Top 10 Albums of 2016

I’ve listened to 100s of hours of music. I’ve listened to the same albums over and over again. After many hours of agonizing deliberation here are my top 10 albums of 2016. There were so many good albums this year that I contemplated doing a top 15 or 20 but no. No, I said. I must whittle them down to 10. Although, stay tuned I’m doing an article about my honorable mentions and why they didn’t quite make the cut.

This year I’ve switched from Spotify links to Apple Music links. Sorry, if that’s an issue but we’re an Apple household and Apple Music makes more sense. I’m sure you can figure out how to listen to these albums on Spotify. After each album you’ll get the link to the album and at the end you’ll get a link to the playlist of one song off each album. Alright, got it? Here we go!

10. Solange – A Seat at the Table (Columbia Records)

While her sister is busy racking up number one spots on every other best of list I vastly preferred this album. At 21 tracks and 50 minutes this album seems like it might be pretty daunting but it is downright breezy. The album features many interludes that start out appearing every few songs and then end up being between every song. And each one fits the track it’s about to introduce perfectly. I found myself enjoying every second of the album and actually being shocked when it was over. I couldn’t believe 50 wonderful, soulful, daring minutes had passed.


9. Joyce Manor – Cody (Epitaph)

Joyce Manor quietly released their best album back in August. So quietly that I only listened to it twice and then…..kind of forgot about it. When I went to go make this list I saw Joyce Manor and couldn’t for the life of me remember what I thought. I was sure it wouldn’t make the top 10 but I ended up listening to it twice in a row. By the end of the second listen I was in love with it. Joyce Manor has grown up and made their most mature album yet. All while still retaining all the things you love about Joyce Manor.


8. Newmoon – Space (Mayfly Records)

In 2014 Newmoon released their criminally under-appreciated debut EP Invitation to Hold. After that I assumed that maybe they had called it quits. But now here we are over two years later with their stunning debut album. Space is everything you wanted it to be. Delivering on the promise of Invitation… but expanding and refining its sound into one of the best rock records of the year. No one did reverb better in 2016 than Newmoon.


7. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost (Run for Cover)

Speaking of pop-punk bands getting mature. No one embraced that this year more than Modern Baseball. Their last album was a mostly light-hearted romp about girls breaking your heart. This album is centered around missing loved ones both alive and dead, depression, suicide, and hopefully getting better. The only question now is whether or not these guys are going to cheer up by their next album.


6. Sioux Falls – Rot Forever (Broken World Media)

Rot Forever the debut album by Sioux Falls (now known as Strange Ranger) makes zero sense on paper. 72 minutes of music that is supposed to sound like the entire range of indie rock in the 90s. Miraculously the band pulls it off flawlessly. Rot Forever sounds like an album you found in your older brother’s car. Something formative, exhaustive, that you could listen to every day without getting bored of it. How they could ever follow this up I have no idea but it’ll definitely be exciting.


5. The Hotelier – Goodness (Tiny Engines)

In one fell swoop The Hotelier cemented their place in the Emo revival with their incredible 2014 album Home, Like Noplace is There. Just a little over two years later the band returns with the grandiose Goodness. Everything from the announcement of the album to the packaging is infinitely more intricate than Home. And that goes for the music too. The band effortlessly weaves from spoken word interludes to tight chaotic indie rock jams. It’s the bands first attempt at inching towards something epic and they nail it. It’s clear that The Hotelier didn’t want to be pigeonholed as just another Emo band and they deftly dodged that tag with Goodness.


4. Balance and Composure – Light We Made (Vagrant)

The first time I heard Postcard the lead single from Balance and Composure’s third album it made me a bit weary. First of all it ripped off Radiohead’s I Might be Wrong and second of all… didn’t sound anything like Balance and Composure. Had the band gone off the deep end? We’re they trying to commit career suicide? Nope, turns out they made their best album. The album in full doesn’t sound that much different from the band’s previous work. They just added new layers on top of their existing sound. Light We Made is one of the most refreshing original sounding rock records of the year.


3. Into It. Over It. – Standards (Triple Crown Records)

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Standards is the best Into It. Over It. album. The album is filled to the brim with rock solid pop-rock with just enough embellishments to make things interesting. These songs are easy to listen to and I don’t mean that as a negative. I mean that the album feels like its over before it begins and then you just want to start it again. After the first listen I knew this was going to be a top 3 album of the year. Without hesitation one of the best albums of the year.


2. Touche Amore – Stage Four (Epitaph)

By now you probably know the story behind Stage Four. An album that documents the journey of singer Jeremy Bolm after his mother dies of cancer. But listening to it is another beast altogether. The first time I heard it I could not believe some of the lyrics. They aren’t just honest they are so intensely personal you will cringe. Some of the lyrics aren’t even relatable they are straight up just lines from someone else’s diary. It is very hard to listen to at times. Luckily Bolm is backed up by his more than capable bandmates who continue to combine bracing hardcore with increasingly more jangly indie rock. The closing track Skyscraper is mandatory listening in 2016. I always think there’s no way Touche Amore could outdo themselves and they continue to defy my expectations at every turn.


