Monday, December 30, 2019

YEAR END LISTS: The 10 Best Concerts I Attended in 2019

Thank god, we're finally done with all the bad stuff. I'm tired of trashing albums and songs, it's time I start talking positively. Here now is the list of the best concerts I went to this past year. This list is gonna be a little bit different than the worst concerts list since, for this list, I'm only including shows I saw in full, from start to finish. So while I'd love to talk about how incredible The Cure's encore at ACL was, or how the end of Los Lonely Boys set at KAABOO Texas melted my face, I don't think it's completely fair. So without further ado, here is the list.

10. Blue October

Houston based rock band Blue October is a band I've been familiar with for a little while so I kinda knew what to expect that Friday night. However, lead singer Justin Furstenfield completely stole the show. Gliding across the stage and even stopping at times to bust a move while still hitting every note flawlessly. The band was super tight and the crowd had great energy which made this show very enjoyable.

Favorite Moments: Singing Into the Ocean with a couple thousand strangers; my dad saying Justin reminded him of Adam Levine

9. Brittany Howard

I had never listened to Alabama Shakes before but the hype surrounding Brittany (and my friends wanting to camp for Billie) made me check out her set. I was blown away by just how talented she was and how amazing her voice was. Her performance of Stay High could possibly be the most peaceful moment of my life. Even though half of the crowd at that point couldn't have cared less who was on stage, she did a good job of keeping everybody engaged and making sure everyone there was having a good time. 

Favorite Moment: Brittany walking out and acknowledging us by saying, "Gah damn, there's a lot of y'all out there, I like that. Y'all ready to get charged up!"

8. Sting 

There is no show I would've rather had barricade for this year than Sting. He quite possibly had the softest intro of any artist at the entire festival. Promptly walking on stage at 9:30 PM, waving, then launching right into Message in a Bottle. The show was a trip through his entire career, including hits from The Police, sing-a-longs from his solo career, and even a song from his collaboration album with Shaggy. His performance of Roxanne nearly blew the roof off of the stadium. A short two hours after he walked out, he gave his tech the guitar he was playing, blew the crowd a kiss, and promptly walked off stage.

Favorite Moment: This festival had a VIP package that put you in a special pit right in front of the stage. During Fields of Gold, a couple walked out of the pit and took a selfie right in front of Sting to which he responded, "What the f*ck?"

7. Denzel Curry

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Photo Courtesy of Austin Chronicle

Saturday of W2 did not start off well for ACL. There was already bitterness throughout the park as Megan Thee Stallion didn't show up for her set and Denzel himself was 10 minutes late. But the second he took the stage, all was forgiven. For 50 minutes, he sprinted across the stage, nailing every bar, and prompting us to mosh and jump only by his energy. And when he did prompt us to open up a circle for his last song, Ultimate. Well, just watch this. When he realized he was out of time he hopped into the crowd to proclaim, "I am out this mothaf*cka."

Favorite Moments: Denzel and his DJ giving each other hell throughout the set; Helping a blow-up doll crowdsurf; Having my dad text me after saying, "Did you survive?" after he watched the opening songs from behind the sound booth. 

6. Trombone Shorty

I don't think there is a better example of pure talent than Trombone Shorty. He and his band were without a doubt the most talented individuals at the entire festival. For 45 minutes straight, the band sounded like they were just jamming. The set sounded like I was walking down Bourbon St. at 1 AM looking for beads. The set ended with the band covering Brain Stew by Green Day which might be one of the best performances I've heard all year. What I loved about this show was that it all music, unlike the other nights. No lasers, no confetti, just raw talent on stage.

Favorite Moment: One of the background singers daughters sitting backstage playing on her mom's phone, taking pictures and videos and every so often, coming on stage to take a picture with her mom.

5. Billie Eilish

As soon as Brittany Howard's set concluded, you could feel the draw Billie had. The show started with an eerie, anime intro which led to Finneas and Drew Marshall hopping on stage, then Billie strutting to her place atop a riser. The show started with her smash-hit bad guy which sent the entire park into a frenzy. The rest of the show was an hour-long scream-a-long with Billie having everyone in the audience in the palm of her hand. There was a lot of skepticism when ACL announced her billed so highly on the lineup, but anyone who was there (which, was a lot of people) would tell you that she deserved her spot.


