Our countdown to Album of the Year continues today with spots 3 and 2 on The List!
3. Cold Hard Want – House of Heroes
I love this band. So much. And I have made no secret of that.
House of Heroes, if you still haven’t heard of them, might be the most consistently impressive band in rock music today. I don’t make that proclamation lightly. That’s what I really believe. To give you an idea of how good this band is, Cold Hard Want is probably the least impressive of their last four albums, yet it’s still the third best album that came out this year. These guys have the rare ability to craft songs that have lyrical depth and are melodically addictive, while still managing to show off their considerable instrumental and vocal skill and sound raw and polished at the same time. Most good bands get one or two of those things right. Only great ones can do them all. On top of this, they put on a fantastic live show, they keep their sound fresh on every album while not straying so far from their signature sound as to alienate fans, and their albums are generally extremely cohesive in lyrical subject matter and musical themes. The End is Not the End, their 3rd album and the winner of the 2009 edition of The List, is one of the finest pieces of auditory artwork I’ve ever listened to, and is still the album I recommend first to anyone looking for good new music.
Cold Hard Want is the 5th album by House of Heroes, and the 4th on a major record label. While not quite the masterpiece their 3rd album was, it certainly doesn’t fail to please. Tim Skipper and the rest of the guys are back with an album that continues to explore the themes of love, desire, and righteousness that have permeated much of their earlier works. This is not a concept album, as The End is Not the End and Suburba were, so it does not tell a story, but the music and themes are as cohesive and connectable as ever. The first song on the album, “Out My Way”, sounds like this:
“Out My Way” sets the pace for another fantastic CD, which includes many more highlights. My personal favorite is “Comfort Trap” which is a tongue-in-cheek ode to human selfishness that shows how we often stop at nothing to get what we want:
House of Heroes knows how to do more than just rock hard though. They can also be soft and poignant, as they are in the beautiful “The Cop”:
This is a superb album, and they only get better from here. Other standout tracks include “Remember the Empire”, “We Were Giants”, “Touch This Light”, “Stay”, and “I Am a Symbol”.
2. Babel – Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons never fails to impress me, and as much as I raved about House of Heroes just now, it might be interesting to know that Mumford has now outranked them on the last two Lists on which they both appeared (Sigh No More, Mumford’s debut, won the 2010 edition while HOH’s Suburba took second).
Babel is another great album from this group. The thing I love most about Mumford is that their beautiful writing and music seems tailor made for each other. It is as if the words give life to the music and vice-versa. This is true with almost any good popular music (again, when I say “popular music” in this blog I mean it as an all-encompassing genre, as in rock, pop, rap, country, etc. as opposed to classical, and not as “music that is popular”), but it is even more true with Mumford. The words alone are pure poetry, but the music amplifies the ache, honesty, and triumph in the words to new levels. Here is the title track and opener to the album:
I don’t know if I know another band that produces lyrics that resonate with my soul more than the two I have shown today. Here is another fantastic number:
Finally, the lead single, “I Will Wait” is one you’ve probably heard, but it is worth hearing again:
Other standout tracks on the album include “Holland Road”, “Hopeless Wanderer”, “Broken Crown”, and “Not With Haste”.
Wow. All that praise, and yet neither of these albums is my album of the year. What will it be? You’ll just have to come back tomorrow to find out 😉