Deep Album Cuts Vol. 210: The Doobie Brothers

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Earlier this year, The Doobie Brothers were selected for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame alongside Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, The Notorious B.I.G., Whitney Houston, and T. Rex. Obviously, the proper induction ceremony that was supposed to be held back in May never happened, but there'll now be a special on HBO on November 7th to make the induction official. 

The Doobie Brothers deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Greenwood Creek
2. Disciple
3. Snake Man
4. Without You
5. South City Midnight Lady
6. Clear As The Driven Snow
7. Busted Down Around O'Connelly Corners
8. Road Angel
9. Pursuit On 53rd St.
10. Music Man
11. Neal's Fandango
12. Rainy Day Crossroad Blues
13. Carry Me Away
14. Rio
15. You're Made That Way
16. You Belong To Me
17. Here To Love You
18. Open Your Eyes
19. Dedicate This Heart
20. One By One
21. Time Is Here And Gone

Track 1 from The Doobie Brothers (1971)
Tracks 2 and 3 from Toulouse Street (1972)
Tracks 4, 5, 6 and 7 from The Captain And Me (1973)
Tracks 8 and 9 from What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from Stampede (1975)
Tracks 13 and 14 from Takin' It To The Streets (1976)
Tracks 15 an 16 from Livin' On The Fault Line (1977)
Tracks 17 and 18 from Minute By Minute (1978)
Tracks 19 and 20 from One Step Closer (1980)
Track 21 from Cycles (1989)

The Doobie Brothers are one of those rare bands who had success in two distinct eras with different lead singers, like AC/DC or Van Halen. But instead of their first frontman dying young or abruptly splitting with the rest of the band, the Doobies had an odd transitional period. Founding singer/guitarist Tom Johnston, who wrote and sang the majority of songs on their first 5 albums, had to take some downtime due to exhaustion and a stomach ulcer, and Michael McDonald stepped in help the band finish a tour, and wound up fronting the band for their next 4 albums (the 1983 live album The Farewell Tour offers a little glimpse of what it was like to hear McDonald perform Johnston tracks like "Listen To The Music"). But Johnston stayed in the band with McDonald for a few years, playing on 2 of the McDonald-fronted albums. When the band reformed with Johnston in the late '80s for Cycles, which contained their last top 10 hit "Doctor," McDonald co-wrote one deep cut, "Tonight I'm Coming Through (The Border)." And now both singers are back in the band for the Doobies' 50th anniversary tour, or would be, if they hadn't had to indefinitely postpone it. 

McDonald's by far the more famous Doobies frontman, thanks to their biggest album Minute By Minute and his subsequent solo career, but their tenures are pretty close to equal in terms of overall hits, with the Johnston era having a slight edge. A writer I'm friendly with once wrote a joke listicle of the best Doobie Brothers songs that was just "What A Fool Believes" 45 times in a row, which really irritated me and gave me extra motivation to do a deep cuts playlist and really appreciate their whole '70s/'80s run, because this series is really about not boiling acts down to their biggest hit. 

Guitarist Patrick Simmons is the only person who's been in every Doobie Brothers lineup, and he was kind of the second string lead singer in both the Johnston and McDonald eras. He sang their rocked up arrangement of The Art Reynolds Singers gospel song "Jesus Is Just Alright," but his signature song and the band's first #1, "Black Water," was kind of a surprise hit -- the first two Johnston singles from What Were Once Vices underperformed, but DJs started flipping one of the records over and playing the b-side. The Simmons songs on this playlist are "South City Midnight Lady," "Clear As The Driven Snow," and "Neal's Fandango," and Simmons and McDonald both sing on "Rio" and "One By One." Everything else is Johnston or McDonald, except "Busted Down Around O'Connelly Corners" and "Precis," which are instrumentals.

In my mind the Doobie Brothers kind of form a triptych with Steely Dan and Little Feat. All three bands were favorites of my father that I heard a ton growing up, and Michael McDonald recorded with all three. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter was a member of both the Doobies and Steely Dan, and the Doobies shared a producer (Ted Templeman) and label (Warner Bros.) with Little Feat, who they toured with on multiple occasions. The Doobie Brothers didn't have a dedicated keyboard player on their early albums, so most of the piano and organ on the pre-Michael McDonald records is by Little Feat's Bill Payne, including major contributions to hits like "China Grove" and "Jesus Is Just Alright," and Payne has been touring with the Doobies as a full-time band member since 2015. I consider Steely Dan and Little Feat to be two of the best bands of the '70s, if not the very best -- by comparison, I think The Doobie Brothers are a little less essential a little more middle of the road. But again, I really grew up on their songs and enjoy the hell out of them. 

Like a lot of '70s bands, The Doobie Brothers' first greatest hits compilation far outsold any of their proper albums -- 1976's Best Of The Doobies has sold over 10 million copies over the years, even though it just had the first couple Michael McDonald-sung singles and was released before some of his biggest songs with the band. Oddly, they had enough Hot 100 hits to fill an LP by that point, but the comp still included some non-singles, including "Rockin' Down The Highway" (which became one of the band's more popular songs over time) and "South City Midnight Lady" and "Without You" (which did not, but were live staples). 

I think they kind of hit a sweet spot in that middle period -- my favorite albums are Stampede, the last album under Tom Johnston's first era of leadership, and Takin' It To The Streets, the next album and the first with Michael McDonald. Stampede in particular has some really impressive stuff like "Music Man," which had horns and strings arranged by Curtis Mayfield, and "Rainy Day Crossroad Blues," which had guitar by Ry Cooder. "Neal's Fandango" features probably Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's best guitar solo outside of Steely Dan's "My Old School." And Takin' It has "Rio," which is very polyrhythmic and has a cool section with a few bars in 5/4. 

It occurred to me that the cover of their 3rd album, The Captain And Me, which featured a photo of the band under a freeway overpass that was broken apart by an earthquake, would've been a more apt (if on-the-nose) cover for their 7th album, Livin' On The Fault Line. Michael McDonald co-wrote "You Belong To Me" with Carly Simon -- after the Doobies released it on Livin' On The Fault Line, it became a major hit for Simon, and has since been covered by Anita Baker, Jennifer Lopez, and others. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 209: Busta Rhymes

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Busta Rhymes is releasing his 10th album, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath Of God, this Friday, and there's a lot of positive buzz from the people that have heard it, I'm looking forward to it. He's one of the best rappers of all time, he's in my top 10 and should probably be in more people's top 10 than he is, gotta pay respect to how he's remained relevant for almost 30 years now.

