ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

American Football - American Football (1999, Polyvinyl)

First listened: 2014

I remember sitting in the car with you just after I had turned sixteen. I didn’t have my license yet, just my permit, but no one would find out unless I got pulled over, right? We sat watching the cars go by on Thompson near you and your mom’s new apartment. Your brother was still alive back then. My mouth was really dry.

For some reason we had no CD’s to play, so we sat there listening to the radio. At some point, Lenny Kravitz came on and you had to change it; you said your estranged dad looked like him and you couldn’t handle hearing his music. I laughed at the notion and you were furious. I can still feel the blunt force of your fist against my shoulder before I held it and grimaced in pain. But let’s be honest, it really didn’t hurt that much. You could have probably beaten me up if you wanted, but in all the frustration and petty annoyance I caused you, you always hit me like a wimp.

A year later, through tears, you admitted you thought it was pretty funny too. As far as I know, you still never speak to him.

In spring of 2008, I went to Las Vegas for a week, and I swear it was the longest time we had spent apart since we met in 6th grade. On the third day of that trip was the first time you referred to me as your best friend, and the sky opened up and I felt truly at home in the middle of that vast desert that afternoon.

I remember that night you called me at 3 in the morning in hysterics because you and your boyfriend had gotten into your first real argument, and he wasn’t taking it well. I drove across the city to pick you, still crying, up and take you to his house so you could work it out in person. When I pulled into his driveway, your tears went away and you refused to get out. You realized your night would be better spent eating ice cream, listening to piano rock, and talking about life with me, rather than fruitlessly trying to make up with your boyfriend. We stayed up all night and morning and I never told my parents where I was. You called them personally to apologize and explain.

You and your boyfriend ended up just fine.

For a while I called you the worst thing that had ever happened to me, and it’s only taken 40 minutes of listening to some of the most poignant music I’ve ever heard to realize how wrong that is. It’s true, sometimes you were almost entirely responsible for some of my worst emotional lows. It’s true, that I felt the waves of your betrayal for years after the fact.

But the truth is, I’m grateful for everything. I thank you for the all-nighters endured because of you, whether it was spent with you, thinking about you, or crying about you. I thank you for every feeling of glee or sometimes despair after hearing my text tone from across the room. I thank you for the friendships I broke off because of you, and the bloody noses from getting between you and some guy a couple times too many. I thank you for teaching me I can never be too careful, and sometimes I shouldn’t fling myself around without thinking twice. Above all, I thank you for being my first real friend, and despite all the trouble you caused me, you aided me in withstanding so much more.

We were never meant to last as friends. It just couldn’t happen. Not only were we too different, but we just no longer cared about each others’ feelings the way we should have, and our priorities were simply incompatible. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy about the time that we did last, dammit. You weren’t the best thing to happen me, nor are you the most important. It’s not even really close. But you’re not the worst, and it’s taken me until now to accept that.

A few months ago, you contacted me again. Your brother died, and you quit the team of the sport you had dreamed about playing for since you could stand on two feet. You didn’t know what to do, and were coming to me, someone familiar, for help, and I can tell that I was probably the last person you had turned to, years ago, for comfort like this. I did my best to help and I think I succeeded, but put you to the back of my mind once again and I think you probably did the same.

I’m thankful you’re gone, and almost certainly never coming back. But I’m also thankful you were ever here to start with.

And my mouth is still dry.

Rating: 9.5/10

Choice tracks:

  1. "For Sure"
  2. "Never Meant"
  3. "The Summer Ends"

Weakest tracks:

  1. "You Know I Should Be Leaving"

Check out “For Sure:”

Review page

ALBUM/EP REVIEW by Mark Finlay

The Front Bottoms - Rose (Bar/None)

First listened: 2014

The Rose EP features The Front Bottoms rerecording older songs off of their independently released albums I Hate My Friends (“Lipstick Covered Magnet,” “Twelve Feet Deep,” “Be Nice to Me”) and My Grandma Vs. Pneumonia (“Flying Model Rockets”) and their first EP, Brothers Can’t Be Friends (“Jim Bogart”). The lone track not previously recorded in the studio is “Awkward Conversations,” a track that provides an amicable acoustic finish to the six-track EP.

