Don T Mistake My Kindness For Weakness Quote Inspirational Dont Mistake My Kindness For Weakness Quotes QuotesGram
I am the proverbial good girl. I grew up going to church three times a week. I have no tattoos & no piercings (aside from basic earrings of course). I married the first man I ever dated (& we’re still married 11.5 years later). I’m a nurse- the career voted the most trusted profession countless times. I live in a safe suburban type neighborhood. I’ve voted in every major election since I turned 18- & most of the minor ones too. I’ve had one speeding ticket & one other minor traffic ticket in my whole life, & that’s the extent of my “criminal” record. I’ve never smoked a cigarette- never even touched one. The hardest “drug” I’ve ever tried is alcohol & even that has never held much interest for me. I’m a born people pleaser who genuinely loves making others happy & can get along with pretty much anyone. Though I’ve never been traditionally “popular,” I’ve generally been well liked, & the two adjectives I’ve heard most about myself have always been “nice” & “smart.” And I don’t resent that. I’m actually quite proud to be known that way.
On the other hand, you won’t find me teaching Sunday School. But you WILL find me attending as many rock shows as I can manage as a mom. I swear more than I probably “should” because I can’t wrap my mind around certain words being “bad,” & science shows it’s legitimately a great stress reliever. (There are way too many bigger issues in the world to get my panties in a twist about something so silly.) But I also donate blood regularly & give to charities as often as I can. As a nurse I make a concerted effort to emotionally validate my patients when they are nervous, anxious, or scared. I make sure to advocate for them, even when that means questioning doctors or others in authority. (After all, I never view doctors as my boss- I view the patients as my boss). I’m politically moderate which makes me more of a Libertarian than anything, & boy, is that a good way to irritate the hell out of a lot of folks! The point is you could argue that I’m a walking contradiction- I think I’m very logical but a lot of folks disagree- & as much as I hate being misunderstood & sometimes lumped in with the far right or the far left- there is a part of me that genuinely enjoys screwing with people’s heads by being supposedly “unpredictable.” Even now, people often tell me how shocked they are that I like the music I like. I’ve heard “You’re too nice to listen to that!” more times than I can count. To which I always want to respond “So only MEAN people like heavy music?” Maybe next time, I’ll actually say that instead of just laughing.
Anyway, the truth is the older I’ve gotten the less I enjoy being cast as the proverbial good girl. And why is that? Well, it’s because I’ve realized that being a good girl comes with a cost. That cost is not questioning authority, not speaking your mind- just generally going with the flow of society’s accepted norms. And while in many ways I’m as much of a “normie” as they come, I just can’t accept that kind of mindset. I’ve been forced to realize that a lot of people I thought really liked me when I was younger only liked me because I was compliant, because I didn’t ask questions (not out loud anyway). And I’ve realized that that kind of being liked is worthless. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that my very existence ruffles some people’s feathers, & the less I find myself bothered by that. Five- certainly ten- years ago, I would have been horrified that certain folks have deleted or even blocked me on social media because of some of my views. Now? Well, now I just find it amusing. No adult in their right mind is likely to ever find me physically intimidating but it seems that both men & women on both ends of the political/religious spectrum sometimes find me threatening. Why else would they respond so vehemently to me?
But it’s also true that coming to terms with this change hasn’t been easy. There are a couple of Halestorm songs that have been extra dear to my heart over the past year as I’ve come to understand that always being liked or viewed as “nice” is no longer one of my main goals in life. The first one is a B side from their latest album Back From the Dead. It’s called Legendary & contains the line “I bet you even money when I walk away, you say, ‘damn, that bitch is legendary.'” (Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPRtxy1erhQ.) The first time I heard that I wanted to cry because I remembered what might have been the first time in my life that I truly stood up for myself & risked no longer being viewed as “nice.” The summer between my sophomore & junior years of college I worked as a server at a restaurant, & while there I encountered this one assistant manager who was a bit grumpy & genuinely unpleasant most of the time. Well, one night, one of the male servers took me aside & said “Look, that manager is making sexual remarks & gestures about you behind your back.” This server was a super nice guy & I was so appreciative of him telling me that even though what he told me made me want to curl up in a ball & die. Naturally, that manager was the one closing the restaurant that night, so at the end of the night I had to go to him to cash out my tips. I was so damn nervous walking into that office at the back of the building. My heart is beating a little faster just thinking about it now, & that was 14 years ago, because I still remember how awful he made me feel. Anyway, I walked into the office to find him sitting at the desk smoking (you could still smoke in restaurants back then) & chatting with one of the dishwashers. The dishwasher looked at the manager & said “Man, you look like some kind of Italian don back here smoking at that desk.” And the manager looked as me & said “Yeah, & I’ve got this bitch paying me money.” And that did it. Even at 20 years old & scared to death I knew I was not going to let some asshole talk to me like that, much less someone who was effectively my boss & who was consistently rude to me, both to my face & behind my back. I told him right then & there, in no uncertain terms, that I couldn’t control how he talked to or about the other girls in that restaurant but as for me I expected to be respected at work. He looked at me like I had three heads, then handed me my money, & I ran out of that restaurant as fast as my legs could carry me. I cried all the way home, certain that this man was going to find a way to get me fired, or at the very least to make everyone else working there hate me.
Looking back on it, I realize now that he probably had more to be worried about than I did. After all, I could have told the general managers that he was sexually harassing me & HE could have been fired. It took everything in me to show up to work the next day, & I was terrified when one of the general managers called me to the office to talk. She about blew me away when she told me that the assistant manager had mentioned an incident between us & she wanted to hear my side of the story. I was so embarrassed but I told her what had happened, & she assured me that I would have no future issues with this man. As it turned out, she was 100% correct. To my absolute amazement, he & I actually got along very well after that, & I was genuinely sorry when he left to go to another restaurant. As frustrating as it was at the time, I’m actually glad that happened because it taught me a very important lesson about standing up for myself, & I’d like to think maybe I taught HIM an important lesson too. I’ve thought back on that incident so many times in my life because I think it was a true watershed moment for me. It was when I realized that being nice didn’t necessarily mean that others would respond in kind, yet standing up for yourself can sometimes be all that’s necessary to get someone to respect you. And now perhaps you can see why that line “when I walk away you’ll say ‘damn, that bitch is legendary” resonates so strongly with me.
That was a digression but it felt necessary. Now don’t get me wrong- I still very much want to BE a nice person. I genuinely value kindness & compassion. I will always hold those as two of my most important values in life, along with empathy- which is actually a prerequisite for true kindness & compassion, if you ask me. Furthermore, for better or worse, I think there will always be a part of me that wants to be liked by everyone. (The fact that I’m writing this is probably proof of that.) But I’m no longer willing to sacrifice my own self-worth or ideals in order to make that happen. At the end of the day, yes, I still want to be remembered as nice, but more importantly I want to be remembered as legendary- that is to say, as someone who stood up for herself & for others in need of advocacy & as someone who never compromised her beliefs or values to please others, no matter who they may be. And if that makes me unlikeable to some folks? Well, that’s ok. The truth is you can never please everyone anyway.
To end this, I’d like to include two other Halestorm songs whose lyrics have been a great comfort to me on this subject.
Would you call me daughter? Would you love me when My halo’s bent & crooked? When you call me malcontent? Sad, sicker than usual Can’t you be more like the Girl Next Door Instead of Little Miss Misfit?
So you can damn me straight to hell You can crucify my name You can throw me to the wolves You can burn me in the flame And say, “She’s such a strange girl Such a strange girl” The world needs strange girls Just like me
It that’s time of year again- time for my annual album hall of fame post. As usual, these albums are almost entirely rock/metal because that’s the majority of what I listen to. Also, I’d like to add that I am by no means a professional music reviewer. I do not have access to every album that is put out- I don’t even have Spotify or Apple Music! All I have are a TON of CDs & YouTube. And Octane/Liquid Metal when I’m riding in my husband’s vehicle. I’m old school & that’s just all there is to it. Plus, I feel like musicians get ripped off by streaming services so I’d rather support them by buying their physical albums as well as their merch, & of course concert tickets when I can. Be prepared- this is a long list because there were SO many good albums this year. I tried to cut it off at 20, which is more than I usually do, but I just couldn’t. And I’m sure I still forgot some worthy albums! As usual, other than the first few, these are in no particular order. So, without further ado, here are MY choices for the best (e.g. my favorite) albums of 2022.
Fever Dream by Palaye Royale: Oh man, there is so much I could say about this amazing album. It is a true opus for the Palaye brothers. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6sMdysAYNk) is arguably the most epic song they’ve ever created, which is saying a lot considering their incredible catalog of music. Between the touching lyrics, the stunning guitar solos, & the brilliant music video, it’s the culmination of everything Palaye have ever done. Line It Up (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5ZxO2YnFOE) is a gorgeous duet with LP in which her voice & Remington’s blend absolutely perfectly. Lyrically it’s a song I think almost everyone can relate to in the sense of wanting to escape the drudgeries of everyday life & wanting something different than our parents. Then there’s Oblivion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FgGWmKg49A) with its haunting lyrics & video, not to mention the stunning Punching Bag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WzprXZGoLs). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the more upbeat, almost pop-sounding No Love in LA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qePhiiz7dtc)- which also has a fantastic music video & lays bare the superficiality of Hollywood & the whole LA scene. Lastly be sure to check out the gorgeous Broken (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrUM4tVpmRc) & the accompanying video which, along with Oblivion, was filmed in Prague. I could go on & on about this album but suffice it to say that it is most deserving of the title Album of the Year.
