End of the Year 2014: Throwbacks
It’s kind of insane that I never really got into the Descendents until 2014, seeing as I’ve been playing pop punk for five years of my life. Often pointed to as the precursors to pop punk, the '80s-born hardcore punk group has an enormous discography of incredibly catchy, punchy jams that have audibly influenced everyone from Weezer to Green Day to Propaghandi to Mixtapes to Modern Baseball. Even if you’ve never listened to Descendents, you’ve definitely seen rips of all the Milo merch the band created. There’s something absolutely incredible about Descendents’ catchiness, raw lyrics and straightforward delivery that makes them really special. From Milo Goes to College to Cool to Be You, the outfit has not stopped pumping out the jams.
A hardcore band lamenting over girls, talking shit on excess, being generally angst-ridden and spitting important political observations is cool because it showed range. Descendents was one of those hardcore bands that refused to be defined by labels. While they criticized excess, they never claimed edge after Minor Threat put out “Straight Edge.” While they whined about girls, they never acted like meat-head anti-lady bullies. They really just did whatever the hell they wanted and said, “Fuck the rest!” Although there were elements of serious social critique, the music was a goofy expression of self. Listening to it makes me want to play Tony Hawk video games.
Tracks like “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” are incredibly fun jams that are a celebration of refusing to be a boring adult, and more serious songs like “‘Merican” more eloquently expresses everything that Green Day wanted to say with “American Idiot,” and it is a very timely song even a decade after its release. “Rockstar,” one of my favorites, is a blisteringly fast 38 seconds of talking shit on rock stars, posers who exploit rock and roll. Somebody message that jam to Maroon 5 already.
Very quickly Descendents have become one of my favorite 80s hardcore acts. I’m so pleased that I finally took the time to immerse myself in their tunes and learn the roots of the music I have spent five years creating, not to mention acquainting myself with the artists who influenced a million and one bands I admire. Listen to Descendents, kick flip, feel good.
Abbie Doyle, Features Editor
I learned who The Slits were this year and it was awesome! Those women literally picked up instruments and started playing them without any instruction or idea of what they were doing. They just started making noise and that is inspiring as hell. Especially to me, because I am supremely lazy, but I love music and very much intend to create some in my lifetime. The Slits are a perfect role model for someone like me. Just do the thing, don’t overthink it or drive yourself nuts over it, and it will be good.
Sammi Nelson, Blogs Editor
Father John Misty
Being a huge Fleet Foxes fan and a folk music enthusiast in general, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I only just discovered Father John Misty’s music this year. The first song I heard from him was “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” which had me hooked the moment I started listening to it. The video is absolutely amazing too, let me just say, and Aubrey Plaza is hot as hell in it. I’m currently in the process of listening to all of his work, which is a stress-inducingly long list for me.
Alexa Smith, News Editor
Ready for this? It took me until my 20th year of life to really take a good listen to The Doors. It pains me to say it, just as much as I’m sure it pains you to hear it. The Doors and I had a summer fling, some summer lovin’-- ohhh the summer nights, a well-oh, well-oh, well-oh ugh!
I danced with a dear friend that I only get to see so few times in a year, and we shared music, introducing the other to amazing things that we’ve never heard before. For me, that night was the night that my affair with Father John Misty began, and for him, he had his first brawl with Modest Mouse (almost as bad as me not listening to The Doors).
We danced together to The Doors, and smiled and laughed together, intoxicated on the music and other substances. The whole thing was delicious.
As the year goes on, The Doors took on the connotation of long road trips to see good friends, with Morrison and the gang as our companions making the trips a good time.
Marc Blanc, Staff Writer
The White Stripes
It was one mile between school and my house, and in 5th grade Mom finally let me walk home with my best friend Drew. Our folks called us “Kevin and Paul,” athletic, black-haired Drew was Kevin and lanky, spectacled me was Paul. We were neighbors. I didn’t understand the reference at the time.
Drew and I had this radio show we’d do on walks home–in between segments about our crushes we’d sing the songs we were just discovering through new tools like iTunes and YouTube. On Thursdays I’d become irate because Mom would intercept us and wagon me to speech therapy. I’d have rather gone by “Mawc” the rest of my life than sacrifice a radio show with Drew.
