emo music

Crooked Shadows: Album Review

Way back when I started this blog, I wrote about my love for Dashboard Confessional. They changed my life in high school and got me into good music (click here for a more detailed description). They were my favorite band back then. For the past 9 years though, they’ve been M.I.A. as far as new music goes. Honestly, if you were to tell me a year ago that I’d buy a new Dashboard album, I wouldn’t have believed you because the style of music Dashboard plays doesn’t match my current interests. Plus their music reminds me of a specific time in my life that I’ve grown past. I still appreciate them for that time though. I’ve just moved on.

A little over a year and a half ago, I worked a Dashboard Confessional show. They were on the Taste of Chaos Tour with Taking Back Sunday, Saosin (with Anthony Green), and The Early November. It was an honor to work and one of my greatest full circle moments to date. I had the opportunity to stay for the show after I finished work and I, of course, took advantage it. I left early to watch the Stanley Cup Final (my team, the Penguins, were on the verge of winning the Cup) but stayed for about 5-6 Dashboard songs. However, I doubt I would have attended if I wasn’t working. That’s the best example I can give you of my recent feelings towards Dashboard Confessional. Three months ago that changed slightly.

Dashboard Confessional released their first single from their new album Crooked Shadows in November (the album was released on Friday). I saw it as a new music release on Spotify and decided to listen because I was curious. The single, “We Fight”, was pretty good. It was better than I expected. I wouldn’t say I was hooked, but I was happy their new song was something I would listen to. I felt the exact same way upon hearing Brand New’s “I Am a Nightmare” in June 2016 and The Movielife’s “Mercy is Asleep at the Wheel” over the summer. At that time, I also saw that Dashboard announced a new show date in my hometown in late January. I thought to myself that I’d definitely go to the show as long as I had nothing else going on. I even tried to see if a few friends were interested, but I delayed getting tickets in case something came up.

I ended up being able to go and took my mom to the show. She was always a fan of Dashboard when I listened to them in high school so I thought she’d appreciate seeing them at least once. The show was fantastic. I loved it, especially lead vocalist/guitarist Chris Carrabba’s stage presence. It definitely evolved over the years. It was fun to stay for the whole thing this time around and sing all my favorite songs again with a few new ones in between. Speaking of new songs, a week before the show they released another single, “Heart Beat Here.” This time upon listening, I was hooked. The song was a perfect blend of something I would listen to now mixed with that classic Dashboard Confessional sound (essentially Chris Carrabba’s voice). At that point, I thought to myself, “I might actually have to get this new album.” On Friday, I did.

Crooked Shadows, Dashboard Confessional’s seventh full length album, was released on Friday. The album is relatively short compared to the others. It’s only 9 songs long. Within those 9 songs though is the complete re-birth of a 2000’s emo band to a 2018 indie/alternative rock band. This album is far from emo. It’s purely indie rock mixed with indie folk, electronic, and alternative rock. It’s such a great blend of my current interests with classic Dashboard that I fell in love with it in a matter of hours. If you want anything reminiscent of old Dashboard, I’d recommend listening to the songs “Open My Eyes” featuring violinist Lindsey Stirling or “Just What to Say” featuring Chrissy Costanza. “Heart Beat Here” has an old Dashboard feel as well. At the Dashboard show I attended two weeks ago, Chris said the song is a continuation of “Hands Down.” I don’t know if I’d agree as far as the sound goes, but it’s definitely a great song. That track along with the other first five are absolute jams. My favorites are “About Us” and “Belong” (with Cash Cash) which I had on repeat Friday afternoon. “We Fight” is included in that bunch as well. I currently have the album in my car and I’m sure I’ll be listening to it on repeat for the next week or more.

This is the second time in less than a year that I’ve fallen in love all over again with one of my favorites (the first was Foster the People over the summer). Although I think this time, I’ve just fallen in love with new Dashboard so it’s kind of like falling love all over again. I would recommend their new album to anyone at this point, but especially to those whose music interests have grown and changed, much like mine have. Dashboard Confessional is back in the best way possible.

