Best Sun-Baked Angst: The Front Bottoms
These New Jersey folk-punks were truly one-of-a-kind – an emo and power-pop-owing fourpiece that sounded like Conor Oberst fronting the Get Up Kids. Dressed in a too-big black shirt and slim dark jeans beneath the midday desert sun, leader Brian Sella wailed on his plugged-in acoustic like it was Les Paul, and sang with emphatic earnestness that showcased imperfect warbles and a cracking larynx. In "Skeleton," a song about losing love and ducking student loans, Sella even managed to make smoking weed sound sad: "I got so stoned I fell asleep in the front seat/I never sleep in the front seat/I'm too tall." It wasn't all so serious. Fizzy pop-punk drums, playful Casiotone key lines and a sixer of Natty Ice lightened the mood as the singer announced in "Laugh Till I Cry": "Ladies and gentlemen, the DJ just threw up on the dance floor/Party is over/It's time to go." The pulsing bass bleeding in from another stage turned his bitter comedy into sweet situational poetry.