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Most of the bands I grew up listening to have either broken up or completely fallen off the map, which isn’t too uncommon. Most artists only have so much in the tank before they either run out of ideas or want to murder their bandmates, so it’s nice to see there are still a few people out there who have stayed devoted to the style that made me listen to them, but have also found a way to not sound like they’re just trying to recreate the magic. These are the groups who provided the soundtrack to my adolescence, yet I still eagerly await to hear what they come out with next.
1. Third Eye Blind
I can’t decide if Stephan Jenkins is super cool or a huge douche. He’s probably both. Either way, the dude is one of my favorite artists of any kind on the planet. He turned a degree in literature into one of the catchiest rock bands with intelligently depraved lyrics in history. While most people don’t really know what the band has been up to since “Blue” came out, it’s still making some of its best music. “Out of the Vein,” which is actually my favorite Third Eye Blind album, probably would have been just as huge, but their record label tanked right as it was released. Since then, they took a big break before releasing “Ursa Major,” which was a sort of grown up version of the horny, drug-addled initial version of the band. And it worked. Maybe he’ll even get back with Charlize Theron–that would be great.
2. Justin Timberlake
Yeah, he’s not a band, I get it. The point is that JT is pretty much the only person to make it out of the bubblegum pop era of the early 2000s unscathed. How? Well, it’s pretty simple. The dude has talent on top of talent and is more charismatic than Frank Sinatra in a room full of liquored up showgirls. “Justified” was a really good first push into a solo career, and everyone knew he was going to be okay, but nobody expected “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” With only his second solo effort, he created one of the greatest pop albums of all time, and that’s not an exaggeration. I think it’s up there with “Abbey Road,” “Thriller,” “Pet Sounds,” and “Songs In The Key of Life.” He took way too much time off to act and goof around with Andy Samberg, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was underwhelmed by the “20/20 Experience” at first. Then I gave it enough time so I could separate it from what I had expected–which was a stronger followup to “FutureSex/LoveSounds”–and I realized that it was actually a super fantastic album in its own right. JT’s still got it, folks.
I don’t know when it became cool to be “over” Eminem, but I must have missed the memo. I didn’t find out until, like, three years after “Recovery” came out that it was widely panned by critics and hip hop snobs. I guess I was too busy enjoying the shit out of it to notice. When he announced his new album was going to be a titular follow up to the “Marshall Mathers LP,” I’ll admit that I was worried. “MMLP” is a hip hop landmark, so just to put that name on it adds a lot of expectations–but Eminem delivered. Everything you would want from a mature Em was on “MMLP 2”: allusions to the original, features from killer rappers (Kendrick’s verse on “Love Game” is absurdly great), off-kilter beats that most rappers wouldn’t even touch, all under the umbrella of the same buzzsaw personality, tempered with the wisdom of old age. Slim Shady isn’t angry anymore, he’s world weary. If you think that’s not as interesting, you’re not listening closely enough.
4. Jimmy Eat World
I went to see Jimmy Eat World last fall, and it was, without a doubt, the best concert I’ve ever been to. I don’t know how the man does it, but Jim Adkins is one of the best live vocalists in the world right now. The range of these songs is insanely high, so you’re waiting for him to pussy out and drop the octave in the big moments, but he never does. The band flowed perfectly, and their setlist couldn’t have been more perfectly tailored to my expectations. The only disappointment was that they didn’t play their cover of “We Are Never Getting Back Together” (if you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor). They might not be as high profile as they were when “Bleed American” came out, but their last album, “Damage,” was absolutely fantastic. Unlike many of the contemporaries, the band has matured its sound without abandoning what made the music appealing in the first place.