You’d thought I’d quit hadn’t you!? You’d thought I’d given up!? WELL I HAVEN’T!
Sorry to be so defensive, it’s just when I started this challenge I hadn’t had a full-time job in quite a long time. Now I do, I’m taking the job incredibly seriously, and this album challenge suddenly fees like the stupidest idea in the world. That’s probably because it is.
So I’m behind schedule and I’m struggling to keep on top of it all – but I’m not going to give up. So things may go quiet for extended periods etc but that doesn’t mean that somehow, somewhere I’m slowly chipping away at this fucking stupid idea. Despite the fact nobody is reading this, it’s really grinding me down and is ultimately completely futile I’m not going to allow it to be another project I get bored of half way through. Those days are behind me. Hopefully.
What’s going on here? Click here to find out.
The following albums were released between the 11th and 25th of March 2016…
Metal Church “XI” (Metal) – How have I not heard of Metal Church before? They’ve been going since the 1980s, released their first album around the same time as Metallica and Slayer et al were kicking off. And yet – seemingly – they’ve been mostly ignored, certainly not forced into alternative culture by the powers that be like the other Big 4 have. This album might be bit cheesy and old-school, but I enjoyed it way more than any Anthrax or Megdeth I’ve ever heard. This album bridges the gap between that early Anthrax thrash sound and a good, healthy dose of Iron Maiden. Big riffs, great production, right-side-of-cheesy vocals. I’m not sure if I “love” this as much as other albums I’ve loved this year, but since I have only 4 more albums to listen to and not a single one has blown my mind this month, I’m chucking this one in by default.
Violent Soho “Waco” (Alt Rock/Grunge) – This is one of those albums where I can’t quite understand why it resonates with me when other similar sounding music would do my head-in. When I break it down to two simple factors, I like the sound of his voice and I like the big sound of the guitars. So maybe I’m simply a sucker for certain “production vibes”? Often with music I like is because it subtly reminds me of other bands/songs I like. I mean this band sound nothing like the Foo Fighters or At The Drive In or Smashing Pumpkins, but If you were gonna take all of their “essences” and stick ‘em in a blender it might sound something like Violent Soho. Really solid old rock that reminded me of being a teenage and generally enjoying simpler, less-complex music than I do now.
Underworld “Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future” (Electronic) – There’s something really hypnotic about this album, which can only be describe as repetitive electronic beats that subtly change and develop, with a seemingly uninterested bloke doing beat poetry in a Northern accent over the top. It shouldn’t work, it should be pretentious and a bit of a joke, but the mood and tone just resonated with me. Great background/writing music.
The Joy Formidable “Hitch” (Alt Rock) – Oh they’re Welsh! That’s always exciting. But I swear I liked them before I discovered that. This female-fronted band is full of energy and rocks pretty hard, a bit of a more badass Smashing Pumpkins vibe going on. The songs lack the hooks and melodies that would make me love them, but next time they’re in Cardiff I’ll be there cos they sound like they’d be a really great live and would provide a hell of a jumping-around session.
Zayn “Mind of Mine” (Pop) – At points this album, by the bloke who left One Direction, sounds like it’s influenced by Radiohead and Pink Floyd. Overall quite an eclectic mix of songs, with great production, and possibly the best album cover of the year. Seems like he made the right call to leave 1D and has quickly cemented himself as a serious solo artist. Not really my cup of tea on the whole, but this mix of obvious radio singles and slightly experimental choices is a bold statement that I appreciated.
Lincoln Durham “Revelations of a Mind Unravelling” (Alt Rock/Southern Goth) – Y’know singers that sound EXACTLY like Trey Parker doing a hilarious clichéd American rock singer’s voice in South Park? Well then you know this! I did not enjoy the first track at all, as was ready to write this right off, but then it actually ends up going a bit wonky and interesting. Slightly out-of-tune slide guitars, a moment where it sounded like something out of the Rocky Horror Picture show, White-Stripes-esq stomping blues. And the more I listened to it, the more it starting sounding like an interesting voice rather than a South Park voice… bad album opener, but I think I may very well come back to this soon.
