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Top Ten Records of 2008

December 29, 2008 Leave a comment

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.

Call It Treason While You Can…

July 23, 2008 3 comments

All Time Low
Hit the Lights
Valencia
There for Tomorrow
July 21st 2008
Webster Theatre, Hartford

…treason, because I know that I’ve pretty much breached the faith* of every single person who I had tricked into thinking I had decent music tastes by going to see All Time Low. Yes, their fans are mainly 13-16 year-old girls. Their lyrics aren’t in any way profound or original, and (when they actually keep their shirts on), they wear those obnoxious, florescent scene hoodies on stage. Does any of this stop me from loving All Time Low, and did any of it stop me from enjoying the show? Of course not. I walked out of a stiflingly hot Webster Theatre completely impressed by the band, and not at all regretting the trip.

After waiting in a pretty long line to pick up my will-call ticket to this sold out show, I finally got inside the doors and, as I had predicted, witnessed a site that reminded me more of a middle school assembly than of any of the other shows I’ve been to this summer. The first band, There For Tomorrow, was playing their final song, thankfully. They sounded pretty bad, and looked like any other pop-punk band trying way too hard to be fashionable.

Next up was Valencia, gearing up for the release of their major-label debut at the end of August. I’ve seen them once before, opening for Saves the Day, and once again, I wasn’t exactly impressed. While they weren’t bad, they weren’t very good either. After watching their set, I felt the same way I feel after listening to their debut CD “This Could Be A Possibility,” just kind of “blah.” The crowd was sort of into them for most of the set, and got very excited when they finished with “The Space Between.”

Now, I went to this show knowing that I was probably going to just stand in the back and watch quietly, which I ended up doing. I was completely comfortable leaving the singing to all the little girls, and the moshing to all of the shirtless bros, especially considering it had to be 100 degrees inside that dump of a venue in the bad part of Hartford. This is why I can give a pretty objective review of the two bands everyone was there to see, the first one being Hit The Lights. Now this band, who recently released their second full-length, and first with new vocalist Nick Thompson, has gone through a lot and toured like mad-men over the last three years. That’s why I was so happy to see the crowd go crazy when they stepped on stage. Thompson looks like he belongs in a hardcore band, and you can tell by his stage presence he probably worship Gorilla Biscuits and Cro-Mags at one point. I like it.

The band played a very good mix of old and new songs, but considering that their latest, “Skip School Start Fights” was only released a few weeks ago, it was understandable that older favorites like “Save Your Breath” and “Speakers Blow,”  had the crowd screaming their approval. The band’s biggest song, “Body Bag” stirred them into a frenzy, and new single “Drop the Girl” was another highlight of the set. Overall, they sounded very good and looked like they were having an even better time being up on stage. If there’s any band I think deserves a lot more recognition than they get, it has to be Hit the Lights. They have the songs and the live performance to be pretty big pretty soon.

Obviously not my picture. I should probabaly cite it or something.

Obviously not my picture. I should probabaly cite it or something.

Next up was, of course, All Time Low. The first thing I have to say about their set is that the light show was awesome. I know, I know, I should be talking about the music first, but I felt all of the colors and strobe lights really added to the performance, which happened to be very good. Thinking of other pop-punk bands I’ve seen in the past, I wasn’t expecting All Time Low to sound all that great, but wow was I wrong. Lead singer Alex Gaskarth has a great voice and put on a very strong vocal performance, never sounding tired or out of breath despite the heat.

As for the set list, I liked it, but I felt they could have made some better choices. They played a mix of songs from “So Right It’s Wrong,” and their (completely awesome) cover of Rihanna’a “Umbrella.” Every song inspired a huge sing-along and the aforementioned shirtless moshing in the middle of the floor. I just wish they had included “The Party Scene” or “The Girls a Straight Up Hustler,” two of my favorites. Towards the end of the set, things began to get ridiculous on stage (in a rather amusing, “wow these guys like to embarass themselves” kind of way”). It started when when Alex scolded the security guards for manhandling crowd surfers as they came over the barrier. Considering most of them were 100lb girls, and the Webster security guards were being their normal boneheaded selves, his rant seemed more than warranted, and received roars of approval from the crowd.

Next, Alex stated how he normally wasn’t a fan of lead singers taking their shirts off, but he was going to have to do it this one time because it was just so hot up on stage. Haha, right. This of course inspired ear-piercing squeals from all the 13 year-old girls as Alex shook his head saying “no, no this is not good.” For a guy who writes half of his songs about summer and the beach, he sure looked pasty to me.

Towards the very end of the set, Alex was left alone on stage to perform the band’s token slow song “Remembering Sunday.” He wasn’t alone long though, as he was soon joined on stage by members of all the opening bands, wearing only All Time Low hot pants and carrying “F**k ATL” foam middle fingers. At one point, a large American flag was unfurled behind him and a beer pong table made an appearance on stage. This happened, seriously. The band finished the set with their hit “Dear Maria, Count Me In” while about 20 other guys jumped around stage throwing ping-pong balls and causing a ruckus. It was pretty amusing. While I would say that this was the typical “last date of the tour prank,” I wouldn’t be surprised if it had happened at every other show on the tour, knowing these bands.

While Alex had earlier said the band wouldn’t be playing an encore (and after a ton of people were thrown out for crowd surfing during “Dear Maria”), the band decided they would play one more song, that being a great cover of Blink-182’s “Damnit.” While it is obvious that ATL is strongly influenced by Blink, and true that they’ll probably never see the type of popularity their idols did, All Time Low seems to have taken the crown of “best fun summer music” band, and I have to say that the title is well deserved.

A Pretty good video of the absurdity at the end of the show

*I know, treason is generally meant to mean “acting to overthrow one’s governemnt,” but I really wanted to make that All Time Low quote work. The third definition of treason is “breach of faith, trechery.” So there. It works.