Every year, we break it down for you — the best albums of the year. This year, I've kicked off the post with my Editor's Picks, and because opinions are entirely subjective (we don't all listen to the same music, I'm aware), I've also rounded up the CL Music Team's submissions for their favorite albums of 2011. Enjoy — and get ready to stock up your music library.
2. MuteMath, Odd Soul (Teleprompt/Warner Bros.)
Seriously badass '70s-vibing prog-psyche rock with plenty of crunchy grinding guitars, fatty fuzzed-out bass and synthesizers, and some electro-groove moments to keep things from getting too overly throwback. "Blood Pressure" below.
3. TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
The buoyancy and sexiness of 2008’s Dear Science permeates the avant rock outfit’s fifth LP. Themes of love, society and politics are explored against dark, loop-and-horn-infused experimental sounds marked by elements of electro-rock, hip-hop, psyche-soul, funky R&B bounce and moments of melodic grooving pop. "Second Song" below.
4. Extra Classic, Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like A Laserbeam (Manimal Vinyl)
San Francisco's Extra Classic offers up a mesmerizing, soulful, hazy-layered groove-and-psychedelia take on dub reggae. The sextet captured the sonic quality of old Jamaican recordings by laying it down all-analog, on 8-track tape, and using vintage recording equipment from the 1960s and '70s. It definitely has a very warm quality to it, as if the musicians are playing amid a hanging cloud of ganja smoke. Listen to "Congo Rebel" below.
5. Cloud Control, Bliss Release (WEA)
The first full-length from a new Aussie band radiates feel-good sunshine. Mellow, psyche-folk with surf rock and Afro/tribal percussive tendencies, vocals that range from ecstatic yelps and whoops to lovely multi-voice harmonies and straight-forward nasally singing, and plenty of unexpectedly catchy hooks. "Gold Canary" below.
READ THE REST OF MY PICKS ALONG WITH A ROUND-UP OF THE CL MUSIC TEAM’S PICKS FOR 2011 AFTER THE JUMP
I'm curious as to the overall success of Orlando Calling's first day. The GA floor was perhaps a third full and the stands only speckled with people by the time The Killers took the stage for their day-ending set. The Roots closed out the grassy, more festival-friendly Authentic Stage an hour earlier with a far more intense performance in front of what looked to me to be like a larger crowd. And blisteringly awesome main-stage performances even earlier by Pixies and The Raconteurs easily out-classed The Killers' Vegas glitz-and-glam. On what basis were The Killers chosen to close this festival? Spectacle must have been prioritized over substance, because the latter was found elsewhere...
My day started around noon with a forgettable steak and cheese-substance sandwich consumed to the sounds of Civilian. The Florida natives opened the fourth stage sounding not too different from how The Killers would end the day (despite my dark foreshadowing of The Killers' performance above, I do mean that as a compliment). I wandered to the second stage and was surprised by an unlisted all-girl synth-rock band delivering cheese thicker than what I'd just encountered on my lunch. After some research, I discovered they were Orlando act Dollface, added to the lineup after I printed my schedule last week. Later, this stage's tardiness would affect my schedule for the rest of the day — and now I know there was a shitty band to blame.
(More band reviews and setlists from Pixies, The Raconteurs, and The Killers after the jump.)
While reveling in the dirt, dozing off in shoddy tents, and finding your spirit animal or whatever at a back country fest is admittedly pretty awesome, it's fucking difficult, too. DeLuna was easy, almost too easy; think like, the Sandals resort of weekend music festivals. You've got two main stages right on the beach flanked by three mega-corporate hotels (Hilton, Holiday Inn, and Hampton Inn), and three smaller stages dotting the parking lots with 80 or so bands playing throughout the weekend.
