Category Archives: Music

Sporadic reviews of whatever I’m listening to. Not my strong suit, but I’m trying to improve and broaden my tastes.

Modern Essentials #1 – Frightened Rabbit’s “The Midnight Organ Fight” (2008)

MidnightOrganFightCoverThe Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit
Release Date: April 15, 2008
Genre: Indie folk/rock
Length: 48:00

2008 seems like an entire lifetime ago for me.  I was in high school and experiencing the extreme highs and lows of young love.  Those first few heartbreaks I experienced growing up had an incredible influence on the person I am today.  We all learn a lot about ourselves during those countless restless nights spent reassessing every little detail of the relationship, trying to figure out what went wrong and what it would take to make things better.  For days, weeks, or months you feel like the world you thought you once knew is a completely different place; replaced by a much darker, more hopeless place.  But then one day you feel just a little bit better.  You even catch yourself smiling the next day.  Then a week later you’re able to laugh at yourself a little bit.  These realizations continue for some time until finally you find that the person you thought you couldn’t live without hasn’t even crossed your mind for months.  We’ve all gone through it; the despair, the desperation, the sadness, the bleakness, and the subsequent build back to who you once were.  Heartbreak is universal, and in a weird way it’s one of the most beautiful things about the idea of love.  Frightened Rabbit’s sophomore album The Midnight Organ Fight is about every single one of these feelings, wrapped up into one lovely, heartbreaking (but hopeful) package.

The Midnight Organ Fight was the first album I heard that made me truly appreciate how powerful music could truly be.  I remember crying myself to sleep more times than I’d like to admit while listening to the incredibly powerful voice of Scott Hutchison, lead singer of the Scottish indie folk-rock trio.  This is an album that I can safely say shaped who I am as a person, and helped put into perspective many of the thoughts and feelings experienced when falling in and out of love.  It’s an album that I’ve shared with few people, for fear that it might not touch them in the same ways it did for me.  Even eight years after the first time I heard it, I still cry every single time I listen.  I sing along loudly to the hopeful songs, and relate and empathize during the bleaker portions of the brief album.  The Midnight Organ Fight is perhaps my favourite album of all time simply because of the way it makes me feel, what it means to me, and the things it’s made me change about myself.  I’ve decided to share it with you all because I’ve recently decided to not be afraid of anything anymore.

The writing featured in The Midnight Organ Fight is some of the most brutally honest and powerful I’ve ever heard.  Written entirely by lead singer Scott Hutchison, Frightened Rabbit’s seminal album paints a picture of love, heartbreak, and recovery so profound you’ll feel like you lived it yourself.  Hutchison’s desperate yearning for love, affection, and gratification are at times difficult to listen to if you’ve ever felt the same way, but he balances this with catchy anthems about getting better and not needing the woman who tore his heart in two.  One of my favorite things about the album is that it’s not entirely in chronological order.  Things don’t start off bad and become gradually worse; instead we’re taken on an emotional roller coaster that rivals the inconsistent feelings, the highs and lows, and the good moments ruined by intrusive thoughts that you’ve no doubt experienced after any great heartbreak.  This is what makes The Midnight Organ Fight such a beautiful experience, it’s more relatable that most music could ever hope to be.  It’s angry, depressed, suicidal, bleak, remorseful, desperate, hopeful, positive, and horny all at once.  If Frightened Rabbit’s album doesn’t do anything at all for you, then you’re probably already dead inside.

The three man band managed to put together one of the most accessible and listenable albums about some of the toughest subject matter imaginable, and I very much appreciate them for doing so.  The Midnight Organ Fight truly has a little something for every music fan: Songs like “I Feel Better”, “Old Old Fashioned”, “Head Rolls Off”, and “Floating in the Forth” fill you with unimaginable hope with their catchy hooks and slightly more positive vibes, “Fast Blood”, “The Twist”, and “Keep Yourself Warm” give you three completely separate intimate, frank, and brutally honest songs about sex, longing, lust, and desire to be wanted, and “The Modern Leper”, “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms”, “My Backwards Walk”, and “Poke” dive deep into feelings of rejection, betrayal, jealousy, anger, and desperation.

Scott Hutchison’s singing is complemented extremely well by his charming Scottish accent.  Hutchison’s ability to change his tone and pitch from honest and revealing, to hurt, to hopeful in the blink an eye is truly incredible, and helps to set the mood for the album as a whole.  The composition by Scott, Billy Kennedy on guitar and bass, and Grant Hutchison on the drums is loud and in your face without being obnoxious or ruining the atmosphere set up by Scott’s beautiful and revealing lyricism.  The drums pound away in every single song, the bass and guitar are loud and clear, doing their absolute best to keep up with Scott’s many mood swings and tonal shifts.  Many of these are songs that might bring you to your feet and have you moving if you weren’t aware of their deeper meanings. Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight is truly a revelation in every single way.  As a whole it’s relatable, catchy, thought-provoking, and most importantly so incredibly human.  I hope that these words compel you to listen to the album, and I sincerely hope that it shakes you to your core like it’s been doing to me for the past eight years.  If you couldn’t tell from my endless stream of praise, Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight is a masterpiece, and gets my highest recommendation.
Below is a breakdown of my brief thoughts on each track:

1. The Modern Leper

This was the song that convinced me to give the album a listen, as I had heard it on an indie music podcast sometime before the album dropped.  Its beautiful and haunting lyrics were stuck in my head for weeks until I finally got around to listening to The Midnight Organ Fight in full, and I’m so glad I did.  The Modern Leper is catchy as hell in its chorus, while also dealing with the pain of losing somebody close to you, and the subsequent deep, dark depression Scott went through.  He describes himself as a “modern leper on his last leg”, but is still begging his lover for another shot at the live they once shared.  “You’re not ill, and I’m not dead, doesn’t that make us the perfect pair?”.  These lyrics say far more than I can, but feel oh so relatable.  If any song is going to get you hooked on the band, it’ll be this one.

