I think it was both the best set my band and I have ever played and also the best time i have had at one of my shows
Me & Chris Cappello singing a song called “New You” from his new album <3 <3 xoxo favorite 17 yr old boy 4ever B)
look for this shit on bandcamp in like a month or 2 B)
Kayla will be singing this with my full band and me tonight at The Space when we open for Titus Andronicus. How cool is that?
I’m so excited
Tonight in Hamden at The Space. Titus returns to CT with The So So Glos (they’re the people who run Shea Stadium in NYC… icons!) and Chris Cappello’s full band. Watch Sweet Baby Chris’s dreams come true live on stage.
Tickets are still available but going fast. See you there.
punk dreams do come true
i’m playing with my favorite band tonight in hamden, connecticut
This show is tomorrow and I’m more excited for it than any show I’ve ever played before. The doors are at 7 and we go on at 7:30. The So So Glos’ new record is terrific, Titus Andronicus is my favorite band, and the word on the street is that famed internet celebrity James Webster aka tumblr user slow-riot will be in attendance. Please come!
MORE INFO HERE
Diarrhea Planet - “Born To Run” (Bruce Springsteen cover - Feat. Patrick Stickles)
Live at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn - 4/11/13
“I’ve destroyed everything that would have made me more like Bruce Springsteen”
Now that I’m back from Bulldog Days, it’s time to get down to business. Here’s a flier I made for my band’s next show, which might be my most anticipated show I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of. If you’re in the Connecticut area, please come out. The Space might be the most intimate venue that Titus Andronicus and the So So Glos are playing on this tour, and neither band will disappoint live. Also, you get to see my full band play, which may or may not be a plus.
MORE INFO HERE
Just kidding, I’m posting this right now.
I’m putting out a record soon. Here’s the tracklist and a peak at the cover. I’m excited for you all to hear this.
Titus Andronicus live at The Telegraph. New London CT. 1/26/2013
Top 25 Songs of 2012
A great song is a singular entity — something that stands out from the pack on a record, that distinguishes itself from everything it touches. The following 25 songs all happen to appear on albums that I liked, many of which I enjoyed largely because of the strength of these individual tracks and others. Some were huge singles, and others were local anthems. Some were big budget hits, and others were simple demos. Some made me laugh, more of them made me cry, but all of them made me feel something real inside. Behold, my 25 favorite songs of 2012.
Stream the 8tracks mix featuring all 25 songs in reverse order at the embedded link below. Read on and enjoy each song individually below that. As always, thank you for being supportive and reading my work. I appreciate it more than I can articulate.
25. The Magnetic Fields - “Andrew In Drag”
In a way that no other track on Love At The Bottom of the Sea succeeded, “Andrew In Drag” perfectly blends modern synths, beats, and textures with the lyricism of Stephin Merritt’s very best material as The Magnetic Fields. “Andrew In Drag” hits all the marks of being a classic Magnetic Fields track, from its twee bleeps and bloops to its unexpectedly soaring chorus, and its inclusion of gay humor for both romantic and comedic emotional appeal. It’s also got one of Merritt’s best lyrical characters in years — not Andrew, the cross-dressing titular subject, but rather the frustrating, confusingly lovestruck observer.
24. Joey Bada$$ - “Survival Tactics” (feat. Capital STEEZ)
While going over my completed list, I was actually listening to this song when I heard the news that Joey Bada$$ collaborator and Pro Era member Capital STEEZ had died of an apparent suicide at age 19. The effect was rather chilling, and probably not unlike hearing about the death of any of the now deceased 90’s hip-hop legends that Bada$$ and the Pro Era crew idolize. Before I heard the news, I was thinking about how STEEZ’s verse is what makes this song so great — such a stellar combination of 2012-nowness (to the point that it already almost feels dated) and childlike nostalgia. Bada$$, of course, is the star of the show throughout most of his 1999 mixtape, but right now, I think it’s probably more important to honor the awesome feature guest, who will sadly never grace another terrific track with his rhymes.
