Monday, October 11, 2010

favorite albums: 4-2

thanks for your continued readership. it's been a lot of fun to talk about these albums. i hope you give a couple of them a shot. there were a couple winners who got the #4 album on the nose, so kayla clear and tim hardie will both get a CD of their choice from the list! not many will be surprised about today's entries, but i think there will be surprises regarding overall ommissions. here are numbers 4, 3, and 2. be on the lookout for #1 at the end of the week!

4. Brand New - Deja Entendu (2003) - In Brand New's similar fashion to the transition into The Devil and God..., these Long Island emo kings took time to re-evaluate their music before releasing their 2003 masterpiece, Deja Entendu. I'm hard-pressed to encounter a friend into this style of music who does not attribute their love to this album. Jesse Lacey's voice is full of emotion and proves his belief in his lyrics. Deja is the epitome of the transition from teen angst into something deeper. His voice builds and drops, creating an epic ebb and flow, highlighted by the explosive borderline-screaming that comes out in some of the more powerful tracks (see: The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows).

Brand New made a name for themselves in the pop-punk genre with Your Favourite Weapon a couple of years before this release, but Deja put them on the map. If anyone has heard of Brand New, it has a lot to do with this release. I can remember walking through the halls of Pitt's buildings during my freshman year of college in 2003 listening to this album over and over and over. Every song hits a different heart string, from the low-key "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot", into the more upbeat "Quiet Things...", and climaxing several times with certain vigor in songs like "Jaws Theme Swimming". Deja, top to bottom, is an album that can be recycled again and again without growing tiresome.

Brand New have a way with expressing emotions through words, guitars, and drums. This album is a perfect example of a windstorm of emotions settled into one beautiful mess. I believe the anticipation of a new album is a result of what the band has given you in the past. Brand New's releases since Deja have been the most anticipated of my life because Deja set the stage.

Key Tracks: The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows, Jaws Theme Swimming, Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades

3. The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism (2007) - There are albums in your life that come along and change your perspective on music, performance, and life in general. A lot of times you know when it's happening, but in the case of Emotionalism I had no idea when it was happening. My friend Andy asked for me to burn him a copy of this album when we had it at WPTS a few weeks before its official release. He got his copy, but I didn't pay much attention despite how excited he was about its release. I burned myself a copy, but didn't listen for a few weeks. I remember the first time I listened straight through the album. I was walking to visit my sister and new nephew, Joshua, in Magee Women's Hospital in Oakland. At the time, I focused a lot of my attention on drums and electric instruments, so it took a while for this Americana sensation to sink in.

Once I let these boys from Concord, NC, sink in, it was all over. I watched videos when friends would send them to me and listen to tracks that people suggested, but it wasn't until a fateful trip to Kent, OH, that I was hooked. Seeing songs from this album played in front of me blew my mind more than I thought acoustic instruments ever could. The upbeat songs stood out at first (Will You Return?, Paranoia in Bb Major, Pretty Girl from Chile), but once I walked around with the music in my ears for a few weeks the others started to emerge. "The Ballad of Love and Hate", "The Weight of Lies", and "I Would Be Sad" have some of the most impactful lyrics you'll encounter.

The live show is what ropes people into the intrigue of the Avett Brothers, but the lyrics are what give the Avetts the layers to their music that keep people around for good. They sing about pretty girls they've encountered, running towards or away from something , and being honest and proud of who you are. The lyrics are encouraging, like in "I Would Be Sad" when the narrator is speaking with his father about a girl who has rejected him, or when the narrator sings about asking for a helping hand in "Shame". Scott and Seth sing about what we know, which is just a bunch of stuff that we need reminders for.

Key tracks: Paranoia in Bb Major, The Ballad of Love and Hate, Shame

2. Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American/Self-Titled (2001) - Great albums are acknowledged as great when we still listen to them, talk about them, and want to hear them live years after the album's release. I hate to say that I wasn't aware of Jimmy Eat World before this album, but upon hearing the title track on the radio and speaking with friends from Blade Runners about these Phoenix boys, I needed to know more. "The Middle" was released, I saw JEW at Metropol, and the rest is history. Clarity is the classic JEW release, but, like Deja Entendu for Brand New, Bleed American put JEW on the map. "The Middle" was the biggest hit in rock music in 2002 and their awkward and confusing band name became a household utterance.

Like any other album I'll put at the top of a "favorites" list, Bleed American is one that is fantastic top-to-bottom, features a good bit of diversity throughout, and can be enjoyed over and over without growing old. At a concert of theirs in Pittsburgh in 2007, 10 of the 11 songs from this album were played. Even the hardcore pretentious fans of Clarity, the release prior to BA, can acknowledge the greatness of their 2001 release. Jimmy grabs you with some catchy, upbeat, guitar-drive tracks (BA, A Praise Chorus, The Middle) before slipping into three of their most critically acclaimed tracks (Your House, Sweetness, Hear You Me). The album finishes with a few creative tracks that escape the standard pop song structure, including an incredible closer, typical of JEW (My Sundown).

Jimmy Eat World's ability to write songs that are catchy, creative, and memorable combined with their energy and deliberate instrumentation, have come to put together incredible albums. Their live show is intense and elicit emotions from first riff to final fade. The combination of songs on Bleed American is about as close to perfect as I've seen.

Key tracks: A Praise Chorus, Bleed American, Hear You Me

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