It’s week 36 of 2019 and I’m reviewing albums that were released on 8/30/19. I’ve switched up how I’m picking the albums to review. 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 at least some of the ones I’ve listened to in full.
- Album: Tool – Fear Inoculum
- Previous knowledge: Everything
- Review: Fear Inoculum is my most anticipated release of the year by a long shot. I’ve been a Tool fan since the start of their career but in all honesty, I never thought I’d see another record from them since 10,000 days was released more than 13 fucking years ago. So much promise and hope often leads to disappointment….
Every Tool album up to this one has felt like a grand push forward for the group, from the early days of more concise rockers, to the trippy sequenced of the previous record – you could tell each album was from Tool but they all had a different vibe to them. Fear Inoculum does not. And I think if there’s anything wrong with this album, it’s that. the record doesn’t sound all that different from 10,000 days and while that still makes it pretty awesome, it’s also not what a fan of the band would have expected.
Not counting the interludes that you get on the digital version, all six actual songs are over 10-minutes long, so you get lots of room for progressive metal for damn sure and you surely get the slow, trippy passages followed by vicious jamming. But there’s still a lack of heaviness on this disc that really has defined the band in the past. There’s passages in “Pneuma” that are and closing track “7empest” is a pretty loud track overall but Fear Inoculum is mainly about space to let the instruments breathe and allowing long drawn out progressive passages to develop. With all of this though, it’s the toughest listen of any Tool record to date. The hardest part for me is that the title track, which opens the record, is 10-minutes of that spacey, mid-tempo progressive vibe. It’s a great tune and sets the tone for what’s to come in the record but at the same time it’s not the best track to really get someone excited for what’s to come. Overall, the album is still a great representation of Tool as a band but it feels like they’ve done this before and after waiting 13 years, it’s hard to fathom that for the first time in their career they didn’t blow past all the benchmarks they’ve created for themselves.
- Rating: 8.5/10
- Album: Common – Let Love
- Previous knowledge: Tidal catalog #219
- Review: When I did the Tidal catalog of Common, he surprised me a bit. I knew how talented of a rapper and storyteller he was and his reputation of being one of the good guys in the world of hip-hop but I don’t think I was really expecting his music to really push boundaries and it surely did. For that, Common will now always be a day one listen to me when he drops a new disc. It also doesn’t hurt that in the day of the mumble rapper, you can understand every word he’s saying, which is important when you’re continuing a movement of positive energy and change. In the Tool review above, I mentioned how each previous record was something a bit new and I feel that applies to Common as well. Sometimes he comes hard with the beats, sometimes he feels like he’s making a smooth soul record for the ladies and other times he mixes various styles but he’s always got a pretty smooth R&B vibe with his brand of hip-hop. What’s different on Let Love is that it was produced by Karriem Riggins, who’s been mainly a hip-hop jazz drummer. With that, there’s definitely a heavy jazz / lounge feel to the songs on this record, really from start to finish. The sound is a bit more subtle and mellow than say Guru did back in the day with his Jazzmatazz records but you certainly get the vibe right from the start. I love how Common keeps doing stuff like this – never making the same album twice. It’s what makes him one of the best in the game. No, I don’t really think this is his strongest record in the end but I applaud him for continuing to break the mold of what hip-hop can be.
- Rating: 8/10
- Album: Sheryl Crow – Threads
- Previous knowledge: The hits, at least.
- Review: Well, about halfway through this beast, I was ready to give it a flat out zero but that’s not really fair. Also, to add some fairness to this, I have never been a fan either but I’m still listening because it’s Sheryl Crow and she’s earned some time in my ears. This is supposedly her final record and for it she decided to do a duets record and we know those are always kind of hit or miss. The artists she chose for the record are either heroes of hers or part of the younger generation of mostly country artists that she likes. Unfortunately, picking her heroes for tracks makes the album come off like an out of touch old lady making music for older ladies – with an attempt to recapture youth now and again. Maybe I need to embrace the fact that the adult contemporary circuit is actually her market now and if I do, the album might sound better. Who knows. But what I do know is that it’s a fuckin’ mess of styles which under utilizes some of the artists that may deserve a bigger role.
Of the classic artists that she’s picked, “Live Wire” with Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples is a dull track that Raitt probably could have raised the bar on with her masterful guitar skills. The cover of the Stones, “The Worst” featuring Keith Richards lives up to its name and “For the Sake of Love” featuring Vince Gill is downright null. Tracks with these artists fluctuate from blues, to country, to pop – fitting the style of the artist pretty well at least. The songs with younger up-and-comers tend to fit more of the country style like “Prove You Wrong” with both a classic (Stevie Nicks) and a newbie (Marin Morris) and her duet with Chris Stapleton, “Tell Me When It’s Over” – which after that phrase is uttered like a thousand times, my wife, from an entirely different floor in the house, texted me “please, please tell me when this is over…” and she loves Chris Stapleton. But the most egregious out of touch moment is of course the middle-aged, white pop star pairing up with Chuck D on “Story of Everything.” Why can’t anyone ever convince these types of artists that adding in a rap from a dude that was popular three decades ago over a song that has nothing at all to do with hip-hop is always the most laughable thing in their catalog? At least the equally middle-aged white Madonna just fucking does the ridiculous rap on her own. Now Sheryl Crow rapping would have sold this shit for me.
- Rating: 4/10
- Album: The Alchemist – Yacht Rock 2
- Previous knowledge: Probably more than I realize
- Review: DJ / Producer extraordinaire, The Alchemist, has been around for more than two decades making not only his own music but mainly collaborating and producing records for Prodigy, Action Bronson, Curren$y and many others. Although there’s been many mix tapes, this is considered his fourth record – and there is an EP from more than a decade ago that’s Yacht Rock 1 (which I’ve never heard). I wanted to get this in, not because I have so much to say about it but because it’s so true to the name and so ridiculously good. Yacht Rock 2 is hip-hop over 80’s style yacht rock. Every. track. And boy, as a lover of the 80s and listening to more Christopher Cross than anyone could ever wish for, this is such a unique and awesome record. The vibe itself doesn’t change much from start to finish, slow, plodding tracks backed by the lightest pop music the earth as ever seen. The Alchemist just blends the rapper’s verses with a style of music that hip-hop was never meant for and creates the most unique rap record of the year. If Yacht Rock was never your thing, this might not be either but if quality music is, then dig this.
- Rating: 9.5/10
- Album: Big Wreck – …but for the sun
- Previous knowledge: Their first album only.
- Review: What a fucking head trip this album is. I knew Big Wreck from back in my college radio days with their 1997 record, In Loving Memory Of… but didn’t follow them any further than that. The band split up after their second record in 2001 and then reunited back in 2012. This is their 4th record since they reunited and sixth overall. And it’s a head trip because of all the other bands I’m hearing. Opening track “Voices” is so close to something that any number of Sammy Hagar bands would have done that I really thought I had accidentally put on his newest record with the Circle. The album itself could totally be a Black Country Communion record as well. Crunchy rock riffs, obvious Zeppelin influence, complete ignorance that this style of music is no longer popular in 2019, that type of stuff. And there’s a bit of Chris Cornell in singer Ian Thornley that’s just undeniable in a song like “Locomotive.” The third track “In My Head” could have come off one of the last two Stone Temple Pilots records. So by track three I have at least five different artists in my head. Weirdly enough, none of them are Big Wreck. This sounds so much like a mixture of so many grand rock bands from the last four decades that I’m not sure this has much of an identity by itself. It’s dated, weirdly retread and yet, rocks pretty hard at the same time.
- Rating: 6.5/10
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