New Music 8/2/19

It’s week 32 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.

Song of the Week: Drake, “Girls Love Beyonce”
  • Album: Drake – Care Package
  • Previous knowledge: His previous album and sooooo many radio tunes
  • Review: Any way you look at it, Drake will go down as one of the most successful artists of my generation. He’s the all time solo leader in number of songs that hit the Billboard Top 40 and probably by the end of his career, will have the most Top 40 of all time. I read the other day that since his debut on the charts in May 2009, he’s been on it every week since. That’s either pretty amazing or evidence that he will pimp himself out on pretty much any track from anyone. Let’s just stay positive and call it a strong work ethic and loving what you do. That said, it’s not like he’s putting out crap either.

Care Package is actually a compilation of previously released songs but not hits, rather promo songs released before or between records that were never available to buy or released on streaming sites. I’m supposing that true fans would have already heard all of these then but for me, this might as well be a new record. And…it’s Drake. I mean, the dude isn’t going to break any new ground at this point, what works for him are clean beats, some rapping, some R&B and a lot of true talent to make each song sound exactly like what you’d expect from Drake. To that extent, I don’t feel I really need to say much more.

  • Rating: 8.5/10
Drake, “4pm in Calabasas”
  • Album: Tisakorean – Soapy Club
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Everything about this album intrigued me. From whatever the hell a Soapy Club is to the album cover in which is a cartoon of a boy floating in a pool, to track titles like “Soapy Situations” “Double Dare (Soapy Anthem)” to “Frito Lays,” “Chilli Dogs” and “Watermelon Booty.” But there’s surely no reason for me to be intrigued any longer.

Tisakorean is an eclectic rapper that is seemingly trying to make a career out of songs about…you know…soap. Can’t say I’ve heard that one before. When he’s not singing about things related to soap, he’s shoulder shruging rapping choruses like “chips. Frito Lays. Chips, Frito Lays.” The beats he uses are very sparse, mostly created using one finger on a keyboard that could have been make in the 90s, the 2000s or today and by someone that’s 5-years-old. And while a bit unique in his style, he also kind of sounds like he’s recorded his middle school raps while lying in bed. Every time I think we can’t get any lower in hip-hop, a Tisakorean pops up.

  • Rating: 0/10
Tisakorean, “Beat Tub Up”
  • Album: Mabel – High Expecations
  • Previous knowlege: None
  • Review: This young lady with a grandma name is actually the daughter of Neneh Cherry and producer Cameron McVey, so she grew up in a pretty eclectic musical family. And I suppose with how different her Mom’s career was, the “high expectations” for me would be that she’s break new ground kind of like Neneh did with “Buffalo Stance” back in the 80s. However, that doesn’t happen here. High Expectations is a decent enough pop album but it doesn’t stand out in any way at all. There’s no doubt that Mabel has a great voice but it’s a voice that could come from any one of 50 singers right now and there’s no way in a blind listen, you’d be able to identify who sings these tracks. Same thing with the music. All the beats are perfect, radio-friendly dance pop or vaguely hip-hop ballads with nothing on the record that screams out for more spins. This is about as middle ground as radio-pop gets in 2019.
  • Rating: 5/10
Mabel, “Bad Behavior”
  • Album: Berlin – Transcendance
  • Previous knowledge: Albums 2-4 back in the 80s.
  • Review: Well, the name of the album is a bit misleading here. I saw the dance part of the title and figured this was going to upbeat dancey synth-pop but from the opening moments of the lead track, “I Want You,” you get plodding beats and a darker snyth-pop sound, very similar to their original style in the 80s. But in the 80s, Terry Nunn, John Crawford and David Diamond were young and energetic and willing to take some chances. Now they are old and divorced and kind of sound like they are going through the motions a bit. The best songs on Transcendance are the ballads, with “On My Knees” being a true highlight. But attempts at upbeat tunes fall flat and a rerecording of “Sex (I’m a…”) turned into the kind of dance song I expected the album to be, really doesn’t work well in context here. There’s a good EP in here somewhere but as a full album it needs a pulse.
  • Rating: 6/10
Berlin, “On My Knees”

Albums ranked 10/10 so far in 2019 (ordered only 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. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
  9. Howard Jones – Transform
  10. Mavis Staples – We Get By
  11. Prince – Originals
  12. Yeasayer – Erotic Returns
  13. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real – Turn off the News (Build a Garden)
  14. Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Servants of the Sun
  15. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
  16. K. Flay – Solutions
  17. Tuxedo – Tuxedo III
  18. Dorian Electra – Flamboyant

New Music 7/26/19

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.

Song of the Week: YBN Cordae w/ Chance the Rapper, “Bad Idea”
  • 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
Sugar Ray, “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”
  • 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
E-40, “No Choice”
  • 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
YBN Cordae, “RNP”
  • 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
NF, “Nate”

Albums ranked 10/10 so far in 2019 (ordered only 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. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
  9. Howard Jones – Transform
  10. Mavis Staples – We Get By
  11. Prince – Originals
  12. Yeasayer – Erotic Returns
  13. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real – Turn off the News (Build a Garden)
  14. Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Servants of the Sun
  15. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
  16. K. Flay – Solutions
  17. Tuxedo – Tuxedo III
  18. Dorian Electra – Flamboyant