A site where I get to complain about music I don't like.
Mac Demarco is one of the few musicians working today who manages to pull off a classic retro move with complete sincerity; in his case, the 90s slacker persona. Nowadays, a lot of musicians feel like they try to do sincere throwbacks, but they get whipped up in slight mockery and irony, such as with most 80s-influenced acts. Demarco, meanwhile, feels like he’s picked up directly from 1993, writing lyrics while watching saturday morning cartoons in the den. After serving as the main function on his first album 2, Demarco returns 2 years later with his sophomore release Salad Days, showing an artist who knows how to mature, yet still have fun with their music.
If there is any way to describe 2 it would be that it sounds like the soundtrack of a teenaged boy in the middle of Summer in suburbia, spending his days messing around at home with his friends, while his parents work white collar jobs all day. Meanwhile, “Salad Days” comes off more as that same teenage boy during the first week of school, thinking back on all those other days of the summer, where you didn’t have your friends, you spent a day relaxing in a kiddie pool in your back yard, you kindled a summer romance, it fell apart, you moved on, you still couldn’t get your mind off it, and you climbed the highest hill in the neighborhood. It feels like a memory of the previous album, soaked in a dazed atmosphere and filled with slower songwriting, based more in Indie-styled folk music like Modest Mouse than the jangly funk of before.
Luckily, this change in sound doesn’t lessen the songwriting, but instead shows a new side to Demarco, showing that he can write songs that don’t seem like they were written by that guy in the back seat of class who always wears a shirt half a size too big and a non branded baseball cap. It’s still a relaxed album, but one that would work better on a car ride through a small town than to have on the record player while you’re half asleep on the couch. It feels like a breakup album, with its tales of letting go of an ex and its more heartfelt style. And it’s even still relaxing enough to listen to on those lazy days at home as well.
If there’s a problem with this album, however, it’s likely that some of the songs feel like they bleed into each other, keeping the hazy atmosphere consistent, almost to a small detriment. This is better than having a random out-of-place song ruin the mood, but it does get slightly tedious. Additionally, “Let my Baby Stay” is a big sore spot, going about two minute too long without being that interesting to begin with. It’s definitely the weakest track.
Luckily, the album still looks to be one of the best albums so far of 2014, with its strong songwriting and sweet melodies sticking in your head for days. It’s a strong release, and good proof that Mac Demarco was not a one-album wonder. Definitely a high quality release.
Best Song: Goodbye Weekend
Worst Song: Let My Baby Stay
Hello everyone, I’d like to apologize for the recent gap in articles, due to me being busy with school and other related activities. I’d also like to say that these gaps are likely to continue, since I have even cast in another school play, which will take my time for at least three weeks. I’ll try to continue posting regularly on Sundays, but things might not be back to perfect until the summer. Anyway…
I can’t that say that I was a regular listener of St Vincent before. I’d always hear her name brought up in Indie circles as one of the high marks of the current scene, combining sweet melodies with strong guitar lines. Besides this album, the only song I’d ever listened to by her was “Cruel”, which likely ranks as one of the best singles of the 2010s so far. More importantly, I know that song well enough to figure out how much Anne Clark changed her sound on her newest release.
See, in between her last solo album Strange Mercy and her self-titled, there was an album that changed St Vincent’s sound more than most had realized. In that time, St Vincent released an album with David Byrne, named Love this Giant, I did not listen to this album, mostly because I was informed that it was terrible, but from people who did listen to it, I hear that this album takes a lot from the style established there, namely in the move from more guitar lines to heavier brass sections. Still, the change between albums is startling, only accented by the visual morph of Annie Clark from her previous Indie image to some sort of digital Albert Einstein.
If there’s one thing this album is, it’s grand. The instrumentation is massive, filed with banging drums and overlapping synths, mixed with distorted guitar and Annie’s distinctive vocals above all else. The sound helps represent the change in theme, with the album said by Clark to be about our connection to the digital world. With this in mind, it’s easier to take the synths and compression as part of the new sound, creating an album that truly feels like it lives inside the data files of a working class computer. It’s artificialness is one of it’s greatest strengths, creating an album that remains unique throughout, mixing weird synth lines with moments of lush natural instrumentation, most notably on “Severed Crossed Fingers”.
