Deep Album Cuts Vol. 94: Mobb Deep

Friday, June 23, 2017
























On Tuesday, shortly after the news hit that Prodigy had died, I contributed to a Rolling Stone list of his best tracks. But I also wanted to jump back and dig a little more into Mobb Deep's impressive catalog.

Mobb Deep deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Hold Down The Fort
2. Eye For A Eye (Your Beef Is Mines) f/ Nas and Raekwon
3. Up North Trip
4. Drink Away The Pain (Situations) f/ Q-Tip
5. Trife Life
6. Give Up The Goods (Just Step) f/ Big Noyd
7. Still Shinin'
8. Extortion f/ Method Man
9. Apostle's Warning
10. What's Ya Poison f/ Cormega
11. The Realest f/ Kool G Rap
12. Thug Muzik
13. Where Ya From f/ 8Ball
14. Clap
15. Nothing Like Home f/ Littles
16. Win Or Lose
17. We Up
18. Smoke It
19. Pearly Gates f/ 50 Cent

Track 1 from Juvenile Hell (1993)
Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 from The Infamous (1995)
Tracks 7, 8 and 9 from Hell On Earth (1996)
Tracks 10, 11, 12 and 13 from Murda Muzik (1999)
Tracks 14 and 15 from Infamy (2001)
Tracks 16 and 17 from Amerikaz Nightmare (2004)
Tracks 18 and 19 from Blood Money (2006)

Honorable mention to the group's 8th and final album, The Infamous Mobb Deep, which isn't available on streaming services. I actually interviewed Prodigy in 2014 shortly before that album was released, and I also went one of their in store promotional appearances for Blood Money in 2006 and interviewed Havoc. And it's been interesting this week to revisit the Blood Money standout "Pearl Gates" and Prodigy's hilarious, profane, oddly poignant verse where he threatens Jesus ("I'ma beat him like the movie"). They still censor that verse even on the explicit version of the album, which is so stupid, but I've heard it uncensored on the radio this week, which made me smile.

Mobb Deep sold millions of records despite only some very sparing concessions to radio, and even their biggest hits are often as grimy and bleak as their album tracks. And "Eye For A Eye" and "The Realest" feel like definitive Mobb Deep songs even though they were never singles. I love Havoc's ear for samples, like the way "Nothing Like Home" flipped the Lenny Williams sample a couple years before Twista and Kanye had a hit with it. And this week digging into Juvenile Hell, I realized that Havoc used the drums from Little Feat's "Fool Yourself" (a.k.a. the "Bonita Applebaum" break) on "Hold Down The Fort" years before he more famously used them on "G.O.D. Pt. III." And it's interesting to hear a deep cut like "Clap" that puts a different spin on the very unique drum kit from the same album's lead single, "The Learning (Burn)."

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

Monthly Report: June 2017 Singles

Thursday, June 22, 2017


























1. Shawn Mendes "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back"  
I've been pretty persistently grouchy about Shawn Mendes's ascendance to teen idol status, which has even outlived the site that made him famous, Vine. But this song really grabbed me with its unlikely fusion of a trendy trop house club beat and a kind of "Jessie's Girl" sort of power pop riff. And it sorta fascinates me how Teddy Geiger, who had one top 40 hit a decade ago, has sort of transitioned from being a minor teen pop star to being the svengali who wrote and/or produced most of Mendes's hits. Here's the 2017 singles playlist I update every month. 

2. Carly Pearce "Every Little Thing" 
I just wrote in this space last month about Maren Morris pointing out how hostile country radio is these days to ballads by women. So I was pleasantly surprised soon after to start hearing this song, which is still climbing the charts and I think might get pretty big (and is in fact produced by busbee, who did Morris's whole album). 

3. Thomas Rhett f/ Maren Morris "Craving You"

This song is big and uptempo and a bit different from Morris's album and even a bit more bombastic than Rhett's stuff usually is, but it works well with both of their voices. 


4. Cheat Codes f/ Demi Lovato "No Promises"
This song really gets stuck in my head a lot, I'm kind of surprised it hasn't gotten big quicker, although I think it still might get there. I haven't generally been big on Demi Lovato leaning in an EDM direction but her voice works well with this track, and the main Cheat Codes guy has a pretty pleasant voice too. 

5. Bleachers "Don't Take The Money"

I don't like the new Bleachers album nearly as much as the second, and am generally leaning toward enjoying Jack Antonoff's work as a producer/songwriter more. But this song jams pretty hard, it just took longer to grow on me than "I Wanna Get Better." 

6. Mary J. Blige "U + Me (Love Lesson)" 

This song probably works best in the context of the album, where it flows seamlessly into the next track "Indestructible" as a pretty powerful suite. 

