With tons of great albums celebrating their ten year anniversaries this year, we here at Punk Out want to take a minute and reflect on those that mean most to us. Once a month we will be posting about the albums that had birthdays and discussing why they are important. Here’s a list of albums that came out ten Februaries ago (with January thrown in because we happened to miss it…)
Bloc Party - Silent Alarm (February 2, 2005)
Perhaps you remember when music stores had listening stations. I think some still do, but music stores in general aren’t as common as they used to be. Sometimes I would browse the music section of a Borders or FYE and sample some bands I had heard of. This often led to impulse purchases of CDs that have since become favorites of mine, including Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism and Northstar’s Pollyanna. One day, on a school trip to New York City, I visited the now closed Virgin Megastore in Times Square. I listened to a featured album by a band I had never heard of. That band was Bloc Party and that album was Silent Alarm.
Like many of these impulse purchases, it was more of a need to spend my highly disposable teenage income on some sort of souvenir from the big city. This album was much unlike the pop-punk and screamo I listened to at the age of 17, but something about singer Kele Okereke’s accent, spastic vocals, and the band’s fast-paced yet spacey indie rock grabbed my attention. I listened to the album on the bus ride home (in my trusty portable CD player) and was mesmerized by the thumping rhythms of songs like “Positive Tension” and “Luno.” Heartfelt tracks like “This Modern Love” and “Blue Light” spoke to my romantic angst. You can’t help but be sucked in by the album’s opener, “Like Eating Glass.” At this point, I had never paid much attention to this style of indie rock. Between their bass lines and dueling lead guitar parts, such stellar production and focus was not something my young ears were used to. Okereke’s lyrics on this album are tinged with urgency, speaking as a young man being thrust into adulthood and feeling the weight of love, responsibility, and the state of the world.
I never followed much of Bloc Party’s career past their second album, A Weekend In The City, (which is also fantastic) but this album became a favorite of mine over the years. It helped my tastes branch out beyond pop-punk, and it reminds me of the days when I would walk into a store, listen to something completely new to me, and walk out with a new favorite album.
The Academy Is… - Almost Here (February 8, 2005)
There isn't a song in the world that’s hit me as hard as the first time I heard The Academy Is...’ “Season.” I was in high school, totally lost, and I didn’t know a damn thing about myself. I was figuring it all out, and I was starting to come into my own, even though I may not have realized it at the time. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t a total loser - I just sort of blended into the crowd and went about my day like a confused puppy unsure of the location of his favorite fire hydrant. But then this album came along and the more I listened to it, the more I discovered my sense of self. I related to a lot of the lyrics on that record, and I still do today. Much like myself, it had an upbeat, happy vibe on the surface with a biting attitude and a huge dash of “I don’t give a fuck” buried deeper within. It was incredibly catchy and it had so much energy. I loved it, I identified strongly with it, and just like in “Season,” because of that record I was able to say, “for the first time I know this is now who I am.”
Armor for Sleep - What to Do When You Are Dead (February 22, 2005)
I’m totally biased when discussing this record, but Armor for Sleep’s What to Do When You Are Dead is quite possibly my favorite record the scene has ever churned out. The idea of a concept album as wildly interesting and clever as this record was totally foreign to me, at least in terms of emo music, but it was incredibly successful. I spun it non-stop to a point where even my family members knew all the words and song titles. (They also wanted to kill me, but that’s an entirely different story...)
What’s even more awesome about this record is that it established an incredibly strong fanbase and created somewhat of a family among the band’s fans. I saw this band so many times it was nauseating, but it created some great memories and introduced me to some great people that I am still friends with today. Not only did it hold up as a top-notch piece of music ten years later, but it created incredibly strong ties and even more great memories, making it, for me at least, one of the most monumental and important albums of 2005. It defined my teenage years, and it will always have a special place in my heart.
Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (January 25, 2005)
Christmas break my sophomore year of high school was lonely and lost. I had a handful of close friends who weren’t picking up their phones. I was hopelessly enamored with a senior boy. I discovered Bright Eyes during those two weeks, and those two weeks felt like forever. The first song I heard off I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning was “Poison Oak.” I was at one of my cool friend's house and she knew every word. I would listen to other records my friends turned me on to as a way to prove that I was a part of their club, but this was a special album because I wasn’t pretending to love it more than I did. I fell into a really intense trance. I smoked cigs out my bedroom window and lit candles just to feel like I understood this album.
When I listen to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning I can remember exactly how it felt to be an outcast - to hear the rain on an empty Monday and have no one who wanted me. I’ve heard a lot of fables about the lyrics on this record. For instance, it is said that Bright Eye's mastermind, Conor Oberst. wrote "Poison Oak" about his fictional transgender brother. But to me, the stories depicted in this album were also about misfits. Maybe they were about the kind of misfit that I wished I was, especially the type from “Lua.” The lyrics depict the glamorized wayward artist lifestyle - doing drugs, paying for coffees in pennies, the loneliness, and the heartache. As someone who had always felt misunderstood, I would picture myself as a starving artist as a way of coping with my dreary life. It’s crazy to think that this record is ten years old, because I can’t believe that winter break was eight years ago. I feel like it was twenty years ago, yet the music makes it feel like yesterday.
I don’t love every Bright Eyes album, but this one hit me at the right time. The lyrics said exactly what I needed to hear. “Now I’m drunk as hell on a piano bench, and when I press the keys it all gets reversed, the sound of loneliness makes me happier.”