Year 5, Day 40: The Empire Strikes (First)

Year 5, Day 40: Bad Religion – The Empire Strikes First

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Track List

  1. Overture
  2. Sinister Rouge
  3. Social Suicide
  4. Atheist Peace
  5. All There Is
  6. Los Angels is Burning
  7. Let Them Eat War
  8. God’s Love
  9. To Another Abyss
  10. The Quickening
  11. The Empire Strikes First
  12. Beyond Electric Dreams
  13. Boot Stamping on a Human Face Forever
  14. Live Again (The Fall of Man)

About the Album

The Empire Strikes First is the thirteenth studio album from punk band, Bad Religion. The Album was recorded from November 2003 to February 2004 and was released on June 8th 2004 through Epitaph Records. The album peaked at numbet forty on the Billboard 200 and single Los Angeles is Burning peaked at number forty on Top Modern Rock Tracks.

Thoughts on the album

So here we are, the final album of year five. We certainly had a blast and we are certainly going out with one. Bad Religion is one of my favorite bands. They create socially (and politically) progressive music, without getting into cliches or “selling out” or without losing their aggressiveness or their edge. Their mix of hardcore and melodic is a prefect match, especially with today’s album, The Empire Strikes First. If this album was made by any other, they would be accused of sloganneering. But Bad Religion, has been around so long and honed their skill at their craft and their insight, that this album is one of most literate statements ever.

It would seem that even the most political of songs on The Empire Strikes Firstwere written with longevity in mind. Case in point, the title track, The Empire Strikes First, is a sarcastic glance/look at “preemptive strike” policy…

We strike first

And we’re unrehearsed

Here we go again to stage the greatest show on heaven and earth

Come on, get your money’s worth

One of the excellent features of this album, and of Bad Religion in general is the songwriting duo of Graffin/Gurewitz. This duo has been known for creating melodic punk tracks that are huge and memorable. Lead single Los Angeles is Burning, features such a melodic and soaring chorus, that it’s the type of chorus that you’ll find yourself singing along to without even noticing you are.

All There Is, is one of more memorable and accomplished arrangements on the album. It has a pleasing (and wonderful) harmony and pauses that are perfect before the band explodes into the chorus. Sinister Rouge is a rager. The drums power the song, so much so that they try out double bass drumming and it works to perfection. Social Suicide may be my favorite track from his album. A very short song that shows off the aggressive riffs and Greg Graffin‘s voice excellently.

Conclusion

Well that is all folks. The Empire Strikes First is an amazing album. While it is nothing like albums, The Dissent of Man or Suffer, it is still an excellent album. While it stylistically didn’t return to Suffer era, it showed that the band was moving forward with their guns (and guitar riffs) ablaze. The Empire Strikes First is every bit as exciting, rocking, and relevant, even 13 years later.

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Year 5, Day 39: A “Sublime” album from Sublime

Year 5, Day 39: Sublime – Sublime

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Track List

  1. Garden Grove
  2. What I Got
  3. Wrong Way
  4. Same in the End
  5. April 29, 1992 (Miami)
  6. Santeria
  7. Seed
  8. Jailhouse
  9. Pawn Shop
  10. Paddle Out
  11. The Ballad of Johnny Butt
  12. Burritos
  13. Under My Voodoo
  14. Get Ready
  15. Caress Me Down
  16. What I Got (Reprise)
  17. Doin’ Time

About the Album

Sublime is the eponymous third and final album from American ska band, Sublime. The album was recorded from February to  May 1996 and released on July 30th 1996 through MCA Records. The album peaked at number thirteen on the Billboard 200. The album is certified 5x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Thoughts on the Album

So here we arrive at the final two albums, and what a good one we have today. A loading screen for the game Rock Band Blitz states that “The size of your music library is equivalent to your worth as a person” or something like that. If that was true, then I’d be a pretty important person. I dug deep into the vast recesses of my music library for today’s album. If you took California hardcore punk, fused it with west coast hip hop/rap, blended it with reggae , and then melted it all together with ska and skate punk, you’d get Sublime and their third and final album, Sublime.

It’s hard to believe, but not many bands go out on top, in legendary status. I can only think of a few: Paul Weller did so with The Jam‘s The GiftOperation Ivy and Energy, or even The Refused and The Shape of Punk to Come. That’s just to name a few from the punk genre. But Sublime does it with their eponymous third and final album. One of their most recognizable songs, What I Got comes from this album. An acoustic number filled with hip-hop and reggae beats, almost making it feel like a true summertime hit (which it was). When you think of the band SublimeWhat I Got comes to mind. It is a signature song.

Wrong Way, takes that ska punk and builds off of it. What gives it that ska feel is the horns that play during the bridge. The bass work is excellent and powers the rhythm section as well. Another one of the singles that received massive airplay on the radio was SanteriaSanteria, is a track where the guitar takes center stage. It’s almost like a ska punk ballad. Complimenting the guitar, is the bass and rhythm section. A beautiful tone with just as strong lyrics, it’s easy to see why this song got/gets overlooked.

While What I Got has been featured in video games such as Saints Row IV and Rock Band 4Seed was featured on the soundtrack of Tony Hawk’s Underground. The track is a fast paced 130 second long track that alternates between hardcore and aggressive California punk and more mellow/easier going reggae stylings. Garden Grove, the album opener, opens up with an orchestrated piece. The orchestrated piece have throw you off, or even throw you for a loop and confuse you as to what type of album you are listening to. But don’t be confused or lost, the orchestra gives way to the band’s signature alternative rock sound with an upbeat, uptempo song.

Conclusion

What makes this album work, is Sublime‘s ability as a band to mic, match, and fuse different styles and sounds together and creating rhythm off them. For me, the album was about five or six songs too long. The reprise of What I Got should have been the album’s closer. It’s the same exact version as the lead single one, except it’s fully unplugged. But I digress. Sublime is one of those albums that defined the 1990’s. It was a decade defining album that still no band has come even remotely close to replicating. While there are some mediocre tracks (hence the “five or six fewer tracks comment”), some sheer laziness on production, and no real variation in mood, it still offers the best of the band’s ability and style. It’s an album that has the band go out on a high note, despite being cut down in their prime.

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Year 5, Day 38: “Be Yourself” with Audioslave’s “Out of Exile”

Year 5, Day 38: Audioslave – Out of Exile

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Track List

  1. Your Time has Come
  2. Out of Exile
  3. Be Yourself
  4. Doesn’t Remind Me
  5. Drown Me Slowly
  6. Heaven’s Dead
  7. The Worm
  8. Man or Animal
  9. Yesterday to Tomorrow
  10. Dandelion
  11. #1 Zero
  12. The Curse

About the Album

Out of Exile is the second studio album from rock supergroup, Audioslave. The album was recorded from July 2004 through January 2005 and released on May 23rd 2005 through Epic Records and Interscope Records. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, while single Be Yourself charted at number on the Modern Rock Tracks and the Mainsteam Rock Tracks charts. Single Doesn’t Remind Me was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Thoughts on the Album

We’ve arrived at the last three albums for this year. I thank you all for coming and reading about each an everyone so far, but we’re not done yet. Audioslave is a supergroup that is comprised of members from Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden; and their first album reflected that. Today’s album, Out of Exile is an album where the band finds it’s groove and own sound. The product is a unified one that stands out and stands on its own, though the elements like guitarist Tom Morello busting out effects pedals and making outrageous and outlandish sounds effect from his guitar from almost every song. Chris Cornell still hits notes that not many vocalists have bragging rights of hitting.

Your Time Has Come is a heavy riff rocker that opens up the album. The track slightly resembles a track from their self-titled first album, Cochise. The drums really shine on this track and makes the listener want more. Similar to Your Time Has Come are Drown Me Slowly and Man or Animal in that these songs follow the same heavy and hard riffs rocking formula and style. The more one listens to the album the more one can hear how expressive and meshed each member is. The titular track, Out of Exile, features an excellent solo that is relatively effect free. The solo from Morello is both complex in instrumentation and in theory.

Lead single Be Yourself, is a relatively midtempo rocker featuring excellent guitar riffs and work. It was a song that grew on me. Another song that grew on me was Doesn’t Remind Me. The rhythm section perfectly accompanies and is incredibly infectious and catchy. The guitar solo on Doesn’t Remind Me is absolutely beautiful. The song builds up to it, and then it comes. It’s almost perfectly set to the tone of the song. The effects are not so heavy laden, that if you wanted to learn it, you could easily.

