Overlooked albums | 2011 in review
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
Scandalous (Lost Highway)
Raw roadhouse soul. Like Patrick Swayze, it’ll rip your throat out and move your booty. With all the retro soul and blues that floods the mainstream, it’s baffling how these guys go unnoticed. Party with them on New Year’s Eve at the Double Door.
Also try: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Bulletproof Brass
Twirligig (Stones Throw)
Stones Throw moved out of its comfort zone (J. Dilla and his disciples) this year, adding some pop and rock acts to its stable of backpacker beats and L.A. psych-hop. That being said, Jonti still takes a lot of influence from Dilla in his quirky laptop miniatures. There’s a good deal of California sunshine pop, easy listening and cartoon music, too. Blows away anything from the chillwave world.
Also try: Dimlite – Grimm Reality
Madness in Miniature (El Marko)
In this case, it’s easy to suss why the band is so unheralded. That’s an awful band name. Shame, as the duo cooks up epic shoegazer blues, like Karen O and Autolux heshing it out in the open desert.
Also try: Le Butcherettes – Sin Sin Sin
Lumiere (Fat Cat)
An American in Berlin, pianist O’Halloran is best known for his film work. He worked on Marie Antoinette and scored the recent Like Crazy. Lumiere (“Light”) is therefore, unsurprisingly, cinematic, inspired by early French flicks, like a lost piece for a melancholic silent film.
Also try: Yakov Okun – New York Encounter
Owiny Sigoma Band
Owiny Sigoma Band (Brownswood)
Colonists meet the colonized when a bunch of English pros (who have played with Gorillaz) team with Kenyan vets for spirited jamming. At its poppiest (“Wires”), it brings to mind Vampire Weekend or the Sea & Cake. Clean, brilliant production makes it the beat Afrobeat of the year. Damon Albarn sits in on organ for a bit. Of course.
Also try: Baloji – Kinshasa Succorsale
People Under the Stairs
Highlighter (Piecelock 70)
The audacious sampling is on par with Paul’s Boutique, as is the rhyming. It takes big brass ones to cut Michael Jackson and Red Hot Chili Peppers into your beats. It’s a thumbing of the nose from the boom-bap duo. They know nobody is paying attention, so why not take hip-hop back to it’s rhymin’-and-stealin’ roots?
Also try: Onra – Chinoiseries Pt. 2
Royal Headache (R.I.P. Society)
I saw the Strokes open for Guided By Voices at the Empty Bottle a decade ago, and it remains one of my favorite gigs ever. This Sydney, Australia, garage act reminds me a lot of both. Taut guitars strum at hardcore speeds as big, Beatlesy hooks glow through the crust.
Also try: Marvelous Darlings – Single Life
The Stepkids (Stones Throw)
Another Stones Throw LP—they were on fire and under the radar in 2011. (Check out the loopy new Dimlite, too.) This L.A. psych-soul trio cut it’s teeth gigging with Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill, and their debut is as kooky as it is sensual.
Also try: The Bees – Every Step’s A Yes
Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
Velocity girls (and boys) whip through primo English indie-pop with giddy depression. Their lyrics would have you believe they’re nihilists, but these Brits (and Scots) work too damn hard at lovely four-part harmonies to convince me they’re suicide threats. Harder, faster, sweeter than any other Pastels-worshipper going these days. I’m looking at you, Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
Also try: Selebrities - Delusions