Year 2, Day 20: Hey, No Hitting Below the Belt!

Year 2, Album 20: Danko Jones – Below The Belt

Tracklisting

  1. I Think Bad Thoughts
  2. Active Volcanoes
  3. Tonight is Fine
  4. Magic Shake
  5. Had Enough
  6. (I Can’t Handle) Moderation
  7. Full of Regret
  8. The Sore Loser
  9. Like Dynamite
  10. Apology Accepted
  11. I Wanna Break Up With You

About the Album

Below the Belt is the fifth studio album from Canadian hard rockers, Danko Jones. The Album was released on May 11, 2010 (in Canada) and on May 18, 2010 (in the United States.

Thoughts on the Album

Canadian hard rock. Okay I can deal with that. I forget which EA Sports NHL game I heard Full of Regret on (probably NHL 11) after a few listens I decided to check out the album. I liked Below the Beltdidn’t love it though. It falls into the abyss that is the hard rock genre; which is mired with subpar instrumentation, simplistic guitar and chord progression, etc. But Danko Jones manages to sound fresh. Frontman (and band namesake), Danko Jones’ vocals could send chills down my spine when he belts out the lyrics. The album features a very strong collection of modern rock songs, with just a touch of retro on them.

Danko Jones has created a loud and catchy, yet heavy album with Below the Beltby blending their old and new sounds. The album kicks up the aggressiveness and tempo to about thirteen on the meter. This is all started by the opening number, I Think Bad Thoughts. All innuendo found in this track (and the entire album) aside, the track is loud, energetic, and aggressive.

The track, Had Enough is another track found on the album that just rolls along relentlessly. It’s one of those songs that makes you wish you could have heard it while breaking up with your last significant other. It is a “slightly” more subdued track, if you call ” ‘slightly’ subdued” aggressive and in your face.

The first single, Full of Regret is the track that everyone should be listening to. It continues the aggressive, loud, and uptempo style of music that listeners are accustomed to hearing from this band. Of the guitar work and vocals on this track, it’s the best on the album.

Conclusion

Sleaze rock at it’s finest. Some of innuendos and jokes found throughout Below the Below will have you either laughing or going “hey chicka bump bump”. Below the Belt features some of the best tongue-in-cheek wit I have ever heard. It’s a no frills hard rock album built on tongue-in-cheek humor, wit, and innuendos. The riffs are pretty simple, along with the rest of the instrumentation. But that’s alright, it’s a straightforward hard rock album in it’s meanings.

Year 2, Day 19: Phantom Planet Raises the Dead!

Year 2, Album 19: Phantom Planet – Raise The Dead

Tracklisting

  1. Raise the Dead
  2. Dropped
  3. Leader
  4. Do The Panic
  5. Quarantine
  6. Ship Lost at Sea
  7. Demon Daughters
  8. Geronimo
  9. Too Much Too Often
  10. Confess
  11. Leave Yourself for Someone Else
  12. I Don’t Mind

About the Album

Raise the Dead is the fourth studio album from alternative rock band, Phantom Planet. The album features several “reworked” versions of songs that appeared on various productions by the band. The album was released April 15, 2008.

Thoughts on the Album

First off, I still suck at counting days. Second, this isn’t the Phantom Planet album that features their most popular and well known song, California. If you want that one… leave a comment in the comment section and I’ll think about it for next year’s 40 in 40.

Okay now that that little disclaimer is out of the way, lets talk about this album shall we? Raise the Dead is a pretty cool and neat little album. It’s not that bad, considering it peaked at number 119 on the Billboard 200 in 2008. Alex Greenwald, lead vocalist and guitarist did research on cults, their leaders, and the music that their cults produced. Don’t let that dissuade you from this album though.

The album opens with the catchy acoustic jam and title track, Raise the Dead. The band shows remarkable control of pace and tempo of the track, dictated by how the song moves from brisk acoustic guitars to a huge swell of strings and guitars.

The following track, Dropped, is a real sexy toe-tapping number, which is lead by the dueling guitars of frontman Alex Greenwald and Darren Robinson. The track is rounded out nicely by hand claps.

Track number three, Leader, is one of the best songs from the album. Showcasing some excellent lyrics and a charming children’s choir, this is a catchy song. That’s right, the song is complete with a full children’s choir. The song also features some good needling guitars and a lively rhythm section.

My favorite track, Do the Panic, I remember from one EA Sports’ NHL games (NHL 09 I think). Do the Panic was reworked from an original version that was only available through their fanclub. The track seemingly flows like a song in the vein of The Strokes with subdued verses and frantic choruses. The track also features some rough and tumble keyboards and guitars riffs. Short version: you will be singing along to the song. It’s infectious, riotous, and other synonyms for “catchy”.

