Review: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

When Arcade Fire won the Album of the Year Grammy for The Suburbs on February 13, 2011, it was legitimately shocking. Sure, the Grammys, as an institution, are known for weird out-of-left-field choices, particularly in the Album of the Year category, where the favorites (either odds-wise or in terms of public or critical sentiment) regularly lose to something a bit more sentimental (think Green Day, Usher, Alicia Keys, and Kanye West all losing to the late Ray Charles in 2005) or maybe just a bit more white (Beyonce’s self-titled smash losing to an unexceptional late-career Beck album in 2015). But The Suburbs was different. There was no precedent for an indie band taking the top prize. A band hadn’t won the award period since U2 and Dixie Chicks won back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. The other contenders were also all gargantuan albums that had spawned at least one ubiquitous, generational hit: Katy Petty’s Teenage Dream, Eminem’s Recovery, Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster, Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now. Arcade Fire weren’t nobodies: they’d made arguably the second most acclaimed album of the 2000s with 2004’s Funeral (the first most acclaimed being Radiohead’s Kid A), and The Suburbs had even debuted at the top of the Billboard 200. But next to a gaggle of mainstream hit machines, the Canadian indie rock band didn’t stand a chance.

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Review: Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare

Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare

The death of a loved one is a nightmare come to life. It’s something that can completely devastate you, leaving you feeling empty and forever changing life as you know it. While there is that overwhelming sadness, sometimes loss causes those left behind to do something special in their own lives. They find the strength to push forward and honor those who are no longer here. 

For Avenged Sevenfold, they suffered a tragedy on December 28, 2009 when their drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan,  died at the age of 28 from an accidental opioid overdose. The Rev had become widely known as one of the best drummers in the metal scene, and his death stunned the world. Avenged Sevenfold had become a household name at this point, thanks to the success of their albums City of Evil and the self-titled Avenged Sevenfold. They were becoming one of the biggest rock bands in the world and just as they were in the process of making a new album, Avenged Sevenfold lost one of their brothers.

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Review: As Cities Burn – Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest

“The first day I was alive I got on a ride against my will. It’s so amazing I’ve made it this far.” 

Cody Bonnette, one of As Cities Burn’s two vocalists, sings these lyrics with an impassioned earnestness. They come from “Maybe,” a highlight from the band’s underrated 2019 release Scream Through The Walls, their first release after a decade. In those two lyrical sentences, I am understood, and my emotions of where I am at right now represented. As Cities Burn has always been the band that I could find myself in every single song. 

In 2005, this wildly popular local band fronted by two brothers from Louisiana put out their debut record on Solid State. At the time, Underoath were beginning to embrace their position as an undisputed juggernaut of the scene. Demon Hunter and Zao were already established giants. Norma Jean and Haste the Day were coming off two wildly popular releases. Young guns Emery, Showbread, He Is Legend, and The Chariot were skyrocketing in popularity every week. August Burns Red was just a name on an undercard compared to the bands already listed. 

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Review: The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

The first time I ever heard American Slang was in my freshman college dorm room, just a week or two from the end of school, on a gorgeous April spring day. Now, if I’d been a law-abiding listener, the wait to hear the new album from The Gaslight Anthem—their follow-up to 2008’s acclaimed The ’59 Sound—still would have been the better part of two months. American Slang didn’t officially hit the streets until June 15. But 2010 was maybe the golden age of album leaks, and as a broke college student with a budget for little more than gas and the occasional midnight McDonald’s run with my roommate, that fact was very good news for me. It also meant that American Slang, a bulletproof summer soundtrack album, got to serve as the bookend to my first year of college, and to all the anticipation I was feeling as four months of summer approached.

When The ’59 Sound broke in 2008, The Gaslight Anthem quickly became one of the most buzzed-about rock bands in all the circles I was a part of online. Here was a band that respected classic rock traditions and made them sound new again; a band willing to pilfer from their influences in the most loving manner possible; a band whose frontman was, perhaps, worthy of being called “this generation’s Bruce Springsteen.” All that hype only became louder and louder throughout 2009 and into the early part of 2010, which meant that by the time Gaslight announced their new record, excitement for it was through the roof. A title and an album cover that seemed to promise another sweeping classic-rock-styled masterpiece? Well, who could resist that?

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Review: Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica

Modest Mouse - Moon & Antarctica

To paraphrase the timeless Forrest Gump, Modest Mouse albums are like a box of chocolates; you never know what kinds of songs you’re gonna get. 

You could have a beautiful song with an epic ending like “Talkin’ Shit About a Pretty Sunset,” a wild, weird 11-minute jam like “Trucker’s Atlas,” or a chaotic song like “Breakthrough” that makes you want to shout like singer Isaac Brock and bounce around the room.

All of these traits are on display on Modest Mouse’s 2000 album The Moon & Antarctica, their first on a major label. Despite the jump to a bigger label with Epic Records, Modest Mouse only continued to grow into one of the greatest bands in indie rock. While some bands might drastically change their sound when they make the jump, Modest Mouse instead put together one of the greatest works in their career. They created an album where you don’t have to skip a single song, making each track feel like they’re all connected and are as important as the next one up the track listing.

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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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