To celebrate our 15th Birthday, members of the DiS team highlight a record from DiS’ lifetime that they feel was overlooked.
These are personal picks, and we kept the definition of “lost” very loose. Some chose under-appreciated albums from reasonably well-known acts. Others went for exceptional records in niche genres. And a few went for records that were adored by DiS, talked about kindly for a few weeks and then didn’t seem to get much coverage from the rest of the media.
Released: 2011 via !K7
Chosen by – Gemma Samways: “Have you listened to the New Look album yet?” What started out as a friendly recommendation from a trusted source, quickly turned into regular nagging and, latterly, reproaches as I repeatedly forgot to listen to the New Look album. When I finally did – about four months after its release – I approached the task with a needlessly petulant “go on then, impress me” attitude. The point of all this is not that I don’t like being nagged or that I’m irritatingly stubborn (though I definitely don’t and I definitely can be), it’s that my friend was right: Sarah Ruba and Adam Pavao’s debut blew me away, and continues to do so today.
Described by the husband and wife duo themselves as “future-pop”, their sole album sets retro synth sounds mingling with more vogueish clipped beats and bass lines fathoms-deep, while Ruba effortlessly thaws the icy electronics with her sensuous, Aaliyah-esque vocals. There’s not a weak track amongst the 10, but the flicker and swoon of R&B slow jam ’The Ballad’ remains my undisputed highlight. Unfortunately, the fact that the album appeared the same year that fellow Canadian Abel Tesfaye unveiled ‘House Of Balloons’ meant that New Look’s sterling efforts were ultimately overshadowed, but it’s every bit as deserving of your adoration. So, if you haven’t listened to the New Look album yet, please do.
Released: 2001 via Rough Trade.
Chosen by – Sean Adams: In 15 years of editing DiS, a lot of acts have come and gone, but few have left such a deep scratch in my head and heavy bruising on my heart as this Glasgow outsider-pop group. Any Other City’s brash, blistering, frenetic tunes sculpt your frontal cortex into a blurred fairground of ideas. Mostly, this is because Sue Tompkins manages to clamber across the mundanity of real-life with vivid metaphors. At times her words are like a cascading climbing wall, with ideas falling away as you begin to grasp them.
LWB had a Beefhearted charm and a spark that has kept my love of music alive through the darkest of dullard ‘landfill indie’ seasons. They were everything this Idlewild, At the Drive-in, Le Tigre, Arab Strap and Longpigs loving ‘indie-fan’ wanted an ‘indie band’ to be. And more.
Released: 2006 via Dance To The Radio
Chosen by – Robert Cooke: There we were, weighing up whether Thamesbeat was cooler than New Yorkshire when out came ¡Forward, Russia! to suffocate the whole debate in a tangled mess of microphone cable. Matching exclamation mark tee-shirts, clustered rhythms and pincer-like riffs, chronologically assigned numbers instead of song titles: we weren’t equipped for it, but so what? “Yeah mate, sort of like At The Drive-In if they were from Leeds, but better.” Cue legions of Pigeon Detectives fans dancing to math rock at indie discos, bleeding out lyrics about being lost lost lost in a sea of conjucture, as their whole outlook on what music is allowed to be gets miraculously reshaped by a single mosh pit. This gibberish got in the fucking charts! On the band’s own label! And even in 2013 they could sell out a reunion gig at the Brudenell in a morning. Give Me A Wall is a timeless experiment that no one expected to work, but thank God it did.
Released: 2005 via Mordam Records.
Chosen by – Andrzej Lukowski: Aside from anything else, I feel Matson Jones neatly demonstrates how much technology has changed listening habits during DiS’s lifetime. I came across the Denver, Colorado band in an old fashioned way – because their standalone track ‘New York City Fuck Off’ was on a 2005 Rough Trade compilation. Their sole, self-titled album also came out in 2005: if it had come out five years earlier, I can’t imagine I’d have tracked down a copy, given it never got a UK release and this was effectively the pre-internet shopping era; if it had come out five years later, social media may have given Matson Jones the global platform they undoubtedly deserved.
Their one LP, then, is extraordinary, like no band I’ve ever heard. I guess maybe I’d characterise it as cello-punk – two of the quartet toted the string instruments, yet for the most part their songs were extraordinarily violent things, surging with murderous energies, the vocals distorted and harsh, crackling with ill-suppressed rage. After the album and an EP I think they split up for want of success, but it’s hard to imagine them physically capable of sustaining that sort of intensity… and thus it’s proved as the band have essentially reformed as the more subdued Land Lines. It would have been amazing to see them live, but at the same time I kind of like the fact that there was never any question of that – they’re a band frozen in time at the cusp of the digital age.
