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Category Archives: music

Full Albums:

  • Driver Friendly, Chase the White Whale and Bury a Dream
  • Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak
  • The Lonely Island, Incredibad
  • Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Mecca & The Soul Brother
  • Schoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions
  • The Strokes, Comedown Machine1
  • Rhye, Woman2
  • Inc., real world3
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Specter at the Feast4
  • FIDLAR, FIDLAR5
  • Bonobo, Black Sands6
  • Sean Price, Mic Tyson7
  • J-Love, Pardon My Intrusion8
  • Large Professor, Main Source9
  • Main Source, Breaking Atoms10
  • The Knife, Shaking the Habitual11
  • Alt-J, An Awesome Wave12
  • The Gap Band, 20th Century Master: Best of The Gap Band13
  • Marcos Valle, Previsão Do Tempo14
  • Atoms for Peace, AMOK15
  • Charlie Wilson, Love, Charlie16
  • David Bowie, The Next Day17
  • How to Destroy Angels, Welcome oblivion18
  • The Men, New Moon19
  • The Replacements, Songs for Slim20
  • Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up!21
  • Autre Ne Veut, Anxiety22
  • Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse23
  • Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience24
  • Big K.R.I.T., Big K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and King Remembered in Time25
  • Tuxedo, Tuxedo EP26
  • Kendrick Lamar, YHNIC27
  • Jessie Ware, Devotion
  • Fall Out Boy, Folie A Deux and Save Rock and Roll28
  • Eric Clapton, Old Sock29
  • DJ Koze, Amygdala30
  • Boz Scaggs, Memphis31
  • Ghostface Killah, 12 Reasons to Die32

Random Excellence:

  • Wiz Khalifa, “Never Been”
  • Pharoahe Monch, “Simon Says”
  • Nas, “Get Down”
  • At the Drive-In, “One-Armed Scissor”
  • Ludacris, “Grew up a Screw Up”
  • The Roots, “The Fire”
  • Saves the Day, “Nightingale”
  • Thin Lizzy, “Dedication”
  • Tom Vek, “Too Bad”
  • Wu-Tang Clan vs. The Beatles, “Clientele Kidd”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • The Lonely Island, “Lazy Sunday”
  • Schoolboy Q, “Blessed” and “Light Years Ahead (Sky High)”
  • David Banner, “Slow Down”
  • Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns and Money”

Reviews:

1. My girlfriend and I were listening and decided that this is two separate bands. It’s The Strokes form five years ago battling what The Strokes would sound like if they were actually a band in the eighties. It’s very weird to alternate between those two bands, though it’s clear both are talented. Perhaps the hardest thing to reconcile is that most everyone agrees they’d just be better of if they made more music like The Strokes from 12 years ago. But this is it, so get into it.

2. Absolutely blew my mind that this is a man singing. It’s a soft, beautiful album that has all the touches of a woman, despite the whole it’s-really-a-guy-singing thing.

3. I wasn’t into it. Too much whispery business. I gotta try it again because I listened to a lot of similar stuff that I loved, but somehow this one slipped through the cracks.

4. These guys. What a delight. I liked their previous album a little bit more because they were talking about Hades more, but this still had enough to get me headbanging. Or slow headbanging.

5. I’m fairly sure I already wrote the best review of these guys when I recommended a song or two to a friend with the endorsement: “This band is the tits.”

6. They’re kind of like a jazzier Roots without Black Thought. Of course, they’re a very different band, but they obviously share a lot of rap, jazz, and funk influences. A different, but excellent band.

7. There are all these stickers in New York that say “Sean Price can f*ckin rap.” That’s it. So I looked this album up. Honestly, though, I couldn’t really get past the beats to hear if he could really rap. I’ve heard him rap over good beats before, so I had a hint, but this was just painful.

8. No, sir, I do not. Here’s the thing: I found this guy because Rolling Stone seemed to be recommending a new Ghostface Killah song on Spotify. Trying to play that song resulted in playback featuring Ghostface, J-Love, and Theodore Unit. Which actually turned out really well: the beats were good and the song was interesting, so I figured he was just a producer like Statik Slektah and it wouldn’t hurt to look into some of his other stuff. So I queued up some stuff with guest rappers and liked the majority of it. So then I dived right in to this album. All of a sudden, production wasn’t as consistent and Mr. Love was rhyming.

9. Here’s what I’ve been looking for. I imagine this is what people lose their mind about when they drink old wines, except in reverse order. It’s a newer album with whiffs of the classics. I read up on this guy a little, because I was listening to “Get Down” and “The Chase Pt. II”–something sparked in the back of my mind reminded me that I’d heard he’d edited Nas’ Illmatic and the shout-out from Q-Tip was too important to ignore. So I looked him up. I mean, the guy’s a nineties-rap legend and it sucks that he’s had so many problems with labels. I can’t understand why, though. Dude knows what he’s doing.

10. It sounds just like a Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth album. It’s more of the above and just as enjoyable.

11. Hey, if you’re like me and you love their greatest hit, “Heartbeats,” you’ll hate this album because it sounds nothing like that.

12. My girlfriend almost didn’t recommend this to me because she thought I wouldn’t like it, maybe find it too folksy or something. Luckily for both of us, she was wrong. I personally feel like the title describes the songs’ pacing, moving from catchier indie to slower and often more heartfelt songs.

13. I looked this one up because Charlie Wilson had a new album, and was pleasantly surprised to find out just how funky The Gap Band was. But they were also surprisingly mellow and R&B heavy. Which obviously laid the groundwork for his new all-R&B album.

14. Rolling Stone described this as his seminal work, his funkiest album, but I have to admit it was kid of difficult to listen to. I assume it’s because of the Portuguese language barrier, but I also wasn’t entirely hooked on, well, the hooks. Maybe two songs really stuck out, but barely.

15. What a complete surprise in terms of content. Looking at all the puzzle pieces–Flea, Thom Yorke, etc.–some of the music kind of falls into place, but the sum is definitely something greater than the parts.

16. I can’t help but be suspicious–just a little–that all that vibrato is AutoTune. I mean, the dude’s had pipes for decades, but why so much vibrato all of a sudden? That’s really the only complaint I have for an otherwise consistent and consistently excellent album.

17. A friend and I were talking about how Bowie’s legacy is probably in his singles. Somehow every album feels like a classic, but you can still summarize every album with just two or three singles. So it’s a great album and great to have him back, but the strongest thing here is definitely his single.

18. I was pretty much convinced Trent Reznor wasn’t going to make music anymore. Parallels with NIN are mostly in lyrical content (lightly), pacing (sometimes), and atmospheric elements. It’s not as industrial, but it’s definitely engaging.

19. I don’t think I like anything about this. They were kind of sold as a folk band going punk, but they sounded…like I don’t want to listen to them.

20. I absolutely love “Radio Hook Word Hit,” but the rest of the EP didn’t grab me in the same way. I mean, new ‘Mats is better than no ‘Mats.

21. The title track is far and away the best song, but this one just churns along at an excellently steady, bluesy pace. Now I guess I have to dig into Musselwhite’s back catalog because, good gravy, that guy sure knows what’s up.

22. When I was living on the Lower East Side posters with this album cover were everywhere. Since I knew nothing about it, I walked past without caring–but oh my goodness, what a mistake. this guy’s made easily some of the better modern R&B out there right now.

23. So this is supposed to deal a lot with the inner psyche, but it sounded to me more like feeding Jimi Hendrix too much acid and forcing him to use a broken fuzz pedal stuck in the on position while a keyboardist jazz solos for an hour.

24. The easy reviews talk a lot about this being the missing piece between his first and third albums. Or that songs are long. Or that he’s fancier. But what I hear a lot of is dedication to his relationships and probably some songs in new of editing, both lyrically and musically. I keep thinking about the Large Professor stuff, like a lot could have been edited down to make room to expand on other ideas. Of course, love’s a frequent topic for him and he’s made nods to drugs before, but the album dives deeper on all fronts. It’s an almost paradoxical focus that’s healthy but perhaps winding or long-winded. That said, the kid’s still got it.

25. Something about naming a mixtape after what he spelled out in “The Vent” feels like a giveaway. And maybe it’s just my version, but the treble seems too high. It didn’t have the same feel of some of his better work, like instant classics. But maybe it just needs another run-through with higher bass settings.

26. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

27. This mixtape’s like seeing a young wizard way before his prime, using spells other people made. I couldn’t get into it because the songs reminded me too much of the originals.

28. They’ve been moving toward scream-free stadium rock awhile, but it feels like they forgot some of the other keys to their success. They don’t have the same amount of clever wordplay that made you want to sing along–even though they still want you to sing along.

