Friday, July 13, 2018

Annoying pop song alert!

Man, it's been a while since I've talked about an annoying pop song. Most of what I've heard this year has ranged from good to boring, with little really sticking out as bad. And if you're not gonna be good, go all the way and be bad, dammit. Boring is the worst, and that's what so much popular music has been recently. (From what I've heard, anyway. I don't think I've heard that rapper who died and if I did I might disrespect the dead, so let's just move on.)

The annoying song in question is called "Friends." *deep breath* So no one told you life was gonna be- NO! *slap* We are NOT doing that. Simmer down. So what makes this song so annoying? First of all, it's a spelling song, which is pretty much universally annoying.* If you grew up in the 80s, chances are hearing the letters "M-E-T-H-O-D" will trigger some kind of P-T-S-D. And that was an actual decent band. Duo. Whatever. What happens when this "Marshmello" fellow tries it? (I'm assuming it's a fellow anyway, it's one of those EDM producers who presents itself as an amorphous blob. We'll just go by Ghostbusters rules and say it's a Marshmallow Man.)

And this is the form of destruction we've chosen - stupid pop song. Okay, maybe it's not New York-crushingly bad, but a lot of things about this tweaks my nerves. Full disclosure - I had a previous, fleeting familiarity with Marshmello with his song "Wolves" ft. Selena Gomez. That song is... okay. Yeah, it's kinda catchy, I don't mind it. But this. First of all, this "Anne-Marie" chick makes Selena Gomez look like she has a personality. I don't know how she pulls that off but it's impressive. We're talking Bebe Rexha levels of generic here, which I'm sure means she'll be on the next huge "country" smash with that guy who did "Singles You Up" or whatever. These are the times we're living in. (Hmm, maybe I wasn't so far off with the "choose your form" thing...)

ANYWAY, we've got some weird EDM dude and a generic female pop singer, that's just another Tuesday, right? But no, according to Anne-Marie, this is the "friendzone anthem," and the world NEEDED a friendzone anthem. Since most of the world is not in the 8th grade I assure you that no, no we did not. And what's the deep, impactful, anthemic chorus of this... anthem? She spells out the word "friends." Except... if you're gonna make spelling out a word the centrepiece of your song, maybe you wanna enunciate a little better so it doesn't sound like you're misspelling it?? "F-R-I-N-D-S!" she proclaims proudly. I just wanna be "frinds," which sounds like some kind of weird kids' food from the 90s, like frozen pork rinds. "Try Frinds! They're extreeeeeeeeeme!" and then some kid with floppy 90s hair shoots down a waterslide with one.

via GIPHY

(While also playing a video game.)

If you listen close you can kiiiiinda hear her slide into the "E," but I don't recommend listening to this thing close or even far away. It's the epitome of a vapid pop song. I was gonna wait and talk about it on my worst of the year list, but I'd probably have forgotten everything I wanted to say about it and maybe even the song itself. And oh yeah, how could I forget this questionable lyric - "You really ain't going away without a fight
You can't be reasoned with, I'm done being polite." Umm honey, I think he's gone past F-R-I-N-D and into S-T-A-L-K-E-R at this point. Maybe it's time to just cut your losses?

*D-I-V-O-R-C-E is a good spelling song, because there's an actual reason she's spelling stuff out. Oh and "Respect," because Aretha is so fire she burns the spelling bee down.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

W E E Z E R T I M E

So yeah, I like both of the Toto covers. Obviously I do. I love Weezer and I love 80s rock, you might as well ask me if I like sunshine and unicorns. DUH.

Of the two, I like "Africa" better. The "Rosanna" cover makes it a liiiiittle more obvious that Weezer's drummer is um, not quite on par with Toto's drummer. But putting that aside, I mean when you talk about Weezer you're pretty much talking about Rivers, and I think he brings the goods. This is what "Weezer covering 80s rock" sounds like all right, yup. It doesn't make me go "OMG BEST THING EVERRRRRR," but if they did a whole album of 80s covers I'd buy it. Oh yeah. Man, they'd do a mean "Surrender." I think that's actually a 70s song but w/e, same aesthetic.

How men and women can help each other out!

So I keep seeing this comment an actor made about flirting all bloody day and felt compelled to write about it. Pardon me, music lovers, let me get this off my chest and then I'll get back to talking about Weezer or whatever.

"I don't want to go up and talk to her because I'm going to be called a rapist or something."

No, the simple act of talking to a woman will not get you labelled a rapist, unless she has severe emotional issues. In which case she could accuse you of something without you ever even talking to her, and then do the same to your dog. That seems unlikely so you're probably safe, bro. If you flirt with a woman and she flirts back, that's okay and always will be okay. If she doesn't seem interested, step the eff off. That doesn't seem so complicated, does it?

Except maybe it kind of can be? I started thinking about how men and women have been socialized for so long and it's really kind of sick. A lot of discussion of this has fallen on men - men are socialized to feel they're entitled to women, to be persistent, to "break her down" til she says yes. Which can be true, and also really gross. But what about how women are socialized?

I wasn't personally raised this way, but a lot of women my generation and previous generations were - and that is to be coy. To say no or maybe when they mean yes, to string guys along because God forbid you actually act like you like a guy. Women must be pursued, or else be seen as forward, or desperate, or "not a good girl." Yeah, a lot of women were taught that being "good" means playing games with people. Being "good" means lying, or at the very least denial. All for what? To be a virgin, or appear like one? What century is this, anyway?? These old timey social mores kinda encourage stalking - and we wonder why things are so fucked up.

And even for those of us who weren't raised that way (and I really hope this next generation isn't), it's aaaaaallllll over entertainment. "Romantic" comedies can be poison. How many times has the plot of one of those things been "wearing someone down" til they get together in the end? This not only teaches women they can't be honest about being attracted to a dude, it teaches dudes that sometimes women lie about not being attracted to them. It encourages them to keep at it, which CAN lead to a woman feeling like she's being harassed. (Harassed, NOT "raped." Really wrong word to use there, Superman. Not one ya wanna throw around like a football.)

So while I think you should generally be able to tell if someone wants nothing to do with you and stop talking to them, there are gray areas here that need to be addressed. Let's stop playing games with each other. It isn't romantic, it doesn't make you "good," it just reinforces stereotypes that have done subtle but pervasive and long-lasting damage. Be honest and treat people the way you want to be treated. It's time to change the narrative. There won't be as many awful romantic comedies, but... yeah, there's really no downside to it at all! :)

tbt ~ Bush

Don't know if this is an unpopular opinion, since they're not talked about as much as some other 90s rock bands, but I think Bush's first two albums are really good. If you haven't revisited them for a while or heard them at all, check em out!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

RS top 100 songs, part 2

Let's do this!

49. Sign of the Times by Harry Styles - Wow. While this wasn't my favorite song on his debut, I'm happy and surprised to see him represented, and in the top 50 no less. I honestly think this former boy band member is a force for good in rock. (Watch, his next album will be all autotuned drum machine dance numbers lololol)
48. Happy by Pharrell - Pharrell is a super talented musician. He's made some great beats. But this? This is the kind of predictable, middle of the road pap I thought they'd want to avoid. I don't get what's so great about this song.
47. Redbone by Childish Gambino - YUSSSSSSSS! I love this song. When they get it right, they really get it right.
46. Cry Me a River by Justin Timberlake - This is a good solid pop song. I prefer "What Goes Around Comes Around," but no complaints.
45. Sorry by Justin Bieber - Nope.
44. Stan by Eminem - I'm not personally into Eminem, but this is iconic.
43. don't know it
42. Electric Feel by MGMT - Wow, not "Kids!" They're both good but this one is extra funky. I like funky.
41. Hurt by Johnny Cash - HELL yes. Such a heartbreaking song. Only reason I didn't include this on my covers list is it's too painful to listen to.
40. Beautiful Day by U2 - A predictable pick, but I can't complain about it, it belongs here.
39. No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age - this is a band I've always meant to get into but never have. I don't know their songs by title, but I've probably heard this. I salute them keeping rock alive. Maybe one of these days I'll actually sit down and listen to them.
38. a Beyonce song I don't think I've heard
37. don't know it, but it's Leonard Cohen so I approve.
36. Gold Digger by Kanye West - Again, not a Kanye fan, but this is an okay song. Still overrated.
35. Blue Jeans by Lana Del Rey - I'm not a Lana fan, but there are three songs I really like on her debut album, and this is one of them. Kinda cool to see this here honestly.
34. Mr. Brightside by the Killers - Do I even need to say anything? Should I be a snarky bitch and say this should be MUCH higher, or just enjoy that it's here?
33. another post-OK Computer Radiohead song I just never got into. I've tried with Kid A, I really have. Just not my thing.
32. In Da Club by 50 Cent - It's ok for mainstream hip hop, I guess? 50 Cent seems dumb as a post, which probably isn't really relevant lol.
31. Wake Up by Arcade Fire - this is from Funeral, which is the only Arcade Fire album I really got into. I prefer "Tunnels," but sure, glad to see this here.
30. a Bob Dylan song I don't know. RS loves Bob Dylan, I can't really argue against him.
29. All Too Well by Taylor Swift - Wow, the only Taylor Swift song and it wasn't a single. That's a bold choice and a good one, cause this is one of her best songs.
28. Umbrella by Rihanna and Jay-Z - Yeah, this is a pop classic.
27. B.O.B. by Outkast - I miss this kind of energetic hip hop so much. Outkast was great.
26. Hotline Bling by Drake - loooool. I've come around on this song, but I wouldn't put it on this list and sure as hell not this high. Speaking of high, someone must have been. smh.
25. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars - Well, obviously. Kinda surprised this isn't higher. Great song, one of the few times I'm in consensus with the masses lol.
24. Lose Yourself by Eminem - the best Eminem song I've heard. I'm not even a fan (Stan?) and I think this is awesome.
23. Ms. Jackson by Outkast - Awesome hip hop song. Take your Migos and Lil Whoever and blow them out your ass, long live Outkast.
22. Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand - HELLLLL YES.
21. Bad Romance by Lady Gaga - awesome song, another pop classic.
20. Rehab by Amy Winehouse - what can I say? Great song by an artist gone way too soon. I wonder what kind of music she'd be making now.
19. I don't know the song that's at #19? WTF?? never even heard of Robyn.
18. late period Bowie, not my thing but totally respect it being here.
17. Work It by Missy Elliot - Man, remember when popular hip hop had life, energy, and personality? This song is so catchy and Missy Elliott is probably the best female rapper I've heard.
16. 2nd song by LCD Soundsystem, a band I've heard of but never heard.
15. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley - Yup, classic.
14. Toxic by Britney Spears - NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO number 14?? Seriously???
13. Alright by Kendrick Lamar - don't know it but I like what I've heard from Kendrick. I'm actually gonna check this one out.
12. Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliott - wow, they really like Missy Elliott. Can't say I disagree with either of these honestly. This beat is like, ingrained into the fabric of society at this point.
11. Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson - I never would have imagined this song would be so high but I really like it. Not #11-like it, but ehh? Okay I guess.
10. Last Nite by the Strokes - HELLLLLLL YEAH.
9. Royals by Lorde - not my favorite Lorde song, but this absolutely belongs here.
8. Rolling in the Deep by Adele - Classic, great song, great voice. Kinda surprised Adele only showed up once.
7. And speaking of people showing up more than once, here's more frickin' Kanye 😡 When I say over, you say rated! I haven't heard this song but it has Pusha T on it, who has impressed me the few times I've heard him. *shrug*
6. And in possibly the biggest surprise... Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs is at NUMBER SIX. I LOVE this song you guys, OMG. I might have expected it to show up, but this high? Mind blown. Awesome.
5. 99 Problems by Jay-Z - Yeah, this pretty iconic. I do like Jay-Z when he's on.
4. Hey Ya by Outkast - Hell yeah! Sure not gonna complain about Outkast showing up 3 times. If anything, they're generally underrated.
3. Seven Nation Army by White Stripes - HELLLLL YEAH and honestly, this doesn't surprise me. Is there a more immediately recognizable riff in recent memory?
2. Paper Planes by M.I.A. - really? #2? This is kind of a cool experimental song that somehow hit it big, but putting it here baffles me. Again - "Welcome to the Black Parade," my pick for song of the century, is not even on this list. I get that music taste is subjective, but some of these choices genuinely confuse me.
1. Aaaaand probably the most confusing choice of all... Crazy in Love by Beyonce at #1??? Um, at least it wasn't Kanye again, I guess? Don't get me wrong, this is probably my favorite Beyonce song I've heard and she totally deserves to be on the list. She's a superstar and she is actually talented. But putting a good pop song - and that's what this is, a good pop song - at number one for 18 years worth of music? I just don't get it. This would be like if they did a top 100 of the previous century and instead of putting The Beatles or Nirvana or Led Zeppelin at number one, they picked a pretty good Madonna song. "Crazy in Love" over "Welcome to the Black Parade" is like "Material Girl" over "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It's a good song, but does it belong in that kind of lofty space? I say no, no it does not.