Released: 2013 via Self Released / Waterfront Records
Chosen by – Gavin Miller: To be honest, I could’ve picked a million records for this, but I always had a nagging reminder at the back of my mind to pick this one. I was glancing over all those mid 00’s bands that really should’ve made it, but never did, and those little indie bands whose albums inspired me beyond words, but there was something about this record that I felt needed to be talked about.
A relative newbie as it’s from 2013, I See Seaweed is an absolutely monumental beast – epic in scale, and humongous in sound, it’s a tour de force of emotion, aptly demonstrated by singer Gareth Liddiard’s ferocious, bordering on demented, vocals. Full of punky enegery, but channeled through sprawling, visceral lyrics and buzzsaw guitars, they’re a band that deserves so much more love on these shores. It came and went, this album – barely anyone talked about it, which made me pretty sick, as it’s absolutely incredible, and probably the best thing to come out of Australia since Kylie (although her last album was ace).
Released April 2001.
Chosen by – Dom Gourlay: One of the most underrated bands of the past 20 years, both live and on record. Feeder also happen to be one of the most consistent, so when their third album ‘Echo Park’ dropped in the spring of 2001 it went on to become their most successful release up to that point. Both its predecessors Polythene and Yesterday Went Too Soon hinted at their potential so it was no surprise when Echo Park finally elevated them into (Brit)rock’s premier league.
Prior to its release, the band’s future appeared to be in doubt. Reportedly considering their future, the band went into the studio in the early part of 2000 with esteemed producer Gil Norton whose previous works include The Comforts Of Madness by Pale Saints and the Pixies’ Doolittle. Over the course of that year, they laid down the blueprint for an album that would go onto become their most ambitious statement of intent thus far. Lead single ‘Buck Rogers’ being arguably their most commercially accessible three minutes thus far, instructing its listeners to “drink cider from a lemon”, provided the foundation for which the rest of the album was based on. Follow-up singles ‘Seven Days In The Sun’ and ‘Turn’ also highlighted different sides of the band’s make-up, and while mediums such as Radio 1 and Channel 4’s ‘The Chart Show’ were instrumental in transcending the band’s wares to a wider audience, its the lesser feted tracks on ‘Echo Park’ that make it a classic of its times. ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Satellite News’ displayed Feeder’s melancholic side while album opener ‘Standing On The Edge’ saw the band dabbling with electronics for the first time. Closing number ‘Bug’ and the equally dynamic ‘Choke’ are perhaps the closest representation to the Feeder of yore while ‘Piece By Piece’ and ‘Tell All Your Friends’ also revel in their buoyant nature. It’s album centre piece and standout track ‘We Can’t Rewind’ that demonstrates Feeder at their most sublime. “This is our time!” declares Grant Nicholas over its distinctive melody and insistent riff and at that moment in time, nobody would dare argue.
Tragically, Echo Park would also prove to be a poignant landmark in Feeder’s history as it was the last record to feature original drummer Jon Lee, who passed away the following January.
Released: 2003 via Must… Destroy!!
Chosen by – Nick Roseblade: Sludgefeast are one of those bands that you either love or hate. Sounding like the bastard child of W.A.S.P., Ramones, MC5 and Alice Cooper’s early stuff, their live sets were incendiary and hilarious thanks to lead singer James Barnard’s excellent comic timing and witty patter. When I found Sludgefeast nothing was really speaking to me, musically, and everything seemed to be in a downward spiral. After playing Noise Action Noise and seeing them live, a lot, my life had musical meaning again and dreary evenings after work were now filled with amazing gigs and incredible albums. To say that The Feast changed my life is probably an over exaggeration, but they definitely made it better and in the 12 years since I’ve been listening to them I can safely say I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.
Released: 2003 via MIDI Inc.
Chosen by – Tristan Bath: The now defunct Yura Yura Teikoku (‘The Wobbling Empire’) were perhaps the most revolutionary band to emerge from Tokyo’s underground towards the end of the 20th century. They crafted stunningly beautiful, all-encompassing psychedelic indie while singing fully in their native Japanese, yet swapping 20 minute guitar solos for the concise songwriting chops of main man, vocalist, and insanely cool chap, Shintaro Sakamoto. Their live shows were known to get deathly heavy, but Yura Yura Teikoku no Memai along with its slightly darker sister album released concurrently, Yura Yura Teikoku no Shibire houses gentle lullabies, ballads and simply achingly beautiful tunes, boasting a wide host of additional vocalists (including kiddie choirs), brass, pianos, music boxes and other randomness alongside the central trio. Bassist Chiyo Kamekawa now plays with Keiji Haino in Fushitsusha, and Sakamoto now releases music as a solo artist – but no Memai was their incomparable peak.
