Monday, January 2, 2012

The Very Best In Music Of 2011

2011 greeted us and then left us with a year full of great music. No matter what your tastes, 2011 was packed full of something for your mind to feast on. Because of all these options I made a list of the top 50 albums of 2011. Don't take all of these numerical placements as scripture, they are vague placements that could easily be interchanged among each other. I'm fully tired of this introduction, so here are the results.


50. Jeff Bridges - Jeff Bridges
49. Waves - Moving Mountains
48. 50 Words For Snow - Kate Bush
47. Drop Out Of Life - This Time Next Year
46. Wildlife - La Dispute
45. Good For Me - The Swellers
44. Codes And Keys - Death Cab For Cutie
43. What Are You So Scared Of? - Tonight Alive
42. In It To Win It - City Lights
41. House Of Balloons - The Weeknd
40. England Keep My Bones - Frank Turner
39. Daybreak - Saves The Day
38. Shed - Title Fight
37. Separation - Balance And Composure
36. Burning At Both Ends - Set Your Goals
35. Room To Run - States
34. CoCo Beware - Caveman
33. The Whole Love - Wilco
32. No Sanctuary - A Loss For Words
31. Gospel - Fireworks
30. Let England Shake - PJ Harvey
29. Under Soil And Dirt - The Story So Far
28. Cults - Cults
27. Metals - Feist
26. The King Is Dead - The Decemberists

Now that we're halfway through this little countdown, here are some of the best EP's released this year. I usually don't acknowledge EP's, but I have finally come around.

The Coloring Book EP - Glassjaw
The Cartographer - The Republic Of Wolves
Follow The Rattle Of The Afghan Guitar - Weatherbox
Last Days Of Rome - Daytrader
By Way Of Introduction - The American Scene
Seasick - Silversun Pickups

I recommend all of those as listens. There's a little something for everybody on that list. Now let's get back to the list.

25. 21 - Adele
It may come as a surprise to a lot of you, but I actually liked this album. With very pretty orchestration and a voice that rivals Amy Winehouse, Adele proved that her previous album, 19, wasn't just an aberration. The piano, acoustics, percussion, and accompanying musicians are spot-on and Adele Adkins' crooning songstress voice cuts to the core of the listener with ease. A fine example of such emotion is the tear-fest "Someone Like You". Very pretty album with no lacking songs on it. Good listen.

24. No One Listens To The Band Anymore - The Damnwells
How this band isn't famous remains a mystery to me. With accessible percussion, smooth guitars, catchy choruses, and sultry vocals, Alex Dezen manipulates his vocal chords on every song that perfectly summarize the changing of the seasons. Just ask Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson, they are fans and typically attend shows in Hollywood. This is the first album that The Damnwells have released since 2009 when their album One Last Century was released as a free download, but the first physical release of an album since 2006. For about three weeks I refused to listen to any other album.

23. Listen & Forgive - Transit
I wrote a review for this album when it was released and my feelings for this record have not subsided since that day. This is an atmospheric pop-punk album made by a band that is incapable of being put into a genre. Each song has a different aura to them and commands you to listen from start to finish. It's a beautiful road trip album, but it is just as pretty listening to when you turn your head to look out the window and watch the sunset. This album has every right to be in the top ten or fifteen, but the stiff competition keep it from being at the pinnacle. This is the kind of record that if you're in the right mood, it could become one of your favorites you've ever heard.

22. Holy Shit - Living With Lions
Usually when a band gets a new singer there are struggles and backlash. The very opposite happened when Living With Lions hired Stu Ross as their new vocalist. On their first release with a new singer Living With Lions fires on all cylinders for an entire album with the heavier side of pop-punk sensibilities. It was such a great year for this genre so as a band you are faced with so much more pressure to create something with a lasting value. Living With Lions did that with this record. On a side note, they also made one of the best album covers of the year.

21. Avalanche United - I Am The Avalanche
The opening notes hit you as the reverb comes off the guitar and then the sonic explosion happens. This album is packed with firing songs that encompass the Long Island working class and their attitude. Of course, listening to this album will bring thoughts of The Movielife (influential scene band and IATA frontman Vinnie Caruna's former band), but you have to look pass all of that to give this album a fair chance. It's not The Movielife, but on its own, this album is a fighting song from the confines of the scene and never stops swinging.

20. Ceremonials - Florence + The Machine
A pretty album with a pretty voice, what's wrong with that? This record captured a lot of hearts since it was released and the world fell for this British songstress. One thing that stands out to me on this record is when the music kicks in with the percussion and intensifies, the vocals are right there to match the intensity and shoot into the atmosphere like an orchestrated cannonball. For anyone who loves female singers with no prominent pop element, and haven't listened to this album yet, I highly recommend you give this record a few spins. You'll be sure to find at least one album that captures your imagination.

19. When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes - Yellowcard
It seemed like an eternity, but we only had to wait four years until we got a new Yellowcard album. With the anticipation hitting a fever pitch, the band finally dropped the first single off the album and the first thing that plays through the speakers is a violin. That is how every Yellowcard song should start. This album also features one of the best Yellowcard songs ever written ("With You Around"), and a back half of the album that is just as good as the first. For many this album may be a nostalgic kick many old fans have been waiting for, but for the rest of us, even without the nostalgia this album is a great listen.

18. The Fall - Gorillaz
The wonders of what you can do with an iPad. The man behind Gorillaz, Damon Albarn, recorded all of the sounds that you hear on this album directly onto his iPad during the world tour that the band had while in support of their previous release, Plastic Beach. What comes out as the final product is nothing short of an enjoyable, ambient, trance that keeps you listening for its duration. While it does fall short of their previous release, it's still a mellow and fun alternative album that managed to stay off of many radars.

17. El Camino - The Black Keys
It could be considered a crime against humanity that I didn't listen to Brothers enough to list it on last year's list, but I learned my lesson and am here to preach the gospel of The Black Keys. This alternative blues rock band proves their staying power and cements their place in the upper echelon of modern artists with two albums in two years. Contributing on this record is famed writer/producer/performer Danger Mouse, a man that I admire greatly. His touch on this album is the spice needed to separate El Camino from Brothers.

16. People & Things - Jack's Mannequin
Considering how much I adored the previous two records (calling The Glass Passenger the best of 2008) and how much I love Andrew McMahon, you could say the bar was set fairly high for this record. While it didn't live up to all the hype that I had built up around it, this record is still intoxicating and absolutely enjoyable. Each song is completely different from the one that came before it and builds a much different atmosphere than the band has produced before. Maybe that's why I didn't think it lived up to expectations, because this record is a left turn from any expectation. All things considered, it is impossible to listen to this record without an intense grin forming on your face.

