2012 was a great year for live music in the Boston area. Here is the creme of the crop, according to me:
1. Refused at House of Blues Boston, July 20th
One of the greatest hardcore bands of all time proved that their reunion was not just a Cochella money grab when they announced an extensive world tour that stopped in Boston in August. Their 90 minute set was overwhelmingly intense. The aggression precision, and showmanship the band displayed defied every law that should govern a group of 40 year olds that had called it quits 14 years earlier. It would seem natural to say I wish I could have seen them in their prime, but I’m pretty sure this was it.
2. Bruce Springsteen at TD Garden, March 26th
There’s no such thing as a bad Bruce show, but a few factors made this one special. It was Sprinsteen’s first Boston show in three years and coincided with the release of his new album Wrecking Ball. While the tour would make multiple stops in New York and New Jersey, this was the only scheduled Boston show and had sold out in minutes. The three hours sets included a soul melody inspired by the band’s recent performance at the Apollo Theater, an epic encore with the house lights on, and everything else that has made Sprinsteen and Co. rock’s most consistent performers.
3. Motion City Soundtrack Double Header at Bamboozle Festival, May 19th
While there was no explanation as to why MCS was slated for two slots on the same stage at the Bamboozle Festival in Asbury Park, NJ, you weren’t going to hear any complaints from me. Their two appearances, one in the early afternoon and one much later at night, covered a good chunk of their discography and included very few repeats. They garnered the most enthusiastic crowd reaction that I saw all day, which is pretty impressive considering they were competing with the likes of the Foo Fighters on the main stage.
4. The Gaslight Anthem at the Middle East Downstairs, July 22nd
The Gaslight Anthem is way too big to be playing a 550 capacity venue, but that didn’t stop them from doing a small club tour in advance of their new album Handwritten this summer. Their show at the Middle East featured a lot of old tracks, previews or a few new ones, and a whole lot of sweat.
5. Jack’s Mannequin at El Rey Theater, November 11th
The band’s final two shows acted as a benefit for the Dear Jack Foundation and helped to raise $50,000 for childhood cancer research. Andrew McMahon and company’s second to last show featured a very well crafted career spanning set list that even included Something Corporate favorite “Konstantine”
6. Crime In Stereo and I Am The Avalanche at Gramercy Theater, November 24th
Crime in Stereo quietly called it a day in 2010, leaving their fans with little information as to why they had broken up or what they planned to do next. Their 2012 reunion was as unexpected as their breakup, and their first show back proved they still had it. An adrenaline packed opening set from local favorites I Am the Avalanche started things off on the right foot, and had the crowd ready for what would be a memorable 90 minute performance from the headliners. Their set mirrored their discography in that it was as haunting as it was powerful. Frontman Kristian Hallbert danced in and out of the venue’s brilliant, bliding spotlights while the rest of the band tore through each song as if they had never been apart.
7. Coldplay at TD Garden, July 29th
Chris Martin and Co. returned to the Garden for two sold out shows that featured all of the theatrics you would expect for $130 a ticket. This included light-up bracelets that were handed out to everyone in the arena, which the band controlled to made the show look a whole lot like the recently completed Olympic Opening Ceremony.
8. Fun at House of Blues Boston, April 21st
It’s not very often that you get to watch a hardworking band get the attention that they deserve, but that’s exactly what happened to fun in 2012. After their excellent debut album Aim and Ignite was largely ignored, a Super Bowl ad and a few radio spins helped fun become one of the year’s best success stories, and they made a stop in Boston just as their stock was about to shoot through the roof. The crowd’s reaction to the band’s every move made it obvious that a sold out show at the House of Blues was just the start of something very big.
9. Frank Turner at Royale, September 6th
Frank Turner also had a standout 2012, shooting from cult favorite to rock radio staple. He would play two sold out shows at Royale in September, and the first proved that the success certainly hasn’t gone to his head. Turner and the Sleeping Souls played great mix of songs new and old and made sure they weren’t overshadowed by opening act Larry and his Flash, who had put on a great show in their own right.
