The Facebook 10 Albums Thing (in blog form)

I recently was nominated to do the Facebook thing “10 Favorite Albums.” The game is once a day for 10 days, a person posts a cover of an album that made an impact on their life and is still in their rotation list, even if only once in a while. I concluded that I would be remiss to suggest any of this music without first explaining why, so here we go! (NOTE: These are not my 10 favorite albums ever. Jimmy Eat World, my favorite band, isn’t even included.)

Fun. - Some Nights

Fun. happened to me unexpectedly. I was tangentially aware of "We Are Young" picking up steam on the radio, but it wasn’t until my little sister showed me the title track that my mind lit up. Pop music could be this good? This experimental and personal, yet still get huge? I finally downloaded Some Nights on Amazon Mp3 and for a scant $5, I discovered not just a fantastic album, but a whole world of amazing and slightly off-center pop music. My love for this album and the band further cemented when I saw them in an 800-cap venue in Billings, MT just before the title track blew up.

Marianas Trench - Ever After

From the opening harmonies, this album hooked me. Before I listened to this, I had no idea that modern technology could be used to aide harmonies and grandiose arrangements the way that Marianas Trench uses them. It certainly helped that all of my friends and family fell in love with this album too. To date, “Stutter” is one of the biggest sing-a-longs for my family when we get together. Just an incredibly diverse yet cohesive album.

The Offspring - Americana

While making this list, I toyed back and forth between this or Blink-182’s Enema of the State. I chose The Offspring because of the memories I created with my family and this album. I only vaguely remember my father buying it, but I remember him turning down the volume during the curse words on some of the albums better tracks, “Americana” and “No Brakes” among them. A year or two after the album was released, my uncle burned my father a CD with all of the music videos from the album and I was floored. I watched them constantly. Then I learned to play guitar to each track, ensuring that Americana sewed itself into my muscles. 

Bad Religion - Recipe For Hate

After listening to just a few select Bad Religion singles on Youtube and falling in love with them, I finally dived in and bought this, my first BR album. I hated it at first. I listened only to “American Jesus” and “Struck a Nerve” and ignored the crucial album tracks that pepper the album. Through repetition the album has become my favorite Bad Religion album and one that I still bust out frequently.

Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues

It’s not often an album makes you a better person, but Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues did just that. Lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman in 2012, and this collection of music is a concept album about a transgender prostitute. Compositions like “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and “Black Me Out” are raw in the best way possible, combining anthemic choruses with pure, unbridled emotion. This album did wonders for turning me into a rational, empathetic human being and I give it a lot of credit for furthering my education on the diversity of humans everywhere.

All - Breaking Things

All’s first album with singer Chad Price is their most consistent. Many albums can’t replicate the one-two-three-four punch of the album’s first four songs, and few have the gall to even try. It helps that the album begins with a Price composition, "Original Me," named by drummer/songwriter Bill Stevenson as one of his favorite All songs. Stevenson’s finest offering arrives in the form of “Shreen,” a power-pop tune that achieves perfection both in its lyrics and catchiness.  And that’s really why All has stuck with me: Chad Price’s gruff vocals placed in the context of catchy pop punk tunes. It’s a mixture right up my alley.

Fountains of Wayne - Fountains of Wayne

I consider this my dark horse pick. It isn’t too sonically different from the other albums on the list, but with the exception of the Weird Al album below, this is the only one with lyrics that can get plain goofy. “As long as they’re catchy,” I imagine Fountains of Wayne would end that sentence with. This album is such a lightweight debut that it is almost certainly outshined by the two albums after it, but there’s a real brevity and friendship present, right down to the silly piano clunk at the end of “Leave the Biker.” And I’ll be damned if occasionally, “Please Don’t Rock Me Tonight” isn’t one of the most relatable songs in existence.

“Weird Al” Yankovic - Straight Outta Lynwood

This is the album that started my obsession and fandom with Weird Al. It doesn’t hurt that it is his most solid collection of songs since 1996’s Bad Hair Day. The album opens with “White and Nerdy” one of Weird Al’s most successful songs ever, and is bookended with an R. Kelly parody followed by a pastiche of “We Are the World.” Al also made the brilliant choice of commissioning music videos for nearly every song on the album and releasing it as a DualDisc. For a 12 year old like me to have bright cartoon music videos to go along with one of my favorite albums ensured that even my memories of the album have visuals to go along with it.

Alkaline Trio - Maybe I’ll Catch Fire

Alkaline Trio’s second album is likely their darkest. The sound palette is pitch black, the vocal performances are paranoid at best, and the lyrical content is perhaps too vivid. But I love it. Two of my all-time favorite Dan Andriano songs are present (“You’ve Got So Far to Go,” and “She Took Him to the Lake”), and some of Matt Skiba’s most jaggedly catchy choruses make up the rest of the album. I have fond memories of listening to this while mowing lawns all summer and thinking maybe, just maybe, I’d like to catch fire too.

Relient K - Forget and Not Slow Down

The best Relient K album? I certainly think so, even thought I’d also argue on Air For Free or Mmhmm’s behalf. Forget and Not Slow Down was my first Relient K album after I became a fan of the band and it finds them at their most organic. There’s very little of the arena-sounding production from their album prior, and the lyrical content is appropriately adjusted for a more intimate crowd. Despite firmly being a breakup album, listening to Forget and Not Slow Down never fails to make me happy and raise my mood.

