciates you, eXquire.

15) Beyoncé – 4 (Deluxe Edition)

The regular version is fine but you need the deluxe version for the song where she convinces her companion (Hov one presumes) to stay home from the club and makes the point that if he stays home he gets to have sex with Beyoncé. Well played, B.

14) Rival Schools – Pedals

Walter still sounds tougher than he looks and Ian is still a casual guitar god.

13) Justice – Audio, Video, Disco

In a way, Justice are taking a piss. But their interviews are so sincere and they say things like “My favorite book is the Bible” and aren’t kidding. They already did their half ass version of Don’t Look Back and now they’re doing a variation on Boston, except their spaceship crashed.

12) Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Divisive, this one. If In Ghost Colours cured cancer than this one took care of scoliosis.

11) Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra

Wes Borland saved up all his best riffs and didn’t even use them in his own fucking band. It’s like he knew one day he’d want to put on the ol’ body paint and play “Break Stuff” for the millionth time. Fred Durst is now full on hilarious and lacking in apparently any self awareness, naming a song “Douchebag” and taking it’s chorus to homoerotic realms previously unexplored. He also refers to himself by the name “Polar Bear”, as his rhymes are indicative to the native climate of Siberia.

10) DJ Quik – The Book of David

DJ Quik is the kind of guy who will brag about things that no one else brags or even necessarily cares about. But that’s because Quik only deals in tangibles. He really does play piano, write his own rhymes, and once pistol whipped his sister for black mailing him. Also he still has all of his hair.

9) The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love

Jesus saves? Alright, just this once. Seeing as you brought all these jams with you.

8) Win Win – Win Win

Banger city, population: these guys. The Glenn Beck parody is on point too and I don’t generally fux with skits.

7) Das Racist – Relax

They’re still funny but most importantly the beats are fire. I’m not mad they put “Rainbow In The Dark” on it since “Rainbow In The Dark” rules so who gets mad when a good song comes on? Not me, that’s for sure.

6) SebastiAn – Total

SebastiAn took his time putting out his debut album, some might say past the sell by date of this particular sound and style of music, in this case ’07 era blog house filter disco. But that stuff is great! And unlike dubstep you can dance to it. Everybody still likes to dance, right?

5) Lady Gaga – Born This Way

What a thrill to have Lady Gaga finally take her philosophy to making music videos and applying it to her music. That philosophy of course is more, more, more, steal, steal, steal. Love it. Her videos are still shit though.

4) Fred Falke – Part IV

Daft Punk make boring soundtracks now and Mylo won’t come out of his house except to yell at Kylie Minogue so Fred Falke rolled up his sleeves and did the hard work for them. I don’t want to say Fred’s a genius or anything but this thing is front to back bangers so maybe he is. Have him take a test and get back to me.

3) Sloan – The Double Cross

Sloan are great. They made another great album. They’ve taken Diddy’s words to heart.

2) Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

The first time I listened to this album I thought it was good. Then I listened to it again and I thought it was still good but maybe had some other issues. I went back a third time to check out those issues but also to listen to the three song stretch of “Niggas In Paris”, “Otis”, and “Gotta Have It” which is the best 9 minute stretch of any album this year. I went back a fourth time and really started to enjoy the new lyrics on “That’s My Bitch”. The fifth time through I was in traffic and just kinda vibed with it. The sixth time I listened to it I had taken a break so it was all fresh and new again. Definitely started to appreciate Jay’s fire on “Why I Love You” but had started skipping “Made In America” at this point. On my seventh listen I was more amused than irritated by “Lift Off”, which only exists because Kanye was dying to use that NASA sample. On my eighth listen I pondered why they didn’t figure out some way to work “H.A.M.” into the equation instead of as a bonus track. On my ninth listen I was sure that someone should have told RZA to calm down with the ghostly wails on “New Day” so we could actually hear all of the lyrics. That said, just hearing these guys say “Me and the RZA connect” is treat enough. On my tenth listen I reconciled the fact that even if “Who Gon Stop Me” samples dubstep these guys at least take it’s bludgeoning sound to a logical conclusion and take that shit all the way over the top with Holocaust references, since dubstep is sorta the Holocaust of music scenes.  I just listened to Watch The Throne for fun after that. Good album!

