2014’s 1000th review goes to Taylor ‘Mannequin’ Swift!!!!

Taylor Swift: 1989 (Big Machine, 2014)

Now Miss Swift is not a fan of the streaming services so she’s not on my Beats service so I had to resort to a download site to grab the deluxe version of the record.

The odds that I will make it through this entire record are extremely slim, but I’m gonna give props where I can and I’m gonna denounce the cheese when necessary.

The first tune, Welcome to New York, is a sugary synth biscuit — epic echoes on her vocals, handclaps, a little chainsaw synth action.  Cynical me thinks she wrote this to be played over the public address system at Yankee Stadium so she can pad her bank account.

The second tune begs the question who the fuck dug up the 1980’s drum machines?  Oh, she’s starting in on the orgasm breathing and regular readers know I denounce that manipulative come on vocal styling in the most Stalinist manner possible.  My first props: she writes really good lyrics for 14 year olds.  That may not sound like praise but somebody has to write shit for 14 year olds.

The third tune, Style, sounds like a Williamsburg indie electronic band dry humping Nile Rodger’s leg.  I’m going to ding Miss Swift here as she can’t even carry a watered down funk vibe — she’s about as funky as old ginger ale.  Sweet and flat as fuck.  If she could swing this it wouldn’t be that bad, but she’s woofin’ on this one.

The fourth tune, Out of the Woods, is a nostalgic slower electronic tune.  She’s trying to carry the relatively heavier vibe of this tune and she’s power floundering.  I’m starting to get a feeling that she can sing the notes but she lacks any dimension to her singing.  So she’s a step above Miley Cyrus who can barely carry a tune in a bucket but her inability to really sing makes this a hollow chocolate Easter bunny.  Sweet but with big air pockets.

The fifth tune, All You Had to Do is Stay, has a very annoying repetition of the word ‘stay’.  And on this tune, like other tunes, it is the deployment of multiple vocal tracks that builds the vibe, she’s a surprisingly cold singer.  It goes with the rumor that she’s bad in bed.  Oh,  poor kid.

The sixth tune, Shake it Off, is the one tune where she’s singing more than the other tunes. She’s not killing it, but she’s doing a better job.  Unfortunately, the tune is almost a carbon copy of Andre 3000’s class tune, Hey Ya!  I guess most music writers wouldn’t call her out on this very blatant bite because Taylor is doing big business and nobody in America wants to point out the rip.

Okay, we’re at the seventh tune, I Wish You Would, and it’s a suburban shopping mall dance club banger.  She’s cumming on the mic again, the synths are plastic fantastic, and I’m really feeling like this record does not belong on any best of 2014 music lists.  This one is like one of those greasy cheese stuffed pizzas where the crusts just droops when you pick it up.  I’m thinking she’s had about six tracks of passable material and this tune signals our descent into the toilet.  Big dog woofin’ on this one.

This could be one of my last tunes, I’m starting to feel bad.  Second grade crunk beat and she’s trying to get her black girl on.

Okay, it’s the next day and maybe I war really grumpy and hating on something that’s truly awesome.  Nope.  I’m checking out the tune Bad Blood, and they’ve concocted some very sophisticated Pro Tools vocal trick-nology to cover up her inability to pass emotion.  The last word of the phrase repeated and exploded with a gigantic, spacious reverb.  Let’s be honest, a real singer doesn’t need these crutches.

Last tune I can manage to get through, How You Get Girl.  Poppy strummed acoustic guitar, a straight shopping/popping mall beat, and just a dump truck full of vocal tracks garnished with club music flourishes.

Let’s wrap up this review as I’ve flogged the dead horse pretty thoroughly.  Decent voice, modern sounds, but a shocking lack of soul, very flat singing delivery that’s covered up by production tricks.  The songs are not awful, but they’re far from transcendent.  The idea that this record is on critics’ best of year lists is fairly shocking to me.  There is nothing original going on here, there is very little expression here, this is an absolute triumph of a corrupt, corporate marketing system.

I can’t picture anyone listening to this in the future — after the marketing and the Spotify fight fades away there are just these average, pretty hollow tunes.

I guess that’s America in 2014 — hollowed out, flat, not much soul.

 

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Best of 2014 Pick 19

La Misa Negra: Mesia De Medianoche (NAM Entertainment, 2013)

A blistering cumbia/Latin outfit out of Oaktown.  When their website says they mix a punk energy into the music they are not kidding — this is a relentless, hardcore band.  Great female singer, great melodies and strong rhythms.

There are slower songs on this record, but there’s no ballads here it’s 10 monster shots (plus an intro) to the head.

Support these guys if you can, they’re awesome.

