Friday, September 23, 2016











I made a playlist for The Dowsers of George Jones's greatest songs about beer, wine and moonshine. I also made one of the best of Lil Wayne, post-Carter III.

Monthly Report: September 2016 Singles

Thursday, September 22, 2016

























1. Kehlani - "CRZY"
Kehlani has been kind of a semi-famous critical darling for a minute and was even nominated for a Grammy, but never really got to the point of having any songs on the radio until recently. In fact, there was an ugly little moment where R&B stations that had never played her music were suddenly dedicating gossip segments to discussion of her relationship status and reported suicide attempt, which really made me feel bad for someone whose music I didn't really know well. She has a song on the Suicide Squad soundtrack that's doing well on the charts now, "Gangsta," but I'm a lot more impressed with "CRZY," which seems to kind of grab ahold of this odd unpleasant moment in the spotlight and turn it into a bold, catchy, life-affirming song. I add my 10 favorite songs every month to my running favorite 2016 singles Spotify playlist.

2. Bastille - "Good Grief"
I had a kneejerk negative reaction to Bastille's big breakthrough hit "Pompeii" and the way the vocals sounded to me like Prince Valiant with some Gregorian chanting monks singing backup. But I warmed up to the follow up single "Bad Blood" and now I outright love their current single. The intro and bridge of the song sample Kelly Le Brock's voice in Weird Science, which is one of the most arousing sounds I've ever heard, so maybe I'm being swayed by that somewhat, but I really love the bassline.

3. Chance The Rapper f/ 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne - "No Problem"
It's been fascinating and exciting to watch Chance The Rapper's rise over the past 3-4 years as he's managed to become seriously successful while circumventing a lot of the traditional paths to stardom and metrics of success. Aside from the no label stuff and the free streaming record and all that, he just got really far without courting radio outside Chicago at all, which makes sense, because he's out of step with radio rap enough that he kinda needed the right song, and as much as I love, say, "Sunday Candy," that was never gonna be what crossed him over. His first collaboration with Lil Wayne, Dedication 5's "You Song," was one of the first tracks that made that crossover sound tangible, although the first time I actually heard Chance on the radio, on Action Bronson's "Baby Blue," felt like an event in and of itself. But now "No Problem" is Chance's first real legit radio hit, and even with 2 Chainz and Wayne making it sound more commercial, it really retains the right amount of Chance's sound and kinda shows how he can integrate that buoyant gospel rap vibe into the existing mainstream.

4. 5 Seconds Of Summer - "Girls Talk Boys"
Last year the second 5 Seconds Of Summer arrived with magazine covers and first week sales that seemed to promise that they were ready to become a really huge U.S. phenomenon, but then none of the singles hit and the album just kinda vanished from view so much quicker than their first. I don't know if this song from the Ghostbusters soundtrack will actually change their trajectory at all, but it's about ten times better than any previous 5SOS song I've heard, so I'm rooting for it. And it's written by Teddy "Love Monkey" Geiger, who's recently transitioned from fleeting mid-'00s teen idol success to working on hits by current teen idols like Shawn Mendes.

5. Khalid - "Location"
I just heard this on the radio recently and don't know anything about the artist and don't even know if I really like his voice, but the song just felt immediately like a hit, would be surprised if it doesn't blow up.

6. Hailee Steinfeld and Grey f/ Zedd - "Starving"
"Love Myself" was a pretty unique song for Hailee Steinfeld to kick off her pop career with, but "Starving manages to retain the same odd vibe of being sweet and earnest but also horny. "Don't need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn zoo" is an absolutely awful lyric, but otherwise it's a pretty catchy little song, kind of beats the Chainsmokers at their own game.

7. Sevyn Streeter f/ Gucci Mane - "Prolly"
Sevyn Streeter is perhaps my favorite of the many undervalued female R&B singers kicking around the major labels right now, she's had a few hits and written some for other artists but just keeps getting stuck in that gear of releasing singles and EPs with no album release in sight. This song has potential, though, it kinda sounds like she wrote it for someone else or kind of emulating a popular style she doesn't usually do, but she pulls it off well, and it has one of Gucci's best recent guest verses.

8. Tinashe - "Superlove"
It's only been 2 years since Tinashe's first album and the success of "2 On" but she's been kind of stalling with her recent singles too, it's a shame. The-Dream and Tricky Stewart channeling the sound of "My Boo" so soon after its viral revival seemed like a recipe for a hit, but this song hasn't done too well either, feels like it'll get left behind like that other "Superlove" that was abandoned in between Charli XCX's first and second albums.

9. French Montana f/ Kodak Black - "Lockjaw"
This song seemed to be poised to be huge, but then Kodak Black got locked up without any indication of when he'll be free again, and French Montana's album was both delayed and accidentally leaked in such a disastrous fashion that I actually felt sorry for one of my least favorite rappers.

10. Snoop Dogg f/ Lil Duval - "Kill 'Em Wit The Shoulders"
I like the idea that Lil Duval, a C-list comedian who's always popping up in rap videos, came up with a goofy dance move and then convinced one of the world's most famous rappers to make a theme song for it. But what actually makes "Kill 'Em Wit The Shoulders" an enjoyable song is how low rent it is, like some amateur producer threw together a placeholder track for Snoop to rap over and they just ran with it, and it ended up capturing the right dorky uncle vibe that the entire thing called for.

Worst Single of the Month: Lady Gaga - "Perfect Illusion" 
As someone who thought Lady Gaga retained a fair share of her peak greatness on Born This Way and even Artpop, I was rooting for her to actually justify her long break from proper pop stardom and come back with something amazing. And I'm still holding out hope that Joanne will be a good album, but man, after a couple listens of "Perfect Illusion" I just never want to hear it again. I usually like her classic rock vibes, but here it just all sounds wrong.

