Category Archives: Vasilis

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

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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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Frank Turner Discusses Opening For Mineral, Musical Influences, and Which Band He Would Love to See Live

by Vasilis

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Many music fans have a hard time picturing their favorite musicians as music fans themselves. We tend to put these artists on a pedestal and imagine them as rock stars who are above the sort of idol worship that we often demonstrate. However, contrary to that belief, these musicians are no different than us; they love the art of music and grew up admiring a wide ranger of musicians who often became the foundation which helped inspire them to create their music. That feeling doesn’t just go away once a musician becomes popular or well-known. It’s this beautiful cycle that allows the music we connect with so deeply to be created, to continue to influence future musicians who create music that influences a whole new generation, and it’s a wonderful thing to watch. Frank Turner is a musicians who completely shatters the false belief of musicians as being above the fans. Frank conducts himself in a very honest and open manner with his audience; he is just a guy who makes music for a living, one who builds a strong connection with his fans through his lyrics and approachable personality.

Frank is also not one to shy away from the music that inspired him. At shows, he can often be heard covering anyone from Blink-182 to Bruce Springsteen (his “Thunder Road” cover is a staple at his New York City shows). Frank has also made it known that he is a huge fan of 90’s emo group Mineral, whom he described as one of his very “favourite, foundational bands”. When Mineral announced their reunion tour earlier this year, Frank did what any fan would do when presented with a rare opportunity to see such an influential, once-dead band: he bought tickets to their New York City performances and planned a trip without a moment’s hesitation. I was instantly fascinated by his own connection to the band and found it refreshing to see one of my favorite musicians speak so highly of one of his and demonstrate such unbridled passion for their work.

On top of flying out to New York City to catch some of their shows (their first full tour in 17 years), Frank also opened for the first of show. We reached out to Frank Turner via email to ask him about his experience opening up for Mineral last Thursday at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Frank was kind enough to answer our questions and provide some insight into his experience, some of his other big influences, and which band he would love to see live if given the opportunity. You can check out a full review of the show on Noisey’s blog, as well as Frank’s first-hand experience of the show.

Lyrically Addicted: Thank you for talking the time to speak with us Frank. You called Mineral’s sophomore (and final) album EndSerenading “near-perfect” on Noisey’s blog. Was there any one particular song on that album (or by the band in general) that made you go “wow” on first listen or that really made you connect so strongly with their work?

Frank Turner: Yes, the song “&Serenading”. I remember being a little confused by the record at first (I was about 16), but when that song kicked in, with the chorus line about symphonies in seashells, I was pretty blown away. Once the ice cracked like that, I fell for the rest of the record very quickly.

LA: You had the unique opportunity of opening for a band that meant so much to you on their reunion tour. Can you briefly describe what the experience was like and why you decided to play a set of new songs.

Frank: It was a great experience, one for the obituary. I was pretty jet-lagged and had a nasty cold, so perhaps not on my best form, but I enjoyed the expeirence. I thought I’d play new stuff because I’m working on a new record right now and no one bought tickets to see me play, so it seemed like a good opportunity to try some new stuff out in a live setting.

LA: Was there any particular aspect of Mineral’s music (lyrics, guitar tones, etc.) that really influenced your current sound?

Frank: The whole way Chris [Simpson] sings and writes is a huge influence to me now – the way he uses his voice, both in the physical sense and int he literary sense. I still think that’s probably the biggest influence on me in that area. I also love the production on the second record, I think Mark Trombino’s drum sounds are pretty foundational.

LA: Are there any other bands from the mid-90’s emo era that influenced your music?

Frank: I listened to a bunch of that stuff – Jimmy Eat Wrold, The Promise Ring, Christie front Drive, and so on. Mineral were far and away my favorite of the bunch, but I still listened to a fair amount of Jimmy Eat World.

LA: If you could attend a hypothetical reunion tour for one “dead” band you never had the chance to see live, who would it be?

Frank: Nirvana, circa early 1993.

Thank you to Frank Turner for taking the time to answer our questions. You can catch Frank Turner on the road with Koo Koo Kangaroo in the UK starting Thursday, September 11 in Norwich. For a full list of Frank’s tour dates, go to frank-turner.com/live-gigs. Frank Turner is expected to release his upcoming sixth studio record in early 2015. Mineral continue their reunion tour, which ends in Austin Texas in November, before hitting the United Kingdom in early 2015. You can also check out a full review of Mineral’s Bowery Ballroom show in New York City on our blog.

