They’re probably the most successful mummified musical act from the past millennium, and RARA’s Farm was fortunate enough to carve out a few minutes from their hectic schedule to understand a bit more about these talented, mysterious musicians.
Bleachers Strange Desire Album Review
Jack Antonoff has seen it all in his brief but eventful career in the music world and has quickly established himself as a talented musician with tremendous potential.
Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs and generally feeling like an outcast as he watched the cool kids from the safety of the bleachers, Antonoff turned to music. He toiled on the road in a few bands (Steel Train), before teaming with Nate Ruess and Andrew Dost to form fun. back in 2008.
We all know what happened with the ascension of fun. They scaled to the top of the Pop Rock charts, culminating the trip with a successful showing at the Grammy’s, and Antonoff was a huge part of the band’s success. During the journey, Antonoff found himself in a relationship with a movie star girlfriend in Lena Dunham, and toured the world in front of a rabid fanbase. A talented songwriter, he’s written with and for huge pop stars, while honing his reputation as a talented musician and up-and-coming producer/arranger.
While touring across the world with fun., he recorded incessantly for an album he notes “was recorded literally all over the place.” He admits that when he returned to the studio, there was some garbage in those tapes, but quite a bit of interesting stuff, as well. The results of his labors was the eleven song Strange Desires released last week.
My first thought after listening to the album was “BIG.” Big arrangements, big ideas, big feel, maybe too “big”… Antanoff is an unabashed fan of John Hughes movies and their critically integral soundtracks, and there’s no mistaking the influence those soundtracks have had on Strange Desires. For a handful of these opulent songs, it works well, but truthfully, at some point it just became too much.
Think back to the films and the artists on the Hughes’ albums, Flesh For LuLu did not always offer up that lush John Hughes production we heard in “I Go Crazy.” For every “Pretty In Pink,” the Psychedelic Furs had a few “Imitation of Christs.” On Strange Days, there’s just too much John Hughes influence. That’s not to say there isn’t some killer music on the album, as there are a handful of songs that are well worth adding to any playlist.
The first single, “I Wanna Get Better” is pure musical genius. The introspective track is the best song on the album, and will likely be one of the defining songs of 2014. The lyrics reflect on the challenging times experienced growing up, but finish with a clear tone of optimism. The song, which was our website’s Song Of The Week back in may is absolutely addictive.
Throughout the album, you’ll definitely have pleasant musical flashbacks to fun. Vocally, Antonoff is no match for Nate Guess, but his vocals are captivating in their own way, and shine most on the stripped down surf rock offering “Wake Me,” which is just a great song.
A handful of other tracks would have been perfectly suited placed smack dab in the middle of a flick like Some Kind Of Wonderful. Primary among these lush arrangements, which are catchy as hell are “Like A River,” “Roller Coaster” and “Reckless Love,” ambitious songs harkening back to sonic images of Jesus and Mary Chain, OMD and Simple Minds. Listening to the excellent “You’re Still a Mystery,” I felt like I had discovered the sequel to “Melt With You,” that Modern English could never deliver.
There were a few not so pleasant mysteries on the album, as well. The pairings with both Grimes and Yoko Ono (why? why? why?) were weak. I really can’t understand the logic for either being included on the album, and hope to never hear either again.
But, forget those two tracks, because all told, it’s a good album, and one that will translate excellently when Bleachers hits the festival circuit this fall. My recommendation is to listen to the entire album and grab the half-dozen or so that best fit your tastes.
For fans of Antonoff’s other band, check out these 2012 fun. photos from our collection.
Central Florida Rock Concert Calendar
Labor Day Weekend is pretty much a dud, but the month really picks up with a slew of great shows all over the Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa areas. RARA’s Farm’s favorite live band comes to the Plaza in Orlando, and there’s a killer festival in St. Augustine with one of the most creative line-ups all year.
9/01 – Robbie Krieger, Plaza Live. Yup, the Doors guitarist is on the road again.
9/06 – Switchfoot, Universal Studios. Rock The Universe.
9/06 – The Supervillains, Jesse’s (Winter Haven)
9/07 – Blue October, House of Blues
9/07 – Casting Crowns and Relient K, Universal Studios. Rock The Universe.
9/08 – Rancid, House of Blues. Always a great show for punk rock fans.
9/10 – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Hard Rock Live
9/11 – Steely Dan, Hard Rock Live
9/12 – Pepper, House of Blues. Read RARA’s Farm’s review of the bands latest album: Album Review
9/13 – The Vaccines, The Social. These English Alt-Rockers have a cool garage rock vibe and this is the one show this month we don’t want to miss.
