Jul 17, 2014

"Those are the guys that did 'West End Girls' and that song about brains and money or whatever, right?"

Sigh.

Invariably, that's the response I get from fellow Americans when trying to discuss Pet Shop Boys with them. And I'm tired of it. Sick and tired of it, folks.

Don't get me wrong, I love "West End Girls" and "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)," but there is so. Much. More.

I'm fanatical about Pet Shop Boys. I'm fanatical about them in the same way the Depeche Mode fans who commented on my recent Depeche Mode piece are. Although, I think I'm less angry? Then again, perhaps not. The conversation outlined above does make my blood boil and fill me with inexplicable rage. But I mean, I'm not so fanatical of a fan that I can't recognize when Pet Shop Boys put out a clunker; Bilingual, Nightlife, and Release weren't great. Rather spotty, if I'm being honest. In fact, some bits of that album run are downright silly.

But still.

Here are some things, according to Wikipedia, Americans should know about Pet Shop Boys right freaking now:

  • Guinness Book of World Records has named Pet Shop Boys the most successful duo in U.K. music history.
  • According to Billboard, as of 2003, they were listed as the 4th (behind Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Donna Summer) most successful act on the U.S. Dance/Club charts.
  • They've sold over 50 million albums worldwide, had 42 Top 30 singles, and 22 hits in the U.K. Top 10.
  • They are three-time Brit Award winners and six-time Grammy nominees.
  • We named last year's Electric as one of the 125 best albums of the year (just sayin').

And I could go on and on.

But I won't. Instead, I present for your edification, 10 Pet Shop Boys songs that are not "West End Girls," but just as good, maybe even better? (And these songs weren't even singles!)

Once again, we've dumped these tunes into a Spotify playlist for ya, too.

By Kenny S. McGuane

Jul 03, 2014

Album art is an incredible thing; it can complement, enhance, or even define a record before we've managed to push play. Legends like Vaughan Oliver, Storm Thorgerson, Peter Saville, and, more recently, Leif Podhajsky consistently deliver sleeve designs that fall within this remit, but they represent only one side of a sliding scale that at its worst consists of things like this. It's never just been a question of "good" or "bad" though, (something which is of course as subjective as the discussion surrounding the music contained therein) because also on that sliding scale we find the controversial album cover.

Whether it's defined by context (The Rolling Stones now incredibly tame seeming toilet-seat featuring record Beggars Banquet) or just scandalous (NOFX's "Eating Lamb" single is still a case in point), it's the controversial album cover that sticks with us more than anything. It's got everything we as a society crave-gossip, anecdotes, public outrage, and the shock factor. So we've condensed all these elements into one handy list. By Lauren Down

Jun 26, 2014

Let's face it: Depeche Mode haven't released a good album in nearly a decade. And Playing the Angel was good, not great. They haven't released a great album in over 20 years. Last year's Delta Machine was unlistenable. 2009's Sounds of the Universe was similarly excruciating (except "In Chains"-that song was pretty dope). Some say this slow and steady decline is a result of Martin Gore allowing Dave Gahan to bully his way into the songwriting (to what extent Gahan actually "writes" songs is unclear). But that's letting Gore off the hook. Gahan has only had writing credits on a handful of tracks since 2005, and one of them is "Suffer Well," which is the best Depeche Mode song since 1997's "Barrel of a Gun". Things really started to go downhill once Alan Wilder left after Songs of Faith and Devotion. And we still have no idea what Andy Fletcher does, right?

Truth is, they sound tired. Bored. Burnt out. But shit, they've been around for almost 35 years. They're still touring and they still put on astonishingly good shows. And the Music for the Masses-Violator-Songs of Faith and Devotion trifecta is still one of the best album runs in pop music history. Plus they gave us "Policy of Truth." 'Nuff said?

Anyway, here are 10 Depeche songs that aren't on nearly enough iPods. (Are iPods still a thing?) We even dumped them into a Spotify playlist for ya.