1. Frank Ocean – Blond (Boys Don’t Cry)

Frank Ocean spends the first three minutes of one of the most anticipated albums in recent history with his voice pitched up so high he sounds like an alien. And quite frankly he might as well be. Every four years Frank Ocean descends from the Heavens and blesses us with an album. An album that never sounds like anything else. Something that sounds like it came from another planet or even another solar system. Something so groundbreaking that no one even attempts to duplicate it. There is no one else that sounds like Frank Ocean. There is nothing else that sounds like Blond. Every time I listen to this album something new unfurls. A sound I never heard before. Wordplay I never thought about before. I look forward to the next four years between this album and the next. As I continue to uncover all the little treasures this album has buried in it. Maybe one day Frank Ocean will make an album because so far all he’s made is masterpieces.


Playlist Link: Coming Soon

Honorable Mentions, EPs, 7″s, Etc.

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Kevin Devine – Instigator
Planes Mistaken for Stars – Prey
Super Unison – Auto
Self Defense Family – Colicky
Self Defense Family/Null – Split
Dangers – The Bend in the Break
Oathbreaker – Rheia
American Football – American Football (LP2)
Hesitation Wounds – Awake for Everything
The World is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Long Live Happy Birthday
Wilco – Schmilco
Deftones – Gore
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Bon Iver – 22, a Million

Top 10 Albums of 2015

This year seventeen albums fought to make my top 10. I think that’s the most I’ve ever considered. Between all the great albums that came out and all the concerts I went to go see music was a central focus of my life in 2015. The fight for slots ten and nine in my list was brutal with me making a last second change just before I sat down to write this. I probably could have held off until New Year’s Eve and still had trouble getting this list exactly right. However, I’ve been confident in the top 8 for weeks now so its time to call it. This list feels good.

Don’t forget there are Spotify links to each album after each entry and at the end of the whole thing a playlist I made of 10 songs from this year’s list. And of course I would love to know what your favorite albums were from this year.

10. Citizen – Everybody is Going to Heaven (Run for Cover Records)


I didn’t know anything about Citizen until the hype train for this album started to leave the station. I was under the impression they were either a pop-punk band or a hardcore band. It turns out they are fans of both genres trying their best to not sound like either of those genres. Their influences bleed in from time to time but honestly there weren’t too many records like this one in 2015. The album is downright jarring. There are tracks that build and build into a catchy heavy ending just for the next song to start abruptly and its a straight up ballad. Everybody is Going to Heaven is uniquely Citizen.

Spotify Link: Everybody is Going to Heaven

9. Title Fight – Hyperview (Anti-)


Last year Epitaph released the fantastic album Keep You by Pianos Become the Teeth. The band changed almost their entire sound for that album. This year Epitaph does it again through subsidiary Anti-. Title Fight’s last album Floral Green had the band doing more of what they were good at, playing fast throaty punk rock. Except for a couple of curveball songs that found the band playing with atmospherics and actual singing. Little did we know that those songs were the precursor to Hyperview. This album is a brisk walk through an alternate universe version of Title Fight where someone played Floral Green 100x’s slower than recorded. Regardless of whatever baggage you attach to this band Hyperview is still a fantastic album. Separate it from what came before and you’re still left with one of the best indie rock records of 2015.

Spotify Link: Hyperview

8. Annabel – Having it All (Tiny Engines)


Having it All sounds like it came out of an early 2000’s time capsule. Like the last band to make a true Emo record before Emo got associated with bands like My Chemical Romance. And it had to be protected until people could appreciate music like this. If you ever drove with the windows down while blasting Nothing Feels Good this album is for you.

Spotify Link: Having it All

7. Wilco – Star Wars (dBpm/Anti-) 


No one was expecting Wilco to release one of their best albums this year. Mostly because no one even knew Wilco was making a new album. Star Wars was released the day of their headlining Pitchfork Festival set with no warning. This record finds the band wonderfully constrained. The band uses every trick in their bag on every song but they never waver or sound messy. All the songs are brisk and stay on track. By the time its over you want more and songs are stuck in your head. Wilco hasn’t been this fun in a long time.

Spotify Link: Star Wars

6. Defeater – Abandoned (Epitaph)


At this point I’m not sure Defeater will ever make another album as wildly ambitious as Endless Days, Sleepless Nights but on their latest album you get the impression that they are building towards something. Anyone who follows the band already knows their music is conceptual. Telling the same story over and over again from the perspective of different characters. But this time they throw back to lyrics and audio cues from past albums in a really obvious way. It makes being a long time listener exciting. On top of that this is definitely a big improvement on 2013’s Letters Home. Easily the best straight up hardcore record of the year.

Spotify Link: Abandoned

5. Self Defense Family – Heaven is Earth (Deathwish)


Self Defense Family is one of the best indie-rock bands in the world. Why they don’t get the respect they deserve I have no idea. Everyone should be raving about Heaven is Earth. In eight songs Self Defense Family accomplishes something that most bands spend eight albums trying to perfect. The band puts out nearly a half dozen releases every year but they really brought their A-game to their second album. If you’re a fan of slightly left of center indie-rock this deserves at least one listen.

Spotify Link: Heaven is Earth

4. Take One Car- Everyone You Know is Here Right Now (Broken World Media)


Take One Car make long songs. Almost all the songs on this album are over five minutes. But I can tell you from repeated listens that they never get boring. Take One Car are masters of tension. Every time the music gets softer its because you needed a break from the intensity. When it gets loud again its because the lyrics and vocals demand extra noise. The ebbs and flows are placed perfectly through each song. Like a roller coaster you’ll listen to this album again just for the thrills.