Thus ends my take on this sometimes great, sometimes confusing list. I guess this really does show how subjective music tastes can be, so in that sense, it's a pretty good representation.

The biggest takeaway for me - in light of what I was talking about the other day, it's pretty cool that The Strokes, White Stripes, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs all made the top 10. Guess I'm not the only one missing that 2000s rock revival! Hint hint, folks.

I could make a whole long list of songs and artists I think should have been represented, but there are probably better uses of my time. Peace!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Rolling Stone's Top 100 songs of the century so far list

For the sake of argument, let's pretend Rolling Stone is still relevant and dive in to this list, song by song. There's some bad, but there's also some really, surprisingly good! Like songs and bands that are personal faves of mine, not just classics everyone likes. #s 74 and 75 are especially mind-blowing for me.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-songs-century-so-far-w521935

100. Gasolina by Daddy Yankee - I don't know this song, but I know he was the rapper on Despacito. He was alright. Shrug? Yup, we're starting with a shrug.
99. No idea what this is, not gonna type it all out.
98. OMG, freaking Alvvays! I love Alvvays! This is from their first album which I'm not as familiar with, but how cool to see them represented.
97. don't know it
96. might know it? never got into Black Keys
95. Can't Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie Minogue - Yeah, that's a solid pop song. I wouldn't call it a song of the century, but maybe it's here for being an actual pop song in a time with so few of them.
94. blah blah Kanye West. Have never been a fan.
93. I'm Not Okay by My Chemical Romance - YEEEAH! I mean, it should be Black Parade and it should be higher, but I love seeing them here.
92. don't know it
91. Despacito - We're 10 songs in and that umm, great artist of our time, Daddy Yankee, has already been represented twice. Okay? I mean this song was massive, I guess I get it. It's nothing special though.
90. don't know it
89. Hate to Say I Told You So by The Hives - HELLLLLL YEAH I love this song!
88. don't know it, but I've liked some Vampire Weekend songs
87. We Belong Together by Mariah Carey - I will never argue against Mariah Carey. Classic.
86. I Love It by Icona Pop and Charli XCX - Really? Charli XCX is a great presence, but this song is nothing special.
85. don't know it
84. One More Time by Daft Punk - Yeah, this is a classic electronic song. Not my favorite genre, but I dig this.
83. Lost Cause by Beck - Not my favorite Beck song, I prefer his funkier side, but still great. Love Beck.
82. New Slang by The Shins - One of my favorite songs of all time. Respect.
81. Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani - pardon me, I can't say that with a straight face. Seriously?? I don't even hate this song, but whaaa?
80. don't know it
79. Drop it Like It's Hot by Snoop Dogg & Pharrell - Yeah, that's a classic, can't argue with that.
78. Young Folks by Peter Bjorn and John - AGH that earwormy whistle song! I guess it's iconic, but damn I don't wanna hear it again.
77. don't know it
76. Get Lucky by Daft Punk & Pharrell - Yep, great pop song.
75. The House that Built Me by Miranda Lambert - OMG! One of my favorite songs! I'm shocked this was recognized, but so happy.
74. Letter from an Occupant by New Pornographers - And even more amazing, it's one of the most underrated bands ever, and also one of my favourites. And wow, this is such a fireball of a Neko Case performance, it's glorious.
73. don't know it
72. Bad and Boujee by Migos - Ewww, this might be the worst song they picked. Blecch. Trap shit is the shame of the century.
71. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen - Nah.
70. American Idiot by Green Day - Hell yeah Green Day! I prefer Holiday or Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but choosing the title track makes sense. It's a good song in its own right, and it's kind of like picking the whole album.
69. don't know it
68. Springsteen by Eric Church - Interesting. I like this song, but this over Record Year? I'll take it, I guess.
67. don't know it
66. Beez in the Trap by Nicki Minaj - Ugh, really? It seems like I'm hating on hip hop here but I'm not. I'm hating on bad hip hop. Where's King Kunta? Where's Downtown?
65. We Found Love by Rihanna & Calvin Harris - It's alright.
64. DNA by Kendrick Lamar - Okay, this is better. I still like King Kunta more, but at least this is hip hop that brings it instead of falling asleep.
63. Sugar We're Goin' Down by Fall Out Boy - Ah, back when FOB was a decent band. Back when they were a band, that played instruments. Yeah, I dig this one.
62. Teenage Dream by Katy Perry - Her best song and a nice little pop gem. Can't argue.
61. Don't know this one, but OMG Madonna? Seriously? Her best music was waaaaay back in the last century. I think RS just likes Madonna.
60. don't know it
59. Bodak Yellow by Cardi B - Nope.
58. don't know it, but it's Kanye so meh.
57. don't know it
56. Later period Radiohead, don't know it. I dig their 90s stuff but never got into their newer stuff.
55. don't know it
54. Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley - OMG! I wrote a while ago, am I the only person who still cares about Rilo Kiley? Apparently I am not, and I'm so happy about that. One of my favorite bands, and this is a great song.
53. don't know it
52. Chandelier by Sia - a little overwrought for me, not a fan, but I get why it's here.
51. Single Ladies by Beyonce - AGH get it out of my ear! Get it out! Okay, I get this was big and maybe it's iconic, but does anyone really... like it?
50. The Scientist by Coldplay - Beautiful song. I like Coldplay. I would have picked Viva la Vida or Clocks, but this is good too.

Okay, I'll get to the other 50 tomorrow! Good game.

Feel Good (Inc) Friday

This long weekend, you could listen to 25 Drake songs, or you could listen to this fun, funky, fresh new album from Gorillaz, The Now Now. I know what I'll be doing.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

I suppose this is as good a time as any to discuss the one album I've listened to since I moved, Panic! at the Disco's Pray for the Wicked. Man, that is a cool ass title wasted on a pretty mediocre album.

Why does it seem like most music now is either severely underproduced or overproduced? You've either got that droney, tinny stuff that sounds like a gnat cursing in your ear, or you've got this thing, which sounds like a bomb going off. Panic! at the disco, indeed.

Why did I listen to this instead of probably 50 more deserving albums that came out this year? Well, there's that cool title. I liked the first two songs I heard, "Say Amen" and "Silver Lining." And honestly, I have a pretty good history with this band. Pretty. Odd. is a beautiful Beatlesesque album that fits nicely on a playlist with early of Montreal. A Fever You Can't Sweat Out has that classic mid-2000s emo vibe, complete with ridiculous song titles you'll never remember. It was kind of a silly, over the top time, but by God it was something. There were guitars. There were drums. There was suitable production. There was a sense of deranged fun, which could almost make you forget that the songs were called things like "There's a Rock In My Heart and a Hole in My Shoe and You Put it There, Darling."*

*not a real song but I bet you had to look it up to be sure.

I wouldn't say I loved their (or I should say his, it's just Brendan Urie at this point) album Death of a Bachelor, but I liked a good half of it, maybe a little more. It had a good vibe, and while the pop production was definitely there, it didn't rub me the wrong way. I called it dance rock, and I think that's accurate. It's fun. This new album, I think, is trying to be fun but... that's just it. You can feel it trying, straining at the seams to be noticed. It's loud, but it doesn't say anything and it sure as hell doesn't rock. This is the first PatD album that hasn't felt organic to me, and I don't just mean instrumentally. Ultrapop production aside, there's just no there there.

I don't think Brendan Urie had much to say this time.

That might be okay, if more of the songs were like "Say Amen" (or "Victorious" from the last album). Songs that make you want to stand up and shout out their meaningless anthemic choruses, because you are drunk and happy. But I don't find the majority of this album infectious, and it definitely doesn't forward the cause of rock. They/he isn't rock anymore, and yeah, they were always pop rock at best. But they put out some good pop rock. Memorable. And while I wouldn't call this album "trendy" or "selling out," it somehow manages to be just as forgettable as if it was. I wasn't expecting this one-man "band" to save rock and roll, but by moving farther away from it, nobody wins. It's too pop for the old fans and not pop enough for the trend eaters. In the end, it just kinda makes me scratch my head and wonder why these bands don't even try to rock anymore. Music doesn't have to say anything, but it does have to make you feel something, even if it's just "wheeee this is fun!" And when the music is empty, making it louder does not make it seem bigger. Just the opposite, really.

