Category Archives: Music

Throwback Soundtrack 5: 90’s R&B

Much like for rock music, the 90’s were one of the last great decades for the genre of R&B. With rap, nu-metal, pop-punk,boy bands, and pop princesses dominating the airwaves at the end of the last century, the early to mid 90’s released some great acts and songs in the last era of strong R&B. While there have been a few popular acts since in the genre, few have had the output or quality of the groups throughout the 90’s. Here is a playlist of 25 songs that I think should be on any playlist of the era.

As always the playlist is available on Spotify here.

motownphillyb2mMotown Philly- Boyz II Men

One of the most popular acts throughout the 90’s Boyz II Men released some of the most enduring hits of the genre in the 90’s. Motown Philly was their first major hit and became a radio staple throughout the early 90’s. Combining slick production with the acapella singing talent  and Doo-wop chops of the group is on of the things that established this group from a solo artist dominated genre.


soul_for_real_-_candy_rain_singleCandy Rain- Soul for Real

While only producing a few popular songs Soul For Real brought about a younger Jackson 5-ish take on the group dynamic that Boyz II Men made popular in the 90’s. Even though this song is widely forgotten, I cannot think of a 90’s R&B playlist without this tune. 

 


no_diggityNo Diggity- Black Street

Black Street’s “No Diggity” is essential to any 90’s R&B playlist. The song was a smash in 1996. Funky with a steady back beat this track allows the group to rap and sing over a great club ready beat. The chorus is simple but memorable and the verses allow the individual members to swap the main vocal with ease.


you_make_me_wanna...You Make Me Wanna- Usher

Usher is one of the solo male artists that carried the torch for R&B in the mid to late 90’s when it was starting to fall out of favor. Smooth vocals and musically sparse this song is good to chill to with a steady beat as well as get out on the dance floor with. Usher had a few popular hits throughout the era but “You Make Me Wanna” is probably my favorite of his.


toni_braxton_-_breathe_againBreathe Again-Toni Braxton

One of the three most soulful women’s voices of the time, Toni Braxton managed to endure throughout the entire decade and after releasing great albums. “Breathe Again” is required listening. Great vocals and pop production made this song a radio hit in the 90’s and helped push Toni Braxton into the public consciousness. 


giving himGiving Him Something He Can Feel- En Vogue

Ev Vougue was the powerhouse female group of 90’s R&B. Releasing a number of hits in the 90’s, they helped to re-establish female R&B groups as a viable and powerful force in the music industry. I chose this song over a few other great ones because it showcases the group’s singing ability and groove. 


thisishowwedoitThis is How We Do It- Montell Jordan

The essential weekend party song of the decade. This song was the only big hit I remember from Montell Jordan but it has stuck with me over the decades and is still one that I will turn up if it comes across a playlist because it is fun to listen to. The repeated refrain of the song title in the chorus was genius for ear worm status because you will find yourself singing it out of the blue and for no particular reason.


would_i_lie_to_youWould I Lie to You- Charles & Eddie

I’m sure that anybody reading this that also lived through this era of music had forgotten about this song. An early 90’s hit it is often lost in the din of other songs throughout the era. The only to 20 hit and the group’s only charting song in the US is soulful and memorable. A certified “One hit Wonder” this song has a classic Motown sound and production level and the high vocal lines of the singing doesn’t grate on the hearing but instead is well performed. 


all_my_life_by_k-ci_and_jojo_us_cd_single_1998All My Life- KC and Jo Jo

The ‘Wedding Song’ of 1999. I couldn’t escape this song my senior year of high school as it was a popular school dance song as well. This is the only hit I remember from the group but it has endured as a musical expression of love that people still go back to.

 


220px-kmsoftlyfugeesKilling Me Softly- Fugees

This cover song pushed the Fugees into a public consciousness through the MTv Video. The group did not last long before pursuing solo projects. Lauryn Hill’s The Miss-education of Lauryn Hill still stands as one of the best albums released in 1999. The song was originally a hit for Roberta Flack in the early 70’s proved to be a hit once again in 1996 when the Fugees released an updated version with a more hip of feel. The song immediately grabs you with the layered acapella vocals from Lauryn Hill. The song consists mostly of the beat with and Hill’s singing which shows the vocal ability of the artist. 


sittin'_up_in_my_roomSittin’ Up In My Room-Brandy

While Brandy is more known for her acting career she did also produce some good music. “Sittin’ Up In My Room” was one of the few radio hits that she released. The song has a smooth funky sound that serves as the backdrop for Brandy’s soulful singing what serves as being understated in the verse and slowly raises going into the chorus. 


weak_(swv_song)Weak- SWV

Along with En Vogue, SWV were one of the most accomplished female vocal R&B groups of the 90’s. “Weak” was the third single of their debut album and one of the best female R&B songs of the early 90’s. While the instrumentation does date the song a little it does not detract from the listenability of the song. This was the most popular song from the group and was a #1 hit for the group on multiple charts in the US in 1993.


all4one-iswearI Swear- All for One

This song was released by two different artists from two different genre’s within a year of each other. While originally the country version did not have much traction after the success of All for One’s R&B take on the song, the country song gained traction as well. All for One’s version is a soulful R&B/Doo-wop hit. The group did manage to release a few other memorable singles but “I Swear” stands as their most memorable due to it being their first singe as well as their highest charging single. 


alwaysandforeverlutherAlways and Forever- Luther Vandross

No R&B playlist from the 80’s or 90’s would be complete without THE Luther Vandross. He is as essential to the era and genre as Barry White or Marvin Gaye are to the 70’s era of R&B. Originally released in the 70’s by the group Heatwave, the song had proven it’s success with as a top 20 hit. Luther Vandross’ soulful vocals and laid back mix made the song a top 20 hit again two decades later. Luther’s voice is one that defines an era of R&B and he was one of the greatest soul singers of the late 20th century.


nobody_knows_tony_richNobody Knows- Tony Rich Project

Another one hit wonder of the 90’s, the Tony Rich Project’s “Nobody Knows” was a soulful hit for the group and its highest charting hit. The music is good mix of both various percussion instruments with a guitar and a synth piano. Rich’s soulful and smooth vocals make this song memorable for its emotionality and feel.


backatonesingleBack at One- Brian McKnight

One of the later releases on this list Brian McKnight’s “Back at One” is a great song of the decade. From the piano intro to the soulful chorus it manages to encompass everything the genre was known for. Smooth vocals and great production keeps the song from being dated almost 20 years later. While alphabet and number songs are often somewhat annoying this song manages to not be. The lyrical scheme was used again not too long after by Craig David on his “7 Days” song which is also a good song. Brian McKnight is one of the most underrated male vocalists of this era.


waterfalls_by_tlc_us_cd_maxi-singleWaterfalls- TLC

TLC had a great debut album in 1992 but it wasn’t until 1994 that they hit their high point in popularity. A lot of that had to do with their CrazySexyCool album that produced some of their most memorable hits. The funky guitar and bass on this song provide a great groove to serve as the foundation of the vocals. T-Boz’s smoky vocals are accompanied well by the other two members throughout the verse and lend soul to the chorus. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez’s mid song rap is one of the highlights and memorable parts of the song. While they have fallen out of the public consciousness after the death of Left Eye, the group managed to produce enduring hits throughout the 90’s.


not_gon'_cry_by_mary_j_blige_us_cd_singleNot Gon’ Cry- Mary J. Blige

Another great female voice in the genre, Mary J. Blige has forged a career with soulful vocals and great R&B hits. This song has a great vocal narrative that speaks to female empowerment and moving on after heartbreak. The song was a #1 single on the R&B charts in 1996 and is still a great song to throw on anytime.


twistedTwisted- Keith Sweat

Keith Sweat is one of those artists in the 90’s that occupied areas of both the R&B and hip hop. “Twisted” was a #1 hit in 1996 and it is a relaxed jam composed of mostly piano and bass with a steady beat. The interplay between Sweat’s vocals with the female vocals provide a great ‘call and answer’ feel throughout the song. The vocals are soulful on both sides and this song is a great song to turn on on date night.


im everyI’m Every Woman- Whitney Houston

No female vocalist in the 90’s is as well known or renown as Whitney Houston. She managed to have hits across pop, R&B, and Soul during the 90’s and this funky dance song is a great one. Containing elements of disco, funk and pop the music underscores Houston’s vocal ability and range. Sweet, sultry, and smooth; Whitney managed to convey all of these with her voice over the course of the song. She was a great artist and is missed in the music world.


220px-ibelieveicanflyI Believe I Can Fly- R. Kelly

R. Kelly has had some rather racy songs throughout his career (“Bump and Grind”, “Trapped in a Closet”) but “I Believe I Can Fly” shows his songwriting ability along with his vocal chops. Probably best known for its association with the Space Jam soundtrack the song is one that stands up after all these years. Inspirational and soulful, few songs are better than this. 


save the bestSave the Best for Last- Vanessa Williams

Few of the artists (with the exception of Whitney Houston) has managed to spread between so many different aspects of pop culture as Vanessa Williams. Singer, Actress, Former Miss America, she has done it all. Including having a #1 hit with this song in 1992. Another song that is only dated by it’s production, it has managed to still be a decent song and a good R&B song for over 25 years. 


220px-aaliyah-atyourbestAt Your Best (You are my love)- Aaliyah

Unfortunately Aaliyah was taken too soon. A promising film career ahead and a great voice was lost in 2001 with her death. This song is a great showcase of her lyrical ability and her soulful sound. Silky smooth vocals over a slow funky musical track gives perspective to the talent that was lost and the talent that is lacking these days in music. Even though this song is a cover of an Isley Brothers tune, Aaliyah managed to make it her own and brought her great ability vocally to the song.


220px-when_can_i_see_you_babyfaceWhen Can I See You- Babyface

Known more as a songwriter and producer, Babyface has managed to step out from the shadows occasionally to put his own voice and musical ability to his music. “When Can I See You Again” is a great song that shows what he is capable as an artist himself. Another song you might recognize him from is Eric Clapton’s “Change the World” although he has written a few hits from artists that also populate this list. The simpleness of the music which is comprised mostly of an acoustic guitar and drums lets the vocals shine through on this track.


jeI Gotta Be- Jagged Edge

Although this song did not crack the top 10 it is a good slow jam to end on. Jagged Edge is one of those groups that you have to have on a 90’s R&B playlist because they were one of the great if not underrated groups of the era. While Boyz II Men dominated the landscape for the majority of the decade, Jagged Edge managed to keep pace without as much recognition due to the quality of their songs. 


Bonus:

poison_bbdPoison- Bell Biv Devoe

I bet most of you thought I would forget to include this song but I put it on here as the bonus song for this post. One of the essential songs of the era BBD’s “Poison” is upbeat, and flows. The vocal trade offs with each new verse coupled with the collective chorus proves that the formula for R&B hits was steadily in place in 1990 when the song was released. While still continuing some of the elements of last 80’s hip hop, the song manages to pushes into the new decade with a fresh sound that would set the tone for a lot of acts that followed.