Movie Diary

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
I have a deeply entrenched dislike of biopics, and especially music biopics, that I try to suppress to keep an open mind every time one with potential comes out. And Straight Outta Compton was one of the biggest music biopics, in box office terms, ever, and easily the most acclaimed since Walk The Line (which wasn't that great, but hey, they're all not that great). And I get it, in some ways they knocked it out of the park. Casting is half the battle in these things, and they did a great job on that front. In fact, they got so many people down so well that it was kind of startling and hilarious how bad the movie's Snoop Dogg is. But like most biopics, the narrative unspools in these contrived little moments to compress the real messy story into something simpler, which wouldn't be quite so bad if there wasn't a lingering sense that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, the wealthy winners who got to write their own historical record, didn't sanitize so much of what made them mean, brilliant gangsta rap superstars to begin with. I also felt really bad for MC Ren, who rapped on most of NWA's best known songs and wrote many of Dre and Eazy's verses, and was basically reduced to a footnote in this movie because he never got big and famous outside the group. 

I'm very amused that two movies came out last year in which Paul Giamatti played the primary antagonist in two of pop music's most famous dramas -- Jerry Heller in Straight Outta Compton, and Brian Wilson's controversial doctor Eugene Landy in Love & Mercy. As music biopics go, this has a few things in its favor. Someone came up with the idea to split the movie into the two interesting eras of Wilson's life, and then found two sensitive, weak-chinned movie stars who were pretty ideal to play young Wilson (Paul Dano) and middle-aged Wilson (John Cusack). But the decision to jump back and forth between those two eras throughout the movie didn't really gel for me, and I thought the portrayal of Wilson's mental state mostly turned into a bunch of hammy acting tics and pretentious editing tricks. I've thought Paul Dano was one of the worst actors taken seriously in Hollywood since There Will Be Blood, and Love & Mercy is a new low for him, just awful.

I was a little anxious about how this movie would handle a main character with Asperger's, and I have mixed feelings about Louisa Krause's performance. But I came away from the movie really impressed by how well it navigated that sensitive material and ended up with a pretty sweet little story that addressed how complicated it must be for someone on the spectrum to try and start having an adult life and date, and how much difficulty a sibling would have in knowing whether to remain protective or give them some freedom.

d) Sisters
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have such a well honed duo dynamic that I thought this movie did a good job of tweaking it by kind of swapping each into the role that the other would usually play; Fey is the loud raunchy character, and Poehler is more or less her straight man. And I have no complaints, I am the target audience for 'slutty Tina Fey.' It was a slight little movie, though, just had really low stakes and barely any story even by the standards of a goofy comedy, which I really appreciated, a lot of comedies take themselves way too seriously now.

The Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg assembly line keeps cranking out comedies that are okay but nothing special. I appreciate that Rogen is trying to mix things up with guys outside his usual pack of co-stars, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie are basically just dramatic actors who are capable of levity, they're not actually funny enough to help Rogen carry a comedy. They could've spread more of the dialogue around to the underused funny women in the cast (Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell, Mindy Kaling, Ilana Glazer). Still, it had a few belly laughs.

If you're going to adapt a cheesy old cartoon into an all-girl band into a live action film about the contemporary music industry, you'd think the only way to go is something wacky and satirical like the 2001 Josie And The Pussycats movie. But no, they decided to go the painfully earnest route with this movie, with a brief role from Ryan Hansen ("Veronica Mars," "Party Down") getting whatever little laughs there were.

My wife is a fan of Bill Bryson's books, and I've read a couple myself, although not A Walk In The Woods, and he's really a sharp, charming writer. I was surprised to see a Bryson book adapted with Robert Redford playing him, though, he's just not who you picture when you read Bryson. And although there were a few moments when you get a bit of Bryson's voice in there, it mostly just felt like a light, pointless movie about old Redfored and old Nick Nolte hiking around.

h) Sleeping With Other People
I will watch anything Leslye Headland directs just off the strength of her being a writer on "Terriers," and this is one of the best rom coms I've seen in years that unfortunately kind of flew under the radar. Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie are great leads but I guess not famous enough to get this thing into megaplexes, the movie is a little dirtier than it needed to be but it was a nice balance to the wordier wit and sentimental moments. 

I am neither a Christopher Nolan stan nor a skeptic, I like his movies more often than not and can usually bring myself to just go along for the ride on a pretentious movie like Inception. So the first time I saw the trailer for this, I really thought it was going to be something I'd love. But I dunno, I kinda came around to it by the end but it was just so slow and portentous, it kinda collapsed under its own weight in a way that even Nolan's most ambitious movies usually don't. 

j) The Cat In The Hat 
I was really weirdly proud of my son when he enjoyed the book and cartoon of "The Grinch That Stole Christmas" but reflexively rejected the awful live action Jim Carrey movie. So I was disappointed when this movie came on TV one day and he actually was down to watch it and didn't recoil, this movie really feels like the sad endpoint of the road Mike Myers started going down circa Austin Powers

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 81: AC/DC

Tuesday, September 20, 2016






Tonight, AC/DC is playing Philadelphia, and it's the last of their U.S. shows with Axl Rose, who decided to front a second huge band in between tours with some of the original lineup of Guns N/ Roses. But I'm also wondering if it'll be the last AC/DC concert for a long time, if not ever. In the last two years, AC/DC have wound up shedding 3 longtime members in the course of releasing 2014's Rock Or Bust and touring in support of it. Guitarist Malcolm Young retired from the band due to health problems, drummer Phil Rudd dropped out of the band due to a bizarre arrest for a murder plot, and singer Brian Johnson was unable to complete the tour due to hearing loss. He wanted to postpone the dates, but Angus Young and Cliff Williams plugged ahead, doing the last two of the tour's seven legs with Axl. Maybe it was greed that made them drop Johnson like a bad habit (the tour grossed over 200 million dollars) or maybe cancelling dates on a tour of this scale just has huge financial or legal consequences they were trying to avoid. Either way, tonight marks the end of a pretty rough chapter for the band, and I wouldn't be surprised if we hear little or nothing from these guys in the future. So here's a look back.