By Kenny S. McGuane

Jun 19, 2014

William Friedkin's 1973 film The Exorcist is just as famous for its use of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" as it is for its 360 head turnperhaps, in fact, even more so. Richard Strauss' Nietzsche-inspired tone poem "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" is probably much more commonly referred to as the music from the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey than it is by its real name. The point we're trying to make: sometimes the marriage of movie and song are so inseparable, so capable of encapsulating the mood of the sequence, that all other meanings and contexts are lost. In honour of these inspired "needle drops," we've collected a list of the best choices made by some of the best directors. By Lauren Down 

Jun 04, 2014

What links Choke (2008), The Shipping News (2001), Chocolat (2000), The House of Mirth (2000), and The Cider House Rules (1999)? That's right. You guessed it. They're all movies that credit the casting director Suzanne Smith-Crowley. A second thing they have in common is that they are all movies that were based on books. If there's anything contemporary Hollywood loves more than avoiding dreaming up original ideas, it's discouraging, dampening, and destroying those individuals who do love to dream up original ideas. That's why television is the place you go to these days for original and innovative content, while Hollywood churns out its uninspiring remakes, reboots, "reinventions," adaptations, dodgy sequels, dodgier prequels, and every five minutes announcing who will be the next (probably British) actor to play Spiderman, Superman, or Howard the Duck. Books are precious things. They can be repugnant things too. Hitler wrote a book. Piers Morgan's written several. Some books are too brilliant, complicated, strange, or just plain bad to ever be transferred successfully to film. With that in mind, we present our top 10 books that Tinsel Town would be wise to leave well alone. By JR Moores 

May 29, 2014

Based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice novels, HBO's fantasy epic series Game of Thrones is currently in its fourth season. I've been covering each episode of this season so far, which has been a blast, but since HBO decided to take a Memorial Day break this week, I thought I'd go back and do a quick recap of what I think are this season's best moments so far. Here we go.

by Cody Ray Shafer

Feb 28, 2014

The 86th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will happen this Sunday, March 2nd. This week we've taken a look at this year's short film competitions. The Academy defines a short film as an original motion picture running 40 minutes or less, and excludes all advertisments, unaired or unsold television episodes, or credit sequences from feature-length films. Our critic, Shawn Hazelett, watched and ranked all of this year's Oscar-nominated shorts. In this final installment, he'll look at this year's live action category. 

Feb 27, 2014

Portlandia's fourth season debuts tonight on IFC at 10/9 central, so we thought we'd take a look back at some of the best, strangest, or ironic sketches from our favorite unlikely comic duo. Here are our favorites, from an out of control game of hide and seek, to an all too familiar binge session of Battlestar Galactica, and the near-perfect introduction to the show, "Dream of the '90s."

Portlandia is one of the most unique and consistently hilarious sketch shows to come along since Mr. Show, and these sketches serve as a sampler platter of some of the best Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein have to offer. (And remember that Fred and Carrie are on the cover of Under the Radar's current issue. Also read a review of tonight's season premiere here.)

By Cody Ray Shafer

Feb 26, 2014

The 86th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will happen this Sunday, March 2nd. Leading in to Oscar weekend, we'll be taking a look at this year's short film competitions. The Academy defines a short film as an original motion picture running 40 minutes or less, and excludes all advertisments, unaired or unsold television episodes, or credit sequences from feature-length films. Our critic, Shawn Hazelett, watched and ranked all of this year's Oscar-nominated shorts. Today, he'll look at this year's documentary category. 

Feb 24, 2014

The 86th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will happen this Sunday, March 2nd. Leading in to Oscar weekend, we'll be taking a look at this year's short film competitions. The Academy defines a short film as an original motion picture running 40 minutes or less, and excludes all advertisments, unaired or unsold television episodes, or credit sequences from feature-length films. Our critic, Shawn Hazelett, watched and ranked all of this year's Oscar-nominated shorts. Today, he'll look at this year's animated category. 

Feb 05, 2014

Welcome to Ranked, our recurring series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all of their official studio albums from most essential to least essential. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Scott Dransfield ranks The Shins.

