My Favorite Albums of 2020

Hello there. I hope you’re doing well (unless you’re a racist piece of shit, then off you fuck). We have reached that time of year again. The time where I share my terrible opinions on a bunch of music. That’s right, once again I will share my favorite albums of the year that just ended. But before we begin, let’s lay down some ground rules.

Rule number 1: Let’s all be kind here. This is my list, my opinions, and I hope you can respect them. If you don’t agree with any of them, that’s fine. Just don’t be a dick about it in the comments section.

Rule number 2: I will not be including any greatest hits albums, as that’d just be cheating for very obvious reasons. Only albums of previously unreleased material.

Rule number 3: No soundtracks/scores from movies/tv/games for similar reasons as rule number 2. This is strictly a list of regular albums released by bands/artists.

With all that out of the way, let’s get into my favorite albums of 2020!

Number 11: Gangstagrass – No Time For Enemies (Sample: Nickel And Dime Blues)

Kicking it off with number 11 we have the latest release from eclectic music project Gangstagrass. For the uninitiated, Gangstagrass is a group that mixes bluegrass with hiphop. I’ve been a fan of them for a few years, and I was super excited to see them release some new material. And it’s really solid. It’s fun, but it also has some deeper meaning with a few of its tracks. It’s just good stuff.

Number 10: Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor (Sample: Simmer)

At number 10 is the first ever solo release from Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams. It’s very clear from the offset that this is a very raw and personal project for Williams, which brings us an album that is manages to both entertain as a general music experience, while also giving off a bit of a somber, introspective vibe at times. And that makes for a really interesting listening experience that I’d certainly recommend.

Number 9: Neil Young – Homegrown (Sample: Separate Ways)

Next up on the list is the latest release form none other than Neil Young (more like Neil Old, am I right?). And much like “Hitchhiker” in 2017, this album was actually recorded way back in the 70s, but has remained in the archives since then… until 2020 that is. And while not as terrific as the aforementioned “Hitchhiker”, there is no denying just how good Young is as a songwriter. You can tell that he was going through some stuff at the time, which translated itself a little into the songs themselves. And it makes for a really solid album.

Number 8: Blue Öyster Cult – The Symbol Remains (Sample: That Was Me)

Speaking of old people releasing new albums, Blue Öyster Cult’s back. 19 years after their last studio release, the band has come out with “The Symbol Remains”. And despite that long time between albums, it’s clear that these gents have lost none of their skill. What you get here is a healthy mix of the Cult’s older style, with some more modern influences sown throughout, making for a sound that shows the band’s ability to evolve without sacrificing what makes them unique and interesting. And I love that.

Number 7: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Pressure (Sample: Pressure)

Coming in at 7th place is “Pressure”, the latest release from American hard rock act Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. Crunchy guitars, scratchy vocals, ear-meltingly good solos, and some nice, driving percussion. It’s everything you could ask for in a good hard rock release.

Number 6: Alastair Greene – The New World Blues (Sample: Lies and Fear)

Ending the back half of this list is American blues rocker Alastair Greene’s latest release. And let me tell you, if you love blues rock as much as I do, then you’re in for a treat with this. What you get are some fun and frankly interesting lyrics, sung by someone with a really good blues voice. And as the cherry on top you get some absolutely excellent guitar work that is an absolute joy to listen to. It’s a damn good album.

Number 5: Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea (Sample: Royal Tea)

Speaking of feelin’ the blues… Smokin’ Joe is back with another album. And once again he has managed to make his way onto a best of the year list. Is it possible that I might be a bit of a Bonamassa fanboy? Yes. But that’s also the beauty of this blog… I can let my fanboyisms fly, and no one can stop me. But in all seriousness, Bonamassa is an excellent musician whose craft improves with every new album he releases. And “Royal Tea” is further proof of that, bringing us more of the uniquely interesting lyrics/vocals and ear-melting guitar work I’ve come to expect from him.