 

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Throwback Soundtrack 4: 90’s Alternative

The mid-90’s post Grunge Alternative movement was the popular music movement for a span of 4 years or so (94-98). In the late 90’s with the rise of Nu Metal, manufactured pop divas, and boy bands its popularity began to fade. Over the four years the music managed to leave a very lasting impression on a lot of teenagers who were just a short time before were immersed into the grunge scene. Like all second acts, however, it did not have quite as strong an impact.

The main difference between Grunge and Alternative is the diversity in sound as well as the fact that the groups involved in the Alternative movement of the 90s is that the bands that made up the genre were partly derivative of the grunge scene. In the end this was another genre killed by the music industry as the quality of the bands waned with the increased quantity of them. The diminishing returns and saturated marked of similar sounding and looking bands made the entire genre collapse under its own weight.

This list is made up of 31 of, what I consider, the best and most varied mix of songs of the era. I tried to showcase the genre’s ability to produce both fun and catchy songs with a backdrop of music that was varied and spanned both a heavy and soft sound. As always comments are welcome below if you disagree with a choice or feel that I missed an important song that should have been on the list, heck, if you enjoy the playlist leave a comment so that I know how you feel. The playlist is also available on Spotify.

220px-Foo_Fighters_EverlongEverlong- Foo FightersWith the end of Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl had nothing to focus his musical energies on besides honing his songwriting craft. After writing, recording and releasing the first Foo Fighter’s album in 1995 he went into the studio to record the follow up to a fairly successful debut album.

When The Color and the Shape was released in 1997 it kicked off it’s singles with “Monkey Wrench”, a hard hitting and high energy first single. The second single showed the strength of songwriting that Grohl had developed in the previous years. “Everlong” has a slow build with that ends up crescendoing into a loud chorus at the end. From start to finish this song is a great example of a song that has an alternative sound but also has a great hooky chorus. This song never gets old.


220px-Jane's_Addiction_Mountain_SongMountain Song- Jane’s AddictionJane’s Addiction is known for not fitting a specific type of musical genre as their music is expansive and expressive in many different ways. Each band members individual strengths help to make the whole much more than the sum of its parts. From Perry Farrell’s high sighing voice to Dave Navarro’s distinct guitar playing backed by the solid rhythm section of of Stephen Perkins and Chris Chaney this group manages to produce both solid rock songs like “Been Caught Stealing” and “Mountain Song” as well as atmospheric songs such as “Jane Says”.


liar
Liar- Rollins BandHenry Rollins has become a kind of ‘elder god’ of the punk scene as well as great historian of music. His post Black Flag act Rollins Band put together some funky, heavy and eclectic music throughout the years. I remmeber first hearing “Liar” when I saw the video on Headbanger’s Ball. The song has amazing dynamic with a Pixie-esque soft verse/loud chorus structure. Rollins’ poetic lyrics layered on top of the magnificent musical ability of the band behind him. Jazzy, funky and heavy, “Liar” is a standout to me in this era as both the video and the music itself are a departure from the sound of other acts of the same era.


220px-R.E.M._-_Man_on_the_MoonMan On The Moon- R.E.M.While the band had been around more than a decade before the alternative movement of the mid-90’s it was during this time that they saw their success finally reach beyond the realms of college radio. This song is closely associated with the Jim Carrey bio-pic of the same name about the late comedian Andy Kaufman who is mentioned repeatedly in the lyrics. The movie brought back a popular focus on the song but the music and lyrical ability of Michael Stipe and the solid guitar work of Peter Buck drive the song.


MachineheadBushMachinehead- BushBush came to the public consciousness at the tail end of the Grunge era and was partially associated with the movement. An attempt at a Facebook poll that I posted yielded a 50/50 split as to whether the band was considered Alternative or Grunge. My personal opinion is that they belong solidly in the Alternative genre due to their music style as well as the fact that the majority of their success and releases came in the Alternative era. “Machinehead” was the last single released from their debut album Sixteen Stone and followed the major success of their previous single “Glycerine”. Hard charging and energetic, this song belongs on any Alternative playlist of the era.


220px-The_Cranberries_-_ZombieZombie- The CranberriesIreland’s The Cranberries had a few previous hits off of their debut album that put them on the map. Their songs “Linger” and “Dreams” were played regularly on alt rock radio. With “Zombie” the content and feel of the music is darker than the poppier singles that they were known for. This song starts with lightly played guitar chords but then the sluggish heavy distorted guitar kicks in with arpeggiated clean notes on top before it simmers down to the verse where Deloris O’Riordan’s vocals come in. The chorus is heavy and the darkness and emotional weight is emphasized by O’Riordan’s Irish lilt. While the “Troubles” of Northern Ireland are largely forgotten outside of the country, the song is a continual reminder that violent political actions often have a negative impact on innocent people, including children.


Live_lightning_crashesLightning Crashes- LiveThe Pennsylvania band Live had released a major label debut album that was largely overlooked in 1991. However, Throwing Copper managed to contain some of their most known and popular songs. The album’s first two singles, “Selling the Drama” and “I Alone” had marginal success but it was the third single “Lightning Crashes” that really catapulted the band into stardom. From the first understated guitar chords to the end chorus this song is on a constant build musically. No matter how many times I hear this song I cannot help but sing along. Showcasing the senseless censoring of lyrical content MTV and radio edited the first verse, however, this only had the impact of confusing people who bought the album and did not recognize the first verse from the version that they had heard on the radio.


Sister_SweetlyBittersweet- Big Head Todd and the Monsters“Bittersweet” is one of the great BHT songs of the era. While possibly misclassified in the Alternative genre the band’s more rock and blues based sound is nonetheless a great halmark of an era where musical styles all melded into great music. A great song of love and longing, this song has a mood and feel that just seems right. The slower BHT songs like this and “St. Vincent of Jersey” show that the singing and songwriting of the band were and continue to be strong.


220px-King_of_New_OrleansKing of New Orleans- Better Than EzraBetter Than Ezra had a few different hits in the Alternative era. This song has a great start stop dynamic to the beginning of the verses and at the beginning of the chrouses. This helps to make the more musically full parts of the song more than just a senseless chugging of chords. The chorus vocals are melodic, catch, and understated. “King of New Orleans” is a constant in many of my personal playlists of the era. While containing many of the elements of the Alternative sound, Better Than Ezra manage to also sound distinct in movement. They are definately worth checking out if you are unfamiliar with their music.


220px-Pepper_Butthole_SurfersPepper- Butthole SurfersThe Butthole Surfers have always been a bit ‘out there’ musically. This art rock group from Texas managed to infuriate and entice the media and parents with their unique stage shows. “Pepper” is probably their most successful commercial hit. The song is very basic with the drums carrying the majority of the song. Gibby Haynes’ vocals during the verse are in a spoken word format and the chorus is somewhat nonsensical yet infinately catchy. One of the most lasting memories of this song for me is Eric Estrada in the music video. The Butthole Surfers are a shining example of how it was really kind of like the wild west in terms of the musical landscape in the mid-90’s. Anything went and record companies were more willing to give even the wierder acts a record deal.


220px-Sheep_go_to_heaven_cover_CAKE

Sheep Go to Heaven- CakeCake has always been a band that was on the margins of labels. Their musical output has always been catchy and poppy but their instrumentation has always been outside of the guitar, bass, drums framework. While the band does employ all of these instruments, the inclusion of a trumpet in a lot of their songs helps to set them apart. Along with their poppy sound they also have great humorous and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. This song is hooky and fun. Singing “Go To Hell” at the end of the song out loud in mixed company and seeing their confused and sometimes angry facial expressions is worth the price of admision for this song.


220px-Devils_Haicut

Devils Haircut- BeckThe musical instrumentation, lyrical style, and the use of technology has always put Beck in a place to escape labeling from record companies. He burst onto the scene with the success of the first single “Where It’s At” off the album Oelay, but the second single stood out to me a bit more. Funky, retro, and fun, “Devil’s Haircut” shows more of the songwriting ability of Beck and his ability to traverse multiple styles in a single song.


decemberDecember- Collective SoulHaving released other popular rock songs Collective Soul managed to maintain a thoughtful rock style to a genre of other acts that were just fine with jamming out. A three guitar band that was uncharacteristic of the Alternative genre but a hallmark for southern rock acts in the 70’s, the band managed to blend the different guitar parts into a cohesive sound. “December” is a moderate tempo toe tapper with a very basic chorus. In a similar vein as their single “Shine”, the song works on a steady tempo and instrumentation that is understated yet melodic.


220px-Counting_Blue_CarsCounting Blue Cars- DiswallaProbably the only song that is remembered by this Santa Barbara band, “Counting Blue Cars” is actually a great track. Another song with a laid back instrumentation in the verse that gives way to a powerfull chorus. This is one of the few times where a male singer refers to God as a woman. The narrative of the lyrics lay out the events of a long summer afternoon and the conversation between people of different age groups. Catchy and memorable, this song is a great addition to any Alt-rock playlist of the era.


teen angstTeen Angst- CrackerLike Cake and Beck, Cracker have always managed to wander through the musical landscape and pull many influences and sounds into their music. There is a very wide variety of styles in their music that often contrast from track to track that keeps their music fresh and interesting. Songs like “Teen Angst” are more straight ahead rock while other songs such as “Eurotrash Girl” show a storyteller side with a bit of avante garde thrown in. The lyrics “What the world needs now are some true words of wisdom like ‘la la la la la la la la la la'” is a fun example of the bands ability to write fun yet interesting lyrics. Speaking to the boredom of a generation and the somewhat stagnant social landscape of the mid-90’s, this song is a rocking reminder to all of us to look for things outside of the same old.


concrete-blonde-caroline-1990-2Days and Days- Concrete BlondeConcrete Blonde filled a quirky space inside a genre of outsiders and melded musical styles. Artistic yet gothic in their lyrics and songwriting, the band shares more with the likes of The Cure and Joy Division than it does the punk acts that most alternative and grunge bands used as their influences. “Days and Days” is a groove oriented rock song that has a great stream of consciousness lyrical method. The driving sound of the bass really made the band stand apart as the guitar did take some space in the soundscape it did not dominate it like most other groups of the time. Their album Bloodletting is great throughout.


220px-Until_I_Fall_AwayUntil I Fall Away- Gin BlossomsGin Blossoms are one of the divisive bands of the Alternative era. They are really one fo the few bands where people either love them or hate them. Regardless on your personal stance, you cannot deny that this Arizona band managed to write and record catch and melodic Alt-pop songs. “Until I Fall Away” was just one of their many popular songs on the radio during the time and one of the ones that stands out to me as a great example of how they wrote lasting songs.


Goo_goo_dolls_long_way_downLong Way Down- Goo Goo DollsGoo Goo Dolls is a band that unfortunately got crushed under the weight of its own success. Long way down was one of the heavier songs on their 1995 album A Boy Named Goo which also contained one of their earlier softer hits “Name”. I remember this song mostly associated with the soundtrack for the movie Twister. The Goo’s are mostly known for their melodic balads such as “Name” and “Iris” but I am more partial to this song because it is a solid rock song that shows that the band could have been just as successful releasing more rock oriented material.