Once I was on iTunes looking for new things to sing on the show, and it recommended this weird-looking album called Icky Thump by a band called The White Stripes, I think because at the time I liked Green Day and The Strokes exclusively. When I heard the keyboard on that album’s title track I called Drew on the landline and held it up to the computer like 21st century Marty McFly. Nothing sounded like "Icky Thump;" not Green Day, not The Strokes, not anything.
I must have shouted that song on every walk home until the end of the year.
“Hey Ameawicans, what, nothin’ bettuh to do, why don’t you kick yohselves out, yoh an immigwant, too!”
It was an awakening. It was much weirder than anything I’d heard, and I liked that. It taught me the word "prostitute." Drew liked the song well enough, but looking back I think that’s when he started to feel a severance on the sidewalk. He favored Sean Kingston and Cascada to wacko stuff like “Icky Thump,” and he never had much to say when I talked about immigration and prostitutes on the radio show.
Grade school broke out into middle school and that war claimed the sturdiest of friendships. Mine was no exception, when Drew joined the football team and I joined a garage band. I thought I grew out of The White Stripes, I was too angry. I started listening to stuff like Bad Brains and Minor Threat. Every single day I wore punk shirts I bought online. No one seemed to call me Paul anymore.
High school broke out into college and The White Stripes broke up along with three of my garage bands and even more of my friendships. I thought I grew out of hardcore punk, I was too thoughtful. I liked old blues–especially Robert Johnson. Going back to that old tool, YouTube, I stumbled on The White Stripes' cover of one of Johnson’s songs, “Stop Breaking Down.” OK, why not? It was the sleepy summer before university and I just quit my job bagging groceries. Seemed like one of the better time to revisit grade school bands.
I wish I had a landline and I wish I had Drew, because he would dig that song. As he should- it’s so powerful. And it's not as wacko as Icky Thump. It’s like if the first generation rockers of the 50s had the huge distortion and guitar techniques of later bands. Then I learned that almost all of The White Stripes’ pre-Icky stuff is like that.
Drew left for Ohio State the same day I left for Ohio University. From my driveway I could see him packing his van. There was no avoiding a polite goodbye that we both knew should be much more. I couldn’t think of anything to say other than the cliches our moms were sighing to each other. I looked around at yards and the road for inspiration.
“Uh, I think I’m going to join college radio down there,” I said.
“Oh yeah? What are you gonna play?” He folded his arms and smiled like a teacher who wasn’t in your favorite subject but you liked him well enough to chew the fat if you saw him in the store.
“Probably like The White Stripes, Weezer, alternative stuff like that,” I said.
“Some thing’s don’t change,” he said. He was smiling. That was closest either of us have been to directly saying, “We used to be best friends. Now we’re not. I wish we could be.” I’ll take it.
Chris Reinbold, Staff Writer
I first heard Say Anything’s … Is a Real Boy when I was in eighth grade. I thought their lyrics were hilarious and it was punk enough to satisfy a kid that absolutely loved Green Day and Bad Religion, however, the band did not stick with me. I got a mixtape my freshman year of high school with “Manhattan” at the tail end of the track listing. I revisited Say Anything and ate them up.
Again, I forgot about them and didn’t really touch them throughout the rest of my time in high school. During spring of my freshman year of college, my former hardcore band’s vocalist was jamming their Baseball album in his dorm next to mine. I heard “Manhattan” again and shouted “DUUUUDE!!! THIS SONG!!!” My love of Say Anything was reignited.
Being older, I really noticed just how well Bemis could write a good pop song within a punk rock context. Bemis’ lyrics are biting, sometimes abrasive, tongue in cheek and, even with his sadder, more depressed songs, you can’t help but shout along to every single word. I do it, especially in the car. Even 2014’s Hebrews maintains the tradition of self-awareness and expert songcraft that Bemis is known for. Shout out to Dave for getting me back into these guys!
Travis Boswell, Staff Writer
My first exposure to RiFF RAFF was a Vine video of him playing with his dog...which he had recently dyed blue. I had to check out his mixtapes after that to hear what kind of craziness was in store. I found the hundreds of songs he's released and liked nearly all of them. RiFF RAFF isn't the most technical rapper, but his music is so much fun that it doesn't matter.
