Thursday, December 15, 2011

Top 11 Albums and EPs of 2011

In honor of the fact that it’s 2011, I decided to turn it up to 11 for this year’s edition of my End of the Year lists that nobody reads. So instead of the usual 10 albums (and 5 EPs), you can expect to see 11 each. I can only hope that this kind of publicity stunt helps me skyrocket into internet superstardom.

Anyhow, other than that it’s the same deal as always. These albums are the ones that either left huge impressions on me or I just listened to a lot. Mostly both though.

11. Sum 41 - Screaming Bloody Murder
Yes. Sum 41 is still together. I was kind of surprised, too. The band no longer writes the same sugary hooks like they did a decade ago, but the thing that I always kind of liked about the post-All Killer, No Filler Sum 41 is that they really do write songs that they feel like writing, instead of trying to recreate their past success. The album does have some odd transitions, such as sandwiching a 12 minute, three part epic between two ballads, but overall Screaming Bloody Murder is a step forward for the band, especially after the disappointing Underclass Hero. 

10. Night Birds – The Other Side of Darkness
Night Birds are a surf punk band straight outta Joisey. And Brooklyn, from what I’ve been told. Made up of members of The Ergs!, Hunchback and For Science, Night Birds draw heavy influence from classic punk acts ranging from Agent Orange to the Descendents to the Misfits. The band plays fast and snotty, and there’s not a song on here that’s longer than 3 minutes- just the way I like my punk rock.

09. Farewell Continental – ¡Hey, Hey Pioneers!
Last year one of my favorite albums was Motion City Soundtrack’s My Dinosaur Life. To me, that album encompasses everything that Top 40 pop music should be these days. Farewell Continental’s debut full length takes that pop formula that Motion City Soundtrack perfected and reworks it for the shoegaze genre. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of shoegaze music so I’m not sure if Farewell Continental actually created something that shoegaze purists will readily accept. This album takes it up a notch in terms of production and catchiness in terms of the preceding EPs and creates some wonderful male and female fronted indie pop music.

08. blink-182 - Neighborhoods
Obviously my inner-middle school self is still alive somewhere because that’s the only explanation for how both Sum 41 and blink-182 could have made it on to this list. If only Green Day had released something other than a live album. But on a serious note, I was expecting an Angels and Airwaves album with the occasional Mark Hoppus vocals. To some, that’s exactly what Neighborhoods sounds like. To me, this album is so much more than that though. If you’re really curious to know what I thought about it, check out my review of it

07. Samiam – Trips
I’ve known about Samiam for almost forever now. They come from the same scene that produced bands such as Green Day, Rancid, Jawbreaker, Filth and Operation Ivy. And yet, I never gave them a fair listen until this past year. That didn’t stop me from listening to Trips when it was streaming online, nor did it stop me from falling in love with the band. It’s easily their most accessible album to date, even more so than You Are Freaking Me Out, but it adds a nice variety to their back catalogue and I think it’s a step up from the muddy sounding Whatever’s Got You Down (a fine album, but the production was kind of shoddy). 

06. Banner Pilot – Heart Beats Pacific
Sometimes a band will release a new album and its sound will be a drastic change from its predecessor. This isn’t really one of those times. The songs may be written in a different key but that doesn’t stop this album from essentially being Collapser Part 2. But I missed out on Collapser the first time around (I know, I’m a terrible orgcore punk), so it’s all brand new sounding to me. I also think that Banner Pilot writes the finest Jawbreaker songs that Jawbreaker never wrote. Considering how many bands have tried their hand at accomplishing that, I would say that it is no easy feat. Kudos to Banner Pilot for that.

                                           05. Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room – Hurricane Season
In spite of everything, my biggest problem with Alkaline Trio's Damnesia was that it was lacking in Dandriano. This album makes up for that, big time. I know I’ve gone on record several times in saying this, but for me, Dan’s songs in Alkaline Trio have always been the stronger ones lyrically. So to have an album full of his songs is really exciting. The songs are beautifully written and it’s nice to hear Dan’s voice and lyrics set to different types of music. What I really like is that Dan Andriano doesn’t take the gruff acoustic route that Chuck Ragan has set and instead he takes a road similar to that of Dave Hause’s recent solo output and utilizes an array of full band instrumentation. In many ways it’s a nod to other singer-songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Ryan Adams. It’s secretly my hope that he forms a backing band as The Emergency Room to become his equivalent of the E Street Band or the Cardinals.

04. Fireworks – Gospel
I am not a big fan of this whole modern day pop punk thing that’s going on. To me, it just sounds like a bunch of bands trying to be The Movielife or New Found Glory. There’s something that sets Fireworks apart from other bands in that scene. Instead of falling into the same tired stereotypes, Fireworks takes a much different approach to their style of pop music, having a softer energy about them that’s more akin to the Fake Problems brand of indie-punk rather than the peppy gang vocals of The Wonder Years.

03. Junior Battles – Idle Ages
Speaking of modern day pop punk, here’s a band that gets it right. Melding the precise technicality of Latterman and the vocal styling of Fall Out Boy, Junior Battles writes catchy melodies that are fun enough to sing along to (in your head or out loud) while also showing a wisdom far beyond their years. The song writing is tight and it’s hard to believe that this is the same band that released the Hotel Bibles EP a few years back. Perfect for a tired kid who just quit his job and is looking for something to pick him up. Oh, and Damian Abraham (Pink Eyes, of Fucked Up fame) makes a guest appearance, too.

02. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
It’s hard for me to describe why I like Brian Fallon’s work. It’s not particularly relatable for me and it’s not even like I can tell you what most of his songs are about. He just has a way with words. With the Horrible Crowes, Fallon’s lyrics aren’t that much different from his work with the Gaslight Anthem but I kind of expected that. My favorite thing about Elsie is how little it actually resembles a Gaslight Anthem album. Okay, so maybe Behold the Hurricane might have been able to fit somewhere on American Slang but the rest of the album manages to capture a different sound. From the constant picked note in Ladykiller and Crush to the organ sounds featured on I Witnessed a Crime and Mary Ann, this is definitely a project that is to remain separate from Brian Fallon’s main body of work but it’s also solid enough that it would be able to stand up on its own should it ever become his main focus.

01. Direct Hit! – Domesplitter
Lead singer Nick Woods has described the sound of Direct Hit! as “Ramones meets Andrew WK meets The Thermals” and I don’t think there’s any better way to put it. I had some concerns at first when I knew that Domesplitter was going to be re-recorded versions of previously released songs but those concerns were laid to rest when the album actually came out. The songs are notably faster than the originals and there’s a new intensity to Woods’ vocals. These new elements only make these great songs sound even better and it makes me sad to think I had doubted it in the first place. Best album of 2011 by far for me.

Honorable Mentions: 
The Copyrights - North Sentinel Island
Dave Hause - Resolutions
Dead to Me - Moscow Penny Ante
Fucked Up - David Comes to Life


11. Dear Landlord / The Dopamines – Portrait Parle
Two of the best pop punk bands join forces and release a pop punk masterpiece. Dear Landlord write some of the best shout along anthems in pop punk this side of the Copyrights. And the Dopamines are probably a better version of the Copyrights. Two songs each, with some of their strongest material since their last full length albums.

10. Broadway Calls – Toxic Kids
Broadway Calls has always been a pretty solid pop punk band. Toxic Kids is a short release but it’s comforting to know that the band is still active and writing songs. While the songs are structured in the same way that Broadway Calls songs have always been structured, it is interesting to note that they have a much rougher edge to them than their previous LPs in terms of production. I’m not sure if that’s indicative of the direction the band is heading in or if these songs are demo versions of songs for album three.

