The Most Boring Album of the Year, Saved (Partially) by Two of the Most Interesting Rappers Alive

This is the first blog post from contributor Keith. Please welcome him with open arms! He’s great and this piece illustrates that! This piece was completed in December 2013.

Earlier today I was standing in line at Chipotle (my intestines hate me, and for good reason) and, as usual, I was staring at my phone, searching whatever came to mind. At the particular moment in question, my mind was on Chance the Rapper. Since it came out I have listened to Acid Rap almost once a day (if not more) as well as #10day. The guy is amazing. No, this is not a review of either of those mixtapes, because honestly, that review would be so laden with praise I would hear schoolyard bullies the whole time, “If you love him so much why don’t you marry him?” Easier said than done, bullies.

But no, I didn’t want my first album review to be something that I have obsessed over, instead something I hadn’t heard yet. So, I began Googling. The first article I came across was from SPIN, an outrageously glitchy site (at least on my iPhone) that was filled with pop-up advertisements (I can’t afford a Tonka truck, don’t try to sell me a Camry), and I fought through the issues to reach the article, titled Chance the Rapper Lends (More) Genius to James Blake’s ‘Life Round Here’Immediately, I turned to my brother and asked him who James Blake was; his response was a ten minute rant on ‘how pissed he was that people were talking about this guy instead of the tennis player’ – my brother cares way too much about sports. I could see he was going to be no help and trudged on with the article. Apparently, Chance did an alternate version of the song and killed it, as expected. I figured, why not listen to James Blake’s new album (Overgrown) for my first review. Done.

First thing’s first, find out something about James Blake, so I hit up Wikipedia, and learned that people love him. Cool. Next, get ahold of the album. Done. Then it came time to listen to it. I formed an opinion almost immediately, but I’ll leave that for later.

For this review I am going to use Brad’s method for grading (for example), green, blue, and red categories for the songs, (great, good, bad; respectively) each group then gets an explanation; then purple for my favorite of the album. I decided to add a brown song for my least favorite. Why brown? You do the math. I will give an overall grade for the album on a ten point scale. After I finish, I am going to add one more part, and that is a review of Chance’s version of the “Life Round Here”. I am not going to listen to that song until I write the initial review because I know that it would cause bias, and I want to approach this as objectively as possible.

As always, this is purely my opinion, and while I certainly believe that my opinion is correct (I haven’t spent several years and thousands of dollars on college for nothing) you, dear reader, are entitled to your opinion. Remember, you chose to read this, I’m not forcing you.

Without further ado, the track listing:

  1. Overgrown
  2. I Am Sold
  3. Life Round Here
  4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)
  5. Retrograde
  6. DLM
  7. Digital Lion
  8. Voyeur
  9. To the Last
  10. Our Love Comes Back
  11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)
The album cover.

The album cover.

The track listing in order with their colorized grades:

  1. Overgrown
  2. I Am Sold
  3. Life Round Here
  4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)
  5. Retrograde
  6. DLM
  7. Digital Lion
  8. Voyeur
  9. To The Last
  10. Our Love Comes Back
  11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)

Purple Level Song:

4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)

Explanation:

By far the best song on the album. Mr. Blake needs to thank Bobby Digital for adding the only real substance to the lyrics of this album. RZA’s spoken word poetry is without a doubt the coolest thing about this album, and it reaches the deepest level of art and emotion that Overgrown has to offer. There is also some cool distortion employed onto Bobby’s voice, making for a very interesting listen.

Green Level Songs:

5. Retrograde
6. DLM

Explanation:

These two work well. They follow up the track with RZA well, and they sufficiently kept my attention all the way through them. “Retrograde” changed enough throughout the song to keep it interesting, and “DLM,” though a short song, uses a cool, asynchronous piano melody, it backs off on the over-the-top vocals, and it has more lyrical content than most of the rest of the album.

Blue Level Songs:

3. Life Round Here
7. Digital Lion

Explanation:

These two songs are blue because they didn’t hold me through the entire track, but they were interesting enough to get my attention. “Life Round Here,” being the song that drew me to this album in the first place, was a relief, as it was the first on the album that was actually bearable, which gave me hope for the version with Chance (which I have still yet to listen to). “Digital Lion” also came with some cool beats at points, but like so many songs on the album, fell into a repetitive lull by the end. Both of these songs are interesting enough to listen to, but they are kept out of the green level because they get lost in a vortex of repetition and make the eyelids heavy.

Red Level Songs:

1. Overgrown
2. I Am Sold
9. To the Last
10. Our Love Comes Back
11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)

Explanation:

Boring. Boring. Boring.

I can’t say it enough. These five songs are aggressively unremarkable. Blake warbles on and on, articulating so little lyrical content that I wonder why anyone bothered writing lyrics. He could have achieved the same effect with just the non-verbal sounds that dominate most of these songs. I looked up the lyrics to all of them just to make sure that I wasn’t missing something and my stomach turned when I saw all of the lines cut and pasted over and over and over yet again. I would have to imagine that he got bored singing the same words in the same way so many times, because I certainly got bored listening to them. About halfway through each of these songs, I found myself wishing that it would end, and despairing at the small amount of time that had elapsed.