Soul Asylum “Change of Fortune” (Rock) – Another band going since the 80s who I’ve never heard of who but happen to be really good? I’ll take it. Big catchy riffs, dirty solos, vocals – this is a nice mix of sounding comfortingly familiar but modern and fresh. There’s elements of blues here, mixed in with Pearl Jam and even a slightly pinch of the heavier side of Indie and Brit Pop. Good stuff.
Adore Delano “After Party” (Pop) – The first song made me think that Linkin Park had decided to write a pop song over a Childish Gambino beat, which is as bad yet weirdly enjoyable as I’d expect it to be. The album descends into cheesy pop with vocals that often sound like Chester Benginton, which I understand sounds awful but makes me reach for the “guilty pleasure” phase I once so roundly disregarded.
Anthony Hamilton “What I’m Feelin’” (Soul) – First off, the title track reminds me of the “every nigga is a star” sample that kicks off “To Pimp A Butterfly” so I’m lovin’ the vibes of that one. Overall though, this is one of those albums that’s solid-but-not-going-to-completey-convert-me-into-an-obsessive-of-the-artist-of genre. But what does it sound like Jack? It sounds like he’s taken a soul band for the 70s and a soul band from the 90s and fused them together. It’s smooth, it’s sexy but it’s lacking in the sort of song writing that elevates nice tunes into classics.
AURORA “All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend” (Art Pop) – Below you’ll read me have a go at Birdy for certain reasons that could easily be applied to this album… but this album I like. The difference? It’s as simple as I enjoy her voice more and the music/beats behind the lyrics do a far better job at keeping my interest.
Delta Heavy “Paradise Lost” (Dance) – this natural blend of drum n bass with some heavy computer late 90s FPS game vibes is pretty inoffensive. Which sounds like a slam, but it isn’t; if a DJ drops this a music festival you’re going to have a good time. Solid stuff, nothing stood out so much that I fell massively in love, but still solid stuff.
Redfoo “Party Rock Mansion” (Dance/Pop) – I may have to take everything back I said about guilty pleasures (“there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure” – quote. Me. for the past 5-odd years). This is fucking shit, I know it’s shit, and yet… I sort of enjoyed it? No I can’t lie, I did enjoy it. The Party Rock bit might sound familiar to you, and that’s cos Redfood is the curly haired twat from LMFAO. And the whole album, completely and unashamedly sounds like those two singles you know and pretend not to like by LMFAO. This album is so unintentionally/intentionally entertaining because it is just so unashamedly confident in what it is. The production is top notch and the synth sounds are what you’d expect… exciting, with decent catchy melodies. I mean, who am I kidding, this isn’t good. I know this is shit. And yet.. it’s music that’s confident and happy in itself. It’s not trying to impress anyone. It’s not trying to be cool. And it is kinda catchy. So… Redfoo… keep doin what you do… cos there is a lot shitter music out there that gets a lot more respect than you ever will… but I don’t think you care… and I like that!
Robin Trower “Where You Are Going To” (Blues) – Really solid, straight forward blues/hard-rock with a confident, cool-vibe that just works. If you were in a bar as this old guy’s power trio came on, you sit there and end up drinking all night, feeling like you’d stumbled across a best-kept secret of the local music scene. That might sound like a slam but it isn’t, this is music at its purest and most sitting-at-a-bar-drinking-bottles-of-beery.
Gwen Stefani “This Is What the Truth Feels Like” (Pop) – Possibly one of the most embarrassing albums I’ve heard this year. A cringeworthily attempt to be revenant again, this album flirts with trap-esq sounds (which already sound out-of-date) and lyrics that seem they’ve been written by a moron rather than 46-year-old woman who wrote “Don’t Speak”.
Birdy “Growing Pains” (Alt Pop) – Young woman sings melancholy, emotional songs that I’m sure have lyrics that incredibly deep poetry to some people, but Jack doesn’t give a shit.
Asking Alexandria “The Black” (Metal) – I’ve heard of these guys for ages but never heard them properly until now. It’s quite interesting to hear extreme metal packaged and aimed towards teenage girls, especially as in places it gets genuinely quite brutal, but ultimately this hodgepodge mix of styles ultimately feels like the sort of “emo” bands I used to fucking hate back in the day. Not bad, but not for me.
