10 albums I feel went under the radar or where heavily underrated:
Emmy Moll – All the Monsters Are Small and Soft and Scared (2008): Ok, let’s start this list with a real, unknown masterpiece. I first heard of Emmy Moll when a gig of theirs was broadcast on a small Austrian TV Station and immediately fell in love with this small band and their delicate, fragile sound. To describe Emmy Moll is quite difficult actually, maybe it will help when I tell you their set-up: Emmy Moll is a female singer and keyboard player, a Strat and Vox AC30 using guitar player with the cleanest and softest sound you’ll ever hear, and very quiet Bass and Drums…. no, that didn’t do it. Maybe some adjectives would help? If I had to describe Emmy Moll’s sound, i’d say they sound intimate, dreamy, quiet, like a whisper into your ear from someone you love. Their debut and (as of 2015) only record – All the Monsters Are Small and Soft and Scared – has a dream-like mood to it and it is, in the best sense of the term – music to fall asleep to! It’s slow and warm and intimate and highly melodic songs are like lullabies that you can hear over and over an never get bored of them! Did I mentioned I just love their warm, unmodulated sound? HIGHLY recommended!
Calla – Televise (2003): Like the dark and twisted brother of Emmy Moll, this album by New York band Calla features a fragile and intimate sound that seduces your ears, but speaks about Serial Killers and love lost. Funny enough, Calla has almost the same set-up as Emmy Moll, one singer, one guitar, bass, drums and samples, but where Emmy Moll is light blue, soft and dreamy, Televise is dark and moody, but still very melodic and mellow.
Headphones music at it’s best.
Thought Industry – Black Umbrella (1997): Thought Industry, a band that existed from 1989 – 2001 and is labelled under “progressive metal” in Wikipedia, seems to have changed their style following the funny-titled albums Songs for Insects, Mods Carve the Pig: Assassins, Toads and God’s Flesh and Outer Space is just a Martini away to create this darkly shimmering gem. It may sound rough at times (the drums especially sound as if they the were recorded in a warehouse) but the songwriting is beyond critizism and the melodies catchy. I also like the almost dadaistic lyrics (), and how convinced front man Brent Oberlin sings them.
I would call this music “dark Pop” or “Grunge by funny people”, but I guess the folks at (publisher) Metal Blade wouldn’t like that 🙂 Anyways, if you ever have the chance check out this album, it’s even-my-girlfriend-likes-it good 🙂
Cake – Fashion Nugget (1996): Why Cake isn’t more famous is an absolute riddle to me! They say that there are a lot of great musicians in the world, but not a lot of people who know how to write great songs! Well, Cake unites the best of both worlds, they have great musicians AND a great song-writer in their singer John McCrea. Add to that, a pure and warm sound without any reverb, delay or modulation. And what’s more, on every one of their five records you will find songs, that – in a perfect world – should be played up and down on the radio stations of this planet! And they are a fun band. Contrary to – let’s say – Emmy Moll from above, you can dance and party to their songs, you can sing along or just do your chores while listening to their music – and still be happy! John McCrea might not be the most virtuosic singer, but his lyrics are just awesome – clever and funny and profound, all at the same time! Now, every Cake album is awesome, the reason I chose Fashion Nugget is simply because I find it the most condensed, it features some of their best songs (along with some great covers) and is just a great example of what this band is all about – Great music with addictive hooklines and ironic lyrics! But really, you could just as well listen to Comfort Eagle or Prolonging the Magic or any other of their albums and find the same qualities on them! Some people are just born talented!
Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary (1994): This Album is very dear to me! If you like honest, melodic and melancholic rock, that admittingly may sound a little underproduced compared to today’s standards, but wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and is not afraid to show it’s feelings, than this is for you!
And isn’t Sometimes one of the best songs ever written?
An underrated gem!
Rollins Band – Come in and burn (1997): There is a joke that Henry Rollins, head and mastermind of Rollins Band, only writes two kind of songs – “I” songs and “You” songs! That is because 99% of his lyrics start with these two words and either speak about his self-loathing, his doubts, his anger, or how he loathes, doubts or is angry with someone else!
Having said that, I don’t mind lyrical repetition if it comes as nicly wrapped as here! Rollins Band in the Come In and Burn era were a trio of educated jazz musicians who happened to work for one of the hardest working frontmen in the business, and you can clearly hear their bluesy influence in the grooves and rythms of this great album. Way better than (the overrated) Weight or The End of Silence, this is Rollins Band at their best – condensed, with heavy and melodic riffs, a highly talented backing band and a raw but powerfull production.
If you like Heavy Rock and have nothing against song titles as Shame, Starve or Saying Goodbye Again, then this is for you!
