written by: Phil Runco, William Alberque, Marcus Dowling, Colin Wilhelm, Andy Johnson, John Foster and Svetlana Legetic
Winter gets a pretty bad rep for music but worry not-there’s plenty of stuff to get excited over out there. The Roots won’t let Michelle Bachmann hold them down, Spiritualized is coming back, that awesome girl from The Long Blondes has a solo record coming out and in February we get to see Kurt Vile AND Thurston Moore-TOGETHER. Good times. So, here it is-in the words of BYT music writers (all of whom seem to be male, so Svetlana is stepping in with some estrogen injections here and there)-the pretty solid music winter of 2011/12 ahead.
MORE FALL GUIDES COMING RIGHT UP TOO .
- The Roots “Undun” (December 6)-—BYT event DJ ?uestlove’s sideproject releases another album early this winter. Maybe that Michelle Bachmann thing was a calculated publicity ploy by The Roots to get their name out there in anticipation. Regardless of their intro music choices this band has produced some of the more interesting hip-hop of the last decade or so; if only more artists and groups embraced conventional instruments over the shitty club-hop production that’s been prevalent for the last few years. -Colin Wilhelm
- Spiritualized’s Sweet Hear Sweet Lights (March 19) and The Big Pink’s Future This (January 17): No offense to home recordings and lo-fi production, but sometimes I want to hear a record that sounds massive, even overblown. When a band spends a boatload of cash in the studio, I want to hear every penny of it. Thankfully the Brits haven’t lost their sense of rock star grandeur, and key amongst them are Spiritualized and upstarts the Big Pink, both of whom drop LPs on us this winter. Coming off a year with a dearth of good rock – with, what, Wild Flag excepted? – I desperately need some bombast in my life. – Phil Runco
- The Black Keys “El Camino” December 6 – You can pretty much stop buying music after December 6 this Winter (although based off of the last few years increasingly anemic record sales, most of you stopped buying music long ago). The first single off of this, “Lonely Boy”, is as solid as you would expect a single from the Black Keys to be, as is the video hyperlinked. I’m convinced that dancer was hired for his hypnotic qualities; it’s as if each shimmy says “you must buy the new Black Keys album”. Or maybe they just found him walking a street in Akron, I could go either way on this. -Colin
- Kate Jackson – TBD – The news that Kate has a triple-gatefold vinyl 7” (all artwork by Jackson) coming out soon, produced by Brendan Butler, coupled with the news that she has enough songs to release as an album, fills me with hope. The Long Blondes were one of my favorite acts of the past ten years, with Dorian Cox’s brilliant songwriting and Jackson’s perfect delivery painting pictures of love, lust, etc. Can’t wait to hear what she does next…-William
- The 2 Bears’ Be Strong (January 30): I hadn’t paid much attention to Joe Goddard’s work outside of Hot Chip until this summer, when his thumping single “Gabriel” came and smacked me upside the head. Ok, Joe, I’m listening. Next up: following two EPs and a handful of remixes, The 2 Bears – his overtly house collaboration with Raf Rundell – makes the jump to DFA Records for a full length debut, Be Strong. – Phil Runco
- Mazzy Star – TBD – I hated Mazzy Star at first. Hated that David Roback replaced the excellent Kendra Smith with a teen prodigy to form a new band, hated their hazy, amorphous music, hated their Americana-isms, and hated their ubiquity. It came as a shock when I fell madly and deeply in love with “Suzanne” off Sandoval’s album with Colm Ó Cíosóig, and subsequently “Fade into You” (thanks to Richard X and Jarvis’ brilliant reinterpretation as “Into U”). After seeing Sandoval play the Synagogue at 6th and I, refusing a spotlight on herself, and hearing the magisterial “For the Rest of Your Life,” my remaining resistance vaporized, and now I’m a rabid fan. Still can’t find the promised vinyl 7″ (Common Burn), but I will buy this record the moment it comes out. And, will go wherever to see them play live. In light of the Roses reunion, I will hold out hope Kendra makes an appearance on stage…-William
- Korn – The Path to Totality: For their tenth studio album, the rap/rock and nu metal progenitors take their loud and intentionally boorish sensibilities to the dance floor. In the move that will likely lead to the sweeping out of the first round of four on the floor passion in the American mainstream, the band has teamed with Excision, Datsik, Skrillex and 12th Planet for a largely dubstep inspired album. Seeing these largely underground producers cash big paychecks is wonderful, however, can the strength of their compositions bear the strain that will inevitably come with being paired with the group that represents the most hackneyed of black eyes on music to most conservative critics and observers. – Marcus Dowling
- Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes. I’m a huge Hold Steady fan, and I’m confident that their lead singer/lyricist will be able to hold his own on his debut solo release. The question is: will it sound like the Hold Steady, or will he take a left turn a’la Eddie Vedder (who released a solo disco of songs on the ukulele) and deliver something new? Note to Craig: stay away from dubstep. – Andy Johnson
- AIR-The Voyage Dans La Lune (February 2012) – because winter is great for staying in and making out, and no one makes better make out albums than Air. You don’t trust me, well, just push play on Air Safari now, k? Oh wait, you stopped reading to go find someone to make out with? Figures. Also-the lead single featuring Beach House’s Victoria LeGrand is what heaven sounds like, I’m sure of that.- Svetlana
- The Dream – The Love IV; Diary Of A Madman. The-Dream may be the hardest working producer in R&B nowadays, writing and producing songs for Beyonce and Rihanna in 2011, but his work ethic and perfectionism delayed the release of his own fourth album into 2012. Considering the quality of single “Body Work/Fuck Your Brains Out” and the “free album” 1977 he released under his birth name Terius Nash he gave to fans to tide them over until The Love IV’s release, The-Dream may very well rule 2012. – Andy Johnson
- Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of The Sea- March 6, 2012: Why am I excited? Because this marks the return of Magnetic Fields to MERGE, where they hate done their best work AND one of the songs is called Infatuation (With Your Gyration). Enough for me. – Svetlana
- Swedish House Mafia – One Night Stand: Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello are the global electro house superstar unit Swedish House Mafia. Their fourth quarter artist album One Night Stand represents the first time in well over a decade that international dance has received such a major level push in the United States. The trio’s remix of Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” is 2011’s big room dance floor filling tear jerker, and is a clear attempt at aiming in the direction of the American mainstream. Is the success of Electric Zoo and Electric Daisy a flash in the pan? Or, will the house superpowers sell out performance at Madison Square Garden on December 16th elevate the album and dance in the US to new levels of respectability and dominance? – Marcus Dowling
- EMOTIVE ADDENDUM BY JOHN FOSTER: There are a few records I am directly involved with (honesty is the best policy) that truly are phenomenal and make me giddy like a school girl. The new Wooden Wand “Briarwood” is the americana record of the year for 2011. Hands. Down. I have been describing it as Steve Earle with a sense of humor, or Ryan Adams with a set of balls. So good. Guided By Voices “Let’s Go Eat The Factory” arrives on New Year’s Day and is a stellar return to form from the classic lineup, with a little of everything for the hard core and newly minted fan – Pollard penned Whoesque rave ups like “Unsinkable Fats Domino,” and brief pop gems like “Donut For A Snowman” along with a pretty pile of the best songs Tobin Sprout has done in over a decade. The end of January sees orchestral pop icons Richard Davies and Eric Matthews bring back their Cardinal project for the follow up to their beloved debut, 18 years later. Two seconds in to “Hymns” and you know they haven’t lost a single step. It is brainy and poppy and delightful, in all the ways you had hoped it would be. Amazing. As for records that I haven’t already been listening to for the last few months – my wait for the new XX record officially starts now. Based on what I have heard so far, I am pretty skeptical about new records from The Big Pink and Cloud Nothings, and being subjected to a holiday season full of Black Keys isn’t good for anyone. Sharon Van Etten looks to have a make or break record for our eager ears. Perhaps my most anticipated release this winter is a rumored Lemonheads walkman recording of acoustic hotel room strumming unearthed 20 years later. Sure to trump 90% of whatever else floats to the top.
Since it seems out music team working on this is all male (again), I am (again) jumping at the opportunity to spotlight what’s going on this winter in my personal favorite genre: “Music for Girls (by Girls)” or as I’ve referred to it before “MUSIC IN DRESSES”, which, sort of like rom-coms sometimes gets a bad name. Thankfully, this season sees some seriously talented ladies releasing some great records. Keep an eye out for the dose of estrogen coming from:
- Azealia Banks – Azealia banks is here to have fun. She describes her coming-out-onto-the-scene strategy as “Boom, boom, boom, boom, bam, bam!” , and her 212 single is everything that sentence describes: sassy, fun, and also somehow 2 completely different songs squeezed in 3.5 minutes: one a hard hitting hip hop number, and one almost a Disney princess (albeit a sassy one) pop jam. I dare you not to dance.