However, the album also falters, if only because the songs so easily run together. The songs often seem to share some basic ideas, with the frantic drumming, compressed guitars, and synth lines appearing often enough where they never truly feel new, only feeling like another reoccurring concept in an album full of them. Albums that sound the same the whole way through falter the second time around, and while this doesn’t ruin the album, it does make it a less rewarding listen the second time though.
Still though, the album is a high quality mark of the year so far, ranking in the top 3 of what I’ve heard this year. It’s a good album, just one that could have used a few more ideas to truly stand out from the other Indie Pop acts. It’s worth a listen, but don’t play it too often.
Best Song: Psychopath
Worst Song: Prince Johnny
Welcome to pt 2 of my 2014 roundup, where I cover the rest of the albums I’ve heard this year. Let’s go.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jigs-Wig Out at Jagbags
No matter what, Pavement will always be one of my favorite bands. They served as excellent contraries to the Grunge movement of the 90s, switching the loud guitars and angst for an uncaring vibe of relaxed stonerism. With that said, I did not care for the latest release for Stephen Malkmus and his backing band. Despite the classier design of the album cover, the album itself felt slapdash and second nature, like an album made by an ex-Indie Rock star resting on his laurels. The album uses every cliche in the book. It’s not particularly interesting, and far from his best.
James Vincent McMorrow-Post Tropical
I think the worst adjective you could put in front of any genre is “Adult”. Whenever a band is described as “adult”, it usually just means the parent genre with all its edges shaved to a nice round bend, leaving it inoffensive and bland. There’s a reason I hate bands like Journey. And with Post Tropical, we hit a mix between Adult-Oriented Art Pop and island vacation music, leaving us with a bland, forgettable experience. The whole album is unintentional ambient music, going through your head and not leaving any impact. I completely forgot this album after my first listen, and I still feel no reason to revisit it.
If there’s one thing I appreciate about the Indie Pop scene, it’s how they aren’t afraid of seeming darker than their larger contemporaries. In a way, Phantogram is reminiscent of an electronic Beach House, keeping the icy female vocals, while replacing the full band sound with a more electronic XX. Both members keep a strong presence throughout the album, creating a sonically dense but enriching atmosphere that’s easy to get lost in. A great chill album to get lost in after a party.
Sure, it’s still pointless, but at least it’s not as bad as the first EP. After a disastrous first run with a slightly changed Pixies, Black Francis and friends return for a second outing, replacing the generic Indie Rock sounds of the first release, bringing back some of the trademark Pixies stylings for this collection of the first songs. Sure, “Blue Eyed Hexe” sounds very similar to “U-Mass”, but the rest of the songs lean closer to keeping their own identity. Nothing here could replace anything off of Doolittle, obviously, but it’s at least back to around Trompe de la Monde quality. A step up, at least.
Real Estate managed to hit the slightly right side of relaxing with their newest release, unlike McMorrow mentioned above. Atlas is filled with country-rock stylings and soft vocals, sounding like an early REM, but without even their slight edge early on. The cover is actually a very good description of how the album sounds, using one of those Modern Art paintings that’s nice to look out for a while, but doesn’t evoke the same amount of thought as something more jagged and daring. It’s a very nonthreatening album, but it’s good to listen to while working.
Sometimes, it’s good to leave your musical compatriots out of your life, lest your work be forever compared to theirs. Here, we have the latest victim of this fate, Schoolboy Q, a member of Black Hippy, which also includes Kendrick Lamar. And Schoolboy is no Kendrick. Q doesn’t have the wit or wordplay to be another Kendrick, primarily running on the same cliches that beginning rappers typically fall in, rapping about the drugs and gangster lifestyle. This is improved by the running theme of him doing this for his daughter, but it’s still not that clever. He’s not a bad rapper, so I’d like to see if he grows on his next release.
