Top 5 Albums of 2009

2009 was a great year for music. I was all over the map with my listening. Here's my year end list for top 5 albums...

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
It was obvious to me from the first listen that Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was destined for blog love, indie stardom and car commercials. The whole album is wrapped in a glossy sheen of candied production that makes it tough not to jump on board. Thomas Mars' "of Montreal-esque" croon soars above the crisp "Strokes-esque" pop structures like butter across a muffin. The boys hit the mark on this one, setting a new standard for indie pop records... "effortless" style with undeniably catchy melodies. Home run.

2. The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death
Former The Receiving End of Sirens member Casey Crescenzo's current concept project makes The Decemberist's concept albums seem like elementary school book reports in comparison. Casey's Act III (of a 7 part series!) plays out like a broadway musical on steroids, combining rich classical compositions of strings, synths and bells with cutting edge rock riffs to create an experience that puts you in the driver's seat of a cruel story from ages past. The vocals are flawless in arrangement and performance. The songs are varied and fresh. This is a marvel in production and concept; technically jarring and emotionally stunning.

3. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
One of my favorite aspects of "My Maudlin Career" is its timelessness. Push play now and it sounds like a modern classic. Play it 40 years ago and it would have fit right in with the Doo Wop girl groups of the time. Tracy Anne Campbell's woeful tales of failed romance and longing hit home with anyone who's ever had a broken heart. The soundtrack of heart-wrenching strings, weeping guitar and warm brass lead Tracy's lovesick ballads along a path of sadness with glints of silver lining speckled among the clouds.

4. The Devil Wears Prada - With Roots Above and Branches Below
How did a trendy breakdown album of throat shredding screams, chugs and pinch harmonics sneak into my year end list? Simple. It permeated into my skin and fed the savage beast in me that wants to destroy. It's rare when I can get through a day without blasting through at least one track at high volume. The first minute of this album is so dissonant and horrifying that it hurts your heart to even listen. If you can stick it out, a gorgeous symphony of synths, strings and big choruses will reward you for enduring the violence that stabs its way across the album. The production on this opus dwarfs any post hardcore album this decade. The mathy chug patterns are infinitely fresh. The percussion is above and beyond that of its contemporaries with fills that are as swift as they are powerful. The guitars dance across the battlefield like two doves in love. The bar has been raised.

5. Passion Pit - Manners
This album made my list for one reason and one reason alone.... It makes me happy :). Nothing groundbreaking or innovative, just a collection of danceable and highly infectious tracks that makes you feel good all over. The vocals are ridiculous upon first listen, but once you realize that they are coming straight from the heart of frontman, Michael Angelakos, you will grab your balls and sing along convincingly, whether you match pitch or not. Michael certainly doesn't care... He flats notes all over the place and it just sounds charming. It's no wonder that these Boston kids are riding the buzz wave. Well-deserved.

Honorable Mentions:
Miniature Tigers - Tell It To The Volcano
Discovery - LP
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Islands - Vapours


Time Stands Still

Dreadful of me to log off for such a postponed period. My apologies.

So where did I leave off? Buffalo. Yes, Buffalo. An unbelievable time. Played at a venue called Club Diablo that truly lived up to its name. A metal bar that was suited for Halloween year round. Skeletons, gargoyles, spider webs. Great place for a rock show. We played with some pretty badass groups. This is Voyage really tore things up right off the bat. Their electronicore was much appreciated by yours truly (I'm a closet The Devil Wears Prada fan, and these guys strongly resembled them.) The guys were young and excited. Their future is bright indeed. Kept in touch with them too. They emailed me their EP and it was pretty solid.

The band that we set that show up with is called The Bunny The Bear, a skitzo-electronicore band. Their concept is priceless. A big brooding vocalist in a vicious bear mask singing beautiful melodys while a smaller vocalist in a cute bunny mask throats out brutal screams. So fun. The Bunny got black out drunk and spent most of his time in the crowd; pushing, flailing, hitting his head against the wall/ground/stage... even vomiting (and wiping the remnants on the shirt of an unsuspecting girl haha.) Priceless. Great guys. Great times.

New York City was super dope. We had Comicon the first 3 days we were there. It was so cold and rainy out that we could barely hang. We wore every jacket and article of clothing we had and were still ice cold. We did get to stop at some really amazing pizza joints though. Must've had a slice every few hours while I was there. Got to have a rich and buttery NY cheesecake while I was there, too. Tasted like silk.

