The Best of 2011, Gainesville-style

By Dan Fitzpatrick and others

If you’re like me, your friends’ opinions on music matter more than a generic thumbs-up review on Pitchfork, Spin, Rolling Stone, etc. With that in mind, we at LUD asked the people who make Gainesville music happen – your favorite musicians, bar owners, bartenders, DJs, and self-proclaimed know-it-all alkies like myself – to regale us with short stories and reviews about their favorite albums put out in 2011.

Most of us gushed too much to keep it to the word limit. Some people cheated the word limit however they could – myself included1 – but all in all, it was good clean-ish fun and no one lost an eye or their virginity or anything.

Without further B.S., here is our feature on the Best of 2011, Gainesville-style:

1 – With the help of footnotes.

Future Virgins
Western Problems
Plan-It-X-South / Starcleaner Records

When Dan sent out the call for these Best of ’11 reviews, I was immediately stoked that I would finally get the opportunity to publicly declare this album’s greatness. As I sat to write it out, there was a problem straightaway. I had somehow overlooked the suggested 50-100-word limit for this thing, and before I knew it, I had written nearly 1000* words about this record. Hopefully, that will give you, ye olde reader, some indication of how colossally important I feel this record is.

After releasing three fantastic 7-inch EP’s over the course of a couple of years (each one better that the previous), Chattanooga’s Future Virgins has put out the best record of 2011. Period. I won’t do them the injustice of comparing their sound to other bands for the sole purpose of helping someone who has never heard them to get some grasp on what they do. Any attempt at that on my part would be a complete miss, so I won’t try. Just know this: it’s some of the best contemporary, well written, sincere, beautiful punk rock I’ve heard in years. Lyrically, musically, conceptually…even the production is spot on. Western Problems is not simply one of the best records of the year, but one of the best of the last decade. There, see, I’m already at nearly 200 words. Buy this record. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. Find me, and I’ll sympathetically buy you a beer and change the subject.

* Matt has told me that all the things I wanted to say may find their way to a forthcoming “piece” about this record. In the meantime, go buy it.

Aaron Lay
LUD Staff Writer, Billy Reese Peters

Favorite Track: “No Echo”

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Prurient
Bermuda Drain
Hydra Head Records

I do love noise and Prurient (AKA Dominick Fernow) has done it brutally and viscerally (see Black Vase), but Bermuda Drain is so much more than just “noise.” It’s an album that defies genre and reflects an artist not afraid to challenge boundaries and limits. Expanding the piercing electronics and his extended pieces to include synth, drum machines and song structure, Pleasure Ground is why I love music; it is unexpected and challenging.

Adam Reinhard
Station Manager, WGOT 94.7 FM; DJ Black Kill Death on WGOT [Tuesdays, 12-2 AM, WGOT 94.7 FM]

Favorite Track: “Many Jewels Surround the Crown”

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Underground Railroad to Candyland
Knows Your Sins
Recess Records

The first time I heard Knows Your Sins I knew I had to plan some kind of summer road trip. It’s the kind of music you want to hear full-blast, windows down, heading to the beach. Its stoner-surf rock style is perfect for dancing, sing-a-longs, or even just chilling. From its seven deadly sins concept, where the vinyl comes in seven different colors each representing a sin, to their lyrics, and of course, their twangy sound, this is the most creative album I’ve come across in a while. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Ale Gasso
LUD Staff Writer

Favorite Track: “Jimmy V”

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St. Vincent
Strange Mercy
4AD

On her third album, Strange Mercy, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark shows she’s as adept as ever at navigating between the calm nostalgia of a cinematic soundscape and a total facemelter. Her silky head voice sparkles above swirling synths, then drops to a pained creak during the quiet opening of “Champagne Year.” The album finds Clark lamenting the inevitable passage of time and possible loss of self along the way. In the aforementioned track, she admits “I make a living telling people what they want to hear,” while in “Cheerleader” she expresses distaste for such sycophantic relationships. The album ends on a sobering note with “Year of the Tiger,” a commentary on the current financial crisis that leaves the listener chanting along with her, “oh America, can I owe you one?”

Becca Pieters
White Elephant Gift Exchange

Favorite Track: “Cruel”

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Post Teens
Post Teens EP
Sound Study Recordings

I hate to be repetitious since I have already gloated about this band like a father with his precious little toe-headed, urine and sour milk smelling newborn but the no-brainer pick for me is the Post Teens. While not exactly reinventing the wheel, their piss and vinegar approach has already grabbed Hogtowne by the horns. And although I for one am convinced it will be interesting to see how far they are willing to take it. Check out Replay’s awesome review on our site to get a more in depth analysis or better yet go see the Post Teens live and take the full force of songs like “Fucked Up Perception” on the chin.

