Year 6, Day 24: One Way or Another, It’s One of the Biggest Albums of the Punk/New Wave Scene

Year 6, Day 24: Blondie – Parallel Lines

Track List

  1. Hanging on the Telephone
  2. One Way or Another
  3. Picture This
  4. Fade Away and Radiate
  5. Pretty Baby
  6. I Know but I Don’t Know
  7. 11:59
  8. Will Anything Happen?
  9. Sunday Girl
  10. Heart of Glass
  11. I’m Gonna Love You Too
  12. Just Go Away

About the Album

Parallel Lines is the third studio album from American punk/new wave band, Blondie. The album was recorded June through July of 1978 and released in September of 1978 through Chrysalis Records. The album peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 in 1979 and is certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Single Heart of Glass reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and is certified gold by the RIAA.

Thoughts on the Album

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have a guilty pleasure of listening to female front bands. It’s not even a guilty pleasure any more because I’m not guilty or ashamed of it. I’m pretty sure, although my memory is a wee bit shaky, that Deborah Harry was one of the first female rock vocalists I ever listened to. More so, it was Blondie.

Deborah Harry is considered to be the godmother and queen of female fronted pop-punk, punk/new wave, and power pop bands. Her voice is incredibly powerful and her charisma combined with her “tough girl” glamour gave way to one of the albums that paved the way for future female fronted pop bands and female artists. 1978’s Parallel Lines from her band Blondie was start-of-the-art pop-rock/pop-punk for the era… and whose formula many successors would emulate and exploit over the following decades.

Parallel Lines is one consistent album with plenty of depth. What is amazing about this album is the band’s ability to utilize different genres and styles of music to form an album that is both consistent and on point. There’s the infectious power pop of Sunday Girl and One Way or Another; the new wave tinged Picture This; and the disco rock inspired Heart of Glass. They also made a cover of The Nerves‘ Hanging on the Telephone which is both equal parts frenetic and melodic. Hanging on the Telephone shows off and highlights Blondie‘s punk roots with it’s sense of urgency. One Way or Another is an anthemic piece of power pop and the beginnings of pop-punk. I don’t believe that getting stalked by someone who’s attracted to you has ever been so, uh, delightfully described before. The aggressive riffs and Harry’s powerful vocals make it a timeless classic that still receives regular airplay on most classic rock or variety FM radio stations.

Sunday Girl may just be Blondie‘s most anthemic song in their catalog. It is both a fan favorite and deservedly so and much like One Way or Another and Heart of Glass, it still receives radio airplay 40 years later. After Sunday Girl is the massive disco/dance rock juggernaut, Heart of Glass. While I can understand how people consider this to the song that Blondie sold out on, but in a way, I can’t. It’s a massive hit that touches on and combines so many different genres of rock. There is a disco/dance rock element, some power pop and pop-punk that makes for an vaccine needed infectiousness. If that bassline doesn’t get you nodding your head alone with it and Deborah Harry‘s vocals singing along with her, I don’t know what to tell you. But in all seriousness, I do see how it can be a cheesy song.

Some closing hits: the following track, I’m Gonna Love You Too marks a return of the aggressive, punk influenced keys and guitars. The final track of the album, Just Go Away is the sister track to One Way or Another. Did I sister track? I meant lyrically the opposite. Whoops, my bad. It’s a good and solid track that isn’t one the same level as One Way or Another, but still features those trademark Blondie guitar riffs, drums, and keys.

Conclusion

Parallel Lines is an iconic album and one that still stands the test of time. It’s style is one that has been emulated and exploited by many artists. Quite of the songs from the album still receive regular radio airplay, 40 years after their release. Parallel Lines changed the face of music heading into the 1980’s as punk would crash and burn and give rise to the new wave movement. Deborah Harry and Blondie set the bar so high with Parallel Lines that I don’t think any artist or band in the new wave/punk genre has even come close to topping it. Parallel Lines is a timeless masterpiece.

