Monthly Report: August 2017 Singles

Friday, August 18, 2017


























1. SZA f/ Travis Scott - "Love Galore"
I have mixed feelings about the SZA album, and am generally baffled by the public's embrace of Travis Scott as a major star. But this song really came together nicely, great vocal melody and great wobbly synth sound. That little coda on the album version really feels extraneous now that I'm accustomed to the radio edit, though. Here's the 2017 singles playlist I update every month.

2. Dua Lipa - "New Rules"
Dua Lipa's album is one of my favorite of the last few months, but I didn't initially peg "New Rules" as a standout until they released really a memorable, creatively choreographed video for the song. It's hard to make a song out of itemized instructions without feeling like a retread of "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" (or "Ten Crack Commandments"), but this one puts its own twist on the format. It's already her biggest UK hit and it's starting to rise up the US charts.

3. 2 Chainz f/ Trey Songz, Jhene Aiko and Ty Dolla $ign - "It's A Vibe"
I was initially skeptical of this song, just because of the general overuse of the word "vibe" these days, and rap tracks with 3 guest singers like "Jam" by Kevin Gates tend to seem like a desperate stab at a radio song. But this really grew me, particularly because of how good the one 2 Chainz verse is ("gas in a Ziploc, now that's loud and clear"), and how utterly relaxed it feels compared to everything else on the radio, and it kind of epitomizes the whole idea and aesthetic of the Pretty Girls Like Trap Music project.

4. Zedd f/ Liam Payne - "Get Low"
Every member of One Direction has now had a US top 40 hit, but with Harry's album pointedly not playing the radio game and Zayn between albums, there's been an unlikely race between two lower profile members to have the biggest hit of the summer. I absolutely adore Niall's "Slow Hands" and detest Liam's "Strip That Down," and my mood on any given week is partly determined by which one of those songs is doing better on the charts.

5. Jon Pardi - "Heartache On The Dancefloor"
PardiNextDoor is 3 for 3 with singles off this album, one of the best people on country radio these days, manages to merge traditionalist sounds with something snappy and immediate in a way that nobody else is really doing.

6. Bruno Mars - "Versace On The Floor"
"That's What I Like" was #1 on R&B radio for 12 weeks (compared to only 3 weeks on pop radio), which kinda makes me wonder where Bruno goes from here. Is he going to stick with this sound and be more embraced by R&B audiences for the rest of his career or will he remain a big tent pop star? "Versace On The Floor" as a follow up single certainly doesn't seem destined to do very well outside R&B radio. The one time I've heard it on a pop station so far, they played the David Guetta remix, which was funny since it's not really terribly different, just kinda feels like it's mining a slightly different vein of retro cheese. But it does kind of resemble The Weeknd's "I Feel It Coming," which probably helps it.

7. Kendrick Lamar f/ Rihanna - "Loyalty"
DAMN. is a very good album, but I still think Kendrick is a pretty spotty singles artist, and that "Humble" and "DNA" are two of my least favorite songs on the record, so hearing this song on the radio suits me a lot more.

8. Migos f/ Gucci Mane "Slippery"
I didn't include "Slippery" on my recent Takeoff playlist, since I was emphasizing songs where Takeoff does the hook or first verse. But his verse on this really is great, and I love the editing of Gucci's "I don't promote violence" going straight into Takeoff's "Deadshot, AK make your head rock."

9. Bryson Tiller - "Somethin Tells Me"
Trapsoul was one of the biggest debut albums in R&B in recent memory, and it seemed like he had a lot of momentum carrying into his new album, which debuted at #1, and he's also on that giant DJ Khaled/Rihanna record. So it surprised me that True To Self's lead single totally stiffed at R&B radio. And it's kind of a shame, I panned the album, but this song really grew on me.

10. Ayo & Teo - "Rolex"
My older son is 7, so he's starting to actively have his own taste in music, and in 2017, what that means is invariably a lot of viral dance rap songs. I remember one day he asked to listen to "Hit The Quan" and I was like "I wrote a thinkpiece about this song, y'know." Lately "Rolex" has been his favorite, which I didn't like at all at first, but it's grown on me. Also, it always makes me laugh thinking about this tweet. It's a shame everybody made Meek Mill self conscious about rapping about Rolexes, it would've been fun to hear him on a remix of this.

Worst Single of the Month: The Weeknd - "Reminder"
I already quoted this awful song at length last year, but hearing it on the radio lately really brought back just how awful it is. I'm really flummoxed at how this is up for several awards, including Video of the Year, at the VMA's, it's a pretty but bland "celebrity cameos in slow motion" video for the underperforming 4th single from an album.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017
















My big brother Zac invited me onto his podcast, as he sometimes does, this time for a cartoon-themed episode focused on the new "DuckTales" series that just premiered. You can listen on Patreon or iTunes

Movie Diary

Friday, August 11, 2017

























a) The Founder
I can't think of an actor I've been happier to see stage a major comeback than Michael Keaton. And The Founder, more than any of his other recent films, felt like it perfectly distilled that weird wired Michael Keaton energy that I'd missed. I wasn't sure what to expect from a movie about the origins of McDonald's, but it felt like they got into the nuts and bolts of all the good and bad of what McDonald's represents in a pretty thought provoking way and ended up with a pretty interesting portrayal of Ray Kroc.

