Robyn’s Top 10 Valentine’s Tracks for 2015

I normally do an ‘anti-Valentines’ playlist every year. I try to be witty, and pick songs that are all about death and hate and horror. ‘Last Caress’ by the Misfits has topped my list virtually every year since I was 18. But this year, I decided that I should actually take the spirit of the season properly and come up with a list of songs that are actually about love and mushy stuff and all that stuff… kind of.

10) Millencolin – Fox

Okay, okay, so I’ve got to get a joke song in there at some point, and I figured I’d get it over and done with first thing. Millencolin’s heartfelt punk rock love letter to their car is brilliant. A perfect example of how great Pennybridge Pioneers is, it’s a fun-filled ride from start to finish.

9) Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – See Her On The Weekend

The whole AM In The Wilderness record is incredible, but there are certain songs in particular that left an impression on me. I’ve found that the older I get, the less I want to hear about your stereotypical adolescent romance, and I want to hear about something real. See Her On The Weekend is one of those such songs – just simple musings about life and the love that comes with it.

8) AFI – End Transmission

Davey Havok’s Bonnie and Clyde-esque tale about running away into the sunset is probably the best thing about Crash Love. The first verse is hopelessly romantic, and even if there aren’t any of signs of Davey’s signature ‘oh!’, it’s still pretty fantastic.

7) Lanterns – Happiness Pt 3

To be honest, I could have picked any of the ‘Happiness’ trio, but Pt 3 just is this perfect exaltation of love. I’d be loathe to say you need romantic love to be happy in life, but ‘Happiness Pt 3’ explains just how happy someone else can make you feel. Plus, it has an absolutely gorgeous build-up towards the end.

6) The Lawrence Arms – Fireflies

‘Fireflies’ is a tale of love long lost, but it’s definitely earned its place on this list. It’s one of the best songs on The Greatest Story Ever Told, and it’s probably the smartest in this bunch. If you don’t totally fall head over heels for Chris’ vocals, then you’re probably soulless.

5) Sugarcult – Lost In You

I adored this record when I was a kid, and I thought that ‘Lost In You’ was the prettiest little thing. Lots of the record was typical pop-punk fare, but ‘Lost In You’ was something deeper. It’s a catchy track, and it made me want to have the kind of love that led to that kind of heartbreak.

4) Descendents – Talking

The Descendents always keep it real. ‘Talking’ is all about frustrating long distance relationships and trying to keep it all together over the phone. In typical Descendents style, it’s as honest as it comes. It’s hard not to fall in love with Stephen Egerton’s infectious riffs, and the line ‘Maybe we’ll fall in love when I get home’ will get stuck in your head for days.

3) Say Anything – Crush’d

Out of all of Max Bemis’ proclamations of love, Crush’d is by far my favourite. Branded with the typical Say Anything wittiness, it’s a gem of a track, lurking on their oft-forgotten self-titled record. It’s a total love letter to his wife Sherri, and it’s bloody wonderful.

2) Candy Hearts – I Miss You

‘I Miss You’ is just lovely, earnest pop-punk joy. If a red velvet cupcake could be a song, then this would be it with sprinkles on top. But it’s also totally real – Mariel’s lyrics indicate a fear of handing yourself over completely to one person, but at the same time, there’s a great sense of excitement about being so in love.

1) Brand New – Soco Amaretto Lime

Do I even need to explain anything? Brand New’s anthem about the end of adolescence is the sweetest love song of all time.

Whatever happened to tickets on the door? AKA why is my bank balance so sad?

I have a bit of a music habit. I think that’s become evident across the five years (!) that this website’s been running. A very big part of this is going to see bands live. I do at least one festival a year, I go to as many local shows as I can and I probably go to at least two ‘big’ shows a month in one of the cities nearby. There’s nothing better than seeing one of your favourite bands tear it up on the stage, or to discover a great new band in a dingy little shithole of a venue. That being said, local shows aside, it’s an expensive hobby. You can expect to pay anywhere between £13 and £28 per ticket for a gig at the Birmingham O2 Academy, and that’s without booking fees on top. And these days, they’re not even giving us a chance.

Last week, the Pop Punk’s Not Dead tour got announced. And a few days after it got announced, tickets went on sale for that tour. Admittedly, you’re getting a lot of bands for your buck, with New Found Glory, The Story So Far, Candy Hearts and Only Rivals, with more acts to be confirmed. The gig’s over eight months away, in bloody November, but is likely to sell out quickly due to the hype generated by Kerrang, Rock Sound et al. Did I feel pressured into buying tickets now? Yes. And I’m not sure we should be operating like that any more.

