Hey there everyone, and welcome to the first Andrew’s Music Reviews blogpost. As of this writing I have been an amateur music critic for a little under two years, and after hosting my content on two different YouTube channels I decided the time has come to move to a print medium, largely due to time restrictions in my personal life, and the rolling back of advertising revenue for smaller channels making the running of a YouTube channel very much not worth the time. We start off our journey with the first part of my top 20 favourite albums that I listened to this year list.
My journey of music discovery continued in earnest this year, and, while it hasn’t always been easy, I have significantly expanded my tastes as compared to this time last year, and that made it easier for me to evaluate the music coming into my life viewed through the lens of what I knew and liked. Unlike 2016, where I primarily focused on the charts, album listening was the theme of 2017 – mostly because the quality of the charts took a substantial hit in 2016 and got even worse in 2017 – and I ended up listening to a grand total of 145 albums throughout the year. I’m here today to count down the best of the best – the top 20. But before I do that, allow me to make up for the lack of a best list this year by pointing you to some great songs that are not discussed at other points in this post.
–Cut To The Feeling by Carly Rae Jepsen
–Sign Of The Times by Harry Styles
–Love On The Brain by Rihanna
–Water Under The Bridge by Adele
–Green Light by Lorde
–Versace On The Floor by Bruno Mars
Ignoring Cut To The Feeling, which I felt compelled to shout out merely due to its quality, these were all the charting songs of the year that I thought were notable. Out of the hundreds of charting songs, a grand total of five made me care about them at all. Small wonder I won’t get to doing any more current chart rankings any time soon.
But, grousing about the dismal state of the charts aside, let us get right into our countdown.
20. Grimes – Art Angels
Starting off the list this year is the most recent studio album from Grimes. It sets the tone for the rest of the list (spoilers) by being a pop album, although one that is slightly on the unusual side.
Grimes came onto the scene in 2010, and in the five years afterwards released three albums, none of which I really cared for. The majority of them were made up of these very spacey, ambient, almost ethereal tracks. While not bad albums, per se, they were really not my cup of tea. I did, however, find myself gravitating towards Art Angels, her poppier and more accessible 2015 release. At no point could it be considered a “sellout” project, mind you – some more bizarre aspects of her persona shine through on this album, and that’s mostly on the tracks that I would consider my least favourites off of the project. The two tracks with features, Scream featuring Aristophanes, and Venus Fly featuring Janelle Monae are probably my least favourites. Scream is a song that I feel doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the album at all. It’s a very harsh, almost industrial sounding spoken word track – the whiplash that comes from following it up with the bright, bouncy Flesh Without Blood is significant. I’d understand its inclusion on previous releases, but on this album, it just felt like it didn’t belong.
Kill V. Maim is a song that I did understand a little bit better in the context of the album, although I can’t say it’s a particular favourite of mine in any case. It’s an odd, and slightly manic song for sure, and not one that I’ve found myself seeking out since I first heard the album back in November.
However, there are many excellent pop songs on this record as well, and that is where, in my opinion, the project really shines. The tunes are there, Grimes is a fairly compelling performer, and lyrically it’s one of the most creative albums I’ve ever listened to. California is one track that immediately comes to mind – how often are you going to hear a diss track against Pitchfork, of all things? The composition sounds great, as do the backing vocals, especially on the outro of the song. I also really liked Butterfly, which is supposed to be written from the perspective of a butterfly in the Amazon as trees get cut down, and Artangels, probably my favourite song on the project, written as an ode to her hometown of Montreal. And hell, although I’m not fully sure about the song itself, Kill V. Maim also gets points for creativity – in this case it’s a reimagining of Al Pacino as seen in The Godfather Part II, except he’s also a gender-fluid vampire that can travel to space. I have no idea where any of this came from, but it’s so out of the blue and strange that I have no choice but to respect it.
