Top 10 Great Unknown Artists of 2007
It's a great time to be a musician. Anyone can have a home studio and record an album, and there are more ways to distribute that album and get it heard than ever before. In Second Stage's year-end Top 10 list, All Songs Considered producer Robin Hilton shares the best of the great unknowns. These are the year's best outsider artists: musicians whose remarkable recordings went largely overlooked in 2007.
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No They Do is the all-robot musical collective led by musicologist and "future's Alan Lomax," XJ3. Its album is the soundtrack of the inevitable future, in which robots destroy the human race, discover acoustic guitars and play robot folk music.
Song: "More Songs About Oven Mitts"
Georgie James got its start when drummer John Davis' former band, Q and Not U, disbanded in 2005. Afterward, Davis turned to his singer-songwriter friend, Laura Burhenn, to forge something new.
Song: "Need Your Needs"
Yeasayer is making some of the year's most interesting and infectious music. Describing its sound as "Middle Eastern-Psych-Pop-Snap-Gospel," the Brooklyn-based group creates huge waves of sound with a vibe that's both primitive and modern. Dark melodies are set against worldly funk rhythms.
Ben Sollee's distinct cello playing and soulful voice set him apart from most traditional folk or bluegrass musicians. His style involves plucking strings and using percussive bow techniques to create a surprising and original sound.
The Lightning Bug Situation is the nom de plume of San Francisco guitarist and songwriter Brian Miller. When not playing in his main band, The Speakers, Miller records atmospheric and intimate songs from home.
Song: "The Unhappy Robot Version of Me Vs. Coldplay"
Telenovela is an indie-pop duo with a love of drum loops and The Carpenters. While Zachary Smola focuses on sampling and recording, Stephanie Clayton is a talented flautist with a soft-natured voice to match.
Song: "Paint it Beige"
Brooklyn's Lucinda Black Bear is a new project led by Christian Gibbs. The band plays carefully written folk-rock with stunning arrangements. Capo My Heart and Other Bear Songs is a melancholy collection of songs that are expressive and moving. With Kristin Mueller on drums, Chad Hammer on cello and Clare Burson on violin, they paint lonely, deserted images with dark minor chords and complex melodies.
Trapper's Cabin is the music of Joel Nettesheim, an art-folk singer-songwriter who lives and works in the north Georgia mountains. He says his latest CD, For My Friends, is "a celebration and appreciation of all the animals which populate and have populated the land."
Song: "Running Down the Rain"
The New Orleans rock group Rotary Downs has released a stunning collection of psychedelic art-pop songs that play like brilliant mashups of Neutral Milk Hotel and Odelay-era Beck.
Song: "Sing Like the Sun"
Le Loup is making some of the year's most original and mesmerizing music. The Washington, D.C., band uses plucked banjo, programmed beats and triumphant harmonies to produce complex and enthralling experimental pop. While the septet has a full, multifaceted sound, it's all built around a brilliantly crafted melodic core.
Song: "Planes Like Vultures"