Part Seventeen: 60-51
Three quarters of the way in and we’re starting to get to the stuff that’s been burning up my ears for the better part of the past fourteen months. I keep wondering how some of these tracks wound up outside of the top 50, which goes to show how much I really loved the stuff that’s still to come. As always, thanks to those who have been reading along and occasionally letting me know your thoughts on some of the stuff I’ve already posted. It’s been a fun (if drawn out) process.
By the way, I reference Pink Floyd twice over the course of the next ten entries even though neither example is really Floydian. As a result I kinda feel the need to point out that Floyd’s new album, Endless River, is absolutely tremendous if you’re a fan of David Gilmour’s guitar work and the band’s post-Roger Waters indulgence with more soundtrack worthy stuff. Don’t let the fact that they didn’t really produce any “songs” that warranted a place on the countdown fool you. I loved it.
60. The Pretty Reckless – “Going To Hell”
In which Cindy Lou Who grows up, crams herself into a leather jumpsuit, rolls around in the mud with a bunch of snakes and naked models, and sings about all the people she’s killed. Sort of. Look, don’t ask me, I’m just here for the guitar riff. Everything else is a bonus.
59. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood – “Burn Slow”
Way back at #151 I paid my respects to one half of the volatile Robinson brothers, guitarist Rich, who helped make The Black Crowes one of my favorite bands of the early 90’s. Now we turn our attention to brother Chris and his new band, who like his sibling has stepped back a bit from the amplified boogie of the Crowes and settled into a new life as a trippy blues-jam band leader. This track is off of the Brotherhood’s third album, Phosphorescent Harvest, and is, as the title suggests, the most laid back slow burn you will probably ever hear. We’re talking seven-plus minutes of coma-inducing gorgeousness; the song that I put on when I absolutely, positively need to chill the fuck out and let life just wash over me for a bit. Robinson is in fine voice here, and the soulful guitar work from Neal Casal is just masterful in places. The last half is like some Americanized Pink Floyd head-trip and I love every second of it.
58. Edguy – “Love Tyger”
Every now and then I’ll get into a mood where I’ll feel the need to binge listen to nothing but German power metal for the better part of a day. There are literally hundreds of bands that fit that particular description, but over the years I’ve narrowed my listening rotation down to a small handful which generally get the job done. One of them is Edguy, who like many of their German compatriots, have a slightly off-kilter sense of humor at times. This song isn’t really power metal, nor is it a novelty song, but it is a little bit of both and somewhere very much in between. It combines a big, clean guitar sound that is very reminiscent of mid-80’s metal and arena rock bands (Sammy Hager maybe?) with a bouncy rhythm and lyrics (and a chorus) that are just ridiculous enough to be memorable without being an actual joke. None of which really does the tune justice, as it is just one big ball of hard rockin’ fun that needs to be enjoyed, no questions asked.
57. Maroon 5 – “It Was Always You”
Maroon 5 is another one of those pop “bands” like Young The Giant or Neon Trees that I have a hard time believing is really a band in the truest sense anymore, since more often than not their stuff sounds completely computer generated, save for a tiny bit of guitar shading. Ordinarily that would be my sign to check out, but of course I’m a sucker for a good pop beat, and Adam Levine’s voice is one of those candy-apple deals that sounds delicious even though there’s nothing of nutritional value to it. This tune has a killer dynamic to it that reminds me a great deal of OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” which was only on the Billboard 200 for about 100 weeks after its release in 2013. Why they haven’t released it as a single yet is beyond me. Once again, I apparently know nothing.