09. Motion City Soundtrack / Trampled by Turtles Split
Some people are against split releases when the bands involved cover each other songs. I think if the bands are radically different enough from each other though, it can create some pretty interesting sounds. Motion City Soundtrack has perfected the pop formula while Trampled by Turtles takes bluegrass music in a fairly progression direction. Covering each other works for these artists. Wait So Long sounds like it could’ve been a Motion City Soundtrack original, while Disappear sounds pretty good on a mandolin.

08. The Gaslight Anthem – iTunes Session
The Gaslight Anthem covers songs by The Who, Tom Petty and Pearl Jam, while also playing updated versions of older songs. Also an unreleased song and an interview. Maybe not the most exciting of things for a casual fan but it’s definitely something for a hardcore completist.

07. Against Me! – Russian Spies / Occult Enemies
It’s pretty easy to hate on Against Me! these days but I still have a lot of love for them. Sure, this release still has that “White Crosses” sound but let’s be honest: the actual sound of the band hasn’t changed as much as everyone says it has since As the Eternal Cowboy. There are less acoustic songs, sure, and maybe Butch Vig has crunched up their sound but throw someone who is unfamiliar with the band into an Against Me! show and they wouldn’t be able to tell you there's an 8 year difference between Cliché Guevara and Occult Enemies. I’m absolutely positive about that.

06. Latterman – Our Better Halves
“New” Latterman song.
Recorded before they split up but never released.
Until now.

05. Direct Hit! – Monster in the Closet
So I already knew that Monster in the Closet ruled. I checked this single out though for its b-side, Message to the Angels. It’s the closest thing that Direct Hit! has done to an acoustic studio track and it’s kind of weird to listen to because it consists of nothing more than Nick Woods and his electric guitar. It describes a battle of Heavenly proportions though, so the lyrics are pretty standard fare. Worth checking out.

04. Daytrader – Last Days of Rome
Daytrader features former members of Crime in Stereo, The Motorcycle Industry and Latterman to name a few. But even if they didn’t have such a high profile background, they’d still rock. They take more influence from early 2000’s emo than the bands that they come from yet they manage to keep it sounding fresh. I’m highly looking forward to the full length when it drops.

03. + 02. Mixtapes – Companions / Castle Songs
Mixtapes has had several releases this year. Most notably are the Companions EP that came along with the reissuing of Maps and the two song, minute and a half Castle Songs. They’re both brilliant and welcome additions to the ever-growing Mixtapes discography. Companions is made up of 3 full band versions of songs that originally appeared as acoustic compositions, plus two brand new tunes. I always really like how Maura and Ryan’s voices complement each other on their acoustic tracks and hearing these songs played electrically only strengthens my opinion. Even if this EP had been released on its own and not as a, well, (ahem) companion piece, it would still be strong enough to stand on its own.

As for Castle Songs, I don’t even if two songs really counts as an EP or a single even- especially when the two songs only total one minute and forty seconds. But these two songs are really good, so I don’t think any of that matters. I’m a Genius is a cover of some Disney Channel show called Zeke and Luther, which I’ve never actually heard of until I looked it up. It is 30 seconds long and kind of a ska song. The other track, Hey Baby, is an acoustic ditty that’s a wonderful, bitter break up song to listen to. Just download it

01. Masked Intruder – Masked Intruder
Pop punk band with a gimmick. I would hate it if they weren’t so awesome. Kind of like the Ramones but with more guitar solos. Available on bandcamp. I spoke with Blue when I got to see them in August and I’m pumped for the full length to come out. I can only hope they get out of prison to finish the mastering soon!

Compilations/Live Albums/Reissues/Etc
05. Mixtapes – Maps
Still one of my favorite albums from 2010 to listen to but it’s even nicer to listen to while on the go now that it’s been remastered. There was always a jarring difference between the acoustic songs and electric songs but that problem is no more.

04. Explosivo! – If the Devil Has a Guitar…
I got to see these guys open for Latterman. That was super exciting. Especially once I realized who the band members were. Apparently this album has been floating around unofficially for years but was given a proper release a few months ago. More Long Island punk needs to sound like these guys- I’m aware that such bands exist but I don’t think there are enough of them.

03. RVIVR – The Joester Sessions
Okay, so all these songs are only like two or three years old and I’ve heard them all already. I’m mostly including this one because of the new track, Elizabethan Collar, is extremely catchy and because having all these songs condensed together as one album helped clean up a bit of the clutter in my music library of 1000+ albums. Good stuff. (Although I’m not sure why the acoustic version of Real Mean was left off this release).

02. The Steinways – Promise It’ll Never Happen Again
The Steinways are one of my favorite pop punk bands. They write short songs about girls. Sometimes those songs are borderline creepy, but they’re also silly. Much like the Joester Sessions, every song here has been heard before, as Promise It’ll Never Happen Again collects all their singles and EPs into one large collection for listening convenience. 31 tracks in 36 minutes. Essential listening for fans of the modern pop punk genre.

01. Wugazi – 13 Chambers
Mash ups are something of a novelty to me. They’re fun to listen to in my spare time but they’re never something that I enjoy listening to in my spare time or while I’m on the train. That said, 13 Chambers is on a completely different level than most mash up albums. It flows really well and if I wasn’t familiar with Fugazi I could easily be fooled into thinking that the beats were created specifically for each track. That’s some skill right there.

Albums I Overlooked in 2010
The Menzingers – Chamberlain Waits
Iron Chic – Not Like This
Two Cow Garage – Sweet Saint Me
Nightmares for a Week – Don’t Die

Yes, I’m aware that The Menzingers, Iron Chic and RVIVR were at the top of everyone’s lists last year. I’m a bit slow sometimes to catch on to things. I listened to them all last year- it just didn’t click until this year.

Nightmares for a Week just had the unfortunate timing of being released in late December. I'm highly considering changing the way I do these top lists and consider albums released between December of the previous year through to November. That way, end of the year releases have a better shot. Just something for me to think about for the next couple of months. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dead to Me - Moscow Penny Ante

I consider Dead to Me to be one of my favorite live bands ever. Every time I've seen them they've outperformed the headlining act. Every time I've seen them has also been with a different line up and they have still blown me away. Just wanted to throw that out there before I get into the album itself.

The amazing thing about Dead to Me is how solid they have continued to be in spite of their ever-rotating cast of guitarists/second vocalists. Some would argue that 2009's African Elephants was a bit of a step backwards but the only real fault I've found with it is that the sequencing doesn't really flow and you're more likely to get a better  track list by putting it on shuffle. Moscow Penny Ante fixes that problem by being less ambitious with the diversity of genre and the album flows much better from song-to-song. However, there are some missteps. It seems as if the band is taking some caution after all the line up changes and letting the guitarists do less and less singing while bassist Chicken takes the lead on about 2/3 of the album. While he's a strong vocalist, this is a pretty drastic change especially since a majority of the band's best songs were when they would take advantage of having someone sing the verses and someone else to sing the choruses. It's also a shame since new co-vocalist Sam Johnson (New Mexican Disaster Squad) does a pretty good job at picking up where Nathan Grice left off, as opposed to his Kid Dynamite imitation that fans might be more familiar with.

In spite of that, this album rocks and it's pretty standard Dead to Me. The songs are energetic and they're fun to sing along with. Often times when a band goes through so many line up changes in such a short time, it doesn't bode well for the members. But Dead to Me has found a way to make these changes work for them. With One Man Army back together and recording a new album, it might be awhile before Jack re-joins the band, but Dead to Me has shown that they will continue to progress forward with their music no matter how many changes they go through. (Although now we can all cross our fingers for a OMA/DTM tour in 2012)

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Horrible Crowes - Elsie

I don't even know why I bother trying to write about albums that came out more than a month ago.