15. Night of Hunters - Tori Amos
A lot of commotion arose when it was revealed that Tori Amos would release her new album on a classical label. That commotion turned into curiosity and the curiosity turned into excitement after hearing the first song on the record. Each song is so elegant, delicate, and beautiful with a duality of grace and strength. On a few selected tracks, Amos' fifteen year-old daughter Natashya Hawley makes guest vocal appearances, all of which blew me away. The beauty and tone that this girl possesses is simply astonishing and I can't wait until she stars releasing solo material. Having not been a Tori Amos fan before, and still not considering myself as one now, this album is still unique, beautiful, and a much encouraged listen.

14. Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
Three years after Fleet Foxes released one of the best debut albums in recent folk history, and in music in general for that matter, they return with their new album Helplessness Blues. This record sets a dreamy landscape of folk goodness from start to finish, creating a near flawless atmosphere for a near flawless album. Elements of blues and Americana blend into the gigantic kettle that was needed to create such an eclectic record. While it may take a certain mood for you to be in to fully enjoy this record, this is the kind of album that you do not want to ignore. In a few years, we could be talking about this record along with some of the great ones of indie-folk glory.

13. Angles - The Strokes
Make no mistake about it, I love this band and everything that they have ever done. The dark, broody, indie-garage rock that brought them to my attention enticed me from the very start. But what I came to love about this band isn't what you find on Angles. After a first listen I had to take a step back and a deep breath before jumping back into it for a second listen. And that's where the beauty of this band lays. It didn't seem like much of anything at first but it kept me coming back for listen after listen and soon I found myself smitten with this record. Released five years after their previous record, this album brings a much more vibrant new wave element to their music, giving this record a few new wrinkles to admire. What started out as a shock to me, ended with an album that I simply couldn't stop listening to.

12. Hold On To This - The JV Allstars
As I have said before in my review of this album, I try to encounter this record with an unbiased attitude. Being friends with members of this band, it could be very easy to be caught up in that friendship with placing their music with that of those I do not know and only admire. Speaking from a completely unbiased standpoint, this album is one of the best new pop-punk albums recorded. The songs are fun and upbeat, with some slower ones being very sentimental and touching. This is what All Time Low wishes they could record now. This is Midwest pop-punk. This is the curtain call for a band that I love to call friends. It's simply vintage JV Allstars.

11. Man Overboard - Man Overboard
Waving the flag of the new pop-punk sound, Man Overboard evolved from their debut record and created a record that should be spoken in the same breath as the elite albums of the genre. Featuring both inspiring songs and down trodden tunes, this record churns like a locomotive from start to finish. While some of the other albums may be front-heavy, with the best songs on the first part of the record, this one is very back-heavy and listening to the entire album becomes its own reward. Somewhat aggressive, but always melodic, this album revives the "take no prisoners" attitude of their previous record and takes it to new heights.

10. Killing Time - Bayside
Combining the musical ambition of The Walking Wounded and the lyrical mentality of their self-titled album, Killing Time is a relentless punk album with powerful guitars and roaring vocals. The guitar theatrics of Jack O'Shea come center stage with infectious riffs and absolutely ridiculous solos. The previous two releases left me with a stale taste for the band and this became a make-or-break record for them with me. Only ten minutes into the record I fell in love. This was the band that I adored when I was in high school and have seen play live numerous times. It falls just short of their self-titled album, but if this album were released in a different year, it would be in the top five.

9. David Comes To Life - Fucked Up
A hardcore punk concept album executed to perfection. This record is about two love birds in depression-era (1970's and 80's) England. The female love interest dies and the male carries on while meeting new people on the way to help him carry on. I usually don't get too much into the hardcore punk scene anymore, but an album like this one makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about a musical genre. This album completely transcends the hardcore beginnings of the band. For anyone who is a fan of concept albums or likes hardcore punk, this album will be highlighted for years to come.

8. Bad As Me - Tom Waits
One of the most eccentric and entertaining performers of the last fifty years returned to the spectrum with the first album of new material in seven years. What we receive is his best work twelve years (for the record, that album is my favorite he has ever done). Blending an old romantic element to his experimental rock style, this record mixes slower and more sentimental songs with groovy tunes propelled by Tom Waits' signature growl. It's absolutely refreshing to listen to an idol and find that he isn't content with playing the same music. This record is miles beyond what his most recent works were and prove that this man hasn't missed a step.

7. Undun - The Roots
Absolutely defining the genre that has become known as "neo soul", The Roots constantly create new music that both inspires and fascinates. Undun comes to us as an existential concept record about a man's short and tragic life in an urban setting, told through a reverse-chronological narrative. With snare-heavy beats and keyboard fueled soundscapes, this record holds you by the hand and plays for you. It's not an overpowering record, it just plays. When you listen to it, you just absorb it. You get absolutely enthralled with the story of this man and you want to know everything there is to tell about him. The music draws you in, but the voice soothes.

6. Simple Math - Manchester Orchestra
Their last album blew me away and quickly became an urban legend in my approach to music. After basking in the glory of their previous release, I anticipated the new release. Then I heard that frontman Andy Hull announced the album would be a concept album about a 23 year-old man questioning everything in life, even life itself. Hitting me really close to home, I then braced for the first listen and what I found blew me away. This album is an epic atmospheric alternative rock album that takes you on a deeply emotional spiritual journey. While it still isn't better than Mean Everything To Nothing, this is a fantastic record that commands listening to.

5. King Of Limbs - Radiohead
Radiohead has always been the kind of band you couldn't put your finger on. Each album they have released has been significantly different than the one released before it, each possessing different elements and becoming a whole new genre. King Of Limbs is no different. Instead of the conventional way of recording, Radiohead sampled their own music and manipulated different parts of them into a new record. I didn't know that going into listening to it, but after knowing that it becomes slightly obvious. Featuring one of the most beautiful songs the band has ever recorded ("Codex"); this album keeps us guessing on what Radiohead will do next. After listening to the band for some time, I find myself being absolutely comfortable with that.

4. Elsie - The Horrible Crowes
Just recently I grew fond of the music of Bruce Springsteen. Some of that I contribute to my love for The Gaslight Anthem. Now frontman Brian Fallon teams up with Ian Perkins to create a different album with a much different listening experience. On Elsie, we are treated with a much more slowed down pace and it never picks itself up to the arena-rock grandiose that The Gaslight Anthem has. For the majority of the album it's just a subtle drum part backing a guitar with a grown man spilling his thoughts and dreams out into open air. This is a touching album with a rough voice sang softly over soft accompanying music. The lyrics are vintage Fallon and make you want to spend time listening to this album with someone special.

