Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Derrick's Top 50 Albums of ALL TIME!!1one (#50-41)

Well as you can see the updating every day thing didn't go well...maybe now that I've started the actual top 50 I can try to stick to it...I wouldn't bet on me though...anyway let's get to it:





50. Skycamefalling - 10.21

I got into this album around the time I was first getting into hardcore. I'm pretty sure I bought this because I read some press on it saying it sounded like Poison the Well. I think that comparison is both fair and unfair. It's fair because they're definitely of the same ilk, playing melodic metalcore that can be as brutally heavy as it is achingly beautiful. But it's also unfair because not only does this band's brand of melodic metalcore vary greatly from Poison the Well's, but I think this album is possibly better than anything PTW put out. The melodies are so much more subtle and more seamless in Skycamefalling's music. There's significantly less melodic singing but I actually like Christopher Tzompanakis's scream better...which is saying a lot because I love Jeff Moreira's screaming in PTW but Tzompanakis has such a brutal, throat-tearing scream, but at the same time it's far from being harsh, it almost has a dull (as in the opposite of harsh) sound to it and it's really the perfect scream for the melodic metalcore Skycamefalling plays because it's really kinda chill for a scream. The guitar work is what makes this band for me cuz they do some really great harmonies and beautiful melodic-yet-heavy chords. As far as songwriting chops you'd be hard pressed to find any hardcore band with as much talent as Skycamefalling, they're so in control of the creative process and it really shines through in their music. A must-listen for anyone who likes heavy music with heart.





49. The Arcade Fire - Funeral

This is undoubtedly one of the best bands to garner significant media attention in recent years. They have a very rare quality of being accessible but also unique and fresh-sounding (something very, VERY little mainstream music is these days). A lot of it has to do with Win Butler's wailing, almost desperate vocal delivery that lends the music a certain exuberance. That's not the only exuberant thing about the music though, as their music is filled with these wonderfully joyous explosions and happy sing-a-long choruses. It even has it's darker sounding moments like certain parts of "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" but for the most part it's very uplifting, beautiful music. It even has some elements that remind me of Jimmy Eat World's Clarity album, which is just about the highest praise I can give any band.





48. Jimmy Eat World - Static Prevails

When I was first introduced to Jimmy Eat World I had a keen dislike for them because all I knew of their work was "The Middle" and "Sweetness" being played on MTV constantly (and put in movies). Then a good friend demanded that I buy Clarity and boy am I glad he did because I saw a side of JEW that I never imagined existed. More on that later. After I had become obsessed with Clarity my good friend implored me to give their poppier stuff (specifically Bleed American) a fair chance...and he was right, Bleed American is an awesome album--even the singles grew on me after a while. I remember he explained his theory on how JEW tried to do straight up rock/pop with Static Prevails and it wasn't particularly good other than the song "Call It In the Air" but then they did Clarity and decided to come back to rock/pop with Bleed American and got it right the second time around. At the time it made sense but the more familiar with Static Prevails I became, the more I disagreed with this theory. Static Prevails is a great pop album and I love that the production and a lot of the songwriting has more in common with Clarity than with their output from Bleed American on. The guitars are dripping with Christie Front Drive inspired washy wall of sound guitar tone and guitarist Tom Linton's voice is featured much more prominently than in the post-Bleed American albums which some people don't really care for but a lot of hardcore JEW fans miss dearly about the band. Bottom line: if you like Jimmy Eat World from Bleed American on then do yourself a favor and check this album out because it blows away the rest of their "poppy" output.





47. At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command

I first heard this band during the later stages of my "nu metal" phase and as a result, was unprepared for what I was hearing and didn't really get into it. It took a friend yelling at me for me to realize how amazing this album is. At the time, I was used to chunky, heavy guitars so the crazy chords and intricacies of ATDI were sort of lost on me until my friend educated me on why I was an idiot. Finally I saw the light and realized that the guitar work on this album is some of the best and most creative you'll ever hear. This whole band really melds together so well but it definitely centers around the brilliant guitar work (at least for me it does). The songwriting is pretty brilliant too and full of wild, untamed energy that releases in uncontrolled bursts inter-spliced with some really good catchy indie pop moments and a lot of swirling, uneasy atmospheres. The Mars Volta is a great band but they really can't ever measure up to the raw, unbridled musical tantrum of Relationship of Command.





46. Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come

I can actually remember the specific day I first bought this album. Actually I'm pretty sure it was my very last day of high school. I think everyone else was off celebrating in some way or another and somehow I ran into my friend ML and we hung out and went to Best Buy and I bought this CD. His house was within walking distance so we walked there and he put on the CD and immediately we both were really into it (well, he liked it, I dunno if he was REALLY into it...but I was). The energy and the hard attacking riffs reminded me a lot of a hardcore version of Rage Against the Machine (at least in the first track) but the more I listened to the album and the deeper into it I got the more I discovered that this was far from the average hardcore record. The Shape of Punk to Come really is quite a fitting title for this album because its influence remains prevalent even now. There are bursts of pure hardcore energy such as "Worms of the Sense/Faculties of the Skull", "New Noise", and the short, fast explosion of "Refused Party Program"--sometimes infused with vaguely folky or jazzy elements such as with "Liberation Frequency" and "The Deadly Rhythm", respectively. There are the danceably dangerous grooves of "Summer Holidays v. Punk Routine" and the title track as well as the slightly more sassy "Refused Are Fucking Dead" which features a brave, powerful ending climax. Then there are the deeper, slightly darker, more melodically satisfying songs like the marching romp of "Protest Song '68" (another great climactic ending here) or the powerful, melancholic, violin-laden "Tannhauser." From there it quiets down with "Tannhauser" feeding directly into the bouncy acoustic "Derive" (the two are part of the same song named "Tannhauser/Derive") which then gives way to a very solemn acoustic closer called "The Apollo Programme Was a Hoax" that closes the album out on a beautiful note, repeating the lines "Sabotage will set us free. Throw a rock in the machine."





45. nine inch nails - The Downward Spiral

I used to love this album in high school in spite of the fact that I was only truly familiar with the first five songs. "Heresy" was always my favorite because honestly, what angsty teenager wouldn't love screaming "YOUR GOD IS DEAD...AND NO ONE CARES...IF THERE IS A HELL...I'LL SEE YOU THERE" over and over. I always liked The Fragile a little better though because I was more into Reznor's atmospheric ventures than his harsh industrial ones. But as with anything, the more familiar I became with this album, the more I realized how truly brilliant it is. "Ruiner" is one of the most haunting, ominous songs in the NIN catalog and without a hint of subtlety. "The Becoming" is a textbook example of Reznor's programming wizardry slamming head first into his effortless talent for songwriting and arranging. Reznor said in one interview that "With The Downward Spiral I tried to make a record that had full range, rather than a real guitar-based record or a real synth-based record. I tried to make it something that opened the palate for NIN, so we don't get pigeon-holed. It was a conscious effort to focus more on texture and space, rather than bludgeoning you over the head for an hour with a guitar." That's a perfect description for this record, it absolutely has a little bit of everything that NIN fans love. There are roaring guitar-heavy tracks like "Mr. Self Destruct" and "March of the Pigs", there are gyrating, kinky songs like "Closer" and "I Do Not Want This", some with combinations of these elements and so on. It's hard to really describe this madness or classify any of the songs because there's so much going on in each song that no matter how many times you listen to it you'll find new things to love about it.





44. Nirvana - Nevermind and MTV Unplugged

There's a whole school of jaded Nirvana fans who are so sick of Nevermind and all the radio airplay it gets between "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "In Bloom", "Come As You Are", and "Lithium" and have therefore declared their staunch belief that In Utero is Nirvana's magnum opus. If not, then they are of the steadfast opinion that MTV Unplugged is the best thing they ever did. The latter argument I can understand better than the former, to be honest. Unplugged is an amazing snapshot of a band not only at the top of their game but willing to step off the pedestal and try something drastically different, playing an acoustic set full of some of the deeper tracks from their albums as well as some magnificent covers of songs by The Vaselines, The Meat Puppets, David Bowie, and Leadbelly. As for the former, I see where they're coming from and yes, I do think Nevermind tends to be a little overrated and In Utero tends to be vastly underrated but I also don't think that makes it better. In Utero is definitely more in line with Kurt Cobain's vision for the music he wanted to play but it's also somewhat unfocused and forgettable at times, while Nevermind is relentlessly strong (and a lot more diverse, really) from start to finish. Sometimes it gets lost in the sweeping tide that was the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" sensation but when you get past the first (three) track(s) there is so much underappreciated and brilliant music to be had. "Breed" is punishing but oh-so-catchy punk rock classic. "Polly" is a starkly tragic and honest acoustic venture with incredibly simple chords and verse/chorus arrangement but is so powerful in its simplicity. "Territorial Pissings" is an angry burst of shrill guitars and throaty shrieks. "Drain You", "On a Plain", and "Lounge Act" are some of the most capable pop songs you'll ever hear and truly a testament to the band's songwriting chops, being simultaneously accessible, memorable, emotional, raucous, and downright captivating. "Something In the Way" takes the album out on a desperately solemn acoustic-guitar-and-strings note that seems only fitting somehow, doesn't it?





43. Deftones - Adrenaline and Around the Fur

For quite a long period in high school, Deftones were hands down my favorite band. I must have listened to their first three major label releases at least a hundred times each from start to finish (hundreds in the case of Adrenaline). Adrenaline was the first Deftones record I bought and I was into it but not that into it because the production seemed kinda weak and treble-y at the time. Once I bought White Pony and heard them in all their glory I was hooked but not until I bought Around the Fur was this band cemented as one of my favorites. I bought it about a week before I was going to see them live at my first concert ever, Zetafest 2000. As soon as I heard "My Own Summer (Shove It)" I couldn't stop listening to it. That riff was just so perfect and the song was so heavy but so watery and melodic. The whole album has that same watery/washy feel to it in the guitar tone and the cymbal work that lends it such a unique sound among "nu metal" bands. All three of Deftones's initial major releases has something about it that makes it sound unique and completely different from not only every other band they're considered to be peers to but also the album that came before it (or after it). I've always had a soft spot in my heart for bands that seem to be able to somehow sound completely different with every subsequent album they put out and still retain a distinct sound that is unmistakeably their own. Deftones were one of those bands--although their ability to morph so drastically from album to album seems to have diminished to a certain degree with their last two offerings. Adrenaline is almost in the realm of skate rock (or even skate metal, if that even exists) with its vaguely hip-hop grooves and unmistakable, almost "tube-like" (very treble-y and streamlined, tightly distorted...like the sound waves distort with such a high frequency that the loose, more Harley Davidson sounding distortion is absent) guitar tone that sounds like no other guitar tone I've ever heard. Around the Fur is just a perfect fusion of aggression and melody, of angst and desperation. It's the album where Deftones really hit their stride with the whole "whisper-scream" dynamics thing that they were so instrumental in pioneering. And to ask me to pick between the two is just unfair.





42. Tool - Undertow and Lateralus

When I first heard Lateralus, as much as I unabashedly loved it, I couldn't help thinking it left something to be desired five years removed from the masterpiece of ├ćnima. I felt like Tool was capable of doing so much better which speaks more to the otherworldly expectations created by ├ćnima then it does to the actual mediocrity of Lateralus. In reality, Lateralus is an amazing album and one which is entirely worthy of bearing Tool's name. Yeah, the droning interludes and extended passages get tiresome and are a bit too self-consciously artsy at times. However, it's hard to deny the strength of "The Grudge", "The Patient", the title track, and the "Disposition"/"Reflection"/"Triad" triumvirate. Even "Parabol"/"Parabola", "Ticks and Leeches", and "Schism" are perfectly adequate Tool songs, if slightly subpar by the lofty standards the band has set for themselves. Undertow, on the other hand, is one that had to grow on me a lot. The production is a bit thin and the music suffers to a certain degree as a result. But look past that and you'll find a plethora of extraordinarily powerful songs, albeit relatively simple ones as far as Tool is concerned. "Intolerance" is a perfect example of this, which is a good thing because it's the opening track. We all know and love "Sober", of course. "Bottom", "Crawl Away", "Swamp Song", "4 Degrees) and "Undertow" are all phenomenal hidden gems on this album with powerful choruses. "Flood" is the last real song on the album and ventures out close to sludge metal territory in the intro before giving way to one of the best Tool songs ever. The album ends with the very odd but very intriguing "Disgustipated" which features a very weird speech about carrots and harvest time and how "for them it is the holocaust." Before you even know what's going on, a primal, tribal drum beat kicks in with Maynard repeatedly whispering "THIS IS NECESSARY...THIS IS NECESSARY...LIFE FEEDS ON LIFE FEEDS ON LIFE FEEDS ON LIFE" over it. Pretty fitting end for a Tool album when you think about it...totally weird but unexpectedly gripping and fascinating.





41. Thursday - Full Collapse

Such phenomenal songwriters deserve better than to be referred to as "screamo" or "emo" or whatever the hell. This is easily one of the most well-written albums to be lumped into a genre so full of unlistenable dreck. The guitar harmonies, both distorted and clean, are something to behold, as are the seamless arrangements. Geoff Rickly's vocal delivery may not be everyone's cup of tea and it's certainly not classically trained but he does lay it ALL on the line when he sings and I appreciate "heart-on-your-sleeve" earnest, passionate vocals probably more than technically sound ones. An interesting note about this record: Tom Schlatter, whose work in seminal screamo (without quotes...as in REAL screamo) bands You and I and The Assistant was hugely influential on Thursday's music, does guest vocals on "Autobiography of a Nation" and "Cross Out the Eyes."



OK, that's it for today. Tune in tomorrow to see if I can actually manage to update this thing two days in a row (again...I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you).

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