New Music 5/17/19

It’s week 19 of ’19 and there’s more intriguing albums this week to review than at any given point in the year so far. 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: Injury Reserve, “Wax On”
  • Album: DJ Khaled – Father of Asahd
  • Previous Knowledge: “We the Best Music!”
  • Review: Let me just get this out of the way up front. I can’t stand the “we the best music” shout out in every friggin’ song. Moving on… the first thing that stands out to me about this album is the DJ Khaled is a producer and yet this album has 21 fucking producers on it. Plus his son and Allah are listed as executive producers. That just annoys the shit out of me. Why does a DJ and producer need 20 other producers to make his album. And this happens on a top of hip-hop albums, which is why there’s such a lack of flow and consistency on so many of them. But this seems even worse when you label yourself as a producer and scream your name out in every damn song. That said, these types of albums really are just a showcase for the DJ’s music – as there are guests on each song and a minimum of two on 12 of the 15 tracks. Overall, it’s just dull. Not of the guest raps really stand other than Jay-Z and Beyonce’s appearance on “Top Off” and then frequent collaborator, Justin Bieber on “No Brainer.” The rest of the album is still better than the majority of hip-hop on the radio in 2019 but doesn’t push any real boundaries forward.
  • Rating: 5/10
DJ Khaled, “Top Off”
  • Album: The Heavy – Sons
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Blues rock, indie rock, funk, garage rock, hard rock damn…don’t know what to call these guys. They seemingly jump from one style to the next with relative ease which doesn’t make for a lot of consistency and you know how I like that. But this is still a pretty good album, full of life and soul all around, no matter what style the song actually is. I feel if you like someone like the Black Keys, you can easily jump to The Heavy and be cool with it.
  • Rating: 7.5/10
The Heavy, “Better as One”
  • Album: Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
  • Previous knowledge: The hits
  • Review: Over the past year, more grown men have told me they love Carly Rae Jepsen than I would have expected. And none of them followed it up with a comment about how hot she is. They legitimately like her music. While that may sound a bit sexist here, do you know how hard it is to get a manly man to admit that they like Jepsen’s type of pop music without the qualification of checking out her bod? Like quantum physics hard. So to me, this means that Carly Rae Jepsen must be The. Shit. She also had that video with Tom Hanks, which was beyond cool. Maybe my expectations were way too high here but Dedicated does not meet the lofty standards I was expecting.

A recent interview in Rolling Stone said that she had written nearly 200 songs for this album. So one of two things happened here. Either she writes so much that it waters down a lot of the tunes or there’s so many to choose from that it makes putting a 13-track CD together, really, really tough. Leading up to this album, I kept reading “chill disco” and that’s actually a pretty good description. I mean, it’s not vintage Bee Gees here but if there’s a 2019 version of disco, this could be it for at least half the record. Listen to the first three songs – upbeat, catchy, totally danceable and really great tunes. But from there, the rest of the album kind of falls flat. “Want You in My Room” is a baffling tune, almost a minimalist version of pop, with a chorus that begs for this bright, sunny beat that simply never comes. She follows that up with “Everything He Needs” with a vocal effect on the chorus that makes her lyrics virtually incomprehensible. Both of these tracks are baffling to me. While it gets better from there, nothing else on the record reaches the heights of the first three songs. The rest of the record is so middle-of the-road that it becomes a bit of a slog to get through. So the vast majority of the time, she says firmly in her lane and when she ventures out, they end up being a bit mis-guided.

