In lieu of an underappreciated musician post, let me tell you about some albums I love that flew under the radar.
In no particular order:
Elliott – False Cathedrals (2000)
I remember I went through an entire year where I couldn’t get enough of this album. A great mix of hard and soft songs, all tied to together with stellar, consistent production (especially on those drums!), excellent songwriting, and Chris Higdon’s passionate, largely unintelligible vocals that are somehow delicate and extremely powerful at the same time. Elliott had a unique, distinct sound, which is very rare these days. They released albums before and after, but they were able to bottle up some magic with this one. Check out “Drive on to me”:
Face to Face – Ignorance is Bliss (1999)
For a band that had its roots deep in the American punk rock scene, Face to Face took a departure for this record. Many of their die-hard fans rejected it, thinking the band were selling out with a more main stream rock type of sound, but to someone who doesn’t really like punk music, there are some truly great hard rock songs here. These guys aren’t guitar gods, but they did manage to write catchy, driving tunes and Trever Keith’s vocals are strong, and Pete Parada provides a solid backbone throughout. One of my favs on the album is “Burden”:
Rival Schools – United by Fate (2001)
Not the video game. Walter Schreifels has a great rock n roll voice. Period. It’s rugged and gravelly, and can hit higher notes than you’d expect. He also has a knack for writing super catchy songs and still maintaining a sensibility from his post-hardcore roots (see Quicksand). United by Fate doesn’t vary too much from its formula, but it’s a formula that works more often than not. Although, like Face to Face, the lead guitar leaves much to be desired and when there’s an attempt at a solo, it’s often cringe-worthy. “Used for Glue” is great to listen to as loud as possible in your car (and I didn’t even know until now they had a video for it. It’s kinda lame).
Sunny Day Real Estate – The Rising Tide (2000)
Sunny Day Real Estate is known by a lot of people for sort of being the pioneers for the “emo” genre, a label which they (rightfully so) reject. The term “emo” has changed quite a bit since it went mainstream – and became abhorrently lame because of it, but that’s another story. SDRE broke up in the mid-90s at what was probably the height of their popularity, but when the regrouped, they wrote what was probably their best album. The Rising Tide is, for lack of a better term, beautiful. It’s hard not to be beautiful, though, when you’re fronted by Jeremy Enigk. These guys are pros. You can tell by the intricate song structures and the subtleties of the instrumentation. They know when to turn it on and when to dial it back. There are some straight forward rock songs, but I think they are at their best when they take it down a notch. Check out “Tearing in my Heart”:
Pop Unknown – If Arsenic Fails, Try Algebra (2000)
A little less rock than the others, a little more spacey. But there still is room for some catchy rock songs. This is an album you want to thrown in on a long drive when your passenger is asleep. Some people don’t like the vocals, and they weren’t my favorite at first, but they grow on you. “An Offering” is a good representative of most of this album.
Looking back at all this, it’s pretty crazy that all 5 of these fall in a 2 year period. I definitely didn’t plan on that, I was just thinking of some albums last night and these are what I thought of. Maybe that just goes to show the state of rock music these days.