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Every The Front Bottoms Album Ranked Worst to Best

You don’t see much press coverage of the Front Bottoms these days, and two of their later-stage albums got panned by those joyless fucks over at Pitchfork. So, you might think everyone has moved past the New Jersey sadboi duo, comprising lead singer Brian Sella and drummer Mat Uychich (who, unlike Pitchfork writers, are purveyors of joy). But catch them live, and it’s a totally different story. Legions of emotionally stunted fans such as myself are coming out in full force like it’s TFB’s 2014 glory days — a simpler time before some of America’s darkest developments (e.g., Modern Baseball breaking up). And these steadfast supporters are joyously screaming the whole catalog, from the self-released and surprisingly tight pre-label works, to the latest and sometimes even greatest jams. It’s time to get uncomfortable, because we’re ranking the Front Bottoms canon and starting at, well, the bottom.

6. Going Grey (2017)

Front Bottoms fans freely admit the music sucks, but they’re probably not joking about this particular record. Although “Going Grey” is a solid effort overall, its over-polished production and repetitive song structures are at odds with TFB’s usual scruffiness and dynamism. The cleaner vocals throughout often fall flat, since Brian’s singing is best when he embraces his complete inability to sing. However, for all the online bitching, this album is replete with the group’s signature wry charms, and many of the tracks have become setlist staples. You can bet that the people who still make angry posts about “Going Grey” on Reddit are also singing along to every word of those songs at shows.

Play It Again: “Ocean” (or “Oh, Shawn” if you pronounce it in the dickhead, Tom DeLonge-esque way that Brian does).
Skip It: “Bae”

Honorable Mention: Theresa (2022)

“Theresa” is the third entry in the beloved “Grandma Series” of EPs, where the boys release studio versions of select songs from their pre-label albums (which, get the fuck out of here, we are not ranking), and each one is named after the band’s grandmothers. This is the weakest of those EPs so far, but it still slaps harder than our grandmas slapped our parents growing up. Putting this fantastic record so low hurts me more than it hurts you, but the other two Grandma EPs have six tracks apiece, including one new song for both, while “Theresa” doesn’t have a cool new bonus song. Grandmas shouldn’t skimp on cookies or EP tracks — that’s a slappable offense.

5. You Are Who You Hang Out With (2023)

Here we have the Front Butts’ latest dropping — er, album drop. As always, the band shifts their style up without sacrificing the impressionistic storytelling and unpretentious vulnerability that made them darlings of the fourth-wave emo era (whatever the fuck that is). Brian dials up the Auto-Tune past 11 to “DANGER: T-PAIN” levels at times here, including in the jarring opening track “Emotional,” which foreshadows both the bold innovations and old comforts that await. This is their weirdest release, and though it’s not their absolute strongest, it proves they can keep things fresh and freaky. But even in their more eclectic incarnation today, these Jersey boys are still making some of the best Midwest emo music.

Play It Again: “Paris” might be their most experimental tune to date, although it still has that traditional TFB blend of transcendence and stupidity.
Skip It: This is such a focused record that it really has no skips. And to take a cue from the album’s main theme, don’t hang out with people who make you skip too many tracks.

Honorable Mention: Ann (2018)

Reader, I am not even looking up the years for all these releases, even the piddly little EPs, because “TFB facts” takes up room in my brain over things like “mom’s birth year.” Is that sad? I hope it is sad, and I hope you like sad, because sad is what you’re getting with this deliciously dreary Grandma EP, which offers hazy reimaginings of among their best pre-label songs. “Ann” is notable for its distinct stylistic departure, with its washed-out, almost shoegaze atmosphere that seemed to signal an exciting new direction for the band, except that they never bothered to try it again.