Self Defense Family-Try Me
OK, this album’s just fucking shit top to bottom. Ever since bands like Fucked Up and Cloud Nothings showed just how far you could push Post-Hardcore into the unknown and create new, interesting works, everyone’s been trying to do something similar, usually to weaker results. And this has to be the lowest. First of all, the band creates no interesting music throughout the runtime, preferring to just play typical atypical Post-Punk. Next, the singer is terrible, sounding gruff, but only in a 50 year old smoker way. And in that, there’s also 40 minutes of interview that just feels out-of-place and drags the album further. A complete waste of time disguised as a work of art. Avoid.
Sun Kil Moon-Benji
If I may be the contrarian that I occasionally am, I feel like this album gets slightly more credit than it deserves. It’s a quality, heartfelt work, but it does feel slightly clumsy. The storytelling is strong, but it’s often clumsily displayed, making it sound like it’s being read for the first time off a sheet of paper. The music can also get tedious, since it never really changes throughout the songs, though it works with the cover’s idea of listening to it while driving through the heartland. Mark Kozelnek could benefit from a lesson in brevity, since the stories feel drawn out, unlike someone like John Darnielle, who tells a whole story in 4 minutes and two verses. Also, I did not need to hear about the first time Kozelnek went down on a girl. Good, but overrated.
If Warpaint suffers from one problem, it’s its seriousness and angst, that creates a dour album that lacks the songwriting that makes a depressing album like OK Computer work. It’s an album based on large echoes and spacing, while having about half the song writing needed to fill that space. If I needed good spacial music with a female singer, I would take Phantogram or the XX. It’s not bad, but it’s not as good. Eh.
Pharrell Williams-G I R L
It’s interesting how no matter how popular he gets, you rarely actually see Pharrell on his own, until the success of his Despicable Me 2 theme, “Happy.” Now, with his full album, you can see why this is so rare. Pharrell is kinda like sliced bread; it’s great when put with a few extras, but on its own, it’s kinda bland. Pharrell doesn’t have the style to be another Michael Jackson, and G I R L is overall a bland album that needs the Daft Punk to push it up. I’d much prefer a N*E*R*D album.
I must say, I am always welcome to some bizarre UK Hip Hop, and in this regard, Young Fathers does succeed. Dead is a very strange rap album, based on weird samples and vocal delivery, that helps it stand apart from its compatriots. It’s a unique listen, that serves as an excellent introduction to this group. It feels like an album that will improve after relistening, so I think I’ll do that next. But for now…
And that’s all the albums for right now. Join me tomorrow, for my first full length review of a new album!
Well look, it’s the new year! Three months late. Yeah, because of some personal stuff and school, I haven’t been able to do as much music writing as I wanted to. But now, that has hopefully slowed down to a degree, and I’m here to get back on schedule (at least until the next school play). So I was hoping that I could do a little bit of collection. Think of this article as a sort of roundup, where I do paragraph-long reviews of albums I’ve listened to from this year, so that I don’t feel like I just missed the last 3 months. Here we go.
I am really not a fan of 311, and this album did not change things at all. They continue to sound like a poorer Incubus (yes I am aware that they are a few years older than Incubus), mixed in with some terrible rapping that made songs like “Down” such terrible parts of 90s nostalgia. And sadly, they have not changed in any way here, continuing to do their blend of Reggae/Funk and Rock/Metal (mix and match!) that made them popular in college dorms. And at 16 songs and 58 minutes, no one needs this much 311. Fans will enjoy it, but everyone else stay clear.
Against Me!-Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Even if it’s not the best album, I doubt any album will be as emotional powerful as Against Me!’s first album after Laura Jane Grace’s sex change. I never thought I’d say this about Folk Punk’s goofy child, but this is an album that requires you to listen to the lyrics. By itself, the music is merely serviceable, ranking maybe a 6-6.5, but with the addition of these emotionally raw, painfully delivered declarations of what gender dysphoria feels like, it would feel unkind to give it a score like that. Definitely an album to hear with the liner notes.
