Nightman Listens To – Code Orange – Underneath (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Another highly rated album from 2020 to cover today, and another one I have absolutely zero knowledge of. In fact, before writing this introduction I had to check on my original 2020 post to see which publication listed this album as one of their favourites. It was Kerrang, so this must be a Metal album. At the very least an album with guitars, given that Kerrang goes after all sorts these days. That’s all I know, but maybe the artwork will tell me something.

It’s a fleshy, cyborg, alien thing? It’s a bit like if Iron Maiden’s Eddie were a nerd, but was kidnapped by a Cenobite and then placed in one of Jigsaw’s traps. It doesn’t tell me much. Is it meant to be a violent, brutal image so the album will be violent and brutal? For any new readers – I write my intro before I’ve heard a single note of the album, but by the time we jump to the next paragraph I will have listened to the whole thing multiple times. Lets get to it.

You know, that image is a fairly accurate representation of the music – it’s the sort of music a demented AI might make if the only data it had to go on was Nursery Rhymes and 2010s Hardcore Metal. On one hand it’s fairly straight screamy shouty metal – brutal vocals song by boys who are angry because mommy wouldn’t let them ‘go out with hair like that’, thunderous drumming, and crushing riffs – but on the other hand you have an album deliberately broken with audio glitches and defects. The music will cut out without warning or begin to judder and skip like a dust ridden CD, and many of riffs have been distorted to sound like they have been heavily processed through multiple rusty filters and failing laptops. It’s cool, but the effect doesn’t have the same impact on multiple listens or by the time the final track comes around. It’s probably the most notable aspect of the album and what distinguishes this from the thousands of other Hardcore albums out there, which are generally very samey. It is a cool effect, it is overdone, but at least they mix up those effects with a variety and intensity that it does catch you off guard and create a sort of unique vibe. Of course, this glitching and trickery is not exactly original – The Music’s debut way back in 2002 had plenty of these stoppy starty shenanigans – but I don’t know how regularly it has been used in Metal. I wonder if these guys are fans of The Music – there’s a moment in Autumn And Carbine which is suspiciously reminiscent of the electro beats used in The Music’s third album. That seems highly unlikely.

I must admit to laughing and enjoying the opening track, because all the deliberately off-putting sound, screeches, and distortion is exactly the sort of ‘experimental music’ I was making more than 10 years ago. I have hundreds (literally) of ‘songs’ like this and when I have time I add the odd one to Youtube to terrify people. That intro builds nicely – I like a long instrumental intro to build anticipation and set tone and mood, but when this happens on an especially good intro I’m internally praying ‘don’t ruin it with the vocals don’t ruin it with the vocals’. In general I’m not a fan of Hardcore vocals because they crush the individuality of the voice and enforce limitations. I can take them in short bursts but this is the genre we’re in so it should be expected and evaluated as such. The album isn’t all shouts and screams – there are minor instances of clean female vocals and the songs which deftly balance the harsh with the clean, the light with the dark, such as Sulfur Surrounding are the most successful at sticking in my memory.

That’s the greatest quandary I have with this genre and the album. Hardcore, and plenty of other metal sub genres have a lack of melody and variety; little variety of emotion, little to no variety in vocal melody, and it’s all about as many downtuned basic riffs and how much shouty shouting you can shout. If you like Hardcore, you should like this. If you’re a purist though, you might be put off b the glitches, by the synth moments, by the cleaner sections because this album does strive for variety. It employs Hardcore as its foundation, but wants to build something more monstrous and remarkable. I don’t speak from any position of experience or authority but based on the rave reviews from those in the know, the band succeeded in this respect. This album does have variety – there are memorable vocal melodies (which may take time to sink in) and there is emotional variety (at least in the grey areas between annoyed, angry, and really pissed off). Songs such as The Easy Way and Sulfur Surrounding build upon this by eschewing the tried and tested and boring hardcore route of riff, shout, other shout, solo, shout end, by adding musical and structural elements not typically heard.

Still, as someone mostly unfamiliar with this sub-genre and with no real desire to learn about it or care (it’s all a bit… skinhead, you know), I could appreciate its brutality and experimentation and can gladly chill to any of the songs while driving. A few songs would be enough for me before I’d want to move on to something else – I get enough futile tantrums at home without needing it in my music too. A handful of the better blended songs I can stick on my playlist but the whole thing isn’t one I think I’ll return to. I can marvel at the production and applaud the musical ability and desire to drag the genre into new territory, but the songwriting in itself feels somewhat flat outside of the glitches.  Like many of the albums I have already reviewed from 2020 and likely those I haven’t got to yet – this isn’t for me so I’ll leave it to the people who it was designed for. I have no doubt they’ll love it.

Album Score

Sales: 3. Seems to have done okay, at least within a genre which doesn’t really sell anymore. Seems to be theit highest selling album – but we’re talking 10s of thousands here. I could go 2 here, but lets give them some props.

Chart: 2. A hardcore album isn’t really designed to sell outside its core audience or set the charts alight. It made it onto the top 200 in US. Not as high as their debut I believe, but times have changed.

Critical: 5. Go down to a 4 if you want to include non-Metal publications, but praise has been flawless across the board in Metal magazines and sites.

Originality: 3. Normally a Hardcore album is going to get a 1 or a 2 from me here. This strives for me and generally does more. Enough for a 3 at least.

Influence: 3. I would hope that this will spur other young bands within this genre and the genres less prone to experimentation and variety to take the lead. It’s not going to influence on a wider scale so I could see a 2 or even a 1 here if you’re very harsh. Definitely don’t see this as higher than 3.

Musical Ability: 3. They can play, but we’re talking Metal here. If you can’t better than almost every other genre, you’re not going to get as high as a 3. I expect each person to be an expert in their craft. The glitches are more a case of production and ideas than musical ability – outside of that I didn’t feel enough to hit a 4.

Lyrics: 3. Naturally I had to Google the lyrics to see what they’re all about. There are bits and bobs related to changing and adapting to the modern world which fits with the music. Aside from that, all the usual Metal topics stated plainly without much poetry or invention – control, violence, anger, the usual.

Melody: 2: Only a handful of songs standout in this respect – I’ve been lenient so far in some of my scoring but if you force me up to a 3 here, I can drop Lyrics to a 2. Most of the songs don’t differ in the vocal melodies aside from the few notable ones, and even those aren’t the catchiest in the world. I won’t grumble if you go 3 here but anything higher seems like bias.

Emotion: 3. Genres like this aren’t the most subtle or nuanced in terms of emotion – there’s only so much range of emotion you can convey when your vocals are at 11 the entire time. It comes down to how much importance you place on expectation – if you expect and want anger, volume, shouting, then you can mark higher. If you are looking for a more balanced range of emotions across a spread of songs, then you mark lower. I’ll go average considering the genre. 

Lastibility: 3. While time will tell whether this was a game-changer, it seems like it has made enough impact based on its reviews to sustain itself at least until their next album drops. Metal fans are devout to their group or sub genre, and those outside the group will complain or move on to the next thing. Not enough information to say for sure, but a 3 seems reasonable. 

Vocals: 3. I’m no judge on hardcore vocals and what is good versus bad versus whatever. What I do know is that I can only take so much of it, not because it’s loud or shouty, but because it’s repetitive and dull and lacks character. Some songs offer mainly clean vocals, some songs offer additional vocals, and some songs blend clean and harsh. I didn’t have any issue with the quality of any of the vocals, more that they were mostly generic. 

Coherence: 4. I’m happy going high on this category because the band seemed committed to their idea for their sound, and did everything possible to make a coherent product. The glitches and electronic (for lack of a better term) sound carries through to the end.

Mood: 3. I could agree with an argument for a 4 here as the coherence lifts the mood, but given the lack of emotion and feeling I generally get from this type of music I’m not confident that any mood the band is trying to communicate would not translate to me.

Production: 4. Another strength, everything is clear and the various components are nuanced in the way that the emotions are not. Most notable aspects being the glitches and future shock soundscapes which are handled with both taste and bluster. 

Effort: 3. I always dread scoring this category because effort is sacred and sacrosanct. It feels disingenuous to score low when artists, especially in these genres, put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into their creation. I have no doubt the band did everything they could to write, record, and produce this album – but so does every other band if they’re serious about their craft. I don’t see or I’m not aware of anything over and above what other bands do. 

Relationship: 2. When I was younger maybe I would have felt different, but even when I was younger and more accepting of most Metal subgenres such as this were at an arm’s length. I love melody, and emotion, and shades of colour. I also love being heavy and angry and skilful and fast, but there are tonnes of other albums and artists who do those things while also speaking to me on a personal level. 

Genre Relation: 3. Sure… it sounds like most other albums in this genre that I’ve heard. But it also goes further and tries more. Then again, not my area of expertise. 

Authenticity: 4. Metal artists often live or die based on how authentic they are. If your fanbase feels you’ve sold out or moved to far away from what drew them to you, they’ll bugger off and let you know. Again, I don’t know much about it but it seems authentic, committed, and they believe in what they’re doing. 

Personal: 3. I’m honestly closer to a 2 because I know I’ll never listen to it again, but I also know it’s a better album than what a 2 would suggest. This score is all about your personal feelings so you can put all of you bias into this score – if an album sells in the millions, tops the charts, gets rave reviews, but it’s Country and you hate it – give it a 5 in those other categories but give it a 1 here. This is a low 3 for me, but the belief and the novelty of the glitching is enough to stop it dropping to a 2.

Miscellaneous: 2. I could go 3 here, but there’s not enough in the artwork or the surrounding info of the album to really nail down that score. 

Total: 61/100

That’s a lower score than most I’ve reviewed so far – but remember it’s only a 7 point difference between Ungodly Hours which is an album I did enjoy much more on a personal level. It may take something special to break that 70 mark!