Conclusion

Out of Exile is an incredibly fine album. While nothing truly comes across as defining, it is a better effort when compared to their first album. While I can see how the album can be dismissed as nothing more than generic modern rock, it is incredibly enjoyable. The album perfectly blends the style and sound of the four musicians. The album as a whole flows easily and feels less forced than their first album. It excellent shows off the band’s skill and talent in a cohesive effort that is lean, hard, heavy, and strong.

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Year 5, Day 37: A little “Sweetness” from Jimmy Eat World and their album “Bleed American”

Year 5, Day 37: Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

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Track Listing

  1. Bleed American
  2. A Praise Chorus
  3. The Middle
  4. Your House
  5. Sweetness
  6. Hear You me
  7. If You Don’t, Don’t
  8. Get It Faster
  9. Cautioners
  10. The Authority Song
  11. My Sundown

About the Album

Bleed American is the fourth studio album from American alternative rock band, Jimmy Eat World. The album was released on July 24th 2001 through DreamWorks Records. The album spawned four singles, all of which reached the top twenty in the United States. The Middle reached number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The album peaked at number 31 on the Billboard 200. The album is certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Thoughts on the Album

As we wind down the project, I have some great albums left in the tank for this year. Now then. The late 1990’s and early 2000’s was a boom or bust period for alternative rock. The market became over-saturated with bands sounding the same and failing to produce albums with individuality and uniqueness. Then you come across Jimmy Eat World, a band that was dropped by their label (Capitol Records) and had something prove. What they created with Bleed American was an incredibly cohesive, consistent, and accessible album.

There are no 16 minute long jam sessions, instead, there are straight forward rock tracks that have the energy of punk and smarts of alternative rock. The titular track, Bleed American, sets the tone for the album with aggressive and blistering vocals and guitar riffs. It has an incessant pace about it combined with an upbeat tempo and said aggressiveness. As the first single, it provided an opportunity for the band to show off that they could make a memorable and catchy song. The lyrics threw me for a loop, but the vocals are otherwise tremendous and sensational.

The Middle offers a simplistic formula that builds off of Bleed American. With a simple and excellent message about self-worth and believing in one’s self, takes the album into the mainstream. With a infectious riffs and hooks and soaring chorus, it’s easy to see why this one of the biggest hits of the band. It’s a song that builds off of Bleed American and A Praise Chorus, and adds on to it. It’s a song that is easy to jam out to and sing along to. The guitar riff is arguably one of the most recognizable riffs of the last two decades.

A Praise Chorus brings the pop-rock sound with alt-rock smarts… and metric crap ton of hooks. A Praise Chorus also highlights on the strengths of Jimmy Eat World, their lyrics. All whilst using the basic of rock emotions to power the song. It’s pop rock, but it takes so much from alternative that it’s almost pop punk. Sweetness, is another track like The Middle, in that it’s incredibly anthemic. It’s hooks are hella catchy and infectious, and you will find yourself singing along to it. The lyrics are alright, nothing to write home about. But the instrumentation and vocals are crisp and sharp overall.

Conclusion

This was an album I wore out in middle school and high school. It’s got incredibly catchy hooks combined with just as strong harmonies and melodies. None of the hooks on the album seem forced and the songs flow naturally. What this album is, is enjoyable and catchy mainstream rock that combines alternative rock with pop punk influences. Jimmy Eat World utilized powerful songwriting, emotional vocals, and driving riffs to create their own niche within a crowded music scene. Bleed American is another classic album that has withstood the test of time.

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Year 5, Day 36: What’s all the “Hot Fuss” about?

Year 5, Day 36: The Killers – Hot Fuss

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Track List

  1. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
  2. Mr. Brightside
  3. Smile Like You Mean It
  4. Somebody Told Me
  5. All These Things That I’ve Done
  6. Andy, You’re a Star
  7. On Top
  8. Change Your Mind
  9. Believe Me Natalie
  10. Midnight Show
  11. Everything Will Be Alright

About the Album

Hot Fuss is the debut studio album from Las Vegas based alternative rock band, The Killers. The album was recorded in 2003 and released on June 4th 2004 through Island Records. The album peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200. The album is certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Thoughts on the Album

Day 36 of the project and we are winding it down. After today, there are only four more albums left. Today’s album comes from The Killers, who, like Muse, I discovered in high school. While the band is from Las Vegas, their debut studio album, Hot Fuss is rooted in British new wave and post-punk revival influences. The music on this album is a form of new wave influenced art rock that has been perfectly tailored and manicured.

