Warped Tour 2018: Blink and You’ll Miss It

All I wanted was to watch The Maine as the sun set in the early evening breeze, and I can tell you that it happened and it was magical. But it wasn’t the highlight of the day.

My high point came with Sleep On It’s flawless set. It was a blink and you’ll miss it moment. In six years of shows, I’d never heard anyone mention physical illness on stage. In a little speech about safety and acceptance at shows, the briefest of nods to the under-represented world of illness and disability made my entire day. It might not seem like much, but mental illness has representation in music, especially a festival like Warped Tour. No one talks about the physical side things. It’s a tiny thing, but even bringing it up starts the seeds of conversations we need to have.

Those thirty seconds gave me hope for the community that remains when Warped Tour fades away. I think about that fifteen year old heading to their first show, having to worry about their body failing halfway through because chronic pain is nasty if you poke it too hard. Fatigue is crippling, weakness in a crowd can be detrimental if you can’t get out. Sanctuary can be scary when you’re fighting your own body just to get through the day. It’s hard to function in a world that doesn’t see you. Music has always been a sanctuary for me, and representation matters.

This isn’t really about me. I made it through my teenage years going to shows while realistically way too sick to have any business in the middle of raging crowds. I want to believe that all of those kids battling invisible pain on a daily basis can exist in this world and feel like there’s a place for them too. A refuge should be for everyone, even the people we don’t see.

So there’s my little ode to the moment I felt hope for the future. Hope that maybe that promise of safety was real. I want music to be a refuge for those who need it. I want to believe that I’m not alone in that.

Thanks for the memories Warped Tour. There’s truly nothing else like it, and I feel lucky to have been apart of of it on it’s final cross country run.

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Seen/Read/Heard: One

Over the last couple of years, I sort of rediscovered my love of storytelling. It’s all of the tiny details and eccentricities. Words and color, camera angles, costumes and soundtracks. Plots and characters, worlds that are easier to live in than my own.

On days when life is a bit more than pills and pain and white ceilings, this is what I get up to.

Seen

This Is Us (Season 2)
For: A good cry, a bad cry, a good healthy tug on the heartstrings.
Why?: If I ever wrote for a TV show, I hope it would be half the quality of This Is Us. I’m constantly floored by how clever and seamless this show is, especially with three different timelines. I’m fully wrapped up in every single character, which makes this warm hug so watchable.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1)
For: A general sick feeling of unease with a side of anger.
Why?: There’s nothing else on TV quite like it. The precarious balance between beauty and brutality is as visually stunning as it is chilling.

Altered Carbon (Season 1)
For: Your inner (or outer) science fiction nerd, anyone in need of a wild, bloody ride.
Why?: It’s the perfect show to sink your teeth into. Altered Carbon is dense, wordy and intricate. The world is expertly developed, the characters morally gray, and the show is fully aware that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Keep an eye out for the backpack.

The Killing (Seasons 2 and 3)
For: Anyone who loves a good, dark crime saga.
Why?: Sometimes forty five minutes really isn’t long enough to cover an entire case. The Killing takes an entire season (or two) for a single case. It’s a gritty, unflinching and raw. I wouldn’t go looking for neat, happy endings here though.

Alias Grace (Mini Series)
For: People who think they don’t like historical fiction (like me).
Why?: It’s short, not so sweet and you won’t be able to look away. Alias Grace asks some very uncomfortable questions of the viewer, and you’ll be left withe some very deep introspection about your own morals and humanity.

Read

A List Of Cages by Robin Roe
Lowdown: A story of light, unlikely friendship, and hope in the darkest of circumstances.
Wrap: I loved this book so much, it made the (very short) list of all time favorites. Robin Roe writes characters who feel more like real people than a collection of words on a page.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel
Lowdown: A post apocalyptic theater troupe, celebrity drama, and heartbreaking disaster.
Wrap: It ripped me open and poked around a bit. I’ve never cried as hard as I did while listening to Station Eleven. All of my deepest fears were laid out and carefully examined. Station Eleven captures the intricacies of pain loneliness and ultimately strength. It was hard to stop listening once I started. One of my first reads of the year, I still think about it on a regular basis.

