Top Albums of 2017 (And The Last Week of 2016) Plus Some Thoughts on Jesse Lacey

Crafting my list for this year was pretty difficult for a couple of reasons, both good and bad. The good reason is that there was a lot of kick-ass music released this year. I was overwhelmed at times, especially when 3 of my 5 favorite artists put out records in 3 consecutive months. That is definitely a great problem to have.
The second reason is not so good. In November, Jesse Lacey, the lead singer of my favorite band, Brand New, was accused of inappropriate conduct with minors. Apparently for several years during the bands early years Jesse used his position of influence in the band to manipulate, emotionally abuse, and solicit nude photos from several underage girls. It’s a hard thing to hear that a guy who’s art that you respect so much and has impacted you so deeply turned out to be a total creep. Jesse released a statement completely owning up to all of the accusations and apologizing to the victims. He confessed to having unhealthy relationships with sex and alcohol, and admitted that throughout his live much of his actions have been inappropriate and harmful. He also announced that over the past several years he has been getting help for these behaviors through counseling and sobriety, and seems to be in a much healthier mental state.
Over the last month or so I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to approach Brand New’s catalog. I have seen a lot of people saying that our of respect for the victims they can never listen to the band again, selling all their vinyl, etc. That is a sentiment that I completely understand. But for me, I simply can’t deny that the band’s music has been and is a powerful force in my life. I have nothing but sincere respect and sympathy for the victims and what they have been through. I also have respect that Jesse owned up to it, recognized he has a problem, and got help. All that being said, I still love Brand New. I have come to a point that I can hate some things from a person’s past, but still embrace their art and hope that they have a better future. So I’ve decided to include Brand New’s 2017 release Science Fiction on my list. I understand that not everyone has come to the same conclusions I have, and that is fine.
I wanted to say all that because I think its important, and now that it’s been said lets get to why you really came here. Here are my top 15 favorite albums of 2017 (and the last week of 2016).
15. I See You- The xx
xx
Favorite track-“A Violent Noise”
14. Good Nature-Turnover
turnover
Favorite track- “Butterfly Dream”
13. White Noise-Noah Gundersen
noah
Favorite track-“Bad Desire”
12. Near The Wild Heart of Life-Japandroids
japandroids
Favorite track-“North East South West”
11. Going Grey-The Front Bottoms
front-bottoms-going-grey-raining-video-stream
Favorite track-“Vacation Town”
10. The Nashville Sound-Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
jason
Brilliantly crafted alt-country that gives me hope for the future of country music.
Favorite track-“If We Were Vampires”
9. Wonderful Wonderful-The Killers
killers
One of my all time favorite bands, the stadium rock gets synthy and it works.
Favorite track-“Run For Cover”
8. Gone Now-Bleachers
bleachers
One of the best producers and songwriters around puts out another brilliant pop-rock masterpiece.
Favorite track-“Don’t Take The Money”
7. Run The Jewels 3-Run The Jewels
RTJ
A master class in raising hell to the tune of some of the gnarliest beats you’ve ever heard, brought to you by the rowdiest duo in hip-hop.
Favorite track-“Legend Has It”
6. DAMN.-Kendrick Lamar
damn
With his 4th full length and 3rd true masterpiece in a row, Kendrick is at the top of his game and making a damn good argument that he may be the greatest rapper of all time.
Favorite track-“DNA.”
5. Melodrama- Lorde
lorde
Lorde has got to be one of the coolest 21 year olds around. After a long 4 years since her debut record, this is a breath of fresh air. Produced by Bleachers’ own Jack Antonoff, Melodrama airs things out in a really cool and unique way. The album is sparse at times, and loaded at others; there is room to breathe, and then we’re running a marathon. The production really lets her voice and some cool electronics shine.
Favorite track-“Homemade Dynamite”
4. After Laughter- Paramore
paramore
I’ve been a huge Paramore fan ever since I first heard “Misery Business” 10 years ago. Even though they didn’t follow the direction I’d hoped they would after 2013’s self-titled, this works just as good. Some combination of 80s new wave and synth pop and a whole bunch of Talking Heads influences made a completely new sound for a band that started as an emo/pop-punk wunderkind. What also makes After Laughter unique is the rawness and vulnerability in Hayley’s lyrics. We get to see an intimate side of her we haven’t seen much of before, a side where everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. The lyrical contrast with the upbeat music makes for one of the band’s best efforts yet.
Favorite track-“Fake Happy”
3. After The Party- The Menzingers
menz
Pure, straight up rock music. Loud guitars, big hooks, and some of the most sing-alongable lyrics you’ve ever heard. Somehow this band has crafted the perfect blend of nostalgia and relatability for things i’ve never personally experienced. A lot of this record is about being in your mid to late twenties and going “oh shit, I’m an adult now. What the hell am I doing with my life?” Turning 27 this year, thats an idea I am really starting to relate to, and I’m glad to have The Menzingers there right alongside me.
Favorite track-“Lookers”
2. Science Fiction– Brand New
bn
If you had told me that Brand New would release an album in 2017, I wouldn’t have believed you. After a long 8 years since 2009’s Daisy, I was more than ecstatic upon the band’s announcement of this release. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. With Vin’s unreal guitar work, Jesse’s masterfully crafted lyrics, and the band’s ability to create soundscapes unlike anyone else, Science Fiction is truly something special. Knowing that this will likely be the band’s final album (especially in light of recent events mentioned above), the album has a sense of apocalyptic foreboding. There really isn’t much I can do to explain it to you, you just have to listen for yourself; which I really think you should.
Favorite track-“Same Logic/Teeth”
1. A Black Mile To The Surface- Manchester Orchestra
a_black_mile
This is a perfect record. Trying to describe it to you would be nothing short of an injustice. I’m not kidding. This is a record that transcends rock music for me. It’s beautiful music and storytelling to the highest degree. I can’t remember the last time I loved a record as deeply as this from day one. So please, if you ever take any sort of advice from me, let it be this. Listen to this. Please.
Favorite track-every damn one.
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Top 5 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

