By Chris Pacifico
We here at JamBase are always looking out for the little guy. While the bulk of new music that you heard this year probably came from recommendations from your hipper-than-thou friend who remains glued to the blogs all day, we encourage you to check out the lesser known artists on this list. And, if these bands happen to breeze through your town, we encourage you to check them out, patronize their merch table, and give their tour van a jumpstart. Consider opening up your home to them. Give them a couch to sleep on, a hot meal, and even let them use your toothbrush. After all, what's a little canker sore between new friends?
1. Various – The World is Gone (XL)
This is an elusive UK duo known only as Adam and Ian, whose debut release is as enigmatic as their respective identities. Various may be more transient than Greta Garbo, but they're the first British band to take a forward thinking approach to dub and trip-hop since Massive Attack released Blue Lines 15 years ago. The World is Gone takes "avantronica" on a voyage more chilled than a Coors light served at an outdoor kiosk in Antarctica. It's a mélange of stabbing beats and bass, cinematic sprinkles, and collaborations with an array of songbirds just as mysterious as the band itself. In a way, it's probably best that Various remains underneath a reclusive shroud since their wobbly stew of IDM and minimalist techno makes one listen with their ears and imaginations.
2. The Drones – Gala Mill (All Tomorrows Parties)
For those who saw the film Wolf Creek, The Drones would be the perfect house band in the junkyard of that crazy serial torturer. This Melbourne collective retreated to an abandoned mill in an isolated section of Tasmania to record this dark punk blues album. While showcasing the dark side of humans like their fellow countryman Nick Cave, The Drones throw down snail paced reverb, psych-punk, and a noir vibe straight out of a David Lynch film. Along with singer Gareth Lillard's craggy rasp, the listener can also hear the wind and creepy creaking nooks and crannies of the mill and chirping crickets. Tell the dingo to sit this one out because The Drones have its baby!
3. Darc Mind – Symptomatic of a Greater Ill (Anticon)
Darc Mind (MC Kevroc and producer Webb D) are living proof that red tape can tangle up the record industry. They began work on Symptomatic of a Greater Ill back in '95. It was slated to be released in '97 on Loud Records but after the label went bankrupt Symptomatic was shelved for nine years. Kevorc's deep water baritone stacks up verses like containers in a shipping port, while Webb D dishes out a slew of minimalist 2am g-funk beats and grooves. Darc Mind contains the cool and reserved disposition of EPMD and righteous, deep lyrics akin to Gil Scott Heron and the Last Poets. Symptomatic is an unearthed hip-hop gem that remains true to the term "better late then never."
4. Totimoshi – Ladron (Crucial Blast)
After kicking ass all over the place at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City this past fall, this Oakland trio has gone through more drummers than Spinal Tap, forcibly torn out pieces from the salad days of Iron Maiden and Kyuss, and collided head-on with their own brand of stoner rock that's crustier than a bad case of psoriasis. Led by bass vixen Meg Castellano and her husband/vocalist/guitarist Tony Aguilar, they offer brimstone riffs and a voice that's a mix between a serpent and that one dude in your neighborhood who fixes everybody's cars, the one where you can actually hear all of the Camels he smokes.
5. Dosh – The Lost Take (Anticon)
Minneapolis native Martin Dosh gives listeners a reason to clap their hands and say "Yah," as they do in his native state. This drum teacher by day, multi-instrumentalist by night has combined his abilities as a minimalist troubadour with masterful lo-fi bedroom funk, blip-hop, acid jazz, and half buried samples. The results sound cuddly and demented. The Lost Take also features guest spots from Andrew Bird and Tapes 'n Tapes.
6. Archie Bronson Outfit – Derdang Derdang (Domino)
It's like the Kinks went to a titty bar and recorded an album for pole dancing with tunes as grimy as a strip club lunch buffet. Blending a jittery combo of British Invasion-era garage rock, kooky blues, and the call-and-response lyrics of drummer Sam Windett and guitarist Mark Cleveland, whose panic-ridden vocals seem as if a scud missile is only seconds away from blowing him to bits. This trio from the rural UK hamlet of Wiltshire has made an album that'll probably remain a mainstay of the Little Steven's Underground Garage radio program as well as your CD player.