Nightman Listens To – Chloe X Halle – Ungodly Hour (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! For any fans of this series or those who want to know my thoughts on 2020’s best releases, I apologise for the lack of posts so far. In the real world family and work have taken priority, while in the Blogging world my Marillion posts have been my most frequent commitment. I’ve no idea how many Marillion albums are left, but given the last album I covered was released in 1998, we’re surely closer to the end than the beginning – Watch my face drop as I find out Marillion went on to release 1 album every year since 1999.

But we’re not here to talk about Marillion, for a change. We’re here to talk about Chloe X Halle. I have no idea what that is or what that means or even how to say it. Is it literally ‘Chloe ex Halle’, is it ‘Chloe cross Halle’, ‘Chloe times Halle, Chloe and Halle’ etc. And how do you pronounce ‘Halle’? Is it ‘hally’ or ‘Halley’, or ‘Haley’ or is it meant to rhyme with Chloe? Does it matter? Is it a band, is it one vocalist, is it two vocalists? I don’t know and I don’t believe I’d even heard whatever this is mentioned anywhere before putting together this list, not in YouTube comments, not in passing, not anywhere. Perhaps the album cover will give me an idea.

Album Review: Ungodly Hour by Chloe x Halle Right, we have two women, with two arses (one each), and two sets of wings which I assume are supposed to look sleek and heavenly, but kind of look like swimming pool inflatables. Are these the singers, or is this just some random image by a rock band? Lets go with these being the singers, which would fit with the name. Angels, Ungodly, are we going for lots of religious iconography and ideas? Oh Lordy, it’s not a Christian music album is it? The cover seems too sexy for that, but then every dick and their associated arse and cleavage identify as Christian these days, so who the hell knows. I would prefer garbage pop over Christian garbage. Actually, as long as the music is good I probably won’t care what the genre is, as long as they’re not trying to force some Creationist agenda down my gullet. I get enough of that as it is, thankee-sai.

Lets get on with it. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this given my complete lack of knowledge, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, it’s my favourite of all of the 2020 albums I’ve listened to as part of this journey so far. For anyone not aware, it’s a Pop R’n’B album entrenched in the past as much as the present. There’s a retro 90s, early Noughties feel, a pre-Destiny’s Child vibe calling up the likes of TLC… All Saints…. it’s not my area of expertise. Mostly I imagined it as an X-Rated version of Sister Sister. While it is undoubtedly a modern Pop album, meaning it suffers from many of the main negative trappings of current Pop (weak and inconsequential drum sounds, surface simplicity, copy paste pronunciation, slightly compressed sound, overly digital), there is enough of the Disco influenced late era Motown to keep me happy. While I do have issues, on the whole I could overlook those thanks to the album’s strengths – melody and authenticity. It feels like the girls love music; listening, making, and performing it. You can hear their influences. There are genuine hooks. They have genuine voices and don’t rely heavily on autotune to make them sound good or use it as a stylistic choice, at least until we get to the lowlight of the album – Catching Up.

The album eased me in and allowed me to relax into the journey without worrying that I was going to hate the entire experience. The appropriately named Intro sets up the album’s qualities – the vocal melodies and harmonies – and the angelic, subtly epic tone is a world away from most of the manufactured junk I hear whenever I dip in and out of the Top 40. Those qualities lead directly in to Forgive Me, the first of many supremely infectious songs which is let down by some vocal choices more to do with my preferences than any real show or lack of skill. This, the title track, Baby Girl and others feel like they could be Club or Radio hits and crucially also work as something to chill to at home.

The album manages to subvert one of the biggest issues which has plagued modern pop for at least a decade, and which has plagued Dance music since Day One – those songs are designed purely for a huge audio system and to be danced to in a group setting with no care given for those of us who actually want to appreciate the thing on our own, to appreciate the thing as a piece of art. Having not seen any videos or live performances by the pair, I did have difficulty distinguishing between the two vocal parts. I’m not as close to their individual voices. That doesn’t mean the girls sound the same – their voices obviously work wonderfully together and in certain songs it is clear when one takes over from the other – I Wonder What She Thinks Of Me being a great example of them seemingly trying to one-up each other. I don’t know enough to say that x part was Chloe and y part was Halle. I don’t even know if those are their real names. Even with the vocal quality, the girls add in their own humour and twists – it’s one thing to sing badly because you can’t do better, or to use Autotune because, well because everyone else does, but it’s a different class to write a song called Tipsy, a song about getting drunk and murdering your boyfriend, and sound like you’re drunk while singing it. It’s not exactly big or unique, but it is funny and a sign of the creative balls the girls have.

Continuing with the creativity on display, I did love the little transitions between many of the tracks – seamless and give the album the impression of a journey through the mind (or minds) of these women as they move from relationship to relationship via guilt, forgiveness, jealousy, warnings, joy, and a fair old dose of the horn (as we say over here). This isn’t a Concept album, but there are concepts tying the ends together, and while there are clear and potent messages approaching Feminism, it’s not some man-hating tome or purely a show of solidarity for women. The attacks on men are tongue in cheek, even if there is genuine vitriol, but they poke fun at themselves and admit their own flaws in equal measure. It’s an album not afraid to say that we’re all messy, we’re all beautiful, and we’re all capable of fucking up. No matter if the song is about keying someone’s car or receiving dick pics from some player, it’s all done with humour not usually heard in the Top 40. While other artists go all in on the graphic detail in their attempts to be shocking or amusing (cough cough Minaj), those flat attempts at bravado are laughable only because they’re so bad. Chloe X Halle strike the right balance between truth and humour.

We do need to talk about Catch Up. As mentioned, it’s the low point of the album. It’s the stock .feat song of the album. Some bloke, who I won’t dignify by finding out his name and adding it here, guest performs on the song and it’s the usual heavily autotuned, incredibly whiney vocal. There must be a hell of a lot of people out there who like this type of singer, this type of accent, but I just don’t get it. The girls are not entirely immune from odd decisions – while some of the accents and affectations pay off, they are less successful in the likes of royl. Those moments are few and far between and a misstep like Catch Up (and even that would be a good song without the shitty vocals) sounds like a completely different artist from the one who crafted the pop excellence of Don’t Make It Harder On Me and Wonder What She Thinks Of Me. Those two tracks in particular I will happily stick on my personal playlist – the pure Motown joy of the former, complete with funky bass and jangling guitars, and the exquisite emotional anguish of the latter.

Returning to the lyrics – often the most blatant bane of modern Pop – it’s the humour, emotion, and authenticity which allows what are not the most poetic or fierce rhymes to stand out. Like the majority of your Top 40, where almost every song is about love (or ostensibly, sex), the girls explore what it’s like to be a young woman keeping your head above water amidst the torrential storms of modern romance. Baby Girl is an anthem for girls everywhere expected to live up to society’s expectations and sacrificing their spirit simply to survive in a world beyond their control, while Royl could be a lyrical extension which pleads for the listener, boy or girl, to ‘live tonight’. It wouldn’t be a Pop album without the junk party lyrics about turning up late with a crew, and both ‘boo’ and ‘bae’ used liberally, and annoyingly. We’ve reached the point (we reached it long ago) in Pop that lyrics are basically meaningless, certainly artless, so while I don’t feel the need to comment much on them, these are at least more honest, less shitty, than what I typically hear sludging out of iTunes.

This is the first album in my list of Best 2020 albums that I will listen to again beyond the publishing of this post. While I didn’t know what I was getting into, I had an inkling it would be some overhyped standard chart balls, but the triple threat strengths of the vocals, melodies, and conviction was enough to shred any of the bias I may normally have against this sort of music. It’s enough to put the girls on my radar and to make me want to check out anything else they’ve done and will do in the future.

Album Score

Sales: 3. I would have assumed this one set the charts and sales alight, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. It sold better than their debut, but it warranted a quick re-release. Sometimes that’s a positive because the album or a single did so well so it raises awareness of the thing again, or it can be a negative to try to scrape out a few additional sales due to underperforming. I would go a 2 here, but a few of the singles performed well enough to push me into giving a 3.

Chart: 2. It did well enough upon release, in the US at least, but the fact that it didn’t reach the Top 10, and didn’t even reach the Top 70 in the UK, means we have to mark this down. You can’t go higher than a 3 with this, but by all accounts this was not a chart hit.

Critical: 4. I might allow a 5 here, but I don’t think you can go lower than a 4. The album received three Grammy nominations (didn’t win) and appeared in many Best Of Year lists, including a few notable Number 1 finishes. For me it doesn’t quite reach the heights of a five, but I understand if you think it does.

Originality: 3. Not my wheelhouse but it felt fresh enough to me, different enough from what I normally hear in the Top 40. Nothing startling in the music or lyrics or production, but sometimes simply getting back to basics and nailing your melody and sense of self makes you stand out from the so called trend setters and followers. A flat three for me.

Influence: 3. I’m torn between a 2 and a 3 here. I don’t think it was a big enough success that others will jump on the bandwagon and say ‘hey, maybe not singing like a twat and not singing about bullshit is a good idea’. I hold out hope that the critical success of the album, and its quality, might rub off on some younger listeners instead of the wide array of crap out there. It’s a 2 or a 3, but lets be positive.

Musical Ability: 3. A tricky one because I don’t believe the girls actually play any instruments or display any traditional musical ability. Their melody and vocals we can discount because they have their own section and score. Any pop album, even as mass produced and digital as they are now, will be lifted up by a team of musicians. Those guys do their job adequately here, without standing out or delivering any wow moments.

Lyrics: 3. It’s better than your standard pop, but your standard pop is at best a 2 in this category.

Melody: 4. I thought there would have been a 4 before this category, but nope. This is one of the hallmarks of the album, and of the things I respect most in music. Even ignoring how bad their contemporaries are in this category, it’s a showcase of how to do melody right.

