Top Ten Albums of 2015 [+ link to Mind the Gap]

As usual, I’ve made my list of the best albums of the year, including links to any reviews I wrote on them. You can click here for a playlist featuring two of my favourite songs from each release!

top ten of 2015

1) That’s the Spirit – Bring Me the Horizon
2) American Candy – The Maine
3) American Beauty/American Psycho – Fall Out Boy
4) Future Hearts – All Time Low
5) Life’s Not Out to Get You – Neck Deep
6) Blurryface – twenty one pilots
7) Life in Real Time – Paradise Fears
8) Automatic – Don Broco
9) Sounds Good, Feels Good – 5 Seconds of Summer
10) Vikings – New Politics

There was lots of other good albums this year, including Knuckle Puck’s Copacetic, The Wonder Years’ No Closer to Heaven, Young Guns’ Ones and Zeros, Muse’s Drones, We Are Harlot’s self-titled debut, and Nate Ruess’s solo release, Grand Romantic.

What made your list of best albums?

Every word will shape me, every scar will build my throne

Last week really proved the difference between arena shows and club shows. On Monday, we saw Madonna and while it was a great show, it didn’t leave us sweaty and hoarse. Then Thursday rolled along, and we saw Bring Me the Horizon, which resulted in me having a crackly voice on Friday.

bmth

Lee, Matt Nicholls, Oli, Matt Kean, Jordan

I was also thrilled to meet BMTH at HMV before the show. I had received a wristband when I bought their stellar album, That’s The Spirit a few weeks ago (it’s probably going to be my album of the year, that’s how good it is), so I skipped out of work a little early, lined up, and got an autograph from the band. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take photos with the band because of time restrictions, but I was able to tell them all that I had seen them play Wembley last December, which earned me a couple of high fives (from Jordan and Oli). Yes, it was awesome. And yes, I fangirled.

We made it to the venue with time to spare, but thanks to slow-moving security, we missed the first two and a half PVRIS songs. Technically, we could hear the songs from our position in the line outside, but it was distorted and we couldn’t hear Lynn singing. We made it in in time to see/hear the rest of their set, but I was disappointed at missing the intro to “Mirrors”, which is my favourite PVRIS song.

Next up was Issues. I’ve tried many times to get into Issues (mostly because they constantly tour with BMTH, so I have no choice but to hear them), and I just can’t. I don’t know what it is about them, but they just don’t seem to work for me. This time was no exception, though I can now recognize some songs.

As soon as BMTH came on stage, I knew we were in for an amazing show. They opened with “Doomed” and segued seamlessly into “Happy Song”, just like on the album. After that it was just jam after jam.

The setlist was relatively short – about 13 songs in total – and most of the songs came from That’s The Spirit and 2013’s Sempiternal (which was fine by me since those are my preferred BMTH albums), with two older songs thrown in.

Oli Sykes is a frontman who can command his audience, no matter the size. When he says “jump”, you jump. No questions. Even if it means almost colliding with the guy nursing the broken arm beside you (sorry, dude). All five band members seem like they’re really enjoying themselves on stage, which adds to the overall experience: if they’re happy, their audience feeds off of it. Their light show was excellent as well, the giant screen behind them occasionally flashing out the words to the songs, encouraging us to shout along.

Not ones to end with a whimper, BMTH’s last song was their anthemic “Drown”, complete with dramatic puffs of smoke from onstage and one of the loudest sing-a-longs I’ve heard in Toronto. It was magnificent.

I don’t blame you if you’ve been scared off of BMTH in the past; their older albums are not for the faint of heart. But they’ve taken a more rock approach to their past two works, and I highly recommend giving them a chance if you haven’t already.

Best concerts of 2014

This year, Ro and I hit 30 concerts. 30!!!! This was a personal best for us, and it was our goal for 2014 (we were unbelievably excited when we bought tickets for that last show). There were a couple of duplicates – some favourite bands that came to town on more than one tour – but we also saw a few bands we’ve never seen live before.

This list is pretty much in order, but the lines sort of blur once you get past the top ten. Yay live music!

