On this special episode of Serious Business on BTR, host Travis Harrison is joined by a panel of music fanatics to look back on their favorite albums of 2011. Meet the panelists... - Matt Gross runs the music blog A Heart is a Spade - George Flanagan is in the band El Jezel and an organizer of events at Fort Useless - Maia Macdonald is a BTR DJ, host of BTR Live Studio, and a musician in the band Mitten - Phil Nguyen is a BTR DJ, frequent guest host of BTR Live Studio, and a BTR video editor - Jeremiah McVay heads up BTR’s video team and organizes music events at Fort Useless
Don’t doubt Brooklyn four-piece Shark? despite their unusually punctuated name. They blend scruffy garage-rock and riotous post-punk for music that swerves from catchy lo-fi hooks to wild distorted yelping in the blink of an eye. The band — made up of Kevin Diamond (vocals/guitar), Andy Swerdlow (drums), Andy Kinsey (bass), and Chris Mulligan (guitar) — have toured relentlessly in and around New York City for years and finally, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, were able to release their first full-length album, True Waste, this past summer.
On this special episode of Serious Business on BTR, host Travis Harrison is joined by a panel of music fanatics to look back on their favorite albums of 2011.
Brooklyn group Gold Streets intertwine smooth, dreamy melodies and crunchy psychedelic rock, making for music that’s simultaneously slick and trippy. The contrasting male/female vocals of guitarist Norman Vino and drummer T. Almy complement one another well — hers light and angelic, his wailful and dissonant — and help to balance out the group’s overall sound. The emphatic drum and auxiliary percussion work intertwined with the bass playing of Gizella Otterson move their songs forward at a charging pace as the guitars of Vino and Johnnie Wang weave layers of psychedelia amidst it all.
Brooklyn-based Gunfight! play rowdy, stomping “post-country” — or what Serious Business’ host Travis Harrison jokingly re-dubs “Creedence-core.” Having formed while attending Boston’s Emerson College, the quartet sticks to rollicking arrangements, completely free of any digital bits and sampling (they claim to even avoid “Applebee’s samplers”). Whatever the genre or instrument preference, the band’s music, with its twangy roughness and whiskey-soaked, barking vocals, sounds like a boisterous brawl.
Western Civ, a four-piece from Chapel Hill, NC, (originally from Florence, AL) follow in the footsteps of ‘90s indie staples Guided By Voices, Archers of Loaf, and Pavement with their brand of meandering, layered, spasmodic rock. Their songs are unpredictable, fierce gems — smoothly and melodically resting on a plateau before jump-starting into a dissonant, serpentine arrangement that’s then topped off by lead singer Rich Henderson’s potent yelping.
Hailing from Portland, ME, Sunset Hearts play ‘80s/new-wave inspired pop that can easily pack a dance floor and even stir up some synchronized handclaps and bell jingling. Each of its eight members is a seasoned musician, having come from other local Maine bands. Lead singer Casey McCurry is an emotive frontman, immediately attaching himself to his microphone and allowing for Sunset Hearts’ contagious and synthy melodies to capture him. While the band’s size may cause some crowding on stage, the octet’s chemistry is solid, the sound strong and robust — proving that there is power in numbers.
Originally a solo endeavor, San Diego’s Tropical Popsicle eventually grew into a 4-piece fronted by vocalist Timothy Hines (Lights On, the Stereotypes). Playing shimmery, feel-good melodies soaked in a blanket of muffled reverb, the band’s strain of psychedelic surf-rock calls to mind a mix of Beach Fossils and Real Estate.
For our Halloween Special we invited Brooklyn three-piece EULA to the Serious Business studios. Festive and decked out in skeleton suits, the group raged through their loud, post-punk tunes, seemingly in their element in a dimly lit, cobwebbed room. Manic, amped up, and lead by frontwoman Alyse Lamb, whose vocals veer between a coaxing, calm voice and blaring, bone-chilling shrieks, EULA sound like an unbridled, and feral version of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Originally starting as the bedroom project of singer-songwriter Henry Jamison, The Milkman’s Union has since evolved into a folk-rock trio heavily influenced by jazz and classical music, and channeling everyone from Iron & Wine to Radiohead. Based out of Portland, ME, the band weaves together complex arrangements, filled with melodies that twist and turn unexpectedly and rhythms that start and stop suddenly. Jamison leads the pack with impressive guitar-picking and his ability to use his rich, expressive voice to turn sullen stories into engaging ear-candy, mellow ballads into howling rock.
Having played with the likes of rock bands Gem, Death of Samantha, Cobra Verde, Nada Surf, and a little indie outfit called Guided By Voices — you might have heard of them — it’s safe to say that Doug Gillard needs no real introduction. An accomplished guitarist and songwriter, he can shift easily between Guided By Voices’ loud, post-punk anthems, and the more mellow, muted ballads of his own solo repertoire.
Half-brothers Trent and Blair McGillicuddy operate musically and otherwise as Sex Admirals. These two sons of Admiral Bruce "Papa" McGillicuddy, clad in Hawainn shirts, bathrobes, and sunglasses, deliver the finest in drop-dead nautically themed party jams, presenting a mix of blistering bleeps, tropical beats, and raspy, alcohol-soaked vocals -- an ideal soundtrack for a drunken, wild beach party.
Brooklyn hardcore band Violent Bullshit can launch from a standing start into a raucous barrage of guttural shrieking and razor-edged riffs in no time, shaking loose the floorboards as they go. Here they lead off with their own introductory theme song, frontman Jayson Green ferociously howling “Violent Bullshit! Violent Bullshit!” repeatedly like his throat’s on fire. If the intro isn’t enough to make the name stick, watch for the drummer’s fun “VIOLENT TANKTOP” and the DIY “VIOLENT BULLSHIT” banner made from a pink sheet and Sharpies.
Hailing from Brooklyn, Clouder produce roaring, guitar-driven music reminiscent of ‘60s and ‘70s rock & roll. The complex guitar work (sometimes alongside the Dan Bau, a Vietnamese monochord) wails and shrieks, giving rise to epic walls of sound that wind throughout each song. Clouder’s distinct vocals act as their own crazed instrument, able to shift seamlessly between droning pitches and invigorating screeches.
Originally from Canton, OH, multi-instrumentalist Chris Buckridge has called Brooklyn home since 2000. His sprawling music catalog features seven albums -- some solo work, some with his band, the Ne'er Do Evers -- full of lo-fi, psychedelic rock in the vein of staple '90s indie rockers Guided by Voices and Dinosaur Jr. With his ability to crank up the fuzzed-out noise in a matter of seconds, turning softer, dreamy passages into distorted, jagged rock, Buckridge’s songs are often models of versatility.