Monthly Report: June 2016 Singles

Tuesday, June 21, 2016





















1. Bishop Briggs - "River"
I was watching TV last September and heard music in an Acura commercial that I liked. After searching around a little, all I was able to find was that the song, "Wild Horses," was by some artist named Bishop whose accounts on Twitter, YouTube and Soundclound were all about a week old and only contained that song and no real biographical information. I kind of chuckled about it at the time, that a very polished and marketable-sounding new artist just turned up out of nowhere in a major ad campaign, and speculated that there was already big money behind this mysterious Bishop. Then 8 months later, I heard another song called "River," on my local alt-rock station, that set me googling around only to realize that it was the same Brit singer, now going by the full name Bishop Briggs and now charting on Billboard and openly signed to Island Records and opening for Coldplay in arenas this fall (she also now has a third song on Spotify called "The Way I Do" that's very good). Cynicism aside, though, this is promising stuff, she has a great voice, and "River" kind of combines a lurching EDM track with a really raw vocal in a way that reminds me of one of the best songs of the decade, AWOLNATION's "Sail." Here's my running playlist of favorite 2016 singles that I update every month.

2. Jeremih - "Pass Dat"
This was instantly my favorite song on Late Nights when it was released in December, but given Def Jam's all around terrible handling of that album, I had my doubts that it would get a 4th single. But since "Oui" was the album's third #1 single, this is finally getting a chance and I'm just delighted to hear it on the radio. The Weeknd and Young Thug did freestyles to it pretty quickly after the album was released, which made me think an all-star remix could happen, but I'm kinda glad just the original version is a single. It's funny how Jeremih already has a pretty unusually high voice but it sounds so crazy being slightly pitched up on the hook (nevermind, apparently that's an uncredited Starrah?).

3. Dae Dae - "Wat U Mean (Aye, Aye, Aye)"
When I saw the title of this song I expected some kind of goofy dance rap song, but this is really a pretty classic Atlanta street rap song. I feel like we've been told over and over that this kind of stuff isn't relatable if you're not in the trap or a famous rapper, but a song like this that is really just about working hard and feeding your family, the shit that I get up to do every morning, I dunno, this is just a song I really take to heart.

4. 2 Chainz - "MFN Right"
This was a highlight of both Felt Like Cappin and ColleGrove but it still feels kind of unlikely as a radio song, just because it sounds like this delightfully low key freestyle that just coheres into a real song by accident. Zaytoven and Mike Will Made It co-produced it, and while Mike Will gets all the shout outs on the song, it really just sounds like a classic Zaytoven track, and I've really been in the mood for his stuff lately, love his recent tape with Young Dro.

5. Future - "Wicked"
The popular narrative about Future's career was that he kind of lost his way relying on superstar features on Honest, and got his buzz back with mixtapes that had very few guests. So it seems notable that following his big solo comeback hit ("Fuck Up Some Commas"), all of his big radio hits have been the result of riding the Canadian waves of Drake ("Where Ya At," "Jumpman") and The Weeknd ("Lowlife"). I mean, it's working for him, I guess, but it's kind of depressing that solo songs like "March Madness" kind of lost their shot at radio rotation because they were competing with Drake collabs. So with that in mind, "Wicked" feels essential as the biggest solo Future song in a minute, and it's really my favorite Metro Boomin beat in a while. And as I mentioned in my Complex song of the summer piece, "Wicked" kind of took off from the Purple Reign mixtape to the point that they've appended it to the EVOL album.

6. Guourdon Banks - "Keep You In Mind"
A nice low key slow jam that's been on R&B radio a bit lately, kind of has that cool lo-fi electro vibe of Miguel's "Adorn" without sounding like a rewrite of "Adorn" (looking at you, Chris Brown's "Back To Sleep").

7. Elle King - "America's Sweetheart"
I always feel like I'm doing something right, as a critic or just as a fan of popular music, when I make up my mind that I dislike an artist and then end up loving a song by them anyway. And man, I really hated "Ex's & Oh's" and made Rob Schneider jokes at every opportunity, but this song is pretty much perfect, all this momentum building up to a massive belted chorus, I don't know why this wasn't as successful as her other singles.

8. Beyonce - "Sorry"
Lemonade is a record that I kind of think of more in terms of moments I enjoy more than songs -- for instance the bridge in "6 Inch" is one of my favorite parts of the whole album but I doin't really care for the rest of the song. And I love the last minute of "Sorry" was more than the rest of the song (also I'm obsessed with this tweet that suggested that it ends like a chapter of "Trapped In The Closet"). But mostly I'm grateful to "Sorry" that it stopped "Hold Up" from being the breakout hit from the album, I really dislike that song. Hit-Boy really makes some awesome tracks, I kind of get annoyed with him that he seemed to sell his production career short by aspiring to a Kanye-like transition into rapping that was never gonna pan out.

9. Joywave - "Destruction"
My friend Robbie really loves Joywave, last time I saw him I noticed he actually has a Joywave license plate. I never really got the appeal with their previous singles, but this one has really grown on me.

10. Brothers Osborne - "21 Summer"
Although the whole 'summer jam' concept has kind of transcended genre, country is really the one radio format where a huge chunk of playlists in the summer is dedicated to songs explicitly about summer that labels all start pushing in the spring, it's kind of ridiculous. I'm glad that Pawn Shop finally has a second single creeping up the charts, it seemed like they waited a while to follow up "Stay A Little Longer" simply because they had a summer-themed song that wasn't going to peak until the summer hit.

