Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Albums: Year-End Awards

Now that the Top Songs of 2011 list is complete, it's time to focus on the albums that made their way through car stereos, iPods and record players this year. 

Before we begin, a note: As big as my love for music is, there is absolutely no way I could listen to everything that came out this year. So this list is one that's about 90% what I wanted to attack and 10% what I felt I needed to get to. Some names were left off for specific reasons (While Adele's 21 had some amazing singles, I thought the album as a whole was average at best) and some are left off because I simply didn't have a chance to get to them (Since I am a blogger, I'm using this to explain the absence of Bon Iver).

For plenty of those records that I didn't get to, and alternate thoughts on some that I did, please check out This Song Starts a Craze and Dance to the Radio, two blogs that are both looking at some year-end stuff as well.

Since this is my first time recapping the year at The Sight of Sound, I'm trying something a bit different. Admittedly, I'm borrowing some ideas from people I read and trying to incorporate them into my own. So get ready for part one of a three-day extravaganza beginning today with The Sight of Sound: Year-End Awards.

*note: Some are standard categories, some aren't. And some albums to be discussed in the top 12 of the year - starting tomorrow - will be winners as well.

Debut Album of the Year: Foster the People - Torches; Sleeper Agent - Celebrasion; Grouplove - Never Trust a Happy Song

2011 will be a year remembered for a lot of big names returning to the airwaves and for the dominance of female pop stars. But somewhere in all the comeback love and Gaga glory, there was room for newcomers to step up and steal the spotlight. While there were some other notable debuts (Yuck, The Joy Formidable), there were three that had such a strong opening release that I couldn't pick just one for this award. So strong in fact that (spoiler alert) this isn't the first you will hear of them. Foster the People is perhaps the most well-known of the three with MGMT-but-ready-to-be-famous sounds coming from their tracks. Sleeper Agent brings the old school sound in a new school rock genre and Grouplove provides the soundtracks for bonfires in the place of that pesky "real life." All three will be discussed in depth later, but this trio definitely takes home the prize of debut album of the year.

Most Disappointing Album of the Year: Incubus - If Not Now, When?

Want to know how an album is disappointing? You forget that it is even released. The reason why If Not Now, When? takes this title is because five years is a long time to wait for a new album. In that time, there was a greatest hits package released and Brandon Boyd decided to pull a solo stint. And that's the problem with this forgettable release: Boyd himself. Though he does admit this was going to be different than anything the band had ever done (and to be fair, some tracks were pretty good), it was too much to get used to and quickly got tossed aside.
Honorable mention: Drake - Take Care

One of the superstars in a fledgling rap game had a lot of hype surrounding his sophomore release and it came out as... boring. Some people will appreciate the sophistication in his lyrics and the chill vibe of the tracks, but those expecting the bravado found in "Forever" or "Over" will be disappointed to find it in very small capacity here.

The 'Almost There' Award: Childish Gambino - Camp

The distinction between this category and the one listed above is that the albums here were 'good', but just seemed to be missing that little something to put them into 'great' category. Childish Gambino, aka actor/comedian Donald Glover, gets the nod here for his first major release after a slew of mixtapes. The good stuff: fantastic beats and lines that demand he be taken seriously. The bad stuff: A bit too much of an autobiography. After about the 50th rap concerning him being a "nerdy black kid" and you start to say "ok, we get it." 

Honorable mention: Lupe Fiasco - L.A.S.E.R.S.; Jack's Mannequin - People and Things

It's a shame that Lupe Fiasco had to go through all the label drama before the release of his third studio album because it shines through and makes you wonder what could have been. Still, he brings it on tracks such as "Words I Never Said" and even the pop radio-ready "Show Goes On." For Andrew McMahon, making a record free of the burden of cancer must have been an exhilarating process. But while the third Jack's Mannequin channels some great songwriting, it tries too much to be shoutout to the bands of yesterday.

The "What Year is it Again?" Award: New Found Glory - Radiosurgery

Blink this year and you could question if we were really in 2011. From Taking Back Sunday and blink-182 (to be discussed later) to Panic! at the Disco and Yellowcard, the year was full of solid releases from the names that today's adults enjoyed in their youth. No band embodied that spirit more than New Found Glory. While some of their peers have gone on to craft sophistication and branch out with their new material, NFG stick with what brought them to the dance. Put Radiosurgery on and let your headphones bring you back to a time when pop-punk was just being born.
Honorable mention: Bayside - Killing Time

Coming all the way back in January, Bayside struck gold with one of their best releases in a celebrated catalog. It rivals anything some of the pure rock bands have put out and makes a statement that there are bright days ahead for this once-called 'emo' band.

Biggest Surprise of the Year: letlive. - Fake History

The singing-screaming genre is one that takes a lot of getting used to. Some can do it with pop tweaks (A Day to Remember) and some can do it with an in-your-face all-or-nothing attitude (The Devil Wears Prada). Since letlive. has been compared to those type bands, I was hesitant to give them a listen. But what I found was not only tracks full of energy, but a record that took legitimate effort to make. The band makes a point to give nods to the past Gods of hard rock while paving their own sound for the future. It's a gutsy release and one that anyone who needs to just put on some music and play it loud will definitely enjoy.

Honorable mention: Sublime with Rome - Yours Truly; Sum 41 - Screaming Bloody Murder

Take all the chaos surrounding the revamped lineup of Sublime (contractually obligated to now include WITH Rome) and set it aside: the album is pretty good. The only setback is that the band don't seem sure who they want to be. A ska band that gets played on skateboarding videos or a jam band that is featured in the next Disney-Pixar movie. It's a "press play and relax" type of album and it succeeds in that forte. As for Sum 41, the band seems to know what they are trying to do: channel Green Day. Piano ballads mixed with fast drums make Murder a convoluted effort, but when the elements come together they are on point. See: "Jessica Kill" and the title track.

The "Don't Knock It Till You Try It" Award: Patrick Stump - Soul Punk

Those expecting a Fall Out Boy-lite record will need to look elsewhere. But those who are willingly to give a talented songwriter and musician a shot at doing his own thing should give this one a listen. The Michael Jackson influences are obvious, especially in the opening "Explode," but Stump puts on his own personal dancing shoes for the remainder of the album. But don't be fooled; this isn't a mindless groove record. The 'punk' part comes in when you realize this guy used to front a successful band. He knows what he's doing.

The Guilty Pleasure Award: Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV

It's not going to go down as one of the greatest rap albums of all time. Hell, it's not even a great record. But it's entertaining. And I enjoyed it. There's not much more that needs to be said about that as the title of the award pretty much explains it.

Up Next: We begin counting down the Top 12 albums of 2011!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Top 50 Songs of 2011: Part 4 (The Finale)

We have finally found the end of our countdown here at The Sight of Sound. Just in case you have missed a couple posts, here is a recap.

Now bring on the final three.

(EDIT: If you are a Spotify user, here is all 50 songs in a handy-dandy playlist. Well, the ones Spotify would let me add that is.

