I have a lot of stupid questions that I keep trying to ask.
I have a lot of stupid questions that I keep trying to ask.
I assume we call it work so when we tell other people what we’ve been doing we can pretend we’re the same as them. Like we’re some sort of adults. What did you do at work? Met with patients. Did paperwork. Wrote reports. Fixed spreadsheets. Figured out a budget. Bought product. Worked on securing new sales. And you? Stared at a page for a few hours, then a screen. Waiting for words to appear. Thought maybe it would happen magically for a while. It didn’t. Tried to imagine everyone happy or everyone dying. Or everyone simply existing. I erased more than I wrote, violated physics. Created space to fill it with emptiness. That’s sort of like laying brick, right? They can convert their sweat, their movement, their effort into something tangible. Money and worth. He built a house. I built nothing. I am worthless. I have nothing to convert to meaning. Just some subjective idea of what art means. Hang a picture on that. I have nothing to show for a day of work. Thoughts drifting in the air between my head and my hand. There are molecules but not much else.
I love this song and felt compelled to share it with everyone in the world. Seeing how I don’t know everyone in the world, I did the next best thing, the only thing I’m capable of, wrote a blog about it.So here it is. Maybe I’ll do this more, even though most of my music blogs don’t get much attention. A shame for me because I love discussing music.
I’ve been doing brief reviews for albums over the last week or two, but I had to take a break to talk about how amazing this song is. It’s special, really, really, really special. The song starts with sparse guitars and a piercing voice singing about domestic abuse. It’s a haunting topic and her vocals match. The guitar mostly follows her voice up and down until the rest of the band kicks and the song momentarily explodes until the next verse and the chill is back in your spine. More than half way through the song becomes a massive rocker, flying through the door, breaking every valuable you have in the house. It sounds big and it’s beautiful while the guitar screams its first solo. Then quiet returns. The song almost disappears and falls away. Right when it feels just about over, the second guitar solo comes squealing in. The solo is exceptional in the way it starts and carries the song without any help for more than 20 seconds. Just a wailing guitar that has as much emotion behind it as the rest of the song, which is a great deal.
When you have a history with a band, assessing the quality of an album becomes a little hazy. The pros and cons of the music and lyrics are clouded by your memories of each song. Who you hung out with when you listened to this song, who you were dating when you liked this one, who broke your heart, who loved you, and all the rest of your life flashes before your eyes. The music takes a backseat. All that is fine when enjoying the album on your own, but makes for a terrible review. I’ll do my best.
Number 29: Brand New – Your Favorite Weapon (2001)
I want to review the album before questioning why this album made this list so I don’t appear to hate this album because I don’t.
I’m a fan of this band and this album in particular. I first heard it when I was in my teenage years, so it hit me at the perfect time. The music itself is relatively simple. It’s a pop-punk album and if you have any idea what that means, you know what this album will sound like. The chords are simple, the drumming is simple, the melodies are simple. None of that means it’s bad. Far from it. Put together the right way, simple parts make impressive songs. A lot of the songs – Seventy Times 7 and Jude Law come to mind – are brilliant pop-punk songs. The melodies are catchy and the solo into in Seventy, while not mind melting, fits the song really well. If you grew up during a certain time period, the early 2000’s, or if you’re a teenager, there is a lot to love on this record. But there are problems too. One track deals specifically with writer’s block (“we don’t believe in filler baby”), but sounds more like a by the numbers song than anything else. Then Mix Tape, which is again self-referential, fails to escape the irony.
A lot of the problems on this album come from the lyrics. They don’t hold up. There’s a lot of revenge, spite, and petty complaints (vague enough to mean nothing, but so angry they reflect badly on the person singing them). It reeks of teenage, simplistic, mindsets. In one song he repeats “This isn’t high school” then a few songs later sings, “I’m gonna stay eighteen forever.” and “you’re just jealous cause I’m young and in love.” Then it gets darker, and possibly an attempt to be comedic. “Don’t apologize, I hope you choke and die.” and “have another drink and drive yourself home, I hope there’s ice on all the roads” are examples of the sort of lines that a kid would find dark and funny. After reading lines like that then hearing him sing, “You’re as subtle as a brick in the small of my back” you wonder if he’s talking to himself.