Mini-highlights: Quarantine is a haunting and edgy number. Demon Daughters is another chilling track, featuring a pre-chorus that is absolutely chilling and leads into a more explosive chorus, with frontman Alex Greenwald leading the charge (or exorcism, if you will). Final thoughts on the album: track Too Much Too Often will take you for a spin on the dance floor, and finally, I Don’t Mind calmly closes the album out.

Conclusion

This album is good one. It has everything you would want: songs to sing along to, toe-tapping and hand-clapping numbers, and an anthem (Do the Panic). The production on the album is excellent, as well as the instrumentation. It’s nearly flawless, sans a few songs. Raise the Dead has plenty of variety: from catchy to chill to everything in between, it covers all the tempos. It’s definitely the band’s best work to date. My advice? Give this album a try… just don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Year 2, Day 18: Floored Friday

Year 2, Album 18: Sugar Ray – Floored

Tracklisting

  1. RPM
  2. Breathe
  3. Anyone
  4. Fly (featuring Super Cat)
  5. Speed Home California
  6. High Anxiety
  7. Tap, Twist, Shout
  8. American Pig
  9. Stand and Deliver
  10. Cash
  11. Invisible
  12. Right Direction
  13. Fly

About the Album

Floored is the second studio album from California rockers, Sugar RayThe album upon released entered the top 20 on the Billboard 200, and peaked at number 12. According to the RIAA, Floored has be certified double-platinum.

Thoughts on the Album

So for today’s post, I decided to go back into the vault (or void depending on how you view it) of music that from the 1990s. I found myself an album that contains one of the most synonymous tracks of the decade. That album is Sugar Ray‘s Floored. And that track is Fly.

I decided on Floored, because I needed a good “Finally it’s flipping Friday” track, and I could think of no better track than, Fly. The album is a pure throwback to the 1990’s. Before talking about Fly, let me talk about the rest of the album first.

There are some hidden gems among the tracks. Tracks like American Pig and Right Direction, are rather enjoyable. The band manages to fuse heavy guitar riffs with aggressive hip hop vocals smoothly without sounding too cheesy or losing the meaning or edge. Or the cover song, Stand and Deliver maintains an old school punk edge to it.

The issues I have with this album is that, like many of the decade, it is prone to repetition. The repetition on some tracks pull them down despite the pretty good musicianship. But despite the repetitiousness of some the weaker tracks, there are not really awful ones. (There’s a difference between weak, bad, and awful)

So about Fly. I’m pretty sure I have cassette tapes somewhere in storage labeled “hit mix” or “summer 97 playlist” or something to those effects with this track on there. It’s one of the few songs that majority of people who grew up in the 1990’s can actually remember where they first heard it. I first heard it while watching the music video for it on VH1. Frontman Mark McGrath’s voice sounds pretty damn good on it. In fact it’s probably why the track was, (one) released as the first single, and (two) blew up as it did. And if I were to best describe this song, it would be a fusion of reggae, funk, ska, and alternative rock. It’s pretty hard to picture anyone not enjoying the song’s catchy hooks and McGrath’s smooth vocals.

Conclusion

Guilty pleasure band or artist aside, this is a decent album. Come for Fly, stay for everything else. If you want to relive those childhood memories from the 90’s or just want to kick back and listen to it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this album.

Some concluding irony… critics claimed that they couldn’t repeat the success found with this album. So they titled their next album 14:59 an ode to Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes of fame”. The irony is? 14:59 did way better than this one.

Year 2, Day 17: The Longest Way Home

Year 2, Album 17: Donots – The Long Way Home

Tracklisting

  1. Changes
  2. Calling
  3. Forever Ends Today
  4. High and Dry
  5. Let it Go
  6. Dead Man Walking
  7. Make Believe
  8. Who You Are
  9. The Years Gone By
  10. Hello Knife
  11. Parade of One

About the Album

The Long Way Home is the eighth studio album from German punk rock band, the Donots. The album was released in 2010, and spawned two singles: Calling and Forever Ends Today.

Thoughts on the Album

Last year, I reviewed a German punk rock band’s 2004 album titled Got The Noise. The Donots as they call themselves, do in fact “got the noise” and bring the noise at about a 15 on the dial. It’s loud, mean, in-your-face, pedal-to-the-metal, and overall awesome to rock to. Okay then, with that out the way, flash forward six years to 2010. The Donots drop their eighth studio album, The Long Way Home.

