There is A LOT of obscure music out there! In recent times, it has become easier than ever to record and distribute music, meaning there is essentially an infinite number of songs already out there and infinitely more to come–ranging on the “obscurity spectrum” from artists that have faded into the background after they had that one popular single years ago to artists that have never quite managed to crack triple digit plays on their YouTube videos. This blog post is meant to capture artists somewhere between those two extremes: they may not have ever played on your radio but all of these artists were/are professional musicians.
These ten albums were all released between 2005 and 2017. They all fall under the umbrella of “rock music,” although they range from folk to alternative to jazz fusion to progressive, so there is quite a bit of diversity here–something for everyone one might even say! I have not ranked them as I usually do. Instead, they are listed alphabetically by artist. Without further ado: Top Ten Albums You’ve Never Heard Of Before.
The Second Brightest Star by Big Big Train
This is a “companion album” to some of Big Big Train’s more popular releases: Folklore and Grimspound. It features new songs, previously unreleased songs, and inclusions of music from Folklore and Grimspound extended into what the songwriters call “sequences.” However, this album is much more than your usual “B-sides and rarities” compilation. First, the recordings are NOT demos. The music is breathtaking, featuring both string and brass orchestrations in addition to a very talented band. Second, the songwriting is exceptional. These are NOT songs that didn’t make it onto an album because they weren’t good enough–they are songs that needed their own space. Third, the album can be fully enjoyed without knowing the two “companion albums.”
Cheat the Gallows by BigElf
This album is built to please true music lovers. It stays with you a lifetime. All that’s left is for you to discover the magic of the show. Heavy at times, fun at others (and often both), this semi-concept album about the evils of the music industry delivers at every turn providing heavy guitar, screaming organ, and catchy melodies. An appropriate quote from a fan: “It’s like if Tim Burton did a remake of Sgt. Pepper’s.”
Farewell Old Friends by Bleach
The band Bleach is very difficult to find via Google or YouTube due to the popularity of the manga/anime of the same name, which is a shame because they have a great raw rock sound and meaningful, down-to-earth lyrics. This aptly titled swan song from the band is definitely a “saved the best for last” situation. The album consists of guitar and keyboard driven rock songs focusing on relationships and faith. And guitar feedback. A lot of guitar feedback. The CD release had amazing artwork including what first appears to be a blank, white disc that when held at certain angles reveals hidden images and liner notes that unfold into a full, ancient-style hand-drawn map of the Land of Yeshua.
Flight of the Knife by Bryan Scary and The Shredding Tears
This album borders on a power pop masterpiece. Each song is packed to the brim with musical arrangement including instrumental counter-melodies, stacks on stacks of background vocals, and sudden and frequent changes in style and dynamics resulting in a sound that is both fully manic and fully precise. However, what really makes this album shine are the melodies. This project easily could have been too much for the ears, but instead almost every song on the album gets instantly stuck in your head thanks to perfectly crafted melodies.
The Last Days of Leviathan by Dirt Poor Robins
If you were plugged into the indie music scene of the late 2000s, you may have come across this husband and wife duo’s song “Great Vacation” or their doors-blown-off cover of “Eleanor Rigby.” Or more recently you may have heard their melancholy love song “Furthest Star” or the tongue-in-cheek feminist jam that is “Welcome to Lady Hell.” However, even if you have heard those tunes, you may not have listened to their sophomore release The Last Days of Leviathan. In my opinion, The Last Days of Leviathan is the best Dirt Poor Robins album. It is permeated by dark, questioning, and pensive faith-based lyrics over the duo’s signature “wet” sound with layers of effect-laden guitars, keyboards, and vocals. The songs are powerful and thought-provoking both musically and lyrically.
The Chess Hotel by The Elms
This dirty blues/southern rock n roll album is pretty much awesome from top to bottom. The Chess Hotel is The Elm’s third record. The band got less and less “produced” with each release, and by this third record they had really found their groove of a two guitars, bass, and drums rock sound that is presented in a way that is classic but never stale.
Requiem by Jono
It’s kinda like if you took all the best parts of Queen, Muse, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra and smashed them into a 9-track progressive metal showpiece. This album features soaring metal vocals backed by heavy guitars and piano. It ranges from driving rock anthems to peaceful, beautiful songs with choir and orchestration.
King for a Day by Magic Pie
In my opinion, King for a Day is one of the top 10 progressive rock releases from the last 5 years. It has flown under the radar partially due to the band’s lack of renown and possibly due to the sound of the album being more “influence-driven” than a lot of modern prog rock, but King for a Day is an exceptional and unique record. You can hear the influence of artists such as Kansas, Queen, and Neal Morse, but Magic Pie presents a unique, incredibly well-crafted product that would never be mistaken for those influences. Additionally, the opening track “Trick of the Trade” is an absolutely incredible song. It would be a song I might play for someone if they were wondering, “What is progressive rock?”
Eat a Pickle by O’2L
This is probably the most obscure album on my list as it essentially does not exist, but he band O’2L definitely exists! The music equivalent of a “spin-off” of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, O’2L is a jazz/rock fusion group led by the amazingly talented keyboardist Jane Mangini. Their first two albums can be found wherever music is sold. But, for whatever reason, their 2007 release Eat a Pickle is basically nowhere to be found, which is a real shame because it is such an awesome album. Eat a Pickle is a generous 17 track record, and, like any good jazz fusion album, it contains a mix of originals, covers, and instrumentals. The covers include Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” Rufus’ “You Got the Love,” Traffic’s “The Low Spark of the High Heeled Boys,” Rufus Wainwright’s “The Consort,” and Ray Noble’s “The Very Thought of You.” Unlike many jazz/rock fusion groups whose music can feel sort of monotonous and fade into the background, O’2L’s sound is diverse and exciting. Another way this album stands out from your run-of-the-mill fusion album is that, in my opinion, literally ALL of the covers are better than the original recordings (and, yes, I would be willing to fight about that). Since this album is so hard to find, I have created a YouTube playlist where you can find all 17 songs!
Oh Tall Tree in the Ear by Roman Candle
A family trio made up of two brothers, Skip and Logan, and Skip’s wife Timshel, Roman Candle is an indie rock group from North Carolina. The band has a full, layered, and unsubtle sound that supports exceptional, poetic lyrics. The music on this album makes a strong impression. I still remember where I was my senior year of high school when I heard their song “Eden Was a Garden” for the first time–sitting in my parked car at church waiting for the music pastor I interned for to arrive. I was immediately taken and have been taken ever since. Here is another song that means a lot to me from this album called “Woke Up This Morning.” One of the many songs my wife and I fell in love to.
There you have it! The Top Ten Albums you (probably) haven’t heard before! Speaking of music you haven’t heard before, while you’re here, why don’t you poke around our website! Here are a couple of Blue Turnip songs I am very proud of:
“A Lack of Sleep, I’d Say” written by and sung by our drummer, Brian
“Over and Over” written by our guitarist/bassist, Andy
Our cover of “Illusions on a Double Dimple” by Triumvirat