Part Eight: 150-141
It’s been over a week, so let’s get back at it.
150. Adelitas Way – “Dog On A Leash”
Adelitas Way, Saving Abel, Seether, The Veer Union, Pop Evil… all bands I’ve listened to and enjoyed, but if you played me random songs from each of them I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you who is who. Meanwhile I can generally pick out any number of nameless, faceless 80’s hair bands within the first 20 seconds. Which is my way of saying that there’s simply too much music these days and I’m getting old. My retention ain’t what it used to be, knowhatImean? Oh, yes, the song… a quality rocker that any one of the aforementioned bands could have produced and for which I have nothing really to interesting to say. I like the southern-tinged opening lick, the chorus is catchy, and the singer over-doing the lip-synching in the video cracks me up. Let’s just move on.
149. In This Moment – “Sex Metal Barbie”
Atlantic Records seems to be putting a lot of push behind the latest In This Moment release, the gothic sex techno metal act (well what would YOU call it?) pumping out a number of high concept, high budget videos since the album’s fall release. I’ve enjoyed the album quite a bit, but clearly my days as an A&R man are over before they ever got started because the songs I liked the most are not the singles but rather the album tracks, including this one. I can’t even blame it on vocalist Maria Brink’s OTT Lady Gaga-goes-metal visual routine, as I heard the disc before checking out any of the videos (seriously, check out “Sick Like Me”). Brink’s overly sexual, often squeaky vocal delivery is an acquired taste, but I really enjoy the theatricality of it. I even kind of dig the hip-hop vibe this song gives during the verses (which is why I tend to think it would make a good single). Plus, come on, how great a title is “Sex Metal Barbie”?
148. Night Ranger – “Don’t Live Here Anymore”
First off, let’s just get it over with: yes, Night Ranger is still putting out albums. They have been for years, even if most people haven’t heard any of it since 1988. Their sound hasn’t changed drastically, but as song-writers they have matured, at least on some of the deeper album tracks. Drummer/singer Kelly Keagy released an excellent (and overlooked) solo album back in 2002 where he experimented a little with this style of more serious subject matter (he was clearly using the project to work through a painful divorce among other things). This song feels like it could be a sequel to that album, starting slow and a little dark by NR standards, with Keagy trying desperately to convince us (or himself) that he’s a changed man. Things kick into gear with some old school organ at about 2:45 and then at the three-minute mark Brad Gillis unleashes a robust, squealing guitar solo, sounding more like the Night Ranger we knew and loved. Brad comes back at 4:00 and plays the song out with an extended continuation of the solo, just a minute-plus of impassioned playing. Man, I just love the emotional punch of this song.
147. Hey Vanity – “The Life, The Party, The Scene”
Hey Vanity’s Blindfolds album is a pretty spirited romp; a half-hour blast of fuzzy power pop. Kind of a grittier and less self-aware Weezer (or not; I’m not the hugest Weezer fan), they’re very garagey, sounding like the band you and your buddies would be if you could ever get it together to start a band. They don’t mess around with elaborate musicianship, yet their songcraft isn’t lazy or rushed. It just crackles with energy. I had a hard time picking which song of theirs to put on this list (at one point I had three), ultimately settling on this one in part because I liked the brightness of it and in part because it had the coolest video (seriously, check it out even if you hate the song). The more I play it the higher it gets on the list.
146. Echo Crush – “Dirty Black”
When I first heard the independently released 5-track EP En Masse from North Carolina’s Echo Crush, I dumped it in the mental bin called “indie rock” and more or less left it for dead. But when I came back to it months later I discovered there was a lot more going on to the band than just some Jeff Buckley-ish vocals and occasional atmosphere. This track in particular packed a heavier punch that I first thought, putting up a pretty dense wall of guitar, while the churning bass underneath it all started to really get under my skin. I threw it on a playlist soon after and now whenever it comes up it sounds like something I haven’t heard before, even as I continue to play it. Considering it’s rare that a song continues to sound fresh to me after multiple plays, I gotta think these guys are doing something right. Love the Rage Against The Machine-ish base thump starting at about 2:30. Not everything heavy has to be metal.
