Pray for the Wicked: A VinylTap Review

Pray for the Wicked: A VinylTap Review

Introduction:

Panic! At the Disco are veterans of the rock and alternative fields. Founded by lead vocalist, guitarist, and pianist/keyboardist Brendon Urie, lead guitarist, vocalist, and pianist/keyboardist Ryan Ross, drummer Spencer Smith, and bassist Brent Wilson in 2004. In 2005, the band released their debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which features their chart-topping hit “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” and gravitated to punk rock sounds. In 2005, Urie took on bassist duties from a diminishing Wilson. In 2006, Brent Wilson departed the band and was replaced by bassist, pianist and guitarist Jon Walker. The band moved more towards a psychedelic rock flavor with their 2008 follow-up, Pretty. Odd. The band argued over whether to stay with the new sound or advance, the disagreement, mainly between Walker and Ross and Urie, leading to the departures of Ryan Ross and Jon Walker to pursue a new act featuring the psychedelic sound. Urie and Smith recruited touring member Dallon Weekes to take on bassist duty and the other responsibilities held by the two men, as Urie gave up bassist duties in 2010. In 2011, the band released their third album, which leaned heavily into pop and alternative themes, Vices and Virtues. In 2013, drummer Spencer Smith became an inactive member as the band released their fourth album To Weird to Live, To Young to Die, their first fully alternative album. In 2015, Spencer officially exited the band and Weekes announced his demotion from being a full member to returning to touring member status, as Brendon Urie took up bassist and drummer duties to become the only member of Panic! At the Disco. In 2016, they released Death of a Bachelor, which landed the band their first Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album. In 2017, Weekes exited the band in every facet. In 2018, they released their sixth studio album: Pray for the Wicked.

1. Silver Lining

The album starts with a swinging vibe as the album heralds a new Panic! band under Urie’s complete takeover of the group. The song sings of no love for silver linings to any of his tragedies as he’s now on top. The lyricism is pretty solid and the production is good. For myself, personally, this song isn’t one I’ll revisit extremely often, but it’s a solid start for what promises to be a good album.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

2. Say Amen (Saturday Night)

The main single from the album is an anthem for the weekend. Urie’s vocals are spectacular and the songwriting is on point, with catchy rhymes and some slick references to Urie’s Mormon upbringing. The production is outstanding. This was the no-brainer for their lead single and there’s a reason for it. It’s fantastic.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

3. Hey Look Ma, I Made It

The sleek, synthetic production underscores a well-written song about success. The horns are gorgeous. The story Urie creates is compelling, as he touches on how people want what’s next and how he’s made it in a so-called “garden of evil”. It’s a fun song that is truly infectious. It’s a song that really comes from Urie’s joy, who’s been working for years to reach this point in his career. It’s a upbeat and mellow all at once. It works well, despite somewhat retreading on themes Urie’s covered before.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

4. High Hopes

This is an anthem for the dreamers and is my favorite from the album so far. The horns return in full force for this one as Urie sings about how when he didn’t have money or support, he had hopes and dreams. It’s a fantastic song with an absolutely great vocal performance from Urie, excellent production, and top notch songwriting. This is a Panic! At the Disco classic in the making.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

5. Roaring 20s

As we approach the second Roaring 20’s, Urie decides to capitalize off this with his own take filled with some savvy wordplay. Screechy horns and light pianos introduce a jazz-ridden tune. The vocals are outstanding once again. The songwriting reveals the truth behind Urie’s overjoyed facade of success and shows the nervous performer within. The song’s theatricality is very cool, but overall, it doesn’t quite reach the highest heights it could have.

Rating: 8/10

Track Rating: A-

6. Dancing’s Not A Crime

The song comes out swinging, presenting a summer jam that is simply infectious. Using lots of legal wordplay, Urie creates a fun tune about dancing and partying to drown out disappointment and heartache. It’s well-produced and well-written. It’s a must for your summer playlists.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

7. One of the Drunks

Singing about orange juice early on is a nice twist. Dealing with Urie’s usual partying and alcohol tropes, it feels a little tired and played out, even for Panic! At the Disco. The production is solid, but the songwriting doesn’t quite hold up on its end. Overall, this is the weakest song of the album so far.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B+

8. The Overpass

Urie’s use of jazz for this album is really cool, especially on this song. The upbeat drums mixed with the guitars and brass really works on a production level. The songwriting is also fantastic, as they create a story about painful nostalgia and relapsing into past relationships. It’s a strong song from production to songwriting to performance, and it’s particularly upbeat and fun.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. King of the Clouds