The Worst Single of the Month: Zac Brown Band - "Castaway"
A popular subset of the country summer song phenomenon is songs specifically about getting drunk on the beach, which have been reliably ubiquitous for the 13 years since Alan Jackson met Jimmy Buffett. I find "Castaway" especially irritating, though, because it opens with an interpolation of "Don't Bogart Me" a.k.a. "Don't Bogart That Joint" by The Fraternity Of Man, most famous for appearing in Easy Rider and being covered by Little Feat. Ordinarily I might say it's pretty cool of Zac Brown to pay homage to that song, but it's pretty lame that he changes the lyrics of a pot anthem to be about booze, and the authors of "Bogart" didn't get a writing credit on "Castaway," which is outrageous.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


























This week the Red Hot Chili Peppers are releasing their 11th album, The Getaway (and it's not a prank like the new RHCP record I wrote about in 2014). I've always had a love/hate relationship with this band, where my enjoyment of some of their hits is always dwarfed by how ubiquitous they've been for the last 25 years. But their weird punk/funk gobbledygook always stood apart from most of the other alt-rock bands that became huge multi-platinum stars in the solemn grungey '90s, and I've come to really enjoy their music in small doses. So here's a little collection of songs from outside of their overplayed singles discography. That's much better. Everyone can enjoy that!

Red Hot Chili Peppers Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Out In L.A.
2. Police Helicopter
3. You Always Sing The Same
4. The Brothers Cup
5. Sex Rap
6. Lovin' And Touchin'
7. Backwoods
8. Walkin' Down The Road
9. Party On Your Pussy
10. Johnny, Kick A Hole In The Sky
11. Punk Rock Classic
12. Magic Johnson
13. The Power Of Equality
14. Funky Monks
15. Mellowship Slinky In B Major
16, Blood Sugar Sex Majik
17. One Hot Minute
18. Pea
19. Walkabout
20. Easily
21. I Like Dirt
22. Minor Thing
23. Make You Feel Better
24. Goodbye Hooray

Tracks 1, 2, and 3 from Red Hot Chili Peppers (1984)
Tracks 4, 5 and 6 from Freaky Styley (1985)
Tracks 7, 8 and 9 from The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from Mother's Milk (1989)
Tracks 13, 14, 15 and 16 from Blood Sugar Sex Majik (1991)
Tracks 17, 18 and 19 from One Hot Minute (1995)
Tracks 20 and 21 from Californication (1999)
Track 22 from By The Way (2002)
Track 23 from Stadium Arcadium (2006)
Track 24 from I'm With You (2011)

Obviously, the band was plugging along for a number of years without any real commercial success before they became a household name, but those early records are pretty interesting to me, just how awkward and ungainly they were before they formed their sound into something similar but far more polished. Back in the '90s, the only RHCP records my brother and I owned were Blood Sugar Sex Majik and the early years compilation released soon after, What Hits!?, and I have some fondness for the songs from that, including the album cuts included here like "Backwoods" and "Johnny, Kick A Hole In The Sky." I wish they'd gotten to make more than one album with the Hillel Slovak/Jack Irons line up, I would've like to hear some of the albums after The Uplift Mofo Party Plan with those guys as part of the more big budget mainstream iteration of the band. Blood Sugar is obviously the classic, though -- I have fond memories of the one time I saw the band live, at the 1998 Tibetan Freedom Concert. RHCP's set was cancelled by lightning, so the next day Pearl Jam ended their set early so RHCP could do a quick 3-song set, including "The Power Of Equality."

Much is made of the band's many lineup changes -- they're probably the biggest rock band in history where the guitarist's role was such a revolving door, where the bassist was a more consistent lynchpin of the band's sound. But I have to say, while the John Frusciante lineup has become associated with the band's commercial and creative peaks, I think that there's a lot to be said about how they've been able to swap other guitarists in and out and more or less be the same band. The Dave Navarro era generally doesn't get a lot of love but I think the band sounded fine with him, not as an odd a fit as some might say. If there's anything wrong with One Hot Minute it's more the self-serious bloat that a lot of other big bands were falling victim to in the mid-'90s.

The Getaway is the band's shortest album since Mother's Milk, which is encouraging in a way. This is a band that left behind 40-minute albums with the end of the vinyl era and has only barely gotten one other album in under an hour in the last two decades. Blood Sugar Sex Magik is good enough to more or less justify its 70 minutes but would pack a bigger punch with some of the redundant songs trimmed. Stadium Arcadium is the rare CD-era double album by a major rock band, an appalling 122 minutes (even Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, an album that makes a tremendous effort to justify its length, is a minute shorter). I usually listen to entire albums or all the available deep cuts to make these mixes, but I must admit I skimmed and skipped around the later albums a lot, just because it's so hard to pick a good song out of the 28 tracks on Stadium Arcadium.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes

Movie Diary

Monday, June 13, 2016




























a) The Martian
I was kind of surprised by how much I loved this. In the past few years I've worked gigs where I've been in the same room with Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell and just getting my head around the idea that these guys have been in space was really inspiring and exciting. So a plausible-looking future where we're exploring Mars in 20 years is downright utopian, and this whole movie is pretty much just noble, lovable scientists solving problems. I thought it would be too feelgood, to predestined for a happy ending, to have any suspense but I really was on the edge of my seat for some of the scary scenes. Narratively it feels kind of slight for a blockbuster Oscar nominee, but I like that something about space travel and trillions of dollars on the line ended up feeling fairly intimate and character-driven. 

b) The Dresser
It surprised me a little that a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellan was made just for TV (BBC there, Starz here). But the same week it aired, it was announced that Hopkins is going to be in the next Transformers movie, which kind of underlined how hard it is for even the biggest stars to get into multiplexes with normal little human-scale dramas these days. I'm not familiar with the stage play or the earlier adaptation, but this was an enjoyable little character study, fun to see these two guys bounce off of each other with very different roles.

c) Zootopia
My son saw this a few months ago and loved it, but I just got to watch it with him for the first time recently and it was great, easily one of the best animated features of the last few years. Charming voice cast, beautiful visual design, nicely structured screenplay, and the movie's whole overall message about diversity and prejudice was imparted in a really refreshing way that worked within the animal-themed story. 