220px-Seether_by_Veruca_Salt_US_7-inch_vinylSeether- Veruca SaltNamed after a character from Roal Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book, Veruca Salt were one of the female rock acts that managed to make headway in the male dominated alt rock scene. Along with Hole and L7, Veruca Salt managed to show that female fronted rock groups were a viable source of income for record companies. Both “Seether” and “Volcano Girls” shows the bands ability to write upbeat and fun songs and that the band was just as good as the other bands but took themselves less seriously and were able to enjoy their music.


lemonheadsBreak Me- The LemonheadsThe Lemonheads are one of the bands that are largely overlooked by the majority but managed to produced fun and interesting music. Frontman Evan Dando managed to keep the band going with a rotating supporting cast of musicans over the years but the sound has always been consistent. Probably best known for their cover of Simon and Garfunkle’s “Mrs. Robinson”, the song “Break Me” shows their ability to write melody and airy lyrics into a catch and thoughtful song. I strongly suggest any fan of the era to go back and listen to some tracks by the band.


220px-Nada_Surf_PopularPopular- Nada SurfAn odd and quirky song from the era “Popular” is thematically about high school popularity and social dynamic. The song mentions cheerleaders and jocks. The verses underlying music is understated and somewhat dissonant but manage to push the speaking lyrics. The chorus is a power chord strumming sing along with catchy lyrics with the repeated refrain “I’m popular” ending the first three lines of the chorus.


220px-DontlookbackinangerDon’t Look Back in Anger- OasisOasis… What can I say? They were kind of like the 90’s version of the Beatles. They were brittish, wrote a great debut album full of alt-pop songs that were catch, and people kind of went nuts over them until they got too big and the founding brother’s infighting broke up the band. “Wonderwall” was a huge hit that opened the doors for Oasis but “Don’t Look Back In Anger” managed to show a more expressive side of the band. The chord progression of the guitar and the vocals work well together in creating an overall feel of both loss and catharsis. The heavy studio chorus in the mix makes the song have a feel of a bygone era of music. For me, this is the one Oasis song that managed to hold up well over the last two decades.


220px-Poe_-_Hello

Hello- Poe“Hello” is a great example of the early beginnings of the trip hop and electronic era. While most alternative music was rock based, Poe managed to make great songs that combined both a stream of conscious lyrical style with a pop style. While some may not consider her an alternative artist, Poe managed to cohabitate an area that covered both a pop and alternative style. Her 1995 set a solid ground work for a sound that would evolve the musical landscape on the fringes. Along with the song “Angry Johnny”, Poe managed to have two top 20 singles in the mid 1990’s.


banditosBanditos- The RefreshmentsProbably one of the most lasting and fun songs from the Alternative era, “Banditos” is a fun rock song from Phoenix’s The Refreshments. Along with the Gin Blossoms, The Refreshments were one of Arizona’s most popular exports in the era. As mentioned in a separate blog post about their debut album, I remember hearing “Banditos” on the radio while working my paper route back in high school. I sat up late into the night waiting for the radio station to play the song again so that I could record it on a tape. The entire Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy record is great. If there was only one detriment to the Refreshments career it is that they were mislabeled as an alternative act when in fact they were more a rock and songwriter outfit. “Banditos” stands the test of time as a song about bank robbing and bandits heading for the Mexican border, plus it was the only song to ever name drop Captain Jean-Luc Picard.


luckyLucky- Seven Mary ThreeThe album American Standard put Seven Mary Three on the map with hit songs like “Water’s Edge” and “Cumbersome” and established the bands rock sound, however, deeper cuts on the album showed the more acoustic, songwriter side of the band. 1997’s RockCrown did not reach it’s predecessor’s success but the opening track “Lucky” is one of my favorites of their catalog. Acoustic strumming and understated vocals make this song more emotional than it would have been if the band had made it a rock tune. Still a great listen after all of these years.


somebody to shoveSomebody to Shove- Soul AsylumWhile there are more popular songs by Soul Asylum I chose this song because it was one of their more rocking numbers. The hits of the band tended to be more melodic slower songs like “Runaway Train” and “Misery” but “Somebody to Shove” shows that there was still an element of rock and punk in the bands music. I wanted to put the acoustic version of this song from their MTv Unplugged session on the playlist but thought better as the electric version shows the more dynamic range of the band when compared to the more acoustic songwriting of their more substantial hits.


Weezer_undone_the_sweater_songUndone (the Sweater Song)- WeezerWeezer have always been a geeky talented bunch. Bursting on the scene with the strength of “Buddy Holly” Weezer quickly took a place toward the top of the alternative rock heap of bands. Their humerous lyrics and great use of musical dynmaics in their songs make their songs catch and relatable. “Undone” was actually the first single from their debut ‘Blue’ album but didn’t gain real popularity until after the success of “Buddy Holly”. A more melodic track that includes some recorded conversation between women, singsong lyrics and a strangely catch chorus about distroying a sweater there is a lot to love.


220px-Everclear_-_Santa_Monica_cd_singleSanta Monica- EverclearEverclear was another band that buckled under their own success. Santa Monica was one of the first songs that they became popular for. Combining rock and pop with ease, Art Alexakis wrote catchy songs about bad relationships, growing up poor, and absentee parents that were catchy and yet relatable. I still love this song but cannot hear the first verse without my hearing my friend Pat sing “I’m still living with your, Goat”. Man, Pat and I really ruined a lot of songs for each other by making up funny lyrics to them but things like that tend to happen when you are tired and working a night shift.


pusaBack Porch- P.U.S.A.The ultimate band for quirky songs and hillarious lyrics. The Presidents of the United States has a short popularity but were definiately the most fun of all alternative acts. Songs like “Peaches”, “Dune Buggy”, and “Back Porch” showcase the bands ability to write quirky, nonsensical, and catchy songs that you cant help but sing along to. Their songs never get old because they are just fun and funny while also being well constructed.


220px-Garbagemilkukcd1Milk- GarbageSure there are more upbeat or popular songs by Garbage, but “Milk” has always been my favorite song off of their debut album. Shirley Manson’s vocal abilities and the musical and producing genious of Butch Vig and company manage to put together a sprawling, atmospheric, and melodic opus that clocks in at just under 4 minutes. The beat is steady and the orchestration brings a minor key sorrowful feel to the song. Manson’s chorus singing is beautifully melancholic. Just a great song to end on… but wait..


spacehogBonus: In the Mean Time- SpacehogSpacehog’s Resident Alien is a criminally overlooked album from the alternative era. More glam rock (talking 70’s Bowie, T-Rex not 80’s hair metal) than punk rock the band wrote great catchy songs and should have had more success. “In the Meantime” is a great song period. Upbeat, bass driven and hooky, all the elements of a great pop song. The music is simple but efficient in conveying the mood of the song. Royston Langdon’s vocals are grounded yet soar on the chorus. The bridge builds the song effectively upward before pushing into the chorus again. Another great example of a song that builds from a very quiet start to a strong and loud ending, the range and dynamics of the song keep it fresh even 23 years after release.

 

2018 Year in Review: Discovered/Rediscovered Artists and Albums

A couple of years back I wrote a post about artists I had discovered or rediscovered that year. This year it seems that I have rediscovered my love of hip hop that had been hibernating for some time. I realized that two professions that focus so much attention on language is that of hip hop artists and stand up comedians. I wonder why there isn’t a lot of crossover between the two… Anyway, what follows is a list of albums and artists that I have rediscovered in 2018. 

The_Impossible_Kid_Album_CoverAesop Rock- The Impossible Kid

My friend Pat introduced me to Aesop Rock sometime about a decade ago but somehow I had completely forgotten about him until recently. While old gangster rap is fine to listen to and brings back a lot of memories, I found that these days I look for more from my rap artists than hoes, gats, cheese and cars. 

Aesop Rock is a nerdy “thinking mans” kind of rap. The lyrics are about everyday life around him, from interactions at an ice cream shop to a situation where a coyote was spotted in the neighborhood, this album he even has a song about his cat Kirby that is well thought out and executed.

Along with songs about everyday things, Aesop Rock also has a good musical taste about him. His songs arent full of various samples of other older songs or the borrowing of choruses but are well pieced together orchestrations that are as interesting as the stories told in the lyrics. 

If you have never heard of Aesop Rock he is worth checking out.


220px-Brother_Ali_-_All_the_Beauty_in_This_Whole_LifeBrother Ali-All the Beauty in This World

Keeping on my quest for more positive and content driven hip hop I managed to discover Brother Ali this year. Surfing videos on Youtube can often lead you down roads of rehashing your old musical tastes, but every now and then you discover something new worth checking out. 

Ali has a positive message while also talking about the everyday interactions he gets put through which is even more interesting considering he’s an albino. That’s right folks the whitest of the white rappers. He also does not rely on the regurgitation of old songs through sampling, but instead puts together well thought out beats and sounds that help progress the stories along. 


1920px-Everlast-14Everlast

Everlast has always been on the back of my mind and I seem to stumble across his stuff while surfing my iTunes library but I haven’t ever really sat down and just listened to his output of music. Thanks to Joe Rogan’s podcast I got to learn a lot about the dude and his life. He’s went through some crazy stuff since the House of Pain days and has managed to produce some great songs.

Slightly dissuaded by the hit songs like “What It’s Like” I never really dived fully into his catalog until this year. There are some great songs in there which cover the hip hop, pop, and acoustic rock genres. Everlast manages to blend a few different styles in his music but it always comes across as genuine and well constructed. 


220px-2PacGreatestHits2Pac- Greatest Hits

Back in the day I was never really a big 2Pac fan. Over the years with his legend growing and the hype of his posthumous albums, I kind of veered away from the mans work. However, this year I found myself actually giving his music a listen. It seems that time has not diminished the work as his songs still fare well in today’s world. I’m not sure if that is to credit his social awareness or if that is a detriment to society for not being able to progress and solve the same problems that were around almost 30 years ago.

At any rate, I can see that the hype that I so purposely avoided was well due as the man was great at his art. Not only was he able to flow, he was able to write stories that were meaningful and true. While there are some songs that are of their gangster rap time, they still sound fresh and are well thought out in their wording. 


Phantogram_-_ThreePhantogram- Three

This group I found out about after an interaction with my cousin Gary. We were discussing what music we were currently digging on and he brought up Phantogram. Their music is interesting and fresh and combines a few of my favorite off beat styles such as trip hop and electronica. This duo of musicians manages to produce great songs that are catchy, hypnotic, and poppy without sounding like every other group out there within these genres.

I listen to their album Three a lot at work because it helps me zone in on what I’m doing and helps me focus by having the upbeat tempos and hypnotic dreamy sounds much like trance and some chill step have. 

I highly suggest their music if you like any of the previously mentioned genre’s in this post.


rtjRun The Jewels

A group that has been suggested by my cousin Gary as well as my friend Pat. Having been out of listening to hip hop for a while I was also behind on learning about this group on my own. Composed of Killer Mike and El-P, they manage to produce some great hip hop with the slick and skillful producing of El-P. Having sampled a few of their songs on Youtube I got hooked. 

