6 Artists You Probably Don’t Know About, but Should

This post has been a long time coming, and don’t worry, I’m working on finishing up my emotional music videos posts, but I wanted to throw this one out into cyberspace first. I had the privilege of working as music director at a small college radio station, and through that I discovered a lot of great artists that are really flying below the radar right now. I’d also like to think that over the years I’ve compiled a list of smaller groups with massive talent that still haven’t gotten the break they deserve. So I’m doing my part to shed some light on some of these artists, and I’ve covered some of them before in my single song reviews, but trust me, you’re going to want to know about them. If they make it big, you can say you saw it here first. If not, good music is good music either way.

  1. Until the Ribbon Breaks

 

If “amalgam” is a word you like to put in your vocabulary, or if when someone asks you what you listen to you realize that you listen to so many genres you just say “alternative” and hope the person doesn’t pry further, then by God is this band for you. These Cardiff, England chaps, led by mastermind Pete Lawrie-Winfield, are not jacks but masters of all trades. Firmly guided by the principle that film and music go hand in hand, you can easily describe UTRB’s music as cinematic. Genres are crossed one after another, as the music generally focuses on a background of usually electronic R&B or subtle dance beats, but with colors and notes of rock, hip-hop, and soul intermingled in every song. Music has never felt more like a movie than this: the action packed wordplay and lyricism, the melancholic and urgent singing, and the edge of your seat climax. Soak it all in and enjoy the ride until the credits roll.

 

2. Capital Lights

It’s a shame that this Oklahoma band decided to break up, because I very rarely give perfect scores to albums, but this band’s debut album This Is An Outrage! is one of my favorites of all time. I’ve never heard a more perfect pop punk (leaning heavily towards the pop) album in my life. Every single melody these guys craft will be your new favorite, guaranteed. If All Time Low, We The Kings, Mayday Parade, or Relient K were big parts of your life or still are, then Capital Lights needs to be in your life. Their second and last album, while a step back from their debut for sure, is perfect for those who like a little rock in your pop. But if nothing else, give This Is An Outrage! a listen. Any fan of a great hook and classic clever and endearing pop punk lyrics will not regret it. Check out my review of the song “Outrage” here.

 

3.  In Flight Safety

What would Coldplay sound like if they rocked a little harder? If you’ve wondered this, then Canadian alt-rock group In Flight Safety are the answer. Cranking out some of the most infectious riffs I’ve heard all year on their last album Conversationalist, these guys bring back a lot of the things I loved about bands like The Bravery. It’s solid songwriting with a twinge of darkness, but without losing the energy. Turns out these dudes have been around for awhile, and though they’ve been featured on TV in some shows, they haven’t made any big breaks in the States yet. As soon as I heard these dudes, I knew I’d found something good. And now I pass it on to you. Check out my review of the song “Destroy” here.

 

4.  Panic Is Perfect

 

California’s Panic Is Perfect is hopefully on the verge of something big. These guys encapsulate everything that’s fun about alternative music. It’s the kind you music that you just want to listen to whenever you feel happy. But these guys are no one trick ponies. Their recent EP covers all the bases, including my personal favorite, a chilled out funky groove called “Bobby Black,” which I reviewed here. This band just oozes likability, and more importantly, musical talent. These guys come from backgrounds in world music, which means they’ve got so many things to bring to the table that they’re going to need a bigger table. Which they’ll need pretty soon, if my estimation is correct.

 

5. A Silent Film

 

Time and time again I find myself going back to A Silent Film in a lot of moments where I just want to be by myself. This English group excels at the kind of melancholic and somber beauty that many bands dream of achieving. This band deserves to be among the titans of modern britpop and counted among bands like Snow Patrol and Keane. The production is there, the talent is there, and the music is sure as hell there. The only thing missing is exposure. This is all radio ready, and it’s time for this band to break into the mainstream. Here’s one of my earliest reviews of their song “Reaching the Potential.”

 

6. Urban Cone

 

If this Swedish group is not famous within the next two years, I’ll eat my hat. This is a catchy as you can get, and I’m honestly surprised the song I posted above they did with superstar Tove Lo is not a huge hit already. These guys have the chemistry of any great boy band out there, but with the musical capability of the best alt-pop bands. This is a message that goes out to every pop/alternative radio station: PLAY THESE GUYS. Their album Poloroid Memories was fantastic and they crank out songs like the two posted here, someone who’s in a bigger position than me is going to take notice eventually.

