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Top Five Music Stories That Defined 2013 For Me

by Vasilis

5. The Return of Justin Timberlake

I am not much of a fan of Justin Timberlake’s music, although he is hilarious and I appreciate how talented he is. However, to deny how big his return to music was would be extremely naïve. After stepping away from the music game to focus on his acting, the pop star returned with no warning and defined the pop music landscape by releasing two albums that set the bar high in terms of sale and performance. Additionally, his song “Suit & Tie” was everywhere, from beer commercials to sporting events to late night shows, and “Mirrors” followed suit with big-time radio play. To top it off, his collaboration with hip hop mogul Jay-Z “Suit & Tie” and “Holy Grail” and their collaboration on their summer stadium tour made waves and sold incredibly well, even selling out two Yankee Stadium shows. The subsequent solo headlining tour he embarked was also a huge success, and with another headlining tour taking place early next year, it’s safe to say Justin Timberlake’s return to music is nowhere near finished.

4. Fall Out Boy Reunite to “Save Rock and Roll”

While Justin Timberlake’s return was flashier, Fall Out Boy’s meant more to me. After attending their “final” show at Madison Square Garden supporting Blink-182 in 2009, I was not sure I’d ever see them back together again. Whispers began early on that the band should and would reunite to honor the 10-year anniversary of their beloved pop punk masterpiece Take This To Your Grave, but the band’s members vehemently denied any plans, even up to a day before the announcement. Then, with one simple post, the pop punk world turned upside down: Not only was Fall Out Boy back, but they already had a new album recorded, a new single to release, three small club shows planned for Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and a small venue tour set for the spring. The most startling aspect of the return was the band doing everything under complete cover of darkness; no news leaked during the process, making the announcement that much more startling. With their new album Save Rock and Roll and the image of the band burning Take This To Your Grave, it was clear they had no interest of returning to their pop punk roots to appease fans, instead recording the album they wanted to. Their first single “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” was hugely successful and led to various television and festival performances, showing the group’s propensity for writing hook-soaked pop/rock tunes had only improved and their name was bigger than ever. 2013 was a year of returns and exits in music, but the biggest for me was the re-emergence of Fall Out Boy.

3. Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

With every happy return came a sad goodbye in 2013, which featured some of my favorite members leaving or being forced out of some of my favorite bands. Tony Thaxton, citing the need to step away from life on the road, quit his role as Motion City Soundtrack drummer after being with the band since their debut 2003 album I Am the Movie. Even more startling was the announcement that founding Sum 41 member and drummer Steve Jocz was departing after 17 years, leaving vocalist Deryck Whibley the only remaining founding member. While people have speculated that Deryck’s potential substance abuse problems and the constant show cancellations were the cause, Jocz gave no further reason. Rounding out the drummers was the announcement that Say Anything drummer Coby Linder was departing, leaving singer-songwriter Max Bemis as the group’s only non-live member (I’m cheating a bit on this one, as Coby made the announcement on December 29, 2012). On the ska side, trombonist Dan Regan left Reel Big Fish after a startling 20 years with the band, leaving singer/guitarist and group founder Aaron Barrett as the only member who has been with the band since the ‘90s. Finally, the news recently came out that New Found Glory had essentially kicked out backing guitarist and primary lyricist Steve Klein, sending ripples through the pop punk community and causing people to question the band’s motives and wonder about any potential schism between them. The band was known as a tight-knit group of friends, having had the same lineup since forming in 1997. This, paired with the fact that the split did not seem mutual, make this the most shocking of all.

2. The Fall of Ian Watkins

Cherie and I have said all we could about this story in our post, but this story completely changed the face of the rock world in 2013. The details were so horrifying, so disturbing that it made people wonder aloud how any man could think these actions up and caused people to completely discard the entire band’s catalog. The world of music is full of heroes and villains, but Ian Watkins arose as the most universally hated figure; people cursed his existence and wished him hell in his jail cell. In a strange way, the story united many music fans from all over in their contempt and hate for Ian Watkins. While the story has recently begun winding down with his guilty plea, the shock of this story has still not completely worn off.

