Album Reviews


10.4.15

Beauty behind the Madness by The Weeknd 

 65%

 

By Dylan Wilcox

The Weeknd has always had a hard time making a flawless album, and Beauty behind the Madness is no different; but, listening to a new Weeknd album isn’t about hearing a masterpiece: it’s about experiencing something fun and new. And sure, you’ve likely already heard quite a few of the best parts on the radio singles, but it’s worth it to check out the fantastic production of Kanye West on “Tell your Friends,” to hear a rare Lana Del Rey feature on “Prisoner,” and to hear The Weeknd get shown up by Ed Sheeran on “Dark Days.”

Highlights: “Losers (feat. Labrinth)”, “Tell your Friends”, “Often”, “Can’t Feel my Face”, “Shameless”

Mudflowers by The Last Hurrah!!

 67%

By Dylan Wilcox

Settling down from the more indulgent (and more fun) days of their 30-minute epics tracks, such as “The Balled of Billy and Lilly” and “The Beauty of Fake,” The Last Hurrah!! delivers a rather boring album with Mudflowers. The first seven tracks will nearly put you to sleep if you make it that far, but it pays off to stick around until the end, because the album’s most inventive moments are hidden beyond this hardly bearable opening, after which the folksy feel wears off and some inventive blues rhythms break through.

Highlights: “You Soothe Me”, “Tried to Lose You”

Another One by Mac DeMarco

81%

By Dylan Wilcox

 

Songs of nostalgia and heartbreak fill this gorgeous electronic record that sounds like a mix between James Blake, John Lennon, and Angelo Badalamenti’s score to Twin Peaks. Most of the tracks seem to build off a similar structure: lyrics about lost love, an upbeat foreground that implies moving on, and a melancholy background that implies cracks in the upbeat façade; and that façade is what really makes this record interesting, as the album’s progression tells a sort of story of the push and pull between buried feelings and the man trying to keep them that way. On the final track, the instrumental “My House by the Water”, DeMarco seems to fully succumb to the temptation of sweet depression, leaving us with a brooding, pessimistic ending; but it’s not all bad, because DeMarco gives us his address in Brooklyn in the end, and invites us to stop by for a cup of coffee.

Highlights “Another One”, “No Other Heart”, “A Heart like Hers”, “I’ve Been Waiting for Her”, “My House by the Water”

Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey

71%

By Dylan Wilcox

On Honeymoon, we find Lana Del Rey in a very dark place (even darker than where she was on Ultraviolence), and this likely leaves the fans off the more playful Born to Die asking “when will something upbeat come around?” The lasting melancholia of the album does provide coherence, but almost too much of it. Most songs on the record sound very similar, making it hard to find any stand-out tracks. Many will say that Ms. Del Rey has passed her peak, and they may be right; but others, such as myself, will say that Honeymoon is actually superior in many ways to the already brilliant Ultraviolence.

Highlights: “Honeymoon”, “God Knows I Tried”, “Freak”, “Religion”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”

GO:OD AM by Mac Miller

88%

By Dylan Wilcox

Though the album certainly has its fair share of hyped tracks, it is a truly personal, emotional album about Miller’s personal addictions, introspections, and depressions. GO:OD AM is one of the most powerful hip-hop releases of the year due to the raw emotion that hides behind no façade, as rappers are so quick to do. The album is a masterpiece that will sadly be lost beneath the hype of Drake and Future’s latest excuse for an album.

Highlights: “Brand Name”, “100 Grandkids”, “Perfect Circle/God Speed”, “Ros”

Rattle that Lock by David Gilmour,

86%

By Dylan Wilcox

While acting as a solo artist, Gilmour is able to show off his strengths without being constantly compared to the unbeatable Roger Waters or the eccentrically charming Syd Barrett. Fortunately, unlike all the other rock stars of the genre’s golden age, Gilmour succeeds in making a genuinely good album.

Highlights: “5 A.M.”, “Faces of Stone”, “Beauty”, “Today”, “And Then…”

In the Cards by Robert Delong,

65%

By Dylan Wilcox

For many reasons, In the Cards is far superior to the very flawed Just Movement. While the album has a good share of great moments, ultimately, like on his previous album, Delong fails to deliver a genuinely great album. But if it’s a fun listen that you’re looking for, In the Cards is a very safe bet.