 

It seems impossible to write about The Shins without starting with a mention of the band's first big exposure: Natalie Portman's famous name-dropping of them in Zach Braff's film Garden State, and the inclusion of two of their songs on the film's trendsetting indie soundtrack. This is because in the beginning, The Shins, in the sound of their music, recording quality, and odd, whimsical lyrics, perfectly exuded the kind of quirkiness that movie needed. Subsequently, they were seized by a young generation and a music press hungry for an outfit that married an old-school '60s feel to lyrics that reflected the silly and scattered thoughts of kids with short attention spans. It's hard to look back over the 13 years since that first album was released and not see the influence of The Shins written all over indie music.

Featuring one of indie rock's most down-to-earth and likeable frontmen, James Mercer, The Shins established themselves early on as melodic powerhouses, and over the span of their career provided a constant output of quality. With the success of third album Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop's best first-week-charting album), the band had a promising future, only to be dissolved by Mercer and replaced with new members for a 2012 reunion. Now in 2014, with Mercer once again focusing on side project Broken Bells, it remains to be seen whether The Shins will continue, but at least they've left behind a legacy.

Ranking The Shins' discography is simultaneously easy and difficult: easy, because it's only four full-length albums long; and difficult, because all four albums are so near-perfect (yes, even 2012's divisive Port of Morrow) that it's tempting to just say they all tie for number one and call it quits. This list, however, will attempt to perform said ranking. Take it with a grain of salt. 

Jan 16, 2014

The modern golden age of television's luster certainly continued into 2013 with current classic shows ending celebrated runs being replaced by new classics. Not all of the writers of our humble music magazine are avid TV watchers, but eight of our staff (including our two publishers) submitted their Top 20 favorite TV shows of 2013 lists, from which the master list below was derived. Any show that aired new episodes in America in 2013 was eligible. Of course, the definition of "aired" has changed slightly in recent years, with several of this year's best shows streaming exclusively on Netflix and many watching shows after they've first aired via DVR, DVD, or streaming services.

It was a photo finish for our #1 show of 2013. The Walking Dead took our top spot in 2012, but couldn't fend off an attack from Walter White. Breaking Bad's final episodes constituted one of the most acclaimed seasons ever of one of the most lauded shows ever. Diehard Doctor Who fans will likely forever debate whether or not the show is headed in the right direction, but most seemed to agree that November's much hyped 50th anniversary special lived up to expectations and that was enough to land it at #3 on our list.

This year we not only bid farewell to Breaking Bad, but the following, among others, also aired their series finales in 2013: Fringe, Eastbound and Down, 30 Rock, Burn Notice, and The Office. The baton was passed-what a year for new shows, with the following all in their freshman season in 2013: Broadchurch, Masters of Sex, Orphan Black, Hello Ladies, The Americans, The Blacklist, Orange is the New Black, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Goldbergs, Top of the Lake, The Bridge, House of Cards, Maron, The Returned, Hannibal, Rectify, Ray Donovan, and Rick and Morty.

Stay golden, TV.

Jan 08, 2014

It almost feels strange to list Yeezus as the "best hip-hop album of the year," as Kanye has become the rare artist that transcends both the genre and pop culture to which he belongs. Like no artist since Michael Jackson, he's a household name, a punch-line, and a musical visionary-and nearly every album he makes is now an instant classic. Yeezus is a curious album from an artist that has reached that status, though, as West strips back the creative excess that usually accompanies his ambitions and ends up with a minimalist setting that actually provides more space for his outsized ego. He might not be the greatest rapper ever, the greatest lyricist ever, or the greatest producer ever, but he keeps turning out album after album that reimagines and redefines what hip-hop can be, all the while establishing him as one his generation's most compellingly conflicted personalities. Still, it's a shame that no matter how great he is, he'll still fall short of how great he thinks he is.

 

The rest of the year belonged to eccentric upstarts, from Chance the Rapper's instant leftfield classic to Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt's genius-confirming turns as post-fame success stories. Storytellers (Kevin Gates, Le1f, Ka) had a good run in 2013, too, but even the year's most serious artistic statements (Run the Jewels, Migos) had a thick undercurrent of fun running through them. Overall, this is a top heavy list but a deep one, with five classic or near-classic albums and over a dozen more that suggest that hip-hop has rarely had so many distinctive personalities pulling in so many different directions at one time. By Matt Fink

Jan 03, 2014

While the days of watching music videos on television are long gone, over the past several years the visual art form has certainly found second life (like so many other things) as an excellent online commodity. In 2013 many music videos went beyond just being a cool visual acccompaniment of a favorite song to become standout pieces in their own right. Whether they were cinematically compelling, told a great story, were creatively off-beat and did something different, or were just incredibly entertaining, the here are Under the Radar's favorites from a fantastic year.

