#46 – O Come All Ye Faithful

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Artist – David Archuleta
Album – Christmas from the Heart
Year – 2009
Genre – Holiday Traditional/Pop

I’m going to say it. David Archuleta’s Christmas from the Heart is my favorite Christmas album of all time. As a singer he may not have won American Idol, but he’s incredible. His voice is powerful and captures so much emotion and bravado, and the whole album is all traditional Christmas songs, which of course are my favorite. So let’s dive into it.

O Come All Ye Faithful is another one of those Christmas hymns that really has an impeccable melody. Archuleta’s version is backed by lush strings and piano which adds this warm, glowing feeling to the whole song. I simply can’t praise Archuleta’s voice enough in this version. You can tell he feels every note he sings, and that these songs mean a lot to him. In no way does this version feel forced, fake, or otherwise dishonest.

The instrumentation is simple but really enhances the mood of the song, and it’s not overly complicated. However, it’s the way Archuleta handles the chorus is the highlight, as well as the soaring notes at the very end of the song during the last chorus. It’s extremely uplifting and will leave you feeling good. And that’s what Christmas music is supposed to do, so in that regard I would say that Archuleta’s rendition of this song soars above many others.

I know this is a short review, but since most of you out there probably know the song, I just wanted to portray the differences in Archuleta’s version. It’s beautifully sung with feeling, and the warm background instrumentation and orchestration is perfect for the mood of the song. If you like traditional Christmas songs with a modern vocal twist, this is perfect for you. It’s a wonderful portrayal of this classic hymn, done with emotion and uplifting gusto.

Let me know what you thought of the song and review in the comments below!

#45 – Lola Montez

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Artist – Volbeat
Album – Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
Year – 2013
Genre – Nu-Metal/Hard Rock

Volbeat is a Danish metal band that’s been getting a lot of buzz lately. Their new album has been receiving critical acclaim, and their live presence has gotten some attention. Being relatively new to the band’s work, I came in with open ears and no opinions whatsoever. However, after hearing their work, especially their new single Lola Montez, I can say I’m definitely looking forward to more from this band in the future. So about that review…

A driving riff starts this song, and then you hear the powerhouse vocals of frontman Michael Poulsen. Yes I know he’s hard to understand, but cut the guy a break. Do you not hear his voice? His melody and pitch are impeccable, and I’ve watched some live videos as well. He’s still just as good live. The song itself takes a pretty standard approach in terms of construction, but the subject matter is interesting. It’s a bit of a ballad about the Spanish dancer Lola Montez who lived in California for awhile back in the 1850’s. She was renowned for her erotic “spider dance.” The theme of the old west is one not often touched upon, so it’s refreshing to see this band have their take on the era.

The instrumentation remains pretty simple, with some very nice guitar flourishes here and there. The verses are nice on their own, but the chorus is a real treat. It’s catchy as hell and the guitar provides a wonderful echo to Poulsen’s hooky melody. This is definitely a crowd-pleaser. I loved it after just one listen.

The guitar solo is showy enough to be impressive, but simple enough to provide just what the song needs. The bridge provides wonderful anticipation for the last chorus, which is bigger and better. It’s a perfect ending to this melodic rocker.

If you like melody in your rock, here you go. It’s catchy, it rocks and you can both sing along and move to it. We can definitely expect more good things from this band in the future. Despite the ever present articulation issue, Poulsen is perhaps one of the best vocalists in the genre, with his band not too far behind him. Festival circuit 2014? I think so.

Let me know in the comments below what you thought of the song and review!

#44 – Angels We Have Heard On High

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Artist – Bayside
Album – Angels We Have Heard on High – Single
Year – 2010
Genre – Holiday/Pop-Punk/Alternative

What happens when you combine one of my favorite Christmas hymns with a kickass pop-punk band? You get Bayside’s cover of Angels We Have Heard on High, that’s what. This song literally combines two of my favorite things into one awesome package, so let’s celebrate good cheer and review this song!

