SIMON’S PICKS FOR RYAN
The Dear Hunter – Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise – “Waves”
Simon: Man, this song really fucks me up on a deep level – “we thought we knew love / but it was just a wave crashing over us” is such a great opening line. Act IV has come to be one of my favorite progressive rock albums, and “Waves” represents everything I think the album does right: nostalgic, bittersweet melodies, a rich backing to Casey Crescenzo’s vocals, and deep, layered tracks that really come together into something special.
Ryan: I’m not intimately familiar with The Dear Hunter, but every time I hear a track in passing from them I always think about changing that. ‘Waves’ feels like a perfect track to be brought in on, with its elements of seafaring music and upbeat progressive rock coming together to carry me to shore. Casey Crescenzo’s voice is sublime, as well. I heard him previously on Forgive Durden‘s musical Razia’s Shadow, but hearing him in his element makes him stand out that much more to me. If I don’t listen to The Dear Hunter’s discography after this, I’m doing myself a disservice.
Defeated Sanity – Psalms of the Moribund – “Butchered Identity”
Simon: I’m not a big brutal death metal guy beyond some slam stuff (Disentomb and Abominable Putridity, mostly) but god damn are Defeated Sanity a fucking excellent band. The filthy vocals, the crazy-technical guitarwork, and Lille Gruber’s jazzy drumming make for some insanely good tracks, and this song, one of my favorite cuts from Psalms of the Moribund, is no exception.
Ryan: Brutal Death Metal isn’t always my genre of choice, but I do enjoy it from time to time. I remember listening to Passages into Deformity when it came out, but at the time the content didn’t really latch onto me in any meaningful way. This song may not stick with me for very long or enter my regular listening rotation, but it definitely goes HARD. Filthy, guttural vocals combined with breakneck, technical instrumentals make for a track that I enjoy more and more every time I hear it. Once again, not always my cup of tea, but sometimes an itch needs to be scratched and this does that to the extreme by rending the flesh from my mortal bones.
Coheed and Cambria – The Second Stage Turbine Blade – “Hearshot Kid Disaster”
Simon: I said to someone last night that although Coheed was my favorite band for a long time, now I appreciate them from a distance more than anything. They were more of a high school band for me than anything, but I think we all have a soft spot for nostalgia (at least I do) and any Coheed stuff that isn’t Color Before The Sun is something I will always have that soft spot for. This track’s production is odd – the whole album sounds weird from a production standpoint but whatever – and the opening scream sounds hilarious instead of grim now, but “Hearshot Kid Disaster” is still a great song that strikes everything I like about their first few albums.
Ryan: Funnily enough, this is the only Coheed and Cambria album I own on CD and the one I listen to the least. Not for any particular reason, it’s just not an album I always think about. The mix is a little wonky on this song, but it was 2002 so I’ll let it slide. Claudio Sanchez’s voice sounds as good as it ever has, but he’s always had tremendous talent so that’s no surprise. I enjoy the track overall, but the part that really sticks out to me is the second half. It makes me think about what would happen if Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child era Norma Jean played progressive rock. I might have to give this album another listen since it’s been a few years between spins.
Touché Amoré – To The Beat of a Dead Horse – “Nine”
Simon: Touche Amore is my go-to sad band, and I was feeling pretty sad at some points this last week due to some stuff going on in my life. TTBOADH is certainly not their best album, but it’s the one with the most emotional resonance for me, and it’s super short so it hits all the right spots in very little time, making it a super therapeutic listen. A lot of the lyrics in “Nine” are things I really connect with, and the groove from about 0:20 onward just slays me.
Ryan: I started listening to Touché Amoré on ~ so I never actually listened to To Beat a Dead Horse. With it clocking in at a little over eighteen minutes, I probably should so something about that since it’ll take so little time. “Nine” feels like it’s missing something to me, but at 0:44 seconds, maybe the track just doesn’t have enough time to really sell me on the album. I also may be tainted by hearing the bands later releases first, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t keep listening to see if something clicks with me for this release. As a sidenote, I really love the cover art for the album. Puts a very specific picture in my head when I listen to the song.
Vukari – Divination – “Cursus Honorum”
Simon: The main reason this is on here is because I reviewed it for the blog last week, nonetheless, it’s a fantastic album and I’m glad I was able to get somebody at the blog to check it out. To summarize what I said in my review: this is a great release that takes the many threads of American black metal – the dissonance and abrasion, the naturalism, and the raw emotion, namely – and brings them all together in a really cool way. Also, I saw them open for So Hideous at an all-around phenomenal show back in September and they really bring it live in a way not many bands that traffic in this sound really do.
Ryan: I’ve had this album sitting in my iTunes since it released, so I’m glad that Simon is giving me the kick in the pants I need to check it out. This track is an excellent slab of blackgaze that has me very excited to listen to the full thing. I love when a band can nail the heavy/soft dynamic in a way that doesn’t feel forced, so this hits the perfect spot. The artwork also matches the music perfectly. Music like this definitely makes me think that 2016 is one of the best years for music in quite some time.
Coheed and Cambria – In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 – “The Crowing”
Simon: To echo what I said above about Coheed, their big draw for me at this point is very much high school nostalgia, but this track is still a banger. The second half of this song really picks up, bringing a lot of much needed tension, energy, and finally, release with a resounding, heartfelt chorus that still gives me shivers down my spine whenever I hear it.
Ryan: I don’t own this album on CD, but I also don’t listen to it very much. This song is enjoyable, but not something I feel like I would return to frequently. It doesn’t even feel like it’s almost seven minutes in length, which is a quality I usually look for in longer tracks. Once again, the second half of this song grips me more than the first half, which might just become a pattern with Coheed and I by the end of this playlist swap.
Disentomb – Misery – “Megaliths of Despair”
Simon: “Megaliths of Despair” is not a typical brutal death metal track, but then, Disentomb is not a typical brutal death metal band. Expanding on and experimenting with the genre’s formulae and foibles, the band takes the style wherever they feel like while retaining enough of the core elements to appease genre sticklers. Case in point: “Megaliths” feels more like a particularly heavy death-doom track than it does a brutal death metal song, with its slow, lumbering grooves and occasional battering ram speed sections.
Ryan: I listened to Misery casually when it came out, but I never remembered it being so good. It always seemed like an album I could connect with on a more aesthetic level than on a musical level, but this song has me thinking I need to go back and do a serious re-listen. “Megaliths of Despair” is a perfect title for a song that not only feels monumental, but also soul-crushing. The gutturals sound like water draining at times and for some reason that feels like one of the heaviest things I’ve ever heard. Not really sure why I didn’t give this release the attention it deserved at the time, but I think I’m ready for it now.
TTNG – Disappointment Island – A Chase of Sorts
Simon: Disappointment Island is fucking great. I love the whole album, even if it is just another TTNG release. A Chase of Sorts has this great, bouncy energy to it that not many of their songs do, and I love the way the playful attitude extends to every instrument.
Ryan: The new TTNG album is a very enjoyable listen. 220.127.116.11.0 wasn’t bad, but it felt like math rock that any band could write. Disappointment Island feels like a return to form for the band that captured my imagination with Animals. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite from the album just yet, but this track is at least in the top 3.
The Fall of Troy – OK – 401K
Simon: I’m not the biggest The Fall of Troy fan beyond Doppelganger, but I do really enjoy OK from time to time. At first, I thought it was a typical mediocre reunion album, but the more I listen, the more I realize there’s a lot more depth to the whole thing than I thought. Also, “401k” is the best opening track of the year.
Ryan: I was actually supposed to review OK for the blog, but it kind of slipped through the cracks. Maybe another day. 401K is a killer opener that shows you just how much The Fall of Troy both did and didn’t change during their breakup. This is still the same band, they just learned how to reign in their chaos a tad. If you haven’t checked out OK yet, you probably should. Don’t call it a comeback, though.
RYAN’S PICKS FOR SIMON
BADBADNOTGOOD – IV – “Time Moves Slow (feat. Sam Herring)”
Ryan: BADBADNOTGOOD are actually quite GOODGOODNOTBAD. Forgive the overused joke, but seriously, these guys make quality jazz music that you can really sink your teeth into. On “Tine Moves Slow” Sam Herring’s worn, inviting voice sits atop this track and amplifies its already very present soul tenfold.
Simon: Ok, I love BBNG as much as the next guy, and IV is great, but if I’m being honest, both of the tracks with vocals are the worst on the album by far. They’re still not bad – it’s BBNG, after all – but they just do not do it for me the way the instrumentals do. Samuel Herring’s voice is just sort of weak, and doesn’t really work with the track’s vibe at all for me.
Desiigner – New English – “Caliber”
Ryan: Desiigner has caught a lot of flak for his debut mixtape not being a super original affair, but what he may lack in originality on the project, he makes up for in his raw energy. “Caliber” is an explosive, head-bobbing cut that gets better with multiple listens. At first I didn’t like the way the track was mixed because it seems to be distorted and clipping slightly, but it honestly gives the track character. As soon as the drums and sub-bass come in, you know that something wild is about to go down.
Simon: Panda. Panda. Panda. I got broads in Atlanta. Twisting dope, lean with the fanta. Wait, this isn’t “Panda”? Oh, whoops. Desiigner’s new mixtape suffers from a pretty serious issue for me: all of his tracks either sound like he’s trying to emulate his breakout single, or he’s attempting to just rip off Future as much as he can. I don’t really see the appeal, and the abrupt ending of this track sounds more unfinished than it does anything else. Not really something I enjoy.
The Avalanches – Wildflower – “If I Was a Folkstar”
Ryan: Wildflower is an album that has captured my imagination and kept me interested in its many layers and complexities. The Avalanches sure know how to come back after over a decade long wait for new music. I would say that “If I Were a Folkstar” captures what makes the album great because it manages to take a contemporary guest such as Toro y Moi and wrap him in what I can only describe as a warm blanket of radiant nostalgia.
