Let's be honest: it's tough for all of you musicians out there to get any attention these days. There's no room for you on MTV. There's no room for you on the radio. There's room on YouTube, but there's room for everybody on YouTube. It's thankless work for an audience who only wants their music from "American Idol" and awards shows.
Meanwhile, a world of great music lies underneath the Top 40 surface — bands and singers whose sound is as fresh as a Clear Channel playlist is stale. Next week, I'll be one of a million bloggers writing about the latest front page musical news. It's why they keep me inside the Yahoo! Music tent, and I'm not looking get kicked out. But on this Thanksgiving Eve, I want to give thanks for some bands I'm grateful to have in my collection. These six acts have made some of the best music this year and have given me shelter from the Big Music Machine steamroller that seems be on every TV and radio channel these days.
Monsters of Folk: "Monsters of Folk"
This is a supergroup I can love. Indie darlings M. Ward, Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Jim James have banded together to raise the ghosts of '70s AM radio past. Some might call the Gram Parsons-CSN-Neil Young mash-up of their debut album derivative. I call it refreshing.
A Fine Frenzy: "Bomb in the Birdcage"
Admittedly, there are about 10,000 bands out there with waifish-voiced female singers backed by delicate, tasteful arrangements. And admittedly, I'm a sucker for most of them. Still, Alison Sudol's followup to her 2007 debut stands above the rest of the sensitive piano girls for her inventive melodies and the infectious giddiness of her lyrics.
Grizzly Bear: "Veckatimest"
The Brooklyn outfit's latest album is full of the twisted, weird folk that has come to define a new musical genre. As ethereal and eerie as the album is, there's something more insanely twisted: the alternate single version (available on iTunes) of "While You Wait for the Others," with ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald taking lead vocals. I'm not kidding.
Amadou & Mariam: "Welcome to Mali"
The blind husband-and-wife duo from Mali have opened for Coldplay, played the Glastonbury Festival, and count Blur's Damon Albarn as a fan. Still, like so many African artists, they are criminally underexposed in the U.S. Their seventh album (with lead track "Sabali" written by Albarn) might change that. It's got grooves as long as the Niger River.
The Avett Brothers: "I and Love and You"
The North Carolina brothers released their major label debut with producer Rick Rubin presiding over their fraternal harmonies. The Avett Brothers dress like the Band, sing as hypnotically as the Everly Brothers, and write instant singsongs. The achingly epic title track alone will make you look for someone across the bar to marry.
The Phenomenal Handclap Band: "The Phenomenal Handclap Band"
This is the kind of music that could only be invented in Brooklyn. The brainchild of New York club DJs Daniel Collas and Sean Marquand, their self-titled official debut is the sound of a blaxploitation film cast meeting at a downtown rave that they turn into a flaming, psychedelic disco where episodes of "Love, American Style" are projected on the wall. Dig?