ForumMusic/Movies/TV/Books ► Album of the Week(ish)
Man, I was like 'hey Kurmis is doing that album review thing, maybe I should give a shot at that album I just got introduced to and really like', but then I sat down to write something about it and had no idea what to write.
Kudos man, you provide a lot of insight to these things. I have written 300k words of (fan)fiction and still I couldn't put my feelings and perceptions down as succinctly as you have.
Album of the week (Halloween hype edition): The Reluctant Graveyard by Jeremy Messersmith

Not only am I hype for Halloween, I’m hype for the vinyl of the 10 year anniversary of the album. The record is white and pink and looks really cool. Anyways, I got it for a reason. I love this album! Jeremy Messersmith has a knack for making interesting and exciting music. He fits each album into its own sound and aesthetic. Heart Murmurs combines indie rock with pop and new wave in a move sort of similar to Day and Age by The Killers. Late Stage Capitalism is dryer and more pessimistic, whereas 12 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele is exactly as advertised. The Reluctant Graveyard is still my favorite album of his, and I think it has the strongest theme and style.
Like all of Jeremy’s albums, he explores the concepts in a way that fits the theme while still trying a lot of different sounds. The general aesthetic here is vintage pop rock, with all these songs sounding like they could have been from the 50s or 60s. The general themes here are of course about death. Organ Donor has this spooky Monster Mash beach horror vibe, and it’s all about giving away parts of the body, playing with idioms and symbols we use involving the body. Lazy Bones has an upbeat Beatles pop rock sound that’s just fun to listen to. John the Determinist is dramatic and dark. “All you silly things/I’ve got you figured out.”
Though there are a few songs that veer a bit too far on the inspired scale and veer a bit into imitative or unoriginal. Violet! sounds a bit too Beatlesesque to the point that it sounds sort of derivative of like Good Day Sunshine, or like something on Hair. And then I can’t hear Death Bed Salesman without hearing 1, 2, 3, 4 by The Plain White T’s. But I still like the songs and I think Jeremy puts his own touch on all his songs.
A Girl, a Boy, and a Graveyard is at the center of the album. The heart, if you will. It’s the biggest hit on the album, and for good reason. Instead of the vintage rock aesthetic, this is a stripped back, vulnerable folk song, exploring life, feeling lifeless, and love. “But I don’t want to spend my time waiting for lightning to strike.”
Overall, this album is always worth the listen for me. It’s spooky, and sad, and dark, and fun, and it all fits together.

Tl;dr Really strong themes exploring life and death, and a unique aesthetic combining Jeremy’s folk singer songwriter style with a retro pop rock style.

Also, hey thanks Coldfrost! I love these albums. I love albums as a form of art, and I love talking about art, so I'm always happy to share.
Album of the Week: Ruminations by Conor Oberst

