The following albums are in no particular order, so yeah….
“The Near Future” by I Fight Dragons
A kickstarted album, The Near Future or Project Atma as it was known in pre-production is I Fight Dragons’ second full length album after their début “KABOOM!” in 2011. Released in December of 2014 on limited edition vinyl and digital formats, The Near Future is split into two sides:
- Side A is a 20 minute long, epic, Rush-style rock opera following the story of a young man who encounters a strange alien girl and is roped into an adventure to save her grandfather.
- Side B is a further five songs in the same chiptune and pop-rock style we’ve come to expect from I Fight Dragons.
This is a great example of how an album should be. This is not just “some songs that the band wrote”, this is a carefully planned, well executed, well made and well good album. This record takes their signature Nintendo-inspired sound and polishes away the rough edges and in their place puts infectious guitar solos from guitarist Packy Lundholm. (I maintain that his screaming guitar sound in “No Strings” is possibly one of the most face-melting solos of all-time.) in addition to Chad Van Dahm’s driving rhythm on the drums (see “The Near Future III. Battle”), Hari Rao’s grooving bass-lines (see “Pretend”) and Brian Mazzaferri’s outstanding vocals and lyrics make this one of the greatest rock albums of this century.
If you want to fall in love with an album this year, The Near Future is the album for you.
“American Idiot” by Green Day
After a successful career in the 1990’s built up to a lackluster 2000 release in Warning, a “Best-of” album in International Superhits and a subsequent rarities collection, Shenanigans; everyone thought that they had heard the last of Green Day. That was until they released their 7th studio album, American Idiot.
This is an album that anyone who listens to rock music is aware of, an album that captured a generation of misfits and disillusioned teens in a post-9/11 world, just in the same way that Dookie captured the hearts of the deadbeat schoolboys back in 1994. But this was not the Green Day that wrote songs about masturbation and girls, this is the new, political and angry Billie Joe, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool.
It was their greatest commercial success to date, and brought the band back into the public eye, and cemented them as one of the most culturally relevant bands of the early 2000’s. Which isn’t surprising considering the extremely high caliber song-writing and performance on American Idiot. This is album that spawned “Holiday”, “Letterbomb”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and of course the now-iconic, “American Idiot”. No other record has captivated and inspired so many in the same way that American Idiot, a high-concept ROCK OPERA, has done. Well done Green Day, you changed my 10-year-old life, and you continue to inspire me to this day.
“The Resistance” by Muse
What bands do you think of when you think of the best of British music? The Beatles? The Stones? Queen? The Sex Pistols? All of which are valid and good answers, but might I give you this album to muse on? The Resistance is a perfect example of a well executed, high-brow, progressive-rock brilliance. Matthew Bellamy’s razor-sharp guitar and flawless falsetto, combined with the rhythm delights of Christopher Wolstenholme (bass) and Dominic Howard (drums) and in addition to that a full symphonic orchestra, you arrive at a Muse album where some tracks wouldn’t feel out of place in a very respectable opera, while others rock harder than Andrew WK at Spring Break. Think Queen, but Brian May’s guitar is chrome and running through approximately 400 foot-pedals. Beginning with the brilliant anti-establishment anthem “Uprising” and ending with a symphony in three parts, there is something for everyone on The Resistance, but especially something for people who like music. Change your evening, lie down and listen to this album, you’ll emerge chanting on the streets chanting against our new Orwellian government: THEY WILL NOT CONTROL US!
“Permission to Land” by The Darkness
“Aren’t the Darkness a joke band?” I hear you ask. And I’m not surprised, they are in many ways one of the more flamboyant bands to come out of Britain in the 2000s, I mean just look at Justin Hawkins, however one mustn’t let their out-there, glam rock image put you off, the Darkness are one of the most underrated bands, in terms of music, ever in rock. This is the album that made the world want to grow out their hair and run onto stage, Les Paul in hand, and play solo after solo through a wall of Marshall amps once again.
The obvious comparison to great riff and solo-lead classic rock bands such as AC/DC or Thin Lizzy goes without saying, this is a revival I can get behind. Permission to Land however, is far from a “tribute to classic rock” album, it is a powerhouse of great songs, heavy riffs and face-melting solos. In fact, this album has in itself created the odd classic of its own, this album’s breakout single, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” is arguably just as recognisable to the general public as “Back in Black” or “Crazy Crazy Nights”, if not more recognisable.
Much of this instantly recognisable comes from lead singer Justin Hawkins’s insane head voice and his brother, and lead guitarist’s infectious solos that have you dancing around your room, air-guitar in hand, for hours upon end.
Permission to Land may be the most fun album I own, but also one of the most brilliant. If you haven’t heard this album, I highly suggest you correct that.
“Artificial Heart” by Jonathan Coulton
This is the part of the list where I have to admit I’m a huge nerd, and part of being a nerd is of course loving the music of Jonathan Coulton. As much as I adore his previous work on “Thing a Week” etc. Artificial Heart is Coulton’s first proper studio album, and my god does it show! The production value on this album is perhaps ten times that of his other works and the music is fantastic. Every song is masterfully put together, sang and performed. Though taking a slightly more serious tone than his other work, each song still retains that classic Coulton flare.
He uses emotions like he never has before, songs like “Nemeses (with John Roderick)” and “Today with your Wife” are both genuinely touching, and his new versions of his Portal songs are excellent: A brilliantly arranged version of “Want You Gone” add depth and more instrumentation but remains very faithful to the original. And a wonderfully sung version of “Still Alive”, again with a new arrangement and brilliant instrumentation. In addition to this, his song “Je Suis Rick Springfield” is excellently whimsical, and pointlessly French and is very hard not to love. Artificial Heart is Coulton’s most mature, and technically great album yet. His playing, as well as his vocals are outstanding throughout. He shows particular skill in the ukulele in songs like “Down Today” and “The World Belongs to You” and shows his vocal talents in “Nobody Loves You Like Me”.
I’ll be honest, if you want to find out what Jonathan Coulton is all about, don’t listen to Artificial Heart, listen to his earlier work and then move on to it. This 1) allows you to listen to the brilliance that is “Thing a Week” but also then 2) see the great progression from that to this album.
Those were my five favourite albums: what are yours? Tell me in the comments, on twitter @24hoursayear or email me “firstname.lastname@example.org”