Posts Tagged ‘manchester orchestra’


Top 20 songs of a sinister cult

April 27, 2012

Is “emo” a dirty word? The Daily Mail thinks it is. Well, it thinks it is a “sinister cult”. I do not portray the stereotypical characteristics of an emo (often) yet whenever I am called one, it is usually in a derogatory manner. Emos can often be sidelined as the pathetic, self-indulgent, effeminate dandies who detach themselves from the real world and instead bury their minds in a romanticised, death-obsessesed heartbreak coma. This isn’t really fair. I just like music with a bit of emotion in it. 

Anyway, this is not meant to be a dissection and dialectic on emo, well, sort of, no, this is a vague response to Is Thing On?’s top 100 emo songs. I think the author alextb3 probably knows his emo, screamo, post hardcore etc much better than I do but I thought I’d just put down what I consider my top 10 20 emo songs. While the aforementioned 100 list is thorough and varied and diverse and all the rest, mine is just going to be a big cryfest with lashing of fringes, screams and eyeliner. So, here goes. Let me know just how many genre “mistakes” I make and why I am wrong…

20. Panic! At The Disco – Time To Dance

I don’t think there could have been a list without Panic!. Their first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, was a perfectly-executed portrait of modern emo. Agile and preposterously pretentious lyrics coined with an overuse of some sort of piano/organ imitator made for the perfect soundtrack for the revival of skinny jeans. They also represent the time when the Mail et al turned on emo – the poor chaps had bottles thrown at them when they played Reading in 2006. Bloody southerners. 

19. Thursday – Understanding In A Car Crash

Thursday seem to have a fascination with collisions and crashes. I can think of numerous songs across their various albums which involve some sort of smash… and I like it. There is little emotional subtlety here but there is a crap-load of punches to the throat. The chaos in the crash, the way nothing means anything when it is out of your control, the similarities between the physical and emotional damage, it all makes for a good car crash song. 

18. Bayside – They Looked Like Strong Hands

This song is in here because Bayside’s acoustic album is lovely – just how an acoustic punk-emo album should sound. This particular song is in here because it’s all about misinterpreting your own strength then buckling under the pressure of it all. If that’s not emo, I don’t know what is. 

17. Silverstein – My Heroine

This from my days as a teenage mosher. Silverstein still blend heavy rock (metal?) with the occasionaly delicate riff or vocals. My Heroine demonstrates this with a few lovely lines about drugs beginning to fade what goes on under the covers (another favourite emo topic). Yes, the shouting can be a bit lame but the passion is there and that’s what it’s important. AND, this bloke is singing somebody up, which is nice. See, it’s not all a big downer. 

16. Saves The Day – At Your Funeral

A friend once asked me how I could listen to this as it was so depressing: “He’s singing about drowning?!” What he could not comprehend was it was the strength of the feeling in a song which made  it. I am always a fan of really morbid, horrible things being sung in a fairly nonchalant way and this song ticks that box. Woo. 

15. O Brother – Oh Charitable Thief

A big, brooding nine-minuter with barely-audible lyrics and dark, threatening guitars. Nice.

14. Dashboard Confessional – The End Of An Anchor

I thought Dashboard Confessional deserved a mention somewhere in here as well. They represent that beautiful transition between pop and emo. This places it to the slightly more pathetic end of the emo spectrum but this offering and pain and self-guilt is enough to turn those frowns upside down and then the right way up again. He’s so grateful for another chance but he’s willing to sacrifice it because he’s so sad. That’s sad.

13. Bright Eyes – Landlocked Blues

He’s blue and he’s landlocked. Poor Conor. You have to feel for him. He doesn’t even know where he’s walking THEN some kid attacks him with a stick. It’s all going Pete Tong for him. Then he tries to do the sex dance with some girl and the war on tv keeps interrupting. Absolute nightmare. 

12. Meet Me In St Louis – I Am Champagne, You Are Shit

I reckon this song could kill you. If you were feeling particularly vulnerable and this hit you at just right the time and at the right volume, BOOM. DEAD. It is a bloomin’ powerful song, lyrically and instrumentally. And it’s about love. That’s nice. “And through your tangled hair, your eyelids are dancing. Pretending not to care, I’m guessing what you’re dreaming.”