No album’s pushed me to the brink of tears so many times over the years out of sheer emotional strength – and that’s without understanding a single word. Music from somewhere this deep doesn’t need translating, I guess.
Released: 2013 via Fire
Chosen by – JR Moores: James Toth (aka Wooden Wand) may not be the most underground artist anymore but we’ve not covered him much on DiS and he still doesn’t get the wider recognition he deserves as one of our greatest contemporary singer-songwriters. “Singer-songwriter” doesn’t do him justice, of course. His background in free-folk-psych-noise means that, no matter how “traditional” or “conventional” his songs have become, there’s always something intriguingly off-kilter about them. A darker sequel to the more knees-up hootenanny of 2011’s Briarwood, Blood Oaths Of The New Blues tackles subjects such as crime-sprees, suicide-by-drowning and the death penalty but there’s a humane warmth and weary optimism to Toth’s voice which prevent his murky ballads from collapsing into total bleakness. The subtle musicianship of his band and the touching backing vocals of Janet Simpson help to make Toth seem, and the listener feel, less lonely and deserted.
Thanks to his history in the trippier “New Weird America” scene, Toth is able to infuse his songs with influences from beyond your average songsmith’s sources. Blood Oaths’ spooky mood is inspired by Toth being freaked out by listening to King Diamond’s Abigail LP on headphones after discovering hallucinogens, while the track ‘Jhonn Balance’ is a tribute to the much-missed experimental Coil musician. “Like few others, Balance’s life and the way he chose to live it inspired me as much as his incredible music,” Toth has said. It’s also been reported that Toth has tattooed one of his wrists with the invaluable maxim “What Would Neil Young Do?” It’s as good a motto to live your life by as any other, and one that’s indicative of Toth’s restless creative ambitions. It’s a shame that Toth isn’t more widely lauded but, you never know, perhaps one day some kid might tattoo upon his or her own skin the inspirational words “What Would Wooden Wand Do?”. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea. Ink me up, baby.
Released: 2005 via Xtra Mile
Chosen by – Chris Shipman: You can probably count on one hand the number of bands over the past decade and a half who’ve doffed their caps lyrically to the likes of Augustine of Hippo and the Third Punic War. Fewer still who’ve made anything but solely self-indulgent pish. Million Dead were such a band. True, they may have on occasion skirted the margins of pretension, but ‘Harmony No Harmony’ (their second and last album) is for the most part supremely entertaining — surprisingly so given that it drew its inspiration from the finer points of an ancient history degree at the London School of Economics. Though the band sounded like a deranged Simon Schama fronting Refused, there are softer moments too — the Smiths-esque P45-collection anthem ‘To Whom it May Concern’ being one such example. Most Million Dead fans will claim that their more orthodoxly punk debut record that contains their (and by extension Frank Turner’s) best work, but it’s the wonderfully balanced breaks between the post-hardcore bombast that win it for ‘Harmony No Harmony’ by a nose. Always the bridesmaids but never the brides, the band split soon after release, in their words to leave a ‘good-looking corpse’. A decade’s distance since has proved that, by Jove, they were proved right.
Chosen by – Woodrow Whyte: I have fuck all information about Endian. I’m not even sure when this record was released, or by what label. The crumbs of information I have scraped together through frenzied Google searches tells me that it was made by a shadowy figure named Alfredo Nogueira. He appears to have started Endian in the early 00s and produced this one very sublime album of shoegazey dream-pop called Dream Machine. If you’re a fan of Beach House and My Bloody Valentine, your day is about to get exponentially better. After this record the trail goes cold, except turning up on Apparat’s The Devil’s Work in 2011 and another album in the same year by a Mexican producer named Cubenx. A couple of years ago curiosity got the better of me and, like a complete stalker, tracked down Alfredo on Facebook and sent him a message about running a feature. I didn’t receive a response. That’s fine, I suppose, but my heart can’t quite deal with the idea that he might have made another record as beautiful as Dream Machine, which I don’t know about. I’m not giving up hope yet.