Some noteworthy instrumental moments on this album include the synth solo on the outros of Kill V. Maim and Realiti, the guitar on the intro to Artangels and the synth that opens Butterfly. On the other hand, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the post-chorus drop/breakdown/whatever the fuck you want to call it on Easily. Brings back bad memories of The Chainsmokers’ Don’t Let Me Down. The rest of the song is pretty, great though.
All in all, despite the fact that I don’t care for everything Grimes is doing here, I really enjoyed this project. Check out this out, if you can: I can’t promise you’ll love it, but it’s worth a listen nevertheless. A decent 8/10 from me.
2017 represented a significant shift in my music tastes, as I began to move away from a lot of pop rock and towards more pure pop albums. Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy were shuffled out of my rotation in favour of Carly Rae Jepsen, Taylor Swift, and Marina & The Diamonds, among others, with Paramore remaining the sole artist consistently in my rotation. However, that’s not to say that there weren’t ANY pop rock albums that stuck with me. Here is the first of a few.
19. Green Day – American Idiot
I’m not the biggest fan of Green Day, and in fact besides this album I haven’t been particularly blown away by any of their other releases. This is, however, a very well made album. I’m not that enamored with the heavy handed political messages of it, sure, but I think it’s best viewed as a story about angsty youth, the despair of living in the suburbs, and how they are forced to reevaluate their worldview after experiencing the real world, with the political atmosphere is just an overarching backdrop, rather than the main focus of the project. That’s not to say that I’m against political records, period – in part 2 I will be discussing and praising a fairly great album namely for its political themes, I just don’t think that Green Day’s approach to it was all that effective.
There’s a lot of really great songs on here – the long, meandering “Jesus Of Suburbia”, broken down into five different movements, is probably my favourite from the album. There are many varied moments and the song does an excellent job of introducing us to the album’s main character, and showing what’s going on in their head. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams and Wake Me When September Ends are of course classics, and I also really like Whatsername, especially the bridge and outro, even though I’m personally not a fan of the way that they left the plotline ambiguous and open to interpretation. Don’t just leave me hanging, what the hell happened to these kids???
On the other hand, there are a few songs that I don’t think are all that great. Part of the reason why this album is so early on this countdown is because, besides the aforementioned four songs, there aren’t really many songs on here that I would want to seek out individually. It’s one of those projects that is far stronger as a whole than on an individual track-by-track level. Related to that, the title track is probably my least favourite song on the album. The decision to open the album with THAT instead of Jesus Of Suburbia is one of the most confusing decisions of the 21st century, and of course, it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb because it has nothing to do with the plotline of the actual album. I don’t think it sounds that great, either; the melodies just aren’t that strong, and the vocal filter put over Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice sounds pretty awful. Some of the technical songwriting here, too, is lacking… such as “everybody do the propaganda”. I’m sure they must have felt this was a very clever play on words, but it’s not… it’s just kinda dumb.
I’m similarly not particularly a fan of Are We The Waiting, mostly for its chorus, which is rather bland, or Homecoming, which is alright for the first four or so minutes, but starting with that reprise of the “nobody likes you” taunt from earlier in the album, it kind of goes downhill. If there’s ever been a convincing argument that bands have lead singers for a reason, and that the other members tend not to be suited to life behind the microphone, this is it. Tre Cool’s “Rock And Roll Girlfriend” segment, in particular, sounds like what all rock music sounds like to someone who hates rock.
Despite these problems, however, I did find this to be a very enjoyable album, and so I feel that a decent 8/10 is in order. Check it out.
18. Marina & The Diamonds – FROOT
This is a very good pop album, but it is not without its problems, which I will cover first.
To start off, the title track is guilty of the same lyrical sins as Katy Perry’s Bon Appetit, which I panned the fuck out of in my worst of 2017 video. And to be fair, Marina is a better lyricist than Katy Perry, so the results aren’t quite as horrific, but I still can’t really endorse this. Songwriters, take note: comparing your sexual appeal to foodstuffs has never worked, ever! On this song it’s a special kind of disaster, because she spends the first verse and pre-chorus comparing herself to a fruit hanging around on a tree ready to be juiced – *clap* bravo *clap* – but then on the second verse, to stimulate her partner’s appetite a bit more, she tells them that, if they don’t pay attention to her, birds and worms will come for her and she will rot away.
