Best of 2014: Music & Film

Another year, another best-of list. One of these days, when I’m old and gray, I’m going to show these lists to my grandkids and prove to them that I was at, one time, relevant with pop culture. They’ll say, “What’s a blog, Grampa Kev-bo?” I’ll say, “What?” They’ll say, “What’s a blog, Grampa Kev-bo?” And I’ll say, “What?”

You get the idea.

As for now, I’m happy to report that I still have my hearing and that I am loving 2014 music and film. Up first: here are some of my favorite albums and tracks from the year. Some you probably know, maybe a few you don’t? Give them a listen and let me know if any resonate with you.


Kevin Morby-Still Life

Kevin Morby is my new favorite singer-songwriter. I’ve been obsessed with Still Life, his latest effort, for a few weeks now. The range of this record is amazing. From minimalist acoustic/drum tracks (see below), to fuzzy reverb layers, to clean 70’s pop, to indie folk, this album has a bit of everything, and it executes it well.

In reviews, I try to stay away from easy artist comparisons. Hardworking musicians, like Morby, deserve complex criticisms. That said, Kevin Morby is the brilliant lovechild of Nick Cave and David Bazan, though was raised by his god parents in the 90’s in a sailboat off Santa Monica by Beck and Lou Reed. That’s what he sounds like. Got it?

SBTRKT-Wonder Where We Land (more…)


Confessions of a Former Dashboard Confessional Fan

Many pop/rock bands from my youth are reemerging. Weezer, Brand New, Blink 182, mewithoutYou and Jimmy Eat World have all embarked on album reunion tours (Jimmy Eat World just announced one for FUTURES, which is pretty great). For me, this year marks the tenth anniversary of something even more nostalgic and silly, that is, my high school graduation.

I think about where I was ten years ago and who I was listening to. Oddly enough, it is a lot of the same music I listen to today. Adding to the list up top we have Death Cab for Cutie, Beck, Denison Witmer, Lovedrug, Ben Folds…

I’m okay with still liking all these bands. Their music is sustaining, and I’m proud to say that they helped shape my younger ears.

But there’s other bands from my past, that when they pop up, I’m not so okay with. What I’m getting at is that sometimes certain music reminds me how creepy I was in high school.

The Bands You Have Come to Fear the Most

Remember Dashboard Confessional? That emo acoustic-rock band lead by Chris Carrabba out of Further Seems Forever? I’m asking but, really, I know you do. Odds are if you are around my age and listened to indie/emo you probably owned two or three of his EPs; the MTV Unplugged DVD/CD combo; you wore the D/C pins on your denim jacket; and you shouted his lyrics like hell, in angst, when relationships broke (and really, even when you were happy).

Yeah. That Dashboard Confessional.

What was it about this band that was so gripping? I mean sure, he sang about falling in love and break-ups and getting cheated on, which captured the essence of dating in high-school, but there was something else. Something that just connected.

Maybe it was the time. One of those rare things, you know? A perfect storm, fueled by emotion-hungry MTV rebels who were looking for a genuineness than rock radio couldn’t provide. And Chris Carrabba sang from the heart. He was always truthful on stage, and I think that’s what we loved. He was the genuine, earnest article. He was the folk-voice of my high school generation, and, to be honest, it’s totally embarrassing.

But before I get ahead of myself, here’s a quick recap for those who honestly don’t know about Dashboard Confessional.

Kevin’s Dashboard 3 Point Recap

1. Cheated on by his wife, he poured his heart out on some angsty acoutsic EPs

2. Those EPs made him super popular. Then he made more of the same

3. He eventually pulled a ’65 Dylan and went electric, earning a couple big MTV hits.

I was a REALLY big fan of Dashboard. The extent of my obsession was a bit much. You can tell I was a big fan because I drop the band’s last name when I refer to them. We were that close. Like Chris, I now need to confess. I need to brush embarrassing memories off my chest, so I can finally move forward, like an adult.

(To the tune of Buzzfeed)


1. I had a questionably handsome poster on my bedroom wall of Chris on the cover of SPIN


2. I used my friend’s dad’s eBay account to consistently bid on Dashboard merch. mlRflFAMpCcNczhbPF_fKhg (more…)

Better Than ‘Pinkerton’: The Case for ‘Maladroit’


Weezer vs. Weezer

In 1996, rock band Weezer released Pinkerton, a follow up to their multi-platinum, smash-hit debut record.