d) Self/less
It's interesting to look back at last year's Ryan Reynolds comeback misfire in light of Deadpool hitting so big, particularly because this movie doesn't even try to let Reynolds be wacky talkative Reynolds. The pilot for "Second Chance," the FOX series that was quickly canceled earlier this year, did a better job with a similar premise, but even that wasn't very good.

e) Chappie
I love movies with a unique tone that kind of mixes different elements of genre and humor, because you either end up with an indispensable classic or a total fascinating mess like this. Neill Blomkamp is such a frustrating director because he's got all this promising ideas and themes and visual motifs that make him seem like the next great sci-fi filmmaker but it never quite comes together, even District 9 was kind of a mess. So I went into this hoping that it would end up really fun and weird but it just felt like this bloated mix of RoboCop and Short Circuit shot like an extended Die Antwoord video.

f) Angels Of Darkness 
This movie was some kind of direct to DVD/VOD thing that is alternately called Styria or The Curse Of Styria, creepy movie with a good premise. But I have to admit I put it on primarily because I have a crush on Eleanor Tomlinson, who hasn't been in any big Hollywood movies besides that forgettable Jack The Giant Slayer thing.

g) The Equalizer
Now that Denzel Washington is over 60 and actually looks like an old man when you see him out in the real world but can still look like a dashing movie star in movies, this movie was a good way of kinda playing off that and let him transform from innocuous to badass onscreen. Wouldn't mind if he had a run like Liam Neeson as the old grizzled action star

h) The Forger
I put this on because I hadn't seen any John Travolta movies in a while but I met him at work recently (he was very easygoing and chill!). It was okay, kinda felt like it didn't know whether to be a "one last job" heist movie or a downbeat character study. 

i) Rocky
I realized that I'll probably watch Creed sometime but have never really watched the original Rocky movies outside of catching bits and pieces on TV, so it was fun to put this on and really get the story. I feel like the franchise that grew out of this movie actively works against what made the first movie good, but it stands up on its own merits. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 65: Violent Femmes

Thursday, June 09, 2016















The self-titled debut album by the Violent Femmes is one of those perfect weird records that's been passed down over generations and retains its unique appeal. It was nearly a decade old when it was finally certified platinum in 1991. I started listening to alt-rock around then, and although the band had a couple new singles that got played on the radio in the '90s the regular rotation of songs from that first album on WHFS that got me into them more ("Add It Up," "Gone Daddy Gone," "Kiss Off," and of course "Blister In The Sun" each got plenty of burn, although not all of them were ever really released as singles). I remember finding Violent Femmes in the cheap casseette bin in The Sound Garden as a middle schooler, and my best friend Cody was as excited to listen to it as I was. And the six songs that I didn't hear on HFS were all great too, so I've always meant to dive into the band's less heralded records and hear their other deep cuts.

Violent Femmes Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Please Do Not Go
2. Good Feelings
3. Prove My Love
4. Confessions
5. Promise
6. Country Death Song
7. I Know It's True But I'm Sorry To Say
8...8...I forget what 8 was for...Hallowed Ground
9. Sweet Misery Blues
10. Black Girls
11. Old Mother Reagan
12. Love & Me Make Three
13. Special
14. Candlelight Song
15. Two People
16. Dating Days
17. Nothing Worth Living For
18. Telephone Book
19. Out The Window
20. Look Like That
21. More Money Tonight
22. This Island Life
23. When Everybody's Happy

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 from Violent Femmes (1983)
Tracks 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 from Hallowed Ground (1984)
Tracks 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 from The Blind Leading The Naked (1986)
Tracks 16, 17 and 18 from 3 (1989)
Tracks 19, 20 and 21 from Why Do Birds Sing? (1991)
Tracks 22 and 23 from New Times (1994)

"Country Death Song" and "Please Do Not Go" among other tracks probably got enough college radio airplay to not seem like deep cuts to some, but as usual I went with my gut about what counts and what doesn't. I cut things off after their 6th album, which contained their last radio hit, "Breakin' Up," although they've recorded three more albums since then, including We Can Do Anything, released earlier this year.

Violent Femmes have an interesting niche in the alt-rock canon. They released their debut the same year as R.E.M. and graduated to major labels around the same time, reaping the rewards of the general commercial ascendance of college rock, but obviously never got quite that big. Gordon Gano's odd nervous voice and neurotic on-record persona made him an unlikely rock star in that lineage of other weirdos like Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, or David Byrne. And while the most famous Violent Femmes songs are catchy, simple punk songs bashed out on acoustic strings and brushed drums, bassist Brian Ritchie's avant garde leanings lead the band into some pretty varied sounds (and collaborators like John Zorn, who appears on "Black Girls"). Ritchie also took a rare lead vocal on the deep cut "Love & Me Make Three."

On-again-off-again founding drummer Victor DeLorenzo has been out of the band, seemingly for good this time, since 2013, and at one point Ritchie sued Gano over letting "Blister In The Sun" be used in a Wendy's commercial. So even though I tend not to clutch pearls about "selling out," there's something kind of depressing about this intriguing, weird band whose cult classic went platinum eventually becoming this embarrassing old band that tours with Barenaked Ladies (maybe because they're both dude bands with feminine names?). But they've got some songs that really feel like they'll last forever, including the deep cuts.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane

Monthly Report: May 2016 Albums

Monday, June 06, 2016































1. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
Acid Rap is one of those records that I didn't know what to make of at first, but then it slowly got really deep under my skin. So it feels impossible to have that kind of relationship with Coloring Book, which I expected to be great, and is, or even Surf, which had its own unpredictable element but ended up being a pretty great star vehicle for Chance despite its intentions. But Chance is operating with such a different palette of sounds and emotions than most of the rest of rap right now that whatever he does just feels so essential. Right now "All Night" and "Same Drugs" are the ones that really stand out and give me that feeling that only Chance does so well now, that giddy rush of big-hearted exalted gratitude for life, the thing that had me playing "Sunday Candy" with a newborn on my lap so many times last year. Here's my running Spotify playlist of 2016 albums I've been listening to, although only like 4 of the albums in this post are on Spotify.