While not all of their songs are my favorites, they manage to produce enough good songs that they keep me interested. One of my favorites that I keep going back to is “Close Your Eyes (and Count to F**K)” featuring Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine. 

Original in their music and talented in their hip hop this duo put out enough content to keep people happy and manage to throw out some thought provoking songs along with a steady fare of boastful yet humorously worded tracks. 

2018 Year in Review: My Favorite Albums

I decided to spend the last week of the year doing some “year in review” type posts. This one is a little strange because it doesn’t fit into a specific musical genre and doesn’t fit into the ‘Top 5’ format (this list has 8 entries) that I usually keep these posts to. I wanted to put together a list of albums that I thought were great in 2018. It being an off year in regard to major act releases the releases that piqued my interest are varied in style and may not be ones that would be on your list, but these are the albums released this year that stood out to me.

APC_eat_the_elephantA Perfect Circle-Eat the Elephant

APC’s releases have been of varying quality and limit in quantity. Since their first release in 2000 they have only released two albums of original material and one album of reimagined cover songs. After 13 years they finally released an album of new material that is amazing in dynamics and served as a reminder of why this group is so great. I remember hearing “The Doomed” and couldn’t get it out of my head. The dynamics of the song itself build so well into the conclusion. 

Songs such as “So long, and Thanks for All the Fish” (which shares a title with one of Douglas Adams’ books) shows that the band can write something akin to a pop song with dark undertones. This album is strong from start to finish and keeps you interested sonically even through the slower more atmospheric songs.


GodsmackWhenlegendsriseGodsmack- When Legends Rise

Godsmack get a lot of shit for this album because its was not the standard hard rock fare that they have been serving for the last decade, but I think this is one of their strongest albums in over a decade. Even though this album isn’t over 40 minutes it still managed to cover the bases in regard to hard rocking songs such as the title track, “Take it to The Edge”, “Say My Name”, and “Let it Out” as well as mixing in more melodic or mainstream style songs such as “Unforgettable”, “Bulletproof”, “Someday”, and “Every Part of Me”.

This album shows a band that, after 20 years, did not want to keep rehashing their own sound. The writing shows a level of maturity that was missing from their debut album as well as the ability to keep enough of their signature sound to keep their fanbase happy while pushing their limits to a more commercial sound.


220px-Eminem_-_KamikazeEminem- Kamikazi

Like a lot of people I kind of lost track of Eminem after the first three albums. You would hear a song every now and then and see the humor and anger that made him a popular white rapper in the ’00’s but like most people I wrote him off as having lost his edge in middle age. 

The surprise release of Kamikaze proved everybody, including myself wrong. Shady is back with a vengeance and is showcasing the acidic and sarcastic raps while lashing out at everyone proving that even though he tried to venture out of his comfort zone with his last few releases, he is still capable of dressing down anyone who doubts his ability. 

Standout tracks are “The Ringer”, “Greatest”, “Not Alike”, and the title track. If you haven’t heard it yet check this album out because you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 


wfhopEverlast- Whitey Ford’s House of Pain

Everlast is an artist that doesn’t garner much attention outside of his fanbase, however, as an artist he manages to cover a lot of the bases musically to offer something for everyone. His 2018 release combines the styles and sound that made him stand out on his past releases. He manages to blend rap songs with acoustic rock, pop, and ballads into a coherent album that is good start to finish. 

It’s hard to pick out only a few songs on this album to mention as the entire thing is coherent and each song blends to the next well so I’ll just say that you need to check it out for yourself. 


light-the-torch-revivalLight the Torch- Revival

I was excited about this album for months before it’s release. Anyone who has listened to metal in the last two decades has to be a fan of Howard Jones. One of the best singer/screamers out there today his vocals are always a welcome portion of any song. Light the Torch’s first release under the new moniker (formerly Devil You Know) is heavy, melodic, and has enough sing-a-long choruses to keep you belting them out in your car. 

There are a number of great standout heavy songs such as first three songs “Die Alone”, “God I Deserve”, and “Calm Before the Storm” as well as one of my personal favorites “The Safety of Disbelief” and “Bitter End”. The strength is not just in the fast and heavy songs on the album but also in the more atmospheric and slower songs like “The Great Divide” and “Judas Convention” that allow HoJo to showcase his excellent singing voice. 

I recommend this album to anyone who loves melody in their metal and have an appreciation for strong singing and lyrics.


  thredRed Sun Rising- Thread

I first heard of this band when I saw them open for Sevendust on tour back in 2016 and have been a fan of their first album after listening to it. They managed to release a great cover of Alanis Morrisette’s “Uninvited” in 2017 that kept me interested in them. However, 2018 saw the release of the Ohio band’s sophomore album “Thread”. Their first single “Deathwish” did not grab my attention at first, however, after a few repeated listens the bridge/ending of the song would get stuck in my head and I gained an appreciation for the new material. 

Along with “Deathwish” songs like “Left for Dead”, “Stealing Life”, “Veins”, and “Rose” provide a good mixing of rockers and slower heart felt songs. The majority of the album is well written and sang and have enough hooks to keep the songs in your head days after listening to it. The only song I don’t like on this album is the closer “Evil Like You” which I feel is inferior to the other songs on the album and should have probably been better left off this collection of tunes.


SevendustAlliseeiswarSevendust- All I See Is War

Speaking of Sevendust… 2018 provided another solid release from the Atlanta metal holdouts. As I’ve mentioned in some of my other posts, I have been a fan of this band since for 20 years now and buy every release and try to see them on tour every chance I can get because they are just that solid of a band and group of songwriters.

While Kill the Flaw and Black Out The Sun did not offer as many great songs in my opinion as their 2010 Release Cold Day Memory, All I See Is War more than makes up for that in songwriting and listenability of the songs overall. There are still plenty of hard rockers on this album including the opening track “Dirty”, “Medicated”, “Unforgiven”, and “The Truth” there are also some surprisingly heavy slower songs. 

The band shows that their songwriting ability continues to grow with a more expansive sound of songs like “Sickness”, “Moments”, “Not Original” and “Life Deceives You”. There are so many great songs that I’m sure will earn a place in their already great set of songs they play live. Out of the many times I’ve seen Sevendust live they have never disappointed with their show, my only complaint is that they seem to disregard some of their deeper cuts and non-album work that is just as good as the hits they play at each show. 

All I See Is War is a hearty addition to their already great catalog of work and I hope to see them put out more quality albums long into the future.


ADyingMachineTremonti- A Dying Machine

I was looking forward to this album release probably the most this year. Mark Tremonti stands as one of my favorite guitarists out there today and his work with his solo band is not a lesser content than that he puts into his main band Alter Bridge. Tremonti is one of the few players out there that can write quality songs consistently but also shred with the best of them.

The lyrical content on this album was doubly interesting to me as this is the first concept album that Tremonti has released but it also has to do with AI and technology. While not a new concept (Fear Factory has been basing albums off of this concept for two decades) the story and the music give the album a great feel with music and storyline that move the songs along nicely. 

There are plenty of stadium rocker choruses as well as tasty solos to enjoy for the lover of heavy. There are also a few songs that are solid potential rock radio (does such a thing still exist) staples that given a chance could be popular. 

“From the Sky”, “A Dying Machine”, and many others on the album are solid rocking tunes. Tremonti manages to put a few well thought out slower songs on the album as well to temper the dynamics as well as show that his guitar abilities are not limited to heavy distortion and shredding. Of all the songs on the album the one that is the catchiest and strongest songs is the song “Take You With Me”. This song just kicks ass period. A great radio song as well as just a solid rocking tune that helps to grab your attention on the latter half of the album.

Throwback Soundtrack 3: Essential Grunge

The Grunge movement was a huge part of my growing up. Having hit my teens in 1993 Grunge was the music of my early development as an individual. It was rage and melody and the antithesis of what kids my age were forced to listen to from the mainstream for the last 5 years of our childhood years. It was rebellion against the establishment that came about at the same time people my age were starting to discover their voice.

I tried making this playlist as varied within the scene as possible without putting the most obvious songs or artists in, had I done that this would have been easier, but at the same time it would have been just another regurgitation of other playlists out there. This playlist harkens back to my very first post on this blog and the first in the 90’s Albums that Refuse to Age series.

This time frame in music holds a special place for me and I hope you enjoy or discover a song you may not have remembered or known about. As always, comments are welcome and the playlist can be found on Spotify here.

Essential Grunge Playlist:

We Die Young- Alice in Chains220px-Alice_In_Chains-Facelift

A lot of people will say that I should have went with “Rooster” or “Would?” For an AIC track, however, I feel that the first song on their debut album gives a good look into what their future output of heavy songs would be. Alice in Chains were more Black Sabbath and Ramones in the Grunge Scene and the heaviness of “We Die Young” showcases their ability to bring a harder side to the scene.

Hey Man, Nice Shot- Filter220px-Filter_shortbus

While Filter is more associated with the Industrial movement, “Hey Man, Nice Shot” fit well into either the Industrial or Grunge movements with its bass driven grounding and heavy chorus.

Tomorrow- SilverchairSilverchairFrogstompAlbumcover

Silverchair came at the end of the Grunge movement and were considered a pretty direct rip-off of Nirvana, “Tomorrow” still stands out as one of the better songs of the latter end of the Grunge Era.

220px-Above_(Mad_Season_album)River of Deceit- Mad Season

This one off album comprised of both Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam members was an attempt to help keep Layne Staley clean it did yield some great songs. No Grunge playlist would be complete without “River of Deceit”.

220px-As_Good_as_Dead_Album_coverBound for the Floor- Local H

It took me years to find out who actually played this song. It would always come on the radio when I was in my teens and I don’t ever recall them stating who it was by. A good mid-paced song to jam to.

220px-Meat_Puppets_Too_High_to_DieBackwater- The Meat Puppets

The Meat Puppets were sorely underrated in the 90’s. They got a little bump from this song as well as their multi-song appearance during Nirvana’s famed “Unplugged” show where they played a few of their songs. Thankfully Nirvana helped get them some exposure along the way which tells you the great guy that Kurt Cobain was when it came to his influences.

NirvanaNevermindalbumcoverLounge Act- Nirvana

Quite possibly my favorite Nirvana song. While “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Heart Shaped Box” would have been the more noticeable songs to put on this list, “Lounge Act” stands out as one of the deep cuts on Nevermind.

SmashingPumpkins-SiameseDreamDisarm- Smashing Pumpkins

“Disarm” is probably one of the most stand out and enduring tracks from the Pumpkins early career. It stands the test of time as a coming of age song. The track shows Billy Corgan’s fearless use of non-grunge elements to build a lush soundscape with bells and strings.

Soundgarden_-_BadmotorfingerOutshined- Soundgarden

Soundgarden always managed to blend a punchy sound with a sludge tempo in their songs which was the hallmark of the bands that derived from their sound. “Outshined” is one of my favorite pre-Superunknown songs. This track still kicks ass today.

