Earl Sweatshirt

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2018

Today is April 15, and while the rest of the nation trudges through another Tax Day, we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to return from the dead and release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.

10. Black Panther: The Album; Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs; Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance; Lucy Dacus – Historian; Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap; Ought – Room Inside the World; Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs; Sleep – The Sciences (8 plays)

Against all odds,  we somehow once again agree with at least one of the “Best Album” choices from the Grammys with our inclusion of the Kendrick Lamar-assembled soundtrack to Black Panther.  Its inclusion was a surprise to us, but the Kendrick/SIA mega-hit “All the Stars” helped make this solid compilation one of the more memorable soundtracks to be released in years.  Another surprise was Ought’s latest release, which zigged when we expected it to zag–we were anticipating a return to their hard-hitting debut,  but instead it was an album marked by its ballads, most notably the show-stopping “Desire”.  Earl Sweatshirt returns with his latest venture into the avant-garde, eschewing choruses and hooks for the enigmatic Some Rap Songs.  Idles created one of the hardest-hitting albums of the year with the politically-influenced post-punk Joy, bringing to mind a British working class version of Protomartyr.  Lucy Dacus created some of the most gorgeously epic indie rock this year, unafraid to play with dynamics and mix her lovely voice with music that shifts from the tranquil to the anthemic.  Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever brought the chill factor, recalling a laid-back Real Estate kind of vibe, but with a bit more pep and greater variety to their overall sound.  Sleep seem intent to prove how Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality is the greatest album of all time, and considering the results, we are not inclined to argue.  As for Nipsey, his inclusion on this list is bittersweet because of his recent murder, but hopefully more people will seek out his music (and benefit his family–he owned all his masters).

9. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino; Beach House – 7; Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 1, Vol. 2; Vince Staples – FM! (9 plays)

We were puzzled by the backlash to the latest Arctic Monkeys album, which we believed followed the same trajectory as their mainstream-breakthrough AM without being a shameless imitation; maybe we just appreciated their retro/futuristic lounge style more than most.  We initially felt 7 was an unremarkable addition to the Beach House catalog, but subsequent listens revealed a greater depth to their trademark synthpop sound.  Black Thought released two EPs this past year, and depending on the day we might switch our favorite, though we more often end to lean to the more energetic Vol. 2.  For FM!, Vince Staples made the perfect soundtrack for a summer cookout, and even the skits are still able to blend seamlessly after multiple listens.

8. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy; Moaning – Moaning (10 plays)

Will Toledo dipped back into his past for his follow-up to RIJR favorite Teens of Denial, reworking his early work Twin Fantasy.  Fans of his hypersensitive attention to lyrical detail and his appreciation for classic indie rock tropes should be pleased with the results, though like Teens, it takes a few listens to appreciate the craft.  Moaning is a new group that decided to put a more lively spin on the current revival of shoegaze, and the result is some of the catchiest songs of the year.

7. Hookworms – Microshift; Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning (11 plays)

If you were looking for a more rock-inclined version of LCD Soundsystem, then Hookworms provided the perfect album for you.  It is impossible to not get fired up after listening to opener “Negative Space”, and the album never lets up.  After cleaning up their sound and sanding down some of the edges for Life Without Sound, Cloud Nothings get back to basics and blow out their amps again for the furious Last Building Burning.

6. Mitski – Be the Cowboy (12 plays)

We loved Puberty 2, and Mitski continues her hot streak with her new album.  Mitski gets to the point quickly in each of the fourteen songs here, dispensing with conventional verse/chorus/verse structures and getting the message across around two minutes for each song.  Mitski does not necessarily switch between different genres; it would be more accurate to say she explores the limits of the various styles one can find within the larger umbrella of “indie music”, from the swelling “Geyser” to the effervescent “Nobody” to the gentle closer “Two Slow Dancers.”

5. Fixtures – Trust Yourself I Guess [EP]; No Age – Snares Like a Haircut (13 plays)

A link from Twitter led me to this Bandcamp release from Fixtures, and it did not take long for me to get sucked into its irresistible hooks.  If you aren’t humming by the end of “On Tape” or “Remember Who I’m Looking For”, then you might need to schedule an appointment with your local ENT specialist.  No Age returned from a long layoff showing no signs of rust (no pun intended), and were able to compose an album that effectively summed up the sounds they explored in their previous experimental works.  We also love the title, which we learned is a reference to how much like a haircut, one can usually pick out what era a song comes from simply by the way the snare drum is recorded.