7. J. Cole "Neighbors" 

Once upon a time I was a half hearted J. Cole apologist, but his albums have gotten progressively blander over time and the quality of his singles has taken an even sharper downward turn. This is my favorite single he's released since "Power Trip," though. The fact that it came from a real incident of Cole's neighbors calling the cops on him, and that I started hearing on the radio the week that LeBron James's house got vandalized, really just underlines the raw, ugly sense of how much racism can still follow these guys around even when they have incredibly successful careers and move into rich neighborhoods. Cole sounds like he's reacting to it all five minutes after it happened, the disgust and disappointment is so immediate and palpable in his voice. 

8. Rascal Flatts "Yours If You Want It"

Rascal Flatts are, on some basic level, more viscerally repulsive than almost any other pop country act, they're like a weird sexy Smashmouth. That said, they have some songs I like, "These Days" is a classic to me and I'm enjoying this new one. 

9. Brothers Osborne "It Ain't My Fault"

Pawn Shop has been out for 17 months and just this week finally got its second Hot 100 hit with its most uptempo shitkicking song. I'm really happy to see one of my favorite country albums in recent memory, from a Maryland group no less, has some real legs.

10. Lady Gaga "The Cure"  

There's something really remarkable about how Lady Gaga managed all the trappings of a major comeback, Super Bowl and all, without any kind of real success of public embrace of her last album beyond the most perfunctory reception. But I was still a little surprised that after just 2 fairly lousy singles from Joanne, she quickly moved on to a new non-album single, when I thought the album still had some decent potential hits. And after the effort to rush out a new song and retain some momentum, "The Cure" was still a flop just like her other recent singles. But it's a decent song, I feel like she's at least trying to turn incrementally toward something pop radio might embrace. 

Worst Single of the Month: Miley Cyrus - "Malibu" 

This is a lot less ubiquitous than the Bangerz era stuff, and is missing some of the elements that made that record so unbearable to me, but it's still pretty awful. I feel like there's a really good interesting vocalist hidden somewhere in Miley's voice but she manages to just make the most annoying possible choices with it. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017




















R.I.P. Prodigy of Mobb Deep, who passed away today. I contributed to a Rolling Stone piece about some of his essential tracks today, but I also interviewed Prodigy back in 2014, and I'm sad about the loss of such an influential MC, I really enjoyed the album he put out this year. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017







Today's my first Father's Day without my own dad, who passed away in May. When my brother and I held a memorial service for him in Baltimore a few weeks ago, I made a playlist of some of Dad's favorite music to play during the event, and I recently shared the playlist on The Dowsers. I also wrote a longer piece about Dad here on Narrowcast last month

Some other recent Dowsers playlists I did: Stargate and Jack Antonoff

Sunday, June 11, 2017








A few months ago, I released my band Western Blot's album Muscle Memory, and Michael Bartolomeo of Triangle Films agreed to direct a video for my favorite track on the album, "Dull Dark Side." Mike and I have been friends since college, we played together in a band called Zuul and I acted in one of his early short films Cabbage Head, so we've always looked for more projects to collaborate on, and I'm really thrilled with how this turned out. I just gave him the song and let him mastermind the entire visual element and story of the video, and I didn't see more than a couple photos from the set until this week, so finally getting this video was like opening up a Christmas present. 

As I wrote a while back, "Dull Dark Side" contains the oldest recordings on my album, including stuff I put on a 4-track in my friend Scott Street's apartment in the summer of 2001. And I eventually took the track to my friend Mat Leffler-Schulman's studio and added more instrumentation, wrote some lyrics, and asked Kathleen Wilson of Thee Lexington Arrows to sing it. So I feel like the release of this video is the end of an incredibly long 16-year journey for this song, and I'm as proud of it as anything I've ever been involved in. 

TV Diary

Friday, June 09, 2017



















a) "I'm Dying Up Here"
It's pretty unfortunate that "'I'm Dying Up Here,' executive produced by Jim Carrey" promo is everywhere at the exact moment that Jim Carrey is going on trial for the death of his girlfriend. The show is promising, though, it looks and feels like a lot of other period piece shows and films about the '70s, but the L.A. comedy scene is a different enough setting that hasn't been done time and time again already. I feel like this is an especially good vehicle for Ari Graynor, but I wish Sarah Hay's role wasn't so small, considering that in her first acting role two years ago she carried the miniseries "Flesh & Bone" really impressively. The second episode wasn't as strong as the first, though, I hope they can keep up some momentum.

b) "The Jim Jeffries Show"
Now that weekly shows in the style of "The Daily Show" are a hot commodity, Comedy Central is trying to stuff one into their schedule. Jim Jeffries even got a dry run with a segment on "The Daily Show" itself. I've generally been kinda take it or leave it about Jeffries in the past and wasn't sure this format was a good fit for him, but he kinda made it his own in the first episode, I could see this working even if he's not hitting the ground running like people with experience in the format like John Oliver and Samantha Bee.