Number 4: Deep Purple – Whoosh! (Sample: The Power of the Moon)

I’ll be honest, after 2017’s “Infinite”, I wasn’t sure if Deep Purple would make another album. But 2020 proved me fucking wrong with the release of “Whoosh!” (that’s a fun title). Do you like Deep Purple? Then you’re gonna fucking like “Whoosh!”. It has a lot of the staples we’ve come to expect from them in terms of style, just done to absolute perfection. Ian Gillan’s vocals are still top notch, there’s still good guitar work, and the heavy synth is still as fun as ever. Will this album be listed as a classic along “Machine Head” or “In Rock”? Only time will tell. But in this moment I can at least say without a doubt that it’s a fucking great album. A fucking great album called “Whoosh!”.

Number 3: Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (Sample: Ooh LA LA)

Taking the bronze on this list is the latest album from rap duo Run the Jewels. What’s extra fascinating about it is that they released the album for free on their website before the actual release date, as a gift in the harsh times of 2020. And that’s a cool fucking gesture on their part. And the album itself is great (its inclusion here shoulda been a dead giveaway), featuring plenty of great flows, lyrics with plenty of meaning, and a lot of fun beats. There’s also plenty of interesting guest appearances throughout that adds a lot to it. It’s just a top tier rap album, man.

Number 2: Sepultura – Quadra (Sample: Isolation)

I’ll be honest, for years I couldn’t get into Sepultura. I don’t know why, but for some reason I had a hard time seeing the appeal. But in recent years I have started coming around to them. And the latest album from the Brazilian metal band is some excellent stuff. It hearkens back to a lot of mid to late 80s thrash, while also featuring elements of death metal and even some traditional Brazilian music. And it makes for one of the most electrifying listening experiences I had in 2020.

NUMBER 1: Blues Pills – Holy Moly! (Sample: Kiss My Past Goodbye)

Here we are, friends. The final one. The gold medalist. El queso grande. My favorite album of 2020 is “Holy Moly!”, the latest release from Swedish psychdelic blues rock band Blues Pills. I stumbled upon one of their songs around two years ago, loving it. So I checked out a few more songs, loving those. Which had me eagerly anticipating whatever they’d release next. Cut to 2020 and “Holy Moly!” hits stores and streaming and wherever else their music can be found. And right from that first listen, I fell in love. This album is fun, funky, and absolutely electrifying. It’s simply fantastic.

So those were my favorite albums of 2020. And whether you agree with my picks or not, I hope you enjoyed reading through that. Maybe you even discovered a new favorite? Anyhow, if you have any favorite album from 2020, feel free to mention it in the comments.

Have a good one.

Movie Review: Blindspotting (2018)

Life is fucking messy. You might think you have it figured out, but then something comes out of god damn nowhere and screws with you. You couldn’t see that coming. There are a lot of blindspots like that.

Ladies and gents… “Blindspotting”.

Collin (Daveed Diggs) has recently been released from prison on probation, and has to try to keep himself out of trouble so he doesn’t get thrown back in. This causes him to reevaluate his life and in turn his relationship with his best friend (Rafael Casal). What I find interesting about “Blindspotting” is its various subject matters and the way(s) it tackles them. There is some dark stuff throughout the movie, but the filmmakers also show us some of the more lighthearted aspects of the lives of these guys. And the way these tones are balanced throughout is incredible. Yes, I’ve seen movies mix drama and comedy before, but the way “Blindspotting” does it, I’ve never really seen. It’s quite a fresh and compelling story that I loved following.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, and just really interesting. Daveed Diggs plays Collin, the guy who the movie mostly focuses on. He’s a good dude who’s done some bad stuff, and seeing him try to keep his life from going down that path again is utterly compelling. And Daveed Diggs is fantastic in the role, really bringing a lot of depth to the role. Rafael Casal plays Miles, Collin’s best friend since they were boys. He’s a bit of a wild card, and I’ll just leave it at that, and that he’s a really interesting foil for Collin. And Casal is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ethan Embry, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The music in “Blindspotting” largely consists of hip-hop, and while I don’t think I’d listen to most of the tracks in my spare time, I do think they all contributed to the movie in some interesting way that worked for each scene. There is apparently also a score by Michael Yezerski here, but I don’t remember hearing something like that, so I can’t really comment on it. The rest of the music though… Good.

