Hey remember AbsolutePunk.net? Once upon a time I used to write a lot of reviews. Hard to believe, I know. Jokes aside, Twitter and Jason’s “Re-Ranking The Decades” series dialed up the nostalgic side of me. I wanted to see if I still had some of the reviews I’d written over the past decade or so. Turns out, my iCloud Drive has a lot. Now I won’t be re-publishing every thing I’ve ever written (some of these documents deserve to stay buried in the depths of my hard drive), but I wanted to share the reviews that brought about a ton of lively discussion and debate on the records that defined that site and a lot of our musical interests. Cool? Cool. Now to see if I can bring back scene points….
I’ll update this post as I continue to bring back some of these reviews from the graveyard. Enjoy!
On their fourth full-length studio album, the Oregon-based punk band Broadway Calls have put together their strongest collection of songs to date. Produced by a longtime admirer of the band in Scott Goodrich, Sad in the City is a record that does a good job of reacting to the world we live in right now. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Ty Vaughn had this to say about his latest record; “Sad In The City is about navigating the end of the most violent empire the world has ever seen. Making your way home to the ones you love while trying to avoid the police. Finding love and realizing how it still needs to be celebrated even as we burn the world. Dealing long overdue fatal blows to the state and the corporations they serve. It is a violent record for a violent time. This isn’t dystopian fiction. There’s a stain on the road, shaped like a kid. There’s a target on your back where it’s always been. And now everyone is Sad In The City.” With so much pent up aggression loaded into this record’s context, it’s no wonder why the album plays out as well as it does. Read More “Broadway Calls – Sad In The City”
“You are a beam of light / maybe that’s why your battery runs dry,” Elizabeth Stokes sings on the penultimate track of Jump Rope Gazers, the highly anticipated sophomore album from New Zealand group, The Beths. “You Are A Beam of Light” is the sole acoustic song on the album, and what a song it is. In the hands of another pop-punk songwriter, the track could come across as corny; or worse, convey zero emotion in a story that should tug at your heartstrings. Stokes, though, is a songwriter who transforms the mundanity and nostalgia of life into something universal and wholly captivating, while highlighting her introspective mind.
The Beths’ debut album, Future Me Hates Me was a surprise hit. Well, it was a surprise to the band. To everyone listening, it was clear that the four-piece had created something extraordinary. According to Chris Taylor at The Line of Best Fit, “Future Me Hates Me was one of the most self-assured and exciting debuts in recent years.” It’s true: with their debut, The Beths had me enjoying pop-punk for the first time since my teens. The success of the album propelled the Kiwis to newfound heights, spending 2019 touring with Pixies, subsequent to a stint in Europe and the UK with their personal heroes, Death Cab for Cutie (The Postal Service’s Give Up is an album Stokes knows front to back). Read More “The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers”
The sophomore album from Maryland-based hardcore rockers Sharptooth wastes little time getting down to business. Fronted by vocalist Lauren Kashan, it’s pretty cool to hear hardcore music through the lens of a woman. Transitional Forms tackles the themes of going through changes in life, and the aftermath of feeling like you’re not the one in control. Kashan mentioned this quote about the new record: “Ultimately, the record is about a paradigm shift, from hopelessness to self-compassion, and the fundamental realization that nothing in this world or in ourselves is ever black and white. It’s the story of my personal struggle with the societal, interpersonal, and internal constructs that have left me feeling small, afraid, broken, and utterly hopeless.” Their brutal approach to heavy themes is felt far and wide on this album that hits as heavy as it was intended. Read More “Sharptooth – Transitional Forms”
Specific year markers, like decade transitions, always seem to get to me. They put in black and white the passage of time in an even block. I both can’t believe and am not shocked that it’s been ten years since 2010. It feels both impossible and obvious at the same time. I browse through AbsolutePunk’s best-of list from the year and see it filled with albums that would define the next decade in music. Records that would be so influential that they would help shape the musical landscape for years to come. And I see albums from bands that were a part of the fabric of AbsolutePunk, like The Graduate and Valencia, that would soon disband and fade into the memory of forum posters alone. Read More “Back to 2010 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)”