Spotify Link: Everyone You Know is Here Right Now

3. Drug Church – Hit Your Head (No Sleep Records)


Drug Church sounds like a band at odds with its singer. The band sounds like a throwback to great heavy 90’s alternative rock. Their singer is singing the most ironic sarcastic lyrics I’ve ever heard. There’s something about listening to a band play honest music while their singer rolls his eyes that just works with these guys. This album will make you feel better about yourself as you listen to depiction after depiction of some of society’s worst people. The album ends with one last breathtaking curveball that I won’t spoil here.

Spotify Link: Hit Your Head

2. Deafheaven – New Bermuda (Anti-)


We waited two years to find out what Deafheaven would do after their crossover success with Sunbather. New Bermuda strips away much of what made them likable to non-metal fans leaving just tiny breaks in their relentless assault. New Bermuda is heavier, scarier, and much less accessible than their previous album. Yet its also more focused and the songs feel more like songs and not pieces stitched together. The slower moments are more epic and create an atmosphere that makes me feel uneasy. By the end you’re left wondering what isn’t Deafheaven capable of.

Spotify Link: New Bermuda

1. The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die – Harmlessness (Epitaph)


In 2013 The World is a Beautiful Place were the poster children for the Emo Revival. Their debut album Whenever, if Ever is a landmark for bands trying to recapture the emotional indie-rock sound that marked third wave Emo. Instead of building on that Harmlessness completely rewrites the book not just for what Emo can be but what indie-rock is. The World is a Beautiful Place should be a much bigger band talked about in the same conversations as Arcade Fire, Ra Ra Riot, and Wavves. Instead they are stuck with their Emo tag playing to kids in tiny rooms. But maybe that’s the kind of band TWIABP needs to be.

Harmlessness takes us on a journey to teach us that not everything is going to be ok but there’s nothing worse than wallowing in it. While the music is busy changing genres the lyrics are on a whole different level. Harmlessness sounds like an audio guidebook on how to deal with your mental health. This album is downright inspiring and I could see it being a direct link to people getting help for their depression or anxiety. For me there really isn’t a better album this year. Musically this record is ambitious and more spontaneous than the meticulously planned Whenever, if Ever. The lyrics here are some of my favorite ever written. Every time I listen to it I can hardly believe over fifty minutes have passed. It never feels like a moment is wasted or any song is skippable. Harmlessness is an album not a collection of songs. Give it a listen and see if it does as much for you as it has for me.

Spotify Link: Harmlessness

Honorable Mentions, EPs, 7″s, etc.

MewithoutYou – Pale Horses
Refused – Freedom
Desaparecidos – Payola
Run Forever – Run Forever
Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi
Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb
Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP
The World is a Beautiful Place…. – Death to New Years
Drug Church – Swell
Touche Amore/Self Defense Family – Self Love
Birds in Row – Personal War
Loss Leader – Flex Your Hair
Warm Thoughts – Intangible
Adventures – Supersonic Home

Finally here is the Top 10 of 2015 playlist. Enjoy!

The 5 Bands You Must See At Riot Fest Chicago 2015 – Sunday

Riot Fest is a go! After a weekend filled with drama Riot Fest 2015 will proceed as planned. Here’s the last batch of bands I think you need to watch.

Doomtree – 1:30pm Rock Stage
doomtreeDoomtree the eclectic Minneapolis hip-hop crew plays a far too early set for the kind of raucous energy they are sure to bring to the Riot Fest stage. I can’t imagine a better early (for the last day of Riot Fest) in the day pick me up than Doomtree.

Hum – 2:15pm Riot Stage


Did you not get your full of emo-rock reunions on Saturday? Well Hum has you covered. Whether you only know “Stars” or you celebrate their entire catalog Hum doesn’t play very often so here’s your chance to see a band that should have been bigger than a one hit wonder.

Kevin Devine – 12:50pm Riot Stage


There are many different incarnations of Kevin Devine. There’s the quiet acoustic-tinged Kevin and the full on rock band version. I’m pretty sure we’re getting full band version but either way Kevin has been doing this for quite a while and has been a commanding presence at festivals for years now. I’ve seen Kevin Devine play a few times and it is always mesmerizing. Devine’s band is always full of super-talented musicians bringing new life to all the recorded material. Even if you know a lot of his songs you may not recognize them live and that is a treat to watch.

Manchester Orchestra – 5:15pm Riot Stage


Oddly enough Manchester Orchestra plays on the same stage a few hours after their best friend Kevin Devine. When Manchester and Kevin Devine combine they become Bad Books who played Riot Fest in 2013. Will we get a repeat performance? I doubt it but don’t be surprised if Kevin shows up to play in the Orchestra. Don’t know anything about Manchester Orchestra? They are one of the most powerful live bands I’ve ever seen. They put everything they have into their live show. Riot Fest starts with Into It Over It and the emotional onslaught ends with Manchester Orchestra.

Modest Mouse – 8:45pm Riot Stage

modestmouseSunday is a good day for the Main (Riot) Stage. And everything wraps up with Modest Mouse. It has been 15 years since I’ve seen them live but I remember how great it was all these years later. 15 years ago I never thought they would be a popular band let alone headlining festivals so it will interesting to see how they perform for very large crowds but if the last decade and a half are to be believed they’ll be just fine. Modest Mouse doesn’t technically have more than 3 “hit” songs so I’m excited to see a band that doesn’t really have any radio airplay navigates a festival. I guess I don’t need to convince you to see Modest Mouse they’re closing out the whole damn thing so lets just be excited that Riot Fest is wrapping up with such a great band.