Every year I do a top 10 list of my favorite albums released that year. I’ve also done lists of my favorite albums of the first half of the year. But I’ve decided to do something different this year. Instead of highlighting my favorite records from the first half, I want to highlight some of my favorite songs of the year so far. It’s likely that most of these albums will wind up on my year-end list (even though I haven’t heard the full Manchester Orchestra album yet), but for now let’s just take a look at the songs that stand out.

In No Particular Order

“Lookers”-The Menzingers-After The Party
The Menzingers have this really interesting ability to craft a sense of nostalgia. Not nostalgia for anything they are writing about specifically, just a general feeling of longing for past days. This has never been more present than in “Lookers”. The opening verse finds a lone electric guitar with vocals fondly reminiscing over an old photo, until the narrator realizes “but that was the old me and you, when we were both lookers.” From there the song moves into a soaring chorus that I can’t help buy yell along to. The Menzingers are edging their way in among my favorite bands, and with songs like this it’s no wonder why.

“Don’t Take The Money”-Bleachers-Gone Now
Jack Antonoff is near the top of the game of pop-songwriting. He has an unreal knack for melding unique production techniques and killer melodies, not to mention a poetic lyrical sense. This song mostly speaks to the ups and downs of relationships, but the phrase ‘don’t take the money’ can mean so much more. It encourages you to resist the urge to take the easy way out, that the gut feeling may not always be whats best.

“Legend Has It”-Run The Jewels-Run The Jewels 3
Some people are going to give me shit for including Run The Jewels 3 as a 2017 release, being as it was surprise released digitally on Christmas Eve 2016. The physical release wasn’t until January though and its my blog so whatever. “Legend Has It” is just a bad-ass song. The beat is unreal, and the ATL duo have never been more in sync. With a typical braggadocious rap style, Killer Mike and El-P burn through a ferocious 11 verses with a few interruptions chant based interludes and a gnarly AF breakdown. It’s a definite ‘get the party started’ kind of jam and gets my blood pumping every time it comes on.

“Humble”-Kendrick Lamar-DAMN.
Kendrick dropped “Humble” on us like a bomb, leading up to a very quick release of DAMN. With one of the sickest beats on any Kendrick track to date and a killer music video, K Dot proves his rightful spot as one of, if not THE, greatest rappers alive.

“The Gold”-Manchester Orchestra-A Black Mile To The Surface
GUYS. New Manchester!! I mean, if I’m being honest, this band could have released a cover of the alphabet song and I would think it was an incredible song. Luckily though with this track, my love is not wasted. A little more restrained than most Manchester songs, and teeming with influences from some of the band members’ recent work on the Swiss Army Man soundtrack, it sounds like this could be a great introduction to the direction the band is heading on the next full length due out in July. If this song is any indication of how good the album is, count me in.

The Futures Under Fire (The Past Is Gaining Ground)

I feel like I always hear someone saying somewhere that “Rock is finally dead.” It’s usually someone’s dad who is still waiting on the world’s next Zeppelin, or that kid from high school whose hair was way too long and always wore Nirvana and Pearl Jam shirts. I guess that maybe what people mean when they say that is that there’s really no electric guitars on popular radio. Literally the only bands currently on top 40 charts that have at any point been referred to as  “rock” are Twenty One Pilots and Maroon 5, neither of which really uses electric guitars anymore. If the lack of rock music on popular radio is your way of justifying the belief that “rock is dead,” then it’s time to rethink your criteria because that is really quite a lazy judgment. To the dad rockers, 80s metalheads, and 90s grunge kids who find themselves weeping at the grave of rock music I have one thing to say:

You aren’t looking hard enough.

They might not be on your radio, or on the front page of Spotify or Apple Music, but bubbling just below the surface are tons of great rock bands just waiting for you to give them a listen. I want to quickly highlight two albums that have been released in the past few months to get you started down the path to discovering more rock music for you to love.

