Valentines Day Special: My Five Favorite Love Songs

DISCLAIMER: These are my favorite love songs, not “the best love songs of all time.” There’s been hundreds of thousands of love songs written, and I won’t even attempt to rank them.

Journey“Faithfully”

One of the most famous rock bands of all time, Journey brought stadium rock roaring into the mainstream in the late 1970’s. Their eighth studio album, Frontiers went six times platinum in 1983 and is considered a rock n’ roll classic. Of the many fantastic cuts on the album is the grade school dance anthem of the early 80’s, “Faithfully.”

Rumored to have been written on a paper napkin while riding in a tour bus, the track chronicles the struggles of being on the road and leaving a significant other at home. The lyrics are simple, but well written but it’s Steve Perry’s iconic lead vocal and the anthemic instrumentation that makes the track what it is. It’s one of the most singable rock songs of all time and an undeniable classic.

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit“If We Were Vampires”

Leave it to Jason Isbell to take something like love and use it to make us all sad. “If We Were Vampires,” comes from his third and best studio album with his 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound. He’s joined by his wife and fellow americana songwriter, Amanda Shires, on harmony and Jason’s simple guitar is the song’s only instrumentation.

Lyrically, the track is a brilliant exploration of love as an idea, what it means, and what gives it that meaning. He speaks on the sadness of knowing that his life will one day end, as will his wife’s, and yet he understands that it is this very fact, that of having an end in sight, that gives love its meaning. Jason has chosen to spend what limited time he has here loving his wife. It’s one of the best pieces of lyricism of all time and a starkly beautiful message on the meaning of love.

Adam Sandler“Grow Old with You”

In contrast to the unique and nuanced lyricism of many tracks on this list, “Grow Old with You,” is nothing if not simple. The musical climax of Sandler’s 1998 rom-com classic, the short and sweet track features only an acoustic guitar and Sandler’s surprisingly heartfelt vocals. In the movie, the song is sung to Drew Barrymore on a plane and features an enjoyable cameo from Billy Idol, but much of the appeal of the song comes from its universality.

At its core, the song is meant to be a promise of a good life. One by one, Adam Sandler rattles off all the little things he can do to make a life spent with him even better, from “let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink,” to “even let you hold the remote control.” Its simple but meaningful in the sense that it recognizes something about love that other songs don’t. While tracks like Journey’s “Faithfully,” wax poetic about the power of love, “Grow Old with You,” understands that a relationship is a collection of little moments and it sweetly promises to make each one of those little moments joyful.

Extreme“More Than Words”

One of the most underrated bands of the early 1990’s, Extreme is traditionally a hard rock/hair metal band from Boston. While the entirety of their early catalog is excellent, their 1990 sophomore release, Pornographiti is an absolute classic. In the center of a glamorous, thrashing record, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt switches to an acoustic guitar and out comes the band’s biggest hit, “More Than Words.”

The song is fairly simple, focusing on the inability of the classic three words to express the complexities of love itself. Instead, our protagonist asks his love to express her feelings physically rather than through words alone. While the concept is rather cliche’d, it’s the smooth performance from vocalist Gary Cherone and Bettencourt’s incredible guitar abilities that set this song apart and make it one of my favorite love songs of all time.

Cast of Moulin Rouge“Your Song”

A massive hit from Elton John’s self-titled second album, “Your Song,” was already engrained in American culture as a great love song when it was chosen as a centerpiece track for Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 jukebox musical, Moulin Rouge. Elton’s version is a classic as is, but for my personal taste, I think the Moulin Rouge ensemble adds a certain breadth to what was a very stripped back song in the beginning.

The full orchestra backing this version helps quite bit as the string section is plays sweetly and gently and the overwhelming power of a full orchestra is able to bring the track to an almost overwhelming climax. Over this very impressive instrumental, Ewan McGregor give a shockingly powerful performance with his lack of musical experience aiding him in finding a clean and very technical sound which expresses his character quite well. Ultimately, Moulin Rouge is a wonderfully indulgent film and this track is one of it’s most enjoyable moments.

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The Five Worst Album of the Year Snubs in Grammy History

If 1992 doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know who you are!

1959

Should’ve Won: Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely – Frank Sinatra

Winner: The Music From Peter Gunn – Henry Mancini

The very first album of the year award was given in 1959, which means that Sinatra’s true masterpiece, 1955’s In the Wee Small Hours, was never eligible. Luckily, his 1959 classic was at least nominated, but sadly lost the award to Henry Mancini. While Mancini’s record was a better than average soundtrack that included an iconic main theme, it simply doesn’t compare to Sinatra’s emotional classic.

