Tag Archives: J Givens

The Best of 2015

It’s that time of the year again when I share what I consider the best records of 2016. This list only includes records that I listened to. I listened to almost half the amount of records I usually do in a year, so you’ll have to forgive me if I missed something. It should probably be my favorite records of the year, but we’ll stick with the best.

Honorable Mentions:

Crystal Lewis – Crystal Lewis
Levv – Arrow
Doug Burr – Pale White Dove
Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
Emery – You Were Never Alone
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Boysetsfire – Boysetsfire


25. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
a0622773824_10This record could just as easily be higher on the list. Fast and vicious, yet featuring these absolutely beautiful moments that make the musician in me smile. New Bermuda is less lush and more raw than Sunbather, but it also has more musicianship and technical prowess. A great record for the music geek and the metal fan.


24. Strengthen What Remains – Justice Creeps SlowBAI060_1500xJustice Creeps Slow is straight up the heaviest hardcore record I’ve heard since Point of Recognition’s Day of Defeat. Just heavy tough guy hardcore. Not frills, all fight!


23. The Ongoing Concept – Handmade11141205_10152998987894118_318439366170224581_nIf a band says they’re going to make all the instruments for their new record, you’d applaud them and call them crazy. That’s what the Ongoing Concept did for their sophomore record, Handmade. While I thought Handmade was less interesting than Saloon, it’s more consistent and concise. Plus, they make the best of list just because they made their own instruments!


22. Soft Lions – SpellbreakerSoftLions-SpellbreakerSpellbreaker is a great ep. It could just as easily be the soundtrack for a 1950’s zombie beach movie. It’s got punk spirit with the lo-fi indie vibes. A band to pay attention to!


21. Moving Mountains/Prawn – Split EPMM_PRAWN_SPLIT_1024x1024I wasn’t sure we’d ever hear new music from Moving Mountains, so I was super excited when this split was announced. I actually like both of these Moving Mountains tracks more than the bands previous self-titled full-length. And both the songs from Prawn ring of emo’s glory days!


20. Alert 312 – The Upside Eternal12046756_10153750986869529_1768712839276259843_nI find myself seeing this cycle where Alert 312 releases this super creative and innovative eps and their full-lengths don’t seem to have the same punch to my ears. And that was my first impression of The Upside Eternal. I still liked the record, but it just didn’t strike me the same way that Singular Vision did.But upon further listens you hear the intricate layers of sound and the hard work that went into the beats.


19. Ivadell – Maybe TomorrowBCR-052_Cover_1500Maybe Tomorrow has more depth than just another emo revival album. The arrangements are intricately simple. Interesting, but not overly complex. The dynamics on this record are great. When the band wants to sound huge, they’ve left plenty of room for the sound to grow and overwhelm your speakers. An absolutely stunning record.


18. Five Iron Frenzy – Between Pavement and StarsFIF_BTPASMore great music from Five Iron Frenzy on their second go around. B-sides from Engine OF A Million Plots, but most of these songs are good enough to have made the record. I’m really glad Five Iron is back!


17. Zao – Xenophobe/Fear Itselfcover Yes, a 2 song 7″ was good enough to make the top 25. And if these songs are an indicator, Zao’s 2016 full-length will be an album of the year contender. The rawness and insanity from The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here is back and I’m not sure Zao has ever sounded better.


16. Fireflight – InnonaInnovaI’ve always liked Fireflight and their brand of hard rock. But I never thought I would’ve fallen in love with them as a pop group. I said when I reviewed Innova that I thought it had all sorts of commercial radio friendly singles on it, and I still believe it. This should’ve been a huge record for the band.


15. Envy – Atheist’s Corneaenvy2Atheist’s Cornea is a great record that seems to span most of Envy’s career. Less post rock and more of the hardcore sound that was featured early in the band’s career. But Envy provides a sound that is unique to them. Beautiful and chaotic at the same time.


14. Sollunar – The Observatorya2136106054_10I love post rock. And the solo effort of Florida artist Josiah Bibb was a surprise for me. The best post rock record I heard this year.


13. Slow Meadow – Slow Meadow11168915_923398681053340_6452009618947456584_nThe first release on Hammock’s new label is an absolute gem. A beautiful ambient record that you would expect Hammock to release.


12. Eshon Burgundy – The Fear of GodEshon+Burgundy+-+The+Fear+of+GodStraight up gospel rap. Beautiful Eulogy and Daniel Steele’s production just knocks it out of the park. It’s the type of record where the music is so good that you just want an instrumental version. That’s not to take anything away from Burgundy. The verses are strong and I really love his flow on this record.


11. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other DistressGodspeed You! Black Emperor - Asunder, Sweet, and Other DistressI was not a huge fan of GY!BE’s reunion record, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! It just didn’t strike a chord with me. Not so the case with Asunder. The record had me hook from its first note. The shortest Godspeed record to date, which is sad because it’s my favorite record from the band.


10. Better Off – MilkfolderI already like Better Off a lot. But when you write a record that sounds like Jimmy Eat World and The Promise Ring, you’re speaking my musical love language.


9. Owl City – Mobile OrchestracoverI’m a sucker for Adam Young’s brand of electro-pop. There’s a fun innocence to it and the songs are always super catchy.


8. Haste The Day – CowardCowardHaste the Day’s reunion produced the best of the band’s career. The interplay between Jimmy and Stephen’s vocals are perfect. There are moments where you hear the natural evolution of the band, and also the potential evolution had Jimmy never left.


