Deep Album Cuts Vol. 91: Yes

Friday, April 28, 2017

















This year's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held earlier this month, will air on HBO tomorrow night, and I've already done deep cuts playlists for inductees Pearl Jam, 2Pac, Journey, and Electric Light Orchestra. But I wanted to do one more, for Yes, a band who I've always been really interested in hearing more of. I remember as a teenager, somebody I knew had Tormato on vinyl, and I laughed so hard at what seemed like the goofiest prog rock album title and cover I'd ever seen. But man, that album rocks.

Yes Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Beyond And Before
2. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed
3. A Venture
4. South Side Of The Sky
5. Siberian Khatru
6. The Ancient / Giants Under The Sun
7. Sound Chaser
8. Parallels
9. Onward
10. Tempus Fugit
11. Cinema
12. Holy Lamb

Track 1 from Yes (1969)
Track 2 from Time And A Word (1970)
Track 3 from The Yes Album (1971)
Track 4 from Fragile (1971)
Track 5 from Close To The Edge (1972)
Track 6 from Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)
Track 7 from Relayer (1974)
Track 8 from Going For The One (1977)
Track 9 from Tormato (1978)
Track 10 from Drama (1980)
Track 11 from 90125 (1983)
Track 12 from BiGenerator (1987)

This is the smallest number of tracks I've ever fit into my self-imposed 80-minute time limit, mainly because Yes makes such long songs. Some of their best known singles were edited down heavily from longer album tracks, while even my favorite classic rock radio staple from the band, "Roundabout" clocks in at over 8 minutes. I almost didn't have room for anything from Tales From Topographic Oceans, which is comprised of 4 tracks that each take up an entire side of vinyl, the shortest being 18 minutes long. I avoided some of the best known Yes songs that weren't technically singles like "Yours Is No Disgrace" and "Starship Trooper," partly because there just wasn't room for them.

The R&R HOF, and some of the so-called rock establishment it represents, have a famous anti-prog bent that kept Rush out of the hall for years, and Yes took even longer to get in. But I always thought that perhaps more than any other prog band, Yes has the best of both worlds, with Jon Anderson's voice and some really memorably melodies underpinning even the band's most ambitious and long winded albums.

I really just love the sound of this band, though, and a lot of what they do just feels so fresh to me, that if someone sounded like this today, they'd become my favorite new band. Chris Squire is one of my favorite bassists of all time, I wish I knew how to get Bill Bruford's drum sound or Tony Kaye's synth sound. And of course, Yes had one of the bigger and stranger '80s comebacks of any '70s band, with Trevor Rabin joining the band and masterminding the blockbuster 90125. And while that stuff sits apart a little bit, it's impressive how much it functions on a continuum with the rest of the Yes catalog and is pretty great in its own right.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey

TV Diary

Thursday, April 27, 2017













































a) "Mary Kills People"
I adored Caroline Dhavernas in the short-lived Bryan Fuller series "Wonderfalls" from 2004, and was happy that Fuller once again put her on TV in "Hannibal," but this new Lifetime series is maybe her most promising role yet. She plays an ER doctor who secretly takes up a side gig in assisted suicide, and the first of six episodes sets up the character really interestingly, and barrels through so many of the things that can go wrong in this scenario, that I'm curious to see where it's gonna go.

b) "Brockmire"
Hank Azaria has probably made me laugh more than any "Simpsons" cast member, which means he's made me laugh more than almost anybody. And this is really one of his best live action projects because as Jim Brockmire he plays a disgraced, unhinged baseball announcer who goes to work for a struggling minor league team, which essentially means Azaria gets to say strings of bizarre profanity in a slick talking sportscaster voice. The show can sometimes pick at crude low hanging fruit, but I've been consistently impressed with the hilarious dialogue. Also there's a recurring role from Katie Finneran, another actress I love from "Wonderfalls."

c) "Girlboss"
"Girlboss" is based on a young self-made multi-millionaire's autobiography. But in the year and a half between the book being published and the TV show premiering on Netflix, Sophia Amuruso resigned from her company and it filed Chapter 11, which puts the show in an awkward perspective. To the show's credit, though, it doesn't rely too heavily on being an inspirational tale of business success, at least in the first couple episodes I've watched, and mostly looks for charm and comedy in the character finding an unlikely way to turn a profit at a pretty young age. My wife and I have watched the Pitch Perfect movies a ton, and Kay Cannon's entertaining ear for dialogue is recognizable here, but beyond that I have pretty mixed feelings about it. It's almost like they did a 2006 period piece so accurately that it feels like some mediocre forgotten show from '06.

d) "Bill Nye Saves The World"
Bill Nye pretty much comes out at the beginning of his new Netflix series and says that it's not so much for kids as it is for adults who watched him as kids in the '90s. And that's basically me, but I kinda wish he was still gearing the show towards kids, because I'd love to have a show like that to put on for my son. I'm still getting a feel for whether my kid would like it or if there's not any glaring adult content. But it's nice to have Nye back and really sticking his neck out on issues like climate change and progressive ideas about gender. Sometimes it feels like it's trying too hard to be flashy and of the moment, though; the first five minutes of the first episode feature Desiigner making confused noises while a supermodel explains sciencey stuff to him.

e) "Famous In Love"
"Famous In Love" kind of feels like a cousin to one of my favorite shows of the moment, "The Arrangement," because both are about struggling unknown young actresses who suddenly get thrust into the spotlight. The main difference, however, is that "Famous In Love" is much, much more dumb. Even the moments that are kind of poking fun at Hollywood feel like a weak "Entourage" episode. But Bella Thorne is freakishly good looking, so I've watched a few episodes of it.

f) "Guerrilla"
"Guerrilla" was preceded by a pretty strong backlash, from an audience that probably would've eagerly celebrated a show about '70s black British revolutionaries, if they hadn't cast an Indian woman, Freida Pinto, as the female lead and really, so far the only substantial female character. I suppose they were trying to make a statement with the casting, hard for me to say if it was worth it, but the show is pretty slow moving so far, it's the kind of fact based show that makes me want to just pick up a book about the subject than trust this fictionalized version.

g) "Return Of The Mac"
I didn't think it was possible to be disappointed in the Pop network, but I thought "Schitt's Creek" was a good direction for them to go in with scripted comedy. But with their newer shows they've gone back into their usual rut of minor celebrities playing themselves in hacky show business satires. This one features Joey McIntyre from NKOTB trying to jumpstart his acting career and constantly being offered reality TV, which is kind of a meta joke on this show's existence being kind of a compromise between the two.