For Only the Lonely is a strong contender for the second best entry into Sinatra’s legendary catalog, sporting a multitude of excellent tracks and great performances from ‘Ole Blue Eyes across the run time. “Angel Eyes,” is one of the best tracks in his career and throughout the entire record, Frank is at his absolute best. Above all this, while Mancini is no slouch in music history, hindsight has shown that the pedigree of Frank Sinatra would’ve been the perfect starting point for music’s most prestigious annual award.

1970

Should’ve Won: Abby Road – The Beatles

Winner: Blood, Sweat, & Tears – Blood, Sweat, & Tears

If ever one needed proof of the Grammys’ fallibility, it can be found in 1970’s award for Best Album. This wasn’t the first Grammys snub that the Fab Four had suffered as their 1967 classic, Revolver was beat out by a lesser release from Frank Sinatra, but this is quite different. Where The Beatles were only just getting started in ’67, no hindsight was needed to understand the importance of Abbey Road which came at the end of the most celebrated and influential careers in music history that had kickstarted the British Invasion and forged rock music into existence.

You could be forgiven, on the other hand, for not knowing the album that won 1970’s award. Blood, Sweat, & Tears was the sophomore album for the jazz rock band of the same name. It went quadruple platinum and was exceptionally well received upon release, but it hasn’t aged all that well, and today just sounds like a fairly well performed jazz rock record. It isn’t the worst choice for album of the year, but with the rock and roll movement in full swing, there’s simply no excuse for the Grammys to miss such an important record.

1974

Should’ve Won: The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

Winner: Innervisions – Stevie Wonder

Unlike the majority of this list, 1974’s winner is somewhat understandable. This was Stevie Wonder’s first Best Album win, and though he’d go on to win twice more with arguably better projects, Innervisions is no slouch. The instrumentation on this record is excellent and Wonder’s ear for melody and songwriting abilities certainly comes through loud and clear. This would be a perfectly good choice if it weren’t for the album it beat out.

The Dark Side of the Moon is on nearly every list of all time great albums and tops quite a few. While I’ve written extensively about the album from a sonic standpoint, it’s worth noting just how important it is. Often sighted as the moment when Pink Floyd found their footing, Dark Side was the beginning of a run of internationally massive and creatively groundbreaking records that would see Floyd climb to heights that are very rarely reached by musicians. It took an underground psych-rock outfit to the absolute peak of rock superstardom, engraining them in American culture forever. It went on to sell 45 million copies worldwide, putting it in the top five  best selling albums of all time. Worse still, it wasn’t even nominated.

1992

Should’ve Won: Nevermind – Nirvana

Winner: Unforgettable… With Love – Natalie Cole

1991 was one of the most exciting years in music, and especially rock history. Here are just a few high profile releases: Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Use Your Illusion I and II from Gunz n’ Roses, U2’s Achtung Baby, and Metallica’s Black Album. In rap music, we had releases from Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, and Public Enemy. In fact, on the exact same day as the release of my choice for this year’s Grammy, Red Hot Chili Peppers released their seminole classic, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The kicker is, not only were all of these albums beat out by Natalie Cole, not a single record I just listed was nominated for best album at 1992’s awards.

Any of those records are absolutely excellent choices for album of the year, but if the Grammys are ostensibly concerned with awarding not only artistic excellence but cultural importance, they missed a big one in September of ’91. Nirvana’s Nevermind, though arguably not their best project, is on the shortlist for the most game changing albums of all time. Coming out of nowhere and released with reasonably low expectations from DGC Records, the album exploded thanks to an incredible reception of the lead single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” While the Grammys could be slightly forgiven had the record been still in the early days of it’s meteoric rise, this was clearly not the case as it had just, a month before the awards, toppled Michael Jackson’s Dangerous to top the Billboard charts. Sadly, the Grammys never did catch up on the Grunge movement as only one grunge album, Pearl Jam’s Vitology in ’96, was ever even nominated and none won the award.

2015 

Should’ve Won: To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

Winner: 1989 – Taylor Swift

This is the most recent word from the Grammys and it is yet another case of a massively impressive field of choices from which the committee seemed to do their best to make the worst possible choice. While 1989 was successful, it was far from Taylor Swift’s best effort, even at the time as she was coming off of the far superior Red just two years prior. Swift seemed destined for Grammy gold in the years, like it or not, but there was simply no excuse for this snub.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly can only be described as a masterpiece in every since of the word. The storytelling and political commentary is some of the best in music history, the gorgeous instrumentation of Kamasi Washington and his orchestra is breathtaking, the production is the best since Radiohead’s OK Computer, and the scope and shear ambition of the project is simply unmatched in the modern music landscape. I would confidently place the record among the greatest of all time, but there is, of course, another element to this. Only two hip-hop albums have ever won the award, Lauren Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauren Hill and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and the category’s history of representing African American artists is nearly as abysmal. Considering the massive amount of TPaB that is devoted to discussion of African Americans in modern culture, it couldn’t have been a better choice for the win. Unfortunately, Kendrick seems cursed to be perpetually nominated without a win, despite being one of the best artists of our time.

