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The Illin' Music Thread

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Author Archives: Mikel

A long while back in middle school, as I was discovering my first taste of independent music in the heyday of Drive-Thru records, I listened briefly to a group on their roster called Steel Train.  For eighth grade me, they were nothing that really stood out compared to the other Drive-Thru bands that had captured my attention, and I went back to listening to The Early November and The Starting Line (nothing wrong with that!).

A few years later Lucas tried to tell me how good they were by sending me their cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”  I became a little more interested and checked out “Better Love,” a song that details the lead singer, Jack Antonoff’s, high school relationship with…Scarlett Johansson.  Yep.  That would be a tough one to get over.  Anyway, their music for some reason still didn’t hook me and thought that I would never really enjoy the band that much.

Cut to last week when I saw the cover of their new independently released self-titled album.  I loved the album art immediately, and the image of the punk girl particularly struck me because I’ve been reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series recently.

Their most recent Self-Titled album plays out like a retrospective study on the last half decade of indie rock, which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing!  There are Animal Collective-like whoops and hollers, chiming guitars that evoke Vampire Weekend, and a general epic feel that echos the recent Springsteen obsession of punk bands like the Gaslight Anthem

The standout track for me, however, is the pop abandon of You Are Dangerous.” Piano and palm muted guitars periodically rise and fall over a stop-and-start rhythm section, which gradually builds to a catchy-as-hell post chorus guitar riff that makes me want to dance around forever.  Add in some obligatory vocal “oohs” and you’ve got a great mid-summer jam.

With specific online purchases of the album the band is also giving away an alternate version with every track covered by a different female artist!  This is a pretty sweet idea, and is made only better by the fact that Lexington native Amanda Palmer lays down her own version of Steel Train’s “Behavior.”  Awesome!

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From Paramore to lesser known groups like Versaemerge a lot has been made recently of the proliferation of female-fronted emo/pop-punk acts.  As in any genre, some bands are very good while others should have never left the garage.  One of the bands that falls into the former category is Heartsounds.  Fronted by singer/guitarist Laura Nichol and backed up by ferocious drummer Ben Murray, Heartsounds arose from the ashes of Nichol and Murray’s previous melodic metal act Light This City (whose name sounds more like mediocre emo band than a pissed off metal act).  Light This City was notable not only because of their awesome dual-guitar harmonies, but also because Nichol was actually the vocalist!  Female screamers in metal are few and far between, but she held her own and even convinced a lot of listeners that she was one of the boys.

After the demise of Light This City, she and Murray decided to indulge their secret devotion to punk and created a great album of blazing fast pop punk tunes.  Take a listen to Slave to a Heart That Strays from their debut full length Until We Surrender. Check out that chorus!! Awesome.

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Continuing on the pop punk binge that I’ve been going on recently, here is another great song from the band Man Overboard.  Hailing from New Jersey, it is no surprise that they’re following in the footsteps of a lot of great bands from the late 90s and early 00s (Lifetime, Saves the Day etc…).

Man Overboard have got three solid releases out already: an awesome collection of old recordings (Before We Met), an acoustic EP (Noise From Upstairs), and a digital EP (Dahlia) that you can name your own price for (thanks Radiohead!).  Check these out if you like the track below!

Here’s my favorite track from Dahlia: Montrose

The lyrics for this song are so simple, but convey a ton of feeling and paint a clear picture in so few words:

“Do you take pictures off the walls
When you know I’m coming to your room?
Do you hide all the stuffed animals the other boys bought for you?”

Man Overboard will also be releasing their debut full length on July 20th.  It was recorded by Jesse Cannon, the same guy who has done albums with fellow Jersey compatriots Lifetime and Saves the Day as well as Say Anything, so you know it’s going to be good.

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Isn’t it funny how things seem to come full circle?

A long long time ago in my sophomore year of high school I stumbled upon the wonderful band Hockey Night.  With a catchy mix of sweet basslines, harmonized lead guitar lines, and triumphant vocals, Hockey Night made me want to blare my car stereo and drive around town like there was no tomorrow.

Now in my sophomore year of college, Hockey Night has reformed as Free Energy, and they have a brand new full-length to show for their efforts.  Stuck On Nothing is a blast of the same awesome musical mix that made Hockey Night so awesome.  Also, this time they are banking a lot more on their musical resemblance of one of my favorite bands of all time: Thin Lizzy.  An indie rock Thin Lizzy?  Am I dreaming?  Fortunately, not.  Check out two great songs from their new CD and EP, which you should absolutely go out and buy right now.

Something in Common

Free Energy

Also, here’s a gem from their old Hockey Night days: Dark Trance (Psychic Lightning). They’ve re-recorded this song under the new title “Young Hearts,” but I like the old version better.

If these songs don’t sound like summer, then I don’t know what does.

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I am in the middle of an absolutely gigantic amount of work this week.  Final papers are kicking my ass, I’m trying to organize rehearsals for my multi-movement music composition, and I have yet to figure out how to get all of the crap home that I won’t need while I’m staying here over the summer.

Yet, I still have time to write about the Wonder Years on the Illin Music Thread.

Why?

Because they’ve crafted a freaking awesome pop punk album that moves beyond the normal high school milieux of the genre and deeply resonates with me.

Why?

Because I have moved beyond high school as well, and I’m always searching for bands that can speak to my current stage in life. Making this search easier is the fact that though I’ve gotten (a little bit) older since high school, my love for “punk/pop punk/whatever you want to call it” has not waned. Despite the fact that people degrade it for being juvenile, simple, or boring, I still enjoy it, and you know what?

