It saddens me to say that this will be the final Five and Alive from here on out - or at least until I'm paid a couple of thousand to write a reunion column in ten years. There's really no telling what the future holds. But for now, as the site is changing and we, as staff, are finding new ways in bringing up discussion about our favorite albums, the bullshit of this industry and all the greatness that lies within the grooves of a few million records we may never get the time or chance to hear - I will now lay this column to rest. I also, very much backed up on work I owe a ton of people in the interview department, do not have the time for such a column anymore. So to the users, the staff and friends in this industry that have shared their choices with me, an enormous thank you for being part of something I wanted to be special. At times it got cutthroat, but I would hope, for the most part, the column at least expanded many of our libraries in discovering a few much needed gems.
This is a top five that I wanted to do for some time now. I even went back to see if I had done it on a whim, and by my records (unless overlooked) I had not. Maybe it was buried in a front page discussion I forgot about, but for the moment, I'll say I never brought it up.
Call it elitist, but I can still track, in chronological order, the first five records since childhood that changed the way I looked at music. These albums made me go, "Oh fuck, what is this? Nothing else matters." Yes, even at the age of eight, I probably cursed a lot - maybe. So this is a bit of a challenge, but I love having this conversation with people and I figured this would be a hell of a way to end it. I even think Pitchfork has a column with artists based around this one at this point.
I can't wait to see your lists on this one.
- love and respect
1) The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour
My oldest memory of even paying attention to music outside of it just playing on the car stereo is many a Saturday spent after getting up early to watch as many cartoons as possible. Once they were over, my mom generally turned off the television and turned on the turntable while she cleaned the house and made lunch. I was introduced to everything from Michael Jackson to Led Zeppelin (which as a kid, I confused with Lynard Skynard) to The Beatles. I fell in love with Magical Mystery Tour. I would have my mom play it constantly. It wasn't just music to me, it was something else completely. Something new beyond any Van Halen guitar lick or George Michael pop hit. It has since resonated subconsciously in my love of well rounded pop rock in the vein of Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter, The Format and many others who don't bastardize the term, but instead make it something beautiful and savant.
2) Jimi Hendrix's The Ultimate Experience
Okay, my best friend says this one can't count, because it's a compilation - but I have yet to change it. I've loved dirty rock and roll from here on out. Hendrix's guitar work is still unmatched. It's like being in a hardcore band and saying you want to play like Kurt Ballou. Don't even fucking try. I think it was Hendrix's live rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock that I fell in love with the most on this one. In every good rock album, for every Jack White, for every sex filled groove from The Black Keys or Death From Above 1979 or even the dirt and grime of the contemporary Red Fang and Every Time I Die - there is a heart and a rhythm. To me, it all comes back to this man's ability to make you believe he was one with the guitar instead of having it as a separate controlled entity. There will never be another Hendrix because of it. I will never forget the impact he had on me right before my age hit the double digits.
3) Blink 182's Dude Ranch
Nirvana's Nevermind would probably wedge itself between 2 and 3 at a nice 2 1/2 position. It was an album I enjoyed, but didn't really understand the impact as a whole until years later. At the time, Dude Ranch spoke to me. There are records for many of us as an adolescent pre-teen that are like a Bible for both music and life with no separation in between. For many of us, the line "I guess this is growing up," is forever branded on the back of our skull in memory of many years behind us and useful for those still to come. More importantly, Dude Ranch's message was as simple as its music. When you're at an age when all you want is a direct answer to the first constant bouts of "Am I being bullshitted right now?" - albums like this are more than necessary to stand-up and say, "Yes, I think I am being bullshitted!" I know for some, it was Enema of the State, but Dude Ranch taught me music could be serious, but not overly dramatic - what's wrong with a having a laugh amongst our problems. I continue to find the laughter through all the anxiety because of this album. Sometimes a song or album doesn't have to be overly complicated - sometimes it just has to make a direct impact at the right time for when it is needed.
4) RX Bandits' Progress
There's a point in our teenage years as music fans when we hear a record that changes everything - every. thing. - about what we know music is supposed to be. It could have been Daydream Nation it could have been Paul's Boutique and it could have been Kid A. Progress was that album for me. Not one song was comparable to the other. I couldn't explain to someone what the band sounded like without spouting off a short thesis. I'm not saying that the above albums or any other albums that came before it weren't honest and heartfelt, but this album ripped me open. It was a record that not only opened doors to other genres and styles, it was the first time I got "punk" and started having an opinion on social issues and actions - even on the smallest scale of getting through high school to a larger scale of reading as many facts as possible before coming to any conclusion on national issues. Like Jason said in yesterday's article, "I kind of miss the times when you bought an album - and then were basically forced to spend time with it and see what shook out." I've heard plenty of albums like that since then, but this was the first, and I am forever grateful for it.
5) Thursday's Full Collapse
I'm pretty sure everything that has ever needed to be said about this album has been written ten times better than I can put it, but I'll do my best to make it as personal and moving as possible. This was the first time I heard a record where the emotion felt overwhelming with every new track and turn within the song. It made me feel uncomfortable, yet I embraced every down stroke of the guitar, clack of the snare and crack in Geoff Rickly's voice. This was one of the times when an album buried me in its anguish, yet I still came back to its nerve-wrecking abuse. I've since been buried in this scene, and still look to Full Collapse and its past influences to sift through the bullshit of the decade ahead of it. Some in my generation herald The Smiths or The Cure or Joy Division from a decade they never experienced. This band took those influences and mixed them into their love of hardcore and made a contemporary dish for which I still can't get the taste out of my mouth from. It's an album that still makes me hungry to hear bands continue in that stride of creating something as adventurous a decade later. It makes my job that much easier.
