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The Illin' Music Thread

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Tag Archives: Pop Punk

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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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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Grant, after reading your last post and remembering the way that we always drive around the suburbs/city at night blasting music (which is one of my favorite activities,) I couldn’t help but putting up two tracks that I have been absolutely loving recently that would definitely fit into this same category of late night stereo blasting.

The band in question is Banner Pilot, a Minneapolis punk band with members who have deep roots in other pop punk bands from the area.  Minneapolis is noteworthy for my musical taste specifically because it is also the birthplace of another band that I love: The Replacements.  Something about the city just breeds great music, and Banner Pilot is no exception.  The impassioned vocalist yells out meaningful lyrics about being young, confused, and generally not sober with the perfect amount of grit to keep the poppy melodies edgy.  From the very first lines of “Skeleton Key” and “Greenwood,” I knew that I would love this band.  Listen to that guy’s voice!  You may not love it, but you have to agree that it has so much character, it’s astounding.  The lead vocalist has definitely been places, and has things to say about where he has come from and where he is going.

The main thing that distinguishes midwestern punk bands from bands from other parts of the country is the presence and timbre of the bass in the mix.  On every single track of Banner Pilot’s new album, “Collapser,” the bass has enough high end to noticeably stand out in the mix, but enough low end to sound like a chugging freight train that is on its way off the tracks.  Just check out how it thunders below when the entire band comes in during the first verse of “Greenwood.”  The distinctive bass presence has definitely become one of my favorite elements of Banner Pilot’s sound.

Another thing that is noteworthy about the band is that they look just like average guys.  There is no punk rock pretense about these dudes.  They are the real deal.  No spiked hair, no studded belts, and definitely no safety pins.  Banner Pilot sticks true to their music without subscribing to any prefabricated image about what they should look like.  And damn, is their music good.

They also manage to say a lot in some very brief phrases.  My favorite line: “No my dear, nothing much grows ’round here.  We carry our roots with us, a couple of weeds pulled up.” – Skeleton Key.

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No, the title of this blog post is not true, but sometimes it’s just fun to walk around with a sick song blasting through your headphones, rocking contemptuously.  What’s that you say?  Sounds like a typical Say Anything song?  Bingo.

Imagine if Holden Caulfield were to form a punk band and funnel all of his pent up adolescent furor and energy into songs full of stinging invectives and catchy choruses.  Well, Say Anything is that band and Max Bemis, the crazy mastermind behind Say Anything’s mix of punk, emo, and showtunes-style bravado has done it again.  With their upcoming self titled release (the third official full-band release of their catalog not counting Bemis’ old college demos,) Say Anything has blossomed into the type of brazenly cynical, lovingly hateful, and straightforwardly rocking band that I have always wanted to listen to and have grown to regard as one of my all time favorites.

Some brief background on Bemis: An admitted sufferer of bipolar disorder, he had a nervous breakdown during the writing and recording of Say Anything’s first full-band recording, “…Is A Real Boy” and ended up wandering the streets of New York in a daze.  Before a huge tour during the summer of 2005 he had another breakdown which, according to Wikipedia, involved “harassing children, spitting in food at an outdoor cafe, spending a ‘half-hour pouring a bowl of soup onto the floor, one spoonful at a time,’ engaging in a street fight, and finally being admitted to a mental hospital by an off-duty policeman.”

Ever since, Bemis has not had a relapse and seems in prime vitriolic form with the upcoming release of his band’s new self-titled album.  “Say Anything” will drop on November 3rd, and I will be anxiously awaiting its arrival.

For now, here’s the new single, “Hate Everyone.”  A three minute burst of righteous indignation, it careens out of the speakers with an almost superhuman force.  And those lyrics!  Some choice lines:

“Then i grew a few hairs where the sun don’t shine
they packed me in a classroom to count the time
studying the history of men’s minds
chasing tail and committing hate crimes
rich hippie girl with a gas guzzler
forced myself to fall in love with her
she was so strung out she’d swear it never occurred
the honkey king went back on his word

I’m mired in hypocrisy yet i’m still down with JC
I guess that everyone includes me
And that’s why I’m a humanist”

Hahaha I love the humanist line.  Great stuff.  Also, the JC (Jesus Christ) reference is hilarious, as Bemis is Jewish and includes a lot of Jewish jokes and imagery in his songs that most people don’t get.

Finally, the video is just brilliant.  It acts out every teenage fantasy of smashing everything around you in a type of joyful fury:

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Ever so often, I hear a song that completely connects with my mood at the time that I hear it. This is one of my favorite experiences that I can have while listening to music.  Sometimes the lyrics of a song speak to your specific situation, or the emotional feeling of the instrumentalists seems to sum up your experience perfectly.  In some cases, it’s not as easy to explain.