2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
I've always regarded Radiohead as mere mortals with a highly fallible catalog, so I'm not reaching for the moon and stars by saying that this is their best album in a long time and certainly way better than In Rainbows. But really, it just feels present and lively in a way that their later albums rarely have, like they have a lot fewer "no ______" aesthetic rules posted on the walls of the studio than they usually do. The "Desert Island Disk" and "Ful Stop" section in particular just sound gorgeous, Phil Selway is as always a bore and Thom Yorke continues to shrink away from doing anything interesting or unexpected with his once fascinating voice, but the guitars and strings and atmospherics are beautiful.

3. The Posies - Solid States
I adore The Posies, I worship them like other people worship Radiohead, I really do, and it was fun to dive into their deep cuts recently. Their later albums always take a while to grow on me, I think because they're still really stretching their legs and trying new things, and there's a lot of lyrical and musical territory on this record that there was no hint of in their '90s records. While the verbose, social commentary Elvis Costello vibe of some of their lyrics now can sometimes feel like an odd fit, it's resulted in some really surprising and great songs like "Squirrel vs Snake." And while the move away from guitar/bass/drums into piano, synths and drum machines that dominate the second half of Solid States doesn't always work, there's a high level of songcraft carrying it. Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow are one of my favorite songwriting partnerships, and it's really gratifying to hear them still challenging each other after nearly 30 years of collaborating.

4. Corinne Bailey Rae - The Heart Speaks In Whispers
It's been about a decade since Corinne Bailey Rae's initial big splash of love from the Grammys and VH1, and 6 years since her underperforming sophomore album. And I don't know if she just finally started to make interesting music or if I unfairly dismissed her as boring before, but this record is pretty nice. A few tracks were made with members of KING, but a lot of the best tracks weren't, and it really just has this lovely languid bittersweet aesthetic that works well with her strange little voice.

5. Young Dro & Zaytoven - Boot Me Up
It's cool to hear these guys link up for an entire mixtape, because Young Dro's recent Zaytoven-produced single "Ugh" was great, and they're both kind of these Atlanta journeyman figures who've been around for over a decade but have been building new momentum lately. Dro just had "We In Da City," his biggest song in a long time, and Zay had Future's Beast Mode last year, and did the current 2 Chainz hit and Gucci is back and in the studio with him. Dro dropped another mixtape a week after this one, Phoenix, that's also pretty good, but Boot Me Up is entirely produced by Zaytoven and is just a lot more consistent and more fun, they have a real chemistry, Dro's word drunk punchlines are a good match for Zay's bright trebly synths.

6. Ro James - El Dorado
Ro James co-wrote one of my favorite Miguel songs, "Use Me," and the languid guitar-driven grooves of Miguel's last couple albums is a better indicator of what El Dorado sounds like than his Willie Hutch-sampling single "Permission." I don't love the guy's voice and some songs explore his sound better than others, but "Already Knew That" and "New Religion" are killer and I think this album could really grow on me.

7. Jumbled - Wish It Was Longer
In my years of covering Baltimore's rap underground and Baltimore's rock underground, there's not a lot of people with a foot in both scenes, but John is a good guy I've gotten to know a little who plays drums in bands (I've played a few shows with his band Soft Peaks) and produces and DJs hip hop as Jumbled and with the group Napalm Def. Wish It Was Longer is, true to its title, a brief little record where the tracks run an average of 2 minutes, with occasional guest vocals by local people like Height, UllNevaNo, and Berko Lover from So Nice Yesterday, along with a whole library of odd little samples taking the lead on the instrumental tracks, really a fun listen.

8. The Mercury Program - New Myths EP
About 15 years ago, my friend Stephen from Florida got into this instrumental band that he was friends with, The Mercury Program, and I have fond memories of seeing them at the old Ottobar, and am happy to see that they're still occasionally making music today. New Myths, their first record in a while, is an EP, which is kinda fitting since their best record, 2001's All The Suits Began To Fall Off, was also an EP. Their sound is pretty much the same as it ever way, with vibraphones and knotty polyrhythmic grooves, but I really love the texture of the drums on here, "Dance Pact" is one of the best tracks they've ever done.

9. Boosie Badazz - Bleek Mode (Thug In Peace Lil Bleek)
We're now five months into Boosie's run of releasing an album every month of 2016, and other than April's interesting but hardly essential C-Murder collab album, he's generally been at the top of his game and plumbing new emotional depths with each release. This isn't an entire album about his dead friend, but that definitely permeates the overall vibe of the record, which is one of the darker ones out of a run that included an album recorded directly after a cancer diagnosis. Even recording high volumes of music has never driven Boosie to experiment much with his sound, but "Long Road" is the kind of odd outlier that I wouldn't mind hearing him indulge in more often. Webbie also released Savage Life V in May and there's 3 good Boosie features on there.

10. Brooks Long & The Mad Dog No Good - Mannish Boys
Brooks Long is a soul singer who's been gigging around Baltimore and releasing singles and EPs for a few years now, we included him on a compilation I helped assemble in 2013. And Mannish Boys is his long-awaited full-length debut, featuring new songs and re-recordings of stuff from the old records and guest appearances from other local guys like Bosley and Lafayette Gilchrist. Brooks and his band mine a gritty old school R&B sound but there's a lot of funny, creative layers to the lyrics and it kinda feels like they're remaking that aesthetic into something of their own instead of just being stuck in a retro niche.