You’ll fucking what? And this imagery is supposed to entice this person? Musically, it’s not too bad, but she gravitates towards her higher register in the pre-chorus, and it doesn’t sound that good, either, but largely my problems with the track are due to the lyrics.
Another track I have a problem with, lyrically speaking, is Savages – and its inclusion in the album perhaps highlights the problem with the title track even more. This is not a particularly happy or joyous album; a lot of it deals in existentialism, corruption in the music industry, and toxic relationships, and then you have this corny sex song and you just get so much whiplash.
Savages specifically is a song I don’t like due to the problematic ideology it presents. It’s not the ideas presented in the first verse; yeah, people can be really, REALLY fucking shitty to each other, I’m completely with you – but then the chorus comes in, in which she proposes that we are all inherently savages, and the way we hide behind business attire and relationships is essentially like putting a lipstick on a pig. Then, in the second verse, she says “we steal, we kill, we lie” – I’m sorry, who the fuck is “we”? My big problem with the premise behind this song is the implication that humans are inherently evil, which is a point of view that I don’t at all subscribe to, nor can I condone it cropping up in the media that I consume. I am loathe to hold any group accountable for the actions of individuals in that said group – in the same way that Europeans can’t feel collective pride for the accomplishments of individuals like Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky or Da Vinci, so too it is immoral to blame the collective human race for any events they had no involvement in. This was one of the earliest songs I’ve listened to from Marina & The Diamonds, and I in fact stayed away from her work for the longest time because of it. Even though I do like her music now, this is not a song I can, in good conscience, endorse.
These are both pretty scathing indictments against the album, but I am pleased to report that the rest of it is a very, very good project. The production on a lot of these songs is very vibrant and colourful; suitable for a project called Froot; you have some great melodies, such as on the chorus of I’m A Ruin, the chorus and bridge of Happy, all of Gold, as well as some really nice production choices, such as the pop-rock sounding Forget, the slightly distorted guitar line on the bridge of Weeds, or the choir-inspired vocals on the chorus of Blue.
There’s some interesting lyrical ideas going on here as well. For example, the aforementioned Savages: what other pop albums have you heard that explore the nature of humanity? It is a unique idea, so I’ll give it credit for creativity, even if I do think that the execution of that idea was poorly handled at best. This is then followed up in the tracklisting by Immortal, a rather bleak ballad about the timelessness of love even in the face of death. In a sad way, it is a nice little song, and much more within Marina’s wheelhouse. Additionally, in contrast with Savages, the metaphor used on Weeds is a rather inspired choice. Then you have the track Happy, which… while I’m a little dubious as to how well it fits within the album due to the rather dark headspaces that she occupies for much of the project, if you don’t look at it as a concept album (which I don’t believe it is) but more as a standalone track it is one of my favourites off the album. You just… don’t really hear a lot of songs about being happy, you know? I like the lyrical sentiment, the production is solid, the melodies are fantastic… all around good stuff. The track I’m A Ruin is one that shares a lot of positive elements with Happy, although it is a rather miserable song, one that reads very much like a mutually harmful relationship that she knows she has to let go of. It is rather potent stuff, although I will nitpick that the vagueness of the lyric “I’ve been doing things I shouldn’t do” doesn’t exactly compliment the narrative very well – what exactly has she been up to? Was she doing drugs? Was she seeing other people? She’s usually a pretty detailed lyricist – Weeds, Better Than That and even Froot prove this in spades – so the omission of this detail feels a little bizzare. Otherwise, I’ve got no issues with the track.
With all that being said, I feel a decent 8/10 is appropriate for this album. An interesting, fairly creative pop album brought down by some questionable lyrical choices in a couple of the tracks.