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Year 6, Day 22: Exploring the Black Holes and Finding Revelations within

Year 6, Day 22: Muse – Black Holes and Revelations

Track List

  1. Take a Bow
  2. Starlight
  3. Supermassive Black Hole
  4. Map of the Problematique
  5. Soldier’s Poem
  6. Invincible
  7. Assassin
  8. Exo-Politics
  9. City of Delusion
  10. Hoodoo
  11. Knights of Cydonia
  12. Glorious (Japanese release only)

About the Album

Black Holes and Revelations is the fourth studio album from English rock band, Muse. The album was recorded from August 2005 through December 2005 and released on July 3rd 2006 through Warner Brothers Records. The album peaked at number on the UK Albums Charts as well as peaked number nine on the Billboard 200. The album is certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Single Starlight peaked at number two on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks.

Thoughts on the Album

Let’s close out this week with a bang… and a big one at that. Like I said in a previous post, 2006 was an excellent year for albums. Like supermassively excellent. English alternative rockers, Muse, made a contribution that year to help make it just that awesomely excellent. 2006 was when I just starting to discover alternative rock, and Muse‘s Black Holes and Revelations helped solidified it as one of my more prefer genres of music to listen to. And it’s right off the bat from the beginning of the album why one can see how this album became so (super)massively popular: it’s experimentation.

Right from the opening, you pick up Muse experimenting with some pop sounds. Lead single Starlight, showcases this new found pop sound experiment, and this experiment easily makes it one of the most popular tracks off the album. The bassline throughout the track rolls and bounces, and I absolutely love it. In fact, a future Green Day song, Last of the American Girls, as a similar bass groove. Moving on, it’s the vocals and guitar work of Matt Bellamy that really shine like the stars at night on this album. Take a Bow showcases Bellamy’s vocals as he does an excellent job of building up the song to a climax before he belts out…

YOU’LL BURN IN HELL!

It’s Bellamy’s guitar work that nearly saves Invincible, however it can’t quite overcome a dull first three and a half minutes. But it’s at that point in the song where the tone shifts and takes one 180º turn and Bellamy whips out arguably the best guitar solo on any Muse song, ever… of all time. But it’s first half of the song that makes Invincible one of the weaker songs on the album.

All is not lost however, as Assassin comes in an steers the ship back in the right direction. In fact the final songs on Black Holes and Revelations are arguably the strongest on the album. Assassin leads off the second half of the album strong with some heavy drums. It’s a heavier sounding track and the drums absolutely power it… like a dynamo. However, it’s the excellent, massive, and downright awesome Knights of Cydonia that closes out the album with fireworks. It’s “galloping triplets”, tremolo picking, and power chords are fantastic and a bitch to try and play. It’s a track that is clearly influenced by the work of Freddie Mercury and Queen, because it’s on a scale all its own when it comes to epicness. Bellamy’s opening guitar riffs and vocals are excellent. It just builds and builds and builds until about the 3:18 mark where the band launches into a Queen-influenced sound singing…

No one’s gonna take me alive, the time has come to make things right, you and I must fight for our rights, you and I must fight to survive!

It’s this Queen-inspired vocal bridge that builds with the synth triplets and then those infamous galloping triplets enter on guitar and then all hell breaks loose. Bellamy and the rest of the band kick down the door and kick out the motherflipping jams.

(Side note: the music video for Knights of Cydonia is pretty awesome. Seriously, laser gun cowboys. Who doesn’t love cowboys with laser guns? #pewpew)

For the Japanese release, the album closes out with Glorious. After the epicness that is Knights of Cydonia, it is the perfect song to follow up and end the album with. It’s excellent and gorgeous.

Conclusion

Black Holes and Revelations could be one of the best albums of the previous decade. It’s an incredibly great album that while not quite perfect, it is a masterpiece. The first half of the album is pretty solid, though weaker than the second half, which is pretty weird because usually the second half of most albums are weaker than the first. An incredibly solid effort that was the right direction for a follow up album after Absolution. It’s the second half of Black Holes and Revelations that make this album. Come for the six minute epic that is Knights of Cydonia, stay for everything else. But seriously, a wild west motif and laser guns. Who says no to that? #pewpew

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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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