Category Archives: album review

Best of 2015

by Cherie

When it comes time to compile my favorite albums at the end of this year I always have a hard time. Even though I try my best there’s usually at least one or two albums that get missed – whether because I didn’t have time to listen to them during the course of the year or because I simply forget about them. I try my best to listen to new artists but I also tend to stick to a lot of the same ones, so there’s a lot of familiar names on my list: Frank Turner, Laura Marling, and Mumford and Sons just to name a few. There’s also some new names, though, like Willy Varley, George Ezra, and Halsey. Don’t be too surprised to see a lot of Xtra Mile bands on the list either. One side effect of repping the label is that you tend to listen to a lot of amazing music. And so, without further ado, here are my favorite albums from 2015.

Top Ten Albums


#1 Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony

Okay so technically The Balcony was released in 2014 but it wasn’t released in the United States until early 2015 when it was put out by one of my favorite record labels – Communion. If you haven’t heard of this band by now it’s time you stopped to give them a listen. The Balcony is only their debut album but it’s a surprisingly solid album for a freshmen release. The Welsh rock band have won the admiration of critics and fans alike, including Ewan McGreggor who became friends with the band after helping them shoot a video for their song “Hourglass”. The entire album is amazing and every time I listen to it I end up putting the whole thing on repeat.

Favorite Tracks: Hourglass, Tyrants, Cocoon, Kathleen


#2 Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People

As the title suggests, Frank Turner’s sixth studio album, Positive Songs for Negative People contains a mix of optimism and pessimism. “Mittens” is typical Turner song where he laments about a past relationship that “I once wrote you love songs, you never fell in love.” The entire album is a classic example of Turner’s unflinching honesty. Each song rings true even when Turner is being critical of himself and his past relationships. If I had to pick one song that best represents the entire album it would have to be the first single from the album, “Get Better” which proudly proclaims “I’m trying to get better because I haven’t been my best….we can get better because we’re not dead yet.”

Favorite Tracks: Mittens, Josephine, Silent Key, Get Better


#3 Short Movie – Laura Marling

Some things only get better with age. That seems to be the case with young Laura Marling, who released her fifth studio album this year. Short Movie is the first album to feature Marling on an electric guitar, and the album features a completely new sound and a sense of confidence that is striking in someone so young. The album was released after Marling took a year off from music and traveled around the United States by herself. The experience seems to have left a mark on her for she returned with a fifth album that is more mature, more confident, and louder then any of her previous albums. The album is about a woman learning who she is and accepting herself for that person. “Little boy, I know you want something from me / yes I may be blind but I am free / don’t you try and take that away from me,” she warns on the last track, “Worship Me.” Watch out world. Laura Marling is back and this time she’s taking no prisoners.

Favorite Tracks: False Hope, Short Movie, Walk Alone, Gurdjieff’s Daughter


Wilder Mind – Mumford and Sons

I think the world as a whole was probably taken aback when the London based quartet announced a new album in 2015 but warned fans ahead of time that would not feature a banjo. Many people only associate the band with their distinctive banjo backed brand of folk that they’ve become famous for. The truth is, however, that the band was ready for a change for their next album and so this time they opted for a sound more grounded in rock than the folk they were previously known for. They may have swapped the banjo for the fiddle (played live by Noah and the Whale’s own Tom Hobden) but the heart and soul of the band remains the same. The faster tracks are probably the band’s strong point but each song on the album is a reminder that the band is back and stronger than ever.

Favorite Tracks: Ditmas, Tompkins Square Park, Just Smoke, Hot Gates


#4 Blurryface – Twenty One Pilots

Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun have no concept of genre limiting boundaries. With every song they put out they push the boundary a little further, refusing to be pingeonholed into a traditional genre like pop, rock, or rap. Each song on the album is a different journey with it’s own flavor and sound of it’s own. Blurryface could be considered an anthem for today’s youths – for those who don’t quite fit in or for those who struggle with mental health. It’s an album for the misfits and for people who feel like they are growing up too fast. A lot of people can relate to the songs in some way or another and it’s refreshing to see a young band being open and honest and still be embraced full heartedly by their fans. Despite consisting of only two members the duo put on a fantastic live performance as well, and watching them live you can see their passion first hand.

Favorite Tracks: The Judge, Ride, Tear in My Heart, We Don’t Believe What’s On TV

Honorable mentions


Glitterbug – The Wombats

Favorite Tracks: This is Not a Party, Your Body is a Weapon, Give Me a Try, Greek Tragedy


Anthems for Doomed Youth – The Libertines

Favorite Tracks: Gunga Din, Fame and Fortune, The Heart of the Matter, You’re My Waterloo


Marks to Prove It – The Maccabees

Favorite Tracks: Spit it Out, Something Like Happiness, Marks to Prove It


Down on Deptford Broadway – Skinny Lister

Favorite Tracks: What Can I Say, Cathy, Trouble on Oxford Street, This is War


Wanted on Voyage – George Ezra

Favorite Tracks: Budapest, Casey O’, Can You Hear the Rain, Listen to the Rain


Postcards From Ursa Minor – Will Varley

Favorite Tracks: Talking Cat Blues, Seize the Night, Outside Over There


Badlands – Halsey

Favorite Tracks: New Americana, Colours, Castle, Ghost


Woman to Woman – Esme Patterson

Favorite Tracks: Never Chase a Man, Bluebird, The Glow


Froot – Marina and the Diamonds

Favorite Tracks: Blue, Happy, Savages, Better Than That


All Your Favorite Bands – Dawes

Favorite Tracks: All Your Favorite Bands, Things Happen, I Can’t Think About It Now


Whispers II – Passenger

Favorite Tracks: David, Fear of Fear, Nothing’s Changed


Rolling Up the Hill – Beans on Toast

Favorite Tracks: The Great American Novel, God is a Cartoonist, I’m Home When You Hold Me


Back on Top – The Front Bottoms

Favorite Tracks: Cough it Out, West Virginia, Help


To Us, The Beautiful – Franz Nicolay

Favorite Tracks: To Us, The Beautiful, Marfla Lights, Imperfect Rhyme


Graceland – San Cisco

Favorite Tracks: Run, Snow, Bitter Winter

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“Almanac Mountain Is In Like With You” Album Review

by Jeff – guest contributor

Chris Cote doesn’t want you to be comfortable. Not with any musical or emotional outlook you might be floating in. Not for long, anyway.

