Thursday, 26 January 2012

Top 5>>Underrated Albums

Pavement//Slanted & Enchanted (1992)
Though this wasn’t considered underrated due to its lavished critical praise, it received a perfect 10 that Nadia Comaneci would be proud of in the NME, it is the thought of Pavement not receiving the coverage they thoroughly deserve that makes it so underrated. Their inspirational debut helped shape 90s alternative America and the lo-fi slacker generation. Stephen Malkmus’ obscure, hilarious and sarcastic lyrics helped turn Pavement into an influence on their contemporaries, including Weezer, Beck and Guided By Voices, and they were the sound of generation-xers who were wondering what to do with their lives. Despite this, their music still refuses to merge with the mainstream masses despite such phenomenal albums, including Slanted & Enchanted and follow up Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. They deserve the same mass recognition that the critics have realised since the band’s conception and Slanted & Enchanted should be a household name to all music fans.

The Shins//Wincing the Night Away (2007)
Arguably The Shins’ finest hour, this bittersweet indie pop release from Albuquerque’s finest was not given the attention it deserved. Though, with “Turn On Me”, they briefly reached mainstream approval, it wasn’t enough to launch them into the big leagues. James Mercer’s cryptic lyrics are sometimes hard to understand, but sounding so good, as “Australia” and “Split Needles” do, it doesn’t really matter to the listener. Despite consistently releasing quality albums, The Shins continue to hide in the background, while some of their less illustrious colleagues reap the mainstream rewards.

Titus Andronicus//The Monitor (2010)
New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus, named after the William Shakespeare play, produced one of 2010’s underrated classics. This epic and ambitious concept album, is set amongst the American Civil War as a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of modern day New Jersey. Borrowing heavily from Bruce Springsteen’s and Billy Bragg’s sound, but still sounding original and iconoclastic, it is a drunken and rebellious rollercoaster ride through a turbulent era. Including recreated speeches from Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, William Lloyd Garrison and Walt Whitman, it sounded completely different to any other of 2010’s releases.

The Replacements//Tim (1985)
You may not know it, but The Replacement’s Tim was one of the most important releases in American alternative rock. Though they never had any commercial success, they helped influence a new generation of musicians. They were the first American underground rock band to sign to a major label in the eighties, before R.E.M and Husker Du, with Tim being the result. “Hold My Life”, “Bastards of Young” and “Left of the Dial” are voice-of-a-generation anthems, the sounds of suburban alienation and despair, whilst the balladry of “Swingin’ Party”, with its self-deprecating twist of hopelessness and insecurity, was an early footprint for the grunge sound. The success of Tim inspired many of their contemporaries to follow their lead, with the album influencing countless bands and also acted as the template for the alternative rock explosion in the 1990s.

Sunny Day Real Estate//How It Feels to be Something On (1998)
In the nineties, while most of Seattle was gripped by flannel shirts and the grunge sounds of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, Sunny Day Real Estate were busy putting emo rock onto the map. Third album How It Feels to be Something On, recorded after their reunion, was their defining moment. Whilst the band had split up briefly, drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Nate Mendel were acquired by Dave Grohl for his new project Foo Fighters, but Goldsmith returned to appear on this album, though Mendel did not and was replaced by Jeff Palmer. The spiritual feel of the record is both discouraging and uplifting, while the album’s sound, a mixture between art rock and progressive rock, is almost trancelike. It is a collection of songs that flow coherently and is hard to find fault amongst the album. It was also one of the best albums of a highly nostalgic and creative decade and certainly an important and influential album for the ensuing decade.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Features//A-Z of 2012