3. Bon Iver, Bon Iver - Bon Iver
On paper, this album should be amazing. Justin Vernon is credited as play eighteen different instruments on the record and is accompanied by Sean Carey on drums (who released a fantastic solo album, All We Grow, last year). Frontman Vernon spoke of what he did to prepare the album, and while his debut album was highly acclaimed, with one listen this record renders the previous record obsolete. From the first second until after the final note, this album is unparalleled in its beauty. The only album I know of that is comparable in its beauty to this one is Sigur Ros' Ágætis byrjun. With a delicate voice, soft and elegant accompanying instrumentation, precise orchestration, and this album has moved its way into the beautiful new home of my heart.

2. Suburbia, I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing - The Wonder Years
While on the outside, it may sound like just a perfect pop-punk record, but at its core Suburbia is many things. In many ways it is a journal kept by the band and what they have gone through since their humble beginnings. It also is a letter to the surroundings around all of us and the non-nurturing environment, breeding helplessness and sorrow into the brain of everyone becoming an adult. On another level, it is just a man's love letter to Alan Ginsberg and trying to fit as many references to his work as you possibly can on a record. Filled with references to Ginsberg, previous songs the band has written, and their hometown, this album is a diary with well written words that resonate with listeners. The autobiographical nature of the lyrics connects with fans and the listener immediately relates to the music. This is the perfect pop-punk record for the new pop-punk sound and The Wonder Years have forever solidified their spot in history with Suburbia.

1. War Paint - The Dangerous Summer
On behalf of myself and only myself, I want to apologize to The Dangerous Summer for not including their previous release on my best of 2009 list. Had I have listened to it enough, it would have been in the top three. Now that it has come and gone, the new release War Paint leaves a bigger mark. While the mainstream, radio, and artistic types won't acknowledge its existence, this album consists of everything that I value in music. The bass lines flow perfectly with the surrounding instruments, the drum parts are abstract but never become sloppy, the rhythm and lead guitars blend together with accenting fringes to go with the thrusts of the rhythm guitar, the vocals are genuine and create an arch in melody, while the lyrics are both abstract and direct by expressing either complex or simple ideas with just the right words and phrasing to resonate with the listeners. Having seen this band live a few times and having talked to members of the band, they share the same cohesive vision in their music and it shows when they go in to record the final product. This band has created two flawless alternative-pop-punk records and shows no sign of slowing. This album will forever live as the finest of the 2011 and inevitably puts itself among the best modern records I've heard.

Now that we have said what the best albums of 2011 are and our reflection time is over, the New Year comes with excitement and new opportunities. So now here are my most anticipated albums of 2012.

Some Nights - Fun.
TBA - Phoenix
TBA - Brand New
"3" - Silversun Pickups
TBA - Modest Mouse
Beautiful Things - Anthony Green
Anarchy, My Dear - Say Anything
Port Of Morrow - The Shins
What We Saw From The Cheap Seats - Regina Spektor
TBA - Motion City Soundtrack
TBA - The Early November
Wildblood - Lovedrug
TBA - Every Time I Die
TBA - The Gaslight Anthem
TBA - Hot Water Music
Old Ideas - Leonard Cohen
TBA - The Forecast

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The JV Allstars - Hold On To This

This year has already been one to remember, new bands releasing notable debut material with other artists releasing new and improved material. One genre that has made vast steps to resurrect itself this year is pop-punk. Once left for dead, this musical category has boasted bands that have not only tested the waters of the mainstream but dove in. Those bands seemingly became pre-occupied with growing hair swoops and wearing neon colors rather than concentrating on making their music. Newly reborn, pop-punk has become log jammed with bands jockeying for position in the upper echelon just vying for the attention of the listener. This year especially, you have to do something notable by releasing an album that will resonate with fans and reach out to new fans with a lasting message. Enter, The JV Allstars with their new release, Hold On To This.

The JV Allstars - Hold On To This

Starting out with a soft and acoustic beginning, the lead-off track “Portland, Then” brings up similarities and memories of The Wonder Years track, “My Last Semester”. Working with the softer intro, the guitars then create a sonic blast and the tempo increases, leading into the verses. The opening fits the mold for the album, creating an audio atmosphere that can be manipulated and evolve as the album grows. Accented by a round-worthy chorus, this track starts the album off well, showing great promise.

“Side By Side” begins with guitars and drums accenting each other and creating a dueling illusion, eventually settling into the groove for the verses. The lead guitar accents are well orchestrated and are very well placed. This leads me to the main attraction of the song, the chorus. In what is one of the best choruses I’ve heard of any song all year, the lyrics resonate, the melody is simply infectious, and it can be sung at high volumes. Most of the same can be said for “Dollar Menu Date Night”. The vocal and guitar melodies complement each other very well, the chorus is just as infectious and almost forces you to sing along, and the guest vocals (courtesy of Chris Fogal of The Gamits) bring a different element to the track and fit in very well. Both of these songs are some of the essential listening tracks of the new pop-punk revival, and even for pop-punk in general.

Songs like “Coyote” and “Your Pants Are On Fire” hang their hats on their respective breakdowns with melodic choruses and evolving theatrics in vocals. “Leaving Degrassi” starts with a good acoustic riff with vocals that seem despondent, which seem to work unbelievably well with the lyrics. The guitar mix in the chorus is spot-on, holding some of the same elements from the acoustic beginning but never seem content with staying stationery. “Okay” and “Strawdka” are softer songs with steady pacing, eventually bringing both hypnotic and powerful vocals. Both songs have very catchy and infectious choruses, which is a staple of the JV Allstars catalog.

“Hope IS A Good Thing!” is a short love message to friends and fans. Coming in at under a minute in duration the song is a locomotive, keeping a steady pace sonically only to be accented by the vocal theatrics throughout the entire song. Not to be confused with “Hope Is A Good Thing???” which starts as a relentless pop-punk song, mixing in fast and heavy melodies with movements of slower and more powerful elements. “Prevention Kids” features guest vocals from I Call Fives’ Josh Todd, who also nails his vocals in a somewhat contrasting style to those of JVA. The song starts out with a great riff, is propelled by the melodies, the dueling vocals are a fantastic touch, finally highlighted by a solo-breakdown.