AC/DC Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. The Jack
2. Rocker
3. Ride On
4. Bad Boy Boogie
5. Riff Raff
6. What's Next To The Moon
7. Love Hungry Man
8. If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
9. Night Prowler
10. Shoot To Thrill
11. Let Me Put My Love Into You
12. Have A Drink On Me
13. Night Of The Long Knives
14. Landslide
15. Playing With Girls
16. Nick Of Time
17. Mistress For Christmas
18. Goodbye And Good Riddance To Bad Luck

Track 1 from High Voltage (1976)
Tracks 2 and 3 from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976)
Track 4 from Let There Be Rock (1977)
Tracks 5 and 6 from Powerage (1978)
Tracks 7, 8 and 9 from Highway To Hell (1979)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from Back In Black (1980)
Track 13 from For Those About To Rock We Salute You (1981)
Track 14 from Flick Of The Switch (1983)
Track 15 from Fly On The Wall (1985)
Track 16 from Blow Up Your Video (1988)
Tracks 17 and 18 from The Razors Edge (1990)

I went by the international editions of the band's early albums, which were originally released in different forms in Australia (for instance, "The Jack" is not on the Australian version of High Voltage, but it is on the album T.N.T. which was never released outside Australia). And of course, I divided the mix pretty cleanly into the two eras: the first 9 tracks feature the band's amazing original frontman Bon Scott, and the last 9 tracks feature Brian Johnson, who may not be his predecessor's equal, but has presided over too many fantastic definitive AC/DC songs to be dismissed as easily as a Sammy Hagar.

Being able to collect songs from different AC/DC albums in one place, or even buy a collection of them, is a relatively recent development. They were always famous holdouts from iTunes, which they finally put their catalog on in 2012, and streaming services like Spotify, which they finally got on just last year. But AC/DC has also never released a proper 'greatest hits' album among their various live records and box sets and whatnot. It's funny to think of such a goofy band with so many great singles being kind of snobby about the sanctity of the album. But it worked out well from a business standpoint: Back In Black sold a staggering 22 million copies in the U.S. alone, and they have 8 other multi-platinum studio albums.

AC/DC has, on two occasions, released compilations of studio tracks as soundtracks for movies -- 1986's Who Made Who for the Stephen King film Maximum Overdrive, and 2010's Iron Man 2. But those weren't proper hits collections, and in fact highlighted some really good deep cuts, including the uncharacteristically slow groove of "Ride On" (on Who Made Who) and "Shoot To Thrill" and "Have A Drink On Me" (on Iron Man 2).

Obviously, AC/DC found their signature sound, the choppy riffs and solid 4/4 beats and wild solos and sleazy wordplay, very early in their run and stuck to their trademark as faithfully and as successfully as any band in history. But I'd like to think that this playlist demonstrates how many different directions they stretched that sound in, with some tracks that are slower and bluesier, or faster and punkier, than about anything you hear in their radio staples.

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
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf

Saturday, September 17, 2016

























I made a clappers playlist for The Dowsers, inspired by my 2012 Village Voice piece about 8th note handclaps in popular music.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 80: Meat Loaf

Friday, September 16, 2016


















Meat Loaf's 13th solo album, Braver Than We Are, is out today, so I thought I'd look back at his weird spotty catalog and find the highlights.

Meat Loaf Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. All Revved Up With No Place To Go
2. Heaven Can Wait
3. For Crying Out Loud
4. I'll Kill You If You Don't Come Back
5. Nocturnal Pleasure [Monologue by Jim Steinman]
6. You Can Never Be Too Sure About The Girl
7. One More Kiss (Night Of The Soft Parade)
8. Burning Down
9. Lost Boys And Golden Girls
10. Wasted Youth [Monologue by Jim Steinman]
11. Everything Louder Than Everything Else
12. Where The Rubber Meets The Road
13. Testify
14. Bad For Good [featuring Brian May]
15. Peace On Earth

Tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Bat Out Of Hell (1977)
Tracks 4 and 5 from Dead Ringer (1981)
Track 6 from Midnight At The Lost And Found (1983)
Tracks 7 and 8 from Blind Before I Stop (1986)
Tracks 9, 10 and 11 from Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell (1993)
Track 12 from Welcome To The Neighbourhood (1995)
Track 13 from Couldn't Have Said It Better (2003)
Track 14 from Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose (2006)
Track 15 from Hang Cool Teddy Bear (2010)


I should note that as a result of the ups and downs and label changes throughout Meat Loaf's career, a couple of his studio albums that aren't available on streaming services are not represented here -- 1985's Bad Attitude and 2011's Hell In A Handbasket. But it's OK that was limited in my selection, because I still had his two big blockbuster albums -- the first two Bat Out Of Hell albums. And his songs tend to be so long that I was only able to fit 15 tracks into 80 minutes, tying Madonna for the lowest number of tracks in a deep cuts playlist. And even then, two of the tracks are weird creepy spoken interludes by songwriter Jim Steinman.

The story of Meat Loaf's career is the story of a unique vocal talent hitching his wagon to a unique songwriting talent with such chemistry that their fates were basically intertwined for life. Jim Steinman can write pretty straightforward hits -- including "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" and a few other non-Meat smashes -- but it's hard to imagine that all the goofy overblown eccentric glory of his songs would've been realized on the scale they were without Meat Loaf singing them. And it's hard to imagine Bitch Tits, not a songwriter by trade, would've become a star without the right writer backing him.

