Here’s some video highlights of our favorite SXSW bands.
The Boxer Rebellion
A Place To Bury Strangers
Jim Jones Revue
The Joy Formidable
For A Minor Reflection
Here’s some video highlights of our favorite SXSW bands.
The Boxer Rebellion
A Place To Bury Strangers
Jim Jones Revue
The Joy Formidable
For A Minor Reflection
Every year, we bring you our picks for the best of the South By Southwest festival. This year, we will be presenting you with a series containing fifty bands, that will run right up to the beginning of SXSW. We selected bands that we think the average TDOA reader will adore. With each entry, we’ve listed like-minded bands as a reference point, but we recommend listening to each no matter what. As always, it’s difficult to put some of these bands in a neat tidy, descriptive box. Your ears will tell you the truth.
We’ve also provided you with links to the social networks of each band, so that you can learn more. Whether you’re heading to Austin or not, we hope you enjoy these bands that may have previously escaped your notice. This is part four of our series.
Our second interview with The Boxer Rebellion in one week (check the first here) shouldn’t surprise anyone that follows us faithfully. From the release of Exits to the present, this has been one of our favorite bands. When Union was released and promptly topped the iTunes charts in the US and UK, we felt vindicated. With the announcement that they will be appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman tonight, we feel triumph. The newest album, The Cold Still merits the attention and should become a name you’ll be seeing on most of the cool kids’ top tens at the end of this year. Guitarist Todd Howe has always had to time for TDOA and this time we spoke to him about the Letterman appearance, the new album and the upward trajectory of the band.
TDOA: How did the Letterman thing happen?
TH: It was our press guy in New York. The Letterman people were fans of our music and obviously wanted to support it, which is a big deal, right? There’s not many independent bands that get that sort of opportunity.
TDOA: And as a result, you’ve bumped up the release of the album.
TH: We went back to iTunes to see if we could release it a week early and they said, yeah that’s cool. We’ve got a good relationship with those guys because of everything that happened with Union. They’re really respectful of us and vice-versa. For an independent band to have a relationship like that with iTunes, it’s pretty cool.
TDOA: How did the original relationship with iTunes happen?
TH: It started with Damon Marzano, who’s been a fan since he owned a record store in Connecticut and got our very first promo back in 2003. He ended up becoming the head of Rock and Alternative at iTunes and he sought us out towards the end of recording Union and said that he wanted to do something with us. We just jumped on it and we had the success that we had and it’s been very lucrative. iTunes have been a key part of our success all along the way, since the release of Union. We never thought we’d have the success that we did with that record and we certainly couldn’t have had it without them.
TDOA: Having the record go to number one in the U.S. and U.K. had to be a heady experience.
TH: Yeah, it was a weird experience. Seeing it creep up the charts. We couldn’t believe it was doing as well as it was. Then started people writing about it and it started a domino effect. We ended up selling 10,000 records in a week and that sort of paved the way for us to remain independent.
TDOA: And you’ve remained independent! I wondered if you might sign to a label prior to the release of The Cold Still. In hindsight, it was a brilliant decision because you could never have bumped the release of the album up to coincide with the Letterman appearance on such short notice.
TH: Yeah, probably not. I don’t think we entertained the possibility for this release. We had a lot of success with Union and we knew what we wanted to do this time.
TDOA: Is it necessary to sign with a label anymore? Not just for you, but hasn’t your success on iTunes shown that there’s no longer a need for any band to sign to a label?
TH: I dont know. It’s more a case of waiting to see if the right thing comes across at the right time for people. It’s not right for us right now. We feel like we know what we want to do and we have the right people to do it, working around us.
TDOA: I want to talk about the new album now. Can you talk about how this album is different for you than the previous albums?
TH: I think first of all we don’t want to repeat ourselves. Union is so unique because of the situation that we were going through at the time. It was such a success, but we wanted to push ourselves to be better. We’re our biggest critics. Certain things happened along the way as people, which were quite tough to deal with around the end of 2009 and start of 2010 which I think paved the way for the feel of this record. It’s a darker and more introspective record. We didn’t want to do another record that was about escaping. We wanted it to be more direct and, I think sincere as well.
