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The Woopop-Certified Top 13 (and a half!) Albums of 2014

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Just like on last years list, I couldn’t limit it to only 10… and again, they’re in alphabetical order, because trying to rank albums or pull an overall favorite is just too damn hard.

Nate plays along with The Tea Party
Nate plays along with The Tea Party.

2014 felt like the year of comebacks. Fuel, Moist, Slipknot, and the Tea Party all released albums after some interminable waits, Theory of a Deadman returned to proper form, while Chevelle and Nonpoint continued the positive momentum they started on prior albums. Beyond those, there were just some really solid albums released by some of my usual suspects this past year. So without further ado, these were the albums that tickled my fancy in 2014:

Black Label Society – Catacombs of the Black Vatican

I spun this one quite a bit at work. It’s just more of the classic BLS sound. “My Dying Time” and “Beyond The Down” were highlights.

Chevelle – La Gargola

After what I consider a couple of mediocre albums in the middle of their career, Chevelle has really stepped up their game between 2011’s Hats Off to the Bull and now La Gargola. This one has more than a handful of tracks that go hard; the entire run of “An Island”, “Take Out The Gunman”, “Jawbreaker” and “Hunter Eats Hunter” is especially good.

Crosses – Crosses

This almost doesn’t count, because EP 1 came out in 2011, and then EP 2 in 2012, but it took until February 2014 to get the full album (both EP’s plus some new ones) out. Regardless, this is way more chill than 95% of what I normally listen to. Chino Moreno of the Deftones, and Shawn Lopez from Far put this project together for fun, and Chino put it this way: “minimal and soothing and it’s sort of like the stuff I like listening to when I’m not screaming my head off.” I love “This Is A Trick”, “Bitches Brew”, “Blk Stallion”, and I get “Prurient” stuck in my head all the time.

Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

I have to admit, I didn’t like Ex-Lives nearly as much as some of the others, especially coming off of New Junk Aesthetic, but this one brought me right back. It’s funny, the one track that kinda sticks out like a sore thumb, “Moor”, is the one I like the most, along with “El Dorado”.

Fuel – Puppet Strings

It took 11 years and a complete lineup turnover to get another Fuel album with Brett Scallions singing on it, but it was worth the wait! This album shows that Brett can certainly do his own thing without any of the signature Carl Bell riffs. There’s a couple of instant Fuel classics on here that can slot in right beside the hits catalog, like “Wander” and especially “Cold Summer”, which apparently had been kicking around in one form or another since before Natural Selection. “Time For Me To Stop” is another favorite.

Machine Head – Bloodstone and Diamonds

Don’t ask why it took me forever to really, *really* get into these guys. I was always aware of them, even saw them twice as openers, and yet never invested the time until early last year, when Robb Flynn started his blogs about the 10th anniversary of Through the Ashes of Empires. I finally gave it a good listen and was like “YOU @#$%ING MORON WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THIS SOONER??”. Went back and got the whole catalog (even The Burning Red and Supercharger LOL), and was excited as hell for this release. Needless to say, they didn’t disappoint. This album is fantastic! “Now We Die” starts it with a bang, and it goes from there. “Night of Long Knives” is a cool track, and I like “Game Over” as well.

Moist – Glory Under Dangerous Skies

As if 11 years between Fuel albums wasn’t long enough, it had been FIFTEEN years since Mercedes Five and Dime was released before Moist put out this new album. “Mechanical” is easily my favorite, as it’s the first song, first single, and track personally voted “most likely to sound like ‘Push’ had been updated for 2014”. There’s some classic-sounding Moist on here, like “Broken”, and “The River”, and then there’s some stuff that could easily be on a David Usher solo album. Pretty solid overall though.

Nonpoint – The Return

“The Return” may as well be the theme of my whole list, and while its the album title, it’s not like Nonpoint hasn’t been putting stuff out consistently. However, looking at 2012’s self-titled and now this one, they indeed have returned to prominence. “Pins and Needles” starts it off hot and heavy, and the album never really quits after that. Lots of good tunes on this one, including “Breaking Skin”, “Misery”, “Forcing Hands”, and “Never Ending Hole”.

Sevendust – Time Travelers and Bonfires

Not that there was ever any doubt that these guys could do their own Jar of Flies type album, especially in light of how good Southside Double-Wide was, but they proved it and then some with the original acoustic (and acoustic-esque) songs on here. “Come Down” is fantastic, “The Wait” is as heartfelt as anything they’ve ever done, and I really like “Upbeat Sugar” and “Bonfire” as well. It’s a role-reversal of sorts, as I’d love to hear these songs fully plugged in! The six new tunes would have been enough to land this on my list, but then there’s six acoustic versions of the heavier songs, including “Denial”, “Crucified”, and “Karma”. My one minor gripe is that we’ve already heard “Trust” and “Black” on SSDW, and they could have picked two more songs we’ve never heard acoustically, but that’s splitting hairs; they still sound great here.

