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Best of 2011: Kyle Miller

Today we have the top ten songs of 2011 from Churchkey co-founder Kyle Miller, in no particular order.

An Horse — “Dressed Sharply”: this one was a favorite of mine from the first time I heard it, at Mohawk in Austin during SXSW. Nearly a year later, it’s still one of the songs I sing in the car most often. I’m always amazed by how “big” this band sounds, live and on record, and I love the contrast when the guitars drop out at the end of this song. That part is also a nice reminder of how terrible of a singer I am.

The Mountain Goats — “Damn These Vampires”: I bought All Eternals Deck,  the rest of which which ended up not sticking with me at all, on the strength of this single. No mystery why: the chorus is totally unfuckwithable. Big Mountain Goats fans would probably consider this blasphemy, but hey, everyone’s got their thing. If Friday Night Lights was still on TV, “Damn These Vampires” would be the perfect backdrop to one of those season premier montages, before they cut to Slammin’ Sammy Meade on the radio, right?

Telekinesis — “50 Ways”: Loud, quiet, loud. Works every time, just like Colt .45.

Black Lips — “Family Tree”: Instant dance party. Every time. My neighbors have almost certainly witnessed some embarrassing dance moves. As did about 800 strangers at the Lincoln Theatre when I saw the Black Lips, The Love Language, Spider Bags, and Last Year’s Men live and under the influence at Hopscotch. Absolutely one of my favorite nights of the year, and one of my favorite songs of the year.

Fucked Up — “Queen of Hearts”: Man. I feel like I can do anything when I hear the opening riff. If I was going to get out of bed in the morning and take over the world, I’d put this song on in my headphones. Also, the video with the kids singing along rules.

Apex Manor — “Teenage Blood”: I totally missed the boat on The Year of Magical Drinking when it first came out. It took a $5 Amazon deal and a recommendation from Dan McCleary to get me to finally check it out. Dan used the magic words “Replacements” and “Teenage Fanclub,” so I had no choice but to check it out. It was probably the best five bucks I spent this year. Lasts a lot longer than a pint of Mother Earth Kölsch, too.

Mount Moriah — “The Reckoning”: “Lament” made my list last year, and I’m going with “The Reckoning” this year, now that the Mount Moriah album has gotten properly released. This song is just beautiful from beginning to end, lyrically and sonically. I can’t really say anything about it that hasn’t been said at this point. If by chance you haven’t listened to this song, please do.

Gillian Welch — “Tennessee”: I find myself humming the chorus at random times of day, even when I haven’t heard the song for weeks. That automatically qualifies it for this list, right?

Whatever Brains — “The Future of Porn”: In Rich Ivey I trust. For full impact, see it played live. Whatever Brains is quite possibly the best live band in the Triangle right now.

Titus Andronicus — “Breed”: This was on the Newermind tribute album that SPIN released for free online to mark the 20th anniversary of Nevermind‘s release. In contrast to the hugeness I’ve come to expect from Titus Andronicus, it sounds like your favorite punkrock band playing in your friend’s basement. Rad.

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Best of 2011: Jordan Lawrence

Our year-end wrap-up continues with Jordan Lawrence, Churchkey’s publicist and lone employee. Here are his top ten live sets from 2011.

1. Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Trio – Fletcher Opera Theater, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: The endless momentum and mind-bending textures of Chatham’s signature minimalist statement couldn’t have been more tremendous reverberating through this magnificent setting. It had the effect of an aural narcotic, numbing my brain and distorting my sense of time. Amazing.
  • Signature moment: Among the 10 imposing guitarists performing Chatham’s masterwork, Horseback’s Jenks Miller was the only one to rock out. His impassioned headbanging assured me that at least one other person was as overwhelmed by the experience as I was.

2. Amon Tobin’s Isam – Asheville Civic Center Arena, Moogfest – Asheville, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: The singular combination of Tobin’s lush, pounding electronic composition and the awe-inspiring projection set-up a team of top artists cooked up for Isam‘s performance is tough to put into words. Just watch:

  • Signature moment: The first time the geometry of the projection lined up with Tobin’s cube-constructed screen such that it appeared to move. I literally took two steps back.

3. Swans – Fletcher Opera Theater, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: The set underground legends Swans laid down at Hopscotch was a dark  monstrosity of punishing minor-chord riffs and the menacing clang of powerful chimes. It was forceful and transfixing, and in every way lived up to the band’s reputation.
  • Signature moment: Singer/guitarist Michael Gira stomping out the tempo during the concussive opening to “No Words/No Thoughts” with all the fury of a drum major from Hell.

4. Ty Segall – Kings – Raleigh, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Polished but raucous, Ty Segall’s sublime March display at Kings was everything a great garage rock set should be. The San Francisco sensation and his band tore through songs with precision, lighting them up with powerful yet economical instrumentals that accentuated his tight and aggressive hooks. In other words, he showed everybody how it’s done.
  • Signature moment: I can remember few sets of straight-up rock ‘n’ roll that have left me so amazed. Hard to pick one moment that was more signature than any other.

