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Old 01-05-2019, 12:55 PM   #1 (permalink)
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One of my new year's resolutions is to write everyday, and at least to begin with, a lot of that writing will be about music, so I figured I might as well share some of that on the platform where I first became completely engrossed in music, thanks in large part to journal posts by current and former members here. I've tried similar things before, but I'm a quitter and never had the intrinsic motivation to sit down and write on a consistent basis that I feel like I do now (we'll see about that...) I'll be doing a few different running themes and series that hopefully some of you will find enjoyable and can engage with, but my first few posts will just be a 2018 countdown to get the wheels spinning. As this thing becomes more fleshed out, feel free to hit me with any suggestions or recommendations as I'm pretty much open to anything.

Thanks in advance for even reading this far,
Dustin
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Old 01-05-2019, 04:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Top 25 Albums of 2018 #25

Sheck Wes - Mudboy
Release Date: October 5th, 2018
Genre: Trap Rap
For fans of: Lil Uzi Vert, Waka Flocka Flame, darties that turn into narties

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for party songs. They get me every single time. Even though it was only a few years ago, I look back with nostalgia on crushing Busch Lights in college apartments while screaming along to ‘Trap Queen’ and ‘Jordan Belfort’ among others. I thought that I was the perfect age at the exact perfect time in party music history, and felt bad for those older or younger than I. I had no idea how wrong I was, until earlier this year as I looked upon instagram with crippling FOMO as clips of kids losing their minds to certified banger ‘Mo Bamba’ filled my feed for days on end. Sheck Wes actually released the debut single off Mudboy over a year before dropping the project and it achieving sleeper success as the soundtrack to darties, tailgates and the ultimate measure of popularity in 2018: memes. Frankly, at first I didn’t feel completely comfortable listening to it. I was never in the the right environment, and what’s worse is that it made me feel old. It wasn’t until listening to Wes’s debut in full that I understood him and his unique approach to trap rap enough to really appreciate it.

There could not be a more accurate title for this record than Mudboy. The production and rapping is just that: muddy, dirty, dark stuff that sucks you into a trance, but Sheck has no intention of keeping you there for long, as his jarring and sometimes genuinely funny placement of adlibs jolt you awake. Whether it’s yelling “BITCH” simply because, as he’s stated in interviews, he really likes that word, or crooning “Mudboooooy” in a a pitch so high that he has to be self-aware of how ridiculous it sounds, he wants to keep reminding you that this is supposed to be a fun album.

Or is it? If so, Sheck isn’t doing a very convincing job. From a lyrical standpoint, he rarely sounds like he’s having a good time. On the more upbeat tracks other than ‘Mo Bamba’ such as ‘Gmail’ and ‘Kyrie’ he sounds like your friend at the pregame halfheartedly trying to convince everyone to go to the club, but really doesn’t care either way (a feeling I know all too well) and spends most of the record angry at someone or something, and in some cases EVERYTHING like in the aptly titled ‘**** Everybody’. Sheck Wes is troubled, and that doesn’t come out any clearer than on two of the highlights on Mudboy, ‘Never Lost’ and ‘Jiggy on the ****s’. The former of which references and introduces us to the true story of Sheck Wes’s mother sending him to Senegal at age 17 without his cell phone or passport to punish him for his “bad habits”, and the latter focusing on it as its central theme. On these songs, we got some insight on why the rapper is so mad at and disinterested with the world. Sheck is far from a strong lyricist and other than a handful of references to NBA players, he mostly keeps things surface level. On ‘Jiggy’ he raps: “I’ve been roamin’ these streets / I been roamin’ them alone / In my eyes I see their ****ed up world / In they eyes they see a palace and a home / My mama said that I ain’t never coming home”. Ouch. Now there’s a real gut-punch that doesn’t need any fancy imagery to accompany it. He’s alone, he can’t relate to the people around him and he feels hopeless. And yet, just when we start to think we’ve got him all figured out, he follows this moment with the final two tracks reminding of us how weird and goofy he is by rapping about Danimals (yes, that yogurt with the monkey on it, I know you guys remember it) and his favorite designer socks, respectively.