Worst Album of the Month: Post Malone - August 26th
If Post Malone was just another mediocre white crossover rapper in the now familiar tradition, he'd be easy enough to ignore. But the fact that this guy's career continues to thrive after he got caught saying the N-word, and he basically just rap-sings cliches in a terrible "turn around and die" voice, has made me absolutely loathe this piece of shit. I guess it was nice that at least he released this tape the same day as Coloring Book and it basically flew under the radar, though. I found myself at least enjoying the Jeremih and 2 Chainz features and finding parts of this tape passable until I got to the horrific track where he sings over a karaoke version of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 64: Gucci Mane

Friday, May 27, 2016



















Yesterday, Gucci Mane fans everywhere celebrated the unexpected news that he had been released from prison, about 4 months before anyone expected. It wasn't Gucci's first homecoming, and one of those periodic returns to freedom, in 2009, presaged one of the most productive and prolific runs in hip hop history. Many MCs had become legends thanks in part to a tireless work ethic, and for a long time it seemed like 2Pac's vault was bottomless. But while Lil Wayne set a new pace for southern rap with a flood of mixtapes that were often full of freestyles over industry beats, Gucci Mane kept up while making street albums almost exclusively with original beats from his busy stable of producers, writing hooks and multiple verses for hundreds of songs. He recorded so much music that the constant trickle of music even during his last couple years in prison only recently slowed down, and we're probably about to get a lot more.

Traditionally, I've reserved this series for artists who released the bulk of their material on proper albums, and have avoided a lot of contemporary rappers whose mixtapes aren't available on services like Spotify to easily make playlists. However, one of the things that has happened in the last couple years is that most of Gucci Mane's voluminous back catalog, including mixtapes that had previously never been sold through traditional retailers, went up on Spotify and other services. So I was able to make a playlist cherrypicking 21 tracks from 21 of his best or most high profile albums and mixtapes.

Gucci Mane Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. First Day Out
2. Classical - Intro
3. Kill The Parking Lot
4. My Chain (featuring Black Magic)
5. On Deck
6. Follow Me (featuring Drumma Boy)
7. I Know Why (featuring Pimp C and Rich Boy)
8. Chasen Paper (featuring Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug)
9. Poltergeist (featuring Talib Kweli)
10. Servin'
11. Brand New
12. Chicken Talk
13. My Kitchen
14. Socialite
15. Shining For No Apparent Reason (featuring Waka Flocka Flame, Schife and Wooh Da Kid)
16. Lawnmower Man
17. Walkin' Lick
18. Scarface (featuring Scarface)
19. Laughin'
20. MVP (featuring Jagged Edge)
21. My Shadow

Track 16 from Trap House (2005)
Track 12 from Chicken Talk (2006)
Track 4 from Hard To Kill (2006)
Track 13 from No Pad, No Pencil (2007)
Track 7 from Back To The Trap House (2007)
Track 19 from Gucci Sosa (2008)
Track 5 from From Zone 6 To Duval (2008)
Track 3 from The Movie (2008)
Track 1 from Writing On The Wall (2009)
Track 21 from The Burrprint (The Movie 3D) (2009)
Track 6 from The Cold War: Part 1 (Guccimerica) (2009)
Track 2 from The State vs. Radric Davis (2009)
Track 15 from Burrrprint (2) HD (2010)
Track 14 from Mr. Zone 6 (2010)
Track 9 from Jewelry Selection (2010)
Track 11 from The Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted (2010)
Track 20 from Writings On The Wall II (2011)
Track 17 from Trap Back (2012)
Track 18 from I'm Up (2012)
Track 10 from Trap God (2012)
Track 8 from Trap House III (2013)

Gucci Mane is an artist who can really blur the line between 'hits' and 'deep cuts.' Although he has a good dozen or so songs that were pushed by major labels as singles and charted on Billboard, there's a tier of many many other Gucci songs that countless club and radio DJs have kept in rotation for years. I mostly avoided those here, although I did include some pretty well known songs like "First Day Out" and "On Deck," probably my favorite Gucci song, which gets a lot of love in Baltimore but rarely seems to get enough acknowledgment on lists of his best work.

A lot of these songs that just stuck out to me when the tapes were new, although I have friends who've studied Gucci's catalog a lot more closely and I always check for what they recommend as standouts. I mean, it's insane that I can sample 20 mixtapes here and I'm still just skimming the surface and leaving out the huge amount of mixtapes that have been assembled and released while Gucci Mane's been away. I always enjoy the outliers -- "MVP" is by far my favorite R&B track from a rapper who's always had inconsistent success with them, and I really genuinely like the infamous "Poltergeist" and think both Gucci and Kweli sound great on it. And though Gucci's had great rapport with a huge number of producers, there are just so many Zaytoven tracks from every era of his career, so this is a pretty Zay-heavy mix.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time

Monthly Report: May 2016 Singles

Tuesday, May 24, 2016























1. Maxwell - "Lake By The Ocean"
In 2009, Maxwell returned from an 8-year hiatus with a new album that he promised was part of a trilogy that he'd be rolling out in quick succession. Fast forward 7 years, and we're just now finally getting the 2nd album in that series. And perhaps the silliest thing about this protracted wait is that he released the single "Lake By The Ocean," which he'd been mentioning for months or years, just after a goofy song called "Cake By The Ocean" was a massive pop hit. I love both songs, though. "Lake By The Ocean" isn't the instant smash "Pretty Wings" was, and I've heard some R&B fans kind of dismiss it, but I love its gentle groove and the subtly weird effects or triggers going on with the hi-hats, Maxwell records always tend to have these really understated creative production touches that reward repeat listening. Here's my favorite 2016 singles playlist on Spotify.