Urie layers his vocals in an a cappella open that is soon underscored by funky guitars and drums. The songwriting is pretty good as Urie sings about the feeling of being high, speaking as a recovered nicotine addict. It’s a solid performance form Urie and some really stellar production, but the songwriting doesn’t fully bring it. It’s not a bad song, just not the best of the record.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

10. Old Fashioned

Our penultimate stop on the album is particularly interesting. The unique production is super funky and reggae-influenced. The songwriting focuses on Urie’s past and reminiscing on glory days. The song is really well-written and performed. The production too is very cool and well-done. It’s another fantastic entry from Panic!

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

11. Dying in LA

The album ends on a slower, emotional finale. These songs are extremely rare for Panic! At the Disco, so when the come along, they’re cherished. It’s a slow song, just Urie and a piano, and it’s outstanding. His performance is beautiful and his vocals are just superb. It’s a beautiful ode to LA and dreamers. Utilizing strings, it’s an anthem for the struggling dreamers and it’s one of my favorites from their catalog. It’s a beautiful and poignant finale for their sixth installment.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

While it’s not as energetic as Death of a Bachelor or as slick as To Weird to Live, To Rare to Die, Panic! At the Disco’s latest album, while not their greatest, still manages to land as a solid effort on their part. While some songs are standout, most of the album falls into the general mediocrity compared to previous work. While the first trilogy of albums is Panic! finding their footing, the new trilogy has a clear, distinctive voice and style and it’s infectious. Urie’s complete control of the band benefited the last album, but Urie’s drive to create another record quickly like left him a little stifled creatively and spinning his wheels in classic tropes; while he still managed to deliver a solid album, it’s not groundbreaking or anything particularly phenomenal. Overall, the album lands in the middle of being great and good.

Album Rating: 8.7/10

Grade: B+

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God’s Favorite Customer: A Review

God’s Favorite Customer: A Review

Introduction:

Josh Tillman has had a storied career. His career began in 2008, when he simultaneously launched his solo career as J. Tillman and became the drummer of Fleet Foxes. In 2008, he signed with Fargo Records and released three albums: Cancer and DeleriumLong May You Run, J. Tillman, and I Will Return. The trilogy of releases came just as he started with Fleet Foxes. He switched to In 2009, he released his albums Vacilando Territory Blues and Year in the Kingdom, before retiring the J. Tillman moniker in 2010 with the release of Singing Ax. In 2012, Tillman announced his departure from Fleet Foxes and released his first album under the new moniker of Father John Misty: Fear Fun. He followed that up in 2015 with I Love You, Honeybear. In 2017, he released his album Pure Comedy. He and his wife split up for several weeks and Tillman moved into a hotel, where he began writing new songs and quickly complied a new album, which was release June 1, 2018: God’s Favorite Customer

1. Hangout at the Gallows

The melancholy, smokey vocals echo beautifully in the first track of the record. The poetic lyricism paints a picture of Tillman’s pain after the split. The vocals and arrangement of instruments is very well done. It’s a very poetic and beautiful song and a great start for what’s sure to be a great album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

2. Mr. Tillman

The acoustic guitars and chimes instantly set up a different song than what we just got. The song is a great story song. Painting a portrait of Tillman checking into the hotel and staying there while working through his grief, which is heavily implied to be substance abuse. The production and songwriting are outstanding. It’s definitely one of the best songs of the year.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

3. Just Dumb Enough to Try

The piano driven ballad gives Tillman a chance to show off his voice. The production here continues to keep up its excellence. Meanwhile, Tillman’s heartbreaking lyricism is strong. Dealing with his conflicted reasoning and desire to keep his wife in his life, Tillman continues to paint a melancholy picture of heartache and loss.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

4. Date Night

The production is much more upbeat as the drums, acoustic guitar, and pianos drive home a happy vibe. Tillman presents a time when he was dating, either flashing back to his first date with his wife, or an attempt to bounce back after the split. My guess would be the former. It’s a well-written tune and well-produced, but not the strongest one on the effort.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

5. Please Don’t Die

Tillman actually details a suicidal depression he was in over the split and pleads with himself, via his wife, to not commit suicide. It’s a haunting song that either shows what caused the split or what he’s feeling as a result of it. Either way, it’s a haunting song that’s very well-written and well-produced. The acoustic guitars and slow, melancholy vibe really build the atmosphere. It’s in contention for my favorite song from the record and for song of the year.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