23. WHY? - “Sod In The Seed”
Far and away the best cut that the ever-unpredictable hip-hop act WHY? put out this year, “Sod In The Seed” is a hard-charging, fist-pumping anthem the kind of which Yoni Wolf & Co. have never before released. It drives along, driven in equal measure by a terrific bassline and Wolf’s nasally, bleeted raps, spat faster than nearly anything else in his discography, solo or otherwise. It’s a tour-de-force of a track from a strictly musical perspective, but Wolf’s hilarious lyrics are the real highlight. A road veteran, Wolf knows what he’s talking about when it comes to insincerity and vulturism in the music business, and is quick to call out all the “wordy blogger thugs” and their equivalents in the world with as much spite as he has humor. It’s self-aware, comedic, and laughable, but there’s more than a grain of truth to Wolf’s lamentation of the “first world curse.”
22. The Human Fly - “Moth”
“Moth” is the most pure and pristine distillation of the product that The Human Fly was trying to craft on Everything Feels Bad All At Once, the emotionally crippling debut from Robert Mathis’ solo project. Hell, its lyrics are even insect-themed. It’s really rather heartbreaking, posturing Mathis as the utterly insignificant ‘fly on the wall’ and subtly, beautifully conveying that feeling of total helplessness through its slowly overlapping guitars and Mathis’ deep, hushed vocals. He re-recorded this track and others with a punk band shortly after the release of the debut album, channeling that complacent grief into anger, but the effect is lost in that context. On the original, Mathis grieves solemnly, and is all the more evocative because of it.
21. Titus Andronicus - “In A Small Body”
This track may deserve its spot primarily for a single line, which happens to be my favorite lyric throughout all of Titus Andronicus’ new album Local Business. In between memorable figurative punchlines like “your dick’s too short to fuck the world” and references to Titus’ pals Diarrhea Planet, Patrick Stickles delivers some cold, hard truth: “What do you know about being no sort of slave?” he screams over dueling guitars, “I know some kids who’d kill for this kind of cage.” With that verbal wrecking ball, Stickles ideologically demolishes a number of his newfound Brooklynite peers, but he also cuts himself down to size. Stickles himself is the cage — a flawed, damaged, but still remarkably privileged one at that. If there’s anything that I wish Local Business would have done more of, it would be to acknowledge that more thoroughly.
20. Elvis Depressedly - “Road Side Memorial (repeat)”
Out of the context of his 2012 album Mickey’s Dead, Elvis Depressedly’s grim closer “Road Side Memorial (repeat)” paints a bleak and powerful portrait of a vague, tortured individual. In the context of the album, though, the listener realizes that it is a portrait of Mat Cothran himself — the remarkably damaged songwriter behind the Elvis Depressedly project. This knowledge doesn’t necessarily increase our perceived quality of the song, but it does make me at least very worried about Cothran’s stability and wellbeing. There is something so perilously honest about “Road Side Memorial,” from its reverberant, single chord throb to Cothran’s hard-panned multitracked vocals almost casually dropping lines like “burn my wrists with cigarettes / wash the blood out of my dress” and “I don’t want or need your fucking help.” Cothran, it seems, doesn’t literally need the “self portrait painted in vomit” that he describes in the second verse; this track is as wounded, flawed, and true as any self-portrait could be.
19. Hostage Calm - “Woke Up Next To A Body”
Hostage Calm want to be a pop band, but they can’t quite shake their punk rock roots. “Woke Up Next To A Body,” from this year’s Please Remain Calm, is something like their Archaeopteryx, miraculously blending a sunny, power-pop verse melody with one of the year’s greatest stage dive-inducing, fist-pumping shout-along choruses. It’s also one of the most personal tracks on Please Remain Calm, conveying the universal struggle for romantic validation through a distinctly millenial lens. The track’s closing line, “No longer young and in love and at war with the world,” may actually describe Please Remain Calm more accurately than the band’s chosen descriptor — “The punk rock album of the Great Recession.”
18. Dum Dum Girls - “Lord Knows”
All the praise that is being heaped upon Dum Dum Girls for their new EP End Of Daze, and its lead single “Lord Knows,” seems to focus on how much frontwoman Dee Dee has developed as a songwriter. I, however, maintain that at least since the Dum Dums’ second LP, she’s always been mature, poised, and hugely talented. If I had heard Only In Dreams last year, I guarantee that “Coming Down” would have graced the top 10 of my Songs of the Year list for 2011. “Lord Knows” doesn’t quite reach the highs and lows of that aforementioned drugged out lamentation, but it’s definitely a terrific track, floating breezily on a reverb-heavy chord progression that gives way to a terrifically unexpected chorus. Dee Dee may have always been a great songwriter, but now she makes it sound easy.
