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Best of 2015

by Cherie

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

Top Ten Albums

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#1 Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony

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

Favorite Tracks: Hourglass, Tyrants, Cocoon, Kathleen

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#2 Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People

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

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

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#3 Short Movie – Laura Marling

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

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

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Wilder Mind – Mumford and Sons

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

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

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#4 Blurryface – Twenty One Pilots

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

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

Honorable mentions

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Glitterbug – The Wombats

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

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Anthems for Doomed Youth – The Libertines

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

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Marks to Prove It – The Maccabees

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

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Down on Deptford Broadway – Skinny Lister

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

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Wanted on Voyage – George Ezra

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

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Postcards From Ursa Minor – Will Varley

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

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Badlands – Halsey

Favorite Tracks: New Americana, Colours, Castle, Ghost

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Woman to Woman – Esme Patterson

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

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Froot – Marina and the Diamonds

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

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All Your Favorite Bands – Dawes

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

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Whispers II – Passenger

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

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Rolling Up the Hill – Beans on Toast

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

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Back on Top – The Front Bottoms

Favorite Tracks: Cough it Out, West Virginia, Help

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To Us, The Beautiful – Franz Nicolay

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

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Graceland – San Cisco

Favorite Tracks: Run, Snow, Bitter Winter

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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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First Impressions – The Front Bottoms

By Cherie

The concept is simple. Someone suggests two songs by the same artist and the person who’s turn it is has to listen to each song once and then write up their first impression of the band based on those songs.

Band: The Front Bottoms (suggested by Vasilis)

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Songs: Maps, Twin Size Mattress

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The second Maps started playing I knew I was going to like it. It had an upbeat tempo that drew me in immediately, and I was sold the moment I heard the violin. Vasilis warned me that I was probably going to have the song stuck in my head for days and I have to say he was right. The song was catchy and upbeat, and I liked the way that the song changed tempo throughout, never stagnating. The clapping and group vocals were used effectively to add an extra layer of complexity to the track. The lead singer reminded me a little bit of John Darnielle from Mountain Goats, vocally. Looking at the lyrics as I listened to the song I found a lot there that I could relate to. By the time the song was done I found myself wondering why on earth I hadn’t listened to their music earlier, despite knowing both my brother and Vasilis like the band.

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Twin Size Mattress I loved as well, though I’m glad I started with Maps because that one definitely drew me in a lot quicker. I liked the storytelling aspect of the song. Its a blend of fond memories with some regrets and bitterness mixed in. Its real and honest; not glossing over the bad aspects that make up personal memories, and that’s why I like it.

Overall I really liked this band and will be listening to more of them in the future.

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Ten Photos That Defined my 2013 Concert Experience

by Vasilis

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Shone @ Mercury Lounge (New York, NY), Februrary 7 – After a perfectly orchestrated social media campaign that led to the most commented thread in Absolutepunk.net history, the Shone mystery was finally revealed. Once the shock and mystery wore off, the band, made up of members of Long Island staples Brand New and Robbers, played their first show at Mercury Lounge. Like the social media campaign, the evening was strange, memorable and a little terrifying, with animal sounds, face paint, and spooky music accompanying the newly-formed band.

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Frank Turner @ Blackheart Bar (Austin, TX), SXSW 2013, March 15 – The defining moment of my life as a music fan was getting to work and attend SXSW this year. On Friday night, I ran to catch Frank Turner’s 1am set following a long work day, and it was well worth it. I would end up seeing Frank 3 times during the last 24 hours of the incredible SXSW 2013 festival.

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Green Day @ The Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY), April 7 – Green Day is my favorite band their live show is unmatched. When I was lucky enough to score 2 general admission spots to their headlining show I knew it would be a night to remember. As always, the performance the band put on was nothing short of perfect and is one of the best shows I went to all year.

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Fall Out Boy @ Terminal 5 (New York, NY), May 29 – One of the biggest music stories of 2013 for me was the reemergence of Fall Out Boy. Following their four-year hiatus, the pop/rock group recorded their new album and planned an entire tour without any news leaking. The album was a huge success, and their small-market headlining tour sold out instantly. Their New York set showcased their improved live act while demonstrating their high level of energy and fun.

