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Rock 'n' Roll Call: The Best Rock Albums of 2010

Pop artists like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Ke$ha and Rihanna dominated the charts in 2010. For us rock fans, though, this year was equally huge. There were countless bands reuniting, going out on anniversary tours, playing massive festivals and releasing new material.

In no particular order, here are some of the best rock albums released this year!

My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

Those of us who are diehard My Chemical Romance fans were awaiting the band’s fifth studio album with nervous excitement and eager anticipation. We hoped it would live up to the all the hype, but we were also completely unsure of what style the band would try on this time around, as each release has been vastly different from the last. Luckily, MCR delivered a beautifully bright, energetic and well-produced record that shows a freshly polished sound that includes everything from punk to disco. Check out our full review of the record here!

Recommended track: “DESTROYA”

Pierce the Veil – Selfish Machines

San Diego post-hardcore group Pierce the Veil released their sophomore LP, Selfish Machines, back in June. In the first moments of opening track “Besitos,” this album grabs your attention with hand claps, guitar picking, layers of harmonizing vocals and a Latin-influenced beat. PTV ramped up everything on this release, from Vic Fuentes’ unmistakable tenor shrieking to heavy breakdowns and impressive guitar solos. But these rockers can pull off the ballads as well, with the slow number “Stay Away from My Friends” being one of the strongest tracks on the record.

Recommended track: “Caraphernelia” (feat. Jeremy McKinnon of A Day to Remember)

Automatic Loveletter – Truth or Dare

Charismatic singer-songwriter Juliet Simms of Automatic Loveletter has not been an overnight success story. As she recounts on the track “Story of My Life,” she moved from Florida to LA at fifteen after being offered a record deal from Epic. As the label struggled, Juliet wasn’t dropped, but wasn’t supported either. Armed with her DIY attitude, Simms sold handmade copies of her record and feather hair clips to help support her band out on tour. All the hard work paid off, and Simms became one of the most sought-after guest vocalists, having provided her instantly recognizable raspy pipes to albums from All Time Low, Secondhand Serenade, Cartel and more . On the band’s major label debut, Juliet’s simple acoustic songwriting is taken to new heights, with stadium-ready choruses and charging electric guitars mixed with soft, piano-based ballads.

Recommended track: “Let it Ride”

Envy On the Coast – Lowcountry

Long Island, NY natives Envy on the Coast released the impressive Lowcountry in March. With creative lyrics, daring and experimental musical choices and stellar vocals from frontman Ryan Hunter, this record stands out among its peers as having some of the most original songwriting of the year. Equal parts Incubus, Circa Survive and The Dear Hunter, Envy on the Coast unfortunately called it quits this year as well. Be on the lookout for Hunter’s and guitarist Brian Byrne’s  new project, North Korea, which also features Dilinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Ryan.

Recommended track: “The Great American T-Shirt Racket”

Chiodos – Illuminaudio

When post-hardcore outfit Chiodos kicked out founding member and frontman Craig Owens, many fans were outraged. With his dynamic voice and inspiring stage presence, Owens was not only the band’s most charismatic and well-known member, but also a staple in the modern rock scene. Thousands were sure that this decision was the nail in Chiodos’ coffin, but the release of Illuminaudio showed that this band could carry on, and release one hell of a record. New vocalist Brandon Bolmer not only matches Owens’ range, but he also shows a flair for the dramatic on his lyrics, which was one of Owens’ strongest facets. The band members stepped up their game as well, adding more technical parts to each instrument and keeping the orchestral touches that made 2007’s Bone Palace Ballet a masterpiece in its own right. The breakdowns are heavy, the instrumentation is tight, the vocals are spot-on, so it’s clear Chiodos aren’t going anywhere.

Recommended track: “Those Who Slay Together, Stay Together

VersaEmerge – Fixed at Zero

Due to the success of Paramore, there are now hundreds of identical young female-fronted pop bands trying to find their place in the spotlight. But make no mistake, that doesn’t include Tampa, Florida natives VersaEmerge. Fronted by the electrifying 20-year-old Sierra Kusterbeck, Versa take pop rock to a new level, adding in complex electronic arrangements (courtesy of guitarist Blake Harnage), tightly layered harmonies and wonderfully honest lyrics about Kusterbeck’s own inner conflicts. The band’s first LP, Fixed at Zero, was released this summer and has catapulted the band to buzzworthy status, aided by a full-episode on MTV’s The World of Jenks and placement on the entire 2010 Vans Warped Tour.

Recommended track: “Fixed at Zero”

The Deftones – Diamond Eyes

When The Deftones‘ bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a horrible car accident that left him in a coma, the band shelved their near-completed album, Eros. A year later, they decided to return to the studio (with Sergio Vega of Quicksand filling in for Chi) and wrote what would become Diamond Eyes. The record is mercilessly heavy, verging on metal at times, but also has some slower numbers that add depth and atmosphere to the record. Vocalist Chino Moreno keeps up with the band’s flawlessly-executed prog rock with his high-intensity screams, which can quickly morph into soft and soulful melodies. If you’re looking for a record to rock out to, Diamond Eyes is definitely a front runner this year.

