Unedited and barely proofread musings on music and other things
We got through the first 20% of the list yesterday. Let’s go for the next 20%.
53. Simon & Garfunkel
I can thank my mom for this one. I love Simon & Garfunkel probably for a lot of the same reasons that other people – quality of voice, harmony, folksy songwriting – but because my mom loves them so much, I couldn’t help it. It started early when she introduced me to Jim Croce (who barely missed the list) and my ear for folksy songwriting developed from there. The dulcet tones of their vocal harmonies is their signature trait and it just never gets old.
Album to Check Out: Bridge over Troubled Water
52. I Am the Avalanche
For some fans of The Movielife, IATA was a bittersweet reminder of fate unfulfilled. For other fans, they were a fully actualized version of the band that made Vinny Caruano a celebrity among scenesters. The voice and angst still
resonate today with fans who prefer a more thoughtful approach to punk rock songwriting over the standard “let’s play fast and loud and be angry” mantra adopted by so many punk bands. It took IATA forever to follow up their 2005 debut eponymous release but the last two albums bring the energy of punk rock and showcase some pop sensibilities with crossover potential.
Album to Check Out: Avalanche United
Steve Perry was known as “The Voice” for a reason; the dude could flat out sing better than anybody. Anybody can hear that. Neil Schon is a very good guitarist but he didn’t write instantly recognizable riffs (except Any Way You Want It) that became legendary like Eddie Van Halen or Angus Young did. For me, the dark horse of this band was Jonathan Cain, who wrote or helped write some of Journey’s biggest hits like Don’t Stop Believin’ and Open Arms. I guess there’s a “guilty pleasure” stigma that’s associated with the band but it’s not a terribly fair assessment when you adjust for their considerable talent.
Album to Check Out: Escape
50. All That Remains
ATR was one of the bands that really motivated me to become a better guitar player. At the time I discovered them, I was a solid rhythm player who could play a lead but not with any kind of mastery. I started to learn a few things and with The Fall of Ideals as my soundtrack, I loved playing more difficult stuff and went about learning as much of that album as I could. Like with any metal album, I like to hear viruosity, hot licks and solid rhythmic vocals.
Album to Check Out: The Fall of Ideals
The first Moneen album I heard was Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now? (though I really do love The Red Tree) and immediately loved it because it was different enough to what I was listening to at the time. I became
attached to the song structures and melodic leads that I just wasn’t hearing in most of what I was listening to. It was almost as if I started to think that writing melodic leads was allowed under the emo (hate that word) umbrella. Granted, I wasn’t exposed to that much at the time but Moneen did change the way I approached composition. Fun fact: my band’s name comes from the Moneen song Thoughts Weigh Heavy … Don’t Get Drowned in the Weight of It All.
Album to Check Out: The Red Tree
Full Collapse was one of those rare albums that seemingly every kid had blasting from their car. It had the edge of hard rock but the singability of pop punk. It was an easy album to lose your voice to. It also wasn’t your typical “emo” (hate that word) album as Thursday have always had politically leaning lyrics. It was an admittedly sullen breath of fresh air but a breath of fresh air nonetheless.
Album to Check Out: Full Collapse
47. The Darkness
What’s not fun about The Darkness? It’s just fun glam rock. It’s fun to sing to, it’s fun to play along with and it’s fun to listen to. The lyrics are downright silly at times but sometimes, rock isn’t about starting a revolution or articulating profound sadness. Sometimes, it’s just about having a good time. Whether it comes in the form of wailing falsettos or shredded solos, The Darkness will leave you smiling.
Album to Check Out: Permission to Land
I did not like Underoath until I saw them open for Coheed. I think two things happened: I didn’t pay close enough attention before and I needed to see them live. Former frontman Spencer Chamberlain simply had one of the best live screams I’ve ever heard. You can do pretty much anything in the studio to improve the quality of any instrument – vocals included – so to hear the quality you hear on the album in a live setting, it only adds to the appreciation of the band. Couple that with soaring vocals and a recognizable drumming style from Aaron Gillespie, you’ve got a pretty solid offering.