h) "Hollywood Darlings"
This is another new Pop show paired that lacks even the minor charm of "Return of the Mac," about a few former child actresses from "Full House" and "7th Heaven" and stuff like that. Some of the humor is a little 'edgy' compared to their images, which is I guess the point, but it falls pretty flat.

i) "The Son"
AMC's new big ambitious period piece with Pierce Brosnan as a grizzled frontiersman. I've been watching it, but it hasn't really made much of an impression on me.

j) "First Dates"
This apparently started as a British show and has been adapted in other countries, including America now, that basically just sets people up on blind dates and lets the cameras roll. And since so many reality shows conjure up the dark connotations of voyeurism, it's refreshing to see it go the other way and capture that feeling of eavesdropping on two people on a first date and wondering if there'll be a second date. It's a silly, cute little show, nothing really important but I'm not mad at it.

k) "You The Jury"
Maybe this show feels even more ominous to me than it otherwise would because it's hosted by a Fox News lady, but this whole thing of reenacting a trial and letting the audience decide the outcome feels pretty creepy, especially just the way the whole thing is framed on the show.

l) "The Toy Box"
I've never really watched "The Shark Tank," but I like the idea of a version that's about people who want to make toys and products for kids. Plus it's really funny to watch these video packages where these slick talking entrepreneurs say things like "I have gone all in in the pursuit of my dreams with Little Fruities" and then get shut down.

m) "The Gorburger Show"
Apparently this was a "Funny Or Die" online show that just became a real TV show on Comedy Central, with T.J. Miller voicing a big foul mouthed monster puppet thing that takes over a Japanese variety show. It's pretty deliberately obnoxious and might be hilarious to somebody, but for me I just figure it probably worked better as internet shorts than as a half hour series.

n) "Talk Show The Game Show"
So many shows like "Gorburger" or "The Eric Andre Show" tweak the conventions of talk shows with chaos and absurdity, but it's interesting to see something like this go the other way, formalizing the rituals of talk shows and turning it into a game with points and winners and losers. I'm a fan of Guy Branum, I don't feel like he really gets to put a lot of his personality into hosting this but it's still pretty fun. Tiffany Haddish from "The Carmichael Show" was on the first episode and was hilarious, starting to really like her.

o) "The Comedy Jam"
Tiffany Haddish was also great on the first episode of this show, which is a Comedy Central version of a regular L.A. event where comedians and actors tell a story about a favorite song and then sing it. It's a pretty loose, fun show, kinda captures the same vibe as "Lip Sync Battle" but with bad karaoke. But I feel like they made a mistake in having three performers per episode in the standard Comedy Central format of giving three comics 7 or 8 minutes. Because half of their time is taken up by the songs, so the introductions often feel kind of rushed and light on laughs, they should really just do two people an episode.

p) "Imaginary Mary"
I like when networks take chances on weird high concept sitcoms. But this show, where Jenna Elfman is revisited by the imaginary friend she had as a kid, a goofy looking little CGI creature voiced by Rachel Dratch, just really falls flat. It's all so wholesome and cutesy but I can't imagine a kid or an adult liking it.

q) "Cosplay Melee"
My wife is a big fan of SyFy's movie makeup competition show "Face Off," and this is basically a similar show for Cosplayers who get a theme and have to create a whole character with a look and a backstory. Yvette Nicole Brown from "Community" hosts and she has this really infectious enthusiasm for the cosplay world, it's a fun show. I'm kind of glad that they probably can't dress like famous characters for legal reasons and are forced to come up with original ideas, it's more interesting that way.

r) "Powerless"
I was so excited about this show, starring another "Community" alum Danny Pudi, when it debuted a couple months ago. And while it has one of the best opening title sequences on TV right now, it's been a little bit of a letdown. There's still a couple big laughs for episode but it just feels like they had this promising concept and didn't quite nail it.

s) "Billions"
This second season has really been great, just in terms of all these intense, smart characters facing down each other with dramatic speeches. It's total formulaic antihero cable TV, but it's so well done, in the writing and acting, that I'm cool with it. And I like the odd choice of Ben Folds being this year's equivalent of the first season's Metallica cameo.

t) "The Last Man On Earth"
I always liked the first episode of "The Last Man On Earth," with Will Forte totally alone in the world, more than the subsequent episodes where he found other survivors. So the recent episode with Kristen Wiig as a new character, also surviving mass extinction and going crazy in solitude, felt like they were throwing a bone to me personally, and I loved it. But then it went back to the usual antics I have mixed feelings about.

u) "The Leftovers"
I really liked the first season of "The Leftovers," but the second season was a little too heavy on self-consciously bizarre touches, like a fascinating mute character who died in the first season showing up over and over as a talkative ghost/hallucination. But that little subplot is done with, and I'm pretty curious to see how they wrap up the third and final season, and I've enjoyed how heavy it's been on Carrie Coon so far. One of the funnier little details in the first season was that all the series regulars from the '80s sitcom "Perfect Strangers" were taken in the departure, and they went back to that thread in a pretty interesting way this week. The episode actually opened with the "Perfect Strangers" theme song laid over "The Leftovers"' opening titles, which I thought was really obnoxious and off-putting at first, but I liked how the episode wound up.

v) "Fargo"
I really found the first season of "Fargo" kind of revolting, and tried to give the second season a chance and tapped out early. But since every season is a different story, and the third season had a really promising cast that made me decide to give it another try. It's crazy that Carrie Coon is starring in this and "The Leftovers" right now, both of which started their seasons the same week. Both those roles will end after this season, though, I'm excited to see what she'll do next. Ewan McGregor is also in this season playing two characters who are brothers (or as I call it, "pulling a Winklevoss"), but so far that whole idea has seemed kind of stupid to me. There have been some funny moments so far but after that "Legion" bullshit I think I may just think Noah Hawley is the king of prestige TV snake oil (a phrase I used a couple years ago that Winston Cook-Wilson recently credited me with coining in a piece about "Fargo").

w) "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is not the kind of show where it makes sense to take a cliffhanger seriously. But obviously, when they ended an episode in January with a cast member getting hit by a bus and then went on a 3 month hiatus, they wanted you to wonder whether they'd be coming back. And I'm glad that they did, I was really wondering if maybe they got another gig and were moving on. I liked the recent guest stint by Kimberly Herbert Gregory, I really became a fan of her from "Vice Principals" even if I found that show pretty distasteful overall.