Conor has been a reckoning force in the indie scene ever since he started Bright Eyes. Letting off the Happiness, Fevers and Mirrors, LIFTED, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, and of course the classic of I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning are all wonderful albums each with their own character, but all fitting within the larger world of Conor's life. A lot of people would say that Conor and Bright Eyes peaked at I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. I admit, it's still my favorite as well. But that's not to count out his other albums. All the albums leading up to it are wonderful as well, and his albums after are good as well. I'm a fan of Casadaga even though some dropped off after Wide Awake, saying it got more dull. I don't know, there's still interesting stuff going on with any of Conor's music. But no album by Conor was even really in league with Wide Awake, until this one.
If you are one of those I mentioned who liked Wide Awake, but didn't find much else interesting, this album is for you. If you're an early Bright Eyes purist and lost interest from Casadaga and beyond, this is the album to jump back into Conor's world. If you like Bright Eyes and didn't know Conor did solo works, this album is for you. If you've never heard of Conor Oberst or Bright Eyes, but you like Bob Dylan, this album and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning are both for you.
Let's get into it. This album is completely bare. We have guitar, piano, harmonica, and vocals, and that's it. If you told me Conor recorded this all in one take, I'd believe you. Impressed as hell, but I'd believe you. It really has that live atmosphere, though. It seems unlikely that these instruments were recorded individually in separate takes. No, these songs are likely live performances with maybe one overdub for like an extra harmonica line or something, but I'm inclined to believe this is all just done live.
Okay, whatever, a folk album, right? I could do that, right? Not like Conor, no. He's been writing and performing for years, and this is one of those cases where instead of those years feeling washed out and uninspired, it feels like a honing of his skills, which here are his performance and especially his songwriting. With an album this minimal, he has to lean heavily on good songwriting and captivating lyrics. He nails it here. The storytelling is captivating. "She likes the new pope/She's not scared of hell/They meet once a week/
At a secret motel." He has me hooked right there. That's already a story, but only one part of the larger story of the song. This is what I mean when I compare him to Dylan. They both have a really similar writing style in this sort of dry witty storytelling. I think this is the album more than any other that Conor really tries to lean into it.
In terms of similarities to Wide Awake, I think they're both Conor staying in the quiet, sad folk songwriting style where the lyrics are the focus and the lyrics deliver. I'd say the music delivers on both as well, with really simple songs that are still completely original and signature to Conor's sound. In Ruminations, Barbary Coast in particular sounds like it could be in Wide Awake in an alternate timeline. "And the checkout girl's got a thing for me/and they're both as sweet/as the day is long."
If we're getting into individual songs, though, we have to talk about A Little Uncanny. It's not until later into the album, but it really stands out to me as a jam but also really smart writing. He talks about different popular political figures and the "uncanny" things they managed to do, through restructuring and reframing political culture, even putting himself and his relations to the world in there in a way that doesn't feel self-centered or indulgent. It's this sort of thing that he does through the album that really show his skill as well as his maturity as a lyricist.
I went in depth on a few particular songs, but really every song on here is good. This is really a "no skips" album for me. Despite being really tightly wound into a particular sound with these four instruments and a really songwriter-y style, each song is captivating in its own way, memorable once they become familiar, and unique. Some songs are more upbeat and some are more subdued while still all fitting together tightly.
It's worth mentioning that there's an alternate, full band version of this album called Salutations with all the same songs but more instrumented, produced, and performed with a band. Personally, I think the stripped back instrumentation suits this music a lot better, but as a concept it is really interesting to do the same album twice but like produced differently. It's an interesting idea, and to be fair, some songs on this album are better as the full band versions, but overall I like this minimal version a lot better.

Tl;dr This album is simple but an instant classic, in league with Wide Awake as some of Conor's most captivating songwriting emulating Bob Dylan.
Fav tracks: Barbary Coast (Later), Gossamer Thin, A Little Uncanny
Album of the Week: Nowhere is Safe by Admiral Fox

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right away: This review is most certainly biased. All reviews are because there is no such thing as objectivity in art and opinions on art. But this one is more biased than normal. Dan is my best friend. He just produced 4 of my songs. I was actually in Admiral Fox for a bit, but not during this album. That being said, this album is one of my favorites of 2020 not only because he’s a good friend, but also because this album stood up as one of the most relevant albums of the year despite coming out before covid was declared a pandemic.
People say the same thing about Radiohead. I remember Thom Yorke was on a talk show where they were like “How did you predict the world to be like this?” and Thom was like “It already was.” And I think it’s sort of a similar thing here. The world was already hectic and depressing and on fire and the government was already terrible. All that just got a lot more relevant after the lockdown and the riots. It was one of those pot boiling over sort of moments. But Dan was able to capture all of those feelings ahead of all of the major events of 2020. “Will the world end after all?/Will the world end after all my friends are scared to death.”
This would be a nice time to segue into my favorite song on the album and one of my favorite songs of 2020: Pictures of Drones. This thing is less than 4 minutes but covers so much ground in that time. There’s not really a chorus here, but like 3 different sections of the song that build as it goes. And it already starts with a lot of energy, but by the end, Dan is screaming in and out of falsetto. The song is all about drones, government monitoring, and just the dread of technology that can be used to monitor anyone and everyone. Again, I’m completely biased on this one because on top of being close friends with Dan, he told me that he was inspired by my songwriting in this one. But I can also see other episodic, through composed songs inspiring this like Paranoid Android or Bohemian Rhapsody.
While I think Pictures of Drones is at the center of the album, this album has a lot of jams with a lot to say outside of it. The album is only 15 minutes, but it feels whole and well rounded in that 15 minutes. So Proud is a punky song about raising hypothetical kids, but also about overthrowing the government. Lift My Spirit is actually an old folky tune of his turned a bit more punky. That one’s all about depression, and it’s a good representation of it. It takes on extra relevance with the isolation in 2020 "Who's gonna lift my spirit now? Who's gonna be my excuse for the night?" Salamander is a speedy banger that's also like an angry song about a bad friend. And Forest Dweller is also a really good opener. That one as far as I can tell is a love song to his girlfriend that is both sweet and a jam. It ends with this vocal shout chorus the whole band is singing and Dan just goes ham again vocally. Overall, this is absolutely a “no skips” album for me.