StonetemplepilotscorePiece of Pie- Stone Temple Pilots

While not from Seattle, Stone Temple Pilots managed to produce a sound akin to grunge and put out one of the best debut albums in an era of great debut albums. “Piece of Pie” is wedged between two of STP’s more recognizable songs from the album but is no less impactful and heavy than “Creep” and “Plush”.

PearlJam-Ten2Garden- Pearl Jam

Another great debut album came from Pearl Jam. While the band spawned a million Eddie Veder’s, the Ten album showcased just the right mix of steady rockers with slower and deeper songs. “Garden” has one of the best choruses out there in my opinion.

TempleOfTheDogReach Down- Temple of the Dog

This album was a one-off release by Chris Cornell and the surviving members of Mother Love Bone and introduced the world to Eddie Vedder on “Hunger Strike”, however, “Reach Down” is one of my favorite tracks and is a solid piece of Grunge history.

Screaming_Trees_Sweet_OblivionNearly Lost You- Screaming Trees

The Screaming Trees were a largely overlooked band in the grunge era. This is not because they were lesser in quality than the big name acts and more because they were in the first few bands in the scene along with others like the Melvins and Mudhoney. This song from 1992 features a driving sound throughout and was their highest charting single. 

Rubberneck_album_coverI Come from the Water- Toadies

The Toadies, much like the Meat Puppets, were one of the overshadowed bands of the era. The Toadies were just fun to listen to. Whether it is the strange tail of “Possum Kingdom” or the playfulness of “I Come from the Water” they wrote great grunge songs with pop crossover potential.

L7_bricks_are_heavyPretend that We’re Dead- L7

L7 brought the hard punk girl attitude to the grunge scene and proved women were just as capable of bringing the goods to the scene.

 

Mother_Love_Bone_AppleCrown of Thorns- Mother Love Bone

I don’t think that any playlist of the Grunge era would be complete without this song. Mother Love Bone were one of the bands that were making the transition from Glam to Grunge before the untimely death of singer Andy Wood. This song shows that he had the talent of lyrical writing that was second to none.

Sonic_Youth_GooMary-Christ- Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth is a band that could really fit into either the grunge or the early 90’s punk scenes. Regardless of how you classify them, they wrote great songs and influenced a ton of bands in both scenes and also the later Alternative movement.

DinosaurJrWithoutASoundYeah, Right- Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr. is probably one of the most overlooked bands of the era. They took a unique approach to their songs and produced some great songs throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Schoolhouse_Rock!_Rocks_album_coverThree is a Magic Number- Blind Melon

Everybody knows Blind Melon for “No Rain” but their contribution to the “School House Rocks!” Album is still one of my favorites. I put this song on a playlist for my son and he said it was one of the reasons he did so good at his times tables. The compilation album that this song was recorded for is well worth checking out with acts like Better Than Ezra, Ween, The Lemon Heads, Biz Markie and others included.

Sponge-Rotting_PiñataPlowed- Sponge

I remember first hearing this song in the movie “Empire Records”. While not included on the soundtrack it stuck with me as one of the good in the movie itself. Sponge wrote some good songs back in the day and still manage to put out quality work today. I still enjoy putting this song on and traveling back in my mind.

WoweeZoweeGrounded- Pavement

Pavement managed to produce some more atmospheric work in the grunge movement. More of a niche band than a widespread success like others, their music fit the era well and is good to throw on while cooking or performing other menial tasks around the house. 

Throwback Soundtrack 2: 25 90’s Pop Songs that Refuse to Age

Anybody who has read any of my other posts knows that the 90’s were my decade. I came of age in the last decade of the 20th century so the music of that time holds a special place for me. When I first started cultivating this playlist I started out with a general concept of 90’s songs that refuse to age (much like my 90s Albums that Refuse to Age series) but once all of the songs I wanted to include were added the playlist ended up being a staggering 150+ songs totaling over 11 hours of music. Not wanting to subject my readership to that extensive of a listening experience and, personally, not wanting to write that much for a single post I decided to break this up over time. 

This time I’m starting with a list of 25 90’s pop songs that refuse to age. While you will notice that the list does manager to span over some different categories of music, the uniting factor of the list is that almost all of the songs on the list were pretty popular for their time. I’ve tried to mix up the tempo’s of the songs enough so that you don’t get stuck in a boring mix of songs. I hope you enjoy!

220px-Ready_to_GoRepublica- “Ready to Go” (Remix): Released in 1997 the remix of the original song is
a little more upbeat and a good opening to any 90’s playlist that wants to start out up beat and pumping. 

 


220px-Breathe_ProdigyProdigy- “Breathe”: Also released in 1997, this song was one of the few immensely popular singles released off of the UK Punk band’s electronic album Fat of the Land. Another great upbeat tempo song for any 90’s playlist.

 


220px-Billy_Joel_-_River_of_DreamsBilly Joel-“The River of Dreams”: Billy Joel had been around the music scene for a number of years by the time the 1990’s came, but “The River of Dreams” stands as his most popular song of the decade. I remember reading or hearing once that he recorded this song’s vocals while having a head cold, I think he still crushed it which tells you how much talent this guy has. 


ebtgEverything but the Girl-“Missing” (Todd Terry Remix): I’m not sure what it is about this song but it never ages for me. I remember listening on my Walkman radio to a dance/remix show that would air on Friday and Saturday nights on one of the pop stations where I lived and this was one of the two songs that I loved.

 


220px-Walking_on_Broken_GlassAnnie Lennox-“Walking on Broken Glass”: Annie Lennox was already a star from her first act the Eurythmics, but her early 90’s album Diva pushed her talents into the popular mainstream. This song was one of her first solo hits of the 90’s and the video featured a very early appearance of John Malkovich.

 


loteAerosmith-“Livin’ on the Edge”: Aerosmith’s post drug revival in the late 80’s and early 90’s produced a number of great songs as well as pop culture phenomena of the 90’s with the staring of both Liv Tyler (singer Steven Tyler’s daughter) and Alicia Silverstone in a few of their videos of the 90s. Not only did they bring their brand of rock back for the decade but they also cornered the sex appeal market by featuring the two actresses in their videos.


sttaThe Black Crowes-“She Talks to Angels”: The Black Crowes’ debut album stands as essentially a greatest hits package for the band. Although they did release a number of albums and had hits subsequently, none of their later work will stand up to the strength of the bands first release. “She Talks to Angels” is an emotional ballad that builds throughout. 


220px-Blues_Traveler_-_HookBlues Traveler-“Hook”: Blues Traveler seemingly came into the public consciousness out of nowhere. They managed to have a few hits prior to “Hook” but the song stands the test of time in regard to listenability. Somehow the band made having a blues band and playing harmonica cool again for a few years, something not seen since the days of Huey Lewis a decade earlier.


220px-Crash_Into_MeDave Matthews Band-“Crash”: The Dave Matthews Band was a cultural phenomenon in the 90’s. Becoming popular at the same time as other singer/songwriters and jam bands of the era, they stood out as one that had crossover appeal with both upbeat fun songs and great slower ballads. “Crash” may be a song about a peeping tom, but a lot of people have made it their relationship song with their significant others.


220px-DevilInsideINXS- “Devil Inside”: Unfortunately, INXS were only a huge band for a short period of time. The unexpected death of singer Michael Huchence cut the band’s time in the spotlight short, however, they made the most of their time there by releasing some of the best pop songs of the 90’s and this song is no exception.

 


canned heatJamiroquai- “Canned Heat”: Jamiroquai are an odd bunch from the UK that put out great pop/electronic albums. My first introduction was from the video for their song “Virtual Insanity” on MTV. “Canned Heat” has great production and is fun. You can’t really have a bad day if you listen to Jamiroquai in the morning.

 


Duranduran_ordinaryworldDuran Duran- “Ordinary World”: MTV darlings in the 80’s with songs like “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf”, the 90’s brought a more sober adult version of the band. “Ordinary World” is a great slower tempo song that doesn’t every really get old. Another great song I remember from the radio show of my childhood.

 


Janet_Jackson_Together_AgainJanet Jackson- “Together Again”: Janet Jackson has always put out great pop albums. 1989’s Rhythm Nation stands as one of the best produced albums of the era and her output during the 90’s was on par with that album. “Together Again” is an upbeat pop song that is just as easy to shake a booty to today as it was when it was release in 1997.


madonna frozenMadonna- “Frozen”: No 90’s pop playlist would be complete without Madonna. She managed to produce, what I consider, her best album with 1998’s Ray of Light and this song is one of the many highlights of the album. Stripped of the sexual content and speaking to more mature themes and having higher production value than her earlier work, the album still stands up.


220px-Life_Is_a_Highway_Tom_CochraneTom Cochrane-“Life is a Highway”: Long before Rascal Flatts made the song popular the original artist Tom Cochrane had a sizable hit with the song. More rocking than the countrified version that almost everybody knows, the song is great for 90’s as well as road song playlists.


220px-Handle_with_Care_SingleTraveling Wilbury’s- “Handle With Care”: A rock supergroup like the ‘Willbury’s wasn’t seen and has not been seen since. The combination of songwriters in the group alone is enough for any wanna-be to pack up and go home. George Harrison, Jeff Lyne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. Really enough said. The song is a great mid tempo rocker and Roy’s vocals are as hauntingly beautiful as anything ever recorded.


220px-BuildingaMysterySarah McLauchlan- “Building a Mystery”: If you lived through the 90’s you had to live through the folk/singer/songwriter revival. At one of the forefronts of both the movement as well as the Neo-feminist movement was Sarah MacLachlan. While a force for women’s rights in the 90’s she was also a pretty good songwriter. 

 

 

 


Tom_Petty_-_You_Don't_Know_How_it_Feels_Single2Tom Petty- “You Don’t Know How it Feels”: Taken from Tom’s solo album Wildflowers, the song was one of the first in MTv rotation that I noticed the lyrics were changed from the original version instead of bleeped out by censors. Although, now two decades removed and the more socially acceptable status of marijuana it may not have been the case if the song was released today. 


220px-U2_OneU2- “One”: Much like with Madonna, no 90’s pop playlist would be complete without at least one song from U2. The biggest rock band in the world for over a decade at that point the band managed to both alienate their core audience and re-find their sound within the same decade. “One” is a great slow song and a good representation of the band in the 90’s as well.


220px-The_Proclaimers_500_MilesThe Proclaimers- “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles): Anybody who lived in the 90’s has heard this song and mentally attaches it to the movie Benny and Joon which was one of Johnny Depp’s biggest movies of the decade in regard to popularity. Although released 5 years earlier the song did not become a huge hit until it was included in the soundtrack for the film.

