If Elliot Carter had a radio smash hit it would be...
May 31, 2010 11:24 AM   Subscribe

My ears, they are bored (music recommendation filter): I am looking for badass, virtuosic, intricate, musically interesting, preferably contemporary pop/rock music.

I love the idea of catchy, rocking, semi-radio friendly pop and rock music - except most of it's boring.

I'm looking for pop/rock music that is musically - harmonically, rhythmically, melodically and orchestration-ally - interesting and complex but still rocking, catchy and ear worm-y. If this sounds broad, well, it kind of is and I'm trying to leave it open as I don't know exactly what I'm looking for.

I'm not looking for art-rock (which I love, but have my fill of). So something more 'mainstream' sounding than bands like King Crimson, The Books, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Pink Floyd, Laurie Anderson. Nor am I looking for mere quirk rock.

...so pop artists and rock groups with elegant orchestration? Unconventional and cool chord progressions? Strange and beautiful melodies? Odd meters? Other badassary?

Examples might be: Radiohead, Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, TV on the Radio, David Byrne (and Talking Heads), Joy Kills Sorrow. Bands like Battles and Deerhoof would sort of be toeing the line of what I'm looking for, but still in the pocket.

Ideally, I want contemporary pop/rock bands/artists, not the virtuosic bands of yore (Led Zeppelin, et al.).

Thank you, music nerds of Metafilter.
posted by Lutoslawski to Media & Arts (54 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Try out Emilie Autumn.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:29 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Posies are wonderful (good starting point: Frosting On The Beater), as are Dada. Ken Stringfellow, half of the duo that makes up The Posies, has an album called Touched, that I cannot more highly recommend.
posted by dbiedny at 11:35 AM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: Have you heard Broken Bells? It's a collaboration between the the Shins frontman and Danger Mouse. I've been digging the mix of Danger Mouse's poppy strangeness and Mercer's folky vocals. I tend to find the Shins a bit boring on their own, but this album is really interesting.

Also, this is a few years old, so you are probably already aware of him, but I find that Beirut tends to nicely scratch that hard-to-reach quirky-interesting-poppy itch.
posted by lunasol at 11:36 AM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: I like Modest Mouse for this reason. Not exactly contemporary, as i don't think their new stuff is quite what you're looking for here. Look for 1996-2004.
posted by amethysts at 11:37 AM on May 31, 2010

How about Grammatics?
posted by something_brighter at 11:38 AM on May 31, 2010

posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:41 AM on May 31, 2010

I immediately thought of Franz Ferdinand.
posted by msali at 11:41 AM on May 31, 2010

I think you might like The Philosopher Kings, a Canadian band. They’ve been laying low for awhile now, but they have 3 solid albums worth checking out. Start with the lush and beautiful “Charms”; also check out “Hurts to Love You”, “Out of the Blue”, “Beautiful Creature”.
posted by yawper at 11:47 AM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: Hm. Not entirely sure what you might already know in terms of popularity - so I'll just provide a wider selection of albums that might fit the description.

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Source Tages & Codes
Arcade Fire - Funeral
Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
The Bitter Life Typecast - Happy Endings for Lowlives
British Sea Power - Open Season
Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
Defiance Ohio - Share What Ya Got
Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be
I'm From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My Friends
Laakso - I Miss You, I'm Pregnant
Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Like Bad News
New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
Portugal The Man - The Satanic Satanist
Rogue Wave - Asleep At Heaven's Gate
Scary Mansion - Make Me Cry
Stellastarr - Harmonies for the Haunted
Tapes 'n' Tapes - The Loon
The Temper Trap - Conditions
What Made Milwaukee Famous - What Doesn't Kill Us
posted by starzero at 11:52 AM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: The more "pop" side:

Rufus Wainwright

Ben Folds Five (album: self-titled)

Hanne Hukkelberg (album: Little Things)

More "rock":

Death Cab for Cutie (albums: Plans, Transatlanticism)

Of Montreal (albums: Satanic Panic in the Attic, The Sunlandic Twins)

The Futureheads (album: self-titled)

Hot Hot Heat (album: Make Up the Breakdown)

Spoon (albums: Gimme Fiction, Girls Can Tell)

Yeasayer (sounds a lot like Talking Heads)


Grizzly Bear (album: Veckatimest)

Owen Pallett

MGMT (album: Oracular Spectacular)

St. Vincent

The Dodos

Andrew Bird

Rilo Kiley (album: More Adventurous)

Caribou (album: Andorra)
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:54 AM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: ...so pop artists and rock groups with elegant orchestration? Unconventional and cool chord progressions? Strange and beautiful melodies? Odd meters? Other badassary?

