To say this year has been crazy is a vast understatement. A lot of shit went down, musically as well as personally. But, for me, music is what helps during difficult times more than anything else. To cap off the week of year end posts, and the culmination of the year in general, I present to you the Top Twenty Records of 2015. The list covers various genres, styles, and attitudes. This year was a big year for female acts, and plenty awesome ladies make up this list. Some of these records you’ve loved, some you’ve hated, and some you’ve likely never even heard of. Enjoy!
20. Young Thug, Slime Season
So Thug has been around for a few years now, and while his success has been tarnished slightly by never ending drama and feuds, i.e. general hip hop actions, his records, or mixtapes or whatever are genuinely fun and easy to lose yourself to. “Slime Season” for me is the artistic culmination of what he’s provided us with thus far, and his stances on everything from homosexuality and what it means to be a hip hop star in this day and age only add to the intrigue for me.
19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
After not releasing an album for a decade, the band follows their 2012 release with a similar idea that made “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” so awesome to listen to. “Asunder,” which is essentially one long piece presented across four tracks, features songs that have long been live staples. They all deliver in the same way as other records, with power and emotional context sprinkled throughout.Tracks are as heavy and intricate as anything the band has ever recorded, and for this it makes the Year End countdown.
18. Beach House, Depression Cherry
As Beach House, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are able to continue to do the same fundamental things that gave them initial success while also bringing their distinct and dark sound to the next logical level. On their first of two releases this year, the band excels at multiple levels. Album opener “Levitation” glistens like a gorgeous autumn afternoon, while album closer “Days of Candy” glides over your senses and brings the record to a beautifully layered close. Not their best album, but still a strong showing for the consistent Baltimore act.
17. Purity Ring, Another Eternity
“Shrines,” was a revelation for indie pop, and while “Another Eternity” isn’t their masterpiece, it is a solid record that has been mostly ignored unfortunately. The record is layered and lush sounding, almost like sailing through a cosmic galaxy and witnessing new worlds to explore. This new world is only expanded by the work they did with Danny Brown. I truly believe taking themselves out of their comfort zone helped with this record, and it shows. There’s not a giant epiphany on this record, but if you want a chill, electronica pop record, this should be on your list to acquire as soon as possible.
16. Chelsea Wolfe, Return to Abyss
Chelsea has been making great, darkly thick and ominous albums for awhile now, but with “Abyss” she goes full blown heavy and more terrifying than on previous records. The way her voice blends with the industrial undertones is immaculately sinister. Part of the magic and direction of this record is surely to do with her contribution to the last record by the utterly heavy Russian Circles. That assist helped Wolfe to find a great median between her folkier sounds while also churning out emotionally heavy music.
15. Bjork, Vulnicura
Bjork has continually been a polarizing artists in pop music, and for the first time in quite a few years, she’s made a brilliant album that not only pushes the boundaries of what she is as an artist, but it stands up against her best. “Lion Song,” the best on the record, brings Bjork back to the exuberant beats and soundscapes she found so much success with during her “Post” and “Homogenic” years. On “Vulnicura,” her ninth record, Bjork shows yet again why she’s been so proficient in pushing the boundaries of pop music for an alien landscape, and once again, I’m excited to see where she goes.
14. HEALTH, Death Magic
Six years ago HEALTH released a record and then promptly vanished. Thankfully, this year saw the release of their third full length record. Titled “Death Magic,” it certainly lives up to its name. “Magic” sees the band kick off the album with the drumming sounds of “Victim,” but then horns and textures soon give way to the bombastic HEALTH we all know with “Stonefist,” which is easily one of the heaviest electronically driven tracks the band has ever recorded. Number fourteen on the year end albums list, “Death Magic” by Los Angeles art noise rockers HEALTH.
13. Faith No More, Sol Invictus
Reunion records are a tricky, slippery subject. Some are terrible (Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, etc,) but every now and then someone comes back with a better or just as relevant album. “Sol Invictus,” the group's first record since the masterstroke that is “Album of the Year,” is a mix of anything and everything you loved about the band in the first place. “Motherfucker” is an instant FNM classic, but the strength of the band has always been the way the members intermingle various styles, and swoon as easily as they shriek. A reunion album worth listening to, Faith No More is just as heavy and irreverent as you recall.
12. Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear
With his work with Fleet Foxes you never really got to know J.Tillman well, but as Father John Misty his crooning and soul are allowed to flow free. His stage presence is quickly becoming the stuff of legends in indie rock circles, which is both unusual and highly entertaining. Nothing against the music scene he circles in, but you never really hear of a more mellow act having such swagger and attitude on stage. On “I Love You, Honeybear,” Tillman nails it even more than on his first record, and it’s a gorgeously laid out album built perfectly for a sunday drive into blue skies.
11. Dan Deacon, Gliss Riffer
On his first album in three years, “Gliss Riffer” finds the mad scientist of electronic music bringing it back to some form of basics with his most focused and high energy record since “Spiderman of the Rings.” Over the course of eight solidly danceable tracks, Deacon weaves and bops with his signature sound and crisp vocals to deliver a record that only provides more sound logic to the theory that I’ve long held: He’s the electronic artist we deserve, but not the one the EDM crowd needs right now. This man deserves to be seen as well as heard.
10. Ryan Adams, 1989
This might be considered a shocker, but this record brings out elements you would never think you’d get from a typical pop album. His cover of “Blank Space” is darkly elegant, and resembles the soft tenderness of Jose Gonzalez cover of the Knife’s “Heartbeats.” Another thing that’s wonderful is the fact he gives enough fucks in the negative column that he covered this ambitiously pop album. I mean this is a guy who’s known for covering everything from Danzig to hip hop tracks, so why not one of the queens of modern pop music. It’s a solid testament to a person who’s a true lover of music, and it for one converted me to a Ryan Adams fan.
9. Grimes, Art Angels
After false starts, an entirely discarded album that we’ll never see, Claire Elise Boucher, aka Grimes finally returned to the music scene with a record that is as varied as anything she’s ever done. The production level is stepped way up too, which for her brand of art house pop music only makes things better. Songs like “Kill V. Maim” and “California” both thrive on different ends of the pop music spectrum, but you never get the impression she’s better at one more than the other. It’s just solid songwriting and it shows through when you listen to this crazy, random, pretty album that makes you want to dance.
8. Panda Bear, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
Occasionally, when he’s not doing Animal Collective things, Noah Lennox releases captivating electronically based records. Normally, they’re really fucking good, and “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper” is no exception. It’s more minimal in the arrangement but also more luxurious in the beats and textures, which might be hard to follow. The album reminds me of night swimming, with the lights in the pool blanketing the outside and steam rising from the waters, like a gorgeous cave or something you'd see in a trippy movie. It’s pure awesome and yet again reaffirms why Panda Bear is one of the most interesting acts in alternative music.
7. Oneohtrix Point Never, Garden of Delete
Over the course of the last seven or so years, Daniel Lopatin has, in his work as Oneohtrix Point Never, continually made some of the richest, thought-provoking electronic out there for us to enjoy. For me, each record has pushed it further into what may or may not be acceptable in that world, but time after time it gets better. “Garden of Delete” is no exception. While some of his other stuff has had to grow on me, “Delete” instantly jumped out at me as being one of the best records of the year. The mixing is flawless and abundant, and the influences Lopatin draws from never cease to intrigue and energize the listener. If you like Flying Lotus and Amon Tobin, this should be your next logical step.
6. Deerhunter, Fading Frontier
Bradford Cox can be many things, but uninteresting is never one of them. While I wasn't in love with “Monomania,” it’s still a solid record. Having said that, “Fading Frontier” feels like the next gradual step for Cox and his Deerhunter brethren. It just feels like a more natural progression than the previous record, and it continues the steady and brilliant climb the band started with “Cryptograms” nearly a decade ago. Songs like “Ada Astra” are gorgeous and free, and make you want to dance in a dimly light bar with Christmas lights overhead. This is Deerhunter finding their footing again and returning to their stop near the top of the indie world with lush, otherworldly rock n roll. Maybe his bad accident last year calmed him down, but Deerhunter is here and as brilliant as ever.
5. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
Everyone apparently was in love with “Mad City” except for me, which is fine, but it bothered me why it didn’t seem to grow on me in the way it did literally everyone else. Thankfully, this record was the moment where I finally figured out what all the hype was about. “To Pimp a Butterfly” isn’t just the Hip Hop album of the year, it’s one of the best Rap albums of the last five years. “King Kunta” bounces in the way that parties during the daytime when a few drinks have been consumed bounces, but that’s not it. The record hit me so hard because it reminds me, at least in spirit, of the type of Hip Hop Outkast was making early on. It’s progressive in the best ways, blurs the lines between what hip hop is and what it can be, but is also socially conscious enough to have you shaking your ass and flexing your brain muscles at the same time.
4. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit
In at number four, the sassy singer songwriter Courtney Barnett, who brings her unique brand of folk rock to the masses. The record, while not completely in line with what you’d think of when you hear the word “Folk,” certainly has tinges of that genre. This music is easy going at times, but can also be harsh and in your face (“Pedestrian at Best” comes to mind) but the album has a sort of semi-autobiographical feel to it that makes it easy to digest. And while “Pedestrian” is the crown jewel of the album, so many of the other tracks are excellent. “Small Poppies” is a country song mixed with Pitchfork world, while “Aqua Profunda” jangles with various elements from all walks of life. Throughout, Barnett’s voice remains solitary and somewhat awkward and monotone, but in that voice lies an honesty that is hard to ignore, and even harder to not enjoy.