Favorite Moments: Billie calling out the VIP section for not bending down during COPYCAT; Her giving a speech about being present in the moment because we'll never have these moments again before when the party's over.

4. The Killers

If you're a legendary rock band, one of the most ballsy things you can do at your shows is come out and play your biggest hit first. At KAABOO Texas, The Killers did exactly that. As the horns of Frank Sinatra's Luck Be A Lady blared through the PA, Brandon Flowers walked onto the stage, put his hands around his hips, and guitarist Ted Sablay played the opening notes to Mr. Brightside. The show had that Las Vegas flair to it, tons of confetti, flying sparks, and plenty of lasers to go around to complement the fantastic band. Flowers is a true showman. He was enthusiastic, passionate, and I don't think he stopped smiling the whole time. The band spent an hour and a half ripping through hit after hit after hit and the crowd ate it up.  "We're The Killers and we're brought to you by way of Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada," Flowers said as the final notes of When You Were Young rang out and the band walked off stage. 

Favorite Moments: Before Runaways, Flowers and Sablay covered Amarillo by Morning to the Texas crowds delight; Before For Reasons Unkown, Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. pulled an audience member from the crowd to play drums on the song. 

3. Alanis Morissette

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Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Even though The Killers headlined KAABOO Texas that evening, it was Alanis Morissette who stole the evening. She came on stage, very pregnant, and launched straight into You Learn. The rest of her set, which relied heavily on her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, was a trip back to high school for most of the attendees. Everyone next to, in front of, and behind me was singing their hearts out, which is part of what made the show so fun. I had never experienced anything like that before. The band behind her was incredible. They had the perfect balance between talent and energy. As for Alanis, it's like her voice has never aged. She hit every note with same amount of emotion as she did when she recorded it. Although I would never go out of my way to see her again, she should be a "must-see" for any 90s rock fan. 

Favorite Moments: Seeing everyone's face when they realized Alanis was pregnant.  

2. Twenty Øne Piløts

Driving down the street to the arena, it was easy to see the effect that Tyler and Josh had on the city. Members of the Clique lined the street, decked out in neon yellow and camo, waiting for the doors to open. The show started off kind of spooky. A curtain dropped revealing Dun, clad in olive green and holding a torch, and Joseph, perched atop a burning car. For the next two hours, they proved that they are a live force not to be reckoned with. The show featured Joseph and Dun singing and drumming (respectively) on top of the pit and Joseph falling through a hole in the stage and popping up three rows behind me. The thing that made this show even more incredible was that Tyler and Josh had more energy between both of them than most other 5 or 6 piece bands I've seen. It doesn't matter how much you can't stand them, or how sick you are of Heathens. If these two are ever in your city, go see them.

Favorite Moments: Their performance of Car Radio, the song that made me a fan of this band. It was complemented with cryo, lasers, and Tyler running to the back of the arena and climbing to the top of a platform to finish the song; Tyler's speech before Trees was also a highlight of the night.

1. Childish Gambino

When I got the news last September that Donald Glover had broken his foot and would have to cancel his ACL appearance, I was gutted. However, after he finished performing the still to be released Algorythm, I realized that it was for the best. A festival run across the country helped him hone in this beautiful beast of a show he put together. The show started with Glover standing on a platform in front of the sound booth surrounded with disco balls which lifted him high into the air. The show kicked off with him performing the Algorythm song I mentioned earlier, an epic, 7 minute long track which featured a choir chanting behind him as his band tore it up. Glover spent just as much time in the audience as he did on stage, and when he was on stage, he was hitting dance moves that were smoother than butter. Spinning around, shuffling, even moonwalking at times. The show is really split into three sections. The intro, which consisted of some of his more upbeat songs like Summertime Magic, Worldstar, and Me and Your Mama, the latter of which featured a fireworks behind the stage. The trippy songs, including Riot, with a slow intro bursting into a loud wall of sound with Glover running back and forth across the stage, Terrified, and another unreleased song, Human Sacrifice. And finally, the hits, which might have been the best part of the show. As he finished Redbone, he ran back into the crowd one more time, standing on top of the barricade and even running through the VIP section, before getting back on stage and simply saying, "Thank you Austin," and disappearing.