A Mic and a Dream: The Making of Visibly Clammy

After the release of my first comedy album, Male Adequacy in Fall 2016, I didn’t write a song for months. It took a while for me to get inspired and start writing. In fact, I was originally planning to release another full album, but once I had ten demos, I decided to just release 5 of the best songs. Quality over quantity they say.

Click through to listen!

Click through to listen!

Katie was written sometime in Spring 2017 on a lazy Saturday. A few years ago, Chris and a few friends and I wrote a track you’ll never hear called Sally. Then we followed it up with Nancy. So it seemed only natural to have another song about a girl with a two-syllable name. Chris and I were real bored and smashed this song out in like 6 hours. I love this song and it is notable for being the most time I’ve ever spent editing and mixing a song.

After the major mainstream success of Nancy it’s time the world finally hears its spiritual successor. But honestly there’s something special about being able to just spend a day away from work or class with one of your best friends just having fun and being creative for the entire day. There are few more enjoyable ways I can imagine spending my time and I’m very thankful to Jacob for many days just like it!
— Christopher Luigi Morucci

The chorus of this song sprang fully formed into my mind while my sister and I were parasailing hundreds of feet above the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. I didn’t have a phone or notebook with me, so I annoyed my sister by singing the chorus over and over again so I wouldn’t forget it before I could write it down.  The guest vocalist Matt Grosso and I met in high school and after I listened to his band Madd Oso’s album from this year, I had to ask him to lend his sweet pipes to my medicated tune. Shout out to Kurt Skrivseth’s sweet bass on this track. Fretless, nonetheless.

This track is so named because I sent a picture featuring me both hungover and extremely sick to my comedy partner Alex. He later described me as looking “Visibly Clammy,” and that phrase stuck with me enough to write a song and name the EP after it. This song was hard to record because I had extremely limited resources. All of the bongos and congas were recorded with a single overhead mic in a bedroom and then heavily compressed and edited just to get them to the way you hear them. But that’s me actually playing them! I also played guitar, but the chords in the chorus are extremely difficult to play, so I had to record every other chord and then blend both takes into the song. Singing is also hard. Kurt does good bass. Much tune.

This is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever put together. The idea popped into my head while working on a different demo, but I quickly found a Creative Commons track (thanks enter name here!) and took to Pornhub to find the nastiest, most depraved sound bytes I could. Part of the fun of writing comedy is the often-strange research and I am not exaggerating when I say my roommate and I scanned way too much porn before we discovered what you hear in the song. I probably still have the original files on my computer if you want me to send them to you. Anyway, this song makes me laugh.

I came up with this song while staying in a very affluent neighborhood in Whitefish, MT. Perhaps the most social commentary I’ve ever put in a song, but still heavily diluted by gruesome absurdities. It really gets gory in here, but that’s part of the fun! Taking the illustrations way farther than they should go! I blew out my voice for a few days recording this track, even though I only did two takes. God bless my neighbors for not calling the cops when they heard the phrase “I have nightmares about my dad’s brains splattering against the walls!”

How to Listen to Visibly Clammy.png

All in all, I’m extremely proud of this EP. I think these are five of the best songs I’ve ever written and I look back at the writing process fondly. I can hear the bouncy joy in the verses of Katie, I still picture myself slamming the bongos on Visibly Clammy, and I still remember tracking vocals in smoke-choked air (hence my limited range from Katie to I Love You).  My goal with this project was to write songs that people might return to, rather than laugh once and move on.  If you feel so inclined, please pass these on to someone else who might enjoy them too!

Special thank you to Kurt Skrivseth for being my idea-bouncer-offer and friendly neighborhood bass player.

My Favorite Albums of 2016

Most years, I have a difficult time even filling up my favorite albums list. This year, however, I had trouble keeping it down to only ten albums, and I have quite a few honorable mentions:

Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me            Bad Suns – Disappear Here

Bruno Mars – 24K Magic                             House of Heroes – Colors

The Lonely Island – Popstar Soundtrack   Pup – The Dream Is Over

Weezer – The White Album                       Yellowcard – Yellowcard

This album was my surprise of 2016. While at times the lyrics are surface level and laughably hedonistic, the strong melodies and production make up for any shortcomings. There are also a few moments where Abel Tesfaye dares to go a little deeper. “Reminder,” for instance: “I just won a new award for a kids’ show/ talking ‘bout a face coming off a bag of blow.” It’s almost a dangerous stance to take; to alienate a large portion of the fans he earned with “Can’t Feel My Face.” But instead, he offers it merely as a sarcastic observation and invites the listener to laugh at the facts with him. At 16 tracks, the album could afford some trimming, but Starboy has me keeping my eye out for whatever the Weeknd does next.

An unabashedly candid alt-country album, Stay Gold is a lean ten tracks, perfectly sequenced. As always, Butch Walker is a master of dropping the listener into a relatable story, and fan favorite “Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night,” is an effective portrait of two friends who “kinda crossed that blurry line.” Alternating between party rock (“Irish Exit,” “Mexican Coke”), and poignant folk anthems (“Spark:Lost,” “Wilder In the Heart”), Stay Gold is yet another fantastic album to add to the Butch Walker canon.

Already an iconic album for so many people (in part due to the great visual album), Lemonade is a musical snapshot of 2016 in all of its mess-ups and glory. Beyoncé wisely mixes incredibly personal songs with a broad outlook so that they appeal to literally every person on planet Earth. Songs like “Sorry,” and “Hold Up,” are not only great pop songs, but act as anthems for people across America, no matter the age. Likewise, both “Freedom,” and “Formation,” deal with sensitive and specific topics, but through an accessible lens. It’s brilliant and ensured that the messages of Lemonade were heard by all.