Jan 02, 2014

2013 was another great year for film, particularly for science fiction (Gravity, Her, Pacific Rim), and intensive character portraits (Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, Frances Ha, Blue Jasmine.)

To put together this list, our film contributors submitted their personal Top 10s (with the option to extend it to a Top 20) and our final rankings were calculated from those ballots. We present Under the Radar’s Top 20 Films of 2013 below. 

Jan 01, 2014

For some, "electronic" may be roughly as useful a term as "alternative" these days, but the intriguing breadth of work listed below points toward 2013 being a banner year electronic music. Daft Punk aimed for the top of the pop charts and made it, while artists such as The Knife aimed right between the eyes and hit their own target.

Dec 31, 2013

Throughout the year, many stellar performances go underseen, are overlooked, or are otherwise underrated. In this piece, cinema writer John Oursler spotlights several of 2013's overlooked performances. 

Dec 23, 2013

Either 2013 was just a really, really great year for music or we're a bit indecisive. Whatever the case, instead of our traditional Top 100 albums list this year we present the Top 125 albums of 2013. How did we arrive at such a massive list? Twenty-two of our regular writers and editors (including our two publishers) each submitted their personal Top 45 albums of 2013 lists and then those were all combined and calculated together to form this master list. Then we took the Top 10 from the initial vote and did a second vote to determine our #1 album and the order of the Top 10. For an album to make the Top 125 it had to be picked by at least three writers. And every writer's #1 album of the year is represented somewhere on the list.

This was a year of spectacular comebacks (Suede, My Bloody Valentine, David Bowie, Primal Scream), exciting debuts (CHVRCHES, Foxygen, HAIM, Younghusband), and fantastic new albums from reliable mainstays (Vampire Weekend, The National, Camera Obscura, Foals). Read on and let us know if we missed something or you otherwise have thoughts on this list.

Nov 08, 2013

Welcome to Ranked, our recurring series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all of their official studio albums from most essential to least essential. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Cody Ray Shafer ranks The Flaming Lips.

From their inception in the mid '80s, The Flaming Lips have touted themselves as a band you have to see live to really understand. Frontman Wayne Coyne's talent isn't so much his musicianship as his role as a master of weird ceremonies. After all, it was one of the band's crazy concertsthis one featuring a flaming cymbal fueled by lighter fluid that led to at least one incident of a band member's hair catching firethat landed their record deal with Warner Bros. It is safe to say The Lips rely on gimmicks, lights, balloons, confetti, giant hands, and lasers to win over crowds, something they have managed successfully for nearly three decades.

 

In the studio, however, The Flaming Lips created a whole new niche in pop music teetering on the edge of avant-garde brilliance. Maybe it's a testament to their old-fashioned Midwestern work ethic, sheer luck, or the raw talent of multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, but Flaming Lips albums are known for explorations into vast caverns of human emotion, psychedelia, and sonic experiments.

 

These are the best full-length albums from The Flaming Lips, including their often-overlooked pre-Warner Bros. releases.

 

Omitted are 2012's Heady Fwends duets album, their full-length cover of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon with Stardeath and White Dwarfs, the soundtrack for Wayne Coyne's film Christmas on Mars, and any EP releases or compilations.

Aug 30, 2013

Welcome to Ranked, our recurring series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all of their official studio albums from most essential to least essential. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Chris Drabick ranks Elliott Smith.

On the morning of October 22, 2003, I woke, made coffee, and then plodded over to my computer and started poking around the Internet. A typical morning. The news that hit my screen very shortly rendered it anything but: Elliott Smith was dead in Los Angeles. Apparent suicide. I was devastated. I heard the mail carrier arrive. I went to my box. In among whatever else had arrived was a package from Suicide Squeeze Records.