I don’t care.

Part of what makes the Wonder Years so relatable for me is that the lead singer was an English major (holla!) in college while he wrote and recorded The Upsides, the band’s sophomore album.  Although people generally relegate feelings of otherness and isolation to high school, this is a straight up lie.  These feelings crop up at tons of other points in life.  If they didn’t, well…we wouldn’t be human.  College is the other main time in one’s life for feeling like this, and the lead singer of The Wonder Years captures this sensation perfectly.  The album’s positive message about moving above and moving on, and the motivic refrain of “I’m not sad anymore” that repeats throughout various tracks on the album also really hit me because of where I am at in my life right now.

Here are some excerpts of reviews for The Upsides, their sophomore full-length:

“The Wonder Years have crafted a passionate testament to the confusion of being twentysomething with The Upsides, their sophomore full-length. If you’ve grown up and care about more than just girls, but still love Say It Like You Mean It, listen to the Wonder Years.” – AP

“This is the album that makes it alright to still be listening to pop-punk well out of your teens, in fact it should be compulsory listening.” – DIESHELLSUIT.co.uk

Finally, after all of my talking, here is “My Last Semester” the opening track of collegiate loneliness/confusion on The Upsides

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Wow it’s been a long time!  Things change pretty fast in college, and a month can feel like a day.  Lots of stuff has happened since my my post.  Way too much to say here.  We all need to video chat or something soon!

Anyway, one of the things in the immediate future that I am looking forward to is the annual Meddies tour.  One week of singing at a different college almost every night brings a lot of driving, debauchery, and of the course the soundtrack to accompany all of this craziness.  Enter: The White Panda.  These guys have been putting up some sick mash-ups on their site, and you can download them all for free! I have never been one to love mash-ups, as I generally think they’re the derivative products of talentless hacks, but these ones are absolutely awesome.

My friend and fellow Meddie, Brian, introduced me to this song in his car the other day and my mind was subsequently blown.  Who knew Eminem could actually sound good?  Listen to that sweet, upwardly moving synth riff and the way the song explodes after that grooving solo guitar riff.  YES!  Do your self a favor and check out The White Panda’s unbelievably sweet mash-up of Eminem’s “Superman” and Bag Raiders’ “Shooting Stars“:  “Shooting Superstars”

Almost all of the snow is gone in Maine and spring is basically here.  This feeling of the incoming new season is one of my favorite moments of the entire year.  This is my new spring jam.  Yes, oh yes.

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If it feels right, I’m gonna stay out tonight – Lifetime

Done with finals + ResLife staff having to stay until housing closes (tomorrow) = one last crazy night at B(r)owdoin.  Not forever.  Just for the semester.

The soundtrack?  Fantastic pop punk, of course:

No Eye In Team” – Rehasher

Rehasher is the side project of Roger, the bassist of Less Than Jake, one of my favorite bands of all time.  Going back to their Gainesville roots, Rehasher plays blazing fast melodic punk, and boy do they do it well.  This cut is off of their new album, High Speed Access to My Brain, an album that the band says you should “play on repeat until your roommates hate you.”  With no roommate, I can’t really do that.  Maybe play it until my residents hate me.  Yeah, I’ll go with that.

Paper Planes (MIA Cover)” – Freshman 15

Yeah, you read that right.  This is a pop punk cover of Paper Planes.  My dream come true?  Undoubtedly.  This is a spot-on arrangement of the song, and uses a million clichés from the genre and its many derivatives.  Check the second verse.  Sick.

Cut the Tension” – Lifetime

Lifetime were the influence for basically every subsequent punk/emo band to emerge from New Jersey, and they still hold up.  Fast as hell, and completely incomprehensible, Lifetime set the standard for hundreds of bands that would later emulate them.  Clocking in at barely less than 2 minutes, this track is from their 1997 Jade Tree release Jersey’s Best Dancers.  Check those drums.  That is freaking hard. “If it feels right, I’m gonna stay out tonight.” Oh yeah.

For Collards” – Shook Ones

Shook Ones play fast hardcore-influenced pop punk with gravelly vocals reminiscent of Latterman (another favorite) and (surprise!) Lifetime.  This track is from their most recent album, The Unquotable A.M.H, which was actually released on Paper + Plastick, a new record label started by Vinnie, the drummer from Less Than Jake.  The Less Than Jake links never end, do they?  It’s pretty cool, because I was basically introduced to punk etc… through listening to Less Than Jake and bands on Fueled By Ramen, which was Vinnie’s original label that he co-founded.  Just a note: one of the notable bands on the early roster of Fueled By Ramen: Fall Out Boy. mmhmm.

Finally, an old school video from one of my favorite bands ever: The Goo Goo Dolls.  Say what you will, but when Dizzy Up The Girl came out in 1998, most of the screaming teenage girls had no idea that the Goos used to be on Metal Blade records, a leading metal record label home to bands of the death, doom, and thrash variety.  Don’t believe me? The band release their first real two albums, not counting their relatively terrible self-titled debut, on Metal Blade.  The latter of the two, Hold Me Up contains some real gems, and showcases the earliest signs of the Goos that people have come to know today.  Most notably: Johnny Rzeznik singing lead vocals on the first single “There You Are.” “There You Are” spawned their first music video, a bromantic blast of Goo Goo Dolls mischief in and around their hometown of Buffalo, NY.  I love the youthful energy in this video.  Johnny and Robby are both obviously having an amazing time, and it totally shows.