You know it, you love it, you look forward to it -- a random list of year-end lists. Why have a ten best when you can have 50? Let's do 100, because as we know, there's a huge difference between No. 36 and No. 37 or No. 88 or No. 99. Five is all you need.
This being a music blog, I think it serves a purpose in introducing new bands that catch my eye. This year like previous years, there no shortage of new blood into the music scene. For the first time since I've been writing this space and compiling year-end lists, an American band tops the list. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
My definition of new acts is that the band released an EP or debut album this year. Acts like Frankie & The Heartstrings and The Vaccines will have to wait until next year. It's vague gray area there. Mumford & Sons was on last year's list, but their album was release this year in the U.S. It's all confusing to me, but this a quality crop of new sounds that I hope will be making us rock for years to come.
5. Summer Camp -- This is band that seems tailor made for my tastes and ideals. they make super-catchy, direct pop music with a wink. Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey bring a sense of nostalgia and remembrance to their infectious electro-pop music. It's soft and comforting when you hear Liz repeat "you you you, ah ah ah" at the beginning of "Ghost Train". Then the fun continues when Jeremy takes the lead on "Round the Moon," their most uptempo tune on their Young EP. Added to the mix is their stage show with the back projections of old family photos from the 60s, 70s and 80s and, indeed, pictures from summer camps.
4. Warpaint -- It seems that Brooklyn would be undistributed king of new music. This year, it's Los Angeles. Goodbye Williamsburg. Hello, Silver Lake. All three American bands on this list hail from California. With Warpaint, their 2009 EP showed some promise, but some of the tracks were just too long. Their debut album, The Fool shows off their style and presence. The songs are tighter and better defined. What I remember best about their show at Mercury Lounge was how their slow, mellow songs kept me engaged. They are the tiny band that makes big music.
3. Local Natives -- Another L.A. band that started turning some heads in 2009. When their debut album got released in the U.S. year, you knew they were going to make some noise. There's not a boring moment on Gorilla Manor or in the live show. You moments of tremendous power with deep guitar parts and lot of active percussion. Layered on top are Taylor Rice's echoing vocals to rival that of Robin Pecknold. Every time I hear them, I find something to new discover like the delicate piano of Airplanes or the open country road driving feeling of Cubism Dream
2. The Joy Formidable -- Although they haven't released their official debut album yet, their self-released material warranted their ranking this year. I couldn't wait another year to put them in their right spot. When I saw them in the U.K. in 2009, I knew this would be a band that I would follow their every move. Like Warpaint, they are the small band that makes big music. In this case, they literally are small -- Ritzy Bryan is tiny bundle of energy who kills on guitar and belt out the biggest of rock voices. Their live shows blow your mind with their sonic output. It's like standing next to 45-minute rocket launch. As mentioned before, their debut album comes out next year.
1. Dum Dum Girls -- As a lifelong anglophile, it surprises even me that the band that I couldn't get enough of this year are ladies from L.A. Yes, this is the year were every week, there seemed to be a band that takes their influence from the Shangri-Las, 60s garage rock and girl group sounds. Best Coast is another new act this year that could have been on this list. As much as I think Bethany Costello has chops, she's no powerhouse like Kristin Gundred and new band's debut album, I Will Be. What makes Dum Dum Girls is their no-nonsense sound -- full of attitude and tenderness. The best bands make their soft songs just as relevant as their loud, crowd pleasures. The profound sadness of "Baby Don't Go" has just as much emotion as the rave-up "Bhang, Bhang, I'm A Burnout". They are not reinventing the wheel, but they make that 60s sound seem new again.
As with previous Best New Acts (Florence, Ting Tings, Kate Nash, M.I.A., Guillemots), I hope or great music for years to come.
Honorable Mention: The almost made the Top 5, Position No. 6, Runner-Up goes to Ireland's Two Door Cinema Club. Just when you think post-punk, new wave is dead, here comes another band that enter the lexicon that makes danceable rock music. It's usually from a group of people who don't look like they make dance music. These lads law down some beats with peppy, ready-for-the-floor songs.
Best of the rest:
- Marina & The Diamonds -- Sexy, intelligent pop music with a sense of the theatrical. Be there.
- Caitlin Rose -- The best new songwriter of the year
- Best Coast -- Teenage gril rock for grown ups.
- Phantogram -- Sure Sleigh Bells got all the attention, but Phantogram gets my vote for duos making thunderous beats
- Tame Impala -- Australian band making weird, fuzzed out psych rock
- Fitz and the Tantrums -- Fantastic live show over-shadows their well-constructed retro soul music
- Stornoway -- Making rural England cool again
- Villagers -- The best new songwriter of the year not named Caitlin rose