Brian Fallon “Smoke” (Singer-Songwriter) – Y’know it’s funny. The vast majority of the time I pay zero attention to lyrics. I often have listened to an album hundreds of times and have no idea what most of the lyrics are, let alone what they’re about. I can sing you the melodies, melodies are important. I can sing the melodies of the guitar solos note for note… but the actual words? Pft. Yet despite this, I don’t have a completely lack of interest in lyrics. In fact, especially when it comes to rap, lyrics often grab my attention and get me hooked. Brian Fallon’s upbeat, guitar heavy sing-songwriter is not really my thang, but when a song starts with a lyric “I lost my mind in the middle of Toronto” – when that is literally something very specific that happened to me – I’m suddenly like “yeah I’m on board with this song”. That very rarely happens with non-rap/serious music (I love daft/ridiculous lyrics ala Ween/Zappa), so even though this album is being deleted I will keep the song “Smoke” by Brian Fallon.
Elliphant “Living Life Golden” (Pop/Electro-Pop) – One of the things interesting about this album challenge is listening to very different music back-to-back in such a short time. I sometimes I wonder if some albums end up an unfair disadvantage as they directly proceed something I love, or I happen to have heard a similar sound/genre for the past few albums and am a bit bummed out. This disclaimer exsists because I THOUGHT THIS ALBUM WAS FUCKING SHIT. After hearing something fresh like Anthony Hamilton, having to go back to standard pop with “woah ho hoo” choruses made me want to kill myself. I don’t mind “woah ho hoo” choruses, I’ve talked about how much I love The Offspring on this blog, but this just sounded f-ing s-hite.
The Falcon “Gather Up The Chaps” (Punk/Alt) – This punky band have slight At The Drive In vibes (certainly on the opening track anyway, which so often shapes the beginning of these mini-reviews…) Unfortunately for them, they’re nowhere near as good as At The Drive In or any of the punk bands that I like, which is a shame because song names like “Hasselhoff Cheeseburger” and “You Dumb Dildos” are titles that I really could have got behind.
Hooverphonic “In Wonderland” (Trip-Hop/Electronica) – Hooverphonic is another name I could get behind, unfortunately this Belgium artist just sounds pretty uninspired, and in places the vocals sound like she’s really phoning it in. Yawn inducing in my current state, the song currently on sounds like a shite version of Viva La Vida by Coldplay.
James “Girl at the End of the Road” (Brit-Pop/Indie) – the band that gave us the song “All sit down, all sit down, all sit down, sit down next to me” give us an album of songs nowhere near as annoying as that one, but this middle-of-the-road Britpop that’s nowhere near as good as Blur just made me think “wish I was listening to Blur right now”. Actually maybe I’m being a little harsh, respect to James for being much better than their biggest hit…. Some of the guitar work is pretty nice, but overall… can I listen to Blur now please? Stupid album challenge.
Killswitch Engage “Incarnate” (Metal) – As regular readers will know (Hi to all 2 of you, I think/hope) I pretty much enjoy all metal. It’s pretty hard for me to not enjoy metal, because it’s metal, and even when it’s not metal I love its still metal. Y’know what I mean? Probably not. Weirdly Killswitch have always been one of those bands that just don’t connect with me, despite their metal credentials. In fact there’s something, and I can’t figure out with it, that actually slightly does my head in about them… which doesn’t make sense… because they’re pretty metal. But yeah, this album might be some of the worst stuff I’ve heard by them.
Matt Corby “Telluric” (Indie/Singer-Songwriter) – This album is like… the complete opposite to Redfoo (see above if you skipped it). It takes itself seriously. It sounds like the sort of thing that’d be critically loved. And y’know – it’s good. It’s better than Redfoo. I appreciate that it’s thoughtful, and effort has gone into it. But did I enjoy it more that Redfoo? I can’t say I did. It’s just not my cup of tea, and this album challenge is making me realise that my cups of tea are pretty fucking weird and all-over the place, with no consistency other that I’m a sucker for catchy hooks (but not exclusively committed to catchy hooks, plenty of music I like that doesn’t have hooks). So yeah not for me, but big shout out for that riff/drum beat in “Knife Edge” which was awesome. I shall be keeping that song.