17. Grimes - “Oblivion”
At the Pitchfork Music Festival this year, I skipped Grimes’ set to get a spot in the front row for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I don’t exactly regret it, but I do feel like I missed out on an important aspect of my potential 2012 experience. Even if it was just to hear this song, I would have liked to be a part of that communal existence — to take part in something that would only ever mean as much as it did in that very moment. Every year has a song like this, but no song I’ve heard has ever been like this, exactly. “Oblivion” is far-reaching in its appeal, accessible and catchy, bolstered by the year’s best video, and yet, it still feels like a great secret. I still feel like I could put it on a mixtape and not feel ashamed. In its best moments — the deceptively ominous chorus, the first time the “la la las” come in from the back of the mix, the “girl you know you’ve got to watch your health” line — it almost makes me want to love Visions as a whole. It doesn’t quite succeed at that, but it comes close.
16. Serengeti - “Go Dancin”
If Serengeti’s pitch with this year’s C. A. R. was for originality, then “Go Dancin” is his most successful sale. In its frantic, image-powered depiction of a decaying relationship (probably a marriage, given the context that the rest of the album provides), “Go Dancin” achieves in four minutes what countless minimalist indie films struggle to do in two hours. Geti’s constant lyrical contrasts, his increasingly emotional delivery, and the song’s brilliantly simple concept leave the listener struggling to decide whether to root for the narrator or to abandon him like his partner eventually does, as Geti’s last-ditch efforts for a meaningful life turn into empty promises and eventually selfish kiss-offs. It’s an emotionally wracked song that achieves remarkable pathos from relatively meager means.
15. Slow Warm Death - “Sleep”
The 2011 dissolution of emo revival firebrands Snowing left many wondering what direction frontman John Galm would take with his next project. He answered those questions to a certain extent when he dropped Slow Warm Demos, a demo collection released under the name of his new band Slow Warm Death. The record is perilously lo-fi, and mostly comprises gritty garage rock numbers in the vein of Ty Segall’s early material. One track, however, stands so tall above the rest that it would be criminal for Galm not to explore this style more in the future. “Sleep” begins with hollow acoustic guitar and strained vocals, calling to mind Galm’s rare solo material, but at exactly the one minute mark, the track goes supernova, evoking the massive sonic weight of Have A Nice Life with maxed-out guitars and a thunderous drum machine. Despite its demo quality, no other track blew my brains out the way that “Sleep” did this year.
14. Jens Lekman - “I Know What Love Isn’t”
Like Giles Corey, my #1 album of the year pick for 2011, Jens Lekman’s I Know What Love Isn’t is best appreciated as a full album, not as a collection of songs. Unlike Giles Corey, I Know What Love Isn’t is a lot of fun to listen to. On an album full of great tracks, the song “I Know What Love Isn’t” is one particular highlight. Lekman throws caution to the wind over a jaunty acoustic guitar, shooting the shit with a best friend, ogling girls from afar and, for 3 minutes and 33 seconds, forgetting about the one who broke his poor little Swedish heart. By the end, you’ll realize that he’s still miserable and alone, but each time that the glockenspiel signals the beginning of the song, I can’t help but feel that there’s hope.
13. Beach House - “Lazuli”
Beach House have distilled their formula for dream pop bliss so perfectly on “Lazuli,” that the track doesn’t even need a chorus. The effortlessly beautiful and cool Victoria Legrand’s smoky falsetto simply hums along each time the verse gives way, arching skyward over a constantly rising synth loop while Alex Scally layers harmonic textures. They’ve been building towards “Lazuli” for years, and from here, I honestly don’t see how their aesthetic could get any better or any more refined. Given the quality of this track and the rest of Bloom, for that matter, I’m nevertheless excited to see what they do next.
12. Carly Rae Jepsen - “Call Me Maybe”
If I had released this list a week ago, nobody would have minded this choice. You might even have thought that it was ‘cool’ of me to include such a sugary, maximalist pop song on a list that mostly comprises music released on independent labels. But now that everyone from Pitchfork to Stereogum to probably Rolling Stone or something like that has included Carly Rae Jepsen’s summer smash “Call Me Maybe” on their end of the year lists, a lot of people are throwing the ‘pop tokenism’ card. I can’t say I blame them, given the track’s utter ubiquity, but to dismiss this as a token pick would be a disservice to just how great “Call Me Maybe” is. Although she goes for the ‘innocent teen girl’ market, 27 year old Jepsen’s anthem is remarkably empowering and even quite mature. On top of that, this synth-heavy treat is endlessly appealing. Even after hundreds of plays, on the radio, at parties, and in the comfort of my own home, “Call Me Maybe” has yet to grow tiresome for me.
