matthew waldman picks his favorite music from 2011

i love how every year you hear people saying how “there’s no good music!” when all i keep thinking is how lazy people are as this year was chock-full of amazing debuts and new music from lots of bands – in fact, i’m finding it difficult to narrow down to just one album or even to rank my picks! i would like everyone to know that all the music on my list has gone through the rigorous matthew waldman testing protocol [MWTP™] for music – listened to at work, on an ipod/iphone, at home, while bicycling and driving in a car – which ensures a high level of quality opinion. you can also say the music presented here was part of the soundtrack at the nooka lab throughout the past year.

if pushed i can give you this top five which should not take away any attention from the other wonderful releases on the list: hercules and love affair – blue songs, blood orange – coastal grooves, teeel – amulet, the antlers – together.

you will notice that lykke li is not on the list, not because i didn’t absolutely love the album that came out this but more because wounded rhymes is already on so many ‘best of 2011’ lists.

i also want to mention a song that is stuck in my head, and that song is video games by lana del rey.

the full list is below in no particular order but i really enjoy every recording on the list. the descriptions are either from the label page or wikipedia where noted with my notes in italics.


Hercules and Love Affair – Blue Songs

Release date: August 16 2011

Record label: Moshi Moshi

Description: this album is luscious – musical references from most the past few decades with enough variety in vocalists to make the album experience feel like a trip to different cities and clubs. blues songs is the second studio album by American house music group Hercules and love affair. It was released January 31, 2011 in the UK. And was released august 16, 2011 in United States. The album features guest appearances from bloc party‘s Kele Okereke on the song “step up,” and also includes vocal contributions from Kim Ann foxman, aerea negrot and Shaun wright. (from wikipedia)


Alexander – Alexander

Release date: 1 March 2011

Record label: Vagrant Records

Description:  this is simply good music – basic singer/songwriter stuff with simple guitar arrangements and relaxed male vocals with sweet harmonies. Alexander is the first name of Alexander Ebert, lead singer of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Ima Robot. He uses the name for his solo work and recently released his self-titled debut on March 1st, 2011 in North America.


Cat’s Eyes – Cat’s Eyes

Release Date: 3 May 2011

Record Label: Kooyp / Cooperative Music USA / Downtown Records

Description : who can resist a young band take on the phil spector wall-of-sound? ok i admit i’m a sucker for anything that sounds like a psychedelic horror film soundtrack! Faris Badwan, frontman for UK indie rockers The Horrors, has a new project: Cat’s Eyes, a duo with the Canadian opera soprano and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira. The group specializes in a glassy, symphonic take on girl-group pop, and they played their first show in December in a pretty unusual place: St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, during an afternoon mass “attended by seven high-ranking cardinals,” according to a press release.


Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble [single]

Release Date: 18 October 2011

Record Label: Polydor

Description : futuristic clean synthpop/dance music – what more can one say? he’s a great dj as well kinda in the vein of erland oye. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is a London, UK duo of Edmund Finnis and Orlando Higginbottom. Their music swings between overt musicality and dance. Their live show has toured internationally, featuring bizarre instruments, glitter cannons and, of course, dancing dinosaurs.


When Saints Go Machine – Konkylie



DESCRIPTION: it’s difficult to give this a genre – it’s electro-pop with ethereal falsetto vocals a bit on the experimental/prog rock bent somewhere between the knife and peter gabriel! there i said it!


Casiokids – Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen



DESCRIPTION: this is pure fun though norwegian sounds like english you just can’t quite understand frustrating like listening to korean pop music when you understand japanese:) Casio kids are a Norwegian Synthpop ensemble from Bergen, and Stavanger formed in 2005. 


Hooray For Earth – True Love



DESCRIPTION: this band reminds me of orchestral maneuvers in the dark [OMD] but they have a nice range of styles making this album also like a good vacation to different cities and parties. hooray for earth is a new york city-based rock band built around the home-recordings of singer and multi-instrumentalist Noel Heroux. The group first emerged publicly as hooray for earth in late 2005 in Boston, ma. The original line-up stood as Heroux, bassist Christopher Principe, guitarist Gary Benacquista and drummer Seth Kasper. The group added drummer/multi-instrumentalist Joseph Ciampini after Kasper’s departure in March 2009.


Autumn – Synthesize


RECORD LABEL: Minimal Wave

DESCRIPTION: OK this was recorded in 1981 but re-released this year and i love it like new though i am still a fan of anything that sounds like it was recorded on a 4-track teac deck! Autumn was the legendary project of peter bonne and Geert Coppens, two Belgian teenagers who started experimenting with the potentials of analog synthesizers during the late 70s and formed a band together soon after in 1980, quickly becoming one of the most truly visionary groups to emerge from the synth scene in Europe.