One can see why the duo of Brian Sella and Mat Uychich wanted to make those albums a thing of the past. The instrumentation is often simplistic, the production disheveled, and Sella is clearly still searching for his singing voice. Yet, gems such as those found on this EP exist among these records that casual fans may have never heard before now, and are worth resurrecting and preserving. As die hard fan favorites, they’re often requested at concerts and “Twelve Feet Deep” has been a staple in the band’s encore performances.

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

The Antlers - Familiars (2014, ANTI-)

First listened: 2014

The Antlers have always had some sort of unique feel to them, and they make a case for the existence of slowcore in the 2010’s, something not even Low could make happen with their mediocre 2013 release, The Invisible Way. Their sound is sad and lethargic but somehow maintains an aura of optimism, mellow and relaxing without drowning the listener in its dreamy washes of melancholy.

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

Tigers Jaw - Charmer (2014, Run For Cover)

First listened: 2014

Following Tigers Jaw’s emphatic 2010 release, Two Worlds, the band went on hiatus, ultimately splitting up, dwindling their five-piece band to a duo with temporary replacements for touring purposes. However, before recording began for Charmer, the band reunited in the studio and put out an album at full capacity with their classic lineup.

The problem is, despite despite all members being physically present, Charmer gives off an impression that the entire ensemble simply wasn’t there.

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

Say Anything - Hebrews (2014, Equal Vision)

First listened: 2014

My father is the kind of guy who likes to tell a lot of lame jokes. It’s mostly humor that everyone can easily understand, but not everyone necessarily finds incredibly humorous. Back when I was younger, a kid you might say, laughing at these jokes came naturally. But I’m older now, and the problem is, the jokes have stayed the same, and they’re just not all that funny anymore. I try to laugh, I do, but it ends up being a forced chuckle spewed from the back of my throat or a simply a rush of air through the nose accompanied by a thrust of my belly and a crack of a smile.

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ALBUM REVIEW by Jamie Bircoll

ColdplayGhost Stories (2014, Atlantic)

First listened: 2014

Ghost Stories, the latest album from British quartet Coldplay, is seeped in contradiction: it’s thematic lyrical content stands in direct contrast to the glossy, polished music the band has been working towards since 2008’s Viva la Vida. The result is a mixed bag that can be as brilliant as it is sappy and downright disappointing, often times in the same song. 

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

Manchester Orchestra - Cope (2014, Favorite Gentlemen)

First listened: 2014

"I wanted this to be black and red the whole time.”

Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull has never rubbed off on me as an enigmatic sort of fellow. Instead, his indie rock escapades have always had clear purposes: to push that emotional envelope through the door, to wish goodbyes and greet for hellos, to “shake it out” and fight off the personal plagues to try to get through another day. So when Hull dropped this quote via press release about the new effort from the indie rock quintet, Cope, one can say I was caught off guard. It’s difficult to tell what he meant by this statement, but by the time the opening seconds of the first track hits the ear, it becomes clear just what he meant.

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else (2014, Carpark)

First listened: 2014

When not in front of the microphone, touring, or mixing the music that he and fellow musicians TJ Duke and Jason Gerycz produce as Cloud Nothings, Dylan Baldi lives a life of reservedness and relative silence. "The landlords are freaked out," the 22 year-old frontman says in a recent Pitchfork piece about his apartment situation in Cleveland, “because I don’t really do anything and I leave late and come back late, and my apartment always smells weird and I get a lot of packages.” But with only the trio’s full-length LP’s to go by - 2009’s Turning On, 2010’s self-titled effort, and 2012’s magnificent Attack on Memory - one would never fathom this reality. Instead, the only reality one could know is the electrifying style of post-hardcore cacophony that pushes limits with each track and reflects the absolute innermost turmoils of Baldi’s psyche, and 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else is not only no exception to this, but is perhaps the greatest representation of everything that Cloud Nothings aims to be about and epitomizes a band finally escaping their comfort zone with invigorating results.