The first time I went to see New Found Glory, it only cost me £13 and my dignity, as I went batshit crazy to Hit or Miss.

It’s totally not fair to announce a tour like this and put tickets on sale so soon after. The festivals have already started taking note, announcing their line-ups nice and early before tickets go on sale, and other gig promoters need to do the same. I’m lucky in that I’m an adult with a full-time job, and I usually have a bit of cash set aside, but this tour is exactly the kind of tour that the teens are going to go gaga for. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t generate demand, but it means that there’s a lot of people going to miss out, and not just that, but it means you can’t just stroll in on chance any more.

I miss door tickets, and I’m sad that most of the young music fans these days are going to miss out on the experience of heading into a ‘big’ show on a whim and discovering something incredible. But after all, when record sales are falling, the labels have got to make that cash somehow – pre-ordered tickets are a guaranteed way of doing so. There is one thing that we can do though. Get down to your local and support your scene. There’s plenty of fantastic music popping up, even in middle England. In Worcester, we’ve got the excellent Surprise Attacks series, amongst others, and it’s not even hosted in a seedy venue! If you ignore the folk epidemic in Cheltenham, there’s a swiftly growing punk scene and plenty of ace bands coming through on a regular basis. Just listen for the whispers, click the ‘attending’ buttons on Facebook, pay your three quid on the door and put your middle finger up to the big guys. Unless, of course, AFI tour again any time soon.

Records of the Year – 2013

I have been avoiding this list like the plague. In a year of such incredible music, especially from our own fair United Kingdom, putting a list together seems completely arbitrary and not really a celebration of the year at all. But convention dictates that I really should do something. So, in the traditional fashion, I’ve gone for a top ten. Except for the top spot, all of these could be fairly interchangeable as to how fantastic they are. In their own way, each of these records represents a perfect moment in time, whether it was a great return or a truly exciting debut. So, without further ado, I give you my top ten albums of 2013. Now go and have yourselves a bloody good Christmas and a cracking New Year.

Heartthrob was completely different to the usual Tegan and Sara style. Instead of mysterious indie-pop, they went full-on with a bunch of synths and explicit lyrics. And it was good. There are places that are so 80s, you’d swear you were wearing frilly sleeves and more eyeliner than is good for you, until it breaks into a pounding chorus that wouldn’t feel out of place at your local nightclub. Totally unexpected, highly irreverent, completely fantastic.

It was a big year for comebacks, and Fall Out Boy had one of the biggest ones yet. I’ll admit, I was wary of the FOB reunion to begin with. But Patrick Stump’s time crafting R&B hooks was put to good use and combined with a few pop-punk sensibilities, Save Rock And Roll is a complete progression. A necessary one, some might say, and it showed the world that Fall Out Boy were back in full force and ready to take your radio by storm. Also, the bass riff to ‘Where Did The Party Go’ is one of the best things they’ve ever done.

“THIS. IS. SEMPITERNAL.” That gang chorus was a sign. Bring Me The Horizon were not taking any shit. Also, it’s a remarkably uncommon word, very clever in its usage, and that’s what Bring Me The Horizon’s fourth album is – extraordinarily clever. It’s not necessarily intricate, there’s nu-metal influence everywhere, but it completely bends and breaks previous expectations of the band and creates a sonic journey like nothing else. From the vitriolic ‘Antivist’ to the beautiful ‘And The Snakes Start To Sing’, nothing about Sempiternal is imperfect.

Hey You Guys! are an amalgamation of some of the Worcester scene’s heroes, and these dudes have brought together an unmatched sense of humour, savvy lyrics and catchy-as-fuck hooks into one mindblowing record. Our interview with Hey You Guys! explains further why we love them, but Gasp Shock Horror is 28 minutes of sheer joy.

This record came at the perfect time for We Are Fiction. With bands like Mallory Knox, Young Guns and Canterbury making it big, it’s only a matter of time until We Are Fiction are massive, and they absolutely deserve it. One of the hardest working bands in the UK scene have brought out a record that echoes the glorious post-hardcore scene of the early 2000s while still remaining fresh and relevant. The dual vocal approach from Phil Barker and Marc Kucharski works so well, and it’s one of those records that has you hitting ‘repeat’ the second it’s done. Kate’s review of One For Sorrow says it all.

Let’s be honest, apart from In With The Out Crowd which was a bit iffy, Less Than Jake always deliver the goods. See The Light is no exception. From start to finish, it’s filled with ska-punk bangers. As sunny as a Floridian summer afternoon, no other album has made me smile so much this year, or want to dance as much, and I look forward to blasting this out in the summer at all the barbeques.

