Top 10 Tyler The Creator Tracks

words fae ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)

Who exactly Tyler the Creator is, has always been up for debate. He started as the driving force behind hip-hop collective Odd Future that made superstars out of Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, and more recently, The Internet.

The group’s aggressive image attracted the media’s attention instantly and Tyler’s bizarre antics, as well as interviews, helped land him a show on Adult Swim with his buddies joining him on Loiter Squad. Tyler’s music reflected his behavior in the public’s eye when he released Goblin in 2011: critics pointed out the absurd number of times Tyler uses homophobic slurs throughout the album but failed to mention the immensely dark and troubled tone of the album itself. There is a track near the end of the album where Tyler metaphorically kills his friends, and the album itself deals with Tyler talking to a therapist named Dr. TC (Tyler’s Consciousness.)

Following up Goblin was Wolf, the second effort from the face of Odd Future still retained the jagged edges from Goblin but featured much more tender production and a theme centered around summer camp, love, and jealousy. It would be the last album Tyler would put together while Odd Future was still active. Cherry Bomb followed almost exactly two years later and contained some of Tyler’s messiest and most beautiful tracks he has ever released. Altogether, it made for a cluttered release that most die-hard fans will defend but the public has forgotten.

A little over two years later, Tyler emerges as a confidently bloomed bud. He releases Flower Boy, a personal album that references his sexuality for the first time and his relationship with friends and family. Long gone are the jagged edges of Goblin, in its place rests a perfectly crafted album with memorable tracks, excellent production, and amazing features from the likes of up-and-comers Rex Orange County, Kali Uchis and Steve Lacy, in addition to established acts like Frank Ocean and Lil Wayne. Now proving himself as a creative genius after fashion shows, a successful collaboration with Converse’s One-Star, grammy nominations for Flower Boy, we wonder where he will go from here.

Revisiting Tyler’s old discography can be fairly nostalgic despite being less than a decade old, memories of watching him evolve being particularly rose-tinted but it’s difficult to argue that a good chunk of his early material hasn’t stood the test of time. It took a bit for Tyler to find his footing as a musical artist and though he may have had a certain vision for all of those albums, it doesn’t mean that every song in its own way fits or is actually good at all. There is quite a number of duds on his first 4 albums (if you include mixtape Bastard). With that being said, where there is darkness there is light and Tyler is responsible for some of the best rap music of this decade. He should not be viewed as anything but a monumental inspiration to this generation and an artist to watch for years to come so, without further ado, here’s the cream of the crop when it comes to Wolf Haley’s list of tracks.

10. Treehome95

Treehome95 is just a taste of the potential Tyler had in jazz when it was released. While the cut may have been off-putting to a lot of fans when it showed up on Wolf, it still shows a connection to his current work. The gentle side of Tyler that didn’t often come out was a change of pace that much desired and this cut was only something that amplified it. Erykah Badu and Coco Owino lend gorgeous vocals to help fill out the track. By the time it ends at its 3-minute mark, it’s too soon.

9. Answer

Tyler speaks bluntly to his father on Answer with a fiery flow that resembles early Eminem.  The production on this track is easy to love: the drums sound incredible paired with the guitar tone and sure, Syd could have done really well with a bigger role than background vocals on this cut, but there’s a reason why it’s appearing on this list regardless.

8. Where This Flower Blooms

The ‘proper’ introduction to Flower Boy, Tyler sounds fearless on this track with Frank; like they have both come into their own. Tyler brings the listener into his world with great production and even better verses. 

7. She

She doesn’t really seem like it’s a stand-alone Tyler track. Frank Ocean takes such big strides at the beginning of the track that Tyler quickly falls behind. With that being said, the hook is something most Tyler fans will never forget. Infectious, unsettling, and oddly beautiful. The unfortunate part about revisiting this track is thinking about how Tyler’s early lyrics will affect the replayability of his music in the already-quick pace our culture is moving at.


When the music video for this came out, it was hard not to be blown away. Tyler standing in an enormous doll-house plastered is prosthetics captured the creepy vibe that this song gives off. Released during a peak in Tyler’s aggressiveness, this cut also came off Wolf, which is also the first time we are able to see any vulnerability from Tyler. It’s an excellent blend of the two in this song especially, the brash opening lines compared to the exquisite performance from Pharrell to end things off.

5. November

This beat can really fuck you up on first listen, featuring some of the best production on the album. The theme of the song and the features from his friends that lead into the beat switch up make it an easy one to adore, seeing Tyler deliver one of his best performances in the first verse with an incredible flow.