b) The Incredible Jessica James
This is the first real star vehicle for Jessica Williams since she left "The Daily Show," so I had really high hopes for it to be great. But it was really just kind of an anonymous, pleasantly bland indie rom com, very light on actual laughs and not that different from James C. Strouse's other films except the lead occasionally says "AF." Even more disappointingly, Comedy Central didn't pick up the pilot Williams recently made, and she's now planning a different TV project with Strouse.

c) A Woman, A Part
Maggie Siff is one of my favorite dramatic actresses in television in the last few years for her work on "Billions" and "Sons of Anarchy," so I was excited to see her as a lead in film, although amusingly she basically plays a Maggie Siff-type respected television actress. It's a pretty interesting, thoughtful film about the profession of acting, although by the end I kinda felt like it ran out of energy and kind of arrived at a pat conclusion.

d) Passengers
Much has been said about how the plot of this film is kind of messed up and creepy. To the film's credit, they actually acknowledge it and it becomes the driving point of the story. But they still kind of try to come to this tidy resolution that redeems Chris Pratt's character, honestly this idea could've been pulled off if they had put a darker psychological tone into the story and had a less happy go lucky rom com pair of leads like Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.

e) Rogue One
I liked The Force Awakens more than I expected to, given my general indifference towards the idea of new Star Wars movies, and a lot of people had said that Rogue One was even better. But I dunno, the cast was good but didn't have remotely as much chemistry, and I just don't care about the mythology enough to really care about this prequel backstory where the ending is a foregone conclusion, it really didn't hold my attention at all. 

f) Miss Sloane
I really had no idea what this movie was about based on the marketing, I think I just assumed Jessica Chastain would play more or less the same kind of character she played in Zero Dark Thirty, some badass intelligence officer. It's a pretty well done movie but kind of felt like a dry off-brand Aaron Sorkin project, perhaps partly because Allison Pill and Sam Waterston showed up in this just a couple years after "The Newsroom."

g) Bad Moms
The whole "Bad [noun]" genre of mainstream comedies is so ubiquitous at this point that you can literally predict them with a Twitter bot. That said, I wouldn't mind seeing some of the movies that bot comes up with, and this one was pretty decent. A movie with an almost entirely female cast, which is ostensibly about motherhood, being written and directed by the two guys who came up with The Hangover is maybe not the best look in the world, and a better or certainly less broad version of this movie definitely could've been made with women behind the camera. But the cast was good and it got a decent number of laughs out of my wife and me. 

h) Get A Job
This movie starring Miles Teller and Anna Kendrick quietly came out last year, which confused me until I realized that they'd made it before Whiplash or Pitch Perfect and it was basically shelved for 4 years. And really, it's just not very good, I get why they let it languish in obscurity and then slip it out on VOD even as the stars became more famous, but it's not terrible per se, just mediocre. 

Monday, August 07, 2017


















The 6th installment of my Noisey column The Unstreamables is about Def Leppard's Hysteria, which was just reissued for its 30th anniversary, but is still unavailable for streaming. It's probably the last Unstreamables column, at least at Noisey, but I loved doing it, I may try to revive it elsewhere. 

Sunday, August 06, 2017























I recently compiled cover songs recorded by Ted Leo for the playlist magazine The Dowsers (kind of an updated Spotify version of an old Narrowcast post). Ted himself even tweeted it! I also made a playlist in defense of Takeoff, my favorite member of Migos, and a playlist tracing Michael McDonald's evolution from yacht rock camp to respectability. And I wrote a post analyzing a recent set of Spotify playlists made by the members of Metallica. 

Saturday, August 05, 2017


















Today is Adam Yauch's 53rd birthday, and I worked on a piece for Rolling Stone with Andy B5eta and Dan Hyman listing some of MCA's most notable moments in the Beastie Boys catalog. 

Monthly Report: July 2017 Albums

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

























1. Sevyn Streeter - Girl Disrupted
A Sevyn Streeter album probably should've come out 4 years ago, when she had two back-to-back radio hits. Instead, Chris Brown's label CBE Entertainment was content to let her release EPs and more singles featuring Chris Brown and Chris Brown songs written by Sevyn. So it's bittersweet that Streeter finally got a major label album out, without CBE and without any Brown features, well after the momentum she had a few years ago has dissipated. But it's really pretty fantastic and consistently provides good, varied backdrops for her sultry voice and vulnerable songwriting. Here's the 2017 albums playlist that I keep adding records to as I listen to them.

2. Meek Mill - Wins & Losses
There's really never been a Meek Mill project that I've disliked or been disappointed by, but most of them are a few iffy choices away from fulfilling his potential. And Dreams & Nightmares and Dreams Worth More Than Money, for all their respective strengths and enduring songs, each wound up with a slightly wrongheaded idea of what a major label Meek Mill album should be. So Wins & Losses is refreshing because it feels like the first time he's really gotten that recipe right. Where Dreams & Nightmares had some awkward flirtation with AutoTune, Meek finally found a way to rap melodically that suits him and doesn't sound like an impression of anyone else on Meekend Music II's "Save Me" that carries over to "1942 Flows" and "Fall Thru" on Wins & Losses; it works out a lot better than, say, French Montana's unlistenable embrace of sing rapping on Jungle Rules. But really the whole album is just jam packed with great tracks like "Glow Up" and "We Ball" and "Fuck That Check Up" and "Young Black America" that, taken together, show his range more than any previous release and kind of put to rest the idea that he's a one-dimensional street rap shouter.

