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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Albums score high marks for trimester

This column, at the behest of both readers and editors, is all about lists. Five songs that obliquely reference the Cold War? Got it. The six songs Elvis Costello requested at his friend’s bar mitzvah? No problem at all. Four songs for that feeling you feel when it’s rainy outside but you’re experiencing major schadenfreude because the rain brings out the pollen the guy who stole your girlfriend has a slight allergy to? Yeah, there are songs for that mood.

All these unorthodox, eclectic lists are fun to make and hopefully fun to read, and they definitely have their place. That being said, I think music fans are frequently more concerned with relevance than they are with songs that capture a specific mood, place or what have you.

This is a newspaper and while we can’t be as cutting-edge as your favorite blogger because we don’t stay up all night combing publicists’ Tumblrs, we can definitely deliver something timely. So, in the most conceptually simple column I’ve written yet, the following is a wrap-up of notable releases from the first trimester of 2011.


Smoke Ring for my Halo – Kurt Vile

It’s been a humble year in music thus far. Aside from The Strokes – who we’ll get to in a moment – not many big names have dropped albums. Kurt Vile’s fourth album perfectly exemplifies the year’s modesty by doing a lot with very little.

Ostensibly a simple singer-songwriter album, the gravel and ire in Vile’s voice, as well as his admirable abilities as a lyricist, make this one worth listening to.

Key tracks: “Peeping Tomboy,” “On Tour,” “Baby’s Arms”

Bible Eyes Egyptrixx

Girl Unit had an enormous hit with their track “Wut” last year, combining southern drums with rave, juke and electronica to create a massive banger that was giving partygoers fits. Label-mates Egyptrixx are taking center stage this year, and while their music works with the euphoria of a night out, it can just easily soundtrack a study-break zone out. Disco meshes with house and dubstep to create a sound that’s both spacious and ephemeral.

Key tracks: “Bible Eyes,” “Liberation Front,” “Fuji Club”

Return of 4Eva Big K.R.I.T.

At first glance, Big K.R.I.T. is reminiscent of a young Kanye. A talented producer whose rapping has yet to catch up, he tells soulful stories of struggle and poverty with a distinctly regional feel. However, where Kanye represented for the ultra-metropolitan Midwest, K.R.I.T. is from Mississippi, and this comes through in his music as he channels UGK and 8 ball, with trunk rattling soul anthems and enough bangers to keep speakers feeling the after-effects for hours.

Key tracks: “Dreamin,'” “Sookie Now,” “Highs and Lows,” “King’s Blues”

He Gets Me High Dum Dum Girls

The Dum Dum Girls’ debut I Will Be was an unabashedly pop record, but low production values kept the fuzz meter on high while allowing them to piggyback on the low-fi trend. It’s a new year and bands are cleaning up their sounds (see: The Smith-Westerns, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Kurt Vile), so it’s the perfect time for bandleader Dee Dee and her crew to come out with a cleaned-up EP that’s as irresistibly poppy as the album was.

This is the best release of the year, and, as it only contains four songs, will take you the shortest amount of time to digest.

Key Tracks: “He Gets me High,” “Wrong Feels Right,” “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”

On a Mission Katy B

The hegemony of the female pop artist is inescapable right now, as Rihanna, Katy Perry, Gaga, Britney, Ke$ha and Nikki Minaj rule the radio. The trend exists on the fringes of pop music too, as Adele, Robyn and, now, Katy B are all making significant and significantly danceable contributions to the canon.

Katy B is particularly audacious, singing over wild dubstep tracks from her native South London. She’s got a pretty voice and the admirable ability to subdue her backing tracks – no easy feat when singing over the powerful shifting bass of dubstep.

Key Tracks: “Katy on a Mission,” “Why You Always Here,” “Witches Brew”

Go Away Badlands Dirty Beaches

The world has been inundated with bands about beaches, including Beach House, Beach Fossil, Wavves, Best Coast and others. Yet unlike many of their ilk, Dirty Beaches doesn’t go in for the delightful sounds of summer, nor the dream-pop anthems of yesteryear. Rather, these guys traffic in the currency of cool, making grungy rock songs that sound like they were written by a junkie time-traveler who just returned from the fifties.

Key Tracks: “Speedway King,” “A Hundred Highways,” “Lord Knows Best”

Hotel House of Balloons The Weeknd

R&B is back in a major way this year, and The Weeknd is spearheading the charge, with its modern take on the classic sounds of Jodeci, R. Kelly and D’Angelo. Don’t get it twisted, though – even though these songs are chock-full of love stories and slow songs, there’s an edge to the production, and the lyrics can be as twisted as anything Odd Future is doing.

It’s not advised that you throw this on before embarking on anything intimate. This stuff can be disturbing.

Key tracks: “What You Need,” “The Morning,” “The Party and the After Party”

Angles The Strokes

I don’t envy The Strokes. Arguably the most hyped band of the last decade, The Strokes made two classic albums, then experimented a little on the third and were slammed for it. Five years after First Impressions of Earth made such a bad impression on, well, Earth, they’re back with Angles, which was met with mixed reviews. Which, to me, is ridiculous.

This is a fantastic album, stacked from top to bottom with classic Strokes-y songs and some new experiments, ones that actually work this time. Hype and anticipation often blind critics, but it’s surprising just how far that’s gone with one of the best bands of our generation.

Key Tracks: “Under Cover of Darkness,” “Two Kinds of Happiness,” “Games,” “Life is Simple in the Moonlight”

Jonah Bromwich is a senior majoring in English with an enthusiasm for rap, pop and electronic music. Email column topic suggestions or comments to [email protected].

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