Emotion: 4. Another highlight, even while only a small number of songs hit any real heights. Elsewhere those heights are not needed and the emotion is often bubbling under the surface, visibly, audibly. In addition, the enjoyment of singing and of music comes across.

Lastibility: 3. I worry that this won’t have any real staying power because it wasn’t a hit. Time will tell if its quality will see it outlast the more immediate success of its contemporaries. It could be a 2, but the fact that I’ll continue to listen to it over and above and beyond those contemporaries is enough to earn a 3.

Vocals: 4. A few dubious decisions and guests aside, this is a great vocal effort. Shedding those and we could be talking a 5. It’s not the vocals on their own, but the dual attack, the expression, the harmonies, and the wit creatively employed.

Coherence: 4. It feels like a journey or a day in the life. Thematically and musically it ties together, and plenty of the songs bleed into one another due to

Mood: 3. I’m tempted to give a 4 here, based on what I’ve already mentioned about the album feeling like a collection of club hits and a journey through someone’s mind. I’m not sure it quite nails enough of either mood or tone to earn a 4 from me, so I’m going with a 3. 

Production: 4. I was going to go 3 here, but I should remove as much of my own bias as possible. While I don’t personally like some of the choices, arrangement, and sounds used, there is no doubt that the producers are at the top of their game, everything is levelled well, and it does strike that balance between home listening at blasting out of a club’s sound system. 

Effort: 4. Without knowing in detail the story behind the writing and recording of the album it is difficult to accurately score this one. What seems to be true is that the girls raised their game from their debut – often the most difficult task for an artist is to improve upon their first album and overcome any hype it may have had. It seems like while their original album wasn’t huge, this has built upon its foundations. It is a short album, sometimes that hints at a lack of ideas or effort, but I don’t believe that is the case here.

Relationship: 3. As a thirty something married white bloke from Northern Ireland whose partying days are over, and were never something I cared much for anyway, I’m not exactly who this album is designed for. I don’t need to worry about most of the issues raised in the album and it’s not a sub genre of Pop I’ve ever been invested in. Still, the music made me interested in the artist and what they were talking about – at least to the point that I’m curious to hear their debut. 

Genre Relation: 3. I’m not best placed to answer this given the complete lack of knowledge I have around this sort of music. In the wider genre of ‘Whatever Is On The Charts’ it certainly relates in terms of style, tone, and theme and with a lot of the same positives and negatives I ascribe to the type of music. Whether it’s better or worse, whether it is a game-changer I don’t know. I know I liked it more than most crap in the charts.

Authenticity: 4. The overall impression I had from the album – the voices, the lyrics, the production, was of a home-grown talent rather than something manufactured and showered with money. The people involved have a love of music past and present, and that shone through.

Personal: 4. I could go a 3 here, but I think that would be playing into my bias too much. I enjoyed this quite a lot, and it surprised me (by not being shit). Given the fact that I wasn’t expecting much, that 90% of it didn’t annoy me, and that I’ve been humming many of the songs to myself over the past few weeks… I think it deserves a Personal score of 4.

Miscellaneous: 3. Not much to say – music videos are fine, artwork is fine, girls seem cool. A standard positive 3. 

Total: 68/100

think that’s the highest score so far in my 2020 albums. Not by much, mind you. This is a decent score – thinking how difficult it would be to get a 5 in any of the categories. I’m hoping we’ll get one or two albums passing the 70 mark but I doubt we’ll get anything in the 80s. I care less about the score than my feelings about the album and how many of the songs I plan on listening to after publishing this post. Let us know in the comments what you think of Ungodly Hours!

Nightman Listens To – Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways (2020 Series)!

Rough and Rowdy Ways: Music

Greetings, Glancers! <Large audible and visible sigh>. Bob Dylan. He’s a legend. One of the greats. A songwriter second to none. An icon. An inventor and re-inventor. His albums appear on every Best Of list you’ve ever read. So they tell me. Listen, I’m all for maturing as a fan of music and as a person – it’s one of the main reasons why I have this blog and continue these Albums Series – but as we’ve seen, sometimes your personal preferences simply trump what is supposedly good for you. It’s just like being healthy – I bought myself some ripe fruit to snack on during the day but here I am typing this and entire an entire 472 gram Ms Molly’s Trifle from Tesco. What’s good for you isn’t always good.

I have known of Bob Dylan all my life. As a Guns ‘n’ Roses fan from an early age, I loved their version of Knockin On Heaven’s Door and assumed the guy who wrote it must be a genius. I love Jimi’s All Along The Watchtower. And that’s the thing I struggle with when it comes to Dylan – he’s one of those artists who is maybe better served as a writer and staying away from the mic? Far from me to criticize a vocalist when my own sound like a goose slithering through the inside of an elephant’s trunk – but if I’m happy to criticize my own singing then I’m going to be picky about everyone else too. Dylan’s vocals are simply horrendous. Maybe over time you become accustomed to them, I don’t know. I certainly haven’t, though admittedly I’ve never given him much of a chance. In my ongoing quest to listen to every album ever recorded, Bob Dylan’s work will come up again and again but as much as a fan I am of folk music and of singer songwriters and of lyrics, I tend to pass his albums over because of how much I can’t stand his voice. But today I’ll be listening to his latest album for the first time and who knows – maybe now that he’s a hundred and eighty six years old, some of the mucus and pig fat oriented nature of his warbling will have been replaced by the dusky husk of a throat more attuned to the ravages of time and instead sound like an old and ragged yacht hewn from the most decrepit oak, moaning as it capsizes under the weight of its alcoholic crew. Now there’s a metaphor for ya.

Am I being shallow? Naïve? Puerile, dismissive, idiotic? Obviously there is more to music than vocals. Obviously. But when you’re a singer songwriter, vocals are at least 50% of what you are – the clue’s in the title. My problems with Dylan are not purely skin, or voice, deep. He has a handful of songs I’ve enjoyed and every so often one of his lyrics will ring true on a personal level. I’m going to say something now which is likely completely incorrect but, and again I’m speaking from an extremely ill-informed position given the number of songs I’ve heard from him, most of the songs and lyrics I’ve heard from him are simply moderately elevated love songs. You say there’s more to music than vocals? There are more things to write about than love. I know he gets political and I know he’s done protest stuff. Maybe that’s more my level, maybe those songs and lyrics will spark something inside me. Most of what I’ve heard is simply better written Celine Dion that I care equally nul for. But for everyone out there frothing in anger at my ranting or giggling from your highest of high horses – I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong and will happily slap my own chops if and when an artist’s quality clicks for me. I would much rather have music I love in my life than music I don’t, and that’s why I’m here.

As always, I begin by saying what I know about the album. In this case, it’s absolutely nothing beyond its name and the recording artist. The album artwork strikes me as deliberately retro. It seems like some 1950s swinging shindig based on the outfits and asses on display. It’s all quite faceless, to the extent that the dude on the right (who is staring into either a jukebox lit by Heaven’s golden shimmers, or some Tabernacle-esque fridge freezer unit) has seemingly suffered an unfortune bout of head-loss. The sparse room doesn’t suggest much in the way of rough and/or rowdy antics – but maybe showing up to your local juke dive in an ill-fitting skirt was enough to raise the eyebrows and middle wickets of those in attendance. Simpler time, simpler folk. You may have noticed I’m stalling. Fine, lets get on with it.

I usually start these posts with the positives. Before I do, at risk of repeating myself let me just restate that the vocals are not my cup of tea. Given I don’t drink tea, they’re not my hot chocolate either. I was correct in my assumption that the vocals would be more weary and gruff, and thankfully less nasal. Sounds a bit like Joni Mitchell after 300 cigs and covid. I’m never going to come around on the guy’s singing and if you struggle with vocals while listening to an artist, you’re probably never going to like listening to them. There’s less urgency here, and while he sounds like he’s the drunk propping up the furthest end of the bar spouting wisdom to anyone who will listen, he still sounds potent and virile. More like a sage imparting truths but knowing it’s going to fall on deaf ears. I could get through individual songs if I were to listen to this in the future, but listening to the entire album again in a single sitting would be a stretch for me.

We do get off to a promising start. I Contain Multitudes is rather lovely – relaxed, swirling Country guitars and a gentle vibe. I Contain Multitudes seems like a response and a slap in the face to my proclamation that he only writes love songs. You should aware that I’m being tongue in cheek for entertainment purposes, just in case you hadn’t picked that up. There are some great lines in here, but there are some absolute clangers too – you can’t win ’em all. False Prophet is a rough Blues song with a nifty heavy edge and solid riff straight from the 1930s. It’s fair to say Dylan has spent his career aping the African American Blues men he looked up to – it seems with age he’s finally able to sound like them. I think it’s impossible to write an authentic Blues song today. The genre is too long in the tooth, too limited, meaning we’d seen everything it had to offer by 1960. As limited as the Blues genre has always been (given the fact that it’s basically a hundred years old or more) there isn’t much that anyone can add to it. The only way to make a Blues song work today is to make it a pastiche. There are plenty of people plying their trade today by playing the Blues, but they are mostly writing to serve a specific target niche audience – either existing connoisseurs of the Blues, or guitar fans. Blues’ greatest strength was always that it was a framework to build upon, leading to a hundred offshoots and much of the best music of the 20th Century.

 There’s a variety in these opening songs which I wasn’t expecting, but which sadly does not continue through the rest of the album. Beyond the vocals, that’s my main fault with the album – it quickly devolves into a series of Blues standards I’ve heard a hundred times before. Even within False Prophet we fall back into clichés and tropes from a musical perspective. If we’re calling this a Blues album that’s perhaps not a valid criticism, but I’ve always had an issue with a full album of straight Blues and I prefer the genre in small, vicious bursts. At least when the music and the vocals become parody and boring we have the lyrics to fall back on.