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Mumford & Sons @ Forest Hills Stadium (Queens, NY), August 28 – Having the opportunity to see a band I really like perform on my home borough of Queens, New York was easily one of the coolest concert experiences I’ve ever had. Between some annoying crowd members and flaws in the stadium’s design, the show definitely had downsides; however, that did not stop this from being an extremely enjoyable concert by an incredible live band 10 minutes from my home.

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Yellowcard @ Irving Plaza (New York, NY), September 9, 2013 – Yellowcard put a fun twist on the 10-year craze, instead releasing an acoustic rendition of their classic decade-old Ocean Avenue and performing an acoustic tour. The experience, equipped with a full electric encore of their hits, was beautifully nostalgic and reminded me of how much this band means to me.

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The Front Bottoms @ The Music Hall of Williamsburg (Brooklyn, NY), November 13 – Not many bands can take a tour in which they’re the supporting act and make it their own. The Front Bottoms did just that while opening for Manchester Orchestra. The quirky New Jersey indie-dance-punk band worked the crowd into a frenzy with the help of their infectious music and their wacky arm-waving friends, who made an appearance during the catchy tune “The Beers”.

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Streetlight Manifesto @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ), November 16 – I said everything I need to say about the band that made me fall in love with live music on my farewell post to them. Still, this picture remains one of the most memorable I have ever taken from their last show in NJ and serves as a fitting farewell (or “see you later”) for the Jersey ska-punk band.

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The Wonder Years @ 89 North (Patchogue, NY), December 15 – Realist pop-punk band The Wonder Years have been growing at a rapid pace over the years and are now headlining 1000-2000 cap venues. This made their holiday-themed acoustic tour, which closed out its four-show run on Long Island, even more special. Playing in front of 450 people (the show sold out in mere hours), the band threw in some amazing surprise cuts in their set. The venue was decorated with trees and snowflakes and fans dressed up in ugly Christmas sweaters to receive free cookies and hot chocolate. As far as holiday acoustic shows go, this one was incredibly fun night.

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Brand New @ The Paramount (Huntington, NY), December 20 – Though show should go down as one of the best I have ever seen, it’s the issues around it that may define it. The band announced small-venue discography shows where they would play their four albums, resulting in scalping issues when tickets sold out in seconds. At the Long Island hometown show, when fans expect earlier classic records Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu, the band threw a curveball and played their latter two (incredibly stellar) records, much to some people’s disappointment. When Daisy was played instead of Deja Entendu, some booed and even walked out, taking to social media to voice displeasure. Being cryptic and unpredictable has always led to Brand New being placed on a sort of pedestal and examined closely through a microscope, but the performance was still breath-taking and their experience of seeing those records was perfect.

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Top Albums of 2013 (as chosen by Vas)

Band – Album – “Favorite Song”

  1. The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation – “I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral”

  2. Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve – “Your Day Will Come”

  3. Balance & Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing – “Keepsake”

  4. Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart – “Plain Sailing Weather”

  5. Kevin Devine – Bulldozer/Bubblegum – “Redbird”

  6. Into It. Over It. – Intersections – “Contractual Obligation”

  7. The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk – “Backflip”

  8. Arctic Monkeys – AM – “R U Mine?”

  9. Citizen – Youth – “Roam the Room”

  10. The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, If Ever – “Getting Sodas”

  11. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll – “Save Rock and Roll”

  12. Saves the Day – Saves the Day – “Ain’t No Kind of Love”

  13. The Swellers – Light Under Closed Doors – “Got Social”

  14. Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence – “Elevator Days”

  15. Sainthood Reps – Headswell – “Headswell”

  16. Allison Weiss – Say What You Mean – “One Way Love”

  17. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City – “Unbelievers”

  18. Have Mercy – The Earth Pushed Back – “This Old Ark”

  19. Polar Bear Club – Death Chorus – “WLWYCD”

  20. Paramore – Paramore – “Anklebiters”

2013 Top 5 EPs:

  1. Vinnie Caruana – City By The Sea

  2. Pentimento – Inside the Sea

  3. Their / They’re / There – Their / They’re / There

  4. Misser – Distancing

  5. Why Bother? – This Isn’t Very Good

 

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The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk Review

A talon is the claw of an animal, usually on a bird of prey. I start my review with this definition because the name of the new LP from The Front Bottoms is The Talon of the Hawk and the choice is odd. The group is so non-threatening and their sound so appealing that likening it to a bird of prey’s claw is baffling. But while digging deeper into the album, the listener cannot help but fall victim to the catchy hooks and quirky lyrics that has gained the New Jersey duo a devout following over the past year, so it seems that they may have planned it just right.