This year, Canadian pop singer-songwriter Allie X released her debut album, Collxtion II, and a decent amount of my friends were all over it. I liked it, personally, but I wasn’t quite blown away by it. But then I went back through her discography, and listened to her debut EP, which was much more to my personal tastes.
17. Allie X – CollXtion I
This EP is what I imagine everyone who was enamoured with Collxtion II saw in it, because this is pretty fantastic. Allie X has a gift for writing great, melodic hooks, and often brings forward some interesting lyrical ideas as well. Almost every song on this EP is electropop perfection, with some standout tracks including PRIME, an ode to youthful hedonism, and SANCTUARY, probably my favourite on the album. This swelling, anthemic track is an ode to a relationship, and it sounds absolutely incredible. The chorus is bursting with energy and melody, and the bridge is similarly strong, enhanced by the adlibs peppered in at the back of the mix on its reprise at the end of the song.
I also really love GOOD and NEVER ENOUGH, although the lyrical sentiments of both of these tracks are a… little bit on the vague side, I have no idea what they’re supposed to be about. They sound fantastic, though.
Unfortunately, this string of FANTASTIC tracks hits a speedbump with the tracks TUMOUR and BITCH, which are both surprisingly awful songs that feel really out of place on this EP. TUMOUR is pretty listenable, but the imagery that is used to depict this break up is… rather disgusting, if I’m being completely honest, it really ruins my enjoyment of the song. BITCH, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer because of its lyrical content, but in the fact that it sounds really, REALLY bad. The verses give off a rather unsettling, horror movie type vibe, while in the pre-chorus, she runs away with that concept and begins belting in her otherwordly sounding upper register – not a good thing. The chorus further builds upon that vibe, but also applies a horrible, insane, ear-splitting filter over her voice as well. It’s a manic sounding song, and not at all in a good way – it sounds like something I’d hear in a slasher film or something like that, and it doesn’t fit in with the sonic stylings of the project AT ALL. As a result the EP suffers.
Not too badly, mind you, because the good songs are there – but man, if this couldn’t be even better. As it is, it’s merely an 8/10.
16. Betty Who – Take Me When You Go
I was pretty big on this album for about a week back in the summer, and although I’m not as into it as I was, that’s mainly due to everything around it getting better, rather than the album itself actually getting worse.
As has been the case for a lot of the albums on this list, I don’t have any particularly unique insights on this album in particular as compared to a lot of others. I just think that this album manages to deliver on a lot of what I look for in consistently good pop music. It’s catchy, it’s fun, and the fact that it’s an 80s pastiche certainly doesn’t hurt the project either.
In terms of strong tracks from the album… well, Somebody Loves You and All Of You were the songs that I remembered from hearing a few years back, so obviously they can’t go unmentioned, but my favourite from the project would probably have to be High Society, which is one of the best pop songs I’ve ever listened to. Love the synths and backing vocals on the chorus, and the pre-choruses sound absolutely incredible. Other noteworthy moments include the verses on Alone Again, and off the deluxe edition of the album, Giving Me Away and You’re In Love.
Some weaker moments on this album come through both in terms of technical songwriting and on a musical level. I think that the songwriting is what lets down this record most consistently – Glory Days tries what is in, in my mind, the musical version of a hangout comedy (a la Friends or How I Met Your Mother) – it tries to paint an image of a varied social group, each with their own life stories and adventures, but I just didn’t find myself particularly invested in any of their experiences. Better is fine for the most part, but the post-chorus – with pitch shifted vocals overlayed over a regular vocal line to boot – sounds fairly basic and doesn’t really make the relationship sound all that interesting. I find the vocal inflections on the chorus of Runaways somewhat irritating as well, which is a shame because the rest of the song is solid. Then there’s the song Silas off of the deluxe edition, which is… probably one of the most boring songs I’ve ever listened to.
This album has its problems, but I’d say that the high points outweigh the low points by a considerable margin, so I feel an 8/10 is appropriate.