29. I can’t believe it either, but the only song I really liked was “Gotta Get Over.” He has great guests (Chaka Kahn!), but the only thing that grabbed me were this song’s horn lines, guitar riffs, choruses, and excellent lyrics.

30. Pitchfork flipped their wigs for this one, but I really only might’ve liked a quarter of it. It’s borderline EDM, but it also walks the line of soulful dance music.

31. I was surprised by the depth of his soul, but I guess I didn’t need to be, considering his long-standing career as a respected blues musician.

32. All homeboy does is speak the illest alphabets like he tha Rosetta Stone of tha hospital, b.

Comment:

The iPod sagas continued; not only did I lose my iPod but I also found it. It somehow dropped out of my jacket pocket at a Williamsburg dance hall without the headphones and someone picked it up, held on to it, and my friend went by a week later to pick it up. So there’s at least a little faith I regained that month.

But the goodness doesn’t stop there: I saw Schoolboy Q in concert. He scheduled two shows that night, showed up an hour after the second show was supposed to start, and forgot lyrics to the first three songs because he was too high. But the guy can still put on a show. He poked fun at TDE and crowd members, rapped charismatically despite admitting to being winded, and confessed that he couldn’t be happier that people like us have helped him finally have a career after decades of really dark shit. That’s when he leaned into “Blessed,” which put that song in a new light for me because hooboy, I don’t think I realized it until he rapped the second verse, but I guess I was in a pretty dark place at the time. You probably would have been too if you’d had to watch those three terrible, terrible acts. But that’s over and if you need anything, then I’m ridin’.

Full Albums:

  • Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  • Big K.R.I.T., Return of 4eva
  • Friendly Fires, Pala
  • The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America
  • Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
  • Left Lane Cruiser, Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  • Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
  • The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.
  • Schoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions
  • The-Dream, Love Vs. Money
  • The Weeknd, House of Balloons
  • Free Energy, Love Sign1
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away2
  • Iceage, You’re Nothing3
  • Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob4
  • Solange, True5
  • Toro Y Moi, Anything in Return6
  • New Order, Lost Sirens7
  • Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold8
  • The Lumineers, The Lumineers9
  • Local Natives, Hummingbird9
  • Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic10
  • Drake, Thank Me Later

Random Excellence:

  • Wiz Khalifa, “Never Been”
  • Usher, “’40′”
  • A Tribe Called Quest, “The Chase, Part 2”
  • Thin Lizzy, “The Boys Are Back in Town”
  • Asher Roth, “Charlie Chaplin”
  • B.B. King, “The Thrill Is Gone”11
  • Barry White, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit Longer, Baby”
  • Coheed & Cambria, “Feathers”
  • Daft Punk, “Arena”
  • Interpol, “Lights”
  • Joe Bonamassa, “Story of a Quarryman”
  • Method Man, “Bring the Pain”
  • Money Making Jam Boys, “Friday Night Street Fever”
  • Notorious B.I.G., “Gimme the Loot”
  • Otis Redding, “Satisfaction”
  • Seasick Steve, “Back in the Doghouse”
  • Steve Winwood, “Split Decision”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Usher, “There Goes My Baby”
  • Big K.R.I.T., “Hometown Hero (Remix Feat. Yelawolf)”
  • Childish Gambino, “We Ain’t Them”
  • Drake, “Up All Night”12

Reviews:

1. A lot of the critics seemed to be a little hard on these bros. I think they made another album similar to their last one. Which is to say, they made another album that sounds like uprooted seventies bubblegum rock. It’s not the greatest album out there, but it sure sounds pretty.

2. Maybe it’s because I was listening while working on something that required a lot of focus, but not a lot of this album grabbed me like Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! did. Well, “Finishing Jubilee Street” did, but there was a definite split between the two albums–they’re both just as smart, I just couldn’t get into this music as much.

3. For some reason, it sounds like it’s the kind of thing that would normally be right up my alley, but I didn’t like a single song on here. They kept coming really close, but I think I found their music aggressively grating and difficult to listen to. Which isn’t to say they’re bad: a ton of people seem to love them, but I know I can’t.

4. After getting “Walking with a Ghost” and many subsequent remixes beaten into my head by Victoria’s Secret and many other places, I completely expected this to be total bullshit and way too much hype. Which is probably for the best because it blew me right off my feet. I guess I should have already known they can write the shit out of a catchy hook, but it was just such a relief to have the kind of music backing them that makes me actually want to listen to them a lot, but perhaps finally without the difficulties associated with Vickie’s or too many acoustic guitars.

5. I’m about to swim upstream on this one and I don’t like it. I know people consider her the indie Beyoncé, but I can’t see it (besides the whole family thing). From lyrics to beats, it didn’t grab me like her older sister or all the Tweets and reviews told me it was supposed to. “Didn’t Let Me Down” was the highlight for me, but not enough to justify perpetuating the hypefest.

6. I’ve shitted on Toro Y Moi a lot before, I’ll admit it. The guy’s been the master of making entire albums with just one song I actually enjoy and another 10 that come only kind of close. But, counterintuitively, his worst-reviewed album is the one I enjoy most. The experimentation feels like it’s finally solidifying into something more cohesive, something with a closer eye for both songs and consistency.

7. Apparently this is a collection of the songs cut from their last album; not that I could really tell. What I heard was a solid band making some nifty beats that I very nearly got out of my seat to dance to. But compared to their body of work, it’s just an okay band. If anything, this is the gateway drug for their biggest hits.

8. Like Iceage, these bros had the punk street credit I’m normally attracted two with the kinds of riffs that, sadly unlike Iceage, actually captured my interest. It’s a headbanging, creative, catchy good time.

9. I had an interview recently where my (potential) employers asked what kind of music I like. I explained my affinity for rap, rock, indie, and other sorts of things like that, but I stumbled a little when trying to explain this current trend I’ve been noticing that I can’t stand. I was thinking mostly of a Mumford and Sons music video I’d recently seen, but I’d also just listened to these two bands and unintentionally grouped them together. When I described the style as a sort of indie-country thing, they understood what I meant and seemed to agree it’s been increasing in popularity. I honestly can’t even tell these two bands apart. If I had to name the band for any of these songs in order to keep breathing, I’d probably gladly be balled up in the fetal position on the ground, suffocating–likely in the hopes that that at least could make the noises stop. Don’t get me wrong, I know these bands are in the middle of their salad days, I just could not be bothered with the motherfuckers, even after they eventually get tossed, yo.

10. This might be the best new album I listened to in a month. The modern roots are equally Tame Impala and Free Energy, but every listen also hearkens right back to bands like The Jimi Hendrix Experience or Black Sabbath and so on. The 21st Century label seems like mislabeling, but that’s just the line they walk: is it new, is it old, is it somewhere in between? Doesn’t matter so long as the songs keep coming.

11. Oh, the drums and bass on this song. Eh, for that matter, everything on this song. It’s a little over six minutes, but sometimes I think if anyone could replicate all the noises and pitches going on here, I’d never need to listen to new music. I have an uncle who lives in the Hamptons and always has music on; whenever I’m there, I sometimes have this nagging feeling in the back of my head that that’s one of the things that I missed out on in my youth, or that it’s something I want to have when I’ve settled down. And whenever this song comes on, it seems to fit the profile of songs I’d be able to listen to for an entire day, if not weeks and months and years.

12. You know what? If he just made songs like this all the time, I think we’d all finally be able to tolerate him.

Comment:

Most of my worldly possessions are in storage, I’m living in a friend’s room while she’s out of town (well she just landed here, but I have the room for the rest of the month), and I’m a part-time employee for a company that went to SXSW without me.

I mean, things are rough right now, but let’s examine some of the bits and pieces. Even my friends who actually live in Austin have a hard time with South By, probably because it’s a sudden onslaught of people trying to soak in all the culture they want to absorb at normal rates. Then add the fact that every year, some company’s app is predicted to be the next up-and-coming thing you can’t live without. But last year’s highlight was an app called Highlight that sucked a lot–it was basically Foursquare combined with the kind of creepiness that makes me cringe and a battery-draining power that could shut down a nuclear power plant. Luckily, this year’s event didn’t seem to have a raging app that everyone couldn’t live without, but the Austin I know and love still involves more friends, less creepiness, and less out-of-proportion hype. I don’t really need to be there during SXSW.

Then with the first two items, this is probably as close as I’ll get to living like a Buddhist monk for a while. Granted, I formatted a hard drive in my girlfriend’s computer that enabled me to (at this very moment) type on a Macbook a friend gave me. That translates to two laptops (one Mac, one Windows), an iPod, an iPad, an iPhone, a bunch of clothes, bags, dress shoes, paperwork, etc. So it’s not really the most Buddhist life you can imagine, it’s just…close. The distractions are minimal and the objectives are focused. I have deadlines and a wedding to fly to (in Austin, no less!) tomorrow. I’m a paring knife: honed for accuracy and aimed only at whatever I need to cut the fuck up.

