Just saw that this record was released TEN YEARS AGO today. This was a big part of my soundtrack in high school, and the lyrics to the track never rang as true for me as they did listening this morning. This record described a lot of what I was going through at the time of its release, good times with friends and the ups and downs of being young. What I neglected to appreciate at 16 however, was that the author of these anthems that were defining my youth was writing them from an older man’s perspective, one I now relate to more than ever. I’ve embedded the title track below because even if you aren’t a fan, it’s sentiment might still move you.
“The Hero Dies In This One” has always been one of my favorite tracks.
At age 16, So Long, Astoria made me think about how much I loved where I was at that time. I loved all of my friends, and I knew that in a short time we would all be divided up across the country. I knew that despite the inevitability of change, I wanted nothing more than to just freeze myself in that time permanently. I loved all of them so much, more than they may have known at the time.
Time has come and gone, and life has taken us all in various directions. I certainly don’t regret anything in the last ten years, as its brought me to where I am now, and I am very happy in my life. I’m very lucky for multiple reasons, and I remind myself of that on a daily basis. However, every now and then, especially when I hear the fuzzed out guitars, hard rocking percussion, and gruff vocals on So Long, Astoria, I’m reminded how amazing that time in my life truly was. I’ll end this post with “In This Diary”, the album’s nostalgic lead single.
If you haven’t already, check out the whole record on Spotify and take a trip back in time.
Shiny Toy Guns are back with III, a collection of strong songs that showcase their brand of electro-Pop with an alt-punk edge. The band embraces a softer sound on this record, due in part to the return of former Co-Lead Vocalist Carah Faye Charnow. Her alluring alto seems tailor made for a bed of dreamy synths, and is a perfect counterpoint to the slightly gruffer work by Co-Lead Vocalist Gregori Chad Petree. Their duets on tracks like “Waiting Alone” (below) and the lush “Wait For Me” make for my favorite moments on III. This is a record you can relax to, but that doesn’t mean it is without its uptempo moments. “The Sun” is a pulsating rocker that spices up the album’s latter half, and “Speaking Japanese” has a dirty guitar fueled grind to it. III has a much more focused feel than previous Shiny Toy Guns records, but that is not to say that their previous albums are unfocused. The often over used (and dreaded) term “more mature” can certainly apply here, but when writers employ that term they are usually referring to the bands focus. III feels like a complete album, one whose recording process started with a specific direction in mind. Fans have celebrated the bands ability to jump all over the musical map, but with their third record the band has chosen to send a specific tonal message, one that I found most engaging. Grab it for yourself today at Amazon MP3.
PLAY IT WITH: Metric, The Presets, Yeasayer, The Eurythmics
Pines is a record that I can get behind. The latest record by A Fine Frenzy not only tells a story, but celebrates it. The album contains 13 tracks that aren’t afraid to paint a picture as well as entertain. This is definitely a headphone record. Whispered vocals, subtle arrangements, and delicate ambiance combine to make Pines an extremely theatrical aural experience. The story of the album is about a tree that has free will bestowed upon it. I know how that may sound to some, but trust me, its not as ‘precious’ as you may think. Much of the album features quiet, light acoustic instrumentation that sets up perfect contrast heavier moments. Dynamic production is the highlight of this album, and though I have placed a track from the record below (‘Avalanches’) I’m not going to recommend any other. You should take the time with this record as a whole. Let it win you over. And when it does, be sure to check out the interactive eStorybook that was created in order to help tell the album’s story. It is available in the iTunes store, and there is a link to it at A Fine Frenzy’s website. Put the record on, relax, and enjoy the experience of falling in love with truly fantastic art.
PLAYLIST COMPANIONS: Andrew Bird, Lisa Hannigan, Florence + The Machine, storytelling in general.
Ben Gibbard makes his solo debut with Former Lives, a collection of tunes written over an eight year span. If you’re a fan of any of Gibbard’s other projects (Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service, All-Time Quarterback!) you will be very pleased with this record. Gibbard has a gift for crafting warm melodies that seem familiar to the listener. Not because he is ripping anyone off, but because his delivery is so inviting that the tunes feel like they have always been a part of you. ‘Bigger Than Love’ is a duet with Aimee Mann that marches along a driving tempo and bright melody. ‘Teardrop Windows’ (below) is a nostalgic ode to a bygone era. Its clean riffs and melodic structure brings to mind mid sixties pop, and you can almost hear Roy Orbison singing along. Former Lives proves that Gibbard is not afraid to experiment, featuring an a cappella tune (‘Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby’), as well as a mariachi influenced track (‘Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)’). The reverb soaked vocals and production on ‘Duncan, Where Have You Gone?’ make the track sound like a long lost John Lennon tune. Former Lives is a delightful selection of tunes by one of this generations top songwriters, and is very worth your time. This week only, you can get the album for just $5 over at Amazon MP3.
PLAYLIST COMPANIONS: Elliot Smiith, John Lennon, Two Door Cinema Club
Within ten seconds of Vital, fans of Anberlin should have a big smile on their face. By the final punch of the aptly named lead off track ‘Self-Starter’, your neck should be sore from aggressive head nods. Anberlin has always been best when they explore the passionate side of aggression, the light within the darkness, and that is exactly what Vital is all about. The blistering guitar solo in ‘Little Tyrants’ screams along the track’s fist pumping backdrop, punctuating what was an already triumphant track. First single ‘Someone Anyone’ (below) is a great snapshot of what the rest of the album has to offer, crushing guitars, energetic rhythms, and some of Stephen Christian’s best vocal work to date. The layered ‘Type Three’ is one of the albums strongest tracks, a gentler number with tinges of acoustic guitar and piano that will help you get lost in the melody. ‘Orpheum’ is another highlight, an exciting mix of big synths and powerful riffs. Vital is an extremely strong record, one that demands your attention.