It is unsurprisingly the lyrics which stand out for me. Each song has a frame, a topic, yet each is peppered with asides and insights ranging from hilarious to razor sharp, and more often than not there are multiple references to Literature, Cinema, music, real life people etc. It’s truly a shame there aren’t more minds like Dylan in music today, or even some with a fraction of his fire, wit, and intelligence to breathe life into their songs. As is often the case with songwriters who overload their lyrics, it should be stressed just how difficult it is to build a coherent song and an interesting and catchy melody around the words. Today’s pop, or Popular Music as a whole, relies on simplicity – too many words are simply too difficult for most people to remember, and too many words either lead to convoluted rhythms and off-kilter melodies which don’t appeal to the masses, or overly simple beats and repetition which is the trap Dylan falls into. While much of the music works as a one off, and while genres like Rap are purpose built to allow for effusive wordy lyrics and repetitive music, managing to craft something which strikes the balance between music and semantics is challenging, and a challenge Dylan only partially succeeds with here.

I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You is almost a musical retread of the opening track, albeit one with more romance and sway, Black Rider attempts a more haunting approach but gives way to forgettable minimalism, while any number of other tracks are rehashed Blues rockers. The highlights for me are when there are slight twists or variances in the sound – Mother Of Muses is another sweet song with melodies to match, but infrequent surprising chord changes, while Key West introduces some different instruments and pushes Dylan’s vocals to offer some heightened emotion. Key West, as long as it is, has probably become my favourite on the album though I would probably enjoy it more if it were half the length. Murder Most Foul is the obvious centrepiece and has the vibe of an old dude strumming his guitar while perched on a rocking chair at sunset at the edge and end of the world.

The laid back 9 minuter Key West leads thematically and tonally into Murder Most Foul perfectly, thought having too such long tracks back to back at the closure of an album I struggled with was enough to push me over the edge first time around. Taking breathers between chunks of the album is definitely the approach for someone like me who isn’t a fan. Depending on your level of fandom, Murder Most Foul is going to feel either like an intimate one to one session with your favourite poet, or a visit to your senile grandfather’s a stale living room on Christmas Day as he regales you with memories of fabricated events. I imagine this may be seen as a crowning achievement by Dylan’s diehard followers, but after the fourth minute of my first listen I was begging for it to end, to change somehow, a different lilt to his delivery, some variance in the music. But it goes on in exactly the same pattern for another twelve minutes. The lyrics are less like a Burroughs-esque series of insightful hallucinations, and more like a list of names, popular phrases, events, and references deliberately selected for no other reason than to rhyme and to spruce up the bird’s eye view of the USA which pervades the whole album. It’s less a sign of relief when it ends than a sigh of regret that I didn’t turn it off after four minutes.

My opinion of it has since increased with subsequent listens and with reading the lyrics. It’s an effective re-account of the last 60 odd years of American history. The little subtle musical touches come though with more effort on the listeners behalf – the strings doing their own thing, the scattered piano, the comparisons and in-jokes in the lyrics with references which will fly over the heads of most who are not musically or historically inclined, but work wonderfully for those of us who can catch even 50% of them. We cover music and the new bands and waves of the 60s, juxtaposed with the violent event of November 63, 80s horror movies, the Civil Rights movement, and any number of other popular phrases and moments in time. It’s a song I can listen to on its own, for its own merits rather than at the end of a long album, and even with that I do struggle getting through the entire running time. The music simply doesn’t change enough and as much as I appreciate the lyrics I’d love to see some smart arse do a Prog version of this to actually spice up the music and give the words a proper home.

I understand I’ve been quite negative with this post, but I should close with the key positive I took from the whole experience; Dylan is still here. While I’ve never been a fan, and probably never will, that’s fine. He’s not for me, but for all of the people he is for, for the millions still around who do love him or are yet to discover him – the dude is still going when many many others have fallen to the ravages of time, health, lack of staying power, or lack of talent. I’m positive that those the album was written for will hold it dear, as they should. For me, it’s always cool to see people with genuine talent (regardless of how I enjoy or feel about that talent) and real experience still making music today. We know that music as a Business is catered to, by, and for the young, and that the entire spectrum of successful popular music today is extremely narrow – so I admire those who can sustain an audience and success over such a ridiculous stretch of time. While there are countless thousands of musicians out there today who have been performing since before I was born, an almost insignificant fraction of those are known or are successful to any respectable degree versus the plethora of new, recent, short term, and up and coming acts who come and go with the wind. Dylan has been doing it long before I existed, and his songs and his words will be here for hundreds of years to come, assuming we haven’t fucked up the planet beyond repair before then.

Album Score

I’m loath to continue doing this score business, but I suppose I’ve started so have to keep it up.

Sales: 3. As I always mention, I’m not really sure how to gauge this one anymore. It went Silver in the UK, which is okay, but elsewhere data isn’t forthcoming or strong. What are Dylan’s sales usually like? I imagine this spiked for a couple of weeks at release, then tanked. 2 or 3 on this one, lets give him the benefit of the doubt.

Chart: 4. We know the album at least peaked at Number 1 in various Countries, including the UK and US, and he even managed his first Number 1 single, somehow. 

Critical: 5. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. When the dude finally bites the dust and people can do a retrospective of his entire body of work, I’m not sure if this will still be seen in as favourable a light, but for now you based on the current influx of Year End top spots and glowing praise, you can’t really go lower than a 5.

Originality: 2. Maybe there’s some original stuff in here for Dylan – I didn’t hear any Grime or Dubstep, but maybe he does enough differently from what he has done before. To my ears it’s a very simple Blues, Folk, Americana infused album with little or no originality beyond the lyrics, though it’s tougher to call lyrics original just because no-one has used a particular turn of phrase before. 

Influence: 2. I don’t see this influencing anyone, at least not in the same way as his early work undoubtedly influenced others and will continue to. 

Musical Ability: 3. A few guest stars, but for the most part there isn’t a lot of complexity on display or much opportunity for the musicians to show off their ability. 2 or 3 here, max.

Lyrics: 5. It’s not flawless, but nothing is. I don’t many albums in the 2020 list are going to get a 5 in this category, but Dylan’s wordsmithery, use of language and wit, and storytelling have enough lyrical flourish to put most other songwriters to shame.

Melody: 3. Not great – there are a couple of songs with a hook or two which I have found myself humming after I’ve stopped listening, but I suspect that is more to do with the sheer length and repetitive nature of the melody rather than the quality. Again, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, but this is a weak 3. More likely a 2, definitely never getting a 4.

Emotion: 3. I would argue that most of the emotion people feel from this album is more down to what it represents than the genuine content – it’s probably one of the last, if not the very last, albums from a man who has been doing it for 60 years. The music and lyrics at least in part reflect this. But I found it a mostly bland affair. At this point he’s hardly trying to convert any new fans so I’ll split the difference and go with a 3. 6

Lastibility: 3. Purely because it’ a Dylan album, you know people will be talking about this for years and decades to come; it’s not some flavour of the month pop album, it’s a release by one of the most important artists of the 20th Century. I don’t think it will have the staying power of his most famous releases in terms of what people reach for when they want a bit of Bob, but it’s not going away. 3 or 4 here. 

Vocals: 2. I could easily go a 1 here, and he really wants me to go that low with his insistence on making songs longer than they need to be, but the timbre of his voice has improved with age, removing much of the nasal quality with grouchy gravel. Still, it’s not the sort of vocal I’d ever choose to listen to. 

Coherence: 4. It all holds together – you know what each song is going to sound like and feel like, and all of the music and lyrics are trenched in American folk and blues.

Mood: 3. The mood is held together by the coherence, but slips for me because of the lack of emotion I felt. 

Production: 3. A crisp and clear no-nonsense Production. The vocals are front and centre in the mix, though everything feels balanced. I would have preferred more expansion and invention with the instrumentation – not that it’s needed for an album like this, but it would have made the whole more interesting.

Effort: 4. It feels effortless and I don’t think the musicians or anyone else involved put in, or needed to put in, more effort than was required. Then again, there’s the pressure to put out a good Dylan album, and what may be the last Dylan album, so I’m sure everyone did their best without pushing their creativity. Dylan himself, given his age, probably put in the most effort and clearly spent a lot of time pondering over the lyrics and overall ideas for each song.

Relationship: 2. Depending on how you few this category – how do you personally relate to it, or how do you think most people will relate to it – will dictate your score. Personally I didn’t relate to it much at all – there is too much distance created by the stuff I didn’t enjoy – and while I can empathise with the thing, I didn’t care for it. Fans will go high on this score because they have a higher chance of relating to the guy they love, but first time listeners or people like me who are not fussed either way will likely not get a lot out of it from this category. 

Genre Relation: 4. I can’t exactly criticize the album for being a generic Blues album, then give it a crap score in this category. When it plays the Blues it feels like the Blues, when it goes Folk, it feels Folk. It’s not the best of either world, but you know what it is. Of course you could argue that when someone has been going for as long as Dylan has they essentially become a Genre all of their own, in which case yous should ask how it relates to his other work. 

Authenticity: 4. It feels personal, it feels real. It doesn’t feel like a product manufactured for the masses and it doesn’t feel like he’s done it purely for his fans. At this point he can do whatever the hell he wants, and he has, 

Personal: 2. I don’t think there’s enough I liked here to go with a 3. Maybe that will change with time, but I doubt it. We know fans will go a 5 here, unless they’re particularly strict and the individual songs were not to their taste, but I can’t see a fan going less than a 4. A 1 would be harsh even for me, because I appreciate the effort and talent involved. But he’s not  an artist I’ll be able to enjoy, unless someone else is performing his songs.

