reviews 2018

EVERYTHING IS LOVEEverything Is Love available on iTunes

Beyoncé & Jay-Z & The Carters Everything Is Love

Beyoncé and Jay-Z released what they're calling the third installment of a trilogy of albums. Everything Is Love, which they released as The Carters, is a joint work in which they reflect on art, black excellence, personal drama and luxury. It follows Beyoncé's Lemonade (2016) and Jay-Z's 4:44 (2017). Greg thinks there are good moments on Everything Is Love, like Beyoncé's singing on "FRIENDS" and Jay-Z owning up to his transgressions. However, he believes this record is merely a PR effort to get people to buy tickets to their concert, and this album doesn't say nearly as much as the previous ones. He gives it a Trash It. Jim agrees in many respects. He loved Lemonade because Beyoncé sung honestly and beautifully about her personal issues as well as bigger picture themes like how black women are treated in society and the Black Lives Matter movement. He wishes there was more substance on this record, and thinks Jay-Z hasn't been at the height of his rap game since the early 2000s. Jim gives the album a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 656
Wide Awake!Wide Awake! available on iTunes

Parquet Courts Wide Awake!

Indie rock band Parquet Courts is back with Wide Awake!, their first album since 2014. Jim thinks they are the perfect slacker band, and their lyrics come equipped with plenty of socialist rhetoric. He adds that "They‘ve got a formula, and they work it, and it’s delightful every time." Greg, agrees that they have a solid punk rock formula; however, he thinks that this record does show growth, particularly in their work with producer Brian Burton, also known as Danger Mouse. Songs like Wide Awake bring in funky "danceable elements"; and he was also surprised to find“tenderness”on tracks like Back To Earth. Both Jim and Greg give Wide Awake! a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 656
Hell-OnHell-On available on iTunes

Neko Case Hell-On

Neko Case brings us a new Americana/alt-country exploration of Mother Nature's edgy side with Hell-On, her seventh solo album. Greg notes that though other people collaborate with her (including Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn & John, who served as co-producer on six tracks), she is the writer of these songs, he is the main instrumentalist on her record, and she is a producer.“This is her baby,”he asserts,“You can bring on anybody, and it's still going to sound like a Neko Case record because of her massive role in how it sounds.” The album provides what Jim thinks is one of her best lyrics ever on My Uncle's Navy, about a relative that used to mutilate animals. Jim wonders if“that's what sent Neko down this strange nature path.”However, Jim says that ultimately, this is“merely a very good Neko Case record.”Jim and Greg give the album a Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 656
Tell Me How You Really FeelTell Me How You Really Feel available on iTunes

Courtney Barnett Tell Me How You Really Feel

Jim thinks that Courtney Barnett is one of the most important discoveries of the past decade. Her well-received debut album, 2015's Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, helped to introduce her clever lyricism and skillful guitar work to the world. Her 2017 album with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice, followed. And for fans of Barnett, her sophomore solo album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, doesn't disappoint. Greg notes there is“a little bit of humor”and fun. He likes her penchant for writing about“everyday details”and her ability to“boil it down for you in just a few words.”Jim enjoys both the“melodic riffs, and the wonderful squalls of noise”that draw comparisons to Kurt Cobain. But he notes that Courtney's lyricism is much more poetic than Cobain. On this album, she touches on issues like misogyny, with songs like "Nameless, Faceless" which quotes Margaret Atwood, who once said that“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”Both Jim and Greg give the album an enthusiastic Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 651
Dirty ComputerDirty Computer available on iTunes

Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer

After a five year hiatus, Janelle Monáe has returned with Dirty Computer, an album that Jim calls“a new masterpiece.”He adds that in the past (with 2010's The ArchAndroid and 2013's Electric Lady), "she was playing with afrofuturism and science fiction themes," but Dirty Computer "comes together is a much more organic way as a great pop album." Greg notes that this record strips away her alias, an android named Cindi Mayweather. The result is Janelle at her most personal. Monáe is influenced by Prince, and Greg says in songs like "Make Me Feel"“you can hear it in the way those grooves work. It's a call to action record built for dancing.”Jim and Greg both give the album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 649
Exile In GuyvilleExile in Guyville available on iTunes

Liz Phair Exile in Guyville

This month, Liz Phair's debut album Exile in Guyville will be reissued to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its initial release. This reissue will include the complete Girly-Sound tapes, which will be the first time that material will be released on a label for purchase. Back in 1991, Greg says that everybody in Chicago who cared about music had“a dub of a dub of a dub”of the tapes (which were recorded in Liz Phair's bedroom and released independently.) Many of the tracks evolved into material on Exile in Guyville. Jim and Greg agree that the album is a anthemic counter statement to Chicago's“Boy's Club”music scene. They both thought the album was great in 1993; and Greg says the recording "stands the test of time." Jim thinks that the idea that Exile in Guyville is a track by track response to The Rolling Stones' classic Exile on Main St. is strictly positioning, and“doesn't hold up.”Greg thinks that with the creation of that myth she was“playing the critics”and she was being "very tongue in cheek." 25 years later, Both Jim and Greg give Exile in Guyville a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 649
HistorianHistorian available on iTunes

