Saturday, November 1, 2008

Top 5 Most Underrated Bands

(David L. requested a similar topic, so I'll credit him here.)

When I'm not in Selinsgrove, PA attending Susquehanna University, I work at Vintage Vinyl Records, an awesome independent record store in New Jersey. Working indie means that I get exposed to a lot of music, local and otherwise, that never or rarely hits the airwaves. Some of my favorite bands are ones that no one's heard of, and it's really criminal. Here's my Top 5 Most Underrated Bands.

5. Okkervil River - Their album "The Stage Names", released last year, is a flawless Indie Rock odyssey, as intelligent as it is memorable. The sequel and continuation to its story, "The Stand-Ins", has just been released and are strongly recommended.
4. Pernice Brothers - Do you ever catch yourself thinking "There are no melodies left in the world?" Joe Pernice's band will prove you wrong. Every song original, every melody hypnotic and original.
3. Mohair - Hailing from Watford, England, they have the same intensity as The Kooks but none of the press or numbers. Their debut album, "Small Talk", was on repeat on my mp3 player for weeks.
2. The Damnwells - An indie rock band from Brooklyn, The Damnwells were driven by frontman Alex Dezen's lyrical masterwork, producing two flawless albums, "Bastards of the Beat" and "Air Stereo". Two albums no one bought. Maybe it was too alternative for adults or maybe it was too adult for fans of alternative, but the band could not sell records and disbanded in 2007.
1. The Gaslight Anthem - Hailing from New Brunswick, NJ, Gaslight is a punk band with strong classic rock roots. My father, record industry guru Rob Roth, described them as having the dramatic power of the Springsteen sound plus the fury of Against Me!. Their first album, "Sink or Swim", is certainly worth a listen or two, but their summer 2008 release, "The '59 Sound" is hands-down the best album of 2008, and may be one of my favorite albums of this decade. The Gaslight Anthem's frontman and songwriter, Brian Fallon, has a unique voice, combining his own lyrical poetry with dozens of references to classic rock songs. Once you've gotten over the originality and catchiness of the songs, you'll spend the next three listenings through trying to place all the names dropped and lyrics quoted. (Also, they're the coolest guys.) "The '59 Sound" is available wherever you buy music.

Sorry this post was late, loyal readers. I'll be posting another later today to make up for the missed day.


David L said...

Interesting Dylan, I'll look into those bands. Tell me, does Gaslight Anthem grow on you?


5. Ringo Starr
Yeah, you read right. That Ringo. The fact is that he really isn't that bad. There is no way the Beatles could have been the Beatles without him. He was one of the first drummers to be treated as an equal member of the band and, as has been pointed out several times in the past, many Beatles songs can be identified by the drumbeat alone. Go out and buy his solo album "Ringo." It has a great group of musicians and is worth every penny. Besides, the guy has a great sense of humor.
4. The Essex Green
The first on my list that is part of the Elephant 6 Collective, an alliance of sorts of indie musicians. A group of New York based musicians of mixed gender with a pleasant sound and relateable yet personal lyrics.
3. Apples In Stereo
Another Elephant 6 member. The word "Beatlesque" is often used, but the Apples In Stereo can be described by that word better than just about any band. Their body of works shows a clear 1960s influence, with emphasis of the work of the Fab Four. If you didn't know better, you'd probably think you were listening to Lennon himself. Recently they have been going for something of an ELO sound. However, they are coming dangerously close to selling out. Still, there is always the early material.
2. Neutral Milk Hotel
The last on the list from Elephant 6. Jeff Mangum is one of my idols musically. NMH is a band led by Mangum, usually on acoustic guitar, and no indie collector worth their salt doesn't own their second and last album "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea." With simple yet expressive chord progressions and dream-like lyrics, few bands can even approach the level of originality that this lo-fi indie folk produces. Mangum is often considered the J. D. Salinger of music as much because of his innovations and original sound as for her reclusive tenancies.
1. Mountain Goats
The Mountain Goats for many years solely consisted of John Darnielle with a guitar and his own voice. Darnielle is a former psychiatric nurse who released an album in 1991 that slowly launched a prolific career the indie folk genre. For many years he worked lo-fi and recorded his songs on a boom box but in recent years he has begun using slightly more sophisticated methods of recording, including a small backing band. His songs are incredibly introspective and literary and has several continuing threads that show up now and then. His extensive series of "Going To" songs talks about how people think that things are magically going to get better by moving somewhere else, while his "Alpha" songs are about a couple that used to be in love but are now bordering on divorce. Several years ago he released his album "The Sunset Tree" which is almost entirely about his sour relationship with his abusive step-father. This album is a must have, I don't care who you are. It will change the way you listen to music, especially after several listens.

Dylan Roth said...

I personally loved The Gaslight Anthem to begin with, but it grew on me anyway.

Anonymous said...

thanks to you, i'm entirely addicted to mohair.