There’s a way to be angry in songs without sounding like a little kid making threats to someone he feels slighted him in some way. Saves the Day’s As Your Ghost Takes Flight and The Movielife’s I Hope You Die Soon take such extreme, ridiculous, sarcastic, positions that the threats feel like pain more than anger.
With all my complaints, if you don’t take the lyrics seriously, and try to imagine the singer isn’t taking them seriously either, despite his delivery, then they are fun to sing along with in the car.
Overall, I think the album is worth a listen if you can place it where it belongs. It’s not groundbreaking, it’s not very challenging. It’s a solid, sometimes great, pop-punk album.
I don’t want this part to take away from the album but I have to seriously question this entry. Is it solely playing to your audience? Looking at the merits of the album on its own without my personal history it’s hard to think it belongs here, especially alongside groundbreaking bands like Moss Icon. Moss Icon were trying new ways to write songs while Your Favorite Weapon is a formulaic pop punk album. Is it discernibly better than The Movielife? The Starting Line? New Found Glory? Since there are doubles on this list, we’ll get into it later, is this album better than Can’t Slow Down? Stay What You Are? Something To Write Home About? On A Wire? If we’re going to give props to pop punk bands, then it should probably be Blink 182 or Green Day for paving the way.
My point isn’t that there are better albums, that mostly comes down to preference and what criteria you’re using to decide. My point is that there are numerous albums that all do more or less the same thing as this one. To include it seems arbitrary.
Done with my rant.
I have a great relationship with music that was made before I was born. Growing up, like almost everyone around my age, I listened to tons of old rock and roll because it’s what my parents listened to all the time (please keep reminding yourself that you aren’t special). I have no memories of not liking The Beatles, I also enjoyed The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and The Grateful Dead probably more than was reasonable for a non-drug using 9 year old (hopefully no 9 year olds are using drugs, but that was sort of a prerequisite for listening). Anyway, there are difficulties inherent in listening to old music. The major one, for me, is that I am disconnected entirely from the culture surrounding that music. This includes everything from the scene a band was in (drug culture, hippie movement, early punk, etc) to the feelings of watching that band live and breathe. Watching them grow, put out a new album, change directions, experiment, and everything else that goes on in a band’s lifetime.
Number 30: Moss Icon – Lyburnum Wits End Liberation Fly (1994, recorded in 1988)
My first thought, 30 seconds into this album, was, If I found this tape at a record store at 15, right when it was released, this would have blown my mind. That’s not to say that being older, and 22 years removed from the release date diminishes the record in anyway. What it does do is change how I hear it. I’ve brushed up on my musical history enough to know that the sound on this record was fresh and very much in the “scene” in the late 80’s. But not being a part of that scene when it was happening, I’m left picking up the pieces of the bigger names, like Minor Threat, Government Issue, and Fugazi. Hearing this band after those bands makes it difficult to think about this band in their proper place. This band were at the forefront of a movement, but I can’t put myself in that place when I hear it. I’m 22 years removed from that movement. I’m the product of 10 movements on top of that movement.
The album itself has brilliant moments. It’s early post-hardcore, but doesn’t fall into many stereotypes, probably because they were inventing them. Compared to modern heavy albums, Moss Icon were much more willing to give songs space to move around. There are empty spaces, not noodling or atmospheric, but quieter punk songs within songs. Divinity Cove has a nice groove in the midst of the heavier yelling sections. The lyrics have a more poetic feel, often abstract, but you can feel the anger all the same. They have an 11 and a half minute song that touches every genre you can think of related to hardcore/emo. It really is a tour de force that should be appreciated by anyone who listens to any type of independent music. I didn’t experience the early 90’s scene, but the song would be unexpected and groundbreaking today.