A Court Of Thorns and Roses Trilogy by Sarah J. Maas
Lowdown: A visceral high fantasy, new adult retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Hades and Persephone, and a big mythology mashup by the end of the trilogy.
Wrap: Here’s the deal, you’ve gotta read the first book to get to the second. Trust me, you want to read the second book because it also made that super elusive all time favorites list. Maas created such a vibrant, lush world, all I wanted to do was sink into it and never get out again. Be prepared for glorious character arks, a flashy magic system, a squad that is truly goals, and some very cerebral conversations on darkness.

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Lowdown: The story of a girl in the midst of a major crisis who takes a job at a camp for kids down on their luck.
Wrap: I read this book in two days. I literally couldn’t put it down. The Names They Gave Us was the perfect blend of summer, friendship and grief. Bright in all the right places, it carefully explores a number of heavy topics. It filled me up and lingered long after the last page.

Heard

Boston Manor: Halo
I’m so excited for that new album in September. Halo is a big step forward and I can’t wait to see how far they push the boundaries of what makes Boston Manor Boston Manor.

Shortly: Spare Time
Addictive acoustic tracks are far and few between. I present to you, exhibit A. There’s something about the vocals mixed with the slightly twangy nature of the instruments that I can’t get enough of.

A Will Away: Hear Again
Five songs from Here Again, live and fairly acoustic. Everything this band puts out is so well thought out and intentional. I hope they take over the world one day because they’re criminally underrated.

What media have you been into lately? Leave me some solid recommendations in the comments!

Sister Cities: Some reflections on reflections

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Music has a funny way of being released at the perfect time. Suddenly you have ten or eleven songs that seamlessly contain everything you’re feeling at the time. For instance, when The Maine dropped Lovely Little Lonely last year, it was the only thing I needed. Everything about that album was so in tune with my life at the time, I gorged myself on it. And in 2016, when Boston Manor released Be Nothing, the moody vibe and dose of anger was perfect for my situation at the time.

Sister Cities is not that album. From my very first listen, I was pretty sure that it isn’t what I need now, it’s probably what I’ll need in about three months. But that’s not a bad thing. I think I’ll grow with it, or maybe grow into it. I’m not enjoying it any less, but I am listening to it at a slower rate. Some things are meant to be inhaled. Sister Cities should be tasted, mulled over and carefully consumed.

The Wonder Years made an album so intricately poignant, I’m continuously floored by the subtle weight of it. It’s a sort of blink and you’ll miss it feeling that pops up over and over throughout the eleven tracks. With the themes travel and human connection throughout, it seems that maybe that’s the whole point.

This isn’t an album review. It’s more of a “hey, you should really go check this out and then report back and tell me what you think” sort of thing. Give it a listen, then a few more.

I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a good three years from finding out about this band to feel like I can call myself a fan. I was born and raised in Philadelphia so I basically bleed liberty bells and soft pretzels. You’d think it would have been an instant thing. Now I’m fully invested. Sister Cities pulled me in and by the looks of things won’t be letting go any time soon.

On Survival

My brain throws a going away party:

Complete with balloons, streamers, too much confetti, and the occasional uncalled for strobe light display. Music that’s too loud, music that’s too quiet. People who don’t show up, and people who overstay their welcome. An entire table of appetizing foods which wind up being made out of Styrofoam, cardboard, and paint. There are no presents.

 

Endings and Understanding

On October 30th, 2015, I sat alone in the woods trying to reconcile the suggested end of my childhood with a reality that certainly wasn’t the end of anything. It was recommended that twenty four hours be the definite end of the children we once were. We’d have the time and space to say goodbye forever. And when we walked out of the woods, we’d come out as shiny new adults.

But I wasn’t ready then. I was barely nineteen, in the throws in illness, just starting to grieve for everything I’d lost while watching the world turn instead of turning with it. I wasn’t ready, and I wouldn’t be for at least another two years. Hell, I’m not so sure I’m ready now, but it’s here and the end of an era feels real this time. Almost half way through my twenty second year, I finally feel like the change is definite.