1) Friendly Fires – Pala

Friendly Fires are too pure for this world. Even their sad songs are iridescent dance jams. Ed MacFarlane sings like he might die tonight and we’ve got to make the most of it, right now. “Are you ready, there’s not much time.” “Where are we going?” “I don’t know, but we’re going to dance the whole way!”

20 Songs I liked in 2011

December 28, 2011

Just the other day someone told me that they think I just hate everything. Strong words with just a touch of hyperbole and a basis around the fact that the new albums by Common, Young Jeezy and Drake are some lame horseshit. Well, the Jeezy album is more boring than terrible. But that Common album. Oh my lord. But if you go through the archives on this very blog you’ll find that more often than not the compulsion to post to the internet was to shit all over something like Law Abiding Citizen(which I’m discovering has it’s share of defenders) or Transformers 3 and not sing the praises of, say, Drive. A valid criticism. So in a show of acknowledgment to my critics here are twenty songs that I enjoyed in 2011. I’m sure you’ll be kind in the comments.

20. Cher Lloyd – “Swagger Jagger

Apparently a celebrity in the U.K., Cher Lloyd is repeatedly stalked by critics, haters and sycophants. To combat them, she made this song where she cutely raps about how they can’t get enough of her because they be jealous and are simply jocking her steez(Or swagger jagging) and then she sings the chorus over a pulsing electro beat that rocks so hard the ground shakes in the video. This dumb thing stole my heart.

19. Rihanna – “Where Have You Been

No Rihanna, where has this song been? I know it’s made up of other songs and it’s not really all that original but it’s a fucking banger and anyone who knows me knows I love fucking bangers. She’s screaming “Where! Have! You! Been! All my liffffffeeeee!” and synth lazers are firing under her and then the world explodes. Oh, production by Calvin Harris? That makes sense.

18. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – “The Last Huzzah!” feat. Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown & El-P

The beat to “Huzzah” is hot as fuck so Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire invited all his bestest friends over to rap on it. And rap they do. El-P spits fire, Danny Brown makes me reconsider everything I’ve ever said about him, Das Racist kill it as usual and this Despot guy is pretty good too. eXquire gets the last word because hey, it’s his song. Necro produced this? Thrilled I can enjoy something he has created that isn’t sad or disgusting.

17. Rival Schools – “69 Guns

United By Fate was my shit in 2002. This was unsurprisingly my shit in March.

16. Justice – “Helix

My favorite song on that new Justice album everybody didn’t like. I don’t fux with 70’s radio rock but I enjoy Justice’s decision to smash and chop it into danceable guitar solos. Y’know, like Daft Punk used to do. Remember them?

15. Young L – “Bottle of Rose’

Sifting through the myriad of hip hop mixtapes that come out every two days is worth it for those moments when some marginally talented misogynist gets ahold of a wrecking ball beat and kills that shit dead. Really, what would you say over a beat this sick? Nice things? No you wouldn’t.

14. Foo Fighters – “Rope

This band has three guitarists now. Three! I think they all get to do something fun here.

13. Limp Bizkit – “Why Try

In which Fred Durst spends the entire first verse and chorus literally killing you only to have you come back to life in the second verse just to get killed all over again. Nothing if not thorough. Wes Borland approximates an actual buzzsaw guitar, everyone else does their job and I pretend I’m in 11th grade again.

12. Beyoncé – “Love On Top

Listen, I like “Countdown” just fine. More than fine actually. But when it comes down to it, I will always pick the songs that choose Off The Wall as their inspiration.

11. Lady Gaga – “Bad Kids

I have to say that the bad behavior displayed in the track is pretty benign. Much like Lady Gaga in general, best to just move on and not dwell on it. But the Hi-NRG meets hair metal tableau works, despite the horror that is hair metal. I won’t call it magic. Maybe luck?