Ben Pratt
LUD Staff Writer

Favorite Track: “Fucked Up Perception”

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Internet Archive

The album is an artifact, a relic for curious ethnographers to dig up. Listeners are somewhat akin to advocates of top hats or electric football. It’s a clumsy sea-cow that has been pulled apart by streamline sharks. And so my answer to this perennial question is The Internet Archive, home of public domain recordings, many from the turn of the 20th century. This was also a time for singles not albums, but they weren’t tempted to pretend otherwise because the technology wasn’t there. Al Jolson, Wilf Carter, Blind Willie Johnson: If they’re new to you, they’re new, period. And it’s free. But that’s not really important, ‘cause you groovers weren’t going to pay anyway, were you?

Brian Offenther
D.J. B.O, Ex-The Factor

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The Beach Boys
The SMiLE Sessions
Capitol Records

I’m a whore for beautiful harmonies, but the Beach Boys’ seraphic vocal cords are only one aspect of what sets them apart from this year’s other contenders1. In 1966 and 1967, despite being a self-admitted slave to drugs, the mercurial Brian Wilson was ambition personified, and these original sessions, even at ~85% completion, display a craftsmanship and a singular vision that trump anything in the Boys’ or Wilson’s solo catalogues – even BW’s 2004 solo rendition of SMiLE. Wilson’s arrangement of “Surf’s Up” – the Boys’ best song ever2 – alone is worth the price of admission. It’s the Great American Novel in song form, from America’s most American band3.

1 – That said, some of 2011’s Darlings of Blogosphere shouldn’t be allowed near a mic. Bon Iver sounds like the love child of the Simpsons’ “I Bring You Love” alien and a Muppet. The M83 guy can’t drown his vocals in enough effects to make his astringent vocals tolerable, and Oneohtrix Point Never apparently makes sounds, not music, thus

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disqualifying him. Post-music = post-good. Sorry.

2 – This is an argument you cannot win, so don’t try. It’s about “the children,” for Christ’s sake. The brilliant wordplay, Wilson’s ludicrously high/beautiful lead vocals, and ridiculously ornate and sweeping arrangements are unmatched.

3 – The Rolling Stones are the most American band ever. They just happened to be British.

Dan Fitzpatrick
LUD Staff Writer, Ex-Oh Sanders, Ex-The Factor

Favorite Track: “Surf’s Up”

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Cutman
Universal Laws
Underground Communiqué Records

If you are reading Lead Us Down, I’ll bet you are familiar with some aspect of Cutman, the rock band from Gainesville, Florida. Odds are you went to Common Grounds where they all worked in some capacity. On the off chance you have never made it to Gainesville, I’m pretty sure you have a shirt in your closet printed by Aesthetic Print & Design. It’s the black one, with a band name on it. Guitarist Jonathan Hamilton prints shirts, and plays angular, staccato guitar chops that work great with Jason Rockhill’s coach-like growl, lecturing, and actual singing. James Hernandez’s bass playing locks in well with Ryan McGrath’s drums. Even the guitars lock in with the drums. It’s a real treat watching these guys make music.

Why my favorite album of 2011? Clarity of ideas. No ambiguity in the lyrics. Music is clear and developed, thought out, aggressive. There are kick-ass metal-neck guitar parts. There are occasional soaring parts. Universal Laws is the perfect soundtrack to watch the sun set over an ocean, viewed from the deck of a battleship. The songs have a plan. The album has a plan. Lots of atheism-without-nihilism in the lyrics that lead the listener to build a constructive community, not a church. Cutman weaves anti-spirituality and machinery. They stay positive. This record isn’t a blended smoothie you take to help your hangover. It’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you pack for lunch.

Dave Drobach
Replay Dave of Replay Radio [Saturdays, 6-7pm, WGOT 94.7 FM], Grabass Charlestons

Favorite Track: “Nostalgic”

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The Head and the Heart
The Head and the Heart
Sub Pop Records

I picked up this LP at Hear Again on a lark. The cover was certainly intriguing and this limited edition vinyl copy seemed to be popular with the clientele on Record Store Day. I was hooked immediately after putting the needle onto the first track. “Cats and Dogs” sets the record onto a folk rock tour de force with co-vocalists Jon Russell and Josiah Johnson trading off lead duties while vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Charity Thielen serves as the band’s wild card and secret weapon. The potpourri of harmonies and jangly instrumentation recalls a sound from the Appalachians rather than the Cascades. By the time I caught an early set of theirs at Bonnaroo, they were on tour opening for Iron and Wine. That must have proved a hard act to follow for Sam Beam and company most nights.

