A site where I get to complain about music I don't like.
If you’ve been a long time reader of my blog, you may remember that THIS IS THE 2ND YEAR ANNIVERSARY WOO but also that in my list of the best albums of the past year, I put Lady Gaga’s sophomore effort Born This Way all the way at no. 2, only beaten out by Tom Wait’s first album in about 8 years. I while I feel like I probably overrated it a bit, I still feel like Born This Way is unfairly maligned. While it may be what some call “a brilliant disaster”, I feel like the absolute bats hit ridiculousness is what made the album truly work. And now, we finally have Gaga’s followup, the optimistically titled ArtPop. So how does it compare to it’s predecessor? It doesn’t.
Frankly put, Lady Gaga doesn’t sound like she’s enjoying herself as much on this album as she was on Born This Way. She sounds like she’s aware that she’s the weirdest artist working in the mainstream, and has to live up to that stigma. Because of this, every song seems like it has a sort of manufactured weirdness to it, like it’s trying desperately hard to not sound like a Pop album, when all it does is make it sound like a poorly made and confused Pop album, which it is. The only album that even seems like it’s having fun with its weirdness is “Sexxx Dreams”, and even that has a really annoying bit where Lady Gaga just starts talking like a drunk teenage girl.
There’s also the fact that the music has become so much more boring than from Born This Way. If Born This Way was set apart by one thing, it was how out there the instrumentation got sometimes, from the electro classical styles of “Bloody Mary” to the 3 or 4 Hard Rock influenced songs toward the end, to the 80s throwback of “The Edge of Glory”. Here, either everything just sounds like the EDM that’s dominated the radio for the last few years, and if it moves away from that at all, it sounds like they sacrificed songwriting for a little “you’re special!” sticker. Look at “Aura” for an example of this, with it’s cheap sounding acoustic guitar and it’s messy electro backing. I’ve never heard Infected Mushroom before, but if it’s anything like this, I never want to hear it again. I also just really wish there was less Dubstep in general on this album. That train has definitely sailed.
I’m gonna be honest, I just really dislike this album. I won’t say I hate it, since there are little elements I enjoyed, but this is just trash. Halfway through, I just wanted this to end. It may be better than Miley and Avril, but this is still so much worse than I expected. Artpop? More like Artflop, Shartpop, Artpoop, Fartpop, just choose one of these. Too bad the last album review this year had to be for such a bad album. At least the rest of the year was great. If you need a Pop album this year, just listen to Chvrches.
Best Song: Applause
Worst Song: Swine
NOTE: The ARTPOP REVIEW IS DELAYED UNTIL NEXT TIME. PLEASE TAKE THIS REVIEW I WROTE FOR SCHOOL. SORRY.
Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, many new artists grew popular off the Emotional Piano adult-oriented rock mold, primarily from the United Kingdom with some exceptions, like Coldplay, Keane, Snow Patrol, and the Fray. These bands were largely popular for about the first five years of the Century, but with exception of Coldplay and Keane to a lesser extent, these bands have largely disintegrated, replaced with the new form of adult-oriented rock, Floksy Bluegrass groups in the vein of Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers. But now, a new band of the Emotional Piano type has sprung up, in the form of Bastille, who released their debut Bad Blood early this year. However, while the album is decent and shows promise, what it ultimately showcases is why this genre isn’t still the premier form of Rock on the radio.
While based in Piano Rock, the main changes to the genre’s base foundation is the addition of a more electronically based rhythm section, with thundering drums that give the impression of a more worldly atmosphere. In short, the album can be described as if the Coldplay from Viva la Vida and the Coldplay from Mylo Xyloto kept traits from both albums and fused them together. And the mashup does work, for the most part. Bastille does well in keeping the emotional qualities of Coldplay’s material, while the drumming keeps the music from descending to ambient work music. Singer Dan Smith also fits well with the style, with an emotional voice that’s immediately reminiscent of Chris Martin.