“Well I am ill but I’m not dead/And I don’t know which of those I prefer/Because that limb which I have lost/Well it was the only thing holding me up/Holding me up”

2. I Feel Better

This song perfectly describes the good days and the bad days following any breakup.  When thoughts of your former lover aren’t clouding your mind, things are great; but sometimes you don’t have control over those thoughts.  Scott triumphantly declares this “this is the last song I’ll write about you”, which we as an audience know is a blatant lie, but his hope and the rebuilding of his self-image is so infectious that you truly believe him.  

“I’ll stow away my greys/In a padlocked case and in a padlocked room/Only to be released/When I see you walking around with someone new/This is the last song, this is the last song/This is the last song I’ll write about you”

3. Good Arms vs. Bad Arms

The first song on the album that I’ll admit makes me tear up a little bit each time I hear it.  Good Arms vs. Bad Arms is about the hurt you feel when you see your former partner happy in their new life without you, and the extremely confusing emotions you feel towards their newfound happiness.  You don’t necessarily want that person back in your life, but in no way are you ready to see them so happy without you.  This is perhaps the most universally relatable song on the album, because it’s something almost everybody has or will go through.  Scott’s declaration of “I might not want you back, but I want to kill him” always gets me.  A truly beautiful and heart wrenching song.

“Leave the rest at arm’s length/I’m not ready to see you this happy/Leave the rest at arm’s length/I am still in love with you, can’t admit it yet”

4. Fast Blood

Fast Blood is where the album (The Midnight Organ Fight) gets its name from.  It’s much more sexually-charged than the first three songs were, and establishes a lot of Scott Hutchison’s desperation and desire to be wanted sexually.  It beautifully and honestly describes the “midnight organ fight” experienced between himself and his former lover.  The imagery used is very effective, and leaves no doubt in your mind about the song’s meaning.  It’s loud and powerful while also being quite delicate and intimate.  This is one man’s poetic description of his most private and intimate moments.  “I feel like I just died twice, was reborn again for all our dirty sins” is strangely profound.  

“And your black eyes roll back/Midnight Organ Fight/Your’s gives into mine/It’s all right”

5. Old Old Fashioned

Taking a break from the longing and desperation felt previously, Old Old Fashioned is probably one of the catchier songs on the album.  Instead of reflecting on what once was, Scott is trying to reset the clock on his relationship and do things the way they were done at the beginning of the relationship.  Things were a lot more simple back then, and it’s obvious why anybody would want to go back to that when a relationship begins to get rocky and uncertain.   The bass line will be stuck in your head all day long.

“Put the wall clock in the top drawer/Turn off the lights so we can see/We will waltz across the carpet/1-2-3-2-2-3”

6. The Twist

The second song on the album about doing the nasty, The Twist is a much more desperate and needy song than its predecessor.  Scott Hutchison sings that he “needs human heat” which is something I think all of us can admit to wanting and needing.  He toys with the idea of one night stands with strangers in order to make himself feel less alone, opting for an easy and painless option that can’t possibly lead to more heartbreak.  Quite possibly the most desperate song on the album, Scott’s voice is absolutely beautiful when backed by Grant’s thumping drums.  

“Did you blush then when our hips touched?/I can’t tell, we are already red/Am I right? Will you give me the signs?/Is that pink mist or just lit dry ice?”

7. Bright Pink Bookmark (Instrumental)

An instrumental that gives you a taste of what’s to come, tonally in line with Floating in the Forth.

8. Head Rolls Off

While I realize that Head Rolls Off is probably an intensely personal song for lead singer Scott Hutchison, it just doesn’t do much for me.  Instead of looking back on the relationship he’s been focusing on for seven tracks, Scott instead examines his relationship with faith and religion.  It’s probably my least favourite song on the album because of its tonal difference.  That being said, I absolutely adore the line “and while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth”, which is repeated over and over throughout the song.  It serves as something of a bridge between the first and second chapters of the album, and does so effectively.  It’s poppy and loud and catchy, but it just doesn’t do a whole lot for me.

“When it’s all gone/Something carries on/And it’s not morbid at all/Just when natures had enough of you”

9. My Backwards Walk

Just when you think things can’t get as emotional as Good Arms vs. Bad Arms, this heartbreaking little gem strolls into the room.  My Backwards Walk is about exactly what the title describes.  Scott finally feels ready to admit his faults, forgive himself for his wrongdoings, and begin the long and painful grieving process.  He realizes that the journey is going to be tough, but he’s more than ready for the fight.  There’s no line better at describing the feeling of loving somebody but needing to be far away from them than “You’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it”.

“I’m working on my faults and cracks/Filling in the blanks and gaps/And when I write them out they don’t make sense/I need you to pencil in the rest”

10. Keep Yourself Warm

The third and final song on the album taking a look at everybody’s favorite dance of the no pants variety, Keep Yourself Warm sees Scott realizing that he’s been doing this whole grieving thing wrong the entire time.  He finally sees that these meaningless one night stands aren’t doing anything to make him feel better, but are instead making him more miserable.  He declares that while sex is an amazing thing experienced by two people, there’s a lot more to it than that, and it’s also no way to get over a painful breakup.  “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm” perfectly describes the moral dilemma faced by our lead singer.

“It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know/To keep warm/Do you really think that for a house beat/You’ll find your love in a hole?”

