Sounds Like California: The Best of the Golden State

Last week, we brought you the best music that Murfie’s lovely home state has to offer. As in love as we are with the Wisconsin music scene, it’s time to take this nationwide. This week, check out reviews of three of the best albums by California bands!

Red Hot Chili Peppers
By the Way

In a blog post all about music from California, it was tempting to review RHCP’s Californication. I finally decided, though, that By the Way is just too good to miss; it’s like an answer to Californication’s question.

This is the first RHCP album that fully moves away from its ‘80s funk/rap/rock sound and pioneers a fresh new rock-pop sound. And what a successful move it was—along the way, the Peppers’ songs became more intricate, with guitar and string riffs and hooks for days. This album does the seemingly impossible: it creates music that sounds right at home on your radio, but that you’re not the least bit embarrassed to declare your love for.

This album was a big undertaking, chasing that pop-rock bliss that only masters like The Beatles have previously captured. It succeeds with catchy song after catchy song, complete with powerful melodic punches and existential lyrics galore. This is the band’s most consistent album to date, and it shows: this album is a timeless example of an already much-loved band evolving and expanding upon its sound to keep creating an even better album, without losing its signature touch.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Universally Speaking”, “The Zephyr Song”

Queens of the Stone Age
Rated R

If you’re a hard rock fan still mourning the loss of decades past, Rated R is likely the answer. It’s been hard to make a hard rock album in the last 20 years, but this 2000 album is one of the greatest of them all. Furthermore, this is a true California album, written in the desert of Joshua Tree.

Josh Homme and company have used this album to firmly establish their place as the reigning kings of the riff-heavy rock album in this new millennium. Full of low-guitar-string riffs and the band’s signature category-evading sound, this album is hard to pin down. Rather than being a weakness, however, that evasiveness turns this album into an experimental, instrumental album full of unique arrangements and unusual sounds, most notably electric piano and steel guitar.

What really makes this album fantastic, though, is that it’s totally fearless. There’s so many different styles and sounds represented here, each one cooler and more original than the last. Queens of the Stone Age is definitely made up of a bunch of weirdos, but here’s the thing: they figured out how to do whatever they want, all at the same time, and still make it sound pretty fantastic.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Better Living Through Chemistry”, “Auto Pilot”

No Doubt
Tragic Kingdom

I should preface this with my undying love for Gwen Stefani. Regardless of that fact, however, Anaheim, California-based No Doubt knocked this one of the park with an unbeatable combination of fantastic beats and one of the few female lead singers in alt-rock.

This album is at heart the most fun thing you’ll listen to all week, or maybe even all year. It’s on a whole new playing field from No Doubt’s previous albums, with hard-hitting rhythms and great instrumentation. Most importantly, though, is the ear candy factor: it’s an exuberant genre-bending collection of tracks, covering ground from punk to pop to ska and back again.

All the fun is backed up with some real musical achievements. The horn sections are killer, and Stefani’s vocals have several true shining moments. The combination of power ballads and poppy tracks with a bit of punk mixed in are a don’t-miss combo for when you’re just looking for a little sunshine.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Spiderwebs”, “Don’t Speak”

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