Friday, May 31, 2013
I wrote on the City Paper's Noise blog about the new video for "I Miss U," Skarr Akbar's tribute to Smash.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In this week's Baltimore City Paper, I wrote the BPM column about some upcoming dance/club music events, and also the Short List about concerts in the city this week.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I wrote a list of under the radar summer music festivals for Complex Magazine.

Monthly Report: April 2013 Albums

Sunday, May 26, 2013

1. Paramore - Paramore
I didn't write Paramore off at all after the Farro brothers left, least of all because of their stated reasons for leaving. But I did really like the riffs and drum fills they brought to the band's sound, and the first song they released after they left, "Monster," was pretty forgettable (as were the ), nevermind the fact that I never liked Brand New Eyes as much as Riot. So when they came with this, a midcareer self-titled album (always kind of an eyerolling 'statement'), and the lead single "Now," which is fine but not anything special, my expectations were pretty low. And then the second single "Still Into You" blew me away, and the whole album turned out to be flat out amazing, just a huge stylistic breadth over 17 tracks, the remaining trio completely stepping their game up and making the best Paramore album ever. The gleeful pop punk of "Anklebiters," the unexpected funk of "Ain't It Fun," the three confessional acoustic interludes, the '80s goth guitars of "Part II," the Blondie homage of "Daydreaming," I can't remember the last time a rock album did so many different things so well. Or the last time I wanted to listen to one as often as I want to listen to this. Oh and also "Grow Up" is fantastic. Also "Fast In My Car." And "Proof." Check it out on my Spotify playlist of 2013 albums I've been listening to.

2. Fantasia - Side Effects of You
I always liked Fantasia's voice but was not super impressed with her material outside of "When I See U," but damn, this album is killer. And one of the main reasons for that is Harmony Samuels, who produced all but one track on this, and did a lot of my favorite singles of the past year (Keyshia's "Enough Of No Love," Ariana Grande's "The Way," Sevyn Streeter's "I Like It," Marcus Canty's "In & Out," JHud's "Think Like A Man"). Samuels doesn't have one particular distinctive sound, which is really his strength on a project like this, it's all over the place but still has a high quality control, and stays within Fantasia's lane. The way "Change Your Mind" builds a really dope new song over the "I'm Your Baby Tonight" groove is a particular favorite, but it's full of jams.

3. Nova Starz - Dark Lovely Places...For The #Ragers
I just interviewed Nova Starz and her producer Street Scott in the Baltimore City Paper recently, and they're good people, I was happy to help them get the word out about this record, which is some cool unique shit. I already wrote a lot about it, but you can check it out here.

4. Tate Kobang - Hitler Hardaway
This is one of my favorite new Baltimore rappers to come out in the last couple years, really enjoyed his tape last year and this one's crazy. Tate Kobang is part of a crew with Baltimore club producer Matic808, who does a lot of great midtempo beats on this tape, and the whole sound of it is really fresh and aggressive, lyrically it's on an ignorant tip but there's intelligence in the rhymes, which pretty much describes my favorite kind of rap. Need to write about these dudes in greater detail at some point, but in any event, check the tape.

5. Fall Out Boy - Save Rock And Roll
Two of my favorite albums of the last 5 years are Folie A Deux, the flop that sent Fall Out Boy into an extended hiatus, and Soul Punk, the solo album Patrick Stump made during that break that did even worse commercially. So it's a little bittersweet to see the band score a triumphant comeback with a record I don't like nearly as much as those two, although it's perfectly fine by any other standard. "My Songs" was interesting to write about when it first dropped out of nowhere, but now that it's actually become a bigger crossover hit than I thought it had any chance of being, it's helped me key in on the sound of the album, which is in a weird way more processed and 'pop' than even Infinity On High. So maybe if this has 3 or 4 big singles it'll help me come around to totally getting this album's approach ("Alone Together" and "Young Volcanoes" and "Just One Yesterday" certainly sound more like hits to me than "My Songs"), but for now I just like it. And for once, the stunt casting is actually one of the best things about the album, Courtney Love on "Rat A Tat" and Elton John on "Save Rock And Roll" are both kind of amazing.

6. Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
I'm not totally on board with this guy, all the 'nanananananana AHH!' stuff is really really not cute at all -- when he starts coughing in the middle of doing it at the end of (of course) "NaNa" I'm actually happy, whether or not it was scripted or whatever. But he's obviously talented and has something to say, but aesthetically I'm just hoping he goes somewhere else as he gets better, and hopefully doesn't sing too much, his phrasing is even more irritating than Drake's when he gets melodic. Also it's pretty horrifying that the song I enjoy the most on this is the one with Childish Gambino.

7. Los - Becoming King
For me, being involved in Baltimore music and writing about artists here is about the music and the people and the community -- I cheer anyone's success but I'm not really invested in it as a horse race, predicting who'll be a big star or trying to make that happen beyond just writing honestly about the music I enjoy. Still, genuine surprising success stories, when they happen, can be thrilling -- so the last few years of watching the rise of Los have been a trip. This dude that once sat in the living room of my old apartment on Pratt Street watching MTV James now has the most downloaded mixtape of the month on DatPiff (about twice as popular as Chance The Media Darling!). Every time Los drops a new tape, it does better than the last, but I also keep waiting for the perfect project that completely lives up to his talent, and Becoming King isn't quite it, but it's pretty damn good. Love the title track and "Disappointed."

8. Brad Paisley - Wheelhouse
I already cherry-picked a couple favorites from this already for the deep album cuts playlist, but the whole thing is pretty solid, aside from That Song and a couple other concept songs that don't quite work. Actually, "Accidental Racist" isn't even the song most ruined by a guest rap -- "Pressing On A Bruise" is fantastic right up until the moment Matt Kearney shows up.

9. The Band Perry - Pioneer
Over the course of their sleeper debut and the first couple hits from this album, I've started to respect The Band Perry as a pretty consistent singles act. I'm not sure if this quite gels as an album I want to revisit a lot as an album, though, it functions pretty well as a collection of singles and future singles and would-be singles, "Forever Mine Nevermind" being the one I most hope ends up on the radio this year.

10. Styles P - Float
He's had such a busy late career renaissance that it's becoming kind of easy to take Styles P for granted -- every year he drops one or two new albums, and they're pretty much all really solid, but no real masterpieces, and no real stakes in his career at this point (even being on one of the biggest rap songs of the last few years, "BMF," didn't seem to have any impact). This one, produced entirely by Scram Jones, sounds great, but I do wonder how much I'll remember about it once the next LP rolls around in 2014. Maybe "Hater Love" and "I Need Weed," those bang.

Worst album of the month: IO Echo - Ministry of Love
It's rare that I get sent CD promos in the mail anymore, which is mostly a good thing because it means a lot less waste of plastic and packing materials, everything being digital as far as promos are concerned is a positive change. But now and again a CD shows up in my mailbox, and I'm like well, I guess this is something I can put in my car stereo. This game with a press release and looked all professional, and had details of big bands IO Echo had toured with, but I'd never heard of them, so I was like OK, we'll see what's this about. And it's about, like, everything I hate about certain modern strains of post-everything indie rock, just a bunch of slow tuneless singing over garish mountains of preset textures slathered with reverb, a totally charmless dead end where aesthetics take privilege over songwriting but the aesthetic is tired and ugly.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I wrote about Mario's new single with Nicki Minaj on the City Paper's Noise blog.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 7: The Doors

Friday, May 24, 2013

This series is primarily intended for looking at artists who aren't in the critical canon, who aren't considered to have 'classic' albums. But when certain acts are in the news, or, sadly, when someone passes away, like The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek did this week, I do think about whether there's potential there. And in the case of The Doors, there absolutely is: the two-disc The Best of The Doors was a staple of my mother's house when I was growing up, but it has pretty much every Doors song I know and love (barring "Peace Frog" and a couple songs used in the Oliver Stone movie and other soundtracks). And at a time when Manzarek is being memorialized around the world for the same handful of songs, it feels good to look beyond that and dig deeper into the catalog. Or at least, into the six albums made while Jim Morrison was alive.