Lucy Dacus Historian

Lucy Dacus made a big splash with her first release, 2016's No Burden. Historian is the sophomore album from the indie singer-songwriter, who delivers the same thoughtful lyrics and quiet moments. According to Greg, one of the standout tracks on this album is "Pillar of Truth."“Pillar”clocks in at over 7 minutes and“just builds and builds to that moment when Dacus raises her voice for basically the first and only time on the album.”Greg adds that though No Burden got a lot of acclaim, "Historian is a better album." He gives it an enthusiastic Buy It. Jim concedes that he also“loves when the songs build, but he wants the whole album to be that way.”He says that there are great lines, but he doesn't“share the level of enthusiam”[that Greg has for the record]. Jim gives the album a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 648
Invasion of PrivacyInvasion of Privacy available on iTunes

Cardi B Invasion of Privacy

Right now, Bronx rapper Cardi B is everywhere after she dropped her debut studio album Invasion of Privacy. Cardi gained notoriety through Instagram and as a cast member on the reality show Love & Hip Hop New York, but her musical prowess and work ethic are at the forefront now (her mega hit "Bodak Yellow" is still a dominant presence on the charts a year after its release.) Jim has some problems with this record because of its frequent usage of the“b word”and excessive mentions of material items. However, he praises Cardi for her intelligent and humorous lyrics and how she is an empowering figure to young people of all colors and gender identities. Jim gives it a Try It. Greg agrees that he could do without some of the commercialization, but highlights the catchy hooks and vibe of the album. He also notes that Cardi B has been discerning with this record, showing the juxtaposition of strength and vulnerability and is the driver's seat of her career. Even if rap isn't your thing, Greg believes Invasion of Privacy is a must-listen and a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 647
Golden HourGolden Hour available on iTunes

Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour

According to Jim DeRogatis, Kacey Musgraves has been recording“basically forever,”he adds that,“Shortly after she could walk she started playing the mandolin.”On her latest album, Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves offers a contemporary country album that has sounds that listeners might not expect on a country recording. For starters, there's the vocoder on "Oh What a World" and "Butterflies," and then there's the disco bassline on "High Horse." Jim says "Mother" could be on a Tori Amos record, while Greg says that the track is a meta-song about“what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a mother.”Greg also notes that Rainbow is draped in "LGBTQ colors." Jim and Greg give the album a Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 646
YearsYears available on iTunes

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Years

Jim and Greg were both happy to find that the new Sarah Shook & the Disarmers album, Years, still has the alt-county rough edges that they appreciated on her debut, 2015's Sidelong. Only this time, Greg notes that Sarah upped her vocal game, approaching a song like "Heartache in Hell"“like a jazz vocalist… living each word, each syllable in those lines.”Jim notes that in the song "Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don't,"“she's having these inner battles, and she's doing it in front of a microphone.”Jim and Greg give Years a Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 646
Black Panther The Album Music From And Inspired ByBlack Panther available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar & Anderson Paak & the Weeknd & SZA & Vince Staples Black Panther

The film Black Panther has broken all sorts of box office records, but its the soundtrack that has caught Jim and Greg's attention. Helmed by Kendrick Lamar, the album features a stars like SZA, the Weeknd and Anderson Paak; but Greg notes that lesser known artists like singer Jorja Smith and South African rapper Yugen Blakrock are“the real revelation”here. Greg says Blakrock goes toe to toe and holds her own against Vince Staples on Opps. He adds that producer Sounwave contributes a“haunted”Carribean sound. Jim loves the "musical variety: R&B, rap, afro soul, and South African pop. He notes that though the album isn't as closely connected to the film as Curtis Mayfield's 1972 classic Super Fly, it is "a wonderful companion to the film". Jim and Greg give the album a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 640
What a Time to Be AliveWhat a Time to be Alive available on iTunes

Superchunk What a Time to be Alive

Superchunk has returned with their 11th album, What a Time to be Alive. According to Greg, in recent years the North Carolina indie rockers tend to put out work only when they have a purpose behind it. Jim and Greg both believe this album strikes a particularly insistent political tone. In fact, Greg adds that the album“just roars.”He's never heard singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan sound so worked up, and adds that with tracks like "Reagan Youth" Superchunk“return the favor”to groups like Reagan Youth that inspired them back in the 1980s. Jim says that in times of crisis, music helps motivate people. He thinks that songs like "Break the Glass" fuel that motivation. Jim and Greg give the record a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 639
ChimeChime available on iTunes

Dessa Chime

Chime is Dessa's fourth full-length album, and the singer/rapper/philosopher has given us an album that is according to Jim“brilliant,”even name-checking St. Thomas Aquinas. Greg notes that the record explores how“women measure their lives today”in a world where getting through the day without incident is a win; and suggests that she's saying“we need to have a better world than this.”He praises the creative production, whether it's a sitar sample (in "Fire Drills") or a chamber pop cello solo (in "Velodrome.") Greg thinks Dessa's pop vocals are less unique, but concedes that they provide a“good counterbalance”to heavier themes. Jim says the record balances“self-empowerment and sensitivity.”Chime gets a Double Buy It from Jim and Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 639
Little Dark AgeLittle Dark Age available on iTunes

