EDITOR’S NOTE: We got another fire review here, from one of the gross-ass mixed drink legends in the flesh, Jeremy. He makes a hop across the pond to Bradford, in West Yorkshire, to bring you the third album from the Lost Direction, Zayn Malik. Zayn notched a #1 release in the charts of a number of countries (including his native UK) with his first post-One Direction soiree, Mind of Mine, in 2016. The shine wore off pretty quickly though, as he couldn’t even crack the top-75 in his homeland with 2018’s sophomore effort, Icarus Falls.
Zayn’s third album claims that Nobody Is Listening, which is patently false: at the very least, ONE person was listening. Keep reading to find out whether Jeremy found One Thing wrong with the release, or a bunch of Little Things. Maybe it was actually Perfect? My puns are depleted now so just go read the thing already thx.
Zayn – Nobody is Listening (RCA Records)
Starting your career as a project of Simon Cowell has the potential to go in a few different directions, ranging from Instant Success to Crash-And-Burn. For Zayn Malik, the former is absolutely true. One Direction is known the world over as a part of this generation’s “boy band” phase, alongside The Jonas Brothers.
It’s our first post of 2021, and we’re gonna switch things up a bit for y’all. First off, we’re putting the longer album reviews in their own posts, so you won’t have to dig through several other reviews to get that nougaty center. (Fun fact: my autocorrect just informed me that “nougaty” is a word. Life is good, y’all.) We’ll be posting these as we write them, so you’ll get to enjoy more content more often from ya bois.
Second, we’ll still be placing the Quickie reviews in their own post; those will likely still come out every two weeks like before. That way, you’ll get a little taste of more albums – an appetizer to tide you over between the longer main courses. I’m quite hungry, if it wasn’t obvious.
Third… well, I can’t tell you what third is. Just now that we have a couple surprises planned, and we’ll be putting more information out into the ether for those as we solidify things. New content on Fairly KickAss podcast, plus new content on the Fairly KickAss blog?!? You could be so (un)lucky.
That’s all for me: now for the good stuff that you came here to read. Enjoy our first album review of the new year!
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Here at Fairly KickAss, we like to go out with a bang – and what better way to cap off 2020 than with one more fire review? It’s our Senior Weizen Correspondent, Jada, hitting you with that good-good just under the bell. Taylor Swift’s first 2020 release, folklore, was a winner… but will evermore leave the same impression? Keep reading to find out!
Also watch out for more bonus content from Jada in our final post of the year, coming next week.
Taylor Swift – evermore (Republic Records)
I think she did it but I just…can’t…prove it…By she I mean Taylor Swift, and by “it” I mean drop the two best albums of 2020 less than 5 months apart. Yes, this is a quote from “no body, no crime”; but evermore is just so damn quotable!
Since I defined the term folklore in my review for Taylor Swift’s last surprise album just 5 months ago, it’s only fair that I define evermore now. It means always, forever, or for a very long time. Well, that is exactly how long I will be listening to this album.
Jack Antonoff (Bleachers) and Aaron Dessner (The National) both return to write the songs on evermore (along with Swift), and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) co-wrote and duets w T. on the title track, which also happens to be my favorite song on the album. Back in July you couldn’t have told me that another album would give folklore a run for its money for my album of the year, let alone that it would be from the same artist. This album is haunting, painful, personal, yet somehow feels like it was written for me and about me. Take “‘tis the damn season” for example. Who doesn’t have that first love from their hometown? It doesn’t matter how far away you get or how long you’ve been gone. That person always seems to be right there waiting when you get back.
“marjorie” is an absolutely beautiful ode to Swift’s grandmother (who was aptly named Marjorie), opera singer and inspiration for Taylor’s pursuit of a music career. evermore (f. Bon Iver) feels like a sequel to folklore’s exile. In exile, Swift and Vernon are just figuring out how to coexist, while in evermore they are trying to figure out how to live with the loss…forever. “willow” is another one of the notorious who is this about? songs. “The more that you say, the less I know. Wherever you stray, I follow. Begging for you to take my hand, wreck my plans, that’s my man”. You know who you are, Sir. The last song I will mention (since by now you should all know that every song on this album is my favorite song on the album) is “coney island” (f. The National). I would never have thought to pair these two up, but now I want every song forever to have the two of them singing them!
Other songs to note: “tolerate it”, “long story short”, “dorothea”
Soilwork – A Whisp of the Atlantic (Nuclear Blast)
While Sweden has an incredibly active metal scene, Soilwork stands out (at least to me) because of their unique take on melody. They typically have just as much in common with American groove metal, like Pantera, as they do with Scandinavian death metal.
Metalcore synth elements are more prevalent on this EP, as well as deep thought and reflective moments, brought out by piano interludes. There is even a trumpet solo at the 8 minute(ish) mark of the title track, as well as the outro starting at the 15 minute mark.
Oh, right! I forgot to mention that the opening song and album namesake, “A Whisp of the Atlantic”, is a 16 minute opus that fully encapsulates what this band is capable of. Almost an homage to Dream Theater, it moves through a range of emotions and styles. It tells a story of ending the “lies of sanity” to “feel eternity’s breath” and leave the world behind. Soaring, operatic vocals punctuated with guttural growls dominate the track and usher in musical shifts from death metal to metalcore, but all with a progressive metal flare.
