Tag: Dum Dum Girls

My 2011 in Music: #20-11

You probably thought that Honorable Mentions post was my 11-20, right? Wrong! I couldn’t squeeze everything into a top ten or fifteen this year, so I did a top twenty, split into two parts. My top ten will post tomorrow, though between you and me, you could hop over to Row Three and see it now.

20. The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade

The first album from local sibling act The Belle Brigade was a self-produced collection of solid and sweet folksy songs. This time around, they have a label, a bunch of promotion (I’ve even seen them featuring on some big-name year-end lists!), and a bigger, bolder, more rollicking sound. Los Angeles musicians have their own take on country, sort of an indie-country hybrid, and I like it.

19. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

Every time I hear The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, I really enjoy them (also lead singer Kip is like the nicest guy ever). They don’t stick with me for that long, though, which is the main reason this album isn’t even higher on my list. This one’s even catchier and more fun than their previous stuff, if possible, and the video for “Body” is a great tribute to the endless summers of childhood.

18. The Dodos – No Color

I quite liked The Dodo’s first album Visiter, but didn’t care for the second at all – with No Color, they’re back in form, with intricate arrangements and exuberant drumming backing up soaring vocals. Plus, this time they’ve got Neko Case on background vocals, which lends an extra air of awesome to many of the songs, especially “Don’t Try and Hide It.”

17. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness

The most surprising thing about this album is that Los Campesinos! haven’t used this title before. Yes, you won’t find much new on here if you’re a long-time Los Camp! fan, but if you are a fan, you’re probably okay with that. It continues the slightly slower, gloomier tone that characterized the second half of Romance is Boring, with lyrics that are slightly more mature and considered. Losing more original members is starting to take its toll, though – nothing against the replacements, who are solid, but Aleks’s sunny counterpoint to Gareth’s desperation is missed.

16. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

A band combining former members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, the Minders, and others, I knew I had to check Wild Flag out as soon as I heard about them. I don’t love all of the songs (some tend toward the same noisiness that makes Sleater-Kinney just a sometimes band for me), but the ones I do like I like a LOT. Especially “Romance,” which also has a really fun video – basically a short film, really. Carrie Brownstein is also active as a comedienne (currently on IFC’s Portlandia with Fred Armison), and that sense comes through here.

15. Ida Maria – KATLA

Somehow I missed until a few weeks ago that Ida Maria had a new album out this year! Thankfully I got hold of it in time for this list, because this is one fun punk throwback album. There’s a few songs that tend a bit too abrasive for me, but for the most part, KATLA is immediately and unavoidably catchy. Throw in Ida Maria’s sly wit, and this is at least as fun, maybe more so, than her debut. “Cherry Red” is one of my favorite songs on the album; this version is acoustic, but the album is not.

14. Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials

I didn’t give Florence + the Machine’s debut album Lungs nearly enough listening time when it came out, beyond the two or three singles that got a lot of play, but I tuned into this one more. I’m still not totally sold on the whole package – her voice is amazing, there’s no doubt of that, but it often overpowers everything else that’s going on. I think that’s part of the point. But there’s a lot to appreciate here, and there are several songs definitely standing out to me on here.

13. Mates of State – Mountaintops

It’s so great to hear Mates of State back doing original music again after an admittedly-great cover album. I need more time with this one; the second half starts to get a bit same-y to me, and they’re definitely moving into a more melodic and pared-down style that I like, but doesn’t excite me as much as Bring It Back, which remains my favorite of their albums. That said, songs like “Palomino” and “Maracas” are right up with their best.

12. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls

A friend has proven to me he shared UK band Veronica Falls with me last year, which I don’t remember at all, but after stumbling across them on Stereogum earlier this year, I find myself more taken with Veronica Falls’ eponymous debut LP every time I hear it. The combination of gentle vocals with melancholic chord progressions, tight harmonies, and just a hint of medieval intervals feels fresh and unique, and imminently pleasing.

11. Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams / He Gets Me High EP

The EP He Gets Me High was my #1 of the first half of the year. I still love it, and I quite like Only in Dreams as well, but it’s a lot less noise-poppy and a lot more polished than their previous album, which is throwing me off. With more time to get used to Only in Dreams, I’ve little doubt this pair of excellent discs would jump back into my Top Ten, but as of right now, I’m not getting the same exhilaration from Only in Dreams that I got from the EP or their previous album, so I’m reluctantly bumping them down here.

Best Music of 2011: So Far

I‘m well on my way to buying more new albums this year than any other year thus far. As such, I could not keep this list to five, but I’m not a big fan of arbitrarily limited lists anyway – even the ordering on this is fairly arbitrary. Theese seven albums have distinguished themselves in my listening habits far above anything else I’ve gotten this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if several of them stuck around for my end-of-the-year list as well. Anyway, here they are, my favorite albums of 2011, released before July 1st.