First of all, I think that Angels We Have Heard on High has one of the most infectious melodies ever written…er…composed. Every single one of you out there who likes Christmas songs has sung the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” part. Don’t deny it, you know it’s true. So anyways, Bayside’s cover basically starts off with the melody played with some guitar, and then frontman Anthony Raneri starts singing over some riffs. Raneri’s voice is a very clear, crisp one and he both articulates and sings very well.

The verses are pretty good on their own, but when that chorus hits you better strap yourselves in for a honest to goodness harmony fest. The word I’m looking for to describe how the chorus is is great. It’s so so pleasing to listen to. There’s harmonies going on here that keep the spirit of the original hymn and just sound so good. It’s fast paced and has that punk sound, but it never sounds false or weird.

The drums are rocking, the guitars are chugging, and there’s even some jingle bells for the Christmas spirit. Raneri and company are spot on throughout, and after a neat little breakdown/bridge, there’s one last surprise. A key change brings in the next verse and choruses, which sound even better than they did before as the band let’s it rip to the end.

This is a song that is literally the epitome of blending something old that works with something new that also works. Some of the best melodies ever written came from old Christmas songs, and there’s no better way to show a modern audience how awesome the melodies are than by playing them in a modern rock format. My kudos go to Bayside for being different and showing how the music and the message come first. No words are changed in this song either, my friends. It is a CHRISTMAS song after all. If you like Christmas and Holiday music, and you like pop-punk that sounds great, this is for you.Let me know what you thought of the song and review below in the comments!

#43 – Indian Giver

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Artist – Every Time I Die
Album – Ex Lives
Year – 2012
Genre – Hardcore

Don’t worry, there’s more Christmas songs coming, but for this next review I thought I’d proudly represent Buffalo, NY with some hometown hardcore from Every Time I Die.

First off, the first thing I have to mention about this song, and really any Every Time I Die song are the incredibly witty, intelligent, and sometimes cryptic lyrics written by frontman Keith Buckley. I’m sure you’ll see some better examples in the future, but this song falls more under the “cryptic” category. The song itself starts in full on rage mode. Buckley’s aggressive screams differ from many other in the genre. They’re honest and emotional, and he sounds like a man steeped in desperation, anger, and grief.

The vocals quickly shift to eerie melodic echoes. Buckley sounds like a ghost from beyond the grave as he sings, and this awesome doom rock guitar covers the background in darkness and gloom. This tone is persistent throughout, and takes full effect at the close of the song when Buckley shifts into full on melody. The singing here is haunting and ethereal, and the lyrics seem to deal with coping with loss and grief. The song just fits together perfectly in terms of tone, lyrics and melody.

Now I’m not bragging or anything, but these boys are some of the most technical and talented hardcore musicians out there right now. This song is a bit of a slower one, but make no mistake, they’re no slouches here. The drums fit the song to a T, and the doom rock guitars are played with precision, sometimes harmonizing with each other for these great little passages towards the climax.

If you’re looking for a great hardcore band and song, look no further. It’s got some wonderful melody in here too, and lyrics that will have you thinking. The guitar tone makes the song great, as it adds that doom sound to the hardcore background. It’s intelligent darkness at it’s finest, and I recommend this song to any fans of hardcore, metalcore, or any hard rock in general. These guys can only go up from here. LET’S GO BUFFALO!

Let me know in the comments below what you think of the song and review!

#42 – Christmas Time

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Artist – Bryan Adams
Album – Christmas Time Single/Various Holiday Compilations
Year – 1985
Genre – Holiday/Rock

Well everyone, since Christmas is right around the corner, I figured that this would be a good time to start adding some of my favorite holiday tunes to this list. Now as I’m sure you’ll see later on, I love good old traditional Christmas hymns. You know, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and “Joy to the World” and all of those songs. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t find really great Christmas songs from a more modern time. Case in point is Bryan Adams’ “Christmas Time.” This is one of my favorite modern holiday songs, so I figured it gets to go first.

