Re-evaluating Pearl Jam – Part Twelve: Gigaton

Well, as a bad band that probably wouldn’t have existed without Pearl Jam once said… it’s been awhile.

I’ve been blogging along at a pace so steady over the last few weeks, this website may actually be more active than it’s ever been (this coming after a couple of years of basically no activity). It seems appropriate to me that we revisit one of the series that arguably kicked the whole thing off in the first place, and that means that we’re going to talk about some Pearl Jam.

We were actually graced with a new Pearl Jam record at around the same time that everything was shutting down in North America (for the first time) in March. COVID-19 conditions actually wound up preventing the North American tour that the band were planning to coincide with the new albums release.

The craziest thing? I was excitedly looking into tickets for the tour. I thought that it would be really funny to go see a Pearl Jam show and write a blog about it. That didn’t happen, but I think that I need to admit that my series of blogposts intended to make fun of Pearl Jam has led to me actually becoming kind of a fan of Pearl Jam. I’ll never stop making fun of them, but now I do so lovingly.

It is in this spirit that I will finally listen to Gigaton, which was released to moderate fanfare in March 2020.

Who Ever Said

PJ opens up their seven-hundredth studio album with some of their distinctive fuckin’ around noise, before opening up to a steadily bopping but rote garage rock riff. The kings of modern dad-rock have shuffled off of the couch, gang. Get ready to cross your arms and nod your head.

This song is totally fine. There are some pretty neat chord progressions in the pre-chorus and chorus proper. I prefer my PJ opening tracks to rage and roil, but this is more just… competent rocking. The bridge is a little long and feels kind of directionless, which winds up making the song feel a lot longer than it needs to be.

Vedley sounds great, though!

Superblood Wolfmoon

When this track opens, I’m instantly struck by the contrast of a pretty fun garage-pop guitar strut and Eddie Vedder stumbling through a lyrical hook that is too moronic to have been an ad-lib. It’s really dumb. I actually enjoy it, that’s how dumb it is.

This song seems a little confused on whether it’s playful and poppy or full-throttle rock stuff. It never really successfully nails the latter, but it’s a fun enough slice of rock ‘n roll. Some of the gang vocals are hooky and satisfying, and there’s a very daffy but great guitar solo bit.

It is absolute nonsense, though. Yow! Very dumb.

Dance of the Clairvoyants

I remember when this song got released as a teaser for the album and I got very, very excited. To be clear, I got excited because I thought that it was a very embarrassing direction for the band to take and I couldn’t wait to make lots and lots of fun of them.

I like it a little more now, but the overall vibe of the verses is still… pretty hilarious. The toot-toot synths are ridiculous and Edward is just barking like crazy over what can only be described as an old man’s interpretation of danceable music. Eddie also just sounds like he’s just spitting off the dome, throwing out lines about knowing that girls want to dance and boys want to grow.

A classic Pearl Jam experimental misfire! I’m secretly thrilled by it!

Quick Escape

The band wrote this song after listening to Led Zepplin’s “When the Levee Breaks”, I think. The drum opening is practically lifted. That being said, the bass groove fucking rocks and sounds like it is very fun to play.

“Quick Escape” is from a pretty standard rock mold, but I kinda dig it. The vocal yelps in the chorus are peak unhinged Edwin Veddleston. The bridge/guitar solo is also extremely great. More of that, please.

This is maybe my favourite track so far.

Alright

…alright. It’s ballad time.

“Alright” has some experimental tones and textures at play, but they work a little better than the goofy shit in “Dance of the Clairvoyants”. It does just kind of sound like a standard Eddie acoustic song with unique production flourishes pasted in. Later on it sounds like they grabbed the 12-string guitar that Alice In Chains used on “I Stay Away”, which seems like a brave choice, considering the fact that it’s been over 25 years since anyone has dared pick up a 12-string guitar.

Overall, this song’s title is very appropriate. Meh.

Seven O’Clock

You can sing “Hunger Strike” over this track, so it’s got that going for it. It is nowhere near as good as “Hunger Strike”.

The chorus underwhelms. There’s a lot of kinda subpar keyboard work on this album so far. Wonky tones that don’t work and boring/clumsy lines. It’s kinda weird.

The song has a big outro, but it doesn’t add up to much. Totally would hit skip on this track if I were to spin this record again.

Never Destination

I was going to say that this was another standard dad-rocker, but then Eddo starts singing and it sounds like when the Spin Doctors sang “liddlemissliddlemiss can’t be wrong” and I laughed, so there’s that.

Very straightforward rock song. You could hear this song 100 times and not remember a thing about it. It sounds like they’re having fun, though, so it would probably be fun to go hang in the garage with these dads and crack a Carlsberg or something.

Is growing up and becoming like their own fathers the “Never Destination”? Because mission accomplished, dudes! You’re probably all the “cool dads”!

Take The Long Way

This rocks a little harder and features some off-kilter change ups that have been mostly absent from the other songs. I like songs like this because there’s a bit of a nervous energy happening, whereas so many of the modern PJ songs sound like a band that could just write a sluggish garage rock song in their sleep.

Some nice background vocals bolster the chorus and bridge, and the bridge switches up the rhythm nicely. This tune is decent enough! Guitar solo is a bit shit, though.

Buckle Up

Buckle Up… for a piece of shit!

“Buckle Up” is a No Code level bummer of a craptrack. I hate it, guys!

Comes Then Goes

This one sounds like it’s an Eddie joint and it carries the preferred presentation of being just an acoustic guitar and that rich, deep baritone that we all hear as we fall asleep each night. We all hear that, right? Eddie Vedder crooning us to sleep?

This song is a nice enough slab of folky balladry. I do not mind it. It does not, however, justify its over six-minute length. Eddie Vedder? More like Edit-me Better!

Have I already used that one? If not, I’ve still got it. That’s one of the best ones I’ve ever come up with.

Retrograde

Oh shit, the 12-string is back!

This song makes virtually no impression on me beyond that. A five-plus minute mid-tempo slog. Not a single memorable hook or riff. I dunno, this one is a bummer. The production on the big “epic” outro does sound appropriately big, but it’s in service of a pretty flat tune.

Nah, dudes.

River Cross

Pretty glad that they chose this as the album closer over “Retrograde”, as I find this to be a more effective and meditative track. It isn’t tremendous, but it is a decent vibe track with an interesting central chord progression performed on organ and an emphasis on the lead vocal.

On a record with a few more gems, this could have been a nice capper. It’s still nice, but it’s low energy following about three or four low-energy tracks, so I’m already feeling a little bored.

The song builds to yet another “big outro”, but I think that this one manages to work by feeling a little more stripped-down to a central idea than just a dog’s breakfast of ideas.

The Verdict

I’ll have to update my ULTIMATE PEARL JAM ALBUM RANKING POST with this new album.

Gigaton is a decidedly middle-of-the-road rock album with a few mildly amusing gems and lots of duds. Attempts at experimentation are largely more humorous than successful. A few quite good rockers (“Who Ever Said”, “Quick Escape”) can’t elevate this release beyond the lower-middle of the pack. 