11. Purity Ring - “Fineshrine”
If I can write about Carly Rae Jepsen for a little longer, I have to admit that I was made a little uncomfortable when I found out about her age. I had been imagining her as 19 at the oldest, and the realization that she was 26 when “Call Me Maybe” was released made me aware of just how powerful marketing can still be. Afterwards, the song made me feel kind of creepy and weird in a way that was definitely unintentional. Around that time, though, I was just starting to get into Purity Ring, another terrific pop act that also made me feel creepy and weird, but in a decidedly purposeful manner. “Fineshrine” is on par with Jepsen’s hit as my favorite straight up synth pop song of the year, but Megan James’ eerily sexual lyrics and self-imposed, childlike fetishization make “Fineshrine” the superior dark horse, despite its considerably lower budget. I’ve had “cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you” uncomfortably stuck in my head for six months, and that chorus shows no sign of leaving any time soon.
10. Self Defense Family - “Self Immolation Family”
I think we can stop calling them End of a Year now. The latest music from the newly re-christened New York band Self Defense Family bears little in common with the DC post-hardcore worship of the records released under their former name. The new Self Defense Family is decidedly more experimental, heavier, and much, much better, as their recent output indicates. The perfectly-titled “Self Immolation Family” is the a-side to a 7” they released on Deathwish, Inc. this year, recorded at Sigur Ros’ studio in Iceland. True to its Nordic origins, “Self Immolation Family” is frost-bitten and, at over 6-minutes, glacially paced. The band’s endearingly tuneless frontman Patrick Kindlon barks his bitter heart out with vigor, but the real highlight is the pummeling instrumentation, with interwoven guitars and bass that evoke post-rock more than the band’s once-signature post-hardcore style.
9. The Music Tapes - “Takeshi and Elijah”
Much has happened to the Elephant 6 collective in 2012. Jeff Mangum continued his second year of solo touring after a very successful return to the spotlight in 2011, and has possibly hinted at a Neutral Milk Hotel reunion for 2013. The Olivia Tremor Control continued their reunion, including a stop that I witnessed at Pitchfork Festival, until the untimely and mysterious death of frontman Bill Doss. Honestly, I think the best thing that happened to the closely-knit Athens, Georgia collective was the release of The Music Tapes’ new album Mary’s Voice. It’s really the first great album from Neutral Milk Hotel ex-pat Julian Koster’s longtime pet project, and the closing track “Takeshi and Elijah” is far and away the best song he’s ever written. It’s mostly a solo cut, featuring Koster’s strummed banjo and nostalgic lamentations and remembrances about his life, including his time with his old band. It’s actually rather sad, for the most part, but once the full band comes in at the end with Rob Cucchiaro’s horns blaring, it’s clear that there is still hope — for Koster, and for all of us.
8. One Hundred Year Ocean - “1576”
Often, the most profound memories are set off by the simplest remembrances. In “1576,” the heartbreaking standout from One Hundred Year Ocean’s Poison Smoak EP, Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak describes fumbling around in a messy car for a dropped marijuana joint, only to find “burned CD-Rs” and other mementos of a former life that now seems so distant. It’s a bittersweet paean to the confusion of life, the unfortunate necessity of companionship, and the bittersweet comfort of home. Shanholtzer-Dvorak wrote “1576” about his current home in the small town of Willimantic, Connecticut, but it could just as easily be about my hometown of New Haven, or any other town in America. “All cities are coffins,” he sings along with vocal harmonies from his wife, Katie Shanholtzer-Dvorak. The lyric is grim, but the sentiment is transcendent. “We’ve all got to die somewhere,” he sings in the guitar pounding final movement. He’s right.
7. Suns - “Crocodile”
“Crocodile,” the best track from Suns’ debut full length The Engine Room, creeps up slowly in a manner not unlike the animal that its title describes. Lithe, and swimming just beneath the surface, the track lures the listener into complacency with its spindly guitar line and soothing vocals, before exploding in a cataclysm of spiteful virulence at the end. There are lyrics there, but only two lines are discernable. “WHY DON’T YOU GET IT?,” screams frontman Will Rutledge. Later on, the sentiment is even more desperate and angry — he’s simply shouting “Oh my god.” The violent final minute of this song is my favorite 60 seconds of music from 2012, but it’s only so powerful because of the preceding three minutes of slowly building, restrained urgency.
