It feels like forever since my last blog post, and it kind of has been… In part due to both a lack of enthusiasm for writing recently, as well as constant car issues that have left me caught up inside my bedroom. However, today I am feeling like I can write and so in turn I shall do just that. In this post I will go through 10 of my favourite albums from 10 various genres, needless to say I recommend giving them all a listen. Music is one of the things in life that I never stray far from, and while I swing between interests regularly, there’s never a 24 hour period where I am not listening to music.
Artist: Crime in Stereo
Album: Is Dead
Genre: Melodic Hardcore
Crime in Stereo is a Bridge Nine band that has had a constantly evolving sound, with earlier work being more generic fast paced hardcore with little experimentation with chords, but that started changing from their mid-2000s releases and to me the Is Dead album capsulated their new sound perfectly, though it’s worth noting their follow-up album “I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone” which was released in 2010, continued with their new found melodic style. I actually found it difficult to decide which album to choose here, but there’s a single track of Is Dead that just made the decision for me, and that track is Small Skeletal, an ultimately haunting track that is quite easy for me to personally take to heart. Though I do think that “I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone” may actually potentially be the better album in terms of consistency. Either way, if you haven’t heard Crime in Stereo yet, your life is lacking.
Artist: Brand New
Album: The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me
Genre: Alternative Rock
I think I was having more trouble tying Brand New to a specific genre than anything else here. Brand New started as a pop-punk band and progressed to be what I consider one of the most unique and skillful artists out there. Prior to TDAGARIM their music was still really good, but nothing groundbreaking… But with this album’s release it was as if they had discovered something new. The guitar riffs and use of ambient sounds makes this album solid as a mother fucker. The sound they began experimenting with (and perfecting) is very similar to that which Crime in Stereo developed in their later albums, the use of ambient sounds and unusual but effective use of backing vocals. Another album where I am unable to pick a favourite track, in fact – just listen to the whole god damn thing on repeat until you die and you’ll die happy. A song that does stand out for its lyrical content, despite being excellent throughout the album, is Limousine – which is based around a true story whereby a family was returning from a wedding and were involved in a car accident with another drunken driver. One of the little girls, who if I remember correctly was a flower girl at the wedding was killed in the accident, and I believe the story goes, that when the police arrived the father was found in the street cradling the dead girls body.
This is an album that is worth buying an original, and a few copies to hand out to strangers in the street as a public service.
Album: Diamond Eyes
Genre: Alternative Metal
Deftones is another band that is hard to define a genre for, they began as mostly a nu-metal project but quickly evolved into much more. Like both Crime in Stereo and Brand New, they began experimenting more with ambient and melodic sounds to create more atmosphere in their music, and as far as creating an atmosphere goes, one can do no better than Diamond Eyes. Despite the band releasing classic tracks that no doubt have a place in some part of our memories from our youth, and while White Pony was and still is an insanely good album, the atmosphere in Diamond Eyes is what really draws me to it. White Pony I listen to when I want to get amped on good music and feel energetic, Diamond Eyes is there for when I want to put on my headphones and drift away into another world. On its release I thought it was mediocre, but after listening to it for a few days, it grew on me so much that I listened to nothing else for weeks. Chino’s voice fits so well with the dreamlike sounds that accompany the tracks, and closing one’s eyes and listening to this album feels like you’re floating through space, or at the bottom of the ocean. It’s hard to describe without feeling it one’s self. Listen to it, now… And if you’re not immediately drawn in, listen to it again – and again…
Artist: Christian Death
Album: Only Theatre of Pain
Christian Death were the pioneers of the deathrock genre, one that sought to merge the punk and goth genres together in what would essentially be goth, but with more punk values in most cases. Despite still drawing a lot from the Romanticism that the goth genre did, there was also a focus on punk elements like social problems. The band was originally fronted by Rozz Williams, who later committed suicide. Since Rozz’s death, the band has continued with the same name, though with Valor taking over on vocals. The release of Only Theatre of Pain paved the way for many deathrock and even goth bands that would follow, and had a sound that was definitely unique to itself. Chords were generally fairly simple, and along the lines of many of the punk bands at the times, while lyrics however were more focused on life philosohpy, occult and religion. Romeo’s Distress is probably the most well known of the tracks on the album, and features the occasionally controversial line, “Burning crosses on a nigger’s lawn, burning dollars what’s a house without a home, dance in your white sheet passion…”
The lyrics however were apparently not intended to be racist, but instead the opposite – and sought to comment on the biggoted and backwards way of thinking that was prevailent in large parts of the US, and specifically Rozz’s parents.
