When Bobby approached me to write a top ten column for his blog, I was excited, but it couldn’t have been at a more depressing time in my life. In one weekend I was fired from my job and the girl I was seeing ended it. I won’t say I’m a religious man, but the first thing I tend to got to for answers in is my iTunes library. With a year of just one great album after another, it wasn’t hard to find some sort of solace. That’s why we’re all here right? We’re just channeling our aggression, anxiety and happiness through these pieces of art, aren’t we? So here are ten songs from this year with some #realtalk commentary to maybe help you out as they’ve helped me this past month. I will say this, through all the bleak news and strife, there’s always hope and there’s always a reason for things to happen. Like my friends in The Wonder Years told me this year, I’m not a self-help book, I’m just a fucked up kid. More importantly, we’ll come out swinging. We all will if you just continue to fight for your dreams. – love and respect
1. Sainthood Reps’s “Widow” ~ “We drew up plans that remain the same as the color of the walls underneath the paint.”
The guys recently posted what each of their songs were about the other day, and it was eerie how close I got to the perspective and idea of this one. Easily my favorite track of the year thus far, the song really portrays the idea of what a “rut” is in the most abstract of situations. We can sit around and wish and hope for something to happen or we can go out and really fight for our dreams and future accomplishments. We sometimes get caught up in the day to day until something out of left field happens and really wakes us up to get our life in order. If not, we more than likely will continue in our drought of a season.
2. Portugal. The Man’s “Sleep Forever” ~ “I just want to sleep forever / Never see tomorrow / Or lead or follow / I don’t want to work forever / Know what I know / Or beg or borrow“
This band writes some of the most lyrically desperate pop numbers I’ve heard in forever. If you took John Gourley’s lyrics and sped them up into crass hardcore, no one would know the difference. I think what makes it work is that his words are set against this bright timbre to create a definable sound. I think instead of writing songs of hope in a time of crisis or songs of crisis in times of no hope, the band end up just writing in a stream of conscious style that makes it all their own. That delivery is what continues to put them at the forefront of most.
3. Balance and Composure’s “Fade” – “I’m scared of ever finding out all I lived for was a lie. All the worries and the doubt, you don’t even think straight sometimes.”
There are moments in your life when you achieve so much and you just begin to wonder where that fits in the bigger picture. Was there a point in the effort you put out in your work, relationships, loves, etc.? What if you’re just a simple pawn amongst the knights and rooks of the rest of the board? It’s that over-thinking that will end up killing us in the end. I try to keep a mindset of doing things simply to do them. I’m not saying be careless in whatever your art is, I’m just saying don’t think about it too hard when it comes to the bigger picture.
4. Defeater’s “Empty Glass” – “Tell me about the old days.“
I know I’m taking this completely out of context to the descriptive story that is Defeater’s lyrical novelization, but the past year of nostalgia sits like a heavy stone on my mind. Beyond simple memories, I think I’ve reached the epiphany that all my bitching as a small child amounts to a thin thread comparable to the harsh realization of making your dreams after a certain age. A good beer and a few stories about the past is more than a welcomed reminder of just how easy you used to have it and how a timeline becomes unclear with age.
5. Former Thieves’ “The Language That We Speak” – “I’m passing the blame.“
Easily my favorite “heavy” record of the year, it’s also quite savant both instrumentally and lyrically throughout. A lot of issues are called out against the blunt instrumental end, and the last lines of the album tie it all up perfectly. There comes a time in every shitty venture when you’ve exhausted all you can do on your end for the best, and you simply just have to shove it off onto something or someone else. If you’ve finally solved inner issues, then obviously greater outside forces end up being the real problem.
6. Pygmy Lush’s “In a Well” ~ “In the darkest hole, look for a rope that isn’t burning. Start climbing. Start climbing.“
Through all the brush with the bitter mistress of destiny, there’s always a light. At our darkest of moments, we have to keep our eyes clear enough to reach for a way out. I’m unsure if it’s our bodies settling after initial panic or just our faith and diligence coming out swinging. With one of the darkest songs on Pygmy Lush’s absolutely stunning record, the band express the most hope lyrically – whether it comes off as desperate or not.
7. Touche Amore’s “Sesame” ~ “I need a week’s rest desperately.“
Jeremy Bohlm has written one of the best lyrical outlets of a hardcore record in years with Touche Amore’s second album. The final words to this song hit me the moment it was processed through my nerves. I’m unsure why I went to school for five years to pay for it even more two years after. I’m even more unsure if set paths mean much anymore. I am completely sure that if you want to live a dream or create your own road, the hours in the day extend longer than you would think, and at some point insomnia and lack of qualified rest kick in.
8. True Widow’s “NH” ~ “I know. I have been a liar / And of the curtain call / I know where I’ll go this time.”
Lying to yourself is the quickest way to move backwards. The first time I heard this song and that five-word line, it sent a chill down my spine. We’re all human and we all do it to ourselves. It’s one thing to lie to others, but I think our fates are even more sealed when we’re not honest with ourselves. A great friend told me this year that “there’s no economy for bullshit,” and that might stick with me until the day I die now.
9. Thursday’s “Past and Future Ruins” ~ “Somewhere there must be a better place, and it’s marked with the fountain I’ve seen glowing in my sleep.”
Dreams are weird – especially vivid ones. I think at our most anxious and worried of times our minds never shutdown, so even in our dreams, we tend to create these elaborate situations that seem so real that when we wake up, it just feels like a cut scene in our life. When we have the most vindicating and peaceful of dreams only to wake up to reality, it might be the most bittersweet of experiences in our lives. I think there’s always signs and feeling that we obtain throughout our lives that are trying to tell us something, and I greatly believe that escapism in dreams is one of those recurring times of personal nirvana.
10. Manchester Orchestra’s “Simple Math” ~ “Believe me, all is brilliant.“
I didn’t have much expectation for Manchester Orchestra’s follow-up to Mean Everything to Nothing because of the impact the previous album had on my life when I took my belongings and moved west to Austin. “Simple Math” is the kind of song that with enough listens just sinks into your skin and blankets your soul. When I heard that particular line around the fifth or sixth time this year among all the rubble, it made me realize that sometimes things do happen for a reason, no matter how much you want to harness some sort of control. It’s an uneasy feeling, but it relaxes just a bit of your anxiety into some sort of fruitful understanding. I know this song is about cheating and getting away with it, but I like to think it means just a little bit more.
ABOUT YOUR AUTHOR: Adam Pleider resides in Austin, TX and is an active voice in today’s music scene. He is a staff writer for Absolute Punk and helps book shows in the Austin area. He’s an avid supporter of the underground punk community and is praised for his coverage of the bands involved.