May 22, 2020

BRELAND – BRELAND EP (Bad Realm Records)

Oh boy, where do we start.

So what Breland – I apologize, I mean BRELAND – and his team have produced here can definitely be considered “music”.  I will give him that.  But that’s where the compliments end, because the BRELAND EP is doodoo.

The tracks on BRELAND EP are mostly bad hip-hop songs with bad country aspects shoehorned in.  The best tracks are the ones that don’t feature any of those country leanings – for example, “WiFi” is pretty solid.  But there are plenty of tracks in the other category, including “Hot Sauce”, “Horseride”, and the absolute abomination known as “My Truck”.  I’ve heard plenty of samples and beats in my day, but never one that sounded like forest animals in various levels of distress.  It’s easily the worst song I’ve heard this year; I would gladly put it up against several other years too, and feel good about my chances.

I’ll also say that none of this is a knock to BRELAND’s vocals, as he sings pretty well!  But his voice is ridiculously overshadowed by the overproduction inherent in most of the track, and that’s a shame.  I’d definitely give him another chance if he stepped out of the contrived country-rap space and made a more traditional R&B album.

FFO: Lil Nas X, Sam Hunt (who unsurprisingly features on a “My Truck” remix)

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May 15, 2020

The Dears – Lovers Rock (Dangerbird)

Before getting into the music on this album, a couple points of clarification need to be made. Firstly, this is not a band. It is an undefined collective led by Montreal-based icon and presumed Bond villain, Murray Lightburn. Secondly, any act that self-indentifies with Serge Gainsbourg is saying 2 things: 1) “We don’t want to be pigeon-holed into a genre”, and b) “We might be French”. 

Their eighth studio release is a collection of reflective tunes that can best be described as eclectic orchestral pop. From the Bowie-esque “Is This What You Really Want?”, to the early-Weezer sounding “I Know What You’re Thinking About And It’s Awful”, to the Motown love song “Play Dead”, the instrumentation is always full and rich. This is no surprise, since the list of contributors on the album may as well be the Montreal phone book. 

Throughout all of it, Lightburn’s voice shifts between styles effortlessly, doing what is needed to float, cut through, punch up and generally take control of every track. His charisma has a Neil Diamond-at-the-cabaret quality to it that’s undeniable and enchanting. The flow of the record feels more like a well-crafted playlist, easily moving from song to song without seeming repetitive or jarringly different. 

It’s brilliant.

FFO: Serge Gainsbourg, Broken Social Scene, British Sea Power

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The Podcast: Our Favorite Jams For A Backyard BBQ

We’re coming up on the unofficial start of summer and the FA guys have you covered with their favorite tracks to jam to during your next backyard barbecue. Before you ask, of course all three of us had DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince on our lists. C’mon, that is the ultimate summer jam.

In fact if you’re feeling froggy and want to get a head start on your playlisting, start with our lists all here in a link to a convenient Spotify playlist.

ANNOUNCEMENT TIME: Fairly Kickass can now be heard worldwide on the free iHeartRadio app. You can now take us wherever you go on the world’s largest podcast platform. Of course you can still find us on Spotify, Spreaker, Google Podcasts, Deezer, Podcast Addict and Podchaser. So if you’ve got podcasts, you can get Fairly Kickass directly into your earballs.

May 8th, 2020

Mark Lanegan – Straight Songs of Sorrow (Heavenly Recordings)

Since the dissolution of Screaming Trees in the mid-90s, Lanegan has pumped out a steady stream of solo, quasi-solo, and collaborative projects. Each of these projects falls inconsistently into the generic and not-so-descriptive genre of “rock”. While some of his work has a definite and undeniable relationship to blues, folk, and shoegaze pop, a large proportion of it is rather tightly related to Leonard Cohen’s brand of nearly monotonous croaking. This places the emphasis on the dark poetry of the lyrics, rather than be distracted by trifling diversions like melody and beat.

