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Jason Tate 03/15/12 01:57 PM

Thursday Discussion: My Top 10 Favorite Vocalists in Our Scene
It's Thursday, my body and mind is still rebelling against daylight savings time. While other AP.net staffers are posting awesome videos, drinking a lot down at SXSW, and writing album reviews - I'm preparing my Thursday Discussion, and stealing glances at the March Madness games up in the upper right-hand corner of my screen. This week I decided to step away from the past few weeks of "unappreciated" talk - and move on to a topic I've always loved discussing: vocals.

My love for a band usually comes from the sum of its parts. The lyrics, the vocals, the instrumentals, the production -- all of these things play a role when I listen to a band and lead to the enjoyment that comes out of it. While some listeners are more drawn to the music instrumentation side of a song - I've always found myself leaning toward the vocal and lyrics portion. So, for today's discussion, I've put together a list of my top 10 favorite vocalists in our scene. Since we're a music community that focuses mostly on the alternative side of things - I purposefully left out most of the mainstream artists, or the classic voices. So, no Adele on this list. I also tried to put some kind of time constraint on it, so I'm not tossing in stuff like Frank Sinatra or Bobby Darrin. There's a big pool of artists I could have picked from that aren't on this list, but - hey - the idea of only picking 10 is what makes it difficult (sorry Cee-Lo).

This is also all about my favorite vocals - not necessarily the technical best. The ability to stir an emotion in me is far more valuable on my list than the ability to go on a long vibrato filled fun (no chance J.C.). And, as we've seen throughout the years - sometimes the ability to emote can easily outweigh the best technical ability (Bob Dylan and Geoff Rickly come to mind). I included links to Rdio and Spotify so you can check out the artists. Highly recommend that when you're making your own lists - you do the same. I mean, vocals sort of need to be heard.

1) Jason Gleason (Further Seems Forever / Old Wives)
NoteThere's something about the range and ability of Jason Gleason that just floors me. I could listen to the guy sing the phone-book and I'd love every second of it. His control, presence, and tone - are all top notch. He's sung a variety of styles - always sounds fantastic - and his live performance is one one of the best I've ever seen.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

2) Jason Vena (Acceptance)
NoteMy top two are Jasons. I'm so bias. I watched Acceptance perform a small show once that had Jason standing on a chair so he could see over the crowd, and he gave one of the most ridiculous vocal performances I've ever seen live. His voice has that crystal quality that most musicians need a computer to achieve.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

3) Nate Ruess (Fun)
NoteHis band is blowing up and he's at the top of his game. Pitch perfect live. Great control. Just one of those vocalists that, in my opinion, is an undeniable talent. I'll catch a live video every now and then that just solidifies this belief for me.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

4) Will Pugh (Cartel)
NoteWill's got those perfect choir boy vocals. What I've always loved about them is that they sound great in a variety of ways: The slow ballad? Check. The fast pop-punk song? Check. A stripped down acoustic number? Check. A pure pop-tune? Check. Not many vocalists can pull off what he does and make it look so effortless.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

5) Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy)
NotePatrick's got that soulful flavor to voice that almost makes actual words and annunciation not matter. The sounds are what stand out. His sense of timing - and the way his voice has grown over the years - puts him solidly on my list of favorites. Not many vocalists can claim credit to basically changing how pop-punk music was sung.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

6) Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie)
NoteSmooth as silk. That's the only way I can describe Ben's vocals. If someone genetically engineered a set of "fall weather" vocals - it's these. Not many vocalists as instantly recognizable.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

7) Cary Brothers
NoteWhat I love about Cary's vocals is the just a tad rough around the edges sound. It's got that coffee shop singer aesthetic, and with that comes an ability to stir emotions like almost no other artist I know. I can't even count how many times I've had to stop what I'm doing just to rewind and listen to a particularly moving part of a song.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

8) Hayley Williams (Paramore)
NoteMy list has been a sausage fest so far. Which is weird - because I love female vocalists. Hayley's range is what has impressed me the most over the past few years. Her work on the Paramore songs has definitely shifted to showcase a few different styles; however, her guest appearances on other albums -- really lets her talent shine. She's got this unique voice that I think she's starting to use with great results, both with her own band, live, and in a diverse array of guest spots.

I know the band gets a lot of flack at times - but if you're honest with yourself, you gotta admit this girl can flat out sing.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

9) Dustin Kensrue (Thrice)
NoteWhile maybe not the "classic sounding voice" that most people would associate with a "great vocalist" -- I think the opposite. I think the unique texture and his vocal range are just about everything I could ask for in a vocalist. Absolutely distinct. Able to work in a variety of settings. We've seen the band (and his solo work) experiment with just about every kind of sound ... and the one constant is Dustin's command over the vocals.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

10) Matt Berninger (The National)
NoteI can't look at his name without thinking of Drew. I can't listen to his voice without thinking it's the auditory version of a funeral procession. I mean that with full compliment. He's got this somber tone that pulls at the emotion strings. It's the kind of voice you pretend you have when you're singing alone. You know you don't sound that sexy - but, in your own head, you imagine your voice alone could wilt a woman's heart. That's Matt Berninger.

Listen: Rdio - Spotify

Ok, so, who's on your list? And why? If you went with one of those classic "punk" voices - why'd you pick that over a silky smooth one, for example. Also, feel free to include some videos of your favorite performances.

Side-Bar: Runner ups? Jim Adkins, Mark Rose, Brian Fallon, and Frank Turner.

KenneyBN 03/15/12 01:58 PM

Jesse Lacey... did I even need to post this?

zachff 03/15/12 01:58 PM

The one knock against Patrick is his live show, but hard to argue with your top five.

Anton Djamoos 03/15/12 01:59 PM

Casey Crescenzo, Jeffrey Martin, and Dustin Kensrue.

JTHomeslice 03/15/12 01:59 PM

Keith Buckley.

Like I need to justify this.

Anton Djamoos 03/15/12 01:59 PM


Originally Posted by KenneyBN (Post 104794582)
Jesse Lacey... did I even need to post this?

I'm guessing you've never seen them live?

zachff 03/15/12 02:00 PM

Also, if this was three years ago William Beckett is up there no question.

starsinhand 03/15/12 02:00 PM

Chris Carraba not being on this list is a travesty and outrage even though your list is solid

SmallFrailBoy 03/15/12 02:01 PM


I saw Old Wives and it reaffirmed my love of live music. Seriously, this man puts every vocalist you like to shame. I promise you.

KenneyBN 03/15/12 02:01 PM


Originally Posted by Anton Djamoos (Post 104794682)
I'm guessing you've never seen them live?

Im guessing you've never seen me post

Alligator Blood 03/15/12 02:01 PM

Tom Delonge. Not live though.

Erik the Orange 03/15/12 02:01 PM

It's a shame Vena hasn't done anything since Phantoms.

Ohaidere 03/15/12 02:01 PM

*flame suit on*

Short list of my favorites: Jonny Craig, Kurt Travis, Spencer Pearson, Tyler Carter, Trenton Smith

DisasterCode 03/15/12 02:01 PM

y u no Anthony Green. y u no Shayley Bourget. y u no Jonny Craig. y u no Kurt Travis.

tinylilnative 03/15/12 02:01 PM

I couldn't agree with you more Jason. This whole list is fantastic. I do think AJ from the Dangerous Summer has something spectacular going on too though