I guess we'll see where he's at next album cycle, cause I feel like it's time for a change.
I wonder if we'll ever have another mainstream rock revival like in the early-mid 2000s with bands like The Killers, The Strokes, White Stripes, etc. (which probably led to later bands' success, like MCR and Paramore). What happened? Why did rock's relevance completely disappear with the new decade? Is this just another music "cycle," or has the current generation lost interest in rock? I feel like it's timeless and we'll have another revival in a few years, but I guess we'll see. Which isn't to say that rock is dead, by any means. A lot of these bands are still making good music, as well as newer bands like Creeper. It's just waiting underground til it becomes cool again, I guess. I'm sure eventually people will realize every trap song is actually the same damn song, and they'll get bored and be all, "what's that? a guitar? Hey, I haven't heard one of those in a while..." I swear that's all music trends are, just waiting for people to get bored with whatever's popular. Next! (And the good stuff usually comes back.)

Edited to add: Why does it matter if music I like is "popular," when I can stream or download and listen to whatever I want, whenever I want? Because I'm not a hipster. I like to feel like part of a society. Sure, there's some unusual stuff I like that I wouldn't expect to hear in the mainstream, and I like having some "on my own time" music. But I also like hearing music I connect to when I'm out in the world, at restaurants, shops, bars, etc.

Obviously no one wants to be constantly pummelled by shit they hate - for me, this droney trap rap trend has been misery - but it's more than that. You can somewhat tune that out. But - I don't want to tune out music. I want the "hey, that's my song!" feeling. The shared music experience. It's not like I hang out at places that are all teens and 20s, where I might not expect to relate to the current trends. These are shared spaces with people from all walks of life, yet they're still being controlled by these lowest common denominator trends. A little more variety would be nice, is what I'm saying. A little more organic music that some of us still relate to. And not just on 90s night! I love 90s night, but I hear that shit all the time. That's what I already have on heavy rotation. Play some NEW music that evokes the 90s or early 2000s, if that's what you're so hungry for, you know? I don't know why 90s ROCK = COOL, but any rock put out this decade is no longer relevant. Nostalgia has its place, but it's nice to feel you belong in the here and now*, too.

*Of course, that won't stop me from sneaking in a Letters to Cleo reference. :)

tbt ~ The Killers

This album may be from 2012, but the sound is rooted firmly in my childhood.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

*a tumbleweed blows by*

So, I appear to have bought a house. Wait, how did that happen?? This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife. How did I get here? Letting the days go by, water flowing underground.

So. There's that. Hence the large tumbleweed population 'round here. I will resume blogging after we're settled in and my cats stop hating me. I haven't really listened to much new music lately. Stuck in the 90s and 2000s, doop de doo. There's an Oasis song FIRMLY lodged in my head right now. Those new FGL songs? Haven't heard em, can't say I really care. However, I did listen to my first ever Ghost song, "Dance Macabre." It's 80s AF and I dig it. Like, we're talking right out of one of those old Metal Mania videos.

Here's the thing. I like some harder rock, but "metal" is one of those musical descriptors that makes my brain shut off, like "trap" or "k-pop" or "industrial." I just associate it with screaming and noise. But what can one song hurt? And yeah, I guess it's "metal" in the 80s sense, not that current hardcore screaming shit. It's very melodic, and that's what I look for. So I'll probably check out the album, but for now at least I have a cool "new nostalgic" song in heavy rotation. It kinda feels like the right thing to start this new chapter in my life with, you know? Something that reminds me of the comfort of the past, while still being fresh. Old and new.

Total side note: I'm pretty sure IKEA is one of the circles of Hell.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Top 10 favorite cover songs

In no particular order, except maybe the top 3 or so. Enjoy!

10. Not Fade Away ~ The Rolling Stones, originally by Buddy Holly

Both versions are great. Holly's is a bouncy bop, while the Stones grunge it up a bit.

9. Crimson and Clover ~ Joan Jett, originally by Tommy James and the Shondells

This is one of my favorite songs, so why not higher? While I love the cover, nothing beats the Tommy James version.

8. All Along the Watchtower ~ Jimi Hendrix, originally by Bob Dylan

Yeah obvious choice, but it fucking shreds, so what else can I do?

7. In Bloom ~ Sturgill Simpson, originally by Nirvana

THIS is how you play around with genres. This is a musical breakthrough, not the mere chasing of a buck.

6. Daydream Believer ~ Shonen Knife, originally by The Monkees

A bit of an obscure one, but give it a listen if you can find it. It's rockin' and fun.

5. Who's Cheatin' Who ~ Alan Jackson, originally by Charly McClain

I love the original as much if not even a little more than this cover, but... it's Alan Jackson. It's great.

4. You Better Run ~ Pat Benatar, originally by The Young Rascals

I could make a top 5 of just Pat Benatar's covers, but I'm only doing one song per artist. She'll be back in the honourable mentions though!

3. The Dangerous Type ~ Letters to Cleo, originally by The Cars

This is probably only LTC's third most popular cover (and yeah, their versions of I Want You to Want Me and Cruel to Be Kind are awesome), but this one's my favorite. Maybe because I associate it with The Craft. Probably because I associate it with The Craft, yeah. Great song, anyway.

2. All I Have to Do Is Dream ~ R.E.M., originally by The Everly Brothers

R.E.M. took this beautiful, dreamy early 60s hit and somehow made it even dreamier by making it sound like it was recorded in someone's garage on a Saturday afternoon.

1. I Will ~ Alison Krauss, originally by The Beatles

This cover is transcendent. I get chills every time I listen to it. As good as the original is ~ I mean, it's The Beatles ~ her version just takes it to a whole new level. It's like a band of angels covering The Beatles. I hope I'm greeted with this song in the afterlife.

Honorable mentions:

~If You Think You Know How To Love Me ~ Pat Benatar, originally by Smokie
~No You Don't ~ Pat Benatar, originally by Sweet
Pat has so many classic songs, I'm not sure if people realize what a COVER QUEEN she was.
~Take it Easy ~ Travis Tritt, originally by The Eagles
~Ol'55 ~ The Eagles, originally by Tom Waits
~Landslide ~ Dixie Chicks, originally by Fleetwood Mac
A beautifully harmonized version, but nobody beats Stevie Nicks.
~Strawberry Fields Forever ~ Candy Flip, originally by The Beatles
My fave Beatles song covered by some 90s acid dance band?? That should be SACRILEGE, but it's actually awesome. So was the 90s Manchester scene in general. Fun music, and I never had to take drugs to enjoy it! #PSA
~Always on My Mind ~ Pet Shop Boys, originally by Willie Nelson
Another one that should be SACRILEGE, but sounds awesome. Yeah, I have no issues with taking a classic country song and making it electronic. Just make it sound GOOD and don't call it COUNTRY (*cough*cough*KeithUrban)

And just because, the two WORST covers I've ever heard!

Cancer ~ twenty one pilots, originally by My Chemical Romance
Ghostbusters ~ Fall Out Boy, originally by Ray Parker Jr.

Dear God. Save your ears.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Think I'll start doing occasional, random top 10 lists, just to exercise the ol' blog muscle. Favorite songs by an artist or of a certain year, movies by decade or genre, etc. I think the first will be top 10 favorite cover songs. Coming soon!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Spring into horror! Part 2

They Look Like People -

Like Boys in the Trees, this was a surprisingly touching story about friendship, to the point they would make an excellent double feature. They're both looks at deep, intimate male friendship, without any of those "we're not gay tho!" moments that would have marred an 80s or 90s film. These are real, flawed people that never feel like movie characters. I highly recommend this movie and I think it's best going in reasonably blind, like I did, so I'm not gonna discuss many details. This is not a horror movie, but it's very suspenseful at times. It's what happens when the horror is in your mind... or is it?

That's what you're left wondering the whole movie. Just what is going on here? These characters are pretty screwed up, in different ways, but in ways that make them compatible with each other. You can see why these guys are friends. There's no judgment, only trust. And that plays into one hell of an ending that's about as perfect a wrap-up of a psychological film you can get. If you want a more action-oriented movie, skip this, because there isn't any. But if you want suspense, characters you root for, and compelling, well-resolved psychological pathos, check this out.

It Follows -

Holy. Shit. This movie has been on my to-watch list for a long time. While I heard how great it was, I think I avoided it because... a sex demon? Really? This is gonna be an excuse for softcore porn, isn't it? No, no it isn't. While sex is the underlying motivating factor, I found the movie to be surprisingly non-sexual. It is, once again, more psychological, though I'd put this one firmly on the horror side. This movie is SCARY. And I watched it before bed, because I never learn.

This could be called They Look Like People, Sorta, Really Gross Disturbing People Though. Because this demon that follows you around after someone passes it to you during sex (worst. STD. EVER.) was so disgustingly well done I actually had to turn away a couple times. In a shitty movie, the demon would be a fakey-looking CGI thing that jumps out and goes BLARGH! at you. In this movie it's just different people, but these grotesque half-naked people from your worst nightmare. Thank you for understanding that ONLY THINGS THAT LOOK REAL ARE SCARY.

Beyond the scary-ass demon, this movie is all kinds of weird in these amazing, subtle ways. I was so thrown by the atmosphere that I googled just what the hell was going on, and found this great article explaining it. https://thoughtcatalog.com/m-j-pack/2015/08/heres-why-you-missed-the-scariest-part-of-it-follows/. Basically, while the movie takes place in Detroit, that's the only constant you get. The time period seems to shift. At first I thought it was the 80s for sure, but nope, there are modern vehicles mixed in with the classics. They watch nothing but old black and white movies. There are no cellphones, but there's this weird sort of clamshell kindle reader that doesn't even exist. Seasons and weather shift. While the article doesn't mention it, I swear it went from day to night in at least one scene with no actual time shift in the movie. And it's all so well made that you KNOW it's intentional and they're fucking with you. It's like this movie doesn't take place in one parallel universe but ALL of them at once. It's so damn unsettling, I loved it.

Another interesting element is the Detroit backdrop with all the abandoned buildings. It looks like the level of decay that exists there today and wouldn't have 30+ years ago, which just adds to the dysphoria. Plus, creepy abandoned stuff is just awesome, especially in an effective horror movie. I've seen movies that were so dumb, the abandoned setting was the ONLY enjoyable thing. Here, it's just another element to savour. I can't possibly recommend this enough.

