Schoenberg – Pierrot Lunaire. 5/4/2020. Instrumentally makes a good argument that tonality is a cage from which we all must free ourselves, but I wasn’t so crazy about the vocals. Maybe it’s just because I don’t understand German, but I wish they weren’t given so much priority over the other instruments. I think I’d like it better if there were longer instrumental portions and if the vocals were one of several equally emphasized elements.
Weezer – Weezer (Black). 5/4/2020. Their most extraordinarily okay album to date. The highs aren’t that high and the lows aren’t that low. The songwriting is unwaveringly fine and the production has more layers of detail than the average Weezer album. I’m not too eager to hear any of these songs again, except maybe that banger of a closer, but I did passively enjoy every single while it was playing. Best track: California Snow. Worst track: there really isn’t one, although I will say that can’t knock the hustle is really not one of the better singles from their discography. Strong 5.
Weezer – Weezer (Teal). 5/3/2020. I definitely enjoyed this one and was especially struck by how faithful all the covers are. The most you can really say is that they put their “weezer spin” on a bunch of old pop songs (and for a few tracks you can’t even go that far, they just sound like karaoke). It’s like they used the exact sheet music of the original arrangements to make their versions. I guess they slowed down the drums in the chorus of Happy Together which gave it a more modern feel, that was kinda neat. Overall the quality of the tracks mostly depends on how well they play to Rivers strengths as a vocalist. He sounds great on Everybody wants to Rule The World and Take On Me, but Billie Jean is not so good.
Lido Pimienta – Miss Colombia. This is ace. I loved the mix of pop and traditional influences, grooved to most of the vocal lines and wished my Spanish was good enough to understand the lyrics. Best track: Te Queria. Decent 8.
M.I.A. – MAYA. I should relisten because there’s probably a lot I missed here. It sounded like a really cool collection of sounds without that much songwriting and with too many effects on her voice to make out many of the lyrics. There definitely are a few legit bangers on here and I’m sure MIA was a big influence on modern day pop experimenters like Charli XCX. Best track: Teqkilla. Worst track: It Iz What It Iz. Light 6.
Weezer – Weezer (White). 5/1/2020. This is cathartic pop brilliance to me. I found myself head banging and singing along to all the first eight tracks, and then the last two are a perfect melancholy comedown from the high (“I can’t even dance in the dark cause my headphones are still on the seat of her car” might be my favorite sad boy lyric Rivers has ever written). The melodies and arrangements aren’t anything fancy or experimental, but they are very deliberate – one thing that stood out is that the bridges on this album actually feel like they had a new idea for where to take the song, whereas on previous albums it just felt like “now it’s time to do the bridge.” Case in point, the exultant “does anybody love anybody…” section on LA Girlz. I also think Rivers’ weird cut and paste spreadsheet lyric system worked brilliantly, as every song has both a very cohesive theme and then lyrics that branch off from it in amusing and surprising ways – it feels like a computer wrote the lyrics in the best way possible. Best track: Hard to pick one but Summer Elaine probably has the melody that sticks in my head the most. Worst track: there are no bad tracks on here but it’s probably Good Thing. Decent 9, doesn’t rival Blue but I think it gives Pinkerton a formidable challenger for second place
The Constructus Corporation – The Ziggurat. Couldn’t finish because the guy’s voice was too annoying. Some of the beats hit pretty hard though. Unsurprised to learn this project overlaps with Die Antwoord. Would like to give it another chance at a later date when I’m feeling more patient.
Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End. 4/30/2020. This one begins with a kind of meta mission statement in Back to the shack, with its acknowledgement that weezer disappointed a lot of their fans in the 2000s. The tune is pretty cringe-worthy with its promise to start rockin’ out like it’s the good old days again. I would prefer that weezer actually try to mature as a band. And to be fair, they do challenge themselves on this album. I dug the funk riffs on I’ve Had It Up To Here, the nerdy history references on a few tracks, and the weird three-part prog rock homage that closes the album. I loved Eulogy for a Rock Band. giving its chorus (almost) the same melody as Memories from Hurley was a nice meta touch. I also think this album sounds better knowing that they would go on to make White and completely fulfill their promise to get good again in a way that even this album’s best tracks fall a bit short of doing for me (I think the production is missing some punch). Paraphrasing from Anthony Fantano: “You might think Weezer is trying too hard on this album, but I’m just glad to see them trying at all.” Best track: Eulogy for a Rock Band. Worst track: Lonely Girl. Decent 7.
The I.L.Y’s – Scum With Boundaries. 4/29/2020. Off-the-wall sound and compositions, funny lyrics, overall a lot goofier than any Death Grips album. I’m not really a fan of Zach Hill’s singing. It’s the vocal equivalent of a video game custom character whose uninspired creator has yet to alter the default settings. This bothered me a lot at the beginning of the album, but over the course of the track list the wackiness won me over. Best track: I’m Gonna Have Sex. Worst track: Disastrous Looks. Decent 8.
Emily Scott Robinson – Traveling Mercies. 4/29/2020. A must-listen for anyone who insists they don’t like country. She has a knack for using very few words to say a whole lot. Don’t be put off by the opener which is more generic in its storytelling than the rest of the songs. Best track: Overalls. Worst track: Westward Bound. Strong 7.
Weezer – Death to False Metal. 4/29/2020. It’s really surprising that this is a compilation because it reminds me more of its predecessor Hurley than any other Weezer album. Still super consistent and enjoyable. I’d say it’s an improvement on Hurley because there are more fun little deviations from the Weezer formula sprinkled throughout, like some tasteful autotune, a string section, other grooves that feel outside the usual Weezer playbook. Best track: Autopilot. Worst track: Trampoline. Strong 6.
Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir, Ed Trickett – Turning Toward the Morning. 4/28/2020. The opening and closing tracks are 10/10 best folk I’ve ever heard in my life. Everything in between is solid. I’m eager to check out more of Gordon Bok’s solo stuff as his rich baritone is clearly the standout here. Decent 6.
Del The Funky Homosapien – I Wish My Brother George Was Here. 4/28/2020. A real classic. The guy’s name pretty much says it all. He is one funky human being. I can’t get over how rich and smooth his voice is. And these equally funky instrumentals give him a great backdrop over which to spin his stories which have a whole lot of personality and humor to them. Best track: Sleepin’ on My Couch. Worst track: I guess the opener was a little underwhelming given how good the rest of the album is. Light 9.
Weezer – Hurley. 4/28/2020. It seems like Rivers was in a groove when he wrote this one as every song is a solid pop rock tune and he sounds enthusiastic all the way through. As always the first track is the best, but there definitely isn’t the quality nosedive found on some earlier albums. Unfortunately, this late in the discography decent pop tunes don’t always hold my interest and I missed the insanity of Raditude. The concept of Where’s My Sex was funny, but intentionally so, which is almost a disappointment at this point. Best track: Memories. Worst track: Smart Girls. Light 6.
Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030. 4/27/2020. Great combination of past and future in which jazzy production meets an epic sci-fi concept fueled by the furious vocals of Del the Funky Homosapien. Best track: Battlesong. Worst track: Things You Can Do. Light 9.
Weezer – Raditude. 4/27/2020. Rivers’ boondoggled attempts at millennial pop songwriting are way more interesting than his half-hearted attempts to recreate blue or pinkerton. Hearing him deliver lines like “I got the real big posse with me” is one of the greatest joys the discography has offered so far. Best track: Can’t Stop Partying. worst track: Put Me Back Together (one of the few that’s forgettable rather than a trainwreck). Strong 7 for how much I enjoyed listening to it (probably more like a 2 for actual musical merit)
Weezer – Weezer (Red). 4/26/2020. It’s interesting the way in which this is the “experimental” Weezer album, because they make all these weird adventurous choices (letting other band members sing, rhapsodic songs, a drum machin) but the basic building blocks of the songs are very conventional. It was cool to hear Rivers sounding so confident, even if it does lead to some corny moments. This is easily the most he’s ever been feeling himself on a Weezer album. Things do take a sadder turn on the closing track but I found it to be much more interesting than any of the sad songs on the last two albums. My favorite post-Pinkerton album so far. Best track: Pork and Beans (by a country mile) Worst track: Everybody Get Dangerous (which I still kinda like). Decent 6.
