After watching the first six episodes a lot of critics were out on Netflix’s new series Iron Fist. The reviews haven’t been kind. While it’s hard to judge a whole show on just shy of half of its episodes, it’s important for a show to grab the audience from the start. Iron Fist doesn’t quite do that. While I made it through the whole thing, the start of the show was slow. The latter half is definitely better, but many people could find themselves giving up on the show before that happens.
As Sorority Noise’s Triple Crown Records debut and the full-length follow up to the wildly popular Joy, Departed, You’re Not As ___ As You Think is an important album. But this is a band that has never been afraid to take risks – one that has continuously pushed themselves with each new release – and it shows in their latest effort.
From the conversational nature of lyricist/vocalist Cameron Boucher’s songwriting to the open-endedness of the album’s title, Sorority Noise actively invites listeners to insert themselves into each song. Boucher frequently plays with perspective and often address listeners directly, reminding each person who hits play that they have value and that they are more than their insecurities.
For over a decade now, Topshelf Records have done a fantastic job of seeking out the best in up-and-coming talent, especially within the indie/emo scenes. From Into It. Over It. and Sorority Noise, to Touché Amore and You Blew It, they just seem to have a knack for finding bands with incredible potential.
In 2015 they signed Del Paxton, a quirky indie rock group from upstate New York with an affinity for hazy guitars and rousing melodies. The band recently released their debut full-length album All Day, Every Day, All Night, a solid first showing from the fairly young trio.
When the world got blown apart on the morning of September 11th, 2001, it felt like nothing would ever be the same again. In a lot of ways, it wouldn’t. Even at 10 years old, I knew there was a sense of innocence and wonder to the world that was stolen the moment that first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. How could anything ever be okay again after something so terrible? Even as a child, I pondered this question.
For years after that day, I would read about the reactions to the tragedy. Shortly after I graduated from high school in 2009, I read a speech that Dr. Karl Paulnack of The Boston Conservatory gave to the parents of incoming students in September 2004. In the address, Paulnack reflected on his experience on the morning of September 12th, 2001, when he—a classical pianist by trade—went to sit down at his instrument to practice. It was part of his daily routine, but on that day, it felt wrong. “Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless,” Paulnack recalled. “What place has a musician in this moment in time?”
Mark Kozelek doesn’t like what I do. This was made abundantly clear somewhere between Universal Themes’ “Cry Me a River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues” and Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood’s “Philadelphia Cop,” in which the song breaks for a strange skit between a “music journalist” and an outdated impression of a teenage girl (both voiced by Kozelek). It’s true; things have gotten pretty weird between Kozelek and in followers since the release of his recent opus, 2014’s Benji. He’s publicly lashed out against music journalists, other artists, and an entire North Carolina audience. Truth be told, he couldn’t give a shit whether or not I “recommend” his new album or not. So why do I continue to be so drawn to it?
Connecticut’s A Will Away describes their sound as “80’s pop rock on Acid.” As far as their hooks go: that’s a pretty apt description. Their instrumentation owes more to the emo revival and 90’s grunge than the shiny, synthesized pop of Genesis and A-Ha, but their ability to craft vocal melodies that leave lyrics permanently stuck in your head is indeed a product of the 80’s.
Since 2002, Minus the Bear have released a string of fairly consistent, ambitious (if not always successful) albums that navigate the shared ground between math-rock, prog-rock and groove-based dance numbers. Each album tweaked its predecessor’s formula enough to keep the band interesting and listeners on their toes. Even Infinity Overhead, which dropped the band’s penchant for experimentation in favor of a more straightforward, pop-rock hybrid sound, ultimately contained more hits than misses (and a few career highlights). VOIDS is the first album to flip this formula on its head and double down on its misses. Largely built on filler, it leaves listeners somewhere between disappointment and relief that it took the band this long to hit their weak spot.
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.