Top Albums of the Decade 2010-2019

I’ve considering albums of the decade for a while now, and this where I’m at. I went through all of my lists for the last decade and pulled from that, plus how much I honestly listened to each of them for the past decade. Spotify playlist below.

I don’t know if this really merits full write-ups, but some short thoughts for the top 10:

I think I was fairly certain that even at the halfway mark in 2015, MBDTF was the one to beat. No one did.

The Monitor, despite the very up and down decade Titus had is still is their high water mark, despite what its creator has said.

Celebration Rock could be two, but I think had I switched those spots it might have been a contrarian pick where I had no argument.

High Violet is not only a great record, but had the best artwork.

Southeastern. Come on.

Robyn’s songs on this collection are modern classics.

Run the Jewels 2 is a record people are going to be catching up on years from now. Somehow both of it’s time and ahead of it’s time in 2014.

David Comes to Life brought Fucked Up to the next level. and some days I like Dose Your Dreams more. But ‘David’ means more.

In Colour is the sound of 2015 for me, the same way A Deeper Understanding was for 2017.

1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
2. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
3. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
4. The National – High Violet
5. Jason Isbell – Southeastern
6. Robyn – Body Talk
7. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
8. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
9. Jamie XX – In Colour
10. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
11. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
12. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
13. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
14. Craig Finn – We All Want the Same Things
15. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
16. Jeff Rosenstock – WORRY.
17. Telethon – The Grand Spontenaean
18. Deafheaven – Sunbather
19. John Moreland – In the Throes
20. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Favorite Albums of 2019

This year featured a lot of veteran artists pushing themselves outside of their boundaries to make records that in some cases, were career-bests. There was so much great music to sift through this year, almost any of these could be interchangeable on this list. A Spotify playlist with every album is at the bottom.

1. Sturgill Simpson – SOUND & FURY

Every record by Sturgill feels like a dare to his audience to follow him. Take the two albums that precede this one. The psych country of 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music evaporated in favor of 2016’s rock-soul hybrid A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. So, it’s no surprise that SOUND & FURY is a hard left turn. It’s a record full of scuzzy guitars and squelchy synths, each song crashes in to one another often without notice. Songs like the nervy, ass-shaking “A Good Look” slips right into the mechanical terror of “Make Art Not Friends”. Then you head into some seriously dystopian ZZ Top shit when you get to “Best Clockmaker on Mars”. That’s three of them in a row. The whole thing is a ride. Get on.

P.S. – Watch the accompanying anime film on Netflix if you want your brain bent just that much more.

2. Big Thief – Two Hands

What does it sound like when a band gets white-hot? Big Thief answered that twice over this year with two distinctly different records. Their first album of the year, May’s U.F.O.F. is full of dreamy, astral folk, including the instant classic “Cattails” and the album’s slippery title track. It’s a gorgeous collection that threatens to vanish in the ether, but always keeps its glow.

Surprisingly, the band released another, and ever better album in October. Two Hands feels firmly planted on the ground, the band playing both to and for each other. The killer “Forgotten Eyes” shuffles and stomps and lightly rocks, with Adrienne Lenker’s tense vocal lighting the way.

“Not” is simply one of the best songs of the year, and maybe the band’s best ever. Adrianne Lenker’s vocal performance on this song – a building, insistent vocal that eventually breaks briefly into a roar before the band kicks into a jam on a two minute long guitar solo that reaches out skyward. Briefly Crazy Horse in miniature, but then something totally of its own – breathing, vibrant, feral.

Two Hands and U.F.O.F. are staggering achievements – two career-defining albums, completely independent in their own sounds, released only months apart. Big Thief is a band that is operating at such a high level with impermeable intimacy that many bands work their whole careers for and may never find. How lucky we are to experience their band in this moment in time.

3. Bon Iver – i, i

Justin Vernon’s most famous project has had quite a decade putting together a gorgeous collection of records each representing a different season. First came his spring record – the soft rock thaw of Bon Iver, Bon Iver in 2011, then a five years wait before releasing the glitched out the digital ash of 22, A Million, a record he refers to as “our crazy energy summer record”.

This year, Bon Iver released the ‘autumn record’ in the cycle – i,i, – one that is both one of the brightest and best collections of songs he’s ever done. It’s difficult to describe a record so rooted in feeling – but when you hear things like the persistent digital heartbeat that connects the synths, orchestral swells and Vernon’s falsetto on “Hey, Ma” – you’ll then know the pure privilege of experiencing the alchemy of seemingly disparate sounds. Every listen unfolds some new element that doesn’t feel like it was there before.

