Music of the Month: November

A look at our top songs for the month of November.


Cali Rowe

Cali and Brianna compile a list of their top songs each month and go in depth with them.

Cali Rowe and Brianna Nusom

Happy November! We hope you had an amazing break and a great Thanksgiving! Here are some songs that we simply couldn’t get enough of and that we have been very thankful for this past month. As per usual, we chose these songs and three honorable mentions each and went in depth with them. Enjoy!




Want to see what else we’re listening to? Check out our Spotify accounts! Cali: Footos | The Fresh Fighter Brianna: Benusom

Cali’s picks:


“We’re All Mad Here” by Aberdeen is Dead, “Bliss (Episode One)” (2021)

Originally released as the second track of Aberdeen is Dead’s EP, “Bliss (Episode One),” “We’re All Mad Here” is an eclectic track that ebbs with an energy of organized chaos. With a mission of bringing mainstream attention back to rock, the Dallas group incorporates the sounds of ‘90s alternative into their sound, which is greatly apparent in this trancy number. The song begins with clean bits of delayed guitar that eventually take on a new life as hard-hitting distorted chords. This symphony of muffled guitars and pounding drums gradually fades into the verses that feature the quieter intro riff as background to the thought-provoking lyrics. The choruses largely contrast the more euphonious verses with their loud and muffled power chords and rough vocals. Drawing similarities to grunge bands, this track features the quiet verse and loud chorus that Nirvana and other alternative acts famously took up. Following the second chorus, Matt Bolling breaks into a guitar solo that begins slow, but gradually builds up into a section riddled with high-pitched bends, and notes from all over the fretboard. After a repetition of the chorus, the track ends with a deceleration of the guitars and a disjointed whammy trill. With a title referencing the classically surrealistic “Alice In Wonderland,” the trippiness and overall moods of confusion promote the strong comparison.


“What It Takes” by Aerosmith, “Pump” (1989)

Following a nearly 10-year deficit in publicity and a string of generally unsuccessful albums, Aerosmith finally plunged back into mainstream attention with the release of their 1987 album “Permanent Vacation.” Continuing this upward trend, Aerosmith released “Pump” in 1989, which was met with great commercial success, as it set the band up for further popularity with its many hit songs that have become fan favorites and staples in their vast song catalog. One of these songs was the expressive and extremely catchy closing track, “What It Takes.” Beginning with a rolling drum beat and a smooth vocal callout, the epic power ballad tells the story of struggling to get over a heartbreak. The verses comprise Steven Tyler’s melancholic and dulcet vocals as well as a polished guitar riff accompanied by a snappy acoustic grand piano. Throughout the ditty, Tyler showcases his vocal prowess, especially in the emotional pre-choruses and refrains with his dynamic screams and falsettos that exhibit his impressive range. In each chorus, the band breaks out into a full-blown rock ensemble with Joe Perry’s propelling power chords, Tyler’s exuberant vocals, and the faint undertones of a synthesizer. After the second chorus, Tyler cries, “Guitar!” right before Perry breaks into a sensational guitar solo that flows with feeling and flawlessly transitions into the impassioned bridge. Following the last chorus, the number enters the built-up outro that comprises prominent drums, a pitch-shifted guitar, and countless emotion-filled screams. After a near 10 seconds of silence, a detached, instrumental section that carries a bluegrass twang continues until eventually fading out. With a subject matter so relatable to many and breathtaking musicianship, this track creates a memorable experience for nearly all listeners.


“Song For The Dead” by Queens of the Stone Age, “Songs for the Deaf” (2002)

Combining elements of experimental rock, grunge, and jam-rock, “Song For The Dead” is an extremely hooky and hypnotic track that many regard as Queens of the Stone Age’s best song. The alternate tunings guitarists Josh Homme and Troy Van Leeuwen adopted increase the level of heaviness, as the tune begins with a sinister organ note and a series of harsh harmonic guitar squeals. The number features Foo Fighters singer/guitarist and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, who served as the band’s drummer on “Songs for the Deaf.” Grohl shines throughout the intro as his haphazard drumbeats create a stereophonic effect when paired with the fierce guitar riffs of the first section. Legendary Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan is also present in this number by singing on the verses as he served a five-year-stint with the band, and contributed to many other works and songs on the album. The lengthy verses are riddled with dissonant chords, random guitar licks, and the eerie background wails of other band members. With no concrete choruses, there is a section after each verse that consists of Grohl’s thumping drums, screaming guitars, and ethereal harmonizations that send a chill up the listener’s spine. After the second refrain, Van Leeuwen begins playing a stirring and extensive guitar solo that is fittingly accompanied by Grohl’s drums and a backing organ. After this solo and another quick instrumental break, the song breaks into silence for a measure before Lanegan sends the composition back into full force with the line, “Come on, let’s go driving.” After the third verse and two whammy-injected glissandos, the band returns to the fast-paced intro riff. This outro carries on for just over a minute and once again illustrates Grohl’s drumming expertise as he increasingly quickens and intensifies as the ending section builds up. Although the number doesn’t contain many lyrics, it sticks to the loose concept of the album of road tripping and checking into various radio stations throughout LA and the distant California desert.