The 5 Bands You Must See At Riot Fest Chicago 2015 – Saturday

Saturday is jam packed with reunions, nostalgia, and some of the biggest bands in the world. These are the five I think you need to check out.

American Nightmare – 3:30pm Roots Stage


Ask the current wave of melodic hardcore bands who their biggest influences are and American Nightmare (who for a short time were called Give Up the Ghost) will come up every time. We caught them a couple of years ago at Metro and it was easily the most chaotic show I’ve ever witnessed at a venue I’ve been seeing shows at for going on twenty years. How will that translate to a festival setting? I’m honestly very curious but they’ve been doing the festival thing for a while and I haven’t heard any complaints yet. In a day that’s honestly full of melodic hardcore bands I would guess this will be the stand out set.

Desaparecidos – 4:30pm Rock Stage


You guys know that of all of Conor Oberst’s projects this is the best one, right? You know it took them 13 years to release their second album, right? How are you going to miss this? Of all the bands that could actually start a riot at Riot Fest Desaparecidos seems like the most capable.

Drive Like Jehu – 6:40pm Rebel Stage


Drive Like Jehu are one of the links that connect hardcore to emo. They released their second album via Interscope records and then evaporated. That was 1995 and they played one show in 2014. That inspired some scattered appearances earlier this year and now Riot Fest in Chicago. Basically…’ll never get to see Drive Like Jehu again. So if you missed them in the early 90’s here is your only chance.

Lifetime – 1:10pm Rebel Stage


Let’s be honest the Saturday lineup for Riot Fest is so good its almost embarrassing to other festivals. Here’s another band that I never thought we’d see at Riot Fest let alone….anywhere. Lifetime was another influential emo-hardcore band from the early 90’s who just stopped playing and that was that. Out of nowhere they reunited in 2007 with big time plans. They signed with Fueled By Ramen/Decaydance and put out a fantastic self-titled album. Then….they played a few shows and that was that again. They pop up here and there on larger East coast shows and punk festivals but this will be their first Midwest date in a long long time. Could it be there last? I wouldn’t miss it.

The Movielife – 2:15pm Roots Stage


I could say the same thing about this band that I said about the previous four. The Movielife was big once, then they broke up, now they’re playing festivals. The Movielife is one of the most well respected bands from the 2000’s Emo movement and we get to watch them play Chicago for the first time in like a decade. See these five bands in a row, which you could do and get schooled on emotional hardcore’s history.

The 5 Bands You Must See At Riot Fest Chicago 2015 – Friday

It is once again time for Riot Fest in Chicago. Well, if it even happens at all. But if it does here are the 5 bands you need to check out on Day 1.

Alkaline Trio – 8:00pm Rise Stage

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio owns Chicago pure and simple. The energy between the band and their fans in their hometown for over a decade has always been a very special thing to watch. Odds are you were already going to see them but I just have to be sure. On a personal note Riot Fest started for me at their Empty Bottle show in 2012. This could very well be the last Riot Fest I attend so it would be nice to bring things back to where it started.

Coheed and Cambria – 5:45pm Rock Stage


Speaking of Riot Fest 2012 Coheed and Cambria put on one of the most memorable performances of that years festival. It really felt like the first set that weekend where everything clicked. We were watching a band at the top of their game play on a stage and the end of the street in Humboldt Park. Definitely a top 5 Riot Fest moment for me. With a new album coming out October 16th hopefully we’ll get to hear some new jams mixed in with the crowd favorites.

Ice Cube – 9:00pm Roots Stage


Ice Cube is playing Riot Fest. Oh, that sounds like a fun set to watch. Oh, he’s doing “Straight Outta Compton”? Hmm…that’s even more interesting. Well, also he’s billed as “with special guests” which at Riot Fest Denver included MC Ren and DJ Yella. That’s 3/4 of the surviving members of NWA for those not keeping track at home. On top of that the NWA movie is still raking in millions of dollars. What you have here is one of the most anticipated sets of the whole weekend. Oh, and will Dre show up? No, but….I mean…you’re gonna make sure he doesn’t right? We all are, we all are.

Into It. Over It. – 1:15pm Rise Stage


Into It. Over It. are the so called kings of the “emo-revival”. I tend to agree. Over the course of 2 albums and more singles and compilations than you can count Evan Weiss has gone from lone acoustic gunman to the leader of a great emotional rock band. I saw them last year open for Mineral and they were fantastic. I just wish they were playing more than just a brisk 30 minute set.

Thrice – 6:15pm Rise Stage


In 2012 Thrice called it quits or they called it a hiatus or something. They claimed their hearts weren’t fully in it anymore. I don’t know if they were talking about being a band or the hiatus because three short years later they are back at it. Playing mostly festivals but well…this is a festival and here we are so lets just go watch one of the best alternative rock bands ever play some music.




Top 10 Albums of 2014

Another year, another ten fantastic albums. My top 5 I was pretty confident on but the back 5 shuffled to and fro for a good couple of weeks. But after much internal deliberation I have arrived at my 10 favorite albums of 2014. This year started with some strong releases in January and never really let up. Much of my list this year is made up of releases from the first half of the year.

