Tag Archives: new album

The (Frustrating) Life of Pablo

“Name one genius that ain’t crazy.”

It’s finally happened. Kanye West has actually gone insane. His mind has always been in a perpetual state of motion, constantly redirecting his attention from music to art to fashion to Twitter and to God-knows what else. On his latest The Life of Pablo, Kanye’s ego has finally the better of him. The rollout for TLOP was an absolute shit show of empty promises and false starts (it still is). The album itself is an absolute mess. I’m not even confident it’s finished. In fact, I hope it really isn’t finished. If TLOP actually turns out to be an experiment on how the music media will seemingly eat up anything he shits out on both Tidal and Twitter, then I will certainly tip my “Yeezus” cap to him. Until then, I cannot sit here and defend this record.

Not that he needs me to. For all the shit Kanye West gets for is actions outside the studio (some of it deserved, most of it not), people tend to forget that he is a truly gifted musician. Kanye West is a man with a unique gift of musical knowledge and a golden touch for sampling and producing. He is a smart person brimming with ideas and enthusiasm, who can be as articulate as a professor when he wants to be. That’s why it’s frustrating that Kanye West would release such a deliberately half-hassed product, but I like to think he knows what he’s doing. It’s like Kanye knows that even if he farts in a microphone, critics will love it anyway. After listening to some of these lyrics, he did exactly that. He spewed a lot of that sort of crap on Yeezus, but at least on that record, the music had purpose and razor-sharp focus. Every word he spoke came across like an exorcising of demons, and we all bought it. On TLOP, the lyrics are cringe-worthy just for the sake of being cringe-worthy, and now I find myself wondering if everything that was said on Yeezus was just as cheap and insincere. As attention-getters, the X-rated lyrics work, but in the end, many of the songs suffer for the ignorance.

But it’s not just the lyrics that are way sub-par. The music, 90% of it not even produced by West himself, is consistently inconsistent and relentlessly frustrating. You keep waiting for songs like “FML” and “Highlights”, which have SO much potential, to become fully realized. Instead, they feel tossed aside from a man bored with his own creation.

Take the track “30 Hours” for example. Initially, it’s one of the best songs on the album, as Kanye raps like he’s still wearing pink polos over a beat that would fit right in on The College Dropout. It’s hard-hitting, direct, and damn good. That is, until it isn’t. Like a NJ Transit train headed to Penn Station, Kanye inexplicably stops. He just gives up on the song, turning a potential show-stopper into a glorified demo. Instead of finishing the song out, he blabbers on about bonus tracks, mumbles a barely conceived verse idea, and even answers his damn cell phone. He just leaves all of that in there! Critics will tell you this is art – the sound of a scatterbrained man at work – but I’m here to tell you this is bullshit. Any track that features Andre 3000 but doesn’t actually have Andre 3000 rapping (or doing anything, really) on the song is bullshit. The two rappers had a chance at a banger, but instead settled for an under-cooked piece of meat. It’s the story of this album, really. Kanye settles; he never attacks. And he wants Tidal users to pay $20 for this? Come on, man. Would you buy a car with no wheels for $50,000?

Now, that’s not to say that TLOP doesn’t have its moments of clarity. Like I said, it’s easy to forget that Kanye West is a gifted producer. The skeletal “Ultralight Beam” delivers on Kanye’s Twitter promise of this album being a “gospel album.” Ever the curator, Kanye lets the young Chance the Rapper steal the spotlight with the most captivating verse on a Kanye West album since Nicki Minaj’s ferocious debut on “Monsters”. The first true taste of TLOP back in January, “Real Friends,” is another understated but beautiful gem, with a moody, haunting piano setting the scene for Kanye to once again play the bad friend and even worse family member. It’s one of those songs that reminds you why you root for Kanye in the first place. The best song on TLOP by far is “No More Parties in LA,” and it’s one of the best songs of the year so far. It’s a perfect example of what makes Kanye West so great, and also what makes this album so frustration because of how it could’ve been so much more. Kanye, along with Kendrick Lamar(!), just let loose on this track. The three samples on here, including Junie Morrison’s “Suzie Thundertussy,” have no right being on the same track together, yet it sounds so seamless and captivating. It’s the most fully realized this album gets, and I can guarantee you’re going to be hearing a lot more of it blaring out of car stereos this summer.

I want to sit down with Kanye West. I want to tell him that he’s capable of so much more. We all know this, and I think he knows it too. So, why is he settling for this? I want to know why he isn’t pushing himself to be better, like all the greats. Or maybe he’s pushing to hard… no one man should have all that power, right? I’m not looking for the old Kanye; I’m just looking for a sign that the man is still willing to continue to push himself musically, and not merely settle. Give me a chance to interview him, to buy him a beer he desperately seems to need. I want to ask him all these things and more. He’d probably tell me to fuck off, and if he did, I’d be happy because at least that would mean the fire isn’t out.