The shitty part about listening to this album is that I feel I’m just too far away from the world that created this music to be included. I don’t know how many times I’ll listen to Moss Icon, but I don’t imagine it’s a lot, and that bums me out. Hopefully I’m wrong.
Some music hangs around your periphery for years, dipping in and out of your life, always there but never truly present. The name is familiar, their sound is familiar, but you’d be hard pressed to pick them out of a lineup. I’m not sure if this hurts or helps when listening to them in the future, but it undoubtedly colors your perception of them. I hope the next paragraph or two is as unbiased as I can be. You can tell me if I succeed or fail.
Number 31: The Jealous Sound – Kill Them With Kindness (2003)
I saw this band back in 2003 or 2004 with Cursive (or maybe Minus the Bear or The Honorary Title or The Format) and I really enjoyed the performance. In fact, everyone I was with enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s hard to hear bands live without knowing them. It can be less than precise because energy is important when playing to people. You want to put on a good show, not just recreate the exact sounds on your album. Even with that uphill battle, The Jealous Sound impressed. It was an intense show that didn’t lack the joy of live music. However, my friend bought whatever their most recent release was, and was disappointed. I should have done my own research, but things seem hectic when we’re teens and I was on to the next thing before ever listening.
That was stupid.
Going through this album for the fourth or fifth time, it’s nice. Everything about it is pleasant. The songs are relatively straightforward, never really breaking off on a math rock tangent, or breaking from standard time signatures. The guitar work is solid and constantly fun, even though the songs often feel heavier emotionally. His voice is different from most of the other bands on this list. He takes a more relaxed, backseat approach to singing. It’s less abrasive, strained, and challenging than some of the other emo bands. There’s a pleasing calm in the way he sings. It’s a nice counterpoint to the music that’s often very driving. I’m not sure anything stands out on this album but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The album is consistent, and that’s much more important than a mind blowing song and mediocre album. My one complaint is that this album could be a bit more offensive. It could spit and groan a little more, though, the obvious risk there is ruining the feel of the album they were going for. I’m not stupid enough to think I can improve this album, I’m only talking about my personal preferences that could have been touched on.I often like there to be something gross about the music I listen to, and this is too pleasing, which is about the nicest insult I can think of.
Music is my favorite type of art form. But it is ubiquitous to the point that it suffers. Most other forms of art – poetry, literature, plays, painting – requires we go out of way, to some degree, to experience it. There are high and low forms of every type of art, but the low forms of poetry, for instance, aren’t shoved into our eyes and ears. Meanwhile, if I go to the supermarket, mediocre music is score my grocery shopping. It requires no effort, no deliberate action to consume music. And it reaches the point that music is expected and unremarkable since it is an ever-present. This is another reason why projects like this are so useful. This blog forces me to sit down and truly listen to an album. I have to pick out what I like and what I don’t like and think about why in order to write it down here. My opinions may be stupid, but it still requires action which is better than the passive way we approach music on a daily basis.
Without any further rambling, the list
Number 32: Algernon Cadwallader – Some Kind of Cadwallader (2008)
According to Google, Cadwallader is a name of Welsh origins. Algernon is the eponymous character from the book about genius pills. Well that’s weird, and it makes perfect sense when you listen to this band. A fairly well known band from the emo revival, perhaps among those who started it up again, and massively referenced by current emo bands. People say these guys picked up where Cap’n Jazz left off, but that would sort of be an insult in my book. (Not that I don’t respect Cap’n Jazz, but we’ll get into that later in the list.) They are a noodly bunch of mother fuckers, with the oddest time signatures and start/stops, left/right, upside down, nonsense music you can possibly sneak onto the radio. For all their indie/emo/math-ness that floods every song, they are at times super catchy. Even though you can’t nod along without looking like you’re having a seizure, there are some nice grooves. The songs feel like songs rather than a collection of sounds, which is tough to pull off with this style.
It’s a surprisingly fun album even though it makes you work to keep up with all the directions a single song can take.
This isn’t the best quality, but for those who never experienced something like a punk show, this is what you might expect from a basement show.
If you ever wanted to high-five your favorite singer, start listening to cooler music!