#7 – The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

Jonathan introduced me to this Welsh band via their half album about a year ago, but I only really listened to it and got into the band just before they released this full-length, so I was perfectly primed for this to go into repeat, and that’s just what it did. It’s a big bombastic album, with lots of layers in the orchestration to go along with the lead vocals.

#6 – The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave

I didn’t fall in love with this album quite as hard as I did with The Raveonettes’ previous release In and Out of Control, but it has grown on me quite a lot since I first got it, and I do really appreciate the band’s ability to innovate their sound (here softer and more contemplative than their previous noise-heavy rock) without leaving behind who they are – there’s still plenty of fuzz to go around here, and I actually expect the more thoughtful approach here may eventually be the one that stays with me for longer.

#5 – Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys

Somehow I missed out on really being a Death Cab fan back in the day – I managed to get into indie rock somewhere in between their releases, and even though their name is omnipresent and I’m plenty adept at dropping it whenever appropriate, I actually know very little of their music. I decided I’d check this one out, and lo and behold, I cannot turn it off. I didn’t expect that, but it’s addicting, and I really want to fill in the gaps of their other albums now.

#4 – Cults – Cults

I came close to putting Cults on my list last year on the strength of a 3-song EP, but I just couldn’t do it with that little to go on. Now there’s a full album (which incorporates at least some of the EP, including the hit single “Go Outside”), and I can say with very little doubt this will be on my year-end list this time. Every one of these tracks is irresistibly catchy – fair warning, they WILL get stuck in your head.

#3 – Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

I have Lykke Li’s 2009 release Youth Novel, but despite my best and repeated efforts, I have never been able to really get into it. Even seeing her live for part of a set at Lollapalooza wasn’t quite enough, even though she’s a charismatic performer. So it was with trepidation I picked up Wounded Rhymes…and loved it immediately. Still don’t love Youth Novel, but something about this new album is very nearly perfect. It’s strident and vulnerable, with a depth in the songs both musically and lyrically that I found lacking in the earlier outing. It’s a gorgeous and heartrending album that clearly cuts close to her heart, and that comes through in every song.

#2 – The Submarines – Love Notes/Letter Bombs

If the Submarines’ first album is about the dating process, breaking up and getting together again (which they did), and their second is about a young couple embarking into fully committed and joyful love together (which they did), then this third one is about dealing with the struggles and joys of married life (which they are doing). It’s more mature and more complicated than Honeysuckle Weeks, understanding that two people being a couple isn’t easy, but the happiness is worth the struggle. Not every song is autobiographical, but they can’t seem to keep the general trajectory of their lives out of their music, and when they’re able to capture their emotions as well as they are, I have no argument with that.

#1 – Dum Dum Girls – He Gets Me High EP

I usually don’t include EPs unless they’re exemplary. I guess this one is. It probably ranks high on my listening chart because I simply can’t turn it off when it starts and end up playing it on repeat forever. I had Dum Dum Girls’ full-length I Will Be on my year-end list last year, and I actually think this EP is better than that album. All three new songs are great, catchy in both music and lyrics, and the fourth now ranks a among my favorite covers, a pretty straight but really lovely rendition of The Smiths’ “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.” The band has another full-length due later this year. Will it top this? We’ll see.

Honorable Mentions: The Pauses – A Cautionary Tale, The Violet Lights – Sex & Sound EP, Vivian Girls – Share the Joy, Obi Best – Sentimental Education EP, The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade

2010 in Music: #11 Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be


[#8-12 on this countdown are basically tied. I’ve put them in order of release date.]

I‘m pretty sure I should’ve gotten into this band way before I did. Months before, anyway. I have a tendency to ignore things that I feel like are overhyped on the blogs, and I sort of got that vibe from Dum Dum Girls (plus I initially had trouble taking a band called “Dum Dum Girls” seriously). But I even remember a friend mentioning that they were playing somewhere and I kind of brushed it off without really paying attention.

Now I’m kicking myself for that, because when I finally picked up the album (begrudgingly, out of a completionist need to at least check out most buzzed-about bands by the end of the year) I fell in love with it instantly. They’re all retro noise-poppy and chick-rocky and shoegazey – all things I love. Add in a little bit of bhangra flavor on some songs, and some well-used guest performances (Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez on Blank Girl, which despite being highly repetitive is somehow one of my favorite songs of the year), and it really makes the album sound fresh, despite how much of a great throwback it is to earlier styles. They fill the spot in my listening that the Raveonettes left empty this year, but with a bit more sweetness.

I also love how the videos maintain the really grungy ’80s retro vibe. It may be a bit of a gimmick, but it’s one that I like, and it’s backed up by solid songwriting.

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