2013 is still my contender for best (recent) year of music releases, so 2014 had a lot to live up to. By that logic there should be a shortage of exceptionally great music, but many new bands filled that void. The theme of 2014 is quality over quantity, as some of these releases (top 3 in particular) would’ve made making last year’s list a whole lot more challenging. On the whole I’d still rate 2013 » 2014 but here’s my favorites of the last 12 months, in some sort of particular order:
1. Bloom & Breathe - Gates
The only LP I’ve ever pre-ordered (up until yesterday for You Blew It’s new EP coming out next January) and I couldn’t be happier. Simply blew me away the first listen and continues to do so now. So proud of these Jersey boys for finally releasing a breathtaking full length that is most certainly AOTY material.
2. Descensus - Circa Survive
Not only did I not expect a new Circa record this year, it almost didn’t happen. After Violent Waves and a tumultuous year, (read the link, it changed my perspective on the band, in a good way) they come back on Sumerian with one of the hardest hitting and most melodic Circa LPs ever. Do listen to.
3. Keep Doing What You’re Doing - You Blew It!
I couldn’t have been more excited for YBI’s sophomore album, the first release of 2014, and it still exceeded my expectations. Tanner and co can certainly write melodies and harmonies like no other. Pair that with the best song title ever (“Award of the Year Award”) and you’ve got a winner that I’m still infatuated with almost 11 months later.
4. I Lost Myself Again - Forever Losing Sleep
Definitely the sleeper artist/album of this list, for I would’ve never heard of them if I didn’t purchase a used Telecaster from this kid in Jersey. He happened to like the band so I saw their posts and viola. Emo 2014 love at first tease of “Trophied”. Simply amazing, just wish it were longer than 8 songs.
5. The Dream Walker - Angels & Airwaves
Tom DeLonge is back ladies and gentlemen, and better than ever, accompanied with multi-instrumentalist Ilan Rubin. I love the stylistic nature of the duo, it blends so beautifully and cohesively. After 2 okay-ish Love records, I’m glad to say that Angels & Airwaves are back to form; this feels like the true successor of I-Empire and that is a wonderful thing.
6. Alaskan Summer - Haverford
A band I wish I discovered much earlier, but boy am I glad I found them after their debut album last year. Technically only an EP, but these 6 songs really capture emo at its finest: honest lyrics with near perfect guitar and rhythm sections. Shout out to these Long Island (or should I say Strong Island) boys.
7. Loom - Frameworks
More Florida love here, but in a completely different genre. Side-note: last year’s #7 was also a hardcore-ish release.. Coincidence much?? Anyways, Frameworks does awesome things, yes much awesome. Live not so much. But studio-ily flawless. Bonus points for the die-cut vinyl album cover, and for being from Florida.
8. You’re Gonna Miss It All - Modern Baseball
I still prefer Sports but you can’t help but be amazed by the talent these college kids have. The musicianship and lyrics are clearly on-point, and the music is expertly crafted. Probably one of the hardest working bands out there, they deserve everything that has happened to them this year.
9. Joie De Vivre / Prawn split
Prawn has slowly crept up to becoming one of my favorite bands (although Kingfisher could’ve been better), so I was very excited for any new material and they for sure delivered. But Joie De Vivre though, holy shit! “Tenstopet” is amazing, love me some trumpet jams. Best split of the year.
10. Never Hungover Again - Joyce Manor
Pre-2014 I honestly hated this band; the voice, the music, the everything. Come summer and I noticed their new LP (a full 18 mins of music) and I kind of blocked it out until I heard “Falling In Love Again”. Damn. I still may dislike their older material, but the majority of this album is gold. Never judge a book by it’s terribly sung cover.
Recall my glorious top ten from 2013, one of the hardest lists to compile ever simply because there were so many amazing albums. 1-3 could easily be swapped around:
1. Whenever, If Ever - TWIABP
2. Everything Between Paint and a Wall - Grandview
3. The Things We Think We’re Missing - Balance and Composure
4. S/t - Moving Mountains
5. Summer Death - Marietta
6. What You Don’t See - The Story So Far
7. The Difference Between Hell and Home - Counterparts
8. The Earth Pushed Back - Have Mercy
9. Pretty Good - Dads
10. Magnolia - Turnover
Rain in July was the forecast for this special 7/11 in pretty much all of Massachusetts, and boy did it rain.. On the drive there. Call it luck or blessing, but the clouds calmed perfectly at 12 noon, coinciding with the beginning of Warped Tour 2013. As I do often with concerts and shows ("Skate and Rain and Surf" for one), I've affectionately named this Warped to be "Throwback of the Year".
It's a warm feeling seeing my favorite bands of my eighth grade self all play together along with my new obsessions in music; it's almost a completion of my childhood of sorts. And to top it all off, I got to spend an entire day with my best friends watching our favorite bands. It doesn't get much better than that!
