So...i haven't updated in forever, and that's mainly because I really haven't had much to say even though a lot has gone on. I promise I'll make a real update soon but I just had to come do the yearly ritual of posting my Top 10 of 2007...so here it goes, for those who wanna read it...
Let me first start off by saying I was pretty disappointed with this album. That being said, this album rules. How could that be, you ask? It’s simple, a sub-par Coheed album is still better than most bands’ best efforts, end of story. They’re just that good. There are problems with the album, sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still listened to it more than most of the albums on this list, and it doesn’t change the fact that 3/4 of the album is fantastic. When I first heard it, I let the flaws get the best of me. I was so upset that Coheed actually wrote a couple of boring songs that I said it was their worst album and I was really let down. In actuality, if you cut me off right after track 7 I probably would have said so far it seemed like their 2nd best album, and that has to count for something. The album starts off perfectly with a dark acoustic intro called “The Reaping” where Claudio begins telling the tale and setting the mood for the record, and then blasts right into “No World For Tomorrow” and I have to change my pants. “No World For Tomorrow” is the quintessential Coheed song, it’s got everything from fist pumping gang chants in the chorus to throwbacks to older songs. “No World For Tomorrow” is easily the “In Keeping Secrets..” of this album and is the absolute perfect way to kick off what is to be the final chapter of the saga, exactly how I pictured it starting off: dark and hopeless. Now if Coheed logic dictates correctly, we should have 2 or 3 great straightforward catchy pop songs after the massive arena rocker, with track 4 emerging as the best track on the album (don’t ask why, it just happens, track 4 always owns the world on Coheed records). Well, “The Hound (of Blood and Rank)” is an awesome Who-esque rocker, and the first single “The Running Free” is good old classic Coheed, but in usual fashion, it’s the one in the middle at track 4 that really grabs you. “Feathers” is the perfect pop rock song, everything about it. Oh my god I don’t know how Claudio keeps writing these songs but it almost makes you laugh it’s so good. The chorus is the reason the fucking ride bell was INVENTED. For longtime Coheed fans, this is the Newo song on the album, and it’s definitely the best track. The epic “Mother Superior” is placed in the middle of the album, and belongs at the end, but at this point you don’t realize that, and it does sound right with the flow of the record. It’s a great slower track that starts acoustic and slowly builds into an awesome cigarette-lighter-in-the-air climax. As the last note is fading away, the most guitar driven song that Coheed has ever written blasts in. “Gravemakers and Gunslingers” starts with an amazing opening riff and lead, and there are little crazy solos through the whole song. This is the song to show your friends that hate Coheed to get them to appreciate the band. Claudio’s vocals are so intense and pissed off, and it still gets me pumped everytime he says “motherfucker” in the song. Unfortunately this is the last fantastic moment of the record, as after this comes “Justice in Murder”, which isn’t bad but it’s one of the most bland songs the band has written, and after that leads into the five part ending “The End Complete.” Aside from it being an uncreative title for the end section to the final album, the first section, “The Fall of House Atlantic” is just a minute long intro for the section. I was actually most excited for this song when I song the tracklist because I thought they would reprise “A Favor House Atlantic” in the song somewhere much like they did with “Blood Red Summer” and “Everything Evil” on the last album, but oh well. The second part is “Radio Bye Bye,” while not great, it’s a good, catchy song that kind of restores your hopes for the end of the album. It is short lived though, because afterwards comes the third part, “The End Complete,” which is inconsistent and goes all over the place. It sounds like they were trying to cram every idea they had that didn’t work in other songs into one 7 minute track, and while at times it’s good, sometimes it doesn’t work. Part four, “The Road and the Damned,” is awesome however, and has a totally different sound than I’ve ever heard Coheed do. I was impressed by this one even though a lot of fans didn’t seem to like it. So we’re at the end, and I could deal with this as long as there was an amazing ending, but the end is sadly unimpressive. The final track makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The song starts as this beautiful piano ballad with Claudio singing soulfully and it seems like it’ll be a good ender, but suddenly around 3 minutes in, it just gets inexplicably heavy out of nowhere and there’s an chant of “Hail!” or “Kill!” I’m not sure which it is, but it goes on for a couple of minutes before it suddenly goes back into the piano and transitions into “The Final Cut” for the outro. Now I like how they ended with “The Final Cut” reprise but what the hell was that part in the middle? They could have just gone from the piano into that and it would have made the ending so much better. Also, where are the “Coheed themes” You know, the songs in all the other records as the intros? Even something as small as that kind of doesn’t make it feel like a Coheed album. But all complaints aside, what I do is pick things apart, and even though the album feels a bit rushed and isn’t as grandiose an ending chapter to the story as it could have been (“Mother Superior” would have been an amazing ending), 3/4 of great songs make up for it. I had a lot to get off my chest about this album and this was more of a rant than a review, but I still think it belongs on my top 10 due to the songs alone. Maybe it’s not as great an ALBUM as some others, but I still listen to it frequently and it does have some of the band’s best work in the first half. So Claudio, I know nobody’s perfect, and I’m putting this on my top 10 anyway because you’ve earned it from the past. Just don’t fuck up the end next time.