x) "Veep"
There was recently a great video circulating that put some Trump footage over the "Veep" ending credits music, which raised an interesting question: is it different watching a show about ridiculous incompetence in the executive branch now that that's our horrifying daily reality? But there's nothing too glaringly Trumpy about the new season so far. If anything Selina brought Hillary Clinton to mind in her ambition to run for president again even after it all came crashing down. The show's still great, though, I love the whole thing with Jonah as a congressman.

y) "Mystery Science Theater 3000"
I grew up on "MST3K," and as much as I like the Mike era, you always had to want Joel to come back and do the show again. And so it was really weird and bittersweet for Joel to regain control of the show and crowdfund a new season, only for him to completely repopulate the cast with new people. The riffing on the movies is still fairly good, and of course that's the majority of the show, but all the interstitial stuff just keeps pulling me out of the show and reminding me that I miss the old crew and really find the podcast dude who hosts now kind of irksome.

z) "Sesame Street"
It was weird that all the talk about defunding PBS recently kept circling back to "Sesame Street," since HBO basically took on the financial burden to keep the show alive a couple years ago. My toddler watches it several times a week, so I try to mix up the new episodes with some of the old seasons that HBO has available on demand. They recently unveiled a new puppet character, Julia, who's autistic, and it's interesting to see "Sesame Street" still tackling stuff like that for the first time and trying to help kids understand something difficult.

Muscle Memory Liner Notes, Part 9

Monday, April 24, 2017







Previously I wrote about tracks 1234567 and 8 on the Western Blot album, so here's my last entry about the album's closing song



The odd thing about how I made Muscle Memory, which contributed to the album's painfully long gestation and which I am trying not to do with my next record, is that I wrote and recorded nearly all of the music on the album before I wrote barely any of the lyrics. There are plenty of bands that operate that way, and it's not necessarily a bad way to do things, but I think in some ways it's more expedient or efficient to write everything together, or build the instrumentation around the words, than to retrofit the meter and melody of lyrics to an existing track.

So most of the songs didn't have real titles until pretty late in the recording. And throughout the Mobtown Studios sessions, I labeled the songs with working titles that were never meant to be final, just so Mat and I had some way to easily refer to specific songs without using confusing numbers or vague descriptions of riffs (for instance, "As Friends" was "March" and "ETC" was "Decent," and so on). I still have a lot of rough mixes on my iPod under these titles, with 'Al Shipley' as the artist name because I wasn't even sure what the band name was yet during most of the recording. The only song that had the same working title as its final title, though, was "Time And A Half." It was also always the closing track in every rough running order I made of the album, even when we mixed down the very early Takoma Park instrumental recordings years and years ago.

The reason I had the title for "Time And A Half" so early is because the phrase, though usually used in reference to how overtime pay is calculated, stuck in my head as a way to chop up time signatures. So I mapped out this song structure with my drum machine, of a song that starts with verses in a slow tempo, then moves up to 1.5 times that tempo in the chorus, so that a bar of the chorus tempo in a 3/4 time signature runs the same amount of time as a bar of the verse tempo in 4/4. I might be explaining it poorly, but if you listen to the song, you might get the drift.

I had the original organ line for the verses years and years ago, in fact it was one of the first things I ever wrote on keyboard, along with pieces of "ETC" and "Sore Winners." But I didn't use it in the first Takoma Park attempt at recording the song, which had a different keyboard line that ran over the whole song through all the time signature changes to kind of illustrate the how the tempo shifts fit together. But that makes for a bit of a boring song, particularly for how long it is. So when we returned to recording at Mobtown Studios, I used the same drum machine track as the click track and rerecorded the drums, and rewrote the keyboard parts. Really it's the only song on the album which was played over a programmed beat but doesn't have any of the drum machine in the mix, everything else either has an audible drum machine, or is played on drums completely live with no click track.

When Mat Leffler-Schulman moved out of his house in Takoma Park and we stopped the initial sessions for the album, I helped him move into a new house. And his neighbor was giving him this cool old organ that we picked up with the moving truck and took to the new place. And then, when he opened Mobtown, I helped him move it into the studio, and it was a big bulky thing, so I kinda vowed that I would eventually make use of this organ that I broke a sweat moving a couple of times. And so it came in handy for the bassline on "Sore Winners" and for the organ stuff all over "Time And A Half."

The organ was located in a hallway near the front entrance of Mobtown, next to the recording area. So rather than move the organ, we just ran mics out to the hallway, and I listened to the drum machine click track on headphones. I really love the weird ambiance of all the sounds rattling around inside the instrument and the sound of me pushing the foot pedals on the bassline (recorded as a separate track and played with my hands, because I'm really not coordinated enough to do all that at once).

Muscle Memory was influenced by a lot of bands that combined synthesizers with loud, energetic rock, and one of those bands was Trans Am, who Mat got me into. So there's a bit of Trans Am all over the record, but there's a bit toward the end of the second verse of "Time And A Half," when the tempo picks up, that Mat always said sounded just like a particular Trans Am song. I didn't even know the song, though, he had to play it for me, and I don't remember what it is now.

Since I had the title "Time And A Half" for years and years, I pretty much knew that was going to be what the song was called regardless of what the lyrics were. But I wound up writing some lyrics around the phrase that I liked, so it all fit together pretty well. My scratch vocal for the song was one of my better vocal performances, but I was looking for a 2nd song for Andy Shankman to sing after he did "The Power Let Me Down" and it fit well. We've played it at almost every show, sometimes as a closer and sometimes as an opener, with Andy singing, although there was one show we did without him and John sang it. And it's one song where I tend to slow down the tempo a little, particularly for the chorus, just to give it a bigger, more dynamic kind of arena rock vibe.

When we played the release party for the album in December, we opened with "Time And A Half" and played the whole album in reverse sequence. That was something that I'd wanted to do ever since Jay-Z celebrated the 10th anniversary of Reasonable Doubt by performing it in reverse order, and I found out later that ?uestlove got the idea for that from Marvin Gaye doing it at the What's Going On release party. I know They Might Be Giants have often performed Flood in reverse order as well. I think it's a good way to perform an album, since a concert often benefits from closing with the kind of high energy songs you usually open an album with. Plus, I kinda feel like it's a good litmus test, if you've made a consistent album that isn't frontloaded, it sounds almost as good with the tracklist reversed.

