Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
Nathan Simmons is the vocalist of Florida-based hard rock band The Offer, who recently released a new EP called Adrift. These are his picks for his five favorite albums of 2015, as well as a few runner-ups! To keep up with The Offer and to check out their new album, visit www.facebook.com/theofferband!
Thanks to Nathan for sending this piece in about his top albums of 2015.
5.) COHEED & CAMBRIA – THE COLOR BEFORE THE SUN
Progressive-rock-post-hardcore-psychedelic-alt-metal-insertextragenrehere geniuses Coheed & Cambria took a big risk this year when they announced that The Color Before The Sun would be their first album not to follow the concept storyline presented by their previous seven albums and accompanying media. While I was initially taken back by this change in focus, I think it ultimately paid off. By taking the science fiction filter off of the lyrics, frontman Claudio Sanchez has managed to write the most honest lyrics of his career. While past records have tackled such high concept subject matter as epic space battles or psychic angels or body-hopping astronauts, this album presents us with heartfelt musings on fatherhood, self-worth, and how difficult – and worth it – it can be to keep a marriage alive. It’s a whole new side of Coheed & Cambria that has me excited to see if they continue on this path, because it just may mean that one of my favorite bands will keep getting even better.
Recommended track: “Here to Mars”
4.) I THE MIGHTY – CONNECTOR
I discovered I The Mighty while on tour with my band. I saw the sleeve for their third EP, Karma Never Sleeps, and was immediately intrigued by the artwork. I gave the band a listen and was immediately swept away. I The Mighty perfectly balances beauty and aggression in a way that many bands attempt and fail. Their latest album continues in the spirit of their debut full-length, Satori. The lyrics are brutally honest and the music is intense and calming all at once. Fresh off a tour with list buddies Coheed & Cambria, ITM seem to have borrowed some of that band’s songwriting approach (including naming their lead single “The Lying Eyes of Miss Erray” as a sly nod to a similarly-titled track of Coheed’s from 2005). While not a concept record, it does carry on some of the themes from Satori: staying true to oneself, the price of fame, and the importance of friends and family. Along with all of those universal topics, they even manage to throw in a song about a ghost story (the heartbreaking “Slow Dancing Forever”). I The Mighty aren’t quite a household name, but if they keep cranking out excellent work like this, they will be in no time.
Recommended track: “Friends”
3.) MUSE – DRONES
Aside from a few tracks, I wasn’t much of a fan of Muse’s previous album, The 6th Law. While I really enjoyed their flirtation with dance-pop, a lot of the lyrical content failed to grab me and I felt like the band was having a difficult time pinpointing what they were trying to say with the record as a whole. Luckily, Drones finds Muse taking a very “back -to-basics” approach to their songwriting. In many ways, this album is a direct sequel to 2004’s Absolution (my personal favorite Muse release), with shades of 2007’s Black Holes & Revelations. The subject matter is overtly political and apocalyptic and many of the songs are structured similarly to hits from those two records (“Mercy” may as well be “Starlight, Pt. 2”). I don’t mean that as a knock against the band. It’s not exactly that they’re treading familiar ground. In many ways, Drones is a return to form for Muse. They sound more focused and aggressive than they have in years and the album has the nimble, energetic feel of a live concert (or a rally). Give it a spin! You’ll be pumping your fists in no time.
Recommended track: “Dead Inside.”
2.) BUTCH WALKER – AFRAID OF GHOSTS
Even if you are unfamiliar with Butch Walker’s name, you have most certainly heard one of his many projects. As a musician, he hit the scene in the 80s as part of hair metal outfit Southgang and made his mark in the landscape of 90s pop-rock as the frontman of Marvelous Three (known for their hit single “Freak of the Week”). As a producer, he has worked with artists as diverse as P!nk and Fall Out Boy, which has afforded him the luxury of making his own records in his downtime. While he normally produces his own albums, he decided to hand the reins over to songwriting guru Ryan Adams, who strips away every bit of the gloss that Walker’s previous efforts have been known for in favor of a simple “man and his guitar” approach. Many of the tracks were recorded in one take, which lends to the earnest, confessional tone of the songs. This is easily the most personal record Butch Walker has ever released. The songs were all written over a period of years and take you through his life’s journey in a way he has only hinted at in the past. Having lost his father a few years ago, much of the album deals with his own feelings towards legacy and fatherhood. It’s a softer side of Butch that has taken many of his fans by surprise, but I feel honored that he’s letting us get so close.
Recommended track: “Chrissie Hynde”
1.) THE NEIGHBOURHOOD – WIPED OUT!
When Californian alternative band The Neighbourhood released their debut full-length I Love You in 2013, I really enjoyed the singles but found myself a little disconnected from the album as a whole. For some reason, it didn’t quite click with me in the way that it seemed to with my friends and fellow songwriters. “Sweater Weather” and “Afraid” were undeniably perfect examples of dark pop, but I couldn’t help but wish the rest of the album had the same bounce to it. I admit that this is entirely the fault of my own expectations and not a strike against the band’s considerable talent…that record just wasn’t what I was looking for at the time. The same cannot be said for this, my favorite album of 2015. Every song on here is a treasure. The intensely confessional lyrics are carried by the slick production and chill vibe of the songs. Many fans will be disappointed that this album doesn’t take as many experimental risks with the soundscapes, but as someone who wished I Love You had been a bit more straightforward at times, Wiped Out! has become an album that I can put on at any time and enjoy. As stated earlier, I’m a huge fan of introspective lyrics sung in a carefree manner and somehow vocalist Jesse Rutherford manages to pull that off while simultaneously attempting to wrench my heart from my chest. Not many bands can balance the lyrics “I want a new yellow Ferrari from the 90s in the driveway” and “Put me in the dirt, let me dream with the stars” in the same album and still come across as sincere, but I’m happy to report that The Neighbourhood can, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Recommended track: “R.I.P. 2 My Youth”
THE MOUNTAIN GOATS – BEAT THE CHAMP
DANCE GAVIN DANCE – INSTANT GRATIFICATION
THE EARLY NOVEMBER – IMBUE
Thanks for reading, everyone. With David Bowie releasing a new album next week, 2016 is already looking like it’ll be a great year for music! Have a great year and hope you enjoy the tunes I recommended.
Editors Note: This article has been in my inbox for a little while. Bowie’s album has since been released and then he left this world of ours. I debated on whether to remove Nathan’s comment, but in the end decided that even though 2016 has already taken several musical legends from us – it doesn’t change how the music remains.