Tag Archive | Chrisette Michele

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Complete!


Juicy J-WBU-019355

After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task.  Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs.  Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix.  Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.

100

“I Luv This Sh*t”

August Alsina featuring Trinidad James

From album: Downtown: Life Under the Gun

August Alsina has one foul mouth on him, but his real talk mixed with the slower, horn-accentuated production is a match made in heaven, if a blasphemous one (see the hook).

99

“Cabaret”

Alice Smith

From album: She

According to highly underrated alt-R&B musician Alice Smith, Hollywood isn’t very kind: “I see no reason for chasing / in Hollywood, got to lose my patience / want this life to be a cabaret…” Hollywood may not be for the ‘faint of heart’, but “Cabaret” it self is brilliant.

98

“Every Man Should Know”

Harry Connick, Jr.

From album: Every Man Should Know

Sometimes the simplest, and most important life lessons to become a gentleman are best conveyed through song, preferably a mix between traditional pop, jazz, and country.

97

“Sophomore”

Ciara

From album: Ciara

Judging by this track, Ciara is far from being a ‘freshman’… definitely. “I ain’t no amateur / baby I know how to handle ya / If you ready for this ride, get your saddle up / I need a boy with some stamina…”

 96

“Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”

Wale

From album: The Gifted

We expect nothing less than Wale’s clever wordplay between “piece” and “peace”, particularly on an album titled The Gifted.  Specifically, Wale informs us that too many people don’t want to hear about Jesus or his ‘peaceful’, Christian approach; they’re more concerned about the bling-bling (aka Jesus piece).

95

“Holy Grail”

Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake

From album: Magna Carta…Holy Grail

Magna Carta…Holy Grail certainly left plenty to be desired, but few can deny that Jay-Z is one of the kings – all hail, “Holy Grail”!

94

“Unf**kwittable”

Kid Cudi

From album: Indicud 

Basically, Cudi is saying you can’t mess with him… he’s unbreakable… or something like that.

93

“Let Us Move On”

Dido featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: Girl Who Got Away

Even English singer/songwriter Dido had to get Kendrick Lamar on the track… can’t blame her.  “Let Us Move On” is arguably the best moment from an underrated album nobody bought.   Well, I bought it to be fair.

92

“Vegas Girl”

Conor Maynard

From album: Contrast

The video is a trip…‘course the song is too.  Conor may still have some ‘schmaltz’ about him, but he also has some swag.  Swag on brother – swag on!

91

“Pusher Lover Girl”

Justin Timberlake

From album: The 20/20 Experience

Love and sex have been compared and likened to everything at this point (thanks R. Kelly).  JT decides to make his lady like a drug dealer, only she deals love instead of say cocaine.  What’s shocking is that this album opener works triumphantly.

90

“Clappers”

Wale featuring Juicy J Nicki Minaj

From album: The Gifted

What does one learn from the ‘cellulite anthem’ “Clappers”? That “Shawty got a big ole butt…OH YEAHHHHHH!!!”

89

“Heart Attack”

Demi Lovato

From album: Demi 

I’m not going to front, I’ve been listening to Demi put her “defenses up” all summer…  I don’t think she could really survive the number of heart attacks she’d receive at the hands of my playlist on repeat though…

88

“The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”

Alice In Chains

From album: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

While the Bible doesn’t mention dinosaurs (at least that I can remember off the top of my head), I’m not so sure Satan created them… Regardless, this title track from Alice In Chains’ most recent album was among the best hard rock performances of the year, potential misconceptions and all.

87

“While I’m Alive”

STRFKR

From album: Miracle Mile

While I’m Alive” sports an irresistible, danceable groove; Electronic cues further sweeten things while the soulful guitar is the ‘cherry on top’.  Well written, the theme of “While I’m Alive” is getting past the past, broken relationships, and living ‘while I’m alive.’

86

“Bandz A Make Her Dance

Juicy J featuring 2 Chainz Lil Wayne

From album: Stay Trippy

Everyone needs a good stripper anthem in his (or her) lives, right? On the raunchy “Bandz A Make Her Dance”, Juicy J spits: “Bands a make her dance, bands a maker her dance / All these chicks poppin’ p***y, I’m just poppin’ bands…”

85

“Body Party”

Ciara

From album: Ciara

Just when ‘the art of making love’ was getting boring… Ciara’s here to spice things up!

84

“Her Favorite Song”

Mayer Hawthorne

From album: Where Does This Door Go

Yeah, the accompanying music video is weird, even if the ‘dogs’ are meant to represent guys that are dogs (in theory), but the song is brilliant.  “But when she gets home, she puts her headphones on / she plays her favorite song and fades away…” I do the same thing… well not quite in the same context though…

83

“Brave”

Sara Bareilles

From album: The Blessed Unrest

Here’s the gist of the song: STAND UP AND BE A MAN!!!  $%^!

82

“Trojans”

Atlas Genius

From album: When It Was Now

I promise this song is not about a popular brand of condoms or making love… really:  “Take a picture you could never recreate / write a song / make a note / for the lump that sits inside your throat…” I promise!

81

Forbidden Fruit

J. Cole featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: Born Sinner

I know, I know – I somehow missed this gem on my “50 Best Rap Songs”, but the atonement is on this broader list.  The one-two punch of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar is nothing short of fire, period.

80

“Love Me”

Lil Wayne featuring Future Drake

From Album: I Am Not A Human Being II

“Love Me” may have been a shallow as everything else was on I Am Not A Human Being II, but at least it was enjoyably shallow.  “Long as my b*****s love me / I can give a f**k ‘bout no hater…”

 79

“Angel”

Depeche Mode

From album: Delta Machine

Sure, this track is titled “Angel”, but it surely must be representing a dark angel… Mysterious, chilling, and ‘bothered’, “Angel” finds Depeche Mode doing what they do best.

78

“Nosetalgia”

Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar

From album: My Name Is My Name

The rap IQ on “Nosetalgia” is off the charts, particularly with Kendrick Lamar collaborating with Pusha.   Pusha T proclaims himself the “Black Ferris Bueller, cutting school with his jewels on…what I sell for pain in the hood, I’m a doctor…” while Kendrick Lamar’s slaughtering verse is capped off with “Go figure mother f**ker, every verse is a brick.” True.

77

“Ain’t It Fun”

Paramore

From album: Paramore 

Ain’t It Fun” may be Paramore’s best track EVER.  Driven by a funky groove, the band goes ‘big’ with a gargantuan bass line, full-force punk-laden guitars, and gospel vocals.  ‘ain’t it fun’? – Definitely!

76

“Pop That”

French Montana featuring Rick Ross, Drake & Lil Wayne

From album: Excuse My French

The raunchiest track from French Montana’s debut album is the best.  It’s all about popping… and I’ll leave it at that!

Read More…

The 100 Best Songs of 2013: Part 4 (#25 – 1)


Lady Gaga-20131031-66After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task.  Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs.  Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix.  Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.

25

“Started From The Bottom”

Drake
From album: Nothing Was The Same

Once more, the hook sums it up best: “Started from the bottom now we’re here / started from the bottom now my whole team f**kin’ here…”

24

“Diane Young

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City 

‘Dying young’ in it self is a drag, man, but “Diane Young” and its bubbly sound, quick tempo, and sharp-as-a-tack wordplay is a blast! “Baby, baby, baby, baby, right on time!”

23

“Q.U.E.E.N.”

Janelle Monáe featuring Erykah Badu

From album: The Electric Lady 

Catchy, ‘real talk’, soulful, contemporary, and laden with swagger, “Q.U.E.E.N.” proves to be one of the best songs of 2013, regardless of genre. “Am I a freak for dancing around?” Of course not! Monáe even throws some rhymes in there, further showing her incredible artistic versatility and restlessness. Dance on Janelle – dance on!

22

“Who Do We Think We Are?”

John Legend featuring Rick Ross

From album: Love In the Future

Legend impresses lyrically on the soulful, throwback “Who Do We Think We Are?”  Filled with widely interpretable lyrics including “We love, we love, we love the stars / we could fall so hard…”, Legend seems to reference any number of things including stardom, living up life, and/or literally getting high.  Rick Ross balls hard on his assist: “She gets Chanel / Ski trips to Vail / only the highest grade like trees that I inhale”.

21

“Two Fingers”

Jake Bugg

From album: Jake Bugg

From Jake Bugg’s perspective, life hasn’t been easy – Clifton (England) had its issues, though he’s getting moving forward from a rough past.  On this brilliantly penned, retro singer/songwriter cut, Bugg has to “…drink to remember, I smoke to forget…”, and eventually “…hold(s) two fingers up to yesterday / light a cigarette smoke it all away / I got out, I got out, I’m alive, but I’m here to stay.”

