Monthly Report: October 2016 Albums
1. Meek Mill - DC4
It's hard to complain about how long the wait's been for DC4 considering how recent his last album was, and that Meek has spent a lot of the time since then on house arrest. But I've been pretty impatient for it since he first started posting snippets last October and released 8 songs 'from' the mixtape in January, because honestly, I knew he could bounce back from the Drake beef with the right record. And what I like about DC4 is it kinda ramps the tempos and the intensity back up after Dreams Worth More Than Money was a little slower and more restrained than it probably should'e been. But the more aggressive overall sound of DC4 helps the midtempo stuff like "Shine" and "Blue Notes" stand out more. Most of the albums I've listened to this year are in my 2016 albums playlist.
2. SiR - HER EP
SiR is a west coast R&B singer who's guested on some TDE projects, co-wrote a Jill Scott single, and released a really solid album last year. This 6-song EP creeps a little further toward something radio-friendly, which is fine by me, I'd love to see this guy become a mainstream star. His frequent collaborator, Baltimore's D.K. The Punisher, is on this project too, happy to hear more of his production.
3. Lady Gaga - Joanne
As someone who really loved pretty much all of Born This Way and even parts of ARTPOP, I was pretty optimistic about Lady Gaga's inevitable commercial decline and/or 'mature reinvention' period would still produce some good music whether or not she mounted a chart comeback. "Perfect Illusion" is so completely awful, though, that I lowered my expectations for this album, to the point that I was pleasantly surprised by the strong opening run. "A-YO" and "John Wayne" in particular make a good use of the campy synthetic Americana vibe she's mining on this album. But the album's 'dressed down' authenticity move feels kind of theatrical in its own way, she never stops singing in character, you picture her making those goofy claw hands while she sings in that exaggerated style she always has.
4. Pretenders - Alone
Chrissie Hynde spent the last few years writing and releasing songs outside of the Pretenders umbrella for the first time in her career (first with J.P., Chrissie & The Fairground Boys and then on the 2014 solo debut Stockholm), so I was kind of wondering if Pretenders would just become a touring act. Of course, as with many later Pretenders albums, Martin Chambers isn't even involved, so it's all a little arbitrary, but Chrissie Hynde can do what she wants, and in this case she wanted to do loose, conversational songs over spare bluesy rockers producer by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. I like the whole vibe of the album, just this 65-year-old rock god who's been married 3 times talking about how she's good just being alone now.
5. 2 Chainz - Hibachi For Lunch EP
2 Chainz was already having an incredibly good year after Daniel Son; Necklace Don a couple months ago, so I didn't expect him to follow it up so quickly with 7 more songs. It's so short that I dunno if it leaves as much of an impact, but between the songs with Gucci, Quavo, Ty Dolla $ign and Future, it feels like he's just throwing out so many potential hits to keep his momentum going. It's great to see an MC who seems to take himself lightly really step up the quality of his records like 2 Chainz has this year.
6. JoJo - Mad Love.
JoJo's 3rd album came out just a few days before the 10th anniversary of her 2nd album, which is a pretty amazing illustration of just how long someone can get stuck in career purgatory even after getting their career off to a strong early start. A lot of Mad Love. is the usual sound of a former teen star showing how cool and grown up they are, which can be be a little tiresome, but she has a good voice and the songs are occasionally memorable. "Music" is an affecting opener and "Honest" captures a particular idea so succinctly that I feel like it should be a single. This album, which has a Wiz Khalifa guest verse and a song called "Vibe," is like a more fully realized version of the kind of 'edgy Top 40' that the new Tove Lo album, which has a Wiz Khalifa guest verse and a song called "Vibes," is going for. They both even sing in the same kind of exaggerated pouty babydoll voice.
7. Daya - Sit Still, Look Pretty
I feel like Daya has already been kind of sidelined as the bridesmaid of the new crop of sensitive alt-pop heroines who've come out in the wake of Lorde that includes Tove Lo and Alessia Cara and Halsey -- even when Daya sang a huge Chainsmokers hit, it quickly got upstaged by a bigger Chainsmokers hit sung by Halsey. But Daya is doing pretty well considering that she's not on a major label, and this album has an earnest charm. All six of the songs from her 2015 EP are reprised here, and I'm amused that one of the new songs is called "I.C.Y.M.I."
8. Jeezy - Trap Or Die 3
It's been interesting to see Jeezy and Gucci Mane release new albums a couple weeks apart, given their very different parallel careers over the last 11 years. Gucci's Woptober is still riding the wave of excitement about his return from prison as kind of a beloved folk hero, while Trap Or Die 3 is capitalizing on nostalgia for Jeezy's multiplatinum early days. Ultimately, both albums are minor entries in their respective careers, but while Woptober fails to build on the momentum of Everybody Looking with some really muted, forgettable songs, Trap Or Die 3 is at least pretty spirited and loud and gives me some of that classic Jeezy anthem feeling, and there's a run of really nice, surprising beats in the middle of the album with "Bout That" and "Let Em Know."
9. NxWorries - Yes Lawd!
Anderson .Paak isn't really that famous yet, but of all the up-and-coming rappers (or rapper/singers) out right now, he seems to be the one who provokes the most hyperbolic 'future legend' predictions from people that like him. And when you look at the sum total of his talents and connections -- drumming and rapping at the same time at the BET Awards, appearing all over a Dr. Dre album and then releasing this funky little side project on Stones Throw -- it's easy to get caught up in his potential. But honestly, I didn't find much to love in Malibu, and this album is quite a bit more enjoyable, but largely because Knxwledge cycles through to a new beat every couple minutes and never lets the momentum let us. .Paak gets to show off his versatility and have a lot of fun on here, but I'm still not especially impressed with his singing or his rapping by itself, and his personality just comes off really smug and unlikable.
10. Nightime Sunshine - Nightime Sunshine EP
I really loved the Boston band Apollo Sunshine, and since they broke up a few years ago, one of the band's two primary creative forces, Sam Cohen, has kept busy with Yellowbirds and a solo record and lots of session work, but the other, Jesse Gallagher, had kept relatively quiet. So I was happy to see recently that Gallagher released 4 songs from a new project, Nightime Sunshine (and that Apollo Sunshine's amazing first two albums have finally hit streaming services). The opener "Song About A Song" is a little too clever for its own good but overall this is a promising project and it's good to hear his voice again.
Worst Album of the Month: Green Day - Revolution Radio
My Green Day deep album cuts playlist was a nice excuse to go down memory lane with a band whose peak years have, I think, aged pretty well. But man, Billie Joe Armstrong's trajectory from a snotty, funny author of peppy punky anthems to a humorless middle-aged scold is positively Sting-like, the 2012 album trilogy brought back a little of the old Green Day attitude but now they're back to trying to make American Idiot happen again and it's just a total drag.