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Tell me, who's pulling the strings?
EOTY 09: Top 10 Albums
01/01/10 at 02:38 PM by donwagenblast
And so a decade ends. In a decade that saw the music industry begin its decline with the start of file sharing programs, fans flocked to their computers for leaks of their favorite artists' new albums. We saw autotune rip throught the scene, claiming the ears of teenagers everywhere. Luckily, however, there are still bands out there hellbent on making good, honest, music, and 2009 saw some of the best examples of that. With that said, here we go: my end of the year awards ceremony, starting with the Top 10 Albums I've heard this year.

10. Cartel- Cycles
After the debacle in the bubble, Cartel were a stale product in the world of pop-punk. However, when Cycles was released, fans everywehre were reminded what made them fall in love with the band in the first place. Will Pugh's voice shines once again throughout while each and every band member shines on his own instrument. This was easily one of the most surprising albums released all year, as no one saw a quality record such as this. While words like "honest" and "heartfelt" can be used to describe its contents, I'd like to throw in two of my own: career saving.

9. The Sleeping- What It Takes
After the smash single "Don't Hold Back" was featured on Guitar Hero, the sky was the limit for The Sleeping. Taking some time off from their busy touring schedule to record, fans were blessed with the gift that was What It Takes. Seemingly the soundtrack to anyone's night of drunken stupor in a seedy bar, Doug Robinson puts forth a strong vocal effort to back the band's evident growth as both individual musicians and a cohesive band. While there is no monster song like "Don't Hold Back," What It Takes is still a very strong effort from The Sleeping that will stay stuck in your head in the besy way possible.

8. Dance Gavin Dance- Happiness
I'll be the first to admit that I hated Dance Gavin Dance's untitled album. To me, the absence of Johnny Craig would be the downfall of this band. That was until Happiness came out. This was a release that I had interest in just because of my love for Downtown Battle Mountain, and while I still like Mountain better, this is easily one of my most played albums of 09. With songs like "Happiness" and "Powder to the People," DGD prove they have more depth than your run-of-the-mill Rise Records band, while songs like "Don't Tell Dave" and "Tree Village" are simply good, fun sons to listen to. Mark it down, Dance Gavin Dance will be doing big things soon.

7. New Found Glory- Not Without a Fight
Attention all pop-punk bands who think they can use cheap gimmicks like breakdowns or autotune to get big: sit down, shut up, and take notes while NFG show you how its done. After going the mature route with Coming Home, the boys are back to their classic was with Not Without a Fight, carrying the torch for pop-punk bands everywhere. "Listen to Your Friends" is easily one of the best singles they've ever released, and the album is littered with songs fans can't wait to hear live. With Not Without a Fight, NFG reclaim their throne atop the scene, and prove that age doesn't have to define a band.

6. Every Time I Die- New Junk Aesthetic
Just when all these wussy bands with their synchronized stage moves, synthesizers, and v-neck t-shirts thought the game was theirs for the taking, Keith Buckley and his band of bearded bandmates are here in the nick of time to clean up the scene with, in my opinion, their best record to date. With more one-liners that you can fit in your Facebook status, ETID have established themselves as metalcore royalty, and show no signs of slowing down, especially with songs like "Organ Grinder," "Roman Holiday," and "The Sweet Life." When the band calls it quits and we're left with the legacy of one of the most forward-thinking hardcore bands of our time, I'll look back on New Junk Aesthetic as the album that showed me just how good of a band Every Time I Die are.

5. Manchester Orchestra- Mean Everything to Nothing
With all the hype that surrounded this album, Andy Hull and Co. certainly delivered. A passionate, heartfelt journey that never lets up, Mean Everything to Nothing has it all: the mosnster single ("I've Got Friends"), the chaotic, fast-paced anthem ("Shake it Out"), the marathon album closer ("The River), and most importantly, the heartfelt tear-jerker ("I Can Feel a Hot One"). Easily one of the best reviewed albums ofthe year, any words of praise for this album is either dead-on or vastly understated. After such a masterpeice, it's hard to see how ManOrch can back it up, but if I had to pick anyone to write a follow-up, it'd be damn hard to find a better man for the job than Mr. Hull.