3. Nine Inch Nails - Add Violence EP
I enjoyed the Not The Actual Events EP when it was released last December, but I then promptly pretty much forgot it existed until another EP was announced six months later as part of a trilogy of Nine Inch Nails EPs. Broken notwithstanding, I think of NIN as being well suited to big immersive albums, so I was a little skeptical about the switch to the EP format, but now I'm really on board with it and looking forward to the next installment. "Less Than" is the most instantly hooky thing they've released since "The Hand That Feeds." And the 11-minute closing track, "The Background World," is the longest NIN song to date and has this groove with an irregular loop point that plays over and over and gradually gets more distorted. So this really kind has a nice range for such a short record. And Reznor has always been an inspiration to me just in how he merges synth pop and dance music with heavy rock and he just seems to get more inventive with it with time.

4. Us And Us Only - Full Flower
Us And Us Only's drummer Sean Mercer is a producer/engineer at Mobtown Studios in Baltimore, a place that I've been hanging out and recording at for nearly a decade. So I've known him a little and have heard Us And Us Only's music from the beginning, and we included one of their tracks on Mobtown's compilation that I helped assemble in 2013, and I shared the stage with them for the release party and was really impressed by their set. So it's been really exciting to see Us And Us Only's profile rise with each EP for the last few years and then a lot of good press come in for Full Flower, their first album, but it's also bittersweet because the place where the album was made and which has been so important to me, Mobtown, is closing down in a couple months. But I really dig this record, even if I almost wish they saved some of the songs on the Bored Crusader EP for it.

5. Vinny Vegas - Clear The Walls
Vinny Vegas is another Baltimore band who I have a personal connection to -- they appeared on the same 2013 compilation I worked on, and frontman Scott Siskind sang two songs on my album -- so, as always, I welcome you to take my praise for my friends and associates with a grain of salt. Vinny Vegas's 2nd full-length is really beautifully recorded, though, I'm such a fan of Scott's voice and he really goes for some big soaring, dramatic melodies on here.

6. Aminé - Good For You
Aminé appeared on XXL's 'Freshmen' cover a few weeks ago, and his single "Caroline" is the 2nd biggest hit by any of the 10 rappers on that cover. But out of all those artists, he kinda feels like the one who is most synonymous with one particular song, who doesn't have much of a following or public image beyond it, the mostly likely to be eventually tagged as a 'one hit wonder' even if half of them are likely to wound up with pitifully short careers. And I think that's kind of a shame, because his music, as much as it feels of a piece with a certain strain of self-impressed quirky post-regional rappers found on the XXL cover and elsewhere, has its own unique texture and sensibility that nobody else is doing. He gets in some pretty clever lines here and there and I really love the squirrelly funky sound of "Yellow" and "STFU" and the aesthetic triangulated by him having guests like Nelly, Offset, and Charlie Wilson.

7. HAIM - Something To Tell You
I have a lot of mixed feelings about how HAIM presents their dad rock influences for a contemporary audience that by and large is kind of snobby about the old stuff that sounds like this. But I guess they're growing me a little, this is a pretty good sounding record. "Little Of Your Love" feels like the standout to me on this one.

8. Hunit Stackz - The Black Saiyan Saga
Baltimore's Hunit Stackz is hardly the first rapper to openly reference anime in his lyrics. But he took it a little further with a concept album that has a companion manga comic, and it's really a pretty fun, inventive record.

9. The Isley Brothers & Santana - Power Of Peace
Two legendary bands that have each been together for over half a century coming together for the first time to make a whole album is a pretty exciting prospect, and I had high hopes that this would be a guitar hero free for all between Ernie Isley and Carlos Santana. In practice, though, the album is a bit of a letdown; it sounds like someone just put a mic in the back of a cavernous rehearsal stage and the bands ran through a bunch of covers. But Ronald Isley's voice sounds great and it's fun to hear these guys cut loose like this after both acts have spent the last couple decades making fairly restrained contemporary pop records.

10. Coldplay - Kaleidoscope EP
It's kind of weird how this EP had a longer, more sustained advance promotion, and a bigger hit single, than Coldplay's last album, especially since it's pretty flimsy little record with five tracks, including a totally inessential live version of the aforementioned hit single. But "All I Can Think About Is You" is easily the best Coldplay song in ages, and the Brian Eno collaboration "A L I E N S" is pretty good too. Too bad about that Big Sean verse.

The Worst Album of the Month: NAV and Metro Boomin - Perfect Timing
Much has already been said about this album's mismatch between one of Atlanta's most successful producers of the moment and an awkward Canadian Punjabi rapper who sounds like he's reciting every pop cap cliche in a weird chipper monotone (my favorite review said it "sounds like Siri made a rap album").  I almost hate to pile on, because honestly, it'd be cool if a brown guy with his kind of connections actually deservingly became a big charismatic rap star, but this guy just seems so totally bland and out of his element. At least he stopped staying the N-word after his last project, though.

