Thursday, November 5, 2015

4 rock bands I've tried to love—but just can't

I have a confession to make: I don't like Radiohead. (I know, the horror!) Since I'm a music writer, I've taken great pains to educate myself about the artists that I "should" be into. Sometimes, it's worked out well, like with David Bowie or Bruce Springsteen. But then, there are other bands—bands that I won't deny have had a huge influence on modern music—that I just don't get.

And I WANT to get them, trust me. If any of you can find a way to help me make it through a Radiohead album long enough that I turn into a fan, please speak up. But right now, I find their music so painfully dull that I can't listen to more than a song or two at a time. (For the purposes of this post, I gave it another valiant attempt, but I felt myself falling asleep before one track had finished.)

Sadly, it doesn't end there. At the risk of losing all my music cred, here are 3 more influential artists that I can't muster up enthusiasm for, no matter how hard I try:

The Smiths 
Please please please explain this band to me
Dare I say it? Morrissey does nothing for me. Maybe if I'd gotten into his music when I was younger and angstier, we might have had a chance. Now I just hear about Morrissey being obnoxious and whiny, and I feel okay about my dislike.

Sex Pistols
I'm an Anglophile, but this is one British export that's not for me.
Everything you read about the Sex Pistols mentions how they couldn't play their own instruments, so forgive me for not being too impressed. I do love a lot of punk bands inspired by the Sex Pistols—and I love any excuse to use the word "bollocks"—but I just don't love this band.

Grateful Dead
Seriously, what the hell is this?!?
I took a history of music class in college, and one student chose to do a presentation on the Grateful Dead. I sat through twenty minutes of their trippy teddy bear videos, silently seething with hatred. You know what? I'll be okay if I never learn to love these guys. #sorrynotsorry

Monday, September 21, 2015

Band I'm loving right now: Finish Ticket

Lately, I've been really into Finish Ticket, an indie band with lots of catchy melodies and Young the Giant-style vocals. On the recommendation of one of my contacts for AbsolutePunk, I went to Spotify to check out their 2014 album, Tears You Apart, and fell in love on first listen. And earlier this month, they released an EP called When Night Becomes Day. I'm still getting to know that one, but I can tell I'm going to be playing it a lot over the next few weeks.

Finish Ticket is currently on tour with twenty one pilots and Echosmith, and I was lucky enough to catch their set last week at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC. They seriously blew me away. Over the years, I've endured hundreds of opening bands, and honestly, I've probably gone on to become a real fan of about maybe five of them (a sad truth of concert-going). But I am happy to report that Finish Ticket is joining that list. Despite being the first band of the night, they got the crowd cheering and rocking out quickly. I'm looking forward to seeing them again someday soon.

Check out the band's music here. Enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Knowledge is power

I've always felt like I don't know enough about music history. When I was growing up, my dad listened almost exclusively to Jimi Hendrix and The Talking Heads, so I've got some of the older rock acts down. But there's still an overwhelming amount to learn about. I don't need to become a walking encyclopedia of music trivia, but it'd be nice to have a better understanding of how today's scene came to be.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about a Coursera class on rock history that helped me start learning the basics. It was interesting, but I didn't want to stop there. Here's how I've continued educating myself lately:

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce by Bob Stanley
The amount of work that must have gone into this book is staggering. Of course it's impossible to go too in-depth with most of the artists, but Stanley lays down a solid groundwork of information. I would recommend reading it in pieces--take time to digest each group or genre. Otherwise, you'll be overloaded with information. And make sure you have Spotify available, so you can listen to the songs you're reading about. I found a few new favorites that way!

How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt
I make a point of buying music to support artists I love now, but in the past, I confess I downloaded my fair share of leaked albums. How that music got on the Internet, I had no clue. I assumed someone just ripped it and posted it online. This book starts with the German audio engineers who struggled for years to develop the mp3, and then spreads to a factory worker at a North Carolina CD-manufacturing plant who is responsible for almost two thousand album leaks. Completely fascinating.

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records
I got to see an advanced screening of this documentary (directed by the fabulous Colin Hanks) and I loved it. Sadly, I was too young to experience Tower Records at its peak, and this film reminded me of how much I missed out on. Despite the inevitable sad ending to the story, the documentary will keep you hooked throughout. Check out the trailer:

I'm currently looking for my next music history lesson, so feel free to send recommendations my way!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I'm still alive!

So, I haven't updated this blog once in 2015. Yikes. I do have a couple good reasonsI got promoted at work and I'm in the middle of planning a wedding, so things are a bit busy! But I want to get back into blogging about music more regularly. Not sure exactly how frequently that will happen, but I'll do my best to pop in at least more than once a year!