Holy Fvck by Demi Lovato: I actually already wrote a whole post inspired by one of the songs on this album, but yet again I must say that if you had told me earlier this year that I’d have Demi Lovato on this list, I’d have laughed. But the joke’s on me because this album is truly amazing, & I’m so glad that I was willing to overcome my own biases & check it out. It’s not the heaviest rock album of the year by any means, but it’s no pop album either. Regardless, it rocks. Lyrically Demi has blown me away with the raw outpourings of her heart in tracks like 29 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bEQv1uf5v0) & Happy Ending (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usKh7fLTjj4). The former is written about a relationship she had with a 29 yr old when she was just 17. It’s not one I can personally relate to but I know quite a few women who can. In fact I probably know more women who can relate to it than I even realize because this is a subject people often don’t speak on. The latter, Happy Ending, contains what might be my favorite lyrics of the entire year: “Sure I’m sober now & everybody’s proud, but I miss my vices/And I tried to be your hero/I lent you my voice/ I was your poster child, it was working for a while/But it didn’t fill the void/Am I gonna die trying to find my happy ending?/And will I ever know what it’s like to be fine without pretending/That my skin isn’t crawling/My demons aren’t calling & tearing me to shreds?/Am I gonna die trying to find my happy ending?” Whew, if that doesn’t touch your heart, I don’t know what will. Yet on some level I think we’ve all felt this way at times, even if we haven’t experienced the vagaries of celebrity & fame like Demi has. Another favorite of mine & the one I wrote about recently, is Eat Me ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSmvW2sZ3ZU) which is an incredibly fun song that is all about claiming your own identity instead of conforming to the whims of those around you. Lastly, I want to mention Skin of My Teeth (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgrC_h8-2FM) & Substance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzUKeGZiEl0), both of which touch on Demi’s substance abuse struggles in the past. It’s so easy to dismiss celebrities with drug problems as spoiled brats who don’t know how good they have it, but tracks like these make you realize how similar these people are to everyday folks who struggle with the exact same issues. This album has made realize even more than ever that there is nothing about celebrities’ lives that I envy. Even if you’re a hardcore rock/metal fan who never listens to anything else, I implore you to at least check out a few of the tracks from this album. Demi doesn’t have to be your new heroine (she isn’t mine either), but I think you’d be short sighted not to give this album at least one spin.
Of Kingdom & Crown by Machinehead: I’ve been listening to rock & metal for my entire adult life & yet somehow I never got into Machinehead until this year. Oops! Anyway, this year I found myself listening to vocalist Rob Flynn’s podcast on YouTube because he has interviewed many of my favorite artists like Andy Black, Spencer Charnas, & Brent Smith. Because of this, YouTube recommended the song No Gods, No Masters (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgSHazBbDNU) from this album. From the very first listen I was blown away by Robb’s voice & the guitar & vocal melodies & harmonies. I had to hear more. Next, I found Choke on the Ashes of Your Hate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxyxGqLm8fU), which is considerably heavier, & I knew this was an album I needed to hear from top to bottom. As it turns out, it really is best listened to that way because it’s a concept album that was actually loosely inspired by the anime Attack on Titan that Robb watched with his sons over quarantine. He was inspired by the anime to write a record where there’s no clear protagonist or antagonist. Both of the main characters do really bad things but in their minds feel that they are heroes because they feel justified in their wrongdoing. If that’s not a summary of human existence, I don’t know what is! Needless to say, it makes for a brilliant album. From the epic 10 minute opener Slaughter the Martyr (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc0s9Q9WROI) to the ending track Arrows in Words From the Sky (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-g_QIia-50), this album does not disappoint. I’m particularly impressed with the harmonies between Robb & bassist Jared McEachern. Needless to say, I’m now making my way through Machinehead’s back catalog, but I daresay this is their best album yet.
Spirits by Nothing More: Arguably their heaviest album to date, Spirits does not disappoint. From the stirring opener Stand in the Fire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbWr515vhkw) to the rousing closer Spirits, this album is musically high energy & yet lyrically incredibly introspective & philosophical, as one expects from the brilliant Jonny Hawkins. Perhaps my favorite track is Valhalla (Too Young to See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awRxMSs1vRc). Lyrically I can relate to it so much, which is often true with this band, perhaps because of the similar background Jonny & I have, having grown up in conservative religious households in the South. Also be sure to check out You Don’t Know What Love Means (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll8aJ5IiEP4) which Jonny has stated was inspired partly by his father saying those exact words to his sister years ago when their mother was dying of cancer & his sister was struggling with drug addiction. It’s an excellent treatise on how we often abuse the word & concept of love because we don’t understand what love actually is. Lastly, I must mention The Other F Word (Call Out the Fake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpIXbUVGyL4). In a world where social media & political correctness rule, this is exactly the kind of wakeup call we all need from time to time.
Love, Drugs, & Misery by Eva Under Fire: If you love strong female vocalists like Lzzy Hale or Taylor Momsen, then Eva Under Fire is for you. The album starts off with a bang with Blow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7A5XMG5fUo) which features Spencer Charnas from INK. Other highlights include Another Shot Through the Heart & Misery, both of which- like most of the album- have incredible 80s rock vibes. Also be sure to check out the powerful ballads The Strong (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjfFOnvAl3Y) & Heroin(e), the latter of which is extremely personal to vocalist Amanda Lyberg as both of her parents were opioid addicts (her mother has recovered but unfortunately her father did not survive his addiction). Heroin(e) was also featured in the movie Sno Babies which is about the opioid crisis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smnkcKe52Ic). Overall, this is one of those albums that is truly great from start to finish.
AfterLife by Five Finger Death Punch: FFDP are one of those bands that metal elitists love to hate but I couldn’t care less. I’ve loved them for over a decade now & I’m not about to stop. Lyrically there is no doubt that this is Ivan’s best work, which is clearly influenced by his sobriety & overall improved mental health. It would probably be fair to say that musically this is the band’s “softest” work to date, but the subject matter of the lyrics is anything from light. Opening track Welcome to the Circus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD0E_Gj9xMk) is probably the most “traditional” FFDP song on the album & it doesn’t disappoint. Judgment Day is arguably the most experimental song the band has ever done & was inspired by Ivan’s near-death experience that preceded his final trip to rehab when he finally achieved long term sobriety. Thanks for Asking (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tfTLvsXQmQ) is another favorite of mine. This is one of those records where I glean something new every time I listen to it.
The Death of Peace of Mind by Bad Omens: Considering this band is originally from my home state of VA, I must confess I am late to the party here also. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouW_RCAI0sg) caught my attention on Octane this Spring, but when I really fell in love with it was when I heard it played between sets at the Trinity of Terror tour in late April. Not sure why but hearing it then just cemented to me how truly epic the track is. Once I got the album, I realized how incredibly talented Noah & his bandmates are. From heavier tracks like Artificial Suicide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBcUkTXAwbw) to more melodic pieces like Nowhere to Go (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a8CogWA3-Y) & Just Pretend (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekU1dQjMsOQ), there isn’t a wrong note in this whole album. Considering how young Noah is, I am especially impressed with his lyrical & musical maturity & can’t wait to see what else he creates for us in the future.
How To Let Go by Sigrid: Yes, I do in fact have a pop record on here. And this is it! I know of Sigrid, who hails from Sweden, entirely thanks to the duet Bad Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4552tadeuM) she did with Bring Me the Horizon. I came across it & figured it was worth a listen since BMTH were involved. Immediately I fell in love with Sigrid’s gorgeous voice & the inspiring message of the song. Thankfully I decided to explore this album a bit further because I found the absolute gems of Burning Bridges (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udRAIF6MOm8) & It Gets Dark (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j7LGMc9ZGU). Everything about Sigrid is exactly what I wish had been popular when I was a teenage girl. Here is a young female pop star with a phenomenal voice who also plays piano, dresses fairly conservatively- a far cry from the Britney Spears of my youth, that’s for sure- & writes lyrics that have actual substance & aren’t just about being a sex toy for much older men. How refreshing! Consider these lyrics from Mirror (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7lr7pU9fYA): “It took me walking away to really know/I love who I see looking at me/In the mirror, in the mirror/Nothing compares to the feeling right there/In the mirror, in the mirror/I needed loneliness to know there’s nothing I can’t turn into confidence.” Pop songs I can listen to with my 6 year-old daughter & know that she’s getting an uplifting message? Say what? Yes, I love it!
Rakshak by Bloodywood: If you know me in real life or have been following this blog for a while, you may know that I have a bit of an obsession with Indian culture- everything from food to Bollywood- so it should come as no surprise that I was thrilled to discover Bloodywood, an Indian folk-metal band. These men have found a way to combine traditional Indian music with metal & rap- bloody genius! My favorite track is Dana Dan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a65A626Ed20) which became even more powerful for me once I realized the song is a stand against sexual assault & rape. Listen to the song & Google the lyrical translation (some of the words are English but some are Hindi &/or Punjabi) to grasp the full weight of the message. Gaddaar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a65A626Ed20) is another highlight, but really the whole album is a journey that shouldn’t be missed.