9/13 – Joe Satriani and Steve Morse Band, Hard Rock Live
9/16 – Hunter Valentine and Girl In A Coma, Wooten Park (Tavares) – All Girl rock band that absolutely rocks. Check out our review of Hunter Valentine’s last album: Album Review
9/16 – Title Fight, BackBooth
9/17 – Matisyahu, Hard Rock Live
9/18 – Stone Temple Pilots and Filter, House of Blues. This show is absolutely intriguing. STP has jettisoned the troublesome Scott Weiland and brought in Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. And, Filter is a fantastic bonus for an opener. Don’t miss this one.
9/19 – Fun. with Tegan and Sara, UCF Arena. Nice double bill at UCF. We loved Fun. at last year’s Big Ticket: Festival Review and Fun. photos.
9/21 – Eddie Money, Downtown Orlando. The latest installment of WMMO’s Downtown Concert Series. Free classic rock ‘n roll!
9/22 – Yellowcard, House of Blues. Check out our review of their excellent show last year: Yellowacard Rocks HOB
9/23 – Imagine Dragons, Paper Route and The Neighborhood, UCF Arena. Imagine Dragons is the big draw, but The Neighborhood is a big appeal for us.
9/24 – Alt-J, House of Blues
9/25 – Colin Hay, Plaza Live. The front man from Men At Work from the land down under…
9/26 – Cowboy Mouth, Plaza Live. The unofficial band of RARA’s FARM – we all love Cowboy Mouth, because they put on the becy live shows on the planet. Come join us for our annual dose of Fred LeBlanc, JTG, and their unique blend of rock ‘n roll. Here’s a glimpse inside the head of front man Fred Leblanc.
9/26 – Ra Ra Riot, The Social. If not for Cowboy Mouth playing down the street, this would be the place to be.
9/26 – Brett Michaels, Hard Rock Hotel’s Velvet Sessions
9/27 to 9/29 – Starship Feat. Mickey Thomas, Epcot Center. Still a great performer with a catalog worthy of his stellar voice. Want to get an idea of what you’re in store for? Check out our show review.
9/28 – L.A. Guns Feat. Steve Riley and Phil Lewis, Green Parrot (Casselberry)
9/29 – Enter The Haggis, The Social. A unique blend of Indie/Folk rock.
9/06 – Black Flag, The Roc Bar. Four decades of thrash from this prolific hardcore punk band.
9/08 – Steely Dan, St. Augustine Amphitheatre
0/13 – The Supervillains, The Standard (St. Augustine)
9/13 to 9/14 – Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Francis Field (St. Augustine). Cool festival with a limited run across the country. This stop includes Fun. and The Vaccines. Check out their website for details.
9/18 – Title Fight, The Roc Bar.
9/26 – Colin Hay, Ponte Vedra Music Hall
9/26 – Enter The Haggis. Cafe Eleven (St. Augustine)
9/26 – Rick Springfield, Florida Theatre. Cretin just read his autobiography. Definitely a recommended read…
9/30 – Sick Puppies, Redlight King, Charming Liars, Freebird Live
9/01 – Eddie Money, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
9/06 – Blue October, Jannus Live (Saint Petersburg)
9/06 – The Supervillains, Jesse’s (Winter Haven)
9/07 – Authority Zero, Ruth Eckerd Music Hall (Clearwater)
9/07 – John Mayer and Philip Phillips, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre
9/07 – Rancid, Jannus Live (Saint Petersburg)
9/11 – Joe Satriani and Steve Morse Band, Ruth Eckerd Music Hall (Clearwater)
9/11 – Pepper, Jannus Live (Saint Petersburg)
9/12 – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Jannus Live (Saint Petersburg)
9/12 – Matt Pond, New World Brewery
9/13 – Pet Shop Boys, Mahaffey Theater
9/13 – Rick Springfield, Ruth Eckerd Hall(Clearwater)
9/14 – Depeche Mode, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre – the only area appearance for these stalwarts of new wave…
9/14 – Steely Dan, Ruth Eckerd Hall (Clearwater)
9/15 – Kid Rock, ZZ Top and Uncle Cracker, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. Great triple bill – all three acts put on excellent shows.
9/24 – Colin Hay, The Largo Cultural Center
9/24 – Imagine Dragons, Paper Route and The Neighborhood, USF Sun Dome. Imagine Dragons is the big draw, but The Neighborhood is a big appeal for us.