Slash – World on Fire

I’ll trot out my old chestnut again: Myles Kennedy could sing over my cat’s screeching and I’d love it. Singing over a second whole album with Slash and the same band? Yes please!! I liked Apocalyptic Love a lot, and this one beats the pants off of that. The title track is amazing, as is “Wicked Stone”, “30 Years to Life”, and “Bent To Fly” is fantastic. Really, the whole album is; it’s what a modern straight-up rock record should sound like.

Slipknot – .5: The Grey Chapter

Sure, lets continue with the comeback stories. Six years after All Hope Is Gone, and after the death of Paul Gray and the departure of Joey Jordison, the nine lunatics come back with an album that blows AHIG out of the water, and rivals anything else they’ve ever put out. It runs the gamut from the atmospheric and downright creepy to the full frontal assault you’d expect. “Sarcastrophe”, “The Devil In I”, “Custer” and “The Negative One” are the heavy, and the tribute to Paul, “Goodbye”, is unlike anything they’ve ever done, except maybe “Snuff”.

The Tea Party – The Ocean at the End

One more comeback story! Ten years after the less-than-stellar Seven Circles, the trio got it right with this one. Back to the world music and blues influences that makes the Tea the Tea, this is solid from front to back. “The Black Sea”, “Cypher”, and “Submission” are early favorites, and “The Ocean At The End” is as great as any of their epic tunes.

Theory of a Deadman – Savages

Less of a comeback, more just a return to form after the generic radio-fare that was “The Truth Is…”, “Savages” is Theory getting their snarl back. “Drown” and “Savages” may be two of the heaviest songs they’ve ever done, while “Panic Room” and “World War Me” are solid TOAD tunes as well. There’s the requisite ballads and the country cross-over, but I’ll forgive those in light of how much I like the rest of the album.

Honorable Mention:

Clutch – Summer Sound Attack

This doesn’t really count at all, as it’s an online-only compilation put together for Clutch’s summer tour. Clutch is another band I was Johnny-come-SUPER-lately on. I saw them last December at Montage on a whim, and loved it. Got all the albums, and have been listening to them all year. Earth Rocker came out in 2013, so it’s not making the list, but this compilation of Earth Rocker tunes and a couple of “hits” from mainly the latter half of their catalog (Spacegrass the notable exception) will stand in nicely. Besides, if nothing else, this will make the list because every time I play “Electric Worry”, we follow up “Bang Bang Bang Bang” with Nate flipping out singing “DOMINOES DOMINOES!”

No, they’re not on here:

Black Stone Cherry (not as good as the prior three), Godsmack (same album for the 6th time), Hellyeah (it’s okay), Linkin Park (better than the last two, but eh), Mike Doughty (just missed the cut), Nickelback (LULZ), Seether (it’s growing on me, but see Godsmack)

ETID On-Stage Selfies are a No-No (But With A Happy Ending!)

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Getting on stage during a show is one thing. Getting on stage during an Every Time I Die show is another. Getting on stage during an Every Time I Die show and then trying to take a selfie with Keith will result in Jordan going all Karate Kid on your phone.

But it has a happy ending!

That’s Actually A Cover Song?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

I’m trying to get back to the free-floating music thoughts on here, in addition to just the CD’s and show reviews. Again. For the umpteenth time.

Anyway, I’ve long been a fan of cover tunes. I like when bands put their own spin on songs, for the most part. (See the rant about Florida Georgia Line destroying Black Stone Cherry’s “Stay” here.) There’s a ton of covers that are readily apparent, and the longer it goes, we’re now getting into songs I knew and loved the first time around getting covered (some good, some bad). What’s more interesting to me is when I hear songs by one band, and only find out much, much later that the version I knew was actually a cover!

I bring this up now because just last week, listening to Chris Jericho’s podcast with Slash, they talked about Slash working with Michael Jackson, and how he’s associated with playing on Black or White during live shows, while in reality, on the album, he played on Give In To Me. I’m thinking, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that, I don’t know that song, I’ll go check out that song.

I hear the opening notes, and its one of those “Heeeeyyyyyyyyy I DO know this song!”. But I know it because Three Days Grace covered it on Transit of Venus, not because of MJ. It was just another song on the 3DG album, and I didn’t think anything of it. But an MJ song? That’s not exactly obscure. It’s like, how did I miss that one?

