The Northern Irish band Ash doesn’t seem to get a lot of love here in the states, but I’m hoping by revisiting certain album landmarks such as the 20th anniversary of Free All Angels more will come to appreciate their music. This third studio album from Tim Wheeler (vocals/guitar), Mark Hamilton (bass), Rick McMurray (drums), and Charlotte Hatherley (guitar, backing vocals) is the one record I make sure to have on steady rotation when spring turns to summer. I started this tradition unconsciously back in the days of organizing my CD collection (in those big Case Logic binders) by making sure Free All Angels would be the first record I’d see in the front when school finally broke for summer vacation. From the opening lyrics of “Walking Barefoot” where Wheeler sings, “Your beauty took my breath away / In awe all day / Your company was so relaxing / Easy going ways / We saw the first signs of summer and springtime change / Walking barefoot along the sand / I hadn’t planned to stay / Yeah, we’ve been walking barefoot all summer / It’ll be sad my friend / To see it come to an end / Why can’t we just quit,” it marked a laid back transition in my mind of turning the page of the care-free days of what summer means in our youth.Read More “Ash – Free All Angels”
People like to say that the Foo Fighters are a band with plenty of great hits, but not great albums. To say Foo Fighters don’t put together excellent records is not a fair knock.
I could write an entire thesis defending Foo Fighters albums, but for now I’ll just say their first three albums – Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape and There is Nothing Left to Lose – are classics, jam packed with hits and underrated B-Sides. I can also admit at the same time, there are circumstances where the hits over albums idea rings true. “All My Life” is far superior than the rest of the songs on 2002’s One by One. “The Best of You” was miles ahead of the pack when stacked up against the other tracks on 2005’s In Your Honor. Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace had three strong singles with “The Pretender”, “Long Road to Ruin”, and “Let it Die”, but the rest of the record was just okay.Read More “Foo Fighters – Wasting Light”
It seems like just yesterday I was discovering this “new band” my college roommate told me about called Thursday. The first song he played for me was “Understanding in a Car Crash,” and I was immediately drawn into the world of the post-hardcore/emo blend of magic that Thursday were able to accomplish on their sophomore record, Full Collapse. This album seemed destined to be huge, and had so many things going for it upon its release. For starters, the album was released during the so-called “golden age” of emo, with so many legendary bands releasing music during this time period. Secondly, Thursday were graced with a talented, energetic, and captivating front-man in the form of Geoff Rickly, who is now seen as a bona fide legend in our scene. Lastly, Thursday were brilliant at creating larger than life guitar hooks courtesy of their dual-attack by Tom Keeley and Steve Padulla. Rounding out the band were the ultra-talented bass player Tim Payne, and drummer Tucker Rule who were all up to the task of stepping up to the plate to create this legendary album. Full Collapse is a raw, visceral, post-punk blend of hardcore elements packaged for the masses, while still remaining endearing enough for longtime fans of Thursday to reminisce on discovering this band they had in their back pocket. This album would launch Thursday directly into the mainstream of emo bands on the tips of every tongue mentioning an influential band during this time period, and not to mention record executives falling over themselves to sign them to a major label. As much as has been written about the labels associated with Thursday, its more important to look at how the music from this album has stood the test of time.Read More “Thursday – Full Collapse”
Pop punk was taking the world by storm in 2001. Blink-182, Green Day and The Offspring were some of the biggest punk bands around, while groups like New Found Glory and Good Charlotte started to make a name for themselves in 2000. It was no coincidence that Alkaline Trio, a three piece punk band from Chicago, decided to lean into a poppier sound on their third LP, From Here to Infirmary. Some viewed this record as a “sell out”, but it quickly became clear this type of punk was the type of music they were meant to be playing.
While another band with dual singers was gearing up to release Take Off Your Pants and Jacket 20 years ago (Ironically, 20 years later Skiba is now a member of Blink-182), Alkaline Trio – consisting of singer/guitarist Matt Skiba, singer/bassist Dan Andriano and drummer Mike Felumlee (who left the band in 2001 and was replaced by current drummer Derek Grant – dropped what still remains their most complete record as a band.Read More “Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary”
Who would’ve thought the lyric from “Saints and Sailors” of, “Wandering this house, like I’ve never wanted out / And this is about as social as I get now” would take on new meaning during these strange times? But alas, we’ve come to the 20 year anniversary of the breakthrough emo classic record by Chris Carrabba, better known for his affectionately titled project Dashboard Confessional. Flashing back to this time period brings back a flood of memories of bands just waiting to explode onto the mainstream. What gets lost among the shuffle of the bad haircuts, skinny jeans, and ultra-tight t-shirts is the fact that the music coming out of this time period has stayed the test of time. Dashboard Confessional was not the loudest band out there, not the flashiest, but damn if Chris Carrabba couldn’t write a hook that would stay in your mind for days on end. The mostly acoustic guitar-based project was a tough sell initially since most touring bands didn’t know how to properly market a solo singer-songwriter in this scene. However, Chris consistently won over crowds night after night and it was clear that Dashboard Confessional was immediately going to be the marquee band that others would have to open for.Read More “Dashboard Confessional – The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most”
These days, bands don’t really break up: they go on hiatus. Occasionally, you’ll get a band separating more deliberately – doing or saying or writing something that makes it clear this break is meant to be permanent. More often, though, bands just stay dormant until they want to do it all over again – the recording sessions, and the press interviews, and the grueling tours – and then they reconvene. From Fall Out Boy to My Chemical Romance to Blink-182 and beyond, this narrative has played out repeatedly in our little music scene over the years. 10 years ago this week, it happened with Yellowcard.
Yellowcard are unique in that they’ve had both types of endings: the temporary one, with a hiatus designed as an indefinite time away from the music industry; and the permanent one, with a proper send-off album and farewell tour. When the band announced their hiatus in April of 2008, though, most fans probably would have bet on that being the period at the end of the sentence. “It doesn’t have anything to do with turmoil in the band,” frontman Ryan Key said at the time. “It’s more of a…[we’re] facing adulthood now, and we can’t stay in Neverland forever. I think we just need a break.” The Peter Pan reference? The suggestion that rock ‘n’ roll is a young man’s game? The exhaustion that seemed to permeate the last sentence? These ingredients did not bode well for the return of America’s favorite violin-toting pop-punk band.Read More “Yellowcard – When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes”
O.A.R. (short for Of a Revolution) has always been an important breakthrough band in my hometown of Montgomery County, Maryland. The band formed in 1996 in Rockville, MD with the original members of lead vocalist/guitarist Marc Roberge, drummer Chris Culos, guitarist Richard On, and bassist Benj Gershman. After the modest success of their first two albums (The Wanderer, and Soul’s Aflame), which was built off of a strong word-of-mouth and relentless touring, the band set to record their first major stamp on the music world with Risen produced by John Alagia (Dave Matthews, John Mayer). Much to the band’s surprise, and label’s delight, the record debuted at #11 on the Billboard “Internet Sales” and #66 of Billboard’s “New Artists” Charts respectively. It was becoming clearer that the “local band” was poised for big things, as this record would open the door for multiple major label offers. O.A.R. have recorded eight studio albums to date and still continue to play to large crowds all across the world due to their energetic live shows and armed with a discography of well-known songs. Risen features three re-recorded songs from their sophomore effort, Soul’s Aflame and one from their debut, The Wanderer. This set of songs are still widely used in their live sets, and feature some of their longtime fans’ favorite tracks.Read More “O.A.R. – Risen”