The album opens up with the electronic noise filled, Jenny Was a Friend of Mine. The bass and synth are what stick out as highlights from the song. Perfectly fitting, is the chord structure/progression that is incredibly simple and easy to notice. Of note, is lead singer Brandon Flowers pushing his voice to new heights… it is almost as if you can feel every single word of the lyrics escape from his mouth. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine is followed up by one of the bigger hits by the band, Mr. Brightside. The song opens with equally quick guitar riffs and vocals that seem to duel with each other. Switching between panicked verses and soaring choruses, it was obvious as to why this song was one of the biggest hits of 2005. While not in-you-face, the synths lay in the background, helping bring the harmonies and rhythm.

Somebody Told Me, is the lead single from the album. The song is filled with chunky guitar riffs that is delivered with an infectious delivery. The song displays the band at their very best; where every instrument is also at it’s best. It is dance rock/dance punk at its finest. One of my personal favorites from Hot Fuss is All These Things That I’ve Done. All These Things That I’ve Done slows it down from quicker paced songs preceding it. Starts off with some simple piano notes and chords with Flowers voice chiming in quietly before building up. The drums quick in giving way to a punchy guitar riff. Midway through the song, the vocals and instruments give way to a lone guitar riff, leaving you with Flowers singing…

I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.

Then a gospel choir joins in and from there the outro takes the song out on a high note.

Conclusion

It’s obvious as to how The Killers became one of the biggest acts in modern rock. The took the formula for alternative rock and added elements of dance rock, new wave, and some post-punk revival in for good measure. Hot Fuss was one of the biggest albums of the year in 2004 and 2005. Arguably speaking, it is one of the best summer albums that you can listen to. Hot Fuss is an incredibly front-loaded album, but the second have doesn’t detract too much from it. It’s album that will have you singing and dancing along to the songs on it.

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Year 5, Day 35: some hysteria from Muse’s chart-topper, “Absolution”

Year 5, Day 35: Muse – Absolution

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Track List

  1. Intro
  2. Apocalypse Please
  3. Time Is Running Out
  4. Sing for Absolution
  5. Stockholm Syndrome
  6. Falling Away With You
  7. Interlude
  8. Hysteria
  9. Blackout
  10. Butterflies and Hurricanes
  11. The Small Print
  12. Endlessly
  13. Thoughts of a Dying Atheist
  14. Rule by Secrecy

About the Album

Absolution is the third studio album from English rock band, Muse. The album was recorded from September 2002 to June 2003 and released on September 15th 2003 in Japan, September 22nd 2002 in the United Kingdom, and March 23rd 2004 in the United States through East West RecordsTaste Media, and Warner Bros. Records. The album peaked at number one on the United Kingdom album charts and 107 on the Billboard 200. The album is certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in the United States.

Thoughts on the Album

My first time hearing Muse‘s Hysteria, was on the radio. I think it may have been Y-100 before they went off the air or it could’ve been one of the other radio stations that played alternative rock. It’s such a dark an brooding song, a perfect fit on the album it comes from. Absolution was my introduction to Muse. Their sound instantly blew me away with how powerful and catchy the sound was. Absolution is Muse‘s magnum opus; a masterpiece that pulls no punches of subtlety.

The album explodes to live with the second track Apocalypse Please, which follows a brief introduction. Explodes is an understatement, but there is a lack of a better term for it. It enters with crashing piano notes, thunderous drums, and the unmistakable vocals of guitarist and frontman, Matt Bellamy shouting out…

It’s time we saw a miracle… come on, it’s time for something biblical!

The track is years of work that have been refined and mastered into a vivid simplicity of sorts. Every song on the album makes a statement and the statements made are delivered with a sense of urgency. No more noticeable than with Time is Running Out. Time is Running Out is a compelling tune that is made possible by the screeching and shredding riffs of Bellamy’s guitar. The riffs are full and highly/heavily technical… precise instrumentation.

