The tops of 2011

Pub date December 13, 2011





1. Feb. 2: Motörhead, Clutch, and Valient Thorr at Warfield

2. March 11: Weedeater, Zoroaster, Kvelertak, and Begotten at Thee Parkside

3. March 12: Slough Feg, Christian Mistress, and Witch Mountain at Hemlock

4. April 3: Saint Vitus, Red Fang, and Howl at Mezzanine

5. June 7: Orange Goblin and Gates of Slumber at Bottom of the Hill

6. Aug. 12: Eyehategod, Impaled, Laudanum, and Brainoil at Oakland Metro

7. Aug. 16: Pentagram at Mezzanine

8. Oct. 13: Enslaved at Slim’s

9. Nov. 3: Mastodon and Red Fang at Warfield

10. Nov. 19: Kyuss Lives! and Black Cobra at Regency Ballroom





1. Container, S/T LP (Spectrum Spools) 2. Staccato du Mal, Sin Destino (Weird Records) 3. Bronze, Copper (RVNG Intl.) 4. Grouper, Dream Loss/Alien Observer (Yellow Electric) 5. White Fence, Is Growing Faith (Woodist) 6. Belong, Common Era (Kranky) 7. Widowspeak, S/T LP (Captured Tracks) 8. Total Control, Henge Beat (Iron Lung) 9. Iceage, New Brigade (What’s Your Rupture?) 10. Brotman & Short, Heights (Cold Dick)





1. Helm. Luke Younger from Birds of Delay, Halloween weekend in London. Best noise set I’ve seen in a while, it helped that there was a fan blowing his bangs out of his hoodie. He has an album called Cryptography out on Kye. 2. White Lung. Youngins from Vancouver B.C. playing sick, straight forward punk. Saw them in a bowling alley. 3. Village of Spaces’ Alchemy and Trust album. It took a village to put this out, or at least four labels working in conjunction. Dan Beckman’s (Uke of Spaces Corners) quiet folk masterpiece. 4. Divorce. A band from Glasgow that exists in kind of a cultural vacuum there, a bit like the early ’00s trapped in amber, but then cracked open and given adrenal supplements. They are coming to America in July 2012. 5. Trash Kit put out an album in 2010, but I only got to see them once in 2011. Sadly, they have broken up. Finger-picky jaunty punk with weird rhythms. 6. Andrew W.K. This was not particularly “good”, but distinct encapsulation of the zeitgeist. My band played a show with him at Dem Passwords. He didn’t actually watch us or anything, he showed up right before going on with an entourage. Fans started force-feeding him bananas, Redbull, and whiskey and it turned into a freakish spectacle. I took a nap during his set, came back in, and he was still going for like two and a half hours, driving his fans away. Respect, the modern Andy Kaufman. 7. This Invitation. Chen Santa Maria went on a California tour with Warren in April and it was sparsely attended, but perhaps we’re to blame for that. It’s nice to see one of your oldest friends get some recognition for their work, which Aquarius did by giving their stamp of approval to his three (!) double CDs. 8. Cacaw from Chicago, a few ex-Coughs peeps project. They are now broken up, but this summer they came through and it was a monstrous sludge engine. Dark and fierce. 9. Anika. Technically a 2010 release, but she played at the Independent in October. The lady herself has a passive stage presence, but the music of the whole group (members of Portishead and Beak>) is best described as “Nico fronting PiL” (someone at the LA Times can claim that one). 10. SF Comedy. I still feel like an outsider at all this, but holy shit, there’s good stuff going on right now. Perhaps it is a national, even international renaissance in comedy, but the energy and talent going on here feels as exciting to me as the music scene used to feel. I actually don’t want to name names although the free show at the Rite Spot is a good place to start. I also noticed that none of the music I put on this list has anything to do with the Bay Area. Sorry, music. I just listen to podcasts now.






1. “Cruel” by St. Vincent 2. “Don’t Fuck with my Money” by Penguin Prison 3. “Holocene” by Bon Iver 4. “Bam Bam” by King Charles 5. “King of Diamonds” by Motopony 6. “Don’t Move” by Phantogram 7. “5 O’Clock” by T-Pain 8. “White Lie” by Jhameel 9. “Love U More” by Sunday Girl (RAC Mix) 10. “Imprint” by Amtrac





1. The Fall, Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall (particularly the tape that includes singles)

2. The Spits, Kill the Cool (demos and rarities, LP on In the Red)

3. Reigning Sound, Time Bomb High School and Too Much Guitar (LPs on In The Red)

4. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica, and Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You.