2. Eric Church - "Record Year"
Mr. Misunderstood was pretty much country music's first high profile 'surprise' album, and if it has any function as a test case, it would seem to indicate that surprise releases are not a good idea for country artists. Eric Church had already kinda peaked in popularity, but this album has still performed terribly by any measure -- hasn't gone gold in 6 months, and the first two singles both missed the top 10 on the country airplay charts. And it's a shame because "Record Year" is a fantastic song that deserves to be one of his bigger hits, putting a little more emotional resonance into the record collection namechecking that was also all over "Mr. Misunderstood."

3. Dreezy f/ Jeremih - "Body"
This song took a while to grow on me but it really does have that iridescent joyful quality that Jeremih brings more than almost anyone else in popular music these days. but Dreezy still really maintains ownership of the song and doesn't get Natalie La Rose'd on her own track. The best part is that spoken "you gon' catch a body if you ain't careful" part of the chorus that feels like it was just ad libbed but then they looped it and kind of created a place for it in the melody, that's just some brilliant songwriting.

4. Rihanna - "Kiss It Better"
I included "Kiss It Better" in my piece for Complex earlier this month predicting songs of the summer, but to be honest it's already looking a little like wishful thinking -- Rihanna's other single released simultaneously to R&B radio, "Needed Me," is doing much better on the charts, and her new song with Calvin Harris seems like it's quickly taken "Kiss It Better"'s spot on pop radio. I really love this song, though, I think it's by far the best thing she's done this whole album cycle. I dig the way the trilling hi-hats accent the melody, "Dangerous Woman" does that a bit too, puts a fresh twist on something that had become kind of a production cliche.

5. Troye Sivan - "Youth"
A teen YouTube celebrity mewling "my youth, my youth, my youth is yours" probably shouldn't be as rousing and enjoyable as this is. When he performed on the Billboard Music Awards the other night, my wife, who had never heard the song before, turned to me and said "this is a weird premise for a song, I feel like he's talking about a vampire."

6. Justin Timberlake - "Can't Stop The Feeling!"
This song really seems to mark the point where Justin Timberlake has completely ceased to be cool, and it really kinda seems like he's doing it on purpose, even though the world really enjoyed him being cool and wanted him to keep it up. That really started with "Suit & Tie" but this is the decisive point where he's just a total and literal dad, and honestly I'm not mad at it -- you've got Bieber, Zayn, Nick Jonas and who knows how many other guys following his Justified-era career model right now, so he might as well become something else. But as sick as I was of his repetitive work with Timbaland, this song at least sounds a little fresh and a little different, ironically because it marks Justin's first work in 16 years with Max Martin, who did a few early N Sync hits. I'm sure I'll get good and sick of this song once it reaches the "Happy" levels of ubiquity it seems destined for, but for now I enjoy it.

7. Yo Gotti f/ E-40 - "Law"
The first time I ever heard E-40 was when he popped up on the Cash Money posse cut "Baller Blockin'," and even then he had the air of this regional rap elder statesman who wasn't that famous but could pop up on anybody's track at any time. So it's crazy that he's still on that wave a whole 15 or 16 years later, appearing on a giant hit by Big Sean and more recently moderate hits by Yo Gotti and Ty Dolla $ign. I didn't expect "Law" to be as big as it is, just because it's kind of just another Yo Gotti song and not a crossover slam dunk like "Down In The DM," but I'm glad it's doing well.

8. Clare Dunn - "Tuxedo"
This song has been hanging around the lower reaches of the country charts, but the first time I heard it wasn't on a country station, and it didn't even register as a country song, it just sounded like a pop hit. Generally saying that kind of thing comes across as a knock, but it's just a really catchy song, I feel like they could change the reference to George Strait and pretty easily work this to Top 40 or adult contemporary radio, it got stuck in my head all morning the first time I heard it.

9. Kelsea Ballerini - "Peter Pan"
A while back I heard a song on the radio with a whole Peter Pan metaphor and really liked it, but then I heard it again a few weeks later and hated it. Then I realized that it was two totally different songs, and that I hated Ruth B's "Lost Boy" but enjoyed Kelsea Ballerini's "Peter Pan."

10. Muse - "Reapers"
Muse are a pretty goofy band who are often unbearable, but I find myself enjoying their really ridiculous bombastic songs like "Knights of Cydonia" or "Panic Station." And "Reapers" falls pretty well into that tradition, the guitar solo is just kind of hilarious but I feel like they're having fun playing with these over-the-top sounds and it's infectious.

The Worst Single of the Month: The Strumbellas - "Spirits"
These kinds of hippie singalongs have become increasingly common on alt-rock radio in the last few years, and I don't even reflexively dislike them all. But man, this song is just awful, maybe as bad as Sheppard's "Geronimo."

Friday, May 20, 2016
















I wrote a piece for Rolling Stone about 5 of the best cover songs by Ariana Grande.

TV Diary

Wednesday, May 18, 2016
























a) "The Night Manager"
I always thought about all the great roles Hugh Laurie could be doing when he was stuck making 8 seasons of "House" way past when that show had ceased to be interesting. So it's nice to see him in stuff like "Veep" and this, where he plays a villainous arms dealer. I'm 5 episodes into the 6-part miniseries and it's really good, although I feel like they're not having enough fun with the fact that Tom Hiddleston is basically a normal guy who gets thrown into this spy movie, at a certain point the humor of the first couple episodes has faded as the story has escalated.

b) "Houdini & Doyle"
4 different actors have portrayed Sherlock Holmes in major TV or film projects in the past 5 years, so it feels like some kind of ridiculous spillover Sherlock-mania that there's now also a show about Arthur Conan Doyle solving crimes. Apparently he and Houdini really did strike up a friendship and help the London police around the turn of the century, but even with some factual basis this show is obviously mostly about having fun with history and making up weird semi-magical mysteries for them to investigate. It's pretty enjoyable, though, I like the cast.