Five Albums That Would Get a 10/10

I always want to talk about these great records, and I just can’t find enough excuses! So here’s Five Albums That Would Get a 10/10!

IDLESJoy as an Act of Resistance (2018)

Putting the list in chronological order means that our first pick is my choice for 2018’s album of the year, IDLES’ Joy as an Act of Resistance. I’ve said quite a lot about this album, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Drawing from perhaps the most embattled, controversial, and often violent sub-genres in music history, this punk record uses the traditional staples of thrashing guitars, rolling bass, and high energy to craft music that stands up to any one of the punk greats of the 70’s and 80’s. This sets a baseline for Joe Talbot’s lyricism, music on masculinity and all it’s impacts on the modern world. It’s prescient, it’s powerful, it’s hopeful, and above all, it’s perfect.

Kendrick LamarTo Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

It’s hard to believe that we’re fast approaching the fourth anniversary of Kendrick Lamar’s seminal, jazz-rap masterpiece, but here we are. TPAB achieved levels of storytelling which haven’t been matched in rap music before or since and it did that by selling every ounce of the record to the story. The instrumentation is helmed by Kamasi Washington who would go on to release his own debut album two months later. Throughout, each beat incorporates elements of funk, jazz, Africana, soul, boom-bap, rock, and much more. It’s a musical tour-de-force through the history of African American popular music which is only outshined by K-dot’s lyricism.

Telling the story of a young rapper breaking down on tour and returning home to the streets that made him, Lamar dances between the metaphor and the literal, the jarring and the thoughtful, love and hate, all with an eye for the larger picture while not making a single bad track out of the 16. The story ultimately serves as a contemplation on the plight of the African American community in modern America. Is it honorable to thrive while your community suffers? Can an African American ever thrive without selling out struggles they endured? Will the community ever rise above their oppression and how? These questions and more Kendrick asks with remarkable clarity and don’t even get me started on the production. TPAB feels like a living, breathing conversation, and in that sense, it’s perfect.

Jason IsbellSoutheastern (2013)

When Jason Isbell, the resident bad boy of The Drive-By Truckers, was released from the band in 2007 and entered rehab in 2012, he seemed to be an extremely tragic case of one of the greatest young songwriters of a generation who just couldn’t hold it all together. Instead, he emerged a new, sober man, married then-girlfriend Amanda Shires, and released 2013’s Southeastern, adorned with a very simplistic picture of himself staring forward. Southeastern was Isbell’s contemplation on getting sober, growing up, and most of all, on change. It is one of the most moving and honest albums ever written.

With its opener, “Cover Me Up,” a love song written to Shires to assure her that he would get sober for her, the album immediately presented a new version of Jason. One which fully recognized his potential as a lyricist and artist. Throughout Southeastern, every single track is nothing short of pure poetry over chords. He speaks on the difficulties of leaving an old life behind, his fear of losing his love, and his excitement for the new life ahead of him. More so than any other album on this list, Southeastern lands here because it is simply a masterclass in lyricism from one of the greatest writers that’s ever lived.

RadioheadOK Computer (1997)

One of the most divisive groups in history, you’ll be hard pressed to find a music fan without an appreciation for this album. Coming near the turn of the century, OK Computer feels like the cold air creeping back into a room, no longer staved off by the burning fire that was the early 90’s and the grunge movement. The album aims to capture the apathy and bleak hopelessness of a generation, and Radiohead succeeds in every way. The instrumental pallet is remarkably broad, the production is almost robotic, and Thom Yorke’s vocals are whispish and often haunting.

It’s hard to describe what a cold and distant project this is. With mixes that bury and push odd instruments and arrangements keep listeners guessing by melding organic and electronic sounds seamlessly, Radiohead is able to throw a listener off of their center of gravity, so to speak, and inspire a viscerally lonely experience throughout. Lyrics about the modern condition toe the line so tightly between story and metaphor that what anger and vitriol is drummed up will be immediately stifled by distance. As waves of largely unfamiliar sound wash over you, OK Computer lulls listeners into a bleak apathy like only Radiohead can.

Pink FloydThe Wall (1979)

A very strong argument, and one that I would likely agree with, can be made that Pink Floyd has anywhere from two to five “perfect” albums under their belt and it’s true that few bands ever have had a run like Floyd in the 1970’s, but since this list isn’t called “Top Five Pink Floyd Albums,” I’ve chosen to stick with The Wall. This is, among other things, the defining prog-rock concept album, introducing the idea selling out every aspect of an album toward the concept as very little of The Wall, save “Comfortably Numb,” sounds a whole lot like Pink Floyd. It was also, quite famously, made amid horrific turmoil within the group which likely led to their disbandment.