Favorite Moments: Donald's interactions with the crowd; the live band; all of the lasers, especially during Sober, which might be the best live performance of any song I've ever seen.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

YEAR END LISTS: The 10 Worst Albums of 2019

I've been waiting to do this list for a while. This is the peak of year-end lists for me. This is the last of the negative lists until next year but the worst albums list is always the most fun because I love mocking bad albums. Without further ado, here are the 10 worst albums I heard this year.

10. Happiness Begins - Jonas Brothers

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I don't think I've ever heard an album as incredibly safe and generic as this one this year. I understand that they're trying to keep up with current music trends and trying to make a good pop record, but it falls oh so short of that. Most of the album is either predictable or forgettable. (In this album's defense, Sucker and Only Human are bops)

9. Hollywood's Bleeding - Post Malone

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The lead singles gave me high hopes for this album. Goodbyes had some of the best production I've heard all year, and Circles is a dreamy, Tame Impala sounding song perfect for top-down drives. However, the rest of the album is a bloated mess. The song Staring at the Sun is literally Sunflower Pt. 2, Allergic is a sad attempt at an 80s pop song, and don't even get me started on Saint Tropez. It sucks that I got my hopes very high for this. 

8. Neotheater - AJR

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Have you ever not wanted to not grow up? And have you ever not wanted to do it so much that you make 45 minutes of music whining about how you don't want to do that? Then this is for you. On this album AJR just keeps doing what they do best. Making music that they think is edgy but just comes off cringey and flat. For 45 minutes, lead singer Jack Met does his best Tyler Joseph impression while crying about how you shouldn't take his legos away because he might not want to give them up and how he's only cool because he's had 100 terrible days like no one else in the world has.

7. Free Spirit - Khalid

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Don't get me wrong, I love Khalid. American Teen and Suncity are great projects and the lead singles from this album were great. The catchy Better and the Disclosure produced Talk are both solid songs, but this album is just lazy. While there are some bright spots on here, like "Outta My Head" featuring John Mayer and "Hundred," which both feature some cool guitar tracks, this album is just too long. A lot of the album is also pretty forgettable. If there's one artist who shouldn't be making long albums like this, it's Khalid. 

6. Weezer (The Black Album) - Weezer

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WHY RIVERS WHY! This album actually isn't bad for the first 3 or 4 songs as I genuinely think that "High as a Kite" is the best song Rivers has ever written, but after that, it drops off bad. Honestly, this album sounds like Rivers is so excited to turn 18 because he can finally cuss, which isn't something he needed to do. The song "Piece of Cake," starts the downward descent of this album. The chorus is an earworm, but not in a good way. And the opening line, "Let's do hard drugs/Fix our problems," seems like an instance where Rivers is trying to sound cool talking about things he's never done. Another song I need to mention is the song "Byzantine" which sounds like something you would hear in an elevator in Sears. Let's hope Van Weezer is better.

5. The Big Day - Chance The Rapper

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This album originally didn't sit too well with me as I thought it was the sound of wasted potential. This had the chance to be the best Chance the Rapper album he's ever released. Yet it isn't. I think the main issue around this album is that he had too many people around him who were afraid to say no. The first section of this album is honestly pretty good, "All Day Long" and "Do You Remember" do a great job of kicking off the album and the songs Town on the Hill and Sun Come Down have incredible vibes to them. But with an album as long as this, there's bound to be some bad spots. For example, a reference to "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" in 2019? Or how his tour is gonna have 8 legs but he can't even sell tickets for the first one? Even though it has grown on me, it's still a very sorry excuse for a Chance the Rapper project.

4. ERYS - Jaden Smith

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I have full faith that one day Jaden is going to put out a quality project, but ERYS is not that quality project. If SYRE was his best attempt at recreating The Life of Pablo, then ERYS is his best attempt at recreating ASTROWORLD. There are so many beat switches on this album that I can't even point out each specific one. The ideas on this album are so bold and grand but they never completely pan out. It's kinda sad because Jaden has unlimited resources at his disposal so this album should be good, but he just doesn't know what direction he wants to go with it. Hopefully, he will improve with time and realize that he has unlimited resources.