4. Brand New- Daisy
Oh, speaking of anticipated releases, did you hear Brand New put out an album in 2009? All joking aside, let's be honest. After the dark, brooding The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me, fans had no idea what Brand New was going to sound like on their next album, and neither did the band. And so we all waited, holding our breath. It seems Jesse Lacey was holding his breath too, as he ferociously opens the album with the chaotic "Vices." The album is probably the only one that sounds vaguely similar to is predecessor in Brand New's catalog, Daisy is still as forward-thinking and unexpected as Brand New fans have come to expect, and that's just fine with us.

3. A Day to Remember- Homesick
Yeah, you read that right. Sometimes, you just can't help but like a record that you know isn't the greatest in the world. But hey, that's what makes being a music fan so great: only your opinion counts. Yes, I know A Day to Remember are way too breakdown-oriented. Yes, I know their songs can be same-sounding and boring. But with songs like "NJ Legion Iced Tea," "Have Faith In Me," and "My Life for Hire," there really is something for every music fan on this record. Sure, the spoken breakdown in "The Downfall of Us All" is ridiculous and the la-la's in "If It Means Alot to You" are redundant, and "You Already Know What You Are" is essentially pointless. but the kick-ass chorus of "I'm Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?" makes up for all of that, and then some. Sure, it's not a quality listen for music critics and fans alike, but it's a great listen for me, and that's what it all really comes down to.

2. The Dangerous Summer- Reach for the Sun
Wow. That's all I really had to say after listening to this album for the first time. The passionate lyrics poured out by AJ Perdomo can not be matched this year, and with the other bands on this list, that's certainly saying something. Songs like "Weathered," "Surfaced," and "Where I Want to Be" are easily three of the best songs I've heard all year, and the fact that they all came from the same band's debut full-length is astounding. If you're looking for a new favorite band now that The Early November and The Starting Line have parted ways, here's a prime candidate for that position for years to come, because with Reach for the Sun, The Dangerous Summer prove they are here to stay.

1. Oceana- BirthEater
Bet you didn't see that coming. Well, in a way, I did. from the first time I heard "The Family Disease," I knew BirthEater was going to be special. WhatI didn't know was how successful it would be. Easily the most played album of the year for me, but the album's message helped really drive it home for me. The entire album focuses around the different ways abortion is looked at, and it was a very unique and unexpected Rise Records release. After admittedly overplaying the album after its release in February, I was pumped and ready to see the band perform the new stuff live. Or not. The band announced its breakup shortly after the release of BirthEater (more like BANDEater, am I right?). Fortunately for all of us, the band heards its fans pleas and reunited later in the year. I know its not the most popular pick, but it was certainly a great release which I loved, and when a record is so good it causes the band to get back together to continue touring behind it, you have to have my vote for album of the year.

Well, there you have it. A decade of great releases ends with a year that shattered all expectations. This year's albums prove that good music is not dead so long as there are people ready and willing to make it. Coming soon, you'll see my other awards for 2009. Happy New Year and happy listening to all!
Tags: End of the Year, EOTY, 2009, Best of 2009
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My next review
09/25/09 at 07:40 PM by donwagenblast
will be for The Color Morale's debut, We All Have Demons.
Tags: The Color Morale
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Top Albums of 09, So Far
09/10/09 at 12:20 PM by donwagenblast
Not sure on the order yet, but I'm pretty sure these will be in there:
New Found Glory- Not Without a Fight
Oceana- BirthEater
All Time Low- Nothing Personal
Brand New- Daisy
Dance Gavin Dance- Happiness (Grower of the Year)

Others in consideration:
A Day to Remember- Homesick (Guilty Pleasure of the Year)
The Devil Wears Prada- With Roots Above and Branches Below (Artwork of the Year)
The Sleeping- What It Takes
I See Stars- 3D
Memphis May Fire- Sleepwalking (Debut of the Year Nominee)
Thrice- Beggars (probably going to make the list, I just haven't given it a good listen yet.)