Several times I'd tried to order Elliott Smith's single "Pretty (Ugly Before)" from the Seattle label. I was too late each time, until a week or so before. I was excited. It was Smith's first proper release since Figure 8, an interminable three years plus for a dedicated, nerdy fan like me. Elliott Smith's songs moved me. That's all there is to it. They made me feel sick to my stomach. They were perfect.

Mary Lou Lord was fond of saying that Elliott was the new Kurt Cobain, and I guess she'd know as well as anyone. He was making music for "the sad kids." Maybe. I don't know. I can't know. What I'm certain of is that even Elliott Smith's saddest songs never made me feel sad. How could they? Because they were often minor chord whispers in the darkest of the dark? Because he wrote rage-filled screams at those who hurt and abuse? I didn't, and I don't, find that sad. I find it empowering. And I'm forever grateful that Elliott Smith empowered me.

I opened the package and brought the 7" into my living room. I switched the turntable to 45 (this is an annoyance on that old stripped-down NAD of mine, as it involves lifting off the platter to manually move the belt). Elliott Smith's voice filled my apartment, a new song, a beautiful, sad, hopeful song. Of course, it's just a coincidence. If I'd been luckier or more resourceful or on top of things, that single would've arrived far earlier. But it didn't. It arrived October 22, 2003, the morning I'd learned of his death, the only day it could've empowered me.

Jun 14, 2013

Welcome to Ranked, our recurring series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all of their official studio albums from most essential to least essential. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Dan Lucas ranks Radiohead. And then at the end several of our other writers provide their own ranking of Radiohead's albums.

Apr 17, 2013

Welcome to Ranked, our series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all their official studio albums from best to worst. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Austin Trunick ranks Orange Juice.

Aside from launching Edwyn Collins' career, Glasgow's Orange Juice left behind a lovelorn and defiantly catchy discography that largely went under-heard until recent years. As good as their albums were, they had a habit of falling out of print for long stretches of time.

Luckily, Domino Records is reissuing the band's four studio releases on vinyl in the U.S. for Record Store Day. Hopefully your local shop will institute some semblance of law and order on April 20th, but if not, which Orange Juice album should you dive for first in the tangle of dirty, grabbing hands? Feel free to use our rankings as your guide.

Here are Orange Juice's major releases, ranked from most essential to least.

Words by Austin Trunick

Apr 10, 2013

Welcome to Ranked, our recurring series in which one of our writers takes an artist’s catalogue and ranks all their official studio albums from best to worst. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Michele Yamamoto ranks Bright Eyes.

Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst began his career a teenage wunderkind in Omaha, Nebraska with strong ties to the burgeoning music scene and the band’s signature record label, Saddle Creek. Oberst popped up here and there as a solo artist, with a backing band, with a different backing band, playing in a friend’s band. As such, it’s difficult to trace every contribution made by Oberst, but undoubtedly he is best-known for his work as Bright Eyes, which is essentially Oberst with a rotating lineup of musicians that eventually formed a solid core with Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott.

From wunderkind to the next Dylan to something completely different, Bright Eyes has purportedly concluded its run with 2011’s The People’s Key (the last of eight original albums, all on Omaha’s Saddle Creek). And while it’s ideal to hear the progression through the years chronologically, here are Bright Eyes’ major original releases ranked from most essential to least.

[Omitted but Noteworthy: A Christmas Album (2002), Noise Floor (Rarities:  1998-2005) (2006), and truthfully, all of the EPs released]

Words by Michele Yamamoto

Mar 27, 2013

It always begins the same way. Every January, drunk on the musical riches of the previous 12 months, we find ourselves convinced that no year could match its predecessor. Then—little by little—we discover we're wrong. Here at Under the Radar we could argue that 2012 was an even better year for music than 2011 was, which is why we expanded our Top 80 best albums list from last year to a Top 100 best albums released in 2012.

Each of Under the Radar's writers submitted a list of their Top 35 favorite albums of the year. Those lists were all combined and tallied up to form Under the Radar's master Top 100 albums of 2012 below. Included, when available, are Rdio streams for each album.