145. One Bad Son – “Satellite Hotel”
What is it with Canadian bands suddenly playing Southern-style American blues rock? You got the Glorious Sons (see #156 on the countdown) from Kingston, Ontario; Monster Truck from Hamilton, Ontario (saw them open for Rival Sons this year and they were fantastic); The Sheepdogs and now One Bad Son, both from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Clearly there’s something in the water north of the border that has gone missing back in the states, because I’m just not hearing this kind of pure rock n’ roll often enough from my home country. Check out the curly little lick that opens this song and runs constantly through it, adding just enough flavor to an otherwise standard blues structure to give it personality. Meanwhile, I gotta wonder how the rest of the band feels about vocalist Shane Volk’s new haircut. Come on! Live the gimmick, brother!
144. Coldplay – “Midnight”
Entry #2 for indie rock’s favorite punching bag, Coldplay following that time honored tradition of going from under-appreciated geniuses to over-exposed sellouts in the span of about 6 years, while somehow thankfully avoiding an Oasis-style implosion or a U2-inspired Zooropa phase. Yes, they’ve moved more into electronics and ambient sounds with Ghost Stories, their most recent release, but it’s all done with their usual flair for pop dramatics coupled with indie rock integrity. Which means it sounds logical and still very much like Coldplay rather than some odd, miscalculated departure. “Midnight” is a classic soundtrack song; one of those pieces of music that sounds like it should be playing under a crucial moment in some emotionally charged indie film. They may not be a pure rock band anymore (at least in terms of instrumentation), but their skill as songwriters hasn’t wavered, which is why I stay on board even as others of their fan base have hopped off. Maybe it helps that I didn’t discover them until they had already become a “big thing”, which means the betrayal isn’t as deep. Personally, I prefer to think it’s because they’re damn fine songwriters, but what the hell do I know?
143. Anubis Gate – “Hear My Call”
Time for some more heavy prog, this time courtesy of my favorite album from the genre for 2014, Anubis Gate’s Horizons. Once again I just can’t say enough about the musicianship here, this groups of Danes combining crunchy metal riffs with soaring vocals over quirky arrangements for a truly potent mix. The keyboards here aren’t as prominent as others of the genre, really adding more color than driving the songs, which is generally the way I like it. This song goes all over the place, from a driving rhythm to a majestic chorus all the way to a gentle acoustic guitar solo two-third’s of the way through. For some critics that’s a huge turnoff, prog “wasting” too many good ideas for the sake of one overly-complex song, but I have no issue with it, so long as it flows together cohesively. To me, it works magnificently here.
142. Young Rising Sons – “Turnin'”
I’m not gonna say much about this one, lest I get myself into some kind of trouble, because let’s face it – this is boy band music. Somewhere between One Direction and OneRepublic sit the Young Rising Sons, a sugary pop foursome with only scant traces of rock in their sound. Yeah, it’s not my usual cup of tea, but sometimes I need something a little sweeter as an after dinner mint. Forgive me. Please.
141. Anberlin – “We Are Destroyer”
Time to cleanse my pallet with a hard-driving emo-rocker courtesy one of my top five albums of the year. Anberlin are a Christian rock band that dabbles in a polished brand of hardcore, while sometimes sounding mainstream rock radio ready and sometimes even grazing on 80’s style new wave rock (more on that later on in the countdown). With this opening track from their latest (and apparently last) release, Lowborn, they come out with a tease of that 80’s keyboard sound before detonating a nuclear bomb about a minute in with a bridge and chorus that sets out to live up to its name by destroying everything in its path. Once things settle down for the second verse, the bassist steps up and adds some rumbling thunder to the mix. This album just kills on every level and this is the first of 4 tracks I’ll use on this countdown to try and convince you of that fact.