<< REWIND: Best Albums of 2011

December is always a time of reflection and nostalgia for me; some of it sweet, some not so much. But revisiting my favorite music of the year always falls on the sweeter side of the spectrum and inevitably puts a smile on my face as I trace back all the music that moved me through the course of the year. Whether it’s musing over the hype and hyperbole of a buzz band that’s come and gone (ahem, The Vaccines) or rediscovering a gem that time almost forgot (read: Lia Ices), compiling my annual ‘Best Of’ list has become a ritual I cherish.

So, without further ado, here are my favorite albums of 2011. My 2011 rewind. Kinda sorta listed in order but I find the process of ranking music to be like splitting hairs. All that really matters is that this is the music that moved me this year. The albums I came back to again and again. I enjoyed them. Immensely. Hope you will too.

Unknown Mortal OrchestraSelf Titled


Kurt VileSmoke Ring for My Halo

Mikal Cronin, Self Titled

Washed Out, Within and Without


Widowspeak, Self Titled


Ty Segall, Ty Rex

Abbe Mae, Design Desire


The Sandwitches, Mrs. Jones Cookies


Vetiver, The Errant Charm

Blouse, Self Titled

Fungi Girls, Some Easy Magic

Quilt, Self Titled


Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts


Nick Waterhouse, Is That Clear EP

Charles Bradley, No Time for Dreaming

Lia Ices, Grown Unknown

Thee Oh Sees, Carrion Crawler/The Dream

Shannon and the Clams, Sleep Talk

Wooden Shjips, West

Papercuts, Fading Parade

That Ghost, Songs Out Here

Tune-Yards, WHOKILL

Yuck, Self Titled

Jeff the Brotherhood, We are the Champions

Black Lips, Arabia Mountain

Future Islands, On the Water

Radiohead, King of Limbs

Yellow Ostrich, The Mistress

White Denim, D

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Mirror Traffic

Thurston Moore – “Demolished Thoughts”

Thurston Moore’s (of Sonic Youth fame) third solo effort, “Demolished Thoughts”, is simply lovely. Quickly emerging as one of my favorite albums this year. Produced by Beck, the effort is being coined acoustic folk. But don’t let the wimpy genre fool you.  His music still has the same intensity you would expect from a Sonic Youth tune, just unplugged, and dusted with a little Beck fairy dust for ambience. An intoxicating combination.

The album features Thurston on guitar and vocals, Samara Lubelski on violin, Mary Lattimore on harp, Beck on synths, vocals and bass, and Joey Waronker on percussion, among others. Thurston will be stopping through the Bay Area with Kurt Vile for two shows next month. Hello!  Mark your calendars and reserve your seats for July 25 at The New Parish in Oakland and July 26 at Great American Music Hall in SF. In the meantime, enjoy this Take Away show from La Blogotheque.

Bands to Watch 2011 :: Rollo & Grady

LA music blogger and tastemaker, Rollo & Grady, is definitely one of the better music discovery sites out there on the Internets. Prolific too as he lives and breathes indie music. When he’s not sharing his music discoveries on his blog, he’s placing it in films and television through his production company as a music supervisor. It’s the real deal. So check out his picks for bands to watch in 2011.

Lord Huron“The Problem with Your Daughter”


Devin Therriault“Don’t Think I”


Sun Airway“Put The Days Away”


Yuck

Tennis – “Marathon


Hanni El Khatib - “You Rascal You”


Bands to Watch 2011 :: Dodge, My Old Kentucky Blog

If you were a Sirius/XM blog radio show, which would you be? For me, most definitely My Old Kentucky Blog (as well as Aquarium Drunkard). Craig “Dodge” Lile is the founder of MOKB and Roaring Colonel Records, co-owner of Laundromatinee, and – as mentioned – is a DJ at SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio. His music sensibilities have always appealed to me and I’m happy to share his picks for the Bands to Watch in 2011.

Andy D – wild, party starter combining rap, rock, electro, and viking lore.  The latest signee to Roaring Colonel Records.


Dreamers Of The Ghetto – they’re recording now, but these guys make some amazing dream-rock and look like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.  I’d love to sign them as well, but I think I have some competition.  Check out their track “Phone Call”:


EMA - Erika Anderson, former one-half of The Gowns, will release her solo project debut through SOUTERRAIN TRANSMISSIONS this year. Another artist I would have loved to sign to Roaring Colonel.  I played her track “Marked” on MOKB SIRIUS XM Blog Radio for much of the year and it always elicited a great response.


Bobby - a new project featuring Molly of the band Mountain Man.  Beautiful, atmospheric tunes.
Julianna Barwick - will release The Magic Place through Asthmatic Kitty Records in 2011. Sure to be a beautiful album if the lead single was any indication.