Busta Rhymes deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. We Comin' Through
2. Everybody Rise
3. Rhymes Galore
4. Everything Remains Raw
5. What The Fuck You Want!!
6. The Heist (featuring Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Roc Marciano)
7. Wheel Of Fortune
8. Iz They Wildin Wit Us & Gettin Rowdy Wit Us? (featuring Mystikal)
9. Get Down
10. Things We Be Doin' For Money, Part 1
11. Things We Be Doin' For Money, Part 2 (featuring Rampage, Anthony Hamilton and The Chosen Generation)
12. Hot Shit Makin' Ya Bounce
13. Why We Die (featuring DMX and Jay-Z)
14. Still Shining
15. Keep It Movin' (featuring Leaders of the New School)
16. What Up
17. Genesis
18. So Hardcore
19. It Ain't Safe No More (featuring Meka)
20. Show Me What You Got
21. Make It Hurt
22. You Can't Hold The Torch (featuring Q-Tip and Chauncey Black)

Tracks 4, 14 and 15 from The Coming (1996)
Tracks 3, 10, 11 and 18 from When Disaster Strikes... (1997)
Tracks 2, 5, 8 and 12 from E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front (1998)
Tracks 1, 6, 13 and 20 from Anarchy (2000)
Tracks 17 and 21 from Genesis (2001)
Tracks 16 and 19 from It Ain't Safe No More... (2002)
Tracks 9 and 22 from The Big Bang (2006)
Track 7 from Back On My B.S. (2009)

Technically, Busta released an album, Year Of The Dragon, in 2012, but it came out on Google Play and isn't available on most streaming services today, so that's a real 'if a tree falls in the forest' kind of thing. That early run of albums he had, with the apocalyptic themes of the new millennium coming, from "there's only 5 years left!" on The Coming to "there's only one year left!" on E.L.E., is still really thrilling to listen to. And in a weird way I guess he realized that now that shit really does feel like a whole entire world collapse now in 2020, it's kind of a good time to bring that vibe back with a sequel to E.L.E., which has always been my favorite album of his. "Everybody Rise" is kind of his classic track that still gets DJ burn even though it was never a charting single. Revisiting his catalog, one album that has aged surprisingly well is Anarchy, which was pretty much the only one of Busta's '90s/2000s albums that didn't have a big hit single everybody remembers now. 

Busta Rhymes came up in the Native Tongues orbit and kept those roots over the years as he became a solo star with a clubbier sound and cartoonishly over-the-top videos. And that made him into a really unique figure who can do party songs, conscious songs, and street songs without ever feeling out of his element, and a guy who can hang with the grimiest New York rappers and pop stars and southern rappers and always kills a guest verse. When you think of NYC rap exploding in the second half of the '90s, you tend to think of Jay-Z and DMX and Nas and the Bad Boy roster, but Busta was always right there, maybe getting underestimated a bit because what an animated character he was by comparison. But he's really an east coast icon, and his influence shouldn't be played down -- plus one of his Flipmode Squad proteges, Roc Marciano, has emerged as one of the most acclaimed rappers of the last decade. So I really tried to show Busta's range here, including more narrative-driven songs like "Things We Be Doin' For Money," which featured Anthony Hamilton 5 or 6 years before he became a solo star. 

One thing about Busta Rhymes albums that you'd never get from his singles is his extensive collaborative relationship with J Dilla, who produced a dozen songs across 6 of Busta's first 7 albums. They first linked up when Dilla and Q-Tip were producing together as The Ummah, and Busta and Dilla kept on doing great work together for years.  So the last 9 songs on this playlist are all produced by Dilla, from track 14 onward. I particularly like "Show Me What You Got," which samples Stereolab's "Come And Play In The Milky Night." There's "The Ugliest," an outtake from The Coming that features Notorious B.I.G. rapping over a Dilla beat, something I didn't know existed until recently. The story goes that it was left it off the album because Biggie took shots at 2Pac and Busta didn't want to get pulled into the beef, and Puffy tried to buy the beat but Busta wouldn't sell the song. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

I interviewed T.I. for Spin

Movie Diary

Friday, October 23, 2020

a) The Trial of the Chicago 7
When someone waits until 25 years into a highly successful screenwriting career to try their hand at directing, it feels like a sign that they've got too much dip on their chip, and Aaron Sorkin is no stranger to an excess of dip. But his directorial debut Molly's Game was pretty solid -- it feels like he saved most of his rookie mistakes for his second feature as a director. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is pretty bad with hair/wardrobe and worse with music and general atmosphere, which are pretty unfortunate weaknesses for a period piece to have. The two scenes with Michael Keaton are top shelf Sorkin, but almost everything else rings false to the subject matter or gets dragged down by things like Jeremy Strong, who was great in Molly's Game, deciding to play Jerry Rubin as if he's always seconds away from saying "party on, Garth." Eddie Redmayne gave good Sorkin boy scout, though, I'd watch him in whatever zombie "West Wing" the guy comes up with next. 

b) The Witches
A screenplay credited to Robert Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, and Guillermo del Toro reeks of years of rewrites in development hell, but I have to say that those 3 very different sensibilities are all present in The Witches in a more coherent fashion than I thought was possible. I assumed the project changing hands from del Toro to Zemeckis would make it more kid-friendly, but I watched this alone and I think if I watched it with either of my kids it would've sufficiently traumatized them. As a grown up Roald Dahl fan, though, I enjoyed it -- a lot of Dahl adaptations forego any voiceover narration that would put his chewy prose up front, but The Witches has Chris Rock voice the adult version of the protagonist, which is a surprisingly good choice and also amusingly made me try to imagine it as a very strange stylized "Everybody Loves Chris" reboot. I wouldn't say it was particularly good, but I like seeing Anne Hathaway ham it up. 

c) Charm City Kings
It's exciting to see the Baltimore dirt bike world depicted in a semi-big deal feature film, even if it is ultimately a pretty formulaic coming-of-age hood movie where the lead actor is from Atlanta and really mangles the Baltimore accent. But Meek Mill came up in Philly's similar bike culture and does a decent job, even if it is a little jarring at times to see him play someone who is not Meek Mill while songs where Meek Mill raps about how great Meek Mills is blare in the background. 

d) David Byrne's American Utopia
Stop Making Sense is obviously an all-time great concert film, but it's such a singular achievement that I can't help but roll my eyes at the universal praise for something conceived by the same guy, featuring a few of the same songs and a similar if not entirely identical approach to lighting, staging, and costuming. But hey, David Byrne put a unique sensibility into the world over 40 years ago and I'm fine with him continuing to mine it in sometimes familiar ways -- I'm never not going to enjoy hearing him sing "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)," even if I'm annoyed at the audience that clapped loudly at the false start (how do you guys not know how this song ends?!). Spike Lee, who did a similarly great job filming a stage production for 2018's Pass Over, knows exactly what to do here, and I kind of wish he was always making music movies. I didn't think much of the original American Utopia album when it was released 2 years ago, and I don't know if its songs and the Talking Heads chestnuts and Byrne's charming spoken interludes add up to anything particularly profound or cohesive, but it works. 

e) Fantasy Island
Fantasy Island was a pretty weird show if you think about it for more than 2 seconds, and adapting it into a full bore horror movie is an inspired idea, but it didn't totally work here, a rare swing and miss for Blumhouse. As much as I love seeing Michael Pena in a lead role, it probably could've used someone else with a different vibe as Mr. Roarke, among the other tone and plot issues. 