10. SebastiAn – “Kindercut

For everyone who was disappointed that the new Justice album didn’t sound like the old Justice album, SebastiAn has a banger for you.

9. The Rapture – “How Deep Is Your Love

Five years gone The Rapture pop back in with a straight up disco floor filler, acting like they haven’t been gone a millisecond. Good work, gentlemen.

8. DJ Quik – “Ghetto Rendezvous

Only DJ Quik would air out his grievances with his sister on a beat this funky.  Enjoy the groove while DJ Quik tells his sister she has a yeasty vagina.

7. Das Racist – “Michael Jackson

I feel you. Holla.

6. Sloan – “The Answer Was You

Picking a standout from an album of standouts is a challenge (a delightful challenge) but hey, Jay is on fire here. His best song since “Don’t You Believe A Word”.

5. Spank Rock – “Race Riot

XXXChange is my dawg 4 lyfe. I’ve been eagerly awaiting an actual recording of this song since seeing Spank Rock perform it live four years ago. Worth the wait, Spank Rock and XXXChange channel the Yoyoyoyoyo era with blaring horns and cowbell. Of course the centerpiece is the “Shake it till my dick turns racist” instruction. Yeah, this is a song about cumming.

4. WIN WIN – “Interleave With You” feat. Alexis of Hot Chip

Hey, it’s XXXChange again. The guy is great. Alexis has a great, sad vocal here but the MVP is that distorted bass synth line that creates a subtle background melody. You know the one. This is the song you play at your cyborg wedding AFTER you play “All Is Full Of Love“. Respect.

3. The-Dream – “Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out

Originally a teaser for the now set for release in 2012 new The-Dream album, “Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out” is a nine and half minute career high. The first half all midtempo slow grind, The-Dream yowling and moaning out his desire, stopping and starting the beat at his discretion for emphasis and to do one his trademark “Ohhhh”‘s. So intense is his obsession for this woman at one point he admits he can’t even defecate if she isn’t around. Damn. “Fuck My Brains Out” is the raunchiest earworm this side of Prince’s “P-Control” and it’s “Listen to me baby” line has become a personal lyric meme between my wife and I.

2. Friendly Fires – “Hurting

Is it going to hurt some feelings if I say that “Hurting” is Friendly Fires best song? The truth hurts.

1. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Niggas In Paris

They did this song five times when they played Pittsburgh but I certainly could have heard it a few more times. Basically, Jay-Z starts off killing it, Kanye comments that Jay just killed it so hard that it’s kinda crazy, then Kanye kills it, more affirmation of said craziness, then the world explodes. Let’s do that again! My wife played this in the car about five or six times in the last two days, and it was the first song that played on random when she drove to work this morning. THIS MEANS SOMETHING. What it means is that this song is great and we listen to it all the time.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 30 – 21

September 8, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

Albums 40 – 31

30.  Kanye West – Late Registration (2005)

Late Registration is Kanye West’s best album so far. Minus the skits it kills from front to back. Every track has a genius moment whether it is the Curtis Mayfield sample on “Touch The Sky”, actually making Adam Levine useful on “Heard ‘Em Say”, Nas’ verse on “We Major”, and especially Jay-Z’s guest spot on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”. Straight fire, that one. Everyone involved brings their A-game because the A-game is the only way Kanye operates. Every song is meticulous and the beats are varied and wonderful. He could have released every song off here as a single.

29.  Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)

I’m not a Modest Mouse superfan for the simple fact that everything previous to this record sounds to me like screeching crazy talk or boring mumblecore. Good News is a lark, a bitter pop record that just happened to resonate with a large group of listeners at just the right time. Every song on here is wonderful, even the bad ones. A fun thing to do with this album is test people and see how many can tolerate “Dance Hall”. On repeat.