Wow, I am on a roll with these modern movies! 5/5 so far and all recommendations. Don't let anyone tell you the horror/thriller genre is dead, sheesh. I think it's the best it's been since the 80s.

Still to go -

1922 - A well-reviewed King adaptation. Can't imagine I won't like it, but we'll find out tonight!

The Ritual - I usually avoid foreign language movies, but this has so much buzz I have to check it out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Spring into horror! Part one

I'm putting my Netflix membership on hold til the new season of MST3k comes out, so I'm watching my queued movies before it runs out. That means scary movies in May, baby!

Creep -

I watched this right before I went to bed. I make poor life choices. :( Seriously, this thing unsettled the SHIT out of me and I don't usually get that scared by scary movies, even ones I can objectively say are scary (like say, Conjuring 2). But Creep... holy shit. This is next level psychological terror, like this will get under your skin. Take the creepiness factor of The Gift, another awesome movie, and multiply it by 10. Definitely watch this if you're prepared to be disturbed on a psychological level, but not right before bed. Don't be like me.

Creep 2 -

I watched this one during the day. IT DIDN'T HELP. :( While this didn't unsettle me down to my toenails like the first one did, that's not because it's any less creepy. I actually think it's creepier in some ways with the psychological manipulation. But in the first movie, much of the tension comes from not knowing who the creep is, what he's capable of. That gets answered in movie one, so while what he's capable of is super fucked up, at least you're prepared for where things might be going.

That said, this movie still goes to some crazy places. This time, the creep approaches his victim as if he's trying to confess, maybe atone for all the terrible things he's done. And the actor is so good that despite seeing the complete mindfuckery he played in the first movie, YOU DON'T KNOW IF HE'S TELLING THE TRUTH THIS TIME OR NOT. Maybe part of him is. He's such a bizarre, unpredictable character that you never really know where he's coming from, and the acting in both movies is superb. I totally recommend these if you like that kind of twisted weirdness. They're not super violent, it's mostly about the mindfuck.

Boys in the Trees -

Well I am 3 for 3 so far, because this one was the best. This is not a horror movie or even a thriller. Despite taking place on Halloween night and having a lot of tension, there's only one actual "scare." I'd call it a supernatural drama. And holy crap, is this thing good. And deep. And weirdly beautiful. It takes place in the 90s, so you get to hear songs like "Lump" and "Glycerine." That won me over pretty fast for nostalgic feels, and then it just gets better and better. I'm not gonna go into much detail because everyone should watch this movie - it's suitable for pretty much anyone except young children - but I was very positively affected.

This had the kind of heart, sensitivity and realness that you don't often see explored in movies about teens. At first you think you're looking at the usual teen tropes but then it dives deep. Everyone here is very real; they let their guard down and you see the person behind the front. It shows the tragedy of how teens, and maybe everyone to some extent, has to front just to survive. And the beauty that happens when you... stop doing that. And even if you at least somewhat guess what's going on, like I did, there's still a lot of suspense and mystery that is a joy to explore along with the two main characters. You will come to know and love these boys like friends during the course of this movie. This will be a new Halloween staple for me. While it isn't really "scary," it captures the essence of Halloween with some beautiful shots and set design, as well as perfectly capturing that limbo between childhood and adulthood through the lens of Halloween.

I'm confident nothing will top Boys in the Trees, if I rated movies that would be like a 9.5 for me (only Beetlejuice and Pulp Fiction are 10s). But yeah, I liked it that much. So I'm gonna wait a couple days to continue my little marathon, but here's what else is coming up -

It Follows
The Ritual
1922
rewatch The Visit, if I have time
rewatch more old Buffy eps, if I have time

EDIT - I forgot They Look Like People

Monday, April 16, 2018

Update

Well my life is being... lifey again, except maybe in a positive way this time? So yeah, updates here may be few and far between. I'm glad I got that Kacey Musgraves post out. In case I don't update for months, here are a few points.

~ Ashley McBryde's album is fire and a half. I love it. A contender for my album of the year and song of the year for "Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega." I will talk about it more at length in my year-end review, if not sooner. Let's just say, when I heard "Dive Bar" it kinda felt like a "Kerosene moment." The first time I heard Miranda was that song, and it was... not really life-changing, but life-affirming? Reaffirming my love for country music that was kinda dormant at the time? Yeah, that's what happened with Ashley McBryde. And, like Miranda, her album lived up to my hopes.

~ I listened to Brandi Carlile's album a couple months ago. While I did like it, it didn't stick with me the way her last album did. I think part of it was the production. I will listen to it again with fresh ears towards the end of the year. Sometimes there are just albums where you go, "it's good," but don't feel compelled to listen often. idk.

~ The next album I listen to will be Blackberry Smoke. I haven't been in much of a new listening place lately, other than singles. Sometimes I really like the low commitment factor of singles lol. I'm digging the new Carrie Underwood and Drake. Having Carrie back just feels right. The new Weeknd songs aren't doing much for me, too downbeat and moody. "Pray for Me" is still great though.

What else is coming out this year? I had heard Best Coast at some point, but that info seems to have vanished. hmmm. Apparently something is going on with System of a Down, but I'm not gonna get my hopes up about that. Would be amazing, and timely, if they did release new music though. Oh! Pistol Annies later this year, I think? I hope so. Panic at the Disco in a couple months, that could be a fun summer album based on the two songs I've heard. Oh and Ashley Monroe soon, I think.

Other artists I really want new music from ~ Eric Church, Cage the Elephant, The Pretty Reckless, and um, Weezer, but only if it doesn't suck 😇

Movie-wise, A Quiet Place was AMAZING, and the trailer for Hereditary also looked amazing. Fresh new horror movies give me life.

Okay, I think that's it! If something blows my mind I might pop in to talk about it, but this place will probably be tumbleweeds for awhile.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

New Music ~ Kacey Musgraves

Okay, I was gonna do a multi-album review later, but I think I need to talk about this one now. Not because of all the noxious internet bluster - noxious internet bluster's just another Tuesday - but because I keep listening to it. In fact, ima do myself a happy little mental health favour and ignore all the bluster entirely. Turn off the noise, turn on the music.


Because this album - I've been trying to figure out just the right way to describe it. "It sounds like spring" was my first thought, one that was echoed by ARTV on his review. (I really enjoyed his video on the album BTW - none of the toxic "country vs non-country" stuff, he just talks about the music.) My second thought, and one I'm a little surprised more people haven't picked up on, is that it sounds like a happier Rilo Kiley album. Maybe I'm the only person who still cares about RK in 2018, idk, they were a very meaningful band in my life. But I'd be shocked if Kacey wasn't somewhat inspired by Jenny Lewis.

My third thought, and the one I think best describes the album, is it's the living embodiment of one of those "no bad vibes" signs. Cause this album is good vibes, and the fact that it's making some people lose their shit (apparently) is kind of hilarious.

I will say this once, despite some country instrumentation I don't consider this a country album. I'll call it indie pop with Americana leanings, and mostly, I DON'T CARE. I'm done with the whole "this isn't country" thing. If I like it, I like it. If it has a drum machine on it it's probably not country, and I'm probably not gonna like it either, so who cares? This isn't that at all, this isn't a sell out, there's nothing on here that even sounds like a radio single. This is an album. One of my favourite Kacey songs is "Dandelion," so I've always been a fan of her airier side, and that's mostly what we get here. The main focus is Kacey's voice, literally and figuratively, and the instrumentation and production is nice and subtle in a way that lets her breathe.

When I discussed Pageant Material, I was generally positive but felt she was a little stuck in the same rut of Same Trailer. There weren't a whole lot of thematic differences, despite standout songs like "Dimestore Cowgirl" and the title track. Golden Hour doesn't have those real standout tracks to me, but it works better as an album overall. At the end of my Pageant Material discussion, I said I hoped she would go in a different direction on her next album for fear of growing stale. There are only so many songs you can make about small-minded people in small towns and mind your own biscuits. And she did it. This album is a departure, and it works.

My biggest fear with Kacey, despite her beautiful voice and miles of talent, was her songwriting would prove one-dimensional over time. This album reveals a new dimension, and somehow shows more depth in lighter, more transcendent songs than yet more snarky or dour material would. They're different, but still introspective. This isn't dumb, fluffy pop music. Nor is every song happy. "Mother" is a simple but affecting song about separated family members missing and thinking of each other, with kind of a cosmic vibe. "Lonely Weekend" isn't really a sad song, it's more about learning to be okay with being alone sometimes. "Happy & Sad" is an incisive and relatable look into Kacey's mind, "I'm the kind of person who starts getting kinda nervous, When I'm having the time of my life." SAME, girl, same. Damn, I feel that song.

She lets herself be fully open and thankful on "Oh What a World," a breath of fresh air I would call the biggest standout of the album. She just wants to take a moment to be happy and feel the magic of the world. Such a simple thing, yet how often do any of us really do it? "Rainbow" is another favorite, a quite beautiful song that assures us storms will pass and we'll be alright, there's always been a rainbow there. (The "rainbow" kind of seems like God, and faith? Maybe that's just how I took it. Maybe it's just about positive energy. Either way, it works.) Believe me, I know the feeling of being so deep in a rut, you don't even realize when you're happy cause you're so used to being sad.

This album won't have any "hits," but I do think it will resonate with people in this weary world. Because while it is uplifting overall, it isn't empty platitudes. Kacey knows how hard life can be, she clearly understands anxiety and depression, and while there are no easy answers sometimes the only answer is to just let yourself feel. Let yourself be happy, even if sometimes it's hard and we're our own worst enemy. As she says on "Slow Burn," "I'm gonna do it my way, it'll be alright." On her past albums there was kind of this theme of "the world is theirs" (the small-minded, conformist types) and we just have to roll our eyes and get high or whatever. On Golden Hour it's more "the world is OURS." Her perspective seems bigger, brighter, and more open.

While I wouldn't say this is my favorite Kacey album, at least not yet, I got a lot out of this. I loved seeing this different side of her and relating even more. It's a change, but as we saw with Paramore and Kesha last year, sometimes a change will do you good. Now that we've seen this more personal side of her music, I'm more excited than ever to keep following... I'm sorry I'm sorry... her arrow. Sigh. You know I had to do it.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

New music ~ Miranda Lambert & Panic!