The beats are excellent and his rhymes are so silly that I was immediately hooked. He can hold his own in collaborations with Mac Miller and Slim Thug, then turn around and say he's “leanin' like the Eiffel Tower” with jewels that “look like panda piss." I spent many summer days blasting RiFF RAFF with the bass turned up obnoxiously high.
Garrett Bower, Staff Writer
It took me until this year to discover that Death Grips was everything I’ve wanted in terms of angry, distorted experimental hip hop. I avoided the Death Grips onslaught for a good long while until I started to realize that people other than Zack Baker listened to them. Good, respectable people who I watched argue at the bar one night about where they thought Death Grips was going in the post-Government Plates days (ah, to be young and naïve).
The next day I hunkered down in a comfy chair and scoured YouTube, instantly enthralled by all of the brilliant videos to go along with the maddening songs. Since those early days, I am proud to report I have hijacked two party playlists to blast some Death Grips and on both occasions the cops have showed up promptly after. I’ve listened to “System Blower” to keep me awake on long drives and streamed “Beware” off my phone in a dorm shower to break up afternoon fornicators in the neighboring stall. Even though Death Grips might be under the (Zach) Hill, I’m still here, enjoying the (MC) Ride. <3
Eric Perzanowski, Programming Director & Contributor
Rap music is something I had lost touch with over the past year or two, but in 2014, I got back in to listening to it a little more. Danny Brown was a name that had been in my mind for a while, as his album Old was a mainstay in the rotation at the station for a long time (and deservedly so). A lot of his music I had played particularly stood out to me, so I decided to give the album a couple listens, free from the limits of the edited versions of the songs (damn you, safe harbor!), and got hooked.
Sam Carroll, Contributor
High On Fire
I wish I could go back in time and slap my middle school self for hating High On Fire. I never listened to it. I was under the impression the band was something like Slipknot or Disturbed or some other garbage band angst-y tweens passed off as metal. I even bought one of HoF’s albums on a whim, but never listened to it. I was focused on Pantera and Metallica.
I started listening to HEAVY metal full time during junior year of high school; the thick, slower than molasses marinating in fuzz. I listened to Electric Wizard and Sleep a lot. I didn’t discover what HoF played until this year. “Blood from Zion” was recommended for me because I listened to Sleep’s Dopesmoker. I was surprised, it sounded like Sleep with thicker guitars and an overall more aggressive approach.
Perhaps instead of going back and slapping myself, I’d say to never judge a book by it’s cover, but only after making my tween self give Blessed Black Wings a blind listen.
Tony Cardwell, Contributor
Coming to college I didn’t know what to expect. What would happen to my old friends? Where would I meet new friends? How would I function with classes and clubs? Would I succeed? Would I fail? Would I even have a life? I still don’t know how to answer all of those questions, but what I do know is I discovered an amazing genre of music that was tailor-made for me, pop punk. More specifically The Wonder Years and Modern Baseball. Holy shit, these two groups speak to me.
They represent everything that is my generation and they portray the daily, trivial lives of Millennials perfectly. They talk about twitter, not being able to compare to those over-achievers from high school and the greater world of suburbia dysfunction. I see myself relating to almost every song I listen to, whether it be planning out tomorrow's conversations with that one girl in my geology class, or kicking myself because I don’t try hard enough. This revival of emo/pop punk really is a God-send.
Charlie Walden, Guest Contributor
Kind Of Like Spitting
Kind of Like Spitting is a project by songwriter Ben Barnett. It was something that I had only dabbled in before this year. One day this past winter I listened to his record Nothing Makes Sense Without It and it really clicked, I don't think he's put out a bad record... it all rules. It's like Elliott Smith or something, but better.
Eric Bishop, Guest Contributor
My Bloody Valentine & more
I was on a huge My Bloody Valentine kick while studying abroad in Ireland this summer, which made sense to me considering they’re from Dublin. I listened to a lot of Guided By Voices, Do Make Say Think, Broken Social Scene’s Feel Good Lost, Land of Talk, 90’s alt rock (gotta let Charlie pick some songs sometimes too), and other stuff I’m completely blanking on right now.