3. Father of Ashad - DJ Khaled

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Speaking of having unlimited resources, this album is a terrible example of exactly that. On this album, Khaled throws away his whole budget to make a mediocre album. From stealing an Outkast beat to including a song that was released a year and two months before the album release date. There's also a lot of collabs on here that sound amazing on paper but end up falling flat. For example, the song "Celebrate" features Post Malone and Travis Scott, but Travis chorus is literally drowning in auto-tune, which means a lot for Travis Scott. I feel like this album only exists so Asahd can get royalties for the rest of his life. 

2. No. 6 Collaborations Project - Ed Sheeran

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This album is just a mess and not in a good way. Rather than collaborating with people he's actually close with and artists he collaborated with before, Ed decided to take a sharp right turn and get a feature from every artist below him on Spotify's Top 100 Artists list. With this, Ed also decides to try and make a song that sounds like something the featured artist would release. This leads to Ed trying to rap or trying to make a straight-up "rawk and roll" track. Also, of the 15 songs on this album, about 5 of the songs follow the same pattern of, "I'm at a party, I don't like parties, I don't fit in, let me whine about it." Of course, this album still sold insanely well because, at this point, Ed could fart into the mic and still have a platinum album.

1. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - Logic

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The best way to describe this album is, if J.I.D., Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar never existed, Logic would have nowhere to go, because this album wears his influences on his sleeve so much so that he literally sounds like he's making a J.I.D. or Eminem album. This album has Logic wearing blinders to hide constructive criticism while he raps fast and talks about how much haters hate him and how he's so much better than said haters. What Logic needs to do for once is listen to these critics because they might actually help him put out a quality project. And some of the bars on this thing, jesus. "I don't play no games 'less we talkin' Fortnite" on the track Keanu Reeves, "I'm just a regular person, so I'm not good enough, no... I don't get likes like they get likes, so I am gonna slit my f*cking wrist" on wannabe, and, perhaps the grandaddy of them all, "I'd suck a d*ck just to prove it ain't that way/Ninety-nine percent don't listen what I say." on the song clickbait. If there is one person fighting to keep white rappers in the spotlight, Logic is not that guy. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

YEAR END LISTS: The 15 Worst Songs of 2019

I honestly hate that I have to make this list. A lot of the songs on this list are from artists I really like and I hate to put them on here. But enough of the sympathy, let's get going on 15 of the worst songs I heard this year. 

15. Earth - Lil Dicky

Celebrity cameos, slick production, this song should be amazing on paper. However, it falls so short of that. Sorry attempts at humor, terrible bars. It's sad that a song with such great intentions had to be so bad. 

14. The Big Day - Chance The Rapper

I understand the premise of this. Chance is getting married, it's his big day, and all he wants to do is dance and go crazy. However, it would help if Chance could actually do a good job of conveying that idea rather than barely mumbling over the song before having Francis and the Lights scare the living daylight out of me. This song honestly sounds like an episode of the Eric Andre Show.

13. Old Town Road (Remix) - Lil Nas X (ft. Billy Ray Cyrus)

If I had a dollar for every time I had to listen to this song, I would take that money and move to an island where I would never have to listen to this song, specifically, this remix again. It's such a weird concept. A country song, over a trap beat, that samples Nine Inch Nails, and features the man who sings "Achy Breaky Heart." It's not that it's actually bad, the beat is okay and the vocal performances are great, but god damn it this song is so annoying. It sucks that this is the song that made Lil Nas X popular because he's gonna be living in the shadow of this song for the rest of his life.

12. Closed on Sunday - Kanye West

Jesus Is King is one of the most peculiar albums I've listened to this year because it's produced a few of my favorite Kanye songs but also has some head-scratchers, including this one. The second you hear the opening line, "Closed on Sunday/You're my Chick-fil-A," you know that this song shouldn't be taken seriously. I know that this is supposed to be a Christian album, but this song is such a cheesy attempt to push family values. When I first listened to this album, I didn't think it could get worse, however, it could. More on that later.

