Hi. I'm Adam. I do interviews and really crappy reviews where people yell at me for having an opinion. Eh, it's life. Seriously, I'm thankful for all the people I've been able to interview this year and hope to continue the stride next year. I'll keep it short. I'd skip the rant, and just head to my favorite records of the year. love and respect.
These may not be the best albums of the year by scholars and critics alike, but they certainly were for me. That's the beauty of music.
1) Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing
There are albums that come along at the right time in our lives. Not, "Oh, well my girl's cheating on me," or "I hate my job," type albums. No, there are albums that speak to an entire transcendence upon one's life. Manchester Orchestra - the lyrical honesty of Andy Hull and the impact of guitarist Robert McDowell's twange, Jeremiah Edmond's drumming matched to bassist Jonathan Corley, layered over keyboardist Chris Freeman's knack for just the right topping - well, the band has crafted this year's supreme being. Hull doesn't just wear his heart on his sleeve, he rips it off and splatters it over 45 minutes of integrity and nostalgic throwback to influences ranging from the first half of Nirvana grime, to the second half of Weezer subtleties. When I entered college, Brand New's Deja Entendu was my personal Bible, but now as I have graduated, I left the auditorium's parking lot in an unbearable heat, blasting the opening "The Only One," ready to move on with life, collect the best of what I had, and leave the worst of my baggage behind. From lines like "I'm done with a funeral, at least for now," ("Shake It Out") to "What happens when I don't know what happens," ("In My Teeth") to the closing "I'm going to leave you the first chance I get," ("The River"), Mean Everything to Nothing is the transition that came at the perfect time, in the perfect year, to end my decade. While the album may not be the articulate prowess of many other picks amongst my top choices this year, it's not the compositional exposure that always has to be measured. No, sometimes it's the impact on one's personal journey. That is what music is about - taking us from point A to point B, when a simple travel is much tougher than we could have ever imagined.
2) Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
I wonder what kids my age felt about discovering The Bends for the first time. I wonder what it was like to throw in a copy of OK Computer on on a whim - with no hype surrounding it, or a low bit-rate digital leak as a faulty preview. The only independent record store in Baton Rouge was carrying Veckatimest a day early due to a listening party. Needless to say, I skipped the party and grabbed a copy on vinyl, raced home and flipped Side A on immediately. The opening "Southern Point" flooded my room, and as I flipped through the accompanied booklet, there was a faith restored in physical packaging and abrasively, saturating music again. Progressed, the band did, in constructing more traditional builds, like in the stunning "Ready, Able," or writing accessible, yet unfaltering singles such as "Two Weeks" and "While You Wait For the Others." The closing "Foreground" tops off the album in a beautiful aura. Sure, the band may have stirred some controversy in landing a spot on the New Moon soundtrack this year - but the only fault to be seen is in not discovering the decade's newest, and brightest star of creativity - whether it's intentional or naive in their actions.
3) Brand New - Daisy
Life is a violent bitch. Poetic enough for you? Neither is anything found on Brand New's fourth full-length endeavor. No, it's simply a bombastic rupture of the spleen - because we long know the heart was splattered across a record for us six years ago. After the hymnal that opens up the band's "polarizing" album, we were all taken by surprise by the minute or so freak out that was "Vices." Did guitarist Vin Accardi write this? Did frontman Jesse Lacey write this? Does it even matter? Should we constantly look at Lacey as our generation's Dylan, or are we too hung up on the band being our scene's Radiohead? If 2006's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me was an epic mural, then Daisy is a talented graphic design of hand drawn adolescence and feedback ("Gasoline") and crawling ballads that inch their way into the darkest parts of our spine ("You Stole"). At times the band's inaudible nature on tracks like "Be Gone," "Sink" and "In a Jar" is alluring in its mask, but when we decipher the Nirvana silhouette of "Bought a Bride" and the despairing resolution of "Noro," we are all left wondering what drives such a band to write gloom in an uneasy, yet attractive form. If Brand New's protégée wrote an album of hope in the face of despair and uncertainty, the New York foursome have crafted a piece that doesn't shed a light of serenity - only a head full of boarded up windows and a somewhat accessible attachment to our everyday worries and fears of loneliness, guilt and abandonment. There is no Devil and God present in Daisy, only your inner worse thoughts of malicious creativity and over-thinking - this is your best at your worse.
4) Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanist
I will preface by saying that this album was hard to get into, seeing that the masterpiece that was Censored Colors was my favorite album of last year, and may be my favorite album by the band at this point in my life and their career. That being said, Portugal. The Man have crafted an album that is essentially what vocalist/guitarist John Gourley told me he set out to produce - a great pop rock album. That is what The Satanic Satanist is as it flows from the smooth opening "People Say" to the Motown grooves of "Lovers in Love" and "The Woods" to the phenomenal closer of "Mornings," a track that may be one of the best songs in the band's bulky catalog as it stands. I didn't think it would take the Alaskan groove four albums to get the notoriety that I think they deserved well back when Church Mouth made its mark, but like any good career, or the system's old model, a steady build of praise is better than a quick spurt that evaporates like ice in the oven. Want to know the strength of this band? I put this album on my work's iTunes. Everyone I work with wants to see them when they come through Austin. Pretty impressive I think.
5) Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
"Adam, you gave your review of the new Animal Collective album such a high rating. Why didn't you make it as your number one?" Well, it was the first album I bought this year (insert the fact that I got it on vinyl - yeah, I'm cool), and yes, I got caught up in the hype. If I had to lower my score, it would only be by a few points, and I stand by 99.9% of what I said. Coming off Strawberry Jam, an album I thought was boring compared to 2005's Feels and 2004's Sung Tongs, this year’s music critic first of the year wet dream was on the money. With the departure of guitarist Josh Dibb (Deakin), the band put some new technology and creativity to work in the studio and out came an electronic acid trip opener ("In the Flowers"), an accessible dance single ("My Girls"), an outback runner ("Lion in a Coma") and a closer that blankets the senses in a glorious ending. Furthermore, Animal Collective have proven that new technologies can be used to orchestrate in creativity, as opposed to serving as a slacking crutch in the studio. A fantastic album that makes me excited about the future of music, and the future of a band that continues to teeter the accessible/indie line. Hipsters will eventually scoff the band for their efforts, and hopefully others will embrace them instead of this electro-screamo bullshit.
6) Every Time I Die - New Junk Aesthetic
I wonder if Every Time I Die will be my Anthrax - I fucking hope so. I remember the first time I saw/heard the single "Ebolarama." In an age where so many bands seemed like they were taking themselves seriously, Every Time I Die wrapped themselves in hard-hitting metalcore and the arrogant, poetic and literary genius that only vocalist Keith Buckley’s educational background could provide. Needless to say, since Hot Damn!, I've been hooked. While the last two albums are worth roaring through, this one’s opening "Roman Holiday" is nothing short of a punch to the sternum and return to some sort of form that's been missing for a few years. That's not to say that 2005's Gutter Phenomenon and 2007's The Big Dirty didn't fuck shit up, but this year's album dropped a shit storm across 35 minutes of some of the band's best work yet. One doesn't listen to New Junk Aesthetic, it puts it on and goes on a binge around downtown only to end up embracing the next few hours of mayhem. I think that's what an older generation felt when hearing Anthrax's catalog. So to clarify: Every Time I Die continues to boil through my blood and make life more heightening than it already is – oh, and continuous cursing.
7) Kevin Devine - Brother's Blood
I'm not a fan of Devine's entire catalog. He's a singer-songwriter, and that goes without saying for anyone from Conor Oberst to Elliott Smith, but Brother's Blood just may be Devine's best piece yet, and I sense from our many talks in contact this year, he feels the same way. Using new dubbing techniques and a full band that was more impacting on this album than on 2006's Put Your Ghost to Rest, Devine has certainly stacked his song writing this time with the first half of Brother's Blood. The second half is more of an intimate return to form that many long time fans will clutch to. In a decade that has spawned quite a few boys with guitars and a third rate knack for writing a half-assed break-up song, Devine seems to have soared passed them with his efforts this decade and has landed himself on a positive note to end the last ten years. From his D.I.Y. ethics to continual build as a songwriter, he certainly deserves the praise that this album has accredited this year.