1) Bring Me the Horizon – December 5 (Wembley Arena)

2) Panic! at the Disco – February 1 (Sound Academy)

3) You Me At Six – October 13 (Phoenix)

4) Fall Out Boy – June 25 (Molson Amphitheatre)

5) The Maine – March 1 (Hard Luck Bar)

6) Paradise Fears – August 12 (Mod Club)

7) Twin Atlantic – December 10 (Rivoli)

8) Taking Back Sunday – April 8 (Kool Haus)

9) Andrew McMahon – November 5 (Opera House)

10) The Ready Set – October 30 (El Mocambo)

11) The 1975 – May 6 (Kool Haus)

12) Nick Santino – November 10 (Hard Luck Bar)

13) Bastille – October 15 (ACC)

14) Deaf Havana – February 15 (Rivoli)

BONUS:

Riot Fest – September 6-7 (Downsview Park)

I’m so ready for the 2015 concert season. I can’t wait to see what our total will be this year!

Don’t let me drown

If I may brag/reminisce for a moment:

Two years ago – December 8, 2012 – I flew to London to see You Me At Six play a sold out Wembley Arena (the smaller neighbour to Wembley Stadium, which is the big thing they use for the Olympics and football games, etc). It was the best weekend of my life and pretty much everything I do, I compare to that night (aka the Final Night of Sin).

The trailer for the FNOS DVD. This is basically my happy place.

I never imagined I would go back for another show at Wembley.

Last Friday, I did just that.

Bring Me the Horizon (who I last saw at Riot Fest and before that in February) announced their biggest show ever at Wembley Arena back in January. It sold out within weeks (I think the floor tickets sold out in a couple of days). I was unbelievably stoked when I found out Ro had scored seats for us.

I’ve actually seen all three opening bands before, so I don’t really have anything new to say about them. Sleepwave was first – they opened for Taking Back Sunday in April. Basically it’s a bunch of long-haired screamy dudes thrashing around on stage (lead singer Spencer Chamberlain was previously in Underoath, if that makes a difference to you).

Next was Issues, who, oddly enough, I first saw open for Bring Me the Horizon (at the show in February). If I actually bothered to listen to Issues, I’d probably like them – Ro pointed out that they have an early Breathe Carolina vibe to them, which is something I can easily get behind. But when they play live, the music (drums, guitars, synths, etc) all seem to move at one pace while the vocals move at a different pace resulting in a discordant sound that confuses my brain. Maybe I have to listen to a recording?

I quite like Young Guns, who were the final opening band. I saw them open for You Me At Six in October, and, before that show, I had compared them to a cross between Mallory Knox and Deaf Havana (this is a very good thing). They continued to be enjoyable as they played to a crowd of people who haven’t seen them in about a year.

Then the lights dimmed and the screams got so loud, they were practically corporeal, and Bring Me the Horizon stormed on stage to the opening strands of “Shadow Moses”, and it was incredible. There was something so spine-tingly about hearing 12,000+ people screaming “THIS. IS. SEMPITERNAL.” together.

I lost my voice two songs in, if that’s any indication of how good the show was.

We were seated side-stage, towards the top, which gave us an excellent vantage point. I could see every band member and watched them as they played to the biggest crowd in their nearly ten year existence. I also felt safer up there: from where we were, we could see the roiling crowd, the multiple circle pits, and the massive wall of death that basically looked like that time when the Red Sea split in half and then crashed together. I mean, sure, they were just doing what Oli was telling them to do (one of my favourite things is when he starts whispering instructions, then steadily builds it up until he’s screaming “JUMP” and the crowd loses their minds. Fun to watch, but not fun to get stuck in if you’re not the moshing type).

Sidenote: did you see how I ironically used a religious comparison there? I never realized quite how anti-religion “The House of Wolves” was until the giant screen behind them showed a church on fire (I mean, the lyrics are pretty obvious now that I think about it, but sometimes I literally can’t understand what they’re saying).

Speaking of the screen: the lights/pyrotechnics/basic stage effects were amazing. The crew in charge of designing/synchronising that kind of stuff did a fantastic job. They really added another level to an already phenomenal performance.

BMTH did not hold back during this show. They were beyond energetic and threw themselves into playing the songs as perfectly as possible. Lead singer Oli Sykes careened around the stage, at one point leaning over the barrier into the crowd, and later cartwheeling (it’s possible he was singing at the same time, I just remember being impressed that someone so tall could cartwheel so elegantly). Long time BMTH fans were also treated to a mini on-stage reunion when Oli called out the original guitarist, Curtis Ward, to play “Pray for Plagues”, one of their first singles.

I talk a lot about the bass in songs, and Wembley Arena probably has the best acoustics if you’re a bass-lover like me. I don’t know the technical terms, but whatever setting the instruments are on (I like throwing the word “reverb” around, to sound like I know what I’m talking about, but that’s probably not right), you could feel them pulsing and pounding through the soles of your feet and out the top of your head. It was even better than when you can feel the bass pumping in your chest.