4. The Hold Steady – Thrashing Thru The Passion

Brevity is important with this one – simply it’s a return to form. There was a time that another record with this band was not guaranteed, much less one with the six piece lineup. Thrashing is a joyous record that is full of human disasters, big riffs and life lessons. It’s the sound of a group having fun again, and after 17 years, that’s all you can ask for.

5. The National – I Am Easy To Find

Up until this year, The National had kind of been coasting on the dense, occasionally gorgeous sound they’d perfected with 2010’s High Violet. While subsequent records had plenty of bright spots, the returns diminished. They began to sound too tightly managed by their creators. The band could have made the same brand of moody, broody “The National ™” albums over and over again, but with I Am Easy to Find, they blew it all up to start over again.

It’s a record heavy on female vocalists – Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten and Gail Ann Dorsey. It leaves singer Matt Berninger a featured guest on his own band’s songs to thrilling effect.

With a runtime over an hour, it’s the band’s longest record, but it also has some of their highest highs – the gorgeous “Quiet Light”, the four-way vocal treat on the delicate “Hairpin Turns”. Then, of course, there’s the real treat for longtime fans of the band, “Rylan”, a song they’ve played live for almost a decade before it finally found a home on their last album of the ’10s. Just when you thought you had the answers with The National, they change the questions.

6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

Grief is both impossible to quantify or adequately express. Nick Cave’s teenage son Arthur died in 2015 when he fell from a cliff near the family’s home. Recording was underway for his 2016 album, Skeleton Tree at this time, an album not so much about the tragedy but still informed by it. It’s a staggering portrait of a man trying to come to terms with something that happened recently. It’s follow up, Ghosteen, examines that grief in greater detail. It’s a disservice to try to talk about any of these songs individually. Take time with it like you would if you were listening to anyone who has had to endure something unimaginable. It is a record of incredible beauty and intense sadness.

7. Oso Oso – Basking in the Glow

Leave it to Oso Oso to fill The Hotelier-sized hole in the hearts of emo fans. Somewhere in the past few years, emo has felt less-like a catch-all genre name/light insult to describe a full-hearted strain of indie rock and instead now is a bit of a badge of honor to describe lyrically intense, musically complex songs by quiet guys.

Basking in the Glow sounds like a record I may have loved somewhere in late 2004 early 2005, with none of the confusion or angst beset by band of the era. By nature Jade Lilitri’s songs feel a little more reflective and lighter on their feet. “The View” with that incredible hook – “My eyes lit up when I saw it/The view from where you sit/and apathy, I was in love with it” and the fluorescent brilliance of “A Morning Song” – “Living on my knees/Praying my sins crash into me/And now back up on my feet
I was so lost and alone/I was so far out and it shows”
. Basking in the Glow is a big, bright record that has just the right amount of introspection in a genre that could always use more of it.

8. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Sharon Van Etten spent most of the early 10’s making enduring records like 2012’s Tramp and 2014’s classic Are We There. Then she took a break. In that time she had a child and planned a move from New York to Los Angeles. At the top of this year came her first record in five years, Remind Me Tomorrow -new songs that disassemble her guitar based singer-songwriter confessionals and reconstitute them in exhilarating ways.

The aptly named “Comeback Kid” is a fist pumping miasma of dry drum hits and thick organ while “Jupiter 4” is a theremin backed dystopian love song. Moments like this are plenty on Remind Me Tomorrow, but the album’s true gem is “Seventeen”.

In the song, 30-something Van Etten talks to her younger self about her time in New York City. “Sure of what I’ve lived and have known/I see you so uncomfortably alone/I wish I could show you how much you’ve grown”. It hits right home for someone who spent the early years of this decade with those same romantic ideas of New York and survived to tell the tale about it in their 30’s.

9. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

After 2013’s staggering Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend parted ways with multi-instrumentalist/producer Rostam Batmanglij. With losing a key element and member of their sound, it’d be easy to assume that may have been it for the group. Instead, they took some extra time and released the double album Father of the Bride in May. It’s a kaleidoscope of many styles – rock, folk, jazz, psych and soul – there’s also elements from jam bands and samples of ambient Japanese tracks. With almost a dozen collaborators and disparate sounds across the album’s 18 tracks, it’s be reasonable to think that a record this big with this many cooks in the kitchen would be a mess. Listen to “Harmony Hall” then “Sympathy”, then “Stranger” – all different, but all unmistakably Vampire Weekend.

