It’s been entirely too long since my last Twenty-some Suggestions post. But I suppose it is fitting to have waited this long, as I have another twenty-some suggestions listed here. Song titles in bold are streaming after each entry.
I am happy to report that Weezer is officially back. They have been up-and-down their last several albums with the notable Red Album being a real pile of junk, in my opinion. On Ratidude, the band bring back their fun times sound and nerdy I-like-you-but-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-about-it lyrics. Surprisingly, their is even a cameo from Lil Wayne. Yeah, I didn’t see that one coming either, and it doesn’t even ruin the song, so bonus. You’ve no doubt heard “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” as it’s all over the radio these days, but there are several real gems on this album. Weezer fans will be relieved to know that this album does not suck, and non-fans may even be turned on by a couple of the upbeat, dare I say poppy, tracks to be found here. Be sure to check out “I Want You To,” “The Girl Got Hot” and “In The Mall”.
Dead By Sunrise Out of Ashes
Chester Bennington of Linkin Park decided that he had some songs that didn’t really fit that band, so he got a different group of guys and recorded an album. In reality, these songs would have fit LP just fine. This album is for people, like myself, who like LP but hate Mike Shinoda (he’s the rapper in that band). This collection tends to be more mid-tempo like LP’s last couple of singles (“New Divide” and “Shadow of the Day”), but there are some real rockers on here, too. LP fans should particularly enjoy this album, but as a non-LP fan, I can tell you that there are some really good songs here. Listen first to “Inside of Me,” “Crawl Back In” and “End of the World”.
Alice In Chains Black Gives Way To Blue
I’ve been saying it for years now, the most influential band of the grunge era wasn’t Nirvana, it was Alice In Chains. Listen to any rock radio station, you won’t hear a bunch of Nirvana clones, you’ll hear a bunch of AIC clones. In April, 2002, Layne Staley overdosed. This is the first time the surviving members have recorded together since then, and the loss is felt throughout the album. This isn’t the best album AIC has ever released, but it’s the best they’ve put out in 10 years. Highlights include “Check My Brain,” “A Looking In View” and “Black Gives Way To Blue” which is literally the band saying goodbye to their comrade and features Elton John playing piano. If you think it’s sacrilege to replace Staley, I suggest giving this a listen and realizing the fault of your ways. William DuVall does an excellent job filling in for the missing front man.
Florence + the Machine Lungs
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for redheads. Florence Welch is just that, and absolutely gorgeous. It doesn’t hurt that her music is amazing, too. Her lyrics are at once poetic and narrative, deep and transparent. Her voice is piercing and angelic. The music is subtle and churning. Emphasizing the rhythm section in the heavy drum and bass lines, Florence both makes you think and want to dance. The music is similar to White Rabbits, for those that are familiar with them. My faves include “Dog Days Are Over,” “Drumming” and “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”.
Paramore Brand New Eyes
Prior to this album, Hayley Williams and her cohorts made some really good pop-punk. They didn’t do much to shed the Christian Rock tag. This album, however, follows a very rocky time in the band’s evolution. There were times when the rumors of the band breaking up were conceivable, and the band took that energy and turned it into the album’s first single, “Ignorance.” Featuring lines like “Where’s your gavel, your jury, what’s my offense this time, you’re not a judge, but if you’re gonna judge me, sentence me to another life.” The song was written about the times when the band was closest to splitting. The angst on this album shoes a certain level maturity beyond their sugary past and moving into their adolescent years, if not as people, at least as a band. That feeling lasts throughout the album including “Playing God” and “Brick By Boring Brick“.
Pearl Jam Backspacer
Easily the band’s best album since 1998’s Yield, Backspacer is a return to form of sorts for a band that has tried so desperately not to be famous for two of their last three albums. They seem to finally be comfortable being popular, and they are writing stadium anthems yet again. From the first chords of “Gonna See My Friend” the fearsome fivesome blaze a trail of emotion that will rock your socks off. Yet the band reminds us that they like to occasionally slow it down with songs like “Just Breathe,” heavily influenced by lead man Eddie Vedder’s foray into the solo world, his album/soundtrack Into the Wild. It’s a complete album, which I wouldn’t be able to say about any of their last three releases. Check out the tracks already mentioned as well as “Unthought Known” and “Supersonic.”
Muse The Resistence
This is one of England’s biggest bands. They have quietly been carving out a niche in America since 2005 when “Time Is Running Out” was first released as a single in the US. This is a band that is so insanely dense, both on CD and on stage, that it can be difficult to get into. With each of their albums I have had to give a few spins before really grasping the genius, but I always end up doing so. The trio of Matthew Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard manage to create a swirling hurricane of rock and roll that over the years has placed them in the upper echelons of modern rock bands (see: Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, etc). Bellamy has said that he was highly influenced by George Orwell’s 1984 during the writing of this album. One might think that would create a work of paranoia and oppression, but the romance in that novel is represented well on this album. I really dig “Uprising,” “Undisclosed Desires” and “I Belong To You.”