3. Foster the People - "Pumped Up Kicks"
Whether you absolutely loved the song or you think it’s one of the worst you’ve ever heard, whether you’ve been a fan since 2010 or only recently heard it and have abused the replay button, whether you think it’s a unique track that shows promise for new artists or is a cheap rip-off of MGMT, one thing is for sure – “Pumped Up Kicks” was HUGE in 2011 and if you’re reading this you most likely have some kind of opinion on it. It was the debut track for Foster the People that came not only before a proper album was even released, but before an album was even recorded. “Kicks” also pulls off something that newer artists are becoming better and better at. That is, recording vocals that if read on a sheet of paper would be disturbing but sung as a folkish electronic track give off a bouncy feel good vibe. Speaking of electronics, for as much as the debut album relied on non-traditional instruments the band has a stellar way of displaying amazing acoustic range, giving the songs new life. The acoustic version of "Kicks" is a perfect example.

2. Kanye West featuring Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Jay Z & Nicki Minaj - "Monster"
Before this year’s Watch the Throne, Kanye West came out with an Album of the Year-snubbed solo release in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in late 2010. In a foreshadowing of one of the biggest rap releases in history, two songs on that release featured Jay Z, fittingly back-to-back. “So Appaled” was a minimal effort and reflects on the down tracks of Throne. Meanwhile, Jay’s verse on “Monster” left everyone salivating for what the two could REALLY do together. Add in the fact that they had a little bit of help in everyone from Rick Ross to Bon Iver and also featured one of the better verses from Nicki Minaj’s short career. Everything came together to create a monster track, pun intended, that carried well into 2011.

1. Adele - "Rolling in the Deep"
There are countless “best of the year” articles going around right now and the one thing that the majority all have in common is Adele placed somewhere at the top of the lists. And it’s for good reason - she deserves it. The only way you can realistically deny she was in the top talent, or THE top talent, this year is if you also admit you don’t want to like what is “popular.” Case in point: the fact that you have to make a decision between “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You.” Ultimately, “Deep” gets the nod because of its longevity. Oh, and the fact that everyone from John Legend to Linkin Park has covered it, along with Go Radio for Punk Goes Pop Vol 4 . Don’t forget to include the remixes like this one that has a 60s roller-skating kind of vibe. Or the sample from Lil Wayne. Or the remix/sample from Childish Gambino. It’s one of the catchiest songs in history and the #1 song of the year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Top 50 songs of 2011: Part 3

3 days down, one day to go. And today is packed with some superstars and newcomers alike. Lots of material to cover so let's get right down to it.

(Also, for an introduction to this list check out the first post here)

15. Sleeper Agent - "Get it Daddy"
The debut track from this Kentucky-based band comes out guns-a-blazing to create a sugary-sweet yet knock you out combo

14. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Factory of Faith"
RHCP stick to what they know best - making songs that you end up bouncing and singing along to - and this track is a perfect example

13. Blink-182 - "Hearts All Gone"
The "older" Blink may not please their entire fan base, but it's hard to not like this punkish rock track. Oh, and Travis Barker is a beast

12. Lil Wayne - "6 Foot, 7 Foot"
The song is simple: An absolute banger of a beat with a list of one-liners that can leave you laughing while your bass is exploding

11. Death Cab for Cutie - "Stay Young, Go Dancing"
For an early "emo" band, "Dancing" is uncharacteristically uplifting. And it's one of the best songs they've ever produced

Top 10
(more attention given; click on the title for youtube links)

After years of mixtapes, Childish Gambino goes big and refuses to go home on his first major single. "Bonfire" displays the best that writer/actor/artist Donald Glover has to offer - a beat that rivals anything the big names in rap put out and some of the best wordplay lines this year: "The shit I'm doin' this year? Insanity. / Made the beat then murdered it: Casey Anthony"

9. Foo Fighters - "Bridge Burning"
"Bridge Burning" opens up the latest effort from the Foo Fighters, Wasting Light. It's the perfect track to get the album started as it features a minimal guitar intro/buildup before bursting into chaos with a Dave Grohl grow. The energy never stops, making this not only one of the best pure rock tracks of the year but one of the best pure rock tracks in general.

8. Cage the Elephant - "Shake Me Down"
The boys who brought you "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" slow it down slightly for the lead-off single from Thank You, Happy Birthday. While the debut album had some great jam sessions, "Shake Me Down" is an example of their strong writing ability. Don't worry, they still jam with the best of them but it's nice to see their song range on tracks like this.

7. Manchester Orchestra - "Virgin"
It's really hard to describe what makes a track like "Virgin" so valuable to a band like Manchester Orchestra, but it's the kind of song that captures your attention immediately. And that's good for any band that is still making a name for themselves three albums in. The Atlanta-based band up their game by adding in a horn section and children's voices to give the song a kind of vibe that would make Dexter Morgan proud.

6. Jay Z & Kanye West - "N****s in Paris"
This track was an instant favorite to most listeners of Watch the Throne. Why? Let's count the ways: a fun beat that is hard to sit still to, clips from "Blades of Glory," two strong verses from two of the best rappers in history, the creation of "Ball so hard..." and "Dat Shit Cray" as sayings and not even batting an eye when Kanye West talks about his girl ordering a fish fillet.

5. Taking Back Sunday - "El Paso"
On a personal note, I don't think any song had more of an impact on me this year than the first time I heard "El Paso." I usually hate to listen to a song on repeat, but I must have played this track 20 times the first day it was released. After years and albums of inner band turmoil, "El Paso" was a call-to-arms that the reunited TBS lineup was back and they meant business. They weren't as angry as they were at 18, but adult anger translated into one of the hardest rock songs of 2011.

4. Coldplay - "Paradise"
When "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall" was released as the first single off Mylo Xyloto, the majority of Coldplay fans weren't impressed. It's a good song in its own right, but something just felt slightly off. Enter "Paradise." The song features everything you could ever want out of Chris Martin and the gang including a story that could read like a poem, plus instrumental work from the band that leaves you feeling like you are that girl the song describes. 

What did you think of today's list? Were some songs overrated, were you glad some got attention? Let me know in the comments. 

Be sure to look out for the top 3 songs of 2011 in tomorrow's Friday's post.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top 50 songs of 2011: Part 2

After yesterday's introduction and part one post of the top 50 songs of 2011, we move forward to day 2 with a lot of ground to cover. So let's get to it.

35. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - "If I Had a Gun"
34. M83 - "Midnight City"
33. Drake featuring Rihanna - "Take Care"
32. Panic! at the Disco - "Sarah Smiles"
31. Paramore - "Renegade"
30. Young the Giant - "Cough Syrup"
29. The Wonder Years - "Came Out Swinging"
28. Radiohead - "Lotus Flower"
27. Fleet Foxes - "Helplessness Blues"
26. Lupe Fiasco featuring Skylar Grey - "Words I Never Said"
25. Yellowcard - "With You Around"
24. Florence + the Machine - "Shake it Out"
23. Hugo - "99 Problems" (Jay Z cover)
22. Bayside - "Sick Sick Sick"
21. The Airborne Toxic Event - "All I Ever Wanted"

Top 20
("tweet" descriptions - 140 characters or less)

20. The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Following up on the success of Brothers, the Keys come out swinging with this rockin lead-off single. And pick up right where they left off

19. Gym Class Heroes featuring Adam Levine - "Stereo Hearts"
Levine helped elevate this track to major pop success, but McCoy employed some of his best wordplay in years to make GCH new again

18. Beastie Boys - "Make Some Noise"
Maybe the saying should be that old dogs can teach old tricks? The Boys bring the party in a hip-hop track that could be strong in 91 or 11

17. Atlas Genius - "Trojans"
A hit song before even recording an album? It worked for these Aussies. The smooth vibe leaves anticipation for a proper future release

16. Grouplove - "Colours"
A hippieish jam track that you don't realize you are in love with until you picture yourself in an open field humming along

Now that we're in the middle of the list, what did you think of these selections? Agree, disagree? Wondering if your favorite is going to make it? Let me know in the comments.

Be sure to look out for numbers 15 - 4 tomorrow

Monday, December 5, 2011

Top 50 Songs of 2011: Part 1

So now it begins. The time of year when every blogger and their follower's brother puts up their thoughts on the best music of the year. The Sight of Sound is no different and the inaugural edition of looking back on the musical year that was will be broken up in to three weeks.

Week 1: The top 50 songs of 2011
Week 2: The Sight of Sound Year-End Awards
Week 3: Top Albums of 2011

So that's what will happen throughout December, but as for today we get right into the top 50 songs of the year.

Disclaimer: I'm only one person and as much as I love music there is absolutely no way I could listen to every single song that comes out in a given year. So the following list is made up of songs that have made their way through my airwaves and left an impression on my ear.

The only criteria were as follows: One song for each artist (this was a difficult choice to make for some, but others only really had one strong choice anyway). A song didn't necessarily have to be a single - for some artists I selected a stronger track on the album that never made it on the radio or had a video release. Also, the song didn't necessarily have to be released this year, but if its impact was felt in 2011 (ex: the album was released in winter 2010) then it made it.

And there will be some notable names absent from my list. This could be that either I didn't get a chance to give them a proper listen or... I didn't think they were worthy. It will be up to you to make a guess ;)

To kick off the top 50 songs of 2011, here are the first 15. 

50. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi featuring Jack White - "Two Against One"
49. Farewell Continental - "Who's the Boss?"
48. Of Monsters and Men - "Little Talks"
47. The Vaccines - "Post Breakup Sex"
46. The Naked and Famous - "Punching in a Dream"
45. Cults - "Go Outside"
44. Travis Barker featuring Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Swizz Beatz and The Game - "Can a Drummer Get Some?"
43. Sum 41- "Jessica Kill"
42. The Joy Formidable - "Whirring"
41. Givers - "Up Up Up"
40. Switchfoot - "Dark Horses"
39. TV on the Radio - "Will Do"
38. Yuck - "Get Away"
37. Sublime with Rome - "Panic"
36. Pierce the Veil - "Just the Way You Are" (Bruno Mars cover)

And that's it for today. Check back tomorrow for numbers 35 - 21.

What did you think of these songs? Loved them, hated them, never heard of them? Let me know in the comments section.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Music Sunday: Songs In Movies Week 1

The theme for this August's Music Sunday is songs I've seen in movies that added to whatever scene they were applied in and/or I became excited to hear.

Today I had what is commonly referred to as a "lazy Sunday." I finished the first two seasons of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," went on a Taco Bell run and played a few games in NCAA 12. Then I figured I would add to my day of doing nothing and watch a movie. I have more than 70 titles in my Netflix instant queue so I decided to go with one that was sitting in my DVD queue for the longest time until I saw it was on instant: "The Fighter."

Since this isn't necessarily a movie blog I won't go in to a long-winded review and I will keep it simple: I really liked it. I thought it was a different approach than movies of this type and it was honestly different than what I thought it was going to be when I saw the trailer (which is actually a good thing).

But the songs played in the movie were on point. Artists included Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. But I started to smile when I heard the first few notes to "Strip My Mind" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I thought it was played at a perfect point and got me ready for where the movie was about to go.

So let's take it back to 2006's Stadium Arcadium and enjoy "Strip My Mind"

note: After looking for this video on youtube, I came across the comment that summed up my feeling exactly:

"wasn't big on this song, then heard it in 'the fighter' and it just gave it a different depth, love it now
damn that film has a good playlist"

Monday, August 1, 2011

Most Anticipated 2011 - Halfway Check-In

As I look back at what I was looking forward to, it’s plain to see: 2011 has been a great musical year. There were a lot of big names set to make returns this year and with all the attention focused on the veterans, some of the rookies stepped up and stole the spotlight. Another notch in the feather of 2011’s cap is that there have only been a few disappointments (Incubus, The Strokes, etc). But what’s even greater is that there are still five months left to go, with even more musical goodness to look forward to. And in yet another collaborative post, Mike and I will take a look at what has come through our speakers so far this year and what we are still anticipating.

Part 1: Expectations/Realities + Surprises

My Views:

In our Most Anticipated Post that we did in January, Mike and I had five bands each that we spotlighted as us both looking forward to. Of those five, three artists have already released new material. Two of them I am putting in a tentative top five of the year - Manchester Orchestra’s Simple Math and Death Cab for Cutie’s Codes and Keys. Both showed the growth of the respective band’s discography as each are at new points in their career. Simple Math takes a few listens to really sink in, but when it does it grabs a hold and doesn’t let go. And while DCFC’s Plans is one of my favorite albums of all time, Narrow Stairs just didn’t grab me in that same way. But the soft tones and simple yet sophisticated lyrics of Codes and Keys have made it one of my most played albums of the year.

The third one in the above of category was the self-titled release from Taking Back Sunday. Admittedly, these guys are one of my top two favorite artists so any music from them I am going to like. And I gravitated toward this release instantly, but noticed something when I finally took it out of my car - I never put it back in. Don’t get me wrong, if I hit play I still enjoy most of the tracks, but it’s missing that “I have to listen to this all the time” element. Two other bands that sort of had the same “We’ve been gone for a while/had lineup changes” sort of story was Panic! at the Disco and Yellowcard. Both came out with albums in the spring and both did their job. They weren’t great - but they were satisfying and showed that both may be back on track.

As stated earlier, with all the attention on the heavy hitters returning this year (Foo Fighters, Radiohead - both with good releases in their own rights) there was room for some newcomers to step up and provide a spark. In my opinion, Foster the People answered that call. When they debuted with “Pumped Up Kicks,” the band hadn’t even recorded other tracks for an album. But when Torches was released, there were more than just “those guys that kind of sound like MGMT.” Foster the People could end up being the best new artist of the year.