11. Extrasupervery (Instrumental)

The second instrumental on the album breaks things up nicely between two highly emotional tracks, and once again helps to build to the satisfying climax that is Floating in the Forth.

12. Poke

I’m not going to lie to you, but Poke is incredibly tough for me to get through for a variety of reasons.  The relationship we’ve been lamenting for the entirety of the album is dead and gone, but Scott and his partner just aren’t quite ready to let go yet.  Hutchison’s lyricism is scarily relatable for anybody who’s stayed in a relationship long after the expiry date has come up.  There have been beautiful, intimate moments, but those have long since faded into something almost unrecognizable.  “Well we can change our partners, this is a progressive dance but remember it was me who dragged you up to the sweaty floor” is the verse that leaves me a teary-eyed mess every single time.  This is one of the most heartbreaking songs ever recorded, and never gets any easier to digest.  It’s brutally honest and Scott truly lays everything out in front of you; a man with nothing to hide.

“Why won’t our love keel over as it chokes on a bone?/And we can mourn its passing/And then bury it in snow/Or should we kick its cunt in/And watch as it dies from bleeding?/If you don’t want to be with me just say and I will go”

13. Floating in the Forth

Finally, the misery we’ve experienced for more than forty minutes has come to this.  The Midnight Organ Fight as a whole can be viewed as something of an allegory about sex.  It has triumphant, confident moments, and deeply personal and sensitive moments.  All of these moments serve to work up to the climax.  Floating in the Forth is an incredibly satisfying climax indeed, where Scott bravely declares that he’s going going to be okay after all.  “I think I’ll save suicide for another year” tells us that he knows things are going to get better, and that this probably isn’t the last time he’s going to feel this heartbreak.  Scott (and us as an audience) are finally ready to let go and move on, and it couldn’t possibly be anymore hopeful or satisfying.

“Down the forth, into the sea/I’ll steer myself/Through drunken waves/These manic gulls/Scream “it’s okay”/Take your life/Give it a shake/Gather up/All your loose change/I think I’ll save suicide for another year”

14. Who’d You Kill Now?

While not quite an instrumental piece, Who’d You Kill Now? serves as the finale to the emotional roller coaster that is The Midnight Organ Fight.  It’s not entirely necessary, but it’s still a nice touch.  I think I would rather end on Floating in the Forth’s positivity, but this track is so short that it can almost be instantly forgotten about.

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Album Review – Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo (2016)

The day has finally come!  February 14th, 2016 marks the release of rapper Kanye West’s much anticipated seventh full-length solo album.  Ever since hearing his 2010 record
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West has been without a doubt my favorite artist of all-time.  All six of his albums prior to his most recent has had a completely unique sound and vision, ensuring that every single listen is a revelatory experience:

His debut The College Dropout is a soulful and melodic rap album where a young talent tries to make a name for himself.  His followup Late Registration sees a much more “full” sound, incorporating strings, samples, and biting lyrics focused on major social issues.  The last album in the college trilogy, Graduation, provides a fresh synthesizer-laden sound, full of booming triumphant anthems.  West’s style took a complete turn in 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak, an electronic R&B record taking full advantage of the then brand new Auto-Tune sound, with incredible lyrics detailing the heartache and alienation felt by the controversial artist.  In 2010, Kanye West would release what is perhaps his most celebrated and acclaimed work, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  Returning back to the realm of hip hop, MBDTF deals with the excesses of being a celebrity, existentialism, and the American dream.  Following the success of MBDTF, Kanye took three years to produce 2013’s Yeezus, which has proven to be my all-time favourite album.  Yeezus has an angry and aggressive, stripped down sound and deals with West’s furthering of his controversial, outspoken public persona.

I’ve been patiently waiting for his follow up to Yeezus for three years now, and West’s So Help Me God is finally here!  Er…SWISH is he-…really?  Waves?  Okay!  Waves is finally…*ahem*, sorry folks…Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo has finally been dropped worldwide through Jay-Z’s Tidal music streaming service.  The new album comes after a litany of name changes, tracklist mix-ups, and unexpected and disappointing delays.  Luckily for myself and Kanye’s patient and tolerant fans, the new album absolutely doesn’t disappoint on any level.  While the album as a whole may not be anywhere as thematically or stylistically consistent as the rest of his discography, anybody trying to find meaning and a prevalent style in The Life of Pablo is going to find it very easily.  Kanye ditches much of the anger and disillusionment found in Yeezus, and instead goes for something of a southern gospel-tinged sound.  Not every track benefits from the influence of the gospel genre, but it’s undeniably present in a majority of the tracks on Pablo.  The album mixes lyrical content of albums like 808s & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Yeezus, and creates one hell of a manic project.

The album begins on an incredibly high note with the breathtakingly beautiful “Ultralight Beam”, featuring a terrific outing from featured artist Chance the Rapper.  The moment the intro track finished, I knew that we as Kanye West fans were in for something truly memorable and unique to his discography.  The thematic and stylistic changes throughout the album makes it far more interesting in my opinion, sounding more like a greatest hits compilation of never before heard songs.  The four track streak following the self-aware skit “I Love Kanye” of “Waves”, “FML”, “Real Friends”, and “Wolves” is one of the biggest emotional roller coaster rides I’ve ever endured as a hip hop fan, and instantly made me regard the album as a success upon my first listen.  After somewhere around a dozen listens throughout my day, nearly every track on the album still stands out as being a triumph, and I’m still blown away every time I heard some of these tracks.  The Life of Pablo is a revelation for me as a Kanye West fan, and I hope it catches on with those who discredit him as merely being an egomaniacal social media troll.  His latest album is truly special, and verges on being a masterpiece in its greatest moments.  It deserves a listen from anybody, whether you’re a fan or not.  Who knows, it may just change your opinion of the controversial and severely misunderstood artist.  Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo gets my absolute highest recommendation.


