A site where I get to complain about music I don't like.
I think I can go ahead and call myself a Kanye West fan. His five albums are all some of the best albums released in the last 20 years, with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy currently being my no. 1 album of the decade so far. But so far, I must say I’m cautiously optimistic about his next release, the presumptuously titled Yeezus. With its bizarre cover art and debut songs that are very far from the norm, it’s at least bound to be interesting.
This is Kanye’s first album following his relationship with Kim Kardashian, and this worried me at first. I was afraid that Kanye would make a typical terrible I-got-a-baby album, filled with inner reflection and trite melodies. But based on the cover as it is known now, it looks like we’re getting nearly the complete opposite. There does seem to be the reflection, with the songs taking a more conscious turn, based on the titles “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves”. But rather than relaxed beats, the music is harsh and loud, particularly on “Skinhead”, which is closer to Death Grips (an awesome Experimental Rap group you should check out) than to anything on the charts at the moment.
I definitely enjoy both the songs currently known after appearing on Saturday Night Live, particularly “Skinhead”, which is one of my favorite songs of the year. But what I’m anticipating the most is how these songs will sound on the album itself. Kanye is one of the best producers working today, so hearing these songs in a fully mastered form could really make the album a classic. However, you can only truly judge an album when it is finished and released. Who knows? Maybe the rest of the album really is as trite as expected. I doubt it though, since it would be weird to have two abrasive tracks surrounded by ballads. I think it’s safe to expect at least one “I’m a father now” song on there.
So overall, you could consider me hyped for this album. I doubt it will be as good as MBDTF, but than again what is. At the very least, it’s always exciting to see an established artist try something new with their music. And whether it’s amazing or terrible, you can expect me to review it when it’s released on June 18th.
There seems to be a genre every decade that serves as the “up-and-comer”, the genre that starts to develop into the most important music of the time. The 50s had Rock ‘n’ Roll, the 60s had Garage Rock and Psychedelia, the 70s had Heavy Metal and Punk, and the 80s had Rap music coming into major prominence. After The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” popularized Rap in 1979, it was only a matter of time for a Rap album to be the first to top Billboard’s album charts. And what was the first to achieve this feat? A Rap-Rock album by three Jewish boys from Brooklyn. So today, we’re looking at that album, The Beastie Boy’s Licensed to Ill.
1. Rhymin’ and Stealin’
It’s rare to have an opening song sum up an album so well. Over samples of “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin and “Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath, MCA, Ad-Rock, and Mike D rap about how awesome it is to be pirates. Does anything else really need to be said. The song is a perfect representation of how a song can be simultaneously ridiculous and completely awesome. It’s not meant to be taken seriously, and that’s what makes it work.
2. The New Style
With the second song the album, The Beasties highlights exactly what they were about in their early days. They weren’t the genre-bending icons they would become; they were mocking the stupid fratboys that were common at the time. The song also highlights the simpler production style common in many songs on the album, primarily based on one drum beat and a guitar chord. It’s all incredibly basic, though it does change for the last minute to a slower beat. It’s not required listening, but it’s still just a fun jam.
3. She’s Crafty
Continuing with the style of “The New Style”, the album continues with the silly, intentionally obnoxious style, set over an awesome guitar sample from “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin. The song really does function as a continuation of “The New Style”, and the album wouldn’t be any worse off without it. It’s not bad, it’s just kind of weak for the album so far.
4. Posse in Effect
And now we get a calmer version of the production work, based on more horn samples while still based on the drums. The second shortest song on the album, the song has length on its side, ending before it can get obnoxious. And I guess it would be good to mention The Beastie’s biggest strength, the work between each member for the verses. Each member constantly trades off lines between each other, showing the group dynamic that really was their best asset. And they show it off to marvelous effect throughout, particularly here.
5. Slow Ride
Showing a funkier side to the album, the song sample “Low Rider” by War, highlighting Hip-Hop’s place as a spin-off of Funk, serving as the underground form of Dance music at the time, as shown by early Hip-Hop’s fetish for sampling old James Brown singles. Anyway, the song isn’t really great, but it’s certainly fun, and it’s also a short song, so it still avoids annoyance.
“Girls” could be the best song ever written by anyone ever. The whole song is effectively high-speed Doo-Wop about troublesome girls (a reoccurring theme), over the goofiest piano ditty ever created. There’s no reason to hate this song. It’s perfect.
7. Fight For Your Right (To Party)
And here we have what would end up being the defining moment of the album. “Fight For Your Right” is the perfect summary of what the Beasties were, rapping about hating school and mom throwing away your porno mags. The song is a parody of the frat boys mocked throughout the album, over a stereotypical “I barely play guitar so I can pick up girls” riff. Sadly, it became popular with these people, coming to represent what it mocked. Technically, this song is probably the worst on the album, but it’s so infectious, it’s hard not to love it. Even if the solo is complete shit.