3. Deafheaven, New Bermuda
When George Clarke bellows “I begged not to carry the corpse,” You feel the terror and fear in his voice, and in it’s that moment that the true brilliance of “New Bermuda” comes to focus. Multiple moments during the over forty-five minute record are bone chilling and sobering, but Deafheaven manages to make an album not only worth your time, but a record that is polarizing and eye opening in the world of extreme metal. The guitars bleed through with harmonious agony, and the vocals are deep and introspective. What also works so well is how the band manages to make an album that isn’t simply “Sunbather” Part 2. That would have been a grave error, but they manage to make a record so full of life, so good and bad that it’s impossible to ignore. Even as the record ends, the last guitar parts crush over the sand like waves tend to do, and with that perfect, pristine farewell, “New Bermuda” leaves us wanting more.
2. Tame Impala, Currents
This band seriously might be the type of band that continually gets better with every recording. Much like how Grizzly Bear is able to grow and deepen with each subsequent releases, Kevin Parker has managed to get more and more awesome with each record. On his third record under the Tame Impala moniker, Parker arguably outdoes the limits he set with his first two releases and makes not only a record that is more focused and personal, but he also manages to make an R&B record better that most rhythm and blues artists could manage to make. It’s a mover and a shaker of a breakup record (even if Parkers intentions weren’t to make a breakup album) and songs like “Yes I’m Changing” and “Eventually” pull at your heart chords, even more so if you were actually dealing with the fallout of a failed relationship as you digested the record. Kevin Parker continually reinvents the path he’s on and navigates to new areas, and “Currents,” his best record proves he’s only getting started
1. Chvrches, Every Eye Open
Over the last couple of weeks, the inner dialogue in my head has been wrestling with which album in my top three would ultimately be given Album of the Year, but here it is, the second record by the electronic trio known as Chvrches. With “Every Eye Open,” Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty convincingly make a record that not only is more subtle than “The Bones of What You Believe” but it’s richer in the worlds they create and show us. This was the record this year that pushed me away initially and gradually showed itself to me over multiple listens, and in that you truly grow to love and get to know the music in a more forceful way. Because I initially didn’t love it, I had to take the time to examine it, and in that examination I found a record that is substantially better than “Bones,” both in musician construction and fearlessness. Take a song like “Clearest Blue,” which builds and builds over Mayberry’s angelic voice, or a track like the Martin Doherty led “High Enough to Carry You Over,” which showcases Martin in a way that is lightyears ahead of how he was presented on the previous effort, and you have not only a brilliantly rich sophomore record, but you have my vote for Album of the Year.
Thanks for reading! See you in 2016!!
This list was way more difficult than it should be, but truth be told there were just a ton of great tracks this year. This lists attempts in part to cover multiple genres and pick not so obvious choices, so hopefully in that regard I succeeded. Anyway, a few of these songs are from albums that won't be appearing on the Year End Albums list, so there’s not a lot of repeat. Enjoy!
10. Dan Deacon, Shattered Wings, Gliss Riffer
The song opens with a typical whirlwind that you’d expect from Deacon, but in this “typical” sounding song is the key to the universe. It’s a healthy dose of adrenaline intertwined with his furious programming and subdued lyrics. That’s a great aspect of DD as an artist. He’s not too self involved. He let’s the music and the scope of the songs speak for themselves, and on this totally danceable track he explores all of his best actions while making up new ones as he goes along.
9. the Weeknd, the Hills, Beauty Behind the Madness
More or less I think the Weeknd is good, but not amazing like everyone else seems to think. This song though, was the hit of the summer and one of the overall sexiet tracks I’ve heard in awhile. Abel Makkonen Tesfaye’s slow burn and his super fucking seductive voice come in over a somewhat laid back initial tracking, but the song oozes with desire, and the beats only serve to turn up the heat. This might be not all the time music, but if you want music to get down to, you have to go with the Weeknd.
8. Ryan Adams, Style, 1989
Don’t roll your eyes, but this entire record is one of the coolest, most well laid out ideas I’ve ever heard of. This song especially showcases how a signature pop song can be turned into a rough rock n roll track full of teen angst and fist pumping. I especially like the little nod to Sonic Youth when Adams switches the chorus to “Daydream Nation.” It’s these littles changes that help to make the tracks his own, and for what it’s worth, this is the best track on his Taylor Swift 1989 covers album.
