Friday Discussion: Albums That Deserve “Classic” Status In 2020
Let’s be honest: when Take This To Your Grave or Ocean Avenue got released a decade ago, did anyone expect to still be talking about them in 2013? But here we are, reminiscing on the good ole’ days like the hopelessly nostalgic music fans we are. But what albums will hit classic status in the 2020s? We dusted off the old POZ crystal ball to make some predictions about what albums we might still be discussing a decade from now. Feel free to reblog with albums that will still be on your mind come 2020!
The Menzingers - On the Impossible Past
This is the punk-infused heartland rock ‘n’ roll sound The Gaslight Anthem has tried to bottle since The ’59 Sound but hasn’t. For hailing from Scranton, the Menzingers do a great impression of the blue collar Midwest. There are no flashy guitar chords or sweeping sentiments about the world in Greg Barnett and Tom May’s lyricism. Heck, it’s mostly an album about being young, fucking up, getting drunk, and learning from it. But its simple poetry — about American muscle cars, shitty opening bands, and bad graffiti — gives the record its charm. Thomas Nassiff said it best: “I’ll be damned if I won’t still appreciate a line like ‘…when you get old enough to know that happiness is just a moment’ in another 15 years when I’ve stopped caring about the things I care about right now.”
The Horrible Crowes - Elsie
Remember what I said about The Gaslight Anthem post-59 Sound being predictable and formulaic? The Horrible Crowes, Brian Fallon’s “night music” side project, is anything but. Some songs sound pretty Gaslight-esque (here’s looking at you, “Behold the Hurricane) but for the most part, Fallon channels his Tom Waits-ish spirit and really tests his range as a performer. He goes from love-struck schoolboy on “Crush” to vaguely threatening on “I Witnessed a Crime” and batshit insane on “Mary Ann” seamlessly, and it’s an album that demands repeated listens. To say all the songs aren’t Springsteen clones like The Gaslight Anthem’s are isn’t entirely fair. But on Fallon’s best work as a songwriter, he challenges the Boss in terms of emotional depth and vocal fervor.
The Wonder Years - The Upsides
“I’m not sad anymore” just about says it all. When “head above water this year, boys,” stopped cutting it as a battle cry, Dan “Soupy” Campbell spilled his heart into The Upsides, a twelve-track confessional about standing your ground and not backing down when the world tells you to put your head down. Short on ballads and long on energy, The Upsides sprints from one anthem to the next, from breakneck fuck-you’s (“Dynamite Shovel”) to tour diaries put to a soundtrack of crisp guitar riffs and gang vocals (“Hostels & Brothels). The record hit shelves in January 2010, when none of us had any idea what to do with ourselves in the new decade. Campbell and company reminded us to stay defiant and keep smiling, and that message won’t fade any time soon.
fun. – Some Nights
Aim and Ignite is heads and shoulders above Some Nights, but the latter sent fun. catapulting headfirst into stardom. With mainstream radio still a pretty soulless, vacuous black hole of mediocrity and thumping dubstep grooves, fun. achieved the almost impossible by keeping their flair for the theatric and not fitting the role of Top 40’s one-hit-wonder-indie-band. Instead of playing it safe and churning out bland, but radio friendly hits, fun. went for broke, pumping the ambitious “Some Nights” and bombastic “We Are Young” to their mainstream pipelines and catching fire overnight. But careful listeners might be more likely to recall 80s-vibing “Out On the Town” and soulful “All Alone” in ten years than the surefire hits.
Transit - Listen & Forgive
What happened to the Boston pop-punkers who put out the fast, furious, and thoroughly heartbreaking Keep This To Yourself? Well, they grew up, and fans should pray rosaries that they did. Listen & Forgive is a grown-up album with a young heart, layering songs about loss and love with richly textured guitarwork. There are no frenetic jams like “Please Head North” or “Footwork,” but Transit traded angst for subtlety, and the result is breathtaking. If you’re late on the Transit bandwagon, try taking the record for a spin and not shedding a tear over Tim Landers and Joe Boynton’s collective heartaches. Songs like the title track and “Skipping Stone” are as timeless as they are flawless.
Fireworks - Gospel
Gospel is a fantastic album with less-than-stellar timing. 2011 was a banner year for pop punk — think Blink, The Wonder Years, New Found Glory, and The Story So Far — so Fireworks probably didn’t reap the acclaim Gospel rightfully earned at the time. But, two years later, I’m not sure 2011 saw a tighter bunch of tracks get released (The Michigan natives stuff hook after sing-along hook) than this adrenaline-packed record. The album marked a quantum leap in the band’s career, jumping from fun throwaways like “Detroit” to the emotional one-two punch of “Oh, Why Can’t We Start Older and Get Younger?” and “Summer.” Sure, singing about friends and good times has become something of a pop punk standard, but Fireworks reinvented that standard to make it feel brand new and exciting.
The Dangerous Summer - War Paint
Okay, so it’s no Reach For the Sun. But the second chapter in AJ Perdomo’s heart-on-sleeve songbook is every bit as personal and vulnerable as the band’s freshman album. With a masterpiece debut like Reach For the Sun already under their belt, Perdomo releases his emotional floodgates, sounding angrier (“Waves”) and more desperately in love (“No One’s Gonna Need You More”) than ever. His pristine lyricism, armed to the teeth with pent-up frustration and vivid imagery, is matched only by the fervent instrumentation backing his vocals. We’re lucky that The Dangerous Summer didn’t try to re-write Reach For the Sun: they evolved it.
Balance & Composure - Separation
Remember when liking straight-up rock and roll was actually cool? From the first ambient guitar tones and Jon Simmons’ brooding vocals on “Void,” it’s pretty darn obvious that Balance and Composure is no run-of-the-mill rock band. Actually, Separation almost defies genre, at times intense and in your face and others, calm and composed. For a band well versed in 90s rock ‘n’ roll lore, Simmons and company have no problem backing off the throttle and shifting into a brooding mid-tempo repertoire. Most rock bands ask you to put your fists in the air and sing along. Separation grabs you by the collar and tells you to bang your fucking head.
The Front Bottoms - The Front Bottoms
Somewhere down the line between 2010 and now, The Front Bottoms absolutely blew up. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly when (and how) but the quirky acoustic guitar and drum kit wielding duo stated their case with an embarrassingly honest full-length that’s as easily relatable as it is danceable. The band’s sound is almost painfully raw and under-produced, but they make it endearing instead of frustrating. Just imagine “Maps” without that goofy little synthesizer or the charmingly clumsy gang vocals on “The Beers.” You probably can’t, right? Honestly, this is probably the most flawed and least honed of the albums on the list, but it’s those quirks and flaws that keep us coming back.
Bring Me the Horizon - There Is a Hell, Believe Me, I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret.
Forget pop punk. If any genre needs defending, it’s metalcore. And its hero came in 2010 when Bring Me the Horizon defied all (low) expectations set by the laughable Suicide Season to release what should go down as a modern metalcore masterpiece. There Is a Hell doesn’t fuck around, experimenting with ambience, electronics, and guest appearances from Lights and Josh Scogin, preeminent vocalist for The Chariot. It’s dark, it’s moody, and it barely lets off the gas pedal. No one expected Bring Me the Horizon to mature as rapidly and gracefully as they did, and if There Is a Hell is any sign, Sempiternal should be a bona-fide scorcher. But There Is a Hell will be the record they get remembered for, and I have no qualms with that.
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