History has a lot of very talented people you could call underdogs, ‘nearly made its’ or ‘could’ve beens’, and some artists float just under the surface of the mainstream when really they should be – in our opinion – much bigger.
Here are 10 artists and songs which we feel should be much better known…
Harry Nilsson – I’ll Never Leave You
Friends with the Beatles – often referred to as the 5th Beatle! – Nilsson was arguably successful for a time. More famous for people covering his songs than performing them in his own right – and ironically most famous for singing a song he didn’t write – if you look at the songs he did write and his body of work, it’s quite something. Not to mention that voice, which is never better exemplified than on this track which closes the underrated Nilsson Shmillson LP.
Cory Hanson – The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo
Cory Hanson is better known as the band Wand’s frontman (think Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, psych heavy rock scene), but this is like a modern Nick Drake, 60s/70s folk orchestral folk record. Due to the label’s release policy, it’s not on Spotify, Apple Music or iTunes and didn’t get a wide release on vinyl. I had to buy it direct from the label in America, wait four weeks for it to ship, and there is no download code, so I can’t even burn or mail it to you to spread the word. So it’s a miracle I heard it at all, and more people really should.
The Walkmen – Canadian Girl
Okay, everyone knows The Rat, but the Walkmen were so much more than that song. They had this classic sound which harked back to Sun studios, 50s and 60s rock and classic soul at times. Maybe if they had come out in that time they would have been huge – who knows. It seems unfair that they ended up finishing in a fairly downbeat state after several years touring when their songs and live show were so good. This song sums up their vibe pretty perfectly and is from the vastly underrated You & Me LP.
Townes Van Zandt – For The Sake Of The Song
You won’t very often find his records in top 100 lists of the past, or even in the shops, but TVZ was a massive influence on several of the biggest acoustic and country artists we have, and his music has a depth that modern acoustic singers could do with taking on board. This song is very simple and very beautiful and from a great LP of the same name. I simply can’t believe more people don’t know about his music and it’s still very sad that his music never really found an audience until after he had passed away.
Kevin Morby – Beautiful Stranger
Kevin Morby is a vastly underrated singer-songwriter from Kansas, America. His album Singing Saw is pretty much flawless and as a live act he can really play. The album got pretty good reviews and was featured fairly regularly in the press but I watched him play to 40 people last year and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. As a live band it was incredible and you could see elements of Dylan, folk, rock and punk all rolled into one. This song is about the Paris attacks and was a standalone charity release – it’s a pretty moving song with lyrics about the Bataclan tragedy and I’m really gutted more people don’t know about it.
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Timbre Timbre – Hot Dreams
This song is probably in my top 20 songs of all time. It’s almost dreamlike in how nice it is, but there is a strange undertone of sinisterness in the lyrics and feel too. Timber Timbre have some great songs but still I don’t feel like anyone knows them. When we have had a few beers in the band room, we always end up playing this song and I hope to see them play live one day.
David Bazan – Wolves At The Door
Quite simply one of the best rock songs I’ve ever heard. No flab, no mucking about, killer intro, really simple arrangement, great sound, lyrics are amazingly sharp and his voice is incredible. I can’t believe this isn’t a massive hit – if R.E.M. or U2 had come out with this, it would be their biggest song. David Bazan is a massively underrated songwriter who works really hard touring 24⁄7 and, in my opinion, doesn’t seemingly get the credit he is due – but his music is consistently fantastic.
Damien Jurado – QACHINA
The album this track is from is flawless and Damien has about 45 albums out, yet somehow doesn’t seem to be a household name. In the same way as David Bazan he tours constantly doing living room shows and I’ve a lot of respect for both David and Damien who seem to just happily travel doing their own thing with almost a cult following, but I think their music is so good and should be heard by all. This song and the song Prisms from his last LP [Visions Of Us On The Land, 2016] blow me away.
Phoebe Bridgers – Smoke Signals
This album is a fantastic record by a fairly new – to me, anyway – singer called Phoebe Bridgers who may yet turn out to be massive and prove me wrong. This song is a bit of a sledgehammer in terms of, if you really listen to the lyrics, it’s insanely sad (which is reflective of the whole album’s tone), but her voice and the arrangement is insanely good – she’s pretty young and I can’t wait to hear more of her stuff.
Best Girl Athlete – Hills
Okay, so we are pals with Katie – full disclaimer I also play on some of her album – but she is still criminally unknown in terms of the mainstream and deserves to be huge. She’s only 18, yet her songs are much more mature and her sound is changing all the time. Her new LP is fantastic and definitely deserves to be heard more. This song is from her debut and I’ve picked it as I like the video and it’s a nice intro to her music – check her out!
The Little Kicks’ new single Bang The Drum Slowly is available now – check out the video below: