It’s week 35 of 2019 and I’m reviewing albums that were released on 8/23/19. Yes, there’s been a few week gap in between review weeks for me. Words just weren’t coming for a lot of mediocre releases. But leave it to Taylor Swift to break that slumber. I’ve switched up how I’m picking the albums to review as well. I use Tidal exclusively as my streaming service of choice and with that, every Friday I go from top to bottom on the new album list and listen to at least the first two tracks of every release. If those first two intrigue me, I’ll listen to the full album. If not, I move on. Below are the ones with said intrigue.
- Album: Taylor Swift – Lover
- Previous knowledge: Everything
- Review: Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, uh oh – I think everyone needs to calm down here. In the last oh, I don’t know, month or so here at the Steed household, “you need to calm downnnnnn” has been uttered a minimum of once a day – usually to the dog. If you ever question the power of Taylor, she has my wife and I singing to the dog every day.
So let’s start by saying that I enjoy Lover much more than Reputation. Though that had great songs on it, I wasn’t a big fan of angry Taylor. Now we’re back to the pop, sassy version at least. But I also find some of the messages funny here. So of course in “You Need to Calm Down” she says that “shade never made anybody less gay,” which I’m assuming is a correct statement, however shade does make for a great song, or two, or full album. It’s sort of funny how Swift can dismiss all the shade then throw complete shade back at anyone and everyone on “I Forgot that You Existed.” Whether about an ex-boyfriend, Katy Perry or any number of others, she talks about the shade thrown her way and then one day she just decided to forget they existed. And let’s look at the irony of that a minute as well. She forgot that they existed, right? But not enough to write an entire song about them? Hmmm.
I’m being picky here though because I’m getting a bit tired of her masterful playing of the victim all the time. The feuds, the breakups – maybe all those people should get together and just write a full album about her. That said, she’s got it down and her fans eat that shit up. But in the end, it’s not like she’s putting out shit either. Lover is a good album, a really good one at that. The title track might be the best ballad she’s ever recorded and “I Think He Knows” is a nice upbeat, positive pop song that sounds ever-so-slightly different than her regular sound. “Paper Rings” is a really great fun retro-pop song that screams for a viral videos with 100 people dancing in unison. But even though I’ve heard it 9 billion times now and it’s buried way down at the 14th track, the album is still made by “You Need to Calm Down,” which is yet another Taylor track that is almost certain to not only stand the test of time but be an anthem for years to come. A day is going to come where her “oh, woe is me” attitude gets tired and her cult like pack of followers is going to throw that shade at her but it’s not today and probably no time soon either.
- Rating: 9/10
- Album: Rapsody – Eve
- Previous knowledge: None
- Review: Honestly, I initially thought this was a new album by the rapper Eve. But this is actually another female rapper – Rapsody. The album has a pretty cool theme to it – starting with the title of the record. This is a full album dedicated to all the women over time that have been an influence on Rapsody or she looks up to. Looking down the track list you have “Nina” (Simone), “Aaliyah” “Oprah” “Whoopi” “Serena” (Williams), “Iman” and “Michelle” (Obama) amongst others. Now it’s not like she wrote songs about all these ladies. I mean, I can’t really see the obvious connection to Oprah Winfrey in her track (though I could be missing it) nor the connection to many of these ladies but it’s still a nice shout out. Rapsody though is a hell of a rapper, smooth and unique flow, with strong messages and powerful verses. And she even creatively uses Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” as a sample on “Cleo,” turning the atmospheric keys in that tune into a great dark hip-hop tune. If you want a break from the mumble rap, this should be your turn. And in fact, is it me or are the lady rappers of 2019 really the ones shining through lately?
- Rating: 9.5/10
- Album: Missy Elliott – Iconology
- Previous knowledge: Everything
- Review: Speaking of powerful female artists, holla! Missy’s back. After a long 14-years due to some health issues, Misdemeanor is finally back with new music. Though this is only a four song EP, it’s great to see her back in the fold again. I hardly even have the desire to tell you this EP is kind of medicore in the end because she’s one of the greatest female rappers of all time but these tracks are underwhelming. The album is supposed to be a bit of a throw back to when rap was fun but the lead track, appropriately titled “Throw It Back” is a pretty generically dull song in the end. “Cool Off” is more of a throw back, almost to that southern rap mid-90s sound like you’d remember with a group like 95 South. There’s two tracks on here produced by Timbaland – which of course is really her best collaborator but his beats really don’t gel well with the two tracks above which are not produced by him. It’s just four new tracks (and a 5th acapella version of one) so it’s hardly a great sample of what might be coming but I hope it’s better than this, as painful at it is for me to say that.
- Rating: 6.5/10
- Album: 93Punx – 93Punx
- Previous knowledge: None
- Review: I had to look this one up to see that this is a punk-rap hybrid group created by rapper Vic Mensa. Mensa is pretty eclectic rapper, having done solo work but also a bluesy record with a group called Kids These Days. 93Punx is sort of a pop-punk-rap hybrid which may not sound all that exciting but ends up sounding pretty unique overall. As with really any punk-rap hybrid, you know Travis Barker is going to show up, so he lends his drumming skills to a few songs here. Some tracks like “3 Years Sober” are more punk oriented and a track like “Fistfight!” trends more towards trap than punk. Overall though, it’s an album that I wouldn’t have thought I would enjoy but it’s pretty unique and I gravitate towards those records.
- Rating: 8/10
- Album: Obie Trice – The Fifth
- Previous knowledge: His work with Eminem
- Review: Years ago Obie Trice was regularly name dropped on Eminem songs and was on Em’ label but there got to a point where he felt he wasn’t being promoted well enough so he left and did his own thing. I don’t know what any of his other 4 albums sound like but after this one, I don’t care either. Damn, this is a dull, dull record. Maybe he wasn’t promoted well because he really isn’t that great of a rapper. His flow doesn’t stand out at all and the beats he’s been given on The Fifth, are as middle of the road as they can be. There’s literally not one exciting track on this record. In fact, there’s one offensive track, a homophobic song called “Truth To Power” in which he rips on closet gay rappers for destroying the “G-Code.” Now if you look around the web you will see that Trice claims that this isn’t a homophobic song at all but rather a dig at dudes that simply letting the rap game go soft. I call bullshit on that one. You can read the lyrics here if you want. And there’s also a few songs about getting his dick sucked, in graphic detail. I mean, I really though we were over this shit a long time ago. I don’t get offended by much but this album is one of them and if it’s not the lyrics it’s the fact that he doesn’t even seem to be trying here.
- Rating: 0/10
- Album: Crobot – Motherbrain
- Previous knowledge: None
- Review: Here’s one that I mistakenly read as Probot initially and I was wondering why I didn’t know there was a second record from Dave Grohl’s side project. But these guys are a rock group from Pottsville, PA, not far from Steed headquarters and the home of Yuengling beer. There’s a pretty easy comparison to make on this record. Audioslave. No one is going to be Chris Cornell, so need to even talk about that but musically, this might as well be the second or third Audioslave record. It’s actually better than either of those records but holy crap, Motherbrain is biting off their sound. There’s standard rock songs with catchy hooks and then heavier tracks that have that same Rage Against the Machine vibe but without Tom Morello’s guitar work. Not much else needs to be said about this one. Did you like Audioslave? Then there’s really no reason you shouldn’t like this.
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