Kaya Wilkins is just like you. Well, sort of. She enjoys Netflix and vegan peanut butter chocolate ice cream; she fights jet lag, experiences yeast infections, and she summons introverts such as myself to her “Zero Interaction Ramen Bar.” All of these facets are wrapped up in Wilkins’ penchant for light, luminous melodies. The Norwegian-born, New York-raised artist is fully realized on Watch This Liquid Pour Itself, her Jagjaguwar debut and second album under the Okay Kaya moniker. Recorded mostly by Wilkins herself, she collaborated with producers Jacob Portrait (Whitney, (Sandy) Alex G) and John Carroll Kirby (Solange, Kali Uchis) in order to further her vision. Inside its 39-minute runtime, Watch This Liquid Pour Itself presents forms of wetness through the lens of oceans, rivers, and ponds. The water in this universe is not of rebirth or revitalization, though, even when Wilkins misleads you so.
What is a politically-charged punk rock band to do as the world crumbles around them? Fight back. Anti-Flag have made their most immediate record in quite some time on 20/20 Vision, one directly has the POTUS in mind with of all of the fist-pumping anthems to be found here. On their 12th studio album, the band has little left to prove, yet they continue to deliver some of the most consistently excellent punk rock found in music.
Opening up with the current single “Hate Conquers All,” one that intersperses Trump-dialogue about protesters, Anti-Flag waste little time getting down to the business at hand. With lyrics such as, “Hate conquers all / In the ashes of the fall / With our backs against the wall / Watch the empire fall / Watch the nation dissolve,” the band makes it crystal clear of the urgency of the political situation going on in DC. The song feels like a call to arms for people to wake the fuck up on all of the terror taking place in our very own country.
After what seemed like a more extended than usual three-year hiatus, Bombay Bicycle Club have made their triumphant return with their fifth studio album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. Many of the band members dabbled in solo projects during this hiatus, but the band seem as refreshed and re-focused as ever on their latest offering. In a recent statement, the group confirmed this newfound enthusiasm by saying, “More than anything it just felt great to be in the same room playing again. It made us realize what a good thing we have and has given us renewed energy and enthusiasm for the future.” Longtime fans of the band have plenty of reason to be equally excited for the latest chapter in their discography, as the record encapsulates everything the band does well, while still including plenty of new surprises along the way.
If there’s one thing we like doing on this website, it’s ranking things. We like ranking things so much it’s become a meme in the forums for just how often it happens in threads. From albums to food, to the new sub-genre of brackets, ranking has become a core part of our little culture. It’s also part of what we do on a pretty regular basis here on the editorial side of things. We’ve got our yearly most anticipated lists and the mid and end of the year “best-of lists.” Back in the days of AbsolutePunk, we scored these lists using a basic scale that I think Thomas Nassiff originally came up with. When there were 30+ staff members all contributing, it worked pretty well to give a basic structure to what albums were the most popular amongst staff members. I never really gave much thought to it, and it’s been passed down and continued to be used by different contributors that help put together all of the various lists here on the website. Last week I got the itch to re-think this process.
Michael Barrios is in his San Diego bedroom, sitting by the window. His long-time partner, Daisy is beside him. Above her head are polaroid pictures tracing their four-year-long relationship. All of Barrios’ musical equipment is scattered across the floor, including his newest synth pad. There’s a disco ball above the bed. He’s a softly spoken, passionate man, and it’s been two years since his last interview.
It’s been three and a half years since the release of Barrios’ debut album under the No Hope Kids moniker, Our Time Apart. Next year will see the unconventional young artist make his return. With this upcoming release, he’s changing the name – although, he hasn’t gained much hope. Planning this currently unnamed new project (there are some cool album titles in play), returning to being in a long-distance relationship, and juggling full-time jobs with it all hasn’t been easy. But you can count on those experiences popping up throughout the album.
If you’re a podcast listener who is also a fan of Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, or Star Wars, maybe you’ve already heard of Binge Mode. And trust me, The Ringer doesn’t particularly need any help in the podcast promotion department. However, there’s just something about Binge Mode that compelled me to write about it. With The Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian bringing fans plenty of things to discuss in the land of Star Wars, it felt like a good time to bring up the podcast.
This past week I had the chance to chat with Aaron Gillespie of The Almost. During our conversation, the topics ranged from discussing his new album, Fear Caller, the lessons he’s learned growing up with his bandmates in Underoath, and gaining some perspective on what makes him such a brilliant musician and songwriter.
On their eighth studio album, Coldplay have made a record that embraces the past while still keeping most of its heart in the present. The double album entitled Everyday Life is broken into two chapters, in “Sunrise” and “Sunset,” and paints a picture of a band with plenty of tricks still up their sleeves. Every detail of this album seems carefully crafted, right down to the artwork mirrored on both the top and bottom. Chris Martin and his bandmates could have made a record in the same vein of their last effort, A Head Full of Dreams, but that’s simply not in Coldplay’s DNA to be complacent with what they have done before. Instead, we are left with 16 songs that sound simultaneously immediate, current, and creative.
On the new album from the South Jersey/Philadelphia band Out of Service, they do a great job of encapsulating the feelings of living with depression, getting help, and coming to terms with living with a mental illness. The wide range of emotions that a person can go through when they realize they aren’t “feeling right” can be both shocking and heartbreaking at the same time, and Out of Service realizes this is a process. In fact, as a person like me who struggles with depression from time to time, Burden spoke to me more than I thought it would from the very first listen.
2020? Are you sure?
It seems like just yesterday that I was combing through the AbsolutePunk.net boards, reading the 2009 end-of-the-year lists that crowned records like Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything to Nothing and Thrice’s Beggars among the finest releases of the year. A lot has changed since then—in music, in our lives, and with the state of the world—but here we are again 10 years later, taking stock of another ending.