- Mina Tindle – (nee Pauline DeLassus) is one of those French women that give all the other French women a good name: beautiful, graceful, cleans up well but is very elegant even when casual….you know the type. The fact that, on top of all that, she sings like a cross between Kate Nash and OH LAND and has an insanely cool Caetano Veloso cover to prove her great tastes under her belt, leaves you with no choice but to either desperately fall in love with her or desperately want to hate her. We’ve given in and are in the former category.
- Appaloosa – a Paris/London duo whom I know nothing about aside that I read this description of them: “the romantic Human League fronted by Nico covering Stereolab,” and instantly need to listen to it all. And it was uncannily correct. Now-pass that jar of glitter.
- Charlie XCX – It is quite possible that Charli XCX is the coolest girl of 2011-into-2012. She’s for sure too cool for a proper last name at least. She makes fuzzy electro goth pop (that sounds bad) that somehow manages to be both grimy and sing-alongable, both creaky and super polished. A star is born. I’ll leave you with the opening line from “Nuclear Seasons”: When you go please don’t leave your love in the sun my heart would melt away…
- The paucity of things to look forward to this winter is further compounded by a glance at the upcoming show schedule. Return visits are the order of the day, with yet another pass through town by Beirut (12/14), Cults (1/14), Kurt Vile (2/6), and Zola Jesus (2/16) – if you missed any of them on the last trip through, put them on your to do list now – and Justice (3/21) surely doesn’t need any further bigging up. – William
- Los Empresarios – Dec 16th – Rock and Roll Hotel: Quietly, the Latin funk tinged hip hop of Fort Knox Records affiliates Los Empresarios have come to represent the city’s finest live performance. An undeniable blend of perpetually popular party sounds is difficult to advance forward, but in uniquely maintaining the status quo, the group falls well in line with the established standard setters of their soulful vibe. Funk meets Fania and excels. – Marcus Dowling
- Benoit & Sergio at U-Hall December 16: Benoit & Sergio just performed live for the first time this weekend, so it’s hard to say what exactly to expect this Friday. What we do know is that the duo (half DC, half Berlin) have produced some of the best dance singles this year: “Principles”, “Boy Trouble”, Everybody”. These are some tightly constructed songs, with all kinds of pop savvy, and that alone should compel you to get over to U-Hall and shake your hips for an hour. -Phil Runco
- Wu-Tang Clan –@ State Theatre (Dec. 23) Hip-hop shows can be notoriously hit-or-miss depending on the crowd, the artist, the venue, etc. But as the saying goes, Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with. Their set at 2010’s Rock The Bells at Merriweather Post Pavilion was the best hip-hop event I’ve ever been to, and I can’t wait to hear them bring the ruckus to Falls Chuch. – Andy Johnson
- The Roots @ Fillmore (Dec. 29-30) – see above. Also-because they are one of the most consistently entertaining live shows I’ve ever been to. And there’s comfort in a sure thing. – Svetlana.
- Drive-By Truckers @ 9:30 Club December 29-31—This keeps coming to mind as my top choice for a few reasons. Though I’ve never seen them before, I’m a definite fan of the Drive-By Truckers, and would be if only for “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” (though I enjoy/admire plenty of their other work). Their music, especially the concept albums, provides a powerful soundtrack to the area of north Alabama/south Tennessee that blends together to become one amorphous cultural region at the bottom of Appalachia (where a certain Yankee boy went to school). They have a reputation as one of the better live bands around, and you’d expect the power of songs like “Lookout Mountain” to only be amplified in person. Since they’re playing the same venue three nights in a row I’m curious as to how deep into their catalogue they’ll go to avoid being repetitive; wouldn’t be surprised if they break out their appropriately epic cover of “Rolling Stone” – Colin Wilhelm
- Real Estate @ Black Cat, January 22: Real Estate’s music is so understated, so languid, so just at peace with itself, that it can often get crushed – or at least smothered – by a slightly chatty and disinterested audience. The band deserves an adoring crowd, one that hangs on every nuance and minor change in tempo. With Days, Real Estate produced an album that will attract that kind of doting audiences for some time to come, and its live shows will be all the better for it. – Phil Runco