8. No Sleep Till Brooklyn
The other big hit off the album, “Brooklyn” serves as another “bro fist-pump” anthem, designed to get a crowd pumped and ready, over a great riff and some of their best raps off the album. The song is still dumb compared to what they would become, but it just serves as a big goofy song, almost designed to be played by a crappy High School band trying to be tough for the talent show. Together with two solos by Thrash legend Kerry King of Slayer, you got the ultimate in Frat-Rap.
9. Paul Revere
“Paul Revere” is a remarkably weird song, especially for such a landmark record. Telling the story of how Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock first met in a Western story of running from town on a horse and then stopping at a saloon that gets robbed, and I guess forming a band at some point, the three rap over a woozy beat consisting of a bass line and a hi-hat. The story is ridiculous, and the song does get kind of tiring, but it’s just charming.
10. Hold it Now, Hit It
Probably the weakest song on the album, “Hold it Now” comes off as a overbearing mashup of too many samples and rhymes. The song seems to stop and go randomly throughout, never forming a consistent melody and just turning into a mess. The major theme of the album is not giving a shit about life and having fun, but the album definitely could have benefitted from a form of cohesion, or at least stay on one element for a long enough time.
11. Brass Monkey
“Monkey” is another example of a song that shouldn’t work, but just does. Formed over a skonky horn riff and a drum beat, the song is the personification of fun, highlighted by the goofiest raps ever pressed to vinyl. Sometimes you just can’t explain why you love a song, it just fills you with a sort of aloof joy whenever you hear it playing, and you’re just left with a dumb smile until it stops. That’s how I feel when I hear this song.
12. Slow and Low
Returning to the sound of “She’s Crafty” and “The New Style”, the Beasties are back to that goofy style of slow drum beats, marked by the song title itself. The song serves as the same style as though two, bringing the album back to where it started, forming a nice symmetry. The song isn’t particularly interesting, but it’s still a heavily enjoyable song, marked by a classic chorus.
13. Time to Get Ill
And where we begin, we end again. Putting “Slow and Low” and “Time to Get Ill” together was a brilliant move, since the two songs work perfectly as a duo, similar to “Style” and “Crafty” or Fight For Your Right” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”. However, I definitely enjoy this more than “Slow and Low”, showing their fun nature to the extreme, even to sampling the Mr. Ed theme. It’s a perfect end to this landmark album.
So in conclusion. I wouldn’t call this a great album. The songs are kind of stupid, repetitive in that old rap way, and the lyrics aren’t as sharp as they would become. However, the sheer fun the group is having, combined with Rubin’s production work, makes this album a truly entertaining one. It’s an album you don’t think about and just enjoy for its duration. And really, is there anything better than that feeling of being a stupid teen again, listening to this album? I don’t think so.
Best Track: No Sleep Till Brooklyn
Worst Track: Hold it Now, Hit It
So my friend Henry asked me to write a review for Tyler The Creator’s new album “Wolf” which came out a few weeks ago. He asked me to do it I think the week it came out but I haven’t found time until today. Bear with me if this review sounds like shit, I’m still recovering from last Saturday’s 4/20 and my head sorta hurts.
If I had written this review when I was supposed to (two and a half weeks ago) I would have scored this album way differently. I just got home and listened to the rumored “prequel” to Tyler’s Album Trilogy twice and I feel a little better about it. My bar was raised high for Tyler since “Goblin” is basically the Fight Club of the music industry (which means it was awesome but only select people followed it). I was at first disappointed because it didn’t have the same vibe as “Goblin” did but now that I think about it…it’s better that Tyler is sort of reaching for a new ground and proving not only to himself but his audience as well that he can calm down and not rap about rape every minute and a half. The album starts off with it’s title track with a lot of epic horns and Tyler repeatedly saying “Fuck you,” which I think is a message to his fans, his critics, and basically anyone listening to the thing. We then get warped into this story about a new camper “Wolf” being introduced to characters like Sam and Salem. The whole story is sort of warped and isn’t as well weaved as the story told in “Goblin”. The whole thing is basically about Wolf having a hard time at the camp Flog Gnaw and falls for Salem (who is dating Sam). Sam finds out that Wolf is hanging out with Salem and they get into a fight. In the end, the camp counselor brings in Wolf to talk about why he has been acting out (which I think then leads into Bastard).
The album is very mixed with a lot of songs that pop up and then some that don’t please the ears as well. Tracks like Domo23, Answer, 48, and Rusty really bring the album to a new definition of what Tyler can do but the album falls short with not as well put together songs like Pigs, Cowboy, and PartyIsntOver. I feel like the hyped up song, Bimmer, fell short with length and creativeness since the song only gave us one verse. But guest vocals like Mike G (my favorite Wolf Gang member) and Earl Sweatshirt add to some of that falling short feeling. And you have to be careful with guest vocals and having too much of them which was too evident in the song Trashwang (and that song was basically a 5 minute advertisement for the band Trash Talk). The album is nicely wrapped up with the last three tracks Treehome95, Tamale, and Lone.
