Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten Albums of 2009: Part I

For me, 2009 brought a much expanded palette and appreciation for mellower music, folk, acoustic, indie, and Americana with a twinge of country or gospel. These trends reflect highly in my countdown of the Top Ten Albums of 2009. To me, 2009 beats out 2008 hands down, and I think many of these albums will stick with me my whole life long, as they defined some pivotal moments in my life this year. I hope you enjoy the list. Give these artists a try, and I'm sure you won't go wrong. 
First, let's start off with the albums were that good showings and in heavy rotation for me this year but just didn't crack the top ten...

"Dumpster Generation" by A Billion Ernies
After many years of trying to see these guys live, I finally had the chance, and it was rocking and loud. The pride of Hemet, CA, ABE infuses ska and reggae with metal and hardcore. Not to mention, they are just a great group of down-to-earth guys.

"Be Set Free" by Langhorne Slim
A fun third showing by a great singer/songwriter. With catchy hooks, endearing lyrics of love and lost love, and smooth vocals, many songs standout and make this Langhorne Slim's best album to date, and most likely to be his breakout record.

"I and Love and You" by The Avett Brothers
Another album that garnered much attention and a bigger fanbase, finally breaking The Avett Brothers into the spotlight. Without leaving their country folk roots, these guys wrote and record a strong set of songs for their first major label debut.

"Sigh No More" by Mumford & Sons 
More folk music that I latched onto this year, Mumford & Sons is rocking one moment and melancholy the next.  The album was released in October of this year, but I didn't hear it until late November. I thoroughly expect to see them fill up venues throughout 2010.

"Church Music" by David Crowder Band
After their rather humdrum previous release "Remedy," I was worried about DCB. However, my fears were quelled with "Church Music." Despite the extreme shift in musical direction (much more synth and techno electronics here), the catchy worship songs shine, and are anchored by two fantastic cover songs of Flyleaf and John Mark McMillan.

And NOW, on to the main event!

10.) "This Empty Northern Hemisphere" by Gregory Alan Isakov

If you click the album cover to see it bigger, you will be able to see how this album sounds. The  man with the old fashioned telephone, the crinkled golden moon, the perfect star-filled night sky. The album is an escape into a time away from the busyness and fast pace of life and technology nowadays. The songs are painted pictures, sung delicately and orchestrated peacefully. Isakov teams up with Brandi Carlile for backing vocals on several tracks, including the romantic and lonely "That Moon Song." Lush with beautiful guitar work, a calm lyrical delivery, and overlaid occasionally with strings, "This Empty Northern Hemisphere" is a work of art through and through. Don't miss this 2009 gem if you need some calm and beautiful songwriting in your life.

9.) "Daisy" by Brand New 

I was fully prepared to be let down by this album. I think their 2006 album "The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me" is near perfect, so how could they follow it? Well, let me start by saying that "Daisy" does not trump its predecessor. However, it is still a wonderfully dense and difficult album to understand while being easy to love. These New Jersey fellas get weirder and more complex with every recording, and "Daisy" is heavier and harsher than anything they've done. The album's analogies of beds, trees, and burning are dark, and I bet they lost a lot of fans this year from Jesse's new found screams. But I have all the more respect for them. The intensity of songs like "Vices," "In a Jar," and "Gasoline" will throw you for a auditory loop, and you'll be wondering where the pop-punk "Jude Law..." days went (without missing them at all).

8.) "Animals in the Dark" by William Elliott Whitmore

William Elliott Whitmore is an old southern gentleman in a young body. This young 30s Iowan sings with a gruff passion, like he has a handle of Jack Daniels in one hand and a cigarette in the other. (I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case!) Nevertheless, this album seethes and boils over with soul. The opener "Mutiny" starts with Whitmore and some friends shouting over a single driving snare drum, and you know you're going to have a good time. The earnestness in Whitmore's voice throughout the desperate "Who Stole the Soul" or the uplifting "There's Hope for You" will sweep over your body and bring you comfort. There are playful banjo tunes to tie all the fun and folk together nicely. I cannot wait until Whitmore comes through town so I can sing along to these tasty jams.

