It’s hard these days for a kid to get recognized as truly talented, because after the nineties, the music industry slowly grew into a mess of hip-hop and fake punk rock. But there still are a few artists who have stayed true to their Rock and Roll ancestors and have summoned the strength the play music like they used to.
This is their story.
1.The Black Parade
By My Chemical Romance
In the first real rock opera in a decade (face it, Green Day, American Idiot had not plot whatsoever), My Chemical Romance have made both a near perfect album and a truly memorable story.
Opening with the Bowie-esque “The End,” that starts off as one of the grandiose introductions in rock ‘n’ roll history (up there with the songs “Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles and “In the Flesh” by Pink Floyd), you’re set up for a dark story about a man who is dying of cancer in the hospital. Then the album transitions into the happy tune with depressing lyrics, “Dead!” which is also the best song of the year. Throughout the album, the character, named “the Patient,” reminisces the moments of his life that were good and bad (the good moments have a resounding amount of “one,”) and, halfway through the disk, he decides that he’s going to get to Hell after all.
But don’t cry yet, for there is more to the story! The details of which I cannot tell you (you have to listen to the album, after all), are at some times frightening, and at some times tragic, but the constant on this album is excellent. Singer Gerard Way yells out like a heartbroken Billie Joe Armstrong while guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero play like a wonderful mix of Queen’s Brian May on “Disenchanted” and “Welcome to the Black Parade,” and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett in “House of Wolves.”
If there’s one thing you do for yourself musically this year, join the Black Parade.
Key Tracks: “Dead!”, “Teenagers”, “Cancer”
I’m not sure if you can tell form my review of the Black Parade, but I really like classic rock. I love Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, all of it. And if there’s a band out there that has more similarities with the bands just named than Wolfmother, please stand up.
You know you’re in for something special as soon as lead singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale yells out like a newborn baby at the top of his lungs during the first two seconds of “Dimension,” a four-minute-pulse-accelerating-Deep-Purple-plus-Black-Sabbath-plus-the-Zep rock-a-thon.
Things only get better with the psycadellic “White Unicorn,” and the Grammy-winning “Woman,”
As the album progresses, you realize how good the old stuff was, and how good Wolfmother are at playing like the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Many of the lyrics are inspired by Jimi (i.e. in “Dimension” “Purple haze is in/the sky!” and in the title of “Joker and the Thief,” as in the song “All Along the Watchtower”)
But at the end of the album, right as the semi-acoustic, double-happy “Vagabond,” hits the last blurry keyboard note, you feel good. Satisfied. Stockdale has just ensured himself on the new Guitar Gods list, keyboardist/bassist Chris Ross has made Pink Floyd sound tame, and Drummer Myles Heskett is ready to have a rock off with the spirit of Keith Moon.
Well done, Wolfmother.
Key Tracks: “Tales (From the Forest of Gnomes)”, “Dimension”, “Witchcraft”
3. Black Holes and Revelations
Having seen this band live, I can tell you it’s the real thing. 100% authentic goodness. On Black Holes, Muse turns up the Queen and the “Apocalypse Now,” and gets to work.
Matthew Bellamy, the singer/guitarist famous for bizarre conspiracy theories lets his inner lunatic go wild as he sings about matters from the end of the world (“Knights of Cydonia”) to obsessive love (“Supermassive Black Hole”). All the while keyboards add an evil, technological feel and while the bass sets the haunting mood.
On some of the songs, the band sings about triumph (“Starlight,””Invincible”), and on these, Bellamy sings a death threat to all those pop singers who claim to sing well. And on the heavier subject matter (“Assassin,” “Take a Bow”), the group brings on the headbangery.
Listening to Black Holes is like traveling through one, and seeing the other side. A side where confusion and epic fights war over kidnapped princesses on a battlefield of sound.
Muse are truly magicians of rock and roll. They can take a bow any time they please.
Key Tracks: “Knights of Cydonia”, “Supermassive Black Hole”, and “Exo-Politics”
4. Stadium Arcadium
By Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Grammy awards people may not have even nominated the top three best albums of the year, but they were certainly on the right track with Stadium Arcadium. A 28-song romp through the funkiest of the funky and suavest of the suave.
