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The Menzingers

1/30/17

Ever see a project or a performance and think to yourself, “Damn, why didn’t I think of that?!” Last last year, punk news outlets bubbled up with postings about a fellow who wrote a screenplay off of one of my favorite albums: On the Impossible Past by The Menzingers. What a concept! OTIP is a deeply literally, emotional ride of a rock record, and writer Adam Reiss took its core meaning and messages to develop a plot and  characters for “On the Impossible Future.”

I read through his screenplay and immediately reached out to Adam, wanting to learn more about how he let his imagination run away with him to create a love story between Greg, a down-on-himself Philly boy and Casey, the spirited waitress who gives him something to live for and love, inspired by these songs that have come to mean so much to me over the years. I was also curious about the feedback he received to this project, knowing that fans can be pretty touchy about their sacred songs.

Talking with Adam (who turns out to be quite the intrepid world traveler) over the past few weeks was a treat — what follows is a lightly edited transcript of a Q&A. Check out his screenplay, or at least play “After the Party” real loud while reading this. Thanks to Adam for opening up to me and for The Menzingers for bringing us all together.

First off, how did you discover The Menzingers/On the Impossible Past? What spoke to you in their music? 

I first heard the Menzingers when “A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology” came on my Against Me! Pandora station and I was into it because it kind of reminded me of old AM! But I didn’t get super into them until OTIP came out. I remember checking out the punknews.org stream (which, by the way, was terrible quality) as a casual fan, more curious than anything, and when I got to “Casey” I had a “woah, this is something special” moment.

I was 22 at the time, in my last year of college. It was an emotionally turbulent time for me and all of the themes of the album fit with what I was going through — feeling like good things only fall apart, getting high all the time, self-loathing, falling in and out of love, drinking a lot, going to shows, constantly wanting to escape to somewhere far away. “Casey” is probably my favorite track because it has all of those things and wraps them up in a way that is painfully romantic. And man, what a catchy chorus. Favorite non-OTIP track and criminally underrated Menz song: “My Friend Chris.”

When you first started working on this, what came easily? What was a challenge?

The easiest thing was probably creating Chris’s character. He’s such an outrageous person, always saying something vulgar — and he’s kind of a dick to be honest. But I’d like to think he’s a lovable dick and he serves to off-set a lot of Greg’s mopiness. I partially modeled him after a friend of mine, so a lot of writing his dialogue was just thinking “What would so-and-so say here?” Any scene with Chris was a blast to write.

The challenge was figuring out the plot. I really wanted to tell the story that I felt was in OTIP and spent a lot of time studying lyrics as if I was trying to crack a code, to decipher the plot secretly kept inside the songs, but obviously it doesn’t work that way.

My first draft was about 40 pages shorter than it is now and there just wasn’t much story there, I think because I was too focused on directly translating the album into a movie rather than developing a story. Subsequent drafts were each a bit better, but it took a long time for me to feel satisfied with the plot.

How often did you listen to the album for inspiration/what role did it play during the process of writing?

Man, I listened to the album non-stop. I’m honestly surprised I still haven’t worn it out yet. It’s one of those albums where I found myself putting on a specific track to listen for something in the lyrics/to get inspiration and then I’d find myself listening to the whole album all the way through.

Like I said before, I initially tried too hard to translate the album directly into a film. I really, really wanted a scene with Chris and Greg in a CVS parking lot, for example, but couldn’t figure out how to work it in. I also had Casey quoting Leonard Cohen in bed in one draft a la Sun Hotel. Eventually, I moved past trying to make “On the Impossible Past: The Movie,” and started using the album as more of a mood board, as a guide of overall themes and emotions, and that really helped me develop the plot a bit more.

Your description of this project sounds like it was a labor of love. How did you motivate yourself to keep writing? 

I started the project in my last quarter of college and had to complete the first fifteen pages for my screenwriting class, so for the first bit (which sometimes is the hardest part, getting a creative project off the ground) I was lucky to have an entire class pushing me.

After graduation I moved back in with my parents and struggled to find a job. The pairing of these two things left me feeling pretty worthless. I used this project as something I could do every day, some semblance of routine that would also be rewarding and help me feel like I wasn’t just wasting my days as an unemployed piece of shit. And of course, searching for a job, I was hoping that the screenplay would be my ticket to my dream career — getting paid to write. Thinking “this will help me achieve my dreams” is a good motivator, turns out.

Which themes from the album did you want to focus on the most? What lines/verses really drove your plot? 