20

“F**kin’ Problems”

A$AP Rocky featuring 2 Chainz, Drake & Kendrick Lamar

From album: Long. Live. A$AP

Basically, even though adding an f-bomb technically intensifies problems rather than solving them, the relief of letting the obscenity slip psychologically makes things feel both calmer and better… something like that! LOL! The f-bombs are here for the taking.

19

“Wrecking Ball”

Miley Cyrus

From album: Bangerz

Thank goodness there was more to “Wrecking Ball” than the atrocious video where Miley Cyrus rides the wrecking ball in the nude.  Miley’s shock value seems to be part of her ‘new Miley’ thing, but “Wrecking Ball” it self stands tall without any extra attention-seeking gimmicks.  The refrain alone is shimmering pop at its best.

18

“Black Skinhead”

Kanye West

From Album: Yeezus

“Black Skinhead” was one of the most unapologetic tracks of the year – no questions asked.  Among my favorite lyrics:  I’m aware I’m a wolf, soon as the moon hit / I’m aware I’m a king, back out the tomb b***h!” There it is!

17

“Power Trip”

J. Cole featuring Miguel

From album: Born Sinner 

All about love or a play on double meanings – you decide on the year’s smoothest rap track that’s got Cole “up all night, all I’m singing is love songs…” Face it – you can’t go wrong when you got Miguel on the track! He’s a beast…a sensual one at least.

16

Eminem

“Rap God

from album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Eminem confirms whom the real “Rap God” is as he ‘wipes his butt’ with the competition (not as frankly as he might put it, but I’m trying to ‘be good’ here).  No one is exempt – well maybe except for Kendrick Lamar.

15

“Mirrors”

Justin Timberlake

From album: The 20/20 Experience 

On standout track “Mirrors”, Timberlake graces his audience with an eight-minute juggernaut that straddles the lines between pop and urban music.  His falsetto is sweet as syrup, the vocal harmonies superb, with the strings of The Benjamin Wright Orchestra providing the ‘cherry on top.’  The chorus is among the very best moments: “Cause I don’t wanna lose you now / I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me / the vacancy that sat in my heart / is a space that now you hold …”

14

Miley Cyrus

“We Can’t Stop”

From album: Bangerz 

You know, the sad thing is that when Ms. Cyrus told us she “won’t stop,” well, she told the absolute truth.  Who would’ve thought that referencing twerking and popping mollies would only be the beginning? “It’s our party we can do what we want!” Indeed Miley, indeed.

BTW, what about a little parody fun?

13

“Reflektor”

Arcade Fire

From album: Reflektor

“Reflektor” definitely didn’t represent the expected direction many thought that Grammy-winning collective Arcade Fire would take, given its percussive, danceable groove. The cut dances tastefully though, eschewing today’s EDM cues in favor of a mix of neo-disco and traditional Arcade Fire characteristics.  The songwriting is accessible, with the chorus being irresistibly catchy and simple.

12

“Obvious Bicycle”

Vampire Weekend

From album: Modern Vampires of the City

“Obvious Bicycle” is arguably the most beautiful song from Vampire Weekend’s discography at this point.  Highlights of the mysterious opener include Ezra Koenig’s effortless falsetto, which is ripe as ever on the chorus. “Obvious Bicycle” is nothing short of warm and hypnotizing.

11

“A Couple of Forevers”

Chrisette Michele

From album: Better

Chrisette Michele returns the ‘passion’ and ‘romance’ to R&B with this breathtaking, thoughtful ballad.  “Just a couple of forevers / a couple of forevers / I’m the only one, you’re the only one / together ‘til never…” I’ll be your ‘forever’ CM.

10

“Same Love”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert

From album: The Heist

This hip-hop anthem embracing tolerance and equality for same-sex relationships was quite a risky, courageous move.  More than just merely breaking barriers, “Same Love” is a brilliant song.

9

“Blood On The Leaves”

Kanye West

From album: Yeezus

Blood On The Leaves” is the crowning achievement from Yeezus. Constructed around a Nina Simone sample (“Strange Fruit”), thoughtful piano, and some awesome biting brass, “Blood On the Leaves” shines like a beacon.

8

“If I Had A Tail”

Queens of the Stone Age

From album: …Like Clockwork

Characterized by a killer driving groove, a classic rock-worthy anthemic chorus, and standout songwriting, “If I Had A Tail” yet another gift that keeps on giving.  “If I had a tail / I’d own the night / if I had a tail / I’d swat the flies.”

7

“We Can’t End This Way”

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

From album: Get Up! 

Soulful, gritty, and organic, this blues-gospel number is truly a gem.  The backing gospel choir truly puts the cherry on top.  After all, “we can’t end this way!”

6

Do What U Want

Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly

From album: ARTPOP 

Taken at its most literal (aka sexually), “Do What U Want” is a good song.  When examined figuratively (empowerment, non-shallow things), it’s just plain awesome.  If there was ever a question of Lady Gaga’s vocal abilities, she squashes them deader than a doornail here.

5

Roar

Katy Perry

From album: PRISM 

The lyrics say it all:  “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter / dancing through the fire / cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar…” You better “roar” Katy!!!

4

“God Is Dead?”

Black Sabbath

From Album: 13 

Atheists and Christians alike can appreciate this hard-rocking joint… well to an extent (at least the question mark is in place).  To Ozzy’s credit, later on in the track he states, “I don’t believe that God is dead…” Still, the communion (sacrament) seems compromised when Ozzy states “The blood runs free / the rain turns red / give me the wine / you keep the bread…” Oh well.

3

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams

From Album: Blurred Lines

Even after multiple controversies surrounding “Blurred Lines” (misogyny and potential ‘artistic theft’), Robin Thicke’s career is thankful for the gift that just kept on giving. You can’t deny how catchy it is, or how slick ole boy’s falsetto is.

2

“Royals

Lorde

From album: Pure Heroine 

Now this teen has real swag… Justin Bieber, take notes!  “And we’ll never be royals / it don’t run in our blood / that kind of lux just ain’t for us / we crave a different kind of buzz…”

1

“Get Lucky

Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

From album: Random Access Memories

The groovy, sexy “Get Lucky” only makes the act of ‘making love’ even more enticing.  Pharrell sings it best on the golden hook: “She’s up all night to the sun / I’m up all night to get some / she’s up all night for good fun / I’m up all night to get lucky…” Yeah boy!

Be sure to check out the previously released parts with songs #100-76, #75-51, and #50 – 26.

The 50 (+1) Best Albums of 2013


Kanye West-20131126-42

Ranking the very best albums of any year is incredibly difficult; there are always misses.  2013 was filled with some triumphant musical moments, though not all of their parent albums were necessarily ‘worthy’ of being considered the best of the year. Because of various factors, this list has its surprises and like any album reviewed, its triumphs and flaws.  One thing’s for sure – the top ten to fifteen albums are pretty close to the cream of the crop from my perspective.  Here are the 50 (+1) best albums of 2013!

1

Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City

XL

51Tqebc+IZL._SL500_AA280_The Ivy Leaguers outdo themselves on this eclectic, alt-rock tour de force. Stacked from start to finish, Ezra Koenig and company deliver sharp wordplay and highly liberal thinking.

Recommended Spins: “Obvious Bicycle”; “Unbelievers”; “Diane Young”; “Finger Back”; “Worship You”; “Ya Hey”

Seals The Deal:  “Obvious Bicycle”

2

Kanye West

Yeezus

Def Jam

51xNTn2L83L._SL500_AA280_Give credit to Mr. West where credit is due – previously Yeezus probably wouldn’t have landed in the top five, let alone the top two.  But as with certain wines and cheeses (Swiss namely), there is an aging process to provide a delicious and satisfying taste.  The same could be said of West über-ambitious Yeezus – or something similar that is!

Recommended Spins: “Black Skinhead”; “I Am A God”; “New Slaves”; “Blood on the Leaves”; “Bound 2″ featuring Charlie Wilson

Seals The Deal: “Blood on the Leaves” 

3

Janelle Monae

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

51q3xK+M7zL._SL500_AA280_Don’t put the fork in R&B music just yet – Janelle Monae delivers the year’s most intriguing R&B album that brilliantly encompasses numerous styles and keeps things both classic and progressive. One of a kind, all should bow down to JM.

Recommended Spins: “Give Them What They Love” featuring Prince; “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu; “Primetime” featuring Miguel; “Dance Apocalyptic”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”

Seals The Deal: “Prime Time” featuring Miguel

4

Daft Punk

Random Access Memories

Columbia

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_The best, and arguably most exciting electronic album of 2013, is shockingly less futuristic compared to its colleagues, drawing back to old-school pop, disco, and soul. Throwback it is, Random Access Memories is one of the year’s finest albums regardless of genre, and stands a solid shot of winning the Grammy for album of the year.