I was gonna discuss Keith Urban's horrifying new Frankensong more, but meh. It's bad. Don't listen to it. The end. If you want a new take on "Mama Tried," listen to Angaleena Presley's kickass "Mama I Tried."

DO listen to Miranda Lambert's "Keeper of the Flame," which is not a new song but her latest single, and one of my favourites from Weight of These Wings. Not only is it good, it sounds like it could genuinely be a hit. (That is, if radio actually plays it.) It's catchy, anthemic, and the theme fits the Stapleton-led direction I think country is trying to go right now. While the song itself sounds much more modern than traditional, the sentiment comes across in the tasteful instrumentation and Miranda's always-impassioned vocals. It's a good look for 2018, and I hope it sticks around. (I should probably relisten to Weight of These Wings, but damn it's so long...)

Soooo I can't lie, I kinda like Panic! At the Disco, random punctuation and all. I know, I know. Their last album Death of a Bachelor was kind of a guilty pleasure for me, not because I think it's bad - in fact, Brendan Urie is an amazing vocalist - but because this band is kinda for teenagers, right? I feel a little silly listening to them, it would be like listening to my old Smurfs albums and wait I would totally do that, never mind.

Anyway, they released two songs from their upcoming album and I gotta say, they're energetic and infectious AF. Not the kind of thing I usually listen to, but that's the beauty of it. It's not organic, like at all, but it does interesting, creative things with the production and Brendan Urie is as dynamic as always. I guess I'd call it dance rock, if something so synth-y could be called rock at all. It just goes a little harder than anything I'd call "pop." I think this might be what Fall Out Boy was trying to do, once again proving that Panic is better. And now that I'm done rambling like a 13 year old on livejournal, I'll just say this music probably isn't for most people who'd be reading a country and rock blog, and that's okay. If I dig it, I'm gonna talk about it. I'm actually looking forward to this album, with the most intriguing title of Pray for the Wicked.

2018 has been a decent year for music so far, and it's primed to get even better. Don't let me down.

tbt ~ 2000s country (Warning: unintended rant)

I've been having serious 2000s music nostalgia lately. It started with indie stuff like The Shins, New Pornographers, of Montreal, etc., and eventually drifted into country. I still listen to a lot of these songs, but there were also some half-forgotten gems. Lady Antebellum's early stuff sounds so pure and good. Catchy, well-produced pop country at its best. Randy Houser used to have grit and swagger to complement his vocal chops. And, because I'm the queen of bad timing, I was all set to praise Keith Urban's old stuff for actually being a cool mix of pop sensibilities and country instrumentation. Then he released something that can only be described as an atrocity, a desecration of the sacred "Mama Tried." With the "Issues" chick, of all people! Not just a pop singer, a TERRIBLE one! Don't go looking for it, I beg you. It's unholy. It will haunt you forever. But hey, that early stuff's still pretty decent.

A link, since the mythical "embed playlist" option has never shown up for me.

https://open.spotify.com/user/emperorcupcake22/playlist/41R14VqvoS5Zbc2mMIvlDU

A few notes on the playlist. It's mostly in order by year, with a few exceptions of songs I forgot. Why you can't reorder songs is beyond me. We sent people into space 50 years ago but I can't have the technology to move a Chris Young song up a playlist. Okay, sure.

...I think that Keith Urban song made me a little salty. Can you blame me?

The list is not necessarily "the BEST country hits of the 2000s!" but the ones I know and remember most fondly. Nostalgia plays a part in some cases, but they're all songs I like. Mostly just the hits, though I did include a few album cuts from certain artists.

Notable exclusions:

As I've stated many times, I left country music almost completely behind in the early 2000s, due to the post-9/11 divisiveness. I started to come around in the mid-2000s but didn't fully come back until I heard Miranda Lambert the first time. So NO songs that remind me of the awful "stick a boot in yer ass" era of country were included. Not even Alan Jackson's comforting, apolitical "Where Were You," the only one of those songs I like. Nor the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice," which I also like but reminds me of bad vibes I don't need in my life. I'm a forgiving soul so I did include Toby Keith's "Beer for My Horses," an actual good song. (The same cannot be said for "She's a Hottie," which should by all decency be Toby Keith's worst song, but isn't.)

This last one hurts. One of the first songs that drew me back into country was Buddy Jewell's "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)," a beautiful, simple song based around a child's questions about death, the afterlife, and God. This could be overly sentimental if done wrong, but it was done just right, with a beautiful melody and instrumentation to go along with it. The kind of song you come to country music for.

Cue a few years ago when I heard the song and was like, "HMM, I WONDER WHAT BUDDY JEWELL IS UP TO, HE WAS PRETTY GOOD," and BIG MISTAKE, guys. Maybe don't look up people from the past unless you wanna be disappointed, cause... look. I'm not gonna shun an artist for having different beliefs than me. I hate politics, and when you let it get in the way of music, politics wins, not you.

That said, I can't stress enough that bigotry is not a belief or political stance. White supremacy is a mental illness, as far as I'm concerned. So if you must, google Buddy Jewell "This Ain't Mexico," but I recommend you don't. I'm careful to not throw the word "racist" around like a football, but if this song is any indication, the man is an honest-to-God racist. I can maybe forgive "stick a boot in yer ass," but I can't forgive outright racism. Dude actually talks about loving fajitas and margaritas but DON'T SET FOOT OVER THE BORDER, AMIGO. So... how are they supposed to deliver the food you wanna shove in your taco hole without actually being there, genius? Chuck it over the border and hope someone in Texas catches it? "We like your food, but we don't want you here." FUCK. YOU. IN. YOUR. TACO. HOLE. So yeah, that's why a song I like isn't on my playlist. I can't even listen to it without thinking that the little girl must be white or he wouldn't be singing about her, and all the sentiment goes out the window along with your margarita puke, you fat redneck fuck.

Okay. That felt kinda good. I'm done now. :)

You know, I considered skipping the early years of the decade and starting in like, '04 to avoid all these ugly feelings coming back. But there were just too many good songs to leave out, so I'm gonna end on that positive note instead. I'd say overall it was a pretty good decade for country music, especially the mid-to-late part. Definitely worth revisiting.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two more new country singles

By two more dudes, obviously.

Here we have Jake 'n Blake, which I'm sure makes delicious fried chicken (and I helped!), but how is it musically?

Well, ever since his promising start back in the day, Blake Shelton has gotten both worse and more famous. Maybe someday I'll understand why that's a thing. (See also: Luke Bryan.) From egregious bro-pandering like "Boys Round Here" to all the forgettable mid tempo AC sludge that I've, well, forgotten, Blake is someone I've long stopped caring about. His new song is called "I Lived It," and while it may be just more forgettable AC sludge to some, this one actually kinda speaks to me.

It gives me a 90s feel, not because it necessarily sounds like a 90s song, but it takes me back to those days when I loved country music. Which is maybe the point, considering it's about nostalgia and growing up in a bygone era. I mean #relatable, amirite?? But it's nothing that hasn't been done before, from Bucky Covington's "A Different World" to ironically, Miranda's "Automatic." And nostalgia is a tricky subject for me. If you hit my sweet spot you got me, but if it strikes me as "80s/90s kid pandering," it really pisses me off. I don't like some cynical asshole trying to cash in on my nostalgia. And some people may see this song as just that, but to me it feels real. Real enough. It's not as good as "Automatic," or something like Trace Adkins' "You're Gonna Miss This," but I enjoy listening to it. It gives me a good feeling. And Blake has always had a good voice that's been sadly wasted. Please, keep giving these songs to him and not no-talent personality voids like Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett.

I'd like to say I like Jake Owen's new song, but... hooooo boy. Why are we still trying to make "American Kids" in 2018? I liked that song more than most, but it wasn't THAT great. This is another nostalgia song, and this time it hits all the wrong notes. It wasn't enough we had to endure Keith Urban's assault on John Cougar, now Jake here is taking a crack at him. What has he ever done to you guys?? Can these kind of songs just die already? At least Blake is talking about a unique experience and not piggybacking off an 80s song. (I know Blake didn't write "I Lived it," but he sings it like he did, which I guess counts for something.) Jake can do so much better than this, so why doesn't he?

I guess the bright side is, at least they're giving me stuff to talk about. I don't remember a single hit "country" song last year outside of the highest highs ("Tin Man" and Stapleton) and the lowest low ("Body Like a Pothole"). Everything else was so boringly in the middle.

I also want to make one more point about this whole Bebe Rexha/FGL debacle before hopefully retiring the subject forever. While I think country radio should be for country and country-adjacent music (no, Chris Stapleton isn't purely "country," but he fits), I don't mind artists going outside their genres at all. If pop and country people wanna work together, why the hell not?

The problem is, more often than not this has the opposite result of what you might think. Expanding beyond genre should push down walls and open up creativity, right? But that's not what's happening. Instead we're getting the most flavourless, middle of the road songs imaginable, from "Meant to Be" to Maren Morris' almost tragically aptly-named "The Middle." Since it's clearly not about exploring creative options, the only logical conclusion is it's about making a buck. So I don't wanna hear any sanctimonious crap about "pushing boundaries" from people like Bebe Rexha. BULL. SHIT. That's one of the least "boundary pushing" songs I've ever heard. You wanna genre-hop, do it, but MAKE GOOD MUSIC. This lazy monogenre crap is killing creativity rather than igniting it.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Friday Random Silliness

When you're a kid, sometimes the first place you hear a classic song is in a commercial. So now, no matter how many years go by or how many times I hear the song, the words to Love Me Tender will always be "love me tender, love me true, feed me something new." Curse you, dog food industry!





Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Music Update

My current plan is to do a three-fer review of Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, and Blackberry Smoke in probably mid-April, so the albums have time to sit with me. That will still be one album per month, but gives me more listening time.

A nice February surprise for me was the Black Panther soundtrack, especially since I'm not usually a hip hop fan. Well some of the songs have a more r&b vibe, like "All the Stars" and "Pray for Me," and I've been listening to those a lot. I won't be doing an album review, but it's always nice when something pulls me into different genres. I can feel my mind expanding. It's a little tingly. Ahhhh.

I looked at the country chart today. Why, why did I do that. Okay, here we go.

I've heard good things about Ashley McBryde, I need to check her out.
EDIT: Yeah, I like this. I like this a LOT. Her album's coming out in March, so I might just make that review a four-fer. "Here's to the breakups that didn't break us." This is my kind of country song. Beautiful strong voice, a little Sara Evans. Okay, this is why I look at the charts. Every once in a while there's a gem I might miss.