TV Diary

Friday, July 28, 2017
























a) "Friends From College"
Nicholas Stoller has directed some entertaining movies and got together a pretty strong cast for this Netflix series. But it reminds me of a particular element of Stoller's movies much in the same way that I described for "Love" a few months ago, where almost every episode feels like that middle half hour of the movie where people angrily yell at each other and something painful or embarrassing happens. Plus one of those episodes takes place on a party bus and feels very derivative of one of the best "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" episodes. And "Friends" has the added element of most of the show centering around two married characters who have carried on an affair for years and years, and the fact that the whole show revolves around classic sitcom boo Cobie Smulders getting cheated on just gets hard to watch after a while. I mean, as a married dude, I try to just not be stressed out about how many movies and shows inundate you with adultery stories and marital dischord, but sometimes it's just wearing and depressing to watch. I think the show is a little better than reviews have given it credit for, though, to be honest. I particularly like the couple played by Fred Savage and Billy Eichner, who both play against type entertainingly.

b) "The Last Tycoon" 
My appetite for period pieces is far outpaced the number of them on TV right now, so I'm not sure if I'll stick with this F. Scott Fitzgerald story about 1930's Hollywood past the first couple episodes. But it has a scenery chewing Kelsey Grammer and a feisty, adorable Lily Collins, so it's not bad.

c) "Midnight, Texas"
"True Blood" was by no means a perfect show, but it had a certain unique charm, and of course I've felt a little nostalgic for it lately given the death of Nelsan Ellis. This adaptation of another Charlaine Harris series just feels a lot flimsier right off the bat, like NBC just put a lot less money and thought into the casting and the production values. But the pilot wasn't bad, this might be a decent summer show.

d) "Ozark"
I find Jason Bateman's only character, a beleaguered, cynical everyman, to be pretty tiresome in the comedies where he usually deploys it, and it's not terribly useful in a dramatic context either. This show has had some a few interesting or surprising moments, but for the most part it just feels like another gritty prestige show with a washed out color scheme and an antihero protagonist getting drawn into the criminal underworld and having to start his life over in a new place.

e) "The Worst Witch" 
A cute little Harry Potterish kids show on Netflix, which I sampled to see if I thought my son might like it, but I doubt it.

f) "Niko And The Sword Of The Light"
This animated Amazon show seems a little more like my son's speed, I think I'll test it out on him soon, it's really weird and surreal and goofy.

g) "Loaded"
So many British shows get adapted into American shows, usually inferior ones, that it feels weird to see something that feels so plainly like a Brit version of "Silicon Valley." I mean, I guess it's different because it's about guys who already cashed out and became rich, but the vibe is similar. It's kind of douchey and hard to love, but it's growing on me a little, there was one scene that made me laugh really hard where the one American character said "everyone loves Bono" and the British characters all said "no, everyone hates Bono."

h) "Hooten & The Lady"
It's pretty common for American networks to pick up British shows to run as a summer series, but the network that picked up "Hooten & The Lady" is The CW, which gives you an idea of what kind of frothy adventure/romance series it is. It's pretty charming, though, and I enjoy saying the title.

i) "Salvation"
This show is about a guy at MIT discovering that an asteroid is going to hit Earth in six months and getting together with a tech billionaire and government officials to try and come up with a solution in secret. Not a bad premise for a sci-fi show but it's got that assembly line CBS feel to it, hard to love.

j) "The Bold Type"
A Freeform show loosely based on Cosmo staffers, about women who work at a fictitious women's magazine called Scarlet. There's a lot of heavy handed plots about feminism and progressive politics and orgasms and representation, it's kind of nice to see that a show like this exists but it really just lacks the personality to actually be what it wants to be.

k) "Will"
Shakespeare In Love seemed too hacky to me two decades ago, so I don't even know where to begin this young sexy Shakespeare show that seems hacky compared to Shakespeare In Love. It's a shame, I don't think doing a somewhat irreverent, modern take on the life of Shakespeare is inherently a bad idea, but whatever a good version of it is, it ain't this, which had an awful faux rap battle in the first episode.

l) "Earth Live"
I love nature films and shows where you know a camera crew had to sit quietly for hours, if not days, to catch some amazing rare moment of animal behavior. So the idea of NatGeo doing a live special and hoping to have nature and various wild animals and unpredictable factors in outdoor filming all work well for a live broadcast seemed like kind of an insanely ambitious project. It turned out well, though, I liked the way they'd cut to different locations all over the world and it'd be daylight or night in different places depending on the timezone, and they ended up catching some cool moments.

m) "The Defiant Ones"
Like most people, I was put off by the idea of an entire miniseries dedicated to lionizing Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, and essentially casting their various trailblazing years in the music industry as a prologue to their current Beats/Apple Music work. But I was genuinely impressed by the production values and the charm of how they cut together the interviews and the narrative, and as a music geek it's hard not to enjoy some of the stories they unearth.

n) "Candy Crush"
Turning one of those stupid video games people like to play on their phones into a game show hosted by Mario Lopez is one of those perfect ridiculous ideas that networks love to put on the air in the summer. They managed, unlikely as it seems, to turn it into kind of a watchable game show and not just people playing the video game, but once I satisfied my curiosity about how they'd pull that off I had no desire to watch it anymore.

o) "Castlevania"
This is kind of also a video game turned into a TV show, but in a pretty different way. Netflix only has 4 episodes so far, but this is really one of darkest, most violent American animated shows I've ever seen, it's really surprisingly funny and entertaining and badass, we watched almost the whole thing in one night.

p) "Tales"
Scripted television inspired by hip hop has taken a couple of shapes over and over, so I appreciate the novelty of Irv Gotti's anthology series for BET where each episode is based on a different 'narrative' rap song, like Biggie's "I Got A Story To Tell." It basically amounts to some pretty boilerplate crime drama, but the casting and production values are on point.