Tyler has grown in some weird ways but he is able to pull it together for another album narrative. It wasn’t able to immediately pull me in like Goblin did (which isn’t a fair argument since I listened to Goblin high as fuck the first time) but it’s still fun to listen to and has some amusing lyrics to rap along to like Colossus which deals with Tyler running into obsessed fans and Tamale which, to be honest, I have no idea what it’s about but has the best line “Tell Spike Lee he’s a god damn n***er” which references to Spike Lee’s ridiculous reaction to Django Unchained. Anyways….Tyler is starting to make his mark in the Hip Hop scene and this album is just the beginning.
48, Tamale, Answer, Domo23
Cowboy, Awkward, Pigs, PartyIsntOver
Overall Rating: B
It’s kind of bizarre how it’s been over 4 years since the last Fall Out Boy album was released. For 5 years, they were the face of the “Emo” movement that represented Rock for most of the early 2000s, which made sense, they were also easily the best. Their three main albums, Under the Cork Tree, Infinity on High, and Folie à Deux, all range from pretty good to pretty damn great, due to a mix of talented musicianship, Patrick Stump’s singing, and a penchant for having fun with themselves. But after a hiatus, they’re back with their latest release Save Rock ‘n’ Roll, which I believe is unironically titled.
First off, the first two songs are absolutely fantastic. “The Phoenix” and “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” are massive songs that are exactly what you would expect from a band this good at melodrama to start off with as a return. The songs are perfectly placed, with “The Phoenix” screaming to serve as a set opener. “In the Dark” is slightly weaker, but it works great as a large Pop sing-along. The album also keeps the tradition of Fall Out Boy in having general fun with their music, unlike other “Emo” bands like All-American Rejects or Simple Plan. The album always flirts dangerously close to Pop, but manages to stay on the rockier side of the equation, and the album reflects that, showing the side of ridiculousness that manages to clearly enjoy itself. The songs are also all distinctly Fall Out Boy, though this might be a negative for some people, since they are a very polarizing band.
The first problem with this album, meanwhile, actually comes straight from the title. In their typical melodramatic fashion, they promise to save Rock ‘n’ Roll from the Shinedowns of the world, but ironically, with this album they go popper than ever. Songs like “Sugar We’re Going Down” aren’t exactly Metallica, but it was a lot closer to Nirvana than it was to Rihanna, which goes for some of the songs here. Of special note is “The Mighty Fall”, easily the worst song on this album, featuring annoying musicianship and a terrible verse by Big Sean. The whole song comes off as trying way too hard to be scary, with its singing children and riffage. Secondly, there’s an overly high amount of guest spots on this album, with guest appearances from Big Sean, Elton John, Foxes, and Courtney Love, who ruins the other overly weak song on this album, “Rat a Tat”, with her overly forced and obnoxious dig at Britney Spears in the opening. And lastly, the album is mixed terribly. Every song is mixed at max capacity, removing many of the dynamics, which is practically what makes songs like these. This is easily one of the worst cases of the loudness wars I’ve ever seen, up there with the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Californication.
Overall, this album is slightly above average. There’s still the sharp songwriting from before, but it’s all layered under not only a layer of Pop shellac, but also a layer of muddy mastering, combining together to lower the quality of the music. If the album was mastered better, and Big Sean and Courtney Love were removed, I would’ve likely given this album around a B to a B+, but as it stands, I’d rank this under the cork tree.
Best Track: The Phoenix
Worst Track: The Mighty Fall
I’d also like to announce my intentions of bumping my article count to 3 a week, including a Modern Album review every week.
NOTE: Instead of the song-by-song style reviews for older albums, I’m reviewing these albums as a collective whole.
Well, I guess it was about time that I finally review an album that came out in the last year. And what better album to start off with than Justin Timberlake’s return to Pop music after 6 years, The 20/20 Experience. It’s interesting to think that one of the few Pop singers to stay from the beginning of the decade is the guy from NSync, but I guess this is the world we live in. At least he’s been better on average than his former ex and fellow Pop elder statesman Britney Spears.
First off, when Timberlake called this album an experience, he wasn’t kidding. There are two songs under 6 minutes, and three under 7. Over half the album consists of 7 minute Pop epics. This would be weird for the standard Pop singer, but Timberlake has always been a little more than a Pop singer. Along with Lady Gaga, he’s a Pop singer who’s better described as an artist, crafting each song into his perfect vision, unlike someone like Rihanna, who cranks out release after release. A strictly commercial act doesn’t take 6 years to release a follow-up to a hugely successful album like Futuresex/Lovesounds. Timberlake serves as a modern musical Michelangelo, carving into a song until every note and sound is utterly perfect in his vision.