An emo fan’s emo record, Goodness had the unenviable task of following up The Hotelier’s previous record: Home, Like No Place is There. But the band did not wary and delivered a powerful, if incredibly dense, album. However, the band loads the front of the album with their most accessible songs to date. Both “Piano Player,” and “Two Deliverances,” ushered me in to the Hotelier’s world, and by the time the album ends with the cathartic “End of Reel,” it seems like no time has passed at all. While I liked the album before I saw the band play, it was their live performance that truly cemented a place in my heart for Goodness.

After losing fans’ graces with 2013’s Collapsible Lung (still my ex-girlfriend’s favorite Relient K album), Relient K took some well-earned time off and returned with a near masterpiece. The ingredient that makes Air For Free such a strong collection is the willingness for the band to push into new territory. “Local Construction,” “Man,” and “Empty House,” all offer successful tweaks on the Relient K formula. A contender in my favorite songs of the year, “Empty House,” features a sparse piano arrangement under tastefully auto-tuned vocals. It isn’t a song anyone would have dreamed of Relient K attempting, but they did, and the results are magnificent. Though the album is overlong in a few spots, Relient K made a strong comeback with Air For Free.

Jimmy Eat World is the least disappointing band in the world. Since the late 90s, the band has released solid album after solid album. Sure, a few are lesser than the others, but even those ones dip from perfect into greatness. Integrity Blues is a snapshot of where the band is at in 2016. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, but at times it’s fun. Ever the earnest lyricist, Jim Adkins is at his most bare and blunt in the chorus of “The End Is Beautiful:” “It doesn’t have to hurt anymore.” This, just a few songs after the experimental “Pass the Baby,” which begins with minimal electro drums and ends with nearly the hardest riffing we’ve heard from the band. I hesitate to say that Jimmy Eat World can do no wrong, because anything is possible, but as of Integrity Blues, Jimmy Eat World has done no wrong… yet.

Their first album in 12 years, Hypercaffium Spazzinate benefits from the time the band spent making it. Though the longest song clocks in just barely over three minutes, it is clear that Descendents never stop writing, and only the best material makes the album. Bassist Karl Alvarez offers some of the strongest work, not only with his songs (“Feel This,” “On Paper,”), but also with his bass walking on other songs. Descendents are getting old, but they haven’t missed a beat. Hopefully we don’t have to wait another 12 years for the next album.

Before 2016, I only knew Kanye as a public figure, not by his music, and in fact, it took Chance the Rapper’s amazing verse on “Ultralight Beam,” to convince me that Ye was worth listening to. And he absolutely is. Not only are his other albums great, but The Life of Pablo also succeeds, despite its messy rollout. “Highlights,” and “FML,” find West pushing his formula into new territory while offering some of the better verses on the album, and “Real Friends,” is a triumphant blend of the old and new. Like every Kanye album, there are some self-indulgent parts like “Freestyle 4,” but a quick look at the extensive writing credits for the album shows that Kanye assembled some of the best in the business to be on his team.

A good friend turned me on to Chance, but it wasn’t until he took the SNL stage late last year that I really began to give him deserved time. But man, Coloring Book entered this year like a freight train. Most of the album is happy, which is a marked difference from most musical material. But it is a damn delight to listen to, especially in opener All We Got: “Man I swear my life is perfect, I could merch it/If I die I’ll probably cry at my own service.” Chance is no dummy, and the album contains some great features from Lil’ Wayne, Justin Beiber, Future, and more. It’s heartening to see songs like “No Problem,” become as big as they deserve to be; there’s a charismatic quality to every song on this album. Plus, Chance seems grateful for the attention he’s been given. How long has it been since we’ve had an artist embrace the spotlight and use it for good? I hope that Chance continues to not only make great music, but also continues to be a good person.

From the opening organ chords of “If I Believe You,” it’s easy to tell that The 1975 raised multiple levels between their debut and this record. The album is 17 tracks long, but not a moment is wasted: the instrumental tracks are poignant and well-produced, the grandiose pop tracks offer both insight and earworms, and the somber tracks that end the album are as effective as any ballad the band has written thus far. Without a doubt the most successful song here is “Somebody Else,” a dreamy pop ode to harboring feelings for a lost love. It’s hard not to feel for front man Matt Healy; over the course of 17 tracks he ponders faith and existence (“If I Believe You”), laments the loss of his brain (“The Ballad of Me and My Brain”), and encapsulates his grief over the death of his mother into the heart wrenching final act song “Nana.” The 1975 rarely take time off, but between this album and the next, I hope they get some rest, because if the next album can somehow best this one, it will be even more of a game-changer.

What My Grandpa Will Tell Me On His Deathbed

My grandpa has led quite the life. He’s lived through countless wars, the Civil Rights Movement, and whatever the hell is currently happening in America. With all his experience, I sincerely hope he has a few secrets saved for his deathbed. Here’s a list of a few truth bombs I think he may drop on me.

“Condoms were made of the same rubber as tires”

And in fact, Grandpa will say, if you found yourself in a pinch, you could take the blunt end of a skinnin’ knife and whittle yourself a prophylactic off the rims of your Buick. There’s nothing better than a drive-in movie and a smelly Michelin sheath!

“Cars were safer back when they didn’t have seat belts.”