Definitely the theme of having a relationship based on drugs, alcohol, and punk rock and then having things fall apart. In fact, seeing that written out, that’s basically a summary of the entire screenplay. Also, the theme of escape in various forms.

Going through the lyrics, I really latched onto every line about Casey (anything to do with a waitress, diner, most of the title track’s lyrics) and going to Mexico — and these were probably what made me feel like there was a story threaded throughout the lyrics, what made me want to dig deeper and feel like it was possible to write a screenplay based on the album in the first place.

How did you feel when this was done enough to share for public consumption? What’s the response been like? 

I went through a lot of stages of loving and loathing this project over the past few years. I wanted to move past it and start working on new things, but I also just couldn’t let the thing go. So finally, it reached a point where I felt I absolutely couldn’t work on it anymore without getting outside feedback. I was too close to it and needed a fresh perspective. It felt like it was 90% finished and the last 10% couldn’t be accomplished without feedback (and feedback from strangers, people who don’t care about my feelings).

In that sense, posting this online and getting a response has been incredibly helpful (and cathartic). I’ve gotten a full range of responses, ranging from one guy who went through each song on OTIP and wrote about how he felt the screenplay connects to it, to a girl who told me the entire thing is extremely sexist. I’m nearly ready to work on my next (and potentially final) batch of edits using all of the comments and criticism I’ve gotten so far, which I’m pretty stoked about.

I’m amazed at how attached some people are to the project and I think that speaks volumes for just how meaningful OTIP is for so many people, which in and of itself is a heartwarming experience — to connect with people around a shared appreciation of art and to also feel like my work is having the sort of impact that inspired me to start this in the first place. Even people who have something negative to say, we can still find common ground with how much we love this album and usually something constructive can come from that. No one has just been like “this sucks, quit” and left it at that. Which is encouraging.

Anything else about what you learned as writer/listener?

I learned I really, really like vibrato in punk songs. I learned I love writing dialogue but hate writing action and descriptions. I learned to let go of my babies and cut scenes or jokes that don’t add to the screenplay even though I think they’re amazing. I learned Menzingers fans are super helpful and willing to go out of their way to connect with total strangers. I learned a lot of completing a project is just sitting down routinely and doing work. Even if it’s a little bit each day, that’s still progress. And recently I learned how to make small adjustments to make sure that women readers/audience members don’t feel demonized. All valuable lessons, I’d say.

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1/5/17

Happy New Year! I’m honestly optimistic about this one. I think it’s been awhile since I felt that way at the outset, but I’m going with it, looking ahead with curiosity to all the unknown the universe has in store. Throughout all the twists and turns that inevitably will arise, though, finding new music is still my constant joy. There’s something comforting about that, knowing that no matter what this year brings, at the end I’ll be left with a bunch of new music that moved me. 2016 will be tough to top on this front, as I was exposed to many different artists through reviewing opportunities and new communities, plus some of my longtime favorites like Jimmy Eat World and The Hotelier dropped incredible releases. But looking ahead at the calendar, I see plenty of highlights — here’s 10 albums I’m looking forward to (hopefully) listening to this year. I’ll revisit this in about 360 days to see where this wind up compared to my final favorites.

  1. The Menzingers: If “Lookers” and “Bad Catholics” are any indication, After the Party  will be an incredibly fun, punchy record — and perhaps the most poignant yet.
  2. Japandroids: “Near To The Wild Heart of Life” is quickly making its mark as a life anthem, as all Japandroids songs rightly deserve. I imagine this album will rock.
  3. Muna: Discovering this super-fun, super-edgy pop vocalist group was a great boon to my workout routine, and their latest single “I Know A Place” is a real earworm.
  4. Taylor Swift: Can she top 1989? I don’t know. Probably. I won’t pretend I’m not excited to see what direction she heads in , or to have more songs to practice guitar.
  5. Haim: Days Are Gone has held up incredibly well as an impressive debut, and I’m ready to be wowed with a follow-up imbued by their roaring success.
  6. Ryan Adams: My love for the folk-rock troubadour only grows, even as he fashions himself into something of a retro-bluesy, Pettyesque figure. Especially then, even.
  7. The Wonder Years: They’ve just announced they’re writing new stuff, so a 2017 release is possible/likely/high on my list of life-markers.
  8. The xx: Something tells me  the ambient, angsty chill pop of The xx will be perfect for LA’s rainy season, and perfectly sexy/cool.
  9. The Killers: Sure, they’ll never again make Hot Fuss. But who says they have to? Give me that desert-inspired do-or-die attitude and trademark soaring choruses any day.
  10. Ed Sheeran: I loved X. I still love X.  Sheeran has an undenying sweetness,  and a sensitivity that transfers beyond his gorgeous ballads. More please!

