Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: william beckett

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2013 Mix

Makeup for the Silence – Best of 2013 Mixtape

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2013 Mix

Though I’ve done an annual mix each of the past three years*, this year was the first time I actually compiled an ongoing list of my favorite songs throughout the year. You’d think that would make this process easier; instead, I wound up with a glut of sincere favorites, and a lot of hard choices to make. For some reason, I insist on keeping this thing to a >80 minute playtime, i.e. the length of an actual CD. I’m not under the pretense anyone is actually burning this to a disc (I’m certainly not), but there’s something to be said for this mix being digestible in a single sitting, for it being something I can listen to on repeat and actually get familiar with – I like the way albums ebb and flow and tell stories through sequencing and pacing, and it’s something I’ve always put a lot of care into when making mixes. That gets unwieldy in a lengthy playlist. I enjoy getting to the point where I feel unsettled if I hear a song in my mix and it’s not followed immediately by the track that’s supposed to come next.

As always, I’ve elected to leave off any sort of big radio hits (well…kinda. You’ll see what I mean in a second). That’s a challenge in any year – for a guy who mostly writes about punk and other music of that ilk, I’m really a pop fan at heart. But this year was especially challenging. 2013 was the biggest year in recent memory for Superstar Pop – if you’re a musician people call by just their first name, odds are good you put out an album this year. A lot of those albums were genuinely great, and even when they albums were merely OK, or weren’t particularly pop-radio friendly, each seemed to contain at least one or two killer singles.

Not only that, but two artists who I normally would have found room for here, Fall Out Boy and Paramore, came back in such a big way this year that I couldn’t justify squeezing them in – both “My Songs Know What You DId In The Dark (Light Em Up)” and “Still Into You” found Top 40 radio ubiquity, and nobody’s going to be overlooking those acts just because I didn’t squeeze them onto my list. (Unlike, say, in 2011 when Patrick Stump made it onto my mix with a track from his criminally underappreciated solo album).

Finally, this year’s mix wound up especially upbeat; there’s a lot of bright, synthy, dancey pop that really hit home this year (and some moody, synthy, dancey pop to go with it). There were a number of songs I really loved – Defeater’s “Bastards”; View From An Airplane’s “Stayed Awake”; Sparks The Rescue’s “Ceara Belle”; many others – that just didn’t fit here stylistically, and even more – anything by The 1975, for one – that felt too similar to other tracks on here to make the final cut.

That said I’m really happy with how the final mix came out. Download**, listen, enjoy!

Makeup For The Silence – Best of 2013

  1. Feeling In The Night – The Reign Of Kindo
  2. Paper Royals (Lorde vs M.I.A.) – Mashed Pot8er
  3. In For The Kill – Kelsey Chaos
  4. Waste My Time – Tilian
  5. Dresden – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  6. Baby Shakes – Shone
  7. I’ve Been Waiting For This – Butch Walker
  8. Sad And Blue – Jimmie Deeghan
  9. Keep Me In Your Heart – The Here And Now
  10. Take A Picture – Carly Rae Jepsen
  11. Dreaming – Smallpools
  12. Excalibur – TEAM
  13. Supernatural – roboteyes
  14. Love Is A Dog From Hell – The Limousines
  15. Forget You – Cady Groves
  16. Hanging On A Honeymoon – William Beckett
  17. All I Know – Washed Out
  18. The Way Back – Whitewaits
  19. True Trans Soul Rebel – Against Me!
  20. Au Revoir (Adios) – The Front Bottoms
  21. Etc. – Francis and the Lights

click image to download

Stay tuned; the yearly Top Ten will begin tomorrow!

*you can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence, as well as all the playlists I’ve contributed to elsewhere, right over here.

**just like last year, there’s a Spotify version of 2013’s mix available, but also like last year, there were a handful of tracks on the final mix which aren’t available on the service. I totally understand Spotify’s convenience – after dabbling with it for a couple years, in 2013 I really converted to using it as my primary listening spot, ahead of iTunes – but I recommend downloading if you want the real deal.

