10 of the Most Underrated Bands of the 21st Century

This week sees the release of a new album by The Veils, who have a special place in our hearts as one of those bands that we absolutely, wholeheartedly believed at one point would be massive. Everyone has a band like this — a band they tipped for greatness, a band that they can’t quite believe the world never cottoned onto. And sadly, the best part of a decade later, The Veils remain a band whose charms are appreciated by a select group of fans but have largely evaded the rest of the world. So in the interest of celebrating their music and other, similarly under-appreciated groups, here are some of the most overlooked bands of the 21st century; make your additions in the comments.

The Veils

Circa the mid-’00s, The Veils seemed to have everything – a charismatic frontman who happened to be both really rather good-looking and also a very fine songwriter, along with some pretty handy music industry connections (aforementioned frontman Finn Andrews’ father Barry was in XTC), a great live show, and plenty of good press. Everything was set up for them to be genuinely massive. But for whatever reason — and there are various theories here, some of them potentially libelous — things never quite clicked. Will this record finally bring them the renown they deserve? We certainly hope so.

Mclusky

We’ve often rhapsodized about Andy Falkous and Future of the Left on this site, but for all that we love Falkous’ new project — and we’re sure he’d hate us for saying this — we still like mclusky best. Their 2002 album mclusky Do Dallas is pretty much flawless from start to finish, a distillation of everything that’s great about both Falkous’s lyricism and his delivery — the air of very coherent rage, the strange lyrical non sequiturs, the hacksaw sarcasm — and quite how the band never rose above cult status is genuinely something we will never understand.

Ponytail

The fact that Ponytail were never huge is probably somewhat easier to understand — their frenetic, all-action, largely melody-free style certainly wasn’t for everyone. But still, in an age when Animal Collective can become genuinely famous by making strange and challenging psychedelic music, it’s a shame that Ponytail went their separate ways before they ever really fulfilled their potential. (Guitarist Dustin Wong’s solo stuff is great, too, though.)

Broadcast

We’ve also written several times about how much we liked Broadcast, and how sad it was that Trish Keenan’s tragic death cut them off just as they were approaching what should have been their creative prime. Their 2009 collaboration with the Focus Group, Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age, is one of the great underrated 2000s albums and a fine place to begin investigating their work.

Gowns

EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints bought her work to a whole new audience, but while her solo work has been widely praised, the music of her former band remains generally under-appreciated. Unlike most of the other bands on this list, Gowns only made one full-length album — 2007’s Red State — but what an album it is. Red State is a quietly devastating masterpiece of opiated suburban alienation, the sound of being wasted in a nowhere town, looking out a dirty window into an empty street as the days bleed into weeks and months of nothingness. It’s thoroughly uncomfortable listening, which is perhaps why it never attracted a huge audience, but it seems ridiculous that six years later it’s still a hidden gem.

British Sea Power

Our friends at The Quietus have long been advocates of the virtues of British Sea Power, but it’s a pretty lonely business — as their review of the band’s most recent album, Machineries of Joy, noted, “[the band’s] records never quite seemed to live up to the best of [their] live performances, nor the promise of [their] over-vaulting ambition and limitless flow of ideas.” This is basically correct, and perhaps explains why the band remains one of Britain’s better kept secrets, a decade after the release of their debut record The Decline of British Sea Power.

The Drones

They’re well known in their native Australia these days, and they’ve toured extensively in Europe, but on this side of the Pacific The Drones are still a largely unknown quantity. This is something that really should be rectified sooner rather than later, because they’re one of the absolute best rock ‘n’ roll bands of the 2000s, full of visceral energy and also possessed of one of the best lyricists anywhere in the form of frontman Gareth Liddiard.

The Ruby Suns

Also from the Antipodes, this time from New Zealand, The Ruby Suns are signed to Sub Pop and well respected, but their hypercolor indie pop seems well suited to gathering a substantially larger audience than they’ve so far attracted.

Brightblack Morning Light

The blues is awfully bro-y these days, what with testosterone-driven latter day revivalists like The Black Keys dominating the post-White Stripes landscape. This is perhaps why the relatively gentle Brightblack Morning Light have plowed their own furrow for years without ever threatening the charts. They’re not a straight blues band by any stretch of the imagination — their music owes as much to psychedelic folk and alt-country as it does the Delta — but there’s something soulful and quintessentially bluesy about their quiet, laid-back, immersive sounds.

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster

Owners of one of the more outlandish band names of the ’00s, and also the creators of one of its very best rock songs (“Psychosis Safari”), The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster briefly threatened to be very big indeed. Quite why this never quite happened is anyone’s guess. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and perhaps the band arrived slightly too early, because The Horrors started a similarly Misfits-inspired sound and went on to rule the world with it. So it goes.