Of the couple dozen Next Level pieces written by us at Dirtbag Journalism this year, 10 of the featured bands really lived up to and even surpassed our expectations. Here’s who made the cut and why you should still care going into the next year.
10. Sleigh Bells
Noise-pop has gone a bit mainstream this year, thanks in part to the hustling of this Brooklyn-based duo who played the Coachella, Pitchfork, and Primavera festivals. Okay, so those festivals aren’t technically considered mainstream, as popular as they are. However, MuchMusic is. And since the already understood to be pretty vocalist Alexis Krauss sexed up her image in the “Infinity Guitars” music video with an unbuttoned Catholic schoolgirl uniform, RayBans, and baseball bat, the video has been on constant rotation on the Canadian music television station for the past month. And who’d want to lose that kind of momentum?
9. Broken Bells
Although the combo of Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins could just be a one-off, there’s something still really exciting about these guys making music together. Not only was “The High Road” a really neat tune, but they outdid themselves with their video vixen for “The Ghost Inside” (as if you need to be reminded that it was Christina Hendricks), and then followed that up with an interactive 3-D music video for “October.” Despite having other big priority projects, Broken Bells definitely isn’t some musical one-night stand; what Danger Mouse and Mercer have might just be the real thing.
8. Pantha du Prince
Crossing over from minimal techno to indie rock successfully is one thing, but knowing how to do it by tastefully selecting a few established friends (Panda Bear, LCD Soundsystem) to be a part of his album, Black Noise, is certainly another. Pantha du Prince’s Hendrik Weber has also well-capitalized on switching to Rough Trade Records, who not only released Black Noise in February, but also put the album opener, “Lay in a Shimmer,” on vinyl in November. Because he only did a handful of solo dates before touring with Blonde Redhead, we can only hope that a full-out solo North American tour is next.
7. The Drums
Somewhere between an EP, a full-length, and a quitting guitarist, The Drums made the move from Florida to Brooklyn. So, it’s fitting that their song, “Down by the Water” is played as Gossip Girl’s Brooklyn boy, Dan Humphrey, stares longingly at Serena from a distance as he ponders a future with her—only to find that she still has feelings for her former professor. Looks like Lonely Boy “felt stupid,” but The Drums sure don’t.
6. Nicki Minaj
Okay, so her debut album Pink Friday may not be all that (at least, not in comparison to when she livens up other peoples’ songs). Trey Songz’ “Bottoms Up,” Kanye’s “Monster,” and Sean Kingston’s “Dutty Love” feature a ferocious Minaj, whereas her debut album is more pop than pop a cap in every rapper’s ego. These thoughts aside, if you watch her MTV documentary, “Nicki Minaj: My Time Now,” it’s pretty clear she is a star. We’ll be looking forward to her future work for sure.
5. Les Sins
Chaz Bundick proves his versatility with his disco-house outfit, Les Sins, which made its debut in November. Since Bundick released a 12’’ this year, it’s pretty likely that a Les Sins EP or album is happening next year. Along with chillwave, Bundick also seems to be pretty integral to another movement as well: cry-dancing.
4. Toro y Moi
“When can we get together again? Never mind. I lost you.”
-Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick making my entire year super sappy with
his song “Talamak” from his debut album, Causers of This; all the while heralding in the chillwave era and championing it well into 2011 with his sophomore release, Underneath the Pine in February.
3. James Blake
How do you know when you’ve made it? Is it when Pitchfork salivates every time you release an MP3? Is it when the sultry member of The xx, Oliver Sim, tells everyone that you “[have] an amazing voice”? Or is it when you get cuter looking with every passing press photo you take? Well, all of these things did happen for James Blake, but in addition, we know he’s really made it because this month he got a shout-out from celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton. Now that Blake is on everyone’s radar, it’s only a matter of time until he makes a cameo on the latest installment in the Kardashian saga, “Kourtney & Kim Take New York.”
2. Gauntlet Hair
Is Gauntlet Hair in the #2 spot because upon reading their Next Level piece, Craig Nice of the Colorado duo gave Dirtbag the best feedback ever (“I read the ‘snorting lines with underage princesses in the White House’ and was like ‘What the fuck does that mean?!’ But it began to make sense to me before reading the next line.”)? Well, that didn’t hurt. But aside from producing good music—as everyone on this list does—we love another quality about them: they know how to keep promises. When Dirtbag first reported on them in August—well after their initial April hype—the band said a full-length album was in the works. And it really must be on its way because they recently released a 7’’ on Mexican Summer with new tracks “Out, Don’t…” and “Heave” as some kind of awesome teaser.
1. Professor Green
Scars with cred, friendship with Lily Allen, and a twitter feud with Ryan Jarman of The Cribs. Aside from dominating the British rap scene this year, those are the other things Professor Green has been flaunting in 2010. And the best part? Mr. Grimetastic himself has another album slated for 2011. Oh, and one of his tweets to Ryan Jarman back in October is pretty great too: Ryan Jarman, there’s a legend in your band. It’s not you.
Posted by : Melissa Kim