TDOA: Do you collaboratively work on the lyrics together? As a musician how do you personally let the tone of the lyrics effect how you write your guitar parts?
TH: The whole album was very collaborative. It all stemmed from us all being around each other rather than ideas that were brought in. They were ideas that evolved when we were in a room together. Subject matter is where we start. When we’re playing music, I’ll have a phrase like in the song “Caught By The Light”. Nathan then picks up on it and writes lyrics. On that song, we did discuss subject matter and all that sort of stuff including a death in the immediate family around us. From music to lyrics it was a lot more open. We all had a hand in the final product.
TDOA: I don’t want to pry into things you don’t want to talk about, but was the death that you’ve referenced a business relationship or a familial relationship?
TH: It was family related on Adam’s side and it’s not something I really want to discuss. I had some personal things going on, which I also don’t want to discuss. It all just added to the mood of introspection.
TDOA: The first time I heard The Boxer Rebellion, I thought of you as having a sound that was much like U2 (and not in a negative way!); massive, spacious music that should be played in stadiums. The new album is, as you said, very introspective. It’s also a much quieter record. As you recorded the album, did you ever have any fears of alienating your audience?
TH: No, I don’t think so. I think ultimately, this record more than any of them, I really don’t worry, because I’m so proud of it and how we wrote and recorded it. It felt so organic. I suppose people may be expecting Union. When Union came out, they were expecting Exits. And those are two very different records as well. This is us at a different time period. This isn’t a statement of a direction where going to go in. Record four won’t be The Cold Still.
TDOA: The use of keyboards is very prominent on this record. When you were writing these songs, were these parts added early on in the process or were they added on afterwards?
TH: “No Harm” came about because I was a bit sick of playing guitar and we had the keyboard there, so I came up with it. “Caught By The Light”: I’m playing guitar and Nathan is playing keyboards. There’s a lot of sharing of roles on this record.
TDOA: The songwriting process is an interesting concept to me, when I interview bands. For most of them, the formula tends to remain the same throughout their careers, but for this record, it sounds like you guys approached it differently.
TH: I don’t think there’s any one, fixed approach. It was all very rehearsal room based. The lyrics always come second and the melody always comes first.
TDOA: You referenced that No Harm changed quite a bit from it’s original inception to the final recording, can you talk about that a bit?
TH: It just wasn’t there when we walked into the recording studio. We’d played it live a couple of times, but we ended up completely re-engineering the song sonically and it just shocked us. It was the first indication of how working with a producer like Ethan (Johns) was a really good thing.
TDOA: Some bands look for producers who are there purely to press the record button and merely observe the process. Other bands let producers get involved in everything from the sound of the record, to arranging the songs, to helping to write. What role did Ethan play on this record?
TH: As far as composition goes, we didn’t deviate too much. The main difference is that we recorded the songs live. For example pn “No Harm”, we had a drum loop that Piers had recorded. I played guitar over that, while Nathan played piano. We were feeding off each other and Ethan is very good at capturing that.
TDOA: What’s the next step for you guys after Letterman?
TH: We’ll go back and start finalizing everything with tour dates and the album release. I will say that I think we will have a slightly different approach live because of the nature of this record. Whether that is lighting or how we present ourselves on-stage, I’m not sure yet.
TDOA: Because you’re not on a major, you’re left to do a lot of your own promotion. You’ve embraced social media to connect with your fans. Is that something you enjoy or is it something that you tend to leave for your management?
TH: We all do it, all four of us and our management. We all have our strengths. We’re one of those bands that recognizes that you get out, what you put into it. So we push pretty hard on all fronts.
TDOA: Lastly, can you talk about the album cover and what it means to you.
TH: First of all, the title of the album comes from a lyric in the last song on the record, “Doubt”. The leaf on the front of the cover was a concept produced by Jonas Valtysson. I’d done the Union cover and didn’t want to do it again. Jonas came up with a number of ideas and this one was very simple. It’s about a leaf that’s burning brightly and throughout the book, the leaf shrivels up and dies.