Highlights: “Long Way Down”, “Jealousy”, “Don’t Wait Up”, “Acid Rain”, “That’s what We Call Love”

8.5.15

 Blue Pool EP – Vanessa Carlton

99%

By Dylan Wilcox

Remember 2002, when that “A Thousand Miles” song was inescapably popular and everyone thought Vanessa Carlton was going to be a hugely successful pop star? While most people have completely forgotten about her, and all anyone thinks of when they hear her name is her platinum selling debut single, Carlton has continued to make some impressive music over these past thirteen years. While over this time, she has held a loose grip on the upbeat pop music that initially brought her fame, she seems to have abandoned the pop side altogether on this new EP, which is meant to be a sort of preview to the album she is getting ready to drop this October. Her poppy, radio-ready, style has been traded for minor key piano riffs, indie style guitars, and beautifully somber production. This departure from her previous optimistic style is highly unexpected, due to the fact that she has recently gotten married and given birth to a child, but when gifted with a masterpiece such as this, it is better not to question the motives behind it.

 

8.5.15

Dead Soul Sessions- by SeepeopleS

100%

By Dylan Wilcox

This two hour long gem is an album of unequaled range that will leave the listener baffled by the fact that they’ve never heard of the artist before. With influences that include 60s’ psychedelic, funk, soul, indie, and electronica, SeepeopleS deliver one of the most diverse albums of the year; however, it is an incredibly exhausting affair to listen to the album as a whole due to its dramatic length. It is highly recommended that the listener place a very long intermission at the halfway point in order to fully appreciate the masterpiece that is this among this critic’s favorite albums of the year.

 

8.5.15

Woman – Jill Scott

 86%

By Dylan Wilcox

Though it is far from being a perfect album, with some overly poppy beats here and some awkward lines there, Jill Scott delivers the most soulful album this critic has heard in a very long time. The lyrical content, as the title may lead one to expect, revolves around female sexuality; from the opening “Wild Cookie” to the closing “Beautiful Love,” Scott speaks of love, lust, and everything in between with openness and potent sexual energy, making what sounds like a female equivalent of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On. The tender vocals and suave production combine to create a sound of pure pleasure in the ears of the listener.

 

 

7.19.15

No Substitute for Handsome – Kent

Goolsby & the Gold Standard

 

100%

By Dylan Wilcox

 

This home-recorded masterpiece of a debut is the most charming album you’ll hear all year. It’s a record displaying loveable optimism in the face of hard times by a country singer who couldn’t possibly place more distance between himself and the twang of the genre’s mainstream.

 

 7.19.15

Lucky 7 – Statik Selektah

 

89%

By Dylan Wilcox

 

Brimming with banging, yet beautiful, beats and fantastic features, Statik Selektah’s latest effort is quite possibly his best. Always being one to support the up and coming greats, such as recently providing full production for mix-tapes by Action Bronson and Domo Genesis, Statik’s Lucky 7 is a showcase of some of the most brilliant underground MCs of this generation including: Joey Bada$$, Mick Jenkins, Rapsody, & Ab-Soul. As is typical with an album of so many featured artists, the subject matter varies dramatically from track to track. For example, there’s a song about gambling addiction “Scratch Off” sandwiched between a ghetto love song “All You Need” and a Joey Bada$$ religion metaphor “Alone”. The album’s production can sound a bit flashy in comparison to Statik’s typically rough east coast beats, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While the good aspects of the album are many and vastly outnumber the bad, its flaws, such as the cringe-worthy verses by Young M.A. and Bodega Bamz, is enough to drag the album quite a ways down.