Stay sharp out there, amigos.

I’d like to apologize profusely. Not only is this entirely a month late, but I feel like the Spotify nature of it’s immediately transparent. Spotify’s completely changed the way I listen to music. I don’t actually own a lot of the music I listened to this year and would normally add to this playlist. And, though this is fairly counterintuitive considering the playlist’s lateness, I was in a rush to finish with music I actually owned, so there’s a lot of repeat artists and definitely as much music on there as I probably could fit.

So now that I’ve totally undersold this collection and continued the trend of presenting and mailing this late, here’s your Dia Del Valentin ’13. It might come as a surprise that even with recurring artists and a (legally) limited selection, I feel like I actually did more thinking about this year’s playlist than last year’s. Nestle into those headphones.

1. Buzzcocks, “Why Can’t I Touch It?”
2. Big Boi, “CPU”
3. The Replacements, “Androgynous”
4. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Same Love”
5. Driver Friendly, “Do Whatever You Want”
6. Big Boi, “Apple of My Eye”
7. Mayer Hawthorne, “Can’t Stop (Dam Funk Remix)”
8. Jessie Ware, “Running”
9. Miguel, “The Thrill”
10. Schoolboy Q, “Sex Drive”
11. Terius Nash, “Ghetto”
12. Miguel, “Use Me”
13. T.Rex, “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”
14. Foster the People, “I Would Do Anything for You”
15. Usher, “There Goes My Baby”
16. Beyoncé, “Love on Top”
17. Jessie Ware, “Night Light”

The Search. 1-2: They’re both starkly different songs–one is a kind of punk anthem and the other is modern rap referring extensively to Internet culture–but they both talk about the same thing. The narrators in both songs don’t have a real connection to this world, don’t really know what it is that they’re looking for. Perhaps all they really know is that they’re looking for some kind of connection.

Understanding. 3-4: Whether it’s homosexuality or two kids cross-dressing, it doesn’t fucking matter, just so long as it’s love. What you see isn’t as important as two people in love.

Here it Comes. 5-9: This section’s sort of bookended with two songs with the same understanding that two people are falling for each other with a gooey core of “Oh, I think I’m super attracted to you.” But first of all, the lines “I think I can take it standing up/I want your tongue, your heart, your lies” and “Things were easier when we believed we couldn’t die;/well, we still got time./Let’s carve some fucking stars from the sky./No, we’re not dying, ’cause we got a lot to say” felt like a perfect transition from the Understanding section, the acceptance that there’s a lot of challenges ahead, but it’ll be much more entertaining with a companion. I think the rest of the songs in this section not only mirror that but also build on it until “Running” and “The Thrill” actually set things into motion.

Anticipation by Car Light. 9-10: These songs belong more to the sections before and after, but it’s the mutual use of woody imagery that also pairs them together.

The Physical Realm. 10-13: It’s graphic. I mean, I almost added some other songs in there, but I already grossed myself out with some of Big Sean’s rhymes and some of the stuff the lady with the pretty voice says on “Sex Drive.” They say the kind of things that we all do, but probably really shouldn’t be talking about like they do. But everything here’s still a bunch of dope-ass beats.

Significant Other. 14-17: It’s two brand-new-significant-other-style songs followed by two ballads about a solid relationship. A lot of buildup to settle smoothly in something far less explicit than its immediate predecessors and far more assured than all the predecessors. A happy ending for an era of uncertainty.

Full Albums:

  • Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  • Friendly Fires, Pala
  • Left Lane Cruiser, Junkyard Speed Ball and Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  • The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.

Random Excellence:

  • Fitz and the Tantrums, “MoneyGrabber”1
  • Trae the Truth, “I’m On”
  • Led Zeppelin, “Celebration Day”
  • The Hold Steady, “The Swish” and “Stay Positive”
  • Method Man, “Meth Vs. Chef”
  • Meth, Ghost and Rae, “Gunshowers”
  • Fall Out Boy, “Pavlove”
  • Sly & the Family Stone, “Everyday People”
  • Queens of the Stone Age, “Misfit Love”
  • Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, “On and On” and “It’s Like That”
  • Nas, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”
  • Incubus, “Privilege”
  • Daft Punk, “Derezzed” and “End of Line”
  • The Clash, “Clampdown”
  • Bruce Springsteen, “Murder Incorporated”
  • The Afghan Whigs, “Magazine”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Mayer Hawthorne, “Can’t Stop (Dam-Funk Remix)”
  • Big K.R.I.T., “Hometown Hero (Remix Feat. Yelawolf)”
  • Terius Nash, “Rolex Music”

Reviews:

1. Two of my girlfriend’s coworkers had a going-away party at a new place in the West Village called Houston Hall. I’d known the place was opening since she and her coworkers tend to frequent a place next door called the Brooklyneer. Never mind my constant confusion with the “Hewston”/”Howston” pronunciation debate, but, as a man from Texas, I sort of expected it to be another small little Manhattan bar and was taken aback when I walked through the second set of doors. Even the Thrillist photos I’d seen the day before didn’t do it justice. The place is huge.

And it was exciting, too. Packed to the gills, waitresses in German wear, custom-brewed German-style beers in large steins, and so on. Everything I’m supposed to love. But the more time I spent there, the more times security teams asked me to move around, the more people bumped into me, the less I could hear my own friends talking over the din, the more I realized I kind of hated the place.

Some of my fellow revelers pointed out the frustrations we were all having with the place might come from the shiny newness of it all, that it might get better with time. Which kind of makes sense, but I don’t really expect it to get any less packed, particularly at night time.

Roughly around the beginning of that conversation, this song came on. It might have been the only thing that helped me release some of my reservations about the place and be willing to take a second look at the place. Because if their taste in music can be this excellent, maybe it’s not their fault. It’s only one song, but maybe they’re on the right track, just temporarily delayed by some of the wrong clientele.

Comment:

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think my new policy of exercising without my iPod in my hand seems to have saved its life. It’s already survived longer than all the other ones I’ve had, so maybe I can keep this dream alive. The iPod dream, not the hand dream.

In related news, working solely on this prehistoric laptop can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare. Luckily, a friend donated an old MacBook, which I’ve already installed a new hard drive in. The only challenge left on that front is finding the proper OS X materials since he didn’t have his on hand, but I’m looking forward the newness.

Full Albums:

  • A$SAP Rocky, Long.Live.A$AP1
  • T.I., Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head2
  • Tyvek, On Triple Beams3
  • Chief Keef, Finally Rich4
  • Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  • Money Making Jam Boys, The Prestige
  • Queens of the Stone Age, Era Vulgaris

Random Excellence:

  • Cut Copy, “Take Me Over”
  • Eddie Money, “Where’s the Party”
  • Koko Taylor, “I’m a Woman”
  • Kendrick Lamar, “HiiiPower”
  • Schoolboy Q, “Raymond 1969”
  • The-Dream, “Veteran”
  • Wale, “Mirrors”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • The Stranglers, “Peaches”
  • Buzzcocks, “Why Can’t I Touch It?”
  • T.I., “Go Get It” and “Ball”
  • Schoolboy Q, “There He Go”

Reviews:

1. Everyone get on the “1Train,” am I right? It’s not just that he already has one of the better albums of the year under his belt, he also just crammed in every rapper who’s had a good two years or so onto one song. But of course, that’s just the tip of this iceberg. If he didn’t talk about Harlem every once in a while, you’d think this’d be one of the better Southern rap albums in a while, too. He’s sipping purp, rhyming right, and hustling the game’s pants off.

2. With the exception of the two songs of the weeks as well as the Cee-Lo and Andre 3000 songs, this is just a terrible album. Seriously, just abysmal. To be fair, though, those two songs of the week are genuinely excellent. More like Trouble Rhymes: Heavy is the Hand.

3. This one was a head turner. I found some songs almost too aggressive, but there were also some songs designed perfectly for rocking doors off of hinges and televisions out of windows. It’s not my favorite album, but it has its moments. It’s sort of like a garage-punk freakotut that I really want to particpate in for maybe 15 minutes at most.

4. Good god, why. I pretty much just winced my way through this album. Barely a thing on there I liked, particularly considering how “Don’t Like” was his, but then the whole G.O.O.D. Music crew came through and did it better. In fact, this album is that shit I don’t like.