No change was in sight. None of these songs are long either. I would understand if it was like Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 where the songs actually do go on forever, but these ones just felt like they did. This section is especially bad because it includes the first two songs on the album. Before the first song ended (also the title track of the album!) I wanted to turn it off, but I had committed to it, so I powered through, and saw it to the end.

Brown Level Song:

8. Voyeur

Explanation:

Utter garbage. The lyrics are (according to metrolyrics.com)

“I don’t mind, it was all me/’Cause I am flawed/When I am through those doors/’Cause I am flawed/Times unsure/I should do whatever will make you feel secure/I don’t mind, it was all me.”

What am I supposed to get from that? Clocking in at 4:18, this is the fourth longest song on the album, and should have been – How long did it take you to read those lyrics? – Let’s go with your answer to that question. This song is terrible for all of the reasons that those in the red level have, but it is far worse for one major reason: this song thinks (personification for the song, I suppose I should say that James Blake thinks) that it does change and stay interesting, but this belief is a farce. The man repeats the same few words over and over, adding layers like a madman, but keeping the same boring gait. The vocals and sounds distort, discombobulate, and annoy the listener. It makes me think of the soundtrack that I imagine the CIA would have played over a brainwashing video in the sixties. If I have to hear “I don’t mind, it was all me” again, I may lose it.

Overall Grade: 2/10

I realize that this kind of music is in right now (for some reason), and though I just heard about it today, I understand that people love this album; but for the life of me I cannot figure out why. The vocal style is mind numbing and gets played out before the first song is even over, but continues for 43 minutes. The instrumentals are repetitive, only deviating to add unnecessary layers, there is virtually no lyrical content on the entire work (save for RZA’s shining verses), and it goes on for entirely too long. The only true bright spot on the album is RZA reciting a very cool poem, but that is not enough to redeem it. Yeah, a couple of songs are bearable, and a couple I would listen to again, but I would never put myself through the misery of this entire album again, and I wouldn’t suggest that anyone else do it.

Unless of course this album is your cup of tea. If you dig this style, cool, enjoy your nap, I’ll be listening to something with a purpose.

Extra Bit:

As I mentioned before, I will now be reviewing the version of “Life Round Here” with Chance the Rapper. I wrote the whole review of the album before listening to the song so that I wouldn’t know how great it could have been while reviewing what was actually on the album. I’ll be back in four minutes.

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper

Alright, I lied. I listened to it a couple times, and read the lyrics along with Chance after the first listen. I wish I could take James Blake out of this song. As usual, Chance kills it, and ignoring Blake’s vocals the instrumental is really nice and compliments Chance well. Basically, for this song to reach the stratosphere of some of Chances other features (“LSD” by ProbCause, “Bout a Dolla” by the O’My’s, or “Tweakin” by Vic Mensa) he would probably need to get another verse and not have to compete with Blake for time and sound. I’m pretty much asking for James Blake to take his voice and name off the song (he’d still be the producer) and just let Chance do what he does best; kill it every time.

References:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/de/James_Blake_-_Overgrown_album_cover.png

http://www.spin.com/articles/chance-the-rapper-james-blake-life-round-here-remix/

https://chwomp.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/album-review-taking-back-sundays-tayf10-acoustic-album/

http://www.metrolyrics.com/james-blake-lyrics.html

http://www.metrolyrics.com/voyeur-lyrics-james-blake.html

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Album Review: Mayday Parade ‘Monsters In The Closet’

As I stated yesterday I would be doing an album review of Mayday Parade’s Monsters In The Closet. 

This is that aforementioned review.

Cover art for Monsters In The Closet (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Cover art for Monsters In The Closet (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll preface this review by stating I have not listened to many older Mayday Parade songs recently, and am a casual fan of their’s, so I do not have a bias one way or the other for them. I’ve seen them live (Warped Tour ’12) and thought they were quality. I will also say that I have listened to the album on repeat several times (six or seven) without paying attention to titles, then I listened twice through while paying attention to which song was playing.

With that said, I am excited for this album because there are several songs from Mayday Parade that I enjoy and get excited for when my iPod shuffles to one of those songs. I love most pop-punk music, even if most pop-punk music caters to the ‘lovey-dovey’ pseudo-punk types. Let’s see if there are any songs on this album that will give me that same excitement!

Here are the songs (in order) that are on Monsters In The Closet:

  1. Ghosts
  2. Girl
  3. Last Night For A Table Of Two
  4. 12 Through 15
  5. The Torment Of Existence Weighed Against The Horror Of Nonbeing
  6. Even Robots Need Blankets
  7. Repent And Repeat
  8. Demons
  9. Sorry, Not Sorry
  10. Nothing You Can Live Without, Nothing You Can Do About
  11. Hold Onto Me
  12. Angels

To my knowledge there are no hidden tracks (yet), nor are there any bonus tracks garnered from special purchases through iTunes. This is it.