The movie was written by its two stars, Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs, with directing duties being handed to Carlos López Estrada. And the passion behind the craft here is infectious, which adds a lot to the technical talent on display. The way Estrada brings us into each scene with the characters often makes it feel like I was a bit of a fly on the wall of each conversation, I felt truly transported into it. Estrada also shows on multiple occasions how good he is at building suspense, making for some truly great sequences. And as I alluded to early on in the review, this movie is part comedy. And I found those bits to be really funny, which I did not expect, as I kinda thought this’d be more of a straight up drama. But yeah, the comedy in this is hilarious.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,4/10.

“Blindspotting” is a clever, unique, and refreshing dramedy that shouldn’t be missed. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, good music, great directing, and hilarious comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Blindspotting” is a 9,88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Blindspotting” is now completed.

Choose a life, choose a job, choose a car- Wait, that’s “Trainspotting”…

Great Music #27

Hello there, ladies and gentlemen of the internet! It’s time for me to ramble about some music that I like again. I should probably also try to do more of these, as you guys seem to enjoy them. Anyway, let’s get into the song.

So for today I chose an odd little song. Not odd in the sense that it has weird lyrics or wacky noises in it, but odd in the sense that it mixes a couple of styles that one wouldn’t think could mesh very well… but somehow it worked and sounds pretty cool. The song in question is “Long Hard Times To Come” by Gangstagrass and T.O.N.E-z. Now how was I introduced to this odd song then? Well, I was introduced to it through the American action-drama series “Justified” (AKA my favorite show). “Long Hard Times To Come” is the show’s opening theme, and that makes it difficult not to notice it and remember it. It’s one of those songs that just kind of fits its show pretty perfectly. I guess I should explain what the show is about to justify (HAHA!) this pick. “Justified” aired from 2010 – 2015 and is about US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) as he’s transferred from Miami to his old home in Kentucky after he shoots a bad dude. And after Raylan arrives in Kentucky, we follow him as he, and his colleagues, work to take down various criminals that cause trouble in the area. It’s a show filled with great characters, snappy dialogue, badass action, and top notch acting. I absolutely love it. It’s kind of like a modern day western in how Raylan has that old Clint Eastwood cowboy swagger about him, even though it’s the modern day. And that’s why the theme works so well. It has the bluegrass sound one could expect from the southern hillbilly/cowboy stuff, but then it also has the rapping that fits the more modern crime stuff. It’s an interesting mix that makes for one of the most memorable theme tunes in recent years. A great theme for a great show.

Have a good one and enjoy!

12 Songs of Christmas 2016 (Part 8)

Hello there, ladies and gents! I hope you’re all doing well. It’s now time for part 8 in this little christmas thingamajig.

So this time we go with something a bit different. To be more specific, it is a rap song. And with that said, you probably already figured out that the song of for today is “Christmas In Hollis” by Run-DMC, which of course can be heard in the christmas classic “Die Hard”. I am not the biggest fan of rap, as you might’ve guessed with all the rock music shared on this blog time and time again.  But I also don’t dislike rap, there are some artists/groups that I do like, and of course individual tracks by various artists. Run-DMC is one of the groups that I genuinely like… mainly thanks to their collaboration with Aerosmith, but whatever. But yeah, they made a christmas song and it turned out to be really good. Not much else to say there, unless you guys feel like adding stuff in the comments.
Enjoy!

Movie Review: Straight Outta Compton (2015)

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Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube
From the gang called
I’m not black enough to say this word With Attitudes.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Straight Outta Compton”.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

So this is a movie about gangsta rap group N.W.A that emerged in the late 80’s. The group consisted of Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jaosn Mitchell), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge). And this movie is basically how they started out easily in Compton, California and then after having met producer Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) how they rose to superstardom. And then it follows what happened when some complications rose among the group. And I have to say that I found the development of the story extremely interesting. The basics of it is a “rags-to-riches” story, but it adds a lot of good drama and even a bit of tension to it all to make it surprisingly unique in it’s execution. I was heavily invested the entire time and I never felt like it dragged at any point which feels weird since the movie is two and a half hours long.