c) "Daytime Divas"
I like a good TV show about backstage politics in television production. But VH1's new show, loosely based on a Star Jones memoir and revolving around a "The View" type show called "The Lunch," feels a little forced in its wacky personality clashes and soapy plots, I don't know if they really have a handle on how to make a show like this funny, which shouldn't be that hard, honestly.

d) "Still Star-Crossed"
This show has the very rich premise of basically starting at the end of Romeo & Juliet and sticking around to see what happens between the Montagues and Capulets after they died. But I dunno, it feels like ABC and Shondaland just stuck the idea into the same meat grinder all their other shows come out of and made it as generic as possible.

e) "World Of Dance"
I'm not big on reality competitions, or dance, but I kind of like the format and the enthusiasm of this show, it feels like they're really out to celebrate the diversity of dancing throughout different cultures and find different kinds of people to showcase. Not something I'd watch regularly either way, though.

f) "Beat Shazam"
I feel like with all the stuff Jamie Foxx has going on, he should have something better to do with his time than host a game show. But he is a good host for a show about identifying songs, he's clearly having fun with it. I think I'm just too much of a music person to not be bored by it, though, I get almost every question right faster than the contestants do. I'd like to go on the show and win a lot of money, but I don't care much for watching it.

g) "Dark Angel"
I'm amused that this British miniseries that PBS featured on "Masterpiece Theater" has the same title as the cheesy James Cameron cyberpunk show on FOX that introduced Jessica Alba to the world. I like that it's about Britain's first female serial, though, she had dozens of suspected victims so I kinda feel like they missed a good opportunity for it to be an ongoing series.

h) "The Keepers"
I never finished "Making A Murderer" and have a pretty limited appetite for these 'true crime' documentary series that are getting to be a big deal now. But this one is a pretty intriguing story hat takes place in 1960s Baltimore. I love that after this nun and teacher was murdered, some of the girls she taught still get together over 40 years later to research and try to solve the mystery.

i) "Downward Dog"
I like to see networks try playful high concept sitcoms, but I was wary of this talking dog show, especially after ABC's other recent experiment, "Imaginary Mary," was a total misfire. But this show is really very sweet and clever and well done. Allison Tohlman was very charming on the first season of "Fargo" and Lucas Neff was very charming on "Raising Hope" (and now looks completely different in an entertaining woke hippie way), and this is not the project I would've chosen for them but it really works and they have good onscreen chemistry.

j) "Flaked"
Netflix has 3 different series that star Will Arnett, and that they've renewed all of them, which I've been fond of pointing out after Netflix cancelled more ambitious shows like "The Get Down." To be fair, people do like "Bojack Horseman" and "Arrested Development," but I've never heard of anyone defending "Flaked" and I hope I never do. The fact that it went from 8 episodes in the first season to 6 in the second season even feels like an admission that there's just not much of a show here.

k) "Angie Tribeca"
TBS airing 3 seasons of this show in the space of 18 months is a bit much, but it's fun, I'm glad to have it back again. I worried initially that it was a little too much of a Zucker Bros. homage, but it feels at this point like the show has its own joke pacing and its own reference points.

l) "Stitchers"
My favorite little summer sci-fi series on Freeform is back. But season 3 picked up on the kind of serious note that season 2 ended on, I kinda hope it gets back to a looser, more playful tone.

m) "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
There's a "30 Rock"-sized hole in my life and having a new season of "Kimmy Schmidt" come right on the heels of "Great News" has really helped fill it. I thought I had started to get a little blase about this show in the second season, but I watched like half this season in one morning and laughed out loud so many times. I've especially enjoyed the Josh Charles arc.

n) "The Leftovers"
I liked "The Leftovers" a lot in the first season and just felt like they started doing way too much, in terms of introducing strange unexplained plot points, in the second season. The third season mostly ramped that up but I enjoyed a little more, perhaps because I knew this was the end and they couldn't lead me down too much of a blind alley this late in the game. And I kind of like how in the end it really centered on Kevin and Nora, it wasn't perfect but it was a better finale than I expected.

o) "People Just Do Nothing"
This British series just came to Netflix in the U.S., and it's some kind of Spinal Tap mockumentary about garage and drum'n'bass pirate radio DJs. And maybe I'm just a little too far removed from the culture being satirized to get all of the jokes, but the characters kind of just seem like the kind of boneheads that I assume those people are in real life so I dunno, it's just not that funny to me. You could tell me it's a straight up documentary and I might believe you.

