Review: Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP

Listening to Eminem when I was growing up was like eating forbidden fruit. Now that I look back on it, my mom was spot on for not allowing me to own The Marshall Mathers LP album. Instead, I listened to it with friends at summer camp back in the summer of 2000. Strangely enough, my love for rap and hip-hop would blossom from this particular, ridiculously controversial album. 

The Marshall Mathers LP is still revered as an iconic album. Eminem raps laps around any competition, and his expression of emotion (a lot of rage) is undeniably intoxicating. But, if you take a listen from start to finish, you’ll be reminded that much of what you’ll hear didn’t land well back in 2000, and is still cringe-worthy today, even if it most of it is just schtick.

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Review: The National – High Violet

The National - High Violet

When The National reemerged in 2010, they were primed to explode. It didn’t matter that they were coming up on their fifth album and had already passed the milestone that marked their first decade together as a band. They were, as people have often described their albums, a slow burn, or a grower, and by the time the new decade began, their fuse was ready to blow. 2007’s Boxer had changed the game for the Cincinnati fourpiece in more ways them one, turning them into prestige indie darlings, landing songs on the soundtracks of virtually every moody drama on television, and even earning them a small but memorable role in the campaign of a presidential hopeful named Barack Obama. By the time The National appeared on Jimmy Fallon in March of 2010 to officially kick off the rollout for High Violet, with a majestic performance of “Terrible Love,” it was clear they were ready to be rock stars.

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Review: Papa Roach – Infest

Papa Roach - Infest

“Cut my life into pieces / This is my last resort!” With those loaded words, Papa Roach immediately gained the attention of an army of misguided teens looking for their way in a confusing world. Infest was a massive record for a lot of reasons. In essence, it had a great lead single in “Last Resort,” fantastic marketing, perfect timing in the rap-rock scene, as well as ultra-talented musicians backing up what they wanted to accomplish in their sound. The music landscape in 2000 was littered with tons of rap-rock bands looking for their breakthrough in a crowded, and at times, confusing rock scene. What made Papa Roach stand out from the pack was their ability to grab their audience from the first listen and give them a feeling of belonging to something bigger than themselves. I’m sure many of us can remember the first time we heard the guitar riff of the lead single on the music video that seemed to be airing on MTV more often than not, and how it made us all feel something.

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Review: The Menzingers – Chamberlain Waits

Chamberlain Waits

The Menzingers released their second album, Chamberlain Waits a decade ago, and what a decade it’s been for them. It was an album that would build the foundation for a small town Pennsylvania-rooted band that would go on to consistently pack venues with fans all over the world.

Chamberlain Waits represents The Menzingers on the cusp of pulling off something truly special. While 2012’s On the Impossible Past is the staple Menzingers album (with After the Party in a close second place), Chamberlain Waits had all of the ingredients of what makes the Menzingers great; Relatable lyrics that set a scene in your head, catchy choruses that make you want to scream them at the top of your lungs and guitar riffs that will hook you in immediately.

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Review: Thrice – Vheissu

Thrice - Vheissu

I’ll be honest: I’m starting a fifteen-year retrospective of Thrice’s seminal masterpiece Vheissu in a way that may not make sense.

It’s been just under three years since the legacy of Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me gained a sizeable asterisk. Once firmly entrenched at number two on my list of all-time favorite albums, that record transited from being a piece of art that comforted me, grounded me, and helped me through some of the darkest eras in my cycles of depression to this huge question mark of unease and memory. It was an album that had fostered a community in my life—both online on the AbsolutePunk forums and with high school friends—at the same time that depression was stealing many senses of connection. It embodied a sound and possessed lyrics that explained how depression felt inside my chest and head.

In all the ways that losing Brand New hurts a myriad of people—from Jesse Lacey’s victims to the band’s fans—my internalized struggle emerged when I couldn’t turn to “Degausser,” “Sowing Season,” or “Not the Sun” to face certain emotions anymore. I won’t pretend I haven’t turned to those songs first out of a sense of musical muscle memory in the interim years, but they don’t carry the weight like they used to. In many ways, thanks to medication and a lot of personal growth, I don’t need them anymore, at least not as I did back then. But there will always be a part of me that wants an album to feel like a home in the storm when those emotions swarm.

Last month, at a concert venue in Atlanta, before a pandemic swept the globe and the year still felt full of promise, I realized that I already had that album—one that probably should’ve been the one I’d turned to all along. One that’s brought me comfort and catharsis through the chaos of social distancing, botched government responses, and hysteria.

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Review: Third Eye Blind – Blue

Third Eye Blind - Blue

Coming off the success of the multi-platinum, debut self-titled album, Third Eye Blind could have gone in several different directions. Would they crash and burn like many of their 90’s peers hitmakers that stormed onto the scene of the height of the music industry, or would they embrace the pressure and deliver a noteworthy record? Plenty has already been written about the drama and in-fighting that went on during the writing and production of their sophomore album, Blue. Yet, I’m going to focus on the music itself which by all points of merit is still pretty damn good even at 20 years of age. The album’s themes are filled with relatable concepts, ranging everywhere from teen pregnancy (“10 Days Late”), physical abuse (“Wounded”), to gushing feelings of love (“Deep Inside Of You”).

