An Album a Day: Week 1

So first let me explain some stuff. 
Ideally, I will be following this template every week for 2019, thought I certainly reserve the right to tinker with it if I feel it’s necessary. One thing I do wish to explain is the difference between my “cohesiveness score” and my “average song score.”

Cohesion is a dangerous thing, because while I don’t think an album should feel disjointed and random, I also can’t stand albums that make me feel like I’m listening to the same song over and over again. It’s possible to be so cohesive that you end up looking like a one trick pony, and that’s not great either. I’ve decided albums that cross this line will actually score ABOVE 5. So 6/5, 7/5 etc. depending on how bad I think the problem is. Songs that score below 5 score that way because they lack cohesion, whereas the perfect 5/5 score is reserved for those albums that I feel reconcile these two things and balance cohesion with variety.

The “average song score” is just that. I’ll give each song it’s own individual rating from 1-5 and then average them up. That score is as follows:
1/5 = A song that is shit
2/5 = A song that has redeeming qualities but isn’t GOOD. I don’t like it, but don’t abhor it.
3/5 = Decent song, but nothing special.
4/5 = A legitimately good song and the album is better off for having it.
5/5 = Fucking spectacular song that makes me realize what music is supposed to be.

I hope that these two separate scores help give you an idea of how good each individual song is on its own as well as how these songs function together as a unit. All other criteria in the template are pretty self-explanatory.

January 1, What If Nothing by Walk The Moon

Image result for what if nothing 300 x 300Genre: Pop rock/Alternative
Year: 2017
Runtime: 58:01*
Total Number of Tracks: 13
Number of tracks I had heard before: All of them
Why I picked it: It was in my car’s cd player and as much as I enjoy the other cds in my car’s cd player, this was speaking to me at that time.
Cohesiveness score: 4/5, and honestly would probably be a 5/5 if not for “Sound of Awakening”
Average song score: 3.5/5

*According to Wikipedia, the physical album (which I have) is 58:01 but the streaming version is 55:46. Who knew?

Singles you might know: 
– “One Foot”
– “Kamikaze”
– “Tiger Teeth”

Songs that stand out for the right reasons: 
– “One Foot”
– “Surrender”
– “Kamikaze”
– “Tiger Teeth”
– “Can’t Sleep (Wolves)”

Each of these is so special and amazing in its own way. They’re all beautifully emotional and somehow the electronic nature of the music doesn’t lessen the authenticity of that emotion. I semi-routinely just skip between these five.

Songs that stand out for the wrong reasons:
“Sound of Awakening” has always been a little too experimental for my tastes. It just feels out of place among all the other songs. This is not aided by the fact that it’s over six minutes long. I’ve also never been a big fan of “Headphones” but I can at least see how it fits into the album and makes for an upbeat, angsty addition to an album that can at times feel very melancholy.

Songs that don’t stand out at all:
I legit forget “Lost in the Wild” is on here ALL the time, but it’s a decent enough song.

Do I recommend it: Yes. Even most of the songs I skip over to get to my favorites are still bops.

January 2, It’s About Us by Alex & Sierra 

Image result for It's about us
Genre: Acoustic folksy pop.
Year: 2014
Runtime: 42:03
Total Number of Tracks: 13, including a 1-minute interlude.
Number of tracks I had heard before: Two, I think. “Scarecrow” because it’s a single and “I Love You” because I’d heard a rumor Harry Styles wrote that one.
Why I picked it: My friend Dillan suggested it. (Thanks Dillan!)
Cohesiveness score: 4/5
Average song score: 3/5

Singles you might know:
– “Scarecrow”
– “Little Do You Know”

Songs that stand out for the right reasons:
– “Scarecrow”
– “Bumper Cars”
– “Here We Go”

“Scarecrow” does a fabulous job of balancing sad lyrics with an upbeat melody to come up with something truly special: a song that capture the desperate pleas of a broken heart while also sounding hopeful and optimistic. “Bumper Cars” is a much slower ballad, but its fresh analogy makes it stand out from the other sad ballads on the album. “Here We Go” is one of the more upbeat songs and it’s so good I wish there were more like it.

Songs that stand out for the wrong reasons:

The 1-minute interlude “It’s About Us” feels like an idea for a song that was not properly fleshed out. They put a weird effect on the vocals that isn’t present anywhere else on the album and it makes this track stick out like a sore thumb. The song/interlude is weak on its own and it also disrupts the flow of the album.

I also found “Just Kids” to be (and I know this sounds dumb) overly childish. It feels like one of those music videos I would’ve seen on Disney Channel in my youth. That isn’t necessarily a BAD thing, but since so many of these songs do have a more mature tone, this just feels like an obligatory “try to appeal to younger people” song that a marketing dude said they needed. And it’s also just not that good.

Songs that don’t stand out at all:
After listening to this album four times in three days, I have no recollection of what “Back to You” sounds like. You could probably make a playlist of all the other songs together, tell me it’s the full album and I would not notice the omission. “Give Me Something” is on the more forgettable side as well.