With most concerts or festivals of this magnitude, it's important to pace yourself as to not lose momentum going into your favorite band at the end of the day. We arrived there slightly after the rain stopped to a slew of incoming texts with set times info and were relieved (mostly) that no major conflicts occurred throughout the day*. First up was Volumes, to which djent served a fitting start to Warped, getting the blood pumping and energy molecules moving. They got a late start but delivered fully with their best, "Intake" and "Wormholes", in quite hilarious attire dressed as one would expect a hip-hop group to be. Also award for best shirt of the tour goes to Michael for his tie-dye tee with a simple "Weed" in white text in the middle, nice job guys.
The awkward hour persisted (the time where you don't commit to actually going into the crowd) until Silverstein payed homage to their first Warped Tour, 10 years ago. Way back in 2003, these Canadians were busy playing tracks off their debut album, one of which Shane dedicated to Mass (being where they played it first), "Smashed Into Pieces". What a rush it was to see that song from one of the pioneers of post-hardcore and the reason why I got into music so much; it kicked off Warped for my friends and I in a big way and this was only the beginning. On the heels of throwback came a newcomer (well sorta) from NJ, to which Man Overboard serenaded an amphitheater full of teen fangirls and pop-punk kids everywhere. After seeing them 4 times now, they have lost some of their charm, but "Love Your Friends, Die Laughing" will always be a favorite of mine, and the rest of the set did not disappoint.
What came next was a dream of mine I've held for years. Flashback to 2006, middle school me listening to my iPod nano in study hall. What band you ask? Chiodos. It broke my heart when Craig and the crew had tensions and kicked him out, only to bring on a mediocre replacement to one of the best male vocalists ever. Flashforward to yesterday, July 11, 2013, who am I waiting to see fervently in the front row of main stage at Warped Tour? Chiodos, only this time Craig's back, and he's better than ever. You could immediately tell that the band was in sync and were playing the long-awaited return card to their advantage; Craig posed at the foot of the stage on one knee for about 3 minutes while nearly everyone in attendance took photos. And then it began. Chiodos played every classic song you would hope for "Penguins", "Best Friend", etc., including a brand new one (and a teaser of a new record to be released early 2014) and a collaboration that existed right before Craig left, "Thermacare", the original version. Best set of the day.
Immediately once the dust settled from the stellar performance of Chiodos, August Burns Red came rushing out with guitars at full distortion and drum fills galore on the other main stage. I sprinted over to get a good spot, still dumbfounded by what I just witnessed, and was blown away (again) by "Back Burner". Side story time (2011 Warped, also on main stage) my friend and I had been waiting for them to play it the entire set but before we could let them, we went over to see WCAR.. dumb decision I know.. Snap back to reality (oh there goes gravity), and here I am in the middle of the pit for my favorite song of theirs. Geeze, did that feel amazing. The members are really all virtuoso's of their craft, each so technically proficient and so tightly wound together, I had to step back a second and fully appreciate the sheer talent I was witnessing. Fresh off the heels of their 5th album, they sampled two tracks off of that and then sent the crowd into atmosphere with the gang vocals of "Empire", everyone was singing. Another best set of the day.. it's getting reallllly hard to make a top 5.
After sets like those two, back to back even, I needed a break, so I stood in the back waiting. Next up was another throwback who I forgot was even playing Warped this year, The Used. From such humble, homeless beginnings bred one of the most famous bands in this scene, so I figured I'd stick around to see and frankly, they were awesome. Bert, despite not being able to scream after injuring his vocal chords, hasn't missed a step. The band was spot on and played crowd favorites like "The Taste of Ink" and "Take It Away", resulting in a very solid set. Realizing the Acoustic Basement hasn't had my fair share of the day, I meandered over to The American Scene, where Matthew Vincent was playing solo his bands' songs. A very touching set, one I wished I stayed longer for, but the main reason I attended Warped this year was for The Wonder Years. After having 3 tickets in my hands to see these rising giants play, things have gone awry one way or the other, but today, I wasn't letting anything stop me.
It was time, the banner was up and I could feel the tension in the air as TWY was getting ready to come out and put on a show. I couldn't think or focus on anything else besides Soupy and the 5 instrument wielders (I know they have names too) and the crowd that was going nuts for these Philly locals. Starting off the set with one of their best, "Passing Through a Screen Door" got everyone moving and well antiquated very quickly. For a band who has been playing the entire tour, they were exactly spot on and did not seem fatigued at all. It is amazing to see their meteoric rise from their brief hardcore-ish stint to becoming the band in pop-punk right now, and Soupy commented on it, saying that they never expected this, they were only doing what they loved and touted to the crowd to pursue your dreams, no matter who is standing in your way, like the bastards they are.. leading into "The Bastards, the Vultures, the Wolves". It really spoke to me at how truly humble they are, even after fame came to them so suddenly. After shout outs to the local New England bands, TWY ended the set perfectly with "Came Out Swinging", to which mosh pits formed around and kids were swinging every which way. It was surreal, honestly the only way I can describe it. Seriously, I can't pick a top 5.. too hard.