Recommended track: “Rocket Skates”

Ludo – Prepare the Preparations

Few lyricists today have the incredible imagination of Ludo‘s Andrew Volpe. Anyone who needs proof need look no further than 2006’s jaw-dropping five-song rock opera, Broken Bride, which is about a man who mistakenly time travels between the Pre Historic Era and a future apocalypse to save his dead wife. Though Broken Bride is brilliant and beautifully written, it’s going to be tough for Ludo to ever top it. That being said, Prepare the Preparations is an eccentric and quirky pop record, with lyrics that cover everything from robots to dancing skeletons to leprechauns. The songwriting is creative and more experimental than in the past, as Ludo covers everything from acoustic to electronic pop to straight up showtunes.

Recommended track: “Too Tired to Wink”

Foxy Shazam – Foxy Shazam

As we learned in our Q&A with Eric Nally of Foxy Shazam, it’s very difficult to categorize this outrageous and energetic rock group….and that’s the way they like it. Pieces of punk, soul, funk and indie rock make their way into the band’s self-titled record, which dropped in April. This isn’t a record that you’ll listen to and have to wonder if the group is just as fun live, as Foxy are well known for their off-the-wall theatrical performances. They may be an acquired taste, but either way, you have to give Foxy Shazam props for being genuinely original.

Recommended track: “Count Me Out”

Isles & Glaciers-  The Hearts of Lonely People

Since Pierce the Veil and Chiodos were both on our list, it makes sense that a supergroup including PTV’s vocalist Vic Fuentes and his brother, drummer Mike Fuentes, as well as Chiodos bassist Matt Goddard would also be included. Isles & Glaciers also includes (ex-Chiodos, now D.R.U.G.S.) vocalist Craig Owens, Emarosa/Dance Gavin Dance vocalist and solo artist Jonny Craig, Underminded/D.R.U.G.S. guitarist Nick Martin and ex-Boys Night Out/The Receiving End of Sirens‘ Brian Southall on keyboard and guitar. After many months of pushing back the release, their debut EP The Hearts of Lonely People was released in 2010. Different than any of the members’ past or present bands, Hearts is a mash-up of post-hardcore, electronica and pop rock. The three vocalists here, especially Jonny Craig, really steal the show.

Recommended track: “Hills Like White Elephants”

Leave us a comment below and let us know what your favorite rock album of 2010 were…then check back next week for our list of most anticipated rock albums for 2011!

Q&A With Foxy Shazam

You can try, but you probably can’t put an accurate label on Foxy Shazam. Their eccentric and eclectic mix of punk, soul and straight up rock ‘n’ roll has earned the band critical praise and performances at Lollapollooza, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Reading & Leeds. Following a summer tour with Hole and the release of their smash self-titled album, the band recently finished a two-month cross-country stint with Free Energy and is preparing for another huge year in 2011.

One might expect that outrageously energetic 24-year-old frontman Eric Nally lives an equally wild life. On the contrary”offstage, he is a soft-spoken, friendly father of two. We had the pleasure of speaking with Eric about touring memories, writing with Meat Loaf, modern day rock stars and what it’s like to lead a double life.

OS: You’ve just finished your fall tour with Free Energy. How were the shows and what were some of your favorite moments from the tour?

EN: We went to the UK for a week in between this tour and that was awesome. I loved that because we sold out London for the first time. It was big for me because we’re from Cincinnati, Ohio and it’s just really far from home. To sell a place out so far away is an awesome feeling; to bring your music to a different country and do that. I liked playing Montreal because Hollerado, the band that’s opening on this tour, is from there. All their crowd was out and it was just really fun.

OS: Foxy Shazam is well known for its incredible, off-the-wall performances. What inspires the band to become so theatrical on stage?

EN: I usually tell people, “that’s just the way we were born!” It’s just natural to us. We  don’t have to do any preparation or any pre-show rituals to summon these things on stage, they just come out naturally. It’s just the way we came out of our moms, I guess. When I’m on stage, I’m an entertainer…when I’m off stage, I’m a spectator. So I just kind of sit back and watch and soak everything in. When I go on stage, I let it all out.

OS: You’ve stated that Foxy Shazam are “not concerned with what category it falls into.” Do you often find that people are trying to fit you into a genre or compare you to other bands because they’re not sure where to place you?

EN: Yeah, that happens all the time. Anybody I ever meet that’s an artist…everybody wants to be themselves. But really, in the way that everything works now, it’s just what people have to do. I accept that. Everything needs to be compared to something else just so you can wrap your head around it easier, I guess. Either way, I don’t mind it, but people do try to compare or group us into a category. Every time it’s different, so it’s cool.