2011 has been quite a year. We've seen some newer faces from the past couple of years set a new bar for a new decade to come. Some of our heroes from the last decade have decided to take a current hiatus at the present time, but luckily left us with their best work to date before they left. More so than who has come up and who has fallen, a lot more was stirring up in music worth mentioning. Here are five of my favorite things that were great about 2011's contribution to music as a whole, and how I hope that spirit continues into 2012.
1) Wall of Sound --- 2011 was a loud year. If you were into rock and roll or metal or sludge or punk or hardcore or this "dub" music kids are enjoying these days, your ears were probably tingling the next morning. Whether it was the fury of O'Brother's Garden Window, the landscape of Russian Circles' Empros or the way Cave In proved their naysayers wrong (again) - 2011 showed that rock's stagnant state of lackluster radio hits and underground drop-A festivals could be drowned out by the intricacies, beauty and ferocious behavior of so many instruments delicately layered one on top of each other. I know of a few bands hoping to achieve that again this year. If you want to rock in 2012, the bar has been set to get beautifully loud or get the fuck out!
2) Alternative Throwback --- For a minute there you were, either a pop-punk band or a metalcore band. There wasn't much in between for some of us to sift through. Thanks to bands like Sainthood Reps, Balance and Composure and Seahaven, bands are harboring their love of the alternative grunge many of us grew up on before we even knew what punk or a Ramone was for that matter. It's a direction only a few have taken within our particular music scene at the moment, but I think we could see a lot of bands delving back into a landscape of music some of us became a little too cool for when we began to say we were always "punk" since buying that Sex Pistols shirt at Target.
3) Community --- This is huge. After SXSW, I knew something this big was happening again. The punk and hardcore scene is brewing itself into a well fashioned small town of local business that continue to support each other. To me, there isn't "just one" label doing better than all the others. There are a quite a few labels working to build their own business of well rounded musical output. It's a beautiful thing I haven't seen in some years, but has been building up to this moment. Even if you don't trust publications to tell you who the next big thing will be (I mean, I wouldn't trust me), there is always the direct support of a band you like, or skimming other artists from their respective labels as well. This makes me feel like I'm 16 again. Let's just hope we don't have another Drive-Thru on our hands…or a Victory to come.
4) Splits --- Remember these? They came back bigger than ever in 2011, and even 2012 for that matter. I guess with the resurgence of vinyl the past couple of years, it only helped to get a couple of records with either two of your favorite bands, or a favorite and a new one to discover. This kind of harbors back onto the "community" point I just made, but I hope 2012 turns out a lot more splits between some up-and-coming bands. Honestly, I love finding good splits in the vinyl section rather than an old record with a few good songs and filler.
5) Solid Tours --- This is the biggest one I've been dwelling on. Young Widows and My Disco, Touche Amore and Pianos Become the Teeth, the Thrice fall tour and even being able to see Boris, Deafheaven, Tera Melos, Russian Circles in one night - these are the kind of bills that make me excited to go to a show and not have to "sit through" a bunch of bands I could do without. I know bands sometimes don't get a "bid" for certain tours, but I hope booking agencies are looking to put together the best packages to showcase real talent and forward-thinking, instead of making an extra buck here and there. Good music will thrive, people will always go to shows and its some of the best concerts I've seen stacked this year that makes me think there are a few booking agents out there with the best intentions for music. Then again, music is subjective, and maybe that Of Mice and Men headline tour was a good idea to someone.
When you're young, music is really cool. But the reality is that you can't ever truly appreciate the music you love until the artists that created it disappear. The day they say, "We're not going to do this anymore. Do not expect new music from us until further notice," is punishing to many of us. There's a Bill Burr joke about appreciating a dog more when you're older, because when you're younger - everything is awesome! "Why wouldn't a dog be awesome?!" The same can be said about your favorite bands. Whether you're reading this and you just discovered that band, or you're an older person like myself who's halfway between giving up on discovering new music because "They don't make it like they used to," and still striving to keep an ear to ground - I hope this week's column sheds some light on why we're all going to be deaf at an early age or clutching our records when we hear about that one-off reunion and so forth.
I anticipated that 2011 would be an amazing year for music just like the rest of the staff and this fine community on the site. What I didn't anticipate was that I would lose three bands this year, that without them, I wouldn't have an opinion, wouldn't be writing and wouldn't devote my life to this thing. Whatever that thing is.
There's more than one reason why the RX Bandits, Thrice and Thursday are cuts in my musical Rosetta Stone. Thinking about it the other day as a third story came to a close, I couldn't have understood what I'm about to say without these three bands, and a few others that really have pushed what I think and continue to expand on my palette of tastes and audible experiences.
Without drudging on anymore, here are five things that I learned about music from three of the best bands I've come across in my youth up until their current indefinite hiatuses.
1) It's Not That "Album X" is Their Best Record, There's Just a Moment Attached To It…
Sometimes it's hard to meet bands and not say, "Hey, [album] is one of my favorite records of all time." Then you sound like every other asshole who thinks their new direction is boring, when in fact it is leaps and bounds above the aforementioned record. The thing is, that first record got you excited and all fan-like because either (a) you listened to really shitty music up until that point or (b) some records just reach certain people at a certain time. Maybe the disc had answers we were looking for or a conversation we just found interesting. The things we learned from it is what keeps it herald as such. We sometimes tend to stick to those bars that were set though. Unfortunately, instead of appreciating when the same bar is raised years later - we tend to get stuck in the first sense of awe from way back.
Which leads us to...
2) Progression Can Kill a Band or Make Them Stronger…
A lot of bands have called it a day after attempting something new and losing a large chunk of their audience. They're fighting a constant uphill battle. You can adapt and fade away or you can progress and lose as well anyway. The variable is how fast you will burn up or die out. If you're good at it. If you have the ability to shift your sound a bit and still turn heads - that's a feat that most can't pull off, and it's how some bands tend to go from a favorite band status to a cult one. This is a huge deciding factor for who my favorite bands generally are. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it is for most, because...