Dark Sun by Dayseeker: Apparently this is Dayseeker’s fifth album but this year is the first they’ve come across my radar. I’m so glad they finally did because this record is a real treat. From the heaviness of the opening track Dreamstate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7abxfS42lqs) to the acoustic Paper Heart (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x63lP7wK5Ic), this is a band that knows how to convey powerful emotions across a wide variety of musical landscapes. Furthermore, much like Noah of Bad Wolves, vocalist Rory Rodriguez has one of those perfectly smooth voices that can make just about anything sound good. Crying While You’re Dancing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x63lP7wK5Ic) might be my favorite on this record, with its touching lyrics about the superficiality of life as well as the lovely guitar solo near the end. It’s either that or Neon Grave (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg7SUe8nOik) which Rory wrote (along with much of this record) about the death of his father. Anyone who has ever lost someone they love will be able to relate to this touching song, which feels especially relevant at this time of the year when family means so much.
Pain Remains by Lorna Shore: Ah, Lorna Shore, a band I’d probably never heard of prior to the past few months. But here lately their name is everywhere- & rightly so. Most bands don’t survive having a lead singer leave once. Yet here is a band that is now on their THIRD lead singer & is now bigger than ever. With the captivating & energetic Will Ramos at the helm, it seems this ship is finally on course. The album ends with the Pain Remains trilogy, the first of which (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIw4vAXikgg) is probably my favorite as it’s the one that initially caught my attention & made me say “Holy crap- what is this? I like deathcore?!” As so many other reviews have said, this is deathcore that is so much more than “just” deathcore- it’s deathcore that deserves to be played in an opera house.
Explosions by Three Days Grace: This album starts off with a banger with So Called Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ViIny2YZH0), a song that perfectly encapsulates the angst of living through a worldwide pandemic. On a much softer token, check out Lifetime (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IToGQoIKgr8) which is another great song that anyone who has ever lost a loved one will strongly relate to. The touching music video was filmed in Mayfield, Kentucky, the site of a horrific tornado in December 2021. Guitarist Barry Stock lives not too far from there & the band wanted to dedicate this to the community & those who were lost. Also be sure to check out Neurotic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e-k9oJn-kI) which includes a great feature from Lukas Rossi.
The Mourning by Black Veil Brides (EP): I don’t usually include EPs but BVB are one of my favorite bands, & these 4 songs are excellent examples of their brilliant musicianship, so I felt compelled to include this. Savior II (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXPvviSqFYk) is a follow up to one of their much earlier songs, & really showcases Andy’s voice. Lyrically it speaks on trying to live up to being the role model that he has inevitably become for so many. Also be sure to check out Devil (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0cRT1ehiSM) which is heavier & has a fun music video shot in Mexico City. Also, can we talk about how perfect the album artwork is?
I Rise by Cory Marks (EP): Canadian Cory Mark is flying the flag for country rock & he’s doing a hell of a job of it. He just wrapped up a tour with rock titans Five Finger Death Punch & he’s on Better Noise Music which is a label that’s almost entirely dedicated to rock/metal. This man has found a perfect way to blend the two genres, & as someone who enjoys aspects of both, I love it. An excellent example of this is In Me I Trust (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nGcOc19kz4) which is a fantastic ode to self-empowerment. Burn It Up (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-09GAXe1Mc) is also lots of fun.
Rotoscope by Spiritbox (EP): I’m once again a bit late to the party with Spiritbox but none of their previous music really grabbed me the way this EP did. Obviously Courtney has an excellent voice, but for some reason it wasn’t till this EP that the band really made me stop & give them my full attention. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpl28kp5WVA) is borderline danceable & a true pleasure to listen to over & over.
I’ve never done this before with one of these posts, but I’d also like to give a shout out to a handful of singles that will appear on forthcoming albums or EPs that really spoke to me this year.
First, I must mention Zombified & Voices in My Head by Falling in Reverse. Prior to this year I had only a vague idea who Ronne Radkie was, & what little I knew about him didn’t endear him to me. However, after watching many interviews with him (especially the very insightful ones with Ryan J Downey), watching some of his Twitch, & really delving into his lyrics, I must admit that he’s won me over. Do I agree with everything he says or does? No, but I could say the same for almost every rock star (or human being in general) that I like (or actually know in real life). At the end of the day, he’s found a way to completely turn his life around & has written some incredibly brilliant music in the process. I could write a whole blog post about him- & likely will once I read his book (which should be shipping out soon). Anyway, all that to say that Zombified is one of the best songs written about cancel culture & the dangerous groupthink that seems to have taken hold of society these days. It also has a fantastic music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDDz1Er2IXA). Voices in My Head, which also has a phenomenal music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7_e_NY-f3g), was written about Ronnie’s struggle with hypochondria but can be applied to many different scenarios in life. It’s also a great song for showcasing the wide variety of musical styles that he & his bandmates are capable of covering.
Lastly, we need to discuss 1984 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7OTUNqAIwY) by Russian deathcore heavyweightsSlaughter to Prevail. This song was written in opposition to the war with Ukraine. I believe the video was actually filmed in Russia which was an extremely gutsy thing to do considering the circumstances in the country right now. Vocalist Alex Terrible has been very open about the fact that he & his bandmates are open to fines or even jailtime due to their vocal opposition to the war. Thankfully the band has been able to make their way to the US recently, but they still don’t know how long they’ll be able to stay here & if they will eventually face serious repercussions in their home country for their stance against the war. Lyrically of course the song is very important, but I must also congratulate the guys on their incredible guitar work in this piece. It’s absolutely stunning & makes me very anxious to hear what else they create for us in the future.
I’m sure I’m forgetting someone but I have now provided you with literally HOURS of excellent music to explore, so I hope you will check out at least a few of these, even if they aren’t your typical style. I for one am already excited for some of the new music coming for us in 2023. Speaking of which, my most anticipated albums for next year include Avatar’s Dance Devil Dance (coming in February), Godsmack’s Lighting Up the Sky (also coming in February), & hopefully the already completed but not yet released album from the guys in From Ashes to New (a new favorite band of mine this year).
It’s the end of the year so, as I have for the past few years, that means it’s time for me to put together my list of the best albums of 2018. As always, my picks are almost entirely of the rock/metal variety but there is one country album thrown in there. And if you know me, you can probably guess which artist’s album that is! Anyhow, I don’t claim to be any kind of professional music reviewer. I’m just a hardcore fan of music- & an old school fan at that- who still buys actual physical albums (read: CDs). As such, these are my picks for the best albums of 2018. These are in no particular order, other than my absolute favorite is at the end (& that was hard to choose).
Disease by Beartooth: I can’t believe I initially forgot to include this album on here- but I guess that’s what happens when you’re rushing to compose an entire post during your toddler’s nap. Anyway, the follow up to Aggressive is every bit as amazing as that album was, perhaps even more so. The album starts with Greatness or Death which has to be one of the greatest album openers of all time. It starts slow & quiet- & then suddenly bashes you in the face with heaviness. It’s simply genius. It’s hard for me to pick favorites from this album because every song is truly fantastic but you definitely don’t want to miss the energy on Fire, Bad Listener, & Manipulation. It’s truly difficult to believe that lead singer & songwriter Caleb Shomo is just 26 years old- but he is. This is one mature & talented young man for sure.
Reverence by Parkway Drive: The previous Parkway Drive album was entitled Ire but this album contains every bit as much ire as that one did- as well as a heavy dose of sadness. I think Ire will probably always be my personal favorite Parkway Drive album but Reverence is still a great one. It’s worth reading about the stories behind the songs to understand the pain that infused lead singer/songwriter Winston McCall as he penned this album. Album opener Wishing Wells is heavy & dark & sets a great tone for the rest of the disc. Prey has some fantastic guitar riffs & will easily get stuck in your head, as will Absolute Power. Cemetery Bloom is by far the most inventive & unusual track on the album with its chanting medieval feel. Another beautifully written song that you absolutely shouldn’t miss is melancholy album closer The Colour of Leaving.
Vicious by Halestorm: If you know anything about my musical taste, you probably already guessed that this album would be on here. Here lately I’ve been trying to decide if I could pick a favorite Halestorm album- & I swear I really can’t! I love them all for so many reasons that it’s just impossible to choose. In any case, as soon as I heard Uncomfortable I knew this album was going to be a good one (not that I ever had any doubts). Overall this album has a darker grungier feeling than the band’s previous album. Even the album artwork & Lzzy’s current outfits, hair, & makeup strike me as a bit darker, a bit more rock & roll than her softer, more traditional appearance during the last album cycle. Lzzy is gorgeous no matter what she wears or how she does her hair but I for one am a big fan of this darker look that she has embraced lately. Anyway, back to the music. . . . Other favorites of mine include Killing Ourselves to Live, the acoustic slow-burning The Silence, & the powerful Skulls (don’t miss the grungy part at 2:17 that is a bit reminiscent of Alice in Chains).
Family Tree by Black Stone Cherry: Black Stone Cherry have definitely embraced a more bluesy southern rock feel on their last few albums but never so strongly as on this year’s Family Tree. Songs like New Kinda Feeling & You Got the Blues perfectly exemplify this. Other favorites of mine are I Need a Woman & James Brown. I seriously don’t know how anyone could listen to this album & not end up with a smile on their face- & a serious desire to dance! These guys have got some serious rhythm, not to mention a heavy dose of soul. Listen & you’ll know what I mean.
Vale by Black Veil Brides: I’m not sure BVB will ever top Wretched & Divine for me because that album was just so amazing in every way possible. However, this album, which is actually a sequel to that one & was co-produced by lead guitarist Jake Pitts, is definitely a great effort. Songs like Wake Up (don’t miss the awesome leather jackets the guys are wearing in the music video) & The Outsider will get you pumped up while more ballad like pieces like When They Call My Name really showcase Andy’s powerful voice. Also don’t miss the return of Jinxx’s strings on Dead Man Walking.