On his newest album, Almanac Mountain Is In Like With You,  Cote goes for glitch-coustic melancholy soaked in beakers of media-savvy absurdity and self-aware unease. It’s quite an unusual yet entertaining statement.

With a background in classical composition, Cote brings a creativity and strong backbone to pieces that might not have bloomed so strongly for lesser musicians. Breathy acoustic guitar, lo-fi beats, plaintive vocals, and early Pink Floyd fuzziness combine to paint saber-sharp commentaries on “might’ve happened” relationships. Chris doesn’t sound sad, though. He’s contemplative, if anything. Observational. Winking like a jocular owl.

Of note on Almanac Mountain’s newest album is the production quality. Cote’s vocals sound stronger and more sonically varied than ever before, which brings greater intimacy to this particular album. It’s like he’s sitting there in front of you on some beat-up 1970s plaid couch playing his guitar, cuing his sad clown orchestra, and loving it.

“Like I care, like I don’t, like you keep my heart afloat,” he sings on “My Blue Sky”, the most bare and heartfelt song on the album. Cote’s been playing it in concert for years around New Hampshire and Cape Cod, bringing goosebumps to listeners’ necks, but this is the best version Almanac Mountain fans will likely hear. It’s an intensely beautiful gasp of honesty.

“Car Crash,” “Promise Me,” and “Orison,” the synth-punched opening track, are more upbeat offerings while “The Old Carvings,” a dour, saxophone-infused romp with a coda that echoes in your head like a humming saw after the song ends, scours the modern subtleties of thought and pain.

Overall, Almanac Mountain Is In Like With You is a searching, fuzzy-headed, lyrically precise stab into reason and wincing memory. Yet from start to finish the album is unnervingly optimistic, even tunefully amusing.

Funny how that sometimes happens.


Almanac Mountain is In Like With You is available for purchase on the band’s bandcamp

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Celebrating 10 Years of American Idiot: Where It All Began For Me


It’s a unique pleasure to be able to pinpoint the exact moment when something truly special came into your life and forever changed the way you felt and understood the basic idea of a certain medium. When I was 15 years old, I wasn’t much of a music fan. I rarely listened to music as a hobby, and my understanding of rock music was whatever Now That’s What I Call Music CDs and mainstream radio tossed at me. In most instances, this meant bands such as Three Days Grace, Creed, 3 Doors Down, and Nickelback (with the occasional Blink-182 track that I still love and listen to). My feelings towards music were that of convenience and of necessity, not of passion; music was something nice for the background but not something I lived off of.

Then came 2004, and what has become my all-time favorite record was released by pop punk band Green Day. To backtrack, International Superhits (Green Day’s 2001 greatest hits album), was the first CD I ever owned, but I bought it mostly for “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and only glanced over the rest of the tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every song, from the infectious bass line on “Longview” to the acoustic strumming on “Macy’s Day Parade”, but as was typical for me at the time I enjoyed the songs without giving much thought to the music on a personal and emotional level. It was merely noise for the sake of noise, something that could fit into the background like a person you’ve never met walking beside you on the street.

Then American Idiot was dropped into my lap from the collective minds and talents of guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool. I saw it in stores everywhere and was instantly drawn to the bleeding heart/hand grenade logo on the cover and was hooked the first time I heard the song “American Idiot”. It was bold, in-your-face and unapologetic, and I wanted more; for the first time, I was inclined (and determined) to listen to an entire album based on a song rather than just listen to the singles or popular tracks. What I received was a lesson on music that I didn’t expect or know that I wanted, but one I sorely needed at the time.

The album was more imaginative than anything I had ever heard, something called a “rock opera” with characters, a narrative, rising and falling action, and a climax. It was like a novel in music form and I was in love. I became instantly infatuated with the suburban struggles of the jaded and bored “Jesus of Suburbia”, the story of his deserting his hometown in search of truth only to run into the mysterious “Whatsername” and his journey that led him back to Jingletown. I remember especially enjoying the repeated references that tied one song to the next, from the “7-11” he used to hang out at to the “letterbomb” Whatsername dropped on him to the “underbelly”, which was his gang of personal disciples. I found the idea of forming a collective story so much more interesting than just putting a record out with 10-14 seemingly random songs.

But more than just the story, it was the first album that implored me to notice the instrumentation and to take interest in the idea and style of writing lyrics and composing music. I was floored the first time I heard “Give Me Novacaine” and hearing how the soft lullaby of the acoustic guitar gave way for the imposing, raucous chorus that engulfed my senses. I dug the high-pitched shrill of “Nobody likes you/everyone left you/they’re all out without you/having fun” that preceded the crunchy guitar intro on “Letterbomb”. More than anything, I was amazed at the two 9-minute, 5-part epics (equipped with tempo changes and stylistic variety that made each song an impressive, unparalleled roller coaster of musical emotion). To be able to switch up a song so many times while not losing sight of the narrative and the importance of what the band was singing made those two of my best songs I’ve ever heard. American Idiot did for me what Dookie did to the grunge craze and what grunge did to the hair metal phase: it purged any remaining semblance of who I was as a music fan and created a completely new outlook on music.