Blackgaze’s second son after Deafheaven arrives again, but his dyed black hair and spiked clothes were replaced with dirty blonde and spaced out eyes. Alcest has switched from darker waters to a sunny field with Shelter, an album to listen to when you’re rolling around on a grass hill during a colder summer day. It’s undeniably cheery, but sometimes the repetition can grow tedious, since I feel that no one has been able to pull off Post-Rock quite like Godspeed You! Black Emperor did with their first two albums. A good album for the sun, but not one to listen to out of their context.
I don’t even like Black Metal, and I think this is one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year. I’ve never been able to get into Behemoth before, but this album was one of the grandest Metal albums I’ve heard from the past 5 years, possibly on the level of Mastodon’s Crack the Skye. It’s a beautiful work of swirling instrumentation and growls, mixed with perfectly fitting production. And just to mention, the album cover is gorgeous. If you’re into Black Metal, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.
Black Lips-Underneath the Rainbow
Not much to say here. It’s another album in the realm of Black Keys-like Blues Rock artists that’s competently executed and recorded. It’s a simple album that’s good for a listen, but not that relistenable. Sorry for the short review, but I don’t have much to say.
Broken Bells-After the Disco
Now here was a disappointment if I’ve ever heard one. I really enjoyed Broken Bell’s first release, with James Mercer’s vocals working well with Danger Mouse’s trademark production. Sadly, it looks like you can’t hit that magic mark twice. After the Disco suffers from stale production work, an overlong length, and just an air of less effort put into it. It sound like it was required by a label, so at least we got a quality intro out of it.
Cloud Nothings-Here and Nowhere Else
Attack on Sight was one of the beautiful surprises of 2012, sill serving as a high mark for Post-Hardcore in the current decade. Here and Nowhere Else is… good. It’s a quality album, and one that clearly has a lot of passion in it, but it just doesn’t quite match up with their last release. It’s a quality Post-Hardcore release that might require a few re-listens, but it’s not quite the same.
Cynic-Kindly Bent to Free Us
If you haven’t heard Cynic’s first two albums and you’re a metal fan, you owe it to yourself. Being one of the first to fuse Jazz technicality with Metal, Cynic carved themselves a unique place in Metal history. And now, six years after Traced in Air, they have released their third album Kindly Bent, and it’s still high quality, even if the “metal” is definitely in finger quotes. It’s definitely a more progressive effort, one based more on fretless bass and atmosphere than the drum pyrotechnics of their previous release. It’s not quite as good, but it’s still some of the best Prog Rock you’ll hear this year.
Fanfarlo-Let’s Go Extinct
Very typical, inoffensive Indie Pop. The addition of synths has led to a more spacey sound, but it’s not backed up with any stronger songwriting. It’s a very releasing listen, but not a particularly interesting one. Once again, not an album with lots to say, just one that was featured on the download site I use. It’s decent. Not much else to day.
The Glitch Mob-Love Death Immortality
I’m just gonna say it, I’m not that interested in EDM and its offshoots. I just don’t find them that interesting, since most are devoid of lyrical basis, and as someone who was raised on the Mountain Goats, it just doesn’t appeal to me. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I didn’t care for the Glitch Mob’s newest release. I get that it’s impressive and that I couldn’t make it, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to it. Not my genre, not my album.
Gramatik-The Age of Reason
Read review above.
I Break Horses- Chiaroscuro
Not quite the same as the top two albums, but still not a fan. I Break Horses bring back the songwriting, and base their electronic sonic palettes on ambient influences and emotional backdrops, but it gets kind of tedious to listen to, especially since the songs never change throughout their lengths. Call me an electro hater, but I just did not care for these last three albums.