In March of 2009, we brought you an interview with The Boxer Rebellion, who’d just released their second album, Union. It was the beginning of a fondness for the band, that has grown over the next two years. We were fortunate enough to receive a copy of their newest record, “The Cold Still” and were amazed to find that it surpassed the excellence of their previous two records. Far more introspective and shimmering with its’ quiet beauty, this is the Joshua Tree of the new millenium.
Lead singer Nathan Nicholson from Tennessee, Australian guitarist Todd Howe and the English pair of drummer Piers Hewitt and bass guitarist Adam Harrison have travelled a long road as they prepare to release their third album. You may have missed their debut ‘Exits’ in 2005 as their record label went bust two weeks after its release. Unsigned, they self-financed the follow up ‘Union’ paying for it with support slots with the likes of Editors, Lenny Kravitz and Gary Numan. The completely ‘independent’ release came out in 2009 with no label backing, no radio play and no press coverage; it started off being solely available on iTunes where it went to number one on the alternative charts in the U.S. and U.K.. The ‘independent’ band found favour with the might of Apple and its stand out track ‘Evacuate’ was made iTunes Single of the Week and the US editor named it the Best Alternative Album of 2009. The cat was out the bag, Q called the album ‘Arena-sized rock music, redolent of Bends-era Radiohead and full of shimmering grace’ and Clash marvelled at the ‘Songs clearly designed to reduce stadia to rubble’. Things have since gone from strength to strength.
In its’ original inception, this site was intended to bring you small bands that flew under the radar. Our hope was that by highlighting these bands, we would bring them the fame and fortune that they so richly deserved. With the release of the new album, our intention was to feature a new interview with The Boxer Rebellion. However, with the announcement of their appearance on Late Night with David Letterman on Wednesday, February 2nd, we’ve decided to alter our plans. The Boxer Rebellion are no longer a band who are “under the radar”. To celebrate, we have decided to dedicate the week to them by featuring two interviews and a splendid contest (details of the contest are below).
For the first interview in our series, drummer and ardent Southend United fan Piers Hewitt spoke to our newest writer Seb.
TDOA: How does an American, Australian and two Englishmen get together to form a band?
PH: We never see it as a weird combination but other people obviously do, given we get asked this a lot! Todd and Nathan, (Australian and American respectively) came over here at the same time, for different reasons – Todd just to work and Nathan to do a study abroad programme through Florida State University – and they met up through the 12 Bar Club musician’s board. Their song writing developed enough that they wanted to put a band together, and the first place they considered advertising was at London Music School, a college of contemporary music study. Fortunately, Adam and myself were studying there and took up the opportunity. It was quite en easy process and we gelled pretty much straight away.
TDOA: Is it true you were originally called Slippermen? What is the meaning behind your eventual settling with Boxer Rebellion?
PH: Despite gelling quickly, that doesn’t mean we didn’t spend a phase of our existence writing generally bad music. That phase did actually involve us being called Slippermen, a name that no-one in this camp is particularly proud of. The changing of the name pretty much came about due to us actually writing music that we were actually genuinely pleased with – plus we were aware how crap a name Slippermen was. There was no deep meaning behind the name, we just liked the sound of it.
TDOA: Glastonbury 2003 is considered to be your ‘breakthrough’ moment – how was that?
PH: I remember it feeling like a genuine realisation that we could actually step up from London circuit boys to actually making it as a touring band on all sorts of stages. We had the handy combination of actually being on top of our game, and it raining for the only time in the weekend during our set, thus making the new bands tent absolutely rammed. It was a special gig. We’ve played much bigger stages since, but that felt like the beginning of a new phase for us so, yes, that will stick long in the memory.
Fans love going to festivals – is it the same for a band? Or is there more pressure in that it might be the first time someone has heard you?
It really depends on the festival. The whole set up and go mentality suits us more in terms of cutting out sitting around in a venue for half a day, which is basically half our job. It’s also a great and rare opportunity to hang out with friends and other bands. You never see other bands unless you’re actually on tour with them, so festivals are great for that. As for playing, you have to be thicker skinned as naturally crowds know less about you and are harder to impress, but to be honest, that’s one of the best things about being in a band.