The Mobtown Sessions took place after my first son, James, was born, and he was of course part of the inspiration for "Child Of Divorce," and I wrote previously about how he was present for the "Sore Winners" vocal session and was kind of part of the reason I ended up completing some of the vocal track myself. But I would say the most concrete musical influence he had on the album was on "Time And A Half," because we would play around together on my Casio a lot as I was finishing writing this song and a couple of the other last few I finished. And I ended up using a particular 'sax' patch on on the chorus and the bridge because James kept hitting a button on the Casio to play a song demo in that patch. And I started to really like the sound of chords in that cheesy Casio sax sound, which I'd never ever really used in the decade or so that I'd owned that keyboard.

The second way that James influenced "Time And A Half" is in the little weird echoing sound that closes the song (and the album). When I was in college, my dad retired and inherited some money and took the family to Jamaica for a vacation, and one of the silly little things I picked up while we were there was a little steel drum. My first job out of college a couple years later was at a medical eye bank, and they had odd little eye-themed stuff around the office, including a little rubber cluster of eyeballs like this. When James was a baby, we made a game of rolling the rubber eyeballs around the steel drum, and it made such a cool sound that I took them to Mobtown and just did that in front of a microphone and Mat threw some reverb on it. Most of the songs on the album have a real written ending, but I knew I wanted to just play out the end of "Time And A Half" on drums for a long time and let it fade out, but I'm not a huge fan of fadeouts and felt like it needed something a little more, so that sound effect really became a nice little bow to put on the end of the album.

Saturday, April 22, 2017





















Check Your Head turned 25 this week, so I did an 'Unpacked' playlist for The Dowsers that puts the Beastie Boys tracks side by side with the music they sampled. I enjoyed putting this together and really liked what I ended up writing. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 90: Journey

Friday, April 21, 2017




















Journey are among this year's inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And while it's not a shock, it makes total sense to me that they got in now and not 15 or 16 years ago when they were first eligible. Growing up, I remember Journey being talked about almost interchangeable with Foreigner and other 'corporate rock' bands that peaked in the '70s and early '80s and seemed to almost bizarrely dominate classic rock radio as much as more respected canonical bands like Led Zeppelin. But in the 21st century, as Steve Perry and Journey's sins of slick, catchy rock and blue eyed soul became less stigmatized, the band became more widely beloved, if not entirely respected, and "Don't Stop Believin'" started to enter the canon as one of contemporary pop/rock's great standards, even before that whole thing with "The Sopranos" finale happened. VH1 made a '100 Greatest Artist of All Time' list in 1998 and Journey weren't on it. When they held another vote and updated the list in 2010, Journey made the cut. Still, they're remembered fondly as a hits band; the albums have largely not been dug into or reevaluated of late any more than they had been when they were selling millions of copies.

Journey Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Keep On Runnin'
2. Where Were You
3. Can Do
4. Someday Soon
5. In The Morning Day
6. Hustler
7. You're On Your Own
8. Feeling That Way
9. Lovin' You Is Easy
10. Little Girl
11. Ask The Lonely
12. Escape
13. Raised On Radio
14. Next
15. Look Into The Future
16. Departure
17. Trial By Fire
18. Chain Reaction
19. Sweet And Simple

Track 5 from Journey (1975)
Tracks 7 and 15 from Look Into The Future (1976)
Tracks 6 and 14 from Next (1977)
Tracks 3 and 8 from Infinity (1978)
Tracks 9 and 19 from Evolution (1979)
Tracks 2, 4 and 16 from Departure (1980)
Track 10 from Dream, After Dream (1980)
Tracks 1 and 12 from Escape (1981)
Tracks 11 and 18 from Frontiers (1983)
Track 13 from Raised On Radio (1986)
Track 17 from Trial By Fire (1996)

The voice of virtually all of Journey's biggest hits, Steve Perry, famously didn't even enter the picture until the band's 4th album. By that point, Santana alumni Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie had been leading the band for five years, with Rollie on keyboards and lead vocals, with no hits. Then, Perry entered the picture, they had their first Hot 100 entry with "Wheel In The Sky," and they were off to the races. Rolie would remain in the band for the first three Perry era albums (departing, appropriately, shortly after Departure), but mostly as a keyboardist. They released some tracks with Rolie vocals as singles, but they generally charted lower than the Perry tracks, and never made their way into modern day classic rock rotation.

The odd thing about Journey's vastly different fortunes after the frontman change is that it's not like Gregg Rolie is box office poison; he sang lead on several huge Santana hits, including "Black Magic Woman" and "Evil Ways." But the contrast in voices is really illustrated well on songs like "Feeling That Way" and "Someday Soon," which both start with Rolie's voice and sound just fine, but then totally come alive when Perry shows up. But I have a soft spot for the Gregg Rolie era, and it seemed appropriate to showcase deep cuts from those early albums a fair amount even though they didn't spin off any big hits. Those early years are also preserved fondly in the compilation In The Beginning, a favorite of prog snobs who think the band sold out when Perry showed up. The band's early albums charted in Japan, and that popularity apparently led to the band soundtracking an anime film, Dream, After Dream, at the height of their popularity. That record is apparently also a favorite of Journey prog heads, although only one track is currently commercially available, as a bonus track on the remastered Departure.

There are some pretty awesome deep cuts from the Steve Perry era that sound like they could've been hits, particularly "Ask The Lonely," "Lovin' You Is Easy," and "Keep On Runnin'." I'm pretty fond of Roy Thomas Baker production on Infinity and Evolution, which has the familiar crunch of his work with Queen. The title track to Raised On Radio is nice, if not nearly as good as the track Baltimore band The Ravyns placed on the Fast Times At Ridgmont High soundtrack a few years earlier. When an act puts a lot of title tracks on their albums without releasing them as singles, I like to cluster them together, so you can see that on tracks 12 through 17. "Sweet And Simple" felt to me like an apt closer that functions as something of a summary of the band's appeal.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic

Movie Diary

Wednesday, April 19, 2017






























a) Logan
Anytime a comic book movie gets praised to the stars for being dark and gritty, I take it all with a big grain of salt, and I was definitely skeptical about one of the inspirations for Logan being The Wrestler, which I hated. But this was pretty damn good. I liked how it was not just the end of the road for a couple major X-Men characters but a pretty grim future for the X-Men as a whole, with a lot of details about the story's dystopia left unspoken and implied pretty artfully. I'm not sure how I felt about Boyd Holbrook, though, it was like if the villain was played by Aaron Carter.