The rest of the EP follows closely the example set at the start, but dotted with the elements that were used to seeing from Soilwork. “Feverish” in particular represents the best of what they offer here, packaged in a bite-sized 6 minutes and filled with blast beats, catchy chorus melodies, and progressive guitar work. “Desperado” is equally satisfying, and is the only track that doesn’t end with a pensive instrumental outro. The closing track, “Death Diviner”, has my favorite guitar riff on the release, repeated throughout its verses.
I found this album to be their most impressive and listenable recording since Figure Number Five in 2002.
Well this was a much calmer month, thankfully. It feels like the pop charts slowed down a bit for the holidays. Just a quick note for this list next month: the only Christmas songs that will hit this list next month will be brand new ones. So I’m not reviewing All I Want For Christmas Is You. Unless we do some list or pod about Christmas songs. Then all bets are off. Whelp, here we go, crap first then scroll down for the good stuff.
13 – Morgan Wallen – More Than My Hometown There’s an example of country done right towards the top of the list. This is country done… well, I’d say wrong but this is just what the genre is now. The production’s the easy part. It’s a cookie cutter country track. There’s a steel guitar in there, there’s a Telecaster set to maximum twang and an even, if not boring drum track. Now let’s get to the worst part: lyrics. I can’t roll my eyes harder at the thesis of this song: oh, I love you more than all of these great big things in this great big world, but I can’t love you more than this one stoplight holler in the backwoods of bumfuck, wherever. So enjoy life, girl, where people drive electric cars and fancy apps deliver you food and you don’t have to walk to the back of the property to take a shit. Songs like this are the reason the genre has picked up the reputation it has over the last two decades.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We only got quickies for you this week, due to dat bird with the fixins… you know the one. Regular biweekly reviews pick up again on December 4!)
Dark Psychosis – The Edge of Nowhere (Moribund)
Psychedelic black metal from Lansing, Michigan. This is a one man operation, and sounds like it.
Honestly, aside from some creepy-cool ambient effects, there’s not a lot to grab hold of. I am in favor of lo-fi recordings and underproduction in general, but this album treads that murky area in between. He tried really hard to have quality sound production, but has no idea how to put it all together. The result is sterile feeling and awkward, which might work for garage-indie, but black metal needs to feel visceral or it doesn’t work.
Sean. Buddy. Stop going by Xaphan because no one is actually going to call you that and stick to working with Cavalcade. Their input would most likely have helped this record quite a bit.
The best track on the album is the Digital Only cut, “Drink Fight and Fuck”. What makes it good is the raw, live feel to it. No production whatsoever. Sounds like shit and is better for it.
Start with: “Born to Lose”, “Dark Call…”, “Drink Fight and Fuck”
It’s a little “on the nose” that a Canadian indie-pop outfit would go by the same name as a Territory of the Great White North, but I can’t really fault them for the homage to home turf. And at least one of them is actually mostly blonde. So there’s that.
This is their 7th studio album under the name Yukon Blonde (they actually had 2 EPs as Alphababy beforehand…what do you think of the name change?), and I have to say, they absolutely nailed it. I can find no fault in anything on the record. Vindicator focuses a lot of attention on being smooth as melty ice cream and as funky as the weekly sock laundry.
Wait…I mean…You know what I’m saying?
There is a flare for creativity that doesn’t often get heard outside of a Beck album. Take “You Were Mine”, for example. It starts out sounding like a Michael Jackson tune, played through a box fan, then breaks down as a slow jam love-child of George Clinton and Teddy Pendergrass, before going full-on funkadelic. And that only covers 5 minutes of the release.
Wonky, warped synth sounds are the dominant trait of the album, perfectly orchestrated atop beautiful R&B vocals. This is all backed by a rhythm section that should be heralded: bass for days and some of the tightest drumming in pop music.
The stand-out tracks on Vindicator are the aforementioned “You Are Mine” as well as a few mid-album cuts. “Good Times” is a sad, wallflower anthem set to a slow club beat, and “Fuck It” is a Flaming Lips-esque jam about doing your own thing.
Let me start with a few questions. Do you enjoy guitar-heavy blues music? Do you enjoy radio-ready rock music? Do you enjoy grungy, southern-tinged vocals with an ear for a catchy melody?
The four members of Black Stone Cherry sure do. As the world was pushing toward total lockdown, they were isolated in a Kentucky woods, finishing their 7th studio album. And let me tell you, they did everything I asked about above…
… in the shittiest way possible.
The guitar work is bluesy in the same way that pressboard is wood. His voice is great, and sufficiently throaty, but the lyrics are about as poignant as you’d expect from someone who looks like they worship Fall Out Boy and drink nothing but Genesee.
No joke at all though, I absolutely love these guys. Their songs are loud, catchy, quasi-nonsensical, and harmless. They sort of equate to AC/DC in the ‘70s, showing a talent that garage acts would kill for, but giving no kind of a shit about it.
This is not art.
This is not poetry.
It’s rock ‘n roll at its basest level, puerile and fun.
Okay, so “If My Heart Had Wings” is a particularly egregious country/rock hybrid, a la “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”, and actually contains the words, “If my heart had lips, it’d tell you all the things I miss.” Ugh. But “Again” is a riff-heavy banger about not giving up. At least, that’s my interpretation. The lyrics leave a lot between the lines. And “Ride” could have been a Deep Purple track left on the cutting room floor.
The biggest surprise is the subdued cover of “Don’t Bring Me Down,” displaying the band’s ability to show respect for the classics. A trait not represented on their laughably terrible series of blues cover releases.
To recap: This record jams, and as long as you’re not searching for enlightenment, you’ll be happy you gave it a spin.