Kid Ink-My Own Lane
Every few moths or so, there’s a brand new rapper that releases an album, has one slightly big hit, and either disappears or starts doing guest verses for everyone. For the first quarter of this year, that rapper is Kid Ink, who released his debut. And frankly, it’s pretty terrible. There’s not a lot to note about the album, it’s just bland and stupid, like 2 Chainz without the hamminess. The song featuring Chris Brown is terrible, and there’s not a lot to mention. Just a weak effort.
Pt 2 tomorrow!
Note: This is the last paid review I had on hold! Now, you can pay for albums to review again, and I will try to get them finished in a week or two.
If there’s one story that music writers love, it’s the story of the vindicated flop. No one cares about the albums that were immediately acclaimed by everyone and sold like hotcakes as soon as it hit the shelves. We care about the artists who released albums years or even decades before their time, ignored by the public and barely mentioned by critics, only getting their due by inspiring a wave of Indie bands decades later. Here is where you find Marquee Moon by Television, The Velvet Underground & Nico, Parachute by the Pretty Things, and today’s topic, Forever Changes.
Love is one of the best examples of a band perfectly fitting their time period, but still not making it as big as they should. Hailing from the psychedelic scene in Los Angeles, Love found themselves in the right place at the right time, and were even one of the first multicultural bands, right before Sly & the Family Stone ended racism forever for everyone. After two mildly successful albums, they were already falling apart, leading to their last effort before they switched to another set of rotating musicians behind one central member, in this case singer Arthur Lee. With their last album as a functioning full band, Love crafted their Baroque Pop masterpiece Forever, before disintegrating into a mess of drug addiction and member rotation. So how does it hold up? Fantastically, to an extent.
A lot of bands go for the Baroque Pop sound, fusing traditional pop with the orchestral sound of Baroque music, typically with the additions of horns and strings, to create a fuller sound. Few bands, however, did it quite like Love. Forever Changes is many genres while denying key aspects. It’s Acid Rock without the distortion. Its Baroque music without the pompousness. It’s Psychedelic Rock without the manipulation, and it’s even a Mariachi album at points. It’s both beautiful and dark, most famously in its classic opening cut, “Alone Again Or,” one of the greatest singles of the 60s. The album balances acoustic picking, lyrics of lonesomeness and missing your love, stirring harmonies, powerful strings, and even a mariarchi horn section to create a perfect opener in less than four minutes.
And this continues throughout the rest of the album. “Bummer in the Summer” is an even better version of “Summer in the City”, “Live and Let Live” is the closest the album gets to true Psych Rock, “Andmoreagain” is a time-displaced medieval ballad, and the album just goes on from there. No song sounds similar to each other, and it’s not hard to imagine this album as a soundtrack to a counter-culture film about three friends who drive across the country. It’s perfectly timed at 42 minutes, and at no point does it feel like it drags. Except for one instance, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Now for such a perfectly constructed album as this, what could be wrong? Well, sometimes it almost feels too perfect, if I may be enough of a pretentious asshole to say that. As a straight up Pop album, this is fine, with the album coming off as a mansion, primely executed and crafted. But it’s a Psych Rock album with no room for improvisation, and in a way, it kills it. Not that it makes the album less than stellar, but compared to someone like the Zombies, it can feel stiff and prissy, almost uptight and snobby. Along with that, “The Red Telephone” isn’t up to parr with the rest of the album, with an uglier melody and a tedious spoken word section.
As a whole, however, and viewed by itself apart from its parent genre, Forever Changes is a classic. It’s one of the strongest Psychedelic albums, even better than the more remembered classics like The Doors and Surrealistic Pillow. If you have any interest in 60s music, this is one to check out.
Best Song: Alone Again Or
Worst Song: Red Telephone
If I have one musical sin that I have committed to the world of Alternative music (besides one that will be the topic for a later article), it’s that I’ve never really listened to Yo La Tengo. Despite their music having always been around me since I was young, since both my parents are big fans, listening to a large number of their contemporaries, and them having been around for 30 years now, the only time I’ve ever listened to them was when I listened to their latest release Fade back when it was released. I remember enjoying it, but I never listened to it again and I can’t remember what it sounded like. So, since it was requested, I will now actually listen to a full Yo La Tengo album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One.
