Movie Diary

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

























a) Trainwreck
As major a figure as Judd Apatow is on the comedy landscape, I almost feel like he'd done everything he could to tank his directorial career, with pretty much each of his first 4 movies getting progressively longer, more indulgent, less funny, and more centered around roles for his wife and/or kids. So while it was kind of a big win for Amy Schumer to have Apatow direct her first big film vehicle, I almost feel like he needed someone new to build a movie around like he did for Seth Rogen to make his best movie since Knocked Up. But it's still way too long, and I don't know why this guy insists on making 2+ hour comedies when the plots are always so simple and you could easily just make a lot of the comedic setpieces shorter. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie, though, there were some really funny parts that weren't in the trailers at all, but compared to the creative breakthrough of the 3rd season of "Inside Amy Schumer" this kind of felt like a really simple, uninspired premise that she had to liven up with the dialogue.

b) Vacation
I don't have any particular reverence for the original movies, European Vacation is kind of a good lazy Sunday cable movie. But man, this was just lame, Ed Helms has a thing he does well but he wasn't the right guy to put this franchise on the shoulders of. By far the funniest scene in the entire movie is the Four Corners scene where the four cops start arguing and basically steal away the movie from the main cast for a couple minutes.

c) Magic Mike XXL
Alex Pettyfer was to Magic Mike as Michael O'Keefe was to Caddyshack, so it makes sense that they ditched the original movie's protagonist for a crowd-pleasing sequel. Removing the Pettyfer and Cody Horn soap opera leaves what remains a little rudderless, but I have no objection to the rare superficial fun Hollywood movie of this kind not being aimed specifically at my heterosexual male gaze. So it would be churlish for me to harp on how this came off a little empty, but what surprised me was that it felt a little less charming and light on its feet in its best moments than the original did. And honestly it's just hard to feel good about a movie that ends by unironically blasting "All I Do Is Win" at you. 

d) Ant-Man
I tend to prefer the Marvel movies that have a bit more levity in them, and this was better than Guardians Of The Galaxy and up there with the better Iron Man movies. It's kind of a relief that the movie turned out as well as it did, I felt bad about Edgar Wright walking off of the movie, but it seems like the final product has a lot of his fingerprints on it, or at least the director who took it over, Peyton Reed, did a good job with it. 

e) Jurassic World
I feel like most kids go through a 'dinosaur' phase, and mine was pretty heavy duty, I had textbooks about dinosaurs and wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up and everything. But I had kind of passed by that phase by the time Jurassic Park came out when I was 11, I liked the movie and read the book but it was never that big a deal to me. My wife is a little younger than me, though, and the raptors scared the crap out of her as a kid, and she was excited about the new movie. I liked it, it was pretty impressed with some of the action setpieces, but the main plot was kinda cheesy, I irrationally love Bryce Dallas Howard but the whole dynamic with her and Chris Pratt was such a lame cliche. I would've liked to see a version of this movie where Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus's characters in the control room were the male and female leads of the movie.

f) Accidental Love
This is the infamous movie filmed by David O. Russell in 2008 as Nailed, which was finally released under a different title with his name taken off of it 7 years later. It's fascinating to me because he basically kept making these idiosyncratic niche movies like I Heart Huckabees until this one went completely off the rails, and then he made a major course correction to extremely safe Oscar bait like The Fighter and American Hustle. I feel like this movie had potential but it's really hard to judge it by an edit that the director objected to so much that he took his name off of it, it's just kind of a mess, even the scene at the beginning where Jessica Biel gets hit in the head with a nail gun, it just happens so fast and you barely can tell what's going on, and that's supposed to be the pivotal scene that sets the entire plot into action.

This is one of those British movies that was a huge hit at home but for some reason never crossover to the states like The Full Monty or whatever crap we tend to import. It's pretty charming, though, and fun to see James Corden in an early role. 

Monthly Report: April 2016 Albums

Tuesday, May 03, 2016































1. Beyonce - Lemonade
Beyonce's last album was so good, in that sprawling definitive career statement kind of way, that I was excited to see what she'd do next but also apprehensive. You know, you don't want someone to switch up too much after album like that but you also don't want a crowd-pleasing sequel. So I'm really happy that Lemonade is as musically varied and adventurous, but headed in fairly different directions (never thought a Beyonce/Jack White collaboration could be as good as "Don't Hurt Yourself" is), and much more focused on a narrative throughline in the lyrics. It feels silly to say you 'relate' to Beyonce and Jay-Z, but to be honest I've always liked her music celebrating the longevity of their relationship because they started dating around the same time I met my wife, married around the same time as us, had a kid around the same time as us. So in a way this album is jarring for me because it's like damn, they had some bumps in the road, I hope that's never us. But as far as the songs, there's a lot to love here, from the bridge of "6 Inch" (maybe my favorite minute of the album, though it's sandwiched between some kind of obvious Isaac Hayes samples), to that gorgeous trembling opening of "Pray That You Catch Me" and the way the emotions shift and melt in that middle section from "Sorry" to "Love Drought."

2. Dej Loaf - All Jokes Aside
As much as I enjoyed Dej Loaf's earlier releases, it was really her unique voice and persona and her facility for hooks that made her an interesting new star -- she had some hot verses (I loved her on the "Post To Be" remix) but not too consistently. She really stepped up the bars on All Jokes Aside, though, I heard "Chase Mine" and was just hooked. There's also a few tracks here by "Try Me" producer DDS so she's still kinda sticking with her signature sound, but there's also some different kinds of beats I've never heard her on before. I'm actually kind of pissed that this is a mixtape, because so far Sony's only released an EP by her, and the number of women who've released major label rap albums in the last few years is pathetically small, they should've thrown "Back Up" on here when it was on the radio and put a barcode on All Jokes Aside as a retail album, it's that good (they'd probably need more features than just Silkk The Shocker, I guess). Listen to it on DatPiff.

3. Gallant - Ology
I checked out this album because Gallant was suggested to me to include in my Coachella preview piece for Complex, and I was really impressed. His voice is just impossibly silky and it feels more like a modernized version of slick cosmopolitan '80s/'90s soul than a lot of these kinds of overly hip nu-R&B records by people who can't really sing. Right now my favorites are "Bourbon" and "Episode," you can hear it on my 2016 albums Spotify playlist.

