Part Ten: 130-121
In which my most-likely Album of the Year makes the first of four appearances.
130. Pavic – “Is War The Answer?”
We’re at a weird turning point in the countdown, as when I first cobbled together the list this song was somewhere in the 190’s. Each time it has come up for me to write about it I have pushed it further down the list, as repeated listens have made me think, “nope, I like this more than these others now”. In another couple of weeks it’ll probably be a top 100 song, but for now it has finally found a resting place at #130. Pavic is a German band who delivers a modern metal that is more radio friendly than most of their countrymates who tend to focus on an old school sound. This song reminds me very much of Five Finger Death Punch, combining heavy crunch with surprising melody. The chorus just keeps me coming back over and over for reasons I can’t adequately explain. Cool video too.
129. Billy Idol – “A Bitter Pill”
A *very* late entry onto the countdown, the fact that it made it to #129 is a testament to how much I love this song despite only hearing it a few times. I gave Billy’s latest album a courtesy spin back in January just out of a desire to be thorough while preparing this countdown and was shocked by how much I enjoyed the whole thing. I mean, I *liked* Billy back in the 80’s and his radio hits are total flashback favorites, but I never actually bought any of his albums outside of one hits package. Had I more time with this new album I’m sure I would have found room for more tracks on the countdown. In the meantime I’ll settle for this galloping number that climbs a musical path to something higher even while the lyrics explore some darker thoughts.
128. H.E.A.T – “A Shot At Redemption”
Time for a melodic rock break, courtesy of Sweden’s H.E.A.T and a song that totally makes me think of the criminally under-appreciated Tyketto and their classic “Seasons” anthem. H.E.A.T is at the forefront of Sweden’s (and really, all of Scandinavia) hairband movement, featuring a former winner of Swedish Idol in singer Erik Grönwall. A bouncing, catchy tune with a stripped back yet still full sounding arrangement (meaning the guitars aren’t as dominant as their usual stuff, save for the blistering solo), and big, gang vocals come chorus time. A total “driving with the windows down” song, this would have been a big fat MTV hit back in 1990. Sadly, those days are long gone. Thank God the Europeans are so deliciously behind the times.
127. Godsmack – “Generation Day”
I’ll fully admit to being kind of bored by Godsmack’s sound these days, the band not showing enough musical growth over their career to make me want to invest too much time into their newer material. That being said, this chugging, churning, marauding steamtrain of a song off their latest 1000hp album was burning into my brain at first listen and sits as a prime example of something I wish they’d do more often. I mean seriously, that rolling rhythm guitar just pushes me forward, gathering up steam as it goes. I even love that it hits this weird slowdown at 3:09, as if the movie has gone into slow motion while we watch a horrific collision between the train and some blockade, only to have it come barreling out the other side at 5:04. Just a fantastic dynamic for a song, from a band that doesn’t explore that side of themselves often enough, relying too much on plain old bludgeon tactics or agonized acoustic meanderings.
126. Red Dragon Cartel – “Deceived”
Jake E. Lee seemed poised for a big career after landing the coveted slot as guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne following the death of Randy Rhoads back in 1982. After two albums with Ozzy, he jumped into a pseudo-supergroup called Badlands that produced three excellent (but totally overlooked) blues metal albums before imploding, Jake’s status as a guitar hero fading soon after. He’s has had very little output since then (occasional solo albums and guest appearances), before suddenly coming out of nowhere in 2014 with a new band called Red Dragon Cartel. Thankfully the time off hasn’t hindered his skills at all, as he shreds all over the band’s debut record, including on the debut single for “Deceived”, which is pure mid-80’s style guitar rock. Finding himself an otherwise unknown vocalist in Darren James Smith, Jake hasn’t tried to reinvent himself, instead choosing to stick with what he knows best, and metal fans are thankful for it. Sometimes I just wanna hear a guy who can fuckin’ play, you know?