Straight Songs of Sorrow is not an exception to this tendency. Rather, it feels like Lanegan digging his heels in, daring us to challenge his brand. His voice is croakier than ever, nary finding a foothold on whatever staggered melodies exist. In most of the tracks on the record, we have a choice to make: do we focus on the poetry or the attempt. When the poetry is good, it’s emotive and colorful and we hear his internal struggle. When it’s not good, it’s super-repetitive and banal, grasping at overused imagery and ‘sung’ with no connection whatsoever. 

The musical attempt is pretty typical of Lanegan’s tendency toward slow, three-chord progressions. By itself, it isn’t much to write about, as it relies heavily on a relationship with his voice. When that relationship is evident, it bangs. It’s a vibe that Lanegan has repeatedly dubbed “Dark Disco” in the lyrics to his songs (“Ode to Sad Disco” from Blues Funeral, “Dark Disco Jag” from Somebody’s Knocking). 

The big problem with Songs of Sorrow is that the 2 elements rarely line up. When the poetry is keen, the music is dispassionate, and the song falls short (“Burying Ground”). When the music is cool and reaching for attention, the lyrics are rambling and incoherent (“Bleed All Over”, “At Zero Below”). And sometimes neither is there (“I Wouldn’t Want To Say”). The middle of the record has the songs that stick out as examples of what Mark is capable of. For 3 contiguous songs, everything lines up, the clouds allow the light in, and we get to bask in his post-grunge, drug-addled perfection (“Stockholm City Blues”, “Skeleton Key”, “Daylight In The Nocturnal House”). 

FFO: Screaming Trees, Afghan Whigs, Leonard Cohen, PJ Harvey

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Our Top 5 (And Worst) Charting Hits of April 2020

As we endeavor to give you the widest reaching coverage of new music that we can here at FA, we realized that there was one section of the market that we weren’t serving: pop. Since I’ve been desensitized to pop thanks to a career in radio, I willingly accepted the short straw to bring you these charts each month. So what I’ll be doing is taking a look at all of the songs that were new to the Top 40 chart this month and giving you an idea of the songs to seek out and the songs to avoid like the plague.

1. Dua Lipa – Break My Heart
When we reviewed this album back in March, it was pretty unanimous that it was among the best released that month. You can read the full review here. This was one of the tracks that I singled out as the best on the record and that was on one listen and mostly on the production alone. This is a modern take on disco in the least annoying way possible. The rising strings in the chorus, the driving dance beat, the muted INXS sample that leads the verses, it’s a very well produced track. Now, I really like pop that features dark lyrics set to an upbeat track. Call me a downer, but it makes the artist more relatable because they can make these pop fantasies but they choose to slide in a little of their insecurities. I can get behind that. I understand unqualified music critics on random websites do that all the time. This isn’t a breakup song, it’s a fear of a break up song. It’s a song that lays out the insecurity that many of us have in relationships. The feeling that this is too good to be true, I’m falling for this person, but how am I going to fuck it up? Maybe I relate to that message too much, but it’s a twist on the pop love song. Plus, that groove is just so tight.
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May 1st, 2020

Cumgirl8 – Cumgirl8 (muddguts records)

So we’re in week 317 of quarantine, and if you’re anything like me, your ambition is starting to wane a bit.  Maybe the living room is getting cluttered, or the sink is full of dishes.  Maybe you haven’t showered in a day… or two… or whatever, we don’t judge here.

The point is, things are a bit messy right now.  And cumgirl8’s self-titled cumgirl8 EP is the perfect embodiment of that messy, filthy, dirty side that is coming (cumming?) out in all of us.

cumgirl8 is fronted by Veronika Vilim, who made the familiar jump from model to punk band frontwoman.  The vocals are rough, but in the way that they should be: with such messy guitars and drums behind, a classically-trained singer would sound out-of-place.

It was difficult for me to get into most tracks, as they tend to skew toward a ridiculous level of disjointedness.  “Blue Planet” (a song about planetary colonization?) and “Waffles” (a song about breakfast foods?) aren’t bad, but neither one hits my wheelhouse – and the rest dive too far into insanity without providing a rope to pull out if it.  Definitely check it out if it’s your thing, though.

FFO: Surfbort, Death Valley Girls

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