On the album, the Peppers manage to hit every spot on the good song spectrum. From the slow, epic, “Wet Sand,” to the intense, upbeat “Readymade,” You’d think RHCP would be ready to quit playing music and retire by now.
They’re still at it, making the major label proud.
Key Tracks: “Snow (Hey Oh)”, “Wet Sand”, and “Readymade”
They picked an interesting title. In the Bible, Revelations is the last book (or, it was until recently), where it describes the end of the world. Audioslave claimed that the title had nothing to do with the bible, but instead with the definition of the word, which means to reveal. However, this album has turned out to be their last album, now that singer Chris Cornell has gone off to make songs for James Bond and now that ex-singer for the rest of the band (who were once Rage Against the Machine), Zach de la Rocha has come back out from his exile.
This hasn’t stopped Audioslave from making another masterpiece. On Revelations, they get funky. The bass has been turned up to ten, right there with guitar god Tom Morello (who keeps playing at eleven). Cornell sings about the terror of New Orleans (“Wake Up) and of the life as a rock star (“Original Fire”), and keeps the fans at the edge of their seat, waiting for Morello to pull one of his signature solos that are impossible to imitate.
It’s a shame that they are no longer, but this is a great, grand finale, so thank you, Audioslave. Thank you very much.
Key Tracks: “Jewel of the Summertime”, “Wide Awake”, and “Sound of a Gun”
6. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
By Arctic Monkeys
For a group of kids who haven’t even gotten their drinking liscence, these Monkeys seem to like to sing about it a lot. But nevertheless, they have made something monumental here. It’s like the Who-meets-the-Kinks-meets-Weezer, and I love it. This is punk rock at nearly it’s finest.
Key Tracks: “When the Sun Goes Down”, “Fake Tales of San Francisco”, and “Mardy Bum”
7. Waterloo to Anywhere
By Dirty Pretty Things
Bits and pieces of punk gods, the Libertines and Babyshambles have come together without their common ally Pete Doherty and have made a little something called a Sex-Pistols inspired thrash. Carl Barat’s voice resonates like a drunken Bowie while the boys in the band play like the Ramones meets the Clash, and it rocks.
Key tracks: “Deadwood”, “The Last of the Small Town Playboys”, and “Gin & Milk”
8. St. Elsewhere
By Gnarls Barkley
This is probably the closest thing to a good hip-hop record ever recorded. The producer of Gorillaz, Dangermouse, plays on the instruments while Cee-Lo Green’s perfect, soulful voice croons out and tells the world about topics that you won’t find in any other rap songs. Now, this isn’t to say that they all make sense; however, their subject matter is much more sophisticated anyway.
Key Tracks: “Go Go Gadget Gospel”, “Just a Thought”, and “Smiley Faces”
9. Broken Boy Soldiers
By the Raconteurs
Jack White is unstoppable. First with the White Stripes and all their spectacular glory, and now with the Raconteurs, who are, yes, slightly inferior to his other work; however, Jack’s now able to channel out all of his concepts through his band mates. The multilayered joy that this brings him, I’m sure is overwhelming.
Key Tracks: “Store Bought Bones”, “Broken Boy Soldiers”, and “Blue Veins”
10. The Crane Wife
By the Decemberists
On this semi-concept album, the Decemberists conquer war, the apocalypse, and very low-key bestiality all in eleven tracks. On the three title tracks, Singer Collin Meloy tells of a man who marries a bird, puts her to work, and accidentally kills her. Not the happiest story ever, but that’s the way it goes.
Also on the album, a twelve minute epic called “The Island,” is told in three separate parts: “Come and See,” “The Landlord’s Daughter,” and “You’ll Not Feel the Drowning.” The Crane Wife is not the happiest album of the year.
If you couldn’t tell.
Key Tracks: “The Island”, “the Perfect Crime # 2”, and “Summersong”
11. Pearl Jam
By Pearl Jam
Eddie Vedder and the band have once again done something memorable. Starting out with an epic song telling the story of the late Joey Ramone (“Life Wasted”), transitions into a burning protest against the Iraq War (“World Wide Suicide,” “Parachutes,” “Army Reserve,” and “Inside Job,”). Throughout the disk the words resonate through your mind, “THEY’RE BACK!”
