Unedited and barely proofread musings on music and other things
10. Saves the Day
Man, Saves the Day. I could say the name over and over again for all eternity and never get sick of it. The long and
short of it is that Through Being Cool may be the greatest punk rock album of all-time. No joke. It’s picture perfect. Hooks for days, super fun songs, soaring vocals and atypical groovy basslines for the pop punk genre. Stylistically, they stayed true to punk rock but the lyrics had a polished angst to them while the melodies were immediately and unapologetically catchy. You can’t help but get caught up in it all. It’s that good. Of course, that’s not the only great album. Stay What You Are and the trilogy featuring Sound the Alarm, Under the Boards and Daybreak are all superb as well.
Album to Check Out: Through Being Cool
9. Dashboard Confessional
I was on AIM one day and my friend’s profile had lyrics to a song
and below the lyrics had the following written: “Again I Go Unnoticed – Dashboard Confessional.” At the time, I had no idea which was the song and which was the band but I liked the lyrics enough to listen to the song and boom, my love for Dashboard Confessional was born. Half the reason I started playing guitar was because I wanted to start learning Dashboard’s songs. I hadn’t really heard lyrics like that and I had nothing to do so I learned guitar. For a long time, Dashboard was my favorite band and I knew every note, chord and lyrics through their first three albums. They’re more of a nostalgic pleasure now but when I come back to them, it’s something special.
Album to Check Out: The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
8. New Found Glory
NFG was the first band after Dashboard Confessional that I came to love. They’re fast and poppy but you can still hear
influences of early punk in their music so you also feel the spirit of The Ramones, Misfits and bands of that ilk. Aside from the catchy hooks and melodies, NFG thrives in a live setting. They work a crowd as well as any band I’ve seen and they are absolutely rock solid. Lyrically, they hit me right in two soft spots – girls and growing up so I attached them during my formative years. There just is no good who listens to pop punk that doesn’t love NFG. They stand atop the mountain with other titans of pop punk such as Blink-182 and Green Day.
Album to Check Out: New Found Glory
7. Circa Survive
Anthony Green moved on from Saosin to form Circa Survive and because I was
such a fan of his, I followed him. Aside from obvious and impressive vocals from Anthony, the band writes rock music utilizing two melodically played guitars while leaving room for the bass to set the rhythm. There are lots of effects at play here but never are they overwrought or distracting. You may hear creepy and somber tones but Anthony’s melodies work within the music so that the feel of the song is amplified. There’s a searing intensity to the lyrics that makes their music immense. Though I love all of their albums, Blue Sky Noise is my favorite because it is their band at their creative peak. There is nothing wrong with this album. It is perfect.
Album to Check Out: Blue Sky Noise
6. Protest the Hero
Not many bands can match the talent level of PTH. They could be the best prog rock band side of the Atlantic and for good reason. They are unbelievably technical and each member gets chances blow to your mind. As a guitarist, I’m immediately drawn to the guitar work and since I can barely play the stuff, I’m just always in awe of what I’m hearing. Go ahead. Take a look and listen.
Insane. That’s what it takes to play in PTH – preternatural, otherwordly ability. They’re a prog metal band but they don’t get long-winded as some do and they true to their punk roots with punchy, digestible songs. Vocally, Rody pushes himself in terms of range and versatility so what you end up getting is a supremely well-rounded rock band who can do anything they want with their instruments. Each album brings something a little bit different and not any less amazing.
Album to Check Out: Volition
5. Michael Jackson
I’ve wanted to be Michael Jackson since I was 5. My family can attest to this. We had an MTV special on Michael taped
on VHS in 1990 or 1991 and that tape was played to death. I’m sure little me was shufflin’ around trying to Moonwalk all over the damn place (this was well before the beard). And Michael ruled the 80s. From 1979 to 1987, Michael released three instantly classic albums in Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad. Nothing could stop him. The man was singularly talented and though I don’t feel sad when people I don’t know die, I was legitimately sad once news of his death broke. That was it. No more Michael Jackson. Plenty of artists have tried to emulate him but the greatest tribute a musician can do is to just let Michael’s music influence their own.
