On the third album from the St. Petersburg trio, Polyenso, Year of the Dog finds them stretching the boundaries of their already dynamic sound on this experimental EP. Polyenso are on the brink of something remarkable here on this release. If you can tune into the world of this band and lose yourself in the music, you’re in for a treat.
When I look back on the year of music that was 2018, I can’t help but marvel at the great mix of variety and strength of material that came out of it. From polished singer-songwriter material to stadium ready anthems, this year had it all. Here is my list of the 30 albums that had the biggest impact on me:
AFI have never been strangers to the darker side of things, as clearly evident from the shadowy packaging and artwork of their latest EP, The Missing Man. However, what I’ve always admired about this band is the silver linings found in their music. After releasing arguably their darkest-toned LP to date in 2013’s Burials, they followed this effort with 2017’s AFI: The Blood Album, an album that incorporated many of their past styles into a single record. On this EP, AFI has found a way to pay homage to the path they blazed before, while still adding new elements to their trademark sound.
On William Ryan Key’s second solo EP, Virtue, he continues to stretch out his sound and repertoire with one of the better singer-songwriter works of art to date. While Thirteen was primarily based around the acoustic guitar, Key uses a fair amount of piano, electric guitar, and percussion on this recording to fill out the expansive sound that he was likely going for.
“The Same Destination” cuts through the opening bars of faint strings with carefully struck piano chords that help set the table for another brilliant showing from the former Yellowcard front-man. The wall of sound that opens this track features some more electric guitar elements that were missing on his previous EP and serves as a nice opening for the record. “Mortar and Stone” follows the tender opening with some intricately played acoustic guitar and layered vocals from Key. Key’s confidence broods throughout this EP that he self-described on his website as an “exploration of a new sound” and “evolution.” I concur with his line of thinking, as William Ryan Key has delivered another collection of songs worthy of his underrated legacy.
Synth lovers, rejoice! Muse have crafted a powerhouse of a record in Simulation Theory that is one of the more immediately gratifying albums to date. From the futuristic artwork that could easily be mistaken for the poster art of the next Blade Runner film, Muse has their sights set on making everything that they have alluded to in the past few efforts bigger and brighter.
From the dramatic introductory track, “Algorithm” sets the stage perfectly for a thrilling ride of an album. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy opens the set by singing, “Burn like a slave/Churn like a cog/We are caged in simulations/Algorithms evolve/Push us aside and render us obsolete.” Bellamy and company have never been strangers to using samples and synths to enhance their sound, but on Simulation Theory, they ultimately went for everything that they had been hinting at over the past few LPs.
The New Hampshire post-metal trio, Girih, are here with their debut EP, Eigengrau, and it channels several key influences of similar “math rock” bands such as Thrice. The dark tones found throughout this EP mesh well with the variety of riffs and noises on this debut. The major disclaimer for this EP is that it is instrumental only, but there are plenty of redeeming qualities to find on this record.
When looking for adjectives to describe Coheed and Cambria and their latest effort, The Unheavenly Creatures, I kept going back to the same word: epic. Coheed have never been strangers to expanding their repertoire of complex space odysseys and intermingled stories of fictional characters, but on this LP they have genuinely created something quite remarkable.
This album grabs your interest directly from the first notes of “Prologue” that sets that stage for all that will come next in this saga. From the shiny and brilliant packaging of the entire album and its artwork, it’s hard not to get directly sucked into the vortex of Coheed’s world on this fantastic record.
On the latest solo effort from John Nolan, Abendigo, he continues to stretch the boundaries and imaginations of what a record can be, with very favorable results. Giving the production reins to the trusted tutelage of Mike Sapone (Taking Back Sunday, Mayday Parade), Nolan delivers a terrific LP sure to tide his fans over until the next TBS record hits the streets.
On the second EP from I The Mighty’s front-man, Brent Walsh, he stretches out his vocal repertoire and showcases his power as a solo artist. Produced by Courtney Ballard (5 Seconds of Summer, All Time Low), Walsh can blend unique traces of R&B, pop, and singer-songwriter elements into a well-crafted work of art.
On the sophomore effort from Stove, entitled Stove’s Favorite Friend, they are on the cusp of greatness. For several reasons that I will go into for this review, this band has showcased a true potential for their unique brand of 90’s-esque rock and roll that is pleasant on the ears. Beating to their own drum by quietly releasing this LP mid-week, on Halloween, only adds to the mystery surrounding this four-piece band from Newton, Connecticut.
Let me preface this My Chemical Romance retrospective by stating that they are my favorite band, and I still hold The Black Parade as one of my top-5 favorite albums ever recorded. Throughout My Chemical Romance’s career, I was astounded by their rise to fame, and having seen them go as the first opening band on tour with The Used, to headlining stadiums by the time The Black Parade reached its heights, and I have marveled at the lore and theatrics surrounding my favorite artist.