 


220px-TheVervePipe-TheFreshmanThe Verve Pipe- “The Freshman”: Released in the midst of the post-grunge “Alternative” deluge of acts the Verve Pipe’s “The Freshman” stands out as one of the best songs of the time. Something bout this song just keeps it fresh and I have a great drunken memory of singing the song drunkenly on a new years eve with my friend’s the Pat’s. 


prgPrimitive Radio Gods- “Standing outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand”: This is a largely forgotten song from 1996 but it still stands up for me. It wasn’t until about a year later that I realized that the song sampled B.B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get”. The song was featured in the Jim Carrey movie The Cable Guy, this is another one of those songs that just sticks with me through the years for absolutely no known reason.


one headThe Wallflowers- “One Headlight”: While they didn’t do much afterward that was as popular, The Wallflower’s “One Headlight” is one of the great songs of the era. The band, led by Bob Dylan’s son Jacob, manages a brooding well written song. Good thing Dylan’s son Jacob has a better sounding voice than him or else this band would have been a non-starter for the popular music scene.


220px-Closing_Time_singleSemisonic- “Closing Time”: This song really belongs in my list of great building songs because it starts out simply and just builds throughout the entire track to a more and more dynamic thing. The build of this song straight to the simple guitar solo always gets me in a good mood. 


220px-PM_Dawn_Set_Adrift_On_Memory_BlissP.M. Dawn- “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”: P.M. Dawn had this one really popular song in the 90’s and it is a good closing song for this 2 hour playlist. Mellow and laid back it provides a good ending to the trip down memory lane. Sparse in music with a solid beat and simple guitar chords making most of the track allows the vocals wind through their stream of consciousness feel.


Bonus Track:

220px-Enigma_Return_to_Innocence_single_coverEnigma- “Return to Innocence”: As a thank you to the people who make it this far I like to include a bonus song that some people may not know. A mellow electronic song from the early 90’s, this track utilizes a Native American style vocal line throughout. This is a good mellow song that was another standout from the radio show I listened to as a kid.

 

Like these songs or want to see what the fuss is about? Check out the playlist on Spotify.

90’s Albums that Refuse to Age: Part 13

220px-DMB_-_Before_These_Crowded_Streets

Album: Before These Crowded Streets

Artist: The Dave Matthews Band

Release Year: 1998

 

 

The Dave Matthews Band was one of the artists that came out of the mid-90’s singer/songwriter comeback. Along with bands like Counting Crows, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Sheryl Crow the Dave Matthews Band brought back an emphasis on the songwriting and musicianship that was the antithesis of the grunge movement that ruled the early half of the decade. While a number of the bands memorable hits came from their album Crash in which the title track is a staple of any mid-90’s playlist, Before These Crowded Streets highlights the diversity and musical prowess of the band.

DMB was a band that I initially liked and then found boring when I listened past their radio hits. It wasn’t until a few years later that I gained a newfound appreciation of the music and the feel that the band puts out. Any metalhead can tell you that you cant be “That” guy all the time and sometimes you just need something to chill out too that is not loud and abrasive. Sometimes you need to expand your musical horizons to something that some may find odd or outside your understanding. 

DMB manages to fit a strange yet needed niche in the musical landscape. They provide a soundtrack that can be upbeat, sorrowful, swooning, and floating. Composed of an odd mix of musicians including the standard guitar, bass, drums center and add the dynamics of an electric violinist and a horn player. The Dave Matthews Band set itself apart not only in the tonality produced by the combination of instruments but also the level of musicianship which they brought to the fore. Dave Matthews himself is a great guitarist and songwriter whose guitar parts make your fingers rebel when trying to learn. 

The albums tracks cover a broad spectrum of moods and tones. From the upbeat yet floating opener “Pantala Naga Pampa” to the moody slow closer “Spoon” the musical canvas is filed with subtle imagery and varying dynamics. There were a few singles released from this album but they didn’t manage the mainstream success of the tracks from The aforementioned Crash album. That is not to say that the songs were not strong musically or lyrically but it does highlight the shift in focus of popular music from the strange stew of the mid-90’s to the more pop dominated latter years of the decade. 

While the pop starlets, boy bands, and Nu Metal were the powerful force in the late 90’s, The Dave Matthews Band managed to maintain a large loyal fanbase and continue to produce albums of good quality today. Before These Crowded Streets is one of the strange offshoots of popular music that was present but ultimately got lost in the shuffle of the musical landscape in 1998 but the album still holds up today. 

Standouts on the album include the upbeat “Rapunzel” which has excellent drum work from Carter Beauford working sonically interesting fills into the bits of the song not filled with double stops. Frontman Dave Matthews manages to write playful love songs with different feels throughout the album. 

“The Last Stop” puts a middle eastern feel to good use with both the music and vocals following a flowing open motif that brings images of sandy deserts and blowing winds to mind. The lyrical and musical melodies intertwine throughout a good portion of the song but stray enough to not feel like the entire song is made up of a single theme.

“Stay (Wasting Time)” is another playful song that spins a wonderful narrative of affection over an upbeat poppy musical grounding that highlights the horn section. This song shows the ability for the band to produce radio friendly songs while maintaining their unique style. Another song that makes good work of the airy string/brass combo in the pre-chorus helps to sell the imagery of a hot day of hanging out with your significant other outside on the stoop.

“Crush” is quite possibly my favorite song on the entire album. This song brings elements of jazz and showcases Dave Matthews playing an electric guitar which is a rare stay from his solid acoustic guitar work. This song always gets me in the ‘feels’ with its spinning chorus vocal line and laid back groove track that shows the strength and timing of the rhythm section. The lyrics speak of longing and love that is often felt in the intense beginnings of a relationship. 

“The Dreaming Tree” is a slower song with a serious message. Harkening back to the jam band roots and environmentally conscious minds of the band, the song narrates an early warning of global warming as well as the effects of industrialization on the resources of the earth. The song was a strong warning about the often overlooked impact of human interaction that causes such drastic change. The narrative shows how, lyrically, Dave Matthews is both a man of his time as well as a man ahead of his time in regard to a social conscious that needs to be heard.

Before These Crowded Streets stands up musically 20 years later as the themes of love and loss are always current. Often albums from the 90’s get dated purely by their lyrical content and themes but this album manages to remain fresh and prescient in the face of a changing world that manages to still deal with the same struggles that it did two decades ago.

Musically the album also continues to remain fresh. Great songwriting hardly ever ages when it defies the genres and popular trends of the time when it was originally released. While a majority of the acts of the time that shared a similar vein of music have passed to the ‘nostalgia act’ circuit, DMB manages to continue to draw huge crowds and demand as their music transcends the constraints of the musical times they shared with other acts.

This album is great when you need something to fill in the background while concentrating on a project. It is great when you need something to relax to. It is great when you want something to listen to but are tired of the usual fair in your playlist rotation. It’s just a great album for all environments and moods. This is why Before These Crowded Streets is a 90’s album that refuses to age. 

Musical Roadmap: Part 11

While maintaining a steady diet of metal and punk rock during my teens I also wandered off into different territories of music. Aided by my ever growing appetite for needing something new to listen to as well my father’s musical influence I began looking farther outside the realm of the heavy and anti-authoritarian music that was my core and found stranger and greater things out there.

When I was 16 my Dad and I moved out of my school district and instead of changing schools I decided to walk to school every day. Something roughly 5 miles gives someone a lot of time to think and I listened to music on my long strolls through all kinds of weather. I can factually say that I walked 5 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways. I loved listening to tunes because it gave me something to focus on outside of my wandering teenage thoughts of girls and school. 

One regular tape (this was back before CD’s were accessible to me and a tape walkman was still infinitely less expensive than a portable cd player) that was always in rotation was a compilation album, The Very Best of Grateful Dead. Now some of you may be wondering how I could be a metalhead and stand to listen to the classic rock/jazz combination that the Dead produced, the answer is simple. Great. Fucking. Songwriting. 

Through the Grateful Dead and others of their ilk I found the importance of songwriting. Not just from the perspective of something catchy and fun but also from the view of the craft itself. If you listen to almost any Grateful Dead song you will hear musicianship at its finest. No small feat considering the copious amounts of drugs that the members were infamous for taking. The Dead took me down a rabbit hole of music that expanded the mind and the ears. Even listening today I can hear new things all the time. Thankfully the technology we have now allows for this with higher quality audio versions of the songs as well as higher quality speakers, headphones, and audio equipment. 

This compilation spreads over about two decades of the band’s career with many songs coming from the earlier days between 1970-1976 with the most recent song being 1987’s “Touch of Grey” which I would have to say was my first actual exposure to the band through the music video being on MTV. Styles range from rock to jazz, fusion to country but the combination of songs written by various members of the band manage to come together in a good representation of their overall work and feel.

I am able to proudly confess that I was a musically weird kid in high school and managed to have a circle a friends that spread the spectrum of my musical tastes. We were a tight knit group of nerds, band geeks, musicians, and artists that liked what we liked, stood up for each other, and didn’t care what anybody else thought. If anything, I think we managed to sum up the philosophical standpoints of our musical input.

I remember I was listening to the radio on my walkman while delivering papers on my route the day that Jerry Garcia died. They announced it on the air and then played a few songs back to back. It was an odd day considering the hippies (if you can call them that in the mid 90’s) all knew and admired him. Music really hasn’t been the same since at least in my head.

vbAlbum Highlights:

“Truckin’” a moderate shuffle tune that you can chill or dance to. The Dead were great combiners of genre’s and feels and this song kicks off the album with a upbeat song musically, however; listen to the lyrics and you get a different story.

 

“Touch of Grey” as I mentioned earlier this was my first exposure to the Dead through MTV. The video for the song was always interesting because the band eventually turns into skeleton puppets of themselves throughout. Lyrically the song touches on the changes in your life with age as well as the cynicism that you tend to gain with experience but ties it all together with a sentiment of just going with the flow.

“Casey Jones” how can you resist singing a lyric like “Driving that train, high on cocaine”?

“Uncle John’s Band” this song comes from one of the Dead’s best albums and speaks to the communalism and search for joy in difficult times that their generation faced at the end of the late 1960’s.

“Box of Rain” a slower tune in the catalog but that does not make the song any less great. The harmonized vocals at the end of each phrase showcases the vocal ability of all of the members. Mainly sung by Bob Weir, there is a smoothness to the lyric singing that puts you at ease.

“Ripple” every now and then you find a song that keeps changing meaning over the years and seems to speak to specific events in your life. “Ripple” is one of those that age along with you and stick around like a good friend reminding you of old times but is there for the current ones as well. The lyric “There is a road, no simple highway, Between the dawn and the dark of night, And if you go no one may follow, That path is for your steps alone” gets me pretty much every time. 

The Grateful Dead opened doorways in my mind. Doorways that I did not use drugs to find even though the stigma of anybody listening to the Dead are burnouts and potheads. The path to where I am now in live would be missing a nice stroll around a lake without the Grateful Dead and for the easy going and musically enlightening elements of their music. You don’t have to be stoned to enjoy the music you just have to be in the right mindset. These days if I feel too bogged down in the minutia of life I will throw on this album and sit back. 