PLAYLIST COMPANIONS: Foo Fighters, Sevendust, Boys Night Out, Linkin Park
The first in an already recorded trilogy of records Green Day‘s Uno! is sure to spark a lot of conversation about the punk rockers. A lot of the record feels in many ways like a career retrospective, which can be taken as either a negative or a positive. Longtime fans will notice the nods to Nimrod and Warning era, and the band will take a lot of flack for this. I think this referential tone was done on purpose. Any follow up to the massive undertaking that was the combined success of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown was bound to cause the band to look back on where they had come from, and perhaps this trilogy is meant to acknowledge the past as well as the future. The band feels freshest on tunes like “Let Yourself Go” and “Kill The DJ”. The former rages for its near three minute run time and boasts a frenetic guitar solo, while the latter incorporates some near reggae/funk influences into the bands trademark sound. Lead off scorcher “Nuclear Family” (Below) sees some of Bille Joe Armstrong‘s best lyrical work on the record. “Troublemaker” and “Loss Of Control” enjoy a Classic Rock influence that gives the tracks an exciting tone. Uno! will please fans of the bands 2000’s era output, and may surprise a few people.
Having struck up an affinity for bluegrass and other folksy styles in recent years, it seems as though Mumford & Sons have hit me at the perfect time. If you loved their debut record, there is much to love about Babel. The band certainly has a strong sense of who they are, and all the elements that made Sigh No More special are present, but turned up to eleven. Babel is not going to surprise anyone, but it is a stronger representation of what makes the band great. I don’t mean to say the Babel is a better record than its predecessor, but rather that the band that made this record is much more confident in its approach. They have sold millions of records across continents, and they have played to sold out arenas across the world. The record opens with the trio of barn burners including the title track, “Whispers In The Dark” and “I Will Wait” (Below). “Ghosts That We Know” is a passionate ballad that is sure to receive a lot of airplay, and I’d be mystified if it doesn’t end up in a film somewhere. “Love Of The Light” swells and crashes on a grand scale. Intensely passionate and melodic, Babel is a record that will demand your attention.
For Ben Folds Five fans, the wait is finally over. The trio’s first album in thirteen years, The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, is here and it was well worth the wait. Songs like first single ‘Do It Anyway’ (below) show that despite the passing of over a decade, the band can still rock with the same exuberance that their earlier albums enjoyed. The track features Robert Sledge‘s trademark fuzzed out incredible bass work, and drummer Darren Jessee pounds out the rhythms as passionately as ever. ‘Hold That Thought’ is rich with harmony and a warm, inviting melody. Ballads ‘Sky High’ and the breathtaking “Away When You Were Here” show the bands versatility. They can rock with the best of them, but its the dynamic between the rockers and softer tunes that give this album its place next to the bands previous records. ‘Thank You For Breaking My Heart’ closes the record in expert fashion, leaving you with one of Folds’ finest ballads ever. Ben Folds Five are back, and after hearing “The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind“, you’ll feel like they never left. Pick up a copy today.
Mirage Rock is filled with inviting, well crafted rock. Band Of Horses shows a strong Americana influence on the record, especially on songs like ‘Slow Cruel Hands Of Time’ and ‘Shut-In Tourist’. The vocal work by Ben Bridwell certainly has a hand in that world, but his haunting tenor lends itself to just about any influence the band tackle. ‘Knock-Knock’ (below) kick things off with fuzzed out guitars and “woo-ooh’s” reminiscent of The Beach Boys. The bass lead in of ‘Dumpster World’ sets up a moody, cowboy-noir like shuffle that erupts into a heavy, distorted march. ‘Electric Music’ is a bright track that echos the tumble and bounce of early rock and roll but never sounds dated or well worn. Mirage Rock is the kind of record that would fit perfectly with an autumn campfire, equal parts exciting and mellow. It is certainly worth adding to your collection.
After a short hiatus that many expected to be the end of the band, The Killers have brought us Battle Born, a record that may arguably be the band’s finest album to date. The record is slightly darker in tone than previous efforts, but it includes all of the rock and roll bombast we’ve come to expect from Brandon Flowers and company. All of the bands previously explored influences find a comfortable home on Battle Born. ‘Flesh and Bone’ begins the record with an electro pulse that gives way to an exciting track that summarizes the sounds that we will hear later on in the disc. Single ‘Runaways’ (below) has all the shimmer and power we’ve come to expect from a Killers single, but has a magic all its own. The driving ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ grabs a hold of the listener and doesn’t relent for its near five minute run time. Electro acrobatics crescendo into an american rock pulse on ‘The Rising Tide’, a track that will draw many comparisons to other artists but its chorus is unmistakably the bands own. The track also features an exciting guitar solo, a seemingly lost art these days. I was not hotly anticipating Battle Born, but I am delighted to say that my preconceptions were wrong. This a truly fine record, one I know I’ll be spinning for a while.