6. The Palace

The sad pianos are beautiful. The substance abuse implications are confirmed in this song, as well as how long he’s been away from his wife. The song is really gentle and beautiful, as he talks about how much he misses her, so far as to refer to the hotel as “the palace,” which was her nickname for it. It’s very well-crafted lyrically and the productions simple, yet extremely effective. It’s an outstanding song.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

7. Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All

The more upbeat and fast-paced song talks about true love and the desire to return to his wife. It’s very well-produced and arranged. The songwriting is solid still. It’s really the production that’s outstanding on this one.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

8. God’s Favorite Customer

The slower, harmonic production (that uses harmonicas and woodwinds) is just stellar. The atmosphere is just outstanding. The story song follows a drugged up and lonely Tillman strung out as he begs for the angels to speak to him. It’s gorgeously produced and the songwriting is meticulous and superb. It’s the climax of the album as he comes to terms with everything he’s been struggling with this record. The additional vocals that emulate the angelic chorus is perfect. This is a masterpiece song.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

9. The Songwriter

The melancholy follow-up is very existential and beautiful. The piano driven ballad ponders the idea of what the music would sound like if the roles were reversed, if his wife were the songwriter. It’s tragic as he comes to terms with the separation of him and wife. The vocals are chilling and the production echoes his pain. It’s a heartbreaking and beautiful song. It’s another masterpiece song.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)

The electric guitars ring out for a final statement as the album concludes with the moral of Tillman’s story. His vocals ring out over the melancholy, introspective music as he ponders human nature. The songwriting is outstanding as he wishes the world well as he says see you later. It’s a perfect finale for this masterpiece album.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

This album emulates 70s blues rock while also being completely original. Father John Misty paints a raw, honest portrait of loss, heartache, pain, depression, and hope. It really has a narrative arch as we watch his journey over the few weeks away from his wife. We watch his separation, the beginning of his misery, his desperation for normalcy,  his nostalgic reminiscing of good times, his suicidal slump, his compliance with her wishes, his return to pained wishing, his outcry for love from a higher power, his realization of empathy, and finally, his call for the world to take heed of his words and story and what comes next. It’s a masterpiece of raw emotion and storytelling from a place of hurt and a place of hope. This is easily one of the best albums of the year.

Album Rating: 9.4/10

Grade: A+

Shawn Mendes: A Review

Shawn Mendes: A Review

Introduction:

Shawn Mendes is one of the many burgeoning success stories that comes from internet content creation. The Canadian Mendes was discovered in 2013 when he began posting covers on the social networking app Vine. In 2014, he was signed to Island Records and released his EP The Shawn Mendes EP, followed in 2015 by his debut album Handwritten. Later that year he released a “revisited” edition of the album. In 2016, Mendes released his sophomore effort Illuminate. Both albums were certified platinum by the RIAA. His third, self-titled effort was released on May 28, 2018.

1. In My Blood

In the opening song, Mendes crafts a very emotional portrait of anxiety and self-doubt. The lyricism of the single is absolutely mesmerizing, coupled with his emotional performance and superb production, which utilizes pop drums and electric guitars in a melancholy anthem for the anxious. It’s a fantastic start for this pop effort.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

2. Nervous

The guitars are smooth and chill at the outset as Mendes’ relaxed vocals detail a story about attraction at first sight. His vocals are stellar. The organ-ridden production and flirtatious lyricism join together to create another spectacular single. It’s very catchy and well-written. It’s another perfect song on this record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

3. Lost in Japan

The second single released is just so well-made. The groovy bass and gentle piano riffs couple together for a very smooth and exotic production. His vocals are smooth and flirtatious again. Shawn Mendes is such a powerful songwriter that can craft such catchy hooks, but also deliver emotional and human stories.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

4. Where Were You In The Morning?

The mix of electric and acoustic guitars is gorgeous and underscore Mendes’ vocals excellently. The songwriting is spot on once again. Mendes delivers another great song for, so far, an unbelievable record.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

5. Like To Be You (ft. Julia Michaels)

Shawn brings the wonderful Julia Michaels on this one. Mendes’ signature electric/acoustic blend is gorgeous, especially when his and Julia’s vocals merge over the top. The two singer/songwriters deliver a very beautiful vignette of star-crossed lovers. The two blend really well together. The songwriting is very sweet and emotional and matches the gentle and flowing production. The two deliver another perfect song for this outstanding record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