7. Nino Moschella – The Fix (Ubiquity)
Nino Moshcella is a one-man groove-machine. On his debut effort The Fix, this 29-year old Bay Area funkster plays nearly all the instruments as well as proving the point that sometimes in order to find the best music you have to look under the radar. He's a test tube baby with the mixed gene pool of Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, and Citizen Cope. Moschella captures the essence of labels like Motown and Stax, while pushing the envelope with plenty of bubbly electronica and razor sharp harmonies. For all you old school vinyl collectors who haven't found anything interesting lately, The Fix is guaranteed to end your dry spell.
8. Gotan Project – Lunatico (XL)
For spellbinding fusions of world music, all of the hype this year went to the Balkan and former Soviet territories including Beirut's Gulag Orkestar. I encourage you to look south to Argentina, the home of tango by way of the Paris-based trio, Gotan Project. They splice cinematic French-filler with a whole lot of Argentina's main musical export, cooked up with rudimentary electronica garnishes. It features a collaboration with Calexico ("Amore Porteno") and a spicy cover of Ry Cooder's "Paris, Texas." It may have been five years since Gotan Project's last album but Luntico was well worth the wait.
9. Entrance – Prayer of Death (Tee Pee)
If Connor Oberst ventured off into the desert on a peyote binge, and added a bit more of a yip to his voice, chances are he'd put out something similar to Prayer of Death. This is the brainchild of 21-year old boy wonder Guy Blakeslee. While not as lavish as Sufjan Stevens or as granola-y as Devendra, this tripped out one-man army throws off a heady cluster of psych folk, sitars, Delta blues, and a hormonal lyrical execution similar to Mott the Hoople and T. Rex.
10. What Made Milwaukee Famous
Trying to Never Catch Up (Barsuk)
During the first half of 2006 many fans were led to believe new albums from Radiohead and the Shins were coming soon only to be receive two goose eggs. In the meantime, the debut from What Made Milwaukee Famous (they're actually from Austin) took hints from the best of both bands, as well as This Year's Model-era Elvis Costello for sugary power pop hooks, sparkling synths, and the chameleon edge of singer Michael Kingcaid.
11. Young Widows – Settle Down City (Jade Tree)
Those waiting for Drive Like Jehu and the Jesus Lizard to reunite need to come to terms with the fact that it's never going to happen. But, if you insist on waiting in vain then be sure to grab a copy of Settle Down City to tide you over. Singer/guitarist Evan Patterson's ashtray of a voice and extremely loud, jagged, feedback drenched guitar slabs reign in plenty of elastic, post hardcore with waves of arty tension like At the Drive-In gone criminally insane. This Louisville combo puts the power back in "power trio."
12. The Ocean – Aeolian (Metal Blade)
Germany hasn't really brought much metal to the table for the past decade or so but that's about to change as The Ocean gives them all das boot. While Isis may have taken the reigns as the captains of prog metal this year, The Ocean serves as first mates. Their prolific approach to the genre has six vocalists all working in a round robin fashion to contribute on each of Aeolian's tracks, which incorporate pneumatic riffs and lofty neo-classical infusions that recreate a storm on the high seas. This is no doubt, Poseidon's favorite metal band.
13. The Brother Kite
Waiting for the Time to be Right (Clairecords)
If there is one album cover this year that can sum up a band's sound it's Waiting for the Time to Be Right. The Brother Kite is like the love child of Spiritualized and Death Cab For Cutie. They harmoniously merge an atmospheric shoegazer aesthetic with elastic sugary melodies and wrangling power pop. Airy reverb and seductive guitars add hints of dreamy, and sometimes dark, overtones like Echo and the Bunnymen or My Bloody Valentine. The time is right for The Brother Kite.