A standout cut after the release of Tyler’s most popular album, Flower Boy. Tyler unexpectedly dropped OKRA with a fantastic music video in 2018 after staying relatively quiet, retaining the lyrical elements of Flower Boy by keeping it real and bluntly rapping from a personal perspective. The production elements are very thick with a quick tempo, making it one of Tyler’s most hard-hitting songs ever.

3. Smuckers

A fan favorite, Smuckers was a huge standout on Tyler’s most polarizing effort, Cherry Bomb. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Tyler all bring their writing chops to extreme highs and pays off in one of the best posse cuts of this generation. For die-hard Kanye fans, his verse is one of the best he has dropped this decade. Lil Wayne is able to bring the song to a satisfying close with his verse towards the back end of the song. Smuckers is a song so well put together that it will age like wine.

2. See You Again

See You Again is the prime example of the current Tyler era and the best way to be able to pin down his current sound. Kali Uchis takes a chance to really shine on this track and even though she and Tyler have collaborated, nothing they’ve done has ever sounded this grand. The hook is infectious, and the flow of Tyler’s verses is something we come to expect from him. It could very well be debated that See You Again helped break down the doors for stars like Rex Orange County and Steve Lacy to bring this “anti-pop” sound into an underground mainstream audience.

1. 911/Mr. Lonely

This is one of Tyler’s best examples of when everything comes perfectly together in his head. Steve Lacy’s vocals, the Frank feature, the seamless transition into Mr. Lonely, the energy that flows from the funk of the first track into the bangin’ second. The grasp this track has you is scary, making itself an immediate favourite for many fans and a welcoming update to any listeners or critics that had written Tyler off early in his career.

Mom Jeans’ Eric Butler Discusses Touring, Collabs and Latest LP ‘Puppy Love’

words by Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

Mom Jeans is a four-piece emo outfit hailing from southern California. After releasing their debut Best Buds in 2016, the world was introduced to their bouncy and addictive melodies that set the background for their aching post-breakup lyrics. The album really hit home for a lot of fans and garnered a mass cult following, all anxious to watch the band make their next move. Since then, Mom Jeans have been touring relentlessly, mostly with bands surrounding the independent label, Counter Intuitive Records. CI, (Counter Intuitive) has quickly become one of the most exciting up-and-coming labels in indie music for their roster of fresh and exciting new bands, most of whom exist within the indie/emo scene. Mom Jeans put out their first record on Counter Intuitive and planned to put out their second on SideOneDummy, home to acts such as PUP and Rozwell Kid. But when SideOneDummy began to slip and stopped signing new bands, Mom Jeans took it back to CI to release their second full-length, Puppy Love. I got the chance to chat with lead vocalist and songwriter Eric Butler to get a more in-depth look behind the album.

RM: Was there any pressure during the writing process for the album? Best Buds really clicked with so many people and really brought the band to another level of popularity. Did you feel Puppy Love had to have the same impact or were there any thoughts of trying to capitalize on what made the first record so special?

EB: I mean honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever gone into writing music with an intent of creating an impact, we’ve always just tried to write music that we think sounds cool and that’s fun for us to play. I think all four of us get a lot of gratification out of learning how to play new songs and sharing ideas and trying to make every song as fun as possible to play. For all of us, playing music has always been about having fun, having fun playing music together and getting to spend time together as friends has always been the number one priority. Playing big gigs is always cool and selling records is dope too but at the end of the day we just wanna make music together. In that respect, nothing really changed between best buds and puppy love. I can def say that putting a release together with the expectation that people would be listening to it/anticipating it was definitely new to us, but we really tried to set that aside and just make a record that we could be stoked on no matter what other people think about it.

RM: What was it like putting Puppy Love together? What songs were written first? Were there any that came together quicker than others?

EB: I’m definitely a super slow writer, and it was definitely tough to get the ball rolling as far as writing songs for an album rather than just writing songs. I think sponsor me tape and season 9 were the first songs that I was like “ok these are goin’ on LP 2”, but in general it’s pretty hard for me to keep writing/working on something unless I’m super into it or unless I feel like it’s really going in a direction that I like. From there like usual I brought all the song skeletons to Austin, Bart and Gabe and we hashed them out and everybody wrote parts that made sense and that they liked. Pretty much every song that we’ve put together since best buds (minus the split songs) ended up on puppy love except for maybe one or two.

RM: The CI family is having such an amazing year, it must be pretty surreal at the moment. Has surrounding yourself with like-minded musicians and friends helped push MJ as well as other bands forward creatively?