7.) "Where the Wild Things Are (Motion Picture Soundtrack)" by Karen O and the Kids

As if Spike Jonze's wonderful adaptation to the book was not enough, the splashy indie soundtrack that highlighted the film was the icing on the cake for me. Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs shines on the soundtrack, making it a joyful romp through the mind of a child, as if she was able to channel little Max from the story. The fact that many of the songs include groups of actual kids singing and shouting background vocals makes it all the more real and, dare I say, cute. All smiles and giggles aside, the album also encompasses some of the more fearful or lonely moments of being a kid, highlighted on the frenzied "Animal" or the heart wrenching cover of Daniel Johnston's "Worried Shoes." Absolutely wonderful.

 6.) "Aim and Ignite" by fun.

fun. (funky lower-case and punctuation on purpose) is an indie pop super group, if there ever was one. Take the best parts from Anathallo, The Format, and Steel Train, mix it all together and you get a theatrical piece of musicianship, pushing the limits of contemporary pop music. With all three members being extremely talented, two of whom are master multi-instrumentalists, you get a album full of songs that only the band name itself can describe, fun! Many songs sound like they could come straight out of a musical, with classical breakdowns with cleverly written horn, string, and organ parts, frequently disregarding the guitar and drum of pop rock. Being their first full length release, I expect a long career ahead for these gents. When you spin this record, don't hesitate to get up and dance.

Download (One song from each album)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Songs for Christmas

I have nothing new to add to last year's post about what Christmas means to me. I won't be another voice in the never ending discourse on the political correctness of this time of year or anything menial or silly like that. I'm just going to celebrate, remember, and worship my Savior, who with this holiday we remember His coming to earth. Here are some Christmas songs you may or may not like.

1.) O Holy Night - Anathallo
2.) Christmastime is Here - Belle and Sebastian
3.) Frosty the Snowman - A Billion Ernies
4.) Silver Bells - Bright Eyes
5.) Go Tell It On The Mountain - Desert Noises
6.) Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! - Gary Hoey
7.) Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - James Taylor
8.) O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Joshua James
9.) Punk Rawk Christmas - MXPX
10.) Oi to the World - No Doubt
11.) 12 Days of Christmas - Relient K
12.) Joy to the World - Sojourn
13.) I Saw Three Ships - Sufjan Stevens
14.) The Christmas Song - Vince Guaraldi Trio
15.) Wonderful - Watashi Wa

(Download here!)


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Building words

This fluorescent-lit room holds the key to enlightenment. You wouldn’t expect it, considering the monotony of the eggshell white walls, the repetitious shelving, and the boxed-in feel. An introvert’s paradise and a claustrophobe’s nightmare. The dull appearance does not aspire to greatness and wouldn’t prompt any thinker to creativity. The rows upon rows of talking heads would suggest a life beyond their humidity-controlled cage.
Millions of ideas, the brainchildren of humanity. Thinkers from ancient times and yesterday, side by side, bringing their thoughts and experiences into neatly bound ink and paper.
Letter follows letter, forming word after word, into sentences, into paragraphs and chapters, arguments, settings, plot, facts. They bring the world to form, a nebulous existence into concrete meaning.
The triumphs and mistakes of our fathers are chronicled in their own words. They aren’t static or stagnant, but active and dynamic. We struggle the same, through politics, enlightenment, bigotry, sacrifice, and love.
We can build our own words and thoughts; put them together like they taught us. We add to the vast realm of knowledge, knowing one day down the road, someone will find solidarity with a likeminded soul, just as we are now.
The history and future of the world are within these walls, nestled in an orderly and precise row, given number and location, rank and file, between their friends of similar topic and ideal. May we learn from them as not to repeat ourselves. I would hate for man to be a broken record.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I played at a coffeehouse on campus a few days ago. I think I'm ready to do that type of thing more often. I hope I can find the opportunities to do it. It is scary, but it beats playing alone in my room all the time.

These are the songs I played. All of which I wish I could have written.

That Moon Song - Gregory Alan Isakov
Hard to Be - David Bazan
How He Love - John Mark McMillan



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

As the world turns colder.

My room is pretty cold right now. Not even October yet. Sitting here in sweatpants, slippers, hoodie, and beanie. A friend of mine told me I was cold blooded and that's why I so easily got cold. I told him that didn't make sense because actually, cold blooded animals can stand colder temperatures better than warm blooded ones. He thought I was on a soapbox. I just told him it was the truth.

I'm listening to this band A Perfect Kiss a lot the past two days. They were big in the Maryland/DC area when I was in high school. Friends of friends. They are really really good musicians. The songs have just the right balance frenzy and calm. On a whim, I checked their website, and it looks like they are putting together a reunion show sometime soon. I'll be there.