Shirtless dads, their sun-wrinkled counterparts, and pint-sized offspring looked just as much at home on the DeLuna grounds as the ironically mustachioed pale 20-somethings. The blend was pretty fascinating in a social-experiment-y kind of way. It's oddly endearing seeing things like a Baby Gap-era boy perched on his dad's shoulders during The Shins [Mercer pictured right], some lady surely fresh from the denizens of cubicle life gyrating to The Constellations, or the dude with his washer-worn Stone Temple Pilots tour shirt discovering the psyched-out weirdness of War on Drugs.
At the start, you'd hardly expect this, though. By mid-day Friday, DeLuna was more like a barren ghost town than the "America's Best Beach Party!" it had made itself out to be. A front-row spot at Margot and the Nuclear So So's felt more like a favor than actual eagerness to experience. The droll, bedside lull of, like, all their songs didn't help lift the spirits much, either. Grunge, mid-90s inspired alt rock — whatever you want to call it, it has its place. But after an overly rote set from the So and So's, the realization hit that said place is definitely not on a sun-seared beach in the middle of the afternoon.
After navigating through the salty, beachside bar neighboring the stage ($9 hamburgers, anyone?), Mike Wilson, my handy and apparently law-breaking (more on that later) photographer decided to hit up an asphalt lot performance from recent Peter Bjorn and John openers, Dinosaur Feathers, which provided a welcome jolt out of my initial DeLuna dreariness. While their set wasn't anything new or particularly brilliant, it was a breezy venture in past-pop, dabbling in influence from the Beach Boys to the Everly Brothers, Elvis Costello, and surely a few others. Enthusiastic harmonies and general cheeriness reverberated from band to the still laughably-small crowd.
Sometimes, music is in your face; overtly opportunistic in communicating social agendas and pointing out how we lack as a society. Ska, typically, is what I call “happy music”, and I mean that in a good way, not sardonically. The beat is high energy, the horns infectious and the lyrics usually pretty tongue-in-cheek and fun. I don’t think of ska as being a genre of music generally set up to advance any social agenda. Saturday night, though, in a very organic way, two of our local ska bands demonstrated perfectly what we should be doing as a community, and it was pretty cool to be there to witness it.
Charleston, SC’s Tidal Jive promotes itself as a “six-piece funk powerhouse often featuring horns and salsa inspired percussion”. Not ska, per se, but a great compliment to the ska sound. This gig was the end of their tour, though, and their “powerhouse” appeared to be running on fumes… they were down to just three: Spodie Odie on lead vocals and guitar, Chris Shecut on keyboards and sax, and Justin Harper on bass. Their drummer had been called home unexpectedly, and UNRB’s Eric Allaire graciously agreed to sit in on drums. By the time they had set up, the crowd had thinned to a couple dozen, half of which were the previous bands’ members hanging out after their performances.
Always the consummate professionals, Tidal Jive took the stage and Spodie gamely engaged the crowd as best he could, managing to entice a few patrons to wander closer toward the stage. They began to play. They opened with a cover of Bill Withers’ “Use Me". A few bars into the song, UNRB’s Ben Datin and Andy Pilcher eased their way on to the stage with trumpet and trombone in hand. Two bars later, Johnnycakes’ sax and trombone jumped in, too. Each verse, somebody else grabbed the closest instrument at hand and joined in to the melodiousness - UNRB’s Noel Rochford even found a triangle somewhere and wailed on that. By the end of the TWENTY MINUTE cover of “Use Me”, the three original members of Tidal Jive has swelled to twelve, the stage was groaning with the weight of the musical genius and the energy was palpable. It was amazing.
The Tidal Jive & Friends jam set went on, as musicians jumped in and out, as the spirit moved them, for almost two hours. There were less than twenty people in the crowd, but closing your eyes, you’d have been convinced these guys were playing to a crowd of 20,000. Tidal Jive’s “Making Love (To My Guitar)” was inspired. Don't get me wrong; Tidal Jive is no joke. Justin can slap a bass like no other, and Spodie's riffs were staggering. If you were there, you were transported; if you were not, you missed out. (Your loss. Don’t miss the next show. Spodie tells me they will definitely be back. Did I mention it was amazing?)
