One of Those Lists: Band Edition
(My Top 10 Favorites)
I’ve always had a strange relationship with music. I’ve never really been the kind of person to listen to a lot of the popular music most people would recognize. I find certain bands or artists that I like and end up just sticking with their body of work, without going out of my way to listen to a lot of new bands or songs. I rarely, if ever, liked the popular music of any era growing up. I hardly ever listened to the radio and bought even fewer CDs, and still tend to just stick to things that I know and enjoy. In fact, I’ve been to one concert my entire life. Music is a big part of my ability to focus as a writer, but even that is very specific in terms of what works and what doesn’t when trying to capitalize on the emotion. I’m sure it’s a lot easier for most people to come up with their 10 favorite bands, but I actually struggled a bit. Not because I have so many I like, but rather because I listen to so few on a regular basis.
I’ve never been one of those people who say “Music is my life.” and I’ve been okay with that. Though as an adult, and wanting to try and unlock a deeper sense of self and creativity, I’ve been learning how to create music of my own.
For this list, I decided just to stick to bands and not include people like Ennio Morricone or Clint Mansell, who are most well-known for movie scores. I also left off genres of music that I enjoy but that I couldn’t specifically pinpoint artists. I’m referring to things like “Retro Wave” or “Ambient Space Music”. This is usually the kind of stuff I listen to while writing, depending on the mood of the story.
Each entry on the list will include a song that I find to be their respective best or personal favorite. For some of them, it changes day to day, but it’s what I would consider “my favorite” at the moment of writing this.
10. Lacuna Coil: Starting off, I decided to go with a band that not a lot of people have probably heard of. They’re an Italian Goth Rock band that has never really had a major hit in the US. I discovered them thanks to the game Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, which I talked about on my favorite games list. The soundtrack for that game was great and Lacuna Coil had one of the more memorable songs on it. They probably have the lowest playtime for me in terms of bands on this list, but I still enjoy it when I do listen. It’s not something that has aged incredibly well, but it’s very heavy and dark sounding while not bordering too far into the metal genre, which I'm not a fan of.
09. Yngwie Malmsteen: : Another one that not many people might have heard of and I might be cheating a bit here because I’m including him as a “solo act” and not any of the bands he’s been associated with. But for those who may have not heard of him, he’s who I believe to be the greatest electric guitar player of all time. The things the guy does with a guitar are insane and that’s why he’s on my list, even though I’m not huge on “Glam metal” genre that most of his stuff would fit in. What I enjoy most is when he’s done Neoclassical metal, which is heavily influenced by classical music.
08. Die Antwoord: By far the most unusual choice on my list, the South African hip-hop duo is unlike anything else that I listen to or enjoy. But I think the reason that I do enjoy their music, even though it’s incredibly ridiculous, is that they’ve built this image of foolishness around themselves that you can tell borders on parody. They’ve also mastered a very unsettling, unique imagery that I think speaks volumes to their creative talents, even while raping about off-the-wall topics. They’ve got a huge following around the world, but haven’t exactly hit it big in the US, so I’m not sure everyone here even really knows what they are all about. Though you might have seen the movie they made called Chappie.
07. Deadsy: Another lesser known band from the early 2000's who have only recently gotten back together, they’re fronted by the son of Cher and an Allman Brother. They had a very unusual theme visually and their music would fall somewhere between Industrial Metal and Synthwave. I don’t remember where I first heard them, but I have been listening to them for a long time and owned a few of their CDs back when they were still a group. I dig how they mix the metal with the sci-fi sounding synths and the vocals are surprisingly deep in a lot of their tracks. I hope that whenever their new music drops, it follows the same kind of theme.
06. A Perfect Circle: While the majority of fans of Maynard James Keenan would say that Tool is their favorite band led by the front man, Tool fails to even make my list. To be fair, APC has had a decent number of hits and a lot of people would recognize their music thanks to being featured in movies and getting good playtime on the radio. Maynard is one of the most talented musicians of all time and a genius when it comes to songwriting. However, I’ve always felt like Tool was a bit too “droning” even though it’s very well done. A Perfect Circle had the quality without the “slow” factor that put me off of Tool. The songs have depth, the lyrics are powerful, and they’ve managed to update their sound with every album. APC (and most of Maynard’s music) has always had a lot of religious allegory and symbolism, with their new album set to come out later this year seemingly even more focused on that theme.