Miscellaneous: 3. The album cover isn’t the most exciting, ripped straight from a hundred 50s and 60s album artwork like some shoddy easy rock compilation. You have to suspect this might be his last album which does offer some interesting side notes, and he did pull together some notable guest stars. Nothing exciting, but enough to get a 2 or a 3. 

Total: 64/100

That’s actually an interesting score. I enjoyed Biffy Clyro’s album more than this, but this gets a better score (by a single point). Does that mean the system works? Hopefully it shows that any bias is decreased. Let us know in the comments what you think of Rough And Rowdy Ways!

Nightman Listens To – Biffy Clyro – A Celebration Of Endings (2020 Series)!

A Celebration of Endings Cover.jpg

Greetings, Glancers! My first adventure into 2020’s offerings went about as well as expected – TL:DR version – I am old and I don’t understand modern pop music, but that’s okay because it’s factually crap, but that’s also okay because it’s not meant for me. Metal though…. I’ve lost my way with modern Metal in recent years. I keep track of my favourite new bands, I still follow the latest releases by the bosses of the genre, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to new stuff as much as I did when I was DJing. Apparently Biffy Clyro are still going, so I guess that’s good? I was never a big fan but I knew some of their songs and I saw them live the odd time. I had a friend who really loved them when they first arrived on the scene, but he has since found The Lord and I don’t know if he entertains such musical diversions any more. Sad.

North Of No South – jazzy intro. Biffy Clyro do that so many metal bands from the Noughties do that I’ve never enjoyed – having a loud, riff heavy intro, then suddenly sucking all of the sound and power out for a tame verse. I can’t state clearly why this is something I don’t like – I enjoy when bands do the quite verse loud chorus bit in previous eras, but there’s something about the Noughties approach or tone that irks me.

The Biffy Clyro singer (lets just call him ‘Mr Biffo’) has a very affected North American accent – another thing which gets on my goat. Maybe there’s a correlation between the natural Scottish accent and how it translates while singing. I’m quite picky about accents while singing – I don’t enjoy the forced clipped Hard Rs which non-US singers adopt to apparently make them sound more North American – yet I don’t mind it as much when actual American singers sing in this style. I also can’t stand English singers singing in what may be their natural regional accent – possibly it’s the fact that I’m not a fan of those accents regardless of them being spoken or sung, or possibly I prefer my vocalists to sing in a more plain, classical sense? There’s some truth in both, but given I enjoy singers with unusual singing accents and styles – natural (Anneke Van Giersbergen, James Dean Bradfield, Natalie Imbruglia) or affected (Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell) I would put less stock in the latter being true. Mr Biffo does sound Scottish later in the album – certain words, vowels, phrases stand out.

Both first tracks are very bouncy and melodic, each has a variety of hooks which I can see people loving. The second track is a lot of fun, sounding like Muse in places, but I just wish the vocal approach was less of the hard R USA style. Muse isn’t the only obvious comparison which leapt out at me in my early listens – certain riffs are very QOTSA and the album seems happy to be stuck in a 2002-2006 rock sound. That’s fine with me as that era had a lot of great bands (an awful lot of shite too). To the band’s credit, songs which begin with a certain sound or comparison, don’t always end with that comparison in place – Weird Leisure has an obvious QOTSA intro, but ends in a completely different place.

Tiny Indoor Fireworks is a fun, summery rock song, perfect for festivals and cider if we can ever have those again. As a rock or metal album, it never gets particularly heavy. It’s definitely aiming for a more accessible and commercial sound. It’s maybe the sort of accessible rock album which gets newbs interested in the genre – there’s enough melodies and big choruses for people to bop to while simultaneously getting accustomed to those heavier intros and sections so that when they hear a heavier album or band the experience is not as jarring, and they’re more willing to accept it. Even the more consistently heavy songs – End Of for example – have plenty of melody to invite the uninitiated. That song is an example of the band retaining their willingness to change things up within a four minute song., adding bonus riffs, jazz-infused licks, a brief instrumental, and layered vocals which range from screamo to choral.

The ballad of the piece – Space – it’s a little too on the nose and cheesy for my liking, coming from someone who loves cheesy ballads by rock bands. The lyrics are copy/pastes of every other love song you’ve ever heard and the simplicity of the melody alongside the not-great vocal performance are buried under too many layers of strings and noise. I do enjoy layered noise, and certainly layered strings, but Space should have been an example of less is more. Opaque fares better in this respect – the strings are awash with emotion, but they are restrained, and even the repetition of ‘take the fucking money’ which would normally come off as very silly just about clasps on to being earnest. It’s a much sweeter melody too, and the song builds through its restrained openings without ever reaching excessive levels. The closer does what good closers can sometimes do – encapsulate the entire tone and style of the album in a single song while wrapping up the themes and finishing things in a satisfying, moreish way. The Scottish accent forcefully comes through and the mixture of pop sensibility and furious pointed rock is at a high. Being the longest song on the album there is room for a little more artistic expression and musical freedom – the song moving into a beautiful instrumental section near the three minute mark. It’s a moment which stands out as unique on the album with the band feeling relaxed and confident enough to repeat and grow the melodies housed within the section. It’s the best part of the song and one of the finest moments on the album – there’s a shred of pity that the opening minutes of the song are more atypical shouty rock, complete with painful ‘fuck everybody’ chanting.

Lyrically the album is as mainstream and commercial as your generic pop – with this being Rock music the thematic content is more closely aligned to anger, regret, and pain than your boy/girl band/RnB fare. This means we get plenty of dramatic F-bombs, adolescent adjacent emotions, and plaintive choruses designed to be easily parotted by the masses. The album title has close ties with the recurring themes of the album – breakups, collapsing relationships, moving on, uncertainty – these are terrible things which we’re all likely to face but you can find strength in how you react to and progress from them. These endings can be celebrated, but throughout the album there are questions asked and sometimes the answers aren’t the beacons of hope we needed. The style is not overly poetic to the extent of being heavily laden with metaphor or reference – this increases the likelihood of listeners and readers understanding the sentiment and relating those to their own lives, but simultaneously makes the lyrics less interesting on an intellectual, personal, and emotional level.

It’s an immediate album – there’s nothing groundbreaking or challenging even as the band play around the format of a 3-4 minute rock song – but the hooks are not evasive and I found myself familiar with them after a single listen. Some of that immediacy was perhaps at a surface level as the songs rarely stayed with me by a few hours later, and any melody I found myself humming was quickly replaced when the next song came on. On the less cynical side – the sheer number of melodies suggests that anyone, myself included, would distinguish between these with additional listens and the album would become more distinct, memorable, and enjoyable. On a personal note I don’t think there’s actually enough here to encourage me back to the album, and even the standout songs aren’t screaming for me to hit play again.

Album Score

As I’m a maniac, lets try to continue with this scoring malarkey. You should know the drill by now; Twenty sections, each with a score of five, giving a total out of 100. Some sections are based on personal preference, but others should be mostly set in stone and free from bias.

Sales: 4. Look, we know this category and the next are not what they used to be – it’s no longer easy to say exactly how many copies have been sold and if those sales are high or low comparatively. What we can say is that the album sold fairly well in its opening weeks – enough to knock Taylor Swift off the top spot in the UK. Time will tell if the album continues to sell or comes to a dead stop. A four for now, based on how well it sold against its contemporaries.

Chart: 4. As above, early signs were positive. It didn’t make much of an impact in the US but was number in UK, Scotland, and 2nd in Ireland. A number 1 album in one of the major markets – basically US or UK – is usually good enough for a 4, but if it peaked there for a week and dropped away never to be seen again, you could have a 3. Some high spots in Europe, but average on the whole.

Critical: 4. Not flawless critical acclaim, but easily one of the most favourably rated rock albums of the year across the board. No negative reviews from any of the major outlets, but not always positive on the fan and blogger side (not counting myself in this discussion).

Originality: 3. It sounds like Biffy Clyro to me, if a little more commercial. Various critics pointed out the invention and creativity on display, but to my ears there is nothing out of the ordinary here in genre terms.

Influence: 2. This is one of those categories which you can only accurately score in retrospect – unless it’s so groundbreaking and pervasive that you see copycats and parodies within a year of its release. It’s unlikely for bands to be influential this deep into their career, and based on the info we currently have it feels like just another album.

Musical Ability: 3. I’ll get flack for pointing this the same as what I scored Bad Bunny’s album – an album which didn’t really contain musical instruments. But we had to rate them based on their genre and we rate Biffy as a rock band. They can play, then can make some noise, they can craft a meaty riff and melody. They do what they do, but there’s nothing jaw-dropping.

Lyrics: 3. A few embarrassing moments which fall into the trap of shouting swears in lieu of genuine anger, but by and large the lyrics are serviceable and get their point across without being especially poignant, poetic, or ingenious.

Melody: 3. I’ve gone back and forth on a 3 or a 4 for this. The album is jam packed with melodies, but as yet there aren’t many moments which have stuck with me or that I can recall if I read the song title. I could understand a 4 here as the melodies would have more impact on me with further listens and because the are simple and immediate… they just lacked a single outstanding earworm which I couldn’t dislodge from my brain.

Emotion: 3. There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of fear, pain, sadness, even some happiness in there. None of it truly resonated with me personally, as much as I could feel it pouring from the writing and the performance. As someone who rates emotional connection as second only to melody in terms of my enjoyment of music, I can’t go higher than a three when it didn’t make me feel anything.

Lastibility: 3. Difficult to gauge at this point, even if the album is almost a year old. I don’t think people are still talking about it now – in today’s musical landscape, if your song or album is still in the charts or being actively engaged with and spoken of within 6 months of its release, that would be considered a huge win. While I don’t as much stock in this category for a modern album versus an album released in previous decades, it feels like only long time fans will continue to sing this one’s praises.