Sadly, all these qualities I mentioned combine to form the album’s biggest problem, and that is the fact that this album just sounds like Coldplay. This is a Coldplay album with the serial numbers filed up. And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Coldplay is rather good at what they do, an album that sounds like one big tribute act is not a good way to start off your new band. There’s also the problem that the album is too repetitive. The songs sound very similar to each other, starting off with piano or strings, followed by the drum beat kicking it, and the singer is singing like every song is the closer at the concert show. The album really could have benefited from a small bit of variety, like a piano ballad with nothing but the piano and Smith singing along. The album could also benefit from being cut down, with fifteen songs, while I’m ready for it to end around the twelfth song.
Bad Blood isn’t a bad album, it’s more of a bad debut album. The songs are well constructed, the band knows what they’re doing, and there’s a lot of potential to be taken out of it. Unfortunately, the repetitive nature, the length, and its unmistakable influences keep it from being a good debut for a potentially great band, and merely a good album to give as a gift for someone who needs their Coldplay fix before they release their next album.
Best Song: Things We Lost in the Fire
Worst Song: Weight of Living Pt II
Guess who’s back. Back again.
Well, me for one, after a brief hiatus for other matters, but also Eminem. After three years since his mostly-bland but tolerable Recovery, Marshall Mathers built more instant hype than should be legal, announcing a sequel to his most acclaimed album, the classic The Marshall Mathers LP. And with singles like “Berserk” and “Rap God” showing a move from the serious nature of Recovery, the album has been released, as one of the last big releases of 2013. So how is it?
A transition to a variation of the old Eminem was transparent from the first single released, with “Berserk” serving as a throwback to the Beastie Boys and the 80s, including a sample of “The Stroke” and a party atmosphere. However, this is just another example of Eminem’s lead-off singles always being goofier than the rest of the album, ever since “My Name Is” off of his technical debut The Slim Shady LP. The album is actually tonally similar to the original Marshall Mathers, with mostly serious songs, with a few goofier but not stupid songs mixed in. Songs like “Bad Guy” and “Love Game” don’t seem like they’d make sense on the same album, but somehow, they do.
If there’s one thing to say about this album, it’s that I’m glad that Eminem can still for the most part keep your attention throughout an album. His rapping on this album is pretty consistently great, at least on a technical standpoint. And even in his lyrics, the album has a lot less of the terrible punchlines that kept showing up in Recovery, with not a single line about window panes anywhere. The production is also very constantly good, with the backing music often working well with the song at hand, and never overshadowing Eminem throughout the album. And while there aren’t many guests on the album, Nate Ruess from fun. makes “Headlights” as emotionally powerful as a song about Eminem forgiving his mother to be, and Kendrick Lamar completely steals the show on “Love Game”, showing why he’s one of the biggest rappers around right now. And I’d be amiss to not mention “Bad Guy”, one of the best songs of the year, with a twist that you need to hear, with no spoilers.
Sadly, this album does have it’s fair share of weaker tracks. Excluding the one skit, there are about 5 weaker songs on this album. “So Much Better” is just not very interesting, doing the whole “kill women” thing he’s done a hundred times before, and could have easily been removed. “Asshole” is overly bombastic and generic, and the chorus is overly blunt. “Rad God” was a poor choice for a 2nd single, since while Eminem’s rapping is some of the best he’s done in his career, the beat is overly boring, especially since the song’s over 6 minutes long. “Stronger than I Was” is hilarious, with Eminem doing a ballad where he sings, and while I think Eminem’s a better singer than most people, it’s hard to listen to for 5 minutes. And finally, “The Monster” is just “Love the Way You Lie pt. III”, and I wish Eminem and Rihanna would stop collaborating so often.
But overall, this album is really good, bordering on great. There are quite a few weak songs, but compared to previous Eminem albums, plus the state Rap is at the moment, it’s good to hear something like Eminem right now. Especially when it’s as good as this. Also, PLEASE HAVE “LOVE GAME” NEXT SINGLE.