 

So that’s it for now! Go forth and share!

 

#187 – Don’t Panic

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Artist – Coldplay
Album – Parachutes
Year – 2000
Genre – Alternative/Britpop

In the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks around the world, most notably yesterday in Paris, I feel the need to contribute and console. I have my two cents politically, but I feel that me sharing a song of comfort is something that most people could use. It didn’t strike me to choose this song until this very afternoon, and honestly, nothing captures how I’m trying to feel amidst all this sadness better than this song. I hope it gives you as much comfort as it gives me, and that it reminds you that though things may happen that shake our faith in the world, the world really is a beautiful place if we choose to make it that way and change it for the better. I’m going to focus on the words here, but all I’ll say about the music is that it fits the words perfectly.

Bones sinking like stones
All that we’ve fought for
Homes, places we’ve grown
All of us are done for

The lyrics here really seem to reflect the state of a lot of people’s minds. As we ponder the terrible events that have occurred, we can’t help but think of the heartbroken families in Paris. It sometimes seems that everything that’s good in the world that we’ve fought for can come undone in an instant. It’s in times like this that sometimes we need to look to see all the good that’s being done to help those who are suffering and those who are oppressed. For every evil that’s in the world, there’s an even more powerful, greater goodness in kindness in one hundred more people.

We live in a beautiful world
Yeah we do
Yeah we do
We live in a beautiful world

It’s hard to remember this sometimes. All we see on TV is suffering, but I hope that we all can see the good that we all can do when we stand together and change the things we don’t like about ourselves and the world. We truly can make it even more beautiful. Seeing the solidarity of people across the world yesterday and today lifts my spirits even the tiniest bit. If we kept that going every day, who knows what could happen. Yes, it’s true we have a lot of work to do, and there are many disasters in the world that fly under our radar sometimes, but when we strive to do more and get better together, miracles happen. We do live in a beautiful world. Not a perfect one, but one that we can certainly change if we try.

Oh all that I know
There’s nothing here to run from
Cause here
Everybody here’s got somebody to lean on

Perhaps the most important lines in the song. If we take a stand together and lean on each other and help others, there’s nothing we can’t do or change.

I hope that these words offer some hope and comfort to those shocked by the events of yesterday and any other time where atrocities have happened. The next step is taking action to help. My thoughts are with any person and family who is hurting in the wake of all this, and I stand with you.

Leave what you think in the comments.

#186 – Let Your Hair Down

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Artist – MAGIC!
Album – Don’t Kill the Magic
Year – 2014
Genre – Pop/reggae

This song is pop music done absolutely right. This is what pop music CAN be, and SHOULD be. To me at least, minus the reggae element, this song recalls some of the greatest pop love song writers of the 80’s like Phil Collins. MAGIC! was one of those bands I never got sick of hearing on the radio, but even though you don’t hear them as much this year as last year, this song was still criminally underplayed compared to their other hit, “Rude.” This is a much more romantic song, and featuring some of the absolute best vocals I’d heard on a pop song that year. Let’s start with that, because I have some things to say about that.

It’s hard to describe how much I enjoy and just get sucked into frontman Nasri’s vocals. I will say that if I was a pop artist, I would want my voice to sound exactly like his. The vocals in this song, like MAGIC!’s other songs, are rich and as smooth as it gets. There’s just tiny flecks of grit in there too, but Nasri is such an accomplished vocalist that he hits every note exactly the way it needs to be hit. He knows how to create a perfect mood and take you along on a romantic journey. The difference between this and other songs by the group is the incredible vocal melody in this particular song.

I was floored by the lyrics when I first heard the song. Just these lines alone:

To me you are more than just skin and bones
You are elegance and freedom and everything I know

Wow. I’m a huge sucker for classic romance, but there’s a reason I value it. When you’re in love, there’s no words to express how much you care for your partner. But by God these lines come close. If music and lyrics paint a mental picture, I picture the verses as if a man and woman are just having a great time together and he’s admiring her while she’s just laughing and being herself. Then during this prechorus, they lie face to face and he brushes her hair back and whispers this to her in a tender moment, and the chorus is just full on making out and a cute romantic moments montage.