Other surprises for me this year included how much I liked the Sublime with Rome album and gravitating to Sum 41’s Screaming Bloody Murder after hearing “Jessica Kill.” Honorable Mentions: The Childish Gambino EP from “Community” star Donald Glover; Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing from The Wonder Years (thanks Liz); the overall album quality of Bayside’s Killing Time and some new artists (for me) I’m still getting into including Givers, Company of Thieves and Cults. Oh yeah, I don’t think Adele’s 21 is the greatest album of the year, but singing along to “Rolling in the Deep” might be one of the funnest things to do.

Mike's Thoughts:

Records that surprise you have a way of sticking around. It’s not necessarily that they’re undiscovered gems, it’s more that they call your musical taste into question. Those albums force you to evaluate the way you explore new music, leading to some fascinating results. 2011 has been full of those types of releases and they’ve kept the year interesting amidst hyped LPs and critical darlings. Alkaline Trio’s Damnesia (4/5) is one such record that comes to mind; the Trio compile some of their most well known hits in a semi-unplugged format. It works because this stripped down approach displays just how tight Matt Skiba and Dan Adriano’s songwriting is, while their warm acoustic jangle grants these tracks a sing-a-long buoyancy that’ll please old and new fans alike. Speaking of older groups, it’s hard to argue that The Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (4.5/5) is anything less than extraordinary. While they’re pushing 40, the Beasties came back with their fuzziest, synthi-est, and most urgent sounding album in years. Mike D, Ad Rock and MCA are still class clowns, but their musical elasticity is undeniably flawless.

Older bands aside, however, the one release that’s really made a lot of waves this past year is Foster The People’s Torches (3/5), a record I originally wrote off completely. Falling in-between classic MGMT and skittery 90’s dance, Torches has to grow on you despite its radio-ready aspirations. “Pumped Up Kicks” has been puffed up to death, but the real stars are songs like “Helena Beat” with its zippy, synth pop pulse and trapdoor drums. If Foster The People figures out how to add some substance behind their pristine sound, they might be in for a great career. Of course, keeping that fire alive is tough to do, something Incubus learned the hard way on If Not Now, When? (2.5/5). Resting within the calmer, keyboard/acoustic driven portion of the group’s sound, If Not Now… comes across as sedate rather than exploratory. While there are some breathtaking moments (The album’s blooming opener, the finger picked harmonics of “Tomorrow’s Food”) they sparkle briefly on a record that’s far too subdued.

Yet when it all comes down to it, the biggest surprise for me this year was Yuck’s 90’s flavored self-titled record (4/5), an album that revels in masterful construction and rich sentimentality. Yuck runs the gambit of crunchy and crashy to calm and collected, never feeling overmatched with either. The album’s crown jewel is the drifting, open-picked “Stutter,” a sweet love song that examines why we fall in love and the comfort that comes with it. And much like Yuck’s composition, that’s the reason music fans love to be surprised, for such surprises put our musical adventures into a comforting perspective.

Part 2: What The Future Holds

What Mike's Anticipating:

Though Matt and I outlined what we were anticipating earlier in the year, there are some releases I’d like to continue to highlight as well as some additional heavy hitters due up in the next 5 months:

blink-182- Neighborhoods (Sep 27): If lead single “Up All Night” is any
indication of what to expect from Neighborhoods, then we should expect some great things. It includes everything we love about Tom, Mark, and Travis: Anthemic dual vocals, grinding riffs, and relentless drumming. 6 plus years seems like it was worth the wait. More please.

Jay-Z/Kanye West (a.k.a. The Throne)- Watch The Throne (Aug 2): Lead single “Otis” is oh-so-soulful, complete with a stutter-stop Otis Redding sample alongside Jay-Z and Kanye’s contagious chemistry. While it’s miles apart from the pseudo shock-rap of “H.A.M.” Watch The Throne seems to be aiming for high heights, which is all anyone would expect from Jay and Ye.

Saves The Day- Daybreak (Sept 13): It’s been 4 years since Chris Conley has given us anything new to sink our ear into. Thankfully, that dry spell comes to an end with Daybreak. Backed by an entirely new band, Conley is looking to conclude the trilogy he began in 2006 with songs like the power-pop punch of “1984” and the album’s multi-suite title track. Conley’s ambition seems big, let’s see if he executes.

Sainthood Reps- Monoculture (Aug 9): Derrick Sherman might be the touring guitarist for Brand New, but he’s got something to say, and he’ll say it alongside his band mates in Sainthood Reps. The album’s title track is a heaving, menacing love child between In Utero-era Nirvana and Alice In Chains. With minimal hype and solid singles, Monoculture might just be this year’s sleeper hit.

St. Vincent- Strange Mercy (Sept 13): Annie Clark’s music always strikes an interesting chord. One part Walt Disney grandeur, two parts morbid dread, St. Vincent’s sound is predicated on this fragile dichotomy. Strange Mercy is shaping up well though; the lead single “Surgeon” teases fans with Clark’s signature slinky voice, wrapped in hypnotic beats and swirling keyboards. Annie, have mercy and drop the darn thing already.

Honorable Mention:

The Horrible Crows- Elsie (Sept 6)

Jack’s Mannequin- Places & Things (Oct 4)

Thrice - Major/Minor (Sept 19)

What I'm Anticipating:

Going back to the five artists Mike and I collaboratively highlighted, there were two that have yet to show up, though blink-182 did announce a release date (Sep 27) for Neighbors and also debuted a new single, “Up All Night.” It’s nice to have something to look forward to - unlike Dr. Dre, the last artist in our collaborative five. It hasn’t just been pushed back for months, it’s been pushed back for years but for some reason 2011 looked to have been the magical year. Still it seems not to be and I have to be honest - the longer it takes for Detox the less interest I have in hearing it.

Another band toying with my emotions is Coldplay. They released a three-pack of singles (my favorite being “Major Minus”) but have still not given a release date to when we can expect the fifth album. But at least we know we are getting it sometime, unlike No Doubt whose new album may not arrive until 2012, which may be good due to the fact that this year has been so packed.

Here is what I’m still looking forward to:

Jay Z/Kanye West - Watch the Throne (Aug 2): This dynamic duo has
released “H.A.M.” and “Otis” to mixed reviews for both. Doesn’t do anything to lessen the hype for what should be one of the greatest hip-hop albums of the year.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - I’m With You (Aug 26): “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” is honestly a better single than I was anticipating and sheds all doubt about these guys still being able to get it done.

Sleeper Agent - Celebrasion (Sep 27): I’m a huge fan of their song “Get it Daddy” and am really looking forward to what this band can do with a whole album. Kind of hoping they turn into the second half’s Foster the People.

Jack’s Mannequin - People and Things (Oct 4): I have to be honest, I didn’t really care for “My Racing Thoughts” the first time I heard it, but it grew on me like I knew it would. Regardless of how good a single is, a new album from Andrew McMahon is always something to look forward to.

