Furnace Fest 2022

Furnace Fest 2022

Furnace Fest was spectacular again! My video recap and photo album explain it better than I can do in words. But as I am addicted to ranking everything, here are all the artists I saw at least three songs from and how much I enjoyed the sets. This is but skewed because I saw SDRE and Elliott last week, and if I hadn’t, they would have almost certainly been #1 and #2. But Thrice’s "Illusion of Safety" set was perfect!

1. Thrice
2. Elliott
3. Sunny Day Real Estate
4. Stretch Arm strong
5. Blindside
6. Idle Threat
7. Slow Crush
8. Drug Church
9. Capra
10. Roadside Monument
Five Iron Frenzy
The Appleseed Cast
The Joy Formidable
The Descendents
The Darling Fire
As Friends Rust
Mom Jeans
Maylene and the Sons of Disaster
The Spill Canvas
New Found Glory


Top 25 Brandtson songs

Photo by me in perhaps 2001. This was a club (or room, ha!) in Nashville, TN. Anyone know the name of it? 

With Brandtson's vinyl discography now complete and available (see my Instagram below), I definitely have the band on the brain. Brandtson was one of my favorite bands for a long time (still are; and sure wish they were playing at Furnace Fest where they belong!). Between 1998 and 2003 I saw them at least a dozen, if not 15 times. I mostly saw them in many small, sweaty, hole-in-the wall clubs in Birmingham, Nashville, and Atlanta and went out of the way to go to as many of their high-energy shows as I could. I also saw them at a few festivals, from Cornerstone in Illinois to OneFest in Memphis.

Sadly, the last time I saw them was in Frankfurt, Germany in August of 2003. That was before Brandtson really came into their own with their phenomenal 2004 album Send Us a Signal, my #1 album of 2004. So many of the best Brandtson songs are from that album, and I never saw them performed. And then, Hello, Control, I admittedly never got that into, and the lack of seeing Brandtson live around its release definitely contributed. As I mention at length in my recent Instagram post, I am just now really getting into and loving Hello, Control.

As far as I am concerned, Brandtson is just as good as and could have been as big as Jimmy Eat World (seems silly, but it's all about opportunity). While "The Middle" sent Jimmy Eat World soaring into popularity, Brandtson never had that one hit song. (And arguably half the songs on Brandtson's Trying to Figure Each Other Out EP are better than "The Middle".) Prior to Bleed American, the bands were easy for me to compare, but now it's hard to as Jimmy Eat World has stayed active and productive for 25+ years, while Brandtson existed less than half that time and never had the budgets and promotion to share their music.

This is the best Brandtson video I have found online, except sadly one can't see the crowd at all. But this perfectly represents the Brandtson I knew and loved at all those shows. Brandtson was the perfect sing-a-long band. Perhaps my favorite band ever for singing along loudly in the car to. And I can't help but sing a long as I sit here writing this post.


Before we dive into the songs, here is the Brandtson releases ranked in my order of preference. I don't usually rank EP's along with LP's, but in Brandtson's discography they are essential.

1. Send Us A Signal 

2. Trying to Figure Each Other Out EP

3. Fallen Star Collection

4. Dial In Sounds

5. Hello, Control

6. Death & Taxes EP

7. Letterbox

Top 25 Brandtson Songs:


 1. "Boys Lie" from the 2000 Trying To Figure Each Other Out EP
While Brandtson released two full-lengths prior to this EP, this was honestly the first time they captured their high-energy live show in a recording. Summer of 2000 I probably listened to this EP in full daily. For the long time it was my favorite Brandtson "album" even though it is only six songs.

2. "Summer In St. Claire" from the 1999 Fallen Star Collection LP
The first time I saw Brandtson was at Slacker 66 in Birmingham (a venue run by Chad Johnson of Takehold Records and Furnace Fest). At the time of the show I had only heard the two songs on the first Deep Elm sampler, and their live show was SO MUCH BETTER than the quality of the Letterbox recording. Myk and Jared's dualing vocals were so unique and perfect. That show was a year before Fallen Star Collection dropped, and led to it being so highly anticipated from me.

3. "Guest List" from the 2002 Dial In Sounds LP
If I saw Brandtson 15 times, 10 of those times were prior to this album dropping. In 2000 and 2001 I practically followed Brandtson around the Southeast. One of the most memorable parts of those shows were hearing this song written and played live. It became the highlight of Brandtson shows before it was ever recorded and released.