Album to Check Out: Thriller
4. Death Cab for Cutie
There are a lots of ways in which to love DCFC but the most salient reason is
frontman Benjamin Gibbard’s voice. The best way I can describe it is … cozy. It’s that warm pile of clothes your mom throws on you right after they come out of the dryer. That’s Gibbard’s voice. It is sweet and delicate and easy on the ears but drips with sadness. He’s not a crooner, exactly, because he doesn’t possess a deep rich baritone but that doesn’t take away from the performance. Musically, they feature mostly delightful yet melacholic songs with an array of different instrumentation. I guess you could say it’s indie rock but that’s so limiting, even for a term like “indie rock.” Despite its somberness, DCFC makes you happy. You’re happy to be listening to these songs because they get the tones and lyrics just right. For me, the great differentiator is drummer Jason McGerr. He can make a simple 4/4 time signature seem so complex with the different rhythms he plays. You can feel the groove in unexpected ways and that’s all thanks to McGerr.
Album to Check Out: Transatlanticism
3. Every Time I Die
ETID is metal. Everything about them is ceaselessly metal. And that’s why I love them. The catchy and super fun-to-
play riffs, the ambiguous keys, the perfect scream and the English master’s program level lyrics are what sets them apart from the pack. They make an effort to not repeat themselves and it shows up in each album. Each album has a personality and on each album, they get it right. One thing that is refreshingly consistent though is frontman Keith Buckley’s rhythmic performance. It’s not always easy trying to find a rhythm in which scream on metal songs but he always finds what fits and the quality of the song can jump up dramatically because of it. If there’s any incongruity, it’s tasteful and probably intended. I regret that I’ve yet to see them live but thanks to YouTube, I’ve been able to see some performances and, if I had to, drop $100 to see them when they come through.
Album to Check Out: The Big Dirty
2. The Notorious B.I.G.
You may recall from earlier in the week that I wanted to be a
rapper. Well, Biggie’s the reason. He is the gold standard. You’ll hear about Nas, Tupac and Rakim but Biggie’s it man. He had an unparalleled talent that seamlessly combined flow, lyrics, storytelling, intelligence and impact. His first album, Ready to Die, is often voted as the greatest ever and rappers still use his lines in their songs. Even in death, his importance has not waned. His lyrics drew on deeply personal feelings about living in the ghetto, selling drugs, crime and even suicide but his unmistakable voice and delivery are what helped make him a legend. He was poetic: a troubadour with charisma. Once Biggie and Pac died, rap lost their two big pacemakers. At the time, it was Biggie and Pac and then everyone else by no small margin. There was no clear frontrunner to keep hip hop’s bar high (though an argument could be made for Nas and Jay-Z). Fortunately, we’re now seeing the Kendrick Lamars of the world taking the spirit of 90s gangsta rap and bringing it back to the mainstream.
Album to Check Out: Ready to Die
1. Coheed & Cambria
If you know me, then you know the #1 spot belonged to one band and one band only – Coheed & Cambria. So deep is my love for this band that I’ve considered on about a million occasions to get a Coheed tattoo. I wouldn’t dream of doing so for another band. It all started in 2003 when my friend Nat handed me their first album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade. Instead of listening to the first track, I skipped to the fourth track figuring it had a better chance of being a better song than the first. That song was Everything Evil.
As I listened, I liked what I heard. The guitar work was cool and the vocals were unique and I didn’t really know what
he was singing about but it sounded pretty … evil. And I’m okay with a little evil. But what got me, what really really really hooked me, was the last two and a half minutes. There’s a key change after the second chorus that moves the song from E minor to E Major (you could argue C# Minor with a heavy influence of E but whatever) that completely changes the mood of the song. What was evil and dire suddenly sounded hopeful and epic. I immediately loved it. Then came a subdued bridge and quick crescendo into the most gratifying ending to any song I’ve ever heard. It uses the best chord progression to go big with (I-vi-V-IV) and has vocals and lyrics that meld together perfectly in terms of pitch and sentiment. To see this song (and basically any of their songs) performed live is an experience unto itself. It is probably the biggest fan favorite so when the ending comes, the crowd loses its collective mind and the passion with which its sung by the headbangers, fist pumpers and crowdsurfers is simply unmatched. I’ve seen Coheed live eleven times and I will see them eleven more times. They’ve been my favorite band for ten years now and my love for them is boundless.
Album to Check Out: The Second Stage Turbine Blade