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07.13.23 Willie's Five Star Songs 10.09.22 Willie Needs Some 2022 Recs
06.30.20 Willie's 2020 So Far 01.01.20 Willie's Most Listened - 2019
01.06.19 Willie's 2018 12.23.18 Most Listened to Albums of 2018
02.06.18 Most Listened to Albums of 201709.17.17 Willie's 2017 So Far
07.13.17 Willie Turns 10 10.06.16 3 Quarters -- What's Missing?
11.29.15 Willie's Final 2015 11.26.13 Top 50 Of 2013
11.09.11 Top 50 Of 2011 07.09.11 Willie Turns 4
01.21.11 Users' Best Of The Decade12.13.10 2010 - Finalized
09.09.10 Underrated Albums 07.09.10 Willie Turns 3
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Willie's Five Star Songs

I rate all the songs I have on Apple Music. There are a few reasons I do that, one is so that only the four star (and above) songs get downloaded to my phone, and also so I can have a five star playlist for when I feel like just listening to my favorites. Since it is slow at work, I decided to put the five star playlist on shuffle and just talk about whatever songs come up.
1Bad Religion

Song: What Can You Do? -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osmGWSjL0Io

The catchiest song on one of the definitive Southern California punk releases. Even as catchy as it is, Greg Graffin still tries to make sure you know the world is going to shit, and there's nothing you can do (I don't know if that song is supposed to be literal or sarcastic... but whatever).
End Of An Era

Song: Nemo -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww2f4PPprSc

I love the Nightwish live albums. They sound so much better than the studio releases. They're more guitar driven, and the cheesiest orchestral parts seem to be toned down. Also, the vocals are always better on the live albums -- Nemo is no exception. It's always funny / sad to know Tarja was singing her heart out here, and she was about to be canned. This was the closest the band ever had to an actual single until Amaranthe years later (but Amaranthe sucks). Great chorus, great simple riffs, great bass tone, and keyboard parts that are epic, but not over done.

Song: Crawling in the Dark -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOHxtOLfvIo

If you're going to copy Incubus, it should be their crazy experimental debut not the most mainstream elements... but Hoobastank never got the message. Despite that, "Crawling in the Dark" in a great second-gen radio-ready alternative rock track. It doesn't break any ground, and Incubus was doing it better overall, but this was a rare win for Hoobastank.
A Deeper Kind of Slumber

Song: A Deeper Kind of Slumber -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjQsX0Fvbwk

Doom/death band Tiamat finish their transition to gothy Pink Floyd worshipers. The title track is a great atmospheric song that takes a simple programmed beat, waves of synth, a cyclical clean guitar melody, and Johan's vocals to simply lull you into a trance. Unfortunately, this album's sound was a one-off before they went into terrible gothic rock for the rest of their career.

Song: The Skeleton Key -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWZmpZTDtkU

Easily the best song on Omega. The playful interplay between the keyboard and Simone's vocals is a highlight, but it also has an excellent chorus, subtle but effective symphonic elements, aggressive death vocals, and a cool choir interlude in the middle. A great track to introduce people to the band and/or Symphonic Metal, in general.
6Tech N9ne

Song: Don't Nobody Want None -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hl-LSOpkO38

Tech N9ne has some great songs, and some terrible songs. This one, though, is awesome. It's a straight-up homage to 80s hip-hop / dance given the Tech N9ne treatment courtesy of his rapid-fire style. Fun and catchy as hell.
7Agua de Annique

Song: Witnesses -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHIBhP8w5do

The woman that started my love affair with female-fronted metal. This is her first solo release (I believe), and appears to be railing against Jehovah's Witnesses, and possibly organized religion in general. I love the energy, the rhythmic marching sound and drums, the fuzzy guitar sound and riffs, and of course Anneke Van Giersbergen. Songs like this proved that Anneke could step outside The Gathering and do her own thing with her own sound.
Destroy Erase Improve

