Poems as Prayer: A Conversation with Adrienne Novy

Adrienne Novy is one of the country’s most exciting young poets.  Her debut collection Crowd Surfing With God (published by Half Mystic Press) is sure to resonant with anyone who’s ever found community in a record, moshpit, or one line from a song.  We got a chance to speak with Novy about her poetry, religion, and pop punk. Continue reading

Imperfect Attempt: The Killers-Barclays Center, NY-1/9/18


After the first two songs of The Killers’ set on their Wonderful Wonderful tour, frontman Brandon Flowers quotes Evil Knievel: “People don’t pay for the perfect landing; they pay for the attempt.”  Unlike Knievel, The Killers don’t land as much as they attempt, and their performance at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center left me wondering if I’d pay for another attempt. Continue reading

25 Christmas Songs for People Who Hate Christmas Songs

I don’t remember when I started to hate Christmas music, but if I had to guess, it probably started when I first heard the broken skis variation on “Dashing Through the Snow.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Scrooge.  I adore the holiday, the Christmas specials, and everything it means, but I turn into a real Grinch, if you ask me to sing “Jingle Bells.”  Even though there’s nothing more that I’d love than to chuck the copies of Sounds of the Season: NBC Holiday Edition or  Michael Bublé’s Christmas from my parents’ CD collection, there are a handful of Christmas songs I like, albeit most of them humorous or less traditional tracks.  Therefore, I opted to find 25 Christmas songs that I actually enjoy.  Here are the definitive BurgerADay Christmas jams.

  1. The Mountain Goats-“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

If you’re like me, you’re of the opinion that everything John Darnielle touches turns to gold, and the Mountain Goats could even make a Christmas song bearable.  I only like this song when the Mountain Goats are playing it. Continue reading

Monday Mixtape: 11/28 (The Weakerthans, My Chemical Romance, Chance the Rapper)

The Weakerthans-“My Favorite Chords”

Following an excellent cover by Aaron West, I’ve been listening to a lot of The Weakerthans lately. Since there is not a lot of new music out at this time of year, I’ve found myself listening to Left And Leaving a lot lately.

Kanye West-“Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”

Yeezy is still in the hospital, but The Life of Pablo is sure to be on many Album-of-the-Year lists. Most of the tunes that have been played lately have been checking back on old songs for the year-end lists.

Joyce Manor-“Reversing Machine”

This cut from Cody sounds the most like an old Joyce Manor song, and it’s perfect foe late fall and early winter.

Modern Baseball-“Note To Self”

MoBo have been one of the hardest working bands of the year, while touring behind Holy Ghost. They’re about to close out the year at the inaugural Something in the Way fest, and “Note to Self” is one of the best most restrained tracks on Holy Ghost.

Chance the Rapper-“Same Drugs”

Coloring Book was one of the best mixtapes of the year. Where a lot of the music was celebratory gospel-rap, “Same Drugs” is the kind of soul ballad perfect for cuddling up with some tea or hot chocolate.

Brand New-“Degausser”

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me just turned ten, and there have been a number of pieces about the importance of this album. One of the most memorable moments from seeing Brand New on their most recent US run was during “Degausser” as the stage was soaked in red lights.


Mitski’s Puberty 2 is sure to appear on my year end list, and “Happy” has been a stand out since seeing her recent Webster Hall show.

My Chemical Romance-“Welcome to the Black Parade (Steve Aoki Remix)”

While a MCR reunion seems unlikely, Steve Aoki has kept the spirit of their breakthrough album alive by turning it into an absolute fucking banger.

10 Years of ‘The Black Parade’

July 20th, in the year of our Lord 2016, an instrumental version of the intro to “Welcome to the Black Parade” was played in a video shared over a quarter of a million times on Facebook.  Three years before, many of us mourned the loss of My Chemical Romance.  The breakup message had been cold and unexpected, but when that simple video of a flag surfaced, our hope was restored.  The next day, all faith was shattered, as the video only announced the release of a special tenth anniversary edition of MCR’s The Black Parade, which brings us here today.  One month ago, the Living With Ghosts version of The Black Parade was officially released.  And it has caused a lot of reflection on My Chemical Romance in the past month.