5. Devo, Workforce to the World (early live bootleg)

6. The Marvelettes, Greatest Hits (LP on TAMLA)

7. Coachwhips, Bangers Versus Fuckers (LP on Narnack)

8. South Bay Surfers, Battle of the Bands (LP on Norton)

9. Tav Falco and the Unaproachable Panther Burns, Panther Phobia (In the Red Records)

10. Jonathan Richman, Rockin’ and Romance (LP on Twin/Tone)





1. WU LYF, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain Recorded in an abandoned church, the full-length debut from British heavy pop quartet WU LYF was funded by membership fees for the band’s deviant fan club, the Lucifer Youth Foundation.

2. Death Grips, Ex Military The sinister debut mixtape from Sacramento’s Death Grips is an explosion of dark, twisted shout-rap and noisy, industrial beats.

3. Nick Diamonds, I Am An Attic Former Unicorn and current member of Islands and Mister Heavenly, Nick Diamonds (a.k.a. Nick Thorburn) released his understated, haunting solo album via Bandcamp.

4. Clams Casino, Instrumental Mixtape Clams Casino’s collection of swirling, synth-laden instrumentals crafted for the likes of Lil B and Soulja Boy reveals the genius of this visionary New Jersey producer.

5. Big K.R.I.T, Return of 4Eva Of all the exciting rap mixtapes released in 2011, Southern heavy-hitter Big K.R.I.T.’s Return of 4Eva is my favorite.

6. Frank Ocean, nostalgia, Ultra. This R&B pop gem presents Frank Ocean as, perhaps, the only member of the OFWGKTA family who proved worthy of the hype in 2011.

7. Fort Lean, Fort Lean (EP) Though it’s only 12 minutes long, Fort Lean’s infectious, summery debut EP is a promising glimpse of things to come for this indie five-piece from Brooklyn, NY.

8. Friendzone, Kuchibiru Network II I chose East Bay duo Friendzone’s Kuchibiru Network 2 over Main Attrakionz’s 808’s & Dark Grapes II, as it showcases Main Attrakionz at its best along with tasty selections from Oakland’s Shady Blaze and Finally Boys, Japanese producer Uyama Hiroto, and more.

9. Small Black, Moon Killer In addition to some of Small Black’s catchiest electronic pop songs to date (like the Nicki Minaj-sampling “Love’s Not Enough”), this mixtape features two appearances by Das Racist’s Himanshu Suri, and some inspired remixes from Star Slinger and Phone Tag.

10. The Weeknd, House of Balloons This is a no brainer. Canadian-Ethiopian R&B prodigy the Weeknd’s debut mixtape House of Balloons is the best album of the year, period. (Frances Capell)





1. ELECTRO: This is the band of 8-year-old girls I mentored this summer as a volunteer at Bay Area Girls Rock Camp. After learning two chords from scratch, they wrote a droney, unintentionally avant-garde five-minute anti-bullying opus with a rap breakdown that blew my mind at their July showcase at the Oakland Metro. This is the future.

2. Uzi Rash: Swamp reptile Max Nordile and his band of trashy weirdos play music that is both grating and catchy, and deceptively complex. See them live and they will freak you out, and possibly hit you in the eye socket with an empty 40 oz. (it happened to me).

3. Shannon and the Clams: Seeing the Clams live feels like being magically reunited with your childhood dog — happy and nostalgic, a little bit sad. This metaphor is especially apt if you and your childhood dog loved to DANCE! 4. Younger Lovers: Killer guitar parts, dance-crazy beats, and singer-drummer-songwriter Brontez’s onstage bitching makes Younger Lovers’ shows unpredictable and exciting. Plus, their guitarist is super-cute!

5. King Lollipop: Elfin hillbilly plays bubblegum rockabilly (or something like that!) backed by six drummers who sound like a marching band meets drum circle, minus the lame.

6. Human Waste: Freaky spacesuited dystopian moog-punk from the Moon. Rumored to consist of members of Uzi Rash, Shannon and the Clams, and Dirty Cupcakes. More space waste to come in 2012.

7. Glitter Wizard: Intricate, impressive glam rock. And once, mid-song, I saw frontman Wendy Stonehenge light his hand on fire!

8. PIGS: This three-piece plays metal for people who love metal. Ripping it up soon in a scummy warehouse near you.

9. Knifey Spoony: Oakland punk rockers with impressive live show and unexpectedly melodic hooks. Singer-guitarist Steve Oriolo studied music in college but uses his powers for good (rock), not evil (anything that doesn’t rock).

