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/

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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.

Five Artists On The Cusp of Career Defining Albums

5. Kacey Musgraves

     Rising to popularity in 2013 with her debut record, Musgraves has drawn critical acclaim as well as mainstream success with a sound that modernizes country music, while paying due diligence to her predecessors, particularly in the outlaw movement. While some early concerns arose that Kacey may play to a base of young girls, a la Taylor Swift, and work herself out of the country scene, her often drug-laced lyricism, and insistence on organic instrumentation  and vocal work proved those worries to be unfounded. Instead, she has been hailed as a fresh new voice in the Nashville scene, and stands poised and ready for a huge run.

   This year’s Golden Hour, her third studio album, not only reached number one on the Country charts, but number four overall. She clearly has the support of the general public behind her, and the critics have always been all in. While this record was plagued by poor production and somewhat repetitive choruses, it was dripping in potential. If Kasey can fill out her songs just a bit more, and be more daring than ever in her production, while hanging on to the young charm and biting lyricism she’s built her name on, her next album could very well be a defining moment in this era of Country.

4. Harry Styles

     I know, I’m as shocked as you are! However, its time to come to terms with the facts: Harry Styles is a bonafide artist and performer, who’s debut was one of the best in 2017. The self titled LP was a breath of fresh air for music fans, and saw the pop star take on a more piano rock sound and toy with several well-executed psychedelic elements. His voice was flat out impressive, and the instrumentation was consistently entertaining. The lyrics left a bit to be desired, but the themes were solid and ambitious, leading one to expect an even better showing with the next release.

   Harry Styles debuted at number one in the US and even broke a few sales records in The UK, while critics seemed relatively impressed by the project as well. If Styles can take serious time to fill out his lyrics, especially by including a few more verses and less repetition, while hanging on to the youthful spirit and impressive vocal work which he’s already shown, his sales and critical appeal could easily place him at the forefront of a rebirth in rock music.

3. IDLES

     IDLES dropped their debut LP in 2017. It was titled, Brutalism, a name which it lived up to, as the sonic embodiment of anger, fear, and the punk spirit. The guitar work was brutal, the drums were driving, and Joe Talbot’s vocals are punk, perfected. Many could argue that Brutalism is already a career defining project, and they would be right, but I genuinely think that they could do better.

   There hasn’t been a band that is this purely punk in a very long time, and thus, IDLES will likely be given the unique license to speak on and sing about whatever they want angrily. With a new album already announced for august, I’d like to hear Talbot take deadly aim at the political discourse in the modern world. Fire wildly at organized religion, at Republicans, at inequality, and even at the apathy of the music industry. Musically, the group seems to be experimenting with brand new sounds and keeping themselves fresh. August 2018 could mark the return of punk to the mainstream.

2. Post Malone

     Again, many would say that Malone has already achieved this feat, and while Beerbongs & Bentley’s is a true masterpiece of soft, vibe-centric hip-hop, I have one simple reason to say that Post has just one or two more tricks up his sleeves. This reason can be heard near the end of the album, in the form of the song, “Stay.” Here, Malone breaks from his format, which he has, admittedly, perfected, to present listeners with an entirely unique sound. The combination of the “coffee-house” folk and hip-hop styles could very easily be the last push necessary to land Post on a very short list of great artists.

   A new album should hang on to the lighter tone of B&B, as well as the long runtime and excellent production. However, cut the bass-heavy vibe tracks with a heavy dose of heartfelt lyricism, acoustic guitar, and Malone’s unique vocal. He’s such a multifaceted writer and vocalists, pulling inspiration from so many sources, that even something as diverse as his recent project seems to waste his full range. Put that full range into one singular album, and we will have something truly special.

1. Chris Stapleton

     A man who needs little introduction, Stapleton is a fantastically accomplished singer/songwriter, and a nationally beloved member of Country’s outlaw revolution. However, a quick look at Outlaw Country’s big three-Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Stapleton- reveals a slight problem. Isbell has Southeastern, Simpson has A Sailors Guide to Earth, and what is Stapleton’s crowing achievement? Countless incredible song, and yet no “perfect,” album.

   To get himself over the final hump, he first must hang on to a few things. Namely, his powerful and jaw-dropping voice, his wife’s excellent contributions, and his penchant for staying the truest to the Country form must stay. But what is he missing? For a perfect, decade defining record, Stapleton first needs to poor his heart into his already incredible lyricism, a la Southeastern. Toss in a bit more variety in his instrumentation, a few minor tweaks in production, and beef up his runtime a bit, and Stapleton will evolve from a force to be reckoned with to a real life, living legend in every sense of the term.

