Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Favourite Music This Year

Best Music of 2008!

10. This Is Hell-Misfortunes
This Is Hell has to be one of the best hardcore bands around today. Misfortunes has everything you need from a modern hardcore release. Crushing riffs and searing rhythms make it the type of album that any hardcore will like, but its moments of melody that really make this one awesome for me.

9. Shad- The Old Prince
Good hip-hop does still exist, and it lives in its mom’s house in London, Ontario. His flow and lyrics are incredible, and you can tell he puts thought into his words. Plus how can you hate a guy who drops the line “no parka for me, just gloves scarf and a fleece, I may freeze but I’m still saving marvellously”?

8. Safety- A Season of Bad Dreams
Only an e.p. but it really shows a lot of growth and progress for a band who’s as young as they are. For someone as new to the game as he is, Andy Diaz’s lyrics and delivery are incredible, with the most metaphors that I’ve heard in a while. It’s good late 90’s style pop-punk, but the lyrics give it awesome staying power.

7. Hopesick- Rise and Shine
This band added me to MySpace, claiming to have found me through The Swellers. Well I am goddamn glad they did because they write pop-punk jams like few others I’ve heard. For the longest time I could only listen to their songs by having their MySpace page open at all times, and their songs were good enough to keep me doing that. I got them eventually and they became the soundtrack to the go-train rides to Ontario place all summer. They’ve broken up now, but put the record up for free download. Do that now.

6. International Superheroes of Hardcore- Takin’ It Ova
I really only got into hardcore this year. The new side project from New Found Glory is full of humour with their lyrics, songs about wearing your seat belt, not using bad language, but the intensity of the music is still 100% there. Their song “Back To Future” talks about bringing back the true roots of hardcore, and drops Marty McFly references and Doc Brown references left right and centre. Just try and hate, I dare you. You’ll be too busy either laughing or stage-diving to care.

5. HiFi Handgrenades- Carry On
One of three bands that arose from the ashes of the awe-inspiring force that was The Suicide Machines. I had heard the name tossed around a bunch, but only checked the free download of the full length when I found out they had the rhythm section of the aforementioned Detroit legends. Definitely way different from their former bands, but the power-pop that these guys put out is awesome. Honest lyrics and speedy pop songs are always a recipe for success. The title track is a personal favourite.

4. Less Than Jake- GNV FLA
Bar-none, Less Than Jake is my favourite band. In With the Out Crowd left a bad taste in my mouth and a whole lot to be desired from a LTJ record. During their Warner years the band had hinted that there had been pressure from execs to ditch the horns and go for a more marketable sound. Last year they ditched the label and created their own imprint, Sleep It Off Records. Now free to do pretty much whatever the hell they wanted, the band made GNV FLA, named after their hometown of Gainesville, Florida. Drummer Vinnie had stated in an interview that he didn’t like all the album updates and overhyping that had accompanied In With The Out Crowd, and he just wanted the record to speak for itself. If this album does anything, it is speak for its self, after the short reggae-tinged opener “The City of Gainesville”, the album breaks into an absolute scorcher of a track in “The State of Florida” and never lets up. They return to an older sound, reminiscent of Borders and Boundaries, and even Pezcore in some spots. This was another album that got a bunch of spins during the summer. All the tunes on here are in the classic LTJ style, and definitely wouldn’t be out of place in their absurdly great live show.

3. H2O- Nothing To Prove
Another name that I heard tossed around before but never checked, mostly due to my own prejudices about them being a “really hardcore” band. Could I have been more wrong? I checked out a track when they first put it up on their MySpace and was incredibly surprised to see that a hardcore band could have that much sense of melody. I got the album and at first wrote it off save a few tracks, mostly because I didn’t really like Toby Morse’s delivery. But this thing really grew on me, and I really began to love it. I really enjoy his vocal style now, to be honest. With hardcore, you either get it or you don’t, there’s not really an in between. At some point in June I finally “got” Nothing to Prove, and I haven’t looked back since.

2. Living with Lions- Make Your Mark
For some reason after I first heard about this band I confused them with the American band As Tall as Lions, who are pretty lame. Then I was reading an article in Exclaim magazine about them that mentioned their “early Saves the Day and Lifetime-esque songs”. Well if you know me then you know that comparing a band to Lifetime pretty much sells them to me right off the bat. I checked them out and loved every second of it. I missed their Toronto show over the summer, but got to catch them in Guelph later on in the year. Seeing them live was one of those times when you just have incredibly high expectations for something, and it just delivers more than thought it could have. I put their cd the day after the show and didn’t turn if off for about three weeks. I mean come on! They’re like Lifetime except the singers from BC instead of New Jersey. Support this band, they deserve everything they have and have big things coming their way.

1. New Found Glory- Tip of the Iceberg
So this year my taste in music changed a whole lot. I really started to turn to melodic hardcore and pop-punk as my stuff, as opposed to ska like in the past. Set Your Goals were the first band to turn me on to that kind of stuff, as well as Lifetime. One thing I noticed was a lot of the new bands in this genre were name dropping New Found Glory as a big influence on them. Because of this I went back and checked out Sticks and Stones and was amazed. How had I not noticed the breakdown in “Head On Collision” before? Everything I loved was there, and you could easily see where all these new bands were getting their style from. I hated NFG when I was younger for some reason, but they’re one of my favourites now. Then I noticed they were putting out an e.p. on Bridge 9 records, which was a pretty big head-scratcher. They threw some new tracks on their MySpace, and the title track just absolutely blew my mind. I had no idea that New Found Glory could thrash so hard. Throw in some ace covers of bands I already love and this is a damn solid release. It might be weird to have a six song e.p. as an album of the year, but I went through a pretty big musical transformation this year and this collection of music was in the centre of it.

Albums From Other Years That Also Ran My Life In 2008
So this year hardcore took over a lot in my music taste, so I found it necessary to make another top-ten list of albums that I discovered this year that similarly influenced my life this year. So here it goes

11. Bob Dylan- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
Yea I guess this is a top-eleven, not top ten. But obviously people have been praising Bob Dylan forever and I’ve been too much of a moron to put any serious though into checking out his music. Last year in my music and popular culture class the teacher, himself being a big Dylan fan, opted to put on a lesser know cut, instead of the usual “Like a Rolling Stone” or “Knocking on Heavens Door”, he threw on “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”. Accompanying the song were all the lyrics on an overhead. I was amazed at the depth of his words and have been on the Dylan train ever since. This album definitely takes the cake as my favourite though. Also fuck you if you say you don’t like his voice, that’s not what it’s about.

10. Highschool Football Heroes- We’ve Fooled Around Long Enough (2006)
At first glance one could be forgiven for passing these guys off as just another Long Island ska-punk band. Taking a second look at the lyrics turns your perception of this band on its head. Mixing incredibly heartfelt lyrics with upbeat bouncy songs, makes for a winner here. Describing them as “too emo to be ska, and too ska to be emo” is pretty accurate and definitely in no ways a bad thing. For an album to truly become one of my favourites it has to just hit me in that way where I can relate it to it more than anything else at a certain point in time. This album has definitely done that, and I’m proud to say it is one of my favourites.

9. Hot Water Music- Caution (2002)
This is mostly based off what the song “Trusty Chords” from this album means to me. Honestly there were a lot of days where I would let the visitors at Ontario Place get to me, and really piss me off. I would get in a really bad mood. The chorus of this song is “I hate this place, but I love these chords”, and that’s exactly how I felt throwing this on as I left work. “Trusty Chords” are exactly what music is for me, I lean on it to get me through everything. This song, being an ode to depending on music, hits home with me.