Until Next time… Keep listening!

jerry-garcia-live-at-the-mars-hotel-joshua-morton

Throwback Soundtrack- 1: Nu Metal

I’ve been toying with the idea for a while of creating playlists to post blogs about so that the experience on this site is not one dimensional. However, as anybody who has ever put a playlist or mixtape (back in the lo-fi cassette days) together, it is not an easy feat. Like John Cusack’s character Rob said at the end of the movie High Fidelity, “the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art.  Many do’s and don’ts.  First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel.  This is a delicate thing.”

That being said I’m trying to put a lot of thought into both the songs that represent a certain genre, while not entirely enslaving myself to the popular hits of the era. There is also sequencing of the playlist which any great artist or producer will tell you is one of the key things that can make or break an album. You want something at the beginning that is familiar and grabs attention, but you don’t want to have an hour or more of songs that just punch you in the nuts either. 

Many rules, many thoughts, and many tempos and feels combine to make a playlist a whole and cohesive thing. Hopefully I can manage to put together something that you, the audience of this site, will enjoy. On the site I will be posting the songs in order and a little blurb about each one. I will also be incorporating a new feature where I will link these posts to a corresponding playlist on Spotify so that you can listen to these playlists and even save them if you want to for repeated enjoyment. 

Well… Here goes nothing…

Since there were a great many of people who read and enjoyed my Top 5 Nu Metal Albums post I thought this would be a good jumping off point. What follows is a cultivated list of songs that span the timeframe of the genre from various acts that were both immensely popular as well as some that are more cult favorites. The following playlist covers over 2 hours of songs that may be familiar to you, but also (hopefully), something new for you to discover.

If you like the songs or want to listen to the playlist you can find it at the link at the bottom of the post.

  1. 220px-Korn_follow_the_leaderKorn- “Got the Life”

Korn were one of the bands at the forefront of the Nu Metal genre. “Got the Life” Is punchy from the jump with a groove and upbeat heaviness supplied by David SIlveria’s drum pattern. A heavy song that kids could connect to as well as ‘pogo’ to at shows serves as a good track to a playlist.

220px-Deftones_-_Around_the_Fur

2. Deftones- “My Own Summer (Shove It)”

No Nu Metal playlist is complete without at least one early Deftones track. The lead song off of the sophomore album Around the Fur shows the moody and the heavy of the band at the time. While they did not find their ‘sound’ until their third album White Pony,  the band put out a solid dynamic album as their second release.

3. Limp Bizkit- “Break Stuff”220px-Limp_Bizkit_Significant_Other

Limp Bizkit took the heaviness of metal riffs and combined it with hip hop lyrics to forge a defining sound of Nu Metal bands that followed. “Break Stuff” is a high octane song that makes you actually want to get up and move. Mosh pit or pogo, you could do either to this song.

220px-Slipknot_-_Slipknot2

4. Slipknot- “No Life”

Slipknot came on the scene out of nowhere and brought a heaviness that was not present in a lot of the rap/metal bands that encompassed a lot of the Nu Metal genre. “No Life” is one of the few songs where Corey Taylor brings a rap feel to the verse lyrics. The music has a hoppy beat that is energetic and provides a dissonance that Slipknot has become known for.

5. Taproot- “Poem”220px-Welcome_-_Taproot

Self motivational and a good closure song for a lot of people. The song put Taproot on the map in the Nu Metal scene and offers a mixture of heaviness that is poppy enough to just jam to. I can never get through the song without getting into it and singing the chorus as loudly as possible.

220px-SystemofaDownToxicityalbumcover

6. System of a Down- “Chop Suey!”

SOAD had a decent amount of success with their debut album but Toxicity managed to provide a more pop friendly sound to the weird song structure and lyrical content that made System stand out in the first place. “Chop Suey!” Should be a staple song in any Nu Metal playlist.

7. Creed- “What If”220px-Human_Clay_Cover

I know a lot of people will say about this one, “Creed, really?” Yes, I have pointed out my affinity to this song as well as the guitar work of Mark Tremonti in the past and regardless of how you feel about the band (Creed could be considered the Nickelback of the early 2000’s) this is quite possibly their heaviest songs. A little different from the hip hop/metal mix of a majority of Nu Metal acts, Creed managed to also create another sub genre within the movement that allowed the more rock oriented acts to get some attention as well.

220px-Seether-Disclaimer8. Seether- “Fine Again”

A little slower of a song here. Seether were more of a post-alternative band that came out in the time of the Nu Metal craze. While they have always stayed in a more rock oriented format this song fits within the timeframe and popularity of similar Nu Metal acts which is why it ends up on this list.

 

9. Disturbed- “Fear” 220px-TheSickness

Disturbed came on the scene and changed a lot of the dynamic of the Nu Metal movement. While eschewing the hip hop elements of the vocal the band managed to utilize sequencers and other hip hop associated instruments into their sound. Dave Draiman’s vocal nuances set the band apart and the band has proven over time that they can consistently produce heavy and commercially viable music.

220px-Godsmack_Awake10. Godsmack- “Greed”

While Godsmack is more of a hard rock band and have proven to be more so over the ensuing years, they came out at the height of the Nu Metal movement with their debut album and had a major hit with their tribal sounding “Voodoo”, but their Sophomore album managed to produce steady rockers that put them solidly in the pack of Nu Metal acts that have remained popular long past the lifetime of the genre.

11. Nonpoint- “Your Signs”Nonpoint_Development

While widely overlooked by the masses Nonpoint have managed to secure a loyal following and have produced a number of solid records since their debut. “Your Signs” is off of their overshadowed sophomore album and remains one of my favorite songs of the time.

Linkin_park_hybrid_theory12. Linkin Park- “Forgotten”

While their entire debut album is pretty much a greatest hits package, Linkin Park managed to outlive and quickly distance itself from the Nu Metal genre. While being one of the defining acts that coupled hard rock riffs, rapping vocals and a dedicated DJ, they managed to show their greater musicianship as the lifetime of the band extended. The loss of Chester Bennington was a huge blow to anyone who listened to the music of the early 2000’s and “Forgotten” is one of my favorite songs on the debut.

12. AudioSlave- “I Am The Highway”220px-Audioslave_-_Audioslave

On paper Audioslave did not seem like a band that would work. One of the titan frontmen of the Grunge movement teamed with the politically charged musicians that made up one of Rap Metals biggest bands, sounds awful.. But instead it ended up being awfully good. While maintaining their signature groove and abrasiveness of Rage Against the Machine, Chris Cornell’s song crafting ability is very apparent and I think influenced a lot of the band’s best songs. “I Am the Highway” is a slow burner but heartfelt and the vocal performance is underscored but the subtleness of the music.

220px-ChevelleWonderWhatsNext14. Chevelle- “Send the Pain Below”

Chevelle had a major hit with “The Red” and their entire debut album is a great listen even today. “Send the Pain Below” provides the heaviness and openness of lyrics that both while being cryptic, can be interpreted by the listener to apply to their own lives. 

 

15. Cold- “Bleed”220px-Cold_-_13_Ways_to_Bleed_on_Stage

Slowing down the tempo quite a bit “Bleed” showcases a debut from Staind’s Aaron Lewis on the chorus. Both Cold and Staind were signed by Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and managed to make a decent impact on the Nu Metal genre with more melodic and dark lyrics and feel. While expressing the woe’s of depression Scooter Ward manages to also speak to how the power of music can help you get through the difficult times.

220px-Shadow_zone16. Static-X- “The Only”

Coming from Static-X’s third album Shadow Zone, which is the most mainstream friendly album in their catalog, “The Only” highlights a lot of the elements that made Static-X such a huge act in the Nu Metal genre. From samples to the heavy groove of the band this song is one of the few that managed to show a heavy and simplified version of the band. Not within their signature “Evil Disco” wheelhouse, this song manages to show the potential the band had as well as the depth of Wayne Static’s songwriting ability.

17. Flaw- “Whole”220px-Flaw_through_eyes

Largely unknown outside of a devoted fanbase, Kentucky’s Flaw managed to produce some solid emotional Nu Metal. While health issues has sidelined the band at various times, the band managed to recently get some national attention by being featured and pointed out by Stephen Colbert on his show. “Whole” gives you a preview of the dynamics that the band manages to make great use of throughout their music.

220px-Spitalbumcover18. Kittie- “Brackish”

Canada’s Kittie managed to come in and not only show that metal is not a genre purely for the guys but also managed to kick them in the nuts with hard music while doing it. While their debut album didn’t show a lot of the songwriting ability that they proved on later albums, there were some solid songs that showed promise. “Brackish” combines some heavy riffs with some great clean vocals on the chorus that are layered over fast rap like lyrics.

19. Marilyn Manson- “Mechanical Animals”mechanical animals

Here we are at the halfway point of the list. Marilyn Manson personified one of the things that the Nu Metal movement encompassed which was something for your parents to fear and misunderstand. “Mechanical Animals” is one of my favorite Manson songs of this era. Sluggish in pace it manages to provide a good emotional performance and a thoughtful lyrical path for the Shock Rocker.

Godhead-Evolvercover20. Godhead- “Far Too Long”

Keeping with a good moderate paced midsection to the playlist is Godhead’s “Far Too Long”. While not widely popular Godhead managed to write solid heavy songs and combined some goth elements to the Nu Metal genre.

 

21. Motograter- “Down”220px-Motograter_album

Long before Fiver Finger Death Punch was a regular on the active rock charts singer Ivan Moody fronted the band Motograter. Heavy and dark music provided the perfect platform for Moody’s signature ability to go from rough scream to powerfully sung vocals. “Down” is a mid-tempo rocker that gives a preview of what Mr. Moody was capable of.

220px-TheEndOfThingsToCome22. Mudvayne- “Not Falling”

Mudvayne was the strange painted monsters of Nu Metal. Bursting on the scene with the heavy and relatable “Dig” they soon became an MTV staple. “Not Falling” from their Sophomore album shows the heaviness, the insane musical ability, and the range of the band. While they quickly ditched their space alien look after the release of the album, “Not Falling” proved to be a hit and a fan favorite, even appearing on the soundtrack for the horror film Ghost Ship. 

23. Papa Roach- “Born With Nothing, Die With Everything”220px-Papa_Roach_-_lovehatetragedy

Papa Roach was one of the biggest bands of the Nu Metal movement as they were one of the best examples of the marriage of rap and metal. Their big hit “Last Resort” is a staple of any Nu Metal playlist but I decided to go with a song off of their second album. This song shows the transition of the band from the rap/metal of their debut album to the hard rock/punk rock energy of their next couple of releases.

220px-Mega_Kung_Fu_Radio24. Powerman 5000- “Neckbone”

Nobody really knew about PM5K prior to their Nu Metal “Action Rock” album Tonight, the Stars Revolt, however, the band had a debut album that was far more groove oriented than the hard upbeat rock of their sophomore album. “Neckbone” is a groove heavy hard rocker that was a standout of their early years. The only time I saw the band live was on one of Korn’s earliest tours and I loved the groove that they brought to the heavy metal genre.

