Andrea Kosek

1. The Black Keys - El Camino
2. M83 - Hurry Up‚ We're Dreaming
3. Tycho - Dive
4. White Denim - D
5. Washed Out - Within and Without
The Black Keys continue to bring blues back to the masses after achieving success with Brothers in 2010. Releasing another classic a year later‚ El Camino delivers fast-paced and infectious tunes‚ ending 2011 on a high note. Adding more depth and instruments to their sound‚ the duo evolved from gritty‚ garage band minimalism to arena rock prowess. Dan Auerbach's soulful and sensual vocals mesh wonderfully with the backup female singers‚ especially during uptempo goodies "Gold On the Ceiling‚" "Dead and Gone" and "Stop Stop". From blues‚ punk‚ rockabilly‚ R&B and even a subtle reggae breakdown on "Hell of a Season‚" The Black Keys keep the ethos of rock and roll alive. Auerbach plays guitar with a fervorous edge and Carney maintains his repertoire of raw‚ raucous drum playing making for fun‚ foot tapping energy filled songs with their vintage flair. I am STOKED to see them for the first time this March at the Madison Square Garden.
Another act I'm looking forward to seeing this year is M83. Anthony Gonzales' genius reigned supreme in Hurry Up‚ We're Dreaming‚ a 2-disc journey of cinematic shoe-gaze‚ electro-pop arrangements and 80s new wave influences‚ drenched in reverb. Several songs stirred up a range of emotions and nostalgic feelings for me. Laden with symphonic crescendos‚ short interludes of sound design‚ various synths and vocal layering‚ every track is ordered in it's right place and captures a different mood like scenes in a movie.
Tycho's Dive put me under a spell of hypnotic tranquility. From start to finish‚ it's packed with shimmery tones‚ rich synth timbres‚ sustained celestial notes over down-tempo beats. Title track "Dive‚" is an eight minute long atmospheric voyage which‚ in my opinion‚ is the pinnacle of the album. Brief‚ incomprehensible female coos introduce the 80s pop beat and heavily reverberated poly-synths. Dive is a buoyant‚ sunny adventure filled with ambient lullabies and soothing harmonies. It evokes a very meditative and spiritual feeling and is great complementary music for a positive‚ pensive and peaceful state of mind.
One band that made a lasting first impression for me this year was White Denim. I became instantly enchanted by their playful progressions of classic rock‚ blues‚ folk and jazz displayed on D. A good portion of the album features cohesively polished studio jamming and focuses on compositional detail. The most memorable moment is displayed during the transition of "Burnished" into "At the Farm." This lively psychedelic adventure boasts refined electric and acoustic guitar interplay peaking over rhythmic builds.
There's nothing complex or mind blowing about Washed Out's Within and Without. Ernest Greene generated more fantastic chill waves and grooves. It's a relaxing‚ aural treat seemingly aimed to sedate and enthrall listeners as if they're soaking up sun at the beach. He harmonizes inaudible‚ drawn-out vocals to sustained textures while balancing melodic synth loops and sequenced snares and hi-hats.
Live Shows:
I was fortunate to witness several great performances this summer including Shpongle Live's first and second appearance in the U.S. at Camp Bisco 10 and the Hammerstein Ballroom. Both times I was blown away by the unique sights and sounds produced by an amazing line-up of musicians‚ singers and performance artists.
Other notable sets from Camp Bisco included Cut Copy‚ Ratatat‚ Neon Indian‚ Beats Antique and of course the Disco Biscuits!
Ott's downtempo dub set at the Big Up created a perfect late night atmosphere after a long day of dancing and tomfoolery. It's safe to say Twisted Records artists never fail to disappoint.
Lettuce and Chromeo also delivered fantastic‚ funky sets at the Royal Family Affair. The positive energy and cameraderie onstage left an indelible mark on me the entire weekend.
2011 was a great year for music and I'm very much looking forward to several releases‚ performances and festival announcements for 2012.
Lynn Kestenbaum
Lynn Guppy!
1. American Babies -Flawed Logic
2. Steven Malkmus & the Jicks -- Mirror Traffic
3. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
4. My Morning Jacket - Circuital
5. Tied because I don't want to choose one over the other: Primus - Green Naughahyde and Todd Snider Live -- The Storyteller
Honorary Mention for their Really Cool Atmospheric Catskills Weirdness: Felice Brothers -- Celebration‚ Florida
2011‚ like most years‚ was peppered with amazing live shows. Elvis Costello & the Imposters at the Gathering of the Vibes was undoubtedly one of the coolest musical experiences of the year‚ leaving an impression on me that will last a lifetime. In July‚ I was finally there to witness Yonder Mountain String Band transform Penn's Peak‚ PA into the mystically warped transcendent funhouse that has become known as "Yonderland". moe. kept rocking me the way I need them to‚ all year round. Stateside members of God Street Wine continued to keep the music alive and the love flowing. My Morning Jacket made me a believer. Ominous Seapods sent Dana Monteith off to Australia in style. American Babies melted my fucking face for the first (2nd‚ 3rd‚ etc.) time (luckily‚ I have a farm of clones‚ whom I poach and make Lynn Skin Face Masks from‚ for this very purpose). I also tried bacon on the chicken burger at Brooklyn Bowl and there's no turning back -- my life will never be the same!
Album-wise: ZOMG‚ you guys! Were you as excited for Nickelback Monday as I was?
American Babies - Flawed Logic: The most delicious‚ refreshing‚ Blue Collar Street Cred Rock 'n' Roll‚ you've heard in years. Solid and honest‚ with slick songwriting that has been seemingly plucked from the Collective Unconscious. This album is beautiful.