Everyone hated it.

But like Rocky IV, there was a comeback. Now, we all love it. I’m not sure what exactly happened. Somewhere along the line, we Weezites had a change of heart.

It is now the fan favorite. Anyone who knows anything of the Weez knows of this album. You could even make the case it paved the way for today’s indie music scene.

While, as I mentioned, Pinkerton is a great album. There is a bit of, may I dare say, under-appreciation of their other material? Fans aren’t just stand-offish about their other albums, they’re down right elitist—blind to anything other than what they’ve deemed as cool.

url-1So what have we done? We’ve turned on our own Weezer makers and set ridiculous standards to expect and judge them by.

Meanwhile, Maladroit slipped right through all our fingers. Which is sad, because it is a very special album and it deserves a chance to sit alongside Pinkerton and Blue as their best work. I’d even say it’s better. (gasp!). At least, better than Pinkerton.

First, let’s discuss how we got here:

Why People (May) Like Pinkerton

The album connected to them and they genuinely love it. 

It’s angst ridden and rebellious: “It was like they didn’t care.

It has, Tired of Sex, El Scorcho, and a song about lesbians.

People are told it’s the best and they want to be cool too (not everybody, but some).

Why People Don’t (Usually) Like Maladroit

It’s not Pinkerton.

They never gave it a chance.

It lacks the instant gratification of Blue, Pinkerton, & Green.

What I Propose:


The Case for Maladroit

urlJust like Pinkerton was an angst ridden and rebellious “shrug off” to the pop-rock sensation that was the Blue album, Maladroit was a diverse and deep response to the sparse, under-achieving simplicity that was the Green album.

Though Maladroit lures in fans with a couple upbeat radio singles in “Dope Nose” and “Keep Fishing,” it is indeed a dark album which, no-doubt, pushed listeners away. “Slob,” “Death and Destruction,” and “Take Control” hold more raw emotion and darkness than anything found in their catalog. Though dismal, this is where the album shines lyrically: exceeding expectations by leaving the listener in awkward, uneasy places.

“Every time I call, you find some way to ditch me. So I learn to turn and look the other way.” –Death and Destruction

What Maladroit lacked in accessibility, it made up for in musical diversity and depth.

Patrick’s drumming is the best and most diverse of any album. Check out “American Gigolo,” and “Possibilities.” Even my least favorite track, “December,” holds some interesting drum patterns.

River’s guitar work diverges from power chords and leans instead on irregularly placed solos and frills, with phenomenally crafted chord progressions: “Love Explosion,” “Death and Destruction,” “Burndt Jamb,” and “Take Control.”

For those seeking composition diversity, Maladroit was their first album to feature not one but two songs without an official chorus: “Burndt Jamb” and “Death and Destruction” (when considering Blue, Pinkerton, and Green). “Space Rock” is also a tune worth noting for it’s diversity in composition among the Weezer catalog.

Closing Thoughts

I know, this is the argument you never asked for. Sorry. Regardless, I’d love to hear from the Weezer fans out there. What do you think? Are you ready to give Maladroit another chance?

Top 10 of oh’10

So before I dig in too deep, I thought I’d make a couple notes.

*Honestly, my favorite album of this year was The Avett Brothers-I and Love and You, technically a 2009 release. Unfortunately I didn’t hear it till early 2010 so it can’t be an official “best of.” I also really liked the last David Crowder Band album, Church Music, also a 2009 release. Both of these albums I listened to heavily in 2010, so I thought I’d give them a mention. If you haven’t heard I and Love and You yet then you are missing out on life.
*This was a great year for music, although a little strange. I found myself disappointed with bands I’ve been into for years such as Anberlin, Angels & Airwaves, Weezer, and The Rocket Summer. It wasn’t so much that these albums were “bad” as I just wanted something new or different. They just didn’t speak to me (or they lost their appeal after a week or two). At the same time, I happened to cling to the newest Jimmy Eat World and I Can Make a Mess albums (bands I listened to in high school) so I don’t really know.
*I’ve never cared for much of The Arcade Fire or for Band of Horses, not because of lack of talent but because I tend to stay away from “indie darlings” who seem to top every hipster list. I couldn’t help it this year. (I’m coming to terms with my indie hipster self I guess) Both albums were exquisite (and I don’t use that word very often). (more…)