I have still been writing about music though. This summer, I started doing musician interviews over on AbsolutePunk. Here's some of what I've been up to:
Looking forward to interviewing more amazing artists over the coming months! If you're on, feel free to shoot me a note and say hi.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane

These were the days.
I miss 2004. My nostalgia has been building all year, as seemingly half of the bands I listened to in high school—Jimmy Eat World, Say Anything, Mae, Relient K, and the list goes on—announce tour dates celebrating the tenth anniversary of particularly spectacular albums. Every time another one of these shows goes on sale, I find myself both marveling at how fast the time has passed, and feeling like I should go curl up in bed because I am obviously an ancient old woman at this point.

Two days ago, I purchased tickets for Motion City Soundtrack’s anniversary tour for Commit This to Memory. I distinctly remember listening to that album in my eleventh grade history class. (Dear God, has it been almost ten years since high school already? These tour dates might be sending me into an existential crisis.)

Anyway, my point is that after I bought the MCS tickets, I swung over to Wikipedia to see what other bands put out albums in 2004—and wow, what a fabulous year for my iTunes library it was. These days, I can go for months between albums that I’m truly excited about. But back then, there was apparently new music to be thrilled about every couple of weeks.

Naturally, I had to make a playlist to really complement the reminiscing process. (I allowed a few favorites from early 2005 to sneak in too, because we’re practically there at this point.) The funny thing is, my taste in music has barely changed in the last decade. Sure, there are a few songs on this list that are just a little too emo for my “mature” (read: old and crippled) tastes now. But mostly, these are bands became my favorite when I was an angsty teen, and have stayed with me throughout my life.

So whether or not all these bands decide to do special tours for these records, I’m going to celebrate them on my own. Here’s the playlist, in case you want to get a feel for what how rockin' I was in high school:

PS: They were only on Now 16 in 2004! Ah, it was a simpler time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Molly and the Zombies + The Gaslight Anthem's new album

I’ve written (er, gushed) before about my love for Brian Fallon and everything he does, (The Gaslight Anthem, The Horrible Crowes, and just generally being a great human). I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but there’s something about his music that makes me feel like a teenager again. The lyrics grab me and I’m back to being that 14-year-old falling in love with rock music for the first time. While I still love music dearly, it’s rare that I feel that deep-rooted passion so strongly now that I’ve reached the age of 26. (When did this happen?!?)

Luckily, Brian never seems to take a break. A couple weeks ago, fans were treated to some recordings of another side project, Molly and the Zombies. Check out the five brand new songs here. So far, my favorites are “Long Drives” and “Smoke.”

And then yesterday, the Gaslight Anthem announced that their next album, Get Hurt, will be released on August 19. They’re proclaiming that it is “completely different than anything we had ever done before.” They released a short teaser that features a spitting man and a short rockin’ sample of a new song.

OK, my appetite is whetted. Is it August 19th yet?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The return of Autopilot Off

This morning, I was groggily checking Twitter as I waited for my puppy to eat his breakfast. Suddenly, I was jolted awake by this exciting announcement:


My inner 15-year-old immediately started rejoicing. I loved Autopilot Off so much back in the day and mourned the band's "hiatus" in 2005. But apparently, I've been a fan of the wrong Facebook fan page for the last few years, so I had no idea they'd reunited back in 2012 (although no music seems to have come of it until now, so at least I didn't miss too much!)

This picture hung in my tenth grade locker. 

It sounds like the guys really had the freedom to write these songs on their own. From the band's Facebook page:

Here is a link to two new songs that we are releasing for free download. This has been an ambitious project for us, encompassing the past several months. We handled all aspects of production ourselves, working on weekends and whenever our collective personal schedules would permit. It has taken a long time to generate anything finished, but it has been worth it to us to do our songs our way. We hope you enjoy them, and hope that we can complete more in the future. -Chris J, Chris H, Rob, and Phil

And these two songs sound similar to Make A Sound, the band's last full-length. They're punk enough to please old fans, rather than alienating them with a new style. I know what I'll be listening to for the rest of the day!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Meet Murray

Sorry for being MIA lately. I've been a tad busy because three weeks ago, my boyfriend and I welcomed a furry little bundle of joy into our life. Meet Murray, our 12-week-old corgi puppy!

For those of you who are dog lovers, please feel free to follow his Instagram account: @furrymrmurray. (This way, I avoid spamming friends on my personal account).

And to everyone else, I apologize for the lack of posts. Once things calm down a little, I'll be back with more music writing.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Concert: Ben Kenney and Brandon Boyd at Irving Plaza, 1/30/14

Ah, the morning after a great concert. I'm on a bit of a musical high.