EB: Absolutely! For us I think it’s really important to be surrounded by like-minded and similarly-oriented people. Playing hundreds of shows a year can get pretty tiring and I think a lot of people get burnt out on playing and touring pretty fast, but for us I feel like every tour or project that we work on is super exciting and super motivating because every single band that’s around us is absolutely killing it. Most of the musical influences that got me inspired and excited to work on new music came from listening to other CI bands like Just Friends, Nervous Dater, Retirement Party, Prince Daddy, and all the extended fam like Chatterbot and Open Door Records bands. 

RM: The lyrics on both albums are both very confessional in their own ways. Is it more therapeutic to write the lyrics and then put music to them or to perform the songs live?

EB: I think each is therapeutic in their own way, but like the physical act of playing songs is what compels me the most. Lyrics have always been kind of like a diary where I can express thoughts and feelings that are hard to discuss so plainly otherwise, and actually saying them out loud for real is extremely therapeutic and I feel like it allows me to feel like I’m addressing them by at least acknowledging them. Even just getting lost in a live setting (not even necessarily performing just like playing together) l has always been so addictive to me. There’s a magical moment that happens every once in a while, where things just come together perfectly, and I feel like I forget about everything that’s bothering me and I just zone out on the music. I fkn live for that moment where everything just sounds perfect and new and special. 


While Best Buds was more centered around a break-up, Puppy Love deals with voluntarily distancing yourself from those you love. There is an established sense of confidence in Butler’s voice when he details isolating himself. It doesn’t sound like it’s what he wants to do but it also sounds necessary in order for both people to grow and become more individualized.

Butler also takes sharp aim at his own flaws all over the album; what he is putting into his body, his emotions and why he is feeling that way, and efficiently communicating with those around him. Perhaps it’s a way to say those flaws out loud with brute honesty in order to move one step closer to breaking those bad habits.

Musically, the band has never sounded tighter. Bart Starr from Graduating Life has been added as a second guitarist and it really helps fill out the band’s sound. There are more tasty riffs and more transitions that add more depth to each song. (SPOILER ALERT CLICK AWAY NOW) There’s also one really sick part during the outro of Glamorous where Weezer’s Sweater Song is interpolated. Brianda Goyos León, from the CI-signed band Just Friends, appears on the 7th and 10th track and adds a beautiful layer of harmony behind Butler’s voice. (Just Friends recently put out an incredible record called Nothing but Love on Counter Intuitive Records).

RM:  I really enjoyed Brianda’s vocals paired with yours on the album. Will there be more vocal collaborations in MJ’s future? If so who would you be interested in collaborating with?

EB: I mean hopefully! I like doing vocal collabs because I feel like I’m honestly not a very good singer so getting objectively talented vocalists to perform is always super fun and I feel like it truly adds an aspect that we couldn’t pull off on our own. Brond is literally the best and having her voice on the record is a huge privilege and I’m so grateful that she was willing to sing on it. As far as the future I can’t really speculate because in general the lyrics are pretty tailor made for me, but you can always count on the day one homies being part of the picture. 

RM: You guys have been touring so much! How’s it been? Do you feel you’ll be rested enough before you head out again this fall?

EB: It’s definitely exhausting but we had a really nice break this spring after getting home from tour with Tiny Moving Parts. We took about 3 months off shows and just focused on spending time with our partners and families and made the record and I think it was really worth it. We all literally just got back from a full US tour with Graduating Life (Bart’s project that Austin and I play in) but prior to that it was the longest break we’ve ever had since we started touring. I definitely feel like we’re ready to hit the road in the fall especially because we get to bring so many of our good friends with us.


For an album that deals mostly with self-loathing and distance, it’s hard to find a song on the record that isn’t fun as hell. If pop punk isn’t your cup of tea and it generally makes you cringe, it’s fair to say that this record isn’t going to change your mind very much. There isn’t much that Mom Jeans accomplish on their second album that Fantano would call “reinventing the wheel of emo”. Basically, meaning in some sense it’s just another pop punk record. What makes this album special is how much it allows you to become invested in it. Best Buds offered a comfort blanket for those reeling from a break-up. It was an album that made you feel better musically but also addressed how you might be feeling so you don’t feel so alone. Puppy Love functions the same way and with each listen, you may find yourself sinking deeper into your own feelings and how it relates to what Butler is saying. A perfect example of the therapeutic effects emo/pop-punk music has to its long-time listeners.

RM:  I love the TV references scattered throughout the album (Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Workaholics, Rick & Morty). What are your top favorite shows of all time?