The people you see in this movie are all a bunch of interesting individuals. What I didn’t mention earlier is that while the movie is about NWA, it more or less follows Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre more than the other two. And I guess that might come from the fact that Cube and Dre are producers on this film together with Eazy-E’s widow. Anywho… the acting in this movie was good. You know what’s kind of weird in that sense? Ice Cube is played by Ice Cube’s son. Doing a movie like that would feel like a dumb idea A.K.A. tooting your own horn, but here it really worked. O’Shea Jackson Jr. was great as his dad… that just feels so weird to say. Every other actor was great as well in their roles. I don’t wanna say that every individual because then we’d be here all fuckin’ week… yeah.

I think it goes without saying that if you absolutely hate hip hop/rap, you will not be too happy with the soundtrack for this movie. But would once expect a different kind of soundtrack for a movie like this? Not really. However I have to say that I was a little surprised to find out that there was an original score in this movie as well. And I also have to say that it was really good. It was tense, dramatic and just great. Good job with the score, Joseph Trapanese!

This movie was directed by F. Gary Gray and I am impressed, this is a very well directed movie with lots of great shots and little touches to it. And I think that really helps with the pacing of the movie that I mentioned earlier. Ya know, the part where I mentioned that this movie moves at a pretty quick pace for it’s long(ish) runtime. I also wanna mention that if you hate cursing, nudity, violence, drug use and other not too decent things then maybe you wanna keep away from this movie.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10. The movie was also nominated for 1 Oscar (Fuckin’ really?) in the category of Best Original Screenplay. 

“Straight Outta Compton” is an interesting movie about the lifetime of a legendary hip hop group. It has a great story, great acting, a great soundtrack and great directing. Time for my final score. Yo. My final score for “Straight Outta Compton” is a 9,87/10. IT most definitely gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

My review of “Straight Outta Compton” is now completed.

Damn, that shit was dope!

 

 

Movie Review: 8 Mile (2002)

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The world of rap music is not one I am heavily invested in. Sure, there are a handful of songs I do like. I can honestly say that I like pretty much anything by The Beastie Boys. And I am a fan of Eminem and his music too. What I am trying to say is that even though the genre isn’t one of my favorites, I still have a fair amount of respect for it. With all of that said, let’s review a movie about rapping.

Ladies and gentlemen… “8 Mile”.

So in this movie we follow Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith (Eminem) who lives in a shitty part of Detroit. He is a young rapper who recently broke up with his girlfriend. He also have to try to puzzle his life together in general because, well… everything has kind of gone to shit. He froze up during a rap battle, like I said before he broke up with his girlfriend (who got his car by the way) and his mom (Kim Basinger) is soon to be evicted from her trailer. And the plot was actually kind of interesting. The plot, while familiar, was pretty engaging. You wanted it to go well for this guy which is always a plus when you make a movie. The drama worked pretty well and never felt overly preachy, in lack of better words.

The characters in the movie… I don’t know what to say. I guess they are all decent enough. Not fantastic, but they work. Eminem is fine enough in the main role. To be fair, he was a little than I actually expected. He worked for the character. Kim Basinger as his mom was great. Also damn, she looked great for being 49! Brittany Murphy as Eminem’s new girlfriend was pretty good as well. All other actors were fine too. Also, Michael Shannon was in this movie, so that’s always a plus.

If you are strictly against rap music then you would hate the soundtrack to this movie as it is 100% rap. I however thought it was pretty good. Not fantastic, but pretty good. It worked for what it was used for. Fun fact: This was the movie that introduced the world to Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” which is actually a song I really like. And like I said, the soundtrack was fine, fit well enough.

This movie could have been directed better. Not that the direction was bad, Curtis Hanson did a good job with it, but I feel like it could have been better. The way this movie was directed was pretty simple and “regular” in lack of better words for it. But hey, at least no dutch angles! But to give some credit where credit is due, the rap battles in the movie are pretty cool. Maybe not in the way they are directed, but just in the way how they are. Those scenes have attitude and raw power and that is something I like to see!

This movie was fairly well-received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 76% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. Roger Ebert gave the movie 3/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,9/10. The movie also won 1 Oscar in the category of Best Original Song (Lose Yourself). 

“8 Mile” is a movie with an engaging yet familiar story, good performances, music that fits, decent direction/camera work and some pretty cool scenes with people having rap battles. Time for my final score. *Yo* My final score for “8 Mile” is an 8,52/10. It is worth buying.
Worth buying

Review of “8 Mile” is done.

You better Lose Yourself in the music, the moment…