4. Horse Lords - Interventions
Baltimore is probably like a lot of cities in that the music scene has a small number of stable, long running bands and dozens of musicians who are always starting new bands and breaking them up and combining with each other in new configurations. So I'd heard the members of Horse Lords in various other bands over the years (Teeth Mountain, Needle Gun, White Life) but when this band started there seemed to be a lot of excitement about them around town, from the moment they started playing shows, and it's continued over the last few years with the really starting to get well known out of town with this new album. And they're an instrumental band that makes these knotty, hypnotic songs, so it's an interesting project to see some talented people really click and find an audience with.

5. Anna Wise - The Feminine: Act I EP
Anna Wise has appeared on a lot of Kendrick Lamar tracks, often singing with unison with him to create a weird disorienting sound on songs like "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe" and "Cartoon & Cereal." So she never really seemed like the average hook singer, and her first solo release is pretty bold, out-there production with provocative, confrontational lyrics about gender and womanhood and misogyny. As an EP it feels like a warning shot that when she makes a full-length album she could be on some ambitious To Pimp A Butterfly shit, but the closing song "Go" is so good that I think she really could pull that off.

6. Chants - The Zookeeper EP
I've known Jordan a bit for years and he's a good dude and a brilliant drummer, and it's been cool to see him move into making kind of left-field electronic beats as Chants and have some success in that arena. I missed some of his recent records so I just started catching up on those when I noticed them after he put out this new record, but I really dig what he's doing. This EP is only 13 minutes long but it takes a lot of twists and turns into different sounds textures, has a little of that '90s IDM vibe of abrupt shifts in mood, but with a more contemporary sound, feels like a quick little journey.

7. DJ Quik & Problem - Rosecrans EP
The first time I ever heard Problem rap was on DJ Quik and Kurupt's BlaQKout, so it feels very appropriate to me that Problem is the other half of another fun, relaxed Quik collab project. This is only 6 tracks long and is mostly about vibing out to these lush, funky beats, but they both have conversational rhyming stills that fit together well in this context. I could deal without the Game and Wiz Khalifa verses, but whatever, they just sound like party guests who dropped by for a good time.

8. Freeway - Free Will
I loved Freeway's Roc-A-Fella output but I've also been pretty impressed with his indie projects and mixtapes since then (he once released over 100 songs in the space of a year that were frighteningly consistent). I never checked for Free's EP with Girl Talk, but he did some tracks here, and I feel kind of ashamed that Girl Talk baited me into geeking out over an indie rock sample in a rap song, but I love that loop of "Rubber Car" by Enon on "First Thing's First."

9. Bankroll Mafia - Bankroll Mafia
T.I. said "bankroll mafia" on his first collaboration with Young Thug, "About The Money," and now it's an actual group, although there are 4 other lesser known rappers in the group who get the majority of the verses on the album. It probably would've been more marketable to just make an EP of the 7 tracks that have Young Thug on them, but the whole thing is pretty good, and Shad Da God kind of turns up as the unexpected anchor of the group, I really became a fan of him based on this.

10. Boosie Badazz & C-Murder - Penitentiary Chances
Boosie released 3 remarkably good solo albums in the first 3 months of 2016, and he's kept up that pace in April, although it's a collaborative project that was mostly recorded a while ago. C-Murder has recorded multiple albums while incarcerated now, and they decided to do this album while Boosie was in Angola, so all of C-Murder's verses and most of Boosie's verses are these distorted vocal tracks recorded in prison. I really have no idea what the logistics of all that are, it's kinda crazy. But while this obviously isn't as polished as Boosie's other recent work, it's pretty harrowing stuff and the lo-fi sound kind of matches the content of songs like "Dear Supreme Court" and "Black Babies Don't Mourn."

Worst Album of the Month: PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project
I've always been a pretty casual fan of PJ Harvey, I like Dry and some other records she's made but she was never a big deal to me where I have to hear every new album. I was intrigued to hear this one from the jump, though. First because she recorded it in public as an art exhibit, similar to a Beauty Pill album I wrote about last year (Beauty Pill's Chad Clark wrote about PJ's album here). And then, I was intrigued because this artists who's gotten nothing but glowing reviews her whole career was suddenly getting some really bad reviews (particularly this Tom Breihan review). And man, it really does come off badly, I just didn't enjoy the sledgehammer subtlety of this album's political commentary at all, and the whole thing just sounded drab and dull.

Sunday, May 01, 2016



















I wrote a little history of Drake's disses and subliminals for Rolling Stone.


Deep Album Cuts Vol. 62: The Posies

Thursday, April 28, 2016






















This week, The Posies are releasing their 8th full-length album, Solid States. And though I usually do deep cuts playlists for acts who had a lot of success on the singles charts, The Posies are one of my favorite bands that I'm always trying to turn people onto, whether they know '90s alt-rock radio hits like "Dream All Day" and "Golden Slumbers" or not.

The Posies Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Song #1
2. Open Every Window
3. Any Other Way
4. Lights Out
5. Grant Hart
6. Burn & Shine
7. Throwaway
8. I Guess You're Right
9. Compliment?
10. Fight It (If You Want)
11. Friendship Of The Future
12. No Consolation
13. Love Letter Boxes
14. What Little Remains
15. Fall Apart With Me
16. Coming Right Along
17. My Big Mouth
18. So Caroline
19. You Avoid Parties
20. Sad To Be Aware

Tracks 9 and 14 from Failure (1988)
Tracks 3, 17 and 19 from Dear 23 (1990)
Tracks 4, 6, 13 and 16 from Frosting On The Beater (1993)
Track 2 from DGC Rarities Vol. 1 (1994)
Tracks 1, 5, 7 and 10 from Amazing Disgrace (1996)
Track 20 from the "Please Return It" single (1996)
Tracks 11 and 15 from Success (1998)
Track 12 from Nice Cheekbones And A Ph.D EP (2001)
Track 8 from Every Kind Of Light (2005)
Track 18 from Blood/Candy (2010)

Aside from the new album on the way, The Posies have been on my mind lately because two members of the band have died in the past year. Darius Minwalla, who'd played drums for The Posies since 2001, died at a shockingly young age last May. And Joe Skyward, the band's bassist from 1994 to 1999 (who rejoined the Minwalla-era lineup for some shows in 2013 and 2014), died of cancer abotu a month ago. You can hear Skyward's work with the band here on tracks 1/5/6/10/11/15/20, and you can hear Minwalla on tracks 8 and 18.

The Posies occupied an unusual little niche in the alternative rock boom. Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow's self-recorded indie debut was jangly late '80s college rock with such a strong anglophile vibe that they sometimes sang with slight British accents. And they released their major label debut in 1990, before Seattle bands started getting signed just because they were from Seattle. So while Dear 23 was too soon to benefit from the Seattle boom, 1993's Frosting On The Beater came along a little late to fully capitalize on it. But in those 3 years of touring, they'd become a louder, heavier band, and the combination of Auer and Stringfellow's soaring vocal harmonies, Auer's guitar hero solos, Mike Musberger's thundering Keith Moon drums, and Don Fleming's noisy, blown out production sound made for one of the greatest power pop albums ever.