The album is absolutely overflowing with character. Timberlake shines on every song, clearly enjoying himself every step of the way through. And for once, the music lives up to that charisma. If the music was alive, it would be a Frankenstein Justin Timberlake. If he didn’t use a style or instrument on the album, it’s likely that he’s saving it for the 2nd half of the album in November. If Meatloaf made a Pop album, this is what he would make. “Suit & Tie”, the first single and easily the weakest song on the album, is actually the most cohesive. Every other song just sprawls into whatever thing it wants to do next. I can’t remember the last time I heard a guitar solo on a Pop album, but there’s quite a few here. The album reminds me of a stronger The 2nd Law by Muse, in that it’s an absolutely entrancing collage of music. But while The 2nd Law was eventually dragged down by its ambitions, Experience is exactly as silly as it needs to be. And every song reveals new fascinating elements of themselves with every subsequent listen. This is an album that might take a little while to get, but it’s worth it. Right now, my favorite tracks are the final two, the bombastic “Mirrors” and the gorgeous and ethereal “Blue Ocean Floor”, but every song needs at least one listen.
While you can already tell that I love this album, I do have one major problem with it. Every song goes on for too long. I understand that the album is an “experience”, but even a masterpiece needs at least a little trimming. You could probably cut about 10 minutes off this album and it would be improved quite a bit. And while not a flaw, since it’s a great, fun song, “Let the Groove Get In” is REALLY out of place on the album. While the rest of the album is more of a “swelling” bombast, “Groove” has a immediacy to it that makes it weird as part of this album, though I can see it working as a great radio single.
In short, this is one of the best Pop albums in recent memory. If you want to understand how a Pop star can also be a high-caliber artist, this is a required listen. It might go down as Timberlake’s masterpiece, especially if the 2nd half is nearly as good. I know that the end of the year is 8 months away, but if this isn’t in the top 10, I can likely declare this one of the best years in music. But no matter what, listen to this album.
Best Song: Mirrors/Blue Ocean Floor
Worst Song: Suit & Tie
Looks like we’re talking about one of the big ones. Velvet Underground & Nico is one of the biggest and most influential albums of all time, an album that’s nearly impossible to say anything new about. It’s the Seventh Seal of albums, an art piece that even the casual listener can enjoy, a piece that’s almost impossible to criticize. So I guess it’s time for me to give out my view on this album. So it’s time to look at the ultimate sacred cow of music, Velvet Underground & Nico.
1. Sunday Morning
So here we have the introduction to the most important album of all time, and in my opinion, this is a damn excellent intro. Far softer than the rest of the album, it starts off with gentle playing on a celesta, an instrument John Cale had just found before recording the song, and the instrumentation is just as gorgeous. Not only this, but Lou Reed does some of his best singing on this song, crafting a beautiful picture of the aftermath of a on-night stand. It tiptoes near repetitive and boring, but manages to stop right at beautiful. A definite highlight.
2. I’m Waiting For My Man
I’ve already talked about this song on a very early article, but I’ve come a long way since then, so I guess I should restate it. I don’t care for this song. I find it overbearingly thumping, sounding like it’s repeatedly smacking you in the head. And after how good Lou Reed was in the last song, he just sounds awful here, completely dry and deadpan. It’s an originator of punk, but it has none of the heart. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely weak.
3. Femme Fatale
Another softer song, this time with darker subject matter, this is the first song sung by Nico, a popular Baroque Pop singer from the time. Honestly, she’s a better singer than Lou Reed, and I wished she sang on the whole album. Either way, this is a great song, gentle, but not boring. It really sounds like a lost Beach Boys song, with a German female folk singer. It’s excellent.
4. Venus in Furs
And once again, a song I don’t really care for. For me, this song completely meanders for 5 minutes, never changing. For me, it’s a lot like “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, a song made to be listened to while flying through the air into the purple mouth of Zeus, by which I mean high as fuck. But while “White Rabbit” is a great song anyway, “Venus in Furs” use sounds droning for the sake of droning, noise for the sake of noise. Not a song I really enjoy.
5. Run Run Run
This was the first VU songs I ever heard, and it remains a favorite of mine. Reminiscent of early Rock ‘n’ Roll songs like a slightly rougher “I Saw Her Standing There”, it’s a great little number, perfect for a soundtrack of the 60s. To me, this is what “I’m Waiting For My Man” should have been, a Rock ‘n’ Roll number that isn’t an exercise in tedium. It’s probably the least memorable song on the album, for better for worse, but it’s still a damn good song.
6. All Tomorrow’s Parties
I think this might be the first time a song grew on me while listening to it for the first time. I don’t mean it changed for the better, I mean I suddenly got what it was doing. For the first three minutes, I thought this was another droning piece that would never end. Around halfway through, though, it clicked. The mix of slow drumming and the manic piano makes for a perfect swarm of chaos, and the calmness in Nico’s voice just seals the deal. It never really changes, and I do think they could’ve cut off about a minute or two from the album version, but as it stands, this is still a great song, and the first experiment on the album I really like.