Nevertheless, the four of them crafted a massive work of art that strikes the heart like few works in any medium. Where Dark Side of the Moon focuses on life and Wish You Were Here deals with fame, The Wall is, above all, about isolation, both the factors that create it and the effects it has on the human psyche. Not content with the simple “love each other,” message of the previous decade, The Wall aims to explored every facet of loneliness and desolation, giving serious credence to the pains which make it seem necessary while honestly addressing it’s detrimental effects. Ultimately, when the masterpiece closer, “The Trial,” ends with the wall finally coming down, the relief is palpable, and any serious listener has learned something about themselves in the process.

Every Rocky Movie Ranked!!

Here’s my annual attempt at writing about something other than music!!

8. Rocky V1990

     Easily the most derided of of the original series, it’s often said that Rocky V is without a redeeming quality. That’s not true. In fact, the bulk of Rocky V is excellent. Rocky’s transition to the role of trainer, even taking over Mighty Mick’s, and Tommy Gunn is an interesting character who mirrors Rocky in so many ways that when he makes mistakes that Rocky wouldn’t, it carries weight. Above all, Rocky’s arc of learning to give up fighting and finally accept that he has everything he needs was a nice set up, though unfortunately, it’s never realized.

   Rocky V falls down hard in several key areas, though. Firstly, the score is almost unlistenable. Even Rocky IV’s cocaine fueled extravaganza of a soundtrack had a ton of listenable moments, but V’s hip-hop influences are just strange and out of place. Additionally, Rocky’s issues with his son are never adequately resolved. The worst offense, however, is the much maligned street fight in the final act. In the end, they just couldn’t quite pull the trigger on a Rocky film that didn’t end with Rocky fighting, and because of this, the finish feels completely unbelievable and not satisfying. There’s no such thing as a bad Rocky movie, but Rocky V is the only one that feels lost.

7. Rocky III1982

   I may be at a disagreement with many longtime fans here, and honestly, I was surprised myself upon rewatching the series, how low this film landed. To be clear, there are sections of this movie that can stand toe to toe with any classic Rocky moment. Micky’s death is absolutely gut-wrenching and beautifully acted, casting Clubber Lang as the hungry up and comer against Rocky’s over confidence was a smart choice, and the infamous scenes of Rocky learning to dance in training and eventually defeating Apollo Creed in a slow motion foot race on the beach while wearing the most 1980’s crop top tee ever worn on film. In fact, III’s best legacy is further developing Apollo as a main character and friend of Rocky.

   However, the film ultimately falls down in two key areas. The first of these is the villain. Mr. T’s Clubber Lang simply doesn’t receive the development he needs. He seems to be a beta form of Rocky IV’s Ivan Drago, and doesn’t achieve nearly the level of intimidation  and hopelessness brought on Drago. It takes a total of three rounds and a slight improvement in Rocky’s speed and footwork to absolutely annihilate Lang. Ultimately, though, and this is the film’s worst sin, Rocky III falls in the valley between the grounded, underdog story of I and II, and the 80’s indulgence of IV and parts of V. The result is a film with iconic moments, but a somewhat weak overall arc.

6. Rocky Balboa2006

   One of the more controversial films in the series, Rocky Balboa is the first to bring Rocky into the 21st century, and it does so in a uniquely effective way. It grounds the series in reality far more than the excesses of the latter portion of the original run. The best element, though, is the creative inclusion of minor and side characters from the Rocky universe as larger figures in this installment. Spider Silva, Rocky’s opponent in the first scene of the first film becomes a friend of the boxer who often eats at his restaurant and Marie, a young girl with whom Rocky shared a quick life lesson in the first film, is once again mentored by Rocky, this time as the main female counterpart to Sylvester Stallone. The highlight comes in the final fight which stands as one of the series’ most heartwarming finishes.

   Despite all this, the film is rarely sited as a fan favorite because it’s brutally depressing. It opens on Rocky sitting at his late wife’s grave, kicking off a first act which deals largely with Adrian’s death and Balboa’s estrangement from his son. There are a few moments where the emotions are laid on a bit thick, but in most instances, Stalone’s writing is nearly as impressive as the first script, and it’s the last of the series in which he had significant creative input. Ultimately, Rocky Balboa is a starkly beautiful tribute to the classic characters and story that radiates love for Rocky universe, but its dark tone and stand alone nature makes it feel somewhat obligatory upon repeated viewings. 