f) The Jesus Rolls
John Turturro is an all-time great character actor, and his quick scene-stealing role as Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski is a rare and memorable over-the-top moment in his career. But I dunno, it's weird that he apparently loved playing the flamboyant latino pederast so much that he decided to throw a few years of his life into writing and directing a spinoff film with the permission (but not involvement) of the Coen brothers. The movie's not terribly but it's deeply unnecessary, and probably could've been made with Turturro playing a totally different character. Amelie has a lot of sex in it, if you're into that sort of thing. 

g) Men In Black: International
I don't really know why I put this one, I didn't even have that much investment in the Men In Black franchise when it was going strong, much less now that it's limping along. Rebecca Ferguson's campy performance as an alien is a good companion piece to her campy psychic vampire in Doctor Sleep, though. 

h) Five Feet Apart
I feel like this movie will be remembered for the weird historical quirk that the story of 2 teens who had to stay 6 feet apart came out exactly a year before everybody in the world started staying 6 feet away from each other. A nice little YA movie though, Haley Lu Richardson was as good in this as she was in Edge Of Seventeen

i) Beneath Us
This movie, about undocumented workers taken captive by a wealthy American couple, feels like a less subtle, more violent grindhouse kind of approach to the same themes as Parasite. But it's well made and puts its points across well, I think I'd be a lot more impressed with it if it didn't have the misfortune to come out the same year as Parasite

j) The Neighborhood Nightmare
This low budget thriller was really bad and forgettable, but I liked the snarky line in the IMDb 'trivia' page -- "No razors needed here: Every main male character is Guy Perpetually in Need of a Shave (GPNS)."

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

I released the Sorry For Arty Rocking EP this week, mastered by Mat Leffler-Schulman with cover art by DeadmanJay and some co-production by Doug Bartholomew. This is the third Western Blot release of 2020, after the 5/4 album and the Casi-O EP

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 208: Fleetwood Mac

Monday, October 19, 2020


This year has been interesting for Fleetwood Mac. Founding member Peter Green, who led the band for its first 3 albums, passed away in July. And in the last few weeks, the band's only #1 single in the U.S., "Dreams," went viral for the 2nd or 3rd time in recent years, climbing back up the Hot 100 in the process. I did a Stevie Nicks solo deep cuts playlist last year but I've always meant to go back and the Mac playlist done as well. `

Fleetwood Mac are an unusual band, in that drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie are the only constants throughout the last half century, and several different singers and guitarists fronted the band before their most famous lineup cohered on album #10. There are surprisingly many examples of bands whose most famous member wasn't on their first album -- Journey, Genesis, The Doobie Brothers, Faith No More, Geto Boys, Iron Maiden, Dixie Chicks, Black Eyed Peas, the list goes on -- but Fleetwood Mac is an extreme example: none of the 3 people who wrote and sang their most famous songs are on the first album, and two of them didn't join until that 10th album. Since I really wanted to dig into the deep cuts, I'm going through all the '60s, '70s, and '80s albums in chronological order, which means you won't hear Stevie Nicks or Lindsey Buckingham until about 31 minutes into this 80-minute playlist. 

Fleetwood Mac deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. The World Keep On Turning
2. Stop Messin' Around
3. Before The Beginning
4. One Together
5. Morning Rain
6. Sunny Side Of Heaven
7. The Derelict
8. Emerald Eyes
9. Angel
10. Crystal
11. Monday Morning
12. World Turning
13. Gold Dust Woman
14. Second Hand News
15. Never Going Back Again
16. I Don't Want To Know
17. What Makes You Think You're The One
18. Angel
19. Walk A Thin Line
20. Never Forget
21. That's Alright
22. When I See You Again

Track 1 from Fleetwood Mac (also known as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac) (1968)
Track 2 from Mr. Wonderful (1968)
Track 3 from Then Play On (1969)
Track 4 from Kiln House (1970)
Track 5 from Future Games (1971)
Track 6 from Bare Trees (1972)
Track 7 from Penguin (1973)
Track 8 from Mystery To Me (1973)
Track 9 from Heroes Are Hard To Find (1974)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from Fleetwood Mac (1975)
Tracks 13, 14, 15 and 16 from Rumours (1977)
Tracks 17, 18, 19 and 20 from Tusk (1979)
Track 21 from Mirage (1982)
Track 22 from Tango In The Night (1987)

Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie first played together in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, a staple of British blues scene that was famous for launching the careers of quite a few musicians who went on to bigger fame (including Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones). And the first few Fleetwood Mac albums are heavy on bluesy originals by Green and singer/guitarist Jeremy Spencer, as well as covers of Robert Johnson and Big Joe Turner. Christine McVie married John McVie in 1968, the year Fleetwood Mac began releasing albums, and she eased into full membership in the band very gradually, first playing keyboards on their 2nd album, making uncredited appearances on their 3rd and 4th albums, becoming a full member that occasionally contributed songs and sang lead on their 5th album, and sang on a single for the first time on their 6th album, by which point Bob Welch had emerged as the frontman of their cultishly beloved middle era. 

There aren't many other bands named after the rhythm section, and the only comparable huge band where the namesake and only constant members are 2 instrumentalists is Van Halen. But they had one of the flashiest and most skilled guitarists of all time, and as versatile and talented as Mick and John have proven themselves over the course of Fleetwood Mac's career, they're hardly stars. Their persistence in keeping the band going, with so many other musicians shuffling in and out, might seem silly if it hadn't paid off so hugely and made them geniuses. The Rumours-era lineup was a perfect storm, three singer-songwriters who all wrote hits, backed by each other and a rhythm section that made them into something so much bigger and more potent than they'd ever be as solo artists. If you changed any of the events that led up to that, a lot of those songs would never have been written, or they'd languish in obscurity forever. 

"Stop Messin' Around," the opening track on the first Fleetwood Mac album with McVie on piano, was covered by Aerosmith and Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy, among others. Danny Kirwan's instrumental "Sunny Side Of Heaven" was once a popular music bed for radio stations, and stayed in the band's live repertoire in the Buckingham-Nicks era. "The Derelict" is one of 2 songs Fleetwood Mac recorded with vocals by Dave Walker, a British rock journeyman who's been in a million other notable bands, including an even shorter tenure as Black Sabbath's lead singer that produced no recordings. 

I've always been fascinated by instances of artists recording multiple unrelated songs with the same title (for instance Madonna has two called "Forbidden Love"). And in Fleetwood Mac has two songs called "Angel" written by people who were never in the band at the same time -- first Bob Welch, and then 5 years later Stevie Nicks, whose "Angel" was another song about the title character from "Rhiannon." A more deliberate connection: Christine McVie and Lindsay Buckingham loosely adapted "Word Turning" on the 1975 self-titled album from Peter Green's "The World Keep On Turning" on the 1968 self-titled album. Peter Green made two uncredited appearances on Fleetwood Mac albums after he left the band, playing guitar on "Night Watch" from Penguin and "Brown Eyes" from Tusk.

