Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Albums of 2011

It was a good year for music and shockingly enough there was more good than bad. Though it's also the year that I swore off the radio and most mainstream music, so to me it seemed like a great year. I don't think Taylor Swift came out with a new album, unless she had some sort of live thing or we count wherever that horrid rendition of "White Christmas" came from. (I can not stand her as an artist. I think she is way over hyped and if I really get into it we'll lose track of what I'm trying to write about.) It took me a bit to come up with a list, but here's some of my favorite albums of the year, in no real order.

Early Morning Blues - Newest Versions EP - I'm not fully remembering when Bryan put this out, but I lean towards early early in the new year and it's been my favorite go-to music all year. Obviously, if you've read anything I've been up to this year that should be obvious. If you want to talk about music that save your life this is my music. Not because I was in a bad place or anything, but listening to it got me motivated to see it live and then I was actually living my life, writing about things I cared about and meeting new friends who shared the same passions.

I've got high hopes for the upcoming album, that there might be more coming our way that will be just as great or better. I'm hoping that will be around in 2012 and I can almost promise it will make the top of my list next year too. Yes I'm biased.

Cage the Elephant - Thank You, Happy Birthday - The sophomore album from my friends from high school dropped this year and made my January. It was so cool to see it out at Target, to see it sell out at stores and Rolling Stone grace them with a bigger honor, naming it their number #15 album of the top 50 of the year. There wasn't as much competition here on my blog, but yes this was a 'must have' of the year.

The Maine - Pioneer - This was a much anticipated album of the year, the self-produced album that was so different than their other music, but lived up to expectations. I kept it in my car for weeks, listening to it on loop and only pulled it out because Champ couldn't stand to listen to the album over and over again on a five hour drive. I would have been fine with it though, it's that good.

The Cab - Symphony Soldier - I've said before that while I only had to wait a few weeks for this one and the rest of the fanbase had been waiting years, it was worth every second. It's annoying to say an album is perfect, but Symphony Solider toes that line so well. Every song is good and every song gets better with each play. I listen to it when i"m driving, when I'm working out, when I'm sitting at my desk trying to get through the day.

Yellowcard - When You're Through Thinking Say Yes - It's always great when a band I already loved comes back with another album, but when a band I loved in college comes back with a vengeance and an album that sounds like a grown up version of what I used to listen to, I can't help but be thrilled. And it's just that. It's Ocean Avenue grown up and blasting in the car stereo.

Jack's Mannequin - People and Things - In a way I live for Andrew's music and this one, was completely fantastic. I'd gotten a taste of it seeing them live before the album released, but I had no idea what I was going to be getting when it did come out. It's a fantastic album, the work of a true singer/songwriter and the kind that you can just listen to over and over again (which is obviously a trend with my favorite albums this year).

So there you go, grab what you don't have already, because it's all good. What were your favorites that didn't make my list?

Theres a lot in store for 2012, so much that I can't wait. I'm looking forward of telling you all about it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Album Review: "American Kids" by My Girl Friday

I've been pestered for a while to listen to My Girl Friday, and hadn't actually gotten around to it, but the new EP, American Kids just dropped this week and I figured now was as good a time as any to start listening to them.

Part of me wants to send the whole EP to country music execs and remind them how it's possible to toe the line of country and rock without a fake drumbeat backing a song. (That could yield a rant though on my current levels of disappointment in the country music scene in general, so I'll spare you.) The title track, "American Kids", calls out Springsteen, and it has that feel to it, the old Boss songs from the 90s / 80s that were happy, easy to listen to and about growing up or just living. Probably a result of listening to too much of the Boss and Mellencamp, but when I was 20 I was doing the same thing. The whole EP actually samples from that kind of sound, simple songs that don't get so specific in their topics that someone in different shoes can't relate to the words.

I have a hard time with the 'alternative' tag that iTunes gives the EP, because I'm not sure it fits, because it doesn't seem to encompass the light hearted feel of the EP. It's a 'sound track for your summer' collection of songs, with happy beats that are easy to tap your toes to. Makes me wish it was warmer out to pop it in the stereo on the car while driving at night with the windows down. Sadly I'm sitting here with a scarf on waiting for winter to end.

It's bound to be a guilty pleasure music, probably better to speak to a generation below me (I know if I was 19 it would speak to me more), but I can see myself going to it when the day gets hard, or work gets too long, something to get through the day. What else could be the point of a song like "Love Will Find You" besides hope?

As a whole the 6 songs are easy to listen to over and over again, with catchy tunes that get stuck in your head. It's completely reasonable that I'll wake up humming one of them, but really? That's not the worst thing.

Pick American Kids up on iTunes.

Follow My Girl Friday on Twitter.

H.E.L.L. Compilation: Pre-Order

Had a great thing blow up my twitter feed yesterday. H.E.L.L. (Helping Everyone Live Longer) is a non-profit group in Boston that works with bike safety awareness and they have gotten together with the punk and alternative scene in Boston to put together a compilation album that proceeds from will go directly to helping H.E.L.L.

There's tons of music, some never heard before, some additions from local groups. Some of my favorites, Early Morning Blues, Ghost Thrower, and The Tower and The Fool, have all joined up to add their music.