It’s a good thing that they’ve already sort of won me over, because this record isn’t going to net them any new fans, I don’t think. Mega-fans will probably like it fine.

For me, it’s not even that hilarious. Luckily, though, so many things are bad right now, a mediocre PJ record coming out actually feels pretty comforting!

I have missed these rock daddies and I still hope that live events happen again one day so that I can go laugh at them in person.

Reviewing 31 Versions of Silent Night

Typical studio Diva.

Our kiddo has started to get really into Christmas music. It is wonderful to hear her hilarious renditions of all of the classics and I hope so, so deeply that she will lose all interest at 11:59pm on December 25th. But for the time being, there are a lot of holiday tunes happening at our house.

Recently, she’s been all about “Silent Night”. She calls it “Silent at Night”. In fact, for her, the lyrics go “Silent at night, Holy at night”, which is actually a lot cooler than the real lyrics because it sounds like a tagline from a movie poster or something. We were putting on different versions of this song and it got me wondering. How many version of “Silent Night” are there, even?

Turns out there’s… uh… a lot. More than we need! More than anyone needs!

Given that this was always a favourite of mine growing up, and it really felt like the Christmas Eve song when we were going to Christmas Eve night mass, I thought that it would be nice to take today to do my best to find the greatest version of “Silent Night” that I could possibly find. On YouTube.

A quick search yielded way too many hits to cover, so I picked the first 31 of them that I thought might be worth taking a look at.

Happy Holidays!

Kelly Clarkson ft. Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire

Kelly Clarkson has a great and great-big voice and it is put to pretty good use here. The performance is a little showy, but I guess that’s the kind of the style of this kind of thing. Then Trisha Yearwood comes out and they start to kind of duet, and it doesn’t really work for me. Yearwood is fine, but we just heard Clarkson nail the exact same melody with way more balls, so… yeah. But then Reba McEntire comes out and watching her swagger her way through her verse is kind of fucking thrilling. Partially because it seems like she’s not going to hit the notes every time, but then she guides her voice to the notes using her head as a joystick somehow, and partially because Reba was in Tremors and that movie fucking owns.

The three of them do a final verse in full harmony and it is truthfully very solid work. The audience applauds them and I probably would have clapped too.

Version Verdict: A heavenly piece that you don’t want to sleep on.

Michael Bubbles

I want to tap out on this immediately. I can’t believe a word this guy is singing. His shtick is laid on so thick, all I can think about while listening how much it sounds like he’s trying to make everybody hear that he’s had singing lessons. Then a choir comes in and they only sound so-so. I think this track has both harp and bells in it, which is like… uh… pick a lane, Bubbles.

There are at least three key changes in this version, which… Okay, I guess if you’re trying to stretch out a song where every verse is basically the same and there’s no chorus, you’ve gotta do something, but… I’m not into it.

Version Verdict: Jesus lord, it’s the wooooOOOOOooorst. Jesus lord, it’s the worst.

Ramin Karimloo

Probably the only banjo and voice version of this song that I’ll cover, so points awarded here for original arrangement. This is also pretty clearly a live and relatively unvarnished performance, which I find refreshing. Both vocalists are a little off here and there and it actually works to the piece’s benefit overall.

The band is nice. I feel like you could see this at a small club or something and be reasonably happy about it. But then you’d be like “Oh wait, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m out at this Christmas Coffee House with these banjo people instead of at home wrapping gifts very badly at the last minute” and you’d try to leave and the music is so quiet and delicate that everybody hears you trying to leave and they all look at you with angry expressions and it ruins your whole Christmas. So… I don’t know, you’ve gotta take your chances with this one.

Version Verdict: Tender… AND mild.

Bing Crosby

Jesus Christ, this is a sleepy song. Why did I do this to myself?

I’m not sure that I can slag Der Bingle’s version of Silent Night. I’ll bet he nailed this in one take. While getting fitted for a suit.

It’s classic and it sounds classic. The arrangement is very nice. The background vocals are spectacular. The would be on the shortlist for my “Desert Island ‘Silent Night’s”, if there were such a thing.

Version Verdict: Radiant beams from Bing’s holy face.

Mariah Carey

Each one of these seems to be starting at a slower tempo than the last and I am fucking cursing myself right now.

Mariah Carey is amazing, so this should be good. She’s got a full choir and this choir doesn’t just sound like a bunch of lame kids. There’s also an organ player taking a fucking walk on the thing throughout, which is fun as hell. This version also goes refreshingly off-book in its back half, which is most appreciated by me at this point.

This one is the current winner for “most sway-inducing version”. It’s pretty great!

Version Verdict: Makes me sing “Hallelujah”.

Winchester Cathedral Choir

I… do not want to look at these kids for three minutes.

The thing I like about this one is that it’s the version that would get used in a movie over a montage of a bunch of gangsters getting revenge-killed over the holidays in slow motion for three minutes (ten in a Scorsese movie). It’s got that church creepiness going for it. Some of the harmonies going on here are downright terrifying.

I just keep thinking that these kids probably all think that they’re a pretty big deal right now, but the gravy train screeches to a halt when you grow some armpit hair and your voices start to crack, dudes.

Version Verdict: Shepherd’s… uh… I’m running out of lyric puns, guys.

Super Simple Songs

I’m not sure that this is a “super simple song”. There’s a lot to unpack here, especially if you don’t know the whole Jesus backstory. Also, this is the churchiest church song you can find and 100% of the animated activities here feature non-denominational non-religious pro-Santa activities. What are these people trying to pull?

The animation is hilarious and the song version is pretty boring and mediocre. This is probably just more evidence that kids shouldn’t be allowed to watch YouTube.

Version Verdict: No redeeming grace here.

Coffin Fuck

Strong contender for best version.

From the forward-thinking lyrical changes (“Silent night, gory night”) to the evocative art work, this is a winner. I also like that Coffin Fuck seem to be just competent enough to be the funniest death metal band I have ever heard. Honestly, this is just terrific.

Version Verdict: This one deserves its own grading scheme, so I’m actually disqualifying it altogether.

Andrea Bocelli

This video contains helpful lyrics, in case you were in need of those. Maybe I should have led off with it.

Bocelli has a remarkable voice, which is news to nobody. This version also has some really interesting piano work. You could do a lot worse than this. It’s… it’s no Coffin Fuck, but it’ll do.

Version Verdict: This has only one key change, so it is pretty good.

Tom Waits

Very satisfying to hear Tom Waits slur his way though this tune. And then he seamlessly blends it into a song about a letter-writing prostitutes. It feels pretty festive. Drunk folks playing the piano might feel the most like Christmas to some.

I enjoyed this, but it is barely a version of “Silent Night”.

Version Verdict: The crowd laughing at all of the gags makes this clip 10x better.

Guitar Zoom

This is a very nice, if fairly simple solo guitar version of “Silent Night”. This is probably the most educational video that we will cover. I will be honest, I’m not going to watch this whole thing. It is very long and I already play this song differently than this guy.

Wait, maybe this guy sucks.

Wait.. maybe I suck? This is worrisome.