1/1/15

So I’m sitting here alone on New Year’s Day trying to finish writing about my favorite albums of 2014, and I’m trying to care about these little moments I can remember with these songs and why they matter and why I liked them, and I keep stopping myself, thinking what is the point? What does a list like this even mean? Especially when published on a blog no one reads?

At the moment, I guess it is something to do with my hands. But I also know the importance of reflection, of finding meaning in our memories. I am so attached to my music. I am so inspired by it and connected to it, it sorts the feelings into boxes and puts them where they need to be. I am never alone when I have songs in my ears, in my head, or my heart, and this is a lifesaver, in no uncertain terms. If that sounds insipid or overdramatic to you, then you have never wrestled with emotions so intense you can’t breathe, so overwhelming you cannot think, only to be brought back down to earth by something other than yourself – for me, that something is most often music. I may be struggling today but I won’t be struggling forever, at least, not anymore than I always was or ever would be, and sitting here typing, replaying my favorite songs of the year, might be the best way to stay grounded tonight. So here goes, here’s what I loved in 2014, with the best reflection my tired, tragic memory can provide:

This Wild Life – Clouded
So emo, so angsty, and still so pretty. This was an evening record, mostly, or a Saturday afternoon jam. These songs are little stories you can wrap your head around, and harmonies you can sing along with, easy chords to strum. These songs lash out with some serious spiteful lines, but they’re so gentle in their own way.  Just a lovely little record worthy of attention, especially in sadness.


“And I just need a day, to shed this dead weight, and to get my head straight
I just want to let go, I just want to be left alone.”

Coldplay – Ghost Stories 
Chris Martin at his most maudlin gave me so much solace this year. I don’t care of the critics panned it. I thought “Ghost Stories” was beautiful, and sad, and strange and even trendy, at times. It didn’t try too hard, its muted drums and elegant little trills are so soft and rich. This record is the middle of the night and early in the morning, it is the hours no one else needs to see.

“Call it magic, cut me into two
And with all your magic, I disappear from view
And I can’t get over, can’t get over you
Still, I call it magic, such a precious truth”

Have Mercy – A Place of Our Own
Please keep pulling my heart strings, Brian Swindle. I sang-screamed so much to this record and it felt so good every time. I love how this band manages a scene-appropriate aggression with poignant, intelligent metaphors and lyrics. They’re so dramatic. I love the way they toy with dynamics, not afraid to get too loud or too soft in anticipation of what’s to come. “The Earth Pushed Back” has its own relevance in 2014 but this new release gave me something to hold onto. Expecting to play this more in 2015, starting tomorrow, probably.


“I’m the pawn and you’re the rook, 
And you played me like a crook, 
I never wanted it to end this way.”

Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
Some people are just born gifted. Ryan Adams is one of those people. No matter how long he stays away he comes back with something brilliant and beautiful, like it just pours right out of his soul to play excellent guitar and write heartfelt, resonating songs. “Gimme Something Good” was an anthem of sorts, as was “Feels like Fire,” but its the slower, very songwriter-y moments that make up the meat of Adams’ self-titled,  and he shines in this kind of arrangement. He is troubled and sad, he is older and wiser, but I will never tire of the lessons Ryan Adams has to offer, from the structure of a pre-chorus to the capacity to live with regret.

“Just so you know, you will always be the hardest thing I will let go 
Driving past your church and all the houses in a row, feeling in my chest is fire.” 

Taylor Swift – 1989
It’s so good. It’s so, so good. Of course it is. She’s something of a generational icon at this point, I’d say, and I’m not going to join the ranks of the eye-rolling haters who are probably just jealous there’s someone talented and beautiful out there. I’ve never heard a Taylor Swift record I didn’t like and “1989” is full of so many excellent, smart, full-feeling moments that prove what a great songwriter she is. This album is vulnerable and mature, but also quite hopeful, and for that I’ve found it a pretty reliable listen in most moods.  It is also draped all over my last quarter of 2014. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to this album and not remember the feel of a hand in mine, singing to someone who seemed not mind listening, the way the hillsides along the Ohio River shone in the afternoon sun.


“So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain.”

The Hotelier- Home, Like No Place There Is
What a fantastic find this band was….I am hooked on their tenor and tones, I am floored by their words, and I am wishing that I had more to say about this record that I’ve listened to so many times. I hope we hear more this band, because I think they’re onto something with the big-time choruses, and the drawn-out melodies, and the scathing honesty of pain and promise and self-destruction that lurks all over this record. I’m glad young, scrappy bands like The Hotelier are still out there making excellent indie rock music. I’m glad they give off something dark and just a little tormented, unashamed to be equal parts fragile and aggressive, which is really something of a combination, when you get down to it.