TDOA: Things were progressing and you had a series of gigs lined up with the Killers (Hot Fuss era) Then Nathan’s appendix burst ? Do you view that as a missed opportunity or part of the process to get where you are today?
PH: The whole Killers thing was part of a few things we had to pull as a result of Nathan’s illness. We had a whole tour with The Raveonettes and Razorlight that hit the buffers too. To be honest, it did hinder us at the time as we had a lot of momentum which we lost and never really regained on the first album campaign, but it did form a large part of what makes us so resolute today. Heaps of bands would have given up way before we got heavily into recording our second album, so I think the sound of that second album, and it’s meaning was contributed to heavily by the band hands we had been dealt before.
TDOA: Then your label, Poptones went bust?
PH: The Poptones/Mercury thing imploded yes. It was hard to accept at the time but we have since learnt that the wrong label/wrong time thing happens a lot. I wouldn’t have wanted to put a second record out through them in retrospect, and we are still here and in a better position than ever, so it’s all worked out fine and it really isn’t something we dwell on much now.
TDOA: Despite all this what made you guys carry on?
PH: A few things really. A small element of it was proving to lots of people that we were always good enough. Not just the label, but even friends and family. We were always proud of our first record, which at the time should have done a lot better, which is why we never went and changed our name. We always received great press, so there was never any hint of being label-less because we were bad at what we were doing. Our friendships came first, and when we realised we were all up for the challenge, it was the tunes that got us where we are now.
TDOA: What gigs and tours did you do in the meantime?
PH: Anything that came our way that didn’t put us out of pocket basically. Writing the album was always a priority, but luckily we had a great loyal fanbase in the UK that never really went away, and their loyalty deserved being rewarded. They were as important to us keeping going as we were at times. Our London shows were invaluable for us at the time in that respect.
Being truly independent, how did you go about putting together and financing the self-released Union?
We secured funding for recording through a company in Japan called Kyodo Tokyo, without signing our rights off to anyone. No living expenses or anything – we all relied on part-time jobs and family for support – but with confidence in the material and the opportunity to record the lot of it, rather than a few demos here and a few demos there meant we really took our time and recorded as went along until we almost had too much material.
Must have been a big vindication that ITunes made Evacuate single of the week? Then the album did really well in the charts?
Being a relatively forgotten act at the time in the UK (which can happen very easily it seems), it was difficult to secure a release for the record outside this country. I’m not sure it entered any of our minds to release it purely digitally, but when iTunes approached us and suggested putting it out themselves, it really was a no brainer. I personally just thought it would be nice for our fans to have it available. When they made it single of the week all over the week, it really surprised me. With no radio, no press and no label, we suddenly did 560,000 downloads of the single and sold 10,000 records worldwide in the first week – 3000 more than Mercury even made of Exits when it came out. That right there tells you how influential iTunes as a retailer is.
Things have only got better you even recently ended up starring in the Drew Barrymore film ‘Going the Distance’ ?
It came about pretty easily really. We took on new management 2 years ago, and when Union came out we knew we had to service some other areas other than the UK so we managed to self-fund a short trip to the US. In LA we met some contacts that our new management had at New Line Cinema, and they put us forward to the director of the film, Nannette Bernstein, who then saw us 3 days later in New York and we went from there really. She liked us, we liked the script. It was simple.
What’s this about you playing a gig at a French football game?
We received an invitation to play on the pitch before Lille v Marseille, a French Ligue 1 match. We were right in the middle of the pitch, under 4 massive umbrella type things (which, it has to be said, were needed), playing in some lovely red Lille shirts with our names on the back, which were presented to us on arrival – well, you’ve got to really haven’t you? Given we went on 45 minutes before kick off, inevitably, the away section was close to full. I would like to think it’ll be the only time we get booed on stage by anyone (Now I know how Nickleback feel). Anyway, it was all good, went down really well, and I unexpectedly fulfilled a possible boyhood dream of walking off a top flight pitch with my name and number on the back of my shirt, whilst being filmed and plastered all over the big screen. The main objective there, I think you’ll agree, was to not fall over on the wet pitch in my converse, which I successfully achieved. We then watched an excellent game (though Marseille won 3-1) from the President’s enclosure with complimentary blankets over our knees like some kind of football bourgeoisie. Possibly against my principles, but in our defence, it wasn’t half cold. It was our funniest/strangest/most fun/biggest/wettest/most bizarre/shortest/coldest/excellent gig we’ve ever done.