“03*02*09” features some interesting touches that are hinted at on other songs, but come center stage on this one. The vocals keep a separate melody from the other parts of the song, acting like their own instrument throughout the song. Using a fast-to-melodic formula for the vocals is a great fit for the mood of the song, accented by an upbeat melody and guitars. “Dollars And Sense” brings hypnotic vocals with melodic guitars and a catchy chorus. The track is a more polished version of a Rivercourt song (fun fact: Colby Sanchez, guitarist and lead vocals from Rivercourt is now the bassist for JVA), which becomes much more than just a touched-up version of the original.

The album ends with “Bestsummerever” and “Summon The Rat”. The former keeps a recurring theme of songs on the album, the melodic guitars mixed with accenting guitars throughout the song. Group vocals end the song with a very homely vibe, closing the track with a wholesome atmosphere. The latter’s rhythmic guitars match the rhythm of the vocals, reflecting the mood of the song. The song serves as a love note to the friends, family, and fans of the band. Ending with a lasting reverb is a perfect ending to the album, giving a nostalgic feeling to the listener. “Summon The Rat” contains a short hidden song about the local music scene and the love that is contained within it.

While the second half of the album doesn’t have the more memorable songs on it, every one of them adds to the theme of the record. From start to finish, you can’t find a bad song on the album, which is a rarity these days. When music has taken a turn with what is popular and what is successful, it’s reassuring to know that there is a band out there that still makes homage to their idols (Homegrown) while still bringing hope and passion to the bands that are up-and-coming. This album serves as a love note to all that the band holds dear and while listening to it you receive every ounce of that love. The JV Allstars coined the phrase “best friend-core” and there’s nothing like listening to this album while being surrounded by the people you love most.

Recommended Listens: "Side By Side", "Dollar Menu Date Night", "Prevention Kids", "Hope IS A Good Thing"

Recommended If You Like: Homegrown, New Found Glory, I Call Fives

Verdict: 9 / 10

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Came Out Swinging: The Words of Dan "Soupy" Campbell

It seems every time that there is an artist that connects on a grandiose level and can actively relate with fans, people are quick to apply the label: "voice of a generation". Elvis, The Beatles, Kurt Cobain, those are the prominent candidates for the title of their respective generations. If you really look at the timeline of music, each generation would have about five "voices". But the current culture of youth and rebellion are prone to these sorts of discussions. During a time of continental recession, economic power struggles, and worldwide protest; people seem to be struggling to grasp onto hope and lack an active voice to represent the voiceless. Even the people who proceed to stay introverted and fail to grasp the environment around them still suffer the personal struggles that have plagued the most inspiring individuals. Once upon a time, people believed that their prince would appear and save them from the hardship plaguing their hopeful mentality, but those times come and go with age. Then there comes a man that singlehandedly shares his thoughts and fears with you one second, then shares his loves and hopes the next.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to shield my admiration and reverence for Daniel Campbell, and I'm certainly not referring to him as the voice of this generation. I don't claim to be the epitome of my, or any generation, but if there can be one person that I am able to relate to and appreciate, then perhaps others have the same beliefs about the same person. So why in a world with intellectuals, millionaires, and revolutionaries does one musician possess so much influence? It could be the way that he speaks: sounding like a very modest and unobtrusive man with prominent mentalities. Maybe it's the way that he acts on stage: exploring every inch of the stage and slightly more beyond, basking in the crowd's immense support and audio reproduction of every last word he sings. There's a chance it's just his personality: a soft-spoken English graduate who likes fantasy football, professional wrestling, and punk music. Or, you know, it could be his writing.

Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, Dan "Soupy" Campbell was just another kid with broad aspirations. He became the lead singer of a band that became known as The Wonder Years. After two years and two splits, the Wonder Years released Get Stoked On It!, a collection of whimsical keyboard infused pop-punk songs that Campbell now refers to as "fucking abysmal" and refuses to play songs from. The fallout from the album has led Campbell to have great disdain for "seven inch kids"--a play on the old EP kids adage for fans who constantly say "I was listening to this band when (insert obscure release here)" and claim a clearly inferior album is band's finest. So how has a guy who made a very capricious (and in retrospect, very comedic) debut, become a talking idol? The change is found on the next Wonder Years release, a four-song EP including one instrumental, Won't Be Pathetic Forever.

The second track "Solo and Chewy: Holdin' It Down" is where the change is immediately noticed, blending together the effervescent mentality on their debut and a biographical self-analysis. Then there are two songs that give you a clear representation of where the band is headed. The title track speaks of a discontent and sorrowful love-hate relationship with the city around him, culminating in the band chanting "I fucking love this town / I fucking hate this town". Along with the melancholy comes the optimistic, the words resonating whenever Soupy sings "I refuse to sink". Then there's "You're Not Salinger. Get Over It", the middle finger to people who are holding society back from its natural evolution. The track also serves as a helpful note to those who listen, with the band chanting "Chin up and we'll drown a little slower" at the end of the song. This new pessimist-optimist back-and-forth worked on three songs, but how would it stand up on a full-length? The world found out on The Upsides.

Soupy stated that the theme for their new full-length would be about facing obstacles and not allowing the people or troubles you face daily to get you down. That theme culminates on the lead-off track of an album. No matter if it's an instrumental, poetic introduction, or a straight for-the-throat starting point. "My Last Semester" serves as a picture of the college experience from today's perspective. The first thing you hear on The Upsides is Soupy singing the theme of the entire album: "I'm not sad anymore, I'm just tired of the place. The weight of the world would be okay if it would pick a shoulder to lean on so I could stand up straight." The soft, subtle singing quickly erupts with the rest of the song, but the honesty never waivers. In the follow-up song, "Logan Circle", Soupy expresses to us that he finds hope out of no hope at all and quickly conveys that optimism with his opening line: "They turned on the fountain today at Logan Circle, I felt something in me change".

Of course with playing in a touring band come the struggles with being on the road and having to put yourself out there in relation to the fans. In "New Year's Eve With Carl Weathers" Soupy speaks about the pains the road takes on someone and how the good can come from that, while "Hotels And Brothels" is about the European tour that The Wonder Years was on and the longing for a home that occurred while being so far away from it. The tracks "Melrose Diner" and "Hey Thanks" are direct letters to an ex-girlfriend who Soupy says has the kindest heart, but still the realization of seeing her embrace another man is very unnerving. Having said all of that, there are songs on the album that Soupy doesn't pull punches on. "This Party Sucks" is a statement on the current culture of the party scene, referencing the people as lifeless and refusing to take part in a land of excess where the participants are all virtually comatose. Nothing on that song, however, can compare with the non-stop ruthless verbal onslaught that Campbell delivers on "Dynamite Shovel". On this 64 second sonic attack, Soupy delivers the verbal middle-finger to "people who use religion as a crutch for hatred and bigotry". In one of the selected phrases, Campbell says: "You can hide behind a bible, but we still know you're fucks. Inbreeding can claim this one, so chalk it up. These small town minds stay small".

