By: Jordan Lyga
Think about a band you really love that writes amazing songs, and ended up disappearing because nobody seemed to care. That is what this list is all about. These are the records I listen to all the time, that I can’t talk about with anyone, because either nobody knows about them, or because nobody took the time to listen. I am trying to change that by giving them some much deserved recognition, and hopefully some of the band members will come through and realize that they did do something great and meaningful to someone. This is a list of underdogs who never saw their day. Until now. I have included download and purchase links under each one of these posts so that you can listen and decide for yourselves. So, without further ado, here are the “10 Most Unappreciated Albums of My Lifetime” – according to me. Oh, and I can be a little brash, so prepare yourself for profanity. Feel free to share your own Top 10’s in the replies. Maybe we can shed some light on many more unsung heroes. Awareness is the first step.
10) Dave Melillo – Talk is Cheap (EP)
One of the last acts signed to the legendary pop/punk powerhouse Drive-Thru Records was also one of the most promising singer/songwriters I had ever heard. He wrote this EP as a 16 year old. 16! When I was 16, I had just gotten out of a band that was at first called Disgruntled Chicken. This kid was supposed to be the next Chris Carrabba, and with this EP, he began what many thought was going to be a long and promising career. Unfortunately, it took awhile to get this EP out. Drive-Thru was going through some financial difficulties and at the end of its rope. Whatever happened next, we may never know, but Dave joined Cute Is What We Aim For and stopped releasing his fantastic brand of acoustic pop. It makes me wonder what his future could have been like. He recently released a full-length for free that left much to be desired, but with small glimmers of promise. You have no idea how many times I have sung “Sam’s Song” to the various ladies in my life. Thanks for that, Dave. If you are looking for a voice so pure it can make you cry, and an amazing story teller, this is a release you probably overlooked. Fix your mistake. NOW.
9) Small Towns Burn A Little Slower – So Begins the Test of a Man
Danny Wolf is a fucking poet. Honestly, the man could write it better than you ever felt it, much like me and sexting. But seriously, the stuff he manages to say in songs are some of the most complete and prolific lyrical thoughts ever recorded. And he manages to make them catchy! The time that must go into each one of these songs has to be astounding. And I haven’t even mentioned the rest of the band yet. When you have got a frontman who likes to use that much lyrical input, it takes a lot to write catchy and interesting parts around it. For Small Towns, that was not a problem at all. Listen to the opening riff in “The Giver,” the first track on the album and tell me it can’t be done. I have always had a thing for swan song albums, and this one signaled the band’s demise. The powerfully poignant sounds, and emotional fervor released in what a band knows is going to be their last hurrah is something no active band will every be able to capture. The desperation and desire to leave your mark on something with one last try is something that no one who isn’t at the bottom will ever know. There is a certain beauty to this entire record that is summed up perfectly in the song “Rooftops Won’t Come To You.” I guess the saddest part is that we wouldn’t have got this record if this band was not at wit’s end. But it certainly leaves a legacy. Long live STBALS.
Standout Tracks: “Rooftops Won’t Come To You” / “The Giver” / “Asleep in Life’s Waiting Room” / “Meth is the New America”
Buy It: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/so-begins-the-test-of-a-man/id275115413
8) The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past
I almost didn’t include this one on the list because of how new it is. It only came out a couple months ago. That said though, I think this band is probably the most underrated band out there today, and has some of the best songwriters on the planet in it. Not only are all of their songs catchy as hell, but they are well-written lyrically and musically. Their brand of melodic punk has writing roots that transcend the rebellion and grit that come with their perceived genre and go all the way into straight pop music. The storytelling is phenomenal, and you can feel the heartache and honesty that bleeds through every single line. These guys have something to say, and they want the world to hear it. I see them as more of a The Gaslight Anthem type of band, but I don’t think they ever get the credit they deserve for it. They could easily take over the airwaves like Rise Against if they wanted. I guess it is all up to them. This is easily the best release of this year. I encourage you all to get into it before they aren’t underrated anymore. ‘Cause punk isn’t big enough to hold these guys in.