11. Cursive – Dorothy At Forty

Now for the middle-of-the-road dream shattering part of the tour. So, you want a nice house, good car, 2.4 children and a decent job. Well, Cursive are going to blow your world wide open. And Dorothy’s too. I know this song and the big Cursive dream gun mainly targets Americans but I still love the imagery. “Dreams are all you have… dreamers never live, only dream of it.”


10. Mewithoutyou – O, Porcupine

Spoken word music shouldn’t real be anyone’s bag, especially if religion, nature and animals are strong components of that spoken word. But MeWithoutYou make it work. And their music is awesome given their name is a bit rubbish. I particularly like the line in this song: “O Porcupine, high in the tree, your eyes to mine: ‘You’d be well inclined not to mess with me.'” The religious motivation behind many of their lyrics actually give the songs a lot more oomph despite me not being at all religious. It’s all about the problem/solution ratio within emo. 

9. Death Cab For Cutie – What Sarah Said

We’re getting serious now. What Sarah Said might not be the first Death Cab song which springs to mind when you think of their emotional power and when you listen to the lyrics – the matter-of-fact reenactment of a hospital waiting room as a loved one clings to life – it will bring you to tears. The rolling piano which repeats throughout gives the song an eery sense of safety and optimism but that is dashed when Ben Gibbard sings “Love is watching someone die”.

8. Kevin Devine – Ballgame

K Dev normally toes the line of folk and rock occasionally pouring enough pain into his lyrics for me to be able to class it as emo. This song here is our political emo song for the list. Kevin is lamenting the war, lamenting his passive protest and lonely alcoholism. Ballgame is a perfect song in its original state but if you click the link ^^^ you will see it has been made even more perfect in Kevin’s most recent tour when he encored with an extended version. “She took the kid by the arm and said you piss away the things you love. We can fix ourselves up kids and we can learn how to love.”

7. Hawthorne Heights – Ohio Is For Lovers

“And I can’t make it on my own.
Because my heart is in Ohio.
So cut my wrists and black my eyes.
So I can fall asleep tonight, or die.
Because you kill me.
You know you do, you kill me well.
You like it too, and I can tell.”

‘Nuff said.

6. My Chemical Romance – Demolition Lovers

The Godfathers of modern emo. The band closest to its demise and ridicule. Yet the band whose first  (and second) album were excellent examples of the ferocity and imagery possible in noughties emo. Demoliton Lovers, the last song off their debut album, captures the destructive magnigifince in their vampire-tinged material. They were doing so well until The Black Parade came along and Gerard got a bit too big for his little emo booties. Still, I think it deserves to be this high up.

5. Alkaline Trio – I Lied My Face Off

I LIED MY FACE OFF WHEN I SAID THAT I WOULD BE OK. The problem with Alkaline Trio is they came to prominence after Stupid Kid and nobody thought to look beyond that. Their first one,two,three,four albums are excellent early goth punk – that said, From Here To Infirmary is a bloody good album too. Some of the self-loathing and abuse in those early albums is truly heart-breaking and I think this song is exemplary of that. They didn’t piss around, they moaned and whined and they did it very well.

4. Jimmy Eat World – Just Watch The Fireworks

Jimmy Eat World are often hailed – alongside Sunny Day Real Estate and some other band – as bringers of the emo music. Back then it was all about being a bit soppy and having some twinkly guitars as opposed to the black, black, black, death cries. This song from their epic Clarity album is just about the most beautiful thing they have done. Even the song title gives me the chills. Don’t worry about the world, baby, and the other thing and whether we might have left the oven on, just watch the fireworks. God, yes.

3. Taking Back Sunday – …Slowdance On The Inside

TBS may not deserve the number three slot but again, like My Chemical Romance, they represent the modern whiny emo I have come to love. Though this song is mainly at number three because I like the name and the line “This glass house is burning down.” Glass houses can’t burn down. Silly emos.