I should state here, before I move on, that I LOVE pop punk.  I can remember the first time I heard Can’t Slow Down or Take This To Your Grave.  Sometimes I wonder what I will be listening to 20 years down the line, and if I will still get a thrill from the same type of youthful exuberance that those albums contain.  Maybe not, but for now I can truly say that there is little that I enjoy more than a well written pop punk song.

I had never really listened to MxPx before, although I had heard of their reputation as a Christian pop punk band.  To be honest, this didn’t really matter to me.  I’ve had the guilty pleasure of singing along at the top of my lungs with the likes of Run Kid Run and Hawk Nelson before, so hearing the band that is one of the founding fathers of the Christian pop punk style wasn’t much of a stretch.  I am also not very religious.  Spiritual, maybe, but it’s really only Western cultures that make this distinction anyway.  Any song by a “Christian” pop punk band, I can enjoy regardless of its implied message.

I heard “Move to Bremerton,” a single off of MxPx’s 1996 album, Life in General, yesterday, and I have been playing it nonstop.  Yes, the vocals are the nasal, snotty-sounding type present in so many sub-par bands of the same genre. Yes, I think it’s hilarious that one of the lines is “Bremerton’s a good place to reside.”  Yes, I occasionally cringe when Mike Hererra sings mawkish lines like “When I meet a special girl, she always lives somewhere else in the world. Don’t want to call her on the phone, I want to talk to her when I’m at home,”  but damn, I love this song!  I wasn’t really sure why, but now I’m pretty sure I know…

“Drop out of school and run away,
Quit your job, you’ve got a place to stay
Pack your bags and hitch a ride
Bremerton’s a good place to reside

Move to Bremerton, we’ll hang out,
Move to Bremerton ’cause you wanna,
Move to Bremerton, will you be mine?”

Hererra is not only exhorting a girl to come from far away and be with him, but he’s talking about an entire life change.  Dropping out of school, leaving wherever you are, and going somewhere where you really should be and actually belong.  These are pretty common adolescent feelings, but I find myself coming back to them again recently.  Maybe it’s that I am scared at the incessant approach of the uncertain future, or that I feel pretty out of place where I am right now.  Either way, these days I kind of want to “move to Bremerton” myself.

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Ah, the beginning of a new school year.  The copious buying of school utensils, the nervous arrival of freshman, and the hope that you can make it through another semester of all-nighters.  With the coming of the new school year, I thought I’d share some songs that remind me of the beginnings of each of my previous years of school.  My connection with any kind of music is based largely on my mood, so fittingly, each song evokes the mood at the beginning of each of its respective year of school:

Freshman Year of High School: “Solo Tonight” by Race The Sun.

So I was pretty emo freshman year, and I have to admit that I really loved this song and still do.  It has a great melody and a ton of energy.  Now sadly defunct, Race The Sun had a few other great songs off of their only album, The Rest of Our Lives is Tonight.

Sophomore Year of High School: “American Low” by Cassino.  One of the few songs that I have ever heard talk so honestly and empathetically about homelessness.  I listened to this about fifty times for the music alone before I even started to pick up on what the lyrics meant.  Really powerful.  This version is the original Demo version, NOT the one that appears on their full-length album, Sounds of Salvation.

Junior Year of High School: “It’s Been A Blast” by Hey Mercedes.

Another band that has since broken up, Hey Mercedes was once composed of guys from other godfathers of the genre, including Braid.  I really love some of the images and lines in this song.  “Remember one night in your parents’ ride under the light of the passing airplanes?”  “So bottle, never fear ’cause I’ve commandeered the number of your new beau’s home.” Great stuff.

Senior Year of High School: “The Permanent Rain” by The Dangerous Summer

This song can most recently be seen in the trailer for the upcoming romantic comedy, “Love Happens” with Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart.  Hearing this song in the trailer before 500 Days of Summer was pretty weird.  I was very surprised and reminded how much I like this song, especially the delay-laden guitar intro and Motown-esque guitar line behind the verse.

Freshman Year of College: “Bastards of Young” by The Replacements

I straight up love this song.  The fist-pumping, beers in the air feeling of the chorus, the great lyrics and the totally pissed off feeling throughout.  Although the song is over 20 years old, it still feels so relevant and it’s interesting that it’s the only song on this list to not be very contemporary.

Well that’s my beginning of the year round up!  What songs remind you guys of the beginning of each new year of school?

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