8. Strike Anywhere- Dead FM (2006)
I’ve said it tons of times already, but yea this year I started to like melodic hardcore a whole lot. This was another band that was really in the centre of all that. I had barely heard any music the first time I saw them and they absolutely blew me away. Whereas most bands of this genre focus on personal themes (I have no problem with that by the way, that’s usually my favourite stuff), these guys have a strong political message, it’s easy for most young people to relate to. To fully appreciate them, you have to see them live; their shows are an awesome release of positive energy in a wicked scene. Probably most people reading this have heard of the band Rise Against, if you like them check out this band, they have a similar sound and message.

7. Four Year Strong- Rise or Die Trying (2007)
I first heard them in my friend’s room and kind of liked them because they sounded a bit like Set Your Goals. They put their album up for free when they signed to Decaydence so I figured it would be a good idea to download it. At first I felt almost guilty listening to it because of how goddamn poppy it was. But after a while the strength of the song writing won me over and it went into high rotation. I’ve always described them in the past as metal-core in d major and I stand by that. On one hand they have as many double kicks as any August Burns Red album, but on the other hand they have synth player. That’s pretty much the essence of the band, incorporating hardcore elements while maintaining a ridiculously poppy sound. I’m not ashamed to say I like them.

6. RX Bandits- The Resignation (2003)
Way back in the day (about two years ago), when I was still dumb and listened to pretty much one genre of music exclusively, I enjoyed The RX Bandits first album a lot. It was just a straight ahead generic ska-punk deal, which is probably why I liked it. I had some newer songs but thought they sounded dumb and weird. One day I just “got” it, not really sure why but I’m sure as hell glad I did because I love them to death now. They really are one of the truly unique bands around in music today, there is just no one out there who sounds like them. They incorporate reggae, progressive rock, punk, and just straight-up loud rock into their sound for a tornado that hits you hard. Me being a musician myself trying to wrap my head around their music, and how they could have possibly come up with the idea to use different elements in the way they do in a task in and of itself. Each album that has come out since Progress has been an interesting progression adding to their sound. They’re definitely another band where you either “get” it or you don’t.

5. Jawbreaker- Etc. (2002)
Again this is pretty much based off the strength of one song, “Kiss The Bottle”. I first found the song by hearing a Foo Fighters cover of it (which is awesome, by the way), and was immediately enticed by it. Finding the original, I liked it even more. I love how awful Blake’s voice is, the rawness of the recording, and seriously if you know anything about Jawbreaker, it’s that the lyrics are the focal point. Blake just spits out everything he hates about his life all over every song. If you’ve found a front man whose delivery is more sincere, then tell, so I can laugh in your face. There were days when I would listen to “Kiss the Bottle” on repeat probably about 11 or 12 times in a row on the way to work and then again on the way home. The music may have been done before, but the strength of the song writing truly makes this band timeless.

4. Bigwig- Reclamation (2006)
“Ok seriously Tim, we get it. You started to like melodic hardcore a lot this year”. Yea I know. I casually checked out Bigwig a long time ago when they were playing with The Flatliners and Big D and The Kids Table. I enjoyed them but didn’t stick around to see them and pretty much forgot about them. For some reason I remembered them and checked them out again when I got home from Guelph. Holy Fuck! Sink or swim! What an absolute thrasher of a song. From that point on they became one of my favourites. I picked up reclamation afterwards and have to say that it’s absolute gold. From the hardcore of “Owned and Operated” to the metal-tinged “Reclamation” to the ska-punk of “Last Song, Last Call” this album wins on all fronts. It’s fast, and the guys in the band can really shred on all of their instruments. It just makes me feel awesome.

3. Comeback Kid- Wake The Dead (2005)
So yea this album pretty much got me into hardcore this year. Obviously anyone in the punk scene had heard “Wake The Dead” when it first came, I had always thought it was kind of cool. I eventually got around to listening to the rest of the album, and man it’s awesome. It’s just solid from front to back, no filler. I would always throw it on while I on my way to work (trend here?) because it was fun to skateboard to “False Idols Fall” and it would always just end as I got there, with “Final Goodbye” blaring as I left the Go Train. This album introduced me to entirely new scene, and it really changed the type of person I am.