3) The Best Bands Will Challenge You, And It'll Be Rewarding…
I think the best bands - think about it, your favorite bands - will create new records that are not meant to be absorbed right away. My favorite bands - their new records - they never capture me the way that first one did. With time, I actually like chipping away at what I like about them though. When a new record does capture my attention with time though, I'll spin it and spin it and spin it and then go back to the band's whole catalog - see how it really stacks up. The results might just surprise you as you grow older. Those new tastes will reflect on other new tastes and will lead you to more great bands or different styles of music you wouldn't normally listen to. Most importantly, it will lead the best listeners to keep true in being open to new sounds.
Now, that all said, the following will happen...
4) You Will Most Likely Hate Some of What Comes Out…
That's okay. You disagree with your best friends at times? Maybe the sequel to a favorite movie just wasn't good at all. Your favorite beer didn't exactly knock it out of the park with their winter lager? It's okay. Just breathe. Does that mean you now hate a band when there's an extensive catalog of what you love? Absolutely not. This seems to be the one people get up in arms about the most with bands they hold close to. This is one of the negatives about being a person who dictates their life by the crescendos and decrescendos of their headphones. Then one day, you wake up, and see some awful news...
5) Goodbyes are Hard, But Can Be Temporary…
So many of us have gotten into bands long before our time. Bands that influenced the bands we listen to now. We got into them post break-up. It's a different feeling. We can't lose something that we never experienced first hand. (note: A reunion show is nice, but itis not the same thing as the past moment when it was happening.) It's times like these with bands like these that have had this sense of longevity (loosely defined for the sake of argument) that are shattering to many of us. As we've seen in the last couple of years, just because a band says it's over - doesn't mean that it's over too. So in the wake of a year that penned the final chapters (for now) of three amazing acts, I'll hold my discogs close, remember every moment and do my best to share my memories with others and hand them down to a younger generation of listeners. One day, they might get to see that reunion tour. I'll finally get to say, "I was there." I'll look like the creepy old dude in the back, but I'll have my moment one way or another.
I got a text message from Wes [Eisold] last week and he put it perfectly. It read, "Nice to see after eight years we still excite/infuriate people.” I think in a nutshell that's what American Nightmare always have done.
I was asked to write a little piece of my five favorite American Nightmare songs. I have been stressing myself out over it because I can't just pick five. It's hard to put down what they mean to me and to so many other people by just narrowing it down to five songs. It wouldn't be fair to what the band was and still is. I can't think of any other band that lyrics were as personal and fitting. I still feel the same connection and the same excitement about the band now in 2011 as I did when I heard them for the first time in 2000 /2001 or whenever it was (you were 10).
In thinking about this little project I decided to focus mainly on the lyrics. The lyrics are one thing that so many people held onto. More than just words recited over loud/fast music.
]I think lyrically is what puts American Nightmare head and shoulders above the rest of the bands that were out around the time. Go back and read those lyrics without music and they're pretty powerful, poetic and fitting.
The music was the perfect frame for the musical picture that the lyrics painted.
1. "Farewell" (from Background Music) - I can't even break this one down... It's real.
Whatever this becomes /Whatever words I say /We are the fortunate ones...
And when the days are done /I won't forget /All I see in you and me
Is a light in the dark of humanity/ And when the days are done
I won't forget /Timid steps - come walk with me
And with your useless words /Come talk to me
There are broken hearts / Now on your stereo
But the broken beats are just too slow /You'll cry - it doesn't change a thing
Kill the lights - and let the rain fall / Recall - the memories
Of yesterdays and better ways /And know - the innocence is gone...
Move on - from this day on /We'll never be the same...
The saddest songs / Make sense to me... /So with your sunken eyes
Come talk to me /Two hour drives /Are two hours alone
But two hour drives/ Are better than home
You'll die - it doesn't change a thing/ You will - kill the lights
And let the rain fall - recall/ The memories of yesterdays
And better ways /And know - the innocence is gone...
Move on - from this day on/ We'll never be the same...
Faster words - and faster kids
Faster songs - and faster ends
The one thing that's stayed the same...
I've lived through days/ I've lived through nights
I've had my loves/ I've had my fights
You gotta know - you have my heart
2. "Hearts" (from Background Music) - It's not fair to ready into something and think you know exactly what written was thinking the moment they wrote it. I look at the lyrics for "Hearts" and I understand...
"Oh my god - It happened again
What's wrong with me?
Screaming gets you nothing
One more night in this town
And I swear that I'm dead...
I drew a heart
Around the name of your city..."
3. "There is a Black Hole in the Shadow of the Pre" (from Year One) - The song title alone was enough to conjure up images of years gone by hanging out in Copley or Newbury. Ever time I see the glass sprawl that is the building I think of this song.
"Everyone I ever loved/ Went down in history...
The blue eyes came/ The brown eyes left...
And the rest is misery /Dreams are trash
On the side of the road / All starry eyed - tongue all tied
There's something you should know /I could have died with you
And Boston is the reason/ I'm feeling so blue - damn you"
4. "AM/PM" (from Background Music) – Beautiful words and an frantic dance part. Perfect.
“The kind of song that makes You want to hang Your headached - head
And I was hoping that I would never fall in love again 'Cause that would be the end
Of everything (you're everything)”
5. "Love American" (from We're Down Til We're Underground) – Okay this is a favorite because I sang on the record…..such a great time in our lives.
Run For Cover Records just released their 50th album which ended up being a compilation of label artists and non-label friends. Mixed Signals has the ability to go down as a compilation to look back on ten to twenty years down the line. I asked label founder/owner Jeff Casazza to give me five of his favorite compilations. Below are some great choices worth checking out.
