(feat. track – “I Think I Know You” [spotify] from Listen & Forgive)

When I wrote about Man Overboard in last year’s Top Ten, I mentioned that compared to bands like Transit and The Wonder Years, I thought they were “starting to break out of the pop punk mold” and predicted a bright future for them because of it.

Right idea, wrong band.

While Man Overboard did put out a pretty-good album of relatively traditional pop-punk this year, it was Transit that took the leap beyond genre strictures.  It was a transformation that began in February with the release of Something Left Behind, an album of (mostly) stripped-down and reimagined takes on tracks from the band’s back catalog that absolutely bowled me over on first listen.  Though the songs were familiar, gone was almost any trace of their pop-punk history, replaced by an earthy and downcast midwestern-emo vibe.  The arrangements were tailor-made to suit the mostly-acoustic recordings, but they were also indicative of a new direction for the group, as became evident on October’s full-length, full-band Listen & Forgive, which cranked up the sonics but retained the essence of autumnal longing and lingering regret; it might somehow be even better than Something Left Behind.

In between the releases, they hit the road hard, bringing their act not just to every A, B and C market in the country (twice) but also to the web, in a series of weekly off-the-cuff, barely-rehearsed, often-out-of-tune but always spirited covers the band dubbed Transit Thursdays.  Their selections were telling – in among the to-be-expected pop-punk stalwarts (The Movielife, Alkaline Trio) were a range of surprisingly broad influences, from seminal second-wave* emo acts Texas Is The Reason and Braid to indie staples Rilo Kiley and Tegan & Sara.

They also added uber-talented guitarist Torre Cioffi to the fold; he’s not only been a serious asset to their ever-improving live set (I saw the band something like four or five times this year, and they’ve grown by leaps and bounds, particularly lead vocalist Joe Boynton), but has to be at least partly responsible for the shift in focus. (Check out his jaw-droppingly perfect cover of Owen’s “I Believe” if you want some idea of what he’s capable of.)  It’s a good omen going forward; he clearly suits their new aesthetic to a T.

All put together, it’s been one hell of a year for Transit, and with each new bit of musical output they’ve dropped, I’ve grow to love the band more.  Between the numerous live shows I’ve caught and the near-constant stream of music they’ve released, Transit were seemingly omnipresent in my life this year. Either of the album releases, individually, would have at least been nipping at the bottom of this list; both taken together, along with their Transit Thursday recordings, and the band’s inclusion becomes a no-brainer.  It’s only due to an exceptionally deep year that they show up this far down.

*an aside: can an act be both seminal and second-wave? semantics!