Advertisements

Warped

For 7 years from age 16 to age 22, I attended the Vans Warped Tour every summer. I remember finding out about Warped Tour when I was 15 from a friend in high school. It was at the time when I first discovered alternative music. Every year Warped Tour also releases a compilation album containing one song from every artist on that year’s tour. I became super interested in a few songs on the 2003 compilation that my friend had. That’s when she explained to me what the Vans Warped Tour was. I decided to purchase the 2003 compilation for myself and I was stoked to get the 2004 album upon its release (this was in the spring of 2004). More importantly I was extremely interested in going to Warped Tour that summer. Much to my dismay though, the tour wasn’t coming to my hometown. The closest venue that hosted the tour was 1 hour and 40 minutes away. At age 15, without a driver’s license and a car, it just wasn’t happening for me that summer. When the 2005 dates were announced a few months after the 2004 tour finished, I was pumped. The Vans Warped Tour was coming to my local concert venue and there was no way I was missing it.

Warped Tour began in 1995 as a skate punk/ska festival. It was founded by Kevin Lyman. In 1996, the skate shoe manufacturer and clothing brand, Vans, became the tour’s main sponsor. The Vans Warped Tour is the longest running touring festival in North America and the largest touring festival in the United States. In the late 90’s, the tour even went overseas to play dates in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and Europe. It returned overseas to play a date in London in 2012 and again in 2015. Through the years, Warped Tour expanded on its music genres to include pop-punk, hardcore, emo, screamo, metalcore, and even some hip-hop and pop bands and artists. Many bands like Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, and Paramore, got their start on the Warped Tour. There’s even one notable pop artist who got her start on Warped Tour, but I’ll tell you more about it as you read on. It’s been said that Warped Tour is an initiation of sorts for bands because its a non-stop, all day touring event with many other bands that goes across the country over the entire summer. It’s intense to say the least, but from what I hear, tons of fun too. From the perspective of an attendee, it’s also fun for the festival-goers.

I attended my first Warped Tour in 2005.  I went with two friends and my mom because of course at age 16 I clearly wasn’t old enough to attend a music event with a chaperone (*sarcasm*). I also didn’t have my driver’s license by then so it worked out to have her as a ride. One thing different about Warped Tour compared to other music festivals is that you never know the lineup until the day of the festival. When you arrive you have to locate the giant board of set times and make a list of when and where your favorite bands are playing. It was always the craziest part of the day because everyone goes to that board upon entry. It gets so crowded on the way to there. At least I knew about the board in advance in 2005 despite being a Warped Tour rookie. That year I saw Fall Out Boy (only some of their set because Relient K overlapped), Relient K, The Offspring, and The Starting Line. I also planned to see Something Corporate, but they cancelled all their dates. It was the year their lead singer, Andrew McMahon (now of Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness and formerly of Jack’s Mannequin too), was diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. I still had the best time and knew from then on I would be making Warped Tour an annual event in my life.

I had some amazing times throughout 7 Warped Tours. I saw tons of my favorite bands play, sang my lungs out, skanked in skanking circles (ska music), considered crowd-surfing (although I never actually did), drank overpriced water and gatorade (hydration was always important), was involved in a torrential downpour, and even saw Katy Perry play. Yeah that’s right Katy Perry played Warped Tour in 2008! Told you I’d tell you more about that pop star who got her start on Warped Tour. Well, it was Katy Perry. It was while she had the “I Kissed a Girl” single out. My friends and I were resting and talking in the amphitheater a decent length away from the stage where a performance was happening and all of sudden I heard the “I Kissed a Girl” song. We realized we were relaxing during Katy Perry’s set. We watched the rest of the song, which happened to be her last one. Thinking back on it now, it’s kind of crazy to be able to say I saw Katy Perry play Warped Tour given the level of popularity she’s reached, but I did. It happened.

