Archive for the ‘ Reviews ’ Category

In which I review RVIVR!!!! (Exclamation points mine)

Every so often I go to a show where one of the bands look like they’ve having the best time of their lives during the show. Even less frequently does more than one band appear to be having the Greatest. Day. Ever. at that very show. And only once, in my experience, has that happened twice in one day.

And yet, this was Saturday at the final two RVIVR shows of the tour. I went to both, and going to see two RVIVR shows in one day is up high on my list of things in life that I did right. One show was better than the other, meaning they were both fantastic, crowded punk shows. Both took place in the tiny back rooms of bars, with a small stage that couldn’t quite contain the volume and force of the music.

Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead for taking photos, and my smartphone/high-tech camera was full to capacity and wouldn’t take any pictures. Luckily, I attended the show with F Yeah! Queer Music, where you can find a few photos and another great review. Both shows were so small and we planned well. Even at the packed and sold-out Union Pool, we managed to get close to the stage. This meant singing along and dancing literally alongside various bands before and after their turn on the stage. At one point, I found myself next to the members of Dogjaw, and told one of them how much they killed it at both shows. Saturday was way better than the third-to-last show at NYU on Tuesday, she told me. That one was weird. These last two shows really were the best.

And what more could you really hope for at the finale?

The Homewreckers opened the St. Vitus show with a classic punk sound and empowering tendencies. Guitarist Cristy C. Road also took part in an event at the New Museum the following day, and wrote a raw graphic novel that I plan to one day read in its entirety. “When capitalism falls/I’ll still meet you at the shopping mall,” went the awesome chorus of one song.

Dogjaw was next at St. Vitus. They played both shows, and they did so with furious intensity. They are raw and vicious and don’t hold back on stage. They will blow out your eardrums and you will want more. Listen to them. Seriously. They have a sound that will blow you away.

Extra Feeler opened the Union Pool show. Like Dogjaw and The Homewreckers, they’re a solid group of three with the basics of guitar, bass and drum. Three instruments, lots of power.

Shellshag is crazy. They’re reminiscent of the White Stripes in that the guy is on guitar while the lady rocks on drums, with a similar shoegaze-y feel on some of their songs. Wiki says they formed in the same year, so it’s likely a coincidence. Shellshag brought their own set up (a mic tower, three drums), started their set with a music video, covered songs by RVIVR and The Cure, and ended their set with a guitar handing from a chain on the ceiling, at which they threw drumsticks. Super danceable and insanely fun.

And then, RVIVR. Oh man. There are so many words, so many positive adjectives and adverbs to use for these shows. I described Dogjaw as empowering, but it’s so fitting for RVIVR, too. Free. Bold. Mind-blowing. Impossibly catchy. Real. They played through a good part of their discography, and their energy didn’t lag for one song.

Amazing shows. So glad I went to both. Can’t wait to see these bands again.

In which I review a surprisingly awesome Green Day concert

Listening to: “Ripped Up Jeans and Silly Dreams” by Candy Hearts

I managed to snag a free ticket to see Green Day play in Brooklyn on Sunday. I saw no reason to pass up a chance to see a band that I’ve been listening to for the better part of my existence (though maybe not as much recently).

but cool looking lights though

Great view, amirite?

The concert (not show, this was definitely a concert) was at the Barclays center, which was the first time I’ve been there. That place is too massive, and the beer is averagely overpriced. We had second row seats, which put us a hockey rink’s distance away from the stage, but heads taller than the folks who purchased general admission tickets and, therefore, we had a decent view.

Green Day hasn’t played NYC since their 2002 tour with Blink 182. I missed that show, so this was my first time ever seeing them live. I awaited a Billie Joe breakdown ala the iHeartRadio fest. At one point early on at Barclays, Billie Joe sat down on the stage, elbows on his knees, chin in his hands, and I thought this might be the moment. He seemed to ponder the crowd for a few seconds, then got up and shouted for the first of many times that evening, “Let’s get crazy!” He later professed his love for the audience multiple times.

