January/February 2014 winner Evan Platis talks about his winning choices for last issue’s Deathbed Contest. Be sure to enter the March/April 2014 contest for your chance to win a Martin D-18 Acoustic Guitar.
Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not, Arctic Monkeys
While the other albums on this list have no specific order, this album will always be number one in my heart. I first heard “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” on an alternative radio station in NorCal, and it sounded so completely different from everything else on the radio that I had heard and it changed my life. I had never listened to anything like it before, but it was like my soul had been searching for it my entire life. Everything about this album is brilliant. It has a humility about it, it’s not show-offy. It’s authentic music, not made for money. Music made for the love of music. It changed my perspective on music and how it should be. It has an attitude of “I’m going to do my own thing, so stay out of my way.” It’s original, yet has roots in so many different classic styles from The Ramones to The Beatles to The Strokes. Alex Turner’s voice, the chord progressions, the riffs and leads, and the drums are all unlike anything else out there, and that is what makes it a must-have album for me.
Tame Impala, Tame Impala
The songs on this EP are the songs I first listened to when I discovered Tame Impala. I love Innerspeaker to death. It is a fantastic album and one of my all time favorites, but I couldn’t bring myself to part with “Half Full Glass of Wine.” The luscious fuzzy riffs on that track melt me every time. Every track has such a classic lo-fi sound that the band has identified with, as well as the experimental breakdowns and effects that make this band so exciting. A mixture of Cream, Sabbath, The Beatles and maybe a little Floyd.
The Times They Are A-Changin’, Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is a living legend and I adore all of his music. He is a hero of mine, and he is what I aspire to be. I chose this album because his writing and lyrics start to be more sophisticated and serious than the previous two, while still being a stripped down guitar and harmonica album. It is a timeless album, mostly directed towards the American people and the condition of American society, with an attitude of change. Written and released during a critical time in our history (JFK, Civil Rights Movement, Cold War/Vietnam), he addresses his perspectives and concerns with sarcastic wit and storytelling. Amidst all of the melancholy tracks, he slips in two quiet, yet beautiful and elegant songs: “One Too Many Mornings” and “Boots of Spanish Leather”, the latter being my all-time favorite Dylan song. The melodies on both of these songs could sooth a riled badger on a bad day. Towards the end of the album, the two tracks, “When the Ship Comes In” and “Restless Farewell”, respectively give a sense of hope and an example of the kind of morality and values Dylan thinks are important. Just an all around stupendous album that is still relevant today and one that I could not go without.
Is This It, The Strokes
A modern classic. This album is the iconic modern indie sound that set a foundation and influenced so many modern artists and so many genres throughout the 2000’s. Catchy guitar riffs and vocal melodies on top of angular, down-stroke chord progressions. Julian Casablancas has such a way with words. At times, it sounds like he’s contradicting himself, but you know it makes sense in your head. I don’t think I could live without “Someday” and it’s lovely melody. “The Modern Age” could possibly be my favorite Strokes song. “When It Started” has such an uplifting little melody that never gets old. And then, out of nowhere, there’s the solo on “Alone, Together” that sounds just like Santana could be playing it. Love it!
Lonerism, Tame Impala
More effects, more experiment, different band mates, same amount of fuzz. Still that classic sound, and Kevin Parker still sounds like John Lennon reincarnated. This album is magical. A little more synths on this one, but the breakdowns are longer and get pretty crazy. When they bring in the fuzz on top of the synths, it’s hard not to move your head. The drums on “Mind Mischief” are solid as well. It sounds like they built the song around the beat on that track. Then, there’s “Elephant” and “Feels Like I Only Go Backwards”, two unforgettable hits for lovers of psychedelic rock. Even though this album clearly has a major motif about being a loner, it makes me happy that the album starts off with “Be Above It,” almost as if to warn listeners or as a boost to make it through the album with your head above water. I love how the album ends, simple piano with Kevin singing a glimmer-of-hope song that sounds like Lennon himself could have written and be playing/singing it.