For someone who’s brain seems to be all over the place, I find it surprising that the major flaw of this record is how one-note it is from a sonic perspective. Like I said above, I like the harsh production and think it brings something different to mainstream trap. However, it never changes over the course of the entire album, and that coupled with Sheck’s bored and distracted flow for the majority of the 50 minute run time has me losing interest and either skipping songs or not making it to the end on virtually every listen. It all sounds so samey. While I did enjoy delving into the reasoning behind why it sounds like Sheck doesn’t even want to be in the booth recording, it doesn’t necessarily translate into engaging content. While I respect Sheck for his uniqueness and vulnerability, something being relatable does not necessarily equate to it being enjoyable, and Mudboy ends up rounding out as more of a novelty experience than a mainstay in my collection.

I look forward to future releases from Sheck Wes, hopefully with some improvement to his technical rapping skills. If you’re a fan of ‘Mo Bamba’, I do suggest checking out the full record, but don’t look for any of the other tracks to be your new song for doing keg stands to. In fact you just might kill the vibe entirely by making everyone at the function question why they’re even there in the first place.

Overall Score: 7.4/10

Highlights: Gmail, Jiggy on the ****s

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Old 01-05-2019, 09:04 PM   #3 (permalink)
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This is a super detailed write up. Great work. Look forward to keeping up with this.
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Old 01-10-2019, 12:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Top 25 Albums of 2018 #24

Pig Destroyer - Head Cage
Release Date: September 7th, 2018
Genre: Metalcore / Grindcore
For fans of: Converge, Nails, Ramming your head through a brick wall

Whenever my college roommate would walk into our apartment and hear any form of metal music wrecking its way through my laptop speaker he knew exactly what was up. “Got a lab report due this afternoon huh?”, “You know it, buddy”. It was my soundtrack to getting **** done. Ambient music may very well be my straight up favorite genre and I know a lot of people turn to that or something similar like classical or instrumental hip-hop for schoolwork or things of that nature, to me things like that just provide more opportunity to drift off and get distracted. There is no sense of urgency there that I desperately need to feel motivated. While I would usually stick to old school standard bearers like Megadeth and Maiden, with fast approaching deadlines, I often needed something much more in your face, and thus led me to my love for metalcore. The harshness and noisiness honestly stressed me out even more than I already was, and that was exactly the motivation I needed to get papers and projects submitted on time. Since those days have passed, I haven’t had much use for metal music, and other than my personal favorite, sub-genre darling Converge, whose albums I’ll spin from time to time, the majority of that corner of my library has remained unplayed. The past six months or so, I’ve been trying with varying success to rekindle my love for metal, and I’ve found the best way to do so is to just enjoy it for what it is and try to have fun with it with the pressure off. Lucky for me, Pig Destroyer released one of the most fun albums of 2018, regardless of genre, to help make that transition much easier for me.

Pig Destroyer is a band I’ve been vaguely familiar with since long before the days of trying to shatter my eardrums while finishing up my biology homework, but I definitely wasn’t open-minded enough to enjoy them in their heyday aside from saving a couple tracks I found bearable from Prowler in the Yard, just so I could throw around the fact they were in my library to make my music taste seem more unique and well-rounded, but I am aware of their status as patron saints of grindcore, and in my opinion one factor that makes a band one of the ‘best’ in their given genre is accessibility to those who aren’t necessarily fans of that genre. Now, some may disagree and harp against ‘entry-level’ albums, but sharing music with others is something super important to me, so that crossover appeal is something I always appreciate, and believe Pig Destroyer provide on Head Cage. (Clearly not everyone shares that sentiment, as the RateYourMusic page for this album is polluted with negative reviews by ‘true fans’)

Excluding the opener, which includes a spoken warning of what’s to come, and an unspoken one in that fact that it is literally just noise, Head Cage is a succinct <30 minutes of screams and squeals about how much we as a society have ****ed up and continue to **** up, layered over aggressive and chaotic riffs that will guarantee you have a good time and get amped up as hell, while confronting the fast and inevitable decline of our planet because of our own misdeeds. On ‘Army of Cops’, vocalist J.R. Hayes, goes bigger picture than just railing against the government, but more so the whole institution of law and order, but us little people don’t get off blameless as he shouts: “Nobody likes our direction / Yet we don’t turn around / Could it be that secretly / We like being kept down?” We’re all hypocrites, and I willingly accept that fact while banging my head to the repeated groovy guitar rhythm that makes this potentially the catchiest track on the album. This lyrical sentiment, and dare I say it, danceability(?), provided by the backing instruments is continued and turned up a notch on the following track, ‘Circle River’, my personal favorite. Hayes switches the perspective to that of ‘one of us’ and goes on about his apathy over continuing on the path to self-destruction all while the heavy and equally angry bassline keeps the listener engaged through another few minutes of deprecation. This is the theme that continues throughout the record’s runtime.

