The Littlest Viking-Feelings & Stuff

On their third full-length, The Littlest Viking explore an array of musical styles with a forceful punk attitude while embracing the precise technicality of twinkly math rock.  Feelings & Stuff is not the most cohesive record, but what the duo lack in consistency, they make up for with a ferocity similar to a Tiny Moving Parts show with more memorable songs. Continue reading

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Top 10 Albums of 2017

There’s never really a bad year for music.  There are always going to be great albums from popstars like Lorde or underground masterpieces like Mount Eerie’s new album.  When it comes to deciding a personal top ten, it becomes a mix of what releases seemed most significant and what I returned to the most.  Where there were excellent albums from Kendrick, Japandroids, and Kesha, these were the albums that defined my year.  Also, shoutout to Run the Jewels.  RTJ 3 would’ve made the list, but they leaked it Christmas Day 2016, so too bad.

 

  1.  The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die-Always Foreign

TWIABP continue to carry the torch they helped ignite in the emo revival.  Always Foreign sees the band inching forward where Harmlessness left off.  It’s the band’s most politically-minded release-to-date.  “Marine Tigers” and “Fuzz Minor” are scathing social commentaries delivered by an impassioned David F. Bello.  The band also doesn’t shy away from creating indie-rock with a sense of grandeur, as “Infinite Steve” and “Faker” see the band embracing post-rock the size of which the band hasn’t grown to before.  With the songs “The Future” and “Dillon and Her Son,” TWIABP don’t shy away from Blink-182 style pop-punk, making this the most diverse set of songs TWIABP have ever released.

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2017 Albums of the Year: Honorable Mentions

Earlier this year, I made an effort to keep track of every album (regardless of release date) I listened to in 2017.  I gave up around May, but maybe I’ll try again for 2018.  By the time I called it quits, I’d listened to 122 albums, and upon reviewing the list, I did see a bunch of albums I did really enjoy but forgot about.  My best-of list will feature my top picks of albums that stuck with me from the time they came out until now, but these honorable mentions were also pretty great albums that I feel deserve some recognition.  In no particular order, some of the other great albums from 2017 are:

Lil Peep-Come Over When You’re Sober (Part One)

The morning I found out about Lil Peep’s death was strange.  I’d liked some of his songs, but his music hadn’t really grabbed and held me like it had for others.  I still felt sad, mainly just seeing someone younger than me die of an overdose.  I went back and listened to this album again that day, and I was surprised by how much it resonated with me.  Lil Peep is the sort of artist I wish I had when I was fourteen, because it’s relatable and catchy.  It really makes me upset that I wish I could’ve seen what else he could’ve done, not just for music, but for young sad kids that I do see a lot of myself in.

Black Kids-Rookie

Black Kids’ first album in nine years was a lovely return to form.  It’s an easily danceable indie-rock record with a bunch of quotable lines.  “Iffy” and “Obligatory Drugs” are perfect examples of how Black Kids maintain the same energy that could’ve left them an indie one-hit-wonder.  Continue reading

Japandroids: Terminal 5, New York, NY 2/23/17

In 2012, I was still a baby in the world of indie-rock.  I still listened to Marilyn Manson pretty religiously.  Eminem’s Slim Shady LP was still relatively prominent on my iPod Classic, and I mostly listened to Green Day above all else.  I was a senior in high school.  The world at my fingertips, I was pretty picky about what I deemed fine for my ears.  Still, that was the year I began listening to Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, and Lou Reed: gateway bands.  It was also the year Celebration Rock was released.  It seemed every major music publication discussed this breakthrough Japandroids record.  Armed with one of the best band names in rock, I figured these guys couldn’t be bad.  Celebration Rock was an absolute gamechanger.  I was fascinated by how two people could make such full sounds with great lyrics.  It became a staple of my first semester of college.  Even though my friends weren’t as enthused with lines like “Give me that night you were already in bed/said ‘fuck it’ stayed up to drink with me instead,” I was enthralled.  Celebration Rock is the type of record you believe you’re living when you’re just starting college. Continue reading

The 11 Best Two-Piece Rock Bands

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There are plenty of duos that may as well stand for the whole band: Lennon & McCartney, Page & Plant, Axl & Slash, the lineage goes on.  Even though these pairs tend to overshadow their rhythm sections, with few exceptions, people rarely consider these pairs to be the complete band.  Of the Beatles, Zeppelin, and Guns N’ Roses, Guns is probably the only act you struggled to name all the members because there are 5, not 4.  Of course, the power duos never stopped existing.  Marilyn Manson, Fall Out Boy, and Modern Baseball are all bands that have two distinctive figureheads for their bands.