Japandroids’ Near To The Wild Heart Of Life  and The Menzingers’ After The Party were released only a week apart from each other. As a huge fan of both of these bands, the 1-2 punch of these consecutive Fridays hit me hard and put me down for the count. What I love about both of these records is that there is no real sub-genre of rock that you can pin them too, it is just rock music. There is something for everyone. There are strong punk influences, but not so much that it’s off-putting to someone who steers away from punk. Both bands are very clearly huge Springsteen fans, each song tinged with his signature nostalgic song-writing style. There are ballads, and there are songs that could be played by a U2 cover band. Each song seems like it was handwritten to be performed in a dark sweaty club, filled with several hundred people singing along and several more hundred PBRs. They are rowdy, and they are raw, and they are everything that rock music feels it should be.

In the current situation we are in (you know, the one where the most powerful man in the world is a misogynistic-bigoted-narcissist?), I think rock music plays a huge role. It needs to be the voice of a group of people that are not satisfied with what’s happening and an encouragement to stand up for what you think is right. Now, don’t think I’m saying that either of these records or bands are political at all, because they aren’t. But music is all about how the listener interprets it and how it hits you personally, and for me hearing the opening lines of these records in the weeks after the inauguration was an encouragement; an encouragement saying ‘You aren’t the only one who feels like this’ and ‘We are all gonna make it through together.’

So, I know I’m rambling and not making much sense. I’m not really even talking about what I was originally talking about when I started writing. I guess my point is that no, rock music is not dead. In fact, I think it’s more alive than ever, and it may be just about as important now as it’s ever been. So don’t give up on it. Search it out. Find new bands. Try new things. Don’t cling to the past and scoff at the future. Trust me, there is enough of that going around already.

Top 10 Films Of 2016

I don’t normally do a top 10 movies of the year list. This year, though, I have decided to do so. A movie discussion podcast i enjoy called You Hate Movies (youhatemovies.com) recently put out their year end top 10 discussion episode and it inspired me. I’m not going to write much about it, just wanted to have some fun and throw a list together in the same style of the episode. So, out of the 34 movies released in 2016 that I saw, here it is.
Biggest Disappointment: 
Hail, Cesar!
Honorable Mentions: 
Midnight Special
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Top 10:
10. Zootopia
9. Deadpool
8. Captain America: Civil War
7. La La Land
6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
5. Don’t Breathe
4. Don’t Think Twice
3. Green Room
2. The VVitch
1. Arrival
What were some of your favorites?

If This Year Would Just End, I Think We’d All Be Okay

2016 has been a hell of a year. In a lot of ways, really.

  • In January, I got fired from my job for what, quite frankly, seemed like a pretty bogus reason.
  • Throughout the year, my wife and I both dealt with some annoying health issues.
  • Then, in November, our country elected an adolescent, narcissistic, orange bigot to be President.

But, it’s also been a hell of year for music.

  • We got a new record from Kanye, however lackluster it may be
  • Beyonce changed the game, again, with her stunning album and accompanying visuals Lemonade.                                                                                                                        
  • Blink-182 released their (grammy nominated) first record without Tom Delonge.
  • Chance The Rapper blew us all away with his brilliant mixtape Coloring Book.
  • We also lost several icons of the music community: Prince, Bowie, Merle Haggard, Leonard Coen.

All that being said, making my list was really hard this year. The top 3 have been solid for a while, but the rest has fluctuated a ton. Because of that, this year I decided to do a top 15 instead of a top 10. My wife said I should stick to 10, but its my blog and not hers, so I’m going with 15. There are just too many records I want to tell you about to limit it to 10. So, here it is, my top 15 favorite albums released in 2016.

15. Standards-Into It. Over It.iioi

A delicately crafted, lo-fi emo album recorded straight to tape shows Evan Weiss at his best. Favorite track-“Required Reading”

14. The Dream Is Over-PUP

pup

A raucous punk-pop record through and through, you’ll find yourself shouting along to each blistering chorus.

Favorite track- “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will”

13. Low Teens-Every Time I Die

etid

Every Time I Die is the pretty much the only heavy band I still keep up with, and it’s because they consistently put out killer music. With devastating lyrics and bonecrushing breakdowns throughout, this one is sure to get the blood flowing.

Favorite track-“The Coin Has A Say”

12. Stage Four-Touché Amoré

touche

A beautifully heartbreaking depiction of lead singer Jeremy Bolm’s mother’s death, Touché continues to stretch themselves and raise the bar with each release.

Favorite track-“Benediction”

11. Goodness-The Hotelier

goodness

(Sorry about the album artwork) Call them emo, call them indie rock, call them whatever you want, but there is no disputing that The Hotelier are a force to be reckoned with. Dynamic and layered in more ways than I can count, Goodness is a record that can’t be missed.

Favorite track-“Soft Animal”

10. Much Love-Microwave

microwave

Microwave make me proud to be from Atlanta. Their debut full length in 2014 Stovall was good and showed potential, but Much Love takes the band to another level. They are helping lead the way for a new wave of aggressive emo and I’m excited to see where their future leads.