10. Bouncing Souls at House of Blues Boston, August 4th
While a half empty House of Blues may seem like a strange location for a Bouncing Souls show, the surprising absence of both bouncers and a barrier in front of the stage made for the what was easily the craziest show I’ve been to at the venue since it opened four years ago. After an excellent opening set from the Menzingers, the Bouncing Souls took the stage for what at first seemed like a snooze fest, as the band debuted a number of tracks from their recently released album Comet. When fans realized there would be no repercussions for making their way on stage, the stage diving competition was in session for the rest of the show.
Very Honorable Mentions
Say Anything, Murder By Death, Fake Problems at House of Blues Boston
Neon Trees at the Paradise
The Killers at Agganis Arena
Andrew Jackson Jihad at TT the Bears
Joyce Manor at TT the Bears
The Gaslight Anthem have now churned out four outstanding full lengths in only five years, and this might be their best yet. It takes everything everyone loved from their earlier work, smooths out the rough edges, and turns the volume way up.
Now do you blow it out come Friday night?
See if you wanna, you can find me on the hood under the moonlight
Radio, oh radio, do you believe there’s still some magic left
Somewhere inside our souls? – “Howl”
While I would love to declare a tie for my favorite record of the year, I can’t do that, so I’ll have to relegate this masterpiece to second best. It is nearly perfect in all ways – from the deeply personal lyrics, to the dual vocal attack of Greg Barnett and Tom May, to the fact that it is such a huge improvement over it’s predecessor, 2010’s Champerlain Waits. This is the album that announces the arrival of one of today’s brightest up and coming acts.
Like when we would take rides
In your American muscle car
I felt American for once in my life
I never felt it again – “Good Things”
This band is huge for a reason. Some Nights is the rare album that makes a statement while still being extremely accessible. While every song sounds like it is being fueled by a mixture of cotton candy and sweet tarts, the lyrics hint at lead singer Nate Ruess’s struggles with his own past, high expectations, and society’s notions of what a rock band is supposed to be.
I was never one to believe the hype – save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked, but here they come again to jack my style – “Some Nights”
After the not-so-great Working On A Dream, Bruce and Co. came out swinging on Wrecking Ball and created an album that is as vital as anything the band has created over their 30+ year career.
Gambling man rolls the dice, working man pays the bills
It’s still fat and easy up on bankers hill
Up on bankers hill the party’s going strong
Down here below we’re shackled and drawn – “Shackled And Drawn”
While it might not be the most consistent album, Picture Shows standout tracks deliver on the promise the band displayed on their wildly success debute EP, Habits. “Everybody Talks” proved that good music can still make it’s way to the radio, but “Weekend” is the album’s best example of pop gold.
don’t you know how it feels
to get days and months and years
trapped inside a waking dream
I bet you you and I could sit back
tonight and try
to make it more than just a fantasy – “Weekend”
I like this album because POS makes it clear that he is mad at everyone and everything. It’s an album about the Occupy Movement from someone who hates the Occupy Movement.
Cool new blanket
Stole it from the shelf at the Walmart thankless
Threat level awesome
Threat level orange juice
Who’s gonna stop ’em
We ain’t gotta throw stones at a glass house
We break in, just so we can smash out
– “All Of It”
While they had a lot to live up to after their debut album made them an overnight sensation in the UK, they meet those exepcetions with Come of Age. It is therefore ironic that one of the album’s standout tracks (“No Hope”) is all about letting everyone down.
And I could make an observation,
If you want the voice of a generation,
but I’m too self-absorbed to give it clout. – “No Hope”
While Please Remain Calm certainly has some catchy tunes, it’s value lies in the lyrics. Vocalist Chris Martin and Co. are able to capture what it means to live in our Great Recession society better than any band I’ve heard.
Turned a circus for gamblers and gawkers and thieves.
When the word got around, we spilled out on the streets.
As the banks decorate every house in defeat. – “On Both Eyes”
The debut full-length from this English quintet is similar to Hostage Calm’s debut album in that what sets it apart from other releases is its lyrics. Lead singer James Mattock paints in broad strokes, leaving almost every song open to interpretation, proving there is much more to the record that the straight forward rock you’ll hear upon first listen.
We’re the overestimated underdogs
What you await from us, now you can get for yourself – “Til The Wonders Rise”
The Killers – Battle Born
While their last effort was dressed up with electronics and slick production, Battle Born returns to the stripped down rock and storytelling of 2006’s Sam’s Town. It may not be as radio-friendly as their earlier work, but tracks like bombastic lead single “Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb” can still blow the roof off of any arena.
They say I’ll adjust
God knows I must
But I’m not sure how
This natural selection picked me out to be
A dark horse running in a fantasy
“Flesh And Bone”
Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
Titus Andronicus – Local Business
Hot Water Music – Exister
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Top Ten Songs of 2012:
1. The Menzingers – “Burn After Writing”
2. The Menzingers – “Good” Things”
3. Hostage Calm “On Both Eyes”
4. The Gaslight Anthem – “Howl”
5. Neon Trees – “Still Young”
6. The Vaccines “Teenage Icon”
7. Sharks “‘Til The Wonders Rise”
8. Japandroids “Continuous Thunder”
9. Bruce Springsteen – “Death To My Hometown”
10. Hot Water Music “State Of Grace”
Titus Andronicus “Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter”
The Rolling Stones – “One More Shot”
Neon Trees – “Weekend”
Blink-182 “Boxing Day”
The Gaslight Anthem – “Mulholland Drive”
Neon Tree – “Everybody Talks”
These are my favorite records of 2010. Looking back at last year’s list, I realize this was a great 12 months of music.
1. Fake Problems – Real Ghosts Caught on Tape
Both lyrically and musically, this record is so much better than Fake Problem’s earlier work, it might as well be a different band. From awful to awesome in one album flat? Not exactly, but you get the idea.
Favorite line: “If Confidence is key, I must be locked out of the house. If home is where the heart is, I do not have a pulse” – “ADT.”
2. Eminem – Recovery
I’m not a rap fan (surprising, I know). In fact, Eminem’s Recovery is one of the only rap albums I own. However, I can say that no matter which genre you prefer, it’s impossible to ignore the statement that Eminem made with this record. Lyrically, it’s ridiculously angry, but somehow completely upbeat and positive at the same time.
Favorite line: “He’s married to the game, like a fuck you for Christmas, his gift is a curse” – “Not Afraid.”
3. Foxy Shazam – Foxy Shazam
The catchiest record of the year comes from the weirdest band of the year. Need proof? Either listen to their album, or see them live. Lead singer Eric Nally routinely smokes four cigarettes on stage, and then eats them.
Favorite line: “Baby, you look like a zebra” – live show
4. Tokyo Police Club – Champ
The first half of this record contains what are easily my favorite songs of the year. Too bad the second half doesn’t quite measure up. Still a great listen containing all of the quirks you would expect from Tokyo Police Club.
Favorite line: “I’m on your side, but only for a while, of course. You never use words you can’t afford, a house of cards and it’s a sign” – “Wait Up (Boots of Danger).”
5. Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life
A complete return to form after the so-so Even if it Kills Me. I’m pretty sure the quality of their records is directly proportional to the amount of swearing Justin Pierre does. And he swears a ton on this record.
Favorite line: “It’s been a good year, a good new beginning. I’m through with the old school so let’s commence the winning.” -“Worker Bee.”
6. Steel Train – Steel Train
Steel Train’s transformation from jam band to one of today’s best rock bands is nothing short or remarkable. This is their strongest work to date.
Favorite line: “You and I both are nothing but thieves. We take what we want when we need.” -“Bullet.”