Auer and Stringfellow both joined the reunited lineup of Big Star in the '90s, and continued to do so until Alex Chilton's death in 2010, which really burnished The Posies' rep as torchbearers for the nebulous and never terribly fashionable 'power pop' label (and Stringfellow also logged a decade as a member of R.E.M.'s expanded touring lineup). The Posies had too much of a mainstream presence at their peak to be considered a lost gem like Big Star were at the time, but I always feel like they never get enough credit. The fact that they had the best vocal harmonies in '90s rock didn't matter because virtually no bands were even trying.

It was really hearing Posies songs on compilations that turned me onto the band more than their singles -- "Open Every Window" from DGC Rarities, as well as "Limitless Expressions" from Home Alive and the appearance of "Coming Right Along" from The Basketball Diaries were what made me pick up Amazing Disgrace and quickly become a huge fan of The Posies. But soon, the band got dropped from Geffen, recorded a 'farewell' indie album, and began working on other things (Jon Auer has one fine solo album and a few scattered other projects, but Stringfellow's been really prolific, with several great solo albums and as the leader of The Disciplines and Saltine and a few collaborative projects).

But The Posies never really stayed inactive for long -- Auer and Stringfellow started playing acoustic shows together just a couple years after breaking up the band, then recorded an EP together, and then got together a new rhythm section and began touring and making new albums. And I've been impressed at how the band's 21st century albums have kind of expanded the parameters of what a Posies record is, musically and lyrically -- there's a lot of weird, funny, interesting things that you wouldn't have heard on their earlier records, and what I've heard from Solid States so far continues that tradition. One note about the later records -- two songs from Every King Of Light were used as sample files for the Windows Vista OS, which really seemed to boost the profile of those songs. "I Guess You're Right," a great deep cut from a low-selling indie album, is the most played Posies song on Spotify, twice as popular as any of their '90s major label singles.

I really tried to represent the full range of The Posies with this mix -- the punky barnburners, the dark brooding rockers, the mopey ballads, the chipper pop songs. And I tried to balance out contributions from the band's two songwriters -- Auer/Stringfellow have a Lennon/McCartney approach in terms of joint songwriting credits and often helping each other finish songs and sing back up on each others' songs, but you can generally tell who wrote the bulk of a song based on who sings lead. On this mix, most of the odd-numbered tracks are Ken Stringfellow songs, and most of the even-numbered tracks are Jon Auer songs (with the exception of tracks 7 and 8, which are flipped the other way around).

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

The Prince 100

Friday, April 22, 2016




























I'm still in total shock about Prince's death. When he was rushed to the hospital last week, I joked that I believed he would live to be 110 and be making amazing music in his nineties, but when he died I realized that I really meant it. Him dying at 57 is as surprising to me as if anyone else died at 27.

I contributed a paragraph to Third Bridge Creative's blog post about Prince today, along with about 20 other writers. But I still feel like rambling about him, because in terms of the combination of personal importance to me as a music fan and overall culture impact and the total shock of it happening, I don't know if any music death has hit me harder since, I don't know, Kurt Cobain when I was 12. But back then, my view of music was much smaller, so small in fact that I hadn't yet accepted the genius of Prince, who of course had a pretty rough '90s in terms of public image and commercial popularity.

But around 2000, after I'd become good friends with a Prince superfan, Mat Leffler-Schulman, he made me a mixtape that converted me, and it's been love ever since. I fell for the self-titled 1979 album, of all records, at first, and then of course the insane '80s catalog that I was too young to appreciate in real time (outside of loving his music in Batman without really knowing anything about who it was by). And then I started to find songs from beyond his peak period that I loved as well, underrated '90s albums like Come as well as occasional great deep cuts from his more sporadic 21st century output. And Mat has exposed me to a lot of amazing unreleased music and 12" extended mixes from his considerable collection that have made me understand the obsession of serious longtime Prince fans.

There was more Prince than any other artist on my wedding playlist (specifically, "She's Always In My Hair," "Forever In My Life," and "Adore"). And one of my most vivid memories from our honeymoon was walking around on a beach in Australia, watching an amazing sunset while listening to the incredible 12" extended mix of "I Would Die 4 U." But there are a dozen other memories like that of Prince becoming the soundtrack of my adult life, after I neglected him in my adolescence.

Last year, when Prince put (most of) his catalog on Tidal along with some new music, I made a deep album cuts playlist just to kind of skim the highlights of one of the richest discographies in popular music. But since easy access to Prince's classic albums one of the only things Tidal had over other streaming services that was motivating me to keep my Tidal subscription more than any fleeting Rihanna or Kanye exclusives, I had been using it for that purpose a lot and thinking about some kind of bigger playlist.

I hate the reason that I had to finally finish this playlist. The first thing I did after I heard the news was call Mat, and the second thing I did was listen to "Sometimes It Snows In April" and cry, seriously cry like I almost never have for any celebrity, but after that, listening to the music just made me feel good. There are only a handful of artists that I could even imagine being able to name 100 favorite songs by, and probably none who wrote and played nearly everything on most of those songs, probably none whose #100 would be as strong as the #100 on this. And it was fun to be able to have room for everything I could think of, from his debut single "Soft And Wet" to the last charting single of his lifetime, "1000 X's & O's," which I just wrote about 2 months ago. There are only 96 songs on the playlist, because a few aren't on Tidal (I'm so sorry, "Endorphinmachine"!), but for the most part it's all here.