Favorite track-“Vomit”

9. Nobody Likes A Quitter-All Get Out

all-get-out

All Get Out exploded onto the scene with 2011’s masterful The Season, then essentially disappeared for a number of years. Now, five years later, the follow-up proved to be well worth the wait. The band managed to capture the magic and dynamics of The Season while building and expanding into an entirely new sound.

Favorite track-“Sideways”

8. The Light We Made-Balance & Composure

balance

B&C’s 2013 release The Things We Think We’re Missing took me from a casual fan of this band to a raving fan. With Light We Made, Balance have taken their well-loved, grunge tinged version of emo and introduced drum machines, psychedelic style riffs, and even a touch of auto-tune to stretch themselves to places I didn’t think possible for them. And it totally works.

Favorite track-“Afterparty”

7. Coloring Book- Chance The Rapper

chance

My first taste of Chance came when he absolutely stole the show with his verse on Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam.” It’s one of my favorite rap verses in quite a while. After hearing that, I dove into Chance’s back catalog and began getting super stoked for Chance 3. His quirky but hard-hitting lyrical content mixed with a bevy of collaborators brewed up a perfect storm of hip-hop that caught everyone off guard. I also love Chance’s DIY attitude. Coloring Book is his 3rd mixtape, no record labels involved, and to this day 6 months after it’s release is still only available to stream, cannot be purchased. It’s also the first album to chart on Billboard 200 solely through streaming, and it made it all the way to number 8. With young guys like Chance (only 23 years old) blossoming out of the hip-hop scene, we have a bright future ahead of us.

Favorite track-“Summer Friends”

6. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere-Thrice

thrice

Thrice is a legacy band, they are truly one of my favorite bands of all time. This record is their first after a 5 year hiatus, and is exactly what I wanted it to be. It is a straightforward Thrice record. The guitar riffs hit just as hard as they ever have, and vocalist Dustin Kensrue’s voice is at its finest. Lyrically, it has some of their best work. In the 5 years that the band was gone, Dustin was on staff at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and appears to have been pretty jaded by the mega-church’s collapse. We also get to see a more political side of Thrice than we have ever seen, something that I welcomed with open arms considering the mess we are in now. The band shows why they are such a respected act with this album, they didn’t try to reinvent the wheel or alter their sound too much. They just gave us what we wanted, and I, for one, am glad they are back.

Favorite track-“Black Honey”

5. Cardinal-Pinegrove

pinegrove

I recently tried to describe this album to someone, and what I landed on was ‘twangy, lo-fi emo.” This came out of nowhere for me this year. I hadn’t even heard of this band until I saw this record getting talked about all over chorus.fm, a music website i frequent. When I finally gave it a listen, I was completely enthralled. There is something so familiar about it, but also totally fresh. The music has great dynamics, often forcing the lyrics to take a back seat. That’s not to say, though, that the lyrics aren’t fantastic. In fact, the record has one of my very favorite lyrics of the year. “I should call my parents when I think of them, should tell my friends when I love them/maybe I should have gone out a bit more, when you guys were still in town/ I got too caught up in my own shit, it’s how every outcome is such a comedown” If you like any type of country music, or any type of indie/emo music, give this a listen. You won’t be disappointed. Well, you might be disappointed, but at least you would have heard something new.

Favorite track-“Old Friends”

4. Holy Ghost-Modern Baseball

mobo

Modern Baseball is a band that has kind of lit a small portion of the world on fire over the last few years. Their fan base isn’t massive, but they are devoted. People are endeared to to their quirky songwriting style and personalities. Over their past few releases we have watched them mature in real-time. Now, with Holy Ghost, the band has taken a huge leap forward. Their songwriting has matured in a major way, both lyrically and in song composition. They have retained their quirky attitude, while shedding off a lot of things from their earlier records that were holding them back. The band has 2 main songwriters, Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald, that normally work together on songs. For this record they took a bit of a different approach; the first half is written by Ewald, the second half by Lukens. When this was first announced, I was a bit skeptical it would work. I was worried it would feel disjointed, more like 2 EPs than an album. I am glad to say I was wrong. The 2 halves of the record fit together perfectly, and it is cool to see how different, but at the same time similar, their songwriting styles are. I really think Modern Baseball have a bright future ahead of them.

Favorite track-“Note To Self”

3. Integrity Blues-Jimmy Eat World

jew

Jimmy Eat World is another one of those legacy bands I mentioned earlier, though their legacy likely has a much bigger footprint than others. Almost every time this band puts out a record, the general consensus is that it is yet another masterpiece. Granted, there is some disagreement about the previous 2 releases, Invented and Damage, but for the most part people expect greatness when JEW announces an album. Thankfully, with Integrity Blues greatness is exactly what we got. From the first time i heard lead single “Sure and Certain” I was floored. My expectations went through the roof. Honestly, I marked the record has an AOTY contender before I even heard it, which is always dangerous. But I truly do love this record. Jim’s vocals and lyrics are just as good as they’ve ever been, and the guitar tones are spot on. It has the catchy hooks that we’ve come to expect in songs like “It Matters,” “You Are Free,” and “Through”, and the brilliant post-rockesque guitar driven instrumentals in “Pass The Baby” and “Sure and Certain.” Futures is still, and will likely always be, my favorite JEW record, but Integrity Blues comes in at a close second.