9/24 – Ra Ra Riot, Orpheum
9/26 – Blues Traveler, Floyd’s at Hard Rock Casino
9/26 – O’Brother, Crowbar
9/27 – Enter The Haggis, Skipper’s Steakhouse
9/28 – Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck, Ruth Eckerd Music Hall (Clearwater). The legendary mind behind the original Beach Boys, paired with Jeff Beck!
9/29 – Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco and Twenty One Pilots, USF Sun Dome. This is just a killer line-up. Three phenomenal live acts.
As I looked back on the 2012 rock landscape and reviewed the year’s best rock music, I realized that I’ve definitely become more of an Indie Rock fan over the past few years. 2012 brought us lots of great Indie rock, but we also heard some rocking albums in the mainstream. You may see a few albums here that you’re not familiar with, but I implore you to check them out. You’ll open your ears to some killer new rock, and impress the hell out of your friends. (After each selection, you’ll find a link to check them out on iTunes as well as our recommendations if you just want to grab a few tracks off of each album).
So, here are the Farmer’s Dozens in reverse order. The two dozen best rock albums of the year:
Bonus Selection: Each farmer’s dozen comes with a bonus, so here are two: Grouplove, Never Trust a Happy Song and The Black Keys, El Camino. Both of these albums would be at the top of our 2012 list… if we had not already recognized them in 2011. Here’s our Top Rock Albums of 2011, to see what else we visionaries were thinking last year.
23. Lovedrug, Wild Blood – These Indie rockers out of Ohio are powered by Michael Sheppard’s unique voice and a nice Kickstarter campaign. Best tracks: “Premonition” and “Ladders.” Read our full review
21. Green River Ordinance, Under Fire – Great rock ‘n roll harmonies from this quintet out of Forth Worth. They offer up a diverse selection of tunes on another self-funded effort. Best tracks: “Dark Night” and “Lost in the World.” Read our full review
20. Mumford and Sons, Babel – A nice follow-up to their hugely successful 2009 release Sigh No More for these barrier-breaking folk rockers. Best tracks: “I Will Wait” and “The Boxer” (Simon and Garfunkel cover).
19, Dinosaur Jr., I Bet on Sky – The Massachusetts Alt-Rockers continue to put out solid Alt-Rock with their distinctive brand of guitar rock. Every song is good on this one. Best tracks: “Rude” and “Pierce the Morning Rain.”
18. Luke Dowler, Polarized – Dowler’s music offers raw vocals with an urgent passion, mixed with poignant lyrics about world affairs, relationships and deep personal faith: Good stuff from Big Sky Country. Best tracks: “Polarized” and “Gun.” Read our full review
17. Jack White, Blunderbuss – White breaks away from the shackles and structure of his former band mates in The White Stripes and Raconteurs and it works nicely. Best Tracks: “Love Interruption” and “Trash Tongue Talker.”
16. The Shins, Port of Morrow – Fantastic lyrics, beautiful harmonies and rock and roll that just oozes likability I just wish these New Mexico natives would put out album more often than every four years. Best tracks: “Simple Song” and “It’s Only Life.”
15. Muse, The 2nd Law – The band, built for stadium rock, took some chances on this, their sixth release. This stuff is nothing like what we’ve heard from them before, but it is intriguing and captivating. Best tracks: “Madness” and “Survival.”
14. The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten – Talented New Jersey rockers who offer up their most polished record to date. Strong heart felt rock and roll with excellent lyrics. Best tracks” “Too Much Blood” and “45.” Read our full review
13. The Killers, Battle Born – Brandon Flowers and the band never disappoint. One of the year’s best produced albums and it shows the band moving in a more mature direction. Best tracks: Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb.”
12. Neon Trees, Picture Show – Everybody talked about “Everybody Talks,” but this album was much more than one hit. Tyler Glenn is a future superstar and highlights his broad talent throughout the band’s third album. Best tracks: “I am the DJ” and “Everybody Talks.”
11. Django Django, Django Django – Hip, cool, groovy, rock ‘n roll with an oddly familiar feel considering this is the band’s debut. Mixes the best of the sixties, eighties and modern times. Best tracks: Default” and “WOR.”
10. Metric, Synthetica – From the opening lines of “Artificial Nocturne,” where Emily Haines offers “I’m just as fucked up as they say,” this album demands your attention. Some deep introspective tracks disguised as excellent pop rock songs. Best tracks: “Youth Without Youth” and “Breathing Underwater.”