c) "The Girlfriend Experience"
I never saw the Soderbergh movie, so I can't compare this or say how different or similar it is. But I could see this kind of story working better as a feature film, halfway through the first season of the series it already feels like it's descended into a gloomy, repetitive rhythm. I mean, it's very interesting as a show co-written by a woman that takes a realistic, unglamorous look at sex work, it's a perspective you don't see much. But the main character is such a blank slate that I don't know if there's enough plot in the second half of the season to hold my attention.

d) "Containment"
My wife is an epidemiologist, so I like watching things like Contagion and letting her explain and fact-check the science to me. And this miniseries on The CW is obviously not going to be the most scientifically rigorous show about an outbreak. But it's about a new mutation of a new avian flu mutation that starts spreading in America and is traced back to a Syrian immigrant, so it really just feels like this show is stoking two very unjustified paranoid media narratives at once, which is pretty disappointing.

e) "Game Of Silence"
This was adapted from a show in Turkey, about a group of childhood friends who go to jail, and kind of continue to be stuck in these dark violent lives as adults when they get out of jail. In the original show, all the kids had to do was steal some baklava to get thrown in Turkish prison, but in America they had to justify the prison sentence by having the kids steal a car for a joyride and crash into and kill another motorist. So basically, the one big plot adjustment they had to make in changing the location of the show also inherently made the lead characters way less sympathetic, so from the jump I'm not really rooting for these asshole kids to grow up and have decent lives. And the whole thing is just really dark and pointless, feels like some "Rectify"-style misery porn that's so big on TV these days.

f) "Time Traveling Bong"
When the latest season of "Broad City" ended, Comedy Central followed it up with a 3-part miniseries starring Ilana Glazer and the guy who plays Trey. And it's funny, but I dunno, it also feels like they wrote a stoner-themed Hot Tub Time Machine knockoff and no studio wanted it, so they did it on the cheap for Comedy Central. There's a few really funny scenes but it just feels like a forgettable side project.

g) "Lopez"
I feel like "semi-autobiographical single camera sitcom" is this perfunctory stage in every aging comedian's career now, and for every "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or "Louie" that does something people love with the format, there's a few shows that are just masturbatory in-jokey "Entourage"-style toothless showbiz satires. "Lopez" is somewhere in the middle, it's got some pretty sharp humor here and there and kinda lets George Lopez do something a little cranky and grown up after coming off like a jolly cheeseball in his talk show and his old sitcom. But again, it also just feels like a perfunctory career stage he's going through after those shows went off the air.

h) "Dice"
If George Lopez wasn't a very appetizing star for the "semi-autobiographical single camera sitcom" formula, Andrew Dice Clay is downright revolting. This show is mostly about breaking down the Dice mythos and letting him make fun of himself as this old has-been trying to get by in a more politically correct modern world, but really I feel like it's kind of easy and stupid and I just hate this guy so who cares. At least in "Vinyl" they killed him.

i) "The Real O'Neals"
This was the best of the networks' mid-season replacements this year, so I'm glad it got picked up for a second season, it can be hard to make that happen in May if you only debut in March. Sometimes I feel like the show is so old-fashioned in its "religious family coming to grips with the son being gay" theme that I forget that it takes place in the current day and not 2 or 3 decades ago, but the writing is really sharp and the cast had chemistry from the jump.

j) "The Family"
My wife accurately predicted this show's twist back when the show debuted, and I was bummed out that she turned out to be right. Not that I begrudge her being right, I just hate the whole switcheroo plot, and although I finished the season, I really just didn't care what happened after that, and I'm glad it's canceled.

k) "The Grinder" 

Of all the shows that were canceled last week, "The Grinder" and "Agent Carter" are the only ones that I was really anxious about being on the bubble and am really disappointed that they're canceled. But "The Grinder" really kinda worked through the premise so thoroughly, and did so many fun things with it, that I am happy to remember it fondly as a one season wonder, I don't know if they were set up to really thrive in the long run with such a weird show.

l) "Grace And Frankie" 
The first season of "Grace And Frankie" debuted a couple weeks after my son was born last year, and it was one of the rare Netflix shows I really binge watched because we were just home all the time with the baby and it turned out to be the warm, comforting show full of familiar old actors being funny and cantankerous. So I haven't rushed through the second season as quickly, I'm just a few episodes in, but it still seems to have the same charm.

m) "iZombie"
This show has been consistently great in the second season, and they ended the Steven Weber story arc really well. And it was great that TV writer Rob Thomas finally responded to years of jokes about his name by having Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas come on his show and get killed by zombies.

n) "The Last Man On Earth" 
This show was never about plausibility, so I've enjoyed the ridiculous plot where Will Forte's astronaut brother Jason Sudeikis lands back on earth and they're reunited. I always feel like the show is falling short by leaning so hard on Forte doing a typical sitcom schlemiel thing, the show has always been its funniest when it didn't rely on that for laughs.

o) "Empire" 
This show is just not as deliriously entertaining as it was in the beginning, and you can kinda see the ratings and the Twitter discussions dropping off already. But now and again a couple of characters will repeatedly, solemnly refer to a song called "Boom Boom Boom Boom" and I'm like I'm so glad this is on TV.

p) "The Mindy Project"
Last week, well into the 4th season, Mindy Kaling did an episode that kind of finally responded to frequent criticisms of her show only ever depicting her dating white men. And it was really frank and funny and unsparing while also not feeling like a crowd-pleasing capitulation to that criticism. But I feel like she'll probably never do an episode like that again, and people will just continue to be unhappy with the show not making her race the main topic of the show, for better or worse.

q) "Saturday Night Live" 

I really like the current "SNL" cast but outside of the Ariana Grande episode I feel like this season will go down as one of its worst in recent memory. The Trump-hosted episode will live on as one of those infamous incidents that people talk down on in oral histories, but really other than Ariana Grande's episode and maybe Peter Dinklage's, there were a lot of episodes that just barely got a laugh out of me the whole night. I feel like so many people have been on the show so long that there will be a few cast shakeups this summer, but I'd rather see them replace the writing staff, it feels like the writers have been letting the cast down.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 63: The Time

Tuesday, May 17, 2016
























I made a playlist of Prince deep album cuts last year, and then after his death last month, I made a list of my 100 favorite Prince songs. And on the latter I threw in a handful of songs he wrote and produced for other artists, including The Time's "Jungle Love." But really, there's a whole fascinating shadow discography of work Prince did with other acts, and The Time have a pretty estimable discography in and of themselves.