Below is a breakdown of my brief thoughts on each track:

  1. Ultralight Beam (feat. Chance the Rapper & Kirk Franklin) – Indescribably beautiful, and nowhere near the kind of thing that usually makes its way into my ears.  The greatest possible way to begin an album, especially one as tonally varied as this.  When I pass away, this is a song I want played at my funeral.  I’ve listened to it over and over and over, and can’t see myself taking it off repeat anytime soon.  The booming bass drops set the pace for the track, and Chance the Rapper comes in midway through and steals the show with his verses.  Must be heard.

    Foot on the Devil’s neck ’til they drifted Pangaea/I’m moving all my family from Chatham to Zambia/Treat the demons just like Pam/I mean I fuck with your friends, but damn, Gina/I been this way since Arthur was anteater”

  2. Father Stretch My Hands Part 1 (feat. Kid Cudi) – While it may come off as crude and immature to some, Kanye’s lyrics on this track are hilarious and a welcome change from Yeezus’ “Eatin’ Asian pussy, all I need was sweet n sour sauce”.  Kid Cudi’s feature on it is a welcome addition, and will hopefully lift him from the void he’s been residing in since 2010 or so.  

    “I was high when I met her/We was down in Tribeca/She get under your skin if you let her”

  3. Part 2 (feat. Desiigner) – The first track on the album that goes hard, and certainly not the last.  Part 2 took me completely by surprise, and Desiigner’s voice perfectly fits the hook here.  Everytime it hits I find myself unable to stop moving.  This one’s a banger, enough said.

    “I got broads in Atlanta/Twisting dope, lean, and the Fanta/Credit cards and the scammers/Hitting off licks in the bando”

  4. Famous (feat. Rihanna) – The first track I wasn’t sure of on a first listen has very quickly become one of the highlights of an album full of them.  While I’ve never been a huge fan of Rihanna, her feature has grown on me more than I ever thought it could.  The lyrics referencing Taylor Swift are hilarious and boundary pushing, and is exactly the reason I’m such a massive fan of this man.  He doesn’t care about what internet warriors have to say about lines like these, and tells it like it is.  The bridge featuring a sample from Sister Nancy is beautiful and completely unexpected, and makes Famous so much more memorable.  A great pop tune that I could see getting air time if it weren’t for the Taylor line.

    “For all my Southside niggas that know me best/I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous (God damn)/I made that bitch famous”

  5. Feedback – The second track that feels reminiscent to work found in Yeezus, Feedback is a hell of a lot of fun and features an incredible beat.  Not a great deal of substance to be found here, but it’s an absolute blast.

    “Ayy, y’all heard about the good news?/Y’all sleeping on me, huh? Had a good snooze?/Wake up, nigga, wake up/We bout to get this paper”

  6. Low Lights – An intro to Highlights, there’s not a whole lot to say about it because this isn’t as much of a song as it is a synth bass tribute to the Good Lord.  It’s absolutely uplifting in the best way, and serves as a great and down to earth intro to what is sure to be one of the album’s singles.

  7. Highlights (feat. Young Thug) – One of the songs performed (not well) on Saturday Night Live before the release of the album, this was the most nervous I got about any track on the album.  Thankfully, the Auto-Tune used on the song fits much better on a studio version than on the live song.  Young Thug’s additions to the song are reminiscent to his feature on Jamie xx’s “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” from this past summer.  Highlights is incredibly catchy, and features some terrifically snappy lyrics (especially the line about Ray J).  A definite hit, and one I hope catches on in the mainstream.

    “I bet me and Ray J would be friends/If we ain’t love the same bitch/Yeah, he might have hit it first/Only problem is I’m rich”

  8. Freestyle 4 (feat. Desiigner) – This thing REALLY bangs, and I love every line here.  It’s aggressive, ridiculous, and over the top.  Exactly the way I take my Kanye.

    “What the fuck right now?/What the, what the fuck right now?/What if we fuck right now?/What if we fucked right in the middle/Of this motherfuckin’ dinner table?/What if we just fucked at the Vogue party/Would we be the life of the whole party?/Shut down the whole party/Would everybody start fuckin’?”

  9. I Love Kanye – A skit.  If anybody doubts Kanye West’s level of self-awareness, this is going to be your future point of reference.  This man knows exactly what he’s doing in the eye of the public, and gets a great deal of pleasure (and publicity) out of it.  Terrific stuff.

  10. Waves (feat. Chris Brown) – The track that supposedly delayed the release of the album by more than 24 hours, Waves is a more than welcome addition to the album.  It’s melodic, it’s joyous, and it’s catchy as hell.  The beat seems to come at you in waves of audio, making the experience even more memorable.  The start to an incredible spree of perfect songs, I for one am glad that the album was delayed for this addition.  An instant classic.

    “Step up in this bitch like (turn it up!)/I’m the one your bitch like/Yeah I’m the one your bitch like/And I be talkin’ shit like/I ain’t scared to lose a fistfight/And she grabbin’ on my dick like/She wanna see if it’ll fit right/That’s just the wave”

  11. FML (feat. The Weeknd) – FML is without a doubt the “Runaway” of The Life of Pablo, meaning it’s going to rip your heart on out every single listen.  It begins on a somber note and crescendos with the introduction of The Weeknd, who elevates the song with its incredible and heartbreaking hook.  This song already means a great deal to me as a listener, and it’s an incredibly revealing look at what’s going on in the mind of West.  An incredible track, and quite possibly the best on the album.  