7. Off With Their Heads – In Desolation
In my opinion, Off With Their Heads are the ideal rock band. Everything they play is short, fast and loud.
Favorite line: “So I just drive. It doesn’t matter where. I put my foot to the floor let the wind blow through my hair” – “Drive.”
8. Fireworks – All I Have to Offer Is My Own Confusion
While pop-punk has grown a bit stale in recent years, you wouldn’t know it by listening to Firework’s newest full-length. This is the album that even bands like New Found Glory wish they could write. It’s basically a 12 song party. And it’s my kind of party, because there are enough sarcastic one-liners for everyone in attendance.
Favorite line: “Without this bad knee I wouldn’t have a good one. These vices don’t hold me down. They fucking carry me” – “When We Stand on Each Other We Block Out the Sun.”
9. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
While it doesn’t quite pack the punch of their 2008 breakout The ’59 Sound, this is another admirable effort from New Jersey’s new favorite son’s.
Favorite Line: “For the hub city girls in the ribbons and the curls, who know the meaning of staying out late. They know the meaning of staying out very, very late” – “The Diamond Church Street Choir.”
10 Hot Hot Heat – Future Breeds
Talk about a comeback. With this record, Hot Hot Heat took everything that made their pre-Happiness Limited material so much fun, injected it with pure caffeine, and then threw it in a blender. The result was an immensely enjoyable and twisted record.
Favorite line: “So much, so much for dying before you’re 30, or 27 like Jan and Jim. Get on it. Where’s your iconic
all too ironic romantic tragedy recorded quadraphonic?” -“Implosionatic.”
While most people do a top twenty, I couldn’t come up with 20 records that deserved to be on such a list, so here is the second half of my 2010 Top 17. Look for 1-10 in the next day or two.
11. Envy on the Coast – Lowcountry
The best record that no one listened to this year, Lowcountry suffered from awful distribution and the band’s unfortunate implosion. Despite all of this, the album successfully manages to strip away the extra layers that at times bogged down 2007’s Lucy Grey, and helps the band to go out on a high note.
12. The Wonder Years – The Upsides
When I get depressed and think about how much I hate the daily grind, I just put on this album and let The Wonder Years do the complaining for me.
13. Neon Trees – Habits
How did this 8 song mini-album make the list? Well, two reasons really. “Sins of My Youth” and “Our War.” These two songs show why this band could be rock’s next big thing, if they aren’t already.
14. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
I give this one bonus points solely because it isn’t The Black Parade Pt. 2. I also admit that this record has some great tracks, including “The Only Hope For Me Is You,” which is one of the strongest songs the band has written. However, we had to wait four years for a record that is not nearly as good as the two records that preceded it.
15. Senses Fail – The Fire
While they probably didn’t win over too many new fans, it was another solid addition to the Senses Fail catalog, and featured some of their best work, including “Landslide,” which is one of the best songs of the year.
16. Hollerado – Record in a Bag
After winning me over with their live show, I purchased the appropriately titled “Record in a Bag,” which does, in fact, come in a confetti-filled zip-lock. While it doesn’t shine in the lyrics department, the songs sure are fun.
17 – Free Engery- Stuck on Nothing
If there is a California sound, Free Energy embodies it perfectly. This record features a handful of sunny, bouncy tracks that beg to be blasted through the speakers while driving with the top down (in the convertible I don’t have). However, it also features quite a bit of filler, which is why it’s at the bottom of this list.
End of year lists have become a holiday tradition for me. I love reading them, and this year has been better than any other because not only have I been buried in an avalanche of “best music of ’09” list, I’ve also been barraged with “best of the decade” lists. I normally disagree with these countdowns. In fact, the lists form major publication like Rolling Stone and Spin usually come off as laughable at best.
This year, however, I’ve read through all of these different “best of” lists, and haven’t had much of a reaction. While trying to compile my own list, I realized I could barely remember any great albums that had been released in the past 12 months. This worried me, because it’s not like this hasn’t been a good year for music, at least according to all the critics.
