The Contractually-Obligated-by-Blog-Law Lists of Shit I Enjoyed in 2018: Music

One down, three to go, everybody.

Next up on the yearly review is music, and all the releases I kept up with despite, in a Spotify-estimated 35,000+ minutes this year, mostly listening to old Frank Zappa albums, the first four records from The Mars Volta I’ve memorized since the age of 13, and Run the Jewels 1-3 on repeat. It’s been a banner year for a lot of different artists, and this is what liked, not necessarily what was culturally relevant enough to be the Album of the Year. I’m not going to jerk off the (excellent) Black Panther soundtrack, rank dead or imprisoned Soundcloud rappers, pontificate on the artistic and social importance of Janelle Monae’s brilliant ongoing oeuvre, express my complicated, conflicted feelings about Greta Van Fleet, or argue about Turnstile (it’s good).

Also, as a guy not (often) paid for criticism or reviews, there’s probably tons I’ve missed or overlooked. Just like I haven’t seen Widows or The Favorite because nobody pays me to go to the theater, or sat my ass down to watch The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Sorry to Bother You yet (all films very much on my radar), I simply haven’t had enough time or energy to devote to pouring over every release that’s piqued my interest or came out from an artist I like. I’m also getting old, and so a lot of what The Kids™ are into or whatever is probably irritating to me (Cardi B holds absolutely zero sway over my life) and I’d rather listen to Cursive’s Domestica for the six-hundredth time. This is also in no particular order, lightly segregated by a loose sense of genre, and if I had to guess, it’s probably going to come out to like ten with maybe a few honorable mentions. If you have Spotify, there’s links for everything! Continue reading →

First Reaction: Eminem – Kamikaze

Just a few hours ago, basically with zero promotion or fan knowledge that he was working in-studio on anything other than possibly a track for the upcoming Venom film, renowned Rap God Eminem dropped an album called Kamikaze out of absolutely nowhere. Available in the usual places you can listen to stuff, I’m going to give it a spin and give a first reaction after just a little background.

His last effort, the Rick Rubin-produced Revival, was largely underwhelming to critics and fans alike. This is chalked up in some part to Eminem wanting to sort of please everyone in a comeback phase of his career, as well as Rick Rubin being an expert producer capable of being a mainstream hit factory. That’s not a dig against Rubin, although he’s had hits and misses in his career, my favorite album of all time is his work with The Mars Volta’s first record De-Loused in the Comatorium, on which both founding members claimed some of their wilder ideas were reigned in to make it more palatable. Someone as aggressive as Eminem who is probably at his best in a rawer form might not come out as interesting or appealing after being refined through Rubin’s major-label sensibilities.

Despite being in the right age demographic, Eminem has never clicked for me beyond the bigger hits and heyday stuff. I’ll own that much-maligned “backpack rap” label, socially-conscious “hip-hop” like Talib Kwali or anyone that’s ever appeared at an Adult Swim-affiliated live event, that’s probably closer to my bread and butter on this end of the musical spectrum. Eminem is undeniable, however, and any release shouldn’t be ignored. On a technical level, he’s easily within the pinnacle of his genre in terms of skill and creative risk. In a scene that relies so much on promotion and hype for releases, it’s pretty gutsy on his part to drop this without any warning, especially when right off the bat most people are talking about it being a return to form. Reunited with mentor Dr. Dre as a producer, it immediately sounds angrier and harder than Revival. Continue reading →