Ember by Breaking Benjamin: Can Ben Burnley ever go wrong? Probably not. This album, the second with the new BB lineup, is every bit as good as the previous one. It’s hard to choose a favorite but I think my top track is Feed the Wolf. As I noted on their previous album, the backup vocals by bassist Aaron Bruch really amp up the heaviness on this album, especially on tracks like Psycho & Red Cold River.
Attention, Attention by Shinedown: Shinedown’s sixth album is a concept album about depression/mental illness, largely inspired by bassist Eric Bass’s own struggles with depression. Some of the lyrics seem a bit cryptic at times but once you realize the basis of the album it all makes sense. Don’t-miss tracks include heavy hitting Devil & Brilliant, the latter of which probably has the fastest drums & the most metal sound I’ve ever heard from Shinedown (don’t let the gentle beginning fool you). Lyrically songs like Monsters & Get Up are especially strong. My personal favorite is Special which encourages us to stop wallowing in self pity & take control of our own lives.
Disobey by Bad Wolves: Even if you don’t like rock music, you’ve probably heard Bad Wolves’s enchanting cover of The Cranberries’ classic song Zombie (if you haven’t you must check it out NOW!). What you might not know is that the band was set to record with Cranberries singer Delores O’Riordan on the very day that she died. The band has subsequently donated profits from the song to O’Riordan’s family as a way to honor her. Most of the songs on this album are far heavier than Zombie but another easily accessible track is Hear Me Now. My favorites among the heavier songs are No Masters, Learn to Live, & Remember When, the last of which was inspired by singer Tommy Vext’s twin brother who almost killed him several years ago (no joke). [P.S. In case you thought there weren’t any black men in rock, check out singer Tommy Vext.]
Evolution by Disturbed: Evolution is an appropriate title for this album because it definitely represents an evolution in the band’s sound. Songs like Are You Ready & The Best Ones Lie are classic Disturbed without a doubt. But there are far more ballads on this album than any previous disc, largely inspired by the success of the band’s The Sound of Silence cover from their previous album. None of the ballads matches the pure magic of that song (not sure that anything ever could) but it’s nice to see the band expanding their sound & capitalizing on David’s amazing voice. My personal favorite on this disc is David’s response to all the Social Justice Warriors in Savior of Nothing.
Victim of the New Disease by All That Remains: If you’re familiar with my political beliefs you probably know that I’m a huge fan of fellow Libertarian Phil Labonte, the lead singer of ATR. The last ATR album was good but it doesn’t hold a candle to this year’s effort. Victim of the New Disease was largely inspired by Phil’s divorce & while I’m sorry for the pain he suffered because of that the world is definitely benefiting from the music he wrote while working through that pain. Songs like F**k Love ensure that this is the heaviest ATR album in years. But my personal favorites are some of the more moderate songs like Just Tell Me Something (which features Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria- brilliant!) & Broken. The acoustic Alone in the Darkness is also a great listen.
Stranger Fruit by Zeal & Ardor: I have my husband to thank for introducing me to this band whom he discovered on Liquid Metal on Sirius XM satellite radio. Zeal & Ardor are a Swiss band whose lead singer was born to a Swiss man & an African American woman. If you ever wondered what it would sound like to combine metal + gospel + blues, this is it. That sounds like an equation that is doomed to failure but strangely enough it’s actually damn good. You won’t find much more unique, diverse music than this, I can guarantee you that. Check out Ship on Fire, Row, Row, & Gravedigger’s Chant. Better yet, just listen to the whole album. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Firepower by Judas Priest: I first heard Evil Never Dies on satellite radio maybe a month ago & I immediately fell in love & knew I had to buy this album. Judas Priest are a bit before my time & I have to admit I’ve never gotten into them before this album (shame on me). But wow, what an album to dive into! There isn’t a bad track on here but some of my favorites include the aforementioned Evil Never Dies, Lightning Strike, Firepower, & Necromancer.
Desperate Man by Eric Church: You guys, I’m so out of touch with country music these days that I didn’t even realize until last week that my favorite country artist had released an album back in October. I guess it doesn’t help that Eric Church has no real social media presence but I can’t complain because that is one thing I admire about him, that he guards his private life so preciously. Anyway, Desperate Man is definitely Church’s most stripped-down album to date. I’ll admit I miss some of the bombast of The Outsiders but there’s no denying Church’s lyrical genius is in tip top form on this album. The title track is one you should definitely not miss as is The Snake, Church’s take on the current political situation in the U.S. Other favorites of mine include Monsters, Drowning Man, & Solid.
And Justice For None by Five Finger Death Punch: FFDP have never put out a bad album but this year’s effort proves they are at the very top of their game & is my choice for best album of 2018. With Ivan Moody (as well as all the other band members) finally sober, the band is in better shape than ever. If you’re curious about the unusual album title, guitarist Zoltan Bathory does a good job of explaining it here. There isn’t a bad song on this album & picking a favorite is nigh impossible, but if I had to pick only one song to share it would be I Refuse. This has to be one of the most emotionally powerful songs FFDP have ever written. Even if you normally don’t like rock/metal, you MUST listen to this one- not only is it lyrically beautiful but the acoustic guitar solo by Jason Hook is a real winner. Fortunately I CAN share more than one song so please also check out Fire in the Hole (which sounds like a metal pirate song), Will the Sun Ever Rise, & Sham Pain. The last is a play on the word champagne & is proof that the band don’t take themselves too seriously. Watch the video for a good laugh! FFDP have done many great cover songs over the years & this album includes two great ones, my favorite of which is Blue on Black. With a good mixture of ballads & more traditional heavier fare, FFDP created the perfect album that makes you want to just keep playing it over & over & over. Don’t miss it!
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:
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). 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 Vodevil, Better 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.
Holy Wood(In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) by Marilyn Manson (2000)
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 Song, Disposable 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.
Halestorm by Halestorm (2009)
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!)
The House of Gold & Bones (Volumes 1 & 2) by Stone Sour (2012-2013)
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.
The Outsiders by Eric Church (2014)
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.
Reincarnate by Motionless in White (2014)
This album absolutely has to be on this list because it became what one might call a “gateway” album for mein 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.
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!).
To those who aren’t as obsessed with music, particularly rock/metal, as I am I realize my last few posts have all been about music, & today’s post follows the same theme. Sorry but I’m not sorry.
Anyway, some time in the past week it occurred to me that it would be fun to create a compilation of my favorite rock/metal covers. This was probably inspired by hearing the awesome cover song on the brand new Black Stone Cherry album which debuted just ten days ago. Without further ado, here are my picks for the best rock/metal covers.
The Sound of Silenceby Disturbed: As much as I love the original Simon & Garfunkel version of this song, I was actually a little surprised to find how much I love this cover of the classic song. But there is just no denying that David Draiman’s hauntingly beautiful voice combined with the unique instrumentation from his bandmates makes this song at least as good, & possibly better, than the original version of the song. Perhaps part of the reason this song is so amazing is that it’s so unexpected from such a heavy band as Disturbed. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful the band decided to record this on their latest album because it is truly a treat for the ears.
War by Black Stone Cherry: As I stated above, this is the song that inspired me to write this post. As soon as I heard this cover of the classic Edwin Starr song I was blown away. The song is fresher & more powerful than ever with Chris Robertson’s soulful vocals leading the way. It’s a perfect addition to their latest album.
Sweet Dreamsby Marilyn Manson: I’ve written about this song on the blog before. It was the first song I ever truly liked by Manson. I still remember driving to Blacksburg one night in college & hearing this song on the radio. Instinctively I knew it had to be Manson & part of me didn’t want to like it because of that. But I just couldn’t deny the fact that the song was both creepy & powerful. In the ensuing years, as it turns out, I’ve actually become a big Manson fan, but it all started with this amazing cover.
Tainted Loveby Marilyn Manson: Trust me, Manson has plenty of amazing original songs too, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t also include his cover of this classic song. Manson’s gritty voice somehow fits the vibe of the song perfectly, & when I listen to it I almost find it hard to believe that this isn’t the original version of the song.
Bad Romanceby Halestorm: I love the original Lady Gaga version of this song, but I must confess that I like the Halestorm cover of it even more. The first time I heard it I was just amazed because I had never imagined that Halestorm would cover a pop song like this, but there is no question that they did a damn good job of it. Just as a bonus, also check out Halestorm’s cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.
Careless Whisperby Seether: When I first heard this song I had no idea it was a cover, as I was never familiar with the original version of the song by George Michael. In any case the cover of this song by the South African band Seether does great justice to the song.
Bad Companyby Five Finger Death Punch: Here’s another song that I didn’t originally realize was a cover because I wasn’t familiar with the original song. Ivan Moody’s strong voice coupled with the hauntingly beautiful instrumentation from his bandmates makes this song both enchanting & powerful. As a bonus, also check out FFDP’s cover of The House of the Rising Sun(the song starts at 1:45 into the video).
Blank Spaceby I Prevail: This song has a fun story behind it because it’s actually this amazing cover of a Taylor Swift song that propelled this brand new rock band from Michigan into stardom. I distinctly remember a friend from work showing me this song on YouTube one night, & I quickly delved into the band’s original songs after realizing how amazing the band really was. The video quickly attained over a million views on YouTube & now stands at over 21 million views. Not bad for a band just working on their very first album!