The Antlers – Together


RECORD LABEL: Frenchkiss Records

DESCRIPTION: the antlers are a great alternative/indie rock act and i like the album they released this year but i LOVE the remixes even more! together is that remix project and the sounds are experimental and club worthy at the same time. great job! The Antlers are an Indie Rock band currently based in Brooklyn, New York, fronted by peter Silberman. Initially, the antlers were a solo project created by vocalist and guitarist peter Silberman immediately after he had moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 2007. Silberman wrote the first album, “in the attic of the universe” by himself and under his own name. Afterwards, he recruited Lerner and Cicci, becoming a collaborative group.


Niki & The Dove – The Fox [Ep]



DESCRIPTION: if kate bush was kylie or if kylie was kate bush? Prior to being the front woman of art-pop group Niki and the dove, Malin Dahlström was programming for Midaircondo, singing lead in now-defunct rock Bandthe Dora steins, contributing wispy vocals to various electronic productions and doing solo shows and performance art all around Sweden under the Name disdishdance.



RELEASE DATE: August 8 2011

RECORD LABEL: Domino Recording Company Ltd.

DESCRIPTION: hands-down the best alt/indie rock release of the year. Blood Orange is another alias of Devonté Hynes also known as Lightspeed champion and member of the now defunct test icicles. His first release under the ‘Blood Orange’ moniker was in June 2009 via his personal blog.


Pete and The Pirates – One Thousand Pictures

RELEASE DATE: 23 May 2011

RECORD LABEL: Stolen Recordings

DESCRIPTION: gosh it’s so hard trying to keep up of the latest brit-rock bands so why not find one that sounds like em all? Pete and the pirates are an indie rock band from reading, England. Bright, young commanders of a brand of unique Englishness, their blend of smooth edged punk and pop produces music which is sweet, raw, joyous, melancholic, raucous and tender. The pirates’ idiosyncratic and endearing song writing puts them somewhere between the flying nun band tall dwarfs and the wistful reflection of on the beach-era Neil Young. The band was formed in 2005 and consists of Tommy Sanders (vocals), Peter Cattermoul (bass/vocals), David Thorpe (guitar), Jonny sanders (drums) and Peter Hefferan (guitar/vocals). 


Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise

RELEASE DATE: 7 February 2011

RECORD LABEL: Circus Company

DESCRIPTION: experimental/synthpop/dance/electronica/all in one young artist! Nicolas Jaar was born the 10th of January 1990 in New York but spent most of his childhood in Santiago de Chile, only to return to his place of birth as a teenager. Haunted by Mulatu AstatkeErik SatieEzekiel Honigand Villalobos’ “thé au harem d’archimède”; Nico started to make organic electronic music in 2004 at the age of 14. At 17, he debuted with “The student EP” on wolf + lamb music, with remixes by Seth Troxler and Kasper. At 18 he continued producing and played live at club der visionäre and arena in berlin, at the Marcy in Brooklyn and at Mutek in Mexico City, alongsidedeadbeatflying lotus and Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts, amongst others. Now, at 19, studying at brown university in Rhode island, Nico has many releases coming up, including some on circus company, wolf + lamb (with remixes by Ryan Crosson) and on his own label, clown and sunset, of which he is the owner and founder.


Discodeine – Discodeine


RELEASE DATE: February 2011

RECORD LABEL: Dirty / Pschent

DESCRIPTION: late night post clubbing head music! Discodeine is a French duo born in 2007 from the sick minds of Pilooski and Pentile. They have separatedly released some acclaimed records in the last past years (Pentile was involved in octet and France Copland, Pilooski has remixed LCD sound system, mystery jets and Frankie Valli) before finding a mutual ground around their love for Sci fi movies, weird club music and south western French cooking style. Discodeine is signed on French imprint dirty, home label of the well-known “dirty edits” (a collaborative project between Pilooski and dirty sound system) and some other cool and weird compilations projects. They have already released five acclaimed EP as well as some kick ass remixes for Metronomy, whomadewho, bot’ox, Photonz, Yelle…


Teeel – Amulet

 RELEASE DATE: 22 February 2011

RECORD LABEL: Moodgadget

DESCRIPTION: i found myself going back to this release over and over again in 2011! Teeel (Jim Smith) is a Synthpop Dreamwave artist from New Jersey. Inspired by italo, electro and the 80s new wave movement, Teeel aka Jim smith credits his sound to marathon movie watching and being an obsessive gear head. Creating music in a 10×10 teal painted room, stacked with synthesizers and guitars with walls covered with vintage moog ads, Jim creates music that ranges from hypnotic Synthpop to dreamy disco and dark electronica.