My 100 Favorite Prince Songs (TIDAL playlist):

1. I Would Die 4 U
2. Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?
3. Little Red Corvette
4. Adore
5. She's Always In My Hair
6. Controversy
7. Sometimes It Snows In April
8. If I Was Your Girlfriend
9. 17 Days
10. Pop Life
11. I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
12. The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker
13. 1999
14. Mountains
15. Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)
16. The Morning Papers
17. Come
18. Bambi
19. Endorphinmachine
20. D.M.S.R.
21. Tamborine
22. The Beautiful Ones
23. Slow Love
24. Kiss
25. Let's Go Crazy
26. Another Lonely Christmas
27. I Wish U Heaven
28. Darling Nikki
29. Feel U Up
30. Money Don't Matter 2 Night
31. Nasty Girl (Vanity 6)
32. Do Me, Baby
33. When Doves Cry
34. Call My Name
35. How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore
36. Diamonds And Pearls
37. Soft And Wet
38. 1000 X's & O's
39. Erotic City
40. Jungle Love (The Time)
41. Strange Relationship
42. The Cross
43. Partyman
44. Uptown
45. Dark
46. Shockadelica
47. Breakfast Can Wait
48. Good Love
49. 7
50. Forever In My Life
51. Baltimore
52. Baby I'm A Star
53. The Screams Of Passion (The Family)
54. Black Sweat
55. Sign O' The Times
56. Slave
57. All The Critics Love U In New York
58. (There'll Never B) Another Like Me
59. Don't Play Me
60. Stare
61. My Name Is Prince
62. Cream
63. Letitgo
64. Thieves In The Temple
65. U Got The Look
66. Wow
67. Love Song (Madonna)
68. When We're Dancing Close And Slow
69. Gett Off
70. I Feel For You
71. Computer Blue
72. Trust
73. Starfish And Coffee
74. Private Joy
75. Another Boy (Bria Valente)
76. Loose!
77. I Wanna Be Your Lover
78. Play In The Sunshine
79. Raspberry Beret
80. New Position
81. I Wonder U
82. Purple Rain
83. Beautiful, Loved And Blessed
84. International Lover
85. Jack U Off
86. Round And Round (Tevin Campbell)
87. Anotherloverholenyohead
88. Sexy Dancer
89. Do It All Night
90. When You Were Mine
91. Love
92. I'm Yours
93. The Glamorous Life (Sheila E.)
94. Condition Of The Heart
95. Can't Stop This Feeling I Got
96. Partyup
97. Let's Work
98. Scarlet Pussy
99. It's Gonna Be Lonely
100. Take Me With U

Monthly Report: April 2016 Singles

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

























1. MNEK & Zara Larsson - "Never Forget You"
I heard this on pop radio for a while before I had any idea what it was or googled enough lyrics to see who it was by. I was actually kind of relieved that the male voice on the song wasn't Sam Smith, I didn't want to like something by him as much as I like this. As someone who always thinks songs could stand to be a few more BPMs faster than they are, I like that this basically sounds like a slightly sped up version of the pop hits that usually sound like this. Zara Larsson's other single "Lush Life" that's already big in Europe is good, too, hopefully that one gets a U.S. push. Here's the 2016 singles playlist I add songs to every month.

2. The 1975 - "The Sound"
The 1975 have made one of my favorite albums of the year, and it's selling well and they're playing huge festivals and have more or less broken through in America in a way that their debut didn't. But since the lead single "Love Me" was terrible and predictably stiffed at radio, I'm wondering if they'll ever actually become the kind of radio-friendly singles band they seem so well-suited to being. I love the current single, "The Sound," but so far it's just bubbled outside the top 20 on the Alternative charts, and pop radio hasn't picked it up much at all. There are a lot of potential singles on that record, though, hopefully they keep pushing more songs.

3. Ro James - "Permission"
Willie Hutch's "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" has been sampled memorably on everything from Dr. Dre's The Chronic and Chance The Rapper's Acid Rap to, inevitably, mutlipe tracks produced by Hutch aficionados DJ Paul and Juicy J. I think "Permission" is the first time it's popped up on a hit single. Apparently Ro James is the brother of Luke James, who's a pretty well known R&B singer (Grammy nominated, opened for Beyonce) but has never had a radio hit as big as "Permission."

4. Fantasia - "No Time For It"
Her last album Side Effects Of You was a minor classic so I'm ready for another Fantasia record. This one really hits her sweet spot of being kind of polished and adult contempo but also having a little bit of a bump to it.

5. Ariana Grande - "Dangerous Woman"
I loved Ariana Grande's first album, had mixed feelings about the very successful second album, and thought that the first advance single for her third album, "Focus," was a disaster. But after that song quickly tumbled down the charts, she went and kind of rebooted the album promotion with a very different track, "Dangerous Woman," that feels like a suitable course correction, and the other songs previewed from the new record are pretty promising. Plus she was a surprisingly great SNL host, so I'm really kinda rooting for her again.

6. Ellie Goulding - "Something In The Way You Move"
I don't think of myself as a big Ellie Goulding fan, but her last album was pretty strong, and I always seem to find myself really digging the half of her singles that don't go over really big on U.S. radio. This one just sounds massive, like it should've been even bigger than "On My Mind," but for whatever reason it wasn't. The verses always sound to me like there should be background vocals echoing each line, so I invariably end up singing them myself.

7. Kevin Gates - "2 Phones"
We're almost 1/3 of the way through 2016 already, and Islah is surprisingly the top-selling rap album of the year so far (mainly because Kanye wasn't initially selling his album and because Drake won't immediately take the title until the end of April, but still). I'm still rooting for "Really Really" to blow up, and it's now being set up as the follow-up to "2 Phones," but for the time being "2 Phones" has been the one really driving the album's success. Initially I didn't like how saccharine the beat is, but the hook is undeniable and the verses are easily some of the best rapping on the radio right now, I love that he hasn't simplified his flow at all for radio singles.

8. James Bay - "Let It Go"
James Bay is one of those young white guys in an old man hat singing in a silly "soulful" voice, the kind of thing that's perpetually on adult contempo radio and usually sucks. But man, this song really has just grown on me big time, it just works for me. And he deserves some respect for managing to have a hit called "Let It Go" so soon after Frozen.

9. Puff Daddy & The Family f/ Ty Dolla $ign and Gizzle - "You Could Be My Lover"
I really dug MMM and thought it didn't get enough credit, so I'm glad that Puff has continued to make videos and work this song to radio, the sumptuous Last Train To Paris-style R&B jams are really up my alley. When I first heard the song I thought that Gizzle was a dude spitting game at a woman, and didn't realize Gizzle was a woman until they released the video, which was kind of cool to see, it'd be nice if both this and The Internet's "Girl" got into heavy rotation on R&B radio talking about same sex relationships.

10. Bear Hands - "2AM"
Bear Hands is one of those bands who makes me cringe with their lyrics (their first alt-rock radio hit "Giants" had an ODB reference) but still makes pretty hooky songs. The chorus of "2AM" is based around a phrase coined in an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" (called "Nothing Good Happens After 2A.M.") and also paraphrases the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting For My Man," which sounds stupid on paper, but I like it.