5. Creed2015

   Nearly a decade after Rocky Balboa seemingly closed the books the universe, Creed breathed new life into this franchise. Most importantly, Sylvester Stallone takes on a supporting role for the first time in the series, making way for Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed. The film follows the script of the first Rocky in many ways, and where it doesn’t, it makes massive meaning in its differences.

   Bianca is a tough, independent woman, contrasting to Adriane’s timidity, and she’s one of the best characters in the series. Best of all, Creed comes from money and bares the name of a legend, as apposed to Rocky’s story of coming from nothing. It’s a testament to the fighter’s spirit as he works to erase his name and his father’s legacy. Rocky’s battle with cancer is a great parallel to Adonis’ battle in the ring and, in the end, the Rocky franchise finally feels alive in a way it hasn’t for many years.

4. Rocky IV1985

   If ever one needed proof that cocaine was extremely prevalent in the 80’s, there’s Rocky IV. Featuring not one, not two, but four montages, all set to the most purely 1980’s songs ever written, this film is a blast. Dolph Lundgren is positively terrifying as Ivan Drago, the final montage is the best of the series, and the final fight is perfectly epic. At the emotional core of Rocky IV is the gut wrenching death of Apollo Creed, which is handled quite well, considering the generally over-the-top tone of the movie as a whole.

   Rocky IV isn’t perfect by any means. Strictly speaking, in terms of pure film making, it’s hard to even call it “good.” There’s hardly 30 minutes worth of storyline, fluffed out by style over substance, the patriotic commentary on the Cold War borders on propagandistic, and Rocky’s speech following his victory hasn’t aged well in the slightest. However, for fans of this universe, Rocky IV is infinitely watchable. It’s the high point of the saga’s latter years and it’s so memorable that it gets something of a direct sequel in the film ranked just above it.

3. Creed II2018

   The eighth and latest edition to the franchise, Creed II lands immediately in the upper echelons of Rocky movies as the best entry in almost 40 years. The relationship arc between Adonis and Bianca is excellent, Vitor Drago, son of Ivan, is nearly as intimidating as his father, helped by the fear Rocky shows upon hearing the challenge, and the sound track is, yet again, perfect. The reason this film lands so high, though, is its very pure focus on themes.

   The story focusses squarely on fatherhood. As Adonis is forced to confront the man who took his father from him, he also becomes a father himself, dealing with the revelation that his son, like Bianca, is deaf. This comes to a head in the finale as Rocky finally speaks with his estranged son and meets his grandson for the first time. Most importantly, Creed II sees Sylvester Stallone finally say goodbye to the character of Rocky, having seen Adonis defeat Drago and rectifying his great mistake, we get a heartfelt farewell to an American icon.

2. Rocky1976

   It is beyond difficult to rank this below any other, as it is one of the most perfect films in cinema history. The ultimate underdog story, Stallone’s Rocky is a lovable tough who gets the opportunity of a lifetime to fight the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. Micky’s rough exterior and good heart makes him an instant fan favorite, Paulie is hilariously sleazy, and Rocky’s love story with Adriane is one for the ages. 

   The key to this movie is the very simple heartfelt script. The way Rocky is treated as a “sure thing” by Creed and Rocky’s determination to make something of himself is impossible not to feel. When the fight finally happens, every single punch seems to land directly on your own body, and no one with a soul can help but feel their heart warm when Rocky makes it through all 12 rounds. It can’t be overstated what an amazing movie this is, and it spawned one of the longest, most consistent sagas in history.

Rocky II1979

   This film is incredible. Following the explosive success of the original, Rocky II seemed to face an insurmountable obstacle in following up. What Stallone cooked up is a similar script, packed full of iconic moments and fantastic characters. Adriane is a far more developed, as is the relationship between Rocky and Micky. We see Rocky struggle with the fame gained from his fight and Apollo’s near constant berating in the effort to draw him out retirement.

   When he decides to take the rematch, its much different this time as there is a distinct chance that Rocky could actually win the fight, and Adriane’s sickness is a fantastic emotional center. Most importantly, Rocky II establishes the formula which would characterize the nearly all of the sequels that would follow. A villain brings Rocky out of retirement, Rocky trains poorly, tragedy strikes, Rocky finds the strength to train again, this time with vigor, and he finally wins the fight and rectifies the tragedy of the low point. Rocky may have introduced the characters, but it was Rocky II that invented the formula which all subsequent entries would follow, and of course, who can forget the films closing line, “Yo, Adriane! I did it!”

Five Great Albums You Won’t Find on iTunes/Spotify

In this article, we’re focusing on great albums which gained their popularity outside of the major digital music platforms. A few of them have since been added to these platforms, but the important part is that these projects rose to prominence away from them, either in physical forms or on third party apps.