The Horrible Crowes is a side project of Brian Fallon from the Gaslight Anthem. He manages to write songs that sound exactly like The Gaslight Anthem but not like The Gaslight Anthem at all. At the same time, nonetheless. It's a bit more on the laid-back side of things, as both the album opener, Last Rites and the surprisingly un-religious album closer, I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together, both show. Some songs still show that classic rock 'n' roll influence such as the first single, Behold the Hurricane, while others show a different flavor to the types of songs that Mr. Fallon can perform (the reggae-tinged I Witnessed a Crime specifically comes to mind, although Mary-Ann shows a very heavy blues-rock side of things).

Again though, I'm not sure why I bother to write about albums that came out months ago. Assuming anyone even stumbles upon this blog, chances are that you've already decided that you love or hate this album because you've also probably already made up your mind on whether or not you love or hate The Gaslight Anthem. The most enjoyable thing (or perhaps the most relieving thing) about Elsie is that Brian Fallon managed to create something new for the fans to enjoy (as opposed to writing another Gaslight Anthem album) while not completely distancing himself from the sound that his fans love. That can be a very thin line to walk sometimes, but he sure walked it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toh Kay - Streetlight Lullabies

I fear that touring with Reel Big Fish all the time has had a negative effect on Tomas Kalnoky and it has given him the idea that re-recording old songs and putting them in a new package is an acceptable thing to do. I fear this because Streetlight Lullabies is an acoustic folk album full of previously released songs.

That said Tomas Kalnoky, unlike Reel Big Fish, has the decency to change how the songs sound for this record. RBF's re-recordings may have better production values but sound exactly the same otherwise. Tomas Kalnoky (or Toh Kay, as he goes by for his solo work) re-arranged his songs to sound (mostly) different. In that aspect, it is a new piece of work and it is possible to find enjoyable.

Streetlight Lullabies is exactly what it sounds like: Streetlight Manifesto songs re-worked to sound like lullabies. Not like those Rock-a-Bye Baby collections, mind you, but songs performed in a finger-picked acoustic fashion. It's heavily focused on songs from Somewhere in the Between but it has a couple of cuts from Everything Goes Numb and Keasbey Nights. There isn't a whole lot else to say about it: the songs are played much slower than the originals but they sound nice and it's easy to fall asleep to... if nothing else, Streetlight Lullabies (in theory) is a nice stopgap to release in between proper full lengths, much like Kris Roe's acoustic album. This is despite that no one even has a slight idea when the next Streetlight album is going to drop (I don't even think the band knows) but I'm sure once it does arrive we'll all go crazy for it. Even the people who criticize this album. That's more or less a guarantee.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Banner Pilot - Heart Beats Pacific

I have a confession to make: I never really gave Banner Pilot a fair listen before. I heard all the praise for Collapser, I just never listened to it because I didn't really think Resignation Day was all too special when I first heard it. Of all the post-Rivethead bands out there, Banner Pilot was probably the one I listened to least.

But we all make mistakes.

I was hooked the first time I heard "Alchemy." Catchy hooks? Check. Raspy vocals? Check. Thick bass? Check. I'm kind of upset with myself for not listening to these guys sooner. They take what I love about the genre and do it super well. They do it so well that I thought for a moment that "Eraser" was a Jawbreaker cover before the lyrics kicked in. If that's not Jawbreaker-worship, then I don't know what is.

There isn't a whole lot to say about this album, except that these guys know how to stick to a formula that works for them. If you've listened to Banner Pilot (or Rivethead) (or Dillinger Four) (or Dear Landlord) (or Off With Their Heads) then you know what to expect. Punk rock songs about drinking and girls, but not lame like All Time Low. Banner Pilot doesn't break into any new territory at all on Heart Beats Pacific- for the genre or for the band members themselves. In fact, this album may as well just have been titled "Collapser 2." But sometimes the wheel just doesn't need reinventing, ya know?

Kristopher Roe (The Ataris) - Hang Your Head in Hope

Hey, remember the Ataris? I sure do.

I don't often talk about the band but Blue Skies..., End Is Forever, So Long, Astoria and their half of the Let It Burn split are extremely solid releases. Nothing against Anywhere But Here or Welcome the Night, but those two albums just don't really do it for me.

Anyway, I bring them up because Kristopher Roe just released an acoustic album, Hang Your Head in Hope, today. And it's actually quite good. There are no bells and whistles anywhere on the album- it's just Roe and his guitar. Since that is all there is, I think that he really gave it his all in his vocal performance. His singing style has changed a lot over the years, but when you hear him singing you can hear all the feeling and emotion that he puts into it. Yes, it's a studio recording, but his singing gets so intense sometimes that it would be easy to mistake for a live recording, particularly in the songs "The Hero Dies in This One," "All Souls' Day" and (of course) "San Dimas High School Football Rules." (Edit: turns out each song was recorded live in a single take, which is why it sounded that way. His voice still sounds amazing though.)

In a day when punk frontmen are going solo to release albums full of brand new instrumentation (see: Chuck Ragan, Dave Hause, Dan Andriano, Tom Gabel, etc) it's really nice to also get an album by a guy who is playing songs that fans are already familiar with. All of those guys have released solid solo releases- I'm not bashing them- and I definitely cannot wait for the new Ataris LP to come out, but I think that the song selection on this album really shows that Roe put a lot of thought and care into this release and made sure that it would be something his fans would cherish and enjoy. The level of dedication he puts into his work is really admirable, and the fact that he does it just for the love of making music to share with people is even more admirable to me.

Kristopher Roe has made this album available to stream or as a Pay-What-You-Want download on the Ataris bandcamp site. You can check it out here: Maybe throw down a couple of bucks if you like it (he's also got a live EP up there that you can check out).

And did I mention that he covers both the Replacements and the Misfits on this album? Because he does.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room - Hurricane Season

Ed. Note: This album has been out for nearly two months, so it's just going to be a brief write up. Chances are that if you're into this sort of thing, you already heard it.

I'm pretty sure I've gone on record that when it comes to Alkaline Trio I think that Matt Skiba writes the catchier songs, but Dan Andriano writes the more interesting, and to some extent, better, songs. So you can imagine my excitement when Dan Andriano announced that he was finally releasing a solo album (especially since he started playing solo as the Emergency Room about two or three years ago).

While the album has its fair share of dreary and sad sounding songs, as one might expect from the Alkaline Trio co-vocalist, but it also takes several twists turns that will catch a listener off guard if they're expecting reworked Alkaline Trio b-sides or acoustic folk songs. Unlike some of his peers who have gone the 100% folk route (coughChuckRagancough), Dan Andriano's solo debut is in the same vein as Dave Hause's Resolutions, released earlier this year. This means expanded instrumentation throughout most of the songs as well as the exploring of genres instead of being stuck to just one. Some songs do follow the typical "man-with-a-guitar" structure, other tracks are filled with a completely line up- drums, electric guitar, keys, organs and so on.

Whereas Andriano's previous work showed off his skills as a latter-day emo/punk rocker (except for maybe Slapstick), the songs on Hurricane Season show off his skill as a singer-songwriter in the vein of Bruce Springsteen (because not enough punks are doing that these days) and Ryan Adams. It's too early to tell if he'll also have a backing band* that will be credited on future albums like the aforementioned artists, but if you ask me Hurricane Season is a good a place as any to begin.

*perhaps said band will be known as The Emergency Room

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Samiam - Trips

I've always been kind of a casual Samiam fan. I guess a part of it stems from the fact that I've only really been listening to them for two years and they've been mostly inactive until late 2010. But even then it's not often that I've found myself listening to an entire album by them. I'll usually start one but then skip around to the songs I like. Or I'll have to go somewhere or I'll have a sudden urge to listen to something else.

My point is that I'm not a die hard fan of them the same way I am about Green Day or Isocracy.

