Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall

The middling Midwest rapper has veered into pop punk on his latest LP and the outcome is better than expected.

Machine Gun Kelly spent the better part of the 2010s being written off as another melodramatic, corny, white rapper with a rapid-fire flow and not much else to offer — and that’s because he was. Barring a few charting hits and an admirable, albeit short-lived back and forth with Eminem, his career as a rapper was middling at best. With this latest LP, MGK ditches his mundane, multisyllabic flows and generic beats and dons the sound and aesthetic of early 2000s pop-punk, and mostly succeeds in this new realm.

While Tickets to My Downfall is a reinvention for MGK himself, it doesn’t do anything to reinvent or breathe new life into the genre, and that’s perfectly fine. This album thrives in the moments in which it harvests that feeling of early-aughts nostalgia, which is aided greatly by the inclusion of Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker throughout this project.

In contrast, the album’s biggest shortcomings come when it tries way too hard to modernize and clean up the sound. The ethos of punk music is that it comes straight from the heart, including all of its raw unfiltered ugliness, it’s a pure expression of emotion that should be unadulterated.

The instances of quantized trap hi-hats or obvious vocal correction take away from that and make the music way more poppy and cookie-cutter than it should be. Even if bands like Green Day, Sum 41 and Blink-182 produced a more polished and accessible version of punk, MGK takes it to the point where this project could be labelled pop-pop-punk.

Another area in which this album tries too hard to increase its pop appeal is the features, and it suffers for it. The album has four features across its runtime, all varying from horrible to decent. While Halsey and blackbear both do a decent job on their respective tracks, Trippie Redd and Iann Dior have abysmal features. Both of them are astonishingly out of place on their respective tracks and have absolutely zero chemistry with MGK or the music.

As far as MGK himself goes, he can be very hit-or-miss here, but surprisingly he does mostly hit. Vocally, he’s nothing special, but on the songs where there’s no obvious pitch-correction, the rasp in his voice and the tone of his delivery feel very fitting for this genre.

Barring a couple of moments of real depth (“lonely” and “play this when i’m gone”) this album is pretty shallow and juvenile lyrically, and some lines are outright horrible. While in most other cases this would be a real issue, it’s fine for what this album is trying to accomplish. It’s clear that this album is MGK doing his best Blink-182 impression, and that spirit of silly immaturity really fits the mould.

Another way in which this album attempts to give itself a bit more personality is through its interludes, which feature Pete Davidson and Megan Fox. While there’s nothing inherently bad about these interludes, they have nothing much to offer after the first listen. “banyan tree – interlude” actually features a good snippet in the second half, but it’s a chore to sit through the Megan Fox/MGK conversation that precedes it.

Still, there are some saving graces on here. The album’s opener “title track” starts the album off strong, really capturing the essence of the sound that this album is going for and excelling at it. The most clear-cut moment of Blink-182 worship here is “concert for aliens” and it succeeds in restoring that sound, though it can feel a bit too derivative.

The aforementioned moments of depth, “lonely” and “play this when i’m gone” are both solid, emotional tracks. The latter of the two is the album’s closer and serves as a heartfelt letter to his daughter in the event that he reaches his inevitable downfall. It’s a pretty touching moment that closes the album on a high note.

In the end, Tickets to My Downfall might not bring anything new to the pop-punk genre, but it doesn’t need to. As generic and derivative as a lot of the songs on here can be, they do exactly what they set out to do, and that’s to be mindless, fun, pop-punk tracks.

Barring some admittedly horrible songs, this album is a mostly enjoyable pop-punk release for the majority of its 36-minute runtime. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel – and MGK definitely isn’t the pop-punk revivalist some outlets are making him out to be – Tickets to My Downfall is a decent, entry-level pop-punk album that’s popularity could help to bring the genre back to the mainstream.


Trial Track: concert for aliens

Rating: 6/10


Tyla Yaweh celebrates rock contemporaries opening for the “Runaway Tour”

The “Runaway Tour” opener discussed Billie Joe Armstrong, travelling the world, and his upcoming album.

Tyla Yaweh is a name you may have heard recently, especially if you were one of the thousands that filled the Bell Centre in mid-February to see Post Malone’s arena debut in Montreal. The Florida sensation has been following Post Malone around the world for over a year, opening the show to packed stadiums on the “Runaway Tour” all across North America and Europe, and just about anywhere else you’d expect a Post Malone fan to reside these days.