But after Bat Out Of Hell's success, Meat Loaf had his first struggles with losing his voice, and wasn't able to record the first set of songs Steinman wrote as a follow-up. So Steinman sang the songs on his only solo album, Bad For Good, and wrote some more for Meat's album Dead Ringer, both of which were released in 1981 with a fraction of the success they'd enjoyed in the '70s. Meat Loaf's '80s are one of the more famous lost decades in pop music, as he lobbed four albums into an increasingly indifferent marketplace. I've always been curious about those fallow period albums, and to be honest there are some gems -- "You Can Never Be Too Sure About The Girl" is the best song actually co-written by Meat Loaf, and the glossy synth sound of Blind Before I Stop suits him better than I expected it to. And of course, Meat and Steinman would reunite and squabble a few times after that, including the massive comeback Bat Out Of Hell II. And two of the best songs from Meat's later albums, "Bad For Good" and "Lost Boys And Golden Girls," are re-recordings from the Steinman album.

Meat Loaf will never be especially respectable, but "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" is one of the greatest songs ever as far as I'm concerned, and really that whole first album is a delight. I remember my mom and stepdad having the first two Bat Out Of Hell albums and Welcome To The Neighbourhood on in the house a lot, and a few years ago my brother-in-law and I discovered a shared love of Bat Out Of Hell, just a couple of millenials bonding over Meat Loaf. And if you've ever been amused by the fact that Meat Loaf released an album called Hang Cool Teddy Bear, you can hear him actually sing that phrase on the last track of the playlist.

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
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 79: Nelly

Thursday, September 15, 2016





















Early this week, Nelly made headlines with the news that he's the latest rap star to get hit with a large tax lien from the IRS. But what really got people talking about the story was a Spin post that asserted that with a few hundred million streams of "Hot In Herre," Nelly could pay off that $2 million bill. I don't know if that's actually true. Nelly sold over 20 million albums back when people were actually paying $10 a CD. If he's in money trouble now, I kind of doubt that a trickle of pennies from Spotify, which Universal still gets a cut of, would save him, even if we are in the business of saving rich entertainers who screwed up. But hey, it's a fun idea, I get why people are talking about it. But why just loop "Hot In Herre"? Nelly has a lot of songs. Here are some other ones to listen to.

Nelly Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Tho Dem Wraps
2. St. Louie
3. For My featuring Lil Wayne
4. Luven Me
5. Let Me In Now with St. Lunatics
6. Nellyville
7. Splurge
8. Oh Nelly featuring Murphy Lee
9. The Gank
10. Kings Highway
11. Playa featuring Mobb Deep and Missy Elliott
12. Grand Hang Out featuring Fat Joe, Young Tru and Remy Ma
13. Pretty Toes featuring Jazze Pha and T.I.
14. UCUD GETIT featuring Gucci Mane and R. Kelly
15. Self Esteem featuring Chuck D
16. 1000 Stacks
17. k.I.s.s. featuring Dirty Money and Murphy Lee
18. Maryland, Massachusetts

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Country Grammar (2000)
Track 5 from St. Lunatics' Free City (2001)
Tracks 6, 7, 8 and 9 from Nellyville (2002)
Track 10 from Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention (2003)
Tracks 11 and 12 from Sweat (2004)
Track 13 from Suit (2004)
Tracks 14 and 15 from Brass Knuckles (2008)
Tracks 16 and 17 from 5.0 (2010)
Track 18 from M.O. (2013)

Producer Jason "Jay E" Epperson was such a big part of Nelly's phenomenal Country Grammar success that it's surprising he hasn't had a very impressive career since then. He produced a few deep cuts and minor singles on Nellyville and Sweat but basically never was heard from outside of Nelly records. It was kind of cool how an unknown rapper and producer from St. Louis just landed on this buoyant unique pop rap sound that became a cottage industry for a few years.

Even with Nelly seeming fairly disconnected from the established rap mainstream at first (aside from a pretty great early Lil Wayne feature on Country Grammar), he eventually became more collaborative, and I've really liked a lot of his later collaborations. I'm still kind of mystified with his friendship with T.I. though -- they've guested on each other's albums 6 times now, and none of those songs were hits or especially great, and you wouldn't think those guys have a lot in common. But I get the impression they actually hang out. Go figure.

Nelly is the kind of artist who started his career with such huge success that it was basically impossible to stay at that level forever. But he's carved out a niche that nobody can really take from him. There are a lot of singer-rappers now but nobody sounds like Nelly. And it was fun to skim through these records that never got any real critical examination and find some jams. I didn't realize he did a song with Dirty Money but no Diddy, it's pretty great.

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
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 78: 2Pac

Tuesday, September 13, 2016





















20 years ago today, Tupac Amaru Shakur died. He wasn't in the 27 club -- he'd only just turned 25 at the beginning of the summer of 1996. So he was one of the youngest of popular music's many icons who died too young, and yet he left behind a staggering body of work that few rappers could ever hope to equal. His solo career lasted less than 5 years, but in his life he released 4 albums (one of them a double CD), completed a 5th album released soon after his death, and left behind enough unreleased verses to double his discography with posthumously assembled albums. That might not seem like so much today, in the era of rappers routinely releasing several mixtapes a year. But the pace at which 2Pac worked, and the increasing urgency and quality of that work toward the end of his life, was remarkable and unprecedented. It's one of hip hop's great heartbreaks that we'll never know what more he was capable of.

2Pac Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Me Against The World featuring Dramacydal and Puff Johnson
2. Ambitionz Az A Ridah
3. Me And My Girlfriend
4. Got My Mind Made Up featuring Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Method Man and Redman
5. If I Die 2Nite
6. 5 Deadly Venomz featuring Apache, Live Squad and Treach
7. All About U featuring Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Dru Down, Yaki Kadafi and Hussein Fatal
8. Whatz Ya Phone # featuring Danny Boy
9. I Don't Give A Fuck featuring Pogo
10. Death Around The Corner
11. No More Pain
12. Representin' 93
13. Bomb First (My Second Reply) featuring E.D.I. and Young Noble
14. Against All Odds
15. Ain't Hard 2 Find featuring E-40, B-Legit, D-Shot, C-Bo and Richie Rich
16. All Eyez On Me featuring Big Syke
17. Last Wordz featuring Ice Cube and Ice-T

Track 9 from 2Pacalypse Now (1991)
Tracks 6, 12 and 17 from Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (1993)
Tracks 1, 5 and 10 from Me Against The World (1995)
Tracks 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 15 and 16 from All Eyez On Me (1996)
Tracks 3, 13 and 14 from The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)

I stuck to just the original 2Pac albums released during his life, and the Makaveli album he completed just before his death and released 2 months later. And even when I left aside charting songs that were officially released as singles, those albums contain a number of hugely famous songs. "Ambitionz Az A Ridah" wasn't a single but is 2Pac's most popular song on Spotify, gaining over 50 million plays on a service that didn't exist until 10 years after it was released. "Against All Odds," "Me Against The World," "All About U," those are among his most beloved tracks even if they didn't appear on the Hot 100.