Song: Future Breed Machine -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7urbhWr7oc

This song (and the album as a whole, really) is special. It's a transitional release where the band haven't totally abandoned their thrash roots, and it makes for a more exciting and dynamic collection of songs. Of course, the centerpiece of the album (and really the band's entire discography) is Future Breed Machine. Every time I hear this song it makes me wish they would bring back some thrash, and maybe make the vocals a little more varied and dynamic like they were here. Having said that, there are plenty of other songs that come close to this such as Bleed, the opening three tracks of Chaosphere, Spasm, I etc.
9Ne Obliviscaris
Portal of I

Song: And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNuVdsx7qJY

Honestly, the nasally clean singing almost drops this into four territory, but there's too much else going on to not totally enjoy this. The opening few minutes with the acoustic guitars, rhythmic percussion, and violin solo is excellent; as is the transition to the metal section. I also appreciate the clean singing and death growl 'harmonization' that they use throughout a lot of this song. Also, the bass lines and guitar solos on this song are so smooth. The Live in Colorado version that I linked to above is probably the definitive version of this song.
Blood Music

Song: Confusion Trip -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrdCVVNVbIU

Shoegaze meets electronic rock from England. I always loved this whole album because each song sounds so different while still sticking to a uniform sound. That might sound weird, but it's true. Some songs are super shoegazy, some are dominated by electro beats, and songs like this are more like a euphoric British rock kind of sound. An underappreciated gem of the 90s Shoegaze era.
The Decline

Song: The Decline -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnFVMkTWaBw

If there was going to be a punk band willing to release an 18-minute song, I would have assumed it would be Bad Religion. Way (way....) lower down that list would be NOFX. Their brand of snotty skate-punk and overall 'fuck it, it's good enough' mentality seemed like two very large barriers to something this ambitious. I was absolutely wrong, though. Not only that, but it's so damn good and never gets tiring or repetitious despite the length.
12Electric Callboy

Song: Pump It -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnzkhQsmSag

Yep, this song is a five. From the length, to the effortless blend of techno, pop, and metalcore -- this song is flawless. It also a lot of fun and full of energy... and that's not even getting into the video. Five star songs don't have to genre-changing, mind blowing, tracks that change the musical landscape... sometimes they just have to be exactly what they set out to be, and (even more important) exactly what you want to hear without a single compromise.
13Love Spirals Downwards

Song: Write in Water -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A8imfl-vu8

Just an excellent ethereal goth song. In case you're wondering, ethereal goth is really just shoegaze that, generally speaking, has a more morose and/or depressing kind of demeanor. This song, though, is actually kind of uplifting despite the mellow vibe and delicate female vocals. Great chorus, as well.
14Iced Earth
Burnt Offerings

Song: Dante's Inferno -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgaV7aTNvO4

First, it needs to be said that this is the remastered version of the song (and album as a whole). The remastered version is much better than the original. Also, this album is really the only Iced Earth album worth owning, IMO. Just about every song is flawless, and "Dante's Inferno" is the obvious centerpiece. It's nearly sixteen minutes of old school thrash featuring their best vocalist, Matt Barlow. Music to tour the White House to.

Song: The Secret -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxGPpgdGYIs

A lot of the same justifications I used for Electric Callboy apply here. Five star songs don't have to genre-changing, mind blowing, tracks that change the musical landscape... sometimes they just have to be exactly what they set out to be, and (even more important) exactly what you want to hear without a single compromise. This is a great old school, no-frills, Southern California punk song. Part of the soundtrack to my youth growing up in San Diego, skating to the beach to go surfing.
16Faith No More
The Real Thing

Song: Surprise You're Dead! -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG4AawcYdSE

There are better Faith No More songs than this. There are also plenty of more experimental and interesting Faith No More songs than this... that doesn't mean this can't be a five-star track regardless. Easily the heaviest thing they ever did, and an excellent showcase of the under-appreciated Jim Martin on guitar. Super cool riff, great manic vocals from Mike Patton, and the song is over before it wears out its welcome.
17Machines of Loving Grace