Prior to the meteoric success of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington was the lead vocalist of a grunge-inspired rock band known as Grey Daze. The band released two albums (Wake Me and …No Sun Today) before Bennington joined Linkin Park, and the songs from those releases have been re-recorded and re-imagined for an album known now as Amends. The band is comprised of longtime members Sean Dowdell (drums, backing vocals), Mace Beyers (bass), as well as Cristin Davis (guitar) who have affectionately raided their vault of unheard vocal takes from Bennington to recreate this record. Although Grey Daze disbanded in 1998, Bennington took to social media in 2017 to announce a reunion of his former band, yet due to his untimely death, he never got a chance to see the final product through. Amends is a proper time capsule of the brilliance of Bennington’s vocal prowess at such a young age, and it’s easy to see the rock influences that he wears proudly on his sleeve on this album. Read More “Grey Daze – Amends”
I know that it’s 2020 and time has lost all meaning, but we’re actually halfway through the year already. I know, right? The Chorus.fm contributors have once again put together a comprehensive list of their favorite albums of the year (so far). It’s full of incredible albums that are definitely worth your time. Less chit-chat, more ranking! Read More “The Best Albums of 2020 (So Far)”
You never expect your record about the impending apocalypse will actually release when the entire world is on fire but that’s where The Lawrence Arms find themselves. On July 17th, Chicago’s finest return with Skeleton Coast – the trio’s first collection of new material’s since 2014’s impressive Metropole. It’s been a long six years since then and the new record reflects that – as a creeping dread is felt throughout its fourteen tracks (as opener “Quiet Storm” bluntly puts it, “Listen closely: Some horsemen are calling. Lay back, the night sky is falling”). Skeleton Coast is a wild ride featuring the best work of the band’s career. I spoke with bassist/vocalist Brendan Kelly about recording Skeleton Coast in the middle of the Texas desert, being inspired by the Beastie Boys and Outkast, and how this record is the perfect record for this unprecedented times. Read More “Brendan Kelly of The Lawrence Arms”
2009 was a sneaky great year for music.
If you had asked me right before I looked at the AbsolutePunk list from 2009, I wouldn’t have remembered how stacked it was. Unlike 2008, I didn’t have an album in mind that I just knew defined the year and would go on to represent the better part of the next decade in my life. Now, looking over this staff compiled list, I’m reminded just how incredible a year 2009 was for our music scene. And I’m reminded that when a band or album started to get some buzz in our forums, it felt like an unstoppable wave of hype. 2009 had two of the most “get on that hype train” albums from this era that I can remember: Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything to Nothing and The Dangerous Summer’s Reach for the Sun. With Manchester Orchestra, we had already heard their debut full-length, and the early rumors were they were going all out with their follow-up, and it had the rumblings of an instant classic. The Dangerous Summer had released an EP and was just brimming with potential; combining the AP.net tried and true formula of incredibly relatable lyrics with just the right amount of hooks and guitars. A true “your next favorite band” contender. Read More “Back to 2009 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)”
Coming off of the success of their sophomore album, Something to Tell You, which spawned a Top 40 hit in “Little of Your Love” all eyes were focused on the three sisters in HAIM to see what they would come up with next. What they have created is a sonic achievement of great songs that they have affectionately coined Women In Music Pt. III. The promotion schedule of this record was kicked off with a short an intimate tour of delis in the US that was halted due to the pandemic. The sisters also decided, like many other major artists, to delay the release of their album until now. Who would have known that they would release the best record of their career with an expansive collection of tunes that features new musical styles, tones, and sounds to further round out their artistic statement. The album was produced by Danielle Haim, Rostam Batmanglij, and Ariel Rechtshaid, who each put their unique stamp on this record that directly rewards the listener on each repeat spin. Read More “HAIM – Women In Music Pt. III”
When asked about the pressure of writing the follow-up to her successful debut Stranger in the Alps, Phoebe Bridgers responded with an emphatic fuck no. “I made the whole record knowing that people were going to hear it. And I made the first record being like, “I wonder if I’m going to have to get a day job after this,” Bridgers explained in a recent UPROXX interview. “Mostly I just wanted it to be better than the first record, which I think it is.” With that clearheaded mindset, Bridgers’s new record Punisher accomplishes that and more – her lyricism has never been sharper while each track features richer and deeper song textures than ever before.