1. Dischord 1981: The Year in Seven Inches
This is a compilation that includes the first four 7"s from unarguably one of the coolest indie labels ever, Dischord Records. Teen Idles, State of Alert, Government Issue, and Youth Brigade (the one from DC obviously) were all featured on the original LP released in 1984, and I believe the Minor Threat EPs on the release later on. I got this in high school simply because I knew Ian Mackaye from Minor Threat was in the Teen Idols, and that Henry Rollins had sang in SOA. I thought it was awesome then and I still think it's awesome now.
2. Equal Vision Records Label Sampler
Back in the day when people liked music more, labels released samplers, charged $5 for them, and it was an easy way for someone to check out all the bands on a single label. Equal Vision released a compilation 11 years ago which (I believe) was exclusively distributed through Hot Topic featuring songs from their ridiculous lineup at the time; Saves the Day, Converge, The Stryder, One King Down, Snapcase, Bane, Ten Yard Fight, Hands Tied, Floorpunch, Refused, H20, 108, and more. Sure there's a few weird tracks on it, but when you're 14, that list of bands cannot be beat. Even my Phish-bootleg-collection obsessed friend Pete absolutely loved "Can We Start Again" [by Bane].
3. Punk-o-Rama III
You'd think a punk compilation with 25 relatively similar bands would get old quickly, but for some reason it never did. It didn't even matter what bands were on the Punk O Rama CDs because you knew exactly what to expect going into it. I chose number three of the series because of the exclusive NOFX song which is pretty incredible by NOFX standards. Other awesome tracks: Rancid, Osker, and my favorite Bad Religion song.
4. Saddle Creek 50
Saddle Creek was so cool. It still might be, I am not really sure, but this was a really great time for this label. Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, Cursive and the Faint were all staples of my youth. I even liked the more obscure Saddle Creek stuff. It's crazy that this was only their 50th release. This CD features some of the best songs by the best bands this label had to offer.
5. Short Music For Short People
This record is nearly impossible to listen to, and I wouldn't even say I like it, but it's pretty awesome in its own right and the tracklist is pretty impressive: Green Day, Blink 182, Misfits, Anti Flag, Avail, Black Flag, NOFX, Screeching Weasel, The Offspring, Descendents, Samiam, Dillinger Four, Bad Religion, Strung Out, etc. The AFI song is incredible.
If you told 17-19 year old me what an iPod playlist was, that kid would probably look at you like you were speaking in tongue. More so than that, the idea of even downloading full albums from file-hosting sites as a means of discovery would be future news opposite searching for an album with track-by-track downloads on file swapping programs. My last few years of high school and early years of college were spent with mix CDs made up of my favorite tracks still played on a CD player (this ancient brick of a device) through a tape deck on my drives home in my '91 Buick LaSabre (probably the closest I'll ever come to owning a tank).
So these are five of the best CDs my friends found in my apartment and car and how I feel about them today. I'm including full track listings as to not hide any sort of shame. I will say this, I had to download the Shazam app for the iPhone because I didn't recognize some of these songs. (Writer's note: Shazam didn't work for a lot of the tracks.)
1) Sharpie Title: Too Brutal Even For Me Score: 15/17 Thoughts: Maybe at the time this was "too brutal for me," but I thought this was the heaviest stuff I'd ever come in contact with and like everything, I was being hyperbolic. The end of "Floater" into the back to back Poison the Well tracks transition pretty awesomely. Having DEP and CTtS right before the Collision Course tracks are pretty amazing in my eyes. Rock out with some technical heaviness and then party? Why the fuck not? All in all, I pretty sure there was a lot of air guitar going on in the years this CD existed in rotation.
2) Sharpie Title: Bad A Mix Score: 11/12 Thoughts: This is definitely one bad ass mix! 19-year-old me probably rocked this one out at least nine out of the seven days a week. "Admission:Regret" is still one of my favorite As Cities Burn songs and the AC/DC cut is because of my love of Empire Records. Hearing that opening track by Fear Before does make me wish they'd write another record already. I used to jam that one out after every awful test.
3) Sharpie Title: She said that I was the brightest little firefly in her jar… Score: 7/13 Thoughts: Okay, so this one, my buddy Drake immediately laughed at the title when he found it. Once we started spinning it, the jokes kept coming. Obviously a mix I made when I was young and heartbroken, it kind of makes me realize why certain music thrives today - and somehow always will. I still very much love about half the tracks on this (Clarity Process was one of Rise Records' finest and underrated first acts, and go download everything from Blueprint Car Crash), but I'm not buying a lot of the sentiments now. It just goes to show you though, music has a way of connecting with people - even if you might think some of it is shit years down the line. (It should be noted that some of the tracks I find awful and were earlier cuts of bands I think went on to do better.)
4) Sharpie Title: Sing me something soft sad and delicate loud and out of key sing me anything… Score: 8/10 Thoughts: This is quite an irony. I made this CD when I met the girl who broke my heart for which I made the previous CD for. So I guess this is 18-year-old me being in love for the first time. Kind of funny both albums ended on the same song. I believe I used the TBS demo just for the intro as well. Also, that ACB song is from their very first demo if you can find it. I also remember liking the demo version of that Straylight Run song a lot more than the studio version. Now I really can't tell too much of a difference. Young me used to think he knew it all.
5) Sharpie Title: Who Wants a Body Massage? Score: N/A Thoughts: Okay, so of the five CDs, and after going through as many as I could, I realized this one was one of the ones that was made my senior year of high school/summer before college. I know this for two reasons: 1) The bands that make up the release and 2) A lot of the mixes I found from my senior year of high school were tracked like this. Instead of one song from a number of bands, there were a couple songs per few bands and a usually a couple of single tracks scattered towards the end. It's an unfortunate thing really, because it shows how into specific bands I would get, and now as my inbox swells and I seek out music I know I will probably enjoy or are interested in, it goes to show how our means of discovery and how much time we spend with specific bands lasts. Back then it was downloading track by track. Now you can sit down with a full album on a stream service or illegally obtain it through a file-hosting search on Google. How the times have changed...