I bought a ton of music this year making this one of the hardest lists to whittle down in a long time. After each album I’ll include a link so you can listen to it on Spotify and at the very end I’ll include my top 10 of 2014 mixtape link. I’d love to hear what you think and what albums you loved. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

10. Code Orange – I Am King (Deathwish)

Code Orange

2 years ago Code Orange Kids, now just Code Orange released their debut album Love is Love//Return to Dust and broke new ground in hardcore. I had said that I thought they were trying to blaze their own trail in the genre and would become torch bearers for a new generation but instead on their second album I Am King they decide to break new ground in a different genre. This album is metal and as heavy as it gets. I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as the previous album but you can’t deny they have once again marked their territory and taken over another music scene. This album is worth listening to at least once just to hear a band at the top of their game.

Spotify Link: Code Orange – I Am King

9. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All (Run For Cover)


Every year one pop-punk album burrows its way into my head and since Mixtapes didn’t release an album this year Modern Baseball takes their place. Equal parts Blink-182 and Brand New this band takes the catchyness of Pop-Punk and fuses it together with the heart on your sleeve angst of Emo. So basically The Get Up Kids circa 2014. If all of that sounds good to you this albums deserves your attention.

Spotify Link: Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All

8. Self Defense Family – Try Me (Deathwish) 


You either love or hate Self Defense Family. Well, or you don’t know anything about them. In which case its time to get caught up. Self Defense Family or just Self Defense or End of a Year(yeah….its a long story)are a collective of musicians who when they get asked if they’d like to release something for a record label will almost always say yes. When it comes time to record whoever is around is who creates the music.

Try Me, their latest full length album is their most uncohesive yet. But don’t take that as a slam because its what makes the band so great. Think of this as less of an album and more of a….greatest hits of songs that were never released. Songs jump genres frequently one minute you’re listening to what could be a Jesus Lizard b-side and then all of a sudden they’re going female fronted alt-country on you. And on the digital versions the music is interrupted by two 20 minute interviews with 80’s porn star Jenna Fine(on vinyl its a second LP). These interviews helped inform the lyrics of the album.

By now you’ve probably made your decision you’re either going to give it a listen or stay far far away. Like I said….love or hate there’s not much in between with this band.

Spotify Link: Self Defense Family – Try Me

7. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love (Captured Tracks)


This album features a lot of feedback and when I finally saw the band live over the Summer they actually had a guy in the band who’s function was to create all that noise. And that’s the best way I can sum up this album. They need a guy to create the noise. Yet, underneath that are incredible lyrics, catchy hooks, I mean almost straight up pop songs in places. There’s hasn’t been a pop album this damaged since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and that’s the highest compliment I can think of.

Spotify Link: Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love

6. Dads – I’ll Be The Tornado (6131 Records)  


Dads should be all over the radio right now. Their second album I’ll be the Tornado is full of crushing catchy radio ready alternative rock. In the early 2000’s some bands that were on the radio were called “Emo” but by then the term had morphed to mean the way you dress or the way you do your hair. Dads is an Emo band but they bring with them an album’s worth of songs you’ll want to listen to in your car….loudly. After just a couple of plays you’ll wonder why everyone isn’t listening to this album. Here’s to hoping 2015 continues to elevate this band to the stages they belong on.

Spotify Link: Dads – I’ll be the Tornado 

5. Pianos Become The Teeth – Keep You (Epitaph) 


Its one thing to try new things in a couple of songs on an album or 7″ but it’s another thing entirely to change your sound completely between albums. In 2011 Pianos Become the Teeth released the screamo masterpiece The Lack Long After. Three years later they’ve returned with a subdued yet still intense new album. There’s no screaming to be heard anywhere just singer Kyle Durfey’s incredible singing voice. Did he always knew he had this in him? And the band? On point almost the entire time. I don’t love every moment on Keep You but I was consistently blown away by the craftsmanship on display and the band’s willingness to completely alienate their fanbase. Maybe that’s why this album is so high on my list because I know what came before and I can’t believe what I’m hearing now.

Spotify Link: Pianos Become the Teeth – Keep You

4. The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There (Tiny Engines) 


I’m a sucker for a well crafted album. Something that feels like every second was planned out in advance. The Hotelier(formerly and still pronounced The Hotel Year)waste no time opening this album with one of the most spine-tingling, explosive songs released this year. If this song doesn’t put its hooks into you on first listen and drag your through the rest of the album I’m not sure what’s wrong with you.

The most impressive thing is the way the songs eat their own tail. The album opens and closes in a very similar way and the middle tracks mirror each other. Its a touch that elevates this from merely a collection of songs to one of the best albums of 2014.

Spotify Link: The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace is There

3. Tigers Jaw – Charmer (Run For Cover)  


Tigers Jaw broke up. I mean….well they did. Kind of. Maybe? Well, not really. This album is born of some strange occurrences. Before even stepping into the recording studio 3/5 of the band quit. Then as not to be dicks they decided to record the album with the other 2 members. They should have phoned it in. They should have sabotaged it. But like I guess they really aren’t dicks because Charmer is one of the strongest collections of indie-pop to be released this year.

If you’re looking for nothing but great catchy synth tinged pop songs you have found the right album. It only takes one listen for you to get addicted to these songs. The pacing is excellent moving effortlessly between ballads and faster paced songs and back again. Charmer definitely took me by surprise as….I along with a lot of people thought the band was done for but instead they resurrected themselves better than ever.