There's something about this album that's changed things for me because I really like it a lot. The general composition of the songs are no different than the last few albums but the production is nice and crisp which can make the biggest difference sometimes. Whatever's Got You Down had some great songs but it sounded pretty muddy at times and I think that's one of the biggest improvements that Trips makes. Maybe I'm just paying more attention to this album than I have with previous ones, but the songs are also catchier with more obvious hooks and "woahs" right out in the open instead of being hidden underneath layers of musicianship (not that the band's musicianship has ever been poor, quite the opposite, but it seems as if this time around the band went in with a different approach and focusing more on melodic sing-along songs than intricate playing).To make an analogy that might help sum up what I mean, Trips is to Samiam as Caution is to Hot Water Music: All the staple elements are there, but the production is cleaner and the songs are definitely "poppier" in comparison. To see what I mean by "poppier" take a listen to Clean Up the Mess or Crew of One and you'll probably have a better understanding.

The album's highlight is definitely El Dorado (misspelled as "El Dofando" on YouTube thanks to an early [pirated] leak). The drums and bass lay down a smoother and nicer atmosphere although the vocal delivery combined with the lead guitar create an intensity not found on other tracks. It may not be another "Capsized" or "Dull" but I think that it still holds up on its own.

Gainesville-esque is a term I've seen thrown around to sometimes describe a band's sound. I don't know if it's appropriate to use for Samiam. Probably not since they're from California. But Samiam is definitely up there alongside bands such as Hot Water Music and Small Brown Bike for consistently churning out albums that tend to be overlooked by the mainstream but continue to have a huge underground following. I may be one of Samiam's newer fans, but I think that Trips is a welcome addition to their discography.

Lastly, sometimes I think that Jason Beebout sounds like Dave Grohl. Not a bad thing- just sayin'.

Andrew Jackson Jihad - Knife Man

There are a few things you need to know about Andrew Jackson Jihad if you don't know them already:

1. Although they're an acoustic duo at their core, their albums often feature other instruments such as drums, kazoos and accordions. This means even if you see them play a song live, that doesn't mean it will sound exactly like that whenever they get around to recording it.

2. They like to use a lot of morbid and hyper-sarcastic imagery. Like, almost excessively. To the point where people sometimes either miss the sarcasm and get offended, or just plain get offended. They don't do this with every song, but they do it more often than not.

3. Given their acoustic status and their association with Asian Man Records, they're often referred to as a folk punk band. I think they take it so much further than that though. If anything, Modern Americana would do it, but they experiment with traditional folk sounds, some jazzy stuff, some bluesy noises and even straight up rock songs. Especially with each new album as they add in new sounds.

Now that you are armed with this knowledge, you're ready to listen to Andrew Jackson Jihad. Knife Man continues the expansion of sounds from Can't Maintain, but I find that it in terms of lyrics the album finds a nice balance of the "finding the beauty in ugly things" from Can't Maintain and the "in-your-face anti-PCness" of Cap Guns & Candy Cigarettes and People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World.

In other words, this is essentially the ultimate Andrew Jackson Jihad album. I still recommend all of them, but this might be the best place for a beginner to start to get a full scope of what the band is all about.

Also, this is the best song ever:
American Tune 
Just listen to the lyrics and you'll understand the second
thing that I said that you should know about them.

So much music, so little time.

I can't believe it's already a week into November. There are still albums that came out in September that I've been meaning to write about!

I think this means it's time for some speedy "reviews" of mine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

F---ed Up's Frontman Considers Quitting Band: 'I'm the One Losing It' - Spinner Canada

F---ed Up's Frontman Considers Quitting Band: 'I'm the One Losing It' - Spinner Canada:

'via Blog this'

I'm kind of torn on this story. I think Damien's vocals kind of help make Fucked Up what they are. At the same time, however, I think that if any band can progress and evolve their sound to fit a new singer without compromising their integrity, it would be Fucked Up.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Screeching Weasel - Carnival of Schadenfreude

Who would've guessed?

Ben Weasel punches a heckler. Said heckler happens to be female. The Internet provides lots of negative feedback. He releases an apology statement. The Internet continues to shit on him.  His band bails on him. He then releases his strongest collection of songs in 18 years.

What a story.

(In case you're wondering what it sounds like, it's essentially Screeching Weasel circa 1996-onward, although it's lyrically directed at Danny Vapid and anyone else who abandoned their friendship with him after he apologized publicly for the SXSW incident.)

and if you don't get why that video is there, I really only chose it for the line "is it in fact, unfair, to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins?"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Punk Rock Confessions: Animal Boy

In high school, I firmly believed that if you were going to listen to the Ramones, that only the first four albums would suffice. Everything else was weird synth-heavy stuff or experimented with slower tempos or something. To this day I still know plenty of people who think this way.

But to completely ignore the post-Road to Ruin era would be a disservice to anyone who likes pop music. Sure, the Ramones are always going to be known for their buzzing guitars and fast drums but their later material showed a lot of progression that they made as songwriters. Generally speaking, Too Tough to Die is the latter-day Ramones album that is oft-praised as sticking out from the crowd, as it ranges in sound from the furious punk tunes like the Dee Dee-fronted "Wart Hog" or the super 80's sounding "Howlin' at the Moon" but I have a confession to make: Animal Boy is my favorite Ramones album from the aforementioned era.

Clocking in at just over a half hour, Animal Boy is a perfect showcase of what the band was capable of. It follows the same layout as Too Tough to Die, with songs that push their sound in a newer, more radio friendly direction while also containing songs that recall the days of being fast and furious. Unlike Too Tough to Die, however, Animal Boy was recorded by a band who already had experience working with such a collection of songs and, in my humble opinion, that ultimately helped result in a superior album.

Animal Boy spans across several genres. She Belongs to Me is a cheesy 80's love ballad, whereas Love Kills shows how other punk bands like the Pistols had influenced the Ramones themselves (also, it's about Sid and Nancy). Meanwhile, Apeman Hop goes back to the fun, lighthearted songs that the band was initially known for, and Somebody Put Something in My Drink saw the band trying a different approach to being aggressive while still retaining a catchy hook.

With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the two best songs on the album are the two longest (both roughly 4 minutes- uncharacteristically long for the Ramones). Midway through the album, listeners are treated to what is probably the best Ramones song ever recorded, My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg). Not only is it a catchy song, but the history behind the song also shows signs of all the disconnect between the bruddas that formed over the years. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read about it on the single's Wikipedia page.

Animal Boy's second best song, Something to Believe In, closes out the album on a solid note. It's not something that a 15 year old punk would enjoy, what with its bells and whistles and all (almost quite literally), but the lyrics paint a picture of someone who needs a light in their life and I believe it to be one of Joey's strongest vocal deliveries ever (although Somebody Put Something in My Drink is also up there in terms of Joey's performance). It's a beautiful song and I feel bad for people who refuse to listen to it just because it's not "like the old stuff."

In conclusion, it might not be the most cohesive of Ramones albums with the genre hopping, but Animal Boy really shows the diversity and expanded sounds from a band that is known for only four chords.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Screeching Weasel - First World Manifesto

Well if this album isn't just a punch to the face after you've just thrown some ice at the band!

Okay, I've gotten my bad joke out of the way.

I think I've made it clear how much I like Screeching Weasel circa 1988-1994. Outside of that short era, I don't really care much for them. I guess Television City Dream was an okay album, but overall their Fat Wreck albums just sound too produced with Ben's vocals getting incredibly whiny sounding in direct contrast to his usual flat style of singing a la Fat Mike. The songwriting supposedly got more "introspective" but I don't think that it was really a step up or a step down from songs like "The Science of Myth."