Point hammered into the ground: This has been an amazing year for music. Aside from how good music is or isn't each year, I find the more enticing venture is to follow receptive I can be to an album years later. Maybe it's an album that was capturing for a moment, and then put away for some years, or maybe it's an album scoffed due to tastes at the time, but revisited with much more acceptance and maybe even better understanding years later.
There have been a few records this past year that I've really come around to for one reason or another. I revisited the albums' beauty and importance in the general timeline of its continual personal legacy among friends and peers.
Here are five albums that really stuck the second time around.
1) The Dismemberment Plan's Emergency and I - I was given this album in high school and Change in college. For some reason the latter stuck much more the past few years. With the reissue of the former on vinyl earlier this year, I've rediscovered the disjointed rhythmic fun and dance infused pop of an absolute anti-pop classic. Travis Morrison's complete self-loathing and inner redemption against quick hits ("I Love a Magician" "Girl O Clock") and unsettling backgrounds ("The Jitters" "You Are Invited") makes for one incredible album.
2) HUM's Downward is Heavenward - If this is "space rock," then sign my ass up to sit in the cockpit. An old friend introduced me to this album some years back, and as I have come back to it for enjoyable visits of head-crushing, wide guitars fuzzed over melody, it really sits as a testament of great production and instrumental layering years before "fix it in Pro-Tools." Many consider the band's previous album, You'd Prefer an Astronaut, to be the best, but Heavenward is a push into perfection.
3) Pavement's Quarentine the Past - I've never been a Pavement fan. It's not that I don't like the band, I've just never been a huge fan like some of my friends. So I gave the "greatest hits" a spin a few months back again and I've found myself enjoying it off and on in my free time. It's crazy to hear the band's brand of alternative rock influence deep in the roots of today's contemporaries, but I can also hear clips of influence in The Replacements that came before them. I missed the reunion, but I'm glad I'm finally on board.
4) Cave In's Until Your Heart Stops - I've been doing research on Cave In's first album a few years after hearing it for my book because of the influence of brash hardcore and melodic tendencies. I'd be lying if White Silence (the band's latest release this year which is equally as amazing bringing the band full circle and captivating their entire catalog) did have a little influence on rediscovering the impact of Cave In. Listening to "The End of Our Rope Is a Noose" through the album's title track is refreshing considering the last few years' particular top drawing acts. I won't name names.
5) Built to Spill's You in Reverse - This is one I threw on at work just for the hell of it - I'm so glad I did. I've been very immersed in the Built to Spill catalog for the past few months. Out of all of them, You in Reverse is still my favorite at the moment. It reminds me why I fell in love with records like Blur's 13 or The Dismemberment Plan's Change. I love pop music that I can sink my senses into - this is one for the books.
It goes without saying that it has been quite a phenomenal year for music. Just as you get one great record, another one or two end up hitting the iTunes Library. It doesn't matter the genre or "type" of music you're generally into, because across the board, the sounds have been pleasant for most. Later this week, we, the mighty staff of AP.net, will be revealing our mid-year top ten list per each staffer. As hard as it's been on us to just type out ten albums (when there's more like 30 thus far), there's still a-whole-nother six months to the year. So here's five albums I'm still salivating on getting my ears wrapped around.
1) Portugal. The Man's In the Mountain In the Cloud (Atlantic) - While I've heard all the clips, the word is I won't be receiving an advance until after we celebrate our country's independence. Sitting down with a Portugal. The Man album is an experience. You need it to be in stereo and you need no other distractions. I foresee this being their biggest sounding record to date, and will hopefully pull the rest of the world missing out from underneath their rocks.
2) La Dispute's TBA (No Sleep) - It's funny to see some users on here fight back and forth between how much they either love or hate the band, but one thing is for sure, they're certainly doing their all to produce some of the best post-hardcore music out there today. There's an intricacy and method to La Dispute's last album, and I only can predict that it was pushed further in the studio this time around.
3) Thrice's Major/Minor (Vagrant) - Beggars was arguably one of the most controversial releases of the band's fan base to date. As a long time fan, it even took a couple of listens to sink in. That said, I see Major/Minor as another push for the four piece this year. Really, every release has had its own sound and has taken a shift in production and mood overall. Why should this one be any different? It shouldn't, and it should keep us as fans waiting impatiently for the result.
4) Zechs Marquise's Getting Paid (Rodriguez-Lopez Productions) - After seeing the guys' performance at this year's SXSW, I'm still floored. It was simply breathtaking, and I don't expect much less with the band's sophomore release. I'm wondering if it will be more focused or less focused or just a shit storm of jam. Either way, I'm going to let it engulf me once I get a listen to it.
5) Russian Circles's TBA (Sargent House) - Russian Circles might easily my favorite instrumental band out there. Heavy, lush, crushing, atmospheric and never boring. I just can't wait to hear this damn thing.
Okay, so I'm not going to put this one on the front page. Consider it something special for you guys who keep up with this blog and all the cynically unfunny words it spews out. In light of this, and the recent episode of South Park this week, I want to talk about the most exciting thing to enter my life as of Tuesday: The Juggalo Gathering 2011 infomercial. If you haven't seen this, please do yourself a huge favor and go watch it right now before you even finish reading this.
My initial thought about four minutes into the video was this: Is the acting made to be this bad, or are these people just that horrible?
After hearing about the main stage Psychopathic Records bands: Okay, tell me more.
After hearing half the other line-up: Okay, we really should go to this.
After hearing all the names of the rappers including (but not limited to) Prozak and Psycho Jesus: How much is this? I don't care. I have to experience this.