b) The Boss Baby
I laughed at the Glengarry Glen Ross reference the first time my son and I saw the trailer for The Boss Baby at the movie theater a few months ago, but I wasn't so sure about him actually wanting to go see it. I liked it more than I expected it to, though, mainly because it's basically about a 7-year-old boy with a vivid imagination coming up with a wild backstory for his new baby brother, and I saw it with my 7-year-old son while his baby brother was in daycare. It's kind of a shame that the only two times Alec Baldwin and Steve Buscemi have been co-stars were both animated movies (this and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), they should get in front of a camera together sometime.

c) Win It All
Jake Johnson plays an aimless but lovable slacker very well, on "New Girl" and in pretty much every other role I've ever seen him in. And as he approaches 40, one wonders how long he can run with this niche, but for now it's working. In Win It All, he plays a compulsive gambler getting his life together, and it pretty much hits all the beats you'd expect, including the one last big bet. In fact, I'm often struck by how painfully conventional this movie from 'mumblecore' director Joe Swanberg is, like this movie could've been made 40 years ago with, like, Dustin Hoffman as the lead and it would've been pretty much the same movie.

d) Army Of One
Nicolas Cage has a pretty impressive and unique career for a good decade or so before it all started to go wrong, and a lot of it was built on his ability to do comedy. So I always figured that he'd eventually make a comeback and start getting respect again if he picked a few good projects, and that comedy was probably the best way to do that. And this Larry Charles movie, about the true story of an unemployed Colorado man who tried to find Osama Bin Laden, looks on paper like a pretty perfect vehicle for Cage's comedy comeback. But in practice, it just falls a little flat, and Cage, who's never been one to underplay a role, goes a little too over the top when I think this movie would've been served better with a dry approach like the topically similar The Informant!

e) The Escort
I had such a crush on Lyndsy Fonseca from all those years of seeing her for a few seconds at a time in every episode of "How I Met Your Mother," so it's nice to finally see her star in a feature film. This movie features a couple of likable characters clashing, then working together and slowly becoming friends and ending the movie as a couple, and it's all a little formulaic and predictable, but Fonseca and Michael Doneger really play their parts well and make it a pleasure to watch.

f) Money Monster
My wife was more interested in this movie than I was, but I was happy to go along for the ride. I kinda felt like the premise was so loaded, in terms of both the political context and the possibilities of the story, that they just had to play it out to its logical extreme in a way that was a little dull to watch predictably unfold. Clooney and Roberts are always fun to watch. Jack O'Connell should fire his dialect coach, though, I clocked that he was British playing an American in a matter of seconds. It was very surreal to see the words 'directed by Jodie Foster' as Del The Funky Homosapien rapped over the credits.

gThe Darkness
The most memorable thing about this movie is that Kevin Bacon and Paul Reiser work for an architecture firm called 'Fells, Point & Levinson' -- an homage to Barry Levinson's Diner (starring Bacon and Reiser and filmed in Fells Point and elsewhere in Baltimore). The actual horror movie, about a spirit that follows a family home from the Grand Canyon or some such nonsense, though, I didn't think much of that.

h) Gravy
This is a horror comedy directed by the guy from the show "Psych," starring a lot of likable TV actors, including Jimmi Simpson as a talkative pyschopath, which is pretty much typecasting at this point. It's pretty decent bloody fun, but it's one of those movies where it feels like the people making it were a lot more entertained than you are watching it.

Monthly Report: April 2017 Singles

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
























1. Lil Uzi Vert - "XO TOUR Llif3"
I've been slow to warm up to Lil Uzi Vert, and remain resistant to his "Bad & Boujee" verse. But his brand of Hot Topic trap has grown on me lately, in no small part because of the creepy "all my friends are dead" refrain of his biggest solo hit and his affection for Marilyn Manson (who is the only person Uzi follows on Instagram, and whose likeness is emblazoned in diamonds in Uzi's new chain). I'm not wild about the minor vocal changes on the final retail version of "XO TOUR Llif3" that distinguish it from the original that got millions of plays on Soundcloud, but it's still pretty great. Here's the favorite 2017 singles playlist I add to every month.

2. Zedd f/ Alessia Cara - "Stay"
Push me to the edge. All my friends are Zedd. Push me to the edge.

3. Lorde - "Green Light"
A 16-year-old girl from New Zealand basically came out of nowhere with a worldwide #1 hit and a platinum debut album, and then waited over 3 years to come back with a followup, and I really had no idea whether Lorde really wanted to play the pop star game or was going to kind of run from it. And this song kind of tries to have its cake and eat it too with an ecstatic chorus that it takes almost a full brooding minute to work its way up to. I think maybe that first minute is the reason that U.S. pop radio, with its increasing focus on immediate gratification, is to blame for this song's underwhelming chart reception, but I don't really like the song that much until the chorus hits, so I get it. Still, I'm glad she tried something so different from the skeletal midtempo sound of Pure Heroine.

4. Yuna "Best Love"
Yuna's "Crush" with Usher was one of last year's best R&B radio sleeper hits, and the solo follow up did even better. This has such a smooth, plush groove with a gorgeous string arrangement, pretty interesting to see Verve Records help a Malaysian pop star break American R&B radio.

5. Fat Joe & Remy Ma f/ Ty Dolla $ign - "Money Showers"
I've never been big on Ty Dolla $ign as a solo artist, but he knows his way around a hook well enough that I kinda had a feeling he'd always be good for features, and this is really one of his best to date. The other day I had this song on the car while it was raining and I started going "WHOLE LOTTA WATER SHOWERS." I feel like they held back on the verses, though, why have Remy on a song and only give her 12 bars.

6. Future "Mask Off"
One of the things that happens when a big artist releases an album with no advance single is that the artist and label have a lot less control on what song becomes the hit, because they didn't spend weeks or months only offering up one song for people to focus on. And so when Epic tried to push "Draco" as the official single off of FUTURE, they didn't have much choice when the public basically chose "Mask Off" and it went viral. And I think that the fact that the flute sample on "Mask Off" sounds so different from the usual Future beat is both why people gravitated to it and why the label didn't initially see the potential. Also, a song where the catchiest parts are "fuck it" and "Percocet, Molly, Percocet" definitely loses a little appeal in the radio edit.

