October 01, 2022

Swordmaster - Wraths of Time (1995)

 
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Label Number: FMP 004

© 1995 Full Moon Productions
*No professional reviews are available for this release.
 
tags: swordmaster, wraths of time, 1995, flac,

Melvins - (A) Senile Animal (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Sludge Rock
Label Number: IPC-82

© 2006 Ipecac Recordings
The Melvins have long been considered one of hard rock/metal's most powerful/monolithic-sounding bands, despite only consisting of three members. So, imagine what the group would sound like with two drummers. Well, imagine no more. The Melvins' second release of 2006, A Senile Animal, sees longtime members -- guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover -- joined by both members of noise duo Big Business (bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis). Unlike some bands that have two drummers but do not sound that remarkably different than if they had a single one, the "new look" Melvins puts the extra pair of sticks to good use, as evidenced by the drum march breakdown of the album opening "The Talking Horse," the onslaught of "You've Never Been Right," and "Civilized Worm," which ends in an absolute landslide of percussion. Although they started out primarily as a punk band that slowed down the riffs, the Melvins have also always mixed in prog rock-like bits, such as the tricky rhythms of "Blood Witch" and the King Crimson/Tool-ish "The Hawk." The album also contains some of the group's most straightforward compositions in some time, including the metallic/new wave-ish ditty "A History of Drunks." The transfusion of new blood has made one of rock's gnarliest beats even -- gnarlier!

tags: melvins, a senile animals, 2006, flac,

Foreign Beggars - Asylum Agenda (2008)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: AD 070; UC462

© 2008 Dented/Under Cover
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tags: foreign beggars, asylum agenda, 2008, flac,

Metric - Synthetica (2012)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Indie Pop
Label Number: MET80112

© 2012 Metric Music International
After the commercial breakthrough of their 2009 album Fantasies, it would seem kind of unfair to ask Metric to do anything differently on their next outing. That album perfectly took their usual tuneful blend of hooky new wave and spooky synth pop and blew it up to stadium-huge levels while adding more emotional content than ever before. It was a trick that seemed so improbable in the first place that it would be crazy for the group not to try re-creating it on Synthetica. So they did. The album has the same glossy textures, gigantic sounding arrangements, huge choruses, and open-hearted vocals as Fantasies did, but keeps the instantly memorable songs and exposed emotions intact. It also retains the same balance of super hooky songs and gloomy ballads, hitting you in the gut one minute and sending you off cheerfully singing along the next. (It's the same kind of trick Garbage were able to pull off in their prime, and Metric sound very much like a widescreen Garbage throughout Synthetica.) The success that band has achieved hasn't exactly healed Emily Haines' wounds, and her vocals have the same powerfully aching quality that has always been there -- they cut through the music and right to the heart of the listener. Songs like "Artificial Nocturne" and "Dreams So Real" hit very, very hard thanks to her vocals. Elsewhere, she shows a ton of range on tracks as varied as the dramatic "Speed the Collapse," the creepily cute "Lost Kitten," and the dreamily desolate "Nothing But Time." The band provides capable backing throughout, framing her voice in a soft web of sound and creating modern pop that goes down easily but never bores. Only the unwelcome appearance of Lou Reed on "The Wanderlust" breaks the mood of the record and brings it down to earth a bit. Even with his warbling croak gumming things up, the song is a highlight on an album full of them. That Metric were able to follow up their best record with another just as good is quite an achievement, hopefully something they will do again and again.

tags: metric, synthetica, 2012, flac,

Metric - Pagans In Vegas (2015)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Indie Pop
Label Number: MET80143CD

© 2015 Metric Music International
After releasing two albums that turned Metric into an arena-filling indie rock band, with a sound designed to reach the very back rows, the band scaled back both their ambitions and approach on their sixth record, 2015's Pagans in Vegas. Kicking off with the clipped and swaggering "Lie Lie Lie," which sounds like a distant cousin of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," Emily Haines and the band seem less interested in being epic this time out. The less bombastic arrangements and the attention to details of sound mean the songs don't have the same overblown feeling, which cuts two ways. It's a bit of a letdown to anyone who loved how huge the band sounded on their last two records, but it also allows Metric a chance to experiment a little and try to connect on a more personal level. In fact, the weakest parts of the album occur when the band do try to fill out their sound with giant choruses. While none of the songs are actively bad, they can seem a little forced and almost rote in comparison to those on earlier albums. "The Shade" is the only stadium track that really works, mostly due to the sticky vocal melody in the chorus, but also in part to the oddball synth squiggles that dart around the mix. Much better are the songs that don't try as hard, like the synth pop ballad "Celebrate," which blends peppy neo-disco verses with a blown-out, half-time chorus, or the songs like "Other Side" that aim for a kind of quiet melancholy and hit it dead-on thanks to the restrained performances and precise arrangements. Basically, when they set aside the understandable desire to make songs that have a chance to be hits, they instead make music that draws the listener in more by leaving space for them. Haines sounds more invested vocally in these tracks, the band's expanded use of synths and restraint within the mix makes the music more interesting, and it truly seems like this is the direction the band want to go in the future. They reached the top, and once there, maybe they decided it wasn't the most interesting place to be. Ending the album with a two-part synthesizer instrumental certainly would seem to bear this out. Metric didn't start off as a chart topping, arena-filling band, but they became a great one. Pagans in Vegas can be viewed as their first post-success album and while the struggle for their musical soul that plays out over its course makes for a sometimes less than coherent listen, it's always an interesting one.

tags: metric, pagans in vegas, 2015, flac,

September 30, 2022

Dynametrix - A Measure of Force (1994)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Britcore
Label Number: KSCD8

© 1994 Kold Sweat
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tags: dynametrix, a measure of force, 1994, flac,

D-Tension - Contacts + Contracts (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: LSR 9211

© 2002 Landspeed/Brick Records
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tags: d tension, contacts and contracts, 2002, flac,

Little Brother - The Commercial Free: E.P. (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 83926-2

© 2006 Atlantic Records
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tags: little brother, the commercial free ep, 2006, flac,

September 29, 2022

Metric - Grow Up & Blow Away (2007)

*Commercially released for the first time in 
2007 by Last Gang/Grönland Records
Contains 10 tracks total.
Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Indie Pop
Label Number: Q2 00940; CDGRON71

© 2001-2007 Last Gang/Grönland Records
It's hard to believe that Metric couldn't find anyone to release this album following label changes. What's even more surprising, though, is how well it fits into their current sound despite being recorded in their infancy back in 1999. While rather void of the edgy and rock-fuelled songs that would come later like "Monster Hospital," Grow Up and Blow Away is an excellent primer of what was to come with "Live It Out" and "Old World Underground, Where Are You Now!." The light, melodic electro-pop feel is all over the title track as lead singer Emily Haines shows her talents early and often. Meanwhile, things pick up slightly with the catchy, danceable and tight "Hardwire" that instantly brings to mind the Cardigans. The first ordinary song is "Rock Me Now" which resembles a stream-of-conscious poem over a simple electro-based backbeat but things return to an above average level with the moody "The Twist" as Haines churns out one sweet vocal after another. Metric rarely falter on this record, with "Soft Rock Star" living up to its title, a soft rock gem in the vein of Keane. The remix version is just as sweet and sugar-coated, driven by Haines angelic-like delivery. A similar approach comes during the tender, strolling "White Gold."

tags: metric, grow up and blow away, 2001, 2007, flac,

Metric - Fantasies (2009)

*Standard pressing. 
Contains 10 tracks total.
Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Indie Pop
Label Number: MET80019

