Wednesday, October 19, 2016

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - Episode 059: The Jam Is Brought In Many Ways... / Urban Witch (10/18/16)

This week, we have bonus coverage for you!  After my show was over, I moseyed on over to Studio A and did the Urban Witch cast, so we have two shows for you this week.  Expect The Unexpected is split into four compartments, one with four requests I couldn't get to last week, one with groovier material, one with new rock and metal tracks and one with stuff I felt like playing to close the show.  It turned out pretty decent, I feel.  Take a listen.  (Below the song titles, I'll talk about Urban Witch.)

1. "I've Got A Feeling (Live)" Mongolian Chop Squad
2. "Hiding Out" Ghettobillies
3. "She" Cocaine Jesus
4. "Maware!" (Chiptune Remix) Utagumi Setsugetsuke
5. "You Are In My System" Robert Palmer
6. "Giant" DJ Food
7. "Up To Our Hips" The Charlatans UK
8. "MonstroCity" Meshuggah
9. "Sid And Nancy" NOFX
10. "World Gone Mad!" Suicidal Tendencies
11. "It's Catching Up" NoMeansNo
12. "Rap Rock Song" Death Penis

Over on Urban Witch, we were talking about Halloween: What candies are popular where, who would you have design your Halloween costume (living or dead), which bands are real or fake and play a little music.  Urban Witch airs right after Expect The Unexpected on Tuesdays, 9PM Central.  Check it out:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - Episode 058: Request Line XII

We take another interesting batch of requests ranging from Novelty Songs to Mod covers of Black Sabbath to Swedish metal in German to straight up American Pop Music to singer/songwriter electronica to Sitar music to Soulful Rock to Thrash Metal Video Game Themes to Children’s Music to whatever the fuck Sleigh Bells thinks they are to whatever the fuck White Zombie thinks they are to whatEVER the fuck Pork Soda is to big band music to Grind to 80’s synth pop. AND THAT’S ALL IN ONE HOUR. So come on in and get you some!

1. "They're Coming To Take Me Away" Napoleon XIV
2. "War Pigs" Cake
3. "Achtung" Varg
4. "Secrets" One Republic
5. "Down" Marian Hill
6. "Boat To Nowhere" Anoushka Shankar
7. "Turn Up" The Heavy
8. "Duke Nukem Theme" Megadeth
9. "Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea" Joe Hisaishi
10. "Crown On The Ground" Sleigh Bells
11. "Thunderkiss '65" White Zombie
12. "Pork Soda" Primus
13. "Doo Wacka Doo" Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra feat. Billy Murray
14. "The Fence" Tower Of Wankers
15. "Goodbye Horses" Q Lazzarus

Thursday, October 6, 2016


This review took a weird turn.  Instead of just jotting down my snap reaction and moving on to the next one, I did some research to see what people's responses to this album were.  And, shock of shocks, the masses think its a masterpiece.  Even though Bon Iver started out as a folk act, he has morphed into some kind of electronic...thing that sort of defies description.  It's got a Metacritic score of 87, which means it's got "universal acclaim".

What do I think?  That's a harder question to answer...

Bon Iver "22, A Million"

It's points like this where I have to wonder if this music is actually popular or if the numbers have been inflated over the years.  The song titles are the absolute gibberish of a broken LCD calculator and the music seems to match.  This really sounds like an attempt at whitewashing "The Life Of Pablo", without any understanding of what makes Kanye West interesting in the first place.  (And that's coming from someone who doesn't even like "The Life Of Pablo".)

"22, A Million" is trying to do something capital N "New" but doesn't quite get there.  It sounds Different with a capital d, but not really New.  And not interesting, even with a lower case.  If Mumford & Sons covered "Metal Machine Music", you might be close to describing this album.  (Bonus: "_ _ _45_ _ _ _" sounds like me playing a harmonica through an autotune processor.  And I can't play the harmonica.)

[Blogger's note: This is where I intended to stop the review.]

The thing is, when I read customer reviews for this album, it made me think my opinion is not only wrong, but can never be valid.  This album is "so beautiful" that people are literally going to put it on as background music and it forces them to stop what they're doing and weep at how breathtaking it is.