7. Harry Styles "Sign Of The Times"
I'm not as blown away by the song as a lot of people are, mostly because those people don't realize how many great songs One Direction had. But it's a good confident first step for Harry's solo career, and one that's a lot closer to the band's sound than Zayn's iffy foray into R&B. I'm interested to see how hard they push this slow six-minute track or if they have a more radio-friendly followup planned, though.

8. The Band Perry "Stay In The Dark"
The Band Perry had a gang of country radio hits on their first two albums, and I feel like if they kept that momentum going they probably could've followed a Taylor Swift model of transitioning gradually to a more crossover pop sound. But instead they tried to go pop all at once last year with the RedOne-produced "Live Forever," and it flopped hard, as did the woefully titled next single "Comeback Kid." I like this song a lot more than either of those, but it kinda feels like they're lowering their goals gradually to being a mid tier adult contemporary act when they probably would've been better off just putting more mandolins in the mix and pushing this to country radio.

9. Jeremih f/ Chris Brown and Big Sean - "I Think Of You"
I'm glad Jeremih is getting the ball rolling on a new album quickly, since the last one took so long to come out, and this has a fun, bubbly disco sound he's never really done before. Jeremih and Chris Brown both sing kind of terribly on this song, but it's still pretty fun. I like the beat slows down for the Big Sean verse and then it just ends there without going back to the uptempo chorus one more time, it reminds me a bit of the structure of Sean's own "IDFWU."

10. Highly Suspect - "My Name Is Human"
Highly Suspect sticks out as a sore thumb as one of the only non-hip hop acts on the roster, I was amused a while back when I saw Kevin Liles speak and he referred to the as "my band." They have some good songs, though, and I kind of wonder if there's a subtle rap influence there, the verses on this song are almost in a Migos flow.

Worst Single of the Month: Sam Hunt - "Body Like A Back Road" 
Country Drake is so awful that he makes me appreciate City Drake a little more. This is actually one of his less overtly Drakey songs, but it still makes me feel embarrassed with the little faux DJ Mustard "hey" vocals. This is already in the top ten of the Hot 100, which is increasingly rare for country acts, so I'm pretty worried about how huge Sam Hunt is about to be.

Thursday, April 13, 2017





















I made a Dowsers playlist called R. Kelly Remixes Himself, about 3 hours of the originals and remixes of songs that R. made multiple versions of. 

TV Diary

Wednesday, April 12, 2017




















a) "The Arrangement"
E!'s recent move into scripted programming has been interesting in that they've found dramas that keep within the channel's overall theme of celebrity and glamour. "The Royals" was a soap about an alternative universe British royal family that didn't hold my interest much, but "The Arrangement" is pretty promising. It's basically a thinly veiled fictionalization of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes marriage, with a young actress basically signing a contract for a relationship and eventual marriage to a big name actor who's involved in some kind of weird secretive organization called The Institute of the Higher Mind. So far the show has been more about the relationship than the self help cult, doling out ominous revelations little by little, and it's worked pretty well, partly because Christine Evangelista is really great at showing little flashes of charisma that indicate her character could be a huge star if she plays along with this weird charade, and she really has to kind of play all the interior conflicts of the character close to the vest. I'm also happy to see Katharine Isabelle in a supporting role, I've really liked her in a few things, most recently probably the best "Rosewood" episode of the season.

b) "13 Reasons Why"
My wife and I started watching this and got a little hooked and watched half the season, but we haven't finished it yet. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. It feels a little emotionally manipulative, and at times questionable in its handling of the very sensitive subject of teen suicide, and it can be a little overwhelming for the show to make you really care about and like Katherine Langford's character while telling you over and over that she's dead and never coming back. But I still enjoy it, it kind of takes me back emotionally to all the good and back stuff of being in high school in a similar way that The Edge of Seventeen did.

c) "Five Came Back" 
This is a documentary miniseries, based on a book, about the major Hollywood directors who made films for the U.S. government in WWII. It's a really fascinating aspect of that point in history, but it's also an interesting time to think about this stuff since it's basically celebrating an American propaganda effort, and being able to do that comfortably knowing that we were on the right side of history, which we may not be on in the next war, frankly. "Five Came Back" is driven by Meryl Streep narration and interviews with current big name directors like Spielberg, which is cool, but I feel like it suffers from a lack of firsthand sources since, well, everyone directly involved is dead now, but I guess there's not much to be done about that.

d) "Harlots"
This show about an 18th century London brothel kind of revels in how debauched and trashy it all is instead of going for historical accuracy. But it's also created by women, so it feels kind of refreshing in that it's really not about the male gaze and looks at both how women were exploited and how they took control of their destinies in the situation.

e) "Nobodies"
This TV Land show is about 3 writer/comedians who are old friends of Melissa McCarthy, playing themselves in a wacky showbiz satire where they try to get McCarthy to star in their movie. So it's kind of clever in a meta way in that it allows these hangers on to be on TV and have cameos with their famous friend while making fun of it all, but it's hard to get around the fact that these people are not really very funny or fun to watch, and the comedy is all awkward misunderstandings you've seen a hundred times before.

f) "Shots Fired"
This show feels so deliberately engineered to comment on current events, sometimes clumsily so, with the story of a black cop who shoots a white person, and then turns up in a camera phone video saying he has "a license to shoot these crackers." But the execution of the show is pretty impressive, just in terms of how artfully the story has been framed and how complex Sanaa Lathan's character is and how much the show plays both sides of the debate and lets you think for yourself.

g) "Rebel"
"Rebel" is somewhat similar to "Shots Fired," in that it centers on a black woman investigating a cop-involved shooting, and it feels similarly ambitious in how it's tackling the issues at its center. But it also feels a lot more melodramatic and light on plot to me, so I haven't really felt hooked by the early episodes.

h) "Iron Fist"
This show had such horrible buzz beforehand that it was really hard to give it much of a chance, especially because I haven't really been that happy with Marvel's Netflix series in general lately given "Luke Cage" and the second season of "Daredevil." But the episode I watched was pretty whatever. I had such a crush on Jessica Stroup when she had an arc on "Reaper" that it was nice to see her again, though.

