Davy (Ohmpark):There are a plethora of artists in this city deserving of more attention, but none more so than Nomen Novum. For me, David Norbery’s Nomen Novum is on the same par as Deerhunter and Outkast in that he’s one of the greatest musicians to call this town home. His guitar playing and tone are incredible, yet he’s also one of the city’s most innovative electronic artists. He writes clever, witty, and funny lyrics, but he can also build an insane drone track. He can write a perfect pop song that also happens to push the boundaries of sonic experimentation. Yet somehow, he still remains in almost total obscurity. It boggles my mind.
Denton (Little Advances):Shepherds can’t seem to find much local traction, despite a release via Double Phantom Digital and a frontman who’s resume includes locals Tendaberry and rhythm guitar work in Janelle Monae’s touring band. Maybe it’s because the music’s hard to pin down on a first listen. It took a few spins before theHoly Stain EP’s strange mix of scraping proto-punk noise and genuinely soulful vocals clicked for me, but once it did, I was hooked. It sounds like the radio dial got stuck between a station blasting Fun House and another playing Smokey Robinson. They’re better live, where it’s even more obvious that the abrasion is a carefully considered aesthetic choice rather than a crutch. These guys can actually play, and they’re making something unique.
On a different note, I’m not sure why Hip to Death and Attention System have had trouble crossing over with a local indie crowd that readily embraces other bands cut from the same general sonic cloth. There’s no reason why the latter shouldn’t be connecting with the crowds that show up for noise-rock like HAWKS or psych-gazers like Abby Gogo. The latter would fit nicely on a bill with a range of electro-tinged acts from Featureless Ghost to Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun. Maybe overlooked is a better term than underrated, but both deserve better.
Adam (BeAtlanta): One of my favorite Atlanta bands… I think the Sneaky Hand has some more fans coming their way. They have the energy and the attitude to hook any crowd during a live show. If you’re on a bar stool in the back or outside smoking, you’re going to want to get up to see whats happening on stage. They don’t make the most technical music but its solid, dance-inducing alternative rock and roll with an intelligent tone. Funky, sassy and in your face. Matt Maher on vocals is nothing less than a rock star and Trey on guitar has a distinctive and noteworthy style. Add Kamil on bass and bring in their artistic take on everything they do…and you have the making of pure entertainment.
I would agree with Denton that Attention System deserves some more attention. They have a great sound and always put on exciting live shows that include an awesome strobe light stage set. They have a solid local fan base and they’re good at mobilizing the blogs and online sources at their disposal. I’d like to see them tour more.
Dead Rabbits have a giant soulful sound that I think could rally a larger fan base. They’re often written about as a Black Keys clone and many bloggers have contributed that to the con list, but not me. I see them as an original band in a similar genre, making powerful and genuine Southern rock. They have tunes that could do well at outdoor festivals and I’ve seen them get a crowd moving.
Other bands worth mentioning… Baby Baby, Nigredo, Damon Moon, Hip to Death, Lazy Mane & Kosherbeets, Siberia My Sweet, Fishhawk, Cloudeater, A: The Color, Oryx and Crake, Earthtone Lyrix, the Wild, the Charges, Mermaids, Sealions, Gun Party… and on and on.
Again, there are so many awesome bands in Atlanta that I think could take on regional or national attention. Too many to name.
Rube (Atlanta's A-List):Gringo Star is my most underrated band. Maybe they live too close to what many think of as the Atlanta garage stereotype but I think that “inferiority complex” is far more pronounced in the minds of those who have been hanging around this town for so long than it is in the greater music community outside the confines of our peachtree town. And let’s be honest we’re all bloggers here and I know I’m not the only one who has gotten emails from bands and publicists in Scotland, Russia, France and many other far flung places. What’s the point? Well, first, I think Atlanta as a music community might be guilty of the same fault that all of us fall prey to—that is, we don’t see ourselves quite the same way as the rest of the world. Really, with all due respect to Cole, Jared, et. al. if there was band or two that could be considered the current “face” of Atlanta I think it’s all things Bradford Cox and Mastodon (but that’s for another post). Second, the world is a lot smaller than it used to be and in some strange, small way each blogger in this forum is somewhat responsible for it. I love Atlanta but I would suggest we all take a look at the bigger picture and promote all of our finest talents regardless of genre.
However, this ramble is supposed to be about the underappreciated garage jangle of Gringo Star. I really like this band for a number of reasons. The songs hit an old college rocker like me in just the right spot. Those southern gentlemen who just retired started by paying homage to many of the same sounds (it’s a weak spot I’m pleased to confess). GS pick up right there with melodies and textures that belie the easy pop sensibility in so many of their songs. I also miss the shipping pallets that used to adorn so many intown intersections when they were still playing most of their shows right here. They have disappeared as these guys have had the chance to record and tour in other places with increasing frequency but those homemade wooden signs were a testament to their work ethic. Their willingness to do whatever they needed to do to get their music in front of as many people as possible. It was 100% DIY and completely authentic—a trait that I do not think this band has abandoned. My favorite episode with those signs was entering the men’s room in the front room of the Earl to find one of those signs indelicately propped on the john. (Well, I thought it was funny.) Anyway, I would freely recommend that anyone “Count Yer Lucky Stars” with Gringo Star.