This list will also appear in Under the Radar's forthcoming Best of 2012 Issue and several of the artists on this list are interviewed in that issue.  

Jan 03, 2013

Under the Radar's Hip-Hop Editor, Matt Fink (who also writes many of our feature articles), has put together a list of his Top 10 hip-hop albums released in 2012. We are regarding Frank Ocean's Channel Orange more as an R&B album, rather than a hip-hop one, otherwise it would be #1 on this list.

Dec 31, 2012

The modern golden age of television continued in 2012. The best of television in 2012 once again showed off the possibilities of the format, in which plots and characters can be developed over the course of the many hours of a whole season (rather than the two to three hours that most theatrical movies offer). 2012's television landscape took in myriad subjects—from zombie apocalypses to 1920s prohibition, from local political campaigns to international terrorist plots and CIA double agents, from the surreal shenanigans at a community college to the behind the scenes drama of a cable newscast. And then there was once again Doctor Who, whose main character can travel anywhere in time and space! 

Louis C.K. had a most memorable date with Parker Posey and a most confounding talk show mentor in David Lynch. Parenthood movingly tackled both cancer and veterans, perhaps slowly changing its status as one of network TV's more underappreciated dramas. The final seasons of 30 Rock and Fringe began, each show seemingly bowing out gracefully and on their own terms (the latter taking place 24 years after its previous season). And we were introduced to Lena Dunham and her very current (and also incredibly funny) worldview with Girls.

Each of Under the Radar's writers submitted a list of their Top 20 favorite television shows of 2012 and those lists were combined and calculated to form our master Top 50 TV Shows of 2012 list. Any show that broadcast new episodes in America sometime in 2012 was illegible. This list also appears in our Best of 2012 print issue.

The #1 show on our 2011 list was Community. If the start of its fourth season hadn't been pushed back to 2013, then perhaps it would've taken the top spot again. Those third season episodes that did air in 2012, however, were good enough to land it at #2. 

For a show to make this list it had to be picked by at least three different Under the Radar writers. Some shows that almost made the list, but didn't have quite enough votes, include Nashville, Falling Skies, Revenge, Person of Interest, Revolution, The New Normal, Elementary, Sons of Anarchy, Merlin, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, True Blood, Episodes, Shameless, and others.

Curb Your Enthusiasm was on 2011's list, but didn't air new episodes in 2012 and so wasn't eligible. Shows on our 2011 list that were eligible this year, but didn't make the 2012 cut, include Treme, Blue Bloods, Being Human (U.K. version), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sons of Anarchy, 2 Broke Girls, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and Raising Hope. Taking their places are such new 2012 shows as Girls, The Newsroom, Arrow, Hunted, Ben and Kate, Go On, The Mindy Project, and Smash.

NBC is the most represented broadcast network on this list, followed by a tie between ABC and FOX. HBO leads in terms of cable networks, followed by a tie between AMC and FX.

Did we get it right? Which shows should be on this list and which ones shouldn't?

Dec 21, 2012

Each of our writers submitted their personal best albums of 2012 list for when we calculated Under the Radar’s master Top 100 Albums of 2012 list. Here are John Norris’ Top 45 albums of 2012. 

Dec 20, 2012

Each of our writers submitted their personal best albums of 2012 list for when we calculated Under the Radar’s master Top 100 Albums of 2012 list. Here are Austin Trunick’s Top 15 albums of 2012. 

Instead of focusing on the releases on my list that earned (well-deserved) near-universal acclaim, I’ll write about the few that landed near the top of my ballot but didn’t seem to catch on so widely.

- Sophia Knapp’s breezy debut album easily spent the most time on my turntable out of any record this year, and I still keep coming back for its smooth, disco-era Stevie Nicks feel.

- I probably would have gone much higher with Chad Valley’s LP if I hadn’t already been so enamored with his vocal work on Jonquil’s early-2012 album, Point of Go; it’s probably my most feel-good album of the year.

- I don’t know how they could live up to the intensity of their live shows on record, but Light Asylum’s first full-length is a great collection of aggressive, industrial-influenced dance music.

- Foxygen’s EP was all over the place and fun; they have an album coming out soon that improves on their brand of bonkers.