Comment:

I’m deep in the midst of a serious session of funemployment. It’s a little weird, because I haven’t had to play this game in probably about two years, but I think my résumé’s in an excellent place. Even better, all of my friends are in the same industry as I am. So that’s actually what’s been the most fun: looking around and realizing I can work for pretty much anyone right now. The options are out there, it’s just up to me to keep pursuing them.

I guess I also have to start looking for an apartment. The roommates and I seem to generally agree that, despite the excellent accoutrements and location, it’s in all of our best interest to move out. We just dislike the way management treats its residents as well as a number of debatably legal and renovation proceedings on some of the other floors.

So when people use the old cliché, “New year, new you,” I guess it applies more to me now than it ever really has.

Full Albums:

  • Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors1
  • The-Dream, 1977
  • The Game, Jesus Piece2
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  • The Replacements, Pleased to Meet Me and Let it Be
  • Jessie Ware, Devotion

Random Excellence:

  • Mayer Hawthorne, “Henny & Gingerale”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Blood Orange, “Sutphin Avenue”
  • Big Boi, “CPU,” “Shoes for Running,” and “Mama Told Me”
  • The Game, “Jesus Piece”

Reviews:

1. What an album. The diversity of the guests and the quality of his raps are absolutely incredible. During my first listen, I sent nearly every song via Spotify to friends who I thought would appreciate the bumpin’ tracks. The bonus songs are a little weak (good that they’re bonus songs, right?), but there’s a solid chunk of songs that are pretty much pristine. And of course, he’s still putting a spacey, intriguing take on anything from picking up chicks to coming to terms with his pops. It’s been such a delight that I even impulse bought the CD at a Best Buy while getting gifts for the family. Which might not be saying much these days, but I felt like it was the least I could do to support the guy. (And it probably is, considering how most of his revenue most likely comes from tours.)

2. My roommates signed us up for the premium package from Time Warner a while back. That means we seem to have 800 channels at out fingers, but watching any of them is hit or miss because sometimes they’re pay-per-view or a music channel or something just as stupid. It’s the only part of my life that makes me feel like a luddite: I hate turning on the cable because I can never find anything I would ever care about and when I do, the excess of stupid commercials for ITT Tech and The General (all the fucking time, always written terribly) make me want to put the remote through not just our TV but also every TV in the neighborhood.

So at some point I somehow managed to accidentally stumble onto this show on VH1 called Marrying the Game. And here’s The Game mumbling to this A-Type who, honestly, I didn’t find attractive on a number of levels (physically, personality, etc.). But she really just walked all over him during this episode, talking about the counseling sessions and how important it is for him to focus on her more.

Now, I’m not trying to be a misogynist or to call her a bitch, I’m just saying that she seemed to hold all the cards in the relationship. I got the impression it was just a whole bunch of steamrolling on her end. And that really makes a whole bunch of sense when you look at this album, or even the dude’s whole career. He’s obviously had a hard life and his street credit absolutely exists, but there’s just always been something soft about him, like everyone’s waiting to take their turn walking over him.

So he laid down some more soft rhymes about some really hard shit. But I don’t think this album would be any good without his guests–they’re consistently the strongest performers on the dude’s album. And all his homophobic talk didn’t help, either. The album just sounds like the kind of accessory you put on while you’re posturing, not something earned or proven.

Comment:

My iPods died again, so this is mostly based on Last.fm stats, albums I got for Christmas, and weak memories. I think the new generation of iPods just aren’t built as sturdily as the last one was. I used to be able to run two, three years with these things in my hand–sweat all over them–and drop them maybe as often as once a quarter of a year without any ill effects. Now I take them for one run and they stop running. At least I have a warranty on this crap, but I’m going to look into waterproofing options because this is just ridiculous.

Before I went home, I got a raise and a bonus at work. Pretty satisfying, though it was very confusing to find out that the week after Christmas was designated a power-save-mode week two weeks before going back. That basically meant I was able to work from home, but not much was required of me. In fact, all I really did during that time was catch up on some research. Yet, I’d booked a plane two months in advance, fully expecting to have to be back at work. So it was fairly annoying to think that I could’ve had more time with friends and family, if only my company had had a little better planning.

And speaking of family, my grandma had a surgery the day before I left. It was only a minor one and information since has revealed it’s been wildly successful, but it would’ve been nice to see her a little more. Beyond that, the family seems to be doing well, though pops can’t seem to talk about much else besides retiring. We’ll see how it all goes.

New Albums:

  1. Kendrick Lamaar, Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
  2. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
  3. Schoolboy Q, Habits and Contradictions
  4. Jessie Ware, Devotion
  5. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  6. El-P, Cancer for Cure
  7. Gary Clark, Jr., Blak and Blu
  8. Driver Friendly, Bury a Dream
  9. Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  10. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  11. Nas, Life is Good
  12. Childish Gambino, Royalty
  13. Escort, Escort
  14. Muse, The 2nd Law
  15. The Darkness, Hot Cakes
  16. Oddisee, People Hear What They See
  17. Big K.R.I.T., Live from the Underground
  18. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy
  19. Twin Shadow, Confess
  20. Homeboy Sandman, The First of a Living Breed
  21. Rye Rye, Go! Pop! Bang!
  22. Jack Black, Blunderbuss
  23. Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe
  24. Baroness, Yellow & Green
  25. Air, Le Voyage Danse la Lune

Albums that Were New to Me:

  1. Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
  2. Homeboy Sandman, The Good Sun
  3. Fitz & the Tantrums, Pickin’ up the Pieces
  4. Ice Cube, Death Certificate
  5. Scarface, Mr. Scarface is Back
  6. Ghostface Killah, Bulletproof Wallets
  7. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  8. Ohio Players, Fire
  9. Iggy Pop, Lust for Life
  10. Gary Clark, Jr., The Bright Lights EP
  11. Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  12. Gang Starr, Daily Operation
  13. Clutch, Clutch
  14. Andrew W.K., I Get Wet
  15. Baroness, Blue Record
  16. Statik Selektah, Well-Done
  17. Black Sheep, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  18. SuperHeavy, SuperHeavy
  19. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
  20. Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History
  21. Wild Flag, Wild Flag
  22. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Revelator
  23. Pretenders, Learning to Crawl
  24. Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some
  25. Pete Rock, PeteStrumentals

Best List of “Best of 2012” Lists:

I was actually so overburdened by even seeing headlines for 2012 roundups that I started ignoring them. Luckily, I decided to read the only one here, and it’s fairly all encompassing so I don’t have a problem with having this one as this year’s only best list.

  1. The New Yorker’s “The Hundred Best Lists of All Time.”

Full Albums:

  • Paloma Faith, Fall to Grace1
  • Dam-Funk, Adolescent Funk2
  • Sadat X, Love, Hell, or Right3
  • Wiz Khalifa, O.N.I.F.C.4
  • Future, Pluto5
  • Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy6
  • Driver F, Chase the White Whale7
  • Led Zeppelin, IV8
  • The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.
  • The-Dream, Love King [Deluxe Edition]
  • Gary Clark, Jr., Blak and Blu9
  • Metric, Synthetica Deluxe10
  • Wu-Block, Wu-Block11
  • MFSB, The Best of MFSB: Love is the Message12
  • Sky Ferreia, Ghost EP13
  • Soundgarden, King Animal14
  • Ulver, Childhood’s End15
  • The Sheepdogs, The Sheepdogs16
  • Bumpy Knuckles, Ambition17
  • Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some18
  • The Alchemist, Russian Roulette19
  • Calvin Harris, 18 Months20

Random Excellence:

  • The Secret Machines, “First Wave Intact”
  • Eric Pyrz, “Call on Me”
  • The Clash, “Police on My Back”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Mylo, “In My Arms”21
  • Driver F, “I Have Better Things to do Tonight Than Die”
  • Wiz Khalifa, “Time”
  • The-Dream, “Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out”

Reviews:

1. She has some pipes, but I don’t think she has the team behind her that she needs. “30 Minute Romance” was really the strong point for me, but I didn’t find myself excited to hear the next song or to go back and replay the album. It almost feels like a lounge act more comfortable singing covers–a serious waste because she can really sing.

2. Boy, oh boy. That title really says it all. I was excited to look this one up because he just did an amazing remix of a Mayer Hawthorne song and his “Amaretto Sunset” is funky as hell, but this whole album’s quite literally stuck in his teenage years. Some songs are excellent, but it’s mostly a lot of repetition and obsession with everything a fourteen-year-old loves. Normally, that’s something you could get away with, but the obsession here dug a little too deep. Which is heartbreaking, because I know he’s a funky dude capable of much funkier things.

3. God, these beats were either excellent or just shy of excellent. I almost wanted to just sit back with the instrumental version, but it’s not like Sadat’s retired or the guest list is terrible or anything. This here’s a funky rap album full of head nodding.