What’s next for TBR?
New album ‘The Cold Still’, which is all done and dusted, will be released in the UK and Europe on February 7th. Expect a more extensive UK tour in the new year.
You can pre-order The Cold Still via iTunes here. If you pre-order you get the exclusive song, “You”.
We are also offering our readers the opportunity to win a copy of the new cd, autographed by the entire band. To enter, follow us on Twitter and “tweet” the following: “I just entered to win an autographed copy of The Cold Still by @boxerrebellion via @DumbingAmerica. RT to enter.”. Two winners will be selected on Friday. Good luck!
See the band live!
MAR 3 Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh, United Kingdom
MAR 4 Cockpit (14+) Leeds, United Kingdom
MAR 5 Roadmender Northampton, United Kingdom
MAR 6 The Ruby Lounge Manchester, United Kingdom
MAR 8 The Fleece Bristol, United Kingdom
MAR 9 HMV Institute Birmingham, United Kingdom
MAR 10 Heaven London, United Kingdom
MAR 17 SXSW 2011 Austin, TX
MAR 23 Melkweg Amsterdam, Netherlands
MAR 25 Nouveau Casino Paris, France
Over the course of the last three weeks, we’ve given you an A to Z preview of the best of SXSW. Our ears are still numb, after listening to mp3′s of every single band playing the festival. With SXSW finally here, we thought we’d give you a round-up of the ten bands we deem to be “the best”. Whether you’re coming down to Austin or sitting at home in….London, Paris or Beijing, we suggest you check out these bands. Click on the band name to find out more about the band. In our opinion, these are the bands that combine great music with great live reputations. These are the bands that will leave a lasting impression on SXSW and the music industry for years to come.
When we first interviewed The Boxer Rebellion back in March of 2009, we found a band that was humble, yet clearly on the verge of greatness. The release of their second album, Union put them on the top of the iTunes alternative charts in the U.S. and U.K. despite not being signed to a record label. Since then, the momentum has continued to grow and with their appearance at this years South By Southwest, they are being touted as the “band to watch” by many of the major music magazines. Comparisons to early U2 and The Verve don’t begin to describe the depth and emotion of this fantastic band. With their impending show in our hometown of Dallas, Texas, the band took some time to reflect on the past year and give us a taste of what is yet to come.
We took this opportunity to launch our partnership with iTunes, which will allow us to bring you weekly interviews with some great musicians of the past and present. Since TBR, were one of the first bands we inteviewed when the site launched a couple of years ago, we thought they were the perfect candidate for this first podcast.
Alternately, you can listen to the interview here on the website.
The Dumbing of America interview with The Boxer Rebellion
To order tickets to see The Boxer Rebellion at the House of Blues Dallas on March 16th, click here
And so it begins. Every year, we listen to mp3′s of every band scheduled to appear at SXSW. We then present you with an A to Z preview of the bands that we think should earn your attention. Whether you’re coming down to SXSW (recommended!) or just looking for new music, there’s no better time of year. There’s a variety of music here, so buckle up for some different sounds. We’ll be previewing two letters per day, which’ll take us right up to SXSW Music Week. Then we’ll give you our picks for the “Ten bands you must see at SXSW!”. In the meantime, let’s dig right in with a healthy helping of delicious music.
