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Under-appreciated artists release albums worth listening to

Aside from Miss Black and her interpretation of the final weekday, 2011 has been a great year for music. As the year draws to a close, it seems appropriate to put “Friday” in the backseat of that car along with the other hits of the year and take some time to give a rather opinionated shout-out to artists who deserve more recognition. Contending artists such as Death Cab for Cutie, Portugal. The Man, Noah and the Whale and Iron and Wine all put out albums this year, making the selection no easy task.

The Head and the Heart: “Self-Titled” (Released Jan. 11, 2011)

There is a lot that can be said for The Head and the Heart, a band who came into the indie-folk scene this year with an amazing first album.  Their authentic and raw vocals are powerful and beautifully blended; the instrumentation, while impressive, follows the vocals as opposed to the typical way, in which the vocals are cut to fit the music.

The Head and the Heart came out of the Pacific Northwest’s music scene with a uniquely acoustic sound in an era where synths and

electronic instruments dominate. Their lyrics revolve quite heavily around nostalgia for the past as well as ambivalence about leaving home, making it completely relatable for college students and young adults. This is an album that anyone could like, regardless of genre preference.

If you like: The Civil Wars, Iron and Wine or Fleet Foxes

Singles to Buy: “Cats & Dogs,” “Coeur D’Alene” and “Lost in My Mind”

Young the Giant: “Self-Titled Special Edition” (Released Jan. 25, 2011)

With their self-titled debut album, Young the Giant has already made a dent in popular music, playing in big-name shows such as the Austin City Limits Festival, Sasquatch, Lollapalooza and the MTV Video Music Awards. After listening to their album it isn’t hard to see why, after only a year, they’re gaining so much attention.

First and foremost, they’re incredible because of the energy that lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s voice provides. Apart from an amazing vocalist, Young the Giant has a lot going for them: the songs have tight-knit instrumentation, a catchy feel and decent lyrics. Young the Giant’s sound breaks from the traditional indie-rock form, relying on an atmospheric, all-encompassing sound as opposed to folksy riffs and wavering voices.

If you like: Eulogies, O.A.R. or Foreign Born

Singles to Buy: “My Body,” “12 Fingers” or “Cough Syrup”

Bright Eyes: “The People’s Key” (Released Feb. 15, 2011)

Conor Oberst has been fronting Bright Eyes in addition to several other projects for more than 10 years. Throughout that time most albums had the same folksy tone with an Americana blend and a tinge of angsty Oberst who, after-all, was just a teen when Bright Eyes began. For 2011’s release, however, the angst is gone and the folksy roots have been broken and replaced with more straightforward alternative rock with electronic undertones. Because “The People’s Key” is possibly their final album, it’s noteworthy that Oberst went out preserving what Bright Eyes does best: complexly-layered songs with an extension of the sound they’ve been building since “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.”

The fact that Oberst was able to go in a completely different direction with “The People’s Key” and do it incredibly well is the reason it’s made the top five for the year.

If you like: Rilo Kiley, Elliot Smith or Monsters of Folk

Singles to Buy: “Approximate Sunlight,” “Shell Games” or “Jejune Stars”

The Submarines: “Love Notes/Letter Bombs” (Released Feb. 15, 2011)

The Submarines’ third release “Love Notes/Letter Bombs” is an absolutely phenomenal album. Not only did they branch away from their typical melancholy melodies, it appears that lovebirds and vocalists Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti have run out of songs written during their 2004 breakup. As a result the married couple’s lyrics and music are happier and upbeat and “Love Notes/Letter Bombs” makes for a very blissfully crafted and well-done album.

If you like: Stars, Straylight Run or The Hush Sound

Singles to Buy: “Shoelaces,” “Tigers” or “Birds”

Foster the People:

“Torches” (Released May 23, 2011)

Let’s clarify: Foster the People is by no means underrated, particularly with “Pumped Up Kicks” rampaging around the airwaves. However, the album “Torches” has many songs that are completely overlooked in the shadows of their radio play which comparatively is just not as impressive. Lead singer Mark Foster has talent which easily transgresses what the Top 40 covers and there quite honestly isn’t a bad song to be found on the album.

If you like: The Naked and Famous, MGMT, Passion Pit or music with synthesizer overload

Singles to Buy: “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls),” “Helena Beat” or “Waste”

Reach reviewer Kati Stauffer

at [email protected]