The Most Influential Albums in My Life (Part 1)

When reading or listening to interviews with rocks stars I always find it fascinating to discover their choices for the most influential albums in their life.  As a total music junkie myself, today I thought it would be fun to share my own choices for the most influential albums in my life.  I’ve chosen these albums not only because they’re filled with some of my favorite songs (both lyrically & musically), but also because they are the kind of albums that helped me discover bands or genres with which I wasn’t previously familiar.  Anyhow, as I was writing I realized this was becoming quite a novel, so I decided to split it into two posts.  Here’s part one:music quote

  1. The Golden Age of Grotesque by Marilyn Manson (2003)
    • Despite the fact that this was by far not his most well-reviewed or commercially successful work, this will probably always be my favorite Manson album.  What’s interesting is that several of my favorite rock stars, including Chris from Motionless in White, have listed this as one of the most influential albums in their lives as well.  Stylistically this album was largely influenced by the Degenerate Art of 1930s Germany (the kind of modern art the Nazis banned), so there is a definite jazz feeling to certain songs which I of course love (check out the bizarrely named but incredibly fun Doll-Dagga-Buzz-Buzz-Ziggety-Zag). golden age of grotesque There is also a strong electronic influence from Swedish bassist Tim Skold. This can be clearly heard on the song that made me fall in love with this album, This is the New Shit, which is lyrically every bit as, if not more, relevant now than it was when it was released thirteen years ago.  Those who don’t understand that Manson’s music has always been a reaction against the celebration of violence, gore, sex, & commercialism in modern (particularly American) culture will completely miss the point of this song.  Personally, I find it brilliant.  Another favorite of mine from this album is the slightly crude but clever (s)aint.  I think anyone who has ever felt rejected by their peers will understand the angst of the lyrics perfectly.  Other favorites from this album are VodevilBetter of Two Evils, & The Bright Young Things.  I could go on & on, but for sake of time I’ll end by saying you simply MUST check out this album.
  2. Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) by Marilyn Manson (2000)holywood
    • For the most part I tried to only include one album from a single band or artist but Manson is just too much of an influence to limit myself in that way.  When I first fell in love with Manson, I quickly became enamored with the music & the message of The Fight Song, one of the most well-known songs from this album, but if you dig deeper into the history of this record you will realize just how brilliant the whole album really is.  One must remember that in 1999 Manson was very unjustly blamed by a great deal of the American media for the Columbine high school shooting tragedy.  What’s fascinating of course is to realize how maturely & humbly Manson handled the entire ordeal which truly threatened to topple his entire career (read Manson’s essay in Rolling Stone & tell me he isn’t brilliant).  In any case, this record was clearly influenced by the entire tragedy & is Manson’s way of showcasing to the world just how much our society truly glorifies & celebrates violence while at the same time pretending to condemn it.  There are also strong historical references to the Kennedy era.  This is not an album you can digest in one sitting.  Like any truly great work of art, you discover something new every time you listen to it.  And like so much of Manson’s music, songs like The Love SongDisposable Teens, & Target Audience are every bit as much of an indictment of modern American society now as they were when the album was first released.
  3. Halestorm by Halestorm (2009)halestorm albm
    • If I had to choose a favorite of Halestorm’s three amazing albums, it would actually be their most recent release Into the Wild Life.  However, it was their debut album from 2009 that first caught my attention & made me fall in love with the band.  The first single I Get Off admittedly grabbed my attention partly because it initially sounds very sexual.  But when you realize that Lzzy Hale actually wrote the song about the interaction between herself & the crowd when she’s performing her music, the song takes on a whole new power.  Then there are more ballad-like tracks such as Familiar Taste of Poison with its haunting, almost gothic feel & I’m Not an Angel which perfectly showcases Lzzy’s soaring vocals.  I’ve listened to this album literally countless times & yet it never loses its power, & I’m continually amazed that this was a debut album.  It’s definitely the album that started my love affair with this band.  (I’ve only seen them live four times now, & I’d gladly go again tomorrow, given the chance.  Fun fact: my baby has already attended a Halestorm concert too because I found out I was pregnant exactly three days after the last Halestorm show I saw!)
  4. The House of Gold & Bones (Volumes 1 & 2) by Stone Sour (2012-2013)stone sour house of gold and bones
    • I can’t even remember what other album I was looking for at Best Buy when, on a whim, I decided to pick up Volume 1 of this incredible two-part concept album.  Prior to buying Volume 1 I only knew a handful of songs by Stone Sour, but I was definitely enamored with the first single Absolute Zero which is why I decided to pick up the album when I saw it on sale.  As it turned out, the minute I heard the first chords of the opening tract Gone Sovereign & how it seamlessly melted into Absolute Zero, I was in total awe (you can listen to both tracks in the prior link, as their videos are dovetailed).  From start to finish there isn’t a single bad song on this album. Lyrically & musically it is completely brilliant.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: this album is like a rock symphony.  Each song blends flawlessly into the next one, & the whole record just feels like one giant masterpiece.  The same is equally true for Volume 2.  From Volume 1 don’t miss the hauntingly beautiful ballad Taciturn which serves to make the following track Influence of a Drowsy God even more powerful.  From Volume 2 be sure to check out the angry but brilliant Do Me a Favor as well as the gorgeous ballad The Conflagration which flows seamlessly into the epic ending The House of Gold & Bones.
  5. The Outsiders by Eric Church (2014)eric church the outsiders
    • Ahh, if you know me at all, you should have known that Eric Church would show up on this list somewhere.  The ironic thing is that when I first heard Church’s music I wasn’t impressed.  I thought he was a little too grungy, a little too “dirty.”  What’s funny is that now those are the exact reasons I love his music.  In any case, seeing Church perform live was what truly solidified my adoration for his entire persona (a fact I’m sure he’d appreciate).  Not long after that concert I purchased his third album Chief & quickly fell in love with every song.  Needless to say when The Outsiders debuted I bought it the very day it was released.  Once again from start to finish I was completely enthralled with the album & still am.  From the gritty & bombastic opener The Outsiders to sweet ballads like Talladega to the best & most realistic country sex song ever, there’s something here for everyone.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention That’s Damn Rock & Roll, another favorite from this album, which I’ve only loved even more since Church had Lzzy Hale perform the song with him at the 2014 ACM awards.  I also have to mention Devil, Devil, one of the most unique songs Church has ever recorded.  The first half of the song is a poem spoken by Church about the evil side of the Nashville music industry while the second half is a rocking song that is all the more powerful when performed live by Church & his band.
  6. Reincarnate by Motionless in White (2014)Motionless_in_white_reincarnate
    • This album absolutely has to be on this list because it became what one might call a “gateway” album for me in that it helped me to discover so many other great bands & albums.  Last January (2015) I stumbled across MIW while fooling around on YouTube one night, & as soon as I heard Reincarnate, I knew I was addicted.  The very next day I went to Best Buy & bought the album of the same name.  From the minute I heard the first chords of Death March I knew I’d stumbled onto something really special.  A few weeks later I discovered that lead singer Chris Motionless was featured on the cover of AP magazine, so naturally I went to B&N to buy the magazine.  While reading the magazine I came across an interview with none other than Marilyn Manson.  Up until then I’d never been a big Manson fan.  I wasn’t opposed to him per se; I just thought he was weird.  But once I read that article, I knew I had misjudged him & I had to check out his brand new record The Pale Emperor, which I swiftly did.  Not long after that, I discovered much of his older music & became as obsessed with Manson as I clearly am now.  See what I mean by a gateway album?  Ok, now that I’ve gone off on that tangent, let’s return to the original subject . . . Be sure to check out the angry & feisty Generation Lost, the confidence-booster Unstoppable, & Contemptress, a sexy ballad featuring Maria Brink from In This Moment.

