This four piece rock band from L.A. gets the gold this year, with their stunning self-titled debut album.
The first time I heard lead single “Weatherman” on the radio, it gave me chills. The kind of chills you only get when music just gets under your skin and makes you feel like it’s what has been missing from your life. Needless to say, I had to know more about this band. So I picked up the album and was completely floored to find that every single song was just as good (if not better than) “Weatherman”.
Vocalist Emily Armstrong could have been the love child of Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Her range is nothing short of legendary and she can howl with the best of them. Guitarist Siouxsie Medley nearly steals the spotlight from Armstrong, with her amazing skill. From the heart pounding chaos of “Monumental Holiday” to the stark, stripped down “Sorry For It All”, this album is simply incredible. One of my favorite tracks, “Face to Face”, a lovelorn confession, has the best climax I’ve ever heard in a song. Skip to around 3:00 and listen from there.
There is not one bad track on this diverse album. “We Are What You Say” is a rock anthem about never giving up. “Timed Blues” is a folksy classic rock-sounding track that really showcases Medley’s talent. “Test On My Patience” is another of my favorites, with exceptional lyrics (“I’m in love, I’m in love, no I’m not, oh my God, I’m a liar I can taste it.”)
My only complaint about this album is that it’s too short. I’m so excited to hear what’s next from them and I can’t wait to see them live. They’re about to go on tour with Muse in 2013, which I hope will expose them to many more people. If any band ever deserved fame and fortune, it’s Dead Sara.
The first time I listened to this album, all I could think was that I couldn’t believe how versatile they are. I had only heard “Kill Your Heroes” on the radio, so I was expecting an album full of the same sound. But every song has it’s own flavor on Megalithic Symphony, and it surprisingly works.
Lead single “Sail” is a moody electronic piece with dark lyrics (“Maybe I should cry for help. Maybe I should kill myself. Blame it on my A.D.D, baby.) and synth grooves. “People” is a feel good song that is borderline pop, while “Kill Your Heroes” sounds like something straight from ‘90s alternative. “Not Your Fault” showcases frontman Aaron Bruno’s screaming abilities while also being a decent dance track. “Knights of Shame” is the band’s foray into hip-hop while “All I Need” is downright gospel.
Somehow it all ties together to make one incredible album that I simply cannot stop listening to. I recently saw the band live and they were just incredible. I’m definitely excited to hear what is next from these guys.
Of Monsters and Men
My Head is an Animal
This quintet out of Iceland seemed to explode overnight with the success of their single “Little Talks”. After hearing that song on the radio, I picked up the album and was just blown away.
From opener “Dirty Paws” to the gorgeous closer “Yellow Light”, this album is fresh and engaging, with superb musicianship from every member of the band. “From Finner”, one of my favorite tracks, is rousing and fun with its chants of “La la la” and fantastic drumming. “Little Talks” is arguably the best track, showcasing the dual vocalists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson. These two sing so well together, sometimes their voices sound like one, like they belong together, though Hilmarsdóttir’s voice shines alone on the ballad “Love Love Love.” Standout track “Six Weeks” features every member of the band singing together and the result is phenomenal.
Of Monsters and Men have only been making music together for a couple of years, but what they have created here is a unique and fresh album that appeals to a wide audience.
I’ve been a fan of this indie rock band out of Austin, Texas for a few years now, first introduced to their 2010 album The Golden Archipelago. The band has lost and gained a few members since then, but they came back strong with the release of Animal Joy.
“Animal Life” starts off the album with a mid tempo beat and outstanding lyrics, and front man Jonathan Meiburg’s voice pulls you in deep. Meiburg’s voice is the best thing about the band, soaring over the ethereal music behind it. “Breaking The Yearlings” has an infectious beat and moody lyrics while “You as You Were” is a triumphant track that starts off slow and builds to a stunning crescendo. “Insolence” sounds like it could have been a bonus track from Archipelago while “Immaculate” is an upbeat tune that sounds like nothing the band has ever done before.
As a whole, Animal Joy is a much different album than the band’s previous efforts but it also has superior listenability and a wider range of sound. In my opinion, it’s the band’s best album to date and is best listened to with headphones with the volume way up.
The Strange Case Of…
Halestorm burst onto the hard rock scene in 2009 with the single “I Get Off” from their self-titled album, which garnered some radio attention but seemed to fizzle out. In 2012, they came back full swing with the phenomenal album The Strange Case Of…
Leadoff single “I Miss The Misery”, a great break up song, showcases front woman Lzzy Hale’s dynamic vocal abilities. Hale is one of the best female vocalists I’ve heard in a long time, with a range that seems immeasurable. She can scream (“I Miss The Misery”, “Daughters of Darkness”) but she can also belt out a ballad with the best of them (“In Your Room”, “Beautiful With You”). Yet unlike some similar bands, Hale is not the single driving force of the band. Guitarist Joe Hottinger, drummer Arejay Hale (brother of Lzzy) and bassist Josh Smith play together like a family and each are extremely talented musicians.
“Freak Like Me” is an anthemic track that encourages singing along, while “The Rock Show” is a standout about the thrill and rush of seeing a live show. “Here’s To Us” closes out the album with nostalgic lyrics and a great sense of kinship that resonates with the band. (“Stuck it out this far together, put our dreams through the shredder. Let’s toast cause things got better.”)
Things have gotten nothing but better for Halestorm, and they continue to grow as a band and gain more exposure. They just came off the Carnival of Madness tour with Evanescence and Chevelle and they were recently nominated for a Grammy for the song “Love Bites (So Do I)” for best hard rock song.