2. Brand New – Me vs Maradona vs Elvis

Aren’t Brand New just the best damn band out there? They have songs which are more likely to make you cry but I would hesitate before calling them emo because their music has progressed so far over four albums. But I need to put one of their songs in and this high up too, so opted for Jesse’s “if you let me have my way I swear I’ll tear you apart” and “I almost feel sorry for what I’m going to do”. This self examination is such a strong essence of emo, arguably because one of the greatest indulgences one can allow themselves is to moan about yourself and why you do what you do. Jesse and the gang do this brilliantly. I’m excited and scared in equal measure for their next album.

1. Manchester Orchestra – I Can Feel A Hot One

On first listen, or the second and probably third, you might not think of this as emo. And detached from the band entirely this probably isn’t. But I dare you to listen to this song and not let it bring you to choking sobs. The notes already sound like tears. Andy Hull’s voice seems to teeter on the brink of cracking throughout. The soaring chords later on. The subject of the song breaking down. God, it’s all there. I know it’s cheesy but I also love the line: “I prayed to what I thought were angels, ended up being ambulances.” So, yes, this is the top emo song of my spurious list.

Disclaimer: The basis for picking these songs has nothing really to do with emo though it might do. The  criteria also changed every half hour over a 48 hour-or-so period. 

I also found an old article I wrote about emo for a York Uni magazine – it’s page 45 or so here.


The Best Albums of 2011

December 10, 2011

Blah it’s that blah time of year again blah. Let’s get some of the smaller, less significant awards out of the way first:

Best meal of the year: I made a lasagne which was quite nice though the pasta was still a bit chewy.

Best lie-in of the year: I forget the day, but I was in bed until about three and there was half a muffin on my bedside table.

Best train journey of the year: Cambridge to Newmarket without a doubt. Absolutely brilliant.

Now onto the serious business. I’ve decided to do five of the best albums of the year because I could not pick just one. I’ve decided these are quite clearly MY best albums and may well not be THE best albums, not that there could ever be an objective list. These are the albums I have enjoyed the most and not the albums that will change the face of music for the rest of the blah blah blah. And, obviously, it’s out of the albums I actually own – there are a fair few I would like to get but haven’t got round to – though I might to claim to own some I actually don’t, much like everyone says they’ve seen Citizen Kane.

In no particular order –

Gil Scot Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here

Wow. If you thought Heron’s solo, come-back effort was enough on I’m New Here, man-of-the-moment-in-an-industry-where-moments-do-not-last-long Jamie xx has produced a beautifully-crafted remix album which will surely stand the test of time. The xx boy finds the perfect balance between Heron’s haunting spoken word and original score and his own electronic, off-beat influence. As valuable in your room as in a club, some of the bass drops are RUDE yet Mr xx never loses the under-stated subtlety which accompanies everything he touches. Even more fitting that this makes the list after Heron’s sad passing earlier this year.



Everything Everything  – Man Alive

Downloaded on a whim after I saw their Mercury Prize nomination, I cringed at the first few tracks at first listen. “What is this nauseous hipster electro-pop?” I thought. But then on second, third, and all subsequent listens I thought, “Well, knock me down, this is awesome.” And there concludes my musical journey of enlightenment through this razor-sharp pop album. The dexterity of the lead singer’s [I don’t know his name and can’t be bothered to look it up] lyrics is sensual and his voice, though difficult to like at first, blossoms into a wonderful long-term relationship complete with walks on the beach and the occasional loving tiff about which Sunday newspaper to buy. I particularly like the bit he says the problem with the French is how they won’t admit they’re fools. I don’t have a problem with the French but I like the line. Bloody French.



Wild Beasts – Smother

This album makes its way onto the list slightly off the back of the band’s previous album, Two Dancers, because it was just that damn good. But Smother (the third album) is still excellent and builds on the strong melodic foundations laid in Two Dancers. The album invokes less of a party spirit, siding with melancholy, lust, and sexual power, oh, and enemies, they like enemies, more, which creates a much more powerful and mature offering. The band have certainly grown into themselves and the fourth album promises to be spectacular. Incidentally, I saw them headline Field Day and they were a bit rubbish, but I saw them at their own gig in Cambridge and they were incredibubble. The two singers’ voices are stunning. Stunning.