RIYL: Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzy, Queensryche, 3, the heavier side of Coheed (i.e. “Welcome Home”)
Best Song: “Feathers”
After 10 long years of waiting, the Foos have finally made an album that stands up there with The Colour and the Shape. Nothing in recent years has even come close to reminding me why the Foo Fighters are one of my favorite bands. In fact, aside from There is Nothing Left to Lose (which was really good, but not quite as good as the first two) I don’t even have the last few albums because I found them extremely dull. They hit a slump, it happens, but this time they’ve come through with flying colors. The lead single “The Pretender” is classic Foo Fighters, with the driving drums and fist-in-the-air shouting chorus, setting the tone for the entire album the way “Monkey Wrench” did for The Colour and the Shape. “Let it Die” is Dave Grohl’s inevitable Kurt and Courtney song, you knew he was gonna write it someday, and of course it’s fantastic and sounds more 90's than the band has sounded since then. “Long Road to Ruin” is easily my favorite on the album. The chorus rings with the sound of the band’s 1995 debut, and it’s as if they haven’t missed a beat. “Cheer up Boys, Your Makeup is Running” and the incredibly catchy “Summer’s End” are other favorites on the album that could stand just as well on their own as singles. But hey, it’s not all balls out rock, there’s some mellower tracks on the album as always, and they’re better than ever. “Stranger Things Have Happened” is a great acoustic track, and the piano driven, Ben Folds-esque “Statues” is a very welcome new sound for the band. The song slips right out into “But Honestly,” which actually seems like the closer for the album. Starting off acoustic for the first half of the song and then building into an phenomenal epic rock out ending, it’s another classic song by the band that is up there in their best songs of all time. The actual closer, “Home,” is a piano ballad that actually does work well as an ender, but not nearly as well as the previous track would have. However, that is my only complaint about the album, and all track order aside every song on the record is worth the listen. The production on the record, done by Gil Norton (who is my second favorite producer behind Butch Vig) is absolutely perfect for the band’s style and all bias aside, I think the band should stick with Norton as he also produced The Colour and the Shape. Just my opinion though. All in all, this was one of many absolutely refreshing records to hear in 2007, and it was even more great to hear the Foo Fighters reminding me that they haven’t lost their touch, and they still belong up there with my favorite bands of all time.
