Previously Unobserved

The Top 10 Albums

You Didn’t Check Out

 
Tis the time of year for Top Ten lists. And while everyone is singing the praises of the same overplayed crap, here is a list of 10 albums you should have checked out (but didn’t) over the last decade or so.
 

1. Doctor- High is as High Gets (2004)

Don’t call them a flash in the pan, even though they only existed for a short time. Doctor was The Watchmen’s Danny Greaves and a post Change of Heart, pre Dearly Beloved Rob Higgins. ‘What Makes You Think He’s Lucky?’ got some radio play, while the video for their second single, ‘Balancing’ was banned by Much Music. The boys split shortly thereafter; though not over a McDonalds commercial as Wikipedia suggests.

Greaves and Higgins strike a titillating balance; one providing a solid, almost monotone melody, the other screaming his face off. Every song has a killer hook and meaningful lyrics. A definite must-own for any Canadian rock aficionado.
 
Check Out: ‘What Of It?’, ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’ and ‘You’re Not Giving At All And I’m Not Getting Past It’
 

2. Sarah Slean- Night Bugs (2002)

With help from the genius Hawksley Workman, Slean released Night Bugs in 2002 and received decent radio play for her single ‘The Sweet Ones’. She’s since quietly released several stellar albums to a mostly underground following.

Slean is one of those artists who can create magic with little more than vocals, piano and the occasional string section. Emotive and poetic, every song penetrates your head and your heart.
 
Check Out: ‘Eliot’, ‘Weight’
 

3. Blaqk Audio- CexCells (2007)

I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t somehow work an AFI mention into this post. Ergo, Blaqk Audio’s CexCells. The side project of AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget, born out of their love of 80’s synth pop à la Cure and Depeche Mode. Expect completely danceable tracks with mild sensuality and dark undercurrents. Catchy, without being vapid, CexCells does pop the way it should be done.
 
Check Out: ‘Between Breaths (An XX Perspective)’, ‘Wake Up, Open the Door and Escape to the Sea’
 

4. Spinnerette- Spinnerette (2009)

Aside from ditching one front man for another, the unceremonious 2008 release of Spinnerette’s EP Ghetto Love was the first anyone had heard from Brody Dalle since the quiet disbandment of The Distillers. The full length Spinnerette came out in 2009 and was accompanied by a short tour.

Age and motherhood have mellowed Brody; her singing outweighing the snarls and growls. Never fear, the pure sex in her voice is still prominent, as is an unsurprising Queens of the Stone Age flavour throughout the album. Sadly nothing’s been heard from them since this blip on the radar.
 
Check Out: ‘All Babes Are Wolves’, ‘A Spectral Suspension’ ‘Valium Knights’ (EP)
 

5. Brand New- The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (2006)

Mentioning Brand New to most people usually triggers the “oh yeah, that ‘something something Gloria Fades’ song” reaction. And yeah, that was them and their most notable single. It’s also not anything like what you’ll hear on The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me.

Overall, this album is pretty dark, the perfect soundtrack to a downspiral (watch out if you hear me playing this one). Every song is designed to destroy you emotionally; an unrelenting tornado of noise and pained vocals, spinning itself into howling despair and fury.
 
Check Out: ‘Millstone’, ‘You Wont Know’, ‘Not The Sun’
 

6. Black Kids- Partie Traumatique (2008)

This is one of the many treasures I found whilst employed at HMV. I’ve not heard them mentioned or played anywhere until Glee covered ‘Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance’ this summer when I first had the idea for this list. What are the chances?

Anyway, they’re pure 80s emo-pop fun. Picture a combination of The Cure and Hot Hot Heat with bratty female vocals that Mother Mother has since made popular. Put it on when you’re feeling the teenage angst.
 
Check Out: ‘Hit the Heartbreaks’, ‘Love Me Already’
 

7. Tiger Army- Tiger Army II: The Power of Moonlight (2001)

Those who know psychobilly know Tiger Army. Those who just said “what’s psychobilly?” well, do not. Picture this; songs with a fast rockabilly rhythm, phantom-like vocals and lyrics about vampires, zombies, death and love.

Tiger Army is probably the most romantic and poetic of the psycho scene, having found the perfect formula for relevancy in a pigeonholed genre. Incestuous with AFI, the two have traded many band members over the years and appear on each others albums. Listen for a few appearances by the lovely Davey Havok.
 
Check Out: ‘Under Saturn’s Shadow’, ‘Annabel Lee’, ‘In The Orchard’
 

8. Dresden Dolls- The Dresden Dolls (2003)

I discovered these guys opening for Nine Inch Nails in 2005 and fell in love. Their debut album, like their stage show, is raw and unpolished at the same time as being charming and witty.

Self-described as “Cabaret Punk”, pianist/vocalist Amanda is a wild woman on the keys, celebrating her sometimes imperfect voice, while drummer Brian Viglione supports her with all sorts of unconventional percussion “instruments”. Tongues are firmly in cheek throughout the album as they sing about sex toys (‘Coin Operated Boy’) and even heavy subjects like pedophilia (‘Missed Me’ & ‘Slide’) and self-mutilation (‘Bad Habit’).
 
Check out: ‘Girl Anachronism’, ‘Bad Habit’, ‘Missed Me’
 

9. Mindless Self Indulgence- Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy (2000)

Maybe one of the rudest and crudest bands out there, to quote my mom. This album is filled with 30 electronic-rock-dance tracks (many short interludes in between) and every curse word you can imagine. They do sing about faggots, hating Jimmy Page and fornicating parents, you will feel a little wrong for liking it, but you wont be able to help yourself. They’re just so f*****g catchy.
 
Check Out: ‘Faggot’, ‘Backmask’
 

10. Kate Voegele- Don’t Look Away (2007)

This is kind of a guilty pleasure album. Yes, Kate is a One Tree Hill alum; meaning I didn’t expect a whole lot when I picked up this album…ok, it was a free promo. Fact is, she’s actually pretty talented; poppy without being pandering, mixing in just enough country to give her credibility. And she writes the kind of angsty girl songs that you can sing along to in the shower, put on with while eating a tub of ice cream or crying into your pillow.
 
Check Out: ‘One Way or Another’, ‘I Get It’
 

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About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on January 1, 2012, in Album Reviews, Sound Bites and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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