Song: Lilith/Eve -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgjRb43Cx20

While lesser industrial rock bands were making it big, Machines of Loving Grace toiled away in relative obscurity despite being one of the better bands out there. "Lilith/Eve" is almost entirely electronic besides the guitar part, and it features an excellent rhythmic beat, layers of electronics, just enough guitar to keep it from being straight up electronic rock, and just enough vocals to make it memorable.
18Pain of Salvation
Remedy Lane Re:mixed

Song: A Trace of Blood -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4iljF0TVE4

This fucking depressing track. I often don't like Pain of Salvation, but this song is so good, It's also one I don't often listen to because it is pretty damn depressing. However, the music is some of the band's best, as are the vocals here. As you may have guessed, I prefer the remixed version of this album over the original. The guitar is more powerful and clearer, as well. There's also more bottom end.
19The Sundays

Song: Wild Horses -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7GE90n6XX8

Easily their most famous song, and for good reason. This is dream pop that doesn't forget about the pop. Of course,the fact that it's also a cover song originally done by The Rolling Stones doesn't hurt, but this is much better. Also, Harriet Wheeler has such an expressive and delicate vocal style full of nineties-era echo effect and she's the reason this song is so great.
20Paradise Lost

Song: Dying Freedom -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lmBjm7VjYw

I originally wrote about how Icon was a transitional album for the band, and then I started wondering which PL album isn't transitional? There are a few that kind of do the same thing as their predecessor, but a majority of Paradise Lost albums are pretty different from each other. Anyway, Icon was the band's transition away from the doom/death sound to a more mainstream metal style, and "Dying Freedom" exemplifies that perfectly. There's the cyclical doom guitar lead from previous albums, but there's also more energy and the vocals have dropped the death influence for a more gritty James Hetfield approach. Icon is one of Paradise Lost's best releases. Check it out.

Song: The Cross -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ3WGIBA2tI

This isn't a good album. Eternal was the band trying to figure out how to do the industrial metal thing while not pissing off all their black metal fans and failing at all of it. Having said that, there are maybe two good tracks and then this exceptional one. It's probably the closest to their previous release, Passage. It has a great thunderous beat, a cool guitar riff and lead, excellent use of piano and electronics, and it's catchy. Once again, find the remastered version because the original is weak as hell.
22Strapping Young Lad

Song: Home Nucleonics -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6l0LEDdqDE

This is one of three five-star songs produced by City (the other two being "Oh My Fucking God" and "Underneath the Waves"). Featuring Devin Townsend at his most manic and angry, a wall of double bass courtesy of Gene Hoglan, and just mindless aggression with an industrial edge.
23My Dying Bride
The Light at the End of the World

Song: Sear Me IIII -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QmI2bd7pR4

The band's comeback release after the disastrous 34% Complete Bullshit experimental failure. "Sear Me III" is the closing song to the album, and it is one of the best songs on the album. Featuring a great guitar melody that shifts and flows through the entire song, along with subtle keyboard accompaniment, and Aaron Stainthorpe's love-them-or-hate-them clean vocals.
24Fates Warning

Song: Point of View -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRe7MTZ_Ucg

Fates Warning's best line-up at the height of their popularity, firing on all cylinders looking like they were about to break into the mainstream along with Queensryche and Dream Theater. Well, this line-up started breaking apart soon after this and the band never broke into the mainstream... but we still have great songs like "Point of View" that manages to be super catchy while still representing the progressive metal genre by never forgetting to make the song first and the showmanship second. Excellent performances by the rhythm section, in particular. Joe Dibiase and Mark Zonder were a great pair.
25Theatre Of Tragedy

