A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This is a sort of new beginning for Sam Ray. While it isn’t a far cry from the sound that made the band (previously known as Teen Suicide) popular, with a charming lo-fi pop sound, it takes American Pleasure Club to totally new heights and finds them incorporating a host of new influences into their style.
For the better part of the 2010’s, it’s been a apparent that Pianos Become the Teeth are a special band. Their particular blend of lyricism, coupled with their ebb-and-flow instrumental intensity has earned them a place in the hearts of emo and hardcore fans alike. In 2009, the band’s first full-length Old Pride introduced Pianos as students of 90’s screamo, quickly followed by 2011’s The Lack Long After, which was masterclass in Melodic Hardcore. Their previous full-length, 2014’s Keep You traded in the strained yelps and anger for a more reserved sound. The post-rock influences that had been peppered throughout the band’s catalog were on full display, with the melodic, sung vocals taking center stage for the first time. A change in sound like this was considered a huge risk in “the scene” at this time, and it payed off fantastically. So now in 2018, we’ve been gifted with another LP from the Baltimore, MD band, one where they double down on the things that made Keep You their greatest record, and continue to experiment within the new sonic landscape they’ve carved out for themselves.
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.
Not too long ago, Brian Fallon sounded like he was broken. Get Hurt, The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth (and as-yet, last) album, sounded like a band on its last legs. Written and recorded in the wake of a grueling, never-ending tour schedule—as well as Fallon’s divorce from his first wife—Get Hurt felt like the end of something. When Fallon resurfaced on 2015’s Painkillers, his solo debut, he was retreating from the fallout of it all. “I don’t want to survive/I want a wonderful life” he sang in the first single, but the most revealing line came on the closing track: “You can’t make me whole/I have to find that on my own.” That song, and that album as a whole, were the sounds of a man whose recovery was still a work in progress.
Sleepwalkers, Fallon’s sophomore solo LP, is the natural conclusion to the trilogy that began on Get Hurt. It’s also the most wholly satisfying album of the three, blowing up an array of different influences to make the most vibrant, lively LP that Fallon has put his name on since the early Gaslight Anthem days.
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.
Next week, Pianos Become the Teeth will release their fourth full-length, Wait for Love. It takes the band even further down the path their 2014 effort, Keep You, blazed and expands upon it, taking the band’s sound in totally new directions. I recently spoke with vocalist Kyle Durfey about the process of writing the album and following up such a radical change in sound.
Following on the heels of our look at the best music released in 2017, we have compiled a list of the albums we are most looking forward to in 2018. We may not know what the year has in store for us, but at least we can be assured of some great music coming our way. A bunch of contributors have written up blurbs about the albums and artists we’re most excited about, and we’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to as well.
More than any band I’ve ever loved, I associate The Dangerous Summer with a specific time and place. For three tumultuous summers, as I flailed about recklessly in the no-man’s land between youth and adulthood, there was no band on the planet that meant more to me. The summer of 2009 was encapsulated in the strains of their debut, Reach for the Sun, which caught me in the wake of my high school graduation as I wondered what the next chapter would hold. Their sophomore record, War Paint, played a similar role in the summer of 2011, which followed the worst semester of my life and forced me to question my dreams, my college major, and my entire view of my future. The summer in between was the one where I fell in love with the girl who I would marry, and I still remember driving home late at night from her house, feeling every note and every word of songs like “Northern Lights” and “Never Feel Alone.”
The Dangerous Summer never meant as much to me outside of those summers, or away from that town. This band was the soundtrack of growing up and of magical, lively Julys and Augusts in the town where I grew up—summers where the nights seemed to stretch on forever and the possibilities felt like they were truly endless. Once I finished college and left my hometown behind, it felt like The Dangerous Summer might not have anything left to say about my life. Hearing them again in the summer 2013—the summer after I finished college and tried to make a play for adulthood and the “real world”—the songs played like pale imitations of what I’d loved before. True, that year’s Golden Record was simply a sizable step down from the band’s peak. Even if it hadn’t been, though, I’m not sure it would have resonated with me personally. Again, this was a “time and place” band, and hearing them outside of that time and away from that place felt almost grotesque. It made me miss everything I’d left behind.
Tonight Alive are back with their new album, Underworld. This album is clearly an evolution in the band’s sound as much as it is an evolution in lead singer Jenna McDougall’s mindset.