Still Waiting On:
Isles & Glaciers
Circa Survive
Mayday Parade

Biggest Disappointments:
Saosin- In Search of Solid Ground (Good, but not as good of the year)
Killswitch Engage- Killswitch Engage
A Skylit Drive- Adelphia (should have seen that coming)
Tags: Best of 09
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Recommendation- 8/16/09
08/16/09 at 07:11 AM by donwagenblast
As the summer draws to its inevitable and dreadful close, little time is left to sit around doing nothing. While this is a huge problem for students, those who work regularly through the summer know that it really isn't that big of a deal. However, students and employees alike can all appreciate the calming effect the summer has on a person; the peace of mind one can get by simply sitting on the beach, watching the waves roll in. While it may seem boring, I guarantee you'll never be more content in your life.

That's what this recommendation is about. Reflecting on the great times you've had, which allows you to enjoy the moment at hand more. By reliving memories we've kept along our lives travels, we can push ourselves further to expand on our good memories. Whether it's a routine trip to an ice cream parlor, spinning an old CD that hits you hard emotionally, calling an old friend you haven't heard from in a while, or calling an old flame for a progress report, we need to keep our childhood in constant rotation in our memory banks. Before innocence was stripped from our lives, the smallest things made us the happiest. A surprise party, a new toy, or meeting an interestingbug in the backyard produced more happiness than a college acceptance letter, a good first date, or a good report card ever could.

So, for the last few weeks of summer, I recommend you get in touch with the kid in you.

If you need a little inspiration, you could:
Play Pokemon, Read any (preferably all) of Shel Silverstein's poetry, examine a strip of Calvin and Hobbes, buy something from the local ice cream man.
Tags: recommendations
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Beer or Sports?
08/12/09 at 12:00 AM by donwagenblast
In light of the vh1 show The Great Debate, I've decided to post things I'd love to see debated here on AP.net. All of these topics are ones that I feel deserved to be on the show, and I'd like to give them at least some of the attention they deserve on the site. Here comes the first:

Which has been a better gift for men: beer or sports?
And now, the arguments for both sides:

Beer- While some may argue that it can cause more harm than good, there is no denying the power beer can have over men. It can turn them into hilarious klutzes, horndogs with the insatiable lust for unprotected sex, a ticking time bomb for vomit, or the most relaxed person in the world. Whichever one you get, a good time likely ensues. This causes men to gather together for festivities that would otherwise be considered incredibly mundane and boring into crazy excursions into the land of intoxication. Beer has been responsible for quite a few comedies in the movie business, and musicians rely on it heavily to get over a hard day's touring (groupies, free food, screaming fans, I'm sure it's a rough life). Since its creation, beer has become the backbone of the working man, providing him a moment of relaxation before the next day's labors are faced. Beer has become the staple of television, with countless ads (some with nothing to do with the actual product) flood the TV screens day after day. Put simply, beer has a stranglehold on American culture: men love it, women tolerate it, underaged teens want to risk criminal charges to try it. As poetic as that sounds, what's even scarier is that it's more or less the truth.

Sports- Since the first cavemen began clubbing eachother to see who could endure the most pain, competition has been in the bloodwork of all men. Whether its competing physically in sports or mentally in fantasy sports, men have flocked to stadiums across the world to root for their teams, shedding tears of both joy and pain throughout the ups and downs of the team. This sounds an awful lot like a cult, but it is entirely normal worldwide. No matter what sport it is, there will always be a party to watch a game, an illegal bet or two around the office, or an up-and-coming superstar finding the inspiration to put their name in conversation with the all-time greats. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and sports developed an entirely new way for their fans to imitate their heroes: video games. With Madden and FIFA and everything else out there, sports figures are now available for download at any time the fan wishes, allowing for a more enjoyable career, and life.