2Pac cast a long shadow over hip hop for a good decade after his death. But it's been interesting to watch it dissipate over the last 10 years, as his fallen rival the Notorious B.I.G.'s legacy has arguably continued to grow. For every Boosie or Kendrick who comes along with loud and proud 2Pac influences, there are a dozen other new rap stars descended from a completely different lineage. This has resulted in an odd seesaw feeling, like the guy went from overrated to underrated in the space of a few years, to the point where young rap fans who typically don't privilege technical skills over everything will smugly recite the party line about why 2Pac was a mediocre MC.

2Pac was a remarkable rapper and an amazing songwriter, though. Even if he falls short next to some of the giants of "lyrical" rap, there's more rhyming and alliteration and wordplay in his verses than he often gets credit for. And the sheer musicality of his writing and his delivery is unmatched. The 2Pac flow is immediately identifiable and easily mocked, but nobody else really sounds like him, and the way his voice pivots around the beat and pulls melody out of every vowel sound is a unique gift. He created a template for how countless rappers rap, as much as Rakim or Slick Rick or anyone else.

In some ways I suppose 2Pac's music has dated, but a lot of his production holds up incredibly well. Daz Dillinger made 3 of the greatest beats of all time on All Eyez On Me ("Ambitionz," "Got My Mind Made Up," and "2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted"). Easy Mo Bee holds the distinction of being the only producer who did classic songs for Biggie (a large chunk of Ready To Die) as well as Pac ("If I Die 2Nite" and "Temptations"). "No More Pain" was produced by DeVante Swing, although rumors have been seemingly confirmed by his then-protege Timbaland that some of his distinctive drum programming is on the track as well.

"Representin' 93" is part of a series with "Soulja's Story" and "Souljah's Revenge" where 2Pac pitched down his voice to play a character, and it was really kind of a very example of the kind of voice manipulation that's standard in rap now. I enjoyed juxtaposing "Representin' 93," where 2Pac showed respect to pretty much all his Strictly-era contemporaries, with the 7 Day Theory songs where he was just declaring war on half of the rap game. It's sad, though, to think of what those 3 years in between must have been like for him that he took that turn. It's amazing to me that a couple of the guys he dissed in '96, Jay-Z and Nas, wound up sampling and dutifully paying tribute to 2Pac by the early 2000s. It's especially funny that Nas sampled Pac saying "fuck Jay-Z" like Jay couldn't come back and sample any number of lines on "Against All Odds."

When I remember 2Pac in my own memories of the period, being only 14 and not really heavily into rap yet when he died, I still knew that he was a star. I remember "I Get Around" being on MTV constantly, his next album shocking the industry debuting at #1 while he was locked up, and the triumphant comeback with Death Row. Biggie didn't register as really that famous to me before he died but Pac did, maybe because he was the first rapper I saw covered breathlessly on MTV News, getting shot, going to jail, coming back. Even before that, "I Don't Give A Fuck" was one of rap's first controversial songs about police brutality, released 6 months before the L.A. riots and denounced by Dan Quayle. But even when you set aside all the crazy controversies, these stand up as some amazing songs.

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
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112

Saturday, September 10, 2016



























I did a playlist for The Dowsers of music referenced by Eric Church in "Record Year," one of my favorite singles of 2016.

TV Diary

Friday, September 09, 2016


























a) "Atlanta"
Donald Glover's work on "Community" (and as a writer on "30 Rock") had me really interested in him as a charismatic new voice in TV comedy, but then he seemed to kind of turn away from that, leaving "Community" before the end of its run and focusing on his rapping career as Childish Gambino, which I have always found kind of embarrassing, the sound of a talented comedy writer doing a horribly forced impression of a punchline rapper. So I was pretty apprehensive about Glover returning to TV with a show about Atlanta hip hop, a scene he may have grown up near but never seemed too musically attached to. But the first two episodes of "Atlanta" that aired this week were more enjoyable than I expected, a lot of little dry character-driven moments of comedy that let Glover and the other actors get laughs with very small facial expressions or subtle word choices. And the depiction of the music scene is more affectionate than condescendingly satirical, although it definitely feels like there are a few places this Paper Boi plotline could go that might piss me off.

b) "Better Things"
After Louis C.K. cast Pamela Adlon in his HBO show and his FX show, and then put his FX show on indefinite hiatus, it was I guess a natural next step for him to executive produce a new show starring Adlon. It's a little more straightforward and realistic than "Louie," but I found the first episode pretty charming. Even though it's about a woman with daughters working in show business, there were a lot of moments that reminded me of life with my sons, it did a good job of kind of showing how odd it can be to go back and forth between adult life and dealing with little kids on a daily basis, there's a lot of humor to mine in that. Also loved the bit where Adlon and Constance Zimmer sat down next to each other at an audition and both went "of course you're here."