4. Let me settle in for this, because what the fuck, every music reviewer ever? The general consensus on this album seems to be somewhere along the lines of “He’s too high” or “Can you believe this guy only raps about being high and having money? How high can you get?” But let’s take a step back.

Remember when his last album was called…yeah, I’m going to let this one sink in…ROLLING PAPERS? The crap did you thing that was a reference to? An impending divorce? A debatably witty reference to Mick Jagger or–holy crap, this one’s a stretch–how this rapper is picking up momentum, but collecting only lots of rhyme drafts from his journal? Why do you think his face is…here it comes…made of smoke on the cover?

Take it back to the mixtape before that and you have a little piece of magic called Kush & OJ. What are you going to tell me happened there, he misspelled “plush” while he was rapping about how much he likes waking up to orange juice and…sleeping on soft pillows high in the air? Seriously, you can’t write something that blatant off, particularly considering every. single. skit. on the tape. Radio W.E.E.D.? C’mon, son. Reviewing music can’t be your real gig.

So to have his “sophomore album” filled with weed references and wealth is absolutely no surprise to me. In fact, it’s exactly what I’d hoped for, given his well-established record of striving and smoking. I mean, I don’t even smoke, but I’ve always liked how every one of his albums has been edging closer to a the perfect party album. I’m saying it’s not my vice, but it’s an album celebrating a vice that really seems to make people feel good–a feel-good album, if you will. It sounds better than his major label debut and even gets back to his funkier, dankier roots. I mean, no one can escape “Time.”

5. If I had to give this a ranking, I guess it would settle in somewhere around a 5/10. It’s sort of like T-Pain meets every trap song ever, with a confusing lyricist who falls somewhere between singer, rapper, gangster, and gangster of love. It’s almost as if he wanted to be equal parts R. Kelly (ipso facto, greatest featured performer on the album), The-Dream, T-Pain (because Autotune), Drake (without the weepy R&B), and Wacka Flocka (because Lex Luger–style trap beats). And that rating’s because I honestly don’t know whether to go back and listen again or pretend I’ve never heard it before.

6. Whoa. You guys, whoa. It’s like Animal Collective got high with Starfucker and had a whisper-singing contest. I don’t mean that in a bad way–I know Animal Collective isn’t entirely cool anymore–because what I’m saying is that this is a psychedelic indie wierdfest full of new noises and lots of layers. My favorites are “Windshield Smasher,” “Hairspray Heart,” and “Dreamsicle Bomb,” but that doesn’t mean any of those things are right for anybody else.

7. Listened to this album three songs through, added a song to the Songs of the Week section–as per usual.

8. Rolling Stone released a collector’s edition in honor of, well, how important they’ve been to the history of music–or because it was their 40th anniversary. A close friend (for my girlfriend’s eyes: it was my girlfriend’s best friend and current roommate) was traveling and bought this edition thinking it would be a normal Rolling Stone. She was going to just throw it away and was shocked when I volunteered to take it and read every page (PUN!).

Sure, the Zep’s not on Spotify, but, as I explained to that friend, one of the most pivotal moments in my music history was discovering I in my dad’s vinyl collection. At the time I discovered it had been my uncle’s, so I cushioned it in sweaters the next time we traveled to see him so I could return something I was sure was as important to him as it was to me. Some time passed and my dad appeared to have forgotten about that day. Skip some more time and I remember building some LEGO kit in my room when my dad knocked. He sort of mumbled, as if he was embarrassed that he was suggesting it or, more likely, worried that I wouldn’t like it, “Hey, I picked up a CD you might like. Check it out,” while standing in the doorway, arm outreached with I pointing at me.

I told him, “Oh, yeah, I love that album. I listened to it on your turntable before I returned it to Uncle [____].” He smiled, and I played that album like I’d never heard it before.

Reading each article was like seeing the band anew. I didn’t realize they were a lot of the source material for Almost Famous. I had no idea they’d had such serious issues with the media. I had no idea the media (this issue of Rolling Stone, specifically) could beat that rivalry like a dead horse. I had no idea how truly essential Bonzo’s drum beating had been to every Zeppelin song. Well, I had some idea, particularly about “Four Sticks,” but it still made me want to go back and revisit their peak.

9. Here’s a stupid idea: He omitted the “c” and the “e” to symbolize how the entire album is missing something, like how a broken heart yearns for its partner. Yep, that’s a little contrived, but holy crap that guy can sing, play guitar, and generally write the pants off a song. I think “The Life” has been done better on his EPs, but this album’s still a blues barn burner for the ages.

10. I couldn’t hear anything that struck me like their last album’s work. They’re a unique band, but this was not better than their previous one, particularly considering how a lot of the bonus material is acoustic versions from that album.

11. This is probably some of the scariest and oldest rap to come out in the last year. It has feet equally in the early nineties and the Twitter generation and it’s awesome.

12. “Something for Nothing” (trust me, you’ll love it), “Back Stabbers,” and “T.S.O.P.” were delightful, but I had a hard time with this. Despite the musical prowess of this giant producer/session musician/accomplished artist collective, it’s still too close to classical music for me.

13. This was kind of terrible, but at least “Red Lips” is pretty good. I went into it looking for Skylar Grey songs, but she does not seem to be on Spotify besides the songs I already know. Nonetheless, a talented woman perhaps in need of less acoustic sleepers.

14. Who would have ever thought they’d get back together? Who would have ever though it’d be this good? Who would’ve ever thought “Non-State Actor,” “By Crooked Steps,” “Blood on the Valley Floor,” or “Rowing” would restore faith in modern music?

15. I got excited. This was billed as a black metal album. I felt like I was listening to Steppenwolf and a sleeping pill. The only thing black about it was how sad it is was how childhood ends. And metal? I guess that applies if all the strings they play are metal, but this band’s as metal as Nickelback, yo. I definitely came close to tracking them down and trying to book a real metal band for them so they understand how music works–instead of napping.

16. Noooooooope, the only song on here that bested their last album was “Feeling Good,” even if it’s because they’re at least not talking about Facebook anymore.

17. I don’t think the rapping really caught up with the excellent beats. The eponymous jam and “Animalistic” were, far and away, the stand outs that contributed to making this as funky and soul-ridden as necessary to make me want to keep listening to Statik.

18. The only unifying thing here is the drumming. What a bizarre concept, right? From straight-up rap to the kind of rap-rock that made Limp Bizkit famous, it’s weird to see all of these guests in the same place, particularly considering that the drummer became famous in a punk-rock band. But it’s a weirdness that works. Since it’s not really a band coming together to examine their idea of how the world works, there’s a whole lot of depth and ideas here. It’s not all good, but it’s sure as shit not bad.

19. Jesus, speaking of depth; this is like three or four albums’ worth of beats at once. Not all of it’s good, but when The Alchemist shines, he’s deep in the heart of a mothercluckin’ goldmine. There’s absolutely every reason ever to keep listening to his work. The man’s made what I feel are modern classics and is producing music for great artists. He’d be a household name if he finally just partnered up with Action Bronson. Well, Bronsolini’s subjects and lines are a little blue for modern radio, but I’m just saying I think he’d experience the kind of success Ryan Lewis is having with Macklemore. But then again, neither of those two guys are really household names yet either.

20. It’s so confusing to me that this guy went from indie electronica darling to one of the biggest guest singers and producers in modern music. Seriously, whip out “The Girls” in any social situation and people are going to dance despite never hearing it; play his stuff with Rihanna, and you’ll get something between “OMIGAWD WE’RE DANCING TO THIS RIGHT NAOW” and “Oh god, this song again?” And yet, there’s still little gems on this album. “Mansion” and “Here 2 China” are little delights that probably won’t get heard by many despite their excellence.

21. I’ve been sleeping on Mylo for a long time, but I also can’t seem to find a lot of his stuff wherever I need to. Regardless, this came up on a Pandora playlist in the office and I haven’t stopped playing it since.

Comment:

Wow, what a couple of weeks, you guys. I’m under the impression I wasn’t the only one, particularly after  my complete frustration with Friday’s events and the resulting post. I also had my apartment fumigated twice, had to replace an iPod, a lot of friends’ relationships came to an end, and, perhaps more intensely, it’s the holidays (meaning too many events and celebrations and people and a general lack of relaxation).

Much of it I can’t solve, but I know that and will be making no attempt to solve it. After witnessing and experiencing some absolutely abhorrent things in the past couple of weeks, I still feel things are going to get better. It’s because I think I’ve cited the following quote before on this blog, but life is hard and death is easy. We have to fight for so many things to enjoy anything. Just for example, waking up has been one of my least-favorite things since I was conscious, but once I finally do it every single day, I get to experience the greatest things on earth—like my friends, my coworkers, my girlfriend, my family, and people who have said or done things as awesome as all of the people I just listed.