5. Sorry for the Wait 2Lil’ Wayne

download      The first of many on this list to be found on the third party, hip-hop app, Spinrilla, SftW2 is one of Lil Wayne’s best projects to date. His flow hits harder than it has in years, his lyricism is characteristically witty, and the beat selection is fantastic.

   Wayne’s take on mega-hits like “Coco,” and “No Type,” are unquestionable upgrades on the original, and tracks like “Hollyweezy,” and “Amazing Amy,” are some of the most impressive originals in Wayne’s more recent catalog. A features list which sports the likes of Drake, Migos, and 2 Chainz is just icing on an already impressive cake.

4. Cursed With a BlessingMontana of 300

Montana_Of_300_Cursed_With_A_Blessing-front-large   Another Spinrilla entry, Cursed With a Blessing stands as one of the highlights of the very short lived drill-rap scene in downtown Chicago. Montana of 300 delivers a brutal flow, and focuses on difficult topics like religion, drug addiction, and systematic oppression. His transition to the mainstream with 2015’s Gunz & Roses was a bit rocky, but his influence can still be felt today in artists like Denzel Curry.

   The record’s highlights include the horror-esque “Slaughterhouse,” and the infectious hooks on tracks like “Ice Cream Truck,” “Broski Nem,” and “I Luh My Bitch.” The album is populated one trap banger after another, and the violent delivery on the title track makes it one of the best songs to come out of the drill scene.

3. Signed to the Streets 2Lil Durk

1404760173_lil_durk_signed_to_the_streets_2_front_large_2_13   On the flip side of the drill movement, Lil Durk rose to fame with a steady flow of fantastic mixtapes dropped on Spinrilla. The first installation in the Signed to the Streets series was quite a project in it’s own right, but it’s the second entry which lands on this list. The album is jam packed with 18 tracks, each catchier and harder hitting than the last.

   “Ready For Em,” and “War Wit Us,” open the tape with violent flow and lyricism, while tracks like “I Made It,” benefit from Durk’s signature, hook-heavy writing. “Gas and Mud,” is an often under-appreciated highlight on an admittedly dragging latter half, and by the end of the 60 minute runtime, any fan of drill-rap will have a on their face. The album has since been moved to Durk’s Spotify page, but it was one of Spinrilla’s most successful albums at the time of its release.

2. Acid RapChance the Rapper

Chance_the_rapper_acid_rap   In 2012, Chance the Rapper dropped 10 Days to radio silence from the mainstream music world. In 2016, Coloring Book was nominated for album of the year at the Grammy’s. What happened? Acid Rap happened. This mixtape is a vulgar, cheerful, and organic explosion of creativity. Tack on a who’s who of a features list and unique loose concept, and we’re left with one of the best albums in modern rap.

   “Juice,” is boastful and catchy, “Smoke Again,” is nocturnal and dripping with attitude, and “Pusha Man,” features one of Chance’s few brutally honest verses. The feature list is headlined by Childish Gambino on “Favorite Song,” and Action Bronson on “NaNa.” Genuinely, every track on this album is fantastic, and it stands as the funnest project on Spinrilla and the best entry in Chance’s discography to date.

1. Full DiscographyTool

857a601c3686808d859fe51d94382cff   Tool is not only one of the greatest rock groups of all time, but they enjoy a massive cult following, willing to wait more than a decade for a new album. It’s almost hard to believe that they’ve reached this status, all while refusing to release their music on any digital platform at all. Aside from a few illegal uploads on YouTube, Tool’s work can only be found in physical form.

   The group’s early work sports the likes of the 72826 and Opiate Ep’s, both angry and powerful. From there, 1993’s Undertow is heavy and dark, 1996’s Aenima melds raw passion and prog-metal for one of the best records of that decade, 2001’s Lateralus is calculated and perfected, and finally, 2006’s 10,000 Days is sprawling and moving. No rock fan’s catalog is complete without at least a few pieces of the Tool cannon, and those pieces can only be acquired in their physical forms.

HEAR SORRY 4 THE WAIT 2: https://www.spinrilla.com/mixtapes/lil-wayne-sorry-for-the-wait-2

HEAR CURSED WITH A BLESSING: https://www.spinrilla.com/mixtapes/montana-of-300-cursed-with-a-blessing

HEAR SIGNED TO THE STREETS 2: https://open.spotify.com/album/4I7860Obl2VSuKBxdNHXAa

HEAR ACID RAP: https://www.spinrilla.com/mixtapes/chance-the-rapper-acid-rap

HEAR TOOL: https://www.toolband.com/

Five Great Musical Comedy Albums

This is officially my 50th post on this page! Thank you guys so much for reading, and I hope to keep up what I’m doing and keep giving you guys something fun to read!

