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    Nov 5, 2014

    27 Wonderful Obscure Albums From The '00s

    This is by no means a definitive list, but it's a good place to start if you're looking for some great lost or forgotten records.

    1. Spektrum, Fun at the Gymkhana Club (2006)

    Key songs: "Don't Be Shy," "May Day," "Sugar Bowl"

    This London quartet’s second album is a bold, funky, and wonderfully weird funk/house/rock hybrid that anticipated music to come by everyone from Janelle Monaé to Rihanna, but like a lot of records that are ahead of their time, it didn’t really catch on when it came out. Maybe that had something to do with the lead single “Don’t Be Shy” being way too dirty to get any kind of radio play, but hey, it’s a great song.

    2. Broadcast, Tender Buttons (2005)

    Key songs: "Michael A Grammar," "Corporeal," "Black Cat"

    Broadcast started out as a full band in the late ‘90s, but by the time they made Tender Buttons, the group had shrunk down to the duo of singer Trish Keenan and multi-instrumentalist James Cargill. Cargill and Keenan embraced this turn of events by embracing minimalism and recording an album of eerie, skeletal electronic pop. There’s an odd, woozy feeling throughout the record — Keenan’s voice has a cool, lulling affect, and the keyboards often evoke the ambient hum of office buildings and fluorescent lights. This was Keenan’s final proper album with the band, as she died from complications of swine flu in 2011. This bit of depressing information only makes the record feel more melancholy and haunting today.

    3. McLusky, McLuskyism (2006)

    Key songs: "She Will Only Bring You Happiness," "That Man Will Not Hang," "There Ain't No Fool in Ferguson," "To Hell With Good Intentions"

    The Welsh trio McLusky were an extraordinarily venomous punk band that specialized in catchy but brutal tunes with bitter, sarcastic lyrics. Lead singer Andy Falkous is a brilliant and original frontman with an unmistakable voice and the sort of dark, vicious sense of humor that results in concluding the band’s most commercial tune, “She Will Only Bring You Happiness,” with them all singing, “Our old singer is a sex criminal” in rounds. McLuskyism is a collection of the band’s singles released shortly after they broke up, and it is basically perfect from start to finish.

    4. Charlotte Hatherley, The Deep Blue (2007)

    Key songs: "I Want You to Know," "Behave," "Very Young"

    British songwriter Charlotte Hatherley made three excellent solo records in the past decade, but her second album, The Deep Blue, is the one that best exemplifies her skill for combining the fuzzy guitars and punchy melodies of ‘90s alt-rock with the dreaminess of the Cocteau Twins and the whimsical romanticism of mid-career Kate Bush.

    5. Britta Persson, Kill Hollywood Me (2008)

    Key songs: "Cliffhanger," "Kill Hollywood Me," "At 7"

    The second album by Swedish singer-songwriter Britta Persson has the elegance and understated melodic style of classic Fleetwood Mac and Carly Simon, but her songs reject the drama of typical pop lyrics in favor of a critique of how we can deliberately live our lives as though we’re living in some kind of Hollywood story.

    6. The Long Blondes, Someone to Drive You Home (2006)

    Key songs: "You Could Have Both," "Giddy Stratospheres," "Weekend Without Makeup"

    Kate Jackson, the lead singer of The Long Blondes, was sorta like the female version of Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker — clever and literary in tone, but preoccupied with sordid tales of sexual obsession and adultery. The band’s debut album includes a handful of singles that were well-loved at the time in British indie circles, but the main attraction is the album cut “You Could Have Both,” which is one of the most nuanced and sympathetic songs you’ll ever hear sung from the perspective of “the other woman.”

    7. Alphabeat, Alphabeat (2007)

    Key songs: "Fascination," "What Is Happening?," "Fantastic 6"

    The Danish pop band Alphabeat made thrilling, hyper-romantic music that felt like the soundtrack of imaginary John Hughes movies. Their debut album is so full of powerful hooks and over-the-top enthusiasm that it can be a bit overwhelming, but you could only resist cuts like the ecstatic “Fascination” and the lovelorn “What Is Happening?” if you have a heart of stone. There are two versions of this album, by the way: the original Danish version with the hot pink cover, and a reworked debut designed for the U.K. market called This Is Alphabeat. The Danish version is far superior and includes several great songs that were omitted from the British edition.

    8. A Frames, Black Forest (2005)

    Key songs: "Black Forest II," "Eva Braun," "Death Train," "Memoranda"

    A Frames' third album Black Forest is as bleak and nihilistic as punk gets, with a series of songs that seem to become only more abrasive and apocalyptic as the record goes along. The subject matter is just as dark as the sound of the music, with lyrics that obsess on societal collapse, fascist regimes, and ultimately, nuclear devastation.