HEAR KACEY MUSGRAVES: https://open.spotify.com/artist/70kkdajctXSbqSMJbQO424

HEAR HARRY STYLES: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6KImCVD70vtIoJWnq6nGn3

HEAR IDLES: https://open.spotify.com/artist/75mafsNqNE1WSEVxIKuY5C

HEAR POST MALONE: https://open.spotify.com/artist/246dkjvS1zLTtiykXe5h60

HEAR CHRIS STAPLETON: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4YLtscXsxbVgi031ovDDdh

5 Odd Bands You NEED To Hear

5. ∆ (Alt-J)

∆      For those of you well versed in indie/odd music, this will seem like a safe and obvious choice, but the four piece, English Indie-rock outfit, named after the keyboard command which produces the triangle symbol, rose to fame on the power of their single, “Breezeblocks.” It was a funky, experimental track that is somehow about murder, love, and the children’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are” all simultaneously.

   Their discography, while sporting only 3 studio efforts, is high quality throughout. 2012’s “An Awesome Wave” is the highlight as well as their debut, but their career is still going strong with a recent release in 2017 keeping them in the discussion. Alt-J isn’t the most successful band in the world, nor the strangest, but they strike a balance between the two which is quite admirable.

KEY TRACKS: Breezeblocks, Matilda

4. Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra

Walter-Mitty      Witty lyrics, hand-drawn album covers, and an instrumental pallet which ranges from the standard, acoustic guitar to the fantastic kazoo work that decorates the majority of their most memorable tracks. These qualities, and many more, draw listeners, particularly those with an ear for the strange, immediately to this band. You’ll stay, however, for the genuinely high quality music that fills fantastic records like 2013’s Overwhelmed and Underdressed.

   While the Makeshift Orchestra haven’t found massive success, they have accrued a strong following inside of the larger, quirky-folk genre. Their performances are fun and upbeat, and their ability to keep from taking themselves too seriously allows for a lighthearted feel that can almost make you forget how actually great this music is!

KEY TRACKS: Let’s Get Breakfast, Booger Storm

3. Sledding With Tigers

1_SleddingWithTigers_DSC_1185A      Similar to Walter Mitty, Sledding With Tigers is a quirky folk group with unique instrumentation, diverse vocal styles, and a punk-influenced spirit which really shines through in ever project. Unlike many of their short-lived contemporary’s, Sledding with Tigers boasts quite the discography, spanning six years and four projects.

   If you have heard of Sledding with Tigers, you’ve likely heard of their 2015 EP, Come On and Slam, which became a bit of an underground classic. The EP follows the story of 1996 sports film, Space Jam, often sampling clips and using quotes and actors names as key points in many of the tracks. In a way, the record is simply a well received joke, but on the other hand, Sledding with Tigers shows the art of songwriting by creating tracks based on a common background, which is quite enjoyable.

KEY TRACKS: Short People by Newman From Seinfeld, The Big Game (Movements 1 & 2)

2. Death Grips

Death-Grips      This experimental hip-hop duo has seen a massive growth in fanbase since their modestly received 2012 LP, “No Love Deep Web,” a record noted as much for its revolutionary style as for the remarkably vulgar album art. Much of this growth can be attributed to the groups deep connection to the modern internet/meme culture which resonates well with modern youth. Another large chunk of their popularity is likely born of the fanfare of many YouTube critics, most notably Anthony Fantano.

   Above all, however, Death Grips’ growth has been shockingly organic. They give very few live performances and have an odd and often non existent social media presence. The seems to care very little about the size or dedication of their fanbase, but they certainly care about beefing up their discography, releasing roughly an album or two per year. The angry rapping of MC Ride melds well with the open, hard-hitting instrumentation of his counter part, Zach Hill. Together, they form a truly unique sound which is worth a listen for any fan of hard-hitting hip-hop.

KEY TRACKS: Guillotine,  Get Got

1. Steam Powered Giraffe

     Have you ever heard a concept album about harmonizing, immortal, robots learning about love, friendship, and themselves all while traveling across the American Frontier? If your answer was no, then have I got a band for you.

SPG

   Steam Powered Giraffe got their start as street performers who played singing and miming robots, before their music career took off with their 2009 debut, Album One. They were then noted for their strange covers of artists like Rihanna, as well as their major single, “Brass Goggles,” but their career truly took off after the release of “Honeybee,” from their second studio record which served as their most successful single to date.

   SPG’s musical stylings are fascinating. Much of their sound stems from the early work of groups like The Beatles or The Beach Boys, relying, instrumentally on a prevalent acoustic guitar played by bass singer David Bennet, AKA “The Spine” Their sound also evolves rapidly as the band’s lineup evolves. David Bennet and Isabella Bennet, AKA “Rabbit,” have been constant members throughout, but have seen about a dozen other members come and go, some as session performers and others playing characters. What has not changed, however, is the perfectly tight, and unbelievably complex harmonies that take center stage on nearly every SPG track. This is a band that shows real dedication to their craft, creating backstory, character arks, and complex concepts for each project on top of music which is incredible in its own right. Because of this dedication, Steam Powered Giraffe lands at the very top of my list of odd bands you NEED to hear!