5. I Told You I Was FreakyFlight of the Conchords

98b37517dc8c4d271df95be94823bf5b7ae40bd2     The short lived, New Zealand-based duo of Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement is best known for their unique, often awkward and always hilarious television show on HBO, but they also have two critically acclaimed albums to their name. While their self-titled debut is iconic, the the sing-ability and irony of their 2009 sophomore release which slightly edges it to the top.

   Tracks like “Sugalumps,” and “I Told You I was Freaky,” ironically play on the tropes of sexualized music of the time, while “You Don’t Have to be a Prostitute,” and “Too Many Dicks,” round out the excellent track list. “We’re Both In Love With a Sexy Lady,” is probably my favorite moment on the record, brilliantly blending absurdist dry humor in a way that only Flight of the Conchords can.

4. I’m Black, You’re White & These Are Clearly ParodiesRucka Rucka Ali

51++rgu8KVL._SS500   Certainly the most offensive entry on this list by a mile, Rucka Rucka Ali made his name in the mid to late 2000’s with vulgar, raunchy parodies of popular music which he posted to his very successful YouTube channel. While his work today tends to be a bit over the top, and hasn’t adapted well to popular music’s shift toward trap and rap influences, this 2010 release, his most successful album to date, is simply fantastic.

   Tracks like “Emo (Like a Nazi)” and “Don’t Be a Playa Haiti” stand out to this day as highlights, as do “Go Cops!” “I Love Minorities,” and “Ima Korean.” Ever parody is at once hilarious and jaw-droppingly juvenile and offensive. Nearly three decades after the debut of Weird Al Yankovic, its fascinating to see his style and genre reinvented in such a popular way. It’s certainly worth a listen, but not meant for the easily offended.

3. Words, Words, WordsBo Burnham

download   Bo Burnham revolutionized modern comedy with back to back specials “What.” and “Make Happy,” in 2013 and 2016 with a hectic combination of musical comedy and pure standup. Before this, he’d built a massive audience as a Youtube personality in the sites earliest days. But after his online success and before reaching the status of revolutionary, he released the live recording of Words, Words, Words.

   Burnham’s manic energy is very much still present on this record, but channeled into the clever word play on “Oh, Bo,” or the quick witted title track. Even relatively juvenile songs like “Men & Women,” and “Ironic,” are dripping with his unique brand of postmodern absurdism. Contrasting this, Bo writes quite introspectively on “Art is Dead,” and the spoken tracks like his Shakespearean porn, and “One Man Shows,” are heartfelt and hilarious.

2. Even WorseWeird Al Yankovic

Evenworse   Choosing just one album from the godfather of comedy music was, to say the least, difficult. His self-titled debut is historic, 2006’s Straight Outta Lynwood showed tremendous longevity, and the back to back releases In 3-D and Dare to Be Stupid in ’84 and ’85 jockeyed heavily for the top spot but, after much deliberation, I settled on 1988’s Even Worse. Here, even more so than the rest of his career, Yankovic is simply in rare form, dancing through elements of absurdist, geek, and ironic humor.

   The opener, “Fat,” is a highlight of Al’s career, while “Lasagna,” and “Alimony,” are impressive tracks on their own. “Melanie,” is easily his most impressive original track, and “I Think I’m a Clone Now,” is an instant classic. This album, from front to back, is nothing but a celebration of what musical comedy can be, and the inherent absurdity which comes along with it. The amount of hard work and dedication which goes into making something so goofy really captures the essence of what makes this genre so endearing. 

1. Tenacious DTenacious D

tenac   Today, Tenacious D is generally known a goofy side project for the likes of Jack Black and Dave Grohl, as well as a main project for Kyle Gass. But three albums, one movie, and about a decade ago, the duo burst onto the musical comedy scene with a record that was witty, creative, and raunchy as all hell.

   Tracks like “Wonderboy,” and “F*** Her Gently,” as well as short riff tracks like “Inward Singing,” and “Drive-Thru” played directly into the brand of vulgar stoner humor which formed the groups wheelhouse. The nine minute epic, “City Hall/I Believe/Malibu Nights Medley,” is an incredible closer, and, of course, this album can’t be discussed without mentioning the greatest and best song in the world, “Tribute,” which is easily one of the funniest tracks ever written.

