November 1, 2011

AwkwardSound Presents: The Best Breakthrough Artists of 2011

In contrast to last year's slew of releases from heavy-hitters and established names, 2011 has been a year defined by the new blood. To kick off AwkwardSound's Best of 2011 series, AS spotlights the Best Breakthrough Artists culled from the pages of BUZZSounds and new music posts over the past year, alongside other young artists whose success has finally burst open after quietly working their way up to overdue attention. This year's list is a slight contrast to 2010's when the pickings were slim, but AS has narrowed down its long list to 10 artists who've made their impact felt in 2011. Remember these names because they'll be keeping listeners on their toes in the years to come...

Cloud Nothings

From his humble lo-fi beginnings as a solo musician writing fuzzy rock riffs out of his bedroom, Cloud Nothings mastermind Dylan Baldi has fleshed out and polished his sound with the help of a full band on this year's self-titled debut. The 20-year-old Cleveland native alongside his three new bandmates are today's answer to sophisticated power pop with a spiky punk edge, delivering melodic sonics that worm their way into your head in three minutes or less. While 2011 has been Cloud Nothings breakthrough year, 2012 may be exponentially bigger -- Their sophomore effort, Attack On Memory produced by the legendary Steve Albini arrives in January.
Cloud Nothings - "Forget You All The Time"


The shape of punk to come lies within the hands of our youth, and Denmark's Iceage are an adrenaline shot to modern day teenage rebellion with their hybrid of sloppy noise, post-punk and hardcore. Riding high on a wave of hype that conjures up memories of when Refused shattered expectations back in the late '90s, Iceage's debut, New Brigade is a turbulent listen marred with doomy reverb and an uncontrollable chaos spearheaded by frontman Elias Rønnenfelt. Upon their arrival onto U.S. soil, Iceage made habit of causing as much destruction along the way as their tourmates, Fucked Up -- A fete not easy to achieve considering the Toronto punk act's frontman spends most shows with a face full of blood.
Iceage - "You're Blessed"

JEFF the Brotherhood

To say JEFF the Brotherhood are rookies is a huge understatement, as the brothers Orrall have been recording music and playing live since their early tween days (They even had a stint playing in fellow Nashville act, Be Your Own PET.) Following countless EPs, singles and LPs under their belt, JEFF the Brotherhood strike the right chord on their 2011 effort, We Are the Champions. It's here where their penchant for spacey psychedelic rock, peppy punk and poppy garage rock anthems are coming together in ways no one ever imagined the genres could be combined. JEFF the Brotherhood have since garnered the praise of Jack White, who invited them to play on this year's WTF collaboration with Insane Clown Posse. Sounds like Jeff and Jake have all bases covered...
JEFF the Brotherhood - "Shredder"

The Men

Heavier sounds in all directions have been a prevalent theme throughout 2011 with Brooklyn's The Men bringing some of the loudest kind to hit our speakers in the form of their third LP, Come Home. The quartet of Nick Chiericozzi, Mark Perro Chris Hansell and Rich Samis have been recording since 2008 with two full-lengths, a few cassettes and a 7" already in their back catalog, but since releasing Leave Home with Sacred Bones Records (home to the likes of Zola Jesus,) they're growing fanbase has extended well beyond the confines of the NYC club scene. There's nothing fancy about The Men: They're a chaotic breed of post-punk, hardcore and noise all thrown into a dark hole, and when it comes out, your ears will be left ringing.
The Men - "Bataille"

Mr. Dream
Whoever said critics don't know a thing about music obviously hasn't heard Mr. Dream, the Brooklyn indie-punk trio consisting of Pitchfork, The New Yorker and Village Voice writing alumni, Adam Moerder and Nick Sylvester alongside bassist, Matt Morello. Channeling the angst and balls-to-the-wall bombast of '90s indie rock stalwarts Shellac, The Pixies and Archers of Loaf (whom Mr. Dream had the privilege of opening for on this year's reunion tour,) Mr. Dream's debut album Trash Hit hits heavy and carries the flag raised over two decades ago by their luminaries just as high.
Mr Dream - "Scarred For Life"

Title Fight

Post-hardcore has received a facelift for the better in 2011 with the arrival of Kingston, PA's Title Fight. The quartet's debut, Shed could easily find a spot wedged between its influences best latter day efforts. Having endured years of detached bastardization within the genre, they remind AwkwardSound of post-hardcore's golden days when bands like Kid Dynamite, Lifetime and Jawbreaker upheld standards to a higher degree in creating aggressive, melodic DIY punk. Along with the following Breakthrough Artist, Title Fight is a sure sign that the past decade's unsuitable examples within the hardcore scene are being replaced with some serious contenders.
Title Fight - "Shed"

Touché Amoré

The Los Angeles punk scene hasn't been this exciting since Milo went to college, but Touché Amoré are at the forefront of thrusting the area back into the spotlight with a return to DIY punk ethics and raw, emotional hardcore. Reaping the rewards of endless touring following the release of their 2009 debut, the quintet's success is heading toward fever pitch in 2011 with acclaim over their sophomore effort, Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me from both punk enthusiasts and indie tastemakers. Touché Amoré have a grip on staying true to the genre much like two of last year's Breakthrough Artists, Trash Talk and Ceremony (who also happen to hail from the SoCal area.) With that, the new wave of hardcore continues to flourish.
Touché Amoré - "Face Ghost"

The Weeknd
The Weeknd made his arrival into the music scene as an enigma of sorts shrouded under a dark, sexy veil of R&B mystery with a series of tracks co-signed by Drake on the hip-hop heavyweight's personal blog. For the first few months of 2011, nobody knew what the deal with The Weeknd was, but its since been revealed to be the one-man project of up-and-coming Toronto producer, Abel Tesfaye. Tesfaye has wasted no time at making a name for himself by releasing three "mixtapes" (which actually are for the greater part, solid formal LPs) over the course of the year, and is lending his scorched, dubby production talents to Drake's upcoming sophomore effort, Take Care. In a day in age where getting your name out there usually firing on all social media cylinders, it's been interesting to see The Weeknd accomplish just the same with some casual restraint.
The Weeknd - "The Morning"

Youth Lagoon

Boise, ID blooming music scene is on the fringe of becoming something big, and Trevor Powers' bedroom project, Youth Lagoon is helping put it on the map. His cassette-friendly debut album, The Year of Hibernation is a fitting listen that reflects Powers' surroundings, as it meanders through sparse atmospherics and dense loneliness in the vein of Sigur Rós, , 2010 Breakthrough Artist Foxes In Fiction and Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound project. However, it's the friendly pop nature and Powers' penchant for nostalgia that warms you from the inside instead of making you feel left out in the cold.
Youth Lagoon - "July"


Of all the bands to try their hand at '90s nostalgia this year, Yuck are one of the select few to get the formula right. The London quartet made their impact known early on in the year with the release of their recommended self-titled debut, an album jam-packed with hook-filled singles and equally good b-sides. Recalling the distortion-friendly influences of Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Fanclub and Galaxie 500, Yuck are bringing back grunge pop since many of the era's best bands are no longer around to do so.
Yuck - "Georgia"

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