6. Kendrick Lamar - “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
Last year I was at a party where somebody asked me to put on some music. I put on a track from Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 mixtape, and within a minute or two, somebody had exchanged it for some other song by a different artist. It was kind of depressing, but I understood it. Section.80 wasn’t party music material. From a certain standpoint, neither is anything on good kid, m.A.A.d city though, ESPECIALLY “Swimming Pools (Drank),” the super depressing alcoholism study that Lamar released as a lead single from his major label debut earlier this year. Why then, does Kendrick’s reedy flow and “Swimming Pools’” cavernous bass hum seem to follow me to every party I attend? Probably because it’s the best track he’s ever released. Hip-hop purists might prefer the 12-minute suite “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst,” but to me, this single has the perfect combination of eeriness and accessibility, pleasure and pain, and happiness and misery.
5. Spirit Night - “The Last Time”
Spirit Night’s “The Last Time” strikes a very similar emotional chord with me as One Hundred Year Ocean’s “1576,” which is appropriate considering that they were both released on Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s label Broken World Media this year. Like OHYO’s anthem, “The Last Time” is a sweeping piece of emotive, mid-tempo indie rock. It courses with the viscous, tangible energy of desperation, opening up slowly as frontman Dylan Balliett describes with just the right amount of vagueness a harrowing teenaged realization. “I don’t want to have to kill you,” Balliett stammers in the first chorus, “I don’t want to have to kill anyone…” By the time the chorus rolls around again, he sounds stronger in his convictions. The listener never learns exactly what “The Last Time” is about, but the music is so incredibly powerful that one can’t help but feel its innate confusion, sadness, and pain.
4. Frank Ocean - “Bad Religion”
So much of Frank Ocean’s breakout album channel ORANGE is effortlessly great, from the buttery soul of “Sweet Life” to the borderline rock chug of “Lost.” Of all the great tracks, only “Bad Religion” seems to take a genuinely painful emotional toll on Ocean. On “Bad Religion,” the California-based singer abandons his philosopher’s mentality for the first time and bares his soul to a humble taxi driver, unraveling a truly unexpected outpouring of sorrow and conflicted pain through his achingly gorgeous falsetto. The album’s accompanying letter gives Ocean’s pathos context, but more than all the other tracks on channel ORANGE, “Bad Religion” truly speaks for itself. No other song in 2012 made the tried and true topic of unrequited love so real, so intimately human, more than Frank Ocean’s solemn, quiet masterpiece.
3. How To Dress Well - “Ocean Floor For Everything”
“Ocean Floor For Everything” is the most formless song on How To Dress Well’s stellar Total Loss LP, but it’s also the most powerful, favoring pristine, nearly divine-sounding atmospheres over songwriting chops and structure. In that way, it almost seems like ‘post-music’, or perhaps something more pure and ancient, untouched by the musical conventions that humanity has developed over thousands of years of making noises just for the pleasure of it. Philosophy student Tom Krell, the mysterious electronic/R&B project’s unassuming mastermind, is still singing words of course — lamenting “the worst of things” that no amount of planning could prepare for. And yet, this isn’t a song about sadness, or even particularly a sad song. It’s an experience in and of itself: not a conveyer of emotions, but an objective constant from which emotions may come. It’s art for the sake of art, untouched by the perversion of the surrounding totality.
2. Title Fight - “Head In The Ceiling Fan”
Much as Grimes’ “Oblivion” video did a lot to increase my appreciation for that song, so too did Title Fight’s clip for “Head In The Ceiling Fan,” the breathtaking, anomalous standout from their otherwise merely solid Floral Green LP. That grainy VHS footage of friends laughing, jumping off rope swings, and playing baseball in empty parks contrasts in such an intensely heartbreaking way with the slow, building chaos of the song’s shoegazing guitars. When the drums crash in, godlike in their sonic density and heft, it’s hard not to be emotionally moved. All of this joy that comes with everyday life, the song seems to suggest, will fade just as unexpectedly as it arrived. “Head In The Ceiling Fan” is the sound of that happiness dying out. It is the sound of your entire life’s experiences meaning more to you than you possibly could have imagined at the time. It is the groaning, glacial progression of existence towards a formerly unwanted but ultimately welcome end.