Favorite track-“Sure and Certain”

2. Stay Gold-Butch Walker

butch-walker

There isn’t much for me to say about this record that I haven’t already said here. It really is just fantastic. Catchy songs, well told stories, twangy guitars, rock n’ roll attitude, what else do you need? I’m not going to write much, because I already did, just listen to the record. And stay gold.

Favorite track-“Stay Gold”

1. I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It-The 1975

the-1975

I know, big surprise. If you know me, read this blog, or follow me on twitter then you know how obsessed I am with this record and this band. I wrote a post about it when it first came out, but that was back in March. When it first came out, I knew this was going to be my favorite album of the year (the only thing that stood any hope of besting it was if Brand New put out an album, but we all see how that went…), and it has managed to grow on me even more since. Part of what helped grow my love and appreciation for the record is that I saw the band perform twice this year. They are very careful and particular about crafting their aesthetic, which is something I love. That came through tenfold in the live shows. Having a strong visual image to pair with such an enthralling album really helped me connect more and dive deeper into it. I am aware that over the past year The 1975 has gained a bit of a reputation for their fanbase, the main complaint being that there are a large number of young girls who are fans of the band solely because of lead singer Matt Healey. I personally haven’t seen that to be true, but even if it is I am OK with it. As long as they are hearing high-quality pop music like this instead of some of the other options out there, that is a good thing. The 1975 are helping create a generation that craves quality music and knows it when they hear it. So, how can that be bad?  All that being said, and all that I have already said about it here, I truly think it is a great album. Similar to Batman at the end of The Dark Knight, this record is not the album 2016 deserved, but it is the album that 2016 needed. Yeah, you should be loving someone.

Favorite track-“The Sound”

Fall Is Fall Is Fall Is Fall

Fall. It’s finally here. Time to break out your college football gear, light hoodies, Oktoberfests, and start putting pumpkin flavoring in anything and everything you can find apparently. I’m not sure where this pumpkin craze came from, seemingly out of nowhere. Everywhere I look I see pumpkin flavored nonsense. I like a little bit of pumpkin here and there, but it is getting out of control this year. But I digress.

The most important part of fall, as is really the case with every season, is the music. When the weather starts to cool down a touch, the music has to follow suit. As I mentioned in a previous post, summer time is all about fast, loud, and sing-along-ability(made that word up but I’m sticking with it). That makes summer the perfect time for catchy pop, punk, and (no surprise) pop-punk. When it comes to fall, I typically want to put on music that has more depth, darker tones, and is quite frankly a bit weirder. I tend to listen to a lot of La Dispute, Foxing, mewithoutYou, All Get Out, and (obviously) Brand New during this season. I considered doing a list of my favorite fall records, but my favorite movie list post really wore me out on lists (I can’t stress how difficult making that list was). So instead, I decided to just give you a few of the records I think I am going to find myself spinning a lot this fall. There will be some new and some old, so check some out and let me know what you think! These are in no particular order.

Pinegrove- Cardinal

I think this is the type of album that most of you reading this could really get into, even if you don’t typically like the type of music I talk about. Cardinal has a kind of alt-country sound with super lo-fi production. The songwriting is so phenomenal. It also has one of my favorite lyrics of the year so far, “I should call my parents when I think of them, should tell my friends when I love them. Maybe I should have gone out a bit more, are you guys still in town? I got too caught up in my own shit, it’s how every outcome is such a comedown.”

Brand New- Leaked Demos 2006 aka Fight Off Your Demons Demos aka TDAGARIM Demos

These are a group of demos that leaked in 2006 while Brand New was working on the follow up to Deja Entendu. A majority of the songs were scrapped, with a few winding up on the next record (my favorite of all time) The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. The band ignored that the demos ever existed until this year, when they released them officially onto iTunes, Spotify, and, in typical Brand New fashion, on cassette tape. The songs themselves are nothing short of brilliant. They are demos, so they are rough and unfinished, and they have a really raw quality that is essential for fall music listening.

As Cities Burn- Come Now Sleep

As Cities Burn is a band that was criminally underrated, under-appreciated, and short lived. They only put out 3 records, all of which are stunning and totally different. Come Now Sleep tends to be more melancholy than the other releases. The album is lyrically stunning throughout and littered with brooding and haunting melodies. It has its moments of intensity as well, making the pacing and tracking of the record a perfect listen for a late night fall drive with windows down.