Speaking of cars, I suspect Grandpa pines for a time when he didn’t feel so chained down. Back in the 60’s, driving was freeing: people were one missed turn away from kissing the windshield. Today, driving is a big commitment. How is Gramps expected to put his seatbelt on EVERY TIME he wants to go somewhere?

“My Great Depression happened in the 60s”

Now Grandpa is not a racist, but he does take offense to the freewheeling hippies that populated his youth. A hardworking man his entire life, Gramps never touched LSD unless he wanted to communicate with Grandma.

“Grandma was a figment of everyone’s imaginations”

Dating back to my 4th grade talent show, I suspected that Grandma didn’t exist. On birthdays and holidays she was there for all of us, but other times Grandpa just talked to himself. As a child I had a difficult time separating fact from fiction, but more recently I found Grandma ignoring my phone calls. Still, I’m not sure who is to blame for the farts that emanate from Grandma’s seat at Thanksgiving.

“I Voted Trump”

Yeah, yeah. Don’t remind me.

500 Words, In No Particular Order

See if you can discover the secret message!

1. I

2. Guitar

3. Coat

4. Chair

5. Floor

6. Tile

7. Kitchen

8. Purse

9. Cat

10. Must

11. Superfluous

12. Vacuum

13. Napkin

14. Cord

15. Hand

16. Snowflake

17. Dropped

18. Sanitizer

19. Soap

20. Pledge

21. Orange

22. Absent

23. Apple

24. Grape

25. Banana

26. Grapefruit

27. Joy

28. Lean

29. Prostitute

30. My

31. Offend

32. Onion

33. Online

34. Light

35. Plug

36. Lamp

37. Carpet

38. Dust

39. Uterus

40. Allegiance

41. Packet

42. Pretend

43. Pretty

44. Tissue

45. Face

46. Fissure

47. Geology

48. Rocks

49. Music

50. To

51. Tastes

52. Good

53. Chinese

54. Food

55. Don't

56. Know

57. Why

58. Ate

59. Preliminary

60. President

61. Size

62. Skill

63. Cabinet

64. Plump

65. Leg

66. Arm

67. Tide

68. Dawn

69. Popcorn

70. Trump

71. Buzzword

72. Accusation

73. Acknowledge

74. Adult

75. Anonymous

76. Anyone

77. Apology

78. Approach

79. Area 

80. And

81. Arguments

82. Articles

83. Block

84. Blog

85. Blunder

86. Borrow

87. Breach

88. Business

89. Wheel

90.Will

91. Caught

92. Chastise

93. Claim

94. Clever

95. Content

96. Copy

97. Creative

98. Crime

99. Critic

100. Dutifully

101. Criticize

102. Culture

103. Damning

104. Defense

105. Degree

106. Detect

107. Discovery

108. Discredit

109. Discrepancies

110. Observe

111. Discretion

112. Dishonest

113. Education

114. Episode

115. Establish

116. Ethics

117. Event

118. Explanation

119. Expulsion

120. As

121. Tattle

122. Taunting

123. Teach

124. Tell

125. Theft

126. Thesis

127. Tracked

128. Training

129. Trust

130. He

131. Undermine

132. Unforgivable

133. Users

134. Remonstrate

135. Repugnance

136. Requite

137. Retribution

138. Revile

139. Nose

140. Performs

141. Sanctify

142. Sojourn

143. Successive

144. Succor

145. Suffice

146. Sumptuary

147. Gathering

148. Gauge

149. Generate

150. Fellatio

151. Genius

152. Group

153. Harmony

154. Hearing

155. Heritage

156. Hiatus

157. Highlight

158. Imitation

159. Impromptu

160. On

161. Infuse

162. Innovate

163. Inspiration

164. Instrument

165. Intensity

166. Interpret

167. Synergy

168. Mission

169. Statement

170. Satan

171. Manifesto

172. Terrorism

173. Booty

174. Marry

175. Kumquat

176. Fork

177. Spoon

178. Knife

179. Plate

180. Himself

181. Cup

182. Bowl

183. Tupperware

184. Balloon

185. Engorge

186. Blemish

187. Hair

188. Toes

189. Joint

190. If

191. Taxes

192. Government

193. Jumping

194. Goat

195. Senior

196. Citizen

197. Magazine

198. Identification

199. Space

200. Needed

201. Rocket

202. Fuel

203. Comet

204. Planet

205. Asteroid

206. Meteor

207. Matter

208. Dark

209. Christmas

210. My

211. Holiday

212. Thanks

213. Standardized

214. Test

215. Leaf

216. Plant

217. Water

218. Molecule

219. Get

220. Body

221. Shirt

222. Pants

223. Drawer

224. Drums

225. Note

226. Like

227. Education

228. Major

229. Love

230. Shall

231. Working

232. Jazz

233. Judge

234. Juxtaposition

235. Masterpiece

236. Measure

237. Medium

238. Melody

239. Member

240. Provide

241. Memorable

242. Modern

243. Attitude

244. Grandparents

245. Present

246. Presence

247. Bow

248. Ribbon

249. Dry

250. A

251. Fat

252. Shoelace

253. Ginger

254. Ice

255. Show

256. Man

257. Woman

258. Burner

259. Bummer

260. Table

261. Haze

262. Numbers

263. Horse

264. Horseshoes

265. Rodeo

266. Radio

267. Patio

268. Crag

269. Slum

270. Upon

271. Home

272. Town

273. Sitting

274. Well

275. Guard

276. Bathroom

277. Toilet

278. Jellybean

279. Article

280. Which

281. Saved

282. Scholarship

283. Yell

284. Basket

285. Harness

286. Climbing

287. Talking

288. About

289. Sick

290. They

291. Queens

292. Kinds

293. Cards

294. Suits

295. Christen

296. Stocking

297. Yuletide

298. Bisexual

299. Eggs

300. May

301. Anchor

302. Line

303. Grill

304. Cool

305. Blast

306. Dreams

307. Mass

308. One

309. More

310. Exchange