Do I recommend it: If you’re into white people with acoustic guitars singing about their feelings, you need this album in your life. But if that’s not your thing, this certainly doesn’t break the mold enough to make it your thing.

January 3, Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World 

Image result for bleed american

 

Genre: Pop punk
Year: 2001
Runtime: 46:36
Total Number of Tracks: 11
Number of tracks I had heard before: 4. The three you probably know, and then “Hear You Me”
Why I picked it: Suggested by my friend Bonnie!
Cohesiveness score: 6/5
Average song score: 3.3/5

 

Singles you might know:
“A Praise Chorus” (ft. Davey Vonbohlen)
“The Middle”
– “Sweetness”

So before moving on, I do feel the cohesive score needs a little explanation on this one. While there are several ballads on here to help break up the monotony, there really isn’t THAT much differentiating each angsty rock song from the other angsty rock songs, nor is there all that much differentiating the gentle ballads from the other gentle ballads. While there aren’t any true bad songs on here, I definitely found myself getting bored after track 6, “Hear You Me.” It just feels like after you get past this track, you’ve heard all the album has to offer, and what lies beyond is just a rehash of what you already heard. That’s why it gets the “too cohesive” score despite 4 out of 11 tracks sounding significantly different from the other 7.

Songs that stand out for the right reasons:
– “A Praise Chorus” (ft. Davey Vonbohlen)
– “The Middle”
– “Hear You Me”

The world may never know if “The Middle” made it onto this list because it’s actually one of the best songs or simply by way of nostalgia, but either way it’s damn near impossible to be sad while I’m listening to it. When I really think about it though, I think I actually prefer the dynamic shifts of “A Praise Chorus.” Most other songs on the album establish their sound within the first 10 seconds and don’t stray from it, so I really appreciate how this one goes for a quieter chorus and gives you some contrast within a single song. “Hear You Me” is just a beautiful, sad ballad full of raw emotion and vulnerability. It has an authenticity to it, like they didn’t just throw it on here simply to prove they could do a ballad as sometimes happens with pop punk/alternative albums.

Songs that stand out for the wrong reasons: 
Again, I don’t really think there are BAD songs, but the album has a nasty habit of making the slower ballads a little too long for what they are. “Cautioners” and “My Sundown” are the most egregious examples of this, ringing in at 5:21 and 5:47, respectively. Unfortunately, neither really grows and builds the way a song has to in order to justify being over 5 minutes long. Decent songs, but possibly better if they were one minute shorter.

Songs that don’t stand out at all:
I kinda feel shitty having to be this hard on it, because again NONE OF THESE SONGS ARE BAD. But after probably 5ish listens within one week none of the later tracks on the album really stuck with me. So that leaves the following in this category:
– “If You Don’t, Don’t”
– “Get It Faster”
– “Cautioners”
– “Authority Song”
– “My Sundown”

Do I recommend it: Sort of? I really love certain songs from this album and respect Jimmy Eat World as a band. However, I will say this is one of those albums that actually did make some of its best songs the singles. Outside of “Hear You Me” I don’t really think there are any hidden gems here that are better than the songs you most likely already know. So if you love “The Middle” and need more songs like it, great! This has them. But in the future, I really don’t see myself listening to this in-full without skipping any tracks, so take that for what it’s worth.

January 4, dont smile at me by Billie Eilish 

Genre: Electropop. Or maybe synthpop? I don’t know the difference tbh.
Year: 2017
Runtime: 29:00
Total Number of Tracks: 9
Number of tracks I had heard before: 2? I think? I’d definitely heard “Ocean Eyes” and “Idontwannabeyouanymore.”
Why I picked it: I was trying to fall asleep and from what I knew of Billie, this was something that could relax me but still be interesting.
Cohesiveness score: 5/5
Average song score: 3.4/5

 

Singles you might know: 
– “Ocean Eyes”
– “Idontwannabeyouanymore”
– “bellyache”

Before moving on with the “review” portion, I do want to address the whole EP vs. Album thing. Technically, this is an “EP” however when it comes to MY parameters outlined in the introductory post, this counts as an album. It hits the song minimum of 9 and is just one minute shy of the time minimum of 30 minutes. There’s also enough going on here that I don’t think it’s unfair to judge it as an album the way it’s unfair to just an EP of 4 or 5 radio-friendly pop songs as though it’s a full album. I actually have a lot of respect for Billie and her brother/collaborator Finneas for not throwing a couple more subpar tracks on here just for the sake of calling it an album, as some other people might have. They’ve chosen consistency and quality over quantity, and that’s to be commended. Anyway, moving on with the review.

Songs that stand out for the right reasons:
– “Idontwannabeyouanymore”
– “bellyache”

“Idontwannabeyouanymore” is a really great balance between live instrumentation and more electronic vocals, plus I found it to have the most memorable lyrics. “bellyache” is probably the only song I would describe as “catchy” and it manages this without sounding bubblegum-y or like it was trying too hard. It maintains the dark, haunting tone that runs throughout the whole album while still giving us a faster tempo that gives the album some contrast.