1. Japandroids - “The House That Heaven Built”
I have been waiting for so long — at least since I first started consciously paying attention to new music — to find a new album like Japandroids‘ Celebration Rock that is as good as Celebration Rock, with a song as good as the lead single “The House That Heaven Built.” My favorite songs of the year for the past two years have essentially made me want to kill myself, but this is different. This is flawless, unforgettable punk rock makes me want to stay alive forever, and I couldn’t be more gratified that it exists. I could have chosen “Adrenaline Nightshift” or “The Night Of Wine And Roses” or “Fire’s Highway” or nearly any of the album’s eight near-perfect tracks to put in this place, but “The House That Heaven Built” somehow stands out in particular. It is the apex of an album about living life to the most ridiculously intense degree, about forgetting the rules and breaking them inadvertently, and ultimately, about transcendence. Isn’t that what we all want, at our deepest core? I can’t speak for anyone reading this, but if I ever achieve that primal goal, “The House That Heaven Built” will be blasting on my record player in the clouds.
Stream: Great Caesar - Scattered Air EP (2012)
Great Caesar is an anthemic indie rock band based in Brooklyn by way of Connecticut. They’ve spent much of the past year kicking around the New York circuit, playing high profile shows including a number at this year’s CMJ Festival. They blew me away when I saw them open for Titus Andronicus at Quinnipiac University in April, and I’ve been anticipating their release of new material ever since.
Thankfully, my anticipation has been validated. The band just dropped a new EP called Scattered Air, stocked with four tracks full of harmonic vocals, power pop chord progressions, and more sultry saxophone leads than you can shake a stick at. Highlights include the overused-but-impossible-not-to-love wordless chorus of “Tuned To Break” and the gritty, minor-key riffing of the lead single “Rearview.” If you make it through the first three tracks, look out for the eerie, jazz-inflected closer “Son,” on which frontman John-Michael Parker evokes a space-age Frank Sinatra. These four tracks are all impeccable, and hint at bright things for this budding and ambitious group in the future.
Stream Scattered Air above and purchase it via Bandcamp for $5.
Lewis and his Blog October 2012 Mix
Welcome to the latest edition of my Monthly Mix series, where I compile ten of the best new tracks that I’ve heard each month. With early college applications and lots of other work, October has very hectic for me, but it has also delivered some great new music. Check out all the previous monthly mixes from this year HERE and stream this month’s mix at the embedded link below via 8tracks.
1. A.C. Newman - “I’m Not Talking”
The New Pornographers’ frontman’s latest solo outing is a relatively subdued affair, featuring autobiographical lyrics and a soothing palette of AM radio instrumentation and production elements. First single “I’m Not Talking” is one of two particular highlights; its gentle synth loop quickly gives way to a warm combination of acoustic guitar and horns that highlights A.C. Newman’s terrific, understated melodies. Purchase the new album Shut Down The Streets via Matador.
2. Titus Andronicus - “Ecce Homo”
The first track from Titus Andronicus’ solid new album Local Business is also one of the best. It’s a wordy, high-tempo slice of existential angst that displays the band’s lean, new, 70s-punk influenced aesthetic while making it very clear that Patrick Stickles has lost none of his anger. The track’s quotability is matched only by its catchiness; Stickles and Co. went full-on power pop this time around. Local Business is out now via XL Recordings.
3. Donovan Wolfington - “Hell”
The new single from New Orleans-based five piece Donovan Wolfington is just as punk rock as the name “Hell” suggests. It’s loud, brash, full of riffs and shouts, and is indebted as much to the past decade’s great garage rock bands like Japandroids as it is to the emo revival rabble. Download the single for free on bandcamp and look out for Donovan Wolfington’s debut LP Stop Breathing on Broken World Media in the hopefully near future.
4. Converge - “Sadness Comes Home”
Believe the hype: the new album All We Love We Leave Behind from hardcore legends Converge could very well be there best record yet. For an indication of this, look no further than “Sadness Comes Home,” which features the most punishing guitar riffs I’ve heard in ages along with frontman Jacob Bannon’s signature shrieks and shouts. It’s the most compelling post-hardcore record I’ve heard in at least a year, and it’s available for purchase from Bannon’s label Deathwish, Inc.