Underworld is highlighted by McDougall’s vocals, vocals that are illuminated in the best way possible through a crystal clear recording with no apparent studio trickery. The album was largely recorded in Thailand with Dave Petrovic and it highlights the band’s growing maturity — delving into concepts such as depression and negativity with honesty and hope.
2017 was a frustrating, infuriating, and often heartbreaking year. From the politics to the abuses and scandals that trickled all the way down to our little music scene, it felt like every day had some scrap of bad news to serve up. It was a year where we really needed something to lean on and keep us resilient and resolute, and the artists featured on this list responded to that call of duty admirably.
The 25 records featured below are eclectic and far-reaching. Some are achingly personal reckonings with personal demons and mental illness. Others are scathing indictments of the political status quo. Some explore the cycle of getting older and losing your youth, while others revel in the excitement and confusion of being young. Some are pop records, while others are hip-hop or folk, country or post-hardcore, emo or classic-tinged rock ‘n’ roll. They are all distinctly different, but they all had at least one thing in common: for 30 or 40 or 50 minutes at a time, they all made 2017 feel a little more bearable.
So, without further ado, I give you Chorus.fm’s Top 25 Albums of 2017. In the words of one of the artists featured below, I hope you find something to love.
When “Sign of the Times” dropped last spring, the internet seemed to lose its collective mind. Was it because the highly anticipated previous solo offering from former One Directioner Zayn met with such a lukewarm critical reception last year? Was it because we were, in fact, living in the first days of our descent into an outdated political hellscape, not unlike the dystopian fiction that’s dominated the pop culture cycles for the past several years? Was it simply because Harry Styles is an undeniable force? Was it because it was just a great song? That answer to the “why” depends on whom one asks, but one thing is undeniable: the album that followed has peppered EOTY lists in a way other former Directioner offerings have not. Despite this, fellow former-Directioner Niall Horan quietly released an album in 2017, a largely acoustic, unexpected effort titled Flicker. And so followed the inevitable question – which was the better album?
It would be very easy to say the Styles record was superior and call it a day – after all, it’s flashy. It’s interesting. It was well written, well performed, and well produced – and it is inescapable. That makes it the easy answer. But as with so many things in life, I’m not convinced that the easy answer is necessarily the right one.
Triple Crown Records has been putting out some of the scene’s most essential records for twenty years now, so it makes sense that their anniversary show ended up being one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. The four-band show had a mix of styles that spoke to the variance in sound the label has always had; a fan of almost any kind of music could’ve found a set to like. I ran through some of my favorites below.
The top two bestselling albums in country music this year are both by the same guy. Chris Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 1 (released back in May) and Traveller (released all the way back in May 2015) are unstoppable juggernauts despite the fact that neither ever notched a major radio hit. Depending on just how strong the Stapleton support is throughout the holiday season, there’s an outside chance he could own the entire top three for 2017, thanks to the fact that he just released his second album of the year: From A Room: Volume 2.
A cynical person would see Stapleton’s decision to release two albums in the same year as a shameless ploy to sell more records. There probably is something of a calculated approach there, given that Stapleton 1) still sells albums at all, and 2) thrives on full-length statements rather than singles. What’s probably truer, though, is that Stapleton just cut a lot of quality material while in the studio with producer extraordinaire Dave Cobb, and wanted to put it all out there for his fans to enjoy.
While he’s been coy about the exact details, Bono apparently almost died in 2017.
In general, it’s been a rough few years for the frontman of the world’s biggest rock band. The backlash against U2’s last record, 2014’s Songs of Innocence, was perhaps fiercer than for any other album released this decade (though the hate was more for the gung-ho iTunes release strategy than for the actual music). Then, a few months later, Bono crashed his bike, fractured his face, and shattered his arm. The injury, he later said, may have put a permanent end to his guitar playing days.
Still, neither Bono nor U2 have slowed down much. If anything, they sped up. This year, the band zipped around the globe playing The Joshua Tree for its 30th anniversary. Even at a relatively brief (by U2 standards) 51 dates, the tour grossed $316 million—enough to be the year’s highest grossing concert tour. Meanwhile, U2 have spent months tinkering with Songs of Experience, the sequel to their maligned 2014 album, which was supposed to come out a year ago. Even with the 12-month delay, Songs of Experience still arrives just three years and two months after its predecessor—the band’s briefest album-to-album gap since the early 1990s.