I feel nothing when I listen to this.

Am I broken?  I have to wonder.  A lot of people are giving this five stars and saying this is life-affirming or life-changing.  It sounds like songs that aren't even finished to me.  It doesn't even sound raw, it sounds like he's barely trying.  (Though that can't be true, because it took him five years and literally inventing new electronic music equipment with his producer to do it.  Effort with a capitol fucking E was put into this.)  But do I think that because I've been listening to, absorbing, writing, writing about and thinking critically about music for my entire life and I "know better", or am I so goddam cynical that I can't feel what everybody else is feeling when they hear this?  Am I incapable of finding the true beauty in something like "22, A Million", a beauty that should be patently obvious, or are these fans being gassed and their testimonials not to be believed?

2016 is the year that reality slapped us all in the face and dared us to challenge it, left us no choice really but to challenge it, individually, collectively, as a species, as nations, as groups with common interests...on every level, really.  And I think we're all finding ourselves more than a little lacking...

After listening to the samples a second and third time (something that deeply goes against the spirit of these reviews, which were designed to be hot takes nearly a decade before that was a buzz term), I still don't like the album.  But I can understand on some level that people could connect to it.  There's something there, but I don't think it'll ever be for me.  I don't know, mainstream.  Your music is getting too weird for me.

You'll also notice that I haven't changed the rating from zero stars.  I don't have to like an album to respect it.  And I don't have to respect every aspect of it to admit it may have artistic merit.  (But I still feel like not understanding this album makes me a soulless piece of shit somehow.  I don't want to live in this world anymore.)

[P.S.: People's reactions on Twitter have been pretty universal: This album makes people cry.  And most of them don't know why.  Especially because they "can't understand the lyrics".  I've had that reaction to music before (the saddest song I've ever heard has three languages in it, only one of which I speak), even to instrumental music, and I think it falls under the concept of sympathetic vibration, also known as sympathetic resonance.

My first knowledge of it came from the first Patlabor movie (I think; could've been the second), where the enemy has a weapon that destroys things with vibration and they explain how it works with a story about soldiers in WWII marching lockstep across a bridge and the perfect synchronicity of their footsteps causing a frequency that made the bridge resonate in a destructive fashion, causing it to collapse.

My point is: Music can do the same thing to you and your emotions.  I think this is why "22, A Million" is having such an effect on everyone.  The songs aren't particularly well crafted, the lyrics are obscured on purpose and the structures are deliberately challenging to the border of pretentiousness, where it definitely steps over the line more than once... But the songs resonate with people because Bon Iver stumbled across a frequency that makes people feel things.  I don't call that a parlor trick; I call that an accomplishment.

So I guess bonus half star?  Bonus half star.]

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - Episode 057: Spiral Trance

This week, we down with Spiral Trance to talk about their 21-year career and their last show on October 8, 2016, which will feature members from the band’s entire history. Come and reminisce with us, or if you aren’t familiar, come and learn about the awesome band that is Spiral Trance!

1. Dead Set
2. Taker
3. The Me You See
4. Freight Train
5. Hellacious

Songs featured in the background:

"Black Light" | "The Need" |  "All In Due Time" | "Light Leaves You" | "Between The Soul" | "My Life Sucks" | "Breathe Again" | "Correction" | "Of Dust" | "On Our Terms" | "Project & Release"

Monday, October 3, 2016

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - Episode 056: SomethignSomething Fall Autumn Pumkin Spice S.E.O. Boiiiieee

I straight up forgot to do this this week.  As it is, there's not much to report.  It's a bunch of songs from "Aurora & Beetlegeuse"  and "The New Definition" mixes with a few new songs, a heavy-handed debate metaphor and Imogen Heap thrown in.  Next week will be FIRE though, as I interview Spiral Trance and play songs to illustrate what made that band great.  Til then, here's some pretty decent songs to tide you over:

1. "Lost In Space (Theme)" Apollo 440
2. "Something Inside Of Me" Wicked Wisdom
3. "The Night" School Of Seven Bells
4. "Hide" Access Royale
5. "Useless" Asher Roth & Pac Div
6. "Moth Into Flame" Metallica
7. "Killer" Band Of Skulls
8. "Crucifixion" Giraffe Tongue Orchestra
9. "Clear The Area" Imogen Heap
10. "Too Good Too Bad" Yoko Kanno
11. "The Great Debate" Dream Theater

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - Episode 055: Request Line XI

The most musically diverse episode yet!  We've got Disco, Alternative Hip-Hop, Djent Funk, Dark Country, Hard Rock, Acoustic Turkish Music, Flamenco-inflected Pop Metal from Northern Europe, D&D Power Metal, Downtempo Electronic Music, two movements from Gustav Mahler's symphony "The Planets" and the closing theme to an anime.  Figure it out!  Or don't!  Above all, have a good time!

1. "We Are Family" Sister Sledge
2. "Cold Beverages" G. Love & Special Sauce
3. "Physical Education" Animals As Leaders
4. "Ain't No Grave" Johnny Cash
5. "Catalyst" Dorje
6. "Boomerang" Tolghahn Cogulu & Sinan Ayyildiz
7. "Dance" Kontrust
8. "General Of The Dark Army" Unleash The Archers
9. "Angel" Depeche Mode
10. "Mars, The Bringer Of War" Gustav Holst
11. "Jupiter, The Bringer Of Jollity" Gustav Holst
12. "The Mokona Drawing Song" Hajime Mizoguchi

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - Episode 054: One Year Anniversary Special!

Yes, I've been doing this crazy show for a full year now.  I don't know where the time went either, but it's another notch in the belt, another milestone to celebrate, and I would be honored if you would celebrate it with me!

This episode is a look back at the year prior, kind of a cross-section of the more special episodes and as such has more talking than music, but the music is still there infused throughout, in the background or even in collage form.  It's almost a resume of things that you can expect from this show.  (Boo.)

So come along with me friends and followers into the madcap soundscape that is Expect The Unexpected!

1. "Back To The Future - Main Theme" Alan Silvestri
2. "Everybody Rise" Busta Rhymes
3. "You Prefer Gold" The Atomic Spins
4. "Bicycle Race" Queen

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


CDs were the bees knees when I  was growing up, and really I only...scratched the surface as to all the things I wanted to talk about.  (That pun wasn't intended when it came into my head, but once it did, I made an executive decision to phrase it in a groan-inducing manor.)  I never even mentioned the only reason I started buying rap albums was because of Columbia House's 12 CDs for a penny thing, or anything about CD binders or a bunch of other stuff that escapes me even now.  Maybe not pertinent information, but it might help the listener understand the experience if they grew up in an era after CDs were a thing.  I dunno.

The other thing was picking music for this episode was weird.  I could have just played things that were popular on CD at the time and people would have liked it more, or I could do what I did and stick to the things I listened the fuck out of during that timeframe.  I ended up having to cut three songs on the fly because I talked WAY more than I thought I would, but there were so many other songs I could have played to typify the CD era that I just didn't get to.  An hour's not enough sometimes.  (Though some weeks, it's almost too much...)

Anyways, I hope you enjoy this madcap history lesson on compact discs. 

 (P.S.: The picture for this episode is me at Christmas 1993, listening to the first CD I ever owned for the first time ("Arise" by Sepultura).  It was a $100 Craig Audio CD Walkman with two whole seconds of anti-skip protection and a power adapter that weighed a ton.  By 1995, I had to spin the discs manually before closing the player to get the thing started because the motor had worn down, and this scratched the ever-loving shit out of the CDs.)

(P.P.S.: This picture of me is still my current MySpace profile pic.  Yes I still have a MySpace page.  No, I don't use it for anything anymore now that I have Twitter to host images.  Yes I'm on Twitter @NicholasNutter )

1. "Arise" Sepultura
2. "HT" Tsuneo Imahori
3. "Big Bluff" Tsuneo Imahori
4. "Two" Mechwarrior
5. "Skip It" Type O Negative
6. "...And Justice For All" Metallica
7. "The Machine In The Ghost" Apollo 440
8. "Blackbeat" Apollo 440
9. "Mortal Flesh?" The GV Crew
10. "Tear Da Roof Off" Busta Rhymes
11. "Infanity World" Lain
12. "After You've Gone" Toshiko Akiyoshi

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - Episode 052: New Music Roundup, August 2016

We have music that's so new the album isn't out yet, music that's just plain new to me and music that is celebrating a 20th or 25th Anniversary.  Let's see if you can figure out which is which!