    “They wish I would go ahead and fuck my life up/Can’t let them get to me/And even though I always fuck my life up/Only I can mention me”

  12. Real Friends (feat. Ty Dolla $ign) – A song I liked a great deal when it was released as a GOOD Friday feature, Real Friends works even better within the confines of the album.  It serves as a thematically perfect follow-up to FML, while also being an introduction to the proceeding Wolves.  The first true single of the album, Real Friends is an emotional roller coaster, and yet constantly maintains a catchy beat.  An incredibly emotional and memorable song about growing up, family, trust, personal pressures, and so much more.  I’m so glad it made it into TLOP’s final cut.  

    “I couldn’t tell you how old your daughter was/Couldn’t tell you how old your son is/I got my own Jr. on the way, dawg/Plus I already got one kid/Couldn’t tell you much about the fam though/I just showed up for the yams though”

  13. Wolves (feat. Frank Ocean & Caroline Shaw) – WOLVES CDQ!  This track surfaced nearly a year ago, and has had fans clamoring for a studio quality version ever since.  The final product doesn’t disappoint one bit, even if it lost some incredibly memorable features from Sia and Vic Mensa.  The new outro from Frank Ocean is a welcome addition because the man is really, really inconsistent in his release dates.  The track is hauntingly beautiful from a stylistic, with some incredibly introspective lyrics about Kanye’s behaviour since the tragic passing of his mother.  Wolves would have been my personal choice to end the album on the highest note possible.

    “You gotta let me know if I could be your Joseph/Only tell you real shit, that’s the tea, no sip/Don’t trip, don’t trip, that pussy slippery, no whip/We ain’t trippin’ on shit, we just sippin’ on this/Just forget the whole shit, we could laugh about nothin’”

  14. Silver Surfer Intermission – Essentially just a skit in the form of a phone call from Max B.  Takes some hilarious shots at Wiz Khalifa, which I’m always game for.  Also serves as a perfect intermission between the “real album” that preceeds it, and the “bonus tracks” that follow.

  15. 30 Hours – YES!  30 Hours dropped as a GOOD Friday release immediately before the release of the album, and I was really gutted when it didn’t seem like it was going to make the final cut.  The hook to this song is insanely catchy, and the lyrics see Kanye looking back on the early days of his career, the newfound luxuries of celebrity, and the lengths he would go for the loves in his life.  I wish that Andre 3000 would have provided new material for the song, but we can’t win ‘em all right?  30 Hours is incredible, and one of the few songs I’ve been humming whenever my earbuds aren’t in.  

    “I remember rapping for Jay and Cam/Young producer just trying to get his flows off/I remember being nervous to do Victoria Secret/’Til I pictured everybody with they clothes off”

  16. No More Parties in LA (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Something of a throwback to the ghost of Kanye’s past, No More Parties in LA is an absolute treat for rap fans.  The southern-tinged intro sets you up for the knockout, and the sampling that follows hits you with the winning right hook.  Kanye and Kendrick Lamar trading verses is an incredible thing to hear, as it’s two of the industry’s very best at the top of their game.  The track famously put a permanent kibosh on parties in the city of Los Angeles.  But not really.

    “She said she came out here to find an A-list rapper/I said baby, spin that round and say the alphabet backwards/You’re dealing with malpractice, don’t kill a good nigga’s confidence/Just cause he a nerd and you don’t know what a condom is/The head still good though, the head still good though”

  17. Facts (Charlie Heat Version) – Just when you thought you had all the answers, Kanye’s new mix of Facts changes the questions out from under your feet.  This new version of the GOOD Friday release improves on the original in every single way, and becomes a loud and dirty trap banger.  Its new energy is undeniably infectious, and shows that Kanye isn’t afraid to mix it up in order to better suit a project.  So thankful for this new cut.

    “Herzog and Adidas, man you know they love it/If Nike ain’t have Drizzy, man they wouldn’t have nothin’, woo!/If Nike ain’t have Don C, man they wouldn’t have nothin’, ooh!/But I’m all for the family, tell ’em, “Get your money””

  18. Fade (feat. Post Malone & Ty Dolla $ign) – The runway music sounding outro to the album is probably my least favorite feature on The Life of Pablo.  That being said, I still think it’s still a very good track.  It just doesn’t suit the project in any way, shape, or form.  It feels like a song from two decades ago, in the best way possible.  Still sleeping on this track, and I know I’m going to come around to it eventually.  Weird way to end the album, but if Kanye likes it, I’m cool with it too.

    “You don’t even know/I’ve been so far gone/I feel it/I’ve been so led on/I’ve been runnin’ ’round/I feel it/I’ve been on my shit/Whole world on my dick/I feel it/I just need to know/I can feel it”

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End of Year 2015 – Best Albums of 2015

Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert in the field of music of any kind.  I listen to a great deal of it, and read about it occasionally, but nowhere near the amount that I watch or read about films and film criticism.  I can’t tell you what it is that makes music great or artful in the way that I can tell you about films, and for that I apologize.  I’ll probably anger passionate music fans with my lack of knowledge and terminology, but hey – I’m going to give it my best here.  It’s important to know before reading that my musical preferences include hip-hop, independent folk, and bands led by female vocalists, which is very much reflected by my list.  If I’ve managed to miss anything you think I should check out, by all means shoot me a recommendation or two!  For those wondering, my 2014 albums of the year were Run the Jewels’ Run the Jewels 2, and Taylor Swift’s 1989, and in 2013 Kanye West’s Yeezus and Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City.  Without further ado, my top ten albums of 2015