  • Rating: 7/10
Carly Rae Jepsen, “No Drug Like Me”
  • Album: Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
  • Previous knowledge: Eh, I don’t know. Rappers are everywhere these days.
  • Review: If there’s any rap in 2019 that I’m actually intrigued by, it’s alternative rap. I’ve always liked beats that are a little different, maybe contain some guitars and reveal some actual level of songwriting or at least some original thoughts. This is that kind of album. There might be a stray 808 here or there but for the most part, these are unconventional beats / samples that can often move from a hip hop vibe, to rock, to a smooth R&B style (“Gone, Gone/Thank You”) with ease. Nothing about this is as immediate as your current hip-hop terrestrial radio station music. There’s no Cardi B hooks (virtually no hooks at all actually), there’s no DJ Khaled produced track that would be a hit no matter what and no lyrics that I can’t actually understand. Tyler, the Creator, actually creates and that seems like a rare thing in 2019 hip-hop.
  • Rating: 8/10
Tyler, the Creator, “New Magic Wand”
  • Album: Injury Reserve – Injury Reserve
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: A good week for hip-hop here, my friends. If Tyler, the Creator is creating unique alt-rap, then Injury Reserve is creating shit from a different universe. The debut LP from Injury Reserve is unlike any hip-hop album I’ve heard this year. If I’m not mistaken, there’s a toy xylophone on here, as the focus beat of “Jawbreaker.” In that same song, the group rips instagram models, which is certainly a unique rap perspective. There’s no bitches and hoes but there is a tutorial on how to create a rap song, fittingly called “Rap Song Tutorial”. Cold, calculated and often heavy beats permeate the tracks on this disc, as well as a bunch of passages that are just two dudes talking to each other. Not rapping, but talking. Every now and then you have a real solid hook and upbeat track like on “Gravy n’ Biscuits” to bring it all together. Injury Reserve isn’t the type of rap group that are going to be hitmakers but this surely is the type of music that us old school hip-hop heads that still want some substance and creativity in their joints are happy to find.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Injury Reserve, “GTFU”
  • Album: Com Truise – Persuasion System
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: I chose this only because Com Truise is a great name. The album, ehhh, not so much. Com Truise is a one-man electronic musician. Seems like he focuses on synthwave, which for those not in the know, is like 80s video game and soundtrack music. But this album is more on the chillwave front – so you know, synthwave but chill. Kind of a mix of that 80s sound and dream pop. Often sad, introspective, shoegazing type synth music that’s usually quite mesmerizing. Unfortunately, Persuasion System kind of came and went without much fanfare for me. Good background music but nothing to warrant a further look.
  • Rating: 6/10
Com Truise, “Gaussian”
  • Album: Juj – Juj, It’s You
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: I chose this one simply on name alone, as Juj is a quite unique. And if you get the album name, it’s even cooler (look again… j(i)u-jitsu). Juj was born and raised in Philly, my old stomping grounds, though long after they stomped all over me. She moved out to L.A. at the age of 17 and here she is at 19, with her first self-released EP, though no doubt this will be her only recording that needs that. She’s got everything that should put her on the radio right now. Smooth, silky vocals, the ability to belt when she needs to and the ability to move from pop to R&B very easily. She’s pretty much got the same vibe as Ariana Grande with less vague Pete Davidson references. With a debut of seven tunes, if you like Ms. Grande or any artist like her on the radio now, you should dig this and if not, it’s short enough to get in-and-out pretty quickly.
  • Rating: 8.5/10
Juj, “Mood”
  • Album: Eat Your Heart Out – Florescence
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Woah, who knew emo driven pop-punk still existed in 2019. It’s been off my radar for a decade at least (maybe longer… the decades run together when you get to be an old fuck like me). But this is the debut album for this 5-piece outfit out of AU, with a female lead and pretty much nothing unique going for it. As a standalone record, I guess this isn’t terrible. The riffs are pretty catchy and the band certainly has skill – it’s not a half-assed production at all. But this sounds like a mix of Simple Plan and Jimmy Eat World. And when was the last time you heard anyone request that?
  • Rating: 5/10
Eat Your Heart Out, “Heavy with Envy”
  • Album: Saint Vitus – Saint Vitus
  • Previous knowledge: All their albums
  • Review: It’s impossible to not hear the Sabbath influence in Saint Vitus no matter if you are listening their self-titled record from 1984 or their self-titled record from 2019. Both of these records have original vocalist, Scott Reagers on them after going back and forth between him and Wino for three decades now. And while releasing another self-titled record usually indicates a fresh start for a band, I’m not sure that’s the case here. It has been seven years since the previous record but it’s not like they have been cranking out music as it’s only the second album since ’95 due to what feels like neverending break-ups. Fans of Saint Vitus as well as doom metal in general should have few qualms about this record. It’s not perfect by any means but has all the general qualities of any one of their records. There’s also a bit of experimentation as the atmospheric and moody “A Prelude To…” leads into the punk furor of “Bloodshed” and the odd “City Park” plays out like a score to a scene of someone walking through a bog in the dead of night. The strangest moment of the CD is the closing track, “Useless” which is a bit of a hardcore freakout and seems very out of place on the disc but especially closing it out.
  • Rating: 7/10
Saint Vitus, “12 Years in the Tomb”

Albums ranked 10/10 in 2019 so far (in order of 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