Spotify Link: Tigers Jaw – Charmer 

2. United Nations – The Next Four Years (Temporary Residence) 


After a six year hiatus Geoff Rickly’s satirical hardcore band has returned. Now featuring a fully fleshed out lineup including 2 members of the as seen earlier on this list Pianos Become the Teeth the band spent a year building up a new mythos for themselves. Saying they had been releasing music in other countries since they were banned from doing so in the United States. The album was originally released as a box set full of these fake releases and artifacts from the intervening six years.

While that may sound interesting and all…how’s the music? Absolutely incredible. United Nations takes aim at everything from politics to their own existence and mocks it at a million miles per hour. The most amazing part is that even as they make fun of their peers and themselves they left every other hardcore band in their dust. Heavy music just didn’t get better than this in 2014. Here’s to the next four years.

Spotify Link: United Nations – The Next Four Years

1. La Dispute – Rooms Of The House (Better Living/Workhorse Music Group)


2014 is the year I fell super hard for La Dispute and it is most definitely because of this album. Sure, I liked them before but now I’m infatuated. La Dispute released one of the best debut albums in the history of punk/hardcore and then followed that up with the sometimes hard to sit through Wildlife. It was obvious that the band needed to take their grandiose ideas and reign them in a bit.

Rooms of the House accomplishes that goal expertly. It was as if they threw their first albums in a simmering pot of water and what emerged was La Dispute stock. It is their vision perfectly executed with never a wasted moment. Every musical twist and turn the album takes feels epic, feels necessary, but never overstays its welcome or fades too soon from your ears.

La Dispute has crafted nothing short of a touchstone album for this generation of hardcore kids. Bands will be formed because a group of kids listened to La Dispute. Rooms of the House is the shape of punk to come.

Spotify Link: La Dispute – Rooms of the House

Honorable Mentions and EPs/7″ etc

Self Defense Family Duets EP
The Felix Culpa/Foreign Tongues split
Moose Blood I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time
Rescuer Anxiety Answering
’68 In Humor And Sadness
Adventures/Pity Sex split
Adventures/Run Forever split
Newmoon Invitation To Hold
The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die Audiotree Live

Well, that’s it. For those of you who want to hear a taste of each album this is my Spotify playlist featuring a track from each. I hope you enjoy.
Top 10 of 2014 Playlist

The 5 Bands You Must See At Riot Fest Chicago 2014 – Sunday

2 down 1 to go. Here are the four bands I think you need to see and the one band you absolutely must see.

1. Blue Meanies – 6:00pm Rock Stage

blue meanies

I remember a time in Chicago when Blue Meanies would headline over Alkaline Trio. Yes, that’s how old I am. Its been nearly 10 years since Blue Meanies has played a show. And looking over the rest of the lineup I’m not sure you’ll see another ska-punk-hardcore mashup this weekend. And even if there was they aren’t going to be as good as these guys.

2. Dads – 5:00pm Rock Stage

Photo by Andy Johnson
Photo by Andy Johnson

I’m going to be honest with you guys I’m not even a huge fan of these guys. But a couple of months ago I saw them open for Touche Amore and Tigers Jaw and these dudes can command a stage. They seem primed for a festival audience and could easily walk away being one of the most talked about performances of Riot Fest 2014.

3. The Front Bottoms – 1:10pm Rebel Stage

Photo by Maclyn Bean
Photo by Maclyn Bean

I’ve never seen The Front Bottoms live but I’ve heard its nothing short of a gigantic party. A shame that they play first on one of the side stages I would love to see them whip a main stage crowd into a frenzy. Regardless, if the weekend hasn’t ground you down by Sunday morning you should do everything in your power to get through the gates in time to see these guys perform their party-folk-punk.

4. La Dispute – 3:30pm Rock Stage

Photo by Dave Summers
Photo by Dave Summers

La Dispute is THE BAND YOU NEED TO SEE AT RIOT FEST. These guys have been playing festivals all Summer and knocking crowds on their asses. This is the one band I am most anticipating seeing this year. La Dispute is making genuine important rock music and you all need to bear witness.

5. Mineral – 4:45pm Rock Stage

Photo by Bryan Parker
Photo by Bryan Parker

I probably won’t be catching Mineral at Riot Fest as I’ll have seen them the night before at Double Door but if you aren’t catching their after show you better be there to see them at Riot Fest. Mineral helped define a genre of music and by all accounts their reunion shows have been just as incredible if not more so then when they were around the first time. If you want a history lesson in what Emo music is or…was catch Mineral.

The 5 Bands You Must See At Riot Fest Chicago 2014 – Saturday

Here are the bands I think you should see at Riot Fest Chicago on Saturday.

1. Saosin – 3:30pm Rock Stage


I told you Anthony Green would show up on this list again. For those who don’t know, when Saosin first emerged around 2003 they were fronted by Green. They found success on a self-released EP called Translating the Name. They were being courted by major labels and Anthony got cold feet and split. After years of do they like each other, do they hate each other we finally have a reunion. This could be a once in a lifetime event I wouldn’t skip it.

2. Say Anything – 4:45pm Rock Stage

Photo by Chris Martin
Photo by Chris Martin

Say Anything was supposed to play Riot Fest last year but had to back out. I imagine that if you’re a fan and you went last year this is a must see set for you since it’s a make up. For everyone else these guys know how to command a stage and have a huge back catalog of catchy songs. They also have a new album out that features……no guitars. I for one want to see how they pull them off live.