c) "One Mississippi"
Another autobiographical comedy show exec produced by Louis C.K., this one Tig Nataro's Amazon series. It just came out today and I ended up just watching the whole thing, since it was just 6 half hour episodes and I'd already seen the pilot when Amazon released it previously. Notaro's whole story the past few years of surviving cancer and then her mother dying has been pretty well publicized and covered in her standup, and this show is more or less a dramatized account of that. The show doesn't really try hard to find laughs in the story, they seem to come in odd unexpected places, and it works a little more naturally with the Notaro's comedic voice than in a lot of these half hour dramedies you see these days. There are occasional flashbacks and fantasy sequences that are used really sparingly but give a very slight surreal edge to all the heavy stuff going on.

d) "Queen Sugar"
I haven't seen any of Ava DuVernay's films yet, but this is definitely one of those shows where you kind of feel the imprint of someone from the film world, it all moves a little slower with more texture in the cinematography and the music than other TV dramas. That's primarily a good things in terms of the quality of the show, but the first two episodes felt a little more like a complete movie, or the first 2/3rds of a movie maybe, that I don't feel a lot of forward momentum to keep watching. I like Rutina Wesley, though, I always felt like she was underused or misused in "True Blood" and this seems like a perfect vehicle for her.

e) "StartUp"
This is Crackle's latest attempt at original programming besides that Jerry Seinfeld show with the cars, and it kinda feels like I should be watching it with a Gritty Prestige Drama bingo card as I check off the cliches. There are 3 sex scenes in just the first 12 minutes of the first episode, 2 of them being those predictable TV sex scenes that abruptly cut to the scene mid-coitus. Martin Freeman and his uncomfortable American accent call somebody "dickfuck." A show centered around Otmara Marrero's character and her story could be interesting, but there's just a lot of other angsty bullshit happening around it.

f) "Loosely Exactly Nicole"
Back in March, FOX debuted a sketch show, "Party Over Here," starring three previously unknown actresses, and it was really disappointingly unfunny and quickly canceled. Less than 6 months later, one of those women, Nicole Byer, is starring in her own show on MTV, another one of those autobiographical sitcoms about trying to make it in show business. I made a petty comment about her multiple shows on the air this year on Twitter and Byer responded, but she actually kept it positive even though I was kinda  mean, so respect to her. This show has a little more potential than "Party Over Here," but it also feels like a lot of other shows on the air right now.

g) "Mary + Jane"
This is MTV's other new slacker sitcom paired with "Loosely Exactly Nicole," except it's really a painfully obvious attempt to replicate "Broad City" but have it be about two young pot dealers. The show is created by the directors of the 2001 Josie And The Pussycat movie, which is why I'm disappointed that it's pretty weak.

h) "Harley And The Davidsons"
This has a title that sounds like some campy family sitcom that has nothing to do with Harley Davidson, but this is actually a Discovery miniseries about the founding of the motorcycle company. I thought the first part was OK but I dunno if I'll watch the other two, the story's not that interesting to me. Also I have an irrational hatred of Michiel Huisman because of how awful his character on "Treme" was.

i) "I Am The Ambassador"
This is a Netflix reality show about Rufus Gifford, the U.S.'s ambassador to Denmark, who is openly gay and planning his wedding. It's kind of a sweet folksy little show, not anything dramatic but it's interesting to see what an ambassador's day to day life is like. I've actually met a number of U.S. ambassadors doing teleprompter for a series of videos for the government, so I'm intrigued by the job. I wonder if the show will have more seasons and if they'll continue covering Gifford or focus on a different ambassador. But now he's my 2nd favorite famous gay Rufus (after Wainwright, of course).

j) "One Shot"
Sway, who finally defected from MTV to BET, hosts this new hip hop talent search show, which is like most musical talent shows more of a freak show than a place to find real promising artists. So my favorite moment of the first episode was a guy called Flawlezz Manz saying "this is the hook cause I said so, this is the hook cause I said so."

k) "You Can Do Better"
TruTV has been getting into these kinds of comedic informative 'brain candy' shows like "Adam Ruins Everything," which I really like, so I watched this other new show they paired with the second season of "Adam." It's kind of bland, though, not really into it.

l) "The Tick"
I like that Amazon does a 'pilot season' open to the public, where they let you watch their pilots before they decide on what to pick up for a series. One of the three new pilots last month was the 2nd attempt at a live action version of "The Tick," a comic book that was first adapted into a Saturday morning cartoon I adored in the '90s. FOX's short-lived 2001 "The Tick" had the perfect star for the title role, Patrick Warburton, but the show itself wasn't so good that it can't be improved upon, and this version has a little more promise -- a little darker, better production values, and a slight shift to Arthur being more plainly the protagonist of the show. Warburton has an exec producer credit, but his successor Peter Serafinowicz is a pretty great choice to play The Tick as well. I hope they pick it up.

m) "Jean-Claude Van Johnson"
Another Amazon pilot, with Jean-Claude Van Damme playing a fictionalized version of himself who gets into a real action movie-ish situation. I guess the premise is pretty close to that movie JCVD, although I never saw it. It's kinda funny but the pilot didn't really live up to its potential.

n) "I Love Dick"
The other Amazon pilot from last month, "Transparent" creator Jill Soloway reuniting with Kathryn Hahn, the star of her feature Afternoon Delight. I really like Hahn but had very mixed feelings about Afternoon Delight, I thought this pilot was a much stronger pass at something with a similar tone and themes.

o) "Gomorrah"
Sundance has been picking up a lot of European shows and airing them with subtitles, this one from Italy is a big epic crime drama with pretty impressive production values. I don't wanna sound like an ugly American who hates to read subtitles, but really a lot of the enjoyment I get from TV and film is the sound of actors bringing dialogue to life, so I really just cannot get into foreign language shows too much.

p) "Better Late Than Never"
A goofy Bucket List-y reality show where four aging celebrities (William Shatner, Henry Winkler, George Foreman, and Terry Bradshaw) go around visiting countries they've never visited. It's kind of gently amusing, watching some famous old grandpas dodder around the world, but obviously not appointment television.