The story of American Idiot is timeless at its heart; it remains tied to the idea of alienation, loneliness, anger, and longing, among so many more. The story of looking for a better life for yourself but ultimately being disappointed has been told time and time again, but at the moment when Green Day released it, it was a story that needed to be told in the way Green Day told it. For this reason (and simply because the band was bold enough to go against what was “easy” and challenge their fans and the music world) this album will remain special for a long time.

Without American Idiot, I would not have the same undying passion for music that I have. Maybe another album would have come along that would have had that effect on me, or maybe not. But for me, American Idiot was the beginning of it all, the same way Dookie was the beginning of punk for so many in the mid-90’s and influenced an entire crop of bands that I now love. Without American Idiot I would not be into my other favorite bands, like Bayside and The Wonder Years, because I wouldn’t care so deeply about music on a personal, lyrical, and emotional level and would not be able to connect with the music these types of bands make.

Even if I go through a period of time where I don’t listen to American Idiot for a few weeks, or a few months, or even a year, not a day goes by where I don’t contemplate its profound impact on my life. I think about all the shows I’ve attended (including a few Green Day shows) and all the experiences that have made my life richer and more fulfilling, and I can trace it all back to September 21, 2004, when Green Day released American Idiot. For that, I am forever grateful.


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Five Albums to Watch For in the Fall

by Vasilis

It’s a fact we all hate to address but must inevitably face: summer has come to an end. Although the east coast remains unseasonably warm for early September, Labor Day is behind us and the season of pumpkin-spiced drinks and fall attire is fast-approaching. With that comes one of the busiest times of the year in the music world, as bands prepare for new albums and big tours. Musicians seem to especially love October and November, as these months seem to attract some of the best shows and new music of the season. With so much to look forward to, there are five particular albums that I’m very excited to hear over the last four months of 2014.


Hostage Calm – Die on Stage (September 16)

Unlike the other four bands who occupy this list, Hostage Calm are young and don’t sport the stature or name-recognition the others do. However, Hostage Calm earned the respect and attention of anyone who listened to their 2012 effort Please Remain Calm. The ambitious album read like a rallying cry for the disenfranchised and marginalized, pleading for patience and for self-preservation in a time of great crisis for so many. The band’s power-pop melodies infused with punk idealism inspired the imagination of a growing audience. Hostage Calm are returning in September with what promises to be an equally-ambitious follow-up for their fourth studio effort; lead single “Your Head/Your Heart” built on the progression they made on their last album with catchy hooks and toe-tapping melodies, while “A Thousand Miles Away From Here” drew more from their hardcore punk roots with fist-pumping urgency. Die on Stage should serve to further push the band forward and continue their steady growth.


New Found Glory – Resurrection (October 7)

If ever an album title spoke volumes about where the band was at this point in their careers, it would be this one. New Found Glory have toured relentlessly for the past few years in support of new albums and celebrating the anniversaries of their classic work. However, the group was faced with a sex scandal that forced them to kick out rhythm guitarist and primary lyricist Steve Klein last year. While many wondered if this would negatively affect the pop punk legends, the band chose to go forward without Steve and promised to stick together and rely on brotherhood and their fans to get through. Resurrection is the result, and the band has shown no signs of slowing down. Lead single “Selfless” is riff-heavy in the same vein as Catalyst and Not Without a Fight, as the opening lick draws heavily from their hardcore roots. It’s a welcome shift from the enjoyable but ultimately uninspired Radiosurgery, an album which felt like pandering to fans hoping for a pop punk sequel to Sticks and Stones. The new song is heavier than anything on the last album but latches on to the catchiness that has helped this band resonate with generations of fans, which should bode well for Resurrection.



Yellowcard – Lift a Sail (October 7)

It’s hard to believe 2014 marks Yellowcard’s fifth year back together after reforming from their “indefinite hiatus”; it’s even harder to believe that Lift a Sail marks the band’s ninth studio effort and third since returning (and their first with label Razor & Tie). The band has taken few breaks since 2010, choosing instead to tour non-stop and not keep their fans guessing as to what the future holds. Though both albums were well received (including the 2012 album Southern Air, which is one of the band’s best works to date), their newest effort will be the first that will not feature Longineu Parsons III (LP) on the drums. While the news hit fans hard, the band persevered on (with help from Anberlin drummer Nate Young). I’m intrigued as to what this album will sound like, as the band also promised it would have “less of a pop punk sound, more of a rock sound”. Lead single “One Bedroom” is bold and sincere and fits their description well, sounding like a sequel to their 2011 single “Hang You Up”. It’s hard to gauge exactly what the album will sound like from this song alone, but with the band promising a huge sound there’s a lot of potential for another solid addition to the Yellowcard discography.


Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End (October 7)

Let me first say that October 7 is shaping up to an incredible day for new music. With that said, the final album from that day to make the list is Weezer’s ninth studio album Everything Will Be Alright in the End, an album that could have made it on here based on its name alone. Since Pinkerton, many (including myself) have found much fault with a lot of the band’s work, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some good there. The band rebounded from what is undoubtedly their most embarrassing effort (Raditude, 2009) with a respectable and enjoyable album (Hurley, 2010). After releasing three records in three years, the band decided to hit the brakes and take their time releasing a follow, which brings with it the possibility of a more thought-out album. Lead single “Back to the Shack” is classic Weezer in all their nerd rock glory, and its riff-heavy opening is a welcome sound to what made Weezer so enjoyable. While it isn’t an instant Weezer classic, it does show that there’s plenty left in the well to draw from and has many excited about the prospects of their newest album.


Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways (November 7)

I am on board with anything that Dave Grohl is a part of. After proclaiming that Foo Fighters would be going on hiatus, a loud sigh of relief escaped the mouths of rock and roll fans everywhere when the band announced they would be releasing a new album in 2014. Sonic Highways will appeal heavily to anybody interested in the number “8”; the album marks the band’s eighth studio effort album, was recorded in eight different cities, includes eight tracks, and features eight different album covers with an infinity sign and a depiction of one of those eight cities. The album brings forth memories of the classic rock days when bands like Led Zeppelin used to release eight-song albums that lasted well over 40 minutes, which may hint at the possible sound and influence the band is going for with their latest effort. Following Wasting Light, one of the band’s most consistent records to date, expectations are high for Sonic Highways. The band will also be premiering an HBO series and lead single on October 17.

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Album Review // Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – “We Don’t Have Each Other”

by Vasilis



On what is probably my tenth listen to We Don’t Have Each Other in the weeks since it was first streamed by Hopeless Records, I couldn’t help but feel immense sympathy for Aaron West unlike any I have felt for even some of my closest friends. Having lost his father, a child, and experiencing a bitter divorce, Aaron is having a year that would cripple most of us, but he has turned to singing about his sorrows to ease his pain; it’s enough to make the listener want to give him a hug. More incredible still is the fact that Aaron West is a fictional character, a figment of The Wonder Years vocalist/songwriter Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s very vivid imagination.

Dan embarked on a unique project for his debut solo record. Known for his very personal lyrics and emotionally-charged vocals, the pop punk frontman and fan favorite decided on an Americana-influenced, folk-punk record focusing on the worst year in the life of the fictitious Aaron West. Though an acoustic-heavy solo record is certainly not unheard of in the punk community, We Don’t Have Each Other feels fresh, a triumphant look into the struggles and emotions in the world of a completely imagined character as real as the songs he has sung about his own life. Using the project to expand on his lyrical repertoire, Dan’s research into the character (much like how a novelist would dive into the world of his fictional subjects) pays dividends and helps the listener experience a deep, personal connection to Aaron.

Opening with the soft hum of a finger-picked acoustic guitar, Aaron wastes no time getting to the heart of his sorrow: the divorce from his wife Diane. The song flows flawlessly from the dreams of their Brooklyn apartment to the realizing that his wife’s sister is telling him Diane is leaving. The subtle details, like finding his wife’s hairpins around the apartment to the emptiness of the bed (“I can’t stand my bed without you”) are striking and show the lengths Dan went to make this world as concrete as possible. The details compliment the narrative throughout the album, from the grapefruit color they painted their child’s walls in “Grapefruit” to watching Buffalo Bills games with his late father in “You Ain’t No Saint” to the homeless man comforting him in “The Thunderbird Inn”, every step of the journey is elucidated.


Musically, the album explores several styles. The band consists of eight total members according to Dan, including a full horn section, bass, guitar, and drums. Produced by The Early November’s Ace Enders, his keen ear is on full display; he helps Dan craft each song to reach its full potential with precise placement of every instrument, from banjos to horns to harmonica. Dan showcases an impeccable knack for capturing Aaron’s mood with the varying styles on each song while keeping the sound cohesive as it follows the story. The middle of this album especially shines. “Running Scared” is upbeat and celebratory, finding Aaron on the run from his problems to the comforting warmth of the south. The chorus features a soaring hook with an indie rock flare on top of pounding drums. “Divorce and the American South” returns to a mellow acoustic vibe, with Dan addressing his inability to find happiness in the south to an ex-wife who isn’t listening. “The Thunderbird Inn” combines the soft with the loud, opening with acoustic strumming that builds to a raucous chorus with Aaron lamenting “Didn’t know that I looked that pathetic.”

As is typical with Dan’s work, he saves the best for last with the hopeful closer “Carolina Coast”. The song is poetic and heart-wrenching, but laying deep in the crevices of his misery is a glimmer of hope found on the horizon of the Carolina coast that he is now staring out on. Aaron’s long trip to the south to find comfort and escape his sadness is unsuccessful, as he is still swallowed by his sorrow. The bluesy backing guitar riff beautifully compliments the acoustic guitar, and the harmonica gives the song a campfire feel to it. Aaron closes the album out with the realization that “I’m not coming home tonight without/Diane by my side, no.” In a strange yet appropriate choice, the album ends with an acoustic cover of “Going to Georgia” by The Mountain Goats. The song was not written for the album but fits eerily well into the overall themes of travelling south and returning home to a loved one.

There is no telling what the future holds for Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. This could be a single record or could become a biography of an imagined person that comes to life. Whatever Dan decides to do, the listener can be sure he will put his full effort into it. While he has made it clear The Wonder Years remain his top priority, an outlet like this can only serve to bring out the best in his writing and inspire him even further. We Don’t Have Each Other is both a great record to hold fans over but also an album that stands strongly on its own, crafted with beautiful guitar work, excellent production from Ace Enders, and the lyrical excellence we’ve come to expect from Dan Campbell. I just hope Aaron West finds the peace he’s looking for.




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The Best from the First Half of 2014

by Vasilis

It seems like just yesterday that we were ringing in the New Year, and yet the calendar has already found July. With the year already half-over, it’s that time to look back at some of the best the music world has had to offer us, and there sure has been a lot of great albums. There are still a number of promising albums anticipated for the months between July and December, but it’s going to be tough to live up to the incredible first half of music we had in 2014.