“Calm Like a Bomb” by Rage Against The Machine, “The Battle of Los Angeles” (1999)

The third song on Rage Against The Machine’s double platinum Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified third studio album, “The Battle of Los Angeles,” was later released as a single. The song starts off with a muted bass solo by Tim Commerford and Zack de la Rocha’s chilling whispers before de la Rocha yells “Feel the funk blast,” ultimately kickstarting the face-melting number. Hailed as one of the greatest guitarists of the modern era, Tom Morello plays an experimentally high-pitched riff that plays throughout the verses. Like many other Rage Against The Machine compositions, the explosive number changes tempo and structure many times throughout. In each verse, de la Rocha spits his merciless lyrics in a rapping style, as Morello’s grating guitar and Commerford’s distorted bass accommodate him perfectly. After each verse, Morello begins playing a string of power chords before switching into the repetitive pre-chorus and chorus after de la Rocha breathes the line “And the riot be the rhyme of the unheard.” In the middle section of the track, Morello plays a fragmented and passive guitar solo that develops into a whole-band instrumental break as the guitar lick fades into a slightly adapted intro riff. The chaotically beautiful tune ends with two acapella lines muttered by de la Rocha and a final strike of the guitar. The song is considered the sleeper hit of the album as it had no music video and gained success solely off of its frequent radio play. 


“Dai the Flu” by Deftones, “Around the Fur” (1997)

Opening up with sludgy feedback and rhythmic drums, “Dai the Flu” is a dystopically euphoric staple off of Deftones’ second studio album. The outlandish title is derived from the former bassist Chi Cheng’s middle name, who’s full name is Chi Ling Dai Cheng. As the eighth track on the mind-numbing “Around the Fur,” “Dai the Flu” incorporates a dynamic and unique song structure that varies in style and volume at certain points. The quieter verses of the song are completely void of guitar and are mainly composed of Chino Moreno’s hushed vocals and Cheng’s overpowering bass. The choruses contrast the verses as they become increasingly louder before fading out and transitioning into the next verse. After the second chorus, the band channels their angst as they move into a section filled with Moreno’s tortured screams and Carpenter’s heavy avant-garde riffage. This section carries on into the outro where the rollercoaster of a song ends with a series of rhythmic power chords. This dynamic composition proves that Deftones’ music has much more depth and originality than a typical nu metal band; a label they were often and most wrongfully given. 


Honorable Mentions


“Set You Free” by The Black Keys, “Thickfreakness” (2003)

A dapper and upbeat track on The Black Keys’ sophomore album, “Thickfreakness.” Like many Black Keys songs, the guitar riff is innovative, yet deeply rooted in blues rock. Patrick Carney expresses his skills on the drums as he carries the rhythm section throughout the song, as well as in the driving intro and outro. Dan Auerbach plays a riveting guitar solo filled with bends and small bursts of feedback that greatly accelerate the song. The energetic ditty was featured in the hit 2003 movie “School of Rock,” helping it garner more mainstream attention and popularity.


“Madness” by Muse, “The 2nd Law” (2012)

A genre-warping staple on Muse’s sixth studio album, “The 2nd Law.” The track truly provides an otherworldly vibe that epitomizes the 2010s alternative and indie scene. Matt Bellamy shines throughout the number with both his pleasant vocals and driving guitar solos that sprinkle the sounds of classic rock onto this synth-pop number. The tune has thus been nominated for Best Rock Song at the 2013 Grammys, as well as a nomination for World’s Best Song and World’s Best Video at the 2014 World Music Awards.


