It’s week 30 of ’19. 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.
- Album: Sugar Ray – Little Yachty
- Previous knowledge: A naked Nicole Eggert on the cover of their first album. And you know, the hits. Who doesn’t know “Fly?”
- Review: First, let’s just say that I love the name of the album. Kind of making fun of the rapper Lil Yachty and at the same time making sure everyone knows up front that this album might be a bit yacht rock in nature. And yacht rock it is. For their first album in ten years due in part to some legal issues when some members left, they have created a modern version of Christopher Cross, Robbie Dupree and the Little River Band. If you doubt what I’m saying, you don’t even need to listen, just take a note of the tracklist and near the end, you’ll see their cover of “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” Aging is part of life but it still stuns me sometimes when I look an artist like Mark McGrath up on the web and see that he’s 51. It’s hard to believe that he’s that old but then remembering that I listened to them 25 years ago, says that all those 90s artists are now in or approaching their 50s. And this is 100% a 50-year-old’s record. There’s zero substance to Little Yachty at all (not that I’m looking for that in a Sugar Ray album) – it’s just lighthearted beach music and really nothing else and as the songs “Trouble” and “Perfect Mornings” show, Mr. McGrath doesn’t quite have the same vocal chops that he used to.
- Rating: 4/10
- Album: Of Monsters and Men – Fever Dream
- Previous knowledge: None
- Review: I feel like I really should have known more about this Icelandic band since I know the name and Fever Dream is their third major label album. But since historically I’ve strayed away from female fronted bands, maybe that’s why. But I’m surely glad I got a seat on the train now.
The first question I have is do all tiny Icelandic singers look like Bjork? I mean, I now know two of them but lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, surely does look like Bjork’s little sister. And the second question…well, there is no second question but really more of an introspective where have these guys been all my life, type thing.
I read that she says this album is sunnier and brighter than the previous one and since this is mostly mid-tempo, that must have been a really slooooo record. Fever Dream begins with a nice upbeat, dance-like track called “Alligator” that is very drum heavy and quite fun. But that’s a bit different than the rest of the album. With the rest you vary between midtempo pop and ballads, all the while with just a light and breezy feel to it all. It becomes one of those records that you can easily just chill out to and maybe listen to as you fall asleep. Harmless, catchy pop from a group of clearly talented musicians that live in the less-is-more camp of songwriting.
- Rating: 8.5/10
- Album: E-40 – Practice Makes Paper
- Previous knowledge: Various albums and tunes over the course of the last 25 years.
- Review: Shit, I love this record. Twenty-six records into his career, E-40 is still making real rap music. Beats wise, this isn’t old-school and it isn’t trap. It’s somewhere in between the two of them though – pretty basic in the end, which allows the focus to be on the rhymes, which is cool when you can still actually understand them. And E-4o knows how to enunciate, for sure. He’s always had a very interesting style, with his verses almost spoken. And yes, I realize that’s the basis of most rap but E-40 really does just tend to speak really fast in a lot of songs, rather than what you’d consider a traditional rap. And it’s fucking captivating as hell when he does it. Songs like “Wake They Shit Up” “I Don’t Like Em” and “Bet You Didn’t Know” showcase this style really well, with the latter song simply being a list of things E-40 believes we might not have known, like “Oatmeal can scrape the plaque off your arteries” or “a maggot morphs into a fly.” At 26 songs, it’s extremely long and heavens, the track with Red & Meth is buried at #25 but Practice Makes Paper is still a pretty killer record from a dude that’s one of the hardest hustlas in the business.
- Rating: 8/10
- Album: YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy
- Previous knowledge: Random songs my 10-year-old has made me listen to.
- Review: What a surprise this one is for me. I expected mumble rap out of anyone in YBN stable but there’s much more to this album than that. This album is pretty smooth, with R&B samples peppered in to offset some of the trap beats. And YBN Cordae not only is a decent rapper but brought in a slew of R&B singers to do the hooks on many of these tracks. And while the guest stars are pretty large (Anderson Paak, Chance the Rapper, Meek Mill etc…) they don’t overwhelm the entire record, allowing Cordae to actually shine on this record. There’s smooth tracks like “Bad Idea” which samples the same Robert Flack/ Donny Hathaway song as Scarface used in “On My Block,” and then a really groovy track like “RNP” which is a super catchy head-bobber. Sometimes albums catch me off guard. This one slapped me over the side of the head to get my attention. Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s an example of one of the new era of hip-hop artists that really might still have a career when trap finally fades out.
- Rating: 9/10
- Album: NF – The Search
- Previous knowledge: Previous record only
- Review: I feel like it’s a cop-out when I say a white rapper kind of sounds like Eminem but then again maybe half the white rappers out there shouldn’t sound like Em and give me more of a reason not to say it. That comparison is usually only based on style alone and not quality. Stylistically, you’re talking about similar mid-tempo to slow drops, and a hyper-fast rhyme style that usually tells a story throughout the song. So, from that, you may get the comparison but one listen to “Nate” should also get you there. This is pretty much Eminem’s “Stan” right down to locking the woman in the trunk. There’s no chorus by Dido and Eminem sang about Stan while Nate is actually NF himself but other than those two things, it’s pretty much the same damn song.
“The Search” refers to NF looking for himself after gaining fame. This is another one of those “it was great when I was unknown but now that people know who I am, celebrity kind of stinks” messages. I detest this ever-so common theme in Hollywood. Of course, I have never been a celebrity, nor will ever be one, so I have no idea what it’s like to have TMZ corner me while taking a dump but I can’t help but not feel too sorry for these people. You’re making music for people to listen to. If you don’t potentially want the spotlight on you, then like, I don’t know, take up knitting.
I haven’t said much about the music here because frankly, I can’t get passed the fact that he wrote a track that’s pretty much copying off of Em directly. There’s being influenced by a guy and then just biting off of someone else’s success.
- Rating: 5/10
Albums ranked 10/10 so far in 2019 (ordered only by release date)
- Terror Jr. – Unfortunately, Terror Jr
- Emily King – Scenery
- Good Fuck – Good Fuck
- The Claypool Lennon Delirium – South of Reality
- UB40 – For the Many
- Griz – Ride Waves
- Pup – Morbid Stuff
- Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
- Howard Jones – Transform
- Mavis Staples – We Get By
- Prince – Originals
- Yeasayer – Erotic Returns
- Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real – Turn off the News (Build a Garden)
- Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Servants of the Sun
- The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
- K. Flay – Solutions
- Tuxedo – Tuxedo III
- Dorian Electra – Flamboyant