Listen Up: Brian Koscho’s Top Music Picks for 2011

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1. Ty Segall, Goodbye Bread: Most years I do not have a clear #1 album, but this record broke that trend. Perfect fuzzy rock songs by someone who I think will just keep getting better. “I Can’t Feel It” might be one of my favorite songs ever. Go buy this record.

2. Woods, Sun and Shade: I am a sucker for noisy, lo-fi pop/rock songs and Woods have always nailed that, but they hit one of my other sweet spots by adding huge psychedelic noise jams. Great live show, too. You have to love a band who has a guy sitting on the floor with mics, tape loops, and pedals, just making noise while catchy pop songs are playing.

3. Real Estate, Days: One of the “new” bands I point to as an example of current music that I have really gotten into. Suburban indie-rock from New Jersey with a nice mix of noodling, surf guitars, shoegaze and very, very catchy melodies. This one might even be more accessible than their self-titled album.

4. Cymbals Eat Guitars, Lenses Alien: I heard their first record and was impressed, but Andrew Lampela got me into this one pretty heavily and his description last week was apt: “Indie Rock that remembers the rock!” See, I love me some Superchunk, Pavement, Archers of Loaf, Hum, etc., and sometimes I get so frustrated by the over-sensitive Pitchfork/hipster stuff that dominates independent rock and roll music (some of which could be argued is on this list). This album really helped me to stop being so bitter about that.

5. Wild Flag, Wild Flag: I came to Sleater-Kinney late, getting into them in college after a few failed attempts in high school. So as you could imagine, I was really excited by the news of this new (I hate this word) “supergroup” because I also love Helium (Wild Flag also features Mary Timony of that band). Saw these ladies in Chicago last July before the album was released and all of my expectations were met. Great record.

6. Akron/Family, Akron/Family II:The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT: Not one of my favorite Akron/Family albums, but great nonetheless. Nothing seems to quite reach the heights of Love Is Simple (one of my favorite records ever) but it’s still better than a lot of other things. There are some great songs here. Overall, it’s a challenging record of a band trying to do something a little different from what’s going on in music today, and I always like that.

7. Battles, Gloss Drop: I have been a huge Battles fan since their inception. After those three great EP’s and their first full length, Mirrored, I was worried about this new record after founding member Tyondai Braxton left… but it’s awesome. Same old Battles, just a little more on the electro/tropicalia/West African end of things, which is fine by me. These guys are fantastic musicians and have a great live show, too.

8. Russian Circles, Empros: I am not a huge fan of music that’s too heavy; my metal phase kind of started and ended with Black Sabbath. But I have always been a big fan of Russian Circles, and this one might be my favorite. This album is awesomely heavy, but what impresses me is their songwriting and range as musicians. To say Russian Circles are a metal band, or “stoner rock” or whatever just doesn’t give them enough credit. I can’t wait to hear future records from these guys.

9. The Black Swans, Don’t Blame the Stars: I consider myself to be a biased and unabashed supporter of Ohio music, so I could have easily filled this whole list with records made by folks from the Buckeye State. I decided to try to limit that, but I couldn’t deny Don’t Blame the Stars. This record is intense in the best way possible. It’s also an accessible Black Swans record. I have been a huge fan of Jerry DeCicca’s songwriting for years, but this album is easily my favorite of their work. Sad and happy songs are side by side here, all with a sarcastic, dry wit that makes you feel a bit better about living life and dealing with its struggles and ups and downs. Beautiful stuff.

10. The Cool Kids, When Fish Ride Bicycles: My friend Brian turned me on to these guys a while back when their album The Bake Sale came out. I was surprised to see another album a few years later. Awesome beats on these tracks. These guys can rap too, although it has a lot more substance to it than the whole Lil’ Wayne/Drake/etc. crap that all of the music blog year-end lists freak out over each year. This is a perfect record for those people who love A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Pharcyde. I will overlook the horrible appearance from Travis Barker and call it a wash because of the badass Ghostface Killah verse on “Penny Hardaway”.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tom Waits (Bad As Me), Southeast Engine (Canary), Megachurch (Megachurch II: Judgement Day), tUnE-yArDs (w h o k i l l), Tyler, the Creator (Goblin), Julianna Barwick (The Magic Place)

Brian Koscho forgot to leave Athens after graduating OU some years back. He works at Stuart’s Opera House, co-founded and helps run Aquabear Legion and plays in Athens band State Park. He loves the end of the year but secretly freaks out because it makes him realize he needs to start working on the Nelsonville Music Festival. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life (see right). 

This is the eighth in a series of year-end blog posts by WOUB staff, volunteers and contributors, as well as area musicians, music retailers and plain old music fanatics. Think we missed something? Let us know at