Really, we had a pretty clear view of the stage

Really, we had a pretty clear view of the stage

Green Day performed well and the concert was a big bunch of pop-y fun. And here’s why: Green Day are entertainers. At one point in the past they were a punk band. They started out like any other punk band, playing basement shows, mad at the world. Some time around American Idiot, things changed. They were no longer playing shows. They started playing concerts and major venues and festivals. They realized — perhaps with the help of money, encouragement, or a combination of the two — that they were not just a band, but a brand. The concert was great because they embraced this.

They started their set with newer songs and moved into classic ones, which Billie Joe referred to as their “vintage” tunes. They included a ton of audience participation and one too many “Everybody say ‘Heyyyyyy Ohhhhh'” moments. They brought audience members on stage to sing, dance around, hug Billie Joe, even play his guitar and then get to keep it. And why not? They most definitely make more than enough money at every concert to give away a cheap starter-kit guitar. They covered a more well-known Operation Ivy song, which was exciting since this tour has included more covers from the likes of Iron Maiden and the Beatles.

The audience ranged in age from middle age to middle school to in the middle of preschool. I’m sure some badass memories were made for some little kids that night. We missed seeing Best Coast open, so no review for them. But Green Day embraced the pop star part of their image and put on a super upbeat, fun concert.

Your favorite band, in graphs

Your favorite band, in graphs

Listening to: “Hopeless Romantic” by Bouncing Souls

It’s a cool idea for graph nerds, but I think a lot of their categories are too subjective for charting.

Says the blog:

Enter any band name, and his creation, which runs on The Echo Nest’s data, presents you with graphs and other science sure to amaze and amuse. Oh, and it also lets you listen to everything on Rdio.

The chart plotting the “danceability” for the Bouncing Souls, for instance, came up as very low. I would argue that their danceability is extremely high. (Excuse me while I go blast “Hopeless Romantic” for a bit.) Also, “liveness,” “speechiness,” and “hotttness”? Is the latter a purposeful typo, a reference to Echo Nest that I’m not aware of? These categories all seem relative to me. Fun to make up a plot for them, sure, but chances are I’ll disagree with what’s posted.

I appreciate the ability to stream music online, but I don’t have a Rdio account and don’t plan on getting one. I also searched for bands/artists via iTunes, Spotify, or last.fm, which is probably where I’ll listen to them.

Saying they can fetch data for “any band” is getting a bit ahead of themselves, because I searched for quite a few that aren’t up yet.

Fun idea, some interesting graphiness, but kind of a gimmicky app overall.

In which Desaparecidos, Joyce Manor, States and Kingdoms, Man Man, Murder by Death, Samantha Crain

Listening to: RVIVR “The Beauty Between”

Some delayed reviews to bring you. Gonna make this short and sweet, and leave you wishing you were at these shows. Oh yeah.

Desaparecidos/Joyce Manor/States and Kingdoms at Webster Hall Feb. 26

Desaparecidos: Viciously epic. Basically played every song they have and the new “Anonymous” song, which is fantastic if you haven’t heard it, by the way. A lot of bands out there sing pretty much only about relationships and feelings and growing up. A lot of other bands get political in their music, but do a poor job of it. Desaparecidos have all the feeling of songs about growing up, but with smart, serious political passion. Their songs are full of life on their albums, and they’re explosive at their live shows. Their set was meaningful and intense. And in their encore, they played Constant Headache on stage with Joyce Manor. And they killed it.

Joyce Manor at Webster Hall 2/26

Joyce Manor at Webster Hall 2/26

Joyce Manor: These guys are one of the great new-ish bands on the scene, and I was most excited to see them. The crowd exploded into a bunch of entitled young boys when Joyce Manor started playing, which I honestly wasn’t expecting at this show. Full beers were knocked out of hands and flew all over the place. Numbers of people were knocked flat down when a bunch of kids pushed through to open up a pit. And a kid that may have been the same short guy who stood in front of me at the Iron Chic/Slow Death show gave me the finger for pushing him back into the pit after he flung himself into me. Aside from the unexpected crowd, Joyce Manor played an awesome set. I love their albums, but I feel like some of their recorded songs lack excitement. Not true for when they play live. Their energy was way up.