Weezer – Make Believe. 4/25/2020. I was pretty curious to hear this one given what a fan least-favorite it is. Overall I thought it was pretty bad. It’s sort of like Pinkerton but without the pop energy and angst so all you’re really left are the dull laments of a guy you feel sorry for. The verse melody of Perfect Situation is really the only moment on this thing that has the pop motion of a Cuomo Classic. Best track: Beverly Hills I guess? Worst track: Hold Me, which at least has the courage to fail big and be a true masterpiece of cringe. Decent 4.
Busdriver – Fear of a Black Tangent. 4/24/2020. Epic stuff. I think compared to Temporary Forever it’s a little easier to tell what he’s saying without reading the lyrics as you listen. But not that easy. He seems to spend a lot of the first tracks complaining that not enough people get how great his music is. Which would maybe be annoying if it weren’t completely justified. Best track: Map Your Psyche. Worst Track: n/a. Light 9.
Busdriver – Beaus$Eros. 4/24/2020. What an awesome album. Eccentric and colorful but still extremely consistent. I liked every song. For a lot of people this ranks pretty low in the driver’s discography because he does more singing than rapping. I say let the man sing. And actually his singing voice got even stronger on his next release Perfect Hair. I wonder why the bonus track featuring Aesop Rock was included only on the deluxe version when it’s the hardest hitting member of the tracklist. Best track: Superhand’s Mantra (Fuck Us All). Worst track: n/a. Strong 8.
Weezer – Maladroit. 4/24/2020. Gosh this thing is a real roller coaster. First two tracks are a blast, fun and cheesy and almost hair-metal inspired. Then track 3 “Keep Fishing” gets a little sadder lyrically but still jams. And then your hopes of a return to form are dashed as this thing plunges into six straight tracks of Green-style mopery. In the last four tracks, things pick up a bit, but not to the level of the first three. Best track: Dope Nose. Worst track: Slob. Light 6.
R.A.P. Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages. 4/23/2020. Some of the artist formerly known as Milo’s best stuff shows up on this thing! Lyrics and rhyme schemes are abstract and attention grabbing as always, and the addition of live jazz instrumentation really adds some punch that was missing on some of his final work under the milo moniker. Best track: Absolutes. Light 9.
Weezer – Weezer (Green). 4/23/2020. Yikes. They tried to return to the upbeat sound of Blue after everyone hated Pinkerton and it sounds like their hearts just weren’t in it. Why does Rivers sound way whinier singing about smoking his hash pipe than he did singing about the crushing hopelessness of his love life? Best track: Island in the Sun. Worst track: O Girlfriend. Decent 5.
Busdriver – electricity is on our side. 4/23/2020. Pretty off-the-wall combination of jazz and rap. I liked that a few songs featured some live (sampled?) jazz solos. Actually I wish even more did. This thing is 23 tracks and 80 minutes and I don’t think I ever got bored. Best track: FUKN. Worst track: n/a. Decent 8.
Weezer – Pinkerton. 4/22/2020. I think the differences between this album and Blue are a little exaggerated. The incredibly catchy pop songwriting is still there at the core of all of these angsty laments. Actually a few choruses on here are melodically even sweeter than what Rivers was up to on Blue. Best track: El Scorcho. Worst track: No Other One. Light 9.
Weezer – Weezer (Blue). 4/21/2020. Awesome as ever. What even is there to say? One pop masterpiece after another. Best track: Undone. Worst track: N/a. 10.