It’s week 38 of 2019 and I’m reviewing albums that were released on 9/13/19. I use Tidal exclusively as my streaming service of choice and with that, every Friday and into the following week, I’m going from top to bottom on the new release section and listening 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 I’ve listened to in full.
- Album: Charli XCX – Charli
- Previous knowledge: Sucker album and some hits
- Review: Charlie XCX has kind of had an interesting career path going on for her. She seemed to be poised to be the next big thing back in 2014 when “Boom Clap” hit #8 in the US after she was featured on Icona Pop’s “I Love It” two years earlier and Izzy Azalea’s #1 hit, “Fancy” which she co-wrote. But her solo career has never really taken off. Sucker was released five years ago and since then she’s released those weird “mixtapes” (odd for a non-rapper) and some one-off singles but without another hit in the US. The most interesting thing about that, is that when I saw this album, I had no idea her last one was five years ago. Even with no hits in the US during that entire span, it feels like she’s been a true hit maker for ever.
Charli is one of those albums that critics are creaming themselves over because they’ve waited so long for it. But also one that I would gather many people formed an opinion on before they actually listened to it. I think Charli is a tremendous talent as a songwriter for other artists and has a great voice herself, but this new album is a mess.
She’s not the straightforward radio-pop artist and likely never will be, so I give her credit for that. But for this album, it feels like she’s trying too hard to be different, so much so that in many places, it simply doesn’t work. In addition, the flow of the album is flat out terrible. Bright, upbeat pop songs lead into really dark tunes and back-and-forth a few times, losing momentum along the way. Lead single “1999” is the best song on the record, an upbeat pop song featuring Troye Sivan and references to songs like “Baby One More Time” by Britney. But it transitions into the dark sort-of rap, sort-of goth track, “Click” which musically is a bunch of distorted electronics, finishing in the last 30 seconds with an earpiercing mess of distorted noise. Then there’s “Thoughts” which tried to be unique musically but sort of feels like a 5-year-old boy sitting in front of the mixing board and just potting the song up and down repeatedly to laugh at the modulation changes. There’s also a pure hip-hop song, “Shake It” featuring Big Freedia and Cupcakke among others, which is very out of place on the album and likely would have been better left as a tune she simply wrote for one of the featured artists. But for these songs that seem to be misguided, there’s also “Blame It On Your Love” featuring the white hot Lizzo, with the only real knock being that Lizzo completely outshines Charlie XCX on the track. (Well, that and the fucking bizarre video).
Charli simply feels like a mess of random tracks thrown together with no disregard for any sense of continuity. I don’t doubt that she’s immensely talented but this album doesn’t show me that she can be a solo artist.
- Rating: 5/10
- Album: Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
- Previous knowledge: Tidal catalog #107
- Review: Although I think their 2016 album, Boxes, is their best album overall, the question that needs to be asked up front is does anyone actually give a shit that the Goo Goo Dolls have released a new record? It’s amazing that these guys are still on a major label after more than decade of hitless tunes but even so, I have to think that execs listen to an album like Miracle Pill and really do think it has a shot to be a hit. Now if I was a Warner Brothers executive, I would have pushed for “Fearless” to be released as a single, of which to date, it hasn’t been. “Fearless” sounds like any random 20 hit pop songs from the past two years. And that’s where the problem with this album lies. All the songs do. If the Goo Goo Dolls have a sound of their own, it’s not present on this album at all. There’s some great pop hooks on the record and it likely would be a blast if it had even one shred of identity to it. But as it is, songs like “Miracle Pill” and “Money, Fame & Fortune” could have been recorded by virtually any 20-something male on the radio right now. Shawn Mendes, check. Ed Sheeran, check. Hozier, check. Any member of 5 Seconds of Summer or One Direction, check. And for fuck’s sake, do we simply have to have bassist Robby Takac sing songs on every album just because? His voice was well suited to their early years on the punkier tracks they did, even through their hit making period. But now he’s singing pure pop songs like “Step in Line” which Johnny Rzeznik should surely be singing by himself. Really though, if Rzeznik and Takac are just copping the sound of other current artists to stay relevant, that’s the key sign that their time is up.
- Rating: 4/10
- Album: Puddle of Mudd, “Welcome to Galvania”
- Previous knowledge: Their hits
- Review: This is not a joke. For the first time in a decade, the band you didn’t know you missed is back with a new record. Seventeen years after “She Hates Me” charted in the US, Puddle of Mudd returns with a new record that could have been recorded in 2003. Singer Wes Scantlin frankly destroyed his band while they were at their peak supposedly by being too drunk to perform on occasion and in others, not even showing up for the show. Now sober, the band decided to get back together and record a new album. If you were a fan back in the day, you should be a fan now as Welcome to Galvania could simply be outtakes from 2003. The disc is filled with the same tongue-in-cheek post-grunge songs that made the band a b-level hit maker when that style was popular. There’s also a lot of songs (“Uh-Oh” “Go To Hell”) that seem to be in direct reference to Scantlin’s addictions and of course the prerequisite silly rock ballad (“My Kind of Crazy”). I just don’t know who’s going to be interested in an album from a band that probably fucked over half their fans and hasn’t progressed past 2004. But maybe time heals all wounds.
- Rating: 3/10
- Album: Mike Patton & Jean-Claude Vannier – Corpse Flower
- Previous knowledge: Tidal Catalog #96
- Review: Being a huge fan of unique artists, I almost have to love Mike Patton as he’s the most eclectic man in the music biz today. And I do love him from Faith No More to the ton of bizarre shit he’s released over the years. The thing I respect him the most for is that he’s not afraid to take changes and work with virtually anyone from any style of music. Case in point, Corpse Flower. This is a collaboration with Jean-Claude Vannier, a French composer well respected in home country. In recent years, Vannier has performed his compositions live with various singers from the UK lending their voices. While this isn’t out of the blue then, it’s certainly an interesting pairing. Vannier has created an eclectic record musically. I was expecting Patton to sing over a pure orchestral score but the strong pop elements of the disc really surprised me. Sure, there’s plenty of strings and gorgeous piano based tunes with Patton crooning in Italian but in a world of insanely odd releases from Patton, this isn’t one of them. Corpse Flower is highly listenable, beautiful and haunting at the same time, even if the title track seems to be about cuts of meat (I think this is the only time I’ve heard someone sing “Rump Roast” in a song). In the end, Patton has created a wonderful, wonderful record. The perfect mix of quirky and listenable that should thrill all fans of him.
- Rating: 9.5/10
- Album: Alex Cameron – Miami Memory
- Previous knowledge: None
- Review: Of all the albums I’ve listened to this year, this might be the most intriguing one. I had to look Cameron up after listening to this record and found out that he’s an Australian musician that as part of his solo persona, works off the concept that he’s a failed entertainer and usually writes songs in the first person about that. Miami Memory is certainly written in a first person style, maybe not solely around the failed entertainer but certainly about a person or people with some interesting life situations. Cameron has a pretty funny tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about him so you get tracks about sex workers (“Far From Born Again”) with lyrics like “far from born again / she’s doing porn again,” and about potentially splitting up (“Divorce”) where he sings ” I got friends in Kansas City with a motherfucking futon couch / If that’s how you want to play it / I’m drinking in the dark because my battery’s all ran out / All you got to do is say it / Divorce.” Musically, the album is pop at heart with a definite throwback 80s feel and a heartland sound with horns that take you back to the late 70s. If nothing else, Cameron is a pretty unique songwriter and has crafted one of the most interesting records of 2019.
- Rating: 9/10
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
- My Life Story – World Citizen