End of the Year Day Nine: Jason Swearingen

By Maryam Hassan

Throughout December we at PT:HQ are bringing you end of year lists from bands, labels and promoters. We’ll have a new one for you everyday so keep your eyes peeled for them! See all the lists here.


Jason Swearingen


Top 3 albums of 2014

1) Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder

This is the album I’ve been waiting for Branan to release ever since I heard the song “Miss Ferguson” on his debut album, “The Hell You Say.” Branan’s always had a way with words, but it’s nearly trumped by this record’s instrumentation. Every skill Branan has as a songwriter comes together on “The No-Hit Wonder” to form something that is truly more than a sum of its parts. Whether it’s exploring heartbreak in “C’mon Shadow” (a song that not only sounds like something from a midcentury Disney film, but contains some of the wittiest verse I’ve ever heard), singing about family on the almost-zydeco “Daddy Was A Skywriter” or singing about Jack Daniels on the fantastically fun “Sour Mash”, this album is entertaining as hell, as deep as a canyon and as moving as the river that flows through it.

2) Fireworks – Oh, Common Life

For serious, what’s with all the former “easy-core” bands maturing into some of the absolute best shit out there? First, Set Your Goals blew me away with 2009’s “This Will Be The Death of Us.” Then, the Wonder Years matured into one of the best damn bands on the planet. Now, we have Fireworks’ new release, “Oh, Common Life,” which is not only incredibly astute and lyrically profound, but exists in a sub-genre almost entirely its own. Taking equally from punk, pop, indie rock, classic rock, post-hardcore and probably a handful of other genres I’m forgetting right now, Fireworks has simultaneously crafted a masterpiece and kicked down the doors to a sound all their own and ripe for exploration.

3) Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

This is the best record Fleetwood Mac never recorded. I’ve never really been a fan of much else Lewis has done, but this one grabbed me with the release of the lead single, “Just One Of The Guys,” and never let go. I was honestly worried the full album wouldn’t live up to the single, but it’s not even close to one of my favorite tracks now. “The Voyager” is a self-analytical, sexually adventurous journey of a record with pain, joy, love, and life within it’s grooves. It also has, hands down, some of the best production I’ve ever heard.


1) Four Year Strong – Go Down In History

Continuing the “easy-core-made-good” trend I mentioned above, Four Year Strong released a fucking barnburner this year with “Go Down In History.” The guitar work on this EP deserves to be studied. It is perfectly precise and complex, yet bright and poppy, with neither aspect lessening the other. This is heavy as hell and poppy enough to be enormously successful. I eagerly anticipate their next full-length album. One last note: If the pan on the guitar riff right before the last chorus of the title track doesn’t give you chills, you might be dead.

2) AM Taxi – King of the Pond

Somehow, despite living in their hometown, I never heard AM Taxi until a friend introduced me to them in October. How did I miss this? “King of the Pond” sounds like a near-perfect merger of The Gaslight Anthem and The Goo Goo Dolls. If this EP had come out in 1997, AM Taxi would have been one of the biggest bands in the country.

3) Happy Accidents – Not Yet Jaded

Punktastic’s own Maryam Hassan introduced me to Happy Accidents’ “Not Yet Jaded” recently, and it’s yet to leave my rotation. If you’re a fan of Sugar Stems or Dead To Me, you might find something you like here. I know I did.


1) Lydia Loveless – “Head”

With a melody and instrumentation that would sound right at home on The Lemonheads’ “Come On Feel,” Loveless takes a trope of early-nineties alternative rock – the female songwriter singing about giving oral sex as a way of owning their sexuality – and turns it on its, well, head by placing herself as the receiver, rather than the giver, of the pleasure. Loveless is one of rock and country’s most confident voices right now, and this song is a superb example of just why that is. Her lyrics are casually brilliant and her whiskey-soaked, road-worn voice belies her age. If I were to indulge in false dichotomies, I could make a wealth of observations about the near-obscurity such a brilliant mind works in while certain pop stars who shall remain nameless garner all of the praise Loveless should be getting. But I guess I won’t. Long live Lydia Loveless.

2) Bayside – “Stuttering”

Bayside’s “Cult” is easily the best record of their long career, and “Stuttering” may be the best song they’ve ever written. It is a dark, slightly comical, self-deprecating analysis of the painfully ironic nature of succeeding on the back of depressing songs: your livelihood depends on your staying miserable. It is crushing, epic, sad, smart and full of self-loathing. So, pretty much everything I look for in music.

3) The Hotelier – “Your Deep Rest”

To be honest, I have a hard time listening to The Hotelier’s “Home, Like Noplace Is There” for longer than a song or two at a time. It’s that heartbreaking and affecting.”Your Deep Rest” barely beats out “Housebroken” as the best song, but it definitely deserves the win. Like most Hotelier songs, “Your Deep Rest” could be interpreted, explored and reinterpreted a thousand times, but, at its heart, it is a meditation on suicide, the existential hurt that causes it, and the pain, doubt and blame felt by those left behind. I’ve heard a lot of bands nail themes like remorse and depression in song before, but rarely is loss put as poignantly and blunt as it is here.


Both Waxwing and Desaparecidos are rumored to be working on full-lengths, but since its anyone’s guess when those will come out, I’ll assume The Wonder Years are releasing something next year and say that’s my most anticipated record of 2015. Or Nothington. Or Frank Turner. Or Lucero. Or Murder By Death. Or Bad Religion. I can’t decide. How am I supposed to anticipate just one thing?

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