4. "Throwing Rocks Tonight" from the 2004 Send Us A Signal LP
This is going to be the first of so many songs from Brandtson's uniquivocal best album, Send Us a Signal. Like I said, the last time I saw Brandtson play was August 2003 in Frankfurt, Germany. Before the show I sat at the bar and talked with Jared quite a bit. The band had finally fulfilled their Deep Elm contract and were being courted by new labels. I remember vividly Jared talking about the appeal of The Militia Group, especially the sales numbers from the debut album from The Beautiful Mistake. A year later this album dropped, and my jaw dropped to the floor. As Brandtson later revealed in interviews, this album was the first time Brandtson had a bigger budget and more time to write and experiment in the studio, and the results are glorious.

5. "Earthquakes And Sharks" from the 2006 Hello, Control LP
Probably the most unique and quirky Brandtson song, but my family absolutely loves it, and finds it hysterical.

6. "Sic Transit Gloria (Glory Fades)" from the 2000 Trying To Figure Each Other Out EP
Brandtson's best album opener, and also a song the band used to open shows frequently. Impossible not to sing along to!

7. "Just Breathe" from the 2004 Send Us A Signal LP
One of the heaviest Brandtson songs, but this one is mainly defined by all its different segments. Changing time signatures and instrumentation; full of surprises.

8. "Mark It At Zero" from the 2002 Dial In Sounds LP
Another song I probably heard performed live 5-6 times before it was ever recorded.

9. "Mexico" from the 2004 Send Us A Signal LP
If Brandtson ever had a radio hit, this would have been it. A mid-tempoed rocker that I frequently put on mixes for friends. Brandtson had developed so much as songwriters; "Mexico" would have not been possible earlier in their career.

10. "Little Birds And Spiders" originally from the 2004 Take Action! Vol. 4 compilation, where it was mislabeled "Little Birds and Sparrows". Later appeared in its proper place on the 2010 vinyl reissue for Send Us A Signal as track 2 and with its correct title.
As I recently tweeted, one of the biggest compliments I can give Brandtson is their ability to finish songs well. No matter how good the first 2/3 of a Brandtson song is, the final 1/3 is going to shift into another gear and completely kick ass. This track starts like a punk rock song, but then completely shifts. "And your flying gracefully!" Gives me chills.

Cornerstone Festival 2001, photo by me

11. "Blindspot" from the 1997 Letterbox LP. Was later rerecorded for the 2004 Send Us A Signal LP
This is Brandtson's "Deadbolt". This is easily the best song on Brandtson's first album, and the only one they continued to play throughout their career. Often the final song of a show.

12. "Leaving Ohio" from the 2000 Trying To Figure Each Other Out EP
I always liked how Brandtson wrote geography into their songs; so many mention places, cities, and states. You could learn a lot about where they were from just by listening. I guess this is inevitable if you are out on the road as much a they were.

13. "Escapist" from the 2004 Send Us A Signal LP
This is my wife's favorite Brandtson song, and until "Earthquakes and Sharks", the one that was the most different and distinct in their catalog. The chorus has Myk and Jared singing different lines simultaneously and its fantastic. It's got a more electronic beat and hinted at the direction Brandtson would go next.

14. "Drawing A Line In The Sand" from the 2004 Send Us A Signal LP
Because Send Us a Signal is so deep and good, this song maybe slips between the cracks. But 5 years earlier it could have been the band's best song.

15. "Shannon Said" from the 1999 Fallen Star Collection LP
I don't remember any song specifically from the first Brandtson show I saw in 1998, but "Shannon Said" reminds me the most of what that show sounded like.

16. "Cherokee Red" from the 2002 Dial In Sounds LP
John Sayre's bass playing often was fairly nondescript and sometimes buried in the mix. But on this song and album it moved into the forefront and this song especially displays the bass playing.

17. "Parallels" from the 2006 Hello, Control LP
This is one of those songs I mention in my recent Instagram post as Hello, Control has taken on a new life. Really strong songwriting and a fantastic hook--"Let it rain for now!"

18. "Ain't No Trip To Cleveland" from the 2003 Death & Taxes EP
I'm fairly certain I saw this song performed at that Frankfurt show, and really is the perfect live track, both musically and lyrically: "...We wrote this song, it's four chords long, we hope you sing along, so sing along..."