Tl;dr Great indie punk album with energy and heart throughout.
Fav tracks: Pictures of Drones, Lift My Spirit (but they’re all great IMO)
Album of the Week: When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go by Billie Eilish

Hey y’all. Been a minute I think. I honestly am slowing down on these, but I’m still definitely not done. Still plenty of great albums to share. This is for sure one. This is another cold take, but I’d still very much like to share if anyone has missed Billie’s Grammy sweep when this came out or the hype around this album. Or even if you’ve listened to a few singles of this album and not dug deeper into this album as a whole. I give this one a glowing seal of approval. While there were certainly some other songs and albums that deserved at least some of the Grammy limelight instead of Billie’s sweep, this album is still great and lives up to the hype.
I know this is sort of a diss on Billie’s newest album Happier Than Ever. By recommending this album over that one, I am admitting I don’t like that one as much. BUT, it’s not like that one is not a good album. It’s more like that is a good album and this is a great album. There are some great tracks on Happier Than Ever, and I think it was very cool for Billie to spread her branches and try a bunch of new things.
But When We All Fall Asleep is just the full package. The music all fits into a really strong atmosphere and vibe and it all fits together really well while also exploring a lot of different sounds. That sounds contradictory, but there are a lot of musical motifs and techniques that appear throughout the album and give it a really holistic feel. Like all of the extra layers of vocals and pitch modification effects show up throughout the album. Sometimes it gives a really dark and moody aesthetic, like in ‘bury a friend’ or ‘you should see me in a crown’. Other times it sounds more warm and choral and even angelic in vocal backings such as in ‘xanny’ and ‘when the party’s over’. And then other times it has sort of a light, joking sort of feel to it, like the pitched up vocals in 8. Even outside of just vocal arrangements and effects, there are notes of darkness, lightness, and jokiness throughout the album, again reinforcing these sorts of feels throughout the album that play on each other. There are random samples of Billie and Phineas joking, or samples of The Office. But then the darkness comes in in spots like random low voices coming in during Bury a Friend saying things like “listen”. There's also a lot of really cool stuff with volume. There are a lot of really good uses of quiet moments or even silence, or the opposite with screeches and blown out bass lines that I honestly think really shaped some of the conventions in pop today.
Lyrically, this album is just as holistic and concise. Sure there are different tones and subjects explored, but it all feels like a really honest representation of Billie as a writer and a character in this album. She has a lot of edgy jokes like being the “bad guy” and “all the good girls go to hell,” that sure are like edgy to be edgy in a way, but they don’t feel edgy in a way that’s ever disingenuous to Billie as a writer. They seem to boost Billie’s style and character. It feels like I’m hanging out with Billie and she’s just like telling me what’s on her mind. And even though there are a lot of joking moments like “wish you were gay”, there are also really completely heartfelt moments like “ilomilo” and “when the party’s over”. The latter has actually nearly brought me to tears a few times. It all compliments the production style and gives us this really fleshed out character of Billie.