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Deafheaven reach new heights on “New Bermuda”

Every once and a while, an album will come along seemingly out of nowhere and shake the foundations of your world to shreds. Sunbather, the 2013 album from black metal shoegazers Deafheaven, was that kind of record – an album of emotionally turbulent set of gorgeously-crafted songs unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. It’s one of my favorite records EVER, and yet, it’s one that I can’t really listen to very often. It’s so emotionally draining that I find I have to be in the right mindset to press play on the opener “Dream House”, because once you’re in, there’s no turning back, and it takes a few moments to recover as “The Pecan Tree” fades and the album ends.

One of the biggest triumphs of Sunbather was how Deafheaven seamlessly brought together very different worlds of black metal, shoegaze, and even pop, thus having critics dub them as “the metal band for those who don’t like metal.” Metal, as you may know, is a very peculiar genre that hasn’t quite branched out since Metallica’s The Black Album days. Nu-metal was a step WAY back, and any band influenced by Disturbed doesn’t deserve to be listened to or written about. Finally, here comes a band willing to push Metal in a forward direction, and they get chastised for it. Why? Because “metal heads” felt Deafheaven was not genuine “metal.” Listen, I am by no means a “metal head,” and I am certainly not a black metal fan. However, while Deafheaven may be considered “black metal” by definition, they defy genre in reality. Deafheaven is proof that it’s okay to like this music, and then enjoy, say, CHVRCHES immediately after. Genre doesn’t matter here. That’s what makes this band so special, and this is why you need to give their newest album New Bermuda a listen.

New Bermuda is most certainly not Sunbather. While Sunbather was beautiful on the inside and out, New Bermuda is an ugly and twisted beast. Vocalist George Clarke voice screeches in a goblin-like tone throughout, while guitarist Kerry McCoy leads an aggressive attack, shredding more and “shoe-gazing” less. Not to mention the stellar full-time band members – bassist Stephen Clark, guitarist Shiv Mehra, and drummer Daniel Tracy – whose contributions to this album add to its monstrosity. Tracy, in particular, might be one of the best drummers out there right now.

Yet, despite its grotesque exterior, this album has an inner beauty that is more pronounced here because of the initial ugliness. There’s always going to be a dark and a light side to Deafheaven, but the lines between the two are more obscured on New Bermuda. “Brought to the Water” starts out with discordant riffs and bursts, picking up where Sunbather left off, but it blooms into something else entirely by the end. “Baby Blue,” the three-part mid-album epic, tussles and turns between a dreamy melody and a chugging, sludgy slow burn. While Deafheaven are certainly coming into their own on this New Bermuda, the one song on this album, for me, that is the embodiment of what makes Deafheaven so ahead of their time is “Gifts for the Earth,” a hard-nosed rocker that as it breaks down, it pummels anything on Sunbather into submission. But then, out of nowhere, Deafheaven ride into the sunset into a “champagne supernova” in the sky. While being one of the most straight-forward songs Deafheaven has written, it’s mind-blowing how this band can go from And Justice For All to What’s the Story Morning Glory so perfectly and naturally. It’s a small taste of what makes New Bermuda so great. Deafheaven isn’t cashing in, they’re moving forward. None of it sounds forced; none of it feels fake. It’s just… Deafheaven.

The Sunday Best of 2014

Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

by Jeff Yerger

Remember me?

As I sit here in my new apartment (waiting for some water to boil so I can eat some damn pasta), I think about what a crazy year 2014 has been. For me personally, it’s been a tale of two cities: I entered 2014 cozy and familiar in New York and as 2014 begins to wave goodbye, I find myself living in Philadelphia, in a whole new comfort zone. My life has changed in oh so many ways, and I’ve had music with me every step of the way.

2014 has been a great year for music. It’s been a year full of unexpected (literally, being that one morning the whole world woke up with a strange U2 album on their iPods) and powerful music. Where 2013 saw the big guys like Daft Punk, Arcade Fire, and Kanye West remind us why they’re the best, 2014 brought us some fantastic newcomers and not-so-seasoned pros who produced damn-near masterpieces seemingly out of nowhere.

I love music, and since I don’t have all of your sock sizes, I wanted to share the gift of my favorite music from 2014 with you.

But first, some accolades…

Best TV Performance

It’s a shame that David Letterman will be retiring next year, especially because he brings in fantastic musical guests, and each musical guest he has always seems to bring their A-game. This performance by Future Islands is by far the performance of the year. I mean, it really doesn’t get any better than this. Here’s hoping they come back for an encore before Letterman bows out. In the words of the man himself, I’ll take all of that ya got!

