Guards is the side project of Willowz frontman, Richie James Follin. I felt compelled to share it with you as it has been blowing up my headphones and I expect a big year from this project in 2012. You can dig on the free 7 song EP that also features 2011 breakout band Cults on the track “Sail it Slow.” Buzz band blood lines give this project instant credibility as Follin is the brother of Cults lead singer Madelline, and occasionally moonlights on guitar for the band. Sometimes it just runs in the family. The first week in December, Guards released a 7″ entitled Do it Again. If you like The War on Drugs’ Slave Ambient from earlier this year, then you will like Guards.
Watch “I See it Coming” below:
Written by Brett McGrath
10. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years
The title of this album suggests that there is glimmering feeling transmitted when you push play. After opening track “The Great Pan is Dead” entered my brain for the first time, I quickly realized that the light years were being cherished because they did not exist. This album is for a dimly lit room with plenty of space to get up and bang out. The quest for one shining moment is the message that I am left with every time I listen to this record. This record leaves me empty in a good way. I feel like I am stuck in the mines of Chile, face full of dust, yearning for salvation. The fact that I enjoy this dark musical dungeon is reason alone why Cherish the Light Years makes this list. As I look around my apartment I find a handful of light builds that need to be replaced. I think it can wait.
9. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
This album is a void filler. We all understand what it feels like to be the rebound, but albums like this make it feel comfortable. Lines like “I will hold you tight enough to crush your veins” in opening track “Two Lovers” sends a gripping message to me. This album is about loss and The Rural Alberta Advantage brilliantly makes me ok with the topic. Losing anything in life can be a personal challenge, but songs like “Tornado 87” make it relatable. There are few records that should be used as medicine or a coping mechanism and Departing certainly is my remedy for any thrashing defeat. Although the scars of defeat remain, Departing gives us a direction to head in order to mend.
8. The Bonesetters – SAVAGES!
It is absolute honor to put a local album on my list. The Bonesetters deserve this one. Rob’s review was laid out so brilliantly that I can’t possible think of anything more to say about it. I am so excited to be in the space for this band’s escalation. The ceiling is high for the Bonesetters, and believe me, we will let you know about their every move. They have earned it with this initial gift to Indianapolis.
7. The Drums – Portamento
The proud sophomore effort that sings like a plea but is as confident as the class president. I feel like I am walking the halls of my high school, but the era is the 80s. This album is the answer to all of The Smiths requests from years back. Lines like “The people look at me with a little sympathy” make me think that The Drums were the underappreciated youth of their respective schooling systems. A subtle popularity to own and I am glad Portamento drives this under the radar status symbol in the proper direction.
6. Cults – Cults
A book of snippets laid out more like a photo album than a record. I see before I hear when I visualize this record. This drastic switch in my experience flips the script while changing my outlook on music. “Go Outside” was the first song I heard from this record and it has paved the road and painted the lines into my 2012. The writing is on the wall in lyrics, “You really want to hole up, you really want to stay inside and sleep the light away.” A relatable situation where Cults step in a presents me with a challenge. Why not yonder outdoors, I will turn the page because there are plenty of pretty pictures.
5. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
The guys from Girls write about relationships. Their debut Album and EP Broken Dream Club taught me this. These two first releases was the coaching that allowed me to truly appreciate what Girls was all about. After listening to Father, Son, Holy Ghost for the past few months I feel like I finally understand Girls enough to pass their test. These guys rarely have the answer to their own female problems, but they use music as an elixir. Song, ‘Die’ yells “No, nothing’s gonna be alright, no we’re all gonna get fucked up tonight, no, nothing’s gonna be okay, no it’s all going down the drain tonight”. Certainly, the remedy to any post relationship blues.
4. Yuck – Yuck
It feels like this album has been with me the longer than any release of the year. It feels like an old pair of ripped jeans that I just can’t part with. While some doubt the authenticity of Yuck because of their homage to a collection of indie rock forefathers, I continue to feel genuine comfort with each successive spin. Describing each of their songs might take so long that it puts another hole in my Wranglers. As the winter continues, Yuck will inevitably provide me warmth. Even as the oncoming snow storms enter the air, Yuck sews a patch on my jeans as the ball drops on 2011.
3. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Smith Westerns grew up a lot with Dye It Blond. Although, these guys are not of legal drinking age I feel like they are so musically mature that they deserve a free pass in any bar in America. Dye It Blond is like a fake ID. It not only makes the band look older than they may appear, but also serves as evidence that they belong in the same scene as the older kids. The guitars on “Still New’”are perfectly placed and layered. The lyrics of “Imagine Pt. 3” are the work of an old savvy songwriter. The tips that they convey on “End of the Night” can be used by any man, of any age, regardless of circumstance. Straight to the point “Oh, it’s the end of the night, it’s the end of the night, are you going to go home?” I wish I had this kind of courage. I guess I will listen to Dye It Blonde a couple more times for inspiration.
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
It is rare that I describe an album as beautiful, but this is one of those times. It does not feel right to listen to this record on anything, but vinyl. It was made for the time. I feel cold as I listen to every single lyric of Justin Vernon. Bon Iver released this masterpiece in June, but it is peaking now because it embeds itself in the blistering winter months on the horizon. The tip of the icicle has yet to be formed for this record for me. The point is that this album has withstood a half a year and traveled through many different locations on my musical map. Minnesota, WI, Hinnom, TX, and Lisbon, OH to name a few. Authentic or not these are all places we have all traveled. This record is just a means to bring us all back these spaces at the same time. I feel like I am riding in a sled and Bon Iver is the driver. Who knows where we are heading next? I have my coat and mittens. Thrilled to me along for the ride.
1. Real Estate – Days
Real Estate Days is me. It is everything I look for in a record and more. The melodic guitars carry me from beginning to the end. It is Alpha and the Omega and I’m stuck in between. They build a comfortable space for me each and every time I reach for a listen. Tracks like “Green Aisles” challenge me not only to explore myself but my surroundings. Lyrics “All those wasted miles, all those aimless drives through the green aisles, our careless lifestyle, it was not so unwise, no” provide validity to my own personal cause. This album teaches me that it is completely acceptable to mess up, because it will point me in another direction. Days is a seasonal inspiration to me. Days is my lotion in the sunlight and winter jacket in the snow. It is the perfect protector. It is the compass that directs my next move. This album teaches me to tighten my strings, even if my first attempt is a bit out of tune.
Written by Brett McGrath
10. Craft Spells – “After the Moment“
Catchy. Pop. Music. It’s a song that truly understands and encompasses that perfect night with someone else. We’ve all been there, and we all can listen to this jam and remember the past moments, live the present ones, and hope for more to come.
9. Twin Sister – “Bad Street“
A song with some serious vibe and sex appeal. Not to mention a funky beat. “Feel it with you, in you feel it. Feel it with you, feel it in you. I want it bad!” Really, enough said, this song brings some funk, pop, and a great voice all together perfectly.
8. Smith Westerns – “All Die Young”
Probably cliché to say, but when I hear this song I get some serious Beatles vibe going on. From the wailing guitar to the boisterous chorus, it’s a big project from a young band. And they pull it off.
7. The Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love“
My initial favorite off this album was “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out”, but as the year went on, this song stuck out more and more. The falsetto vocals bring so much feeling, and heartbreak, that for me, this song hits me right where it counts. Add in the haunting wail at the end, and this fits in right behind” Two” as my second favorite Antlers song.
6. Cults – “You Know What I Mean“
Two people. A girl singing like it’s 1965. A guy playing guitar. And perhaps the best chorus of 2011. Feel that drum beat and say it, “Cause I am afraid of the light, yeah you know what I mean.”
5. Bon Iver – “Beth / Rest“
Simply put, this song makes me want to cry. It reminds me of listening to 1980’s songs on the radio on Sunday nights courtesy of my Mom while growing up. From the lyrics, to the guitar solo, it’s my favorite track off Bon Iver’s self -titled masterpiece.
4. Friends – “Friend Crush”
A newcomer to the scene in 2011, this song struck me the first time I heard it. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I don’t think I ever want to. It says everything about wanting to feel connected to someone else.
3. Real Estate – “Out of Tune”
I know this song was released in 2010. I don’t care, because I didn’t hear it then. It’s my favorite song off an unbelievable album. An album about getting lost in life in the suburbs, this song is its anthem.
2. Holy Ghost – “Jam for Jerry“
This is an ironic song for me. While it’s a tribute to their late drummer Jerry Fuchs, it’s the song of 2011 that brings me the most happiness whenever I hear it. As soon as those first words come out, “You set the tempo, set the pace”, a smile hits my face and life is good again.
1. M83 – “Midnight City“
Well Anthony, the city is indeed my church. And this is the song of the year. Why? Well, you only need to listen to it to understand:
Written by Greg Dahman