The album is probably not for everyone, and some may struggle to find the appeal in it if they’re searching for elaborate song-writing. But Rozz’s voice, coupled with the appeal of simple chord progressions and the ability to create a darker version of the punk genre using little other elements than chord progression and vocal style definitely makes it appealing.
Album: Translating The Name
Yup, I’m defining this as Screamo – but call it what you want. Saosin are one of few third wave emo/screamo bands that I find myself still loving despite my hair no longer covering my eyes and being vibrant colours. The thing is that what a genre is popular, one tends to try and listen to it a lot, even if the bands making it aren’t that good. That is what separates Saosin from most of the other screamo bands, they make legitimately good music.
Translating The Name is the only EP on this list, and for an album that only has 5 songs – you know it’s got to be good. Definitely only for those who enjoy their male vocalists sounding like female vocalists, Anthony Green, who later left the band offers some quality singing in a rather high pitch that I know doesn’t appeal to everyone. But for those who can appreciate the nut-wrenched vocals this EP is dynamite. Seven Years, the opening track is probably my favourite and encapsulates the mid-2000s screamo sound perfectly.
Artist: Sex Gang Children
Sex Gang Children are in my opinion the most under-rated gothic band to have ever existed. Despite being seen occassionally in mainstream references, not many people have actually listened to them or know the history behind the band. They originally formed in 1981, making them one of the pioneering goth/deathrock bands, but they mainly released EPs and only had several LPs released during the 80s and 90s.
Medea was their peak release in my opinion and captured what the band was really capable of. The tracks are a strange combination of sombre and energetic and leaves you wondering if you should dance or if you should find a dark corner to sit in, though ultimately the former will always win. The songs are hauntingly beautiful and very bass heavy. It creeps the line between goth, post-punk and deathrock, but ultimately leaves you humming the songs for days after listening to it.
Artist: Have Heart
Album: Songs to Scream at the Sun
In writing this, I have realized I don’t listen to nearly as much hardcore as I thought I did, and finding my favourite album proved difficult, there were 3 or 4 that stuck out but Have Heart had to take it for me. I was fortunate enough to fly up to Johannesburg a few years back to see Have Heart play, and it was the most amazing experience of my life. It’s not often that one can see their favourite band tour in South Africa.
At the time they were here, Songs to Scream At The Sun was still a new album and I hadn’t listened to enough of it to really make an educated decision on it, and my favourite at the time was The Things We Carry, which is still a solid album. But currently I think Songs to Scream at the Sun is a favourite of mine, it feels as though there’s more consistent quality with StSatS than there was in The Things We Carry, which had a couple of insanely good tracks, but a few others that were more mediocre. The style of the album, is a combination of that aggressive Boston hardcore style, as well as a few more melodic elements. Track 2, Bostons is probably my favourite song of the album, though as mentioned before, there is consistency where almost all songs on the album are of quality.
Album: Within Deep Dark Chambers
Genre: Black Metal
Shining is another pioneering band, who are credited with starting the genre DSBM (Depressive Suicidal Black Metal), and it’s most certainly not a genre that everyone will enjoy. Niklas Kvaforth (vocals) started the band with a desire to create a sound so dark and so miserable that it is intended to ecapsulate the loss of hope and dispair that one goes through in depression. Where many genres try to uplift, Shining is the opposite… It is intended to bring you down, to make you hopeless and to get lost in riffs of depression induced sounds. Niklas has said that he wants his music to make people kill themselves, and well – who can argue with that!
The band formed in 1996, but took 4 years before they released their first studio album, namely Within Deep Dark Chambers. Released in 2000, the album was a pretty awesome introductory release and the sound manages to do just what Kvaforth intended, as you get drawn into an abyss of screams, cries and dispair. The music relies heavily on eerie chord progressions in combination with plenty of tremolo picking, to create a sound that is dark and hopeless. Some songs you almost feel Kvaforth’s pain as he wollows into the mic. Ren djävla ångest (Pure Fucking Angst) is my favourite track of the album by far. This is definitely not something for everyone, and I assume most people would prefer the band’s newer work which is a bit more melodic and aimed at a larger audience.
Album: 200km/h In The Wrong Lane
Legitimately serious on this one, t.A.T.u’s music is amazing. While there is a lot of nostalgia tied to their tracks and I wasn’t sure if I was simply being bias because of it, I listened to their follow up album and was equally as impressed with some of the songs. It’s funny that a band that was created for the most selfish, money hungry and exploitative reasons is able to make such good music. The band was started by a Russian music industry businessman who was looking to create a group of teenaged girls that he could market as an underaged sex symbol to older Russian men, while also targetting young girls who may see them as something they could aspire to, after all they were only 14 when they were signed.