States and Kingdoms: Despite the fact that their ranks include Thursday’s Steve Pedulla and Ian Love formerly of Rival Schools, I wasn’t completely impressed with these guys. Their songs went really hit or miss. The song they opened with was really powerful and had a serious bass-line that completely filled up the room. It might’ve been poor mixing, but I felt like the guitar and synth were completely unnecessary. And later, the vocals and guitar riffs started to remind me of Interpol, which was weird and unsettling. But other than that, they had some great moments.

Webster Hall: The last time I was at this venue was probably a few years ago, and it has seriously changed. They charged five bucks for a single bottle of water, and refused to serve tap water for free. A guy walked around on the floor selling beers like at a baseball game. Not at all how I remembered, and it felt too elitist for me.

Man Man/Murder by Death/Samantha Crain at Music Hall of Williamsburg Feb. 28

man man you cray

Man Man at Music Hall of Williamsburg 2/28

Man Man: These guys are absolutely crazy in the best possible way. I first heard them when I saw them play at Bonaroo 2011, and I couldn’t believe how much fun they were. I tried listening to them on my iPod a bunch after that, but it just didn’t have the same effect. Man Man headlined this show with MBD, and the bands had been sharing a headline throughout the tour. Not one dull moment occurred during Man Man’s set. They had neon lights all over the stage and drum set. An oddly-placed bouquet of flowers adorned the synth stand. Costume changes were frequent. Movement was nonstop. The crowd immediately turned into a dance party that didn’t stop for the near two-hours that the band was on. The way they were constantly going, it felt more like DJs at club than a band at a show.

Murder by Death at Music Hall of Williamsburg 2/28

Murder by Death at Music Hall of Williamsburg 2/28

Murder by Death: This was the band I came to this show for. I’ve seen them a few times, and this was the best. MBD’s energy never lacks. Guitarist and vocalist Adam Turla’s freakishly baritone and booming voice was the loudest and most powerful I’ve heard at a show yet. Sarah Balliet’s cello pulls their songs together on the albums, but goes beyond that by being a rich, important part of the sound at their shows. Samantha Crain, who did guest vocals on MBD’s latest album “Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon,” joined in on some songs with a voice that blended in seemlessly. Plus, they opened with their single “I Came Around,” which is one of the best songs on their latest album, and played some of my all-time favorite tracks during their set. I wish they got an encore, and so did much of the crowd that chanted “One more song!” for a while after they had finished.

Samantha Crain: I was really interested to see her open the show, since I didn’t know anything about her other than her voice on MBD’s album. She’s got such a sweet, strong voice, and a new album out that I highly recommend. I didn’t expect her to be so talented or sound so powerful with just the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar. Plus, she’s really funny. She kind of ad libbed between songs and was hilarious. I’ll be listening to her a lot more.

Freas’s vocals …

Freas’s vocals are probably the best part of the whole album. Not that Canino is bad, he has a perfectly fine voice and a great yell when he needs it, but as a friend told me recently, “I’m sick of dude voices,” especially in punk. They’re everywhere and a lot of them tend to sound the same, so the tracks where Freas takes the lead are real stand outs.

From a friend’s review of the latest RVIVR album, The Beauty Between. (You should probably go check out his blog, because it’s awesome.) I was going to write my own review on this album, but then I read his. And it’s basically pretty much everything I wanted to say about it. So read his review, and it’ll be like you’re reading all the things I would’ve written in my review. Also, I’m proud to say I’m the quoted friend who is sick of dude’s voices, especially in punk music. Yet another reason this album is awesome.

Okay okay, this is my last RVIVR post for a while since I know I’ve been posting obsessively about them lately. (At least until they put out a new music video. Or do anything else otherwise awesome.)

In which I attend a basement show that is not in a basement

Listening to: Turnstile Comix #1 7″ – music by The Slow Death, comics by Mitch Clem

Last night, Iron Chic, The Slow Death, Bastard Cut and Coffin’ Fit tore up Mr. Beery’s on Long Island.

