Ryan Adams made what was, to my ears, his best record ever with 2014’s self-titled effort. More diverse and consistent than Heartbreaker and less bloated than Gold, Love Is Hell, and Cold Roses, Ryan Adams was a tight, taut, and tense collection of songs that saw Adams dealing with the loss of his grandmother and the pressures of a troubled marriage. Two and a half years later, the once-prolific Adams returns with the proper follow-up to his self-titled record, and it’s the closest he’s ever come to making a sequel. Prisoner carries many of the sonic and lyrical hallmarks of its predecessor, from the reverb-heavy production to the clear influence of 1980s Springsteen and Petty records. “Do You Still Love Me,” the opener and lead single, even bears a strong resemblance to the last record’s first track, “Gimme Something Good.”
Like Semisonic sang on their classic 1994 single “Closing Time,” “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Such is the case on both halves of Jake Clarke and Spur’s new split. Clarke was one of the vocalists of the grunge band Superheaven, and his half of the split sounds like the natural next step from his old band’s ‘90s-inspired rock. Spur, on the other hand, rose from the ashes of the emo band In Writing, and they play a blend of coarse punk and shoegaze.
This April will see the one year mark of when I started Chorus. By and large it’s been the most fulfilling stretch of work in my entire career. It’s been stressful. It’s been intense. But it’s also been extremely fun, challenging, and stimulating. As we come up on this anniversary I’ve been working on the first set of changes I want to make to the website to prepare ourselves for the future. There will be some design tweaks coming shortly, but the first thing I want to focus on is tightening up our supporter program.
Our supporter program has been a resounding success. When I started this project I made the argument that I believed the future of online publishing was going to depend on dedicated readers for websites to continue development and publication. Over the last year I’ve only become more convinced of this direction. And, I’ve been blown away by the first year of support from readers of this website. However, one of the main pieces of feedback I’ve heard is: I love this website, I love what you’re doing and want to help make sure it stays around, but I don’t really want to sign up for a forum membership account, is there any way I can become a patron without needing to join the forum community? My goal was to provide that functionality in the easiest form possible and allow readers to help support our continued existence for mere pennies per day.
If that’s all you need to hear, please take a look at our membership packages and sign up, if you want to be woo’d a little bit more, I’ve a longer pitch for you below.
Andrew McMahon is an artist who has had a very loyal and passionate following for a very long time. Starting with Something Corporate, which offered a piano-led twist on the emo/pop-punk trends of the early 2000s, McMahon has been regarded as a master of melody and a writer capable of churning out fiercely relatable songs. Suffice to say that BuzzFeed hit the nail on the head (for the first and last time) when it labeled “Konstantine” as the emo “Freebird.” When McMahon transitioned his career from Something Corporate into the poppier and more mature Jack’s Mannequin, it was a testament to his talent as a songwriter, his likability as a performer, and the strong personal resonance of his work that just about all of his fans were willing to go along for the ride.
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness will release their sophomore LP, Zombies on Broadway, later this week. I spoke with McMahon on the phone about the new record’s pop-leaning direction, his ever-evolving sound, the way family has defined his last few albums, and whether or not he’d ever consider writing a memoir. We also spoke briefly about next year’s 10-year anniversary of Jack’s Mannequin’s The Glass Passenger and whether or not fans can expect any special tours or reissues to mark the occasion.
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.
An acoustic album is always a bit of a gamble. To take songs that fans are already attached to and release them in alternate versions runs the risk of losing what they fell in love with in the first place. The Early November have never been afraid of taking that risk. The band released an acoustic EP in 2005 and more recently a full-length acoustic album, Fifteen Years, in celebration of their 15th anniversary.
2016 was a helluva year for music and 2017 is shaping up to be pretty damn good as well. The world may be falling apart around us, but at least we have a little something to look forward to. I talked about the albums I was most anticipating on a recent episode of Encore, but I wanted to reach out to some of our contributors and see what albums they were looking forward to most as well.
When we think back on our lives, even on a relatively small scale like, say, the week we just had, we tend not to think on every minute of minutiae we endured. We think of the relatively big things we went through, the stuff that was memorable. Sure, we all eat and have conversations and go to work and sleep and wake up, but we tend to only process it as a necessity: it’s the minute to minute, day to day of being. What’s important to understand, however, is that every second we live, every small little thing we go through, informs literally everything else about us. It’s all a flow of life that causes us to react, to process information, to make decisions, to move forward. It’s the process of life, and it’s the context for who we are as people, and our identities are as grand and important a concept as we’ll ever grapple with.
“It’s a lifeless life, with no fixed address to give/But you’re not mine to die for anymore/So I must live.” On the list of the best lyrics of the decade so far, that one—the most climactic line from the Japandroids’ blistering, cathartic “The House That Heaven Built”—has to be near the top. To me, that line has always been a beautifully apt statement about growing up and moving on. I suppose you could read it as a lyric about a break up, but I prefer to see it as a vow to let go of the things that used to define your life and build new ones in their place.
In a way, that’s exactly what Japandroids are doing on Near to the Wild Heart of Life, their third full-length album and their first in nearly five years. Their last record, 2012’s Celebration Rock, was more appropriately titled than any other album released in the past seven years. Beginning and ending with fireworks, the album raged with pounding guitars, blitzkrieg drums, and shout-along choruses that could put anyone in a party mood. It was an album about being young, staying up all night, making memories with friends, and drinking way more than could feasibly be deemed “necessary.”
