Last week, a young man wandered into the Bureau offices. As ever, the staff was sequestered in the board room, furiously deriding any band with more than 10,000 CDs in active circulation. The stranger appeared in the doorway just as we began our verbal onslaught against the String Cheese Incident.
“Dude, you don’t understand,” the young man said. “Their live show will change your life.”
Obviously, this person was an idiot. We immediately shooed him out of the office with our official “philistine broom,” but he got us thinking. What kind of music gets dismissed too hastily or ignored undeservedly? We decided to approach the topic with a broad focus: anything from misunderstood albums to forgotten genres would qualify for this list. Here’s what we came up with:
Daft Punk’s Human After All
Can someone, please, tell my why Human After All is so maligned? What, I ask, were you expecting from a Daft Punk record?
Yes, Homework is transcendent and Discovery is euphoric, footsteps in which Human After All does not quite follow. But listening to the worst Daft Punk record is like sleeping with the least attractive Bundchen sister. Maybe your life could be spectacular instead of merely great, but you still have no right to complain.
Let me put it to you this way: I need as much Daft Punk in my life as I can get. Granted, 90% my Daft Punk Time consists of listening to “Around the World,” but I’m damn grateful to have “Robot Rock,” “Human After All” (the song), and “Television Rules the Nation” to help me fill in the remaining 10%. All of you HAA haters should take this to heart. If you’re happy with only getting “Daft Punk remixes Daft Punk” for the rest of your life, keep on bitching. But if, like me, you would like our glistening robot lords to grace us once again with brand new music, start by being grateful for what they have already given you.
The Warsaw Village Band & World Music
No one is as perturbed as I am when it comes to underrated music. While majority of independent music critics are careful to give full reviews to an array of genres and styles, they still know what people would rather hear. Similar to how “Literature” (aka LITERATURE!!!) always sidelines any “lesser” genre in the ranks of important English novels, “rock” and “pop” are the predetermined favorites among the indie crowd. I’m happy to hear that artists like M.I.A. have deservedly garnered so much critical attention, but I’d like to hear more about my pick for underrated music: the Warsaw Village Band.
They’re underrated because their genre kills them straight off the bat. They’re from Poland, and they play traditional folk music, all sung in Polish. Their genre? World music. Yeah, they’re doomed. Who the fuck listens to world music? I guess some people: the BBC and NPR like to talk about it, but that’s about as far as it goes. So I think the Warsaw Village Band is forever destined to be a niche band, even though they’re notable for reviving near-extinct folk traditions in Poland. They’ve had a couple of notable interviews, available online, with a variety of interesting audio clips. Check them out—if not for yourself, for Poland. For world music.
One word: Low. Lots of people have heard of them, but few listen. True, their music is depressing, slow, and harrowing. But it’s never lugubrious. Low has as many shades of melancholy as Seattle has types of rain. Their vocal harmonies are the sounds of angels playing in an abandoned strip mall. Their music is the sound of a glacier being used as a cello bow. Actually, in hindsight, those silly metaphors are everything Low’s music is not. Low is, first and foremost, human. Their music is the sound of humans, sometimes frustrated, sometimes enamored with the world. Nothing I could ever write would do this band justice. Their music means a lot to me, and speaks to me in a way no other band ever has. So give them a listen.
I wasn’t sure if I should write about underrated music by regular standards or by hipster standards. For example, normal people love Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds because it’s such a well-produced, fun album. Hipsters hate it because, well, it’s JT. Anyway, my point is that this topic is entirely dependent on the tightness of your jeans.
That said, I’m going to defend Oasis. I realize they’re a big joke and their last three records were crap, but that’s no reason to write off their first three. Definitely Maybe and Be Here Now are distinctive nineties alternative rock albums, and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory could be used to define the genre. The Gallagher brothers may be good for a laugh nowadays, but “Champagne Supernova”? That’s a quality tune.
The Guillemots’ Through the Windowpane
My favorite album of 2006 is the Guillemots’ Through the Windowpane, which, in spite of glowing reviews, is a record nobody talks about. Why isn’t this band famous? The Guillemots are brilliant.
Frontman Fyfe Dangerfield has a penchant for cinematic flair and simple melodies. There’s a candid, personal charm in his songwriting. Windowpane demonstrates the band’s range from straightforward pop songs like “Trains to Brazil” and “Annie, Let’s Not Wait” to slower, methodically constructed build-ups such as “Made-up Lovesong #43″ and “We’re Here.” “Sao Paulo,” the album’s final track, is both intimate and epic in ways we’ve seen only from the likes of Sufjan Stevens.