p) "Silicon Valley"
I liked the episode where Dinesh became CEO and fucked everything up, I kinda wish they did more things like that to kind of mix up the dynamics of the group to comic effect, honestly they could've milked that scenario for a lot longer. I wouldn't say this show can't be good without TJ Miller but I definitely think they'll have their work cut out for them. In this age of Juicero and weekly Uber controversies, this show will probably never run out of things to satirize.

q) "Twin Peaks"
I'm the kind of person who thinks Eraserhead is David Lynch's crowning achievement and "Twin Peaks" was just an intermittently entertaining little experiment, and in general I cast a lot of suspicion towards all of these revivals of old cult TV shows. Still, we're talking about a major filmmaker, who hadn't made a feature film in over a decade and who I'd assumed may never make another film, coming back to direct 18 hours of television. And the memorably odd, imaginative things I've seen in the first 3 episodes are at least a lot more worth the effort than, say, that new season of "The X-Files," and I particularly liked the odd little chapter about the girl bringing the guy coffee in the first episode. But some of the visual effects kind of cross the line from inventive and handmade to just kind of cheap and shitty-looking, and I really just don't care enough about "Twin Peaks" mythology to try and figure out what the hell is going on.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band

Monday, June 05, 2017
























A couple weekends ago, while I was hanging out at my brother's hotel after we held a memorial for our father, I glanced up at a TV and saw on the news that Gregg Allman had died. It didn't hit me as hard as Chris Cornell's death a few weeks ago, but it still strikes me that we lost two iconic rock vocalists in the same month, both guys who seemed to be born with these perfectly weathered romantic badass howls. The Allman Brothers Band survived the loss of two founding members (Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, both in motorcycle crashes a year apart) early into its run, and Gregg Allman continued to lead a talented group of musicians, on and off, for the next few decades, until their final tour in 2014. What I hadn't realized is that one of the other constant members throughout the band's career, drummer Butch Trucks, also passed away in January.

The Allman Brothers Band were always on my list of bands I'd wanted to explore deeply; I love a lot of southern rock and electric blues, and they're the only band that does twin guitar leads as famously as my beloved Thin Lizzy. What surprised me, though, was the band's use of two drummers, and how the way Butch Trucks and Jaimoe play together has more to do with James Brown than, say, the Dead. So it was fun to dig into the Allmans' catalog, even if I was spurred to it by some sad news.

The Allman Brothers Band Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Southbound
2. Don't Want You No More
3. It's Not My Cross To Bear
4. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
5. Little Martha
6. Can't Lose What You Never Had
7. Dreams
8. Blue Sky
9. Leavin'
10. Just Ain't Easy
11. So Long
12. Please Call Home
13. Statesboro Blues (live)
14. Hot 'Lanta (live)
15. Trouble No More (live)
16. Wasted Words (live)

Tracks 2, 3 and 7 from The Allman Brothers Band (1969)
Track 12 from Idlewild South (1970)
Tracks 13 and 14 from At Fillmore East (1971)
Tracks 5, 8 and 15 from Eat A Peach (1972)
Track 1 from Brothers And Sisters (1973)
Track 6 from Win, Lose Or Draw (1975)
Track 16 from Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas (1976)
Track 10 from Enlightened Rogues (1979)
Track 11 from Reach For The Sky (1980)
Track 9 from Brothers Of The Road (1981)

Ordinarily in these playlists I tend to avoid live albums or use them sparingly. But in this case they were just a huge part of the Allmans' legacy. Their classic era from the late '60s to the early '80s that I covered here included two live albums (At Fillmore East, one of the most acclaimed live albums of all time, and Wipe The Windows) as well as Eat A Peach, one of their top selling albums, which was half studio and half live recordings.

A lot of Allman Brothers Band tracks that were never released as singles became AOR radio favorites. And while one of those, "Whipping Post," is simply too famous for me to include as a deep cut, I did include other progressive radio staples like "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed," "Blue Sky," and "Can't Lose What You Never Had." "Southbound," "Trouble No More," "Statesboro Blues," and the incredible 1-2 punch of "Don't Want You No More" and "It's Not My Cross To Bear" that kicked off their first album are among the most frequently played songs in the Allmans' countless concerts. The band performed "Leavin'" and "Southbound" on Saturday Night Live in 1982 (as their last live performance for breaking up for most of the '80s), even though neither song had ever been released as a single, and the latter was at that point nearly a decade old.

I recently saw an interview with Gregg Allman where he talks about Duane bringing him in to meet the band and play them some of his songs. And "Dreams" was the one that the band instantly liked, the one they all played along with that cemented him as a member of the band. And it's really cool to listen to the song with that in mind and just picturing this classic band gelling around that song. The band's repertoire was a mix of covers and originals written by several key members of the band, but Gregg Allman had a lot of great moments as a writer, including "Please Call Home," "Wasted Words," and "Just Ain't Easy."