Manchester Orchestra  – Simple Math

Now for my emo offering. I love this band with all my heart. They are, quite frankly, one of the best bands around. While I love their older stuff that wee bit more, their new direction (a slightly rockier one) retains the lyrical prowess of Andy Hull only with a bit more oomph on the musical backing front and a slightly less-introverted singing style. There are very few lyricists like Mr Hull out there able to evoke such vivid imagery and emotion with mere words. Just words, think of it. Words. This album has marked an important part in Manchester Orchestra’s career as they have broken out into the big time – their next album will be crucial in seeing if they can cope with that – this could be the last album to cherish.



King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

King Creosote, a Scootish songwriter has released some 29 million albums, give or take, yet it seems his big break has been to work with electronic producer man Jon Hopkins. Mr Hopkins’ touch is even more subtle than Mr xx’s with Gilly but just as important. Take, for example, the four second guitar riff barely audible before the piano chords kick in for Bats in the Attic. Such touches are what makes this album an absolute triumph. Every single sound, every single string slide or drum click has been tirelessly thought through. Creosote’s (if indeed that is his real name, phh) voice has the quivering ache of hope and sadness yet reaches almost euphoric peaks at points on the album. It is a simple masterpiece.


There you have it, kids. Everyone loves a list, but everyone also loves knowing what did not make the list.

Here are some honourable mentions summed up in two words:

Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting – Beautifully dull

Bad Books – Bad Books – Devine Hull

Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know – Mature progression

Feist – Metals – Didn’t listen

Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire – Didn’t buy

And some more.


Christmas doom and gloom

December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas all. I did not really want to do a Christmas post so this is as close as i’m willing to take it.

First up, Manchester Orchestra have indulged their seasonal side by putting up a ’12 days of Christmas’ live acoustic version of their most recent album. It is truly beautiful. I suggest you give it a listen.

Mumford and Son’s most recent single, ‘Winter Winds’, is my most listened to song this festive season. It just makes you want to be battling against cold winds in a field somewhere circa 1920s. No? A brilliant band, Mumford and Sons seem to have risen to acclaim on the back of the slow-burning folk revival which has happened over the last several years. Noah and the Whale can absolutely do one, this is the good stuff.

Next up, is the Christmas treat we were lucky enough to receive from Mr. Erol Alkan this year. The previously unreleased Disco 3000 edit of In Flagranti’s ‘Brash and Vulgar’. I defy anyone not to dance their little festive socks off when hearing this. The Disco 3000 edits pretty much just extends the track and puts it in some Erol-esque drums in (see Waters of Nazareth (Erol Remix)) – a lovely present. Download it here.

The people went mad when they heard that.

And finally… The Twilight Sad. A band i cottoned on to a few years ago but only really took notice of when I bought their new album Forget The Night Ahead. A brilliant collection of dour Scottish sadness. Intense noise, a soft Scottish tongue, beautiful melodies and an impending sense of tread and doom make this excellent Christmas listening. It will probably be good until April or June considering the British weather. Listen to it in the dark, preferably still damp from the elements.


Kevin Devine – Splitting up Christmas

December 14, 2009

The combination of pride and modesty that exudes from Kevin Devine as he talks about his music is incredibly endearing. He is on the third date of the first leg of his Big Scary Monsters Holiday Tour promoting his new album, Brother’s Blood. There is not a particularly festive mood in the air but one of a relaxed, close-knit tour driven by the desire to have fun and give the fans a treat.

Kevin recognises with a smile that there has been an incremental increase in his popularity over in the UK. Big Scary Monsters, an Oxford based label, have given him the chance to have a British base as opposed to the previous occasions where he just “came over because fans invited him.” As he speaks of the ‘kids’ that come out to his shows a paternal pride can be seen on his bearded face.

“The last year I’ve watched it get bigger with everything i’ve done. It’s been the most successful year in terms of establishing myself in the UK.” Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band, or Kevin Devine, in any other variation, has definitely got a footing in Britain now. Tours and friendships with Brand New and Manchester Orchestra has increased his profile greatly. When asked what he puts it down to he is obviously very proud of his work and success, yet modest, attaching a caveat to any statement that may be perceived as selling himself.