The Beta Band - Easy - Out-Side - Heroes to Zeros is a good place to start.

Destroyer - Hey, Snow White - The Bad Arts - Debate abounds as to whether Streethawk: A Seduction or This Night is a better introduction to Dan Bejar's brand of rock insanity.

Danielson - Animal In Every Corner - Did I Step on Your Trumpet? - Brother : Son or Ships will do nicely.

Menomena - Trigga Hiccups - seek out I Am The Fun Blame Monster; it's a monster of an album, and the packaging is badass. Eagerly awaiting Mines later this year.

The Walkmen - The Rat - Bows & Arrows

And one to toe the line: Ariel Pink
posted by carsonb at 12:00 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Devin Townsend's new album Addicted is probably the most straightforward and fun thing he's ever done, and I've been enjoying it (by which I mean yelling along) - Bend it like Bender!, Supercrush!.
posted by vanar sena at 12:02 PM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: Frightened Rabbit
Frank Turner
Portugal the Man
Andrew Bird
And this being metafilter, I can't help but suggest Pomplamoose
posted by fizzzzzzzzzzzy at 12:03 PM on May 31, 2010

The first two Murder By Death albums ("Like The Exorcist But More Breakdancing" and "Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them?") might fit your bill. They get a bit more straightforward after those two, but still pretty great.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:05 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You should listen to Animal Collective.
posted by special-k at 12:09 PM on May 31, 2010

posted by (alice) at 12:10 PM on May 31, 2010

Brothersport, by Animal Collective is a great example of what I'm talking about.
posted by special-k at 12:11 PM on May 31, 2010

You might like dredg. They used to be considered experimental, artsy, indie, progressive, and other things, but their latest albums have become more "poppy", but not in a bad way. The albums are still excellent:

Here are some songs via youtube:

Bug Eyes
Catch Without Arms
Stone By Stone
Gathering Pebbles
posted by alligatorman at 12:18 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tame Impala

Fuck Buttons

St. Vincent

School of Seven Bells
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:20 PM on May 31, 2010

Also Animal Collective
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:20 PM on May 31, 2010

Future Islands, In the Fall
posted by codacorolla at 12:29 PM on May 31, 2010

I'm too impatient for the orchestral gorgeousness of Sigur Ros & their guitarist/vocalist Jonsi most of the time, but the first two tracks on Jonsi's "Go" (Go Do and "Animal Arithmetic") do a great job of combining musically interesting soundscapes with pop-catchy rhythms and melodies. The rest of the album is pretty good as well, just less closer to pop/rock and more lushly orchestral.

The 2nd Mew album (And the Glass Handed Kites) also comes to mind - lots of great electric guitar there.
posted by cobwebberies at 12:32 PM on May 31, 2010

Some hometown Chicago lads, The Changes. (link to their Myspace at bottom) Think XTC on Red Bull
posted by timsteil at 12:39 PM on May 31, 2010

Also check out Mute Math. A friend of mine once told me that they write "tricked-out pop songs." Very catchy but very interesting tunes.