I wound up with a playlist that has three songs sung by Peter Green, one by Jeremy Spencer, one instrumental penned by Danny Kirwan, one song sung by Dave Walker, two by Bob Welch, four by Christine McVie, seven by Lindsey Buckingham, and five by Stevie Nicks. 

Obviously, the stuff from 1975 onwards is what most people know and love, and those are indisputably great albums. Fleetwood Mac was still one of the biggest acts in popular music when I was a kid, and it actually surprised me how many of these songs rang a bell that I didn't think I'd heard more than once or twice, including nearly every single from the Buckingham/Nicks era and many non-singles. I remember my parents had copies of Rumours and Tusk around the house, but I didn't get out the former LP and put it on the turntable until Hole covered "Gold Dust Woman" and I wanted to hear the original. Other than the songs with Stevie's immediately recognizable voice, a lot of Mac hits might kind of fade into the '70s/'80s AOR wallpaper until you listen more closely and get to know McVie and Buckingham's voices better and appreciate what enormously talented songwriters they are. 

Of course, things got really interesting on Tusk, one of pop history's great ambitious double albums that gladly risked alienating the giant fanbase the band had just won over. Certainly, it wouldn't have been hard for an A&R man to whittle the album down to the Nicks and McVie songs and a couple of Lindsey Buckingham's more accessible tracks, but then it wouldn't be Tusk. Instead, we got Buckingham's weird minimalist vision, an album that cost over $1 million to record but is shockingly lo-fi at times. My favorite tracks are stuff like "What Makes You Think You're The One," where Buckingham is banging on a Kleenex box but Mick Fleetwood is also going off on a drum set over one cheap mic. The band's two '80s albums have great songs, but they'd never cut loose the same way again. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 207: 50 Cent

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

I made this playlist a while back when it seemed like a 50 Cent vs. T.I. battle on Verzuz was imminent, but it seems like that's not gonna happen after all, so here it is anyway. 

50 Cent deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Poor Lil Rich
2. High All The Time
3. What Up Gangsta
4. Back Down 
5. Patiently Waiting (featuring Eminem)
6. Heat
7. G'd Up (with G-Unit)
8. Eye For Eye (with G-Unit)
9. Get In My Car
10. Ryder Music
11. I'm Supposed To Die Tonight
12. A Baltimore Love Thing
13. Ski Mask Way
14. When It Rains It Pours
15. What If
16. Movin On Up
17. Come & Go
18. My Gun Go Off
19. Get Down (with G-Unit)
20. Death To My Enemies
21. Hustler

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 from Get Rich Or Die Tryin' (2003)
Tracks 7 and 8 from G-Unit's Beg For Mercy (2003)
Tracks 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 from The Massacre (2005)
Tracks 14 and 15 from Get Rich Or Die Tryin': Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture (2005)
Tracks 16, 17 and 18 from Curtis (2007)
Track 19 from G-Unit's TOS (Terminate On Sight) (2008)
Track 20 from Before I Self Destruct (2009)
Track 21 from Animal Ambition (2014)

Making this playlist reminds me a lot of doing the Snoop Dogg playlist: a Dr. Dre protege who had a huge classic record-breaking debut that looms over the rest of their career, but has a decent catalog of albums that followed. In 50's case, he didn't continue releasing albums really steadily after his buzz cooled off -- he's now at only one retail album in the last 10 years -- but he released a ton of music back when he was one of the biggest stars, including a soundtrack to his first big movie vehicle and two G-Unit group albums that kind of feel enough like part of his solo catalog that I wanted to include them here. Obviously, 50 Cent is one of those artists where the mixtapes are really important to his catalog, but he used a lot of industry beats so those will probably never hit streaming services, so I'm sticking to retail stuff. 

Nothing on Get Rich Or Die Tryin' really feels like a deep cut -- I still hear "Poor Lil Rich" and "What Up Gangsta" in mix show rotation as much as any of the album's huge proper singles, and those are maybe my 2 favorite 50 Cent songs. The Massacre is one of those albums where the singles are all mediocre or worse, but there are just a ton of great deep cuts. If he had just kept some of the singles from the first wave of G-Unit solo albums for his own album, I really think it could have been better than Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. One of my favorite things about 50 in the Beg For Mercy/Massacre era is that he brought Hi-Tek, who was at that point mainly known for his work with Talib Kweli and Mos Def, into his fold. "Eye For Eye," "Ryder Music," and "Get In My Car" are all great tracks, and the latter was sampled this year for a hit by Migos and NBA YoungBoy. "Baltimore Love Thing" and "Ski Mask" are some of the best songs he ever wrote too. 

TV Diary

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

a) "The Good Lord Bird"
The Showtime miniseries "The Good Lord Bird," based on James McBride's novel of the same name, is a fictionalized account of abolitionist John Brown's crusade against slavery, told from the perspective of a fictional slave in Brown's crew (the opening text "All of this is true. Most of it happened." put it pretty nicely). While it'd be easy to just make a straightforward biopic valorizing Brown, the most notable white man in pre-Civil War America who devoted his life to ending slavery and was ultimately hung for treason, "The Good Lord Bird" is a more complex and sometimes comical portrait. Ethan Hawke really chews the scenery and seems to enjoy playing maybe the biggest personality he's ever plaed. Still, the tone is kind of odd to me, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it after a couple episodes. The narration is a bit glib -- for instance, when a cannonball tears through Steve Zahn: "in that moment, just like the rest of the country, Chase was divided in half."

"The Third Day" is a uniquely structured miniseries with 3 episodes about Jude Law finding himself on a strange mysterious island off the coast of England, one 12-hour (!?) live special depicting the island's seasonal festival, and then 3 more episodes centering on a different set of characters on the island. I'm a little annoyed to find that Sky Atlantic broadcast the special in the UK but it doesn't seem to be part of the series as it's shown in America on HBO. But those first 3 episodes are pretty gripping and strange, at least until things get kind of punishingly dreary towards the end and land on a not terribly satisfying plot twist. 

I've never seen the well regarded original UK version of "Utopia," which was created by "The Third Day" creator Dennis Kelly, but it seems like the American adaptation by Gillian Flynn is getting much more mixed reviews. I found the cast and the premise really promising, but then the villains just go around violently wreaking havoc on sympathetic characters and it becomes a bummer pretty quickly. Like I was happy to see Desmin Borges from "You're The Worst" in a new series, but then I had to watch him get his eyeball scooped out with a spoon, it was unpleasant. 

Jack Dylan Grazer was so good in Shazam! that I was excited to see that he'd be starring in an HBO miniseries, and he continues to be a really captivating screen presence. He's also the nephew of Hollywood superproducer Brian Grazer, and one of his co-stars is Martin Scorsese's daughter, so, nepotism ahoy. But "We Are Who We Are" is good so far, kind of a coming age story about military brats on an army base in Italy, where some scenes play out multiple times from different characters' perspectives. I haven't seen any of Luca Guadagnino's movies, so I don't know if the random frames that freeze while the audio keeps playing are an affectation he's used before, but I get confused every time and think my internet connection is breaking up. 