125. Ingrid Michealson – “Girls Chase Boys”
Wow, does this song ever sound out of left field after that last one. But such is the way of the world when you’re doing a countdown like this. Don’t ask me how I can compare one to the other and make a decision on what I like more given how disparate the sound. I’m not sure I even know what I’m doing. I’d always thought of Ingrid Michaelson as a more contemplative singer-songwriter (which she more or less still is) rather than a pop diva, but man her latest album (and this tune in particular) really crosses over to the radio stratosphere with gusto. This song is like the prettiest ear candy, just sweet, sugary fun that still has a some substance to it. Oh, and that voice. She could sing me anything and I’d be okay with it. As for the video, props for turning that Robert Palmer video on its head, even if it does creep me out.
124. Royal Blood – “Out Of The Black”
Song #2 on the countdown for the band with no guitarist, as well as their second straight completely wacked out video. These guys certainly have a dark sense of humor. Meanwhile, the song is a rockin’ staccato thing that punishes with a simplicity that I can’t recall ever seeing before. Seriously, check out this live version and marvel at the aural destruction that can be wrought by just two men. I feel like I’ve just been in a fistfight after listening to this, always walking away from the experience feeling very much alive but completely disoriented. Music is power.
123. Everygrey – “King Of Errors”
There is metal, there is power metal, and then there is EPIC power metal. Sometimes shit just needs to be an overblown tour de force of power and melody, restraint be damned. A 7 minute-plus long song? Do it. An over-the-top black and white video? Check. Haunting spoken word intro? Boom. It’s all here. Power prog in all its glory, with sweeping keyboards, pounding drums, crushing guitars, and of course burning solos. All that’s missing is a vocalist with a ridiculous air-raid siren quality which is the norm for this genre, but in this case I think Tom Englund is perfect for what this band is doing, giving the sound a little more weight where it’s usually not found. I love all of this and I haven’t really been a big fan of the band up until now. Majestic metal perfection.
122. Pinnick Gales Pridgen – “Watchman”
Vocalist/bassist Doug (sorry “dUg” *eyeroll*) Pinnick is best known for his role in the critically acclaimed but commercially overlooked prog band King’s X. Guitarist Eric Gales once fronted his own band, pumping out a hybrid of Hendrix style rock with Austin blues. Drummer Thomas Pridgen is a bit of a journeyman. Together they form a power-trio “supergroup” of black guys doing rock (notable only because it’s such a rarity, even today). I’ve generally dismissed their stuff because Pinnick’s vocal style doesn’t work much for me, although I could listen to Gales play guitar all day (check out his band’s cover of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”). This song though came at me right away, demanding my attention, even while the rest of their second album did nothing for me. If you’ve noticed any theme with me when it comes to the kind of stuff I like, it would probably be songs that start a little understated and then build steam as they go. I’m forever drawn to music that pushes me like that, and this song is definitely in that mode. It doesn’t hurt that Gales plays the ever loving shit out of it, his solo at the end just burns with passion, while Pinnick and Pridgen keep it alive with a rock-solid, rhythmic under current. So, so good.
121. The Lonely Brave – “Trick Of The Light”
I’m still not 100% what my final Album of the Year for 2014 will be, but I know this: the debut from England’s The Lonely Brave is the leader in the clubhouse and slowly pulling away. This is the first of four songs from The Day’s War that will appear on the countdown, its placement at #123 more a statement on my unwillingness to lump them all together at the top than any real assessment of its quality. These guys have a sound that reminds me of 90’s alt-rockers (and Boston’s own) Buffalo Tom, but taken to a level I can’t quite define. It’s this wall of distorted beauty, cleanly and tightly produced even while it’s sound remains chaotic and ragged. I’ve played this album more times over the last two months than anything else this year and it’s the only one I’ve played on back-to-back listens, which is usually the mark of my favorite albums of all time. (FWIW, they produced two different videos for this song; I’m going with the “alternate” take for no particular reason.)