That new Zac Brown Without the Band song is in the country top 40. Seriously, screw him for saying one thing and doing another for the almighty profit. I'd be fine with him making a pop song for pop radio, but this shows an utter lack of integrity from an artist I used to count as a favorite.

There's a Chase Rice song called "Three Chords and the Truth." Ha. Hahahahaha. I haven't heard it, but I'm guessing it's another attempt at de-broification. More like "Three Chords and the Truth Is I Haven't Known What the Hell to Do With My Career Since 2015." Live by the Axe body spray, die by the Axe body spray, bro.
EDIT: Okay I broke down and listened to this thing and it's still pretty bro-ey, just more toned down. But it's a girl in a car and drinking and name-dropping old songs and YAWN. Do these people ever do anything but travel in cars? I'm getting some Birdemic-level driving here.

Morgan Evans. Dylan Scott. Michael Ray. Chris Lane. Morgan Wallen. Jordan Davis. Devin Dawson. This is all the same person. Prove to me it isn't, I'll wait.

Dierks Bentley has a song called "Woman, Amen," apparently following in the footsteps of Keith Urban's "Female." How nice. Now can we have more actual women on the charts who aren't Bebe freaking Rexha? Amen.

I feel like I'm too old to unironically listen to someone called "Scotty" tbh.

In my last post I raised the question, Will Maren Morris ever make another good song? The answer appears to be no, no she will not. This "Rich" song... okay, I will say it has more personality than anything else I've heard from her since "My Church." But it sounds bad, like really really bad. The production is a mess, just noise being thrown in my ears. Like it genuinely sounds like it wasn't mixed right. I guess we have "busbee" to thank for that, whoever and whatever that is. I'm going with "cartoon bee from the 90s." And to that I say, buzz off! Hahahahahahkillme.

And um yeah, this thing totally takes from "The Joker" by Steve Miller Band, of all things. As a classic rock fan, this is something I could get behind if done right, but it sounds awful and her level of rock swagger is nil. (With the right production, Carrie Underwood could maybe pull this off.) And it's not awful because it's "not country." I'm no purist, there's plenty of pop country and rock country I dig the hell out of. Just make music that sounds good, that's all I ask.

Artists should be able to express themselves and make the music they want without feeling pigeonholed. Telling an artist they MUST make country music, and it must adhere to some arbitrary standard, is about as conducive to creativity and making good music as all the shit I hate on the other side of the argument (autotune, drum machines, etc). But here's the thing. If you're gonna lay claim to a defined genre of music, by all means feel free to experiment with it. But do it with some form of respect. If you give off the impression you don't actually care about country at all, then you shouldn't be marketed that way. The point of country shouldn't be to be as not-country as possible while still maintaining the tiniest shred so you can go, "See? See, that's country!" I mean... why do it if you don't like it?

Country music isn't about somebody hitting you upside the head with a banjo and telling you to play it or else, it's about taking the banjo and other traditions and making them your own. It's about having enough passion for what the genre is, and has been, to find your own lane on the highway. If your music shows no actual connection to country, why lay claim to it at all? I mean, I'm not gonna fly to France and say I'm French.

Monday, February 26, 2018

You know what's a WAY better song and sentiment than "Most People Are Good?" Montgomery Gentry's "Some People Change." This is a more realistic view of the world that still has a positive message without the whitewashing. Don't give up hope, some people change. You know, the ones that aren't good... at least not all the way through.

The Inevitable De-Broification of Bro Country

Before I comment on the quality of the music, can I just say lol? Like, lololololol? Because sometimes pop culture is so predictable and stupid I'm ashamed to be a part of it.

Bro country's been (mostly) dead for a while now, but it's like all the poor lost bros suddenly got torches lit under their asses to not be bros anymore, and stat!, and come up with something Deeper. Deeper, with a capital D. But is there any actual substance here, or just pandering?

Case 1. Marry Me, by Thomas Rhett

I already talked about this one, which turned out to be the warning shot. The non-bro Bat Signal to the rest of the Bat Bros. Or whatever. I'm losing this narrative fast, but not as fast as country music lost its narrative. Zing! Anywayyyy... my takeaway was that, while the song is decent, Rhett's vocals do nothing for me and he has the emotional range of a wicker basket. A photo of a wicker basket was posted, to much snickering glee on my end because I am twelve. And yeah, that's how I still feel. Give the song to a more emotive, gifted vocalist, say Chris Young, Darius Rucker, or Randy Houser, and you've got something.

Case 2. You Make It Easy, by Jason Aldean

Jason Aldean's a weird one for me. This is the guy who made "The Truth" and "Night Train," two songs I love. I don't love his voice, but it's fine enough to carry some good songs. But this is also the guy who made "Burnin' it Down" and "Dirt Road Anthem," and the tonal dissonance kinda makes you think he's just a singer for hire, not an Artist with Something to Say. And never have I felt that more than with this song. Oh it's way, WAY better than either of the latter, but... dude is trying to be Chris Stapleton. It's like, SO OBVIOUS. And there's only one Chris Stapleton. His voice and songwriting come from a real place, a desire to create and express genuine emotion through music. Aldean is riding a trend, and he'll ride the next trend, and the next. While he's not devoid of talent, it's hard to have much respect for him. Also, the couple times I've heard this song I finished the chorus off with a rousing "like Sunday morning!" which was oddly satisfying.

Case 3. Most People Are Good, by Luke Bryan

Well, there's a pandering title for you. Look, this isn't a bad song, and I do like an opportunity for Luke to remind people he can actually sing. I used to like this guy, after all. I just wish he'd show off his voice on something a little less middle of the road. Like "all lives matter," "most people are good" seems like a fitting rallying cry for these divisive times, ON THE SURFACE. I mean, most people want to hear they're good. But it's pretty easy to compartmentalize this shit, you know? Take Mr. Middle America Johnson, he's a good guy, always helps his neighbours, always donates to the church bake sale, claps extra loud for his kids in the school play even though they suck, you know, a great guy.

But dig a little deeper and all his neighbours and congregation and kids are white, and he doesn't know any people of colour or gay people (that he knows of). And maybe he's got some subconscious, casual bigotry that causes him to vote for those who actively seek to harm such people who are outside of his own circle. Does this make Mr. Johnson a bad person? Not necessarily, but it doesn't really make him good either, and that's why these sweeping messages don't work for me. I realize the point was probably to make it not political, but I don't think my point is political. THAT'S the problem, that things like being a bigot or not are considered "politics." I say this because I feel this song is for Mr. and Mrs. Middle America Johnson, and I think you have to look below the surface level there. Saying someone is good doesn't really help anyone; bursting the bubble they live in does.

I do like how he said no one should be ashamed for who they love. That's actually... really damn progressive for Luke Bryan and this kind of song, so good on ya. But overall, I think "Humble and Kind" does this better. It's reminding you to BE humble and kind, not saying that most people ARE humble and kind. Which is a flat ass lie, obviously.

I'll end this with how Tom Servo replied to "Only the good die young:" "Most people are morally ambiguous, which explains their random dying patterns." Because there's a MST3K quote for everything, and it's gonna be my new (non)hit country song.

Case 4. Break Up in the End, by Cole Swindell

AKA The Dance 2018, but with all the power stripped away. Okay, this isn't a bad song either. If it hadn't immediately struck me as wanting to be The Dance, and failing, I'd probably like it more. I'd definitely like it more if, like "Marry Me," it was sung by a more emotive vocalist. Bless his heart, he's trying, but Cole Swindell wishes he had the emotional range of a wicker basket. He has the emotional range of a bowl of poi.


This isn't Cole's first non-bro rodeo, in fact "You Should Be Here" was probably one of the first big shifts away, back in 2015. I feel bad criticizing that song, it's about his actual dead dad, but look... like these other songs, it just didn't hit me emotionally. The detail wasn't there, there was no raw emotion in his voice. If anything, this new song hits me a little more, just because it IS the same theme as The Dance, and it actually has pretty nice sounding production.

EDIT: I discussed "You Should Be Here" here. I called it "grief lite." Damn, 2016 me was cold. http://mrsrowsdower.blogspot.ca/2016/05/#7215373552480327262

Actually, another thing I wrote there pretty much sums things up. "If you wanna have a hit, make a song that will somehow resonate with everyone despite actually resonating with no one."

We're at the point where the biggest compliment you can give a song on country radio is that it "sounds country". That sucks, but maybe songs like these are how we start to equalize. These are probably some of the best, if not the best songs on country radio right now, and you can either take that as a sad indictment or a stepping stone. Things aren't great yet, but maybe this will lead to some actual great songs being heard. Or maybe it won't. I mean, I wish it didn't all feel so calculated. But I'll give these bros the same grade I gave Justin Timberlake: "You tried." It's better than "You're a lazy sack of shit," at least. We still have to solve the woman problem, but maybe having less toxic songs on the radio is at least a start? idk. I mean, there's also something out there called "Singles You Up," so we might just be heading for the apocalypse.

So what's next? Will Sam Hunt's next single just be a tastefully EDM-laced recording of him singing in the church choir? Will Florida Georgia Line ask to duet with someone actually talented, and get laughed all the way to Alabama? Will Brantley Gilbert find his way out of his own asshole? Will Maren Morris EVER make another good song??

Stay tuned, I guess?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

RIP Daryle Singletary :(

Well shit, I just saw that Daryle Singletary died. What the hell?? He was younger than Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and Keith Urban. Man, I wish his career could have stuck around like theirs did. He was great. "Amen Kind of Love" is in my top 10, if not top 5 favorite 90s country songs. I mean, if I was gonna use a single song to illustrate the kind of feel good country I like, here it is. Time may have passed him (and many other 90s artists) by, but I never forgot him and never will.



Music randoms

Okay, what's been going on here. Well, I've mostly been going over The Shins' discography and enjoying myself. Sooo many amazing songs in their catalogue, and Heartworms just grows on me with every listen. But then I got tired of enjoying myself, I guess, and decided to look at another trainwreck. Or at least a minor wreck, not the complete derailment and everything on fire sort of wreck that Fall Out Boy was.

So, I've never listened to a Justin Timberlake album. He's not my kind of artist, I never cared about 90s boy bands, I listened to pretty much nothing but country when the whole N*sync vs Backstreet Boys war was raging. Perhaps someday we'll read of it in history books. Anyway, I didn't pay him much attention until his duet with Chris Stapleton on "Tennessee Whiskey," which blew me the hell away. It's a good song to begin with, and wow did their voices sound great together. So having heard that the album would be more organic and rootsy (no, I never expected it to be "country"), and that Stapleton had a feature, I gave it a listen. Or rather, other than "Say Something," I gave it a preview, cause there was no way I was listening to that whole long ass album.