28.  Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours (2008)

In a way, Cut Copy are too subtle. In Ghost Colours is the jam, no doubt, but the first couple listens aren’t immediately obvious because unlike music that is popularly associated with dancing, it don’t bludgeon you into submission. The guys in Cut Copy lend a soft, airy sound to their tracks, which they then lay their synths and hooks on top of. “Polite” isn’t quite the right word, “courtesy” might be better. After a couple listens though you realize that every track kills, is the jam, is your favorite song ever.

27.  Liars – Liars (2007)

Liars are a infuriating band. Their first album is fire, their second album is an abortion, and their third is offensive in the worst way: it’s fucking boring. That said, Liars is a return to the straight fire of the album #1 with touches of the better elements of their otherwise shit records. It rocks, it howls, it has actual riffs! It might be the only time that Liars decided to be awesome and not give up halfway through and just moan into the microphone for 45 minutes.

26.  Justin Timberlake – Justified (2002)

Michael Jackson made this album by passing on these beats. Oh Michael. In packaging and design Justified looks like any other solo record from a former boy bander, but thanks to those beats and a natural swagger and confidence Justin Timberlake was able to free himself of that past, to the point where I’ve actually heard people say, “Which group was he in again?” Remarkable.

25.  Tenacious D – Tenacious D (2001)

This might be the single most hilarious comedy album of all time(True). I have every line of it memorized(also true). Along with being very very funny it also has great songs. I heard someone lament that the idea of a fully produced rock record misses the point of Tenacious D. I would argue that the appeal of the D was that they were actually really great all along and that this record is a fluke of genius that answers the question: “What would Tenacious D(the fictional band in this scenario) actually write about on a full length album?” Doubling teaming and cock pushups, that’s what.

24.   Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

Paul Banks has a great voice. His lyrics are weird but never particularly awful. Turn On The Bright Lights is a sad ode to New York City. You could view it as a reaction to 9/11, or just a piece on grief and change in general. Banks’ lyrics lend themselves to your own interpretation. The production is grand and because it rocks for most of it’s runtime there isn’t an overbearing cloud of melancholy. The bright lights of the title might mean “Time to stop sitting in the dark and get back out there!”

23.  Jay-Z – Jay-Z: Unplugged (2001)

Greatest Unplugged ever. The Roots play Jay-Z’s songs, Jay-Z raps half of them, lets the audience handle the other half and basically it’s the best party ever. Fresh off the release of The Blueprint, Hov is smooth, confident and hilarious. But of course he is. Hits for days and days and days.

22.  Fall Out Boy – From Under The Cork Tree (2005)

Did you know that Fall Out Boy were(Were? Oh. Damn.) one the great pop bands of this glorious decade? True story. From Under The Cork Tree was the first indication of their skills as hook men. All great songs, energy to spare and enthusiasm. Can’t say that enough. They might have sucked live but the recorded work is what will live on. You know who else sucked live? The Beatles. Just sayin’.

21.  Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)

Queens of the Stone Age make an album mocking the lameness and homogenization of rock radio and end up getting played on rock radio. Songs for the Deaf is Queens heaviest record and the last to feature Josh collaborating with Nick. And Dave Grohl drums. Oh does he drum. I read some interviews around the time of Lullabies release that the making of Songs was a tough process with “certain people” around that Josh didn’t want around. I’ve always figured it was producer Eric Valentine, whose other production credits include a Good Charlotte album and the first Third Eye Blind record. What kind of advice and guidance could he possibly give Josh? My guess is that they threw Valentine’s name on the credit list but didn’t listen to a thing he said, like Sloan did on Twice Removed. The radio skits on Songs were derided at the time of release but hold up as the glue that keeps the record cohesive and flowing instead of mishmash of ideas.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 40 – 31

August 19, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

40.  !!! – Myth Takes (2007)

Every great album should have a song that makes people scream and freak out, sending them running down hallways, grabbing random passersby and telling, nay, demanding they listen to this song! “Heart of Hearts” is that song and my friend Lauren ran down a short hallway in order to grab me and make sure I heard it. The pulsing funk beat of “Heart” is !!! at their finest and Myth Takes is their finest work to date, eschewing the jammier moments of their previous records and generating some good old fashion tension and release. Nic Offer’s “perv in the corner of the club” vocals hang just fine though any attempts at sincerity don’t work. Who cares? DANCING!

