Ram Jams — May 2018



Kanye West: “ye”

(via G.O.O.D Music, Def Jam Recordings, Universal Music Group)

Genre: Hip-hop, rap
On a playlist with: Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper
The deets: Perhaps this album is more deserving of the title “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” than “MBDTF” itself, because Yeezy is as weird and controversial as ever on this album. Of course, the release of this album followed two weeks of bad headlines for the Chicago rapper who seemingly looked for trouble amidst his declaration of support for Donald Trump. The album did not shy away from this and other current events, its lyrics referencing his comment about whether or not slavery was a choice, #MeToo and even Stormy Daniels. These and other bars on the album are strong; lyrically, this album is both complex and hard-hitting as it also delves into his issues with mental health on songs like “Yikes” (and includes a brilliant line about an outcome: Google it). Another strength of this album is its featured artists, which include established hip-hop mainstays like Kid Cudi and up-and-comers like 070 Shake (whose outro in “Violent Crimes” is chilling). The main weakness of this album, however, is that it was clearly rushed. Some of the tracks sound like they could’ve used a bit more time being mastered, the lyrical themes are underdeveloped and, at 27 minutes, it’s frankly too short. I have a feeling he hurriedly added some finishing touches on the seven tracks he liked and released them as soon as he could, and if that’s true, it shows. I wish I could’ve heard more than I did, because with more substance and development, this album could’ve been a classic.
The bottom line: Despite its shortness and shortcomings, Ye’s “ye” is a fascinating deviation from West’s previous albums, and it is one of his realest. It just needed a little more to be something truly special.
The peaks: “Yikes,” “Violent Crimes,” “Wouldn’t Leave”
The valleys: “No Mistakes,” “Ghost Town”
The final verdict: 6.5 / 10

Ghost: “Prequelle”

(via Loma Vista Recordings, Concord Music)

Genre: Hard rock, synth rock
On a playlist with: Alice Cooper, Motionless in White and early Avenged Sevenfold
The deets: Ghost (sometimes Ghost B.C.) is huge right now, but I have to say, I have no idea why. They just opened for Iron Maiden’s latest North American tour, and all of my friends are telling me that their new album is going to change everyone’s life, but I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. “Prequelle” is something of a concept album that takes place at the same time as the bubonic plague, and it also has something to do with politics. All of this tied in with their well-known satirical Church shtick sounds promising, but the music falls far short of how epic I want it to be. The chord progressions are not creative, as in the song “Witch Image.” The superimposed synthesizer parts are irritating, especially in “Helvetesfönster.” The entire record is unbearably dragged out: the album lasts more than 40 minutes and yet it has less development than a broken disposable camera—which is impossible. If there is any saving grace, it is the guitar solos, especially on “Rats”; those guitarmonies are infectious. But even despite their catchiness, they are largely boring and unimpressive, as is, disappointingly, the entirety of “Prequelle.”
The bottom line: Maybe Ghost appeals to non-rock fans because of its simplicity and catchiness, but upon a few listens, it will become clear to anyone that “Prequelle” is a sonically static record that wastes perfectly good conceptual potential.
The peaks: “Faith,” “Witch Image”
The valleys: “Rats,” “Dance Macabre,” “Helvetesfönster”
The final verdict: 3 / 10

The Front Bottoms: “Ann”

(via Fueled By Ramen, Warner Music Group)

Genre: Indie rock, alternative rock
On a playlist with: fun., Young the Giant and McCafferty
The deets: The Front Bottoms have returned to form. This indie band from Bergen County, New Jersey, has undergone several transformations in its sound, but 2017’s “Going Grey” simply didn’t feel like them anymore. However, “Ann” has thankfully reassured fans that frontman Brian Sella is still a kid at heart, as five of the six songs are remakes of songs from 10-year-old self-released EPs that came out when Sella was a teenager. The amount of change in the songs varies by track, but at the risk of exaggerating, all of them are great. “Lonely Eyes” mostly keeps its acoustic simplicity and lighthearted attitude, while “Today Is Not Real” adds drums, trumpet and more to a song that was originally only acoustic. “Somebody Else” is my favorite track on the record because of how big it sounds: the chorus is loud and unapologetic and the voicings on the wide array of instruments complement one another flawlessly. “Pale Beneath the Tan (Squeeze)” wasn’t that great of a song to start with, so it was the only poor moment on the EP. Additionally, the backup vocals from drummer Mat Uychich on this track are much weaker than on the original. “Tie Dye Dragon,” the only brand new song on the album, is silly and fun in classic TFB style, and it nicely wraps up the strong offering by the Jersey rockers.
The bottom line: If you lost interest in The Front Bottoms after “Going Grey,” put them back on your radar, as “Ann” is a true return to their emotional and honest roots; and if TFB was never on your radar to begin with, “Ann” is a great place to start.
The peaks: “Somebody Else,” “Lonely Eyes,” “Tie Dye Dragon”
The valleys: “Pale Beneath the Tan (Squeeze)”
The final verdict: 9 / 10