This has to be one of the catchiest Christmas rock songs written in my opinion. The chord progression is obviously very pleasing throughout, and although the instrumentation is very 80’s, the guitar still sounds clean and rings out to create this great clear sound. It’s a simply constructed song, but Adams’ voice is powerful and melodic. However he still keeps that grittiness in his voice so you can still tell it’s a Bryan Adams song.

The song exudes this feeling of nostalgia like so many other holiday songs. It really brings out feelings of past memories of Christmas with the lyrics that speak of the peace and joy that come around only once a year. It really is a blissful time for everyone, all captured across a background of snow and shopping and Santa. The church bell and jingle bell sound really add to the mood.

The whole song captures your attention so that you have to sing along. As the song builds, it becomes more triumphant and uplifting. The bridge and final choruses are really something else and end the song very well. Sometimes a really catchy Christmas song like this is exactly what you need to really enjoy the love and happiness all around during this time of year.

In short, this song is a catchy must have for the Christmas Season. Underneath it’s sugary sweet frame is a message to appreciate the happiness and joy found during Christmas and to be kind and generous to all. It’s a wonderful holiday song with an infections melody and a great message. Though you may be hard pressed to find this song, it’s definitely worth a spot if you can. More holiday songs to come everyone!

Let me know in the comments below what you think of the song or review!

#41 – Russian Farmer’s Song

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Artist – Keane
Album – The Best of Keane
Year – 2013
Genre – Britpop/Alternative

Ok, now that the stressful time that is finals week at college is over, time to kick things back into gear. Keane is one of my favorite soft rock groups. They really pioneered the piano rock sound back in the early to mid 2000’s. With the incredible voice of Tom Chaplin and the amazing songwriting and piano talents of Tim Rice-Oxley, the band became a tour de force as their fame grew. They really have so many amazing tracks, and I promise you will most likely be seeing some more in the future, but very recently the band has released a track which has captured my attention unlike any of their other work.

Russian Farmer’s Song is very atypical Keane. In fact, it almost has a Radiohead type feel to it. It’s haunting and it paints a lyrical portrait of the very landscape in the title. Apparently the song was written back in 2001, before Keane’s breakout to fame, after Rice-Oxley had just finished Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s a bleakly beautiful song, as the opening piano line swirls like sawdust blown off a table. It just feels rustic, and it sets a mood that pervades the first two thirds of the song.

Tom Chaplin’s voice is still in top form as always, and his sweetly melodic tones dance around notes that may seem unexpected, as the melody is very atypical and strange. However, that is one of the biggest draws of the song, as his voice croons over the top of a very rhythmic beat and rich tonal background that layers the song beautifully. It really is a wonderful mood piece where you can’t help but think of a small Russian farming village with snow blowing and old men smoking.

The lyrics certainly reflect this imagery, but the last two minutes of the song take it to another level. The lyrics become contemplative and the pace slows down, then the music swells and Chaplin really lets it go on his singing. It’s triumphant and uplifting; a completely different mood and feel from the beginning of the song. Also, there’s a wonderful guitar solo/line that plays from the last minute to the end that is to die for. It’s so simple, yet so emotive.

Russian Farmer’s Song is definitely not your run of the mill Keane song. It is not your run of the mill britpop song either. Like I said, there are so many great Keane tracks I could have chosen first, but this one has my attention because it’s different. It’s moody, dark, triumphant, and absolutely gorgeous. Give this one some time to grow because of its differences, but don’t cast it away immediately. It is for these differences that the song needs to be appreciated and deserves a spot on your Ipod.

Let me know what you think of the song and review in the comments below!