q) "Tyler Perry's Too Close To Home"
I watched this for the novelty value of seeing Tyler Perry continue to have no idea how to portray human beings behaving realistically, this time with white people! It's pretty predictably stupid and soapy, though.

r) "Unlocking The Truth"
This MTV show kind of follows in the footsteps of "Making A Murderer," except it's about a guy who was exonerated after serving 8 years for murder, and is now dedicating himself to freeing other people who were wrongfully convicted. I only got through a couple episodes of each of these shows, it's just not really my thing. But I also feel a little unsettled with how easily you're manipulated by shows like this. I mean, maybe everyone on the show is actually innocent, I dunno. But we've been trained by movies and TV that anytime you see enough of an accused criminal in a piece that they're humanized, you just start to believe they're innocent because why else would you be asked to sympathize with them? And I kinda feel like that creates a powerful psychological effect in these documentary shows about real cases, and I don't trust it entirely.

s) "Vice Principals"
I was uneasy with the first episode of this show, and it quickly got kind of stomach-turning and uncomfortable when the two white guys burn down the house of the black female boss they're trying to sabotage. It's just weird how they kind of play it straight as a wacky dark comedy instead of really confronting the subtext. The show has been a little less unsettling since then but I'm still just not really into the whole thing Jody Hill and Danny McBride do and I'm only watching for Walton Goggins.

t) "Dead Of Summer"
This odd little Freeform show really turned out to be pretty interesting. It takes place in the '80s and is a pastiche of old school horror tropes, and I'm not gonna say outright that it was better than "Stranger Things," but I definitely warmed up to it more. There were actually characters that I was sad to see go when they got killed off, which is not something that happens a lot in horror movies, there were really some emotionally affecting plots, particularly story with Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin) as a transgender character.

u) "Ballers"
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is now officially the highest paid movie star in the world, which makes it all the more odd that he spends so much of his time doing this middling HBO show that doesn't seem especially popular and doesn't really play to his strengths or give them that much of a dramatic showcase. In fact I just think of it as "The Rock Wears A Suit" now. "The Rock Wears A Suit" has been picked up for a third season and I have no idea who is watching it. Do they pay him anywhere near what he makes for a movie? Do they pay him in suits?

v) "Difficult People"
The second season of this has been really strong, it might be the most quotable comedy on TV since "30 Rock," even if there's not a whole lot of connective tissue between all the quips to make it feel like a really complete, great sitcom. Gabourey Sidibe has gotten some good lines this year, I'm glad that she's finally on a show where she isn't as ridiculously underused as she's been on "Empire" and "The Big C" and "American Horror Story."

w) "Killjoys"
My life absolutely loves this show, whereas I just like it. But I get it, it's really the most fun of the newer crop of shows SyFy has put on the air.

x) "You're The Worst"
I love this show so much, I'm so glad it's back, and the first couple episodes of the third season have been great. I'm not so sure about the plot with Lindsey being back with Paul and miserable again, it kinda feels like their storyline just rebooted back to how it was in the first season.

y) "Halt And Catch Fire"
This show did such an interesting pivot in the second season to the female leads being the protagonists of the show instead of just kind of the supporting cast to the dudes. In fact, now it kind of feels like Lee Pace is their antagonist whereas he was sort of the center of the show at the beginning, although I wonder if that will last. It also feels like they're finally using Toby Huss to his full potential. They even let him sing some Sinatra in the season premiere!

z) "The Eric Andre Show"
I'm still kind of ambivalent about this show, it feels like an exercise in how being as strange and unpredictable as possible can have this numbing effect where none of it is really as fun or funny as it would be on another show. But it works in small doses, I kind of enjoy it more when bits like the recent T.I. and Stacey Dash segments went viral and you just realize how bizarre those moments are in isolation.

Monthly Report: August 2016 Albums

Wednesday, September 07, 2016




























1. Nels Cline - Lovers
Nels Cline, perhaps my favorite living guitarist, has made dozens of albums as a composer or bandleader, but every now and again he releases something that you can tell was a special project for him. And Lovers is an album that he says he'd been thinking about and conceptualizing for "well over twenty-five years," an attempt to update the concept of romantic jazz 'mood music' through the lens of his own playing and unusual taste, with gorgeous horn and string arrangements by Michael Leonhart. The result is over 20 musicians contributing to a 90-minute double album covering a canon that has room for both Rodgers & Hammerstein (a sublime "I Have Dreamed") and Sonic Youth (a lullaby rendition of one of their loveliest melodies, "Snare, Girl"). Nels Cline's albums have often been more placid and beautiful than his reputation as an avant garde noise rocker would suggest, but Lovers manages to be pleasant on the surface but still as complex and ambitious as anything he's ever done. Most of these records are in my 2016 albums Spotify playlist.

2. 2 Chainz - Daniel Son; Necklace Don
2012 may always be the year that 2 Chainz had all the buzz and a few of his most enduring records, but his actual output that year was kind of erratically hot and cold, and he's been a lot more consistent recently, with 2016 in particular being a really quality run. And on songs like "Blessing" and "Ghetto" you really start to get his perspective beyond the punchlines, which makes the outlandish shit he says on other songs hit harder. "Chirp" might be my favorite songs on here but he has a pretty incredible verse on "Kilo" too. YFN Lucci has become one of my favorite newer Atlanta guys lately so I like that he's the only feature on this besides Drake, and the dirty bassline on "You In Luv Wit Her" sounds amazing.

3. Young Thug - JEFFERY
The strategy 300 has been going with this year to release several short 8-10 song Young Thug retail projects is interesting, I'm still waiting for him to have a solo project that hits half as hard as Rich Gang's Tha Tour Part 1, this might come about as close as I'm Up or Slime Season 2 did or closer, but I dunno if I could ever have a favorite Young Thug project without any London On Da Track beats. It's nice but a little hit and miss, you can tell he took mostly songs he already had and named them after people to fit the vague 'concept.' The song with Wyclef is amazing, although I have no idea whether to call it "Kanye West" or "Pop Man" or "Elton," much like I'm not totally sure whether to call him Young Thug or No, My Name Is Jeffery.