Among those NE bands Soupy mentioned, he welcomed Defeater, a newcomer to the Warped tour on their first day of a 3 week routing before setting off on a tour of Letters Home, their brand new album that was unofficially released yesterday (coming out everywhere July 16). The last time (and only other time) I've seen Defeater was at UNH in a gym sized room where they blew our brains out with sheer brilliance. Now on the set of Warped tour to a massive crowd at the Monster Energy stage, it's clear that Defeater is becoming big in the hardcore scene. Derek is one of those special vocalists who exude the emotions and feelings of the song to his movements, backed by a post-hardcore oriented rhythm section that shines through with instrumentation. It's always a treat to hear "The Red, White, and Blues" by them, as it is clearly their best song, along with a mix of old and new material. The new single was previewed as well, called "Bastards", a theme that is common throughout the songwriting. The performance as a whole was not exactly perfect, but I will cut them some slack as it was their first day on the tour and they were not used to playing in a venue the scope of Warped.
Energy was scarce and food wasn't really a priority at this point, but at least water was plentiful thanks to the hydration stations (a true god send to add to the tour). There was finally a big enough gap between sets to relax and look for MERCH, which I found and bought a TWY banner featuring artwork from their new album.
Why Citizen got at 8:20pm set time I will never understand. Maybe it's because Kevin Says didn't have a proper closing band to end with. Or maybe cause Youth is one of the best releases this year and Citizen deserves more exposure, along with their frontman, Mat Kerekes, who is one of the nicest kids I've ever had the pleasure of meeting (I say kid because he is 18). Since hearing their split with Turnover on tumblr last year, I've been hooked on these guys from Michigan. They have a certain style that is so accessible but can also branch off into different ways so easily; the future is bright for Citizen. Kicking things off with "Drown" off of the aforementioned split, the intensity was clearly still in the air after 8 hours of straight music and this carried on throughout the set. Throwing in an ancient track for Citizen's tenure, "Fremont" was a sight to see performed. Despite it being the late, the crowd was relatively big for a band that just put out their debut on Run for Cover a month prior, to which they featured 3 tracks off of, including the best song all day (which happened to be the last one), "The Summer". It's one of those memories I will always hold, screaming my lungs off to the chorus while Mat motioned the mic in my general direction. Another amazing set... geeze I honestly can't pick.
It truly was the best day ever. Every little detail aligned itself so cohesively and perfectly: from the rain holding off, to meeting Mat Kerekes (and having him sign my Citizen//Turnover split), to the schedule of bands. *MINUS the troubling 8pm time slots conflicting between The Story So Far and Citizen.. and I chose Citizen simply because I wanted to see them play new songs off of Youth and I've seen TSSF like 3 times already. Lastly, phones tend to die about halfway through the fun or right before leaving, but today my phone stayed alive exactly as long as I needed it to, and I delivered the best birthday present ever to a dear friend in the process.
As I write this during my lunch break at work (and now well into the afternoon, friday's are slow thankfully), I'm still sleepy eyed and quite exhausted, and I can't really feel my calves, but it was worth it. Quite possibly the best concert I've ever been to, just from the amount of amazing bands that played. No, really nothing could ever top seeing Brand New play in my hometown along with The Story So Far doing an acoustic set on the beach, but this came very very very close.
Top 5, okay so this is what I decided upon. All of the top 3 deserve to be the best of the day seriously. So fucking good
The Wonder Years
August Burns Red
Edge of the Earth
Your Sword Versus My Dagger
Smashed Into Pieces
Smile In Your Sleep
Man Overboard's setlist:
Boy Without Batteries
Love Your Friends, Die Laughing
The Undertaker's Thirst for Revenge
There's No Penguins In Alaska
Two Birds Stoned at Once
The Words "Best Friend" Become Redefined
Baby, You Wouldn't Last a Minute on the Creek
August Burns Red's setlist:
The Used's setlist:
A Box Full of Sharp Objects
Take It Away
The Taste of Ink
Pretty Handsome Awkward
The American Scene's setlist: (Matthew Vincent acoustic)
When You're Undone
The Wonder Years' setlist:
Passing Through a Screen Door
Local Man Ruins Everything
Woke Up Older
Washington Square Park
Don't Let Me Cave In
The Bastards, the Vultures, the Wolves
Came Out Swinging
The Red, White, and Blues
Roam the Room
I Still Shut My Eyes
I'm Sick of Waiting
Figure You Out
The Story So Far's setlist: (which my friends saw)
Things I Can't Change
The Wonder Years banner
Citizen//Turnover split signed by Mat Kerekes
Okay so finding a cool title for this show review was easier than I thought, and fricken clever if I do say so myself (a You Blew It song with Modern Baseball hidden in there hehe). But enough of the jokes, time to do a quick blog entry/show review of last night [July 1] in Cambridge, MA at The Middle East Upstairs which featured Mixtapes, You Blew It, Light Years, Modern Baseball, and a local opener called Agree to Disagree.
