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.”
I haven’t lost my voice in a long time. In fact, the last time I lost my voice was in 2007, the day after a crazy Motion City Soundtrack show at a tiny club in Boston then known as Axis. That giant sing-along marked the last time Motion City Soundtrack would play a proper headlining show in the city until they visited the House of Blues for a co-headlining gig with Say Anything on November 9th.
In an interesting turn of events, MCS lead singer Justin Pierre would end up losing his voice prior to the show, rendering him unable to sing any of the band’s songs. Instead of canceling the show, the band would recruit a revolving door of singing talent to fill in, helping to turn an unfortunate situation into what was likely one of the band’s most memorable performances.
Since this review is mainly about Motion City Soundtrack, I might as well skip straight to their set and recount the great performances by Saves the Day and Say Anything a little later. I attended the Providence show two night earlier, and it was very obvious that Justin was having some major vocal issues. The next day, he would author a blog entry explaining the situation. It was pretty simple. He had come down with some type of sickness and wouldn’t be able to sing at the Boston show. Therefore, members of the tour’s other bands would handle the singing duties while Pierre would stick to guitar.
While everyone in the crowd may have known that Justin wouldn’t be singing, nearly every other aspect of the set came as a surprise. The biggest of those surprises came early, as the band took the stage under blinding strobe lights to the thud of an industrial dance beat. Say Anything lead singer Max Bemis then grabbed the mic and helped kick off the set with a 100% awesome cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Head Like a Hole.” Bemis, dressed in black from head to toe, channeled his inner Trent Reznor to near perfection.
In what would turn out to be a star-studded set, Bemis would exit stage left to prepare for Say Anything’s set, only to be replaced by Kenny Vasoli, who is not only a current Say Anything guitarist, but also the lead singer of Person L and The Starting Line. With a huge smile on his face, Vasoli would lead the band through early favorites “My Favorite Accident” And “Capital H.” While Vasoli didn’t need much help remembering the words, he did have a music stand with printed lyrics positioned nearby. Of course, the crowd stepped in to help whenever there was any doubt as to which line came next.
At this point, it began to look like the band was auditioning new singers, as Vasoli left and was replaced by afro-ed Saves the Day drummer (that’s right, drummer) Claudio Rivera. Considering he doesn’t actually sing for a living, the way he handled “Worker Bee” and “Better Open the Door” was quite impressive. The Saves the Day parade then continued, as guitarist Arun Bali shared vocal duties with MCS drummer Tony Thaxton on “Disappear.”
Open mic night then continued as Say Anything guitarist Jake Turner stepped in for “Her Words Destroyed My Planet,” who was followed by A Great Big Pile of Leaves frontman Pete Weiland for “A Lifeless Ordinary” and “Everything is Alright,” which had the crowd shouting the lyrics back at Weiland’s outstretch mic stand. One of the more remarkable aspects of the set was how well it was received by the fans. Despite the fact none of the fill-ins sounded a whole lot like Pierre, the crowd’s enthusiasm never faltered.
Vasoli would then make another appearance, this time to cover “LG FUAD,” “Indoor Living,” and “The Future Freaks Me Out.” All the while, Pierre did his best to tear it up on guitar, racing from side to side, bouncing up and down, and generally enjoying his new found freedom on stage. MCS would close their set with the help of Saves the Day frontman Chris Conley and two (somewhat) mellow numbers, “Last Night” and “Hold Me Down.” Despite the fact that he stared at a lyric sheet throughout the two songs, Conley still provided a very fitting end to the set.
Overall, Motion City Soundtrack’s revolving lead singer experiment worked much better than anyone could have hoped. Each temporary lead singer should be commended for his efforts, especially considering many of them had just learned their parts earlier in the day. The performance would somehow overshadow both Say Anything’s headlining set and Saves the Day’s opening set, which also deserve some coverage.
Saves the Day sounded great as usual. They did a great job mixing up their set list, featuring a number of Through Being Cool favorites along with newer material, including three songs from their upcoming record Daybreak. While only a small portion of the crowd may have been into their set, it is exciting to think about what they’ll be able to do headlining a show at a smaller venue sometime soon (hopefully).
Say Anything was the final act of the night, and they did their best to match Motion City Soundtrack’s performance. They certainly did just that. While Say Anything songs have a tenancy to come across very well in a live setting, they sounded as good on this night as I’ve ever heard them, and I’ve been to quite a few of their shows. The crowd, seemingly warmed up after MCS’s performance, was just as good, jumping, dancing, and singing themselves hoarse throughout the hour and 15 minute set.
While old standouts like “Woe” and “Alive with the Glory of Love” received huge reactions, songs from their recent self-titled full length got the crowd moving as well, especially “He Won’t Follow You” and “Do Better.” Bemis continually thanked the fans for their support, while at the same time begging them to come back the next time the band was in town. Say Anything is seemingly one of the venue’s favorite acts, having played the House of Blues three times in the past year alone.
Bemis and Co. would close the set with a two song encore. While “Plea” slowed things down, “Admit It!” finished the night on a high note, with both fists and fans flying through the air. While this may be the standard closing number for a Say Anything show, it put an exclamation point on a night that was anything but predictable.