New Yorkers Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion have elaborated on the under the radar popularity of their debut EP with this self-titled full length release. Cults is pretty pop music punctuated with the right amount of punk imperfection on tracks like Abducted (below), creating an album that manages to be modern while throwing back to the sweet sounds of the '60s. Other tracks like Go Outside, You Know What I Mean and Walk At Night are strictly pop and just might usher the use of keyboards and xylophones back into indie fashion.
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?The Vaccines
I didn't know what to expect from The Vaccines and it was very surprising to learn that this is the English band's debut. It may be their first album but this Justin Young-fronted quartet already sound like well rounded veterans. The Vaccines have drawn comparisons to The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Ramones but I'd say they are more accurately described as a more industrious incarnation of Interpol. The Vaccines themselves say they are inspired by "'50s rock 'n' roll, '60s garage, girl groups, '70s punk, '80s American hardcore, C86 [a compilation released by UK music mag NME] and good pop music." Just like most good pop music, the majority of their debut effort is incredibly catchy. From the short and striking If You Wanna to the melodic Blow It Up, The Vaccines haven't exactly reinvented rock but they've interpreted it with such clarity that it will inevitably catch on.
Post Break Up Sex
The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2Beastie Boys
It's bewildering to me that The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 isn't on more critics' best of 2011 lists. Less serious than To The 5 Boroughs and more entertaining than Hello Nasty, this album is some of the most fun the trio has had in decades. Whether they're challenging Santigold (Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win), telling off their wives (OK), encouraging fellow artists (Say It) or rapping along side Nas (Too Many Rappers) The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 is a sample heavy, smile inducing LP.
Make Some Noise
Wild FlagWild Flag
I did not enjoy Wild Flag at first listen. Maybe it's because as two Wild Flag members are Sleater-Kinney vets I was expecting something else or because Carrie Brownstein's voice is a very acquired taste. Subsequent listens later, I can't deny that Wild Flag's hooks are rock perfection and Brownstein and Mary Timony's guitar work is some of the best fingering my ears have had all year. Making Wild Flag easily the best guitar record of 2011.
Wild Flag isn't dissimilar from the Sleater-Kinney sound but the absence of Corin Tucker is immediately obvious. What's missing is the softer pop edge Tucker provided. In its place Brownstein, Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss, former Helium member Timony and The Minders' Rebbecca Cole deliver neoteric, psychedelic, keyboard infused rock. Standout tracks include Future Crimes, Boom, Glass Tambourine, and Something Came Over Me, which has Timony taking to the mic. Look for a not so subtle dig at Arcade Fire in the video for Romance (below.)
David Comes To LifeFucked Up
I never thought I'd adore a hardcore punk record described as a "a rock opera love story between a boy named David and a girl named Veronica." Then I listened to David Comes to Life by Toronto's Fucked Up and found myself engrossed in their nihilistic narrative. If you can appreciate Damian Abraham's scream-o vocals you too will learn to love Fucked Up's symphonic and sometimes sick story. As a bit of serendipity the track Queen of Hearts (below) features guest vocals by another entry on my best of 2011 list, Cults' Madeline Follin.
Queen of Hearts (listen to the album version here.)
The Other Shoe
Sound KapitalHandsome Furs
Sound Kapital is another record I thought didn't get the attention it deserved last year. Montreal's Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry continue to be inspired by Eastern Europe on their third album but have traded largely guitar based sounds for '80s keyboard kitsch. This amalgamation of the rocky and the retro has become the duo's signature sound. Tracks like Repatriated, What About Us, Damage and Bury Me Standing demonstrate that Handsome Furs are one of the most underrated and inventive Canadian acts creating music today.
El CaminoThe Black Keys
Much like Arcade Fire last year, The Black Keys have been rightfully dubbed the "it" band of 2011. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have cited iconic '70s rockers like T. Rex and The Cramps as influences for the music of El Camino. These references are spot on as El Camino is full of glam heavy, glitzy riffs, making for an album that is much catchier and livelier than their last record, the amazing Grammy-winning, Brothers. I challenge any listener not to have hooks from songs like Lonely Boy or Run Right Back imprinted on their brain after an earful of this album.
Dead & Gone
Let England Shake
Since I blogged extensively about Ms. Harvey late last year, I'll direct you my post titled 20 Years of PJ Harvey. As I embedded my four favourite tracks off Let England Shake in that post, here's my fifth fav song from PJ's arresting, Mercury Prize-winning album.
In Dark Places
Mirror Traffic, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Suck It & See, Arctic Monkeys
Endless Now, Male Bonding
Gloss Drop, Battles
Nine Types of Light, TV On The Radio
More Monsters & Sprites, Skrillex
Undun, The Roots
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Creep On Creepin' On, Timber Timbre