I totally get why some bands never hit the big time. We probably all have music we listen to that we love, but we’re not really surprised why it doesn’t strike a chord with other people. My recent post about Craig Finn and The Hold Steady got me thinking about this. I love The Hold Steady with a passion, but I’m not shocked in the least that I’ve convinced maybe one person in my life to love them too. What ultimately convinced me to write this though, was happening to see that Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”, my #3 song last year, was solidly in VH1’s Top 20 Countdown. I’m not one to abandon songs or artists when they get big. I want good music to be heard. Good for Gotye.
There’s also bands where you can just see it coming. For years I followed and loved Muse (still do), but they lingered in semi-obscurity until their 4th album. Muse had a special quality about them. It was almost a foregone conclusion that somewhere along the line they’d hit it big. Kings of Leon had a similar quality, especially after they got a little less gritty with “Because of the Times”.
Of course, for every success story, there’s a million other misses. These bands have following for sure. Indie success, festival appearances, selling out small clubs, etc., but no Top 40 hits and no name recognition with the general public. Maybe for these bands there’s still time, but here are a couple bands that not only deserve more praise, but actually have enough pop sensibility to get a crossover hit. I realize this is terribly ill defined and unscientific, but see if you agree:
Spoon might be the most consistently amazing band in music today. Every album is amazing. Nearly every track they’ve ever made is good. They are experimental, but not in an obtrusive way. Sometimes they show an acute display for a catchy song. Yet for all their massive success on the indie charts, and even a brief moment of fame on The O.C., Spoon’s top chart achievement is landing this song at #26 on the Modern Rock chart.
2) Cold War Kids
Based on the complete style shift on their last album, Cold War Kids is a little miffed on not being bigger too. I’ve always felt Cold War Kids were fantastic. Clearly interesting and no one sounds like them, but they have quite a few songs that could have splashed the Top 40 if they got lucky. The best they’ve been able to achieve is #122 with this one.
3) Minus the Bear
I absolutely adored Minus the Bear’s 2007 album “Planet of Ice”. When I first heard the lead single “My Time” from their 2010 follow-up, I thought they might make it. Instead they’ve never charted on the main chart, instead peaking at #8 on the Alternative chart. It’s a shame, because I don’t know anyone who has heard that hasn’t liked them.
There’s hope yet for Mutemath. Their best album, their 2006 debut, may be the least heard, but “Spotlight” landed on the Twilight soundtrack, and “Blood Pressure” has been featured on tons of sports promos recently. They’ve even done Leno now. But while they’re close, they haven’t quite made it there yet. Albums have charted, but not a single track.
5) Local Natives
(Yes, that’s me with the lead singer…disclaimer) These guys have only one album under their belts, but two years after it debuted they are unfortunately obscure. I’m still holding out hope for their future, because they have that perfect kind of sound that may just be indie enough for the indie fan, but poppy enough for the pop fan. When the Venn diagrams of indie and pop perfectly cross, that’s when I’m the happiest. And how can you not love this song?