Even more enticing than the line-up and how "amped as shit" most of the actors are in the infomercial about this festival are all the claims that lay across the 27 minutes of complete hilarity that is this video. So here are five claims you should be aware of when thinking about going to The Gathering this year.
1) Psychopathic Rydas album (eloquently titled) Eat Shit N Die will ONLY be dropping at The Gathering.
While this may be enticing to Psychopathic Rydas fans, I'm sure many of them know how to illegally download, right? Or is the the bond among juggalos so strong that piracy doesn't exist among the brotherhood and family of fans? If this is your one reason for going - well, I'm speechless on this one.
2) Saliva is going to start a mosh pit the size of nine football fields.
A claim that any band can do this, let alone Saliva, surely has me excited to see such a spectacle. But let's think about this one logically. You can fit a lot of festival sized stages on ONE football field alone. So if one stage is playing to one crowd (and I could be wrong underestimating the size of Saliva's fan base in relation to their involvement in Juggalo-life) that won't be able to hear the band three fields back...wait, no, this makes no fucking sense!!!! Picture or it didn't happen.
3) There are two special guests announced ONLY at the festival.
With an announced line-up of MC Hammer, Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes and Vanilla Ice - oh yeah, and KITTIE! (which, by the way, they spell wrong and with a -y and not -ie) what more can we expect??? While most festival line-ups are sort of predictable if you follow artist releases and touring circuits, my money is on Limp Bizkit for one of them. A single like "Shotgun" and a track listing made for The Gathering off their upcoming (highly anticipated!) Gold Cobra, how can these guys not drop in? Just one more reason to be down with the clowns.
Supposedly if I'm not into all the fine music that the Gathering has presented itself with this year, I can go watch a bunch of amateur and old wrestlers beat each other up all weekend. Even though the FAQ section of the festival's website says no weapons are allowed, apparently if you get in the ring, that goes out the window. Plus, who doesn't like seeing a person being beaten with a cactus?!
5) The juggalo movement is unlike anything this Earth has ever seen...They will never be forgotten by those who attend.
This is probably true. I can't imagine an experience in any way similar to spending a weekend engulfed in this thing.
This week, Gregory Dunn of Moving Mountains talks about five albums that influenced the band's upcoming record, Waves.
Cave In's Jupiter - Aside from being one of my all time favorite bands, Cave In has always had an influence on Moving Mountains in some way or another. There were times in the studio when Frank and I were writing/tracking guitars and would both refer to riffs/ideas as “Cave In” parts. Kinda funny looking back at it now. Also, on a more personal note, singer Stephen Brodsky is definitely a dude I aspire towards vocally. I think a lot of the heavier vocal parts showcased on Waves is a product of listening to older records from these guys. Sonically, this record was big for me.
Underoath's Lost In The Sound Of Separation - This is a band that I didn’t initially love from the beginning, but always
paid close attention to. I’m a huge fan of Matt Goldman (producer/engineer), so I often find myself listening to every record he works on. This album had a huge effect on me, in terms of production, and how powerful their songs were. The album hits so hard, and the songwriting is truly impressive. The more I listened to it, the more I found parts I loved in it. So dense, and so full of emotion and creativity. So huge.
Oceana's Clean Head EP - This record came out of nowhere for me, and it was fantastic. This is the type of record that makes me confused as a songwriter. I’ve listened to it so many times and thought to myself “How do they write this?”. It’s so tastefully complex, and the vocal melodies are so perfect. This was also another Matt Goldman product (which is how I found it), and I think it showcases his strong points as a producer. Capturing the raw, real nature of a band. I think I can speak for the other guys in saying this album was played heavily listened by all of us, and really got stuck in our heads while writing vocal parts, and guitar work.
The National's High Violet - This was one of our favorite releases of the year, and definitely influenced the band all around. The layers, textures, and maturity of their songwriting is so inspiring. Seeing them live also drills this point home - as they’re one of the loudest, and powerful bands I’ve ever seen. The idea of building up with layers, strings, etc, comes a lot from listening to these guys. “Tired Tiger” was tentatively titled National before we had a real name for it. Come to think of it, almost all our songs are named after bands that we think they sound like before they’re given real titles. Hah.
David Bazan's Curse Your Branches - I was always a big Pedro The Lion fan, so appropriately - I’ve always clung to anything David Bazan has worked on. This record influenced me in terms of lyrics, and bare bone song writing. A lot of the songs found on Waves started out acoustic, and way more stripped down. Melodically, I take a lot of influence from his guitar progressions. It’s funny thinking back to when I first had “Where Two Bodies Lie” written to show the band, and it was slow, clean guitars, reverb, etc...I remember playing it a bit faster and then the main riff just clicking in my head. From there, it became a heavier rock song. It really wasn’t until we recorded the songs full band would they find their spot in a Moving Mountains record. I find David’s approach to songwriting, and lyric writing so interesting, and honest. Something I wanted to do when approaching Waves, was write songs and lyrics that weren’t drenched in metaphorical/figurative crypticness. I wanted to say exactly what I wanted to say, and not feel uncomfortable about it.
I had the first reaction to Thursday's No Devulcion as Geoff Rickly described to me that everyone else had upon their first listen. But after about a week with the album, it really clicks as one of the band's best to date. It's the furthest the band has pushed themselves as musicians, but to longtime Thursday fans, we all should have saw this coming. Here's five songs throughout the band's catalog that were precedents to their new record.
1) "Autumn Leaves Revisited" (A City By the Light Divided) If there's one album that comes close to resembling No Devulcion, it's this one. But the album's closer comes closest to landing on the new tracklisting as it is sonically driven up and down the final seven minutes while Rickly's voice continues building and giving out following the guitars and keys.
