Two years ago, The Orchard added 60,000 UPCs to its distribution catalogue between the start of the year and our annual “10 You Might’ve Missed” post. As of this writing, the official number for this year is 603,505. 603,505! We’re not quite sure how our headphones haven’t melted, but thankfully they’ve held out long enough for us to assemble this list of 10 under-the-radar gems you might not have heard.
Roky Erickson: Don’t Slander Me [Light In The Attic]
This was a bit of a toss-up, as LITA reissued three fantastic ’80s recordings from the former 13th Floor Elevators frontman this year. The Evil One  is rightly celebrated as Erickson‘s powerful comeback following a hellish period of mental instability, but this 1986 recording, a tightly focused collection of Power Pop anthems and Garage Rave-ups, should be required listening for the Burger Records / Hardly Art set.
Giorgio Moroder: Schlagermoroder Vol. 1 – 1966 – 1975 [Repetoire Records]
Everyone loves the Disco innovator who produced Donna Summer’s mid-‘70s Dance hits. But we love the pre-Disco Bubblegum Pop genius even more. This import-only (outside Europe) 51-song collection is wall-to-wall fun, and sounds like the 1910 Fruitgum Company with a quirky Italian singer. It’s hard to pick favorites, but top contenders are the groovy “Lilly Belle,” the glammy “Underdog” and the garage-y “Watch Your Step.”
Blank Realm: Go Easy [Fire Records]
On Go Easy, these prolific Australian siblings artfully toe the line between hooky, Psych-tinged Garage Rock and the primitivist, shambolic, and slightly damaged aesthetic of the Xpressway label (more on them later). Think The Clean jamming with The Dead C. Or just listen to it here. Dig in before their new album, Grassed Inn, drops on January 14.
Rachel Zeffira: The Deserters [Paper Bag Records]
This debut solo album from the Canadian singer-songwriter Rachel Zeffira (Cat’s Eyes) is a stunner. It’s subtle, dreamy, haunting, ethereal, timeless, and affecting, with tasteful orchestration. Includes a My Bloody Valentine cover, too (“To Here Knows When”). Our favorite is the Zombies-like “Front Door.” RIYL: Julee Cruise
Peter Jefferies: The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World [De Stijl]
Featuring actual contributions from The Dead C and others on the afore-mentioned Xpressway roster, the 1990 solo debut from this New Zealand pianist / songwriter is a singular album that sounds like little else, before or since. As affecting as it is experimental, even the noisier numbers are suffused with a very private sense of melancholy and moody beauty that has drawn adherents like Cat Power.
Rathborne: SOFT [True Believer]
Rathborne is a swaggering young Power-Pop band led by NYC’s Luke Rathborne. Like a 1978 Plymouth Fury warming up, their debut album chugs slow and rough (“Soft”), then picks up speed until it’s zooming at a tight clip with “Eno” and “Low!” (where’s “Berlin?” har har cough). Stream the whole invigorating trip here. RIYL: The Strokes (Albert Hammond, Jr. co-produced), Ty Segall
The Mallard: Finding Meaning In Deference [Castle Face Records]
Released after the band’s dissolution earlier this year, the second album from this San Francisco outfit is noticeably darker than its predecessor, Yes On Blood . Every song has an eerie, minimalist, and hypnotically repetitious Post-Punk throb to it that’s made even more unsettling / utterly captivating by front woman Greer McGettrick‘s No Wave-esque sprechgesang. Stream “Iceberg” here.
Catchy hooks. Soaring vocal harmonies. Bittersweet lyrics. Folky and jangly. Flirts with Americana. Shades of ELO, Pernice Brothers, Teenage Fanclub, The Byrds. Co-produced by Mark Gardener (Ride). Breezy and breathtaking. Help. Can’t stop. Choppy sentence fragments. Watch the the video for “22.” It’s head-free!
Ebo Taylor: Conflict NKRU! [Mr. Bongo]
A lot of killer African music was reissued this year (I’m looking at you William Onyeabor, National Wake et al) and this rare 1980 recording from the newly rediscovered Ghanian Highlife / Afro-Beat titan is no exception. In a conscious effort to break away from some of the genre’s prevailing tropes, Taylor injects elements of JBs funk, Philly Soul, Jazz, and Exotica for a truly enthralling brew. Stream it here.
bigott: Blue Jeans [Bigott]
bigott is a Spaniard named Borja Laudo who sings in surreal broken English with a deadpan baritone over whimsical Latin-tinged Indie-Folk. For example: “Oh Yeah” (“you make me feel like I’ve been walking on coconuts… I wanted to be an astronaut / to fuck off the martians,” then something about Yugoslavia). Blue Jeans is his sixth dive into strangeness. Stream it here. RIYL: Herman Dune
Want more? Here’s last year’s list.