 

Active Music Listening Friday December 19, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 999
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 620
Not good music: 308

Honorable Mentions: 15
Buys: 18

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, About Group, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Kendl Winter, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Debruit, Slidhr, The Whammies, The Chewers, Alexander Hawkins, Cheryl Pyle, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Bio Ritmo, Lenguas Largas, Khun Narin, Doug Seegers, The Coral, Simo Lagnawi, Hush Point, Coffinworm, Akele Wube, Spacesuits, T.O.M.B., Paul Giallorenzo’s Git Go

@@@ Paul Giallorenzo’s GitGo: Force Majeure (Delmark, 2014).  I’m a big fan of this Chicago pianist  and if you’re up for a more energetic workout these guys will oblige.  This is a really strong record with sharp energy, pretty without making your teeth hurt.  It features the vastly underrated reeds player Mars Williams and other Chicago local heavyweights.  To my ears Giallorenzo’s compositions are influenced by Monk without mindless recycling.  I think this record should have made a bunch of year end lists instead of the sleepy time tea corporate jazz that dominates and slowly strangles jazz.

@@@ Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 3 (Okeh, 2014).  This live jazz record was the #1 jazz record in Slate’s Best Jazz of 2014.  Medium high swinging with plenty of space for soloing.  The electric bass lends a fusion-y vibe to the proceedings and the emphasis here is on pretty.  I appreciate aspects of the record and find parts of it too snoozy for my taste.

@@@ Kenny Barron & Dave Holland (Impulse!, 2014).  I’m a big fan of Dave Holland’s bass playing but get out the flavored coffee and the thick sweater because this is an unabashed snoozer.  Piano and bass duets with too much sugar.  This was another monster shot from the Slate best jazz biscuits of 2014.

 

Active Music Listening Thursday December 18, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 996
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 618
Not good music: 308

Honorable Mentions: 15
Buys: 17

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, About Group, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Kendl Winter, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Debruit, Slidhr, The Whammies, The Chewers, Alexander Hawkins, Cheryl Pyle, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Bio Ritmo, Lenguas Largas, Khun Narin, Doug Seegers, The Coral, Simo Lagnawi, Hush Point, Coffinworm, Akele Wube, Spacesuits, T.O.M.B.

@@@ Propaganda: Crimson Cord (Humble Beast, 2014).  His last record made my best of year list for the year it was released.  Propaganda is a Christian MC but he’s not soft the way a lot of Christian metal seems soft and not authentic.  I’m going to roll back on this record and check it out some more but I really liked the history that was in Excellent, and this one is little heavier on the religious themes.  I will check it out more, as a I said, because this guy does something really unique but that’s my first impression.

http://youtu.be/iqJT7F2OD7Q

@@@ Hail Mary Mallon: Bestiary (Rhymesayers, 2014).  Both of these listens are off the All Music best of 2014 hip hop.  I really like the beats and the bass in the first tune is awesome.  Really strong funky arrangements, it’s not jump up and down material for me but this is very well done.

@@@ Cozz: Cozz & Effect (The Committee/Dreamville/Interscope, 2014).  Dreams of riches out of the hood, medium gangsta style.  Bitches really on the dick now, apparently.  Gunshot samples in the arrangement of the first tune.  Eh, this shit doesn’t work for me — I understand why poor folks dream of being rich, but I don’t need to listen to it.

Active Music Listening Wednesday December 17, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 993
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 615
Not good music: 308

Honorable Mentions: 15
Buys: 17

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, About Group, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Kendl Winter, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Debruit, Slidhr, The Whammies, The Chewers, La Misa Negra, Alexander Hawkins, Cheryl Pyle, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Bio Ritmo, Lenguas Largas, Khun Narin, Doug Seegers, The Coral, Simo Lagnawi, Hush Point, Coffinworm, Akele Wube, Spacesuits, T.O.M.B.

@@@ Busdriver: Perfect Hair (Ninja Tune, 2014).  More left field hip hop off the All Music best of 2014 hip hop.  The MC has a purposely odd flow — he’s not art school because his flow is not soft but there are points when he gets Thelonious Monk angular on his words.  Certainly not always as he changes his vocal rhythm at his discretion.  While I don’t love this (I really like it B+) it definitely gets points for creativity and uniqueness and he blows it up on the tune Upsweep.  As I said, this is some very creativity and heartfelt music and folks should check it out.  And one of my favorite rappers Open Mike Eagle makes a guest spot on this record.

@@@ Cormega: Mega Philosophy (Slim Style, 2014).  As titled, a mega/big picture hip hop record off the All Music best of 2014.  I’ll Duck Duck Go his bio, but he sounds like a New Yorker.  He’s got a stripped down production sound with pretty tough beats with a pretty urgent flow.  Okay, gold stars for me, he’s from Queens.  I like the beats and he really hits his stride on the tune clipped below.