2) "This Song is Brought to You By a Falling Bomb" (War All the Time) If "Signals Over the Air" caught some off guard as a single, then this piano ballad was off the radar, but certainly showed the capability of the band to completely step out of any typecasting any critic could even conceivably try to muster up. I remember being frozen in awe when I heard "Empty Glass" for the first time earlier this year, but I can't forget this one did the same some years ago.
3) "Time's Arrow" (Common Existence) Originally "A Sketch For Time's Arrow" on Kill the House Lights, this one shaped up nicely, and I remember it being the song that stuck out best on their last album. Another one where Rickly really stretches his voice and becomes not only a vocal layer, but another instrument all together. No matter the time of day or mood, this song still moves my senses in some way.
4) "In Silence" (Split with Envy) With the opening "As He Climbed the Dark Mountain," I don't think anyone expected a post-rock number like this one to follow, let alone be remixed to close out the band's side of the split. This one pulled out the band's "post" tendencies perfectly, creating yet another driving orchestral number. While Rickly's voice is often thought about as a strong leader of a powerful force, the band more than prove that a captain is nothing without a stronger ship.
5) "How Long is the Night?" (Full Collapse) For all of you wishing the band would write more traditional hardcore songs like on the album we all fell in love with, remember again how it ends. Not only one of the best tracks on the album, there really wasn't a better place to sequence this one than letting it be the final curtain.
One of the better topics I've seen in the forum feed in the past few months. Started by evilandgood, this was one to think about for over a month. Shifting through some of my favorite albums, seeing why some stuck better than others. There's one in particular I think I've settled on. As for the other four, I've left it up to the forum to fill out.
Nice job guys.
1) Matchbook Romance's Voices - Not much of a fan of the band up to this ending point to their career, this one was one of the sweetest siren songs of the whole decade. Matchbook Romance went out on top with their dark opus, but tripped a bit with the solidarity of the release. The bleak opening "You Can Run, But We'll Find You" and the meanacing "Goody, Like Two Shoes" are some of the band's best works. After the quick hit of the single "Monsters" and the following "Say It Like You Mean It," you're listening to a mixed bag of the band's best work.
2) Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends - Not discounting the fact that this record is solid the whole way through, the first five songs are, relatively speaking, much stronger tracks than the second half. "You Know How I Do," "Bike Scene," "Cute Without the E," "There's No 'I' in Team," and "Great Romances of the 20th Century" are all classic songs by themselves. These five songs essentially defined Taking Back Sunday's sound from that point on out: dueling vocals over frantically paced guitars and half time choruses that build toward quiet breakdowns which lead into explosive endings . The late one-two punch of "You're So Last Summer" and "Head Club" are fantastic songs as well, but they aren't enough to carry the inadequacies of the three songs before them. (evilandgood)
3) The Get Up Kids' Something to Write Home About - I might get shit for this, but I have to say Something to Write Home About by The Get Up Kids is front-loaded. Tracks 1-6 are better than 7-12, IMO. 1-6 has great jams ("Holiday," "Action and Action," "Red Letter Day," "Ten Minutes") and is evened out by some slower songs ("Valentine" and "Out of Reach"). Don't get me wrong, it's a great album, I'm just sayin' the first half is much more balanced and powerful than the last half, which is filled with mostly slower songs, except "Close to Home." Maybe it's just my giant bias towards Four Minute Mile, which is an emo-rock powerhouse, but I was a little let-down by its follow-up. (xapplepiex)
4) Dashboard Confessional's The Swiss Army Romance - Not even close. The first half is as stacked as this year's NBA Eastern Conference All-Star lineup - "Screaming Infidelities," "The Sharp Hint of New Tears," "Living In Your Letters," "The Swiss Army Romance," and "Turpentine Chaser." (trojanick)
5) Our Lady Peace's Gravity - Two good tracks on the second half but majorly overwhelmed by the first half.* (Spencer Control)
*it should be noted, the user picked more than one, but I thought this was the most interesting of his choices...
If you follow my work (I feel sorry for you), you know I'm kind of a vinyl junkie. While there are a lot of albums I hold out for their first presses, and so many being pressed for the first time in the last few years, some are still slipping through the cracks. Here are five albums I would love to see on wax. Even more so, how I would put them together and cut the sides.
The Snake the Cross the Crown - Mander Salis Why? One of my all-time favorite albums, why else? Not only the top of this list for me, but easily towards the top of the most underrated albums list as well. Where would you cut it? The needle should slide smoothly off of Side A as the continual chorus at the end of "On the Threshold of Eternity" slowly fades in the background. But with the long tracks of "Echolalia" and "The Fields of Ius," maybe a 2xLP is in order with an etched D-Side in a beautiful gatefold.
Thursday - A City By the Light Divided Why? The only Thursday album not thrown on wax, the layout of the DigiPak CD was good enough to make even bigger in tangible form. I really would just love to hear the physical needle as the audible needle hits on "Autumn Leaves Revisited." Where would you cut it? After "Arc - Lamps, Signal Flares, A Shower of White (The Light)." I think "Running From the Rain" would make an excellent opener to Side B. Definitely a glossy cover on this one.
The Sound of Animals Fighting - Lover, The Lord Has Left Us Why? I don't own too many out there albums, but this is one I would love to have. I love a lot of the tracks on this one, and I think it would make a cool collector of an album to have. Where would you cut it? Make this one a 2xLP for sure with an etched D-Side - but there's a catch. Cut Side A after "Horses in the Sky," and start Side C on "This Heat." Finish Side D with "There Can Be No Dispute That Monsters Live Among Us" and etch the inside wax closest to the needle after the one song. Make a lock groove somehow for "The Heretic" so that ending just repeatedly plays somehow at the end of Side C.
Right Away, Great Captain - Entire Saga Why? I think everything about this project deserves the pressing glory. A great story and a three part epic worthy of wax with a great package. Where would you cut it? Definitely three separate records, cut wherever fit for each album. I would like to see this one put together like the Alchemy Index box set. Maybe Hull could do drawings and narratives for each page/album. Hand numbered and signed of course.