OK have you all finished washing your mouths out from after vomiting from all that sap? Good. Jokes aside, there’s a lot of love songs out there, but this one is classy and beautifully tender and honest. And I think that’s so rare and wonderful to have on the radio these days. Just the chorus of this song is such a great capture of how the simplest moments of a relationship are the ones where you feel most in love.

We can be ourselves now
Go ahead, be foolish
No one’s on the clock now
Lying in this simple moment
You don’t gotta worry now
Just let your hair down

The music is the perfect accompaniment to the vocals and lyrics. Beautifully simple. You have all the trappings of a laid back reggae song: shimmering electric piano, guitars that twang on off beats, and drums that feature those signature rim hits on the snare. There’s also a guitar solo in this song that doesn’t feel out of place at all, and it leads into a final chorus and some great vocal riffing from Nasri. Overall, I will say the music adds to the vocals, but it’s Nasri’s show for this one all the way.

I always find it really cool when Pop music promotes songs with really tender and deeply romantic love songs, and with MAGIC! it’s even cooler due to the reggae sound. This song is a winner in my book, and is currently on repeat in my house. I suggest you consider putting it on as well.

Don’t forget to leave a comment with your thoughts, and be sure to follow my blog for more great songs!

#185 – Who’s Going With You Tonight?

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Artist – Trapt
Album – Only Through the Pain
Year – 2008
Genre – Hard Rock/Post-Grunge

What better way to tie up a piece on Bro-Rock than writing a review of one of my favorite tracks of the same genre! Everything aside, this song is fantastic, and is without a doubt the best song that Trapt ever produced. The sheer emotion in this song is just flooring, and it absolutely does not feel forced, fake, or showy in any way. “Who’s Going Home With You Tonight?” is how a great hard rock ballad should be: emotional, packed with hooks, and jarring.

Major props have to be given right off the bat to frontman and songwriter Chris Brown (not THAT Chris Brown). His voice is one of the few anomalies in 2000’s post grunge, in the sense that when there’s a more tender part of a song that needs the aggression taken away, his voice completely changes and takes on a melodic and smooth quality not generally found in this genre (see also Chris Volz from the band Flaw). Right from the first verse, Brown absolutely nails it. There’s that aggression that jives with what the other instruments are doing, but his voice tapers off and almost takes on this very boy band tone and starts to waver. In this case, I find it extraordinary that Brown is capable of singing this way, because it perfectly illustrates one of my points from my last essay: this genre is a blending of pop and metal. It’s the best of both, and it’s emotion and hooks of pop that Brown nails. When he hits the “tonight” at the end of each line of the chorus, it’s chill inducing. And when he hits the bridge,

It’s getting harder to sit here alone
I’ve been waiting I’ve been waiting and you still ain’t home
I have never ever felt so low
I’ve been thinking I’ve been thinking Oh where did you go

It’s vocal magic.

Since we’re on lyrics, I have to praise them as well. They’re certainly not the best out there, but they’re honest and don’t feel overly sappy and contrived. I honestly can feel and believe every word Brown is singing, and they capture a lot of classic elements, like loneliness and the failure of a past relationship and the worry and jealousy that come when you lose someone you love to someone else. These are very salient themes in the lives of young men and women and when you touch on those and add some aggression, which some of us undoubtedly feel as well during tough times, all while still keeping the melody extremely solid and catchy, you end up with a raw and real rock song that conveys real pain.

The music flows perfectly with the song. First of all, to Trapt’s drummer, keep doing what you’re doing. The drums, not the vocals, on this song kick this song right in and give it that body that just makes you want to headbang and scream your lungs out. They’re crisp and snare rolls build up the tension until each explosive chorus. The guitars and bass accentuate and complement Brown’s vocals perfectly. They’re never overbearing, but don’t lose the edge that they need. It’s simple, but it works perfectly for what it is.

Though the video has over two million views on YouTube, I would consider this song one of the hidden gems of the hard rock golden age of the mid to late 2000’s. Do your high school self a favor and dive back into this excellent example of rock done right.

Don’t forget to leave a comment with your thoughts! Follow my blog for more song reviews on the way to 1001!