Cassandra’s Top 8 Albums of the First Half of the Year
Morning Parade – Morning Parade
What can I say about these guys other than I adore them? They have a sound that is so together, so complete that it’s hard to believe this is their debut album. The self-titled record was released just before the half way point of the year (June 19), but it was on my much anticipated list from the day I first met and saw them perform (opening for The Kooks) in Providence back in March.
Single “Headlights” is infectious, with its powerful and meaningful lyrics and catchy hooks. Even though singer Steve Sparrow thought this song would only be suitable for a B side, it has taken America by storm, getting much air time on alt rock radio stations and gaining the band a steady following.
Having seen them twice, the band also puts on a really fun show, engaging the audience with their ever so obvious passion for what they do. The songs on the album contain that same energy as their live performance, which is often a rare occurrence for newer bands.
It was sort of difficult to place my top albums of the half year in order, but as of now, even though it just came out, I really think this is my number one.
My personal favorites on the album are “Us & Ourselves,” “Half Litre Bottle,” and “Under the Stars.”
Walk the Moon – Walk the Moon
I guess I can’t have the first album without this as the second. After seeing these bands end their tour together in Boston the day before they both released their debut albums, I’m going to keep associating them with one another, and to be completely honest, I’m ok with it.
Walk the Moon has such a fun, sun soaked, youthful, and energetic vibe that screams summer and nice weather. With danceable drum beats, a little bit blush worthy lyrics (“You tuck me in, your bedtime stories, just before we, Oooooh!”), and high energy guitar paired with rhythmic bass, you can’t help but get out of your seat and jam along.
Admittedly, “Anna Sun” is the first song that drew me in to them. However, the music video, with all of the face paint and dancing, really is what their album and sound is all about. Other great tracks are “Jenny” and my favorite “Shiver Shiver.” But, the whole album is a nonstop groove that is a definite listen to when you want fun in the sun no matter what mood you’re in.
Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour
It’s sweet, it’s sour, it’s edgy, it’s Band of Skulls at their best. Following up their first album Baby Darling Dollface Honey, this album is the perfect culmination of soft and tender vocals, heavy bass riffs, and cutting drums. From fast and loud “You’re Not Pretty But You Got it Going On” to gentle (until the out of nowhere bass drop) “Lay My Head Down,” the album demonstrates the many dynamics of the English trio.
Funny story with this album actually, it was released on Valentine’s Day, so I tried to buy it as a present to myself (who needs flowers when you can have rock music?!), but the store didn’t get it in until the Saturday after. Glad they had it streaming in full online, so my night was saved.
Also having seen them live, I spent many weeks between album release and the show listening to the album, and it really resonated with me. I still from time to time find myself randomly singing the choruses to “Bruises” and “Sweet Sour” when I least expect it, and imagine guitarist Russell Marsden passionately rocking out with his Fender to under the radar single “The Devil Takes Care Of His Own.”
Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal
Want to go on an adventure? Whenever I do I just listen to Icelandic folk rock band Of Monsters and Men’s debut album My Head Is An Animal.
From the first time I heard the first few lines of their single “Little Talks” back around January I was asking “WHO is this?!” and was more than happy to research, and even more delighted to find out their album was coming out in within the first half of the year.
Listening to the whole record, you’re taken on a mystical journey complete with soft guitar picking, perfect harmonies, Nanna’s gentle yet powerful vocals and Raggi’s ever present undertones, and whimsical lyrics that tell tales of animals and nature.
It’s a great relaxer album, as it’s perfect for letting your imagination run away with the band’s. “Mountain Sound” in particular does this for me, while “Sloom” puts me in a happy, dreamlike state.
Imagine Dragons – Continued Silence EP
While it’s only an EP, this is a definite best of the half year album until they release their first full length on September 4.
Much like many on this list already, when I first heard their single “It’s Time” and the lyric “I’m never changing who I am” I fell in love. The hand claps and upbeat tempo drew me in, but the sentiment and meaningfulness kept in coming back for more.
I also adore track “On Top of the World” because it’s such a feel good song. Any time you’re feeling down, listen to this song. Any time something goes your way and you have the best day ever, listen to this song. Both ways, it works and puts a smile on your face.
This EP seems very personal, and sends such a great message, and I can’t help but put it on to zone out from the stresses of life.
Here’s where I start losing steam and cheating a bit. The next 3 albums I’ve listened to once in their entirety, but I like them enough to try to complete my list. I should probably give them some more listens..
Jukebox the Ghost – Safe Travels
I first saw this band to review them for another blog, and having never really heard of them before, their fun live show made me intrigued. Safe Travels is their third album, and by now they have accomplished such a distinct sound with their upbeat instrumentals and pianist Ben Thornewill and guitarist Tommy Siegel trading off vocals on different songs.
“Oh Emily” and “Somebody” were the first songs they released before the album, and I knew I liked them as soon as I hit play. The quirkiness, yet seriousness they convey by contrasting fun, poppy instrumentals with sometimes solemn lyrics is an interesting entity to me.
As I stated before this section, I’ve listened to the album about once, so there are only a few stand outs. “Don’t Let Me Fall Behind” because of the piano intro and Ben’s beautiful vocals is one.
Jack White – Blunderbuss
It’s Jack White! The man is a genius. One of the main reasons this album is on my list, even though I’ve heard it once in entirety (and aside from the singles, a few tracks on his live stream performances), I love the concept of the album more than anything. He sat down with one female band and one male band and made simple, bluesy rock music without letting the bands listen to each other.
“Love Interruption” started it all, with sultry vocals from Ruby Amalfu and White’s sassy lyrics. “Sixteen Saltines” continued with White’s obvious monogamy issues, and weird words of the world of women like drinking perfume and spike heels making holes in life boats.
I don’t particularly remember much, but I will say that the soulful guitar is one thing that I do remember from listening (oh jeez, I feel like a horrible person. I promise I’ll listen again within this week).
Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
Ironic this comes after Jack White because Third Man Records is how this all started.
Well, where do I start? Oh yes, Brittany Howard’s powerful, soulful, bluesy voice. For 23 years old, damn! Her crooning in their single “Hold On” was what first caught my attention. From the softer “bless my heart/bless my soul” to the demanding “I don’t want to wait,” her vocals have such a tonality to them that hasn’t been heard since, say, Janis Joplin.
The album is a collection of jam, with a down south, down home vibe and Brittany’s voice shining through like a diamond in the rough.
Again, I need to listen more, but I do know I liked the whole album, especially caught-in-the-middle-of-childhood-and-adulthood track “I Ain’t The Same.”