EB: I’ll cut it off at 5 to save us all some time aha. I gotta go with Grey’s Anatomy, Futurama, Freaks and Geeks, Bob’s Burgers, and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives.

RM: Do you enjoy being a musician more or less since graduating from school?

EB: I don’t know if I enjoy music any more or less than I used to, I think the role of music in my life has just changed dramatically. I feel like playing in a band used to be a super small portion of my life that I loved a lot but didn’t get to prioritize because I had to focus on school and work and being a functioning human. Nowadays my whole life is the band, from my friends to my daily priorities to my long-term goals to the way I love my daily life are contextualized by this band and the experiences I’ve had playing music. I’m entirely grateful that I get to walk this path and though I think I definitely don’t think appreciate music as a whole ecosystem as much as I used to I still enjoy playing songs with my friends as much as I did when I started my first band when I was 12.  

 RM: Any long-term goals for the future you’d like to share?

EB: Just trying to enjoy this ride and have as much fun as we can. We have a big tour coming up in the fall and some plans to take the MJ train international at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019. At the end of the day we’re just here to have fun and keep playing shows as long as people are willing to come and see us and hang out!


Puppy Love is available on all streaming services via Counter Intuitive Records.


Hop Along offer a fourth LP full of “fine tuned to perfection tracks”

words fae ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)rating 8

Their 4th effort, Hop Along’s Bark Your Head Off, Dog is their most potent, catchiest, and gorgeous effort to date. Each of the 9 tracks on the LP feel like they have been fine tuned to perfection. At the center of the album is frontwoman Frances Quinlan, she invited the listener to exist in the picture she paints with her lyrics with her bandmates’ help.

“Afternoon vanilla sun crawls away across the lawn

Through the phone I pull you and drag your voice around

Afternoon vanilla sun crawls away without a sound

Through the phone I pull you and drag your voice around”

Quinlan’s lyrics is the driving force that pushes this album from good to great. The instrumentation is surely impressive but are complimented perfectly by the themes of aging, relationships, and reflection. From the opener How Simple, the repeated refrain

“Don’t worry, we’ll find out just not together”

sets the tone for the record, while its themes may not be as cheery as the music itself, it invites you to look at these themes with a cheery outlook. Instead of looking back with regret, maybe look back with reflection and optimism.

The Philly indie rock outfit has been around since as early as 2005 when Quinlan was still in high-school. Over a decade later, their sound has gone from a bedroom pop sound to recognition in the emo/indie community to Bark. Their newest effort demonstrates what the band has been working up to all these years. Lush, grand and confessional songs that are rooted in indie and folk.

Something that’s really enjoyable about this album is the first listen is pleasant the whole way through. Some albums take some time to really digest all the lyrics and structures. On the first listen, Bark sneaks in repeated earworms that make the tracks really pop on your first run through them. The more that you revisit the album, these earworms act as a place marker for your first listen, as you pick up new favorite parts and lyrics or riffs you might have missed on your first listen. It’s certainly not an album that you need to spend time dissecting to fully enjoy, but rather one that encourages you to keep digging.

Each of the nine tracks feel like they have their own legs to stand on. They are developed enough that they don’t sound the same as the track before it but still adds to the cohesiveness of the album. There are some synthesizers that are peppered into harmonies throughout the 40-minute-LP. The duration doesn’t overstay it’s welcome either. Each song deserves its own attention to detail in some way. Bark is a truly remarkable album that goes down smoother with every listen.

As a quick reminder, it’s extremely important to support female-fronted artists in order to overcome the dominating presence of white males in the music scene, especially in the indie/emo community. Hop Along has crafted a gorgeous LP that deserves your attention. This applies to LGBTQ-fronted, trans-fronted, and artists of color as well. There’s a lot of talented musicians all around us, it’s important not to let their talents be unheard because of their gender/race/sexual identity.


Stuffed with summery jams, The Magic Gang impress with their debut LP

words fae ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)

The Magic Gang have managed to stay relatively quiet since releasing a handful of songs rating 8on a couple EPs and singles over the past two years. While achieving more popularity in their homeland of Great Britain than the US, The Magic Gang have yet to experience mass success. Though their self-titled debut proves they are not only ready for success, they’re hungry for it.

The Magic Gang’s first proper album is stuffed with summery indie jams that sound like they were crafted with the mindset of young optimism. It’s the sound of a promising up-and-coming band that is not only aware of the bright future they are carving out for themselves: they can’t wait for it.

Cuts like Jasmine, All This Way, and All I Want is You, are re-recorded from the band’s earlier days in 2016. They sound bolder, brighter, and much grander. Jasmine is a song that is impossibly hard to shake off – the shiny lead guitar melody is absolute pop euphoria.