Tl;dr Fantastic production and songwriting that all fits together to give this picture of hanging out with a good friend who’s telling me her story. The album is dark and fun and honest all at the same time.
Fav tracks: when the party’s over, bury a friend, xanny
A̶l̶b̶u̶m̶ Content of the Year (2021): Inside by Bo Burnham

I've been thinking about my album of the year, and Inside came to mind as an option. I thought about it, then I listened to Inside (The Songs) as an album, but I realized it's not really complete without the visual element. There are great songs on there, but when I listened to it, I kept thinking about the video that goes along with them. And I also thought about all that's missing without all of sketches and monologues in between songs. So, as an album itself, it's not an album of the year. Next week, I'll post my album of the year.

But like I wanted to touch on this as my favorite piece of media this year. Bo calls it a "special," so I guess that's the best thing to call it. It's not an album because it does have more than just the music, and listening to the songs isn't the full picture. It's not even a visual album exactly because there's more than just music to it. I suppose there are visual albums with more than just the music, such as The Wall. I don't know, though. It doesn't feel like a visual album either. It feels like its own thing. I think even "special" has its own connotations to comedy, and it's trying to be that, and on some levels it is that, but in other ways, it's really not.

I also had some hesitance writing this because nobody can shut up about Inside. Maybe it's just my YouTube algorithm, but I've seen so many BreadTube analyses on Inside from various angles, it feels like there's really nothing left to say. Just to shout out a few great pieces already, there's:,,
They certainly take up some time, but if you liked Inside and/or were intrigued by it as a project in any way, these are all really good analyses on the special as a whole and some context about it. But yeah nobody is shutting the fuck about it. So maybe I should just shut the fuck up.

I don't want to do that. I'd like to at least cover it generally in case anyone here hasn't seen it yet and want to know what the fuss is about. So here's that.
I'll say again that even though this is a comedy special, a lot of it is not funny at all. It's heartbreaking. At any given moment watching this special, I'm more likely to cry in reaction to what I'm seeing than I am to laugh. And that's the heart of it. "Trying to be funny when stuck in a room/there isn't much more to say about it." Bo explores the idea of "funny" a lot more in the uncomfortable sense than he does in the traditional sense here. Well, comedy is inherently uncomfortable. Don't quote me on this, but I heard that the part of your brain that's like "this is funny" is very close to the part of your brain that's like "I'm uncomfortable right now," which is where like shock humor comes from. And so much of this special is at that crux, but in a different way than shock humor. Like giving a "thanks for watching" speech with a smile and a knife in hand. Like a video of Bo saying "just like don't kill yourself because like just don't" jokingly, superimposed onto himself staring dead-eyed off to the side. It's not funny really. It's deeply uncomfortable. But that's exactly what it's trying to do. The song That Funny Feeling is the main expression I think of this concept. "Googling derealization/hating what you find."

This special isn't a fun watch at all. I wouldn't even call it funny most of the time. But it feels important. This movie is covering a time when yeah everyone did feel like shit, when it felt like the world is ending "honey it already did," when everyone is only communicating online and nobody can shut the fuck up. And it is centrally about just the shitty experience that was, just trying to stay inside for humanity when it feels like humanity is at an all time low. But it also covers power structures and jabs at the billionaires hoarding the wealth at everyone else's expense. It covers the evils that come with the internet. It covers the descent into madness that comes with all this.