It’s self indulgent to write about my own tiny bubble of life while the world feels so unstable. But I’m going to be a little self indulgent for a minute so bear with me.

There are few perks of being in pain, of missing out, of living a partial life. But I think I’ve found the most important one, and it’s been almost earth shattering to think about. Pain gives you the ability to understand. It’s truly difficult to fully understand someone else’s experiences if you haven’t been through something similar. The stretching, fraying nature of illness gives you an unfiltered understanding of what it means to suffer. On the flip side, it grows your empathy to a very heightened level.

I’ve noticed that I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt more often than just about anyone else I know. It’s almost as if through my pain, I’ve been calibrated to accept and defend others pain as well. I know what it’s like to constantly fall behind, to crumble under circumstances that barely ruffle my peers. I’ve watched those peers go entirely blank when trying to understand. It’s like no one flipped the on switch for understanding. Why? Because they have no reason to understand. How could you possibly when the idea of virtually endless struggle is completely foreign? It’s no one’s fault. In fact, I envy them, maybe I envy you. If you can’t understand what it means to struggle, flounder, drown, then you’ve probably never been thrown in the deep end with boulders tied to your legs. Swim. But can you? Could you?

Ends are coming. They’re happening for me. They’re terrifying, and I’m terrified. The fear that courses through me on any given day is hard to carry. I hope that the way I’ve stretched the past few years will help. I can’t un-live the pain, or spring back to naivety. But I still feel.

Albums Of The Year: 2017

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It’s been quite the year. Did anyone actually have a good 2017? The only thing I keep hearing is that this year tore just about everyone to shreds, myself included. On the upside, music happened. When it was good, it was really quite spectacular.

A little disclaimer, I by no means think that my list encompasses the absolute best music. This is a list of my favorite releases.

Without further ado, I give you my top ten albums of 2017.

Honorable Mention:

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Stand Atlantic – Sidewinder

I’m rooting for this band very loudly, at least it feels that way. I was thrilled when they released a very solid EP this September. Strong vocals cap off a slightly edgy but otherwise familiar sound. If We Are The In Crowd and early Tonight Alive made an EP together, you’d get something that sounded a lot like Sidewinder. I’m hoping for big things for this Australian trio, and would love to see them take off in 2018.

Listen To: Sidewinder, Chemicals

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10. Sleep On It – Overexposed

The best way to describe Sleep On It’s gloriously colorful debut is musical comfort food. If this had come out a good four years ago, it would have probably been an album of the year contender. This year, it just barely squeaked on to the list. There’s a lot of good about this album. It’s bright, fresh, and utterly reliable. There’s not a bad track on a fairly ambitious twelve song album. I’ve come back quite a bit for repeat listens since it came out in November, and the main reason is that it’s about as catchy as it gets. Sleep On It built a truly infectious sound. If you like a bit of nostalgia give Overexposed a spin.

Listen To: Fireworks, Photobooth, Overexposed

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9. Deaf Havana – All These Countless Nights

It feels like we waited quite literally forever between 2013’s Old Souls and All These Countless nights. Somehow, Deaf Havana stayed one of my favorite bands over almost four years. What we got was an experimental, odd, glorious piece of music. I still can’t quite figure out how I feel about All These Countless Nights, and it always slips away until I play it again. Don’t let that fool you, each listen is fantastic. The story telling, told in blunt, unrestrained lyrics is as honest as ever. There are songs that hearken back to older albums such as Ashes, Ashes and Fever. Then there are the more experimental tracks like Pretty Low and Ghost. Of course, the whole thing is rounded out by Deaf Havana’s main strength, aching ballads of heartache and healing in Happiness and Saint Paul’s.