The Worst Single of the Month: Disturbed - "The Sound Of Silence"
I've always enjoyed ridiculous Disturbed singles like "Down With The Sickness," and really regard their cover of Genesis's "Land Of Confusion" as a classic. But this song just sounds hilarious, in a bad way, with David Draiman bleating it out over a string section, because there's no hard rock in the arrangement, only the vocal. But this song has had a funny little cultural resurgence lately between this cover on the charts and the Sad Affleck meme.

TV Diary

Monday, April 18, 2016

























a) "The Path"
I'm very intrigued by this show, which is about a fictitious cult, just because there's a lot of different ways it could go, and since it's not based on any particular real life cult, you don't necessarily know where it's going. And I'm also happy to see Michelle Monaghan in a pretty meaty role -- I've been rooting for her since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and she was pretty underused on the first season of "True Detective." I'm really starting to come to the conclusion that Aaron Paul is simply a bad actor, though. The show is really dark and devoid of any kind of humor or variation in tone, which can really turn me off of shows -- something like "Rectify," I eventually give up on no matter how well it's made. But I'm still intrigued and waiting to see how this story pays off.

b) "The Detour"
When Samantha Bee and Jason Jones left "The Daily Show" and signed a deal with TBS last year, they developed both Bee's late night show "Full Frontal," and this, a sitcom starring Jones. "Full Frontal" has been fantastic for the past two months, but I'm not so wild about the first couple episodes of "The Detour." We've seen a lot of road trip comedy movies over the years, and this is unique just for building an entire TV series around that conceit. But so far it just kinda feels derivative of those movies, occasionally funny but also a very familiar kind of comedy of errors (and also not as good as the last decent road trip comedy, We're The Millers).

c) "The Catch"
This show has a very stylized retro vibe, with lots of jaunty bossa nova score and fancy scene wipes that make it feel like Ocean's 11 or something. And if it had been done on cable with a bigger budget, that might've looked cool, but it feels like ABC just made this show with the same crew and locations a million other network dramas are made with so it feels like a half-assed attempt at the aesthetic. And maybe I'm used to Peter Krause's characters on shows like "Sports Night" and "Parenthood," but I just don't think he's well cast here. The show wants to be fun and jaunty but it feels a little lifeless.

d) "The Ranch"
Uh so have you noticed i the course of this post a lot of new "The [noun]" shows lately? It's kind of annoying, right? I thought when Ashton Kutcher took the "Two And A Half Men" gig that he just couldn't resist the opportunity at cashing in on an already successful show. But apparently his heart really is in crude, mean laugh track comedy, because this show is basically "Two And A Half Men" on a farm in Colorado, with the only "That '70s Show" alum who hasn't had a career, Danny Masterson, tagging a long. There's some fun to be had in Sam Elliott as a cranky old sitcom dad, but the show is pretty mediocre overall.

e) "Heartbeat"
I'm glad NBC has rewarded Melissa George for the indignity of "The Slap" by making her the star of a show with a little more promise. I was surprised that it's actually based on an actual doctor's life, because it's pretty cartoony for a medical drama, but I don't think that's a bad thing, I feel like there's room now for a "House"-type show with some character-driven levity and medical oddities. George is also having a lot of fun with the role, I haven't seen her do much comedy since the secret classic Sugar & Spice early in her career. I thought I'd be bothered by unfunny lamewads D.L. Hughley and Jamie Kennedy being in the show but they're really barely there, thankfully.

f) "Crowded"
Patrick Warburton is a legend to me just for David Puddy and Brock Sampson, but it bummed me out that he spent 7 seasons on a show as weak as "Rules Of Engagement," which I still blame for making his role smaller on some seasons of "The Venture Bros." So I was wary of him doing another network sitcom, but this song is definitely better and funnier than "Rules," if not by a huge margin. It amused me to notice that each episode of "Crowded" is named after a Pearl Jam, which is apparently because Warburton is a huge fan of the band. In fact he got to write their setlist for a 2009 show, and the dude has great taste in Pearl Jam.

g) "Hunters"
SyFy has been on a hot streak with new shows like "The Magicians" and "The Expanse," but based on the first episode, I'm not into this at all, it's just kinda boring.

h) "Rush Hour"
Brett Ratner is usually the hack director who inherits franchises (I still haven't forgiven him for that third X-Men movie), so I feel like there's some poetic justic in the one big franchise he originated being adapted into a weak TV show. Really I just like the idea of saying something "didn't stay true to Brett Ratner's original vision" because that's a hilarious thought. But wow, this is bad. Between "Dream On," "Just Shoot Me," "Hot In Cleveland," and this, Wendy Malick should be in some kind of mediocre TV hall of fame.

i) "Party Over Here"
FOX has been trying a lot of late night shows on Saturday since "Mad TV" went off the air, and they've generally been even worse than "Mad TV." I thought this one had promise, though, a sketch comedy show created by the Lonely Island guys and Paul Scheer, and starring three previously unknown actresses. But man, it just really really falls flat. Every episode has at least one sketch with a great premise that would've killed with SNL's cast, but their cast just doesn't really make it work.

j) "Chasing Destiny"
I've really lost interest in star-making music reality shows, as even "American Idol" and "The Voice" have failed to launch any real careers in ages. But I like that Kelly Rowland decided to make a BET show where she assembles a girl group, I've really missed girl groups in pop and R&B since Destiny's Child, and the only ones that have made a dent in the past decade were all formed on TV shows (Fifth Harmony, Little Mix, Danity Kane). And so far it's been a pretty enjoyable little show, really feels like Rowland is taking the project seriously and trying to pick a good group and give them real guidance, although you never really know with these things how it will turn out.

k) "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"
This show was such an odd little underdog, even on The CW, that I really had no idea if it stood a chance of surviving. But now Rachel Bloom has won a (very deserved) Golden Globe and the show's been renewed for a second season, and I'm glad that it's remained strong through the end of the season. I've yet to hear a song on the show that I actually wanted to hear again after the episode ended, though -- not to say the music is terrible but it mostly functions in the context of the show as a comedy setpiece. But there's been some really intelligent, emotionally resonant writing on the show that's kind of helped it get past what seemed like such an inherently limited premise.

l) "Rosewood"

This was one of the more fun new shows of the fall and I've been enjoying it. They really lean hard on the "Moonlighting" vibe, though, constantly toying with having the two leads get together and then throwing obstacles in the way, so at this point I'm just like yelling at the TV for them to just fuck already.

m) "Quantico" 
Another new drama about pretty people that I've enjoyed this season, although the plot is so much convoluted intrigue that I really just make no attempt to keep up with what's happening, it's kind of a show I put on when I'm writing or getting things done and want some background noise. It's amused me to see Eliza Couple guest on the show lately, since I mostly know her from comedies like "Happy Endings," but she kind of makes sense in a drama too.