39.  Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

If you ever see Justin Timberlake on TV, in interviews, walking down the street, you’ll notice that he is stylishly dressed and pretty pleased with himself. If you made FutureSex/LoveSounds you would also have a sunny attitude and the money in which to buy stylish clothing. While what the songs are about is nothing new(Love found, love lost, love solidified, the return of Sexy), their delivery and presentation are(or were) innovative and mindblowing. “My Love” was that shit, is that shit, shall always be that shit. FutureSex/LoveSounds is so good that Will.i.am can’t even ruin it with the worst rap in the world.

38.  Nada Surf – Let Go (2002)

I was having the greatest day when I first heard Let Go. I remember picking it out of a pile of promo discs at my college radio station and proclaiming, “My day is going so great, I’m going to give the new Nada Surf album a try. I didn’t even know they still existed, and it might suck, but I’m feeling charitable.” I’m paraphrasing myself but it was something like that. Let Go extended my good mood by being a fantastic album. Nada Surf sounded confident and assured with sharp production and good tunes. While Let Go is a sad record for the most part, it’s a sincere melancholy that is earned and not at all garish. But enough about the sad stuff. This record has Nada Surf’s most rocking material: “Fruit Fly”, “Hi-Speed Soul”, and “Treading Water”, highlights all. “Inside of Love” is the standout and the blueprint Nada Surf have structured everything they’ve done since. Not a bad choice.

37.  LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem (2005)

James Murphy has this rep as being a curmudgeon which is fitting since he is a bit of a comedian. “Losing My Edge” and “Beat Connection” are funny, funny songs that you just also happen to be able to dance to. “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” has the joke right in the title, and has the common courtesy to actually address this occurrence in the song. I’m just saying, plenty of songs have titles that don’t actually pay off lyrically.

36.  Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze (2005)

After three great albums Josh Homme decided to make a fourth great album. Lullabies can sorta be thought of as a break up album, seeing as it was made after Josh booted Nick Oliveri from the band. But the lyrical themes remain the same and the riffs just as heavy. Plus, when I picked it as my favorite album of 2005 I jokingly photographed myself post-coitus with the CD for a livejournal post. Youthful indiscretions.

35.  Say Anything – …Is A Real Boy (2004)

Emo music tends to be the worst kind of music for the simple fact that the emotions on display never evoke any emotion from me. It is plenty of handwringing and yelping while still managing to be boring as hell. If you’re going to make such introverted music then at the very least keep my attention. …Is A Real Boy is an album that keeps my attention. Max Bemis writes personal songs about how he wrote a personal song about a girl and she heard it and now she won’t fuck him anymore so you better hit up the merch table. Hilarious! Seriously. Say Anything are a pretty great band with chops, hooks, and a just a touch of charm under all that bile. If you’re going to say things like “I want to do you right where you are standing”, at least put that line in a song with a great bait and switch open.

34.  Justice – † (2007)

“Waters of Nazareth” is for parties where you burn down the house at the end, “DVNO” is for your inner diva, and “D.A.N.C.E.” is good with the kids. French people continue to be great.

33.  Kanye West – The College Dropout (2004)

Kanye West’s funniest album. It is so eager to please you’d think someone told him he’d never get to make another one. The skits suck and the last track is something no one ever makes it through but the guy clearly had it from the start. “Slow Jamz”, “We Don’t Care”, “Spaceship”: fire, son. Hate him all you want, but hits for days.

32.  At The Drive In – Relationship of Command (2000)

The Mars Volta are too wanky and Sparta are a goddamn bore. Yet if you put them together their differences temper the others weaknesses and you get Relationship of Command, which quite simply rules. The lyrics are still gibberish as in Volta but the songs are precise jams. Powerful, speaker blowing freakouts.