Fred Sowder
Music Director and host of Stripped [Mondays, 9-10pm, WGOT 94.7 FM]

Favorite Track: “Lost in My Mind”

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Post Teens
Post Teens EP
Sound Study Recordings

Post Teens are a scruffy ensemble of big freakin’ nerds and all around smelly guys. And on top of that, they’ve put out one of the most honest and best punk 7”s that I’ve enjoyed in years, let alone one exclusively from Gainesville, Florida. They’re fast, catchy, and you know when you hear them, it just sounds right.

Live, Post Teens are what I hoped OFF! – Keith Morris’s new hardcore outfit from Circle Jerks and Black Flag fame – would be when I caught their show a few months ago. Post Teens opened and unsurprisingly Keith Morris dug their set. Although OFF! played hard, I would only hope Morris wishes his band possessed the same grit and fun of Post Teens, something that is missing from most current bands, new and old.

Whatever the case may be, the Post Teens 7” reminds me of why I still listen to heavy punk music that’s pissed off and engaging though not annoying. If only everyone else could follow suit.

Gene Averkiou
DJ Gene, Thursday night DJ at the Top

Favorite Track: “Fucked Up Perception”

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R.E.M.
Life’s Rich Pageant
I.R.S. Records

I’ve always been fascinated by that growing demographic of curmudgeons who think music hasn’t been good since 1987. You know the type…they’re usually old, prone to inventive hairstyles (i.e., ponytails), and/or your dad. For the record, I am not one of these people (at least not yet). With that being said, my favorite album of 2011 reeks of hypocrisy because it’s a reissue of the 1986 R.E.M. album Life’s Rich Pageant. It’s not that 2011 was a bad year for music; it’s just that I rediscovered this album through the reissue and annoyed my coworkers by playing it incessantly until they started calling it a staple of “Jack Radio.” Ungrateful bastards. With songs like “Life and How to Live It,” “Swan Swan H,” and “Cuyahoga,” it’s the R.E.M. album I always come back to and what I’ve come to consider (probably incorrectly) an example of what every college radio station sounded like in the ’80s.

Jack Deyoung
Senior Vice President of Label Relations, Grooveshark.com

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Big Kitty
Florence
Recess Records

I was lucky enough to become familiar with Big Kitty in a live setting with no expectations on a chaotic night in Athens, Georgia. They were charming, hypnotic and a bit odd. They came from Chattanooga, Tennessee and were effusively polite both on stage and off. Listening to Florence for the first time I was pleased to find that the record captured the personality of the live show (and the members themselves) thoroughly. The songs range from lazy (like a hammock) to hyper (too much coffee) to worldy (as in vague notion of worldliness). I might be biased in thinking it feels like an autumn record (when I began listening to it), I imagine it plays nicely in any season.

Jeff McMullen
Holopaw, Co-owner of Palomino Pool Hall

Favorite Track: “Decades of Trouble”

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Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands
Vulture Funk 7″
Perpetrator Records

Imagine a local band having a fan club halfway around the world. Perpetrator Records from New Zealand is exactly that. They released this powerful 7″ single by Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands.

Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands are so powerful on stage for two people to put out that much power and sonic destruction. Waylon and his wife are locals, residing in the area around Gainesville. They play Florida swamp, rockabilly-influenced rock. Parts Flat Duo Jets, The Cramps, Merle Haggard and Collard Greens. His music is varied and available for free download on WTHH’s Bandcamp page. This year alone has been prolific, releasing multiple ep’s.

Joe Wolf
DJ, Florida Rules [Mondays, 9-11 AM, Grow Radio]

Favorite Track: “Machete Party”

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The Beach Boys
The SMiLE Sessions
Capitol Records

My favorite album released this year was actually recorded in 1967. In 2011 The Beach Boys officially released the tapes from what is arguably the most anticipated and talked about record of all time, SMiLE. Officially titled The SMiLE Sessions, the release features the original recordings from the late ‘60s in the format originally intended by its creators, Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks. The album is filled with the lush harmonies and instrumentation that made The Beach Boy famous. It also showcases Brian at his most innovative, his creativity at times bordering on craziness. You can hear Paul McCartney eat a carrot in “Vegetables” and Brian make sheep noises in “Barnyard.” The album is as beautiful as it is weird. It’s their masterpiece – it’s Pet Sounds on even more drugs. Listen to “Surfs Up” and understand why no one will ever be better than Brian Wilson.