05. V.A.S.T: Yet another band that might not be very well known, but one that is fronted by a great musician. Visual Audio Sensory Theater is the personal project of Jon Crosby, who plays multiple instruments, does the vocal work, and writes the songs. The music would fall somewhere along the lines of alternative to ambient rock, and has very deep lyrics often focusing on love or lost love. A lot of people might recognize their biggest hit (Touched) which seemed to be included in every single early 2000's drama.
04. Eric Burdon and The Animals/War: I’m going to state an opinion now that I think might upset a lot of people. Eric Burdon was the greatest talent to come to the States during the British Invasion of rock during the 60's. Yes, even better than The Beatles. His voice has more soul in it than any other singer in the history of music. This might be another cheating entry, since it's actually two different bands, but it fits. The Animals were way ahead of their time when it came to the powerful messages most of their songs had. Many of their songs became ballads for the men fighting in Vietnam. Burdon would go on to create the funk rock band War, which broke both racial and cultural boundaries at a time in which things like that weren’t common. War is a much different sound, but Burdon’s powerful voice and soul comes across and mixes well with the other members of the band.
03. Puscifer: Maynard James Keenan’s third, and probably least well received by fans, band started off as a personal project that was meant to be much different from what it ended up as. Maynard had planned on a creating a kind of “super group” with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails that would allow them to bring in other musicians and do things that neither NIN nor Tool/APC were doing. Things didn’t work out scheduling and creatively with them, but Maynard didn’t want to just shelve the idea and moved forward with different members. It would almost become his own "solo" project that involved new members every time. Early Puscifer albums were very…strange. They mixed a lot of different ideas and sounds, including heavily themed country and religious songs. None of it made any kind of sense, but was so well made that it’s still good to listen to. Even when trying to be chaotic with his sound and themes, Maynard managed to create something that was better than what most could do. As Puscifer grew, new members came and went. The current version (which has Corina Round, Mahsa Zargaran, Mat Mitchell, and a few others) is by far my favorite era. The Money Shot album has become one of my favorites of all time. While the lyrics are still a bit disjointed and chaotic, the music and the way those lyrics are implemented created something that I find to be artistically beautiful. Puscifer also tends to piss off and annoy die-hard Tool fans who feel like it takes away Maynard’s time from working on Tool, but that just makes me appreciate it even more.
02. Karnivool: An Australian group that is sadly not very well known in the States, they started as a nu-metal band that very clearly could be more, and grew into a progressive rock band with some of the most meaningful and powerful songs I’ve ever heard. Their more modern music is so incredibly good that it’s shocking to me that more people haven’t heard of them. They are one of the few bands who I feel have created “perfect records” that don’t have a single weak song on them. The lead singer has a strong voice (Ian Kenny) and Drew Goddard writes compelling and dynamic lyrics.
01. Nine Inch Nails: Trent Reznor is one of the greatest musical talents of all time, and he has become that by constantly evolving his music to create new eras of the band that stay modern. NIN might be best remembered for the very industrial heavy metal music and disturbing imagery that made them popular in the 90's, but with every album since then, the band has become something different for the better. He’s a masterful lyrical writer and builds music that is so technically strong that it puts others to shame. Reznor has beaten addiction, kept the band relevant for decades, and has even won an Oscar for his musical talents. NIN was the first band that I really became what I would consider a fan of, and one of the few that I made an effort to buy albums of. They are also the only band I’ve ever gone and seen in person, which was during a rough time in my life and very much needed. It would not be hard for me to sit down and name 100 Nine Inch Nails songs that I love to death, with the only hard part keeping it at 100 and ordering them by favorites. Trent is in his 50's now, has children, is an award winning composer, and still finds to create modern day NIN music that kicks just as much ass as they did in the 90's.
Honorable Mentions: Sevendust, London Grammar, Darling Violetta, Pearl Jam. No dishonorable for this list, since it's really easy to just not listen to music you don't like.