      chris motionless quote

      Chris Motionless

I sincerely hope you’ll check out some of the above albums, at least a song or two from each.  Please feel free to comment below with some of the most influential albums in your own life.  Stay tuned for part 2 next week (or later this week, perhaps) which I promise will contain at least one non-rock album (ha!).

The Best Albums of 2014

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.  eric church the outsiders

  1. 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:  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 anywayThis is clearly the most rock-influenced album Church has ever produced (listen to the title track here: or to “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” here:, 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”:  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.BSC Magic Mountain

  1. 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 (, 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 (  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:  For a great motivational “pick-me-up,” check out “Never Surrender” (  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

  1. 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 (  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 (  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” (, “Cross to Bier” (, & “Hush” ( widow ITM

  1. 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 (–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 (  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 (, “Big Bad Wolf” (, & “Sexual Hallucination,” the haunting duet with Brent Smith, the lead singer of Shinedown (  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.Godsmack-1000hp-album-cover

  1. 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 (, it’s some of the other pieces that I believe truly make this album one for the record books.  The current single “Something Different” ( 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” (, 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” (  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.nikki lane all or nothin

  1. 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 (, 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” (  Check out Nikki’s rock & roll spirit in “Right Time” (, & then check out her more jazzy/bluesy side in “You Can’t Talk to Me Like That” ( adelitas way

  1. 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” ( 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” (, “Something More” (, & “Blur” ( gallery band

  1. 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 (  “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 (  Also check out “The Runaround” (

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!