The Year in Music rolls on with the first full-length albums I’m keeping from 2018. They’re both from pop-friendly punk acts that have never really tracked with me before.
My friend Jeff sent me a Smoking Popes song in mid-October with a note that they’re a punk band he’d sort of lost track of. I’m sure I’d heard the name and been turned off. But I played it, because I turn away no music recommendations. It was catchy and edgy and had a conscience. I was hooked.
Into The Agony came out on October 12th on Asian Man Records. The first time I played it, I kept expecting the next song to be the one that put me off it. It never happened. “Simmer Down” is aggressive but relatable. “When You Want Something” is nearly beautiful. “Get Happy” is a Judy Garland song, for Pete’s sake. “No Tomorrow Tonight” is a bit schlocky. But then “Little Lump of Coal” and “Melting America” are the punk-infused protest songs the day calls for. Count me a fan.
There are two songs from Bayside’s 2016 album, Vacancy on my song list from that year. Beyond that, the band hadn’t really registered with me in the 14 years they’ve been putting out albums (and it turns out that Vacancy was itself a repackaging of one of their earlier albums). They’re as far out on a punk limb as I go, and that’s not very far.
Acoustic, Volume 2 came out in late September on Hopeless Records. “It Don’t Exist” was actually released as a single first, and I played it a bunch of times. I took the artist to be some new-on-the-scene folk/Americana act. It wasn’t until “Sick, Sick, Sick” that I figured out who I was actually hearing: an album of acoustic versions of old Bayside songs I’d never caught the first time around. I was kind of blown away by the revelation and sent “Sick, Sick, Sick” to Landon alongside its 2011 original with the question, “How can these be by the same band?”
I read a quote from singer Anthony Raneri about Acoustic . . .: “This album is strictly for the fans.” I hate to tell Raneri he’s wrong though, at least in my case. I became strangely devoted to this album on its own terms and not as an outpouring of years-long loyalty; I’ve still not heard the original versions of some of these songs. It’s just great. It’s how to do a reinterpretation of your own work: your fans will love it, and you’ll make some new ones at the same time.