And here we have my favorite song on the whole album. “Heroin” is a masterpiece of songwriting, perfectly describing the worst aspects of heroin addiction, constantly building up to a crescendo of stress and panic, accented by the thunderous drums. The use of only two chords for the whole song really shows how much can be achieved with so little, with Cale’s violin used to excellent effect throughout. It’s perfect evidence for why anyone should stay away from heroin, lest it turn you into a panicking, fearful, and screaming shell of your formal self, made complete with some of the scariest feedback you’ll ever hear from a violin at the end. In other words, it’s perfect.
8. There She Goes Again
Another Rock ‘n’ Roll song, the song starts off with a stop-and-go, before really going into a very Beatles-esque style to it. It really does sound like if Lou Reed had wandered into a Beatles rehearsal and started screaming into a microphone. Overall, it’s very similar to “Run, Run, Run”, making it another less memorable song on the album, but also highly enjoyable.
9. I’ll Be Your Mirror
The shortest song on the album and one of the softest, “Mirror” is a simple love song by Nico, making her third lead appearance on the album. The song is very simple, but very charming, serving as a break from the madness all around it. It’s not really a great song on its own, but its placement is perfect, so it’s got that to it.
10. The Black Angel’s Death Song
You heaver hear a song that would have been a lot better if it got rid of one part? That’s this song. If this song had gotten rid of the completely rambling and piercing violin scratching, it would have been pretty standard, but far less grating. It seems like chaos for the sake of chaos, and it use brings the song down. If the violin had been used for a wandering atmosphere, that would have been good, but instead, it’s obnoxious. Not a very good song, but at least interesting.
11. European Son
And as a finale, how about some free jazz. A damn good closure, the song is what “Black Angel” should have been, wandering and chaotic without being obnoxious. After a minute of normality, the song goes for 7 minutes of wandering after a massive crashing noise, almost liked the album suddenly snapped into a mindless haze. The song continuously builds, sometimes bursting into nothing but a roaring, grinding noise. It never lets up, and it’s some uncomfortable listening, but the sheer range and energy makes it work, until you see things a different way. Definitely a fitting end to the album.
So after listening, this is definitely a difficult album. But that’s what its appeal is. It’s a noisy mess of chaos from the Factory, the height of noise and chaos in 60s America. It’s a perfect soundtrack for that time, and was a defining album of its generation. And even though I disliked three of the songs off it, the others are so good that I believe the album is worth the title of undying classic.
Best Song: Heroin
Worst Song: The Black Angel’s Death Song
10. Portal of I- Ne Obliviscaris
And here we have easily the most obscure band on this list. Ne Obliviscaris is a Progressive Death band, and while it is a little alienating the first time you hear it, I found this easily the best metal album of the last several years. Every single member is extremely talented, and unlike most metal bands, they use this to create a wonderfully melodic album, instead of clashing instruments. It’s definitely a niche release, since most people aren’t metal fans, but if you are, definitely check it out some time.
Key Track: Xenoflux
9. Clockwork Angels- Rush
Well it took about 25 years, but Rush has finally put out another great album. During the 90s and 2000s, Rush had a bit of a steep decline, playing generic rock songs with none of the energy from before. Until this year, when they released this album. Every song is extremely focused and tight, never getting overly long and annoying. Every member is playing like they’re at their peak, and it’s just refreshing to hear a Prog band release an album this good in 2012. Not to mention “Headlong Flight”, easily one of Rush’s best songs ever. Definitely a listen for Prog fans.
Key Track: Headlong Flight
8. Theatre is Evil- Amanda Palmer
So how about a break from Prog rock with some quirky alternative? The most theatrical album of this year, just like Jukebox the Ghost, this album is a straight dosage of happiness straight to your skull. With jaunty piano and synthesizers, lovely melodies, great musicianship, off-kilter lyrics, and Palmer’s bizarre charm, what’s not to like? The album is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, and if we’re lucky, she’ll continue with this trend.
Key Track: Want it Back
7. Psychedelic Pill- Neil Young
Neil Young released two albums this year, and honestly, this was way better than Americana, back in the summer. Going back to his 70s heyday, there is no way to describe this album other than “jamming”. One of the few albums I’ve seen requiring two CDs for its length, every second its playing, you’re just transported to another world, full of noise and chaos. Neil young is as talented at the guitar as always, and with Crazy Horse at his side, he’s got one of the best backup bands in the business. It may be a long album, but its worth all the time in the world.
Key Track: She’s Always Dancing
6. Good Kid M.A.A.D. City- Kendrick Lamarr
Kendrick Lamarr is simply the shit. One of the most talented young faces in music, it’s refreshing to see him in this world of generic party rap, delivering a straight-cut, no bullshit album. In a time where the charts’ views on Rap are artists like Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne, it’s awesome to see a song like “Swimming Pools” to get in the top 40. Boasting strong beats, the album is an excellent-sounding album, but more importantly, Lamarr’s lyrics are some of the best around, never reaching into either corny sincerity or obnoxious punchlines. Simply put, if you hate rap, this is the album to change that.
