Posts Tagged ‘album reviews’

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Album Reviews (December 2019)

January 5, 2020

A good rule of thumb in order for me to rate an album is that I probably need to listen to it at least twice. Possibly the only exception to this rule is when I deem an album unlistenable and can barely (or can’t) even make it through the whole album the first time. Listening to and evaluating music is a pretty fluid process though, so all ratings are subject to change in the future as albums grow on me or I realize I initially overrated them.

When I list the best tracks for each album, I will bold any song I added to my Bangers Playlist, meaning I think it’s one of the standout tracks of the entire year.

I only used this for the last couple of albums I rated, but here’s a scale I came up with for rating each song:
5 – All-Timer
4.5 – Super Banger
4 – Banger
3.5 – Keeper
3 – Cool
2.5 – Decent
2 – Weak
1 – Trash

Kanye WestJESUS IS KING (Gospel/Rap) – A full album devoted to Kanye’s… devotion to his faith? Ugh, no thanks. But we are talking about an all-time great musician here, so I’m obliged to listen and, well, it’s about as (un)enjoyable as I thought it would be. I think I’ve listened to it in entirety 4-5 times as I write this and most of it still doesn’t stick with me. This is the worst project Kanye has ever released. The direction of the album already turns me off, but I was hoping the music would still be good. I’m not a fan. I think I genuinely like two songs on this album.

Best Tracks: “On God” “Selah”

Verdict: No Thanks

Emotional OrangesThe Juice, Vol. II (R&B/Soul) – This is pure feel good music that you could have on in the background of a party and everyone would probably be content about it. The production on this album is pretty high quality and songs like “West Coast Love” and “Not Worth It” are pure fire. This a short little album that bumps the whole way through.

Best Tracks: “West Coast Love” “Not Worth It” “Don’t Be Lazy”

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

03 Greedo & Kenny BeatsNetflix & Deal (Rap) – I was really impressed by this album. I think there’s maybe one song on here I didn’t really like. Greedo isn’t a super strong rapper, but he’s creative and clearly has a talent for crafting catchy and memorable songs. The production on here is also really well done and I’d be all over it if this duo put out another album together. I basically only listened to this album because of the strong list of guest features – Freddie Gibbs, Vince Staples, Maxo Kream, Buddy – but I’m glad I did. It was a very pleasant surprise. I currently don’t have any songs on my Best of 2019 playlist, but that’s certainly subject to change. I think there are plenty of standouts, but I’m still unsure if any of them are certifiably amazing. This is a strong album with very few weak spots.

Best Tracks: “Disco S**t” feat. Freddie Gibbs “Maria” “Blue People” feat. Vince Staples “Brad Pitt” “Soul Food” feat. Buddy

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

Brother AliSecrets & Escapes (Rap) – Once upon a time, I thought Brother Ali was one of the best rappers in the game. His first few albums all are amazing. If you haven’t listened to Shadows on the Sun, the Champion EP, and The Undisputed Truth, put them on your to do list. That’s a rapper operating at the highest level. Since then, I’ve become progressively less excited about Ali and this latest project is one of his least memorable. Ali usually works with Ant (of Atmosphere) on the boards, but on this album I believe Evidence (of Dilated Peoples) does most of the production and it is an unfortunate departure. I really like Evidence as a rapper, but Ant is a way better producer – at least for Ali’s sound. Ali can still rap at an elite level though and that makes things at least somewhat enjoyable. Still, if I were to introduce someone to Ali’s music I wouldn’t even mention this album.

Best Tracks: “Father Figures” “Red” feat. Evidence

Verdict: Decent

Little BrotherMay the Lord Watch (Rap) – Little Brother is a hip-hop collective out of North Carolina that had a run of great albums throughout the 2000s before disbanding in 2010. Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh reunite here on their fifth studio album, but longtime producer 9th Wonder is completely absent from the project. Still, May the Lord Watch manages to sound very cohesive and feels like a proper sequel to Little Brother’s 2005 album The Minstrel Show. Phonte is on my all-time underrated list and he’s still rapping at a nearly elite level here, although I prefer his solo album No News is Good News from last year. There’s nothing flashy here; this is mature grown folk music. There are a lot of good tracks on this album – and no real weak songs – but nothing that really blew my mind either.