19. "As You Wish" from the 1999 Fallen Star Collection LP (A second remixed version appears on the Trying To Figure Each Other Out EP)
When the 2000 EP came out, I would usually listen to it in full, and as it wrapped up, then put on Fallen Star Collection. Listening to the remix before the original made "As You Wish" seem so epic.

20. "Goodnight Sweet Prince" from the 2006 Hello, Control LP

21. "With Friends Like You" from the 2002 Dial In Sounds LP

22. "Lie To Me" from the 2006 Hello, Control LP

23. "Dead Animals" originally from the 2003 Brandtson/Camber/Seven Storey Split EP. Later appeared in its proper place on the 2021 vinyl reissue for the Death & Taxes EP

24. "On Three" from the 2003 Death & Taxes EP

25. "Waking Up To Yellow" from the 1999 Fallen Star Collection LP

Frankfurt 2003, photo by me


Top 25 Arcade Fire songs

Spurred on by the release of WE, a conversation with my son, and Consequence of Sound's "Every Arcade Fire Song Ranked from Worst to Best" post, I decided it was time to work on my own Arcade Fire list. I am thankful to my friend John handing me Funeral back in 2004, and have been a huge fan ever since. In fact, they are one of the few bands who I love and own a full discography without ever seeing them live--hopefully will remedy that one day.

My Arcade Fire listening is closely related to my family. I got married the year Funeral was released, and did not yet have kids when Neon Bible dropped, so we listened to both of those a lot as a couple on road trips.

When The Suburbs was released two of my children had been born, all three of my kids have grown up listening to that album, and it is a family favorite. One of my favorite vinyl listening experiences is when The Suburbs vinyl came in the mail, my wife and I sat down in my office after our babies were asleep and listened to the album in full with the lyrics in hand. We were both hooked immediately.

Reflektor and Everything Now are far less family friendly. I love Reflektor, but most of my listening has been solo. And Everything Now is by far my least favorite Arcade Fire album, and I have only really played three of the songs for my family. We all absolutely love "Put Your Money on Me".

I am thankful WE is another family friendly album, and we have already played it a few times in the car. "Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)" immediately became my wife's favorite Arcade Fire song, and jumped into my top-5. As a parent, these lyrics resonate deeply:

"Lookout kid, trust your heart
You don't have to play the part they wrote for you
Just be true
There are things that you could do
That no one else on earth could ever do
But I can't teach you, I can't teach it to you
Lookout kid, trust your mind
But you can't trust it every time
You know it plays tricks on you
And it don't give a damn if you are happy or you're sad
But if you've lost it, don't feel bad
'Cause it's alright to be sad
Lookout kid, trust your body
You can dance, and you can shake
Things will break, you make mistakes
You lose your friends, again and again
'Cause nothing is ever perfect
No one's perfect
Let me say it again, no one's perfect
A lifetime of skinned knees
And heartbreak comes so easy
But a life without pain would be boring
And if you feel it, it's fine
I give you everything that's mine
I give you my heart and my precious time
Lookout kid, trust your soul
It ain't hard to rock n' roll
You know how to move your hips
And you know God is cool with it
But some people want the rock without the roll
But we all know, there's no God without soul
A lifetime of skinned knees
And heartbreak comes so easily
But a life without you
Would be boring for someone like me
And if you feel it, it's fine
I give you everything that's mine
I give you my heart and my precious time
(Precious time)
(Give you everything)
I give you my heart and my precious time
It's unconditional
It's unconditional
No matter what you do
It's unconditional"

After a couple of days I narrowed Arcade Fire's 79-song catalog to 25, but putting them "in order" has proven impossible. With that in mind, I ranked my top 5, and then otherwise I grouped the songs in the order I rank the albums.