Bands to Watch 2011 :: Larry Little, Future Sounds

If ever there were an arbiter of indie music, it would be Larry, the co-founder of LA-based Future Sounds. He’s made it his life’s work to help new and unsigned bands get heard and the music world is a much better place because of it. He’s also the creator and curator of The Rumble, a series of free monthly music parties that tours through eight cities – including LA, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Austin, Portland, Vegas and New York – showcasing ‘what’s next’ in music. Suffice it to say that when Larry talks you should probably listen. So listen up. Here are his picks for Bands to Watch in 2011.
THE NAKED & FAMOUS – the 2011 MGMT – from New Zealand
ODD FUTURE - the second coming of the Wu Tang Clan
WYE OAK – Merge about to do it again
LIFE IN FILM – London’s answer to the Kings Of Leon

BRANCHES - Asuza band that runs with the Fleet Foxes, Head & The Heart, Mumford & Sons pack.

Bands to Watch 2011 :: The 405

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The 405 is a UK based online Music/Art/Film magazine and one of the many UK-based sites that I frequently troll to satisfy my Brit Rock fetish. Recently they published an album of their picks for Bands to Watch in 2011. To download the album , click here!

1. ‘Colours’ - Grouplove
2. ‘What Became of You and I’ - Treefight For Sunlight
3. ‘Fighting Smiles’ - Jonquil
4. ‘Vocal Chords’ - Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
5. ‘Ringerz’ - Islet
6. ‘Young’ - Dog Is Dead
7. ‘Endless Summer’ - Still Corners
8. ‘Coast’ - Dry the River
9. ‘Facelove’ - PS I Love You
10. ‘Microlite (Acoustic)’ - Trophy Wife
11. ‘Christmas Tree’ - Fair Ohs
12. ‘Chiaroscuro’ - Einar Stray
13. ‘Mighty’ - Lord Huron
14. ‘Hung Markets’ - Seams
15. ‘Treetops (Val-d’Isère Remix)’ - Gold Fields
16. ‘Chemistry’ - Tall Ships
17. ’7th Date’ - Spectrals
18. ‘Oh My God’ - Cults

Videos not on the download record
19. ‘Weathervanes And Chemicals’ - Team Me
20. ‘Limit To Your Love (Video)’ - James Blake

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Bands to Watch 2011 :: Jason Jurgens, The Owl Mag

Say hi to the man with the plan – Jason Jurgens, publisher of the San Francisco-based music blog, The Owl Mag. Whether he’s writing, blogging, editing, promoting or filming Jason’s always got his ear to the ground when it comes to music. Check out his band picks for 2011.

The Dodos

“90′s riffs influenced by Billy Corgan and a shit ton of vocal servings from Neko Case. Sounds good to me.


New EP set to drop 1/18 and a tour with Surfer Blood (my fave from 2009). Shoegaze-y lo-fi that will make you see trails.
Excited to hear more from the SoCal band. Gritty and soulful folk with a hint of Ben Folds and The Weepies.
The Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros frontman is dropping a solo debut influenced by mouth sounds and children’s hand capping games. What a hippie.
Touring with Beach house, dropping a full-length. If Quever’s breathy and ambient tone and generally upbeat vibe on “Do What You Will” are any indication of what’s to come, then I’m hooked once again.

Bands to Watch 2011 :: Steve Brodsky, Figurehead Management

Steve is a partner at Figurehead Management, a San Francisco-based artist management company that currently manages bands like The Heavy, Orgone, A B & The Sea and Wallpaper.Here are Steve’s picks for 2011.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr: I’ve been hooked on this group since I heard their song Vocal Chords from their debut EP.  I’ve listened to these songs so much that it’s borderline embarrassing and can’t wait for their full length.  There is something so current and progressive with an underlying pop sensibility about what they’re doing.  I can see them playing with everyone from Local Natives to Vampire Weekend in 2011.  Wonder how long it will be before NASCAR fans join the already growing party?


Odd Future (OFWGKTA) : The subject matter addressed by this grimy West Coast skate rap crew is certainly not for the faint of heart.  They mix raw emotion and reckless abandon that can only come from youth and a level of creativity that the hip hop world hasn’t seen in a ages.  Bands like The XX already have copped to listening to the group and there will be labels lined up for a piece of Odd Future in 2011.

One of the best twitter handles out.  http://twitter.com/fucktyler


Gordon Voidwell: I had the pleasure of meeting and seeing Will Johnson aka Gordon Voidwell perform a few times in 2010 and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. His mix tape has been on repeat in my headphones and I anxiously await his full length in 2011. His style to me combines a little Zapp a little Prince and a little Cameo and even New Edition.  While clearly well versed in his history he manages to create a unique and Original sound at the same time and his live show could make even the biggest wallflower shake their ass. Download “White Friends” on RCRDLBL.