Song: Venus -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOQS--sF9xY

The beginning of the end for the band as Liv Kristine took them further and further away from their doom/death roots. While not being at the same level as its predecessor, Aegis was still good thanks to songs like "Venus". "Venus" is probably the closest song to the band's previous releases and it benefits greatly from it. Liv Kristine vocals were in great shape here, and the increased use of keyboards and electronic elements was a welcome addition. Even the male vocals are good here (when they kind of leave a lot left to be desired elsewhere on the album).
Operation: Livecrime

Song: I Don't Believe in Love -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb6XGyfI7gQ

Operation: Mindcrime is almost disputably seen as the best Queensryche album, as well as one of the best concept albums... and for good reason. This album (and "I Don't Believe in Love" by extension) has some of Chris Degarmo's best and most dynamic songwriting. Also, it shows the band all at the top of their game, especially Geoff Tate. This particular song was the commercial track for MTV and it shows, but it's also flawlessly done. Anyway, in my opinion, the best way to enjoy the songs of Mindcrime is on the Livecrime video or at least the audio rip. The entire sound is bigger and more powerful. The bass guitar and drums, in particular, hit so much harder.
Showtime, Storytime

Song: She Is My Sin -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EKgcVSX4ss

I love the Nightwish live albums. They sound so much better than the studio releases. They're more guitar driven, and the cheesiest orchestral parts seem to be toned down. Also, the vocals are always better on the live albums -- especially on the Wacken 2013 concert (or Showtime, Storytime as the album ended up being called). This album is Floor Jansen trying to prove she belongs on stage with Nightwish, and the rest of the band getting to belt out the metal like they hadn't since Annette had joined. This particular song is okay on the studio album, but it positively slays here. The more powerful drums and super dynamic vocals make this an easy five. I love the chorus, as well.

Song: I Miss You -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1tAYmMjLdY

Blink-182 at their most dynamic and experimental. At the time, this album was pretty ground breaking, even if these days it doesn't really sound all that out of the ordinary. This song, in particular, was a big departure for the band as well as the pop punk genre, in general. Of course, it's driven by the always entertaining percussive arrangement of Travis Barker, but the vocal dynamics, feel, replay-ability obviously help, too.
29The Gathering

Song: Shot to Pieces -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cterK3Xqeq8

This album was the band pulling back from the expansive experimentation of How to Measure a Planet, and trying to possibly appease fans of Mandylion and Nighttime Birds. Of course, they eventually said 'fuck it' and went off the deep end after this, but in the meantime they delivered songs such as the rocking "Shot to Pieces". Anneke, as usual, is the star of this show, but it doesn't hurt that "Shot to Pieces" is one of the band's more energetic songs and one of the last throwbacks to their metal past.
30Heaven Shall Burn
Of Truth and Sacrifice

Song: La Resistance -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCyXEz0DfHY

I checked and this is the only Heaven Shall Burn song that I've given five stars. Funny because it doesn't sound like Heaven Shall Burn. This is an industrial metal song with a driving programmed beat and tons of electronics. Of course there are guitars here that sound similar to what HSB does, and the vocals are easily recognizable, but this still isn't typical HSB, and for that I love it. It's epic and rhythmic and aggressive, and my favorite HSB song.
Ocean Avenue

Song: Breathing -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SucBpQiwYZU

Oh shit. Look Sowing, it's Yellowcard ;) One of my favorite pop punk releases, and hands down my favorite Yellowcard release. The first eight songs are flawless tracks (including this and Miles Apart sitting at five stars) thanks to great percussion, strong choruses, punk attitude and energy, pop punk accessibility, and the standout violin playing that augments every song.
Dreaming Neon Black

Song: I Am the Dog -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rqmi_mpxgqk

Darker, heavier, and more progressive than any Nevermore album before it, and I Am the Dog is one of the standout tracks (along with another five star track "The Death of Passion"). I Am the Dog is heavy and aggressive featuring a super thrashy chorus riff combined with a bouncy Queensryche-on-steroids verse riff. Warrel Dane's harsh, yet still somehow mostly traditional prog, are a standout feature, as is the phenomenal playing of Jeff Loomis.
33Skinny Puppy