11. I Really Wish I Hated You - Blink-182

There is no better description of a butt-rock song than this. Generic riff, pointless lyrics, odd delivery. Mark Hoppus has this problem of writing about high school problems even though he's 30+ years removed from those times and he hasn't shaken this habit. It's just a constant rinse and repeat cycle that, honestly, is kinda boring now. Also, I don't know how Mark's voice can still sound more and more soulless, he's literally singing for a paycheck at this point.

10. If I Can't Have You - Shawn Mendes

I've always been a fan of Shawn Mendes but this song does absolutely nothing for me. I honestly think that it's the laziest thing Shawn has put out in his career. I thought this track was good when I first heard it. It was catchy and easy to sing along to. But every time after, it just got more and more frustrating as it seems like he only sings the same thing for three minutes while the beat speeds up and slows down. 

9. Antisocial - Ed Sheeran (ft. Travis Scott)

Of all the songs on this album, this one might be the most confusing. First, Ed Sheeran trying to rap on this song is downright cringey. I could've gone my whole life without hearing him attempt to rap yet, it exists. Also, Travis's verse serves absolutely no purpose. He literally just jumbled some words together so he could get his check. There is absolutely 0 chemistry between these two.

8. On God - Kanye West

I wish I had the words to describe the sound of this song. It honestly sounds like something that would play in an arcade game. But not a good arcade game, like an arcade game that's tucked away in the corner that no one plays. The lyrics also don't do it any favors. From name dropping Cheif Keef to blaming the IRS for charging crazy prices for merch so he can feed his family. This song is all over the place and not in a good way.

7. Press - Cardi B

I honestly don't even know where to start with this one. For how short it is, this song should not be as annoying as it is. With well thought out bars like, "Hoes poppin' sh*t like they hot but they not (No)" and "Ridin' that d*ck like I'm Cardi Andretti," you can tell that she really thought this through. I honestly cannot wait for this album to come out because I haven't properly dragged an album in a while.

6. Saint Tropez - Post Malone

If I wanted to be called poor for 2 and a half minutes by a rapper, Post Malone is the last guy I want to do it. This song is the definition of flexing, including lines like, "Versace boxers on my d*ck / Bud Light runnin' through my piss." It's easy to imagine that this song was the one his sponsors put him up to. Also, this song honestly sounds like a ripoff of one of his own songs, Too Young.

5. Hot Shower - Chance The Rapper, MadeinTYO, DaBaby

There are few rappers who sound good over minimalist bass and drum beat, and Chance isn't one of them. This song somehow manages to be the best and worst song on this album at the same time, because while it is bouncy and will go down well live (if Chance ever does shows for this album) but Chance's voice makes me wanna throw my phone into my pool. DaBaby is the only person on this song with a decent performance because he is one of those rappers that sounds good on this type of beat. 

4. Chic Tweetz - The Desert Sessions

This is the type of song that makes you wonder, "Just how long were Josh Homme and Co. in that desert for?" The song features Josh  Töôrnst Hülpft singing one of the strangest songs I've ever heard. It starts with our singing talking about how he drank glue then goes on to explain, you know what, to be honest, I don't even know what he's explaining. This song is a hilarious mess.

3. Thotiana - Blueface

Have you ever wanted to hear a rapper fight a beat? This is your song. Blueface is so off-tempo that it's not even funny. He has so much he wants to say but doesn't have enough time to say it. The beat sounds like something I would put together in the GarageBand iPad app when I'm bored. You know what, I bet I could put together a better one, just being frank.

2. money machine - 100 gecs

This song sounds like someone threw a cat in a blender and added distortion and auto-tune to it. I seriously have no clue what I'm listening to. The lyrics are merely there because they have to be. Singer Laura Les starts off the song pretty much bullying a person who she believes herself to be better than. I really considered putting this song in the number 1 spot, but there's still something worse than this somehow. 

1. EAST - Earl Sweatshirt

Earl Sweatshirt has always been a pretty experimental rapper, but that's a terrible excuse for this song to exist. The beat on this song is absolutely awful. It honestly sounds like something a pirate would play on his hunt for gold. It just keeps looping over and over and over to the point where jumping out of my car seems preferable to hearing it loop over again. Also, it was very experimental of Earl to sing this song with the mic inside of his mouth. Very cool Earl.