I love Jeff Daniels as an actor, but his character on "The Newsroom" made him such an avatar for smug boomer liberals (like, literally an avatar) that he's the most eye-rolling possible choice to play James Comey in this, the first big budget prestige cable depiction of the Trump administration. At this point, we've seen dozens of people play Donald Trump in a comedic context, but this is the first time a big time actor has played him in a fairly serious, straightforward production -- I'm actually surprised it never occurred to me that Brendan Gleeson has the perfect physicality to play Trump, but then I can't think of any time I've seen him play a character that wasn't Irish. Naturally, it's impossible to play Trump without at least a hint of comedy, as much as they try build him up and make him intimidating -- you don't see his face of hear his voice for the entire first episode, and there are only 2 episodes -- but Gleeson just saying the words Trump has actually said or plausibly would say can't help but come off ridiculous, because he is ridiculous. I would say Gleeson does a better job than I expected but it still doesn't work on some level that maybe is insurmountable and beyond him or any other actor. But it is interesting to see actors portray almost every major Washington figure of the last 5 years -- Jo Lo Truglio doesn't really look like Jeff Sessions, but he might be the only person elfin enough to play him, and they found a dead ringer for Jared Kushner in Phillip Ricio. 

f) "Deaf U" 
Netflix is marketing "Deaf U," a show about deaf students at Gallaudet University, as a 'docusoap,' which I suppose is a novel term for the kind of drama-heavy reality shows we've been watching for decades. That made me think of things like "Laguna Beach," but really this show reminds me more of "Love on the Spectrum" in that it's a show where pretty much the whole cast is disabled, and there's this really wide range of likable and unlikable personalities that I think is really refreshing and is probably better for representing and humanizing a marginalized community than any show with just one or two disabled people in it. 

"Emily In Paris" has gotten a lot of divided reactions and even the people the like it seem to regard it as a guilty pleasure, but I was still surprised at just how dopey and dull it is, doesn't even seem to offer the entertainment value of past Darren Starr series like "Sex and the City" or "Beverly Hills, 90210." It really makes me feel bad for Lily Collins, whose film vehicles have generally been of a much higher quality than this. 

h) "Filthy Rich"
"Filthy Rich" was supposed to premiere on FOX last fall, and then last spring, and now, thanks to the coronavirus, this repeatedly delayed black sheep show has turned into one of the only completely new scripted series debuting on one of the major broadcast networks this fall. It's about the scandals of a family of televangelists, so obviously in some ways it feels like a less funny "Righteous Gemstones," but tonally it's more like the "Dynasty" reboot but somehow more campy and less entertaining. 

i) "L.A.'s Finest"
"L.A.'s Finest" started airing regionally on Spectrum cable last year, and is now is part of FOX's cobbled together attempt at a fall lineup. I'm kind of surprised that this broad, silly 'sexy cops' show didn't get buried in this year's reckoning over television copaganda, but maybe it's so light that it doesn't deserve that kind of scrutiny. I didn't even realize it was spinoff from Bad Boys II and Gabrielle Union is still playing Martin Lawrence's sister, but I guess that doesn't really matter to the story at all, it's not like Will Smith is gonna pop up in there. 

j) "Gangs Of London" 
This British show has been repeatedly pitched as "'Succession' with more aggression" but that seems like a silly trendy way to describe it, it's just a typical show about violent organized crime. They really set the tone early with the opening scene of a guy being hung from the top of a building and then set on fire, it's an impressively show scene but, y'know, kind of gratuitous and nasty. 

k) "The Salisbury Poisonings"
This miniseries about the 2018 nerve agent murders of two spies in Salisbury, England is pretty well done, it starts with the deaths and then works its way backwards as the community reacts and law enforcement tries to figure out what happened, feels like they took a very grounded approach to telling what could have been a very sensationalized story. 

l) "Flesh And Blood" 
"Flesh And Blood" reminds me a lot of "Gold Digger," another British miniseries that aired in the US less than 6 months ago: both shows are mysteries in which a widow starts seeing a new man and her children are all suspicious of him. "Flesh And Blood" seems like a more action-packed murder mystery, but "Gold Digger" was more interesting, better cast and production values and storytelling. 

m) "Departure"
It feels like after "Lost" and "Manifest" there's this burgeoning genre of shows about the mysterious disappearance of commercial airliners, but there's real diminishing returns to such a specific premise, I didn't find this Peacock show interesting enough to watch more than one episode. 

n) "The Murders At White House Farm"
In 1985, a young man in Essex murdered his whole family for an inheritance and then tried to pin it on his schizophrenic sister orchestrating a murder-suicide. It's a pretty crazy case that I had never heard of, and this miniseries unspools the story pretty well in that it's really not apparent what happened at first. 

o) "A Wilderness of Error" 
In 1970, an army surgeon in North Carolina murdered his whole family and then tried to pin it on a roving band of murderous Manson Family-style hippies that supposedly just showed up at his house and started killing people and writing "PIG" on the wall. Errol Morris wrote a book about the case, and then Marc Smerling adapted it into this Errol Morris-style docudrama in which Morris is one of the primary talking heads, which is kind of funny just because I've never really seen Errol Morris talking and he's kind of avuncular and folksy in a way I didn't expect. 

p) "Sneakerheads" 
Sneaker culture is so inherently ridiculous to me that it's not a bad setting for a sitcom. This Netflix series feels a little cartoony and lightweight, though, it made me laugh a couple times but the cast didn't have much chemistry. 

q) "Wild Life"
SyFy's Saturday night "TZGZ" animation block has been pretty hit and miss to me, and this show, and zoo animals running wild after a zombie apocalypse wipes out humanity, takes a great premise and executes it really blandly with terrible animation. 

r) "Dragon's Dogma" 
This is like an other 'adult anime' in a medieval setting from Netflix like "Castlevania," but it takes itself a lot more seriously, and the second episode was a lot less interesting to me than the first one. 

s) "The School Nurse Files"
This South Korean show on Netflix is about a school nurse who has the ability to see human feelings and desires as these gross 'jellies' that are like squishy CGI auras around everybody that nobody else can see. A really strange, creative show that I'm curious to see more of. 

t) "Good Morning, Veronica"
This Brazilian show kind of feels like a typical hardboiled police detective drama, but it's pretty well made, strong cast. 

u) "Song Exploder"    
"Song Exploder" is the kind of podcast I'd listen to if I ever listened to podcasts, but I don't, so I'm glad they made into a Netflix series. Out of the first 4 episodes, the only song I thought was especially interesting and worthy of a half hour dissection was R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," which had great interviews with all 4 members of the band and actually revealed some stuff about the lyric that I didn't know. The Ty Dolla Sign episode was cool but it felt like they picked an album track because it had Kendrick Lamar and Brandy features and then they didn't give interviews for the episode. 

This is Freeform's attempt at kind of a teen-friendly version of an informative topical comedy show like "Last Week Tonight" or "Patriot Act" to run for a few weeks before the election. I think it's fine, I'm not totally the audience for it but I'm glad they're doing it, and it's made me laugh a few times. 