I was also compelled to look at Doors deep cuts, because of the immortal Kids In The Hall sketch about Doors fans. The whole thing is both a celebration and satire of certain classic rock mentalities, including most famously the rockist and misogynist mantra, "Greatest hits albums are for housewives and little girls," which I especially enjoy since I was once a little boy listening to a housewife's copy of a Doors greatest hits album. The version of "The Doors" that Bruce McCulloch re-recorded for his awesome 1995 album Shame-Based Man features my favorite line not in the original KITH sketch: "You've gotta buy Waiting For The Sun. It's their third album, but really? It's their first." (Another great Bruce sketch, "The Bass Player," seems directly influenced by The Doors' "The Wasp.") I've never followed Bruce's protocol for becoming a Doors fan, but in a way I've always wanted to. Here's the Spotify playlist:

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 7: The Doors

1. Not To Touch The Earth
2. Moonlight Drive
3. Yes, The River Knows
4. Take It As It Comes
5. The Changeling
6. My Wild Love
7. Do it
8. Hyacinth House
9. Indian Summer
10. Summer's Almost Gone
11. Wintertime Love
12. The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)
13. Easy Ride
14. Land Ho!
15. L'America
16. Horse Latitudes
17. The Spy
18. Blue Sunday
19. I Can't See Your Face In My Mind
20. The Soft Parade
21. End Of The Night

Tracks 4 and 21 from The Doors (1967)
Tracks 2, 16 and 19 from Strange Days (1967)
Tracks 1, 3, 6, 10 and 11 from Waiting For The Sun (1968)
Tracks 7, 13 and 20 from The Soft Parade (1969)
Tracks 9, 14, 17 and 18 from Morrison Hotel (1970)
Tracks 5, 8, 12 and 15 from L.A. Woman (1971)

Poring over these songs really helped underline for me what an incredible catalog these built up in under 5 years as recording artists before flaming out. I think my favorite discovery was The Soft Parade's title track, an 8-minute epic that's far less famous than their only two songs that are even longer, "The End" and "When The Music's Over," and is a bit more gonzo and structurally unpredictable than those other album closers. "My Wild Love" is also one of their coolest-sounding songs, something that you almost can't imagine someone coming up with in 1968. "Moonlight Drive" is important to Doors lore are the first song Jim sang to Ray (even though it wasn't released until their second album). And "Land Ho!" and "Do It" and "The Changeling" are as catchy as anything on all those greatest hits albums. I wish Ray Manzarek did more with his last 4 decades then keep finding new ways to relive The Doors, but if there's a band you're going to spend your whole life dwelling on, you could do far worse.

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I wrote another Complex piece, about the top 10 New York rap albums of the past decade.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In this week's City Paper, I interviewed Baltimore-based singer Nova Starz, and rapper-producer Street Scott, who produced her great new EP.

Also wrote The Short List, as usual, and put in a little plug for the show I'm playing this week.

Monday, May 20, 2013
It's been a while since I recapped my blurbs for The Singles Jukebox, but I have continued to be kind of lazy and sporadic with my contributions so far this year. As usual, format is my score/group average:

Cassadee Pope - Cry [1/3.8]
Kendrick Lamar - Backseat Freestyle [5/6.67]
Destiny's Child - Nuclear [7/6.79]
50 Cent ft. Eminem and Adam Levine - My Life [2/3.56]
Trinidad James - All Gold Everything [1/4.89]
Lil Wayne ft. Drake and Future - Bitches Love Me [6/4]
Imagine Dragons - Radioactive [1/3.08]
Marsha Ambrosius - Cold War [3/4.9]
fun. - Carry On [1/3.6]
Young Jeezy ft. 2 Chainz - RIP [6/6.75]
Kendrick Lamar ft. Drake - Poetic Justice [6/8.11]
Ace Hood ft. Future and Rick Ross - Bugatti [7/6.22]
Carly Rae Jepsen - Tonight I'm Getting Over You [3/7]
Justin Timberlake - Mirrors [1/4.7]
Rihanna - Pour It Up [1/3.8]
Demi Lovato - Heart Attack [7/5.08]
Ciara - Body Party [6/6.6]
Beach House - Wishes [5/6.15]

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I wrote a post on the City Paper's Noise blog about the best Baltimore rap video I've seen in a while, "Dope Trilla" by StarrZ.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Next Friday, May 24th, The Ottobar is holding a release party for Flying Dog Music's Baltimore Vol. 1 compilation, with live performances from several acts that appear on the comp, including Among Wolves, Us And Us Only, and MacGregor Burns. And, I am excited to say, my band Western Blot was just added to the bill -- haven't seen our name added to the Facebook event or the venue page yet, but we should be playing 2nd, around 9pm that night.