- Junk Culture’s debut went too under-heard; his punch-drunk rhythms and woozy synth work made for another great debut record in 2012.

- The Darcys had me at “full Steely Dan cover album.” 

There are several great albums that, for some reason or another, I just couldn’t get into on early listens—Grimes comes to mind, in particular—but have really grown on me. There always seems to be a record or two that I don’t start obsessing over until I’m already a year late. By Austin Trunick

Sep 13, 2012

Welcome to Ranked, our regular series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all their official studio albums from best to worst. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Dan Lucas ranks Wilco.

Since rising from the ashes of alt-country staples Uncle Tupelo, Chicago's Wilco have emerged from their former incarnation's shadow to become one of the most critically-adored bands of the past two decades. In between becoming game changers in the music industry and winning legions of fans over to the Americana genre, they've developed their sound and recorded some of the most gorgeous music never to make the radio.

Here are Wilco's major releases, ranked from most essential to least. 

Words by Dan Lucas

Sep 06, 2012

Welcome to Ranked, our regular series in which one of our writers takes an artist’s catalogue and ranks all of their official studio albums from best to worst. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Austin Trunick ranks The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Riding seemingly out of nowhere on a wave of harsh fuzz and candy-sweet hooks, Scottish brothers William and Jim Reid—leaders of The Jesus and Mary Chain—would inspire dozens of other acts to turn up the gain dials on their amplifiers with the release of their 1985 debut, Psychocandy. Though the band’s sound and lineup would change many times until their breakup 14 years later, the handful of classic albums they put out in that time was amongst some of the most influential indie records of the era. 

Here are The Jesus and Mary Chain’s major releases, ranked from most essential to least.

Words by Austin Trunick

Jul 09, 2012

Welcome to Ranked, our new series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all their official studio albums from best to worst. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Austin Trunick ranks Belle & Sebastian.

Over the course of 17 years, Belle & Sebastian have gone from precious and endearing to frustratingly scattered, before reinventing themselves with a more grandiose sound somewhat far removed from their bedroom-pop beginnings. What began as a collective of musicians tightly shrouded in mystery has spun into a much larger musical identity. The whole time they've been mainstays in the realm of indie music, with their first few albums serving almost as a rite of passage for fans who enjoy the gentler side of the spectrum.

Here are Belle & Sebastian's major releases, ranked from most essential to least. 

Words by Austin Trunick

May 30, 2012

Welcome to Ranked, our new series in which one of our writers takes an artist's catalogue and ranks all their official studio albums from best to worst. The order is decided by the individual writer, rather than our editors. If you disagree with our ranking then please let us know in the comments section. This time Austin Trunick ranks Beck.

Like a latter-age David Bowie, Beck Hansen has built a long, successful music career largely because he's (rarely) recorded the same album more than once. A genre chameleon capable of swapping hats multiple times on a single record, half the thrill of being a Beck fan is in the surprises he'll throw our way with each track he releases.

With a new Beck album rumored to be just over the horizon, it's anyone's guess at this point just what direction he'll choose to take it. We've ranked Beck's 10 major studio releases below, from most essential to least, with an explanation of our placement following each entry. 

[Note: We're skipping over long-unavailable records such as Golden Feelings or A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight, and unreleased (yet leaked) tapes such as Banjo Story, Fresh Meat + Old Slabs, Don't Get Bent Out of Shape, and Beck, Like the Beer, as well as any of the Beck.com exclusive material. Perhaps a guide to Beck rarities is called for in the future?]

Words by Austin Trunick

Feb 08, 2012

It may have been a difficult year for many people for a multitude of reasons (not least of all, the weak economy), but 2011 was certainly a great year for music. Here at Under the Radar we'd argue that it was an even better year for music than 2010 was, which is why this year we've come up with a Top 40 best debut albums of 2011, versus last year's Top 30.

Each of Under the Radar's writers submitted a list of their Top 20 favorite debut albums of the year. Those lists were all combined and tallied up to form Under the Radar's master Top 40 debuts of 2011 below.