Last night, I saw Brandon Boyd perform at Irving Plaza. Technically he was billed as his side project, Sons of the Sea, but he played plenty of songs off of his previous solo album, The Wild Trapeze.

You know, I've been to so many concerts at this point in my life that I don't get as excited about them as I used to in high school. But as I waited in the crowd last night, I felt butterflies in my stomach, like I was 15 again. Brandon and his band sounded amazing, as I knew they would. And they played so many good songs. Since this was only their third show ever, I figured I'd save the set list, in case anyone was curious:

The Wild Trapeze
Jet Black Crow
Space and Time
Dance While the Devil Sleeps
Come Together
Runaway Train
Courage and Control
Here Comes Everyone
Last Night a Passenger
Lady Black

The Great Escape
Where All The Songs Come From

Also, I don't want to overlook Ben Kenney, the opening act last night and the bassist for Incubus. I haven't listened to his solo project before (Why? What kind of fan am I?) but he killed it. Usually at Incubus shows, he hangs back and doesn't say much (he is the bassist, after all). But when he got his moment in the spotlight, he turned out to be funny, entertaining and a pretty spiffy dancer. Plus he covered City and Colour's "Of Space and Time" which made me absurdly happy. If you're an Incubus fan who hasn't checked out any of his many albums, I'd definitely recommend looking into them.

And I need you on repeat, all the time. How in the world did you get to be so fine?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Album stream: Blue Sunshine by U.S. Royalty

Today is an exciting day: I got to listen to my first anticipated album of the new year! I’ve been a fan of U.S. Royalty ever since I saw them open for Third Eye Blind a few years ago. Their debut album Mirrors never fails to make it feel like summer for me, no matter what the weather is actually like outside. It's just one of those records I never get sick of.

So naturally, when the band announced that they’re streaming their upcoming release, Blue Sunshine, a week early, I rushed to check it out. I’m only two listens in, but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s still got those warm vibes, which is exactly what I need to get me through this dreary January weather.

I was seriously impressed by the band when I saw them live a few years ago, so I can’t wait for tour dates to support this.

 Like what you hear? Get more info on U.S. Royalty and then pre-order Blue Sunshine.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Favorite Albums of 2013

Yes, I’m still alive. Sorry about the unplanned hiatus, but I got promoted at work (yay!) and my new position has been keeping me busy. Then there’s Christmas shopping and all those holiday parties, so I haven’t had much free time lately.

But the end of the year is approaching, so I had to create my list of favorite albums from 2013. Usually, this is a fun recap for me to look back on the past 12 months and reflect on all the great music that has come out. But as I assembled this year’s list, I felt mostly depressed at the pathetic number of albums I had to work with. Granted, I really did love all the music that I put on this list, but there weren’t nearly as many of them as there usually are. Did I miss lots of incredible releases, or were my favorite artists just slacking this year? Maybe I need to check in with my fellow music bloggers for recommendations.

Anyway, I’m going to assume that I loved the following albums so much that I just couldn’t bear to stop listening to them to find more new music. Here it goes:

Sons of the Sea - Sons of the Sea
I didn’t put this list in any particular order, but if I had to choose a number one record, I’d go with Brandon Boyd’s latest effort. I blog about him all the time, so you all know how obsessed I am with everything he does. Sons of the Sea sounds like summer, and it’s been keeping me warm all through the fall.

Such Hot Blood - The Airborne Toxic Event
This album grew on me a lot. And the bonus track, “The Way Home” is simply gorgeous.

The Hurry and the Harm - City and Colour
This summer, I saw Dallas Green perform outdoors in Central Park. It was a perfect setting for such beautiful music.

Burials - AFI 
Sing the Sorrow (the first AFI album I got into) turned 10 this year. Yup, a decade later and I’m still worshipping Davey Havok.

The Pop Underground EP - Andrew McMahon 
Also back in 2003, Something Corporate was the opener at my very first concert. Listening to Andrew McMahon’s solo work takes me on a magical journey back to that night. (Plus, these four songs are just so catchy!)

Guilty Pleas EP - Night Terrors of 1927 
I still miss The Honorary Title so much, but this EP helped fill the Jarrod Gorbel-shaped hole in my heart.

Paramore - Paramore 
I never really got into the band’s last release, brand new eyes, but the new self-titled album made me fall in love with Paramore all over again.