Use your Christmas monies for something good and for a huge collection of great music from great talent. More information on where you can pre-order the LP, a digital copy, or the casette (Seriously casette) here

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's Playing For Christmas

The Christmas holiday is around the corner, quite literally and of course I'm not done with shopping but that shouldn't surprise you really. Still, while you're rushing about trying to enjoy the holiday while doing too much at once, check out some Christmasy and winter type tunes.

First up is the Christmas-type release from This Century and their single "Kiss Me Like It's Christmas." It's adorable and catchy and though not entirely Christmasy and a little sad, you'll still be singing it for hours on end. Pick it up here.

What would Christmas be without one of my favorite punk rock bands releasing a Holiday EP? I know it sounds ridiculous , but here you go, Ghost Thrower put out a Holiday EP and I have to admit that I love it. Of course it's a little dark, because it's Ghost Thrower, but who says everything around the holiday has to be super happy? Change it up from whatever cheesy Justin Bieber song that got released.

I'm also really enjoying the free track I picked up off The Civil Wars winter EP Tracks In The Snow, "O Come, O Come Emanuel" which I never thought I'd enjoy. I should be tired of this song, especially after being raised in the Catholic Church that sings this one for the four weeks leading up to Christmas, every week, at every Mass, but I do like their version.

So while the radio keeps playing Taylor Swift ruining "White Christmas" plug in those headphones and listen to something else, something worthwhile.

Have a happy and safe holiday, no matter how you celebrate!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Album Review: Self-Titled from Young Statues

The full length, self-titled release from Philadelphia based group, Young Statues has been out for a bit but I finally got my hands on it. I really enjoyed their set when I saw them live in October and really did want access to more of their music, but it wasn't until just recently that I was able to order it online.

The album has a great sound, sort of a mellow feel overall. I can't help but wonder if it would have been part of The O.C. soundtrack if that show was still on the air. It definitely has that feel to it. Maybe it's the similarity to Death Cab for Cutie in front man Carmen's voice. Or maybe it's that the songs seem to have a similar beat to the same indie rock back. Either way, I'm voting for this album to be the cornerstone for the show if it ever makes a come back (If they bring back Arrested Development they can bring back The O.C. right?).

Maybe though it's just the beachy feel from tunes ilk "Half Light' which seems to be more named for the feel it creates than the lyrics (despite the title being mentioned in the lyrics). It sounds like the beach in half light, somewhere towards the end of the day or just as dawn breaks.

The same goes for "Athens" which actually sounds like Athens, GA (where I've been a couple of times) more than anything else. Turns out it was the first song recorded there and is named for the same reason, because it just feels like the city. That's what it is about the album that really jumps out at me, more than the lyrics or the guitar lines or drum beats, the feel of it as a whole.

It's a great album to put in and just let play while getting work done or just relaxing. It has that mellowing feel like I said and has become one of my favorites for at work to alleviate the stress of the day.

You can pick up a copy here and follow Young Statues on twitter.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Concert: $2 VIP Platinum Holiday Show

Another trip to Boston (again, it's my thing) and another show. There was a joke that Bryan didn't have a show that weekend until about four days before it and then suddenly he was playing at the big show that weekend. I had to laugh just a little, but I did scrounge and manage to get my hands on a ticket at the last minute.

The show was call the $2 VIP Platinum Holiday Show, a play on a local band that was charging $40 to get VIP passes into a show in their hometown. Thinking it was a ridiculous idea, this one was much cheaper to get into and every ticket was VIP. A collection of local bands were each playing a cover set of a more well known band.

The afternoon started with One Step Away a local group out of Andover, MA covering Boys Like Girls. Just a little awkward yes with Bryan there, but he wasn't in the room for their set, rightfully so. They sounded fantastic though, taking on one a few of the harder songs in the BLG line up. I was impressed when they busted out "Heart Heart Heartbreak" even more so when they went with "Dance Hall Drug" as well. There was a mess up where the lead singer seemed to have forgotten the lyrics to the second verse of Dance Hall Drug, but luckily for him, the entirety of the crowd was able to power through, a good set of fan girls.

The local BLG girls were really pleased when the lead singer busted out Martin's line from the live shows for "Hero/Heroine" where he asks the crowd "What do I got?" then sings the second verse of the song. I know Rana next to me got all excited. It was a really good set overall and I was pleased to see the crowd support the guys despite the awkward feeing it left a lot of us with.

The location seemed to know and as Bryan and the guys from Small Talk finished setting up for the next set, the house music started playing "Chapter One" by Early Morning Blues. It was a ton of fun to start singing the lyrics as loud as Rana and I could. It was also fun to watch Small Talk's front man Jimmy Welsh ask Bryan if it was him and Bryan shake his head to say it was weird.

Decked in his Ghost Thrower t-shirt, Bryan took the stage with the two guys from Small Talk for an acoustic set of Brand New songs. They didn't do a full band show because I believe they are in a bit of a transition between band members, but there wasn't a need for the full band set.

