Hidden Treasures

Introducing some of the best discs you've never heard.

Emiliana Torrini Throw Rag Parry Gripp Early Man C. Gibbs
Throw Rag: Sailors on shore leave got nothin' on these guys.
Throw Rag: Sailors on shore leave got nothin' on these guys.
To make a record these days, all you need is Pro Tools, a CD burner, and a pulse. And judging by some of the dead-in-the-water discs that cross our desk on a weekly basis, that last requirement is optional.

Like noisy widgets, more albums than ever are being cranked out. While that makes for a lot of detritus, there's also a boatload of good albums that slip by unnoticed.

With this in mind, we decided to share a handful of our favorite overlooked discs. Here's some of the best music you've probably never heard:

Emiliana Torrini
Fisherman's Woman (Rough Trade)
Emiliana Torrini possesses a voice so soft and warm, it sounds spun from cotton. She sings in an innocent whisper, her songs like lullabies -- even when they're about getting drunk. Torrini often draws comparisons to Björk because of her nymph-like vocals, Icelandic heritage, and the electronic flourishes of her previous works. But that should end with Fisherman's Woman, a spare, homespun record on which Torrini strips her songs bare, leaving only touches of acoustic guitar, pedal steel, and piano to fan her flickering voice. It makes for a record as soothing as a long shoulder rub.

Throw Rag
13 Ft. and Rising (BYO)
13 Ft. and Rising is as infectious as chlamydia, which we're betting the dudes in Throw Rag know a thing or two about. This bunch is as drunken and debauched as sailors on shore leave -- and in keeping with a nautical theme, their frontman dresses like a sea captain. On 13 Ft. , the bandmates navigate randy rockabilly and crusty rock and roll, with an emphasis on finding the hooks buried beneath two tons of grit and empty Jack Daniel's bottles. They've got a washboard player in their ranks, a sweaty dude named Jacko, who also blares on the trumpet. This gives the band more swing than most of its peers, and makes 13 Ft. a dirt-rock record that you can actually dance to -- especially if you're a gal in a G-string. No seedy strip club is complete without this disc.

Parry Gripp
For Those About to Shop, We Salute You (Oglio)
Is there anything better than great nachos at a great price? Not according to Parry Gripp. And upon hearing the former Nerf Herder frontman's recent solo bow, we're inclined to agree. The idea for the disc first came to Gripp when he was asked to pen a short song for use in a waffle commercial. Gripp's tune didn't make the TV ad, but the experience led him to write a whole album of stupidly catchy faux jingles like "Say Hello to Your New Favorite Pizza" and "Waffles Are Outrageous." Mostly under a minute long, these overly-perky pop confections romp through everything from Euro-disco to country and will have you strangely craving everything that Parry pretends to be selling, from "Bran Flakes" to a "Nice [email protected]#!*&g Truck." Novelty aside, the album serves as a witty commentary on the ease of selling crap to suckers like us.

Early Man
Early Man (Monitor)
If you've ever sewn a Venom patch onto a sleeveless jean jacket, you must own this album. Seriously, this is devolved, old-school metal, meant to be blasted while crushing empty cans of Milwaukee's Best on your forehead. Early Man consists of two dudes who make enough noise for four, bashing out ill-tempered rippers about fighting, killing, and dying. The riffs are catchy and primitive, topped by gruff barks and Ozzyesque wails. It all congeals into prime, fat-free metal that'll leave necks sprained from here to Hades.

C. Gibbs
Parade of Small Horses (Rubric/Dren Records)
"Sometimes there's peace in givin' in," sighs C. Gibbs at the onset of Parade of Small Horses, sounding as if he's resigned himself to drowning in the "Devil's Water." His voice is as creaky as an old wooden staircase, but unlike most sad-eyed troubadours, Gibbs -- a former guitarist for Modern English -- eventually finds redemption. Amid moaning harmonica, Wurlitzer, and pedal steel, Gibbs' voice brightens as he apologizes to his lady and speeds away from his troubles in an old Ford. It makes Horses one of the rare late-night drinking albums that leaves listeners with a measure of closure and the resolve needed to survive the next day's hangover.

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