Turn Down for Whatby Upon a Burning Body: I absolutely HATED the original version of this song, but when I found this amazing cover of it by the Texas heavy metal band Upon a Burning Body I was blown away. As it turns out this song helped introduce me to more of UABB’s music of which I am now a big fan. Warning: this song is NSFW (or children).
Losing My Religionby Lacuna Coil: This is yet another cover song that helped introduce me to a band’s original work, in this case the Italian band Lacuna Coil. I’ve always loved the original version of this song by R.E.M. so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a cover of it, but as soon as I heard the interplay between singers Christina Scabbia & Andrea Ferro I was in love.Well, that’s all for today, folks. Happy Monday, & I hope you all have a terrific week!
I don’t usually do short blog posts like this, but for some reason I feel compelled to write this one today, so here we go. Perhaps it’s because it’s a Monday morning which marks the start of a new work week. Perhaps it’s because in addition to that it’s February 1 which often times marks the day on which many of us realize just how poorly we’ve done with our new year’s resolutions.
In any case, today just feels like a day on which a lot of us could use some motivation, a good swift kick in the ass to remind us that the only thing standing between us & our goals is US . . .And any & all of the inordinate number of excuses we so masterfully create! If we spent as much energy working towards our goals as we do creating elaborate excuses for ourselves, imagine how much we could accomplish? In other words, no one has the power to change your life except YOU! While initially this might seem scary, I choose to think of it as empowering. And you can definitely do the same.
With all of that self-empowerment in mind, I’d like to share one of my favorite songs off of Halestorm’s latest album Into the Wild Life (which some of you may recognize as my choice for the best album of 2015). If this song doesn’t make you feel like you’re ready to take on the world, I don’t know what will.
You need this album. You really do.
Here are the lyrics:
Am I brave enough?
Am I strong enough?
To follow the desire
That burns from within
To push away my fear
To stand where I’m afraid
I am through with this Cause I am more than this I promise to myself Alone & no one else My flame is rising higher
I am the fire I am burning brighter Roaring like a storm And I am the one I’ve been waiting for Screaming like a siren Alive & burning brighter I am the fire
I’ve been sacrificed
My heart’s been cauterized
Hanging on to hope
Shackled by the ghost
Of what I once believed
That I could never be
What’s right in front of me
I am the fire
I am burning brighter
Roaring like a storm
And I am the one I’ve been waiting for
Screaming like a siren
Alive & burning brighter
I am the fire
I don’t believe I’ll fall from grace Won’t let the past decide my fate Leave forgiveness in my wake Take the love that I’ve embraced
I promise to myself, me & no one else I am more than this I am the fire…
I am the fire I am burning brighter Roaring like a storm And I am the one I’ve been waiting for Screaming like a siren Alive & burning brighter I am the fire
I’m starting the year off right . . . with a mild case of pneumonia. Woohoo! For someone who’s never smoked & never spent any significant amount of time around people who do, I definitely don’t have the most robust lungs known to man (or woman). Oh well, at least I have a few days off of work anyway, & it’s an excuse to be lazy & binge watch New Girl on Netflix (season 4 just became available!!) with Chaucer (our corgi) at my side. AND I can finally get around to writing one of my favorite posts of the year.
That’s right, it’s time to share my picks for the best albums of 2015. I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10 this year because there were simply too many great new albums from which to choose. You’ll notice most of them fall under the rock/metal genre, but there are a few country albums in the mix also.
13. Up by Pop Evil
I have to admit that initially I wasn’t too impressed with Pop Evil’s latest venture simply because I missed the heaviness of much of their previous album, Onyx. However, over time I’ve come to appreciate quite a few of the songs. While I was excited to see them get some mainstream attention with the Dodge commercial that featured the lead single Footsteps, I have to admit that is definitely not my favorite song on the album. My favorite is actually one of the extra songs on the deluxe version of the album entitled My Confessions. While I love their heavier pieces, I have to admit that Pop Evil really shines on more ballad-like pieces like this one (as well as Silence & Scars from Onyx & Stepping Stone from their debut album). I’m also a big fan of the current single Ways to Get High for which the band made a really funky psychedelic video that is reminiscent of the 60s-70s (at least in my mind). Also be sure to check out one of the heaviest tracks on the record Take It All which makes for a great workout song.
12. Got Your Six by Five Finger Death Punch
After an on-stage meltdown in Memphis in May, like many fans I was a bit afraid of what was going to become of the band after such an embarrassing incident. However, true to form the guys that make up FFDP returned as strong as ever with their sixth album with the military inspired title Got Your Six. Don’t miss the title track or Jekyll & Hyde with its hilarious video featuring bassist Chris Kael knitting a baby sock, among other bizarre images. It’s also really fascinating that the verses of the song are largely lifted straight from voicemails that vocalist Ivan Moody left on guitarist Jason Hook’s phone . . . genius! Some of my other favorites include Wash It All Away (which has a great live performance video), Digging My Own Grave, & I Apologize.
11. Silence in the Snow by TriviumTrivium are an insanely talented band based out of Florida who have been going strong since they were literally teenagers. However, I didn’t really get into their music until Strife from their previous album Vengeance Falls caught my attention. After that, I was hooked, but there is no doubt in my mind this year’s album, their seventh, is their best work yet. I for one am in love with Matt Heafy’s more melodic singing which is excellently featured on the title track Silence in the Snow. Some of my other favorites include The Ghost That’s Haunting You, The Thing That’s Killing Me, & the empowering Rise Above the Tides.
10. Dark Before Dawn by Breaking Benjamin
I actually already wrote an entire post about this album back when it debuted, so I’ll just direct you to that post here.
9. Threat to Survival by Shinedown
I’m still very much in love with Shinedown’s previous album Amaryllis, but this year’s record is every bit as good, albeit a bit different. I think some fans have been disappointed with the “softer” side of Shinedown featured on this album, & while I understand that, I can’t deny that lyrically & musically Threat to Survival is a phenomenal work of art. The lead single Cut the Cord is definitely the heaviest piece on the album & naturally one of my favorites. However, I also love two of the more ballad-like songs, Thick as Thieves & Misfits; lyrically they are both very powerful. For an empowering piece, don’t miss Dangerous.
8. That’s the Spirit by Bring Me the Horizon
While I’ll be the first to admit that BMTH’s previous album Sempiternal is still my favorite from this British quartet, this year’s album is doubtless a great listen. Lyrically Oliver Sykes has certainly done some of his best work to date. My favorite piece on the album is Avalanche which is a fantastic song about mental illness. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I couldn’t be more grateful for this song. I’m also a big fan of True Friends & of course Drown, the latter of which is the song that originally made me fan of BMTH. I don’t see how you could listen to Drown & not be moved.
7. The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Manson
Ah, Marilyn Manson . . . I know some folks think he’s way past his prime, but I for one am not one of those. I actually prefer the older, more mature version of Manson, although when I say that I’m referring less to the actual music & more to his general personality & antics. In any case, I first became interested in The Pale Emperor when I read an interview with MM about the album in Alternative Press magazine last January. When I read the interview, I was so impressed with how clearly intelligent Manson is that I quickly went out & bought the album, & a few months later I read (& thoroughly enjoyed) his autobiography. Anyway, back to the album . . . The Pale Emperor certainly finds Manson exploring a rather different side of himself with much more bluesy sounds, but it’s still very much dark & true to form. I think 2003’s The Golden Age of the Grotesque will always be my favorite MM album, but this one is definitely a close second. MM’s voice is certainly as perfect as ever, & I love that even at 46 (47 as of last week actually) he isn’t afraid to try something new. Be sure to check out Third Day of a Seven Day Binge with its infectious beat, Killing Strangers, Birds of Hell Awaiting with its dark jazzy feel, & Odds of Even which was inspired by the death of Manson’s mother & features a recording of coyotes howling which Manson captured on his phone.
6. Mr. Misunderstood by Eric Church
Eric Church certainly took the world by surprise with this album . . . literally. There was zero press leading up to the release of this album, but hey, it’s Eric Church; we should know by now he does things his own way, & that’s exactly why we love him so much! Church has often said he doesn’t write albums quickly, so I was legitimately surprised to find him releasing a new album only about a year and a half after the release of The Outsiders. This album is certainly a far cry from that one, but that’s just another reason Eric Church is such a genius. Like any real musician, he’s constantly evolving, & he’s never afraid to step outside the boundaries of the country music genre & try a little rock & roll, a little blues, a little gospel, basically a little whatever the hell he wants! While The Outsiders explored a more rock & roll sound, Mr. Misunderstood rather feels like Church is bringing back old-fashioned country with touches of gospel & soul. For his next album, who knows what he’ll explore; whatever it is, it’s sure to be brilliant. Anyhow, the title track finds Church exploring his journey into music, while Mistress Named Music showcases a more gospel sound. Don’t miss the story-telling tracks Knives of New Orleans & Chattanooga Lucy, the latter of which also features some delightful gospel/soul elements. There there’s the lyrically brilliant Kill a Word, not to mention the cleverly crafted Record Year.
5. Immortalized by Disturbed
After a 4 year hiatus, like many fans I was hungry for some new Disturbed music, & their latest album did not disappoint in the least. From the title track to The Vengeful One, there isn’t a bad song on this album. Be sure not to miss the unexpected cover of Sound of Silence which beautifully features David Draiman’s haunting voice. Another favorite of mine is Who Taught You How to Hate which contains the incredibly powerful lyrics that inspired this post.