The band: A Sunny Day In Glasgow
Where are they from: Philadelphia/Sydney
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sunnydayinglasgow
The band: Abe Vigoda
Where are they from: Los Angeles
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/abevigoda
The band: Adam Franklin
Where are they from: New York/London
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/toshackhighway
TDOA Interview here
The band: And So I Watch You From Afar
Where are they from: Ireland
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/andsoiwatchyoufromafar
The band: Apteka
Where are they from: Chicago, IL
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/apteka
The band: Arborea
Where are they from: Maine
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/arborea2
The band: Avi Buffalo
Where are they from: Long Beach, CA
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/avibuffalo
The band: Band of Horses
Where are they from: North and South Carolina
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/bandofhorses
The band: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Where are they from: California
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/blackrebelmotorcycleclub
The band: Black Sheep
Where are they from: Queens/NYC
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/blacksheep
The band: Blessure Grave
Where are they from: San Diego
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/blessuregravesd
The band: Breakestra
Where are they from: Los Angeles, CA
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/breakestra
The band: Broadcast 2000
Where are they from: London
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/broadcast2000
The band: The Bronx
Where are they from: Los Angeles
Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/thebronx
In the end, we think this was truly a great year for music. We would argue that this was the year of the new band, with 75% of our top 20 consisting of debut albums. As we started going through this list, we recognized that we’d interviewed many of the bands listed. As you know, based on our refusal to accept advertising, we’ve been adamant in our refusal to be influenced by labels, promoters, etc.. Frankly, when we heard some of these albums, we were on the phone trying to track the bands down for an interview. Thus you can always assume that the interviews you read are truly from our favorite bands. We hope that there are a few in here that are new to you and that we help to expand your horizons in the same way that these groups have.
1. Alberta Cross- Broken Side of Time
2. The Boxer Rebellion- Union
3. Heat-Ray- Love All Over
4. Lovvers- OCD Go Go Go Girls
5. Fruit Bats- The Ruminant Band
6. Royal Treatment Plant- Hope Is Not Enough
7. Boat Beam- Puzzle Shapes
8. The Mountain Goats- The Life of the World to Come
9. The XX- S/T
10. The Big Pink- A Brief History of Love
11. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart- S/T
12. Julian Plenti- …Is Skyscraper
13. Jason Lytle- Yours Truly, The Commander
14. The Joy Formidable- A Ballon Called Morning
15. Gliss- Devotion/Implosion
16. Grand Analog- Metropolis Is Burning
17. The Black Box Revelation- Set Your Head On Fire
18. Ten City Nation- At The Still Point
19. Jaydiohead- S/T
20. It Hugs Back- Inside Your Guitar
As we’ve watched others post their top 10′s of the decade, we’ve been a bit flummoxed. Other than the obvious Radiohead choice, we seem to disagree with the cool kids once again. We believe that faithful readers of this site will find our picks logical and a perfect fit for their own taste. There’s no politics in these picks, no succumbing to the arm-twisting of certain labels who are trying to grow the future of their brand…. I mean band. If you write great melodies and believe that emotion IS music, then you’re likely to find yourself on this list. And with that…. the top ten.
10) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- BRMC (2001)
Recommend Track: Whatever Happened To My Rock n Roll?
Why We Love It: While we loved the 90′s, it was clearly time to shake off the Pavement/Nirvana indie plaid. IBRMC used their first album to reintroduce the world to songs that didn’t follow the “loud/soft/loud” formula that bands like Smashing Pumpkins had run into the ground. They challenged listeners without the Strokes-like tendency to worry about their “look” more than their sound. A classic.
9) Bloc Party- Silent Alarm (2005)
Recommended Track: Like Eating Glass
Why We Love It: While the sound of this decade frequently became homogenized, Bloc Party were one of the few bands who people couldn’t emulate. With one of the best drummers in rock and guitar riffs that veered from Gang of Four genius to a sound unlike any other, they made a record that will stand the test of time for decades to come.
8)The Boxer Rebellion- Exits (2005)
Recommended Track: Watermelon
Why We Love It: On their first self-released album, The Boxer Rebellion were able to create sounds and emotions that took U2 decades and millions of dollars to put on record. Any band that can draw comparisons to The Verve and U2 without hesitation is likely to create the kind of masterpiece that this record was.
To read our interview with TBR, click here.