A is for Azealia Banks//The Harlem rapper topped the NME’s “cool list” for 2011 and is on the BBC’s “Sound of 2012” poll, she’s still unsigned but it won’t be long till she’s signed up. A real buzz artist for 2012.
B is for Bestival//It keeps on getting better and better. In 2011 they had The Cure and Bjork, so if they can improve on that, then it will be incredible.
C is for CDs//A scary internet rumour suggested that CDs could soon be discontinued by major labels. It has been rubbished in reports, but unless they start selling, they could join cassette tapes in being lost forever.
D is for Dry the River//As the “new folk” bandwagon continues to grow, Dry the River are the latest band to sign to a major label. After hyped sets at The Great Escape and Reading and Leeds, they will no doubt be regulars on the festival circuit this coming summer.
E is for Emeli Sande//The Scottish soul singer is tipped to have a big year in 2012. She has already written for the likes of Tinie Tempah, Cheryl Cole, Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle and has been voted as the “Critics’ Choice” for the 2012 Brit Awards.
F is for Friends//Not an ode to the TV sitcom, these New Yorkers have been described as the “new Warpaint.” A more poppier affair than Warpaint’s shoegaze style, they have used R’NB influences to harness their sound.
G is for Greg Dulli//The Twilight Singers man returns to his day job in 2012, as The Afghan Whigs play their first shows in 13 years at ATP concerts in London and New Jersey. Their excellent soul-influenced rock produced classic albums such as Gentlemen and Black Love in the nineties, so make sure you don’t miss this.
H is for Howler//Poster boys for the NME in 2012 no doubt, the Minneapolis quintet have been compared to a hybrid of The Strokes, The Drums and The Vaccines. Their debut album America Give Up is released this month.
I is for Isle of Wight//With no Glasto in 2012, IOW are clearly keen to fill in for them, taking their weekend spot and also by booking Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Pearl Jam in as headliners, they have surely already produced the best UK headliners of any festival this year.
J is for Justice//They make their big return in 2012 and have already been booked for some European festivals, so expect to see them on the UK festival circuit.
K is for Killers//The Las Vegas band also return with a new album in tow in 2012. Except more synth anthems and indie dancefloor fillers.
L is for Lana Del Rey//The biggest star of the last few months of 2011, Elizabeth Grant will be even bigger in 2012. After the success of “Video Games”, debut album Born to Die, released at the end of January, will be one of the biggest and hotly-anticipated releases of the year. So unless you unplug your internet for a whole year, it will be hard to avoid her. That may still not be enough though.
M is for Maccabees//They look set to release the so-called ‘album of their careers’ on 9 January. They have taken their inspiration from the likes of The Stone Roses, Kate Bush and David Bowie on this album, and it sounds like a big change from the jangly indie pop of previous work.
N is for No Doubt//Set to return after a 10 year absence in 2012, the Orange County band will release a as yet untitled new album and are heavily rumoured to be at Coachella festival.
O is for Oceania//Billy Corgan has been calling Oceania, Smashing Pumpkins’ “best release for 16 years.” Following the positive reactions to new songs on their recent autumn tour, it’s fair to say that this could indeed be the real deal. There is definitely a big hole for a huge rock band to release a quality album at the moment, so hopefully the Chicago band will be the ones to do it.
P is for Phoenix Festival//Living up to its name and rising from the ashes, the Phoenix Festival will be returning in 2012 after it had disbanded in 1998. There is certainly a hole in the UK for a major alternative music festival, so fingers crossed it can deliver.
Q is for Queen//If you will believe rumours circulating around the internet, then Brian May and Roger Taylor are set to tour with Queen this year. American Idol singer Adam Lambert is rumoured to be the singer for this tour.
R is for Reunions//Has their been a better year for reunions than 2012? Stone Roses and Black Sabbath top the list of excited music fans’ list.
S is for Spector//Bespectacled indie five piece have been compared to The Killers and The Strokes and are on the BBC’s “sound of 2012” poll. Expect them at loads of festivals this year.
T is for Tribes//The Camden quartet release their debut album Baby in January. Hotly tipped at the start of 2011, this year should see them on an even higher pedestal.
U is for Universal//After buying EMI, the label will be even bigger in 2012, so except a dominance from them and their artists in coming years.
V is for Van Halen//The Hard Rock legends are returning with a new album and a new world tour. Rumoured for Sonisphere festival too.
W is for Wolf//Tyler, the creator was one of the biggest names in music and most out-spoken people in 2011 and his 2012 album, Wolf, should see him continue to make headlines for the right, and probably wrong, reasons again.
X is for XX//They seemed to have disappeared after their Mercury Award-winning self-titled debut in 2009, but the London band are back in 2012. Their second release will be highly anticipated and expected to follow on from their critically-acclaimed debut. No pressure then!
Y is for Y-Not//The Derbyshire festival continues to grow, being named “best grassroots festival” and “best festival toilets” in 2011. Of course if you’ve ever been to a festival, then you’d appreciate how important the latter award is.
Z is for ZZ Top//The veterans are back, with another album on the way in 2012, the first release in nine years. They are sure to also claim their “best beards in music” title back too.