First World Manifesto continues in the style of those latter day Screeching Weasel albums, although there is also some clear influence from Ben Weasel and Danny Vapid's time as the Riverdales- which is to say that it sounds exactly like the Ramones if they had fronted the band instead of Joey. It's nothing awful per se (although I've seen some choice words about the band ever since Weasel's SXSW incident), but it's nothing really inspiring either. Musically the band hasn't really changed despite their time apart and the lack of lead guitarist John Jughead, so if you've listened to a Screeching Weasel album that came out between 1996 and 2000 then you know what it sounds like. It's cool that they're sticking to what they know but there isn't even a weird out-of-place experimental track to show some sort of progression.

The most interesting thing about First World Manifesto is the lyrical matter. There's the standard fare like songs about girls (Creepy Crawl, Three Lonely Days) and songs about insecurities (Totem Pole, Bite Marks) but unlike other Screeching Weasel albums, First World Manifesto was released in a day and age where Internet shit-talking is the norm- and Ben Weasel has had his fair share of dishing out and taking Internet criticisms through the past few years. And now some of his responses have taken musical form. The opening track, Follow Your Leaders, is a vicious attack on modern punk rock which had tendencies to lean toward the political left and hold several day-long festivals- two things, among others, that Ben clearly has a problem with as evidenced from the lyrics (and yet the band still agreed to play at SXSW).

The admirable thing about Ben Weasel is that he knows that people hate his holier-than-thou attitude, and by extension hate him too, but he doesn't let it up. In some ways, it's kind of obnoxious and I think that's how most people see it. But like I said, it's also kind of admirable that he knows that people call him an asshole and he acknowledges their insults but then still continues to be an asshole. The biggest problem is that I'm not sure if Weasel realizes that he's doing it. If he does, then tracks like the album's closer, Little Big Man, are kind of funny and satirical- poking fun at himself as well as the people who talk shit about him. Specifically the line "But if you cross me then I'll shake my fist/and tell the internet about it/I'm a big man"- Weasel could very well be talking about himself. However, given his attitude concerning recent events, I do not think that it is the case and he truly believes that he's a victim of some snot-nosed kid in a dark basement. When looked at from that perspective, it only makes the song better because it adds a whole level of irony that's lost on the songwriter himself.
I do enjoy the simplicity of the cover a lot.

If Ben ever reads this, I'm sure to be the subject of a song on his next album. I think that would be kind of cool though, so I'm not going to complain.

Shakira Featuring Danzig "Hips Don't Lie" - YouTube

Shakira Featuring Danzig "Hips Don't Lie" - YouTube:

I've watched this at least 15 times tonight since getting home from work. It might be my favorite YouTube video.

I'm going to have to convince the next band I'm in to cover this.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

25 Albums. #01: International Superhits! by Green Day

Oh hey, it's another Green Day album.

This is a singles collection, yes, but this is the album that got me started on the musical path that I took. Like all the kids in the 90's before me, if it weren't for Green Day, I wouldn't have ever heard of the Clash or Ramones and then I wouldn't have become interested in checking out punk rock from the 80's and so forth.

Before this album, it was all soundtracks and NOW! compilations, with the occasional album by a one-hit wonder bought solely for that one single. And "Weird Al" Yankovich. Lots of "Weird Al" Yankovich.

Then I got this album one year for Christmas and it all changed. The funny thing is, I didn't even ask for it- I had wanted Sum 41's All Killer, No Filler (I also got that album). But needless to say, I received it as a gift and it literally didn't leave my discman for the rest of the school year (except for when I wanted to play it on my mini-boombox). I learned the words to every song and then the summer in between middle and high school was spent doing nothing but pretty much listening to Green Day as I had then bought copies of every one of their albums for myself and learned all the words to almost all of those songs too. Then I got sick of all those songs from overexposure and stopped listening to Green Day for awhile until American Idiot came out, which the entire world then got sick of from overexposure.

But I digress. I believe that I can safely say that without International Superhits!, I would be a very different person right now. Thanks Green Day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

25 Albums. #02: Complete Discography by Minor Threat

The "big 3" of 80's hardcore are Bad Brains, Black Flag and Minor Threat. There's just no way around it- these three bands changed it for everyone.

Of those three, Minor Threat is the only one that I really listened to in high school. It wasn't the whole straight edge thing, although it was definitely appealing because all of the people I was meeting at that time in my life were experimenting with various substances and none of them made it seem very glamorous. I also really liked their message of music for everyone- I obviously wasn't able to ever see them live but they helped spread the idea of more widespread all ages shows so kids wouldn't have to miss out on seeing their favorite bands.

Their messages were cool and all, but what I liked about Minor Threat was that they played it harder and faster than anyone else. And for a hardcore band their production values were out of this world. Even when compared to some modern hardcore bands, Minor Threat's songs still sound better. You can argue for days on end whether The Germs' "Forming/Sex Boy" was a better single and more influential on punk rock but there's no way around the fact that Minor Threat's sonic approach was untouchable.

Minor Threat was one of the first real hardcore bands that I listened to. I may be more into that gruff orgcore sound these days, but Minor Threat will always hold a special place in my heart.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

blink-182 - Neighborhoods

It's finally here. 8 years after their previous album and 2 years after their reformation, blink-182 has released their newest full length, Neighborhoods. I think that it's a pretty big deal, seeing as how blink-182 is arguably one of the biggest bands out there right now (regardless of what people may think of talent- I'm talking numbers and whatnot) so a comeback album is bound to sell extremely well, unlike a certain other comeback album released this year (seriously, did you even know that there was a new Limp Bizkit album out?)

So that's all and well but how does it sound? I personally think it is impossible for anyone to review this album without mentioning Angels & Airwaves at least once. Not that Neighborhoods particularly sounds like it should have been released as an Angels & Airwaves album (although some will inevitably argue that it does) but it’s obvious that people are going to draw these conclusions when the world they have been living in has only had the spacey rock band for their Tom DeLonge fix. 

I'll try my damnedest to get the AVA comparisons out of the way first.

Neighborhoods begins with Ghost on the Dancefloor, its synth and drum intro creates an airy atmosphere that is bound to rack up the Angels & Airwaves comparisons (namedropping The Cure here is also acceptable), and hearing Tom take lead vocals will only boost those claims. As the song progresses it sounds less and less like AVA and more like something the band has never done before. It is a nice showcase of what is to come on the rest of the album: the band is taking what they know and moving forward with it. 

At this point everyone has heard Up All Night, with its Box Car Racer-esque riffing, its call-and-response verses between Mark and Tom and its “Tom-with-reverb-turned-to-11” chorus, which does slightly recall AVA but at the same time it also channels previous blink-182 songs such as Always. Second single, After Midnight, is probably the most AVA-esque track despite that Mark gets to take the lead during the chorus. Of the two guitar tracks on the song, one is light and airy while the other one has a much more distorted sound- a staple of AVA songs. The opening drums may be a little more technical and as I said, Mark gets to sing the chorus but it all follows a very similar vocal pattern and song structure to some of the catchier songs found on We Don’t Need to Whisper.

Snake Charmer is where it gets weird. A bonus track, thrown into the middle of the album, with heavy guitars, a bouncy sing-along chorus and lyrics that feature metaphors of biblical proportions. It’s probably one of the strongest tracks on the whole album- while plenty of the songs on this album showcase that the band is moving in a new direction, Snake Charmer manages to do it without having to rely on sounding like something they’ve done before.

Neighborhoods has more to offer than just taking cues from AVA and throwing in Mark and Travis for good measure. Natives is drawing many comparisons to the blink-182 classic, M+M's. I think that's hardly a good comparison to make; the lead guitar may sound kind of similar but there's no real relation past that. Natives is one of the faster, more straightforward rock numbers and features some of the best lyrics the band has ever written- "We'll have the time of our lives although we're dying inside" (perhaps a signal that things aren't as all patched up as the band claims? Or, since Mark sings the chorus, maybe it was written for the second +44 album that never came to be).