If there’s one thing you can’t accuse this album of being, it’s monotone (at least musically, we’ll get back to that). Every song has a very distinct feeling, and almost all of them are done beautifully. From the rock of “Sugarcube” to the ambience of “Green Arrow”, the whole scale is covered, and all of it is done with passion and love for music. “We’re an American Band” is a wonderful mix of slowcore and Shoegaze, “Autumn Sweater” is a beautiful trip into Electronica, “One PM Again” is a sweet country tune, “Shadows” works perfectly as a Gen X “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, and “Damage” is simply gorgeous, wrapping you in its atmosphere and words. The instrumentation is also perfect on every song, never becoming obtrusive and always flowing with the music. The album also has the unique quality of being absolutely charming, due to the members giving a strong vibe of just being three people doing their thing. It’s simply a very likable record.
It’s rare when an album can be immensely improved with just one cut, but here, not only would the album be way better with the removal of just one song, it would also be 10 minutes shorter. “Spec Bebop”, stapled right near the end, serves as nothing but an exercise in tedium, held together barely by some competent drumming. Additionally, if you’re not prepared, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley’s singing can get very tedious, due to both not being at all good singers. However, after enough listens, you find that it just adds to the charm of the album. The back half of the album also seems slightly weaker, but the songs do still hold up.
In the end, I Can Hear stands as one of the best records out of the 90s. Sure, it’s a little drawn out with a 10 minute hole near the end, but it’s charming and quirky without the negative qualities of charming and quirky music from this decade, and it’s just a great listen from front to near back. And I can say after this, I look forward to listening to the rest of their catalog.
Best Song: Damage
Worst Song: Spec Bebop
Few bands are as bizarre in their music scene as Television was in the New York 1970s Punk scene. Sure, they were playing in CBGBs just like any other band at that time, like Blondie and Talking Heads, but instead of playing short, fast songs, they were playing sprawling epics with intricate guitar, exactly what the Punk scene was rebelling against. In a sense, they were to the 70s Punk scene what Sonic Youth was to the Alternative boom of the late 80s. And today, we’re looking back at their influential debut, Marquee Moon, an album that still stands today as one of the most acclaimed releases of all time.
From the very first song “See No Evil”, it seems weird to think that this is from the same scene of music that bands like the Dictators were birthed. The Ramones’ debut album was 14 songs in 29 minutes, while Television release an album a year later where the shortest song is almost four minutes. Not only that, but it is clear that Television is far more skilled with their instrumentation, with weaving guitar and the tightest drumming in Punk this side of Topper Headon. And yet somehow, it’s still worlds away from the intricate and perfected playing of bands like Yes and other prog bands, primarily due to the personality of the band itself. While people like Jon Anderson and Steve Howe would give the vibe of refinement and higher class, Tom Verlaine and co. gave off the attitude of just a bunch of street rats who just practiced and practiced, since they had nothing else to do.
And that’s without even getting into the perfection of the songwriting. Every song is perfectly organized, and on my listen, I only heard one note even mildly out of time, which is incredible given the cheapness of the recording. The production is only surprisingly excellent, never getting fuzzed out or messy, always remaining incredibly clear. Songs like the intro “See No Evil” and “Venus” are excellent, poppy songs that are just a joy to listen to, and the title track will always stand as one of Rock’s legendary epics, a sprawling ten minute number that never manages to be boring.
Now if there’s any problem with this album, it’s definitely Tom Verlaine’s singing. Not to say that it ruins the album, it’s just that it takes some time to get used to, and might put some listeners off on their first listen. It’s a lot less gruff than you’d expect from an early punk singer, instead usually going for a nasal high range, which can get grating. There’s also “Elevation”, which is a weaker song, though still high quality. It’s just a little slow and boring compared to everything else.
