Here are my quick reviews and scores for March 2017 albums that I did not get to feature.
Mental Illness – Aimee Mann
Aimee Mann not only adds versatility to her impressive repertoire, but a beautiful brilliance that is rare to be found in songwriting today. Mann is an unquestionable talent with her harmonic language and wonderful phrase stretching that gives off importance and affection. Added harmonies in the vocals were absolutely exquisite and the harmonic brilliance even more to the foreground. Her simple textures were very soothing and grounding, but she also wasn’t afraid to grow into the sound and add layers of strings and voices. While perhaps sounding a bit too amateur folk in some songs, the entire work was consistently finding new ways to ignite the mood while staying consistently beautiful in the melodic lines. This is the kind of songwriting expertise that I wish the country genre could have as a whole. On the surface, it’s not too far off. The songs” Goose Snow Cone” and “Rollercoasters” will be two of the best songs this year. It’s a huge delight for any folk rock lover and anyone that enjoys enchantment through smart simplicity.
Final Score: 153/180
World Eater – Blanck Mass
It’s always great to hear an ambitious electronic album. It’s the best of its kind this year so far. Within these seven massive songs, there is incredible attention to dynamics and form. There’s lots of repetition, which is a bit dangerous if only one the loops strikes an odd chord to the listener. For me, that never really happened. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of small segments, as well as the variety of overall moods. The dark and invigorating moments matched very well with the carefree trances. The lack of a strong melodic line at times got in the way and left the texture rather bare, despite there being plenty of other layers. The hidden use of harmonic drones beneath the chaos was quite exceptional. All electronic music fans should certainly enjoy this, and for anyone looking for an intense energy boost without being too distracted, this could be a great backing soundtrack.
Final Score: 132/180
More Life – Drake
This “playlist” by Drake is full of emptiness and troubling normalcy. The one big positive is that Drake can rap well, better than most musicians alive today, and a few of these tracks contain some nice fiery moments in that regard. That’s it, though. Backing textures were mostly uncared for and got annoying in their repetition, no matter how far out of the way they were. Guest verses ranged from being acceptable at best to downright inappropriate for the song. Drake ended almost each song with a voiceover that completely took the edge off of the music and made the experience rather dull. I don’t care how meaningful or deep it’s supposed to be; its un-artistic use was unwelcomed, irritating, and further proof that the music itself couldn’t carry its own weight. The music was pleasantly slow and reflective at times, but it was frequently interrupted by a guy whining about his problems. While resting too much on the importance of Drake’s voice, everything else within the music became weak and unsupportive. This is simply a very confusing work, so much so that we’re not even sure what to call it. It doesn’t deserve any special treatment. It would be very forgettable if it were anyone but Drake.
Final Score: 100/180
Last Place – Grandaddy
This is the first album from Grandaddy since their reunion after a long hiatus, and they didn’t seem to miss a beat. This dream/space rock work does as the genre name suggests and creates wonderfully unique pockets of room that float peacefully through your ears. They also never faded on energy or became too trapped within the sound, so the strong songwriting could still thrive. Only the song “Check Injin” had an interesting harmonic rhythm, but the actual harmonies used were quite intricate and very well done. There’s only a couple of songs that can be singled out as being notable on their own, and the overall cohesion and attention to detail was good but narrowly misses out on getting to the solid rank. I definitely got some Brian Wilson post-Beach Boys vibes here, so this is one to check out if you’re into that side of experimental rock.
Final Score: 129/180
Damage and Joy – The Jesus and Mary Chain
It’s not often that musicians can rise from the dead like this and create something valuable 19 years after their last major work. The Jesus and Mary Chain resurrected a youthful sound and found true power within a simplistic rock n’ roll atmosphere. Simple harmony seems to be a lost art in these days, with awful mainstream pop steering mentally aware musicians away from conventionality. This album stands firm as being a triumphant creation surrounded by four chords. Active listeners should not become numb to this type of creativity. Most songs didn’t quite capture a meaningful melody, and although pleasant, their shapes were never too inspiring. Still, it was a successful rock n’ roll texture that turned the clock back to its more simplistic roots. I certainly enjoyed it, and I bet other classic rock fans will too. It’s especially interesting that they were able to find this success, especially in the first few songs, after so many years of dormancy.
Final Score: 133/180
Rather You Than Me – Rick Ross
Rick Ross is not the most prolific rapper, and he doesn’t explore anything profound in his music, but he’s great at keeping the fire burning and adding proper layers to his tracks. Sure, most beats were similar, but they have a distinct quality to them that adds positively to the feel. This was a nice balance of easygoing and sharpness that rap doesn’t always find today. His lines were pleasant but not melodically strong, with Nas completely showing him up on his guest verse on “Powers That Be”. However, in the midst of the Soundcloud rapper revolution where talentless rap is increasingly abundant, it was great to hear a well organized and straight-up cool rap album. “Dear Presidents” is so far my favorite rap song of the year. Hating on this simplicity won’t help you at all, because a lot of it is simply meant to be fun and cool. It does a good job of that.
Final Score: 124/180
Heartworms – The Shins
From the amazingly steady tunefulness to the wonderfully audacious synthetic textures, this is one of the year’s best albums. After a little break, The Shins put themselves up there again with today’s best indie pop songwriters. The quaint and invigorating sound was key, to their success, bringing nicely written pop tunes to another level of grace and energy. It’s a great collection of songs, and while it doesn’t create anything ultramodern or cohesive for big avant-grade fans, it’s the consistently brilliant songwriting that gives the album importance. As long as you’re not a picky-postmodernist, you’ll enjoy these wonderful songs.
Final Score: 149/180
Hot Thoughts – Spoon
There were well-conveyed moods and nice expressiveness throughout Hot Thoughts. Spoon does well at finding unique ways to make their music sound familiar while still having good personality. This album doesn’t go too far in any direction of extreme significance, but their consistent blend of electric guitars and synthetic textures produce quite a few decent songs. On average, I would’ve liked to hear melody take a more beneficial role. The setting was there to really wow the listener with catchiness and passion, but no song reached that level. It was also disappointing that the leading and title track was not as compositionally strong as the other songs. It’s still a worthwhile album, and there are some great spaces of synthesizer dominance that’s unique to this style. I’m sure it’s not their best work, but give it a listen if you like new electronic rock.
Final Score: 126/180
The Order of Time – Valerie June
This soul/blues/rock album does just enough to maintain solidity through consistently engaging melodic lines. Valerie June shows off a great amount of flexibility in her voice, using her range as a strong tool to develop nice melodic shapes. The overall sound was much more pleasant with differing layers and varying dynamics, as in “Astral Plane”, “Just In Time”, and “With You”, as opposed to much of the other songs. Within the repetitive nature of blues, the music sometimes got a bit too heavy and old when layers weren’t being diversified. I certainly loved the simplicity of the album, and June’s melodies hit home very well. You like soul with your rock n’ roll? She’s got it.
Final Score: 131/180