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Darkthrone - A Blaze in the Northern Sky Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit a tense, beautiful, lo-fi landmark from the second wave of black metal.
In the fall of 1971, a child is born in a remote village in Norway. He will one day rechristen himself Fenriz, after the Earth-swallowing wolf, Fenrir, who appears in Norse mythology and the Satanic Bible. But for now, he is Gylve Nagell, being raised by his grandmother, spending inordinate amounts of time alone. The pivotal moments of his childhood occur while listening to records, music introduced to him by an eccentric uncle named Stein. Pink Floyd catches his ear; a few songs by the Doors hold his attention; but it’s the English progressive rock band Uriah Heep that blows his mind. He’s entranced by the heavy organ sound, the cryptic lyrics, and the mysterious men with long hair who appear on the album’s cover. He cherishes the triple-fold LP like an heirloom from…

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Post Malone - Hollywood’s Bleeding Music Album Reviews

The divisive pop star still gets bogged down in melancholy, but the charm of Post Malone’s third album is in his versatile voice and his ability to make a great hook inside pretty much any song.

Nothing about Post Malone suggests “career pop musician” but that is exactly what he has become. Speaking purely in numbers, he’s just about the most ubiquitous pop musician alive: His songs multiply in the culture right now like kudzu or prairie dogs. He takes Jimmy Fallon to the Olive Garden and Medieval Times; he sells his own limited-edition Crocs. He emerges from Rolls Royce crashes unscathed and touches cursed objects on episodes of Ghost Adventures. Pop music is a little bit like Post Malone’s very own Hanna-Barbera cartoon right now, and he is somehow both Shaggy and Scooby.

There are plenty of valid reasons to bemoan his dominance. He is kind of a sentient keg stand; he has a pretty lazy and unexamined relationship with hip-hop; there is strong evidence that he might not exactly be the sort of person who thinks through his actions. But if you can wriggle free from all that for just a moment, there is a lot to appreciate in his music. There could be, and have been, far worse pop hegemonies, and in a few years, when his cherubic-face-tatted mug has receded somewhat, the virtues of his music will become more apparent.

Yes, the lyrics can be infuriatingly lazy, particularly when he’s tracing over hip-hop tropes about the Mille on his wrist or the 50 carats on his fist. But Post Malone’s choruses are just stupefyingly good. Each one sounds like it could furnish a down payment on a personal helipad. Hollywood’s Bleeding has about 10 titanium-grade hooks on it, choruses so immediate they erect stadiums in your head while they play—“I’m Gonna Be,” “Staring At the Sun,” “Allergic,” Enemies,” “Myself,” “Wow.” He seems to almost belch these out: “Got so many hits, can’t remember ’em all/While I’m taking a shit,” he yawns charmingly on “On the Road.” “Sunflower,” his Swae Lee duet that hit No. 1 at the beginning of this year, shows up again outside of last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, and its presence here among all these other soon-to-be Top 10 hits feels almost like arm-twisting. We get it.

He is also a sneakily agile singer, switching from red-faced howling to smoky crooning to something warbly and strange in between these two poles. He uses all three of those voices plus a surprisingly lithe falsetto on “Allergic,” which features a chorus that feels like a down-the-middle split between 2003 Fall Out Boy, 2002 Weezer, and 1983 Billy Joel. It is an immaculate pop construction, and the words—“You’re friends with all my demons/The only one that sees them/Too bad for you”—are just delivery systems for the thrill.

Post’s music comes from that zone of confusion where hip-hop and alternative rock overlap. Artists keep wandering out of this spot, which widens every year, but it’s hard to imagine the vortex producing someone as ready for algorithmic dominion than Post. Depending on how hard you squint, his music sounds alternately and suspiciously like Stone Temple Pilots or Sugar Ray or Everlast or Rae Sremmurd or Def Leppard or Tame Impala. The team behind this sound—a chewed-up ball of the last 25 years of rap and rock radio—consists of Louis Bell, Frank Dukes, and Post. Together, they made most of the brightest and most memorable tracks on last year’s Beerbongs & Bentleys, and having established their winning formula, they work it relentlessly on Hollywood. There is no streaming playlist he could not plausibly land on.

There are two kinds of Post Malone songs: Useful and Not Useful. Post Malone’s best and dumbest songs (usually one and the same) are intriguing for the appealing note of panic in them: He might have been singing “She got beautiful boobies” but the way he sang it, it sounded like secret code for Please, the combination to the safe, they have my family. This is Useful Posty, and there is a lot of UP ROI on Hollywood’s Bleeding. “I’m Gonna Be” is a standard inspirational “be yourself” anthem on paper, but Post bellows the hook with a conviction that suggests a trap production of the musical Cats. He sings the hook to “Internet” with the same lunatic gusto—the message is “the internet sucks lol” but he and co-writer Kanye make it sound like a luxury ocean liner going down.

Moody Posty, by contrast, is not Useful Posty. On the title track, he moans about his demons and wonders who will be at his funeral; nobody needs melancholy despair from the guy who headlined a Bud Light Dive Bar tour. There are too many brooding fashion-plate numbers in general (“Die For Me,” “On The Road”) and they bog the album down. The aforementioned “Circles” is kind of pretty, kind of smooth, kind of sad. It is not a vehicle for Useful Posty: It sounds like a demo that someone meant to hand directly to Sheryl Crow and accidentally sent to Bobcat Goldthwait. His hair sounds combed. Washed, even.

When he’s not wasting time trying to glower, he proves himself surprisingly versatile. “Myself” is a co-write with Father John Misty, of all goddamn people, a wry song about not being about to slow down to appreciate the spoils of success—or, to hear Post tell it, “We slammed butts and Bud Lights to write a cool, top-down, summer cruising song about doing all this shit, being everywhere, but not having the time to fully enjoy it.” Post’s silly-putty voice twists once more until, voila, somehow he’s dirtbag Randy Newman, cruising through the perverse California night. His voice is both malleable and unruly—just as Led Zeppelin attempting reggae somehow managed to sound just like Led Zeppelin, Posty sounds Post-y no matter where you put him.

There are a lot of guests on Hollywood’s Bleeding, and all of them sound engaged; when you are this famous, artists tend to give you their first verse, not their fifth or tenth. Rising star DaBaby crushes his turn on “Enemies”; Halsey, on the otherwise drab “Die For Me," breaks into her boyfriend’s phone, finds all the girls in his DMs, and takes them all home. And then there is the power ballad “Take What You Want,” featuring Travis Scott and Ozzy Osbourne. Osbourne sounds pristine and ageless as always; his towering vocals seem teleported directly from the same studio session as “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” Post takes over the hook from Osbourne the second time around, and he holds his own against the cyclone of his vocal take—remarkable, considering that by the time the song is over, you have forgotten Travis Scott existed at all. And then: a guitar solo. Not any guitar solo, but one so ludicrous it needs a rider stating it can only be played while straddling twin burning Camaros. It is screamingly wretched and undeniably mind-blowing and the most fascinating musical decision I have heard on a pop song all year.

It makes me think about Rick Ross circa 2010, happy and audacious, enlisting full symphony orchestras for him to rap over, but not before demanding a cigar. There is no one else on earth who would attempt to put such a thing on a pop album destined to break streaming records. These moments—when he dares to suck, gloriously and bravely—is when Post Malone ascends.

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