    9. Marit Larsen, Under the Surface (2006)

    Key songs: "Don't Save Me," "Only a Fool," "The Sinking Game," "This Time Tomorrow"

    Norwegian singer-songwriter Marit Larsen got her start as a member of the teen pop duo M2M, but she completely reinvented herself as a country-pop artist with an emphasis on romantic ballads. She’s basically Norway’s answer to Taylor Swift, but this album came out seven months ahead of Swift’s debut, so maybe it’s actually the other way around.

    10. Yelle, Pop-Up (2007)

    Key songs: "Je Veux Te Voir," "Tristesse/Joie," "Ce Jeu"

    If you’re put off by a pop record sung and rapped entirely in French, Yelle’s debut is not for you. But that’s a shame, because Pop-Up is a collection of some exceptionally sassy and perky electro-pop tunes. “Je Veux Te Voir,” a fierce rap track tearing apart a French rapper Yelle once dated, is the must-hear banger, but she’s just as great on more blissful and romantic cuts like “Tristesse/Joie” and “Tue Es Beau.”

    11. Electric Six, I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master (2007)

    Key songs: "Kukuxumusu," "Randy's Hot Tonite!," "Down at McDonnellzzz," "Fabulous People"

    Electric Six were by and large considered one-hit-wonder has-beens by the time they released their fourth album, I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master, but artistically they were only just hitting their stride. Singer and primary songwriter Dick Valentine’s entire body of work is focused on a bitter yet surreal satire of modern masculinity, and standout tracks like “Randy’s Hot Tonight!” and “Kukuxumusu” rank among his most cutting parodies of pathetic dudes trying their hardest to seem macho and cool.

    12. The Pipettes, We Are the Pipettes

    Key songs: "Dirty Mind," "Pull Shapes,"" "ABC," "I Love You"

    The only album made by the original lineup of this neo-girl group from Brighton, England, is a true delight. The songwriting is consistently up to the standards of cheery ‘60s pop, but every step of the way, the singers subvert the typical gender dynamics of classic pop with a modern feminist perspective.

    13. Hank, How to Prosper in the Coming Bad Years (2004)

    You can stream the album — and download it for free — at the Free Music Archive.

    The first record by this peculiar Canadian indie-pop band sounds like a transmission from some long-lost, time-displaced underground rock 'n' roll party scene. The songs are generally funky and upbeat, with the deep baritone and wry character of the main dude singer offset by the chirpy, naïve tone of his female backup singers.

    14. Giant Drag, Hearts and Unicorns (2005)

    Key songs: "YFLMD," "Kevin Is Gay," "This Isn't It"

    Annie Hardy's debut as Giant Drag is basically a '90s alt-rock record that came out a decade too late. Hearts and Unicorns is a wonderfully bratty album of highly melodic tunes with lyrics that are mostly funny, but sometimes uncomfortably dark. (Like, for example, the title of "YFLMD" is an acronym for "you fuck like my dad.")

    15. In Flagranti, Wronger Than Anyone Else (2006)

    Key songs: "Genital Blue Room," "We Make Love In A House Made of Glass," "Bang Bang"

    The debut album by this duo of electronic producers has a mysterious and lurid quality, like it’s the soundtrack of some secret glamorous nightclub that’s far too perverse for ordinary people to fathom. It’s full of bold, catchy dance anthems like “Genital Blue Room” and “Reputation or Notoriety” that foreground the sleaziest elements of disco, funk, and house music without being particularly lewd on a lyrical level.

    16. Junior Senior, Hey Hey My My Yo Yo

    Key songs: "We R the Handclaps," "Take My Time," "Itch U Can't Scratch"

    The Danish duo Junior Senior scored a pretty big hit with “Move Your Feet” off their first album in 2002, but follow-up record Hey Hey My My Yo Yo was mostly ignored. This is such a shame, because they managed to make a record that was even more bright and joyful than their debut. “Take My Time,” a cut featuring Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson of The B-52’s, is particularly amazing, and basically sounds like an ultra-twee version of disco-era Michael Jackson.

    17. Andrew W.K., The Japan Covers (2008)

    Key songs: "KISEKI," "My First Kiss," "Gakuen Tengoku"

    Andrew W.K. is best known for his debut album and assorted internet antics, but his greatest achievement may actually be this collection of covers of J-Pop songs recorded for the Japanese market. He sings everything in English and performs everything in his distinctive hyper-energetic style, but his intense reverence for the source material is apparent in every moment of every song.