4. Venom by Bullet For My Valentine
Though I’ve enjoyed a few of their singles before, particularly Your Betrayal, the song that introduced me to BFMV, this is actually the first full album I’ve ever bought from this Welsh metal band. And let me tell you, every inch of it is brilliant. With heavy hitting songs like You Want a Battle (Here’s a War) & No Way Out, Venom makes for a fantastic work-out disc. Don’t miss the fun song about their fans Army of Noise as well as the more melodic title track.
3. Malevolence by New Year’s Day
I first heard of New Year’s Day when I discovered the amazing collaboration they did with Chris from Motionless in White in the song Angel Eyes. However, it wasn’t till a few weeks ago that I started exploring more of NYD’s work, & I’m so glad I did because their third album which debuted in October has quickly become one of my all-time favorite albums. You will be greatly remiss if you do not check out the powerful title track which perfectly features Ash Costello’s beautiful but fierce voice. Some of my other favorites include the empowering Anthem of the Unwanted, Left Inside, & Defame Me. From start to finish, there isn’t a bad song on this album, & I beg you to check it out.
2. Pageant Material by Kacey MusgravesI’ve often written about Kacey Musgraves on this blog because her lyrics are just so meaningful to me, so it should come as no surprise to see her second album near the top of this list. My favorite song from the album is easily Somebody to Love with its beautiful & timeless message about the humanity that unites us all. I wrote a bit about the title track in this post from July. Other favorites include Die Fun, Biscuits, & Fine. As with her debut album, there isn’t a bad song on this disc, & there’s certainly a maturity & sincerity to her lyrics that sets Kacey Musgraves far above most of her contemporaries, many of whom are considerably older & more experienced than her. Don’t miss this one.
Into the Wild Life by Halestorm
You need this album. You really do.
Considering I’ve often written about Halestorm before, again it should come as no surprise to see their latest album at the top of this list. To be completely honest, when I first listened to Into the Wild Life I wasn’t sure what to think. I liked it of course, but it was so raw, so different in certain ways from their previous albums, that I was just a little shaken. But I couldn’t deny that it was anything short of amazing. As with most truly great albums, the more I listened, the more I fell in love with the music. From the infectious anthem of singles like Amen & Apocalyptic to the heavy-hitting Mayhem, there is once again not a single bad song on this record. Lzzy’s voice is fantastically featured on the powerful ballad Dear Daughter as well as on my personal favorite (though it’s nigh impossible to choose) I Like It Heavy. Some of my best memories from 2015 are definitely seeing Halestorm in concert twice, first at Carolina Rebellion in May & later on the Jagermeister Tour in September. I might have initially been a little puzzled by Halestorm’s latest effort, but after a few listens I realized this record only solidifies why they are indeed my all-time favorite band. Interestingly, this album was produced by Jay Joyce who has coincidentally produced all of Eric Church’s albums, & of course Halestorm toured a bit with Church in 2014 . . . Hmmm . . . Anyway, if you don’t check out any other albums on this list, be sure to make it this one. You won’t regret it.
That’s it folks. You have no excuse for not checking out some of these fabulous albums as I’ve so kindly provided links to my favorite songs off of each one. So enjoy them! Cheers!
As some of you may know, for many years I was quite sure I never wanted to have children. Deep down I knew I’d probably change my mind someday but I just couldn’t imagine that ever happening. I’ve just never been one of those women who instantly connects with children or feels really comfortable with them. Perhaps this is because I wasn’t the happiest child myself; indeed I was always in a hurry to grow up & I’ve never been happier than I have been since I reached adulthood.
As it so happens, I’ve been thinking A LOT about becoming a mom lately. It’s probably partly due to having Chaucer (my dog) & watching him grow up & how wonderful that is. And it’s probably partly because I’m 26 so I’m hitting what might be considered a normal age to start having kids. (Hell, where I grew up I’m already far behind!)
Our Welsh corgi, Chaucer
When I do decide to have kids, you can be sure I’ll have thought about all the possibilities & consequences. I’ve read all the articles about how kids ruin your sleep, your appearance, your metabolism, your sex life, your marriage, your career, & everything else. (May I just say my husband & I are determined to prove all those articles wrong?) I’ve never been one of those “starry-eyed” women who see babies & only think of cuddles & love. No indeed. When I see babies I mostly think about the pain of labor & breastfeeding & the sleepless nights. Does this make me cold-hearted & unfeeling? No, I think it just makes me realistic. And as one of my dearest friends told me today, the fact that I’ve thought about all of these things & am taking this decision so seriously is probably evidence that I will actually be a good mom. Her saying that means the world to me because whenever I express doubt about becoming a mom or admit that I’m not particularly fond of most young children, it seems that most people give me that look that implies something must be inherently wrong with me & say “Well, if you’re not sure, you better not do it.” Whenever I become a mom, I know I’ll be a bit different than most of the moms in my family, but I can only hope I’ll be half as good, even if I am a bit unorthodox.
In any case, as part of my pondering about becoming a mom, my mind keeps thinking of all the things I want to teach my children someday. I know some people will probably think I’m really pretentious for writing out this list, but the way I see it is it’s better to have a lot of plans that I might never fully accomplish than to have no plans at all.
I will teach my children the importance of asking both “Why?” & “Why not?” If the subject is something to believe or trust, the appropriate question is “Why?” If the subject is something fun to do, the appropriate question is “Why not?”
I will teach my children to play in rain puddles, piles of leaves, & grassy meadows.
I will teach my children to value people of different races, ethnicities, & cultures. I will teach them that no one is superior or inferior than anyone else but especially not because of something so superficial as race, gender, or nationality.
I will teach my children that love is love & it doesn’t matter who it’s between as long as they are two consenting adults who are not hurting each other.
I will teach my kids the value of good nutrition & eating well.
I will teach my kids to enjoy exercise, even if it’s just running around the yard chasing the dog.
On that subject, I will teach my kids that dogs really are man’s (& woman’s) best friend.
I will teach my kids to love rock & roll. I will take them to rock concerts when they are old enough (probably 10-12 or older). I will be that crazy mom who is screaming to the music with my kids & I will not be ashamed or apologize for it. In the car we will rock out to Halestorm, Godsmack, & Black Stone Cherry (among others).
I will teach my children not to judge others based on appearance. I will teach them that some of the best people in the world are covered with tattoos & piercings while some of the most deceitful people in the world are dressed in suits & ties.
I will teach my children that life isn’t all fun & games but it isn’t all misery & suffering either. It’s a little bit of everything & we have to learn to appreciate all of it.
I will teach my children that life’s not fair & they better get used to that real fast.
I will teach my kids that they alone are responsible for the choices they make; thus they better be ready to face the consequences of their actions, no matter what they are.
I will teach my children that sex is wonderful & amazing . . . & because of that they better be careful who they do it with & when. But I will never make them feel that sex in & of itself is something dirty or something to be ashamed of.
I will teach my children about birth control & how it works & why they had better use it until the day they (& their partner) are absolutely certain they are ready to be parents.
I will teach my children that education is the key to success in life . . . but they better have a plan to go along with it because degrees alone are worthless these days.
I will teach my kids that there is no job that is beneath them & working hard at everything they do is essential to success in life.
I will teach my kids to show respect to everyone they meet, whether it’s their doctor, their teacher, or the janitor.
I will teach my children that “everything in moderation” is a really great motto in life, the only exceptions being things like heroin & cocaine. Just have some common sense!
I will teach my kids that things in & of themselves are never evil; it’s how we use them that makes them good or bad. For example, the internet isn’t evil just because some creeps use it to prey on children or watch porn. Books aren’t evil just because some of them say things you don’t like. Music isn’t evil just because some of it contains lyrics that are rude or disparaging.
I will teach my kids the importance of valuing every single day they’re alive because life is never guaranteed.
I will teach my kids that they don’t have to be just like me for me to love them or be proud of them. There is more than one road to success in life & theirs might look very different than mine. And that’s ok.
I will teach my kids that in order to be successful in life they need to get off their ass & get moving. Success doesn’t come to those who wait for it. It comes to those who set goals & work hard to meet them.
I will teach my children that the exact words people say are far less important than the feelings behind them.
On a similar token, I will teach my children that actions speak far louder than words.
I will teach my children to always be honest about their intentions with others.
I will teach my kids the value of empathy & how important it is to just listen to others when they are suffering.
I will teach my children that the world doesn’t owe them anything. They will not be entitled brats if it kills me.
I will teach my kids that the purpose of life is to live it, to soak up every experience life has to offer, & to revel in the love we have for each other.
If I have daughters, I will make sure my husband teaches them how to check the oil in their car & how to change a tire because these are all things I’ve never learned & I want my daughters to be more independent than I am.
If I have sons, I will teach them how to do laundry & basic cooking because I love that I never had to teach my husband any of these things.
I will teach my children that society has various expectations of them based on gender but they need to choose their own path, regardless of what society says.
I will teach my kids to value the simple beauties of nature: the way the sky looks just before it rains, the sweet smell of honeysuckle in the spring time, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, the feeling of snowflakes tickling your nose, & the way a little frost makes the whole world look magical.
Taken along the Highline Trail at Glacier Ntnl Park, Sept 2014
I will teach my children to love curry & all foods Indian & Mediterranean. If not, they might starve at our house . . .