To be fair, The Magic Gang’s debut won’t be the most substantial record you hear this year. With that being said, there’s something more behind this record that makes it more than an average indie pop record. Almost every song on the album seems to burst and pop with bright chords and fantastic melodies. There’s a hint of familiarity to each song by the time they come to an end. You’ve become buried in the chorus and feel comfortable shouting along to them in your head, as if you’ve heard them before.

Spanning roughly under an hour, with 14-original tracks and 2 acoustic renditions, the deluxe version of The Magic Gang offers just a little more than you would normally need from an album of this genre. It’s quite impressive to see so many memorable hooks, shiny melodies, and impressive ideas stretched over 14 original songs; especially for such a young band.

The Magic Gang will not convince you that they’re the best up-and-coming indie band by the end of the record because they’re not. There is nothing on this record that has not be done before by other bands, and arguably in a better fashion. As streaming has taken the lead position of how music is digested, it’s becoming clearer that the success of an album will be roughly defined by how well the singles do. Rather than listening to a full album, most listeners are picking and choosing their favorite songs to craft their own spread of songs to last however long they choose to listen. With that established, The Magic Gang’s debut is brimming with the hopefulness and drive to keep the listener interested by carrying the energy of each track seamlessly over to the next. It’s rare that an album is as consistent in terms of energy from start to finish.

It’s worth noting that not every song on The Magic Gang will blow you away. They are definitely songs much stronger than others, such as All This Way, Jasmine, and How Can I Compete. The weaker tracks aren’t much worse though, except for the extremely forgettable, Take Care. While you won’t find yourself blown away by a handful of tracks, they do their job entirely by keeping the momentum of the album at a steady pace.

The Magic Gang have done a fantastic job at crafting a solid, impressive and exciting debut. By the end of the LP, you’ll be looking forward to their next release as much as you’re looking forward to warmer weather. It’s certainly one of the most pleasant, warm and consistent indie-pop records to have dropped in years.


Logic can’t justify the length of ‘Bobby Tarantino II’ – or its quality

words by ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)

Bobby Tarantino IILogic’s 7th mixtape, is a self-proclaimed departure from rating 4“album Logic” where attempts a return to form for his fans that prefer his earlier work to the mainstream direction of his recent albums (woo!).

Courtesy of Rick and MortyBobby Tarantino II opens with the infamous pair debating the difference between “album Logic” and “mixtape Logic.” The main difference being lyrical subject matter. The Maryland MC’s last effort, Everybody, failed to organize the many different messages and subjects, resulting in a cluttered mess. Bobby Tarantino II counters this issue by having essentially nothing substantial to say at all.

Both Bobby Tarantino II and its predecessor exist as an outlet for Logic to put on his Bobby Tarantino alter ego and put all of his bangers and turn up songs on one project. The production, for the most part, is decent to great. Logic’s faithful producer, 6ix, has consistently provided incredible beats for Logic to hone his craft over. Songs like 44 More, Warm It Up, and Yuck demonstrate 6ix at his best.

Technicality wise, Bobby Tarantino II doesn’t stray far from the MC’s usual style of rapping. His flow and wordplay are on par with his previous work. Warm It Up is easily the best rapping performance Logic has given us since Under Pressure, as he revives his Young Sinatra alter ego from his mixtape days.

“Fuck that trap shit, this that rap shit / Give me the hand like John the Baptist / Ready to rip it, I hope in the captives / Greatest alive like I’m Cassius / I put ’em all in they caskets, they can’t see me get past it / I’m a bastard that mastered the flow / And none of y’all ready for this massacre, though / Fuck with Logic—yeah, that’s a no”

Indica Badu is an out-of-left-field weed anthem that features fellow weed-advocate, Wiz KhalifaKhalifa handles himself surprisingly well over the silky-smooth production and helps deliver one of the better cuts from the mixtape. 44 More is honestly the strongest track on the whole album. Technicality, personality and lyrically, Logic brings his A-Game with the production behind him keeping up. It’s worth noting that the beat switches are an incredible touch.

Where BT2 falls flat is when Logic begins to stray outside of his comfort zone. Everyday, the collaboration between Logic and EDM producer Marshmello, is honestly just as bad as Everyday Bro by Jake Paul. It’s a god-awful attempt to follow up his smash single 1-800-273-8255 from last year. The production is as sugary sweet as a pixy stick and Logic’s singing is so bad it practically begs you to hit the skip button. Everyday isn’t the only instance where Logic stretches his vocal chops, the opener Overnight reeks of Logic’s off-balanced singing and stinks lyrically. Logic trips up again by bluntly copying Travis Scott’s style, production and flow on Wizard of Oz. It’s one of the poorest excuses for an original rap song so far this year.