31.  …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Source Tags and Codes (2002)

Hey, these guys were never able to top this record either. Starts loud and stays loud, Source Tags and Codes instantly solidified Trail of Dead as some bad-ass motherfuckers. The riff on “Another Morning Stoner” is effortlessly tossed out as if to say, “We do this shit all the time.” Subsequent records would prove this untrue but for Source Tags and Codes‘ 45 minute run time these guys are making it sound easy.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 50 – 41

May 20, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

50.  My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge (2004)

I’m pretty sure Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge will be the last time me and “the kids” see eye to eye on anything. My Chemical Romance tapped into the goth kids and the cool kids by having lyrics about death and teen angst while not forgetting the importance of riffs and hooks. Too many times I hear bands for the kids and think, “Imagine what they’d sound like with some hooks.” Three Cheers has hooks aplenty and a singer who can wail. “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” is the kind of song that works on two levels: for the guy in his 20’s it is a hilarious parody of teen angst set to classic rock staples(the solo is divine). For the kid in their teens it is an accurate and honest representation of teen angst and experience as they know and live it everyday. Hell, my sister broke her foot jumping off the second story, so it’ll always be resonant. “The Ghost of You” is MCR’s serious song, slightly midtempo with a more histrionic vocal and it is about as perfect as My Chemical Romance will ever sound. The kids picked a good one here.

49.  Rival Schools – United By Fate (2001)

Walter Schreifels has a voice that sounds like it belongs to some roughneck bruiser but actually comes out of this. The relationships detailed on United By Fate are ironically enough about to fall apart, strained by fights(“The Switch“) and distance (“My Echo”, “Travel by Telephone“). A song like “Good Things” shows that everything isn’t sadness and disappointment in Schreifels’ world but it is immediately followed by “Used For Glue“, and well, you get the idea. Ian Love’s guitar work is equal parts raw and shiny, a perfect compliment to Schreifels’ lyrics of pained disillusionment. Yet every song ends with Walter getting the upper hand, legitimately or otherwise, and moving on with his life. We should all have that kind of momentum.

48.  The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (2005)

I feel a little jerky rating Twin Cinema higher than Mass Romantic on the basis of Maturity. But what is done is done and it’s not like Twin Cinema isn’t a great record, just maybe not as fun as MR. The New Pornographers don’t negate their jaunty rave ups on Twin Cinema(for that, see Challengers) but they shine brightest on slower tracks like “The Bones of an Idol“, which builds to a big close that sounds deeper and more resonant than it might actually be. I can’t say I’ve ever thought hard about what most of these songs are about, but they sure sound deep and touching.

47.  LCD Soundsystem – Sounds of Silver (2007)

I love when I revisit an album and songs I’d previously dismissed I find myself suddenly in thrall to. That is what I found with “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down“, a song I would often skip over because it was too slow or damn it, it brought me down when I didn’t want to be brought down. Now, with three years to absorb and consider it, of course it is great and the perfect closing track for Sounds of Silver. For a record that acknowledges the loss of important people in our lives(“Someone Great“, duh) and that we’re going to keep losing people in our lives to death and distance, “New York I Love You…” acts, for me, as a wonderful explication to keep living and make your own happiness.

46.  M.I.A. – Arular (2005)

I think this one is back loaded with bangers, not to say that the first half isn’t good. “Galang” and “10 Dollar” just kill, aight? I’ve never paid enough attention to M.I.A.’s politics to say how they impact my views on her music. Honestly and vacuously, I just dig the beats a whole lot. And the swagger too.

45.  Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll (2005)

I think it was a Pitchfork review that said “Art Brut stay losing”. Perfect. Art Brut’s entire persona is a nerdy rock band who sing songs about failed dalliances, sexual inadequacy, and pipe dreams.  It is what they do and they do it well. Art Brut staying losing is Art Brut winning. I would not want to hear an Art Brut album where everything is just coming up roses of Eddie Argos. I’d much rather he keep on keeping on about his limp dick(“Rusted Guns of Milan“) and his hopes to be reunited with a girl that doesn’t even remember him(“Emily Kane“). Argos is a prime example of a Rock God who is frighteningly human.