It is weird and humbling to think that my own actions don't just affect me. I think it has always been a rough and tumble process to realize that I am not the main character in this story. I know it is selfish to think this way. I think most people do it, myself included. But truth is, I am not the only one who exists.

This struck me like a ton of bricks yesterday at first during my anthropology class. My professor and a student were getting into a discussion about whether "nature" is an actual realization of natural processes or simply a cultural construct of how each person views the outside world based on what man has built nature to be. (Good luck arguing either of those effectively.) The debate got too philosophical for me at the time, so my mind wandered.

As I was listening to my professor describe how he lives, on the eastern shore with his wife, commutes to the university on select days throughout the week, and does not have a television set in his house (only a radio), I felt small thinking how different he is from myself. And yet, here we were in this class, crossing paths for this one instance, this blip of a semester in our lives and what it means when people convene like that just to fall apart.

I am a character in his story as he is in mine. And that is disconcerting (but necessary) to understand. There is no one way to get through life. Moreover, I am trying to get in the mindset that life is not just something to "get through." That is difficult for me when everything feels like it is moving day to day, slow motion while in the process, but 100mph given enough perspective.

Am I living it right?
Do I acknowledge the other stories going on around me, in the lives of people close to me?

We all have the power to hurt or to heal the people near us. I hope we choose to heal.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We all need constant conversation.

Who is the luckiest in this whole orchestra? The reed.

Its mouth touches Your lips to learn music.

All reeds, sugarcane especially, think only

of this chance. They sway in the canebreaks,

free in the many ways they dance.

Without You the instruments would die.

One sits close beside You. Another takes a long kiss.

The tambourine begs, Touch my skin so I can be myself.

Let me feel You enter each limb bone by bone,

so that what died last night can be whole today.

Why live some soberer way and feel You ebbing out?

I won’t do it.

Either give me enough wine or leave me alone,

now that I know how it is

to be with You in constant conversation.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Busted Knees

So this music blog hasn't had much music on it recently. This post will change all of that. Summertime always puts me in the mood for a lot of pop-punk and punk music. Something about the fast-paced guitar riffs, catchy hooks and rhythms, and "don't care" lyrics are perfect for a hot day. They remind me of when that music was all I listened to and how it defined my summers. Bands like Blink-182, Green Day, New Found Glory, and Sum 41 were at the top of the charts. Skateboarding was all the rage. And we could waste our days waiting for the ice cream truck. So crank up these distorted tunes and have some fun :)

Songs for Busted Knees, Bugs, and the Bright Summer Sun

1.) I Believe - Agent 51
2.) Movies - Alien Ant Farm
3.) Trouble Breathing - Alkaline Trio
4.) I'll Get There - All
5.) Flavor of the Week - American Hi-Fi
6.) Awesome Forces - The Aquabats
7.) San Dimas High School Football Rules - The Ataris
.) She Won't Ever Figure It Out - Big D and the Kids Table
.) Don't Leave Me - Blink-182
.) The Rock Show - Blink-182
.) Kate is Great - Bouncing Souls
.) I Got Punched In The Nose For Sticking My Face In Other People's Business - Boys Night Out
13.) Can't Wait One Minute More - CIV
14.) Sunshine Highway - Dropkick Murphys
15.) Festival Song - Good Charlotte
16.) My Girlfriend - Guttermouth
17.) No Worries - Hepcat
18.) Bandages - Hot Hot Heat
19.) Status Pools - Lagwagon
20.) Last Hour of the Last Day of Work - Less Than Jake
21.) Prisoner of Society - The Living End
22.) Bright Lights, Big City - Madcap
23.) You Gotta Go! - The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
24.) Capital H - Motion City Soundtrack
25.) Walking On Glass - The Movielife
26.) Tune Me Out - Mu330
27.) Not Enough - Mustard Plug
28.) Punk Rawk Show - Mxpx
29.) My Life Story - Mxpx
30.) Rock & Roll Girl - Mxpx
31.) Sincerely Me - New Found Glory
32.) Hit Or Miss - New Found Glory
33.) Olympia, WA - NOFX
34.) Ocean - The Pietasters
35.) As Wicked - Rancid
36.) Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight - The Rezillos
37.) Don't Hate Me - Rufio
38.) She Wants To Be Alone - The Slackers
39.) Friday Nite - Slick Shoes
40.) Enemy - The Smooths
41.) Lay It Down - Squad Five-O
42.) Right Now - SR-71
43.) Daddy's Little Defect - Sugarcult
44.) Someone - Suicide Machines
45.) Makes No Difference - Sum 41
46.) So Awake - Tuesday
47.) Jaks - U.S. Bombs
48.) My Girlfriend's Dead - The Vandals
49.) Meltdown - War Called Peace
50.) Underdog - Yellowcard