“I called in sick from your funeral 
The sight your family made me feel responsible.”

The Menzingers – Rented World
If I were in a band, I’d want it to be like The Menzingers. I fell hard for this band in 2013, in Pennsylvania, their home state, and I’ve only grown more attached to them. “Rented World” felt heavy and dark compared to their past productions, and maybe it was a little more serious than the pop-punk, mosh-prone crowds of their youthful fan base could handle, but I took it to heart, I embraced it fully. Really hope this band continues to tour, continues to write, continues to wow me with their mastery of the pop punk song, although their sound transcends, mostly through vocals and the hint of jams, into something a little more broad sometimes. “Rented World” is a jaded record, it is over everything, and I fucking love everything about it, because that is the kind of company that is  hard to find in a world where faking it is so damn profitable, so damn easy, so damn common.

“I’ve tried running, I’ve tried hiding, I’ve tried everything but dying
Damn the days we took for granted, never again will I let alone close to me.
Yeah, me and the rodent in the wall have more in common after all.”
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Sprawling, echoing and gorgeous, how could anyone listen to this and not fall in love? What I love most about this record is how contemplative it is, but with a layer of lonely discovery somewhere close to the foundation. It never loses its cool but dips into darkness, exploring all sorts of strange sonic places yet unheard by modern audience. There’s influences aplenty, but the sound is something of its own creation – it is so damn difficult to make something this effortless. This is easily one of the most acclaimed records of the year, but I will love it always for other reasons, too, for the wistful state its mere mention, let alone a listen, inflicts on my mind.

“Love’s the key to the things that we see
And don’t mind chasing
Leave the light on in the yard for me”


Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other
For when you heart is at your knees. For when your head is in dark places. For when inspiration can’t be found. In a critical sense, Dan Campbell’s side project is an incredible display of passion, intensity, talent and literary guise; from a personal standpoint, this album is a friend in depression, a companion for constant sadness. The scenes of New York and cars and bars are so vivid to me, and there’s something cinematic about the narrator’s desolation that I find quite a familiar story. I won’t ever forget meeting Campbell at the Four Chords Music Fest this year, and telling him how great I thought this album was. “Thank you,” he said, nodding slightly, and an hour later he’d go on to tear it the fuck up fronting The Wonder Years. I might not work in the business, I might not surround myself with musicians and bands the way I once did, but I do know a true talent when I see it. This guy’s got it.


“If I lay here long enough, maybe the bugs will eat me whole.
If I stay here long enough, maybe the night would take me home.”

Copeland – Ixora
It’s difficult for me to explain how much I’ve loved this album in the latter of this year. I can’t think of any other record that came out in 2014 that was so closely intertwined with my mornings, my nights, my thoughts and feelings. It is sad, it is sweet, it is symphonic, it is oddly experimental and it is strength is subtle. There’s no question this is my favorite album of the year, because no other has been as much a comfort. This album is hearts too heavy to sleep and knees to weak to stand, it is compassion and kindness found in the most unlikely places, it is desire mixed with perspective, which is such a strange, beautiful combination. I love how serene even the most heightened of moments are. I am so happy this band came back, especially now, at this time, when the sound of something familiar and fresh is so necessary, and also because time has only made their accomplishments more pronounced and produced. The tapestry of strings, guitars and drumskins is balanced so perfectly. You hear so much of the room on this record. I smile to think of all the studio hours spent pouring over this, because to me, that is dedication to perfection and striving to make your work shine the brightest it can, and I am inspired by that. I am in love with the love poured into this record, and its story of sensual struggle. Can’t wait to get it on vinyl. I hope to get lost in “Ixora” over and over again, hope to feel comforted by it and feel satisfied by it. Something tells me, reflecting on the moments I’ve spent with it so far, that might be the soundest start to this next year I can hope for.
“You’re still a breeze upon my skin, close my eyes, breathe you in.
I’m still the shadows in your night, taking over, until I fade into your light.
But you won’t erase me.
Heaven or hell will have to wait.
You won’t erase me.
So you just color me from grey.”

Honorable Mentions

Modern Baseball
I saw this band three times in 2014. The only other bands I’ve seen that many times are Brand New and Jimmy Eat World, which are my favorite bands ever, which is funny to me, but they tour like animals and their songs are fun as heck. Definitely a standout act of the year.