The verdict: I have to go with sports, because beer really has no chance. Here's why: what's one of the main reasons to have a few drinks with your buddies? Answer: sports. Whether it's a pregame tailgate in the freezing cold at a football game or putting on your team-colored Snuggie to show off to your friends, sports will forever dominate this debate. More idol worship, more knowledge of the people involved, more television coverage (yes, beer gets the commercials, but sports are the actual show you're watching), and more movies (list every sports movie ever made, I dare you) equals more relevancy in the minds of the male.

While both sides have very legitimate arguments and both seem to make men return to their primitive state, beer and sports will forever be linked, but in reality, it's all about the love of the game.

Did I miss anything? Did I get it completely wrong? Let the debate begin.
Tags: sports, drinking, beer, debate
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In Case You Were Wondering...
08/07/09 at 10:26 PM by donwagenblast
Yes, Brand New does play Seventy Times Seven, but only if you ask for it.

Gotta love Jesse's reaction. I'm guessing this was when Daisy was being recorded, but I'm not sure.
Tags: Brand New, Jesse Lacey
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Reviews in Retrospect.
08/04/09 at 09:26 AM by donwagenblast
I recently submitted a review for Happiness, the new album by Dance Gavin Dance. This will be my sixth review on this site, and I think it is my most thought-out of them all. In honor of the review, I decided to rate the other five that I have written. Here we go:

5. The Devil Wears Prada-With Roots Above and Branches Below: Easily the worst one I've written. What was intended to be the analysis of TDWP's reliance on their religion in their music turned into a rant on their lyrics, with little else to back it up. The review was rushed, and not thought out the way it needed to be.

4. New Kids on the Block- The Block: I wouldn't say this was poorly written, but I was fighting for a losing cause in reviewing a pop album, and one that was by a boy band, no less. It could have been better, but luckily, I don't think anyone read it anyway.

3. Trees Above Mandalay- Palace: The first EP I reviewed, this was also the shortest one I've written. I was shocked to see a band I knew from my local area on the albums to be reviewed llist, and felt the need to find out more about them. I'm very glad I did that, and I hope the band is happy about the result.

2. Funeral for a Friend- Hours: My first review. Though I've come a long way since that quick review, I also am very proud that I decided to review it.

1. Oceana- Birtheather: Its amazing how much of an improvement I made with this review. Following my review for With Roots Above..., I thought that if this review was as poorly recieved, I'd be done for a long time. Thankfully, I found an album that I truly felt was one of the top albums of 2009, one that made writing about a simple task. The review was well-received, and I was very proud of myself.

I am not the best reviewer on this site. No amount of praise will ever make me think that. I can only try to express how I feel about the album, and give reasons why. I will never be able to write like Drew Beringer, Chris Fallon, Joe DeAndrea, Blake Solomon, Jason Tate, or any of the other fine reviewers on this site. I hope that In time I can only improve, and hopefully this look back will help me to move forward. If you read any of my reviews, please feel free to post what you think I did well, what I need to improve on, how dumb I am, etc. I know this site is good for that.
Tags: Reviews
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07/30/09 at 12:16 PM by donwagenblast
Don't look now, but screamo just might make it out of the underground and hit the mainstream! (Silverstien fans, rejoice.)

Gotta love Nick Cannon.
Tags: Blue October, Screamo, America's Got Talent, David Hasselhoff
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A "wow" moment, for sure.
07/24/09 at 09:58 PM by donwagenblast

If this can happen, Michael Jackson will forever remain the greatest entertainer of all time. Incredible stuff.
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Going to Warped? Read this!
07/23/09 at 10:22 PM by donwagenblast
This year, Warped Tour 2009 featured many bands that people were afraid to see. Whether they made fun of other bands (Gallows, NOFX), jumped the latest trend to cash in (A Day to Remember, The Devil Wears Prada), or posed a threat to the innocence of childhood and possibly human existence (BrokenCYDE, Jeffree Star, Millionaires, Breathe Carolina), it was a minefield for fans to step onto the Warped venues. How can you survive this scene battlefield? I've concoted a few pointers on making you Warped experience an enjoyable one.