56. The Kongos – “Come With Me Now”
I do believe this is one of the few songs on the countdown I can say I heard for the first time on the radio, a rare occurrence in this day and age to be sure. Musically it’s a bit of a hipster grab-bag, beginning as it does with an accordion intro before jumping right into the chorus because INTEGRITY HAS NO RULES! Along the way it’s gathers up a steady march, kind of merging old school southern rock with a touch of bluegrass channeled through what I’d call a British indie-rock aesthetic. Then of course a steel guitar solo, because why the hell not? Strangely enough I find the band is able to merge all of this into one hell of a catchy tune without annoying me with its pretension. Until I saw the video I had pictured the band as disciples of Jack White, trying too hard for a look that pretends not to be trying at all. Turns out they’re just regular looking dudes, which is a relief. Or maybe I’m the shallow one. *shrug*
55. Trust Divided – “Welcome To The Fight”
The first time I heard this track I was convinced its destiny was to be a pay-per-view theme song for an upcoming WWE event, a lofty status it might have hit if the band wasn’t so aggressively indie (by which I mean – unsigned). It’s got all the requisite parts: aggressive lyrics (the title alone should make it a shoe-in), macho vocal delivery, chunky guitar riff, pounding drumbeat. Seriously, the video should just be a highlight reel of Brock Lesnar suplexing the shit out of guys for 4 minutes. I’m also a fan of the elongated intro, as every time it comes on my iPod it takes me about 30 seconds to figure out what song it is, which for some reason, I enjoy. Now somebody tell the lead singer to lay off the eyeliner.
54. Maverick – “Shackled”
Entry #2 for this band of Irishmen who rock out in a decidedly 80’s way, with big clean guitars and soaring vocals. Come chorus time the band and song remind of someone I can’t quite put my finger on (and I’ve been trying for months), taking me back to about 1989 and leaving me on the side of the road until I can figure things out. I keep wanting to say Dokken, but that’s not it. As I mentioned back at #175, the vocalist sounds eerily similar to Diamond Head’s Sean Harris, but I have a hard time putting the two bands in the same category, Diamond Head being one of the spearheads of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and a huge inspiration to Metallica. But in retrospect, the comparison might be pretty apt, as DH was never nearly as heavy as Metallica became, and for that matter far more melodic than Iron Maiden, whom they came up with during the late 70’s. Anyway, while I torture myself trying to figure out exactly who these guys truly remind me of, enjoy their 80’s hard rock fabulousness.
53. Brimstone Coven – “The Black Door”
Time for some more retro doom metal, this time returning to West Virginia’s Brimstone Coven for this haunting yet simultaneously upbeat number, which strips things back to the early 70’s for their Sabbath-worshipping black magic. I totally dig the layered vocals of the verse sections, which gives the song it’s eerie cult-like vibe (not the band) before briefly giving way to an equally eerie chorus which invites you down a few more steps into the darkened lair. This one reminds me a lot of Ghost B.C., who popped onto my radar back in 2013 and reignited my interest in ye old doom metal. If you’re into the vibe these guys are laying down, I highly recommend the entire album, as it’s chock full of delicious retro morsels like this.
52. Twin Atlantic – “I Am An Animal”
How the hell do you promote a song built on bouncy energy and a throw-your-hands-up chorus with a video that is mostly shot in slow motion? I don’t get marketing sometimes. This song should have been a big fat radio hit, but since the world won’t let me decide what gets to be heard it will have to settle for being a totally kickass song from one of the best albums of the year (of which this is song #3 of 4 to hit the countdown).
51. Starset – “Telescope”
The best way I can think of to describe Starset’s debut album Transmissions is to say it kind of feels like what would happen if Linkin Park decided to do nothing but listen to Pink Floyd albums for a year straight before they started writing any new material. Which isn’t to say you’re likely to hear the mighty Floyd when you listen. I mean, they would still sound like Linkin Park. What Starset does though, is take that base sound – clean vocals that leap to anguished roars, heavy electronic flourishes, suddenly wicked guitar riffs, and a general pop sensibility – and apply them to a bigger, more sweeping concept, using the electronics in particular to add mood and ambience to some pretty basic song structures. The more I listened to the album, the more I kept coming back to this highly atmospheric ballad, which landed like an oasis in the middle of the record even when it ratchets up the intensity just over three minutes in. The vocal work really lifts you gently, making you feel like you’re floating in through open space in all its wonderment. Shout out as well to the Hans Zimmer-does-Batman instrumental section that starts about 4 minutes in and carries the song to its conclusion. I wouldn’t really call this track “epic”, but there is something very otherworldly about its delivery that is very sci-fi.