I didn't like "Filthy", and it seemed that releasing one of the least organic, rootsy songs I've ever heard as a leadoff single was either terrible marketing or an indication the album would not be as advertised. Turns out, it was kinda both. The song sounds like there's a robot drowning in the background, which makes me sad honestly, and who the hell wants to think about filthy hands preparing meat? You might as well just call your song "Salmonella." The overly obvious sexual metaphor is not sexy or helpful; I'm still just thinkin' about bacteria. Overall, I will give JT props for trying something a little different. I think he failed, but so many pop stars don't try at all since they don't have to, and I feel like there was at least an attempt at genuine artistry here. I mean, it doesn't feel cash-grabby, which automatically lends it sincerity. I just wish it was any good.

The only song I really care about, "Say Something" with Stapleton, is... okay. Just okay. Their voices still sound good together but it's nowhere near the powerhouse that "Tennessee Whiskey" was. I'm mostly left underwhelmed and feeling like I should just listen to a Stapleton album instead. What it did do is put Chris Stapleton in the top 10 of the pop charts. I don't think it will last, but at least we can say that happened in 2018.

What I got from the rest of the album wasn't so much "OMG this sucks!" as "You tried." I feel like in trying to be "deeper," he only revealed how shallow he is. He's the Anti-Kesha. Any attempted rootsiness does not feel organic, it feels like more of a pose. And the thing is, I don't think it is a pose, because to what end? I think it's genuine but still comes off feeling tryhard, because it just doesn't work.

On a more positive note, I finally checked out two more albums from last year, thanks to the Grammys of all things. First up was Lorde's Melodrama. I don't know if I've talked about Lorde here, but I like her. I enjoyed her first album, with "Tennis Court" being my favorite track. Her minimalist style doesn't blow me away, but it definitely has its place. It's a much better coffee house soundtrack than your typical boring White Guy with Acoustic Guitar. You know, like Arthur Johnson or whoever that guy was. Jack James? Anyway yeah, Lorde. While nothing hit me quite like "Tennis Court," I think Melodrama is overall a stronger album. It's very listenable if you're in the right mood, without any bad tracks. My favorite is "Homemade Dynamite." In fact, the little interlude where she goes, "Now you know it's really gonna blow *boom*" is probably my favorite two seconds in music last year. I also liked "Liability," "The Louvre," and "Perfect Places."

Next was Awaken, My Love! by Childish Gambino and yeah, this one's an honourable mention for my favorite albums. I put off listening to this because I loved "Redbone" so much and was afraid the album wouldn't hold up. Happily that was not the case, the whole album has that sweet vibe. There are a couple skippable songs here - his voice sounds really annoying on "California" - but overall this is a soulful, funky and dare I say, groovy experience to let wash over you. Groovy with a deliciously dark edge that sets it apart. I'll be playing this a lot come summer. Favourites other than "Redbone" are "Me and Your Mama," "Boogieman," and "Have Some Love."

Finally, "Finesse" keeps growing on me more every time I hear it. I LOVED New Jack Swing and still listen to quite a few songs from that era. So Bruno Mars making a Bell Biv Devoe style song? Yeah. HELL yeah. Not only do I hope this is the huge hit of the year like "Uptown Funk" was, I hope it brings back more of that sound. Fun, upbeat pop music with a great beat, what??! Pop music doesn't have to be dour, depressing, midtempo sludge? Why that's just crazy talk, sir. 🧐

New Brandi Carlile in a few days, so that will likely be my next post.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

tbt ~ Patty Loveless

A reminder that mainstream country used to sound like this, and there were women who weren't pop starlets. Lots of 'em.*



*just off the top of my head - Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, Pam Tillis, Sara Evans, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss, LeAnn Rimes, Highway 101 (female vocalist), The Judds, Reba, and Tanya Tucker. And yes, Shania, who is pop but totally has her own sound and personality. You're not gonna confuse Shania with anyone else, unlike today's few "country" women who aren't Miranda or Carrie.

Am I gonna keep hammering this into the ground? You betcha! This post was partly inspired by this lovely rant. https://www.savingcountrymusic.com/its-a-commercial-its-a-pop-song-its-zedd-maren-morris-in-the-middle/
Maren Morris quickly went downhill for me after "My Church," and now she's working with "Zedd." Pretty sure he's come up here before but I don't remember for what. Ah right, the "feral cat playing a didgeridoo" song. Lovely. http://mrsrowsdower.blogspot.ca/2016/12/#8949893238014244308

I think the "bro" era is well and truly done with, Body Like a Mud Pit killed it once and for all, but there's still a long way to go in bringing women back. So I'll be back in the 90s, or listening to artists like Angaleena Presley, til the industry gets its head out of its butt. Well, you'll be waiting a mighty long time, you might say, but the 90s weren't THAT long ago. Is the road between there and here really so broken it can't be fixed? I know THE INTERNET is always the big scary monster that killed everything, and radio is scrambling to stay afloat, but... women WERE successful in the 90s. It's not like, "oh we can't afford to carry women anymore, sorry," when they've already been proven hitmakers. I don't get what's changed about that. All I know is country women deserve to be more than just be a throwback.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Music Monday ~ Updated Favorite Albums of 2017

Isn't it nice when I get to update a best list, as opposed to all the updates to my 2016 worst songs? Yeah, some great albums came out last year, and I didn't listen to half of them until this month because life can be kooky. This might still be updated on my listening journey but I feel pretty confident posting it now, especially in light of my latest discovery.

1-4 are in order, 5-10 are random.

1. Still Creeper, because nobody beats Creeper, or The Wiz.
2. Still Paramore, by a slight edge.
3. Alvvays ~ Antisocialites. What I think the Sundays would sound like in 2017. Even the album title fits.
4. Jaime Wyatt ~ Felony Blues. In light of all the great music I've listened to, this still hangs on at #4 despite its short length. Every song here connects and I love the cohesive theme. If it was any longer, maybe some of that theme would be obscured or less powerful, so I can't complain.

5. New Pornographers ~ Whiteout Conditions. How do they do this every single album. "Songcrafting" sounds like a pretentious as hell term but idk what else to call this. Beautiful album, and it's only grown on me once I got past the overwhelming amazingness of Brill Bruisers and stopped comparing the two.
6. The Shins ~ Heartworms. Holy crap, it's the Shins! I hadn't listened to these guys since Chutes Too Narrow, and that was in 2003. I looked it up. So, I listened to this this morning. Then I listened to it again. I wouldn't usually throw an album on a best list on such short notice, but this was indisputable. With all the older acts that disappointed me or I just liked but didn't love last year, The Shins and The New Pornographers nailed it with some classic indie pop. There's even a beautiful folk/Americana-tinged song called "Mildenhall." There are no "skippers" on this album for me, which is why it belongs here.

7. Hurray for the Riff Raff ~ The Navigator. By far the most distinctive and unusual album on this list, this could have been too exotic or artsy for me but it isn't. There's something straightforward about it that just hits me. It takes you on a journey. It's like energetic folk music. Folk with an edge.
8. Angaleena Presley ~ Wrangled. And, country with an edge. I need to check out her first album, but I'm gonna let this one sink in a little more first. It's important. This didn't get nearly as much attention as it should have, but I think it'll be a classic in 10 years. Groundswell, indeed.
9. Kesha ~ Rainbow. Still fucking great. This album will never make me anything but happy.
10. Sunny Sweeney ~ Trophy. Women in country have shit to say, and they're saying it beautifully. Keep making it and I'll keep listening. And again, I think time will be VERY kind to albums like this, even if the current climate isn't. Serious music listeners have long memories.

Honorable mentions:

Chris Stapleton ~ From A Room, Vol. 1. Yeah, the burnout was my fault. This is a really good album. I haven't listened to Vol. 2 yet.
Harry Styles ~ Okay, the uncredited guitar riff aside, I can't deny how much I like this. This is the ONLY album by a top 40 artist last year I'd call "rock." 70s light rock counts. Oh yes, it counts.
Doll Skin ~ Manic Pixie Dream Girl. This is just good, catchy rock music with a little pop punk vibe. If you're in the mood to just rock out, put on Shut Up, Daughter, Persephone, or pretty much anything from this album. There's a riot grrrl* element here, but unlike what keeps me from a lot of that style, the production sounds nice and clean.

*autocorrect changed this to "riot grill," which is absolutely a business I want to open.

This list is heavy on female artists, and that was not intentional. I listened to a LOT of male artists last year, but most of them either disappointed (Weezer, Beck) or were good enough but not up with what I included here (The Killers, The Maine, Zac Brown Band*). I'm so glad that Shins record came along ~ yay, something that actually exceeded my expectations! So while I support seeking out female artists, especially country ones, in this time that's being ridiculously and unfairly prohibitive, this isn't a statement on my part other than "this was my favorite music." If that in itself makes a statement, then I stand by it. :)

*OH, we'll be getting to his ass another time. Welcome Home was decent if not great, though.

And now, MUSIC!



Friday, January 26, 2018

Feel Good Friday

A bittersweet one today, as Lari White passed away this week, but she left us with one of my favorite feel good songs of the 90s. RIP. Thanks for the sunshine.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Music Monday ~ Music Criticism

While I'm not a music "critic," just a discerning listener, I try to take most critiques I do, positive or negative, seriously. Music is important to me. So I want to put out a few points about music criticism that I feel apply whether you're an actual critic or someone like me sitting on your couch in your Hello Kitty pjs.

1. "This isn't for me" vs "This is bad"

This is the most important distinction to make, and one that can be difficult. Of course "bad" is subjective, some people will like something you think is bad, and sometimes you'll even like something you think is bad. So how do I classify "bad" vs just not my taste? The number one answer to that is, LAZINESS. Lack of effort. This is often combined with blindly chasing trends. Hopping on the ol' bandwagon for some quick cha ching.

Let's take all this trap music as an example. In his worst hit songs of 2017 video, Todd in the Shadows said that while it's not for him, that doesn't automatically make it bad. Which is fair. However, in this case, I'd argue that much of this "music" actually is bad. Why is there so much of it? Why does it keep flooding the charts every week? It all sounds the same, the rappers all have the same name like "Lil Bunny Hop" or whatever, so why does it keep coming and coming? I think the answer's pretty obvious. It's cheap and easy to make. It requires very little effort or talent, and most of the lyrics are just the same words repeated over and over. Literally anyone could do this. I'm not saying anyone could do it and be successful, but I am saying the unsuccessful stuff probably wouldn't sound much worse or different from the successful stuff.