Best Live Show

I really wanted to give this to Sleigh Bells, who always seem to deliver (and more) during their live show. I also wanted to give this to Foxy Shazam, another stellar live act. Hell, I even wanted to give this to Kanye West, who I didn’t even see live this year, but video evidence shows me I missed out big time. While all these artists have great live shows in their own way, I have to give this award to none other than The Replacements. Seeing them at Forest Hills Stadium in September was a religious experience, which is the only way I can describe it. Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg still rock like hell, and perhaps finally, after 30 years, they’re finally getting their due. If they come around at all in 2015, be sure to go see these heroes of indie rock.

Top 5 Pop Singles from 2014

(admit it, you like these songs and dance like there’s no tomorrow whenever these come on at the bar)

5. Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX – “Fancy

4. Ariana Grand & The Weeknd – “Love Me Harder”

3. Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne – “Rather Be”

2. Nick Jonas – “Jealous”

1. Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”

Now for the good stuff…

Top 50 Songs of 2014

  1. Ryan Adams – “Gimme Something Good”
  1. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
  1. Coldplay – “Magic”
  1. La Sera – “Fall in Place”
  1. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
  1. Run the Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
  1. Real Estate – “Crime”
  1. The Orwells – “Who Needs You”
  1. The Black Keys – “Gotta Get Away”
  1. Phantogram – “Fall In Love”
  1. White Lung – “Down It Goes”
  1. Foxy Shazam – “In This Life”
  1. Grimes feat. Blood Diamonds – “Go”
  1. Charli XCX – “Gold Coins”
  1. Dum Dum Girls – “In the Wake of You”
  1. Future Islands – “Fall From Grace”
  1. Bleeding Rainbow – “So You Know”
  1. The Raveonettes – “Sisters”
  1. Deluka – “Dead of Night”
  1. Spoon – “Let Me Be Mine”
  1. Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part Of Me”
  1. Parquet Courts – “Sunbathing Animal”
  1. The War on Drugs – “Burning”
  1. Fucked Up – “Glass Boys”
  1. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness”
  1. Run The Jewels – “Blockbuster Night Part 1”
  1. Pup – “Resevoir”
  1. Angel Olsen – “Stars”
  1. Ryan Adams – “Feels Like Fire”
  1. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”
  1. TV on the Radio – “Careful You”
  1. Against Me! – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”
  1. Coldplay – “Midnight”
  1. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Kelly”
  1. The Horrors – “So Now You Know”
  1. La Roux – “Let Me Down Gently”
  1. King Tuff – “Eyes of the Muse”
  1. Bleeding Rainbow – “Tell Me”
  1. Merchandise – “Little Killer”
  1. Spoon – “Inside Out”
  1. Run the Jewels feat. Zack De La Rocha – “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”
  1. Charli XCX – “Need Ur Luv”
  1. The War on Drugs – “Suffering”
  1. Fucked Up – “The Art Of Patrons”
  1. Sharon Van Etten – “Your Love Is Killing Me”
  1. Alvvays – “Adult Diversion”
  1. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
  1. Merchandise – “Green Lady”
  1. Sylvan Esso – “Coffee”
  1. Cymbals Eat Guitars – “Jackson”

As I mentioned earlier, I moved to Philadelphia back in September. It’s been a big lifestyle change for me. For the first time since college, I’m living on my own and really for the first time ever in my life, I’m fully independent. While it’s been a good thing, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss home in NJ at least a little bit. The song “Jackson” by Cymbals Eat Guitars captures this feeling for me perfectly. As the song builds up, Joseph D’Agostino yelps and strains words about hanging out in Jersey with your friends (more specifically, Six Flags). It’s a song about nostalgia and dear friends, and the music itself is uplifting and I love every minute of it. Make sure you at least give this song a spin, if anything. Truly a special song from a special album.

For the Spotifically inclined…

And now for…

My Top 25 Albums of 2014

25. Phantogram – Voices

24. King Tuff – Black Moon Spell

23. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

22. Dum Dum Girls – Too True

21. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

20. Real Estate – Atlas

19. The Horrors – Luminous

18. Restorations – LP3

17. White Lung – Deep Fantasy

16. The Raveonettes – Pe’ahi

15. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

14. Pup – Pup

13. Future Islands – Singles

12. TV On The Radio – Seeds

11. Spoon – They Want My Soul

10. Charli XCX – Sucker

9. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lose

8. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

7. Fucked Up – Glass Boys

6. Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt

5. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

4. The War On Drugs – Lost In the Dream

3. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

2. Alvvays – Alvvays

1. Merchandise – After The End

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Last year, my album of the year was Kanye West’s divisive Yeezus, and while that album is great and mind-blowing in itself, I did enjoy it as much as I enjoy After the End by Tampa Bay’s own Merchandise. In fact, I’ve come to realize that there are very few albums I love and enjoy as much as After the End. Admittedly, I had never heard of Merchandise before this summer. Since then, I’ve checked out their back catalogue, which consists of just a few small EPs of skuzzy, lo-fi post-rock. While these albums had their moments, I never would’ve expected something of this magnitude from Merchandise. After the End is a grand, triumphant album that sounds like nothing else in 2014. I honestly couldn’t pinpoint what exactly it sounds like; I hear everything from The Smiths to Arcade Fire to Duran Duran to The Cure to fucking Coldplay.