“Rap is the new rock n’ roll,” Kanye West declared in a passionate 2013 interview with Zane Lowe, and whether you like it or not, he’s right. Any passing glance at how Top 40 has change over the past 35 years will confirm mainstream radio’s transition into pop and hip-hop. Even major rock releases this year from genre mainstays like Foo Fighters and Weezer were quickly set aside in favor of the stronger, more youthful voices of artists like Open Mike Eagle and Big K.R.I.T.
Ultimately, this leads us to a larger conversation centered around age, privilege and politics, but short of (re)writing a thesis about the importance of hip-hop in 2017, I offer you this: rock music, as a general genre tag, is dead in the water. Where it continues to thrive, however, is in niche markets – select corners of internet forums like this one and on DIY airwaves, where new bands attempting to revive everything from dream-pop to post-punk are offered equal opportunities to share their vintage visions. One such place is DKFM, an L.A.-based radio station operated by shoegaze blog When The Sun Hits, where cuts from Kindling’s massive new album, Hush, have become regular rotation.
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.”
There are certain albums that represent milestones in people’s musical development. Ones that trigger a rush of nostalgia more powerful than just the simple recollection of a memory. There are a couple that I can think of off the top of my head that bring me back to a time and a place, but none more powerfully than Motion City Soundtrack’s 2007 LP, Even if it Kills Me. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of the band before this. I was just starting to develop my own taste in music. I wasn’t quite over my Metallica phase and not quite ready to throw myself headfirst into any of the scenes I eventually would in High School. I was in sixth grade, I had yet to get my first guitar, and the two bands dominating my SanDisk MP3 player were Green Day and Fall Out Boy.
Based on those two bands alone, you can assume that my music listening was still largely radio-based. It was before my friends and I would regularly swap CD’s and the idea of being able to share playlists with each other over the internet was too far in the future to even be a thought. It really was a surprise to stumble upon a band I had never heard about, making music I fell head-over-heels for.
Over the span of nearly 25 years, Weezer have come to be known for a lot of things – frontman Rivers Cuomo’s absurdist lyrics, the goofy Beach Boy persona that seems to contradict his well-documented reclusiveness, a series of self-titled albums known by their respective color palettes – but staying in one place for long has never been one of those things. And so it is unsurprising following the relative critical success of 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End and 2016’s Weezer (White Album) that Pacific Daydream is an inconsistent album by a band whose entire career could be defined by the very same word.
If Pacific Daydream doesn’t sound like the album fans expected, it’s likely because it wasn’t the album the band originally intended to deliver. Fans of Weezer (White Album) rejoiced when Cuomo spoke of a darker, more experimental follow-up, naturally titled Weezer (Black Album). But that same praise seemed to push the band in another direction as he soon began curating a different project. Pacific Daydream is still dark and, at times, experimental, but only in the sense that it occasionally sheds the quirks Weezer have become known for in favor of generic indie-pop largely targeting the same college radio stations inhabited by bands like Twenty One Pilots and Fitz and the Tantrums.
This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on October 20th, 2017. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.
It’s been too long since I’ve done one of these.
It’s been a while since there’s been a really hyped album coming out that felt right for something like this. But, this Julien Baker album seems just about perfect as we move into fall. Her last album, Sprained Ankle, is one of my favorite fall albums and it’s only a matter of time until this one cements itself in my cold weather rotation as well. In many ways it takes what the first album did and expands upon it in every way. It reminds me a little bit of how Manchester Orchestra took ILAVLAC and enhanced a variety of different aspects of that sound, and their songwriting, to take it up another level for METN. That’s the feeling I get from this album. It takes Julien’s songwriting to a new level, maintains the “it” factor that solidifies her as one of the most exciting and talented voices in music right now, and puts her in rarified air. It’s the kind of album I could see us talking about for years.
In a year that’s been filled with so many new albums, it’s hard to pick out the ones that I think will live a life longer than just this year. The ones that we will return to, talk about, and obsess over for years to come. What are the next classics? The next great albums? The ones all of us remember as the year it came out? I’ve heard a few this year that I think are in contention, albums that have knocked me on my ass, brought a huge smile to my face, and left me speechless … and then “Claws in Your Back” finished and I looked down at the hair standing straight up on my arm. Jesus. That’s new.