9. Thousand Foot Krutch, The End is Where We Begin – The songs are positive Christian rock but these guys don’t slam you over the head with their beliefs. It’s solid, active rock music that any hard rock fan will enjoy. A very diverse selection from a band returning to their Indie roots. Best tracks: “War of Change” and “All I Need to Know.” Read our full review
8. The Wallflowers, Glad All Over – Jacob Dylan continues to evolve as a musician and has never sounded better than he does now. Excellent music with soulful vocals on a selection of tracks guaranteed to grow on you with each listen. Best tracks: “It’s a Dream” and “Reboot the Mission.”
7. The Drowning Men, All of the Unknown – They’re back with their second full-length album release, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label, which builds on the success of their fantastic debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow. These Indie rockers remind me a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent. Best Tracks: “A Fool’s Campaign” and “Lost in a Lullaby.” Read our full review
6. Green Day, ‘¡Uno!‘ – Billie Joe Armstrong needs to be recognized as the prolific rock songwriter he is. He and his longtime band mates never fail to put out good music and this is another prime example. A great fresh punk/pop sound from our favorite So Cal trio. They released three good albums this year, this one was the best of the bunch. Best tracks: “Oh Love” and “Let Yourself Go.”
5. Fun., Some Nights – So much more than “We Are Young.” This masterfully produced album is a great vehicle for the talented vocal stylings of Nate Ruess and is packed with memorable addicting ditties. Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost round out the trio and lend their voices to create impressive harmonies throughout. On Some Nights, Fun. has developed a unique sound and carved a nice niche in today’s Alt-Rock landscape. Best tracks: Why Am I the One” and “Carry On.” Read our full review
4. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal. This talented Icelandic band has taken advantage of the revitalized interest in folksy rock courtesy of Mumford and Sons, but have kicked it up a notch. Great, fun rock songs with amazing boy/girl vocals and meaningful lyrics; as well as a few tracks that are strictly fantasy adventures like the addictive “From Finner.” Best tracks: “Mountain Sound” and “Little Talks,”
3. River City Extension, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger – The second release from this talented octet out of New Jersey is a musical and lyrical journey well worth a listen. It’s a folk rock/Americana album packed with original sounds and with each listen a different track stands out. Joe Michelini, the band’s singer and guitarist is the primary songwriter and he takes us through a varied collection of memories. He offers: “Half of this record is love songs, and the other half is ‘I’m sorry that I fucked up’ songs,” and he writes about both in a compelling way. Best tracks: “Glastonbury” and “Ballad of Oregon.” Read our full review
2. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball – I had just about written off the sage of the Garden State, but this is one of Springsteen’s best efforts in years. The music is superb, and the lyrics even better. It’s a bitter, but honest look at what Corporate Greed and idiot politicians have done to his country, and Springsteen pulls it off by surrounded the words with excellent music At times, he evokes memories of the E Street Band’s greatest anthems, at other times he has us heading down an entirely new path, such as the Celtic rock feel in the fantastic “Death of My Hometown.” Best other tracks: “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball.”
1. Shinedown, Amaryllis – I loved “Bully” the moment I heard it and was pleasantly surprised to hear the excellent diversity on the rest of the album. It’s aggressive, powerful, passionate rock that’s impossible to put down. The Jacksonville based band has only put out four albums in their decade plus together, and each one has gotten just a little bit better. Rolling Stone hated the album, which in itself is proof that it’s mainstream rock for the masses. Amaryllis is one of the best hard rock albums in years and it’s packed with great songs. Best tracks: “Unity” and “I’m Not Alright.”
There you have it – the best rock albums of 2012, according to me. Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.
Wow – one hell of a show in Jacksonville yesterday!
Our first trip to The Big Ticketand damn were we impressed. An absolutely great line-up, and everything ran fantastically well. We have a slew of excellent pictures and lots of material to share over the next few days. Like us on Facebook to keep up with all of our photos and Follow us on Twitter for updates.
In the meantime, here’s our Best of Listing for our first Big Ticket experience:
- Song of the Day – “Glycerine” by Bush. Immediately after running through the crowd, Gavin Rossdale comes back on stage and plays this cut off of Sixteen Stone, unaccompanied for the first few verses – starkly spectacular The crowd sings along throughout, and the full band returns for a rousing close; a great performance of a great rock song.
- Best Chill Spot – The gazebo down by the river. Soothing sounds of the water, yet still close enough to hear the bands on the Main Stage, and plenty of shade. We caught a few folks meditating when we stopped by. Cool spot, literally
- Best Sounding Artist – Grouplove. Never Trust A Happy Song was one of our Top 10 albums of 2011, and the band played every song flawlessly. All three vocalists sounded great and the music was perfect. Bonus points to Andrew Wessen for the only ukulele of the day.