I could go on about Warped Tour. My memories of the festival are countless. I could tell you about the time I skipped The Bouncing Souls set for Four Year Strong and missed the first words to “Lean On Sheena” getting screamed in my friends’ faces (it was our song), or watching Hellogoodbye and all their friends parade around in costumes during their set, or skanking to my favorite Less Than Jake song in a giant skanking circle. One year a friend who I attended with asked me if I thought we would still attend Warped Tour as we got into our 20’s and 30’s like some of the older people we would see at the festival. My response was something along the lines of, “Hell yeah! Why wouldn’t we?” At the time, I never thought I’d stop liking Warped Tour style music or wanting to attend the festival. I guess I was wrong about that though.

I attended yearly through 2011. I almost went in 2012 as well but decided against it because I didn’t feel like getting rained on again in the festival like I did in 2008 (plus I would have been going alone). That ended my 7 year Warped Tour run and I haven’t been back since. The reason being is that I stopped listening to the type of bands that play Warped Tour. I grew and so did my music interests. The last year I attended I could tell it was already happening. There were less and less bands I was interested in seeing. My focus instead became attending festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Bonnaroo, ones that played the kind of music I was listening to. Warped Tour was my first festival though (“you never forget your first”). It was also my second, third, fourth, and so on. It prepped me for future festivals and gave me plenty of amazing music experiences a long the way. It also gave me many memories with friends who I attended with and met up with at the festival throughout my years of attending. It was the summer event to attend while I was in high school and college. For all those reasons, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

If you’re interested in attending Warped Tour this year or checking out some bands playing the festival, head to the Vans Warped Tour website. Since this isn’t one specific band that plays the Warped Tour and therefore I can’t leave you a list of songs to check out, here’s a few links to some of my favorite Warped Tour performances and some pictures I took during my years attending the event.

“Rooftops” by Mest, Warped Tour 2003 (Also one of my all-time favorite songs.)

“The Words ‘Best Friend’ Becomes Redefined” by Chiodos, Warped Tour 2009

“I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry, Warped Tour 2008

“Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy, Warped Tour 2005

“Bada Bing! Wit’ a Pipe!” by Four Year Strong, Warped Tour 2010

“Devotion and Desire” by Bayside, Warped Tour 2009

 

 

 

The Early November

I know I’ve only had this blog for a little over a year now, but I’m still not sure why I didn’t make a post about this band at this time last year. Yesterday it occurred to me when I was trying to think of a blog topic for the week that it would be the perfect time to write about the band The Early November because ironically it is early November (obviously intentional). I used to listen them back in high school. I wouldn’t say they were one of my favorite bands, but I had quite a few of their songs downloaded.

I first heard of The Early November sometime between mid 2004-late 2005. I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment like I often times do with many of the bands I write about. I’m guessing it was some time after I purchased the 2003 Vans Warped Tour Compilation, which was in the summer of 2004 (“Every Night’s Another Story” is listed on my iTunes as being from that album). They came into existence a few years before I first listened to them though.

The Hammonton, New Jersey band was founded in 1999 by guitarist and front man Arthur “Ace” Enders, along with former member Jim Sacco (later replaced by Joseph Marro), Sergio Anello, and Jeff Kummer. The band signed with Drive-Thru records in 2002 releasing two EP’s that year, For All of This and The Acoustic EP (acoustic versions of all the songs on For All of This), with the label. The Early November played dates on the Vans Warped Tour and the Skate and Surf Fest the same year. While still touring, the band debuted their first full length album, The Room’s Too Cold, in the fall of 2003.

In 2006 the band released their sophomore record, a triple disc album, The Mother, The Mechanic, The Path. The album debuted at #31 on the Billboard Top 200, which was their highest charting album to date. It was around the release of the second album that guitarist Bill Lugg was added to the ensemble. In 2007 the band announced an indefinite hiatus and played their final show at Bamboozle on May 6th. At the time, the future of the group was uncertain, but they did not rule out a possible reformation, which is exactly what happened four years later.

