I get a lot of random records, tapes, and books in the mail, because publicists forget that outlets for which I used to work aren’t around anymore, or someone finds the address hidden on my website, or… whatever. This is a way to keep them from piling up uselessly in the corner of the office.

Taking Back Sunday – Twenty (Craft Recordings)

Per the label, “Twenty is a career-to-date retrospective, celebrating 20 years of Taking Back Sunday. The collection spans each of their studio albums; Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want To Be, Louder Now, New Again, Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is and Tidal Wave.” It also features two new studio recordings, “All Ready To Go” and “A Song For Dan.”

Tell All Your Friends came out in 2002, which meant that I was still listening to alternative rock radio at the time, so I heard “Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team)” roughly a million times, especially once it really caught on over the summer. I was single at the time, which ought to have really made this the sort of band to which I really latched on.

However, I was also beginning to hit the depths of a drinking problem, so my go-to music was a little more raucous and less maudlin. I was more of a Piebald guy, since they were less “bad high school romance” and more “oh, man, adulthood is a nightmare.” This basically means that everything that’s not on the first side of this double vinyl LP is pretty much new to me. Once we’re past Taking Back Sunday’s Victory albums, I am in the fucking weeds, man. Looking at their Discogs page, it’s like — wait, what? They put out five albums on Warner Bros.? And two on Hopeless?

It would nice if there were some sort of liner notes as part of this release to put everything in perspective, and the fact that there aren’t is a bit of a Craft Recordings anomaly, but there are lyrics on the printed inner sleeves; because if you can’t sing along to mall emo, then what’s even the point of listening to it?

This is a very long and roundabout way of saying that the first LP has one side of borderline nostalgia, then there’s two sides of songs I have never heard before in my life, but make me feel oddly embarrassed, and a final side that actually shows a maturity that’s pretty heartening.

The first song on side D, “Tidal Wave,” from the 2016 album of the same name, is a pretty great rocker; like Dropkick Murphys, but without the “look at us, we’re Irish!” aspect. The new songs are good, although “A Song For Dan” is maudlin in a way that has me not wanting to ever have to hear it again.

If nothing else, this works like a really solid primer for longtime listeners in search of a best-of, former fans who want to brush up, or people like me who wonder whether the band’s aged well (yes). It’s a really gorgeous pressing, with cover art that reminds me of some Mondo releases — classy, but cool — and the aforementioned printed inner sleeves going into the gatefold jacket.

You can order the Taking Back Sunday Twenty double LP here.

Paul Jacks – Defractor (Tritone Records)

This is one of those records which legitimately just showed up at my house one day, and I have no idea why. Never got an email about it or anything. Just one day got a box in the mail, and opened it to find a clear vinyl LP in a jacket with a very ’80s cover. Obviously, it went straight to the turntable, post-haste.

It’s 100% synth-pop, which isn’t really surprising, as I get a lot of that sort of thing these days, but the fact that Tritone is located in Anchorage, Alaska, kind of blew my mind when I looked up more information on Paul Jacks and Defractor. I don’t know what I think of coming out of Alaska, musically, but synthy melodies and washed-out vocals are not it.

It’s very ethereal in the melodies and vocals, but the beats are pretty sharp and angular. It’s a very strange mix of smooth and herky-jerky sounds, and the more I’ve listened to the LP, the more disconcerted I get with each listen. The closest example I can give to the listening experience is that at my day job, we have a tape deck which plays cassettes just a little too fast. It’s not chipmunk style fast, but everything is pitch-shifted a little higher and faster than expected, like every song is being played in order to beat curfew.

Throw in some ancient cassettes sitting next to a hot oven for over 20 years, and there’s some warp and warble to everything, on top of the pitch-shifting. Listening to any album is an experience where the familiar is rendered new and confusing. That’s Paul Jacks’ Defractor: sounds you’ve heard before, but presented in a way which might make you a little paranoid you’re losing it. The descending countermelody in the background of “Nightwave” unnerves and fascinates me every time.

It’s pressed on clear vinyl and comes with a credits insert that features a futuristic eyeball that I am convinced is following me around the room, unless I keep it sealed inside the jacket.

You can order Paul Jacks’ Defractor on LP from Trtone Records here.

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