I saw this indie rock band out of Oxford open for Civil Twilight in 2011 and they completely stole the show for me. I picked up their album The City That Sleeps and could not stop listening to it. It was a little bit The Killers, a little bit Snow Patrol and a little bit Coldplay all mashed together.
On Sand & Snow, A Silent Film deviates away from that sound a bit and comes into a sound all their own. Lead single “Danny, Dakota & the Wishing Well”, tells the story of two people who wind up together after many of life’s obstacles with soaring melodies and great keys. “Anastasia” is a standout, with its great guitars and catchy hook. “Let Them Feel Your Heartbeat” is probably my favorite song, since first hearing it years ago at their live show. I was so happy it made it onto this album. Current single “Harbour Lights” has a great intro and deep lyrics (“You were my rock, never my stepping stone.”) Lead singer Robert Stevenson’s voice is flawless and epic on every track on the album and his piano playing drives every song. “Queen of a Sad Land” harkens back to The City That Sleeps and is another one of my favorites. “Thousand Mile Race”, one of the only ballads, closes out this gorgeous album.
This Italian gothic metal band, best known for their 2002 album Comalies, made a comeback in 2012 with Dark Adrenaline. After the extreme deviation from their sound with 2009’s Shallow Life, this album goes back to the band’s original sound while still managing to be fresh and new. Co-vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro have never sounded better together; both have grown as vocalists (there are some songs on older albums where I can’t even understand Cristina because her accent is too thick) and both seem to get equal airtime on Dark Adrenaline.
“Trip the Darkness”, the lead single, is the first track on the album, featuring dark electronic riffs and an engaging chorus. (“Follow me, follow me, as I trip the darkness one more time. Follow me, follow me, I awake from madness just in time.”) “Kill The Light” is a hard hitting, empowering song while “End of Time”, a ballad, showcases Scabbia and Ferro’s ability to play off one another. “Upside Down” is one of my favorite tracks here, with superior vocals from Scabbia and high energy. “I Don’t Believe In Tomorrow” is another standout with great lyrics. The cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” is a surprising choice, but I think it works. They took the lyrics of the song and made it into something completely different, which is supposed to be the point of a cover. The fact that this is my all time favorite song (R.E.M.’s version) may make me a bit biased because I love the lyrics so much. “Fire” is a straight up rock song and “My Spirit” is a beautiful closer to this outstanding album.
I will admit that after 2008’s The Sound of Madness, I didn’t think Shinedown would be able to match the success of that album. But with Amaryllis, they have made an album that is more than on par with Madness.
“Bully”, the first single, is a great empowering anthem for anyone who has ever experienced bullying; for others it’s just a great rock song. “Adrenaline” is a heart pumping rocker that could have been a B-side on Madness. “I’m Not Alright” is one of my favorites, and is one of the six songs on the album that features a backing orchestra, something the band has never done before. “I’ll Follow You” and “Through the Ghost” are exceptional ballads while “My Name (Wearing Me Out)” and “Enemies” are the album’s heaviest songs. “Unity” closes out the album with the band’s signature rock sound.
Though I don’t think anything from Shinedown will top The Sound of Madness for me, Amaryllis comes pretty close and is a solid effort.
Though fun. has been around for several years (their 2009 album Aim and Ignite was fantastic), the band exploded into popularity with the single “We Are Young” from 2012’s Some Nights.
The album begins with a great intro that leads into the stunning “Some Nights”, my favorite track in the band’s history. The song is anthemic, extremely catchy and has meaningful lyrics (“I’m still not sure what I stand for. What do I stand for? Most nights I don’t know anymore.”) Front man Nate Ruess sings with passion and attitude and he has an infectious energy. “We Are Young” is a veritable anthem for the youth of the world, encouraging them to forget about the past, don’t worry about the future and just live in the now. Fun. has always spread that message, and it continues with “It Gets Better”, a song that assures listeners that everything, good or bad, comes to an end. “Why Am I the One?” is the exception, a ballad about a dying relationship. “All Alone” brings us back to dance pop and “Stars” closes out the album with a rousing beat and great tempo changes.
Though some songs could really do without the auto tune, this album is still superior to Aim and Ignite and their sound has really grown.
Hats Off to the Bull
This hard rock band’s fifth studio album is their best since 2002’s Wonder What’s Next. Though it technically was released in December of 2011, it still made it on this list because I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. The departure of bassist Joe Loefller in 2005 seems to have done wonders for the band, who are playing better than ever with new bassist Dean Bernardini.
“Face to the Floor”, the album’s first single, opens Bull with ferocity and the heavy riffs that Chevelle is known for. Pete Loeffler’s stylized vocals make this track stand out from the rest. “The Meddler” is probably my favorite track with a great chorus and a dark theme. (“Well, I don’t belong here, don’t fit your style. Felt your left foot, now meet my right.”) “Envy” is a slow burn, and really showcases how Pete can let his emotions out through his voice. (Best done in “One Lonely Visitor” from Wonder What’s Next). “Hats Off to the Bull” is a straight up rock song that rivals “Sleep Apnea” from 2009’s Sci-Fi Crimes. “Revenge” is another of my favorites, with some of the best lyrics here (“I’d let the panic ride and pin it on the wall. Identifying pride is the saddest of the chores. Those burning eyes indeed define a churning of the soul.”)
This could be seen as just another hard rock album from a hard rock artist from an outside point of view, but from a long time fan, it is stellar work and their best effort in years.