The Long Way Home represents a more mature Donots. A maturing band since their all-out, balls-to-the-wall sound of Got The Noise. Does that mean that this album is a quieter one? No, well, yes and no. In certain aspects, yes, but their overall sound and style is just as loud as ever.

The album kicks to life with the track, Changes. Changes features huge strums drawn out for extra emphasis (and effect) and a chorus of gut-produced rock vocals. All this is held together by a rather basic and ordinary percussion beat. Or how about the track, Let it Go? The track completely switches genres on you. With folksy strings, happy-go-lucky rhythmic chords, and the no thrills (nor frills) lyrics makes it so the melody takes the center of attention. Let it Go at the same time has enough conviction and emotion that most people will find it pretty hard to not sing along to.

The highlights of the album have to be the tracks: Calling, Forever Ends Today, and Dead Man Walking. First the track (and first single off the album), Calling. Calling is the notable song from the album. It grabs your attention immediately and never lets go for the roughly three minutes and change it has your ears for. It’s the drum beat and rolling hi-hat beat that pace the track, with the lead and rhythm guitars backing.

Forever Ends Today is a nice change of pace from the hard rocking Calling. While not as hard rocking as the previous track, it still will have you bobbing your head along to the beat. It’s the choir vocal intro combined with a crescendoing guitar riff that grabs your ears at first and never lets go. Quite frankly, this song has one of my favorite lines/lyrics ever:

And I told you so, ‘It’s mathematics, it’s not chemistry.’ And right now, the numbers are killing you and me…

Dead Man Walking, the sixth track on The Long Way Home utilizes a lead-in from the final four or five seconds of Let it Go, before beginning. The song is a fast pace, pedal-to-the-metal track that starts in fourth gear and doesn’t downshift until the end. The trademark Donots sound is featured prominently here. Also, featured is a catchy one line that is repeated throughout the song as the chorus:

All it takes is patience, all it takes is patience now…”

Finally, I want to end my thoughts on The Long Way Home with the final track: Parade of One. Parade of One, an ode, nay, an anthem to the solitude of trying to make it on your own, by yourself. The lyrics of Parade of One are seemingly snarky, yet melancholic with lines like: “I’m a one man band and I’m the clown,” and “Don’t you ever get to close to me, understand that there’s no “u” in team”.

The song starts of slowly with an acoustic guitar riff and strings. The song just builds up until about 1:45 mark before exploding into a loud eletcric guitar riffs and pounding drum beat. A minute late it goes back to the calmness of silence, before the acoustic guitar and strings kick back up again. The drums and electric guitar reenter and the song builds up and crescendos into the finale: a spoken one poem, the ode to being a parade of one…

I am my own god, my own church and my religion,
A fortress of mind, hard to climb, I’m fact not fiction,
I’m the fireman and I’m the lighter,
So bring on the fireworks.
Shining like the sun and burning brighter,
I am my own path, I’m a mess, my own decision, my decision,
I’m right as rain, ride the train without a ticket,
I bend and I break and I mend and I can take it,
I am not like rocket science,
I’m a one man band and the rest is silence,
I bend and I break and I mend and I can take it,
So bring on the fireworks.

Conclusion

The Long Way Home is the product of a maturing band. It’s one of the best Donots albums that they made. While not as good as Amplify the Good Times, Pocketrock, or Got The Noise; it is among their top five albums. It has a perfect mix of everything: it has hard rocking tracks, softer more folksy tracks, and of course anthems. My choices for anything looking to download any tracks off this album, go with: Calling, Forever Ends Today, Dead Man Walking, and of course, Parade of One.

Year 2, Day 16: The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Year 2, Album 16: The Sound Track of Our Lives -Communion

Tracklisting

CD 1

  1. “Babel On”
  2. “Universal Stalker”
  3. “The Ego Delusion”
  4. “Pineal Gland Hotel”
  5. “Ra 88”
  6. “Second Life Replay”
  7. “Thrill Me”
  8. “Fly”
  9. “Pictures of Youth”
  10. “Mensa’s Marauders”
  11. “Just a Brother”
  12. “Distorted Child”

CD 2

  1. Everything Beautiful Must Die
  2. “The Fan Who Wasn’t There”
  3. “Flipside”
  4. “Lost Prophets in Vain”
  5. “Songs of the Ocean”
  6. “Digitarian Riverbank”
  7. “Reconnecting the Dots”
  8. “Without Warning”
  9. “Utopia”
  10. “Saturation Wanderers”
  11. “Lifeline”
  12. “The Passover”

About the Album

Communion is the fifth studio album from Swedish rockers, The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

Thoughts on the Album

Where to start with this behemoth of an album. 24 tracks, over 93 minutes (that’s well over an hour and twenty minutes!) of music, and it’s literally an experience. It combines so many genres from 1960’s funk and psychedelic rock to straight-up, plain-old, rock. It seems hilarious that any band in this day in age, in the 21st century would release a double album. Considering many listeners short attention spans, it would seem ludicrous that a band would release a double album. But leave it up to some Swedes to throw wrenches into the music industry’s gameplan.