14. A Shoreline Dream
Avoiding the Consequences (Latenight Weeknight)
This Denver quartet has created a true Mile High high on their debut release consisting of tranquil, melodic psych with post-rock druthers. Singer-guitarist Ryan Policky sounds as if he's singing from the bottom of a well. Avoiding the Consequences uses precisely layered drones and Policky's stellar production to create the sonic equivalent of an aurora borealis.
15. Ghostland Observatory
Paparazzi Lightning (Trashy Moped)
Straight out of a scene from a 1980's swingers party catered by Pablo Escobar, where unprotected nookie with multiple partners is all the rage, this Austin duo packs the punch of a full punk band splintering together Prince, Daft Punk and just about every other indulgence of the "Me" generation. Led by the spastic yelp of Aaron Behrens and the electro kitsch blips and bleeps of Thomas Turner, Paparazzi Lightning is chock full of techno soul, beefy funk, and irresistibly raunchy ass shaking grooves tantamount to a bastardized version of Thriller. At times the force of Ghostland Observatory's thrust could probably cause Jacko's nose to fall off.
16. Ane Brun – A Temporary Dive (V2)
While she may be on her way to becoming a household name in her native Norway, Ane Brun remains one of the most overlooked and auspicious songwriters today with a natural, birdlike voice. A Temporary Dive is an ostentatious panorama of Brun's translucent folk style consisting of rudimentary arrangements and a lilting anodyne coo. If the scintillating "Balloon Ranger" doesn't pick you up off your feet then either the spaghetti western-tinged "The Fight Song" or "Song No. 6," a duet with Ron Sexsmith, will. What's with all these Norse folks and their proclivity for creating some of the most icy and glistening styles of music? It must be something in the drinking water.
17. Gojira – From Mars to Sirius (Prosthetic Records)
France isn't really the first geographical breeding ground that comes to mind when thinking of metal but now that Gojira has stepped into the picture that may change. On From Mars to Sirius the hurricane strength breeze of singer-guitarist Joe Duplantier pilots Gojira's [pronounced go-zee-ruh] grindcore jitters through a taffy pull, rendering it rather soothing. Mastodon isn't the only metal band who can make a concept album with a whale on the cover. A great deal of their songs contain lyrics touching on issues about man's effect on Earth and the need to do something ASAP. The most eco friendly ass kicking you'll get this year.
18. Nobody & the Mystic Chords of Memory
Tree Colored Sea (Mush)
Sounding like Portishead took a long sabbatical to a 1960's California beach commune, Tree Colored Sea is a collaboration between DJ/producer/remixer Nobody and the Mystic Chords of Memory. Like the luminous wafting of bong smoke under black light, these Cali lads take Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds and splice it with Nobody's floating, atmospheric grooves. Who would have thought that the collaboration of the year would have brought about the maiden merger of psychedelic alt-country and trip-hop?
19. Under Byen
Samme Stof Som Stof (Paper Bag Records)
Having racked up acclaim in their native Denmark for almost a decade, Under Byen [pronounced oh-nah boon] has touched down stateside with the spellbinding Samme Stof Som Stof. Recorded over two summers and a winter, sans guitars, in an 18th century house in Belgium, this is a masterful mélange brimming with symphonic reverb and a frugal sense of opulence. Henriette Sennenvaldt's individualist voice is at the helm of this band's penchant for chilly chamber pop made from violins, cellos, vintage organs, and various percussion.
20. Beach House
Beach House (Car Park)
The Baltimore duo of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand seem like members of an Atlantis commune that washed ashore with an album recorded on the ocean floor. Beach House is a vivid multitude of frugal opulence, glimmering ambient druthers in a minor key, a fibrous hybrid of delicate guitars, organs, and Brill Building pop. Beach House's cinematic ebb and flow will have DJ Shadow eager to dig this out of his crates to sample on future tracks.
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