AM, Arctic Monkeys
“Wraps her lips/round a Mexican coke/makes you wish/that you were the bottle/takes a sip/of your soul and it sounds like…” Black Sabbath mixed with Dr. Dre, that’s what it sounds like. Turner says that the album was influenced by the likes of Drake, Lil Wayne, and other popular rap of today, and it shows. The hypnotic lows and bass lines on “One For the Road”, “Arabella”, and “Why’d You Only Call Me When Your High?”, the rhythm and rhyme on “R U Mine?”, even the party scene on “Party Anthem No. 1.” But, don’t be fooled. This is a solid, crushing, rock-n-roll album. They’ve made that clear. The whole persona surrounding the album and the band is filled with classic motorcycles, Elvis haircuts, leather jackets, sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, etc. The boys are bringing cool back to where it belongs with this album. They’ve already won a couple awards because of it. Every track on this album is amazing musically and lyrically. There isn’t a song I don’t love. The lyrics in this album truly show that Alex Turner is one of the greatest songwriters of his time. The final two tracks are really cool in that they remind me of an old 1950s thriller mystery or the “Twilight Zone.” Loaded with effects and reverb on guitars and vocals alike and Josh Homme featuring on “Knee Socks”, they make me nostalgic for the Tower of Terror in Disneyland’s California Adventure.
Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin
You’re probably thinking, “Oh, he just picked that one because it has ‘Stairway’ on it.” Well, you would be quite wrong if you thought that. I picked it because I couldn’t live without “Black Dog” and “Going to California.” Those two songs are my favorite Zeppelin songs. “Black Dog” with Page’s relentless and unforgettable riffs and Plant’s hot and heavy vocals, this is a song that I never skip on shuffle. “Going to California” is an island of folk in a wild ocean of heavy and experimental rock. It is such a romantic song that makes me want to leave California just to be able to come back and write a song as good as this one. I do love “Stairway” though, along with the rest of the tracks. “Misty Mountain Hop” and “When the Levy Breaks” are also among my favorites. You can hear it rain on “When the Levy Breaks.”
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
I first heard Fleet Foxes when I watched their Blogotheque Take Away Show. I instantly fell for Robin Pecknold’s heavenly angelic voice. This album got me big into modern indie folk as well as classic folk. It is so incredibly good at giving you that rustic feel. Like you’re out in the woods, beneath tall pines, and it’s a little overcast and misty. Like it should make you feel. It has everything you look for in a folk album, from solo guitar and voice or big band with beautiful harmonies to a capella and electric guitar. It has songs to wake up to in the morning, and songs that will put you to sleep in the evening. Most of the songs lead you on down a winding thick forest trail for a while, and you don’t know how or where it’ll end, but it’s still beautiful and elegant along the way. “He Doesn’t Know Why” reminds me a lot of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” with similar chord progression.
Loyalty to Loyalty, Cold War Kids
This was the album I listened to non-stop when I would ride the trains in Barcelona, Spain. It’s definitely my favorite Cold War Kids album. The guitars drenched in reverb and subtle overdrive, are put to dark melodies and storyline lyrics that give you a mysterious feeling. Everything about the album makes you feel like you’re an LA hipster living in black and white. This album just gives me such a surreal feeling. The lyrics are outstanding. Living in the bay area for a while, I loved “Golden Gate Jumpers.” Such a simple and clever idea put to a melody to make up a well-rounded song. You can feel the famous fog and grey with the reverb. “Dreams Old Men Dream” reminds me of Salvador Dali’s surrealist paintings. “Cryptomnesia”, the ending track, took a while, but even that one I grew to appreciate as a beautifully melancholy song.
The Lumineers, The Lumineers
I love this band. I love that they exist, and I love how popular they got. It really says a lot about their songwriting ability and how talented they are. I can also vouch for their character, since I met them in LA in 2012. They are positive, humble, and down to earth people that love and appreciate other people everywhere. I like to call these guys the American Mumford & Sons. Even though they’re not quite bluegrass, they still have an authentic midwestern sound. Guitars, shouts, hollers, stomps and cellos. Every track is wonderful. I get excited for the heavy drum drops on “Submarine.” I love to play “Flapper Girl” on guitar. It’s a good one to play while serenading the ladies. “Classy Girls” is a romantic song that would be so much fun to get a bar full of people to sing together. The lyrics for most of the tracks and the way Wesley Schultz sings reminds me of past relationships, but in a positive way. At the same time, I am madly in love with their cellist and backing vocals, Neyla Pekarek and her amazing voice. She’s a babe! This album gave The Lumineers so much potential. I am so looking forward to whatever music they make in the future.