Recommended Spins: “Give Life Back to Music”; “Giorgio By Moroder”; “Lose Yourself to Dance” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Touch” featuring Paul Williams; “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Fragments of Time”

Seals The Deal: “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams

5

John Legend

Love in the Future

Columbia

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_John Legend redeems himself big time on his fourth studio album Love in the Future following a somewhat disappointing effort in 2008′s Evolver.  While there are some more contemporary ideas here, Love in the Future is more about Legend flexing his soulful muscles, a niche he perfectly fits.

Recommended Spins: “In The Beginning”; “Who Do We Think You Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “Made To Love”; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”

Seals The Deal: “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross 

6

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Get Up!

Stax 

51dp0nxPTmL._SL500_AA280_Blues albums rarely rack up huge accolades on a ‘big stage’, but Get Up! is that incredibly worthy exception.  Soulful and consistent through and through, Get Up! Easily ranks highly among the year’s gems.

Recommended Spins: “We Can’t End This Way”; “I Ride At Dawn”; “Get Up”

Seals The Deal: “We Can’t End This Way”

7

Black Sabbath

13

Republic 

510gRIX6xfL._SL500_AA280_More than just the agnostics, atheists, and secularists will be pleasantly surprised with Black Sabbath’s most important album in years. Why is album 13 so important? It reunites the whole Black Sabbath crew (save for the drummer) for the first time 35 years!  Dark and foreboding, yet ‘sinfully’ appealing, 13 is quite the epic heavy-/black-metal album.

Recommended Spins: “End of The Beginning”; “God Is Dead?”; “Zeitgeist”;  “Live Forever”; “Dear Father”

Seals The Deal: “God Is Dead?”

8

Drake

Nothing Was The Same

Republic 

41E34dng69L._SL500_AA280_Drake didn’t necessarily ‘step his game up’ on Nothing Was The Same – he just continued to flex his emo-/ alt-rap muscles like the pro that he is.  NTWS is filled with gems, all completely different from one another.  One thing’s for sure, he may have “Started On The Bottom”, but Drake is on top of the game by all means.

Recommended Spins: “Tuscan Leather”; “Started From The Bottom”; “Wu-Tang Forever”; “From Time”; “Hold On, We’re Going Home”; “305 To My City” featuring Detail

Seals The Deal: “Wu-Tang Forever” 

9

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Columbia

31-q26oFwyL._SL500_AA280_Beyoncé shocked the world with her surprise fifth studio album, Beyoncé.  Even so, that’s not the reason ‘Yoncé makes this list.  Ultimately, the R&B chanteuse delivers a sharp, risqué fifth effort that separates itself from the rest of her discography and many of the other releases from 2013.  Both shocking and alluring, Bey does her thang.

Recommended Spins: “Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z;  “Blow”; “Rocket”

Seals The Deal: “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z

10

Arcade Fire

Reflektor

Merge

51wzw69ySAL._SL500_AA280_Few might’ve expected for Arcade Fire to follow-up their album of the year winning effort The Suburbs with an album like Reflektor  (I didn’t).  However, as all-over-the-place as Reflektor is, there are plenty of moments for alt-rock fans to cheer about.  Danceable, conceptual, and ultimately incredibly unique, Reflektor cracks the top ten best of the year, easily.

Recommended Spins: “Reflektor”; “We Exist”; “Here Comes the Night Time”;  “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”; “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”; “Porno”

Seals The Deal: “Reflektor”

Read More…

25 Best R&B Albums of 2013


John Legend-20130621-53

It truly saddens me to see R&B, a personal favorite style of music, in a state of uncertainty.  2013 found the numbers of R&B down considerably, a trend that is consistent year in and year out. Save for a select few commercial bright spots (led by an unexpected Beyoncé album), R&B only dented the charts.   Even so, finding 25 albums with some significance wasn’t difficult to do.  Sure, some of the lowest ranked albums have their flaws, but each has some reason for being selected.  Enjoy! 

1

Janelle Monáe

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

51q3xK+M7zL._SL500_AA280_In a world where R&B and soul music have cooled off considerably, one incredibly talented Janelle Monáe is still ‘on’ so to speak.  Monáe balances the retro with the contemporary and alternative like a champ on her brilliant The Electric Lady, my pick for the best R&B album of 2013. Simply put, this album kicks some serious… watch yo mouth!  Consistent, fresh, retro, and captivating, Monáe paves her own way and has it going on in a big way.  All hail “Q.U.E.E.N.” Janelle!

 

Recommended Spins:

“Givin’ ‘Em What They Love”; “Q.U.E.E.N.”; “Primetime”; “We Were Rock and Roll”; “Ghetto Woman”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes” 

2

John Legend

Love in the Future

G.O.O.D. / Columbia

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_John Legend may take some risks on Love in the Future, but ultimately, his formula is the same as it always has been.  Love in The Future not only has the goods to challenge for the best R&B album of the year, but it also challenges Legend’s own discography as his best album yet.  With five years between solo albums, Legend sounds riper than ever on this top-notch work.  Rock on John!

Recommend Spins:

“In The Beginning”; “Made to Love”; “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”

3

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Columbia

Digital Booklet - BEYONCÉBeyoncé shocked the world by keeping her fifth studio album Beyoncé a secret.  Her rollout wasn’t the only shock; the album itself is alluring because of its cutting edged approach.  No longer does Beyoncé show herself as a suggestive R&B diva – she’s now an unapologetic, fierce one unafraid to state her emotions or intentions.  At her most naughty, ‘Yoncé is at her best.

Recommended Spins:

“Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z; “Blow”; “Rocket”

4

Charles Bradley

Victim of Love

Daptone

Charles Bradley1-20131108-265-year old soul singer Charles Bradley represents for the retro-soul veterans atop these rankings.  Bradley isn’t nearly as ‘decorated’ as his colleagues of similar age because his ‘chance’ didn’t arrive until late in his life.  Regardless, Bradley does it like a pro, delivering a compelling, soulful tour de force on Victim of Love.  The young bucks can learn plenty from Bradley, who is on autopilot throughout the course of Victim of Love – no misses to speak of.

Recommended Spins:

“Strictly Reserved For You”; “Victim of Love”; “Confusion”

 

5

José James

No Beginning, No End

Blue Note

412OsY-eNgL._SL500_AA280_Distinctly voiced jazz/soul singer José James joins a list of incredibly underrated, super talented artists.  His Blue Note January release No Beginning, No End was nothing short of a critical smash, consistent through and through.  Sure James is refined like any jazz musician, but he also allows for his sensual, soulful side to shine on tracks like “It’s All Over My Body.”  His best moment, however, comes by way of instant jam “Trouble”.

Recommended Spins:

“It’s All Over My Body”; “Trouble”; “Vanguard”

6

Fantasia

Side Effects of You

RCA

51R6Qpg7HKL._SL500_AA280_Over the course of four albums, former American Idol winner continues to captivate vocally.  Sure, sometimes the material doesn’t always match up with her prodigious pipes, but more often than not, Fantasia makes up for it with her heart-wrenching, soulful vocals. Side Effects of You overall is well put together featuring some enjoyable songs showcasing ‘Tasia at her best.

Recommended Spins:

“Supernatural” featuring Big K.R.I.T.; “Ain’t All Bad”; “Without Me” featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott; “Change Your Mind”; “Lose To Win”; “End of Me”

7

Bilal

A Love Surreal

Entertainment One

518G2jOk81L._SL500_AA280_Bilal has been captivating alt-soul fans’ hearts years before Frank Ocean, Miguel, or The Weeknd came along.  He continues to shine on his fine A Love Surreal, where his vocals remain powerful and soulful. Eclectic and consistent, A Love Surreal is easily one of the year’s top R&B efforts.

Recommended Spins:

“Westside Girl”; “Back To Love”; “Winning Hand”; “Slipping Away”; “Butterfly”

8

Alice Smith

She

Rainwater

Alice Smith's She easily ranks among 2013's best albums.

Underrated and under-appreciated, Alice Smith is an exceptional artist by all means.  On She, Smith delivers magnificent vocals coupled with magnificent songwriting and production.  Among her most triumphant moments is a fierce cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fool For You”, which she makes her own.  A tight album with only 11 tracks and 36 minutes in duration, She is that exceptional album you definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on.

Recommended Spins:

“Cabaret”; “Another Love”; “Loyalty”; “Fool For You”; “Be Easy”

9

Jhene Aiko

Sail Out (EP)

Def Jam

51vWznSh56L._SL500_AA280_Don’t let Jhene Aiko’s chill delivery discourage you – the girl can pack a knockout punch without sweating once! Sail Out provides an excellent picture of what the singer’s full length will sound like, embracing elements of pop and alternative R&B.

Recommended Spins:

“The Vapors”; “Bed Peace”; “Stay Ready (What A Life)”; “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)”

 

10

Chrisette Michele

Better

Def Jam

51v0nrvYiuL._SL500_AA280_Chrisette Michele just might be R&B’s most underrated female.  While commercial success has only been so-so for Michele, she’s been rock-solid where consistency is concerned.  Better is a sensational and eclectic R&B effort that shows Michele’s range as an artist.  Nothing is better here than promo single “A Couple of Forevers”, which was easily among the year’s best.

