2010 has been a good year for discovering bands I never paid attention to before, or discovering parts of their catalog I never bothered to. All of the artists on this list have been around for at least 5 years, and usually much, much longer. I'll try and explain a little as to why I missed them and why it's worth your while to check these bands out for the first time if you haven't heard them, or for the second time if you've dismissed them.
Welcome to Part II, about the still-green. (Click here for part one if you missed it: Bowie, Springsteen, Petty, etc)
(reprinted from previous feature about the band)
It's an absolute miracle that I hadn't gotten into the Replacements before now. Back in college, I was a huge Vagrant records kid, and probably listened to every band about a thousand times. Except for Paul Westerberg (lead singer of the Replacements), that mysterious old guy on the label who wasn't doing shoulder-sleeve emo or hardcore lite. I knew a few of his songs, and I knew a lot of obsessed Replacements fans, and I knew that crazy video that's always in top ten lists where all you see is a speaker pulsating.
But then I saw Adventureland, with its superb late 80s indie soundtrack. I tracked down pretty much every song in the movie, and a LOT of them are by the Replacements. Classic jangly guitar rock of the best kind, celebrating youth and nihilism and all the things we get nostalgic about. Keep in mind that this was around the time that alternative music was just getting started, punk was over, the radio was deluged with overproduced crap (and HAIR METAL!) So I imagine the Replacements were a breath of fresh air to kids looking for something else, anything else.
The band themselves self-destructed in a pretty spectacular fashion. Never able to let go of their anarchist roots, they decided that in every tv performance or industry show they would get hammered and sabotage their own careers. There are hilarious videos out there (track down the SNL performance for an absolute doozy of drunken lyrical fumbling. They are one of very few acts that were actually BANNED from SNL, that paragon of good taste).
Recommended Tracks: Alex Chilton, Can't Hardly Wait, Bastards of Young, Swingin' Party
And now we arrive at the shoegaze portion of our article. I first heard of Galaxie 500 in a Liz Phair song called "Stratford-on-Guy." I got into early Liz Phair at such a young age that I probably didn't even realize that Galaxie 500 was the name of a band, heh. Then, a couple of years ago, I had a very good friend recommend the band to me, but for whatever reason I never got around to listening to them until recently.
They gained fame in the United Kingdom first, thanks to the late, great John Peel. While they cited the Velvet Underground and Jonathan Richman as key influences, they in turn influenced an entire generation of shoe-gaze music.
Trivia: The drummer(Damon Krukowski)'s best friend was Conan O'Brien, who had a drumkit that he never played. The band couldn't afford a drumkit in their early records, so they just used Conan's for years.
Recommended Tracks: When Will You Come Home, Another Day, Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste
MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND
Why I didn't listen to her is simple: stupid name. I just assumed she was in the Paramore/My Chemical Romance/ faux-emo camp taking over the airwaves in 2006.
But six months after discovering her, I can't get enough of her. Everytime that "Dragonfly" comes up on my iPod I just have to stop whatever I'm doing and let it wash over me. Which is not to say her music is slow, just otherworldly. Apart from PJ Harvey-esque footstompers like "Freak Out."
You've heard Shara Worden in other songs; she's the go-to female back-up for The National, Sufjan Stevens and the Decemberists.
God only knows why the band has only released one album since 2006; perhaps they felt they couldn't top the near-perfection of that year's Bring Me the Workhorse. But it is a very, very good album, and I'm glad to come to it, even though I've come to it late.
Recommended Tracks: Dragonfly, Freak Out, Something of an End
Here's a more recent band, also famed for a theme song: the perfectly quirky song for the perfectly quirky comedy Community.
They've been around since 1996, when they released the near perfect album Over and Over. Keith Slettedahl, the lead singer, has a unique voice well-suite to the unpredictability of the band's music.
Recommended Tracks: Haunt You, Battle Scar, Coming Home
They came up the same time as fellow NYC bands Interpol and The Strokes, and have always inspired similar devotion from their fans. But while Interpol's style is unmistakably English (and Mancunian at that), The Walkmen draw inspiration from more diverse sources; in every song there's the trace of southern gospel, but there's the careful instrumentation now common in bands like Arcade Fire, but there's also a punk spirit. The Walkmen are a band of many faces.
One of my closest friends in college was an obsessed fan of The Walkmen, and yet I couldn't latch on. They had a ubiquitous single that I just didn't get back then; there was so much great music I didn't get back then. Well, as a tribute to my friend, I decided to watch the band at Reading Festival, and I was blown away. They're wonderfully unaffected, and have one of the strongest vocalists I've ever heard.
Recommended Tracks: Victory, I'm Never Bored, We've Been Had