Honorable Mention:

Patrick Stump - Soul Punk (Oct 18)

Gym Class Heroes - Papercut Chronicles Part 2 (Fall/Winter)

Lil Wayne - The Carter IV (I’ve given up on a release date)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Repost: Most Anticipated 2011

As this is only the 7th post for the Sight of Sound, you would think I am a rookie at this whole blogging thing. In actuality, I'm a two-year veteran - I just switched blogs (trying to take a more professional route). Anyway, a post I had on the former blog I was really proud of came in January where Mike and I discussed our Most Anticipated List of 2011. Since a good portion of it has already came out, we have decided to do a follow up, set to come out next week. To get your ready for basically our Most Anticipated (Mid-Point Check In), I wanted to go back in time and repost what our thought process was in the beginning of the year.

Enjoy, and I hope to see you back here next week.

*Originally posted 1/24/11:

Collaborative Posts

Blink-182 - TBA

Mike: It’s been over a year since blink-182 teased fans with the prospective single “Up All Night,” complete with Tom DeLonge making Pink Floyd comparisons. That’s all right though, even if the suspense is killing fans who’ve been waiting for new material since 2003. While the fanfare surrounding the group’s reunion/reunion tour seems to have pushed their record to the backburner, that seems to be changing in 2011. Cryptic Tweets from Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker allude to the band actually recording, rather than just yammering on about how fun it is to jam together.

Matt: It’s a classic tale of band gets together, makes punk music for the kids, gets a little older and makes music for the older kids, gets wildy successful and then inevitably break up and form two decent bands in their own right, have one member survive a fatal plane crash that brings them all together again, decide to go on tour and think “hey, this could work” and end up teasing a new album for nearly two years. Ok, maybe it’s not such a classic tale, but it’s nearly a sure bet that new blink music will come out in 2011. Personally, I’m happy they didn’t rush into it and worked at their own pace. Hopefully the music will reflect the dedication.

Dr. Dre - Detox

Mike: Hip-hop’s answer to Chinese Democracy: Detox is Dr. Dre’s decade plus labored opus, rumored to be his final album as an MC. While the record’s mythical status is as famous as its penchant for delays, there’s still reason to hope that it sees the light of day in 2011. Dre dropped the hazy, synth-heavy “Kush” late last year as the record’s first official single. Though it’s a bit of a regression towards his spaced-out 2001 era sound, it’s refreshing to hear him paired with Snoop Dogg again. Expectations are high though and if Dre doesn’t deliver, he risks souring his fan base in true Axl Rose fashion.

Matt: I was six when The Chronic came out, though I admittedly know “Nuthin But a G Thang” like every other white 90s kid. Then, a 12-year-old version of myself picked up 2001 because everyone was starting to get on the Eminem kick and he was featured on the “Forgot About Dre” track. What I didn’t know was going to happen was that I was going to get sucked into the music of who I thought, based on my limited knowledge at the time, was just an old rapper who was big back in the day with some group. I am now 24 and have been waiting on Detox since it was first announced for release in 2004! With all the wakas and flockas running around trying to be the king, it’s going to be nice to have the ace back.

Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys

Mike: Ben Gibbard has gone on record saying Codes & Keys is less guitar-driven than Death Cab For Cutie is typically known for. While that might scare some listeners, it’s hard to imagine the group coming out with a Kid A or Adore type experiment. Guitarist Chris Walla tastefully employs keyboards on all the albums he’s produced, as well as his solo offering, Field Manual. If anything, expect fragile songs with lush atmospheres, something Death Cab For Cutie has always excelled at.

Matt: I'm just going to let bassist Nick Harmer explain why this album should be on most anticipated lists (from stereogum): “The emotional spectrum feels much wider this time,” says Harmer. “The last record was much darker and was much more closely connected to what Ben had been going through in his life at the time. I think there is a lot more light in this record. Of course, Ben will always gravitate towards certain bittersweet material in his songs, but this record has a lot of expansive, soundscapey kinds of things. Thematically and musically, it’s just much more varied. We also have string sections on this record, which is very exciting for all of us. We’ve always wanted to hear that texture in our music, but it never really worked out before.” And on the statement of less guitar work: “Oh, there are definitely guitars on this record,” he says, “there are just less of them than before and we’re using them in different ways this time. Ben was really inspired by writing on acoustic guitar and on a piano, so often those parts become voices or keyboard lines, rather than guitar parts. We really experimented with piecing the songs together in different ways and using the studio differently, so this a much less guitar-centric album than we’ve ever made before.” That's what I like to read.

Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math

Mike: While Manchester Orchestra helped Kevin Devine and singer Andy Hull craft a true diamond in the rough with last year’s Bad Books, anticipation is running high for their forthcoming Simple Math. Hull recently debuted the album’s title track at an acoustic radio show, but the group has been tight-lipped about what the album will sound like. They’ve jokingly referred to it as a “spiritual miscarriage” in interviews, but that probably translates to songs that will get under your skin in very personal ways.

Matt: I really don't know what to expect from the Manchester Orchestra's third studio album. Like A Virgin Losing A Child had more low moments than the intensity heavy Mean Everything to Nothing, though both contained a good mix of pure rock music and down tempo storytelling. Then, the group taps into their folk side with Kevin Devine and the Bad Books side project. Throw in a hand full of EPs and the fact that the title track for Simple Math is online as an acoustic version and there is no telling what we are going to get. If Manchester Orchestra stays on the path they are on, they could go down as one of the most respected groups out there. With more attention on them than in the past, I fully expect the Atlanta group to come through shining.

Taking Back Sunday - TBA

Mike: When John Nolan and Shaun Cooper left Taking Back Sunday, it seemed like everyone hated each other. Team Adam (Lazzara) and Team Nolan both alluded to their falling out through thinly veiled lyrics and bitter interviews. Yet nearly seven years after their separation, they seem to have put the past behind them. After a bout of writing in El Paso, TBS’s “classic” line-up is hard at work on a proper follow up to the mega-smash Tell All Your Friends. The group has teamed up with producer Eric Valentine, suggesting that they’d like to capture the same effervescence that punctuated 2006’s Louder Now.

Matt: It's back to the future for Taking Back Sunday as the band returns to its 2002 lineup for the acclaimed Tell All Your Friends. If I can speak honestly, it creates a dilemma. I have no shame in admitting that TBS is my favorite band, but I do wonder if 24-year-old me would feel the same impact from TAYF that 17-year-old me felt. As the band has progressed, I have progressed with them and I honestly don't want a TAYF 2. However, as much as I don't think New Again sucked, it definitely could have been better. And it does seem like having the lineup that introduced them to the scene has sort of rejuvenated the band. A demo leaked by Adam Lazzara himself seems to keep the intensity while the band as a whole still makes the transition from emo band to rock band. And it made me completely wear out the play button, a result that will hopefully happen when the album is released.

