Part Fifteen: 80-71
In which the repeat artists begin piling up, with no less than seven of the next ten entries being from acts that have already appeared at least once before.
80. Linkin Park – “Mark The Graves”
It’s tempting to say that Linkin Park went back to their roots with their 2014 release The Hunting Party, as they had been steadily drifting more and more into straight up pop than the hybrid metal/rap/pop thing they had been doing at the start of their career. There’s certainly a rougher, more guitar influenced edge to the new album (compared to their more recent releases), but from a songwriting standpoint it sounds to me like they’re continuing to evolve and shift their sound without necessarily going backwards. They pushed a lot of digital singles out before the album’s release, but when the dust settled it was this album track that really stood out as an excellent example of what they’re capable of. The long intro with the grinding guitar riff really sets the stage for something different. Vocalist Chester Bennington delivers another Jekyll/Hyde performance between the verse and chorus (such as it is), bouncing back and forth between crooning and screaming in a way that many have attempted to duplicate but few have mastered. I just love the dynamic they achieve here.
79. Lonely The Brave – “The Blue, The Green”
Entry #2 from one of my leaders for favorite album of the year, this is the English quintet’s attempt at slowing things down a bit, although even then they maintain the sonic wall that has become like candy to my ears. The video was my first exposure to the band, and in and of itself it’s a pretty powerful statement on the power of friendship, ironically reminding me a bit of Lennie & George from “Of Mice & Men”, a show I am in the middle of working on as I write this. Like all of the their work, this song just builds and builds and I find it carrying me higher as it goes. I wish I knew what it was they were doing to reach me the way they do, but whatever it is, it totally works.
78. Panic Room – “Velocity”
Yet another repeater, as Panic Room previously appeared at #133 with a somewhat ethereal track called “Into Temptation”. On “Velocity” they continue to mix a gentle, almost Sarah McLachlan-like vocal with a kind of progressive rock sound, including a simple but utterly magnificent little guitar riff. It’s a pairing I absolutely love, as the band delivers a beautiful sound that at the same time has a touch of edge to it, particularly in the song’s second half when the guitar really starts to amp up. Beauty with an edge, yeah, that’s it.
77. Chasing Verity – “No Back Up Plan”
Once again we head to SoundCloud, as no usable YouTube clip exists for this track, as sure a sign as any that we’re dealing with a true indie act. Hailing from Baltimore, Chasing Verity issued a surprisingly potent and raw 4-track EP that has a lot in common with Motion Device (see #162), namely a strong female vocalist out in front of a band that values crunching riffs and simple arrangements, allowing the focus to fall on the individual talents as opposed to creating an ornate “sound”. Reminds me a lot of Halestorm without all the polish, which ain’t no bad thing to my ears.
76. Anberlin – “Atonement”
Christian emo-rockers Anberlin announced that the release of their 2014 album Lowborn would be their last as a band, and on the final performance of the supporting tour they played this track for the first and only time, dedicating it to their fans. It’s not hard to see why, given its wistful delivery and opening verse of “I’ve seen faces I may never see again, I’ve been places I never could have dreamt”. The album in question covers a lot of musical ground, from scream-fueled hardcore to 80’s style synth pop, to this acoustic driven pseudo-ballad, and they really deliver on every front as if it were their chosen sound. This track also features a really nice, almost delicate guitar refrain (hard to call it a solo) at about the 2:30 mark. It’s a shame this act had to call it a day right at the time I was discovering them, although I guess I can always go back and gorge myself on their back catalogue if need be.
75. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – “California”
And more repeat artists, as you may recall the Apparatus from back at #176 with their ode to The Hunger Games, “You’re The Mocking Jay”. Here they deliver another insanely catchy power punk anthem, this one dialing the guitars back quite a bit (squeezing every trace of punk out of their sound in the process – hence my interest). Another Christian act that manages to slip that fact in on occasion without really drawing attention to it. This was just one of those summer anthems for me last year, delivering as it does a bright, warm sound that is somehow both energetic and laid back at the same time. The chorus stays with me for days.
74. Emerson Hart – “The Lines”
Back to former Tonic lead singer Emerson Hart for another album track that uses his magnificent voice to fine effect. Like most of his solo stuff it’s an acoustically driven number that shades in the electrics as need be. Another great summer driving song, but in the carefree, “heading into the sunset” vein (rather than the “barreling down the highway into oblivion” variety). I could totally see myself listening to this on repeat while cutting through the mountains of Vermont or upstate New York on my way to a summer vacation retreat. Or maybe I’m just delirious from all the snow we’ve had this year. Either way this song picks me up in the most effortless way possible.
73. Foo Fighters – “Something For Nothing”
And now we pause for a few moments while my dear friend Mark vents his utter disgust and incredulous shock at my placing his favorite song of the year barely inside my own Top 75. It’s okay, buddy, let it all out. I understand. A long time Foo Fighters fan, I wish I could say this song grabbed me the way it did him, but alas, I can’t. It’s a damn fine song and a worthy addition to their catalogue of hits, but there’s just something a little bit too schizophrenic about it for me. It’s got all the stuff I like from the Fighters, but having it all crammed into one song sort of puts me off. For me it really gets good at about 2:30 when they start to leave behind the 70’s inspired funk and Dave Grohl embraces his usual raging lunatic. In the end I think I might be holding the fact that I never got to see any of the Sonic Highways TV series (that documented the album’s inspiration and recording) against it, as I feel like I’m missing some valuable piece. Or maybe I’ve just heard too much Foo over the years and this is one of those off-albums for me. *shrug* I dunno. Sorry, Mark.
72. “Weird Al” Yankovic – “Mission Statement”
You know this countdown is unnecessarily bloated when Weird Fricking Al gets two entries, but here we are, following up the lyrical parody genius of “Word Crimes” (#105) with one of Al’s unappreciated skills: the style parody. In this case he apes the Crosby, Still & Nash sound to near perfection while spitting out a never-ending series of corporate buzzwords and catch-phrases. And that’s where the genius of this song really lies for me, because I can’t think of any more inappropriate a musical act to be singing about the joys of capitalism and all its mindless ideas than CSN, the poster boys for hippy protest. The fact that he and his band CRUSHES the musical portion, ripping off a couple of CSN classics, and works the lyrical theme to the bone just makes it all the more amazing to me. Fish, my go-to for all opinions “Weird Al” based, was non-plussed by this track when the album came out, because apparently some other guy once did the whole “corporatespeak” parody a while ago, but I have no idea who it was and I can’t imagine it was this good, so Fish can go screw himself. He likes Samantha Fox anyway.
71. In This Moment – “Sexual Hallucination”
Once again it’s an album track rather than a single from In This Moment’s Black Widow album that makes a mark on my musical mind (“Sex Metal Barbie” clocked in at #149, “The Fighter” at #110). This time we get a slow burning duet with Shinedown’s Brent Smith that sounds every bit of what its title suggests, as it is both sexy and hallucinogenic in its delivery, keyboards actually plying the song with an ambience that I’m not used to from a band such as this. The vocal interplay between Smith and Maria Brink is like an aural seduction, sliding in and around each other like two sweaty bodies, the song and the singers building in intensity as the song moves along to Brink’s first orgasm at the 4:40 mark. Seriously, if you’re going to write and record a song called “Sexual Hallucination” this is how you have to do it. You can’t just bang away at the guitars like some horny teenager, regardless of how you might normally sound. This… this is musical eroticism. Now excuse me while I go track down my girlfriend. I need a cigarette.