25. A Perfect Circle- “Judith”220px-A.perfect.circle.mer.de.noms

A straight gut punch is the only way I can describe this song. APC bust out on MTV being somewhat an enigma. Anybody could recognize Tool’s Maynard James Keenan on vocals but the rest of the musicians were relatively unknown by the larger audience. The guitarist was Tool’s guitar tech, their drummer for the album was studio great Josh Freese and the bassist was a female?! Judith is one of the few heavy songs on the Mer De Noms album but it still rocks and good luck trying to match Maynard’s lung capacity on the chorus. 

220px-Saliva_every_six_seconds26. Saliva- “Your Disease”

Saliva was one of the more rock orientated bands in the Nu Metal movement. They managed to be a songwriter’s hard rocking version of the time with frontman Josey Scott’s ability to write catchy, heavy songs one of the things that made the early incarnation great. While the band has went through lineup changes and has been operating without the original singer, the early work manages to still hold up almost two decades later.

27. Staind- “For You” 220px-Staind_Break_the_Cycle

Aaron Lewis and company managed to be one of the most emotionally heavy bands of the Nu Metal. Dysfunction was the emotional enema that the generation needed at the time but the band’s second album Break the Cycle managed to let out the rage in a cathartic way. “For You” was an anthem for any teenager at the time that did not know how to communicate with parents that they felt did not understand them. 

220px-Home_(Sevendust_album)_coverart28. Sevendust-“Licking Creme”

Sevendust is a workhorse band that has a devoted following that they have built and maintained largely through touring. The band released to great albums in the time frame of the Nu Metal movement and received moderate airplay for a few songs in that time. While infinitely heavier than a lot of Nu Metal acts, the band managed to write some catchy songs with great vocals. “Licking Creme” showcases Skunk Anansie’s Skin on the vocal duet. This song could have been a huge hit and opened America up for Skunk but unfortunately the video was banned in the US by MTV.

29. Spineshank- “Transparent”220px-Spineshank_The_Height_of_Callousness

Not fitting within the rap/metal mold of the Nu Metal genre, bands like Spineshank and Static-X managed to bring a heavier element to the time and were lumped into the genre by sheer timing of popularity. Markedly different from their debut album Strictly Diesel, Spineshank’s second album The Height of Callousness managed to bring a heavier version of the band that also added elements of industrial music to the mix. “Transparent” is the last song on the album but in no means a filler track… More like a killer track.

220px-Trapt_album30. Trapt- “These Walls”

Most people know the band Trapt for their song “Headstrong” which garnered fairly heavy airplay in the day, but “These Walls” is a sound song in regard to the craft of the song itself. A more melodic heavy flair to the track makes it stand out in my head compared to their more popular hit.

31. Strata- “The Panic”220px-StrataAlbum

Strata fits into a genre I like to call “Groove Metal”. Infinitely more emotional and melodic than a lot of metal acts the band manages to produce some great songs with a lot of songwriting strength on their self titled debut. “The Panic” is a great song to include as it shows some of the outer fringes of the Nu Metal movement where the emotionality of music was a focus over the rap/metal amalgam.

220px-Unloco_becoming_i32. Unloco- “Neurotic”

While short lived (only two albums), Unloco managed to make an impact in my listening tastes in the span of the two songs of their that was featured in the Music as a Weapon tour cd/dvd. The band had an groove and feel that was both light and dark. “Neurotic” is one of the more upbeat songs on their album Becoming I but it manages to show all of the potential the band had.

33. 3rd Strike- “No Light”Thirds

Speaking of short lived bands, 3rd Strike only released one album but managed to make an impact on the Nu Metal movement with this hit. Their single album overall has some great songs on it that highlighted what most Nu Metal bands tried to do, which is put metal and heavy music together in a cohesive sound.

40_below_morning34. 40 Below Summer- “Better Life”

40 Below Summer is one of the bands that I found accidentally. Again, not the standard Nu Metal fare, the band managed to bring melody and aggression together into great music. “Better Life” comes from their sophomore album The Mourning After which has a lot of great songs on it. 

 

35. Ill Nino- “I Am Loco”220px-Ill_Niño

Ill Nino is one of those bands that not everybody can get into, but those who like their sound will listen to almost anything they put out. Coupling Spanish vocals with heavy music is one of the hallmarks of their songs. Incorporation of tribal beats and a percussionist on their debut album gave them a latin flair to their sound that set them apart from a lot of the other Nu Metal acts out there.

220px-DrowningpoolsinnerAP36. Drowning Pool- “Tear Away”

Last but not least is Drowning Pool’s “Tear Away”. While “Bodies” was the big debut hit, “Tear Away” showed me what potential the late Dave Williams had as a singer and lyric writer. While a lot of the debut album has repeated lyrics, this song manages to keep the narrative from being repetitive.  

Bonus:

220px-Snot_Strait_UpSnot- “Absent”

Unfortunately I was unable to find this song on Spotify to include but it is one of the great songs that Snot produced prior to the death of their singer Lynn Strait in a car accident. This song was included on both the soundtrack to Dee Snider’s cult horror movie Strangeland and the tribute album Strait Up. I have added it here because it is a killer song and should be listened to.

 

Think this is a good playlist and want it on your own without the work of putting it together? You can find it on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/5p4q8gvcte2m0cq7qf9zc0vsu/playlist/00DcyowfBjtvHvjRFWqsBC?si=NdDZcAN-Smah4RdKDQWr8A

 

 

 

Musical Roadmap 10

I have to be honest and I’ve been putting this post off for a while. Not because I was avoiding it but because it’s hard to put into words how much of a live changing experience a single album can be. Words like ‘incendiary’, ‘futuristic’, ‘brutal’ and ‘masterpiece’ come to mind when I think about Fear Factory’s second album (not counting the remix of the bands first album Soul of a New Machine) Demanufacture. While I was kind of a fringe metalhead in my ‘tweens and early teens, once I heard this album the days of listening to R&B and Rap in the mid-1990’s was over. 

So many things to say about this album. Another in the long line of bands that my older brother introduced me to this one has probably the most lasting impression and loyalty that I give to few bands. The first song I had actually heard was the track “Scumgrief” (Deep Dub Trauma Mix) when it was included for a short time in the movie Hideaway which was based on the Dean Koontz novel.

This was the first album of the “Classic” lineup of Singer Burton C. Bell, Guitarist Dino Cazares, Bassist Christian Olde Wolbers, and Drummer Raymond Herrera an is still regarded as their best work (although, in my opinion the back to back albums of Demanufacture and Obsolete are probably the most solid of their career). 

Fear_Factory_-_DemanufactureReleased on Roadrunner Records on June 13,1995, this album was one of, if not the first, album to successfully blend industrial and metal together into a powerful and provocative combination and, along with Bell’s ability to go from screaming to singing, predates Five Finger Death Punch’s Ivan Moody style by a decade. Demanufacture was also one of the first futuristic metal ‘concept’ albums that I ever remember being released. 

Inspired by the move The Terminator, the lyrical theme throughout the album is man’s struggle against a sentient machine army and the struggle for humanity to survive. This album’s content was ahead of it’s time in regard to creating a story throughout all of the tracks. Later bands like Mastodon continued this tradition with great concept albums such as Leviathan, but at the time nobody else was doing this kind of storytelling set to heavy music. 

The pairing of the dark apocalyptic future with the machine precise music created a whole experience through the speakers. It was as if you could hear the pounding of the machinery through the guitar and drums playing in precise lockstep rhythms. Cazares’ guitar parts were brutal and tight. I had started playing guitar before this album came out but Dino’s weight (both lyrically and physically) inspired me even more. You could be heavy, write great guitar parts and be a bigger guy!? Inconceivable! This was awesome for an overweight kid like me because unlike all of the other skinny guitar players it finally gave me one that I could identify with on a size scale. 

The album is full of great songs, however; on a “mainstream” side, the only track that got any notice was the song “Zero Signal” as it was included in the movie based not the video game Mortal Kombat. The album starts off with the title track which leads in with an ominous collection of mechanical sounds and keyboards and then goes straight to the the signature sound of Dino’s guitar in perfect time with Herrera’s drumming. Even listening to it now it gives me goosebumps and makes me want to prepare for war. “Self Bias Resistor” the album’s second track keeps the hammering going with quick, tight rhythms and blast furnace vocals switching off with the hauntingly heavy sung vocals of the chorus. 

The third and fourth songs are two of the most listened to songs on the album, for me at least. The aforementioned “Zero Signal” starts out menacing with large sounding open chords that quickly change to chugging rhythms overlaid with amazing synthesizer work by Rhys Fulber. The next song “Replica” is the musical cock-punch of the album. Probably one of the most accessible guitar parts to play is powerful and the chorus has amazing lyrics. “Filled with pain/bruised and darkened soul/ spare me from the life that’s full of misery”, chills.

Continuing to the mid section of the album tracks like “New Breed” keep the pace and story moving forward while the slower track “Dog Day Sunrise” shows some hints of a groove and showcases one of the few songs where the guitar and base are not blasting the beat at high speed. The vocals on this track are completely sung instead of the switching between heavy and melodic that encompasses the style of the majority of the album.

“Body Hammer” is probably one of my all time favorite songs on this album. I can’t quite put into words what it is about this song that makes it stand out but its chugging heavy beat could match up against any Pantera lick of the same era. The chorus “As of now I am a tool of severe impact” is perfect for pumping iron or playing first person shooters. Musically the song blends the synths over the brutal music perfectly, making sure to leave them hanging just above the heavy grounding like clouds above a dark barren landscape. 

Another song that I tend to favor on the album is the 9th track “H-K (Hunter-Killer). Machine precise, heavy, menacing. You can almost see the machine army marching through the streets while listening to this track. Re-listening to the album today having known the story it really gives scope to the cinematic capability of this album.

Next to last on the album is probably one of the most EPIC heavy songs every with the greatest lyrical ‘third act’ ever written. The meat of the song has chugging metal guitar with the snare accenting the sonic equivalent of a hammer striking nails. “Pisschrist” is easily my #1 favorite metal song of this era hands down. I cannot ever listen to this track without a feeling of intense conflict and without singing the ending “Face down, arms out/ nailed to the cross of doubt, blood runs like rain/drowning for this world in vain/crown of black thorns, human skin ripped and torn/Where is your savior now?” Damn if that is epic. This song even ends on the final question in Bell’s amazing etherial vocals slightly electronically distorted. 

The album closes out with “A Therapy for Pain”. A slower song that serves as a fitting end to the first part of what continued to be a multi-album series of themes of man vs. machine, the singularity and the re-rise of humanity among a world of machines. This song is the musical equivalent of the end of the Dark Knight in that the hope that once was, is lost with the ones who died in the struggle, but the story is not over….

This album also was was re-released as a remix album which blended more techno beats to the industrial heaviness. This strategy was previously used on Fear is the Mindkiller remix album as well and helped the band eventually as the remix albums counted in their contractual album count with Roadrunner. 

As far as albums that push you in one direction or another this one shoved me off the edge of a cliff where my love of sci-fi and metal finally came together in a band that I have remained intensely loyal to throughout the last 20+ years.