The tracks on Communion flirt between hook-laden 70’s guitar rock to 60’s psych-pop that echoes in style to acts like Pink Floyd, Ray Davies’ The Kinks, and the Who.

The album starts off with a notion of acceptance and searching for connections inside the chaos, rather than pointing out the obvious. The basic rock tunes are layered with effects and other sounds that don’t even bother to mask their melodic structures throughout the tracks. For example, one should go no further than the spacey, psych-drenched opening track, BabelBabel is my personal favorite track off the album and for good reason. The track has a thrumming bassline, hook filled organ line, rumbling tribal drums, and counterpoint six-strings playing a call-and-response style riff. Singer, Ebbot Lundberg enters about halfway with almost metaphysical lines…

We’re here finalize,
the friction of your rise,
the twisting of your tongue, 
together with the sun.
The language that we speak,
Was spread out to complete,
And communicate as one,
So turn the towers of Babel on….

The next track, Universal Stalker follows BabelThe flow from Babel into Universal Stalker is as brilliant as it is beautiful. The track contains harpsichords, acoustic and electric guitars, and Farfisa; all underlying frontman Lundberg’s gentle vocals. The music on the first CD has an almost full crescendo into full rock, as it gradually increases in dynamic, tension, and tempo; all before it explodes into full rock.

That’s what CD #1 is all about, the full rock burn. Whether it’s the psych-fused and exhilarating Babel, or the more grounded Universal Stalker, or tracks like The Ego of DelusionThrill Me, RA 88, or Second Life Reply. CD #2 on the other hand is a more quieter, folksy, and calming affair. It starts with the folksy and dreamy Everything Beautiful Must Die and The Fan Who Wasn’t There and flows along with the psych-rock tracks of Reconnecting the Dots, and Utopia; all before climaxing and finishing with the gorgeous singalong track, The Passover.

Conclusion

Usually when artists or bands make double albums, they sound bloated, burdensome, and almost nauseating. Not with Communion. No. What The Soundtrack of Our Lives made with this album nothing more than greatness. While to the first time listener, it may sound nauseatingly bloated, but I assume you it breezes along with powerful singalong choruses, flashy (and flashing) guitars, and hook-filled melodies.

If you have 93 minutes to spare, pick up a copy, sit down, put it on, and just let the music take control.

Year 2, Day 15: Be careful… it’s Slippery When Wet

Year 2, Album 15: Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet

Tracklisting

  1. Let It Rock
  2. You Give You A Bad Name
  3. Living On A Prayer
  4. Social Disease
  5. Wanted Dead or Alive
  6. Raise Your Hands
  7. Without Love
  8. I’d Die For You
  9. Never Say Goodbye
  10. Wild In The Streets

About the Album

Slippery When Wet is the third studio album from New Jersey natives, Bon Jovi. It was released in September of 1986 and is certified twelve-times platinum in the United States. The album also peaked at number one.

Thoughts on the album

So, we arrive at the album that contains three of Bon Jovi’s most recognizable songs: Living on a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name, and Wanted Dead or Alive. With those most recognizable anthems, the rest of Slippery When Wet could have been lowly filler, (which most of it is) AND still sold millions of copies. Not only was this album a breakthrough one for Bon Jovi but I’d argue one for the hair metal genre in general. This was the album that rocketed Bon Jovi from “just another 1980s band” into official rock superstar status.

Obviously, I could talk about the three most recognizable and pretty such synonymous songs for days on days. All three (Living on a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name, and Wanted Dead or Alive) are instant arena rocking anthems that majority of people (if not everyone) know the lyrics to and sing along to or air-band along with. These three songs alone have been featured in video games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, thus have been introduced to a completely new generation of music lovers.

Lead guitarist Richie Sambora’s guitar album is almost second to none. The guitar dominated rock anthems are filled to the brim with heavy and catchy riffs, and still manage to keep a level of complexity that shows how the band has matured into serious musicians.

As for the tracks NOT named Living on a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name, and Wanted Dead or Alive, there are a few gems. The keyboards in the opening track, Let it Rock spicy up the track, even though the keyboard intro may turn off listeners at first listen. The guitar solo is top notch and the highlight of the song… outside of Jon Bon Jovi’s vocals of course. Songs like Raise Your Hands and Wild In The Streets are tracks that will instantly make you get a feeling of “get up and jump.” Raise Your Hands may just be the most underrated track in the Bon Jovi catalog, not just on this album.

