get your ears on

Musicians  I totally dig that you’ve probably never heard of.

The Weakerthans:  Driving to dinner with a friend one night, I suddenly became aware of a song playing on his stereo.  “Who the heck is this?”  “The Weakerthans.”  “Never heard of them.”   I rectified that situation immediately.  The Weakerthans are a slightly punky, slightly folky band from Canada; their songs are plaintive, lyrics-driven, and some of the saddest things I’ve ever heard.  (Give a listen to Hospital Vespers).   They aren’t entirely unfamous; they had a couple of number one hits in Canada and some of their music has appeared in various soundtracks, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard them on the radio here.   It’s a pity; they deserve to be much better known than they are.

Vic Chesnutt:  I used to live across the street from Vic when I lived in Athens, GA.  He was in a local band called the La-Di-Das but he later went solo.  He had a long and varied career, singing mostly very gothic southern folk rock.  Think  R.E.M. through a glass very, very darkly.   He had a brief flirt with mainstream success; Michael Stipe produced his first two albums, he was in a movie or two, and a bunch of very famous people did a tribute album of his songs.  And then he died.   The clip below was recorded about a month before his death in Dec 2009.  He was amazing.

Withered Hand:  Another lyric-driven folky/punky sort of band, this one out of Scotland.  They’ve done a small handful of albums, only one of which I could find on amazon.com (at import prices…ugh).  I found these guys on a blog I regularly read and pretty much immediately had their CD delivered to my doorstep.  It’s been on the iPod ever since.

Jonathan Coulton:  OK, I’m cheating on this one.  You’ve probably heard of JoCo.  But if you haven’t you should.  He’s probably most famous for the song that plays over the end credits for the game Portal.  Or, if you play WoW, he’s famous as the guy behind the music in Spiffworld’s amazing machima videos.  Five years ago (almost) he did something called “Thing a Week”, wherein he recorded and released a song every single week for an entire year.   This impressive accomplishment included a very  large number of original songs, some brilliant covers (Leonard Cohen‘s Famous Blue Raincoat!!), and all kinds of awesome.  I actually had a horrible time trying to figure out what clip to include…

(PS: the one I really wanted to include is here.  Don’t click the link if elves in their birthday suits alarm you.  I mean it.)

Flat Duo Jets: Probably one of the most influential bands you’ve never heard of, especially if you like The White Stripes and Neko Case.  It’s hard to describe the band, but I can tell you this.  For a span of five years and change if the Flat Duo Jets came to town, I dropped whatever else I was doing and went to see them.  They are simply the best live band I have ever seen.   And Dexter Romweber is a god among  men.  Or something like that.  Sadly, the Jets are long gone, but Dexter still records and tours, sometimes solo and sometimes with his sister (who used to be in Let’s Active and Snatches of Pink).  If you can catch them live, do it.  You won’t regret it.

The Pillows:   The Japanese take their pop culture very seriously and developing more than a passing familiarity with  J-pop requires a fair amount of dedication.  Fortunately, you can get a good head start with the soundtrack from the  anime FLCL, which was basically the first three albums from a band called The Pillows.   Tracing their influences from Simon & Garfunkel to The Jam via Nirvana, they cover a lot of musical bases.  Plus, they have a creepy bear.

(Incidentally  there is a lot of really good music tacked onto various animes, all the way from the Evangelion theme song to the series openers for Full Metal Alchemist.  I swear, half the music in my head anymore is Japanese.)

Score:  Every musician on this list is  made entirely from w00t!

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~ by gun street girl on May 10, 2010.

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