Heart’s All Gone, the first real “Mark” song on the album, is another fast one, recalling +44 songs such as When Your Heart Stops Beating and Lycanthrope. It sounds kind of like Bad Religion without all the vocal harmonies. More interesting, at least in terms of discussion, is the deluxe edition-only Heart’s All Gone Interlude, which is the second interlude that the band has featured on an album- the first being The Fallen Interlude from the band’s 2003 untitled release (in case you forgot). Whereas that song was its own entity, Heart’s All Gone Interlude is very specifically meant to be listened to in conjunction with Heart’s All Gone and it doesn't really stand as its own track. However, unlike The Fallen Interlude, it doesn’t sound out-of-place on the album- it’s a tad more mellow than the other songs up to that point, but it doesn’t completely switch genres completely to bridge the gap between the album’s first and second halves. Yet, since it does lead directly into Heart’s All Gone, it makes me wonder why it wasn’t just included in the pre-gap of its parent song. It certainly would make a less awkward transition when skipping around one’s music library on shuffle.

The second half of the album is where the band shows more ties to their previous material. Wishing Well and This Is Home are the catchiest songs on Neighborhoods. If the band were to try to record an Enema of the State: Part 2 at this point in their career, the songs would sound like this. They don’t actually sound like it would have fit on Enema of the State, but the playfulness of the two songs show that the band isn’t all about being grown up and showing maturity (in particular, the lyrics to Wishing Well are kind of nonsensical: “I reached for a shooting star/it burned a hole through my hand/and made its way through my heart/had fun in the promised land” but in spite of that it’s still a fun song and everything about it definitely screams “hit single”). This Is Home features a prominent synth and an infectious, stuttering chorus. It’s nice to hear Tom singing lighthearted songs once again.

And if the two aforementioned tracks are what the band would sound like if they recorded a sequel album to Enema, then Kaleidoscope and MH 4.18.2011 would both be at home on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket: Part 2. Kaleidoscope is another “Mark song” turned “Mark and Tom song” which features Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on the piano, while MH 4.18.2011 has the distinct pleasure of being a pure Mark Hoppus tune. The former re-lives the more somber tunes from Take Off Your Pants but manages to avoid being as sappy as songs like Story of a Lonely Guy, while the latter song uses the familiar energy to try a hand at writing songs about living in fear. Interestingly enough, both songs have lyrics that could be interpreted as a metaphor for the band getting back together. That’s just speculation, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed it.

Love Is Dangerous fits the stereotypical “last song on the album” structure so well that there’s no way that it was recorded without knowing that it would end the album. Not that it’s a bad song or anything, but it doesn’t exactly reach the same level of “album closure” that other album closers reach. It’s not an awful or cringe-worthy track, but there’s nothing really special about it and it’s much less interesting than most of the other songs.

Deluxe edition track, Fighting the Gravity, harkens back to the slower, more grinding +44 songs such as Weatherman. In fact, I think this song could be a sequel to Weatherman. That’s how much it reminds me of that song. Lyrically it’s one of the darkest songs the trio has ever written and its slow instrumentals complement the lyrics in creating a moody atmosphere. A very direct contrast to what the band is usually known for.

Usually bonus tracks and B-sides can be alright, but they’re left of the final version of the product because there’s just something about them that makes them subpar to the songs that are on the album. But sometimes the songs that get cut out from the standard editions wind up being better than songs that did make it. Even If She Falls is one of those songs. While some tracks on Neighborhoods take some cues from the band’s back catalogue, Even If She Falls is a classic blink-182 song. Just listen and you’ll understand.

Was it worth the wait? To some, without a doubt. To others, not at all. The haters will continue to hate (I hardly think that blink-182 wrote this album with pleasing their dissenters in mind anyway) and the new sounds will turn off some old fans, but I think they did a fine job of taking bits and pieces of their previous efforts and combining them with the sounds of their side projects and running forward with the result. Sure, maybe some will complain that there are too many “Tom songs” and others might say that the production sounds sloppy (it doesn’t really, Jerry Finn may have passed on (RIP) but Mark has produced a fair number of albums at this point and it sounds like he knows what he’s doing). There is a very obvious influence of Tom DeLonge's other project that can be heard on a number of songs and there are also hints of +44 and just a touch of Travis Barker's solo ventures into hip hop, however after a few listens it feels very much like a blink-182 album. And that’s exactly what it is.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

25 Albums. #03: Dear You by Jawbreaker

Today's standard punk rocker loves Jawbreaker. They're held in such high esteem that you're more likely to be considered a poser if you don't like Blake Schwarzenbach. Punks love them so much that most are willing to overlook that Dear You was released on a major label. Okay, so some people don't like Dear You, but that's usually because of the stylistic shift as opposed to the label shift.

I bought Dear You on a whim one day in high school. I was waiting for my then-girlfriend to finish her last class of the day and I was browsing the nearby Best Buy for a gift for her (probably for an anniversary or her birthday or something, I don't really remember). I knew she liked the Offspring but didn't have anything by them, so I got her a copy of Smash and on my way to the register I saw Dear You on a shelf. Not knowing anything about Jawbreaker other than their name, I picked it up and decided to check it out.

I'm not going to say that it completely changed my life nor will I say that it made me become a better person but it didn't leave my CD player for months, so that has to count for something. I was at the end of my high school years, I had become distant from my group of friends, my new friends all still had a year or two left of high school, things with the lady didn't work out... I had a lot to be angsty about. And listening to this album made it all seem a little less difficult to deal with. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way about Dear You (although I'm sure some people are wondering why I didn't start with Bivouac or 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and to that I say: that copy of Dear You that I bought was the only Jawbreaker album they had).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

25 Albums. #04: My Brain Hurts by Screeching Weasel

I wrote about this album a few months back when it appeared as my number 1 pop punk album of all time (that list can be read here). Looking back on it, I feel that what I wrote about it on that list still holds true to this day, just as it has for the past however many years it's been since I first started listening to Screeching Weasel. This album is what really sparked my interest in learning more about the entire pop punk scene (whereas before I was content with just the radio charting acts).

Screeching Weasel has had more of a direct influence on modern pop punk than people give them credit for. Seriously. Go listen to this album and then listen to the first 3 blink-182 albums. If you say that you don't hear even the slightest bit of Weasel in any of those songs, then I know you're either lying or not actually listening. Anywho, blink-182 has, in turn, been a huge influence (for better or worse) on a million and one pop punk bands. Ergo, Screeching Weasel has helped shape modern music more than some people like to pretend.

Oh yeah, and check this out:

"Stolen" is such a strong word. Especially when in this case 
I think "homage" is more appropriate. 

Anyway, regardless of what the band members themselves are currently doing, I still love this album. Kind of like how some kids still like that first Skrewdriver album because it's from before that whole "racist skinhead" thing kicked in, only to a less extreme in my case. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

25 Albums. #05: Everything Goes Numb by Streetlight Manifesto

I'm not really sure what to say about this album. Streetlight Manifesto is fairly well known these days in punk circles and I think everyone knows enough about them to have already made a judgement.

Streetlight Manifesto's song writing was completely unlike anything I had ever heard before. Obviously I knew what ska was. Obviously I was familiar with incredibly fast singing. And obviously I was used to listening to bands whose lyrical content would sometimes create some fantastic imagery (suck it Green Day haters). However, the way that Streetlight Manifesto did it was still mind blowing to me. Tomas Kalnoky has a way of singing his lyrics with lightning speed but while still articulating each and every single syllable. To this very day it still amazes me.

