music: mgmt

Nine Very Underrated Bands

Here are a few bands that deserve much more recognition than they have received. I was going to write about overrated bands, but this is much more constructive than saying how much a band sucks. Enjoy!

9. Built to Spill

You never really hear much about Built to Spill, even though they have been around over 20 years. Led by the bearded genius Doug Martsch, Built to Spill have released several albums worthy of much more praise. There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, a 1994 LP, was the band’s second release, filled with catchy moments and grimy jams. The band really shines on the tracks Car, Cleo, and Distopian Dream Girl.Their following two albums, Perfect from Now On and Keep It Like a Secret carry on the same sounds of There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, developing the heavy, indie sound that Built to Spill owns. Perfect is incredibly easy to listen to, the tracks blend together to form a single song that you hope never ends. Secret delivers some of the best Built to Spill tracks in Carry the Zero and Else. Carry the Zero is nearly 6 minutes of perfection, complete with fast parts, slow parts, catchy riffs, and a chorus of “oohhs”. Doug Martsch and the band released some of the best indie rock albums of the ‘90s, but have more recently made a comeback with a great LP You In Reverse, and Conventional Wisdom, a great single from the same album. The band’s last release was in 2009, but they are still actively touring. 

8. The Antlers

Peter Silberman originally formed The Antlers as a solo project, releasing Uprooted and In the Attic of the Universe in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Uprooted and Attic are two of the most beautifully simple LPs you will ever hear. Written solely by Silberman, the two albums feature perfectly simple guitar work, minimal percussion, and of course, Silberman’s powerful falsetto. Some of the best songs are Keys, Nashua, Uprooted, and The Universe Is Going to Catch You, but both albums should really be listened to as one piece. This is definitely true about Hospice, The Antlers’ first LP as a band, which follows the story of an emotionally abusive relationship through the analogy of a dying patient and in hospice. All of the songs are incredibly deep and emotional, but the highlights are Kettering, Sylvia, Bear, Two, Wake, and Epilogue, hell, the whole album is just one huge highlight. Their most recent full length, Burst Apart was also a huge success, contributing to the growing repertoire of the band’s passionate, meaningful songs. Their EP Undersea added a few more, namely Drift Dive and Zelda. They are currently working on a new full length to be released later this year. 

7. MGMT

Sure the first full length of Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, Oracular Spectacular has received its fair share of praise and appreciation, but that is where it has stopped. Everyone knows the song Kids, and maybe Electric Feel, but what about anything from their subsequent albums. Their 2010 release Congratulations was even better than the radio-friendly Oracular Spectacular with songs like It’s Working, Flash Delirium, the 12 minute Siberian Breaks, and the title track. Their self-titled LP, that was released this past September received very little press, and was definitely one of the most underrated albums of 2013.  The band has so much more to offer than Kids, a song that you will never hear at an MGMT concert. MGMT is a relatively new band, almost 9 years old, but the progress that they have made deserves much more recognition.

 6. The Moody Blues

 

The Moody Blues are a band that really brings to light the ridiculous nature of the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”. The fact that The Moodys released a streak of very solid albums from Days of Future Passed in 1967 to The Seventh Sojourn in 1973 alone should have resulted in their induction. Then again, there is no point to argue this because the Hall of Fame has become a joke. The blending of classical music with rock of the ‘60s on Days of Future Passed was both successful and innovative. On The Threshold of a Dream is another success of the band, released in 1969, full of catchy riffs and sci-fi overtones that the public really never took to. The hit Nights in White Satin is almost all that is remembered from one of the better bands of the period of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s following the breakup of The Beatles. 

5. Nick Drake

Drake’s songs are incredibly intimate, the products of a genius songwriter, I can only wish that more of these gems could have been written before his untimely passing in 1974. Whether he committed suicide or not has never been determined, but he suffered from depression throughout his life, preventing him from touring or performing live for that matter, which led to very little commercial success during his lifetime. His three albums, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter, and Pink Moon follow the gradual downfall of his mental being. Five Leaves and Bryter Layter include some accompanying strings, and his farewell to music, Pink Moon, is comprised of simply Drake’s voice and his guitar. Respect to Bob Dylan, but Northern Sky, among others could be considered some of the best songs to be written.

