(feat. track – “The Phoenix” [spotify])

If 2013 had a theme for me, it was The Year Of Fall Out Boy. From January’s fevered discussions about how to break their return from hiatus, to February’s even-bigger-than-we-knew reveal, to April’s album launch, to the band’s endless parade of late nite TV appearances, to the six singles which charted on the Alternative, Pop or Rock charts – including the band’s best-selling single to date, the triple-platinum “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” – Fall Out Boy felt completely inescapable to me this year. And it was wonderful.

I spent more words on them than on anyone else, by a longshot. I loved the brashness of the aforementioned comeback single, calling it

a conflagration that rages and then fizzles as quickly as it began. It begs to be listened to on repeat. It’s the sort of triumphal blast that lifts you with it; midway through each play I slip into hazy fantasies of joining 2 Chainz in the track’s video, stomping and spraying fire like kids playing Godzilla.

I thought it was brilliant, the way they found a path to success in a world that no longer had time for rock and roll by being simultaneously a part of and apart from the radio mainstream, “rock as a katamari ball, a small core rolling up the constellations of pop in layers around it,” fearlessly incorporating discofied funk (“Where Did The Party Go”), vintage synth-pop (“Just One Yesterday”), acoustic swagger (“Young Volcanoes”) and jock-jam bombast (“My Songs…”), acting as if all those things belonged together on one album and then somehow making it so they didYou can even sing the chorus of “Just One Yesterday” in a country twang. Try it, it’s fun!

I loved the album’s title, noting that:

if there’s one hallmark that sets Fall Out Boy’s songs apart, it’s that somewhere in that alchemical cauldron where Patrick Stump assembles Pete Wentz’s words into songs, a sort of transubstantiation occurs. Fall Out Boy lyrics, at their best, don’t just contain the possibility for multiple understandings; rather, they are all of those possible meanings, wholly, and all at once. And on Save Rock And Roll, they’ve finally found an album title that’s capable of the same Olympian gymnastics.

I saw the band live six times, in every context imaginable: a tiny club in Austin mere weeks after the band’s surprise return from their indefinite hiatus; capping off a Perez Hilton-organized pop party; anchoring the first day of the biggest punk fest the world has ever seen, in their hometown Chicago; at a sold-out Barclay’s Center, on a victory lap of an arena tour, packing venues they wouldn’t have been fit to headline at peak of their popularity on their first go-round. Each time out, as their playing grew tighter and their staging more grandiose, I was increasingly impressed. It’s something to see a band six times in a year and to not only never feel let down, but to come away from each show a little more amazed than I was the time before.

I listened to it as much as anything in 2013: Save Rock And Roll was my #2 most played album of 2013 according to last.fm, and those numbers are a serious undercount – I listened to it as much, if not more, on other peoples’ devices as I did on my own, not to mention all those live shows, TV performances, radio ubiquity and more. Even listening to it now, tracks like “Rat-a-tat” and “Miss Missing You” sound as fresh and sharp today as they did nearly a year ago. I still get goosebumps when Patrick Stump hits that a capella vocal run the second before the final chorus of “The Phoenix” comes roaring back in.

I even turned my previously-unfamiliar girlfriend into a superfan. (And along the way, turned her into my fiancee too. And I’ve got to imagine that all those hours we spent listening to Save Rock And Roll together, all those nights seeing Fall Out Boy live together, played at least some little part in bringing us closer together than ever.)

So like I said at the outset, 2013 was Fall Out Boy’s year. Save Rock And Roll proved both better and more successful than anyone, including this guy who thought they had the best album of the year back in 2007, had any right to expect. I’m over the moon about it all. To paraphrase a character from the same source material as band’s name: Best. Comeback. Ever.

[album review] [single review] [live review – SXSW I] [live review – SXSW II] [live review – Riot Fest] [playlist – The Phoenix]