And I know this sounds crazy after the comment’s first paragraph, but I have a list of a couple of reasons outside of those people I’ve just listed that are exactly why I’m going to be fine. These songs, despite absolutely not hearing them for the first time, still give me the goose bumps. Whether it’s because the song’s emotions tug on my heartstrings or it’s because it reminds me of an absolutely beautiful moment in my past, these are five artworks that feel like punches to the gut, making me more aware of how pristine these three to eight minutes of my life are:

Led Zeppelin, “When the Levee Breaks”; David Bowie, “Heroes”; Jessie Ware, “Taking in Water”; Pretty much any artist with a guitar, “Traveling Riverside Blues”; and The Rolling Stones, “Ventilator Blues.”

Full Albums:

  • Coheed and Cambria, The Afterman: Ascension1
  • Electric Six, Absolute Pleasure2
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream3
  • Muse, The 2nd Law4
  • Driver Friendly, Bury a Dream and Chase the White Whale5
  • Freddie Gibbs, Baby Face Killa6
  • Homeboy Sandman, First of a Living Breed7
  • Scarface, Mr. Scarface is Back8
  • Geto Boys, We Can’t Be Stopped9
  • Steel Panther, Balls Out
  • Death Grips, The Money Store10
  • Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 111
  • Electric Guest, Mondo12
  • Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls13
  • Masta Ace, Disposable Arts and MA_DOOM: Son of Yvonne14
  • The xx, Coexist15
  • Brother Ali, Us16
  • Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City17
  • Star Slinger, Volume 118
  • Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma19
  • How to Dress Well, Total Loss20
  • Jessie Ware, Devotion21
  • Purity Ring, Shrines22
  • Tame Impala, Lonerism23
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist24

Random Excellence:

  • Asher Roth, “Charlie Chaplin”
  • Bloc Party, “Banquet”
  • The Clash, “Complete Control”
  • Ghostface Killah, “Wu Banga”
  • Katy Perry, “Hummingbird Heartbeat”
  • Kings of Leon, “Crawl”
  • Left Lane Cruiser, “Crackalacka”
  • M.I.A., “20 Dollar”
  • Mos Def, “Hip Hop”
  • PackFM, “Happy Days”
  • Raphael Saadiq, “Stone Rollin'”
  • The-Dream, “Veteran”
  • Wale, “Let It Loose”25

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Ghost Town DJs, “My Boo (Hitman’s Club Remix)”
  • Queens of the Stone Age, “Misfit Love”
  • Junior Senior, “Move Your Feet”26
  • Mayer Hawthorne, “Can’t Stop (Dam Funk Remix feat. Snoop Dogg)”
  • New Found Glory, “Ballad for the Lost Romantics”27
  • The Police, “Voices Inside My Head”

Reviews:

1. In high school (when they broke into the consciousness of what seems to be most people with “Favor House Atlantic” and its awesome video) it was considered uncool to listen to this band, partly because of the vocalist’s high voice, the science-fiction subject matter, and prog-rock nature of it all that wasn’t supposed to be as cool as Britney Spears or what have you. Yet the older I get, the catchier they get, particularly since holy shit who cares if I like awesome guitar licks besides me? And how dare they write a story arching over multiple albums that I kind  of wish they’d printed as a couple of stories because that’d be easier for my personal consumption? It’s not like I can’t listen to both strong female vocalists over a piano and a strong male vocalist over some tasty metal riffs. Which is to say, this is an enjoyable album sure to get only more enjoyable; my personal favorite riffestival is “The Afterman.”

2. These dudes always strike me as a little odd. They’re right on the edge of balls-out metal while singing about the importance of dancing like they’re broadcasting live from a disco in the seventies. Sure, you could call that the format for rock, but something about it is still a little left of center. But you can tell they sure as hell put on an enjoyable show. The vocalist is hilarious, the riffs are catchy, and they know how to command an audience. This is the sum of their whole that might be better than even their studio-recorded work–a rare feat.

3. This is probably the best R&B album I’ve heard since some guy named Terius Nash put out an album. It’s catchy as all  hell and he’s modernized modern R&B guitar, as far as I can tell.  Pretty much amazing the entire way through, though I sometimes have qualms about “Pussy is Mine.” First of all, yes, that’s the title and the chorus–that’s the major qualm there. They also set it up like the engineer doesn’t realize Miguel’s sitting in the studio singing by himself, even though it’s the engineer’s job to know exactly fucking that. Even Miguel ends the song with a, to paraphrase, “OMGLOL, WE WUR REKORDING? JKJK DON’T ALBUMIZE THAT BAI” despite the synthesizer flares toward the end of the song and perfect transitions between surrounding songs. Sure, Miguel; I go into recording studios to sing songs I want no one to hear, too. But let me be clear: this song’s the only one that makes me hesitant on this album. He’s weaved some pretty amazing references throughout songs like “Candles in the Sun” and the eponymous track while still creating jaw-droppingly good hip shakers like “Use Me” and “The Thrill.” Which is to say that I’ll be able to get over my qualms very easily as I continue to listen the crap outta this mutha.

4. I neither had any idea this was out until I started seeing reviews for it nor understood all the disappointing reviews. I think they all want them to just make Absolution again, though that surprises me more because if they’ve been listening for so long, they’d know all Muse ever does is try to make something bigger than their last album. Maybe “Save Me” sounded a little too much like Porcupine Trees for my liking and it’s weird to listen to dubstep from the kings of Radiohead with distortion pedals and face-melting riffs, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

5. Gotta review the oeuvre after the hometown heroes get signed to a new record label.

6. Thank goodness he can still rap because the choruses are almost annoying sometimes. But still, “Bout it Bout it,” “Stay Down,” “My N*gga,” and “Breaking Bad” are pretty phenomenal. It’s all pretty great, but those are the highlights for me.

7. My theory is that he performs best when he’s on an LP. Chimera and Subject: Matter were alright, but this and The Good Sun have tasty nuggets everywhere. From Spanish-accented beats like “Cedar and Sedgwick” to singing choruses like his nickname should be Chamillionaire on “For the Kids,” he has a diverse and dense album. However, none of the highlights on it fly any higher than “Whatchu Want from Me?”

8. What a relief. Nothing but classics, complete with shout-outs to AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. What more could I want except more?

9. Please refer to the above, perhaps with the exception of the Ice Cube thing.

10. This was a little intense for me. I kept expecting it to coalesce into something more presentable. I mean, it’s a punk/rap album designed specifically not to do that, and I think that’s why I found myself resisting. “Hustle Bones” and “I’ve Seen Footage” were their most enjoyable tracks. It reminds me of how most current art seems to be a rejection of modern art in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. The ideal was to admire the beautiful, but now most art seems to be a tongue-in-cheek rejection of it that even makes Duchamp’s Fountain look super sexy. Then again, things are super fucked up so let’s fuck things up.

11. I didn’t get the sense that this was the same kind of concept album as The Cool or that he had any of the same characters he’s been rapping about for years, but that’s probably for the best. I seriously can’t understand why he can’t get beats that can parallel his rhymes (Pete Rock know) or why his rhymes always seem to near the whine levels of Drake. Except instead of being sad about how hard it is being popular, he always has the weight of the entire rap game, if not the entire world, on his shoulders. But “Lamborghini Angels” and “Put Em Up” are still the album’s highlights.

12. “The Bait” and “Waves” are passable.

13. It sounds like Kings of Leon and The Allman Brothers had a slower-paced baby. Which is sometimes good and sometimes awesome, particularly on “Hold On,” “Hang Loose,” and “Be Mine.”

14. The latter’s a solid album full of songs that sound like they’d be right at home in the early nineties. The former’s a concept album that seems to resemble life more than anything else. Where Masta Ace’s bleak outlook resulted in a girlfriend’s death and graduation to a somewhat dim future, it seems Kendrick Lamar’s album ended with a little bit more hope–but more on that later. This is a really dark album where it seems like Ace would’ve done better to pretend to be inside his local boxing gym rather than a college upstate. The few people who might not have done him wrong seem to be his girlfriend and his roommate. But he doles out punches as necessary. I particularly love how he has an “Alphabets” song. It seems to be the universal challenge that only excellent rappers appoint themselves.

15. My favorite song was “Tides,” though I’m not sure this album had the same powerhouses as the first album (“Intro,” “Heart Skipped a Beat,” and “Crystalized”).