The compilation happened because a while back Flying Dog Brewery, who are based in Frederick, Maryland, asked Mobtown Studios to help put together a collection of music from the Baltimore scene, to tie in with the many concert promotions and things they've been doing around the city to promote their beer. Mat Leffler-Schulman from Mobtown asked me to help out, and we brainstormed a bunch of bands we liked, asked them for new songs or picked out favorites from their records, and then I basically sequenced it all together like a mixtape I'd want to give to a friend to listen to.

Baltimore Vol. 1 features the debut of a new Western Blot song, "The Power Let Me Down," which features vocals by Andy Shankman (who also fronts Jumpcuts and plays guitar in Western Blot's live lineup), and occasional Western Blot vocalist Scott Siskind's other band Vinny Vegas has a song as well. We got previously unreleased tracks by Mr. Moccasin and Repelican, plus songs from Small Sur, Microkingdom, Holy MTN, Three Red Crowns, Brooks Long, The Manly Deeds, Me & This Army, Holy Ghost Party, Cameron Blake, everybody playing the Ottobar show... just a lot of great people from a really wide cross section of the city's music scene. The CD will be available at the show, and at other Flying Dog events, not sure about an online release. I'm feeling really great about how we've been sounding live lately, gonna be a great night.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This week I wrote my first piece for Complex Magazine, running down 25 tracks that trace the evolution of Kanye West's early pre-College Dropout production career. I feel kind of like a lapsed Kanye fan these days, but that doesn't change the fact that he was consistently one of my favorite people making music for about five years, so it was nice to stan out on that early stuff again and dig into the trivia.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I did a little e-mail interview with the legendary Rakim for the City Paper's Noise blog to promote his show in Baltimore at Paparazzi on the 19th.

Also wrote about that, and many other shows, in The Short List in this week's paper.

Monthly Report: April 2013 Singles

Monday, May 13, 2013

1. T.Rone - "Hello Love"
I feel like at this point the lines have blurred to the point that when guys like this or Ty$ come out I'm not really sure if he's a singin' rapper or a rappin' singer. In any event, I really dig this record, a real uniquely sparse beat that always sticks out on radio, has been kind of up and down on the charts without totally breaking through, hope now that he's signed to Cash Money they keep pushing this song instead of moving on to another. As usual you can check all these songs on my running Spotify playlist of favorite 2013 singles.

2. Daft Punk f/ Pharrell Williams - "Get Lucky"
I like Daft Punk fine, the kind of massive cultural zeitgeist that has accumulated around them over the past decade is a little funny but I don't mind it, they're talented guys. The idea of capitalizing on all the love for what they do with a collaboration-heavy album seems to be kind of missing the point, but I guess if that's what they want to do to make an event album, whatever. I rolled my eyes when I heard that Pharrell would be involved, but in a way it's a good match in that he's someone else who can dine out for the rest of his life on how awesome he was in 2001. This song is good, though, obviously largely for the Nile Rodgers riff (and I'm still appalled about that interview where Pharrell calls him "Niles" twice), but really the whole thing falls together well. I hope it takes off on U.S. radio somewhere besides alt-rock formats, it sounds really weird hearing this fade into Pearl Jam's "Better Man."

3. J. Cole f/ Miguel - "Power Trip"
This song is good, but I feel a little like it's cashing in on the props people should've been giving last year to "Nobody's Perfect," which was better. Also, Miguel's part is kind of laughably small, seems like almost a waste of his talent, but he makes the most of it by singing that little 2-line hook differently each time it comes around.

4. Wale f/ Tiara Thomas - "Bad"
If J. Cole is the mildly acceptable new face of soft batch R&B rap hits, Wale is the completely unacceptable one. Most of his singles feature dope singers and would be better without his verses on them, though, and in this case there actually is a Tiara Thomas solo version of this and it's great. I'm hoping the popularity of this song at least kicks in the door for her to have some other stuff on the radio.

