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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

25 Albums. #17 - Anthem by Less Than Jake

I'm not really sure what to say about this one. So far a lot of these albums that I've included have also taught me something, or they opened up my ears to a new sound.

Anthem isn't really one of those albums. I just really, really liked it a lot when it came out. At that point, I only knew of All My Best Friends Are Metalheads and I wasn't familiar with the whole "90's ska bands going horn-less in the early 00's" fad at the time. I still liked it a lot.

I also knew this girl who said they didn't like "She's Gonna Break Soon" for being too poppy sounding. A fair complaint, except this girl was also the type who worshiped Fall Out Boy (but only their "old stuff). So yeah.

Also a Gilmore Girl was in the music video.
You know, the one who was also in Sin City

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Top 5 Songs on the Work Place Playlist

Taking a break from the 25 album thing. I'll continue it later. Anywho. I work as a Security Officer at this store. They play music for the shoppers. The music is made up of a bunch of classic radio hits as well as some more modern tunes. It's also made up of maybe 600 different songs, with only 300 of them being played a day. This gets repetitive.

I've grown tired of a lot of these songs. There's all those staple 80's songs. A Flock of Seagulls. The Outfield. Men at Work. Etc. With the exception of Men at Work, I don't even need to specify which song (Who Can It Be Now?) that the store plays because you can probably already guess the song. I don't even like that kind of stuff ironically, so having to hear those songs at least twice a day, multiple days in a row is pretty grating.

However, there are some songs I do enjoy. That's what this list is about. Enough introduction, I'll just get started.

#5. Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus

I'm not a huge Depeche Mode fan. I'm more a fan of this song. Any version of it, I don't really have a preference. Something about the lyrics. (Although I imagine a lot of people like the lyrics).

#4. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out

A few months ago, I remembered how much I enjoy the first Franz Ferdinand album. I don't mean that in a hip "holier than thou" way, I just mean that I like the album.

#3. Talking Heads - Burning Down the House
The funny thing about a lot of these songs is that I'm not really a big fan of the band. That said, I really like the vocal melody in the chorus of this song and I'm glad it gets played frequently at the store.

#2. Huey Lewis and the News - Hip to Be a Square
I can remember hearing this song on Sesame Street. And then it got name dropped in American Psycho. Funny how these things happen.

#1. The Clash - Train in Vain
All-in-all, I'm not actually a super big fan of the Clash. I love London Calling and both versions of the self titled album. But after that, I'll enjoy some singles or individual tracks but not a whole lot else. That said, I think this is a great tune. It's not too complicated, it's just a fun pop song.

And there you have it.

Oh wait, one more.

Bonus song: Mya + Blackstreet - Take Me There.
This song gets a bunch of nostalgia points because it's the song my graduating class sang when we finished elementary school back in 1999. I haven't heard this song pretty much since then.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

25 Albums. #18: nimrod. by Green Day

nimrod. was one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money. It was one of the only Green Day albums that my parents didn't have (39/Smooth and Kerplunk being the other two) (this was before 2004) and I had been really curious to hear it because I already knew I liked all the singles from it (thanks to International Superhits, but more on that later).

nimrod. is the first Green Day album to really showcase some growth in terms of style. There are the standard Green Day tracks (Nice Guys Finish Last, All the Time), acoustic tunes (Good Riddance), harmonica ballads (Walking Alone), silly ska songs (King for a Day), attempts at hardcore (Reject), surf instrumentals (Last Ride In) and a bit of extra instrumentation not heard on a Green Day album before. (the violin in Hitchin' a Ride, baseball bats on the B-side, Desensitized, etc.) So if anyone says that American Idiot was bad because Green Day experimented with and changed their sound too much, you know that they're full of shit and have no clue what they're talking about. But I digress. (Note: it's one thing if a person just doesn't like the album, my comments are merely directed at those who make blind complaints about American Idiot not sounding like Green Day's older albums when their older albums already have a bunch of diverse sounds on them).

Anywho, nimrod. played a large impact on my life because it signifies when I really began to listen to music on my own instead of just burning CDs that my parents already owned. I don't necessarily think it's the greatest Green Day album (Insomniac is) but I do think it was very important in shaping my musical tastes.