16. “Bad Mufucker Pt. II” was way past the point when I realized I’d been missing out on this guy for a while, but easily the album’s climax. He built up to it with “Tight Rope” and “Babygirl,” then came down from it on the highs of “Slippin’ Away.” It’s the kind of classic beats with excellent rapping that reminds  me of another awesome white dude name Action Bronson. Well, the latter talks more about sex and food, but they’re both crazy talented and funky.

17. This is a big album packed into eleven songs. Not only has he crafted a big, eleven-song narrative but it also seems he’s created the first Christian rap album that no one wants to pee all over as if he’d started a band and named it Creed. Because that’s what happens, right? He accepts Our (?) Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in his life and stops gangbanging, or is it just me? I mean, it’s best to escape from one gang with a more socially acceptable gang if you ask me. After all the singles, EPs, and guest spots, people definitely expected something big, but I don’t know if anyone was ready for this. Concept albums, skits, guest spots, and so on have been out for years, but there’s a serious chance no one’s used them as cohesively as this before. At this point, I’m starting to feel like I’m just paraphrasing Big Ghost, but I also don’t think anyone’s going to be able to agree about it. I feel like it’s probably the lightning rod between top forty and hip hop heads. The people who want lyrics will keep coming back to this and the people who want non-stop top-40 hits already don’t give a fuck and/or already let hip hop die.

18. It’s almost entirely dancy. Like, right on the edge of wanting to get out of my seat to dance, only to realize the beat just changed. I could probably dance a lot to “Mornin’,” “Bumpkin,” and “Gimme,” though.

19. I know I’m supposed to like this…but I do not.

20. There’s some absolutely lovely R&B on here, particularly considering how white this dude is. I’m talking full-on hipster, which is why Pitchfork seems to love him way more than me. Where Miguel went for the flashy synthesizers and the explicit talk, he went for the metaphors and the light layers. But then again, Pitchfork and I agree that Miguel is pretty friggin’ great, so maybe this is worth another look besides just “Running Back” and “& It Was U.”

21. There’s a six-song streak of nothing but pure excellence between the second and seventh songs where my jaw would drop because every single song was better than the last. I mean, you could give this lady the instruction booklet for a blender and she could probably sing some gorgeous songs about heart (-shaped-vegetable) break and loss (of solid states). It’s a beautiful synthesis of lovely music and even lovelier singing.

22. Bizarrely enough, this was almost too electronic for me. Sort of right on the edge of too mellow and too quiet, though “Amenamy” and “Loftcries” had just the right kind of balance that I liked. I feel like I need to go back to see if I’m listening wrong or something.

23. Though I loved “Elephant” and “Feels like We Only Go Backwards,” I feel like Innerspeaker is the superior album. I’ll probably end up listening to both a bit, though.

24. There are just so many things going on. Not only does he explicitly address what a terrible state the business side of the music industry is in, but he raps about how strange it is to be white while rapping or a difficult love affair with Air Jordans. Each song’s a little vignette with an extremely cool and refreshing perspective; “Same Love” is probably the first rap song I’ve heard complaining about rap without being as sad about it as Lupe can be. Then “Thrift Store” is just the jam of the month (or three). For a first album, this dude came out swinging with all the right punches.

25. I still can’t get how much it sounds like The Neptunes forgot to go back and edit in Wale’s name in the chorus.

26. This was the jam in high school, and nothing was more exciting than remembering it in the last week–well, maybe the only thing more exciting was remembering how great the music video is.

27. Still with the high school thing: I’ve always felt this song’s sing-along at the end outweighs the pop-punk riffs, though it seems no one agrees with me. So here’s to us fools that have no meaning. I tip my glass to you.

Comment:

Two iPods died on me since my last twim, so I’m not really sure if I’ve really got every album and random piece of excellence here. Other exciting, but more certain, things since we last talked include seeing Action Bronson live at an event where Paul Banks chipped away high school me’s love Interpol with terrible, terrible music. Bronson even rhymed while walking through the crowd, so that kind of makes up for it. Well, that and how awesome The Alchemist is both on the ones and twos and while flippin’ luxurious tracks for people’s raps. My hope is that this uptick in excellent beats on many fronts is an indication that both the iPod situation will settle (good lookin’ out, Best Buy warranty program) and that it’s only onward and upward in ye olde 2k12 quest for the illest records.

I’ll be needing them as my weight training program continues. Though that sounds really impressive when I leave it all vague like that, it mostly just means I started doing squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. And to undercut that even further, it mostly just means being sore for most of my life. But my ability, like my beats, have been improving and I think that’s all I can do right now: just keep pushing it along.

Stay real and let’s hope they didn’t forget about Dre.

Full Albums:

  • Childish Gambino, Royalty
  • Driver Friendly, Bury a Dream and Chase the White Whale
  • Friendly Fires, Pala
  • Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
  • Lil B Tha Based God Based Jam1
  • Nine Inch Nails Year Zero2
  • Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Mecca & the Soul Brother
  • Schoolboy Q, Habits and Contradictions
  • Tom Vek, Leisure Seizure
  • Wiz Khalifa, Kush & OJ3
  • Two Door Cinema Club, Beacon4
  • DJ Khaled, Kiss the Ring5
  • Iggy Pop, Lust for Life6
  • Oddisee, People Hear What They See7
  • Say Anything, Say Anything8
  • Clutch, Clutch and The Elephant Riders9
  • Black Sheep, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing10
  • The Darkness, Hot Cakes11
  • The Heavy, The Glorious Dead12
  • Yeasayer, Fragrant World13
  • Miike Snow, Happy to You14
  • MNDR, Fade to Black15
  • Twin Shadow, Confess16
  • Fitz & the Tantrums, Picking’ up the Pieces17
  • Jimmy Cliff, Rebirth18
  • Son of Dave, Shake a Bone19
  • 2 Chainz Based on a T.R.U. Story20

Random Excellence:

  • Wale, “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.”
  • TV on the Radio, “Golden Age”
  • Them Crooked Vultures, “Elephants”
  • Taking Back Sunday, “Timberwolves at New Jersey”
  • Slim Thug, “Like a Boss”
  • Schoolboy, “There He Go”21
  • Saves the Day, “Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots”
  • Peter Tosh, “Stepping Razor”
  • Left Lane Cruiser, “Busket”
  • Kanye West, “Looking for Trouble,” “Monster” and “The Joy”
  • Interpol, “Obstacle 1”
  • The Hold Steady, “You Can Make Him Like You”
  • Fall Out Boy, “Hum Hallelujah”
  • The Afghan Whigs, “Uptown Again”
  • Action Bronson, “Dance Song”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Nine Inch Nails, “Only” and “The Hand that Feeds”22
  • Soundgarden, “Black Rain”
  • Rage Against the Machine, “Bulls on Parade” and “People of the Sun”
  • Freddie Gibbs, “In the Projects”23
  • Empire of the Sun, “We Are the People”
  • Justice, “On’n’on”
  • Kool & the Gang, “Hollywood Swinging”24
  • Mary Jane Girls, “All Night Long”25
  • Next, “Too Close”26
  • Drake, “HYFR”27

Reviews:

1. I’ve never fully understood why “Too Long; Didn’t Read”s go at the end of long pieces considering how it’d make more sense give you a summary in case you see this and too many following paragraphs and decide all you want is a “TL;DR,” but here’s this album’s: Wackest. Fucking. Raps. Ever.

For everyone who wants more, let me explain some of the terrible. The hardest thing to deal with is that some of the beats are actually pretty good. Sure, the “Changes” by Tupac beat is a little old—though perfectly in place considering the theme, I guess—but it feels like a waste to listen to enjoyable beats with ridiculous and ridiculously terrible lyrics.

Let me run through some of his themes: Yessssssss. Swag. I fucked your bitch in the mouth. Swag. I fucked those bitches in the ass. Based God. I may not be your favorite rapper, but I’m your favorite rapper’s rapper.

The latter of which is really a bizarre idea. If no one likes you, then why do my favorite rappers like you? Is it supposed to be that if they love you and I love them, then I have to love you? But you already told me I don’t love you. So I’ll just stop there. I can’t believe I’m going to do this either, but here are some important words from a Lil Wayne song that completely apply: “His confidence is down, vocab and metaphors needs work, and he lacks respect for the game.”

Also, homeboy needs to learn how to fucking rap on beat.

2. I completely forgot how much the end of this album led directly into Ghosts, his instrumental affair. It probably didn’t occur to me because I spent so much of my time skipping over the last couple of songs to get back to all the lyrics.

3. You guys. This album makes Rolling Papers look like he changed his name Rick Ross or Based God just before recording his major label debut. It’s good to have this back in my life.

4. I kept hoping for something to leap out at me like that four-song chunk of catchiness on their debut album, but I felt like this was just alright.