Jimmy has an amazing voice that lent to the music well and Bryan provided perfect back up vocals. I lost my breath a little during "The Quiet Things That No Ever Knows"; it was that good. The set was solid, especially as Jimmy finished it up with two songs, just him, the guitar and the microphone.

I have to admit that it made me ache for an Early Morning Blues ballad. Bryan's obviously got the chops for it, but i do realize that their sound doesn't exactly lend to ballads. Or nothing more ballad-like than "Never Leave" at least. Still, a girl can hope that maybe one day.

During the Dear Zim set Rana and I took a break and snuck out the back for a chat with Bryan and Jimmy, then heading out in search of a snack. They were play an All Time Low set and neither she or I like ATL that much (or at all?). I am glad we got the few moments with Bryan as he left not long after, needing to be somewhere else that afternoon. He did seem pleased to see that I'd showed up and mentioned one of my tweets about my trip being worthwhile if he played a show.

We got back just in time for The Jealous Sea to play their Fall Out Boy set. Overall their sound was great and I thought that they did FOB justice. I really liked the song choices, ranging from older tracks off the first album to some of the more recent singles.

Their stage presence was fun, a little silly from time to time. There was a moment or two where it was a little uncomfortable for those of us who weren't huge fan girls, but the fan girls ate it up. There's something to be said about appealing to your target audience.

Last up was STAY, a local group that I was pretty sure wasn't going to fit on stage there were so many of them. They played a Blink-182 set with tons of energy from the get-go. Again I'm forced to admit that my old self loved the set and how old all the music they picked was (or maybe Blink is just that old..) It was like an instant transport back to the better moments of high school, which were few and far between, but they all had either a FOB or Good Charlotte soundtrack.

The show definitely left me interested in all of the bands, except maybe Small Talk, but more because I already have their music. The true highlight though was seeing all my friends once more before the winter (and I don't make the trek because of the snow). I had to go out of 2011 with a great show and I think I did just that. It's been a great year, but I'm already looking forward to what's coming in the next year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Album Review: "Pioneer" by The Maine

If an album can be a statement, then the newest release from The Maine is a loud statement of the fact that they are no longer the boys dressed in neon from the Can't Stop, Won't Stop days. Those days are long gone and while they got the now young men where they are now, they aren't going back any time soon.

To call the albume a "deviation" from their previous sound seems like a weak explanation, but it is nothing short. There was a deviation from the poppy sound of Can't Stop, Won't Stop with Black and White as that album had more of a folk feel, soft songs without a kicked up drum beat and deeper lyrics.

Pioneer goes down a completely different road, as the name implies. Gone are the cute lyrics about growing up and girls breaking their hearts. The new songs are harder, backed with a stronger base line and guitar riffs that prove that the guys aren't just pretty, but talented as well.

Some of the same sound is still there. John still croons his way through "I'm Sorry" which sounds very reminiscent of the B&W album songs, but if I remember correctly he was performing this one acousticly long before they went into the studio to work on this album. "Some Days" has the same feel, but the chorus isn't fooling around and is a lead into what to expect for the rest of the album. It's a shame it's not the first song, though it does fit well where it comes up and I fell in love with "Identify" after the first few beats.

That's where the similarities end, though don't take that as it being a bad album. As a whole the album is great and even with only a couple listen throughs, I like most of the songs. It's just not what I envisioned the third album from this group would be like. LIke aspects of Black and White it's a testament to where they are in their lives. "Don't Give Up On 'Us'" toes line, just as "Listen to Your Heart" on Black and White did, toes the line of not as much being about a girl, but about the band themselves.

That's really the mesasge to the fans of this self-produced album. Dont' give up on The Maine.

Follow The Maine on twitter and pick up Pioneer on iTunes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Endless Summer Releases New Single

I'm not entirely sure how I came across a band out of Missouri (I blame twitter), but I'm sort of in love with these guys. Their sound has a refreshing feel to it, strong vocals and great music. It's a talented group of musicians backing The Endless Summer and I can't get enough of it.

Their newest single "Satellites" just dropped and after loving the Fairweather EP as much as I did, I had to get my hands on it as soon as I could. Just like the EP the single doesn't disappoint and I can't help but admit that more than once I've hit repeat just to hear it again.

Definitely worth the test drive, trust me. And their singer Nick has a cute dog (if that helps sway your decision in any way). And apparently the dog follows me on twitter. Can't help but love that at least a little.

Pick up "Satellites" and the Fairweather EP on iTunes.
Follow The Endless Summer on Twitter.

Apologies and What's in Store

I owe updates from the last show I went to as well as at least two album reviews (hopefully I'll get my copy of Pioneer soon and I can review that as well!) but I've been pretty sick with the flu or a cold or something, and haven't been up for writing anything coherent. I'm feeling better today though! Which means I should be getting back to writing as soon as possible.

Upcoming posts:

- The $2 VIP Plantium Holiday Show in Boston MA (yup I went back)
- Review of the Young Statues
- Who from Run For Cover Records is getting replayed on my iTunes
- Review of the EP From Vultures
- Some holiday music suggestions

and hopefully that Pioneer review as well.

Hopefully everyone else is healthy and happy. Talk to you soon!

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