The undercurrent of this episode is a real ying-yang kind of deal.  There's plenty of metal and rock, but there's at least three slow jams and three more that have chill elements to them while keeping an energy and an edge.  All I know is this music sounded good as hell when I played it in the studio at WXRW.  Hope you like it and vibe to it morning afternoon and night:

1. "Once" Pearl Jam
2. "Hail, Hail" Pearl Jam
3. "The Greatest" King
4. "Nobody Speak" DJ Shadow & Run The Jewels
5. "Hardwired" Metallica
6. "Sorceress" Opeth
7. "Clap Like Ozzy" Suicidal Tendencies
8. "Laugh Together" Peter Hadar
9. "Secret Sciences" Devin Townsend
10. "Born In Dissonance" Meshuggah
11. "Purveyor Belt" The GV Crew
12. "The Lamp Is Low" Carmen Lundy

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Special Kind Of Hell: Music Reviews for August 2016

When I started blogging 10 years ago, one of the things I did was reviews based off of 30 second samples on iTunes to determine if new releases were crap or historically crap (2006 was not a good time for music; neither was 2007).  Most of my reviews back then were not...great.  But some are still genuinely funny, and a few might have even had a point.

I've written less and less in this blog, mostly just ceding it to be the shownotes for my radio show Expect The Unexpected.  That's because I've written less and less in general.  I've written a haiku since May, and that's it.  So I figured "Hey, if I'm gonna dip my toe back in the water and see how it feels, how about a consequence-free music review thing?"


Ratings are as always 0 to 5 stars.  0 Star reviews are denoted by no asterisks after them.  Occasionally, I get hateful and bestow a negative rating, but something really has to get under my skin to get one of those.


Let's get started:

Frank Ocean "Blond" *

Fuck.  Way to jump in at the deep end there, Nick.  This is the album everyone is blowing up about, and the anticipation for which has been a meme for at least a year.  Now is as good a time as any to make a confession:

Before I hit play, I had never heard a note of Frank Ocean.

I had no idea what his voice sounded like, I had little clue what kind of "R&B" he does, since that catch-all term has been impossibly vague since I was born, so I really went in with no guesses as to what to expect.

The first thing that pleasantly surprised me is there isn't an over-reliance on the 808 drum kit that has MURDERED creativity for the last 18 plus years in beatmaking.  There's some, but if you use it sparingly and well, 808's can still be effective.  Unfortunately...

Most of this shit sounds like it's half finished.  The only groundbreaking thing this guy did was forget to put drums in half the songs.  The vocals, ideas, cohesion and music all sound profoundly boring, sloppy and scattershot.  "Pink + White" was the only one of the bunch where I liked the beat and the vocal.  "Nights", "Solo (Reprise)" and "Pretty Sweet" have cool beats, but the lyrics and vocal delivery make me not care; and "Solo (Reprise)" is an Andre 3000 verse.  "Skyline To" has lame lyrics, though I like the way the chorus just slams into the end of the verse, like "My turn, fucker."  It has a cool post-chorus keyboard line too, but there's not much to it other than that.  "Nikes" sounds like it's trying to talk deep, but the helium pitch shifting really undercuts the message.  "Ivy" sounds like exhausted-toddler core, with a breathy, nasally delivery that comes off as petulant and plaintive even if that's not the intention.  Like a 4-year old dragging it's feet.

This music is not for me.  At all.  I do not get why this guy is seen as a visionary.  I hear how he's different from the average, but what he's doing has been done before and done better over the last 40 years; the genre is littered with examples.

Britney Spears "Glory"

One thing this album has going for it is you can barely tell this is Britney Spears.  As a matter of fact, the opener "Invitation" reminds me of Frank Ocean.  Her voice is a lot more processed of course, because that's one thing Frank has over Britney, but that's like saying Neil Young is a better pure singer than Tom Waits.

