40 Songs I Liked in 2018

I’ve gone over my favourite albums of 2018, and now it’s time to discuss my favourite individual songs. In order to ensure variety, I’ve limited myself to one song per artist. Don’t think of this as my top 40; think of this as a snapshot of my musical tastes in 2018. Continue reading “40 Songs I Liked in 2018”

My Favourite Albums of 2018

In many ways, 2018 was a year of surprises. Previously reliable artists like Beach House and Kanye West released bafflingly mediocre albums, and previously mediocre artists like Joyce Manor and The 1975 released career-best work. These patterns are reflected in my top 20 list of albums released in 2018. It’s not as diverse a list as in years past – there’s more of an emphasis on rock music than usual – but it’s one of the most satisfying lists I’ve had in a while. Without further ado, let’s dive in. Continue reading “My Favourite Albums of 2018”

My Favourite Albums of 2015

It’s time for my annual list of favourite albums! I listened to a lot of new albums this year – a record-breaking 125! – so I had a lot of records to choose from in narrowing down my top 20. Still, it was a pretty difficult task. I’d say that every album down to #30 or #31 on my list could be in my top 20, depending on my mood. But I had to narrow down the list to just 20 records. Continue reading “My Favourite Albums of 2015”

Album Review: The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

All the people I’ve graduated with,
All have kids,
All have wives,
All have people who care if they come home at night.
Well, Jesus Christ, did I fuck up?

Sometimes, a verse in a song really stands out and speaks to me. The lyrics above are from “Passing Through a Screen Door,” the lead single off The Wonder Years’ latest record, The Greatest Generation, and not only are they an encapsulation of what the album is all about, but they’re also a scarily accurate reflection of my own feelings on life: the feeling of longing for a life that I don’t have; the feeling that life has an endgame that I’m farther than ever from reaching; the feeling that everyone around me is closer to that endgame than I am. These are feelings that the members of The Wonder Years know all too well.

Eventually, every pop-punk band has to grow up. Blink-182 did it by delving into moody electronics. Sum 41 grabbed onto melodic hardcore and metal. And New Found Glory…well, they pretended to grow up, at least. By the time The Wonder Years hit the scene, all their predecessors had already made stabs are “growing up”;  merely expanding their sound wouldn’t cut it if they wanted to achieve maturity in the eyes of the music scene. After all, they already had layered guitars and a hardcore edge. So they decided to confront the topic of growing up head-on, not as teenagers heading into adulthood, but as adults adrift in a sea of people who already seemed to have it all figured out. They left the snotty pop-punk of their first two albums behind with their third release, Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, an album that was equal parts fury and nostalgia. If The Wonder Years’ career trajectory could be mapped to the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief, then the band’s first two releases would represent denial about having to grow up, and Suburbia would represent anger and bargaining – anger at having to grow up, and bargaining to reclaim their past lives.

The Greatest Generation retains some of that anger, but it’s an album full of longing and yearning, of helplessness and despair. It’s the representation of depression and acceptance, of realizing and coming to terms with the fact that you may have fucked up your life and there are no do-overs. Appropriately, it’s a more subdued affair than its predecessor – well, “subdued” is relative when it comes to pop-punk – but it’s clear that the band was less obsessed with frantic energy this time around. Songcraft was the name of the game here, and it has paid dividends. The Greatest Generation is a wonderful album (pun not intended) and proof that the band has surpassed their predecessors in both the quality and maturity of their output. Continue reading “Album Review: The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation”

Releasing Songs Before an Album Drops

It’s time for my irregularly scheduled weekly blog post. I don’t know when I became a guy who blogged only weekly (not counting What I’ve Been Reading), but this schedule – if you want to call it that – is what fits into my life at the moment. Ideally, I’d let the ideas I’m writing about in this entry stew for a little while longer in my brain, but I wanted to post something this week, and I’m not confident that further cogitation would allow me to synthesize these ideas into a coherent thesis.

Earlier this week, pop-punk band The Wonder Years released a song, “Passing Through a Screen Door,” from their upcoming album, The Greatest Generation. It’s a catchy, fun song, dealing with topics that have come to be known as the band’s bread and butter: existential angst and the pains of growing up. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the band’s previous effort, Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, which I named one of my favourite albums of 2011. In fact, it sounded like it could have been a Suburbia outtake. It seemed odd to me that The Wonder Years would choose to preview their album with a song that could have easily been mistaken for a lost b-side. Perhaps the band doesn’t want to scare off its fans with anything too out there, but don’t they want to signal that they’re moving forward even a little bit?

That got me thinking: album previews can have a significant influence on listeners’ pre-release impressions of upcoming albums. Artists and record company execs aren’t stupid. I think they recognize this influence. With that in mind, I can identify some of the ways in which they used the tracks they chose to release to promote then-upcoming records in order to influence the pre-release conversation. Continue reading “Releasing Songs Before an Album Drops”

My Favourite Albums of 2011

Being busy with real life, I haven’t had a chance to listen to much new music in 2011. Moreover, I was disappointed in a lot of new music right off the bat (e.g. Incubus’ If Not Now, When?; dredg’s Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy; Bon Iver’s self-titled), and I grew tired of other albums (e.g. The Sounds’ Something To Die For; Death Cab For Cutie’s Codes and Keys). That being said, I did want to single out the four albums that I really enjoyed this year. I’m not going to rank them all, but I will crown one of them “album of the year.” The list follows after the jump. Continue reading “My Favourite Albums of 2011”