New Music 5/31/19

It’s week 22 of ’19 and as we hit the summer months, we’re hitting prime time for new releases. I’m downloading records on Tidal based on name recognition or album covers that intrigue me, only. Some artists I have a history with and some I’ve never heard of. This is how I discover as I trek through the new music landscape.

Song of the Week: Duff McKagan, “Wasted Heart”
  • Album: Phil Collins – Other Sides
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: No. No. No. Over the past half decade or so, Phil Collins has been remastering and expanding his studio records and releasing them as two disc sets. This album and the one that will be right below this review are streaming only and super fans seem to be really annoyed by this. They shouldn’t be at all. The only people that should bother with this disc are die-hards. Playing off the title of the Both Sides album, this is exactly what it sounds like, a b-sides record. And it happens to be one of the worst b-sides albums in recent memory. About half the tracks are demos. Demos can be an interesting look into the starting point of song but for the most part, these aren’t even completed. The demo for “I Missed Again” is 100% unlistenable and the vast majority of them are before lyrics were even written for the song, so Collins sings gibberish just to get some kind of melody going. Of the non-demo, B-sides, almost all are throwaways. “The Man with the Horn” is a dumb tune and no one really needs to hear the “Rad Dudeski” instrumental. If this was a physical release and I spent any amount of my hard earned money on this, I would be totally disgusted.
  • Rating: 0/10
Phil Collins, “Rad Dudeski”
  • Album: Phil Collins – Remixed Sides
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: …and here’s part two of the Phil Collins’ releases. The title is also pretty self-explanatory here. This is a 18-track remix album with multiple versions of some songs, like four remixes of the 5th single from …But Seriously, “Hang in Long Enough.” Ironically you have to hang in through 12-tracks to get to them and then you have to hang in long enough to hear all four tracks back-to-back. So let’s state this again, four remixes of an albums’ 5th single. I mean, that doesn’t make sense. The only thing this disc has going for it that Other Sides doesn’t, is that they are finished tunes. But that’s about it.
  • Rating: 3/10
Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight (Ben Liebrand Remix)”
  • Album: Miley Cyrus – She Is Coming
  • Previous knowledge: The hits
  • Review: This is the first of three six-song EPs that Miley will be releasing in 2019. And if the other two are like this one, we’re in for a treat. Thankfully I’m not the moral police as this EP is filthy but I only care if it’s enjoyable and it is – very much so. It’s not unlike every other song on the radio today – pop tunes at the core but with a trap/hip-hop vibe to it. But what Miley’s done by releasing a six song EP here, is that she’s taken a set of tracks that all sound like they belong together and has created twenty minutes of really great pop music. She’s definitely pushing that “I’m going to do what I want and stop trying to control me” vibe on the entire disc. Let’s take a look:

(Mother’s Daughter) – “Don’t fuck with my freedom / I came up to get me some / I’m nasty, I’m evil / Must be something in the water or that I’m my mother’s daughter.

(Unholy) – “I’m a little drunk, I know it / I’m a get high as hell / I’m a little bit unholy / so what? so is everyone else”

(Cattitude) – ” Turn up your gratitude, turn down your attitude / I love my pussy, that means I got cattitude” and well, I won’t even put the verse from RuPaul here because it’s ridiculously sexual.

But, if none of that bothers you, then you’ve got a hell of an EP here.

  • Rating: 9.5/10
Miley Cyrus, “Unholy”
  • Album: Hootie & the Blowfish – Cracked Rear View (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: Boy, do I feel old. It’s been 25 years since Cracked Rear View introduced us to songs like “Hold My Hand” and “Let Her Cry.” Although a great record, I’m still a bit shocked to see it’s a 2x diamond record at this point – that’s some complicated beast of 15M physical copies and 6M download/streams – or something like that that equals 21M+ copies. All these numbers initially amazed me. So when I saw this and asked myself, who the fuck needs a three-and-a-half hour, 53 track version of a Hootie & the Blowfish record, well, I suppose there’s likely a significant subset of 21 million people that actually care about this. It comes in a three disc package, the first disc being the original album remastered, the second disc containing b-sides, outtakes and all the material they recorded before they signed a record deal and then disc three is a concert from 1995.

This was the first time I’ve listened to the album in at least a decade and yet I could sing every word of every track, even the non-singles. That amazes me too. I remember listening to this album a lot but enough to know all the words after putting it aside for so long that I can’t remember the last listen, is fascinating. And amazingly it still holds up. Sure, it’s a bit dated but really not as much as you would expect it to be. Bands from that era of radio pop-rock have aged poorly for the most part but Cracked Rear View is still catchy AF.

