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.
In 2004, Bayside released their debut record, Sirens and Condolences. It was ok… at best. It featured one good single, a few decent tracks, and a lot of filler. The band seemed hardly distinguishable from their many emo-rock peers, and If there was ever a group destined to be lost in the Victory Records shuffle, it was Bayside. The only thing was, that’s not what happened. The band has released three full-length records since that time, and each one has been significantly better than the last. They have seen their fan base swell, and have even had their videos on MTV and heard the all-to-familiar “sellout” accusations. Their success has led them to this point, a nationwide headlining tour with the Matches, Valencia, and the Status in support.
The tour made a stop at Showcase Live, the brand new venue inside a movie theater next door to Gillette Stadium in Foborough Mass. At first, I was very impressed. The club is quite small, with a capacity of about 1,000, and features a setup that puts fans very close to the stage. While it was very nice to look at and had great sound, I would realize as the show went on that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but more on that later.
First up, surprisingly, was a local band known as Tour Du North. Apparently this was their first show, and they were actually from Foxborough. They were on stage due to the fact that Valencia was unable to make the show that night due to sickness. It was really a shame considering their new cd, We All Need A Reason To Believe is so good, and I had been listening to it non-stop. Either way, Tour Du Nord put on a solid, though short set. As mentioned earlier, the sound at this venue was great, so it was very easy to hear every word and every note played.
Next was The Status, an Altlanta based band who released their debut full length this October. They seemed to perfectly fit the current pop-rock mold, playing upbeat, catchy songs that might have been lacking in originality, but were fun nonetheless. I can certainly see them as the type of band that, with some luck, could garner attention from rock and pop radio stations in the near future.
Next was The Matches, who are, in my opinion, easily the most underrated band in the scene today. They
have released three stellar records, with the last two being as unique as anything out there today. They took the stage and put on one of the best live performances I’ve seen in a while, displaying more energy than most bands do throughout an entire tour. Lead singer Shawn Harris twisted and cortorted his body in every way possible while belting out the bands signature tunes, all the while displaying the facial expressions of a man who had been hooked up to a caffine IV for days. Highlights of the set included: every single song. They played a mix that consisted mainly of 2008’s A Band in Hope and 2006’s Decomposer, while also including “Chain Me Free” and “Sick Little Suicide” from their debut record, E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals. They closed their forty minute set with Paper Cut Skin, which included the surprising, and very welcome addition of the chorus from Between Halloweens in the middle of the song. While it would have been nice to hear both tracks individually, this miniature mash-up was executed so perfectly you certainly couldn’t fault them for presenting the songs in this fashion.
The Matches Set list:
Point Me Towards the Morning
Chain Me Free
Wake The Sun
Didi My Doe
Yankee in a Chip Shop
Paper Cut Skin (With Between Halloweens)
Bayside decided to open their set in the same way they open their new record Shudder, and that was with “Boy.” While it is a great song, I was surprised by the lack of reaction from the crowd. I chalked it up to the fact that the CD had been out less than a month and therefore wasn’t as familiar as any of the their older work. Unfortunately, the crowd remained disappointingly unenthusiastic for most of the set. Now this can’t be blamed completely on the crowd itself, for the overly-strict policies employed by Showcase Live were the real culprit, as “No moshing or crowd surfing” signs were posted all around the venue, and a bouncer in a suit and tie was constantly jumping into the crowd to enforce these policies.
This seemed to matter little to the band, who put on a great performace none the less. The mainly static crowd did at least sing most of the set back at Anthony Rineri at the top of their lungs. While they didn’t bounce and crash around the stage in the way the Matches did, Bayside still does have a solid stage presence. Much like the Matches, Bayside did a great job of presenting a mix of old and new, including “Masterpiece” and “Guardrail” from their first record. The new songs from Shudder all sounded great and included the aforementioned “Boy,” along with “No One Understands,” and “Rochambo.” Also, a Bayside review would never be complete without a mention of Jack O’Shea’s amazing shredding abilities, as he tore it up all night long.
One highlight of Bayside’s set was “Landing Feet First” from The Walking Wounded. While it was easily
theslowest song of the night , it inspired a huge sing along and sounded great. The band would close the set with Duality, and walk off the stage to the expected chants of “one more song!” Unfortunatly, they granted this request, and played only one more song, that being “Devotion and Desire.” This meant that Bayside had played barley 20 minutes longer than the Matches, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a 10:30 curfew, for this was exactly when the set ended.
Bayside Set List
No One Understands
The Walking Wounded
They’re Not Horses They’re Unicorns
Landing Feet First
Devotion and Desire
In general, the show was hampered by the teen center-eque rules of the new venue, one that I hope most bands will avoid in the future, despite its great sound and small size. The bands who took the stage were all great, and while it would be difficult to say the Matches stole the show when only about seven people were singing along, that’s more or less what happend. Bayside was very good and put together a great set list, but the Matches were amazing. In a perfect world, this would have been a co-headlining tour, and the boys from Oakland would be every bit as popular as their East Coast peers in Bayside. Unfortunatly, this isn’t true just yet, but record sales and popularity have never seemed to be at the top of the Matches’ list. I think they’re just a little too weird for that.