n) "The Carmichael Show"
I enjoyed the novelty of such a relentlessly topical sitcom when they ran 6 episodes last summer. But now that it's back, I'm kinda hoping they branch out and make it a little more sitcommy. The episode about Bill Cosby was good but it also just felt like a "The Nightly Show" panel discussion dropped onto a sitcom set.

o) "Stitchers"
I mostly watch this show for Allison Scagliotti, and I'm glad that ABC Family uh I mean FREEFORM has seemed to notice that she's more funny and charismatic than the overserious female lead and has made her the center of a lot of storylines in the second season so far. It's still kind of a flawed, silly show, but pretty likeable for what it is.

p) "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
I'm only 4 episodes into the new season, and this is still a really sharp show with a great cast. But it's kinda taking me some time to get back into the groove of it, the premise was always weird and it hasn't quite gelled into a working formula like "30 Rock" did. I like it a lot, but I don't know if I love it.

q) "Broad City" 
This show is still one of the best things on TV, and Ilana Glazer is a force of nature. But someone recently said that the show sometimes has "Pauly Shore vibes" and once you hear something like that you kinda can't un-hear it. But I kind of like that the modern urbanite is being sent up in such a funny but affectionate way in a show like this, the same way that goofy rocker dudes were such a staple of comedy in the early '90s (Pauly, Wayne's WorldBill & Ted, "Beavis & Butthead," etc.).

r) "Childrens Hospital" 
This show just ran its final episode after 7 seasons, and it really had a great run, but I'm kinda glad it's over. It was just so relentlessly absurd that by the end they'd done a lot of really brilliant creative episodes, but they also did stuff where the character who has a hump in her back found out the hump was full of Coca-Cola. The episodes were so short that you could probably watch all 80 of them in a day or two, but I wouldn't recommend it that way.

Sunday, April 17, 2016
























My first article for Pigeons & Planes is an extensive piece about Tate Kobang, and his recent show at Soundstage, where I helped get Tim Trees onstage with Tate for the first time, a moment that I'd been wanting to see for the last year. Tate's new mixtape Since We're Here is out now.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses

Saturday, April 16, 2016
























Today Guns N' Roses are making their Coachella debut, following a few of the first shows with Slash and Duff McKagan in over 20 years. And while I may shake my fist and say "where's Izzy?" anytime people refer to the current configuration of Guns N' Roses as "the original lineup," there is something appropriately chaotic about the inevitable way things have finally come full circle, with Axl Rose burying the hatchet with some of his old bandmates and promptly falling off the stage and breaking his foot. As they go out and play the hits, though, I want to take a second and look at the less heralded corners of their weird, relatively small yet complicated catalog.

Guns N' Roses Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Reckless Life
2. Out Ta Get Me
3. Rocket Queen
4. Anything Goes
5. You're Crazy
6. Think About You
7. Used To Love Her
8. Back Off Bitch
9. Bad Obsession
10. Double Talkin' Jive
11. You Ain't The First
12. 14 Years
13. Get In The Ring
14. Shotgun Blues
15. Pretty Tied Up (The Perils of Rock N' Roll Decadence)
16. New Rose
17. Attitude
18. Riad N' The Bedouins
19. There Was A Time

Track 1 from Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide EP (1986)
Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 from Appetite For Destruction (1987)
Track 7 from G N' R Lies (1989)
Tracks 8, 9, 10 and 11 from Use Your Illusion I (1991)
Tracks 12, 13, 14 and 15 from Use Your Illusion II (1991)
Tracks 16 and 17 from "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993)
Tracks 18 and 19 from Chinese Democracy (2008)

So essentially, in the 30-year history of a band that never officially broke up or stopped recording or performing, you've got three albums (one of them split into 2 separately sold discs), plus a covers album, and an EP later expanded into a blockbuster stopgap collection. Mainly that's because of the last album, Chinese Democracy, which was already fabled as the most expensive and time consuming monument to hubris in rock history before it finally came out to terrible reviews and meager sales (RIAA certified that it shipped platinum, but it only sold about 600,000, roughly a tenth of what the band's padded out stopgap EP sold at the height of the band's popularity). But even before that, they were a weird lumbering beast that had just enough songs to turn them into one of the biggest bands of its generation.

The band's career started with the Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide EP, a fake live fake indie record, manufactured by Geffen Records with the logo of a nonexistent label UZI Suicide printed on it. This was years before it became standard operating procedure for major labels to sign alternative rock bands or rappers and try to incubate their careers under the auspices of an unsigned band building a grassroots following. So G N' R were kind of, in modern hip hop parlance, the original industry plant. And of course, the 'live' recording was done in a studio with crowd noise added.

Appetite For Destruction is obviously a classic album, so great that there's not much I can say about it that hasn't been said, other than that "My Michelle" was the no-brainer weak link that I cut from the playlist (along with "Mr. Brownstone," which is kind of a deep cut but also a rock radio staple). But man, I love "Rocket Queen." And it's fun to let some of these songs breathe a little with some space away from those big iconic MTV hits.

Use Your Illusion is obviously not on the same level as Appetite, but they hold a significance for me as kind of the beginning of my interest in popular music. Some time during 1991 I went from being a 9-year-old who thought pop music was a stupid waste of time to being glued to MTV and air guitaring to every Slash solo. My stepfather had UYI II and with a few months one of the first CDs I ever owned was UYI I (at the time I thought I was the better album because it was the one that was mine in the house, but in retrospect I prefer II). I don't know if my mother realized or approved of "Back Off Bitch" being one of my favorite songs, but to be fair I was so young that the puerile profanity of Axl Rose's lyrics didn't really resonate for me as any kind of meaningful worldview. And it became apparent to me pretty quickly that even if I liked the music these guys were kind of ridiculous douchebags that I shouldn't take too seriously.

I remain fascinated with the bloated mess that is Use Your Illusion even as I kind of grew out of it and into other kinds of music, and I highly recommend Eric Weisbard's 33 1/3 book on the album (I met Weisbard once and told him that it was one of my favorite books in the series, and he told me it was one of the lowest selling books in the series). I also recommend reading my extremely silly 20th anniversary piece. There was a period of nearly 3 years where MTV was rolling out a premiere of a new G N' R video every few months, the thing was just a ridiculous cultural juggernaut, but I feel like it's kind of underrated now. As a proud owner of the first Izzy Stradlin album, I really stan for him as the key songwriter of the band, and I spotlighted some of the most Izzy-heavy stuff from the records on tracks 10-12. Aside from "14 Years" and "You Ain't The First," all my Use Your Illusion picks were songs left off of the extremely bullshit single disc version released in 1998. "Get In The Ring" is kind of a punchline, known more for its goofy monologue calling out rock magazines than anything else, but it's grown into being one of my favorite songs by the band.