I’ve spent a little more time than I would have expected talking about the lyrics on a grindcore album, but if you’re one of those people who just considers the vocals another instrument for stuff like this, or don’t have the ear (or internet connection) for discerning the words sludged out by J.R., you’ll miss out on one of the weirder and funnier moments in music this year. On ‘The Adventures of Jason and Jr’, we get a break from the existential dread, and are transported into a story told by Hayes where on his way to a concert he has run-ins with Dick Cheney on a jetpack and a swedish lesbian commando team among other seemingly random references. Even if you’re reading this and have no intention of listening to the album, at the very least google the lyrics to this one, I promise you won’t be let down.

The album closer, ‘House of Snakes’, over twice as long as the second longest track, another story-song, though this one about a detective trying to solve a murder case. It doesn’t just differ lyrically either, as it is by far the least aggressive track on the album. It moves along at a significantly slower pace, and the grooviness of before is replaced by more technical, churning riffs. Head Cage contains a lot of train imagery throughout, and that comes full circle here with the feeling evoked by the bassline that remains unchanged throughout the final few minutes. We’re approaching our last stop, and as Hayes reaches the climax of his tale and comes face to face with the murderer (a talking snake), the music doesn’t fade out, but just abruptly turns to quiet static. We’ve arrived at our destination and its time to get off. The silence that comes out of nowhere is jarring and honestly a little uncomfortable. Its not every album that leaves me wondering “Ok, what do I do now?” once its over, but this one certainly does.

Overall, an exciting, wild ride that sucks you in and spits you back out on the other side. I think even those who aren’t fans of the genre can find something here, and this album will always hold a special place to me as one that got me “back in” to metal.

Overall Score: 7.6/10

Highlights: Army of Cops, Circle River

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Old 01-10-2019, 12:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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This is a super detailed write up. Great work. Look forward to keeping up with this.
Thank you I appreciate it! You'll come to find out that I like to talk about myself quite a bit.
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Old 01-11-2019, 03:59 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Top 25 Albums of 2018 #23

Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears
Release Date: June 29th, 2018
Genre: Art Pop
For fans of: Bjork, Tegan & Sara, Posting memes on Tumblr

Growing up in the age of the internet must seem like such a wild, alien thing to our parents. Either that or, probably more likely, they’re so far removed from what we’re doing and the interactions we’re having on these platforms that they think our experience isn’t as vastly dissimilar from theirs as it is. Social media in 2018 is such a smart, captivating, hilarious and heartbreaking ****show, with so many piles of nuances, inside jokes, and unwritten rules that it practically has its own language, and it most certainly has its own culture. Only someone very in-tune with all this could make an album like I’m All Ears, so it came as no surprise to me to find out the two women behind the record are only 19 years old. By honing in on and writing about what they know best, the two musicians who go by the, notably and perhaps intentionally lame, moniker Let’s Eat Grandma, expertly crafted the glitchy and feminine soundtrack to me scrolling through my Instagram feed, liking heavily-filtered pictures of celebrities and strangers “living their best life” and sending my friends memes saying “lol its so me” whether it really is or not. And yet throughout the album, we remain self-aware of the sinister and fake nature of our tech-filled reality.

After an ominous string heavy intro, that honestly gives me more Godspeed You! Black Emperor vibes than synthpop ones, I’m All Ears opens up with the lead single ‘Hot Pink’, an anthem disparaging those who look down or think less of anyone, male, female, nb etc just because they tend to conform to “girly” stereotypes. It begins subdued, but once the chorus hits, the listener is quickly reminded that this is one of the SOPHIE produced tracks, when her signature metallic clang bursts through. Now I’ll admit, I was not a fan of her record this year at all; I found it grating and noisy, but man do those booming, tinny sounds play off LEG’s soft but bitter vocals so well here. On the following track, ‘It’s Not Just Me’, also produced by SOPHIE, we get the first of many perfectly flowing mood switches on the record, as the harshness is traded in for lighter, spacier synths emitting euphoric dance-pop as the ladies trade verses on the feelings of positivity and timelessness that a healthy relationship provides. This romance, like all others, isn’t without its imperfections though. The last line before the first chorus: “I guess I’ll see you when the screen is vibrating” provides a hauntingly familiar feeling of millennial goodbye. On ‘Falling Into Me’ LEG turns back the clock on that relationship closer to its starting point, summing it up beautifully and succinctly in three words repeated throughout over a wall of synths and saxophone: “You / Me / This”.

