Last year I was a little slow to post my hall of fame choices for best albums of 2013, but if any of you remember that post, you might recall that at the end of it I mentioned my two most anticipated releases for 2014. Well, not too surprisingly both of those albums are at the top of my list for this year’s album hall of fame. I sincerely hope you’ll take the time to click on at least a few of the links I’ve provided in this post & discover some new music to enjoy in the coming year.
- The Outsiders by Eric Church (Country . . . with rock influences)
I already have an entire blog post about why Eric Church is such a musical genius which was largely inspired by this album, so I won’t spend too long describing the individual songs on this one (you can read that post here: https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/02/25/why-eric-church-might-be-the-musical-genius-of-the-21st-century/). I’ve seen Eric Church in concert twice in the past three months which makes for a total of three times in the past two years. And I’d still go see him again tomorrow, no questions asked. Eric Church just has such a raw, inspiring energy that his music, especially live, never gets old. If you don’t normally like country music, I sincerely implore you to check out this album anyway. This is clearly the most rock-influenced album Church has ever produced (listen to the title track here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_P-YNJIdNc or to “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rknp0kkVzY), yet there are several pieces with some serious blues influence that bring to mind old-fashioned swamp music from the deep South (see “Cold One”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKvE-WoooLE). But true to form, it’s the sometimes witty, sometimes heart-wrenching lyrics that are the greatest strength of all of Church’s music. Church has stated in an interview “One thing I miss is turning on the radio & just having a song punch me in the gut, &, as a songwriter, knock me on my ass. And I think we could use more of that” (see: Eric Church Misses More Substance on ‘Feel-Good’ Country Radio). I miss that too, but I’m happy to say that every track on The Outsiders is one that has punched me in the gut, in one way or another. Also, do yourself a favor & listen to the whole album from start to finish. Church has stated that’s the way it’s meant to be heard, & he’s 100% right when he says that each song becomes more powerful when listened to in order.
- Magic Mountain by Black Stone Cherry (Rock/Southern Rock)
This was my second most anticipated release of 2014, & happily it did NOT disappoint. If you’re not familiar with BSC, they are a four-piece rock band based out of a small town in Kentucky whose music has notable Southern rock influences. There are plenty of upbeat “partying” type songs on this album, including the notable title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAtHWXtEV7w), but there are several more serious pieces as well. The ballad “Sometimes” is easily one of the most well-written songs BSC have ever recorded (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrnUpoJ9sno). The emotion in Chris’s voice in that song is just so palpable that it’s impossible not to be touched. Additionally, check out “Remember Me” which was written the day the lead singer’s grandfather died (you can see the video & read about the inspiration for the song here: http://loudwire.com/black-stone-cherry-remember-me-exclusive-video-premiere). For a great motivational “pick-me-up,” check out “Never Surrender” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68ELngYG3IU). BSC is one of those bands who clearly deserves more radio play than they get, so do yourself a favor & check out this album because there isn’t a single bad song on it.
- Blood for Blood by Hellyeah (Hard Rock/Metal)
I had actually never heard of Hellyeah until I started seeing their song “Sangre Por Sangre” on a hard rock blog that I follow (https://hardrockdaddy.wordpress.com/). Intrigued by the Spanish title of the song I decided to check it out on YouTube one day. Rarely have I ever been so immediately blown away by a song as I was by this one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keZ-GsRRVlQ). The words, the music itself, the message behind the song, all of it is just undeniably powerful. I ended up buying the album & quickly fell in love with it. With songs that touch on the horrors of war, child abuse, & violence in general, this album definitely isn’t for the faint of heart & probably shouldn’t be played around young children (though you ought to be able to guess that just by the band’s name), but please don’t let that stop you from enjoying one of the year’s best albums. Be sure to check out “Moth” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIWeIChes5k), “Cross to Bier” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRBc8YqePrg), & “Hush” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PQd3HYHYXA).
- Black Widow by In This Moment (Metal)
I just bought this album a few weeks or maybe a month ago, & it’s been on almost constant replay in my car ever since. ITM’s 2013 album Blood caught my attention & made my hall of fame for last year, but Black Widow is even more impressive than Blood. Maria Brink wasn’t kidding when she said the lyrics to this album are largely based on her own personal experiences. “Sex Metal Barbie” is Maria’s devilishly witty response to all those who trash her & her music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–bhD1uItK8) while “The Fighter” is a piano-driven ballad about survival that is easily one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard in my entire life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWNkqfn5oh4). Even if you don’t traditionally like metal or ITM, I beg you to at least listen to “The Fighter;” it’s just that good. I could go on & on about this album, but be sure to check out the title track with its infectious melody (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMEQ4aWnK2s), “Big Bad Wolf” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJBQzF1AwvU), & “Sexual Hallucination,” the haunting duet with Brent Smith, the lead singer of Shinedown (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fp4yRDEVyM). Both lyrically & musically I have no doubt this is ITM’s best album to date, & you will be greatly remiss if you don’t give it a good listen.