And, like I said before, it’s amazing to hear so many thousands of people screaming the words together, especially the songs that are chock-full of any emotion like “Antivist” (12,000+ people with their middle fingers in the air – no fucks were given that night) or – one of my personal favourites – “Can You Feel My Heart”, which was – literally – show-stopping (it being the last song of the night).

Middle fingers up, if you don’t give a fuck.

I’m scared to get close, and I hate being alone…

Of course, one of the highlights of the show was when they pulled out their latest single, “Drown” (officially released today) – it’s an awesome song in general, and hearing it live made it even better.

I took a couple of photos, but it’s hard to take pictures when you’re busy dancing/screaming/headbanging, so I don’t have anything great to show off. RockSound, however, has a cool gallery on their website that’s worth a look.

If you’re a BMTH fan and you have not yet seen them live…get on that. They’ll blow your mind.

Top 10 Albums

Last week, I wrote a Writing Wednesday post about ten books that have stayed with me. Today, I figured I’d do the same, except MUSIC style.

So here you go, in no particular order, my top ten albums and top two favourite songs per album (because I’m pretty sure I’ve already mentioned most of these songs in other posts):

1) Sinners Never Sleep – You Me At Six

Reckless (if you’ve ever met me, you’d already know that)

Bite My Tongue (ft. Oli Sykes)

2) Vices & Virtues – Panic! at the Disco

Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)

Hurricane

3) Pioneer – The Maine

Like We Did (Windows Down)

My Heroine

4) Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now – All Time Low

A Love Like War (ft. Vic Fuentes)

Somewhere in Neverland

5) Battle Scars – Paradise Fears

Lullaby

Warrior

6) Santi – The Academy Is…

Everything We Had

Neighbors

7) Everything in Transit – Jack’s Mannequin

Bruised

Dark Blue

8) Save Rock & Roll – Fall Out Boy

Young Volcanoes

Alone Together

9) Sempiternal – Bring Me the Horizon

Sleepwalking

Can You Feel My Heart

10) Hello Fascination – Breathe Carolina

Dressed Up to Undress

I.D.G.A.F.

More like RAGE FEST, am I RIOT?

This weekend was Riot Fest – or RAGE Fest, as I like to call it, because I spent two days dancing/screaming/flailing (“raging”) in the mud.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been steadily chanting “Ri-ot Fest, Ri-ot Fest” since May when this glorious line-up was announced. I’ve never been to Riot Fest before (it’s celebrating 10 years in Chicago this year, but only started crossing the border in 2012), so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Like Warped, it was a day (well, two days) full of music and merch, but since there was a smaller selection of bands to see per day (compared to Warped’s 80+ bands), it was a bit easier to navigate. Of course, bands still manage to conflict with each other (in terms of stage times), but it seemed more balanced. The one downside is that it was held at Downsview Park (essentially a very large field), and, since there had been an intense thunderstorm Friday night, there was less grass and more mud. I don’t think my shoes will ever be the same.

Highlights from SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 6:

After the daily line-up was released, we discovered that 99% of the bands we wanted to see were playing on Saturday. Since we had already purchased two-day passes, we naturally went on Sunday too, but Saturday was definitely better. Here are the bands we saw along with the song I had most wanted to hear:

New Found Glory:

Taking Back Sunday:

Bring Me the Horizon:

Brand New:

Rise Against: (sidenote: I haven’t listened to them in at least a year, but their set reminded me of how good they really are. Gonna have to start listening to them again.)

The Cure:

We also saw parts of GlassjawCirca SurviveManchester Orchestra/Citizen (because they were playing on stages that were close to each other, so we could technically hear both), Death From Above 1979, and The Flaming Lips, but I cannot tell you what songs they played because I had never listened to them before. I quite liked Circa Survive, though, and will probably look  up them and Manchester Orchestra.

Highlights from Sunday September 7:

Tokyo Police Club:

Dropkick Murphys:

Death Cab for Cutie:

As you can tell, there were less bands that we wanted to see on Sunday compared to Saturday (ironically, Sunday was also warmer and less muddy than Saturday, so it would have been the better day to be running back and forth between stages). While wandering the grounds, we also caught parts of other sets including The HotelierDie Antwoord (definitely not for everyone *grimaces*), Social Distortion, and Stars. Of the three bands we saw in full, we’ve only listened to Death Cab on occasion (I recognized a surprising amount of songs), but I really enjoyed Tokyo Police Club (I must have heard “Hot Tonight” before because it sounded very familiar) and Dropkick Murphys were a lot of fun.

