Author: kaylubd

I am a writer who loves music. Both have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I love revisiting some of my favorite albums, but I also look for new opportunities to find new music, also. Besides music and writing I also like video games (one of my favorites is Saint's Row the Third) and reading.

Notable Releases of 2018

Disappointing Album of 2018:

Gravity – Bullet For My Valentine

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After hearing lead single “Over It,” my expectations for Gravity were pretty low.  Unfortunately, I was right to not get excited. This is radio friendly Bullet for My Valentine and it’s so bland. The fire and fury that normally drives their music are practically snuffed out. Songs like “Not Dead Yet” and “Under Again” all sound like every other rock band on the radio. The music is decent at best, but it never gives you that rush of adrenaline or burst of excitement. Bullet For My Valentine always pumps me up and gets my fist in the air. These songs just didn’t do that for me. The radio friendly vibe isn’t this album’s problem. It’s the uninspired songs.

The album is just so underwhelming. A few of the songs are pretty good, but the rest is tolerable at best. While I did enjoy some tracks like “Leap of Faith” and “Letting You Go” it wasn’t enough to save the album. The songs are lackluster. There’s nothing about them that sounds distinctly like Bullet For My Valentine.  And it’s such a letdown. The band has never been shy about tweaking their sound. After being in a band for over 10 years, you want to shake things up a bit. That’s fine. But they went in such a generic direction. Even the lyrics are subpar and fail to leave a lasting impression. In an attempt to find a larger audience, the band may have alienated longtime fans with this unremarkable album.

Surprising Comeback Album:

Kamikaze – Eminem

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Looking back, it’s clear that Eminem’s Revival should’ve been my pick for 2017’s Worst Album. I already talked about it, but let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. Luckily, Eminem’s surprise LP Kamikaze more than made up for it. It’s telling that the rapper is at his best when he’s seething with anger – just listen to his “Chloraseptic” remix released in response to Revival’s bad reviews. The fire that many thought was snuffed out was lit and burning once again. Here, he’s on the loose and no one is safe. He channels the days of Slim Shady when calling out rappers like Tyler, the Creator, Drake, and Joe Budden. And let’s not forget the whole probably fake Machine Gun Kelly beef.

Songs like “Lucky You” and “Stepping Stone” are filled with Eminem’s sick lyrical flow reminiscent of that found on The Eminem Show. Yet, the album isn’t perfect. Some songs don’t hold up like “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy.” They’re okay but are pretty weak entries. Still, Kamikaze was an album we didn’t see coming and it’s far better than the misguided Revival. Though I wouldn’t say it’s his best release. Let’s hope he stays on point for his next release.

Most Impressive Debut:

Tū – Alien Weaponry

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Alien Weaponry is one of metal’s most talked about bands and for good reason: they’re fucking good. Listening to their hard driving, yet catchy debut album it’s hard to believe these guys are only in their teens. Part of what makes the album standout is half of the songs are written in the te reo Māori language. The band have Māori ancestry and grew up listening to stories of the tribe, how they had to fight for their people and their land. The language is in danger of dying and in an effort to save it, the band uses Māori in their songs and even writes about the native tribes.

The album is filled with crushing songs like “Urutaa” and “Kai Tangata.” The songs are so good, I find myself singing along even though I don’t speak or understand Māori. Everything from the searing riffs to the throbbing percussion and the fierce sound riles you up and makes you go wild. Though Alien Weaponry are clearly influenced by thrash forefathers like Anthrax and Metallica, they bring something new the genre. They sound fresh, exciting, and ready to tackle the world with the spirit of Māori behind them. Do yourself a favor and check them out if you haven’t already.

Album I Couldn’t Get Into:

My Mind Makes Noises – Pale Waves

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Pale Waves is a phenomenon I still don’t understand. They grew a fan base of millions based on three singles. Many praised them as the best new band even though they didn’t even have an EP to their name. I’ll admit, their melancholic, 80s vibe can be catchy, but it’s nothing mind blowing. I thought their EP, All the Things I Never Said, was decent and had some bouncy songs, but it didn’t wow me. I hoped their highly anticipated full-length album would change my mind. It didn’t.