Recommended Spins:

“A Couple of Forevers”; “Let Me Win”;  “Love Won’t Leave Me Out”; “Visual Love”; “Charades”

11

Jaheim

Appreciation Day

Atlantic

51Fc7Pmf5aL._SL500_AA280_Jaheim has cleaned up his act since his excellent ‘Ghetto’ days, but don’t get it twisted, he’s still an edgy R&B singer.  Jaheim appreciates the female throughout, perhaps most specifically on “***** Appreciation”… gasp.  But he’s most impressive on his socially conscious turn on “Florida”, written about the Treyvon Martin controversy down south.

Recommended Spins:

“Age Ain’t A Factor”; “He Don’t Exist”;  “Morning”; “Baby X3”; “Sexting”; “Florida”

12

Raheem DeVaughn

A Place Called Loveland

Mass Appeal

61WNU5xS-EL._SL500_AA280_Raheem DeVaughn is one of the most underrated R&B artists, but he’s also one of the best and most consistent.  A Place Called Loveland may lack the flash to appeal to a new audience, but it is exceptionally put together.

Recommended Spins:

 “Love Connection”; “Wrong Forever”; “Complicated”; “Cry Baby”; “Make A Baby”; “Make Em Like You”

 

13

Ariana Grande

Yours Truly

Republic

41VAP7icdZL._SL500_AA280_Is she pop or R&B – that is the question? Not from my perspective, as Ariana Grande cements herself as Mariah Carey’s successor on her fine debut Yours Truly, which debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200.  Quality from start to finish, Grande has a promising career ahead of her.

Recommended Spins:

“Honeymoon Avenue”; “Baby I”; “Right There”; “You’ll Never Know”; “The Way” featuring Mac Miller; “Almost is Never Enough” featuring Nathan Sykes

 

14

Mavis Staples

One True Vine

Anti

51fqkurDW+L._SL500_AA280_You could argue this album is ‘Americana’ as the Grammys suggest, but the Mavis Staples I know and love has gospel and soul roots.  Album One True Vine may be a genre bender, but Staples sounds incredibly compelling as a 74-year old.  “Age ain’t nothing but a number” Mavis.

Recommended Spins:

“Holy Ghost”; “Every Step”; “Can You Get To That”; “I Like The Things About Me”

 

15

K. Michelle

Rebellious Soul

Atlantic

51AjsEvsGwL._SL500_AA280_I’m not sure if its cool for guys to listen to K. Michele, but ole girl definitely keeps it real.  Early cuts like “Kiss My A$$” and “I Just Wanna” don’t even grace the set… If you are a woman scorned, K. Michele is who you should listen to for reassurance or a ‘pick me up’.  Brash but honest, K. Michele soulfully executes on her debut, Rebellious Soul.

Recommended Spins:

“Damn”; “Can’t Raise a Man”; “V.S.O.P.”; “Ride Out”; “When I Get A Man”

 

16

Robin Thicke

Blurred Lines

Interscope

91zMqP7d2NL._SL1500_For Robin Thicke, it was a career transformative year.  “Blurred Lines” was the gift single that kept giving (and perhaps taking), making the former neo-soul singer relevant within pop circles.  “Blurred Lines” wasn’t the only shining moment, as Thicke kept his silky, smooth pipes going strong on thoughtful ballad, “For The Rest Of My Life”.

Recommended Spins:

“Blurred Lines”; “Take It Easy On Me”;  “Give It 2 U”; “Feel Good”; “For The Rest of My Life”

17

TGT

Three Kings

Atlantic

51Y8U1sKI3L._SL500_AA280_Super groups are hard to come by these days.  TGT, comprised of Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank, three of R&B’s finest, come together to deliver one of the finest panty-dropping fests of the year.  Just imagine of Trey Songz had somehow made his way in and Three Kings would’ve totally been too hot to handle.

Recommended Spins:

“Sex Never Felt Better”; “I Need”; “Next Time Around”; “Explode”; “Running Back”; “Burn Out”

18

Mayer Hawthorne

Where Does This Door Go?

Republic

41bg0QHWBCL._SL500_AA280_Mayer Hawthorne’s album sadly drifted from the ranks of playlist glory on my iPod, but I couldn’t tell you why.  Where Does This Door Go certainly had its skeptics, but I wasn’t one of them.  Vocally, one of the hippest bespectacled white dudes can blow and does here.

Recommended Spins:

“Back Seat Lover”; “The Innocent”; “The Only One”; “Her Favorite Song”; “Reach Out Richard”

19

Ciara

Ciara

Epic

51TpXUESJhL._SL500_AA280_Even though Ciara received high marks on my end of things, I may have still underrated it.  Ciara doesn’t sport a powerful voice like some of her contemporaries, but it sits well contextually within her music.  Ciara is both sexy and enjoyable.

Recommended:

“Sophomore”; “Body Party”; “Keep On Lookin’”; “Super Turnt Up”

 

20

Kelly Rowland

Talk A Good Game

Republic

8121kg2H5XL._SL1500_Kelly Rowland has been consistently patterning herself as a more risqué alternative to her ‘sister’ Beyoncé (well until Beyoncé itself shocked the world).   Talk A Good Game comes full circle, intact with parental advisory label to match.   It doesn’t supersede the exceptional Here I Am, but it definitely has some shining moments.

Recommended Spins:

“Kisses Down Low”; “Down on Love”; “Dirty Laundry”; “Red Wine”

 

21

Joe

Doubleback: Evolution of R&B

Massenberg Media

6160ddGP8hL._SL500_AA280_After several albums lacking the quality of his best, Joe returns with a throwback (“doubleback”) R&B album that finds him flexing his sensual muscles like a G.

Recommended Spins:

“Something For You”; “Easy”; “I’d Rather Have A Love”; “Love & Sex” featuring Fantasia; “More”

22

Tamar Braxton

Love and War

Epic 

51WHDUdSVlL._SL500_AA280_Tamar Braxton makes this list because of the significance of her accomplishments with Love and War.  The album has some shining moments, but doesn’t lack flaws.  Even so, Braxton has an exceptional voice and when she’s fully invested with superb material to perform, it’s pure fire.

Recommended Spins:

“The One”; “Stay and Fight”; “Love and War”; “One On One Fun”; “Where It Hurts”; “Prettiest Girl”

 

23

Teena Marie

Beautiful

Ume

51qA7widqQL._SL500_AA280_Teena Marie passed on in 2010, but she left a stunning final studio album in Beautiful, which is just that.  Beautiful is Teena Marie at her very best – soulful, sensual, and brilliant.

Recommended Spins:

“Luv Letter”; “Sweet Tooth”; “Love Starved”; “Definition of Down”; “Beautiful”; “The Long Play”

 

24

Aaron Neville

True Story

Blue Note

51FcjEZV-6L._SL500_AA280_My True Story isn’t a flashy album, but it is a fine retro-soul effort that covers classics from the early era of R&B, the 1950s and 60s.  Neville may be long past his prime, but vocally the 72-year old still got it.  Bow down!

Recommended Spins:

“My True Story”; “Ting A Ling”; “Under The Boardwalk”

25

R. Kelly

Black Panties

RCA

51l9Oz9KgnLMaybe it’s a stretch to include Black Panties on this list, but part of the reason for its inclusion is because Kelly returns to his true self – edgy, sensual, and just plumb freaky.  Sure he overdoes it and seems to think sex supplants sexiness, but there’s some pieces there.  Oreos are still tasty…

Recommended Spins:

“Legs Shakin’” featuring Ludacris; “Cookie”; “Genius”; “All The Way” featuring Kelly Rowland

‘Way Too Early’ 56th Annual Grammy Winner Predictions


So the Grammy nominations just came out, and guess who is already putting his two cents in about who’s gonna win? This guy is! Yep it is technically ‘way too early’, but who cares? How about some December predictions for what’s gonna go down in January?

The Big Four

Record of the Year

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_“Get Lucky”, Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams

“Radioactive”, Imagine Dragons

“Royals”, Lorde

“Locked Out of Heaven”, Bruno Mars

“Blurred Lines”, Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell

This is one of the most competitive categories, period.   All five of these are worthy records, which isn’t always true.  If one feels like it’s out of place, it is Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven”, mostly because it is the ‘oldest’ of the bunch.

Both “Blurred Lines” and “Royals” are deserving of love based on their impact, but just because you ruled the Hot 100 certainly doesn’t equate to a Grammy.  If one of these two wins, I’d give the edge to Lorde, who doesn’t have various controversies on her back.  Still, rock would get a huge recognition if Imagine Dragons’ mammoth hit “Radioactive” was awarded here.  Still, doesn’t Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” seem unavoidable here, particularly if the duo is victorious in the Album of the Year category?