As always, this list is completely subjective, so you may not like the albums I’ve picked and may not even know who they are. Additionally, there are plenty of great albums that were released outside of the genres I normally listen to, but this list will be fairly contained within my personal favorite genres and artists. Still, I stand by every one of these pieces of music being important and worth your time and attention. So without further delay, I bring you my 10 favorite albums from 2014 (so far).

10) Tigers Jaw – Charmer


The band’s newest full-length was originally supposed to be their last after their supposed break-up last year, but the indie-emo favorites are not done yet. After such a solid and complete work, that’s good news.

09) Manchester Orchestra – COPE


            Open the windows up and crank the volume up to eleven on COPE, Manchester Orchestra’s awaited follow-up to Simple Math. Focusing primarily on guitar, this album features some great lyrics and aggressive songs from “Top Notch” straight through the closer, Cope.

08) Say Anything – Hebrews

say anything

            A rock album with no guitars may not sound enticing to many, but the always-inventive Max Bemis makes it work on the unapologetic, insanely brass Hebrews. Max invites his friends and fellow musicians to sing along on this album, which takes risks and features some of the band’s most aggressive and inventive work, as is evident on songs like “Hebrews” and “Kall Me Kubrick”.

07) You Blew It! – Keep Doing What You’re Doing

you blew it

            You Blew It! put together one of the best emo albums of the year so far by enlisting the help of Evan Weiss (The Progress, Into It. Over It., Their/They’re/There, Pet Symmetry) as producer. It does wonders, as the sound and vocals are noticeably is crisper and less muddled than on their debut. Songs like “Award of the Year Award” and “Better to Best” are catchy and fun while remaining emotionally heavy and relatable.

06) Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All

modern baseball

You’re Gonna Miss It All is the fun, care-free college-aged emo you grew up with. The band waxes poetic about iPhones and Instagram accounts but still find time to get serious when necessary and think about the future. It’s an entertaining album about growing up from a young band that still has a lot of growing up to do.

05) Fireworks – Oh, Common Life


Fireworks remain one of the most creative and talented bands in the pop punk scene which is often oversaturated with mediocrity and bands mimicking one another. Oh, Common Lifeis the latest addition to a solid discography and builds on their best album Gospel. Dealing primarily with the death of vocalist Dave Mackinder’s father, the album is a dark look at everyday life built with solid instrumentation and heartfelt lyrics.

04) Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues


Transgender Dysphoria Blueswill not go down as the best album of the year, but it certainly will go down as one of the most important. It’s open and honest in a way we’ve never seen about being transgender, a topic so few know about. Laura Jane Grace’s personal experiences throughout her life build a solid foundation, and the music and lyrics are urgent and in-your face. This album shows the band still has a lot left in the tank and serves as one of the best of their career.

03) I Am the Avalanche – Wolverines


It was great to only have to wait two and a half year for a new I Am the Avalanche album as opposed to the six-year wait for their sophomore album. Wolverineshas a sharp bite to it, as Vinnie Caruana’s screams are as harsh as ever. The album focuses on what the band does best: blue color punk/hardcore with relatable lyrics and that classic New York style to it. Songs like “177” and “Anna Lee” are some of the best in the band’s catalog.

02) Bayside – CULT


“Bayside is a Cult” has been the rallying cry for as long as the band has had their well-established fanbase. On CULT, the band’s sixth studio album, the group draws influences from their whole catalog to create a complete work with a little bit of everything that makes Bayside great. Just another solid release for the boys from Queens, New York.


01)  The Menzingers – Rented World 


            The task of following up an album as impressive and acclaimed as On the Impossible Task is no easy feat, but Philadelphia punk band The Menzingers succeed in proving they’re up to the task with Rented World. Though not as memorable, it improves upon the sound they crafted on the last release and continues their knack for punchy tunes and relatable songwriting. “In Remission” and “Rodent” are two of the best songs I’ve heard so far this year.

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June Roundup


48: 13 – Kasabian (reviewed by Ken)

It’s certainly not the album that we expected it to be, but that doesn’t for a second mean that Kasabian’s latest release, 48:13, is far from enjoyable. An over-hyped album? Yes, though that’s nothing new for the Leicester rockers. Tracks such as “Stevie and Treat” do feel familiar but still extensively clever in their own unique way. The weirdest moments come from “Bumblebee”, the heaviest song the band has ever produced. Whenever it’s about to go into the chorus you can almost feel the adrenaline surging through singer Tom Meighan, causing him to go into the bombastic chorus as though he literally jumped into it. Tracks such as “Treat and Exploded” are nestled in the middle of the album and do a fantastic job of showcasing the bands extensive range of hip-hop, electronica, and vibrancy. What makes 48:13 stand out above past Kasabian works is that you can tell that the band are fully aware this is an album that won’t win them any new fans but it’s still an album where they can celebrate who they are, and boy is 48:13 the prime example of a celebration.


Forever For Now – LP (reviewed by Cherie)

When you hear the list of musicians that Laura Pergolizzi has written songs for – a list that includes pop superstars such as Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and Cher – you might expect her personal style to conform to the confines of pop music. While it’s true that her music is catchy, it’s much more dynamic and explorative than most of her contemporaries and can’t be pinned down quite so easily. Forever For Now is LPs third studio album, and it’s bold and uplifting and unlike anything else that’s been released so far this year. It’s a breath of fresh air in an industry that sees so many bands conform to the expected aesthetic, afraid to break from the mold if it means losing fans or revenue. LP manages to create a sound that is uniquely her own with her whistling melodies and catchy ukulele driven tracks. Soaring vocals that are slightly imperfect further add charm to the album. LP makes the kind of music that empowers you and makes you want to stand on the edge of a cliff and scream along to the lyrics. Many of the tracks, most notable “Night Like This” and “Into the Wild”, will have you stomping and humming along before you even know the words. Releasing this record in June was a brilliant plan because it’s the perfect summer album.


Hebrews – Say Anything (reviewed by Vasilis)

Nobody could ever accuse Say Anything singer/songwriter Max Bemis of holding anything back in his songs, but on Hebrews, he is even more candid and scathing than usual. The band’s sixth studio LP is their most passionate and creative work in some time, foregoing the use of any guitar and instead recording strictly with drums, strings, keys, and synth in its place. Not every decision Max makes on the album works, but the risks and unapologetic bravado help the album succeed. The album is strange, from the hushed lullaby-style of opener “John MacClane” to the epic “Kall Me Kubrick” (equipped with a bridge that involves Max shouting the world “swastika”), the album will leave a lasting impression on you, one way or the other. Featuring sixteen guest vocal spots from beloved singers ranging from Blink-182 to Los Campensinos!, this album has something for everyone. Check out our full review of Hebrews here.


The Hunting Party – Linkin Park (reviewed by Cherie)

I wanted to like this album, I really did. Linkin Park has been one of my favorite bands since I first started listening to music. They’ve done a lot of groundbreaking things in their day and I feel like I’ve grown up with them. But they started to lose me a couple of years ago when A Thousand Suns first came out and that trend of being disappointed with each new album has continued with The Hunting Party. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent enough album. But the band has lot its edge. They sound like they’ve lost their anger and their intensity –the very things that they made a name for themselves with. The new music is polished but emotionless. Even a slew of guest vocalists can’t save this album from mediocrity. If I’d never heard Hybrid Theory or Reanimation or Minutes to Midnight maybe I’d like this album. But it’s uncreative and uninspiring when compared to their early work. Fans who like the bands newer stuff will probably like The Hunting Party, but old fans will likely find it to be a letdown.


Rose (EP) -Front Bottoms (reviewed by Vasilis)

I will never complain about new music from The Front Bottoms. Coming in the form of a six-song EP, Rose (named after drummer Matt Uychich’s grandmother) is the latest installment from the undeniably fun indie-folk-punk New Jersey band. The album finds them further expanding upon their infectious, dancy acoustic guitar heavy indie sound that they have thrived with in their self-titled debut and on Talon of the Hawk. The band opens the EP with a reworked and rerecorded version of “Flying Model Rockets” (originally on My Grandma vs. Pneumonia) and it’s immediately improved thanks to improved vocals and production which help the instrumentation sound clearer. The EP captures the band at their catchiest (“Be Nice to Me”), sincere (“Twelve Feet Deep”) and funny (“Awkward Conversation”). The lyrics hold nothing back and let you into Brian Sella’s life with no filter on the most awkward and embarrassing moments. The band continues to grow at a rapid pace and, with music like this, there’s no reason to think they’re done.


Whispers – Passenger (reviewed by Cherie)

Some might say that Michael David Rosenburg has hopped on the Mumford & Sons’ coattails and joined the folk revival so any success he gains stems from that. But the only similarity between the two bands is that they have both been lumped under the same vague umbrella of indie folk. Passenger is acoustic based folk music, but the songs are anything but simple. Each song on Whispers has a distinct sound. “Golden Leaves” has a very melancholic feel that is accentuated by accompanying strings. The track “Thunder” enforces its harsh sound with heavy drums and horns to give it a tropical vibe. The album is very reflective in tone, and Rosenburg pulls no punches. The album reflects on love and relationships without idealizing them. “You know those love songs break your heart,” he sings on one track. It would be easy at first to dismiss this album as nothing special, but if you listen closely it’s expertly crafted. Each song tells its own story and has its own sound but it all feeds into the overall story. Rosenburg isn’t an absent narrator in this story though, he is very much present. In the track “27” he laments all the things that he has done and all the time he’s wasted. That song also offers us the best glimpse at his character as well when he sings: “Only thing I know, the only thing I get told / I gotta sell out if I wanna get sold / don’t want the devil taking my soul / I write songs that come from the heart / I don’t give a fuck if they get into the chart or not.”

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Album Review // Say Anything – “Hebrews”

by Vasilis

 say anything

        Six albums deep into a career that has seen its fair share of successes, failures, praises and criticisms, it’s clear that Say Anything singer/songwriter Max Bemis just doesn’t care anymore.

By “doesn’t care anymore”, I am not talking about the music. Whether you like newer Say Anything or swear by nothing but the old stuff, there’s no denying Max takes great pride in his work and continuously strives to produce something new and interesting with each release, for better or for worse. By “doesn’t care anymore”, I mean that he is through sweating the views of his fans, detractors, and music bloggers and journalists when deciding what direction to take his music in. There may not be a musician that cares more about his fans than Max (as is evident from his ever-popular Song Shop and his continued interactions with his audience) but that doesn’t mean he’ll write another …Is a Real Boy to satisfy fans who didn’t enjoy Anarchy, My Dear.

Max is the happiest he’s ever been, no longer the substance-dependent bi-polar young adult who produced the band’s charmingly discombobulated and life-altering early works. The new Max is settled in with a wife and child in tow and has the freedom to do as he pleases. From naming his band’s sixth studio release “Hebrews” to self-producing it to recording every song without the use of guitars to having 16 guest vocalists (including four appearances from his wife, Sherri Dupree-Bemis of Eisley), Max uses every bit of this freedom on the band’s sixth studio album. Fans expressed considerable concern over the decision to record the album without guitars, as many found it to be a strange choice and a betrayal of the band’s style.

While Hebrews will be just as polarizing, if not more polarizing, than Anarchy, My Dear, it features the energy, inventiveness, and vision we’ve come to expect from Say Anything which their last album sorely lacked. Hebrews is unlike anything the band has produced, similar in nature to their 2009 Self-Titled release but with a revived tenacity and ferocity unseen since the band’s early days. Now 30, Max has found a new lease on life and new heights to reach for. The album grapples with harsh realizations of the narrator’s reality, holding nothing back in its studious self-examination and neurotic ramblings. Opening with the serene, lullaby-like “John McClane”, Max wastes no time getting right to the heart of the matter, keying the listener in to the musical and lyrical style that’s to be expected over the next 46 minutes. The song, which takes its name from Bruce Willis’ Die Hard character John McClane and features guest spots from Saves the Day’s Chris Conley and The Get Up Kids’ Matt Pryor, relentlessly spits out one-liners describing the awkward Max in a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek playfulness over the twinkly piano and hypnotic chorus.

The emphatic lead single “Six Six Six” tackles religion in a style reminiscent of 80’s synth-driven pop with a punk attitude. “Judas Decapitation” is refreshingly blunt, perfectly crafted through soaring melodies and a brilliant drum beat accompanying the keys in the chorus. Max remains completely candid, scathingly singing about reactions to his marriage (“I hate that dude now that he’s married/he’s got a baby on the way, poor Sherri!”), fan expectations (“he’s not the wretch we know/chop his family up, so we can feed them to the front row!”), his songwriting style (“this is the tale of a bearded sloth/who debases himself just to get his rocks off/recruits five skinny better looking men/to play guitar parts he’ll never play again”) and even including a playful nod to the band’s 2004 masterpiece …Is A Real Boy (“Be 19 with a joint in hand/never change the band/never ever be a dot dot dot real man!”)

             Max makes some peculiar choices on Hebrews that’s sure to lead to some head scratching, but those prove to be some of the album’s most memorable moments. On the boisterous “Kall Me Kubrick”, the epic string arrangement builds to a bridge that finds Max repeatedly and crassly blurting out “swastika!” Its uncomfortable and off-putting nature is clearly intentional, meant to catch the listener off guard but play into the album’s desire for expressing emotional freedom. On the title track (featuring Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms), Max randomly breaks into a bridge comprised of him speak-singing in Yiddish and proclaiming, “I am a waste of a bar mitzvah”.

On “Push” (featuring a theatrical spot from MeWithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss), the bridge catches Max screaming “Push! Push! Push!” louder and louder as the piano and drums crash around it, which is equally confusing and annoying but displays Max’s intentional and clear creative vision and direction. “Lost My Touch” focuses on the vocals and keys without use of percussion, again addressing the criticism he’s taken in regards to musical direction and his own lyrics that spew “smug, self-loathing bile”. While the song sails along seamlessly (with sister-in-law Christine DuPree lending additional vocals), the guest spot from Touche Amore’s Jeremy Bolm comes out of nowhere with production that leaves a lot to be desired and screams that sound out of place on the quiet, introspective track. If these sound like criticisms though, they’re mere observations, as every choice, both good and bad, help craft the album’s distinct character and charm. Every guest spot, from Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge to Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull, adds another layer to the song and give it a defining personality that makes them shine.

          The most endearing thing about Hebrews is that the album recognizes its own glaring flaws. It’s sloppy and uncomfortable to listen to at times, could use some improvements and will turn many people off on first listen. But it not only knows about these shortcomings, it embraces them with confidence and self-assurance. It is an honest, open, and all-encompassing work that hits you in the face with its brash bravado. The music is unforgiving, laying it all out on the table and telling you to take it or get the hell out. Max pulls no punches and makes sure to never mince his words, telling you exactly what he thinks in exactly the manner he wants to. For all that, he should be applauded, because it’s not often we see a musician do what he wants without caring about the consequences. Hebrews is inventive and completely unexpected, which is a rare feat for an artist six albums deep into his career. It’s very possible you may not like this album. In fact, it’s highly likely that you won’t. Max Bemis doesn’t care, nor should he.

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Dan Fisk “Drifting” is Not Drifting at Sea, But Docked at Success

By Christina, guest writer


“Drifting” is the sophomore effort by a singer/songwriter Dan Fisk. Usually a second album is difficult to live up to the success of a first album but Dan has no worries here. Within the first few seconds of “As Long As I’m With You” I was head bopping, clapping, and toe-tapping along with him. It’s one of those songs that the lyrics are good, the harmonies are wonderful, and you really just want to get up and dance. This is a wonderful energetic tune about falling in love.

“Heart Lies” opens up with a dirty guitar, and turns into another dance tune. Horns give it a great jazzy sound, and guitars and the drums join in during the bridge to make you do a mean jive. This song is truly a mix vocally and musically. The lyrics will definitely stick in your head and you will find yourself humming this one throughout the day and the video merely adds to the experience. This is definitely a great song that will climb the charts.

“Disappear” is the third song on this album and the first ballad. The lyrics stand out as the appeal to this song about losing your love to someone else. “I’m a moon without a glow, a sail without a boat at sea…. Gotta find the strength to let go. … Never took the time to feel. Sweetly you gazed while softly I played for you all the songs I know. Disappear, I wanna disappear.” Piano and violin throughout the tune adds a beautiful transition between the stanzas.

“Barefoot Tap Dance” is one of those songs I liked the more I listened to it. It flows like silk through your fingers. “I need a girl to keep in step and understand it’s a barefoot tap dance” Although I’m not a ballroom dancer, this feels more like a latin dance than a tap dance.