The opportunity has allowed Tyla to gain new fans while continuing to build his discography. His first project, Heart Full of Rage, was released in February 2019, and the 24-year-old artist continues to release singles to ride on his momentum and prepare fans for his upcoming sophomore album. The tour has also allowed him to make new friends, including two of his childhood idols who appeared in the video for his most recent single, “High Right Now Remix”—Wiz Khalifa and Billie Joe Armstrong.

“I got really cool with Billie from this Oakland show we did,” said Tyla of the Green Day frontman. “He pulled up there and like, it’s crazy—that’s Green Day. My sister used to give me all the Green Day albums. And then I met Billie Joe, we finally talked, and then just became real good friends. [We] started texting and hanging out and going to parties and getting drunk together.”

Tyla describes the Wiz Khalifa collaboration coming to fruition over their mutual love of weed and Tyla’s desire to put one of his inspirations on one of his tracks. Tyla featured Billie Joe in the video after he asked for sample clearance for Khalifa, who sang his verse in the melody of Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

While the pairing may seem odd at first, Tyla Yaweh credits rock for his love of music just as much as he does rap, citing early influences such as Worldview, The Used, The Strokes, and Kings of Leon.

“That’s the stuff that I love hearing,” he said. “Like discovering the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, the CBGB era from like David Bowie, Madonna, all those people who came up out of that era. It made me really search it up and be like ‘Oh man, this stuff is interesting.’ It just reminded me of what the music industry still is. There are rock stars in this game that are still crazy as fuck, outspoken, artistic as hell, and just starting trends, you know.”

Tyla Yaweh sits with Jacob Carey before his opening performance on the “Runaway Tour” – Photo by Louis Pavlakos

His touring buddy, beer pong rival (to whom he lost $50,000 USD), and recently matching-tattoo partner is no different.

“[Post Malone] broke the barriers for a lot of people, just by coming out with ‘White Iverson’ and ‘I Fall Apart,’” Tyla said. “His range is so wide and it gives a lot of other people opportunities who just want to discover new sounds and not be inside a box.”

Tyla categorizes himself within that group of people, fusing hip hop and rock influences to create sounds that he one day hopes to be synonymous with his stage name. The artist says that one of his main goals is to continue to deliver music that offers listeners newer and more relatable stories, rather than rehashing the same old tales onto new beats. Tyla also prides himself on his music being timeless, hinting at all his songs that he stows away that can be released at any opportune time.

“I think all my music is important to me,” he said. “I’m making it, and I’m not going to just make a song that isn’t important. There’s a lot of songs we do that just won’t come out, but I still cherish all my music because one day, in three years, I can drop that song and it’ll still mean something to the world. People won’t even realize that I did that three, four years ago.”

Tyla is currently in the process of recording his Heart Full of Rage follow-up. A release date has not yet been announced.

“Right now we’re still working on my album,” he said. “It’s called Rager Boy. We got a lot of dope artists on there. I’m excited for it. We almost done. We’re just structuring it, still mixing things down, still putting certain songs that we want to hear on it. It’s gonna be a surprise for everybody.”

Later that evening on stage, Tyla is humble and does not strut with a god complex found in most artists. While performing his set, Tyla hops off stage on more than one occasion to mingle with the crowd below him. During “Wraith Skating,” the rapper is found wilding out with fans all the way in the stands to the left of the stage before going back on stage to play the Wiz Khalifa-assisted remix “High Right Now” as the music video played on screens behind him. As Tyla Yaweh exits the stage, he enters the crowd one final time to give out high fives to those closest to the stage, demonstrating that he is both genuine and personable, on-stage and off.

Feature photo by Louis Pavlakos

Music Quickspins

Green Day – Revolution Radio

Green Day – Revolution Radio (Reprise Records, 2016)

Green Day’s twelfth highly-anticipated studio album, Revolution Radio, sounds a lot like a sequel to 21st Century Breakdown (2009). It’s as though the experimental touch we heard in the band’s ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy (2012) has been abandoned in favour of a return to Green Day’s typical, personalized pop-punk genre. You’ll hear the kind of songs that made both 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot (2004) the successful albums they became: political themes that call for change or songs about personal experiences, matched with quick-paced beats and carefully executed guitar riffs. However, it isn’t a rock opera—just a bunch of songs that sound good together. As a fan, it’s nice to hear the band go back to that simplicity—maybe it doesn’t have the raw, dirty sound of Dookie (1994) or Insomniac (1995) that so many miss and crave, but Revolution Radio managed to remind the audience of the band’s roots, without sounding worn out. The record still brings novelty to Green Day’s repertoire, something fans have been waiting for since 2012.