Some songs:
Stare at the Sun
posted by alligatorman at 12:42 PM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: Another vote for Arcade Fire, especially "Wake Up" and "No Cars Go."
posted by cobwebberies at 12:42 PM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: Tri-State - Above & Beyond - 4:05
The Last Flamenco - Acoustic Alchemy - 4:20
Birds of Passage - Bel Canto - 5:26
Magic Love - Bent - 4:28
Song For Olabi - Bliss - 6:16
Always Returning - Brian & Roger Eno - 3:43
And Then So Clear - Brian Eno - 5:49
Bird - Dead Can Dance - 5:00
O Valencia! - The Decemberists - 3:47
Rowena's Theme - The Edge - 3:56
Heroine (Theme From 'Captive') - The Edge w/ Michael Brook - 4:27
One Foot In Heaven - The Edge w/ Michael Brook - 5:10
Home - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - 5:03
Lay My Love - Eno/Cale - 4:43
The Road - Euphoria - 6:20
Le Change Est Magnifique - Frazier Chorus - 4:19
Doot Doot - Freur - 3:49
Mäenpään Heikin Valssi (Heikki Mäenpään's Waltz) - Frigg - 3:22
Slide - Goo Goo Dolls - 3:32
Hands of Time - Groove Armada - 4:22
Lonely Heart - Heidi Berry - 4:31
Syracuse - In The Nursery - 5:19
Parce Mihi Domine - Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble - 6:42
Sense - The Lightning Seeds - 4:12
Song For No One - The Lightning Seeds - 2:48
Morning Nightcap - Lunasa - 4:56
I Guess I'm Floating - M83 - 1:44
Sister, Pt. 1 - M83 - 2:16
Breakdown - Michael Brook - 4:10
The Bell - Mike Oldfield - 6:59
Bluebird of Happiness - Mojave 3 - 9:56
Remind Me - Röyksopp - 3:39
Passing By - Ulrich Schnauss - 6:26
Goodbye - Ulrich Schnauss - 7:54
To Heal - Underworld - 2:36
A Summer Long Since Passed - Virginia Astley - 4:37
When It Falls - Zero 7 - 5:30
posted by Pamelayne at 12:47 PM on May 31, 2010

Pop artists and rock groups with elegant orchestration? Unconventional and cool chord progressions? Strange and beautiful melodies? Odd meters? Other badassary?

posted by dfan at 12:52 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I echo most of jalcho's suggestions, and humbly suggest Beach House.
posted by telegraph at 1:12 PM on May 31, 2010

Wico (especially yankee hotel foxtrot, but all their stuff)
Built to spill
posted by TheBones at 1:23 PM on May 31, 2010

The first band that came to my mind when reading your post was Portugal. The man. Then I thought of Eyelashes by The Panda Band. Then I thought of Los Campesinos! (the exclamation point is part of their name--though I am excited about them).
posted by millipede at 1:35 PM on May 31, 2010

Oh, you might also like Archer Prewitt. He was with the Sea and Cake, and released a great solo album a few years - I wish he'd release another.

I love his song Way of the Sun.
posted by lunasol at 1:38 PM on May 31, 2010

I also came in to recommend Murder by Death. If badassery is what you're looking for, they fit the bill.
posted by Caduceus at 1:41 PM on May 31, 2010

HOLY FUCK from Canada are a favorite of mine.
posted by kidelo at 1:52 PM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: I don't think anything could possibly fit your description better than Grizzly Bear. There's also Department of Eagles, which is Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear's side project.

Owen Pallett (formerly known as Final Fantasy) is fantastic and very sophisticated, but not very pop/rock. Andrew Bird is a good suggestion. You might like The National, whose new album is generating a lot of excitement.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:08 PM on May 31, 2010

Josh Ritter may fit your bill. He's got at least one full set available to d/l from NPR's All Songs Considered concert series.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:21 PM on May 31, 2010

More on the heavy/prog-rock side of things.. but I think it fits your description:

The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium.... pretty much blows minds of anyone I play it for.

Similar styles would be artists like: Muse, Chevelle,.. or Tool.
posted by jmnugent at 2:26 PM on May 31, 2010

Nthing Mew; Apocalypso, Why Are You Looking Grave?

Older Porcupine Tree songs fit this perfectly; Steven Wilson went through a Radiohead phase and before Blackfield regularly wrote pop songs for PT. Try Piano Lessons, Trains, Drown With Me, and The Rest Will Flow. If Porcupine Tree ends up being too art-rock for your tastes/you've heard of them and feel they don't fit, try Blackfield: Open Mind or Blackfield.

I have no idea how you feel about metal influences in your rock, but there's a band called Karnivool out of Australia who's doing really interesting alt. rock. If interested, try "Themata", "C.O.T.E.", and "All I Know".
posted by far from gormless at 2:38 PM on May 31, 2010

Response by poster: Yes yes yes this is great! Thanks! 90% of these bands I haven't heard of, so I've got listening to do. Thank you thank you! And keep 'em coming.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:57 PM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: I like the same kind of stuff. Some thoughts:

Caribou (Andorra)
Sunset Rubdown (Dragonslayer)
posted by grobstein at 3:15 PM on May 31, 2010

Yeah - I Nth Andrew Bird. While I was reading your post he came to mind about five hundred times. He uses lyrics in these really interesting and poetic ways and he plays around a lot with harmony and time. You'll dig him.
posted by crapples at 3:58 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Owen Pallett (formerly known as Final Fantasy) is fantastic and very sophisticated, but not very pop/rock.