6. Fallin’ All In You

His vocals are stellar yet again and the production underscores it nicely. It’s Mendes’ “Perfect”. The steady building drums and guitars carry Mendes’ emotional vocals in another solid entry for this incredible album. It’s another lovely vignette.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

7. Particular Taste

We finally get a faster, more upbeat tune from a normally very peppy Shawn Mendes. His lyricism is again great. The production incorporates whistles and slide guitars in unique ways to give this a really funky edge. It’s a great addition.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

8. Why

Over the halfway hump of the album, you begin listening for signs of fatigue or burnout, but nothing like that is exhibited. Mendes delivers another emotional ballad with a wonderful falsetto and trance-like production. His songwriting is sincere and well-crafted. He doesn’t waste his words and delivers another hit for the album. The only reason I scored it lower is because I probably won’t revisit this specific track often personally.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

9. Because I Had You

I can think of only one other artist working today who can write and sing and produce songs of superior quality consistently on a record like this. The guitars and production are so smooth and sweet. His songwriting is just outstanding as he crafts an emotional farewell to someone special. This is a masterfully crafted song.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. Queen

The song has a real California vibe to it. The guitars and production is angrier and has a kinda summer sensibility to it. The angrier, scornful song is very different in a story sense from the rest of the record and it’s absolutely genius. Mendes delivers yet another excellent song for the record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

11. Youth (ft. Khalid)

The third single is just outstanding. The smooth guitars and hopefully production is wonderful. The collaboration between Mendes and Khalid is a match made in the musical heavens. Singing about ambitions, the pair deliver great performances and a great song. It’s yet another perfect addition.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

12. Mutual

The acoustic ballad is lovely. The peppier song is no doubt a guaranteed hit. Mendes presents his signature vocals and couples it with catchy melodies and masterfully produced lines. It’s another perfect addition to the record.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

13. Perfectly Wrong

The slower piano ballad is a perfect showcase of Mendes’ falsetto and melancholy songwriting. The emotionally charged performance is electrifying, underscored by equally exhilarating production. It’s a perfect penultimate song that is truly special.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

14. When You’re Ready

The final song of the album has a Hawaiian sunset sort of vibe. It’s a sweet farewell that feels like a warm campfire the beach while the sun sets. It’s a genuine treat to the ears and gorgeous final song. It signals that Mendes has done something nye-impossible: he’s delivered a near-perfect album. The songwriting is superb and Mendes proves why he is and should be heralded as one of pop’s shining stars.

Conclusion:

Shawn Mendes is the American version of Ed Sheeran, with just as much talent and charisma. The singer/songwriter deals in very emotional topics and shares a similar style to the British singer. Mendes even delivers an outstanding album, much like Sheeran did a year ago with Divide, that presents 14 vignettes that deal with love, rejection, desire, anxiety, ambition, attraction, and dislike. Mendes’ record is filled with emotion, colorful and distinct lyricism, smooth and indie-like production, and a true passion for the craft. Shawn Mendes is a shining star in pop music and has a very bright future ahead of him.

Album Rating: 9.7/10

Grade: A+

The Arrow: A Review

The Arrow: A Review

Introduction

Andy Mineo is one of the most successful rappers on Reach Records’ roster. He was active for ten years prior to signing with Reach however. He joined rap group Fat Camp after graduating college. The group and Andy were signed to Marshall Street Records after winning a song contest. They opened for acts such as Common and The Roots and released their album The Food, before Andy stepped away to join T.R.U.C.E. with Alex Medina. Andy’s departure led to the closure of Marshall Street Records. Andy toured with TRUCE and released his first mixtape Sin is Wack. While touring with Da’ TRUTH, he met Lecrae and was featured on his song “Background,” as well as Tedashii’s song “Reverse”. After his singing feature, he was sought after as a singer, causing him to split personas, using his real name for singing and C-Lite as his rap moniker. In 2010, Andy was signed to the label as a rapper and Andy dropped the C-Lite moniker. After being signed by Lecrae and company, Andy hit the ground running, releasing his mixtape Formerly Known. In 2011, Andy released his debut album Heroes For Sale. He followed that up with his EP Never Land in 2014, which features “You Can’t Stop Me,” which went gold. In 2015, Andy released his album Uncomfortable, produced by !llmind. He took 2016 off to reflect and work on new music. He filled the gap with Candy Rain, a single. In 2017, Andy formed a rap duo with friend Wordsplayed called Magic & Bird and the duo released their collaborative mixtape Magic & Bird the same year. Now, Andy finally returns with the music he’s been working on since 2016 with Chapter 1: The Arrow. Will the first chapter of his year long project live up to the hype? Find out here on this special edition of #MusicMonday.