What, if anything, does this have to do with social agenda and our community as a whole? It occurred to me on the way home that these guys had inadvertently created the perfect alchemy of collaboration and effort to produce perfection. Each of them plays, because they must. It is what they love to do, and they are very good at it. There was no creative ego at play; there was no posturing for attention of limelight. Hell, there was literally no one there to impress and no obligation on their part to do anything. Nevertheless, they all have been or will be the band in from out of town without a fan base. They have all geared up for a show and no one was there. They all know the high of putting on a great show. Moreover, they were all willing and able to jump in together and be a part of a beautiful thing. Can you even imagine how many situations we could improve and how many problems we could solve if we, as a community, approached every interaction in our day with this kind of attitude? If music soothes the savage breast, play on, brothers; play on.
Local 662 https://www.facebook.com/TheLocal662
Johnnycakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse(www.guttercalypso.com)
Tidal Jive (http://www.reverbnation.com/tidaljive09)
Zach McGee Photography https://www.facebook.com/zachmcgeephotography
I know it's cliche, but last Friday night at The Hideaway Cafe and Recording Studio, I got yet another lesson in not judging a band by its appearance, which is something I have always struggled with.
It was your typical busy night in downtown St. Petersburg — Rays game goers milling about along with people out enjoying First Friday and the area's menagerie of shows, bars and restaurants. I found myself at Hideaway Cafe (1756 Central Ave.) and was not quite sure what to expect from the bands scheduled to play that evening: Spark Notes and The Wholetones. Owner John Kelly made me curious with his overtures about how young and extremely talented the bands were.
Gene and Lalo [pictured right] make up the lively Spark Notes, and they opened the evening with a short set of acoustic alt-rock tunes. Gene plays acoustic guitar and throws in some harmonies while Lalo slaps the bass and belts out insane lead vocals.
The duo emanates infectious energy, making it hard not to smile. Lalo is both animated on and off stage. Their first tune had a punk vibe to it (I immediately thought of The Matches) and one of its lyrics — "The sun is imploding" — got stuck in my head all night. The next song had a softer vibe and really showcased their abilities to harmonize. Gene added somewhat old school, Flamenco-style touches with his picking and casual strumming. And Lalo — who's got an amazing set of pipes — hit notes I didn't know guys could reach (well, save for Adam Lambert). A song about their hometown, "Sarasota," proved to be a crowd favorite, and got the audience clapping and even singing along to the refrain: "Forever I adore you oh Sara, Sarasota."
"Fishing is not an escape from life, but often a deeper immersion into it..."
Rivers of Memory, Harry Middleton
Looking like a slightly scruffy Matthew McConaughey in a trademark red knit cap, faded denim work shirt and khakis so broken in that the only thing making them wearable is blue painters’ tape strategically placed, Rayland Baxter settles his 6’5” frame on a stool on the stage, takes a breath and begins to play. He is engaging, his blue eyes mischievous, smile crooked; but don’t be deceived: this is a man who has something to say, and he’s gonna say it in a way you can’t help but hear.
Rayland Baxter is an avid outdoorsman, and he performs the same way he fly fishes, casting lines looping into the crowd, unfurling to place his fly softly, but with effect, the lure impossibly alluring. The themes of his songs are permeated with imagery related to nature, often symbolizing the eternal struggle of men and women, and the relationships between them. “I like to talk to people,” he says, “some of the stories you hear are gut-wrenching.” Rayland ties those human emotions into flies that drift around your consciousness and touch places in your heart that you didn’t know were there. “I don’t always have to feel the emotion myself; sometimes it is okay to wear the shoes for a while, walk around in them… that’s where songs are supposed to be from. Felt emotion is timeless.” [More after the jump.]