And then of course there's all that other stuff that Streetlight Manifesto fans cream themselves over. Like Kalnoky's lyrics or the way that the band can be playing straight up ska punk one moment, but then at the drop of a pin be playing a much smoother sound with a Latin jazz tinge and then be playing gypsy folk inspired music. There will always be haters, but I think Streetlight Manifesto is probably one of the more talented and diverse bands that I listen to.

Even if it does take forever to record a new album.

25 Albums. #06: All Killer, No Filler by Sum 41

I was 12 or 13 when this album came out. It was right around the time when the new wave of radio friendly (kids who listened to Dookie or Enema of the State a few times and decided to pick up a guitar) "punk" (I use the term loosely should any purists be reading this) began to blossom.

This is a fun album. You can tell the guys in the band were just out of high school, wanted to have fun and were lucky enough to be able to put out an album that I'm sure was blasting at plenty of college parties. They drastically improved over time and now they're hardly recognizable as the same band but this entry isn't about that. All Killer, No Filler was one of the first albums I owned that I could call one of my favorites. It's only a half hour long and contains plenty of catchy hooks that will get stuck in your head if you're willing to listen and not pretend that you're too punk for it. I'm not sure if I still know all the words to it, but I know that about 4 years ago when I went on a night drive with my roommate and we listened to this album... I sang along to every track without missing a beat. Even the 80's metal tribute, Pain for Pleasure. No, I was not able to replicate that scream.

This also has Fat Lip on it. Screw you, I still like that song.

Friday, September 23, 2011

25 Albums. #07: The Acoustic EP by Against Me!

First things first. I realize this is an EP. I also realize that this is technically self titled. Moving on.

I love Against Me!. In high school I had all those typical conflicting feelings about the band, but I've given up on trying to hate them for the sake of hating them. There are some songs I think are stupid, but I'm not afraid to admit that I still like some of their newer releases.

That said, the Acoustic EP is still my favorite Against Me! release. It's raw and powerful enough to grab my attention and short enough to not get boring. This was still when Tom Gabel was still finding his voice, so some cuts are stronger than others (his vocals on "Reinventing Axl Rose" are pretty high up there in range in comparison to other songs) but The Acoustic EP doesn't have a bad track which is saying something because I've found faults with at least one song on every other album.

I rank it as an album that had a profound effect on me because it was the first folk punk release that I had really enjoyed. I was aware of a few bands of the genre, but Against Me! was the best. Their song writing was fluid, the musicianship was tight and the production was slick, but still pleasant to the ear. Those were all the same reasons I loved Minor Threat more than every other hardcore band. It was love upon first listen.

I don't think I'm really doing this EP justice. For me though, it's the pinnacle of folk punk. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Boys No Good - Never Felt Better

In a scene where "pop punk" bands quickly means "being like New Found Glory or The Wonder Years" I think that Boys No Good is a breath of fresh air. They obviously take from a lot of the same influences (if their name isn't a Lifetime reference I'll eat a pair of my dirty underwear), but what I like about Boys No Good's brand of melodic hardcore is that they focus more on the hardcore aspect, as opposed to their peers who venture toward going the incredibly sugary filled hooks route.

It should be noted that Boys No Good is made up of former members of Casey Jones and Kids Like Us- two straight edge hardcore bands out of Florida. Whereas those two bands let being straight edge be the focus of their music, Boys No Good takes a slightly different approach. They've still got some of their positive outlooks on life (especially in Bold City Tigers with the declaration of "there's no place I'd rather be than hanging with my friends!") but their output isn't based around being a member of the straight edge community.

Is it ironic that I was drunk while writing this?

Instead of minute long blasts of how the members don't drink, listeners are treated to (on average) 3 minute songs about hanging out with old buddies, girls, betrayal and the hardships of life (as well as possible ways to be positive about it). Four of the five songs from their demo appear on Never Felt Better, so if you've already heard their demo, you may have a slight idea of what this sounds like. Granted, if you've been keeping up with any band in the current pop punk scene (the aforementioned NFG and Wonder Years, Set Your Goals and so on) you probably have an idea of what Boys No Good sounds like. Musically at least, as their vocalist sings in a much more (I can't believe I'm using this term) "gruff" manner as opposed to the higher pitched nasal tones of the other pop punk bands in the modern day scene.

I feel as if I'm not really selling this album properly, so I'll just leave it at this: I guarantee that it is a solid melodic/pop punk album. These guys have really captured the way that Lifetime was able to meld their heavy hardcore background with super sweet hooks that get stuck in your head. The entire thing is streaming over at Punknews so maybe you should just give it a listen and judge for yourself. If there's any justice in this world, these guys will blow up by their third album or so.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

25 Albums. #08: Album Minus Band by Bomb the Music Industry!

I discovered Bomb the Music Industry! accidentally during my junior year of high school. I used to frequent the GameFAQs Music:Punk message board and BTMI! was all the rage. I was familiar with the Arrogant Sons of Bitches band name, but I had never really listened to them (this was back when you had to rely on Kazaa and Limewire and hope that someone would upload a decent quality song, which of course no one ever did) so my mind was free of making any apt comparisons between the two bands.

Everything is always falling apart. Or something.
It should be noted that at this point in my life, most of the modern punk rock I knew was NOFX or Rancid or Leftover Crack or something. I also pretended to not like Bad Religion because I was that hip of a punk rocker. But I digress.

Anyway, long story short, Bomb the Music Industry!'s "Album Minus Band" was the first real DIY album that I had listened to that wasn't at least 10 years old (and even at that point, most of those had been remastered). It was raw, fast, loud, fun, obnoxious and it was probably the coolest thing I had ever heard at the time. I had downloaded two bootlegs (from the aforementioned Music: Punk message board) of some of the band's earliest shows and they mentioned that everything they had recorded could be downloaded from free on their website, which is how I came to discover Album Minus Band. In my mind, it wasn't until Bomb the Music Industry! hit the scene when punk bands began to truly realize that in this modern age they could record their own shitty albums with ProTools and then put it up on the internet for free. (And then once Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails did it, bands of other genres began to follow, too.) I'll still listen to this album every now and then and think about how awesome it is for something that was pretty much done by one guy in a month. It's pretty inspiring to a 16 year old kid who plays nothing but Green Day covers on his guitar.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

25 Albums. #09: Sink or Swim by The Gaslight Anthem

I'm pretty much a walking cliché, I realize this.

I don't even think I can pinpoint the exact reason I love this band or album so much. I'll admit that I don't actually know what more than half the songs are about but I know that they make me feel comforted when I listen to them. I checked these guys out after seeing their name thrown around a lot on various websites and I was hooked on my first listen. That was almost four years ago now. I spent the entire summer of 2008 listening to almost nothing but this album (and the Señor and the Queen EP) and I'm not really sure what impact it had on me other than that I really, really like it. It didn't introduce me to any new styles of music, it didn't get me to be comfortable with admitting that I liked or took influence from genres other than punk, it didn't get me to look at life in a new way... I just really like listening to it.

I guess it introduced me to a band that I finally would be able to say that I liked more than Green Day. But other than that, I just like it a lot.

25 Albums. #10: Pinkerton by Weezer

This is another one of those albums that nothing really needs to be said about because at this point everyone knows it and everyone either loves it or completely hates it. As you could guess from its inclusion on my list, I fall into the former group.

As everyone is aware, this album was originally supposed to be a rock opera set in space, titled Songs from the Black Hole. It never came to be and a majority of the songs were scrapped while others were rerecorded for this album or some of its B-sides. The idea is certainly captivating, but if it had worked out then Pinkerton would never have existed so I don't mind how that turned out.