I will teach my kids that having an argument with someone doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It just means you disagreed about something & the worst thing you can do in such situations is to bottle up your emotions & hold them in until you explode.
I will teach my kids to question everything & never believe something just because such & such person said it. I will teach them to judge everything based on its own merits.
I will share with my kids the joy of reading & searching out used book stores in all corners of the city.
I will take my children to visit their elders & teach them to appreciate all the things the elderly can teach us about life.
I will teach my children that being weird is awesome & following the crowd is for losers.
I will teach my children that no one can make them feel inferior without their consent.
I will teach my kids the difference between serving others & being a doormat. It’s a fine line but it’s one you have to find.
I will teach my kids that in order to take care of others, they must first learn to take care of themselves. As hard as it will be to do so, I will role model this for them as best I can.
I will teach my children that, like things, emotions are never evil. It’s what we do with them that matters. I do not want them to grow up feeling guilty for experiencing anger, sadness, lust, or any other “sinful” emotion. I just want to teach them heathy ways to express these feelings.
I will teach my kids that nothing in life is perfect all the time. Life isn’t a fairytale but it’s still pretty damn good if we make smart choices & chase our passions.
I will teach my children that even though being a mom is immeasurably important I am still other things too: a wife, a sister, a daughter, a nurse, etc. Even though I know all children have a hard time thinking of their mothers as anything else, I hope they’ll learn to appreciate me as more than just “a mom” if that makes any sense.
I will teach my children that we are all hypocrites sometimes & no matter how hard we try, we all fail to live up to our own ideals at times. We just have to keep striving to do the best we can & stay humble when we make mistakes.
And, perhaps greatest of all, I will kiss & hug my children every day & teach them to never doubt how much I love them.
What do you think, readers? Are these worthy goals or am I just tilting at windmills?
First of all, you’re awesome. Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Second of all, I am writing to you today to say I feel your pain. You’re not alone on this journey in life & knowing that can be a huge factor in realizing that being a misfit is actually not a bad lot in life. In fact the second reason I’m writing to you today is to tell you why I believe being a misfit can actually be one of the greatest things you can experience in life. But we’ll get to that later. To begin, let me explain why I feel I have the right to speak on these matters.
I’ve been weird practically since birth. My mom swears I said my first sentence at less than a year old (“It’s good, Mom!” while eating; so fitting that my first sentence would be about food. Ha!), causing her to nearly fall over in shock. Certainly I’ve been weird since at least pre-school. I remember very distinctly being the only child in my pre-school class who would sit down with a book during our free-play periods. It never much occurred to me at the time that this meant I was a bit “off.” I was so busy doing my own thing that I never really noticed. Then I went to kindergarten & discovered I was the only kid who hated nap time. While everyone else was blissfully asleep, I would lie awake bored & wondering how much longer this torture would last. I would also wear ridiculous brightly-colored headbands just about every single day. With my hair in a pony-tail. It never occurred to me that this wasn’t stylish or that no one else wore their hair this way. I just did it because I liked it.
Well, as we all know, kids can be pretty cruel. And my care-free “be weird & no one really cares” days didn’t last forever. Before long, the other kids figured out I was pretty weird. Certainly I had a few friends here & there; naturally they were the other weirdos & misfits of course. There’s nothing to bring people together like a feeling of mutual exclusion from your peers.
So to the other misfits, nerds, geeks, & weirdos out there today:
I know what it’s like to be the only kid in class who doesn’t know what “gay” means. Who answers the joke “Is it ‘I da hoe’ or ‘You da hoe’” with “Idaho” because I didn’t realize this was some stupid joke that had nothing to do with the name of a state.
I know what it’s like to be constantly out of the loop on popular culture & thus have very little to talk about with the majority of your classmates.
I know what it’s like to be picked last in gym class over & over again. And what it’s like to be laughed at because your athletic skills leave a lot to be desired.
I know what it’s like to hide your grades from your classmates because you know they’ll tease you for being a “smarty pants” or at the least they’ll try to make you feel guilty for “wrecking the curve.”
I know what it’s like to be excited for school to start because you love learning but at the same time to dread the social aspect of school because you have so much anxiety over whether your fellow nerds will be in any of your classes or, most important of all, if they’ll share your lunch period.
I know what it’s like to try really hard to fit in with the cool kids & to think they’ve finally more or less accepted you only to find out the whole time they thought you were just a pain in the butt.
I know what it’s like to never be sure if a compliment is really a compliment or if people are secretly making fun of you when you’re not looking or listening because the latter has happened enough times to make you paranoid.
On a more adult level, I know what it’s like to feel “old before your time.” To wonder when most of your cohorts will realize that getting drunk is only a minor milestone in life, not one to be revisited every single weekend. And then further to wonder if making such statements makes you incredibly boring & “old.”
Speaking of being old, I know what it’s like to be called “old at heart,” sometimes as a compliment & sometimes not.
And I still know what it’s like to be out of the loop about much of popular culture. Only this time I don’t give a crap. Because now I know that I’m not missing anything worth missing.
Now that I’ve reiterated all the reasons why being a misfit, nerd, geek, or weirdo sucks or at least can be difficult, let me explain why I think being different than the norm is actually AWESOME. Being a misfit from an early age taught me some very valuable lessons that I think everyone learns at some point in life but learning them at a young age can be even more beneficial.
Being weird taught me how to be happy on my own & to realize that being alone is ok sometimes.
Being weird taught me that having a few close friends is much more important than having a lot of acquaintances.
On a related note, being weird means it’s easier to know if people really like you. Because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t stick around . . . After all, there are a lot more normal people out there. So if you’re weird & someone keeps coming back to you (romantically or otherwise), there’s a reasonably good chance they’re actually serious about you.
Trust me when I say this one is still a big battle for me, but being weird has taught me not to care so much about what other people think about me. As Kacey Musgraves so wisely wrote: “You’re damned if you do & damned if you don’t/So you might as well just do whatever you want.” Truer words have never been spoken (or sung, in this case). Being weird has taught me that trying to please everyone is always a losing battle. And so I’m slowly learning to just live my life how I see fit, knowing that those who really matter will not forsake me.
Being weird has taught me that life is more fun “on the edge” so to speak. For example, being weird has encouraged me to try out different kinds of music that aren’t exactly mainstream. I’m now a huge fan of lots of European symphonic metal bands when just 10 years ago I didn’t even know such music existed. A lot of my favorite rock bands don’t even have a Wikipedia page or have one with only a few short paragraphs; point being, a lot of the best music out there these days is not what’s being played on the radio 24/7. Nowadays I’m the one introducing my friends & coworkers to new music. And being a weirdo, I still collect actual CDs & I’m very happy to lend them to my friends so they too can enjoy my favorite bands.
Being a misfit has given me a tremendous amount of self-confidence. It’s still a difficult battle some days but I wouldn’t be the nurse or the person I am today if I hadn’t been a bit of a misfit all these years. I wouldn’t have the confidence to deal with difficult patients, angry family members, & the life & death situations I’m presented on a frequent basis as a nurse. Being weird requires confidence because you’re going “against the grain.” At first you mightn’t realize it, as occurred with me as young child. But at some point you & those around you realize you’re a bit different, & when that happens it requires a lot of confidence to continue being your good old weird self because of all the negative experiences I’ve detailed above. This translates into a great deal of self-confidence as an adult which can push you to achieve a lot of things you might not otherwise have accomplished.
Being weird means that the older you get, the more your peers will recognize how awesome you are. For example, when I went to college I had no idea that I’d make as many friends as I did. I thought I was destined to always be a bit lonely. Much to my great surprise & relief, I found that college was like heaven for nerds. We might not have been the coolest kids on campus but we certainly weren’t teased anymore & on some level it was obvious that even the jocks & sorority girls (the stereotypical ones anyway) realized they really weren’t as cool as they thought they were & that we nerds were really the ones “running the show.”
Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from being weird is that you should NEVER sacrifice who you are or what you believe (or don’t believe) for ANYONE. If people don’t like you as you are, they’ll never like you because anything else you try to become will be fake. And someone who is fake will always be discovered for what they really are. Furthermore, being weird has taught me that being respected is more important, far more important, than being liked. And that anyone who truly wants to be your friend (or romantic partner) WILL respect you first & foremost.
To end my treatise to all of us misfits, nerds, geeks, & weirdos, let me introduce you to Freak Like Me by Halestorm, one of my all-time favorite rock bands. If this isn’t an anthem for us, I don’t know what is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sXoA7B5yJo
To all of you freaks like me out there, keep being awesome, don’t let anyone get you down, & rock on with your bad selves.
I realize it’s a little late into 2014 to be writing this, but I didn’t get the idea until mid-way through January & it took me a while to compile this list, so I’m going ahead with it anyway even if the post seems a bit belated. A few of these albums were actually released in 2012 but didn’t become truly popular until 2013, or at the very least I didn’t discover them until 2013 so I’ve included them anyway. I’ll be upfront & tell you that 90% of these albums are rock albums, so if you don’t like rock music I guess this post isn’t for you. But I challenge you to read it anyway because you never know what might trigger your interest.
Aside from #1, these are in no particular order.
I’ve included links to at least one of my favorite songs from each album because I’m awesome like that. 🙂 At the end I’ve also included some of my most anticipated album releases for 2014.
