This year deserved praise has been heaped upon Frank Ocean's debut Channel Orange, the Flaming Lips' blood vinyl project and Beach House's Bloom. Meanwhile, works like The Shins' Port of Morrow and Passion Pit's Gossamer have been seriously overhyped.
Lost in the shuffle have been five superb but underappreciated releases, below, some of which you may have seen in your peripheral vision and deserve a longer glance.
The radiant Lineage comes from one-man electronic aficionado Zach Saginaw, known as Shigeto, in which he pays his Japanese heritage and Michigan upbringing gorgeous tribute through focused rhythms and swelling, varied instrumentation. Distant harps and jazzy keys are featured on standout "Huron River Drive," while a crackling backdrop in "Ann Arbor 3 & 4" evokes the sound of an old record player in your parents' basement. Lineage is the soundtrack to midnight drives in your hometown, years after you've last visited.
Chicago's Disappears' terrific third record is Pre Language. Brian Case channels The Fall's Mark E. Smith uncannily with sultry, deadpan vocals, particularly on "Replicate." Heady bass riffs and reeling guitarwork entwine into a distortion-laden opus track after track, complementing the addition of Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley to the band's permanent lineup. Shelley's lean percussion on Pre Language evokes No Wave white noise, with a sound that flirts between concise and enigmatic.
3. Lotus Plaza
Spooky Action At a Distance
Jangling '60s pop folds into eerie ambience and opaque rhythms on Spooky Action at a Distance, the side project of Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt. Sunny despite a melancholy disposition, Pundt's vocals gloss over fuzzy, reverb-packed guitars and hypnotic synthesizers. A layer of trippiness lurks closely underneath it all, particularly with the noisy bravado of "Out of Touch." The overall effect is a hazily drawn romance, sketched from the expanses of the imagination and into the outlines of a cloudy afternoon.
2. White Fence
Family Perfume Vol. 1 & 2
No one can quite do California garage rock like L.A.'s Tim Presley. Pure nostalgia for a lost era seeps into both volumes of Family Perfume Vol. 1 & 2 -- at times mirroring the focused songwriting of The Beatles, at others the mad genius of Syd Barrett -- but with an unmistakable contemporary voice displaying a rare talent for songwriting and ear-shredding instrumentation. Plucked from a vast array of works self-recorded on a 4-track recorder, the resulting homegrown rhythms on Family Perfume Vol. 1 & 2 swirl with warped garage guitars, paisley-stained psychedelia and dreamy, lofi vocals.
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BADBADNOTGOOD may have an awkward name, but no other band crafts such punchy, thumping covers, which range from Ol' Dirty Bastard to My Bloody Valentine. The trio, comprised of 20-somethings Chester Hansen on electric and double bass, Matt Tavares on keys and Alex Sowinski on percussion, utilizes improvisation, tight percussion and an elegantly melodic framework to create infectiously fresh music. Backing Frank Ocean at this year's Coachella, their second release BBNG2 features minimalist dubstep in the vein of Burial with "Vices" and "CHSTR." Most impressively, BBNG2 tiptoes into a world of spooky electronic music while smudging the divide between jazz and hip-hop.