Taking a look back at the breakthrough record from The Decemberists called The King is Dead brings back a flood of memories about what was going on in the music scene at that time. It seemed as if indie rock and folk rock were merging forces to become the new “it” genre that music fans, and critics alike, couldn’t get enough of. Bands such as Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and The Decemberists were gaining momentum at just the right time. This album would be The Decemberists first album to chart at the top of the Billboard 200, and the opening single “Down By The Water” also experienced success on the Modern Rock chart as well. Prior to this album’s release, front-man Colin Meloy stated in an interview, “If there’s anything academic about this record, or me trying to force myself in a direction, it was realizing that the last three records were really influenced by the British folk revival […] this whole world that I was discovering, that I was poring over, learning inside-out. It was a wanting to get away from that. And looking back into more American traditions, reconnecting with more American music.” By getting more in-tune with these American traditions and stylistic choices on found on this album, The Decemberists were able to release their most successful and accessible record to date.Read More “The Decemberists – The King Is Dead”
Has any artist ever thrown down the gauntlet at the beginning of a year quite like Adele did with 21? Arriving on January 24, 2011 (in the United Kingdom, that is; it hit shelves in the States a month later), 21 quickly became not just the defining musical blockbuster of that year, but also of the still-young decade. No album since has had the same impact on the music world, or the world as a whole. 21 briefly made it feel like no one had ever heard another breakup album before. The mythology around the album (“Who broke Adele’s heart?” was a common question), along with the strength of the songs, made for a moment in music history that was genuinely monocultural. These days, it seems like there’s nothing everyone can share as common ground – period, let alone musically. 21 was different: a true four-quadrant classic that had something for everyone. From the pop music stans to the music critics to the songwriting classicists, Adele checked every box. Looking back, it feels like the last album that everyone could agree on. In terms of cultural significance, chart dominance, Grammy chances, and a million other metrics, every other artist who released something in 2011 was competing for second place.
While 21 dropped in January. I have never thought of it as a “winter” album. One of the (many) disadvantages to being a broke college student living in an outdated dorm in the winter of 2011 was that you had no good method to hear the latest music as it was breaking. Spotify hadn’t launched in the U.S. yet, paying for downloads via iTunes (or driving somewhere to buy a CD) wasn’t in the budget, and pirating music over the ethernet-only internet connection was both slow as hell and risky. That’s why I often went months without hearing the music that everyone else was talking about, 21 included. In this particular case, though, the delay proved to be serendipitous.Read More “Adele – 21”
The one constant in the career arc of My Chemical Romance has been reinvention. From each record’s sound to the wardrobe used on stage for each album cycle, MCR has never been strangers to pushing the boundaries of what is expected of them and their music. On Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, My Chemical Romance would reinvent themselves for the fourth time and deliver their boldest artistic statement to date. Having scrapped a full album’s worth of material (that would later be known as Conventional Weapons) in-between recording The Black Parade and this album, fans and critics alike were looking forward to seeing how Gerard Way, Frank Iero, Mikey Way, and Ray Toro would come back into the limelight after the massively successful third record. Danger Days ranges from thrilling sing-a-long anthems to power-pop and their trademark take on punk/emo rock alike. With so much riding on this career-defining record, how would everyone react to the material that would come through the speakers?Read More “My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys”
There aren’t many bands out there like A Day to Remember. They’re a group that can hit you with crunching guitars, thunderous drums, and earth-shattering screams while also having the capability to make fast pop-punk songs and gentle acoustic ballads. This sounds like a combination that shouldn’t work, yet they’ve found a way to pull it off time and time again.