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

Saturday, June 03, 2017

















The latest installment of my Noisey column The Unstreamables is about the 1995 debut album by The Geraldine Fibbers, Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home, a great record that was recently reissued on vinyl but still remains unavailable on streaming services. 

Monthly Report: May 2017 Albums

Friday, June 02, 2017






























1. Paramore - After Laughter
It's a little weird to say that one of the best rock bands in the world right now is essentially a singer who's been signed to a major label since she was 14 and a revolving door of band members who participate as contracted employees. But Paramore has been consistently great for 10 years, and I'm happy that Zac Farro is back on board, I always loved his drumming on Riot! and I get the sense from his solo project that he's a big part of the aesthetic direction on this album. Their last album, Paramore, was one of my favorite albums of the decade, and I loved its sprawl and variety. But After Laughter feels like a deliberately, shrewdly scaled-down followup, 20 minutes shorter and with a much more focused aesthetic. It's taken a little more time for me to hunker down and get on its wavelength, but I'm really enjoying it, "Fake Happy" and "Rose-Colored Boy" are early favorites. While most 21st century acts use glossy '80s sounds for shiny happy pop records, After Laughter really gets to the heart of how the bright and tight sound of new wave was usually employed in the service of really nervous, anxious music with dark emotions at the core. Here's the 2017 albums Spotify playlist I add records to as I listen to them.

2. Harry Styles - Harry Styles
As someone who thinks One Direction's Four is a masterpiece and that Harry Styles sang (and even wrote) as impressively with the group as he does on his solo debut, I'm a bit exasperated by how predictably people that never gave the band's music a chance are falling over themselves to embrace the "surprising" "mature" solo album. It's good, though, I think the vocals and the production are carrying the songs a bit, but "Ever Since New York" in particular is pretty great.

3. Big Walnuts Yonder - Big Walnuts Yonder
Mike Watt and Nels Cline are two of my favorite living musicians, and it's always especially exciting when they make a record together. This group also includes Greg Saunier of Deerhoof and Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos, and it's a pretty fun, relaxed record, Reinhart sings the more melodic tracks and there's some Watt spiels and some knotty instrumental sections, really just feels like some guys who are all really good at their instruments giving each other space to get weird and creative.

4. various artists - The Bob's Burgers Music Album
After 7 seasons on the air, "Bob's Burgers" finally has a soundtrack album, and they really just kind of went nuts and threw everything they could into it, 112 tracks over nearly 2 hours, all those weird little songs over the ending credits and memorable moments like the hybrid Die Hard / Working Girl musical and Fred Armisen singing "Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex." A lot of the music on the show is made by Chris Maxwell, whose old band Skeleton Key I just wrote about, so it's fun to have a record of that side of his work.

5. T-Pain & Lil Wayne - T-Wayne
It's been about a decade since T-Pain completely changed the sound of popular music, and Lil Wayne assisted by being the first major rapper to adopt his use of AutoTune and put his own spin on it. So for T-Pain to finally leak 8 tracks of the duo album they started but never finished way back then is kind of like a weird little bit of pop archaeology. I actually included in a list of 13 unreleased Wayne projects that I wrote over five years ago. And it's fascinating to hear now since both guys were near the peak of their abilities when they made these songs and haven't been at that level in a long time, but it's notable that T-Pain outraps Wayne (without AutoTune) for much of the album. "Waist Of A Wasp" sounds like it could've been a hit then and like it still might become one now. Also I'm kid of glad that this project has reclaimed the name T-Wayne after that lame "Nasty Freestyle" guy ran with it. Listen to it on DatPiff.

6. Gucci Mane - Droptopwop
Droptopwop is the 4th full length project Gucci Mane has released in the year since he got out of jail, which is actually not even that many by his old standard. But even as much as I hate some of his recent superstar-assisted singles like "Both" and "Make Love," I have to admit that Gucci's been pretty great on guest verses lately, and a 10 track project with a producer at the top of his game like Metro Boomin was a smart move. "Met Gala" is one of those great little rare moments where you hear Gucci try a flow you haven't heard him do a hundred times before.

7. Logic - Everybody
For the last four or five years, I've been kind of watching Logic's career blossom from afar, and sometimes it really irritated me that this really earnest kid from Gaithersburg was getting bigger than almost any other rapper from Maryland. But I got asked to interview him for Rolling Stone the day his latest album came out, and in the course of listening to the album and then discussing it with him, I kinda felt like I came to a better understanding of who he is and how he got here and what he's good at. "Everybody," which sounds to me like an almost deliberate rewrite of Kendrick Lamar's "Alright," really grates on me, but "Ink Blot" and "America" and "Confess" are pretty strong, and the album's whole hippie positivity vibe is pretty endearing.