Vocals: 3. I raised some of my personal grievances with the vocals in the first part of my post, but assuming most listeners won’t share those issues I’m happy to go with a 3. Nothing emotional or distinct enough to make me consider going higher.

Coherence: 4. It’s coherent – it doesn’t jump about from style to style, it doesn’t feel like there were a lot of different cooks adding their spices to the broth, and each song feels like a Biffy Clyro song.

Mood: 3. There’s a mixture of introspection and the need to break free from those inner thoughts – a constant war between bottling up feelings and letting them out. It’s not much of a stay in and listen album, more of a collection of 3 or 4 songs which would be fun to jump around to at a festival.

Production: 3. Solid. Crisp. I would have preferred some more variety in the arrangement but the production holds clear where it matters – the vocals, guitars, bass, and drums.

Effort: 3. Whether or not bands put the same amount of effort into writing and recording an album late in their career versus starting out is an interesting question. The people doing the writing and recording would of course say they’ve worked their asses off. I have called this a fairly standard Biffy album, while critics who presumably know better than me have said how surprising and inventive it all is. I go with a 3 – 4 seems reasonable too.

Relationship: 3. I’ve already mentioned that the music and lyrics didn’t make any grand emotional or intellectual communication with me. It is still big shouty rock music, so even if it’s garbage (it’s not) there will be a bare minimum trace connection I can latch on to. This is the genre I have most affinity for and I understand what goes into making a good rock song. As also mentioned – if you know anything about the band, you’d know this was a Biffy album as soon as you heard a single song. They know what they’re doing and they’re still doing it.

Genre Relation: 3. It doesn’t do anything especially non-committal or shocking for the genres of rock or metal, but it was highly rated and sold well commercially – those factors count for a lot in this category as it means the album stands out over and above the albums which didn’t sell or received average reviews. It’s hardly the pinnacle of the genre and there are plenty of bands going today who are making much stronger, much less known albums. 3 for me.

Authenticity: 4. It’s true to what a Biffy album should be, even if it does aim to be more commercial. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be commercial, but there can be trouble if your band started out with a specific agenda or specific audience which you later move away from. This album should see the majority of existing fans happy with the end result, and the more commercial touches could invite new listeners.

Personal: 3. It’s fine. I can’t see me listening to it again, but I’m not a long-time fan. I’ve been aware of the band, I’ve seen them live, I’ve heard plenty of their songs, and while they’ve never been for me I appreciate their cult following. This album hasn’t changed how I feel about the band, but it’s cool they’re still going and that they’ve found their niche and are able to be successful. A handful of songs I had more than an average enjoyment for, a few annoying moments and choices, but by and large an album I’ll forget.

Miscellaneous: 2. Nothing striking about the artwork, any of the videos, nothing interesting about the release of the album that I’m aware of. Lets go with an average 2.

Total: 63/100

Let us know in the comments what you think of A Celebration Of Endings!

Nightman Listens To Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG (2020 Series)!

Note * since originally writing this I have since been watching Bad Bunny’s antics in WWE, so I now know who he is. Not that any of that helps with the music…

Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG Album Review | Pitchfork

Greetings, Glancers! What the balls is this? Well, this is my first official post in my new series which sees me listening to 25 of the most highly rated albums of 2020. At the time of writing, I’m a 37 year old white bloke with a wife, three children, and a cat (the cat is unmarried and unburdened with kittens). I’m no longer a target demographic for the Top 40 crowd and I’m happy with that. I’ve had issues with the charts for as long as I can remember, and some of my earliest childhood arguments were fought and lost due to my frustration with all of the other 10 year old boys and girls who couldn’t fathom that there was other music out there in the world. I still watched The Chart Show, TOTP, and tuned in to MTV if I was at a friend’s who was rich enough to afford Sky TV. So while I bitched about the crap, I was also excited for the good. That’s the life of a jaded music fan. Not that it lends me any further credibility, but it’s worth mentioning that I’ve messed about in bands and have been a DJ around Northern Ireland – I like music.

As outlined in my original post – I’m doing this because I’m curious. I’ve done little experiments like this before where I’ve slogged through the biggest singles in a given year, but this is the first time I’ve strived to commit to the artists and give them more than a cursory half-assed listen. I don’t have a lot of hope that I’ll actually enjoy much of this. No, I do have hope. I want to enjoy this. I’m just not confident that I will. But we’re all chasing that new high, that new favourite. I have no interest in bringing up these albums or artists in daily conversation, I’m not trying to stay modern, I don’t care about following a trend – I am simply curious about what passes for good music these days and I hope to find some new stuff to obsess over, maybe outside of my current preferences. If there’s one rule I try to live by, it’s to experience as much as possible (even if that is limited to what you enjoy – movies, music, art, travelling) and to bend those limitations which you or a wider institution have placed upon you so you can look beyond your  comfort levels in an attempt to experience something new; Devout Metal fans should listen to EDM. Rappers should listen to Country. Movie fans should watch foreign movies and films from decades before they were born. The Left should try to understand the Right. Vice verse for one and all.

Which leads me finally to today’s album and artist. The album name is presumably an acronym – I’m going to guess it’s either for something naughty or something wordy and supposedly meaningful but which would have looked ridiculous if typed in full. Bad Bunny – I don’t know if this is a person, a band, a bot, though there’s something familiar about it as if I’ve heard a friend talk about it once upon a time. In truth, when I heard the term Bad Bunny, it made me think of the Vincent Gallo movie Brown Bunny, but that’s not something I particularly want to think about. So yes, I am writing this intro before having heard a single second of music from this album, looked at the tracklist, the artwork, or anything else. Thanks to the magical time travelling abilities of blogging, by the time I begin the next paragraph I’ll have listened to the whole thing multiple times (for my sins). Don’t worry, not all of my intros will be this long (LIES).

After a quick search on Youtube to find the album, I saw it staring back at me with a future-retro cover hinting at 80s antics, Amblin kids on bikes getting into fun adventures, scuffed knees, alien side-kicks, and nostalgic fantasies. It’s a cool album cover which had me thinking maybe there’s some interesting stuff inside. There is interesting stuff inside – but it’s not what I was expecting from the cover, and it’s not the kind of music I think I’ll ever be able to enjoy. 

On the positive side, I was worried the vocals would all be in the vein of Shaggy, which is not something I’m sure I could have tolerated for an entire album. Thankfully we don’t sink so low, but we do scrape several of the modern pop landscape’s barrels – autotuning, monotone vocals, guest vocalists, and that’s before we get to the album’s more notable quirks and annoyances. Auto-tuning isn’t going to go away at this point, and while I accept it has its place in certain types of music and that it was over-used in the past to cover up cracks in vocal talent and save time in the studio, it is now being used as the go-to and as a badge of honour. I don’t like it merely because it’s a cheat, or because it doesn’t sound human, or because it personally grates on me – but mainly because it cuts out the the genuine emotion of a human touch and removes the grime and tangible effort you can feel when hearing someone sing or speak. There’s no breath or heft or roughness. It also has a habit of making singers who may actually have wildly different vocals sound the same. If I’m listening to an artist or a band, I want to hear and feel the individuals. I’m choosing to listen to them over someone else, so I want to feel and hear YOU, not someone else. This tells me either you’re too afraid to stand apart or be unique, or it tells me that you genuinely are not unique. Perhaps it tells me that your voice is garbage and you have to hide the fact, which pisses me off because there are hundreds of thousands of genuinely great singers out there scraping a living or hoping for a chance.

The album is littered with samples ranging from the amusing and well-placed to the hackneyed and overplayed. How many times must we be subjected to the already overrated, overplayed, and over-sampled Get Your Freak On? Those instances where the samples are used more creatively, to create interludes and transitions and shifts in rhythm, such as in Hablamos Manana, raise my interaction with the album to more than a base level. It’s a shame those moments tend to come later in the album – by that point I’ve already become jaded and worn out by the repetition and sameness of the opening ten tracks. As we’re in the Spotify and Playlist generation now, albums are no longer made to be heard in a linear fashion with the running order the artist decided – it’s all about shuffling and picking your favourites so possibly that is a moot point for many. I prefer the old school approach.

While the whole product does revel in the repetition and monotony now expected in chart music, there is enough creativity and flashes of light for me to assume that behind it all there’s an interesting creative voice. Most of the album keeps to solid 4/4 time and it’s a fairly slow affair, but the songs progressively grow more loose with their timing and become roughly experimental in their adoption of multiple pauses if not outright signature shifts – Puesto Pa’ Guerrial, and P FKN R are more playful and interesting than many of the more traditional songs on the album, featuring breathless or hypnotic staccato rapping.

While the album is firmly rooted in Dance and Pop tropes, it’s not ‘my kind of Dance music’. Not that I ever cared about Dance music in the slightest (or dancing, because I’m not a child), but when I was at a club in my younger days and forced onto the dancefloor, I wanted something with a fat beat to lose myself in. Something euphoric. Not to say the beats here are complex but they seem to lend themselves to a more subtle and seductive way of dance and movement.  Yo Perreo Solo is infectious – catchy to the extent that I could have seen 17 year old me giving it large if it were blasting in Ibiza, while Bichiyal reminded me of Radiohead’s The Gloaming with it’s zooming, morphing synths.

The rhythm of the vocals doesn’t differ from song to song – maybe that’s the language, maybe it’s the beat, but I found myself wandering about the house making up my own gibberish following the same rhythm, and it wasn’t difficult to invent a vocal near enough identical to the real thing. While it isn’t necessarily reasonable to expect variation in rhythm from track to track, it’s nice to have, you know, some. On top of making up my own gibberish and only identifying the odd shout of ‘Puerto Rico’, I was left to my own interpretational devices. This means I came up with own alternative lyrics which became my personal names for songs. There was ‘No Cranky‘. There’s ‘Dirty Water’. There’s ‘The Grudge‘ and there’s ‘Random Bloke Starts Yelling Like A Big Naughty Boy At End Of Song For Reasons Unknown‘. Coupled with the sheer amount of songs, it was a slog to get through in my early listens and I found it a struggle to grab hold of anything that I could look forward to on the next listen. Songs come and go with little variety, blending into one another like a party you didn’t ask for and which just won’t end. 