As for the three most recognizable songs on this album, I don’t think I really need to give you my thoughts on them, because you’ve probably already heard the tracks before! Therefore you already know about them! You either love them or hate them, there is no in between.

Conclusion

Slippery When Wet is arguably Bon Jovi’s best album to date. Since then, the New Jersey rockers have dumped the glam rock/1980’s hair metal look for a more mainstream look (and sound), but they still know how to make music. Slippery When Wet is the perfect album to blast with the windows down or the top down on a beautiful spring or summer day. I also guarantee that at some point you’ve heard either You Give Love a Bad Name, Living on a Prayer, or Wanted Dead or Alive and started either singing along or rocking out to it.

That my friends is a the mark of good album.

Year 2, Day 14: OK Go… Get Over It.

Year 2, Day 14: OK Go – OK Go

Tracklisting

  1. Get Over It
  2. Don’t Ask Me
  3. You’re So Damn Hot
  4. What to Do
  5. 1000 Miles per Hour
  6. Shortly Before the End
  7. Return
  8. There’s a Fire
  9. C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips
  10. The Fix Is In
  11. Hello, My Treacherous Friends
  12. Bye Bye Baby

About the Album

OK Go is the self title debut album from Chicago rockers, OK Go. The album debuted at number 107 on the Billboard 200 and number one on the Billboard Top Heatseekers charts. OK Go was released September 17, 2002.

Thoughts on the Album

This album contains one of my favorite songs to tell people. What is that song you ask? None over than, Get Over It. I have shamefully used it before as a breakup song. Just like I’ve used the song You’re So Damn Hot to describe a girl. Of course, I have since developed a more broad vocabulary. So, before I get further off topic, what’s the deal with this album you may ask? I’m glad you asked.

OK Go is a 12 track, roughly 41 minute power-op/pop rocker. The album opens with the first single and probably the most recognizable track, Get Over It. It should be mentioned that this band has penchant and knack for very tongue-in-cheek lyrics. No more evident in the opening track. The lyrics of not just this song, but the rest of the album’s tracks are highly intelligent, well-thought out, filled with that trademark tongue-in-cheek snark/sarcasm.

Get Over It, is a pure rocker if I ever heard one. It starts off with a drum riff, before a rather raw and crunchy guitar riff kicks in. The song is so incredibly catchy that within the first thirty seconds, you’ll be singing along. While the song can be interpreted as “vain” or “whiny,” but I obviously disagree. The lyrics of Get Over It pop that self-pitying bubble of those who are listening with snarky and sarcastic lines such as: “Your wounds are full of salt, everything’s a stress and what’s more, well it’s all somebody’s fault.” And of course, my personal favorite line: “Ain’t it just a bitch? What a pain…Well it’s all a crying shame. What left to do but complain? Better find someone to blame.” The song sends an awesome message… did your significant other dump you? Didn’t get that grade/thing you wanted? Rub some dirt on it, and focus on what you can do. Perfect, if you ask me.

That’s enough about one song; I could probably write an entire post on Get Over It alone. The next track, Don’t Ask Me, is probably the catchiest song on the entire album. Yes outshining the previous one. Don’t Ask Me contains a heavy synth, a drum beat that pops, and of course, frontman Damian Kulash’s sarcasm-drowned vocals. The next two tracks, You’re So Damn Hot and What to Do continue along this path, as joking/borderline serious tracks designed to be easy and memorable tracks. What to Do specifically, goes about this in a more relaxed manner and a “chilled-out” vibe in the chorus: “What to do? Sweetheart, you’ll find mediocre people do exceptional things all the time.

With OK Go, there aren’t all songs that just chug along. For example, the track Return, blurs the line between “joking/amusing” and “actually meaningful”. You can hear the intensity and anguish in Kulash’s voice. The track is an emotional and sad one, but it’s a diamond-in-the-rough that may take a few listens to get.

I should say that, like most albums in the pop-rock/power pop genre, the quality of the songs dies off in the second half. Although, the tracks C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips and Hello My Treacherous Friends are two of the rare late album finds. But sadly, the rest of the remaining tracks after track six can be defined as filler.

Conclusion

My verdict? Give it a listen. If not for Get Over It, but for Don’t Ask MeYou’re So Damn Hot, and What to Do. Just to named to name a few. While the album is far from the most technical, the simple composition and instrumentation makes up for it. And for at least 41 minutes, this album is a nice reminder that, hey, life doesn’t suck as bad as you think it does.