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Five Can’t Miss Spring Tours

by Vasilis

The calendar may read “March”, but much of the country was treated to another dose of snow this past Monday, leading many to dream of springtime. While the vernal equinox is still two weeks away, bands are already packing their gear, picking their setlists, saying their goodbyes to their hometown and making the final preparations for their spring headlining tours. While winter is usually reserved for short tours or hometown shows, spring is where bands travel extensively across the country to support their latest releases. This spring is no different, and while it’s impossible to include every tour worth checking out, I wanted to run through some of the most intriguing tours happening between March and May.

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The Great American Cult Tour” is a long time coming for Bayside. Although they have maintained a steady, cult-like level of popularity over their career, the band has not done a full solo headlining tour since their 2008 album Shudder. It’s hard to believe their brilliant 2011 release Killing Time only resulted in co-headliners (with Saves the Day, Silverstein, and Senses Fail) and supporting spots (with Taking Back Sunday and Alkaline Trio). Finally, Bayside have the chance to put together a longer setlist to properly do justice to their six-album catalog; look for some rare, deep cuts thrown into their set. Also worth noting is the presence of Four Year Strong, who have remained relatively inactive since their divisive 2011 effort In Some Way, Shape, Or Form. It will be interesting to see how the lack of shows has affected the band and if they will stick to mostly old songs on this run. Daylight and Mixtapes round out the tour, adding some variety and making this one of the “can’t miss” shows of the spring. The tour kicks off on March 5 in Cleveland and winds down on April 5 in Worchester.

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This is the tour I am most excited for. After releasing the fantastic conclusion to their coming-of-age conceptual trilogy, The Wonder Years are taking some friends on the road in support of The Greatest Generation. While many may complain that it’s a predictable line-up, the tour contains some interesting, rapidly growing bands. Boston hardcore band Defeater had to drop the tour due to vocalist Derek Archambault’s health problems, resulting in Fireworks, Michigan pop punk band and long-time friends of The Wonder Years, stepping in to fill the supporting slot. Additionally, Citizen and Real Friends, two bands that have become darlings of the pop punk scene, are sure to bring along their own dedicated following. Opening the bill is up-and-coming emo band Modern Baseball, fresh off the release of their stellar sophomore album You’re Gonna Miss It All. The Wonder Years should be playing the longest set of their careers and are playing in front of the largest crowds of their career, which includes an already sold-out show at the 2,000 plus capacity Best Buy Theater in New York City. This fast-selling tour begins on March 5 in Clifton Park NY and concludes on April 18 in New Jersey.

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In what is sure to be the most emotionally-charged tour of the spring, La Dispute is taking out Pianos Become The Teeth and Mansions on a month-long tour to support their third album Rooms of the House. These shows will feature three bands that offer a mix of hardcore, indie, and emo to create dark, tortured emotional music, which will require a box of tissues and a well-rested set of lungs in order to scream along to. La Dispute’s following has increased tremendously since their 2011 sophomore effort Wildlife, and teaming up with Pianos Become the Teeth is a logical move. Mansions are sure to get some good exposure opening for this tour and their dark, brooding style is sure to appeal to La Dispute fans. This tour, which already boasts an impressive number of sold-out shows, begins on March 14 in North Carolina and winds down on April 14 in Cleveland.

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It’s hard to ignore a tour that sold out two New York City shows within a day of their release and had to add a third show due to “overwhelming demand”. Who knew Taking Back Sunday and The Used would still have so much pull in 2014? The two giants, who played together in support of Blink-182 in 2004, team up 10 years later for a monstrous headlining tour. Both bands have tasted mainstream success, attained gold and platinum album status, and signed with major record labels, but the bands are each set to release their respective albums in the Spring on indie powerhouse Hopeless Records. The move should be a good litmus test for each band, demonstrating how successful the bands still are and can be in a smaller label than they are accustomed to. Joining the bill is female-fronted Australian pop punk band Tonight Alive and new Spencer Chamberlain (ex-Underoath) project Sleepwave. The tour begins on March 14 in Dallas and concludes on April 27 in Orlando.

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I like to call this the “Friends of Brand New” tour. While this line-up would have been perfect opening for the Long Island recluses, it’s exciting to see Manchester Orchestra embark on a nice, long tour with a couple friends. For lack of a better term, this tour is going to be “heavy” (musically and emotionally) in the best possible way as Manchester Orchestra support their long-awaited fourth album Cope. Coming along for the ride are the always incredible Balance & Composure, who put on one of the best live shows in music today, and the likable Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band, who is fresh off his highly successful crowd funded double album and whose live show continues to grow. This has a chance to be one of the most impressive “under-the-radar” tours of the spring, but with three stellar live bands, it’s one not to be missed. The tour kicks off on April 17 in Tampa and winds down on May 31 in Nashville.

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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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Tell All Your Friends acoustic – A Ten Year Retrospective

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By Cherie (contributing writer & editor) and Vas (contributing writer)

Cherie:

It’s been eleven years since Taking Back Sunday released their hit album Tell All Your Friends. Eleven years. The band has had its ups and downs in that time, but it seems like lately the band has been stuck in a downward spiral. Their last studio album, Taking Back Sunday, was probably their weakest album yet, failing to gain the popular support that past albums had. Maybe the lineup changes have had more of an impact on the band then they are letting on; having a rotating lineup that changes from album to album certainly can’t be good for maintaining a consistently positive atmosphere. Whatever the case its clear that the bands first three albums, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, and Louder Now, are strong albums and have gained much support from fans but their latest few, New Again, and Taking Back Sunday have fallen short in that regard.

What’s a band to do when they start losing the support of their fan base? In an attempt to recapture some of their former glory, the band immediately jumped on the ten year anniversary of Tell All Your Friends and launched a tour in support of it. It was a good move for the band at the time. TAYF is commonly regarded as the band’s best album so playing that album live in its entirety was a good way to win older fans back. With the end of the tour rumors that the band was working on a new album surfaced, and that seemed to be the end of it. Until this past month.

This year, a year after the ten year anniversary, the band announced a live acoustic album of TAYF. Although I’m a huge TAYF fan, I have some major problems with the album. First of all, its a live album. The audio is shoddy at times, especially when it comes to Adam’s vocals. In an effort to include the crowd vocals, which are loud on most songs, the audio engineers end up with a lot of excess background noise which further decreases the quality of the audio. Adam’s vocals on the album also leave a lot to be desired. Half the time it sounds like he’s leaning away from the microphone, but even when he’s singing into it his vocals are sub-par. It’s a trend I’ve noticed over time that his vocals have been weak, and it almost makes me wonder if he strained them at some point and they never really recovered. Crowd participation is the one redeeming factor of the album, along with the appearance of Michelle Nolan doing the original background vocals on several tracks. I certainly plan on listening to TAYF this summer, but not this new live version. I’ll stick to the original recording. Overall it’s a disappointing album that screams of desperation for a return to past success.

Vas:

I guess since you’re going to take bad cop on the album, I’ll be the good cop and point out some of the things I liked, although your points on the band’s steady decline are well taken. I would even go a step further and say the group pandering to its past began when they invited Shaun Cooper and John Nolan back into the band before recording their Self-Titled album, which I also was not too fond of save for a few songs. After New Again flopped, the group seemed really desperate to win fans back by appealing to those who loved Tell All Your Friends so they reconciled with Nolan and Cooper while kicking out Matt Rubano and Matt Fazzi, two very talented musicians who lent their skills to Taking Back Sunday and were caught in the unfortunate cross hairs of his desperation. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nolan and Cooper as much as the next TBS fan, but musically speaking it paid little dividends and Nolan’s famous backing vocals, which helped TAYF so much, hardly played a role on their new album. But I digress…

I too was a little disappointed to find out this album was recorded live. While Taking Back Sunday put on one of the most energetic live shows you’ll ever watch, I can’t say it’s the cleanest performance. It’s fun to be in the crowd but not the best to listen to or observe at home, and honestly for a band that has so many problems live, especially with Adam Lazzara’s voice it’s amazing that this is their third studio recording (along with a live Bamboozle album and their past acoustic album Live From Orensanz CD/DVD). A lot of bands are recording acoustic versions of albums (Saves the Day with Daybreak, Yellowcard with Ocean Avenue and When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, Dashboard Confessional with Alter The Ending) and it’s always fun to see a band put a different spin on a song acoustically in a studio setting with more at their disposal and more time to create it the way they want to.

Negatives (which you laid out) aside, Taking Back Sunday sets are all about the raw, captivating nature of the band and front man Adam Lazzara, which includes the sloppy instrumentation and gruff, distant vocals. I think this album captures that feeling very well, and you hear it the second the group breaks into “You Know How I Do”. The crowd participation is excellent on this album, which is to be expected coming from a band whose lyrics are meant to be shouted at the top of one’s lungs. As someone who has physically lost their voice at a Taking Back Sunday show, I can attest to this personally. This album features some of the most relatable lyrics, a wonderful, bitter, scathing attack that is so cathartic that it’s hard not to enjoy. As you would expect, “Cute Without the ‘E’” is the album’s highlight, as it all reaches a fever point that explodes in the bridge when Nolan and Lazzara exchange lyrics before the crowd erupts in “why can’t I feel anything for anyone but you!” The crowd participation even help mask Adam Lazzara’s weak vocals.

The piano and violins scattered throughout each track does add a nice dimension to the songs that the original versions don’t have. I’ll give the group credit for also experimenting with the tempo and pacing of “The Blue Channel”, which they slowed down considerably and doesn’t sound like the original with acoustic instruments. Also, it’s great seeing “Your Own Disaster”, a b-side from the original album, make its way onto the acoustic version. Sloppiness aside, I do enjoy the album though I will be more likely to go back to the original recordings, especially with songs like “There’s No ‘I’ In Team” and “You’re So Last Summer”, which don’t translate well acoustically. If you’re into re-imagined acoustic songs by Taking Back Sunday, I would strongly suggest Live From Orensanz, which truly saw the band experiment wonderfully in a live setting with far better results.

(Additional note from Cherie: I have to agree with Vas. The ‘Live From Orenanz’ album was much better produced, though it too was live. It has all the benefits of an acoustic album (reimagined versions of some of their most popular songs) but an overall better execution.)

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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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