1. Happy Ten-iversary!

Strangely enough, the thing I will remember most about 2013 was how incredible 2003 was. No year defined “the scene” (meaning the world of pop punk, emo, alternative, pop/rock, etc.) more than 2003; the sheer amount of ground-breaking, life-changing albums that came out that year is unrivaled, and the bands showed their appreciation by going on a run of 10-year anniversary tours. Yellowcard paid homage to Ocean Avenue with a recorded rendition of the album and an acoustic tour, Story of the Year honored Page Avenue by performing it in its entirety on the “Scream it Like You Mean It” tour, Finch toured for What It Is To Burn, The Early November announced two special December shows in Philadelphia and New York to perform The Room’s Too Cold, Death Cab For Cutie played Transatlanticism on a short run of dates earlier this year and Blink-182 performed Blink-182 at a 5-show Los Angeles residency. Well-known Long Island recluses Brand New even shocked fans by performing the genre-defining Deja Entendu on a short run of dates earlier this year. On top of that, both New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday continued their 2012 run of ten-year tours for Sticks and Stones and Tell All Your Friends, respectively. All that nostalgic firepower doesn’t even include Thrice (The Artist in the Ambulance), Thursday (War all the Time), AFI (Sing the Sorrow), Fall Out Boy (Take This To Your Grave), The Format (Interventions and Lullabies), Matchbook Romance (Stories and Alibis), Something Corporate (North), Coheed and Cambria (In Keeping Secrets…), The Ataris (So Long Astoria), MxPx (Before Everything and After), Less than Jake (Anthem), The Postal Service (Give Up), Saves the Day (In Reverie), and… well, you get the picture. I even ended up leaving a bunch of albums off this list that also came from the scene. Looking back at 2003 through the nostalgia-filled 2013 glasses, I came to realize how many bands helped shape the current genre that I love, and even though at the time I didn’t pay attention it made me that much more grateful that these bands and albums exist.

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Yellowcard & Fans Celebrate 10 Years of Ocean Avenue in Style

by Vasilis

 

In September 2007, Yellowcard embarked on a co-headlining tour with The Blue October that hit up New York’s Nokia Theater (currently Best Buy Theater). Cherie and I planned to attend that show but plans fell through and we never did. I remember that show very vividly because Yellowcard went on hiatus the following year and I was never able to see them live. I was devastated because they were a band that was instrumental in shaping my musical taste, and it all started with Ocean Avenue. Luckily, Yellowcard returned in 2010, and have since released two of their best albums to date.

 

Like many bands, Yellowcard have ridden the wave of nostalgia through a 10-year anniversary tour, but the band also added another element: a re-worked acoustic version of their breakthrough album Ocean Avenue. It proved to be a wonderful treat for the fans and demonstrated the band’s maturity and versatility with improved vocals from Ryan Key and picture perfect precision from each member. The band decided to use the twist in their tour, where they performed the album acoustically before performing an elongated encore with several of their most popular songs from their four most recent studio albums. The tour hit Irving Plaza in New York City for two straight nights of nostalgic beauty, and I was lucky enough to attend the first of the two sold-out shows.

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Yellowcard tabbed Geoff Rickley, frontman of seminal Victory Records post-hardcore band Thursday, to open the show, joking during their set that having the guy from Thursday open for them makes them sound cooler than they are. Since Thursday’s break-up in 2011, Geoff has been releasing free solo mixtapes for fans while touring every now and again. He played a mix of solo songs and Thursday songs, including “Standing on the Edge of Summer” off their legendary 2001 album Full Collapse. He waxed nostalgic about 2003, performing covers by The Flaming Lips (“Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1”) and Long Island legends Brand New (“The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot”) before going into “This Song Has Been Brought To You By A Falling Bomb” off Thursday’s breakthrough album War All The Time.  Geoff’s set was often strange, awkward, and uncomfortable, but he definitely added more nostalgia to the night.

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Yellowcard followed and you could tell the crowd came prepared. Ryan Key warned everyone that Boston’s audience raised the bar, and the fans met the challenge from the first note of “Way Away” belting louder than even the band could believe at times. The hour-long acoustic Ocean Avenue set was stunning, a true celebration of the band’s hard work and the legacy the milestone record has left behind. “Ocean Avenue” and “Only One” inspired crowd surfers, even in an acoustic setting, while “Life of a Salesman” brought out the mosh pit. When Ryan Key was struggling with his vocals during the first verse of “Ocean Avenue”, the fans picked him up, singing loud enough to give him time to recover for the chorus. Every Sean Mackin violin solo or Ryan Mendez guitar solo brought out wild cheers and applause from the crowd.

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The real treat was getting to see some deep cuts played live for the first time, including some favorites like “Miles Apart”, “One Year, Six Months” and “The View From Heaven”, which they dedicated to a long-time Yellowcard fan Tiesha who attended every Yellowcard NYC show but sadly passed away last month. The band closed out the set with a beautiful rendition of “Back Home” before coming back out ten minutes later, electric guitars in hand. The band brought out some more surprises, opening with Paper Walls deep cuts “Paper Walls” and “The Takedown” to the crowd’s delight. The band tore through the second set, equipped with Yellowcard classics “Rough Landing Holly”, “Always Summer”, “Here I Am Alive”, and “With You Around” along with other great cuts like “Be The Young” and “Awakening”. The band closed out the set with “Lights and Sounds”, which included a drum solo from LP and the ending from Ocean Avenue played again electrically. Even with their set over, fans were not ready for the show to end, still chanting for an encore. It was an emotional end to what turned out to be a truly special night for the band and their fans. Sean Mackin and Ryan Key were speechless, proclaiming this as perhaps the best Yellowcard show of all time, and by the expression on their face you could tell they weren’t just saying it. They opened the show by raising the bar, and the crowd met the challenge.