He fills the minutes assessing himself and explaining his musical progression. He is very keen to explain himself, as someone with such a beautiful product as ‘Brother’s Blood’ should be. “It’s maybe the best record i’ve made. People are responding to it internationally in a way they never had before, but also playing 300 shows…it’s a case of ‘if you build it, they will come.’”

Despite this success Kevin speaks excitedly about the prospect of 30-date tour with just a car as his transport. Thankfully for all the venues, this mean they will be witness to a brilliant acoustic set. He feels ‘Brother’s Blood’ is record that most combines energy and low-fi grit with a professional well-rounded sound. Because all the music is written with such passion and commitment, even when it is just Kevin and his guitar there is no conviction or emotion lost. This is a case of less is more.

“When it is just me it is to present something that isn’t just standard finger picking talking about the sad weather or lost love, but doing it in a way that has some ‘teeth’ to it.” If you strip Kevin’s sound down, you see the raw aspects of his work. He sings the praises of early ‘Make The Clocks Move’ for its primal nature and notes that, although the studio is a somewhat sterile environment, he is still singing his songs which he wrote and loves, and consequently, nothing can be removed from the music.

Though success is now within reach and he has been touring religiously for the past year or so, it seems like it was originally slow to take hold for him. He responds to questions about the history of his music with an air of nostalgia, recalling for himself how it all started – delivering a comprehensive story and how and why he got where is today. The sense of enjoyment and pleasure is visible. He toured haphazardly through his first three records and did not quit his day job until going into Put Your Ghost To Rest. He humbly suggests that he does not know if there will not be day when he has to go back to it.

Any barriers between singer and fan seem to fall as his modesty leads him to discuss how his live shows have developed his voice over the past years. Though he has always had the voice to hit the notes, his confidence has not always allowed him. He tells how he was told not to “do that goat thing” and shake his voice when recording. His recent success and the massive respect he derives from crowds means this now is a thing of the past.

This is obvious when he takes the stage. When playing live, Kevin tries and succeeds in bringing “the spontaneity of jazz and the energy of punk to our folk rock pop songs.” His diverse musical background – hardcore, Dylan, his Mum’s “hippy music”, his Dad’s big band – lends an unique sound to his acoustic teeth.

The crowd sit on the floor – respectful. Kevin Devine displays why he is the one of the special artists to be playing music today. His politicised acoustic, folk, rock, pop and desire to maintain a close relationship with music results in a success that can only grow. Mid-set, as he closes a reprise of ‘Cotton Crush’, he breaks for applause but everyone is too stunned to move. He accepts this response inwardly and begins the next song.


Kick off our braces and start straightening out

October 23, 2009

This is an impromptu post because this song has been stuck on repeat in my head for several weeks now. It truly is a masterful piece of music. Below is Mr. Devine doing it acoustic, but be sure to check out the album version, or full band version.

Kevin Devine is a close friend of Jesse Lacey and their bands regularly do shows together, often appearing on stage together; search youtube for some orgasmic moments of this. Andy Hull, of Manchester Orchestra, kicks around with them as well. Jesse has done backing vocals on Cotton Crush, but Kevin doing it on his own is still beautiful.

Kevin Devine

On first listen the build up to there’s a cotton crush seems unnecessary, like waiting for the punchline whilst ignoring the joke. Give it a few more listens and the song takes on a more complete story of a boy seemingly losing control of himself.

You friends won’t wait/ so don’t believe that shit/ when they say they’ll wait/ trust me your friends will not wait for you/

The inner dialogue really portrays a vulnerable person. Kevin then suggests how he is going to crack;

Then you’ll be stoned in some park/ just nodding your head and pinching your arm/ when a girl walks alone/ she’s humming your song/ with your t-shirt on/ and that’s when you’re done/

The release at this point comes in both lyrics and music. The explosive chords combine with directions to stop f*cking around…maybe we need to be hollowed. Everyone needs to escape; to release themselves; kick of our braces and start straightening out.

I very much doubt anyone can listen to this song, especially the album version with the full band, and not want to escape themselves. Try it. Now.

Check out Kevin Devine’s other stuff; it’s really good folk/pop/rock with genuine emotion.