Way Too Early Pick:

Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams, “Get Lucky

Album of the Year

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_The Blessed Unrest, Sara Bareilles

Random Access Memories, Daft Punk

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Kendrick Lamar

The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Red, Taylor Swift

I’m not even going to curb my biases – I’m rooting for Kendrick Lamar’s rap opus Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.   But I won’t even begin to act like it has a shot after hip-hop has been avoided like a plague in this coveted category; its only been a decade since OutKast’s undeniable masterpiece Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was awarded AOTY.  But Kendrick also has killer competition within his own genre with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ breakthrough The Heist, which is certainly considered more ‘friendly’ hip-hop.  I think both cancel each other out, which leaves Sara Bareilles, Taylor Swift, and Daft Punk.  As good as Red is, Taylor Swift has already won for her career-breakthrough, Fearless.  Sara Bareilles’ inclusion over bigger pop albums is shocking, but never count out the surprise nominee… sometimes that’s the album that wins.  Personally, I think Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is the frontrunner.

Way Too Early Pick:

Random Access Memories, Daft Punk

Song of the Year

41XAtgtU1xL._SL500_AA280_“Just Give Me The Reason” (Pink featuring Nate Ruess)

“Locked Out of Heaven” (Bruno Mars)

“Roar” (Katy Perry)

“Royals” (Lorde)

“Same Love” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert)

Another big-time category, my goodness! All of the nominees here should be jumping for joy that “Get Lucky” wasn’t nominated in this category.  Again, I’m going to eliminate “Locked Out Of Heaven”, no matter how good it is; I don’t think it’s Bruno’s year.  While I love Pink and approved of “Just Give Me The Reason” (with Nate Ruess of fun.), I’m not sure the no. 1 hit is the best song of the year.  If the voters want to go bold (and political), they vote for the fine “Same Love”, courtesy of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert.  If they don’t, they’re left with the inspirational breakthrough “Roar” and the ubiquitous “Royals”.   If Katy Perry was ever to win a Grammy, “Royals” would be the perfect song.  However, that “Royals” is one unique song contrasting its fellow nominees.

Way Too Early Pick

“Royals” (Lorde)

Best New Artist

51BomNkKT2LJames Blake

Kendrick Lamar

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Kacey Musgraves

Ed Sheeran

Another category where I’m biased to one artist – Kendrick Lamar!  Again though, Lamar is up against heavyweights Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.  Kacey Musgraves unapologetic brand of country is notable from what I heard, but I’m not sure she outpaces the huge hip-hop nominees.  Ed Sheeran feels either a year late or a year early, depending on your perspective, but could certainly play spoils.  James Blake’s nod is a ‘trap’ for the hip-hop favorites, amplified by his Mercury Prize victory for superb sophomore album OvergrownI’m truly torn here, so I’ll go with who I think is most deserving, even if it doesn’t come to pass.

Way Too Early Pick

 Kendrick Lamar

Read More…

Thoughts on the 56th Annual Grammy Nominations


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The Grammys are like a musician’s Super Bowl, even if the nominations and victorious artists are flawed.  I won’t lie to you, I complain every year that someone won a Grammy that didn’t deserve it while someone else was snubbed. Just last year, during the 55th Annual Grammys, I lobbied hard for Frank Ocean (looking back, I have reservations now) while Mumford & Sons walked out with the Album of the Year trophy.  The year that Taylor Swift won for Fearless, my girl Beyoncé was on a roll until the coveted Album of the Year award was read.  You get my position though! This year,  I find myself the most pleased I’ve been with the Grammy nominations in like forever.  That isn’t to say within my colorful, opinionated commentary that I don’t have my rubs, but I’m onboard more often than not for the 56th Annual Grammys.

The Big Four

Record of the Year

Imagine Dragons land a Record of the Year nomination for "Radioactive"

Imagine Dragons land a Record of the Year nomination for “Radioactive”

“Get Lucky”, Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams

“Radioactive”, Imagine Dragons

“Royals”, Lorde

“Locked Out of Heaven”, Bruno Mars

“Blurred Lines”, Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell

The Record of the Year field for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards is quite strong – I approve of the choices in other words.  I knew that “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” would score nominations here.   I think “Royals” courtesy of Lorde is extremely deserving of the nomination as is “Radioactive”.  “Locked Out of Heaven” was also a big record, though perhaps its sheen has worn off at this point since Unorthodox Jukebox came out in December of 2012.  Ultimately, excellent nominations by all mean.

Album of the Year

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis score big with multiple Grammy nominations.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis score big with multiple Grammy nominations.

The Blessed Unrest, Sara Bareilles

Random Access Memories, Daft Punk

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Kendrick Lamar

The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Red, Taylor Swift

The Album of the year field always sports one curveball.  There’s nothing wrong with a shocker, except that sometimes that oddball nominee ends up being the victor.  This year’s oddball in a strong field is Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest.  It was a solid album, but if you’d ask me if I thought it had a shot of being nominated, I would’ve said absolutely not – no disrespect Sara.  I had a feeling Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Taylor Swift had a shot here.

Snubs? I thought Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars stood a shot of being nominated for The 20/20 Experience and Unorthodox Jukebox respectively.  I’m not mad about it though (I think there were better albums). Now as for that snub of Vampire Weekend’s Modern City of Vampires… GRRRR!!!

Song of the Year

Katy Perry 'roars' with a Song of the Year nomination for "Roar".

Katy Perry ‘roars’ with a Song of the Year nomination for “Roar”.

“Just Give Me The Reason” (Pink featuring Nate Ruess)

“Locked Out of Heaven” (Bruno Mars)

“Roar” (Katy Perry)

“Royals” (Lorde)

“Same Love” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert)

This is an interesting list with some solid choices as well.  “Just Give Me The Reason” was a hit and a fine song, though I’m not sure if I’d consider it ‘song of the year’ (it was a no. 1 hit though).  The reprisal of both “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Royals” is a welcome nomination here.  “Same Love” may be the biggest surprise, but feels like a smart unexpected nomination here.  “Roar” is another exceptional choice, though you wonder how it managed to miss out on a Record of the Year nod as well.

Best New Artist

Kendrick Lamar lands multiple Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist.

Kendrick Lamar lands multiple Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist.

James Blake

Kendrick Lamar

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Kacey Musgraves

Ed Sheeran

No complaints here.  James Blake is actually on his second album, but 2013 effort Overgrown really elevated the British electronic artist’s stock.  Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were locks with no explanation needed.  Kacey Musgraves, who I personally have not heard, has been getting some buzz, so her nod seems well representative of country.  Ed Sheeran seemed to have a bigger year previously when “The A Team” was nominated for Song of the Year, but whatever.

Snubs? Lorde.  Lorde received plenty of love for “Royals”, so why none in the Best New Artist? You could also argue A$AP Rocky, though rap is well covered here.

Read More…

Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 3…


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Welcome to the final part of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013.  Here is where I housed my honorable mentions, which were many.  If you missed the previous two posts, here’s how I opened them up respectively, beginning with Favorites and ending with Least Favorites:

Favorites:

“As I look over my 2013 playlist from my iPod, I realize I have listened to numerous albums this year.  In fact, the amount of music that my ears have consumed and my pen has analyzed is pretty scary…and I still missed lots of albums! SMH! Some were special, some made me cringe, and some fell somewhere in between the two extremes.  As difficult as it was, as of October 7, 2013, I have compiled a list housing my favorites, least favorites, and honorable mentions.  I’m almost certain I’ve slighted someone and I’m sure there will be continual revisions, but for now, here’s what you should’ve spun, what you should’ve avoided like the plague, and those that were strongly consideration for favorites. Enjoy!”

Least Favorites:

“Welcome all who dare to part deux of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013 for all who dare to enter the brentmusicreviews zone! Ha… If you missed the first part (Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1), you should like totally check out my favorites from 2013, ‘cause there was some awesome albums.  If you’re not one for positivity and optimism, maybe you’re just checking this out because some you enjoy skepticism, criticism, and the occasional, um, cynicism.

Onward to the honorable mentions!!!

Honorable Mentions…

Pop

tumblr_mt55ywZm6R1qayn75o1_500John Mayer, Paradise Valley

Travis Garland, Travis Garland

Ariana Grande, Yours Truly

Lorde, Pure Heroine

Conor Maynard, Contrast

There was one dominant pop album in 2013 and it was not by Justin Bieber (yep cheap shot).  Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience was sort of ‘the promised land’ of pop.  But Justin wasn’t the only album that impressed.  John Mayer has been more subtle lately, but Paradise Valley was well conceived.  Travis Garland isn’t well established yet, but he should be following EPs and his compilation effort Travis Garland.  Ariana Grande sounded angelic, particular with boyfriend Nathan Sykes (The Wanted) on “Almost Is Never Enough”.  Lorde’s sorta pop, sorta alternative mix made it a fine listen while Britain’s Justin Bieber Conor Maynard out-swag’d the “swaggy” singer easily with debut Contrast.