First of all, let's talk about the venue; it has a small basement show feel to it while housing 194 occupants, a mini bar area, and merch tables. For those who don't know of/have never been to The Middle East, I will be the one to inform you that they have a strict no stage diving/crowd surfing policy despite the fact the stage is 2 feet tall and has no barrier. As a result of this, any punk/hardcore shows that have potential to be intense rompits of fun become lame push pits with amounts of head bobbing (I would say head banging but it doesn't quite reach that level). Luckily for this particular show, it was just shy of being punk with a nice 90s emo flair which always produces a special, intimate crowd and this evening was no different.
I'm going to say this now, if you live in the greater Boston metropolitan area and did not go to this show, you severely missed out. In fact, you blew it by not going (see what I did there?!). For $10, about $13 with surcharges, it was more than worth it to see Modern Baseball alone. Throw in 4 other awesome bands as well? Geeze, talk about a steal. Speaking of the Philly locals, those dang college kids (one of whom recently graduated) put on an amazing set of 9 songs in a mere 30 minutes. And my gosh was it the best set of the night, they deserved to headline with those performances. The throwback of "My Best Friend" in the middle of it all made the crowd go nuts and I was especially excited when things slowed down for "I Think You Were In My Profile Picture Once" as Cambridge sang along. You could immediately tell that the band (Jake first and foremost) were super stoked to be playing Boston for the first time, they were so into it and enjoying themselves, to which the crowd responded positively. Upon the ending of "Re-done", a pool of sweat engulfed the venue and it was apparent that Modern Baseball absolutely stole the show, an impressive feat considering they were the first band to play.
After seeing a pop-punk 46yr old lead Light Years (he's only 30 don't worry), I was more than impressed by their performance. At first it seemed pretty cookie cutter but there were a few hooks that helped them stand out, especially on the heels of a debut LP. Don't forget the pick up the super rare limited tour press, you can get like $45 for it in ten years!! But the only thing on my mind was seeing You Blew It so I could get my 90s emo fix, and they did not disappoint. In a similar fashion and length of MB's set, the crowd really got into it for these Floridian "twinkle-daddies" from a simple notice of their first song being about Christmas, and "Medal of Honor" began with the entire crowd yelling I'm not a fucking trophy/but to you I might as well've been. The stage presence and intensity of the members was glaring, they were having just as an amazing time as we were and this kept well throughout the set. YBI had a special surprise near the end as well, throwing in a track from their recent 7" split with Fake Problems (which I picked up at the show) as well as a brand new song they just finished recording in Chicago for their next full length. Things slowed down a bit with Tanner doing his thang on "The Fifties", with the crowd swaying and singing along. At this point, you could feel things starting to get rowdy, as with the end of a You Blew It performance comes their swan-song, and it was given perfectly, with a burst of stage dives and a guest appearance at its culmination. If there were any complaints to be had, it was purely because they didn't play "Good for Bond, Bad for You", a song I was hoping for.
My favorite thing about this show was that every single band was hilarious, they were all full of jokes. Brendan's little comments against YBI served as a great prelude to the ending of "Terry v. Tori", which he provided guest vocals and spent some time amongst the crowd (and I got a video of it). You Blew It accidentally mentioned Chicago to a venue full of Bostonians still pissed off at the result of the Stanley Cup Finals which was hilarious to me (sorry for your loss). And Light Years kept a running gag about being 16yrs older than they really were, only to be noticed by the crowd listening intently to the lyrics. Mixtapes delivered a solid set (cut short by some string cutting and lack of a backup guitar in standard tuning) that was mostly by request of the fans, something you don't normally see in today's scene. It's a true homage to punk and how everyone is involved, not just the bands, but all of the supporting kids who go out to shows and buy merch. All around awesome show, it was great to see friends and see two amazing bands for the first time.
Modern Baseball's set:
Tears Over Beers
Hours Alone In the Snow
My Best Friend
See Ya, Sucker
I Think You Were In My Profile Picture Once
You Blew It's set:
Medal of Honor
Grow Up Dude/Pinball House
The One With David
The One With Marc
Terry v. Tori
Fake Problems//You Blew It Split 7" - Coke Bottle Green (out of 300)
Modern Baseball "Mom, I Swear This Is Soda" Beer Coozie
Sports 12" - Translucent Blue (out of 300)