No songs available on Lala.com (for shame!), so here’s the video for Watermelon:
7) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- Baby 81 (2007)
Recommended Track: Lien On Your Dreams
Why We Love It: Is it politically incorrect to say that this is our favorite Black Rebel Motorcycle Club record? While their contemporaries were busy spewing out the same style of music for the umpteeth time, BRMC added and edge and immediacy to this record that threatened to reach through the speakers and tear you apart. While you can argue with some of our selections, there is no reason why this album shouldn’t be in the top 10 of every music critic in the world.
6) The Duke Spirit- Cuts Across The Land (2004)
Why We Love It: On their first record, they took the concept of a Kim Deal-only Pixies record and created an album so unique and so magnificent that they created their own genre. Whether they intended this path is doubtful, but they became the most interesting band of the decade by making a sound that seemed unconcerned with their references and left music critics to spend the decade running to catch up. Expect them to be the band of the decade in the 2020 wrap-ups, as Spin and Rolling Stone finally catch on.
5) Calla- Strength In Numbers (2007)
Recommended Track: Bronson
Why We Love It: Perhaps it was their classification as slo-core that scared people away. By the time they released Strength In Numbers, they’d moved away from their beautiful codeine-like pace (which we loved) and produced a record that was jarring, yet mesmerizing. Vocalist/ guitarist Aurelio Valle has always had a knack for writing beautiful vocal melodies that linger over the cacophony of sound that he creates with the band. On this record, they reached perfection and left the world gasping for more.
To read our interview with Calla, click here.
4) Alberta Cross- Broken Side of Time (2009)
Recommended Track: ATX
Why We Love It: The critics don’t have a clue. Whether classifying them as “southern rock” or just failing to recognize the majesty of this record, they do a disservice to music listeners around the world. When I first heard this record, it moved me in a way I hadn’t been moved since the first time I heard The Verve’s “A Storm In Heaven”. Like that record, there are layers and layers of music to peel away on this record. Guitars, vocals, keyboards and drum rhythms combine to create what is easily the most beautiful record of the decade.
To read our interview with Alberta Cross, click here.
3) Radiohead- Kid A (2000)
Recommended Track: National Anthem
Why We Love It: A genius record, borne from their hatred of being… Radiohead. Thom Yorke has said that he’d “completely had it with melody. I just wanted rhythm.” Eschewing guitars and aiming to create an electronic record, they took a risk that could have ended them. Instead it gave them the courage to set the course they sailed for the remainder of the decade. You can argue with us over it’s place as the “best” Radiohead record of the decade, but you can’t argue it’s significance in their career path.
2) The Duke Spirit- Neptune (2008)
Recommended Track: Step and the Walk
Why We Love It: Clearly one of the most under-rated bands in the world. The Duke Spirit’s second record showed no signs of a sophomore slump. Liela Moss earns her reputation as one of the greatest singers in rock, but it’s her ability to control the push and pull of a song that sets her apart. Impossible to categorize, they write rock songs that are pure and honest with every member of the band adding their own aural treat for their listeners.
1) Interpol- Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)
Recommended Track: PDA
Why We Love It: Our favorite record of the decade, if for no other reason than it’s track by track consistency. While they’ve never shaken the Joy Division comparisons, Paul Banks writes vocal melodies which were never a strength of Ian Curtis. To be compared favorably to one of the greatest bands in history is nothing to be ashamed of. Nor should they be punished for the plethora of bands that tried to follow them down the path. Daniel Kessler’s guitar work, coupled with the best rhythm section of the decade created perfect songs for a perfect record.
As we progress down our path of the loveliest music of the decade, we’ll give you a bit more detail on the records we’ve chosen. While we were infatuated with numbers 31-40 (which you can read here), we’re ready to go to battle over every selection from 1 to 30. Not a bad song on any of these albums, if you ask us. You can listen to the entire album of each of these by registering with Lala.com…. but you knew that, right? While we don’t claim this to be a defining document of merit, we think you’ll find this list worthy of debate and perhaps will steer you to a record that you hadn’t heard before.
You can view our picks for 31 thru 40 here.