q) "I'm Dying Up Here"
I was iffy on the first couple episodes of this show, and Andrew Santino is one of the most unlikable lead actors a TV show could have. But there have been a lot of good little character moments throughout the show, it's really grown on me. It kinda reminds me of Showtime's show biz dramedy from last summer, "Roadies," which might sound negative but I liked "Roadies." I'm continually distracted by how Dylan Baker plays Johnny Carson without looking or sounding at all like Carson in even the most abstract way.

r) "The Jim Jefferies Show"
I'm glad to see that Comedy Central ordered more episodes of this (and also "The President Show," which I have slightly more mixed feelings about). It's been interesting to see so many topical comedy shows now have non-American hosts like John Oliver and Trevor Noah discussing American politics, and Jefferies has kind of a refreshing plainspoken, logical way of breaking down and joking about the issues.

s) "People Of Earth"
This was a very odd, fun little new show last year, glad to see TBS bringing so much of its new comedy slate back for second seasons. I like that they're expanding the ensemble a little and adding Nasim Pedrad, although I'm amused that she's an FBI agent since her most prominent post-"SNL" role was as a cop on "New Girl," like she's being typecast as sitcom law enforcement.

t) "Insecure"
I really liked "Insecure"'s pilot, but over the course of the season my enthusiasm for the show really dissipated as it felt like the focus shifted from a unique comic voice to a kind of lightweight 'battle of the sexes' soap opera where people speak in Drake lyrics. So I'm apprehensive about the second season, although the first episode did a decent job of kind of balancing out those elements, hopefully they can keep that up. That opening scene with all the fast cuts of Issa on dates, imagining herself saying things she was thinking in all those fast cuts, though, that was really uncomfortable to me in how it revealed her YouTuber roots, it felt very hacky.

u) "Adam Ruins Everything"
I really enjoy this show and how it picks apart complicated topics and debunks popular myths with a humorous approach. A hallmark of the first season was quick little segments with experts and academics speaking for themselves, and that's kind of been spun off into its own podcast where Adam Conover interviews those people at length. And in the second season, there have been longer, more serious interview segments with those experts, which is fine and useful but I kinda hope the show's dry podcast-like bits don't become longer and longer, I like the silly like scripted narrative elements.

v) "Killjoys"
I always point out that my wife is more into this show than I am, but it's really good, I feel like they've honed the cast's comedy chops more now by the 3rd season.

w) "Stitchers"
The sci-fi elements of this show have really become kind of a bland afterthought to the character stories, for better or worse, but those stories have been pretty compelling, I like that they seem to appreciate that Allison Scagliotti is the best part of the show and keep giving her bigger plotlines like the recent story where Camille has a girlfriend.

x) "The Strain"
I'm kind of glad this show is wrapping up with the 4th season, my interest in the show has gradually decreased since the first season. I remember when the 3rd season ended with a nuclear bomb being detonated and I was just indifferently like "oh, okay." But that certainly at least sets them up to have a different kind of storyline for the final season and the premiere was promising.

y) "@midnight with Chris Hardwick"
I've always had pretty mixed feelings about this show, which is at best a fun little palette cleanser for me for a few minutes between "The Daily Show" and Colbert, because I really kind of dislike Chris Hardwick and his rise to become some kind of inoffensively ubiquitous comedy Ryan Seacrest. So I dunno if this show getting cancelled means he's finally down failing upward and I should stop hating on him, or if it means he's going to Jimmy Fallon his way into hosting "The Daily Show" sometime soon. But whatever he does from here on out, I doubt he'll be as good at it as he was at hosting "@midnight."

z) "Twin Peaks"
There's something overall kind of distasteful to me about the grab bag nature of this new season of "Twin Peaks," the weekly musical performances and the gratuitous celebrity cameos and things seemingly unrelated to the original show that were probably repurposed from various unproduced projects since Lynch's last feature. But the fact that we're getting 18 hours of this stuff, and have experienced so much less than two thirds through it now, still feels like this sweet bizarre generous gift. It's not like I care that much about the "Twin Peaks" mythology anyway.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017







My latest Remix Report Card for Noisey. 

Monthly Report: July 2017 Singles

Sunday, July 23, 2017






















1. Midland - "Drinkin' Problem"
I love country songs about drinking, particularly George Jones's songs about drinking, the way they range from celebrations to laments; I even made a playlist of them last year. And this song, co-written by prolific Nashville pro Dann Huff, lands right in that same strange little sweet spot of gallows humor about alcoholism that could actually be a festive singalong at a bar. Here's the Spotify playlist of favorite 2017 singles that I update every month.

2. Dej Loaf - "No Fear"
I was really impressed by how much Dej Loaf had improved as an MC on last year's All Jokes Aside, and I was disappointed that it seemed like everyone had already stopped paying attention to her to notice. So I get why she had to focus back on her ear for melody to really grab people again, and in fact I kind of dig how she just went all the way out with a funky summer jam that's so in line with current trends. I also like how the cadence of most of the vocals makes me think of Mary J. Blige's "Real Love."

3. Cardi B - "Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)"
In the current hip hop climate, where guys routinely jump out the window if they think Drake flowed like them for a few seconds, I think often of a Complex piece I wrote 3 years ago about the weird grey area that flow occupies in discussions of credit and plagiarism. "No Flockin'" is basically Kodak Black's signature song, first released in 2014 but became his first platinum solo track just earlier this year. And Cardi B at least gave a nod to him with the title of "Bodak Yellow," but her song has already charted higher than his ever did. Normally I might be bothered by that, but I like the idea of a woman upstaging a shitty rapist dude.