10. Sweet Nothing: I’m a sucker for two-piece bands and girl drummers, and Ian and Melissa always rock my face off.





1. Los Rakas, Chancletas Y Camisetas (Soy Raka Inc.) 2. Am and Shawn Lee, Celestial Electric (ESL Records) 3. People Under The Stairs, Highlighter (Piecelock 70 ) 4. Toddla T, Watch Me Dance (Ninja Tune) 5. Boris, New Album (Sargent House) 6. Kendrick Lamar, Section.80 (Top Dawg Entertainment/Section 80) 7. Youth Lagoon, The Year of Hibernation (Fat Possum) 8. Little Dragon, Ritual Union (Peacefrog Holdings Ltd) 9. Jay Rock, Follow Me Home (Strange Music) 10. Vybz Kartel, Colouring Book EP (Tad’s Records)





1. Adderall: Not just because Bay-local comeup, Kreayshawn, spits bout slangin’ em (“gnarly, radical, on the block I’m magical… see me at your college campus baggie full of Adderalls”) or even because of Kendrick Lamar’s thoughtfully spaced out track “A.D.H.D.” but mostly because of its association with hyperactive, creative, and willfully scattered children. Odd Future blew up, Tyler the Creator dropped Goblin, A$AP Rocky put out one of the strongest releases of the year with LIVELOVEA$AP. All kinds of kids were spittin’ up mixtapes right outta high school and then signing multimillion dollar contracts.

2. DMT: Dimethyltryptamine is some fucked up shit, and I mean that in the most complementary way possible. A small glimpse behind the fabric of reality. There were a few releases this year that resemble and reflect this completely alien and confusing greater truth. Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica, James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual, and Laurel Halo’s flawless EP, Hour Logic (Hippos In Tanks).

3. Nitrous Oxide: whippets are back and that shit makes everything sound like you’re living in a vacuum cleaner. As much as I despise the hyperwobbly, fist pumpin’ sounds of brosteppers like Rusko, and (cringe) Skrillex, I can’t deny that that shit is selling cars; dubstep car commercials. Also, to be fair, real dubstep and what is often called post-dubstep is some amazing music and some of its less commercially viable/more critically acclaimed artists have put out some beautiful work. Zomby dropped Dedication this year on 4AD and that shit is sick. James Blake’s debut album is also impossibly good.

4. Pills: maybe it’s just the kids I roll with, but I assume that most sensitive, well thought, independent rock is made by people on pills (think old Brian Jonestown Massacre or Jesus and Mary Chain). The second I heard that track “Vomit” off of friends and local heroes Girls new album Father, Son, Holy Ghost, I had to raid my own medicine cabinet, take a couple Vicodin, and listen to a stack of records including that, Tamaryn, King Dude, Chelsea Wolfe, and Zola Jesus.’Bout as close to heaven as a guy like me can get.

5. Coke: coke always has and always will rule the dancefloor. It goes further than that though; coke rap is alive and well. Trap rap (rap about drug dealing) in general is continuing to run shit. And when you got Lex Luger droppin’ some of the illest beats around for songs that are 90 percent chorus, how can you go wrong? This is a very serious statement — the Ferrari Boyz (Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame) mixtape that came out about a week before that overhyped, tired, abomination that is Watch the Throne, has some of the best tracks this year.

6. K: club drugs in general are back, and nothing says party like as strong debilitating dissociative. I mentioned this album earlier when I was talking about DMT, but it’s good and weird enough that it needs to be mentioned twice. James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual.

7. Acid: my favorite substance. LSD is an extended barrage of overwhelming sensory input, particularly sight and sound, and should therefor be discussed in those terms. Sight: this year has been all about projections, lasers, and smoke — there are a lot of amazing producers playing live right now, and a dude with a laptop ain’t a show, so it’s important to add some flare. Sound: from mixtapes like White Ring’s tranced out Chaind and Nike7up’s crazy melted-pop gem 33:33 to Araabmuzik’s breathtakingly unfuckwithable album Electronic Dream, this has been the strongest showing dosed out music has had since the mid ’90s.

8. MDMA: like I was saying earlier, club drugs are huge right now. Best part about the ecstasy thing though is that we’re not talking pressies here, just pure crystalized love. You can hear it in the work of groups like Sleep 8 Over and (of course) Pure X. But I think it’s most evidenced by song’s like The Weeknd’s “High for This” and on Pictureplane’s brilliantly positive album Thee Physical (Lovepump United).

9. Weed: not that weed ever goes away, but it’s had a really strong year. Seems like everybody’s smoking blunts and flipping pounds these days. Wiz Khalifa, A$AP, Lil B, Lil Wayne, Miley fucking Cyrus. and of course Zip and a Double Cup himself, Juicy J., which brings us to our big winner…

10. Promethazine: Lean, purple drank, double cup, sizzurp — codeine cough syrup has a lot of names, and it’s been an important factor in rap, particularly Southern rap, for a very long time. But that influence is spreading. Bands like Salem have created whole new subgenres of music built off applying the late great DJ Screw’s production sensibilities as liberally as possible. New York Rappers like A$AP Rocky are singing the praises of Screw and Pimp C while repping Harlem and putting New York back on the map. I think 2012 is gonna be all about double cup dinner parties and art walks. Do yourself a favor, call your doctor and fake a cough, pop in Clams Casino’s Instrumental mixtape and/or LIVELOVEA$AP and chill for a bit.