30) Fujiya & Miyagi- Transparent Things (2006)
Recommended Track: Sucker Punch
Why We Like It: Quite frankly, we’re not big fans of the kraut rock genre which many critics pigeon-hole this band into and think the reference does them a disservice. We think of this as electronic music for analog people. Coupled with the great vocals of David Best, this album has more soul than any other release of the decade.
29) Sarah Harmer- All of Our Names (2004)
Recommended Track: Greeting Card Aisle
Why We Like It: Every single element of this record is gorgeous. Categorized as Adult Alternative by people to stupid to hear its’ genius, it mixes Sarah’s beautiful vocals with guitar parts that harmonize so well, it’ll give you goosebumps. She plays guitars, bass and drums which account for the perfect syncopation of these beautifully complex songs.
28) Robbers On High Street- Tree City (2005)
Recommended Track: Japanese Girls
Why We Like It: An album filled with perfectly crafted pop songs will always make our top albums list. Erroneously lumped with bands like The Strokes and Interpol, this band is less concerned with looking cool and more concerned with making complex melodies that would make the Paul’s (McCartney and Weller) proud.
27) Interpol- Our Love To Admire (2007)
Recommended Track: The Heinrich Maneuver
Why We Like It: Interpol were a key part of the Joy Division revival in this decade. But to think of them merely in those terms, would be to do yourself a disservice. Sam Fogarino proved himself to be one of the most interesting drummers in rock in the 00′s. Rhythms that didn’t just follow the beat in traditional rock fashion, they pushed and pulled the music in ways that left you feeling out of balance and euphoric simultaneously. Couple that with Daniel Kessler’s incredible ability to write riffs that sound so simple, but are unlike any other guitarist in rock. This, their third album helped ease the pain of a sophomore slump and re-established them as one of the best bands of the decade.
26) Franz Ferdinand- S/T (2004)
Recommended Track: Take Me Out
Why We Like It: Another band who’s meteoric rise and fall tell you more about the hypocrisy of the music business, than about actual talent. As Interpol broke and it became unfashionable to be happy, FF reminded us that music can be fun and playful.
25) The Walkmen- Bows + Arrows (2004)
Recommended Track: The Rat
Why We Like It: Drunken, sloppy sounding music that helped re-establish the importance of emotion in music. Where the 90′s were largely a happy era, musically The Walkmen showed us that angst can be melodic and beautiful.
24) Nine Black Alps- Everything Is (2005)
Recommended Track: Get Your Guns
Why We Like It: When this album came out, we considered it a guilty pleasure. In retrospect, it stands up as a sole vote for the continuation of grunge in the new millennium. Equal parts Sub Pop circa Nirvana and Swervedriver, this group was great at what it did and were a welcome respite from the Creed, Train grunge-dreck that was contributing to the dumbing….
To read our interview with NBA, click here.
23) Grandaddy- The Sophtware Slump (2000)
Recommended Track: The Crystal Lake
Why We Like It: Had they not gotten in their own way, Grandaddy could have easily ruled the world throughout the decade. With keyboards that referenced Phillip Glass and vocal/guitar stylings that echoed a more stoned version of Pavement, they crafted beautiful songs that could reduce you to tears.
22) The Boxer Rebellion- Union (2009)
Recommended Track: Evacuate
Why We Like It: If U2 still had to live from paycheck to paycheck, this is how they’d sound. TBR has the ability to sound epic and fragile within the same song. Alternately blood-thirsty and dreamy, this second album for the group was self-released by the band on iTunes, where it promptly went to #1 on the Alternative charts in the U.S. and U.K.. The best band that nobody seems to know about.
To read our interview with TBR, click here.
21) Coldplay- Parachutes (2000)
Recommended Track: Shiver
Why We Like It: Because we wanted to draw a big bulls-eye on our back? In fact, we would argue that when The Verve broke up, Coldplay attempted to fill the void by using their dreamy soundscapes. The imagery on this record is dark and abrasive, far from the delusions of grandeur that they exhibited in future albums. A great example of a band that all the ‘cool kids’ embraced initially and now refuse to admit that they like them. We’re sticking to our guns and saying that this first album was brilliant. After that…