An absolutely solid effort from Bangers this year, Crazy Fucking Dreams is the kind of record other punk bands dream of making. Although they’re sticking with the tried and tested ‘big riffs, big rants’ formula, there’s still plenty of innovation here, and their story-telling skills are in full swing, with tracks that can’t help but speak to you. If you like your punk honest and raw, but actually listenable with wonderfully gruff vocals, Bangers are the band for you. And Crazy Fucking Dreams is brilliant.

Again, this was a record I was slightly wary of. Lead single ‘Miss Jackson’ didn’t impress me much, but as soon as ‘This Is Gospel’ made an appearance, I knew that Panic! were back on track to an absolute hit. Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! is ten straight tracks of pop glory. Every song has a totally different feel to it, but all of them carry something wonderful to the front, whether that’s a catchy chorus or a beautifully poignant melody. Continuing post-Ross is one of the best things Panic! could have done – this is exactly why.

It was clear from the days of Reuben that Jamie Lenman was an almost unnaturally talented songwriter – how was it possible for post-hardcore to be so good and yet maintain a distinctly British voice? It just hadn’t been done before. Like Muscle Memory hasn’t been done before. The first side, Muscle, is the most gut-wrenching hardcore record of the year, with crushing, dirgey riffs abound. It’s utterly glorious. However, second side, Memory, is a folky, poppy, acoustic-y, big band-y foray into something completely genius. Separately, they’d both be incredible records, but together, they combine to create something phenomenal. Not to mention, releasing two records like this together is punk as fuck.

A predictable entry into the list, but an extremely important one. Burials is the best thing AFI have done since The Art Of Drowning. It’s not to say that their efforts in-between have been bad, but Burials was outstanding. A raw, emotional journey juxtaposed with some of the most intricate songwriting that AFI has ever exhibited? Sign me up. Twice. You can read my full love letter to Burials here, or better yet, you can go and buy it and remember why you fell in love with music to begin with.

Review: AFI – Burials

Burials is AFI’s ninth album, and as with every record they’ve released since Sing The Sorrow, it sounds distinctly different to its predecessor. In the case of Burials, AFI have left behind the 80s twinged pop-rock and instead, have come forth with something far darker, rawer and utterly compelling.

It can be said that if nothing else, AFI know how to do a bloody good intro, and it’s fantastic to see that make a return. The Sinking Night unifies all of AFI’s talents, with Adam Carson’s pounding drums, Hunter Burgan’s rumbling bass, Jade Puget’s bleak guitar and Davey Havok’s outstanding vocals creates a sonic landscape of utter despair, all while giving you full-body shivers before jumping into lead single ‘I Hope You Suffer’. It sets a difficult precedent, but AFI keep it going through all thirteen tracks. The Crash Love vibes haven’t totally disappeared – the dark pop of ‘A Deep Slow Panic’, ’17 Crimes’ and ‘Heart Stops’ could fit comfortably on that record. However, there’s a heavier electronic presence, no doubt influenced by Havok and Puget’s side project, Blaqk Audio, and industrial-style synths permeate throughout, touching songs like ‘No Resurrection’, ‘The Conductor’ and ‘Wild’, but never taking the foreground. Instead, AFI lay down some of the most punk rock riffs that they’ve written in recent years. ‘Wild’, for example, starts with Carson laying down some serious beats before Puget kicks in with pure punk pageantry, followed by some proto-punk synths for good measure. And of course, in typical AFI fashion, final track, ‘The Face Beneath The Waves’ is atmospheric, inimitably dark and arresting, with as much despair as you can muster. Beautiful.

It’s worth noting that the rhythm section of this record is probably the shining star – Burgan and Carson are the ultimate dream team, and neither have sounded better than on Burials. Nevertheless, this is the most coherent AFI have sounded in a long time. Despite taking a different approach yet again, Havok and Puget have laid the foundations for thirteen solid tracks, and while Crash Love was so disparate in its style, Burials is totally complete, despite its innovation. That’s as a unit as well – the band haven’t sounded so in sync for a long time, and it’s great to finally see all those elements coming together properly.

Burials, as Havok has stated in multiple interviews since it was announced, is the tale of a broken heart. AFI’s music has always been very emotionally led, usually veiled in Baudelaire-esque metaphor, but that veil has dropped slightly in Burials. While Havok’s lyrics can’t avoid the poetic all the time, Burials is a lot more personal. In ‘The Face Beneath The Waves’, he asks if his former love can “Tell me what it’s like to hold a heart while it shatters, ” and you can feel the vitriol and the pain as he sings. ‘I Hope You Suffer’ can’t be any plainer in its lyrical content. It’s this and more that makes Burials, in its personal nature, perhaps the most genuine AFI record in a while. But for all its misery, this record is catharsis – it’s a chance for Havok to rise out of the ashes, and Burials is where he’s at his finest.

