Guided by Vices

The best of 2011 so far

By Christopher Schutte


There are any number of things that make being a music critic a pretty good gig (my parents are so proud). First and foremost, you get to listen to virtually everything that’s released and you don’t have to pay for it. You also get “press” access to artists and passes to shows that you would otherwise fork over $25 to see. Not bad, right? The trade-off is that you start to approach listening to music as an academic endeavor instead of an emotional connection.

As someone who slaved over album liner notes and lived with records during his formidable years this can be a little disconcerting. I spent a lot of time with records before I made a value judgment which, if deemed worthy, culminated with a place in my collection.

As a music journalist in 2011, the emphasis is on being first – first to discover a new band, first to review a new record, first to tap the artist as “genre defining.” It’s all a little exhausting to be honest. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s still pretty cool to see your opinion in print and know that someone is paying attention (thank you, Omega Records!). It’s just that I like to spend a little more time with records to see how they feel after the first impression.

With that out of the way, allow me to recap my favorite records from the first half of 2011. Records I’ve spent some time with. Records I’ve played over and over on my iPod and my porch speakers while enjoying a cocktail. Records that have stuck with me after repeated listening.

The Best (so far) of 2011….

1) James Blake, James Blake, [A&M]
What I said then:

Blake is decidedly experimental – skittering beats, effects-laden vocals and cavernous sub-bass define his palette. Unlike his contemporaries (Burial, Four Tet, etc.), Blake’s genius is grounded in actual songwriting and musicianship. A beautiful, restrained and groundbreaking record.

What I’m thinking now:
Unlike most electronica and dubstep which can grow cold and repetitive upon repeated listening, Blake’s record has a beating heart at its core. These songs resonate as songs, not just aural soundscapes. Easily my favorite record of the year so far – and it’s not really even that close.

2) Destroyer, Kaputt, [Merge]
What I said then:

Kaputt has head Destroyer, Dan Behar, embracing his 197’s AM-Gold side. His usual hyper-literate, jittery vibe has been replaced by languid saxophone fills, smooth synth washes and a heavy-eyed vocal style – all to good effect.

What I’m thinking now:
While Bejar laments the “hopelessness of the future of music,” his look back at touchstones such as Roxy Music will have you believing that he may be overstating things a bit. The lyrics are sharp, the phrasing spot on and the music assured. If this is what’s to come for Destroyer, then hopeless looks pretty good.

3) Cults, Cults, [Merge]
What I said then:

Cults is an extraordinary record that reveals a band adept at crafting sugary, girl group pop with a dark underbelly that belies its infectiousness. The fantastic opening salvo of, “Abducted”, “Go Outside” and “You Know What I Mean” makes you long for the bygone days of 45 RPM, 7” singles.

What I’m thinking now:
When you put aside all the hipster music baggage I probably enjoy this record more than anything I’ve heard this year. I initially thought that the bright/dark aesthetic and girl group ooh-oohing might get old after a time. After about 40 spins, I can now tell you that I was completely wrong.

4) Washed Out, Within and Without [Sub Pop]
What I said then:

Unlike some of his electronica contemporaries, Ernest Greene favors traditional song structure over texture building, and pop constructs over skittering beats. His new version of chillwave would be better defined as “trip-hop with soul,” or maybe something that defies genre altogether.
Within and Without is an unapologetically pretty, unabashedly ambitious record. The production is lush, the beats are bold and the blown-out ‘8os synth-pop vibe is palpable.

What I’m thinking now:
I’m liking this record more after every play. I wouldn’t exactly call it a “grower,” because I liked it almost immediately. I think part of my increased appreciation is listening to the record almost constantly on headphones. It’s sonically rich, but that’s only part of it. It’s a record that creates a very specific kind of mood that I can’t quite define. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, or the future, but I like it.

5)The Strokes, Angles [RCA]
What I said then:

I can’t lie – Angles – is definitely a train wreck. But it’s a damned entertaining train wreck that covers just about every musical genre from white-boy reggae (Machu Picchu) and ‘80s synth-pop (Two Kinds of Happiness), to an Elvis Costello homage (Taken For A Fool) and a note-for-note Thin Lizzy rip-off (Gratisfaction). Angles is a completely disjointed mess that also happens to be a pretty irresistible listen.