BT2 feels slightly less underwhelming than Everybody overall, but as a former Logic fan, BT2 doesn’t do much to entertain the older Logic fans other than a handful of tracks. Bobby Tarantino achieves his goal of making the “fun turn up shit” that he set out to make. That being said, it doesn’t excuse him for poor songwriting, poor singing, and poor originality spread thin throughout the mixtape. There are a handful of tracks where Logic’s hooks don’t get annoying after the 4th time and his verses are solid, but not enough to justify a 13-track-mixtape. BT2 will most certainly please his die-hard fans and those who don’t really listen to albums in full, but for all others, it’s a very run of the mill, bland, trap mixtape.

‘Pop Music’ sees Remo Drive polish their sound, for better or worse

words by ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)

Remo Drive’s debut, Greatest Hits exploded into the indie punk scene with a raw,rating 6 energetic sound. Now, they’ve followed it up with Pop Music, a three-song-EP. The new batch of tracks features a reworking of Heartstrings, which was previously featured on a split with fellow Minnesota band, Unturned. The reworking of Heartstrings loses the spunk of the original recording and sounds much paler than its predecessor.

Pop Music has an unmistakable polished tone to Remo Drive’s sound. This works well on Blue Ribbon and Song of the Summer, which sound like they were written with this tone in mind. Both tracks are shimmery pop-punk summer anthems. What fails to stick around in Remo Drive’s latest offering is the memorability that Greatest Hits had. Each song was different, had incredible hooks, and a sense of in-your-face-energy. While Pop Music sounds like it’s a step in the right direction for Remo Drive’s career, considering their recent signing to the giant Epitaph Records, it could potentially be a turning point for the many fans won over by Greatest Hits.

Remo Drive is not a band that sounds significantly worse when they step up their production. Frontman Erik Paulson’s vocals have a strikingly high range, which is shown on their brighter tracks like I’m My Own Doctor and Yer’ Killin Me. While the grittier tone works well with the songs on Greatest Hits, the structuring of the songs on Pop Music demand a shinier sound.

It would be unfair to call Pop Music a misstep for the band, or even a step at all for that matter.

If you liked this, check Ryan’s interview with Remo Drive or see where Greatest Hits landed in our Best Albums of 2017 list.

Slaughter Beach, Dog – Birdie ALBUM REVIEW

By Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

What started out as Jake Ewald of Modern Baseball’s side project has evolved into an rating 7impressive musical outlet that showcases the Philly musician’s talent for illustrative lyrics and fleshed-out harmonies.

Birdie, the follow-up to last year’s debut, Welcome, presents more accessible songs and sees Ewald making another leap towards finding his sound. As Birdie trades in the concept behind Welcome and the fictional characters and town of Slaughter Beach, Birdie does not lack storytelling and sees most every song following a storyline or person of some sort. From Fish Fry’s presumed tale of recovering alcoholism to the bittersweet coming of age story on Pretty O.K.

What sticks out the most on Birdie is the talent Ewald has for stringing lyrics together. There are few lines where lyrics seem out of place or awkward. It’s easily Ewald’s most impressive lyrical output to date. The instrumentals have shown more layering than what we’re used to expect from the former Modern Baseball co-vocalist. While the acoustic guitar is the primary instrument throughout most of the album, there are light drums, synthesizers, and harmonics that help to make every track feel as full as they need to be. Ian Farmer, the former bassist of Modern Baseball, does an excellent job making Birdie not feel over-produced. There’s a certain presence of each track where it has enough room to breathe on its own as an acoustic track but adds enough instruments to feel like there’s a backing band, all without distracting you from the fact that Ewald is the star of the show throughout the record.

Songs like Acolyte, Phoenix, Gold and Green and Fish Fry all stand out with their infectious melodies and head-turning rhymes. They feel as full as they can possibly be and become better with every listen. Phoenix is one of the songs on the record that feels like some of Ewald’s best work, compiling incredible verse after verse with a backing acoustic track that puts you in the room with Ewald.