311. Day

312. Tack

313. Spell

314. Sucks

315. Coffee

316. Mug

317. Rotting

318. Corpse

319. Mugwump

320. Bodily

321. Hateful

322. Notebook

323. Descendants

324. Van

325. Iceman

326. Cometh

327. Pep

328. Amendment

329. Schizophrenia

330. Fluids

331. Jukebox

332. Ghost

333. Pervert

334. Rockstar

335. Beaver

336. Silly

337. Theme

338. Ace

339. Technical

340. Consensually

341. Bass

342. Doctor

343. Hospital

344. Nurse

345. Money

346. World

347. Round

348. Can't

349. Layered

350. Of

351. Alfredo

352. Marinara

353. Sugar

354. Spice

355. Flag

356. Black

357. Rhythm

359. Sponge

360. Course

361. Virgin

362. Protection

363. Clap

364. Paper

365. Tiger

366. Fret

367. Auto

368. Wreck

369. Muse

370. On

371. Fool

372. Check

373. Scary

374. Sad

375. Bubblegum

376. Mint

377. Net

378. Hot

379. Rod

380. November

381. Carnage

382. Breathe

383. Educated

384. Idiot

385. Prison

386. Leaving

387. Freaky

388. Frog

389. Simple

390. Eighth

391. Cyclops

392. Ratchet

393. Wonder

394. Sum

395. Crawdad

396. Dot

397. Birds

398. Empty

399. Hotplate

400. Elections

401. Original

402. Right

403. Left

404. Excuses

405. Strip

406. Bar

407. Horizontal

408. Guilty

409. Birthday

410. Fire

411. Crucified

412. Stick

413. Politics

414. Self

415. Righteous

416. Million

417. Bucks

418. Uncle

419. Critic

420. Engulfs

421. Distance

422. Long

423. Button

424. Breaking

425. Heroin

426. Friend

427. Summer

428. Perfection

429. Honey

430. America

431. Peeps

432. Refrain

433. Romantic

434. Junkie

435. Silence

436. Carry

437. Better

438. Stupid

439. Real

440. Finishing

441. Lock

442. Skin

443. Drive

444. Away

445. Punk

446. Rock

447. Song

448. Bad

449. Religion

450. What

451. Promised

452. Melody

453. Memories

454. Named

455. Desire

456. Whisper

457. Computer

458. Hopeless

459. Housewife

460. George

461. Hear

462. Shades

463. Truth

464. Fantastic

465. Images

466. Killer

467. History

468. Substance

469. Utopia

470. Bush

471. Convenient

472. Sowing

473. Seeds

474. Invoked

475. Amnesia

476. Forgot

477. Meaningful

478. Lives

479. Denial

480. Started

481. Hippy

482. Millenium

483. Neighbors

484. Voracious

485. March

486. Godliness

487. Mime

488. Battle

489. Purloined

490. Goodbye

491. Pickled

492. Pepper

493. Pies

494. Victims

495. Dilapidated

496. Dynamite

497. Diminuitive

498. Family

499. Bottom

500. Freedom

Top 10 Songs of 2015

My first introduction to the manic ska-pop-punk of Jeff Rosenstock, “Nausea” finds him waxing introspective over a deceptively catchy chorus. “I got so tired of discussing my future, I started avoiding the people I love.” As the founder of the world’s first pay-what-you-want record label, Quote Unquote Records, it’s easy to see why Jeff would feel a little shaken every time he’s forced to discuss his financial prospects. As a fellow creative person, it’s even easier to empathize with him.

9. 40 Oz. On Repeat - FIDLAR

Zac Carper has had a rough couple years. After his pregnant girlfriend passed away from a heroin overdose, he checked into rehab and emerged with FIDLAR’s cathartic second album, Too. This track is the best way to start the album. A little rough around the edges with a sense of humor to boot, “I’ll never sell out man, I’ll never… wait… how much?” 40 Oz. On Repeat introduced me to FIDLAR, and it’s a relationship I’ve quite enjoyed.

8. Mene - Brand New

After 2009’s Daisy, Brand New went into creative hibernation. Save for a few shows, it was s sparse six years without the band. But earlier this year, they opened a show with “Mene,” then released it online the next morning. And really, there’s no better re-introduction to the band. Showcasing either Jesse Lacey or Vin Accardi’s lyrics, “Mene” is a two-minute punch to the gut. It also serves to remind that the band has grown since Daisy. Despite the tempo, “Mene” finds the band with a decidedly mature sound and outlook on life.

7. Uma Thurman - Fall Out Boy

When American Beauty/American Psycho leaked several days prior to release, this was the track that the internet was enamored with. It’s easy to see why: in 2015, Fall Out Boy has turned into a successful pop band that samples “The Munsters Theme,” rather than singing about saving spine for mattresses. The transformation is a welcome one. “Uma Thurman” brims with just as much energy and talent as the band possessed a decade ago.

6. King Kunta - Kendrick Lamar

Missing out on the hype train for 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, I purchased Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly on release day this year, hoping to jump into the online conversation surrounding the album. Right from the first listen, this track stood out to me as not the best track on the album, but the most fun. It was a hard sell to my friends. Until this was released as an official single, it felt like only a small part of the world knew how catchy and weird this track is. But the rest of the world caught up, and its newfound popularity is only a good thing.