Angels & Airwaves
I am so hooked on The Wolfpack but haven’t gotten my hands on a copy of the album. Just glad they’re back, as I will never tire of this band’s spacey, delay-fueled aesthetic.

Ingrid Michaelson
“Lights Out” has some really excellent moments.  That hook in “Girls Chase Boys” is some kind of earworm. She continues to a preeminent songwriter.

letlive.
I’ll never forget the look of Jason Alan Butler dropping rose petals from his hands around the mic, and when he climbed up the speakers to the balcony at Altar Bar, latching onto the base only to shimmey across with a mic cord around his neck, then crowdsurf back to the stage. More shows like this in 2015, please.

Brand New
I saw Brand New at Stage AE in Pittsburgh this year. They continue to amaze.They continue to toy with their fanbase in these miserable little ways, teasing recordings and studio time and old-new tracks. Brand New is going to put out an album next year Actually, they probably won’t. But they could. They should. They will. I think.

Here’s to all there will be to listen to in 2015, and all the hope, comfort and companionship those albums, too, will provide.

12/17/14

The end of the year is a strange listening experience. I spend a lot of time going back through the year trying to figure out my top 10, while largely avoiding radio and its recycled Christmas music. In recent days during this endeavor, I picked up “Rented World” again, a record that captivated me in the spring upon release. It was everywhere. I had it queued up on Spotify for the mornings, blasting in the car to and from work, sitting in the record player. Seeing The Menzingers on their tour for this album was easily one of this year’s best shows. Then somewhere along the way, as sometimes happens with the albums you inhale the deepest, I kind of burnt myself out on it. Summer turned into finding new artists, trying out the trends of the year, or revisiting past favorites. I don’t know if I played this album once. So I was relieved this weekend when, on a long drive home, I put in “Rented World,” and it sounded as good as it did the first time. Better, maybe – the sharpest parts stood out, the memorable lines rang loud and true. The heavy rhythm section thundered deeper than I recalled, and the strained, serrated vocals encapsulated the hope and anger and frustration at the self and the situation and the system as clearly as any pop-punk offshoot band could or should hope to aspire to. I’ve yet to figure out where my album rankings stand for 2014 but I don’t think I can skip this one from a band I’ve only grown more attached to over time. Not when it’s got so much power behind it, not when it was everything I’d anticipated it to be, and more.

I used to lie to myself all the time
I was always over-reacting, screaming “I’m gonna die.”

But now I’m five thousand miles from her head on my shoulder
From a night I spent sober screaming “I’m gonna die.”

But all I ever wanted was to make things right
All I ever wanted was to make things right

Transient love, I was a ghost on your birthday
I was a runaway somewhere in a fabled mistake
Transient love, you should’ve seen the view from the pension
It made me think of things we’d never mention
The things we’re too afraid to say

Like what if I spend the next few years
Just somewhere in some atmosphere
While you’re at home with bills to pay
I hope it doesn’t end this way

All I ever wanted was to make things right
All I ever wanted was to make things right
Over and over in my head, I’ve tried
But all I ever wanted was to make things right.

~Transient Love
The Menzginers, Rented World

3/25/14

My most anticipated album of the year has easily been The Menzingers, and hearing the latest track advance is only making me flip out for it more.  This might be the most perfect song I’ve heard all year. 

I remember how hooked I was on this band as soon as I heard “Gates” and then the rest of “On the Impossible Past,” how I overplayed that album all summer long feeling sorry for myself, and how much I loved they were from PA (turns out, they once many years ago played alongside my friend’s then-band). If the first two tracks are any indication, their next album will hold onto that same intense conviction but with an extra dash of heartfelt wigged-out wisdom, cleaned up layers and a nice bass-oriented mix.

Lyrically, “I Don’t Want To Be An Asshole Anymore” is as focused as the title makes it sound, and full of rip-your-heart-out metaphors. The song bleeds realization at its most romantic, and realisitc. I’m more than a little addicted to it already. The way this song is put together is incredibly smart. It moves with you. Layered harmonies and cymbal rolls add subtle depth, and gang vocals with a great line of a hook in the chorus offer a pop friendly format. But it’s not soft by any measure, since the whole thing is drenched in heavy bass, crash-fueled fills and not a small amount of cursing. I love how he screams the chorus and the title line, like an anthematic declaration of a new chapter. It’s aggressive and reckless and it’s everything I want to hear out of this badass band from Scranton who I hope will be soundtracking my spring and summer once more, only maybe with a little less feeling sorry and a little more feeling alive.