It's interesting to see Showtime do a docuseries about the history of The Comedy Store two years after canceling "I'm Dying Up Here," which was basically about The Comedy Store in the '70s with all the names changed (except Johnny Carson). That show might have been better if they didn't fictionalize everything, the real stories and people are just more interesting than the stuff they came up with. But it kind of feels like a missed opportunity that they seemingly made this show right after Mitzi Shore died in 2018, she's kind of the main character of the story and it would've been great to actually have her interviews alongside all the comics. 

This Netflix docuseries profiles different pro sports coaches, I only watched the episode with Doc Rivers but I liked it, coaching is such a strange job and he seems like a really interesting, thoughtful guy. 

A new interview show on PBS, kind of dry but I like it, I never thought Charlie Rose was actually a good interviewer so I would be fine with this kind of filling that space, Corrigan seems to really listen to the people she's talking to. 

A dog grooming competition show on HBO Max that really leans into the silliness of the concept and has fun with it, but still takes the craft seriously and lets the competitors be creative and take pride in their work, cool show. 

Monthly Report: October 2020 Singles

Monday, October 12, 2020

1. AC/DC - "Shot In The Dark" 
It was an odd, bittersweet experience last week, to hear about Eddie Van Halen's death and, presumably, the end of Van Halen, and then a day later get a new song from another hard rock institution that not long ago seemed like they'd never return. But AC/DC is back, with 3 longtime members that had left the band over the past decade, recording songs Angus Young co-wrote with his brother before Malcolm passed away. And while AC/DC has never been full of surprises, especially in recent decades, "Shot In The Dark" is a solid entry into their long line of anthems, with a classic clever/stupid chorus where the title refers to drinking from a shot glass in dim lighting. It might be my favorite AC/DC single since the last great one, 1993's "Big Gun," and kind of comes at a time when that familiarity is welcome. I've been playing a lot of AC/DC around the house lately too, my 5-year-old's favorite song is "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap." Here's the 2020 singles Spotify playlist I update every month. 

2. Morgan Wallen - "7 Summers" 
For years, countless hit rap songs have been previewed in little viral videos of the artist in the studio, performing or just vibing along with a snippet that fans obsessively listen to over and over until they get to hear the full song. And it's been interesting to see that dynamic migrate over to country music: Luke Combs previewed "Beautiful Crazy" on Facebook months before the studio version came out and became an enormous quadruple platinum hit. Morgan Thee Wallen posted a demo of the breezy, nostalgic "7 Summers" on Instagram in April, and the buzz for the song was so huge by the time it came out in August that it debuted in the top 10 of the Hot 100, basically the first non-Swift country song to do so in decades. Social media has been good and bad for Wallen lately, though -- after footage of him partying without a mask circulated on TikTok, he got dropped from performing on "Saturday Night Live" last week for not observing their Covid guidelines. Country radio, orderly and regimented as ever, seems intent on letting the also good "More Than My Hometown" have its turn as a hit before putting "7 Summers" into rotation, but that seems inevitable. 

3. 24kGoldn f/ Iann Dior - "Mood"  
Rap and pop punk/emo have been intermingling and influencing each other for a long time, but they've mostly stayed cordoned off in their respective radio formats, Fall Out Boy over here and Lil Uzi Vert over there. But this year it feels like they've fully collided: on alternative radio right now, All Time Low and Blackbear are #1, the single from Machine Gun Kelly's lousy rock album is #2, Juice WRLD's guitar-driven posthumous hit with Marshmello is in the top 10, and a little further down the chart is "Mood," the huge crossover blockbuster emo rap hit by two previously little known rappers from California and Texas, respectively. "Mood" is anachronistic in the sense that it's about a person who's in a mood, not a person who is a mood, but otherwise it feels like a very 2020 song that kind of encapsulates this very specific cultural moment. A lot of 24kGoldn's other top streaming songs are guitar-driven, so I'm curious if he's gonna remain an alt-rock radio staple after this song. 

4. Megan Thee Stallion - "Girls In The Hood"
Megan has been on a great run these past 2 years, but one of the emerging trends of her career is that the songs that emerge as hits after she's released a project ("Big Ol' Freak," "Savage," "Cash Shit") tend to be much better than the songs released as singles from the jump ("Hot Girl Summer," "Sex Talk," "B.I.T.C.H."). And that seems to be turning around lately with "Girls In The Hood" and "Don't Stop," which are both great and feel like she just heard the beat and loved it and made a hot song, rather than like she was trying to make a single. "Boyz-n-the-Hood" is one of those '80s classics that really clashes with modern rap production values, I particularly thought the Jim Jones single that sampled it sounded awkward, but Scott Storch did an impressive job of situating the sample in something that sounds current, this and the Chloe x Halle single are really reviving his career. 

5. Bastille f/ Graham Coxon - "What You Gonna Do???"
3 of the 4 members of Bastille play guitar, but most of their songs are pretty synth and bass-driven, and perhaps their most guitar-heavy single to date gets an assist from the guitarist from Blur. It's a brash little 2-minute blast, not quite as loud as "Song 2" but only 9 seconds longer. Bastille's other new song "Survivin" is really good, too, and sounds completely different. 

6. Zedd f/ Jasmine Thompson - "Funny"
Zedd was all over my list of the top 100 pop singles of the 2010s, and I remain a sucker for his singles, especially the ones that follow the same sonic template as "Stay" and "The Middle," which this does. 

7. DaBaby f/ Young Thug - "Blind" 
Young Thug has quietly been everywhere this year, on one of the Travis Scott #1s, on the album with Chris Brown that had a big hit, and on Meg and DaBaby's current follow-ups to huge records. There's a vocal contingent on social media that has insisted lately that DaBaby's career is basically over, even during the 2 months "Rockstar" was at #1, and another kind of slick guitar loop track like"Blind" probably won't change anybody's mind about that, but it's a good song. 

8. Ne-Yo f/ Jeremih - "U 2 Luv" 
I enjoy almost everything that both Ne-Yo and Jeremih have ever put out, but I never really expected to hear them on a track together, and "Computer Love" and "Juicy Fruit" have been sampled so many times that it felt like R&B nostalgia overkill to have them both on a track. But "U 2 Luv" has really grown on me as it's quietly become Ne-Yo's biggest song on R&B radio in 8 years, and biggest solo single on R&B radio in 12 years. 

9. City Girls - "Jobs"  
I don't know what compelled JT and Yung Miami to compose a song in honor of the 2013 film Jobs, but they really captured the spirit of Ashton Kutcher's acclaimed portrayal of Apple founder Steve Jobs. 

10. Marshmello & Demi Lovato - "OK Not To Be OK" 
I like this song, but it's really puzzling to me that it doesn't have any writers in common with Khalid's "Better" despite a near identical keyboard line at the heart of both songs, and that little has been said about the similarity even in these litigious and plagiarism-obsessed times. Maybe it came from a creative commons loop pack or something. 

