Monday, November 30, 2015

Best Albums of 2015: Number Ten

Screaming Females

Narrowing down my favorites of 2015 to just ten albums was not easy and I didn't try to force it just so I could write about specific albums. And yet, it worked out that my number 10 was the first album that really caught my attention this year and pretty much set the stage for the rest of a year in which I dug into metal and heavier rock more than usual. Not to mention the very name of the band pretty much describes my favorite thing in rock as I've written about before. So, my number 10, is Rose Mountain by Screaming Females.

rose mountain

Somewhere between metal and punk with a dash of artsy drama, this album grabs you and excites you and even annoys you a little until you can't help but listen again. Marissa Paternoster's voice maybe comes off a little affected at times but there's something about her vibrato and rawness that takes me past any potential off-putting weirdness and into something much more natural. Just listen to the opening track, "Empty Head" and by the time you get to the chorus you will be bobbing your head and maybe playing air guitar.  But it won't end there because it goes right into "Ripe" which really cuts loose and demonstrates Paternoster's guitar skills as well.

Slower tracks like "Wishing Well" and "Hopeless" feature a tightrope walk between the screaming female and the vulnerability she is not afraid of demonstrating. "Hopeless," in particular is the kind of power ballad that I think some of us might relate to more than others and like most friendships ended by one sided unrequited loves or just plain loneliness such as the lyrics seem to imply, it ends too soon. But still, the lyrics "Don't count on me again, I'll obsess on our encounters, I want us to be friends, I'm not hopeless, helpless, or begging you to stay, It's just turning out that way," will linger, hopelessly. It really is a beautiful little song that almost evokes Linda Perry pop sensibility and lays Marissa's heart open on a glass table that makes you listen to the rest of the album a little more closely.

marissa paternoster
This image is rock n roll.
The subject matter seems to be mostly on the less exhilarating side of life, which balances out the soaring, arena influenced rock. Some of the lyrics are just how I like them: hard to get to the specific meaning and specific enough to be honest. But a song like "Broken Neck" is most likely dealing with depression or some other sort of mental illness with its chorus of "It's my mad disease, pills and scripts they push me." And the misleadingly titled "Triumph" which features an uplifting riff and some great shredding also features the chorus "Our triumph is sleeping now, my form of devotion, I'll drag you down in the crowd, I go through the motions." It's in in these moments that Paternoster's voice is most perfect, bringing forward a layer of raw truth and unexpected emotion.

All in all, just listen. Don't try to make sense of it because really, the big take away here is that Melissa Paternoster is a badass guitar player above all else. Let her shredding in songs like "Triumph" and the just fucking awesome closer, "Criminal Image" take you along and you will be soaring.

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