Where Yeezus was a beautifully distorted mess, After the End is absolutely flawless, and it’s apparent through the sound and production that this was the intention. After “Corridor” sets the scene, the run of “Enemy,” “True Monument,” and “Green Lady” is the best three-song punch I’ve heard in a long time. It takes most bands years to write just one song as good as those, and Merchandise has THREE of them at the beginning of this freakin’ record. After that, other standouts like “Telephone” and the excellent “Little Killer” are just icing on the cake.

Please do yourself a favor and listen to this album. Obviously, all of the albums I’ve listed on here are fantastic and worth a listen. The top 5, in particular, could all easily be number one here, but for me, I have listened to and enjoyed no album more in 2014 than After the End by Merchandise and I hope you will too.

6-Point Reference Program for War on Drugs – “Lost in the Dream”

Stream the War on Drugs' New Album Lost in the Dream

by Jeff Yerger

In case you haven’t heard, the War on Drugs’ excellent new album Lost in the Dream comes out next week. It’s a breath-taking piece of epic vagabond classic rock that was recorded in Philadelphia but sounds like it belongs to Anywhere, U.S.A. It’s an emotional album that relentlessly tugs at the heart strings while evoking heavy doses of nostalgia, familiarity, and warmth. All I want to do is live in this album and never return.

Already, music lovers have Lost in the Dream perched at #1 on their year-end lists, even though it’s, well, March. Needless to say, you’re going to hear A LOT about it, even if you haven’t listened to it yet, spoilers be damned. If you haven’t listened to it yet, conversations with your musically inclined friends are going to suck! You’ll have nothing to do but sip on your 16oz PBR can while your friends jabber on about the pure magic they felt listening to album standouts “Red Eyes,” “Burning” and “Eyes to the Wind,” or the tears they cried when they heard “An Ocean In Between the Waves” and “Suffering.” This isn’t hyperbole; this album is THAT real.

Yet, in between the outright song-gushing, one of the main things will undoubtedly come up when talking about Lost in the Dream is the massive amount of influences the album wears on its sleeve. Some are pretty subtle while others are about as subtle as an oncoming freight train, and if you want to join in the conversation without actually hearing the album first, you’re going to want to be able to name drop. So, I have come up with a list of all the artists/bands/sounds that Lost in the Dream references. Think of it as a 6-point plan for your license to talk about Lost in the Dream. You’ll need at least 6 points to successfully talk about the album without hearing it, including at least 1 primary reference and 1 secondary reference. This will at least give off the impression to your friends that you know your shit; it’ll be a primary license, if you will. In order to receive your FULL license to talk, you must actually, you know, listen to the album… which you should… because it’s great.

Here is the 6-Point Lost In the Dream references program:

Primary References (choose at least 1)

4 Point References:

  • Dire Straits
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Tom Petty
  • Don Henley

3 Point References:

  • Bob Dylan
  • The Eagles
  • Bob Seger
  • Richard Marx
  • Bryan Adams

2 Point References:

  • Peter Frampton
  • Sting
  • Fleetwood Mac

Secondary References (choose at least 1)

3 Point References

  • “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits
  • “Against the Wind” – Bob Seger
  • “Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen
  • That guitar solo from “Lines on My Face” by Peter Frampton. Man, that was awesome guitar solo. Peter Frampton is a highly underrated guitarist. Dude, what? Seriously. Have you even listened to Frampton Comes Alive? That shit is awesome.
  • “Touch of Grey” by Grateful Dead… which makes sense, since they cover it
  • The Travelling Wilburys, if Jeff Lynne wasn’t in the band but David Crosby was
  • Oh, and “End of the Innocence” by Don Henley

2 Point References:

  • post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd
  • the singer’s voice on here kiiiinda sounds like Peter Gabriel, at times
  • Roxy Music
  • Neil Young, maybe?
  • 80’s Eric Clapton
  • 80’s Steve Winwood
  • Pre-80’s George Harrison
  • That song… oh, what’s the name of it… uhh… shit, this is going to bother me all night… I wanna say it’s by R.E.M.? No, no, that’s not it. Wait… uh… damnit!
  • The National
  • What the Killers wish Sam’s Town sounded like
  • What Brandon Flowers wishes his solo album sounded like
  • What Bono thought Rattle & Hum would sound like

1 Point References:

  • Kurt Vile

Lost in the Dream is out March 18 via Secretly Canadian