4. YFN Lucci f/ PnB Rock - "Everyday We Lit"
After a few years of people saying "lit" constantly, this has emerged as the biggest "lit" song on the charts (Buckcherry doesn't count). Think It's A Game Entertainment really deserves more recognition for what they're doing as an independent label. They launched Rich Homie Quan's career, and he's yet to have another hit since leaving them and signing to a major, and meanwhile Think It's A Game has done a pretty good job of putting Lucci in the spotlight.

5. Demi Lovato "Sorry Not Sorry"
It cracks me up how this song sounds like it could've been made by someone googling "Chance The Rapper type beat." I don't know how much I can love any song that rhymes 'savage' with 'bad bitch' in 2017, but this really feels like the right song for Demi at the right time that kind of fits with her public persona and her tendency to be kind of willing to piss people off a little.

6. The Killers - "The Man"
It's been a solid decade since Sam's Town, so it's hard to really imagine getting excited about The Killers even to the extent that it was ever possible. But I was pleasantly surprised by how immediate and hooky their new single is, just a big strutting Kool & The Gang groove. As usual Brandon Flowers surrounds his good ideas with embarrassing ideas, but here it kind of fits well with the false confidence of the song's unreliable narrator.

7. LeAnn Rimes - "Love Is Love Is Love"
I turned on a pop station one day and heard the last minute or so of this song and it just sounded like the most perfect bubbly '90s Mariah single that never happened. I was shocked to learn that it was LeAnn Rimes, who I'd thought had kinda fallen off the pop radar entirely. Turns out this is actually her 3rd single to top Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart in the past decade.

8. Computer Games - "Every Single Night"
This band is fronted by "Glee" star Darren Criss and is just a painfully on the nose pastiche of '80s pop. But it's really got an irresistible hook and I just have a weakness for this kind of shameless '80s bubblegum, I love the synth horn riff.

9. Tamar Braxton - "My Man"
My favorite part of this song is toward the end when Tamar is just riffing and ranting about the woman who took her man and yells out "HEIFER!" in the middle of all the runs and ad libs.

10. Ne-Yo - "Another Love Song"
I feel like the backlash against Ne-Yo doing dance pop never really went away, even though his voice is much more well suited to that kind of stuff than your average R&B star, and projects like the Calvin Harris album have done a lot to destigmatize that kind of thing by now. His other recent single "Earn Your Love" is pretty good too.

Worst Single of the Month: Muse - "Dig Down" 
Muse has a handful of singles that I really enjoy, and "Madness" is one of them. The new one, which more or less sounds like a transparent attempt to rewrite "Madness," is not one of them. But somebody on Twitter said they heard this on the radio and thought they were singing "dick down," which is pretty funny.

Saturday, July 22, 2017







Puff Daddy & The Family's No Way Out is 20 years old today, and I wrote about it for Rolling Stone. RS also turned the content of my piece into a little video, which is kinda cool, I've never had that done with one of my articles before. 

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 95: Linkin Park

Friday, July 21, 2017






I feel odd about the kind of morbid turn this series has taken; I've slowed down on making deep cuts playlists a bit lately, and one of the things that is most likely to spur me to work on one is when a musician dies. So several recent entries in the series have followed a frontman's death, and this is actually the 4th in a row. It's shocking and sad to hear of Chester Bennington's suicide, especially so soon after Chris Cornell's, as well as not too long after the death of Scott Weiland, who Bennington had been filling in for in Stone Temple Pilots. Linkin Park were of a different generation than those guys, and Bennington was only 41, but they dominated rock radio like few other bands have in the 21st century, and I really warmed up to them over the years. Much has been made of the fact that Bennington committed suicide 2 months after his friend Cornell, on Cornell's birthday, which is just horribly sad on so many levels. Both of those guys could sing really well and scream incredibly well, which is rarer in the rock world than you might expect.

Linkin Park deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Runaway
2. By Myself
3. Cure For My Itch
4. A Place For My Head
5. Forgotten
6. Hit The Floor
7. Don't Stay
8. Nobody's Listening
9. Wake
10. Hands Held High
11. Valentine's Day
12. The Requiem
13. When They Come For Me
14. Robot Boy
15. Blackout
16. Lies Greed Misery
17. Victimized
18. Roads Untraveled
19. All For Nothing featuring Page Hamilton
20. Mark The Graves
21. Drawbar featuring Tom Morello
22. Nobody Can Save Me
23. Sorry For Now
24. One More Light

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 from Hybrid Theory (2000)
Tracks 6, 7 and 8 from Meteora (2003)
Tracks 9, 10 and 11 from Minutes To Midnight (2007)
Tracks 12, 13, 14 and 15 from A Thousand Suns (2010)
Tracks 16, 17 and 18 from Living Things (2012)
Tracks 19, 20 and 21 from The Hunting Party (2014)
Tracks 22, 23 and 24 from One More Light (2017)

Linkin Park were a hugely successful singles band, with a ridiculous string of rock #1s, and I've always been partial to "Faint" (which I called the 4th best rock single of the 2000s). But they've got a lot of songs I've gravitated to that weren't necessarily their most ubiquitous hits, like "Waiting For The End," "Bleed It Out," and "Breaking The Habit." There was always maybe a 50/50 chance that when they came on the radio I'd change the station, but when I didn't, I'd eagerly crank it up. They were the kind of band where I usually hear their albums in a friend's car rather than listen to it on my own (I feel like we played Hybrid Theory a dozen times on the drive to Florida for spring break 2002). But I particularly liked A Thousand Suns, which I put on my year end list in 2010.