The album is fine, but it just didn’t do anything for me. Aside from a few of their singles, nothing stuck. All the songs had that same upbeat yet sad vibe to them. The music, mood, and sound of the songs are remarkably similar to one another. And it doesn’t help their case that they bare striking similarities to The 1975.  Even though I liked a few of the songs, like “The Tide” and “Television Romance” there was nothing about the album that made me want to revisit it. If you listen to The Cure or The 1975 then you’ve already heard what this band has to offer.

Underrated Album:

Criminal – The Soft Moon

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When The Soft Moon announced they would be touring with Nine Inch Nails, I decided to check them out. While their first few albums didn’t captivate me, I really enjoyed their fourth release, Criminal. I found myself listening to it repeatedly. Their mix of darkwave, post-punk, and industrial is hypnotizing. Listening to songs like “Young, “ILL”, and “Burn” felt like I was under a trance and hitting rock bottom with Luis Vasquez. Though songs like “It Kills” and “Choke” are oddly catchy, the album is bleak as hell. You don’t even need to hear the lyrics to know there’s some heavy shit going on. Vasquez addresses issues like his abusive childhood and his absent father.

All that frustration, pain, anger, and sadness is channeled here. This isn’t just an album you listen to; it’s an album you feel. Vasquez’s feelings are felt in every drum loop, every synth beat, every echoing bass line. Vaquez’s production really drew me in. There are so many layers and elements to the music you’ll hear something different each time. At times the music is menacing and violent, with notes clashing and screeching riffs. Other times, it’s melodic, yet fragile; the music is so gentle it’s eerie and leaves you with chills. Everything from the compelling music to the lyrics makes Criminal standout. If you’re a fan of Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, and Cabaret Voltaire, then this is an album you should pick it up.

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Best Album of 2018

Time & Space – Turnstile

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While searching for new music, one band I kept running into was Turnstile. I gave their second album Time & Space, a listen and holy shit did it blow my mind. Listening to songs like “Real Thing” and “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind” felt like I was being blindsided by their ferocity, intensity, and unapologetic nature. The album is 25 minutes of contained chaos on the brink of explosion.

Aside from Turnstile just being fucking awesome, they also don’t play by the rules. They don’t give a shit about hardcore’s strict boundaries. Rather, they blend their hard driving sound with elements of metal, groove, and psychedelic creating an album that never gets stale. “Bomb” is a weird fusion of lounge jazz and Muzak while “Generator” incorporates elements of grunge. A lot of what they include in their music is unexpected, like the soulful crooning on “Moon” and the easy listening vibe of their interludes.

Songs like “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind,” “Generator,” and “(Lost Another) Piece of My World” feature melodic hooks making the tracks oddly catchy despite how heavy they are. There’s also an undeniable groove to them thanks to the heavy bass that gets you moving beyond moshing. Their willingness to play with their sound not only makes them stand out, but it also shows how talented they are. It’s easy to be loud and aggressive, but it takes more than noise to successfully turn a genre on its head successfully.

Listening to Time & Space feels like you’re constantly being assaulted, yet you keep asking for more. Turnstile is a force of nature from how they attack their instruments to Brendan Yates’ screeching vocals bearing a slight resemblance to Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Rocha. This is a band that genuinely makes me excited for what they’re gonna do next. They’re not only great, but they inject new life into the hardcore scene with an album that hits like a cyclone.

Runner Up:

Knowing What You Now Know – Marmozets

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Marmozets’ second album, Knowing What You Know Now, is one of the most thrilling records I listened to this year. As soon as I heard the hard driving guitars and Becca McIntyre’s howling vocals on “Play” I was hooked. The album is full of high energy, catchy songs like “Major System Error” and “Lost in Translation” that gets your adrenaline pumping and make it impossible to sit still. They attack every song with ferocity, fire, and passion making them an irresistible listen.

What captivated me was how fun the album is. Songs like “Habits,” “Lost in Translation,” and “Suffocated” make you want to get up and jump around. You can picture being at a raucous show while listening to their songs. And after hearing the songs only a few times, they were stuck in my head for days. Clearly, the band is just having a good time being loud and rocking out.

Aside from their crunching guitar driving sound, McIntyre’s vocals left me impressed the most. Her voice is powerful, and, on this album, she shows off her impressive range. She not only screams with enough intensity to rip her vocal cords, she also has the ability to croon and hold a note as heard on tracks like “Run with the Rhythm.” She even sounds eerie like on “Insomnia” where she sings in a gentle, haunting voice. It left me with chills. And after listening to their past releases, it’s easy to hear how McIntyre has grown as a singer. She’s on her way to becoming one of the best singer’s in rock music.

Knowing What You Now Know is just a lot of fun to listen to. It’s full of blood pumping anthems that make you want to jump around and dance uncontrollably. Marmozets keep things from getting stale with ballads that still have the same drive, power, and energy as when they’re rocking out. The album is an unforgettable experience that proves rock music is alive and well.

Worst Album of 2018

Man of the Woods – Justin Timberlake

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When Justin Timberlake announced his new album, Man of the Woods, I was excited. Until I saw the promo. I didn’t know what to think. Is this a new, folksy Justin? Is he trying to be down to Earth? It was something even worse: a dull, disjointed album full of tolerable, but safe songs.

Man of the Woods sounds like what happens when you regret your nights spent clubbing and head into the woods to find yourself. Timberlake wants it both ways: he wants to keep his upbeat, dance vibe intact while exploring a more mellow side. And there’s nothing wrong with this, but he manages to do it in the dullest way possible. The biggest issue with the album is very few of the songs are lasting. Tracks like “Midnight Summer Jam” and “Wave” aren’t bad but are pretty average. It’s telling when the most memorable song on the record is the weird, funk-laden “Filthy.”

Another issue is the album isn’t fun, which is what a good Timberlake album should be. Most of the songs are forgettable and end up sounding too generic. Others get dull after a few seconds, like the well-meaning “Morning Light” or “The Hard Stuff.” There are very few songs that grab your attention and make you want to dance. Most of the songs are just there. When listening to the album they’re fine, but they’re not something you’d be itching to hear outside of it.

I also found a good chunk of the album to be awkward. The line “I like your pink/you like my purple” from “Sauce” still makes me gag and hearing his wife, Jessica Biel, blather on and on during the interludes makes me roll my eyes so hard I think they’ll pop out of my head. And I can never get over “Flannel,” an ode to a shirt. It’s not clever or funny. It’s just bad. Then out of nowhere comes “Supplies” his attempt at a trap song filled with generic hip hop beats and a terrible hook. I can’t help but groan every time it plays.

Man of the Woods is just weird. I can appreciate Timberlake for trying a new direction, but it doesn’t work on this album. It’s forgettable, it’s not fun, and it’s dull. This is an album I listened to a few times and never sought again. There just isn’t anything here to make you come back and listen to the entire thing.

Playlist: Let’s Get Weird This Christmas

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Holidays have the potential to bring out the best and worst in us. They can also bring out the weird in us. Rather than singing about Santa Claus, spending time with the family, and frosty the snowman, these songs dive into weird territory you wouldn’t expect for Christmas. So if you’ve been listening to “All I Want for Christmas is You” since October and are ready to gouge your eardrums, check out these weird, creepy, and hilarious Christmas songs.

“Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas)” – The Weather Girls

The holidays can be a real drag without someone to cuddle up to as The Weather Girls know. There’s only one thing they have on their list: a man. The girls kick things on a sentimental note talking about having someone to wrap your arms around. But things kick into high gear when the disco music starts and Izora Armstead sings “Bring me a man!” The girls are straight to the point on this funky song and don’t waste time being coy. They even get downright dirty by asking Santa to leave a man under the tree “dim the lights down low/and let it snow.” It’s a weird song to get you in the spirit, but it’s a bonafide jam. Though you may not want to play this one around the family.

“Christmas with Satan” – James Chance

This is what a Christmas song would sound like in Hell, which is probably the point. While Chance wails about why partying with the devil during the holiday is the best, demented renditions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bells,” and other carols screech along with him. The entire thing is a freaking nightmare that gets worse and worse. It sounds like something that would be played at a creepy clown party. Sorry for that image. The uncut ten-minute version is even worse with Chance painfully screaming and slamming the piano keys like he’s five years old. If this is what Christmas sounds like with Satan then count me out.

“Scary Fucked Up Christmas” – Garfunkel and Oates

For some Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with family. For others, it’s a terrible time to spend with family. So what’s the solution? Toke up. Garfunkel and Oates sing about getting high so Christmas won’t seem so bad. But of course, things get worse when you start tripping balls. Now, you’re worried about the snowman at your door, noticing shoes on meatloaf, and trying to bat away incestuous thoughts when you see your cousin. The duo’s quirky lyrics and mention of other famous December 25 birthdays (Happy birthday Karl Rove) make this a funny, but odd holiday song. And remember, no matter if you’re high or not Christmas is always scary and fucked up.

“Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS” – Tiny Tim

Want to instantly kill your holiday spirit? Then listen to this bizarre Christmas song from Tiny Tim. Yes, it’s as bad as the title makes it sound. Tiny Tim sings about Santa missing the holiday because of his condition. No more ho, ho, ho-ing, no more spreading Christmas cheer, no more sleigh rides. If that’s not enough to scar your then images of the nurses and the reindeer crying about Santa surely will. The whole thing is fucked up especially when you consider how AIDS was viewed during the 80s. According to Tiny Tim, the song is actually about the diet supplement Ayds and was written before Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS, becoming the first major celebrity to die from the illness. With lyrics mentioning hospital beds and sad nurses, it seems unlikely. It seems like he just wanted to avoid any backlash.

“Christmas Rhapsody” – Pledge Drive

Do you love Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but wish it had more Christmas flair? Pledge Drive has you covered with this, weird, yet impressive tribute to Queen. The iconic song is entirely rewritten with references to Santa Claus, flying reindeer, and singing carols. It follows the structure and flow of the Queen classic perfectly. While it’s a little hokey, it’s actually pretty good. The references don’t feel clunky or forced and it ends up being as catchy as the original. The highlight is the opera portion with the iconic line “Bismillah! No, we will not let you go/(Let him go!)” replaced with “Kris Kringle! No! Do not give him coal! Give him coal!” It’s a weird, yet, delightful treat for Queen fans. Good luck trying not to sing the actual lyrics though.

“Disco Christmas” – Universal Robot Band

In the 70s disco was like a bad cough you could never get rid of. The genre proved to be so popular, artists like Aretha Franklin and KISS even got on board. Even Christmas songs couldn’t escape disco as this 1977 gem shows. Sounding like “The Hustle” mixed with “Jingle Bells,” most of the “lyrics” is just Santa Claus and Rudolph trading insults with each other. Santa calls Rudolph ugly and in response, he calls Santa a “jive turkey.” They even spend a full verse arguing over each other while the background singers cheerily sing about “hustling around the tree.”  It feels like a weird parody song with references to 70s clichés like platform boots and phrases like “slap me five.” And this is only one of several disco themed Christmas songs. There are plenty of albums filled with disco versions of Christmas classics with the worst of them all being curated by Irwin, the Disco Duck. This must be Christmas in hell.

“R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” – Christmas in the Stars

This song is so bad on so many levels. You have the interludes with R2-D2 chirping and C3PO being a neurotic fuck. Then there are children saying how much they love R2-D2 and how they want him to spend Christmas with him sounding weirdly ominous the whole time. But the weirdest thing about this song is that it’s Jon Bon Jovi’s first performance. Yes, before he fronted your mom’s favorite rock band, he sang about having a magical Christmas with an android. There are so many questions when listening to this song: why are they singing like R2-D2 is badly injured? Is R2-D2 the equivalent of Santa Claus in space? Why the fuck does Bon Jovi sound like one of The Monkees? And imagine there are eight more terrible songs filled with clunky references to Star Wars on the album, including the equally awful “What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)”. You’d think Star Wars would stay far away from Christmas after the infamous wreck Christmas special only two years prior.

“Santa Dog” – The Residents

If this song is anything to go by then Christmas with The Residents is terrifying. The short song has Randy Rose repeating “Santa Dog’s a Jesus Fetus” and “A fleeting and a sleeting scene of snowness and of sleeves” while the rest of the members shout “bing, bing bing, bong, bong, bong.” Things get bleak with the notion of no presents and no presence in the future. Apparently, the song is about a wiener dog in Santa suit. Mostly, it’s an excuse to point out the “Santa/satan” anagram and freak everyone out. The ridiculous lyrics, jaunty music, and creepy singing make it more appropriate for a Tim Burton film than a holiday party.

“Homo Christmas” – Pansy Division

Similar to The Weather Girls, Pansy Division just wants a man for Christmas. This pop-punk tune celebrates being gay at Christmas and lists all the things they want, which include a nice hard cock and lots of boning. Frontman Jon Ginoli gleefully sings about how he wants to spend the holiday, which involves “Licking nipples / Licking nuts / Putting candy canes / Up each other’s butts.” It’s a campy song that’s ridiculous and funny, but it’s also a form of relief. According to Ginoli he wrote the song as a sort of therapy because  “Christmas can be stressful, especially since it’s a ‘family’ time, and I wrote [the song] thinking that it would give certain people hope on a day that sometimes sucks, especially when
the person you really want to be with doesn’t fit into certain definitions of family.” So, in a way, the song is kind of heartfelt, if you look past all the licking of body parts.

“Merry Christmas Santa Claus” – Max Headroom

You know when a fad has gone too far when they invade the music world. And in 1986, Max Headroom did that with this Christmas single. “Why?” is what you’ll keep asking yourself as you listen to Max glitch and stutter about loving Santa perhaps a bit too much. Max’s love for Santa gets creepy as he talks about loving Santa from “the top of your Christmas stocking/to the bottom of your Christmas bottom.” He even talks about bringing a big sack of Santa love. Best to leave this song alone and forget this song ever happened.

“Santa Claus is Watching You” – Ray Stevens

The older you get the more you realize Santa is kind of a creep. He sees when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake. As a kid, this was just part of Santa’s magic, but it sounds more nefarious as an adult. This is the angle Ray Stevens takes for this comedic tune. Stevens warns his lover that she better stay faithful and treat him right because Santa is always watching. As the song goes on, his behavior gets downright obsessive. Phones are being tapped, Rudolph has a constant eye on the house, and Santa’s the head of the CIA. Santa is a looming threat here and it’s pretty offputting. Stevens’ slurring vocals and manic screams of “He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!” will surely make you laugh, but you’ll be looking over your shoulder while you’re doing it.

“Deck My Balls” – Afroman

How many other holiday songs do you know that open with the line “Lick my balls with lots of salvia/fa la la la/la la la la?” This is only one of the many obscene gems you get from this song. You won’t find any mention of holiday cheer, spending time with the family, or giving back on this song. Instead, talks about baby gangstas, selling weed, getting over the on the system, flunking classes, and hooking up with some hot chicks. It’s what you expect from an Afroman song. What’s unexpected is not only was he so popular that he got his own Christmas album, but that he released a second one two years later.

“Christmas Unicorn” – Sufjan Stevens

What is this song even? Is he being extremely philosophical or just stringing together a bunch of nonsense? It probably doesn’t matter because we’re all the Christmas Unicorn after all.

There are a lot more weird Christmas songs out there. Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

‘Young & Dangerous’ – The Struts

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Release Year: 2018

The Struts live up to their larger than life attitude on their second album, Young & Dangerous. The highly anticipated follow up to their 2014 debut finds them doing what they do best: glam rock songs about having a good time. While you won’t find anything drastically different from their previous output, they do take the time to branch out. They shake up their established sound by experimenting with different styles and genres, yet never stray too far from their glam roots.

The album kicks off with “Body Talks,” which has all the elements of a great Struts song: a catchy hook, Luke Spiller’s sensual vocals, and a playful vibe. The remix with Kesha is decent, but she doesn’t add much aside from some random yelps. “Primadonna Like Me” is another high energy, fun song with Spiller playing the role of a rockstar that knows he’s hot shit. Their glam rock sound is bigger with raucous music and an infectious hook. Songs like these perfectly capture what the band is about and their over the top persona, which feels made for huge crowds.

Listening to tracks like “Bulletproof Baby” and “Tatler Magazine” it’s clear The Struts have their sights set on playing stadiums. The hooks are fun to sing, the songs capture their energetic air, and feel crafted with larger crowds in mind. And their frequent use of gang vocals gives the tracks an anthemic quality. Unlike other bands with similar aspirations, The Struts don’t comprise their established sound for something generic and safe. Instead, they push their feel-good vibe even harder, yet leaves room for some change.

Though they mainly stick with their glam rock vibe, there are a few moments where they get outside their comfort zone. “Who Am I” mixes their glam rock vibes with a healthy dose of disco. Similar to other tracks, the hook is catchy and fun while the music gets you moving. And of course, Spiller’s tongue in cheek wordplay is still intact making it an album highlight. Spiller throws you for a loop on “I Do It So Well” when he opens the song with his spoken word style that’s more like rapping. It’s a bit strange but ultimately works for the track. “Freak Like You” is a mini-musical. Clearly influenced by Queen, the band celebrates the outcasts, misfits, and freaks pulling away from their glam rock sound and playing around with their sound, such as the unexpected sax solo.

We even get to see the more serious side of the band on tracks like “Somebody New” and “Ashes.” The former finds Spiller lamenting the loss of a relationship while admitting he’s not ready for someone else. Rather than being flamboyant, he expresses a quiet sadness. He sounds bittersweet as he sings “It’s not that I don’t feel the feelings you do/It’s just my heart’s not ready yet/For somebody new” giving us a rare side of the singer. “People” is another moment where the band sets aside their wild attitude. Written about overcoming everyday struggles different people face, it’s meant to be an uplifting moment on the album. It definitely sounds like an anthem but isn’t as gripping as the rest of the album.

“Ashes” has a similar moody tone. Serving as the counterpart to the celebratory “Fire,” it’s another somber track about the consequences of living fast and partying hard and how someone’s life was lost in the end. Though it deals with a heavy topic, the band brings back their musical sensibilities with sections that change the style. One part it’s a serious ballad, the next it’s a bouncing cabaret. You definitely get some “Bohemian Rhapsody” vibes from it, yet it doesn’t sound like a Queen rip off. It’s a strangely fitting way to end the album as if to say life isn’t always one huge party.

Young & Dangerous is a blast to listen to. It’s more of the glitzy, glam rock goodness we love from The Struts. However, they do branch out trying different sounds to keep things from getting stale or sounding too much like their debut. Every moment is captivating from the high energy dance anthems to the serious reflective moments. Filled with infectious music, the band’s devil-may-care attitude and hooks made for stadiums, it’s a high-energy, feel-good album we desperately need right now.