Now that January is finally over and we've finally made it through the endless rounds of nomination and then discussion over which records were the best of 2010, it's officially time to stop looking back and start thinking about the music of the new year. We asked a group of journalists, radio professionals, publicists, musicians, record store employees and owners to recommend a new piece of music, and to tell us where they first heard it. Here's a sampling of the best of 2011, so far.
Note: Clips of the selected songs are included where available, but as some of this music is unreleased, in certain instances you'll have to trust the judgment of our panel, at least for now.
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd (Writer/Editor)
Pick: "Your Love" by Sepalcure
"Gorgeous gauche-bass track with soulful 'ooh' samples that's like a ghost house from the future. Totally got it from a publicist but I knew about the group before — it's a project by Brooklyn producers Machinedrum and Praveen Sharma, who also run the Percussion Lab website. IT JAMS."
Duane Harriott (DJ/Producer/Scribe)
Pick: Shadows EP by Elan Tamara
"She's a 21 year-old singer-songwriter from London. I first discovered her on Myspace three years ago and I've stayed in touch over the years. Shadows was sent to me directly from her and is currently available at Other Music NYC."
Ben Greenman (The New Yorker)
Pick: "I'm So Fabulous" by the New York Dolls (from the forthcoming Dancing Backward in High Heels out March 15 on 429 Records)
"The Dolls have released a pair of excellent records since reforming in 2004, though they've been a little more psychedelic in spots. This one leans more heavily on girl-group and downtown sleaze, and one of the best examples of that is "So Fabulous," which is an ode to the way New York used to be: messy, exciting, and authentic, with less gentrification and more personality. The song has a great spoken-word intro in which David Johnsen laments (or maybe lambastes) the influx of synthetic New Yorkers.
"I heard it because I got a copy from a publicist."
Alisa Ali (Host, WFUV's Alternate Side)
Pick: "I Follow Rivers" by Lykke Li (from the forthcoming album Wounded Rhymes, out March 1 on Atlantic Records)
"I got the song as a free download from rcrdlbl.com."
Brad Schelden (Indie buyer at Amoeba Music Hollywood)
Pick: "Stilyagi" by Puro Instinct (7" version out now, album Headbangers in Ecstasy out February 22 on Mexican Summer)
"I first heard them when they opened up for Ariel Pink last year. I have been obsessed with them ever since and probably first heard this new song on Myspace."
Bruce Warren (Program Director, WXPN & editor/founder of Some Velvet)
Pick: "Third Wave" by Work Drugs
"They e-mailed me."
Rob Weisberg (DJ, WFMU)
Pick: "Ampela Panao Kinanga" by Damily (from the forthcoming album Ela Lia, out in April on Helico Music)
"Damily and his band play Tsapiky — really up-tempo guitar and string-instrument-driven dance music from Southwestern Madagascar. He and his band did a great set at WOMEX in Copenhagen in October 2010.
"I first heard this CD track when former WOMEX director Gerald Seligman played it on a special post-WOMEX show I did on my weekly WFMU radio program.
Anastasia Tsioulcas (Editor of www.ariama.com)
Pick: Chamber Music by Vincent Segal & Ballake Sissoko (released this month by Six Degrees)
"The Malian kora master Ballake Sissoko and French cellist Vincent Segal create such a lovely and beguiling mix of delicate aesthetics and furious intelligence. I first heard them live at Globalfest in NYC during the Arts Presenters conference, and just around the same time, the publicist hired by Six Degrees sent me music."