Best Rock Albums of the Decade (so far...)
Music is a forever growing artform in both quantity and diversity. With the same mainstream artists jumping to the top of the charts every year, some bands just seem to fall by the wayside; they are on the brink of mainstream recognition, but fail to top the charts. This is a list of The Best Rock Albums of the Decade so far, for since music is constantly evolving, this list is very much subject to change.
"Sway" - Blue October
Blue October had a taste of mainstream success with the release of "Foiled" back in 2006. Assisted by the leading two singles 'Hate Me' and 'Into the Ocean,' the album reached both Gold and Platinum status within a year of its release. For a band that had been struggling to find mainstream success since their formation in 1995 (the band had been dropped by Universal Music Group 2005 after their first album didn't sell as much as anticipated, only to be resigned in 2003), "Foiled" was a godsend.
Fast forward about six years to 2011. Blue October was in a position where, even though they had been resigned to Universal, found themselves in a place they didn't want to be. In negotiations for a new contract, Universal agreed only to a 50/50 deal, something Blue October wouldn't agree to. As a result, the band left Universal to create their own record label known as Up/Down Records. The first album released on the label, "Any Man in America" charted at number 8, but proved to be a dark side in lead singer Justin Furstenfeld's life, as the entire album chronicled his divorce and struggle to maintain custody of his daughter.
Which leads us to Sway. The rougher chapters of Furstenfeld's life led him to this release in 2013. It was an album of cleansing; coming to terms with one's life and accepting it for what it is. In the time between AMIA's release and Sway, Furstenfeld remairried and was expecting his second child. At this point his new spouse, very aware of his spite, pointed out (in graphic detail) that the world isn't as dark as he made it seem. This reminder of what it meant to grow up proved euphoric for him.
Instead of chronicling his despair and depression, Sway shows Furstenfeld's other side. Furstenfeld finds beauty in the world once again in this 13-track album, one that, at first listen, brought tears to my eyes.
The chorus to the song "Not Broken Anymore," the album's final track, sums up the entire tone of the album: "Yeah and I won't keep faking/Cause I'm done with taking/With you, I'm not broken anymore."
"Hail the Apocalypse" - Avatar
In a polar opposite to the prior album, the album clocking in at number 2 comes from the Swedish death metal band Avatar.
Their presence in the American movie scene, despite having been around since 2001, comes from their 2012 release "Black Waltz," an album which I believe redefined the death metal scene. Noted for their melodic carnival theme, Avatar has grown in American audiences, with their 2014 release "Hail the Apocalypse" being their first album to chart on the Billboard Top 200 at number 97. In their new release, Avatar doubles the intensity, while equally doubling their melodic tone. They aren't attempting to be nice; this album is just plain fun.
The tone is set in the album's title track: "There's a storm heading our way/ All that's been will be gone/ All your cities will sink into the ocean." Throughout the album, tracks like "What I Don't Know" and "Puppet Show" raise legitimate questions of, if an Apocalypse was to ensue, how much control would we have over ourselves?
With an apocalypic theme, "Hail the Apocalypse" goes from being soft to a plateaued sense of hard rock, ending with a soft and surprisingly beautiful final track, "Tower."
The album also features an amazing cover of Nirvana's "Something in the Way" that deserved a listen.
"Common Courtesy" - A day to Remember
A Day to Remember is another band who had issues regarding their record label. Attempting to independently release their latest album, "Common Courtesy," their label Victory records attempted to sue for full control, leading A Day to Remember through a series of court dates that cost them thousands of dollars.
I'll implore you to do some research on the lawsuit, but for now I'll speak directly about the album.
Coming off of their surprisingly short 10-track album "What Separates Me from You" in 2010, A Day to Remember toured and played for packed venues and headlined many festivals, including the infamous Vans Warped Tour. Their energy has yet to die out, with "Common Courtesy" further proving their angst and love for life is a good fuel for hard rock.
Themes of nostalgia, thankfullness, and even a few jabs at their record label apparent in the album, "Common Courtesy" is an amazing mix of metal and acoustic rock.
"Invisible Stars" - Everclear
Everclear is slightly different from the rest of the bands on this list. Forming in the 1990's under leadership of vocalist Art Alexakis, the band was practically a household name for songs like "Santa Monica," "Wonderful" and "I Will Buy You a New Life." This fame didn't last, though, as Alexakis' bankruptcy, label issues and the loss of the group's original guitarist and drummer sent Everclear on a downward spiral. Their 2006 release, Welcome to the Drama Club, charted at 169, selling less than 5,000 copies in the first week. This was a far cry from their album "Songs From an American Movie," which sold over a million copies.