SremmLife_cover10. Rae Sremmurd – SremmLife

Chain swings like nunchucks
She gon’ chew you up, yeah
Twerk like she from Russia
Don’t get me wile’d up (up)
Soldiers at a 10 hut
Look what you’ve don’ done (up)
Now you’ve done fucked up, up
– Up Like Trump, Rae Sremmurd

Easily the most energetic album I had the pleasure of hearing all year, SremmLife was released early on in the year and still managed to resonate nearly a year later.  After the release of their hit No Flex Zone, Rae Sremmurd quickly became a huge mainstream success.  The two brothers, Khalif (Swae Lee) age 19, and Aaquil (Slim Jimmy) age 20, have incredible careers ahead of them, and if they can keep a consistent quality in future releases look to only get bigger and bigger in the eyes of the public.  They’re young, clever, cool as hell, and most importantly know exactly the kind of sound that their audience wants to hear.  Most tracks on the album were produced by the terrific Mike WiLL Made-It, who clearly sees potential in these young men.  Using repetition in songs like Unlock the Swag and No Flex Zone, nearly every song on SremmLife is an earworm, and will undoubtedly get stuck in your head for days on end.  Whether you enjoy the trap music club sound or not, this album deserves your attention.  If you’re looking for an album full of nothing but bangers, look no further.

Standout Tracks: No Flex Zone, Come Get Her, Throw Sum Mo (feat. Nicki Minaj), YNO (feat. Big Sean)

9. The Staves – If I Was
How can I want you a little bit more than I did before?
I don’t need you,
But I want you back just a little bit more than I knew
Now I can’t go back to life before
Before I knew
That you didn’t love me no more
You didn’t need me no more
You didn’t love me no more
You didn’t want me at all.
– No Me, No You, No More – The Staves

The Staves are a folk trio out of England composed of three sisters, Emily, Jessica, and Camilla.  If I Was is the band’s second full-length release, and boy is it a real treat for fans of the three young ladies.  Their latest release has been entirely produced by the acclaimed Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and you can really hear it deep in the music.  The entirety of If I Was feels like perfect winter music for some reason, and I’m not sure why that is.  It may be attributed to the loneliness felt in the album’s cover art, or the natural winter-y sound of Bon Iver’s music, but whatever it is makes it a perfect album to curl up with, drink some hot coffee, and try not to cry as these women create a heartbreakingly beautiful album that rings so true.  It’s clear that at least one of these sisters has been through a great deal of trauma in her life, whether it be romantic or otherwise.  Featuring a bold sound that never distracts from the lyrics at play, The Staves’ If I Was may be a slow and clearly folk-influenced album, but not once has it been a chore for me to listen to it all the way through.  Their voices are beautiful, Vernon’s production is inspired, and the lyrics in songs like No Me, No You, No More make it hard not to immediately fall in love with this album.

Standout Tracks: No Me, No You, No More, Let Me Down, Damn It All, Horizon

Mac_Miller_GOOD_AM8. Mac Miller – GO:OD AM

I’m a deranged motherfucker, took too many uppers
Now it’s rush hour, Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker
I stuck around for the past six summers
Karma is a bitch and that bitch don’t love ya
We was in the attic you could smell the weed
Bitches getting naked, we was selling E
Bitches kissing bitches just like Ellen D
In the kitchen whipping biscuits, giving generously
– Rush Hour, Mac Miller

Having never delved into the work of young Mac Miller before his latest release, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  When the album opens you’re treated to a dream-like introduction that doesn’t do well to reflect the incredible Mac Miller sound you’re about to hear.  Packed with lyrics that detail the unthinkably difficult life Mac has had, his ambitions, and his regrets, GO:OD AM is a more personal and autobiographical album I ever thought possible for a 23-year old to release.  Miller is still so young, and yet he’s lived a life of hardship the likes of which we couldn’t even imagine sitting behind our computer screens or smartphones.  GO:OD AM focuses on Miller getting clean and sober, and trying his damndest to rid himself of the depression that he’s been trying to contend with for some time.  Triumphant songs like 100 Grandkids make the album a constant blast to listen to, but it’s in the searing, personal lyrics of songs like Perfect Circle/God Speed that the album truly shines.  It’s clear that Miller knows he’s not completely out of the dark yet, and I can only hope that he stays safe and sober so he can continue to grow as an artist and blow away all of his critics.  GO:OD AM is a revelation, somehow being one of the standouts in a year littered with incredible hip-hop albums.

Standout Tracks: Rush Hour, 100 Grandkids, Clubhouse, Break the Law, Perfect Circle/God Speed, The Festival (feat. Little Dragon)

7. Young Thug – Barter 6

But really what is it to do
When the whole world constantly hatin’ on you?
Pussy niggas hold their nuts, masturbatin’ on you
Meanwhile the fuckin’ federal baitin’ on you
Nigga tell me what you do
Would you stand up or would you turn to a pussy nigga?
I got a hundred things to do
And I can stop rappin’ but I can’t stop stackin’ fuckin’ figures
 – Constantly Hating, Young Thug (feat. Birdman)

It took me more than a week to get through the entirety of Young Thug’s full-length debut album Barter 6, but not because of the quality, but because I just couldn’t make it past the first track “Constantly Hating”, which I adored.  I listened to it on repeat, and legitimately forgot that there was more to the album than that one song.  When I finally managed to make it past the opening track, I was absolutely floored.  Every song that followed was even catchier and more fun than the one that preceded it, and Barter 6 instantly became one of my most-listened to albums of the summer.  Young Thug’s slow is incredible, never going for obvious or awkward rhymes, and his selection of incredible and energetic beats is incredible.  The pure energy that one feels from listening to Young Thug’s album is incomparable to any hip-hop album I listened to all year, which I feel is impossible to ignore.  What Barter 6 gives you is a mainstream sounding album full of catchy hooks, incredible beats, and lyrics that paint Young Thug as both a frustrated and endlessly joyful artist who never fails to infect you with his unique energy.  The album is made even better with terrific features from established rappers like Birdman, Duke, and T.I.  If you enjoy rappers like Lil Wayne or Birdman, then Young Thug might be right up your alley.  I can’t recommend it enough.