3. Taking Back Sunday – 8:45pm Rock Stage

Photo by Brenna Rushing
Photo by Brenna Rushing

Last year Taking Back Sunday played one of the smaller side stages and amassed a crowd just as large as anything on the main stages. This year they play on what appears to be another one of the “smaller” stages but with Riot Fest’s new layout there may not be much of a difference seeing as how dozens of acres have been added. Either way they put on a hell of a performance for one of the largest audiences at Riot Fest 2013. No reason to believe this year will be any different.

4. The World is a Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid to Die – 3:00pm Revolt Stage

world is a beautiful

The World is a Beautiful Place… put out one of the best albums of 2013 Whenever, if Ever. They also do whatever they want however they want live. They are a constantly rotating group of musicians. Sometimes there’s a spoken word dude with them, sometimes there isn’t. This is going to be one of the most spontaneous and heartfelt sets of the weekend and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

5. Wu-Tang Clan – 6:15pm Roots Stage

wu tangWhile they will most likely be the most ironically watched set of the weekend how do you not catch at least a little bit of Wu-Tang? After listening to nothing but rock music all afternoon you’re going to need a palate cleanser and I can’t think of anything better than the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. Maybe they’ll even let us look at that 1 of 1 edition album they made.


The 5 Bands You Must See At Riot Fest Chicago 2014 – Friday

The 10th annual Riot Fest Chicago is about a week away. This will be the third year it is held in beautiful Humboldt Park. The lineup is as strong as the previous two years and I wanted to highlight a few of the bands I think you should check out.

1. Circa Survive – 4:00pm Riot Stage

Photo by Jeff Farasi
Photo by Jeff Farasi

This won’t be the last time I mention Anthony Green in these Riot Fest posts and with good reason. He’s one of the best frontmen in the scene. His stage presence and vocals combined with the band’s incredibly tight playing will make this one of the highlights of the weekend. The fact that this won’t be the only time we see him on stage at Riot Fest is beyond a treat.

2. The Hotelier – 5:00pm Revolt Stage

Photo by Allison Newbold
Photo by Allison Newbold

The Hotelier, pronounced The Hotel Year have released possibly the first touchstone album in the age of the “Emo Revival”. This year’s “Home, Like No Place is There” runs a range of emotions so wide you’d think you need a bridge to find your way back. Luckily the album ends in cyclical sort of way. I know this might be confusing but you should really just listen to it. I expect their performance at Riot Fest to leave me feeling the same way.

3. Failure – 5:15pm Riot Stage

Photo by Brian Esquivel
Photo by Brian Esquivel

I first heard Failure while working at a College radio station. Their songs got stuck in my head but I wasn’t in love. But every once in a while I would think of those songs and before I knew it the band had disappeared. I never thought I would get to see them live but at Riot Fest dreams come true. If you’ve never heard “Stuck on You” there must be something wrong with you. Go listen to it, now!

4. Pianos Become the Teeth – 7:00pm Revolt Stage

Photo from Bear Trap PR.
Photo from Bear Trap PR

One of the most intense bands on the planet. To miss this set would be to miss almost the entire point of going to a music festival. Seriously.

5. Title Fight – 3:30pm Roots Stage

Image from Bear Trap PR
Image from Bear Trap PR

Title Fight isn’t quite a hardcore band. Not quite an alternative rock band. I’m not quite sure what they are. I don’t think they do either. Either way they’re a passionate band that is sure to bring a great performance to Riot Fest Chicago.

Top 10 Albums of 2013

This was a great year for music, I felt like no one genre dominated. It also seems like the mainstream media and even some mainstream listeners were crossing boundaries and listening to musical styles they would typically ignore. There was so much music this year that even artists I really like I didn’t get a chance to fully listen to their albums. This top 10 evolved more than any top 10 I’ve ever worked on. I eventually had to remove albums with songs I really really loved because I didn’t love them as albums. There’s a lot of great stuff missing so at the end I’ll include an expanded honorable mention section.

After each entry I’ll include a Spotify link so you can listen to the album but if you’re lazy I also made a playlist of my 10 favorite songs from my top 10. I’ll leave that link at the end of the list. Feel free to leave some comments and share your favorite albums with me.


10. Venna – Third Generation Hymnal (Broken Cricles) 


Third Genration Hymnal blew 2013 wide open by releasing in the first couple weeks of January. It wasn’t going to take me much convincing to like an album made by ex-members of The Felix Culpa but I was enamored with this release even after the first listen. Venna know exactly when to let a song breathe and when to let it exhale. The songs shift from soft ballad to rollicking acoustic number effortlessly. Unfortunately the band hung it up in August but at least they left us with this incredible album.

Spotify Link: Venna – Third Generation Hymnal

9. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (Columbia/Tan Cressida/Odd Future Records)


We all know the story of Earl Sweatshirt and his hotly anticipated 2nd album Doris. The only real question was would it deliver. It did, without a doubt. Earl raps over the dark twisted beats that Odd Future was known for when they were just kids making music on their own terms. Doris is a completely unorthodox hip-hop album. He routinely lets the guests rap first, segues are bizarre dark interludes, and the content is often in the vein of traditional hip-hop. The result is kind of genius, like a fun house mirror version of mainstream rap. Hopefully we don’t have to wait 4 years for the next album from Earl Sweatshirt because he has a lot of game changing to do.