5. Cough It Out - The Front Bottoms

It’s been a year of discovering great bands, and while track 2, “Summer Shandy,” from this year’s album, Back On Top, was my official introduction to The Front Bottoms, “Cough It Out” is the song that keeps me around. Beginning with just acoustic guitar and vocalist Brian Sella, the song morphs into several movements, including a funky breakdown during the bridge of the song. The lyrics find Sells lamenting a relationship, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound positive when he matter-of-factly states “I am delusional with love.”

4. AhHa - Nate Ruess

Though Nate Ruess’s solo album didn’t turn out to be the rousing success many people were hoping for, there are still some gems on there, and effective opener “AhHa” is one of them. It seems to be a polarizing song, with many people criticizing the titular vocal hook featured throughout the song. I love it, but the bridge is where the song truly shines. Nate darkly messages towards his mother, “Mama don’t cry. I was once your little baby boy, so full of love and light…I couldn’t stand to smile. I thought of taking my own life. But mama, don’t cry.” It’s a tall order to not cry myself with the emotion that Ruess brings to the proceedings. 

3. Control Everything - The Money Pit

Though Gatsby’s American Dream made a brief return in 2010, they quickly vanished again. While most of the members continued on in music in some form, none of their various projects have ever quite hit the spot. Until 2015. Enter The Money Pit. Conceptualized by songwriter Bobby Darling, then fleshed out by vocalist Nic Newsham, the self-titled album is a welcome return from the boys. A blistering good time of an song, “Control Everything” was the first track released, and quite secretly as well. There was no teasing, no lead-up to the song, it was just released one day. Featuring possibly the catchiest chorus they’ve penned, the lyrics find Newsham crooning about the flip side of the 99%. “Getting tired of iconoclasts. Getting sick of upper bracket tax. Maybe I could start a charity. Maybe I could write off everything.”

2. Feel Right - Mark Ronson feat. Mystikal

From its debut on SNL to blasting it while setting up the Christmas tree, no song has accompanied me through the year like “Feel Right.” With Mark Ronson providing the funky backdrop to Mystikal’s spastic delivery of not-quite-nonsense-lyrics, Feel Right is the ultimate party song of the year. Try not to crack a smile when Mystikal shouts “I eat flames up. Shit fire out. Don’t make me light my butt!” It’s a fun song. Nothing more, nothing less.

1. Astoria - Marianas Trench

The titular opening track to their bombastic new album, “Astoria” finds Marianas Trench in perfect form. Nearly all of their albums open and close with tracks upwards of 7 minutes, featuring many different parts and often modulating between several keys. “Astoria” is no different. It’s also an 80’s homage machine, paying tribute to Dire Straits and the Eurythmics during its running time. One highlight finds a harmony that reads, “Everything happens/ it happens/ in threes.” Here, there are three lyrical phrases in three-part harmony, modulating in three keys, and performed in 3/4. In addition to crafting carefully calculated phrases, no one has quite an ear for melody like Josh Ramsay. Co-writer of “Call Me Maybe,” he’ll often introduce a melodic phrase that could anchor a three-minute song, but drop it after thirty seconds, leaving the listener craving more. Though it took four years to finally see the light of day, “Astoria” is worth every second of the wait. 

7 Sex Positions Every Montanan Should Know

Sex is a natural part of life. A weird, kind of gross, smelly, natural part of life. Everybody has their favorite position, but we, as Montanans need to bond together and show the rest of the world that our sex packs a wallop. There are several sexual orientations present in the illustrations, but open-minded couples of any orientation can adjust as they see fit. Through hours of hands-on research, I determined the ten sex positions every Montanan should know.

1. Wildfire

This position as depicted above, is applicable to two men, a man and a woman, or two very creative women. First, you must locate a wildfire. Then, your partner removes his unit from his unit-holder and you jimmy it around like hose, putting out the fire.

2. Crop Duster

Infamous among farmers and ranchers, there’s a secret page hidden inside the spine of a 1945 Farmer’s Almanac that describes this position in great detail. “If the farmer/rancher flaps his wings hard enough, he should be able to fly above his partner’s face. Crop dust intensity is graded on a 1-Monsanto scale. Only the most skilled crop dusters dare go Full Monsanto.”

3. Pitchforking

A favorite among the lesbian tribes of Northcentral Montana, pitchforking is a traditional adaptation of scissoring. Scissor away, ladies, while you hold pitchforks and pitch hay!

4. Lumberjack

A primitive and secluded species, the lumberjacks only emerge once a year to share their sex secrets. This particular position involves ingesting oak seeds in order to grow a marvelous tree penis. After it has grown full and lush, you can go to any bar and delight folks with delicious puns such as “I’m a lumberjack, I work with my wood,” and “I’d like you to bark up my tree.”

5. Peaking

To peak, place the anus on the very top of a mountain. The mountain must be quite pointy, no plateaus allowed.

6. Class C Prom

Not pictured in the illustration are one thousand six packs of Natural Ice, condoms used as balloons, shop teachers pretending to be chaperones, douche seniors pretending to be DJ’s, high school gyms dressed up to look like the cheapest Las Vegas casinos, birth control pills being forgotten, and overwhelming urges to burn out in high school.

7. Buffalo Jump

Required items: a penis and a cliff. A running start is also recommended.