Mike's Most Anticipated

Foo Fighters - TBA

The Nirvana faithfuls are salivating over the idea of Dave Grohl recording with Krist Noveselic again for the first time since 1994. Yet they should really get excited for Grohl’s reunion with Nevermind producer, Butch Vig. Though the Foo Fighters have stated this is their heaviest record yet, Vig is a master at focusing band’s vision, adding variety to their albums with crisp production and small flourishes of strings and piano. In short, it’ll be interesting to see the Foos continue to evolve from their well-crafted Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace with some old friends to help out.

Lady Gaga - Born This Way

The Fame Mons†er was a half-baked, unfinished effort. Though it sported pop-blockbusters like “Bad Romance,” its sequencing and unfocused nature made it forgettable. Born This Way seems to be GaGa’s proper follow up to The Fame, an album that’s had time to fully gestate before being dropped like an atom bomb. Her recent interviews suggest that she’ll be incorporating bits of metal and hard rock into her sound, which sounds like she’s decided to take real risks again.

Radiohead - TBA

Things have been quiet in the Radiohead camp for a while, but fans are anxious. Of course there’s the occasional “Yes, we’re working on songs…” from band members like Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway, but no timetable regarding the follow up to the meticulously textured In Rainbows. There is a bright spot though. Thom Yorke teased fans with some works in progress on his last tour, most notably the chilled-out, finger-picked “Lotus Flower.” Maybe it was a hint for fans: Chill out and let us do our thing.

Thursday - TBA

Other than continuing to employ producer David Fridmann, little is known about the musical direction on Thursday’s new album. However, singer Geoff Rickly has stated that the conceptual themes seem to revolved around devotion, sharing a commonality to their first album, Waiting. Regardless, Thursday has always been the thinking man’s post-hardcore group and it’ll be exciting to see them follow-up the aggressive, post-rock tinged Common Existence.

Honorable Mention

Bright Eyes- The People's Key - Supposedly Conor Oberst’s swan song as Bright Eyes. Hopefully it’s a little more “Lifted…” and a little less “Cassadaga.”

The Kills- Blood Pressures - After a ravenous romp with Jack White, Alison Mosshart returns to the jangly indie vessel that made her a star.

Patrick Stump- Soul Punk - This is the first time Patrick Stump has written lyrics since Fall Out Boy’s Evening Out With Your Girlfriend. That alone is worth checking out.

Jack’s Mannequin- TBA - Something Corporate’s ivory slinger has been laboring in L.A. for over a year. We’re ready for Jack’s supposedly “new direction.”

Matt's Most Anticipated

Coldplay - TBA

Viva La Vida was a great release for Chris Martin and company, but I did feel it was lacking something. And that something was the deep, heartfelt sound found on tracks like “The Scientist” and “Fix You.” I appreciated what they did, using a plethora of instruments to create an orgy of sound to go along with Martin's crooning voice, but I'm ready to get back to the chill out. When Martin performed “Wedding Bells” at an Apple event, I just sat there and smiled. That sound I was looking for? It had returned. Whether that track (or “Christmas Lights”) pops up on the new record remains to be seen. Though the rumors of it being a concept album turned out to not be entirely accurate, the fact that I heard something about the album going in an acoustic direction is music to my earholes.

Jay Z/Kanye West - Watch the Throne

Collaborations for singles happen all the time in hip-hop, but rare does it happen for an entire album. Though Jay Z has some experience in the past with R. Kelly, it will be interesting to see what happens with Mr. West. The first single, “H.A.M.”, had a hit and miss reception and my opinion of it falls somewhere in the middle as well. Also something to look out for is who else will be featured? Lil Wayne, Drake, Rick Ross... all potential guests. But time will tell exactly what two of the biggest, and best, names in music come up with.

Panic! at the Disco - Vices and Virtues

2005's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out is one of my favorite albums of all time. 2008's Pretty. Odd is one my top disappointing albums of all time. So this is me hoping that new material from Panic! (who officially put the ! back in when two founding members split) will at least be somewhere in the middle. It looks like we won't have long to find out as the first single should be released in February and the album in March. I'm not going to hold it to Fever's expectations, but if it is slightly better than Odd I will be one happy music fan.

No Doubt - TBA

I missed out on a lot of bands growing up, but I was fortunate enough to still experience No Doubt before the Gwen Stefani solo days. Any doubts I had about the group's ability as a band was put to rest after I saw them on their comeback tour in 2009. Not only were they better than expected, but were still better than some of the stuff out there today. If I can be honest, as much as I like their music, I will be happy to have some more Gwen in my life. She may be starting to show her age, but she is still one of my original celebrity crushes and to her I will always be true.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - TBA

It is going to be interesting to hear what the Peppers' sound will be minus John Frusciante. And also noteworthy will be the fact that, let's face it, these guys aren't getting any younger. But don't take that as an insult, I love these guys. I'm just curious to see how they are going to follow up Stadium Arcadium. If they come out with a four-disc release, I will not be mad at all. I think more than new music, I'm excited at the fact that a new album could possibly mean a new tour and RHCP are #1 on my list of bands I haven't seen.

Honorable Mention

Lil Wayne - The Carter IV - Fresh off his recent jail stint, the hype machine has already started for Weezy's latest effort. Good or bad, we should hear plenty about it in 2011.

Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows - Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows - Though I'm not sure how serious to take the name (D.R.U.G.S.), former Chiodos frontman Craig Owens assembled a pretty good team for a debut album from a band that came out of nowhere. Time will tell if the music will match up.

Gym Class Heroes - The Papercut Chronicles II - I have been a fan of Gym Class Heroes for years and looked forward to Travis, or Travie, McCoy's solo album but was pretty disappointed. Maybe his bandmates will help him recapture the magic and my car will have some good jams in 2011.

Yellowcard - When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes - Yellowcard make the list simply for curiosity's sake. In their “reunion” album (I didn't even know they broke up), the band looks to recapture the glory that once had millions of kids wanting to be on Ocean Avenue.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Music Sunday: Sleeper Agent - Get It Daddy

I know I have been doing a lot of talking about Alt Nation on Sirius, so much that they should probably pay me (whoever runs radio - I wouldn't mind) but they really are a good source for new music. Case in point: Foster the People. They started playing them last year before they even started recording an album. But this post isn't about Foster the People (that will come later). This post is about Sleeper Agent.

Alt Nation has a segment called "On Your Radar" where the premise is simple: the track chosen is one that you should take notice of. Usually it takes a while for the song to stick but I gravitated toward "Get it Daddy" the first time I heard it. 

From the opening guitar riff, to the accompanying female vocals that aren't overused just because they are female vocals - this song is just fun. Add in the breakdown about a minute and twenty seconds into the track and you have the making for an incredible lead single.

The Kentucky-based band has or is touring with the likes of Circa Survive and fellow Kentuckians Cage the Elephant. I have yet to see them live (the closest they came was Pensacola) but I've heard reports that they are an act you have to see in person.

