2011 Music, Turned Up to 11

This year's best show, I am still convinced, happened in February, when noise rock godheads Swans played Mohawk in Austin. My hearing was left impaired, my spine crooked, my spirit broken. I've never felt more alive. I'd interviewed frontman Michael Gira by phone before the show and asked why he decided to get the band back together after a decade: "I wanted that overwhelming, obliterating rush of huge sounds again."

Fast-forward to early December, when Scratch Acid further pressure-cleaned my cochleae at Trees, to the point where I wondered if I'd actually hurt myself. As I wandered into the street, I felt like I had been parachuted into a war zone, knife between my teeth, and was being sent to kill Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

I guess I'm still a little rattled from 2011, a year in which sonic shock and dissent infiltrated not just music, but politics, art and beyond. Dubstep, the sternum-rattling electronic music that originated in the UK, has become the siren call of bros everywhere. Odd Future frightened America. Lady Gaga continued her masochistic performance-art-as-pop revue. Not that there wasn't some clarity: Tune-yards' Whokill, Wild Flag and Unknown Mortal Orchestra's self-titled LPs and St. Vincent's Strange Mercy balanced some of the static, at least for me.

Scratch Acid at Trees, December 2011
Mike Brooks
Scratch Acid at Trees, December 2011

Since I've been here only the month of December, I don't feel qualified to soapbox about the year in local music. However, I was already enjoying North Texas sounds before I arrived. Earlier this year, I discovered Dreamed, the one-woman project of Jessica Minshew, and had her on repeat for a while. I also dug what New Fumes, Diamond Age and Botany are doing, that one-man-versus-machine approach to layering and stacking and weaving your own soundtrack without having to rely on an actual "band."

I was struck by Sarah Jaffe's CD/DVD The Way Sound Leaves a Room, and can't wait for her new album. Soviet's debut, Heaven, Texas, sunk in a bit more after a few listens. And it was a year when out-of-state labels trained their lenses on DFW, as with True Widow's excellent debut on NYC's Kemado Records and Mind Spiders' contagious self-titled on Portland's Texas-friendly Dirtnap Records. From the month I've been here, I already have a good feeling about 2012.

I asked a few locals what they loved and hated this year, and what they're looking forward to. Check out DC9 at Night for more 2011 lists.

Favorite local song or album

Gavin Mulloy, Granada Theater: "Beard," The Burning Hotels; "Fa Shiggadow," The Mohicans.

Sean Kirkpatrick, Nervous Curtains: True Widow, As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth; The Angelus, On a Dark and Barren Land; Mind Spiders, Mind Spiders.

Sarah Jaffe: "Acts of Man," Midlake.

Daniel Huffman, New Fumes: "Rabid Like a Dog," PVC Street Gang.

Kris Youmans, Tactics Productions: "Sunset," Zhora.

Erv Karwelis, Idol Records: True Widow, As High As the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth.

John Parker Spies, Soviet: Sundress, Sundress; "Duelist," True Widow; "Hammer of Doubt," Power Trip.

Favorite local concert

Mulloy: St. Vincent, Kessler Theater.

Kirkpatrick: Pinkish Black, Double Wide.

Jaffe: Bosque Brown, Wyly Theatre.

Huffman: I'm not sure if it gets much better than The Flaming Lips show [February 3 at Palladium Ballroom] with Neon Indian and New Fumes and all that snow. Too much fun.

Youmans: True Widow, The Nighty Nite and Joey Kendall at Double Wide.

Karwelis: [DARYL] reunion show, Sons of Hermann Hall.

Best musical moment

Mulloy: Gorilla vs. Bear Fest.

Kirkpatrick: Making our new record; playing on the Astronautalis record.

Huffman: Diamond Age.

Youmans: Getting to see Archers of Loaf again.

Karwelis: Black Sabbath reuniting for new album and tour.

Spies: When we were at a house show in Arlington with an audience of one passed-out guy on a couch and the owner of the house, playing our most intense and passionate set of the entire year.

Worst musical moment

Mulloy: When the Cavern became Crown & Harp.

Kirkpatrick: All my gear and I broke down on stage in front of a couple hundred people; hearing that Record Hop broke up.

Huffman: Diamond Age (ha, ha! kidding).

Karwelis: Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration.

Spies: [Bassist Richy Brown] getting arrested before a show in Fort Worth at Lola's and the rest of us having to play anyway, and almost killing each other after the set.

Trend you wish would stop

Mulloy: People thinking the old way and not sharing. Quit protecting ideas like they're the last good ones you'll ever have.

Kirkpatrick: Independent music coverage being driven by PR companies, resulting in a homogenized music media and tons of great bands being virtually ignored; bands considering Weezer an influence.

Huffman: People trying to sing like Thom Yorke.

Youmans: Skrillex and anything dubstep.

Karwelis: Autotune/dubstep.

Spies: All the bands in DFW trying to compete with each other. Come together, my bros. It's already started happening. Let's do it better in 2012.

Looking forward to in 2012

Mulloy: Falling in love with a bunch of bands I haven't heard of yet. Bro Fest, Homegrown Fest, Gorilla vs. Bear Fest and the Mayan Apocalypse concert series next December.

Kirkpatrick: Releasing our record and touring; new releases from Blixaboy, Pinkish Black, Indian Jewelry, The Young, Disappears, Waxeater and Bloody Panda.

Jaffe: Releasing my next record.

Huffman: More seven-inch releases on Good Records Recordings and hopefully touring.

Youmans: Seeing more Dallas bands get national exposure.

Karwelis: Beach Boys reunion tour with Brian Wilson.

Spies: Touring the Southwest and Northeast a bit with Soviet and taking a break from writing so many damn songs.

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