4. Rae Sremmurd - SremmLife 2
I don't think it's quite right to simply say that hip hop fans are fickle, at a time when there are more artists staying in the spotlight for 5+ or 10+ years than there have ever been before. But it's definitely true that a "sophomore slump" is still a very real albatross for rappers to get over after a successful major label debut, especially with southern rappers. And in the recent history of low-selling 2nd rap albums, this is somewhere below B.O.A.T.S. II by 2 Chainz and above Triple F Life by Waka Flocka Flame. So far nothing on this album has come even close to being as big as any of the 5 singles from the first SremmLife album, and I doubt at this point that anything will, as great as Gucci Mane's verse on "Black Beatles" is. But it's a pretty damn good album, with songs like "Came A Long Way" that find them going 'serious' to better effect than their detractors might expect, and Slim Jxmmi really comes into his own, although it will still justifiably be the Swae Lee solo project that everyone focuses on as this album quickly fades from view.

5. Justin Moore - Kinda Don't Care
At the end of last year, I included Justin Moore's single "You Look Like I Needed A Drink" on my list of favorite 2015 country singles, and 8 months later the song had finally climbed the radio charts enough for Moore's 4th album to get released. I'm not one for griping about pop country not resembling old country enough, but Moore is really one of my favorite contemporary country vocalists, a guy with a serious Arkansas twang and a deep, resonant growl that really underlines how dopey a lot of other young country singers sound. He's not a songwriter but he's gotten some pretty good material from Nashville despite not being an A-lister, and my favorite songs on here are "Hell On A Highway" (which he rescued from the always dopey-sounding Luke Bryan) and the bawdy bonus track "When I Get Home."

6. Frank Ocean - Blonde
channel ORANGE and good kid, m.A.A.d. city were the big acclaimed albums with pretentiously capitalized titles that kind of left me cold in 2012. And after To Pimp A Butterfly turned out to be much more my speed, I think I just expected the symmetry of Frank Ocean's next album winning me over as well. But after the newness and boldness of Blonde and Endless wore off, my impression of both albums has begun to quickly fade. I thought I might prefer Endless initially, just because the percussion-heavy production style appealed to me more, but the listless sketchbook quality of the song fragments and the awful "At Your Best" cover ruled that out. Blonde starts strong -- "Nikes" is such an oddly perfect opener and I adore "Pink + White,." But there's a big stretch of the record starting with "Skyline To" with these dense, writerly lyrics that would be a lot more dazzling if they were sung more than spoken or worked into more songful structures. I mean, I respect how little the album cares to meet you halfway, but that doesn't actually make me enjoy it. I think of Ocean as a very smart, very talented guy who isn't really half the songwriter or a quarter of the singer he's been made out to be.

7. De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody...
De La Soul have been around so long, and absent for so long now, that you really never know whether even one of rap's most resourceful and resilient groups could possibly come back with. But this is really a pretty fascinating record where they can bring voices as big and familiar as 2 Chainz and Usher in and it's still a De La album with their unique sensibility. It's a little depressing to hear the guys who wrangled samples in some of the most original ways ever give up on clearance and just record a live band for most of the beats. But they do it well, and the somewhat less colorful production helps to foreground the density of Posdnous and Dave's lyrics a little more effectively than previous records, which would often distract me from how interesting they are as rappers. There are some times when David Byrne or the guy from The Darkness shows up and it just feels like one of those corny eclectic guest-filled Handsome Boy Gorillaz School type albums though.

8. Vince Staples - Prima Donna EP
As much as I enjoy this turn towards shorter 30 or 40-minute rap records like those 2 Chainz and Young Thug projects, a 20-minute EP still feels just a little on the slight side. Vince's Hell Can Wait EP blew me away because it was the first thing I'd heard by him, but after he topped it with a 60-minute album, it feels a little anticlimactic to go back to an EP. The concept also doesn't totally gel, but there's some incredible lyrics on there and I love the "Kilo" beat. It's funny that Frank and Vince and Syd are making better records than the dogshit that Tyler and the other Odd Future proper rappers ever have.

9. Dinosaur Jr. - Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
Dinosaur Jr. only made 3 albums in the '80s before Lou Barlow first left the band, but this now their 4th since he and Murph returned to the band a decade ago, and it's been a really fruitful run. In fact, I don't think Dino Jr. has ever made a bad album, and have been more consistent recently than they even were in the early days. But this one really hasn't hit me as quickly as I Bet On Sky did, I'm still waiting for it to grow on me. "Knocked Around" is my favorite, starts off really gently and then takes off unexpectedly.

10. Butch Walker - Stay Gold
It is possible narcissism of small differences to make too much of the fact that I like Butch Walker way more than sentient jean jacket Ryan Adams -- they have such similar aesthetics that it makes sense for them to become frequent collaborators. And Walker's Adams-produced last album Afraid Of Ghosts was a nice downtempo change of pace. But this album kind of blands out the quirks of Walker's uptempo songs a bit too much -- there are some points when it just feels like you're picking through their shared Springsteen-via-Westerberg bag of influences and waiting to spot the Pretenders pastiche. But the second half of the album picks up and really gets into some memorable songs that salvage the project for me.

Worst Album of the Month: PartyNextDoor - PartyNextDoor 3
I've always thought this guy's whole voice and aesthetic were deeply unpleasant. But the lyrics on the two Rihanna hits he wrote this year, "Work" and "Sex With Me," were so sharp and well written that I really started to wanna give his music another chance. And listening to this record, it definitely seems pretty clear how much of Drake's recent records have been crafted by him. But nah, he still makes garbage music, outside of "Come And See Me" most of this album is just a laughable parody of Tumblr R&B. The Tory Lanez album was kind of softly disappointing but this is just plain unpleasant.