Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: brand new

My Top 10 Albums of 2016

(feat. track – Dinosaur Pile-Up – “Bad Penny” [spotify] from Eleven Eleven)

[Posted 1/3/18] So… I was going through the blog to make some updates and found my 2016 “Best Of The Rest” lost in a draft. Of course, I never did get around to doing write-ups of my top albums for 2016 – or even posting them on the main blog! – much less posting what didn’t quite make it. (The list is, and will remain, over at the Top Tens page.)

Still, this blog feels incomplete without the list living here, even sans commentary, so I’m popping in to retroactively post it, along with the Best Of The Rest list I had written up at the time.

So without further ado…

MY TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016

10. Myrone – Drift Stage Vol. 1 [spotify]

9. Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini [spotify]

8. 18th and Addison – Makeshift Monster [spotify]

7. Boys Night Out – Black Dogs EP [spotify]

6. Cash Cash – Blood, Sweat & Three Years [spotify]

5. Garbage – Strange Little Birds [spotify]

4. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It [spotify]

3. Kitten – Heaven Or Somewhere In Between EP [spotify]

2. David Bowie – Blackstar [spotify]

1. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo [spotify]

 

THE BEST OF THE REST

American Football – American Football [spotify]

Bon Iver – 22, A Million [spotify]

Brand New – 3 Demos, Reworked [spotify]

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book [spotify]

Dinosaur Pile-Up – Eleven Eleven [spotify]

The Downtown Fiction – Alligator Tears [spotify]

Frank Ocean – Blond(e) [spotify]

From Indian Lakes – Everything Feels Better Now [spotify]

The Hotelier – Goodness [spotify]

Jeff Rosenstock – Worry [spotify]

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat [spotify]

k.flay – Crush Me [spotify]

King Neptune – A Place To Rest My Head [spotify]

Lights – Midnight Machines [spotify]

Look Park – Look Park [spotify]

The Monkees – Good Times! [spotify]

Moose Blood – Blush [spotify]

Pity Sex – White Hot Moon [spotify]

Suede – Night Thoughts [spotify]

Tancred – Out Of The Garden [spotify]

#4 Album of 2013 – Shone – Heat Thing

#4 – SHONE – HEAT THING [spotify]

(feat. track – “Bestial” [spotify])

I wrote a piece earlier this year focusing on album release strategies, which was in part spurred on by the viral campaign behind Heat Thing, the debut album from Brian Lane (Brand New) and Andrew Accardi’s (Robbers) Shone:

“Be Patient. Heatthing.com.” That simple, cryptic tweet, issued from a succession of artist Twitter accounts (including Thrice, Manchester Orchestra, Balance & Composure and Vinnie Caruana) on December 21st, launched the scene into the most frenzied viral marketing campaign in recent memory. Through a series of eerie videos, backmasked sound clips, and even mailed letters, the secret missive was gradually decoded over the next few weeks — Heat Thing was the title for the debut album by a band called Shone, which appeared to include Brand New’s Brian Lane as well as Andrew Accardi, vocalist for Robbers and brother of Brand New guitar-slinger Vin. There’s no question that Shone’s campaign brought a flood of attention that the band would never have garnered otherwise. But as the music finally emerged, it quickly became apparent that Shone sounded nothing like Brand New or their friends-in-virality, and when Heat Thing (the album) didn’t match the high expectations that stemmed from Heat Thing (the marketing campaign), that tide began to turn against the band. At this point, it’s not clear whether the elaborate effort was even a net positive for Shone.

Delivering Just What You Need: Album Release Strategies via PropertyOfZack

What I didn’t discuss is just how freakin’ much I loved this coolly-received art rock concept album, from the first listen. Heat Thing is a wildly creative swirl of an album, as twisted and tortured as its main character, an anonymous man who has been tempted into some awful deeds and now awaits his judgment.