It’s difficult to distinguish between a multitude of songs in a short period at the best of times. While I can appreciate the platitudes given to so called genre-hopping, this is still very much a dance-pop album with limited melodic ideas, and the variety only goes so far. Little respect is given to crafting emotional peaks or stand-outs. That was never the intention – this is a party album designed to help party people dance and have a good time. It succeeds in that respect, but as someone who looks for a deeper connection to my music and reasons to keep coming back to an album, that depth is lacking. It’s this year’s plastic pollutant pop album, which will be replaced by next year’s. That’s a half criticism, a personal criticism – but why not take the time and put in the effort to ensure your music achieves the next level? There’s nothing standing in the way of a pop or dance album also becoming a piece of timeless art beyond hard work, will, and creativity. 

Beyond the tunes I’ve already mentioned, La Dificil has some melodic highlights which are almost buried by other annoyances like the ever recurring ‘oy’ or ‘ay’ shouts between lines. Elsewhere on the album, where there is a notable melody it tends to be saturated to the point of pointlessness due to repetition. I imagine I would have seen the the vocals in a more positive light if it weren’t for the myriad annoying giggles, laughter, barking, twee little fake crying gulps, and other skin-crawling vocal tics. And they’re on every. Single. Track.

Safaera is probably the most interesting song – lots of pauses and samples and different vocals and it plays to the strengths of the individual artists while downplaying the aforementioned annoyances. is a suitably chilled ending, though the freestyle breathless nature of the rapping doesn’t let up. On the whole I can’t see me ever returning to the album and within a week of my last listen I’ll have completely forgotten any of the melodies – as I already stated, this is a completely disposable collection of songs for someone like me; it doesn’t connect with me on a musical, emotional, intellectual, or cultural level, and it didn’t entertain me. The key point is that it was never meant for someone like me. If it’s your sort of thing – you’re welcome to it.

The Miz Sounds Off on Bad Bunny After WWE Royal Rumble Face-Off - E! Online

Album Score

Am I seriously going to do this? I’ll try it with one album, and maybe it won’t work. I’m not a fan of scoring stuff, but if I’m going to do it I may as well assign a thorough system to the attempt. With scoring, you’re never going to fully step outside your own preference and bias, but you should use a system which limits those biases, forces you to apply certainties, and at least factor in things you wouldn’t consider in a biased review. For a full overview of my system click here, but in essence you divide a product into an equally rated set of the parts which make up that product, then add up the total. No section is weighted as more or less important than any other.  It’s not a perfect system, but it’s as good as you’re going to get.

Sales: 5. Streaming and all that gubbins has effed up this category beyond repair, but we have to remain contemporary and view the album in the context of the time of its release. We don’t talk about physical sales anymore – instead it’s album equivalent units – which has led to artists consciously packing more songs into an album (more songs basically equates to higher potential streams and ‘sales’). It’s a nonsensical system created as a panic knee-jerk reaction to ensure rich people can have more yachts and coke. This is one of the biggest selling Spanish speaking albums ever, certainly of recent years. It was Spotify’s most streamed album of 2020. Seriously?

Chart: 5. It peaked at 2 on the US Billboard, and lingered in the Top 10 for ages. Interestingly, all 20 songs were released as singles in the ‘Hot Latin Songs’ chart, whatever that is, so it was clearly designed to be a populist commercial affair. No matter how you slice it, this was a Sales and Charts monster.

Critical: 4. I’m reviewing this album (and the others in this series) precisely because they were critical and commercial successes. Whether critical consensus changes over time remains to be seen, but as of 2020 it was highly rated. It is under the Universally Acclaimed branch of Metacritic, but user reviews are much more divisive (which you would expect). Due to the fact that there are so many bad User Reviews and because of the newness, I can’t give it the full 5 – I respect if you do score 5 here, but anything less than 4 would be ridiculous. 

Originality: 3. This will be a tricky one because this is a type of music I have little experience with or affinity for. In my most closed-minded moments I could say that it just sounds the same as everything else. On the surface, there is certainly that feeling of sameness. It uses a lot of samples. It follows the same modern production trends, sounds, and beats as much of what I heave heard over the last several years. However, critical reviews do speak to the sprawling creativity and twists on genre tropes so I bow to their greater knowledge. I therefore go for an average score, siding on the positive. 

Influence: 2. It’s too early to say. We could point to its success possibly leading to advances in the genre, based on what this album achieves artistically. Given the average Originality score and the fact that it doesn’t really sound too different from what came before, it’s doubtful that its influence will go far beyond producing a raft of imitators. 

Musical Ability: 3. Not a lot of ‘real instruments’ employed on this one – much of the musical content is sampling and studio trickery. Even with that taken into consideration, the ability on display is not of a high nature. There is talent, but that talent is limited to a series of similar tricks with the overall purpose being to dance or nod your head to – something which takes little to no effort.

Lyrics: 2. It’s all in Spanish, so I’m at a loss already. The English parts are your usual Gangsta crap or samples. Critical reviews don’t focus so much on the lyrics but the user reviews are highly critical of the content – those not critical of the content are critical of the fact that it’s simply more of the same well worn tropes.

Melody: 2. Very few noticeable hooks stretched over the 20 songs and over an hour’s worth of music, which is unforgivable for a Pop record. There are a few moments, limited to 2-3 songs. Elsewhere, several of the obvious hooks are incredibly grating. 

Emotion: 1. If there is any emotional content to be found within, I couldn’t identify it. If there is, it’s at a surface level. 

Lastibility: 3. Another one that is difficult to gauge until at least a full year after release. Given its sales and success I can only assume that people are still listening to this and will continue to. At least until the next thing comes along, at which point I imagine this will die a death. 

Vocals: 2. When the most positive thing you can say about a vocalist (or indeed an album) is that the singer doesn’t sound like Shaggy, you probably don’t have a good album on your hands. There are many guest vocalists here – few of them make any real impact and few seem to have a truly distinct voice. The central vocals are auto-tuned to sound like a million other hitmakers. There could be something good here – we aren’t given the change to find out, or care. 

Coherence: 4. It’s certainly a very coherent album – beats, tone, approach are all consistent. Based on what I’ve read of the thematic and lyrical content, there is a coherent flow from start to finish. 

Mood: 3. I assume the album sets out to make you dance and chill and have a fun old time. That probably works for some people, but as someone adverse to having fun old times which involve dancing, it didn’t achieve its purpose. The mood veers between middling minor peaks and middling quieter moments – there isn’t much variety, which you can take as either a positive or a negative in this category. It didn’t make me feel much of anything or affect my mood.

Production: 3. It’s over produced within an inch of its life, but there’s clearly a lot of skill involved. I don’t like the techniques used or the overall effect they produce, but I can appreciate the skill involved. It doesn’t do anything new. 

Effort: 3. Without looking into interviews and behind the scenes pieces on how easy or difficult the writing and recording of this was, it’s again difficult to give anything other than an average score. It’s certainly a large album – 20 songs, so that’s 20 individual pieces of writing, adding the music and ideas and production and guests, I’m sure there was a significant amount of effort involved. But that’s just like any other album.

Relationship: 2. I feel like I’ll be saying this a lot throughout the 2020 series, but this is not music made for me. I’m not the target audience. It’s not my genre, or ever something I would seek beyond this experiment. While I can appreciate the artistry and see what they’re doing and see who it is for, it means nothing to me. From what I have read and heard, it’s not too dissimilar to any of the dude’s previous stuff – again this can be a positive and a negative.

Genre Relation: 4. How does this relate to Reggaeton – I have no clue as I didn’t know that term existed before hearing this album. But I have heard a lot of music with identical beats and rhythm to this. In the wider parent genres of Pop and Dance, it ticks most of the boxes (repetitive, simple, makes you want to dance). For me, it lacks the melody and emotion I look for in those (in any) genres to elevate the thing to a higher status, but knowing that melody and emotion isn’t exactly en vogue in chart music these days – this relates nicely to everything else. 

Authenticity: 3. It’s not ‘authentic’ when we consider music in a wider sense, or art in a higher sense, but in the closest context of modern commercial pop and it’s specific sub-genre, it is authentic. It can’t get higher than a 3 from me because of the cynical nature of stuffing the album and releasing every song – smacking instead of trying to monopolise rather than be authentic.

Personal: 2. It’s not something I would normally listen to, and there’s nothing here I’d ever choose to listen to again. I recognise some of the talent involved, I recognise it’s for kids and for those less picky about what they consume. It did nothing for me on a personal level – it didn’t make me want to sing along, dance, investigate other songs by those involved. It’s not unlistenable, and if I were to hear one of the songs again and didn’t have the ability to skip it or tune out, I could tolerate it. An obvious 2.

Miscellaneous: 2. I like the album artwork. An average 2, nothing else surrounding the album that I’m aware of to make me care any more.

Total: 58/100

There you go – surely things can only go up from here? I’m in for a torrid time if this is the best album of the 25 I’ll be listening to. I doubt that will be the case because I’ve deliberately selected from different genres and there will be types of music I’m more familiar with. Feel free to let me know in the comments how wrong I am, and feel free to share what it is you love about the album!

Nightman Listens To The Best Albums Of 2020 (album list)!

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Yes, it’s another bad photo by me. But I like it.