 

Dec 22, 2011

Each of Under the Radar's writers submitted a list of their Top 20 favorite TV shows of 2011. Those lists were all combined and tallied up to form Under the Radar's master Top 50 TV shows of 2011. The list will also appear in Under the Radar's forthcoming Best of 2011 Issue.

Favorites from last year’s list, Mad Men and Eastbound & Down didn’t show new episodes in 2011—thus were ineligible in this year’s vote. However, favorites Modern Family, 30 Rock, and Community hung on—joined by such newcomers as American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, New Girl, and Suburgatory. Basically, any show that aired new episodes in America sometime in 2011 was eligible. Check out our final rankings below. 

Dec 21, 2011

It may have been a difficult year for many people for a multitude of reasons (not least of all, the weak economy), but 2011 was certainly a great year for music. Here at Under the Radar we'd argue that it was an even better year for music than 2010 was, which is why this year we've come up with a Top 80 best albums of 2011, versus last year's Top 50.

Each of Under the Radar's writers submitted a list of their Top 30 favorite albums of the year. Those lists were all combined and tallied up to form Under the Radar's master Top 80 albums of 2011 below.

This list will also appear in Under the Radar's forthcoming Best of 2011 Issue and 36 of the artists on this list are interviewed in that issue. Stay tuned for more info on the issue. 

Feb 02, 2011

Under the Radar's writers re-listened to many of 2010's notable tracks, debated, and then each submitted a list of their top 30 tracks of 2010.  A shorter version of this list appears in our Year-End/Best of 2010 Issue, but below we’ve expanded it to include our top 100 favorite songs.

 

Jan 28, 2011

Under the Radar's Best of 2010 Issue, which is on stands now, features our picks for the Top 50 TV shows of 2010, meaning any show that broadcast new episodes sometime from January to December 2010. Here we present an expanded list, one that includes our thoughts on each of the shows in our Top 15.

Jan 14, 2011

 

Under the Radar's writers played many of 2010's notable games, debated, and then each submitted a list of their Top 10 games of the year. Those lists were all combined and tallied up to form Under the Radar's master Top 20 games of 2010 below.

This list also appears in our Year-End/Best of 2010 Issue, which is on stands now (until late-January 2011). That issue also features interviews with many of the artists on our Top 50, including Sufjan Stevens (who's on the cover), Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Avi Buffalo, Beach House, The Black Keys, Caribou, Club 8, Delphic, Rose Elinor Dougall, Gayngs, Lost in the Trees, Janelle Monáe, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, Plants and Animals, Mark Ronson, Sleigh Bells, Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, Sharon Van Etten, and Yeasayer.

 

Jan 05, 2011

Under the Radar's writers re-listened to many of 2010's notable debut albums, debated, and then each submitted a list of their top 20 debuts albums of the year. Those lists were all combined and tallied up to form Under the Radar's master Top 30 debut albums of 2010. Check out the list below. 

This list also appears in our Year-End/Best of 2010 Issue, which is on stands now (until late-January 2011). That issue also features interviews with many of the artists on our Top 50, including Sufjan Stevens (who's on the cover), Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Avi Buffalo, Beach House, The Black Keys, Caribou, Club 8, Delphic, Rose Elinor Dougall, Gayngs, Lost in the Trees, Janelle Monáe, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, Plants and Animals, Mark Ronson, Sleigh Bells, Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, Sharon Van Etten, and Yeasayer.

Dec 20, 2010

Under the Radar's writers re-listened to many of 2010's notable albums, debated, and then each submitted a list of their Top 20 albums of the year. Those lists were all combined and tallied up to form Under the Radar's master Top 50 albums of 2010 below.

This list also appears in our Year-End/Best of 2010 Issue, which is on stands now (until late-January 2011). That issue also features interviews with many of the artists on our Top 50, including Sufjan Stevens (who's on the cover), Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Avi Buffalo, Beach House, The Black Keys, Caribou, Club 8, Delphic, Rose Elinor Dougall, Gayngs, Lost in the Trees, Janelle Monáe, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, Plants and Animals, Mark Ronson, Sleigh Bells, Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, Sharon Van Etten, and Yeasayer.

Dec 14, 2009

These are the best albums put out between 2000 - 2009