#5 Album of 2012: William Beckett – Walk the Talk EP / Winds Will Change EP / What Will Be EP


(feat. track – “Dig A Hole” [spotify] from Winds Will Change)

When William Beckett, late of The Academy Is… (whose Fast Times At Barrington High made my Top Ten list back in 2008), launched his solo project this past March, he opted for the unusual strategy of releasing a trio of EPs rather than an LP. The first EP, Walk The Talk, was accompanied by a something of a media blitz. Its reveal was also the announcement of the entire trilogy’s existence; alongside it came the announcement of Beckett’s first ever solo headline tour. The video for lead single “Compromising Me” was featured on MTV’s online properties; there were a bevy of articles and interviews surrounding the unveiling of the project.

The release of the second piece, Winds Will Change, was preceded by lyric drops and weekly videos of Beckett playing the as-yet-unheard tracks acoustic, publicity that felt a little more DIY and fan-targetted but still fairly substantial. But by the time final-third What Will Be was released, it felt as though the promotional efforts had largely fizzled out*. I’m not sure if Beckett was tapped out financially, or emotionally, or if it was merely his audience’s (read: my) attention that was spent. Or maybe it was just that Beckett and/or his team agreed with me that What Will Be feels a little slight in comparison to its predecessors, and decided to squeeze their budgets a touch in turn. Beckett was on the road still, but touring behind an EP, when you’ve already been grinding the asphault for the past six months behind your previous two EPs, has no chance of generating the buzz that a “first ever solo tour” does. It’s like a long airplane trip: eventually your ears adjust to the noise of the jet engines, until you’ve nearly forgotten their continual thrum. (There’s also less heat to be generated from a supporting-act gig like the ones Beckett moved on to opening for The Rocket Summer and Relient K, even though he was playing to much bigger crowds as an undercard than he was on his solo jaunts).

Of course, had Beckett opted for a more traditional LP release, and issued it back in April when Walk The Talk hit, it’s unlikely there would have been much chatter about the album six months later anyway, so perhaps even minimal PR over What Will Be was an improvement on the status quo. Then again, maybe a long-player would have benefited more greatly from the sort of end-of-year jabber I’m engaging in here – (great) singles and albums find a second life each December, but (and this could just be my own myopia) it doesn’t seem to me that EPs are often afforded that same consideration. The poptimist vanguard are all about the power of the single; the rockist massive still sees the great-and-mighty album as the height of the “meaningful” statement; perhaps the EP falls in the cracks between. And when you’ve issued three of them, it’s triple the mess.

(None of which is to say that music should be packaged to cater to reviewers rather than the mass audience. Except that, if you think tastemakers might help attract you an audience, maybe it should be?)

I don’t have answers to any of this. The questions are, to some degree, beginning to work themselves out in the Lab Of Real Life, as more and more artists experiment with less traditional release models: singles clubs, occasional LPs with frequent mixtape drops between, eight-song LP/EP hybrids, bonus track-laden “reissues” of relatively new albums. Beck released sheet music; Bjork released an app. Skrillex has climbed to the top of the Mt. MoveAny without having ever recorded a full length (his audience isn’t counting the screamo years and I’m not either).

Yet each artist, each piece of music, each audience is so different that I’m not sure that, even if there is a true ideal (debatable at best), we’ll ever find it – for all the experimentation happening, there isn’t, and can’t be, a control group. There may not be an answer forthcoming, just a whole lot of ideas that work for some people and not for others. I’m not even sure I can say whether releasing three EPs worked for William Beckett, and I’ve just spent paragraphs picking the strategy apart.

Of course, I wouldn’t have bothered to delve into any of this if I wasn’t looking for answers – not for “what works?” and “why” (though those are both interesting questions to me) but “what might have worked for William Beckett?” and “why didn’t it” and, ultimately, “how did this marvelous music by a relatively well-known, well-positioned guy merit so little lasting attention?” Because the audience is still out there, somewhere.