To say that Burials is the best thing that AFI have produced since The Art Of Drowning might seem a bit ambitious. “But what about the lyrical genius of Sing The Sorrow or the slick pop hooks of Decemberunderground?“, you might be thinking (but you probably won’t be, I’ve come to accept that I actually don’t know that many AFI fans). Burials combines both of those, plus Crash Love‘s sense of style to create an effortlessly enduring record, one that will resonate with fans and newcomers alike. From a personal standpoint, it’s been a long time since an AFI album has evoked me with the same kind of rush that I had when I first stumbled upon them, all that time ago. So yes – it is their best work since The Art Of Drowning. It’s also the best album to grace my stereo for eons and will no doubt hold that title for a very, very long time to come.

5 out of 5 high fives!

The ‘Teaser’ Trend And Why It Should Go To Hell

I spend a disproportionate amount of time on Facebook. I can’t help it, I’m a member of the internet generation. In between stalking random people that I’ve never met (to decide whether or not I would care to meet them) and raging at Candy Crush Saga, I like to flick through my news feed to see what all the different bands I’ve started following are up to. And you know what most of them are doing? Posting thirty second teaser trailers for four minute videos.

That’s what Parkway Drive did for their latest video. Parkway Drive are a successful metalcore band from Australia with a very attractive frontman and they sell out venues. For me, the teaser trailer is a pointless exercise. It didn’t showcase anything about the video at all, just showing a few performance shots. Here’s the video:

There’s nothing overly special about the video, really; it’s a performance video, where everyone is a bit dirty. At least Epitaph had the good sense to release the teaser just a few days before the actual video, therefore not losing any hype generated in the mean time. But see, this is where Parkway Drive and the vast majority of my timeline differ; Parkway Drive are well established and extremely popular. The other bands have barely got their first demos out of the stable. If you’ve never even released a song, don’t post up a trailer that’s comprised of twenty per cent of your first unknown music video! Trust me – nobody cares unless you’re yet another one of Trent Reznor’s projects. The same goes for posting snippets of songs online. The best way to preview one of your releases is to post up a complete song, rather than ten seconds of each, smooshed together to a montage of terrible press photos. Come on, bands of Facebook – you are better than this. I know you are, and I want to believe in you, but this is like when you go to a restaurant and they give you complimentary bread – in this scenario, the bread is stale and some kind of weird multigrain that you’d never normally consider eating, and you’d much rather be chowing down on the delicious meaty steak (or delicately balanced mushroom risotto, if that’s more your deal) that is your new song.

There’s a few bands out there doing it right. AFI, for example, if you’ll forgive my total and absolute bias. AFI are potentially releasing new material in September. It’s not even totally clear that’s what’s happening. So far, they’ve released three videos. One follows Davey walking down a corridor wearing the most badass jacket I’ve ever seen, accompanied by a voiceover of him speaking some potential lyrics which sound darker than anything he’s written since Sing The Sorrow, until he enters a practice room where the rest of the band are waiting. Davey takes the mic, the music’s about to kick in when it fades out and all we know is SEPTEMBER. Ohhh, baby. The other two are weirder than Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham’s little murder family in Hannibal right now. Numbers chanted over images of circles and girls and people with their heads wrapped in sheets. If you’re a fairly hardcore AFI fan, you might remember their short film Clandestine and the number of theories that then became attached to the lyrical concepts of Sing The Sorrow. (If you aren’t and you don’t, it’s worth listening the album from Bleed Black onwards, not ignoring the bonus track, which then puts The Leaving Songs in order and follows concepts about a cyclical nature of life and death. It’s kind of creepy. And awesome.) These videos are creating a total frenzy amongst AFI fans and a significant amount of WTF from everyone else, all of which is extremely useful publicity, and because AFI are a very well known band, it works.

This isn’t to say that an unknown band couldn’t pull of something like this, because it’s intriguing. It’s potentially a little bit pretentious and a little bit of an ego stroke, but you’re in a band. Take those self-indulgent teaser trailers, cram them where the sun doesn’t shine and play around with something a little more crazy. You owe it to yourself and your fans (or your potential ones, if you’re yet to have any) to stand out from the crowd and try something different. So before you click ‘upload’ on that thirty-second preview of your reasonably ordinary music video, think – the best of your act can’t be showcased in thirty seconds. Unless you’re Limp Wrist, and then your best songs can always be showcased in under thirty seconds because the whole thing usually is. But chances are, you’re not, so show us the whole fucking video.