8. Don Bryant - Don't Give Up On Love
Don Bryant is one of those old Memphis soul guys, wrote hits for his wife Ann Peebles and other Hi Records in the '60s and '70s, and started making his own albums in the '90s. So many younger artists try to get this sound these days but a lot of retro soul can really just sound forced and cheesy to me, so I appreciate being able to hear someone from that actual generation preserve its traditions and write some pretty strong new songs in that style.

9. Snoop Dogg - Neva Left
Snoop has a stronger discography than he usually gets credit for, and the more recent albums that have had fewer commercial pressures have usually been pretty relaxed and enjoyable. Neva Left has a 1992 photo of young Snoop on the cover and opens with tracks that sample early '90s Wu Tang and A Tribe Called Quest, but it pretty quickly abandons any pretense of a theme and becomes a grab bag of all the different kind of Snoop songs and collaborations you'd expect (contemporary guys like K Camp, other '90s guys like Redman and Method Man, a weed song with Wiz, a reggae track) and odds and ends like a remix of his BadBadNotGood track and, oddly, a remix of his 1996 version of Biz Markie's "Vapors." Fun record, though, very little of it isn't enjoyable.

10. Little Steven - Soulfire
I sometimes do the lyric teleprompter for concerts at the Kennedy Center, and a few weeks ago I worked on their John Lennon tribute, which had a lot of really great performers, including Steven Van Zandt. It was fun to watch him in rehearsal, going over details of arrangements and giving band members instructions, it was like having a little window into what an E Street Band soundcheck is probably like. His new record is fun, lots of big booming horn arrangements, some new recordings of songs he'd written for other artists, my favorite performance is "Saint Valentine's Day."

Worst Album of the Month: Bryson Tiller - True To Self
Bryson Tiller's first album, with the irksome title TRAPSOUL, was a serious sleeper hit, going platinum with the help of no big guests and only one track by a known producer. It really struck me as a guy who can barely sing intoning vapid Instagram captions over trendy post-Drake productions, but the amount of buzz he had was undeniable and I wanted to give him a chance that maybe he'd come into his own musically on his second album. This one is probably even worse, though, it's 19 tracks and just goes on forever.

Movie Diary

Wednesday, May 31, 2017























a) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
My brother and I spent a night out over the weekend while he was in town, and we couldn't think of much to do and just went to the movies and saw this, which he'd already seen but was happy to see again. I watched the first Guardians movie at home and felt a little ambivalent toward it, but I think if I'd seen it in the theater, I would've enjoyed it a lot more like I did this one. Or maybe it was just a really good sequel, I dunno, Dave Bautista just really cracked me up every time he opened his mouth.

b) War Machine
This is a pretty well done little movie about a particularly aimless period in America's endless aimless military occupation of Afghanistan, with Brad Pitt as a particularly pompous, ill fated general. But after watching movies like this and Our Brand Is Crisis and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I kind of feel good and sick of droll, dry satires of America's shitty treatment of the rest of the world, it kinda feels like it's a symptom of us being too easy to reduce this awful stuff to a cheap cynical laugh. Still, it was interesting to watch one of the first period pieces of the early 2010s, probably the first of many that will use the music of Lady Gaga to help set the scene.

c) Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates
All the leads in this movie are some of the most reliably funny people you can put in a movie these days (even, I say grudgingly, Zac Efron!), and this really came together pretty well as a goofy rom com that recalls Wedding Crashers and even explicitly references Wedding Crashers as a movie the characters have watched. In the second half it kinda feels like they try to hard to escalate the laughs by leaning on gross out gags but for the most part it's pretty consistent. 

d) A Bigger Splash
I kind of like how this movie is about Tilda Swinton being a huge rock star but almost the entire movie depicts her offstage and on vacation, resting her voice and barely able to speak. But beyond that, it just feels like an aimless pointless movie about rich people on vacation, and it doesn't really get any better in the last quarter when a major character dies violently and it briefly becomes something a bit different.

e) Hardcore Henry
This movie's big distinctive flourish is that the entire movie is shot from the unseen main character's first person POV. And while I respect that the movie stuck to its guns with that aesthetic, and had lots of fun with the idea and made it as fast and thrilling as possible, it's also inevitably a little wearying, and perhaps feels cheaper than it should because the look is so closely associated with 'first person shooter' video games. I quibbled about one of the music choices in the movie and the directer personally responded to me, so that was kind of fun.

f) The Death Of "Superman Lives": What Happened?
Tim Burton nearly making a Superman movie starring Nicolas Cage in the '90s is one of those great development hell stories that people have whispered about for years, and it was interesting to see a documentary filmmaker dig into the details and find out just how close they got to actually making it happen, in the days before there were several superhero flicks every summer. You come away from it not really thinking it would've been a great film, but I'd still like to have seen it, and would prefer Cage to the bland Clark Kents we've had since then.

g) Apartment Troubles
I feel like this movie could've been good as a light hearted female buddy comedy or a kind of sweet realistic dramedy, but it split the difference between the two and never really took off. A decent directorial debut from costar Jennifer Prediger, though, I feel like she has potential if she keeps writing and directing features.

