Most Underrated Artists of 2012

Most Underrated Artists of 2012

Here are just a few. I obviously can’t list them all. This is only a jumping-off point for you mainstreamers. So, please, music nerds and those with terrible taste, don’t send me hate messages about how the Avenged Sevenfold, or Chopin, discography should be on here.

Rock

As if Brandon Flowers [The Killers frontman] hasn’t been busy enough with his new album Battle Born (incidentally, also making the list), he’s been handpicking his legacy– an emerging band called Imagine Dragons. Released in September, this beast of Flowers’ creation has taken on a life of its own. After the song “It’s Time” worked its way into several movies, shows, & late-night programs, their roar was finally heard, being nominated for “Best Rock Video” at the VMA’s. By then, of course, they had already put out another album, Night VisionsBut go listen to both. I was pleasantly surprised by lyrics and unique sound, while maintaining a rocker quality.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering why you hadn’t heard of them until lately. Amazon.com called the band their “Favorite Rock artist of 2012.” Billboard Magazine listed them as one of “2012’s Brightest New Stars.” Perhaps we will see more of them soon in 2013.

And, am I the only one who noticed The Fray kind of….disappeared from the popular music scene after their chart-topping songs “How to Save a Life” and “Over My Head”…..??!

I think they have now finally matured, with the latest album Scars & Stories, both lyrically and instrumentally, but hey, this is America’s jukebox. I don’t control it; anyways, I’m sure it’s already too full with Beiber and Miley Cyrus. This is just a suggestion. If you liked their earlier stuff, I think you might like their new stuff even more.

Branching in between the categories of Rock and Singer/Songwriter is my discovery of  The White Buffalo, competing for the elusive “all-American” sound on this blog. Gaining their fame only recently by the show “Sons of Anarchy,” I stumbled upon them, then listened to the new album “Once Upon A Time, In The West”. My favorite songs currently of their’s are The PilotI Wish It Was True, and their cover of House of The Rising Sun.

I can’t describe the music better than the band itself:

The White Buffalo represents an authentic homage to the times of hard touring, hard drinking artists who truly lived what they sang about. Seamlessly moving from heartfelt ballads to raucous bar songs, The White Buffalo sings with honesty and thoughtful reflection as he travels the road, sharing his music. Everything about him is big, from his imposing physical size to his amazing vocal range. From his whiskey-drenched, growling lows to heart-stopping highs, The White Buffalo paints a touching picture, whether he stands alone or performs with his energetic, charismatic band

Download for free here

 

Singer/Songwriter

Tyler Hilton‘s  new album “Forget the Storm” has finally broken him out of the one-cast mold we’ve heard in the past ones. He’s really shown a new spark of inspiration since his days in acting [Walk The Line – Elvis; Charlie Bartlett; One Tree Hilll] yet somehow struggled to gain popularity among the masses. I’m not sure how that happens, because he does have quality music, with surprisingly good lyrics. Perhaps he didn’t have time to fully put into his music career until late, but he’s sounding more confident and diverse. He’s gained a rocker edge, though not completely lost from his mellow “Missing You” days. He has songs like “Prince of Nothing Charming,” but also bold rock anthems like “Loaded Gun

I have no idea how City & Colour‘s new album Little Hell went unnoticed. There’s not even enough space on here for me to rant about Dallas Green’s genius. So I’m not going to. Just go listen. (You may recognize this old one – “The Girl”

Parker Millsap: For my Okie friends, you might check out this guy, who I can only assume to be a long lost relative of Johnny Cash. Actually, wherever you live, do it. He’s officially my favorite underrated artist of 2012

“Parker Millsap and Michael Rose are essentially a force of nature. To compare them to any person, place, or thing is redundant. They are like nothing in the music market and their audience is probably clapping with one hand with that fat naked Buddha leading the devotees’ applause. Comparison is futile. Still, we strive to label that we may pass information on to our peers.” via parkermillsap.com

So here I go, I’ll try my best:
Born and bred in the heart of the American promised land,  this is exactly where I met Parker along his rambling tour — in downtown Oklahoma City. (though he plays shows in Texas too). He was hired as live entertainment for the (boring) Oklahoma Creativity Conference, which me and my friend Sally quickly decided to ditch and sneak off to our own private concert. There aren’t many who I can honestly say are”refreshing” or “enable us to breathe deep again,” but this troubadour has earned the title.  I was drawn in by the lyrics, showing the obvious marks of a captivating storyteller, like a ballad or incantation or something out of literature. He is either highly educated in the fine arts, and translates it into colloquial speak, or is just very street-smart, poetically speaking. Yet, his performance didn’t seemed strained’; he did it all so cooly, with that…haunting…groan fr0m the very depths of  his person. Right then, somehow, I knew these were more than lyrics, these were stories from his life, all of our lives; moreover, a larger narrative of America. Maybe what intrigued me, as it will you, is I couldn’t immediately nail him down (which is what we immediately want to do – stereotype & categorize). Was he country, alternative rock, folk, or what? In any case, it had the sound of something both unique and familiar, like a love-sick lullaby you must’ve heard sung you to sleep before, half-aware of the words.  I listened to this one-man act: a wicked-sweet howl it was- like a craving for tangy-sour dichotomy on the tongue- it both perspired and inspired the taste for more, as he wildly played numerous instruments, eagerly interacted with the crowd (us), kissed the harmonica  passionately, and stomped his foot, all at once. Standing there, listening, alone,  in the lobby, I had to think — this is the epitome of underrated. 