Best Song: Bad Guy
Worst Song: So Much Better
Next Up: ArtPop
Wow, and I thought Three Mile Pilot would be the most obscure release I ever covered. With Volunteer Pioneer, I’m covering a band that has no rating on Rateyourmusic. With their debut EP from 2008, I cover an album that apparently no one has ever heard. So let’s get started.
Volunteer Pioneer EP: an Album Review
If there’s any problem I have with modern Indie Rock, it’s how it’s morphed from the often ugly and fuzzy style from the 90s to the Death Cab Indie Pop style that signifies the style now. All the Electric guitars have been replaced with acoustic instrumentation and harps, the songs are mostly cutesy, and it’s just a little tiresome. Sure, some Indie bands move away from this, like Arcade Fire’s grandiose style, but it’s just a little too common. And here, the music mostly seems like a cutsier version of the Decemberists, with a Pastoral style that often tells stories of dead presidents and little towns. One of the main instruments is a harp, for god’s sake. It’s all a little too small-town charming and relaxed.
Still though, it’s hard not to enjoy this record in at least some small capacity. It’s just a comforting record, one that you could listen to when you’re in bed on a cold winter morning. You can almost picture the members gathered in a small cabin deep in a New England forest, playing to each other. I think the best word to describe this would be charming. The album screams Wes Anderson backing music, but I wouldn’t say this is bad in any way. When you listen to it, you just wanna listen until it’s over. And that’s a pretty good recommendation.
Because it’s pretty generic, it’s only 20 minutes long, and the singer’s not very good, I don’t think I could give this more than a decent score. But oh, what a decent score it is. If you like Indie music, you owe it to yourself to check the album out at some point soon. Don’t worry, it won’t take up too much time.
Best Song: Fear of Cholera
Worst Song: Separate Planes
There are a lot of albums I want to review that have come out recently, so I’m gonna try to write reviews for as many as I can over today and Monday. First off…
Bangerz and Avril Lavigne: a Double Album Review
Boy, that Miley Cyrus, eh? I don’t think it’s possible to not know of her infamous VMA performance by now, and the “Wrecking Ball” video was controversial enough to get it to the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 (the second song where Youtube created a significant boost on a song’s chart placement, which I already warned about). What would normally just be a standard “Disney Channel star rebellion” story became a massive Pop Culture story, mostly on its immediacy. Britney Spears gave a few years of innocent virgin jailbait before she moved on to a sexier image, but Cyrus just immediately went full sexual.
In fact, she went so sexual that it completely overshadowed Avril Lavigne getting married to Chad Kroeger from Nickelback releasing a new album. Lavigne has basically been Pop’s “bad girl” for the last 10 years, which I say very lightly. She’s “bad” in the same way that Billy Idol was the “bad boy” of 80s Pop, in that it was the same kind of music, but with more guitars and a darker scene, with Idol looking like the Punk scene he started in, and Avril looking like the child of a Hot Topic and a raccoon. And now, with her new self-titled, she’s trying for another bid at Pop relevance. And since these albums feel to me like the two stereotypes that high school movies always put secondary female characters in, the preppy cheerleader who you feel is making herself look stupider to try to get guys, and the scene girl who hates cheerleaders because she feels like she’s morally superior because she’s part of a different scene, I thought I’d review these together.
Continuing from that analogy, Bangerz feels like the cheerleader character who just discovered sex and partying right around the same time, and wants everyone to know it. So the album is filled with really bothersome party jams, including a song where the title is just “Love Money Party”. The album reeks of someone awkwardly lurching towards adulthood, with the perspective that a teenager has on adulthood, which makes sense, since that’s exactly what Miley Cyrus is right now. But mixed in with the club songs are these really awkward ballads, that read like they were written specifically to be posted on Facebook by teenage girls after a breakup. They just read like bad poetry. And on that, even the Pop songs sound like they were written to be captions of photo albums of teenagers partying, where everyone’s posing with red solo cups so that no one knows that they’re drinking root beer.
But the lyrics wouldn’t be a problem if the production wasn’t so bad. The entire album just sounds incredibly cheap, with a few exceptions, namely the singles. “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop” sound fine, in that they don’t sound like they’re taking directly from Garageband. On every song, either the synth sounds awful, something’s too loud, something’s nearly inaudible, or something sound off-key, namely on “Do My Thang”, where the main line sounds like it’s off-key from itself. Even when it moves from the Club Pop, such as on the Country-ish tone of “4 x 4” or the guitar of “#GETITRIGHT”, it sounds really cheap and lazy. This is just a really lazy album that sounds like it was made in half a day, that desperately needed some attention, which is where the overt sexuality of the advertising comes from.
Which leads us to Avril Lavigne. She’s 29. She’s been married twice. She’s likely going to have a kid in the next five years. Why is she still singing about being a teenager who wants everyone to know how hardcore and edgy she is? The lead single is called “Here’s to Never Growing Up”, but she clearly has, and is just trying to be as cool as she thinks she used to be. The whole album feels like it was written by record executives who realized that they needed something for teenage kids who shop at Hot Topic and think that My Chemical Romance might be too dangerous. You know what picture sums up this album? This picture. This album is the Shadow the Hedgehog of Pop music. Then there’s “Hello Kitty”, which is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard, from it’s “KAWAII” scream to the Dubstep beat. It’s god awful.
However, if there is a plus to this album, the backing music is not that bad. Sure it’s lazy, but it’s not really offensive, outside of “Hello Kitty”. But this album’s just terrible. I hate it. I won’t say it’s 1/10 bad, but it’s dangerously close. Same with Bangerz, but at least that was mildly fun to listen to. These albums are just so bad. I never want to listen to these again, which is why I’m glad that I don’t have to!
Best Song: Wrecking Ball
Worst Song: Bangerz
Best Song: Here’s to Never Growing Up
Worst Song: Hello Kitty
I need something not ICP right now.
10. The Fox - Ylvis
What the fuck did you do, internet.
9. Demons - Imagine Dragons
So are Imagine Dragons the new Coldplay or OneRepublic? They just have that same ubiquitous quality where they just seem to always being played in the background, just filling in empty space in the air. I mean I like “It’s Time” as much as the next guy but they’re just so dull and monotonous, with “Demons” being the most boring yet. It’s supposed to be this big, grandiose ballad, but there’s not even enough space for it to develop, since the song’s less than three minutes. It’s just a forgettable piece of tripe.
8. Counting Stars - OneRepublic
Or I guess OneRepublic is the new OneRepublic. Where the hell did these guys go? They had some huge hits like “Apologize” and “All the Right Moves”, and then they disappeared. Anyway, this song is actually more enjoyable and interesting than it’s Indie counterpart “Demons”, mainly in that it’s not dull as shit. Sure, it’s generic, but you can actually have fun with it. It’s not great, but it’s a decent pop song with a fun sing-along chorus. Certainly better than “Apologize”, at least.
7. Applause - Lady Gaga
Just a heads up, I’m reviewing this album later. Anyway, this song is a really mixed bag. I don’t think I’ve met a single person who’s enjoyed the song all the way through, and I can really see why. Personally, I like the chorus and bridge, but I do not enjoy the verses at all. I hate the synth style she picked for the intro that plays the same pattern until the bridge hits, the lyrics are too self-absorbed, and there’s just obnoxious, especially with the forced European accent. But the chorus makes up for it, being the most fun Pop song I’ve heard since “Can’t Hold Us.” I just hope the actual album.
6. Holy Grail - Jay-Z ft. Justin Timberlake
I already talked about this song in my review of Jay-Z’s terrible new album, but I feel like talking about it again. I feel like this song would’ve been better with an additional rapper. I don’t mean an additional verse from another rapper. I mean one of Jay-Z’s verses being done by another artist. I feel like getting rid of a verse entirely would give Justin Timberlake too much power in the song, but the song wouldn’t be anything without him. So if you gave the extra verse to someone like J. Cole or the like, and marketed it as a collaboration song, it would be a lot better.