MGMT Little Dark Age

The pop electronic group MGMT just released their fourth album, Little Dark Age. Formed at Wesleyan University, the band found critical and commercial success almost immediately with their debut record Oracular Spectacular. Since then however, the band has failed to garner as much attention. Greg is a bit torn on this album. He thinks there are some horribly cliched and bad tracks like "She Works Out Too Much" and "TSLAMP," but he also argues that there are some pretty catchy and solid pop songs ("When You're Small," "James".) He gives Little Dark Age a Try It. Jim is far less enthused with the record. On paper, MGMT seems like a band Jim would love, but in reality, he's not the slightest bit smitten. He calls them“smug, derivative and pretentious”and says he would trash this album a million times over. Needless to say, he gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 638
Man of the WoodsMan of the Woods available on iTunes

The Neptunes & Justin Timberlake Man of the Woods

After a five year recording hiatus, Justin Timberlake has returned with Man of the Woods. The album is a sonic departure from the soul-infused pop of his earlier releases such as Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds. According to Jim, Justin's goal with Man of the Woods was to make an album that was "Americana with 808s… old country with drum machines." Jim loved that concept; but believes that despite production from The Neptunes and Timbaland, the resulting album fell flat. Greg finds the working man character on tracks like "Livin' Off the Land" hard to swallow, and calls "Her," a spoken word interlude featuring Justin's wife, Jessica Biel, to be“embarrassing”and a“Hallmark commercial.”Ultimately, Jim questions whether the whole project is supposed to be taken seriously at all, or whether it's a "Portlandia-level joke." The hosts give Man of the Woods a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 637
RuinsRuins available on iTunes

First Aid Kit Ruins

The Swedish duo First Aid Kit is returning with their fourth studio album, Ruins. The band, made up of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, is known for their beautiful and intricate harmonies. While Jim loves these harmonies, he finds that Ruins relies on that strength a bit too much. He loves when the duo ups the production with a big backing band sound that pushes them out of their comfort zone. He thinks Ruins is half a great album and gives it a Try It. Greg really enjoys First Aid Kit, and loves when they show a different, rocking side to them. He loved when the band performed a cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" when he saw them on tour in 2015. He also loved their single "You Are the Problem Here," a song that eviscerates men who abuse their power to harass women. Greg wishes he would have seen more of the duo's intense side, but he enjoys the harmonies and beautiful vocals the band supplies. He gives it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 636
I can feel you creep into my private lifeI Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life available on iTunes

tUnE-yArDs I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

Merrill Garbus is back with her fourth full-length tUnE-yArDs project, titled I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life. Jim says that immediately before writing this album, Garbus was on a six-month meditation workshop to see what she could do "as a white person in the realm of social justice. That sounds like heady and heavy stuff…It's not though. This is a dance album, heavily influenced by '70s disco, and I think the classic sounds of Chicago house." Greg adds that the album“could easily be ponderous, but she's paring cultural appropriation, the end of the world… these are heavy subjects… with this incredibly liberating music, this body music.”Standout tracks include "{track: Heart Attack", "Colonizer" and "Home". Jim and Greg give it a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 635
POST-Post- available on iTunes

Jeff Rosenstock Post-

Punk rocker Jeff Rosenstock has been making music for about two decades, but according to Greg, Post- is his“best record yet.”Built around two epic, proggy, Yes-like jams ("USA" and "Let Them Win,") Greg notes there's an anthemic quality to the music, with lyrics that reflect the challenges that many of us face. Greg adds that he loves the fact that the album doesn't rely on just“that caffeinated energy that has always been a part of his shows.”Jim says Jeff has the energy of the prolific garage rocker Ty Segall and some of the earnestness of James Alex of Beach Slang. However, Jim adds that Jeff could have used a producer that edited him a bit more (a critique he believes also applies to Segall). Ultimately, both Jim and Greg give the record a Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 633
NO ONE EVER REALLY DIESNo_One Ever Really Dies available on iTunes

N.E.R.D. No_One Ever Really Dies

After a seven year hiatus, N.E.R.D. (the Pharrell Williams/Neptunes side project) has returned with their fourth album No_One Ever Really Dies. As The Neptunes, Chad Hugo & Pharrell crafted synthy, quirky, poppy hip hop and R&B for the likes of Jay-Z and Kelis in the 1990s and early '00s. Then in 1999, they formed N.E.R.D. with Shay Haley. In the time since N.E.R.D.'s last album, 2010's Nothing, Pharrell Williams has made a name for himself as a solo artist. Most notably, he achieved mainstream success with the smash hit "Happy," all while maintaining his signature sense of quirk. Greg says it's that quirkiness, along with a knack for hooks that attracted him to their sound in the first place. He likes this effort for its“weird, buzzy tone”and its psychedelic energy. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim calls N.E.R.D. an“experimental garage band.”He adds this project has an uneven success rate with its long list of collaborations, including tracks with Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and Ed Sheeran. Jim gives it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 632