You can also listen to a few of his songs here.

Also, if you like those, check out the artist M.Ward. Listen to my favorite album, bootleg recordings, here. He literally recorded these albums in an attic, I think, for the vintage sound.

 

Indie/Folk

Ron Pope, famous for “A Drop in The Ocean,” should be on this list. I can’t believe people don’t know this guy. He’s more of a pop-acoustic-indie rock, but I don’t know where else to put him. He’s an interesting blend. Even if just for the lyrics, go look him up. He’s one of my favorite lyricists and writing inspirations, hands down.

Of Monsters and Men: This band is taking up the American airwaves, more and more, as they have gained popularity in the past few months. But they are actually from Iceland. You may have heard their songs, Mountain Sound & Little Talks peaking on the billboard charts, but you might check out the rest of the album. Especially if you’re a Mumford fan. Personally, my favorite is King & Lionheart.

Run RiverNorth (formerly known as Monsters Calling Home): More than anything, I was just so damn intrigued by how this band gained popularity, and wondered where they would go. I don’t want to spoil the story, but basically they went from unknown status to the Jimmy Kimmel Show. My favorite songs are Foxbeard and Growing Up. You can buy/listen to their EP here.

The Lumineers: Although the selft-titled album debuted in April, this unknown Denver band finally broke big with the song, “Ho Hey” in December. It was played on the radio, rising to the #11 spot on Billboard. Whether they stay a one-hit-wonder, or rise to fame is up to you. Check out the rest of the songs on the album and let me know what you think. Give it a full listen though; their songs tend to have a build-up.

If you like those, check out Best Coast, who has the sound of growing up, the sound of teenage transition, on their lips, with a little punk-indie edge.

 

Ambient Music

William Fitzsimmons, an Illinois-based singer-songwriter with a Masters in counseling, is I placed in this category for his raw, solo performances, as well as his synth remixes on the album “Derivatives.” Whichever you prefer. Most likely you’ve heard his (breakout) song Passion Play, as it was aired on countless TV shows.

Tycho : My personal favorite, a smooth blend of coffee-house melodies & silent-movie-like electronic cardio. No lyrics, almost all synth- a modern jazz. Great for studying or writing papers.

Washed Out, the most chill of the bunch, for those late hours of tedious work, when you’re too stressed to listen to fast BPM’s.

 

Techno Beats

Kap Slap: Specializing in all high BPM’s & crazy electronic-cardio remixes of famous songs. If you need workout music, look no further. One track of his will suffice. Seriously. He has a 1 hour-long track he made downloadable for freeon his facebook page. It’s the Back to School Mix. How appropriate.  I guarantee you, there is nothing (worth doing) in this world you shouldn’t be able to accomplish, within the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee & play the length of this energy-boosting track. My sister can attest to this; it’s the only way I passed biology last semester.

DJ Trademark: Vocal mash-ups are this artist’s specialty, with seamless transitions between popular songs, focusing on the art of blending high-quality jams, rather than creating fast techno-rave beats.

 

Stringed-Instrument groups

I’m going to put Hunter Hayes in this category. As I mentioned in my Top Pop Artists of 2012 blog a couple weeks ago (An Apocalypse Can’t Stop the Music),   At 21, playing more instruments than he is old, he’s not your average “country legend” or “band”. Check out the music video Storm Warning. Watch how many stringed instruments he plays.

In late 2011, while working at a country music station, I predicted him to be the rising star of 2012. He had not gained popularity for any of his singles then, but I saw something in him, something which would later inspire me to write these music blogs. I liked to play this game with my co-workers, “Who to watch for.” I told my boss Hayes had talent, that he would get big someday and we should interview him. My boss laughed at me, as if I knew more than him. Well, a year later, his song “Wanted” was chosen as the #5 best country song by Billboard and had three Grammy nominations, winning “Best New Artist.” I only have one thing to say: Who’s the boss now?!!

Seryn: Turn it up and jam-out in the car. Straight outta my hometown, this band, from Denton, Texas, is like Bon Iver on steriods -multiple voices shouting without reserve.  Have some patience with this band. I find them to be the one you “warm up to” after a few listens, but not after just the first time. Their music has long portions of instrumentals between harmonized vocals, but good things come to those who wait. The build-up & release is so, so worth it. Believe me.
Listen/Buy here.

[“Using a variety of instruments including guitar, ukulele, kalimba, accordion, bass, drums, viola, percussion and more…”]

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