ADTR’s fourth album, What Separates Me From You, further proved that A Day to Remember will never fit into a certain mold. They’re going to make the kind of music they want to make, whether that’s fun pop-punk or metalcore. Each A Day to Remember album is a grab bag of genres, but here the band (consisting Jeremy McKinnon – singer, Neil Westfall – rhythm guitarist, Joshua Woodard – bass, Alex Shelnutt – drums and Kevin Skaff – lead guitarist) started to explore their poppier side like they never have before.Read More “A Day to Remember – What Separates Me From You”
The charming debut record from Lifehouse called No Name Face took a lot of people by surprise when it first arrived 20 years ago. Led by singer/songwriter Jason Wade, the band was able to capture radio magic right from the get-go with their radio mega-hit “Hanging By A Moment.” The song went on to be the most played song of 2001 and allowed for the album to sell over 2.5 million units in the United States alone. Apart from the lead single and introductory song on the record, the LP is surrounded by several well-crafted songs that showcased Wade’s lyrical depth and vocal prowess at the tender age of 20 years old. The band was able to pull on the heart strings of America and made several TV appearances during the promotional cycle of the album. Looking back at this album brought up a lot of memories of listening to this record front to back during the autumn of my senior year of high school. What set Lifehouse apart from most of the other bands I was listening to during this era of music was their way of telling great stories through their music, and it made for an album that would stand the test of time.Read More “Lifehouse – No Name Face”
All That You Can’t Leave Behind is not the best U2 album. The Joshua Tree is greater and grander. Achtung Baby is more innovative and more daring. War has more to say. I can see reasonable arguments for preferring most of the U2 catalog over this record—and frankly, many U2 fans do. Even the band’s non-Achtung ‘90s albums—the experimental, occasionally brilliant, occasionally baffling pair of Zooropa and Pop—tend to garner more praise from the average U2 fan than their 2000 comeback. And yet, despite all the criticisms thrown at All That You Can’t Leave Behind—that it’s too safe; that it effectively ends U2’s legacy as a chance-taking band; that it’s as top-heavy as any 2000s record give or take a Hot Fuss—it’s also, by far, the U2 album I reach for most. The Joshua Tree is my go-to favorite, and Achtung is the one I love thinking about most, but All That You Can’t Leave Behind has an advantage over both: something about it just feels like home.Read More “U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind”
Speak Now is the most pivotal album in the Taylor Swift discography. It’s not the one that started the story (2006’s self-titled debut) or the one that made her a global superstar (2008’s Fearless), nor is it her biggest album (2014’s 1989) or her straight-up best (2012’s Red). But it was on Speak Now where Swift took full control of her creative enterprise, came into her own as a songwriter, and established many of the key elements that would ground her career for the next decade. It also might be the album that, more than any other, sets the table for the next 10 years of country music, from the pop influences to the confessional style of songwriting. It is, in a word, a landmark.
Swift, unlike many mainstream country stars, was always a songwriter first and foremost. Her debut self-titled record dropped when she was just 16 years old, but she still had writing credits on all 11 songs (and wrote three of them solo, including the number-one country smash “Our Song”). On Fearless, she more than doubled that number, taking solo writing credits on seven of the 13 songs (including “Love Story,” which briefly became the best-selling country single of all time). Still, Swift racked up a lot of co-writes on those first two albums, particularly with veteran Nashville songwriter Liz Rose, who has 12 writing credits across Taylor Swift and Fearless. On Speak Now, the big selling point isn’t that it’s a concept album about wild romance and dramatic heartbreak (Red), or a leap into pop (1989), or a rejoinder to her haters (Reputation), or her “indie” record (folklore). No, the big selling point here is the simple fact that Swift wrote all 14 tracks by herself.Read More “Taylor Swift – Speak Now”
Flash back to the year 2000, and a group of awkward young 20-ish-year-olds were looking for their own voice in a crowded punk field. What made Good Charlotte so charming was their ability to speak to the misfit youth of America by connecting directly to the underdogs of the world. They made this clear on their first radio single, “Little Things” with the spoken introduction of, “This song is dedicated / To every kid who ever got picked last in gym class / To every kid who never had a date to no school dance.” The band made it clear that they were making this type of music for the outcasts of the world, and they had the musical chops to back up what they wanted to accomplish. It never came across as a “gimmick” or an act, and their authenticity is what led to a lot of their future success.Read More “Good Charlotte – Good Charlotte”