The b-sides from the Cracked Rear View sessions are pretty decent as well – a few of them probably could have fit right in with the vibe of the album. The earlier versions of the tunes from their indie days are a bit of a neat insight into where they came from but really just sound like unpolished versions of the hits. And the live record is a whopping 20 tracks, which seems like a really long set for a group that had one album under their belt. It’s waaayyyy long and doesn’t even remotely indicate that they were a good live band. In fact, it sounds basically like these guys were all studio fiddling as the live versions aren’t clean and tight, at all. Charming for some but weird that this is the best they could come up with for this massive reissue.

  • Rating: 9/10 for the original album, 7.5 of 10 for the rest.
Hootie & the Blowfish, “Only Wanna Be with You”
  • Album: Skepta – Ignorance Is Bliss
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Grime is a style of hip-hop/dance that really never hit in the US. UK Rapper Skepta, immediately sounded like Dizzee Rascal to me, which I think I only knew from his 2003 song, “Fix Up, Look Sharp,” and that’s likely because it’s my only reference point. Grime is really a style of dance music blended with hip-hop and dancehall. I definitely heard this style a bit when I was in Jamaica years ago but in the US, it just never hit and I understand that as it’s got a sound that doesn’t really fit with dance formats or current hip-hop.
  • Rating: 7.5/10
Skepta, “Redrum”
  • Album: Yung Gravy – Sensational
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Upon listening to this silly record from this white rapper from Minnesota, the first thing I thought of was Kool Moe Dee calling out the Beastie Boys to not ruin rap after they released Licensed to Ill. Now we all know what the Beastie Boys became and Yung Gravy is not going to go on to be one of the most innovative rap artists of all time. But I’m assuming he’s going to continue to make what he feels are funny tunes but simply just sound like he’s making fun of rappers. Not a great look.
  • Rating: 4/10
Yung Gravy, “Richard Simmons”
  • Album: Thomas Rhett – Center Point Road
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: My wife and I have been a big fan of Thomas Rhett since we first heard “Vacation” back in 2015. He’s always been labeled as a country artist but as least since that point, he’s embraced that country/pop hybrid sound that’s gained so much popularity over the last half-decade or so. When we watch one of the nine million country music award shows, we’re constantly asking each other, “is that really a country song?” and sometimes there’s just no good answer for that. Like is Marin Morris country or pop? Who knows? But I have been reading about this album a lot because we’ve both been looking forward to it and the biggest complaint is how pop it truly is. Now that I’ve listened to it, this might be the most blatant crossover into the pop world while still maintaining country status, ever. There’s twang in buckets, so no argument there. But the pop songs are really pop songs. Despite working with country hitmakers Little Big Town on “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” there’s nothing country about the tune at all. And “VHS” (Very Hot Summer), is pretty much a dance-pop track. The interesting thing with these pop songs is that if a true pop artist wrote these stupid ass lyrics and created these tunes with the most basic of pop rhythms, we’d rip them a new one for being amateur hour. But country artists get away with this all the time because most of this modern bro-country pop stuff is all about trucks, guns, girls and beer, so it’s expected. But no more. I simply can’t sit here, listen to country artists go pop with cheesy ass tunes and be okay with it any longer because you know…they redneckin’. So I will not stand for it…after this record, cause fuck, Center Point Road is great.
  • Rating: 9/10
Thomas Rhett, “VHS”
  • Album: Duff McKagan – Tenderness
  • Previous knowledge: Everything but his solo records
  • Review: I’ve always been a huge fan of G’n’R and I was a big fan of Scott Weiland, so I’ve followed Duff for a while, from G’n’R and Velvet Revolver to his punk groups Loaded and Neurotic Outsiders. I’ve never heard his other solo record from ’93 but it seems like that was another hard rock disc. So this may very well be something unique for Duff as this is a country record. He brought in his buddy Shooter Jennings to produce the record and with that, I hear that Shooter brought in a who’s who of country artists to be the backing band (though for the life of me I can’t find the actual names and well, this is the peril of reviewing things digitally with no booklet). A hard/punk rocker going country isn’t unheard of but it only works if it doesn’t feel fake. And Tenderness seems as authentic as it comes. It’s not Thomas Rhett bro-country by any means. The album is filled with mellow, traditional country sounds, with some slide guitar and a gospel chorus now and again. Lyrically he runs through homelessness, school shootings, the opioid crisis, assault and battery and even fake news outlets – a bunch of topics that are certainly in the forefront of everyone’s mind these days. So, if this album ages well, then that means 20 years from now we’re still dealing with the same shit. But in the meantime, Duff has created a great, poignant, country record that’s worth every minute of your listening time.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Duff McKagan, “Parkland”