1. I’ve Been…

The lyricism is solid and his production really solid. This intro is an honest and well made track. Andy explains to us that he’s been lost in a bad place. How’d he get there and what was it like? We’re about to find out.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

2. Clarity

Transitioning right into the next track, Andy keeps the lyricism at 100 and delivers his own “44 Bars” of truth and honesty. His vocals are solid and the production is really solid. This is a very personal project for the artist who has been missing for three years. The speed changes as Andy gets more and more into his head. He deconstructs his life and faith and rebuilds all in the course of 4 minutes. The spoken word samples are a perfect addition.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

3. Family Photo

The production is more laid back, but the honesty doesn’t change. The picture he paints of his wedding day and his family drama is absolutely captivating and heartbreaking. This is his therapy session and we’re all just listening in. This is an absolutely incredible song.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

4. Anxiety

This is one flowing story that is a sobering window into a man’s soul and mind. This transitional song perfectly captures what it’s like to try and make it through an anxiety attack. However, it’s not a track I’ll revisit often.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B+

5. I Ain’t Done

This is the celebration song here! Andy produces a banger that is truly honest in its sentiments and completely uplifting. The song shows what’s it like to overcome anxiety and depression. It samples rock to make a truly courageous song about beating the demons. This is the best song off the album.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

6. …Lost

And now we return to the beginning. We’ve seen what Andy was going through the last two years and now he’s giving us the closing statements. He explains that he was lost and hit a rough patch but he’s back now. It’s a triumphant and gorgeous finale that really ties everything together. Andy’s talking at the end was amazing and completely concludes the first chapter on a huge, perfect note.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion

Andy just told one of the best stories of the year in six songs. It’s very cinematic and personal. This is only the beginning to what he’s got planned for this year. Chapter 1 was a great start. I’m excited for the rest of them. Andy Mineo is back and he’s got more to say. I can’t wait for the rest. It’s very beautiful, personal, raw, emotional, and theatrical. This is Andy’s best EP and it’s shaping up to be a truly revolutionary set of music.

EP Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

GEMINI: A Review

GEMINI: A Review

Introduction

Macklemore debuted on the scene originally in 2000 as a solo act with his mixtape Open Your Eyes, followed by his debut album The Language of My World in 2005. In 2008, he entered rehab for alcoholism and released his final mixtape The Unplanned Mixtape in 2009. In 2009, he and his producer and friend Ryan Lewis formed the duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and released their EP The Vs. EP, followed by The Vs. Redux in 2010. The pair officially debuted in 2012 with The Heist, which featured hit singles “Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us,” and “Same Love,” and was nominated for five Grammys, including Song of the Year and Best New Artist, and won three. The pair followed up their hit debut with the single “Irish Celebration” in 2014 and their second album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made in 2016. Macklemore returned to his solo career in 2016, releasing his single “Drug Dealer”. Now, he’s released his first solo album in twelve years. Can the so-called “joke rapper” stand apart without Ryan Lewis officially credited as his partner?

1. Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight (ft. Eric Nally)

Eric Nally’s vocals are a great mix with the production. The lyricism is solid, taking shots at the immigrant debate as well as his hiatus. Macklemore’s performance is very fresh and new. It’s a bright song and a fun listen. It’s a very triumphant opening to what promises to be a very different Macklemore album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

2. Glorious (ft. Skylar Grey)

This song continues the bright feeling while grounding it as classic Macklemore. It feels a lot like “Can’t Hold Us” and helps establish his talent. His performance is very strong and his lyricism is solid. Skylar’s vocals are a really nice fit with this piano-driven anthem. It really builds on the bright and triumphant feel of this album. It’s very fresh.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

3. Marmalade (ft. Lil Yachty)

This song is the definition of sunshine on a summer day. The pianos are just so happy and the trap beat is groovy. Macklemore holds his own on this song. It’s lot a lyrical song, but the production is what shines. I do not like Lil Yachty. He does somewhat fit in on the track, but he’s still an unwelcome addition to what is otherwise a fun song.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

4. Willy Wonka (ft. Offset)

Things take a turn with this one, deviating into a bass heavy beat. The lyricism and performance take a bit of a dive with this one. The beat is clearly to accommodate Offset, who’s name is fitting as the song offsets the tone and narrative being formed thus far. It’s meant to go hard, but it doesn’t event really do that. It’s the worst on the album so far.