The rest of this album is pretty goddam painful.  The single "Make Me" is the same song you've heard everyone else do in the last 12 months, the slow, synth-drenched dystopian post-pop pop song.  I didn't even get to hear the rap verse in the sound sample.  "Private Show" has some CRINGE lyrics.  "Clumsy" is the first song that has any life to it at all.  It's not good, but it's at least a palette cleanser after 17 tracks of Frank Ocean and the first five tracks of this. 

All in all, this album is too generic to make fun of except for a few instances of painful lyrics.  It's main selling point is a brand name and that it sounds like whatever else passes for popular.


Florida Georgia Line "Dig Your Roots" [NEGATIVE ONE STAR]

God DAMN did I step in a shit pile.  I hate modern country more than room temperature slow jams.  Especially when infused with all the worst parts of Nickelback PLUS attempts at using "hip lingo".  When you're disappointed the opener isn't a cover of "Smooth" by Santana & Rob Thomas, hell, when you'd rather be listening to "Smooth" by Santana & Rob Thomas, you know you done fucked up.  Track three has Ziggy Marley on it for some God-forsaken reason, track five sounds like a rejected Backstreet Boys ballad with twang on it, and "Lifer" barely even has country in it's slow-jam...goddamit, there's 808's ON THIS SHIT!

And if track five weren't BSB enough for you, "God, Your Mama and Me" actually HAS the Backstreet Boys on it.  FUCK this album is a special kind of bad.

Barbara Streisand "Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway"  This review is turning into a special kind of hell for me.  It's hit three of my four food groups for "Nick's Least Favorite Music"s, which are Country, Opera, Showtunes and Lazy Pop Music.  Showtunes have been fingernails on the chalkboard for me because of how unrepentantly corny they are.  Sure, the music I like sucks too, but at least it tries to be cool.  Showtunes?  Normally self-awareness would earn you points, but the very tropes of the genre are cringe-inducing to me.  And I acknowledge the skill it takes to make Broadway: Patrick Wilson on "Loving You" is fucking phenomenal from a skill standpoint.  But I'm never going to want to listen to this stuff willingly.

Ingrid Michaelson "It Doesn't Have To Make Sense" *

I had no idea she was coming out with new music.  I went from loving "Human Again" to liking "Lights Out" to hearing some song from this and thinking "Well, I knew she was trending poppier, but this one's too far for me" about a year ago, and just forgetting she existed.

The opener "Light Me Up" sounds like the typical good Ingrid song, anthemic but somehow restrained.  "Whole Lot Of Heart" is chill, maybe a bit too simplistic and laid back for a track 2, but it could grow on me.  "Miss America" is a little too poppy for it's own good, but it's not offensive to the sensibilities or anything.  "Another Life" is...there, I guess?  It says "love" too much in the chorus to be taken seriously.  "I Remember Her" is a painfully average ballad, as is "Drink You Gone".  "Hell No" is the song that put me off Ingrid when I saw the video, which came out right about the same time Instagram filters that put animal faces or crowns or whatever on you became popular.  And the song "Celebrate" sounds like it's a few twangs and bro Country lyrics away from belonging on the Florida Georgia Line album.

Easily Ingrid's worst album.  Certainly the least inspired.  It's not even close.  The other depressing thing is it's slightly better than "Blond", so this makes it the new leader of this review so far.

Glass Animals "How To Be A Human Being"

For the first three seconds, I was already ready to crown this the new leader of this review; not even gonna lie.  "Life Itself" is about ten years out of date as a pop song, but it beats the shit out of most of the songs I've heard so far tonight.  Of course, that's all before the lyrics, which are passé to the point of appendicitis.  (I don't even know what that means, but it's the most clever turn of phrase that has anything to do with this review so far.)

And then the rest of the album just kept sucking.  This is the kind of white boy meh you've heard on alternative stations since 1997 except more poppy and not as good.

Young Thug "Jeffrey"

This is sort of unique, I gotta give it that.  But it's unique in how it sounds like a stroke patient who had half their language center taken out during a lobotomy wears their psychosis proudly like a cloak.  I know the track "RiRi" is supposed to refer to Rihanna, but it REALLY sounds like he means the other, more offensive meaning with how he fucking "flows" on it.