1. The House of Gold & Bones, Volumes 1 & 2 by Stone Sour
It’s nigh impossible for me to pick a favorite album of all time but if I had to do it, I think this dual-album would be my choice. There are a lot of reasons I say that, not the least of which is that I find myself subconsciously judging other albums based on this one. I don’t mean to do that because consciously I realize that a concept album such as this is not THE standard for all albums ever made & yet this one is just so breathtaking that it’s become my point of comparison for just about everything. I didn’t know a lot of Stone Sour music before this dual-album debuted, but when I started hearing Absolute Zero on the radio I fell in love immediately. I was at Best Buy purchasing another album one day & just happened to see Volume 1 of The House of Gold & Bones & decided to take a chance on it. Best decision ever. Within a few weeks of purchasing Volume 1, I was completely entranced. Every single song is just so perfect & they all flow together like a rock symphony so that often it is difficult to tell where one song ends & another begins. Volume 2 is exactly the same way. Between the two Volume 1 is my favorite but honestly they are both phenomenal. From ballads to harder songs that are more Slipknot in feel, the vocals, the lyrics, the music itself, everything is in top form. Just about every emotion human beings can experience is touched on in these songs. There is so much more I could say about this dual-album but I’ll stop now for fear of boring you. Just buy the albums. You won’t regret it.
2. Same Trailer, Different Park by Kacey Musgraves
May I just say that I am really proud of myself for having this album months before Kacey Musgraves started garnering national attention & winning a very well-deserved Grammy? I used to be so behind the times when it came to music & popular culture & I still am in a lot of ways, but with music I am often quite ahead of my time nowadays, at least in certain genres. It’s often been said that Kacey Musgraves sings country music for people who don’t like country music. I think the reason for that is that Kacey’s lyrics are so profound while also being extremely witty. She also isn’t afraid to write about the nastier side of small town life. While most popular country stars are singing about pick-up trucks, fishing, & drinking beer, Kacey is penning such scathing & controversial but inspiring songs as Merry Go Round & Follow Your Arrow. Every single song on this album is a real winner & it’s rare for me to say that, especially about a country album. If you don’t want to buy the album or don’t typically like country music, just look her up on YouTube. You might end up buying the album after hearing some more of her songs, just like I did. (Also of note, Kacey has written many popular songs sung by other country artists including the recent Miranda Lambert hit Mama’s Broken Heart. No offense to Miranda, but I like Kacey’s version of it even better. Again, look it up on YouTube.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo212zOUKxI
3. The Wrong Side of Heaven & the Righteous Side of Hell, Volumes 1 & 2 by Five Finger Death Punch
FFDP is one of those rare bands whose songs I almost always fall in love with immediately upon hearing them. They are just that good. From ballads to thrashing rock & roll anthems, Ivan Moody’s voice is mesmerizing & the band behind him is top-notch in every way. When you hear a FFDP song, there’s never any question about whose song it is. You just know. Like Stone Sour, FFDP released a dual-album in 2013. These are not concept albums but they are fantastic nonetheless. There are plenty of the traditional “angry” songs for which FFDP is famous, but there are also plenty of powerful ballads. The titular song on the first album is one of my favorites along with Battle Born & Cradle to the Grave on Volume 2. Volume 1 contains several compilations with other artists including Rob Halford from Judas Priest & Maria Brink from In This Moment. There is also a remake of the LL Cool J song Mama Said Knock You Out featuring the rapper Tech N9ne. A hard rock/metal band remaking a rap song? Yes, that’s right. And it’s amazing. There’s a reason FFDP is the number one band I listen to on the way to work: their music is just so energizing. Is it ironic that what most people would consider to be “angry” music energizes me to provide compassionate care to sick people? Maybe, maybe not. There’s a lot more to this kind of music if you just take the time to listen a little deeper. Bottom line: whether you are already familiar with FFDP or not, check out these albums today.
This is definitely a 2012 album but I love it so much that I decided to include it anyway. I know a certain segment of rock/metal fans think Shinedown isn’t “hard-core” enough for their taste, but I’ve always found that to be a rather superficial & undeserving judgment. Shinedown is one of those rare rock bands who have somehow found that “sweet spot” of writing songs that are “tame” enough to be played on mainstream radio (sometimes even on stations that aren’t pure rock stations) while not becoming a pop band. I’ve seen Shinedown in concert twice & each time my respect for them has only increased. Amaryllis is an album that covers a vast amount of subject matter as well as an impressive range of musical styles. There isn’t even one song on this album that I would give less than 4 stars. If you don’t usually like rock music, I’d recommend Shinedown as a great place to start. It’s not necessarily that their music is “softer;” they just seem to have a way of reaching out to people across all genres of music. Even in their more angry/cynical songs, Shinedown has a way of inspiring hope. Perhaps that is what makes them so powerful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGhJKiMR4XY
5. The Strange Case Of… by Halestorm
I had the privilege of seeing Halestorm live in 2013 & the best way to sum up that experience is this: I can’t wait to see them again, preferably on a head-lining tour. A hard rock band with touches of metal here & there with a seriously bad-ass female lead singer? I mean, what is not to like here? The Strange Case Of… is a great follow-up to Halestorm’s first album. From the fast-paced Grammy award-winning Love Bites to powerful ballads like Break In & Here’s to Us, Halestorm is in top form in every way on this album. In the traditionally male-dominated world of rock & roll Lzzy Hale makes female rock fans like me feel right at home. At the same time, her music is far from “feminine” & many of her top fans are actually guys. And it’s not just because she’s sexy. She, & her band which includes her brother Arejay on drums, is seriously talented too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmkHqUwa4zg
6. Blood by In This Moment
I had never heard of In This Moment until 2013. As soon as I heard the titular song Blood, I knew I had to have the whole album. Maria Brink & her band are just that talented. This isn’t music for the faint of heart; it’s raw & sometimes a little raunchy. But, wow, it is powerful! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulgE1v1eyRk
7. Onyx by Pop Evil
I am proud to say I owned all three of Pop Evil’s albums before they became more mainstream this past year with the success of their hit singles Trenches & Deal Withthe Devil off of their 2013 album Onyx. I first started listening to Pop Evil after the moderate success of Monster You Made in 2011. It was that song that prompted me to buy their first two albums & I was thoroughly impressed with both of them. Then came Onyx. Each album Pop Evil has released gets better & better so I can only imagine what their next album will be like. Pop Evil is definitely on my list of bands that I most want to see live in the next year or two. (P.S. Ladies, the lead singer Leigh Kakaty is a sight for sore eyes. Do a quick Google image search & I promise you’ll thank me.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWdtN7pCZug
8. Fortress by Alter Bridge
Alter Bridge is one of those American bands who have actually had greater success in Europe than here in their own country. But I’ve been a fan since high school, thanks originally to my husband. In any case Fortress has made it on many lists of top albums for 2013 & rightfully so. This isn’t an album that you’ll fall in love with at first listen. Or at least you might not. Alter Bridge isn’t known for writing songs with super catchy tunes; in other words they don’t always get stuck in your head immediately. But what marks them as a truly great band is that their music gets better & better the more you listen to it. Their music is like an onion; there are so many layers & each time you listen you hear a little more & a little more. To me that is the mark of great musicianship & these guys have it. I think Alter Bridge has always resonated with me because they aren’t a flashy band & their music somehow walks the fine line of facing the harsh darkness of life while always retaining a bit of hope. To me they are a band that will stand the test of time, & I won’t be surprised if fifty years from now they are more respected & popular than they are now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M9QxzpTjec
9. Brave, Bold, & Broken by Mindset Evolution
I first heard ME at Uproar Festival in Raleigh in Sept 2012. At that point they only had a 5-song “album” out but I bought & loved every song on it. So when their first full-length album debuted in 2013 I purchased it the very day it came out. And I’ve been nothing short of pleased. Why these guys don’t get more radio-play I’ll never understand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fFHCXscp3k
10. Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies by Volbeat
Ok, here’s a rock album that evokes the feeling of the American Wild West. As if that isn’t a great enough feat on its own, consider that Volbeat isn’t even an American rock band. They are actually a Danish band! I’m not sure that this album really qualifies as a concept album, but all of the songs are about characters from the Wild West. Volbeat is another of those bands whom you can never mistake for anyone else, yet somehow they manage to really evoke the sound of the Wild West in these songs while still remaining true to their own unique sound. It’s seriously impressive stuff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dj1sVQ2qdnI
And lastly, my most anticipated albums of 2014:
The Outsiders by Eric Church (debuting tomorrow, February 11!) I have a soft spot in my heart for this NC native because he is passionately devoted to his MUSIC above all else. He comes across as kind of rough around the edges, but in reality he’s a family man who travels with his wife & infant son on his tour bus. I admire his willingness to speak whatever’s on his mind even when it’s not always popular & his refusal to bend to the whims of popular opinion. I’m also partial to his music because of its rock & roll feel. Going to one of his concerts felt like being at a redneck rock concert. Needless to say, I loved it & would love to see him live again someday. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_P-YNJIdNc
Magic Mountain by Black Stone Cherry (coming May 6) BSC is a band I discovered in 2013 after seeing a picture of an Alter Bridge member wearing a BSC sweatshirt. I figured if Alter Bridge liked them, they had to be good. And they are! The 2011 album Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea by these small-town Kentucky rockers is fabulous & has me eagerly anticipating their new album this year. I love the fact that BSC’s music has a very Southern rock feel while still being very hard-core. I also must point out that the current Florida-Georgia Line hit Stay is actually a BSC song from their 2011 album mentioned above. It really grinds my gears that BSC isn’t getting credit for that song. (Sorry FGL fans, but their version sucks anyway.)