"Runaway" charted as an album track and it really feels as instantly familiar to me as any of the big singles on Hybrid Theory. But Meteora is where I really feel like they started to get interesting. At a certain point I stopped thinking of them as a nu metal band and started to think of them this nerdy group of guys who loved metal and backpack rap and anime and IDM and managed to combine all of those things into this fairly unique package that sold a bazillion records. On the later records they really started to take apart the formula a little bit and give each album a unique feel, so you get the brooding, proggy A Thousand Suns, the harder edged The Hunting Party, and this year's more polished One More Light, which got some backlash as a 'pop' record but, listening to it now, is as poignant and vulnerable as anything Bennington ever did.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep

Movie Diary

Thursday, July 20, 2017

























a) Don't Breathe
This has a really good premise: 3 dirtbag teens are robbing houses, but then this blind veteran kills one of them and locks the other 2 inside his house. So it takes a somewhat familiar horror trope of teens stuck in a house with a scary guy and flips it, because you're kinda rooting for the badass blind guy even as the film generally sticks with the perspective of the shitty delinquent teens. Plus you've got the novelty of them being able to stand right in front of the guy but have to stay perfectly silent. Just a really cool idea, executed well, even if there were a few more wrinkles in the story than I thought it necessarily needed. Jane Levy is really working on a great career in horror and sci fi.

b) Captain Fantastic
I didn't know this movie existed until six months after it came out, when Viggo Mortensen got an Oscar nomination for it. And I was surprised once again when I realized that it was written and directed by the guy who plays Gavin Belson on "Silicon Valley." This was really lovely, though, maybe it was just the first really good film about fatherhood that I've seen since my dad died, but I shed a few tears towards the end of the movie and I wasn't even entirely sure what scene or moment did it. Some really impressive performances from some really young actors in this movie, the whole cast was just pitch perfect for material that I think really could've come off badly in the wrong hands.

c) Despicable Me 3
My son loves all the Despicable Me movies and Minions was the first movie I took to see in a theater, so we were at this one's opening weekend with bells on. This one was pretty good, I feel like they wisely dialed back the minions a little bit now that they've had their own movie (and got rid of the Russell Brand character entirely), and I really enjoyed the whole secret brother plot, there were a few laugh out loud moments for both of us. I got to a point at least 10 years ago with "South Park" where I can barely stand to hear Trey Parker's smug "duh I'm a dumb character listen to how dumb I am" voice acting, so I wasn't wild about him being in the movie, but his character was funny.

d) Moonlight
This being the third Best Picture winner in a row that I've seen and really enjoyed is pretty nice, I don't think that's happened since the '90s, if not the '70s actually. Really beautiful film, I think what I liked most was the pace of the editing, the way certain scenes lingered and then abruptly cut, the rhythm of it kept me on my toes and made some of the more emotional moments hit harder. The whole cast was great but I get why Mahershala Ali was the one who won the big awards. 

e) The Accountant
A movie about an autistic accountant, a movie about an accountant action hero, and a movie about Ben Affleck playing an autistic man are all 3 very sketchy ideas that I approached warily, especially when those are all the same film. But this worked better than I thought it would overall. 

f) Doctor Strange
It was fun to see a slightly different kind of Marvel movie with trippier visuals, and the comic relief worked better than I expected. Not terribly memorable otherwise, though.

g) Masterminds
I put this on even though it did terribly commercially and critically, kind of assuming that the collective onscreen talent would make it worth watching. And then I realized that it was directed by the guy who made Napoleon Dynamite, and wasn't surprised at all when I didn't laugh once the entire movie.

h) Singles
Like most grunge kids, I had the Singles soundtrack without ever seeing the movie. But I always meant to sit down and watch it, especially after I realized how much I like a few of Cameron Crowe's movies. And this year I was finally spurred to see it, somewhat because of the reissue of the soundtrack and Chris Cornell's death, but also because I met and worked with Matt Dillon for a day a few months ago and was like man, I should see more of his movies, he's a cool dude. 

Monday, July 17, 2017



















The latest installment of The Unstreamables, my Noisey column about old albums that aren't readily available on streaming services, is about  No I.D.'s sole album as a rapper, 1997's Accept Your Own & Be Yourself (The Black Album)

Friday, July 14, 2017
















Missy Elliott's debut album Supa Dupa Fly was released this week in 1997, and I wrote a little piece with some things you may not have known about the album for Rolling Stone, because Missy and Timbaland been hot since 20 years ago. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
























Woodfir has a couple Baltimore shows this month, at Copycat Annex this Friday, July 14 and a house show in Charles Village next Friday, July 21. I'm really happy with how this band is sounding and am excited to get out there in front of people. 