“Stage 5 Clinger” is the big hit of this album. It is funky, while still country, and it is just plain FUN. “It’s Facebook official, I’m as single as a dollar bill. You’re batshit crazy… Getting rid of you is like trying to get the Marlboro man to quit.” Again the bridge with drums and guitar just jives with the song and you find yourself really getting into the song. He ends the song with a classic line that I’m sure many of us have said before: “I don’t care if you were good in bed, I wish we hadn’t met.”

“Talk To Me” has horns, guitars and a sense of “being plugged in”. He wants to know can we go any time without our cell phones in hand or being plugged in. “We have everything we need in hand, but never been more alone. They sit in silence with not a word to say. 140 characters I think there’s a better way. Nobody is as they seem.”

“Thicker Than Water” is like riding a horse with the tempo slowed down. This is another ballad storytelling and it’s at a level equal to some of the greater storytellers in music these days. The violin and piano gives the tune a haunting feel. This song is a very strong dedication to a sibling that was always there to protect, and shield him. The line “You rushed in and screamed at the silence, but she didn’t hear” speaks volumes about how much pain he was in, and how much he was protected.

Dan is quoted as saying: “Music allows me to have a dialog with people, where we can both feel the same feelings, but on a deeper level than we could if we were just talking to each other.”Dan is definitely a very good conversationalist, and songwriter. If the title of the album is an indication that he is unsure of the genre he wants to label himself under, I believe country music and the fans will be glad to claim him.


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April 2014 Roundup


Apache Relay – The Apache Relay (reviewed by Cherie)

Not content to be written off as “just another Mumford inspired band”, indie folk/rock band The Apache Relay have managed to completely reinvent their sound for their second, self-titled, album. From the first track of the album, Katie Queen of Tennessee it’s clear that this album has a much different sound then their largely folk inspired debut album, American Nomad. The band plays around with various melodies, layering them to create a lush sound that will draw the listener in completely. The songs are fuller, more mature, and the band seems to have solidified a sound that is uniquely their own. Its a clear evolution in sound for the band, both lyrically and melodically. Fans of the bands older work will be delighted to find that the band retains, at its core, the same heart and soul of American Nomad. The track “Don’t Leave Me Now” in particular sounds like it could have almost been lifted off the bands first album, but it has found a home on the second album instead and helps to serve as a bridge between the two albums. This is a must listen for anyone who is interested in indie rock music, especially for fans of nu-folk.


Cope – Manchester Orchestra (reviewed by Vasilis)

Manchester Orchestra announcing that their fourth studio album COPE would be released on April 1st seemed like a cruel “April Fool’s” joke. Luckily, this was no act of deception and the group finally released their long-awaited album. While it doesn’t quite surpass the band’s first two albums, it is a significant improvement over Simple Math which, while enjoyable in its own right, is regarded by many as the band’s weakest full-length effort. The band cranks up the volume to 11 on COPE, as the album ditches a lot of the slower, glossier indie-influenced tracks in favor of straight-forward, Southern-friend hard rocking tunes. The band follows a similar formula throughout of hushed verses carried by Andy Hull’s classic crooning vocals before building up to head-banging choruses with the distortion turned all the way up and the guitars blaring. Manchester Orchestra debuted “Top Ocean” and “Cope”, two of the album’s best tracks, on their short headliner in November to the delight of fans, and the tunes fit right in with their impressive live set and instantly won the crowds over. While the first half of the album is certainly great, if not slightly monotonous at times, the second half of the album is where the band really shines and includes some of their best work to date, including the brilliant “Indentions” and the raucous closer “Cope”. COPE is a welcome addition to the Manchester Orchestra catalog and a must-listen for anyone who enjoys music with driving, forceful guitars. – Vasilis


Imaginary Enemy – The Used (reviewed by Kevin)

Imaginary Enemy is The Used’s sixth album and clocks in at about 54 minutes. It comes across as a blatant political album on some songs such as “Revolution,” “El-Oh-Vee-Ee,” (you guessed it, the spelling of LOVE…), “A Song to Stifle Imperial Progression”, and “Force Without Violence” (Don’t even begin to get me started on the punk-rap that ends this song…)” but that passion seems to fizzle quickly on the later tracks. Regarding the political lyrics, little is left to the imagination: “Drill a hole and fuck the ground and spend the cash and print some more,” “You’ve got your black gold. You’ve got your pipeline. Capitalism. But we’ve got love.” I get it. You have love, and love concurs all, and “yay for love.” That’s great and all, but it’s been done before. The message portrayed in the lyrics is black and white where as the real situation is gray. I think the most prominent problem with the album is that it doesn’t seem to follow through on one particular aspect. It does everything in mediocrity, but nothing has truly succeeded. Some of the songs are legitimately catchy, but the lyrics don’t inspire or cause any sort of true feeling for the listener. The political statement comes across in many of the songs, but is done in an ignorant and unconvincing fashion (and completely left out in some songs). Overall, the album is a mildly interesting listen for fans of the band; it is about what you would expect from a political album from The Used. However, for everyone else, it’s an easily passable and forgettable album.

ImageRented World – The Menzingers (reviewed by Vasilis)

I said all I could say about the new Menzingers album Rented World in my review. The album is a punk tour-de-force that builds off the band’s stellar album On the Impossible Past. I hesitate to call their latest album a “grower” because the term often carries the negative connotation of not being good and requiring time to sink in. However, this album does get significantly better with every listen, which does constitute it as a “grower”. The production as well as the band’s songwriting continues to improve on every album. The vocals sound crisper and the music more refined but still raw and emotional. Songs like “I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore”, “In Remission”, and “Rodent” are just two of the tracks that are sure to become fan favorites and staples in the band’s setlists for years to come. Rented World is another album that proves that The Menzingers should be talked about as one of the active best punk bands.

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