15. Marina & The Diamonds – The Family Jewels
Marina & The Diamonds makes her second appearance on this list, this time with her 2010 album. This is, in my view, the superior of the two projects, namely because I find its musical stylings to be more consistently engaging, and the problematic lyricism that plagued Froot isn’t here, for the most part. Even if I’m not entirely sure about Guilty.
This album is a very theatrical and over the top take on indie pop. There are string arrangements, bombastic choruses, and lyrics that speak to a very typical milennial’s existential dissatisfaction. I think she blends these elements very well for the most part, producing a project that is equally engaging and satisfying on a musical and lyrical level. Standout tracks on this project vary, from the individualistic take on fame in Hollywood, to the depiction of OCD in Obsessions. You then have tracks like Oh No! and Are You Satisfied?, which are more general laments of how deeply unsatisfying one’s life can get, or Numb and I Am Not A Robot, about the inability to emotionally open up to someone. I think it’s all very well written for the most part – the album kept me engaged and invested in its narrative throughout.
There are issues on here, though. Mowgli’s Road is a good example of the production getting a bit too much on this album. What sounds like a rather irritating imitation of a coo-coo clock on the intro and post-chorus, her vocals on the bridge that make her sound like a cartoon witch… the song would’ve been fine otherwise, but these elements bring it down considerably. These vocal problems are also there on the second verse of Hermit The Frog. Then there’s Guilty… its rather mechanical sounding beat sounds pretty out of place, and the lyrics are… well, I haven’t really been able to make sense of them even months after I’d first heard the project. I believe they’re based on a nightmare she had, but without knowing that context they sound REALLY bad. That being said, even if they’re not based on an actual event that happened, I’m not sure what the message that they’re trying to convey is, in all honesty, and therefore I have no idea what the purpose of the song is supposed to be. I don’t really think that doing something violent in a dream is cause for concern, but… to each their own.
Despite these issues, however, I like this project a fair bit. 8/10.
Kanye West. Love him or hate him, just bringing up his name is sure to spark some very strong emotions. For better or worse, he is one of the most controversial figures in recent music history, not one that it is easy to be neutral on. For my part, prior to this year I was fairly ambivalent on him as an artist, but after having gone through his entire solo discography, I can’t say my opinion has changed all that dramatically.
He’s put out some music I’ve enjoyed, and some music I haven’t. At all. The Life of Pablo was a dreadful album that felt more like the insane ramblings of a disturbed lunatic than someone who had a coherent artistic vision. Or any artistic vision, for that matter. Yeezus was one of the most grating, joyless albums I’ve listened to in my life. His pre-2008 output had some great tracks here and there, but they mingled with disasters like The New Workout Plan and Drunk and Hot Girls. Between his varied output over the years, and the at times toxic public personality he has brought forward, it was very easy for me to write him off in the years past. Hell, when some of his antics over the years wouldn’t be too out of place in the comments section of an Anthony Fantano review, he hasn’t always presented the most likeable personality. But even I have to admit, when he’s good, he’s really good.
14. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
While not the most ambitious or experimental album in Kanye’s discography, it is the most straight forward of his albums, and the one that I think had the most quality brought to the table. As I mentioned before, while I enjoyed bits and pieces of his pre-808s output, all of those albums often felt overly long, with some highly questionable musical and even lyrical choices in spots. While I did enjoy My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to some extent, I was of the opinion that there was a not insignificant amount of tracks you could have cut or shortened without really losing sight of the bigger picture.
I think 808s & Heartbreak works as well as it does because it keeps a lot of the positive elements of other Kanye albums, without a lot of the weaker elements that brought them down. The album is fairly short by the standards of a Kanye project, and each track feels like it has a point. Like it has a reason for existing. The production, while fairly unconventional sounding, is still listenable, and the album is also stronger for not having any skits or interludes, or stupidly long tracks that go nowhere that could’ve been shortened. Well, if you ignore Say You Will, but even at its six minute running time it’s still not as problematic as, say, Runaway – a song that I do like, for the record, but there was no reason for the autotuned outro.