Top 25 Arcade Fire Songs:

1. "City With No Children" (3:12)

2. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" (5:26)

3. "Wake Up" (5:35)

4. "Put Your Money On Me" (5:53)

5. "Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)" (4:34)

The next 20 songs are ordered by my album ranking preference and not how I prefer each individual song:


The Suburbs
"The Suburbs" (5:15)
"Ready to Start" (4:16)
"Modern Man" (4:40)
"We Used to Wait" (5:01)


"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" (4:48)
"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" (5:13)
"Crown Of Love" (4:42)
"Rebellion (Lies)" (5:11)


"The Lightning I" + "The Lightning II" (3:02 + 2:34) (Note: While most of Arcade Fire's "numbered songs" stand alone, these two are inseparable and the same, continued work.)
"Unconditional II (Race and Religion)" (4:21)


Neon Bible
"Keep The Car Running" (3:29)
"Intervention" (4:19)
"Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" (3:58)
"No Cars Go" (5:44)


"It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)" (6:43)
"Reflektor" (7:34)
"We Exist" (5:44)
"Here Comes the Night Time" (6:31)


Everything Now
"Creature Comfort" (4:44)
"We Don't Deserve Love (6:29)


Best of 1989

1989 was the year BEFORE the year I began buying my own music. However, the #10 album on this list I did hear in full as Batman was the first PG-13 movie I ever saw. My parents were extremely hesitant, but I begged and begged and finally got to see it in the theater. I turned 13 in 1989, so it was only fitting, right?! 

And I got the Lego Batmobile for Christmas just last month, which was definitely the most fun (and longest--almost 9 hours!) Lego build of my life. My Batman obsession is going on strong now since watching the 60's show reruns as a young kid in the 80's.

Top 10 albums of 1989:

1. The Innocence Mission- The Innocence Mission

2. The Connells- Fun & Games

3. The Cure- Disintegration

4. Lifesavers Underground- Wakin' Up the Dead

5. Toad The Wet Sprocket- Bread And Circus

6. The Violet Burning- Chosen

7. The Crucified- The Crucified

8. 10,000 Maniacs- Blind Man's Zoo

9. The Choir- Wide-Eyed Wonder

10. Prince- Batman Motion Picture Soundtrack


Best of 1988

While I know and love a ton of music from 1986 and 1987, 1988 is a challenging year. Even finding 10 albums I "know" and enjoy is a challenge. I only own three on vinyl, and none on CD or cassette. 

In 1988, the year I turned 12, I didn't really listen to music, except what my parents listened to and random top-40 radio in carpools to school and practices. And what my parents listened to was: Sandi Patti, Bill Gaither, Michael Card, GLAD, etc. Even my favorite album of 1988 I didn't listen to at the time. I was vaguely familiar with Amy Grant, but I definitely did not hear Lead Me On in full until probably the early 90's. The only other artist listed below that I definitely heard in 1988 was R.E.M.'s singles on the radio. The top 5 below I had all heard and knew by the end of the 90's, but then numbers 6-10 I didn't even discover until after Y2K.

Top 10 albums of 1988:

1. Amy Grant- Lead Me On

2. R.E.M.- Green

3. Tracy Chapman- Tracy Chapman

4. Adam Again- Ten Songs by Adam Again       

5. The Choir- Chase the Kangaroo

6. The Church- Starfish

7. The Pixies- Surfer Rosa

8. Cowboy Junkies- The Trinity Session

9. My Bloody Valentine- Isn’t Anything

10. Sonic Youth- Daydream Nation


Best of 1985

As 2022 begins, seems only fitting my first blog post of the year is my top albums of 1985--ha! But I do have some gaps to fill in with my lists--notably 1988 and 1989. While those are coming, I am going to start with 1985 as I actually have "a lot" of vinyl albums from that year, at least compared to much of the 80's. Just pulled these off my shelves:

What's weird about writing these eighties lists is that I heard almost none of this music at the time. I turned nine in 1985, and the only artist below I was remotely aware of was Amy Grant--but even with her I didn't become a fan until I was 12 or so. I might have heard a Tears for Fears and a-ha song on the radio, but most of these artists and albums I didn't discover until the late 90's or later. Also, I only really "know" three of these albums in full. I have listened to them all, but this year in music is still largely a mystery to me and may always will be.

Top 10 albums of 1985:

1. Tears For Fears- Songs From The Big Chair

2. Steve Taylor- On The Fritz

3. Amy Grant- Unguarded

4. R.E.M.- Fables Of The Reconstruction

5. The Connells- Darker Days

6. The Jesus & Mary Chain- Psychocandy

7. Kate Bush- Hounds of Love

8. Til Tuesday- Voices Carry

9. Stevie Nicks- Rock A Little

10. a-ha- Hunting High And Low