And I haven't even gotten into any of the technical sides of this. Just in the confines of his own room, Bo was able to create elaborate stages and lighting for all of the performances, making each song and sketch a new image of the same place. The room was ever changing, but also claustrophobic. The camera is zooming in and out throughout, and at key moments as well. The camera starts zooming at "do I have your attention?" Or the camera is zooming in during That Funny Feeling until the last chorus after "the quiet comprehending of the ending of it all," and the camera panning out during the last bridge "hey/what can you say?/we were overdue/but it'll be over soon" giving this sense of leaving during those lyrics. And then there's all of the recycling of footage and music throughout. Like, there are several moments with instrumentals over a montage of like setting up footage or something, and all of those are like instrumental reprises of other songs in the special. Or in those moments, you can see him setting up for a particular shot in a certain point in the special, or editing or watching a video from another point in the special. There's so much of Bo watching himself, a visual reminder of the feedback loop we were stuck in being alone with ourselves during the pandemic, and the feedback loop the internet provides with all of this footage and writing of ourselves to look at on our devices, and Bo's special position of filming himself, recording his own voice, editing himself, to drive this feeling up the wall. So of course he's also going to include it.

I could talk your ear off about this special, and apparently so can a lot of people because there were so many reactions, reviews, and analyses of it. It really was one of the major cultural phenomena of 2021 and for good reason. It's the one piece of media that covered covid fully and honestly. Bo was absolutely like "I'm making money off of this tragedy" but like he didn't shy from that once. It was more like "hey this sucks and I must make something to cope" and in doing so, he made maybe the best representation of 2020 in media.

Tl;dr This special is unlike anything else. It's uncomfortable, it's heavy, and it's brilliant. It's something that just stays in my mind for weeks after watching it.

Fav tracks: That Funny Feeling, Welcome to the Internet, All Eyes On Me

(I'm double spacing the paragraph breaks this time. Someone in the answers was saying they weren't seeing any paragraph breaks, so I hope double spacing fixes that. Lmk how it looks. I can only see it from the Ask section, where it looks fine.)
Album of the Week: Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers

So I think that this will be my first album rec here that is qualifiably not slept on. Each song on this album has millions of plays on Spotify, Phoebe was nominated for several Grammy's, and has played several major performances such as SNL. But I just can't stop thinking about it, so I'm going to write about it.
This album is stunning and a slow burn at the same time. A lot of the songs are quiet or understated in a way, but they are still so beautiful when you just give it some attention. For one, Phoebe's lyrics are just consistently on point throughout. For another, songs are produced in a way that is just lavish and beautiful. In the way of Phoebe's lyrics, they are all at the same time witty, engaging, and personal, with a lot of motifs of death and darkness blended in. The first lyrics of the album are "Someday I'm gonna live in your house up on the hill/and when your skinhead neighbor goes missing/I'll plant a garden in the yard." But like within that song Phoebe also explores like change and growth and getting over things that "haunt" you. Punisher also has a very gripping intro "When the speed kicks in/I go to the store for nothing" and then covers this idea of being a punisher in that she is completely obsessed with Elliot Smith to an unhealthy level, but I think also seeing art as punishing in her being a "copycat killer" of Elliot Smith.
In terms of the instrumentation and sonic atmosphere, this is again where I think the slow burn elements come into play. Everything in the album is extremely beautiful, but picking up sort of the appreciation for songs individually takes some time. A lot of the songs have slow moments and are sort of sad, but there is a lot to explore musically here. Graceland Too is a more country-folk sort of song about getting out of the hospital. Kyoto is the hit, but also just like the more indie rock oriented song. I Know the End starts slow, but builds as it goes until there is screaming and chaos by the end. And there are more variations as well. Although there is like sort of an umbrella in this album of generally being like sad ballads, there is definitely variation. And within a lot of this sort of sad and quieter sort of vibe, there is a lot to appreciate within that sound. Like the guitar tone of Garden Song is an extra layer of captivating as it sort of bounces and gets like quieter and louder. A lot of cool effects with vocals and vocal layers throughout with features from Conor Oberst and Julien Baker.

tl;dr This album is just gorgeous, really. Amazing lyrics throughout when you take the time to listen. Very personal with hints of darkness underneath a bit. A lot of sad ballads, but variation within even though together it's very strongly within this sort of chill but pretty atmoshpere.
Fav tracks: Garden Song, Punisher, Graceland Too

Listened to this album live, can confirm it was an amazing experience.
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