The story of My Chemical Romance’s formation is to Killjoys what the birth of Jesus is to Christians.  Following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, Gerard Way and Matt Pelissier began to view life differently and formed one of the great rock bands of the 21st Century.  The band released the hardcore-emo I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love in 2002, but they didn’t see mainstream success until 2004’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, which featured scene-kid anthems “Helena” and “I’m Not Okay.”

On August 31st, 2006, the band officially welcomed us all to The Black Parade at the VMAs.  The song showed a new classic-rock influence, and the presentation showed the world that MCR was ready for a fully-theatrical new album.  The band would embark on a world tour akin to The Who’s Tommy tour where they played the album in full.  Gerard Way would assume the role of “The Patient” every night, while taking the audience through the story and emotional cycle of the album.  Since the album is really a reflection of life events seen in death, it was easy for pre-teens and teenagers to project themselves onto Way’s macabre ruminations on death.

Being a seventh grader during The Black Parade’s release, I obviously had a lot of feelings about it.  The most shocking is probably: when the album first came out, I hated it.  You see, I was a metal kid, and seeing guys dressed as a marching band in make-up couldn’t top the likes of Metallica.  At worst, My Chemical Romance were the biggest abomination to music with their mediocre musicianship and dumb lyrics.  At best, they were just a cheap Marilyn Manson rip-off.  It wasn’t until I heard the song “Teenagers” in ninth grade that I began to reconsider my negative disposition of MCR.  I was mesmerized by I Brought You My Bullets.  Gerard Way’s scream in “House of Wolves” was incredibly heavy.  At that point, I understood how great this band was.

The Black Parade has a song for every mood a weird teenager has.  “I Don’t Love You” is the perfect song for when you find out your crush doesn’t like you back.  “The Sharpest Lives” was the song I’d put on as I was getting ready to go out with my friends.  It’s the cool kind of song that feels right to throw on a blazer as Way sings “Give me a shot to remember.”  While I’ve grown more interested in Chuck Klosterman’s interpretation of “Teenagers,” it is the type of celebratory jam for when you feel like the biggest fucking loser in your school.  “Famous Last Words” is easily a pre-cursor to a lot of the positive pop-punk that I would go on to love through college.

Reflecting on the album now, there’s only one clunker on it.  “Sleep” is a lackluster track that even the b-sides trump.  The title track is easily the most memorable, but “Cancer” is probably the most emotional.  There are few closers as anthemic as “Famous Last Words,” and even the hidden-track “Blood” is incredibly fitting.  While Danger Days served as the band’s swansong, The Black Parade’s legacy is most important to the band.  It’s as close to a perfect album as the band ever had, from the power ballads of “I Don’t Love You” to the shredding on “Dead!”

Living with Ghosts has been out for a month, and it’s been a fun listen.  The demoes are interesting, but they don’t really bring anything new to the beautiful Black Parade.  “Not that Kind of Girl” sounds more like a blink-182 song.  “All the Angels” is a skeleton of a song that could have worked within a larger work.  If anything, this is more of a downer since it’s not something anyone really asked for.  That being said, The Black Parade is this generation’s The Wall.  Maybe in 30 years, we’ll get a massive Black Parade reunion tour.  For now, we’ll carry on.

Remembering the 2006 VMAs


I didn’t know the VMAs were last night.  Between work, personal life, and general disinterest, it slipped under my radar.  People like to harken back to the golden age of MTV as the 80’s and early 90’s.  In Steven Hyden’s recent Your Favorite Band is Killing Me, he calls the 1992 VMAs the greatest and most interesting award show of all time, and maybe, he’s right.  While 1992 saw icons like Michael Jackson, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Elton John and so many more performing, this was two years before I was born.  The 1992 VMAs are a folktale for me.  The most iconic VMA incident in my lifetime is Kanye-Taylor in 2009, but the most important VMAs for me came in 2006.

In 2006, I was 12, and I’d just graduated from exclusively listening to Led Zeppelin and AC/DC to listening to pop radio, which at the time was dominated by alt-rock.  The Killers, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! at the Disco were among the most popular names in music.  Green Day was still living out the career-revival that American Idiot brought about.  That same summer, I became enthralled by the heavy metal of the 80’s.  Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Metallica were all just as relevant and new to me as Shakira and Beyoncé.  These star-crossed coincidences were all a large part of what made the 2006 VMAs such an event.