The last pledge of hope that Soupy delivers to us on The Upsides, a semi-concept album about--what Soupy would later say--"not about forcing happiness, it's about not letting sadness win", is "Washington Square Park". Campbell interrupts a blistering guitar riff on the song with the first lines: "I'm looking for the upsides to these panic attack nights, while I'm staying in eating take-out food by T.V. light". By the end of the song Soupy has convinced us that despite being in direct competition with your thinking patterns, everything eventually improves and you would then see the world in a brighter light. With one album, Dan Campbell not only relates to the masses, but helps them with his own set of inspirational material. In the ultimate show of solidarity, the album closes with a group of friends singing the same message that started the album and became the motto for fan base: "I'm not sad anymore, I'm just tired of this place. If this year would just end, I think we'd all be okay".

The next year was spent on the road, with The Wonder Years hopping on tours with the likes of Streetlight Manifesto, New Found Glory, Set Your Goals, Comeback Kid, and an Australian tour with Tonight Alive. It was during this time that they started writing the follow-up to their breakthrough success album. A pivotal European tour with Good Charlotte and Four Years Strong was the last foreign tour that the band embarked on, providing a larger overseas audience and Dan Campbell some new challenges to face. Finally, a short tour with Fireworks and Such Gold was arranged, where the band debut a few new songs and finished writing the new record. On that tour, Such Gold and Fireworks were forced to drop off and This Time Next Year joined to finish out the rest of the leg. It was shortly after the tour completed that the band announced they would be releasing a new album in the summer that is essentially a love letter to Alan Ginsberg and a staple in time of where the band was mentally. In the same moment we were introduced to Suburbia: I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing.

From the very start, Dan Campbell was unapologetic and unwavering in his admiration for Ginsberg. When asked about his inspiration, Campbell would essentially go on rants about how Ginsberg's writings and musings would be almost identical to today's culture and his personal mental culture. Putting his labor of love together would spawn a deeply personal album that is, also musically, the most adventurous record the band has ever released. From the moment you hit play or drop the needle on the record, all of the emphatic energy strikes. The first noises stressed on the record is the audio tape of Ginsberg's "America" (from which the title of the album is based), with the lines being "My mind is made up" and "There's going to be trouble", repeated. Soupy breaks through the building guitars with a furious passion on a song about the exhaustion of touring and the adjustments made when the touring stops. Summarizing the experience in the lines: "I spent a whole year in airports and the floor feels like home" and "I'm running on empty and the late nights and the long drives start to get to me, I'm just so tired", Soupy explains his position with nothing more than a voice and his attempt at self-explanation. No part of the song ever waivers from the brutal honesty of his journey, especially the closing line of the chorus: "I spent this year as a ghost and I'm not sure where home is anymore".

A subject on Upsides was exploring the relationship of an ex-girlfriend ("Melrose Diner", "Hey Thanks"), also a subject that doesn't go untouched on Suburbia. "Woke Up Older" takes the listener through a journey is almost more about maturity and rationalization than about any girl. Also, Soupy blends some of his personal affects into the song (Bukowski novel, Blacklisted LP) and contests that the song is also a love letter to The Mountain Goats. All of those subjects are blended together to make a personal time-capsule into a song about a girl, "Hey Jess, I watched you wake up and get dressed. Left the room, reseeded like my hairline". The next song to appear on the album is possibly the most directly biographical of the album. Referencing songs from Upsides, Soupy tells us that some people missed the point of the previous album. In interviews and on the album, Campbell tells us that his last record wasn't about "forcing happiness, it's about not letting sadness win". On "Local Man Ruins Everything" Soupy expresses how his depression returned with new problems and relapsing issues.

The short "Suburbia", is a trip through the hometown that Soupy grew up knowing but after years of touring has changed dramatically. In this 51-second song, Campbell expresses to us that everything changes and we can't stay dormant. Picking the tempo up again "My Life As A Pigeon", there is different sediment about being in a band than we've heard from Campbell in the past. Whenever you hear him talk about his fans and the life of touring, Soupy will be the first to tell you that there is no experience like it and that all the fans keep him grounded and loved. On this track, Campbell deals with the negative aspect of the people who will shun you out, a new attitude that we hadn't seen or heard from Soupy before. The following track takes a complete turn and talks about the fun of socializing and making bad decisions with friends. Soupy explains that "Summers In PA" is as simple as you can take life, there's no feeling like being with good friends and making bad decisions. Now, we see the most controversial track on the album, "I Won't Say The Lord's Prayer". On this song, Campbell writes his thoughts about religion, saying that he means no disrespect to the friends he has who are religious. In Christianity, one of the laws is there is no other god than yours, Soupy pleads that he is making the same sort of stance but with no god of his own. The song is well written and I will not quote it, for it is better in full context.

On the song "Coffee Eyes", Soupy goes through a run of nostalgia for the place where he grew up, and talks about the people who made it special for him. That subject matter is something that we can all understand and sympathize with. "I've Given You All" sets a scene more than it is a song, with Campbell telling us a story about an old homeless war veteran that was beaten to death in the park around his neighborhood. Next there's "Don't Let Me Cave In", a song about how you dream of one day moving away and getting to where you think that you belong, but in some ways the place you are at was where you belonged all along. Taking cues from his real-life struggle with possibly moving from Philadelphia to Chicago, Soupy lays out his situation and inevitably touches base with everyone who has experienced the same thing. "You Made Me Want To Be A Saint" is a touching song written about a friend who passed away while the band was on tour in August of 2010, relating to many who have suffered through the same experience. The following "Hoodie Weather" blends a feeling of no matter where you are there will be problems to face and you have to face them head on with one of maturing. The stand-out line "Growing up means watching my heroes turn human in front of me. The songs we wrote at 18 seem short sided and fucked as this place got, it made me, me" incorporates all of its parts into a stunningly touching line of writing.

Finally, there is "Now I'm Nothing", a song that encompasses the entire back catalog and experiences the band and Campbell have endured. The track is quotes Ginsberg's poem "America" many times, including the last line "I'm putting my shoulder to the wheel". As a whole, the song serves as a status update of where the band, and Soupy, is at in their music and mentally. Despite the entire album being deeply personal, this song is the culmination of everything that came before it and expresses a great sense of optimism drenched in sorrow, and is the most adventurous song that Soupy has written to date.