I remember the first time I heard Sinai Vessel. It was around four years ago and their sophomore EP profanity had just come out. I was immediately captivated the band’s raucous indie rock – sort of like a more upbeat and aggressive Pedro the Lion. Songs like “Cuckold” and “Flannery” carried the energy and raw emotion of songs by scene favorites like Taking Back Sunday or The Weakerthans. I knew the band had a phenomenal full-length in them, and I knew they going to blow up with its release. But that full-length didn’t come, and I found new bands who gave me similar feelings. I revisited profanity now and then, but mostly when I thought about Sinai Vessel it was to wonder what could’ve been. Then, all of a sudden, I didn’t have to wonder anymore – Sinai Vessel signed to Tiny Engines, one of my favorite active labels, and announced that long-awaited full-length.
Lead singer Myles Kennedy discusses Alter Bridge’s latest album The Last Hero, his interest in writing about heroes in the first place, why exploring the theme of disillusionment is particularly relevant today, and his continuing evolution as a musician, including how he got his musical start.
Where to even begin with Silence.
Martin Scorsese is my favorite filmmaker. The Departed is a masterwork that served as mine and countless other’s introduction into the world of cinema. To survey the diverse array of films Scorsese has made is to attend film school: to learn how to read a visual story, to realize that every frame has meaning and is communicating something and that, when done expertly, the experience of a film can be profound. It’s to learn the ID of Scorsese: the themes he’s preoccupied with, the ideals he’s interested in exploring. Faith is one of those ideas. The Last Temptation of Christ is likely his masterpiece, a film about Jesus Christ, a legend treated as more than man, and it tests his faith and what his martyrdom means on a human level. Silence is about an ordinary human, not the son of God, facing a similar test of faith. When Scorsese tells this story about a real man in the real world, the grim realities of slavish devotion to faith and dogmatic thinking are exposed for the true devastation they wreak. Faith and morality are not so easily reconciled together.
I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about Dryjacket’s debut album being titled For Posterity, given their throwback sound, but I’m neither clever nor unoriginal enough to make it. There would be truth to it though — from the pun song titles (“Spelling Era,” “Abe LinkedIn”), to the horns, to the dual vocals — everything about For Posterity feels familiar.
You can pull out hints of The Promise Ring and Piebald at every corner of the band’s pop-sensible emo, and the trumpet calls to mind American Football, of course. The band even pays tribute to their more eclectic, more technical forefathers on “Epi Pen Pals” and “Milo with an ‘H.’” This is all to say that, much like my sort of attempted joke, For Posterity isn’t all that original. It plays, generally, like a recap of the genre for anyone who might’ve missed it the first time around.
In the summer of 2015, when I put Chris Stapleton on the last-ever incarnation of AbsolutePunk.net’s Absolute 100—a feature dedicated to celebrating up-and-coming, under the radar artists—I asked a pair of questions that have since proved to be prophetic. The first was “If given the opportunity, how many of country music’s gun-for-hire songwriters could make better records than any of the artists they write for?” The second was “How many of them could make masterpieces?” More than I thought, apparently.
Since Stapleton’s breakout success, the songwriters seem to be taking back Nashville. 2016 brought major critical and/or commercial successes for Maren Morris (who had previously written for Kelly Clarkson and the TV show Nashville), Brandy Clark (who had previously written for Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, and Toby Keith, not to mention a slew of co-writes with Kacey Musgraves), and Lori McKenna (who penned two of the biggest hits in modern country with Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind” and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”). Hopefully, these big successes will push Nashville labels to take chances on more of their top songsmiths. Who knows how many stars are waiting to be born in the liner notes of your favorite country records.
“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.
It’s been one month since Donald Glover (as Childish Gambino) released his third studio LP, ”Awaken, My Love!”, and surely, that’s enough time to have analyzed it. But this is a tough one. My initial reaction was negative. ”Awaken, My Love!” felt forced, a career’s worth of artistic evolution crammed into one record obsessed with showcasing the new Donald Glover. No longer is he the nerdy optimist with a case of “nice guy syndrome,” his raps filled with more punchlines than his stand-up sets. If 2013’s Because the Internet marked the beginning of a transitional phase for the artist, Glover’s new era of success is defined by even more self-seriousness found in everything from his interviews and his music to his first television show on FX. It’s a self-seriousness that very well may have landed him the role as Lando Calrissian in an upcoming Star Wars film.
Well then. That was a weird year.
In many ways, 2016 was a whirlwind—a confusing and frustrating year that will probably always be defined by its political tension and long list of celebrity deaths. For our staff and community, 2016 was also marked by the end of AbsolutePunk.net and the birth of Chorus.fm, a major transition that brought some serious nostalgia about the place where many of us grew up online.
No matter where you were or what you were going through in 2016, though, you probably at least had a great soundtrack to keep you company. By almost every metric, 2016 was a remarkable year for albums. If you are a fan of pop music and superstar acts, there was certainly no shortage of marquee releases for you to sink your teeth into. Even beyond the blockbuster surprises and capital-I “Important” albums, though, the year was a goldmine. Rock music was vibrant, highlighting both new bands and longtime veterans. Country music continued a resurgence that even self-described country haters could get behind. Hell, even the movie musical came back in a big way.
In virtually every genre or category, 2016 provided a wealth of new musical treasures. It’s no wonder that our contributors placed votes for 267 different albums while compiling this list. Ultimately, though, it was the 30 records listed below that rose to the top.