This has been a banner year for geeky music. From Anthrax’s epic zombie-slaying anthem to one of Weird Al’s finest efforts to date, 2011 has come correct with the musical magic. But despite breakthrough releases by acts like I Fight Dragons and Jonathan Coulton at long last capturing imaginations on the more studious side of the mainstream, many other artists still managed to stay under the pop culture radar.
And since I cannot, in good conscience, allow these most notable of efforts to go unnoticed, I’ve compiled a handy list of 12 more phenomenal tracks that may have unwittingly passed you by.
The OverClocked Plaid Muffins – “Ska Buffet (All You Can Eat)”
Trying to pick a standout track from a musical community as eclectic, prolific and heavily peer-reviewed as OverClocked ReMix is a tough call. Still, even taking into consideration special projects like their epic tribute albums, 2011′s most pleasantly surprising OCR cut was easily the Kirby Super Star-inspired “Ska Buffet.” A labor of love by no fewer than eight community ReMixers, The OverClocked Plaid Muffins represent another in a long, proud line of virtual bands to crank out amazing tunes using the interconnectivity afforded by the digital age. And the best news? Level 99, the group’s conceptual center, hipped me to some early mixes of forthcoming OCPM tracks at this summer’s Nerdapalooza, and they are every bit as tasty as this debut!
The Garthim-Master and DJ Extend – “Dude, Where’s My AT-AT At? (feat. Wordburglar)”
There’s something undeniably unique about Canadian hip-hop, and this is especially true of rapper The Garthim-Master. His 2011 full-length Ghosts of Nostalgia — backed up by German producer DJ Extend — skillfully blended the verbally impressionistic with the thematically sentimental, and tracks like humorous Star Wars narrative “Dude, Where’s My AT-AT At?” provided the sometimes intimidating sounds of the hip-hop underground with distinct nerd appeal.
Supercommuter – “It is Splendid!”
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For whatever reason, chiptune music always seems to be a bit of a hard sell to new listeners. (Even more so than, say, a pair of Canadian underground hip-hop staples rhyming about Star Wars.) Yet on their sophomore release Products of Science, Seattle chip-hop trio Supercommuter managed to bridge the gap between experimental lo-fi electronica, nerdcore rap and engaging robot rock. It’s easily one of the year’s best albums, and “It is Splendid” is an early standout.
Swagberg – “Pony Swag (fear. Maros)”
Swagberg has, under a myriad of different stage names, made a name for himself as one of nerdcore hip-hop’s most recognizable voices, not to mention one of its greatest critics. With a bigger-is-better production style and a lyrical slant as heavily focused on sharp diction as its well-honed wordplay, he is both innovator and home-grown detractor. Still, as severe (if generally well-reasoned) as his attacks against nerdcore hangers-on may be, his lyrical tribute to brony life released this summer is as honest and well-meaning as it is tuneful and engaging.