Music Reviews

Music Roundup 11/1/17

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This article previously appeared on Crossfader

The Halloween season delayed us a bit, but we’re still here to tell you what’s hot and what’s not in this week’s music roundup. 

music roundup all pigs

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All Pigs Must Die – HOSTAGE ANIMAL

Genre: Hardcore Punk

Favorite Tracks: “Hostage Animal,” “Slave Morality,” “End Without End,” “Blood Wet Teeth,” “Cruelty Incarnate”

As aptly demonstrated on their past three albums, All Pigs Must Die aren’t ones for subtlety, and really, it’s all the better for it. The suspension isn’t entirely forgone on their 2017 release, HOSTAGE ANIMAL, which not only affirms their reliability in delivering pulverizing riffage and throat-shredding vocals, but a new elasticity as they employ more elements from other metal sub-genres, specifically doom and traditional heavy metal. One of their first singles, “A Caustic Vision,” showcased the addition of a second guitarist, Brian Izzi, and the denser sound he would bring to the table. I really thought that APMD couldn’t get any harder, but the latter and title track are just two examples of the pure, unrelenting energy these guys are continuing to enrich. It immediately throws listeners into the mosh pit, the guitars venting their frustration through unyieldingly pummeling like the punks surrounding you. Each respective member of the band seems to be trying to outdo each other in intensity, from Kevin Baker’s fervent growling to Ben Koller’s nonpareil drum work.

HOSTAGE ANIMAL sees APMD nodding to other influences and expanding their strict hardcore punk ethos into sounds more aligned with classic metal. Guitarist Adam Wentworth and bassist Matt Woods bring their picks down harder on both “Slave Mortality” and “End Without End” than on anything they did with their prior stoner/doom outfit Bloodhorse, and the crunching guitar riff introducing “Blood Wet Teeth” elicits Metallica more than Minor Threat; the two former tracks also represent two of the rarer moments where tension is built and released. They don’t sacrifice any punch through this conduit either; it helps to accentuate both the knockout that’s hinted to come on the songs, as well as all that APMD has in store for the future. [Nick Funess]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup burial

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BURIAL – PRE-DAWN/INDOORS EP

Genre: Dubstep, Electronic 

Favorite Tracks: None

William Emmanuel Bevan, better known as Burial, is a British dubstep artist who helped bring the genre into the forefront with his fantastic self-titled debut album, along with his mesmerizing 2007 sophomore followup, UNTRUE. Since then, he has released a consistent stream of EPs, some hitting the mark, harkening back to his impeccable full length releases, and some falling short of the bar Bevan has set for himself. This newest EP (if you can even call it that) falls into the latter category, feeling all too uninspired and, at times, downright abrasive. To even call this project an EP is a stretch, being that there are only two songs featured, with the longest being a little over the three-minute mark. Bevan is no longer employing his usual ethereal and airy downtempo beats—on this newest project he employs far more intense production patterns and EDM-inspired loops. He has stepped outside his comfort zone on past projects such as his experimental ambient EP earlier this year, YOUNG DEATH / NIGHTMARKET, an EP which intrigued me due to its desolate soundscape, but Burial has really missed the mark on PRE-DAWN/INDOORS. The mastering and production of these songs is atrocious, being blown out and distorted, making the listening experience reminiscent of hearing a rave through the door of a bathroom stall. Not only are the dance leanings on PRE-DAWN vapid and generic, there are shrill and overblown synths in the background that are absolutely grating on the ears. To top it off, the energy is insistent, leaving no breathing room, which makes the barely three-minute track feel far longer. The second half of the “EP” is the track “Indoors,” which is a significant step up from the first half, but still is bogged down by its genericn nature. The traditional organ samples which are sprinkled throughout are refreshing to hear, yet Burial still employs a dull and repetitive rhythmic backbone which makes the track an absolute bore. The only place I could see listening to this EP and enjoying it would be in a dark and dingy warehouse surrounded by sweaty and spastic concertgoers, but even then, upon leaving, any memory of the tracks would leave my brain instantaneously. [Will Turmon]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup bootsy

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Bootsy Collins – WORLD WIDE FUNK

Genre: P-Funk

Favorite Tracks: “Bass-Rigged-System,” “Candy Coated Lover,” “Illusions” 

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Bootsy Collins has returned to the music scene with his newest LP, WORLD WIDE FUNK. Collins began his rise in the public eye along with James Brown in the early ‘70s, famously known for driving bass lines and comedic lyrics, making him a very well-respected name in the funk community, some even labeling him a godfather of the genre. WORLD WIDE FUNK is a 15-track party with Collins proving that, after all this time, he still has it, and is willing to dip into the new-age pool of talent by including many features, most notably Kali Uchis and MC Eiht. The features diversify the album and make for a softer transition for younger listeners to pick up on Collins’s. He’s still not slowing down on his penchant for sexually charged songs, including the intro on “Worth My While,” in which a woman says Bootsy is responsible for many of her friends getting married, followed by the lyrics, “Because we listened to [Bootsy’s] music all the time whenever we thought we was finna argue / Throw on a little Bootsy, you forget about all that.” This album will probably not be remembered as his best, but it does show an incredible ability by the 66 year-old Collins to adapt to the ever-changing scope of music. [Emmett Garvey]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup danielle

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Daniele Luppi and Parquet Courts – MILANO

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Soul and Cigarette,” “Mount Napoleon,” “Flush,” “Memphis Blues Again,”  “Café Flesh”

I had no idea what to expect from this collaboration, especially since my last encounter with a collab between a composer and an oddball indie act did not end well. Daniele Luppi has taken time off from composing scores to work on music before, namely several collaborations with Danger Mouse, and arranged instrumentation for Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ last album, but MILANO finds him helping to write the lyrics as well. The nine-song mini-album is meant to serve as an ode to his childhood in Milan, and he has called in experimental garage rockers Parquet Courts, as well as Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to help. Bringing in two different vocalists was a smart choice, as the entire record is composed of contrasting moods that Andrew Savage and Karen help make organic and natural. On one hand it is joyful, drug-addled and enthralled with the finer things in life, while on the other it is disillusioned with style, materialism, and a rapidly changing city and world. Musically it’s also a glorious meeting of worlds, with Parquet Courts providing tight bass licks and melodic, yet jagged, guitar jangles while Luppi adds touches of synths, horns, and bells for twisted, gloomy atmospheric effect. The lo-fi, old-school production makes everything so much more crisp, with a balance of mania and elegance that accentuates sonic flourishes but doesn’t let them overtake the main melodies. For such a short record (nine songs in 30 minutes), there’s a good deal of variety, from The National-esque “Soul and Cigarettes”, to the acoustic singalong “Lanza,” to the jazzy, big band closing instrumental “Cafe Flesh,” and it’s all brought together through a series of energetic performances, dramatic fills and melodies, and vivid character portraits. Any of my apprehensions about MILANO’s shortness or cast of artists were completely shattered; it’s raw, soulful, evocative, nostalgic, and in contention for my album of the year. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup slaughter

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Slaughter Beach, Dog – BIRDIE

Genre: Indie Rock, Emo

Favorite Tracks: “Sleepwalking,” “Friend Song”

Earlier in October, Jake Ewald said goodbye to Modern Baseball, and whether or not you know it, you did too. After cancelling a tour in January to focus on everyone’s (mainly Brendan Lukens’s) mental health, the band played three consecutive farewell shows in their hometown of Philadelphia a few weeks ago and have since gone on an “extended hiatus.” It’s hard to see a formal MoBo return feeling truly organic—after all, the band’s lyrics stylistically embody the early 20s neuroticism of both the band’s members and most of their listeners, and it’s hard to see that appeal working the same way when the band is older. Enter the work of Ewald’s solo project Slaughter Beach, Dog, which is decidedly more mature and plotting in nature, without any of the punk zip that made his original bands material so fun. On BIRDIE, his second release this year after the four-song EP MOTORCYCLE.JPG, Ewald explores coffee shop acoustics through small stakes singer-songwriter fare. When Ewald goes electric on BIRIDE, the songs work; simmering without bubbling over and filled with movement and focused energy, with standouts like “Sleepwalking” and “Friend Song” being welcome breaks from the album’s routine man-with-an-acoustic-guitar earnestness. But a majority of this album tiredly comes across as a solo project recorded exclusively to work as an exercise in songwriting first and foremost, and it results in most of these tracks being a snooze on the musical side of things. His debut, 2016’s WELCOME, was an unpolished work that more singularly explored Ewald’s relationship with emo and rock, and even if it read as MoBo-lite, it was a far more fun project to listen to than this new release. These songs are quaint and twee in their delivery, which will be fine for some fans, especially those who appreciate Ewald shedding his emo identity. But a bit more punch to most of these tracks would have elevated them immensely while making the transition from WELCOME to BIRDIE far less jarring. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup snoop

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Snoop Dogg – MAKE AMERICA CRIP AGAIN

Genre: West Coast Hip Hop

Favorite Tracks: “Good Foot,” “My Last Name,” “SportsCenter (Remix)”

MAKE AMERICA CRIP AGAIN, Snoop Dogg’s second project of 2017 and his attempt at political commentary, is a flop. The stage is set early on the first track, “M.A.C.A.,” with his cringe-worthy opening line: “The president say he want to make America great again / Fuck that shit, we gon’ make America crip again, cuz.” The line feels forced and obvious, which ends up being the EP’s general theme. It’s understandable that Snoop wanted to get his digs on Trump in, but MAKE AMERICA CRIP AGAIN feels notably rushed and generally half-baked. On “Good Foot,” Snoop mutters, “Rest in pussy Hugh Hef / playboy mansion,” which gives a time-frame for how recently this was recorded, with Hugh Hefner having died just a month ago. Snoop Dogg has obviously amassed a huge following throughout the years and he could have delivered the same political message in a much stronger way had he thought this out more. On a positive note, the production on “Good Foot” feels like a classic ‘90s west coast hip hop track, which is very relieving. But apart from that, it seems that Snoop may be getting to a point of his career where releasing multiple works in the same year is overkill. [Emmett Garvey]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup ty dolla

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Ty Dolla $ign – Beach House 3 

Genre: Contemporary R&B 

Favorite Tracks: “Love U Better,” “Droptop in the Rain”

Ty Dolla $ign burst into the R&B-tinged hip hop scene with his debut album, FREE TC, receiving praise from many for his comparatively technically proficient singing voice, making him standout from the vapid collection of generic, Auto-Tune-dominated pop-singers. On his sophomore followup, BEACH HOUSE 3, Ty Dolla once again delivers a collection of well-sung and breezy tracks with a surefire chance of rocketing up the Billboard Top 100, but despite the probable mainstream success and the earworm predilections of some of the singles, as a whole project it comes off as bloated, leaving me feeling apathetic by the end of its 20 (!) track runtime.

BEACH HOUSE 3 is severely lacking in cohesiveness, but there are undoubtedly some standout moments. For example, on “Love U Better,” there is a shrill gospel sample that gives the track a tangibly groovy energy to it. The instrumental is upbeat and kinetic, nothing that necessitates writing home about, but the overall feeling it creates is infectiously positive and chipper. Ty Dolla isn’t vying to create any songs which are lyrically stimulating in the slightest (“Pull up on your girl with my roof gone / I’ma pull up on your girl with my jewels on”), and that’s okay. He seemed to have shot for a safe and pop-friendly mainstream R&B trap album, and he succeeds. However, while one can admire his ambition, the fact that BEACH HOUSE 3 has 20 tracks and such a narrow focus does not do it any service. The full runtime is just over 50 minutes, making it a slog to get through. There are tracks such as “Side Effects,” which simply should not have made the cut; the beat is completely uninspired and seems to be played far too safe, which is a problem with the project as a whole. Everything ends up blending together by the end, making it difficult to look back and recall differentiating one track from the other. It’s truly unfortunate given there are tracks that are really catchy and enjoyable to listen to, but they are few and far inbetween. If BEACH HOUSE 3 spent a little bit more time in the oven and Ty Dolla was a bit more adventurous with his beats and lyrics, he potentially could create a coherent project to help him rise above his peers, but this newest project, rather than capitalizing on Ty Dolla’s strengths, which initially set him apart from the Billboard top 100, instead revels in mainstream tropes and concepts, leaving it feeling like a disappointing and dreary mess. [Will Turmon]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup weezer

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Weezer – PACIFIC DAYDREAM

Genre: Pop Rock

Favorite Tracks: “QB Blitz”

With their career coming up on 25 years, Weezer sound as clean-cut as ever on PACIFIC DAYDREAM, signaling both their most blatant approach to radio-friendliness in a time where their debut has never felt so far away. Rivers Cuomo waxes nostalgic in excess here, but unlike the attempts made on WHITE ALBUM, ignores the cries of his fanbase altogether, who concurrently cling to the past even tighter.

Cuomo’s dorkiness still occasionally shines through in lyrics, but they’ve been garlanded with the worst of current pop trappings. His STAR WARS reference on “QB Blitz” is merely a tidbit reminding of us of a Weezer that is no longer (“I gotta call my QB Blitz, B-blitz / Out on the ice fields of Hoth”), and it’s definitely not enough to compensate for the saccharine instrumentation that envelops the track, nor the corniness that follows in the line immediately after: “I’ll be missing you like oxygen.” Incongruity pervades the whole project, with the pop-driven production lending to Cuomo’s typically endearing lovelorn loser-ness an unpleasant, self-pitying undertone. Vocals “woo-hoo” him on “Get Right,” as he talks about making “a shrine with pictures of you” over uptempo guitar strums, and the result is cringeworthy.

The saddest truth illuminated here is how blissfully ignorant Cuomo is. This is him being “cool,” his honest definition of hip, and he doesn’t rank much higher than a chaperone dad doing the jerk on the prom dance floor. He’s attempting to connect with the kids daydreaming of island paradises and piña coladas as they slave away at their mundane office job on “Happy Hour,” and compares burgeoning romance to summer on “Feels like Summer,” as if that’s the most heartfelt, least platitudinous praise you could give to someone. The latter feels directly torn out of the Twenty One Pilots textbook, featuring vapid lyricism (“I’m holding on and I don’t want to let you go”) wrapped in bloated electro-pop sheen, whistling backing vocals, and jouncing bass. It’s probably the most disappointing song Weezer has ever created, and I hope they feel horrible knowing that this will be 2017’s bar mitzvah dance anthem. C’mon guys, I know you can do better. [Nick Funess]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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  1. […] somehow been basically two years since I wrote about Slaughter Beach, Dog’s last release BIRDIE, and in a lot of ways it’s […]

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