- Moombahton Massive X @ U Street Music Hall: The Moombahton Massive juggernaut continues to set attendance records at U Street’s temple of boom. However, kismet meets talent on December 31st on what is the genre’s next important event in its meteoric rise to mainstream acceptance. Just as disco capitalized on technological developments and pop innovation, moombahton has lived on the 21st century’s insistence on speed and access to grow at an ever rapid rate. See the future on New Year’s Eve. – Marcus Dowling
- King Face @ Black Cat, January 7—As possibly their biggest fan ever my brother would send me a strongly worded email if I didn’t include this local 80s hardcore band’s reunion. Their music evokes Van Halen as much as (and probably more than) Minor Threat. Though reunions of 80s-90s D.C. bands have become more commonplace of late (see: Trans Am, The Dismemberment Plan) it’s still not often you can check out a band from D.C.’s punk heyday. Close your eyes and imagine the Wilson Center still exists while listening to those oversized guitar riffs. – Colin Wilhelm
- Jeff Mangum @ Lincoln Theatre January 27-8— Mangum’s status as an indie rock luminary (whatever that really means) propels this into one of the top shows to see this winter (if you can get a ticket). Start scouring StubHub now. – Colin Wilhelm
- Thurston Moore /w Kurt Vile – Black Cat (Feb. 6)– Moore’s Beck-produced solo-album was a surprise highlight of 2011, trading out Sonic Youth’s brash guitar explosions for a melancholy acoustic album. Perhaps this Demolished Thoughts foreshadowed his separation with Kim Gordon? Plus, the addition of Kurt Vile, a favorite of Moore, should guarantee one of the best shows of the Winter. Don’t miss this one, folks. – Andy Johnson
- Die Antwoord @ 930 Club, February 12 – because when we saw them last time, I went out of sheer curiosity and ended up at one of the best shows I’ve been to in a while. And it’ll be interesting to see if they can not only keep it up but maybe even surpass it (I’m not putting anything past them). – Svetlana
- The Junior League Band @ Rock ‘N Roll Hotel February 17—Junior League Band put on a solid show the last time I saw them. The band as a whole is solid, but lead singer Lissy Rosemont stands out with her onstage charisma and a great, unique voice. She was eight or so months into a pregnancy last time; something tells me she’ll lead an even better show not that she’s without a baby bump. – Colin Wilhelm
- Metronomy @ Rock’n’Roll Hotel, Tuesday, March 27 – Metronomy have been around for a while, but I’ve never gotten the bug. The buzz around the new album (The English Riviera) is so deafening, though, that I had to give them a try. I must admit, I still don’t entirely get it, but the fact that they’re described as “wonky pop,” and that their live shows are marked by synchronized dances and d.i.y. light shows means that I have to give them a try. – William
- EMOTIVE ADDENDUM BY JOHN FOSTER: The current line up of shows is incredibly uninspiring. Is Thurston Moore/ Kurt Vile going to be worth attending? Sure it is, but you don’t need me to tell you that. I am hopeful that we have the traditional barrage of SXSW swing tours hitting in March to pick things up (and the city should go bonkers for Wild Flag moving up to the 930 in early April.) Jeff Mangum is a must see, but tickets were gone within five minutes. Should you see Lyle Lovett or Lily Tomlin once in your life? Yes. Yes, you should. Is the new booking war of 2012 that folds in an unlikely axis surrounding U Hall about to get really interesting? Why yes, yes it is. Shows from Zola Jesus and Chairlift will be tailor made for magic in that venue.
- Perfume Genius has seen all of his buzz drift over to the Youth Lagoon’s of this world, and I actually think that could be a good thing. Classic songwriting chops lie below the reverb heavy lofi exterior and he is exactly the kind of opening act you look back on and say “I saw them when” about. Plus he opens for Beirut at 930, which is always worth seeing. Bleached will likely go on for 50 people trying to get the front spot for the Smith Westerns Black Cat show, and exactly 35 of them will be blown away.- John Foster
- JEFF The Brotherhood (opening for The Kills) – 9:30 Club (Feb 2.) A literal brotherhood between the brothers Orrall, JEFF combine the two-man fury of bands like Japandroids, Bass Drum Of Death, and DFA1979 with a psych-rock twist. I have much appreciation for Alison Mosshart, but if Jeff The Brotherhood are as good as The Horrors were back in 2009, this may be the second time that The Kills’ opening act blows them off the stage.
- Kurt Vile (opening for Thurston Moore) – Black Cat (Feb. 6) This show bears repeating. Vile’s Smoke Rings For My Halo is in my Top Ten of 2k11, and I’ve been waiting for months to catch the long-haired former The War On Drugs guitarist.