The Bled - Found in the Flood Why? A lot of hardcore bands I listen to press and repress like crazy. This is one of my all-time favorite hardcore records, and would love to own it on wax - plain and simple. Where would you cut it? It would be really hard, but I think starting a side with "Daylight Bombings" would be awesome. Honestly, if that song could just get its own side of the record, that would be awesome...looks like a 2xLP is in order on this one.
After seeing Thursday perform Full Collapse last night and the Pixies perform Doolittle and New Found Glory driving through their self-titled...wait, this seems to be a common thing now. Bands playing their heart out to their fans' biggest albums. While maybe the pricing of Weezer's Blue Album/Pinkerton tour was a bit much, there's still a jealous bone in my body for the people in that audience.
This week I'm giving you five albums (that haven't been done yet) which would be awesome to see played through.
Pg. 99's Document #8 - This is one of those records that speaks volumes to so few people. While I've seen Pygmy Lush play a crushing house show, I may never be able to experience the intensity of a small room and the furious behavior that would ensue. This show would make a Converge set seem like a bunch of hipsters standing around nodding their heads.
Kill Sadie's Experiments in Expectations - I've been told seeing Kill Sadie live is an intense trip. Match that to what I've heard of their analog/electronic stage performance and it boils my blood every few months that I will never get to see this take the stage. I'd want the band to build a small campfire in the middle of the stage for "The Quieting / Function of Mouth" and run throughout the crowd screaming for "Untitled Three Hundred and Thirty Three."
Engine Down's Demure - This album is one of the most beautiful and haunting records ever made. The rhythms are tightly knit, and the melody is extremely lush throughout. Keeley Davis' voice is heavenly on the opening "Songbird" and "Second of February." This is one of those albums that you get lost in, and I would love to witness it all the way through in front of me.
Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends - Simply put: Since the original line-up is back together, a few one-offs of this would be nice. Just sayin'.
Botch's We Are the Romans - The band's live DVD of their final show is probably the closest I'll ever get, but you could even scrap all the album as long as I can see "Transitions From Persona to Object" live - just once!
It goes without saying that we are bombarded with a ton of music on a daily basis. Debut albums, follow-ups, sophomore releases that don't slump - and those that tank. Some of them we give a listen and enjoy, while others simply blow us away for the majority of the year. Then others garner repeat listens where it finally clicks. At the end of the year when we're struggling to make some list that won't really matter all that much in this subjective scheme, we tend to visit some of our honorable mentions - and then we get it. Here are five albums we didn't get until the last minute.
1) Hostage Calm are the sleeper hit of 2010 for me. So much so, that I slept on the band's self-titled before I decided to check it out a week before leaving home for Christmas. It certainly made for a few great listens on the eight hour drive to and from. Why Hostage Calm's self-titled is truly a sleeper is because it stands out among the other great pop-punk releases of the year with its diligent guitar work and anxious vocals. The instrumental work is as driving as Hot Cross, but as melodic as The Wonder Years. Hostage Calm are poised to be the next big breakout among the smaller independent labels we've been following this year. This release more than proves it.
2) The haunting, back-wooded swamp feeling of Menomena's Mines is what creeps so easily through the veins upon repeat listens. In the last few months, as I was spinning the album through and through (and among playlists at work), I realized my love only grew with repeat listens. To think how the talent of Kings of Leon has gone wasted - this is where they should have coursed their sound a few albums ago. There are tiny elements amongst Mines that sticks out and crawls across your skin, but the overall feel is mostly intense in how the band builds and builds and releases itself without ever straying from being accessible. Mines is an album, that with enough time, will become a regular return.
3) There's hearing an album, and then there's seeing an album played out in front of you. At this year's Austin City Limits, I was fortunate enough to see Gorilla Manor, the debut from Local Natives, blow up in my face in a room no bigger than a mid-sized loft. It helped me to go back and give the studio version a couple of more spins. In the last month, I've really grown a liking to how intricate and well placed each rhythmic scheme weaves itself throughout. Local Natives is one of those bands that I want to see crossover from their "indie hype" and tour with RX Bandits or Portugal. The Man. This is a band that lives up to more than stupid blogs that will write them off in two years. For now, Gorilla Manor stands as hell of a debut that should only gain momentum in this following year.
4) The Radio Dept.'s Clinging to A Scheme was by far one of the year's most catchy best kept secrets. All things considered, it was criminally overlooked. It had the chance to be a cult hit in more than one scene: Sure, Pitchfork dubbed it a "best new music" release, but Clinging to A Scheme has the kind of soothing, contagious melodies that could've caused quite a stir among the AP community as well. One peep at "Heaven's On Fire" was enough to convince me. Its seamless blend of melody, synths and creative pop energy had me addicted on the first listen. Looking to catch up on music you missed in 2010? Clinging to A Scheme is undoubtedly a solid starting point. (Matthew Tsai)
5) There are some moments where you just want to smack your head against a wall. But that's what this Five and Alive is about, right? It's about albums that we missed out on, that we should have heard and included on our EOTY lists. Well, Dessa's A Badly Broken Code is one that I slept on in the worst way. I've been impressed by Dessa's guest verses on other Doomtree releases, and her work on the collective Doomtree self-titled release in 2008 was probably her most impressive work. Her voice has a way of finding a place for itself in any song, and her ability to switch from smooth, soulful singing to rapid-tempo rapping is something that other female rappers should envy. This full length surprised me in the way that I was pleased to find out how much I enjoyed her voice and style over the course of over 45 minutes. Showing off her versatility from acappella tracks to full-blown, hook-infected rap opuses, Dessa shines throughout every track on A Badly Broken Code. If you missed out on it like I did, don't wait any longer. (Thomas Nassiff)