Anyway, here’s what I could come up with:
1. Morrissey – Years of Refusal
Great album, definitely the most pleasant surprise of the year.
2. AFI – Crash Love
This record definitely benefits from the fact I saw them twice this year, and they’re my favorite band. This isn’t the group’s strongest effort, but songs like “Veronica Sawyer Smokes,” “Darling I Want to Destroy You” and “Cold Hands” were among the best of the AFI’s career. Lead single “Medicate,” however, was one of the worst.
3. New Found Glory – Not Without A Fight
Wow, I’m really surprised this is so high up on my list, because it also falls short of their earlier work. However, even a mediocre album from New Found Glory is more enjoyable than most records for me.
4. White Lies To Lose My Life
Dark, desolate, depressed. The English trio picked the perfect year to release their debut EP.
5. Brand New – Daisy
Heavier Material like “Vices” and “Sink” were great, and single “At the Bottom” matches up to anything they’ve done in the past. As a whole however, this record doesn’t equal the greatness of their two previous efforts.
6. Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
I’ve been surprised to see this record absent from nearly every year end list I’ve read. The former indie darlings produced what I thought was their most consistent release to date.
7. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
Keeping with the current trend, this album wasn’t as good as their last, 2005’s American Idiot, but it was another solid effort.
8. Anti Flag – The People or the Gun
Half of this album was great, the other half was forgettable, and overall, it was much better than The Bright Lights of America.
9. Thrice – Beggers
This record isn’t higher on my list because I haven’t listened to it enough, a testament to the fact that it’s the type of album that gets better with every listen.
10. American Steal – Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts
While their last effort, Destroy their Future, was a politically charged masterpiece, the band seemed to lose some of their edge on this record. Still a fun listen.
Thursday – Common Existence
Every Time I Die – New Junk Aesthetic
Silverstein – A Shipwreck in the Sand
I’ve always liked “Best Of” lists, but I’ve always had a lot of trouble compiling my own. In 2005, I made a list of the year’s 25 best records and gave a reason why for each. I’m not nearly that ambitious anymore, and I certainly didn’t hear 25 albums worthy of making such a list this year. That is why I’m going to present you with my Top Ten of 2008. I know, they are completely subjective and you might think all of these records such, but that’s ok, because everything on this list captured my imagination and reminded me why I still buy cds, at least for a little while. So here they are:
1) The Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound. Simply an amazing record that captures the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, modern day punk, and everything in between.
2) Fall Out Boy, Folie a’ Deux. It’s hard to justify putting a band like Fall Out Boy on this list, but they’ve simply never let me down. Folie a’ Deux is pure genious.
3) The Matches, A Band in Hope. The most creative and original band I listen to somehow manages to “out-weird” their previous efforts.
4) Alkaline Trio, Agony and Irony. Openning track “Calling All Skeletons” is easily my favorite of the year. I listened to this record non-stop all summer.
5) The Academy Is… Fast Times At Barrington High. Never would I have though this band would make it’s way on to a list like this after their laughable last record, but Fast Times was the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year.
6) Bayside, Shudder. Classic Bayside.
7) Jack’s Mannequin, The Glass Passenger. I still haven’t decide if I like this or their debut record better, but both are excellent.
8. Funeral For A Friend, Memory and Humanity. The band’s top-notch guitar and drum work is aided by pristine production and Matt Davies’ simple yet supurb song writing skills. This record is a huge step back in the right direction after 2007’s disapointing Tales Don’t Tell Themselves.
9) Coldplay, Viva La Vida or Death And All Of His Friends. I never liked Coldplay in the past, but this record changed that instantly. It’s refreshing to see a band achieve the success that they deserve.
10) Valencia, We All Need A Reason To Believe. This is one of those records that, on the surface seems like another happy and upbeat pop-punk record, but on the surface turns out to be much darker.