“Those nights your house kept secret

We’d stumble up the stairs

My hands tore through your records

While your hands unpinned your hair

The both of us still green enough

To remove the other’s clothes

A quiet signal of devotion

That I am happy to have known”

Birdie acts as one of the most refreshing and content indie releases this year. While it can’t be hailed at Ewald’s magnum opus, it’s definitely a sure sign that he’s moving in the right direction to create his best work yet. Fans of Modern Baseball might be let down by the energy that Birdie carries, as it’s not very punk or emo based. Birdie plays front to back as a cohesively content album that begins and ends strongly. While there are some tracks stronger than others, it’s one of the most pleasant releases of 2017


The Front Bottoms – Going Grey ALBUM REVIEW

By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)

The Front Bottoms have been one of the biggest stars of the underground indie community of this decade. Originating as a duo of simple acoustic power chords, provocative lyrics, and catchy melodies, TFB have managed to retain their dedicated fan base since the release of their self-titled 6 years ago. Surely, fans must expect the raw, emotional, amateur sound of the early releases to evolve and mature over time. This was hinted at with 2015’s Back On Top, which incorporated a fuller and more mainstream sound to what fans were used to expecting from the New Jersey duo. TFB’s latest, Going Grey, takes a strong lead into the direction Back On Top foreshadowed. With heavy synths, trap hi-hats, and minor use of the acoustic guitar, it’s leaving day one fans scratching their heads.

Now backed by a major-label home to acts like Twenty One Pilots, Paramore, and All Time Low (who are also all acts that have changed their sound to suit a more mainstream audience), The Front Bottoms have made the full transition into an indie-pop rock act. Songs like Grand Finale and Trampoline are nauseating examples of the new sound TFB have acquired. Being a fan of TFB for quite some time now, the idea of a new sound doesn’t upset me. As much as I would have loved another song like The Beers on Going Grey, the members are all growing older and wiser and trying to mature the sound of their band. The material of Going Grey is a full departure from their earlier work and a very clear attempt to market themselves as a popular mainstream act. Making the record feel cheap, unclean and almost painful to get through.

With multiple listens, songs from Going Grey only unravel their flaws overtime rather than bloom into songs with a lasting impact. Front man Brian Sella’s vocals on the opening track, You Used to Say (Holy Fuck) sound less like the raw passionate ones heard on earlier records and instead sounds out of place behind an overproduced and forgettable instrumental. Songs like Peace Sign and Vacation Town use poppy piano and horn riffs to latch their way into your brain and have dull choruses. Lyrically, Brian Sella steps back immensely. Earlier lyrics from the band left lyrics that felt honest and like they meant something to both the listener and the writer. Lyrics from Going Grey either sound like a cheap attempt to cater to tweens or come off as clunky. Don’t Fill Up On Chips has existed as a demo Sella had been workshopping for months and made its way onto YouTube as an acoustic song called Tommy. The final product is one of the clumsiest songs not even on the record but of this year. The chorus is stale and the lyrics from the verses are too corny to be taken seriously with lines like

“Tommy I love you

I confess

Are you impressed

With what I profess?”

Highlights include Raining and Vacation Town, which are built off of strong instrumentals and decent hooks. While maintaining the same sound as the rest of the record, there’s an amount of charm that shines through with these two tracks that stands above the others. They’re by no means fantastic tracks but in the context of Going Grey, they’re fun track to nod your head to. An interesting aspect of Going Grey is the decrease in quality behind the choruses. Tracks like Far Drive, which sounds like a rip-off of a Walk The Moon song, have such poorly written choruses that it could have been done by a poetic middle-schooler.

“Far drive

Totally worth it

Just to see you

Act alive

Plus being

In the car with

People you love is

Always a good time”

Going Grey plays front to back much less like an album but more as a collection of songs. There are too many skippable songs for an 11-track record and not enough heartfelt moments for it to even feel like a Front Bottoms record. The only consistent element throughout TFB’s discography is the vocal range that Sella has kept throughout the years. It’s the only thing that still feels in place about the band but also sounds so out of place when backed by a sound that sounds desperate for radio play. Going Grey may have added more elements, instruments, and layers to TFB’s early minimalistic approach, but the result sounds less like an evolved, matured version of the band than a sell-out, cheapened version.

Album Review: Knox Fortune – Paradise

By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)rating 4

You might recognize Knox Fortune from the smash single off Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book last year. He’s a wildly talented producer who works closely with Chicago artists like Joey Purp, Vic Mensa and KAMI. Finally, Knox has a project of his own to demonstrate his talent to the world.

Knox’s star-studded track record has fostered high expectations for Paradise, leaving little doubt that Knox might be able to pull out a couple marketable singles and really make a name for himself as an up-and-coming indie R&B/Pop artist. Paradise doesn’t play consistently from front to back, though. Starting with an all too brief intro and an infectiously quick drumbeat as the backbone, No Dancing does little to set the stage of what to expect with Paradise. Lil Thing follows it up and shows Knox at his best. The beat sounds like pink skies on a late summer evening. His voice is smooth, with a catchy hook and creative instrumentals. If there’s some potential to be recognized throughout this project, it’s right here.