© 2009 Metric Music International
Metric's third full-length album, Fantasies, is a glossy, slick, and so-clean-you-could-eat-off-it slice of modern rock that may scare off some of the band's early fans due to the unrepentant commercial nature of the album. Anyone who isn't repelled by the band's professionalism and ambition to sound perfect will find it to be quite enjoyable. You can't begrudge them taking a shot at the big time, especially when the result is as good as this. And it's not like they are doing anything radically different here; it just sounds freshly painted and shorn of any defects. In other words, it sounds just like an album by one of the bands that inspire them, finely tuned machines like the CarsGarbageBlondie, and Missing Persons. Or conversely, they sound sort of how you'd imagine the ideal Idol contestant's album would sound -- huge with an excess of glittering and hooks. Indeed, most of the songs on Fantasies wouldn't sound out of place on a Kelly Clarkson record; they are finely crafted, totally focused, and powerful pop songs that blend '80s new wave, '90s alt-rock, and timeless pop songcraft into compact pop nuggets. If "Sick Muse" were given a push on radio, it could easily be a big smash for the band. The hand-waving chorus, the pulverizing drumming, and the smooth-as-glass production are perfect for the airwaves. Quite a few others sound like they too should be blasting out of car radios on summer streets; the laser beam-tight "Gold Guns Girls," the shimmering "Front Row," and the propulsive "Gimme Sympathy" all fit this bill perfectly. The few ballads that dot the album like frozen teardrops betray none of the warm introspection that Emily Haines brought to her solo albums; her singer/songwriter demons sound like they've been exorcised once and for all here. Instead, they sound big enough to reach the back row of a stadium, as does the whole album. That Metric title a song "Stadium Love" gives you a clue to the ambition of the band. There's nothing small or careful about Fantasies -- it's a full-on bid for pop glory and it's a smashing success.

tags: metric, fantasies, 2009, flac,

The Maccabees - Given To The Wild (2012)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Art Rock
Label Number: 2791926

© 2012 Fiction Records
One of the few guitar bands to overcome the general apathy toward the British indie scene of late, South London-based five-piece the Maccabees achieved their first Top Ten hit with their critically acclaimed third album, Given to the Wild, an intelligent blend of experimental rock and multi-layered cinematic pop said to be inspired by acts as diverse as Kate Bushthe Stone Roses, and David Bowie. Produced by the likes of Tim Goldsworthy (LCD SoundsystemMassive Attack) and Cenzo Townshend (Kaiser ChiefsNew Order), the follow-up to 2009's Wall of Arms includes the singles "Pelican" and "Feel to Follow."

tags: the maccabees, given to the wild, 2012, flac,

The Maccabees - Marks To Prove It (2015)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Art Rock
Label Number: MACC4002

© 2015 Fiction Records
After having their highest-charting album to date in the U.K. with 2012's Top Five and Mercury Prize-nominated Given to the Wild, the Maccabees hit some rough waters in the recording process for their fourth studio long-player, with the bandmembers reporting that they struggled to settle on a production style. They eventually attempted to create a replicable live sound more so than on prior studio albums, particularly the aforementioned cinematic Wild. The result is the more immediate but still weighty and expressive Marks to Prove It. It follows the example of its predecessor in sharing a more pensive, weary tone than prior releases, so it doesn't feel like a departure as much as a subtle maturation spelled out in lyrics like "Your best friends forgive you/Your best friends forget you get old." The record is also peppered with glimmering synths, loaded with guitar effects, and visited by brass and sax solos, as on "Dawn Chorus," so there's no stagnation in sound resulting from the attempted reeling in of design. The rockin' lead-single title track is an exception to the deliberate pacing of the rest of Marks to Prove It and is a highlight, if not the highlight, of the record. A galloping, guitar-chugging tune with switching meters, big drum fills, and vocal wails, the lyrics again reflect a jaded, existential outlook, observing "Over the summer a lot changed/And they all changed to keep up with it....Take a photo of it/Come back years on and wonder why you took it." In contrast, the piano-led "Silence" offers the album's most delicate delivery (with vocals by guitarist Hugo White), but not without dissonant guitar noise and spoken-word samples. Somewhere in between, "Spit It Out" is remindful of early U2 in its driving, determined wistfulness, and "River Song" is a howling, saxophone-enhanced power waltz. Overall, Marks to Prove It feels a bit anxious, but that's not necessarily to its detriment, and four LPs in, the Maccabees are still making smart and sophisticated Brit guitar rock.