- 1000 HP by Godsmack (Hard Rock)
When 1000 HP debuted this year, it had been four years since the last Godsmack album & many of us weren’t quite sure what to expect. While the title track describes the band’s rise to fame & is wildly fun (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rL4em-Xv5o), it’s some of the other pieces that I believe truly make this album one for the record books. The current single “Something Different” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH_SbTsOBxo) showcases a lot of the Alice in Chains influence for which Godsmack is famous. Sully’s growling voice is perfectly in place in this brooding piece, just as it is in “Turning to Stone” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xWNxdmXqe0), which is very reminiscent of “Serenity” & some of the other more melodic/acoustic pieces from earlier albums. Being Godsmack, of course there are plenty of upbeat/angry pieces too including one of my favorites, “Locked and Loaded” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJGUB8ws8uQ). While staying true to their signature sound, this album truly showcases the various different sides of Godsmack & a real maturity that is nothing short of scintillating.
- All or Nothin’ by Nikki Lane (Alternative Country)
Some of you may remember reading about Nikki Lane in one of my blog posts from November (https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/11/14/the-6-best-bands-youve-never-heard-about/), but if not let me introduce you to one of the most fascinating voices in alternative country today. I discovered Nikki Lane sometime this year & was immediately intrigued by her unique voice & her cleverly crafted lyrics. This album was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys & actually includes a duet with him, “Love’s on Fire” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUKZshEAWSg). Check out Nikki’s rock & roll spirit in “Right Time” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzS3vU6wZa4), & then check out her more jazzy/bluesy side in “You Can’t Talk to Me Like That” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCRRO_IqVgs).
- Stuck by Adelita’s Way (Hard Rock)
I’ll be the first to admit that this album actually disappointed me a bit the first couple times I listened to it. Before I purchased it I had already fallen in love with the lead single “Dog on a Leash” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqrNmlK2nog) so I was expecting a lot more songs like that. As it turns out the album is a conglomeration of some more traditional harder songs like that one as well as quite a few softer, more ballad-like pieces. With time though, I’ve come to really appreciate the entire album. There is no question that this band is very talented both musically & lyrically, & if you read any of his interviews, you’ll quickly understand why I have so much respect for lead singer Rick DeJesus. Be sure to listen to “Save the World” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3062FJuCZI), “Something More” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f926saj7Bvg), & “Blur” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kO4WYoawUA).
- Restless by The Gallery (Soft Rock/Pop)
This is actually a 2013 album but I discovered it this year so I’m including it in my list for 2014. (It’s my blog so I can do whatever I want anyway, ha!) In any case, The Gallery is a four-piece soft rock band based out of Massachusetts who opened for Honor By August at the Pourhouse in downtown Raleigh this summer. I was there to see Honor By August, but I was very impressed with The Gallery as well. Being the music junkie I am, I of course purchased their album. Being a hard rock fan, it took me a little while to warm up to the mellower sound of this band, but once I did I realized how truly ingenius their song-writing is, both musically & lyrically. This band really knows how to write songs that pierce to the heart of 20-somethings today (probably because they are 20-somethings!). Check out the infectious melody of “Fast Friends,” a tribute to the oh-so-popular “friends with benefits” arrangement & how it’s never as uncomplicated as it’s “supposed” to be (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlRIczaovdw). “The Catalyst” was the song that really caught my attention at the concert because the lyrics “You lit me up like a cigarette/Then you burned me down & now there’s nothing left/You were the one who put the spark to this/You were the gasoline, you were the catalyst” just struck me as so fascinating (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQnmzqvLAd0). Also check out “The Runaround” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo1toCvDv8E).
As I did last year, I’ll end this year’s post with my most anticipated releases of the coming year. I for one cannot wait to hear Halestorm’s third album which is scheduled to debut sometime in early 2015 (the sooner, the better!). I’m also sincerely hoping Gemini Syndrome will come out with another album this year. (If you don’t know them but you like FFDP or Tool, check them out NOW. Their 2013 debut album Lux is amazing & has become a favorite of mine as well as my husband.)
Happy listening & happy 2015, everyone!