Five Albums Strong

Earlier this month, one of my favorite modern day rock bands released their fifth full length studio album, and that band is called Four Year Strong.

These majestically bearded gentlemen right here

These majestically bearded gentlemen right here

 This album, a self-titled release, is a follow up to the “Go Down In History” EP released late last year. An EP which happens to be one of my all-time favorites. Even the title track off of it was featured on this latest album from the Boston-based Foursome.

 The first part of the album comes out swingin’ with some aggressive rhythms and tunes. It’s definitely a far cry from their “Rise or Die Trying” days, but in a good way. Since their keyboardist departed, now two albums ago, the guys have had to alter their sound to make up for the adjustment.

 Unfortunately, about midway through the album, the songs start to feel a bit…generic to me. Take, for instance, the song “Gravity.” It’s not necessarily a bad tune per se, it just feels like every other song in that genre that came out between the years 2002-2006.

 Luckily the songs pick back up afterwards, and it becomes genuinely enjoyable again. Four Year Strong have always been known to have a heavy and more aggressive sound than most of the other bands in the so-called “pop punk” genre. To the point where I wouldn’t even classify them as such really.

 As the aforementioned title track from the “Go Down in History” EP finishes off the album, I can’t help but feel like the Four Year Strong self titled release was just missing something to really make it a solid effort. Again, it’s not bad, I just feel like it could’ve been a lot better. Maybe include the song “What’s in the Box?” instead of “Gravity?” I don’t know.

 I will say that I did enjoy this album a lot more than their previous effort “In Some Way, Shape, or Form.” Now that was definitely a “meh” release.

 I would most certainly encourage you to catch them live in concert if you get the opportunity, as they put on a great show. They’re super energetic and connect magnificently with the crowd.

I ran into Allen after FYS's set at last year's Vans Warped Tour. He's an awesome guy, and that kid's face in the background is priceless.

I ran into Allen after FYS’s set at last year’s Vans Warped Tour. He’s an awesome guy, and that kid’s face in the background is priceless.

 In closing, I feel like “Four Year Strong” is at least an album worth picking up and listening to. It’s certainly not a “Must Have,” but it’s still enjoyable.

That Time of Year Again

Earlier this week I once again traveled to the beautiful coastal city of Ventura, California to attend the annual Vans Warped Tour festival. My long-time readers will remember my post on last year’s show, and all the sunburns that accompanied.

Like every year, Warped Tour mixed things up. Whereas last year’s event focused more on hardcore and similar genres, this year was a bit more light-hearted and upbeats. Well, with the exception of a few bands like Hundredth, Being As An Ocean, and Senses Fail.

Being As An Ocean was hands-down my favorite set of the day

Being As An Ocean was hands-down my favorite set of the day

 This year I was able to refrain from spending too much money on the hopefuls walking the lines peddling their EP’s. Although I DID purchase an instrumental album called “Comfort is the Death of Creativity” from an up-and-comer called  Slowing Inertia. If you’re a fan of bands like Animals As Leaders, I’d recommend checking them out. Not as technical, but still really good.

 As I waited in line, two hours prior to the gates opening, I made sure to soak up the atmosphere around me. The excitement of the regulars was just as potent as that of the first-timers, and even some of the parents/chaperones of the younger kids seemed happy to be there.

I wore my hat, sunglasses, jeans, a Terror baseball tee that I got the year before, and copious amounts of sunscreen. My neck still got burned.

I wore my hat, sunglasses, jeans, a Terror baseball tee that I got the year before, and copious amounts of sunscreen. My neck still got burned.

 Sometimes things that happen in line while you’re waiting to get in can be just as entertaining as the musicians themselves. For instance, there was a group of about six guys that were making their way down the line. Two played acoustic guitar, two sang in a rhythmic speaking manner, and the other two were contortionists who did their thing while the music played. It was definitely a sight to behold, that’s for sure.

 I also met a traveling monk while in line. That was pretty cool, actually. He was super nice, and even greeted me with a fist bump.

 What was a major relief for me this time around was the schedule. Last year it seemed like everyone I wanted to see was playing at the same time. Luckily this year everyone was a bit more spread out, which allowed me to enjoy the day a bit more rather than stress out about seeing everyone.

 This also allowed me to acquire an insane amount of merch. I purchased a ridiculous amount of shirts, as well as CD’s. What really excited me was the fact that some vendors had Vinyls! Anyone who follows me on Instagram (ThatMusicJunkie_ ) knows my love for collecting vinyl records.

 Even though we were on the coast, it was still June in California, so the heat was intense. All around me I could see people fanning themselves and applying sunscreen for the tenth time that day. Luckily, there were plenty of food and beverage vendors, as well as shaded places to sit and take a break. Otherwise people would’ve been dropping like flies!

 For me, one of the best things about Warped Tour (aside from the music and the merch) is running into artists as you’re walking around. More often than not, these guys and gals are always happy to say hi and snap a quick photo with you as they prepare for their set. Just make sure to be respectful of their time.

Ran into Jon from Transit a bit before their acoustic set.  Always a really awesome guy. Check out their music if you haven't yet!

Ran into Jon from Transit a bit before their acoustic set. Always a really awesome guy. Check out their music if you haven’t yet!