8) Russian Circles - Geneva
Ever since I saw this band open for Pelican a few years ago, they've been on my good list. With Geneva, the band has made my great list, and one to watch in the future. There's a haunting beginning, a lifting middle and shallow end to the band's third release. Where the band began as a unit of intricate, memorable parts, they have grown into an outfit that paints a grand scheme that is just as flooding to the senses. I'm not going to say the addition of bassist Brian Cook has amped the aura of the band, because guitarist Mike Sullivan and drummer Dave Turncrantz have definitely stepped their game up as well. Russian Circles has made their impact with this one, and time will tell of the aforementioned comparison in terms of longevity. If things keep shaping up like they have, I'm not even worried about eating my words in the long run.
9) Rx Bandits - Mandala
The respect I have for this band was pushed even further upon my interview with vocalist/guitarist Matt Embree and drummer Chris Tsagakis this summer. After our interview for a project I've been working on, we talked a bit about Mandala, about how I was offset by ...And the Battle Begun because I felt like the album ran together as a whole, whereas with Mandala, each song held its own worth, memorable in its own right. The reaction I received was both respectful in my opinion, and one I rarely see in newer bands today - the ability to take critique. That aside, but also my point in commenting on audible growth without wearing thin, the band’s decade ender is another fine painting by a group of musicians who continue to amaze my view of music. Whether it's the tangent piece of "Hope is a Butterfly, No Net Its Captor...(The Virus of Silence)" to the crazy spiral, yet accessible touch of "Bled to Be Free (The Operation)," the band are still at their finest, and if you've never experienced a live cut - then well son, you are missing the fuck out. If you've never heard a single song by the band, Mandala is a good start, but oh man, there's so much of this Grateful Dead catalog to browse, better get going.
10) As Cities Burn - Hell or High Water
Yes, I am friends with the members of As Cities Burn. Yes, I helped do their biography for Tooth and Nail's website. Yes, I photographed what is to stand as the band's last show. That being said, I still get goosebumps upon hearing the band's final album, Hell or High Water. If their last album was a take-off from the debut, then the band's final opus is an honest, heartfelt ending to a short-lived career. Vocalist/guitarist Cody Bonnette takes his beliefs and throws them out the window, digging into quite a personal struggle on childhood ("'84 Sheepdog"), love ("Lady Blue") and faux-fame ("Petty"). This album places nicely in the last position of my top ten albums, because it acts as a portrait of favored progression and honesty to the above. I'm not saying that there aren't a lot of bands acting on those two ideas, but we've surely heard a lot of bands that don't towards the end of this decade - and this year especially.
(More than) Honorable Mentions
mewithoutYou - it's all crazy! it's all false! it's all a dream! it's alright! St. Vincent - Actor Thrice - Beggars The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death P.O.S. - Never Better fun. - Aim and Ignite As Tall As Lions - You Can't Take it With You Atlas Sound - Logos Converge - Axe to Fall The Number 12 Looks Like You - Worse Than Alone Poison the Well - The Tropic Rot Builders and the Butchers - Salvation is a Deep Dark Well Mastodon - Crack the Skye Coalesce - OX The Chariot - Wars and Rumors of Wars Say Anything - Say Anything Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport William Elliott Whitmore - Animals in the Dark
Top 10 Things I Hope to Accomplish in 2010
1) Obtain new Glassjaw album
2) Date with Julia Conny
3) Bromance with Blake Solomon
4) Interview with one, if not all members of Blink 182
5) Finish writing this fucking book
6) Get a real job
7) Continue interviewing awesome musicians and industry persons
8) Seriously, new Glassjaw already!
9) Meet Chuck Klosterman and have him make fun of my book
10) Have fun, enjoy music and live life --- All Day, E'ry Day!!!!