Throughout Paradise, Knox stumbles finding not only his sound but his voice too. Knox’s voice is pitched, auto-tuned and lowered throughout the album, leaving the listener unable to pinpoint exactly who he is as an artist. Torture, one of Paradise’s four singles, shows this with distressing conclusions. Knox’s voice is so auto-tuned it clutters the track, not clearing a path for the otherwise beautiful instrumentals. It almost creates an amateurish atmosphere for the track.

Knox is a talented producer, creating some really interesting instrumentals throughout Paradise. 24 Hours is a great example, a number whose bouncy, sticky bass dominates the entire track. Unfortunately, there isn’t a strong hook and Knox’s vocals are again an issue, sounding careless and slightly distorted.

Not only does the Chicago artist’s inconsistency lie with his vocals and hooks throughout Paradise, the overall tone is confusing. No Dancing doesn’t give the listener enough time to settle into the groove: Stars and Lil Thing sound like woozy daydreams, a sound Knox actually seems at home on, and I Don’t Wanna Talk About It is reminiscent of a dance-punk song from the ’80s.

Bouncing recklessly between tone and sounds, by the end of the Paradise the listener doesn’t feel closer to understanding who exactly Knox Fortune is. It’s one of the few pop albums in recent memory where the instrumentals play a bigger role than the vocals do. This is not to say Knox doesn’t have a decent voice, but the effects he puts on his vocals will make you think otherwise.

Knox Fortune is an artist who has an incredible amount of potential and has already proven he can make hits. Unfortunately, Paradise is a clear indicator that more time is needed to craft a specific sound and voice for the pop star he desires to be.





Album Review: The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful

By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182rating 3

If you’re familiar with The Killers, you might know that they have recently released their first album in five years. If you’re not, you might have not even noticed they were gone. Wonderful Wonderful picks up as if they never left, neither improving nor maturing upon their last effort, Battle Born. Wonderful Wonderful does not act as an improvement in The Killers’s discography, but instead, plays the same formula they’ve been following for the past 13 years.

The returning LP opens with the title track, which plays as a grand opening that never really reaches its full potential. It has a feeling of growing tension, almost like the storm that sparked the title of the LP in the first place. This tension does not reach a peak and leaves the listener feeling unsatisfied, bringing you into the explosion of energy in the second track. The Man, the most energetic The Killers have sounded since Day & Age, released almost a decade ago.

Where the Las Vegas band succeed the most is when they sound the most energetic. A few instances prove this throughout Wonderful Wonderful, particularly around the mid-point of the LP. Where The Killers fail the most is when they try to create grand ballads that come off more as a filler track than an album-defining track. Wonderful Wonderful is filled with these, which makes it’s 43-minute run time overstay it’s welcome by the time you’ve reached the outdrawn closer, Have All the Songs Been Written?

Wonderful Wonderful would have sounded better had it been released in 2013, back when Get Lucky by Daft Punk was the biggest song in the world. Maybe then, The Man could have stood as a decent radio single. Almost every element of Wonderful Wonderful sounds incredibly stale in the current genre of indie rock. Making songs like Rut, fueled by front man Brandon Flowers’s distress with trying to help his wife’s PTSD condition, feel passionless. Like Rut, most of the songs off Wonderful Wonderful try to sound like the grand stadium-closer track that electrifies the crowd, and instead sound like the deep cut off their new album that nobody knows the words too.

Battle Born, The Killers’s last LP released in 2012, had similar flaws. The energetic songs didn’t have the same kick that early Killers tracks had, and most of the ballads didn’t feel genuine enough. Still, Battle Born had few exceptions, like Miss Atomic Bomb, and Be Still, that while they weren’t the best songs The Killers had written, they were sticky enough to be included in their Greatest Hits compilation, released the following year. There are maybe two songs off Wonderful Wonderful’s 10-song track listing that feel genuine enough to be revisited. At this point, one may wonder if The Killers’s legacy is becoming more tainted with every studio release.

The Killers lack a certain element that makes their songs sound as grand as they want them to sound. What made songs on Hot Fuss sound as exciting and fresh as they did at the time, and endless revisable as they do today, has been poorly executed throughout their following studio albums. Wonderful Wonderful, not acting as an exception, but further proving the point that The Killers are not as great as you would like them to be.