Spotify Link: Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

8. Defeater – Letters Home (Bridge 9)

Letters Home

Defeater’s last album featured a 4 song acoustic epilogue and dare I say it some catchy tunes. They could have gone soft, made something even more accessible instead they got more aggressive. Letters Home is a blistering love letter (pun intended) to the genre they came up in. Singer Derek Archambault’s vocals are set to full grit sandpaper and the band almost never relents. Your ears rarely get a chance to relax during the album’s quickly moving ten tracks. Don’t expect an acoustic epilogue, don’t expect a catchy chorus, just expect one of the best hardcore albums of 2013.

Spotify Link: Defeater – Letters Home

7. The Front Bottoms -Talon of the Hawk (Bar/None Records)

The Front Bottoms

Once you get passed their silly name, you’ll find their mostly silly music. Talon of the Hawk is 12 tracks of instantly unforgettable folk-dance-pop-punk. These songs bored their way into my head and never left for weeks. I spent whole train rides to and from work playing this album front to back. If you’re looking for an album that you can throw on and not think about too hard while the world passes you by you could do a lot worse than this.

Spotify Link: The Front Bottoms – Talon Of The Hawk

6. Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish) 


No other album this year crosses genres harder than Sunbather. Do you like metal? Do you like instrumental post-rock? Do you like good music? Stop what you’re doing and give your ears the sonic treat that is Sunbather. Give yourself an hour and a good pair of headphones you’re about to take a trip and you don’t want any distractions. Deafheaven has crafted an absolute crowning achievement in whatever weird genre they have carved out for themselves. This album is absolutely worthy of all the accolades it has received from all across the music press.

Spotify Link: Deafheaven – Sunbather

5. Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence (No Sleep Records)


Last year Mixtapes put out my 4th favorite album “Even on the Worst Nights”. It was their debut album and was a fun giddy blast of male-female dual vocal pop-punk. Well, honestly that’s exactly what you get on their second album. But they have matured perfectly. The songs are better, the lyrics are better, the musicianship is great, the band has upped their game in every way. There’s no reason these guys shouldn’t be huge especially if they keep this up on their next album.

Spotify Link: Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence

4. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll (Island-Def Jam) 


There was no way in a million years one of the biggest rock bands in the world was going to come back from a self-imposed hiatus and make a good record. Especially after putting out 2 messy albums. Anyone who listened to Folie a Deux could tell that Fall Out Boy was headed towards an implosion. The album tried to merge genres but it was clear this was due to infighting in the band. On Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy sound like the most confident band in the world, like they were always supposed to be a dance-rock band. It may not sound like old Fall Out Boy, but it sounds like the best Fall Out Boy for the year 2013.

Spotify Link: Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll

3. Tyler, the Creator – Wolf (Odd Future Records) 


You either love him or hate him, but Tyler, the Creator released the most creative hip-hop album of the year. That is as long as you went into this knowing it was the final part of the trilogy Tyler started with this 2009 debut “Bastard”. This is by far Tyler’s best work. His production work is at a point where I’m sure some rappers would just wish Tyler would quit rapping and produce beats for them. The lyrics range from his silliest to his most deadly serious. And of course Wolf is part of the overarching narrative that has permeated all 3 of Tyler’s albums. And when you get to the end of  Wolf and you realize exactly what has happened and where this album fits into the trilogy you kind of just have to sit down and shake your head. How did this kid get so smart?

Spotify Link: Tyler, The Creator – Wolf

2. The World is a Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, if Ever (Topshelf Records)

whenever if ever

It took these guys 3 years to create and release their debut album and every second of it feels like its been meticulously planned. Its nearly impossible for me to start at the first track and not listen all the way through to the end. This was very very nearly my album of the year because its just fucking perfect. While this isn’t my number 1 album I can’t recommend it highly enough. Call these guys indie rock, post-hardcore, emo revival whatever just give this album a chance. Whenever, if Ever is an emotional ride that hasn’t been attempted since emo rock’s heyday. It blows me away every time I listen to it. Every piano key tickle, every lyric, every drum beat is placed so deliberately I find myself listening with my jaw open. These guys are incredible and if it takes them 5 years to make another album I won’t care as long as they do.

Spotify Link: Whenever, If Ever

1. Touché Amoré – Is Survived By (Deathwish) 


Touche Amore is my favorite band. This was my most anticipated album all year. It lived up to all the hype and then some. While its not nearly as cohesive as “Whenever, if Ever” the lyrical content hit me in a perfect place at the right moment in my life. The band’s musicianship is at all time high. It’s produced and mixed perfectly. These guys could be a huge huge heavy rock band based on this album. Is Survived By is all at once sweeping, epic, aggressive, and emotional. No band is bending the hardcore genre to their will like Touche Amore and they are gaining fans by the thousands every day. See these guys on their next tour because next time it might be in an arena, or while standing in a huge field.

Spotify Link: Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

Honorable Mention:

Balance and Composure “The Things We Think We’re Missing”
Kanye West “Yeezus”
Dowsing “I Don’t Even Care Anymore”
Sainthood Reps “Headswell”
The Wonder Years “The Greatest Generation”
Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience Parts 1 and 2”
Into It. Over It. “Intersections”
Shone “Heat Thing”
The Fold “Moving Past”

Top 10 Albums of 2013 Playlist: Top 10 of 2013