Track Rating: 4/10

Grade: D

5. Intentions (ft. Dan Caplen)

This song couldn’t possible be worse than what came before. The tone returns to normal with this one. The electric guitars are really great. Macklemore goes back to the summer vibe the album has had thus far and manages to weave in a really honest list of desires that are really noble. Dan’s vocals are very complimentary and really good. The horns are so smooth. This song is really honest and well-made. The lyricism is very good, second only to the outstanding production.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

6. Good Old Days (ft. Kesha)

Here’s the best song of 2018. The nostalgic look back at youth and high school is incredibly sobering and well-written. The lyricism and production go hand in hand in creating a very beautiful song that is sure to be chart-topper. Kesha’s vocals are incredible. Every vocal sample and piano key played is unbelievable. This is a spectacular song. The song also mentions Minnesota, it hits home.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

7. Levitate (ft. Otieno Terry)

The beat keeps that summer vibe while also merging with The Heist Macklemore. Otieno Terry brings a Bruno Mars vibe to the song and it fits the style of the album very well. Overall, the lyricism is disappointing coming of the genius of “Good Old Days” but it’s still fun. It works, but it’s not one I’ll revisit often.

Track Record: 7/10

Grade: B

8. Firebreather (ft. Reignwolf)

The guitars are awesome in this opening. This track is different and veers away from the summer vibe, but it works really well. The rock feel is really cool and reminds me of a 80s rock anthem, which Reignwolf’s vocals contribute too in large part. It’s got a very AC/DC and works better than expected. Macklemore uses this to flex his lyrical abilities and prove why he’s actually one of the best rappers working today. It’s his fight-out-of-the-corner song and man does it hit hard.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

9. How to Play the Flute (ft. King Draino)

Of course there’s a flute sample. The joke in the beginning is kinda funny and the beat is very indicative of what Macklemore wants to be. The lyricism isn’t as strong as the last song and his performance is fine. He shares the stage with King Draino this time and he fits in well on the song. The song is really funny and isn’t to be taken too seriously. You should’ve got the hint from the sneeze samples. Macklemore is having fun, but it’s not one I’ll revisit.

Track Rating: 6/10

Grade: B-

10. Ten Million

In case you haven’t noticed, this is the first (and only) song where Mack doesn’t bring in any features. I don’t think that’s because he relies on other’s talent to sell songs; I think it’s because he knows how he wants things to sound and which people are the best to get to make it how he wants it to sound. This solo song is a jam and Mack shows that he can work on his own. His performance is really solid and his lyricism is good. The production isn’t anything special, but the focus is on Macklemore’s performance and he delivers. It’s a solid track and ranks in the top ten off this album. This would be really fun to see live.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

11. Over It (ft. Donna Missal)

Oh, I didn’t realize we had strayed away from the sunny day production. But while this keeps funky guitars, the strings and production create an intense, claustrophobic feeling. Macklemore’s performance is outstanding and he got a good Feature in Donna Missal. This song is outstanding, stuffed full of great production, fantastic performances, raw emotion, and strong lyricism. Every emotion that Mack wants you to feel lands like a bomb. This is a really strong album and is a truly remarkable song.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

12. Zara (ft. Abir)

We’re really back in the summer feel after that fake out and Mack really vibes in this groove. It’s a really groovy love song with strong production and lyricism. While this song is static in some aspects, it still fits in nicely. Macklemore’s newest album is really impressive thus far.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: A-

13. Corner Store (ft. Dave B & Travis Thompson)

The production is bright again and has a “Downtown” vibe to it. Dave B and Travis contribute solid vocals to this joint, while Mack surfs on the beach bop. It’s another strong entry on what’s been an unbelievable album.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

14. Miracle (ft. Dan Caplen)

The production on this one is the definition of a summer evening. The acoustic guitars and the strings paint the picture of a sunset. Mack and Dan are a really strong duo. Dan’s vocals are insane and Mack’s vision are so complimentary. Another love story, this one is so beautiful. Mack’s storytelling is very vivid and clear. It’s another successful song for a near-perfect album.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