Monthly Report: May 2017 Singles

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

























1. Niall Horan "Slow Hands"
The Harry Styles album is, justifiably, getting all the attention at the moment. But Niall's 2nd single has quietly become, I think, my favorite solo single to come out of One Direction so far (to be fair, Louis and Liam have released absolute crap, but still). "This Town" was a nice little song continuing in 1D's folky side, but "Slow Hands" has this sleazy bass-driven light rock groove with a weird gated vocal effect that I just love, and Niall's voice even drops that cutesy tone that he usually sang in with the group. Here's the Spotify playlist that I update every month of favorite 2017 singles. 

2. Trey Songz "Nobody Else But You"
For over a decade, nearly every single Trey Songz has released has gone swiftly into heavy rotation on R&B stations, but for some reason Tremaine has been very slow to yield a hit, and I think it's a shame, because this is one of his better singles from one of his better albums. And it has this gentle romance to it that, for whatever reason, he rarely does well on his oversung slow jams. 

3. Rick Ross f/ Young Thug and Wale "Trap Trap Trap"
The interchangeable parade of 'trap' songs that Rick Ross has made since "B.M.F." usually bore me, but the song where he literally just says "trap trap trap trap trap trap" for the hook switched up the sound enough that I really enjoy it. Young Thug and Wale was a weird awkward combination way back on the "Stoner" remix so I'm pleasantly surprised that this lineup works as well as it does. 

4, Tee Grizzley "First Day Out"
This song wants so badly to be Meek Mill's "Dreams & Nightmares" that it cracks me up. But that's maybe my favorite rap song of the last five years, and there's not much else that has that vibe, so I appreciate the attempt. 

5. Dua Lipa f/ Miguel "Lost In Your Light" 
For most of this decade, R&B has disappeared from pop radio, replaced by clubby EDM pop, sometimes by R&B singers who are just adapting to maintain their career. But lately there's been an odd phenomenon of R&B singers who haven't crossed over with their solo work guesting on hits by pop artists (Frank Ocean with Calvin Harris, Ty Dolla $ign with Fifth Harmony, etc.). I don't know if that will happen with this record, but I really love it and feel like it puts Miguel's voice in an interesting new context that I'd love to hear more of, I wouldn't mind him trying to really do the Prince thing and make a pop star move. 

6. GoldLink f/ Shy Glizzy and Brent Faiyaz "Crew"
This song has been running D.C. and Baltimore radio for months and I'm annoyed that even with a good amount of national attention for GoldLink's album, "Crew" hasn't climbed the charts at all. Great song, though, I had no idea someone named Brent could ever sing an R&B hook this smooth. Shy Glizzy tried to change his name to Jefe shortly after "Crew" was release, and I think its success, with him credited as Shy Glizzy everywhere for it, really killed the name change, which I don't mind, I don't really wanna call him Jefe, Great verse, though, I like how he kinda takes Gucci's "I Think I Love Her" flow and makes it his own.

7. Switch "Pull Up"
This song started to get spins around the same time as "Crew" and for a minute those two songs got kind of intertwined with each other in my head, they just sound similar to me. "Pull Up" kinda disappeared, though, I thought it was about to be huge. 

8. Chance The Rapper f/ Knox Fortune "All Night"
This always stood out to me as one of the most immediate and fun songs on Coloring Book, I'm glad it finally got a single release more recently. Maybe it only being 2 minutes long held it back, but I dunno, "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" was even shorter.

9. Maren Morris "I Could Use A Love Song"
Maren Morris recently wrote a pretty interesting essay about what it's like to be a woman in country music, and one of the things she mentioned is that she'd been told "girls can't successfully release ballads to country radio." And it hadn't even occurred to me, but it's true that in the overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly uptempo country radio landscape, there are practically no big ballads by women in the last few years. I was hoping that "Once" would be Maren's next single after she performed it at the Grammys, but perhaps her label was worried about that and instead chose "I Could Use A Love Song," which is a little more tender than her first two singles but less of a ballad than "Once." Either are great choices, though.

10. Charlie Puth "Attention"
I hate Charlie Puth and his stupid simpering voice so much, but I kind of feel like it's a good indication of my open mindedness or my ability to separate artists from their material when I can be impressed with something by an act I usually hate. I still kinda wish he'd given this track to someone else, like when Trey Songz redeemed "Slow Motion," but it works, that bassline jams.

