You remember I told you guys 2012 just keeps getting better and better? It does! Dovecote is set to release a new single from one of my favorite groups in the past few years, Hooray For Earth, who I’ve praised nonstop here in this corner of the Internet. This is the A-side to the single, out August 21st. Like their best tracks, it’s immediately accessible due to stellar hooks, but the subtleties grow on you for a worthwhile listen that will likely stay on my playlists throughout the rest of the year.
10. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
Merrill Garbus has always been known for oddball melodies and quirky arrangements, but the growth shown on this spectacular album is spellbinding. Memorable, inviting, disarming, and purely inventive, this standout is unlike anything anyone in music is doing right now, and is an un-arguable example of the unique power of the musicality of tUnE-yArDs.
9. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
The addiction to partying, to tripping, to rolling, to getting wasted and blackout obliterated has never been so perfectly soundtracked than in this promising debut. The hollow feelings, the numbed experiences, and the utter craving to do it all again to forget about the last time is captured here. Dark, demented, honest, and with the worst intentions.
8. Araabmuzik – Electronic Dream
The title of this introductory mixtape is certainly appropriate – like the blurred drive home after a night of partying, the triple-time drum machines, 90’s era female vocals, and repeated reminders that “you are now listening to Araabmuzik” blend together like the final dance at the club, or the final steps to the bed.
7. Terius Nash – 1977
He’s proclaimed himself the Love King, but for his free mixtape, The-Dream chose not only to name it after the year of his birth, but opted to use his real name as the moniker of choice. Why? Because the Love King isn’t bragging much this time around. Lamenting on heartbreak, personal turmoil, and soulful anguish, this is the most introspective effort from Nash to date.
6. Jay Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
A collaboration of this magnitude certainly wasn’t going to meet the overhyped expectations it was given. With that out of the way, while nothing revolutionary, Watch the Throne is certainly memorable. It’s not even a collaboration, but a competition. Who can out-rap the other? It’s a battle of braggadocio rhymes and quick wit, and it’s entertaining all the way through.
5. Born Gold – Bodysongs
Freak pop might fit, but that’s more akin to the psychedelic work of Flaming Lips. No, Born Gold (formerly Gobble Gobble) is more futuristic ADHD pop. Chaotic electronic noise and stuttered, effected vocals surround the magnificent melodies of this group’s surprisingly strong debut. A joyous proclamation of computer-glitching defiance throughout, it might give you a fabulous headache.
4. Drake – Take Care
What a short, strange trip it’s been for Drake, who has evolved from a hashtag-rapping former actor to the most interesting, downbeat, and flat-out real rapper in the game right now. Take Care is the best rap album of the year because its mixed-emotion honesty is overwhelming, its beats are curiously addicting, and its mood is so powerfully smooth. Pristine production amongst contradictory, conflicting verses, this album is simply sublime.
3. Hooray For Earth – True Loves
Quite possibly the most overlooked album of 2011, Hooray For Earth are delivering subtle, yet undeniable unforgettable electronic jams for the undeserving masses. Everything here, from the hooks of the title track, to the gradual grandiosity of “Sails,” to the fist-pumping madness of “No Love,” is a winner.
2. Primus – Green Naugahyde
Since frontman Les Claypool has remained active, it’s hard to believe it’s been twelve years since Antipop, but our favorite alt-funk oddballs pick up right where they left off, bringing instant career highlights reminiscent of all the brightest spots of their catalog. It’s not exactly forward-thinking, but when the funk is this solid, who cares?
1. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
While not as completely cohesive as the shorter Saturdays=Youth, Anthony Gonzalez managed to out-epic that album, a feat many surmised would be impossible. Then again, what’s more epic than a dream-pop double album exploring the concept of childhood slumber? And with that concept comes feelings of excitement, innocence, comfort, and imagination. There’s a lot to take in, but repeated listens will deliver the ultimate reveal: Gonzalez is brilliant, and this album is remarkable. Near flawless, completely enjoyable.
Delivering sing-song verses, that trademark stoner laugh, and a chorus you’ve memorized by the second time you’ve heard it, Wiz Khalifa might be one of the laziest rappers on Top 40 radio. But that’s exactly the point. He’s not some uptight, eccentric, crazy ambitious, domineering figure. He’s that pot-smoking friend who’s down for whatever, and if your down, he’s down. The most casual summer jam of the year.
To whet our appetite in between LPs, Surfer Blood released a rocking little EP featuring this excellent little tune.
Another band I know little about, but this played nonstop in my car last spring. A great ode to the unrequited and the ones that got away.
Another catchy lo-fi power pop rocker from this group’s self-titled debut. Enjoy it while you can, because the follow-up promises to be darker and more ambitious.
This Internet sensation crept onto FM radio with this undeniable, absolutely fun track. Bonus points for rhyming “over me” with “ovaries.”
My first introduction to the newly named Born Gold, and I was immediately hooked. There is a remarkable gift here in making the unorganized sound so irresistible.
This is the first of many times for both these artists on the list. Here the Weeknd provides his eerie tortured-party R&B before the beat drops and Drake laments.
McCombs brings another signature somber note in his trademark melancholy falsetto. One of my favorites from Wit’s End.
The first verse of this track more or less describes my life right now – realizing we are not unique snowflakes but small cogs in a machine we don’t know about yet. Simple, yet poignant.
From the maniacal laughter to the thumping stomp of that chorus to those wailing guitars, Joy Formidable claim the throne as the loudest new band of 2011.
146. YACHT – Dystopia
A play on an old R-rated cheerleader chant becomes a boogie-worthy ode to the end of the world. In typical Yacht fashion, it makes you wanna dance around the flames.
Compared to my first year as an Austin resident, I took it pretty easy this year. I suppose the combination of budgeting, starting grad school, and just generally growing old has slowed me down a bit, but I still saw some cool shows. And with M83, Radiohead, Drake, and Born Gold all coming in the first half of 2012, looks like I’ll be getting a head start on this list for next year. In the meantime, here are some highlights, at least ones I could remember, from 2011.
Hooray For Earth @ Emo’s Inside – 10/1
I believe this was the last show I saw at Emo’s Inside (I remember seeing Twin Shadow around ACL time on the outside stage just before they shut it down), and I’ve yet to see a show at the new locale on East Riverside. I had been dying to witness Hooray For Earth for many many months, and finally seeing them rock out was rewarding, as was a nice conversation with the lead singer afterwards.
Deftones @ Austin Music Hall – 6/4
Call it making up for lost time; I’m not a huge fan of AMH – actually, I hate it quite a bit, but I’m never missing a Deftones show. I finally saw them for the first time last year, and as long as these guys make it to Austin, I’ll be going. The crowd was awful, as was the case last time, but Deftones more than make up for all the teenage rudeness.
Bill Maher @ ACL Live – 3/26
Not a music show, but man was it hilarious. My second show in the ACL Live venue, and Bill proved he loves Austin. The crowd was mostly receptive, but I did get some looks for applauding loudly at the atheist jokes. Do people know who they came to see?
Robyn @ ACL Live – 2/17
Robyn is incredible, see her live the first chance you get. High energy, tons of dancing, great acoustics, great venue. The crowd up front was crazy annoying, especially during Diamond Rings, but what are ya gonna do?
Sleigh Bells @ The Glass House – Pomona, CA – 4/13
The Glass House is a weird little venue; I honestly had no idea how far Pomona was from West Hollywood, but we drove a long way to see this awesome awesome show. It was all ages, no alcohol. Not that I had a lot of cash anyway. Sleigh Bells killed, as is the routine.
The Go! Team @ Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA – 4/19
The Echoplex was closer, but it felt like a shady neighborhood. The venue, however, is pretty damn awesome, and the Go! Team were just as fun as I could have imagined. Hopefully these guys make a new album, because I’m betting they’ll make a stop here in Austin if they do.
Primus @ Stubb’s – 5/24
It’s so great to have these guys back and playing new stuff. Have I said that lately? Great show in one of the best venues in town, and we met Les (again!) and got a pic with him afterwards. Swell fella!
Dwight Yoakam @ ACL Live – 7/21
Another strong showing from the hillbilly king, this time at a venue within walking distance. Now if he would just get back in the studio!
Austin Psych Fest @ Seaholm Power Plant – 4/30-5/1
I really had no idea what to expect, but this ended up being a pleasant surprise. I got sufficiently drunk and listened to some crazy great psych music from all around the world, in the most appropriately creepy place to see a show in Austin, the echo-riffic Seaholm. Capping off the fest with Roky Erikson providing the soundtrack to the news of bin Laden’s death is a memory I will never forget.
Fun Fun Fun Fest @ Auditorium Shores – 11/4-6
I was a bit concerned for the future of my beloved FFF when they announced they were moving to the Shores, but in hindsight I feel ashamed for not having faith in the Transmission crew. Not only was this the best lineup I’ve ever seen in the fest’s six-year history, but the change of venue actually improved the overall experience. Great vendors, great music, not too crowded….best music experience of 2011, hands down.
SXSW 2011 – Spring Break and Beyond
The best week of the year did not disappoint, though this year I focused a lot of energy on getting into shows I didn’t think I would be able to get into. There’s certainly an extra feeling of reward when you’re granted access to an exclusive party with A-list bands and free food and booze. My personal highlights were the Zynga party (flyer above) and catching Queens of the Stone Age at La Zona Rosa. Another great free party showing as well this past year, especially Mess With Texas, which never disappoints. Saw the Strokes at the Shores, too, which was great. While 2010 might be remembered as the year of mini-riots and ridiculous overcrowding, for me it was just a regular old SXSW, fun, booze, catching up with old friends, and seeing some great music.
Today is Labor Day and I’m a week into school, so for me, and many others, summer 2011 is over and done with, even though my thermometer and the official calendar would disagree. Last night it cooled down here in Austin to “West Texas evening” degrees, which is good enough for me to declare that autumn approacheth, though it’s probably going to take its sweet time getting here. Anywho, as is the case this time every year, I have compiled a short list of my “songs of the summer.” Some people like lazy-time summers filled with laid-back tunes and relaxing choruses. Me, I’m more of a “let’s dance all season long” kind of guy, and this selection reflects that. What are your favorite songs from the past 3-4 months? What were you rocking while dehydrating?
9/19 – Two Gallants @ Mohawk
10/1 – Cymbals Eat Guitars/Hooray For Earth @ Emo’s
10/12 – The Rapture @ La Zona Rosa
10/21 – Battles @ Emo’s
11/4-6 Fun Fun Fun Fest @ Auditorium Shores