4. In Sickness & in Flames (2020)

During those desperate early COVID days, Front Bottoms fans were starving for new music. A fuckin’ Christian rock album would have sufficed (though one can easily imagine Brian talk-singing some shit like “I’m a communion wafer, that you dropped on the floor last summer…turns out we both need JEeeeSus”). Thankfully, the boys made an exceptional, godless record that somehow pleased everybody (except people with actual good taste in music). “In Sickness” showcased the band’s heightened sophistication both sonically and lyrically, including profundities such as “Yeah I know that I look like a jerk, like a jerk” repeated literally 16 times in one song. Ultimately, TFB proved they could successfully bring their sound into a more mature phase, at least to the extent possible for a group who based their name on a British euphemism for “vagina.”

Play It Again: “Leaf Pile”
Skip It: Skip all those goddamn weird interludes.

3. Back on Top (2015)

Depending on who you ask, “Back on Top” either falls under “classic” Front Bottoms territory, or it’s the point where they sold out by graduating past “New Jersey basement band” status. But c’mon, Brian was about 26 when making this record, so he was probably losing his parents’ health insurance while being in a motorcycle gang, eschewing the concept of jobs, and having a self-destructive meltdown (that is, if we take his lyrics here at face value, which we should). So, you can’t get mad at Brian (aka Steven) for selling out, especially since the result was this wonderfully boisterous album that marked a more polished and expansive pivot for the band. Distinguished by an irresistible buoyancy, plus many of their catchiest hooks and most memorable TFB-isms, “Back on Top” is something you can enjoy while dancing, sobbing, fucking, and/or cruising down the Garden State Parkway. We’d call it a classic.

Play It Again: “West Virginia”
Skip It: “2YL”

Honorable Mention: Rose (2014)

And now we have an undisputed classic, because this is when only 0.001% of people had still ever heard of the Front Bottoms, versus the intolerable 0.0013% after they signed to Fueled by Ramen. It’s also universally beloved because every song on this sprightly EP, the first in the Grandma Series, is just so damn good (you could even say “so cool” or “SO punk.”). Maybe it’s just the obsessive fanbase, but it’s amazing how TFB’s EPs are just as popular as their main offerings, often even more so. “Rose” is a folk punk masterwork that has stood the test of time — unlike grandmas, who time will always beat in the end.

2. Talon of the Hawk (2013)

Look, roughly half the fanbase thinks this should be first, while the other half would put self-titled (or the “Noodle Monster” YouTube video). Ranking this at number two was indeed a tough choice, but make no mistake — this album fucks. Brian and Mat channel their folk punk and emo roots into a louder, more anthemic mode, revealing their ambition to be a Band That Matters. With high-flying tracks like the superlatively popular “Twin Sized Mattress,” you can tell they’re swinging for the fences on this one (albeit in a kind of Little League fashion, given the niche domain of music we’re dealing with here). “Talon” perhaps best exemplifies the contradictions and contrasting qualities that drive TFB’s magnetism: upbeat misery, abject goofiness mixed with gut-wrenching sincerity, and a broad narrative scope that appeals to youths and adults alike. It’s OK to be a fan of theirs over 30…right?

Play It Again: It’s funny you should ask.
Skip It: “Lone Star” is a dope song, but you can skip it if you don’t feel like thinking about abortion (and how it probably costs so much more than $437 now, thanks to inflation).

1. Self-Titled (2011)

TFB’s true strength lies in their intimacy. Their music feels like late-night conversations with friends, especially when they’re about the crossroads we face in love, work, school, or deciding whether to take another edible. This special quality is conveyed most intensely in the band’s self-titled studio debut. They had yet to transcend their Jersey confines, but that hunger and rawness underpins the album’s potency. And like a good edible, its deceitfully simple surface masks its potential to completely fuck you up. Uncomplicated acoustic arrangements and poorly played trumpets might not sound great on paper, and it definitely doesn’t sound good in reality…for most. But for certain sad souls who can hear the record’s genius hidden in dog-whistle frequencies, this hallowed soundtrack of woundedness penetrates the deepest recesses of our silly little hearts.

Play It Again: Keep playing those voicemails from your ex that you’ve kept for years; this way, you can cry extra hard when you listen to the whole album on repeat.
Skip It: Don’t skip a single track — unless there are people around, in which case you should skip the whole thing before they ask you to “please turn this shit off.”