KEY TRACKS: Honeybee, Brass Goggles, Fire Fire

*************************************SPOTIFY LINKS*********************************

∆ (Alt-J) – https://open.spotify.com/artist/3XHO7cRUPCLOr6jwp8vsx5

Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra – https://open.spotify.com/artist/1iuJNmtyZVJxHVrnosRipw

Sledding With Tigers – https://open.spotify.com/artist/7E11mR7om6vMgUpPdl65EV

Death Grips – https://open.spotify.com/artist/5RADpgYLOuS2ZxDq7ggYYH

Steam Powered Giraffe – https://open.spotify.com/artist/1yqs45BSh7457Flyhmdv7f

Five Good Albums From Bad Artists

5. Songs about Jane Maroon 5

     This one breaks my heart. Today, especially in a post-“The Voice” world, there is little to be enjoyed when it comes to Maroon 5, more aptly named, Adam Levine and These Four Dudes. There 2017 release garnered universal distaste from critics and fans, panning it as uninspired, lacking in character, and overall boring. There was a time, however, when the group was poised as the next big thing.Maroon-5

   2002’s Songs About Jane fused elements of jazz, soft rock, and funk to create an intensely fun listening experience. Levine’s vocals were certainly a highlight, but the sensual sound of the band behind him is what made this record as special as it was. Hits like “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved” still enjoy popularity sixteen years later, and benefit immensely from the large instrumental pallet across the project. Maroon 5 has failed to reproduce this sound since, and with the poor reception of their last project, it seems they may not get too many more chances.

4. What A Time To Be AliveDrake and Future

   I realize that it may be slightly controversial to refer to one of the most popular rappers in modern music “terrible,” but I do because its true. While Drake shone early in his career,  bringing a smoother approach to the emotional rap/sung music of the later 2000’s, he has more than overstayed his welcome as rap has turned to more organic instrumentation and socially aware lyricism. The hour long bore-fest that was Views proved that Drake’s music functions best as a kind of musical wallpaper, not meant to explore tougher concepts and styles.Drake-And-Future

   Thankfully, the rise of trap music, lead by the constantly successful but equally shallow Future, would provide a perfect venue to showcase that. 2015’s What A Time To Be Alive is far from a game changer, but instead performs the well established points of a trap album very well. Instrumentals are dark and base heavy, themes are violent and simple, and Drake’s articulate style contrasts well with Futures sloppier vocals. “Jump Man” emerged quickly as the projects biggest hit, as well as a good indicator of the records overall content and quality. This album doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it builds a damn good one.

3. Red.Taylor Swift

   I’ll be the first and loudest voice on the anti-Swift bandwagon. The vast majority of her work is overrated and uninspired. Her early work, though honest and fairly well written, is hindered by simply awful vocal performances. Just as she corrected her vocal shortcomings, it seemed she simply lost every bit of writing ability she had left. However, just in the sweet spot, comes Red.Taylor

   As it nears the ripe old age of six years old, Red. is certainly worth revisiting. While Swifts writes from the limited perspective of a pretty, white, 20-something, she writes honestly, never overstepping her bounds. The instrumentation is well produced and adds to an overall quality which is much higher than her previous work. Red. also marks the official end of Taylor’s time in the Country classification, though her transition was gradual enough that no one was shocked. Now it is fair to criticize the project for a wildly varying tone, especially in the very dated hit “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which dives hard into the dubstep craze of its time, but overall, the record holds a listeners attention for most of its fairly ambitious runtime, and sets a solid example of “good” pop music.

2. DarkhorseNickelback

   Nickelback is possibly the most reviled band in modern American history, and certainly Canada’s worst export aside from Justin Bieber, but with career that spans two decades an nine studio projects, there must be something there. As with a few other choices on this list, the bulk of Nickelback’s charm comes from their lack of self awareness, and thus, listening to a Nickelback album requires one to drop the same quality.

Nickelback

  With that pesky self-awareness out of the way, nothing tops 2008’s Darkhorse. This album is enjoyable in much the same way that watching a Fast and the Furious film is a fun activity. Crunchy guitars lay well over explosive drums and an accenting bass. Each track, of course, highlighted by Chad Kroeger’s grungy vocals, and hyper-masculine, and often overtly sexual lyrics. The album may not fit the mold of “good” in the classical sense, but it’s nothing if not listenable.