7. Desaparecidos, Radicalized
So I’m not a huge Conor Oberst fan, but for some reason this single song has been a very popular song in my world this year. It’s a pretty straight forward track with Punk musings written all over them. It’s the type of song that would work perfectly in a hot, tightly packed club where everyone was dancing and having the time of their lives. It’s not going to change the world, but it has marginally changed my opinion on Oberst, and it remains a song that very much speaks to my teenage years.
6. Passion Pit, Lifted Up, Kindred
So let’s be honest here, “Kindred” isn’t a good record overall. It’s just not. Thankfully though, a few tracks are good enough, while one track is actually amazing. The song, “Lifted Up,” opens up the record and has all the normal high notes you’d find in the best Passion Pit songs. The track is high energy, open and honest, and Michael’s high notes are just as good as they were on earlier records.
5. CHVRCHES, Never Ending Circles, Every Eye Open
For a band on only their second album, Scotland natives Chvrches sound remarkably like a well oiled machine on their Sophomore record. Multiple songs are amazing, but the way the record starts with the thumping, high energy opening of “Never Ending Circles” plays so brilliantly it’s hard for the rest of the album to not be awesome. Lauren’s voice is crystal clear, and the beats are formatted so piercingly accurate that it enthralls you for the duration of the track.
4. Tame Impala,Let It Happen, Currents
Upon first hearing this track I was concerned that Parker had gone the way of a soulless musician doing something that was merely accessible to the public to get ahead. Thankfully, I was super wrong. “Let It Happen,”which is a vast departure from the earlier efforts, winds and burrows its way through seven minutes of elaborate vocals and even more intricate instrumentation. It’s a long song full of unknown turns, but once you get the gist of the track you’re locked into it’s perfection.
3. Mumford & Sons, the Wolf, Wilder Mind
Many songs end up being important to you because they reach you at a certain crucial moment in your life. This is one of those tracks. While much of the band's catalog can be ignored this song hit me like a sack of much needed feelings when I was trying to hold it all in the best i could. The song is great because of how varied it is from the rest of the tracks on their albums, but the message of love in a hopeless and dark relationship help to make the themes of the track easy to understand and relate to, which in turn makes for a heartfelt song people can latch on to.
2. Eagles of the Death Metal, Save A Prayer, Zipper Down
This song has such a bigger, more profound effect on the people it reaches since the band was momentarily crippled during the vicious attacks of those Daesh assholes, but anyway, I digress. The song, which is a cover of a long forgotten Duran Duran song, is one of the best songs the band has ever released. It’s a different type of song, but it shows Jesse Hughes and company really stretching their wings to make a slower, but equally danceable song about love and hope when the band and the world need it desperately. It’s an eloquent song that reaches our number two spot on the Best Songs of the Year.
1. Courtney Barnett, Pedestrian at Best, Sometimes I sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit.
Sometimes you just know, and when I heard this song the first few times I knew this was my number one song of the year. Barnett swept the indie music scene with a brilliant record full of spunk and attitude and on the album's best track she wraps all the sarcasm and bravado into one nicely tied bow. The lyrics are utterly brilliant and flow with the urgency of a busy person word vomiting as she urgently tries to get her message out. The rhyme scheme is magnanimous and bitter, unrelenting even. She reaches into the heart of anger and resentment with no line of sight. When Barnett growls about “Pedestals and disappointing You,” you feel the bruises of a damaged relationships, but even if Barnett is in the wrong here, you don’t really care because the song is so fucking catchy.
Every year, millions of people attend festivals, and various other smaller events featuring all types of entertainers. I am most certainly one of those people. There’s simply no rush like seeing a band you love killing it live. Today we’re going to kick off the Year End editions of the blog with the Top Ten sets I witnessed in 2015. I hope you enjoy
10. the Strokes, Atlanta, Shaky Knees
So finally after all these years I witness the Strokes live. After two failed attempts to see them I was able to rock out to the “Too Cool to Care” vibe on the first night of Shaky Knees. The band sounded tight, and Casablanca's’ rambles made for interesting mid song banter. Definitely a good show even if you aren’t a huge fan.
9. Beach House, New Orleans, Civic Theatre
This show was as mesmerizing as it was a slow burn. Seeing them once before gives you more or less an idea of what to expect, but it seems that with each album they get bigger and the production does too, which for a band that isn’t known for being super dancy on stage, is a definite plus. They went from a full piece to a two piece,back to a full piece, but it all flowed gorgeously just like the albums do.
8. Mastodon, New Orleans, Civic Theatre
Metal on Halloween should be the law, and this year was no exception. One of my favorite metal bands of the last ten plus years, Mastodon on Halloween Night in NOLA was made even better by an epic showing from the Atlanta kings. For over two hours they pummeled the crowd with their intricate mix of metallic prog rock, all while costumed and enjoying the reactions of the crowd. A must see show wherever they play, it was made all the better by seeing this with my sister and some awesome friends.
7. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, New Orleans, Joy Theatre
If the first time was any indication, the September Godspeed You! Black Emperor show was nearly as exquisite and thought provoking shows as the previous. For nearly two hours they pummeled the crowd with classic imagery and powerfully loud music. It was a true testament to thinking man's entertainment. Seriously see this band if they come around. Your mind will appreciate it.
6. Tame Impala, Atlanta, Shaky Knees
Another amazing first this year was the Sunday night headliner Shaky Knees spot by Kevin Parker's Tame Impala. Seriously one of the best psychedelic shows I’ve seen in recent memory. Every song flows from one to the next, and the visuals are mind blowingly spirited and exuberant, which of course makes it better. Hopefully they come back around soon and I can experience it again.
5. Run the Jewels, New Orleans, Republic
Easily the most high energy show I saw in a club, this show came the night after Beach House for a wildly mixed weekend musically. Both were great, but Run the Jewels comes to show off and killed it every second they spend on stage. El and Mike command like hardly no others in the rap game, even though people in the mainstream don’t mention them much. Fuck it, I’ll keep it for myself.
4. Pixies, Atlanta, Shaky Knees
Seeing the Pixies for me is always like checking on things in the weird world. They exist in this sort of space time continuum where they don’t make better albums much anymore, but the live show seems to get better. It’s really bizarre to me. The only thing I’m thinking is maybe they play the old songs more now since the reunion. The show was high energy and jolly while still beating, biting and aggressive. Paz really brings something to bass, and Frank Black seems more perturb , which adds for a sensational show.
3. Dan Deacon, New Orleans, Republic
I’ve now seen Deacon live more than all but like five bands I think. Every time he comes it’s an experience you need suddenly. Also I got to cover the show, meet the man and witness his biggest, most elaborate show. Sadly the crowd wasn’t as enthusiastic as I had hoped. but seeing with some good friends really makes any night great, especially if Dan Deacon from Wham City is playing.
2. Neutral Milk Hotel, Atlanta, Shaky Knees
On my second time seeing this magnificent band, the company was quite different. Instead of hardcore fans at the NOLA show, they played to a big open area during the multi day Shaky Knees. They mesmerized the crowd for an hour with their poignant and melancholy songs and helped make an up and coming festival a real gem in the middle of Atlanta. I doubt they’ll ever tour again, but it was magical to say I witnessed it twice.
1. Deftones, New Orleans, Champions Square
Having not seen them in over five years, there was plenty of reason to be excited, and if you’ve seen them before, you know they don’t disappoint live. The show, which saw the band play before Incubus(Which was a huge misstep in my opinion), knocked it out of the park in terms of raw emotion and crowd interaction, with the band spitting out nearly twenty tracks in their time on stage. The highlight of the show, and the entire year though was when “Passenger” arrived at the same time as the rain did. Seeing that song live dancing in the downpour wasn’t only the best moment of any of the concerts I’ve seen this year, but also one of the best moments of my entire life. Thanks for reading!!
So in a few days time I’ll be starting the year end edition blogs. Over the course of the next week I’ll be sharing my picks for best shows of the year, best songs, and of course my year end albums list.I’m planning some great interesting stuff for the next year, and I’m really stoked to see what you all think. I’ll be writing more personal things, more original pieces, but I’ll also be bringing you articles featuring Tool, Outkast, Chvrches and more. After the year end posts I’ll be taking a break and seeing you all early next year!
On a personal note, this year has seen multiple highs and lows. I got to cover some amazing artists, even meeting some of them and conducting interviews with them, which obviously is fucking great. But I also went through many changes, some for the better, some the worst, and some still unknown. I’m pushing to make this site really amazing in the coming year, and I plan to get new stickers made and to promote more, so hopefully in a year even more people will be coming to this space. If you come often and enjoy, or don’t enjoy for that matter, thank you very much. This last year has seen my views gradually go up from a few hundred a week to over a thousand, which is a great feeling. Thanks again!
See You Sunday with the Top Ten Best Sets of 2015!
Muse is a really popular band. They’ve been gradually growing over the last decade plus, but sadly their best days are long, long behind them. Beyond that though, the first four albums are all spectacular, and today we’ll be focusing on that as we discuss the top ten songs by one of the most popular bands in the history of Great Britain, Muse.
10. Cave, Showbiz
The very beginning always reminds me of a blender, but immediately following that the guitar howl by Bellamy and the drumming by Dominic Howard find their groove and the song takes off. Matt’s voice hits all the notes you love about him, and even though it’s their first major release, the band seems seasoned and well accustomed to the music they are unleashing on the world. For a band on it’s initial release, you really don’t get the impression that their on uneasy footing. Even from very early on, they seem like they very much know what they're doing, which obviously makes the songs better.