The band reunited in the fall of 2011 to play several shows on the east coast. At one of the shows (Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ), it was confirmed that Ace was working on a new album for the group. The Early November’s third album and first album in 6 years, In Currents, was released in July of 2012. Since then, the band has toured and released a fourth album, Imbue,  which came out in May of this past year.

When I was in high school and college, I never had the opportunity to see The Early November live. I did see Ace Enders perform an acoustic show once though in early 2012 along with Anthony Raneri of Bayside, Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids, Chris Conley of Saves the Day, and Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. on the Where’s The Band? Tour. I’m pretty sure I remember Ace playing a few Early November songs along with songs from his side project band I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business. It was a fantastic acoustic show. I highly recommend seeing any of your favorite bands play acoustic if you ever have the opportunity.

Truth be told though, I haven’t listened to The Early November in a very long time. It’s been so long that I haven’t even heard any of the music they released post-hiatus. The last time might have been at that acoustic show almost 4 years ago and even then I wasn’t listening to them like I had in the past. Even now as I played their songs while writing this post, it occurred to me that things are so much different for me than they were back in high school. Their music falls under the emo, alternative, indie, punk rock genres. I can’t listen to their music and relate to it in the same way. I’m a much different person. I have more confidence, more hope, and an overall more positive outlook than I did as a teenager. Although my life is currently nowhere near where I’d like it to be and I’m still trying to achieve my goals, it does get better. For nostalgia’s sake though here are some of my former favorite songs by The Early November:

  1. Ever So Sweet
  2. Come Back
  3. All We Ever Needed
  4. Hair
  5. Sesame, Smeshame
  6. I Want To Hear You Sad
  7. Sunday Drive
  8. For All of This

Coachella Band Preview: Brand New

If you had asked me in the months between when I purchased tickets to Coachella until when the Coachella lineup came out who I thought was going to play the event or who I wanted to see at it, I could have given you a bunch of bands. The Arctic Monkeys. The Black Keys. Alt-J. Cold War Kids. Florence and the Machine. The list goes on and on. When the lineup came out in January, some of those bands made the cut (i.e. Alt-J, Florence, etc.). Many did not. What I wasn’t anticipating was seeing a band on the list that had been a major part of my life since around the time I started listening to “good music” in high school. It was a band that I haven’t listened to in several years because my taste in music changed quite a bit (when I strayed on a more indie route from my punk rock/emo/scene kid days). Even though that is the case, I can’t pretend I wasn’t stoked to see their name on the poster.

Coachella is noted for booking artists and bands that appeal to a wide array of music tastes. So, it shouldn’t have come as such a shock to see Brand New’s name on the lineup. I wasn’t expecting it but like I said, I was still pretty stoked. If you had asked me during my senior of high school who my favorite bands were, Brand New would’ve been in the top 3 so possibly seeing them as part of my first Coachella experience would be pretty rad.

Formed in 2000 from Long Island, New York (one of the best music scenes in the late 90’s-early 00’s), Brand New is made up of members, Jesse Lacey , Vincent Accardi, Garrett Tierney, and Brian Lane. Since their creation, Brand New has toured world wide, played countless festivals, and even performed on some late night television shows. They released their debut album Your Favorite Weapon in 2001. The second album, Déjà Entendu, came two years later and was a change in style from their first album. The first album was angsty, emo punk rock about all kinds of relationships. Most notably a few songs on the record supposedly took a dig at Taking Back Sunday guitarist, John Nolan, who was childhood friends with frontman, Jesse Lacey (for more on the bands’ feud you can check this out). The sound on the second album was way more mature. It was more alternative rock, more mellow at times, and much less angry. It was a progression of sound as well as success as it surpassed sales of their first album in a matter of weeks. Brand New’s third album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, was released in November 2006 and featured one of their most successful singles, “Jesus Christ”. The sound in this album also progressed from their second album. Although I would also consider it alternative rock, the band’s punk rock roots were less evident in it compared to Déjà Entendu (at least it seemed that way to me, but you could argue). Daisy, their fourth full length and latest album, was released in 2009. The sound in it was comparable to their third album and didn’t stray as much as the transitions between the other 3 albums.

