It’s not until the final track that Turnstile reveals a mission statement of sorts on their second album, (and major label debut) Time & Space – a digitized voice explains, “We will dilute the distinction between time and space” – but if you were paying attention in the 25 minutes prior you already knew that the band set out to blur the lines on what hardcore music can be. The record’s third track, “Generator,” essentially dares you to stick with it by unleashing a bridge drenched in an acidic haze before transitioning into the jazzy waltz of “Bomb,” a 25-second featuring vocals from Tanikka Charraé. So less than 6 minutes in, you’re either in or you’re out (even indirectly calling it out on the former track – lyrics like “Don’t waste my time,” and “Gotta go my own way” serve as the song’s rallying cry of sorts) as the Baltimore quintet only delves further into the weirdness.
Dating back to their debut extended play in 2002, a certain duality has always existed in Senses Fail’s music. For perhaps the first decade of their career, that duality was mainly applied to how the band balanced its pop-punk and hardcore roots across thirteen or so tracks on an album, as frontman Buddy Nielsen’s lyrics trended more on the nihilistic side of things. But their fifth album, 2013’s Renacer, felt like a spiritual awakening for Nielsen, as that duality started to transition over to his lyricism. 2015’s Pull The Thorns From Your Heart followed that same path as Nielsen championed living and thinking positivitely over the negative.
Which brings us to Senses Fail’s seventh full-length album, If There Is Light, It Will Find You. It is the culmination of numerous line-up switches and life-changing experiences, as it is the first record to be solely written by Nielsen. Many of the band’s peers have risen and fallen (or never risen at all) over the nearly two decades of Senses Fail career, yet the band continues to not only survive but thrive, releasing their best album yet.
Despite being bruised, stitched, and severed, the hand that adorns the cover of Tiny Moving Parts’ fourth LP, Swell, is still just trying to hang loose. That image is probably the most accurate summary of the Minnesota trio’s music. After garnering a dedicated fanbase with their first two releases, the band received more attention with their very solid 2016 album, Celebrate. Two years later, Tiny Moving Parts is back with their most consistent work yet, a sizzling ten track album that flawlessly blends the ethos of midwest emo with the energy of contemporary pop-punk.
Swell is frenetic from the very start, as opener “Applause” explodes behind Dylan Mattheisen’s charging, intricate riffs. Big choruses and soaring bridges burst throughout with contagious energy, with the occasional synthesizer or trombone thrown in the background for a little extra punch. It’s reminiscent of Tell All Your Friends – those dramatic moments emphasized by synth flourishes and sleek keyboard melodies (the urgent “Smooth It Out” and the bombastic “Whale Watching” are prime examples). First single “Caution” is dynamic in a way that recollects memories of the band’s first album, while the blistering “Malfunction” features some of Mattheisen’s best tapping to date.
It’s been discussed ad nauseam in nearly every year-end review: 2017 was the pits. And those sentiments aren’t wrong! 2017 sucked! We elected the worst president in this country’s history and we have a government trying to rob its citizens of basic rights. The world is melting around us while California burns to the ground. Things are bad! And outside of my wife, family, and friends, very little this year helped take things out of the shit. The major thing that helped get me (and I’m sure countless others) was the musical output of 2017 — there was an overwhelming amount of incredible stuff released over the course of 12 months and almost impossible to notate all. So instead of boring you with a list of my 100 favorite albums, I cut it down to the 10 that most impacted my life in 2017. Enjoy this list, feel free to share and discuss with me, and hope for better in November.
There’s a moment on “Sour Breath,” one of the many highlights on Julien Baker’s second album Turn Out The Lights, where the strings swell, the guitar strums pick up, and Baker’s vocals slowly build until the floor drop outs from under us and her voice breaks through the silence – “The harder I swim, the faster I sink.” It’s a jaw-dropping moment in an album that’s full of them. And stringing those moments together are cathartic confessions throughout Turn Out The Lights – an once-in-a-lifetime album that’ll leave you speechless.
Turn Out The Lights – once again self-produced by Baker – possesses a richer, fuller sound than 2015’s Sprained Ankle while still maintaining its intimate, minimal appeal. The imagery on the album is stunning and the album’s eleven tracks continues to accurately paint a picture of living with depression while struggling with the idea that she’s been rejected by romantic partners, close friends, God, and even herself. Songs like the title track, “Happy To Be Here,” and “Hurt Less” depict those thoughts perfectly.
The album’s title track is a deconstruction of what it can feel like to live with depression. “There’s a hole in the drywall still not fixed. I just haven’t gotten around to it. And besides I’m starting to get used to the gap” is an incredibly accurate look at existing with functional depression while the lyrics “So you wish you could find some way to help. Don’t be so hard on myself. So why is it easy for everyone else?” recalls the outside world’s infuriating interpretation of it. And it’s the song’s haunting conclusion that acknowledges the album’s overall battle, as Baker reveals, “When I turn out the lights there’s no one left between myself and me.”