With Punisher, Bridgers’s worldview continues to expand even as the world around her (and us) falls apart. Love, death, and the impending apocalypse are consistently swirling around us, and Bridgers is fiercely captivated by every detail and how they exist within everyday banalities. Her interpretations and retelling of each one is wittier and sharper than ever. “Garden Song” begins with Bridgers daydreaming of living in her friend’s “house up on the hill,” but only after implying that the white supremacist neighbor has been murdered and buried in her new garden. There’s a contentment behind the wistful opener as she reveals that “the doctor put her hands over my liver/she told me my resentment’s getting smaller,” melancholically sighing, “No, I’m not afraid of hard work/I get everything I want/I have everything I wanted.” Read More “Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher”
The first time I heard Tenille Townes, I knew she was the real deal. Her proper major-label debut release was an all-acoustic EP titled The Living Room Worktapes, and it was a masterpiece. Townes has a strong but unusual voice that conveys depths of empathy and emotion, as well as a talent for crafting songs that ask deep existential questions about what we’re doing here, how we connect with one another, and what the afterlife might look like, among other things. These talents are impressive in any context, but there’s something about hearing them over a sparse acoustic arrangement that makes them all the more jaw-dropping. Listening to The Living Room Worktapes captures the way it feels to hear a complete unknown at an open mic night—just voice, guitar, and unbelievable songwriting—and be absolutely bowled over by their talent. While just four songs long, that release left me with the highest of hopes for what Townes’ career might hold. Here was an artist with Lori McKenna’s talent for storytelling and understanding of the human condition, paired with a Patty Griffin-like voice that could cut you right to the soul. Read More “Tenille Townes – The Lemonade Stand”
Sophie Payten, the Australian folk-pop artist known as Gordi, is one of the finest songwriters to ever come from this country. In August 2017, she released her debut album, Reservoir, which peaked at #20 on the ARIA Chart. Following the release of the record, Payten dove straight into exploring her collaborative side; appearing on “Postcard” with Troye Sivan, as well as featuring alongside Julien Baker, Bon Iver, The National, and more. Last year, Payten worked as a doctor at the Prince of Wales Hospital after completing her medical studies at The University of New South Wales in 2018. In January, Gordi released her first song in three years: “The Cost,” with all proceeds going to the 2020 Australian Bushfire Relief. Her second album, Our Two Skins, was somehow created amongst all of this. Read More “Gordi – Our Two Skins”
Very rarely do you come across a band who can convey so much raw emotion in an album without a single vocal, but enter Align In Time, the musical alias of John Boles. On his second album, On A Spiral, Boles is able to convey a wide range of emotions in a storytelling approach similar to a film score. It’s a perfect album to throw on in the background while you want to escape from all of the other outside noise of the world. With rich influences that range from the post-rock elements of Circa Survive to the emo-tinged guitars of Jimmy Eat World, Align In Time is perfectly in tune with who they are and have created a soundtrack worthy of immediate praise and consideration. Read More “Align In Time – On A Spiral”
This week’s jaunt in the Tardis takes us back to 2008. A bittersweet year that I looked upon with so much hope, and in retrospect, have so much regret and disappointment. The watchword for 2008 is change. Our country elects its first black President upon this message, and it’s echoed in my journey as well. Change. Hope. Personal changes, professional changes, societal changes, and musical changes. All wrapped with a belief and hope that we are progressing forward and moving toward something better. And before long, all of this culminates in a massive economic recession not long after I have decided to sell AbsolutePunk to Buzznet.
But first, the staff list. Read More “Back to 2008 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)”