Traditional Pop

51lF5QOjyGL._SL500_AA280_Harry Connick, Jr. Smokey Mary 

Harry Connick, Jr. Every Man Should Know

George Benson, Inspiration – A Tribute To Nat King Cole

Michael Bublé delivered my favorite traditional pop album of 2013, but who can deny the musicianship of either Harry Connick, Jr. Or George Benson? Smokey Mary introduced the funky “S’pposed To Be” to my constant rotation playlist while Every Man Should Know added its country-tinged self-titled ballad.  As for George Benson? What more is there to say to hear a legend paying tribute to one of his own legends on tracks like “Route 66” or “Unforgettable”?

Rock

51UokMRA8lL._SL500_AA280_Kings of Leon, Mechanical Bull

Alice in Chains, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

John Fogerty, Wrote A Song For Everyone

Rock certainly didn’t dominate 2013, but there were definitely some exceptional albums.  While Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork and David Bowie’s The Next Day took top honors in my eyes, Kings of Leon, Alice in Chains, and John Fogerty definitely ‘did work’ too.  Kings of Leon impressed on “Supersoaker” and were humanized on the seemingly autobiographical “Wait For Me”.  Alice in Chains reminded us just how good 90s rock/metal was, particularly on title track “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”.  As for the legend of this trio, John Fogerty’s collaborations effort Wrote A Song For Everyone was so much better than expected, like really!

Alternative

41pNHSnGAYL._SL500_AA280_Phoenix, Bankrupt!

Depeche Mode, Delta Machine

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away

The National, Trouble Will Find Me

Let’s just keep this short and sweet.  Stacked, stacked, stacked!!! This category of music is always loaded, period.  An annual number one seed you might say.  Vampire Weekend were definitely the act to beat, but Phoenix, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and The National all rocked too, as evidenced by their spot on my list.   “Entertainment” from Phoenix just made me feel happy because of its bright brilliance.  For electro-alt vets Depeche Mode, it’s the general darkness of the music that has a hypnotizing effect; they never sound old.  Nick Cave’s exceptional songwriting is undeniable, particularly on standouts like the opening “We No Who ‘U ‘R” and the infectious groove of “Finishing Jubilee Street”, which is a follow-up to “Jubilee Street”.  The National pleased with “Don’t Swallow The Cap” and “Humiliation” among others.

R&B

51v0nrvYiuL._SL500_AA280_Fantasia, Side Effects of You

Bilal, A Love Surreal

Chrisette Michele, Better

Alice Smith, She

Yeah, I know I’ve whined about R&B, but most of the time it wasn’t the quality of the albums but rather the dismal sales.  None of the above mentioned albums exactly made a huge chart impact (Fantasia did well contextually speaking), but all four were and are definitely worthy of some spins.  “Without Me” was definitely my jam from Side Effects Of You, even if it is more of a women empowerment cut… don’t judge me, it’s sick!  “Winning Hand” tickled my fancy from Bilal’s A Love Surreal, while one of Alice Smith’s best moments was actually a cover of Cee Lo’s “Fool For You”.  As for CM, “A Couple of Forevers” is among my top cuts of the year regardless of genre.  All four albums receive my humble approval.

Traditional R&B

Teena Marie, Beautiful

Aaron Neville, My True Story 

R&B isn’t getting much attention in general, so of course the veterans get the worst of it.   Teena Marie’s posthumously released final studio album is one she would’ve been incredibly proud of.  As for Aaron Neville, there is literally no one who come close to the versatile soul singer’s vocal timbre. He exceptionally covers old, old school classics on My True Story.

Rap

51M-LzDg8kL._SL500_AA280_Kanye West, Yeezus

Mac Miller, Watching Movies With The Sound Off

Tyler, The Creator, Wolf

Earl Sweatshirt, Doris

A$AP Rocky, Long. Live. A$AP

A$AP Ferg, Trap Lord

This is one lengthy list right?  There are also probably omissions and arguable omissions.   To answer the skeptics, yes I purpose excluded Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail off this list – it was not my favorite, least favorite, nor really an honorable mention in my eyes.  Kanye West definitely had an argument for a ‘favorite’, but I also had my own reservations with the album itself.  Mac Miller showed more maturity on Watching Movies With The Sound Off, but not without his fair share of references to his… Anyways, Odd Future releases are always captivating (Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt), while A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg both impressed with their respective efforts and signature styles.  I know I’ve left off others… it was a good year for hip-hop.

Reggae

51X-3igkk3L._SL500_AA280_Congo Natty, Revolution 

I’ll admit, I knew very little about Congo Natty, also known as Rebel MC.  After being given the opportunity to review Revolution, however, I was extremely impressed with the album and  Congo Natty himself.

Jazz

Avishai Cohen, Duende

Gerald Clayton, Life Forum

Redtenbacher’s Funkestra, The Cooker

I absolutely adore jazz, period.  However, it is easy to ‘sleep’ on a genre which played a huge role in my musical education.  Yes, it sounds like I turned my back which seems hypocritical given my jazz piano background.   Actually much of the reason is that popular music tend to ‘shock’ and pull in so many major headlines.  It’s not fair obviously, as some of today’s greatest talents lie within the jazz realm and definitely don’t receive the attention they deserve.  Jazz may often take a backseat on this particular site, but it doesn’t in my heart in the least.  I do review it in addition to the ‘pop’ and Avishai Cohen, Gerald Clayton, and Redtenbacher’s Funkestra definitely had killer albums.  #MadRespect

Review: 2 Chainz, ‘B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time’


91tGmpxRhlL._SL1500_

2 Chainz Does Dumb Surprisingly Well on B.O.A.T.S. II

2 Chainz⎪ B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time⎪Def Jam⎪⎪US Release Date: September 10

2 Chainz-ZNV-000958Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go… 2 Chainz is crazy! Like totally cray cray.  Honestly, B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time should be a disaster (add a profanity of choice in front of ‘disaster’). Somehow though, through all of Tauheed Epps’ stupidity, he puts together a dumb, but fun rap album.  Yeah, maybe there isn’t one single cut that supplants the brilliantly, naughty “Birthday Song” which I still jam out to on my iPod, but there is plenty of songs that lack substance that give the listener, um, a guilty pleasure.  2 CHAINZ!

The fun starts with “Fork”, in which 2 Chainz “…had a dream that rap wouldn’t work / woke up on the block, had to hit it with the fork / skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr: hit it with the fork… rap don’t work, records ain’t bein’ sold…so much money on me, it won’t even fold….” Yeah something like that. What is he talking about? Good question! Well, sounds like drugs, rap albums not selling, and having more money than he’ll ever need.  If that’s not enough, he elaborates on his excesses, maybe best epitomized by a lyric like “I drink red b**ches, I don’t drink Red Bulls…” Alrighty then, heck of a way to start 2 Chainz by hitting it with the fork.

2 Chainz-ZNV-001216On “36”, the king of dumb educates us listeners on the hook: “36 / that’s how many ounces in a brick / 36, 36, 36, 36…” So if you had no idea about the wait of drug paraphernalia, 2 Chainz has schooled you over the course of one minute and a half.  Feel lifted?  Then after all the drugs, the “Feds Watching”, featuring and produced by Pharrell Williams.  2 Chainz begins his first verse with bragging about material things (“Dreads hang on designer everything…”), then goes on to the strip club (“This that category 5 when I walk up in the strip club…”), and throws in some drugs for good measure (“Backing soda marketing , I’m getting it ain’t I? Obviously…”). He caps all of his higher level thinking with a simple, summative hook: “I’mma be fresh as hell if the Feds watching….” So basically, even if 2 Chainz gets caught, he’s going to be ‘fresh to death’ I’m assuming? I don’t know about all that, but the track is killer.

Where U Been” keeps things consistently ‘materialistic’, featuring the assist from Cap.1.  Simply, 2 Chainz has been balling “getting money, where the f**k you been?”.  Oh and to add a little more oomph to his brashness, he throws in the ‘tasteful’ punch “bought a new crib just to f**k you in.”  Seems extreme to me, but he is 2 Chainz. Oh an as for Cap.1’s contributions, perhaps the lyric “My b**ch she’s so pretty that’s my Pocahontas…” takes the cake.  Next, my boy brings in Drake and Lil Wayne for the superstar collaboration “I Do It”.  Simplicity remains key, particularly given 2 Chainz’s opening ‘salvo’: “Hang up on a b**ch, call it crucified”.  Still, he has his moments.  Drake may have the best line, when he alludes to Lil Wayne near the end of the second verse: “Man I just hear this sh*t and think about what Tunechi will tell you / he might call up Patricia, she ‘bout to call up Melissa…” Oh and in case you’re wondering, yes Lil Wayne talks about sex on his verse… shocker.  The Outro is a nice contrast though.