4. Yes

Yes has a huge following, and their fair share of honors, yet the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame continues to ignore them. The strong backbone of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Bill Bruford (until the mid-70s) helped Yes to release multiple successful albums during the early ‘70s, where many other Prog Rock bands failed to keep a single line-up. Close to the Edge remains one of the best pieces of Prog Rock, with the adventurous, title track occupying the entire first half of the album. The accomplishments of Yes speak for themselves; the band is not underrated in anyway, yet they are definitely underappreciated. In the next few years they will surely be joining Genesis and Rush in the Hall of Fame, but it is an outrage it has taken this long.

3. The Zombies

While The Zombies only released two albums during the ‘60s, breaking up after the release of Odessey and Oracle in 1968, these two albums were full of quality material. The Zombies first album, Begin Here, released in 1965, spawned the hits She’s Not There and Tell Her No, along with some solid covers such as You Really Got A Hold On Me, by Smokey Robison and Sam Cooke. This album was received generally well, but the follow up in 1968 should have topped numerous charts. The Zombies arrange some of the best tunes, from Care of Cell 44, to Changes, to, Time of the Season, any of these songs should have been able to chart, yet only Time of the Season is remembered. It’s a shame that such an exciting band of the “British Invasion” has been put on the back burner. Although their repertoire is not very large, every single one is enjoyable to listen to.

2. The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground is remembered, as they should, for their part in the development of rock music during the late ‘60s. When you talk about the great songwriters/bands of the ‘60s you will first hear The Beatles and Bob Dylan as being above the rest. The Velvet Underground should be right up with them as a band that successfully experimented in just about every genre of rock. Their first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico illustrates this range. From the hectic jams of I’m Waiting For The Man and Venus In Furs, to the peaceful I’ll Be Your Mirror and Sunday Morning, The Velvets cover it all. Heroin is one of the realest songs you will ever hear, every word of the strung out Lou Reed is believable, as I’m sure it is. Subsequent releases are only more successful, White Light/White Heat and the fuzzy, 17-minute jam of Sister Ray to the touching Candy Says on their self titled album of 1969. 1970s Loaded led to one of the bands actual “hits” in Sweet Jane. The Velvet Underground should be listed with The Beatles and Bob Dylan and the Stones as some of the most important bands in history. While The Velvet Underground didn’t receive much commercial success in their early years, they have begun to be much more appreciated.

1. The Kinks

Of course it is difficult to survive in an era dominated by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but Ray Davies and the Kinks released some of best albums of the time in the shadow of the colossal acts. The singles You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night reached early successes for the band, charting in the UK and in the US, but that is about where the commercial success of the band ended. Releasing a few albums after those two singles, the Kinks really got a hold of themselves by the released of Face to Face in 1966, as public opinion dropped, Ray Davies began writing some of his best music. Something Else By the Kinks was one of their best albums, spawning the tracks Death of A Clown and one of the best songs of the ‘60s, Waterloo Sunset. The Kinks Are The Village Green Society, the follow up to Something Else, is a concept album about a return to innocence in the industrialized countryside of Great Britain. The album did not chart in the UK or in the US, but it led to some great songs, the title track, Do You Remember Walter, Animal Farm, and Village Green. By this time Ray Davies had lost most of his confidence due to poor public reception. Arthur and Lola, two more great albums were released as the ‘60s came to a close, but by no means should be forgotten. Victoria and Shangri-La, along with the ever-popular Lola should be remembered as great songs. Thankfully the Kinks have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, yet they are a band plagued by a few hits. Far from a one hit wonder, the Kinks have much more to offer than You Really Got Me, All Day, and Lola. In a time where many albums were made of singles and a lot of filler, the Kinks wrote great songs and filler is nearly non-existent in their repertoire. 

NOTES: I really wanted to put Pink Floyd on this list, because most people glance over their work from Piper to Meddle, focusing only on Dark Side and The Wall, but i decided that they are appreciated enough. Also King Crimson’s first album is highly unappreciated, but with a band that couldn’t hold onto a consistent lineup for more than a single album it is hard to judge them as a single band. Progressive Rock in general is highly underrated as a whole and I could have gone on and one about numerous bands. Thanks for reading!