Sir Charles and DJ Craig Heneveld got the ball rolling. I'm still admittedly a new fan of electronica and dubstep, but these guys didn't excite me. Sir Charles' set was pretty repetitive, and his transitions were almost as bad as his dance moves. But he did know how to get the crowd going, prompting "Come on, let's get this party started" as he segued into a faster song. DJ Craig was about the same: repetitive and somewhat sluggish at times. Both sets just needed a little something extra, maybe more bass or cool vocals or pretty much anything to add some general pizazz.
Greenhouse Lounge took the stage and I knew I was in for a treat. These guys don't just stand behind a board or computer and press some buttons. They play real instruments — drums, bass, guitar. They still employ a laptop to dish out some backbeats and effects, but the trio of musicians produce most of the music themselves, fusing elements of jazz and funk, dubstep and house, and drawing out their sonic explorations into jammy odysseys. They cranked out originals like "Slow Drip" and "Smash" that showcased the talents of drummer Jason Hunnicutt while making the whole bar dance, and even busted out a popular cover. Bassist Dave McSweeney laid out a deep introductory groove, and commented, "You might know this one" before launching into Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)." The cover blared through the speakers, and the boys started throwing in their own twists, virtually making the ground shake from the movement of the crowd.
Remember your favorite mix CD? The one with the cutesy title you wrote by hand with a Sharpie and that seemed to work for any occasion with its perfect flow of music and genres from one song to the next, its track selection painstakingly chosen so the delicate vibe you created was maintained all throughout?
Look no further than Stereogum's Cruel Summer 2011 Mix. Leave it to the British music 'zine to find some of the freshest tracks to beat the heat, ranging from electro-pop and experimental rock to hip-hop.
Click here to download the free 25-track compilation. Check out some of my favorite (recommended) discoveries from the mix — those that have been on non-stop rotation since penetrating my iPod — below.
HEEMS, "WOMYN aka HITCH (DEMO?)"
Figures that one of the Das Racist members would make up playful lyrics like, "Yo women, they like to take showers. And when they let you take them with em', it's really awesome." The whole track is set to a mellow old-school beat.
Purity Ring, "Loftcries"
Dreamy and tripped-out electronic music with some light and breathy female vocals. Alter your state of mind and fall into this one. Great for the long hot daze.
Preston played for a large crowd of friends and family at the cozy Hideaway Cafe last Wed., June 1, for the release of his new EP, I'll Be Home. The hour long set was full of original music; just Luke and his acoustic guitar, perfect for the atmosphere at Hideaway Cafe. The lyrics were meaningful and reminiscent of any teenager graduating high school and getting ready to go off to college. Preston's music could be compared to that of Jeff Buckley and George Strait; textural rhythms mixed with basic chords and melodies that draw in the audience. His EP was recorded at Hideaway Cafe with help from owner and producer John Kelly.
"Luke is such a great kid and a talented musician. He is so on-point for a guy his age," Kelly said.
Luke graduated from Tampa Prep this year and is preparing for his big move to Tennessee to study Music Business. "I'm really excited, but I'm also going to miss Clearwater," Luke said. One of my favorite songs he performed is actually about growing up in Clearwater. It is full of personal memories, ones that even his friends laughed at.
Moving away from your longtime hometown is always hard for everyone involved. At least he left his family and friends with an EP of great music and a night of fun memories that will last a lifetime.
This was my first time at The Venue, and it will likely be my last. While the space is chic and plush (someone obviously put some money into it) with a sweet upstairs and balcony that looks out onto the main stage, the people that filled the space were insufferable. The staff was rude and unhelpful. The patrons were a mix of annoying college frat boys, drunk and scantily-clothed chicks, and your run-of-the-mill douchebags. I felt like I was living in an episode of Jersey Shore, set adrift in a sea of screen-printed t-shirts and cloying cologne. Luckily, I was able to put it all behind me the second Aoki took the stage.