15. Church (ft. Xperience)

The penultimate song of a stellar album, Ryan Lewis tackles a Sunday morning in summer as his next beat and nails it. Every song could be played in pure instrumental and tell the story Mack wants. His lyricism is really strong as he tackles fame and family head on as the topic for his next song. His daughter is a focal point for a few songs, but it’s this one that he helps us visualize his vision of fatherhood. It’s such a honest and beautiful song. Xperience’s vocals are a sweet fit with Ryan Lewis’s outstanding production.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

16. Excavate (ft. Saint Claire)

The finale of Macklemore’s latest album decides to take a true cinematic feel. The choral and orchestral music blend into an extension of what the last song wanted. Mack decides to wrap this album up with a discussion of legacy and impact, as well as mortality. I’m not sure what Macklemore has been through recently, but he’s allowed it to help he craft a masterpiece of humanity. Saint Claire’s vocals are incredibly suiting. This finale is the most genuine, honest song I’ve heard in a long time, especially from the “joke rapper”. Very sweet ending.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

Macklemore has returned in an incredible way. This album is absolutely splendid. Ryan Lewis’s production is outstanding and the man tells a story just within the music he’s composed. Ryan should score movies. Macklemore himself has upped his own game on a lyrical and performance level. He has tackled bigger issues and ideas than the surface level rap stuff, which he used to rap about in his previous albums. This album is one of the best I’ve ever heard and he deserves awards. It was a full emotional experience that focuses on bigger themes and ideas. Only two songs on this album feel out of place, but it doesn’t hurt the final product. This is a triumphant return for Macklemore, who has a bright future ahead of him if he continues making music like this.

Album Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

Movie Fights MasterList

Movie Fights MasterList

Singles

  • Champion: Cucumber (1-0)
  1. Ed Greer (3-0)
  2. Dan Murrell (3-1)*
  3. DJ Wooldridge (2-0)
  4. Marc Bernardin (1-1)
  5. Danielle Radford (1-1)
  6. Marc Andreyko (1-1)
  7. Jay Washington (1-1)
  8. Brianne Chandler (1-1)
  9. Scott Mantz (1-1)
  10. Mark Ellis (1-1)

Unranked:

  • Emma Fyffe (1-1)
  • Ify Nwadiwe (1-1)
  • Coy Jandreau (1-2)
  • Joe Starr (1-2)
  • Clarke Wolfe (1-0)
  • Roth Cornet (1-0)
  • Perri Nemiroff (1-0)
  • William Bibbiani (1-0)
  • Leonard Maltin (1-0)
  • Spencer Gilbert (1-3)**
  • Samm Levine (0-1)
  • Chunk (0-1)
  • Jacqueline Coley (0-1)
  • John Rocha (0-1)
  • Amy Dallen (0-1)
  • Wendy Lee Szanee (0-1)
  • Matt Key (0-1)
  • Alicia Malone (0-1)
  • Erika Ishii (0-1)
  • Tony Revolori (0-1)
  • Amy Cassandra Martinez (0-1)
  • Erika Ishii (0-1)
  • Josh Macuga (0-1)
  • JTE (0-1)
  • Stacy Howard (0-1)
  • Jenny Nicholson (0-1)
  • Rachel Cushing (0-1)
  • Riley Silverman (0-1)
  • Yael Tiegel (0-1)
  • Amy Nicholson (0-1)
  • Lon Harris (0-2)
  • Markeia McCarty (0-2)
  • Ken Napzok (0-2)
  • Mike Carlson (0-3)

*First Champion **Second Champion

*Note – All records were reset November 2017 when the show was rebooted, but Murrell is still considered the original champion, as Gilbert won the belt in July 2017, prior to the reboot, but still considered canon.

Hosts:

  • Hal Rudnick – Primary
  • Doug Benson
  • Roxy Striar – TV Fights
  • Mat Black – Gamer Fights
  • Sasha Perl-Raver – Guest
  • Grae Drake – Guest

Fact Checkers:

  • Dan Murrell – Primary
  • Lon Harris
  • Joe Starr
  • Ken Napzok – TV Fights Guest
  • Kristian Harloff – Collider Guest
  • Nikole Z – Gamer Fights Guest
  • Jen Yamato – WIF Guest

Voice of the People:

  • Danielle Radford – Primary
  • Roth Cornet
  • Wendy Lee Szanee – Collider Guest
  • Billy Patterson – TV Fights Guest
  • Spencer Gilbert – Gamer Fights Guest

Time Out for Sports V: Free Agent Frenzy

Time Out for Sports V: Free Agent Frenzy

There has been a ton of huge NFL moves that have been made recently so I’ve taken it upon myself to give my analysis and breakdown eight of the massive free agent swaps.