Beckett’s EPs display a ton of personal growth, but it’s all growth toward greater accessibility; of the twelve tracks between the three releases, there are probably seven that would have made for great singles in an earlier time, and probably in one shortly to come as well – if anything, we’re finally hitting the turnaround from a decade’s worth of shrinkage in the mainstream-music-played-on-guitars market, thanks to folks like Gotye and fun. and (for better or worse) Mumford. Maybe it’s just the dreaded Scene Stigma, but in this case it feels like there’s something more (or, rather, less) at work, and that’s really a shame. Some albums that make my Top Ten list do so because their idiosyncrasies pair well with my own, but Walk The Talk, Winds Will Change and What Will Be achieve greatness in the most broad-appeal way imaginable. I’m confident that there are plenty of ears that would fall for Beckett’s 2012 EPs, if only they had the chance to hear them.

*For what it’s worth, Beckett is now preparing for the release of an acoustic album featuring the songs from all three EPs, and that dynamo seems to be powering back up.

review of Walk The Talk (published 5/23/12)

review of Winds Will Change (published 7/17/12)

review of What Will Be (publication pending)

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2012 Mixtape

Makeup for the Silence – Best of 2012 Mixtape

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2012 Mixtape

For each of the last two years, I’ve posted here a copy of the CD I had made for that year’s mix exchange on Skyway, the long-running Replacements email list. Unfortunately, through some sort of mix-up, I didn’t end up participating in the exchange this time around, but the year doesn’t feel complete anymore if I haven’t made my mix*!

This year’s was the hardest I can remember, in terms of making my final cutdown; when I took my first pass, I ended up with something like 150 tracks. As with previous years, I’ve left off any big radio hits. That proved much more painful this time out than it did last year – there were a bunch of chart toppers I absolutely loved in 2012 (fun., I’m looking your way; you too, Bieber). But I still had such a glut of tracks to choose from that I don’t feel like I’m losing much by leaving off songs that will still be ubiquitous a decade from now. (OK, maybe we won’t be listening to “Gangnam Style” much in 2022, but we certainly won’t have forgotten it!)

The end goal for me is always to wind up with a mix of tracks I love which both flow together well and paint a reasonably accurate picture of what I was listening to during the year, accounting for genre and style and taste, while also highlighting songs that might have not gotten the notice they deserved during the year. I feel like I managed it well this time out**. But in the end, you get to be the judge: download***, listen, enjoy!

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2012

  1. Everyone Knows – Vacationer
  2. The Descent – Bob Mould
  3. I Guess We’re Cool – Cassadee Pope
  4. Happy As Fuck (feat. Pat Brown) – MOD SUN
  5. Deadheads (Demo) – Cold Crows Dead
  6. Timelines – Motion City Soundtrack
  7. As Good As It Gets (Rollerskate Remix) – States
  8. Find Our Way – Our Lady Peace
  9. Nothing At All – Steven Padin
  10. Scarlett (Tokyo) – William Beckett
  11. Ima Read (feat. Njena Reddd Foxxx) – Zebra Katz
  12. Head In The Ceiling Fan – Title Fight
  13. Maybe Our Days Are Numbered – Happy Body Slow Brain
  14. Oh. Hi. – Now, Now
  15. 25 To Life – Masked Intruder
  16. Street Spirit (Fade Out) – The Darkness
  17. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – Citizen
  18. Good Love – The Maine
  19.  –

click image to download

Stay tuned; the yearly Top Ten will begin on Monday!

*you can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence right over here

**There’s one noticeable gap this time out; I spent a lot more time listening to pop-punk this year than shows up on this mix. Unfortunately, for as much as I heard, not much of it really stood out to me; I feel like this year the genre reached a plateau, with a large number of decent-to-good releases that sounded a little too much (or a lot too much) like each other to really stand out. Some of those will still get a nod on my Albums list, but it felt like there was a dearth of great singles among them.

***Just like last year, I’ve also gone ahead and made a Spotify version of the playlist; unfortunately, this time around a few of the tracks aren’t available, so you won’t get the full experience that way. But hey, if you really want to go that route regardless, who am I to stand in your way?

State of the Scene 2012

David Bowie – Changes

Turn and face the strange (ch-ch-changes) 
Oh, look out you rock ‘n’ rollers 
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.

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