"The Spaghetti Incident?" is a footnote, but it's a platinum footnote, and notable for being the first place a lot of 11-year-olds like me heard songs by The Stooges, New York Dolls, or The Damned. From a young kid's perspective, the release of that album was really the first time "punk rock" became a buzzword on MTV, which never seemed to use the word in relation to Nirvana or other early alt-rock breakthrough bands, and wouldn't use it regularly until the rise of Green Day. And within a couple years of "The Spaghetti Incident?" my brother and I had started our first band, which mainly played covers of Sex Pistols and Modern Lovers, so it feels like an actual formative record to me.

And what can you say about Chinese Democracy? Use Your Illusion was a good kind of mess, but Chinese Democracy is just a disaster. One of the singles, "Better," was by far the best thing to come out of the project, but I actually was able to dig through and find a couple songs I enjoy a little. But even then, on a lot of midtempo songs like "There Was A Time," Axl's vocal tone really kind of sounds like Mickey Mouse in a hilarious way. Seriously, listen to it, that's what he sounds like.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016



















I wrote a piece for Complex about acts to check out at this year's Coachella, and I also contributed a few blurbs to a Rolling Stone piece on the same topic.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

















I wrote about 20 Songs You Didn't Know Kanye West Produced for Rolling Stone.

Monday, April 11, 2016


























Here's my latest Remix Report Card for Noisey.

Movie Diary

Wednesday, April 06, 2016





























a) The Art Of Organized Noize
I wondered initially if maybe this should've just been a movie about Outkast or the Dungeon Family in general, but I'm glad that it was done more from the perspective of the production team, as sort of a Standing In The Shadows Of Motown for the hip hop generation. The direction and storytelling aren't anything fancy and impressive and there's not a lot of archival footage outside of music videos, but they've got interviews with pretty much everyone you'd want them to talk to, and you got some pretty fascinating anecdotes. I never liked the later Outkast stuff as much as the early records, so it's nice to hear from the producers who they kinda left behind when they made Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and the Goodie Mob albums are so underrated that it's great to hear more about the stories behind those.

b) Pixels
I've gotten pretty good at avoiding Adam Sandler movies, especially the Happy Madison ones written by his sidekicks like Tim Herlihy. But this movie had a fun premise and cool-looking effects and a better than usual supporting cast (Peter Dinklage, Michelle Monaghan, Brian Cox, Jane Krakowski), so I tried to give it a chance. There was a lot of stupid unfunny Sandler stuff, but it was relatively bearable. 

c) Inside Out
I was one of the people who jeered at the "Herman's Head" premise and the kind of hoary battle-of-the-sexes vibe of the first Inside Out trailer, so I was surprised when it got a lot of praise as one of the best recent Pixar movies. But yeah, it was pretty good, a lot of smart casting and clever world-building and heart-tugging storytelling. There were times when I felt like the convoluted situation going on in Riley's head was really not that funny and wish they would've gotten the main story back on track a little faster, but still, pretty solid.

d) Entourage
I watched all 8 seasons of "Entourage," even as I was painfully aware of how sharply the show dropped off in quality after the first two or three seasons, so if I could stick to the end just to see how bad it could get, I felt obligated to do so with the movie as well. It was really pretty stupid and worthless, even by the standards of the later episodes, though. I think Jeremy Piven got a couple moments that made me laugh out loud, but that was about it.

e) Poltergeist
The original Poltergeist felt kind of huge and ubiquitous in the '80s but I don't think I'd ever actually watched it from front to back. So I did that a couple days before I watched the 2015 version, just to be able to compare and contrast. And really, the original hasn't dated incredibly well, so I don't mind that they went for a pretty different vibe with the remake and modernized it, they did a good job of incorporating present day technology into the story. Sam Rockwell seemed kinda overqualified to be the generic concerned dad, though, and visually the CGI was a lot less interesting and memorable than the effects in the original.

f) Pitch Perfect 2
My wife loves the Pitch Perfect movies and watches them so often that they're growing on me. I think the second movie might be a little funnier than the first, which kinda makes sense with Elizabeth Banks directing, it was pretty cool that she got that gig.

g) Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Everyone gets so worked up and angry and Marvel/D.C. partisan talking about superhero movies now and I kinda just wanna stay out of it. I've been mostly pretty into the Marvel movies, and this one was definitely too long and less fun than the first Avengers flick or the last Captain America flick, but I didn't think it was as fatally flawed as a lot of people made it out to be. The ending unveiling the weak ass B team Avengers was so uninspiring, though.

h) The DUFF
Easy A is definitely the best high school movie since Mean Girls, but this might be the best high school movie since Easy A. It hits a lot of the same notes as those two movies, but does a good job of being its own thing, Mae Whitman is really charming.

i) Mirror Mirror
Another movie that Dr. My Wife picked that I found myself enjoying, I liked that they didn't make a big deal of doing some crazy new twist on the Snow White story, they just added a little more humor and music with a good cast.

j) The Weight Of Water
This is one of the lesser known movies Kathryn Bigelow made in those 18 years between Point Break and The Hurt Locker. It's based on a novel, and the source material is pretty ambitious, jumping between a modern day story and a murder committed a century earlier, and I can imagine the book paralleling those two stories well, but the connective tissue feels a little thin in the film. Elizabeth Hurley looks amazing, but Sean Penn has that awful mustache to balance it out. 

Monthly Report: March 2016 Albums

Monday, April 04, 2016




















1. K. Michelle - More Issues Than Vogue
It's increasingly difficult to find R&B singers who have both pipes and personality -- too often you have to choose between skilled but bland singers, or interesting, original songs with unremarkable vocals. And that's part of why K. Michelle is so essential, with her third great album in a row. She's the only mainstream R&B singer who gets "explicit lyrics" tags on half her songs that don't have guest rappers, but there's a lot of emotion and introspection to balance out the sass and profanity. T-Pain produced and co-wrote the first two tracks, and he makes a surprisingly fantastic combination with K. Michelle, And I dig how her guest spot on the Jason DeRulo album was more in her R&B wheelhouse but their duet here is more about putting her in a Top 40-friendly context. I wish she stuck with the more daring original album title I Ain't White But I Hope You Like, though. Listen to it on my 2016 albums playlist.

2. Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution
Like most people, I primarily know of  Esperanza Spalding from winning Grammys and other awards, often in jazz categories, but I didn't really know much of her music. But I should check out her other stuff, I really dig this album, it's very art rock jazz fusion, with production by Tony Visconti, I really dig the unusual twists and turns of the chords and the time signatures, she's really on some other shit.

3. Tate Kobang - Since We're Here
It's been incredibly exciting for me to watch (and write about) one of my favorite Baltimore rappers become nationally famous over the past year. But it's also been frustrating to not be able to really show the people who like "Bank Rolls (Remix)" what else he can do, because most of his mixtapes have been pulled off the internet (Crown Of Thorns is still out there but Live Hazey, Hitler HardawayThe Book Of Joshua and Varsity are all pretty hard to find now). So I'm glad he's finally got a new tape out to capitalize on his new fanbase and show off his versatility. I like that the producers and guests on here are a mix of Baltimore guys (Blaqstarr, Jay Oliver, Freebandz Test, Street Scott) and some of the well known out-of-towners that Tate is now peers with (Rich Da Kid, Nitti Beatz, Chuck Inglish). Listen to it on Soundcloud.

4. Chris Maxwell - Arkansas Summer
19 years ago, the NYC band Skeleton Key released an amazing debut, Fantastic Spikes Through Balloons, one of those absurd '90s major label albums where a weird, unproven band got a big budget to make an awesome record with negligible commercial potential. Chris Maxwell was the band's guitarist (and sang one song on the album, "All The Things I've Lost"), and then he and most of the original lineup left the band for subsequent Skeleton Key records. Apparently, Maxwell went into TV production and has been composing music for shows like "Bob's Burgers" and "Inside Amy Schumer," before finally resurfacing with a solo album. It sounds nothing like Skeleton Key, but it's really pretty lovely, mostly downtempo rootsy songs, occasionally showcasing a warped sense of humor on songs like "Drunk Barber Shaved The World." I like hearing records like this, where a lifelong sideman finally brings out their passion project.

5. The Joy Formidable - Hitch
It can be tough for bands to forge ahead with a career after the buzz that attended their breakthrough has worn off, and The Joy Formidable are now on their third album, not drumming up nearly as much attention as their debut warranted a few years ago. But they're still a fantastic band, and Hitch lets them kinda stretch out from the neo-shoegaze vibe with arrangements that focus on drums or acoustic guitars or synths, even if it's not a total reinvention of their sound circa The Big Roar.

6. Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered.
We often hear about all the material artists record and discard in the process of making an album, and sometimes a few of those songs trickle out on reissues or leaks or other records. But it's interesting to hear the outtakes from a great album assembled as their own spinoff album -- a few years ago Bruce Springsteen made The Promise out of songs from the Darkness On The Edge Of Town sessions, and I'm glad Kendrick Lamar didn't wait three decades to give us this collection of offcuts from To Pimp A Butterfly. Like The Promise, this record is fascinating for how it illuminates the editing process of the original album, but more often than not it makes me appreciate the choices they made. That is to say, there's very little here that I would want to replace a song on Butterfly if I had the choice (and in particular I'm grateful that the recurring "pimp pimp HOORAY" chant was left off the real album). But it's also got a great relaxed vibe and some great verses that make it a pretty enjoyable listen in its own right, I'm glad he finally released a studio version of the song he performed on Fallon.

7. Jeff Buckley - You And I
I was skeptical about the process of another posthumous Jeff Buckley album -- I'm grateful for some of the material that's been released already, and all the great music we've gotten out of his sadly brief career, but I was afraid this was gonna be another redundant collection of odds and ends. But I was pleasantly surprised that You And I are all his early solo demos for Columbia, mostly covers from his Sin-e live repertoire, and it's really wonderful to have this stuff captured in studio recordings. I never realized he covered Jevetta Steele's "Calling You," a gorgeous song I became obsessed with a few years ago, and he also does a very underrated Led Zeppelin song, "Night Flight." These recordings are very casual and unpolished -- at one point he ends a song getting frustrated and says "Shit! Fuck, that pisses me off," even though it sounded great.

8. Boosie Badazz - Thug Talk
This is Boosie's third album of 2016, and a recent interview suggested that his recent cancer scare has motivated to try and release one every month this year. There are a lot of super prolific southern rappers releasing music at an impressive rate these days -- Future and Young Thug have also released multiple projects already this year (and I'm really running out of room to cover them in this space, Slime Season 3 is fine but not as good as I'm Up). But Boosie's run has been a lot more compelling to me because his music's always been really personal and it just feels like he's letting everything pour out now that he had pent up from 5 years in prison, every little moment of his life that he can turn into a song, he does. "Go Away" is probably my favorite off this record, and it's also great to hear a shout out to Young Moose and Baltimore on "Finish U."

9. Jumpcuts - Fiber Optic Bondage
Jumpcuts frontman Andy Shankman also plays in my band Western Blot, and the new Jumpcuts album was produced by my old friend Mat Leffler-Schulman, so I'd heard this record already when it was finished last year, and I'm glad it's finally out. The first Jumpcuts album transposed songs that were written on guitar to synths, and I think there's a bit more actual guitar on this record, but it's still on a dark, brooding electronic vibe with live drums, "Mcnourishment" has been the standout for me so far. Buy it here.

10. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne - Collegrove
2 Chainz and Tunechi have always had this really natural chemistry and a project like this was overdue, although it ended up coming at a time when both are kind of underdogs. But Collegrove is so relaxed and fun that it kind of shrugs off a lot of the pressure their recent solo releases have been under to get their careers back on track. Wayne is still a little adrift, figuring out whether he wants to be Young Thug as much as Thug wants to be him, so 2 Chainz is the anchor of the record, but it's a dynamic that works, the beat selection is great and "Bounce" and "Bentley Truck" and "Rolls Royce Weather Every Day" are standouts for me.

Worst Album of the Month: Lil Yachty - Lil Boat The Mixtape
It might seem silly to defend the noble tradition of Atlanta swag rap, but I've always marveled at how such a commercially fertile scene has made room for a lot of individuality and eccentricity without necessarily garnering much critical acclaim. So when someone like Young Thug becomes a critical darling while also being a pretty serious mainstream star, it seems weird when the press rallies around these guys like Lil Yachty and iLoveMakonnen whose quirky smirky funhouse mirror version of Atlanta rap makes even a fairly outlandish character like Young Thug really seem like a pretty serious craftsman by comparison. When people treat these artists as even remotely equal it kinda makes you wonder if they're missing the point, or if they really just wanna be spoonfed the most cutesy boutique variation of every scene.