When we talked to Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells, she had come off of a day of press, stage-design meetings, and tour rehearsal, and was kicking back in her backyard in Greenpoint, Brooklyn playing with her dog. “My dog is obsessed with playing fetch,” she said with a laugh. “The day is never over when you have a dog to entertain when you come home.” But anyone who has seen Sleigh Bells’ stage shows, full of over-the-top barricades of speakers that blast the band’s glorious brand of noisy, shouty pop, knows that if there’s one thing that Krauss never seems to run out of, it’s the energy to entertain.
On Monday, the Brooklyn-based Fool’s Gold label carried on its tradition of hat-tipping old New York with an annual Day Off block party. Helmed by founders A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs, the free party that once took over the backyard parking lot of a Manhattan bar had clearly grown with the label’s popularity, sprawling over Williamsburg Park on Brooklyn’s East River waterfront. Over the span of eight hours, and with news of the Electric Zoo tragedies buzzing, the event became more than a showcase of the collective’s roster, instead taking on a festival air as dance acts and rap crews played one after the other to a crowd willing to take on both. And the sentiment was reflected on stage, too. Featured artist Danny Brown danced with Armand Van Helden and A-Track to A$AP Ferg’s “Shabba” and the latter could be seen returning the enthusiasm as Duck Sauce took the stage. While the scope of musicians hat played went from A surprise set by Boyz Noise to rowdy sets by Migos and El-P and Killer Mike, Duck Sauce inadvertently ended up showing what this night was all about. A-Trak threw in a mini scratch routine (a nod to his hip-hop turntablism skills) as Armand Van Helden worked the mixer (he, a legendary club kid) as they played their MTV rotation hit “It’s You,” a reminder that they, like Fools’s Gold, revel in blurring the lines between club worlds.
“Is it too early for a drink?” asks Nika Danilova when we first meet. She looks inquisitively around the room (at her manager, her husband, and then me) before answering her own question. “It’s close enough to 5 p.m.; why not?” We settle on a local sports bar, chosen because of it’s location a block away from her label’s warehouse headquarters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where she has just finished a photo-session for a magazine spread. But Danilova, better known as experimental and industrial singer-songwriter Zola Jesus, is in New York for more pressing matters. That is, she’s in the middle of recording her untitled forthcoming album in a professional studio — her first time doing so in her career as Zola Jesus — while preparing for the release of her latest project Versions. Out on August 20, Versions is a collection of her works rearranged by avant garde composer JG Thirlwell and re-recorded with the backing of Mivos Quartet that’s meant to expose the vocal prowess of the tiny, classically trained belter. The end result is gorgeous and presents an even more intimate side of Danilova, one that hovered beneath the surface of her noisy production and operatic ballads.
Tom! In “Tether,” I think she’s saying “I’m feeling capable of seeing the end / I’m feeling capable of saying it’s over” on the hook!
Knowing that changes the song dramatically for me / makes Mayberry’s delivery that much stronger. Related: I’ve read an interview with her where she mentions that she’s studied feminism in journalism + how to be feminine within a band without becoming the front-woman of the band. Her kind of dry lyrical prowess paired with THAT VOICE hits the nail on the head for me w/r/t that.
TOM! To answer the question you pose to kick this thing off, I’d politely like to offer an answer; “YA THERE IS.” Even in recent history! Remember Burial? He was actually even much closer to a true garage act than Disclosure is by far.
Though you mention it here as well, I take issue with dubbing this album a garage album in any way that then leads it to be “the first great UK garage album.” Way too much pop/house influence. They often mention Julio Bashmore as the spirit guide to their aesthetic.
Love yr resident dance stan.
I really enjoyed Calvin Harris’ new album. “Feel So Close” and “We Found Love” were both released as singles in 2011 so they couldn’t make this list! I was torn between “Let’s Go” and Usher/Guetta’s “Without You” for that spot!
I also really liked the Kelis track on his album but not quite as much. If you’re a fan, Cousin Cole’s disco mix of “Bounce” is great!
I’m finding that the line that separates the purists from the “confused” is more blurry than it’s ever been. More than a handful of producers beloved by whatever “underground” is left have (ahem, gladly) taken on production work for radio-friendly artists. (Let’s see where Jamie xx’s name ends up in 2013. In an interview I did with Girl Unit he mentioned wanting to work with Billboard-charting rnb singers.) To disregard dance in pop music out of pedantic loyalty to genre-names is your path but not mine! Dance music has traditionally benefited from a bending-the-rules-because-there-aren’t-any mentality, right?
Rihanna and Calvin Harris have proved themselves to be a power-duo as far as Billboard dance goes imo – if we’re going by release date, “We Found Love” was one of my favorite pop-dance tracks of 2011 as well.
It is true that there are only a handful of “EDM” songs on this list. We tried to survey the year in electronic dance music across regional club trends and other genres as well!
This is awesome to know. Thanks!