I’d never been to Mr. Beery’s for punk show or even a beer for that matter, and country music was blasting over the PA when I got there. A group of bros were playing pool. One or two other out-of-place looking kids were sitting at the bar, nursing beers. We showed up less than 10 minutes late, and I guess that’s what we get for not being on Punk Rock Time.

The Slow Death

The Slow Death

Mr. Beery’s is a small bar. I wouldn’t call it a venue. Once the game was over, the pool table was pushed against an opposite wall in order to make room for the bands to play. The packed space gave the place the feel of a basement show, which was cool once the music started.

Coffin’ Fit was on first and played the songs off their demo EP. It went by too quick. Their songs are just as raw and loud at a show as they are on their album. In spite of myself, “Cinder Lips” quickly became my favorite song of theirs, though “Mundaze” and “Eater of Cowards” are tying up close seconds. I’d like to see them play again soon. I’d love to see a show where they play with Shady Hawkins.

Bastard Cut was up next, and I hadn’t bothered to look them up before the show. They were insanely energetic pop punk, and a lot of fun. They’re the kind of band that I would’ve loved in high school, but have trouble listening to on my own nowadays. Some of their songs had a bit of a Guttermouth quality, while others reminded me more of early Movielife. In terms of energy levels, Bastard Cut were through the roof. I don’t know how much I’ll find myself listening to them while sitting at a desk; they require movement and were much more fun live.

Iron Chic

Iron Chic

I originally thought The Slow Death were headlining, but they were on before Iron Chic. It seemed like only me and one other kid were there to see these guys, and that one other kid chose his prime viewing spot directly in front of me. And then thrashed around for the set. It was obvious he was having a great time. I could tell The Slow Death were feeling a little ragged, which Jesse “Pretty Boy” Thorson confirmed, saying the band had a bit of a wild night before. However worn out they might’ve been feeling, it didn’t show in their music at all. They brought serious energy to all their songs, and closed their set with “Phantom Limbs,” which made my night. Considering they were the only band in the line-up that had traveled a really significant distance for the show (in general, they’re from Minneapolis, and the fill-in bass player was from Wales), I hope they head to the east coast again soon. Really soon.

Iron Chic has become sort of iconic in the Long Island scene, and they’ve definitely earned their place there. Their songs all have the intensity of an existential crisis set to an orgcore sound. The crowd was so pumped for Iron Chic to play, and the two fed off each other. The crowd did the wave, the band played louder. The band played with everything they had, the crowd screamed along until our throats were raw.

I wouldn’t place this show on my top 10 list, but it was crazy fun. My favorite shows are the ones where I can tell the band is super into it and having just as much fun as I am, and the show last night definitely had that.

In which 2013 brings back live shows and regular posts (hep, hep!)

Listening to: Shady Hawkins, “Dead to Me”

Back here on rudietuesdays, the new year seems an appropriate time to start blogging again every Tuesday. My posts have severely lacked this year due to overwhelming, draining, and rewarding weeks of professional volunteering. But 2013 is a new start. And the beginning of January, so they say, is a great time to resolve to do things. So, rudie is back on Tuesdays.

To kick off my new start are shows that reinvigorated my love of seeing bands live. 2012 proved to be an awful year for me and attending live shows. The symbolic end of 2012, the end of my professional volunteering job, nearly immediately and exponentially increased the number of shows I’ve attended as of late.

Just a few days before Christmas, I consecutively attended a Slackers show on Long Island and a Fucked Up/Lemuria show in Brooklyn.

RUDE AND RECKLESS

I find it basically impossible not to smile at ska shows. The thing is, they’re just plain fun. It’s way too difficult to be mad. And with music that’s got upbeats like this, I don’t know why someone would want to try.