Version Verdict: You could impress your friends and family with this, but not this year because there’s a pandemic and you shouldn’t see anybody. 0 stars.

Stevie Nicks

This sounds cynical, but this version delivers exactly what I was expecting. This is Stevie Nicks singing “Silent Night”. She really, really sounds like Stevie Nicks. Which makes sense, I guess.

They do a very off-book little change-up after each verse that doesn’t work for me at all. I think that I am reaching my threshold for listening to versions of “Silent Night” in a row and actually giving them a fair shake, because I’m just not digging this.

If you like any two of the following things, you may like it: Stevie Nicks, baby Jesus, very slow songs.

Version Verdict: Christ our savior, I’m boooooooored.

Teddy Swims

This excited me because it said “Claymation video”, but I see now that it is the same 15 second clip of claymation looped and I just wanna punch something.

I am not willing to give further thought to Teddy Swims.

Version Verdict: This video technically is a claymation video, but it still seems like a sneaky lie to me. This sucks.

The Petersens

Just a wholesome gang of Pertersens dressing up like they’re going to go to farmprom and belting out the classics. I wasn’t into this until it panned over to the Mom slappin’ away on the stand-up bass. Then I was all in. Get it, Mom!

Version Verdict: The best version of this song recorded in front of a fireplace that I have seen so far today.

David Archuleta and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

This one wins major points for the introduction, which sounds like something you might put on to get in the mood for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It’s pretty standard after that. The orchestral arrangement is pretty gorgeous, though. These fuckin’ Mormons can jam.

I don’t know who David Archuleta, but he has an adequate “pretty boy voice” to handle this rendition of “Silent Night”. They’re all laying it on pretty thick by the end, but let’s face it – it’s a super melodramatic story in the first place. Sure, kid. You were born in a barn. We get it.

The Dickies

This is more like it! The Dickies fart out a punk version of “Silent Night” that sounds delightfully snotty, just like a punk version of “Silent Night” should. Subverting the song’s title and making an awful racket instead might seem like an obvious joke, but it lands for me.

I may be a sucker, but this does it for me.

Thomas Gabriel

I selected this one because I wanted to see what a “raw and uncut” version of “Silent Night” would sound like. It’s really no more sloppy than any of the other versions. Gabriel’s voice is pretty rough and hasn’t been pitch corrected or anything, but that strikes me as his vibe. It’s a feature, not a bug.

Apparently this is Johnny Cash’s eldest grandchild? Makes sense. He seems really bummed out in this video. Again, that might just be his vibe.

I don’t hate this, but this might be the version of “Silent Night” I would put on after getting fired from my job just before Christmas and telling my family that things are going to be tight but we’ll make it through somehow.

All Good Things

Uhh… this isn’t “Silent Night”. This is some shlubs playing terrible four-chord buttrock in a barn-shaped garage with bad lighting. The singer looks like Chris D’Elia, so while I’m listening to this I’m just imagining the singer’s shocked face when he realizes that Snapchats can be saved.

This song is really bad and this band’s name is hysterically ironic. Boooooooo!

NEEDTOBREATHE

Beware of any band name that doesn’t have time for the spacebar. I was actually expecting this to be emo or pop punk, but it’s really more straightforward vocal pop. Instrumentation is pretty tame.

Actually a competent version of the tune, but at this point you don’t really need another okay version of “Silent Night”. You need either a great or a hilariously awful version. Pass.

Oh, there’s a harmonica solo. If that’s your thing.

Sinead O’Connor

Fifteen seconds in and this is already the best video that I’ve seen. These costumes rule.

I like the whispery version that she’s doing. This is the version that gets used in a horror movie trailer for sure. Just this version over silent shots of people screaming and aerial shots of the forest. Great stuff.

Creepiest version. Only accompaniment seems to be one bass synth pad. I love this one.

Silent Night Deadly Night 2 Best Lines

This isn’t actually the song at all, but it is by far the most entertaining video in this entire post. This guy is the greatest actor of all time. Ricky is the best.

Bon Jovi

Yes! This rocks.

It’s the wrong song. But all hail the Jov’! Honestly, I’m just sick of the real song, this might not actually be any good.

It sounds like they borrowed Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time” synth, which is somehow simultaneously a miracle and a crime against humanity. Double-necked guitars for us all! Merry Xmas!

Christopher Lee

Oh, this one is going to be hard to beat. You’ve got GODKING Christopher Lee crooning over a massively detuned double-time chunk-metal version of “Silent Night”? Everything about this just screams winner to me. The fact that it kind of sounds like they recorded the music AFTER the vocals makes it even funnier/more fun.

Rest in peace, Mr. Lee. You probably got a very good room in Heaven for recording this piece of glorious art.

LeBaron Family

Ahhh, no. Another family.

These people are dressed like regular people and there are kids yelling in the background, so I feel like the gang is more “normal” than that last family. As normal as a bunch of people who record themselves singing “Silent Night” can be, I guess.

The soloist isn’t amazing, but the harmonies when the whole gang comes in are pretty solid! And Dad can really shred the piano. Actually, ditch the lead singer (seriously, take away her mic) and this isn’t bad at all.

I would have a beer with this family. Not those uptight Petersens.

Puddles The Clown

…I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s confusing and vaguely terrifying, but Puddles can really wail. This might be as close we ever get to a Clown Core Xmas song, and I’ll take it.

This is a totally respectable version of “Silent Night” in its own right!

The Wiggles

Not only do you guy a version of “Silent Night” done by everyone’s favourite creepy dead-eyed Australian Children’s performers, it’s also a version in German. Also the video keeps cutting to some kids posing as The Wiggles.

This is like a video that they show people trapped in a reprogramming facility every morning.

Chilling.

Boyz II Men

What am I going to do? Make fun of Boyz II Men? Fat chance.

This is impeccable.

Jim Reeves

This somehow really sounds like going to Christmas dinner at one’s grandparents’ house. There’s something very comforting about it. It definitely sounds like something that was made in a simpler time when people just repressed and ignored all of mankind’s ills.

This makes me wanna sit on a red shag carpet in front of a fireplace, waiting for my turn to open a present that turns out to be socks.

I’m very tired of this song.

Manowar

More like Man-o-BORE. This only turns metal-ish at the very last minute and it isn’t very heavy. The vocalist is kind of a low-rent Bruce Dickinson. Iron Maiden would have done a better job with this for sure.

Yawn, dudes.

Erlosung

This is billed as “Black Metal Silent Night” and it delivers on what it sells itself to be. The imagery leads me to believe that this is just a couple of skinny young guys hanging out in the forest wearing t-shirts and corpse paint and swinging an axe around. Very entertaining material and very much in the spirit of the season, as perhaps they are trying to find a Christmas tree.

Bad Religion

This live bootleg recording of Bad Religion covering “Silent Night” seems like as good a place to call it a day as any. The band sounds loose and sloppy and this recording is a lot of fun. The group is clearly having fun, throwing in a little “My Sharona” interlude to mix things up.

This makes me really miss live music, guys. Maybe next Christmas we can all get together and play sloppy covers of all of our favourite Christmas songs.