The Worst Single of the Month: Ritt Momney - "Put Your Records On" 
Most of the heretofore unknown artists that TikTok memes have launched onto the Hot 100 have had weird and terrible names, but a Mormon from Salt Lake City doing a Com Truise-style spoonerism of Mitt Romney's name really takes the cake. The Corinne Bailey Rae original is a perfectly nice song, and this version is wholly unnecessary, and it's just awkward listening to a pasty kid from Utah sing "gotta love that afro hairdo." 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 206: Tears For Fears

Friday, October 09, 2020

Tears For Fears are releasing a big reissue box set of their third album The Seeds Of Love today, so I wanted to take a look back at their catalog. 

Tears For Fears deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Start Of The Breakdown
2. Watch Me Bleed
3. Memories Fade
4. The Hurting
5. Listen
6. The Working Hour
7. Broken
8. When In Love With A Blind Man
9. Swords And Knives
10. Year Of The Knife
11. Standing On The Corner Of The Third World
12. Power
13. Dog's A Best Friend's Dog
14. Fish Out Of Water
15. Me And My Big Ideas
16. Stay

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from The Hurting (1983)
Tracks 5, 6 and 7 from Songs From The Big Chair (1985)
Tracks 9, 10 and 11 from The Seeds Of Love (1989)
Tracks 12, 13 and 14 from Elemental (1993)
Track 15 from Raoul And The Kings Of Spain (1995)
Track 8 from Saturnine Martial & Lunatic (1995)
Track 16 from Rule The World: The Greatest Hits (2017)

One of my earliest music memories is of Tears For Fears -- I'd ask my dad to show me 'the monkey video' over and over. It's funny in retrospect, because the chimpanzee only gets like 20 seconds of screentime in that video. But "Head Over Heels" is still one of my favorite songs, and I still find the video pretty entertaining, more for the hilarious keyboard solo scene than the chimp. My dad loved Tears For Fears, and for a few years Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82-92) and Elemental were in consistent rotation in his house and his car. The former compilation is why I know all their '80s singles by heart and not just the handful that were major hits in the states. A lot of Americans didn't know their first UK hit "Mad World" until that soggy miserable Gary Jules cover, but I've always loved the original and kind of loathe that cover. I put a couple Tears For Fears songs on the playlist I made for my dad's memorial service a few years ago. 

Songs From The Big Chair is a classic example of the period in the '80s where labels started to milk successful albums for as many singles as possible but albums still had to be about 40 minutes to fit on a vinyl record, resulting in an album with very few deep cuts. Thriller famously only had two tracks that weren't singles, and Songs From The Big Chair had three -- one of which, "Broken," formed kind of a suite with one of the album's hits, "Head Over Heels." The two songs have some lyrics and melodic elements in common, and the album version of the latter, "Head Over Heels/Broken," has a whole section that isn't on the single edit. Given the relative paucity of deep cuts from their biggest album, I also included the "Head Over Heels" b-side "When In Love With A Blind Man," which later appeared on their rarities compilation Saturnine Martial & Lunatic.

The Hurting and The Seeeds Of Love are a little richer in deep cuts -- the former's "Memories Fade" was memorably interpolated by Kanye West on "Coldest Winter" from 808s & Heartbreak. 'Interpolated' is putting it mildly, really, it's more like Kanye covered the entire song and changed some words in the lyrics. I think of each of their '80s albums having a dramatically different aesthetic and vibe, but that's mainly due to the singles. Putting deep cuts from those album side by side, it all sounds a bit more cohesive together. 

After a decade of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith leading Tears For Fears together, Smith left the band in 1991, and Orzabal released two albums that were less successful than their '80s work, but in retrospect those records are pretty decent. Elemental, as I said, got a lot of rotation in my dad's house, so I know it well and still really enjoy the songs included here, it's an underrated record. I never heard Raoul And The Kings Of Spain until recently but it's got some catchy songs, my 5-year-old was singing along with the "Raouuuuuul" on the title track. Oleta Adams, the singer whose career was launched by her appearance on the excellent Seeds Of Love single "Woman In Chains," makes more appearances on "Me And My Big Ideas" and "Standing On The Corner Of The Third World." 

Curt Smith rejoined Tears For Fears in 2000 and they released their 6th proper album, Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, in 2004. Unfortunately, that album isn't on streaming services. But I did include "Stay," which was a new track released on Rule The World: The Greatest Hits in 2017 alongside the single . I saw Tears For Fears live in 2010 and it was a great show, I appreciated that Curt Smith is up for performing songs from when he wasn't in the band like "Break It Down Again." 

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
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
Vol. 105: The Police
Vol. 106: Sloan
Vol. 107: Peter Gabriel
Vol. 108: Led Zeppelin
Vol. 109: Dave Matthews Band
Vol. 110: Nine Inch Nails
Vol. 111: Talking Heads
Vol. 112: Smashing Pumpkins
Vol. 113: System Of A Down
Vol. 114: Aretha Franklin
Vol. 115: Michael Jackson
Vol. 116: Alice In Chains
Vol. 117: Paul Simon
Vol. 118: Lil Wayne
Vol. 119: Nirvana
Vol. 120: Kix
Vol. 121: Phil Collins
Vol. 122: Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Vol. 123: Sonic Youth
Vol. 124: Bob Seger
Vol. 125: Radiohead
Vol. 126: Eric Church
Vol. 127: Neil Young
Vol. 128: Future
Vol. 129: Say Anything
Vol. 130: Maroon 5
Vol. 131: Kiss
Vol. 132: Dinosaur Jr.
Vol. 133: Stevie Nicks
Vol. 134: Talk Talk
Vol. 135: Ariana Grande
Vol. 136: Roxy Music
Vol. 137: The Cure
Vol. 138: 2 Chainz
Vol. 139: Kelis
Vol. 140: Ben Folds Five
Vol. 141: DJ Khaled
Vol. 142: Little Feat
Vol. 143: Brendan Benson
Vol. 144: Chance The Rapper
Vol. 145: Miguel
Vol. 146: The Geto Boys
Vol. 147: Meek Mill
Vol. 148: Tool
Vol. 149: Jeezy
Vol. 150: Lady Gaga
Vol. 151: Eddie Money
Vol. 152: LL Cool J
Vol. 153: Cream
Vol. 154: Pavement
Vol. 155: Miranda Lambert
Vol. 156: Gang Starr
Vol. 157: Little Big Town
Vol. 158: Thin Lizzy
Vol. 159: Pat Benatar
Vol. 160: Depeche Mode
Vol. 161: Rush
Vol. 162: Three 6 Mafia
Vol. 163: Jennifer Lopez
Vol. 164: Rage Against The Machine
Vol. 165: Huey Lewis and the News
Vol. 166: Dru Hill
Vol. 167: The Strokes
Vol. 168: The Notorious B.I.G.
Vol. 169: Sparklehorse
Vol. 170: Kendrick Lamar
Vol. 171: Mazzy Star
Vol. 172: Erykah Badu
Vol. 173: The Smiths
Vol. 174: Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
Vol. 175: Fountains Of Wayne
Vol. 176: Joe Diffie
Vol. 177: Morphine
Vol. 178: Dr. Dre
Vol. 179: The Rolling Stones
Vol. 180: Superchunk
Vol. 181: The Replacements