There have been a lot of endings over the past decade. Bands we loved have called it quits. Staff members who gave countless hours of their time writing for this website have moved on to other things. AbsolutePunk had its own sunset in 2016, relaunching as Chorus.fm that spring. And yet, a lot of things have lived on, too. Our love for music, certainly, is alive and well. The vibrancy of this community as a place to talk about bands and share things you love with like-minded souls has persisted, too. And some of us have been here for a very long time, watching the state of the music scene and the world at large shift from behind our keyboards, the headphones in our ears playing us the latest thing that might get our hearts racing like our old favorite records always have.
I don’t have a neat little bow to tie around the 2010s to commemorate their impending conclusion. It’s been a chaotic decade in a lot of ways. It’s certainly been the most chaotic music era on record. The way we listen to music has changed. Entire formats have shifted. Trends have sprung up and others have died. Artists have reshaped the way that music is written, recorded, packaged, released, shared, and marketed. And perhaps most importantly, there’s just been more: more music making its way into the world on a weekly basis; more ways to hear it all; more ways to discover; more ways to think about what art can do, both in our personal day-to-day lives and to the world that we live in.
Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that our list of favorite records from the 2010s is a bit chaotic in its own right. It’s a smorgasbord of genres; a kaleidoscope of emotions; a place where massive pop superstars can coexist with the bands that really feel like they are ours, the ones that have been so foundational to this community and its unique musical identity. The list is also a testament to how much opinions on music can change over time. Some of our former Album of the Year winners are missing entirely; other albums have grown in our estimation, swimming to the forefront as, we think, the foremost artistic achievements of the past decade. Ask us again in two months and we might see things differently. For now, it’s time to put our pencils down and close the book on this chapter.
To everyone who is reading, or to anyone who has played a part in the AbsolutePunk/Chorus.fm story over the past decade, we say thank you. What a long, strange trip it’s been. Here’s to another 10 years of music mending broken hearts. [CM]
This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jade of Oso Oso, before he played a supporting set at the Fillmore Silver Spring near Washington, DC. In this interview, I asked Jade about how much he follows what others say about his music, the recording process he went through during the Basking in the Glow sessions, and how he continues to find inspiration as an artist. Throughout our chat, I got a glimpse into what makes Jade such a talented songwriter, and found our conversation to be a hell of a lot of fun too.
Allen Stone has a lot to be thankful for as he celebrates the release of his new album, Building Balance: he was recently married, had his first child, and is still finding the time to deliver some more soulful tunes for his faithful fanbase. For those unfamiliar with the artist, he is an incredibly gifted vocalist and songwriter who cut his teeth to classic soul artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Gladys Knight. Stone has a lot going for him on this latest effort, as he finds a way to embrace the past artists who inspired him to sing as well as look forward in his career as he maps out his next move creatively.
For those unfamiliar of the band Mappe Of, you are in for a musical journey not easily found on a sophomore effort. On The Isle of Ailynn, singer/songwriter Tom Meikle is as captivating as anyone in the indie music scene right from the first notes of the record. Kicking off the set with the musical landscape of “Estuary,” it’s clear that Meikle is not afraid to take some calculated risks with his music. From falsetto vocals, to carefully plucked guitars, Mappe Of has a lot going for it on their second record.
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”).
When Ra Ra Riot announced a headlining tour with several major cities and markets on their itinerary, I knew I had to reach out to set up an interview during their local stop to my market, in Washington, DC. I had always enjoyed the stylistics changes that the band had done from album to album, and the growth in lead singer Wes Miles could be heard easily when comparing their original sound, to what came out on their latest record Superbloom. The band graciously granted me an interview with bassist, Mat Santos, to discuss what went into the recording of the latest album as well as some insight on: the band’s formation, Wes’s vocal regimen, and the band’s plans for the future. The interview was conducted in the “green room” backstage at the 9:30 Club in DC, and I truly enjoyed the conversation that Mat and I had that evening.
On the new album from the pop-punk band, Rational Anthem, called It’s Only Permanent they fully embrace their shiny personalities and have created a collection of songs that are a hell of a lot of fun. Led by the sister/brother duo of Noelle and Pete Stolp, Rational Anthem initially reminded me of some early Fenix Tx records with a mix of the pop sensibilities of Allister. Their longtime friend, Christoper Hembrough, rounds out the band, and Rational Anthem has a lot going in their favor on their latest effort.
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.
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.
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.
I often wonder if Ian Curtis had any idea of the legacy Joy Division would have on musicians young and old. I wonder if he predicted the emergence of a platform like Tumblr, where teenagers who heard “Love Will Tear Us Apart” one time subsequently purchased Unknown Pleasures banners and proudly hung them over their bedroom doors. Curtis ripped open the door for artists keen on expressing the inner turmoil bubbling beneath the flashing lights and glam rock tunes of the 80s, with his lyrical emphasis on alienation and loneliness. Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins, Interpol and Danny Brown (his fourth album, Atrocity Exhibition is named after the Joy Division song) are just a handful of artists who wouldn’t have evolved into the artists they are without the fleeting existence of a little post-punk band from Salford, England.
Now, New York-based electronic artist Chris Stewart has released his third album under the Black Marble moniker, Bigger Than Life. The album follows 2016’s It’s Immaterial, which was labeled as an “Ian Curtis-garage dance party you’ve never been to” by Kristin Porter at SLUG Magazine. With comments like that, Stewart left himself nowhere to go but up. More coldwave than his post-punk roots, Bigger Than Life hosts another dance party, adding a bit more polish without depriving us sad suckers the melancholia we so crave.