2 Chainz-RWP-011385Used 2” keeps the absurdity alive and well, evidenced by the ridiculous hook which seems to reference recording the naughty and uploading it to youtube as looking for a baby mama… SMH.  Repetition is 2 Chainz’s best friend here, or his worst enemy with the clumsy lines he chooses to repeat.  He ‘redeems’ himself on the it’s-so-ridiculously-stupid-it’s-good “Netflix” which pairs him with Fergie… what a combo, phew! Where do you even start? 2 Chainz references weed, sex tapes, the paparazzi, high end fashion, and uninspired rappers all in the matter of his first verse.  On her verse, Fergie lifts from “Birthday Song” (“When I die, bury me inside the liquor store…”), as well as dropping the obligatory weed reference, blowing wads of money, and “b**ches copying” her.  And then there’s that hook… “I know you had the time of your life…you know I’m gettin’ money, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, Ill be countin’ this sh*t all night…” Geez Louise!

Extra” is one that annoys me.  Yeah, yeah, I know 2 Chainz is no Nas, but 2 Chainz’s pop-rap here is a bit questionable, even for him.  The most shameful line from Chainz? “I just had a threesome for three weeks in a row / Last name Chainz, first name Two…” WTF? Rich Homie Quan guests on the third verse.  On “U Da Realest”, Chainz states “I’m like a quarterback, hand it off / drop the work in the pot, watch it cannonball / I done seen ‘em ball, I done seen ‘em fall / rest in peace to my n***a, you da realest, dawg…”  Somewhere in there there seems to be some substance… well besides what’s in that pot he references.   But of course, he ruins a good moment too, like “Rest in my piece to all my n***as, they died while they was servin’ / rest in peace to all the soldiers that died in the service / I died in her…” I. Have. No. Words…that I’m going to publish here…

2 Chainz-RWP-011380Then comes “Beautiful Pain”, which features Lloyd and Mase.  2 Chainz doesn’t take himself seriously, but Lloyd refines things on a fine hook (“Oh I feel so fly / came so far, but I still wanna fly…see what this beautiful pain, provide / baby look into my eyes…”) And of course, Mase keeps things classy.  Overall, “Beautiful Pain” stands out.  T-Pain joins the boatload of collaborators on “So We Can Live”, drenched in autotune as always.  2 Chainz has plenty of ‘interesting’ moments, whether it’s his illegal activities (“Mama don’t work, heater don’t work / Police pulled me over and said he seen weed on my shirt / I pray to the lord and ask for forgiveness / If he popped my trunk I can get a life sentence…”), playing copycat (“Simon says, monkey see money do / I wore the shirt, you wore the same shirt too…”) or being the sh*t (“appetite for destruction, and I don’t need a menu / so far ahead of y’all n***as, I can see you in my rearview…”) . There it is, I suppose.

He’s hella clumsy on “Mainstream Ratchet”, but isn’t that understandable? Proceed with caution folks! I mean, anything with the word ratchet in it…  “And that’s ratchet huh? Her a$$ so big it look like she trying to walk backwards bruh…”  “Black Unicorn” contrasts, opening with an lovely spoken word performance by Sunni PattersonChrisette Michele handles the hook as classy and nuanced as always.  And as for Chainz, he’s not too shabby himself.  Ol’ boy gets himself together on “Outroduction”, presenting himself much more thoughtfully and candidly.  There are “two sides to a book” after all.

Classic or total bust? Neither, but B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time is actually a much better album than I envisioned it to be.  It’s hard to call an effort with so many references to sex, drugs, and irresponsibility a masterpiece, but I’ll give it to 2 Chainz, he certainly has some highlights here.  If you’re a fan of more intellectual rap though, this is not your cup of tea. But if you don’t mind going ‘stupid’ like a lot, well then, this album is your new jam.

Favorites: “36”; “Feds Watching”; “I Do It”; “Netflix”; “Beautiful Pain” 

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰

Opinion: Can a Returning Maxwell Survive in a Post-R&B World?


maxwell-300x223

Picture this, the music industry, 2013 (Thanks Golden Girls).  A world where one genre of music has been placed on the ‘back burner’ if you will , never to ascend back to its glory days again.  A music that once easily scored ample number one albums as well as number one singles, with sound prominence throughout the ‘00s.  A genre where some of its top artists had some staggering debut weeks, highlighted by a 1.1 million peak in 2004 (Usher, Confessions).  Now that same artist is struggling to become gold certified, with an opening week of 1.1 million reduced to 128,000 copies (Usher, Looking 4 Myself).  This picture is not a figment of the imagination, this is the portrait of the real ‘post-R&B’ world.  R&B is dead my friends, call the coroner, call the funeral home, and bury it.

51R6Qpg7HKL._SL500_AA280_Yes, I’m going to get hate for making such a proclamation, so let me clarify what I mean.  I don’t believe artistically that R&B is completely nor necessarily dead, even if it has its fair share of identity issues and crises.  I do think, however, that commercially R&B has stagnated terribly, particularly in 2013.  You know it’s sad when one of the top R&B albums of the year managed to bow with on 91,000 copies – Fantasia’s Side Effects of You.  But let’s examine the rest of the numbers for a comparison point.  Kelly Rowland moved 68,000 copies of Talk A Good Game, The-Dream moved 23,000 copies of IV Play, Chrisette Michele moved a disappointing 27,000 copies of Better.  Yuck! See what I mean by the post-R&B world/R&B is dead thing.  It’s really an issue people!

6a00d8341c630a53ef010535c87f55970b-800wiSo this post is only partially about this neat name I made for summing up the fact R&B sales suck today.  One of my personal favorite R&B artists, Maxwell is finally returning to follow-up his 2009 Grammy winning comeback, BLACKsummer’snight. Originally, Maxwell’s comeback entailed three albums, not just one. But, Maxwell doesn’t exactly move quickly you might say. After a longer than expected four-year hiatus, and the ripe age of 40, Maxwell is returning with the second installment.  Now here’s where this whole post-R&B world theory comes into play. Can a classy, 40 year old neo-soul singer like Maxwell survive this evil post-R&B world? Sure, four years isn’t lifetime, but also plenty of changes happen over such a period as well.  Sigh.

I’m worried about the falsetto-loving crooner and for good reason.  R&B’s most sure bets are lucky to squeeze a total NEARING 500,000 copies.  I mean, did you ever think that Alicia Keys would struggle to sell an album? That’s rhetorical! Girl on Fire was only a lukewarm seller… it opened with an underwhelming 159,000 copies.  What about Mary J. The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards - Press RoomBlige?  The same MJB who started with 727,000 copies of The Breakthrough back in 2005 couldn’t come close to such numbers with 2011’s My Life II (no. 5, 156,000 copies).  It ended up settling for a gold certification, which was actually an accomplishment.  I could continue to cite examples, but I’ll only further depress Maxwell, his team/label, colleagues, myself, and fans who like their music with some sensuality and urban sounds.

My advice to Maxwell about attempting to survive a dangerous and brutal post-R&B world?  Hustle, hustle, hustle! And by hustle, I mean P-R-O-M-O-T-I-O-N, PROMOTION. If you merely release BlackSUMMER’Snight without another “Pretty Wings”, it’s gonna be an uphill battle.  I’m excited for it, but I can’t fund a gold or platinum album alone.  Just sayin’.

 

Into July Playlist: 20 Tracks from June 2013


2659539-kanye-west-121212-617-409

What better way to live it up in July than to relive some of the musical highlights that characterized June? Most of these 20 tracks are taken from album releases in June, with the exception of one standout single without an album and a few tracks from May 28th albums.  Regardless, if you have nothing going for you in July, partake of some of brentmusicreviews’ recommending spins.  These are in no particular order btw.

1

Queens of the Stone Age, “If I Had A Tail”

Album: …Like Clockwork 

(Matador)

41HOLOY507L._SL500_AA280_“If I Had A Tail” is arguably Queen of the Stone Age’s crowning achievement from …Like Clockwork.  Characterized by a killer driving groove, an classic rock-worthy anthemic chorus (“If I Had a tail / I’d own the night / If I had a tail / I’d swat the flies”), and exceptional overall songwriting, “If I Had A Tail” is a head-nodding hit worthy of multiple repeated listens.

#AnthemicFairytale

2

Kanye West, “Blood on the Leaves

Album: Yeezus

(Def Jam)

MichaelLawrie_114263101KW192_2011_amfAR_s_2011-05-19.jpgKanye West constructs a juggernaut centered around a brilliant Nina Simone sample (“Strange Fruit”). After the track sets up with West’s emotional pop-rapping (autotune) accompanied by piano, infuriated production, accentuated by biting brass,  transforms the cut into an epic ‘tour de force‘ unlike any song from West’s past.

#EvolutionofKanye

3

The-Dream featuring Gary Clark, Jr.,Too Early

Album: IV Play

(Def Jam)

41w1xvlWzTL._SL500_AA280_“Too Early” contrasts everything else that The-Dream has done previously. The unique song has a  bluesy, neo-/retro-soul nature about it, mixed with vocal processing and hip-hop swag. Gary Clark, Jr lends his prodigious guitar skills, further sweetening a mediocre album’s crowning achievement.