Calling them 'Prince proteges' doesn't seem quite right -- Prince plucked a lot of singers and groups out of relatively obscurity, wrote a few songs or an album or two for them, and then moved on. But The Time were his friends and peers, guys from his hometown. They were also one of the few opening acts Prince ever had that he seemed to have to ever compete with, and for a time they were even commercially on his level. The Time had 9 songs on the R&B charts from 1981 to 1985, during a period in which Prince had about 12 songs on the chart. Of course, they didn't have any crossover hits on the scale of "Little Red Corvette," but for certain audiences, they were right at his heels.

The Time Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist / Tidal playlist): 

1. Wild And Loose
2. My Drawers
3. Oh, Baby
4. Onedayi'mgonnabesomebody
5. After Hi School
6. I Don't Wanna Leave You
7. Chili Sauce
8. If The Kid Can't Make You Come
9. My Summertime Thang
10. Release It
11. Love Machine
12. Condensate
13. Shake
14. Donald Trump (Black Version)
15. Faithful
16. It's Your World

Tracks 3 and 5 from The Time (1981)
Tracks 1, 4 and 6 from What Time Is It? (1982)
Tracks 2, 7 and 8 from Ice Cream Castle (1984)
Tracks 9, 14 and 16 from Pandemonium (1990)
Tracks 10, 11 and 13 from Prince's Graffiti Bridge (1990)
Tracks 12 and 15 from The Original 7ven's Condensate (2011)

Since Prince's albums are only on Tidal, the complete playlist is only available there. But I also put the rest of the playlist on Spotify, since The Time's first four albums represent easily the majority of the Prince music currently available on Spotify (a lot of other Prince protege albums are long out of print, and before he died, he even took a lot of the most famous Prince covers and Prince-penned hits, by The Bangles and Sinead O'Connor and others, off of Spotify).

The list is divided roughly into two halves -- the group's original early '80s run, and the sporadic reunions that followed. Ironically, though the band is largely remembered for Purple Rain, they'd already split up by the time the movie came out. But they reunited a few years later, earning their first top 10 pop hit, "Jerk Out," in 1990, before going their separate ways again. R&B radio changed so much in the early '90s that it's hard to imagine they would've continued having that kind of success, though. Though they reunited in 2008 and toured as The Time, but for some manner of legal reasons (perhaps Prince-related, I'm not sure), they changed their name to The Original 7ven to release an album.

There was a weird tension between Prince and The Time -- a lot of acts were happy to have Prince hand them fully completed albums to add vocal tracks to, but The Time were talented guys who were great onstage and could've made records without his help. And when Prince didn't give them the chance to prove it, the group eventually disbanded, with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis going off to become the primary producers for another superstar's discography. And as I mentioned in my Janet Jackson deep cuts post, it wasn't just Jimmy and Terry -- a total of 5 members of The Time have produced Janet records (Jesse Johnson worked on her first album, Jellybean Johnson produced "Black Cat," and Monte Moir did "Pleasure Principal"). In a 2014 interview that Rolling Stone just published after Prince's death, however, he did speak about the truth of his work with The Time and other atists ("It was all collaborative. It's not just my vision."). But since Prince had a habit of not giving people writing credits for some songs they helped create, and even weirdly gave people credits on songs they didn't work on at times, it's hard to really know what was what.

To some degree, Prince kind of used The Time as instruments to sell the world on 'the Minneapolis sound' and the First Avenue scene as it was mythologized in Purple Rain. That's not to say that there wasn't a unique R&B community in the city, but Prince was able to kind of exaggerate it, with him at the center, by giving The Time songs that sounded like Prince tracks instead of maybe letting them have their own vision that didn't trace the Minneapolis sound so directly back to him.

Prince, Morris Day, and Jerome Benton recorded a new The Time album in 1989, Corporate World, that was shelved. Instead, the whole band came back together to work on Pandemonium, this time with more creative control of their own album, and various Corporate World tracks were reworked for either Pandemonium or the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack. As a sequel to Purple Rain, obviously Graffiti Bridge is a lousy movie, but as '90s Prince albums go it's pretty good, and I enjoy that it has songs by The Time and other artists threaded through it. It's hard to find any fault with the Purple Rain album, but sometimes I kinda wish it had been a double LP with songs by all the other artists in the movie.

If we were going to look at The Time's records as part of Prince's discography, What Time Is It? would be one of my favorite Prince albums, but it's also just great on its own terms. There's a simplified narrative that The Time got some of Prince's more 'black' material while he was off doing the psychedelic pop stuff with Wendy & Lisa, but The Time have a pretty nice diverse soup of hard rock and new wave and weirdness in the mix. Morris Day isn't as good a vocalist as Prince, but he has an electric, hammy on-record presence, something like an R&B version of David Lee Roth. And there are great deep cuts all over their brief discography, particularly "My Summertime Thang," which has worked its way into D'Angelo's arsenal of Prince covers. And "Donald Trump (Black Version)," which was a pretty weird concept for a song even when Prince wrote it in 1989, is even more surreal in 2016.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies