This is an album that suffers from the second half being significantly worse than the first. The first half is filled with a nice diverse set of trip hop influenced songs that can trend between upbeat and poppy, as well as downtrodden and said. Most of these songs work pretty well. I like the dynamic of having multiple very unique vocalists, though I think that Moby’s voice is probably the least interesting and his is the most prominent. In the second half, songs start to pop out less and less. Most notably, “The Sorrow Tree” breezed by me and I took very little from it. Some of these second half songs will linger on a repeating section for way too long and a hook won’t be intriguing enough to make up the difference. Overall, this is an album that could end up fluctuating quite a bit for me because it is pretty good when taken as a whole, but it has some key flaws that keep it from being an even better album.
When I first listened to this I didn’t think it was that bad. Man, did that change. This album is filled to the brim with so many tired, annoying, and just bad ideas. For starters the lyrics are, quite frankly, awful. They are about as “cheesy love song” stereotypical as you can get, and when he does try to do something clever they come across as cringy. A lot of that could be because of some weird, out of place vocal deliveries. The whole sound of the album just clashes with his vocals too. This is a case of an artist diving headfirst into a genre and sound they don’t know enough about and then making it pretty badly. There’s a lot of negative things I could say about this one, because it’s pretty bad. I will say that there are a few songs that do some pretty cool things that keep this one from the very bottom of rating hell.
One of the most conflicting albums of the year so far. On the one hand, the beats on most of these songs are immensely creative. Sometimes they sound like something akin to Death Grips, other times pulling from Vince Staples ‘Big Fish Theory’. It even has a laidback and soothing vibe on songs like “Thug Tears”. Even the worst of the beats are still interesting but the best ones are otherworldly. Peggy’s delivery of the abrasive, sarcastic, and sometimes testy lyrics gives Veteran an aggressive and angry attitude that works so well with the weirdness of the instrumentals. The lyrics are often attacks on the alt-right, liberal hypocrisy, or just about anything Peggy wants to attack, and he does so with very clever and deep-diving cultural references. My biggest complaint though is the notable dip in song quality in the middle third of the album. The first third is abrasive and throws so many weird things at you on great songs like “Real Nega” and “Baby I’m Bleeding.” The final third has some more chilled out, but equally weird songs like the masterful “Rainbow Six”. But there aren’t any of those huge, standout moments in the middle, causing songs like “Libtard Anthem” and “Panic Emoji” to get lost and forgotten. This is a great album, where you can clearly see how talented and passionate JPEG is, but that one problem keeps this project from the upper echelon of greatness.
Highlights: Real Nega, Baby I’m Bleeding, Rock N Roll is Dead, Macaulay Culkin, Williamsburg, Rainbow Six, Curb Stomp
This album started off pretty interestingly. It feels like CupcakKe was trying to go in a slightly different direction, with more songs that addressed topics in a serious way. The problem is that she didn’t really commit to that idea. There are some truly ridiculous songs on here like “Cinnamon Toast Crunch”, “Spoiled MIlk TItties”, and “Duck Duck Goose,” but at least most of these are at least catchy, creative bangers. Where this album really bothers me is where she slips ridiculous lines into a more serious song like the opener. Overall it’s really not that bad, but it becomes so boring and predictable by the halfway point with most of the interesting beats and lyrical ideas being used up in the first half. The last 3 songs do step up a significant amount which definitely helps this album out, but it still has a lot of problems for me.
What stands out most to me about this album is how unbelievably aggressive it is. It pounds you with insanely fast blast beats and charging guitar riffs pretty much all the way through. This is one of those metal albums where you truly feel yourself being bombarded by the intense wall of sound. All of the songs are around 3 to 4 minutes so none of them overstay their welcome. The production is also quite good, giving the sound a dirtiness that becomes very ugly at times, but it still has a clarity to it. The reverb applied adds great atmosphere as well. I do have a few complaints though, mainly with some of the middle songs. The harsh black metal vocals can have a really strange timbre to them at times (though they actually do add quite a bit to most songs). There are also a few times where I did find myself dazing off just a little bit, but this was uncommon. The lyrics for the most part were very dark and evil satanic lyrics that felt compelling but this can border on cheesiness with one or two tracks (especially the laughing at the end of “Ultra (Pandemoniac)”). Overall I did find this to be a very entertaining and intense black metal album, but it does start to get a little bit tired by the end.
Highlights: Nuclear Alchemy, Sacred Damnation, Four Diabolicus, The Fire of Power
Culture II is almost 2 hours long. A Migos album is almost 2 hours long. Just hearing that for the first time made me think I would end up hating this one. Luckily, it’s not that bad, but it’s not very good either. The biggest problem this album has is that despite being an hour and 45 minutes long, there is a surprisingly little amount of material that stood out to me in any meaningful way, good or bad. Few songs were that bad, but few of them had anything of note, or any uniqueness at all. There are a few pretty good songs on here, but the large majority of them just feel completely forgettable. There’s so little to say about this album. The features are used pretty well in most cases so there is that. The beats are often pretty decent so there is that. Too often though, a song will get extremely repetitive or completely uninteresting. The lyrics rarely say anything of substance and the backup vocalizations (the “brrrrrts” and “skrrrrrts in particular) feel half-hearted and weak compared to the first Culture. Like a few people have said, if you cut this thing down to 1/3 of it’s length it would be decent, but it would probably be no better than a decent album. This isn’t one of the worst projects I’ve heard by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one of the most tedious I’ve listened to in quite a while.
This is a really interesting album. Nils Frahm approaches a minimalistic style of classical music with orchestras, choirs, and wind instruments; then mixes in a healthy dose of electronic as well. The best songs tend to be the ones that build subtle layers and layers of constantly changing sound, very akin to ambient music. However, the best songs also seem to have at least one prominent melody or chord progression that is emotional and gripping. There are three lone piano songs that effectively work as interludes in the album, and while the first one “My Friend the Forest” is beautiful and intimate, the others don’t quite reach that level and can even feel like a bit of a bore sometimes. I also think this album might be just a bit too long. Almost all of my favorite songs are on the first half and many of the songs in the second half get a little tedious or feel like we’ve already been there before. It still does a good job of creating mood and atmosphere but it felt like some of the ideas ended up getting repeated. Still a good ambient/post-minimalist album, but I feel like it could have easily been a little bit better by trimming the fat.
Highlights: A Place, My Friend the Forest, Human Range, Kaleidoscope