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Mineral and Into It. Over It. at Bowery Ballroom, 9-06-14

by Vasilis

The past and the present collided on Saturday, September 6th at New York’s Bowery Ballroom for a reunion tour that showcased the best the genre has to offer. Seminal emo group Mineral took their reunion to New York for the third of four straight nights of nostalgia, bringing along with them Evan Weiss’ emo revivalist project Into It. Over It. Mineral, who broke up in 1997 after releasing only two albums, announced their comeback in April to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of their formation. Along with a full U.S. tour to celebrate their first shows in 17 years, the band also announced Mineral – 1994-1998: The Complete Collection, containing both their albums along with some bonus tracks and recordings to mark the occasion.

Into It. Over It. strolled to the stage at 9pm to open the show. Evan, who used to perform with nothing more than a stool and acoustic guitar, has built Into It. Over It. into a four-piece band over the past two years with the help of some hometown musician friends. Following a headlining tour earlier this year with A Great Big Pile of Leaves and a supporting tour last year with Saves the Day, the band appears more comfortable with each performance, and playing the songs with full instrumentation has allowed Evan’s songs to come to life and take on a new level of energy. Songs like opening track “Embracing Facts” and “Upstate Blues” are particularly more vibrant thanks to the addition of a full backing band as opposed to a lone acoustic guitar.

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Evan’s exhibited a refreshingly self-aware attitude, announcing to the crowd “Thank you to Mineral for allowing us to come on tour and bum you guys out.” The band’s emo roots felt at home on this tour, and Evan seemed to appreciate the opportunity and embrace it fully, performing some sadder tunes (“No Amount of Sound”, “22 Syllables”). The band made sure to sprinkle in the high-energy “Discretion & Depressing People” and “Brenham, TX”, which Evan added to switch up the setlist for fans attending more than one night. The group was joined on-stage by Matt Fazzi (A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Ex-Taking Back Sunday) to perform keys on some new songs and to close the set with fan-favorite “Midnight: Carroll Street”. Into It. Over It. received a warm reaction from the crowd and proved the perfect opener for this type of show.

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Into It. Over It. Setlist:
Embracing Facts
Staring at the Ceiling
Upstate Blues
No Amount of Sound
Spinning Thread
Obsessive Compulsive Distraction
Discretion & Depressing People
Brenham, TX
22 Syllables
Wearing White
Midnight: Carroll Street

Mineral, the main attraction of the night, took the stage a little after 10pm to a raucous ovation. Vocalist/guitarist Chris Simpson playfully stated, “Tonight, we’re gonna party like it’s 1995” and truer words have never been spoke. This tour is the culmination of a wave of nostalgia which has brought about a heightened demand for emo bands from American Football to Texas is the Reason to Mineral. While these influential bands were popular in their day, the emo resurgence has allowed a younger generation to discover these bands, which existed and made their name in the mid-to-late 90’s.

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Though the band just played their first show in 17 years, they sounded great and inspired the crowd to fold their arms, nod their heads, and sing along (as Evan Weisshumorously noted during his set as being the proper action to take at an emo show). Their on-stage set-up was simple and lacking any flashy lights or colorful backdrops, focusing instead on four men pouring their heart into the music. With only two albums to choose from, the group presented a balanced mix of their heavier debut album The Power of Failing with their more emotional and slowed-down EndSerenading. Chris Simpson’s classic crooning was in top form, bringing the emotional weight of “Five, Eight, & Ten” and “February” out. The audience sang along to fan-favorites like “Gloria” and “&Serenading” as if they had been waiting their whole life to experience it. While the band members didn’t seem to exude much camaraderie as is seen during some reunion tours (turmoil while recording EndSerenading led to the break up), they all seemed genuinely happy to be playing music again and gave the audience a solid 90-minute trip down memory lane.

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The term “emo revival” is often met with scorn from older fans, finding the idea that emo went away laughable while condemning newer bands as not worthy. But what’s clear is that there is a demand for emo bands reviving. With new music from Sunny Day Real Estate, an upcoming sold-out reunion tour from American Football, and more Mineral shows in America and Europe coming for Mineral, it’s safe to say the emo resurgence continues to find an audience in older people who experienced it as it happened and younger kids who are experiencing the revival now and want to get a first-hand look at the bands who influenced the fresh wave of up-and-comers. On a night like this, it was clear that there is no competition between old and new, they can each exist in perfect harmony and compliment each other nicely.

Mineral Setlist:
Five, Eight, & Ten
Gloria
Slower
February
M.D.
ALetter
ForIvadell
SoundsLikeSunday
Unfinished
If I Could
WakingToWinter
&Serenading
LoveLetterTypeWriter (encore)
Palisade (encore)
Parking Lot (encore)

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Motion City Soundtrack and Ma Jolie at The Music Hall of Williamsburg, 9-04-14

 

 

by Vasilis

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 When you think of free shows in Brooklyn, you picture dingy bars with no-name locals bringing friends and family to watch them awkwardly and energetically rip through a short set in the hopes of building a big enough fan base to hop one day make it big. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, as these shows are often a lot of fun with the right bands. However, it’s rare to see a free show in one of Brooklyn’s premiere venues featuring one of the most well-recognized emo-punk bands of the past decade perform a near-perfect setlist.

Thanks to Converse Rubber Tracks, this scenario became a reality on Thursday, September 4. As part of the Converse Rubber Tracks Live Concert Series (which features bands that have recorded in their Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Brooklyn), Minneapolis’ Motion City Soundtrack announced a free show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg with Philadelphia punks Ma Jolie. The show “sold out” instantly and created quite a stir, as the band has not played many shows in 2014 in preparation for their upcoming studio album (set for an early 2015 release).

Ma Jolie, the opener “hand-selected by the headlining act”, took the stage at 9pm to a warm reaction of fans mainly there to see the headliner.. With no prior knowledge of the band, I was pleasantly surprised with their enthusiasm and uninhibited energy. They played loud, fast punk songs that went above the typical 2-minute threshold but never quite overstayed their welcome or felt long-winded. The group chose to use their 30 minutes to throw as much music at the audience as they could, stopping only to express amazement and gratitude at the opportunity of opening a show for such an influential band. Their dynamic presence and unbridled energy made them the perfect opener for Motion City Soundtrack, a band whose live shows exhibit the same brand of zany, off-the-wall enthusiasm and electricity.

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Ma Jolie Setlist:
Brace, Smile
Upward
A Song About Boats
They Go Up
A Mile of Rope
RIP
88 MPH
Kansas Slam
Cannonball

Motion City Soundtrack, who haven’t headlined a New York City show in almost two years, walked out at 10pm to a packed room. While opening with “My Favorite Accident”, a fan-favorite from their decade-old debut I Am the Movie, I was surprised and a little saddened to see the song receive a lukewarm reaction. The crowd was unusually reserved, singing along without much movement for such a lively song. The fans had a similar reaction to the poppier single “Broken Heart”, leading me to dread that the crowd merely came to take in a free show. However, once Commit This to Memory opener “Attractive Today” blasted through the speakers, the crowd erupted as the wave of stage divers and moshers took hold. The song proved to be the adrenaline shot that reinvigorated the crowd and helped the band settle in and open up.

From there, the band mixed it up with choice cuts from each of their five studio albums. What made their performances so enjoyable is that, even with so many popular singles to choose from, they always manage to throw in some deeper cuts to the audience’s surprise and pleasure. At this show, the band brought out the quick and punchy “The Red Dress” and the wacky and uncontrollably urgent “Capital H” (from their first album) along with the cathartic and in-your-face “When You’re Around” and the serene and beautiful “Last Night”, each of which brought about an appreciative response. The group even shocked themselves by performing “Throw Down”, one of their oldest songs, at the request of a front-row fan. Justin Pierre playfully mimed his inability to play the song but learned it with the help of guitarist Joshua Cain and played it at what he referred to as “75 percent capacity”. Fans didn’t seem to care, as they crashed and danced around the pit in pure bliss at the surprise of the night.

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The setlist was heavy on the quintet’s first three albums and only sprinkled in the singles from their latter two releases My Dinosaur Life and GO. While many enjoy those albums, you’d be hard-pressed to find any complaints from the crowd. The band’s setlist was as good as anyone could have possibly hoped for going into the night. Of course, no Motion City Soundtrack performance would be complete without hit songs “The Future Freaks Me Out”, which inspired a frenzy of dancing and jumping, “Everything Is Alright” and the mellow, emotional “Hold Me Down”, which calmed down the crowd in a hushed sing-a-long to close off the 80-minute set.

The band’s Brooklyn set marked the first time I had the opportunity to see them perform live with new drummer Claudio Rivera (ex-Saves the Day), who replaced long-time drummer Tony Thaxton at the start of 2013. He fit in well with the band’s jovial, high-energy performance. His liveliness on stage was matched only by keyboardist Jesse Johnson, who is a ton of fun to watch as he parades around the stage in between his piano riffs and pleads with the crowd to give him everything they’ve got, which always seems to work. Throw in Justin Pierre’s adorably awkward presence and the group’s tireless enthusiasm and on-point instrumentation and you had a fun night all around.

Motion City Soundtrack Setlist:
My Favorite Accident
Broken Heart
Attractive Today
A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)
Perfect Teeth
True Romance
This Is For Real
Her Words Destroyed My Planet
The Red Dress
Capital H
When “You’re” Around
Last Night
Point of Extinction
Disappear
LG FUAD
Throw Down
The Future Freaks Me Out
Everything Is Alright (encore)
Hold Me Down (encore)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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            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

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            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

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            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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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“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 

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            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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