tags: the maccabees, marks to prove it, 2015, flac,

Foreign Beggars - Asylum Speakers (2003) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DNT003
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 2003 Dented
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tags: foreign beggars, asylum speakers, 2003, flac,

Foreign Beggars - Stray Point Agenda (2006)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DNT014CD

© 1993 Giant Records
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tags: foreign beggars, stray point agenda, 2006, flac,

Pras - Win Lose or Draw (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Reggae Fusion, Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: B0004816-02

© 2005 Universal Records
There's a fleeting moment during Win Lose or Draw when Pras exchanges overstatement for understatement: "I'm no Nas." No kidding. He's the Mickey Klutts to Nas' Mickey Mantle. The MC has never been the most lyrically deft, but he even fails at paraphrasing Scarface ("And you never seen a man die 'til you seen a man cry") and, though he does get Colin Farrell right ("When you conquer fear, you'll conquer death"), he fumbles facts, like when he reminds you that the Fugees "started in the 9-5" (their debut came out in the 9-4, and their breakout happened in the 9-6). This album was supposed to right the wrongs of Ghetto Supastar, Pras' rushed debut from 1998. He took the heat for its shortcomings and promised that the follow-up would be much better since he had a lot more time and was able process everything through some sense of quality control. While Win Lose or Draw certainly sounds less hurried and hastily glued together (no phone messages), it's no improvement. Beyond the lyrical snags, the production work is less than stimulating and the stabs at eclecticism are just that. It's not a good sign when the lead single is almost definitely picked for the fact that it's a cover -- in this case, U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which was interpreted to better effect by Cher, even though it sounded more like Rod Stewart's "Forever Young" than the original. It's hard to see anything other than the flaws in Win Lose or Draw. That said, Pras deserves credit for a couple lines in "Party's Ova," a track that would otherwise be easy to dismiss as another case of an MC past his sell date taking aim at the ones on top. The lines in question: "You plow the land but the masters I own" (ow!); "There's a war going on, you cats don't even know" (too true).

tags: pras, win or lose, 2005, flac,

September 28, 2022

Metric - Live It Out (2005) ☠

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Indie Pop
Label Number: Q2 00908
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2005 Last Gang Records
In an effort to prove Metric frontwoman Emily Haines was not the only dominating personality behind the Canadian indie rock group's first album, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, the second album hammers home the fact that it's more of a group effort. Production duties were handed to guitarist James Shaw and Haines' trademark synths take a back seat to screeching guitars and more cohesive playing as a quartet. Despite the added punk rock punch the guitar gives, the bite of their debut is dulled by a weaker set of songs, with only minor aesthetic changes to mask the slight sophomoric slump. Live It Out desires to be a major step forward (Emily Haines would release her first solo album, Knives Don't Have Your Back, a year later), but the best moments on the album are the ones that recapture what made the debut such a compelling piece of '80s retro -- showcasing Haines' trademark keyboards and her effective cooing vocals, which manage to sound both cloyingly sexy and gutturally raw at the same time. "Poster of a Girl" transforms a few rudimentary French lyrics and an unassuming keyboard intro into a spacy, groovy dance track. "The Police and the Private" is an effectively simple and haunting keyboard-heavy song that shows Haines' best vocal performances are the down to earth ones (something she thankfully discovered on her solo album). As with Old World UndergroundHaines has a tendency for collegiate-level prose when the band gets political, and songs like the "Combat Baby" knockoff "Handshakes" have a smug, elitist attitude about them, without providing much insight into their political beliefs. The first single, the hooky "Monster Hospital," is a light-hearted punk song with great non-sequitur lyrics, but the overdubbed guitars and big production typically reserved for an alternative rock album don't fight the overall motif of Live It Out. There's a reason Haines was featured on the cover of Old World Underground and it's possibly this: she's what separates Metric from other '80s revivalist groups.

tags: metric, live it out, 2005, flac,

Swollen Members - Bad Dreams (2001)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: BAX 1009