#UnexpectedSmash

4

Sleeping With Sirens, “The Best There Ever Was

Album: Feel 

(Rise)

Sleeping With Sirens2“The Best There Ever Was”, featuring Fronz), opens brashly (“Don’t f**k with us”), proving the ideal soundtrack for any angst-filled teenager or twentysomething.  The band seems quite pissed off to say the least: “I’ve got a short fuse / so don’t you go p-p-p-push it man / don’t f**k with me / you better back off while you can…” Scary stuff right there, but one sick track.

#BewareMotherEffers

5

Black Sabbath, “God Is Dead?” 

Album: 13

(Republic)

black-sabbath-new-650-430“God Is Dead?” is equal parts triumphant and polarizing. Elements of atheism appear prominently throughout the single, perhaps most notably when Osbourne sings “The blood runs free / the rain turns red / give me the wine / you keep the bread / the voices in echo in my head / is God alive or is God dead?”

#AtheisticAnthem

6

Kelly Rowland, “Kisses Down Low

Album: Talk A Good Game

(Republic)

8121kg2H5XL._SL1500_“Dirty Laundry” has received plenty of attention, but it’s “Kisses Down Low” that is suggestively, delicious. Rowland ‘tastefully’ alludes to sex as opposed to brashly detailing her desires. “I like my kisses down low / makes me arch my back / when you give it to me slow / Baby just like that that”, she sings catchily on the chorus.

#SomeKindOfKisses

7

Wale featuring Juicy J & Nicki Minaj, Clappers

Album: The Gifted

(MMG / Atlantic)

wale-yardfestWale breaks from the intellectualisms that characterize much of The Gifted on this sick club banger.  While lyric “Shawty got a big ole butt” is not Wale at his most profound,  the ‘cellulite’ anthem is definitely one to nod your head to.  Juicy J and Nicki Minaj provide Wale with some extra ‘stank’.

#BootyAnthem

8

The Lonely Island, “The Compliments

Album: The Wack Album

(Republic)

63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - ShowOn “The Compliments”, The Lonely Island literally ‘compliment’ each other (“…he ain’t no f**king prince, my man is King charming…”). Too $hort hilariously questions their sexuality: “I’m starting to suspect that these dudes are gay / It’s none of my business, they just born this way / I mean how many times you gon’ mention your homie’s d**k / but still trying to act like this song is for chicks?”

#NoHomoFollowup

9

John Fogerty duet w/ Miranda Lambert featuring Tom Morello, “Wrote A Song For Everyone

Album: Wrote A Song For Everyone

(Vanguard)

john-fogerty-wrote-a-songIn its duet, country-sensible rebirth,  Miranda Lambert serves as a perfect vocal compliment to John Fogerty on “Wrote A Song For Everyone”. Tom Morello incites further excitability on the standout cut from the album of the same name, delivering an exceptional guitar solo to match the vocal chemistry.

#ReinvigoratedClassic

10

J. ColeLet Nas Down

Album: Born Sinner

(Roc Nation / Columbia)

J.Cole_Choosing only one cut from Born Sinner was tough because the album is stacked with standouts.  “Let Nas Down” is a personal favorite and has received multiple spins on my iPod. Based upon Cole’s idolization of Nas and feeling bad about disappointing his idol, the track turns out to be one of Cole’s most distinct and accomplished. Nas couldn’t possibly be disappointed about this joint – he is featured on a remixed version after all!

#GotNasNoddin

11

Chrisette Michele, “A Couple of Forevers

Album: Better

(Motown)

51v0nrvYiuL._SL500_AA280_“A Couple of Forevers” is Chrisette Michele at her best, exhibiting soulfulness crafted by a thoughtful sample of The O’Jays’ “Stairway to Heaven”.  Relaxed, lush production work allows for CM to spoil us with prodigious vocal ‘goodness’.  I mean, who wouldn’t want “a couple of forevers” after partaking of a gem like this one?

#CelestialSoul

12

Goo Goo Dolls, Rebel Beat

Album: Magnetic

(Warner Bros.)

51LK5x0rzWL._SY300_Even with their most recent effort’s shortcomings (Magnetic is just al’ight), Goo Goo Dolls benefit from a spirited opener/single in “Rebel Beat”. ‘Sunny’ as the beach, the track may not have the star power to reinvigorate the veteran rock band, but it shines radiantly on a middle-of-the-road album.

#BeachAnthem

13

3OH!3, Two Girlfriends

Album: Omens

(Photo Finish)

3Oh3“Two Girlfriends” shines on brightly on a ridiculously stupid album, LOL! The hook goes stupid, but a truthful and fun stupid: “I use to have two girlfriends / now I got none / cause my number 2 girl found out about 1…”. Maybe lyric “you hang with d**ks like pubic hair…” could’ve should’ve been eliminated, but hey its 3OH!3, whattaya expect?

#FratMuzik

14

Alice in Chains, “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

Album: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

(Virgin / Universal)

41IgQ6Zb9yL._SL500_AA280_“The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” epitomizes Alice in Chains at their best.  Nearly seven minutes long, it is an epic seven minutes, delivering arguably the valedictory track from its parent album.  A notable chorus is a highlighting moment: “The devil put dinosaurs here / Jesus don’t like a queer / the devil put dinosaurs here / no problem with faith just fear…”

#RockOn

15

George Benson featuring Idina Menzel, “When I Fall In Love

Album: Inspiration – A Tribute To Nat King Cole

(Concord)

51Nk+2k9kWL._SL500_AA280_Throughout the entirety of Inspiration – A Tribute to Nat King Cole,  George Benson sounds nowhere near 70 years old, commanding each and every vocal nuance nearly (if not) perfectly. His vocal skill shines brightly on the balladry of classic standard “When I Fall In Love”, where be blends magnificently with vocalist duet partner Idina Menzel.

#Classic

16

Mac Miller, “Goosebumpz

Album: Watching Movies With the Sound Off

(Rostrum)

40810a9ece8d11e2ac8a22000a9e2947_7-1Watching Movies With the Sound Off is filled ample bright spots. “Goosebumpz” is among ‘em, elevated by Diplo’s quirky, distinctive production work (remember Wale’s “Slight Work” or Usher’s “Climax”).  Miller exhibits brashness (and horniness), confidently suggesting “when I die I bet she f**k my hologram…” A bold assertion perhaps, but its both a lyric and track that stays with you.

#SwaggaLikeAMudda

17

Mavis Staples, “Every Step 

Album: One True Vine

(Anti)

Mavis-Staples-05Man I wish I could still ‘rock it out’ like the legendary Mavis Staples does shy of her 74th birthday.  She and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy seem to have a knack for successful collaborations, evidenced by the stellar “Every Step”.  “My lord, he knows me / every step of the way”, Staples sings on the memorable, weighty chorus.  A mix between southern gospel, Americana, and folk, “Every Step” is an appreciated musical gift.

#SpiritualFood

18

India. Arie, “Cocoa Butter

Album: SongVersation

(Motown)

41vAYHxPE+L._SL500_AA280_Cocoa Butter” may not be the year’s most distinct nor decorated R&B single, but it hearkens back to the glory days of neo-soul.  Honestly and beautifully penned, Arie remains invested and soulful, giving the urban world another compelling track.  “I show you my burns, you show me lessons learned,” she thoughtfully shares on the second verse, providing ‘real talk’ lyrically.

#WiseSoul

19

Harry Connick, Jr., “S’pposed To Be

Album: Every Man Should Know (also appears on Smokey Mary)

(Columbia)

51lF5QOjyGL._SL500_AA280_“S’pposed To Be” is nothing short of a showstopper.  Written in a distinctive southern gospel-jazz style, Connick delivers one of his more distinct cuts of his career, using a gospel choir on the chorus (“…Every road leads back to you / be with you when I’m s’pposed to be…”). Kim Burrell & Tara Alexander and the Frontline Vocal Movement guest, giving the brilliant number even more oomph.

#LetTheChurchSayYes

20

Schoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Collard Greens

Album: Collard Greens – Single

(Top Dawg / Interscope)

61mruwE5x9L._SL500_AA280_For a stoner anthem, “Collard Greens” is quite distinct.  “Oh, oh luxury / chidi-chidi-ching could buy anything, cop that / oh, oh, collard greens / three degrees low, make it hot for me drop that…”, Schoolboy Q raps on an infectious hook. Throughout, Schoolboy Q seems to be on autopilot.  His bud Kendrick Lamar captivates on the second verse, providing a little bit of everything, literally.

#StoneCold

Here’s the playlist via rdio.com for your enjoyment!

P.S., I’ve reviewed nearly all of the albums mentioned here, so please check out my reviews on the site!

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