The Slackers at Revolution

The Slackers at Revolution

A lot of times I don’t miss a lot of things about Long Island when I’m not there, but The Slackers’ show was an instant reminder of one of the place’s few great qualities. The Slackers have gotten mellow after spending so many years gelling as a band. This last time I saw them felt like the first time I wasn’t just attending one of their shows. The guys are generally all smiles, especially Marcus, who just has the brightest and most genuine smile (and is also the snappiest dresser, I might add).

This time, they were also the most relaxed I’ve seen. It felt like we were 60 of their closest friends and just happened to be at this venue with all of this perfect equipment lying around. The guys saw it and figured, “Hey, let’s jam.” They went on an awesome tangent mid-song where they showed how any song could fit into the chord progression of “Manuel.” They later spent a good few minutes covering pieces of songs by every musician who had a picture of the walls in the venue.

The crowd was older, except for one kid who looked about 17 or 18 and hadn’t yet grown out of the practice of running around the room bumping into everyone in what he seemed to think would be the best course of action to get them up and dancing. Of course, it didn’t work, and just ended up pissing off a lot of people and spilling their drinks. But he sure did look like he was having a great time. And on top of that, I was honestly thrilled to see that Skankin’ Rich was still rocking hard on the scene. I doubt I’ve seen him since my junior year of high school or so. (Yup, I remember the days before Facebook, when he just had a MySpace, and that page was kickin’. Er, skankin’.)

I also learned of The Pandemics, a local ska band I hadn’t heard of before. They were incredible. My favorite act other than The Slackers. Check them out here.

BKLYN COMES TO LIFE

Oh, how I love Fucked Up. For years I’ve just been in awe of the strong, incredibly powerful, raw, true, and gut-wrenching kind of music they create. And wow, did they deliver. In every way The Slackers were like a personal, chill jam session, Fucked up were like a personal, sweaty, ear drum-busting, throat-ripping basement show on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Ted Leo with Lemuria?

Ted Leo with Lemuria?

The opened right up with “Queen of Hearts,” probably my favorite song by them, and really, how could they have started with anything else? Nothing makes me yearn for life and change that could happen, places and people and ideas I could encounter, ways I could be, quite like that song. I could follow them around the country on tour and they could open every show with that song and I would never stop loving it.

And the energy and quality just never stopped. The set was heavy on “David Comes to Life” songs, but also had a good assortment of music from their other albums, both EP and LP. And let’s face it, “David” is really the epic love saga of our hardcore generation, and it’s done incredibly well.

One of my favorite things about Fucked Up is how raw and intense their music is, but how fun-loving and funny the guys and gal in the band are. Pink Eyes never stopped joking around, even during songs. At one point he picked up a kid, damsel-in-distress-style, who had surfed to the front of the stage. He then brought the kid around to the other bandmates so each could give him a kiss on the cheek, before gently lowering him back down into the careful and loving arms of the punks that engulfed him.

HEY, LEMURIA’S OVER HERE

Lemuria is a band I’ve only started loving recently, but their catchy pop and so damn truthful lyrics are hard to stop listening to. Before the show, I’d only heard their albums and hadn’t yet seen them live. I wasn’t super thrilled with their live performance — the sound was different from their albums and seemed to lack some of the magic I could hear in the prerecorded songs.

Still, they held their own and took charge of the stage. I could tell they were having fun with it, and I think shows are always more enjoyable when I can tell the band is having a good time, too. And I might be crazy, but I’m pretty sure Ted Leo showed up at the end of their set to sing an apocalyptic song? After all, it was the day the world was supposed to end.

The show as a whole was just so powerful and is up there among the most amazing shows I’ve seen. The Slow Death are playing Long Island at the end of the month and Desaparecidos are playing Brooklyn in February with Man Man. Lucero, The Queers and others will also be in the area in the coming months.

2013, you’ve got a lot to live up to. But you’ve also got a lot of promise.

Growing up and giving in: I won’t do it.

Listening to: “Vices” by The Dopamines

I’m not sure whether there’s such a thing as too much Lucero, but I’ve sure been listening to them a lot lately.

