Dirty Impound's 11 Bands To Watch In 2011

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Dirty Impound is stepping in to help y’all with the seemingly endless barrage of bands vying for your attention this year. We’ve sifted through the tea leaves to bring you a quick gloss and a nibble from eleven acts sure to enrich the listening life of any thinking rock ‘n’ roller in the months ahead.

1. Colourmusic

With a name that fits wonderfully around the shifting, vibrant hues and striking, slightly giddy feel of the cheekily titled My ___ Is Pink (arriving May 10), this quartet begs comparisons with early Beta Band (as in the magic band that made those first three EPs) and contemporaries Yeasayer and TV On The Radio. Except Oklahoma-based Colourmusic seems to be having more fun than their peers, perhaps having sipped from the same pool that’s made Wayne Coyne such a blast in the past decade. One feels animated and charged up listening to Colourmusic, whose latest is one of those gifts that keeps on giving.

2. Greensky Bluegrass

While there’s plenty o’ twang to Greensky, the band has increasingly shown a depth and heightened insight to the human condition that moves them a good few degrees away from their string band beginnings and much closer to The Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show, i.e. folkies and pickers capable of touching a much larger nerve in society. Greensky’s forthcoming new album, Handguns, lingers profoundly but doesn’t come off as heavy, preachy or anything of the sort. It’s the sound of a band coming into their own, ready for a lot more people to take them into their heart. No one will be sorry if they do.

3. White Denim

Austin, TX is lousy with bands but few possess the variety, spiky chops or tunesmithing savvy of White Denim. On May 24th, they release one of the liveliest, most thoroughly enjoyable albums to hit the Impound’s ears in 2011. D bobs and weaves along, tough and tickling, a child of the psychedelic revolution but free of the subset’s often muddy sonics, preferring instead punk’s whiplash sensibilities and pop’s come hither vibe. D pushes out one catchy, clever, unpredictable number after another, making one wonder that one band has made all these neat sounds. Anyone with a soft spot for Apollo Sunshine or Dr. Dog should take notice right away.

4. Red Fang

Murder The Mountains (released April 12) is only the second album from this Portland, OR quartet but it’s already obvious to any serious hard rock fan that these guys are on the pathway that brought us the likes of Mastodon and Queens of the Stone Age. However, Red Fang is a bit more Pabst Blue Ribbon ready than these kindred touchstones, and in some ways that makes their heavy duty music a bit more baldly enjoyable. Listening to new ones like “Wires” and “Throw Up” one can tell they’re hunting after big game but they never totally lose hold of a boogie spirit inside their addictively listenable music.

5. The Staxx Brothers

At first this Seattle band brought us back to vintage Funkadelic but the longer we listen the more cool ancestors kick up – Springsteen & E Street, MC5, Temptations, The Clash. And while their first two albums were pleasurable rides, their third long-player, Jungle Cat (arriving mid-May but available for pre-order now), tightens and builds upon all the good things exhibited previously, cutting back on the chuckles in favor of a rollicking, sly dissertation on what it means to survive in 21st century America. Vocally, they’ve got most of the competition skunked, and the three-piece instrumental core makes WAY too much great noise for so few guys. This year, Staxx is all business and business is VERY good.

6. Lions In The Street

This Vancouver, Canada group oozes classic rock attitude and style but evades nostalgia with songs that leap with urgency and timeless solidity. It’s been a couple years since their awesome self-titled debut (peep review here), so they’ve been woodshedding new material for a while. The demos they’ve let the Impound check out remind us of Southern Harmony And Musical Companion-era Black Crowes and the band themselves suggest it’s “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club playing Waylon Jennings.” Both work for us, and frankly we’re excited as hell to hear the sophomore salvo from these real rock upstarts – a band with the rugged fortitude to be a new millennial answer to The Faces if they play their cards right.

7. Rubblebucket

It’s nigh impossible to say too many nice things about Rubblebucket. They continually justify one’s enthusiasm with washes of talent and imagination that sweep one up quickly and joyfully. With hints of Talking Heads, Pere Ubu, Tricky, dub reggae and 70s Nigerian funk, Rubblebucket are a goddamn blast and a half, both on record and in the flesh. Lead singer Kalmia Traver is one of the most potent female vocalists to hit modern rock since Karen O first told us to hitch up our britches, and the fluctuating, brightly etched music around her keeps the conversation equally interesting. The band is giving away their new album, Omega La La, for free right now (details here) in an effort to shake hands with a wider audience. Don’t refuse them or we’ll come over and kick you in a sore spot for your laziness.

8. Howlin Rain

Ethan Miller and co. have been working on the follow-up to 2008’s Magnificent Fiend for three years. Uber-producer Rick Rubin is involved in the witchcraft, and there’s a lot of pressure to nail down something significant, big, etc. with this one. The Rain needn’t worry since they already have most rock bands outstripped on the talent and originality fronts, not to mention the sheer driving mojo that tumbles out of every track, even the slow burns. There’s a nifty three-cut EP, The Good Life (released February 11), to tide us over, but it really leaves us no less anxious (in a good way) for what this thinking man’s psychedelic unit will lay on us in the fall.

9. Le Butcherettes

The Slits, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and early PJ Harvey & Patti Smith all leap to mind when one presses play on Sin Sin Sin, the terrific, befuzzed debut from Los Angeles-by-way-of-Guadalajara, Mexico’s Le Butcherettes (arriving May 10). But these references quickly fade to footnotes once one digs into their gutsy, bile-rich music – all skinned knuckles, dented hearts and battered instruments. Produced by The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Sin Sin Sin is a nitro fueled update of riot grrrl ways that drips sex, violence and pure fucking rock ‘n’ roll.

10. Caleb Caudle & The Bayonets

While Ryan Adams is off doing whatever he’s doing – we’re not ones to judge – the field of thoughtful, pop-wise American roots music is wide open to a young, capable contender like Caleb Caudle. This kid and his diligently improving, tough little band give off the hungry whiff of early Petty and the Heartbreakers with some of Ryan’s softness. Their last album, 2010’s Snake River Canyon, announced the group’s ascent, and they’ve steadily knocked out solid steps forward since, including a Valentine’s single with Adams’ old Whiskeytown foil Caitlin Cary and a new EP that does nothing but increase the warming glow of this band.

11. The Mast

Haale Gafori and Matt Kilmer don’t make casual music. Spiritual, whip smart and intense, The Mast is full-bodied yet intoxicating like a wondrous scent caught at random on a strong wind. It’s hard to say where it came from but one must follow it just the same. This is music for lovers and fractals, dreamers and supplicants, rockers with questioning souls and children of all ages. Original, refreshingly sincere and strong as a tree, The Mast is working on their debut album for release later in 2011. For more on this pair, here’s a conversation with Haale and Matt that Dennis had a couple years back.