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The best local albums of 2011

The blood-letting, tear-jerking, and aural ancestral communions that still demand attentionThe blood-letting, tear-jerking, and aural ancestral communions that still demand attention

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Sharp-dressed men: SA’s Education

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Courtesy photo

Education’s Age Cage

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Courtesy photo

Bryan Hamilton’s Welcome To Dreamland


Any local musician I spoke with in 2011 had to endure my persistent inquiring as to when their next LP would be delivered. Even when it was an EP about to drop, I'd ask, ask, and then ask their mothers. While EPs seldom cut national profiles, The Great '85’s Believe It broke my heart and melted my face. Meanwhile, Education's LP Age Cage — released beneath deafening hype — fulfilled a musical promise even if it failed an industry one. Selecting a local top 10 list proved to be like favoring children: I could have easily doubled my local faves. More importantly, however: buy these records!

 

1. Education’s Age Cage
Even the toughest cynics thought Age Cage would start “something” for San Antonio. It did. Sort of. Famed producer Gordon Raphael did not aid Education in initiating a grunge-like explosion of local bands. Instead, he helped them record a flawless rock record, marrying the relentlessness of early players Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis with the kitchen-sink composition of modern indie. Age Cage is instantly loveable, with sweetly stinging melodies and bone-rattling instrumentation. The songs are mostly about young love, an old trope made new in the shadow of the album’s title (what young lovers in their prime don’t wish to be caged by a moment in time?). While the record doesn’t shy from embellishment, it’s not bogged down by instrumentation, either. It’s just damn good at being a damn good rock record.

2. Bryan Hamilton’s Welcome To Dreamland
Welcome to Dreamland is encapsulated no better than in “Sleepy Souls Awaken,” where a Vishnujana Swami sample waxes, “I’m not black or white. I’m not pretty or ugly.” Being a spirit and having a body is the great theme of this record, a blood-letting of the soul.

3. Blowing Trees’ Wolf Waltz and the Big Nothing Now
Anyone who has seen Chris Maddin play solo at Broadway 5050 knows how fascinatingly erratic he is, playing strings of random covers before marathoning side B of Abbey Road. Wolf Waltz follows this tradition, short on hooks but beautifully grand on composition.

4. Carlton Zeus’ The Spread Mixtape
Zeus is becoming Saytown’s Kanye West: a polarizing talent with mad hustle. The Spread Mixtape is a pure party rap featuring screeds on getting mani-pedis before getting laid. His rap hedonism makes him a refreshing oddball in SA hip-hop.

5. Bad Breaks’ KRTU Plugged In Session
Bad Breaks’ live “mission statement” captures indie pop's essence. Chuck Kerr [full disclosure: he’s the Current’s art director] and company deliver urgently, but never let go of the classic cool of their sweetest forebears (think Spoon, the Strokes). An endearing, highly hummable debut.

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