Boys: Don't get flashy and bust out your most prized pair of skinny jeans. You'll sweat your balls off, and if you take them off to use those godforasken porta-potties, you won't get them back on. Wear shorts with secure pockets so pickpockets won't steal your cash. Any t-shirt is fine.

Girls: It's gonna be hot, so jeans aren't a smart idea. Neither are white shorts, because no one (I mean it, no one) wants to be able to tell you what color underwear you have on, unless you told them earlier. If you must take your shirt off (we all wish you didn't), at least wear a bathing suit top, because you look trashy walking around in your bra.


My rule is to bring as much as you're willing to spend (not how much you think you'll spend) on merch, plus at least another $10 for drinks, because dehydration is a bitch. Eating isn't really a necessity, because it has to come out eventually, and there's no excuse for missing a band's set because you ate some bad chicken fingers and got explosive diherrea.

Picking the bands you want to see:

If you haven't checked the bands playing, shame on you. Warped only posts the set times on a big inflatable schedule, and that's the only way. But wait! Some bands have started to post their set times on their Twitter pages the morning of to help fans plan their days. Warped also offers a giant inflatable setlist (that you can't climb, so don't try) to show the setlist of every band. If you can't stand Twitter, and want to skip the crowds assembling at the giant schedule, go to the merch tables of the bands you want to see, and ask. Bands likely have a dry-erase board on display, which shows the time and stage of the bands' sets.

The thing you need most is your cell phone, because if you get separated, that's the only way to find the rest of your group. Cameras are hit or miss. If you can safely get to the front without getting your camera stolen or destroyed, you can get some great shots. But if you break your camera, you're obviously fucked. Something to definitely consider bringing is sunscreen. Because it's gonna be hot. Real hot. And sunburn itches. AS mentioned before, you're gonna need some money for drinks, and bringing a little extra for merch to support the bands is always smiled upon.

Ways to remember the day:
Obviously, merch and pictures are great. But the best part of Warped is that almost every band does a signing during the day. The key is to find out when/where that is. It may be smart to do a lap around all the merch tables before the shows start, and logging when bands are signing. Bring a Sharpie if you can find one, and something to sign. Your ticket is a great option in this case. Also, merchmerchmerch. Alternative Press, though notorious for jumping the gun onto the latest trends, provides a great keepsake every year by giving out programs featuring the bands of Warped Tour.

In addition:
Diner trips after the last set add a delicious exclamation point to the day, and so does making it out alive. Make sure you leave youself an half hour or so in your day to take in the great event Warped hs become. Though some of the bands are questionable, there's no denying Warped Tour's stranglehold as the premiere concert series of Summer, and a great way to appreciate your favorite music and artists, both new and old.
Tags: Warped Tour
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Summer lovin'.
07/10/09 at 05:59 AM by donwagenblast
So far, this summer has brought a lot of change, and yet a lot of the same. For changes, I drank my weight in soda (three times) and gained an astonishing ten pounds since June 17th, after I hadn't gained weight in nearly two years of an on/off weightlifing program for my basketball team. I've also played a lot more Mario Kart for whatever reason. One thing that's really changed is my new love for baseball. After I'd found out that A Rod tested positive, I didn't think I'd ever go back, but here I am, watching baseball tonight every day at midnight.

In the tune of similarity, my usual regiment of not waking up before 10:30 has been going strong, and I'm ready for another trip to the shore with my family and girlfriend. It should be a wild time. I've also been working a lot by design, getting ready for college in some way. I've also kept up my regular viewings of The Dark Knight, which is always a good sign.