i) "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"
Amazon Studios has been really spotty with its original series, but one thing they do that I really like is a 'pilot season' where they make all their new pilots available to viewers, and use surveys and public response to help decide which ones to make into series. All three of the pilots I watched last fall were picked up, and they put up five new ones in March. "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is by far my favorite of the bunch, about a 1950s housewife who becomes a standup comic after her aspiring standup husband leaves her. I've never really gotten into any of Amy Sherman-Palladino's previous stuff, I think primarily because I find the leads on "Gilmore Girls" to be kind of insufferable. But Rachel Brosnahan is pretty wonderful in this, hope it becomes a series.

j) "Oasis"
Amazon's ambitious sci-fi pilot. I like the production values and the premise but it can be hard to really dip a toe into a world like this in one episode satisfyingly, so I didn't love the pilot but I hope they get a chance to do the series.

k) "The Legend Of Master Legend"
This Amazon pilot stars John Hawkes as a guy who dresses up like a superhero and walks the streets of Las Vegas trying to help people and getting into trouble. The pilot was well done but also just felt kind of too much like a one off, like it indicated all the themes and stories that the series would explore but didn't really make me want to see it continue, I had my fill.

l) "Budding Prospects"
There are so many shows about people selling pot now that it kind of feels like this Amazon pilot is the inevitable pot period piece, about a trio of guys running a pot farm in the '80s. This pilot was, for some reason, the first thing Terry Zwigoff has directed in over a decade, so it feels significant in that respect, but honestly I could take it or leave it.

m) "The New V.I.P.'s"
This is definitely the 5th best of the 5 new Amazon pilots. Usually animated series improve with the quality of the visuals and production values after the pilot, but even with that in mind, this is one of the worst looking animated series I've ever seen. And it just feels like it's exploring the same Office Space disgruntled corporate drone themes that have been done a million times, with an unwelcome dose of gross out humor.

n) "Julie's Greenroom"
This is a Netflix show for kids starring Julie Andrews, and I decided to sample it on my own before deciding whether to show it to my own kids, and I don't think I'll bother them with it, to be honest. I don't feel like The Muppets should have any kind of monopoly on puppets in children's entertainment, but there's something really uncomfortable to me about shows like this that feel like they're doing offbrand faux "Sesame Street" puppets really badly. My toddler already has "Sesame Street," he doesn't need this too.

o) "Ingobernable"
I watched an episode of this Netflix show about a fictional First Lady of Mexico, I like the look of it, but I'm pretty lazy about watching foreign language shows with subtitles so I doubt I'll stick with it.

p) "Hotel Beau Sejour"
This Belgian series has the great creepy premise that a teenage girl wakes up and finds her own corpse in the bathtub, and is in this weird zone between life and death where some people can still see her. But again, I'm really lazy about shows with subtitles so I'm hoping that this gets an American remake at some point.

q) "Samurai Gourmet"
I tried watching this and came away just kind of confused about what it even is. Like, it's a food show, with a vaguely fictional structure, about a retired guy going to restaurants, and these odd little poignant or funny moments. I feel like if an American network did a show like this people would just praise it to the stars.

r) "Kicking & Screaming"
Wilderness survival shows are an enduring subgenre of reality TV that I've never really understood the appeal of. But this one at least has I think a good premise of having 2 person teams with one professional survivalist and one amateur. It's nice to see FOX have Hannah Simone host something, hopefully they're just gonna keep putting her on TV regardless of whether "New Girl" does another season.

s) "Imposters"
This has really emerged as one of my favorite new shows lately, the cast is just really charming and there's no clear formula for which way the plot is going to go so almost every episode has a couple of genuine surprises. It's been interesting to see Uma Thurman pop up in a handful of episodes as a villain, I don't really understand her strategy for doing TV and I'd expect to see her in a more substantial role with more prestige, but hey, at least this is a better show than "The Slap."

t) "Hap And Leonard: Mucho Mojo"
Sundance seems to be working through Joe R. Lansdale's Hap And Leonard novels in chronological order, which is admirable, since I feel like it's still pretty common for TV adaptations of novel series to just kind of throw the books in a blender (looking at you, "Dirk Gently" and "The Magicians"). That said, I haven't read the Lansdale books, so I only care about the show, and this season really feels a lot slower and more low key than the first, and I miss Christina Hendricks and Jimmi Simpson.

u) "The Breaks"
I raised an eyebrow at how one of the main characters from last year's backdoor pilot seemed way less prominent in the promo campaign for the series of "The Breaks" and the early episodes. So I wasn't too surprised when they ended up getting killed off in the 4th episode, but maybe a little disappointed, not sure why that character needed to be done away with so quickly. The show has been good, though, it's interesting to see them fill out the early '90s rap world and blend fact with fiction.

v) "The Get Down"
Since the historically expensive first season of "The Get Down" ran behind schedule, Netflix premiered the first half of the season last summer and just recently released the second half. And really, I'm kinda glad it turned out that way, since the show is really kind of big and overwhelming even when you take it one episode at a time. But it's nice to pick back up with everything. I'm really getting weary of the Nas intros on every episode, though, they don't really work that well for a TV format and feel like they're spoiling the story you're about to watch.

w) "Empire"
It's interesting to watch shows like "The Breaks" and "The Get Down" that really lovingly dramatize hip hop's past and then watch "Empire" turn present day hip hop into this ridiculous cartoon soap opera. But I'm glad there's room for all these shows right now. I'm very amused by Rumer Willis showing up and singing R&B in the recent episodes, given her father's musical past.

x) "Chewing Gum" 
Michaela Coel is really a force of nature on this show, it's always fun to see a performer throw themselves so wholly into doing anything for a laugh. That said, this show can be kind of an exhausting parade of embarrassing sexual humiliations, I can only take it in small doses.

y) "Grace And Frankie"
This show really has some of the best dialogue on TV, there's always so many sharp lines going back and forth that I feel like I missed a few. Kinda crazy that it's already on its 3rd season and renewed for a 4th.

z) "Review"
The few people that watched this show really adored it, and I always felt like I was in the minority who thought it was okay but kinda got the point early on and felt like it was just hammering away at that point over and over. So I'm happy that the third and final season was only three episodes, the other ones could've been three episodes too for all I care.