10. Spielbergs – This Is Not The End

The Norwegian trio seemingly came out of nowhere – and have seemingly stayed there. This Is Not The End is a collection of crunchy punk/atmospheric power pop that that’s irresistible on the first listen and every subsequent one. Just play it.

11. Telethon – Hard Pop
12. Garcia Peoples – Natural Facts
13. Craig Finn – I Need A New War
14. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
15. Pkew Pkew Pkew – Optimal Lifestyles
16. PUP – Morbid Stuff
17. Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
18. Jeff Tweedy – Warmer
19. The Highwomen – The Highwomen
20. The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

Strand of Oaks Eraserland is an Essential Visit


Strand of Oaks – Eraserland

Let’s get it out of the way: Eraserland is a career-defining record from Strand of Oaks. That’s saying a lot, as the project from Tim Showalter is punctuated by plenty of highs and lows. He’s an underrated songwriter that exists in starts and stops. For every HEAL, his breakthrough 2014 record, there are records like 2017’s Hard Love, which was not as warmly received. After thinking that Strand of Oaks was done after jettisoning his former backing band, he teamed up with members of My Morning Jacket for this, his sixth record.

Don’t be mistaken – this isn’t Strand of Oaks fronting My Morning Jacket. It’s a statement that’s far more consequential. The album opens with “Weird Ways,” where a dejected Showalter sings “I can’t feel it anymore/somehow I feel clearer than before”. He sounds dejected, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar as a slide guitar begins to accent his vocal. As the song nears its chorus, it begins to sweep, and at 1:30, a thunderous electric riff and drumbeat. It’s an incredible statement, invigorating life in to a group and proving that this is very different iteration of the band.

This continues with “Hyperspace Blues”. It is an apt title, as it feels like you’re zooming forward with Showalter in the Millenium Falcon. The guitars sound like the future, scribbling, squalling and fuzzing. Both ballad “Keys” and “Wild and Willing” sound like the most traditionally-sounding SOA song on the record, but it’s still a nice departure from the electric jolts of the first few tracks.

“Moon Landing” feels anxious. It’s full of squelching guitars (provided by Jason Isbell, sounding nothing like you’d expect from him) and humid rock organ. This fits completely in line with the lyrics, where Showalter ruminates on the death of Malcolm Young, the downside of being a professional musician when you’ve got a family, and Chris Cornell. There’s a lot going on here, but the last verse is both a little sad and a little true: “Cornell was born on the 20th of July/Same day I was born back in ’82/Same day Neil Armstrong took Buzz’s spot on the moon/Sometimes you get there first”.

The album’s title track feels positively huge – huge walls of synthesizer and monolithic guitars, it feels like you could live there. It sounds like Showalter wants to. He addresses someone named Mary who has been gone for some time, singing about wanting to “build a house where no one lives/get away from my phone and drugs/just my wife and people I love”. It sounds part fantasy and part hope. Then, moments later: “I am the Eraserland/I can start again“. Then it just feels like confidence. That’s real. It’s album of authentic, brutal moments and crafted by a band that can support the weight of Showalter’s conviction of a songwriter. Here’s hoping we make another few trips to Eraserland with this version of Strand of Oaks, because it seems like the right place to be.

Eraserland is out now on Dead Oceans.

Everything Else, 2018 Edition

My top songs, everything I listened to, and all of the other moments that made 2018 the year that was!

My Top Songs:

Everything I Listened To:

I made a playlist for every month this year of everything I listened to individually (excluding albums). Check it out. This will have additions through December 31.

Favorite Non-2018 Discovery:

Grateful Dead. Duh.

Other Stuff:

Personal: Getting engaged to Ali! Finally getting the opportunity go overseas! Moving into a house. Walking across Abbey Road with Camie and Cory. Getting to see a show at Preservation Hall in New Orleans! Meeting musicians I admire all year long.

Travel: FINALLY WENT OVERSEAS! London and Paris. Amazing. I flew fifteen times this year. Places I visited: Austin, London, Paris, Philadelphia, Jersey City, Asbury Park, Atlanta (first time!) Toronto, Minneapolis, New Orleans for the first time (so good!), Brooklyn, and the requisite Milwaukee trips.