Correction: as of this week I’ve moved on to a great deal of The Dopamines new album “Vices,” but I’ll write more on that once I’ve listened to it a bit more. As of now my review on it is that it’s freaking awesome. More speedy, pumped-up pop punk that I’ve come to love The Dopamines for. With a lot of songs about coping with depression in a chemically prescribed fashion, or lack of wanting to do so.

I digress. Lucero is the topic right now. “Women and Work” grew on me quickly, and I spent the last month or so listening to it whenever I was able to listen to music. Which was rare, but that makes the occasions for Lucero all the more important.

I have a very love-hate relationship with that band. “1372 Overton Park” is one of my favorite albums. It’s one of the most played albums in my iTunes, which you know means something. But I really, really dislike “Tennessee” and “That Much Further West.” Not that they’re bad per say, but they’re really just not my style at all. “Women and Work” follows “1372” more than the others, and that’s why I love it.

This isn’t a review though — it’s more than a couple months late in the game for that. If you’re interested in trying out the album, you’ve probably already read through a bunch of reviews on other sites and downloaded the album in February or March.

This is more of a discussion of a bigger issue. Of what’s behind my urge to listen to this sorrowful yet carefree album so much.

It seems life can be broken into different eras of “getting to know you” questions. When you’re a kid and meet a new kid around your age, the first conversations often are along the lines of “What’s your favorite color?” “What’s your favorite animal?” “Do you like Pokemon or Dragonball Z better?” (Okay, maybe that last one is a little outdated for children of 2012 rather than 1996, but you get the idea).

Then as a pre-teen, it’s more of “Who’s your favorite singer?” “Who do you have a crush on?” “[Insert MTV-related TV show question]?”

As a teenager to college-aged person and even post-college, it gets tougher. It’s a question I’ve heard before but hid away from while I was employed in a professional, full-time job before quitting and committing myself to a year as a “professional volunteer.” Now it’s back and more daunting than ever: “What’s next?”

I have no idea. I didn’t care for the first four months of my professionally volunteering career. But now, with days leading up to the halfway point, it’s starting to seem more relevant. What next? Do I do another year of this? Do I find a different program to volunteer professionally with? Do I apply to jobs at a non-profit? Do I return to the field from whence I came?

I’m a big believer in life working itself out. In college, if I procrastinated on a big paper, it stressed me out less because I knew I’d get done with it eventually and it would be on time (always was, too–what can I say, I work well under deadline). So maybe the reason I’m still not excessively worried is that I know I’ll figure it out at some point, and I’m honestly just kind of giddy to see what life throws at me next.

But that also seems to be the reason Lucero feels right so much for right now. They chill me out when I’m feeling stressed. They make me pine for a road trip where I can just drive and drive and drive while listening to their albums, but also make it feel okay that I’m not doing that right now. They make me yearn for deep loves eventually, but not now. Now they make me want to travel and explore, to try everything I can, and to know it’s okay to just want to sit in a divey bar with a beer all alone sometimes to mellow out and regroup.

“What’s next?” falls along the lines of one other question that seems to exist through all those eras: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And it’s a question that seems to be never answered. When have you grown up? When you pay taxes? When you pay rent? When you worry about having health insurance? I’ve been through all of those now, and I still don’t feel like a Grown Up. Is it when you “settle down”? Have kids? Buy a house and car and a dog? Who says? If I ever have any or all of those things, I doubt they’ll make me feel like a definitive Grown Up. On my way to my mid-20s I have no desire to feel that way. Even as more responsibilities rack up, I don’t think they’ll make me always feel that way.

My answer to both questions is short but not straightforward. It’s “I don’t know.” I want to do a lot, but I don’t know what I want to do next. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up because I don’t know when I’ll see myself as a grown up. And I’m okay with it.

It’s why “On My Way Downtown” is a track I want to listen to over and over a lot of the time right now, and why “Juniper” makes me tingle for things I don’t know yet.

In which I accidentally review another album: “Vacation” by Bomb the Music Industry!

Listening to: “Vacation” by Bomb the Music Industry! Vacation

Note: My plan for this entry really wasn’t to make it a review, but that does seem to be what happened.  Again. Maybe there is something to this stuff?  Anyway, whether or not you’ve heard BTMI’s “Vacation” yet, read on to find out why it’s a solid summer album.  And why second chances are always important.