200km/h In The Wrong Lane is currently in my car’s cd player at the moment and I still can’t get over how catchy the songs are, in fact I think I’ve learned a whole bunch of Russian from listening to the bonus Russian tracks on the album. Something that will make a lot of people cringe is the fact that they covered The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” – not sure how Morrissey feels about it. But the real highlights of the album are the hit singles “All The Things She Said” and “Not Gonna Get Us”. “30 Minutes” is another classic, slowly and less energetic than the other two tracks. One can’t help but love this album… Despite the controversies that surround the band and its members.
Artist: Tie between Tupac and Bone Thugs & Harmony
Album: All Eyez on Me and The Collection Volume 1
Year: 1996 & 1998
Tupac – All Eyez on Me
Released the same year that Tupac would die after a drive by shooting incident, All Eyez on Me is a double album that encapsulated Tupac at his peak. The album was recorded around the same period as the later released “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory”, another extremely good album. The fact that All Eyez on Me was the final non-posthumous record that Tupac would release before his death in September that year, really begs the hypothetical question of exactly when Tupac was going to peak. For all we know, there could have been years of solid releases still awaiting the undeniable king of hip-hop.
All Eyez on Me is in my mind one of Tupac’s harder albums, with track one being ‘Ambitionz az a Ridah”, getting straight into it with the chorus “I won’t deny it, I’m a straight ridah, you don’t want to fuck with me”, a mentality that is carried over into other songs on the album. Track 6 off the album is probably one of the better known songs off the album and featured West Coast legend, Snoop Dogg. The song, titled “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” begins with some intro talk before the first verse kicks in, but god damn the first verse is one of my favourites from Tupac. It may not be deep or insightful, but the words flow like a mother-bitch with some delightful alliteration. In fact, they feel good just coming out one’s mouth: “Picture perfect, I paint a perfect, bomb the hoochies with precision, my intention’s to get richer…”
Life Goes On is the 9th track of the album and is far from the aggressive tone set in the previous two mentioned, in fact it’s an almost sombre piece that reflects on the death of a friend and how easily a life is taken away, especially in the poorer communities where crime is more prevalent. None the less, it’s a great track.
On the second disc, my favourite track is definitely “Shorty Wanna be a Thug”, which seeks to chronicle the way young males in the poor communities are forced to have criminals as role models and that the men they look up to often live a life that is far from what they should be aspiring to. Some may say there’s irony in it given Tupac’s blatant and unwavering thug passion (pun intended), but Tupac himself always stated that he didn’t choose to be a thug, it’s just what he was.
Bone Thugs & Harmony – The Collection vol 1.
Let me start by saying that I hate compilation albums, best ofs usually have a collection of bad songs that for some reason were deemed as the best. But Bone Thugs’ 1998 album, “The Collection Volume 1” is so insanely good of a compilation that it was impossible to keep off this list. Bone Thugs released a lot of good albums and their style was always completely unique. Personally, by far my favourite rap collective out there.
Despite how good their rap abilities were, their albums historically have been a bit hit and miss – there were some killer tunes on some records and then quite a few mediocre tracks too. The Collection Volume 1 however, did exactly what a ‘Best Of’ album should do, it put together all of those great songs they’ve made and stuck them on a single disc. I picked this album up in 2001 and it soon became the soundtrack to my youth, I would blast it daily to the point where even my little sister ended up knowing the words to some of the songs. After losing my original copy some time in the 13 year period between when I got it and now, I managed to find another copy for sale at a local music store and picked it up.
It’s hard to pick specific tracks that stand out because the whole album is gold, but there are a couple that just leave me in awe, even after hearing them hundreds of times. But with that said, there are 3 tracks that are some of my favourite hip-hop tracks ever released, and feature some of the the greatest legends in the game. “Foe tha love of $” is the first track on the album and features none other than Eazy-E, it sets the tone to the album perfectly and leads into track two, “1st of tha month”. 1st of Tha Month gives some insight into how welfare cheques are seen by many in the US, a means to a resupply of weed and 40s. The track is fast, smooth and damn sexy. Track 6 is Notorious Thugs, and features the man himself – Biggie (The Notorious B.I.G), this track was actually made with Bone Thugs being the feature and released by Notorious B.I.G on one of his albums. The album is not all gangsta rap though and there’s a pretty sombre, yet brilliant track titled “Crossroads” featured later on the album.
If you like your hip-hop harmonic, yet aggressive and fast – you’ve got to give it a listen!
Honourable mention to Wu-Tang Clan and their 36 Chambers album… I could probably make a top 10 just on hip-hop alone.
I could keep this list going on for days, and there may be a part two in the future…