After the long Comicon days and afterparties, the crowds usually started heading to the bars. The nightlife in NY was glorious. We were hanging with a NY native who was able to herd us around like sheep to the destinations of our choosing. "Let's go to a bar with a big beer selection." "Follow me." Subway. Boom. There. "Okay, now let's go to a Hookah bar." Subway. Boom. There. "Okay, let's go to a bar with lots of girls." Subway. Boom. Bar by NYU loaded with girls. "Okay, karaoke bar." Boom. Korea Town. Golden.

We also got to go out one night for our manager's birthday. Went to a little Thai place in the lower east side. Delicious and huge trays of sushi for cheap as hell. Sake bombers. Bliss. Then our manager just had one request... for our guitarist, Anthony, to do a Wasabi snooter in his honor (You've all seen Jackass, right?). Well, he actually went through with it. Despite some gags, he actually kept his dinner down too. Very impressive. We went out around there and saw some legendary places (Cake Shop and a few other notorious venues.) Amazing night.

So, yeah. Now I'm at home in Phoenix recalling all the lovely times the road has to offer. I've been super productive since I got back. Wrote the next Apneist comic book. Started writing the next album / story concept. Got loads of web work done. But damn. I just can't stop thinking about the open road... Where I belong. FML.

Planning a huge 2010 so I can do all the things I want to do. Wish me luck. Back soon. Kisses.


Tour Update

I've been pretty bad about updating this thing with all the madness that goes along with touring. I'll try to recap this week's events as best I can recall...

Rockford, IL was a great stop for sure. Kryptonite Bar was a really rad place. The staff were all really cool and we were really well-received, especially because the owners are into comic books, so our concept definitely appealed to them. I'd love to stop there again next time we tour the midwest. I imagine that place gets pretty rockin on a Friday or Saturday night.

Chicago was amazing as always. We stayed at my friend Kyle's place and it was quite luxurious. We took over the basement, which is super lush. It's even got a cribs-style movie theater for when we had some downtime. We also got to stop at Portillo's for some Italian beef sandwiches. I've been craving them for years since I last was in the Windy City, so it definitely satisfied my urges for that succulent feast. The place we played at in Forest Park was so-so, but we got to share the stage with a rad band called The Sweeps from Chicago. They tore shit up. Especially when they busted out a cover of Arcade Fire's "Wake Up." Dominant.

After the Chi we headed off to Columbus for the Mid Ohio Comic Con. We were lucky enough to stay with a couple at their place in German Village. The neighborhood was amazing... cobblestone streets, tall old style homes, awesome local shops (my favorite of which was "The Book Loft," a 3-story maze of walls of books, dozens of themed rooms, each with their own ambiance).

The couple we stayed with, Phil and Deanna, pampered us all weekend long. They put us up in their attic, which was actually a dope lounge / bar / entertainment area, decked out in sick vintage furniture and 60's style antiques. They cooked for us, fed us beer, showed us around town, and overall were just plain amazing.

The Comic Con was fairly small, but it was a great way for us to get our sea legs for that type of thing.We are all super new to the comic world, so we needed some practice for the big events. We definitely made an impression on anybody that came near us, and we got to do a pretty badass acoustic set in the conference center. Everything was well-received and fun was had by all.

The Monday after Comic Con we hit the OSU campus up to promote for our show that night. The students were all pretty nice, and we met some good people that came to the show. Great day indeed.

Cincinnati was the first hiccup of the tour. The afternoon started off lovely. We found an amazing park in the woods to play some cornhole and had a very relaxing time. However, we arrived at the venue to find that we had been booked to play at 1:30am on a Tuesday with all hardcore bands from out of town with no draw. As we roamed the area outside the venue, the streets were completely empty, with the exception of some extremely seedy looking characters. We all got the same dark feeling in the pits of our stomachs, and mutually agreed that this was probably a dud. We later found out that our show was in the most dangerous neighborhood in America. No joke. Our hotel was pretty ridiculous too. Scott and Anthony went outside the room to have a cigarette and were approached by a crackhead looking to borrow a spoon. I'm sure Cincinnati is a great place, but the area we were in was just plain wretched. To make things worse, a little flu bug descended upon us as of that night.