9. Map of the Problematique, Black Holes & Revelations
While Muse hasn’t made a good record since this 2006 journey, this song is still full of epic themes, consisting of everything from brotherhood to fighting against the problems of an isolated public controlled by various governments. The drums are signature here, and they bring out an elegantly pulsating effect that heightens everything in the song. Matt Bellamy’s voice often reaches his crooning crescendo, but it really hits as the song hits full stride around the two minute part. When he belts out “Why Can’t We See when We Bleed we Bleed the Same,” the tension and sense of loss is palpable. It’s one of the better songs they ever crafted, and it earns it’s spot on this list.
8. House of the Rising Sun, B Side
Covers are pretty tricky, but one of the best things Muse does is covers, if I’m being honest. They completely take a song and dismantle it, and while it may not come out better than the original, it almost always adds something totally different. Case in point, number seven on on the Top Ten Muse Songs, “House of the Rising Sun,” which is a super cool interpretation of the song made famous the Animals. It’s screeching, thumping quality feels like something you’d see in an intense action sequence, and the swirling effects really get the mood going. Bellamy’s pipes are on full display also, which ultimately makes this good cover great.
7. Knights of Cydonia, Black Holes & Revelations
For me this was the first Muse record were I wasn’t completely sold, but certain songs hit it out of the park and remind us that this band can be as triumphantly awesome as any other arena band. The science fiction opening amid a western set background complete with horses makes you feel like a cross between “Fistful of Dollars” and “2001:A Space Odyssey,” but maybe this strange mix is what makes the track so memorable. The instrumentation is well executed, and while the lyrics aren’t mind blowing, the scope of the song itself leaves little to be desired. Definitely worthy of it’s spot on this list.
6. Time Is Running Out, Absolution
There’s a pretty good chance a lot of people were introduced to Muse due to the traction this song got. I had admittedly heard some of the earlier records, but “Time is Running Out,” and “Absolution” as a whole really forged them as a band that I could get seriously into. Dominic’s drums are completely insane and totally forceful, while Matt’s voice and the desperation you can sense in that voice only help to propel the song to the places it needs to go to make the song worthwhile and great. Still one of the coolest video’s also, and proves that minimal lighting and an easy set can make a video awesome, especially when it’s all about the band's performance.
5. Citizen Erased, Origin of Symmetry
Played a few years ago in dedication to Julian Assange at a London concert, this song speaks to me in regards to the band's nature and their love of conspiracy theories. The thing is, it’s not really about conspiracies. It touches on human emotion, and how much people in general don’t take others words for truth. That’s dangerous. Musically though, it’s not as hi tech as some of their newer stuff, and honestly thank god for that. I personally wish they’d go back to being the technical, universally questioning band they were on the early records. Having said that, te breakdowns of guitars are unequivocally powerful and help to make this a must on any list of the band's best tracks.
4. Stockholm Syndrome, Absolution
Number four on our list of the Top Ten Muse songs,”Stockholm Syndrome” comes out like a bat out of hell and only gets more intense as it progresses. Sometimes I’m listening to them and I wonder “How do three guys make this much focused noise,” and this is a perfect example of that thought. Another gem off of their breakout, the track offers a little taste of electronically tinged space rock, but it also has epic vocals that put it in a league of it’s own. The drums working in collusion with the guitars at the two minute mark only add to the breakneck pace of the song, and it’s a perfect road song to rock out to. Believe me, I’ve done it.
3. New Born, Origin of Symmetry
The piano forebodes something exciting coming this way, and while it’s elegant and well played, something isn’t completely right. Soon enough though we figure out what it is. The band is introducing themselves on this record in a powerful way, and there’s no other song on this album that could start this record. There simply isn’t. By far their best record to date, the slow build and high energy of the opening tracks lays the framework for the rest of “Origin of Symmetry” and its brilliance. For me it’s a song about realizing things aren’t going well, and forcefully making yourself a new person to escape the turmoil.
2. Take a Bow, Black Holes & Revelations
A great opener without question, it’s full of science fiction, and the lyrical bash at governments is built upon a brilliant world of synthesizers and later on it’s accentuated by roaring drums and bass. When Bellamy talks about how “you will burn in hell for your sins,” you can’t not imagine all the greed in the world feeding out and killing millions. It’s as if he’s asking them to “Take a bow,” and to allow themselves and their types to become extinct and to eradicate the greed they cause. Used in a super cool way in the trailer for “Watchmen” it’s a terrific song and for that reason it lands at number two on the Top Ten Muse songs.
