After writing my last little rant about the forgotten bands of the 90s, I realized that I had missed a few bands by limiting myself to only talking about 5 bands. I got a pretty good response to my last list, so we can talk about five more bands that have unjustly been forgotten as time has gone by. Many of the bands this time around have released albums in the last five years or so, but they have not received a resurgence of popularity outside of long time fans.
The steady march of music progress does not bode well for some bands. For whatever reason, bands that achieved success during one era are sometimes promptly forgotten within a few years. This occurs often in alternative and indie circles, where bands are subject to the changing musical styles and a quest by listeners to always find something new. When looking at 90′s alternative and indie, bands that survived to stay in our conscious either continued to record well into the 2000′s (Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie) or were able to score hit albums that would later be considered classic (Neutral Milk Hotel, Yo La Tengo.) Here are five bands from the nineties that have been left in the dust and have not achieved either a following or resurgence in the following decades. They are quality bands that are desperately in need of rediscovery because for whatever reason they have not maintained a sizable fan base in the new generation of indie or alternative fans. I probably do not need to say it, but I really want these bands rediscovered. All are deserving of a resurgence.
BUILT TO SPILL
Built to Spill is one of the fathers of modern indie rock, pioneering the genre’s fractured sound, introspective lyrics and cerebral song writing. Like any good father figure, Built to Spill has stepped aside to let their children reach their full potential. This is not to say that Built to Spill has stopped being relevant, or even stopped recording (they released one of their greatest albums in the mid-2000s). However, modern indie fans seem to focus mostly on the bands that Built to Spill influenced without really paying much attention to the progenitor band. Like many bands on this list, a loyal and dedicated fan base remains, but lately they have stayed out of the limelight. Even though their latest albums are excellent and they remain a great band, Built to Spill is no longer on the leading edge of indie rock.
It is easy to forget that in the mid 90s Built to Spill was a band that pushed the limits of alternative music and pioneered a whole aesthetic within indie rock. Because so many bands have taken lead from Built to Spill, listening to their songs does not seem like the new experience that it was in the mid 90s. Just because their sound is no longer ground breaking does not mean that they are not worth listening to. Built to Spill is one of indie rock’s best bands. All of the elements that we have grown to love in indie rock mesh perfectly in Built to Spill’s songs, as shown by the song posted above, “Carry the Zero”.
The fact that modern indie/alternative fans do not really listen to Mazzy Star is kind of mind-blowing to me. Mazzy Star seems like a band that would fit in really well with current indie sensibilities. What isn’t to love about Mazzy Star? Their folk-meets-shoegaze hodgepodge of sound focuses around Hope Sandoval’s wonderful voice which floats over layers of reverb laden guitars and gentle pianos. Mazzy Star’s music is ethereal, calming, and hypnotizing.
Through their early nineties hit song “Fade Into You”, Mazzy Star was able to make a moderate amount of success before slowly fading away. A new album in 2013 has not yet captured a new generation of fans and it seems that Mazzy Star will be known to the public as a one hit wonder. This is not an entirely fair assessment. Although “Fade Into You” was their only real radio hit, their discography is chalked full of beautifully hazy songs that would fit in well within any indie/alternative fan’s catalog.
One of the odder bands of the 90s, Slint recorded two albums of their signature brand of rock. In retrospect, they would be seen as forerunners of math-rock and post-rock. After the lukewarm critical reception for their album Tweez, Slint refined their sound and recorded the excellent album Spiderland. This album was a ground breaking mixture of spoken word, angular guitars and alternating dynamics that influenced many bands in the post-rock movement, namely Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
When post-rock developed in a more cohesive sub-genre, early innovators lost popularity as tastes gravitated towards the large buildups and atmospheric sound of Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and others. With popular opinion shifting towards this aesthetic, Slint’s angular experimental sound lost appeal and they were left by a new wave of post-rock acolytes. Although Slint’s style of post-rock will probably not be coming back anytime soon, Spiderland is well worth rediscovering.
Another victim of changing post-rock sensibilities, Tortoise has actually remained relatively active since the early nineties, but has not gained a wide fan base outside of a select group of die-hard fans. Honestly, this is probably what Tortoise wants.
Tortoise is another band that pioneered the aesthetic of post-rock music. They mainly focused on tightly produced music with a variety of influences ranging from dub to krautrock. Although they could do huge crescendos in their songs, some of their most interesting work is stately, expansive ambient music. Tortoise’s main contribution to post-rock was infusing a variety of influences into the genre and demonstrating the viability of lengthy atmospheric songs. Although Tortoise has not gained a broad fan base, their music deserves to be revisited to hear the beginnings of post-rock from one of the genre’s key pioneers.
SIGUR ROS- VON
Ok I admit that this one might be a bit of a cop-out, since Sigur Ros is definitely not a forgotten band. But I would like to say something about their first album Von. Von was Sigur Ros’ debut album. The album was domestically released in 1997. After dismal Icelandic sales and no real interest in the album overseas Sigur Ros bagged their aesthetic and started from scratch. A few years later, Sigur Ros recorded Agaetis Byrjun with their new sound, which became not only a cornerstone of post-rock but one of the best contemporary albums recorded. Since then, Sigur Ros has developed their sound from Agaetis Byrjun and have become an international hit band. Unfortunately, even hardcore fans of Sigur Ros tend to forget about Von.
So why should we rediscover Von? Part of the interest is in listening to early Sigur Ros, which sounds quite different from the sound that since made Sigur Ros popular. Instead of long buildups and soaring orchestral calisthenics, Von focuses more on soundscapes. Most songs are a meandering collection of sounds, guitar effects and Jonsi’s glossolalia singing. When the songs do come in, they range from Cocteau Twin’s-esque New Wave jams to fractured, haunting post-rock mood pieces. Von is not an easy listen. It is overly long and requires more than a little patience. However, those willing to put in the effort will discover a more haunting and less friendly version of Sigur Ros.