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream (2014, Secretly Canadian)

First listened: 2014

The state of being lost is one synonymous with feelings of desperation, confusion, and often agony. A complete abandonment or loss of some path resulting in a complete lack of understanding of where to turn next, literally or figuratively, is a scary and, for many of us, relatable thought to have. Dreamscapes, however, bring along with them visions of mysticism and introspection, associated with hazy eyes and sublime relaxation. The War on Drugs, an indie rock quartet based in Philadelphia, sought to combine these two completely separate arenas of thought and emotion into a functional entity with their latest release, Lost in the Dream.

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

Tokyo Police Club - Forcefield (2014, Mom + Pop)

First listened: 2014

Every once in a while, a band or an artist will break out with a new record that dares to innovate, play with the public’s mind and emotions, make people ponder the very idea of music and what it means, represents, and how dynamic it can really be. This artist will challenge listeners and create music that exudes freshness and inventiveness, or otherwise includes lyrics or musical excerpts that can absolutely blow you away. This artist’s record will exhibit a variety of sounds, meshed together to form a tightly-knit and cohesive collection of tracks that will send you back to it again, and again, and again. This artist makes the listener think. This artist revolutionizes and antagonizes.

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

We Are the In Crowd - Weird Kids (2014, Hopeless)

First listened: 2014

It’s been about two and a half years since the Taylor Jardine-lead pop punk quintet We Are the In Crowd released their debut, Best Intentions, which eventually climbed its way into the Billboard 200, a sparkling achievement for any young band bursting on the scene with as large of a flurry of action as them. Still, their debut left much to be desired and improved on, as the guitar-driven pop rock lacked the depth or variety that one hopes to see with a fresh, major-label debut. From the onset of Weird Kids, it becomes clear that the Poughkeepsie, NY-based group aimed to crank things up a notch, both musically and lyrically, making some strides to dig deeper emotionally and make full use of the instruments backing Jardine’s capable vocals, which carry the music and will undoubtedly do so for the foreseeable future.

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

La Dispute - Rooms of the House (2014, Better Living)

First listened: 2014

Sincerity is a word that has been thrown around the musical world likely since modern music’s conception. But what exactly it entails is an idea much cloudier than simply its dictionary entry. Regardless of what any individual listener or critic ultimately defines sincerity as, it can be agreed upon that it is an element of music that completely transcends the technical musical abilities, songwriting, or composition that can be heard on the immediate surface of an album. It’s a component that lifts music beyond its mechanical limits and sends it straight to the most sensitive and receptive areas of our minds.

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ALBUM REVIEW by Jamie Bircoll

Real EstateAtlas (2014, Domino)

First listened: 2014

Atlas, the new album from Real Estate, is really fantastic background music, something to which one can sleep or read a book. It’s shiny, atmospheric, harmonious and sort of boring. No doubt the band has skill as they tactfully play through 38 minutes of melancholy guitar dreams like the most low-fi of surfer rock. On tone alone, the album is produced beautifully—so many sounds come through, so many plucked strings, so many layers of singer-guitarist Martin Courtney’s echoed voice. And yet, something is missing, a sense of urgency maybe. Granted urgency just isn’t Real Estate’s style: never has been, never will be. 

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ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

Crosses††† (2014, Sumerian)

First listened: 2014

Little debate exists that disputes the idea that Deftones frontman Chino Moreno has the dreamiest, most disarming croon in all of metal. His screams are distinctive and incisive and his moans and murmurs placid yet brimming with sensibility. One is hard pressed to think of a prolifically successful band whose music is carried by its vocals more so than the so-called “Radiohead of metal.”

Read the full review here

ALBUM REVIEW by Mark Finlay

Phantogram - Voices (2014, Republic)

First listened: 2014

Rarely do you see an artist burst into a setting in such a fashion without a hit single or viral video the way that Phantogram has managed to do over the past few years. Their polished and refined 2010 tripwave debut, Eyelid Movies, sent a wintry chill down the neck of a scene monopolized by hazy dream pop tinged with acerbic synths. The LP was as infectious as it was bold, and through normal growth and maturation of sound as well as signing to its first major-label deal, eventually lead to the recording and release of Voices, a glossy and dark collection of tracks attuned to surrealism and with an ear for the dance floor.

Read the full review here


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