Cournetbarnett6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

I love you, I hate you, I’m on the fence, it all depends
Whether I’m up or down, I’m on the mend, transcending all reality
I like you, despise you, admire you
What are we gonna do when everything all falls through?
I must confess, I’ve made a mess of what should be a small success
But I digress, at least I’ve tried my very best, I guess
This, that, the other, why even bother
– Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett

Speaking of infectious energy, the debut album by Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett does exactly what Young Thug’s album did for me, but for a completely different genre.  Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit has received a great deal of critical acclaim from critics, and even managed to pick up a Grammy nomination for Barnett.  Simply put, the album absolutely rocks in every sense of the word.  It’s at times loud, as times contemplative, but always manages to sound fresh, personal, and very invigorating.  Barnett’s album sounds less like a debut album and more like that of an established rock star with years in the music scene.  Songs like “Pedestrian at Best” have a mainstream sound that could get Barnett on any Top 100 list in the world, while “Depreston” is a look at the truly mundane and depressing.  Sometimes I Sit and Think is an intensely personal album, but unlike other debuts manages to be funny, insightful, catchy, and down-to-earth.  It sounds like a perfect summer rock album, and it has me incredibly excited for the future of this young and unique artist.

Standout Tracks: Pedestrian at Best, An Illusion of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York), Depreston, Aqua Profunda!, Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party

5. Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06Summertime-06

I feel like “Fuck Versace”, they rapin’ nigga’s pockets
And we don’t get acknowledged, just thank me for the profit
A prophet just like Moses, if Moses look like Shaka
Zulu, my .44 loaded, I’m aimin’ at Nirvana
My bitch look like Madonna, they starin’ at katana
Waiter still ain’t brought the chopsticks, should have brought the chopper
Uber driver in the cockpit look like Jeffrey Dahmer
But he lookin’ at me crazy when we pull up to the projects
– Lift Me Up, Vince Staples

Making what was easily my favourite hip-hop album of 2015, Vince Staples is an artist I hadn’t actually heard of until June when the hype around Summertime ‘06 started to build to epic proportions.  The 22-year old rapper made one of the most impressive, ambitious, and personal debut hip-hop albums in recent memory.  Summertime ‘06 is a double album featuring 20 tracks in total, and a runtime of nearly an hour, showing off Staples’ incredibly varied and versatile style.  As soon as I heard “Lift Me Up”, the second track on the double album, I knew I was going to be in for a treat.  Staples wastes no time in painting a unique and provocative portrait of who he is as both a person and an artist, and instantly hooks the listener into caring about him and the stories he has to tell.  The album serves as a kind of coming-of-age tale that would play almost as well on the big screen.  Staples has an ear for both intensely personal songs, as well as mainstream bangers that even the most jaded music fans can appreciate.  Songs like “Norf Norf”, “Birds & Bees”, “Lemme Know”, and “Jump Off the Roof” all sound like they could be club hits, but also manage to be profound and infinitely listenable.  And that’s just the songs on the first disc.  The highlight of the album comes at the end of side one, with Vince Staples’ beautiful song “Summertime”, which instantly became one of my all-time favourite songs.  The song is sung in a somewhat monotone, quiet way, and is full of incredibly vivid lyricism the likes of which I legitimately hadn’t heard in hip-hop before this point.  It’s slow, it’s serious, and it’s incredibly beautiful.  Vince Staples’ Summertime ‘06 is an epic-length hip-hop album that features the work of a young man who has all the potential in the world to become the next big thing.  I can’t recommend it enough.

Standout Tracks: Lift Me Up, Norf Norf, Birds & Bees (feat. Daley), Summertime, Surf (feat. Kilo Kish)

Miguel_-_WILDHEART4. Miguel – Wildheart

I wanna fuck like we’re filming in the valley
I wanna push and shove and paint your hills and valley
I got a rad idea to expedite the ride
Bend it over, pull em to the side
– The Valley, Miguel

I can’t believe just how long it took me to finally get to this album just because of the supposed genre it fit.  The moment the album got to its halfway point, I knew I was listening to one of the most unique and incredible albums of the year, and that the genre doesn’t matter as long as the quality is there.  I’ve described Miguel’s Wildheart as “baby making music” to everybody I’ve told about it, and I’d say that’s not such a stretch.  Full of sexy lyrics and beats, Miguel will make even the most seasoned hip-hop or R&B fans blush.  This is music for adults and only adults, and that seems to be increasingly rare in today’s scene with artists trying to reach the broadest audiences possible.  The songs on Wildheart vary more than I thought possible on a single R&B album, with rap inspired N.W.A. to the sexy hit single Coffee, and over to the lewd and impossibly catchy The Valley, preceded with the screeching guitars of Deal.  All these varying songs make for a diverse album that keeps me guessing even all these listens later.  If you’re not sure how you feel about R&B, give some of his more accessible songs like Coffee or The Valley a listen and see where you stand.  I promise you that this is an album that won’t disappoint, and it’s easily the sleeper hit of the year for me.  If you’re looking for something to play in the car during a road trip with some friends, maybe pick something that’s a little less likely to make you all embarrassed to look one another in the eye.