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Review: Saves the Day – Through Being Cool

From the opening notes of Saves The Day’s now-legendary emo album, Through Being Cool, Chris Conley confidently sings, “This isn’t the way we planned / I wasn’t supposed to forget your taste,” and it’s almost as if Conley and his band knew they might be on to something extraordinary here. The irony behind an album about leaving the cool kids to their cliques, while sitting a few out much like the cover art depicts, is humorous now because Saves the Day became emo legends on this record. Those same kids who wouldn’t give Conley and crew the time of day back in high school, are probably the ones now asking them for autographs after a show. This album was recently overlooked by Kerrang! magazine on the 25 greatest emo albums ever, much to my chagrin.

Looking back at the numerous bands influenced by this band and this album, in particular, one can not merely brush this record off as just another emo album. Instead with heart-on-my-sleeve lyrics about their hometown on songs such as “You Vandal,” where Conley sings, “I woke up to my cold sheets and the smell of New Jersey / When do I get to wake up to you?” there was no stopping this band’s ascent into greatness.

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Review: My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge

The 15th anniversary of the My Chemical Romance classic has come and gone, but with the recent news of them reuniting, I just couldn’t wait five more years to write about Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. I vividly remember my first time hearing this record. I was a 21-year old, shopping at my local Hot Topic, browsing the listening station of the recent CD releases. The Three Cheers artwork grabbed my attention from the first look, and I knew I had to see what the band had come up with, having only seen them open up for The Used at the 9:30 Club about a year prior. The album was produced by one of all-time favorites, Howard Benson, and had it not been for my immediate trust in the producer; I may have waited to purchase this album until a few weeks later. What I was not expecting was just how professional, polished, and amazing the record was, as I became immediately transported into the world of MCR. From the opening notes of “Helena,” I knew this band had created something incredibly special, immediate, and gripping from the very first listen. It’s safe to say that this immediate purchase of the record was not one that I came to regret.

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Review: Incubus – Make Yourself

Inclubus - Make Yourself

Rewind for a minute back to 1999. Nu-metal looms large with bands such as Limp Bizkit and Korn dominating the airwaves and record sales. RollingStone magazine is saying for the millionth time that rock is dead, or at the very least, on life support. Little did that magazine realize, a small yet remarkable movement was taking place. Incubus had started to establish a good career for themselves on their sophomore studio effort S.C.I.E.N.C.E. , and were slowly but surely getting rock fans to turn their heads towards the Calabasas-based band. Enter the third studio album, Make Yourself that has just turned 20 years old. Produced by veteran hit-maker Scott Litt, Incubus made a conscious effort to leave the nu-metal bands they built a scene with scratching their heads in disbelief as the band would evolve their sound into an alternative rock powerhouse that would go on to sell over two million records in the United States alone. While Incubus had grabbed my attention on S.C.I.E.N.C.E., they became my new favorite band on Make Yourself.

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Review: Thrice – Beggars

Thrice Beggars

The praise and allure surrounding the seventh studio album from Thrice is one that I initially didn’t fully grasp at my first listen, nearly ten years ago to the day. Maybe I was in a bad mood that day or was distracted during my listening experience, because as I revisit Beggars now, I can’t fathom how I would have felt anything but pure astonishment and wide-eyed wonder at this pre-hiatus masterpiece by the California rockers. Beggars was released digitally a full month before the physical release date of September 15th, 2009, which gave eager fans a chance to absorb the new sounds from Thrice before rushing out to their local record store the month after. From songs as immediately gratifying as “All the World is Mad” to the progressive-rock elements of “Circles,” Beggars had a little bit of everything from all phases of Thrice’s expansive discography. The self-produced record (with a specific and well-deserved credit to lead guitarist Teppei Teranishi) is a wonderful snapshot of what the band was capable of making when firing on all cylinders.

A look back at this record brings back many emotions for me from hearing these songs live as recently as their spring tour, and now that I have the foresight of seeing where Thrice would eventually take their sound, one can’t help but praise this album as being one of their best.

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Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication

My memories surrounding the seventh studio album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers are flooded with great moments spent with this classic, late-90’s record on many Summer evening drives back and forth from the beach. Californication came at a time when my sixteen-year-old self was rapidly veering away from the pop that was dominating the airwaves of the radio, and I vividly remember when I purchased a CD copy of this album that I still hold in such high esteem to this day. As I look back on the 20th anniversary of this classic, I remember how I was immediately drawn into the world the band was describing in ways I never thought that I could be. I was transformed within an album from the very first notes. While my younger self may not have fully grasped all the themes that were being tossed around in the lyrics such as: death, suicide, globalization, and traveling, I could still appreciate every ounce of blood sweat and tears that the band had put into the classic LP.

