by Vas, contributing writer
It’s a good thing we didn’t do a top 5, since I have already discussed my 4th and 5th picks (The Front Bottoms and The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, respectively) ad nauseum in my reviews. A special honorable mention goes out to indie pop punk group Mixtapes, who put forth their strongest effort to date with the infectiously catchy and well-crafted Ordinary Silence. Now, on to my top 3:
3) Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart
I wanted to write a full review of British country-folk-punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner’s fifth studio release Tape Deck Heart but I genuinely don’t think I could have done it justice. The album features 18 (that’s right, 18) new tracks from the songwriting machine, who wears his heart on his sleeve on every single one of them. To be able to use language as effectively as Frank Turner does to get his point across and make you live through his experiences is a gift. While 18 songs undoubtedly means there will be a few weaker or fillers on the album, that in no way detracts from how many strong tracks there are. “Recovery” raucously kicks off the album with a chorus reminiscent of “If Ever I Stray”. “Plain Sailing Weather” is the story of losing faith in love woven wonderfully with his masterful lyricism, excellent guitar playing and brilliant contributions from his backing band, “The Sleeping Souls”. His evolution as a musician from his first album to now has been a great ride for his die hard fans, and Tape Deck Heart is just another reward from the hard-working, constantly touring Frank Turner.
2) Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve
For the longest time, I (along with any Streetlight fan who is well aware of frontman Tomas Kalnoky’s notorious perfectionism and the group’s long-running feud with their label, Victory Records) thought this album would never see the light of day. Even with the album’s release, Victory refused to give the band the album to the group so they can honor purchases from their site. Luckily, a leak found its way onto the internet (don’t they always) and the band encouraged fans to illegally download it instead of supporting Victory. Though only 10 songs long, the album clocks in at 50 minutes and is an epic adventure through a ska-punk roller coaster that is often unpredictable but never dull. The horn lines, which have always been the group’s strongest suit (the band has one trumpet, one trombone, an alto/baritone sax and a tenor sax) are as blaring and intricate as ever. The drums and bass continue to excel and Tomas displays his knack for witty and scathing lyrics. “The Littlest Things”, “With Any Sort of Certainty”, and “Your Day Will Come” are as memorable as any song the group has ever written and I’m sure fans will forgive their perfectionist attitude and the multitude of delays if this is the result we get. Sadly, the group has announced a touring hiatus following their two New Jersey shows this November, but chances are we haven’t heard the last of this 7-piece Jersey ska outfit.
1) The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
I think I covered really everything I could possibly say about this album in my review from May 18th. The Greatest Generation, like their past two efforts, was captivating and truly inspiring to listen to in a way very few pop punk bands truly are nowadays. It breaks away from potential problematic clichés with its brutal honesty (both lyrically and musically) and its hopeful optimism. Soupy’s voice has never sounded better and the group’s music has never sounded more passionate, crisper, and more authoritative, as each member is given their moment to shine and grasps it defiantly. From the quieter opener “There, There” to the more pulsing “We Could Die Like This” and the aggressive “Cul-De-Sac”, each track is a journey through growing up, attacking failure and grabbing success in any way that we can. The album closer, “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral”, is a song three albums in the making, a perfect epilogue to the trilogy about growing up and the start of a whole new chapter in the young group’s already very impressive career.