Key Tracks: “World Wide Suicide”, “Big Wave”, and “Parachutes”
The Mars Volta
This album may only be eight songs long, but that doesn’t stop it from taking an hour and a half to listen to. With song lengths unheard of since Pink Floyd, (The longest song, Tetragrammaton, is 16:41), the two frontmen of punk god At the Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, along guest members John Frusciante, Flea form the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other members have created a bizarre psycadelia-meets-punk-meets-heavy-metal disk rife with guitar solos, ambient noise, and pure madness. Insanity guaranteed.
Key Tracks: “Tetragrammaton”, “Viscera Eyes”, and “Day of the Baphomets”
13. Return to Cookie Mountain
By TV on the Radio
You have to hand it to TV on the Radio, making the weirdest album of the year is no small accomplishment. And getting David Bowie to score a guest track on your disk is also an amazing feat. But the greatest of all these shows of talent is that they’ve managed to make it all sound great.
Key Tracks: “Province”, “Wolf Like Me and Hours”
By John Mayer
It’s easy to say that John Mayer is the only true rock and roller around who has actually been somehow mistaken for pop by the Grammys. Playing guitar like a miniature Jimi Hendrix, and singing like there’s no tomorrow, Mayer has done what any great musician wants to do—he’s played his best. And it just so happens that his best is really, really good.
Key Tracks: “Bold as Love”, “Waiting on the World to Change”, and “Gravity”
15. The Information
Beck is the man. He is the god of creativity, and The Information is solid proof. (Well, actually, everything by him is solid proof, however, The Information is the most recent solid proof). On the album, Beck has made something that he wants the listeners to hear. He’s recorded every instrumental track separately, and left it like that on the CD so his fans can move every track around in Garageband. Therefore the album is only half by him. The really fun stuff he’s left to you.
Key Tracks: “Strange Apparition”, “I Think I’m In Love”, and “Nausea”
16. Robbers & Cowards
By Cold War Kids
It is strange, the way these LA white boys carry themselves—they write songs like they’re black slaves during the depression in some songs (“Saint John,” “Hair Down,”) and in others they act like Sprinsteen writing for the White Stripes (“Hang Me Up To Dry,” “Hospital Beds”). But one thing’s for certain—Jack White has better watch his back, because these blues-rockers just might take his throne right form under him.
Key Tracks: “Hospital Beds”, “We Used to Vacation”, and “Hang Me Up to Dry”
17. Tom Finch Group
By Tom Finch Group
There comes a time where one’s guitar teacher does something that is so mind-bendingly brilliant it can’t be helped. This is that time. It may only be an EP, but Fairfaxian guitar god Tom Finch takes six songs, and rocks them to pieces. Some songs have hints of Marley-ish reggae, while others are funkier than the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But all the while, it’s rock ‘n’ roll at it’s best. Tom Finch group is a memorable epic. Brilliant.
Key tracks: “Conscious Energy”, “Rainbow”, and “Mariposa”
18. Friendly Fire
By Sean Lennon
The son of a Beatle has made the best cocktail party album of the year. All the songs are soft, light, cool, however, they have lyrical punches that make you think twice. Lennon’s voice sounds suspiciously like his father’s, and his rhythms sound like the lost B-Side of Rubber Soul. But nevertheless, it’s the closest thing to his dad as anyone’s ever going to get.
Key Tracks: “Would I Be the One”, “Parachute”, “Dead Meat”
19. Modern Times
By Bob Dylan
It’s not exactly what he used to do, but what Bob has done here is nevertheless powerful. Bluesy and folky, just like the old stuff, but, like the title suggests, it’s about modern times. The only downside is that he seems to have some kind of messed up attraction to Alicia Keys. In the opening track he confesses that he’s stalking her. That’s the weird portion of the disk.
Key Tracks: “Thunder on the Mountain”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”, and “Someday Baby”
20. Boys and Girls in America
By The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady are weird, putting it simply. It could be Craig Finn’s half-drunk speak-singing, or it could be the fascinatingly similar-to-Bruce-Springsteen-and-the-E-Street-Band sound that the rest of the band employs. But whatever it is, it’s impressive. Very impressive.
Key Tracks: “Chips Ahoy!”, “Chill Out Tent”, and “Stuck Between Stations”
Written by Evan, age 14