Simon: I really, really liked “Frank Sinatra”, the debut single from Wildflower, but I haven’t checked out anything else from the album yet. Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of mostly-instrumental hip hop, mainly because the lyricism and flow technique is what draws me to the genre. This is pleasant, nothing more, nothing less. Toro y Moi does sound good here, though.
Roy Woods – Until Dawn – “How I Feel”
Ryan: If you ever thought “I wonder what a dude who both kind of looks and sounds vaguely like a young Michael Jackson might sound like if he made nothing but bangers” then you don’t have to wonder any longer. Signed to Drake’s OVO Sound, Roy Woods is a performer that makes everything sound like it’s coming from the deepest part of his heart and sounds damn good doing it.
Simon: I didn’t expect to enjoy this, based on Ryan’s description, but this is great. I love the instrumental and Woods’ voice is great. I’m gonna have to check out the whole album, because the vibe of this is very laid-back in a way I really, really love.
Emarosa – 131 – “Sure”
Ryan: 131 is a return to form for Emarosa, at least for me. There last album didn’t have a whole lot for me to latch onto, but this new one has hooks galore that reel me in. “Sure” is a killer tune that has the perfect chorus riff/vocal combo that knocks me on my ass every time. Bradley Walden’s vocals send chills down my spine and make tears well up in my eyes with what seems to be little to no effort.
Simon: I’ve never listened to Emarosa before, mostly because this sort of Warped-Tour-core stuff has just never drawn me in. Can’t say this really changes how I feel, but I do respect the clear attention to instrumentation and composition the band is putting forth here. It sounds very mature, in the least pretentious way possible.
Young Thug – Slime Season – Calling Your Name
Ryan: I’m fairly new to the Young Thug hype train, but his quips, odd note choices and cartoonish delivery make him fairly easy to love. At least, in my eyes. The bright production on Calling Your Name is the perfect stage for Thugger to perform on and seems to bring the best out of him in all the respects that I listed above. You may not understand what he’s saying sometimes and when you do it may seem silly, but I’ll be damned if Thug doesn’t know how to make very enjoyable noise.
Simon: I love Young Thug, I really do. The weird, super surreal approach to rap that he brings that has inspired dozens of imitators (some of whom are also fantastic) is really enjoyable, even if I do need to be in a pretty specific state of mind to really “feel” it. This is a pretty typical YT track in that sense, but hey, any Young Thug is good Young Thug for me.
Good Tiger – A Head Full of Moonlight – “’67 Pontiac Firebird”
Ryan: Good Tiger released one of the best albums of last year and it ended with one of the most gratifying closing tracks I’ve ever had the good fortune to hear. It’s like the auditory equivalent of a climax in a so-bad-it’s-good action b-movie: Triumphant, lots of heart and has a kick ass car that’s driven by a man that just wants you to stop fucking with his town.
Simon: I don’t listen to this release nearly enough, given how much I enjoy it. It just makes me think of the The Safety Fire a little bit too much, and then I think of how they broke up, and then I get sad. Either way, this track rules: that opening groove is fucking nasty, Elliot Coleman’s vocals are great, and the way this whole song builds is just so much fun.
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo – Freestyle 4 (feat. Desiigner)
Ryan: My love for The Life of Pablo is never ending and far-reaching, but “Freestyle 4” holds a special place in my heart. It feels manic, unpredictable and borderline dangerous. It’s as if you’re listening to Kanye having a mental breakdown in the middle of a grand ballroom while the walls close in on him and visions of inner demons and taboo sexual acts appear and disappear in front of his rapidly blinking eyes until he passes out from mental exhaustion. Raw and urgent in a way that few things so polished could ever hope to be.
Simon: The artistic merit of Kanye West has always been – and probably always will be – an area of contention and agreeing to disagree between myself and Ryan. I do not like him, and “Freestyle 4” kinda symbolizes everything that makes me unable to enjoy his music: the beat is pretty mediocre, the lyrics are a cut above garbage, and Kanye’s pretension and self-absorption just come across so strong in his delivery and lyrics.
Nick Jonas – Last Year Was Complicated – “Touch”
Ryan: The new Nick Jonas album was not something I expected to fall in love with, but it’s honestly one of the best pop albums I’ve heard in quite a while. Every song seems to have something that draws me in and keeps me on the line. “Touch” builds off an acoustic guitar riff and doesn’t stop until it reaches the clouds. As each layer is added on, it swells and swells until it becomes a powerhouse of pop magic.
Simon: I haven’t listened to the new Nick Jonas album yet, mostly because pop just isn’t my forte sans a few special albums. However, this track is pretty great: the vocal delivery is on point and the acoustic guitar groove adds this weird touch of intimacy and warmth to the track that I just didn’t expect at all. Will I visit this whole album? Maybe, maybe not. That being said, I certainly enjoy this track and will argue Nick Jonas’s merit as a pop artist based off of it whenever I need to.