I really do love Summer.
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Kind of funny
06/29/09 at 10:09 PM by donwagenblast
It seems that in his death, everyone kinda forgot about Michael Jackson's child molestation charge. Don't get me wrong, he is likely the greatest entertainer anyone will ever see, but I can't get around that case for some reason. I'm not trying to disrespect him at all, and I wish the best for his family, I'm just trying to voice an opinion of mine.
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Movie Revew-- Up
05/29/09 at 09:26 PM by donwagenblast
Losing a loved one is, by far, the hardest thing someone will face throughout their life. Whether it's a loved a loved one, a sibling, a best friend, a husband, a wife, a parent, the loss is hard to ever fully overcome. Coping with death is a complicated affair; some block memories of that person to avoid the pain; some take their anger out on others, becoming shadows of their former selves; some move on, with a peice of that person's life always with them.

Carl Fredrickson tied an immense amount of balloons to his house and floated to South America.

This, in principle, is the one-sentence synopsis of Disney/Pixar's first 3D film, UP. However, this film should not be condensed in any way. Though the PG rating and Disney' reputation will suggest that the movie only appeals to younger viewers, this is miles away from the truth. A sentimental, heart string-pullling tale of true love, adventure, and keeping promises to those who matter most to us can apply to the life of a 3D loving eight-year-old or a 40-year-old geezer driving the van to said eight-year-old's birthday party.

To start the film off, we are intrduced to the book's main character, Carl. As all good stories begin, Carl's story begins with a girl named Ellie. Both adventure seekers in their own right, Carl and Ellie cross their hopes and pray for wings to fly to their dream land, Paradise Falls, Venezuela. Through a series of montages, we learn of Carl and Ellie's life together, the highs (marriage) and the lows (Ellie's apparent miscarraige), and ultimately, Ellie's death. Vowing to make it to Paradise Falls, Carl uses his undying love for balloons to carry his dreams and aspirations as an adventurer (both figuratively and literally) to new heights. As he sits down to enjoy his peaceful journey toward his heaven on earth, Ellie's picture next to him, Carl encounters two storms: one, a literal storm, and two, Russell: an eight-year-old wilderness explorer with an appetite. Russel has taken a liking to Carl, which cannot be immediately explained. The tw crash land to their destination where they meet Dug, a talking Dog, and Kevin, a rare, otherwise non-existent bird, and a mother of three (Russel names him Kevin before he knows she's a she). These four embark on an adventure for the ages, in which they must band together to face their greatest fears and challenges to come out okay in the end.

Where UP succeeds is, in my opinion, everywhere. The scenery of this magical world created by Pixar is as breathtaking as it is myterious, and provides the perfect backdrop for a tale of self-exploration and action. The development of each character in the movie, even Dug and Kevin, are so detailed and well-thought-out, it's hard not to like them. We know basically everything about Carl from the first 10 minutes of the film, but as his life goes on, the viewer is taken away by his journey through not only South America, but his ability to let go of the sadness of his wife's death. Carl is depicted as a tragic hero, indeed, but by film's end, he finds triumph through this tragedy in an unexpected way. The most impressive characterization, however, is through Russell. Disney's well-respected team does an incredible job of showing Russell's innocence of his young age, as Russell provides an inspiration for Carl and the movie's (likely) numerous viewers of the way we all felt at that age.

I'd like to think I have a grip on reality. I know houses can't fly, dogs can't talk, and many of the bizarre situations in UP are far from realistic. But with such a deep, thought-provoking plot and rich, believeable characters. The storyline is far-fetched, but the conflicts are real, and the story is heartwarming. UP is, for lack of a better phrase, a cinematic masterpiece. It will make you laugh, make you cry, take your breath away, and bring your emotions all over the place. But most importantly, UP will restore the kid in everyone, giving everyone a reason to hold their heads, dreams, and hearts to the sky. Who knows, the real Carl Fredrickson may be UP there.

....Oh, and there's a preview for Toy Story 3 in there too.
Tags: Up, Movie, Review, Toy Story 3
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Joker Impersonation Video--Your Thoughts?
05/01/09 at 08:35 PM by donwagenblast
Tags: Joker, Comedy, Dark Knight, donwagenblast
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This site's been cruel to me.
05/01/09 at 11:03 AM by donwagenblast
tumblr account, to dodge the blog haters.

Feed me hate.
Tags: blog, donwagenblast
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