Released: 2006 via Reveal Records
Chosen by – James Skinner: “I’ve been on the ride before / It never stops at all,” sings Joan Wasser on ‘The Ride’, Real Life’s slinky centrepiece. Come the second go-around she breaks into falsetto on the line, before hitting a perfect middle eight that segues into the heartfelt final chorus. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to the song and its parent album in the years since its release; countless doesn’t seem quite emphatic enough an adjective. On its opening title track Wasser’s voice is sweet, seductive and shot with melancholy all at once, as she documents desire and its undesirable consequences atop plangent ivories. She comes off wise and assured, but achingly human and vulnerable all the same: it sets the tone beautifully. Real Life is a stunning set of songs that deals with infatuation, love and sorrow (the closing tribute to Elliott Smith is especially poignant), tenderness, intimacy and defiance (see Antony Hegarty’s powerful cameo), against a snappy R’n’B backdrop courtesy of original ‘Police Woman’ trio Wasser, bassist Rainy Orteca and drummer Ben Perowsky. It was hardly ignored upon release – and Wasser has released a host of good to great albums since then, recently starting a project with Benjamin Lazar Davis inspired by trips the pair took to Africa – but the record is a real life, solid-gold, always-great modern classic, and that fact needs to be bellowed from the rooftops.
Released: 2009 via Banquet Records
Chosen by – Marc Burrows: 2008, the Edinburgh Fringe, and I’m huddled beneath a mixing desk, having a little cry. I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’m performing an hour long show at 11.30am, then stage managing/doing the sound at another venue from 2pm to 2am, going out and getting drunk til 4am, getting up and doing it all again. I am exhausted. Every day. Gavin Osborn saves my life. He was performing mid afternoon, doing a set that wasn’t exactly folk music, and wasn’t exactly comedy, but was exactly warm and nourishing and funny and became my lifeline to sanity. He was promoting his new album, Meeting Your Heroes, produced by Darren Hayman and written following a stint writing music for a two-hander show with alt-comedy hero Daniel Kitson. Every day I’d listen to Gavin’s lovely stories and inevitably would have a little cry. After his run ended (he only did 10 days of the month-long event) I’d listen to the album at least once a day. It was my chicken soup. It’s still an album I’d love even without its soul-reviving backstory, it’s poignant, warm, storytelling that’s not afraid to be both very funny (‘Charlie’s 18th Birthday’) and very sad (‘Not Going Anywhere’) and is at its best when it’s both (‘There’s An Awful Lot Wrong With A Little Bump And Grind’.) At it’s heart this is a plaintive break up album, where your best friend tells you “it’ll be alright” and cracks a joke and you genuinely believe them. Properly lovely stuff.
Released: 2004 via Kanine Records
Chosen by – Andrew Harrison: Whilst their later releases embraced a level of orchestration that saw them propelled to the height of the indie-sphere, Grizzly Bear’s starkly rendered debut Horn of Plenty remains a humble, gorgeous testament to their beginnings. Cast off as more of an Ed Droste solo record than a “true” Grizzly Bear release, Horn of Plenty plays like a soundtrack to any band’s formative stages – it’s lo-fi and often naively produced, but captures the very same tenderness and emotion that made their later output so decade-defining. Although they progressed hugely after it’s release (original shows featured two members playing for free in Williamsburg art galleries, without a PA system) Horn of Plenty gives us a spellbinding insight into one of the modern era’s most captivating bands in their embryonic state.
Released: 2006 by V2.
Chosen by – Ben Philpott: Grandaddy aren’t exactly what you’d call a lost band – in fact, frontman Jason Lytle recently announced on Twitter that their first new LP in 9 years is currently underway, hurrah! Their initial three albums Under The Western Freeway, The Sophtware Slump and Sumday all performed pretty amazingly for an oddball US indie band and even scored the gang a number of celebrity fans along the way (Louis Theroux, Charlie Brooker, Kate Moss…) Despite the plaudits, their 2006 release Just Like The Fambly Cat kinda went by unnoticed with no tour, weak marketing and the untimely breakup of the band right before its street date.
Though titled as a Grandaddy record, this is realistically more of a Jason Lytle solo effort with help from Aaron Burtch on drums. Musically, this is easily their most diverse with stylistic changes coming thick and fast through its hefty 61 minute runtime. ‘Jeez Louise’ rocks harder than anything on Sumday while the one-two punch of ‘Rear View Mirror’ and ‘The Animal World’ has got to be the most hypnotic 10 minutes in Grandaddy’s entire discography. Though a little scatterbrained, Fambly Cat never outstays its welcome thanks to Lytle’s goofy, personal lyricism and a welcome playfulness that shines through even during the album’s most sombre moments. You can tell this was a labour of love alone from that stunning cover of ELO’s ‘Shangri-La’ which closes the record – I’m not a fanboy… promise.
Let us know over on the DiS forum or by replying on social media below.
Which “lost” album, released since Oct 2000, would you have chosen?
— DrownedinSound (@DrownedinSound) October 6, 2015
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