Best New Music of 2011 – Jose Gonzales, Tuneyards, Little Dragon

I didn’t realize until I took a few minutes to look back that 2011 has actually been a pretty awful year for music. Scans of various music blogs’ Top 10 (or 25, or 100) lists to remind me what came out haven’t left me with many “Oh right! That one!” moments, zero, in fact. This means that a) all the music this year sucked, or b) I am grumpy. Maybe it’s both.
Anyway, I did come across a few tracks that rose above this year, and these are them. Alert readers may notice that not all of these were technically released in 2011, but so what?
tuneyards – “gangsta gangsta”, from Whokill

I blogged about tuneyards earlier this year, and I’m even more impressed months later. What she’s doing still seems fresh to me, and I dig it. Also, I’ve been experimenting with loops in live performance myself, and noticed that it ain’t easy to get them to do what you want them to as casually as she does.
Little Dragon – “Shuffle a Dream”, from Ritual Union

Little Dragon has been my most surprising discovery of 2011, in that I’ve probably listened to their new record “Ritual Union” more than any other new release this year. In a way, these guys give off sort of an updated Eurythmics vibe: strange, icy music + soul and heart in the vocals (though Yukimi Nagano is considerably more low key than Annie Lennox). Again, previously blogged here.
Jose Gonzalez – “Heartbeats”

As mentioned previously, I found out about Jose Gonzalez in the best way – through another actual person rather than at a digital remove. I recently heard him described as “pale-voiced”, which fits his thin, hushed delivery perfectly. His spare, haunting music is an excellent fit for the view out the window this time of year. Light a fire and build yourself a postprandial cocktail before listening.
Okay, that’s all I got. Would LOVE to hear about anything cool from 2011 that I missed…please. Especially if it involves loud guitars!
Wait! Late breaking update! I forgot about The Civil Wars.

The record this came from isn’t all good, but when it’s good, it’s fantastic. I probably could actually listen to these two particular voices singing the proverbial phonebook, but thankfully they’ve written some decent songs instead. I hear that these guys are Taylor Swift’s favorite band these days, but I’m going to pretend no one ever told me.


Friday Lunch Break – The Replacements "Pleased To Meet Me"

If you’re looking for something to pass the time between your coffee break and happy hour today, you could do a lot worse than this excellent article on this excellent album (my favorite from The Replacements).

I don’t have much to say about the record that isn’t covered (more skillfully) here, but I will say that I saw them play on campus at UC Davis in 1989, and the four of them had clearly ingested more alcohol than the 800 people in the audience combined. Paul Westerberg asked the audience for requests, ignored everything anyone said, then asked if we wanted to hear “Cruella DeVille”, from 101 Dalmatians. I said “yeah!”, from about the 5th row. He looked right at me, said “Fuck you”, and then the band exploded into that very song, and it was easily the high point of the night.