Even though each of those bands are special and have aspects that make them stand out, there’s a certain credibility to bands that cut the size of those lineups in half.  Two pieces aren’t exactly new to rock music, but since the early 2000’s, a band can pull the simple trick of consisting of only two members, and critics are bound to have some sense of respect for it.  Now, we can sit here and argue the merits of abandoning a bassist, but the fact of the matter is: most two pieces are pretty good.  Here’s a list of the essential two pieces throughout rock history. Continue reading

Japandroids-Near to the Wild Heart of Life

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In Dylan Thomas’s 1952 poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” he writes:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 While Thomas would die the following year, his poem has endured from the way it captures the endurance of an eternal youth.  It’s been referenced by emo bands, Oscar nominees, and Rodney Dangerfield.  Japandroids’ Near to the Wild Heart of Life is the perfect adaptation of Thomas’s “Rage Against the Dying of the Light” poem.

The press surrounding the third Japandroids album has been calling this the Canadian duo’s most mature album yet, and it is.  Therefore, it must be more fitting that Celebration Rock was their “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” and this must be something more akin to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, right?  Wrong.  Celebration Rock was exactly that, a celebration of youth.  While Wild Heart has elements of coming-of-age, it also holds onto youth through tunes that are sure to incite nothing but rocking.  Songs such as the “North East South West” or are reminiscent of Japandroid songs on Celebration Rock and Post-Nothing, but the bad grows their sound to include acoustic guitars and electronic songs such as on “Arc of Bar” and “Midnight to Morning.”
Even though songs like “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” and “North East South West” are more than welcome, the most memorable songs are the ones where Brian King and David Prowse experiment or scale back ever so slightly.  This is least effective on “Arc of Bar,” where most of the song is overwhelmed by electronic sounds throughout the track’s 7-minutes, but it works best on “True Love and a Free Life of Free Will,” which is a Springsteen-like arena rocker about being in love and figuring out where you want the relationship to take you.  Still, some of the best songs sound like Japandroids songs just with a toe taken off the gas.  “No Known Drink or Drug” and “In A Body Like A Grave” could have easily appeared on Celebration Rock, but they don’t sound like a step backward.  “No Known Drink or Drug” helps keep the pacing from going stale on the album.  “In a Body Like A Grave” is a good mixture of the new sounds and old, while summing up the album in a perfect conclusion.
The largest part of Japandroid’s appeal are the joyous slogans that everyone loves to shout along to.  The chorus of the opening title track is perhaps the best example that the band are just as great as ever:
It got me all fired up
to go far away
and make some ears ring with the sound of my singing baby
so I left my home
and all I had
I used to be good, but now I’m bad. 
Also, love and commitment are now major themes of Wild Heart.  Where Celebration Rock sounded like the soundtrack to nights of liver pulverizing in search of one night stands and romance, Wild Heart has songs that glorify “plans to settle down” and reaffirm that
no known drink
and no one drug
could ever hold a candle to your love
It’s not love compared to drug use as much as it sees romance as necessary in lieu of drug abuse.  Still, none of these are restrained ballads.  Each song is still high energy, and even if you can’t mosh to it, you can’t fall asleep to it either.
Near to the Wild Heart of Life isn’t the same rip-roaring classic that Celebration Rock is.  Similarly, it’s not an album that’s for everyone.  The band ventures into territory that gives subpar performances like on “Arc of bar” or “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner),” but this is still a loud, raucous collection that defies growing up as much as it embraces it.  Japandroids won’t go gently into any good nights any time soon.
James Crowley is near to the wild heart of Twitter.