Here we go again! At my friend Katie's suggestion, I've decided to tackle another list. Since I did movies last time, I thought it appropriate to do my other great love--music. Rather than do the best albums, or songs, or bands (all those would be impossible for me to do)...I decided to make my list of the Top 10 greatest bands not commonly known. My criteria is simple--I didn't find out about any of these bands in the "usual" way (i.e. MTV, radio). Some are old, some are new--they're all good and warrant more exposure (go buy a CD, check out a video on YOUTUBE).
10. Telephone--I found out about Telephone by chance on the Internet. I went in cold, and fell in love. They're very "New Wave" (lots of synths, this stuff is about as close to techno/dance music as I'll probably ever get). And yet, they have a very cool rock-aesthetic. My favorite song is "Rock Club" which sounds like Head Automatica and Guitar Hero/Rock Band favorites Freezepop blended together. It's fun.
9. Acid House Kings--No band has a more wrong-sounding name than AHK's. Sounds like some sort of metal band, right? Try Indie Swedish pop. I've always been a sucker for sickeningly sweet boy-girl groups, and AHK's are the sweetish I've ever heard (think ABBA, but less disco...more Indie). This band has some of the saddest, sweetest, most "heart-on-their-sleeve" songs I've ever heard. Their album MONDAYS ARE LIKE TUESDAYS AND TUESDAYS ARE LIKE WEDNESDAYS is heartbreaking and joyous at the same time. Go listen to "Say Yes If You Love Me," if you don't smile--you're heart is made of stone.
8. The Village Green--Though they get their name from an old Kinks record, The Village Green actually have more in common with 90's Britpop-ers like Oasis and Supergrass. I heard about this band on an internet radio station (that sadly no longer exists). The band used to only have an EP but recently put out an album on iTUNES. Go check out "Get Up, Get Out, Get High" it's the kinda thing Liam Gallagher used to write before all the fame.
7. The Shazam--The Shazam are the band that "Little" Steven Van Zandt champions on his famous Underground Garage radio show...but I found out about 'em on CDBaby.com (a great indie-Cd shop). What can I say? They rock, really, really, really hard. Think Cheap Trick-meets-Jellyfish. Serious power-pop with killer hooks. I have no idea why this band isn't mega-famous. Check out "Gettin' Higher" or "Sweet Bitch" on iTUNES.
6. Scapegoat Wax--Don't like rap? Me neither, but I love Marty James. He sings and raps. Somewhere in between rock, rap, and techno-dance-music...there is Scapegoat Wax. I first heard about SW in (of all things) and XBOX game (JET SET FUTURE RADIO). The song was "Aisle 10 (Allison)" a song that spoke to the photo-clerk in me. This song is a pretty good slice of what makes SW great--killer hook, silly (but literate) lyrics, and subject matter that's slightly more down-to-earth than your regular rapper (he works in store, and from the register sees the girl of his dreams).
5. Bishop Allen--This one is gaining in popularity. Bishop Allen's first album CHARM SCHOOL was a blend of the White Stripes more quirky numbers coupled with The Beatles. The first record finds BA as a guy-girl band, while their latest THE BROKEN STRING, is just the boys (the gals both left and I hear are teachers). What's the big deal? These guys are serious about music--last year they put out a 3-song EP every month (each titled for the month it was released). I love the campfire-sing-along on CHARM SCHOOL, "Another Waster Night" (hint: go check that one out). The new record is good too (the Paul Simon-esque "Click, Click, Click" has already been in a few commercials...but I strongly recommend you seek out the stupidly upbeat "Rain" the next time you are down in the dumps--it will pick you up 100% guaranteed).
4. The Minus 5--What does REM do when they're not busy being REM? Well Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey are in this band! Loopy garage rock meets XTC (see below) style pop ensues. Now that REM is pretty dormant, the band is really starting to release more and more music, but check out 2004's IN ROCK--if for no other reason than the Byrds-ish sounding "The Little Black Egg." Great (overlooked) stuff, by some famous dudes.
3. Manda & the Marbles--This is a great 80's pop-rock band. I don't know much about them, except that they were obviously children of the 80's (no question). Now, I'm not talking Duran Duran...think Joan Jett (with a dash of young Madonna). The lead singer has a versatile voice (compare "Kids Just Wanna to Dance" with the softer "Seventeen") and is hot to boot! I only have ANGLES WITH DIRTY FACES, but I hear they have a new album out/coming out. They're worth checking out for sure! Go find the sentimental "Seventeen," "Lipstick," and "Kids Just Wanna Dance."
2. XTC--Controversy! XTC was (at one time) on MTV...waaaaaaay back in the day. Why do I include them? Well, they're basically known as a "one-hit-wonder" band from the 80's ("Mayor of Simpleton"). But from their 1979 debut, Andy Partridge and company have been making some of the best, wittiest, catchy pop songs around. My uncle turned me onto them back in 2001 when their most recent (last?) set of records came out (the beautiful APPLE VENUS VOL. 1 and the wicked WASP STAR: APPLE VENUS VOL. 2). Since they've been around so long, their sound runs the gambit--from standard four piece rock, to quirky New Wave, to 80's lite-rock, to today's more experimental/rock. They never got famous because the lead singer/songwriter came down with a bad case of stage fright--had that not happened, I'm confident they'd be huge today. In recent years, I've heard rumors that the band is finished...which is too bad. But Partridge is still recording, releasing an album of weird songs every few years. Check out "Stupidly Happy" or "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" both are on WASP STAR: APPLE VENUS VOL. 2. I think YOUTUBE also has some really funny (and very cheesy) videos from the 80's.
1. Locksley--Out of all of 'em, Locksley is THE band you might one day hear people talking about in the "mainstream." I found them on CDbaby and bought their (now out-of-print) first record SAFELY FROM THE CITY. I fell in love with their Fountains Of Wayne-style pop-rock. But then the boys from New York fell off my radar. A few years later, I happen upon their new, "major" label debut DON'T MAKE ME WAIT. Now they're on MTV (sorta, one of their songs is used as the theme song for some make-over show). Like Rooney, they're now also opening for (in my opinion) crappier (but more famous) bands (Hanson). Though I don't hold any of this against them, the band's appeal is such that anyone caught listening to them will be a convert. I'm not even going to suggest a song for you to seek--they're all good. I am partial to "Don't Make Me Wait" and the blistering guitar solo on "For You." Anyone that yearns for the days of Beach Boys, Beatles, Byrds, and Stones needs to check these guys out.