Luke Nuttall – The Soundboard (thesoundboardreviews.com)
The Artist: Candy Hearts, All The Ways You Let Me Down (10th June 2014)
Looking how the current scene of indie-pop-punk has blossomed immensely, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Candy Hearts were well ahead of their time. All The Ways You Let Me Down stands as testament to that, the near-perfect opus of a band gone far too soon that not only holds up today, but still vaults over so many within the scene it arguably spawned by a considerable distance. Mariel Loveland’s vocals have an unmissable sweetness but also the twinges of pathos to make this so compelling, and when that’s condensed across eleven songs with barely a moment of filler among it, it hits all the right joy receptors to just work enormously well. The hooks are towering; the melodies have a perfect amount of warmth to ride the chunky yet intricate guitars; and the sense of depth and emotional resonance to these songs really does coalesce for something special that never got anywhere near the dues it deserved. Candy Hearts may still live on in spirit through Loveland’s current project Best Ex, but All The Ways You Let Me Down is still the singular moment of indie-punk perfection that will most likely never be topped.
“The Dream’s Not Dead”, “Brooklyn Bridge”, and “Michigan”
Roberto Johnson – Riffs & Rhymes
The Artist: Ab-Soul: “Control System”- May 11th, 2012
Ab-Soul has long been counted as one of rap’s underdogs. While widely acclaimed upon its release, his 2012 magnum opus Control System remains massively underappreciated in the canon of modern hip-hop. Not only was it one of the best rap albums of that year, but of this entire decade and is arguably the best non-Kendrick Lamar project in the Top Dawg Entertainment catalog. Control System convincingly established Ab as a witty lyricist with a complex yet interesting worldview. To this day, his intricate wordplay on drug-induced bangers like “Track Two” and “Pineal Gland” entice multiple rewinds, and the somber introspection injected into cuts like “A Rebellion” and “The Book of Soul” still cuts uncomfortably deep. In retrospect, it’s worth noting the album’s supporting cast and the time in which the record was created. Production credits include the likes of Sounwave (now a multi-Grammy Award winner), Tae Beast, Willie B. and other young, up-and-coming beatsmiths at Top Dawg, who at the time was a burgeoning hip-hop label in the early stages of what would become a decade of absolute commercial and cultural dominance. Two of the album’s best tracks also sport stellar verses from this decade’s best rapper and its most eccentric one, with the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “ILLuminate” – a classic from the early TDE days – and Danny Brown’s appearance on the oddball anti-establishment anthem “Terrorist Threats.” In some ways, it’s fitting for Ab-Soul’s defining work to fall in the category of overlooked great albums. Whether people realize it or not, Control System has a secure place among the best rap efforts in recent years.
“Track Two”, “Pineal Gland, and “ILLuminate”
Tyler Jones – Central Sauce / Riffs n Rhymes
The Artist: Mac Ayres – “Juicebox” – August 16th
Has an album gone so under your radar that you don’t even know it’s out until a few days later? Well I have. Plenty of times. But not have I regretted it more than Mac Ayre’s “Juicebox”. Mac Ayres is been an artist in my constant rotation over the past year or so. His smooth jams led by guitar and bass have been on repeat for a while now. It’s unfortunate that his music always reduced to vibes while in fact it’s a true musicality and reminiscent lyrics that transport you back to your youth. It’s truly amazing to see how elements of jazz are infused into the rhythms and grooves. It really makes you wish you had your juice-box back in your childhood on your back porch.
“Summertime-Live”, “Something More”, “Smiley Boy-Live”, and “Walking Home”
Alexzander Twiss – zanderthegood.wordpress.com
The Artist: Melt-Banana: “Fetch” – October 1st, 2013
A personal underrated favorite album of mine would have to be “Fetch”, the seventh studio album by noise rock band Melt-Banana. It was my introduction to the band personally, however the band themselves have more than proven their veteran status already before this album. With this veteran status, it’s a common and unfortunate occurrence that most bands usually release their most uninspired material around this time. Melt-Banana are not most bands. This album easily has their most refreshing and bombastic material yet, and acts as a great entry point into their music. The various blends of electronic music, noise, hard rock, griming and crushing together, contrasting along with singer Yasuko Onuki’s high-pitched voice and cutesy nonsensical lyrics (or at least at first glance, they come off to be). The result is essentially an over-the-top action anime in audio form. One look at the album cover is a pretty good indication of what you’ll be stepping into. The emotions of the album range from exploding insanity to the sheer peak of joy. Without going too much into the nuances and picking apart the very character of the album, the best way to get a feel for it, is to put it on and feel it out for yourself.
“Candy Gun”, “The Hive”, and “Zero”
Genesis Mihalko- What’s So Special About Music Anyways?
The Artist: Save Face: “Merci”- July 13th, 2018
The album that I believe deserves more than more recognition could even service it is Save Face’s debut LP- “Merci”. I could go on for hours and hours about this record, so I am going to attempt to contain that to the best of my abilities. First and foremost, Save Face is taking the tactics that are strong in the alternative, pop, and pop punk music genres, meshing them together to create a sound that is going to appeal to so many different audience types- it’s almost insane. Having a strong foot in each of these genres will help the band grow, successful, through this album, but it also gives them such a spectrum to work within, musically speaking, because they aren’t fixed to a certain way of performing and creating their sound. As one listens to the record, it is evident that each song either hits the heart strings, provides relatable content, is quite catchy, or just a mixture of the three. This is due to the fluctuation of the different approaches to each track. Save Face doesn’t have a single song on this record that sounds like the one beside it, across from it, or just on the album in general. However, even though all of these tracks are so different, they all sound so uniquely Save Face, which creates this beautiful creation that is “Merci”. When looking at the album cover, the image is chic, and it ties the whole project together by presenting an image that is so carefree and full of care at the same time. Okay, I am wrapping up my passion for this record here because if I continue on I’ll spoil the journey for you that is “Merci”, so take the step and check it out- I promise you won’t be disappointed.
“Bad”, “Nothin’’, and “Blues”
A big shout out to everyone who participated in either writing or reading this post. These are a true pleasure to put together, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. All of the music on this list is killer and super underrated, so get into it.