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Exclusive: Life On The Sideline EP announcement, music video premiere

Since releasing Honesty Is A Dying Breed two years ago, Life On The Sideline has remained active on the road and is now ready to unveil its upcoming EP, Never Settle. To kick things off, we're premiering the music video for the band's new single, "Echo", which tells the sad story of a young girl reminiscing times spent with her deceased partner. While not a pop punk song per se, it's as catchy as one with an infectious chorus that you'll inevitably get stuck in your head. The band's sound could be compared to that of Transit's and The Early November's. Fans can pre-order the EP on iTunes and CD here, before it's released on June 7th. […]

Sunday, December 29, 2013

End of Year Lists: MTS Collective Staff, Pt. 4

Our final staff albums of the year lists come from yours truly, and our senior photographer, Alissa. Here's to another great year in music! Click the Read More… link to view the lists.

Mario Parra, Manager/Editor/Designer

Albums of the Year

1. Vanna - The Few And The Far Between (Artery Recordings/Razor & Tie)
Vanna's fourth LP actually caught me by surprise and quickly climbed to the top of my albums of the year list, by quite a significant margin. Sonically, the band hasn't always produced the style of post-hardcore that I prefer, but their new aggressively-melodic approach drew me in to the point where I couldn't resist it. On top of that, the band's live performances are just as compelling and engaging as the record, making for an all-round standout experience.

2. Senses Fail - Renacer (Staple Records)
Another musical 180 comes from Senses Fail, a respected staple in the alternative scene for the past eleven years. Renacer is the heavier result of a shift in instrumentation and songwriting that was welcomed by many, but questioned by long-time rigid fans. The record has retained part of the band's former essence, but these songs are a testament to the band's willingness to not "play it safe" and embrace progressive change.

3. Light Years - I Won't Hold This Against You (Paper + Plastick Records)
Not a departure in any sense from last year's Just Between Us… EP, but Light Years' debut full-length delivered exactly what I expected and hoped for: emotion-driven pop punk with a different formula. The choruses are just as mesmerising with the same level of relatable lyrics.

4. In Her Own Words - Everything I Used To Trust
Sitting somewhere in between an EP and LP, In Her Own Words' comeback release stripped the band of its heavier vocals and breakdowns (with the exception of "With Or Without You"), and showcased its new vocalist's talent. All of this was executed in a pleasingly natural manner, without disturbing the band's signature sound. This record's perfect when in the mood for heavy pop punk. The wait definitely proved to be worth it.

5. Close Your Eyes - Line In The Sand (Victory Records)
This isn't a typical melodic hardcore record for several reasons: With the addition of the UK's Sam Ryder, the vocals received a makeover, hitting notes that you wouldn't expect in this genre (not to mention the distinguished accent that might have you wondering if the band is really from Texas, if you aren't familiar with their history), coupled with traditional faster and heavier parts that spell diversity. A lengthy fifteen-song tracklist clocks in at fifty minutes, without stretching thin its qualities.

6. Meridian - Reformation
Meridian's sound is as heavy as it is melodic, with clean singing perfectly complementing the modern hardcore parts.

7. The Story So Far - What You Don't See (Pure Noise Records)
This year I came across a wave of The Story So Far carbon copies, but no other band quite compares. Everything that we loved about the band's debut, Under Soil And Dirt, is still there, from the gritty vocals to the uplifting melodies, but evolved.

8. We Still Dream - Something To Smile About (Anchor Eighty Four Records)
We Still Dream is a non-hype band that relies on a more serious pop punk tone and self-realising lyrics based on personal experiences, as opposed to bouncier hooks and simpler subjects. This is a great record for fans of Weezer and The Get Up Kids.

9. Seaway - Hoser (Mutant League Records)
The curse of debut full-lengths has struck several bands that have left me disappointed in the past, but Seaway's Hoser builds on what the band had already worked so hard on. The record truly encapsulates the band's youthful and sincere take on pop punk.

10. Focused Minds - The Fact Remains (6131 Records)
I imagine that this is what '80s straight edge hardcore bands would sound like if they had recorded with today's equipment. Unfortunately, I wasn't around for the era's prime years, so when a band keeps alive the values of a lifestyle that I identify with so closely, I'm immediately excited.

EPs of the Year

1. Living With Lions - Some Of My Friends Appear Dead To Me EP (Pure Noise Records)
Formed in 2007, Living With Lions has garnered a wealth of worldwide fans, yet the band's newest EP seems to be grossly underestimated. As a loyal and excited listener, I'd been anxiously awaiting new material since news broke that the band's second vocalist had left, leaving founding guitarist/back-up vocalist/lyricist, Chase Brenneman, as the frontman. Only three-songs-long, this EP reminds us to value quality over quantity. This is modern melodic punk perfection.

2. Hot Damn - Sleep Alone EP
Comparable to bands such as Light Years and Tiger Lily, Hot Damn have adopted the more emotive branch that has recently grown from pop punk. The band's mellow sound is filled with harmonies that pair up brilliantly with the harsh, yet calming vocals.