1. Plug in Baby, Origin of Symmetry
And last but clearly not least, is Muses best song. There’s literally nothing I don’t like about this amazing, energetic track. Seeing this song performed live wasn’t only the highlight of my time as a Muse fan, but seeing all the older fans rock out to it was tremendously rewarding. There’s something so satisfactory about belting out a song alongside thousands of others, and for Muse, that song is “Plug In Baby.” At a somewhat brief three minutes and forty seconds, the track starts pretty intently and only accelerates as it goes on. Bellamy murmuring about “exposing your lies,” sets the stage for the giant wembley Stadium chorus which sees the band “Crucify my enemies,” and with that the band and the song are soaring above nearly all straight forward rock bands in England. The number one Muse song, “Plug in Baby.” Thanks for reading!
So in the year 2009, during all the megagroup hype, one band stood above all in both status and craftsmanship. That band, Them Crooked Vultures was a surreal whirlwind of focus and chaos all at once. With legendary John Paul Jones on bass, quote unquote coolest guy in the world Dave Grohl and Joshua Homme from Queens of the Stone Age made an album that not only ended up being my album of the year pick, but also just an all around perfectly crafted rock n’ roll album. Today we add another record to my “Albums of My Life” series with the first and so far only record by Them Crooked Vultures.
The opener, entitled “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I” struts into focus in a style that basically plays on all of the members individual strengths. That’s a great part of this record. At times it feels like all of the members best known projects, but it never feels like it’s hindering on what they’ve built on their own. It all feels original and borrowed at the same, which isn't to talk badly on them, but let’s be honest; All three of their best known bands( Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters and Queens) aren’t exactly underground acts. It’s hard to unhear stuff like that when listening to this kind of record.
Much of the record is more mid tempo yet heavy and bass heavy, but songs two and three both rock really hard, and see the band at their quickest and ill tempered, which is just the sort of thing you would think this band would be excellent at. Track two, “Mind Eraser,” has Homme’s signature playing and attitude emanating from both his guitar and voice, while you hear Grohl’s tightly-knit drumming all up in the mix, driving home the point that this band is wise beyond their years as a collective unit. The next song however, which is probably one of my favorites on the record, storms in like a conquering hero who’s drunk from the celebration of a battle won.
“New Fang” has more swagger than nearly any track on the album, and the one downside of the song is that is comes not only too early in the record, but also it’s much to blink and miss it quick. Beyond that though the song is amazing. The guitar is frenetic and has this blues inspired riffage to it that manages to blow you away even after a hundred listens.
Song after song keeps the pace going in a steamroll of rock n roll at it’s best, but what sets this act apart from other bands isn't just the fact that these three entertainers are very well known among music circles, but also how little is lost when they combine. Many times I feel like in collaborative efforts one thing or another gets overshadowed and you’re left wanting more from musicians you know to be at a high level of performance. You never get that on this Self Titled record.
While the album is pretty much rock music for a mature audience, the ability of the band to mix different atypical stylings in the instrumentation is what sets the bar so high for this band. “Elephants,” track five on the record has this gradual scorched earth feeling to it, and Homme’s lyrics are brilliantly random, much like they are in QOTSA. Images of “Lumbering Giants in a Shameful Parade,” echo out as the hum of the guitar, bass and the procession of garage rock drums keep the pace of this intentional and slow but heavy driving force of the song.
All in all, the album not only feels like a greatest hits from these three musicians, but maybe not in the way you’d expect. It’s like hearing something super recognizable and foreign at the same time. You know the parts, the players, and the technique, but you’re hearing things you shouldn’t be hearing. Take a song like “Bandoliers,” with it’s mid tempo thumping and an even bass line that remains cool and succinct the entire duration of the track. The lyrical element of the song is wonderful too. As Joshua progress in his art, I find his lyrics grow not only more abstract in sections but also more heartfelt and honest, more autobiographical.
As we move into the second half of the record, something unusual occurs. See, many bands include the more in your face tracks early on in the record, and while this is true for the second and third tracks, songs eight through thirteen have a definite rougher edge to the feel of the album. Starting with the perfectly named “Reptiles,” the second half worms it’s way from great album to excellent one. Song after song hits hard and purposely, but three of them are above the others, and showcase the last strong movement of the record.
First, coming to us on number ten is the elevated sensibilities of “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After you Give Up,” which is a bit wordy, but if you know Homme especially, wordy song titles are sort of his thing. On the topic of the song though, the listener is treated to yet another dog reference(Which if you know Joshua well as a lyricist you’ll find he uses them quite often), but the song really excels during the bridge at the three minute mark, which with it being a nearly eight minute song finds itself at a peculiar but interesting point. The jam they find and cruise on is only made better with the mix they use to highlight all of the instruments at once. It’s one of the best sections of any song on the album, but what comes next is unexpected trippy in a straight forward rock way. It’s meandering sure, but the grimy blues infused guitar and bass totally take the song to a dark trippy place you aren’t expecting.