 7.19.15

Adrian Younge Presents: Twelve Reasons

to Die II, Starring Ghostface Killah

 

95%

By Dylan Wilcox

Ghostface Killah is widely regarded as one of the greatest MCs in the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the greatest of the 90s and, some even say, one of the greatest of all time; but, he remains quite often underestimated as an artist. Unlike the rest of the Clan, Ghostface has been consistently putting out great albums since the very beginning, and doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. While the RZA has taken some time to experiment with electronic music Raekwon and GZA have put out dud after dud following their debut masterpieces with only Raekwon regaining his past acclaim in recent years; Method Man seems to have decided to cater exclusively to tasteless stoners; and, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, U-God, and Cappadonna seem to have dropped off the face of the Earth; yet, Ghostface Killah has never really had a prolonged period of obscurity. Even these two Twelve Reasons to Die albums are easily able to keep up with, if not completely surpass, the greatness of Ironman and Fishscale. Throughout his career Ghostface Killah hasn’t experimented much with his lyrical style, but instead has continued to change production style to keep his music from feeling stale. Rather than just relying on the RZA to keep giving him beats, Ghost has gotten help from greats like Pete Rock, MF DOOM, The Alchemist, and now Adrian Younge whose production is the source of true greatness for the Twelve Reasons to Die albums. While his style is clearly influenced by the RZA, with an overall sound reminiscent of a 1970s Blaxploitation film, rather than sampling records like the RZA, Younge chooses to use live instrumentation which results in an album that sounds equally great as an instrumental. As for the lyrical content, the highly entertaining story of Twelve Reasons to Die Part I is continued on this equally entertaining LP. The story contains the same elements as you’ll find in any Wu-Tang song: crime, drugs, violent tragedy, roles played by different MC’s, but this time with a rather enjoyable, supernatural twist. All in all, Twelve Reasons to Die II can easily be called one of the best hip-hop albums of the year thus far.

 7.19.15

Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples

 

90%

By Dylan Wilcox

As the year’s only XXL Freshman who anyone really expected anything from, Vince Staples had a lot to prove on his debut LP, and it seems that he wanted to surpass all expectations. Instead of putting out a typical ten track album full of radio singles, Staples decided to make it a double album that isn’t likely to get any air time on your local pop station. That’s not to say that the songs don’t have any appeal for more mainstream listeners, but the overall strangeness of No I.D.’s production, the lack of any melody, and the fact that Vince Staples doesn’t rap like Drake makes this an unlikely pick for mainstream radio play (though the Future features might help get it on the air). For the subject matter and rapping style, Vince Staples continues in the same vein as Hell Can Wait: rapping about his gang-banging days and occasionally speaking about political issues on tracks like “Lift me Up” and “C.N.B.” For the production, No I.D. continues with the minimalist style of Nobody’s Smiling. Their collaboration gives us an album that ranks among I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside, and To Pimp a Butterfly as one of the best hip-hop albums of 2015.

 

 

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

***** (5 stars)

By Dylan Wilcox

Quite possibly the most heart-wrenching album I’ve ever heard, Mr. Stevens leaves every inch of his soul bare on Carrie & Lowell, his tribute to his recently deceased mother. With his depression spreading to the listeners like a virus, Stevens paints one of the most poignant pictures of grief I’ve ever observed. On this album, the loveable artist drifts away from his trademark references to literary and mythological symbolism and instead increases his biblical references, showing how much more religious he has become during his grieving period. But make no mistake, Sufjan is still very far from being your typical Christian artist, as he continues to, on occasion, swear, make sexual references, and there is no goal of conversion in his religious lyrics, but only a desire to share his grief and a story of his coping. Like every other piece of music Sufjan has ever composed, Carrie & Lowell is a creative masterpiece with depth that will keep listeners contemplating the lyrics for days to come.

Ryley Walker – Primrose Green

 *****, 5 Stars

By: Dylan Wilcox

Ryley Walker’s sound is like a mix between Pink Floyd, Santana, and Neil Young, with all of the jazz influence and overindulgence that the comparison implies; but Walker turns his indulgence into a fully coherent masterpiece in the same way that Waters, Young, and Santana always did (at least in Santana’s earliest works). Walker’s complex composition, simplistic lyricism, and slightly ‘70s Morrison-esque voice combine to deliver an absolutely perfect and hard-hitting album that is one of the best of this year so far.

2.22.14

Sun Kil Moon – Benji:
by Christopher Loftin

benjiFrontman Mark Kozelek has been making music under the name Sun KIl Moon for over a decade now, and 10 years can be extremely taxing on successful musicians. A lot of times, after such a long period, bands start to lose some luster, and their best music can be behind them. However Moon’s new album “Benji” might just be their best. Emotional, sincere, and hauntingly beautiful, this album features Sun Kil Moon at their most honest and resonant. Anyone looking for a beautiful and poetic journey should give it a listen.