  • Album: Death Angel – Humanicide
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: I’ve been a thrash fan since I was a teenager but the last two decades of “thrash revival” haven’t been all that kind to O.G.’s like Death Angel, Testament, Kreator etc… these classic bands can’t push past the same sound they’ve had for decades (you know, without the inevitable mid-90s trek into some kind of shitty alt-rock). That said, the last three years or so, seem to be somewhat of a revival to the revival. While the sound hasn’t changed much over the years, the quality of records has gotten better, I think. I’d like to think that I haven’t just accepted that every 30 year-old thrash band will be putting out the same thing but who knows, I could be numb to it all. Either way, this is the second Death Angel album in a row (after 2016’s The Evil Divide) that’s simply a brutal thrash attack. So I’m going to stick with the double revival as that makes me look better in the end.
  • Rating: 9/10
Death Angel, “Alive and Screaming”
  • Album: Darkthrone – Old Star
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: I’m a huge Darkthrone fan and love how they’ve morphed over the years from death metal, to black metal, to punk, to punk ‘n’ roll and now kind of a black ‘n’ roll feel. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto are in their late 40s now and still creating blistering, brutal metal records with the energy they had in their 20s. This album is a prime example of that, as they’ve taken some of their punk energy of recent years, added back in some black metal that made them what they are today and then kept some of the rock ‘n’ roll melodic elements that give them a pretty unique sound. The best part about them though is that there are new ideas everywhere. You can read the lyrics on your own but you can see the uniqueness even just through the song titles. There’s not one cliched metal title on here. Instead you have “I Muffled Your Inner Choir,” “Duke of Gloat” and “The Key Is Inside the Wall.” These aren’t songs from your normal band and thank God – as that’s what continues to make Darkthrone one of the best metal bands alive
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Darkthrone, “The Hardship of the Scots”
  • Album: Gloryhammer – Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Lift your fist to the sky in glorious tribute to The Hootsman! I chose this record because Gloryhammer sounds majestic in every way and I could use some power metal in my life right now. You might not need to know anything other the fictional names of members on this record; Angus McFife XIII, Crown Prince of Fife on vocals – Zargothrax, Dark Emperor of Dundee on keyboards – Ser Proletius, Grand Master of the Deathknights of Crail on guitars – Ralathor, Mysterious Submarine Commander of Cowdenbeath on drums – The Hootsman, Astral Demigod of Unst on bass. Does that tell you enough? If not, I will just say that this is one of the most glorious, over-the-top, sci-fi power metal records I’ve ever heard. The damn thing is called Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex – which is far beyond of the scope of anything I understand but sounds tremendous, as do tracks like “Power of the Laser Dragon Fire” and “Legendary Enchanted Jetpack.” I mean, I don’t know my Kor-Virliath from my cosmic destiny but the whole package just comes across amazing.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Gloryhammer, “Legendary Enchanted Jetpack”
  • Album: Sublime w/ Rome – Blessings
  • Previous knowledge: The hit record with Bradley Nowell
  • Review: I was never really into Sublime but had listened to the self-titled album from the original group because it was simply impossible to get away from “Santeria” and “What I Got” back in the day. I had no interest in the group past that but this still intrigued me enough to give it a passing listen. I hand it to the group – while they aren’t on a major label any longer, they are still going for it as this record is produced by Rob Cavallo and features songs that could very easily fit right in between some of the mellower tracks from groups like Twenty-One Pilots and the Chainsmokers. This is still ska & reggae but there’s also an alt rock vibe to some of the tracks. It’s well produced and has that smooth & happy-go-lucky ska feel that’s perfect for the summer.
  • Rating: 8.5/10
Sublime with Rome, “Wicked Heart”

Albums ranking 10/10 so far in 2019 (in order by release date)

  1. Terror Jr. – Unfortunately, Terror Jr
  2. Emily King – Scenery
  3. Good Fuck – Good Fuck
  4. The Claypool Lennon Delirium – South of Reality
  5. UB40 – For the Many
  6. Griz – Ride Waves
  7. Pup – Morbid Stuff
  8. Howard Jones – Transform
  9. Mavis Staples – We Get By

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