RIYL: early Foo Fighters
Best Song: “Long Road to Ruin”
There is absolutely no reason why Anberlin shouldn’t be as huge as a band like Fall Out Boy. They’ve got the songs, singer Stephen Christian has definitely got more than the voice. I don’t know, maybe it’s an image thing, or the fact that they’re not marketed very well. Either way, Anberlin is one of the best bands around right now, and Cities is an album that takes the band up yet another notch. I’ll admit, I didn’t really know this band until maybe 2005-2006, but they write some of the best songs out there. “A Day Late” from their last album Never Take Friendship Personal is one of my favorite songs of this decade, and definitely the first song I’d play for anyone who likes anything remotely in the band’s style. Cities is more drifted towards the band’s darker, more hard rock style. It sounds very futuristic, that’s the only way I can usually explain it. Songs like “Godspeed” and “Reclusion” have a driving, fuzzy, partly synthesized rock sound. It’s almost like pop punk songs for the apocalypse. However, tracks like “Adelaide” and “Alexithymia” will satisfy any hunger for the sunny poppy side. There are a few softer songs, as usual, with “The Unwinding Cable Car” and “Inevitable,” the two best mellow songs the band has written. Overall though, the album’s main strength is that it just flows extremely well and seamlessly, and makes for an excellent listening experience. A mood is set from the start that successfully continues until the end without drifting into out-of-place territory at all. The ending, with the building climax of the “Dismantle, Repair”/ “Fin”combo, is one of the best, if not THE best ending to an album I’ve heard this year. The production on the album, done by producer Aaron Sprinkle, is perfect for the style is well. Sprinkle has a very distinct, explosive production style that I’m extremely fond of already based on this and his work on Acceptance’s Phantoms, and he’s definitely a hidden treasure in the production world at the moment. I would recommend this album to anyone who likes the “scene” sound, but is looking for something with a little more depth and some fantastic singing. Anberlin isn’t some brilliant artsy band, they’re just brilliant songwriters with a unique mix of styles, and hopefully their time will come soon. Mark my words kids, they will someday be your new favorite band.
RIYL: The Receiving End of Sirens, BEDlight for BlueEYES, Acceptance,
Best Song: “Godspeed” and “Reclusion”
One of my favorite things is when a band I love does a complete 180 and changes their whole sound around, and is able to pull it off just as well as anything else they’ve done. I also love when a band I write off as average comes out with an amazing album such as #2 on this list, or In Reverie by Saves the Day that changes my mind (even if for them it was only for that one record). But for all the praise I give to bands that successfully change, there are some things that are perfect the way they are, and don’t need to be dolled up. Jimmy Eat World is one of those exceptions, as they’ve mastered the art of being Jimmy Eat World, and sometimes chocolate is just good as chocolate. Chase This Light follows in the tradition of Bleed American and gives us another fantastic collection of great Jimmy Eat World pop rock songs that you can sing along to after one listen. Maybe it’s not as well put together an album as Futures was, or wont be as influential as Clarity, but from the moment that opening track “Big Casino” busts in, a smile comes across your face like the one you have when you see a close friend that you haven’t seen in a while. Jimmy Eat World are like my really close friends. I could not see them for years, and when I do, the familiarity and comfort I get from knowing we’re still friends is one of the best feelings in the world. Don’t get me wrong, by no means is this album boring, it’s quite the opposite. Sometimes your friend gets a new haircut or something and looks the same, but a little cooler than before, and that’s where my favorite tracks like “Always Be” and “Firefight” come in. Or sometimes your friend digs up an old outfit they haven’t worn in a while that still looks better than ever, like the songs “Carry You” and “Let it Happen.” But in the end, your friend cracks the same lame joke that you always crack up at, and you sing along to “Electable (Give it Up)” and “Chase This Light”. There are moments on the album where it throws you a curve ball, such as the dark, moody “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues,” which could have fit on the band’s 2005 Stay on My Side Tonight EP. Then there’s the super dancy “Here it Goes,” which is a totally different sound from the rest of the album. Overall though, the album is bookended with classic Jimmy Eat World. The first track, “Big Casino,” is nothing less than what you’d expect from your vintage rock single from the band, and the album closes with “Dizzy,” the beautiful, epic ender you’ve always known to expect from the band. Like I said, there’s no bells and whistles here, just the sound of one band perfected, much like fans have grown to expect from bands with a signature sound. Jimmy Eat World certainly has an easy sound to pick from a lineup, and that’s a great thing, because those are the bands that are truly remembered. 10 years from now they could release an album of completely similar quality songs and you know what? I’d still get those familiar goosebumps, and that’s special.