 

1. UnleashedToby Keith

   While the 90’s will forever be synonymous with Rock and Roll’s angry renaissance, many have forgotten the massive success enjoyed by country music in the latter half of the decade. Artists like Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, and, yes, Toby Keith, rose to prominence with a blend of stadium ready instrumentals, reminiscent of the glitzy style of their 70’s and 80’s predecessors, and an interesting sampling of Mexican and Reggae themes to change the genre landscape to that of the drinking man’s music. These artists also boasted shamelessly twangy vocals and lyrical content which was almost a caricature of the writing which had proceeded them. Enter Toby Keith, and in particular, his 2002 project, Unleashed.

Toby   Unleashed is far from a daring effort for Keith. In fact, the subject matter is almost exclusively drinking and patriotism, as one would expect, but its the unrelenting steel guitar, constant use of suspension and release into the final chord, the wonderfully catchy choruses. Toss in a Willie Nelson feature and Toby’s admirable effort to correctly pronounce the word “mariachi,” as well as tracks like “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” “Who’s Your Daddy,” and “Beer For My Horses,” and you’ve got yourself a classic. Listening to Unleashed front to back is like watching your drunk uncle at a wedding with an open bar. He’s drunk, dancing, and occasionally spouting off overly simplistic political  views, and you know that its wrong, but you just can’t help but watch and wish that you could some day be that confident.

MAROON 5 – https://open.spotify.com/album/1Rv9WRKyYhFaGbuYDaQunN

DRAKE AND FUTURE – https://open.spotify.com/album/1ozpmkWcCHwsQ4QTnxOOdT

TAYLOR SWIFT – https://open.spotify.com/album/1EoDsNmgTLtmwe1BDAVxV5

NICKELBACK – https://open.spotify.com/album/0GQ9AZBJSj109gmSdSrviC

TOBY KEITH – https://open.spotify.com/album/7ExectJocqn8sMKq4Tn4LY

Top 5 Christmas Songs/Performances Of All Time

5. Lydia Liza & Josiah LemanskiBaby It’s Cold Outside

Josiah-Lemanski-Lydia-Liza.jpg     By far the newest song on this list, this project from the pair of young songwriters sees the creepiest Christmas songs in the classic rotation transformed into a witty commentary on sexual consent and respect for women. On top of all that, a portion of the song’s download profits were donated to a charity for abused women! At first, it may seem like a bit of a novelty, but new version of the song is quite an enjoyable listen and certainly finds its way into my Christmas rotation!

4. Andy WilliamsIt’s The Most Wonderful Time of the YearAlbum_The_Andy_Williams_Christmas_Album_cover

     Absolutely nothing sets the Christmas mood like this song! It’s been covered to death, most notably in an hilarious Will Ferrel performance on Saturday Night Live, but no one sings it like Andy, who brings to the track a certain joy and festivity. His voice will forever be an essential part of the Christmas season. On top of the vocals, the song benefits from excellent orchestral instrumentation and quite impressive production for its time.

3. Thurl RavenscroftYou’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch

how-the-grinch-stole-christmasbhrkvh     Nearly as plentiful as Christmas songs are classic Christmas specials which have found their way into the hearts and traditions of many families of the years. Few of these are quite as aesthetically pleasing and comically enjoyable as the 1966 cartoon “How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Along with the cartoon came a fantastic title song notable for a one-of-a-kind performance from the often uncredited Thurl Ravenscroft and the simply wonderful animated scene which accompanies it, along with whimsical instrumentation which bleeds with the passion that powers this project.

2. Bing CrosbyI’ll Be Home For ChristmasScreen Shot 2017-12-25 at 1.08.13 AM.png

     While Crosby is best known for his rendition of “White Christmas,” I prefer one of the most emotional Christmas songs in the modern rotation of classics, on whichCrosby’s vocals are as emotive as they are iconic. The instrumentation is warm and expansive. The true highlight of the track in this case, however, is the universally relatable lyrics. In recent years, the track has been used to represent soldiers who spend their Holiday seasons overseas, but the emotion in this song can move even the hardest of hearts.

1. David PhelpsOh, Holy Night!maxresdefault.jpg

     In all my years of listening to music, I’ve simply never found a tenor with as powerful a voice as David Phelps, and no Christmas melody quite as demanding as that of Oh, Holy Night! Naturally, the two met, and the performance was nothing short of magic. Phelps’ breathy, opening tiptoes and dances, lending an awe-inspiring dynamic to the thundering high notes toward the end. I’ve seen many people lead to tears from the “praise his holy name” line, and until you’ve heard it, you simply can’t understand. Simply put, this is one of the most impressive vocal performances in music history, and that’s why I consider it the greatest Christmas song/performance of all time.

LYDIA LIZA & JOSIAH LEMANSKI – https://youtu.be/amK4U4pCTB8

ANDY WILLIAMS – https://youtu.be/SFGC_YgeQ5w

THURL RAVENSCROFT – https://youtu.be/tWFaP1tkGgM

BING CROSBY – https://youtu.be/dL71eMc1blw

DAVID PHELPS – https://youtu.be/ElJ0fiD0lkc