It’s happened to me a couple of other times in the past too, notably with Finger Eleven covering Depeche Mode’s “Walking in My Shoes“, and Oleander doing The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry”. There’s probably a bunch more waiting in the wings for me to discover. I kind of like it when bands just slip songs in there and don’t call too much attention to them, just waiting for the sometimes-unobservant fans like myself to find them.

When Covers Become Karaoke (Or Worse.)

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

In which Eric hears a terrible cover of an okay song and flies off the handle…

Every once in awhile you hear something that makes you stop and say “WHAT IN THE BLUE HELL IS THAT?!?!”. I was the unwitting victim of this today, strolling through the music section at Target. As everyone probably knows, they have a couple of TV’s that cycle video clips from whatever albums they’re trying to push. I walked by one this morning, and heard some familiar lyrics…

“But if I told you I loved you, would it make you want to stay?”

…and I’m like, “Wow, Black Stone Cherry? That album’s almost three years ol… HEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYY THAT’S NOT BLACK STONE CHERRY THAT’S A TERRIBLE COUNTRY KARAOKE VERSION OF STAY WHO THE HELL MASSACRED THIS WTFOMGBBQ!!!” I literally stopped dead in my tracks. Nate’s stroller probably could have used an airbag (poor kid, all that *and* he had to hear this too). Come to find out, whomever or whatever a “Florida Georgia Line” is (looked them up and found out they’re also responsible for that insipid “Cruise” song too) decided they would cover Black Stone Cherry’s “Stay”. I’m all for covers, hell, Black Stone Cherry does their share on their albums too (The Yardbirds’ “Shape of Things” and Marshall Tucker’s “Can’t You See” to name two), but this here cover is BAD. Really bad. Really, really bad. Michael Jackson is hearing this from the grave and is like, “nope, you guys are Bad; I can’t hold a candle to this.” Like, Eric going to a country karaoke bar, deciding to mock the entire pop-country genre by picking this BSC song, and singing it in the most ridiculous, obnoxiously twangy way possible bad. If I sang this song like these guys do, they’d throw me out of the bar (into PUBLIC). How this made it onto an album, let alone #1 on the country charts (I fell out of my chair when I saw that), is beyond me. I mean, a cover is usually some sort of homage to the song, not the poster child for every reason I can only stand like 30 seconds of current country music. Yikes.

And honestly, as big of a BSC fan as I am, their version of “Stay” isn’t exactly blowing the doors off either. There’s plenty of better songs on Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea (see White Trash Millionaire and Staring At The Mirror, for starters).

But you don’t have to take my word for it (thanks LeVar Burton!). In the interest of fairness, and because misery loves company, here’s both tracks linked so you can do your own comparison. You only need the first 30 seconds of each. Probably less for the FGL version (my ears started bleeding).

My Top 12 Albums of 2013

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

I don’t think I did this for 2012, and this seems like as good of a topic as any for the inaugural “blog post” of my music-only refocus of Having to limit the list to ten always seemed so arbitrary, so you’re getting 12. It’s also in alphabetical order, because I’m not about to try and say one album was “better” than another, this is simply what I was spinning heavily this year.

Alter Bridge – Fortress

Continuing the strong, straight up hard rock that they’ve been known for since the first album, Alter Bridge brought it yet again on Fortress. I’ve written it before, but Myles Kennedy could sing over my cat’s screeching and I’d love it, and Mark Tremonti and crew are a damn sight better than that. I’d probably put this a shade ahead of ABIII, but just behind Blackbird. “Addicted to Pain” rips hard, “Lover” is probably as close as they’ve ever gotten to sounding like the Mayfield Four (Myles’ old band), and “Cry A River” is probably my favorite track on the album.

Chimaira – Crown of Phantoms

Everyone wondered if Chimaira could come back and be Chimaira after turning over the entire lineup, save for lead singer Mark Hunter. The answer was a resounding YES. To me, the first 30 seconds of the first song (The Machine) told me everything I needed to know. After that, “No Mercy”, “Plastic Wonderland” and “Wrapped in Violence” are highlights.

Eye Empire – Evolve

One of the hardest working bands in rock today rewarded their die-hards this year with Evolve, which amplified everything that made Impact great. The heavy got a little heavier, the melodies a bit sweeter, BC’s solo’s even tastier. Check out “War Isn’t Over Yet”, “Beyond The Stars”, “Bleed” (which you can absolutely tell Corey Lowery had a hand in, hello Stereomud vibe!), and “Live Loud”.

Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll

#MUPS have been lit. Wow. I’ve always liked FOB, have all the albums, and I always thought From Under The Cork Tree was their best complete album. This is stealing the title. Given all that, I was (and still am) genuinely surprised at how much I’ve ended up listening to this album, and how much I like it. A truly solid pop-rock album from top to bottom with no duds. No highlights because I’d just have to list the entire tracklist.

Filter – The Sun Comes Out Tonight

Picking up where they left off with 2010’s The Trouble With Angels, Filter delivered a great follow-up with this one. The heavier tracks have some great riffs (We Hate It…, What Do You Say, It’s Got To Be Right Now, This Finger’s For You), and the slower tunes / ballads are very well done (Surprise, It’s My Time). My personal favorite is definitely “Self Inflicted”.

Hatebreed – The Divinity Of Purpose

Frontman Jamey Jasta described the album as “All pit, no shit.” Can’t argue with that assessment much. 38 minutes of good old-fashioned Hatebreed metalcore. It kicks off with “Put It To The Torch” and goes from there. Besides that, “Honor Never Dies”, “Before The Fight Ends You” and the title track are my standouts.

Hey Monea – Cheap Souvenirs

We found out about Canton, Ohio’s Hey Monea through our Buffalo boys The Doyle Brothers (although I swear I’d heard of Hooked on Tonics previously, but can’t substantiate that), and really enjoyed their first Hey Monea disc “Wine, Women, and Song“. Cheap Souvenirs continues their pop/light-rock sound with more polish, tighter songs, and if it’s possible, more fun. WW&S’s “Ballad of Moonbeam Swiner” gets a little tune up and turns into “Stay” on this one, and beyond that, “Pollyanna”, “Never Gonna Take You Back”, and “Ohio Lullaby” are my faves.

Killswitch Engage – Disarm The Descent

A four-year break, plus Jesse Leach re-joining as lead singer, equals one hell of an album. Talk about a new energy! This is another one where I can’t really list highlights, the whole album is fantastic, but I’ll single out “A New Awakening”, “In Due Time”, and “A Tribute To The Fallen” as my favorites.

Matthew Good – Arrows of Desire

A bit more upbeat than the last couple of MG solo records, it’s no less solid than everything that came before it. I like practically everything he puts out, so this is kind of a no-brainer for the list. “Arrows of Desire”, “Had It Coming”, “Garden of Knives” and “Guns of Carolina” are my highlights.

Mike Doughty – Circles, Super Bon Bon…

After swearing for years that he’d never revisit Soul Coughing tunes as a solo act, Doughty had a change of heart, and recorded a bunch of tunes as he’d originally conceived them before they got put through the Soul Coughing wringer. The album was crowdfunded through PledgeMusic (I helped!). It’s pretty cool to hear how stripped down most of these songs ended up, and I’m partial to the fact that “Unmarked Helicopters” and “St. Louise Is Listening” made the cut.

Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

Pretty much anything Pearl Jam put out would have made the list, but Lightning Bolt really is a great album. “Sirens” is one of my early favorites, while “My Father’s Son”, “Infallible” and “Future Days” are catching up.

Sevendust – Black Out The Sun

This one actually had to grow on me a little. I’m as big of a Sevendust fan as you’ll find, but I did not get into this album on the first listen. In fact, I think I called it “Call Me No One Part 2″ at first. After running through it a couple more times, however, it started to make sense to me, and I’ve grown to really appreciate the album. The title track is fantastic, “Decay” is the lead single for a reason, and “Faithless” and “Dark AM” are favorites.

Thank you iPod shuffle this morning for this under…

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Thank you iPod shuffle this morning for this under-rated, forgotten album. Always did like these guys!

So this happened last night! @hatebreed VIP! @Wate…

Friday, April 19th, 2013

So this happened last night! @hatebreed VIP! @WaterStreetNY

Help make it happen for ‘Chimaira *CROWN OF PHANTO…

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Help make it happen for ‘Chimaira *CROWN OF PHANTOMS* Fan Edition CD-DVD’ #indiegogo via @indiegogo

To tie that up nicely, here’s my review of the @Wa…

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

To tie that up nicely, here’s my review of the @WaterStreetNY show with @hatebreed and @chimairaband from July 2009!

Tonite is VIP for @hatebreed and @everytimeidie at…

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Tonite is VIP for @hatebreed and @everytimeidie at @WaterStreetNY, and then @chimairaband starts following me! Definitely #MetalThursday m/

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