RIYL: anything else by the band, Gratitude, Mae, Let Go
Best Song: “Always Be”
2007 marks the third release in a row from Mae that has cracked into my top ten, meaning every one of the band’s studio albums has been on a yearly top ten list. That’s a pretty big feat right there. I believe they’re actually the only band who’s done it since I started making the top 10s in 2003. Anyway, Singularity is easily my favorite album by the band. The Everglow was much better as an album, but Singularity is just all around more my style than the band’s ever done. Fans who haven’t heard the album yet shouldn’t worry, because Singularity is full of the classic soothing piano-pop gems the band has always written, but this time they’ve got more of an edge than ever. There are some songs, such as “Sometimes I Can’t Make it Alone” and “Rocket” that simply just bring the rock, and are among my all time favorites by the band. Furthermore, songs like “Crazy 8's” and “On Top” are vintage Mae and would fit extremely well on either of the earlier records. The one thing that gets a little lost on Singularity is the seamless flow and mood that is set on The Everglow. In addition, the pretty songs are great, but they’re not the mindblowing highlight here, as “Skyline Drive” was on the band’s debut. This album’s heart really lies in hearing the band explore their more aggressive side. Seeing Mae able to pull off the ballads and catchy pop rockers is no shock, but seeing them able to pull off moog-heavy, mainly electric songs like “Brink of Disaster” and “Sic Semper Tyrannis” checks off another box on the kind of music this band can reel you in with. “Waiting” is easily my favorite song on the album, however. Sounding like a mix of the old and new, “Waiting” is the perfect balance of the band’s styles and is probably my favorite song by the band next to “Embers and Envelopes.” Longtime fans shouldn’t be disappointed, but people who weren’t really feeling the band before should definitely give this one a chance. It’s the most up-tempo and the most accessible of the albums, and the production from Howard Benson is absolutely stellar, and I’m not ashamed to say that. While Mae isn’t my favorite band, or even my favorite modern band, they’re doing something right to keep me coming back. Maybe they’re not getting the #1 spot or anything, but they don’t need to. Sometimes putting out consistently great, catchy albums is enough for me.
RIYL: Jimmy Eat World, Motion City Soundtrack, Reggie and the Full Effect, Anberlin
Best Song: “Waiting”
Bayside is one of those bands that everyone’s heard of but not many people really listen to. When their drummer died in a van accident, the band recorded an acoustic album of fan favorites that Rachel played in her car a lot. However, I really fell in love with the band when I heard the full band versions of the songs from the old albums, so I was pretty damn excited for this album to come out. When I first heard the title track off The Walking Wounded I would stream it on repeat for days. It’s one of those perfectly written songs that gives me chills every time, with not only one solo, but a chorus with a key change afterwards and then ANOTHER small solo to lead the song out. Needless to say, this band knows how to strike every spot in my ears exactly the right way. Bayside is a “scene” band, sure, and they’re on Victory Records and such, but these guys simply just know how to write songs. Anthony Raneri’s voice is like a cross between the good dude from Alkaline Trio and the Smoking Popes, a band I actually heard through Bayside because they wear their influences on their sleeves (which isn’t a bad thing in their case). Songs like “Duality” and “Dear Your Holiness” are excellently written pop rock gems that should be all over radio, while tracks like “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns” and “Choice Hops and Bottled Self Esteem” stick to the band’s trademark dark pop punk sound and do it better than ever. The album’s real heart lies in that perfect songwriting illustrated in songs like “I and I,” “The Walking Wounded,” and “Head on a Plate” though. The drum fills, backing vocals, key changes, and every single note are all in the right place, and it’s that kind of classic songwriting that separates Bayside from their contemporaries. Anthony Raneri said while writing this album, he was trying to almost write a musical in the sense that he analyzed how those big songs were written, with the dramatic highs and lows, and while it doesn’t quite come off as well as Say Anything’s Is A Real Boy, it certainly is leaps and bounds ahead of other albums that have tried *cough*The Black Parade*cough*. Bayside is definitely a band to keep an eye on, they’re still honing their sound and they could go either way, but it definitely looks like they have their feet on the ground more than most other bands in their scene. There’s a reason Bayside fans are referred to as a “cult,” and it’s because you can tell Bayside just want to be regular guys and stay out of the spotlight, and people like that. It makes Bayside feel like they’re your band, even though they’re on Victory. It just so happens that these “regular guys” really know what they’re doing, and have set the bar pretty high for their peers.