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In the garden

In the garden alive and bright
Something wasn't sitting right
Perfection in creation true
I wish to tarnish its wholesome hue

With cunning diction and elegant words
To humanity shown a mirror absurd
"You are unlike the god you serve
I call this ignorance undeserved."

Both took the fruit, from my sly voice
Innocent I am, it was their choice
What false freedom and feigned free will
To woman and man did You instill

I only showed what they ought to see
I only suggested, "Come coil with me"
And from this singular request
I ruined the world in one just jest

I am the snake, I do misguide
The weak, the fake, the indignant pride
My head is crushed, I strike your heel
Such a rush sweetens the deal.

Luke 19:40

We are a well run dry
We are a water tower emptied
We are an ocean evaporated

The living water flows ferociously.
The living water is alive.
The beads crawl to us, knowing our thirst.

What does it mean?

If I shut my mouth,
a shout of stones
a party of pebbles
a clamor of quartz
a bellow of boulders
a roar of rocks

What does it mean?

If we don't know what tomorrow brings
we still know that it is good.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When I'm with You
I feel so grown and like such a child
Radically adult and infinitely immature

When I'm with You
I run with you but I am standing still
Constant motion and peaceful repose

When I'm with You
We talk incessantly yet no one speaks
Constant dialogue and abundant silence

When I'm with You
I don't need anything because I have everything
Purposefully poor and excessively rich

When I'm with You
I am so ashamed and so uplifted
Inherently guilty and forever forgiven

Understanding, knowing
Doing, being
Living, hoping
Wanting, breathing

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Allowing myself to get carried away

These warm, sunny spring days get me thinking a lot. Everything about the human experience in spring is terribly nostalgic for me. I cannot pinpoint why. Many intense memories are from the spring, and they replay in lush colors. Old friends long gone, neighborhood games growing up, goofing around with my sisters when we were little, many hours spent laying in my high school parking lot waiting for graduation, practicing and playing shows with the band, catching a nap on the mall, seeing a special someone smile at me, mix cds, warm nights under a blanket of stars.

Life is a very, very strange thing. We are always seeking meaning or reason, when everything about people, decisions, what happens to you, what doesn't happen, things both in and out of your control, appear so haphazard and chock full of entropy and dissolution. Sometimes a Pollack smattering of absurd colors, blending in each other, connected but randomized. Sometimes a da Vinci, founded on order, math, science, and beauty, not cold but not entirely warm. Sometimes a Seurat mosaic, small dots each playing a part in a grand scheme masterpiece. Being a dot is humbling but important, I suppose. I'm ok being a small, unassuming dot.

There's something awfully concrete about words, what they mean, how they are strung together to convey concepts, notions, opinions, and attitudes. Sometimes, I feel like writing a song and organizing it into a cohesive, structured piece is limiting. I think the idea without structure has more liberty to blossom and grow.
But then again, where would we be without people committed to fleshing out their thoughts to release into the world? There would be no artwork to dazzle our minds, no literature to confound and teach us, no government founded on upright principles and justice. We would all be walking around with a lot of thoughts rushing through our heads but no one saying a word.
Still though, an idea that isn't confined by specific statements about itself can transform and change, be a quiet whisper while falling off to sleep, or a bold trumpet beginning a revolution. But, one thing is for certain: ideas are never one thing. Hard to grasp and harder to put into practice. Impossible to put into words.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A triumph

Blow your trumpet
let it resound through Jerusalem's streets
A triumph,
a sorrowful, God-forsaken triumph.
Blow your trumpet
overpower the hammer to nail
bringing pain, showing grace.
And you never know who will turn their backs, their faces
who will run away:
of the dichotomy of watching such a beautiful, horrific sight.
But nevertheless,
Blow your trumpet,
your small meager trumpet.
It is no less a triumph.


The real deal blog post coming soon. Fun stuff on the way.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2008 Best Albums: The Final Five!