When I first caught them live opening for Kevin Devine and An Horse at CMJ in 2011, the group had maybe five admirers in the crowd, most notably Kevin himself who sprinkles the group’s lyrics throughout his own songs and tweets has tweeted about them vigorously. By June 2012 when the group supported Motion City Soundtrack on tour, you would’ve sworn they were the headliners, playing to a raucous crowd during an energetic set. In addition, the group has found themselves on the big stage with Say Anything and Bad Books, further building their base.

Following up their popular 2011 self-titled effort is no small feat. The album featured lyrics that have cemented themselves into their fans’ minds and hooks and melodies that are impossible to forget, especially on the hits like “Maps”, “Rhode Island”, and “The Beers”. Luckily, they were equal to the daunting task, churning out 12 songs that are fun to sit back and listen to when you have some time to kill and just feel like enjoying your day.

A tambourine greets us on the album’s short, punchy opener “Au Revoir (Adios)” as vocalist and acoustic guitarist Brian Sella taunts in his generally playful tone “Au revoir, au revoir, you probably don’t even know what that means.” The song was debuted by the group on their headlining tour last fall but sounds stronger and fuller in-studio with an additional electric guitar and drums section that compliments the more hushed intro quite nicely and prepares the listener for the album’s equal attack of softer acoustic indie-pop and raucous dance-rock pop-punk.

“Skeleton” shines with its thick bass line that acts as a bed underneath Mathew Uychich crashing drum licks and a punk-influenced guitar riff as Brian laments “I walk around like a skeleton last night/ confused and alone/ who was I kidding? I can’t get past you/ You are the cops/ you are my student loans.” “Twin Size Mattress”, the album’ first single, brings back that familiar indie-pop sound the band utilized so well on their self-titled album and is reminiscent of fan-favorite “Swimming Pool.” Santa Monica is a hook-filled 4-minute track whose chorus soars with toe-tapping and head-bobbing delight. The Feud is acoustic punk at its finest and sees Mathew’s drumming stealing the show. “Back Flip” is one of the band’s best songs, a fast-paced indie-punk track that starts with a thumping drum roll that leads to the crunchy acoustic guitars that will have you dancing in no time flat

Brian Sella is equal parts funny, sad, goofy, adorable, but mostly relatable throughout with his lyrics that give the listener access to his life like a personal diary. “Peach” is one of the album’s gems; a quiet, cute love song that hits emotional highs with simple lines like “you are the reason I am smiling/ when there is nothing to smile about.” Even on the corniest lines, like “You were my girl, you were my baby/ you were my homemade mashed potatoes biscuits and gravy” off the track “The Feud,” Brian’s sincerity sells the words and makes them resonate.

Despite the playful nature of the band, there is still the need to grow up as Brian address on “Funny You Should Ask” when he says “When I was younger I thought I didn’t have to care about anyone/ but I’m older know and know that I should.” He looks ahead to an uncertain future on the album’s stellar closing track “Everything I Own”, wondering “who’s gonna push my wheelchair around when I get sick/ god forbid I ever stop feeling sorry for myself for being selfish. This is not the way I plan on living for the rest of my life/ but for right now it gets me by.” Brian makes it clear that he’s happy where he is and that’s what he needs.

The new album works because it’s so true to the sound that won them such a cult following. It’s catchy, fun, and enjoyable yet still refreshing and new. There are not a lot of bands that can go out there with an acoustic guitar and a drum set and command the sort of devotion and attention this band does. This is not the album that’s going to gain the band any new fans, so for people who weren’t fond of their earlier work, this probably won’t win them over, and if this album is any indication, The Front Bottoms are just fine with that. It’s gotten them this far, and they’re only soaring higher.

Songs of Interest: Skeleton, Twin Sized Mattress, Santa Monica, Back Flip

 

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