Greetings, Glancers! I’ve had a bit of a think about how to best go about this new series. I’ve picked a number of ‘respectable’ publications and I’m going to pick their top FIVE albums of 2020 to listen to and share my thoughts. I’m also taking Billboard’s top five selling albums of the year. Where there is any overlap, I’ll move on to the 6th pick, or 7th pick etc. What that should leave me with is 25 new albums for me to listen to over the course of this year.

These are going to be different reviews from my usual posts. Typically in my Nightman Listens posts, I listen to the album once, frantically typing my thoughts before each song ends. It’s not the best way to gauge quality or solidify my own opinions. But it’s fast and allows me to get through a lot. In my Marillion posts, I’m listening to each album multiple times until I am happy to write something meaningful, or until I get sick of it – though I’m still going song by song. Writing an entry for each song feels like I’m constrained and forced into repetition or finding something to say about a song that I don’t have many feelings on or words to use. With these 2020 posts, I’ll be a little more loose and write only about the songs which stood out in a positive or negative way, with a summary about my feelings on the album as a whole. I don’t anticipate that I’ll due much journalistic due diligence around the album or artist details – what prompted the album, who the band members are, any of the surrounding context which a good reviewer absolutely should talk about. If I particularly enjoy an album I’ll do that naturally, or maybe I’ll be curious about a particular person or song and want to delve deeper. We. Will. See.

The publications I have chosen are:

NME: Because it was once upon a time the foremost in good British music journalism and opinion. Is it still? No idea.

BBC: Because I’m British and they probably will pick a mixture of commercial and curio.

Rolling Stone: Because it’s a mixture of BBC and NME, but with a US slant.

Kerrang: Because I wanted some Metal. Or rock.

Best Selling: Because critics and reviewers often disagree, and I want the popular vote too.

There are a lot of other publications I could have selected – Pitchfork, Metal Hammer, Metacritic, or been more genre specific. But these are the ones I’ve nailed down and am sticking with.

Below are the albums each publication has selected. I’m listing their Top Fives first. Where there is duplication I will follow up with a second list, adding one further entry from that publication’s chart. Then at the bottom, I’m giving the final list of what I will be listening to, in alphabetical order (and that’s the order I’m going to listen and post by) alongside my immediate brief thoughts on the artist.


5: Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher

4: The Strokes: The New Abnormal

3: Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

2: Taylor Swift: Folklore

1: Run The Jewels: RTJ4

BBC: They actually didn’t go with a Top five, just a rambling post mentioning some albums.

5: Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters

4: Chloe X Halle: Ungodly Hour

3: Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways

2: Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine

1: Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Rolling Stone:

5: Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

4: Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways

3: Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG

2: Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters

1: Taylor Swift: Folklore


5: Enter Shikari: Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible

4: Ghostmane: Anti-Icon

3: Deftones: Ohms

2: Biffy Clyro: A Celebration Of Endings

1: Code Orange: Underneath

Best Selling:

5: Taylor Swift: Folklore

4: Fine Lines: Harry Styles

3: Roddy Ricch: Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

2: Lil Baby: My Turn

1: Post Malone: Hollywood’s Bleeding.

And now, the list updated to remove duplicates:


5: Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher

4: The Strokes: The New Abnormal

3: Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

2: Taylor Swift: Folklore

1: Run The Jewels: RTJ4


5: Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters

4: Chloe X Halle: Ungodly Hour

3: Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways

2: Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine

1: Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Rolling Stone:

5: Lady Gaga: Chromatica

4: Jessie Ware: What’s Your Pleasure?

3: Lil Uzi Vert: Eternal Atake

2: Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud

1: Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG


5: Enter Shikari: Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible

4: Ghostmane: Anti-Icon

3: Deftones: Ohms

2: Biffy Clyro: A Celebration Of Endings

1: Code Orange: Underneath

Best Selling:

5: Pop Smoke: Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon

4: Fine Lines: Harry Styles

3: Roddy Ricch: Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

2: Lil Baby: My Turn

1: Post Malone: Hollywood’s Bleeding

And finally, the posting order with some basic pleasantries:

  1. Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG (I have never heard of this person or thing)

2. Biffy Clyro: A Celebration Of Endings (I’ve seen them live a couple of times, and yet I’ve never cared to listen to a single album and I doubt I could name a single song)

3. Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways (I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a full Dylan album run through. But I just can’t get past his voice)

4. Chloe X Halle: Ungodly Hour (I have never heard of this person or thing)

5. Code Orange: Underneath (I have never heard of this person or thing)

6. Deftones: Ohms (Was never a fan, always seemed to droning and moaning and, well, shit)

7. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia (She’s a Liverpool fan, right?)

8. Enter Shikari: Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible (Same with Biffy Clyro, except I don’t think I’ve seen this lot live).

9. Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters (I don’t think I’ve listened to a Fiona Apple song since the 90s. Except that one time on mushrooms one of my mates was trying to teach me to remember the full name of that really long album title she has. I failed, and ended up chatting to a scarecrow instead).

10. Ghostmane: Anti-Icon (I have never heard of this person or thing)

11. Harry Styles: Fine Lines (One of the boys from One Direction, right?)

12. Jessie Ware: What’s Your Pleasure? (I have never heard of this person or thing)

13. Lady Gaga: Chromatica (I’ve always viewed her as a B Grade Sia, without actually giving her the time of day. Maybe I’m wrong).

14. Lil Baby: My Turn (I have never heard of this person or thing)

15. Lil Uzi Vert: Eternal Atake (I have never heard of this person or thing – why do so many, I’m assuming, rappers have ‘Lil’ as part of their name? Is there a genuine story behind this? Because it makes you all sound like dicks. Lil Dicks.)

16. Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (I have never heard of this person or thing)

17. Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher (I have never heard of this person or thing)

18. Pop Smoke: Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon (I have never heard of this person or thing)

19. Post Malone: Hollywood’s Bleeding (I have heard of this person or thing, but don’t think I could name a single song)

20. Roddy Ricch: Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial (I have never heard of this person or thing)

21. Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine (I may have seen her live, maybe with Moloko? A colleague of my wife has claimed that my wife looks like young Roisin Murphy. Yay?)

22. Run The Jewels: RTJ4 (I have never heard of this person or thing)

23. Taylor Swift: Folklore (It looks like I’m finally hopping on this bandwagon then. I’m aware that she’s meant to be this person that everyone can admit to liking – like, ooh I’m a hipster but Taylor Swift is cool, or ooh I’m a seven year old girl and want to be Taylor Swift, or ooh I’m a big scary metal guy but Taylor Swift is baddass. Based on the few songs I’ve heard by her, my opinion has been ooh, I’m not a fucking knob and Taylor Swift makes shite music. But again, maybe I’m wrong).

24. The Strokes: The New Abnormal (When these boys first hit the big time, I was a lone dissenting voice. Couldn’t stand the vocals, the lack of variety and creativity alarmed me to the point that I genuinely believed everyone praising them for such had gone insane. Maybe they have grown beyond hitting the same three chords with the same rhythm in the last 20 years).

25. Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud (I have never heard of this person or thing)

There you have it. Which of the above albums do my more musical followers approve of or recommend? Are there any albums from 2020 not included above that I should definitely hear? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To The Best Albums Of 2020 (and blog meanderings)!

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Remember going and seeing live music with actual real life people?

Greetings, Glancers! It’s what nobody asked for – more moaning about music by me. Puhlease, pretty puhlease try to understand that I’m really only doing this for myself. I want to keep track of modern music – not just the artists I listen to myself, but what the majority of people and critics are listening to and loving. I could do that without writing about it, but I find that if I have a task to complete – such as writing a post – then I’ll give more dedication to it, something more than a cursory throwaway listen (I’m also going to try to give all of the other albums I’m listening to for my other series more than a single listen).

This post is just to alert all of you that it’s coming. I don’t know what sort of format this is going to take – do I look at some consensus site and listen to the top 50 albums there? Do I go around various publications and lists and listen to the top five on each, from NME to Metal Hammer to Q to Rolling Stone to the biggest sellers? I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to hear music I wasn’t previously aware of. I want a mix of genres. I’m not holding out much hope for finding a new favourite band or singer, that would be nice, but if I can find a couple of songs on each album to enjoy then I suppose I’ll be happy. Mostly, I don’t want to be the curmudgeonly old man out of touch with new music.

At the time of writing, I haven’t checked out any of the sites or publications or lists to have any idea of what was popular in 2020. I think there was a new Taylor Swift album which dropped out of the blue? I haven’t listened to anything by her, but I am at least aware she exists. I assume there will be a bunch of crappy next big thing Indie bands, plenty of in your face Rap peeps, and a lot of overrated solo crooners. On the Metal side, I don’t really know. I bought hardly any new albums last year that I have listened to a significant number of times… JDB’s new album, the new Lovebites album… that’s about it.

Elsewhere, I still have this niggling urge to start my own podcast. The thing holding me back, as with anything, is the effort involved. I wouldn’t want it just to be a random chat, though that would make up a significant part of each episode. There would be a focus, leaning towards something similar to what I do on the blog, such as a listenathon of a particular artist or chart but with the bonus of having the opinion of another 1-3 people. But I’d like to start each episode with general chit chat and catch up on what movies and shows we’ve been watching. The other problem is of course finding 1-3 other people. I’m old – I don’t have friends anymore!

I realise that I already have a load of other series on the go – some are close to the end, some are only beginning, and some will probably never be done. In other words, this new thing will always be a work in progress and by the time I get around to listening and posting it may very well be the end of 2021. But as it’s a work in progress I’ll just keep carrying it on from year to year, and hey, maybe rather than going track by track I’ll actually write the thing like a real reviewer! Between following Marillion, finishing up my Bowie, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Beatles Solo bits, Beach Boys, and Best Evers, and now throwing newbs into the mix, I’m hoping to enrich my musical oeuvre and maybe learn a thing or three along the way.

Let us know if you have any favourites of 2020 you think I should check out!