2011′s Best Underground Music (So Far)

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It becomes easier each year for independent, underground artists to share their music with the listening public. While this is undoubtedly a good thing for both creators and audiences, such inundation carries with it the unfortunate consequence of obscuring some otherwise noteworthy releases. With that in mind, here are some of 2011′s best unheralded offerings.

Taking after his fellow Ohio-based wizards Sam Goldberg and Emeralds, Giant Claw makes music that sounds like the soundtrack to a dystopian children’s book published in 1981. This is a very good thing. Enjoy his latest offering, Midnight Murder, on his bandCamp page. It’s pay-what-you-want, so there’s no excuse not to check it out.

If you prefer your electronic music to be a little more beat-heavy, look no further than Santa Cruz’s Atlantic at Pacific, whose latest EP Seasons is as chill as the faded forest scene that accompanies the (free) download on his BandCamp page. (Bandcamp has quickly supplanted Myspace as the go-to site for emerging indie musicians, by the way, so it’s a great place to check for your new favorite artists’ releases.)

Hey, look—more ambient music! But this time it’s from France, so that’s pretty cool. Dude’s moniker is Tardigrades; dude’s latest release is Sunbathing On Asteroids. Come on, how can you not love music with that kind of title? Imagine yourself laying out a beach towel on a rocky meteor cruising straight towards the sun. Only instead of panicking about crashing into the freakin’ sun, you’re soaking up cosmic rays and high-fiving aliens and sippin’ on space juice (tequila and plutonium, in case you were wondering).

Lisbon-based electronic artist Pedro Magina just dropped his latest cassette on the  always exciting Not Not Fun label, entitled Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five. Just look at the artwork. Retro throwback? Yup. Has this been done before? Probably. Is it still endlessly catchy? Oh, you bet.

Oh-em-gee Josh, enough with the ambient music,” some of you might be thinking. Okay, fine—how about some straight-up electropop goodness? They’re an Australian trio called RÜFÜS, and you can buy their debut EP on–you guessed it–their BandCamp page. Yes, I know that Cut Copy is also an Australian synthpop trio, but once you hear the opening notes to “Paris Collides,” you’ll realize that RÜFÜS is more than just a tribute band.

You know, I’m getting tired of reading that such-and-such an act is “reminiscent of Animal Collective.” Usually, that’s shorthand for Feels and Spirit They’re Gone-era AC, which is a bit unfair to Noah and Avey because their work has evolved from those (admittedly excellent) albums. I mean, if an unknown band had released Merriweather Post Pavilio, would critics say that it “evokes Animal Collective?” Somehow, I doubt it—Merriweather doesn’t have nearly as much background yelling, fantasy-novel-inspired lyrics, or name-that-instrument musicality as, say, Feels, but somehow, it’s that latter record’s sound that’s become the band’s trademark.

Anyway, all of this is to say that Dallas-based Melting Season‘s debut offering, Harmoni-Pet Deluxe, is undoubtedly inspired by Animal Collective. So, you know, it’s pretty damn awesome.

Finally, Jacob 2-2 is from Brooklyn, and his just-released Cabazon EP (yes, available for free download on BandCamp), sounds something like the kind of bumper music HBO used to employ back in the day. But Jacob 2-2′s music isn’t quite that gimmicky–he’s got a great ear for pop melodies and sick beats that makes the EP is worth a listen or five.

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