Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Decade in Extended Plays, #30-21

Today PB really digs into the obscure local flavor of Pennsylvania's music scene. By which I mean, a good chunk of this post is dedicated to my friends' bands. Of course, my friends aren't just on here because we get along. I know plenty of people in bands; I only choose to talk about the ones I think are good.

Maybe it's because I'm such a music fan and musician that I tend to associate with other musicians. I've always thought that music, and art in general, was a communal experience. Hanging out with music makers makes sense.

So dig into a more insular aspect of my decade in music.

The Top 50 Short Form Rocktastic Rockers of the Nils, #30-21

30. Prevail - Pandamonium (2006)

This one takes me back. Prevail is a local technical hardcore act from the Pa. ’burbs. After several line-up shifts (not to mention a name change to Ancestor), the group sounds pretty different nowadays. And while their recorded output has gotten rawer accordingly, there’s something about Pandamonium that takes me back to the mid-aughts, when the Lansdale underground scene was in full flush. You could hit up a VFW hall or a youth center seemingly every night and catch a few local bands, maybe even a nationally touring act like Crime in Stereo or Set Your Goals. Not to get cheesy, but Pandamonium makes me think of sweaty bodies moving in unison. It makes me think of living in the moment and dropping responsibility and pressure for a handful of 20-minute sets. For all its recording mistakes, the EP registers on a deeply personal level, and reminds me of how things used to be.

29. The Premier - The Live Like You're Dying EP (2006)

Same story as Pandamonium. The Premier is a now-defunct emo act that was pretty big in the area, did a few dozen tours, and then broke up. A couple of the members went on to much bigger success with The Wonder Years. All I have left are a handful of recordings and memories of angular emotional rock music. “Back in the day,” though, The Premier was one of the scene’s biggest bands, playing just about every show. Their sets were always highlights for me; frontman/bassist Dan Campbell wrote some vivid lyrics. Granted, he could get melodramatic at times, but that was part of the charm.

28. Death Cab for Cutie - The Stability EP (2002)

While they’re known today for churning out reliably catchy indie rock tunes, Death Cab for Cutie were once a tad less mainstream. The Stability EP boasts three songs: The quiet, wounded “20th Century Towers,” a cover of Bjork’s “All is Full of Love” that still sounds like it’s about to crack in spite of a more lively beat, and the long lonely death march of the 12-and-a-half-minutes-long title track. This one’s mellow.

27. Nate Adams - Demos (2008)

This online-only release came from former Percentages pseudo-frontman/guitarist Nate Adams, and it quickly became a favorite among my friends at parties. Of course, Nate was usually at those parties and we usually made him play the songs he was least proud of (“Philadelphia is Burning,” “Leaving Las Vegas”), but that was part of the fun. On record, the songs sound stark, sparse, a bit resigned. Live, they’re drunken party anthems. Either way, they’re catchy acoustic ditties; take your pick.

26. Say Anything - For Sale (2004)

I was a huge Say Anything freak freshman year of college, thanks to his insanely catchy, scene-baiting epic Is a Real Boy. Songwriter/frontman Max Bemis wasn’t too stable at the time, and it took me a few false starts to see SA live. The first time I got the chance, I showed up a little late and caught that last song of his opening set for Hot Rod Circuit and Straylight Run. He was selling merch after his performance. I chatted Bemis up for a bit; he seemed super out of it and forgot to charge me for this EP. I still feel bad about it, but For Sale recycles three of the songs from Real Boy anyway. Then again, the two songs unique to this CD are among Bemis’ best. I still sing the outro to “We Will Erase All Live on Earth But Us” to myself as a private mantra. It’s the ultimate psych up song.

25. Shorebirds - Shorebirds (2007)

For a little while there, it seemed like Matt Canino had bounced back from Latterman’s demise with the possibly, maybe, potentially just as great Shorebirds. The gruff vocals and infectious singalongs were still there, albeit with the guitar pyrotechnics stripped away. Oh yeah, and he scored Chris Bauermeister (ex-Jawbreaker) on bass. Sadly, the band burned out in about a year, leaving behind a handful of strong seven-inches and one lackluster full-length. The band’s strongest artistic statement was also their self-titled debut. It’s over way before I’m ready for it to be, but that’s how Shorebirds were in general.

24. The Percentages - No Pants O'Clock (2008)

Hey look, it’s that band I said Nate Adams was in! Basically, No Pants O’Clock sounds like Demos, except it’s a full-on rock band. And John O’Riordan sings lead most of the time. Except when guitarist Joe Gilson does. And there are drums and they’re very bouncing and fun and add pep to the songs, which are generally about drunks or something. It’s all there in the first track, “A Better Tomorrow,” as the song builds towards a feverish singalong, but bless the band for repeating the trick a few more times. For a small window of time, this was the best pub rock band in Philadelphia. Anyone who says otherwise obviously hasn’t heard “This Ain’t My First Rodeo (Hey Hey Hey).”

23. The Next Big Thing - Condense the Nonsense (2009)

Jesus Christ, I talk about my friends too much. Punk rock! Scene unity! Yeah!

22. The Bens - The Bens (2003)

Bens Folds, Kweller, and Lee banded together to form a super-sweet power pop supergroup. The result: This perfect four-song EP. After highlight “Just Pretend,” in which all three contribute, the members take turns leading the way for three more songs. The strongest of those is closer “Bruised,” a typically Folds-y composition that’s angry despite its bouncy arrangement. It’s essential listening for fans of any of the individual Bens, and I’d love to hear a full-length from the trio someday.

21. The Ergs! - The Ben Kweller EP (2002)

Speaking of Ben Kweller, he’s responsible for my devotion to the dearly departed pop punk act The Ergs!. I was looking for BK iTunes exclusives when I stumbled upon The Ben Kweller EP. The 30-second samples sounded good, so I downloaded it and promptly fell in love with one of the most prolific bands of the decade. Truth be told, any Ergs! release could’ve been on this list (Well, minus their two full-lengths, obviously), but the BK EP holds up the best as an independent document. “Ben Kweller” is an insanely catchy song in which drummer/vocalist Mikey Erg wishes he could write an insanely catchy song like BK. Later on we get the original version of “A Million Perfect Days” and the pretty funny “NAMBLA Grey Area” (Sample lyric: “Not a boy! Not a man!”).

TOMORROW: shoegaze, punks, and the D, #20-11.


Sam Fran said...

The Pam double-take while Nate screeches "Take me with you" is clutch

Joe said...

I'm so glad I was able to find this video. For serious.