5. Suicide – Orange Peel, Moogfest – Asheville, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Suicide all but invented synth-pop and inspired Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska with their 1977 debut, so seeing them playing it from front to back would have been a thrill even if had been mediocre. It wasn’t. Marty Rev’s chugging, churning keyboard lines found a perfect middle ground between caustic and catchy as Alan Vega found new fury in a voice worn ragged by the intervening years. It was untamed and unforgettable, a timeless display of (still) youthful intensity.
  • Signature moment: Vega bumming a cigarette from a girl in the front row and then grunting his lines through a veil of smoke — in clear violation of the N.C. smoking ban.

6. Earth – Kings, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: The strung-out desert metal of Earth’s fantastic 2011 LP Angles of Darkness, Demons of Light I was even better live, manipulating tired festival minds like soft clay. The set drifted on for two hours and retained an amazing feeling of tense calm throughout, providing an experience that was as impressive as it was absorbing
  • Signature moment: Guitarist Dylan Carlson reprimanding photographers for using flash after he’d asked them not to and making them look like spoiled children.

7. Wolves in the Throne Room – Studio B – Greensboro, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Wolves’ soaring gusts of black metal guitar are a wonder live. They transformed a ritzy art gallery into a stormy woodland with their stunning guitar architecture and Nathan Weaver’s potent caterwaul.
  • Signature moment: The slow build to the band’s first song built anticipation to a fever pitch before the band laid into their devastating attack.

8. Hiss Golden Messenger – Nightlight – Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: M.C. Taylor and a top-notch band, which included members of the Black Twig Pickers and William Tyler, rendered the smooth trip through American sound of his new LP Poor Moon into an amazingly potent live force. The ensemble was tight, allowing each player in the seven-piece band to shine through wonderfully.
  • Signature moment: William Tyler’s guitar fills were a delight, filling in gaps in creative bursts without ever overshadowing the songs or the other instrumentalists.

9. Naked Gods – Legitimate Business – Greensboro, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: The tempered Wilco-meets-Dinosaur Jr rock of their LP No Jams explodes live, and never more intensely than at this gem of a Thursday night gig. Guitars bent tones in wondrously stoned harmonies as choruses were transformed into shouted exhultations. Rock ‘n’ roll energy doesn’t come any more pure and powerful.
  • Signature moment: Singer Seth Sullivan beating the heck out of his tambourine and letting his eyes roll back during the ridiculously tight guitar work on “Shaq & Diane.”

10. Thee Oh Sees – Krankies Coffee  – Winston-Salem, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: This set was raucous in all the best ways. Thee Oh Sees’ fuzzed-out psych rock was rough but fluid, roaring down catchy pathways with staggering dexterity. The crowd responded in kind, erupting in a jubilant mosh pit that consumed most of the venue.
  • Signature moment: Running to the back of the club for a much needed glass of water and looking on at the writhing crowd. I’ve seen few audiences so excited.

Honorable mention:
Apache Dropout – Deep South, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.
Brain F≠ – Slim’s, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.
Gunn-Truscinski Duo – The Pour House, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.
Frank Fairfield – Flanders Gallery, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.
Fucked Up – Kings – Raleigh, N.C.
Mikal Cronin – Duke Coffeehouse – Durham, N.C.
Nobunny – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, N.C.
Reigning Sound (New Year’s Eve) – Grey Eagle – Asheville, N.C.
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings –  Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival – Pittsboro, N.C.
Sidi Toure – Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival – Pittsboro, N.C.
Whatever Brains (LP Release) – Kings – Raleigh, N.C.
William Tyler and Wooden Wand – The Pour House, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.

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Best of 2011: Steve Jones

Our look back at 2011 continues with input from Churchkey co-founder Steve Jones. Here are his top ten favorite records from the last year:

1. Mount Moriah – Mount Moriah (Holidays for Quince)
2. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador)
3. Fucked Up – David Comes To Life (Matador)
4. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
5. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread (Drag City)
6. Apex Manor – The Year of Magical Drinking (Merge)
7. King Louie’s Missing Monuments – Painted White (Douchemaster)
8. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain (Vice)
9. Jacuzzi Boys – Glazin’ (Hardly Art)
10. Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines (Merge)

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Best of 2011: David Koslowski

Today begins a 2011 retrospective from Churchkey artists, friends and employees. David Koslowski, singer ans guitarist for the huge, riff-powered Durham rock outfit Free Electric State starts things off with dual top tens of his favorite records and shows from the past year:

Wye Oak – Civilian (Merge)
Pontiak – Comecrudos (Thrill Jockey)
Zomes – Earth Grid (Thrill Jockey)
Anika – Anika (Stones Throw)
Weekend – Red EP (Slumberland)
Celebration – Hello Paradise (Friends)
Braids – Native Speaker (Kanine)
Arbouretum – The Gathering (Thrill Jockey)
Peaking Lights – 936 (Not Not Fun)
Wooden Shjips – West (Thrill Jockey)

The Soft Moon – Comet Club – Berlin
The Feminists – Köpi (a squat in Kreuzberg) – Berlin
Wye Oak – Deja Fest – Raleigh, NC
Celebration w/ Arbouretum – Scapescape Festival at the Gspot – Baltimore
Scratch Acid – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC
Polvo – Kings – Raleigh, NC
Mike Watt – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
A Place To Bury Strangers – Motorco – Durham, NC
Braids w/ Weekend – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn
Birds of Avalon – Nightlight – Chapel Hill, NC