Fun. Aim & Ignite
The Phoenicians reading this (and some outside of Arizona) will remember the Format. Nate Reuss, formerly of the Format, now leads Fun. This album very much follows in the steps of the final Format album, Dog Problems. It’s very 70s pop, dramatic and show-tuney. Here and there you get a little Simon and Garfunkel, too. I didn’t like it when it was the Format, but this isn’t the Format, so I’m okay with it now. Highlights include “All the Pretty Girls,” “Walking the Dog” and “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be).”
Hockey Mind Chaos
Not your typical indie-dance band, Hockey conjures visions of New York City and London simultaneously. Even though the band is from Portland, it somehow doesn’t seem odd at all. Opening track, and first single, “Too Fake” proclaims that they band has “too much soul for the world” and the following 10-tracks seem to back that up pretty solidly. The bouncing bass, the Strokes-y riffs, and the 8-bit bloops and blips come together as an excellent recipe for a good time. Check out “Too Fake,” “Song Away” and “Work”.
Possibly Matthew Miller’s most complete album to-date. Without being as preachy as he has been in the past, Matisyahu continues to meld hip-hop, reggae and his Orthodox Jewish beliefs into a wonderfully listenable stew. Since the release of Youth in 2006 Miller has married, and thus has a different look to his fashion. He now wears more fashionable clothing including hoodies, sneakers, etc. This change seems to have had a positive affect on his music as well. Gone are the drawn out yodels, and in their place is a more urgent sense of connection with a broader audience. Stand out tracks include “One Day,” “For You” and “On Nature”.
Rodrigo y Gabriela 11:11
This power duo used to be in heavy metal bands in Mexico. They’ve since dropped all the peripherals and are now an acoustic instrumental rock band. They play metal on acoustic guitars, and acoustic guitars only. This album sees some extra instrumentation, but it doesn’t take away from the 2-guitars kicking your ass feel they have become known for. Each song on this album is dedicated to an artist that has influenced the duo. “Buster Voodoo,” for example, is dedicated to Jimi Hendrix. The liner notes give a full, and very interesting, breakdown for each song. My faves are “Buster Voodoo,” “Hanuman,” and “11:11”.
Shad The Old Prince
I literally stumbled up on Shad at this summer’s Warped Tour in Salt Lake. He was exiled to a stage in far flung corner of the fair grounds. I was just walking around seeing what there was to see, and found a stage that I didn’t even realize existed for most the day. Shad was born in Kenya, of Rwandan parents, and grew up in London, Ontario. Confusing? Yes. But his lyrics aren’t. Shad is backpack rap in the vein Jurrasic 5, Common (before Kanye) and Atmosphere. He is witty and personal in his lyrics, and minimalist (almost to a fault) in his beats. I really dig “Now A Daze,” “Compromise” and “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home.”
The Bloody Beetroots Romboramba
I first heard their name from my ex-girlfriend, she was told by a coworker that this was a group she must see at Coachella 2009. My partner in crime at Coachella, Doc, and I checked out a bit of their set and I was really impressed by their music. This, their debut album, is pretty dang good. The Beetroots are from Italy, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by listening to them. It’s great party music, for sure. (For you electronic purists, they’re classified as “fidget house” or “electro house”.) They have several guests on this album, too. One of my favorite rap groups lately, the Cool Kids make appearance on “Awesome”. While notable DJ Steve Aoki appears on a couple of songs. Several other guests appear as well. The tracks I like the most are the aforementioned “Awesome” as well as “Have Mercy On Us” and “Come La”.
Julian Plenti Julian Plenti is…Skyscraper
Julian Plenti is perhaps better known as Paul Banks, lead singer for Interpol. On his solo album, he doesn’t do much to reinvent what you already know about him. This is essentially an extension of what his main band already does. But don’t let that steer you away from it, as it is a good companion to your Interpol library. And if you don’t have any Interpol in your music collection, this is as good a place to start as any. This album is a return to the earlier, darker Interpol while still being accessible on the level of that band’s last release, Our Love To Admire. Pay particular attention to “Game For Days” (the lead single), “Only If You Run” and “Girl On the Sporting News”.
Modest Mouse No One’s First and You’re Next
This is a compilation of unreleased songs and b-sides. Unlike some other bands’ b-sides albums, there are some really great songs here. Some are from the Johnny Marr phase of the band, while some pre-date his addition. If you don’t already know about Modest Mouse, then I actually feel sorry for you. In addition to checking out this collection, get Lonesome Crowded West and Good News For People Who Love Bad News. Fave tracks on No One’s First include “Guilty Cocker Spaniels,” “Satellite Skin” and “King Rat” (which has a video that was directed by Heath Ledger before his death).