Oh, I think his amazing new album, Heartland, might be right up the OP's alley.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:33 PM on May 31, 2010

You also might check out Metafilter's own ludwig_van's band, Steve Goldberg and the Archenemies, if you haven't.
posted by Caduceus at 6:30 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy.
also check out:
The Physics of Meaning
posted by statolith at 7:59 PM on May 31, 2010

Mates of State
posted by Swisstine at 10:02 PM on May 31, 2010

Black Bonzo
posted by spinifex23 at 11:26 PM on May 31, 2010

You might like some of Kristin Hersh's new stuff, which I'd definitely characterize as "unconventional," "cool," and "rocking," although Hersh's take-no-prisoners, Southern banshee howl of a voice takes it a little distance away from "radio friendly." She's released a couple of hours of it free on the internet, though, so it's easy to find out:

[1] check out "Moan," "Fortune," "Rubidoux," and "Slippershell"
[2] try "Bliss" and "Quick"
[3] "Terra Nova" and the just-released-last week "Swollen" are pretty damn awesome).

Videos: Slippershell, In Shock, Moan, Echo.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:33 AM on June 1, 2010

Tally Hall

And I don't know how virtuosic you might find them, but They Might Be Giants is pretty darn ear-wormy. And clever.
posted by cross_impact at 6:10 AM on June 1, 2010

Patrick Wolf ("The Magic Position", "The Childcatcher", "Accident & Emergency")
Phoenix ("Consolation Prizes", "1901", "Lisztomania")
Jens Lekman ("Pocketful of Money", "Black Cab")
Sondre Lerche ("Sleep on Needles", "Two Way Monologue", "Heartbeat Radio")
Paolo Nutini ("Jenny Don't Be Hasty", "Coming Up Easy", "Candy")
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:37 AM on June 1, 2010

Barenaked Ladies? Their records Gordon, Maroon, Born on a Pirate Ship, Rock Spectacle, Maybe you Should Drive and Stunt all seem to fit your criteria.

The Tragically Hip, also from Canada, make decent rock and many great songs can be found on their Yer Favourites compilation.

Cafe Tacuba, form Mexico, fill your criteria as well. Best albums: Re, and Revés/Yo soy. Language barrier: low; Intelligent popmusic value: high.

I also very highly recomend The Decemberists and everything by Colin Meloy (sings! live!).
posted by omegar at 12:18 PM on June 1, 2010

Best answer: The Faint
Motion City Soundtrack
Neon Trees
posted by zombiehoohaa at 9:44 PM on June 1, 2010

Best answer: the Dirty Projectors anybody?
posted by Think_Long at 3:02 PM on June 4, 2010

Coupla others:

The Fiery Furnaces - Benton Harbor Blues (though this is the 'Again' or radio-friendly version, which doesn't include the trippy awesome backwards bits of the album track) - Waiting to Know You - Early work is polarizing, chaotic. Bitter tea is a bit more palatable. Then Blueberry Boat, and The Fiery Furnaces EP is solid.

And god, if this is too obvious or something I'm sorry, but Pavement.
posted by carsonb at 7:09 PM on June 4, 2010

Best answer: Florence and the Machine - Dog Days are over
It's an awesome, super-catchy song and quite radio-friendly (it's played on the radio over here in Israel not too unoften).

also (these are a mish-mash of genres):
Ben Folds / Ben Folds Five
Amy Winehouse
Regina Spektor
Fiona Apple
Avett Brothers
the Streets
Julia Nunes' covers as well as her originals (find them on youtube)
Band of Horses
Imogen Heap
Belle and Sebastien
Camera Obscura
Brett Dennen
Blind Pilot
posted by alon at 1:17 PM on June 11, 2010

Field Music - their sound has been described as "math-rock Beatles." Some examples:
Them That Do Nothing
Let's Write a Book
A House is Not a Home

And, if you like them, the brothers that make up the core of the group have two offshoot projects - The Week That Was and School of Language - that mine similar territory.
posted by anthom at 10:03 AM on June 14, 2010

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