I find Kanye to be at his most engaging, lyrically speaking, when he’s just venting his emotions, and abandons all his swagger and ego. For that reason too, I find this album to be the strongest out of his discography. The stories that he presents are captivating and really humanize him, especially to people like me who had thought that he was so lost in his fame that he was no longer a character the everyman could relate to or empathize with. Not so; tracks like Bad News, Street Lights and Love Lockdown hit me like a ton of bricks, and coupled with the more downbeat electropop stylings they made for quite the listening experience.
Of course, this project isn’t perfect – the worst song on here is See You In My Nightmares, mostly due to Lil Wayne putting forward an… uneven performance. He attempts to make up for this in his actual verse, but he does that by straining his voice past its listenable limits. And I mean, if he wanted to channel the horror vibe the song puts forward, I guess he succeeded at it… too bad he sounds awful.
Overall, however, I’d say I enjoyed this project. Kanye was in his element, musically, and the stories he shared on this project were by far the most engrossing as well. I’m giving it a decent 8/10 and a recommendation.
13. Taylor Swift – Speak Now
12. Taylor Swift – Red
Despite the gap in release dates and different co-writers, I would say that these two albums are fairly similiar, and it makes the most sense to compare them and discuss them together.
I have not been at all enamoured with Taylor Swift’s output this year, but that’s not to say that I don’t consider myself a fan, albeit rather late to the party. I sat down and listened to all her albums this year, and the one that I was taken with almost immediately was Red. Despite the rather immature tone of We Are Never Getting Back Together, and the head scratching inclusion of the dubstep breakdown which served no tangible purpose in the composition of I Knew You Were Trouble, this is pretty great. Upon relisten, I also found myself feeling similarly about Speak Now, which I think is the slightly inferior album, but not by very much at all.
Taylor Swift is a very talented songwriter, and these two albums demonstrate that perhaps more than any others in her discography. Her lyricism, intricate and detailed, really pulls you into her world. The instrumentation strikes a perfect balance between pop and country, and, speaking as someone who has never been into country, made it rather enjoyable for a larger audience. I liked 1989 a decent amount, but I think that the most consistently strong songs in her career have been the ballads that were put forward on these two albums. All Too Well, Back To December, Innocent, The Last Time, Come Back… Be Here; these songs combine strong lyricism with stripped back but still powerful instrumentation to create a set of lovely tunes to listen to in the dead of winter while it snows outside. I really must shout out, in particular, Treacherous, for having the most magical bridge of 2012, and Enchanted, for taking something as mundane and regular as meeting someone for the first time and making it into an engaging romantic song. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t also more up beat songs that are just as good, however – I’ve had my problems with 22 in the past, but I think I’m at the stage in my life where I can look the other way when it comes to the lyrics and realize that it’s an excellent sounding pop song. Haunted, essentially a symphonic rock track, is another standout song, as it should be because vocally it sounds like it was taken from Paramore in their Brand new eyes era. It’s dramatic and over the top, but, unlike Look What You Made Me Do or Bad Blood, she completely and totally sells me on the track.
Lyrically, there are some very very strong tracks as well. Back To December is the most mature and nuanced song of Taylor’s career, but it’s followed closely with Innocent, a song which I think was written to Kanye after the VMA incident. The song is basically the antithesis to This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – it seems genuinely benevolent and forgiving, without ever seeming condescending or unpleasant. *sigh* What happened, Taylor? Why couldn’t Reputation have been like this? Oh, and I also must give credit to Girl At Home, a track off the deluxe edition of Red, for being one of the only songs in existence which acknowledges that going along with some guy who is cheating on his partner would be a stupid idea and it would just end up hurting the person who was left at home. If more people had this level of self-awareness and consideration for others, the world of dating would be a better place.