Save Rock and Roll - Fall Out Boy 
Similar to Paramore, I never really spent much time with the last few Fall Out Boy records. That’s not because I’m a snob -- I never bother to hide how much I love a good pop-punk tune. I was always more attached to the earlier albums that I listened to non-stop in high school. But this new album makes me want to start a dance party in my cubicle every time I listen to it at work.

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action - Franz Ferdinand
Oh Franz Ferdinand, it’s been too long. I’m so glad you boys have returned.

What were your favorite albums this year?

Friday, October 11, 2013

A thank you letter to AFI for an amazing show

Last night, AFI made me fall in love with music all over again.

Not that I was ever “out of love,” of course. I first discovered AFI when I was 15, and they’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since. And obviously, I devote plenty of my free time to listening to music and discussing it. But lately, I’ve become too old and lazy and boring at concerts. I’ve started missing the opening bands and recently, I skipped a show when I heard the headliner wouldn’t go on until 11 pm. Many times, I’ve caught myself feeling tired after a long day and wishing I could just go home instead of out to see a band. Part of me feels this is justifiable, as I’m no longer a college student who can sleep until noon. But deep down, I know 16-year-old me would be disgusted to know about this.

(For the record, I am always happy once I actually make it to the show. It’s just the effort of getting there and standing around waiting that seems to be the problem).

So, on to last night. I actually was extremely excited to see AFI again, as it has been many years and the guys are my musical gods. But wow, I did not know what I was in for. Davey Havok stepped onstage and I lost my mind like I was 15 and at my first concert again. (It was okay though, because all the hardcore dudes around me did the exact same thing). The music sounded incredible and Davey was strutting his stuff like the world’s most fabulous rock star. He even did a flip into the crowd. They blasted through a ton of my favorite songs, and I shouted along with all the lyrics that used to fill my AIM away messages. It’s probably a little odd to sing “I Hope You Suffer” while grinning giddily, but that’s what I did.

It’s not that I’m less passionate about music now than I was back in high school. It’s just that lately, I’ve been acting like a mature adult and focusing on my career, the future, etc. That’s all well and good, but I needed a jolt to help me out of my rut and to help me recapture those angsty teenage emotions again. Today, I feel like I’m carrying a little bit of last night’s show with me, and I feel lighter and bouncier because of it. So thank you to Davey, Jade, Adam and Hunter for being the best ever.  There’s nothing like a truly great concert to make me feel alive again.

Monday, September 30, 2013

I met Brandon Boyd (again)

How about that new Sons of the Sea album?!? I wrote before about the new solo project from Brandon Boyd of Incubus back when he was releasing an EP, but now the full-length is out. And I am in love! I haven’t wanted to listen to anything else since I got my copy last week. It’s much poppier than his previous solo work, The Wild Trapeze, but I’ve always admired how each Incubus album sounds different, and I’m glad that Brandon is continuing that tradition. My immediate favorite songs are probably “Untethered,” “Come Together,” and “Avalanche,” but really, it’s all great.

As if new music wasn’t great enough, I also met Brandon last night at a signing event at Looney Tunes CDs for Sons of the Sea and his new book (which is also fabulous!) I’d met him at an Incubus meet ‘n greet last summer, so I guess I was sliiiiiiiightly less nervous this time around?

All I could think about in this moment was "BRANDON BOYD IS HOLDING MY HAND."
The man has been my musical hero since I was a young teenager, so I don’t think I’ll ever really stop getting butterflies in his presence. But he was as gracious as ever when I thanked him for making such a difference in my life.  What a gentleman. I’m pretty sure he’s as close to perfect as a human can be.

Be sure to check out Sons of the Sea. Or else!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Music History 101

It’s always bothered me that I don’t know a whole lot about music history. Sure, I’ve got the last few decades covered, but as far as the 60s and 70s go, I don’t know much beyond obvious acts like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. So in an effort to change that, I enrolled in a free six-week History of Rock class on Taught by Professor John Covach of the University of Rochester, this course started around 1970s blues-rock and continued all the way up to the Backstreet Boys. (Obviously I was already an expert on the boy band era, but I’ll take any excuse to rock out to bubble gum pop). It was a fascinating (albeit short) program, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking to improve their music knowledge.

This picture of Dave Grohl and NSYNC pretty much sums up the 90s week of the course.
One of the best parts of the class was being exposed to new music from a different era. Each week, I’d make playlists of all the songs we’d discussed, and spend my afternoons rocking out to everything from Deep Purple to The Temptations. So now that the class is over, I’ve combined a bunch of the songs into one big playlist of the jams that stuck with me the most. So check out the list, and check out the course description if you’re interested. I myself will be participating in the History of Rock, Part I course starting in two weeks. Knowledge is power!