By all accounts, Circa Survive shouldn’t be here. The band’s frontman, Anthony Green, sometimes can’t even believe that the band has survived all the demons and turmoil over the course of their career. But Green and his bandmates have continually persevered through it all, alive and thriving with their sixth full-length album (and Hopeless Records debut) The Amulet, the band’s darkest and most personal piece of art yet.
The hazy opener, “Lustration,” begins with Green’s familiar croon before erupting into an unshakeable groove provided by drummer Steve Clifford. It’s a warning of sorts (“Beneath your finger nails/they’ll find small pieces of stone/you’ll face the sun/cut with the pressure point”) mixed in with Green’s desperate pleas (“I don’t want to be the anchor on your chest“ and “I don’t want to see the moment you forget”). Elsewhere, the album’s ominous vibe penetrates on tracks like “Premonition Of The Hex” and “At Night It Gets Worse,” with the latter being a career highlight. Its glacial pace slowly picks up as the implied dread increases, leaving the listener feeling uneasy. We also get some of Will Yip’s best production work ever – the thrilling guitar riff that kicks off “Stay” is incredibly crisp and Nick Beard’s bass work across the record (especially on the Juturna-esque “Tunnel Vision” ) is thoroughly killer, providing the backbone to the vast majority of The Amulet. Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom’s dueling guitar acrobatics are a pleasure as well – “Never Tell A Soul” never lets up the pace as Green tears through the chorus.
Before recording anything for Manchester Orchestra’s fifth album, Andy Hull aimed to deconstruct what the band was. “My challenge was whatever you’re instinctively going to want to play on the record, try and not do that,” Hull explained to UPROXX earlier this summer, “try and do the opposite of that thing.” Obviously, there isn’t anything like a simple “how-to” guide on achieving such a goal, so the band worked with multiple producers at various studios to create a record that could cement their legacy as one of this era’s great rock bands. And after a year full of obsessive detail, second guessing, and a grueling recording process, Manchester Orchestra emerged with A Black Mile To The Surface, their most majestic and challenging record yet.
When you consider the last three or four years of Tigers Jaw’s career, spin feels a like an apt title for the band’s fifth album. After the original quintet recorded and released 2014’s stellar Charmer, the band is officially the duo of Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins. And with that foundation firmly in the ground, Tigers Jaw have released their strongest album to date in spin. Working with producer Will Yip once again – and backed by his new Atlantic Records imprint Black Cement – spin is a twelve track adventure consisting of a terrific blend of indie-pop tracks, as Collins joined Walsh with the songwriting duties. The result is stronger hooks, sweeter melodies, and an album that ascends Tigers Jaw to the very top amongst their peers.
In 2006, New Found Glory took their biggest risk as a band by releasing Coming Home, an album that largely abandoned the band’s customary pop-punk/easycore stylings. Produced by Thon Panunzio, Coming Home introduced more straight-forward rock elements that included keys, pianos, and strings – not surprising considering Panunzio has worked with some of the biggest rock legends of all time (Ozzy, Bruce, Joan Jett, etc.). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album fell flat commercially and was also the band’s last album to be released on a major label. But creatively and critically it was a success as Coming Home has been regarded as the band’s most daring effort of their career and let the pop-punk world know that New Found Glory would never make the same album twice. It also planted the seeds of what was to come ten years later.
Over the first ten years of their life, The Menzingers have never shied away from their boozy reputation. Numerous mentions of alcohol – the good and the bad – are littered throughout the Philadelphia band’s first four albums. Which makes the band’s new album, After The Party, so profound – we already know what happens during the party but what happens after, once all the confetti’s been swept up, the beer’s gone flat, and music turned down? After The Party explores the themes of getting older and bridging the gap between a carefree spirit to a more responsible partner while still trying to escape the mundanity of everyday life.
“Technology is something that I really appreciate, but being someone who comes from hardcore, metal and punk, you’re fighting it at the same time,” says Code Orange’s Jami Morgan about his band’s unforgiving new record, Forever. “It’s almost like the bridge between those two ideas.” That portion from a late 2016 Rolling Stone interview comes to mind every time I listen to Forever (Code Orange’s third full length and major label debut for Roadrunner Records) – a record that embraces technology as much as it wants to destroy it, resulting in a near perfect modern hardcore classic.
I’ve been listening to Jimmy Eat World for over half my lifetime. Crazy enough, the last (and only) time I attended a Jimmy Eat World show was in 2005 when they were opening for Green Day on the American Idiot tour. That’s pretty sad! Fortunately, I made some sort of amends this past Thursday when the Arizona quartet made their way through Indianapolis. Headlining one of those radio station holiday shows, the band played a 20+ song set that included a well balanced mixture of hits, deep cuts, fan favorites, and new songs.
“Nothing ever happens until it happens to you” bellows Bradley Walden on “Miracle,” the second single off 131, the newest release from his band Emarosa. It’s an exhilarating moment on one of the album’s most electrifying tracks. It can also be interpreted as the main thesis behind 131 – professionally (Emarosa) and personally (Walden). 131 is the second album to feature Walden as the band’s lead vocalist after original vocalist Jonny Craig was kicked out for a myriad of reasons. It was a fight or flight moment for the band and they struck gold when they tapped Walden to handle vocal duties, and the band’s third LP, Versus, followed soon after. That record was a very respectable release but you can hear that both the band and Walden were still in that adjustment period stage and trying to feel each other out. Versus was the beginning of the band’s shift away from post-hardcore into more of a fluid pop-influence, but without losing any of their aggressiveness. And 131 is the fully realized version of that sound — Walden and company have grown together to create one of the most powerful and honest albums of year.
What’s left to write about Blink-182? There’s no point to rehash the drama that Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker have with Tom DeLonge, nor is there any point to harp on the incredibly bizarre interviews and statements DeLonge has given the press lately. We’ve all ranked their discography a hundred different ways and chosen sides. I guess all we can really do now is talk about the music, right? It’s a development that I (and many others) will welcome. And, when we talk about the music, we’ll find that band’s seventh full length album, California, is probably the most classic Blink release since 2001’s double-platinum Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.
To say that Taking Back Sunday is a polarizing band is an understatement. For nearly 15 years now the Long Island-based band have gone through it all – inter-band drama, outer-band drama, more member changes than they’d like to admit, and the transition from emo darlings to bonafide rock stars. And while not every fan has always enjoyed every change the band has gone through musically and professionally, Taking Back Sunday has always stuck to their vision. And the same can be said about the band’s latest song, “Tidal Wave,” the first single from the band’s upcoming seventh LP of the same name.
I’m lucky. I’ve never lost anyone close to me during my adult life. My grandfather died when I was very young and my six-year-old brain really didn’t understand what was going on. I’ve never gone through what Jeremy Bolm has. The Touché Amoré frontman lost his mother to cancer in the fall of 2014 and much, if not all of his band’s upcoming new album, Stage Four, revolves around processing her death and remembering their life together. The album’s first single, “Palm Dreams,” is a soaring piece of post-hardcore that showcases the continual growth of the band’s songwriting while Bolm attempts to learn even more about his mother even after her passing. In the song premiere’s accompanying article, Bolm tells NPR that “’Palm Dreams’ was written around the realization that I never had a full understanding why my mother moved from Nebraska to California in the ‘70s.”
Detroit’s very own True Love are bound to set the hardcore world on fire with their Bridge Nine debut, Heaven’s Too Good For Us. The LP’s 13 tracks clock in at just over 17 minutes, leaving you breathless and wanting more of the band’s incredible hardcore fury. One things for certain: True Love’s anthems are crushingly uncompromising. Check out the album below, pre-order at Bridge Nine, and catch their set on August 7th in Philadelphia at This Is Hardcore Fest.
Three months ago, Christian Holden, vocalist/bassist of The Hotelier, posted on the band’s Tumblr a very personal essay reflecting on how their last album, Home, Like NoPlace Is There, affected the band’s lives and how they were going to proceed in the future. The essay also featured Holden coming to terms with being a public figure and exploring trust, art, and “realness.” Somewhere in the middle of the post Holden writes, “And I think this is what bums me out about the wishy-washiness of rock music and performance. Realness is a treasure in life. I don’t want to see uncritical postured realness. I want transparency.” And, well, you can use that declaration as the thesis statement for The Hotelier’s stunning new album, Goodness.
About halfway through “Note To Self,” the third track off Modern Baseball’s new album Holy Ghost, Jacob Ewald earnestly proclaims: “There will be no more fucking around today.” On this particular song it’s mostly about Ewald taking control of his life, but that line can be applied to the Philly quartet’s evolution as well. The band’s first two releases (Sports and You’re Gonna Miss It All) catapulted the band from humble beginnings into playing shows with punk stalwarts like The Wonder Years, The Menzingers, and Say Anything. This rise set them up as the premier band on Run For Cover’s roster. But there was also plenty of fucking around on those albums while they blurred the lines between pop-punk and emo. On Holy Ghost, there are no more assholes with iPhones or songs about Chloe’s Twitter handle. Rather, Modern Baseball’s third LP works as a split release – Ewald writing and leading the first six tracks while Brendan Lukens undertaking the last five. On the surface this may seem like a recipe for an uneven listening experience; however, Holy Ghost rolls through its eleven tracks beautifully while touching on topics like finding love, battling depression, fighting addiction, and coping with mental illness.