Songs that stand out for the wrong reasons: There really aren’t any. If you like one of these songs, odds are you will like all of them.

Songs that don’t stand out at all: “watch” is pretty damn forgettable. In fact, I didn’t even notice that the last track is a remix of this song until I read it on Wikipedia. Even though it’s track 4, I totally forgot what it sounded like by the time I got to track 9.

Do I recommend it: Her sound isn’t for everyone, and I would definitely say you should skip it if catchy hooks and powerful vocals are a high priority for you. That’s just not what Billie Eilish is about. However, if you’re on the fence, I would definitely encourage you to give dont smile a chance. Eilish is the type of artist that’s hard to appreciate after just one song, and I don’t think you’ll really know if you like her or not until you give the whole EP several listens. Getting lost in this kind of music for a half hour is ethereal in a way that “Ocean Eyes” alone never can be.

January 5, Fly by Dixie Chicks

Image result for fly dixie chicks

 

Genre: Country
Year: 1999
Runtime: 48:02
Total Number of Tracks: 13
Number of tracks I had heard before: 13
Why I picked it: I’d had the same 6 cds in my car stereo for too long and decided I needed a change, so I busted out this oldie-but-a-goodie.
Cohesiveness score: 5/5
Average song score: 3.5/5

 

 

Singles you might know:
– “Ready to Run”
– “Cowboy Take Me Away”
– “Goodbye Earl”

Songs that stand out for the right reasons:
– “Ready to Run”
– “If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me”
– “Goodbye Earl”
– “Sin Wagon”

This is one of those albums that’s so good it’s hard to pick favorites, but I tried. “Ready to Run” has a celtic vibe and relatable lyrics that give it a timeless quality. “If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me” is upbeat and fun, and a nice hybrid between rock and country, like if the Eagles had a top notch fiddle player. “Goodbye Earl” has original lyrics that tell a proper story which make it the most memorable of any song on the album. “Sin Wagon” is perhaps the best showcase of Emily’s banjo skills and Martie’s fiddle skills, plus it’s just an-all around fun song. I could probably go on and include damn near every track on this list, but that defeats the point of picking favorites, doesn’t it?

Songs that stand out for the wrong reasons: I could live without “Hole In My Head” but I wouldn’t say it’s bad enough to worsen the album.

Songs that don’t stand out at all: There are a few ballads that seem a little underwhelming next to some of the more upbeat songs, “Heartbreak Town”  and “Without You” probably being the best contenders. But they’re still damn good songs, as are the other ballads, they just take a few more listens before you really appreciate them.

Do I recommend it: This is one of those magic albums where virtually every song reaches high standards of amazingness while still sounding unlike any other song on the album. Highly recommend, even if you don’t typically go for country music (I don’t).

January 6, Last Young Renegade by All Time Low

Last Young Renegade.jpgGenre: Pop punk, emphasis on pop more than punk
Year: 2017
Runtime: 36:31
Total Number of Tracks: 10
Number of tracks I had heard before: 10
Why I picked it: I needed an album I was fairly familiar with and could review without listening to it too many times, so it seemed like this would be fun to revisit.
Cohesiveness score: 4/5
Average song score: 3.6/5

 

Singles you might know:
– “Dirty Laundry”
– “Good Times”

Songs that stand out for the right reasons:
– “Last Young Renegade”
– “Dark Side of Your Room”
– “Afterglow”

“Last Young Renegade” used to be on the rotation at my old place of work, and it singlehandedly got me to listen to the whole album. Both this track and “Dark Side of Your Room” are full of the youthful exuberance I crave when I’m in the mood to listen to pop punk. “Afterglow” is a bit gentler and more vulnerable, and it’s a perfect mix of All Time Low’s typical sound as well as the synthpop trends of 2017 (I think it’s synthpop, not electropop). The result is something euphoric, but delicate.

Songs that stand out for the wrong reasons: There really aren’t any.

Songs that don’t stand out at all: “Ground Control” ft. Tegan and Sara doesn’t really offer much of anything, which is sad because it feels like a waste of Tegan and Sara’s talent. Despite playing this album pretty consistently for a solid week less than a year ago, this was the ONLY song where I couldn’t remember the chorus. “Nightmares” is also on the more forgettable side.

Do I recommend it: It’s a solid album, albeit rather unoriginal. There’s a stronger pop feel compared to what I know of All Time Low’s earlier work. That might put some people off, but it also might make this fairly palatable to people who aren’t usually into this genre.

Other albums I listened to this week:
LM5 by Little Mix 
19 by Adele
Ten
by Pearl Jam
Conscious by Broods
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
The Spirit Room by Michelle Branch

With the exception of LM5 which I’m already fairly familiar with, these are mostly albums I haven’t listened to enough to do a proper writeup for, but hopefully within the coming weeks that will change. Stay tuned!

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