5. Cerce - “Weary”
While legends like Converge are slowly getting even better with age, excellent hardcore newcomers this year seem to be springing right out of the gate. Cerce is one such new band, and they dropped their official debut EP last month on bandcamp. “Weary” is one of the best tracks, featuring frontwoman Becca Cadalzo delivering incendiary, barb-toothed lyrics in her distinctively shrill voice. The track also has a pretty stellar breakdown, if that’s what you’re into.
6. Hostage Calm - “Woke Up Next To A Body”
Hostage Calm’s latest album Please Remain Calm is everything that the group has been building up to since they released their first demo in 2007. On “Woke Up Next To A Body,” the record’s immediate standout track, the Connecticut group blends winsome power pop melodies with a punk rock backbone to make one of the catchiest, most loveable pieces of Ted Leo-worship this side of Shake The Sheets. Please Remain Calm is out now on Run For Cover Records.
7. Sharon Van Etten - “Sychophant”
Although Sharon Van Etten’s new album Tramp did not manifest her ambition as precisely as I had hoped, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter has still had a very good year. The fact that her b-sides and bonus tracks have been nearly as good as any of the material on the album indicates this. “Sychophant” is one of my favorite songs to come from the Tramp sessions — an electronic dirge with eerie, Radiohead-reminiscent atmospheric noise and backing vocals. Tramp is available now via Jagjaguwar.
8. Death Grips - “No Love”
Today, Death Grips officially parted ways with their major label Epic, who released their album The Money Store earlier this year. All of this came after the band unexpectedly leaked their new LP No Love Deep Web to the internet, complete with an erect penis on the cover. I would think that this method of release and flagrant opposition of the label’s wishes was obnoxious if it weren’t for the new album being so good. The five-minute “No Love” is one of the best and most pummeling tracks, featuring MC Ride’s distinctive shout-babbling and Zach Hill’s aggressive live electronic drumbeats. Download No Love Deep Web for free HERE.
9. Kendrick Lamar - “Compton” (feat. Dr. Dre)
In the context of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s amazing modern classic good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the closing track “Compton” is a celebratory validation of a life of hardship and hard knocks. On its own, however, the Dr. Dre-featuring banger is simply an awesome party song, featuring self-aggrandizing lyrics and an awesome talkbox solo that unmistakably harks back to Tupac’s “California Love.” Pick up Kendrick’s new LP now from iTunes.
10. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - “Gig Life”
Fans of the CT-based atmospheric emo group The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die will have to wait until 2013 to hear their full length debut Whenever, If Ever, but this track should hold us over until then. Though brief, the gentle folk song “Gig Life” is one of the more touching moments in TWIABP’s ever-growing discography. The band recently pressed it to vinyl in a limited edition 7” /50 run, so try to get a copy of it if you see them on tour!
Thanks for reading and listening! November’s mix will be up at the end of the month.
Titus Andronicus - Local Business (2012)
“Okay I think by now we’ve established / everything is inherently worthless”
With those opening words from “Ecce Homo,” thus begins Local Business, the highly anticipated third LP from New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus. It’s a kicker of an opening line, and one that should resonate with anyone who has followed the band over the past five years. This is, after all, a band that named the closing track on their first LP after Albert Camus, and that proudly proclaimed on 2010’s The Monitor that “nothing means anything anymore.” And yet, despite the existential leanings of frontman Patrick Stickles’ lyrical pen, Titus Andronicus’ music has often flown flagrantly in the face of nihilist ideology. The band’s first two records, the previously mentioned album-of-the-decade contender The Monitor and its older, lo-fi cousin The Airing Of Grievances, were thoroughly life-affirming albums at heart. By sheer virtue of their conceptual depth, unbridled ambition, and fully-realized orchestration, they suggested the possibility of transcendence from the meaningless void of existence that Stickles’ lyrics described.
Now, with Local Business, that possibility has dissipated into the same void from whence it came. On the first listen, that opening line seems like a sarcastic jab at the band’s trademark lyrical aesthetic, which I don’t doubt was Stickles’ intention. By the end of the record, however, it feels more like an admission of defeat. This is not for a lack of capability, but it does seem to be due to a lack of effort. For a record by a band in their creative and commercial prime, Local Business feels frustratingly hollow and undeveloped, particularly on a musical level. From the opening one-two punch of “Ecce Homo” and “Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter” to the three-song suite that surrounds the eight minute epic “My Eating Disorder,” Local Business retains the compositional depth that the band has become great at, but without the instrumental flourishes, shoegaze-influenced production elements, or pace-keeping samples that made their past two records great. In other words, on a musical level at least, Local Business is a straightforward rock album.