© 2001 Battle Axe Records
The second LP from L.A.-/Vancouver-based Swollen Members is a natural and overwhelmingly positive evolution from 1999's Balance. An 18-track movement with banner production, an incredible lineup, vital energy, and a quiet confidence rarely found in hip-hop, Bad Dreams is an inspired and unique set from front to back. With appearances from Jurassic 5's Chali 2Na, Evidence, DJ Babu, Planet Asia, DJ Revolution, Joey Chavez, Son Doobie, Moka Only, and other key members of the Battle Axe crew, the album both takes itself extremely seriously and throws a great party at the same time. The record's highlights are many, though the appearance of the highly acclaimed 2NA with Dilated Peoples' Evidence on "Full Contact" is easily the record's biggest asset in a paramount rap-along collaboration. "Take It Back" and "Total Package" feature music from the sensational DJ Revolution, who makes funk-hop sound groundbreaking all over again. And while their rotating DJs and producers make the whole set progressive and lively, it's the tag-team duo of Mad Child and Prevail who pull everything back into SM's familiar fold.

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tags: swollen members, bad dreams, 2001, flac,

Swollen Members - Black Magic (2006)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 0251705486

© 2006 Battle Axe Records
On their fourth full-length, Vancouver-based Swollen Members return some to the harder-edged, melodic, intelligent hip-hop they've made their name with (thanks in some part to the appearance of Moka Only on two tracks). As always, the group has managed to collect a pretty impressive selection of guests, including Evidence from the Dilated PeoplesGhostface KillahEverlast, and Casual, among others, all of whom sound good and add verses that fit well with Swollen Members'. Black Magic isn't quite as strong as the group's first two albums, but it's a step forward, aggressive and confident, with consistently strong production, and should please fans as well as listeners just looking for new music.

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tags: swollen members, black magic, 2006, flac,

The Maccabees - Colour It In (2008 Special Edition)

*Reissued in 2008 by Friction Records
This pressing contains 6 bonus tracks. 
19 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Indie Rock
Label Number: B000901602

© 2007-2008 Fiction Records
Futureheads fans beware. There's someone else threatening to take away the title of best harmony singing, guitar-wielding band in town: the Maccabees. The five-member Brighton (by way of South London) group use the same angularly warm riffs, pounding guitars, occasional background yelping, and quick, syncopated, catchy melodies that brought stardom to the Futureheads (and, to a lesser extent, Bloc Party and Interpol, both of whose influences can also be heard here), and while they don't necessarily add much more of their own to the formula on their debut full-length, Colour It In, (the few bars of harmonica on the fantastic "Latchmere" don't count), they follow it well enough that it doesn't really matter. Lead singer Orlando Weeks has a wonderfully animated voice -- moving from pained and annoyed in "Tissue Shoulder" to smitten in the rolling "About Your Dress" to dramatic and emotional in the poppy "O.A.V.I.P." -- rich and just a little rough, which keeps the fact that the chords, the arrangements, and the rhythms of the album are all rather similar a show of strength, of realizing where your assets lie instead of signaling a lack of versatility. Weeks brings life and individuality to each of the songs, though, to be fair, his bandmates' bright arpeggios, sharp like broken glass, sixteenth-note, tom-filled drum lines and heavy bass don't make his job very hard. Colour It In bursts with vitality and youthfulness, with thick London accents and falling in love and breaking rules and simply enjoying one's self. So while the album may sound like it's been done before, it's just expressing the fact that all the things they're singing about, that all bands are singing about, really, have been done before, too. The Maccabees are in touch with the times they're living in, with the music and the energy around them, picking up on the trends they hear (i.e. the FutureheadsDogs Die in Hot Cars) but only in a way that compliments their influences, making Colour It In an enjoyable, even if ephemeral, record.