Owl City Ocean Eyes
There’s no denying that this album sounds a lot like Death Cab For Cutie and the Postal Service. Adam Young’s voice is very similar to Ben Gibbard’s, but his lyrics are quite a bit different, and so is the overall feel of the music. While Gibbard writes very dark and melancholy words and music, Young tends to lean toward a more positive and upbeat world view. Owl City is for people who find Death Cab too sad and overwhelming; it’s Death Cab Lite, and they do a pretty good job of it. Young recorded the entire album (and previous works from Owl City) in his parents’ basement in Owatonna, Minnesota, about two hours or so south of the Twin Cities, and has a major hit in “Fireflies” on his hands. Standout tracks include “Fireflies” and “Hello Seattle“.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart S/T
Shoegazing pop music with a thick layer of fuzz from some crafty songwriters fills this album, the bands first full length effort. At times the band sounds like post-grunge Seattle, at times it sounds like the Cure’s younger brother, or the darker side of Peter Bjorn and John. Anyway you slice it, the intentionally lo-fi sound doesn’t do anything to hurt the superb songwriting. The melancholy lyrics sung as if it was sugar-pop is a fantastic juxtoposition that my ears enjoy quite thoroughly. My faves are “Young Adult Friction,” “This Love Is Fucking Right” and “Everything With You”.
The Used Artwork
This band helped usher in the screamo “movement” of the early-mid oughts, which should make me hate them, but they’re just so damn good. Their last album, Shallow Believer, was largely ignored and this one seems to be experiencing a similar fate. I don’t understand why Alternative radio has given up on this band, they are still making catchy heavy rock music that you can both head bang and toe-tap along with. Start with “Blood On My Hands” and if you want more then check out “The Best of Me” and “Watered Down”.
Gallows Grey Britain
These guys are for the hardcore fans out there. I first discovered this band from Watford, England, (a suburb of London) when they put out their last album, Orchestra of Wolves, and really liked it. Now they’re back with their second full length, and first foray on a major label in America (they signed with Warner Bros). This album is a much more polished sound, without losing the intent or anger of the genre. As with many of their peers and punk bands before them, this foursome hates the crown. But unlike many of their predecessors, and even more of their peers, they have monster riffs that wouldn’t seem out of place in a sold out arena. Best tracks include “London Is the Reason,” “I Dread the Night” and “The Vulture (Acts I & II)”.
The Dead Weather Horehound
Jack White. That really should be enough for you to want to check this band out. Allison Mosshart of the Kills heads up the lion’s share of the vocals as White focuses on playing drums. The lineup is rounded out by Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs, The Greenhornes) and Dean Fertita (The Raconteurs, Queens of the Stone Age). On paper, it’s quite the lineup, in your ears it only gets better. As with any White project, it is very bluesy, but there seems to be a lot more angst and raw emotion in the Dead Weather than the White Stripes or the Raconteurs. Standout tracks include “Hang You From the Heavens,” “I Cut Like a Buffalo” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother”.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs It’s Blitz!
Longtime fans of this band will notice a stark change in sound on this, their third full-length. For It’s Blitz! the band brought in a lot of synth sounds, while not changing the over all mood of the band’s music, they definitely reinvented their own sound. Songs like “Zero” are at once angsty but danceable. They brought in a little of the new-school indie-dance feel and mixed it with the existing indie-grunge sound the band had on their previous efforts. Karen O continues to be one of the best female vocalists in alternative music, and her bandmates continue to be supremely astute at backing her up. Check out the aforementioned “Zero” as well as “Heads Will Roll,” “Shame and Fortune” and “Hysteric”.
Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This French electro-pop collective have been working hard to make a name for themselves in the States since they’re debut in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2004 that they really started to carve out a niche with their sophomore album Alphabetical. Now the band has their forth album out and is really making waves with their single “1901”. The song has been featured in several prime-time shows and was picked up by Cadillac for a recent commercial. The album is another step in the process of this maturing band, they are getting better at writing songs, and it shows here. If you like mood music, this is a good album to set the tone for a chill night. Check out “1901,” “Lisztomania” and “Girlfriend”.
Nouvelle Vague 3
This group is comprised of two French DJs, Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, and various female singers. This is, obviously, the bands third album of punk, post-punk and New Wave covers that are heavy on the bossa nova. This album features covers of Depeche Mode’s “Master and Servant,” Violent Femmes’ “Blister In the Sun” and Psychedelic Furs’ “Heaven” among many others. If you like covers, and in-particular, reinvention of songs, this is a good chill album to have in your collection.