Stockholm Syndrome has arguably the most recognizable guitar riffs of modern day rock and roll. It is a grandiose and audacious track that will take on a trip to space where you can gaze down at Earth from a distant star… all the while a interstellar guitar battle goes on. Hysteria follows in the same mold and formula, especially with the bass lines being heavy on the distortion. It has easily the catchiest guitar work in their entire discography. There is no dead weight with this song, as it lurches into three part harmonic guitar instrumentals.

Whereas the band failed to produce ballads on previous albums, Absolution features some of the best. Ruled by Secrecy is a prime example. Featuring piano noted played in a longing and gorgeous way, it is punctuated by Bellamy’s nearly soprano range falsetto (he’s a tenor). It just builds up to another piano climax that highlights one of y favorite things about the album: the contrast. From the quietest moment on the album to one of the most epic moments on the album. Blackout features a string orchestra that just puts it over the top and makes for an excellent experience.

Conclusion

Absolution was one of the albums that has stayed with me since middle school. Obviously not every track is a great one or an unforgettable one, but by in large, the let downs are few and far between on this album. Tracks like Hysteria, Time is Running Out, and Stockholm Syndrome are unforgettable tracks. At the time, it was Muse‘s most cohesive efforts. Overall it is a fantastic listen that stretches the boundaries of alternative rock.

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Year 5, Day 34: Gorillaz’s Demon Days

Year 5, Day 34: Gorillaz – Demon Days

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Track List

  1. Intro
  2. Last Living Soul
  3. Kids with Guns
  4. O Green World
  5. Dirty Harry
  6. Feel Good Inc
  7. El Mañana
  8. Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
  9. November Has Come
  10. All Alone
  11. White Light
  12. DARE
  13. Fire Coming Out of a Monkey’s Head
  14. Don’t Get Lost in Heaven
  15. Demon Days

About the Album

Demon Days is the second studio album from British visual band, Gorillaz. Released internationally on May 23rd, 2005 through Parlophone Records in the United Kingdom and Virgin Records in the United States of America. The album peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 as well as number one on several charts around the world, most notably the United Kingdom. Lead single Feel Good Inc peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album has sold over eight million copies worldwide

Thoughts on the Album

Where to begin with one of the best albums of 2005 and of the last decade? Well it was around this time that Danger Mouse took over production, and boy does it make a difference. Demon Days comes off as an album that is more fleshed out and concise compared to their previous release. There is a smooth flow between the tracks, albeit not prefect, that makes the loose story line fit together perfectly. The album is a dark and brooding affair that has moments of lightheartedness that isn’t really expected, but serves to heighten your listening experience.

Damon Albarn is at his strongest here on this album. Originally of the band Blur, his voice with grow on you and make you wonder you never were a fan of Blur in the first place. While strong throughout the album, El Mañana not only highlights Albarn’s voice, but puts on full display. Showcasing his voice on a track that encapsulates the entire album. Danger Mouse‘s production is one of simplicity and minimalist, rather than a bigger driving force. This is on display with Kids With Guns. Kids With Guns embodies this minimalist tone. The track is relaxed and laid back in general, and it does enough to keep you hooked and interested.

The last two tracks, Don’t Get Lost in Heaven/Demon Days abandon this dark and brooding sound for different romps within various genres. These two tracks are seemingly a chastisement for the rest of the album’s dark and gloomy sound. I gotta say though, the London Community Gospel Choir, while adding them on there is a bit pretentious, just ups the epic factor to 13. Dirty Harry is a track that is just as gritty as its namesake, with a retro-funk beat. Then we arrive at the showstopper, Feel Good Inc., one of the biggest hits of 2005. Feel Good Inc still has the same feel about it now as it did in 2005. It is a massive hit and made even more massive if that’s even possible by the entrance of rapper De La SoulDe La Soul laced the track with a verse with nothing but hooks, and complimented with the catchy chorus, just makes it what it is.

Conclusion

Gorillaz opened a lot of minds to whole new worlds of music with Demon Days. While most of themes and ideas on this album can be traced back to Albarn’s earlier work, the inclusion of new collaborators allows him to expand on them and present them in a fresh/exciting way. This is one monster of an album, not just with it’s size, but it’s production.

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