In short, this is a fantastic album. It’s an album that anyone who enjoys music should listen to, and you’ll never forget the first time you listened to it. So run out, and listen to one of the best albums ever made.
Best Song: Marquee Moon
Worst Song: Elevation
In case you hadn’t heard, the Grammys happened this Sunday, and now every music writer is required to comment on it. On another note, despite being a music writer, this is the first Grammys I’ve actually watched to any degree. So now, I’m here to give my opinions on some of the winners, the performances, and any other stray notes I have.
First of all, the Grammys made a remarkably terrible decision, in that they delayed a live awards show on the west coast by three hours. This still seems unfathomable to me, and I hope they fired whoever came up with this decision. Can you imagine if the Oscars were delayed, or the Superbowl. Sure, the Grammys don’t generate the same amount of hype in any amount, but still, this isn’t something you just pull. Anyway, the winners.
Album of the Year: I don’t remember if I made this completely clear here, since I recorded a review that sadly disappeared, but I was not the biggest fan of Random Access Memories. For the most part, I thought it was pretty meh, with a few really great songs on it like “Get Lucky” and “Doing it Right”. Despite my personal opinions, however, it also was my 2nd pick for what my Album of the Year would have been, right behind Kendrick and Good Kid, MAAD City, which has grown to be one of my top 5 albums of the decade so far. So even if it’s not my personal pick, it’s still good that it won.
Record of the Year: I seriously don’t know anyone who doesn’t think “Get Lucky” is a fantastic song. It’s just a wonderfully composed and joyous track, and it never stops making me smile. Sure, the same can be said about “Locked Out of Heaven”, but I think “Get Lucky” just narrowly beats it out. At least it didn’t go to “Blurred Lines”, since I don’t think Tumblr would’ve survived the uproar.
Song of the Year: Hey, I like “Royals” a lot too! Once again, it’s just really well put together, and I love that Lorde has such a fantastic voice at 17 years old. I almost thought the award would go to “Same Love”, but I guess Macklemore got enough golden sippy cups for one night. At least it didn’t go to “Roar”, which I’m still questioning why it was even nominated.
Best New Artist: It’s funny how even Macklemore agrees that Kendrick got robbed in this category, since that is definitely what happened. Sure, I like Macklemore a decent amount, but Kendrick is on another level. It’s also funny how just like every year, none of the “best new artists” debuted this year, with Macklemore and Kacey Musgraves releasing their first albums in 2005 and 2002, respectively.
And now for some random thoughts:
That’s all I have to say, hopefully I can do this in a video format next year.
Ever since fun. and gotye managed to conquer the Billboard Charts for a combined 14 weeks back in 2012, it’s expected for Indie Pop acts to get more attention than they would have back even a few years ago, where the only Indie songs charting were once-a-year flukes like “Pumped Up Kicks” or “Animal”. Since “We Are Young”, however, songs like this are popping up more and more regularly, with Imagine Dragons already having three hits under their belt, and artists like Bastille and Capital Cities also squeezing in between Katy Perry and Pitbull for radio play.
So naturally, there’s bound to be at least some hype for any new band with a sound like this, since record labels will be grasping for any artist to turn into the next big thing. And now, this potential “next big thing” hype is going to Basic Vacation, a three-piece from New England that released their debut EP back in October. And luckily, based on the 5 songs off their debut, their presence would not be an unwelcome one.
If there’s one important point on why this EP is so promising, it’s the fact that Basic Vacation seem to have found the careful balance between “emotional” and “fun”. Most Indie Pop songs on the radio seem to land to heavy on the serious side, like “It’s Time”, while most pop music is just enjoyable without any real thought behind it. Luckily, all the songs off of this EP hit right in between, where songs like “Some Nights” lie, where the instrumentation and vocals have an emotional intensity to them, while still being enjoyable enough to dance to. The album does have a decent amount of emotion throughout, but it’s heavy enough to stop you from enjoying yourself.