“I’ve Had It” by Black Flag, “Nervous Breakdown” (1979)

Clocking in at less than two minutes, “I’ve Had It” is the embodiment of the early hardcore punk sound with its crunching guitars, fast tempo, and rage-filled energy. The song tells the anecdotal tale of the pressures and struggles of everyday life that eventually push the narrator over the edge. The tune also serves as the third track, on the “Nervous Breakdown” EP that serves as an important building block on the road to hardcore.


Brianna’s picks:


“Head Creeps” by Alice in Chains, “Alice in Chains” (1995)

Ominous and baleful, “Head Creeps” opens with the intricate, muddy drum beat of Sean Kinney. The fifth track on Alice in Chains’ (AIC) self-titled record, also referred to as “Tripod,” “The Dog Record,” and “The Dog Album,” succeeds the melodic and acoustic “Heaven Beside You” which features guitarist Jerry Cantrell on lead vocals; Cantrell’s vocals became more evident as AIC produced more music. “Tripod” became known as the final studio album with lead vocalist Layne Staley, who passed away seven years after the release of the record. “Head Creeps” is one of the only tracks to be solely written and composed by Staley ⎯ also seen when he took part in creating the riffs for “Angry Chair,” “Hate to Feel” (both are on the previous studio album “Dirt”), and now “Head Creeps.” Following the driving drum beat, Staley introduces the lyrics with the distorted and fuzzy vocals of the refrain. As one of the darkest songs within Alice in Chains’ catalog, Staley composes lyrics of frustration, anger, and depression. The six-and-a-half-minute song includes the juxtaposing phrase seen in the refrain of “No more time/ Just one more time.” Within the repetitive chorus, Stayley and Cantrell create effortless harmonies, a significant feature seen in a majority of the band’s work and sets the group apart from other bands. What isolates this track further from others is the omission of a guitar solo, a norm heard within Alice in Chains’ performances and songs. The closest the track gets to a solo is within the outro where the feedback is evident and steers away from the fundamental riff of the song. The outro begins with the track’s intro riff and beat along with Staley repeating the phrase “So crazy” through a heavily distorted effect backed by anguished wails. Following the prelude of the conclusion, Kinney diverts into a syncopated drum pattern that exponentially slows with the fading of the guitar feedback. With seamless transitions from each lyrical section to the next and the overlooked drum performance, AIC creates a vastly underappreciated track in their discography.  


“Gentle Groove” by Mother Love Bone, “Apple” (1990)

Erupting into the hard-hitting piano playing of vocalist Andrew Wood, “Gentle Groove” drives the only full-length studio album of Mother Love Bone into the rock ballad genre. Just days before the release of the album, Wood passed away at the age of 24 from a heroin overdose. As the main composer of the track, Wood writes in such a melodic pace that adds stress to the notion of the song. Wood decrescendos and staccatos the piano notes prior to entering the track with his romantic lyricism. His vocals were heavily influenced by the glam-rock style, evident in his work in Mother Love Bone and Malfunkshun, a band that Wood established with his brother prior to forming Mother Love Bone in 1988. Greg Gilmore compliments Wood’s piano by filling in the space with his bright and various drumming patterns. Stone Gossard masterfully transitions his sharp guitar tone into the notes of the piano, best heard in the lyric spaces. Gossard’s guitar becomes more apparent behind the vocals in the latter verses and chorus. Underneath it all, Jeff Ament plays the backbone of the track with a round bass tone, expertly sliding from note to note. The outro highlights all the member’s musical talents; the advanced piano playing and vocal control from Wood, the staggering solo work from Gossard, the ornate drumming of Gilmore, and Ammet’s mellow bass notes. To this day, Mother Love Bone is considered to be one of the pioneer bands of the grunge movement in Seattle.    


“I Don’t Know Anything” by Mad Season, “Above” (1995)

The droning vocals of Layne Staley in the rock supergroup Mad Season are subdued yet powerful. Mad Season includes a surplus of musicians; Pearl Jam’s guitarist Mike McCready, Screaming Trees’ drummer Barrett Martin, and John Baker Saunders, as well as many other collaborating artists throughout the band’s career. The track opens with the distorted and grainy rhythm guitar of Staley and Martin joins soon after, building the drums alongside the feedback. As the second single of Mad Season’s only studio album, “I Don’t Know Anything” evokes doleful and ominous tones through the verses. Concurrently, Staley juxtaposes the repeating phrases “I don’t know anything” while begging the hard-hitting questions “Why we have to live in so much hate everyday?” and “Why the fighting and the coming down, am I sane?” Following the final verse, McCready plays a lengthy and fluid guitar solo along with the other instrumentation to conclude the track.