5. Mindless Behavior - "Keep Her On The Low"
The whole 21st century procession of black boy bands from B2K to Pretty Ricky to these guys is kind of fascinating, like they just keep getting more swagged-out and weird-looking each time, and this song is just kind of awkward as fuck but still good, and has some hilarious self-aware lines about "ballin' like Menudo."

6. Ariana Grande f/ Mac Miller - "That Way"
I feel like I shouldn't dig this because it's a Disney starlet and fucking Mac Miller messing with the "Still Not A Player" pianos, but this song is really pretty killer. Harmony Samuels, who did pretty much all of the great new Fantasia album and about a half dozen singles I've loved lately, takes an interesting tack in putting that sample over modern drums without being obnoxious about it, and the vocal is pretty impressive.

7. Iggy Azalea - "Work"
Iggy Azalea is one of these earnest XXL Freshmen white rappers who I feel like I should probably kneejerk hate as much as I do Mac Miller or Macklemore or MGK, but I kinda don't mind her for some reason. And this song is pretty decent, great production from one of the FKi guys who did all the great Travis Porter singles.

8. Lil Wayne f/ Future and Drake - "Love Me"
Another Future feature where I'm annoyed that he didn't get his own verse on the shit, don't understand why dude is letting the game T-Pain him. But honestly the Wayne verses, even though they have some usual gross Wayne circa 2013 type lines, at least sound good in a singsong way and fit the song.

9. Eric Benet - "News For You"
It was the unexpected 2 Chainz remix that really made me pay attention to this song, but the original is also some really solid grown R&B shit.

10. Chris Brown - "Fine China"
This isn't the first time I've put a Chris Brown song in this space in the past 4 years, but I still feel guilty about it everytime, while also kind of committed to separating the music from the person. He makes it pretty difficult with all the on-the-nose shit in this song where he literally says "I'm not dangerous" and compares a woman to beautiful breakable dishware, but what really keeps this extraordinarily well produced song from being great instead of merely good is that his falsetto is really bad and strangled-sounding.

Worst Single of the Month: Imagine Dragons - "Radioactive"
I actually stuck up for these guys a fair amount for "It's Time," that song is cheesy as hell but it works, dammit. This song, however, I cannot abide by, and I'm actually kind of bitter that this charted higher on the Hot 100 than "It's Time." 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I wrote on the Mobtown Studios site about two new records from Jon Ehrens: Dungeonesse, with Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak, and the solo electronic project J.Ek.

2013 Remix Report Card, Vol. 3

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Bugatti (Remix)" by Ace Hood featuring Wiz Khalifa, T.I., Meek Mill, French Montana, 2 Chainz, Future, DJ Khaled and Birdman
Obviously this is already a strong candidate for banger of the year, and the fact that people like the original for the beat and hook more than the verses just makes it prime real estate for an event remix. I will give Ace Hood credit, though, he comes out first on the remix and has a nicer flow than he did on the original, and then he does it again at the end. The first half was so dope that I started to get my hopes up that the whole remix would be straight, and then Wiz showed up with that hilarious bullshit flow and stopped the whole thing dead in its tracks so bad that even French didn't seem that bad.
Best Verse: Ace Hood
Overall Grade: B-

"Females Welcomed (Remix)" by Trinidad James featuring Juicy J
Since the original track is half a surprisingly decent rap song for one verse and then just goes off into a weird mostly instrumental EDM tangent, I assumed the remix would just lengthen out the first half of the song for the guest verse. Instead, Juicy J kinda shows up as the beat starts changing, and it actually works pretty well.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

"Freaks (Remix)" by French Montana featuring DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, Mavado, Wale and Nicki Minaj
Since the original "Freaks" just had Nicki and wasn't quite enough starpower to cancel out French's boring ass and get him back in heavy rotation, so they went back and packed up the remix. This is one of those rare moments where Rick Ross actually rises to the occasion and sounds comfortable on an uptempo beat, and it's pretty hilarious when he bellows "murrrrda for cooooke."
Best Verse: Rick Ross
Overall Grade: C+

"No New Friends (SFTB Remix)" by DJ Khaled featuring Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne
This is kinda borderline, since it's ostensibly a "Started From The Bottom" remix but it's basically a whole new song, for DJ Khaled's album, spun off from a line in the original song. Anyway this shit is so terrible it makes the virtues of "Started" a little easier to remember. Once again, Future doesn't get a verse but is just ad libbing on the outro, what a stupid waste of his talent.
Best Verse: Rick Ross
Overall Grade: D

