Sunday, October 23, 2011

Listening Habits: The Fall 2011 Collection

I've said it before and I'll say it again: in 2011 the girls have all the best tunes. Case in point, the list with our favorite albums for the first half of autumn, where the female voice is ever present, with seven records in our Top 10 coming either from women or woman-fronted groups.

Our two top records for the current period (and a sure thing for the year-end Top 10 list) come from all-girl bands: the indie-rock powerhouse (a more fitting word, I think, to describe them than the tired “supergroup” tag) of Wild Flag and the awesome Dum Dum Girls, the ultimate embodiment, in my opinion, of the new girl-group guitar sound.

The idea of a group combining key members of Sleater-Kinney and Helium sounded great from the beginning. Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony had already given us a brief glimpse of what they could achieve together several years ago with their one-off single as The Spells. Now, with the added firepower of Janet Weiss’ fiery drumming and Rebecca Cole’s energetic presence behind the keyboards, the storming guitar melodies created by Brownstein and Timony and the superb combination of their voices never sounded this good. The chemistry that creates Wild Flag’s pure rock sound is truly a thing of great beauty. The end result is just what the doctor ordered: an astonishing record, brimming with passionate punk-rock energy, dizzying guitars, wild rhythms and melodies that stick to your brain for weeks.

The combination of bittersweet '60s girl-group melodies and rocking garage-punk guitars with a few twists of '80s lo-fi shoegaze buzz has become ever-present in today’s indie rock scene. The list is already quite impressive and growing, from Vivian Girls, to Best Coast to the just out-of-the-gate Veronica Falls, but, at least for my money, nobody has done a better record than the Dum Dum Girls’ astonishing debut “I Will Be”. At least not until now, that Dee Dee and her Dum Dum Girls return with their sophomore album, the exquisiteOnly In Dreams”.

The blueprint of the sound remains the same, but the year and a half spent on the road since their debut came out in spring 2010 helped the band to grow stronger and more confident as musicians, while the production by Richard Gottehrer and Sune Rose Wagner has given them an even fuller, more flesh-out sound, a long way from Dee Dee’s first bedroom recordings. Although the subject matter behind most of Dee Dee’s new songs is dark and painful, the record never succumbs to misery, with Dee Dee’s majestic vocals, the band’s soaring guitar melodies and the driving rhythm section giving the songs an optimistic, uplifting feel (with “Wasted Away” being one of the best examples). A great work that solidifies the Dum Dum Girls' position as the leaders of the girl-group pack.

The other amazing women in our music life this fall include Eleanor Friedberger, the voice of The Fiery Furnaces, in her first solo venture, the captivating “Last Summer”, Annie Clark and her third record as St. Vincent, the rightly highly acclaimed “Strange Mercy”, Nika Roza Danilova, aka Zola Jesus, with “Conatus”, her best album to date, Jonnine Standish, the hypnotic voice behind HTRK’s slow-motion haunting-dream sound that you can find in “Work (Work Work)” and Liela Moss, the stunning front-woman of The Duke Spirit who are back with their third record, the fittingly titled “Bruiser”. Our fall Top 10 is completed with the new albums by Stephen Malkmus (also a keen admirer of women’s musical talents as the Jicks line-up included both Joanna Bolme and Janet Weiss, before moving on to Wild Flag), Handsome Furs (where, now ex-Wolf Parade, Dan Boeckner joins forces for the third time with his other half, Alexei Perry) and The Rapture, the only all-dude band here. Girl-power indeed!

Here are Cool Music Central’s Top 20 Albums and Tracks for the first half of autumn 2011:

Top 20 Albums

1.   Wild Flag - WILD FLAG
2.   Only In Dreams - DUM DUM GIRLS
4.   Strange Mercy - ST. VINCENT
6.   Work (Work Work) - HTRK
7.   Conatus - ZOLA JESUS
8.   Sound Kapital - HANDSOME FURS
9.   In the Grace of Your Love - THE RAPTURE
10. Bruiser - THE DUKE SPIRIT
11. Skying - THE HORRORS
12. Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped - MOONFACE
13. I Am Very Far - OKKERVIL RIVER
14. Dye It Blonde - SMITH WESTERNS
16. Leisure Seizure - TOM VEK
17. Colour Trip - RINGO DEATHSTARR
18. E.S.P. - LOVE INKS
19. Badlands - DIRTY BEACHES
20. The Church Of Synth - THE CHURCH OF SYNTH

Top 20 Tracks

1.   Bedroom Eyes - DUM DUM GIRLS
2.   Romance - WILD FLAG
4.   Year Off - HIGH PLACES
5.   Eat Yr Heart - HTRK
6.   Vessel - ZOLA JESUS
7.   Surrender - THE DUKE SPIRIT
8.   Shit-hawk in the Snow - MOONFACE
10. The Valley - OKKERVIL RIVER
11. Cruel - ST. VINCENT
12. Repatriated - HANDSOME FURS
13. Weekend - SMITH WESTERNS
14. I Can See Through You - THE HORRORS
15. Imagine Hearts - RINGO DEATHSTARR
16. Blackeye - LOVE INKS
17. A Chore - TOM VEK
18. How Deep Is Your Love - THE RAPTURE
19. An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum - SHABAZZ PALACES
20. Der Fall von Leviathan - THE CHURCH OF SYNTH

Dum Dum Girls - Bedroom Eyes


Steve said...

Couldn't agree more on the Wild Flag tip, that's an immediately addictive and high quality rock album. Sure it'll feature in my top 10 as well. Haven't given enough attention to Dum Dum Girls, so thanks for putting them back on my radar :)

ody said...

you're welcome!