Our countdown to Album of the Year continues today with the next three spots on The List!
6. Living Things – Linkin Park
Linkin Park suffers from a love/hate relationship with most people – that is to say that people tend to love them or hate them, not that they alternately do both. The band’s career is usually divided into the first two albums (Hybrid Theory and Meteora) and the last three (Minutes to Midnight, A Thousand Suns, and Living Things), as the first two were nu-metal and the other three have leaned more on the side of more traditional alt-rock. The separation is obvious, but those who don’t appreciate it are, in my opinion, missing the point. Linkin Park is a band that is constantly changing, constantly pushing their boundaries and experimenting with their sound. They are artists, and they are not content to be just “that nu-metal band” that everyone remembers from the early 2000’s. They probably also won’t be content to be remembered as “that band that was always on the soundtrack to Transformers“, so expect the change to continue.
Living Things is great for several reasons, not the least of which is that fans of both “parts” of LP’s career are likely to find something they like here. The album still feels more at home next to their more recent stuff than their old stuff, but only slightly. The gap is being bridged. So old Linkin Park fans, rejoice, this album signifies a move in the right direction. New Linkin Park fans, enjoy, because it’s still there. And people who (somehow) don’t know Linkin Park – join this century and check out one of the best rock bands around (and their quite gifted MC to boot).
That was “Lost In The Echo”, the lead track off the album. Other standout tracks include “In My Remains”, “Lies Greed Misery”, “Castle of Glass”, and “Powerless”.
5. The Great Despiser – Joe Pug
Earning the first spot in the top five is Joe Pug, a guy who has drawn comparisons to legends like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen for his inspired lyrics. Those comparisons aren’t wacky folks – he’s really that good. Pug presents a complete change of direction from Linkin Park; while LP is electronic alternative (sometimes violent) rock and rap themed heavily on justice, Pug is more of the acoustic bent, playing by himself with his guitar and harmonica most of the time, occasionally joining a simple band, and his themes run much deeper. Life is not a simple matter of an eye for an eye to Pug, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a “path” that he follows. Pug’s style is simple actually, just in a different way. He doesn’t simplify life, but rather how he lives it. His message of love, honesty, and non-materialism is at times strikingly similar to the ideas of Jesus, although he never makes the claim to speak for or about Him. As you might expect after reading that, the album isn’t all about how life is good either – if anything Pug gives you the idea that life is tough, but worth living nonetheless. Here is the opening track from the album, called “Hymn 76”:
Note: It may be wise to listen to this video with your eyes closed if you are like me and easily distracted. The lyrics merit some focus, and I find that Joe’s continuously bobbing head prevents me from really concentrating on what he’s saying.
Joe Pug is a gold mine of fantastic writing, and if I had to recommend a single artist on this list, he might be it. Well, assuming I’ve already told you about House of Heroes. The Great Despiser is not to be missed. Other standout tracks are: “Those Thankless Years”, “The Great Despiser”, “A Gentle Few”, and “The Servant’s Ace”.
4. Halcyon (Deluxe) – Ellie Goulding
Chances are, you’ve heard the song “Lights” by Ellie Goulding somewhere. If you aren’t sure, go search it and see if it sounds familiar. I’ll wait.
Okay, now that you’re back and probably saying “oh yeah, they’ve been playing that for over a year, and I kinda wish they’d stop”, we can continue. That song was from Ellie’s debut album, which was appropriately named Lights because that was easily the best song on it (I actually love that song, overplayed or not). Halcyon however, is not a one or two-hit wonder. It is an entirely different animal (pun intended – it’s named after a legendary type of Kingfisher bird which was believed to have the power to calm the wind and waves). This record is good from start to finish, and every time I listen to it I am surprised by how much I like it.
Ellie’s style combines the electro-pop that is becoming so famous these days with the more indie alternative sound of bands like Florence + The Machine, meaning it potentially packs appeal for you whether you only listen to top 40 or are the hippest of the hipster crowd (just remember if you are the latter to pretend to like her entire first album too).
There are a lot of good tracks on Halcyon, but one of my favorites is “Figure 8”, so I’ll post that:
Other standout tracks include “Anything Could Happen”, “Only You”, “Hanging On”, “Explosions”, and “I Need Your Love”.
P.S. Like Phillip Phillips’ album in part one of The List, I am explicitly recommending the deluxe edition of this album. This one packs on another six songs, but they are all good, and they all continue the flow and feel of the main album. Plus, the last of the six bonus tracks is “Lights”, so if you only liked that one from the old album, you get it here too.
Thanks for reading another post guys! Come back tomorrow to see who ranks second and third on my list, and then again on Sunday to see number one!