Concerts: I attended 46 concerts so far in 2018. Maybe a few more? Here’s the list.

Health and Wellness: Arthroscopic knee surgery, bronchitis, sinus infections. Still did the Race to Wrigley 5K on a bad knee. This was not a banner year health-wise. More massages, acupuncture, still all good things.

The Hold Steady: SHOW 100! October 13, 2018. To get there, I did 20 THS shows in one year, including my first ever shows overseas. It’s the the most-ever in one year for me, eclipsing my 2009 record of 18. Ended the year at an all-time total of 106. I went to everything outside of the three San Francisco shows. Really great experiences, Massive Nights III may be the best four run stretch I’d ever seen. Best band, best people. New singles were great and everyone seems to be enjoying the live bootleg series.

Wrestling: Witnessing the biggest independent show ever with ALL IN. Went to Starrcast, met a bunch of great wrestlers. Pretty much any NXT PPV was good, including the North American title latter match WrestleMania weekend. Attending NXT Takeover: Chicago with Ali was great. Getting to witness Velveteen Dream vs. Ricochet live. Daniel Bryan winning the title back. Hard to pay attention to so much of it but the indie stuff captured my imagination this year.

Food:

Atlanta: Octopus Bar Varsity, Elizabeth Street Cafe, Jang Su Jang

Chicago area: Gideon Sweet (RIP), Craft Donuts + Coffee, Duck Duck Goat, Girl and the Goat, Kitakata Ramen Ban Na, Mockingbird

London: Dishoom, Beigel Bake, Harrod’s, Dark Sugars, all the pop ups at Camden Lock.

Paris: Les Philosophes and the cool crepe place at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

Philadelphia: Pat’s Steaks – had all of the ‘big 3’ after this one – Jim’s is the best. Reading Terminal Market.

Toronto: Egg Bae, Bar Raval, Baker Bots

New Orleans: Commander’s Palace, Cafe du Monde, Mother’s, NOLA, Port of Call, Tableau, Parkway Bakery and Tavern, District

New York: Lilia, Frankel’s Delicatessen, Peter Luger’s Steak House

More Music:

Big Sky Hunters released an album this year called Distance and it is very good and I feel lucky I got to be there when they recorded most of it.

Telethon’s Modern Abrasive is excellent and you need to hear this, as well as last year’s The Grand Spontanaean.

Favorite Albums of 2018

As usual, extremely hard to make a list of my favorites this year. There are plenty of great records from 2018 to check out beyond these ten! Spotify playlist of the top ten at the bottom of this article.

1. Foxing Nearer My God

I’m still overwhelmed by Nearer My God after all of these months. It’s an album title that smacks with the air of supreme confidence and ambition, one that too many bands fail to live up to. Foxing somehow does. It’s one of those super-rare occasions where a band somehow hits their stride as artists and hits a creative peak. Songs like the opener “Grand Paradise” with its blippy churn and the horn swells of the single “Slapstick” really are just setting up for sonics that are weirder and more ambitious. “Lich Prince” sort of feels like a woozy 2011 Drake ballad before it opens up to a gasping, monolithic rock song. Have the lyrics “I feel like a houseplant” ever been used before? Have they ever given way to a cataclysmic world-burning guitar solo? Has that ever segued into falsetto harmonizations all in the course of a minute? Of course not. That’s what makes it so awesome.

The album’s title track is a soaring, chugging power ballad, perhaps the most traditional thing on the record. “Heartbeats” doesn’t sound like a rock band at all – soundscapes tempered with program drum hits and orchestral samples that sound super familiar but transformed into something that feels entirely fresh. Nearer My God packs so much detail per song it’s impossible to quantify the breadth of what an accomplishment it is. It’s brazen, daring and still somehow so organic. It somehow feels we’ll be talking about it further down the line than we do now.

2. Lucy Dacus – Historian

I first heard about Lucy Dacus the way a lot of people hear about new bands: from the playlist of the 2016 VP-nominee, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Seriously. He included her song “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” on a streaming playlist. Turns out his daughter is friends with Dacus. Obligatory next-door neighborly plug it wasn’t: Dacus’s 2016 debut No Burden is seriously great. Historian is even better.