4. Preoccupations – New Material; Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt (14 plays)

We continue to be impressed by the evolution of Preoccupations, who have now settled into a gothic post-punk sound.  We said it the first time we heard it, but we are glad to confirm that “Disarray” is the best song we heard this year.  Take note of the different time signatures employed by the guitar, bass, and drums, as they shift in and out of sync with each other in a perfect illustration of the title.

And Nothing Hurt is another wonderfully gorgeous space rock opus from Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized project.  As one may expect, repeated listens reveal brilliant sonic details, and soon you will be picking up the various random instruments that help fill out the sound.  Amazingly enough, most of the album was recorded in Pierce’s bedroom, though with the extent of the orchestration and the depth of the overall sound it would be easy to assume it was done instead in a giant studio.

3. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer; Pusha T – DAYTONA (15 plays)

Considering we named his album I Love You, Honeybear our favorite album of 2015, you would be correct to assume we were disappointed with Joshua Tillman’s follow-up, Pure Comedy, which we found overlong and way too much of a chore to listen to all the way through, so much so it did not come close to appearing on our 2017 list.  However, FJM redeemed himself with the much tighter God’s Favorite Customer.  The bite has returned to the lyrics, but more importantly, it is an infinitely more interesting album from a musical perspective, filled with memorable melodies.

Pusha T once again delivers a batch of coke raps, but the wordplay on this quick-hitter is among his best work, and Kanye provides his best production work in years.  DAYTONA was at the forefront of the switch to shorter works, with its 7 tracks clocking in at 21 minutes, leaving the listener wanting more and never wearing out its welcome.

2. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (16 plays)

Deafheaven broke out with the genre-defying Sunbather, and then followed up their shoegaze-meets-black metal classic with an emphasis on their heavier roots with New Bermuda.  It seems this was a move made in response to concern about proving the group’s metallic bona fides, and while we loved both albums, it seems the audience expectations weighed heavily on the band.  With Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Deafheaven threw out those expectations and indulged their inner muses, and the result is easily their most fun album to date.  If you were hesitant to dip into their work before, this might be the album for you.  It even features some actual singing at points!

1. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (17 plays)

We were initially weary when tracks from Wide Awake! began to be released, as we could not find a common thread between any of them–one of the singles was even a stitched together combination (“Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”) that did not make much sense by itself.  However, the disparate styles explored by the band made sense within the context of the album.  Perfect for the streaming age, Wide Awake! seems perfect for shuffling, even though one track leads into the next through almost the entirety of the album.

There are several reasons why Wide Awake! is our favorite album of the year, including the overt nod to Pavement (their most obvious comparison) with “Mardi Gras Beads” (that somehow also seems to be influenced by The Walkmen), to the infinitely catchy “Tenderness”, to the goofy title track, which effectively parodies the current movement to appear “woke” even if it means sacrificing depth–which led to the surreal moment of the band performing the song on Ellen.  But it’s understandable–goddamn, that bass groove is infectious.

But the band is not just smart-asses looking for piss-takes.  The opener “Total Football” is the best summation of the group’s approach, with insightful lyrics and hooks galore.  And in this time of great division, we can all agree with the song’s final words: “And fuck Tom Brady!”

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Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2015

Today is April 18, and while the rest of the nation celebrates Tax Day (an extra three days later this year), we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.  Also, we have reviews for nearly all of these albums, so for those of you seeking a more detailed analysis all you need to do is click the appropriate tag above.

10. Deaf Wish – Pain; Disasterpeace – It Follows (Score); EL VY – Return to the Moon; HEALTH – Death Magic; Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer; Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon (7 plays)

A very interesting mix at the bottom of the list, including our token electronic choice as well as our first pick of a film score in this site’s history.  Deaf Wish broke through with one of the best noise-rock albums of the year, showing a surprising amount of depth for such a narrow niche, and EL VY proved that side-projects don’t have to be boring.  The debut album from Tobias Jesso Jr. is the star of this particular slot, as Goon shows that the world may have found a true heir to the rich musical legacy of Harry Nilsson.

9. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Surf; Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside; Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy; Vaadat Charigim – Sinking as a Stone; White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again; Wilco – Star Wars (8 plays)

Another eclectic group at the number nine slot–there’s the ambitious rock opera from Titus Andronicus sharing space with the keep-it-simple garage rock of White Reaper, the joyous jazz-inflected Surf project featuring the exuberant Chance the Rapper sliding up next to the brooding and intense personal meditations of Earl Sweatshirt, and the veteran purveyors of Americana in Wilco sitting comfortably by the Israeli shoegaze group Vaadat Charigim.

8. Blur – The Magic Whip; BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul; Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons to Die II; Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter; Low – Ones and Sixes; Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (9 plays)

Most people seem to have forgotten that not only did Blur come back this year, but they did so with a brilliant album that recalls their peak during the mid-90’s BritPop era, with the group showing that they learned a few things during their downtime.  Similarly, Low once again suffers through the Spoon Curse of being consistently great, with little love being shown for their latest excellent release.  Waxahatchee broadened her sound to great results this year, while Joanna Gruesome solidified their style.  But it is Ghostface who deserves special recognition this year for releasing two separate fantastic records this year.

7. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color; Foals – What Went Down; Ought – Sun Coming Down; Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love; Viet Cong – Viet Cong (10 plays)

We are glad to welcome back Sleater-Kinney into our lives, as No Cities to Love fits in comfortably with the rest of the other great punk records in their back catalog.  Viet Cong’s debut album and Ought’s second record were challenging post-punk works, but there were enough intriguing elements to be found in both to inspire continued listening.  Alabama Shakes improved immensely from their debut album, showing off a broader range than what had been expected from their previous blues-rock groove.  However, we once again wait for Foals to break through into the mainstream, even though they did their part by releasing this great arena-ready album.

6. Beach Slang – Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us; Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves; Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (11 plays) 

A lot of people may be surprised by the high ranking of the new Modest Mouse album, but we feel that there was enough on this sprawling effort to reward repeated listens.  While it may not appear as seamless as classics like The Lonesome Crowded West and The Moon & Antarctica, there are several tracks that different eras of fans can enjoy–even the notorious “Pistol” gets better each time you hear it.  Meanwhile, Protomartyr’s brooding post-punk serves as a great contrast to Beach Slang’s exuberant beer-soaked punk.

5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (12 plays) 

A worthy recipient of many accolades this past year, Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus brilliantly pushes the boundaries of what many thought hip-hop could do.  It is often a difficult and uncompromising listen, but there are still many joys to be found throughout the album.

4. Bully – Feels Like; Royal Headache – High (13 plays) 

Both of these records are thrilling half-hours-of-power, and frankly I am wondering why they did not receive more publicity.  There were few albums as fun as this duo.

3. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress; Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (14 plays) 

Amazingly enough, Godspeed You! Black Emperor seem to be improving with each new release, with Asunder being possibly their most accessible work yet.  There were few moments as powerful as the climax of “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!” or the bombastic ending of “Piss Crowns are Trebled”.  At the other end of the spectrum, Sufjan Stevens may have finally made us converts with the quietly devastating and deeply personal Carrie & Lowell.

2. Deafheaven – New Bermuda (16 plays)  

Deafheaven successfully met the challenge of following up their genre-bending breakthrough album Sunbather, returning with the powerful, if more conventional, New Bermuda.  However, the amazing thing about this album is that not only does it stand on its own, it somehow enhances their previous work; each listen of New Bermuda inspires an additional listen of Sunbather, and somehow that album gets better every time we hear it.  Still, New Bermuda stands on its own as a brilliant album, with each of its five tracks jockeying for position as best song on the record.

1. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear (17 plays) 

We had a feeling at the beginning of last year that Father John Misty would place high in our list, but even we were surprised that our favorite shaman ended up in the top slot.  I Love You, Honeybear is a gorgeously lush record, filled with swelling strings and ebullient horns, but there is a dark undercurrent lurking below much of the album.  The record works on both a superficial level and with a more critical approach, which helps explain its surprising ranking.  But in the end, it is just a damn good record, and we cannot wait to see one of modern rock’s great showman return to Oregon later this year.

Over the Weekend (Aug. 10 Edition)

New music, news, and other fun useless stuff as you recover from an unexpected night out…

Last week we linked to an interview with guitarist Spiral Stairs as he revealed his favorite Pavement songs, and this week we can share the thoughts of another member of the band.  Stephen Malkmus talked to Newsweek about several of the songs that appear on the rarities compilation The Secret History, Vol. 1, providing background on their creation to the best of his ability.

90’s-influenced noise-rockers Deaf Wish shared the video for their single “On”, capturing the strange ending to what was apparently a bizarre television show.

Earl Sweatshirt also released a video this week, sharing a gloomy animated vision for “Off Top” from his stellar recent release, I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside.