Trial track: “Say Goodbye”



Quickspins: Muse, Green Day, The Mountain Goats, Bat for Lashes

Muse – The 2nd Law (2012; Warner Bros.) 

After launching their less-than-stellar album The Resistance in 2009, which sounded more like an electro-pop symphony mid-life crisis, I was beginning to fear Muse had lost their spark. That is, until the Grammy Award-winning British trio broke musical ground with the release of their sixth and most diverse studio album yet: The 2nd Law.

Muse frontman Matt Bellamy shows his sensitive side in “Follow Me” — his ode to fatherhood — which begins with the sonogram heartbeat of his unborn child, while bassist Chris Wolstenholme gives the most sincere performance as first-time lead vocalist in “Save Me” about his battle with alcoholism.

The 2nd Law incorporates a fresh blend of symphonic rock, synthetic pop, a twinge of Dubstep and a bigger emphasis on ’80s groove.

Although songs like “Madness” and “Explorers” are minimalistic in sound, Muse fans will be pleased to know that their beloved classic razor-sharp guitar riffs and grandiose vocals have resurfaced.


Trial track: “Supremacy”

Rating: 8/10

-Jenna Monney-Lupert


The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth (2012; Merge Records)

“Stay here ‘til I feel whole again / I don’t know when” of “White Cedarproperly summarizes the incredibly dark moods reflected in The Mountain Goats’ sixteenth full-length album Transcendental Youth. The album references and places heavy emphasis on pain, as if he feels he deserves what’s coming to him.

Taking ownership of one’s own demise shows a maturity that we’ve come to expect from the band’s songwriter, John Darnielle. At the same time, you wouldn’t expect this album so late in the discography, which makes you ponder the album title Transcendental Youth. Darnielle takes us on a musical journey to another period of his life. The result is an incredibly strong show of the spiritual and emotional struggles we all deal with as we grow older.


Trial track: “Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1”

Rating: 8/10

-Jamie Klinger



Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man (2012; Parlophone)

Last month, Natasha Khan talked to music blog Stereogum about her new album. “I felt with this one it was a constant process of adding on and stripping away,” she said. “Really only leaving the essence of the best little bits of the things I was experiencing and the people I was hanging out and playing with.” Compared to the electro beats of Fur and Gold and the deep sounds of Two Suns, her new album is relatively stripped – but when you hear the ethereal vocals and resonating lyrics, there’s no denying it’s Bat for Lashes.

Haunted Man bears her trademark sounds – soft drums and violins (“All Your Gold”), songs named after people (the piano-driven “Laura” and stripped-down “Marilyn”) – but the restlessness and inklings of desperation that permeated her last albums are replaced by controlled, calm vocals and soft sounds that lend themselves to a sense of vulnerability she has seldom showed before. Whether you choose to listen to this one lying on your bedroom floor, or you want to add a new dimension to your metro ride, this is one haunting you won’t fear.


Trial track: “Marilyn”

Rating: 9/10

-Sofia Gay



Green Day – ¡Uno! (2012; Reprise Records)

Green Day’s ¡Uno! is the first in the band’s upcoming trilogy of albums to be released between September 2012 and January 2013. Those dreading another of Green Day’s political, punk-rock operas can breathe a sigh of relief. Lead vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong and company offer an array of 12 songs packed with upbeat pop-punk tunes fit for arena concerts and mosh pits.

A far cry from the old days of Dookie, this album mixes the old, fun, devil-may-care Green Day attitude from Nimrod and Warning with the vocals and guitar riffs of American Idiot. In songs like “Spend the Night” and “Fell For You”, Armstrong’s lyrics are drenched with nostalgia for youth and young love. In “Let Yourself Go” and “Loss of Control” he takes a stab at critics and haters. Say what you want about the “new” Green Day, but it’s admirable how such a seminal punk band continues to reach out to their fans.


Trial track: “Carpe Diem”

Rating: 8.5/10

-Andria Caputo



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