Listen To: Ashes, Ashes, Fever, Saint Paul’s

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8. The Wonder Years – Burst And Decay (An Acoustic EP)

Pull up a chair, sit back with a mug of something hot and a pair of fuzzy socks. It should be snowing outside, or at least raining. The Wonder Years have managed to pull off something that is not easy to do well. Old songs were stripped down to their simplest form, and remained incredibly poignant. The real strength of this acoustic project is that the lyrics shine even brighter than they do on the full band versions of these songs. Burst And Decay has a way of weaving itself around you as you listen and pulling you straight into the story. It’s not a snooze fest though. There’s a driving force behind these revamped songs that sends you straight through the seven songs without a moment of boredom. The only acoustic thing on this list, and rightly so.

Listen to: There, There

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7. Hundredth – Rare

Ready to get weird? A little fuzzy? Look no further than what I’m looking at as Hundredth’s second debut album. It’s not often a hardcore band takes a sharp turn and turns into a shoegaze band, but here we are. Rare is entrancing. So much so that songs sort of blend into each other after a few minutes. I’m all for diversity in sound, but there’s also something a nice about not remembering what the beginning of the album sounded like when you get to the end of it. Rare is a hazy experience of an album. It’s a unique gem in the onslaught of new music this year. To be honest, I’m not sure how it found it’s way to number seven on my list, but again here we are. Let’s just go with it.

Listen To: Shy Vein, Vertigo, Suffer

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6. Knuckle Puck – Shapeshifter

Remember who took album of the year in 2015? Knuckle Puck’s incredible debut Copacetic swept the field. It might seem like a fall from grace to wind up at number six after their last appearance on this list. But Shapeshifter is an entirely different animal from the band’s previous release. It’s short, and feels a more like a collection of songs than a fully cohesive album. Therein lies the reason for a number six spot. The songs themselves are strong throughout. The band tried a lot of new things on Shapeshifter, and managed to pull it off without a hitch. Through countless listens, I’ve tried my hardest not to be blinded by the last three songs which are arguably the strongest material the band has ever released. Conduit, Wait and Plastic Brains are heart breaking, emotional perfect closers to a very diverse track list. It may be different, but Shapeshifter is an essential listen.

Listen To: Double Helix, Everyone Lies To Me, Wait

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5. PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need of Hell

PVRIS has done it again. Another powerhouse album, tied neatly into ten flawless songs. The first time I listened to All We Know, my initial reaction was that it sounded like a piece of art. There’s light, and color and a lot to sink your teeth into. It’s expansive, atmospheric, mysterious. It grooves, bops and the best thing is that it moves. Most of the album is comprised of songs coming in over the four minute mark and it would be only too easy for the entire thing to drag. I’m here to tell you that possibly for the first time ever after a first listen, I had the feeling of “that’s it?”. Wanting more, I pressed play and started again, which is what I do often with this album. It’s larger sounding than White Noise, and doesn’t pull any punches lyrically. While absolutely heartbreaking in places, it’s not an entire sob fest. With all of the darkness of Hell, Heaven tends to swoop in in the form of anger. It’s welcome distraction from the heart of the endless self reflection. Give this one a spin when you need something to sink into and pull you under.

Listen To: Half, No Mercy, Nola 1

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4. A Will Away – Here Again

Here we have a fail-safe of an album. Anytime I’ve been asked this year what I’ve been listening to, I’ve pointed every single person towards Here Again. It’s fresh enough to make the casual listener stop and take real notice. It’s also just accessible enough that the casual listener would have wound up there in the first place. A bit of rock, a little emo, a tinge of twang and folk thrown in for good measure. A Will Away made a debut that could go down as a modern classic. The main reason I’m so drawn to this band is the honesty and intention that shines brightly through the entirety of the album. It just feels real. No bells or whistles. Instead, the immense talent of this young four piece is hard to deny. As someone who didn’t have a clue about this band at the beginning of the year, they’ve climbed into my favorites. If you give any album on this list your full attention it should be Here Again. So why the number four slot? The most exciting thing about A Will Away is what comes next. There’s a lot of room for growth, and I can’t wait to hear it all.