“You’re the only lover that I ever missed
Ever been hopeless in  love with 
Look at this tangle of thorns 
I don’t wanna be an asshole anymore.” 
~I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore
The Menzingers, Rented World

1/1/13

Well.

I’m a little late on this one.

I wanted to sit down and write about my favorite albums of 2012, the music that came out, crossed my path and meant something to me for any combination of reasons.

I wanted to talk about how there were songs that reminded me how wonderful it is to be young and alive even though it’s messy and mean, like Japandroids and The Menzingers. And how there were songs that blasted the cracks in my heart with deadly aim, and others that caulked in the gaps, like those from The Gaslight Anthem and Lovedrug.

I wanted to do this yesterday. But time got the best of me, and here we are, 2013 with no “Favorite Albums of 2012” on the blog. Let’s proceed.

Normally people order and rank these things; I have done this in the past and found it to be useful, clean and a fun reference for discussion purposes should the topic ever arise. My rationale for placing an album on this list could come from many places: Did I hear it, and love it instantly? Was I drawn to replay it in full one more time, or are there tracks that I simply couldn’t get enough of? And why? Was it the meaning, the message, the technique, or the timing?

I’ve also decided to highlight other albums that caught my ears for being very successful records in one way or another, because 2012 was a damn fine year for new music from artists both familiar and burgeoning. Here’s a whole bunch of proof:

10) mewithoutyou – Ten Stories
Kicking off the list, an old favorite band out with a new, thematic collection that’s eerie and haunting and potentially their most polished, meticulously produced effort yet.  Details pop out at every new listen, a harmony or a guitar part or an elusive, mysterious phrase. So enchanting, how could you not want to get lost in the night inside an otherwordly tale?

“All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin/But only in their leaving can they ever come back around”

Posts from the Year: 7/15/12

9) Passion Pit – Gossamer
Ya heard. Electropop made it on my favorites list. But I’ve never liked electropop this much before, I’ve never seen the weirdness and depth this way. Played it all the time, even got my mom hooked on it. I found this album uplifting and entirely thoughtful, bright and shiny but ever calm, ever cool and just enough collected. I hear the  live shows are slammin’. Also: Gossamer is, and has been, one of my favorite all-time words.Shimmers just like it should, a perfect title.

“When then I’ll say what they say/And I’ll do what they do/But it doesn’t mean a goddamned thing”

8) Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams
Oh how perfect and beautiful this album is, how folksy. Though it seems acoustic and auxiliary-heavy Americana bands are a stone’s throw from every dive bar in mid-sized cities to the hottest clubs frequented by trendy, hipster-inclined urbanites, Lord Huron is, to my ears, the real deal. Kick back, relax and let their lonesome dreams interrupt and intersect with yours for awhile. And take a walk in the fucking woods while you’re at it.

“I’ve been dreaming again of a lonesome road/Where I’m lost and I’ve got no friends/Just the rocks and the trees and my lonesome dreams and a road that’ll never end”

Posts from the Year: 12/12/12

7) Bad Books – II
Perhaps I am inclined to rank anything involving the likes of Andy Hull and Kevin Devine, given my listening roots grew up in their respective heydays. And yet I have never appreciated them as much musically as I do today. Maybe it’s in the maturity, the sardonic tone, or the willingness to try on styles and sounds exemplifying a mastery of creative convention. Bad Books colors in the lines, but this is by no means a dig on lack of originality. Rather, we’ve got layers and layers of complimenting and contrasting rock ‘n’ roll theory. More, please.

“Folded arms and I felt your heart hum/Speedy eyes and I want what I want/Truth cut with a generalized fear/Cash baggies and an ash tray beers/I know you know/I wanna love you but I can’t let go/Honey, it never stops/No it never stops”

6) Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
How did you not just instantly love this band? Rootsy and bluesy and fusion-y and all kinds of familiar, Alabama Shakes debuted with a powerful hello to an indie pop audience that was ready to lap up something designed to comfort the soul. We’ve got real instruments, real vocal talent like we haven’t heard in some time, real skilled players, and a whole lot of heart. Between the dynamics, the passion and the style, Alabama Shakes has serious rock chops, and I’d bet strong that we’ve only seen the start.

“I feel so homesick/Where’s my home/Where I belong/Where I was born/I was told to go/Where the wind would blow/And it blows away”

(Bonus Link: Listen to this full KEXP performance!) Seriously. Do it. Your face might melt, though.