Titus Andronicus’ intentions are understandable, given their circumstances. Since 2010, the band has lost members including their violin player/guitarist Amy Klein, who brought a much-needed female energy and accomplished musicianship to their brash and boyish sound. Now that they’re gone, the album feels much like what one might expect five post-adolescent men with guitars to sound like if you put them in a room, sans any semblance of grit. This approach works if you view Titus Andronicus among the lineage of no-bullshit guitar bands like The Replacements and The Hold Steady, but if you’re like me and you appreciated Titus Andronicus’ occasionally pretentious musical tendencies, this record will let you down. And yet, precisely because of how ambitious their previous material was, the decision to work in a simpler musical format is understandable, if not entirely forgivable.
The larger issue is the production on the record. Local Business sounds far too clean and scrubbed-down to correlate sonically with the populist lyrical themes that Stickles plays with. On an aesthetic level, Local Business feels like a fancy new chain that just opened up in your town and is marketing itself to people who shop at real local stores. In the record’s worst moments, the souped-up production contrasts with the downgraded musical ambition, making Local Business seem like a high cost, low value investment. And yet, at its best, the lack of noisy guitars or lo-fi percussion accentuates the album’s catchiness. The third track “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus,” which was released in demo form on Titus Andronicus’ “mixtape” earlier this year, benefits the most from this; its Cock Sparrer-reminiscent chug simply begs to be shouted along with.
The record’s greatest strong suit are the lyrics, which is why I knew I had to withhold my official judgement until my copy of the record arrived with a lyric sheet. Free from the conceptual rigidity of The Monitor, Stickles experiments more as a writer on Local Business, opening up about his struggle with Selective Eating on “My Eating Disorder” and reaching a near-hip hop level of verbosity and vocal dexterity on “Ecce Homo.” His rhetorical ability is in top form, and he manages to spit potent one-liners on nearly every song. Occasionally, he dips into that Oberstian overshare territory, snarkily stating that his “authentic self was aborted at the age of four” on “Hot Deuce” and cringingly admitting that he’s been a “drug addict since single digits” on “My Eating Disorder.” Elsewhere, he’s lambasting himself and his entire lyrical style. “I heard them say the white man created existential angst when he ran out of other problems,” Stickles admits on the opening track. All of it is delivered through a comfortable sheen of self-awareness; he never lets himself be truly vulnerable as a writer, even when he’s singing about struggling with an eating disorder or feeling insignificant after moving to New York on “In A Big City.”
Local Business comes to a head on “In A Small Body,” a mid-tempo song towards the end of the album that, in a remarkably understated way, makes a strong case for the record’s best track. Stickles is completely in command from the powerful opening line (“Don’t tell me I was born free / that joke has been old since high school”) through a tempo change that welcomes insider lyrical references to The Monitor and Titus’ pals Diarrhea Planet. It also bears one line that distills the crux of Stickles’ existential issues down to a thesis — “What do you know about being no sort of slave? I know some kids who’d kill for this kind of cage,” he sings to himself in his impassioned, nasal sneer. This reserved self-criticism, coupled with Owen Pallett’s gorgeous string arrangement, makes “In A Small Body” a rare moment of greatness on the otherwise simply solid record. It suggests a direction that Titus Andronicus could have explored more on this album, and that perhaps they will explore again.
Local Business is very frustrating because, despite its glaring flaws, pointless joke songs (“I Am The Electric Man”), and one-line filler tracks, it’s still a very good record that I can’t help but feel compelled to listen to near-constantly. I’m biased because The Monitor means more to me than just about any other album, but part of me also really wanted to hate this record simply for not being like its predecessor. Ultimately, I have to reconcile the way I feel about Local Business on a primal level. It’s simply, annoyingly solid, but by no means should it be anyone’s entry point into Titus Andronicus’ otherwise near-perfect body of work.
Key Tracks: “Ecce Homo”, “My Eating Disorder”, “In A Small Body”
Local Business is available for purchase now from XL Recordings.