"Show Out (Remix)" by Juicy J featuring Pimp C, T.I. and Young Jeezy
The choice to throw a posthumous Pimp C verse randomly on a remix of this song is odd, but it works. Don't recognize the verse from anywhere but Pimp just sounds great on this beat, even though of course he wasn't rapping to it. In any event I fuck with this song real heavy to begin with and it's nice to hear a version with no Big Sean.
Best Verse: Pimp C
Overall Grade: B+

"UOENO (Remix)" by Rocko featuring A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz and Future
After Rocko had a possible hit on his hand with a completely reprehensible Rick Ross verse that eventually attracted some major controversy, he did the semi-honorable thing and set about replacing Ross on the record and doing a bunch of remixes, which at this point just kind of swapped in a different star in place of Rozay one at a time, which is annoying so I just found a YouTube that mixes them all together (and at one point Kendrick and Kanye were rumored for the official single version too, so maybe there's more coming). And of course, Future still hasn't gotten a verse on this beat, which is ridiculous, he's not T-Pain motherfuckers, stop using him for just hooks (although this is probably his worst hook of late). Anyway, I don't really get the appeal of this song or even the beat, which is kinda nice cause then I don't feel conflicted at all about the Ross verse or anything. Anyway A$AP shits the bed worse than usual, 2 Chainz is just OK, and Wiz comes with one of those rare sporadic moments where he has a pulse.
Best Verse: Wiz Khalifa
Overall Grade: C

"We Still In This Bitch (Remix)" by B.o.B featuring Young Jeezy, Young Dro and Yo Gotti
It's great to see Young Dro on this, not just because he's dope and has long been neglected by Grand Hustle, but because he's actually referred to as "Young Dro" and not "3Krazy" or whatever bullshit name change he announced last year. This song was never really any good to begin with, though, B.o.B sounds so out of place trying to do strip club shit (and sounds even worse on his remix verse) and the beat sounds like Mike Will Made Half Of It And Then Gave Up. Dro is my fucking hero, though, he singlehandedly saves this.
Best Verse: Young Dro
Overall Grade: B-

Tuesday, May 07, 2013
This week's Short List.

Monthly Report: March 2013 Albums

Monday, May 06, 2013

1. Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park
I remember the first time I heard "Merry Go 'Round" on the radio one night, before any of the buzz really got going commercially or critically, and I knew off the bat that it was a special song that was going to get a big reaction, even if there were things about it that were maybe a little too on the nose, or impressed with itself. But man, this album, this fucking album, cuts so close to the bone of what it feels like to be broke and hopeless. Obviously, I already named it one of the best albums of the young decade, but man, this is the kind of cathartic album for the pulverized middle class that the last Springsteen record wishes it was. It's the album I want to listen to when I come home from working overtime and tremble with anger when I realize I'm not going to be able to afford groceries this week, like I did tonight. 

2. Rod Lee - Rock City, Vol. 8: Club Workout
Rod Lee is one of my all-time favorite Baltimore club producers, and he’s also one of the scene’s only DJs who makes mix albums of only his own productions, and almost definitely the only one who’s made 8 of them. This is the first in almost five years, and it’s just really great to hear his tracks again after some time of keeping a lower profile in the city, even though people really spin his classics here all the time still. He hasn’t changed the formula too much with the new stuff, but the drums still bang, and his hooks and shit talking are still entertaining as hell, and there’s a few new samples and synth sounds in the mix that keep it fresh. 

3. Birds and Arrows - Coyotes
Birds and Arrows are one of several North Carolina bands that comes up to Baltimore pretty regularly that I've become a fan of in recent years after seeing live, led by the husband-and-wife duo of Pete and Andrea Connolly. Andrea's got an intoxicatingly smokey voice, and their records just have great intimate atmosphere. I loved one of their earlier albums Starmaker, not sure if this one will grow on me as much as that one but so far it sounds pretty good.

4. How To Destroy Angels - Welcome Oblivion
I really dug the EP last year, and this is just kinda that but longer -- almost literally, since most of the same tracks are reprised -- which works for me. I like hearing Reznor do these kind of restrained atmospheric tracks that don't repeat the same production tricks of old quiet Nine Inch Nails songs, gives me hope that the next phase of NIN won't feel like a retread.

5. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
I always thought FutureSex/LoveSounds was, a couple undeniable singles aside, just kind of coasting on the goodwill of Justified, letting Timbaland enter his classic rock phase, and everything JT did in the 6 years that followed sounding just like that stuff made him seem even more bereft of inspiration. So I’m not surprised at all that this isn’t exactly ‘worth the wait,’ but again, I can at least enjoy it for a couple great songs and probably-future-singles (“Pusher Love Girl” and “Let The Groove Get In” being the standouts for me). The pleasant surprise is that I don’t actually hate anything besides “Mirrors.” 

6. Caitlin Rose - The Stand-In
This completes a little trio of records centered around twangy guitars and women's voices that I enjoyed this month, along with Kacey Musgraves and Birds And Arrows. Rose is the daughter of a Nashville songwriter but I wouldn't call her country per se, it's really just some slightly cutesy but well written pop/rock. 

7. They Might Be Giants - Nanobots
I love TMBG and have always listened to just about any new album they put out, but the fact is that they'd been on a long run of diminishing returns for like 20 years before their last record, Join Us, turned out to be pretty great. So it kinda feels like the pressure's on about whether the next album would continue this promising late career run or fall back into the doldrums of wacky, unmemorable late period material. And I would say it's pretty damn good, if not quite on the same level. The big thing about this record is that it  has the most tracks they've put on a record in a long time, 25, and they've brought back not just the 2-minute songs but also a bunch of "Fingertips"-style microsongs, sprinkled throughout the album instead of all together, which I thought might be lame but works pretty well.

8. Brianna Perry - Symphony No. 9: The Collection
Very confusingly, Perry released a mixtape in November with almost the same title and most of the same song titles, but half the tracks were only one minute snippets. Now, the real version with all full songs is here and it's pretty good -- nice expensive-sounding production and some big name guests, but Brianna's voice and persona feel more developed than they were on her 2011 mixtape. It kind of sounds like this was basically the major label album she would've dropped last year if "Marilyn Monroe" had kept climbing the charts, but since it didn't they're probably just throwing the material they have out there and starting over from scratch to try and score a new hit.

9. David Bowie - The Next Day
I've never been a big Bowie guy -- love the hits and a handful of the canonical albums, but he's just never been really crucial to me. And after "Where Are We Now?" I certainly didn't expect to care for this album, but it's really pretty damn good, the sound of the band he's working with is both familiar and unique, his voice is aging interestingly, and I'm getting more of a perspective or sense of humanity out of his lyrics than I usually do.

10. Thalia Zedek Band - Via
I've always meant to listen to Thalia Zedek and her various bands more, I really like her voice. This probably isn't as good as earlier records I haven't heard, but I'm enjoying it, really grizzled almost bluesy jams with lots of violin.

Worst Album of the Month: The Strokes - Comedown Machine
I ended up listening to a whole lot of March's new releases, so there's a lot that didn't make my top 10 for various reasons -- albums that were disappointing (Chelsea Light Moving, Jimi Hendrix) or just kinda boring (Depeche Mode, Brian McKnight) or had some good songs hidden among some serious crap (Lil Wayne, the Sound City soundtrack), but this is the one I will definitely never want to revisit. And I think those first couple Strokes albums have held up pretty well, this one is just terrible.

Sunday, May 05, 2013
Later this week, on May 10th, my lovely wife Jennifer and I will be celebrating the 5th anniversary of our wedding. While reminiscing about that day, I made a Spotify playlist of all the music I programmed for the event, which I'm really enjoying listening to, brings back a lot of memories.

Speaking of my wife, she is is a very talented photographer, and is currently offering a family photography deal on Living Social for people in the Maryland/D.C. area. It's available through May 14th, so I thought I'd put in a little plug for that. She does other kinds of photo shoots, too, she did a lot of the photography for Western Blot flyers and record covers, great stuff.

Friday, May 03, 2013

I wrote a post on the City Paper's Noise blog about the new single by rapper/producer Speed On The Beat.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

This week Spin Magazine ran a big list of 45 moments in the history of rap and country music intersecting, and I contributed a few blurbs.