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Review: The Dangerous Summer – Reach for the Sun

It’s funny the way that albums can mark time. How hearing the right songs at the right moment can make them sound like more than songs, or how going back to those songs after 10 or 15 or 20 years can reawaken every feeling you had when you first heard them. It’s funny, too, how the music that does those things to you might not do anything for anyone else. How something can be an incredibly meaningful and important document of your past, but just sound run-of-the-mill to someone else. Or how, if you’d heard an album a decade or a year or six months too early or too late, it might just be a footnote in your musical history rather than a symphony.

No album has ever taken me more by surprise than The Dangerous Summer ‘s Reach for the Sun. I didn’t see it coming, and I wasn’t looking for it. I had no knowledge of the band or their past work, no clue what they sounded like or what their songs might have to say about my life. I just read a rave review of the album one day on AbsolutePunk and decided to give it a shot. Ten years later, those songs still shoot shivers down my spine and choke me up, because they sound like the cusp of adulthood, and like all the friends and memories I’ve left behind in the past decade.

Reach for the Sun had remarkable timing. Its release date was May 5, 2009, just as spring was bursting into full, glorious bloom. I first heard it on May 3, in the early evening, coming out of old boombox speakers in my bedroom, with the gentle glow of the sunset streaming through my window. The day before, my sister had graduated from college. In another month, I’d graduate from high school. My parents and I had driven home, from Ann Arbor to Traverse City, that afternoon. I had a boatload of calculus homework to do and was dreading the evening. AP exams were just days away, and I needed to buckle down and focus. Certainly, I knew I needed a good soundtrack for the study session. So I downloaded this record on the recommendation of a glowing 95 percent review from Blake Solomon and loaded it onto my iPod.

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Review: Silverstein – A Shipwreck in the Sand

Looking back on the tenth anniversary of Silverstein’s fourth studio album, A Shipwreck in the Sand, is an interesting project and it in many ways is a snapshot of the state of the world we were living in. Coming off a slightly commercially and critically disappointing third album in Arrivals & Departures, the band felt a sense of urgency to deliver a great record. Silverstein turned once again to the Discovering the Waterfront producer, Cameron Webb, to help them create an early-career landmark album in their discography. The themes of betrayal, loss, war, and the problems with the US health care system are prevalent throughout this LP. Self-described by the band as being one of their “heaviest” records in their career, this album takes us on a four chapter journey in the form of a captivating concept record.

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Review: New Found Glory – Not Without a Fight

New Found Glory - NWOAF

When New Found Glory broke into the mainstream in the early 2000s, it certainly wasn’t amongst a shortage of pop-punk bands. The post-Blink boom meant that for a few years, every bunch of spiky-haired kids in Dickies was getting picked up by a major and amassing radio and MTV coverage. But what always set New Found Glory apart from their Warped Tour ilk was their genuine connection to heavy music. A teenaged Chad Gilbert was the vocalist for metalcore legends Shai Hulud before he was New Found Glory’s guitarist, and where other pop-punk bands of the time were taking influence from the likes of Descendents and Screeching Weasel, NFG were drawing more from East Coast hardcore like Madball and Snapcase. They positioned NYHC guitar tones as the backdrop to sickly-sweet pop vocals, and mastered both elements better than any of their peers could.

This distinction set New Found Glory up for longevity that outlasted pop punk’s commercial day in the sun, and such longevity makes inevitable – and perhaps relies on – a change in course. So in 2006, while bands like Midtown and Fenix TX had dissolved around them, New Found Glory released their fifth album Coming Home. It swapped the crunchy riffs for mid-tempo soft rock more comparable to, say, Journey than to their heavy early influences. It was a smart move, with pop-punk by now commercially dead in the water as emo-pop took its place, and one that paid off too; it was likely better received critically than any of their records prior.

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Review: A Day to Remember – Homesick

For as long as I can recall, A Day to Remember have been that strange mixture of incredibly divisive and inarguably popular within the scene. Being a (female) ADTR fan in 2009 looked like this: If people (let’s be real; mostly men) weren’t calling you “soft” for liking the band to begin with, they were heavily implying that you only liked the ~pretty~ tracks, like “If It Means a Lot to You” or “Have Faith In Me” (which are both bangers, by the way). The band apparently were too hardcore for the pop punk bros, and too pop punk for the hardcore kids. To put a finer and entirely subjective point on that observation: then as now, both the pop-punk and hardcore purists were enraged by a band that refuses to call themselves either, yet excels at both. When Homesick dropped ten years ago, I was a senior in high school. While they weren’t my absolute favorite band, they were up there. I wasn’t writing about music yet at the time, but I loved the record. Upon listening as a fully formed adult ten years later, my opinion remains largely unchanged.

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