- Best Mosh Moment – If you’ve read us before, you know we don’t love mosh pits, and thankfully not too many this day, but we did have a nice one spontaneously form during Flogging Molly’s rollicking “The Likes of You Again.” Moshing with a bit of Irish Jig tossed in.
- Best Vendor – The tent right near our chill locale. Not sure of the vendor name, but they were selling psychedelic attire and classic concert merchandise. Lots of cool threads and all kinds of cool niche items.
- Top Singalong moment – There were a few nice ones throughout the day, but when Fun hit the stage, the crowd was packed and in a frenzy. No surprise here, but EVERYONE sang along to We Are Young.”
- Most Chatty Artist – Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots was a blast throughout his set. Constantly chatting with the crowd, he was entertaining and funny. Loved his request for the crowd to pretend they were calling the band out for an encore. Creative stuff…
- Best Food – The $9 funnel cake. I hate having to buy a ticket before spending money, but for this monstrous and perfectly greased treat, it was worth the effort. Good stuff, and good for you (right?).
- Crowd-pleasing Moment – There were a bunch of great sets and a few moments that really stood out, like Rossdale’s tour through the crowd or Joseph’s trip up the rafters, but I’ll go with Aswan North of Paper Tongues who jumped across the Photos pit and then Security to mix with the crowd, and they loved it.
- Best Parking Spot – we grabbed the first lot we saw and may have ended up outside of Duval County. The Jaguars lot right across from the venue was much closer, the same price and had plenty of spaces, and a more vibrant tailgating feel. Sold…
- Justin Bieber Moment – No doubt about it, when Fun’s Nate Reuss stepped onto the stage, my ears started bleeding from all of the high-pitched squeals, but damn can that guy sing – an excellent entertainer!
- Act of the Day – As I mentioned, so many great acts to choose from, but I’m going to go with Twenty One Pilots. I already mentioned the interaction with the crowd, we also had lead singer Tyler Joseph sing one song from atop the speaker tower, another from the rafters in the center of the crowd, and the finale from the roof of the motor home next to the stage. Drummer Josh Dun was nearly as animated, and the dup were just an absolute blast their entire set.
So, that’s it for now. Lots of material still to come. Make sure you Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for all of our Big Ticket coverage and loads of photos.
Nate Ruess is not Freddie Mercury, but the front man for FUN. is definitely channeling Freddie’s spirit on the band’s latest release, Some Nights. No one will confuse this band with rock icons Queen, but Ruess’s voice will certainly conjure up some nice memories of their Mercurial lead singer.
(Let’s just get this out of the way first; the band refers to themselves with a period after their name and always either all lower case or all CAPS. I’ve chosen the latter throughout this review. So, please, no comments on my apparent crappy grammar.)
Ruess has been around the Indie music scene for ten years, previously with Format, and now back with FUN.’s second release. Some Nights is in a word, fun. It’s a great vehicle for the talented vocal stylings of Reuss and packed with memorable addicting ditties.
Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost round out the trio and lend their voices to create impressive harmonies throughout. While the vocals border on spectacular, the music is fairly uninspiring. Like many of today’s Indie bands, it’s primarily synthesizers and canned drum beats. While not the greatest musicianship, it is still pretty damn fun. The music may be bubble-gum, but it’s certainly not cookie-cutter. FUN. has developed a unique sound and have carved a nice niche in today’s Alt-Rock landscape.
By now, everyone has surely heard the first single, “We Are Young (featuring Janelle Monáe).” It’s been all over TV, and for good reason; it’s a great addictive tune. It’s a good peek into what you can expect from the rest of the album, and chances are if you dig “We Are Young,” you’ll really enjoy the other tracks.
The album kicks off with a powerful Broadway-inspired introduction that beautifully highlights the vocal prowess of Reuss. It’s different, it’s innovative and it’s fun. From there, it’s generally a trip through a series of entertaining enjoyable cuts. The title track, “Carry On,” “All Alone” and “One Foot” are all in the same vein as “We Are Young.” They’ll all have you singing along and tapping your feet throughout.
“It Gets Better” reminded me a bit of Blink 182, and had a welcome edge to it. My personal favorite is “Why Am I the One.” It’s more tender than the other tunes, and reflects on a challenging relationship and the impact on our protagonist’s life as evidenced by these lyrics: “Cause my life has become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles.” The song ebbs and flows with hopeful desperation and is a great journey.
The album features fantastic vocals, catchy tunes and plenty of diversity. Check it out on iTunes below and enjoy the FUN.
Rock On! – Cretin