Alternative Nation has footage and background from an early Alice in Chains show, recorded in December of 1989 in Pullman, Washington.  The show takes place months before the release of their debut album Facelift, so it provides an interesting record of the group moments before they hit it big.

Hutch Harris contributes a great review to The Talkhouse, a site where albums are discussed and reviewed by other artists, providing a critical and loving assessment of the newest solo album from guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes.

And finally, it was announced that singer Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio has joined with vocalist Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas, Peeping Tom, Mr. Bungle, etc.) and rapper Doseone for a project called The Nevermen.  Consequence of Sound has the details, including a SoundCloud link to the lead single “Tough Towns”.  After that, be sure to check out an edition of Kids Interview Bands that TV on the Radio recently shared, where the band finally answers exactly what kind of cookie can be found in Cookie Mountain.

Review: Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

Despite the huge buzz and heavy praise that has surrounded him through his brief career so far, it has taken me some time to appreciate the artistry of Earl Sweatshirt, outside of his appearance providing the hook for Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”.  However, when the news came that he was releasing an album entitled I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, I knew I would have to be tracking down a copy; the last time the mere mention of an album title had me scrambling like this, Atmosphere had just released When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, and that became one of my favorite hip-hop albums of that year.  Much like Atmosphere’s record, I Don’t Like Shit is a deeply introspective and reflective album, though it is a much darker musical journey that is distinguished by its grim and spare production.

Earl’s often extremely laid-back flow can make a codeine user appear as hopped-up as a meth addict, but on many tracks the deliberateness of his delivery helps emphasize his lyrics.  The album begins on a bright and playful note with the intro “Huey”, but this mood is quickly replaced by a more ominous tone that haunts the rest of the record.  Earl creates drum tracks that are heavily processed to emphasize unnatural tones, and the eerie synths and other industrial touches recall early Wu-Tang solo records.

Considering the often bleak subject matter, Earl wisely restricts the running time on I Don’t Like Shit, wrapping up the album in a concise fashion in slightly less than half an hour.  Lyrics deal with death, anxiety, depression, and the emptiness of fame in a frank and honest manner, but the album avoids merely dwelling in misery.  Though it is dark, I Don’t Like Shit is never oppressive, which makes it easier to digest over repeated listens.

Earl’s ability to maintain a strict standard in his editing is something that his fellow Odd Future mate, Tyler, the Creator, needs to learn.  His latest, Cherry Bomb, starts off promising enough, with its nods to N.E.R.D.’s catalog that are fun and engaging, but the album slides off the rails by the end.  It is certainly an improvement over the practically unlistenable Wolf, but Tyler still has trouble harnessing some of the potential seen on Goblin.  Tyler has shown some great talent with his production over the years, and I often prefer his particular delivery when he raps, but he continually falls into the same traps over and over again.  Experimentation can be exciting, but not every idea needs to be heard, and shock tactics result in diminishing returns.

Catching Up On The Week (Apr. 3 Edition)

Some #longreads as you prepare for April showers…

If you’re in the part of the country where the gradual shift into spring has begun, with all of its resultant precipitation (as captured in the above line), you may be feeling a little bummed.  However, you should not despair that it’s not safe to lounge around outside quite yet; instead, head to the garage and start working on that album you always said you would make.  The AV Club has a primer on garage rock bands to help provide you with the necessary inspiration.

Or if there is too much crap cluttering up your garage, you can head to the basement and record down there.  Stereogum has a piece celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the lo-fi classic Alien Lanes from Guided By Voices to give you a blueprint.  If GBV can crank out 28 songs for this album, then you can manage to at least write one song, right?

Perhaps you still need help in finding a particular sound.  Then I recommend reading this essay from frontman William DuVall of the reunited version of Alice In Chains, wherein he discusses the pivotal songs that shaped his guitar playing.  He has some great suggestions, including this classic.

One of the big releases this week was Death Cab For Cutie’s Kintsugi, and to help provide some background on the album you can read this SPIN interview with the band.  For those of you wishing to dive into the back catalog of the group, lead singer Ben Gibbard provides a roadmap with this Vulture piece that details his favorite songs from each record.

Finally, Pitchfork has profiles on two wildly different artists, one with rapper Earl Sweatshirt and the other with Katie Crutchfield, who performs lo-fi rock as Waxahatchee, while Rolling Stone introduces its readers to Thundercat, who was one of the creative forces behind Kendrick Lamar’s latest album.