Monthly Report: September 2020 Albums

Thursday, October 08, 2020

1. All Them Witches - Nothing As The Ideal
The Nashville band All Them Witches hit a lot of my sweet spots of heavy blues rock and psychedelia and other '60s/'70s influences that I don't always necessary want to hear a modern band put their spin on unless the playing and production are really at a high level. And their 6th studio album, recorded at Abbey Road, captures their sound perhaps more fully than ever, just hearing the guitar tone on the quiet first couple minutes of the album before the drums kicked in got me excited for what was to follow. "The Children of Coyote Woman" is a sequel to a couple songs from an earlier album ("The Marriage of Coyote Woman" and "The Death of Coyote Woman" from 2013's Lightning At The Door) that indicates some intriguing larger mythology here. But mostly I just love the sound and mood of what these guys are doing, drummer Robby Staebler has a great relaxed feel and hits one or two killer drum solos on here. Here's the 2020 albums Spotify playlist I fill with every new release I check out this year. 

2. MAX - Colour Vision
Over the past couple years, I've kind of filed Max Schneider, better known as MAX, under the category of white or ethnically ambiguous male artists on Top 40 radio like Lauv and Bazzi and Bryce Vine who I jokingly dismiss as 'frat R&B' for coming off like the singing counterparts to dorky white rappers like Hoodie Allen and Gnash (who guested on MAX's first two charting singles, respectively). So I wasn't expecting much when I put on MAX's debut full-length, and it really impressed me, the guy can really sing and the production is varied and interesting, the title track in particular just sounds epic. It kind of reminds me of where Bruno Mars was at circa Unorthodox Jukebox, and also Patrick Stump's solo album, which I guess makes sense since MAX was briefly signed to DCD2 earlier in his career. 

3. Thurston Moore - By The Fire
The past 12 months have brought great new albums from Lee Ranaldo and Kim Gordon that really took them further from the traditional Sonic Youth sound in interesting ways that involved samples and loops. But the other half of the band, Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, have continued making a lot of music in the last few years in more of a classic SY mold, which I didn't think I'd find interesting right now, but I really like By The Fire. It really might be my favorite song-driven Moore solo album since Psychic Hearts. 4 of the songs run over 10 minutes, and the whole thing is just really varied and expansive, kind of in the vein of last year's sprawling 2-hour instrumental album Spirit Counsel but with the addition of vocals. The first half of the album is mellow and melodic in the vein of Sonic Youth's post-2000 albums, but then "Locomotive" and "Venus" really give me some Confusion Is Sex vibes, which is great and a little unexpected. 

4. Shy Glizzy - Young Jefe 3
Another great entry in what is at this point probably one of the best mixtape series going. "Top Floor" and "Slide Over" are up to the standard of his previous songs produced by Zaytoven, and "Feel The Vibe" is really an ideal Shy Glizzy/Meek Mill record. The song with Jeremih and Ty Dolla Sign has been sounding good on the radio in D.C., too. 

5. Fletcher - The S(ex) Tapes EP
Cari Fletcher is one of the more promising pop singers on the cusp of stardom lately, most of her stuff is sad sultry breakup songs produced by Frank Ocean's main collaborator Malay. I particularly like the really bass-heavy cuts on here like "Silence" and "The One" but the whole thing is good, hopefully she has a full-length on the way. 

6. Semisonic - You're Not Alone EP
I always really liked Semisonic, especially The Great Divide, but I never even totally get sick of "Closing Time," and have been happy to see Dan Wilson go onto a highly successful songwriting career. But hearing the band back together and making songs much like they made in the '90s really scratches a nice itch, "Lightning" in particular has a certain guitar tone that I really missed. 

7. Height Keech - Wild Height Keech
I really find it inspiring how unceasingly prolific Heightman is, he's always out there plugging away and expanding on his unique style of hip hop. Last year's Raw Routes was one of his best albums ever and this is a solid follow-up, "This Brutal World Is The Only World There Is" with Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak is a pretty amazing song. 

8. Sault - Untitled (Rise)
I always kind of roll my eyes when the music press starts breathlessly covering a 'mysterious collective,' but I actually heard about this album from a co-worker, and it is pretty good. I particularly like the strings on "Street Fighter." 

9. various artists - Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex
All-star tribute albums can be kind of a dull obligatory music industry ritual, but Hal Willner was regarded as possessing the unique skill set to assemble some of the rare worthwhile tribute albums, and this sprawling double album of T. Rex covers was the last big project Willner finished before COVID-19 took his life in April. So Angelheaded Hipster feels like a testament to both Bolan's genius and Willner's genius, with a wide range of artists that really demonstrate how far Bolan's influence reaches, with big rock stars like U2 and Joan Jett doing the big T. Rex glam rock hits and Devendra Banhart and Maria McKee and ohters taking on the Tyrannosaurus Rex-era folky '60s material. Most of these songs were really fresh in my mind from making my T. Rex deep cuts playlist, so I really enjoyed hearing these, even if the covers are largely close to the originals, aside from some subtle reinventions like Nick Cave's "Cosmic Dancer" -- Perry Farrell gets credit for the most spot-on Bolan impression on "Rock On." But I'm shocked nobody took a pass at one of T. Rex's best and most widely covered songs, "20th Century Boy."  

10. Joe Wong - Night Creatures
I still think of Joe Wong as the drummer on Parts & Labor's later albums, including the excellent Receivers, but he's had a pretty interesting career since then, composing scores for film and television, and interviewing tons of famous drummers on his podcast The Trap Set. Nite Creatures, his first proper solo album, is produced by Mary Timony and is a really impressive psych rock album with a 24-piece orchestra, and he's a got a really soothing deep singing voice and some interesting arrangements. 

The Worst Album of the Month: Machine Gun Kelly - Tickets To My Downfall
Almost every successful white rapper has some  roots in rock music, and sometimes exploring those roots is fun and illuminating, like Post Malone's deep cut-heavy Nirvana covers set earlier this year. And C-list rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who has seemed to fall upwards for his entire career, has seemingly stumbled into an unlikely triumph with his first rock album: it's his first #1 on the album charts, and the first #1 in 12 years for Bad Boy Records, where MGK is bizarrely the only artist besides Diddy to have released 5 albums on the label. Unfortunately, it really sucks, with MGK never dropping his tough guy rapper voice enough to even sing well by pop punk standards, and perennial rap/rock fusion go-to guy Travis Barker keeps things slick and professional enough that MGK's charmless songs somehow sound worse than they would with raw lo-fi production. Halsey, who once referenced Blink 182 on a #1 pop hit, guests on "Forget Me Too," and hearing her belt out over power chords and Barker drums is the only real high point of the album. I'm no fan of Lil Wayne's Rebirth, but it at least felt like a far more interesting curio.