50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

In just one more trip around the sun, another swarm of immensely talented but under-recognized musicians has harnessed its collective talents and discharged its creations into the void. This list is but one fraction of those dedicated individuals who caught our ears with some serious jams.

100 Unheralded Albums from 2010

Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on AlarmPress.com. Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.

Adam Pobiak: The Fabulous Penetrators' With Love packaging

Posters & Packaging: Adam Pobiak and the UK silk-screen scene

Although the art scene in London is constantly bustling with emerging bands and imminent visual artists, its poster-arts community is barely on the radar. “Silk-screened posters in the UK are nowhere near as popular as they are in the States,” says British designer Adam Pobiak. “Let’s put it this way: I’ve never seen a silk-screened poster at a show that I didn’t do myself.” However, the scene is growing, and people are slowly starting to catch on to the art of poster production.

The imagery within Pobiak’s work comes from a hodgepodge of sources. He takes many of his own photos and works with a variety of found imagery that originates from the likes of stock-photo catalogs and pornography sites. “I feel that if you can recognize the original photo I’ve used,” Pobiak says, “I haven’t done my job.”

Super Furry Animals Frontman Discusses Solo Career

Welsh singer and Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys has had a busy year. “It’s been nuts, but in a good way.” Tonight he is performing solo in Chicago as part of a North American tour supporting his solo album, Candylion. By some miracle, Kliph Scurlock of the Flaming Lips just happened to be in town and is sitting in as a last-minute replacement drummer. “We met him at a show just before he started playing for the Flaming Lips. We became instant friends.”

Such an unpredictable evening seems consistent with Rhys’ manic pace in the past year; he released the solo album Candylion, he completed the latest Super Furry Animals record, Hey Venus!, he took a solo tour of the U.S. and the U.K., and played a number of festival dates with Super Furry Animals.

Tonight in Chicago, with the tour nearing its end, Rhys is satisfied. “It’s been great! It’s fun doing these shows because they’re very different from Super Furry Animals shows.” On the Candylion tour, Rhys played with limited accompaniment to small, packed houses, starkly contrasting the arena-rock-like Super Furry Animal tours. “They’re very quiet shows. It’s a chance to play quiet music and interact with the audience. They have to be smaller shows because it doesn’t really translate to a larger venue. Whereas in the Super Furry Animals, we like to make a racket.

“The initial plan was to go off and record an acoustic record. I had a lot of songs written around the acoustic guitar, so initially my idea was to record them as they were: just me and a guitar. We recorded some of that and it didn’t sound very good! I started to play some drums. And then, because there were drums, I invited a double bass player to the studio, and that filled it out a bit.” Lisa Jen, Rhys’ current touring mate, also lent a unique voice to the record.

“I’ve known Lisa a long time from my home town,” Rhys said. “She’s a folksinger, and I’d done a few shows with her in the months leading up to the record, where we sang some folk songs. So it seemed like a good idea to bring her in as well.”

Though slightly reminiscent of the quieter side of Super Furry Animals’ classic work, Candylion is singular in Rhys’ catalogue. Rhys’ previous solo album, 2005’s Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, though similarly low-key, lacked Candylion’s deliberate cohesion. “With Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, I just started making demos and having fun in the studio. With Candylion, I knew I was going to be doing a record. Some of the songs I had written in the same batch I kept off the record because I thought they’d be good Super Furry Animals songs.”

The next twist in 2007 was the appearance of a new Super Furry Animals record, Hey Venus!. “When we started Hey Venus!, we wanted to make a really abrasive, loud record, so I figured I could keep fifteen-minute ballads like ‘Skylon!’ and songs about lions made out of candy for the indulgent solo project.”

Of course the real twist was not the album itself (Super Furry Animals have always maintained a rigorous recording and touring schedule), but the return to the fuzzed-out power pop of albums like 1996’s Fuzzy Logic and 1997’s Radiator. “We actually thought it was going to be a heavier record. When people were asking us initially what the record is like, we’d say ‘Oh, it sounds huge. It’s crazy. It’s going to blow your speakers up!’ But I think we’ve got a real musical sweet tooth. We started adding harpsichords and stuff. By the time it was done, we had a record more in keeping with our back catalog.” With a running time of 36:27, it is the band’s most concise record to date.