…Not “Silent Night”, though. I’m good on “Silent Night” for awhile.

Happy Holidays, you filthy animals!

Reviewing My Friend Mike’s 2020 Listens Playlist – Part 1

Allow me to begin by telling you that I take no pleasure in doing this. This series is in response to my friend Mike making a wiseass comment about me doing a six-post series reviewing his 2020 Listens playlist after I said something nice when he shared it like “I will listen soon!” (A lie)

Now I am obligated to listen to and review the whole thing, because he thinks he’s so smart and funny and I’m just sitting over here with cartoon steam shooting out of my ears or something.

I have known Mike for a very long time. He cares deeply about music and has very good taste in music. He also writes about music the way that someone would write about music if they had good taste in it and cared about it, which is to say that he writes about it very well. I, on the other hand, have pretty terrible taste in music and write about music as if I’m bombing at an open mic night for the thirtieth time in a row.

Am I going to like any of this stuff? Who knows! I probably won’t be able to use the word “angular” to describe any of the guitar parts, if there even are any guitar parts. Some people think that music can exist without those, and I don’t really want to dignify the notion by spending any real time pretending it might be true.

Alright, let’s see what’s on this thing

ALL THESE CHANGES – Nick Hakim

Oh, this is actually really interesting. Fuck you, Mike.

Hushed and tripped-out lo-fi soul music. Is this a bedroom record? I guess it doesn’t matter. The production is fascinating and the song has a great vibe. I like it!

Does it have guitars? Yes. There are some guitars to enjoy here.
Was Mike right? Yes. Mike was right. ūüė¶

Tayla Parx – Sad

This song is a little bit more straightforward, but the production is still very fun. Honestly, the whole thing is a lot of fun. It made me laugh a couple of times and the performance is great. Definitely not in my wheelhouse in terms of style, but it’s got personality to spare and a great hook in the chorus.

I’m pretty annoyed to report that this is another good song.

Does it have guitars? I do not believe that this song has guitars. Typical Mike. Pshhhhh.
Was Mike right? Yes. I am afraid that Mike was right.

U.S. Girls – 4 American Dollars

Ah fuck, I already know this song and it’s great.

Ahhhh fuck.

Does it have guitars? Yes, there are guitars in this.
Was Mike right? I don’t wanna talk about it.

SAULT – Fearless

I was ready to just talk about how the most interesting thing going here was the most insane reverb I’ve ever heard on a hand clap, but then at around a minute and a half in the whole thing kind of erupts and I am forced to admit that this track is really beautiful. It’s got a certain swirling uplift to it that feels pretty remarkable.

Back to that handclap, though. Wow! That’s some wild reverb!

Does it have guitars? Yes, it sounds like there’s a whole band on this one.
Was Mike right? Yes, Mike was right.

Ian Isiah – Can’t Call It

It brings me only a slight amount of satisfaction to declare that I find this track to be merely okay. The production is super tight and the songwriting is good. I guess the performance is pretty good too, actually. Alright, it’s a good song. Maybe it’s slightly better than fine.

Okay, I can’t call it a total miss. This is a good throwback funk-pop song, but it didn’t set me on fire or anything. It’s probably just not my thing, as I didn’t hear even one section that I could classify as “the blast-beat part”.

Does it have guitars? These might actually be sampled guitars. Not sure.
Was Mike right? I can’t call him wrong.

Huw Marc Bennet – Tresilian Bay

This would be fine to put on and listen to if you were doing other things, but I can’t imagine throwing this kind of thing on for a dedicated listen. Is this the first real misfire? It is very difficult to call this bad, though. Because it ain’t. It jams along with a good vibe and lots of interesting texture. I guess I’m docking it point for being instrumental?

Ah, I can’t do it. This is objectively well made music. I could do work to this.

Sigh.

Does it have guitars? I don’t think so? The bass instrument might be an upright bass, but it could also just be a synth pad. I dunno.
Was Mike right? Look, at this point it depends on what your definition of right is.

Scrimshire, Stac – Where Are We

This isn’t on YouTube, so forgive the Spotify embed.

This is also a very enjoyable and well produced song that sounds like it was made by cool people who like to dance and be cool and probably also read books. It’s all very infuriating at this point. A lot of this stuff is in a similar mode, but I’m kidding myself if it hasn’t been all pretty good songs so far.

Interesting thing about this one: the harmonies in the chorus here sound slightly off, but it works. I like it when that happens.

Does it have guitars? Yes, there are guitars here.
Was Mike right? Pope Catholic?

Brandy – No Tomorrow

I remember Brandy as a pop artist that I didn’t care for in high school. Not much has changed, because I don’t really care for this.

Probably more a matter of taste than quality, this just doesn’t have much going on in terms of instrumentation and the melodies don’t grab me. I would pass, but in the context of the 8th track on a 50-something song playlist, it may kind of work.

This is the first definitive thumbs down for me, though! Good times!

Does it have guitars? Not a single one.
Was Mike right? Haha! No!

Conclusion

Only 45 more songs to go, which I am 100% positive that I will get around to at some point. Today I have learned that I would probably enjoy broadening my horizons and allowing myself to heed the wisdom of my friends, who are all smart people who enjoy good things that I might not reflexively seek out. I have added several of these songs to my Spotify favourites, and that makes this exercise an overall win.

Thank you, Mike.

Thank you for your wiseass comment when I was just trying to say a nice thing.

Ranking Every Nu Metal Band – Part 2: Clawfinger vs Trust Company

Welcome to the second installment of my very bad idea.

I have rolled another two Nu Metal bands to evaluate, and I am more sure than ever that I will definitely not finish this project. Nonetheless, I soldier on.

Clawfinger

From what Wikipedia tells me, Clawfinger is a group of Swedes who decided to play against type and opt for Nu Metal instead of, like, melodic Viking death metal or something. I wonder how that’s currently working out for them.

I actually kind of remember this band, but I don’t remember them being so… well, you’ll see.

The highest-ranking Clawfinger song on Spotify is called “Biggest & The Best”. It is a really sterling example of of white guy rap rock, in that it could be served as evidence in a government hearing about a ban on white guys being allowed to rap. The laziest rhymes I have ever heard, all delivered like “My name is Joe and I’m here to say, I love to rap in a crazy way”. Some light sampling found here and some boilerplate dissonant guitar chugs. The chorus has something approaching a hook, and you’ll never guess what they use as a rhyme pairing with “the biggest & the best” in the chorus hook.

“Do What I Say” fares a little better, featuring a bending, grinding riff and some interesting off-kilter chugging, along with a pretty creepy child vocalist who does a much better job of things than this band’s actual vocalist. There are actually some cool moments on this song.

The third track on Clawfinger’s top-five is probably only worth mentioning in that I cannot begin to express how far they miss the mark with their intended message and because the song is literally named a slur that I can’t post here. Let’s just say that this is a group of white swedes explaining to black rappers that they shouldn’t be using a certain word, by using said word about 80 times in a row. While rapping in the way your high school math teacher would while teaching you rappin’ fractions. You can’t do that, guys. Wow.