The EP also shows off the band’s talent in making incredibly enjoyable songs, plain and simple. All songs on the EP are incredibly well-put together, with no moment on the release clashing against the other. The songs all feel like they belong together, making for a surprisingly cohesive debut EP. For 15 minutes, you are just left with a collection of remarkably enjoyable songs that don’t wear out their welcome.
However, there is a problem with this EP, and that’s the fact that the songs do kind of all sound mildly similar. There are slight differences between each song, like “Jamie” sounding like it’s ripped straight from an 80s throwback record, but when push comes to shove, the songs do run together a bit. There’s also the fact that I kind of wish I could hear more, since it’s hard to base a full opinion on a band based on only five songs. Who knows, maybe they do only have one sound to them, or maybe it’s just that these were the first five written, and thus will sound similar when you’re starting out.
Still, beyond that, this is a very strong debut by and up-and-coming band. It’s a shame that we don’t get to see them expand more, but that’s what you get when all you have at first is an EP. Basic Vacation’s full-length debut will come out sometime this year, so be on the watch for when it comes out. Until then, just enjoy the five songs on here, and hope they don’t wear out their welcome.
Best Song: I Believe
Worst Song: Jamie
Sometimes, it’s important to remember that a musician’s personal life and their music are two separate entities, and sometimes, it’s necessary to split them apart to give an honest review of the musician’s work. Even though he is complete scum, it’s not fair to grade R. Kelly’s work based only on his personal life. Imagine if you could never enjoy “Help!” again because of what John Lennon did, you can never listen to anything Phil Spector produced again, you have to throw away all your Eric Clapton records, and that goes for every artist who ever did something terrible in their career. There would be no interesting music left, because so many shitty people make music.
Because of this, I plan to give a fully objective review of Justin Bieber’s new album Journals, a compilation of the 10 songs he released every Monday for his series of Music Mondays, an idea that Jonathan Coulton already did to a far more impressive degree, followed by five additional songs. Now Justin Bieber has repeatedly revealed himself to be a pretty terrible person, which you can read about by turning on your computer and waiting a minute or two, since it’s bound to turn up. But we’re avoiding all of that for right now, because a reviewer’s job is to give you a review of the music on it’s own, without any baggage. So what are you left with when you take out the most controversial pop star this side of Chris Brown? Just a collection of incredibly boring Pop songs, musically, vocally, and lyrically.
You know what this whole album is missing? A sense of enjoyment in the music. Almost all of the album is locked in a down-tempo groove permanently, and not even the interesting kind, like with Channel Orange. In fact, the whole feels like what I imagined Channel Orange felt like to people who didn’t like it, claiming it was sleepy and boring, which is what this album is. There’s three songs here that actually seem to have a bit of energy to them, and of those three, “Roller Coaster” barely speeds it up, maintaing a boring pace, “Confident” sounds like someone trying really hard to make a cross between a Gorillaz B-Side and backing music to a low-budget cartoon, and “What’s Hatnin” is just offensive to my senses. It’s just a boring ass album.
But hey, you know what saved even the most boring songs on Frank Ocean’s releases? The fact that Frank Ocean is a good singer who knows his limitations, something that Justin Bieber clearly doesn’t. I remember around the release of Bieber’s Christmas album, when Bieber’s voice finally dropped, and he went from being obnoxiously prepubescent to just not being a good singer. Every song on here sounds pretty much the same vocally, and when he goes for some high notes on a few songs, it reminds you exactly why people hated his singing voice all those years ago. The guest verses on this album are also less than stellar, with R. Kelly and Future just being boring as hell, and Chance the Rapper dropping by for the best part of the album, even if it is one of his weaker verses. The lyrics are also regularly lazy, sounding like they’re taken straight from other lazy R ‘n’ B songs.
This album is one of the dullest I’ve ever heard, with barely anything of note at any point. The album’s quality song-by-song is a straight-line, and every song does sound like it was thought-up and recorded in a week. Don’t bother with an album this dull, you’ll get nothing out of it.
Best Song: Roller Coaster
Worst Song: What’s Hattenin’