In late 2004, a friend of mine introduced me to Brand New by burning me a copy of Your Favorite Weapon (it was actually the same friend who introduced me to Bayside). I was a huge fan from that point on. I listened to the CD constantly. I’m pretty sure I ended up getting Déjà Entendu not long after. It might’ve even been for Christmas 2004. I loved almost every song on Your Favorite Weapon though. In particular, “Failure By Design” was my all-time favorite. I related to the lyrics so much since I was such an emo kid at age 15. I purchased a Brand New t-shirt at Hot Topic (before Hot Topic got trendy) that is still to this day one of my favorite band tees. My Brand New “Because Mics Are For Singing Not Swinging” zip-up hoodie (another dig at Taking Back Sunday) was my go to during my senior year of high school. I screamed the lyrics to “Seventy Times Seven” when I got in fights with friends, and then I would put that song on the mix tapes I made them.

The first time I saw Brand New play live was in October 2006, my senior year of high school, when they were on tour with Dashboard Confessional. They opened for Dashboard. I saw them two more times after that. Both came in the spring of 2010, my junior year of college, within a week or two of each other. Yes, it was two shows on the same tour. I haven’t seen them since. I haven’t really had the desire to either since I experienced that second “musical enlightenment” in the spring of 2011 (my music taste changed a bit for those that haven’t read my blog posts).

Seeing them this year at Coachella would be like an added bonus (since I never expected to see them there). They’re playing on Sunday for both weekends in what will be their first Coachella appearance. I haven’t listened to them to prepare for their set because I’m sure if I do end up seeing it I’ll know the songs well enough already. However, if you end up seeing their set, I have a feeling they’ll be playing some new material. In November 2014, they announced a fifth album was in the works. I haven’t heard when it’ll be released but I’m sure they’ll use this opportunity to play a few new tunes. So if you’re like me and Brand New was part of the soundtrack to your teenage high school days (or if you’re into the kind of music they play), their set is worth checking out. It’ll definitely be nostalgic.

Song recommendations:

1. Seventy Times Seven

2. Failure By Design

3. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows

4. Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t

5. Jesus Christ

6. Archers

7. At The Bottom

8. Jude Law And A Semester Abroad

9. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot

10. Soco Amaretto Lime

Breathe in for Luck

Very rarely do we get the chance to see our favorite bands sharing the same stage while touring together. Fortunately, I happened to experience this 8 years ago tonight.

I was a senior in high school. Music was life (let’s be honest…it still is). Going to shows made me whole. I was such an emo kid. I followed the scene. Warped Tour was a must every summer. Band tees were a standard in my wardrobe. I constantly looked for new bands/songs that professed the words of every single solitary feeling my teenage body elicited. I wasn’t always this way though. I followed the mainstream radio pop for years until my freshman year of high school, specifically in the spring, when I went through what I like to call a musical enlightenment.

For many people out there, myself included, there’s always a band/musician/song/album/some sort of musical element that changes your life. For me it was a band. During my freshman year of high school I became exposed to music other than what was on the radio. It sort of started with Something Corporate when a friend of mine had me listen to Punk Rock Princess. At that point I liked just one or two alternative songs and I still listened to the radio. My enlightenment didn’t occur until I was first introduced to Dashboard Confessional in April of that same year. It was 2004, shortly after Dashboard released A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. They weren’t up and coming. They had previously released albums like The Swiss Army Romance and The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most (arguably their best). They had been around for a couple years and were known by those in the emo/indie/alternative fan base. But, they were the first band I ever really got into that wasn’t part of the radio pop/rap/R&B (cringe) stuff I liked at the time. It was huge for me.