Matthew Finch
Sound Study Recordings

Favorite Track: “Surf’s Up”

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The Lunars
Return Of The 17,000 Year Locust
Self-released

Call me selfish, I call you ignorant. The effort we put into this record surprises me with every listen, and I can’t believe I was part of it! Our shows are not supported by most of the Gainesville scene. On one hand, that bums me out, but on the other, I can’t help but feel a proud “Fuck You” to the elitists who care more about the Party than the Music. But if you get the right friends, you just might get a chance at playing with the touring bands and being heard by the cool people. Then you get a big record deal and you get the fuck away from Gainesville. Better off just sticking to house parties.

Matt Lunar
The Lunars, Gainesville Legend

Favorite Track – “I Hope You Cry”

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Low Threat Profile
Low Threat Profile
Draw Blank Records/Deep Six Records

One of the things that I love about punk music is the mythology that surrounds it. There are always stories and rumors about legendary demos and shows and whatnot, especially about ones that you can’t get ahold of, like Big Foot or the Fugazi-Steve Albini sessions. Low Threat Profile had been one of those stories for extreme/grind/powerviolence fans. Featuring Matt Domino, the guitar player and mastermind of Infest and Neanderthal, and Andy Beattie of No Comment, LTP lay down the closest thing to those bands since they stopped putting stuff out in the early ‘90s. This LP, which came out last January and was predated by a 7″ from the same sessions in 2010, delivers the goods in a way that only the progenitors can do it. Short, crisp, fast, tight and to the point. That’s what LTP sounds like. Having your ears slaughtered never sounded so good.

Matt Sweeting
LUD Staff Writer, Assholeparade, Tubers, Co-Founder of Wayward Council, Ex-about a dozen good bands

Favorites: “Flesh Blood Bone”

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Cutman
Universal Laws
Underground Communiqué Records

Heavy, driving, smart, intricate and to the point, this was my favorite album of 2011. While the music threatens to batter you into a pulp, Jason Rockhill’s lyrics make you want to hold off the beatdown to hear what he has to say. This is their debut full-length and they nailed it. The recording quality is awesome too, with guitar and bass tones that are as integral to the songs as the chord structures. Earlier this month their album was featured in the AVClub.com’s Loud column – it’s cool to see them getting some attention outside of Gainesville.

Matt Walker
LUD Founder and Editor

Favorite Track: “From the Neck Up”

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Frank Turner
England Keep My Bones
Epitaph Records

Doc (Stanley) turned me on to Frank Turner and I could never have thanked him more for this.

“Who would have thought / that after all / something as simple as rock and roll / will save us all.” (Quote from “I Believe.”)

Singer/songwriter Frank Tuner should be given a Grammy for the collection of songs on England Keep my Bones. From start to finish, this CD is full of sing-along good time songs. Highlights include: “I Still Believe,” ” Peggy Sang The Blues” and “One Foot Before The Other.” The deluxe version comes with six extra songs, three bonus tracks, and three acoustic versions of “I Still Believe,” “Peggy Sang The Blues” and “I Am Disappeared.”

TWO THUMBS UP!!!

Moe Rodriguez
Co-owner, Double Down Live

Favorite track: “I Still Believe”

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Andy Zipf
Jealous Hands
Hopeless Records

There have been so many great releases this year: St. Vincent, Radiohead, Wilco, etc. In the midst of all these huge artists, there are thousands of “tiny” releases every year by artists who put just as much heart, soul and work into their craft. My pick of the year is Andy Zipf’s record Jealous Hands. I’ve played and traveled a bit with this guy and have gotten to see his dedication to be raw and honest in his music, while maintaining a polished beautiful sound.

Ricky Kendall
Ex-Paxico Via Mexico

Favorite Track: “Ain’t the Kind For Giving Up”

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Laura Marling
A Creature I Don’t Know
Ribbon Music

Laura Marling’s third album, A Creature I Don’t Know, shows remarkable growth for the young songwriter. More abstract lyrically, the album’s stories center around two main characters: Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, and the Beast. The interplay between these characters evokes the classic “good versus evil” conflict, displaying the duality of human emotion and the desire to be good while sometimes being tempted towards the opposite. A Creature I Don’t Know confirms Marling’s musical growth, as she explores alternate tunings and includes electric guitar more aggressively than ever before (most prominently on “The Beast,” where it takes on the role of said character). Marling’s voice is in top form, stretching both higher and lower than on previous recordings to display a depth of emotion well beyond her years.

Tina Feh
White Elephant Gift Exchange

Favorite Track: “Sophia”

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