“Out To Get Me” is pretty forgettable, but has the vocalist doing his best Jonathan Davis for the vocal hook in the chorus, which I suppose is an improvement on the rapping.

Nu Metal sounds pretty dated in general, but there’s something about the way this band serves up its “hip hop” element that makes it sound even older than most other bands. It is bad. It sounds like that part in that Blondie song where Debbie Harry raps, and I think that they even use a lot of the same rhymes that she used. These guys are Swedish, so maybe the language barrier is some excuse… but it doesn’t make it any more listenable.

Best Song: “Do What I Say” by a country mile. Everything else: complete trash.

Trust Company

This is some Nu Metal-ass Nu Metal. The drop-D riffing is elementary enough for a 13 year old to figure out in their bedroom and the wispy vocals are just sensitive-sounding enough to capture that “guys, I’m angry but I’m sad but I’M SO MAD” energy that self-obsessed youths adore. I don’t remember these guys at all, but this sounds like something that would have been huge in the wake of Linkin Park putting their nails in the coffin of Nu Metal ever being actually interesting and cool ever again (shots fired, Josh).

“Downfall” is peak mediocre Nu Metal single. “Falling Apart” is practically the same song again. But with a phaser pedal. Oh, these boys are hurting so bad. Who hurt these boys?

What I think this band is a good example of is where Nu Metal started to merge with some emo/screamo sounds that were becoming popular in the early 2000s to create a very teenager-friendly package. If you strip away the heavy riffs that almost sound pasted into these songs, you’re almost left with, like… Savage Garden. Or something.

I… am not going to write about all of these songs, because these are all kind of the same song. That being said, I have to say that this is definitely late-stage Nu Metal and it has definitely been produced with a great deal of thought and money.

It is shitty Linkin Park, basically. And I already hate those guys, so… this is the shitty version of that thing I hate.

Best Song: Let’s just say “Downfall” because it has so many views and listens?

The Ranking

Even though I hate their music, I think that Trust Company are actually better than Godhead on a purely Nu Metal level, and also better than Wicked Wisdom. I am tempted to rank Clawfinger higher than Trust Company based on the strength of “Do What I Say”, but then I remember the slur song and figure that they don’t deserve to feel encouraged, so I will rank them above Godhead but below Wicked Wisdom.

  1. Trust Company
  2. Wicked Wisdom
  3. Clawfinger
  4. Godhead

Trust Company is the greatest Nu Metal band of all time!

Click here to read the first installment of this ranking series!

Ranking Every Nu Metal Band – Part 1: Wicked Wisdom vs Godhead

For a style of music that is popularly characterized as being completely lunkheaded, Nu Metal is actually pretty complicated… feelings-wise. I’m pretty sure that many of us of a certain vintage cringe when we think about it, not only because it is bad and dumb (which it often was and is), but because we would rather not have to admit that we were once absolutely neck-deep onboard with something that is now so universally maligned.

Earlier this year, I got to thinking about Nu Metal when my very smart and handsome friend Jesse created the longest and most hilarious Spotify playlist of all time (which I will embed at the bottom of this post).

There are hundreds of Nu Metal songs on it and it is obscene. And constantly hilarious. And… often… actually sort of good? Some of the most obvious bands have managed to transcend the genre and clearly have some material that stands the test of time. But there are also tracks on this playlist that I only vaguely remember that are actually kind of fun.

I’ve done my fair share of reevaluating things on this blog, but I have never gone so far as reevaluating an entire genre. Perhaps it is time that we give Nu Metal a second look. A fair shot. Hey Man, nice shot (not nu metal).

I’m going to system(of a down)atically and def(tones)initively get to the bottom of which Nu Metal band is the greatest and which Nu Metal band is the weakest… by ranking each and every one of them, two bands at a time. To determine the scope of the project, I am looking to the Wikipedia list of Nu Metal bands, as Wikipedia is as close to an authority on any given subject as I can think of.

I have placed each band a numbered list in alphabetical order and for every installment I will use a random number generator to select two bands. I will compare and evaluate the bands based on their strengths and weaknesses relative to each other and to the genre, and I will conclude by slotting them into a ranking position. I will probably just listen to whatever each band’s top five songs on Spotify are. I don’t have all the time in the world and this genre is 95% unlistenable horseshit, so I’m not too concerned if anyone thinks that this isn’t in depth enough. It is my hope that this project will serve to bawitaba a greater understandadangdiggydiggy of upjumptheboogie.

Today’s bands to be ranked: WICKED WISDOM and GODHEAD

WICKED WISDOM

When I rolled Wicked Wisdom as a choice for this post, my first thought was “I have never heard of this band in my life”. When I Googled them, I realized that of course I have have heard of Wicked Wisdom because Wicked Wisdom is JADA PINKETT’S FUCKING NU METAL BAND.

I had forgotten all about this, but holy shit. There was a time when Nu Metal was so huge that this sort of thing was only moderately surprising. Looking back 15 or more years later, it seems completely insane.

Listening to it, I’ve gotta admit… this is definitely Nu Metal. Specifically, this is a great example of Nu Metal having completely jumped-the-shark. This is Nu Metal post-Jonathan Davis doing that terrible movie soundtrack, and post-Evanescence selling a bonkers number of that record with that song of theirs on it. It’s all here. Paint-by-numbers riffs with super-thick production. Weak samples. Lyrical anger that overshoots menace and lands in a realm of icky teen-friendly moronic melodrama. Wow, this is something.

It seems as though Wicked Wisdom isn’t even on Spotify, so I’m limited to just listening to samples on YouTube. It’s just as well, given that they only seem to have two albums and I think only one single? “Bleed All Over Me” is one humdinger of a tune, featuring such lyrical gems as “I love your pain, And how it makes me feel inside” and “I crave your pain, ‘Cause I’m its only friend”. Wow. Hot stuff.

Giving a listen to this, and scrubbing through the band’s 2006 full-length album, it is pretty standard lower-tier stuff. Pinkett doesn’t add much to the party, but she can carry a tune and performs with an acceptable level of angst. It very occasionally sounds like the band wants to liven things up with some time signature changes and riffs that stray from the drop-D boilerplate. The drum performance is actually fairly solid. Wikipedia indicates that the drummer also played in Fishbone, who were what some may consider more of a real band.

It’s pretty embarrassing, dated stuff. Justifiably forgotten. The vocals and lyrics are awkward enough to derail whatever few interesting moments you might find here.

This post feels like a giant mistake already.

Best song: Maybe “Something Inside of Me” because there’s a pretty interesting riff in there that feels super off-kilter, and the chorus feels really Serial Joe-ish to me.

GODHEAD

When two of your top five songs are different covers of the same Beatles song, you might be in trouble. I actually remember this cover of “Eleanor Rigby”. It may seem like Godhead saw the success that Orgy had with their “Blue Monday” cover and decided to cash in with a similarly flavoured cover of their own. Looking more carefully, though, it appears that Godhead’s first released cover of “Eleanor Rigby” was actually released a year before that Orgy album came out. So… I don’t know what to think. It still doesn’t make it a good idea. None of this was a good idea.