5. A funny guy I respect and like a lot but haven’t had the chance to hang out with recently once told me you don’t get to make fun of things unless you understand them. We were talking about how badly he wanted to read Twilight. So that’s what happened here–this is my Twilight and I have to admit it left me feeling a little confused. If Khaled doesn’t produce all the beats, why does he have an album of his own? Is it just that he brings together a bunch of rappers and says some stupid tagline? Is this man really nothing more than a talent wrangler? And, holy shit, did J. Cole really produce one of the songs I actually enjoyed on this turd because maybe he should just stick to that.

Seriously, the only string connecting all the puzzle pieces seems to be a potentially developmentally challenged man saying things like “We the best!” and then, laughably, rapping at the end of the album. Let me start off with the bad, though. I think Lex Luger has destroyed a legitimate market for some really good rappers. The man made Wacka Flocka’s career on the dude’s first album, now all we ever hear is the same formula repeated by another producer who isn’t doing it as well. But it’s hard to tell, right? All you have to do is throw some of the deepest one- or two-note bass you can find down as a bass line, program a basic boom-bap drum beat, and maybe add a little organ up in a very high register so it’s barely noticeable. Call it a night, you’ve got yourself a hit. Which is the most prominent reason “Bitches & Bottles” is absolute garbage.

Another thing that frustrates me is Chris Brown. That man has made too many mistakes for his chorus on “Take it to the Head.” Maybe if he wasn’t such an insolent little shit every time he’s off the stage, I could let this slide. What I’m saying is that I’ll never get past his spousal abuse past, but for everyone who needs more reasons than that to dislike him, these are my reasons. He’s never been anything but a petulant child with the voice and subject material of a man. Give the chorus to Usher. Call up The-Dream. Shit, it’s about time rap discovered Mayer Hawthorne. Because fuck everything about Chris Brown until that child gains some maturity.

So now that that’s all out of the way, please go listen to “They Ready” and “Hip Hop.” My only hope for this album is that there are some kids out there who will listen to this album and decide to look up Scarface, Nas, Big K.R.I.T., Kendrick Lamar, DJ Premier and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. Sure, the flute thing isn’t doing my hopes any favors, but the fact that this stuff is on here really does give me some hope for the youth. Jesus, what am I, seventy? I’m just saying that these are two golden nuggets buried under a huge pile of dirt.

6. My goodness, I’ve heard “The Passenger” everywhere, but had no idea it was his. Similarly, I had always head that “Lust for Life” was about heroin, but on a couple of listens, I’m not really sure. And then that “Success” thing? It’s like just a bunch of icing on an already delicious cake.

7. Bless my stars. Put this guy in a studio with Pete Rock and you’ll have perfect albums for the rest of their careers.

8. I gotta say, I feel like Say Anything’s fallen way off. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not still in college or something, but I just didn’t have the same clinging, instant attachment to this album that I did to the first two. That said, there are still some excellent songs, just not as many as I was hoping for.

9. It’s like Mastodon’s vocalist, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist and Bootsy Collins had babies that recorded two awesome albums about space, robots, and rock and roll.

10. Potentially the greatest rap reviewer alive right now doesn’t even review music under his own name. He writes as if he was Ghostface Killah of the illustrious Wu-Tang Clan, and when he reviewed the syruppy rhyme sayer of the same fucking words, Rick Ross, he suggested listening to this instead. Whereas the 2000s were plagued by wankster rappers, these guys were hilarious prankster rappers. From running jokes or aggressive hits on hypermasculinity and thug themes in rap, they poked fun at rap while rapping extremely well. It’s as subversive as it is excellent, hilarious and insightful.

11. Despite what I just typed, Hawkins might be the funniest dude in music and it is such a relief to have this band back in the saddle. I was extremely worried when their first (excellent) album only seemed to have two hits and was followed by a pretty okay album. Also consider how their most popular hit (“Growing on Me”) was almost certainly about sexually transmitted diseases, despite sounding like it was about romance. The licks are back (double entendre!) and it is the greatest relief.

12. They might not ever rise to the heights of “How You Like Me Now?.” I mean, this is a solid album happily devoid of gypsy music (this time), but it still doesn’t hit the funky retro highs of the aforementioned excellence.

13. Same sort of thing: I kept listening, waiting for something like “O.N.E.,” but it just wasn’t coming. In fact, this was a rather difficult album for me to get through.

14. It’s almost like we all listened to their debut album too much and started to expect too much of them. Sure, they’re still have the ability to confuse the shit out of me with some interesting writing, but a lot of the creativity seems to be gone. The ability to turn the word “funeral” into the central part of a chorus just didn’t happen. They dropped the ball or the casket or something here.

15. I saw her perform once last summer. It was a private little affair so I didn’t have to worry about drunk assholes pushing me a lot until I got so frustrated that I hated everything. As I admired her dancing, singing, and synth programming skills, one of my friends mentioned she’d even lost some weight since he last saw her in concert. It seems like everything’s going her way. Whether writing or performing all of her own songs, she’s doing something right and singing the crap out of it.

16. This is a deceptively dark album. Hidden among same kind of delightful synthesizer MNDR is crafting lies some kind of predator. And all I want to do is listen more.

17. How in the blue blazes did this album escape my ears for two years? They could’ve recorded this in Motown in the fifties and not a single person would’ve complained. It reminds me of Mayer Hawethorne with an amazing female background vocalist. Obviously “MoneyGrabber” and “We Don’t Gotta Work it Out” are the highlights, but it’s tons of fun.

18. Reggae, ska and punk are intrinsically intertwined genres, so it’s somewhat less of a surprise that NOFX played all the music. I will say I zoned out a little during this one though because I’m not always the greatest reggae listener. I’ve been known to pass out during extended Bob Marley listening sessions. But I should also mention that The Harder They Come is incredible and he wrote the most important parts of it. So I’ll try to get some more sleep before the next go-round.

19. I can’t hear most of what he’s saying, but I can tell it’s bluesy as hell and really awesome because the music is awesome.

20. If I had to choose between going deaf or only being able to listen to this album for the rest of my life, I’d probably grab all the copies I could and throw myself off a cliff. My personal favorite fact about this man is that he recently changed his name from Tity Boi, a nickname his mom gave him because he loved sucking titties. But, c’mon, if he really loved them that much, you’d think he’d at least be able to spell them right. But he really does try to prove me wrong for this entire album. The only good thing about it is “Extremely Blessed” because The-Dream sings the crap out of it. In fact, they’re sort of the perfect couple for this considering the overlap in their material. Except, I guess, how The-Dream is actually talented.

21. I think I might never stop loving the lines, “But what I failed to understand/I’m the motherfucking man/Ran into him/he’s a fan/Goddamn.” Goddamn!

22. I completely forgot how much I love everything about “Only.” Even the music video is great. I especially love how it just falls apart lyrically, leaving us with just the essence at the end: “There is no you/there is only me/There is no fucking you/there is only me.” Reznor has an amazing ability to turn intense pain into something beautiful enough to grace the top of the Billboard charts.

23. To listen to this man build on Ice Cube’s legacy is just too much fun. And dangerous.

24. Oh, Ma$e. You bad, bad, bad, bad boy.

25. I’ve been playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City since hooking up my PS2 to this here newfangled TV we have in the apartment. I go out of my way to not exit vehicles whenever this song is on.

26. Remember this song? Oh man, this was the first single I ever bought. It was a single CD with three songs on it. $4. It had this, the instrumental and a B-side. We’ve made so much progress! Now I can listen to it for free or just pay a dollar and not have to pretend to care about that other song, whatever it was.

27. Here’s some more Twilight shit. The stories are pretty depressing, but the rhyming is good, the chorus is good, and the beat, oh man, that beat is flippin’ great. I don’t care if it’s bad for me or if Drake is a crybaby, just keep playing this.

Comment:

I drafted all of this before my trip to Norway. I updated all my WordPress apps, synced the albums and songs so I would be free to editorialize. I was totally prepared.

So on the flight back I spent two hours typing reviews. I had to hand code the majority of this stuff because the apps don’t let you edit in WYSIWYG like on the web (which I did not have or was unwilling to pay for). I’m talking superscripts and italics for all the reviews. I was incredibly proud. My flight time had been well-spent to make up for watching, holy shit this is terrible, Battleship, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Prometheus. Yes, I’ll watch two dumb movies and a thought-provoking sci-fi joint, but I’ll also sure as shit use my brain to think serious thoughts about some music.

I landed, prepared to sync my updates, and watched my work disappear. WordPress overwrote all my progress with what I had just before I left.

I set this post aside. I needed some time before I wrote how I felt for a second time. My intentions were good, but WordPress really screwed us. I think I’ll be fine, but a little wary of their apps for a while.