In a way, people have become turned off by how autobiographical and honest Dan Campbell is with his writing. They have hurled hatred towards the band and what Soupy stands for as a whole. Some see a man standing tall with his friends at his side and emotions held in check with emotionally powered lyrics as a common occurrence and dismiss him as the a character who is no more special than the average singer in a pop-punk band. Others have said that Soupy's writing was at its best when he wasn't writing about his own personal problems and that his lyrics were better when whimsical. All of those people dismiss the progress of a human being and reject the notion of supporting a man who plays in a "mediocre-to-shitty pop-punk band". Speaking honestly, as he always does, Dan "Soupy" Campbell wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tom Waits - Bad As Me

For forty years there has been one man constantly reinventing himself. Like an immortal chameleon he has changed his colors and stripes with every album that he has made. From the smokey nightclubs of the 70's to the amphitheaters of today, the setting in which the music is played, not only compliments the music, but seems to be intertwined within it. He is little known outside his cult following and goes by his given name, Tom Waits. His work has been covered by what seems like everyone in music, from The Eagles to Alex Chilton. Scarlett Johansson even made a cover album that consisted of almost entirely Tom Waits. The life story of Waits will take years to be told (he said it won't be until he's at the end of his rope), and he rarely gives interviews. So the closest to an inside look lies in his music, which should be good enough for just about everybody.

Starting out his career with Closing Time, Waits was a 23-year old youth with a passion for lounges and jazz. Just a year later he released the fitting follow-up Heart Of Saturday Night, bringing a sense of folk and blues to the jazz clubs and small rooms in which he routinely played. It was at this moment that his music took a turn onto the path that we hear today. 1975's Nighthawks At The Diner starts out like the smooth jazz we were used to, but Waits' smooth and sultry voice had been transformed into something comparable to gargling Johnnie Walker, thumbtacks, and hair spray whilst smoking four packs of cigarettes. Since that moment his music has evolved from the back alley jazz to the blues, to the experimental, to the point where no genre could ever really comprehend it. Tom Waits transcends genres and his music raises beyond any sort of label. If someone were to ask you "What does he sound like?", you would have to put on one of his records and say "This". Nearly forty years has passed, and he's still pushing music.

Tom Waits - Bad As Me

As soon as the record begins to play, the insanity begins. A great horn riff layered on top of different instruments, Tom Waits is the conductor on the train leading us in "Chicago". The song stays in the same mood and tone until the ending where the train begins to leave the station and Waits is screaming "All aboard!". The follow-up is "Raised Right Man" which, broken down to its core, is a song comprised of just Waits' voice and the percussion keeping rhythm; just like a brush drum beat to the songs he used to sing off of Small Change (i.e. "Step Right Up"). The production gives a deep and gritty feel while other instruments join in later on. In a nutshell, this song exemplifies the career of Tom Waits over the last decade. A rough production, harsh vocals, and the pinpoint-accurate accompaniment.

Representing the early years of his career is "Talking At The Same Time". The vocals shy away from the snarl and become a higher ranged sound. In the chorus when Waits sings "...and every body's talking at the same time", it's as if the music is playing on an old Depression-era silent movie and the vocals are the cold breeze brushing up against exposed skin. The subject matter tackles some more current issues as Waits sings "We bail out all of the millionaires, they got my fruit and my dime". In a more upbeat track, "Get Lost" comes to us like a playful bounce of a song. The vocal melody sounds like a roller coaster, going up and down and changing inflection, a prolific tactic that Tom Waits has used over the years. Next up is "Face To The Highway". The song comes in a very decrepit tone, playing very slowly throughout and relying mostly on very enchanting guitars. A very pretty song, but it takes a backseat to me compared to some of the other songs like it on the album.

"Pay Me" comes at you in a very accordion-heavy duet with piano, sounding a lot like a late night in Italy. The song, while maybe not intending to be, is as if Tom is reflecting on his life. When Tom starts singing "They pay me not to go home..." there is a genuine sense of sadness and self-empathy. All of this continues to the fantastic ending where Waits' tone has matches the mood of forfeit. Another slow paced song, "Back In The Crowd", follows. With just a guitar and vocals, this song relies on Waits' crooning abilities. It may not sound like Sinatra, but Tom Waits has an uncanny ability to make his voice fit in any song and for it to sound near perfect. This somber-toned is the direct sequel to "Pay Me", advancing the sadness and self-reflection that came before it.

The title track brings the tempo back up with its gritty atmosphere. "Bad As Me" sounds like some of the more recent work Waits has done, but features something seldom heard on any of his catalog. While most of the album sounds as if it is being played through a tin can and string, there's a moment where the vocals shift to a crystal clear tone and Waits' voice becomes a low address to the listener. "Kiss Me" is a piano-bass-vocal structured song that embraces the "gritty jazz-revival" that Waits has been nearly the sole member of for the past decade. It's in this song that the lyrics get somewhat personal again, hearing Waits slowly speak out "kiss me like a stranger once again".

One of my favorites on the album and possibly Tom Waits song in general is "Satisfied". The vocals sound like a Waits-take on a Jim Morrison vocal track, and there's a distinct feel that the song could have fit perfectly on the 1999 release Mule Variations (my personal favorite Waits album). The horns and keyboards take over during the vocal break near the end and push the song to its fitting ending. Then "Last Leaf" starts to play and immediately it sounds like something off of 1992's Bone Machine. Vocally the album is really soft, not a lot of singing and when there is it sounds like whispering. The guitar plays a sort of lullaby and creates quite the lovely tone.

The gates to hell open up on "Hell Broke Luce", Waits' take on the war and military. The rhythm is moving and it creates a sort of fun atmosphere with Waits' vocals reciting like an army captain. The powerful chorus comes in after you get to hear the line "how many ways can you polish up a turd". In the ending there's gunfire and more commands, until it dwindles down into silence. The closer "New Year's Eve" is a stripped down, romantic song with a soft melody. This song is a very easy-listen and is quite the fitting ending to the album. In what may be a note to his lovely wife; Waits keeps a lot bottled up, but exercises a few of his demons and puts them to bed with this beautiful closing track.

After hearing the album a few times and letting it all sink in, a lot can change from your first impressions. Just like every other album Tom Waits has done, you discover new things with each listen. Some tracks get better, some tracks start to fade, but there is no instance of a "bad song". Blending together the influences and sounds of the past twenty years, Tom Waits has released what sounds like a mix of Mule Variations and Bone Machine, with an eclectic paprika on top. All of the ingredients used in the recipe has baked his best work in 12 years.

