This year I didn’t have time to write much about my album picks besides the 3 writeups I did for my staff list. If you want some of my thoughts on what music was really important to me this year, read these two posts with my top 50 songs list:
Touring bills where the opening acts outshine the headlining band are a rare sight. However, I’d argue that the “8 Tour” in support of Incubus’ new record is one such tour. The openers, folk/indie-pop hybrid Judah and the Lion and the stalwart and ever-incredible Jimmy Eat World, put on a master class of performance that threatened to rip the crowd’s attention away from the headliner’s 20-song set and decades-spanning production. I photographed both band’s sets at the BB & T Pavilion in Camden, NJ last week and you can see some of my pictures below.
The indie pop band Misterwives just released their sophomore full-length album Connect the Dots. It’s a technicolor shot of adrenaline to the music industry and quite simply one of the most fun listens of the year. Just before their explosive set at Firefly Music Festival, we got a chance to sit down with Misterwives’ Mandy Lee, Jesse Blum, Etienne Bowler, Marc Campbell and Will Hehir, to discuss a variety of topics. In our discussion, we touch upon how some politicians have a tendency to hide immoral action under party politics, why the music industry is a tough place to work, and just how many drummers is too many drummers in a band.
One of my favorite musical memories was a moment of serendipitous timing outside a record store in Florence, Italy. We found this store almost as an afterthought, popping our heads in at the end of a long day of traveling. But as we left the store, we saw a man busking across the street, singing “Sex On Fire” by Kings Of Leon at the top of his lungs. And I’ll never forget watching this man, singing the lyrics in both English and Italian, crooning “This man is on fire” to a person passing by on a bike. As I watched the assembled crowd start to sing along, again in a mix of languages, I was struck by how a deliberately audacious, silly slice of pop-rock bliss had transcended cultures and boundaries.
All this is to say that when I heard the saxophone on “Everybody Lost Somebody,” made to sound not dissimilar from the street busker I saw in Florence, I knew that Jack Antonoff has had experiences like that. Experiences that made you become not just a spectator in the world around you, but a participant, connected with others. And he realizes that so many of these moments and connections are made through our most universal of languages: music. In many ways, that is what Gone Now, the sophomore record of Jack Antonoff’s project Bleachers, seems to be about: living presently and openly engaging and trying to connect with the people around you.
It’s hard to overstate just how tumultuous the past decade of Paramore’s career has been. Since before the recording of Brand New Eyes the band has been regularly rocked by near career-ending shifts. While some bands are lucky enough to go through no lineup changes throughout their career, or when lineup changes do happen the splits are often amicable, Paramore has had no such luck. I don’t need to rehash any of the details of this unrest except to say this: While the turmoil would crush almost any other band, the members that have remained, or returned, to Paramore have fought through all adversity to arrive at After Laughter, the crowning achievement of their career so far.
At once a deeply wistful look back at the past decade-plus of the band’s history and a clear eyed assessment of the future, After Laughter is a record about the moments between total heartbreak and absolute elation. These in-between moments allow us to pick up the pieces broken during the former and come down from the euphoric high of the latter, and reassess what our purpose is here on this floating rock. These moments make up the vast totality of our time on Earth, but for some reason they don’t often feel as romantic.
Last week, we presented our “In The Spotlight” feature and highlighted some of the best under the radar and up-and-coming artists. This week, one of those artists, Sonnder, reached out to us about premiering their new music video for “Siren Calling.” The song is the lead single off their debut album Entanglement, which came out last year and is one of my favorite recent finds. The video was directed by Dan Levitt, who captures the song’s youthful exuberance and the joyousness of Sonnder’s live performance.
As The Decemberists took to the stage at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, it became obvious that they could have played a room worlds larger than the largest club venue in Philadelphia if they desired. The rapturous sold out crowd of 3,000 roared back the words to the opening salvo, the three-part odyssey “The Crane Wife”, from the album of the same name that recently turned ten years old. The fact that they booked the “Shuffling Off to Ragnarok” tour at venues such as this, though, speaks to a desire for intimacy; a desire to hear and be heard, a desire to share a smaller space with the people who care most about them.