5. Hold On, We’re Going Home - Drake ft. Majid Jordan
As you probably already know, I am not a fan of “Started From the Bottom”. It was an interesting production undone by terrible rapping and lame lyrics. But now we have the second single off Drake’s third album Nothing Was Ever the Same, “Hold On We’re Going Home”, which is a pretty decent ballad. Similar to “Find Your Love”, there’s no rapping, letting Drake sing, where he shines. He’s not great, but he’s emotional, and that’s what matters with songs like these. It’s generic, but not bad.
4. Wake Me Up! - Avicii
God Avicii is bland. I always hear people talk about how he’s this super talented producer, but every song by him sounds exactly the same to me, with that generic emotional electro thing that I still think Calvin Harris does a hundred times better. Not only that, but I’ve listened to the original by Aloe Blacc, and it’s so much better! All Avicii did was smother Blacc in auto tune and add standard electro parts. The original is great, but I hate this version.
3. Wrecking Ball - Miley Cyrus
Would you believe me if I told you this is the best song off her album? “Wrecking Ball” would not be nearly as talked about if it wasn’t for that video, which isn’t even that interesting beyond the idea of nude Hannah Montana. The song is generic as all hell, with Miley’s unimpressive vocals and generic synth background. I’m not a fan, but at least it’s not “Bangerz”.
2. Roar - Katy Perry
1. Royals - Lorde
Yeah, screw me, I think this is a great song. For one, Lorde’s the same age as me, and that’s pretty damn impressive. She’s a great singer, and the background is wonderfully understated for a #1 song. I’m just incredibly happy that this is the top song in the country. More of this. Just more of this.
FUCK YOU LET’S DO IT
Insane Clown Posse Month 2: The Mighty Death Pop
Here we are. The last album. We’ve come so far. I’d like to thank the academy for all that they’ve done. At least until they put out another album, in which case fuck you all. Anyway, with the second album of the 2nd set of Koker’s Cards, and the first album released since I started this blog, the Posse had a new idea to the Dark Carnival in the form of the Mighty Death Pop, a being that appears to people who risk their lives doing stupid things, without the ability to truly judge them.Through this, they appear to the Wraith, who judges them whether they go to Heaven or Hell. Just another plot line in this convoluted universe.
I’m gonna lay it out simply, because I don’t want to beat around this bush: this album sounds absolutely incredible. I don’t know is this is a plus to everyone, but ICP’s production values have increased to the level that this album could be played on the radio and I wouldn’t even really notice. This is also Mike E. Clark’s best production ever, with almost every song sounding incredible. Mike E. Clark deserves a job as a hired production gun, since this is some genuinely interesting background music. But then we get to ICP.
But here’s the thing. Even ICP has gotten better this time around! On at least a few of these songs, they actually have speed in their raps, instead of sluggishly throwing rhymes around like before. They also manage to sound different in songs, instead of using the same style every time. Sure, there are still a couple lyrical duds in this album, like the inane “Juggalo Juice” and the annoying “When I’m Clowning”, but this is still a much better rapped album than any previous release. And even the singing isn’t that bad!
Sure, there are some terrible songs like always. “Chris Benoit” is a confused mess of a song named after a murderous wrestler, and “Forever” is a continuation of that terrible sound from “Juggalo Island”, but this still probably their best album. I know. I’m amazed too. This is wonderful. I feel like hugging a kitten. But more importantly.
INSANE CLOWN POSSE MONTHS ARE OVER.
GOD BLESS AMERICA.
Best Song: The Mighty Death Pop
Worst Song: Chris Benoit
There’s a very good chance that I’m never gonna cover an album as obscure as The Chief Assassin of the Sinister again. The album doesn’t even have a wikipedia page. But there is a page on the band responsible, Three Mile Pilot, who formed in San Diego in 1991. With Chief Assassin, they released their second album, which came out in 1995.