Standout Tracks: “Mexican Guitars” / “The Obituaries” / “Freedom Bridge” / “Burn After Writing”
Buy It: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/on-the-impossible-past/id500857997
7) That Was Something – Bears
This is a record I stumbled into on accident. A friend of mine was managing them and told me I had to check them out. So I ordered the record and from the opening track I was hooked like a Republican on abolishing the rights of others. This is one of the catchiest albums you will never hear of. Shortly after it came out, the singer left the band. When that happens, the band wants to distance themselves from that singer as much as possible, so the promotion on the album stopped. These are perfect piano-rock pop songs. No radio hits or anything, but if you’re looking for a record that you don’t skip a single song on, this is it. Catchy and upbeat, even when talking about the depressing, it is perfect sunny day driving music. The musical hooks are just so clever, each chorus is explosive, and Paul Leavitt took his production to a whole new level for this one. When my band was picking producers for our last EP, this record is the reason I pushed so hard for Paul. The sounds he can make come out of bands are incredible. So sing along, nod your head, smile, and tell your ex to fuck off. This is one to remember.
Standout Tracks: “Here Comes Treble” / “Uptight in the Middle of the Night” / “The Wedding” / “Not Now Chief I’m In The Fucking Zone”
Buy It: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bears!/id435977498
6) Cadillac Blindside – These Liquid Lungs
What can’t I say about this album? Great hooks, lyrics, harmonies, dual vocals, and punk rock angst combined with that Midwestern earnestness that makes you realize that this record stood for something to the people that wrote it. At one point, these guys were headlining over bands like Alkaline Trio and Against Me!. They were poised to be one of the best alternative rock acts to ever come out of the Midwest. Then they broke up, and I feel like not many people got to hear this album, which is certainly their masterwork. Not only is this one of my top most unappreciated albums, but also one of my favorite albums of all time.
Standout Tracks: “True and Cold” / “Cheap Entertainment” / “Sleep Between The Line” / “Save Your Breath” / “Angel Superior”……. Fuck it, they are all awesome.
Buy It: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/these-liquid-lungs/id83420289
5) Sing It Loud – Everything Collide
A lot of people hated this band. A lot. Whether it was because their brand of pop conflicted with Epitaph Records‘ punk roots, or people simply thought they were just doing it to become famous. Personally, I don’t care. This band wrote some of the best songs I have ever heard, and will never get the credit they deserve for it. I think a lot of reason why this band didn’t succeed is because of the production on their debut. It made the band sound tinny and not real, which played into the whole “grab for fame” thing people liked to talk about (like they’d done anything in music outside of illegal downloading.) Regardless, they went to Jordan Schmidt for their second full-length (who did the band’s first EP), and made one of the most picturesque pop albums of the last ten years. It harkens back to the second half of the 90’s when bands like Nine Days (“Story of a Girl”) and Third Eye Blind were ruling the charts. The hooks are monstrous, the harmonies perfect, and every song makes me think of summer nights. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. Yes, their videos were pretty awful and didn’t really do them any favors, but why does that even matter? If people gave more of a shit about songwriting than they did about Twitter sprees, outfits and haircuts, this great band would still be around. R.I.P. guys.
Standout Tracks: “Only One” /”Thunderstorms” / “Shadows” / “Sugar Sweet”
Buy It: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/everything-collide/id369656748
4) October Fall – A Season In Hell
Say what you will about Pete Wentz. That man knows how to find great bands. Panic!, Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes, and the oft-forgotten October Fall. This band was around for what seemed like a millisecond, and left us with one EP and the full-length I’m going to talk about here, A Season In Hell, (which just happens to be an Eddie and the Cruisers reference, proving their coolness x 1000). I really have no idea why this band never got bigger than they did. The songs are phenomenal. Think like a poppier more upbeat OneRepublic. Tight harmonies, awesome dynamics, memorable choruses and a phenomenal voice. The only thing I can imagine held these guys up would be the ego of their frontman. I remember vividly an interview where he didn’t care what the scene thought because he was going to be a radio star or something along those lines. I think the ambition is fine, but it is kinda shitting in the hand that feeds you being that you are on Pete Wentz’s label. Even cameos from both Patrick Stump and Hayley Williams couldn’t save this great band from an untimely death. If you are the type that thinks this band was all fluff, all it’ll take is one listen to “If We’re All Alone Aren’t We In This Together” to change your mind. That song truly illustrates why this album is called “A Season In Hell.”
Standout Tracks: “Second Chances” / “Tongue Tied” / “If We’re All Alone Aren’t We In This Together” / “Keep It Coming”
Buy It: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/a-season-in-hell/id122012537
3) Gloria – What The Hell Have We Got To Lose?