And here is the long-awaited final 5 albums of the year!!! 2008 was pretty solid for music. The Format broke up. A Billion Ernies got back together. We had some album flops and some crappy "comebacks." But, we also had some of the strongest releases I've heard in awhile, and I personally went to some very memorable concerts. Well, without further ado, drummmmmmmroooooollllllllll... #5-1!

5.) “Dark Shades of Blue” by Xavier Rudd

Aussie Xavier Rudd released this gem to the world in August and has literally been touring the globe since. As the album title would suggest, “Dark Shades of Blue” comes off a bit edgier and, well, darker than his previous recording endeavors. The opening track “Black Water” is a lyric-free onslaught of squealing guitars and powerful drums and leads right into the title track. While many of the jams are heavy in instrumentation, Rudd does not abandon his beautiful slide guitar work and harmonies, heard on “Shiver,” a seven-and-a-half minute opus, and the Dave Matthews-esque “Hope That You’ll Stay.”

4.) “The Eventually Home” by Right Away, Great Captain!

In my opinion, this album solidifies Andy Hull as one of the preeminent songwriters of this generation. All naysayers should be stricken. If you’ve been following his career as I have, you know of his strong releases with Manchester Orchestra, the most recent being the “Let My Pride Be What’s Left Behind” EP. But this release, under his solo RAGC! moniker, is on the list because of what it isn’t. It isn’t Manchester Orchestra. It isn’t polished and overproduced. It isn’t loud, rocking, or even all that catchy. But good God, can this guy write music that grips you with story, metaphor, and meaning. Armed with little more than a guitar, beautiful self-harmony, and raw emotion poised on his sleeve, Hull chronicles the tale of a sailor on his way home to punish his cheating wife. This is not one to miss.

3.) “Gossip In The Grain" by Ray LaMontagne

LaMontagne shone on his breakthrough “Trouble,” but lost a little of himself on his follow-up “Till the Sun Turns Black” But, LaMontagne shut the critics up and proved why he is one of the best contemporary songwriters out there. From the opening horns of “You Are The Best Thing” to the closing smoky whisper of “Gossip In The Grain,” this release is a knockout of emotion. The piano and guitar work alike are mesmerizing, as they wrap you into each word LaMontagne croons. Also, who else can get away with writing an unambiguous love song for the drummer of The White Stripes? (Go listen to “Meg White” and wish it was written for you.)

2.) “Anorexia Nervosa” by Showbread

Showbread released quite the labor of love this year with two albums dropping on the same day. They are concept albums, written and orchestrated around intertwined storylines about two sisters, Anorexia and Nervosa, and their quest for self-fulfillment.

The accompanying linear notes are meticulous, detailing the siste

rs’ tales by giving time markers to read a paragraph at a specific point in each song. In true Showbread fashion, both albums are remarkably heavy and grotesque, both lyrically and musically. And this is where the project truly shines. Every word and note of every song is purposeful and important, whether haunting and disturbing or elegant and worshipful. They prove that even amongst the harshest and noisiest of chaos, God can be found and praised.

1.) “Canopy Glow” by Anathallo

And the winner for best album of the year is Anathallo’s “Canopy Glow.” I’ll admit I was pretty excited for this record to come out, but also hesitant that it wouldn’t be able to compare to their previous EPs and other full-length “Floating World.” I knew they had it in them, especially after seeing their passionate artistry live a few years ago. But, I was unsure whether or not Anathallo would deliver. As soon as I got “Canopy Glow” in the mail one fine November day, I knew all my fears were quelled. The grace and sophistication of this record outweighs anything else I have had the pleasure of listening to this year. This band utilizes everything from basic guitar, bass, and drums to piano, organ, hand bells, trombone, flugelhorn, shakers, strings, glockenspiel, and many more. They are used in precision, not overbearingly, and then, when the lyrics are overlaid, they are delicate and harmonizing, as an instrument, one with the rest of the band. Anathallo creates a lush and sunny appeal with musical depth and intensity, while being able to conjure up images of death and passing from this world to the next. Every song is its own highlight. Support this band. They will be touring nationally this spring and summer!