A QUICK CRITIQUE OF ONE OR TWO SONGS

Today’s “Listening to” album brought to you by music-rudie-thinks-she-hates-the-first-time-around-then-changes-her-mind-about. (yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition.  Sorry, grammar nerds.) I was so, so disappointed in this album the first time I heard it.  (I promise this isn’t the Junior Battles review all over again… done with parentheses now, I also promise.)  I thought the three singles I had heard before the album was released–namely, “Everybody that You Love,” “Hurricane Waves” and “Can’t Complain”–were the only good tracks on the album.  And even out of those, the first one was the only one that really stuck with me.  The second song on the album, “Vocal Coach,” sounded just repetitive, kind of like a “this is the song that never ends…” ditty.  Even with a few listen-throughs, I felt really let down.  BTMI’s last album, “Scrambles,” was a masterpiece in my mind.

Then I vaguely started to remember something.

The first couple of times I listened to “Scrambles,” I thought it was awful.  Where was the insane ska/punk/hardcore/undefinable band I knew and loved from prior albums, who came up with songs like  “I’m Too Cooooool For Music” and “From Martyrdom to Star(tyr)dom” and covered entire Weezer albums at shows?

See, the thing is, BTMI! grows through their albums a ton more than many other bands.  Some bands do a great job of progressing and growing together through their albums while keeping true to one sound–with ska bands, The Slackers are great at this, for example.  In pop punk, every Ergs! album is trustworthy.  But BTMI! doesn’t do things this way, and it’s part of what makes them so awesome.

For instance, one track on the album, which I just now remembered because it just came on, is a 38-second tune that sounds like it was pulled out of the score from “The Little Mermaid.”  It’s part of the reason that when I first got the album, I thought I was being trolled and had downloaded the wrong thing.  I still think it could be shoved into any Disney movie, but now I respect and accept it as part of what makes this crazy album so great.

This is the problem I first had with “Scrambles.” BTMI! doesn’t follow any guidelines or rules regarding genres or style in their music.  Jeff Rosenstock, who writes most of the band’s music, is an incredible, forward-thinking musician.  He helps BTMI! progress their music through each new release, regardless of the style or feeling set up in a prior album.  The reason I was upset with “Scrambles” and “Vacation” was that they weren’t what I was expecting.  After a few listens to really let the music sink in, I realized that’s part of BTMI!’s appeal.  It’s nice to know when you like a certain style of music, but why tie yourself down to it?  BTMI! completely breaks down that idea; they seem to say, “Here’s a new song, kids!  Parts of it sound like the background music to Donkey Kong for SNES mixed with Dillinger Four! Enjoy!”  They don’t let themselves or kids who listen to their music and go to their shows fall into a rut of the same old  junk.

Though I thoroughly love “Album Minus Band,” “Get Warmer,” “Goodbye Cool World” and “To Leave or Die on Long Island,” I feel like the songs on earlier these albums could easily be interchanged from one record to another without me noticing.  With “Scrambles” and “Vacation” (and also “Adults!!!…” even though I haven’t really mentioned that album in this entry), when I hear a track I can immediately place which album it came from.  With the direction these guys are going, I can’t wait to see what’ll be on the next album.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I go through the same dejected, confused, wondering-what-happened-to-them phase for the first few listens, and then fall completely in love with the new album.

This album must be called “Vacation” for a reason, because listening to it just feels like summer.  Plus, you know, all the tracks about surfing.

…I LIED ABOUT THAT “QUICK” PART

Whoops?

MOAR RECORDZ

I will now go listen to this album on fancy schmancy orange and pink vinyl while wearing the shiny new BTMI! t-shirt that came with it and reading every single word on the album cover (kidding!…).  I suggest you do the same.  At least the listening part.