RIYL: Alkaline Trio, Smoking Popes, Motion City Soundtrack, Jawbreaker
Best Song: “The Walking Wounded”
2007 marked the year that restored my faith in modern music, but it also didn’t hurt when I heard that my favorite band was reuniting. Sure it’s not the original lineup, but any pumpkin fan knows that as long as Billy’s writing the songs and Jimmy’s on drums, you’ve got the dynamic that created the band’s style. Similar to the undeserved backlash that the Zwan album got (which I actually loved more than some of the Pumpkin albums), Zeitgeist received a lot of shit, and of course it was going to if only because it’s not the said full lineup. Still, it’s the Pumpkins to me and maybe my bias is getting in the way, but I feel that Zeitgeist sits incredibly well in the band’s catalog and it sounds like the logical followup to the Machina albums. From the opening drums and blasting guitar chords of “Doomsday Clock,” the Smashing Pumpkins of yore have returned in full force. Songs like the excellent “7 Shades of Black” and the lead single “Tarantula” continue in the classic tradition of the harder side of the band, while “For God and Country” delves into the darker, and more electronic side of the band the was explored on the later records. “Bleeding the Orchid” is a great track that seemingly brings the band’s influence on the Deftones full circle, as it sounds like Billy was suddenly inspired to write a b-side for White Pony. The real highlights of the album, however, are the vintage 90's fuzzy pop rockers that bring to mind the band’s classics and show that Billy’s still got it in him, maybe more than he has since the Mellon Collie days. Tracks like “Come On (Let’s Go)” and “That’s the Way (My Love Is)”are two of the best songs of the band’s career, and the layered guitar solo in “Bring the Light” would blow the mind of any longtime fan into another galaxy. Sure there are some flaws, mainly in the production. For some reason the vocals are ridiculously high in the mix and sound as if they mixed the music together and then Billy just laid his vocals on top of everything. The songs however, are strong enough to override that aspect and make for an enjoyable album once you get past the initial shock of the production. The epic 10 minute “United States,” an obviously “live” song ends up sounding a bit weak on recording and it’s a shame because it could have been this album’s “Silverfuck” if they took some more time with making it sound as big as it does on the live videos I’ve seen. Overall though, the rest of the songs stand up very well. “Neverlost” and “Starz” could have fit right in with earlier albums and “Pomp and Circumstances,” while not too great of a song overall closes out the album beautifully with an unexpected guitar solo right as the song reaches it’s high point, leaving you with a comforting feeling knowing that they’re back and that there will be more to come. Maybe Zeitgeist isn’t better as an album that some of the stuff on this list, but you can’t fault a guy for putting his favorite band so high on the list. Zeitgeist was a reminder that anything can happen, and that maybe the bands you love that either broke up or started making shitty albums might not be gone forever, and someday might be able to blow your mind all over again.