Runner-Ups: AKA the Almost-But-Not-Quites-But-Still-Worth-Mentioning

Ben Sollee “Learning to Bend

William Fitzsimmons “The Sparrow and the Crow”

Mates of States “Rearrange Us”

Owl City “Maybe I’m Dreaming”

Sigur Ros “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" aka "Butt CD"

Punch Brothers “Punch”

Well, that's all folks! The bar is set high. I look forward to a strong 2009!!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2008: 10-6

As with any list of favorites, this 2008 Best Albums list is littered with bias and opinion. That's the point, duh! If you don't agree, tell me so in the comments. Don't bother telling me what I overlooked though, because I can't listen to everything that came out this year. (In the words of Homer Simpson, "I'm just one man, Marge.")
Also, unlike many of those other more known blogs with more advertising, I don't get free CDs or mp3s from record labels and bands trying to hit it big. I don't have that kind of pull. So this list is just what I heard or sought out and truly enjoyed. (Alt
hough, I am not opposed to getting and promoting bands if I like them. Email me a song or two, and we'll see what happens.)

The rules were simple. The album had to be full-length, and it had to be released in 2008. I think all of them have enough a
ppeal to sizzle in my cerebellum for years to come. And here...we...GO!

10.) “Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)” by Cloud Cult

The eccentric stylings of Cloud Cult are put on full display on this, their possible last album. While some folks have criticized their recycling of old sounds and/or rehashing ideas, I think it is fitting to culminate with an all-inclusive album, hitting the high notes of their career with all the peculiar vocal flair and song structure that Cloud Cult has. A strong album from start to finish, highlights on “Feel Good Ghosts” include “Everybody Here is a Cloud,” “Journey of the Featherless,” “No One Said It Would Be Easy,” and “Love You All.”

“A Memory Stream” by The American Dollar

Considering Explosions in the Sky, Foxhole, and The American Dollar are some of my favorite bands, it is surprising that this is the only instrumental album to make the list. An under the radar type release, I found out TAD had a new album a few months after the fact, jumped on it, and was pleasantly surprised with another solid release. One would think that with similar instrumental accompaniment and no lyrics, these guys would run out of ideas (or at least grow dull on a listener), but I am here to say the opposite. Heavy on the synth and ethereal organ, “A Memory Stream” plays out like the soundtrack of a heart wrenching, bittersweet film. These two gents from Queens know just how to build a song into an avalanche of sound, crashing drums, alluring guitar work, and sweeping melodies, and bring it back down to make you listen all the more closely.

8.) "The Grand Archives" by Grand Archives

The debut album from Seattle’s Grand Archives is nothing short of folk pop wonder. The melodies and hooks are catchy, and I can’t help but smile through the three and four part harmonies. Lyrically, the album is a bit obscure and pulls storytelling sensibility with bizarre analogy, but it works. While the whistling chorus on “Miniature Birds” is endearing, the album standout would have to be “Sleepdriving.” This album will stick in your mind, fill you with memories and nostalgia, and transport you to with Americana.

7.) “Lost in the Sound of Separation" by Underoath

Unrelenting, weighty, and ferocious are the three words I would use to describe Underoath’s 2008 release “Lost in the Sound of Separation.” Everything about the album pummels the listener to a sonic pulp. One may say it is an auditory assault. The songs are ear-splitting but melodic, hideous but elegant. If their last album “Define the Great Line” was about the dealing with and overcoming personal drug and alcohol addiction, then this albums finds the members discovering hope in God, despite despair found in humanity. These hard rockers are not afraid to scream out their need for a savior. Aaron Gillespie’s drumming is spot-on and technical, intense and crisp, while Spencer Chamberlain’s guttural screeches have improved to become some of the best in the business.

6.) "Anti-Meridian" by Brave Saint Saturn

If an album opens up quoting a Dylan Thomas poem and covering a song by Electric Light Orchestra, it has to follow through with great songwriting and consistency. And that is exactly what Reese Roper and co. do on this, their third and final release of the BS2 trilogy. About 95% of it works wonderfully, wrapping up the storylines that the first two releases started with the crew of the U.S.S. Gloria with some spoken word “interviews” with the astronauts. The 5% that doesn’t work as well is from songs that just feel a bit out of place (“When You Burn Too Fast” and “Fortress of Solitude). But with 17 tracks, the album is able to shine with such well-written and energetic jams as “Mercenary,” “Starling,” and “Blessed are the Land Mines.” But of course, album closers (“These Frail Hands” and “Invictus”) seal the deal, lyrically and musically, bringing me near to tears with every listen.

I pulled one song from each album and compiled them for DOWNLOAD HERE.

Numbers 5-1 coming up soon, so keep checking back.