Worst Single of the Month: Dreamers "Sweet Disaster" 
Mainstream alt rock radio had gotten pretty decent to my ears in the last few years, but I feel like now the floodgates are just open where we've got all these shitty new bands who sound like lesser versions of bands who weren't that great to begin with like Foster The People and Imagine Dragons. And this song is just the most horrifyingly bad one in rotation lately, the opening lyrics are actually "Drifting like it's 1974, dressing like the Rolling Stones/ hey ho let's go get some more like young Ramones."

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 92: Soundgarden

Friday, May 19, 2017





















I've long wanted to do a Soundgarden playlist in this series (in fact I'd done one focusing on Ben Shepherd's writing contributions), and with the recent reissue of Ultramega OK, I was excited to finally do it soon with all the band's albums now readily available. But now, as I often find myself doing for this series, I'm doing it to mark a much sadder occasion than I'd planned, with the death of Chris Cornell earlier this week.

Like a lot of kids of my generation, I came around to Soundgarden after first taking notice of their more famous peers. But they quickly came to mean a lot to me, particularly after Christmas 1992, when my brother received Badmotorfinger as a gift and I received Temple Of The Dog. It's hard to think of many people who wrote two albums that good and that different in the same year as Chris Cornell did in 1991, particular when you consider that he made a 3rd album, an acoustic solo record, as a goof in the same timeframe while working on the film Singles (and the movie's soundtrack, as it happens, was reissued this week with some more of those Cornell songs from the batch that begat "Seasons").

But a couple years later, Superunknown really was what made me a rabid fan of the band. I'd still probably single it out as the best giant multiplatinum blockbuster rock album of the '90s, which is a pretty competitive field to say the least. At a time when I was just starting to play drums and understand time signature besides 4/4, Soundgarden was one of the bands that made me excited to decode the rhythms behind the riffs. But they never got bogged down in the complexity of their time signatures and alternate tunings, there was always a beautiful melody and a striking lyric to go with it. I still most love rock records that are loud but also pretty but also strange and surprising, and that's one of the albums that set that standard for me.

Chris Cornell's passing especially saddens me because I always thought of him as the dogged survivor of Seattle rock, the one who lived to pay tribute to Andrew Wood and to mourn Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley. He'd had his own addiction issues and there was an undeniable darkness to his music, but even compared to Eddie Vedder's reluctant dance with fame, Chris Cornell seemed like the well adjusted grunge frontman who openly embraced rock stardom. Out of his peers, he was the guy made the most bombastic, stadium-friendly music, had the most conventionally beautiful singing voice, performed shirtless, and looked so much like a perfect central casting rock star that he probably would've been regarded with suspicion and resentment if he wasn't such an undeniably prolific, inventive songwriter. It just goes to show that we don't know that much, out here looking in on someone's life.

Soundgarden Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Holy Water
2. Superunknown
3. Slaves & Bulldozers
4. No Attention
5. Fresh Tendrils
6. Uncovered
7. Kingdom Of Come
8. Mind Riot
9. 4th Of July
10. Never Named
11. Mood For Trouble
12. Big Dumb Sex
13. Nothing To Say
14. Dusty
15. A Thousand Days Before
16. Head Down
17. Searching With My Good Eye Closed

Track 13 from Screaming Life EP (1987)
Track 7 from Fopp EP (1988)
Track 11 from Ultramega OK (1988)
Tracks 6 and 12 from Louder Than Love (1989)
Tracks 1, 3, 8 and 17 from Badmotorfinger (1991)
Tracks 2, 5, 9 and 16 from Superunknown (1994)
Tracks 4, 10 and 14 from Down On The Upside (1996)
Track 15 from King Animal (2012)

There are really too many great songs that were never singles, on Superunknown and Badmotorfinger in particular, that I really just had to go with my mood this week to make picks. I put Superunknown on in the car on Thursday and screamed along at ridiculous volumes, but that's something I do about once a month anyway, that album never leaves my car.

I snapped up the band's early records after falling in love with Superunknown, and while there are some scattered great songs on there, the Ben Shepherd lineup is really where everything falls into place for me. But it's fun to go back now and hear Chris Cornell's ear for a hook developing early on, even when they were overall a darker and heavier band. And even if Down On The Upside is one of those records that feels like the band had already undeniably reached their pinnacle and couldn't top their last album, it's an incredibly generous and enjoyable record, far more full of textures and ideas and personality than the albums that accompany a sales slump. I saw the band live once, at Lollapalooza 1996, and they were fucking incredible. I'm mad at myself today for not catching one of the band's recent reunion tours, but King Animal was a pretty good record, and I was just so happy to see the band get a few more good years in. Chris Cornell made plenty of good music outside of Soundgarden, but they were absolutely his crowning accomplishment.

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