For those that might take me to task for being on some "get off my lawn" shit or say I don't know hip hop because I'm the whitest motherfucker you've ever come across on the internet (a charge I don't really deny, btw) I submit as examples: Kendrick Lamar, Vic Mensa, Schoolboy Q, YG, and even Vince Staples: all newer rappers that put out shit this year that makes this shit look foolish.  Young Thug is in that lane of "I don't rap, so you can't judge my flow, but hold up because when I'm singing you can't judge that either because I'm just a rapper" that Fetty Wop, Future and Desiigner have already occupied.  At least the chorus to "Trap Queen" is sorta catchy; this shit is just the ramblings of a mind that may not be there to be diseased.

Also, on the "you can't judge me because..." front: This isn't even an album.  It's a mixtape, because it turns out Young Thug has never released an "album".  If it's just a mixtape, the criticism is invalid, because "Well, wait til you hear the album, THEN we'll give you the real shit."  This is ten songs.  It's around 40 minutes.  You're charging people for it.  It's a fucking album.  Hell, last year when he released "The Barter 6", it was initially promoted as Young Thug's debut album.  Then the label back-peddled and said it was a "retail mixtape".  Fuck you, man.  If it's longer than an EP and you charge for it, it's an album.  Quit trying to change definitions just to avoid people calling you out for putting out whack shit.  Because that's the only reason you can continue to exist: if you keep shifting the goalposts, no one will be able to take a clear shot of kicking your ass right through them and out of the public arena for good.  The minute you put out a "real" album, the gimmick is over and you'll be subjected to some "real" criticism.  But that's bullshit too, because I'm not the first person to call Thug out for being whack.  And I certainly won't be the last.

Here's the thing, though: the music itself is so typical of modern mainstream hip hop that I can't even really get mad at it.  Not really.  It doesn't evoke much of an emotional response, save for "[sigh]...again?  Whatever..."  And in the world we live in today, I can avoid the SHIT out of Young Thug.  This is the first time I've even heard the guy. 

Everything about him is hype, from his cross-dressing to his status in the game...even to his status as a rapper, since he sings everything and doesn't even rap.  Yet there are critics out there who would champion his cause as an innovator.  Well, what say they?  Here's some new-agey vagaries from Meaghan Garvey of Pitchfork:

"[...]what may not be legible at first glance reveals itself patiently over time ... More than anything, Barter 6 feels like a 50-minute performance of what rap, as a form, can do: rap that need not transcend itself, towards High Art on one hand or commercial art on the other, in order to succeed in 2015."


I know.  I've written enough term papers and read enough academic fanboy bullshit (read: peer-reviewed articles) to know it when I see it: You don't even understand your own review.  Granted, I have no idea what context that statement is in; I copied it from Wikipedia and quoted the source, but SHIT does it sound like nothing.

And that, ladies and gentleman is the problem with all seven albums I've reviewed here this week: None of them feel like they have a reason to exist.  Hell, most of the material is so sparse and minimalist it barely even exists in the first place.  Is that to hide from the potential criticism?  If the music pretends it's not there does it think I can't be disappointed in it for not DOING anything?  Fuck kinda bullshit is that?  At least when I put out a song, I KNOW it sucks.  But I fucking OWN it.  I put my back into it and say "THIS is my shit.  DEAL with it."

Kind of like this blog.  I posted it.  Feel free to criticize it.  Lord knows it's flawed.  That's not even self-deprecation; that's acknowledgement.  I own that.  And that's the difference.  It is time for musicians to stop being afraid.

Make.  Some.  Kind.  Of.  Fucking.  STATEMENT.

(P.S.: I have "Trap Queen" stuck in my head because it's catchier than anything I reviewed.  I didn't even hear it and now I have to deal with getting it out of there.  Thanks a lot pop music for not being catchy anymore.)

(P.P.S.: Wyclef Jean is on this "mixtape", but not on the song called "Wyclef Jean".  He's on the song called "Kanye West".  I give up.)