@@@ Calle 13: Multiviral (Sony Latin, 2014).  Puerto Rican hip hop off the All Music best of 2014 list.  I have no clue what they’re rapping about, but I’m not super into the production of the tunes.  I tend to shy away from strings in my hip hop and there’s an  undercover arena rock Bon Jovi vibe kicking’ around.  Yo, I’m just one gringo so check it out for yourself.

@@@ Aleister X: Keepin’ It Real (Golden Haze Society, 2014).  Off the All Music best of 2014 hip hop.  I can see how they put this in the hip hop section, but it’s got generous amounts of rock ‘n roll and psych reverb on the guitar and the voice.  In a word, Williamsburg hop.  I theorize that having a British accent on a record in America allows you to engage and get away with all sorts of cheesy antics.  Duder’s flow is weak and in general it’s a weak biscuit.  C+.  Keepin’ it real, my ass.

Active Music Listening Tuesday December 16, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 989
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 612
Not good music: 307

Honorable Mentions: 15
Buys: 17

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, About Group, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Kendl Winter, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Debruit, Slidhr, The Whammies, The Chewers, La Misa Negra, Alexander Hawkins, Cheryl Pyle, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Bio Ritmo, Lenguas Largas, Khun Narin, Doug Seegers, The Coral, Simo Lagnawi, Hush Point, Coffinworm, Akele Wube, Spacesuits, T.O.M.B.

It’s the first day of Channukah and as we all know the first thing the Jews did when they gained they drove out the Syrians and set up their temple again — they spun some good heavy metal to get the lead out and celebrate.

@@@ The Body: I Shall Die Here (RVNG Intl, 2014).  #2 on the Quietus’ best metal records of 2014.  The opener, To Carry the Seeds of Death Within Me, is dark, slow and distorted.  Excellent destroyed bass sound to go with the crushed drums and the high goblin squeak.  It’s a good tune, but I’m wanting a bit more.  There’s a long spoken intro with some dub style snare action on the second tune.  I love the bass sound, but this is a bit too art school for my taste — I like the ambient sections but I wanted the crush.

@@@ Solstafir: Otta (Season of Mist, 2014).  Opens up epic with some piano, some wispy synth and a solemn voice.  Opera metal intro which usually leads to a classic metal smashup after you’ve been pulled in by the gentleness.  Oh my, this is quite a log intro, oops there it is.  The second tune opens up with another slow, ambient intro and to be honest I came for the beatdown.  Wears my punch in the face?

@@@ At the Gates: At War With Reality (Century Media, 2014).  #4 on the Quietus’ metal of the year.  Opens up with a Spanish voice that slowly descends into noise and……here we go.  A tasty thrash with some alternating single line guitar wang that bumps into power chord spanking.  A very solid, post hardcore type of singing — more yelling than Caveman action.  The title tune gets into a more classic metal shredding neighborhood, some wicked guitar action and some drumming that is less thrashy and more heavy rock mixed with the double kick gob smacker.  This is the best record of the three I listened to today but none of these are best of year material for me.

 

Active Music Listening Monday December 15, 2014

YTD recordings listened to: 986
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 609
Not good music: 307

Honorable Mentions: 15
Buys: 17

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Chris McGregor, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, About Group, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Kendl Winter, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Debruit, Slidhr, The Whammies, The Chewers, La Misa Negra, Alexander Hawkins, Cheryl Pyle, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Bio Ritmo, Lenguas Largas, Khun Narin, Doug Seegers, The Coral, Simo Lagnawi, Hush Point, Coffinworm, Akele Wube, Spacesuits, T.O.M.B..

@@@ T.O.M.B.: Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy III (Todestrieb Records, 2014).  Off last week’s Aquarius Records weekly email.  A mashup of industrial, metal, and chaos.  This is some brutal noise music and the distorted voice is effectively disturbing.  The second tune is more of a band thing and it’s more metallic while retaining a static guitar blast and a distorted as fuck voice.  I’m hearing this more as an alienated vibe rather than a demonic, satanic vibe.  I’m going to check this out more when I have a chance.

@@@ Alsarah and the Nubatones: Silt (Wonderwheel, 2014).  Some Middle Eastern hybrid music off WRIR’s end of 2014 best of list.  I really like the opener, the female singer is excellent and the arrangement and vibe is atypical.  Modern sounding but not poppy, and traditional at the same time.  Instrumentation is hand drums/percussion, bass, a stringed instrument I would not dare to try to identify, and vocals.  I really like the singer and the playing, but it doesn’t quite make the cut for me.  Check it out.

@@@ Mamani Keita: Kanou (World Village, 2014).  In the honorable mention section of WRIR’s best of 2014.  Beatiful female vocals and a mostly laid-back arrangement with a pleasant sharp electric guitar stabbing through the mix.  It’s a fairly familiar set of sounds except for the funkier electric guitar.