The lyrics have a very lonely vibe to them, so even though I can't exactly relate to the specific situations that Rivers sings about (being tired of sleeping with groupies, being stuck inside because of a gimp leg, being in love with a lesbian...), I can still relate to the general feeling of being lonely, just as every other teenager in the world can too.

Oh yeah, and Across the Sea is super creepy when you think about it.

25 Albums. #11: I Don't Want to Grow Up by Descendents

For anyone who doesn't know, I Don't Want to Grow Up is the second album by the Descendents. It's not as fast or snotty as their debut, Milo Goes to College, but it's still just as every bit of a classic. I know I've mentioned several times how I always really liked the way that the band took the fast, hardcore sound but wrote songs about girls and fishing instead of the usual politics that punk was known for in the 80's.

I Don't Want to Grow Up marks when the band started to go for a more melodic sound (particularly on the b-side) while also retaining their in-your-face style from their debut. But everyone already knows that this is a more mature album than Milo Goes to College, so I won't go on about that anymore.

This album is perfect. The last five tracks are flawless; an amazing way to end a record and also make for some of the best songs to ever put on a mixtape for that special someone (*ahemSillyGirlahem*).
Okay, so maybe not Christmas Vacation...
But the rest of the songs on this album rock too. The title track expresses the same sentiments that every young 20-something feels about growing up, My World embraces being a nerd, and Theme showed off the talents and musicianship of the band members showing they weren't a bunch of kids who just learned how to play their instruments. I Don't Want to Grow Up may be lacking the blistering speed of Milo Goes to College, but it's just as heavy and dense in many ways.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

25 Albums. #12: Siren Song of the Counter Culture by Rise Against

In 2005, I was mostly familiar with bands on the more mainstream side of things. Sugarcult, Motion City Soundtrack, New Found Glory, Fall Out Boy... I could go on but it's kind of embarrassing that there was a time when all the modern bands that I knew were the really sugary sounding ones played on Fuse. I knew a bunch of the classic bands, but as far as bands that I knew represented my era, I was pretty ignorant.

Of course, I discovered Rise Against because of Fuse too. Some video had just finished (I think it was either Sugarcult's "Memory" or Saves the Day's "Anywhere with You") when the video for "Give It All" came on. I wasn't really paying attention to the screen, but the music was a lot heavier and more aggressive than I was used to hearing. Granted, I've discovered much heavier music since then, but keep in mind I was still pretty young and unexposed to a lot of things.

I bought Siren Song of the Counter Culture a few weeks before going away to on vacation to Disneyland that year. A few days after I got back from there, I went to camp for three weeks and got back home just before school started. I don't think I took it out of my CD player until after the fifth week of my senior year. That's how much I listened to it. Seriously. I know this is the album that has "Swing Life Away" on it, so they're not all heavy hitters, but in comparison to what I was used to, this might as well have been Sabbath.

I guess a more appropriate analogy would be Black Flag.
Oh, and this album was the soundtrack to my ride home after the night I lost my virginity. So there's that too, I guess.

25 Albums. #13: Death By Television by The Lillingtons

The Lillingtons play a brand of pop punk music that sounds exactly like the Ramones. Their first album was nice and catchy, but overall it wasn't anything all that special. Then a few years later they released their second album and created the best pop punk album ever, Death by Television. Even Fat Mike says so.

True story.

You know how metal bands use a lot of imagery from that's very heavily inspired by works of fantasy? (from what I know, this mostly pertains to the power metal genre) You know, Nordic Gods, elves, giants, legendary beasts and whatnot are always plastered over their album covers and I always liked the artwork but I never cared much for the themes because I've always been more drawn to sci fi. Nothing against Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons, but I just naturally go for things more like Star Wars or Stargate. Anyhow, I bring this up because I always wished I had known more bands that did a sci-fi/comic theme, but not in a campy way like the Aquabats.

The Lillingtons totally write songs inspired by 1950's science fiction B-films. Aliens, robots, x-ray vision, Communist spies... all themes touched upon by the band. If there was anyway to improve upon the three chord formula that the Ramones used, then the Lillingtons did it on Death By Television. Seriously, go listen to "I Saw the Apeman (On the Moon)" and you'll realize how much better Blitzkrieg Bop would have been if it had been sci-fi themed. And if you don't think the song is very good, there's no need to worry since that might be the weakest song on the album and there are thirteen more to choose from.

25 Albums. #14: Box Car Racer by Box Car Racer

Given my status as a Green Day fan, I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that I also like blink-182 (not to mention that I've written about them before). And given that I like blink-182, it shouldn't really be all that surprising that I've also checked out the member's side projects and have varying opinions on them.

Out of everything that has come from a blink-182 related band, I think that Box Car Racer's lone release is my favorite. There are the obvious blink-182 connections (the fact that Tom DeLonge does all the singing and Travis Barker played the drums and one song has a riff that sounds oddly like a riff from "First Date"), but I think that this album shows more than what's to be expected from a blink-182 album, with slightly more experimentation (somewhere along the lines of early post-hardcore stuff... before post-hardcore bands started writing 7 minute compositions) and somewhat more introspective lyrics than what the world was used to hearing from Tom DeLonge at the time (remember, this was pre-Angels & Airwaves, so he wasn't suffering from Jesus Complex yet).

"My First Punk Song" isn't very introspective, but fuck that song.

So what kind of profound effect did this album have on my life? It showed me a more mature side of an artist who always seemed childish, and it showed me that writing more "mature" music doesn't necessarily mean that you have to start trying to sound like the Beatles or Billy Joel (no offense meant to those artists, but that's usually what "professionals" mean when they say a band has matured). Also, there's a duet between Tom DeLonge and Tim Armstrong on this album, and they rip off Alkaline Trio in the process while Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory adds in extra harmonies during the chorus. That's pretty cool in its own right.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

25 Albums. #15: dorkrockcorkrod by The Ergs!

Just like Green Day aped the Ramones and Rancid were trying to be The Clash in the 90's, the Ergs! took the Descendents formula (short songs about girls or nerdy things with a technical precision that shouldn't belong in punk rock) and just ran with it.

I don't think there's much else to say about that. I discovered this album kind of late (about three or four years after it came out) but it really rejuvenated my faith in modern day pop punk. Especially in this day and age when people think of bands like Good Charlotte or All Time Low as pop punk.


Oh yeah, and the title is a palindrome. Dorks.

25 Albums. #16 - I Love You; This Is a Robbery by Spoonboy

During my sophomore year of college, I went through a huge Plan-It-X phase. It started when a bunch of PIX bands played right off campus and continued well throughout the year to the point where Ghost Mice songs became a drunken standard for me and all of my friends.

Spoonboy's debut (and up until this year, his only solo album), I Love You; This Is a Robbery, was one of the many albums that I listened to during that phase. I don't think it left my CD player (because I still used a CD player back then) for about a month's time at least. It was comforting; I was in a pretty uncertain place at that time (going through the obligatory college break up, not knowing what to major in, etc) and it seemed like Spoonboy himself was feeling the same way. I vividly remember spending late November nights in the wood studio working on my project for class and listening to the album on repeat.

I also vaguely recall smelling a bonfire on those nights,
but it was probably just the kiln from the ceramic studio.
It was after I listened to this album that I tried my own hand at writing songs. I didn't really try to mimic his style, but I really liked how he (and other PIX artists, for that matter) would write songs that had somewhat of a traditional style, but went with a very narrative approach. I know that's why people love Bruce Springsteen, or Billy Joel, or whoever else, but for me this person was Spoonboy. His songs were short, catchy and they got their point across in a way that spoke to me. I don't think I liked any of the songs that I wrote at that period (I've only really ever liked two or three songs that I've written), but the fact remains that I never felt comfortable trying my hand at songwriting until after I listened to I Love You; This Is a Robbery. I think that's a pretty big effect on my life- hence its inclusion on this list.