Singer Andrew Accardi’s vocals range from barked chants to perverse muttering, from full-throated bellows to smooth crooning; they befit the frayed psyche of the character he plays. Meanwhile, musically, composer/songwriter Brian Lane and producer Mike Sapone pack the album with surprises – the trip hop-like stutters of opener “Piano Wire Number 12”, the swooning cello that rides below Accardi’s falsetto in “Kin”, the dueling sax and fuzzed-out guitar that solo their way through the formless “Defender 237”, the sea-shanty backing chorus of “Baby Shakes”. The choices all seem artful, purposeful, and better still, they’ve chosen right darn near every time.

Heat Thing is also not as out-and-out bizarre as it’s been made out to be. (I hate to think of what will become of the kids who freaked out over “Baby Shakes” when they finally catch up to the Talking Heads and Oingo Boingo.) It’s creepy, catchy,unpredictable, but most of all, it’s fun – a jazzy, unconventional set that, thanks to some big singalong hooks, doesn’t alienate.

I had the good fortune to see Shone’s (very good) debut live performance in February – a show that sold out not only before the album was released, but before the band members names were even announced. They’ve since been sporadically active. I hope that Lane hasn’t felt too burned by the response to continue exploring rock’s weirder corners. Shone may have done themselves in with their own insurmountable hype, but as I wrote following that night, “I hope I get the chance to shout “earthquake! milkshake!” at least one more time. I suspect the crowd at the Mercury Lounge tonight would agree.”

#11 Album of 2012 – Basement – Colourmeinkindness

#11 – BASEMENT – COLOURMEINKINDNESS [spotify]

(feat. track – “Spoiled” [spotify])

I’ve written previously about the long shadow cast by Brand New’s Daisy. To my mind, Daisy was instrumental in rescuing the sounds of grunge and early-90s alt-metal from their unfortunate legacy of mook-core radio rock; it found a way to tap into the alienation and self-loathing and, just as importantly, the sensitivity of the genuine article by scalding away a generation’s-worth of cartoonish affectations that had accumulated atop it like so much foul paint. And while it didn’t necessarily excel at what it set out to do, its mere existence proved revelatory to a new era of musicians – Daisy became a tangible example of why these sounds and motifs, so hackneyed in their present state, were once invigorating and exciting to a bevy of kids two decades prior.

Colourmeinkindness might be the most sparkling example of that legacy yet. Basement may not have been influenced by Brand New directly, and yet the fact that such an album exists at all – has been critically acclaimed, at that – is indicative of the new paradigm to which Daisy cast form. That measured distance from its nearest predecessor is the key to its success – Colourmeinkindness avoids the copy-of-a-copy pitfall by offering crystal clear reflections of the original source material rather than echoing Brand New’s refractions. “Covet” channels the proto-emo vibe of Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary. The ghosts of Helmet’s “Unsung” haunt “Black”. The slow stir of “Breathe” is composed of the same stuff that Billy Corgan’s dreams are made of. Vocalist Andrew Fisher frequently calls to mind Silverchair’s Daniel Johns and Bush’s Gavin Rossdale, two distinctive singers who, whatever their artistic failings, never lacked for either passion or technique in the vocal department. I don’t know to what degree any of those acts were Basement’s direct inspirations – though I’ve glossed over it here, they’ve clearly been influenced just as strongly by their American contemporaries Make Do And Mend, Title Fight and Balance & Composure, and they prefer to cite acts like Jets To Brazil and Lifetime in interviews – but the similarities to those bands of yesteryear are uncanny at times.

Still, similar though they are, Basement never fall prey to mere aping – Colourmeinkindness may effectively replicate a moment in time, but the compositions which serve as its building blocks are distinctly the band’s own.  Fisher’s voice is perfectly matched to his outfit’s sound, with a soaring range that, when cranked to appropriate volume, disintegrates into a ferocious (yet tuneful) gargle.The songs are catchy, with big hooks that are amplified by big guitar noise. Most of all, there’s a sincerity, a personal-ness, which can’t be faked that pervades each of the album’s ten tracks. Fisher isn’t repeating others’ stories; he’s finding threads of common experience with which to craft his own, and telling them using the language of the ancients.

