Seeing as how America is pretty much the biggest entertainment market in the world, it can become all too easy for us to forget about what’s happening outside of our sphere. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that your average American doesn’t know as much about what’s happening in other countries as they do with ours, and understandably so, seeing as how we are pretty much at the top when it comes to entertainment, among other things. Your average Japanese citizen would sooner be able to tell you Brad Pitt’s last three movies than you would get any of us to name a single Japanese actor. Many successful U.S. movies and bands go on to achieve success in several parts of the world, although the same can’t be said with artists from those same places, however successful they may be (probably because of the language barrier). With that said, there is a huge world of music around us with hundreds of fantastic bands that never made a splash here in the states, so read on and check out a few of the lesser known but highly successful bands from around the world. Although you might not understand the lyrics, one thing is for sure, rock and roll is a universal language!
Archimede – France
These guys may sing in French, but the sound they produce is signature British rock. Inspired by their neighbors to the north, brothers Nicolas and Frederic Boisnard started the band in 2004 and spent much of their early years touring profusely until 2008 when they paused to record their debut album, the self-titled Archimede. The album was completed a year later and the band soon found success with the release of their lead single, “Vinaile Canaiile,” bolstered by its popular music video which featured the band cleverly recreating iconic album covers. Their debut album also garnered the band a “Victoire de la Musique” award (French Grammy) nomination for Best Album by a New Artist. With a growing fan base in Germany, Australia, the U.K. and even Asia, they went back into the studio to record their follow up album, Trafalgar, which was released on September 5, 2011.
Songs to check out: “Vinaile Canaiile,” “Le Bonheur,” “Au Diable Vauvert”
JUDY AND MARY – Japan
While they have definitely made an impact here in the US among anime viewers, mainstream music fans are probably missing out on one of the most exciting and talented bands to come out of Japan in the last couple of decades. Formed in 1992, JUDY AND MARY (stylized in all capitals) quickly rose to fame as one of Japan’s premiere rock bands. Grounded in punk, rock and roll and pop, the band made a name for itself with their innovative melding of both noisy and melodic rock as well as their high energy live performances. By 1994, they cemented themselves as THE top rock band of the ‘90s due to the huge success of their No. 1 single “Sobakasu,” thanks in part to the song’s use as the theme song for the vastly popular anime series, Rurouni Kenshin. Although the group broke up by 2001, they remain a fixture on the Japanese music scene with all members subsequently attaining modest to high success with their ensuing projects, most notably singer Yuki Isoya, who has had numerous No. 1 singles and as of recently as, May 10, 2012, she sits at No. 4 on the Japanese top 100 with her song “Play Ball.”
Songs to check out: “Sobakasu,” “Over Drive,” “Classic”
La Oreja de Van Gohg – Spain
For those of you who are still nostalgic about ‘80s era bands such as the Bangles and the Cranberries, this band will be the perfect fit for you as this Spanish band has plenty of that reminiscent sound. Since their inception in 1996, the group has gone to create some of the best music around in Spain, not only winning numerous awards, such as a Latin Grammy for Best Pop Album by a Duo or Group, but have written hits for other artists as well. They first made a name for themselves early in their career by covering songs from well known international artists such as U2, Nirvana and Pearl Jam before creating a string of original hits with their first album, Dile al Sol (Tell the Sun), which went on to sell over 800,000 records. By the time they released their second album, titled El Viaje de Copperpot (Copperpot’s Journey, based off the character Copperpot from The Goonies), they had already gained much critical praise and several honors. The album itself would go on to sell the equivalent of 7X Platinum with over 2,000,000 copies sold worldwide. Their last release with original singer Amaia Montero, Guapa (Beautiful), became the bestselling album in Spain for 2006. By 2007, the group had hired replacement Leire Martinez and released their fifth studio album, A Las Cinco en el Astoria, which was also a commercial hit, going on to be the twelfth bestselling album in Spain for 2008. To date, they have become one of the most successful acts in their genre, selling more or less 1,000,000 albums with every release.
Songs to check out: “Rosas,” “Jueves,” “Cometas por el Cielo”
Rammstein – Germany
Although the band has attained a modest following here in the US, they are not nearly as popular as they should be. Taking elements from metal, industrial and groove while adding testosterone fueled operatic vocals, Rammstein has attained massive success in their native Germany and the surrounding area. Formed in 1993, the band got their name from the Ramstein airshow disaster in which 80 people were hurt or killed during an American Air Force show, although adding an M, making the name mean a battering ram made of stone. They made a name for themselves early on for their live stage theatrics, most notably frontman Till Lindemann’s propensity to sing entire songs while engulfed in flames. By the time they released their debut album, Herzeleid, they were already vastly popular. Their debut album remained on the German music charts until the release of the band’s second album about two years later. By the time their second album Sehnsucht was released, they were already headlining shows for crowds of over 30,000 people. Although the vast majority of their songs are sung in their native German, they have released several tracks sung in part or entirely in a different language including Spanish, English, Russian and French. To date, they have released six studio albums along with a live and compilations record.
Songs to check out: “Dus Hast,” “Feuer Frei,” “Ich Will”