In which I post my first review because I realized “Idle Ages” by Junior Battles is the album of my 2011 summer

Listening to: “Idle Ages” by Junior Battles

I’m not much of a reviewer because I’m not very good at it.  And since reviews are my weak point, I’m not really keen on them.  It’s like one of those vicious cycle things.  Journalism I enjoy, editorials too, but critiques–not my thing.  But I’m going to try it anyway, because this is an album that deserves it.  Hopefully I’ll do it justice.

ON PAPER THE DISTANCE DOESN’T SEEM THAT BAD

On the bus home from work today with my headphones tuned into the aforementioned album, I was thinking about a different topic I planned to be writing about for this entry.  That’s when I realized “Idle Ages” has become the album of my summer.

It was surprising because I put together mixes filled with songs by other bands just for this summer.  I predicted other albums by other bands would become my summer anthems.  And the first few times I listened to “Idle Ages” I was disappointed because I thought Junior Battles’ self-titled EP was the one of the best pop-punk albums since The Queers put out “Summer Hits No. 1.”  But the day before on the bus home I had been listening to Lucero’s “1372 Overton Park” and I realized that album, no matter how summery it sounds to my ears, will forever be a winter album in my brain.  Today’s bus ride gave me the revelation that “Idle Ages” is the same way, but tied to the summer.

ARM IN ARM IN ARM IN ARM

A lot of times people listen to a song and think it must’ve been written for them because it describes their lives so exactly.  I’m no exemption, but I’m realistic enough to know the music probably wasn’t actually written about my life no matter how much it parallels it.  But “Idle Ages” manages this freakishly well for where I am in life right now.

The first three tracks on the album are called “Seventeen,” “Twenty Five” and “Nostalgia at 23.”  Aside from the fact that I’m nearly smack-dab in the middle of those ages–and that lately I’ve been noticing a surprisingly large number of bands have songs about being 25–the nostalgia that “Seventeen” and “23” evoke is impossible for me not to relate to. All the songs contain that same feeling of growing up and not knowing what the hell you’re doing, but somehow getting through it and trying to have as much damn fun as possible anyway.  In fact, that’s how the entire album feels.  Pop punk is definitely a good genre to pull that that off, but way too many pop punk bands don’t get that right.

The best seriously summery albums also make good use of what I like to call the “hopeful chords,” or what Hot Water Music refers to as “Trusty Chords” (I think HWM would concur with me on this one).  “Idle Ages” is filled with these chords without being overloaded.  The band slows things down with “Architecture,” a short 46-second track that serves as a kind of intermission.  It’s the type of song 16-year-old me would’ve skipped over for being too slow, but now it just feels beautiful.  And not in a corny way, even though I know that’s exactly how that sounds as I type it.

Plus, horns.  I’m a sucker for bands that stick a horn section or even just a horn solo into their music.  The track “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” has a horn solo towards the end.  I’m thinking it’s sax, but I can’t be positive because for all the love I have for the instruments, I can’t really for the life of me distinguish between them by sound alone.  Still, that solo rounds out the song, ending a great track with a truly relatable message on a striking note.

WE’LL STILL HAVE OURSELVES WHEN WE DON’T OWN ANYTHING ELSE

The parallels for my 2011 summer go on and on with this album. Losing touch with friends, wanting to fix that, but not knowing how is the theme of “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t have bouts of feeling that way year round, but this summer especially has been one of ruminating on lost and distanced friendships.

Then there’s also moving into a new apartment, participating (read: getting thrown into) adult life/the real world/real life/whatever else you want to call it and just trying to wing it.  This is one of these parts of life that I think pretty much everyone goes through but only some people are able to write successful songs about.  It makes me wonder if I’d feel the same way about this album if I first heard it at age 15 or 30, but that’s something I probably won’t ever know.

THE CLOCK SAYS IT’S 2 AM, WE WAKE UP AT 4

I stole the titles for all the sections in this entry from Junior Battles’ lyrics on “Idle Ages.”  This one is appropriate because I’ll be waking up at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow for work. Is this song about me or what?

Also, drop me a line–is this “review” any good? Should I quit trying the review game and stick to commentary? Or is it even a review at all?  Comments appreciated!

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