Photo Credit: Tom Falcone

Photo Credit: Tom Falcone

I will be giving my overall grade (on a scale of 1 – 10; 10 being the best) of the album at the end, but instead of reordering the songs into ‘best to worst’ order I will be using colors to visually demonstrate which songs I like the most, least, and the songs I am apathetic about.

If a song is green – I like it and will continue to listen to it daily; if a song is blue – It’s listenable, but not a favorite; if a song is red – I don’t really like it. I may expand upon the colors in the future to showcase a wide array of different feelings towards songs. I may include values (+1 or -1 for instance) to come up with a score for the entire album as well.

I will explain below why songs have been given their color.

  1. Ghosts
  2. Girls
  3. Last Night For A Table Of Two
  4. 12 Through 15
  5. The Torment Of Existence Weighed Against The Horror Of Nonbeing
  6. Even Robots Need Blankets
  7. Repent And Repeat
  8. Demons
  9. Sorry, Not Sorry
  10. Nothing You Can Live Without, Nothing You Can Do About
  11. Hold Onto Me
  12. Angels

Green Level Songs:

2. Girls
5. The Torment Of Existence Weighed Against The Horror Of Nonbeing
8. Demons

Explanation:

These songs are great and I truly enjoy them. I will enjoy them for a while too because these are the type of songs that I put on workout playlists, travelling playlists, and just my daily driving playlist. Each such evokes a weird, but terrific, emotion in me that I like to receive from listening to music.

Blue Level Songs:

1. Ghosts
3. Last Night For A Table Of Two
7. Repent And Repeat
9. Sorry, Not Sorry
11. Hold Onto Me

Explanation:

For the most part these songs are enjoyable and I will be giving them several more listens as the weeks pass by, but other than the occasional shuffle to one of these songs I won’t be going out of my way to listen to them. I also dislike the name of the song ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’ but really like the sound of the song. It put me in a quandary on whether I should rank it green or blue.

Red Level Songs:

6. Even Robots Need Blankets
12. Angels

Explanation:

Now being a ‘red level’ song doesn’t mean the song is bad, per se, but that I just didn’t enjoy it at all. And by ‘all’ I mean the lyrics, the song title, the music (instrumental) in the song, and the pace of the song (among other things). These songs just don’t do it for me at this point in time. As I have heard before: ‘Different strokes for different folks!’

Overall Grade: 6.5/10

Not a terrible album at all, but not an album that is groundbreaking or award worthy to be honest. There are some great songs on this album, ‘Girls’ is my favorite, and, who knows, I may come around on the others in due time! If you have a comment, good or bad, about my review please let me know why in the comment section! Thank you for reading!

Why The Video For Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ Sucks

Here is the video in question (watch it to get a better understanding of my criticism below):

Before I begin telling you why this music video sucks, I will say the song is catchy and has a good electronic sound. I also am fond of some Avicii songs.

With that said, this music video is horrible. Not from a cinematography point of view, nothing to do with the lighting, or even the amazing backdrops. Everything cinematically with the music video is pretty much all right. What’s wrong with the music video is the absolutely craptastic ‘story’ or meaning behind it.

You have this abso-freaking-lutely beautiful young woman (I can’t really discern her age, but I’d say early 20s?) and her young sister (or daughter?). Both are above average in looks and as the music video showcases, the two live in an area that can best be described as ‘backwords’ or ‘ultra-country.’ Everyone in the town is staring at the two because the two are A) very above average looks wise and sport a weird logo birthmark that looks like a sideways elevator button (which Avicii has made his own) B) not wearing the drab, dirty clothes that the rest of the towns people are, and C) the two (especially the eldest one) don’t really try to engage anyone in the town in conversation. In my experiences, when someone is staring at me I engage them in conversation to see ‘What’s up?’ or just to engage them in conversation to show that there’s nothing to fear about me, I’m just a normal person.

Could it be that the townspeople are wondering why you're wearing a fancy jacket?

Could it be that the townspeople are wondering why you’re wearing a fancy jacket? Also what’s with the beanie? It doesn’t seem too cold there.

I get the theme of the music video (the song’s lyrics are somewhat incoherent on it’s meaning and don’t really reflect the motives of the music video, or vice-versa) of being ‘different’ and wanting to find your place, but the two (this is more on the eldest) don’t do a very good job on seemingly introducing themselves to the townspeople or trying to be a part of the community really. I also don’t understand why the oldest rides into town on the house living her daughter/sister all by her lonesome while she enjoys a concert? Um, isn’t that bad parenting/sistering? Per the video, it appears that the mother/sister leaves her daughter/sister alone for nearly an entire day. Terrible child rearing.

The two eventually find their ‘place’ in the city at an Avicii concert, which begs me to ask: Did the two really find their place? I don’t think so because the two didn’t really try to be accepted in their old community (though we could pretend that they did have troubles in their old community). Nonetheless, it was a happy ending right? Maybe I shouldn’t try to look deeply into the meaning of electronic genre music videos?