Recommended Listens: "Chicago", "Talking At The Same Time", "Satisfied", "Hell Broke Luce"

Recommended If You Like: Tom Waits, alternative-jazz-revival-grit, songwriting

Verdict: 9 / 10

Monday, October 17, 2011

Transit - Listen & Forgive

There comes a time when an artist makes an album that is a perfect time capsule for when it was made. Some records have that sense of hope and beginning, which works well in the spring. Some records are happy-go-lucky with upbeat tones and work perfectly in summer (i.e. Yellowcard). Then there's the albums that have a mystique to them in a more somber tone that seem to work well in autumn. Other records have that powerful push to them and sense of discontent, which is how most of us feel in winter. This is one of those autumn albums. It's difficult to describe but you know it when you hear it, and that's what having a great attatchment to music is like. You can't quite put together why an album makes things feel the way it does, but you know it once you hear it.

Set among their peers, Transit is always talked about in the same pop-punk discussion as bands like Man Overboard, This Time Next Year, The Wonder Years, The Flatliners, etc., but on this album you can tell that they aren't happy with just being a part of the scene and that is clearly evident on their new album, Listen & Forgive. The songs you would hear on their previous album, Keep This To Yourself, were ones in the same vein as a pop-punk album, but the lines were clear; they were not to be lumped into any category. There isn't constant double-beat melodies or driving locomotive rhythms, the album plays out like an indie album made by a punk band. Transit takes that to the next level on their release.

Transit - Listen & Forgive

The record starts out with the track "You Can't Miss It (It's Everywhere)", setting the mood early for the album. Very upbeat intro with beautiful guitar work in the verse that transitions smoothly to the chorus melody and weaves as such throughout the song. Prime example of where Transit seperate themselves from their peers is on this track in the chorus. When other bands would build up to a sing-a-long friendly upbeat chorus, Transit instead works in a melodic lull that isn't immediatly catchy or uplifting, but is easy croon along with. The song features extensive backing vocals, which can be also said for the entire album.

From the start, the opening track encapsulizes what the entire album is about to bring: an abnormal landscape of an album that is built on a post-punk handbook. This album more than their previous releases, blends their influences together into a sound that is all their own. Melting a mix of Death Cab For Cutie, Bayside, American Football, and Hot Water Music; the album seems very content with what it is and rightfully so, it is a great listen. When talking about the album I'd group a few songs together to let you know what the songs collectively sound like. On this album however, I simply cannot do that. Each song is different, builds upon the one before it, improves the songscape that the album creates piece by piece.

"Long Lost Friends" starts out the same: with an intriguing guitar riff that keeps the atmosphere. The vocals and drums on this song compliment each other and are the two stand-out points. How the beat matches the melody of the vocals with the atmospheric guitar below it creates the autumn tone and blends to the chorus where the song comes together, embracing all of its parts. Next up is the title track, "Listen And Forgive", that starts out slower and keeps the mellow tone throughout. Featuring more extensive gang vocals throughout, the song is extremely vocally driven and the raw emotional power given off by the entire band's vocals summerizes the labor of love that this album is. "All Your Heart" is the first song on the album with guitarist Tim Landers doing lead vocals instead of primary vocalist, Joe Boynton. That change works extremely well, giving the song a different, more somber tone. The guitar work is still very admirable, the chorus is still something you'd sing with your friends, and the song weaves through the verses, the choruses, and the breakdown; building up to the ending.

Just like the drum-vocal melody before it, "Asleep At The Wheel" features more guitar-vocal melodies that makes it feel like an acoustic song. The track stays very mellow and is perfect for the ambient feel of autumn on the album. Having said all of that for the album so far, now is when it gets better. "Cutting Corners" may be my favorite track, using a different kind of intro and taking the rhythm they had before and then turning it up a little bit. The chorus is as close to pop-punk as the album gets and the guitar theatrics throughout the chorus, pre-chorus, and verses works very well. It's a shame that it's the shortest song on the album, but it ends very fittingly with a group vocal. "Skipping Stone" is the albums lone acoustic song about moving on and analyzing life. The mix of guitars sounds phenomenal, even as they take a backseat to the vocals most of the song. For nearly the entire track the band sings along, giving the more intimate feel that fits in so well on the album.

"I Think I Know" brings the pace back up at the start but lulls into a very ambient verse, building a very atmospheric sound to the album. Easily the most adventurous song on the album, the vocals don't seem strained and when the band gets involved in them, the song really takes off. It is at this point that you see an intimate, almost nostalgic, theme begins to form on the album. This can also be heard on "Don't Make A Sound", which builds from the verses to the choruses but keeps the rhythm and tone to what comes across as almost a waltz. The song's breakdown could be one of the brightest points on the entire album, holding onto the mellow tone until the track ends. If there is any song on this record that seems the most personal, it would be "1978". Very vocally driven, the song picks up to an anthemic, yet mellow, chorus with dual-vocal harmonies. The guitars work as a complimentary piece and the drumming is very tight, allowing the vocals to soar throughout the song, even with all of the different movements. Upon hearing it, this track just feels like an extremely personal song of longing and life, twisting through different movements and experiences.

"Over Your Head" starts the same way. Working a waltz-esque tone to a slow-yet-steady chorus, the song stays very mellow until the breakdown, which builds until it is an emotionally driven shout. The song also ends very strong by holding out the last few notes, as if to say that the song personifies all they have. Finally, it is make or break time, the closing track. "The Answer Comes In Time", encapsulates every little intricacy that the album ever featured: the guitar introductions, the group vocals, the slow and powerful breakdown, this song just shouts out "CLOSER" to you. The tone of the track is like a triumphant stance of what it has gone through, despite not sounding like it accomplished complete victory.

Overall the album is one of the best I've heard in a long time. I didn't consider myself a huge fan going into listening to it, but coming out I am a complete convert. This is an album that is falling leaves and a brisk breeze in stereo. I never used the word "fun" to describe the album, but it is. This is a really fun album that will be fun to play and sing along to with friends in a mellow atmosphere. Capturing the spirit of the season, Listen & Forgive has established Transit as a band that doesn't deserve to be lumped into genres, because they have already transcended everyone people have put them in.