Final verdict: I loved Riot Fest. It was a new adventure, but one I would love to experience again. Here’s hoping next year’s line-up will be even crazier!

It’s like I’m sleepwalking

I have one more week of this publishing course and then, once I’m done, I’m going to try and make Music Mondays a little more in-depth (the way they were before).

In the meantime, I would like to draw your attention to This Wild Life’s fabulous cover of “Sleepwalking”:

For those who aren’t sure, this is Bring Me the Horizon’s original version:

Incredible, isn’t it?

I’ve been hearing about This Wild Life for the past few months through the various music news channels I follow (absolutepunk, Property of Zack, idobi radio, etc). Then the band randomly started following me on Twitter and – because I had heard so much about them – I followed back. They were on my Warped list but I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to check them out.

Last week, when I was avoiding applying for internships, I decided to finally look them up…and that’s when I discovered this video. It’s my favourite BMTH song, so naturally, I was curious to hear a cover – an acoustic cover, no less.

It actually gave me chills for a minute because it’s so different than the original but it’s absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t listened to their album yet, but if this cover is any indication, it’s going to be a fantastic experience.

THIS. IS. SEMPITERNAL.

Continuing  our streak of Saturday night concerts, Ro and I spent this past Saturday at the Sound Academy for Bring Me The Horizon’s “American Dream” Tour with Of Mice & Men.

BMTH: Matt Nicholls, Matt Kean, Oli, Lee, Jordan. 

OM&M: Aaron, Alan, Austin, Tino, Phil

I wrote about BMTH for Music Monday a couple of months ago, about how they’re the most metal band I listen to, etc. We saw their set at Warped last summer and it was good, but I was really looking forward to seeing them in a club space so that I could ACTUALLY SEE the stage, as opposed to standing behind a tent (like at Warped).

The opening bands were Northlane (they’re Australian; we only caught the last 2 songs because the Sound Academy constantly opens doors late and/or takes forever to let people in) and Issues. I haven’t really heard Issues apart from their spectacular cover of “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays”, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They were okay…they had an It’s Classy, Not Classic-era Breathe Carolina vibe (much as I love BC, Classy has never been my favourite of their albums)…I’m not sure how I felt about them. I’ll probably give them another listen – they might sound better recorded?

I constantly try to get into Of Mice & Men, but I can’t listen to their self-titled album (from 2010) all in one shot. I haven’t really given 2011’s The Flood a full listen either, but from what I heard of their most recent effort (Restoring Force came out at the end of January), they are a band that I’ll probably (eventually) like. They were energetic, and Austin Carlisle was a good frontman, though he kept saying “Toronto, Canada!” and we were like “yeah, thanks dude, I know where I am”. Otherwise, they had great stage presence and the crowd loved them. We were pretty far back (on purpose), but I imagine that when he called for a wall of death, it was intense.

Would you still be there?

Finally BMTH came out to “Can You Feel My Heart” (one of my faves) and there was an explosion of silver confetti. Again, not sure how the crowd reacted, but even halfway across the venue, there was a lot of screaming/singing (including me).

I’m scared to get close, I hate being alone, I long for that feeling to not feel at all.

One great thing about them, though, is that they (and by “they”, I mean “Oli”) don’t really talk during the set. There are some bands – All Time Low, for example – where the onstage banter is part of the show and fans know what they’re in for. BMTH, on the other hand, do the normal greeting (“TORONTO, HOW THE FCK ARE YOU?!”) and – as all metal bands do – there was a lot of encouragement to “go mental” i.e. circle pit like you mean it. The lack of talking meant there was a lot more music played with almost no breaks.

The set consisted of a lot of songs from 2013’s Sempiternal, and I was perfectly fine with this as that is my preferred BMTH album. They played the majority of the album, but their set seemed short – only 10-12 songs. I can’t tell you which of their older songs they played because I’m honestly not that familiar with the first 2 albums, and I can only recognize select songs from the third one.

THIS. IS. SEMPITERNAL.

I also liked that at one point, in the first or second song, Oli asked the crowd to put down their phones/cameras/etc and just “live in the moment”. Of course, a lot of people were still waving their screens in the air, but for the most part, the crowd went with it and just screamed the words back at him.