Mid-Year/Most Anticipated 2015

This was supposed to be a top 10 mid-year list, but a strange thing happened this year: I’ve only purchased 12 albums released in 2015, and I have spent very little time listening to about half of those purchases. I simply haven’t connected with any new albums so far this year, so instead here are a few highlights.

Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho

Fall Out Boy surprised me in January when they dropped their 6th full length. After getting tired of hearing "Centuries" dominate radio, I didn’t expect much from the album. But I was so, so wrong. Tracks like "Uma Thurman," "Jet Pack Blues," and "The Kids Aren’t Alright" find the band pushing into new pop territory while solidifying their past strengths.

All Time Low - Future Hearts

An album that surpassed everyone’s expectations, All Time Low’s newest effort finds a pretty good balance between their poppiest inclinations and the pop punk that reigned on their previous album, Don’t Panic!. If "Missing You" doesn’t end up on the radio within the next month, it will only be because "Runaways" beat it out.

Nate Ruess - Grand Romantic

I’m of two minds on Nate Ruess’s solo work. One, the sequencing, lyrics, and overall rushed feeling on this album make it difficult to enjoy. But two, "AhHa," "Harsh Light," and "Great Big Storm" have been at the top of my listening list for months now. Truly, this is a mixed bag and a second half with nearly 4(!) ballads in a row does nothing to abate that. As with every mixed bag, however, there’s some great material to be found here and one can only hope that it doesn’t take as long for Nate to be collaborating with his friends again.

Most anticipated: Marianas Trench - Astoria

Marianas Trench released my favorite album of 2014 in 2011, Ever After. Though their follow up, Astoria, was supposed to be out last winter and then this spring. The band continued to work on it through all of the rumored release dates and now it has a tentative date of this fall. Though there is no single released yet, the band has been playing new material live, and the harmonies in Who Do You Love have me very excited.

My Top 12 Albums of 2014

 

12. Bayside - Cult

In following up my personal favorite Bayside record, Killing Time, the band promised something of a return to form or an amalgam of their previous work. From the get-go, it's apparent that Cult lacks in beauty, it makes up for in sheer energy. Songs like “Hate Me,” “Stuttering,” and “Bear With Me” brim with the force of a band with half the longevity of Bayside. The only qualm I have with this album is that the last two tracks lack the same punch. Though the lyrical content of “Something’s Wrong” uniquely tackles the lead singer’s problems with the generation of today, the hook is weak and the song underwritten. Despite that, Cult is a very consistent listen from one of punk's most consistent bands.

11. Yellowcard - Lift A Sail

Yellowcard had a lot to live up to after the release of Southern Air, the band’s prior newest (and best) album. In the interim, drummer LP departed and Nate Young of Anberlin took over drum duties in the studio. Is Lift A Sail as good as Southern Air? No, but it doesn’t need to be, it’s a different album. At first glance, there seems to be a lack of charisma in the songs, but repeated listens reveal they are in fact carefully calculated. Electronic flourishes permeate the album and Ryan Key pushes his vocals to new, unforeseen heights. There truly is something for every Yellowcard fan on this album. Quicker songs like “My Mountain” and “The Deepest Well” exist to please fans of older, more energetic songs, while other highlights like “One Bedroom” and “Transmission Home” suffice to please fans of the more subdued, melodic side of Yellowcard. And that’s one thing this album has no shortage of: perfect melodies.

10. Say Anything - Hebrews

Though I did genuinely enjoy most of Say Anything’s loathed previous album, Anarchy, My Dear, Hebrews is actually a better and more well-rounded album. While Anarchy found lead singer/lyricist Max Bemis creatively spinning his wheels, Hebrews finds his passion renewed and it’s clear that the birth of both internet forums and his daughter have given him something to sing about. He also recruits some of the most talented vocalists both in and out of the scene. Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die turns in a great cameo on “My Greatest Fear Is Splendid,” but Aaron Weiss from MewithoutYou claims the best offering: a spoken-word bridge to lyrical highlight “Push.” Hebrews is a cathartic album, but it finds a previously unstable artist discovering stability and putting out good music at the same time.

9. Taking Back Sunday - Happiness Is…

Taking Back Sunday finally grew up. Previous offerings from the band has found them drowned in pretentious, immature lyrics and whiny vocals. But Happiness Is… stands as the most consistent collection of music from the band to date. The two singles, “Flicker, Fade” and “Stood A Chance” start the album off with a bang, but the second half is where it truly excels. “Better Homes And Gardens” might be one of my top 10 Taking Back Sunday songs and “We Were Younger Then” features remarkable restraint from the musicians. The lyrics about Arabs and deserts present on the latter song are a tad quizzical, but the song doesn’t suffer for it. Throughout its run time, Happiness Is… displays the maturity that TBS has achieved and if you’ve matured faster than the band like I have, this is a very welcome development.

8. Taylor Swift - 1989

I’m as surprised as every one else that Taylor Swift has a spot on this list, but damn, is this album a pop gem. There’s no denying the firepower of “Shake It Off” and the soon-to-take-over-the-word single “Blank Space.” The best part about this album, however, is that it doesn’t just coast off the strength of its singles. T. Swift is a smart girl and she teamed with some of the foremost pop songwriters in the world to compose this album. Jack Antonoff of Fun. and Bleachers fame lent his hand to “Out of the Woods” and “I Wish You Would,” two of the albums highlights. But of course, this entry wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the surprising strength of “How You Get the Girl.” I fell in love with this song because it finds T. Swift with her sleeves drenched in heart and because it just seems so earnest. Mark my words, the song is an under appreciated gem.

7. Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End

My love for Weezer developed at a time in my life when I was young enough to see past many of the obvious flaws of much maligned albums like Make Believe and Ratidude. I’ve always stuck up for Weezer, but so much time had passed since Hurley, that I found myself readying up to not like the next Weezer album. Thankfully, the band didn’t let me down. This album is filled with cheesy lyrics and hokey vocal stylings, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. The songwriting is solid enough to withstand a few questionable lyrical passages, and frontman Rivers Cuomo is back on the guitar solos, a fact that becomes notably apparent when comparing this album to the last few years of Weezer’s back catalog. It’s a good collection of songs, and I’m still jamming it through my car stereo. Thank you Ric Ocasek.

6. Fireworks - Oh, Common Life

Though this album has not really entered my regular rotation outside of a few songs, I must furnish it with the number six spot because of its sheer emotional intensity. Lyricist Dave Mackinder’s father passed away during the writing of this album, and it heavily influences the lyrical content. It is very powerful and even happy-sounding songs like “Bed Sores” have a dark underbelly. “Play “God Only Knows” at My Funeral,”” and “Run, Brother, Run” find Mackinder struggling to discover himself as a man after his father’s passing, and it is haunting to listen to. The following is a lyrical passage from “Run, Brother, Run” that sums up the sheer force of this album: “I was twenty-five when my dad died. My arms fell weak, my heart grew tired.” Heartbreakingly delivered, it's the kind of line that can resonate with any listener.

5. Anberlin - Lowborn

Anberlin just finished up their last tour as a band and they went out with a bang. Before they embarked on the tour though, they decided to release one final album for the fans. Though more subdued than their previous works, Lowborn finds Anberlin in fine form. The first half of the album contains some of the best tracks of the band’s discography, with “Stranger Ways” and “Atonement” being highlights. A lyrical theme not very many songwriters get to draw from, lead singer/lyricist Stephen Christian wrote several songs about the band’s impending break up. It’s a sad listen, but Lowborn reminds us all why we like Anberlin in the first place.

4. The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt

There is a stigma attached to The Gaslight Anthem that The '59 Sound is their best album. Well, I’m tired of that. I like Handwritten and their newest offering, Get Hurt, more. Brian Fallon seems to have written an album of Gaslight Anthem greatest hits, except these songs are all originals. Sure, there are a few tracks that show some experimenting (and they’re all the better for it), but for the most part, this album just straight up rocks. Album highlights “1,000 Years” and “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” provide the backbone of the album while deeper cuts are free to wander. The album is incredibly lopsided, but tracks 1-8 are good enough to coast through the lackluster final quarter. I’ll be watching out for their next album, because it could be something even more special.

3. The Menzingers - Rented World

I’ll admit that I was not on The Menzingers train when their acclaimed previous album came out, nor have I heard it yet. I really don’t want it to spoil my appreciation of this album. From front to back, this album just does not stop. It gets loud, it gets quiet, but it always hits hard. The almost heartbreaking delivery of every almost heartbreaking lyric is enough to make a guy want to scream and sweat along. Album highlight “In Remission” is posed to become one of my top songs of the year, though no song is a slouch. This is the perfect punk album for the modern age, and I’m glad The Menzingers are proud to fly that flag, because this year in music would’ve suffered without it.

2. Bleachers - Strange Desire

My sister occasionally finds a diamond in the rough and several years ago she introduced me to Fun. On my first listen of Some Nights, I was blown away. Their albums were such perfect pop I was inspired to pick up both Format albums and the two most recent Steel Train albums. Fun and Steel Train. guitarist Jack Antonoff’s newest project, Bleachers, finds just the right amount of playfulness and maturity, blending a throwback 80’s soundtrack with lyrics about love, loss, and mental illness. What’s truly remarkable is how consistent the album’s melodies are. With the exception of one negatively notable cameo from Yoko Ono, Antonoff’s voice carries each song like a car speeding down the interstate. I would not be surprised if, in the future, we see epic tracks like "Rollercoaster" or "Like a River Runs" scoring film trailers. One last note is to check out the jam session that occupies the last two minutes of the final track, “Who I Want You To Love.” Some great bass riffing and a chilled out guitar solo feels right at home and sends the album out on a high note.

1. Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues

It’s not often an album makes you a better person, but Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues has done just that. Lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman in 2012, and this collection of music is a concept album about a transgender prostitute. It is heavy, very important material delivered in the catchiest way possible. Throughout the 10 tracks, the listener is taken on a heartbreaking journey cleverly disguised through both sing and shout-along songs. Compositions like “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and “Black Me Out” are raw in the best way possible, combining anthemic choruses with pure, unbridled anger. Not only does this album stand up on its own musical merit, but it also has an important message behind it. I’ve only in the past year lived on a college campus, a place where all sorts can come together and display an outpouring of love. This album and college has done wonders for turning me into a rational, empathetic human being. Absolutepunk’s senior editor Drew Beringer put it very well in his review, “I’ll never face the prejudice and hate that the trans* community faces on a daily basis and it’d be disingenuous of me to act like I understand any of that. As a straight male, I really have no authority to write at length about trans* issues, despite my continued attempt to further educate myself on the subject." Also being a white male, I know that I’ll never have to go through the suffering that so many people do, but I feel it is a person’s duty to understand we’re all dealt a different hand in life. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is important and I believe everybody should listen to it at least once. After all, art is supposed to make us think and remind us that in the end, we’re all human.