Song: Worlock -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axsrOmLZOUA

Probably Skinny Puppy's most iconic song, and easily their catchiest. I love the processed vocals and additional keyboard melodies in the chorus, but the cyclical beat and synth that moves through the entire song is cool, too. I also like the ranting, off-kilter vocal delivery of Ogre. His vocal delivery and the songwriting duo of Cevin Key and Dwayne Goettle was lightening in a bottle.
34Aurora (NOR)
All My Demons Greeting Me As a Friend

Song: Murder Song (Acoustic) -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttNz7eB3f-Y

The original song is intense and haunting enough, but when it's just Aurora's voice with a simple acoustic guitar backing her, it takes on a whole other level of dramatic. Especially at the end when she reminds everyone why we love her unique vocal acrobatics.

Song: Fictitious Glide -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5odSY5HaIo

Maybe not the best Atheist album, but this is still one of their best songs. It has the chaos of "Unquestionable Presence" and the swing of "Elements", but with a modern production. It also doesn't hurt that the monstrous drumming of Steve Flynn was back for this album.
Queen of Time

Song: Wrong Direction -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz9uAOM4DHo

Queen of Time is one of my favorite modern Amorphis releases, and Wrong Direction is one of my favorite tracks from it. I like the hyper lead guitar melody that is very reminiscent of the opening track on Tuonela, but this is catchier, and with better vocals and songwriting.
37The Cure

Song; The Same Deep Water as You -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V35cxutR7gc

To me, "The Same Deep Water as You" is the pinnacle track of a flawless album. I love how brooding and moody it is. I love the ambience created by its lethargic forward movement. I love the sheer amount of emotion put into the vocals. One of my favorite songs of all time, really. On this album, though, it shares time with other five star tracks such as "Pictures of You", "Love Song", and "Last Dance" -- but no song is anything less than exceptional.
...And Justice for All

Song: Blackened -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUZVXtDVrc0

Easily my favorite Metallica album. I love the guitar tone, James' vocals, the drum patterns and sound, Kirk's solos. I literally have every song but "Harvester of Sorrow" and "To Live is to Die" rated five-stars. "Blackened" is the perfect way to open this album and goes to show that Jason had more to offer than simply show-stealing backing vocals and passion.
Trashed (Remastered)

Song: Rust -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVPyp_OkSv8

One of my favorite punk albums. It is the perfect mix of serious and stupid. Also, there's some sneaky musicianship here that you might not catch if you're just grooving to the music. The drummer (RIP) is underrated, as is the busy bass playing, and start/stop rhythms and changes. "Rust" is just one of many great songs on the album including other five star tracks such as "Lazy" and "Whipping Boy".
40Thought Industry
Songs for Insects

Song: The Chalice Vermillion -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyiyUld1eNI

Yes, this is raw and often falls victim to its own inexperience and ambition, but that doesn't change the fact that it's an awesome, sadly unknown, and original album within the confines of progressive metal (especially nineties prog). This particular song goes from punky bass-driven parts, to the keyboard-driven dark chorus, to a full on Primus style bass solo.This and Mods Carve The Pig are albums that should be heard.
Trompe Le Monde

Song: Trompe Le Monde -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp7NgLIWCiE

1:43 seconds of greatness. Featuring feedback, random sloppy solos, punk grit, but soft vocals... I don't know how to explain it but this and Alec Eiffel are both fives in my book.

Song: Dead Embryonic Cells -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7Z8Ww1EmMk

The greatest Sepultura ever were. This album might be considered thrash, but it still had a death metal spirit. Frantic percussion, great guitar tone and melodies, nice atonal solo that is still pretty cool, and the 'breakdown' near the end with the doomy guitar lead over the top seals the deal.
All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell

Song: Heaven -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJiRx6PTpyw

Remember when PVRIS was good? Pepperidge Farms remembers. Sorry, I'm off work now so suffice it to say this is a five star song.
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