#40 – Comes and Goes (In Waves)

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Artist – Greg Laswell
Album – Three Flights from Alto Nido
Year – 2008
Genre – Soft Acoustic

This track doubles as my new track for the week since today Greg Laswell released a 2013 remake of this song, which you should also check out. However, I do prefer the original, so that’s what I’ll be reviewing. For those who don’t know him, Greg Laswell is a wonderful singer/songwriter from San Diego, California. His tracks have been featured in many TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill. His new album is going to be released in February of next year, so we have that to look forward to. In any case, let’s get started.

You know those songs that have lyrics that seem to be universally true? I’m talking about songs like “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M., because well, everybody does hurt sometimes. This is another one of those songs from a lyrical standpoint. “This one’s for the torn down, the experts at the fall. Come on friends, get up now; you’re not alone at all.” Laswell writes with a soft and gentle poignancy that is breathtaking in it’s own right. The song as a whole deals with the sting of loneliness and loss after heartbreak. But the truth is we are not alone in this regard, and Laswell comforts us while bringing us back up to the sun. He also reflects on his own heartbreak in a way that makes him just as human as the rest of us, “This part was for her…does she remember? It comes and goes in waves.”

Musically the song just works in it’s simplicity, while it adds exactly the right amount of gravitas at just the right times for that extra emotional kick. I personally find Laswell’s voice to be among the most pleasing singer/songwriter voice I’ve heard. It’s low and sweet, but reverberates and creates this powerful tone while still being sensitive and emotional. On this song it’s no exception, and his singing wonderfully reflects the nuances of emotion in the song. The music is simple. There’s a gentle repeated guitar line, and as the song builds in intensity, more instruments are added. Beautiful piano, a solid drumbeat, bells, and a female voice are all added by the end of the song, which fades into a gentle finale.

Lyrically the song is stunning. Laswell’s voice is impeccable, and the music accentuates it perfectly. If you’re looking for that soft acoustic song that really captures how you feel during times of pain, I can’t think of a better one than this. It’s totally worth a slot on your Ipod. Just remember, the pain will pass. It comes and goes in waves.

Please comment on what you think of the song and review down below. Also hit that follow button at the bottom of the page if you like what you see and hear!

#39 – The End of Heartache

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Artist – Killswitch Engage
Album – The End of Heartache
Year – 2004
Genre – Metalcore/Nu-Metal

Nu-Metal isn’t exactly known for having gut wrenching lyrics, but Killswitch Engage’s The End of Heartache is perhaps one of the best examples of going against the norm. That, mixed with stunning production and musicianship make this a stand out track in all aspects. Let’s get to it.

A descending guitar riff opens, and then it’s full steam ahead for former frontman Howard Jones. His voice is powerful and extremely melodic, and he adds to the whole vastness and sweeping quality of the song. The instrumentals throughout the song are technical and every note and sweep of the guitar adds to the emotion of desperation, longing and sadness that pervades the song. The track is aggressive, as is evident by Howard Jones’ harsh screams over the top of a repeated chugging riff, but by the time the chorus rolls around, you can hear just how emotional the song is.

“Seek me for comfort. Call me for solace.” The passion in the vocals throughout the chorus is stirring, as the guitar provides a wall of melody in the background. The frenetic drumming that is present at the beginning slows down and moves at an even keel. The chorus is the highlight for sure, and is the most heartfelt and grandiose display of sadness in the whole track.

The guitar showmanship continues, and the driving beat continues until the guitar softens and provides a fitting base for Jones to belt out a final chorus. The lyrics throughout are poetic in their own right, especially for a metal song. They never feel cheesy or over the top, but stem from a place of true pain. The mix of incredible singing and wailing screams creates a great texture to convey the agony that the song deals with.

This song is a wonderful depiction of pain in sorrow wrapped up in a melodically aggressive package, and is certainly a highlight of both the band and the genre. If you prefer a little anger in your sorrow, then this song is a must listen for you. It’s definitely a song that’s gotten me though the past few months.

Please comment below and let me know what you think of the song or review. Also, hit that follow button at the bottom of the page if you want to see more songs like this!