44.  The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free (2004)

The Streets name is apt since you cannot get more street level and inclusive than on A Grand Don’t Come For Free. As Mike Skinner narrates his day of searching for money, getting high, breaking up with his girlfriend and finding money, you are there. The beats are ingenious and the observations always keen and off-kilter. Too bad he had to follow up with a mundane “Fame is killing me” album.

43.  Boris – Pink (2006)

I like to think the titular pink is what your face looks like after Boris sears off the flesh with their riffs. Seriously, Pink will cut off your arms and sear your soul. One of the only albums I’ve ever heard that is loud no matter how you have your volume set on your stereo. Pink was recorded, mixed and mastered at 11 AFTER they made 10 louder.  Boris once abruptly ending a show with the drummer leaving the stage yelling “More power! More Power!” He was probably right.

42.  Sleater-Kinney – One Beat (2002)

As anti-Bush screeds go, One Beat is the one to beat. While plenty of songs against Bush have been written few are worth a damn or due repeat listens. You know, like American Idiot. Sleater-Kinney beat Green Day to it two years earlier and with more gut and ingenuity. Plus, One Beat rocks so hard. “Light Rail Coyote” and “Step Aside” have guitar heroics to spare.

41.  Kanye West – Graduation (2007)

Kanye West is a loud mouthed braggart. He is also a great producer and a half decent rapper with a penchant for snappy punchlines. Graduation has been called one of Kanye’s less substantive releases, but since it is the album that features “Flashing Lights” and “Good Life” this kind of criticism doesn’t matter at all. Kanye West can actually use the “hits for days” line and not even be kidding. He does asshole moves all the time but if you’ve ever heard any of his songs you know that he knows this and yeah, who cares? As long as he keeps making songs like “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” I will allow him to continue taking awards away from Taylor Swift every year(Missed you at the Grammys, Kanye!).

The Blueprint 3 by Jay-Z. Real Talk.

September 10, 2009

Blueprint_3

I hold the opinion that there should be no such thing as a “bad” Jay-Z album. He’s the greatest rapper alive, he has access where others do not, how can he not keep dropping classics? The answer, most likely, is that Jay-Z is only human, and humans have been known to make mistakes. The Blueprint 3 is one such mistake.

I’m not sure why Jay-Z insisted on having a Blueprint trilogy. Sure the first one is a classic, but he already did this three album cycle shit back in the 90’s. And it’s not like The Blueprint 2 was screaming for a finale. I like that album fine, but the criticisms of a bloated nature are not at all out-of-bounds. Also it isn’t nearly as good as The Blueprint. That said, The Blueprint 3 is closer in relation both thematically and song-wise with Kingdom Come, which most people agree is Jay-Z’s worst album. The Blueprint 3 is better than that record, but only just so.

Let’s start with the beats, the bedrock of any great rap record. Jay-Z has long been fabled for his beat choices. Just see him suss out the beat for “What More Can I Say?” in the concert film Fade To Black*. It appears that much like on Kingdom Come, Jay has become less discerning in his tastes. Maybe Hov is just reading the labels and not really listening, but these Timbaland and Neptunes beats aren’t that hot. Timbaland’s “Reminder” might be one of the shittiest tracks he’s ever done that hasn’t appeared on Shock Value. The Neptunes’ beat for “So Ambitious” outdoes it with a weak shamble and a basis around video game sound effects. It sounds like it was sampled from the soundtrack to a The Legend of Zelda. Timbaland does a slightly better job on “Off That“, but the beat is all forward motion, no innovation. Did the guy blow his wad on FutureSex/LoveSounds? But when we’re talking about a failure of beats, the prize goes to “Young Forever“, Jay-Z’s attempt to get a foot in the door of the ever important high school senior class market. If this is any indication of Jay-Z’s next move, expect a freestyle over Toto’s “Africa” before his next album drops.