1. The Green Bay Packers Shuffle

The first Super Bowl winners have been shuffling their cards after being dealt a terrible hand last season, finishing without all-star QB Aaron Rodgers and a record of 7-9. The Packers made a surprising trade with the Cleveland Browns, swapping their cornerback Damarious Randall for Cleveland’s breakout QB DeShone Kizer. Kizer will present a more competent backup (and potential future franchise starter) to replace the ill-fated Brett Hundley, who started ten games last season. Additionally, the Packers announced today that star wide receiver Jordy Nelson had been cut from the team, before swiftly announcing the acquisition of Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham, which should give Rodgers a much needed, large target.

2. The Legion of Boom No More

The Seattle Seahawks have completely fallen apart. Star cornerback Richard Sherman signed with the regenerated San Francisco 49ers. Michael Bennett moved to Philadelphia to become an Eagle. And now, Jimmy Graham has made the transition to Green Bay. What’s next for the Seattle Seahawks now that the dream team has disbanded? Only time will tell, but things do not bode well for the former Super Bowl champions.

3. Remember the Titans

The Tennessee Titans stunned the world by not only clinching a wild card spot last season, but upset the favorited Kansas City Chiefs. While they could not overcome the dynasty Patriots in the divisional round, they did, however, steal one. New England ‘s Super Bowl savior cornerback Malcom Butler signed with the Tennessee Titans a deal worth $61 million. Will this bring Tennessee back to the Super Bowl? Probably not, but a playoff appearance could be on the cards for this team.

4. Jets Making a Comeback?

The New York Jets’ biggest move was signing Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson for $15 million, but they made two big moves at QB this offseason. While the fan backlash over signing Josh McCown is justified, it’s the other QB selection that intrigues me. While McCown may start, the Jets also signed Minnesota Vikings playmaker Teddy Bridgewater. The veteran QB suffered a sizable injury back in 2016 that removed him from the team’s immediate future. Now because of another major move I will talk about in a minute, Teddy is available to have a future again in this league and I think his best shot of that is in New York.

5. Cardinals’ New QB

Speaking of Vikings’ quarterbacks, Sam Bradford made the move to Arizona today, signing a deal worth $20 million. The Cardinals do need a QB and Sam is solid enough to fit the bill, despite him starting two games last season in Minnesota. However, veteran RB Adrian Peterson just left the team, so the Cardinals may not be in the best shape offensively.

6. Cleveland Browns: AFC Champions?

After going 0-16 last season, the Browns have been beefing up their squad so far this offseason. The aforementioned trade for Demarious Thomas and a three year deal with Bengals DE Chris Smith has given the team a much needed shot in the arm on defense. The team also signed Steelers OT Chris Hubbard to a five year, $37.5 million deal, which is an incredible move for a team many considered dead. Other notable acquisitions include Bills QB Tyrod Taylor and Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry, who are undeniably huge picks for an already impressive offense. With the top pick and a slew of solid choices, the Browns are in a good position to turn the ship around and make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

7. Revenge of the Denver Broncos

After failing to find any valid follow-up to the Peyton Manning era Broncos, Denver has finally locked down breakout sensation Case Keenum to a $74 million deal. Case is largest profile QB to play for the Broncos since the short-lived Tim Tebow era. Can Case lead the Broncos back to the playoffs? Potentially, but, once again, only time will tell if Case was a one-seasons wonder or the real deal.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Super Bowl Champions?

The Minnesota Vikings were easily one of the strongest teams in the league last season, finishing 13-3 under the leadership of backup QB Case Keenum and pulled of a Minneapolis Miracle to get to NFC championship game, where the fell to the Philadelphia Eagles. Now with one of the top defenses in the league, spearheaded by a squad including Defensive End Everson Griffen, Linebacker Anthony Barr, Defensive End Brian Robison, Tackle Linval Joseph, and Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, as well as boasting an impressive offensive crew of Wide Receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen, as well as Running Backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, and all-star Tight End Kyle Rudolph. Now, the already impressive team have filled their only hole in signing Quarterback Kirk Cousins in a monumental deal worth $84 million. Do the Vikings have a shot at winning the Super Bowl? It appears so. It’s still very early in the year, but on paper, these trades seem to be massive ones to watch out for.