Godhead seems to have been lumped in with Nu Metal in the same way that Orgy was, despite not really sounding like a Nu Metal band at all. They’re much more of a Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson pastiche, and not a particularly good one. Their number one song on Spotify – “Penetrate” (ugh) – is a lurching bore, industrial metal so generic and bland it makes the prospect of working on an actual industrial assembly line seem like it might be more of a thrill by comparison. It ends with the line “I’m not going to imitate”, which is pretty hilarious.

I’m not really sure what makes this group Nu Metal, beyond just the time period where their biggest (maybe only relevant?) album was released. The non-“Eleanor Rigby” songs in this top five are just the pits. “Break You Down” kicks off by almost verbatim ripping off a Nine Inch Nails song and features Marilyn Manson as a guest, somehow. The band are still active and releasing music. I didn’t listen to, uh… anything more recent than what was released in the year 2000.

Best song: “Eleanor Rigby”. Lol. Can’t pick which one!

The Ranking

Fortunately, I don’t actually have to decide if either of these bands are good. I just need to rank them relative to each other. They’re both pretty bad. Again, this post was a bad idea.

Although they’re both derivative, bland also-rans, I think I have to give Wicked Wisdom the edge in this contest over Godhead, given that Wicked Wisdom is almost hilariously Nu Metal-sounding and Godhead isn’t at all Nu Metal-sounding. I can’t recommend ever listening to either of them.

  1. WICKED WISDOM
  2. GODHEAD

As it stands currently, my incredibly accurate ranking system has determined that Wicked Wisdom is the best Nu Metal band of all time. Will they hang onto the crown? Only time and more ranking match-ups will tell. More ranking match-ups which I am sure that I will definitely maybe do or not do.

In the meantime, please enjoy Jesse’s playlist and I encourage you to check out and purchase his very excellent not-nu metal music.

Great Job, Robot: “I Wonder What’s Inside Your Butthole” by Jolee

There are times when the collection of ones and zeroes that comprise whatever profile it is that Spotify uses to manipulate me will truly impress. ‚ÄúGreat Job, Robot‚ÄĚ is dedicated to those songs that the Spotify algorithm gods throw at me that I think are quite excellent or otherwise noteworthy picks. Please be advised that these posts will concern themselves with saying mostly positive things about tunes, unlike the unreasonable slag-fests that occupy most of the real estate on this blog.

I Wonder What’s Inside Your Butthole – Jolee

Yes, I know that cash-ins on viral videos are universally shameless and tacky, particularly when they involve kids. But this one slaps.

Jolee’s “I Wonder What’s Inside Your Butthole” is thought-provoking, incisive, and an absolute monster truck of a pop song. She handles her own callbacks (“I always wanna kno-wah!”) with ease and tackles a spoken word bridge with more panache than ol’ Eddie Vedder ever did. I’m kind of just sad that this track is so short and that it’s her only single.

From now on, whenever I’m missing my parents, I will know that they can always be found inside my butthole. And for this I am grateful.

I love “I Wonder What’s Inside Your Butthole” by Jolee. Great Job, Robot.

Great Job, Robot: “Early Morning Rain” by Ian & Sylvia

There are times when the collection of ones and zeroes that comprise whatever profile it is that Spotify uses to manipulate me will truly impress. ‚ÄúGreat Job, Robot‚ÄĚ is dedicated to those songs that the Spotify algorithm gods throw at me that I think are quite excellent or otherwise noteworthy picks. Please be advised that these posts will concern themselves with saying mostly positive things about tunes, unlike the unreasonable slag-fests that occupy most of the real estate on this blog.

Early Morning Rain – Ian & Sylvia

Possibly the finest song I’ve ever heard about being sad and wasted at an airport. Spotify tossed this gem at me one morning while I was driving to work and the car started driving itself while I just sat there and wept like an infant. Not really, but This song was written by Gordon Lightfoot. His version is great, but this Ian & Sylvia cover crushes it.

The arrangement is about as slight as it gets, just some acoustic guitars plucking and the two vocalists. I think that’s all that I really need to feel the full weight of a desperate airport bender. The melodrama is cranked up to 10 and the combined vocal vibrato of Ian & Sylvia is basically a weapon of mass destruction. They should be in jail for having vibrato like this.

I’m a huge sucker for sad sack folk music, and this tune has the added advantage of throwing in a few truly glum-as-fuck chord changes that don’t seem to be in the Lightfoot version. Drag me down, you dour Canadian folkies.

Drag. Me. Down.

I like “Early Morning Rain” by Ian & Sylvia. Great job, Robot.

Great Job, Robot: “Communication” by Disq

There are times when the collection of ones and zeroes that comprise whatever profile it is that Spotify uses to manipulate me will truly impress. “Great Job, Robot” is dedicated to those songs that the Spotify algorithm gods throw at me that I think are quite excellent or otherwise noteworthy picks. Please be advised that these posts will concern themselves with saying mostly positive things about tunes, unlike the unreasonable slag-fests that occupy most of the real estate on this blog.

“Communication” – Disq

As much as I wonder if it’ll ever by truly hip on a Top of the Pops mainstream level again, there’s really nothing that tickles me quite like a song built almost entirely around one terrific guitar line or chord progression. “Communication” revolves around a warbling and winding guitar figure that manages to be at once hooky and hypnotic. It is strangely enhanced further by the fact that it sounds slightly out of tune at times, as if the guitarists are slamming on strings procured from some ancient pawn shop.

The song that stretches out around the central guitar line is a terrific blend of modern indie rock and throwback 90s alt guitar pop. The vocal melodies intertwine with the guitar, magnifying their effect without aping them exactly. By the time things build to a big ol’ rockin’ instrumental outro, I’m in bliss. The kids are all right.

I like “Communication” by Disq. Great job, Robot.

Track-By-Track Review: Weezer – The Teal Album

If nothing else, I really have to hand it to Weezer for how much they’ve tightened up their timeline when it comes to doing something positive and entertaining and then ultimately shitting all over any goodwill that they had generated. It took a fair number of years of releasing fair-to-terrible albums before they had completely squandered and sullied the legacy of their unimpeachable 1990s releases. More recently, it took them only a year to follow-up 2016’s improbably decent White Album with Pacific Daydream, possibly their worst release to date (the forthcoming and surely abysmal Black Album notwithstanding).

It is a heroic display of cynical artistic bankruptcy, then, that sees the band taking just under nine months to obliterate their most recent (and vaguely inconsequential) foray into actually executing something that might make someone think, “Oh. Haha. Okay. Funny, I guess.”

Weezer scored a surprise hit in 2018 by releasing a track based on a joke-y request from a fan account on Twitter that went viral. Their cover of “Africa” by Toto wound up being their biggest hit in years. Now, let’s not kid ourselves. The fact that this cover happened is what makes this cover good. The cover itself is completely uninspired and unnecessary. It is the fact that a major rock act would take the time to assemble a very earnest recording at the prompting of a pretty ridiculous and hilarious Twitter account is the reason that this got as much attention as it did (for good reason).

What Weezer took from the whole episode, presumably, is that people loved the “Africa” cover because it was awesome and that they could make 9x as much money if they released an entire album of the goddamned things. So here we are. We have The Teal Album to deal with now, for god’s sake. Yikes.

I’m going to rate these songs on a variable scale where their original version is a 10, and the cover version will receive a score within that scale of 10. Because we’ll agree that there’s no chance that any of these could possibly be better than the original, correct?

Africa
I suppose that it is appropriate that Teal kicks off with “Africa”, the tune that got us into this whole mess. It’s how you remember it. And by that I mean it’s how you remember it from the 1980s, because Weezer does almost not a goddamned thing different with it. The chorus is slightly more rocked-up than the original, but the difference is slight. This was fine for a giggle when it was released in response to the Twitter account, but as a part of a larger collection it feels immediately grating.

Weird Al is in the video, parodying Rivers Cuomo in a video that appears to be a parody of Weezer’s 1994 video for “Undone: The Sweater Song”. It’s pretty difficult to see Al in this video without thinking about the fact that he’s an artist who puts genuine creativity and artfulness into generating what is essentially novelty content. His presence actually just accentuates the fact that Weezer’s cover of “Africa” is only novel in that it exists. There’s no comment or perspective or wit involved… it just is. I guess.

Score: 5/10
“Africa” feels super flat, but is still slightly amusing if you remember that it’s basically just a response to a meme. The chorus works reasonably well with Cuomo’s voice. The verses are pretty cringe-y, though. The instrumentation is admirably faithful for the most part, but I’m not sure that we should just be awarding points to people who are basically just tracing things.

Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Again, this cover is ridiculously faithful to the original in terms of its instrumentation. It’s clear that the amount of time spent searching for accurate sounding keyboard patches far outweighed the amount of time anyone spent saying “Do you think this album is actually a good idea?”

This… this is just awful.

Score: 2/10
I would like to give this a 1/10, but then I would have nowhere further down to go for the next song, which is actually much worse.

Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
A few things about this:
1) Your friends could do something roughly as good as this by recording themselves into the tape deck on a mid-90s home karaoke machine.
2) This is one of the only times where I’d begrudgingly say that the creative instincts of Marilyn Manson were on point and much better than someone else’s.
3) Wow, is this performance ever embarrassing.

Score: 1/10
I can’t imagine things getting much worse than this.

Take On Me
If I wanted to listen to a shitty (read: great) version of “Take On Me”, I would just put on Reel Big Fish’s version because at least it is ska and stupid with horns and dumb irreverence. Weezer’s take on this (perfect) song sounds like it was paid for by an ad company to pay lower royalty fees for using the song in a commercial or something. This is so pointless!

Score: 2/10
You can really catch the pitch correction on this one, if you listen closely. Good stuff.

Happy Together
I love this song, but this cover is the pits. It gets reasonably rocked-up in the chorus and it sounds like they’re finally letting Pat Wilson actually hit his drums a little, but this is still pretty weak sauce. Hearing Rivers sing these verses sounds patently creepy.

Score: 3/10
This doesn’t rock, but it’s rock-adjacent compared to some of this other shit.

Paranoid
Luckily, we get a break from Rivers singing on this one. He has been replaced on this track by one of the other guys, which is initially a relief until you listen to it for more than a few seconds. Ozzy’s voice isn’t the best, but he deserves better than this. I don’t even actually really even like this song, but this cover still makes me kinda mad.

Score: 2/10
You would walk out of a dive bar if the band there did a cover that sounded this bad.

Mr. Blue Sky
Apparently this is an ELO song, but I’m not familiar with it. As such, I must recuse myself from grading this song. I think it sounds like shit, but for all I know this cover is way better than the original (not likely). You’re on your own with this one.

Score: N/A

No Scrubs
Although this traffics in the very tired arena of “White guys cover hip hop/R&B hits”, it finally sounds like these jerks are just goofing off. It doesn’t sound any less icky, but it’s definitely creeping more towards irreverence, which makes it harder to be disgusted and easier to just say “it’s great that I never have to listen to this again in my life”. The guitar tone on the bridge section is actually kind of cool.

Score: 3/10
It’s pretty dumb that this exists.

Billie Jean
We were taught years ago that a bunch of white rocker dudes probably shouldn’t be allowed to cover songs from Michael Jackson’s glory years. It actually still sounds like Weezer is “having fun” with this one, but I think it sounded like Alien Ant Farm were having “more fun” with their cover of “Smooth Criminal”. Also, at least they had the excuse of “we would like to be rich, please”. Weezer is already rich and they have no excuse for this.

Score: 2/10 
Someone should get punched in the mouth for this.

Stand By Me
This is the worst cover on the record and I don’t even want to write about it. It’s just terrible.

Score: 0/10
This makes everything else seem like a really well-executed great idea.

The Verdict

The Teal Album is an absolute disaster and I cannot believe that this has been released to the public. While covers albums are generally a bad idea, it is rare that a covers album gets released that makes Guns ‘N Roses’ The Spaghetti Incident? look interesting and competent. At least that album totally feels like the coked-out nightmare that I’m sure it was to record.

Actually, competence is perhaps the most infuriating factor here. These covers are competent almost without exception. They’re all so faithfully performed and sonically similar to the original versions that I can’t fathom why anyone would ever choose to listen to this album. Has anyone ever sat around thinking to themselves “Yeah, Annie Lennox is pretty good, but I would love to hear this song sung by Rivers Cuomo?”

If Weezer had brought a little more creativity to the table these recordings might stand up in their own right. As it is, The¬†Teal¬†Album is the definition of inessential and represents a new nadir (yet again) for their career. It’s just awful!

Mark’s Top 10 Albums of 2018

Another year has come and gone. We’re mostly happy that it’s gone. But a lot of great music came out this year!

Josh has already published his annual best-of albums list and I believe it to be far more of a definitive and measured assessment of the year’s music than my own. His list spans all genres and demonstrates a (kind of freakishly complete) grasp of what happened in the 2018 musical landscape. It is on a level that I’m simply not equipped to compete with.

That being said, I did listen to music this year and I did like a bunch of it. So here are some of my thoughts about the musical year that was, most of which are just highlights from the handful of musical genres that I have a tendency to follow closely. Could this list be more diverse? Most definitely. But I am tired and most days I just want to listen to some unwashed dudes beating the shit out of some guitars.

Enjoy!

Honourable Mentions

A lot of records come out in a year and I only hear a handful of them, but I hear a lot more than just ten! Here are some things that came out this year that I enjoyed and that I think deserve a listen, but that I didn’t listen to quite as fervently as my proper top 10.

Colter¬†Wall¬†–¬†Songs¬†of¬†the¬†Plains
This is an almost too perfectly traditional new C&W album. In a time when Country music is often the pits, it’s nice to hear something that echoes the sounds of the genre’s roots. Also, how perfect is it that this album plumbs the landscape of central Canada for its inspiration? It’s the land that time forgot!

Boyhood¬†–¬†Bad¬†Mantras
Finally released this year following a long gestation period, Bad¬†Mantras doesn’t disappoint. More great work from a songwriter that deserves more attention, featuring stronger production work and a more refined sound. Recommended.

Anderson¬†.Paak¬†–¬†Oxnard
I really enjoyed Anderson .Paak’s last record, and Oxnard is perhaps even better. It was released pretty late in the year and I’ve only given it a few spins, but I love the sound of the tunes and production. Cool stuff. Although, I gotta admit… If you go ahead and give the car blowjob song (complete with skit) the number two spot on your record, you’re making a really strange choice. Not great.

Boygenius¬†–¬†Boygenius¬†EP
This is a strong collaboration project from three pretty great singer songwriters. Were it not an EP and were it released a little earlier in the year, it could have edged into my top 10. We’ll talk a little more about Lucy Dacus later, but this six-song set that she’s created with Julien Baker and Pheobe Bridgers is very solid. Here’s a live video. From Carson Daly’s show. Carson Daly is alive?

Better Late Than Nevers

It’s impossible to listen to everything in a year, even just from the niche corners of the music world that I tend to creep around in. Invariably, I will wind up coming to some albums that I had missed because they wind up on other year-end best-of lists. Here are a few that I’ve been listening to recently that I had snoozed on during their proper releases.

Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
I will admit to completely ignoring what was apparently some kind of huge comeback for this band who I will admit to completely ignoring during their initial period of relevance. Upon noticing the near-universal acclaim that this album had garnered, though, I gave it a spin. Holy smokes. This is a deep, weird, dark pit of an album. You Won’t Get What You Want is front-to-back unsettling in a way that really stands out and that I find very exciting. Had I heard this earlier in the year, it probably would have made my top 10!

Candy¬†–¬†Good¬†To¬†Feel
This album is pretty bonkers and its audacity made me chuckle a bunch of times on first listen. Also my second and third listens. I don’t even know what you call a record that seems to be a hardcore powerviolence act who also think that they’re a thrash band who also decide to end their record with a shoegaze-y indie pop song. But lemme tell you, I am HERE FOR IT. This video is pretty stupid, though.

Most Disappointing

There were a number of albums that I had been looking forward to when the year kicked off. Some of them met (or exceeded) my expectations. Others fell kind of flat for me. Here are a few albums that wound up disappointing me this year.

Courtney¬†Barnett¬†–¬†Tell¬†Me¬†How¬†You¬†Really¬†Feel
I’m a big fan of Courtney Barnett’s prior releases, and I loved the first two preview tracks off of this album. So I was very excited for the proper release. I was disappointed to find very little on the album that I liked more than the lead-off singles. It’s all still fairly good and very listenable, but there’s something about this album that feels bummed-out and dour where her earlier records had sort of delivered songs about bummer topics with a bit of a clever wink and a skip in their step. Still very good, but not really what I wanted.

Pig¬†Destroyer¬†–¬†Head¬†Cage
I took a deep dive into Pig Destroyer in 2012 after their last album, Book¬†Burner, was released. They’ve become one of my go-to bands for a shot of super fun, intensely heavy music. So I was pretty disappointed by this set of songs. I think I’ve only listened to the thing once. I might return to it, because I might be wrong. Am I wrong? Does one work at letting a Pig Destroyer record “grow on” them? Who knows.

Top 10

Here are my top ten albums of 2018! The order isn’t super important, but I’ll number them anyway.

10 – Shame¬†–¬†Songs¬†of¬†Praise
I think that these young British creeps have a great vibe. I listened to this album quite a bit this year! “Dust on Trial” is a terrific, lurching opener.

9 – Anna¬†Meredith¬†–¬†Eighth¬†Grade¬†soundtrack
Although this collection contains selections from Anna Meredith’s 2016 album, those tracks are complimented by even more wonderful compositions and sounds. This is really good music to work to and really good walkin’¬†around music. I listened to it more than I would have thought.

8 – Jon¬†Hopkins¬†–¬†Singularity
I feel as though I used to make a lot of fun of people for liking this kind of thing. But here we are. Me in my middle 30s. Liking an instrumental electronic music album. Walking around listening to it on public transit thinking “maybe we are the machines”. I hate myself. This album is pretty good.

7 – Soccer¬†Mommy¬†–¬†Clean
I listened the hell out of Clean this year. Although the record starts to drop off a bit in its back half, there are a pile of great tunes to be found here. Sophie Allison has a knack for sharp hooks and vulnerably biting lyricism. Although I have to admit that I felt like a real old oldster listening to these songs about young people problems. So much potential here. Great stuff.

6 – Lucy¬†Dacus¬†–¬†Historian
I enjoyed the clever songwriting and wry lyricism of Dacus’ last album, but I wasn’t really prepared for just how good Historian would be. The expanded arrangements and thoughtful compositions go a long way in allowing Dacus’ lyrical talents to shine. Few artists hit the right balance when writing tunes that feel both melancholy and witty, but this artist excels. A very solid, smartly arranged album. It filled up a good segment of my listening in early 2018.

5 – Gouge¬†Away¬†–¬†Burnt¬†Sugar
Another album to file under the “fulfilment of potential” category, Gouge Away’s sophomore effort really took me by surprise. Their previous album, while a great hardcore album, was relatively straightforward. Burnt¬†Sugar is another beast altogether, containing nods to post-rock, grunge and noise rock, all while maintaining the band’s sharp rage. Great musical moments abound. One of my favourites of the year.

4 – Hot¬†Snakes¬†–¬†Jericho¬†Sirens
Seems like a lot of attention was given to the triumphant return of Daughters this year and a little less was paid to the triumphant return of the fucking Hot Snakes. This record smokes. So much fun to listen to. It’s pretty rare these days that I hear a record and I want to sit down and learn how to play all of the songs because all of the guitar parts sound like so much fun. But all of these guitar parts sound so fun to play. I love this record.

3 – Idles¬†–¬†Joy¬†as¬†an¬†Act¬†of¬†Resistance
In a year that seemed full of fun punk records, this was the punk record that seemed the most fun to me. Joy is a sing-along, shout-along, laugh-out-loud riot of an album. Containing some of my favourite lyrics of the year, Idles tackle an array of hot button issues ranging from Brexit to toxic masculinity, and they do so with a gleefully irreverent swagger. Top marks!

2 – The¬†Armed¬†–¬†Only¬†Love
We’ve already gone on at length about Only¬†Love, and its inclusion on my list should come as no surprise. I love The Armed. With¬†Only¬†Love, they have outdone themselves. Sprawling, spastic, strangely uplifting, this is the feel-good record that makes good people with normal ears feel bad. I think my favourite musical moment of the entire year came upon hearing the back half of “Witness”, marvelling at how such a godawful racket could be so… pretty? It’s an endlessly beguiling collection of tunes and it is almost certainly my album of the year.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BoDchaJHUnE/

My other favourite musical moment of the year was going to see The Armed play live in a scary basement. Thanks to Aaron for this video. Lolz look at that little kid go flying. It’s the best.

1 – Mass¬†–¬†Everyone
The real best album of this year was the album that my band put out.
Because it is our best album and you’re all shitheads for not listening to it.
What the hell is wrong with all of you?

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