2. Lifetime- Lifetime (2007)
I am not saying this is my favourite Lifetime album, to deny Jersey’s Best Dancers is just plain silly. But this is the album that introduced me to them, hence its place here. Just like New Glory, I heard a whole bunch of bands name-drop Lifetime as big influences on them, the difference is that Lifetime is an influence on New Found Glory. There are two roads with pop-punk one leads to the Descendents and the other leads to Lifetime. I tried checking them out a few times but for some reason, just couldn’t get into it. Then one day I tried again. I went to their MySpace and put on “Airport Monday Morning”, and thought, “Wow! This is an incredible song!” I got a hold of their self titled, comeback record shortly afterwards and immediately loved it. It immediately became one of my most played albums, and still is. I saw a copy of Hello Bastards in a used cd exchange and hopped on the chance to pick it up. It was another really enjoyable album that really showed where a lot of bands that got popular in the late 90’s pulled their sound from. Listen to “Young, Loud, and Scotty” and tell me half of New Found Glory’s songs aren’t rip offs of it, Blink pretty much turned “Rodeo Clown” into an entire album with Dude Ranch. This band took hardcore, made it poppier and spit out lyrics about girls instead of society. The line of bands that directly owe influence to this band goes on for miles.

1. Descendents- Cool To Be You (2004)
Again, this is not my favourite Descendents album, its just the first one that I got, so it’s the most important to me. I had a bunch of Descendents songs on my computer a while ago, but just kind of dismissed it as generic stuff (don’t shoot me). After a while I really got into Blink 182 again, recognizing how awesome of a songwriter Mark Hoppus is. Mark has always unabashedly claimed the Descendents as his biggest influence, and listening to the band this influence is pretty obvious. I figured I should pick one of their albums up and Cool To Be You happened to be the one that was at the used cd place when I was there. After the first listen, I knew it was awesome. This band is the first punk band to write songs about girls, pretty every punk song ever is a copy of “Bikeage” and they recorded it in 1982. I really got big on this band after buying this record. They were everything I needed, songs about girls, not being as cool as everyone else, and eating spicy food and getting diarrhea. I finally got to buy Everything Sucks earlier this year and it was life changing. Definitely one the best collections of music put together, honest song writing and a keen sense for melody, combined with giant hooks and incredible musician ship. Way back in the 80’s were pretty much as punk as you could get. They didn’t have hawks up, or leather jackets, they wore glasses, jeans and went to grad school, it was their attitude. Us versus them and I don’t care what you think. They just completely changed the way not only punk music, but music in general could be played. They truly are up there with The Ramones or The Clash as a band that can transcend genres and become one of the most influential bands ever, not just to punk scene. If I was making a mixtape of songs that defined my life, I’m pretty damn sure “Thank You” would be track 1.

Best of 2008 mixtape
Side One
1. New Found Glory- Tip of the Iceberg
2.Safety- The Blizzard of the Century
3. H2O- 1995
4. Living With Lions- She’s A Hack
5. Shad- The Old Prince Still Lives At Home

Side Two
1. HiFi Handgrenades- Carry On
2. Less Than Jake- The City of Gainesville
3. Less Than Jake- The State of Florida
4. International Superheroes of Hardcore- Back To The Future
5. Hopesick- The Culling Song

Best of Whenever-Else Mixtape
Side One
1. Descendents- Nothing With You
2. Hot Water Music- Trusty Chords
3. Bigwig- Owned and Operated
4. Strike Anywhere- The Promise
5. Comeback Kid- Wake The Dead

Side Two
1. Lifetime- Airport Monday Morning
2. Highschool Football Heroes- Regret This
3. Four Year Strong- Beatdown In The Key of Happy
4. Rx Bandits- Decrescendo
5. Jawbreaker- Kiss The Bottle

Stuff that I’m looking forward to in 2009
New albums by: New Found Glory, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals, NoFX, Strike Anywhere, Mad Caddies, Aquabats?, We Are The Union, Bomb The Music Industry!, and the split from The Flatliners and The Snips.
This year is going to kick ass.

Post Yours in the comments!