Dick Wolf’s Top Releases:
JEFF’S TOP 5 RECORDS OF 2011
1) Battles – Gloss Drop
Seriously, I can’t do this record justice in a short paragraph. Insanely great songs with virtuoso performances and innovative playing that never gets showoffy; the record pushes right up against the line of accessibility and dancability without sacrificing either. Ian Williams is a guitar god. “Ice Cream” is one of the sexiest songs I’ve ever heard. And to top it off – dudes, Gary Numan.
2) St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
I wasn’t a big Annie Clark fan until the first time I heard Strange Mercy. Talking Heads-esque, anxious guitar riffs! The nastiest fuzz tones! Beautiful, complex, vocal melodies! And that super funky groove at the end of “Surgeon” with the ridiculous synth solo? YES. PLEASE. I’m not at all hesitant to say that this record and the Battles one inspired Dick Wolf! to start incorporating synths into our songs.
3) Beach Boys – Smile Sessions
This, possibly the most legendary “lost album” of all time, shows Brian Wilson teetering at the brink of his creative peak, from which he would soon fall very, very, very far. (See: Kokomo.) Glad to finally have an official release of some of the best weird, fragmented pop from a songwriting genius. I never thought I’d hear the subtleties of these tracks with such clarity.
4) Wye Oak – Civilian
They drop some of the slow moodiness of their previous releases and widen their range of textures to include everything from lushly orchestrated pop, to folky singalongs, to bare-bones facemelting rock. Love it. Andy and Jen are also killer live — the fact that two people put out such a massive sound and can retain much of the diversity of their record on stage is incredible to me.
5) Max Tannone – Ghostfunk
Afrobeat and 70s African funk / psychedelia samples paired with Ghostface Killah raps. This really needs no explanation as to why it’s rad, seeing as how I just said “Afrobeat” and “Ghostface” in the same sentence.
KEVIN’S TOP 5 RECORDS OF 2011
Battles– Gloss Drop
John Stanier really kills it on drums on this album. They did an incredible job after losing a member, and the guest vocalists are well suited, particular Gary Numan and Matias Aguayo. I think in particular we admired the depth of sound from a three piece and the variety of texture they brought. Not to mention the live set, which I had the benefit of seeing once at Pitchfork and once with Jeff at the Vic.
Top Tracks – My Machines w/Gary Numan & Ice Cream w/Matias Aguayo – I think everyone’s…
I don’t think any of us really followed her at all until now, but this record has too many hooks to be ignored. The guitar tones are insane, very slick songwriting, and straight sexy vocal delivery. As soon as that verse drops in Surgeon it’s on and then the synth solo later is just absurd. Also, Jeff and Annie Clark play the same guitar, so, he has a lame pickup line.
Top – Surgeon and Dilettante
Deerhoof vs. Evil
Not as consistent as Offend Maggie or Friend Opportunity, and it took me a while to really come around to it, but there are some really good songs and beautifully executed Deerhoof in here. Greg’s vocals work really well on The Merry Barracks and there is all the craziness and I would want on this album from Satomi. The guitars are noisy and clever and awesome as usual, and I think I got to catch them twice this year, once at the Polyvinyl 15th anniversary show. All of this on top of the fact that they leaked the entire album a track at at time to blogs all over the planet for the two months leading up to its release, which was brilliant, and the fact that my vinyl is MOONBEAM PINK makes it a top 5.
Top – The soundtrack to my imaginationary career as a secret agent, Let’s Dance The Jet, or Super Duper Rescue Heads.
You beat me to it on this one Jeff. It’s a much more fierce record than some of their previous releases, which is a change that I was glad to welcome after some relative sleepiness on The Knot. Not to mention they are having a banner fucking year, supporting tours all over the globe and a spot on Jimmy Fallon, and they got Merge to finally press some vinyl for them, I can only hope they keep it up.
Top – Holy Holy
Toro y Moi
A much more direct album than Causers of This, which I found to be pretty ignorable in a big sea of late-2000s whateverwave records. The tunes on Underneath the Pine, are cool, melancholic, dancey with some great hooks. The vocal delivery drags a bit sometimes, but overall I dug this album and the wider spectrum it delivered past this guys other records, caught a lot of spins getting ready to bike to the beach this summer. Side note – I love the album cover.
Top – New Beat and How I Know
I’m in love with Gloss Drop, the Battles album. I feel like the more I listen to it, the more each and every instrument’s sound shows itself…it’s hard to explain.
Best Shows & DW!’s 2012 Plans
Best DW! Show of 2011
Kevin: I think for me it was no particular show but the very awesome and eye-opening experience of touring for the first time. We rocked almost 20 out-of-chicago shows in the last year, Yurrr Haus, The Loft, and getting on the road has been awesome in general, and we’ve met some amazing people in awesome cities. Wishbook in MPLS, Legs Like Tree Trunks in Pittsburgh, the lovely Erin Case of Michigan, and others, can’t wait to hit the road next year.
Jeff: I’d say Yurr Haus in Milwaukee with Weye and Dowsing. We love playing house shows and DIY spaces, and we dig Weye and Dowsing as people and as musicians. Top that off with a receptive crowd, and you’ve got good times all around.
Eric: I can’t remember if the cap’N Jazz show I went to was this past summer or last year, but oh man! I’ll also say that the Deerhoof show at Bottom Lounge was one of the best I’ve seen all year because…holy shit it’s Deerhoof. Greg Saunier is easily one of my favorite, and most inspirational drummers.
Best show attended in 2011
Kevin: This was a long year of sweet shows, the Polyvinyl 15th Anniversary show with Joan of Arc, Xiu Xiu, Deerhoof, and Braid stands out, finally got to see CAVE, saw Battles twice including a packed Friday lineup with Das Rascist and Neko Case at Pitchfork Friday. Battles and Deerhoof are up there. Also the basement show with a the absolutely ridiculous band Weye.
Jeff: To be honest, I can’t decide. I’ve seen a lot of really rad shows this year; Battles, Lower Dens, Deerhoof, Maps & Atlases, Lightning Bolt, Thee Oh Sees, CAVE… Let’s just say it’s been a good year and leave it at that.
Eric: I agree with Kevin about playing with Weye at Yurr Haus. DIY venues are typically my favorite places to play in general because of the crowd’s eagerness and response.
DW!’s 2012 plans
First and foremost, a full-length. We’ve got probably 80 percent of our LP written, and we’re planning on having it finished by the spring, ready for a midwest to east coast tour in the summer. Dick Wolf! has been going through a instrumentation transformation lately, with Kevin picking up a baritone, and both he and Jeff starting to double on synths while Eric continues to hold it down on drums. I’m only half joking when we say our sound is turning into “Mathfrobeat.” We just finished up a new 3-song demo that we’re gonna send off to labels to see who wants to help us get our music out there; we’re really excited to hear what people have to say because we feel like it’s the strongest material we’ve written yet.