tags: the maccabees, colour it in, special edition, 2007, 2008, flac,

The Maccabees - Wall of Arms (2009) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Indie Rock
Label Number: VVR705862; 2701102
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2009 Fiction Records
Maccabees' first album, Colour It In, was more than a little indebted to the FutureheadsBloc Party, and the other U.K. acts who popularized urgent tempos and angular riffs in the mid-2000s, but the band drastically renovates their sound on Wall of Arms. However, it's still easy to hear where they get their inspiration. They've traded their formerly scrappy approach for a style that borrows the Arcade Fire's anthemic sweep -- it's no coincidence this album was produced by Arcade Fire collaborator Markus Dravs. On "Can You Give It," singer Orlando Weeks' previously marble-mouthed vocals have morphed into something closely resembling Win Butler's tremulous keen, and the rest of the song follows suit, with galloping drums and handclaps that lead the way to massive choruses with a dramatic ebb and flow. Even though the band shows its influences just as transparently as they did on Colour It In, they sound much more confident and comfortable -- in fact, they seem downright eager to display their newfound skills and polish: the brass on "Young Lions" and throughout the album underscores the majestic levels that Maccabees try to reach. Wall of Arms is bookended by "Love You Better" and "Bag of Bones," both of which are far slower and more patient about showing off their goods than any of Maccabees' earlier work; likewise, the band would have been too hyperactive to attempt "Seventeen Hands"' thoughtful-yet-jubilant reflections on love and marriage on Colour It In. However, they haven't totally abandoned their pop instincts. "One Hand Holding" and "Dinosaurs" boast sing and shout-along choruses, and "Kiss and Resolve" plays like a more grown-up take on their bouncy insistency. Crucially, despite the more sedate tempos and outlook, these songs feel truly purposeful. And even if Maccabees still aren't stunningly original, they've made a significant step forward with Wall of Arms.

tags: the maccabees, wall of arms, 2009, flac,

Weezer - Weezer (2019)

*Also known as the Black album.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Power Pop
Label Number: 585330-2

© 2019 Crush Music
Rivers Cuomo rumbled about recording The Black Album back in 2016, when he was in the thick of promoting The White Album -- a record designed to modernize the adolescent angst at the heart of Weezer's earliest music. Cuomo gamely pursued this concept with Jake Sinclair, a producer weaned on '90s Weezer, but once The White Album hit the stores, he seemed more interested in creating its counterpart, a record that abandons the light for dark, where the vocalist sings profanities on record for the first time. It was a high concept for a band so devoted to high concepts it couldn't resist recording two other conceptual records -- Pacific Daydream, a 2017 LP which was another salute to the West Coast, and a surprise covers album called The Teal Album -- before unleashing The Black Album in March 2019. At first glance, this color-coded LP appears to live up to Cuomo's promise: the singer swears like a sailor throughout an album that's helmed by Dave Sitek, the moody mastermind behind TV on the Radio. Superficially, these are elements that could be part of an album that showcases a darker Weezer, but the vibe of The Black Album is sunny and playful. Filled with bossa nova rhythms, glam stomps, and power pop, The Black Album moves swiftly and stylishly, deliberately generating memes as rapidly as it spins out hooks. There's no other way to classify "Zombie Bastards," a song designed to play equally well as bumper music and fan-made videos, a song where Cuomo knows that the title alone carries the tune's water, so he runs out the lyrics to the chorus with "keep on blah blah blah." This isn't a sign of laziness so much as economy. He'll deploy his wit when he needs to -- witness the devious Neil Young dig at the start of "Byzantine," co-written with Laura Jane Grace -- but he also realizes that pop is the alchemy between catch phrases and catchy melodies, where the sum is greater than the parts. Sitek's studio sharps provides an invaluable assist in this regard, pumping up the mean pop and skewed art aspects of Weezer in equal measure. Unlike Pacific Daydream or The White Album, The Black Album doesn't appear to have designs on modern rock radio; there may be sops to the audience, but there's no attempt to chase a trend. All this means is that The Black Album feels like the most fully realized latter-day Weezer album: it may flagrantly draw from old and new elements of pop culture, yet it belongs to its own feverish world.
 
tags: weezer, weezer, black album, 2019, flac,