Key Track: Swimming Pools (Drank)
5. Channel Orange- Frank Ocean
It’s been a while since there’s been a soul album this good. As the resident Soul Singer of Odd Future, primarily a collection of rappers, Ocean’s going to have to stand out, and sure enough, he does. Unlike most overly macho soul singers around night now like Miguel and Trey Songz, Ocean isn’t afraid to show a genuine sensitive side, and not one made by an executive to earn female fans. Each song is packed with strong music, great lyrics, and Ocean’s beautiful voice, echoing such classic singers as Stevie Wonder, creating a beautiful package. And while the album may have have been overshadowed by his coming out, and that will certainly win him a few grammys, this is still a damn good album that no one should miss.
Key Track: Pyramids
4. Transcendental Youth- Mountain Goats
The Mountain Goats are probably one of my favorite bands ever, with albums like Tallahassee, The Sunset Tree, and We Shall All Be Healed boasting some of the best Indie Rock songs ever. And with this album, John Darnielle and company has released one of their most solid releases yet. Darnielle is one of the greatest lyricists working today, but it’s the music that really steals the show. with songs like “Cry for Judas” and “Lake Side View Apartment Suite”, there’s more of a full band, but the honesty of the songs still remain. A definite.
Key Track: Lake Side View Apartment Suite
3. Neck of the Woods- Silversun Pickups
One of the most interesting Indie bands working today, Silversun Pickups is what would happen if you took My Bloody Valentine and made Kevin Shields less insane. And after releasing two of my favorite albums of the 00s, Carnavas and Swoon, the triumph again with Neck of the Woods. While less harsh than the other two albums, it makes up for it with great melodies and playing, creating an enrapturing package that just sweeps into your head with its musicianship. Is it as good as their last two? I’d say no, but it’s still a damn fine release.
Key Track: Skin Graph
2. Wrecking Ball- Bruce Springsteen
With Occupy Wall St being the biggest news story of the year, it was obvious that Bruce Springsteen, the millionaire of the people, would make an album about it. But what was more unexpected was that it would be one of his all-time best. With his strongest lyrics since “The Rising”, you really do believe Bruce Springsteen as a working class hero singing for the everyman’s plight. Combine that with tremendous performances by the E Street band, and you got yourself a winner. Now we just wait for his album about Hurricane Sandy.
Key Track: Death to my Hometown
1. Celebration Rock- Japandroids
Holy crap. I admit, when I first heard the name, I thought it would be another crappy 80s nostalgia act aiming for kitsch. What I got what completely the opposite. One of the purest displays of no-bullshit “this is how we play” energy around, every song is furious and compact, always lasting exactly as long as it should. And the fact that its all coming out of two people without overdubs or editing is astonishing. One of the purest rock albums of the last ten years, this is a must hear. And thank you to Josh Cagan for the suggestion. You’re the man, Josh.
Key Track: Night of Wine and Rose
And now, albums that are getting high acclaim, but I didn’t listen to:
The Idler Wheel is Wiser- Fiona Apple
Here- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
Old Ideas- Leonard Cohen
Attack on Memories- Cloud Nothings
Bloom- Beach House
Django Django- Django Django
Hello, and welcome to that time of year again. The time where I have to decide what were the best albums of the year, so that you can buy them for Christmas, most likely. So, without further stalling, here is…
The Top 20 Albums of the Year (20-11)
20. The Odd Future Mixtape Vol. 2- Odd Future
I was too late on the Odd Future bandwagon to put Goblin on this list last year, so I’m glad I can put its successor now. Odd Future is a great breath of fresh air in the stagnant world of Hip-Hop, and this album shows the best of every member. Tyler the Creator is probably the most interesting producer around right now, and every song is unique and bizarre in its own way. It’s not the best rap album of the year, or even the best Odd Future album (that’s coming later), but hell if it ain’t a damn fine listen.
Key Track: Oldie
19. R.A.P. Music- Killer Mike
And on the flip side to Odd Future, here’s an album that breaks no new ground, but is still one of the most captivating listens of the year. Sure, R.A.P. Music might be your typical Political Rap album, but what matters is that it’s done well. It’s a completely captivating listen, and Killer Mike simply kills the mic. So while you know you’ve heard the whole thing before somewhere, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s exceptionally done. Definitely check it out to hear Southern Rap done right.
Key Track: Don’t Die
18. Tempest- Bob Dylan
HERESY, I hear you cry out. How can an Bob Dylan album be this low? Well simply, I’ve heard Dylan do better. But remember, this is Dylan we’re talking about, and the album is still head & shoulders above most other artists. Dylan doesn’t have the same voice, but the power of his lyricism is still there, along with an excellent band behind him pumping out some of his best songs in decades, such as “Pay in Blood” and “Tempest”. Is it his best? Personally, I wouldn’t even put it in his top 10. But it’s still an excellent album that deserves to be heard.