Recommneded Tracks: "Cutting Corners", "I Think I Know", "1978"

Recommended If You Like: "The Big Deep" by The Sleeping, "The Glass Passenger" by Jack's Mannequin, "Suburbia..." by The Wonder Years

Verdict: 8.5 / 10

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Found Glory - Radiosurgery

It was under ten years ago that my oldest brother took me under his wing and took me to my first gig. He was a freshman in college here in Lincoln at the University and I was just 12 years-old, a bright eyed sixth grader. He came back for a weekend to pick me up in his 2001 Ford Focus that we called the "bumblebee" for its goldish-yellow color. The destination was Pershing Auditorium and the mission was to see New Found Glory. It was at this show that I believe my life changed. The pure energy and excitement that came erupting out off that band and the crowd got to me, and perhaps changed the way I look at life.

Return to present-day Lincoln, where I have now lived for three years. In the time since my first encounter with New Found Glory, I have seen them live five times. Which is a lot considering that sports in high school limited my engagement to shows. They have just released their seventh album and are on my schedule to see on their upcoming tour. So you can understand why I have a critical eye on this band. With their new album comes excitement, optimism, and a review.

New Found Glory - Radiosurgery

The album starts off with the first single/title track. This is the prime example of what the new album encompasses as a whole sound. Following the conventional formula of song structure, the track radiates a "Dookie"-vibe. At first listen, it didn't hit me, but after listening to it a few times you can see where the song could have fit on any early Green Day album. Still very fun and catchy, NFG put their stamp on every song they make, and give us a late-summer anthem.

The next few songs are my favorites on the album. "Anthem Of The Unwanted" and "Drill It In My Brain" are both vintage New Found Glory with an upbeat, charisma to the music and toned-down catchy chorus. "I'm Not The One" brings back the gang vocals with a hardcore breakdown and different movements with composition. "Dumped" is a very musical locomotive, vintage NFG song with a catchy upbeat chorus and a noteworthy ending.

It's at that point where the album takes a slight downturn. "Summer Fling, Don't Mean A Thing" is a somewhat forgettable, cookie-cutter song, that sounds like it could be a b-side off of Coming Home. "Caught In The Act" and "Trainwreck" share the same fate. It's not a complete knock on slower songs, or less musically driven songs, but in some cases the efforts just seem lazy. Such is the case here. The songs don't capture attention the first time and make it very easy to skip ahead to the next songs on the album that are a lot less forgetful.

The few bright points on the back half of the album, "Memories And Battle Scars" and "Map Of Your Body" don't do enough to resurrect the album from the doldrums. Coming out with strong riffs, very catchy choruses, and notably well executed breakdowns, the songs hold your attention and almost force you to sing along. In the case of the album closer, "Map Of Your Body", the breakdown takes the form of a sort of lullaby. As soon as the breakdown ends, the song shoots off like a rocket back to the catchy chorus for the ending.

Overall, the album features a few good songs, a few decent ones, and a few forgettable ones. I recognize that at some points I may sound like I want them to recreate their self-titled album or Sticks And Stones, but I know that what goes into making an album can't be reproduced and getting repeated success on albums is extremely difficult. NFG came back from a lackluster showing with Not Without A Fight, an album I very much enjoyed. Time will tell if I enjoy Radiosurgery as much as I did with NWAF that came before it, but it's not looking good. For fans of old-school Green Day who haven't gotten into New Found Glory (if those people exist) should give this album a listen. If you're a hardcore New Found Glory fan, you should listen to this album because it's the exact things you've come to like in them. But in the long run, the album hits the target a few times not enough and lets the lacking parts last too long.

Recommended Tracks: "Anthem Of The Unwanted", "I'm Not The One", "Dumped"

Recommended If You Like: New Found Glory, Dookie

Verdict: 5.5/10

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Time Next Year - Drop Out Of Life

In 2009, This Time Next Year burst onto the scene with a full-length powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline (just watched Blues Brothers). Taking their name from the Movielife album, This Time Next Year came out of nowhere to release on of the best pop-punk albums of that year, as well as one of the best modern pop-punk releases. Road Maps And Heart Attacks took cues from legends of the scene as well as TTNY's peers to formulate a record enjoyable from start to finish. Two years later, how does the band mature and does it suffer from the sophomore slump on Drop Out Of Life? Let's find out.

The closest thing to Road Maps And Heart Attacks can be found on the lead, title track, "Drop Out Of Life". The song starts out strong and follows the new pop-punk formula to a tee. The anthem-like chorus is something that crowds will be singing back to the band on every stop of every show. From there, the album takes an unexpected turn. The rest of the album is generally mellow with not a lot of the power or aggression we came to expect from their previous releases. The track "Better Half" resonates something that would be on a Starting Line album and it becomes evident that the band took cues from the album's producer, Chad Gilbert (guitarist from New Found Glory). The New Found Glory influence also shines on "Get It, Got It, Good", which rings reminiscent of the NFG song "Don't Let Her Pull You Down". Songs like "Living Hell" and "Matchbook" bring the 'friend-core' aspect of pop-punk, with a potent nostalgia feeling when listening to the song, as if it makes you remember the times you've spent with friends.

In a nutshell the album can be summarized with songs like "Modern Day Love Story" and "My Side Of Town". Catchy choruses, but extremely mellow with somewhat of a waltz tone to them. Other than "mellow" the other big 'M' word for this album is "melody". Neat vocal melodies are shown throughout the majority of this record, with "Spoontonic" being the prime example of this. The vocals never rest on a certain note or range, they are always moving swiftly back and forth, using different "riffs" and using the vocals almost like another instrument.

It's been said before by me that the opener to an album is the most important, and then the ending. This album starts with its strongest foot forward and ends with a song that isn't one of the finest, but clearly the greatest choice for closing track. "This Is An Airport Train" has a stand-out guitar tone throughout the entire song to go with the perfect mix of vocals, lyrics, and overall band tone. The lyrics speak of moving on and carrying the torch of living, which is complimented by the "traveling" tone of the music accompanying the words. It's an uplifting song that speaks of previous depression that has been turned to hope.

Overall, the album is (at least for me) a disappointment compared to their previous release. Maybe it's because this is a much mellower album and doesn't pack the same punch, but it seems like that's what This Time Next Year is best at. A few songs pack the same powerful sonic punch that was found on their previous album, but they are few and far between. Maybe Drop Out Of Life isn't the same breed of monster as we're used to from the band, but it also may be the next logical step in maturing. Maturity is a four letter word in the pop-punk world, but these guys speak of going through the gauntlet and that can do a lot to a man.

Recommended Tracks: "Drop Out Of Life", "Get It, Got It, Good", "This Is An Airport Train"

Recommended If You Like: New Found Glory, The Starting Line, old All Time Low

Verdict: 6 / 10