Tennis: I certainly can’t claim to be a fan of all of the “lo-fi” acts that ruled the indie landscape in 2010.  Aside from the fact it left audio engineers in well-fare lines it’s a trend I’ve been happy to see even some of it’s forefathers ditch in favor of glossier production recently.  That said when I first heard this bands song ‘Marathon” I was blown away by it’s beauty and simplicity.  This band will be a break out band in 2011 in a similar way to how 2010 belonged to Best Coast.  Aside from fantastic songs they have a great back-story to build on.  They have me ready to break out my wooden racket and booty shorts .


Foster The People: “Pumped Up Kicks” is a flat out HIT record.  It combines a sense of indie cool with a true mainstream sensibility. I see it being one of those songs that hits mainstream radio and breaks format much the way Broken Bells“The High Road” did In 2010.  It’s type of record you hope will come on while you’re in the car and your iPod lost charge and your  subscription to Sirius has expired.  Word has it they’re in the studio with super producer Paul Epworth so I see no stopping this band in 2011.


Bands to Watch 2011 :: Ben Van Houten, The Bay Bridged

Meet Ben, co-founder and programming director of San Francisco’s esteemed The Bay Bridged, a non-profit arts organization and online music publication chartered to educate the world on the awesomeness of the Bay Area’s independent music scene. And we love them for it. They curate some great showcases and festivals around town and make The City a better place musically. Here are Ben’s picks for the (mostly) Bay Area bands to watch in 2011. And for the record, I agree with all of them.

Artist: Young Prisms
Album: Friends For Now
Release Date: 1/18/11
Homeland: San Francisco, CA

I always associate this SF band with Weekend because I saw them both for the first time on a joint bill at the Hemlock beginning of last year. If Weekend was last year’s breakout local shoegazey rock group, Young Prisms deserve to fill that slot in 2011. After an EP on Mexican Summer, the band’s full length Friends for Now is out this month. The record’s a little heavier than I expected, and that’s a good thing. A lot of these reverb-soaked bands are too thin and brittle to make enough of a racket.

Artist: Exray’s
Album: Exray’s
Release Date: 2/1/11
Homeland: San Francisco, CA

Jon Bernson (Ray’s Vast Basement, Window Twins) is one of these can’t-miss artists for me, and Exray’s manages to incorporate his singer-songwriter and electronic pastiche sides into one compelling project. Are they garage pop or abstract beatmakers? Both. You probably heard this duo’s music in the movie The Social Network, or you’ve seen their name around the blogs recently, gaining buzz before the anticipated release of their self-titled full length.

Artist: Bare Wires
Album: Seeking Love
Release Date: Out Now
Homeland: Oakland, CA

I feel like Seeking Love didn’t get the, um, love it deserved last year, although it may have been unreasonable to hope that “I Love You Tonite” would be blasting out of every stereo all summer. Well, there’s still next summer, although Matthew Melton and band apparently have another album coming out soon. I know the Bay Area has a bunch of garage rock bands, but these guys write amazing pop songs about love with hooks aplenty.

Artist: Sea of Bees
Album: Songs for the Ravens
Release Date: Out Now
Homeland: Sacramento, CA

Sea of Bees became one of our favorite new artists last year over at The Bay Bridged, the latest in a long track record of great performers from the Sacramento/Davis area. Jules’ voice is unbelievably emotive, and when she conveys sadness, you feel it in your gut. Late last year, she signed to a UK label, and is doing a ton of European shows in the first quarter of this year. It would not surprise me at all if she’s a deservedly bigger name when she finally returns to California.

Artist: Kurt Vile
Album: Smoke Ring For My Halo
Release Date: 3/8/11
Homeland: Philadelphia, PA

I had to sneak at least one non-local artist in my list. I recognize that there’s a certain obviousness to picking any band with a big upcoming record on Matador as a “band to watch,” but Vile’s definitely become someone I’m expecting to have a big 2011. I’d slept on Childish Prodigy, but between last year’s Square Shells EP (find me a seven-minute song as good as psych-pop gem “Invisibility: Nonexistent”) and the songs that have leaked from the new album, I’m definitely more ready this time around. I suspect Vile will be this year’s Fresh & Onlys, showing that weird pop can be recorded well and still maintain its eccentric charm.

[New Music] J. Irvin Dally – “Sun Room”

The amazing and talented J. Irvin Dally (one of my ‘Best Of’s’ for 2010) has just released a two song single, “Sun Room”. Download it now and look for him to emerge in 2011. He’ll be appearing at SXSW and has a few tour dates set for this month on the East Coast.

Jan 17 – Charlotte, NC – Sweet Tooth *
Jan 18 – Arlington, VA – IOTA *
Jan 21 – New York, NY – Googie’s Lounge ^
Jan 22 – New York, NY – Piano’s #
Jan 23 – Lynchburg, VA – White Hart %
Jan 26 – Somerville, MA – Bloc 11 *
Jan 27 – Charlottesville, VA – Christ Episcopal Church *