So we’re all stuck inside. We’ve finished Netflix. We’ve worn out our favourite records. We’ve listened to Spotify playlists to find new music. So what to do next? Well here’s a beautiful idea… if you’ve never heard it before it’s new to you. So we’re trying to put together lists of great albums that either slipped through the cracks or got lost to the sands of time. Something new for you to discover! Here’s my list:
Placebo – Meds (2006)
Placebo holds a very special distinction to me. I’ve seen them listed as a one-hit-wonder on four different lists, the kicker is that it was for four different songs. That’s a head-scratcher right there. There was “Pure Morning” and “Every You Every Me” from Without You I’m Nothing, “The Bitter End” from Sleeping With Ghosts and their cover of the Kate Bush classic “Running Up That Hill.” The latter being one of the best covers ever recorded for my money.
Picking a Placebo album from this list was actually difficult. While most of their catalog received little attention in North America, I don’t think they’ve recorded a bad album of their eight studio efforts. I ultimately picked Meds because it’s probably the easiest to digest on first listen. It’s got the sheen of guest spots from Alison Mosshart (The Kills/The Dead Weather) and Michael Stipe (REM). It’s a way of combining dirty riffs with catchy hooks all meshed together with Brian Molko’s incredibly unique vocals.
Songs like “Meds” and “Infra-Red” will have you bopping your head, while “Follow the Cops Back Home” and “Pierrot the Clown” will haunt you. “Song to Say Goodbye” does indie better than most indie bands do today and will be stuck in your head. And if you’re quarantined with the one you love, “Post Blue” is one of the sexiest songs of the 2000s.
Sample Track: Post Blue
Wilson – Full Blast Fuckery (2013)
From the opening scream of opening track “My Life, My Grave” the fuckery is indeed turned up to 11 and does not even allow of thinking of touching that dial. These Detroit rockers’ debut is what would have happened if Motley Crue had started in today’s modern metal scene. “College Gangbang” will take on any song in the Crue catalog. It’s a 3-minute party that would leave Andrew WK blushing. Tracks like “Susan Jane” and “I Can Beat Your Dad” are just pure headbangers, but honestly, I can say that about every track. Go find a track on this album that doesn’t kick your ass… go on, I’ll be here waiting.
Sample Track: College Gangbang
Ed Kowalczyk – Alive (2010)
It’s the classic story, boy fronts band, boy leaves band to do his own thing, that thing isn’t as successful as the band, boy goes back. For those of you that don’t recognize the name, Kowalczyk was/is the lead singer of 90s rockers Live. There’s a twist to this story though. That solo material that flopped? It’s actually pretty damn good. I struggle to understand why it went by largely unnoticed. My best guess is that he tried to turn himself into a Christian rocker. Lead single “Grace” has it plastered all over it and that doesn’t really spin well on rock radio. But his trademark ethereal and powerful vocals are still there. Honestly, otherwise songs like “Drive” “Stand” and “Drink (Everlasting Love) fit in with the Live Catalog.
Sample Track: Grace
Blind Melon – Soup (1995)
After their self-titled debut went triple-platinum, Blind Melon seemed to be on a rocketship to stardom. In the era of grunge, their folksy psychedelic rock sound was an outlier. While angst was the order of the day, they were airy and uplifting. With all the hype in the world behind their sophomore effort, it was a complete flop and Hoon was found dead in their tour bus. Blind Melon became a footnote in 90s rock, but for my money, that album was just out of its time. It has a spirit that would’ve been right at home in the 70s psychedelic rock scene. Looking back with the grunge goggles removed, Soup is a beautiful, complex and heartfelt work of art that far surpasses what their debut offered.
I think it would even have a home today, it’s what would happen if you gave Mumford and Sons or the Lumineers fistfuls of drugs, like lots of drugs. You’ll dance with songs “Galaxie” and “Wilt.” You’ll stomp your feet to “Skinned” which could be a modern folk revival song if it wasn’t about a mass murderer making furniture out of his victims. “Toes Across the Floor” and “Mouthful of Cavities” are haunting songs that hit deep.
I’ll give you a sample taken from their Woodstock ‘94 performance. My favourite performance from either of the 90s Woodstocks and definitely worth checking the whole thing out.
Sample Track: 2×4
David Usher – Little Songs (1998)
The enigmatic singer from Moist was at the height of his career as the king of Canadian grunge when he stepped aside for a second to give us Little Songs. This barely qualifies as stepping outside his band though as the contributing musicians list looked a lot like the band’s lineup. But this definitely wasn’t Moist. It was subtle and understated with some electronic and jazzy elements fused in. It was much closer to the trip-hop acts that were big in the late 90s than grunge.
Lead single “Forestfire” and “Jesus Was My Girl” were essentially Portishead tunes with Usher on vocals and the result was stunning. “St. Lawrence River” shows a sensitive side we hadn’t seen from Usher but had some of his trademark darkness behind it. “Unholy, Dirty and Beautiful” and “Baby Skin Tattoo” are deeply introspective and striking.
Usher went on to have a very successful solo career with much more radio-friendly albums and this album seemed to have gotten left behind. It’s a shame, but its uniqueness is also part of its charm.
Sample Track: Jesus Was My Girl
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