That was Everclear's last original album release, as a handful of re-releases stood between Drama Club and Everclear's 2012 release, "Invisible Stars." While by no means perfect, and definitely not as powerful as the Everclear of yester-year, "Invisible stars" is still energetic, and it's fun poppy sound sheds new light on Alexakis' life in the present day. As a father and an older man than he was before, Alexakis has lyrics feeling much wiser and willing. With songs like "Be Careful what You Ask For," it's clear Alexakis made the album to make up for some mistakes of his past, and find beauty in the future.
"The Big Dream" - David Lynch
You may know David Lynch as the eccentric director of surrealistic films like "Eraserhead" and "Mulholland Drive." Most recently, though, Lynch as put directing on the backburner in order to study transcendental meditation, as well as experiment with a musical career. His first release, "Crazy Clown Time," matched the discomforting surrealistic nature of his movies. 2013's
"The Big Dream" was an entirely different tone. Working as a blues album, the album works as a calm, catchy collection of 12 songs.
"Reports From the Threshold of Death" - Junius
Junius is a band working under the pseudonym of a political writer from the 18th century. That being said, it's almost obvious that the band's lyricism would be influenced as such. Toying with stories of philosophy and theorists like Immanuel Velikovsky, the lyricism of the album leads the album. Hinged by powerful post-metal riffs, "Reports From the Threshold of Death" is a great album for those who love storytelling.
"They Said a Storm Was Coming" - Jamie's Elsewhere
In 2010, Aaron Pauley stepped into new shoes for the already existing band Jamie's Elsewhere as their lead singer, setting up a different tone and genre for the band completely. Known originally for havng a pop sound to them, Jamie's Elsewhere transformed entirely to a electronic-metal sound.
A concept album, "They Said a Storm Was Coming" tells the story of a 19th Century mapmaker dealing with the anticipation of natural disaster.
Lyrics and electronic sound combined, the lbum is another amazing listen. Of these 10 albums, "They Said a Storm Was Coming" may contain some of the best lyrics on the list.
"New Horizons" - Flyleaf
Flyleaf broke into the music scene around a decade before the release of "New Horizons" with songs like "All Around Me" and "I'm So Sick." The band, led by female vocalist Lacey Sturm, the band gave a new feel to post-grunge. Lacey's heavy screams combined with her melodic vocal range gave a new, refreshing sound that was as inviting as then-new acts like Paramore and In This Moment.
"New Horizons" was Lacey's final album with the band before leaving to focus on family, a decision strongly influenced by the death of the band's audio engineer.
Though it was to be recognized as her final album, Lacey didn't show any spite or discomfort. her lyrics show that of love and thankfullness. She didn't leave on bad terms. As said in the album's final track, "Broken Wings": "Thank you for being such a friend to me/ Oh, I pray a friend for life/ Have I ever told you, How much you mean to me?/ Oh, you're everything to me."
"D.R.U.G.S" - Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows
Craig Owens, known famously as the vocalist behind the band Chiodos, was dropped by the band in 2009. This left a sour taste in Owens' mouth, leading to the formation of the post-hardcore supergroup "Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows."
Owens' aggression towards his former bandmates are ever-present throughout the album's lyric-driven music. The album, with a haunting sound and vocal range, is a fitting addition to the list.
"Renacer" - Senses Fail
Last but not least is the album "Renacer" by Senses Fail. This band has always had a post-hardcore sound to them, but with their most famous song "Can't Be Saved" in mind, nothing in their collection has been as heavy as their latest release, "Renacer."
No particular track sticks out over the other. Any time I put this album on , I have to listen to it in full. "Renacer" has almost no pop-drive to it, something intended by the band's lead singer Buddy Nielsen.
Blue October tops the list for a reason. While every album included in the list is amazing in its own respects, Blue October's "Sway" is another beautiful addition to an seven-album catalog. They have proven that you don't need a label to be successful. The music industry isn't simple, but when done right it can lead to many personal successes.
As I stated before, many of these bands aren't simply mainstream. They cannot rely solely on their names to be successful. I am not downing the successes of mainstream acts, but the bands listed here (and many more) have quite a bit of unrecognized talent.