  There were a lot of notable sets that day. I’ve been a fan of Motion City Soundtrack since I was in Junior High, and seeing them live at Warped Tour this year was awesome! The Wonder Years had a fantastic set, and event the lead singer’s other band Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties put on a great show in the acoustic tent.

 Catching sets of bands that are new (to me) is always a blast. I got to enjoy performances by Candy Hearts, as well as an impressive show by Night Riots.

These guys did a pseudo drum duet halfway through their set!

These guys did a pseudo drum duet halfway through their set!

Of course, not everything about Warped Tour is awesome. There’s always the Beatport Stage where DJ’s and rappers perform, but more often than not it looks like a ghost town over there. The saddest set had to go to someone named Chrisb. There were, literally, only two people in the crowd for his set. Two little blonde pre-teens dancing to club music. Not the best moment of his career, I’m sure.

Then there was Riff Raff. Why he was there, I’ll never know. To his credit, there was a decent turnout for his set. Which just raises more questions, in my opinion. But I digress.

Overall, I had a blast at Warped Tour 2015, and I cannot wait until next year’s tour!Did you attend this year’s show? Share your Warped Tour stories with us in the comments!

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You’re Not The Same

With the surge of over-produced, generic miasma the record companies are trying to pass off as music flooding out of the popular radio stations lately, I’ve noticed a receding in a certain mechanic that was once common practice. Often times, as a band or singer progressed and matured, their sound would change accordingly. While this was most common in the rock genre, it was still found in others more often than not.

Sometimes it was cool to follow a band’s evolution over time, and sometimes it was annoying because they would release an album so drastically different that it was as if you were listening to another band entirely. Let me give you some examples:

First up, we have AFI.

AFI-1

The band’s most recent album “Burials” was released in 2013

 These guys started out as a hardcore punk band in the mid 90’s. They released three full albums and a self-titled EP in this genre. Now, they’re something completely. different. With ventures into  horror punk, darkwave, post-punk, and alt rock genres, AFI is a band that has proven that they’re not afraid of changing things up. Personally, I think their best albums are 2000’s “Art of Drowning” and 2003’s “Sing the Sorrow.”

 Another prime example, and one that is in even more contrast than their origins, is the band Skillet.

Skillet

There’s a lot of makeup and hair color in this picture

 This band started out in the early 90’s a Christian grunge band. I will say that again: Christian Grunge. Then lead singer John Cooper discovered the synthesizer, Skillet has been in a constant state of change. They’ve switched genres almost as much as they’ve switched out members. Skillet’s best album has got to be 2003’s “Collide.” It was hands-down their most sincere and musically solid release. Nowadays, I’m not sure what they are exactly. A friend of mine didn’t even know that they were a Christian band at one point.

 This trend has been around for decades, and although it’s not as prominent as it once was, it certainly isn’t dying out. Even Smashing Pumpkins’ lead singer Billy Corgan announced that he’s planning their next release to be a Death Metal project. And let’s be honest, “Oceania” was no “Melancholy & the Infinite Sadness” or even close to a “Siamese Dream” effort.

 Some may think this to be an annoying factor, but I look at it this way: I would rather have a band change things up and try something new than releasing the same thing over and over.

Describe Your Band in Five Words or Less

Music is such a wonderfully diverse and beautiful platform, that it’s easy to get lost in the various classifications that have developed over the last part of the century. Before, we just had a few genres like Blues, Rock & Roll, and classical. Now, people can pretty much make up their own genres as we go!

stock-footage-portrait-of-garage-band-drummer

“We’re Ambient Mathematical Minimalistic Indie Post Post New Wave Alt Rock”

It’s kind of absurd how many genres there are, and even more ridiculous is how many sub-genres each one has! For instance:

Rock: Classic Rock, Alt Rock, Post Modern Rock, Retro Rock, Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Christian, Indie Rock, Electrorock, Stoner Rock, Hair, Glam.

Rap: Hip Hop, Gangsta, Intellectual, Christian, Rap Rock, Indie Rap, Mainstream, Underground.

Punk: Hardcore, Straight Edge, Hardcore Straight Edge, Vegan Hardcore Straight Edge, Post Punk, Retro Punk, New Wave, Pop Punk, Christian.

Metal: Classic, New Wave of British Metal, Nu Metal, Black Metal, Death Metal, Pornogrind (yeah, it’s a thing. Not what you think though), Grindcore, Metalcore, Heavy, Groove, Thrash, Christian, Girl Metal (which I always thought was ridiculous that an all-girl band would be classified as a separate genre, and not just grouped with every other one).

 These are just SOME examples. There are a plethora of genres out there, so that means that there is a type of music for everyone. It’s both a ridiculous and beautiful notion, really.

 I’ve always found it absurd when I hear someone say they only listen to one genre of music. “I’m Hip Hop all day” or “I only listen to Punk because everything else is corporate bulls**t.” I mean, why limit yourself like that? There’s SO much wonderful music out there that you’re missing out on!

 I encourage all of my readers to get out of their musical comfort zone and explore some of the various genres the music world has to offer! Who knows? You may even find your new favorite band or song!

– Nick

What are some of your favorite bands and genres? Let us know!