Listen To: Crochet, Into The Light, Something Special

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3. The Gospel Youth – Always Lose

We’ve come to the album on this list that will fill you with all of the feelings in the best way possible. A little heartbreak, a little hope, soaring, massive choruses, unbelievable vocals. I dare you to listen to Always Lose and not be completely floored at least once. If the vocals don’t get you, the nostalgic melodies will. Always Lose could have easily come out ten years ago, or ten years from now and pack the same punch. It feels timeless, and timely all at once. Equally impressive is the cohesive, unwavering quality of the entire album. Pacing is an odd thing to talk about, but even the way these songs are arranged works in the album’s favor. There’s time to breathe in the right places. Of course, the slight lyrical nods to past material make my heart happy. It’s interesting that this came out in July, when listening back in December, it’s clearly a cold weather album. The sheer warmth in these songs is magical, and just what you’ll need going into winter.

Listen To: I Will Deliver You To The Fireflies, Gin And Black Coffee, Revolutions

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2. Can’t Swim – Fail You Again

Coming in at a very close second, Fail You Again has been an almost constant soundtrack since it came out in March. Can’t Swim continue to blow me away with how entirely unique they are. Compared to everything else on this list, Fail You Again sounds nothing like any of it. It’s a bit brash, raw, unconcerned. Mixed with little glimpses of warmth, atmosphere, and huge anthemic instrumentation, it doesn’t hold much back. After the surprise success of Death Deserves A Name, Fail You Again continues the saga with more complex songs, and a track list that spans a range of emotions. It broods through a number of stormy topics, and really brings the listener into the muddy gloom. Can’t Swim brings the message that it’s okay to not know how, or what, or why. In the sea of carefully packaged hope, it’s a relief. There’s no blaring message of hope at the end. Instead, the repeated “you’re searching for truth and it will fail you again” drives the idea home.

Listen To: Stranger, Quitting, All The Moves We Make Are In The Dark

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1. The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely

This is the first album since No Closer to Heaven in 2015 that’s made me cry. Actual tears in the middle of a park downtown. That’s high praise from someone who often spends weeks at a time completely numb. Before you turn away, Lovely Little Lonely is not a sad album, it’s vulnerable. There’s a giant difference between the two. The Maine have managed to play with emotion in way that makes you unaware that its happening at all. An interesting part of the album is how it seems to weave and and unravel throughout. It starts with noise, and ends the same way, as if it lives in it’s own sphere. When listening, you enter that wavelength, and it unravels around you at the end, setting the listener back into their own world. It’s a fascinating use of sound.

Lovely Little Lonely is an experience. From the eerie sounds of the ocean sprinkled throughout, to the flawless transitional tracks that bind the album into one seamless entity. It starts with light, upbeat tracks in Don’t Come Down and Bad Behavior. From there, there’s the subtle shift into more passionate material. Black Butterflies & Deja Vu is one of the strongest tracks the band has ever written and begs to be played while running off into the sunset. From there the key turns, and we’re taken from passion to a dream like section with the intricate, swirling Lost In Nostalgia. The last quarter of the album is where the vulnerability really shines with the intimate I Only Wanna Talk To You.There’s a turning point right before the final track that simultaneously feels like waking from a dream and being punched in the gut. In a single line of lyrics, the whole journey becomes crystal clear.

The Maine continue to grow and change with each release, and for a sixth full length, it feels more inspired and intentional than ever. I’ve been waiting to put one of my favorite bands ever at the number one slot, and Lovely Little Lonely fits perfectly. From the highest highs to vulnerable lows, The Maine have created a truly special album that feels uniquely personal.

Listen To: Black Butterflies & Deja Vu, Taxi, How Do You Feel?

Here we are. As far as most anticipated for 2018, there’s only a few off the top of my head. Albums from Marmozets, Boston Manor, Trophy Eyes and State Champs, and hopefully Walking On Cars. What was your favorite album of the year? I’d love to hear about in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musical Mileage: A Year In Review

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2017 was a year of musical deep dives into old discography. It’s safe to say that at times I got buried completely in the depths of various artist’s back catalogues. So much so that a few albums on this list were the only things I listened to for weeks at a time. Yes, I’m 100% that person. Here’s a little glimpse into of some my most played this year. Albums Of The Year will be posted very soon so make sure to check back for that.