We headed for Baltimore with much anticipation, ready to get far away from Cinci. The drive was lovely to say the least. It was my first time driving through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland, and I wasn't prepared for such breathtaking scenery. Loved it.

Baltimore is a very unique and fun city. The convention center for the Baltimore Comic Con was right by the harbor, which was loaded up with shops, restaurants and scenery. The Comic Con was much bigger than Ohio, and we got to premiere The Apneist Comic Book. It ended up being a very successful weekend. Over 8,000 people passed through on the first day alone, adorned in wild costumes, armed to the teeth with bags of comics, toys and freebies. The typical fare of Star Wars, Predator and Ghostbusters costumes were present, of course, but my favorite, hands down, was Powdered Toast Man (from Ren & Stimpy). Brilliant.

After a crabcake dinner at the harbor (an absolute must), we settled in for the night to rest up for New York. It wasn't a very far drive. Pulling up to New York City was an unforgettable experience. It doesn't even seem real. We saw Manhattan and the statue of liberty as we drove across the bridge. It felt almost overwhelming. We navigated through the city streets and found the venue, The Delancey, which was actually a really badass place. It is three stories high. We played downstairs, some very eclectic acts played in the middle floor, including a very talented cellist, who had a wicked loop station set up, and built songs from the ground up... big, swelling symphonies. Amazing. We also got to have some bomb New York pizza. Score. Gotta have each area's trademark cuisine. Got to.

Today, we drive out to Buffalo, New York, to play with some hard working bands from our same genre, who seem genuinely nice. Can't wait to rock out with them. It's starting to get pretty cold around these cities, so we are wrapped up in many layers. Today's drive might be the loveliest so far. Dense forests of multi-colored fall trees, bright yellow, burning red, forest green. Just amazing. Stopping for some grub now, then time for my driving shift. Ciao.

More tour videos!



Sailing to Rockford

Day 4 on the road. Loving every second.

Traveling through Missouri was loads of fun. Got to drive through some radical small towns and villages and mix it up with the locals. Headed up to St Louis a day early before our show to relax. After we checked into the hotel, we headed out to experience the St Louis nightlife. The venue was in University City by the colleges, so we checked it out. A local jam band was playing. They had the place packed with day-glo hippies, forming hacky sack circles and dancing like banshees. It was an impressive sight. We befriended a dude in a banana suit (no joke) who showed us around town, and a lovely lesbian couple that taught us some sweet dance moves (true story).

The locals were super nice in St Louis. We did some promo around town the day of the show and on the college campus, and everyone was a great sport. Anthony (our guitarist) even got to carry a girl to class. He also attended a class for a little bit and interviewed some of the students.

We had the pleasure of meeting Beatle Bob for coffee that afternoon. He is infamous around the world for dancing on stage at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Jazz Fest and a slew of other festivals. Rumor has it that he has been to a live music event every day for the last 30 years or something. We got to interview him and hear some wild stories. He's got loads of them. Good man. Beatle Bob. Wikipedia him for reals.

Our show that night was dope. We played with a band from Minnesota called My Lady Four and they were bomb. We had fun drinking some suds and bullshitting with the dudes, our bands are very much alike.

So now I sit in the van and roll towards our next destination... Rockford, IL to play at Kryptonite Bar. Heading to Chicago right after the show to hang with friends and family. Can't wait.

Be sure to watch all of our craziness on Modlife.com.


To infinity...


And so it begins...

Day one. On route to Las Cruces, NM. Tearing through the cruel heart of the twisted desert at top speed.

The last few days have been utter madness. Despite our greatest efforts, last minute stuff came up, but all was handled. We are free.

I drove the first leg of today's trip. Pulling a 10 ft trailer is a lot like driving a boat. Anthony Gabuzzi (@Gabuzzi), guitarist extraordinaire, currently has the reigns of this great beast as it glides gracefully across the lands. Godspeed. The ride is smooth so far and there's lots to do in here. Our TM, Rian Ohoro (@horboy80), is dishing out some sweet jams as DJ... I'd have to say the highlights so far have been "Heaven is a Place on Earth" and "Come Sail Away." Epic. There's also a N64 in here... Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Goldeneye. Shits gonna get nutty.

