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The Ten Best Shows Of 2012

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

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

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Top Ten Albums And Songs Of 2012

December 30, 2012 1 comment

Image1. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

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.

Favorite line:

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”

Image2. The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

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.

Favorite line:

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”

Image3. Fun – Some Nights

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.

Favorite line:

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”

Image4. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

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.

Favorite lyric:

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”

ImageNeon Trees – Picture Show

While it might not be the most consistent album, Picture Showstandout 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.

Favorite Line:

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”

ImagePOS – We Don’t Even Live Here

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.

Favorite line:

Cold world
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”

ImageThe Vaccines – Come Of Age 

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.

Favorite line:

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”

ImageHostage Calm – Please Remain Calm

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.

Favorite line:
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”

ImageSharks – No Gods

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.

Favorite line:

We’re the overestimated underdogs

What you await from us, now you can get for yourself – “Til The Wonders Rise”

Image

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.

Favorite line:

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”

 

 

Honorable mentions:

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”

Honorable mentions:
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”

Top 17 Records of 2010: 11-17

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

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.