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2014 Musical Superlatives

Every January the staff at Lyrically Addicted sits down and tries to hash out the top albums from the previous year. We spend house analyzing and dissecting our favorite albums trying to put them in some kind of order that we can be happy with. But what often gets overlooked in such a process is the individual songs themselves. Maybe we fall in love with a b-side that doesn’t make it onto the album proper, or we stumble upon a live version that’s better than the original. The point is these individual tracks often get overlooked in favor of the albums themselves and we don’t think that’s fair. This year we decided to shine a light on some of these lesser known tracks.

                                 Best B-Side:
Vas’s pick: Fireworks – “Oh, Common Life”

Cherie’s pick: Frank Turner – “Sweet Albion Blues”

                                 Best Cover:
Vas’s pick: Allison Weiss – “Call Your Girlfriend” (Robyn cover)

Cherie’s pick: Gabrielle Aplin – “A Case of You” (Joni Mitchell cover)

                                 Best Acoustic Version:
Vas’s pick: Manchester Orchestra – “Girl Harbor”

Cherie’s pick: Passenger – “Scare Away the Dark”

                                 Best Music Video:
Vas’s pick: The Front Bottoms – “Backflip”

Cherie’s pick: Bombay Bicycle Club – “Luna”

                                 Best Collaboration:
Vas’s pick: Say Anything featuring Los Campesinos – “Judas Decapitation”

Cherie’s pick: Billy the Kid – “This Sure As Hell Ain’t My Life

                                 Best Single:
Vas’s pick: The Menzingers – “In Remission”

Cherie’s pick: Laura Marling – “Short Movie”

                                 Best Live Version:
Vas’s pick: Koji – “Matches”

Cherie’s pick: Beans on Toast – “I Can’t Get a Gig at Glastonbury”

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Say Anything/Saves the Day/Reggie and the Full Effect Announce Tour

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A full-album show is always a special event. A full-album anniversary show is even more exciting. However, take 2 classic albums celebrating anniversaries in 2014, put those bands on a tour together, and add the well-liked Reggie and the Full Effect performing an album all the way through, and you have the makings of a tour for the ages. Say Anything finally spilled the beans on their upcoming fall tour, which has the band playing their classic sophomore album …Is a Real Boy front-to-back for the 10-year anniversary, along with some of their other hits. They are bringing along Saves the Day, who will be celebrating the 15-year anniversary of their pop punk/emo classic Through Being Cool for the occasion. Opening up will be Reggie and the Full Effect (fronted by former Get Up Kids keyboardist James Dewees) performing Under the Tray… in its entirety. The tour begins at the House of Blues on San Diego on November 14 and wraps up at the House of Blues in Anaheim on December 21. This is a tour you will not want to miss; presale tickets are available now with tickets going on sale on Wednesday, September 10.

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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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Album Review // Say Anything – “Hebrews”

by Vasilis

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        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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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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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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