Standout Tracks: The Valley, Coffee, NWA (feat. Kurupt), What’s Normal Anyway, …goingtohell

3. Hop Along – Painted Shuthomepage_large.96f9778e

Realized I knew you from
His photo when you walked
Into the restaurant
And my heart just sunk
Your friend looked over from the bar
She must’ve known, who I was
The worst possible version of what I’d done
As, seating couples
I tried to listen
– Waitress, Hop Along

The third full-length album by indie rock band Hop Along has finally earned them the praise and critical attention they so obviously deserve.  Painted Shut is an album that seemingly came out of nowhere and absolutely blew me away with how much I truly enjoyed it.  Hop Along’s sound isn’t quite rock, and it isn’t quite punk, but whatever it’s technically classified as is a genre I want to hear much more of, especially if it’s full of as many revelations as I found in Painted Shut.  The beautiful voice of Frances Quinlan might not be to everybody’s liking, but it’s exactly what got me hooked on Hop Along’s album.  Painted Shut’s incredible personal nature hit me on levels I was never expecting, managing to make captivating stories out of very mundane and regular situations.  The highlight of the album is “Waitress”, one of my absolute favorite songs of the year.  The song captures the awkwardness and anxiety filled in being in a situation where you have to confront the new lover of your ex.  Quinlan’s voice conveys embarrassment and guilt like nobody I’ve ever heard, creating something truly unique.  Hop Along’s Painted Shut is an underrated album that I’d love to see get a lot more love from mainstream music fans.

Standout Tracks: The Knock, Waitress, Happy to See Me, Powerful Man, Well Dressed

1035x1035-MI00038079872. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Oh, I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a man
I mean like a god damn marching band
She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes
And the malaprops make me want to fucking scream
I wonder if she even knows what that word means
Well, it’s literally not that
– The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt., Father John Misty

Painful, romantic, awkward, alienating, cheesy, intensely personal.  These are all words I’ve used to describe Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear to the people around me, and yet they don’t even cover a fraction of the emotions and feelings that the album gets across.  Josh Tillman, former drummer for Fleet Foxes, managed to create one of the most unique folk/rock albums I’ve ever heard.  Every song on the album feels different than the one preceding it, from the dark romanticism of “Chateau Lobby #4”, to the synth-pop sounds of “True Affection”, to the disturbingly funny “Bored in the USA”.  With every song bringing its own sound and feel to I Love You, Honeybear, it’s incredibly hard to pick a standout.  It’s just all so damn good.  The song that had me hooked on the album was the fourth track, “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment”, a sarcastic, spiteful song about a brief romantic fling Tillman might’ve had.  The album is full of dark and romantic personal anecdotes, sarcasm, satire, and insight.  It’s sickly sweet at times, and incredibly depressing at others.  I Love You, Honeybear may not always a fun listen, but it’s surely the most interesting and ambitious project I heard in 2015.  I highlight recommend it, though it may take a listen or two before the genius of the album truly sinks in.

Standout Tracks: Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins), True Affection, The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt., The Ideal Husband, Bored in the USA, I Went to the Store One Day

  1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & LowellSufjan_Stevens_-_Carrie_&_Lowell

Don’t back down, concentrate on seeing
The breakers in the bar, the neighbor’s greeting
My brother had a daughter
The beauty that she brings, illumination
Don’t back down, there is nothing left
The breakers in the bar, no reason to live
I’m a fool in the fetter
Rose of Aaron’s beard, where you can reach me
Don’t back down, nothing can be changed
Cantilever bridge, the drunken sailor
My brother had a daughter
The beauty that she brings, illumination
– Should Have Known Better, Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell is only on my list so I can keep my indie cred with the music blogging scene.  Only kidding, the album is legitimately one of the most special and highly emotional things I’ve ever heard, and I instantly fell in love with it after its release early on in the year.  Carrie & Lowell is the most mature album to date from the prolific and multi-talented indie folk artist Sufjan Stevens, and you can feel it in every line of every song.  The album chronicles the lives of his mentally ill mother (Carrie) and her relationship with Sufjan’s stepfather and producer (Lowell).  It deals with serious themes like death, depression, aging, suicide, mental illness, and addictions.  Stevens’ album is incredibly intimate, emotionally and thematically deep, and every single song packs a punch – while still managing to be catchy, memorable, and enjoyable.  Carrie & Lowell is perfect for a rainy day, curled up under your favourite blanket with a cup of hot coffee by your side.  There’s literally not a single dull or bad moment in the entire album, as every single song manages to set itself apart from the last, while still maintaining the serious and emotional nature of the project.  I can’t recommend enough, especially if you’ve ever dealt with the loss of a loved one, or struggled with mental illness yourself.  It’s one of the most beautiful projects I’ve ever heard, and one I can legitimately say I’ve listened to fifty or so times already.  Do yourselves a favour and listen to it at least once.

Standout Tracks: The entire album, duh.

Honorable mentions:

  • Adele – 25
  • A$AP Rocky – At. Long. Last. A$AP
  • Beach House – Depression Cherry
  • Chvrches – Every Open Eye
  • Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late
  • Drake & Future – What a Time to Be Alive
  • Future – Dirty Sprite 2
  • Future – 56 Nights
  • The Game – The Documentary 2
  • JME – Integrity
  • Joanna Newsom – Divers
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
  • Laura Marling – Short Movie
  • Laura Stevenson – Cocksure
  • Meek Mill – Dreams Worth More Than Money
  • Travi$ Scott – Rodeo
  • Wale – The Album About Nothing
  • Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

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Filed under End of Year, Lists, Music, Other