TV Diary

Friday, July 07, 2017


















a) "GLOW"
I love A League Of Their Own, so I think my favorite thing about this show is how much it evokes that for me, even if it's unintentional and in a completely different setting and Marc Maron is no Tom Hanks. I'm only a few episodes in but it's pretty good, I thought the pilot had a few iffy choices but the episodes since then have gotten into a nice groove and have fleshed out some of the supporting characters well.

b) "Snowfall"
The 1983 Los Angeles of "Snowfall" is a bit different from the 1985 Los Angeles of "GLOW" both in its subject matter and its tone, but it's still kind of interesting to see some of the many period pieces on TV right now tackling more or less the same time and place. John Singleton creating a show that kind of goes back to a few years before Boyz N The Hood to when crack first hit L.A. is a pretty promising concept, but the first episode felt a little bland to me, like a boilerplate gangster movie instead of something that's going to attempt anything like the depth of "The Wire." Still, good cast and great production values, it has potential.

c) "I'm Sorry"
I like Andrea Savage and am always glad to see her on TV more, although this show kind of feels like a dozen other recent autobiographical sitcoms comedians and actors have created about their family and work lives. The first episode had a couple big laughs, though, it has potential.

d) "Gypsy"
The first two episides of this show were so deeply dull that I wasn't even surprised when I realized they were directed by the same person that directed Fifty Shades Of Grey. It just moves incredibly slowly for no real reason, I think this would've been a dull movie but stretched out to an entire series it's just grueling, like they thought they could just throw in a few Naomi Watts sex scenes and there'd be no need for anything else.

e) "Hood Adjacent with James Davis"
I've never seen the host of this new Comedy Central show before but he's pretty funny. I like that this show is kind of more of a satirical commentary show than sketches, gives him some flexibility to respond to race issues via internet memes and current events in creative ways. I was amused, though, that when they pulled up an example of white YouTubers mangling R&B songs, they picked the Beyonce song where she's quoting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

f) "The Mist"
I was not a fan of the film adaptation of this Stephen King story that came out about 10 years ago, and I don't necessarily see how it would translate better to episodic television. But a lot of what I disliked about the movie was in the specific execution of the dialogue and the ending, and here they've pretty much wiped the slate clean and put a completely different set of characters into the same premise, and so far it feels like they've got enough people and plot points to fill up a series, I'm just not especially into it.

g) "Crashing"
I adored Phoebe Waller-Bridge's show "Fleabag," so I was happy to see that U.S. Netflix had recently released another show starring her that aired in Britain last year. Of course, they had the unfortunate timing to put it out a few months after HBO aired an unrelated comedy also called "Crashing," but oh well. It feels like a Brit version of "Friends" or "New Girl," your standard generic sitcom about a bunch of attractive people living together in a cheap place and hooking up, but it's funny.

h) "Boy Band"
Given that One Direction are by far the biggest act launched by a reality music competition in the past decade, doing a show like this is probably overdue. And I feel like it's a little more fun than the average music reality show lately, but still kinda stupid and not something that held my attention for more than a few minutes at a time.

i) "Blood Drive"
This is SyFy's attempt at capitalizing on the whole "grindhouse" nostalgia thing, albeit many years after the Tarantino movie, which is kind of lame, but I'm enjoying how much fun they're having with the concept. I think my favorite part is that the "future" dystopia in which cars run on blood takes place in 1999.

j) "Claws"
This show also feels a few years behind a particular zeitgeist; in this case "Claws" has that same seedy Florida noir feel that several movies (Pain And Gain, Spring Brakers, Magic Mike) were all mining about five years ago. I like it, though, it's still refreshing to see a violent antihero cable show with an all female cast.

k) "Long Strange Trip"
This miniseries documentary on the history of the Grateful Dead is pretty fascinating and well done, I've only watched the first part so far but it feels like a good way for me to delve further into a band I always mean to spend more time with.

l) "Nightcap"
I feel like this show, about people working backstage at a late night talk show, is only as good as the guest stars in a given episode. I liked the Rachel Bloom and Alec Baldwin episodes, but a lot of the time when I put it on I just lose interest really quickly.

m) "Wrecked"
The fact that this show was created by two brothers named Shipley makes me root for it a little more than I otherwise would. But it's an enjoyable little summer series about people stranded on a desert island that is really just dedicated to having as much fun with the premise as it can. I particularly enjoyed the recent episode where all the characters were craving updates on "Game of Thrones."

n) "Preacher"
This was one of my favorite new shows last year, glad it's back and for the time being settling into a more fun episodic kind of show about the main trio of Jesse and Tulip and Cassidy, Ruth Negga is just amazing. The flashback about Arseface was really pretty disturbing. But man, I really hate those ads for the new season that say 'POWERFUL AF,' this show really shouldn't be promoted with trendy slang.

o) "Casual"
I've always been a little ambivalent about this show, which is smart and unpredictable and at turns pretty funny, but also kind of a forgettable dramedy that epitomizes a lot of TV trends I'm not crazy about. I feel like I've warmed up to it a little more lately, the Judy Greer arc probably doesn't hurt. I'm also impressed that, at a time when many shows still hire zero female directors, 9 out of 13 episodes of the third season of "Casual" were directed by women (including Gillian Robespierre, Lake Bell, and Carrie Brownstein). I also like that they've given a little more screentime to Julie Berman this season, she's always had some of the funniest scenes on the show but she tends to be a fleeting presence.

p) "The Carmichael Show"
I always had mixed feelings about this show, and it felt like NBC never fully committed to it with three brief seasons that always ran in the summer, so I wasn't surprised or especially disappointed when they recently decided to cancel it. I always hoped the show would loosen up and get a little less relentlessly topical and let the characters be more than strawmen for whatever side of whatever argument they were supposed to be on that week, but if anything it just got more formulaic. Tiffany Haddish is gonna continue to thrive, though.

q) "Playing House"
I don't know why it took USA an unusually long time to renew this show for a third season, and then an even more unusually long time to get the new episodes on the air. But now they're all available on VOD and I've watched the whole season, it's a pretty sweet little show, even the cancer plot this season was kind of oddly breezy, although I think that was a deliberate and refreshing decision.