In March 2010, I compiled a list of the music I had been listening to… while Waylon was rocking out to Flock of Seagulls and M.C. Hammer.
It’s time to get with the times, Way. So here, in no particular order, are the tunes of 2011 that are worth checking out.
1. The Black Angels- “Bad Vibrations” (from their 2011 full-length album Phosphene Dream)
Pyschadelic Rock has made a huge comeback in the last year or so and The Black Angels are largely responsible for its resurgence. Hailing from Austin, TX, these angels take cues from The Velvet Underground and The 13th Floor Elevators (and maybe even some Joy Division) for their reverb heavy jams that make you want to slip into a dark opium den. The Black Angels have released three albums and one recent, more mellow E.P. They also put on fantastic live performance (one of the best shows ive seen, ever) and if you’re in the Boulder/Denver area, keep an eye out, as their shows often sell-out. fast.
2. Future Islands- “Before The Bridge” (new album On The Water)
Baltimore-based band Future Islands made their debut last year with In Evening Air. Upon first listen, I wasn’t thrilled by the lead vocalist, but after a few more tries, I realized that his voice is incredibly unique. Like a nice mix between Tom Waits and Dracula. The music is upbeat and dancy, while the lyrics are heartfelt, poetic and thoughtful, singing about love, loss and memory. Their most recent album On The Water has been a great soundtrack for me this fall and winter and I am impressed that a band can make a follow-up album that is just as great as its first.
3. Nicolas Jaar- “Problems With the Sun” (from Space Is Only Noise)
It’s hard to pick just one song from Nico Jaar. Well, he’s just incredible. This year he released his first full-length album entitled Space Is Only Noise. Jaar’s sounds range from ambient to jazzy downtempo house. I have little to say about him except that everyone should have a listen to his album, it goes a lot of different places. I saw him last week here in Chicago playing a live set and I was in awe. Jaar is a rare, young talent and that is shifting the sound and face of electronic music.
4. The Caretaker- “Camaraderie at arms length” (from an empty bliss beyond this world)
I came across Leyland Kirby a.ka. “The Caretaker” (a very appropriate moniker) this past summer while in Berlin. Leaning on the ambient side,much of his music reflects on nostalgia and memory. He even has created an album based on that eery hotel scene in The Shining. Kirby has an extensive portfolio, some of this albums have nearly 100 tracks. His sounds are made by reworked old ballroom 78s and you can tell. I enjoy this album on grey sunday mornings.
5. Washed Out- “Soft” (from Within and Without)
My soundtrack for the summer, Within and Without Washed Out’s first full length album is a bigger name in the “dreampop, chillwave” genre that has gotten huge this year. (note artists like: blackbird blackbird & tropics) Hailing from Perry (yeah i dont know where that is either), Georgia, Ernest Greene produced these blissful sounds from his parents house, only to get big and hit the road touring. The album makes me feel like floating, it is light, catchy, beautiful and yes, dreamy. The vocals are soft and hazy and the music is smooth. Unfortunately I listened to it so much, I think I’ve grown out of it. Here is a short interview with the artist about how he got started.
6. The Weeknd – “What You Need” (from Wicked Games)
Three words: baby.making.music.
7. Cubenx- “Grass” (from On Your Own Again)
Mexico/Berlin based artist Cesar Urbina, a.ka. Cubenx, just released On Your Own Again via Infine Records. This album is fantastic, a friend of mine described it as shoegaze meets techno. His sounds range from slow, soft and reflective to more rockish and dancy. Its hard to pick a song, because they’re all so great. I thank this album for being a great soundtrack as I adjust to Chicago city life. (im a fresh transplant) You can read an in-depth, compelling interview with the artist and listen to selected tracks here.
8. Twin Shadow- “I Cant Wait” (from Forget)
Okay okay, this album is actually from 2010, but I was only introduced to the 80s-esque sounds of Twin Shadow this year. Front man George Lewis Jr. is the ultimate hipster. I love Twin Shadow’s sound, like a mix between The Cure and The Police. Their songs have catchy lyrics and great breakdowns, they make me wanna perm my hair, wear neon leggings and shuffle and bounce around.
9. Twin Sister- “Phenomenons” (from Color Your Life)
I don’t know much about Twin Sister except that I was given a few of their songs and I really enjoy them. Its melodic and flows well. The vocals are strange, and at times straining. Keep an eye out as they are touring next year. (colorado: they’ll be at The Hi- Dive in Denver in February)
10. Federico Crespo- “Siete” (from EP2)
Whether or not you read last years post, there is one thing you should know. I love electronic music, particularly house and techno. Based out of Mexico City and on the awesome label Static Discos, (please explore this link, new fresh music out of mexico worth listening to) Producer Federico Crespo has released two EPs, (aptly named EP1 & EP2). I like his spacey, yet consistent sounds that are fit for when I ride the subway. I am so looking forward to a full length release.
[There is no video for this song but I so badly want to post about it because its been a favorite of mine, so heres a link to listen to it.]
If you readers liked any of these artists, heres a short list of the honorable mentions worth checking out.
I’d also like to recognize that much of the music I listen to has been recommended to me by friends from all over, so thank you friends, you know who you are.
Claire Ellen is a former Boulder, Colorado resident who has just recently relocated to Chicago. She enjoys art and sound, experiencing it, writing about it and sometimes making it. She also likes to dance. You can check out things that catch her eye and ear at claire-ellen.com