I've been meaning to get going with the music reviews I've promised. I've been absorbing two albums with great interest this week. The first is the third album from Canadian indie pop group Islands. It's called "Vapours." The other album is riding a huge blog buzz wave... "Album" by newcomers Girls. I'm gonna give them each a few more spins and then spill my thoughts and smear them around.

I'm writing this from my phone at the moment, but once our Mi-Fi is up and running, I wanna post some multimedia stuff up in this piece.

Gotta run... I've been challenged to a van dance off in lovely Wallthrop, AZ. Next stop: Las Cruces, NM. I heard it was lovely this time of year. Hurricane Alley, get ready to have your faces imploded.


The Sophomore Slump

It's gonna be an insane weekend, the last before we take off for tour. I've never been away from home for 5 weeks straight, so this could be interesting. Lots and lots of rehearsing to do, as well as shopping for the odds and ends that we will inevitably need while we are gone.

I got to scope out the van yesterday. One of our tour managers, Rian, decided to buy the van for the tour, because his heart was swelling with love and goodwill, and because the transmission on his car crapped out at just the right time. Let me tell you, this van is a dream machine. It's more like a big limo than a van. Leather captains chairs with loads of extra room, rich mahogany trim, strip lighting, TV/VCR, two CD / audio players with headphone jacks throughout... It's even got a little vacuum so we can keep it tidy. We are so blessed!

We are having a little going away party this weekend as well. My folks, with their infinite love and support (no matter how insane my life choices may be), have opted to host the party, and they will be loading up on finely spiced BBQ and cold beer for the festivities. Friends and relatives alike will gather to celebrate what will surely be an adventure of epic proportions. We will even have a donation jar so we can collect gift cards, gas money and dry foods... haha!

I am anxious to hit the road and get going. I'm excited as can be for the shows, but I really think the Comicons are gonna be a hoot as well. The Apneist is the first comic book I've ever written, and I'm super anxious to see how it fares among a crowd of consumers that aren't afraid to revel in the surreal, to dive into products of fantasy with completely open minds and experience worlds beyond their own. I never thought I'd be in this position, and I sure as hell didn't plan it this way, but I have a feeling that going multi-media with our album is gonna enrich our lives in some unexpected ways.

I am grateful that the silly string of events that I call my life has delivered me to this moment in time. I am surrounded by strong, positive people who are ready and able to ride this rollercoaster together into the great unknown. Let the intrepid travelers ride on.... to infinity.


An Introduction to The Apneist Blog

When it was suggested that I start a blog, I racked my brain trying to come up with a central theme. What can I write about with interest and zeal? What do I know? I'm just a kid from Arizona with a dream looking to cut my teeth in a series of formidable and intimidating industries.... Errr... Wait. I could write about that I guess, couldn't I?

So let's get introductions out of the way so we don't have to be strangers anymore. I'm James. I sing. I play bass. I play keyboard. I do graphic design. I write. I live in Phoenix, AZ.

Phew... so that brings me to this point in time.... The date is Wednesday, Sept 16. In 10 days, I will be embarking on a journey throughout this great country of ours. My band, A Life of Science, has put together a tour centered around 3 major Comic Cons that we will be exhibiting our new album / comic book at. We will be doing some random Comic Con performances as well.

So yeah... 10 days left... 10 days that I will spend every waking hour planning, practicing and promoting. We just got a new van today, and its a sweet ass conversion van. It's even got a TV and VCR, which is huge (especially since one of our tour managers has a wicked VHS collection). We are looking at trailers this week.

I feel good about my job as A Life of Science's graphic designer at the moment. I was able to successfully order albums, comic books, booth materials for the comicons, tshirts and promo cards for the tour. Damn near killed me, but all's well that ends well.

Now, as the days creep closer and closer, I let the feelings of excitement, anxiousness and nervousness wash over my body with each passing moment. I'm pretty much too busy to fully take any of it in, but such is life.... and I love life.

I'm gonna be blogging daily. This blog will serve as my tour diary and my journal. Also, I listen to loads of music (mostly indie rock) and read as much as I can, so expect full reviews and recommendations. I'll also be talking about "The Apneist" a great deal.. it's pretty much been my life for the past few years. I'll explain later what exactly "The Apneist" is, because that's a whole dialog right there.

Thanks for tuning in. If you want even more up-to-date blogging from yours truly, look no further than http://www.twitter.com/jameskeenan.

Over and out. Hmmm... I'd better work on a better closing signature, ha!