RIYL: Smashing Pumpkins, Zwan
Best Song: “Come on (Let’s Go)” and “That’s the Way (My Love is)”
Thrice is a band I’ve grown with from their beginnings, and I’ve always enjoyed their work but knew there was so much potential there for something more outside their realm. Vheissu teased the possibilities a little bit with beautiful tracks like “Atlantic” and “Red Sky,” but filled up a lot of the album with good material that barely got a foot out of The Artist and the Ambulance’s door, despite promising to be more ambitious. I always felt the band was holding back, until now. When Thrice announced they were doing a four EP collection, with each disc representing a different element and aspect of the band’s sound, I knew they were gonna go all out. Unfortunately, the collection is being released as two separate albums instead of all at once. Now, even though I feel like ultimately when the collection comes out it will be much stronger as a whole, the Fire/Water set stands up well enough on it’s own to earn a spot on this list. As one would guess, Fire is the heavy album, which takes Thrice’s classic melodic post-hardcore/metal hybrid sound and makes it more refined and mature sounding than ever, not to mention absolutely brutal at times. “The Earth Will Shake” on Vheissu only hinted at what tracks like Fire’s “The Messenger” and “The Arsonist” deliver in absolute assault. Fans of the band’s trademark sound will love these tracks, as well as the opening “Firebreather” and the Vheissu-esque “Backdraft.” There is still new tricks up the band’s sleeve though, as evident on the atmospheric hard rock of “Burn the Fleet.” This midtempo track is a great, straight up rock song and shows that the band can successfully do any sound well. The Fire section ends with a massive blast in your face with its sonnet “The Flame Deluge” (each EP has an ending “sonnet” using essentially the same ending part in a different way to tie each together) before it suddenly transitions into a gorgeous melody as the destruction fades away. This is our lead into the Water EP, which is a remarkable achievement of music. The first track, “Digital Sea,” is a beautiful, heavily electronic song sounding like something off of a Bjork album with Dustin’s haunting vocals hovering over it. “Open Water” is a lush, atmospheric masterpiece that picks up right where “Digital Sea” left off. Next is the piano driven “Lost Continent,” which is the album’s dramatic ballad, sounding almost like a cross between Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and Sigur Ros. The track fades directly out into the instrumental “Night Diving,” which fans of Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai would appreciate, and leads into the best song on the album, “The Whaler.” This is right up there with “Red Sky” among the band’s most beautiful songs, and is extremely reminiscent of Radiohead’s Kid A and Amnesiac. The whole EP is just so out of character for the band, and at the same time just sounds so right, I feel even more so than they do as a heavy band. Dustin can sing anything, seriously, but his voice is just so perfect for this kind of music. The Water disc ends with its respective sonnet, “Kings Upon the Main,” which leaves you open mouthed and instantly waiting for the Earth and Air discs. I think overall Air will be my favorite, based on the clips I’ve heard. Earth is apparently very stripped down and more like Dustin’s solo album, which was great, so I expect it to be excellent as well. Separation of the releases aside, Fire and Water stand up extremely well on their own, and as a monument of how far the band has grown, even since the last record.
RIYL: Isis, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Deftones, Explosions in the Sky
Best Song: “The Whaler”
I am the only person in the world who loves this album apparently. Ataris fans hate it because it doesn’t sound like them, and shoegaze fans don’t like it because it’s got too much conventional pop rock in it. I love it because it’s a pop rock album with dreamy fuzzy guitars the likes of which I haven’t heard in quite a long time. This album is exactly the way I feel every pop rock song should sound. Every amount of space is filled up and there’s always something going on in the background to add to the atmosphere. It’s beautiful, catchy, all the melodies are right, the guitar tones are sublime, and I kept thinking “why does no one seem to love this album like I do?” and I came to one conclusion. This album is simply for an audience that’s just not there. Apparently me and maybe a handful of other people are in love with good pop punk, the first Killers album, and 90s UK shoegaze all at once. Welcome the Night embodies all that I love about music and throws it into one perfectly orchestrated masterpiece. Musicians out there, have you ever had a sound in your head, or wanted to combine two things, but could never explain to people what it sounded like? Well everyone, listen to this album and hear what I always want to do. Maybe not 100% exactly, but just listen to what the background of the songs sound like. Forget about the actual song itself, and plug in any song in the world and picture what’s going on in the background on this record...it’s fucking beautiful. Now to add to that, throw 13 perfectly written pop rock songs in front of all this atmospheric white noise and you have the principals of shoegaze crafted personally for me. Thats how I feel about this album, that it was written for me tailored to my tastes. “Not Capable of Love” is an awesome intro to the record and “Connections Are More Dangerous Than Lies” and “New Year’s Day” are two songs I think would be great radio singles, but either there’s something wrong with me or the world because I have no idea what good radio is anymore. In my mind it’s still 1995 and Smashing Pumpkins = good radio. Speaking of the Pumpkins, all the aforementioned songs have a very Machina guitar feel, which always sounds nice. “And We All Become Like Smoke” and “Soundtrack for This Rainy Morning” are excellent heavily shoegaze-influenced songs that sound straight out of a Slowdive record. “Whatever Lies Will Help You Rest” is easily the most Ataris-like song on the album and strangely is probably my favorite next to the mind-blowing “Cardiff by the Sea.” I seriously think if they released “Whatever Lies Will Help You Rest” as a single instead of “Not Capable of Love” then maybe the album would have gotten at least SOME attention. The album ends perfectly with a beautiful sorrowful ending in “Act V Scene IV: And So it Ends Like it Begins,” which is another highlight of the album. This isn’t a pure shoegaze album by any means, but it’s got a lot of influence. I really don’t know how else to describe this album. One thing for sure though, is that it’s a headphones album in every sense of the term. You don’t get nearly the same effect without headphones, because the background has so much going on that through car speakers or something it’ll just blend together. All I can say is I hope someone will read this and check out the album and like it, but don’t feel bad if you don’t, haha, I’m not expecting anyone to understand.
RIYL: Slowdive, The Killers’ first album, Swervedriver, Hum
Best Song: “Cardiff by the Sea” and “Whatever Lies Will Help You Rest”
Ladies and Gentleman, let me introduce you to Cazey Crescenzo, my newest musical hero. After Casey got kicked out of the Receiving End of Sirens (probably for actually having good ideas, if their new record is any indication) he started releasing solo material as The Dear Hunter. Act I came last year, and was awesome but I didn’t hear it until this year. After I heard Act I, I began anticipating this very album here. Little did I know it was a ticking time bomb waiting to blow both my mind and the Ataris out of the top spot they were in since their album leaked in 2006. For a while, I held on to the Ataris record, convincing myself that the Dear Hunter album was just new and exciting and wouldn’t have the same lasting power for me. The thing is, this album is just too good an ALBUM. Every song is great, sure, but together they are fucking Captain Planet or something. Everything goes together and comes full circle in a way I always wished Coheed would do it with their concept. The hook in “The Bitter Suite III: Embrace” comes back in the closer “Vital Vessals Vindicate,” and there’s a throwback to the chorus of “The Procession” in the middle of “The Lake and the River” and so on. Every song is big, every song is catchy, and every song is different sounding but most importantly they all need each other to exist. It’s not just a matter of flipping through tracks with this one, it’s an experience all of its own. If you want to listen to Act II, you have to make sure you’ve got 80 minutes free to just get consumed by it. Otherwise something just feels missing, and that’s sometimes what makes an album as opposed to a collection of songs. In this case, there’s a story here, and no it’s not an epic sci-fi thing, it’s just simply a story of a boy falling in love with a prostitute on this album and the albums to come will follow the boy’s story until his apparent death. It’s kind of impossible to really cover all the bases with this album as it pretty much spans across nearly every genre. “The Oracles on the Delphi Express” is a banjo-driven ragtime song, “Blood of the Rose” is a spanish ballad, and “Smiling Swine” sounds like a barber shop quartet one second with a gospel feel the next. Take that and throw in every style of rock music from acoustic songs to piano ballads to full out prog-fests with crazy guitar parts and maybe you’ll have a slight idea of what this album sounds like. The album’s most shining feature however, is Casey’s voice itself. I absolutely love the way this guy sings every note of the album. He can push his voice so hard until he gets that perfect raspy almost-yell in the intense parts, but at other points has the most soulful rock voice I think I may have ever heard. Aside from the actual album though, one of the big reasons it’s my number one for the year is the man behind the album. At a time where so many people claim they never expected to go anywhere and are just “doing it for fun” it’s nice to see an artist with an actual VISION and goal. The problem with a lot of bands today is that they’re not willing to admit that they try, or they simply don’t try at all. There’s nothing wrong with having an idea and trying to achieve it, even if you’re a perfectionist or you come off as self-indulgent. Rock and roll SHOULD be self-indulgent, there should be a vision, you should have soul and passion, and you should want to get somewhere with your music. Music can be a serious thing and not just a hobby. The term “rockstar” is so looked down upon, but I think we need more rockstars, more people with a massive vision that feel so strongly about it that yeah, maybe it is indulgent. Hey, It’s certainly better than fucking Fall Out Boy.
RIYL: it really doesn’t sound much like anything...maybe The Mars Volta, newer Thrice, The Receiving End of Sirens’ first album...I dunno, I think it’s highly unique
Best Song: “The Lake and the River”
Honorable Mentions that didn’t make the top 10 list:
What a pleasant surprise this album was! I never would have guessed that Funeral For a Friend had this sort of ability as songwriters. Ditching a lot of the heavy riffing and 100% of the screaming in favor of a more “adult pop rock” sound, this is one of those great straightforward rock albums you can throw on anytime. Front to back, every song is excellent and if it weren’t for all the albums that blew my mind this year it would surely be in my top 10. The concept of the album isn’t great, just a simple story of a wife waiting for her lost-at-sea husband to return home, but it ties the songs together and gives the record a cohesive feel. Most of all though, this album is a prime example of how absolutely EVERYTHING fucking rules with a tambourine in the chorus! Check this out if you’re like me and honestly, sometimes just want some simple catchy typical rock songs to sing along to.
While not as consistently fantastic as their previous effort ...Is A Real Boy (which is currently high up on my list for the decade), this ambitious double album is an extremely solid effort for the band, considering they’re relatively a newer band. They’ve got the Smashing Pumpkins thing, where there’s a decent debut, a mind blowing 2nd release, and then a double album right afterwards with surprisingly little filler. Few bands can make a great double album, but to throw together this amount of material and have it be entertaining the whole way through is something to be very proud of. Not to mention songs like “Have At Thee,” “Died A Jew,” and “Skinny Mean Man” being among the songs on the album that beat out a lot of tracks on my top 10 albums this year. This one could have easily made the list if I spent a little more time with it.
Even though it’s only eight tracks, Dustin Kensrue’s dive into the singer/songwriter world is an excellent example of the Thrice leader’s versatility. Please Come Home is a short, but catchy and well written record of folky acoustic tracks that could easily fit on radio alongside absolute shit like “Hey There Delilah” and blow it out of the water. Check this one out if you’re into songwriters like Rocky Votolato and Ryan Adams, even if you’re not a fan of Thrice. You might be pleasantly surprised
2007 was simply just too good a year of music, and unfortunately some things needed to be cut. Even though they made the top 10 of 2005 with their debut, and I like this album better than the first, Eisley just couldn’t surpass the barrage of amazing albums this year. I love this record though, it’s still the sweet wholesome Lisa Loeb-esque pop that I love from the band, but this time they’ve got a little more of an edge to them. Check out “Invasion” for the best song on the album if you’re into mellower girl fronted alt-rock with beautiful vocals.
I actually felt weird not putting this on the list, since I’m such a big fan. But honestly, I just liked too much a lot more, plus I didn’t have enough chance to really get a feel for this album. In the Radiohead catalog, this is better than Hail to the Thief and Pablo Honey but doesn’treally compare to the rest. It’s just an average Radiohead album in my view, with mainly average songs. It’s not a bad thing, and I don’t think they’re in a slump or anything, but I just think they didn’t try so hard this time and just wrote some good songs. I think what this album did, the whole “pay what you want” thing that’s keeping the industry on their toes, will be more important than the actual music on the album in retrospect. Radiohead have shown even relatively established artists that they can cut out the middleman and make the music they want if they’re willing to take a risk and put faith in the fans. Sadly, I’m a music pirate to the max, and also I’m waiting for the vinyl of this thing.
Other albums that were great but I’m tired of typing so let’s leave it here
Idlewild - Make Another World
Jonah Matranga - And
Minus the Bear - Planet of Ice
Silverchair - Young Modern
Motion City Soundtrack - Even if it Kills Me
Rush - Snakes and Arrows
Bad Religion - New Maps of Hell
Ok I guess that’s all for this year...until next year, goodbye...oh and again, I promise I’ll make a real update soon