Though I’m All Ears transitions very well from song to song and mood to mood, there are clearly three distinct sections, the second of which, unfortunately is mostly filler. The bloated, bluesy ballad ‘Snakes & Ladders’ has been done so much better so many times over by other artists, and the two interludes, which are essentially just a couple iPhone ringtones and a sample of a cat snoring, while very fitting for the overall theme, are clear skipping points on repeated listens.

We come back down to Earth on ‘Cool & Collected’, which is simply about being in awe and perhaps even jealous of how put-together and stable the people around you seem, and plays on that more general feeling of just wanting to fit in and be cool. These sentiments echo so deep within me that I wish so badly that this song was better. Containing more traditional backing music, beginning with mostly just guitar and piano, it suffers from being overlong and drags to the point where I’m not sure if its worth it or not to sit through until the admittedly pretty awesome last couple minutes where drums are added to the instrumental and it all comes together very satisfyingly. They strip it down even further to just piano on the penultimate track, ‘Ava’, a melancholy piece about growing pains, which tugs at your heartstrings, but by this point you know when LEG are at their best, and this isn’t it. They refuse to leave you wanting though, as the closer ‘Donnie Darko’ begins with more muted piano, but this time its clearly building towards something. A microcosm of the whole record, LEG runs the gamut of everything they’ve done to this point over an 11-minute epic. This is the kind of song where you start nodding your head along with the beat, and as it swells and progresses, you find yourself tapping your foot as well, then your whole body is into it and before you know it you’re shaking your ass on the dancefloor of the club that is your living room. It’s catharsis. The listener has gone through the highs and lows of navigating the transition to adulthood and found out that its all random and inevitable, so **** it. We’re all awkward, we all make mistakes, and we’ve all said dumb things we wish we could take back, but we can’t. At the end of the day, we’re all growing and changing together, and for better or for worse, thanks to always being connected through social media and a tiny computer in our pocket, our experiences are more visible than they ever have been. Accomplishment, embarrassment, or other, everyone in your network is going to know about it sooner or later, and there’s a weird beauty in accepting that.

When LEG are on, they’re so on it gives me chills, and if by cutting out the material I don’t love, they lose what makes them so charming, then I hope they don’t change one bit. However, I know the duo has the ability to make a record I would love from front to back, and I’m so excited to see what is to come from them. I struggled for a long time with where to place I’m All Ears on my list, and may come to regret putting some others ahead of it, but while containing some of my favorite musical moments of the whole year, looking forward there are many other albums I enjoyed more as a whole.

Overall Score: 7.6/10

Highlights: It's Not Just Me, Donnie Darko

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Old 01-11-2019, 09:48 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quickie: Drunk, Alone, and a Little Sad Playlist Volume 1
Powered by: Cheap red wine

1. Nine Inch Nails - Hurt

Yeah Johnny Cash made it his own potentially better song, but this one will always be the anthem for the angry and hopeless.

2. Feist - Graveyard

God I love gossip girl.


3. Title Fight - Your Pain is Mine Now

Cry, die, boo hoo,

4. Lyle Lovett - South Texas Girl

I've never been to texas, but the closest I've come is listening to this one. A song the old cowboys sing. I don't know what the words mean or anything, but I'll sing because I'm supposed to.

5. Joni Mitchell - Blue

The OG wine drunk and sad tune. To quote the top comment from youtube: "before there was prozac, there was blue"

6. La Dispute - Woman (reading)

Sonically speaking, a pretty clear attempt at a commercial single, it still does the trick.
I pause where I am for a second when I hear your name...fuck

7. The Antlers - I Don't Wan't Love

Well, that's what I keep telling myself anyway

8. Sufjan Stevens - Kill

Pretty ambiguous imagery here. I have an idea of what its about and if I'm right god damn does it hit home.

9. The National - Baby We'll Fine

I've spent a lot of time dissecting this band whilst drunk and alone, this is just the track I'm feeling the most at this moment in time.
Mood:We'll be fine, all we gotta do is be brave and be kind...but simultaneously:
I'm so sorry for everything.

10. Tigers Jaw - Spin

Even in (actually maybe especially in?) my inebriated state, I gotta end it on a more upbeat note. Not 'happy' by any means, but the vibe of the song and music video makes me want to get a refill for more wholesome reasons.

Goodnight.
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