Album to Check Out: Define the Great Line
45. Marvin Gaye
Before you do anything else, listen to his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
RIGHT!? Marvin is just crushing it. I love listening to Marvin. We know his hits but I love his voice. He’s smooth when he needs to be and adds some grit at the right time. Live, he was very emotive and connected in a very real way with his fans. He was soul music. Issues with drugs lead to a tragic end to his life but his legacy as a crooner-who-could-belt has endured as well as his music.
Album to Check Out: The Very Best of Marvin Gaye
44. Future Islands
Thanks to the hype from this year’s SXSW and their Letterman appearance, I saw Future Islands pop up on my Spotify feed because everybody was feelin’ ’em. After hearing Seasons, I was hooked. I’d grown an appreciation for synthpop in recent years which probably started with the Drive soundtrack and Future Islands is the pinnacle of the genre. I was lucky enough to see them a little while ago in Phoenix and man alive was it a good show. Frontman Samuel Herring is the charismatic heartbeat of the band and it’s just hard to keep your eyes off of him. He dances similarly to how your uncle dances but when it comes time to emote sensitivity or depth, he stands close to the crowd, furrows his brow and reaches out with his hand as if he’s seen God. A little dramatic, sure, but Samuel is quickly becoming the kind of frontman you always want to see.
Album to Check Out: Singles
43. Armor for Sleep
I’ve read that AFS’s brand of rock described as atmospheric and dreamy, which I think is pretty accurate. But the atmospheric and dreamy sound never becomes boring and that can happen to a lot of bands. I get wanting to get lost
in the music and feel spacey but after a while, it can become dull. AFS thrives in big choruses and concept-based albums so they did a great job of keeping your attention. I never got a chance to see them live but plenty of videos have shown them to be a high energy band that was rock solid in their heyday.
Album to Check Out: What to Do When You Are Dead
There isn’t a single weak link in this band. They are all spectacular at what they do. I could go on all day about the lyrics, the dissonant brilliance of the guitars, the inimitable growl of the bass or the technicality of the drums but I won’t for brevity’s sake. Just know that everything that it takes to be a great band exists in this one. They do a wonderful job of mixing genres which allows them to go in different directions without losing their Glassjaw-ness. They haven’t supplied the output that their fans would like but whatever they release has not disappointed.
Album to Check Out: Worship and Tribute
41. The Tallest Man on Earth
Fair or not, I hear a lot of Bob Dylan in Kristian Mattson’s songwriting and even voice. I prefer Mattson in almost every way but it gives you a sense of the quality of musician he is. He utilizes different open tunings that speak to 17-year-old me when I was so obsessed with writing songs in weird tunings. His lyrics are insightful and at times opaque, but that forces us to listen to closely and the payoff is so rewarding. His latest effort, There’s No Leaving Now, was in very heavy rotation for a long time and just like some very clever shows on TV, you catch something new every time you come back to it.
Album to Check Out: There’s No Leaving Now
40. Abbott Hayes
These guys are long time friends of mine so they have a lot of sentimental pull. At about 16 or 17, I danced (I’ll explain another time) for a band called Yours Truly which I later joined. Right around that same time, this band called Abbott
Hayes kept popping out of my friends’ mouths. I instantly became a fan when I heard their first shitty little demo (hey, we all had shitty little demos) but there was a mature polish to the songwriting that eluded most other local bands. Andrew, the frontman, regularly drew some astonishing imagery into his lyrics much in the same way Jesse Lacey does from Brand New. They went further than a lot of local bands and even made it onto a really cool Drive Thru Records compilation and a totally gnar Blink-182 tribute compilation. They’re good dudes and I miss ’em and they deserve your attention. Give their EP listen or stream their full length album on Spotify. You’ll love it all.
Album to Check Out: A Slideshow of Better Things EP
Come back tomorrow to see #39-#26.