7. Defeater – AbandonedDefeater - Abandoned (2015)The concept behind Abandoned is so compelling and the way lyrics intertwine between songs makes it a record you have to really pay attention to. It’s a killer hardcore record, but it’s really the lyric concepts and themes that make Abandoned a worthwhile listen.


6. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Usa2813479087_10A shoegazey punk rock record. Tons of fun. The music feels like Smashing Pumpkins 1979 music video. Reckless and fun.


5. Dustin Kensrue – Carry The Firedustin-kensrue-carry-the-fireCarry The Fire is the post-Thrice record I’d been waiting to hear from Kensrue. Dirty, bluesy rock and roll. Plus we get the catchiest hooks Kensrue’s ever written.


4. J Givens – Fly ExamFlyExamAnother Humble Beast release where the beats are super unique. Unlike The Fear of God, this beats are more minimal and leave a lot of room for Givens unique delivery style. It’s a record I had been waiting for a year to hit shelves and it didn’t disappoint.


3. Josh Garrels – Homeoriginal-coverHome would make the top 25 for Born Again alone. Every time that songs plays, it’s like chicken soup for the soul. I’ve admittedly been a little lukewarm on Garrels, but this record is an absolute thing of beauty. Bluesy and soulful. A wonderful work of love.


2. Bandit – Of LifeBandit-OfLife-CoverWe’re splitting hairs between number 2 and number 1 because both records have been on my turntable constantly since they’ve been released. Of Life is a perfect indie rock record. Another record with terrific dynamic range that creates these beautifully chaotic moments when the songs explode, yet mellow out for Angela Plake’s vocals to shine.


  1. mewithoutYou – Pale Horsesv600_Pale_Horses_CoverPale Horses is epic. mewithoutYou hasn’t abandoned their indie rock tendencies, but they bring back their post-punk fury and explode all over Pale Horses. The lyrics are some of Aaron’s most indistinguishable as he blends multiple themes and ideas in each track. So this creates this abstract work of art that matches the ever shifting nature of the music. I’m glad this version of mewithoutYou is back!



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J Givens – Fly Exam

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve been waiting for Fly Exam for over a year. When Humble Beast uploaded J Givens’ JackPot in August, my mind was blown! I instantly went and downloaded El v. Envy. I ate that record up! And I have been waiting and waiting for Fly Exam!

Fly Exam doesn’t disappoint. I expected this record to be one of the best records of the year and that’s how I feel after half a dozen listens. There’s nothing to hate about Fly Exam.

Ignoranto is a blistering intro to the record. J Givens brings the same fire I heard on Jackpot and I’m hooked. From there the record kind of feels like a mixtape for a couple of songs. I really like Butterfly Stance and Fahrenheit 99 but they feel a bit out-of-place. I’m not sure where they would’ve fit better in the record, but coming out of Ignoranto they feel a little forced.

So Fly is, in my opinion, the best track and best hook on the record. The chorus hit and I was sold and couldn’t stop singing it. 10, 2 Get In with Odd Thomas is a great track and if you’ve watched the video, you know that creativity is a high priority for J Givens! Jackie Hill Perry is my favorite part of Attack of the Clones and my favorite guest appearance on Fly Exam.

The record is “split” into two parts (according to the liner notes) and the title track feels like the dividing line between the parts. A bit of a throwback/Michael Jackson Thriller style track that I wish we have more of.

The second half of the record is where I feel Givens shines! Daniel Steele’s production on Lost in Space is nuts! And the interplay between Givens rhymes and Marz Ferrer’s hook is perfect! Hummingbird Stance feels classic in inspiration without feeling old. Super Lowkey gets me hyped up every time! The dark tones in the beat that Courtland provided are great! John Givez brings a Fugees vibe to Take Off With Me. They Said There’d Be Jetpacks is an absolute perfect closing track and just makes me want more!

Even though there are moments on Fly Exam that I don’t always understand in the context of the record, the songs are all on point and I keep coming back to the record. It’s been in my car and on my iTunes constantly since it was released. It’s the best hip-hop record I’ve heard this year! 5 out of 5 Stars!

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J Givens Finally Announces Fly Exam

I have been waiting all year for J Givens to announce his Humble Beast Records debut. And that announcement finally came today! Fly Exam will hit shelves on September 25th!

Track Listing:
03. FAHRENHEIT 99 (f. Liz Vice)
04. SO FLY (f. Beleaf)
05. 10, 2. GET IN. (f. Odd Thomas)
(f. John Givez & Jackie Hill-Perry)

08. LOST IN SPACE (f. Marz Ferrer)
11. TAKE OFF WITH ME (f. John Givez)
12. MARCH 10TH AND A THIRD (f. Braille)
13. THEY SAID THEREā€™D BE JETPACKS (f. Propaganda)

In addition, J Givens released a new video for the track 10, 2. Get In with Odd Thomas. Check it out below.

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Beautiful Eulogy Announce Mid-West Dates

Beautiful Eulogy is coming to the Midwest July 18th through the 22nd, and they’re bringing JGivens along! Find the closest city to you and get your tickets below!
(Lakeville) Minneapolis, Minnesota –
Des Moines, Iowa –
Evansville, Indiana –
Indianapolis, Indiana –
Chicago, Illinois –

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J Givens Drops Ignorantro Video

One of the album’s I’ve been most looking forward to is J Givens new record coming out later this year on Humble Beast Records. Today we get out first taste of that record as J Givens has premiered a video for the album’s first single, Ignorantro. Check it out!

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