HEAR FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS:  https://open.spotify.com/artist/2lRyvAihjwylPfhGqydQbC

HEAR RUCKA RUCKA ALI:           https://open.spotify.com/artist/77avA3qzF6itxvXlb2mmNy

HEAR BO BURNHAM:              https://open.spotify.com/artist/2Waw2sSbqvAwK8NwACNjVo

HEAR “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC:   https://open.spotify.com/artist/1bDWGdIC2hardyt55nlQgG

HEAR TENACIOUS D:                  https://open.spotify.com/artist/1XpDYCrUJnvCo9Ez6yeMWh

Five Great Albums Still to Come in 2018

Sorry, this is my second post of the day! But this is kind of a companion to my top albums of the year so far. Keep an eye out for these records, because they, along with a lot else I don’t even know about yet, are likely to radically change my top ten between now and December! Let me know in the comments, what records are you most excited for this year?

Halestorm – Vicious

Date: July 27

hale.jpg     The Pennsylvania based rock outfit has made waves in the modern rock world since their self-titled debut record in 2009 thanks to there heavy guitars, catchy melodies, and the powerful vocal work of lead singer Lizzy Hale. Since then, they have released two more studio albums in 2012 and 2015, each to considerable critical and commercial success, as well as putting on several notably excellent live performances.

   Two Singles, “Black Vultures,” and “Uncomfortable,” have been released to date. The first is built around a formulaic but spirited structure and benefits from a few very interesting choices in minor chords and scales, while the latter sports a few excellent tempo changes and entertaining drum work. Hale’s vocals are, as expected, powerful and commanding, and if these tracks are any indicator of what’s to come, fans and newcomers alike are in for a treat.

Death Cab For CutieThank You for Today

Date: August 17

Death Cab   The godfathers of soft, indie rock have been releasing music steadily since 1998, making them older than myself. They hit their real stride, however, on their 2005 classic, Plans. For a several year period around this time, the group was headlining massive tours, playing MTV Storytellers, and generally bringing the soft rock sound to the mainstream in an unprecedented way.

   Thirteen years later and DCFC has just announced the August release of their eleventh studio album. Only one single has been released entitled, “Gold Rush.” While much of the backing harmonies and witty lyricism remains, the group seems to have updated their instrumental pallet and pushed the drums much louder in their mixes. The track is fun and unique, both to the band and the modern music industry as a whole. My hopes are high that Death Cab for Cutie just might have a fresh new sound full of surprises waiting just around the corner.

Amanda Shires – To the Sunset

Date:August 3

Amanda   While many may know her as the wife and frequent collaborator of outlaw country megastar, Jason Isbell, Shires is actually a very talented country/pop songwriter in her own right. She recently announced the upcoming release of her fourth studio album via twitter, as well as giving us our first peak at the colorful, psychedelic cover.

   If the album wasn’t indication enough, the two singles we’ve heard so far are radical departures from the Shires we’ve come to know. “Eve’s Daughter” features heavy electric guitars and even segments of dissonant guitars, while “Leave It Alone” creates more of a pop vibe with sampled drums and heavily produced vocals. It would seem that we’re in for a more diverse and unique project than Shires has ever created.

Denzel CurryTA13OO (Taboo)

Date: TBA

https_%2F%2Fimages.genius.com%2F37f73934ffa0992c56ded1a538da3b04.598x598x1.png   Curry has been notably coy about the release date of his upcoming third studio release, but all signs point to a late 2018 drop. This will, of course, follow 2016’s, Imperial. This was one of the best trap albums of all time and put the growing Florida scene on the map critically. Curry’s relentless flow, trap music’s trademark heavy bass, and heavy jazz influences meshed well on Imperial to create a sense of well directed chaos.

   We’ve heard three singles from TA13OO thus far. “Skywalker,” is nocturnal, melodic, and leans harder on the trap than the jazz influences. “SUMO/ZUMO,” is loud, treble heavy, and features Denzel’s attitude heavy flow well. “PERCS/PERCZ” was the latest release and calls back to early tracks, like “Ultimate.” With such a diverse showing between tracks, its impossible to be sure what to expect, but with two fantastic projects under his belt, its reasonable to expect nothing short of excellence.

IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance

Date:August 31

Jo

  Neo-punk superstars, IDLES exploded on to the rock scene in 2015 with their second EP, MEAT. They were angry, loud, and aggressive at a time when rock music just doesn’t allow itself to feel that way anymore. The follow up LP in 2017 entitled Brutalism was one of the best albums of the year, and likely the best punk album in several decades

  We’ve heard two singles so far from the upcoming Joy as an Act of Resistance, and both are telling about the album they foreshadow. “Danny Nedelko” is bass-heavy and sports a far more melodic chorus than any the band has recorded thus far. “Colossus,” is far more surprising, as the first several minutes are fairly slow and droning. This builds to a drop out near the end of the track, before a quick burst into an up-tempo punk jam. It’s entirely possible that this will open the album, and the first few minutes will function as an intro, but if IDLES really are planning to incorporate drones and tempo changes into their very solid toolbox, we could be in for a punk record that will rank among the all-time greats.