I’ve read plenty of criticism over the last few years since Kingdom Come that Jay-Z hasn’t really been bringing it lyrically and that his rhyming skills and flow are deteriorating. I had never agreed with this statement until hearing The Blueprint 3. Across the board, track for track, I don’t think Jay-Z delivers anything generally crazy, quotable, or with any sense of greater style. And the man’s only true competition is himself. Take a track like “Thank You“, which plays like a retread of The Black Album‘s “Encore“. Jay starts out saying it’s a song for his fans, but then quickly flips it into another attack on his critics, equating them rather clumsily to September 11th, with a strained metaphor of crashing planes into buildings. The beat is nice, but we’re two tracks into the album and he’s evoking terrorist attacks against battle rappers he won’t even name. Not to mention that the first song is an attack on his critics as well. Listen, I’m well aware of the fact that most Jay-Z songs are about how he is awesome, his critics can kiss his ass, and so on. The problem is that Jay-Z used to make songs like this that made such statements self evident. “The Takeover” is a track that slams Nas, Mobb Deep and a slew of other rap competitors by actually being an amazing track built around stellar rhymes, rhyming, and an insane, heavy beat. Jay-Z was telling everyone they weren’t as great as him and proving it at the same time. With The Blueprint 3, Jay is just saying it, taking his top status for granted. He used to show us he was the greatest, now he can only tell us about it. When asked in an interview whether Kanye West out-rapped him on “Run This Town“, Jay-Z responded with a non-committal shrug and instructed the interviewer to compare his overall work to Kanye’s and ask him who was the best. Well sure, if we play it that way of course Jay-Z wins. His hits vastly outweigh his misses. But if he keeps whiffing like this he might just screw up his average.(“Run This Town” is still terrible, by the way. Mostly, it’s Rhianna’s yarl.)

Nice things to say? Sure. Swizz Beatz proves his worth on “On To The Next One” with a wicked beat that is proto typical Swizzy but still energetic. “D.O.A.” isn’t bad, like a second rate “Roc Boys“, which I guess isn’t much of a compliment. Oh well.

I’m a little confused on the theme of The Blueprint 3. The original Blueprint was Jay-Z throwing down the gauntlet and letting everyone know he was a force to be reckoned with. No guests except for Eminem, production from mostly Kanye and Just Blaze**; shit made sense. The Blueprint 2 was more of a victory lap, which is why it felt a bit lazy. Yet, there were some top flight beats and Jay had some sharp rhymes to go along with them. This third iteration seems to indicate, “I’m still here, I’m still great”? A good chunk of the running time is devoted to this plot point, when not denigrating haters and critics, with a occasional aside to reference women from his past (“Venus vs. Mars“) or pay respect to every commercially successful rap act to come up in the last twenty years (“A Star Is Born”). “A Star Is Born” is treacle bullshit, sharing a motif with “Empire State of Mind”, also on The Blueprint 3. On “Empire” Jay lists random New York City locations, while on “Star” he lists random rappers. “Empire” is a little better, and the tracks might even work in with better beats, but the verses are snared between a god awful choruses. The message of these two tracks is “I love New York, also various rappers. Group hug.”

The great irony is that this record clearly cost millions of dollars. Millions in marketing, millions for the beats and studio time, all in the service of what turns out to be a relatively mediocre product(“On To The Next One” notwithstanding). Yet, for significantly less money, Hov is outclassed, on the same release day mind you, by Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx…Pt. 2. Great beats, trenchant and evocative rhymes, plus passion. Jay would probably argue that if you stack up his career against Raekwon and a blah blah blah. Hey Jay, let’s stack up your pre-retirement career against your post. Real talk.

*Watching this clip still gives me goosebumps, followed by giddy elation. Do you see the guy make that face at the end of the clip, that “Holy shit, Hov is killing it” face? In the first verse of  “On To The Next One” Jay raps that if we don’t like his new albums, go listen to his old ones. Gladly.

**Just Blaze has been unjustly ignored by Hov of late. Just had to footnote that.