Their debut album, Celebrasion, is set to come out August 16. If it's anything like the first track, which you can hear below, we may have one hell of a debut on our hands.

Get It Daddy by Sleeper Agent

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Music Sunday: Mona - Listen To Your Love

Music Sunday's July theme of new music continues this week with Mona

I discovered this Nashville-based band the same way I found out about all the music featured this month - Alt Nation. It's another track that I didn't realize I liked until I knew all the words.

Apparently, Mona have made a name for themselves in the UK and are hoping to translate that success back in their home country with their self-titled debut album that came out in May. I have yet to check it out, but the few tracks I heard on their facebook have a similar feel to their radio single "Listen To Your Love."

Mona is featured this weekend specifically because yesterday I bought tickets to Music Midtown in Atlanta, a festival that was on hiatus for a few years but has recently been brought back. Headliners include Coldplay and The Black Keys, as well as Manchester Orchestra and Cage the Elephant. But down on the list was this band and I am now looking forward to seeing how this song translates live.

Mona - Listen To Your Love by Press Here

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Incubus - If Not Now, When? (2 Stars)

*Writer's Note: Though you can see from the rating, a slight spoiler alert is that I have more negative things to say than positive about this album. But please, take the time and read about the creation process from the perspective of lead singer Brandon Boyd. I believe he deserves his say as well. 

When a band achieves that coveted notion of longevity, it is inevitable that they will always be compared to the sounds of their past (see: Green Day). The problem of trying to do that with Incubus over the band's near double decade career is that their sound has never been clearly defined.

From the rap-rock sounds of S.C.I.E.N.C.E. to the beach-inspired tracks found on Morning View to the arena-pleasing Light Grenades, Incubus has always peppered their studio albums with dashes of different genres to create a diverse plate. And it's the lack of appetitie that is the ultimate reason If Not Now, When? fails to succeed.

The title track opens things up with a slow-building song that reflects the same kind of lyrical positivity as "Drive." It's classic Brandon Boyd with the vocal work and because the album is starting off slower, you expect that something big is about to happen soon. But there lies the problem: the album never takes off.

This release has been described as "boring" and a different first impression that came to mind was "lazy." The lyrics are head-scratching in "Friends and Lovers" while "Defiance" has the potential to be a good track, but ends up being a throwaway. Elsewhere, "In The Company of Wolves" is a nice idea in theory, but goes on way too long while "The Original" almost seems like it's being done by an Incubus tribute band on Broadway.

While "Promises, Promises" is a fair enough radio single, "Thieves" is a bright spot early on with a focus on the instrumental work. It's also an example of one of the most surprising elements to If Not Now, When? in that Boyd is almost overshadowed by the rest of the band at times. Some tracks would have done well to have extended some of the non-vocal parts, a la "Sick Sad Little World" from A Crow Left of the Murder.

As the album nears the end, "Switchblade" provides a breath of fresh air as the group finally shows some life, but it comes too late. The lead-single "Adolescents" (good choice - it's the strongest track on this release) comes next and gives a rare chance to turn up the volume, even if it is a modest jam at best.

Bottom Line: If Now Now, When? is not terrible (hence the 2 stars), but it's far from great. In fact, if it stood alone and wasn't compared to previous releases, the tracks can be enjoyable. This also might be a case where the songs become better through repeated listens, but here is where the title is appropriate. If they don't grab you now, then when?

Hits: Adolescents; Thieves; Switchblade; Promises, Promises

Misses: The Original; Friends and Lovers; In The Company of Wolves

*Reminder: I have to urge you again to check out this commentary from Brandon Boyd. I believe there is nothing like hearing an artist's viewpoint on releases, especially an unusual one such as this.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Music Sunday: Grouplove - Colours

*Note: Sunday seems to be the time that the blogging world shifts back in to gear after the weekend. Because of that, I will try to present a musical escape for the end of the week. Each month will have a theme and July's will be new music.

When it comes to obtaining new music, I get mine from a variety of different ways. Mostly from other people, some from the blogosphere but on a consistent basis I get it from listening to Alt Nation on Sirius. It's crazy how there are hundreds of channels, yet I mainly tune in to one. But I can't help it.. it plays good music.

Anyway, each weekend they do a top 18 countdown. Usually at the top are established bands such as Foo Fighters and Death Cab for Cutie, but for the past three weeks a band that I am just now becoming familiar with has held the #1 spot.

The LA-based band Grouplove released their debut EP Mirrors last year but are seeming to gain radio play now with the track "Colours." Admittedly, it didn't grab me at first. But I found it was one of those things that I knew the words to and I had no idea who the artist or title was. A month or so later, I can say I like it and have plans to check out the EP.

So give "Colours" a listen (because after all, song titles are cooler when you add the extra "o" in there). And if you don't like it at first, come back in a few days and try it again. If you still don't like it, then I'm sorry I wasted your time.

Grouplove - Colours by KROQ

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sublime with Rome - "Yours Truly" (album preview)

Growing up, I had always known of Sublime. I knew the big hits like "Santeria" and "What I've Got" and songs of that nature. Later in my musical life, I started listening to them a little more as they were a "classic" band that I felt I needed to get into. And while I did start liking more songs, they never became a top favorite. They were just a good band that I enjoyed.

With that said, maybe that's why I don't have a problem with the remaining guys of the band going on after lead singer Bradley Nowell's death in 1996. I can understand some being upset, but I truly think fans need to give this version a shot.

Seems there were some side projects and legal issues that have gone on in the decade plus since that incident, but 2011 will finally see a new album from the guys who recently signed to Fueled by Ramen (the label behind such bands as Paramore and Gym Class Heroes). Yours Truly is not as in your face as past songs, but the vibe is still there all the same.

While I may not have been the biggest Sublime fan in the past, I am really liking this new Sublime with Rome project. Set to come out July 12, the album has a perfect summer vibe without being too hokey or forced.

A review may come later, but for now check out the preview here on their facebook page (note: requires a "like"). It just may surprise you too.

Favorites (so far): Panic, My World, Can You Feel It (featuring Wiz Khalifa) 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Taking Back Sunday - "Taking Back Sunday"

TBS has always been known for their dual vocals. For this piece, I joined up with a blogger friend of mine, Mike from This Song Starts a Craze, to give a dual review, track-by-track. Enjoy.

Click Here for the MP3 version of this album and click Here for the CD version.

1. El Paso

Mike - This is a statement of purpose, the song that says “Guys, we’re back.” It’s the most bone-crushing Molotov cocktail of wailing guitar, sledgehammer drums, and lumbering bass that TBS has ever produced. Lazzara and Nolan’s howls twist around each other like barbed wire soaked in acid.

Matt - I will never forget where I was when I first heard “El Paso,” the first official single off the album. I immediately took to it and just sat there grinning because I was so happy. It is, by far, one of the strongest and heaviest songs in the band's discography and the perfect opener to let you know you are in for one hell of a ride on this disc.