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A Will Away: Bliss (2015)

Just to set the record straight, A Will Away is by far my favorite new find this year. The only reason I even listened to them in the first place was because they opened a tour I went to in March. On a whim, I decided to be a responsible concert goer and give these guys a shot about a month before the show. Not only did I fall head over heels in love, I fell really, really hard.

Bliss is exactly what it sounds like. This EP is about as feel good as it gets. It’s the type of music I want to listen to on warm summer nights with the windows rolled down. It’s passionate, honest, and clever. From the opening, optimistic notes of Play Dead, to the end build of Be Easy, Bliss hits perfectly.

On a side note, I’ve seen A Will Away three times this year, and they put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. No bells or whistles, just a bunch of dudes playing instruments, and raw, flawless vocals. This band is extraordinarily talented and it’s refreshing.

Listen To: Play Dead, Be Easy

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Trade Wind: You Make Everything Disappear (2016), Suffer Just to Believe (2014)

So here we go again with music that virtually came out of nowhere. I’m 100% not sure how I found Trade Wind, but I’m so glad I did. This was another slow burn that was beyond worth it.

You Make Everything Disappear: Is this an album? It’s eight songs, does that count?Either way, I’m sold. This is probably the most diverse release on this list. Heavy, guitar driven tracks, looped electronics, and a minimal acoustic track. It’s a journey of an album, and there’s a little something for everyone.The most impressive part of this album is that it’s heavy without needing to scream in your face. There’s a bit of drained feeling I get after listening. It’s not exhausting though, more of a release if that makes sense. Either way, there’s something very special about this album. I’d love to see these songs live one day.

Suffer Just to Believe: The bands first and only EP. This is more straight up rock with a little grunge and dirt. It’s heavier than the album, and is perfect for a dark, bitter rainy day. This EP makes being in pain a little more enjoyable. It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve listened to Suffer a lot during bad chronic pain days and I feel a little more okay about my traitor of a body.

Listen To: Radio Songs, Dead Leaves

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The Dangerous Summer: Golden Record (2013)

Here we are again with music that seemed to come out of nowhere at the perfect time. Let’s start out by saying that this is far from a perfect album. The reason it’s on this list is because when it gets it right, it’s very right. There’s a handful of songs that feel so deeply nostalgic, I couldn’t tare myself away. We all need some emo music every so often, and songs like Sins, Anchor, and Miles Away really fill that void. I didn’t listen to this album all the way through much, but those songs got a lot of plays this summer and are definitely worth checking out.

Listen To: Sins, Anchor

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Sleep On It: Lost Along The Way (2016)

If you were looking for a short, sweet, play it again option, you’ve found it. Five songs of catchy, anthemic hooks. I’d imagine writing an EP is a bit like writing a short story. Not a ton of content, but it’s so easy to get it all wrong. Lost Along The Way manages to get it all very right. This is the type of music I’ll throw on when I’m not really sure what to reach for. It’s easy listening, and it’s fun. For me, the brightest point of the EP is the final song, Let Me Go. I love a good build, and by the end of the song, the only thing I want to do is start the whole thing over again.

Listen To: Unspoken, Let Me Go

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Trophy Eyes: Chemical Miracle (2016)

There was a period of time this year where I couldn’t find the right level of heavy. Nothing was hitting the spot and I wasn’t ready to dive into a totally new musical world with hardcore or metal. I give you, the album I’m still not sure how I missed last year. I’ve tried to get into Trophy eyes before, I’ve seen them live. It wasn’t until this summer that something finally clicked. If I’d payed attention when it came out, it would have been an album of the year contender, easily. This is a masterpiece. It’s truly heartbreaking in the best way. There’s nothing to hide behind on songs like Miracle and Daydreamer. Lyrics are straight to the point and they cut deep. So deep that after a little while, they started to fill the never ending void in my chest, if only for a few hours at a time.