3. So Many Ways - Seer EP (Staple Records)
Unbound by a single genre, So Many Ways has successfully crafted another unique musical outlier. Few things are original nowadays, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another group that integrates a thrashy pop punk base with metal solos and hardcore vocals, making them their own. Maybe three separate bands.

4. Trophy Eyes - Everything Goes Away EP
If members of Title Fight and The Story So Far were to start a band, this might be what the result would sound like.

5. Young Turks - Where I Rise EP (Animal Style Records)
Young Turks is a passionate band that doesn't hold back, both with musical and lyrical content. The "live for yourself" mentality that's so prevalent within hardcore is alive and well across this short, but meaningful, release.

Honorable Mentions

1. Four Minute Mile - Bridges/Streetlights EP (Better Days Records)
2. Roam - Head Down EP
3. Real Friends - Put Yourself Back Together EP
4. The Vegas Wake Up - A Long Standing Grudge
5. Thesis - Worth The Wait EP
6. When We Team Up - Not For Me, But For My Friends EP
7. Molly’s Worst Enemy - You’ll Never Walk Alone EP
8. Former States - Heritage EP
9. Better Off - (I Think) I’m Leaving (6131/Blood & Ink Records)
10. Courtesy Drop - Songs To Drive To; Cry, And Make Love To (Animal Style Records)

Comebacks

Over time, my musical palate evolves and sometimes I find myself rekindling my love for certain records that I'd either temporarily abandoned, didn't appreciate enough the first time around, or just discovered too late to make it on last year's list. Whatever the case, these are the albums that resurfaced for me in 2013 and gave me strength throughout the year in different situations. These are the albums that have earned permanent spots on my iPod.

1. Box Car Racer - Self-Titled (MCA Records, 2002)
2. Finch - What It Is To Burn (Drive-Thru Records, 2002)
3. Lost Years - This Year Brought Out The Worst In Me (Capeside Records, 2012)
4. Living With Lions - Make Your Mark (Black Box Music, 2008)
5. Half Hearted Hero - Defining. Refining. (Set Sail Records, 2009)
6. For The Win - Break The Ice EP (2012)
7. Civilians - Waiting For The Dust To Settle EP (2012)
8. Melrose - Let Me Remind You EP (2012)
9. Rydell - Self-Titled EP (2012)
10. Expire - Pendulum Swings (Bridge Nine Records, 2012)

Alissa Reynolds, Senior Photographer

Albums of the Year

1. Full Of Hell - Rudiments Of Mutilation (A389 Records)
With a wicked intro, Rudiments Of Mutilation doesn’t hesitate to take Full Of Hell to new levels from their first full-length release, Roots Of Earth Are Consuming My Home. Taking a dream-like approach to their staggeringly-heavy sound, the record comments on the struggles of self-discovery in today’s society and the constant battle of discovering your purpose in the most organic way possible; avoiding any influence from those who surround you and modern propaganda. The band manages to roll out catchy track after track, within a genre you generally wouldn’t think was capable of being catchy, keeping you coming back for more.

2. RVIVR - The Beauty Between (Rumbletowne Records)
Not a whole lot needs to be said about this one! RVIVR has a remarkable way of maintaining consistency while managing not to bore the long-time fan. The Beauty Between does nothing to disprove this. “The Seam” hooks you with its build into “LMD” and it only gets better from there, exploring a world of different subjects with a great variety in approach and execution. The record also features a full-band version of “Spider Song”, which previously had been released on Erica Freas’ 2012 solo record, giving it a whole new life.

3. Swearin' - Surfing Strange (Salinas Records)
Swearin’ put their own spin on the garage indie rock scene with the release of Surfing Strange. The record is a follow-up to their freshman self-titled release, which features a gritty garage-rock feel. However, Surfing Strange possesses a certain “cuteness” to it, bringing in almost an indie element to their already-bouncy aesthetic. The record’s intro track, “Dust In The Gold Sack”, effectively sets said tone for the listener, while “Mermaid” brings us right back to the gritty side of Swearin’ we all know and love. Overall, the record explores new, even catchier than before grounds for the band and I can’t get enough.

4. Pity Sex - Feast Of Love (Run For Cover Records)
With the release of Dark World, Pity Sex turned heads throughout the scene and intrigued a new crowd of listeners with their signing to Run For Cover Records. I struggled with the record, purely due to its blatant simplicity of lyricism and instrumentals. My attention undoubtedly slipped with every listen. However, Feast Of Love interests me from start to finish and leaves me wanting more even when the album comes to a close. The band undeniably made expansions to their sound, taking a few steps towards a rather upbeat, cute approach to a shoegazey grunge sound; a major leap from their initial simple, gritty sound. Songs like "Wind-Up" and "Hollow Body" open the band up to a whole new audience as well.