Balance & Composure- The Light We Made

This record just came out last week and man is it great. Will definitely find a spot in my top 10 year end list for sure. The album is mesmerizing. The rhythms and guitar tones lull me into a vibey, dream-like trance. I really just don’t know how to describe it. B&C are an aggressive emo/post-grunge type sounding band that started experimenting with electronic drums and different chord progressions, and it totally works for them and totally works for me this fall.

Side note: even though they aren’t out for another two weeks, if what I have heard so far is any inclination then I think Jimmy Eat World’s Integrity Blues and All Get Out’s Nobody Likes A Quitter will be getting a LOT of play after their release dates.

Top 10 Favorite Movies

I love movies. Drama, horror, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, etc. Hell, I even love a good musical (not Les Mis though, that movie was bad). I know the word ‘cinephile’ sounds pretentious, but it really isn’t. The definition is simply “one who is fond of motion pictures”. So, yeah, I’ll claim the title of cinephile. I took a few film classes in college. In high school I took Film/Video 1 and 2, and then convinced the teacher to let me take Film/Video 2 again and credit it as Film/Video 3 (which didn’t exist, thanks Mrs. Turner!) I’m not saying this to make it sound like I know more than I do, just to illustrate how long and deeply I love watching movies.

I also love making lists: favorite albums, favorite books, favorite TV shows. Lists like this spur conversation and debate. “Are you kidding me? How could you rank The Joshua Tree higher than Revolver?” “You don’t even have The West Wing on here!” And one thing that people love discussing is movies. So I’ve decided to combine the two and present to you a list of my to 10 favorite movies. I’ve written a few of my thoughts on each one; nothing spectacular or very long, just what was in my head as I made the list.

10. Fight Club (1999)

fight-club-25541

Fight Club is just a great movie. David Fincher’s directing combines with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton at their very best to create a truly unique experience. The attitude of the film relates to everyone on some sort of deep subconscious level. A small, primal piece of us on some level craves that anti-establishment nihilistic outlook on life, the freedom that Tyler Durden gives to our narrator. I’m sure that most guys around my age would have Fight Club in their top 20 somewhere.

9. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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I couldn’t not have a Wes Anderson flick on the list. He is kind of becoming a parody of himself at this point, but I love most of his movies. This one is an easy favorite for me. Not only does it have Anderson’s unique quirky style and quick dialogue, but it tells the story of 3 brothers on a journey of self-discovery through India. If you know me, you know that I am the youngest of 3 brothers, so I have always had a connection to this movie.

8. Psycho (1960)

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I love horror films of all types: slasher, supernatural, gore, sci-fi, and of course psychological. Alfred Hitchcock is the indisputable master of suspense and father of modern horror. Psycho is a perfect example of Hitchcock’s style and is a disturbing mixture of suspense, mystery, and violence; basically everything I love about the genre.

7. Cloverfield (2008)

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I’ll never forget being at the midnight showing for The Dark Knight and seeing a strange teaser for some type of monster movie. There was no title at the end, just the release date “1-18-08.” This launched the brilliantly done viral marketing campaign of what would be Cloverfield. Thankfully when it came out, it lived up to the hype. A perfect example of what a found-footage film should be, the script and acting are top notch. The way it is shot was not used as a gimmick, but as a pivotal piece of the narrative and storytelling.

6. Fargo (1996)

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Dark comedies are hard to write, but the Coen brothers have damn near perfected it. The utterly bleak snow-laden landscape serves as much more than a setting for the film, it almost acts as a character in itself. The actors all shine throughout the film, endearing us to the ‘good guys’ and making us turn our head in disgust at the ‘bad guys’. The imagery of the bright red blood on the stark white snow is an iconic look that cannot soon be forgotten.

5. Alien (1979)

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As I said earlier, I love horror films. Alien is a brilliant genre-defining story of, you guessed it, an extra-terrestrial alien that makes its way onto a spacecraft and ravages the ship and it’s crew. The sets and costumes are stunning, and the alien itself is horrifying and, in a way, beautiful. The film proves that often times the most disturbing and unsettling moments of horror, are in the dark quiet moments. The slow building tension of when and where the alien will be sets up perfectly timed huge scares. Alien is a lesson in pacing, an example of how great horror films should be made.

4. Almost Famous (2000)

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This movie holds a special place in my heart. A fantastically written story about a 15 year old kid in the 70s who aspires to be a rock journalist and lies his way into a job with Rolling Stone and winds up traveling the country with a rock band. My biggest passion is music, and doing that as a 15 year old would have been an absolute dream for me. The characters are so fun and well written, it’s one of those movies you can go back and watch over and over again and always enjoy.

