FEATURE: My 2014 In Live Music

I went a little over two years without seeing any live music. It certainly wasn’t something I was trying to do, but it happened. This was pretty unforgivable for someone who blogs about music. This is even more unforgivable given my immediate proximity to Chicago. There were literally bands here always.

But, somehow, I went from July 2011 until November 2013 without seeing any live music. It was a pretty big drought. As is forever the story of my life, it was almost always due to money problems, health problems, or scheduling problems. I work 3rd shift on Wednesday through Saturday nights. This means I end up missing damn near every show. That two year span was a lot of disappointment. I’d see a band was coming, only to see the show was on a Friday or Saturday night. Meaning I had to work.

Luckily that streak was broken. I got back into the swing of things this last year. I got to see a pretty fair amount of bands. Here is my 2014 in live music:

March:
NONA / Pet Symmetry / Meah! / The Valenteens
(@ TOWNSHIP)

April:
Dowsing / Donovan Wolfington / Bluebirds / Per Aspera
(@ TOWNSHIP)

May:
Dowsing / Little Big League / Winter Classic / L. Mounts
(@ TOWNSHIP)

June:
Lemuria / Cayetana / PUP / The Menzingers
(@ BOTTOM LOUNGE)

July:
Braid / Jason Douglass Swearingen
(@ TOWNSHIP)

September:
Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) / Joie De Vivre / Free Throw
(@ TOWNSHIP)

December:
Lemuria / Lifted Bells / Prince
(@ BEAT KITCHEN)

American Football / Braid
(@ BOTTOM LOUNGE)

Ten of those bands ended up on my year end lists.

Hopefully 2015 is as eventful. Though, with the apparent loss of Township, I feel like Sunday night shows are going to fall by the wayside. That is definitely a bummer.

So, bands I like, you are on notice. Please play Sunday shows when you come to Chicago. You will be my best friends, and you may end up on a year end list on a blog that not very many people read. Deal?

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YEAR END! – Top Twenty Records Of 2014

fulllengthIN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

  • Allison Crutchfield – “Lean Into It”
  • Braid – “No Coast”
  • Cayetana – “Nervous Like Me”
  • Crisis Arm – “Rend”
  • Dikembe – “Mediumship”
  • Divino Niño – “Pool Jealousy”
  • Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) – “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten”
  • Free Throw – “Those Days Are Gone”
  • Grey Zine – “Destitution”
  • The Hotelier – “Home Like Noplace Is There”
  • Kill The Intellectuals – “I Hope You Die Painlessly – With Laugh Lines And Wrinkles Around Your Eyes”
  • Kittyhawk – “Hello, Again”
  • Late Bloomer – “Things Change”
  • Living Room – “Moonchaser”
  • Mother Room – “Scorched”
  • Museum Mouth – “Alex I Am Nothing”
  • My Fictions – “Stranger Songs”
  • Perfect Future – “Manifesto”
  • Sport – “Bon Voyage”
  • Weak Teeth – “So You’ve Ruined Your Life”

REVIEW: Braid – “No Coast”

braidnocoastIt’s hard to talk about reunion records, especially reunion records from bands you really love. Nothing will ever be as good as it used to be. Nostalgia is like that. I was pretty stoked about Braid getting back together. I was slightly less stoked when I heard Closer To Closed. This isn’t to say that it was a bad EP or anything. In fact, it was pretty damn good. It just didn’t line up with what I wanted it to be. That’s why No Coast, Braid’s first full length in 16 years, is such a daunting listen.

Braid always seemed to get more accessible as time went on. The difference between Frankie Welfare Boy Age Five and Frame And Canvas was not negligible. They developed a bit more of a pop sensibility in lieu of a post-hardcore, Fugazi aping. No Coast is a further step in that direction. It’s a further reigned in version of Braid. It’s clear that the years spent in other bands have changed their approach to things. The songs are what matter though, and the songs here are great.

Songs like “No Coast” and “Many Enemies” are catchy from front to back. They are built around some great hooks and melodies. “Pre Evergreen” brings the band back to their classic mid-tempo sound. They’ve heavily worked in that style on past releases, and it’s still working here. It’s the combination of different styles that make No Coast work so well. You can go from a mid-tempo song to a fast, more punk number without the record getting disjointed. “Pre Evergreen” going into “Put Some Wings On That Kid” is a perfect example of this. It does help that the songs remain true to the overall Braid sound.

There isn’t much that needs to be said about Braid though. They’re a band with a legacy. There is going to be a big to-do in the music press about Braid coming back and reclaiming something from all these current emo bands. That’s all bullshit hype. While No Coast is very much a genre record, it doesn’t play like a record trying to reclaim past glory. It plays like a record made by a band that really cares about what they’re doing now.

What matters is that No Coast is absolutely the kind of record Braid should have made. It’s a record that stands on its own, but it still has a lineage. It’s a record that will appeal to longtime followers, and it’s accessible enough to showcase the band to younger listeners who aren’t too familiar with them.

Those people exist, right?

Braid
Topshelf Records
BandCamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Braid – “Closer To Closed”

When I did a review of The Get Up Kids’ reunion full length, I ended the review saying “reunion records are always a little touch and go, right?”, and this is another example of that. See, I love Braid. Being into the music that I am, this is almost a given. All three of their proper full lengths fall high on my list of favorite records. Shit, the two compilations records (Movie Music one and two) are somewhere on that list too. Everything this band did was pretty fucking great.

With all this in mind, I went into this EP with really high expectations. As is usually the case, I was kind of disappointed. What we have hear is four songs (three originals, one cover) of varying quality. The production is way too glossy, which is surprising since this was produced by J. Robbins. Everything is just kind of off.

The album opens with “The Right Time.” It has Chris Broach singing lead. It features some of the hallmarks one would expect on a Braid release, but is maybe just a little too poppy. This is actually my general complaint about the record in general. Between the glossy production, and mellower music, it just feels like this record is without teeth.

“Do Over” is the second track, this time (and for the remainder of the record) has Bob Nanna on lead. His voice has gotten a lot cleaner sounding. It is more Hey Mercedes-ish than it is Braid. The lyrics just make it a little too meta. Especially for a reunion record. Talking about wanting a do over and asking “so do you have another one in you like I do” is maybe just a little on the nose.

“You Are The Reason” is next. It is a cover of a Jeff Hanson song. Having never heard the original, I can speak to it’s quality versus the original. It has some piano worked in, but is otherwise more of the same.

“Universe Or Worse” rounds of the record. It is my favorite on the record. Some of Bob Nanna’s vocal inflections are kind of weird on the song, but it is what it is. Though at just short of six minutes, it just seems to go on too long. it is would have stayed in the three to four minute range like the rest, it could have been great.

I know I just sound like a bitter asshole. Braid last released a proper record in 1998. 13 years later, it is stupid for me to expect them to sound the same. I know it makes sense that this sounds like a Hey Mercedes record more than “traditional” Braid record. It all boils down to expectations, and mine were way too high. Who knows, maybe my opinion will change after a few more listens. But, for now, I am just kind of disappointed. To draw a comparison to a band that existed in the same scene, Closer to Closed is to Braid as Wood/Water is to The Promise Ring. It is not a bad record, it just is not what I was stoked to hear.

Maybe I will start being a little more wary of reunion records.

Braid (Official)
Buy It (Polyvinyl Records)