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)!

No photo description available.
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.

NME:

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

Kerrang:

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:

NME:

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:

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

Kerrang:

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)

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

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

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

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

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).

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

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

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

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).

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

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.)

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

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

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

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

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

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?)

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

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).

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).

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!