Probably the last truly great song on the record, in my opinion, follows “Warsaw.” “Caligulove” roars and rips its way through and while it’s a fun song without a doubt, the following track is where the band hit its homer and seals the album in the realm of perfection. “Gunman” is a weird, uptempo song that has sections which are very reminiscent of the strange world of Bowie. The choruses provoke images of Bowie’s trademark voice, but it never feels contrived or lame. Homme just has that ability to rock and elevate his voice, and it continually makes the record and overall sound better.
The record, whether they make another one or not, will always be a classic for those who love the musicians, and maybe if the world is lucky they'll grace us with another TCV album sometime soon. Thanks for reading.
Plenty of people have very valid arguments, on both sides, for whether or not downloading in this digital age is morally right or if it’s stealing. I’m a little in between, to be honest. Today we’ll be talking about this very complicated issue, and maybe we’ll come to a valid resolution on the issue. I doubt it, but maybe.
Years ago, I couldn’t keep up with the amount of music I wanted to listen to and have my hands on. When you’re a hardcore music fan into tons of extremely varied sounds, it gets difficult to own everything you think you require. It’s simply impossible to afford all of it. Downloading or sharing obviously helps with that, in an immense and incalculable way. Therein lies the problem and where it gets tricky. For me, I want to support the artists so they can continue providing the earth with entertainment. But obviously they need money and resources to do so.
So what do you do? If you’re me you download what you want, and if you’re given the chance you help out in other ways. Like mentioning a band you love on your blog(which helps only minimally) or you buy merch. This is the thing that happens more often than not; by seeing bands you like and buying the items they have to sell, you’re helping them in a small but significant way. You may not think that fifteen or twenty dollar shirt helps much, but over the course of a six to twelve months tour, those dollars add up, thus ensuring the band can survive within it’s means. For instance, I own four Dan Deacon shirts, and quite a few nine inch nails shirts. Now, NIN and Reznor are behemoths who sell hundreds of times more merch than Deacon or smaller club acts can ever hope to. The point is I buy those shirts, because I want these lesser known acts to continue going, and if I can’t buy all the vinyl records I want, this is the best way to help for me.
Some people think it’s stealing obviously, and I guess to some extent it is, but for a lot of these bands, the amount of money they’d make go to the record labels, and while you could get into an even longer and deeper philosophical argument about what services they provide, the point is people are getting their music from a giant underground world, which for the most part isn't tangible anymore. How many people do you know who still buy CD’s? Seriously? We have itunes, spotify and other outlets where you can actually pay for music.
But most people I know don’t do that, and I’m aware of many bands that are fine with it. Upon a very quick search you can find tons of artists who are totally fine with illegally downloading. People from Dave Grohl to Thom Yorke to Trent Reznor all suggest it’s the next stop in the same direction as passing around tapes or CD’s were in past decades. Among my quick research only Prince, and Bono( Who wipes his ass with money I’m sure) had an issue with downloading. It’s about getting the music out. Kevin Parker of Tame Impala fame had a brilliant quote during a Reddit AMA where he summed up many people's feelings perfectly on the issue. To quote him his response was”
“Eh.... I feel like music will be free sooner or later, and i think I'm all for it. There's all this talk of music needing a monetary value, this ownership of music, even that it needs a physical form. But intrinsically... it's MUSIC, it should be better than that. Some of my most important musical experiences were from a burnt CD with songs my friend downloaded for me at a terrible digital quality... I didn't care... it changed my life all the same. For me the value of music is the value you extract from it. You want to know a story? Up until recently, from all of tame impala's record sales outside of australia I had received.... zero dollars. Someone high up spent the money before it got to me. I may never get that money. Then Blackberry and some tequila brand or something put my song in an ad. Then I bought a house and set up a studio. I know what you're thinking... "wait so...when I bought an album I was helping some businessman pay for his mansion on an island somewhere, and when some dude bought a mobile phone he was helping to pay an artist? WHHHYY?" I'll tell you why, IT'S MONEY. It doesn't always go where you want it to go. It's like a shopping trolley with a bung wheel. As far as I'm concerned the best thing you can do for an artist is LISTEN to the music...fall in love with it.......talk about it.........get it however you can get it....Let the corporations pay for. This is just my brain rambling remember, I'm sure there are holes in my theories... for example I realise not everyone's music is suited to a mobile phone ad, and it would be lame if artists tailored their music for that purpose.”- Kevin Parker
For my money(pun intended) there isn’t a better answer. If you’re an artist, you WANT people to experience your music, whether they pay for it or not. Art to me should be free to an extent. Sure I’m not some well known person in the world, but for this this website and the things I wrote are things I do partly because I’d like to get paid to share my opinions with the world, but i do it primarily because I love writing, and if someone reads my stuff great, if not that’s fine too. Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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