Key Track: Pay in Blood
17. Sun- Cat Power
As Cat Power’s first album since The Greatest, I can’t compare, since I’ve never heard The Greatest or You Are Free. But what I can say is that this is still a damn fine record made of damn fine Indie Pop. It’s just as bizarre as the performer who created it, but the use of gentle melodies and abrasive instruments at points makes it undeniably interesting. From what I’ve heard, it’s more dance-oriented than her other stuff, and she does it surprisingly well. It definitely makes me want to check out the rest of her library, even if it suffers from brickwalling at times.
Key Track: Always on My Own
16. Kids in the Street- All-Amercan Rejects
I know,I was surprised too. I couldn’t stand any of what All-American Rejects had put out before, coming off as Fall Out Boy without the sense of humor. But on this album, they got me. Switching from Emo to 80s-influenced Pop Punk, it’s a bizarre switch, but it works beautifully. They’re still overly sincere about their music, but the music definitely makes up for it now, instead of use coming across as whiny. Here’s hoping they stay on this path from now on.
Key Track: Beekeeper’s Daughter
15. Blunderbuss- Jack White
The White Stripes are on of my favorite bands ever, so it was sad to see them go last year. But luckily, Jack White is back, and he’s brought his best qualities as a songwriter. White is one of the best guitar players working today, and this album is a great display of his talents, from the country tinge of “Love Interruption” to the garage rock of “Sixteen Saltines”. And without Meg White, he even has a decent rhythm section for once! A definite listen for a White Stripes fan looking for more.
Key Track: Sixteen Saltines
14. The Afterman- Ascension- Coheed and Cambria
Coheed and Cambria is one of my favorites of the “new-prog” scene. Both they and Mars Volta put out albums this year, but I felt this was a lot better than Noctourniquet, which I felt was average. But this album is fantastic, and their best since No World For Tomorrow. There’s no song as immediate as “Welcome Home” or “The Broken”, but the album as a whole is remarkably strong, mixing together tight musicianship with excellent song writing and some excellent singing. If you like Prog, pick it up.
Key Track: Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute
13. All We Love We Leave Behind- Converge
One of the most consistently interesting Hardcore bands working today, Converge’s new release is easily their best since their masterpiece, Jane Doe. With their usual mix of fanatic and complex playing with vocals best described as a pterodactyl that just had its balls stepped on, the album has a higher level of melody than previous releases, and is completely devoid of filler in its 45 minute run. A Hardcore classic.
Key Track: Sadness Comes Home
12. Safe Travels- Jukebox the Ghost
Well that last record was intense, wasn’t it? Well how about some quirk synth-pop. Jukebox the Ghost is probably the second most obscure band on this list, so I’m glad that I can promote them to all of you, since this is a band that anyone can love. This band is pure fun, and is an absolute joy to listen to, especially mixed in with all the morose indie-pop surrounding it. As much a break from its time and place as Weezer’s debut was from Grunge, this is an album that could brighten up anyone’s day.
Key Track: Somebody
11. Koi no Yokan- Deftones
I adore the Deftones. Personally, outside of the mediocre self-titled from 2003, every album they’ve done is an absolute classic. And this is likely their best since the timeless White Pony back in 2000. The band’s writing is still unbelievably tight, serving as a perfect mix of Dream Pop and Alt Metal, and Chino Moreno is still the best singer Metal has to offer. There aren’t any individual songs as good as “Hole in the Earth” or “My Own Summer”, but it’s a remarkably tight complete package.
Key Track: Romantic Dreams
Stay tuned for the top 10 on Wednesday!
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done an album review. So I think it’s time I wrote another one. So why don’t we talk about one of the most influential guitar albums of all time, one that people still plagiarize to this day, Van Halen’s debut from 1978. And straight from the cover, you can tell that this album is aiming to be exciting as all hell. Sure, no one knew David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, and the other guy were when they released this, but they were already ready to be superstars. So, let’s begin…
Van Halen: An Album Review
1. Running With the Devil
Starting off with a car horn and an iconic, though incredibly simple, bass line, you can tell the exact mood that Van Halen was going for; a good time. Soon the guitar kicks in, followed by David Lee Roth howling like, well, David Lee Roth. Sure, the lyrics are stupid (the simple life is simple, you see), but you’ll forget that as soon as you get to the harmonies in the chorus. There’s also a pretty awesome solo, but it’s only foreshadowing for what’s coming up later. Overall, it’s a classic track, and one of the best opening songs ever.
And here we have a song that, in under two minutes, completely changed how people played guitar. It’s not even a song, it’s just an interlude, but without this song, you wouldn’t have every guitarist out there tapping the hell out of their guitar. So yeah, it get’s you ready, but by itself, after the person several times, it loses its luster.
3. You Really Got Me
If there’s any song perfect for Van Halen to cover, it’s got to be “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks. It’s got just the right amount of sleaze and macho superiority to be perfect for a band like Van Halen, a bunch of overtly macho man who know how to engage in sleaze. The cover is so pervasive that if you boost up the distortion while playing the original, you just start playing this version. It’s derivative, but still plenty exciting.
4. Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love
Starting off with one hell of an epic riff, we immediately go into possibly the best song on the album. Everything about this song is awesome, from the singing, to the guitar work, to the drumming. The quiet section is awesome, and it even has an epic solo at the end. This song is pretty much Van Halen personified, and it’s probably the high point of the album. It’s just a great song.
5. I’m the One
Starting off with a riff that predicts Thrash Metal, the beat soon comes in, showing a Rock n’ Roll sound to the proceedings. It’s a big upbeat track, just like the rest of the album, and it gets you ready for pretty much anything. Combined that with the harmonies, and you got yourself a pretty awesome rock tune, if a little repetitive.
6. Jamie’s Crying
Slower than most of the other songs on the album, “Jamie’s Crying” has a very different mood than the rest of the album, with a riff that feels almost downright sour. However, it definitely makes a good break from the rest of the party atmosphere of the album. It’s not a particular favorite, but it serves well as the midway point of the album. Definitely works better with David Lee Roth than Tone Loc.
7. Atomic Punk
And here we have the album’s worst, and most dated, song, and not just for the title. The whole song feels rushed. It feels like another version of “I’m the One”, but it doesn’t have the energy to compete, so it also just feels lifeless. So, in short, this is easily the worst song on the album, and is completely forgettable, which is not something that Van Halen should be.
8. Feel Your Love Tonight
Once again, just kind of boring. I think around here, Van Halen lost steam for real great songs like at the beginning of the album. It’s just kind of there. It’s not bad, and it’s better than “Atomic Punk”, but it’s mostly meh.
9. Little Dreamer
Ok, so this is slightly better, but still not great. There’s at least a tempo change between this and the last two tracks, and it’s interesting to hear David Lee Roth use the lower part of his register. And those “oohs” in the chorus always get me. So yeah, this is better than the last two songs, but it’s still not as good as it could be, as seen from the first half of the album.
10. Ice Cream Man
And for the second cover on the album, we start with an acoustic intro, which feels very out-of-character, and is honestly just kind of weird. However, as soon as we get to the electrified second-half, it starts to make a lot more sense, with the high energy you’d expect. It’s a lot of fun, but not necessary listening.
11. On Fire
And as the finale, we get another high energy number. Probably the best song of the second half of the album, it’s got high-energy, and it just works, even though David Lee Roth’s shrieking can get VERY annoying. There’s even one of the best solos on the album about halfway through. In short, it’s definitely a good note to end out on, even if it’s not the best song on the album.
So in short, this album is mixed. Sure, the first half is pretty awesome, but it definitely loses steam around the halfway point. It’s a great record, but it does feel unbalanced, and since the album’s only 35 minutes long, that’s not a great song. But the great songs are fantastic, and that in itself is worth the price.
Best Song: Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love
Worst Song: Atomic Punk
Hello everyone, and welcome to the end of Lil Wayne Month! After 6 albums, it’s amazing I survived this long, especially after Rebirth. So how’s it end? Well… let me say this. With my review of both I Am Not a Human Being and Tha Carter IV, I must say that this month does not end with a bang, but with a whimper. A soft, pathetic whimper. These albums are weak as shit, but nowhere near the disaster of Rebirth. These albums are merely forgettable.
Well first, the good. These albums aren’t Rebirth. Seriously, though, there are two really good songs on these albums, with “6 Foot 7 Foot” likely being the best song Wayne ever recorded. With great production and clever lyrics, plus a great guest verse by Corey Gunz, it’s really a great song. Now on to the bad.
Frankly, these albums are fucking BORING. Like, brutally boring. This makes The XX look like Slayer. The beats, outside of the two good songs, are uninspired and lousy, and the lyrics are among his worse. Of particular note are “I’m Single” and “How to Love”, one a drowsy rap song that’s unbearable, and the other an acoustic ballad that I would give credit for if it wasn’t so terrible. And for a problem mostly just for Tha Carter IV, this is an album that sounds more fake and mechanical than David Guetta’s entire career. The entire album just sounds like it was made in Garageband in a day, with no further improvement. Just off the first song, “Blunt Blowin”, the strings sound remarkably fake, and it just hurts the song. And then there’s “John”, likely his all time worst song, and the worst disrespect to John Lennon I’ve ever seen. It’s god-damn painful.
So yeah, these albums are plain bad. If I had to choose the better, it would probably be I Am Not a Human Being, since there’s at least a small bit of effort showing through, plus you can’t help but compare it to Rebirth. But overall, both of these albums are bland as hell, and I never want to hear either of them again. I’m so tired of Lil Wayne. After all this shit following Tha Carter II, it’s just disappointing. I hope I never have to talk about him again. This Sunday, I’m not even publishing a bookend post. We’re talking about Maroon 5 on Sunday.