- Chris Nitti: If nu disco and disco house are going to remain steadfast at the forefront of underground dance’s most commercial sound, DC’s Chris Nitti is the perfect table setter for a night of sexy, mid-tempo synthesized symphonies. Down with the Blisspop blog crew and under the tutelage of Will Eastman, the Bloomingdale resident has set a standard of consistency that has him on the fast track to following in DC”s rich standard of perpetually top notch house selectors. – Marcus Dowling
- Tiara Thomas – At first listen, the sweet singer-songwriter melodies of Tiara Thomas make absolutely no sense on Wale’s Board Administration label. Then, when you sit and listen to Indianapolis, Indiana native Thomas on a hip hop showcase, her sound, think Lauryn Hill meets Joni Mitchell, makes all the sense in the world. In a fog of boom bap, emo kids in tight jeans and hyper-aggressive students of the school of Rakim, Thomas’ elegant simplicity is a show stopper. – Marcus Dowling
- Time to move on to the next single, Foster the People. – Andy
- Kaiser Chiefs. Guys, I heard you have a new album. I mean, I haven’t actually heard that album – that would be asking a lot – but I know you got some ink by offering it in some wacky, pay as you wish or custom order the tracks, or make your own artwork or something. Seriously, pack it in. The last good song you did was the Little Ones’ cover of “Everything Is Average Nowadays,” which says it all, innit? Thanks, though, we had some good times… – William
- Band of Horses will go on for 30 more years playing to DMB loving bros and babes, but for the life of me, I can’t see why. I think that might be it though; I hold out hope that anyone could still make vital music, especially if they had done so before. I also saw something that indicates my least favorite local band is on an indefinite sabbatical, which provides me with ringing yelps of joy. So there is that to look forward to. – John Foster
- Bloc Party. I read the stories in the NME about how you were being cut out of Bloc Party, and thought, man, that sucks. Turns out the whole thing was a fake – a put on to generate interest. Fuck off. Seriously. Kele’s solo stuff is okay, but Bloc Party ceased to be an interesting proposition a long time ago. This sort of cheap-shit stunt proves the point. I still reserve the right to play stuff from your first album, though. But really, go away. – William
- If you’re a punk band who hasn’t toured in 10+ years, just let it be. Let it be. – Andy
- Bloggers. Our opinions no longer matter. In the grand scheme of the world, labels have now pretty much figured out how to use us, abuse us, game us and render our opinions entirely obsolete. The “independent free will” we fervently advocate for is now a Drake interlude, our beloved indie producers are all hanging out with Usher at festivals, and let’s face it. We’re not making any money doing this, and we all wish we really were, each review a hail mary pass into the end zone of a Pitchfork writer’s mailbox, only to be intercepted by the duplicitous opinions of the world wide web. Our thoughts are now voices against the wind, making us somebodies who are nobodies saying nothing special, swaddling ourselves in the cold irony of meaningless opinions as a moral victory barely keeping us warm at night. – Marcus Dowling
- Dark Star Orchestra/Bands that Make a Living “Recreating” Other Bands—I don’t begrudge every cover or tribute band. As the Black Cat’s “Run for Cover” event proves annually, they can be a lot of fun—if done unpretentiously. However, when a band claims to be “recreating the experience” of a much more famous albeit defunct band my inner cynic can’t help but call bullshit. Unless Dark Star Orchestra, who is playing the 9:30 Club Dec. 2nd and 3rd, bought a pouch containing Jerry Garcia’s magical ashes from which his ghost will emerge and play guitar on “Scarlet Begonias” I have no idea why anyone, other than the most hopelessly sentimental Deadheads, would want to support a band making money off of the work and music of another, much better band while billing what they do as not just a tribute but a “re-creation”. What does that even entail? In my head I imagine a combination of concert and Civil War reenactment, only with hippies instead of Confederate soldiers. Have they ever attempted to recreate Jerry Garcia’s diabetic coma? Perhaps I’m being too harsh. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been under the spell of the Dead (though I certainly I enjoy some of their songs) but I just don’t see the point. It’s not like the remainder of the Dead doesn’t play together: they do so fairly frequently in addition to touring on their own projects, like Bob Weir and RatDog. I just don’t get it. To paraphrase David Cross, why would you want to pay $30 bucks to listen to some guys imitate other more famous guys dicking around on guitar? You can crank up one of their live recordings (they’re probably the most well documented band ever), or watch The Grateful Dead Movie, and pretend you’re there [and it’s not as if most Deadheads don’t possess and use aids for this endeavor]. I may have begun this paragraph somewhat indignant to their existence but a paragraph later I’m almost curious as to how obsessively they try to imitate other musician’s work and lives, and what motivates people to see them. Maybe a fan can illuminate this in the comments section. – Colin