A friend had recommended them and I gave them a shot. I really liked what I heard (pretty sure the first songs I listened to were “Screaming Infidelities”, “The Swiss Army Romance” and “Hands Down”). I went out and bought their third full length (A Mark, A Mission…). I listened to it on repeat trying to memorize the words to all the songs on that album, especially “Hands Down”. That was THE song. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say everyone wanted a night like the one described in “Hands Down”. It became my anthem that spring. The local hockey team (referenced them in a previous post) ended up making it to the finals of their respective league that year and I played the song before every game. I played it so much that my mom learned all the words and would get into it too (we used to bang on the car dashboard during that break in the chorus). That June my family planned a trip to Disney World and I found out Dashboard was playing the night of our arrival at the House of Blues in Orlando. I tried so hard to get my mom to allow me to go. It didn’t work out in my favor, but that entire trip was still amazing even without seeing my favorite band. The spring of 2004 was a special time in my life for so many other reasons, but this musical enlightenment was a part of that and I owe it to Dashboard Confessional.

That sounds like such a great ending to the blog post but I never even mentioned why 8 years ago tonight actually mattered. Well obviously it had something to do with Dashboard. But before I get into that, let me say the first time I saw Dashboard Confessional was in the Spring of 2006. A local college sponsored them as their spring concert and my friend Megan and I went to see them. It was everything I hoped for and my mom was happy I finally got to see them since she didn’t let me go in Florida. Then, less than a year later, you guessed it, they came back.

This time they were touring with Brand New, another one of my favorite bands that I fell in love with shortly post-Dashboard (told you Dashboard changed my life). This tour was probably the coolest thing ever for me at the time. My top two favorite bands in one night, are you kidding me? Who gets to see their favorite bands perform in the same night. Me. Duh. I was definitely going. I’m not sure how it happened either but I convinced my friend Shannon to attend this show with me (Megan..same friend from above…came along as well). It was pretty incredible that Shannon decided to come along because Shannon did not listen to the same music as me. She wore cardigans. She never cursed. She listened to all the radio stuff (she still does…extreme T-Swift fan). She just wasn’t the same emo/punk rock/indie/alternative kid as me, but I introduced her to Dashboard from a mix tape I made her (I made/make the best mix tapes I swear). She loved them from that. Plus this was going to be her first “real” show (general admission, pit, the works).

It was a fun night. At the time it was the best show I had ever been to (it’s still probably in my top 10 favorite shows). There were plenty of things that happened. Shannon wore converse (they were pink though…go figure) and screamingly confessed her love for Chris Carrabba. A classmate of ours almost got in a fight with a drunk girl. Brand New didn’t play Seventy Times Seven (teenage anthem forever…I was heartbroken). I sang along to so many songs that I knew and loved (“Vindicated”, “Bend & Not Break”,” Screaming Infidelities”). Most importantly, as the standard for Dashboard in those days, they always closed their shows with “Hands Down” (I wouldn’t have it any other way). That night was no different except for the fact that I got so pumped during the song I decided to jump up and down and ended up twisting my ankle when I landed on a bystander’s foot. It was a memorable night for sure. Can I say that it was hands down the best day I will ever remember, always remember? No. I’ve had some better times and no one kissed me like they meant it, but it was pretty damn good enough to come close.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite Dashboard Confessional songs that I recommend to the world besides all those listed above aka “Hands Down”, “Bend & Not Break”, “Vindicated”, “Screaming Infidelities”, and “The Swiss Army Romance” (that means listen to these too cause they are also my faves):

1. The Secret’s in the Telling

2. As Lovers Go

3. Saints & Sailors

4. Again I Go Unnoticed

5. The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

6. The Sharp Hint of New Tears

7. Age Six Racer (in particular listen to this on the day before the first day of school, Labor Day, or whenever the last day of summer is for you)

8. Rapid Hope Loss

Just to give you a head start on listening…the song of all songs: