Wassuuuuuuup. It’s Phil’s Phive time. I skipped February because uh *thinks very half-assedly of the worst excuse imaginable while just using it as an excuse to take a massive gulp of delicious beer* February sucked. I mean what even happened in February. Nothing. March however…now that’s what I call a month. Lots of music came out in March. That’s why I have dubbed this officially the Music March Edition of Phil’s Phive, in dedication to the music of March. Now take my hand and allow me to lead you on this wonderful journey through sound…where will we stop first…
5. Drake – More Life
Drake! Yeah, that Drake. Not any of the other ones. It sure has been fun hating on Drake for the past year or so, hasn’t it? I’m talking about Drake fans here, not the rest of you really cool people who have always hated on him because you’re above enjoying good music or something like that.
Views was so critically panned that somehow More Life feels like an underdog success, despite Drake being one of the most popular and successful artists on the planet right now. That’s because despite how badly people want to hate Drake for being so fucking Drake-y, the guy is one of the few hip hop/pop stars that actually makes great albums.
When people finally had an excuse to hand Drake an L for Views, they doubled the fuck down. It wasn’t even that bad! Anyway whatever, it doesn’t matter losers, because whatever the fuck More Life is, it rules.
After a project as self-important as Views, Drake likely labelled this release as a ‘playlist’ more for his own purposes than for our understanding of it. By doing so, he lowered the stakes for himself and allowed himself to have fun again. And this is, without a doubt, the most ‘fun’ Drake record. And why shouldn’t he be having fun?
Views‘ reiteration of his tried and true themes proved flat and recycled – its clear it was no longer an actual reflection of Drake, the man. That’s why the sunnier, dancier songs were better; they were also more honest and true to the artist. Playlists are snapshots of the heart at any given time, and More Life is an honest a snapshot into the life of a man as globally minded, passionate, and goofy as Drake.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: diaspora street pop
4. Jacques Greene – Feel Infinite
More Life…Feel Infinite…folks Phil’s gone full neo-hippy. He probably wrote this under some solstice or some shit. I’m not a hippy, because the earth is bad and deserves to be massacred and polluted, but if I was, I would probably love this album, because I already do and what does being a hippy have to do with my taste in music?
Greene’s debut isn’t necessarily a house album, but a record built around the idea of house..folks, let’s call it fence music ah hey. Greene alludes to typical tropes of house but always subverts them, sending you off in directions you never expect but always feel familiar and welcome. The mere idea of a dance music album in 2017 seems pretty silly, considering the vast amounts of mixes any of us have access to at any time, but Greene more than validates the form on Feel Infinite.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: elegy house
3. Pallbearer – Heartless
It’s pretty crazy to me that Pallbearer spent an entire full length covering “Heartless” by Kanye West. Just kidding! This is actually all original music.
Pallbearer had incredibly lofty expectations heading into their third full length…some may say as lofty as their riffs. The thing with Pallbearer, you see, is that they’re extremely good. Foundations of Burden topped my albums of the year list in 2014, and still stands as one of the most captivating metal records I’ve ever heard.
Where Foundations was itself a perfection of their debut Sorrow and Extinction, it was difficult to predict where the band would go next, how they would build upon their already fully realized sound. Heartless doesn’t provide an easy answer as it sees the band both expanding outwards and retracting inwards.
Foundations boasted riff after riff and hook after hook; Heartless relies more on extended instrumental passages and atmosphere. The record doesn’t crush you with the same glacial intensity as the heavier moments on Foundations did. In fact, almost all doom-y signifiers have been erased from Pallbearer’s sound at this point.
That’s not to say Heartless isn’t heavy; “Cruel Road” may be the most brutal moment in Pallbearer’s discography.
Instead, the gentler moments provide the weight on this record, whether it be the lone guitar on the outro of “Lie of Survival”, the haze of keyboard and guitar opening “Dancing in Madness” or basically the entirety of closer “Plea For Understanding.” Is Heartless as good as Foundations? No, but that’s fine. It could never be anyway. What’s important is that it’s different and proves that they aren’t one note, as perfect as that note was.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: post-doom rock
2. Mastodon – Emporer of Sand
Mastodon’s initial four album run of Remission, Leviathan, Blood Mountain, and Crack the Skye is already considered classic. The elemental quadrology is why Mastodon are considered not only one of the best metal bands of the current age, but of all time.
By the time Once More ‘Round the Sun landed in 2014, people began to begrudgingly accept that the proggy, sludgy Mastodon of yore was gone, instead replaced by the (still very good) hard rock that graced The Hunter and the aforementioned record. It was a difficult pill to swallow. Mastodon’s transition to somewhat straightforward rock band from concept-heavy virtuosos disappointed a lot of people, as these sorts of transitions tend to. And to the fans’ credit, those two records didn’t come anywhere close to reaching the heights of the records before it.
During the ramp up to The Hunter, there was a lot of buzz around Mastodon’s decision to finally change the typography of their band name – with minor adjustments alluding to the elemental theme of the record, Mastodon’s logo had been the same across their first four records. Astute Masto-fans will have noticed that Emperor of Sand‘s cover art graces the Masto-font of old, and likely peed and/or pooped their pants in reaction. This is only slightly misleading; this record is injected with much of the creative energy that drove their classics.
But ultimately, Emperor of Sand succeeds as a full realization of this new Mastodon.
One more concerned with bringing the anthems and hooks rather than pulverizing you or dazzling you with technical marvels. And my lord the hooks. The songwriting on this record is off the charts. It’s just hit after hit! It’s wild.
This record would be worthy to stand along the originals as a true Masto-classic if not for the truly bizarre decision to lead off and release as singles the two worst songs on the record. What were they thinking? From literally the third song on they nail it over and over again…I don’t get it. Regardless, this record is in every sense a return to form, and a reaffirmation that Mastodon are one of the best to ever do it.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: hard progck
1. Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens
To be honest with you, I only heard this record for the first time like four days ago or something. But I’ve probably listened to it 20 times in the past four days and I’ll probably listen to it 20 more times in the next four. This music is medicine.
Owens used to work as a nurse in a cancer clinic, and while working there, she became fascinated with the potential functionality of music as a healing tool. One of the phenomenons she came across in her studies were the Solfeggio frequencies, a mythical sound frequency with physical, mental, and emotional healing capabilities. In many respects, Owens music sounds like her attempt at achieving those frequencies; the washes of synths, the airiness of her vocals, the gentle yet forceful plodding of the 808s, the bass swells…it just feels good to listen to.
Using ambient techno as her palette, her debut record ebbs and flows effortlessly from traditional dream poppier numbers to ambient soundscapes to spoken word jams, all the while maintaining that audio ice pack feeling. This is early album of the year contender kinda shit folks. Highly recommended listening for if you ever do one of those float things. You know which ones I’m talking about.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: therapy techno