“What I Saw” by John Frusciante, “Inside of Emptiness” (2004)

Driving guitar riffs and a punching drum beat, John Frusciante maneuvers away from his experimental and avant-garde discography, heard most in his early solo work. As the opening track on his sixth studio album, Frusciante includes his staple guitar quality also best heard in the mainstream rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP). As a returning and prominent member of the Peppers, Frusciante recorded “Inside of Emptiness” during the second time of rejoining the band. Frusciante also recorded the album alongside guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, a former member of RHCP from 2009-2019, and Omar Rodríguez-López. With fuzzy vocals and straightforward lyricism, Frusciante transfers the last refrain of the track into a complex guitar solo, another work that should be celebrated as much as his playing with RHCP.


“No Excuses” by Alice in Chains, “Jar of Flies” (1994)

Leading the singles on Alice in Chains’ third studio EP “Jar of Flies,” “No Excuses” includes yet another sensational drum performance from Sean Kinney ⎯ creating a flickering and sharp effect on the hi-hat while maintaining the detailed fills of the snare, toms, and bass. The extended play as a whole impels AIC to the jangle-pop genre, heard most evident in “No Excuses” with the clean guitar tones, ringing guitar strings, and harmonies between co-lead vocalists Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley. The chords that Cantrell plays on the jangled guitar bleed into one another, creating an exemplary contrast of the vibrant chords against intricate, off-beat drumming. To complement the flowing chords, Cantrell and Staley’s harmonies complement each other in an unmatched way. Cantrell takes lead vocals while Staley sings the higher harmonies in Cantrell’s written response as he witnesses Staley’s struggle with addiction resulting in the rocky relationship brought on by the endeavor. However, the track induces optimism through altruistic brotherhood. “Jar of Flies” also inducts bassist Mike Inez in Alice in Chains. Becoming a staple member of the band’s sustained success in later years, Inez plays a strong bass line that complements Cantrell’s chords. On April 10, 1996, Alice in Chains performed “No Excuses” for the final time with Staley for their “Unplugged” live album before his passing in 2002. Following the second-to-last chorus, Cantrell returns to the typical and exceptionally staggering solo of AIC’s discography; entering the rocking and grunge tones of Alice in Chains into the folk, jingle-jangle track. This leads to the ending; contrasting the solo drumming at the beginning, Cantrell ends the song with the familiar chords heard throughout the entire track. 


Honorable Mentions:


“It’s Gonna Kill Me” by Filter, “Title of Record” (1999)

The fourth track on Filter’s third studio album, the song starts with a deep bass followed by a sustained scream from vocalist Richard Patrick. “It’s Gonna Kill Me” uses more of the backing vocals in the chorus; making the lyrics sound more suppressed than the verses. The quiet, restrained instruments for verses builds anticipation for a hard-hitting chorus that suddenly erupts into a loud and agitated section following. Patrick utilizes the back vocals in a versatile way; leading it to appear as one of the instruments of the track.  


“Hollowman” by Trapt, “Trapt” (2002)

Aggressive through the mellow verses, harsher choruses, and refrains, Trapt clearly establishes various stylistic sections of the instrumentation and vocal tone. Chris Taylor Brown’s nu metal vocals are striking on the third, where each instrument protrudes the listener’s ears in their own effective way. 


“Lazy Gun” by Jet, “Get Born” (2003)

Opening with brief studio chatter, Jet members enter each instrument separately, which adds more emphasis on the individual sound and how each consecutively complements the other. “Lazy Gun” also features additional guitarists Davey Lane and Dave Sardy. Sardy, who plays slide guitar alongside Jet’s guitarists Nic Cester and Cameron Muncey, is also the producer of the album. Chris Cester kicks off the second-to-last track with his grooving drumming: enter bassist Mark Wilson with his round and driving bass tone followed by the dry guitar riffs, and leads to Sardy’s shrill guitar. The Melbourne-native group closes the track with the trace-like melodies of the instruments. As the song ultimately fades out, rapid drumming is faintly audible along with counting-off into the final track “Timothy,” a heart-rending conclusion to the album.