I retained my passport to the Alternative Nation for a little longer than was cool – I’ll still vouch for, say, Live’s The Distance To Here or Fuel’s Sunburn, though that might be PA pride speaking as much as anything else – but somewhere around Woodstock ‘99, alt-rock became this weird, calcified, ugly thing, a lingering sound that seemed to carry no memory of its own meaning, a zombie whose only true tie to the living being that came before was the body they shared in common. Those who remained fans were pretty much either in-for-life or out-for-good; I was the latter. And so for me, as someone who still loves those early 90’s albums; who has happily moved on to newer and awesome(er?) things but still misses, a little bit, when that sound meant something; who has no stomach for the grotesque iterations of alt-rock that persist today; for me, it’s been a revelation to put on an album recorded by kids in 2012 and to not just hear 1992,  but to be moved in the same way I still am when I listen to Bleach or Vs. or Superfuzz Bigmuff.

To hear those sounds, to feel them, without the distortion field of nostalgic memory warping my view, as it must with anything that actually dates to my adolescence, is far beyond anything I would have expected this year. Colourmeinkindness would have been an album I enjoyed greatly in any of the last twenty years. But in 2012, it becomes more than that – it becomes an album I’m genuinely thankful for.

State of the Scene 2012

David Bowie – Changes

Turn and face the strange (ch-ch-changes) 
Oh, look out you rock ‘n’ rollers 
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes 
Turn and face the strange (Ch-ch-changes) 
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older…

[I don’t spend a lot of time talking about “the scene” over here; if anything, this blog is usually an outlet for me to write about my other musical interests, since most of what I write about at PropertyOfZack and on my personal blog involves that corner of the music world. But last weekend, in the process of sending in comments on my Pazz & Jop Poll* entries last week, I somehow stumbled my way into a 1,200 word “state of the scene” report, and it seems like a shame to let that go to waste, especially as it fits so well into the end-of-year stuff I’m doing right now. I don’t expect the Voice will be much interested in this, but perhaps you will be!]

Brand New’s Daisy may not be their best album, nor their most popular, but it is slowly proving to be their most influential. The 2009 album’s innovative interpretation and integration of early-90s grunge, alt-rock and second wave emo has provided the blueprint for a bevy of artists at post-hardcore and emo’s creative tip (Sainthood Reps, Balance & Composure), including two of 2012’s most intriguing releases: Title Fight’s wide-ranging Floral Green and Basement (UK)’s brilliant swan song Colourmeinkindness.

Of course, Brand New don’t get all the credit for this; Daisy’s release presaged a larger movement in the punk/pop-punk/emo/post-hardcore/“scene” world, away from the brighter, more pop-oriented sounds that dominated the scene’s “neon” phase in 2008-2010 and back towards grimier, less-cleanly produced sounds, heavy in signifiers of authenticity. That transition took root firmly in 2011, and in 2012 it bore some excellent fruit: DadsAmerican Radass (This Is Important), Pentimento’s Pentimento, The MenzingersOn The Impossible Past, Joyce Manor’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, Misser’s Everyday I Tell Myself I’m Going To Be A Better Person, Such Gold’s Misadventures, Code Orange KidsLove Is Love // Return To Dust, as well as reunion albums by Further Seems Forever (Penny Black), The Early November (In Currents), The Jealous Sound (A Gentle Reminder) and Hot Water Music (Exister) which were as good, if not better, than anything those bands released during their initial runs.

But if this era has been a boon for a new breed of pop-punk and emo acts, and for labels like No Sleep, Run For Cover, Topshelf, Rise and Pure Noise, it’s been far less kind to many of the acts that dominated the “scene” as recently as four or five years ago, and who now find themselves in an impossible position. In 2012, these bands found themselves being rejected as too soft and un-serious by the punk and rock communities that had formed the core of their support. As always, they were too “commercial” and suburban-mall-teen-girl for the indie community (though, of course, the commercial prospects for “indie”-sounding bands in 2012 are far greater than for “scene”/power-pop/pop-punk acts, and though the most successful, or even moderately successful, indie rock bands are in fact frequently signed to medium-to-large labels, with fruitful publishing deals and cream-of-the-crop PR, holdover “scene” bands are at this point more likely to be flying solo, DIY either by choice or by lack of any remaining alternative, and getting it all wrong on their own).  Likewise, they’ve been rejected, or at least ignored, by a poptimist community that might theoretically be open to their pop songcraft and accessible sounds but seems to have written off the genre as too guitar-heavy (and, probably fairly, as too white-male-dominated).