OS: You’ve said that you would never want to make the same record again and the evolution of the band’s music has certainly reflected that. How do you see Foxy Shazam’s music evolving in the future?

EN: I don’t know…every record we make kind of stands for where I am at that moment. I’d have to kind of be in the moment to understand, but that’s exciting for me. I really like not knowing. It’s kind of cool to not think about it and not prepare.

OS: In the song “Wannabe Angel” from your self-titled record, you sing, “For you I wear this mask, at home I take it off.” Is it difficult to transition between your life as a rock star and your life as a dad and husband?

EN: Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say with that. I feel like I’m a completely different person when I’m on stage. It’s kind of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type thing and that’s awesome to me. It’s like how actors do…entertainers, really. It’s just who I am. Being a dad compared to being a professional touring musician…it’s just the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I feel so different when I’m not on stage.

OS: Earlier this year, you helped write some songs for Meat Loaf’s album Hang Cool Teddy Bear. What was your role in the writing process? Would you be interested in writing for other artists again?

EN: Absolutely! I love being associated with people that have rich history in music and Meat Loaf is obviously one of those people. I just co-wrote two songs with Justin Hawkins who used to be in The Darkness”he’s one of my best friends now. It was just awesome. We went there together and we wrote together and sat with Meat Loaf. It was great, I made a lot of good friends through that whole experience.  A lot of the other writers that were there were a lot older and have done stuff like that before. That was something that I couldn’t believe I was experiencing so early in my career.

OS: Are there any artists in particular that you’d like to write for?

EN: I would love to, whether it’s writing or whatever, work with Cee-Lo Green sometime. I think he has the best voice in music right now. I think it’s just awesome, it hits me in the right spot. It’s the perfect voice for me. I’d love to work with him someday.

OS: Foxy Shazam was one of the first bands featured on ChatRoulette for album promotion, but you aren’t a huge proponent of bands using social media. Can you share your thoughts on that?

EN: I feel like the rock star is kind of a dying breed, we’re becoming extinct. You don’t seem them very much anymore. I think one of the most important things about what that persona was, was that you didn’t know them. It was almost like a mythical creature. People would gather backstage for hours just to catch a glimpse…and you don’t get that anymore. People know everything that everybody does because of Twitter and Facebook and they’re updating constantly. Everybody’s so human now, I guess, which is fine. That’s how it’s always been, everybody’s just a person. But I think there was this certain mysteriousness about the artist and that’s not really around anymore. So I kind of try to keep that going. I think it’s important to have people make their own stories about you rather than know the hard facts because chances are the hard facts are extremely boring (laughs).

OS: Foxy Shazam has recently announced some big touring plans for 2011. Can you tell us about the tours and festivals you’ll be playing next year?

EN: In January, we have a tour with Circa Survive. That will be awesome because I’ve heard their new record is great. I haven’t heard it but I’m really anxious to! I’ve heard a lot about that band and I know a lot of people who know them and they say they’re great guys and that’s really important to me, to share a tour with people that are nice. I’m really excited about that one, I think it will be awesome. Then we go to Australia [for the Soundwave Festival] in February and I’m really looking forward to it. I just love taking my music to different countries. I’ve never been to Australia, so it will be awesome. We have a bunch of days off in between the shows there so I’m going to do a lot of sight-seeing.

Check out this live video of Foxy Shazam performing “The Rocketeer” and don’t miss them on their upcoming tour dates, listed below!


Dec 16 Detroit, MI – Shelter
Dec 17 DeKalb, IL – House Cafe w/Victorian Halls & ‘Richardson’ Richardson
Dec 18 Minneapolis, MN – Popsickle Festival w/Motion City Soundtrack, Minus The Bear & more!
Dec 19 Kalamazoo, MI – The Strutt w/Their Teeth Will Be of Lions
Jan 14 Richmond, VA “ The National w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 15 Charlotte, NC “ Amos Southend w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 16 Ashville, NC “ Orange Peel w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 18 St. Louis, MO “ Pop’s w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 19 Omaha, NE “ The Slowdown w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 20 Des Moines, IA “ People’s Court w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 21 Grand Rapids, MO “ Orbit Room w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 22 Columbus, OH “ Newport Music Hall w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 24 Cincinnati, OH “ Bogarts w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 26 Baltimore, MD “ Rams Head Live w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 28 Rochester, NY “ Water Street Music Hall w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 29 Albany, NY “ Northern Lights w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 30 Allentown, PA “ Crocodile Rock w/Circa Survive and Anberlin

Feb 26 Brisbane, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
Feb 27 Sydney, AU- Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 4 Melbourne, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 5 Adelaide, AU- Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 7 Perth, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!