I recently had a chance to chat on the phone with former Motion City Soundtrack front-man, Justin Courtney Pierre. Below are the highlights from our conversation, and we chatted about everything from his preparations for his solo tour, his personal life, and what went into making his new record, In the Drink. Justin’s debut solo album is now available everywhere via Epitaph Records.
On the debut full-length album from Greta Van Fleet, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, they ask the question: What do you call classic rock when it is re-packaged with a modern rock sound? For starters, we can answer that with an emphatic response of calling it: “pretty damn fun.”
Greta Van Fleet has drawn immediate comparisons to rock and roll hall-of-famers Led Zeppelin, for obvious reasons, but they have listed several other core sound influences (such as hard rock, jazz, and blues) when interviewed by other media outlets. The band is comprised of three brothers: lead vocalist Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka, and bassist Sam Kiszka. Rounding out the foursome is the drummer, Danny Wagner. Coming off of a successful and highly-hyped EP, From the Fires, anticipation was at an all-time high to see what these kids from Frankenmuth, Michigan had cooked up for their debut album.
On TPC, the self-titled and fourth full-length LP from Tokyo Police Club, they crank up the guitars and hone in on their songwriting. Coming off of two quick EPs, entitled Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness (Part I and II), after the success of my favorite effort to date by the band, Forcefield, Tokyo Police Club wanted to reinvent themselves once again. What we are left with is a solid mix of guitar-driven rock by a band still trying to figure out who they are.
Starting off the 12-song set is the track called “New Blues,” that reminded me a bit of the garage-rock style of The Strokes with Dave Monks trademark earnest vocal delivery. When Monks sings, “Battle cry, I can barely sleep/It happens every single time/It’s in my heart/It’s in my soul/For once I don’t want it to be denied,” you can feel every heartbeat and drop of emotion that went into the song. It also doesn’t hurt to have a very talented guitarist backing Monks’ words in Josh Hook, who certainly lives up to his last name by crafting several key hooks in many of the memorable songs found on this album.
On the music for A Star is Born, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s on-camera chemistry translates brilliantly onto the charismatic and charming soundtrack. The album opens up with an intro of a band tuning up and quickly blends into “Black Eyes,” that features Bradley Cooper on lead vocals in a bluesy rock track that shows off his impressive vocal delivery. The track itself was co-written by Cooper and Lukas Nelson and is an excellent way to start the soundtrack.
One major disclaimer about this album is that it is interspersed with movie dialogue throughout, which was a bit of a turn off for me. Some may like remembering these key scenes of dialogue from the film, but on an album that has 34 tracks, I found it a bit distracting from the songs themselves.
Twenty One Pilots are out for world domination, as is made entirely evident on Trench, the fifth full-length LP from the dynamic duo from Columbus, Ohio. From the first gripping notes on “Jumpsuit,” it’s clear that Twenty One Pilots are calling the masses to join them in their quest for being the biggest band in the world. The fact that this album is outstanding shouldn’t stand in the way of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun from accomplishing their goal.
Having previously heard the outstanding production of the singles such as “Levitate,” “Nico and the Niners,” and the aforementioned “Jumpsuit,” I had the inclination that Twenty One Pilots would continue to raise the bar on the already-lofty expectations for the artist. Holy hell, they pulled it off.
The first thing that stood out to me while listening to this comprehensive 14-track set is how damn good the production is throughout. Trench was produced by Tyler Joseph and Paul Meany (Mutemath), and they both hit a home run on this one. I was blown away by their other collaborative work, the EP TOP x MM, that was released for free back in December 2016, that featured several “reimagined” versions of songs from Blurryface as well as the brilliant single, “Heathens.” This continued collaboration is paying significant dividends for Twenty One Pilots as they continue to strive for a more organic sounding type of album that shines brightly.
On Hippo Campus latest offering, Bambi, they continue to stretch out their unique brand of indie rock and get their audience to come along for every note of the thrilling LP. Hippo Campus have plenty of credibility and accolades to their name in just a short amount of time, and they could have gone any number of directions with their second full-length album. What we are left with is hard to classify, yet incredibly strong, work of art from the five-piece group from St. Paul, Minnesota.
The album opener, “Mistakes,” begins with a softly sung, and almost faint, vocal delivery while the midway point begins to bring on the other samples and noise elements that are prominent on this record. “Anxious” follows this introductory track with the quirky brand of Indie/Emo rock that we have grown accustomed to from the band over the years, while still bringing in fresh elements to the Hippo Campus sound. The first real hook that got me sucked into this record is when singer Jake Luppen shouts, “Tried screaming but I won’t believe it/I’ll tell them what they want to hear then/Just give me a week or two to find it/Then maybe we’ll get back to the place we started.” This is precisely what anxiety feels like making you do: screaming from the inside, all the while doubting yourself that it was the right path to take.