Justin Bieber – Justice (Def Jam)
It should be noted: I am NOT a Belieber. Never have been, and at this point it is unlikely to be the case in this reality. Or in the next. Last year’s unlistenable offerings, led by “Yummy”, had me prepared to light this album a verbal witch’s pyre, making it an effigy of the creator.
I can’t really do that, and I’m disappointed. Justice is a lily-white attempt at what I will call “plebeian car jams”. Honestly, if he was still that prepubescent bowl cut, a few of the tracks might have been forgivably innocuous. “Off My Face” will wind up somebody’s First Dance at their wedding in 2021 or 2022, briefly supplanting Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” for that honor, but that doesn’t make it a good song. The other tunes that are decent all have featured artists, all of whom overshadow The Bieb. That list includes a number of high-rollers: Chance the Rapper, The Kid LAROI, Da Baby, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Jaden, and several others.
The most cringe-worthy thing on the album is the incredibly crass way in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s words about justice and equality are shoe-horned in alongside songs about missing his girl or being loved despite his fragile mental state. It’s disgusting. The Reverend’s speech on the mid-album interlude is even cut short to bastardize the idea of standing up for something you would die for in order to allow JB and Dominic Fike to say, “If your kiss could kill me, you know I would die for you.” Without that lead-in, the song was actually kind of a bop, but I was too filled with righteous indignation to enjoy it.
FFO: Kidz Bop covers of The Weeknd, unsalted popcorn
Start with: “Die For You”, “Holy”, “Know No Better”
Sacred Oath – Return of the Dragon (Angel Thorne Music)
Sacred Oath is not going to start a revolution. They are not stretching the limits of genre. What they do is power-metal, with a few other elements thrown in. Wailing leads, crunchy rhythms, pounding drums, and soaring vocals that recount battles with mythological beings and earning the ire of supernatural entities, be they godlike or demonic.
It is also perfectly done, expertly performed and produced. It is not often that a power metal act makes me smile as much as Sacred Oath, and that probably has something to do with the hints of stoner/doom that dot the songs. You can’t go wrong with anything on the record.
FFO: Iron Maiden (but less irritating), Katatonia, Solace
Start with: “Hammer of an Angry God”, “At The Gates”, “Return of the Dragon”, “Cthulhu Wakes”
Glasvegas – Godspeed (Go Wow)
Right after the odd “Parked Car” intro to the disc, we are treated with a pulsing synth bass and staccato vocals that simultaneously bring to mind the ‘80s brilliance of Thompson Twins and Tears For Fears alongside the dark-pop sensibilities of The Weeknd.
Without question, Glasvegas has mastered the art of the slow build, adding intensity as the song progresses. The next tune maintains that pretense, but adds the leather jackets and swagger of Julian Casablancas and the angular tones of Biffy Clyro.
The album proceeds thusly, changing attitude with nearly every song. But oozing Glaswegian piss and vinegar from every pore.
I know this review makes no sense. Kindly just listen to the songs and ignore me in this moment.
FFO: Biffy Clyro, Duran Duran, We Were Promised Jetpacks
Start With: “Dying to Live”, “Cupid’s Dark Disco”, “Dive”