For starters, Jack Black hosted in 2006.  No one is more over-the-top heavy metal than Tenacious D’s own Jables.  Black opened the show with his own goofy musical number, and his vibrant enthusiasm radiates in everything he does.  Jack Black doesn’t do anything half-assed.  This is why a one-off performance of a friendship song by Tenacious D at this VMAs was incredible.

Even though the performances matter most, there were some interesting award recipients that year.  In addition to the standard awards, MTV gave awards for music featured in videogames and a famed “Ringtone of the Year Award,” which was awarded to Fort Minor.  Awards were won by people who would only be sparsely heard from again (James Blunt, Shakira and Chamillionaire).  Beyoncé, who took home 8 awards this year, would only take home one for best R&B video.  The Black Eyed Peas beat out Kanye.  Avenged Sevenfold won best new artist over future Video Vanguard winner Rihanna.  (Rihanna’s new metal logo may just be an attempt to make up for her lost first VMA).  Panic! At the Disco won video of the year, without winning any other VMAs.  The stage was also rushed during their acceptance by a man more notorious than Kanye, the mighty “Six.”  Gnarls Barkley and The Red Hot Chili Peppers were both winners and have remained staples for music fans and the public at large.  The All-American Rejects, AFI and Fall Out Boy were also award recipients, making it a great year to shop at Hot Topic and wear skinny jeans.  Looking at the change in winners in the past ten years is bizarre, to say the least.

The performances are where VMAs are made, and in 2006, there were some damn good performances.  Some of the best pop songs of the 2000’s came out in 2006.  Shakira performing “Hips Don’t Lie” is just as electric as it must have been inside Radio City Music Hall.  Beyoncé’s “Ring the Alarm” isn’t her best, but it’s much better than I remembered, including the brief dance break toward the end.  Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” performance is probably the best though.  The first thought I had was how inescapable that song was, but then, I realized why “Sexy Back” was such an overplayed song.  It’s because it’s fucking great.  Timberlake’s choreography and sweet tenor is still a testament to what a great pop-artist JT is.  It’s a timeless capsule into an early incarnation of the A-List giant.

Now, the 2006 VMAs were a great year for alt-rock.  The Raconteurs were the house band, and they performed with the father of alternative music Lou Reed.  OK Go did the treadmill routine on live TV, which is so much cooler with the additional angles and new choreography.  Axl Rose introduced The Killers to close the show, screaming “Do you know where the fuck are you are?”  The Killers are basically classic rock at this point, but “When You Were Young” was another inescapable hit.  Brandon Flowers and company secured a spot that now is reserved for superstars of Taylor Swift, Rihanna or Beyoncé level fame.  That’s how big alternative music was in 2006. This was also a year where over-the-top pop-punk was bigger than ever.  My Chemical Romance had just released The Black Parade, and they played the title track at the pre-show from the top of Rockefeller Observation Deck.  Seeing MCR play their biggest hit over the New York skyline with a children’s chorus wearing skull face paint showed that an album about death could be just as vibrant as a Fergie song.  Fall Out Boy introduced Panic! at the Disco for the performance that my sixth grade self was looking forward to the most.  Brendon Urie let his voice crack while trying to censor himself.  Ryan Ross walked down the catwalk with Urie as circus dancers surrounded the emo Lennon-McCartney that would never exist past two albums.

For kids who liked guitar based rock music, these VMAs gave validation to kids who would spend every summer at Warped Tour.  Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy were both nominated for VMAs this year still, but there were no rock performers at the VMAs this year.  Modern Baseball, some of the freshest faces in pop-punk, play Killers covers regularly.  Fall Out Boy have returned with a vengeance as pop-artists, but the magic of From Under the Cork Tree is lost in the new music.  P!ATD have grown into an interesting pop-act, with only Brendon Urie left.   Seeing MCR sing “Welcome to the Black Parade” on a rooftop paved the way for middle schoolers who would grow up to love bands like The Wonder Years, PWR BTTM, or A Day to Remember.  Even hearing James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” on a minimalist video set me up to listen to the like of Bon Iver.  In 2006, the VMAs birthed a bunch of emo babies with heavy eyeliner and all.  Some of us may have scoffed at Justin Timberlake in ’06, but we’ve found a place for him in our little-emo hearts.  While we may have grown to appreciate and enjoy the Beyoncés and Christina Aguileras of the world, we’ll never forget My Chemical Romance welcoming all of New York to Black Parade.

James writes sins, not tragedies on Twitter.