As a result, a number of excellent albums befell the same fate that struck Patrick Stump’s critically-beloved (if polarizing), commercially ignored Soul Punk in 2011. Kenneth Vasoli (The Starting Line, Person L), disguised his own presence in Vacationer for as long as he could, but despite touring with indie darlings The Naked And Famous and Now, Now (whose exceptional Threads lives up to every column inch of hype the Chris Walla-backed trio received in 2012), the breezy, buoyant Gone never seemed to catch the indie ears that adore bands like Beach House and Washed Out. The Maine, having negotiated the independent release of 2011’s Pioneer after label WMG refused to issue the album, followed suit in 2012 with the stellar Good Love EP, to the thrill of their core fans and the attention of no one else. Similarly, William Beckett (late of The Academy Is…) issued a trio of EPs (Walk The Talk, Winds Will Change and What Will Be) that found his songwriting growing by leaps and bounds, to little notice. All fared better than This Providence; kept on the shelf for nearly two years by Fueled By Ramen, in 2012 the band finally broke free of the label  and released the refreshingly retro Brier EP, only to discover that even their core fanbase had wilted away in the intervening years. (When your following is largely teenaged, a two year absence might as well be a death sentence).

It’s been interesting, if disheartening, to see how these bands have adapted (or at least attempted to adapt) to a newly-hostile climate. The genre’s biggest lights, blink-182 and All Time Low, took advantage of large core audiences built (in part) by major label dollars during the “scene”’s heyday and released strong albums (the Dogs Eating Dogs EP and Don’t Panic, respectively) on their own. Similarly, Motion City Soundtrack followed up the best album of their career with the new best album of their career, the independently-recorded, Epitaph-released Go. But for most, continued success on their own unwavering terms simply wasn’t an option. Sparks The Rescue released a self-titled EP that garnered the best reviews of their career, but ended the year shedding three of their five members, primarily for economic reasons; Detroit power-poppers Every Avenue packed it in entirely, openly declaring that they were splitting not out of any interpersonal enmity but because they could no longer afford to be a band. One outlet that has become increasingly popular is NBC’s The Voice; following the success of Dia Frampton (Meg And Dia) and Juliet Simms (Automatic Loveletter) in the first two seasons, 2012 saw not only victory for the Pete Wentz-cosigned Cassadee Pope (formerly of Warped Tour vets Hey Monday) but also a strong run by Joe Kirkland of pop-punks-turned-balladeers Artist Vs. Poet.

Perhaps most intriguingly, established acts like The Summer Set have decamped for Nashville, where they’ve been joined (spiritually, and often literally) by a number of new acts (Bonaventure, The Tower And The Fool, American Authors, all of whom issued significant releases in 2012) risen from the wreckage of pop-punk past – whether these bands are motivated by a love of Tom Petty and pop country borne of childhood radio consumption, or are merely grasping for the patina of authenticity that the Americana label confers, is something of an open question. A Rocket To The Moon, who already had something of a country-pop thread running through their strain of pop-rock, have found their full-length held over until 2013, but the early-look EP That Old Feeling is encouraging. Of course, none of this takes into account that Nashville has been notoriously insular and unwelcoming to those from outside the establishment; even bringing their best, all these acts may be swimming upstream.

Ultimately, these changes might well be a good thing, change and struggle typically breed creativity. Of course, that’s assuming all the breeders don’t die off (or, like, quit the creative side of the biz to go work for music publishers or management firms or something) The upheaval in the “scene” hasn’t stanched the flow of great music in 2012; it just, as ever, takes a little bit of work to find.