The Richmond based singer-songwriter builds on the confidence and songcraft of her debut by re-teaming with producer Collin Pastore, which was then mixed with John Congleton, who is known for his work with St. Vincent, among others. The result is a record that feels weightier and enveloping in sound opposed to the lo-fi sounds of No Burden. Dacus is 23, but the rich tone of her voice begets a singer whose doing it much longer. From the chugging opener “Night Shift,” a classic breakup song – “You got a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the night shift/And I’ll never see you again if I can help it/In five years I hope the songs feel like covers/Dedicated to new lovers” the sweeping, gorgeous “Body to Flame” and pop bite of “Next of Kin” – “I am at peace with my death/I can go back to bed”. It’s a career defining collection that’s worthier than the words written here, or like she says on “Addictions” – “invest your time in what’s worthwhile”.

3. Low – Double Negative

How preposterous is it a group like Low, in their 25th year, makes the best album of their career? Double Negative sounds like a Low record, in the sense you hear the vocals of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Rogers, but everything else sounds…different. At times Double Negative feels like a hymn. Other times it sounds like the instrumentation is disintegrating between your ears. Then it just sounds like the death of sound. It’s a masterwork that deserves and should be digested at once. Occasionally while, there are special albums sound like they’re living organisms. None have ever sounded like they’re coming to terms with the end of their existence. Until now.

4. Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams

For a group already known for their ambitious 2011 rock opera David Comes to Life, the thought they would top it with another double album seems patently insane, but they actually *did it*. It’s an overwhelming assortment of punk, psych, digital hardcore with elements of arena rock and other genre experiences. That said, it represents everything great about them to this point and pushing them in completely new directions for the future. It’s an album elevating a ‘great band’ to an ‘all-time great band’. Vocalist Damian Abraham has taken a less active presence in the group, being deployed a little more carefully across 13 of the album’s 18 songs – and it works beautifully.

Whether it’s the catchy-as hell glam rock stomp of “Normal People,” the disco-psych of the title track, and the gutbucket hardcore of “Living in a Simulation,” the throbbing snyth pummel of “Mechanical Bull” or guitarist Ben Cook’s shredded lead vocal on “Accelerate”, there’s a staggering amount to get into.

Dose Your Dreams is the sound of six people with disparate influences pushing outside what it means to *be* a band. No longer confined to traditional roles – there’s no longer one singer, one guitarist, one drummer, so on and so forth – they have made a record that’s messy, fearless and totally original, so much so that it needs to be heard to be totally understood. If it’s the last record the group makes then holy shit, they went for broke and nailed it.

5. John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness

John Prine’s first album of new material in 13 years is a great place to start with the legend’s career, as it kind of covers the ground of the sometimes funny, sometimes terribly sad songs he’s known for. Working with Dave Cobb (known for producing both Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton) Prine focuses on the mundanities of everyday life, and some of those songs like the humorous “Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967 (Crazy Bone)” and the tender “I Have Met My Love Today” is a gorgeous little love song that comes and goes in under two minutes. “Summer’s End” is probably one of the most beautiful, weightless ballads I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a record that’s a small gift, one that you’re welcome to have but did not at all expect. That’s the best kind.

6. Restorations – LP5000

On Restorations first album in four years, the group delivers an emotional wallop over seven songs in a 25-minute span. It’s a look into being in your thirties – appreciating all the things that the age brings – love, stability and the prospect of a bright future still ahead, but sometimes just falling short.

“The Red Door,” LP5000’s best song, addresses the process of gentrification. “Feel my pulse pick up with/every building that’s built/haven’t we all felt a little/a little in between before?”, Loudon says. Sure, he could be talking about the band’s hometown of Philadelphia, but it also doubles of the transitional point of your life of moving from one constant to something totally unfamiliar, with one of your favorite places being wiped away without a trace in favor of something hollow and empty, or worse, replaced with nothing at all.

It is a complicated record that has remarkable highs and lows in such a short amount of time. Restorations have always been a band that crushes with dynamic sonic shifts paired with bone-cutting truths. They’re a band trying to live the best they can and admitting it’s fucking hard. We’re people less about where we’re from and more about how we relate to each other through our experiences. In the unbearable nowness of now, it’s the best we can do. It’s good that records like LP5000 exist to remind us of that.

7. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Let’s get it out of the way: Believe the hype. All of Kacey Musgraves’s records are the real deal – slices of contemporary country that don’t sound like shit and hint at something greater and more progressive. Hint no more. Golden Hour is Musgraves best and most fully realized record, one that transcends country, or any genre really, with the focus on crystalline songwriting, and gorgeous arrangements. It’s the career-defining achievement of an artist who still might have not peaked yet. That’s inspiring. Just don’t waste any more time not listening to it.

8. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

It’s hard to classify exactly what genre the Edinburgh, Scotland-based group are, because they encompass so many different ones at once. It’s a little hip-hop, it’s a little indie rock, and then there’s some weird touches of R&B. They won the Mercury Prize in 2014 for their debut album Dead and were featured prominently on last year’s Trainspotting 2 soundtrack. Their latest, Cocoa Sugar is a breathtaking, densely layered collection melding Gospel choirs, skitter-stop raps and Radiohead-inspired sound beds.

I keep coming back to it time and time again because I’m always hearing something a little different each time. There’s not really any sort of comparison I can make for it from anywhere. Listen to “In My View” for some burnout balladry, the buzzing aria of “Lord” or the narcotic daze of “Wow”. It all changes from song to song and it couldn’t come from anywhere else. Like all great records, it rewards with multiple listens. It’s an excellent record which positions them on the cusp of greatness. They’re building a hell of a case for it.

9. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

This is not a knock on Janelle Monae’s past records, but Dirty Computer blows them out of the water. While she’s always been ahead of the vanguard with her high concept records, sound and style, she’s never sounded as loose and comfortable within her own sound than she does here. Melding R&B, hip hop and pop, she’s doing it in a way few have attempted. There are Brian Wilson and Pharrell guest spots. Stevie Wonder shows up. The guitar heavy “So Afraid” will stop you in your tracks. Plus, those synths sound positively freaky, none more than “Make Me Feel”, which may or may not have had some assistance from the dearly departed Purple One.

10. Jeff Rosenstock – POST-

Jeff Rosenstock seems to be advancing as an artist at hyper-speed, creating higher concept, epics-in-minutes style punk. 2016’s Worry was a landmark record in terms of Rosenstock’s ability to stitch together his euphoric, nervy style. POST-, however, feels like the other side of the coin. Surprise-released on New Year’s Day, Rosenstock has made a record that’s emblematic of the year that followed. Frantic, pissed and often ebullient, he’s doing his best work of his career now, and this record feels like another effortless classic.

11. Culture Abuse – Bay Dream
12. Boygenius – Boygenius EP
13. Hop Along – Bark Off Your Head, Dog
14. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
15. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
16. Joyce Manor – Million Dollars to Kill Me
17. Lucero – Among the Ghosts
18. Superchunk – What A Time to Be Alive
19. Wild Pink – Yolk in the Fur
20. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer

Drug Church’s Cheer is an Excellent Punk-Pop Evolution

What does it mean to be a punk band in 2018? It’s hard to say, really. Ten, fifteen years ago if a band with the reputation of Drug Church made a record so explicitly poppy and clean sounding, it was nearly a guaranteed ticket to losing any kind of credibility they’d earned on their way up. However, making this sort of leap is to be expected now, because rock economics simply don’t add up. That’s not to say this is why Drug Church have made this stylistic choice, instead that it just doesn’t mean as much as used to. Regardless, on Cheer, Drug Church take what made them great on albums like Paul Walker and Hit Your Head and really hone in on them. The result is an album that’s no less hard hitting and way more immediate sounding.

“Grubby” is a tectonic rager of an opener, with vocalist Patrick Kindlon sounding higher above the mix than he’s ever sounded. “Avoidarama” starts with a killer bass riff that settles into a classic verse-CHORUS-verse hook. It’s an unavoidably great song. “Weed Pin” is buoyed by an amazing watery guitar riff with Kindlon espousing about frustrating career prospects. Plus, it’ll stop you dead in your tracks when he sings: “Fuck you at $12.50 an hour/I should have started a chemical fire/I should have burned this fucking place to the ground.” 

Simply, Cheer is a great record from a band who’s growing by leaps and bounds by slightly altering the more hardcore elements of their sound and making them a little more palatable. On “Unlicensed Guidance Counselor,” Kindlon sings “If you live long enough/you’ll do something wrong enough/that you’ll feel shame enough/to say enough’s enough”. That’s 100% relatable. There’s no shame here. Drug Church swung for the fences, and that’s the most punk thing they could do.