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There are many things we take for granted in our everyday lives. Certain things are always there for us and as a result we don’t even think about them.  When Yellowcard went on hiatus in 2008, I was so sad that I had never gotten the chance to see such an integral band in my life live. Five years later, I can’t believe I’ve seen them six times (all post-hiatus) and even got the chance to meet them at Warped Tour 2012, where I learned that in addition to being fantastic musicians they are fantastic people as well. Yellowcard is a band I won’t take for granted any more, and that’s why every time they drop by New York I will make it a point to do my best to see them live. This show became another great memory that the band has provided me, and I am always grateful for it.

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Favorite Spring Albums

By Vasilis, contributing writer

Spring is a great time of year. It’s the time where it starts warming up, everything is in bloom, and you can finally go out again and enjoy yourself without bundling up. It’s also one of the best times to listen to music. I like to have music designated for every season, but spring and summer are definitely the most fun for me. Summer for me is all about pop punk like Yellowcard and New Found Glory and songs about going to the beach and the sun, but spring for me is all about chaotic music that is as wild as the season. Here’s some great music I love to listen to when the spring season comes calling.

Honorable Mentions:

10. The Ataris – So Long, Astoria

Choice spring tracks: “So Long, Astoria”, “In This Diary”, & “The Hero Dies In This One”

9. Taking Back Sunday – Where You Want To Be

Choice spring tracks: “Set Phasers to Stun”, “One-Eighty By Summer”, & “Little Devotional”

8. Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue

Choice spring tracks: “Way Away”, “Ocean Avenue”, & “Back Home”

7. Say Anything – …Is a Real Boy

Choice spring tracks: “Belt”, “Alive With The Glory Of Love”, & “The Writing South”

6. Fireworks – Gospel

Choice spring tracks: “Arrows”, “Xs on Trees”, and “The Wild Bunch”

5. Motion City Soundtrack – I am the Movie

While Commit This to Memory and Even If It Kills Me are the wintry MCS album, I am the Movie is definitely better for warmer weather. This album is simply wild and so fun to sing-a-long to Justin Pierre’s anxiety-ridden, sarcastic, and emotional lyrics.

Choice spring tracks: “Capital H”, “The Future Freaks Me Out” & “Boombox Generation”

4. Transit – Listen & Forgive

The album’s cover represents a picture-perfect spring image: A tree beside a serene lake with a sunset in the backdrop. This album is much less agressive than the band’s earlier work but is no less fun to sing-a-long to. This would be ideal for a nice relaxing listen sitting on a bench in a park when you just need to calm down after a tough day at work.

Choice spring tracks: “Skipping Stone”, “Long Lost Friends”, & “1978”

3. The Dangerous Summer – Reach For the Sun

You can just tell from the title why this fits perfectly for spring. There are few albums that just deliver the emotional punch of this album, helped immensely by A.J. Perdomo’s soaring vocals. This album just cries out for a rain-soaked April day or sun-splashed May afternoon.

Choice spring tracks: “Where I Want to Be”, “Surfaced”, & “The Permanent Rain”

2. Green Day – Dookie

“I declare I don’t care no more”, this epic album’s opening line, is all anyone wants to shout when spring arrives and work/school/responsibilities become a chore. This album has been with me longer than any on this list and is still a top choice for long car rides with the windows rolled down. Billie Joe Armstrong captures every chaotic emotion that comes along with the season.

Choice spring tracks: “Burnout”, “Welcome to Paradise”, and “Longview”

1. The Wonder Years – The Upsides

This album is centered around the fountain being turned on at Logan Circle in Philadelphia, a spring event that literally represents the weather getting warmer but lyricist Soupy uses to metaphorically describe a feeling of hope he felt when he witnessed this moment. And spring is very much about hope blooming with the trees and warmer days ahead. To me, this is the ideal spring album that I love to crank out and listen to. It’s ideally cathartic and appropriate.