5) fun. – Some Nights
Yes, I know I’ve said The Format is better (and first!) but what a record this was. Everyone seemed to love it, everyone related to it. At the tail end of 2012, I found myself replaying this album over and over. Great for drives, for thinking alone. Nate Ruess is a genius at capturing the mischief in melancholy, the hope in the view from the ground, and I am grateful he continues to make wonderful music to share with the world.

“My head is on fire/But my legs are fine/After all they are mine”

Posts from the Year: 8/14/12

4) Lovedrug – Wild Blood
Redemption comes in many forms. Lovedrug’s first full-length after a run of successful EP releases left me feeling full and happy, and intrigued by the new direction of a band. Focus, melody, depth and layers were always strong currents, but these qualities are the crux of Wild Blood’s impressive, hungry and ever-onward spirit. Glad this record was made, because it marks something of an end of an era for me — a triumphant effort from a band I’ve followed for years in a year that, for me, showed similar feats.

“We were owls when they came in the night/they were lookin’ for a creature to fight/I can see it that you’re ready to go/Like a bat in the cave of my soul”

Posts from the Year: 2/10/123/6/123/13/12,  4/15/126/15/12

3) The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
Sometimes, people kind of laugh a little when I tell them I’m a pop punk/hardcore/whatever the fuck you call emo these days fan. A bit of an eyeroll. But The Menzingers are amphetamine laced proof that the genre isn’t dead and Epitaph is a fighting beast of a label(so shut your fucking trap). Heart-wrenching and boldly embracing pathetic helplessness and hopeless, this album is a collection of odes to self-fulfilled failures past and present. As I am a codified expert on such instances in my own life, it was entirely too easy to relate. Coated in familiar chords and fast-finger solos and just the right amount of scream, I listened to this at my worst only to end up feeling pretty damn close to my best.

“I will fuck this up/I fucking know it”

Posts from the Year: 8/22/12, 8/27/12

2) The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
What to say that I haven’t said? Do I have a bigger music idol of 2012 than Brian Fallon?  Not really, maybe, probably not. “Handwritten” proves that TGA will continue to churn out confessional narratives with amphitheater-sized proportions. They’ve proven to be true to their own style, a dash of the past included, so the end product is good, old-fashioned, new rock and roll.  And this album could’ve been a make or break moment after so many past successes. No doubt it was a daunting task to say, “Oh shit, gotta write more great songs.” And yet, I am more of a fan than ever.

“And we waited for sirens that never come/And we only write by the moon, every word handwritten/And to ease the loss of youth and how many years I’ve missed you/Pages plead forgiveness, every word handwritten”

Posts from the Year: 4/30/127/16/127/19/127/31/129/13/1210/9/1212/5/12

1) Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Japandroids just got it just right. They got the hunger right, the anger and fury, the passion, and the inescapable needs and conflicts of living fast. They’ve captured a certain brazen slyness that once thrived all over punk and rock scenes that’s shrunken to give way to pretension, a forced literariness that can be so guarded. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not really a good one either, if you’re looking for something to rock out to.

If you told me that 2012 would be the year that it turned out to be for me personally, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Or, maybe I would’ve of, but immediately passed out from fright, thereby changing said future through butterfly effect means. So, the present is fleeting, the past is permanent and the future, a wide scary unknown. In this lost haze, Japandroids brought a reminder that all you have is you and now, and fast is fun when your eyes are open.

Musically, omigod, so cool. Not only was I completely blown away by the sheer sonic power of such a tiny band (two skinny white dudes!), but you don’t hear guitars played in this way, so full of repetitive fierceness, in ways that are simultaneously melodic. This has a lot to do with the chord choices, and phrasing of vocal, but we’ve got some real metal technique doing some indie rock things.

So thanks, Japandroids, for making me remember so much of what I love about loud and fierce rock music, and for laying it all out so honestly, that there’s no way I will ever be able to hear these songs, and not connect to the moments, people and places of 2012. What more do you want out of an album of the year?

“It’s a lifeless life with no fixed address to give/But you’re not mine to die for anymore/So I must live”

Posts from the Year: 6/2/126/18/12

Special Awards:
Best EPs: The 1975 – Sex EP, The 1975 – Facedown EP

Best Genre-Bending, The Cool Award: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Most Ambitious, Most Likely to Make Me Dance Contemporary Ballet, Most Poetic Album Title: Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Best “Comeback:”  Soundgarden – King Animal

Best Collaborative: GOOD Music – Cruel Summer

Best Taylor Swift: Taylor Swift – Red

Best Album for a Love Scene in Outer Space: The xx – Coexist

Best Metal (TIE): Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind, Every Time I Die – Ex-Lives

8/27/12

Since Thursday until about 7 p.m. today, the only album I played in my car is The Menzingers’ “On the Impossible Past.”