    18. Chicks on Speed, 99 Cents (2003)

    Key songs: "We Don't Play Guitars," "Coventry," "Schick Shaving"

    Chicks on Speed’s second album is one of the best records to come out of the “electroclash” movement of the early ‘00s. The German feminist art collective come at pop music from a skewed perspective, and fill their catchy, glossy electro-pop tunes with lyrics that either subvert conventions or harshly critique the expectations of capitalist culture.

    19. Max Tundra, Mastered by Guy at the Exchange (2002)

    Key songs: "Lysine," "Lights," "Hilted"

    The debut album by British producer Max Tundra gleefully warps the sound of commercial pop and R&B into odd, mutated forms that are somehow just as catchy and warm as if they were presented in a “normal” way. The record is still way ahead of its time.

    20. Electrelane, The Power Out (2004)

    Key songs: "On Parade," "Enter Laughing," "You Make Me Weak at the Knees"

    The all-female British quartet Electrelane drew upon a lot of classically cool influences — The Velvet Underground, Stereolab, The Slits, Joy Division — but their aloof and vaguely mechanical sound is very much their own. The Power Out is their best and most diverse album, ranging from angular post-punk to gently harmonized ballads.

    21. Out Hud, Let Us Never Speak of It Again (2005)

    Key songs: "It's For You," "One Life to Leave," "Dear Mr. Bush, There Are Over 100 Words for Shit and Only 1 for Music. Fuck You, Out Hud"

    Out Hud's second album is very much of its era, with disco-punk sounds right in line with like-minded bands like LCD Soundsystem, !!!, and The Rapture. Perhaps because they broke up not long after the record came out, their music has fallen into obscurity. This is unfortunate, as the first single, "It's for You," is a true classic of the era.

    22. Scout Niblett, Kidnapped by Neptune (2005)

    Key songs: "Lullaby for Scout in 10 Years," "Where Are You," "Fuck Treasure Island"

    The music on British singer-songwriter Scout Niblett’s third album is almost uncomfortably intimate, to the point where listening can feel like you’re intruding on something that ought to be private. The record is incredibly intense whether she’s singing extremely sad solo acoustic tunes or rocking out on heavy, cathartic tracks like the PJ Harvey-esque “Lullaby for Scout in 10 Years.”

    23. Bossanova, Hey, Sugar (2006)

    Key songs: "Rare Brazil," "French Accent," "In the Immortal Words of You"

    Vancouver musician Chris Storrow’s first and only record under the name Bossanova is a spacey blend of psychedelia, new wave, and disco that basically sounds like an introvert’s fantasy of what “nightlife” would be like based entirely on having a collection of Factory 10” singles and having seen the film 24 Hour Party People.

    24. The Concretes, The Concretes (2003)

    Key songs: "Diana Ross," "You Can't Hurry Love," "Say Something New"

    This Swedish band’s debut sounds like it was recorded in some kind of permanent winter, with every song feeling like either a cozy night stuck inside, or trudging through ice and snow. Lead singer Victoria Bergsman has a very demure persona on the record, and her heavily accented vocals give every track an awkward, introverted charm.

    25. A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Scribble Mural Comic Journal (2007)

    Key songs: "A Mundane Phone Call to Jack Parsons," "The Best Summer Ever," "C'mon"

    Ben Daniels, the mastermind behind A Sunny Day in Glasgow, found new life in the somewhat tired “shoegazer” style of indie music with this inspired debut by merging the genre’s hazy guitar style with chilly laptop electronica and the cheerful harmonies of bubblegum pop. The record somehow sounds immediately familiar and vaguely alien at the same time.

    26. Annie, Anniemal (2004)

    Key songs: "Chewing Gum," "Heartbeat," "Me Plus One"

    The Norwegian pop singer Annie's debut album got some attention from Pitchfork and blogs back in the day, so she's not entirely obscure, but the target audience for her music — i.e., mainstream pop fans who listen to the radio — never got a chance to experience the extraordinary catchiness of singles like "Heartbeat," "Chewing Gum," and "Me Plus One."

    27. Fight Like Apes, Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion (2008)

    Key songs: "Tie Me Up in Jackets," "Jake Summers," "I'm Beginning to Think You Prefer Beverly Hills 90210 to Me"

    Fight Like Apes are an Irish rock band who completely avoid the sort of earnestness you might associate with the phrase "Irish rock band." But that doesn't mean they're never earnest. A lot of the thrill in their debut album is in how their songs can unexpectedly tip from silly, sarcastic humor to moments of emotional vulnerability.