80) Saffire – “A Symphony Unheard”
One problem with listening to as much new music as I do is that certain albums that don’t overwhelm me on the first listen often don’t get a second chance. I went back to this album of melodic Euro-metal as sort of a cursory second glance before I dumped it from my digital collection and discovered this tune, forcing me to keep the album around a while longer. The vocalist, Tobias Jansson (the boys be Swedes) is a dead ringer for ex-Savatage lead throat Zak Stevens, a guy who I have long loved. Throw in some galloping guitar and hot solo and it’s enough to bring me back for more. Some things just take time.
79) Bastille – “Pompeii”
I seem to have a lot of friends who go for this sort of lightweight, keyboardy Brit-pop that felt weird to me in the 80’s and still does today. Usually when they try to foist it on me I just go “blech” and crank up some generic guitar rock to cleanse my pallet. But every so often a song will wear down my defenses and beat me into submission for some unknown reason as Imagine Dragons did last year and Bastille has done with “Pompeii”. Not my normal cup of tea, but good for a change of pace on occasion.
78) Find Me – “Road To Nowhere”
Speaking of generic guitar rock, I want to someday meet the Italian guys that created the Frontiers Records label back in 1998 and give them a big sloppy kiss. For over 15 years they’ve been the home to some of the greatest 80’s style, melodic arena-rock that you’ve never heard of. Hell, they’ve even picked up the torch of CMC International and released a number of albums from bands you DO know like Journey, REO Speedwagon and so on. But it’s been the projects by bands like Find Me, often made up of a hodgepodge of American and European hard rock luminaries and also-rans that are really the gems of the Frontiers family. Polished, energetic, soaring hard rock without an agenda, the kind that always sounds good to me when spring is coming and I just need a dose of the positive. Canadian Robbie LeBlanc has a killer voice for this kind of Survivor-ish rock and the album is chock full of anthems like this one.
77) Decyfer Down – “Westboro”
A Christian rock band taking aiming at the Westboro Baptist Church? Yeah, you have my interest. Of course it doesn’t hurt that this song is built on a killer riff that echoes with urgency, cuz yeah, that’ll grab my interest too. I had never heard of Decyfer Down until I stumbled upon this track somewhere (I really don’t recall) and have quickly glommed onto their rough-edged modern metal sound. One of those bands and songs that uses attitude as a weapon in just the right way.
76) What Now – “If Looks Could Kill”
This South African trio has a pretty weird history, moving to England, breaking up because they all wanted to go in different musical directions, then reuniting almost accidentally and trying it again as a band with those different directions now boiled into one stew. It’s sort of a well behaved Blink-182 (or maybe SR-71 if that’s a comfortable match for you), mixing punkish ‘tude with a cleaner sound. What Now goes even further, bringing heavy keyboards and occasional electronics into the mix, then trading off lead vocalists often in mid-song. I love this entire album and the title track you’ll find later on in my top 5, but this song is another great one. They’re headed where Thirty Seconds To Mars once was, so at least I have a replacement for Jared Leto’s mid-life whatever.
75) Pretty Maids – “Mother Of All Lies”
For some bizarre reason this debut single off long-standing British metal stalwarts Pretty Maids’ latest album, Motherland, made its way onto my streaming site whereas the full length album never did. Which is a damn shame because I really dig this track and most of the reviews for the rest of the album have been good (with the understanding that you have to like refried New Wage Of British Heavy Metal to begin with). The electronics here (particularly the intro) feel a little out of character for this kind of melodic metal, but in part that’s what draws me in. Kinda wish they gave the guitar a bit more crunch too, but it’s not terminal.
74) Darling Parade – “Ghost”
I swear on my life I first discovered this band thanks to an incessant Super Cuts commercial they aired during the football season, Darling Parade trading in some cheap pub for the idea that as rock stars they’d ever let somebody from Super Cuts do their hair. And yet it worked, because I can’t say I would have heard of them otherwise. File alongside Avril Lavigne and all the other sticky-sweet girl rock that’s making the rounds these days. The video is ridiculously over-the-top too, so that’s nice.
73) Lady Gaga – “Applause”
One side effect of running an awards banquet every summer for the last few years is that I need to bone up on high end pop songs for use in the opening photo montage. This song jumped out at me because of the lyrical theme and the fact that at the time it hadn’t quite been overplayed. The direct result is that it winds up in my iPod and before I know it I keep hitting “play” even though doing so threatens whatever metal cred I had ever scraped together. But you know what, I liked “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” too, so maybe I should just own up to the fact that I like Lady Gaga.
72) The New Shining – “Run Baby Run”
This is how the internet has corrupted me in terms of discovering new music: I clicked play on this single while sifting through new releases one day just because the album cover looked interesting. Sometimes that’s all it takes with me. Meanwhile I gave it a few spins, singles often benefitting from the fact that I’ll play two or three at the end of my work day when I don’t want to start a whole album and then have to leave the office in mid-stream, and it grew on me steadily. By the time the full album came out I was completely on board and it has since become one of my faves of the year. Song #2 of 3 on this countdown, for those of you keeping score.
71) The 1975 – “The City”
Much like The New Shining, The 1975 stumbled into my consciousness like a drunken sailor and forced its way into repeated listens through the sheer force of will, primarily because it was just different enough than what I normally go for. As a band they have this weird hybrid sound that sounds at times like they’re about to rock out and at others like they’re going to stumble down into a pit of keyboard pop. Something about the way they tread that line (and the way the singer dares you to comprehend him) intrigues me.