2016 was on some bullshit, man. I didn’t dedicate a lot of time to the blog because shit just kept happening. I kept running into car related money problems. My personal life kept finding new and exciting ways to be terrible. And everything really kind of stopped after my dad died back in May.
I’m still trying to figure out how much longer I’m going to keep doing things here. I’m leaning more toward keeping up than I was back in October. I guess we’ll see where it all goes in the coming months. Anyway, here are my top 25 favorite records of 2016 in alphabetical order:
- Angel Olsen – “My Woman”
- Colleen Green – “Colleen Green”
- Computer Magic – “Obscure But Visible”
- Dowsing – “Okay”
- Flock Of Dimes – “If You See Me, Say Yes”
- Fucko – “Dealing With The Weird”
- Frankie Cosmos – “Next Thing”
- Haybaby – “Blood Harvest”
- The Hotelier – “Goodness”
- Japanese Breakfast – “Psychopomp”
- Kindling – “Everywhere Else”
- Kowabunga! Kid – “Wasting My Time”
- Magik*Magik – “MAGIK*MAGIK”
- Middle Part – “Middle Part”
- Miserable – “Uncontrollable”
- Mitski – “Puberty 2”
- Museum Mouth – “Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig”
- Nancy Pants – “Vol. 27 EP”
- Orations – “Incantation”
- Psychic Twin – “Strange Diary”
- Sad Blood – “Legion Of Gloom”
- Save Ends – “Hug Your Friends”
- Signals Midwest – “At This Age”
- Slingshot Dakota – “Break”
- Slow Bloom – “Slow Bloom”
That’s the list. Yes, I know there are some high profile releases that I didn’t include. Most glaringly, I passed on the American Football record and the Jimmy Eat World record. I know I’m supposed to love those records, but I really didn’t.
In the immortal words of the Wu-Tang Clan: if you want beef, then bring the ruckus.
Let’s start this out simply, as I’ve talked about about Save Ends a few times already. The stuff I said I loved about this band in 2012 and 2013 are the same things I love now. I don’t want to just be lazy and recycle the same talking points, so I’ll tackle this a little differently than I usually do. At least the intro paragraph anyway. I first heard Save Ends right around the beginning of 2011, maybe even at the end of 2010. The first song I heard was “The Art Of Throwing People In Volcanoes.” I don’t remember where I heard it, but I remember that I was totally into it immediately. I still get excited when that song pops up in a shuffle, on Tumblr, or whatever. That song made me want to hear more. The point I’m clumsily making is that I’ve been listening to this band for a while now. Almost as long as I’ve been doing this shitty little blog, actually. I’m always impressed by what they put out. This was true of their self released EPs, it was true of their debut LP, and it’s still true now.
The easiest way to talk about Hug Your Friends would be to place it in the band’s overall discography. It does exactly what their older records did. It builds on the strengths of all their other works. It’s why a lot of the praise you’ll see for this mirrors the praise of the older stuff. The obvious starting point is the overall sound. This band is really good at finding that great middle ground between indie rock and pop punk. Even their slowest, most reserved songs still have that heart and energy behind them. The hooks, the big choruses, whatever. All those things are on this record, but maybe a bit more restrained. The tonal shift is noticeable, especially compared to the more driving songs on Warm Hearts, Cold Hands. I’ve seen a lot of Lemuria comparisons in the press leading up to the release. To borrow from that comparison, the stylistic shift is comparable to how that band transitioned from Get Better to Pebble. The songs still have drive and energy, but the EP definitely plays in a more melancholy territory. It’s really fucking good though, and that’s what matters. Genre descriptions be damned.
i always thought the strongest thing about Save Ends has always been the vocals. I love bands that do the dual vocal thing. It’s rare to find a band where both people singing absolutely nail it. It’s a really easy thing to fuck up. That is absolutely not the case here. Christine Atturio and Brendan Cahill both sound as strong as ever. It doesn’t matter if it’s lead, back up, or wherever they are on a song. The interplay between the two is always a great thing. “I Fell Asleep” and “Love Like A Home” showcase how well their voices play off each other in a split lead situation. The songs they take the lead on individually, “Smudge” for Atturio and “Sam’s Lament” for Cahill, show how solid they are at carrying songs on their own.
Hug Your Friends is a fantastic record from start to finish. It’s clear that they’ve spent the last couple years really focusing on songwriting. Everything sounds crisp and alive. It’s everything you would expect from Save Ends.
Finally, a Save Ends full length! This band impressed me from the first time I heard them back in 2010 or 2011. I’ve been anxiously waiting for this record for some time. That said, is the LP everything I’ve been hoping for? Was it worth the wait? The answer to both questions is yes. Save Ends have done a lot in a short time via two self released EPs. Ten Or Better showed a band with a lot of promise. Strength vs. Will showed a band right on the cusp. Now, on their debut LP, they are a band who made good.
Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is a great record from the start. “PunkORama 30” may be one of the best album openers. It builds up for about a minute into a great pay off. It exemplifies the band’s best trait. Namely, their ability to make poppy, melodic punk rock songs that are more than they seem. They write songs that can go from calm to driving at the drop of a hat. There are obvious indie rock influences that add a great texture. With guitars that shine through, and drums that drive home the point, they show that they aren’t fucking around from the get-go. They continue to prove it throughout the next half hour.
The dual vocals are another great part of this band’s arsenal. Christine Atturio and Brendan Cahill have an excellent give and take. They are able to split and share a song, but are also able to carry a song on their own. It’s easy to use dual vocals as a crutch, but that’s not the case here. “Always Knew” and “Kurzweil” are great example of songs primarily carried by one vocalist. “Skeptical Sons / Curious Daughters” and “Same Old Dice” are great examples of the shared vocals. Both work so well.
It’s easy to be jaded about punk rock. Sometime it feels like a lot of bands are just going through the motions. Save Ends show that there is still so much life left. I say that with absolutely no hyperbole. There is a lot of heart and depth to these songs. This type of music has been missing that lately, so it’s great to see. Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is a testament to what can be made when a band loves what they do. It’s been nice seeing this band grow. If anything, I’m even more excited about them now.
These are the records that were fantastic, but just this side of the top ten.
1) Save Ends – Strength vs. Will (self released)
2) Among Giants – Truth Hurts (self released)
3) Red Collar – Welcome Home (Tiny Engines)
4)The Eeries – Home Alone (Evil Weevil / Burger)
5) La Sera – Sees The Light (Hardly Art)
There is no shortage of poppy punk rock bands in the world. The sheer volume means that it’s hard to find the good records in the vast sea of generic bullshit. Featuring ex-members of No Trigger and Rotary, Save Ends definitely know how to make a great record. Strength vs. Will is heads and shoulders above the rest.
Strength vs. Will features some great songs. Songs on this record would have been right at home on alternative radio had it come out a few years earlier. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but I don’t mean it that way. I mean that this band has a lot of crossover potential.
There is really nothing to not like about Save Ends. The great joint vocals from Christine Atturio and Brendan Cahill fucking kill. The songs are filled with catchy hooks and big choruses. Even the whole “ex-members of” thing isn’t overwhelming. If anything it helps. It means the band knows how to make a record sound good. Most self released things suffer from spotty production. That isn’t the case here. This thing sounds right on.
This is a great follow up to their prior release, Ten or Better. With how solid their two EPs have been, you have to believe a full length would kill. You would be remiss to no check this out.
Also (insert nerd reference here), I guess.