Best Tracks: “The Feel,” “Everything,” “Sittin Alone,” All in a Day”

Avg. rating: 3.3/5

Verdict: Recommended

SiRChasing Summer (R&B/Soul) – This was the first album that I gave a song-by-song rating for and it was a little disappointing to me. I had listened to this quite a bit already and thought it was pretty good, but there are really only a couple of standout tracks on this. The lead single “Hair Down” has the best hook and beat on the album plus Kendrick Lamar absolutely destroying his verse while completely switching up his flow at least five times while doing so. It also happens to be the first track. “John Redcorn” is the second song and also the second best song on the album. That means that the album peaks very early and never comes close to reaching the heights of the first two songs. I think the album is mostly good though with only a couple songs I thought were merely decent. Worth a listen for sure.

Best Tracks: “Hair Down” feat. Kendrick Lamar, “John Redcorn,” “Still Blue” feat. Jill Scott, “Mood”

Avg. rating: 3.14/5

Verdict: Recommended

KembaGilda (Rap) – This has to be one of the most overlooked albums of the year, as I have hardly seen anyone talk about it, yet I don’t think this has a single weak song on it, while almost half the songs are certified bangers. It’s a bit of a dark album, with Kemba lamenting, ‘I learned metaphors before I knew what’s a credit score/ I’m sure that’s a bar that’s never been said before/ mail at my door offered me a new credit card/ cause if you poor they’ll make sure you forever poor‘ on “Captain Planet” and it doesn’t get much more bleek than his hook on the somewhat disturbing but absolutely beautiful “Dysfunction”: ‘I’m nothing more than insignificant/ all my hopes and my dreams, all my goals, my achievements, were pure coincidence/ I am but a speck… of dust.‘ Yikes. It’s truly haunting, but I can’t stop listening to it. The album ends on a higher note, with both “Last Year Being Broke” and “Alive” showing signs of optimism. This is a true piece of art and more people should be listening to it.

Best Tracks: “Dysfunction,” “Nobody I Can Trust,” “Exhale” feat. Smino, “Alive” feat. Eric Bellinger

Avg. rating: 3.68/5

Verdict: Must Listen

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New Music Friday – 10/27/2017

October 31, 2017

New Playlist Additions

Snoop DoggMake America Crip Again (hip-hop/rap) – Snoop has released approximately three projects since Doggystyle that I’ve been a legitimate fan of. Needless to say, I don’t care about this, but I’ll let it spend a couple weeks in my most prominent playlist and see if anything catches my ear.

Big K.R.I.T.4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (hip-hop/rap) – There was a point in time when K.R.I.T. was unquestionably one of the best up-and-coming rappers. I admittedly haven’t listened to his last couple albums and that’s probably because they didn’t get overwhelmingly positive feedback –
but also because I was kind of in music hibernation. I will give this a dedicated listen at some point this week and I really have no idea what to expect.

YelawolfTrial By Fire (hip-hop/rap) – I wouldn’t say Yelawolf is exactly my cup of tea – his style definitely has a southern and country twang to it – but he’s plenty capable of making some good rap music. His last album Love Story had multiple songs that made my Best of 2016 playlist. Yelawolf has proven he’s worthy of checking out, so I will also give this album a dedicated listen this week.

Other Notable Releases

Yo GottiI Still Am (hip-hop/rap)

Ty Dolla $ignBeach House 3 (hip-hop/rap) – I maaaaaaay add this to my playlist, but I’m pretty sure this dude doesn’t grab me.

Kelly ClarksonMeaning of Life (pop)

WeezerPacific Daydream (alternative)

112Q Mike Slim Daron (r&b/soul) – I was just wondering the other day what happened to 112… I guess I could find out?

Previous October Albums

Brent FaiyazSonder Son (r&b/soul) – I’ve listened to this album about 3.5 times now and I’m loving it. There are multiple songs on here that sound like old classics and that I’ll eventually be adding to my Best of 2017 playlist. It’s early, but this could possibly be my favorite R&B release of the year.

H.E.R.H.E.R. (r&B/soul) – Can’t say much about this yet because I’ve only listened to two songs so far.

Hustle GangWe Want Smoke (hip-hop/rap) – Hustle Gang is a lot of T.I., some B.o.B. and a bunch of guys I’ve never really heard or care about. I’ve listened to one song so far and I doubt I’ll ever give this a full listen.

Wu-TangThe Saga Continues (hip-hop/rap) – I’ve listened to the first half of the album four times and the second half twice, so I’m still getting a feel for some of it. I know this much: Method Man absolutely destroys over multiple appearances. He not only sounds completely rejuvenated, but as good as he ever has – so many quotables from Meth: “Mayday! Mayday! But no charge, I’m nutty with the bars/ that’s a Payday, so bruh (sober), this ain’t even a bar, this is AA.” The production is also a massive highlight. I stopped giving albums numbered ratings, but I can say this much: this Wu-Tang album is inching up my Very Good category and getting consideration for Top Notch, which puts it in Albums of the Year territory.

dvsnMorning After (r&b/soul) – I learned something new this weekend: this dude’s name is pronounced as “division” – I’ve always sounded the letters out individually. Interesting. I gave this a full listen driving back to Washington from Reno and while I found it enjoyable enough, nothing really jumped out at me like “In + Out” or “With Me” did on last year’s SEPT. 5TH. I can’t imagine I will give this many more dedicated listens, but it will remain in my top Playlist for a while.

BeckTrue Colors (alternative) – My play count says I’ve listened to zero songs so far, but I know I’ve heard at least one. Either way, I clearly have no opinion yet. I’d really like to branch out of the hip-hop and R&B genres, but I rarely know what albums I should be listening to. Beck has been nominated for Album of the Year three times at the Grammy Awards, which seems pretty strong.

Dame D.O.L.L.A.CONFIRMED (hip-hop/rap) – NBA star Damian Lilliard is also an accomplished emcee that goes by the name Dame D.O.L.L.A.. CONFIRMED is his second major release, following last year’s The Letter O which sort of shocked me and I found to be very good. After a couple listens, I’m not liking this album as much. Compared to his first album, this one seems to be lacking in substance and I didn’t notice any actual growth from Dame vocally or in his songwriting. I don’t have a full grasp on the album yet, but I’m pretty confident there’s a handful of songs I never need to hear again.

New Best of 2017 Playlist Additions

“Found A Way” – Dave East, Paranoia: A True Story

“If Time Is Money (Fly Navigation)” – Wu-Tang, The Saga Continues (Method Man solo)

“Memories On 47th St.” – Vic Mensa, The Autobiography

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Francis and the Lights – Farewell, Starlite! (2016)

November 12, 2016

I was scrolling through Twitter one day when I saw Chance The Rapper mention that he couldn’t stop listening to the new Francis and the Lights album. Now, I’ve never heard of Francis and the Lights, but Chance has been one of my top 5 musicians over the past year, so obviously I trust his taste in music. He didn’t let me down.

Farewell, Starlite! is labeled on Apple Music as hip-hop/rap but that’s incredibly misleading. I had no idea what to expect, but it’s safe to say that I was NOT expecting an album with literally zero rapping on it. It’s honestly hard to categorize what Francis and the Lights is – and it’s kind of odd for me to pick this as my first Album of the Moment because I’ve never reviewed a non-hip-hop album. But the music is so good on this short 10 track album that it just has to be recognized. I guess I’d say it’s folky pop. Is that a thing? Easy Listening? I’m not sure.

The band consists of Francis Farewell Starlite (his legal name, but not his given name) and, as he says: “there are no members… it is me and whomever else is involved. Including you.” As far as I can tell, Francis is the only vocalist in the band – if there even is one – and while his lyrics aren’t mind-blowing by any means, he is clearly a master at crafting incredibly infectious songs. For instance, “Comeback” has no business being as enjoyable as it is. If you were to read this song about a friend that had to stay home while his buddies went to a fun party, on paper it would look pretty corny, but Francis’ vocals bring it to life in a way that just makes you want to smile.

While I find every song on Farewell, Starlite! enjoyable, my two favorite tracks are “My City’s Gone” and “It’s Alright To Cry.” The former features hip-hop superstar Kanye West, but his vocal contributions are limited to harmonizing the chorus. The forlorn story of a man whose hometown has become unrecognizable to him is worthy enough of my Best Of 2016 playlist. “It’s Alright To Cry” is as addictive as it gets. It’s impossible to listen to this song and not absently sing the hook for days to come.

It’s always nice when an artist that is totally unknown to you releases an album that is one of the year’s best. Farewell, Starlite! is the rare album where every song is good. While Francis and the Lights certainly is not hip-hop music, the singer’s style blends seamlessly with rap as his previous collaborations with Drake and Chance The Rapper have shown. He also features with Chance on a song on the upcoming The Hamilton Mixtape, which is to be released later this year. Farewell, Starlite! is solid from top to bottom and ranks as one of my favorite albums of 2016. Francis is a star in the making and this album is an absolute must listen.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Essential Listening/Excellent)