Here’s the footnote: This rant could have just as well been about Attention System who are inexplicitly underappreciated but fortunately I’m not the only one who thinks so in this forum. Read what these folks have said about this band and if you haven’t seen Attention System in one of our local venues do it the very first next time you can. A must see. Thanks, Rube.
Davy (Ohmpark): While I agree with Rube about Gringo Star and Attention System as I have been rooting for both since their precursor bands (A Fir-Ju Well and Slow Motion Crash, respectively), I want to offer a counterpoint to some of Rube’s rant because, you know, it’s fun to debate and discuss about music and the scene.
One of my favourite things about the blog-era of music journalism is that everyone is free to practice their craft the way they want, and I really think people should approach it however they choose. While some may enjoy all genres of music equally, other people have personal preferences. I tend to not prefer music that adheres to rigid genre tropes, such as punk, metal, rap, folk, jazz, bluegrass etc., so I don’t usually blog about those sorts of artists unless it’s something really different or special. But I don’t think people coming to my blog are looking for those sorts of styles. It’s not about anything other than personal taste. I doubt garage enthusiasts care much about my opinions, and I rarely find suggestions about 21st Century music that I enjoy from old school rock critics who purport to be experts in every genre. Today, people don’t want a music source that’s for everyone, they want a music source that’s for them. I don’t really see much value in spending time and blogging about music that I’m not passionate about just to hit some genre quota. There’s plenty of other people who are passionate about that music that can better cover it.
As far as perceptions of the city from inside and out, I feel like this becomes more irrelevant every day. Nobody’s really interested in a city’s scene unless it’s their own. There’s musical artists doing cool things in pretty much every town in America right now, so worrying about how the city’s scene is perceived is kind of a moot point. Plus, in the case of my blog, my audience and content is almost exclusively local, so it’s not like I can have any real influence on how outsiders see our city anyway.
Bret (Hijacking Music):Sleepy Genes is my pick for most underrated, and I would not even call them that as they’ve been getting some good attention and good shows. I first saw them at this year’s Nophest and really enjoyed it. Their sound is a pretty easy to get in to but they also like to mix it up. The older I get, more and more I lean towards listening to and playing music that makes sense, instead of trying to screw peoples minds up with crazy time changes, playing as loud as possible, etc. What I really like about Sleepy Genes is they bring a hint of those things into their music where its appropriate, seemingly to make sure that the crowd is still paying attention. With some more practice, more shows, and more time together, I see this band doing some big things.
Some other groups I would like to give a shout out too that could be in this category: The Difference Machine, Swank Sinatra, the Fountnhead, and I totally agree with Davy about Nomen Novum.
Christina (A Promising Chord): I also pick Sleepy Genes as overlooked/underrated, solely on seeing their live shows. Since my first experience seeing them live I knew they were a band to watch out for. They win the crowd over every time they grace the stage because their high energy rock and roll is so damn good. With no recorded music to their names, that is going to change next year because they are currently in the recording process. I’m hoping in 2012 more and more people will recognize how incredible this band really is. Other bands that I think deserve more attention are NovaKord, Gun Party and Corner Kid.
Emily (Wholly Roller): I definitely agree with Davy and say Nomen Novum as well. I think it’s safe to say that he is Atlanta’s best kept secret, but it’s about time the rest of the world knows what’s up. I was completely blown away by his performance at The Cottage for the Criminal Records benefit. David Norbery is incredible and insanely creative.
Tim (I'm a Bear! Etc.):Agree with Christina about Gun Party. I got to see them at the Hijacking Music Fest for the first time and was very impressed. They’re doing some fun things. Nomen Novum is being underrated by everyone. He’s a real treat, but hopefully he’ll find some traction in 2012 because I love the music he’s putting out.
Moe (Latest Disgrace): There are two ways you can view “underrated.” First there are those bands that have been almost entirely ignored—by fans, by blogs, by the music community in general—but whose talent and creativity warrants them greater attention. And then there are those bands that have been championed by blogs, that have received favorable reviews inCreative Loafing, Performerand other local publications, but that don’t get the fan turnout we think they deserve. In terms of the former, I think Nomen Novum is a really good illustration. Davy has really gotten behind David Norbery and has pushed him hard for quite some time, but outside of Ohmpark, you rarely hear him mentioned (not including this post, obviously) and that’s a shame. I’m as guilty as anyone of this, so I can’t really say much about it other than, yeah, Nomen Novum is entirely underrated.
But in terms of the second case, it’s difficult to say whether or not it qualifies as underrated. Let’s take a band like Spirits and the Melchizedek Children. A lot of us have had nothing but praise for that band (that’s why they’re playing our Roundtable show tonight!) and almost all the press I have seen has been glowing. But then you look at the fan numbers on their Facebook page and they’re low. Granted, Facebook might not be a channel that they’re active on or that they choose to actively promote, but for a band that’s received a fair amount of attention, you’d think those numbers would be higher. So are they underrated? Hard to tell. The same goes for Attention System, Hip to Death, Cloudeater, and basically every other band that a lot of us like but have never advanced much outside of Atlanta. Frankly, all of these groups should have a much greater presence in the local scene, but why they don’t would be the subject for a much longer and complex post.
Wait, did I just avoid naming a pick for an underrated band? Okay fine, here you go: Slowriter, Eddie Meeks, Corner Kid, Glenn Saddler, BiAS. Look em’ all up if you want to know what’s what.