Year in Pop 2011

Sjimon Gompers

The year's hits unearthed

End of the year lists are always controversial and clunky, with a round-off elimination race to the bottom. This column, Goldmine Sacks, was invented to be the springboard platform for underachievers wth great promise, while observing the trendsetters of today that are impacting our hopeful tomorrows. So in the name of reflection, here is just a sample of some of the year's greatest artists who did big things in 2011 and have shaped the way we are starting to envision 2012, in a monthly order.

January

January marked the beginning of a big year with big albums and some big tours with plenty of big buzz that followed. Here is where we began our adventure:

The latest Smith Westerns single “All Dye Young” is an elaborate TOTP 2, Slade-style clap-along refrain, done up with a spacey echo fit to fill most concert halls. From the accumulation of previews of Dye it Blonde, we can hear a sophomoric album that has tamed the fuzz n’ distortions that made the melodies of their ’09 self-titled debut so much fun. Perhaps DIB is the Westerns’ Darklands venture into those coming of age territories and reflections that do not require the aid of Big Muff pedals.

Woods gave us a warm, down-home acoustic live version of “Rain On.”

Our heroes Lower Dens gave us a stream of “Batman” from the 7-inch on Gnomonsong. We have mused ourselves with earlier demos and various session recordings. Now hear it for real here.

February

February brought us a new yawn-inducing Strokes single, a giveaway from Urban Outfitters of the new Toro y Moi album Underneath the Pine, yet more from Sleigh Bells, an underwhelming Black Eyed Peas Superbowl Halftime show, and the White Stripes called it quits.

Young Prisms’ energy and honest effort to wield the sound of that fabled, self-celebrated scene is a fun outing. I give to you “Sugar”, which gives the old ‘gaze a genuine community college try, one that substitutes something far better than a facsimile could ever provide.

In keeping up with our Portland friends, record shop owner Jared Mees and his band the Grown Children had an album come out May 10 entitled Only Good Thoughts Can Stay, on his label Tender Loving Empire. And if his record store’s cameo on that Portlandia show wasn’t enough, Mees is offering a taste of the PDX scene’s joyful sounds in a post-Decemberists Portland.

Jared Mees & the Grown Children, “Hungry like a Tiger”

Check out this from Mogwai with “Mexican Grand Prix” off of their album, Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will. I swear these lads are going electro soft on us, but at least they give you a kinetic Irvin Welsh montage of Glasgow that we haven’t seen since Trainspotting.

March

Impose won the SXSW Imposition in March while the FBI released the closed-as-of 2005 case documents on Chris “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, Pandora was caught selling personal user information and user locations for dubious gain, Edward Ebert of the Magnetic Heroes released some hippie musings and Sundial’s debut LP Never Settle got re-released.

Katy Goodman with her band La Sera have a cute video out for “Devil Hearts Grow Gold” featuring Sean “Har Mar Superstar” Tillman as the devil and Goodman as herself. Things start off chill until the devil makes off with Goodman’s purse which initiates a plot that brings to mind a contemporary-alternative reading of the Seventh Seal. Ingmar Bergman eat your heart out.

Davilla 666's groovy zombie-beach-party happening music video for “Esa Nena Nunca Regreso”

We were talking not too long ago about Girls Names’ side project Sea Pinks and months before that their Captured Tracks 12-inch, their Tough Love Records 8 track “mini album”, and their Slumberland split 7-inch shared with San Francisco's dazzling Brilliant Colors. March's release, Dead To Me, evokes the ghosts of their numerous indie forbearers while touting the gray morning'd New Sound of Young Belfast, if you will. Here we feast our eyes and ears on the video for “Bury Me”, shot on early '80s television-standard super VHS and reminding you of your favorite Scottish outfit or midland eccentric.

Beans released a music video in March for “Blue Movie” feat. Son Lux that is a collage of revolving close up images, colors and soft-porn cutups. 


April

Last April saw Time Magazine dubbing the Bieb and Bruno Mars as influential as Oprah, Soundgarden announced a tour in summer, Santigold collaborated with Karen O, Zoey and M. Ward are recorded music for the upcoming Winnie the Pooh film, and then I was nauseous.

Pusha T has a video for “Can I Live” that features him hanging on a boat with mad honeys and some slick rhymes. He mixes his rap sheet with the life of celebrity while extolling the virtues of having a personal legal dream team. “Knowing the feds watch me, private paparazzi, / still chasing me for war crimes like a Nazi, / dice roll got my lawyers yelling yahtzee.”

Com Truise dropped a single for the taking called “Polyhurt” from the album Galactic Melt. Epic electro chill happening here, it will weave epicurean tales in your mind while you scramble to find fault in the track. Be sure to stay for the ending “sub song” finale. You will be glad you did.

True Womanhood covered Pictureplane's “Dark Rift,” mellowing down the track a notch, punctuating the vocals in a more distinct manner than the original and giving it an analogue makeover while still paying homage to original’s electronic luster. Pictureplane’s Travis Egedy seems utterly flattered by the cover and shared the following blurb of hype on his blog: 



True Womanhood are a Washington DC based band who covered my song “Dark Rift” from my 2009 album of the same name. No one has ever covered my music this well before… they completely turned the track in to their own and it is glorious. Props dudes. <3"

May

In May we saw Kings of Leon beat their chests as the so-called kings of the “south,” Arnold's office-parting indiscretion scandal and I’m going to give a runner up in the notable interest category for that super metal Shining video that came out this month that freaked us all out here at the Goldmine Sacks office.

While Sun Araw worked on his double LP Ancient Romans, you could enjoy the leak of “Crete” here. The album boasts a lot of different things; what you get here are lots of noisy, shambling building blocks that aspire to march amid the colossal ruins just to play Caesar for a day.

Sun Araw – “Crete”

Pictureplane's Travis Egedy is allegedly responsible for coining the now immortal brand designation of “witch house;” a sound that captivated our drive for eerie keyboard sounds, electronic beats, preferably recorded through means of low-end fidelity. Aside from long winded discourse on who influenced who, Egedy has brought the synth forward pop appeal into an even brighter and bigger production level than Dark Rift’s splendor. If you can’t feel “Real Is A Feeling,” than I can offer no visceral remedy.

Pictureplane, “Real Is A Feeling”

San Francisco’s The Soft Moon has a little mini doc thanks to the folks at YoursTru.ly and Audyssey where you get to hear and see Luis Vasquez hype up SF, radical thinking, “day mutants,” synthesizers and their many merits of sound capabilities and much more.

June

In the month where Rebecca Black “Friday” parodies abounded, we lost the great Gil Scott-Heron while both Hanson and Pulp reformed, Controversial dancehall toaster Buju Banton got sentenced to 10 years for attempting to buy mad kilos from an undercover agent, James Franco teamed up with DJ Rupture for an EP called Turn it Up, Tyler and Frankie get sentimental in their sort of, kind of not really viral video “She” and Bono injured his back prompting U2 to cancel a series of megashows including their scheduled Glastonbury appearance.

Stephen Bruner, alias Thundercat worked on a debut produced by Flying Lotus and Sa-Ra called The Golden Age of Apocalypse on Brainfeeder. Bruner heralds from Southern Los Angeles and has been nurturing his own inner songwriter with the support of Flying Lotus to make progressive, effervescent soul steeped in the smooth-scapes that you love Shuggie Otis with keys will take you out of this world. Listen to “Daylight” to hear what I mean.

Thundercat, “Daylight”

For those looking for a new kind of San Francisco Summer of Love, look no further than split 7-inch from SF’s Dominant Legs and Melted Toys out now on the French imprints Atelier Ciseaux and La Station Radar.

July

In July we had Jay Z and Kanye keeping a good eye on their empire-building legacies while “Watch(ing) the Throne,” Blink 182 came out of nowhere in full overcompensation mode with “Up All Night,” Justin Timberlake purchased a chunk of the ailing Myspace, while Thom Yorke DJ battled the James Blake juggernaut in a fight to be crowned the anglicized dub step champion.

G-Side gave us a preview of their new album Island with “How Far (featuring Victoria Tate and Victoria Parham)” where the beats are big, supplied by Block Beattaz and the flows have a forward-moving, almost marching soldier motion. Shout outs to their Slow Motion Soundz label.

The emergence of new girl groups, such as Bake Sale from Memphis, is a weclomed occurrence. They've gained notoriety by playing a series of shows in their home state of Tennessee, befriending Magic Kids, and releasing their first 7-inch on Grand Palace Records; now they're taking on a tour of the East Coast. These gals make fun pop tracks that borrow from the Spector/Goffin/King pool of influence with a semi-scuzz gloss that makes their adorable brand a force to be both reckoned with and a reason to keep an eye on them in the months to come. 2012 could be Bake Sale's year in the sun.

Stepkids gave us the video for “Shadows on Behalf” with their Curtis Mayfield string arrangements and the In All Directions-era Temptations/Norman Whitfield approach to production, trippy effects and naked mannequins galore.

HTRK, or “hate rock” if you will, have finished their new album Work (work, work) on Ghostly International in the wake of losing bassist Sean Stewart to suicide last March. From what we can glimpse from the lead off track “Eat Yr Heart,” there is a cathartic murmur that permeates the entire track, accompanied by keys that squeak like door mice amid the solemn dark vocals provided by Jonnine Standish. Our prayers and best thoughts are with the Melbourne duo.

HTRK – Eat Yr Heart by ghostly

August

In August Bon Iver and James Blake realized they could cash in together on bland pop played at half-speed's time with a tune called “Fall Creek Boys Choir,” and festival stage collapses from the Indiana State Fair to Belgium's Pukkelpop uniting disparate acts (from Sugarland to the Smith Westerns) and their unlucky fans. Tragedy also struck the LA semi-vintage metal scene with the loss of Warrant frontman Jani Lane, which has perhaps incited numerous '80s hair metal groups to reform in tribute. Meanwhile, in less important bad news, Big Boi stood up our Impose team and thousands of festival goers at this year's Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park.

Speculator first grabbed our attention with Nick Ray's flanging subconscious mix of Weekend's “Coma Summer,” and were turning heads with Ray's new album Nice, released by Underwater Peoples.

Get ready for some more sample weirdness with Wise Blood's release of “Nosferatu”. Since Pittburgh's Christopher Laufman released the first Wise Blood EP + in the summer of 2k10, we have awaited an LP follow up. With help from the people at Dovecote Records, the debut WB album These Wings became available. For an indication of direction, feast your ears and any other senses on the single “Nosferatu” that presents Laufman layering samples, loops and plenty of aural dissociatives that could compel any young vampire to give up the night shift and become a buzz-band loving day-tripper.

Jensen Sportag's Austin Wilkinson and Elvis Craig crafted “Gentle Man”. It features Miami afterhours romance grooves that sound nothing like what you would expect from Nashville musicians.

Bay Area heroes Hunx and His Punx released an album called Too Young to Be in Love this year with their big single “Lovers Lane” which has more doo-wop and rumble seat tales than a 50s Ford.

September

This past September we watched the word counts on puff pieces about Girls, We heard rumors from Media Take Out of a Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj sex tape floating around looking for buyer to the tune of $150K, and watched the breathtaking if not tearjerking documentary American Juggalo made by good Americans like Sean Dunne on repeat. Also, we began to OCCUPY.

Parentz brought a surprise with their upcoming casette Big. Formerly of MakeMe and a handful of other Bay Area bands and projects, frontman Jeremy Sullivan is taking the solo route as a self-proclaimed “future pop auteur” while getting signed by Chill Mega Chill.

Blouse consists of Charlie Hilton and Patrick Adams who have taken their talents out of the art school and into a warehouse in Portland, Oregon with help from Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Jacob Portrait. The result is a lovely bit of dream pop that sounds like it was recorded on Ampex reels left out of their case in the sun. Their self-titled LP is out now on Captured Tracks.

Fanzine dropped the new single “Roman Holiday” in the advent of their Fat Possum signing. A UK trio with a passion for releasing paper stapled fanzines with their EPs, their new single will prove to have been well worth the year's wait. Look for the the Roman Holiday 7″ with the B-side “My Stupid Brain” out now courtesy of the good people at Fat Possum.

Lightouts have also recently released a video for “See Clear” that makes ample use of green screen video effects. It begins simple enough, the boys just finding their step, before a parade of the most notable video effects are applied in succession. If you need more, here's an entertaining behind the scenes.

October

October was a month of panning the Nirvana, Nevermind 20th Anniversary album, getting bombarded by Lana Del Ray, some ignorant Hank Jr. rants, Gaddafi's capture and subsequent Carlos Santana Facebook obituaries. The occupation continued, and grew in popularity.

Southern Shores gave us their EP Atlantic on Cascine along with clubby video for “Meridian” that looks the best when watched from home on a Friday night while standing up friends who are impatiently waiting at the club. It instilled vicarious living sentiments as you watched beautiful people having the time of their life while you thought about your not-so-free checking account in the red.

Northern California's Brown Shoe gave us their album The Gift Horse this month along with the stadium clanger “Diving Bell.” Behold the song's rising banner of building momentum, a towering of testament of grandeur that has wondering what is next for the band in 2012.

Comprised of Vivian Girls drummer Fiona Campbell and Goner Records brass Madison Farmer, Coasting takes the sun-kissed musical tropes of Californian rock to clear the Northwest rain clouds of Portland, Oregon with the beach ball kickin' surf-time/good-times of “Portland.” Listen for Coasting's full length, You're Never Going Back out now on M'Lady.

Keep Shelly in Athens' “Lazy Noon” has all the new age-y, adult contempo, chill tempo bass lines of music forced you to listen to but now is the subject of revision. KSIA creates a light trance step with subtle psych effects to entice your interest further. The duo's debut EP Our Own Dream is out now on Forest Family.

Monty, Mr. Knowitall and T.K. of League510 released the swagged out “Mos Def” while epresenting Oakland while hyping the new Believe in the Leauge EP, the League released this declaration along with the bounced out single. Swag for sure.

November

Many of today's artists have ran toward the safety of childhood-Songs of Innocence by depicting youth in revolt through videos from Headless Horseman's “Wavlgnth,” IS TROPICAL's “The GreeksM83 withMidnight City,” Fucked Up's “Queen of Hearts,” Modeselektor feat. Thom Yorke with Shipwreckand Keep Shelly in Athens' “California Birds.” As our resident occupiers fight against the collective machines that continue to destroy our sustainable futures, no wonder so many warm themselves in the Instagram reconstitution of memories and revolution obsessed revisionism.

After showing up late to the party we caught the latest offering from upstart of promise, Azealia Banks with the head twisting “212 ft. Lazy Jay.” The definite 2012 artist to watch, we hear that Azealia is heading off to the UK with big time producer Paul Epworth (of Adele, Florence and the Machine fame) to record her debut LP. Also check out her cover and improvement of Interpol's “Slow Hands” and listen to the essential “212” now.

Witch house radio host Mike Textbeak has made his first official release on the Bay Area's Tundra Dubs. Brace yourself for a four track-grindhouse of dragged and drugged beat-slogged burners. “FRVKTVRE” gave our holiday week some brooding buzz to slow step to as the tryptophan slowly kicks in while we watched the 49ers blow it in their match up against the Ravens. The Indiglo EP is available now in a limited batch of 30 CDRs with art work by Slow Head.

Zakee dished out this super slick video for “Glory” shot on location in gorgeous Rio de Janeiro. Directed by Fernando Reginato, he depicts the beauty of the natural surroundings and city scenes to Zakee's West African style production heard on his recent Assimilation out now on Green Owl/Warner Brothers.

December

While searching for the young soul rebels of today, we found it impossible to get away from the following: The great demise of Pitchfork's ad-less stripped down wonder-blog Altered Zones; Björk looking like Helena Bonham Carter strung out on propofol during a performance of “Crystalline” on Later with Jools Holland while we heard a rumor that POW! will release their debut EP Pretend There on Valencia Street's indie Afterlife Records.

We discovered Oxford, Mississippi's The ILLLS on a reliable tip from buzz surrounding their recent support of Youth Lagoon. They are so fresh on the scene, it has been rumored that their YL shows were their debut live performances. They Bandcamped their self-titled EP with the songs “Teeth” and “Streetcars” for the world to hear. One gets the feeling that these ILLLS might be doing some big things in 2012. We will be listening and watching.

Lakutis went on the tour beat with Das Racist promoting their recent album Relax and released his breakout EP I'm in the Forest on Greedhead/Mishka. With shoutouts to SNL's Bill Hader and a track titled “Ja Rule,” what's not to like? Lakutis, along with Das Racist's Greedhead label, are definitely on our 2012 watch list.

Still riding high off this year's excellent 808s and Dark Grapes II is SF's Main Attrakionz, with their video for “Diamond of God.” Hypnotic production by Squadda B, he drifts with MondreMAN in and out of the video like vapors in front of a mausoleum, turning into a ghostly reflecting ground for the metaphysical polarities with the lyrical hook, “I'm a diamond of God, but a neighbor of Satan.” Catch the Attrakionz December 20 with G-Side and DaVinci at the Independent in SF.

In parting 2011 gifts, we received this NSFW video sent to us from The Death Set of “Chew it like a Gun Gum” off of this year's Michel Poiccard on Counter Records / Ninja Tune, 2011.


Or if you would rather enjoy Mike WiLL Made ItEst. In 1989 (Last Of A Dying Breed) available for both free stream and download. Who else other than the Mike and the Brick Squad crew could make the Jolly ol' Saint Nick sound gangster?

AshleyOutrageous gave us some breaking news pertaining to A$AP Rocky performing a new song at Miami's Grand Central nightclub December 29. The energy picks up, the crew is feeling it along with the fans, sadly this recording is distorted by the bass but as a bonus you are given a live treat to “Peso” and plenty of stage dives.

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