“The open road is still miles away. Ain’t nothing serious. We still have our fun. Oh, we had it once.” These words, from the second verse of Jimmy Eat World’s perpetually underrated song, “The World You Love,” sum up so much of why I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this band over the past five years of my life. Jimmy Eat World’s music is best represented by the open road late night drives that “The World You Love” calls to mind. The freedom to explore the best of what the world has to offer.
My life is currently in a state of transition. One change, in particular, looms larger than the others. One of my closest friends, and one of the catalysts for thrusting me headfirst into Jimmy Eat World super fandom, is moving 600 miles away at the end of the month. Someday, maybe soon, I will end up relocating as well. So that line, so symbolic of the open road optimism for the future, is also simultaneously so wistful about the places we’re leaving behind, and the fun we’re putting in the rear-view mirror.
It’s this tightrope act between pensive, longing reflection on the past and relentless optimism for the future that I pondered as I drove north on I-287 through the rain, with no clear destination in mind, and the dashboard clock winding towards midnight. And sound-tracking that late-night drive was Integrity Blues, the breathtaking ninth studio album from Jimmy Eat World.
As I stare down my mid-twenties, I see the rest of my life hurtling toward me at full speed like a freight train with the brake lines cut. I feel my experience is nothing short of ubiquitous among those of my age group. Each of us may be staring down different issues: a full-time job that is perhaps not an actual career, mounting student loan debt, relationship troubles, and more. That uncertainty seems to linger there, just under the surface, at all hours of the day. These are the mounting insecurities and anxieties and, let’s face it, sometimes depression, that come with a perceived lack of direction in life.
We are all searching for someone who is trying to find that same meaning. It’s no surprise then, that the music we love often reflects back these same uncertainties, the same occasional short-lived self-loathing, and the probing existentialism of everyday life. And no record this year has struck that particular nerve for me in quite the way that Microwave’s Much Love has.
Bayside have steadily become one of the preeminent forces in alternative music by simply being themselves throughout their entire career. The band has a unique sense of self which displays itself every time they release new music. The band’s seventh full-length record, Vacancy, just dropped last week, and to celebrate, they hit the road with some incredible bands supporting them: The Menzingers and Sorority Noise. I’ll have more on that tour a little later this week, but for now, enjoy my conversation with Anthony Raneri and Nick Ghanbarian about managing fan expectations, what they feel their responsibility is as a band with a platform, and how you continue to write the most honest music of your career seven albums deep.
Last week, I was able to sit down and chat on the phone with one of my favorite songwriters, Aaron Gillespie. You may know him from his work as the drummer/singer for Underoath, or as the singer/songwriter behind The Almost, but Aaron has also just released his stellar debut full-length solo album Out of the Badlands. It came out on August 20th, and I think it showcases everything I love about Aaron’s writing style. We sat down to discuss the record in depth, as well as Underoath’s recent reunion, and many more topics.
Brand New’s co-headlining trek across the country rolled into Philadelphia last weekend at the beautiful local amphitheater, the Mann Center for Performing Arts. The perennial favorites were unquestionably at the top of their game on this night and gave a whirlwind of a performance that consisted in equal measure of fan favorites, rarities, and deep cuts. Check below for a full gallery of the images I took from this show, as well as to read some brief thoughts thinking of the band’s career and legacy.
Panic! at the Disco’s summer co-headlining tour with Weezer (and featuring support from Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness), rolled through Camden, NJ’s BB&T Pavilion last week. Below you can find a gallery of all three bands on the tour as well as some brief thoughts on the show. This tour is one of the premiere concert experiences North America has to offer this summer, so if this tour hasn’t hit your hometown yet (it runs through August 6th in Irvine, CA), make sure you don’t miss it.
PUP recently completed their “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” tour in celebration of their exceptional new record The Dream Is Over. They completed the tour by making a stop at the legendary Music Hall of Williamsburg for an electrifying, reckless, and pulverizing show. I was lucky enough to attend the last night of their tour and you can check below for some photos from the show.
Late last week, I had a chance to sit down for an extensive phone conversation with the wonderful Sam Means. Back in January, Sam released his debut full-length solo record Ten Songs, a record I have connected with a lot during these long, hot summer days in the Northeast. We discuss that record pretty thoroughly before delving into a number of other topics, including why Dog Problems has remained relevant even ten years later and why he feels a The Format reunion is “inevitable,” even if it’s not imminent.