Like I said, it seemed short – we were home by midnight – and I’d have liked to hear some other songs (“Alligator Blood”, for instance, which was one of the first BMTH songs I really got into), but it was still a great show.

There are rumours they’ll be back at Warped this year, and I’ll definitely be in the crowd…well, not IN, so much as NEAR.

Top 10 (but actually 15) of 2013

For my last Music Monday of 2013, I thought I’d do something different. Lots of music publications have been sharing their “End Of The Year” lists over the past couple of weeks, so I put together my own top 10 albums, limiting myself to albums I actually (physically) own.

Thus, in no particular order, here are my top 10 releases of 2013 (including my favourite song from each – sorry that I’ve used some of these songs in past Music Monday posts):

1) Save Rock & Roll – Fall Out Boy

When FOB announced their return after a 4 year hiatus, my heart (and Twitter feed) exploded with excitement. Save Rock & Roll is a fantastic album that combines classic FOB with their newer, somewhat more mature outlook on life and music in general.

2) Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die – Panic! at the Disco

P!ATD can do no wrong in my book, and their 4th album continues their trend of always surprising their fans by never sticking to one sole genre and experimenting with different musical elements. They’re still as charming as ever, though!

3) Forever Halloween – The Maine

A little more mature, a little more rock & roll than their previous efforts, The Maine never fails to delight me. Plus the amount of time and effort they spend on making new music for their fans is incredible: 2013 also saw the release of their “Imaginary Numbers” EP, approximately 6 months after their full length album dropped.

4) Sempiternal – Bring Me The Horizon

One of the more recent bands for me (I’ve been listening to them for about a year and a half, maybe less), this album allowed singer/screamer Oli Sykes a chance to use clean vocals (whereas before it was all screaming all the time), and it made them more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily metal fans.

5) Battle Scars – Paradise Fears

I love these guys and they consistently put out great songs, whether it’s a cover of a current pop hit, or something as deep and meaningful as this album’s title track, “Battle Scars”.

6) Legendary – The Summer Set

This third album from the Arizona quintet features songs that combine fun danceable jams with slightly more serious undertones – for example, the title track, “Legendary”, which touches on the idea of growing up and also references “How I Met Your Mother”.

7) Burnout – Anarbor

Seeing Anarbor at Warped this past summer made me realize that a) their singer, Slade, got a lot better looking and b) (on a less superficial note) they may have disappeared for a while between albums, but they’re still as fun and refreshing as ever.

8) Old Souls – Deaf Havana

Though it technically won’t be released in North America until mid-January (I picked up a copy in London at the beginning of December), this album continues Deaf Havana’s shift from semi-screamy to alternative-but-still-catchy-as-heck.

9) Genuine & Counterfeit – William Beckett

I love anything WB touches and his first full length solo album is no exception.

10) Wild & Free – A Rocket to the Moon

As sad as it was to see ARTTM split up shortly after the release of their long-awaited sophomore album, they went out with a bang!

HonourROble mentions (aka albums that my sister Ro owns):

1) Opposites – Biffy Clyro

Their SIXTH album helped solidify them as a certifiable rock band and one that everyone needs to see at some point because their live shows are crazy-energetic.

2) Bad Blood – Bastille

So catchy, so fun, so good to see live. These guys are talented and I hope we see more of them in 2014 and beyond.

3) The 1975 – The 1975

Ditto. (though for some reason, these guys get more recognition than Bastille, even though they probably fall into the same genre).

BONUS BESTS OF 2013:

EP: The Pop Underground – Andrew McMahon

Remember when I said I love everything William Beckett touches? The same goes for Andrew McMahon, including his first solo EP. I’m pretty sure I listened to “Synesthesia” on repeat for over an hour when it first came out.

Re-Release: Don’t Panic, It’s Longer Now – All Time Low

Just when I thought 2012’s “Don’t Panic” couldn’t get any better, ATL re-released it and included 4 new songs, as well as 4 acoustic tracks. I had a hard time picking between “A Love Like War” and “Canals” as my favourite new song, but I absolutely adore this video (if I was making a list of favourite videos, this would probably be numero uno).

Plus, I didn’t even consider Mayday Parade’s Monsters in the Closet because I’ve only listened to a handful of songs. And just this past weekend, I bought Pierce the Veil’s Collide With the Sky and The Wonder Years’ The Greatest Generation, but they both need another 2-3 listens before I can pass judgement.

Here’s hoping 2014 brings even more fantastic albums!