What I’m thinking now:
As I started this list I kept pushing Angles back thinking there had to be some other record – or records – that I’ve liked better this year. Now I’m beginning to think that all the so-called “experts” who panned this record never really took the time to really listen to it. Sure, it’s kind of a mixed-bag, but it’s always entertaining. Julian Casablancas has never sounded better and the guitar interplay is damned near Television-level at points. It may be that I’m just a fan. But with everything considered, is that so bad?


All of these albums are available for purchase at Omega Records at 318 E. Fifth St. in the Historic Oregon District. Look for the Dayton City Paper recommendations shelf.


Reach DCP freelance writer Christopher Schutte at

About Christopher Schutte

View all posts by Christopher Schutte
Chris is a freelance drinker who spends most of his free time doing really cool things. Things you wouldn’t believe even if he told you. He enjoys consuming things, making things and writing about things while wearing fashionable clothing and listening to recorded music. He also has a pug named Miles. Reach Chris at

7 Responses to “Guided by Vices” Subscribe

  1. Andy G August 31, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    To call this article Guided By Vices and not include any of Robert Pollard’s 2011 releases (4, so far) is a disgrace. Sounds like you have more of an issue with being trendy than being an actual critic. Go hide under a rock, and stop reviewing music.

  2. John Doe August 31, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    Not sure how an album that is described as “train wreck” and “mixed-bag” beats out all the other great stuff that’s been released in 2011 so far. That just doesn’t make sense. Especially when you have a guy like Bob Pollard in your town who’s releasing these epic masterpieces like “Let It Beard” C’mon!

  3. Brian August 31, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    Couldn’t help but notice the mass irony in the title. I am sure it’s because you are going to write an article about how every single record Robert Pollard has released thus far in 2011 is better than any of this other shit you have wasted your time on.

  4. James Greer August 31, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    Dear Dayton City Paper,

    Just wanted to alert you that your site seems to have been hacked by someone calling himself “Christopher Schutte,” purporting to be a “music journalist” (this is your first clue: no such thing exists). Elementary errors of grammar and usage (e.g. “formidable years” rather than the correct usage “formative years”) along with an evidently willful ignorance w/r/t music of any genre further unmask this tin-eared subliterate imposter. I’d suggest upgrading your security software ASAP.

  5. Mike Mescher August 31, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Guided by Vices
    Well, at least you got your title correct. You certainly must be guided by some sort of vice. After reading the title I was astonished that not one of Robert Pollard’s releases was mentioned. All of his releases this year so far deserved to be ranked above the the featured releases in this story. Not to include at least one of Pollard’s releases brands this article as dull, foolish, slow-witted, and tiresome. But, of course, everyone has their own opinion and an opinion of the so called writer of Guided by Vices.

  6. Guided By Vices August 31, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Dear Readers:

    I feel like I must respond to the outpouring of emotion from the GBV fanboys club. Just to set the record straight I’m a GBV fan and yes, the column name is a really, really clever play on on the band’s name (genius, right?).

    That said, can we all just acknowledge the fact that Uncle Bob keeps feeding us warmed-over GBV b-sides under the guise of misunderstood genius solo artist? If you’ll just admit that you have a hard time getting through any of his recent releases in their entirety without putting a fork in your retina, I’ll have more respect for your opinion.

    I should probably also note that I’m facetiously referring to myself as a “music journalist”, and “critic”. That seems fairly obvious when I read the piece, but then again I am “dull” and “slow-witted” as opposed to those of you trolling GBV message boards from the safety of your parent’s basement.

    Finally I should tell you, Dear Readers, that I am anything but trendy. I listen to tons of stuff, write about what I like, and don’t say much about the rest of the junk I don’t like. I suppose I could spend my days cataloguing the every move of someone like Ian McCullough (another washed-up 80’s hero of mine), but isn’t that what the interweb is for?

  7. Brian August 31, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    It isn’t emotion, it’s logic. Either you aren’t a Guided by Voices fan or you haven’t heard the latest Boston Spaceships LP. I’ll go out on a limb and say you aren’t a fan or you wouldn’t have referred to a former GbV member (and published author) as a “fanboy sitting in his parents’ basement.” Really original insult, too.

    And, we aren’t trolling – we used to read this garbage paper on a weekly basis. “Fanboy”? Probably.

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