*This is the first year I’ve submitted to Pazz & Jop, and I’m hoping that in the future more of the folks writing about / analyzing / thinking critically about “the scene” will do so as well. Pazz & Jop was conceived as an extremely broad critics poll (hence the name), with writers specializing in every (sub)genre from indie to pop to metal to hip hop to r&b to electronic dance submitting, and yet there’s been almost no participation from (and, thus, almost no visibility for) the pop-punk/emo/post-hardcore/etc. world. I think that lack of participation does a disservice to both the readers – who remain in the dark on what has been an exciting and vital music scene for quite some time – and to the artists whose work merits attention. I’m not saying I expect The Menzingers to win the albums poll or anything, or even that they should. But, for example, in 2011, Balance & Composure’s Separation was a top 10 pick on virtually every site that documents the scene, a consensus-building album that successfully crossed the scene’s many sub-genre divides, and yet it failed to receive a single vote in P&J. That’s just silly, and everyone deserves better.

Alkaline Trio – “Armageddon”

Alkaline Trio – From Here To Infirmary [spotify] – Armageddon [spotify]

[…]

So one of the downsides to always posting from work is that I never get to use that cool little “what music are you listening to now” feature. This office could use some music, BTW, cuz right now it’s so quiet I can actually hear the air conditioner going. Anyways, I’ll take this opportunity to update what I’ve been listening to lately:

Blood Brothers – Burn Piano Island, Burn
I know I’ve gone on and on about them already, but this album is gonna put them on the map. Amazing melodic hardcore, somewhere between Husker Du and At The Drive In and The Locust.

Brand New – Your Favorite Weapon
Kind of hit-or-miss, but when they hit, damn. Pretty standard pop-punk, but some of the most biting lyrics I’ve ever heard.

Wilco – Being There
After listening to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for a year, Being There suddenly makes a lot more sense; you can see how the odd bits of ambient noise and the subtle production quirks led them to where they’re at today. Disc One is fantastic in and of itself; Misunderstood is as strong an album opener as I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, I Got You and Outta Site (Outta Mind) are perfect country-pop-rock, Forget the Flowers and Red Eyed and Blue are both Americana at its best.

Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary
Like all of Alk3’s stuff, it can be spotty, but its far and away the best thing they’ve done to date, thanks to a couple really standout trtracks (Private Eye, Stupid Kid, Armageddon). Only when I’m in the right mood. Which has been quite often lately.

Kevin Seconds – Matt Skiba/Kevin Seconds split
As I said above, Alk3’s stuff can be spotty, and most of the Skiba tracks are pretty weak. But the five contributions from Kevin Seconds make for a fantastic EP. Upbeat acoustic pop with a little bit of edge and some wry lyrics, I need to check out more of his stuff.

Coheed & Cambria – The Second Stage Turbine Blade
I’ve definitely talked about this one in an earlier entry, but Devil in Jersey City kicks my butt every time I hear it, I’m sooo psyched to be seeing them in a couple weeks!

I’m sure there’s more, but thats all I can think of off the top of my head. But I think I gotta do this more regularly; it reminds me how much I miss writing about music. I did close to 100 reviews over two years of writing at Brandeis, I would love to have the opportunity to do it again.

I suppose I should get back to work…

originally written 1/16/03

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2006

(feat. track – Dragonforce – “Operation Ground And Pound”)

Today we continue my reposts of past years’ Top 10 lists with my list from 2006.

Revisiting my 2006 list is kind of a pleasure, I’d forgotten how good the best of this year was, perhaps because beyond this list I wasn’t thrilled with much of what was out there. Still, I think these 10 still hold up well.  Again, remember that this list was initially published in January of 2007.  Were I to do it again now, I’m sure it would look different.  With that disclaimer out of the way…

First, two albums that are getting honorable mentions because I disqualified them from the main list for being (at least in some sense) reissues:
The Beatles – Love
Jonah Matranga – There’s A Lot In Here

and now, without further ado, my yearly Top 10:

10.Minus the Bear – Menos El Oso
9.Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel as School Children
8.Guster – Ganging Up On the Sun
7.I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness – Fear Is On Our Side
6.Angels and Airwaves – We Don’t Need to Whisper
5.Dustin Kensrue – Please Come Home
4.Brand New – The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me
3.My American Heart – The Meaning In Makeup
2.Butch Walker – The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Lets-Go-Out-Tonites

and the winner is (bam ba-da bam!)

1.Dragonforce – Inhuman Rampage

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