3. The Shining (1980)

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Oh look, another horror movie! The Shining has it all: ghosts, hallways overflowing with blood, Jack Nicholson breaking through doors with an axe. What more could you ask for? The cinematography is stunning. The story is relatively simple, but wonderfully told. It’s a twisted look at the dark side of humanity, what happens when we are trapped in a claustrophobic space and left to our devices? Maybe our psyche creates an entire haunted hotel? Or maybe it was haunted the whole time? After all, you’ve always been the caretaker…

2. Pulp Fiction (1994)

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Quentin Tarantino could make a case for being my favorite director, definitely top 3. Honestly it was difficult for me to not put 4 of his movies in my top 10, but I had to spread the love to be fair. Pulp Fiction is a character driven movie. Dialogue is Tarantino’s specialty (as well as feet and samurai swords), and that is what makes Pulp Fiction really stand out from the rest. All the conversations are quick, witty, and real. The non-linear plot structure really helps us to put the overarching plot into the background and focus on what is happening at that exact moment of the film. A whole other element is the level of violence in the film. You never know when something seemingly normal is going to result in brutality. Even though it is number 2 on my list, Pulp Fiction is probably the movie I have watched the most in my life, and that is not likely to change.

1. Super 8 (2011)

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Super 8 really caught me by surprise, though I’m not sure how because I am a real sucker for anything attached to the name J. J. Abrams. I’ve described the film to people as ‘a combination of E.T. and The Goonies (now this year I’ve described Netflix’s Stranger Things as a combination of E.T., The Goonies, and Super 8). I can’t stress enough how much I love this movie. It looks amazing, sounds amazing, and the actors are brilliant. The chemistry between the kids is unlike any I’ve seen with actors, even at that age. The way that Joe deals with the loss of his mother through connecting with the alien and helping it escape is truly heart-warming. The moment when the alien looks Joe in the eyes, seeing him as only his mother could, as Joe says, “Bad things happen. I know bad things happen, but you can still live,” is one of my absolute favorite moments in all of film. I see my childhood self and my friends in those kids, running around their small hometown causing mischief and making ‘movies’. That is probably the reason I love this film so much. Yes, movies are fun and entertaining, but when it comes down to it the best films are about an emotional connection.

Stay Gold (Don’t Let Em Get You Down)

There are certain albums and bands that just fit perfectly with certain seasons. I think I may have written a bit on this thought before. Catchy, sing-along pop-punk is perfect for summer. For me, fall is when I tend towards emo based music and things with ‘earthy’ tones, if that makes sense. Winter is obviously for acoustic singer-songwriter vibes. Every once in a while, though, an album is released that fits perfectly in between two seasons. That is what I’ve discovered in Butch Walker’s 8th solo studio album Stay Gold.

Butch is truly an anomaly in the music industry. Since his stint in 90s rock band Marvelous 3, he has embarked on a career filled with writing, producing, and performing some of my favorite songs and records. His production resume includes Fall Out Boy, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, All Time Low, Keith Urban, Weezer, Pink, Brian Fallon, and countless others. His solo albums number among some of my favorites, with 2015’s Afraid of Ghosts landing in my top 10 favorites records of that year. Although Stay Gold is a completely different record in almost every aspect, it has rapidly become my favorite record in his solo discography.

Stay Gold is at its heart and through-and-through a rock n’ roll record. From the opening guitar notes of title track “Stay Gold” you can feel the youthfulness and energy that surge throughout the album. There is an excitement, a vigor for life that is palpable throughout the record. Butch does a fantastic job of combining some of my favorite elements of music to create a sound that is both familiar and unique. Weaving the alt-country-esque twang, the in your face guitar attitude of classic rock, the ‘whoa-ohs’ and sing along chants of pop rock, and the Springsteen inspired storytelling together to create an experience that embodies the exuberance of being young and free. It’s loud, it’s fun, it’s reckless and raw. It just feels like being a teenager during that time between summer ending and fall kicking up; running around with your friends, windows down, causing just a bit more trouble before school swallows you whole again.

When I try to describe the way this album feels, the word I keep coming back to is ‘youth’. I feel like I’ve used it, or a variation of it, a dozen times already, but it just fits. Youthful energy and young love, thats what the record is at its essence. Of course it has its slower moments, songs like “Descending” and “Record Store,” but they still have a sense of hope to them, a feeling of adolescent optimism.

I had the honor of seeing Butch Walker perform at the 40 Watt in Athens about a week before Stay Gold was released. Honestly, it wasn’t like any show i’d ever been to. He commanded the crowd throughout the entire set with an energy and vigor unlike any i’d seen, especially from a guy nearing 50. As I watched him strut across the stage in his denim vest, shaggy hair, and red bandana around his neck, slaying guitar solos, and effortlessly endearing hundreds of people to him I couldn’t help but admire him. He’s just got it, whatever that classic intangible ‘it’ is. To me, he is the embodiment of a true rock n’ roll dude. And if he is the shining example of rock music to the world, that is quite alright with me.

The End (Omega)

I used to have a t-shirt that read “a public service announcement relevant to the apocalypse of modern music. IF YOU DON’T LIKE SHOWBREAD YOU’RE AN IDIOT. thank you and may raw rock kill you forever and ever amen.” I loved that shirt (my mom, of course, hated it). I thought I was so cool walking around school and church youth group with that shirt on. It was like I was in on a secret that all these other kids didn’t know about; the greatest, coolest, weirdest, band of all time was right in front of their eyes and they didn’t even know, AND I was making fun of them for not listening to Showbread! I loved it. I prided myself in being a Showbread fan, they were my hometown heroes. Now, over 10 years later, the band played their final show on August 20 2016. Looking back on that kid who sharpied his fingernails black and thrashed about to Showbread while mowing the lawn, at the time I had no idea how much of an impact that band was making and would make on my musical tastes and, overall, my life.