Darkest Hour – Undoing Ruin (2005): The first piece of music I ever bought myself was a cassette of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. I was a young kid back then, 9 or 10, and have fallen in love with “that children song” I saw on TV at that time so much, that I begged my mum to buy me the album of this Michael guy. My mother, a single parent with a badly-paid job, was hesitant at first, but ultimately couldn’t refuse any longer. So one day she finally gave me some money and I went for a prolonged walk to the nearest Libro (a chain of stores here in Vienna were you can buy games, movies, CDs etc.) So I found the cassette, bought it, went home and put it into my white, big ass Sony Walkman. Now, I don’t know if you know Dangerous, but it starts with a noise that sounds like glass bursting, or something being trashed to pieces. I remember my mum walked in and asked me how I liked the album, and to this day I remember the feeling of shame I felt because she had given me money and I have bought something so noisy, so repulsive! 🙂 I remember, the first couple of times I only managed to listen to the cassette under the blankets of my bed. But it grew on me, and I fell in love with the album shortly after! 🙂
The same thing happened to me two times more: Just 2 years after the Dangerous incident (you ca tell times have changed, I had a Sony Discman at that time 😉 I wished myself the In Utero album by this hip band Nirvana. When I got it for Christmas and put the CD in my Discman I felt the same kind of shame as with Michael Jackson years before. It was Christmas, everything was supposed to be peacefull and nice and wooly-warm, and here I was listening to this album that starts with such dissonant chords, had a song called Rape Me on it and a piece of industrial noise called Tourette’s Syndrome…of course, today I feel In Utero is Nirvana’s best album.
And then, again years later, I just had developed an Ebay addiction and would spend whole days in front of my computer buying and selling stuff, I stumbled on this album I never heard of by a band I never knew existed – Darkest Hour’s – Undoing Ruin. I’ll admit it, I bought it only because I liked the cover art so much (something which happened often in these days). So one week later I got the envelope, opened it, put it in the CD player and thought to myself – OMG, that singer-guy sounds like he would throw up constantly! Fortunately I was not a little boy and not living at home anymore, so I had no bad conscience, but when my then-girlfriend came home and I played the the first song for her I felt the familiar sensation of shame creeping in 🙂
But again, those feelings quickly disappeared and I actually admire Darkest Hour on this album for their consistancy – sure, their singer might sound as if he would throw up, but at least he sounds like that on every goddamned song! Not once does he try to sing or throw a melodic hookline into their songs, in that regard Undoing Ruin is a little bit like Come In and Burn – both albums have guitars that are responsible for leads and hooks, while their singer plows over them like a lawn mower stung by a wasp. And what great guitar riffs Undoing Ruin has, some of the most dramatic, melodic and simply beautiful that I have ever heard! This is not Slipknot territory where everything is tuned to Drop C and just exists to create heavyness, this is melody, melancholy and passion!
I also admired how normal these guys looked in the artwork, they made such heavy music, but didn’t have long black hair, didn’t wear black leather, didn’t have tattoos or piercings! I am always a sucker for people who undermine stereotypes by looking contrary to what is expected in the genre (note to self: must work on that pantomine-dubstep act!) and at that time, they basically looked like a bunch of architecture students, that happened to like fast and raw Metal – they might as well have been the new Weezer or some emo-band, just judging by their looks!
All in all, Undoing Ruin is an awesome album! You might come for the great guitar sound, but you will stay for the melodies and the surprisingly deep lyrics!
Sergeant Pluck Himself – Yesterday will not come again (2015) – A great Austrian band, that I discovered through Okto, a DIY TV-Station. They have a very warm and real Sound (think Red Hot Chilli Peppers in their Rick Rubin phaes), with some great hooklines and smart lyrics. I also like the humor on their website and that they do everything themselves: their cover art, their music Videos and so on…
A great Austrian alternative band!
Shihad – Shihad (1996) – I have no idea how I ever heard about that band, I seem to remember I was in a music store one day and just being fascinated enough with this cover art, that I choose to buy it. But, get this, according to Wikipedia “During Shihad’s recording career, they have produced five number-one studio albums (holding the title for most number one records for any Kiwi artist, alongside Hayley Westenra) and three top-ten singles in their home country of New Zealand”…
So basically a big band from a very small country 🙂 Anyways, the reason Shihad’s album is on this list is (similar as with Thought Industry) this is a band I knew nothing about, but became a huge fan of their sound and songwriting skills. Shihad (the Album) is clearly alternative rock, but with a soft edge and a lot of melancholy.
The secong best thing coming out of New Zealand!
Day One – Ordinary Man (2000) – Another masterpiece found in a bargain-bin. We started this list with a very quite Album, let’s end it with one.
Day One are two guys from Great Britain that make nice Trip Hop Songs, and who never forget at the end of day it’s not sounds or beats people remember, but melodies!
A great melancholic little record with charming vocals and smart lyrics!
Please note: All music and artwork presented on this page are copyrighted material by their respective owners, and are presented here only for promotional reasons! I hope to raise people’s awarness of these great underrated artists and do not intend opyright infridgement! DON’T SUE ME!!!