Choice spring tracks: “Logan Circle”, “Washington Square Park”, & “This Party Sucks”

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My Favorite Spring Albums

by Cherie, contributing writer

Ah, spring in New England. It truly is a magical time of year. By the end of April we can finally put away the shovels and winter boots and at least be reasonably assured that we shouldn’t need them for another year. One of my favorite things about spring is the fact that I can finally roll down my windows and blast music on my way to work. It never fails to lift my mood. And while it’s true that I love all kinds of music, there’s just something about some albums that make them better to listen to at full volume with the wind rushing through your hair. Here’s what I’ll be listening to this spring.

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
This deserves an honorable mention because, despite the fact that I don’t feel the need to belt out every single song at full volume, its the perfect spring album. There’s something catchy about the band’s music, which is alternately laid back and upbeat, that makes it a perfect spring time listen. Favorite tracks: A-punk, Oxford Comma, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

Where You Want to Be – Taking Back Sunday
To me, this is the quintessential TBS album. I think this might be my favorite TBS album, even beating out the much loved Tell All Your Friends. The vocal interplay between Lazzarra and Nolan is at its best on this album, and it has some of my favorite lyrics of all time. There’s very few albums I enjoy blasting at full volume and belting along more than this one. Favorite tracks: This Photograph is Proof (I Know You Know), New American Classic, Number Five With a Bullet, One Eighty By Summer

The Airborne Toxic Event – The Airborne Toxic Event
When they were first starting out, the music that TATE created was often referred to as “poetry you can dance to.” Try as I might I can’t come up with a better description of their music than that, especially when referencing their first album. Listening to this album at full volume while driving to work is like having an orchestral soundtrack. It’s beautiful and never fails to put me in a good mood. Favorite tracks: Wishing Well, Papillon, Does This Mean You’re Moving On?, Something New

The Family Jewels – Marina and the Diamonds
If you’re looking something more along the lines of power pop to listen to, then look no further than Marina and the Diamonds. Marina’s vocal range is unique and her power and control are remarkable. She’s definitely got a unique sound, and her songs are, without exception, lush creations that will get stuck in your head for days at a time. I highly recommend her to anyone who hasn’t already checked her out. Favorite tracks: Oh No!, Are You Satisfied?, Shampain, Hollywood

Steel Train – Steel Train
I love fun, but some really good bands were sacrificed so that fun could move forward. Unfortunately, Steel Train is one of those bands. The boys of Steel Train were just coming into their own as a band and creating their own unique sound, which makes it harder to see them on an indefinite hiatus. Regardless, their self titled album is an indie rock masterpiece. Antonoff and gang created a unique sound full of full-band vocals, guitar solos, and keyboard accompaniment. Favorite tracks: Touch Me Bad, Soldier in the Army, Bloody Lips, You are Dangerous

Babel – Mumford and Sons
There’s nothing like rolling down the road to the sound of banjos and horns blasting. The banjos are certainly back and louder than ever in Mumford and Son’s second album which is now a Grammy winning “album of the year” masterpiece. The soaring highs and the brokenhearted lows of the album are perfect for spring time listening. Favorite Tracks: Babel, Whispers in the Dark, Broken Crown, Hopeless Wanderer

Ocean Avenue – Yellowcard
One of the first pop punk albums I ever listened to, Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue has always had a place in my heart. It will forever remind me of summers spent on our camp at the lake, blasting the album from a boombox on the porch while my parents told me to turn it down. Spring and summer will always be the best time to listen to pop punk album’s such as this. Favorite tracks: Ocean Avenue, Empty Apartment, Inside Out, Way Away

Last Minutes and Lost Evenings – Frank Turner
This is kind of cheating since Last Minutes is a compilation album, but to be honest I couldn’t pick just one album to include on this list. Frank Turner is flawless, and every single one of this albums is ideal for making it onto a spring playlist. But this one is a compilation of some of his best songs. Favorite tracks: all of them but especially The Ballad of Me and My Friends

Every Kingdom – Ben Howard
I honestly think this might have been one of the best albums to come out of last year. The music itself is fairly simply, just a guitar, cello and Ben’s vocals (with some backing from India) but it is simply amazing. I can picture Ben sitting outside in the spring sun somewhere, busking these tracks (point in fact, Ben has done just that). It’s one of my more mellow picks for spring, but it is definitely a spring album all the same. Favorite tracks: Old Pine, The Wolves, The Fear, Keep Your Head Up

Aim and Ignite – fun
While I’m a huge fan of Some Nights, I have to say that nothing can beat Aim and Ignite. It combines the theatricality of The Format’s Dog Problems (Ruess’s previous band) with the more rock based elements of Steel Train (Antonoff). Just an all around feel good album produced by a very talented group of guys. Favorite tracks: At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be), Walking the Dog, All the Pretty Girls, Be Calm.

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