5. Title Fight - Spring Songs EP (Revelation Records)
It’s going to be a heavy struggle writing about this one without too much of a bias. Being one of my favorite bands, I’m almost never worried about the quality of future releases, though I was somewhat nervous about the release of Spring Songs. They raised minimal hype about the EP, and while The Last Thing You Forget, Shed, and Floral Green flowed seamlessly into each other, I was concerned about where this EP would fit. However, while Floral Green served as a coming-of-age record, Spring Songs lets you know that they’ve really found their style and now they’re ready to show it off to the world. Each song on the EP displays a different aesthetic that the band is known for and they do it pretty damn well too.

6. Sundowners - The Larger Half Of Wisdom (Dirt Cult Records)
Minneapolis has been a major landmark in the pop punk scene in recent years, contributing artists such as Dillinger Four, Banner Pilot, The Manix, and more. Sundowners have been a band for several years and have been known by the locals for the duration of most of their existence, but they really managed to blow everyone away, locals and otherwise alike, with their most recent full-length. With driving rhythms, catchy melodies, and attention grabbing harmonies, the band addresses politics and other social issues to hook the listener. Every track is short and to the point while still maintaining all memorable qualities. Perfectly addicting.

7. Whirr - Around EP (Graveface Records)
Yet another release I'll struggle to avoid any sort of bias with, but I'll start it off with a statement of honesty. Whirr never fails to take my breath away. The band creates a beautiful landscape not only with sound, but lyrically. It's clear that their efforts are more focused on instrumentals, fading the vocals into the background; as if they're asking the listener to experience the lyrics separately, both on their own, and later paired with the ever-prominent instrumentals. Straying slightly from the expected blend of shoegaze and post-rock, the recent EP features a variety of slightly atmospheric soundscapes in between tracks, keeping long-time listeners intrigued.

8. Foxing - The Albatross (Count Your Lucky Stars)
It took me at least five attempts to get into Foxing, and though I had come to a sort of appreciation of the band, the release of the music video for "Rory" caused me to fall completely in love with the rest of this record. An interesting blend of emo and indie elements, Foxing adds vocals soaked with urgency and desperation. Each syllable of every word is annunciated in such a way that makes the intended emotion and meaning so unmistakably apparent to the listener. The band also includes a variety of horns and string instruments on the record, giving their sound yet another layer of dimension to their already impressive sound. I slept far too long on this band, and if you're still sleeping, I suggest you wake your ass up.

9. Wavves - Afraid Of Heights (Ghost Ramp/Rodeo Recordings/Mom+Pop/Warner Bros. Records)
A much-needed aggressive take on pop, Wavves hooked listeners new and old with the release of Afraid Of Heights. While the album takes a bit of a dreamier approach from the previous LP, King Of The Beach, tracks such as "Demon To Lean On", "Afraid Of Heights", and "Paranoid" take us back to the upbeat instrumentals contrasted with angsty lyrics that we're so familiar with. Having the privilege to see a sold out Wavves show in a small, 200-cap venue was most definitely one of the greatest highlights of my year and I'm so eager to see what they do next.

10. Best Witches - Jail EP
Best Witches is a band from Chicago, IL that toured with Small Steps from this summer. They happened to play a show in a small house near me and I happened to be able to make it out - thank the rock n' roll gods for that. I hadn't heard much of either band before, but I left completely blown away, particularly by the BW set. Needless to say, I've been relatively addicted to this record ever since. An undeniably-catchy blend of experimental emo, rock, and maybe even a smidgen of punk, Jail covers a lot of ground in just a few songs. They maintain an overall theme, using a variation of a single riff throughout the album, connecting the wide range of sounds that the band explores. While the band limits its Internet presence to Bandcamp, the EP is up for free download, and I suggest you get into it.

Honorable Mentions

1. Pierre - Western Medicine EP
2. Iron Chic - The Constant One (Bridge Nine Records)
3. Weekend Nachos - Still (Relapse Records)
4. Balance And Composure - The Things We Think We're Missing (No Sleep Records)
5. Touché Amoré - Is Survived By (Deathwish, Inc.)
6. Direct Hit! - Brainless God (Red Scare Records)
7. Paramore - Self-Titled (Atlantic Records)
8. Head Honcho - Self-Titled EP
9. Nails - Abandon All Life (Southern Lord Records)
10. The Story So Far - What You Don't See (Pure Noise Records)

Comebacks

1. Knapsack - This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now (Alias Records, 1995)
2. Lemuria - Get Better (Asian Man Records, 2008)
3. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (Sire Records, 1991)
4. Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Merge Records, 1998)
5. Third Eye Blind - Self-Titled (Elektra Records, 1997)
6. Yuck - Self-Titled (Fat Possum Records, 2011)
7. Superchunk - Foolish (Merge Records, 1994)
8. Nothing - Downward Years To Come (2012)
9. The Promise Ring - Nothing Feels Good (Jade Tree, 1997)
10. Joyce Manor - Self-Titled (6131 Records, 2011)

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