I try not to write about the same band two posts in a row, but I have barely absorbed anything else.

“Remember the days when I had a conscience? Yeah, me neither./And I’m warning, I’m warning, I’m warning you./And I’m warning, I’m warning, I’m warning you/That I can’t seem to tell, I can’t seem to tell, I can’t seem to tell if it’s my head or the earth that’s spinning around.” ~ I Can’t Seem to Tell, The Menzingers, On the Impossible Past

I’ve concluded that “Gates” (see previous post) is their “please-play-me-on-the-radio” song, and I love it immensely. Beyond “Gates,” the album shows to be grittier, grungier. Nothing I would classify as screamo, it’s very melodic, but there’s definitely some vocal chord tearing going on here and there. Love it. The title track is fascinating, a dirge-like memory of a car crash, that serves as a 1:33-long intro into “Nice Things,” which is somewhat of a social commentary on how to not be a tool with a vocalist switch.

There’s hints of an overarching narrative, something about American muscle cars and dating waitresses, passing mentions of drinking and drug use. Paints a pretty good picture of where this is coming from. A lot of it is just really sad, really desperate, yet really alive.

“And I’m pretty sure this corner of the world is the loneliest corner in the whole world.” ~Sun Hotel, The Menzingers, On the Impossible Past

Many of the guitar parts remind me of songs a friend back home writes, a friend I look up to despite (or maybe because of) the fact he is a total fucking outlaw. I’ve also concluded this album feeds everything in me that loves punk bands, though. For example: really triumphant guitar solos in the face of falling faithless, really despondent tales of drinking while feeling said feelings, varying levels of begrudging maturity, screaming out a girl’s name to the fates that fucked it all up, doubletime.

Take this hook, for example. If that’s not what I want to hear on my way to work, I don’t know what is.

“We stumbled and stared at the carnival lights that lit up New York City,
From a rooftop in Brooklyn that was covered in bad graffiti.
And then I let a thousand splinters pierce right through my spoiled liver,
Or whatever that was left of it.

‘Cause I’ve cursed my lonely memory with picture-perfect imagery.
Maybe I’m not dying I’m just living in decaying cities.
But I’m still healthy, I’m still fine,
I’ve been spending all my time reading the obituaries.

But I will fuck this up,
I fucking know it.

I will fuck this up,
I fucking know it.
I will fuck this up,
I fucking know it.
I will fuck this up,
I fucking know it.”

~The Obituaries
The Menzingers, On the Impossible Past

8/22/12

All hail The Menzingers. A great choice on a day like today, when “fuck it all” seems to feel like the mantra no matter what the world tells me. Not winning, not losing, not even really feeling, so pop punk it is.

I love this song, in particular, one of the more uplifting tracks with a really dancey guitar melody. I’ve been checking out “On the Impossible Past,” which the newest LP from the Scranton-bred pop-punk group, and it’s incredibly authentic, incredibly defeated. Really powerful chords, dark-hearted lyrics and equally fitting bridges…really into the style of the lead vocalist who has a unique drawl that reminds me a little of something 90s. They manage to sound a world-weary and thrashy without sacrificing a literary license, a balance I must applaud.

Something about this album makes me miss home, then I remember how badly I wanted to leave home before I wound up here. Fuck it all.

“I am the pain that beats through your temples
Every morning when you wake up.
I am the boy with alcohol poisoning
From all the parties Chris was throwing
That summer they took us in
Like every other American
For getting drunk around back of the Lion’s Club
Waiting for the shitty bands to finish up.
And some kids played hacky sack,
while the others just got high.

It’s not hard to fall for a waitress
When you both smoke, smoke the same cigarettes
You’ll get seated as diners or lovers
You’ll get the check as friends for the better
You’ll carve your names into the Paupack Cliffs
Just to read them when you get old enough to know
that happiness is just a moment

So I’m marching up to your gates today
To throw my lonely soul away
‘Cause I don’t need it
You can take it back


So I’m marching up to your gates today
To throw my lonely soul away
‘Cause I don’t need it
You can take it back


And they will make examples out of us
Like when they caught you in the CVS parking lot
But I fed the liars
Everything I got in my cabinet brain

of canned thoughts
Everything I’ve got
It was everything I’ve got
In my cabinet brain

So I’m marching up to your gates today
To throw my lonely soul away
‘Cause I don’t need it
You can take it back

Yeah I don’t need it
You can take it back”

~Gates
The Menzingers, On the Impossible Past

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