The real standout lyrically is that there’s no mention of a happy ending. Instead, things are wrong and that’s the way they are. In a world saturated with stories of making it to the other side, it’s important to give voice to pain that isn’t over yet.

Listen To: Chlorine, Nose Bleed

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The Wonder Years: The Greatest Generation (2013)

Maybe it’s the fact that we happen to share a home town, but there’s something so comforting about this album. To be perfectly honest, it’s taken me far too long to properly get into this gloriously familiar band. Pop Punk gets a lot of crap for being a particularly unintelligent genre of music, but if you’re looking for a little more substance, this is the album to work on. This isn’t just an album, it’s an event. Thirteen brilliant songs, ending with arguably one of the best closing tracks ever. In fact, if you didn’t want to listen to the whole album, it’s a nice TL;DR for the whole thing. But you really should listen everything. It’s poignant, sad, nostalgic and hits close to home.

The Wonder Years shine very brightly when it comes to lyrics. Each song is an fantastically honest short story, and it’s very easy to become fully submerged. During uncertain times, The Greatest Generation brings a little bit of welcome stability.

Listen To: Dismantling Summer, The Devil In My Bloodstream

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Can’t Swim: Death Deserves a Name (2016)

This EP took me a while to get into. When I first saw these guys last year in a tiny little 450 cap room, I wasn’t really sure what to think. Then I gave it time, came back a few months later and listened to these five songs over and over again. The simplicity of Death Deserves a Name works because of it’s execution. It’s really not complicated. Angry self reflection steeped in a good measure of atmosphere. Just give it a chance, this one takes time.

Listen To: Your Clothes, Death Deserves A Name

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The Xcerts: There Is Only You (2014)

I’m not sure how this band wound up on my radar, but gosh it was a nice, light find. A bit reminiscent of Moose Blood and Beach Weather, it’s accessible, infectious, life affirming British pop rock. What I love about this album is that it doesn’t try and be anything but what it is. There’s nothing deep or pretentious about this band, and that’s nice once a while. A few stand out tracks include the apply named Pop Song, and unabashedly hopeful Live Like This. My favorite is the epic two-tracks-in-one final song There Is Only You. You’ll just have to give this one a listen to hear for yourself.

Before we move on, let’s put our hands together for the album on this list that sound the least like it’s cover.

Listen To: Pop Song, There Is Only You

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The Maine: Pioneer (2011)

Ah, hello old friend. This is my album. For all intents are purposes, this is the one. It’s not flashy, or fancy or anything other that what it is. A monstrosity of a project, all fourteen songs come in at just over an hour. In case you weren’t paying attention, that’s a long album.

I’ve never really gone into why this album is such a big deal, so let’s talk about that for a minute. The Maine, and Pioneer came into my life during the the most miserable summer of my life. The summer of antibiotics which lead to the whole lose twenty pounds in four weeks scenario. I was so weak, so done, so incredibly empty.

Although I first fell in love with The Maine during their Forever Halloween cycle, songs from Pioneer were what stuck with me when I saw them live for the first time. That was four and half years ago, and since then, I’ve slowly wrapped myself in this album to the point that this is what I reach for when I need to remember why I love music.

Pioneer is another album that’s probably not perfect. What I love about it is that it feels very honest. It’s pure creativity, risk taking, ideas, new beginnings, memories, apologies. There’s a song for every mood, and it covers a very wide range of what it means to be a human being.

This album has grown with me, and somehow remains relatable in a way that is completely unique. Pioneer is hot summer nights, campfires with old friends. It’s the peace of solitude, the quiet of internal reflection. It feels the most right, the most okay of anything on this list, even after four years.

If you just so happen to listen all the way through that fourteen minute song at the end, it might be the best musical decision you ever make.

Listen To: Like We Did (Windows Down), Misery, Identify

I hope you enjoyed part one of my musical year in review. Albums Of The Year will be up very soon. What have you re-discovered this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.