There aren’t many bands that I remember hearing for the first time. Showbread is a different story. I was in the car with my brother Matt (I remember where we were on the road, oddly enough, but can’t remember exactly which car it was). He said something along the lines of ‘Check this song out, I used to work at the YMCA with a guy in the band,’ then put in a CD and clicked to track 3 as ‘Mouth Like A Magazine’ from Showbread’s sophomore album No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical.

Up until this point in life, I had pretty much been listening to whatever was on the radio with a tiny bit of pop-punk thrown in, MxPx, Relient K, New Found Glory, etc. It was mostly music that was polished and catchy, stuff that was easily accessible and more-or-less simple. Showbread, however, was an entirely different beast. It was chaos. It was unabashedly weird. It was, as best described by the band, raw rock. I didn’t realize music could be like this. That entire record, from start to finish, is a rollercoaster of noise. I fell so hard into this band. We went to as many concerts as we could, bought all the t-shirts, introduced my friends to the band (some liked it, most didn’t), and played it as loud as I could from my car stereo.

When Showbread released their next album Age of Reptiles 2 years later, it was completely different. It retained the same fervor and energy as Nihilism but was less chaotic. The record was weird and strange and beautiful in a totally different way than its predecessor, and I loved it. My passion for the band grew and grew.

In 2008 the band put out their strangest and most ambitious release to date, a double concept album called Anorexia/Nervosa. The lyrics of the record itself tell a fairy tale-esque story of two sisters; one who is digging a hole and another who is building a tower. Along the way they meet similar characters and each comes to a similar revelation at the end. Within the lyric booklet, however, another version of the story is told. Below the lyrics to each song the story of the sisters are told in the real world, one sister building a children’s hospital, while the other becomes a stripper. The story has time stamps for each song, showing you at what point in each song you should be reading the story as the music ebbs and flows with events that correspond in both stories. It’s a strange concept and i’m doing a very poor job explaining it. What you need to know is that it is very weird and very beautiful.

And that is the most important thing that Showbread taught me. They opened my eyes to an entire other world of music. Music that is weird and kind of bizarre. Music that can be unpolished and chaotic. Without those 3 Showbread records I mentioned, I never would have gotten into bands like mewithoutYou, Norma Jean, La Dispute, Every Time I Die, The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, and countless other bands that make music that connects on some weird, chaotic, and riotous level.

Even though I may not listen to them all that often anymore, and I haven’t really LOVED any of the albums since 2009, I will always be thankful to Showbread and for how they shaped who I am today. I hope that in 30 years when I am working some miserably boring desk job in some office, somewhere deep within me I’ll still feel the strange anarchic chaos that Showbread’s brand of raw rock imparted onto me.

Thank you, and may raw rock kill you forever and ever. Amen.

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Something In The Way She Moves

A large majority of the music that I listened to would be considered relatively ‘new’. Probably around 85% of what I listen to on a regular basis was released during or after the late 90’s. Obviously there are exceptions; I love The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, John Denver, Nirvana, etc. But for the most part my tastes tend to lean more towards styles that developed more in the early 00s.

Because of this, most of the vinyl I buy are new, and by that I mean not used. Occasionally I’ll stumble upon something used that I love and was released recently, but even then the record hasn’t been around a terribly long time. While writing this and listening to a copy of The Beatles’ Abbey Road that I picked up earlier this week, I am having a bit of an experience that I don’t normally get from spinning one of the ‘newer’ records that make up most of my collection.

As I put the record on and heard those first bass and drum filled seconds of “Come Together,” I realized that I am playing a part in someone else’s history with this album. I hear the crackles and the pops and the hisses made from years, decades of someone else listening to this specific physical copy of the record. Multiple needles have worn these exact grooves, dozens of speakers have pushed out these exact same vibrations. It is fascinating to me. I sit here imagining the high school couple dancing to “Something” in their living room, the kid in the 80s who found the record in his dad’s collection hearing the bluesy guitar riffs in “I Want You” for the first time, or the woman listening to “Here Comes The Sun” sitting on the edge of her bed finding some sort of hope in the wake of a rough divorce.

It’s a strange feeling, a bit of a weight to be adding my wear and notches to the record. Not that there is anything special about today, I just put the record on in the background as I cleaned and packed to head out of town for a few days, but that is a part of its story now. I am adding to the history and the legacy of these grooves. All I can hope is that whoever plays this record after me, whether it’s my kid who finds it buried in a closet one day and puts it on, or a stranger who picks it up at a yard sale, will be aware that they are a part of something bigger and that in some weird way they are connected to me and to anyone who listened to this record for decades before and everyone who will listen to it after them.