This goes double for The Chainsmokers, who are on record as saying they made music for "pussy" and hooking up with "hotter girls." THAT'S NOT HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO WORK GUYS. You get girls by making great music. You get girls by being the fucking Rolling Stones. But they're successful so whatever, guess no one cares but me.

If you make as little effort as possible for as much reward as possible, if I see no discernible talent or artistry in your music, just dollar signs or... horniness, I'm calling it BAD.

2. Being stupid, offensive, or offensively stupid

I put in that last one specifically for "Body Like a Backroad." I'm not offended by the lyrics, but I am offended by the stupidity of the lyrics. Stupid hurts culture. So do misogynistic lyrics, as well as shallow so-called "feminist" lyrics. If I feel your song makes society an actual worse place, I'm calling it BAD.

3. "Experimenting" vs "Selling out"

This has been a big one with "rock" bands the last few years. I put rock in quotes because there really aren't any mainstream rock bands left. In fact, a lot of the bands I'm about to list were never rock rock, so we'll call them "bands that played actual instruments," or BTPAI, instead. Cause that's catchy.

Let's call this the Maroon 5 Effect. Was Maroon 5 ever a rock band? No, not really, but they were a band, and they had some kinda nice funk-pop songs back in the day like "Makes Me Wonder." But they stopped sounding like a band a while ago. A few years ago Imagine Dragons hit it big. I liked their early hits, I mean they were never like ROOOOOCK, but it was solid pop rock. Now I guess they still sound like a band, but a band of what? This is an example of two bands who might have once had integrity, but have successfully "sold out." And it's pretty damn obvious they're not experimenting artistically, they're going straight for the $$.

To be honest, neither of those bands offend me enough to call them "bad." But what have they wrought? In the past year, we've seen a glut of bands that would have fallen somewhere under the "rock" umbrella make these soulless, overproduced pop projects. Pop punk band All Time Low, Linkin Park, Weezer *sigh,* and most recently, Fall Out Boy. And none of them worked. Fans saw through it. It's happened in country too, with artists like Easton Corbin, Randy Houser, and Eli Young Band. Where did they go? Well, they weren't meant to be Sam Hunt, and since they decided to "fix" what wasn't broken, I kinda forgot they all existed til I went through my iTunes yesterday. It was kind of a "wow" moment, like why did these talented people have to go away?

Here's where criticism comes in. Another pop punk/rock band released a pure pop album last year, and it was my second favorite album of the year. Paramore is not only a great band but a great example. Don't automatically criticize a band for changing their sound. Analyze it. Figure out why it works for one album and not another. I can tell you why After Laughter works for me end none of those other albums do.

1. The lyrics resonate, they have something to say, which is an immediate indicator that it's not a "sell out."

2. The production is poppy, but not overdone like on that ear-bleeder of a Fall Out Boy album (and most modern production honestly). It suits the music perfectly.

3. Hayley Williams' voice, nuff said.

4. This last point is more subjective, but since the overall consensus seems to agree with me - it doesn't sound like it's begging to be played on the radio. It sounds organic, like it's own thing, a natural progression for the band. They're not trying to appeal to "the kids," they're just making music.

So change isn't automatically bad. Don't be one of those "I hate it because it's DIFFERENT" people. Because for all the sell out crap, the majority of which, ironically, seems to fail, sometimes there's genuine artistic growth. Even if you're not a critic, critical thinking is one of the most important skills you can hone. While music is made to be felt, there are certain metrics you can use to help determine "good," "bad," "not bad, just not for me," or "bad, but I like it for some reason, send help." Then, when you go off on something for being a piece of crap and someone's like, "you just don't like CHANGE, this is 2018 MAN, we LIKE things that suck!" you can point them to when you did, in fact, like change. They won't shut up, but at least you know you did your job right.

I'm going to end this by saying I listened to "In An Aeroplane Over the Sea" for the first time in years the other day, and it made me VERY EMOTIONAL. Sometimes, it's also good to just turn off your brain and feel the music. Sometimes that's the most honest critique of all.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Album Catchup, Part 2

Angaleena Presley ~ Wrangled

As a Pistol Annies fan this album was on my radar all year, but I didn't get around to it til I heard "Only Blood" on a year end list. And HOLY. PETE. That song reached out and grabbed me by the soul. I listened to the album that night, and wow. This is probably #5 on my 2017 favourites, by the way.

It's kind of like Brandy Clark's Big Day in a Small Town with an edge. The same kind of incisive, slice of life songwriting and effortlessly endearing vocals, but instead of the more narrative tone of Big Day, you get deeply personal stories from Presley's life, complete with lines like "if you bless my heart I'll slap your face." Oh yeah! This is my jam.

Wrangled opens with a very depressing song called "Dreams Don't Come True" that I weirdly love. If a Disney princess didn't get her happily ever after, this would be her song. And man, that's a story I wanna see. Except this is about fame, not love, and how she thought she'd "change the world with three chords and the truth." Well, you've changed my world a little bit, and that probably goes for anyone who's listened to this album, so that's something. It's funny, the second thing I thought of after hearing this song (the first being Disgruntled Disney Princess) was what I wrote about Taylor Swift and the ugliness of fame. Maybe it's better to be a respected critical darling than potential tabloid fodder. The whole world doesn't hear your music, which sucks, cause it deserves to be heard more than anything that's popular, but you're not gonna be writing lyrics like "why? because she's DEAD" either. So net positive, I say.

Every song here is worth talking about, but for the sake of brevity I'll skim a bit. "Outlaw" is an interesting song, gut-punchingly honest like everything on this album. Instead of boasting about being an outsider, she bemoans her lack of mainstream success, saying she is not brave and "Every fight I've ever fought, rule I've ever broke,
Was out of desperation." This is a beautiful moment of vulnerability that really resonates. You kind of get the feeling that since she can't conform even if she wants to ("Mama always said
God broke the mold when he made me
And I've spent my whole damn life
Tryin' to fit back in"), she wishes the mainstream could come to her, even just a little bit. But she's given up hope that will happen, as evidenced by the next song I wanna talk about.

"Country." Hooo boy. At first I wasn't feeling this but then I realized, this isn't a song, it's performance art. This is music in the same way punk is music. It's not meant to be pleasing, it's a means to a message. I appreciate its existence for what it is. "Backwoods, bonfire, here comes the hook, wooah ohhh woooah!" she squawks, off kilter, almost out of control. Then, "yeehaw!" Go get em, girl. 😘

More faves - "Mama I Tried," which brilliantly interpolates the classic "Mama Tried" while giving it a distinctly female bent. "Only Blood" is a fiery murder ballad with a killer bass riff. "Cheer Up Little Darling" interpolates the old spiritual "Farther Along" (one of my mother's staples) and is beautiful, hopeful and sad all at once. "Good Girl Down" has a simple message but is delivered with real swagger and confidence, a necessary feel-good track on an album full of anything but. Life can be pain, but you are who you are and you might as well own it. What else are you gonna do?

I LOVE this album. Angaleena is the voice country music needs right now, even if she's just preaching to the choir and the people who need to hear this won't, this is a statement that will stand the test of time. It's also a damn enjoyable album. I can even sway with "Country," if I'm in the right mood. I recommend whiskey. What, whiskey is a mood.

Okay, I'm gonna keep these next few a bit shorter. I hope. What can I say, Wrangled is a very "me" kind of album. 😇

Doll Skin ~ Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Like Creeper, this is a band that would sound right at home on rock radio, if rock radio wasn't busy still playing Nickelback wannabes. In 2018. Seriously, have you heard that piece of shit "Medicate" song? What bloody YEAR is this?? Anyway, yeah. This is an all-girl rock band, and they rock. They do a kickass cover of Alanis Morrisette's "Uninvited." They have a song called "Puncha Nazi." And crunchy, catchy tracks like "Shut Up (You Miss Me)," "Daughter," and "Persephone" were made to be rock hits. Seriously radio, these guys have hooks and clean, lovely production, there's no reason not to play them. Maybe we can leave 2002 where it belongs and bring some fresh sounds? Also, Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an awesome album title.

Hurray for the Riff Raff ~ The Navigator

Puerto Rican Americana music is something I did not know I needed, but very clearly did. Singer Alynda Segarra's voice has a lovely, rich tone, kind of like a rougher-edged Neko Case. Combined with the unique, subtly Latin-tinged instrumentation, this album feels like an adventure, a road trip through the less-travelled parts of town. The best way I can describe this is timeless. It doesn't sound like 2017, it doesn't sound old, it sounds like music that has always existed, somewhere, and always will. At once foreign and familiar, this is an odd mix of elements that just works. Man, I love music. I like every song here to some extent, but some favourites are "Living in the City," "The Navigator," "Pa'lante," "Rican Beach," and "Nothing's Gonna Change that Girl." This would probably be my #6 for the year.

And finally, a quirky little duo called Diet Cig. I heard about these guys from the Rock Critic (as well as Doll Skin), and I'm glad I did cause, you know, no 120 Minutes anymore. I wonder how many of these weird little alternative acts I've missed throughout the years. Anyway, this would have been one of my favorite albums when I was... 16? 18? 20? Somewhere in there or all of the above. While part of me has kind of outgrown music like this, another part is still 18 and vibing with it.

Singer Alex Luciano reminds me of Juliana Hatfield, which is probably why this takes me back to my teen years. In fact this album really reminds me of the Blake Babies' Sunburn, partly because of her voice but also just the raw, indie energy it exudes. This is a little lightweight for me to really gravitate towards now; I mean, you sure as hell don't wanna spin this after Hurray for the Riff Riff or Angaleena Presley, but it has its place. And 16 year old me is all aglow with edgy music discovery. ;)





I mean, right??

Also, "Barf Day" is my favorite song on the album. I finally have an outlet for my anger over my birthday being ruined last year. One 2017 demon successfully exorcised!

I'm sure I've still only scratched the surface of last year's good music, but I feel like I made progress and enriched my life in the process. It's nice when listening to music doesn't feel so... workmanlike? Anyway, here's a list of artists I'm eagerly awaiting new music from!

Confirmed or stated release in 2018:
Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, Weezer, Pistol Annies, Best Coast

Due for a new album:
Eric Church, Cage the Elephant, System of a Down (haha yeah right), maybe Honeyblood?