This is a record that I’m sure most of you have never even heard of, by a band only people from Minnesota are familiar with. It should have come out on Uprising Records four years ago, but the band self-destructed before they could make that happen. That said, holy shit did the rock world lose a great band. This record has everything you could ever want. Think if Four Year Strong and New Found Glory had a baby that already had hair on it’s testicles and drank Grain Belt Premium instead of milk. Every song is a dance anthem, and by dance anytime, I mean slamming around ten of your closest friends and forty people you don’t know into a metal grate separating you from the stage. Seriously, try to listen to this record and not be productive. It has the same effect as Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet to me. The choruses are monstrous, and the lyrics are the most personal and self-deprecating I’ve ever heard out of the likes of a party band. There is only one ballad on the entire CD, and when it hits, it hits you like a ton of bricks. They spend the entire record kicking your teeth in with an outstandingly original gruff melodic voice and the catchiest guitar hooks this side of NFG’s “My Friends Over You”, and then you’ll be astounded by the realness and pain that come through in the final songs musical stylings. This record is a gem. One that you find at the bottom of your pint of PBR.
Standout Tracks: “Plan B is to Keep On Givin’r” / “ABC-Ya'” / “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat” / “The Tanquerage”
Buy It: http://gloriaminneapolis.bandcamp.com/album/what-the-hell-have-we-got-to-lose
2) Patrick Stump – Soul Punk (Deluxe Edition)
Dear Fall Out Boy fans, I hate you. Not because I dislike Fall Out Boy, they are actually one of my two favorite bands (sharing the spot with The Gaslight Anthem). But because of what you did to Patrick Stump when he decided to do something a little bit different and release a solo album. First off, it took forever to come out. Definitely long enough for your Overcast Kids boners to die down. But when it did, nearly every single one of you expected Take This To You Grave. What about Folie A Deux didn’t you listen to? The entire record? Probably. Regardless, you expected Fall Out Boy, and when he delivered a pop gem with lyrics that could match even Wentz himself, soaring melodies that might be some of the catchiest in recent history, and some of the most heartbreaking and motivating vocals ever, you shat all over him. The album has it’s lows (“Dance Miserable”), but then there’s a song like “The I in Lie” which is so emotional, I almost cried the first time I heard it. It could very well be my favorite song ever. I think the label also botched this one, because the promotion was almost non-existent, and every station I know of that got “This City” as a single watched it tear up their charts. I even recommend buying the Deluxe Edition, because you’ll be kicking yourself if you never hear “Bad Side of 25” and “Mad At Nothing”. Sure, “Run Dry” should be cut into two songs, but this is a can’t miss album. I swear if he never makes another record, I will come after all of you, and delete your Tumblr’s. Believe that.
Standout Tracks: “The I In Lie” / “This City” / “Spotlight (New Regrets)” /”Bad Side of 25″
Buy It: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/soul-punk-deluxe-edition/id466040776
1) Lucky Boys Confusion – Throwing The Game
Why this record wasn’t huge will always blow my mind. It was released on Elektra and produced by monster producer Howard Benson, who is responsible for major hit records by Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson, My Chemical Romance, and Bon Jovi. Yes, that Bon Jovi. Every song on here rules. My 14 year old self was obsessed with this record to the point that I have it autographed by every member of the band. The 14 tracks (16 if you count the two hidden ones), reach across genres starting with pop and punk, and then drawing from reggae, and rap. I had never heard anything like it before, and I probably never will again. Bands don’t combine all of those things anymore. They were original, and they had choruses so big, you would think they borrowed a few inches from Ron Jeremy. While I love all the albums and songs I have listed, their single “Bossman” is the only one that could have and should have been a #1 hit. It is that damn good. Even without the cameo from Grammy Winning artist Beanie Man. This is one of those bands who proved to me that music was not all about just writing good songs. But damn it should be.
Standout Tracks: “Bossman” / “Fred Astaire” / “Slip” / “Breaking Rules”
Buy It: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/throwing-the-game/id357823286
Autopilot Off – Make A Sound
Jamison Parker – Notes and Photographs EP
Just Surrender – We’re In Like Sin
Now and Forever – Of Wounds and Blessings
Straylight Run – Straylight Run
The Forecast – In the Shadow of Two Gunman
Dino Club – Look Cat Meow