Monthly Report: March 2017 Albums

Monday, April 10, 2017


























1. Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales - Room 29
Jarvis Cocker's last solo album was released nearly 8 years ago, and though he'd busied himself with a number of minor projects and guest appearances and a Pulp reunion, I'd started to get a little frustrated that a songwriter I hold in such high regard hadn't made an album in so long. I vented about this on Twitter recently, only to be asked by several people whether I was making some weird joke or simply didn't know about Room 29, which had been released just the week before. Room 29 is more starkly monochromatic and concentrated on a single theme than any album Cocker has made before; pretty much the entire thing is him singing about the storied Chateau Marmont, and in general about the experience of staying in a hotel, over spare piano melodies. I kind of wish he had done this as a big loud full band thing, since that's how I'm used to hearing his songs, but it works as is. I occasionally have to stay in a hotel for the weekend for work, and so I ended up actually listening to this album in a hotel room and kind of having that perfect dull sterile environment to hear the album in. It ends on a really high note with "Ice Cream As Main Course." Here's the 2017 albums playlist on Spotify that I keep adding records to as I listen to them.

2. Aimee Mann - Mental Illness
I am, as Al Pacino would say in The Devil's Advocate, a fan of Mann, but she has a lot of records I haven't heard, I feel like I'm always failing to fully appreciate her. And this album is really hitting the spot, "Rollercoasters" in particularly is lovely.

3. GoldLink - At What Cost
"Crew" has been all over D.C. radio for months and the album really lives up to it, I'm happy to see someone represent the city this well, I feel like a lot of D.C. rappers could make albums that have this relaxed, funky sound but they usually reach for broader appeal instead. GoldLink isn't the most distinctive rapper, I dunno if I'd even recognize his voice if he turned up on a guest verse, but he's got a great flow and a great ear. RCA Records released this album and I like what they're doing with records like this and King Los's GodMoneyWar where they're not really waiting around for a rapper to be hugely famous before putting out an album and really let them make an enjoyable, personal project that can help them build a fanbase.

4. Khalid - American Teen
I dug "Location" really hard from the first time I heard it last summer, and I'm happy to see it really blow up at radio and set up an album. That said, an 18 year old kid coming out of nowhere with one hot song doesn't always mean they have more good material in the chamber, so I didn't have any expectations for the album, which turned out pretty strong. It's a little precious at times, but there are some strong songs, I really like "Another Sad Love Song."

5. Chants - Amethyst Dust EP
Jordan is a good guy and excellent drummer that I've been friendly with for ages and it's been cool to watch this Chants project evolve from one EP to the next for the last few years. Amethyst Dust continues in the really aggressive, abrupt sounds of his last EP, reminds me at times of what Amon Tobin was doing on Supermodified,

6. King Midas - Who Am I
I interviewed King Midas about five years ago, when he was starting to get well known in Baltimore for producing and singing the hook on Caddy Da Don's local radio hit "Grindin' On Me." And I'm glad to see him still out there doing his thing as a solo artist and thriving, Who Am I is 10 songs, 7 of them self-produced, all in that weird aesthetic interzone where I wouldn't say he's rapping but I wouldn't say it's R&B either, which is commercially a pretty good place to be these days.

7. Tate Kobang - Silent Waves
It's been about a year since Baltimore rapper Tate Kobang's big wave of national attention that included my Pigeons & Planes feature, but he never stops making moves and making music. Silent Waves includes a couple songs that have gotten buzz on Soundcloud in the last few months, "Chirp Chirp" and "Yeah," the latter of which 300 just put on iTunes as an official single. I think my favorite track on here is "So Many" produced by Yung Lan, who also did my favorite beat on the YoungBoy Never Broke Again album.

8. Zara Larsson - So Good
It's funny, I was just saying on here that I was impatient for Zara Larsson's album to come out and then a few days later it did. I don't even know how much I like her voice but I feel like she's got the best material of all the pop starlets currently doing this sound, all the singles are solid and some of the new songs like "Don't Let Me Be Yours" are excellent. I'm not sure why she was a guest on The Daily Show but she came across really likable in the interview.

9. Trey Songz - Tremaine
Trey Songz occupies an odd space where he can seem either really talented and taken for granted or kind of tediously overexposed depending on what angle I'm coming from or how recently his last album was. And his last album was almost 3 years ago, so I'd really had time to look forward to him coming back and at least occupying his niche more capably and tolerably than Chris Brown. Tremaine is one of his best albums, but for some reason I feel like his ceiling isn't that high so it's just refreshingly listenable and not much more than that. "She Lovin' It" is fantastic, but then the very next track is the hideously stupid "Animal," that's Trey in a nutshell. Also it felt like kind of a cool power move for Trey to do a promo campaign that faked like he was making a reality show and then just satirized them with the videos for the album, since most R&B stars are just running to do those shows to stay in the spotlight and he doesn't need to.

10. Rick Ross - Rather You Than Me
I think of Rick Ross much like I think of Trey Songz: reasonably talented with a pretty impressive career, but lacking some components of excellence or creativity to ever really be one of the greats. He makes some of the most considered and, well, album-y albums of any rapper in the south, but even his best aren't really classics, and he was coming off of 4 consecutive duds when Rather You Than Me turned out to be above average. It generally doesn't bode well when the diss track overshadows the rest of the album, but "Idols Become Rivals" is kind of a great display of how refreshing it is when Ross just speaks his mind and displays his values and gets past all the generic kingpin platitudes. I like how Ross has really kept Bink in his rotation of producers over the years and had him do 3 tracks on this album, and even "I Think She Like Me" has Bink-sounding drums even if he didn't produce it. I wish "Buy Back The Block" made the album, though, that song was too good to just be a loosie.

Worst Album of the Month: Kodak Black - Painting Pictures
Kodak Black rose to national fame parallel with some fairly goofy Hot Topic trap rappers like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert that make Kodak's darker, more Boosie-influenced raps seem pretty sophisticated by comparison. But I never really heard much in Kodak beyond a 19-year-old kid who sounds like Strap from Travis Porter and might grow into a great rapper if he's not too convinced that he's already surpassed Lil Wayne. And the moment he dropped "Tunnel Vision," the single he'd teased in studio footage and fans had been demanding for months, I kinda felt like it was confirmed that he wasn't doing much growing right now based on that song's two bland 8 and 12 bar verses swimming in a sea of repetitive choruses. Painting Pictures is respectable as a major label debut, in terms of the variety of production, guests, and subject matter, but never because Kodak's flow or lyrics rise above the bare minimum of what he's capable of. And I think "Patty Cake" is the only song that surprises me in any way by by showing him have fun with a different kind of beat than what he usually goes for. But the way the album tries to get gravitas out of the fact that he's behind the bars on rape charges at the time of its release just underlines how empty and even loathsome the supposedly impressive substance and emotion in Kodak Black's music is.