Monthly Report: August 2017 Albums

1. Fifth Harmony - Fifth Harmony
Most vocal groups are a pack of frustrated solo artists, so it's never surprising when they break up or splinter, but I thought Camila Cabello's departure from Fifth Harmony was particularly abrupt and ill timed -- they'd just released a pretty successful second but weren't really established enough for either party to come out of the split with great momentum. And honestly, Cabello was probably the weakest vocalist in the whole group, so it's not surprising at all that her solo singles have flopped, and I'm glad that Fifth Harmony pulled together with Lauren Jauregui more deservingly up front and got out a new album quickly. Their songs are still a little goofy sometimes -- one interpolates "Pumps And A Bump" and another interpolates "It Wasn't Me" -- but I feel like they really stepped it up on this album, "Deliver" and "Angel" and "Bridges" are great and the album never wears out its welcome at 33 minutes. Here's the Spotify playlist I update with all the 2017 albums I listen to.

2. Lil Uzi Vert - Luv Is Rage 2
Uzi always seemed to me to be one of the more talented guys out of the nascent SoundCloud rap wave, but for a good long while I didn't think I had any time for what he was doing. Then "XO Tour Llif3" happened, and everything clicked and I started to really root for him and love how uncomfortable he makes people with his affinity for Marilyn Manson and various Lucifer/666 references. There's still some stuff on this record where his vocal affectations just get too over the top for me, but I feel like he's really becoming a strong songwriter and I like the emo relationship stuff like "The Way Life Goes" and "Feelings Mutual" and "How To Talk" and "X" the most.

3. Brett Eldredge - Brett Eldredge
Brett Eldredge has had one of my favorite voices in mainstream country, a big warm, raspy tone, since I heard his first hit, "Don't Ya." And his last couple albums have been really solid even without singles that were quite as immediate or memorable. This one has a particularly good 1-2 opening of "Love Someone" and "Superhero," and the song "Brother" really moved me and reminded me of my own brother.

4. Pale Spring - EP2
Baltimore rapper/producer Drew Scott featured Emily Wenker aka Pale Spring on his good recent album Ill Vessel, and I'm also really enjoying their work together on the two EPs she's released in the past year, some cool moody synth pop, check it on Bandcamp.

5. Filthy Friends - Invitation
I dislike the term 'supergroup' -- almost any new band is comprised of people who have been in other bands, and if those previous bands were hugely successful, you can't really expect people to ignore that, but you don't have to act all weird and put them in a special category. And Filthy Friends is really just the kind of thing I like to hear from people as established as Corin Tucker and Peter Buck; that Sleater-Kinney reunion record didn't have any enduring appeal for me and I doubt a theoretical new R.E.M. record would either, but as individuals they have plenty of gas in the tank and it's interesting to hear them together. I've always been a big fan of Tucker's vocals and she's in a particularly Patti Smith mode on this album.

6. Kesha - Rainbow
It was gratifying to see Kesha finally get an album out after years of court battles with Dr. Luke, particularly because she was in the odd position of basically saying that all her previously released music was someone else's vision being imposed on her and that she had yet to reveal her true musical identity. And Rainbow is certainly a lot more omnivorous and personal than her previous records, but it feels maybe more like a continuation of those records than I expected, the same mischievous kind of sense of humor cutting a little more loose, I particularly like "Learn To Let Go" and "Let 'Em Talk."

7. Mack Scott - Saturday Night Sermons
I feel like Mack Scott stands out in the context of Baltimore hip hop because he's drawing on some classic southern rap influences that most other people here haven't really done much with. I really liked the EP he released in 2013, Still Mackin', and this one feels a little more like he's finding his own take on that sound, and it's another nice brisk 20 minute project.

8. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard with Mild High Club - Sketches Of Brunswick East
A couple weeks ago I started recording an album at my friend Mat's studio, and the first day I came in and we started setting up drums and mics, Mat and his intern were listening to this new album by the Australian band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. I'd never heard them before but this record is pretty enjoyable, nice laid back retro grooves.

9. YoungBoy Never Broke Again - A.I. Youngboy
Louisiana rap has turned out a lot of rappers who seem really weathered and wizened at young, and while NBA Youngboy isn't quite as sharp as a teenage B.G. or Boosie, he's got a lot of potential, and I like this tape at least as much as 38 Baby, and he's apparently releasing another in September.

10. Randy Newman - Dark Matter
I've always meant to get into Newman's albums more and this one is pretty entertaining, although I could really do without an extended version of the terrible "Monk" theme song.

Worst Album of the Month: Ugly God - The Booty Tape
Ugly God's entire schtick, right down to the name, is compulsive self deprecation, and The Booty Tape opens with audio from a viral video where a YouTuber's mom reacts negatively to an Ugly God video and features songs like "I'm A Nasty Hoe" and "Fuck Ugly God." The irony is that Ugly God is probably one of the more capable and likable new rappers out of the recent crop of XXL Freshman and SoundCloud weirdos. But this tape's reliance on post-Lil B quirk and tiresome self deprecation is harder to listen to than even the weird emo rap of recent XXXTentacion and Lil Peep projects, and the song "Stop Smoking Black & Milds" is particularly unpleasant as the one track that feels like it has a sincere message.
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