Friday, April 15, 2011

Pick Three

A few weeks back, a listener asked the hosts of “The Weekly Geek” what their three favourite albums were. This is of course not a question a person can just answer off the top of their heads, and indeed may just be impossible to answer. Can you pick your three favourite albums of all time? I have trouble even picking my ten favourite winter movies.

What the hosts ended up doing were picking the three albums they would want to expose to a stranger to. This stuck in my rather cluttered mind, and has now come back with answers. The three albums I would suggest that you listen to are:

No More Kings (2007)

While there is a lot of great stuff on their second album, “And the Flying Boombox:”, No More Kings' first album is still my favourite. From the zombie-ness of “Zombie Me” to the love letter to “Knight Rider” that is “Michael (Jump In)”, their original album is just fun, and cheerful, and listening to it never fails to make me smile (the same can be said for “And the Flying Boombox” as well).

I originally discovered No More Kings through Pandora. I listen to Pandora a lot while I am writing, and it was while I was working on Mallville that I first heard them. The station I was listening to had artists like Jonathan Coulton, Bareknaked Ladies, Bowling for Soup, and Weezer as its basis, and as I was busily typing away I suddenly realized that the song playing was about the living dead; it was “Zombie Me”.

After hearing a couple more of their songs, “Michael (Jump In)” and I believe “The Grand Experiment” , I rushed out to Dimple Records and bought their album (new, not used). Aside from having a good sound, the lyrics of the songs appeal to my inner geek (as well as my outer geek) with references to everything from “The Smurfs” to “Ghistbusters 2” to “Peanuts” sprinkled throughout them.

Sadly there is no video for “Zombie Me”, but the video for “Sweep the Leg” is a truly awesome, if long, vid which brings me back to the Michael Jackson style of music video production. Check out the appearance by Mr. Belding from “Saved by the Bell” in the beginning

Apocalyptica: 7th Symphony (2010)

I know, I've already babbled about them a couple of days ago, but that was about their sixth album, which is good, but it's no “7th Symphony”. I do not have all of their albums, but of what I do have, this one is my favourite. From the awesome rock of “End of Me” (featuring Gavin Rossdale of Bush fame) and “Not Strong Enough” (featuring Brent Smith) to the instrumental piece “The Shadow of Venus” (which appears on the deluxe version) which is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard, this album is fantastic from start to finish. Even the song “Bring Them to Light”, which is exactly the sort of screamy heavy metal that I don't like has grown on me.

I first discovered this group while listening to a political podcast that was using some of the tracks from “Plays Metallica by Four Cellos” and “Inquisition Symphony” as transitional music between segments. Hearing Metallica's “Nothing Else Matters” played beautifully on the cello got my attention to the point that I had to go to that show's web site and see who this group was.

I love music done in unusual styles, at that point I had already had an album of Metallica music done on classical piano (Scott D. Davis' “Pianotarium”), and could not pass up a chance to get some more Metallica done in the wrong style, so when I happened to see “Inquisition Symphony” while looking for something to use a coupon on at Borders, I snatched it up.

If you listen to their early work, where there is just the cellos and almost all the songs are covers, and then compare it to their last two albums where it is all original music and they have added a drummer and vocals, you can really hear how this group has matured from simply making metal beautiful to making it epically so.

The video I've chosen to provide as a demonstration is “Broken Pieces” which features Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf.

Flyleaf: Memento Mori (2009)

“Memento Mori” is Flyleaf's second album, and while the band's Christian background shows A LOT more strongly on this album (on the first album, someone who knew nothing about the group could easily not realize that this is Christian Music), they do not consider themselves a Christian group. I'm not sure why they feel the need to distance themselves from their faith (especially since the we're-not-a-Christian-group argument seems a little harder to defend given the lyrics on this album), but I don't really care because I love their sound.

I find listening to this album to be very uplifting, now whether that's due to the spirituality behind the lyrics or now, I cannot really say. I really like the tracks “In the Dark”, “Beautiful Bride”, and “Swept Away”, but my absolute favourite on the album is “Arise”.

“Arise” is the song I was heard in my head when thinking about how to end “Mallville”, and I consider it to be a sort of unofficial closing theme to the story. It is probably no surprise that this is my favourite of all of Flyleaf's songs, only possibly edged out by the awesome remix of it by Ben Moody on the “Remember to Live” EP that came out last year.

I discovered Flyleaf because Dimple Records was pushing their original EP at the register back when it came out in 2007. The clerk pushed it as being similar to Evanescence, saying that “she screams while she sings”. The idea of screamy singing did not really appeal to me, but it was also only two bucks, and I'm always happy to try something new, especially if it's cheap. I loved all of the songs on the EP, and bought the original full album twice (the second time because it was re-released with acoustic versions of some of the songs).

There is no video for “Arise”, or In the Dark”, or “Swept Away”, and the video for “Beautiful Bride”, like most of their Memento Mori videos is extremely WTF-y, so I have chosen the video for “Again”. The video is still WTF-y, but not to the point that it may distract you from the music like some of the others might.

So there you have it; the three albums I would most recommend you give a chance. Are they my all time favourites? Would I still choose these three albums five years from now? Ten? Not necessarily. I could never narrow down my CD collection to a mere 3 that are the best; heck, these three weren't even easy picks (with the exception of “7th Symphony”). Even once decided on picking a No More Kings album, it took a lot of thought to not choose “And The Flying Boombox”, and for a while there the third album was going to be the “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” soundtrack (which is every bit as awesome as the film... for the most part)

This tends to guarantee that I get no feedback, but I”m going to ask anyway. What would your three be?

Alright, that's enough babbling for now. Until next time, remember that the first cut is not always the deepest; in fact it's usually shallow and hesitant since it takes a few stabs to really build up your confidence in what you are doing.

No, that's just creepy, and way too long.

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