Chief Assassin might have been labeled Indie Rock on Wikipedia, but don’t go in expecting anything of the Death Cab for Cutie variety. The songs here never go shorter than four minutes, and each one is primarily based on a Drone riff and a drum beat, slowly building up to a crescendo. In a way, it’s similar to Slint’s Spiderland, down to the sinister nature of the music. In a way, the cover is a perfect representation of the album, since you’re not sure what you’re looking at, but it’s ominous and somewhat alien.
However, the spaciness comes at the price of it being hard to have a real emotional reaction to it besides fear. It’s a disturbing listen, but it’s too distant to ever really succeed in becoming a truly good album. There’s also the problem that I’m just not a fan of music based on an endless crescendo. It’s good when music builds to a climax, but that’s when there’s evolution in the music beforehand. There’s no choruses or bridges on this album, only an endless riff for the first 2/3s of a song, followed by an increase in intensity for the last part. There’s also the fact that the vocalists just aren’t very good, and both sound way more comfortable if they were playing in Pop-Punk or Emo bands, which is why Vux Intruder works better with its faster pace.
However, there are a few songs that still work on this album. “Curcumsised” is a great rocker that is the hardest the album ever hits, “Aqua-Magnetic” serves as a great droner that justifies its eight minutes, “97-mt” does well in sounding like if Built to Spill teamed up with Rites of Spring, and “Androsyn” is a definite showstopper, a twelve minute stoner rock masterpiece that feels like if you ran into the structure on the cover while walking on the moon. The album also sounds great, with the right amount of atmosphere needed for an album like this.
Sadly, the album as a whole isn’t that great. Sure, by length standards most of the album is great, but there’s still four songs that aren’t that great, and that’s half the album song wise. If you like droopier music, I’d recommend getting it, and there are truly great songs on here, but otherwise, I’d give it a listen before adding it to your library.
Best Song: Androsyn
Worst Song: The Chief Assassin of the Sinister
Note: this is an article meant for my school newspaper, but it fits here, so I’m publishing it. Consider it a gift review.
In the current pop world, few artists can compete with Katy Perry for the title of “modern pop princess”. Both of her previous album releases, “One of the Boys” and “Teenage Dream” were massive commercial successes, with “Teenage Dream” even becoming only the 2nd album to ever include five no. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, the other being Michael Jackson’s “Bad”. And now, over a year after her less single release, comes the lead single off her third album “Prism”, in the form of “Roar”, a bland and mediocre Power Pop song that serves little to build hype for the album.
Since the song was first released in August, numerous critics have noted the similarities between “Roar” and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles’s hit “Brave” from earlier this year. Most notably, both use a repeating piano line, a similar drum beat, and the exact same chords. But what’s important isn’t that the songs are similar; what matters is that they are different enough for one to be worse than the other, and in this, Perry loses. While “Brave” actually changes during the song to introduce new ideas with each verse, “Roar” is incredibly stagnant, using the same three chords throughout for 2 verses and a repeating chorus. But the most important aspect of the blatant copying is in how it highlights the major problem of the rest of the song; namely, how lazy it is.
It’s pretty well-established that Pop never strives for anything other than to be catchy and enjoyable, but it’s rare to see a Pop song that’s as bland as “Roar”. It starts like you’d expect a Pop song should start, it ends like you’d expect a pop song to end, it swells like you expect a pop song to swell, it’s just a theoretically perfect pop song. But in this theoretical perfection, it just comes off as manufactured, built in a lab to be as cathy and inoffensive as possible. And that’s without getting into the lyrics, which seem like a mix of different cliches thrown in, with lines about “the eye of the tiger” and “floating like a butterfly”, being “held down, but getting back up” and “shaking the ground like thunder”.
“Roar” isn’t a terrible song. It’s not even really a bad song. It’s just bland, easily digestible for people who need music playing without making them think too much. It’s a song you get played at Target so that the shoppers don’t get unnerved by the lack of backing noise, but also don’t complain about what’s getting played. In short, it’s a song, with no adjectives required for its quality.