I do have to offer a bit by way of criticism: I’ve already explained my issues with the two singles from Red, so I won’t talk about them again, but I wanted to bring your attention to Mean and Better Than Revenge, both from Speak Now. Concerning the former; this is nowhere close to being as bad as Shake It Off or Bad Blood, but I’ve always been of the opinion that Taylor is not very good at attacking people in her songs, and it’s just as true on this song as it ever has been. It’s a very tame song, both lyrically and musically, and I’m not entirely sure what she was aiming to achieve, having written it the way she did. Better Than Revenge, on the other hand, is essentially Paramore’s Misery Business: you can really see her friendship with Hayley Williams rubbing off here, because, lyrically speaking, this song does literally everything Misery Business did: catty, high school drama, treating the guy that they’re feuding over like an object and never stopped to consider how he felt about the situation. I don’t really like the song, not for what it does as a standalone track and even less for how liberally it reuses the ideas of Misery Business.
Despite this, however, I think that these are both great albums. The low points are mediocre rather than being outright offensive, and the high points are fucking transcendent. What I wouldn’t give to hear another Taylor Swift album like these two. So many people talk about Style, and they’re right, it’s an incredible song, but the song I would like to see another of is Treacherous, hands down the best song of 2012. An 8/10 for both of these releases, and a recommendation for both.
So apparently, there’s this new trend where every year, an album is released that is widely hated by everybody, and it ends up fairly high on my best albums of the year list. Last year we had Panic! At The Disco’s Death Of A Bachelor, which was universally agreed to be a terrible album for reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, and this year we have…
11. Bleachers – Gone Now
Bleachers’ sophomore project is messy. Very messy, in fact. It tries a lot of things that don’t really work. Tracks like Goodmorning and All My Heroes have certain elements playing on only audio channel; Everybody Lost Somebody, Don’t Take The Money and Hate That You Know Me have plenty of unnecessary spoken word bits that distract from absolutely fantastic melodies. There’s all kinds of weird sounds thrown into the mix like the sounds of crying babies. On paper, nothing about this should work.
And yet, it’s Bleachers. When Jack Antonoff is not sampling bizzare 90s novelty rap songs and is instead in full control of the music creation process, he can put together a pretty great piece of work. He has an ear for FANTASTIC vocal melodies, and a gift for engaging storytelling. So, with this in mind, I am more than willing to look past some of the album’s weaker points, and despite the annoying production I’ve even come around on Goodmorning and All My Heroes; the latter of which is not only one of my favourite songs off the album but one of my favourites of the year in general. The hook and outro are fantastic, and I really enjoy the lyrical sentiment about trying to be the best you can especially during difficult times; it’s as positive, which is something you don’t get a lot on a Bleachers album, as it is inspiring, so I’m more than willing to look past the deficiencies in the production.
I Miss Those Days is another highlight; probably the best song off the project because its’ the most straightforward pop song on it. Again, wonderful vocal melodies; probably Jack Antonoff’s specialty; and the lyrics sum up the feeling of being nostalgic for times that might not have seemed so great while you were living them very well. Some other standout tracks, to me, are Everybody Lost Somebody, Nothing Is U, and I’m Ready To Move On / Mickey Mantle Reprise. The tunes are strong, the production – for the most part anyway – is solid and creates an captivating atmosphere, and I found myself completely and totally invested in the words that were being said – be they about loss, depression or love. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Jack Antonoff writing for Bleachers. Fantastic stuff.
I can’t say I outright dislike any songs on this record. My least favourite from the tracklisting would have to be Goodbye, and that was due to the spoken word monologue from Lena Dunham distracting from another great melody line more than anything else. The usage of falsetto on the verses of Foreign Girls, too, is a bit to the song’s detriment; sung in a lower register, the song would’ve been fantastic, as it is it’s merely decent. But hey, I’m just nitpicking here. I really liked this project, all things considered, one of my favourites of the year. I’m feeling a decent 8/10. Please don’t listen to it, my poor heart can’t take anymore.
And on that note, that concludes part 1 of this countdown. Tune in in a few days’ time to read the remainder of this list.