9 Bands: We Should Have Put on Our 2011 Year-End Lists

The first few months of 2012 were spent still getting exposed to all kinds of music from 2011. As the human beings that we are, we missed some releases as they came out and subsequently did not put them on our year-end lists for singles, EPs or LPs. Over the last few months, we’ve kept a tally of our favorites from last year that we missed at the time. On this holiday weekend, we figured it would be good to finally put 2011 to bed once and for all (assuming we don’t discover something else awesome we missed). Below, in descending order of awesomeness are our nine favorite late-comers from 2011.

9. Carolyn Wonderland: What Good Can Drinkin Do

Wonderland’s 2011 album Peace Meal was uneven at places, but remained a fairly good encapsulation of what has brought this triple-threat to prominence in Austin in the last several years. It probably still wouldn’t have made our top albums list, but the opening track most certainly would have been on our best songs list. This searing cover of a little-known Janis Joplin song unleashes the raw power in Wonderland’s voice (particularly from the 3:04 mark on), and matches it with her guitar prowess. In a town well-known for its blues musicians (both good and bad), Wonderland stands out as a leader in the genre.

Carolyn Wonderland - 'What Good Can Drinkin Do'

8. T-Bird and the Breaks: Never Get Out of this Funk Alive

Proponents of the idiosyncratic “chunk music” – a combination of soul, funk and hip-hop (which, thankfully, is light on the hip-hop, since that could be all kinds of terrible) – T-Bird and the Breaks released this album full of deep grooves and irresistible rhythms last summer. Over its 50 minutes and 16 tracks, Never Get Out lives up to its name and shows why T-Bird remains one of the top concert experiences in town. A perfect summer soundtrack, be sure to have this on hand for your next barbecue.

T-Bird and the Breaks - 'Clap Hands Song'

7. Black Pistol Fire: Black Pistol Fire

The debut album from this rockin’ duo offers up a mix of Southern-fried classic rock that is like a mix between early Kings of Leon and the Black Keys, filtered through the Texan stylings of our very own Bright Light Social Hour. “Jezebel Stomp” takes you straight to a dusty Texas roadhouse, while “You’re Not the Only One” runs circles around you in the verses before settling into a churning classic rock chorus. Kevin McKeown’s guitar work drives the whole project (see “Silent Blue”) while Eric Owens provides the massive drums necessary to beef up the sound (see “Cold Sun”). These rising stars of the rock scene couldn’t have put a more enticing debut that any rock fan should own.

Black Pistol Fire - 'Silent Blue'

6. Hello Wheels: Baby John the Fox

The Austin Chronicle recently declared that Austin is in the midst of a thriving roots-rock/bluegrass revival and with incredible artists like Whiskey Shivers, Crooks and the Wheeler Brothers, among many, many others, it’s hard to disagree. Add Hello Wheels to the list. On this EP, and the separately released free single “Summer’s in the Sun,” they carved out a distinctive sound that embraces the best that roots rock has to offer. Just check out the tight harmonies on the bouncy “A Woman is a Well” or the brooding “Matches and Wood.” Though not everything on the album connects (“Summer Song” never catches up to its misleading title), it’s a solid disc with some real standout moments.

Hello Wheels - 'Summer's in the Sun'

5. Politics: Cities

Politics’ debut EP comes on like the xx and goes out like Interpol. In between, they explore the sensual, the epic, and yes, the political. Their layered guitar work keeps the songs soaring while the drums provide steady, often danceable, beats. In and amongst all of this, singer Patrick Gonzalez’s voice glides ethereally straight into your heart. This is 21st century indie rock of the highest order, and it has rightly garnered Politics important fans in Austin’s rock community. Expect big things from this possible breakout band.

Politics - 'On Our Way'

4. Orthy: Suenos

It’s understandable that we missed this gem when Ian Orth quietly released it last October on Bandcamp. Originally recorded on his own, he didn’t play live in support of it with his four-piece unit until early 2012. While the live show is great, the three tracks on this debut EP are celestial dance-pop at its finest. Orthy lets each track breathe and grow at its own pace, and you can relax and chill out to it just as easily as you can dance to it. The hypnotic effect recalls a synthier War on Drugs, perhaps. With plans for more releases later this year, Orthy is primed for a breakthrough.

Orthy - 'Don't Believe'

3. Boy + Kite: Go Fly

We even covered this album last year and somehow skipped right over it when list-making time came around. Part of the 90s-inspired revival that has seen artists like Ringo Deathstarr and Ume rise to prominence here in Austin, Boy + Kite offer a mellower alternative. With male-female vocal interplay reminiscent of Yo La Tengo, Boy + Kite keep their singing soft, like you’re stumbling across a private conversation. Meanwhile, the guitars weave melodic lines one note at a time like a more straightforward Pavement. And through it all, Beth Puorro and Darvin Jones stay grounded in some of the best rock-oriented hooks Austin heard last year.

Boy + Kite - Think in Stereo

2. Parking: The Crown Fits

As we point out every time we write about hip-hop, it is often the forgotten genre here in Austin. And yet, the city’s hip-hop heads keep putting out quality material. Nothing from 2011, however, is as immediately stunning as the debut from Parking. The team of MC Ibrahim and beatmaster Nicky Luna is perfectly matched, as Luna lays down some monstrous music under Ibrahim twisting, turning, mesmerizing flow. Opener “The Grind” begins as a Neptunes-type of track, but Ibrahim runs rings around the beat that Pharrell never could. By the time they get to tracks like “A-City Limits” (which might should be Austin’s anthem) and “GumScraper” (whose remix featuring the Shears is the best track Parking has), the duo is firing on all cylinders with a barely containable energy. This is the best hip-hop in the ATX right now (let’s see what Zeale has on tap for us later this summer).

Parking - 'GumScraper (The Shears Remix)'

1. Hundred Visions: Last Cab From Tunis

What can we say? We screwed this one up big time last year. As good an EP as any we’ve heard, Tunis presents a dance-rock band (think the Rapture playing at CBGB’s in the late 1970s, or !!! with a bit more focus) ready to take over the world. Hundred Visions is making rock music as good as any in the country right now, and hopefully their opening slot on this spring’s White Denim tour showed that to everyone not fortunate enough to live in Central Texas. Every moment of every song is epic, and every one of the three tracks on this EP is a classic. Catch them next on June 19th at the Parish opening for Here We Go Magic. No, seriously. Do not miss that show.

Hundred Visions - 'Last Cab From Tunis'