Looking Ahead: Bands to Watch in 2011 (part 2)

If you missed part one, ’tis here.

Allo Darlin’ (London, UK)

Following a string of well-loved singles with an album that has proven to be a favorite of indie pop fans across the world, Allo Darlin’ have been winning hearts everywhere they go, all the while making ukulele-fronted pop bands sexy again. The future is looking bright for Elizabeth Morris and company, especially with the backing of a stellar label like FortunaPop who hit it big in 2009 with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Don’t be surprised to see a similar surge for Allo Darlin’ in the coming year. And if you haven’t bought their album yet, you really ought to give it a go.

The Lighthouse and the Whaler (Cleveland, Ohio)

These lads from Cleveland spent considerable time building a following all over the eastern half of the US before making their debut in the state capitol with The Black Atlantic back in October to a Wednesday evening record store audience who instantly fell for their own brand of what you might call melodic prog-folk. And after watching them return to town just a month later and absolutely killing at their first proper Columbus headline gig to a captive audience at Rumba Cafe, it’s pretty clear that TLATW are a band that have to be seen to be believed. Luckily, their debut LP is an equally solid performance. So download ‘White Days’ for free here, then go out and buy the rest of it. And if you can, catch them live. They’ll be at SXSW and numerous other places, no doubt, as their stock continues to rise.

Download: The Lighthouse and the Whaler – ‘White Days’ [mp3]

My Gold Mask (Chicago, Illinois)

I first heard that My Gold Mask were one of the most exciting bands in Chicago from a sound engineer who I met after he caught me interviewing Emilie Simon at a Starbucks on the North Side. About a year later, an article in the Sun-Times named them among a list of Chicago bands on the verge of blowing up. I have to say, I think they’re right. In 2010, the band released two super-sexy EPs and landed some major support slots, including a few shows with the New Pornographers. Check out the EPs on Bandcamp where you can also download (for free) the remix of ‘Bitches’ by the fabled Hood Internet. And, of course, catch them on tour this spring.

Dimbleby & Capper (London, UK)

Dimbleby & Capper

It seems like I talk about Dimbleby & Capper all the time and, for the most part, it’s true. But I can’t help myself. Since we were first introduced in March of last year, Laura Bettinson has been busy taking D&C from a one woman band to a full-fledged DIY brand with it’s own unique aesthetic. The first single for Tape Records is projected to be released 31 March, hopefully with a full length LP will be in production in the not-too-terribly-distant future. Oh, and did I mention that Laura also happens to be working on a project with producer Nigel Godrich (producer for Radiohead)?

Islet (Cardiff, UK)

You’d be hard-pressed to find any official information about Islet anywhere on the internets, and that is because, antithetical to yours truly, they do not exist online. Anywhere. But they’ve building an enthusiastic following based solely on their near-legendary local live shows around the small but wicked-talented Cardiff scene, selling out of their first album and no doubt approaching capacity on the second (the first purchase I made on my first ever visit to Wales). And honestly, with a reputation like that, who needs a website? Grab one of their records while you can. You’ll be hearing from them again. (And again. And again . . .)

Looking Ahead: Bands to Watch in 2011 (part 1)

So that’s it, then. 2010 is over. We’re well into 2011 now, so I suppose it’s time to start looking into the coming months to see what’s headed our way. I mean, 2010 felt like an endless streak of one economic or natural disaster after another and, if you’re Dave Barry, the worst year ever.

But still, it wasn’t all bad, was it?—not for music, at least. With several solid releases from old favourite along with a surge of exciting newcomers, I’d say it was a pretty good year if I’m honest. And if you’ve been anywhere NPR or Time Out New York recently, you may have read something about the exciting rebirth of classical music in the form of “alt-classical” or “indie classical” or whichever ridiculous moniker you prefer. (Never mind the fact that I’ve been going on about this since day one of this blog, it’s nice to see that some ‘real’ publications are catching on.) I mean, honestly, who thought, 12 months ago, that a tiny Brooklyn label like New Amsterdam would be the most celebrated thing in the world of art music?

So, with that said, you shouldn’t consider what follows to be my definitive list of predictions regarding who will be huge by the end of 2011. There’s a chance some of these projects will be released in obscurity and continue to languish there. Some may not make it off the ground in the next calendar year, while others may never see the light of day to begin with. What this is is an assortment of things to look forward to—the things that have me the most excited for—in 2011.

Parlours (Des Moines, Iowa)

I first mentioned Parlours to you way back in the summer of 2009. At the time, Parlours, was just Dana Halferty in her bedroom with a guitar and a bunch of loops and layers. They’ve expanded since then into a full-fledged five-piece and recorded an EP to be released later this month. The music has grown more melodic and the surrealism dialed back a notch or twelve since I first fell in love with ‘Bobby on Repeat’, but I’ve been anticipating a concrete release from Parlours for a year and a half now, and I for one am excited. I don’t know if ‘Bobby’ will be included on the EP (I haven’t received my copy yet), but one can only hope. For now, you can still hear it on MySpace (that is, if you can still tolerate MySpace).

The Black Atlantic (Groningen, Netherlands)

Here’s another band The Indie Handbook has been supporting for a while. God only knows how many bazillions of people have downloaded their last album, Reverence for Fallen Trees. But can you blame them? It’s free and it’s gorgeous. What more do you need? More recently, however, the band have been back in the studio working on a new album. Though I don’t know of any firm release date yet, I have it on good authority that singer Geert van der Velde has been listening to a fair amount of Arvo Pärt and medieval lute music lately, which is always promising. Then there’s the simple fact that these guys tour relentlessly. Having made at least three separate trips to the US in 2010, including appearances at SXSW and CMJ, the band long ago confirmed their return to SXSW in March followed by several dates in China later in the spring.

The Vaccines (London, UK)

They’ve generated so much buzz in recent months, that it almost feels like cheating to list The Vaccines here (not bad for a band that’s been together for just about a year). My own experience with the band is limited to the performance of a couple of songs on the Bonfire Night edition Jools Holland a couple of months back. But I was thoroughly impressed by their uptempo lo-fi guitar pop and—well—any band who can dethrone enfants terribles Kings of Leon (who performed on the same show) gets my vote any day.

Cults (NYC)

Just like The Vaccines, perhaps even more so, Cults are a band that have hotly tipped in the past year. For several months, the tracks from their debut 7” were available on Bandcamp as a free download, but, having recently signed with a major label that is, of course, no longer the case. The signing, at least in theory, bodes well for Cults who, if they are able to retain some semblance of creative control, could do some wonderful things with some decent label backing. And if they don’t, well, there’s still that first 7” floating around out there. I suggest you grab one. Here’s to 60s-drenched lo-fi melodic homophony.