2. Faith (When I Let You Down)

Mike - Louder Now hinted at the TBS’s stadium-sized aspirations, but this is the full realization of that. Crashing drums, organ swells, and flange soaked guitar leads accentuate Lazzara’s voice as it climbs skyward. This is an ANTHEM.

Matt - For some reason, when I first heard this song I was just kind of like “eh.” I have no idea what happened, but a few more plays and I became hooked. “Faith” is a simple and honest song that, if pushed right, has a sound capable of being a better radio single than “MakeDamnSure.”

3. Best Places to be a Mom

Mike - One of the big things TBS started to shy away from in the post-Nolan years was the dual-vocals they popularized on Tell All Your Friends. They’re front and center here, detailing romantic strife as the song shifts between stutter-stop crunch and open note swells. It’s so 2002.

Matt - The demo version of this song was the first to be leaked (by frontman Adam Lazzara himself) and I felt at the time it was the perfect blend of an old sound that is attempting to be progressive. The finished version has some nice touches and this song brings to mind the old saying of “having the band back together.”

4. Sad Savior

Mike - Eddie Reyes’ 50s-inspired pluck sets up sweetly against Lazzara’s naked voice before the group plunges into thick, chunky power-pop. Some arresting images and turns of phrase in this one, “Skin against skin, covering bone/On the body you're in, is aggressively slim/Yeah, you earned the clothes you put on it…”

Matt - I was put off at first by the country twang of the verses, but the choruses complement the song nicely. It's an example of great lyrics being the backbone of a decent song: “You don't have to pretend to be an orphan anymore. / You don't have to pretend to be important anymore.”

5. Who Are You Anyway

Mike - The most telling feature about Taking Back Sunday is how focused the group is in capturing a live energy. This track is easily the best example, complete with buzzsaw riffage and Mark O’Connell’s precision perfect drumming.

Matt - An example of something that happens a couple of times on this album: strong verses and mediocre choruses. TBS got knocked a lot in their early days of being repetitive in their lyrics and I think that notion fails them here in the chorus. But it's ok: the verses are bouncy and fun as hell.

6. Money (Let it Go)

Mike - This track seems to be the dividing line for old and new fans alike. Still, Shaun Cooper’s bass holds it together with dirty heft while the bridge features driving melodies and handclaps. TBS has always dabbled in hip-shaking grooves, but this is the closest they’ve ever come to funk.

Matt - Let me say this about “Money”: I like to turn it up and really feel it... but I could also do without it. I struggle to find meaning in the track but I guess every album needs that “distraction” where you just don't think much about it and go with it.

7. This is All Now

Mike - A distant cousin to “Ghost Man On Third,” this cut implements delicate open notes rounded out by warm bass work. Lazzara and Nolan’s sand paper vocals trade lines like, “This is, all I ever ask from you/The only thing you couldn't to do/Tell me the whole truth…” during a heaving chorus and perhaps the album’s heaviest emotional apex.

Matt - From start to finish, from lyrics to instrumentals, from verses to choruses (and bridges): this is the best track on the album. If this is the kind of music that is representative of TBS 2.0 (or is it like 4.5 at this point?) then I want front row tickets for this ride.

8. It Doesn't Feel a Thing Like Falling

Mike - Reyes and Nolan trade fuzzy, spidery riffs before the group slam down around them. There’s a relentlessly climbing atmosphere featured here, which is definitely destined to shine live. Imitators should take notes.

Matt - Remember that “repetitive chorus” thing I talked about in “Money”? Well it returns here but with a different result – it works. It's a perfect example of the vocals working with the instruments and one of the best examples of the dual vocals that were absent on New Again.

9. Since You're Gone

Mike - Of all the tracks on Taking Back Sunday, this is the throw away. It’s simply disjointed; the soft piano breaks seem out of place within an otherwise placid mid-tempo number. Elsewhere, Lazzara simply whines “I’M SORRY/COME BACK!” to the point where it’s obnoxious, not anguished.

Matt - I want to not like this track. Parts of it just seem so simple and thrown together, but dammit: I relate to it and because of that the song has me in its grasp. “There's no one to take for granted now you're gone” is an open statement that any fool that thought they were better off can relate to. Though, once again, it gets repetitive, I can feel the emotion in the chorus and that's what separates it from the other tracks.

10. You Got Me

Mike - If “Since You’re Gone” found Lazzara whining about his ex, “You Got Me” has him fixated on his current, “I was there when you were lonely/I was then when you were bored/I was there when you were feeling scared/And you were not sure what for…” The song blasts by quick with Nolan’s spiraling solo being a huge highlight.

Matt - While the song has some of the best instrumental work, it is probably one of the weakest songs lyrically. I actually didn't think that until I heard the demo for “Mourning Sickness” (a track I DESPARATELY wish was included) and saw that the chorus in that song is only the bridge
in here. While not bad, this one had a lot of potential.

11. Call Me in the Morning

Mike - Twinkling acoustics give way to sweet sentiments that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Straylight Run record. Lazzara and Nolan fixate on the afterglow of a one-night stand but there’s a tenderness here that the group rarely explores. Though the hook is fairly obvious, it’d be nice to see them push this type of ballad writing in the future.

Matt - I love this band to death, but I will be the first to admit that Lazzara's vocals sometimes walk a very thin line between being different and being annoying and this one is an example where he almost slips. I think near the end had one of the strongest examples of the dual vocals and a nice closer of an album that builds to give you an overall ending.

Final thoughts:

Mike - If there’s a criticism to throw at Taking Back Sunday it’s the fact that the group focused on creating an immediate record at the expense of sonic diversity. Though Nolan’s indie sensibilities crop up here and there, this self-titled record is aimed at big riffs and shout-along choruses. Those limitations aside, however, Lazzara (and the rest of TBS) seems revitalized working with Nolan and Cooper, and eager to explore where they’ve been during their creative separation. Additionally, the group has effectively shed their adolescent skin to explore weightier themes (Faith, Guilt, Self-Preservation) with an aggressive mix, courtesy of producer Eric Valentine. All in all, Taking Back Sunday is a record that exhibits growth amongst musicians that were born to play together, even if it’s within a tightly specific framework this time around. (****)

Key Cuts: El Paso, Best Places To Be A Mom, This Is All Now

Matt - While this is the same lineup as Tell All Your Friends, it is definitely not the same music. And that is a good thing. A lot can happen in nine years, especially when a teenager with plenty of angst turns into a twenty something adult who is starting to see the world for what it really is. I feel this release was a perfect example of the good kind of growth and it only makes me anticipate future releases from this revamped lineup to see where they can grow from here.

It's hard to look critically at a band you connect with on a “favorite” level. Admittedly I can find flaws in this release if I look for them and no, this album is not going to win any “Of The Year” categories. But at the end of the day, from track 1 to track 11 – I enjoy it. And at its simplest form, isn't that what the music is all about?
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