This year’s Free Press Summer Fest has been announced, and, wow, I must say I am impressed. Snoop Dogg, The Avett Brothers, Primus, Big Freedia, Danny Brown, Jeff the Brotherhood, Willie Nelson, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Flaming Lips (performing Dark Side of the Moon), Wavves, Diplo, Best Coast, Major Lazer, Turquoise Jeep! I’m gonna have a hard time avoiding the miserable Houston heat this summer!
30. The Lonely Island – Turtleneck and Chain
I would like to say it was a long process determining whether or not this was one of my favorite albums of the year, but its placement pretty much nulls that. Cred be damned, this was a no-brainer for me. It’s smart, it’s funny, the production is pristine, and the comedic, cameo-filled results reveal these guys worked a lot harder on this sophomore release than we would guess.
29. The Black Keys – El Camino
I was admittedly worried our favorite Akron duo was releasing a follow-up to the huge hit Brothers too soon after their inevitable breakthrough. Would they pull a Kings of Leon and give us limelight-influenced, second-rate dreck? In hindsight, I feel stupid for thinking such a thing. The Black Keys have their shtick down, and they’re able to tweak it ever so slightly for an interesting effect, but never a disappointing experience.
28. Big Black Delta – LP1
Jonathan Bates has been the leader of Mellowdrone for years, but in 2010 he took some time off to experiment with an electronic-based project. He collaborated with M83, released some singles, and garnered enough hype for a full-length. The result is a spell-binding, futuristic take on the subdued, reticent sounds of his primary project.
27. Middle Brother – S/T
This Partisan Records supergroup turned heads at SXSW this year, and the group’s debut gives each each songwriter their fair share of time to shine. Deer Tick’s John McCauley, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez deliver a promising debut of collaborative songs and infectious melodies.
26. Gross Magic – Teen Jamz EP
The cover may give one an urge to watch Saved By the Bell reruns, but the EP itself is more of a distorted, lo-fi take on the dirtier works of bands like L7 and other early 90’s greats. Whooshing sounds, piano clinks, and loud-ass guitars envelop the listener on this introduction to a band to watch in 2012.
25. Ringo Deathstarr – Colour Trip
Austin’s very own delivered a more approachable take on the deafening sounds of My Bloody Valentine and other formidable shoegazers. The sound is here, but the mood is all too different; cacophonies of sound give way to catchy melodies and casual lyrics. Those wishing to mope might want to look elsewhere, because you might be more inclined to dance.
24. Sebastian – Total
Some would say Total is derivative of superior work, and it’s too little too late for a producer who had been hyped since 2007, when this sound was in full swing, but has just now released his first full-length. And I wouldn’t argue with any of that. But while Daft Punk scores Disney movies and Justice errs in creating prog rock, Sebastian gave me my French house fix I so desperately needed.
23. Jeff the Brotherhood – We Are the Champions
After a well-deserved amount of praise for Heavy Days, the Nashville guitar-and-drum duo churned out a victory lap. That’s not to suggest We Are the Champions is exactly the same album, though the raucous vibe we’ve come to adore is present. There are new ventures here, including a dynamite foray into new wave mixed in with good old fashioned garage punk.
22. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years
If you were looking for Love Comes Close Part 2, you were likely disappointed in this challenging follow up. More Bauhaus than “Bizarre Love Triangle,” Cold Cave have reinvented themselves by channeling their dark side to another great era of 80’s rock, and the results grow on you track by track.
21. Ford & Lopatin – Channel Pressure
One look at that awesome album cover should give you a sense of what you’re walking into – Channel Pressure is probably the strongest homage to the sounds of the 80’s in recent memory. But this isn’t merely a replication of the Miami Vice – subtle structure and hidden surprises lie within repeated listens. Dark instrumentals, upbeat synth pop, and total freak-outs galore, there’s never a dull moment here.
When the band sticks to what they know, they sound great. Angles is a hot-and-cold album, but this is the first of two tracks that showcases the former.
Originally released as former project Gobble Gobble, nothing has been done to this track in terms or re-mixing or mastering, but it just sounds better in context within the new album Bodysongs.
Another highlight from Strange Mercy – here Annie Clark shows off her knack for start-stop surprises around what sounds conventional at first, then grows to be beautifully unusual.
The snare hits, the booming bass, the background vocals, that “Just Blaze!” intro, the use of the phrase “Murdercedez Benz.” What’s not to love here?
One of the more down-tempo tracks on the fun Rolling Papers, Wiz drops a chill-out anthem for the end of the night when you just wanna light one up and take it easy.
There are quiet moments, but overall this year’s song countdown is crazy upbeat; you’ve gotta be an uptight jerk not to enjoy at least some of what’s here. For the most part, this collection of songs from 2011, while decidedly less diverse than in past years, still perfectly captures my mood and preference. I’ll be counting down until Friday – feel free to browse, listen, discover, disagree, etc. I’ll publish a Spotify playlist at the end with most of the tracks on there; the rest can be found via YouTube below and on subsequent posts.
Every Saturday, I post a 15-20 minute podcast featuring some tracks I’ve been jamming the previous week, as well as some commentary and random musings from yours truly. Enjoy!
M83 – Midnight City
Butch Walker and the Black Widows – In Bloom
JEFF the Brotherhood – Something In the Way
Pusha T and Tyler, the Creator – Trouble On My Mind
Run DMC – Ooh, Whatcha Gonna Do?
Spring break is upon us, and with it the finest week of the year, SXSW. As is customary, my friends and I are gonna RAGE and make like Andrew W.K. and PARTY HARD and all that good stuff. New parties and showcases are being announced every day, and next week I hope to have a list of my picks for ones to check out. In the meantime, however, after the jump is a list of bands I am hoping to see this year while meandering around downtown Austin, and you should try your damndest to see them as well.
It just seems right that one of the finest live duos out there would end up performing for a small, raucous crowd at the headquarters of the record label for Jack White, a pioneer of loud, rocking duos all on his own. Last year, Nashville’s Jeff the Brotherhood stopped at the White Striper’s Third Man compound and churned out an energetic set for those in attendance. 11 songs in 45 minutes, and it’s a nonstop fist-pumping affair. You can order the madness on wax here.