Eleven local bands and artists to watch in 2011

The life cycle of a local music community goes something like this: Bands form, play out, record music, play out more and (eventually) break up. There's plenty of variation in this sequence of events, of course, but in St. Louis, the local-band turnover tends to be rather high. Keeping track of the new faces around town can be difficult, so we decided to compile a list of up-and-coming artists poised to have a breakout year in 2011. The RFT's freelance music writers shared what new acts they've been digging lately, and the results vary from those groups who stick to punk houses to those ready to open for a major-label powerhouse.

Black Fast
Who: A quartet from Edwardsville with an insatiable need for speed

Sounds Like: A greatest-hits package of '80s thrash metal repackaged and remastered for fans of Dethklok

What It's About: The name celebrates metal's official color and tempo; its music follows suit. Black Fast pushes the familiar to its extremes. Blistering cascades of guitar leads, whiplash tempo changes and subversive sidesteps into major keys give an epic context to its lengthy shred-fests. Meanwhile, assertive vocalist/guitarist Aaron Akin gives the kids in the pit a reason to scream along — as soon as they learn the words. At the moment, Black Fast can only be heard on YouTube bootlegs. The band is hibernating in preparation of recording its debut, obsessively rehearsing to make their hypertechnical sagas bigger, blacker and faster.

Hannah and Delia Rainey of Dubb Nubb perform at Foam during the Secret Sound Festival on October 30.
Kholood Eid
Hannah and Delia Rainey of Dubb Nubb perform at Foam during the Secret Sound Festival on October 30.

Location Info


Cranky Yellow

2847 Cherokee St.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Retail

Region: St. Louis - South City

Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center

3301 Lemp Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Art Galleries

Region: St. Louis - South City

Listen: "Chaos Orb"
— Ryan Wasoba

Black James
Who: A Technicolor banjo troubadour who's often seen performing at Bolozone and Floating Laboratories. Also a member of the band Peck of Dirt.

Sounds Like: The ancient soul/dream-folk warblings of a medium channeling Dock Boggs

What It's About: The American Gothic leanings of Black James, a.k.a. Jennifer McDaniel, creep from a dark, cavernous basement in south city. A St. Louis transplant by way of Knoxville, Tennessee, McDaniel transcends traditional folk and blues, on the strength of ancient ballads laced with eccentric narratives. Black James' songs unfold in a playful marriage of cotton-picked banjo, ghostly soundscapes and broken electronics; McDaniel's Southern drawl pairs with her impeccably sharp wit. Be on the lookout for a self-released cassette in 2011.

Listen: "Jacked Up to Jesus"
— Josh Levi

Who: A trio often seen performing at Cranky Yellow or the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center

Sounds Like: A chopped and screwed apocalypse: Blood-soaked guitars match wits with faded vocal howls and twitching synth spasms.

What It's About: Britches formed in mid-2009 and recently released a demo called, er, Demo. The death sweats of early Sonic Youth and Xiu Xiu's skeletal noise sculptures are a starting touchstone, but the trio skillfully uses silence and restraint to magnify the dread of its chaotic moments. The best of the new songs is "White Noise," a grayscale pastiche of beauty and horror: Chiming melodies and grandfather-clock percussion devolve into marching stomps, macabre chants and gravel-embedded-in-knee riffs.

Listen: A five-song demo can be streamed/downloaded at: britchesbritches.bandcamp .com/album/demo — Annie Zaleski

Dubb Nubb
Who: Twin sisters who have been writing songs since they were fifteen. The pair has played mandolin, guitar and ukulele together "since the womb."

Sounds Like: If Kimya Dawson had a twin sister — or if she joined forces with Julia Nunes

What It's About: Dubb Nubb is an upbeat, eccentric duo that uses whistling, erratic hollerin' and woo-hoos to its full advantage on poppy, attention-grabbing folk songs. Dubb Nubb recently played at Foam for the first St. Louis Secret Sound Festival, and on January 14, the twins will be releasing a split seven-inch with Cory Taylor Cox called "Shiny Mountain." (A release show with Cox is taking place at Foam that night at 8 p.m.) Additionally, the duo is currently scheduling a recording session with Daytrotter, which will take place in January.

Listen: Dubb Nubb's debut album, The Best Game Ever, was released in March of 2009, and the New Bones EP came out last May. Both releases are available through Special Passenger Records.
 — Chrissy Wilmes

Greek Fire
Who: A radio-ready rock quartet featuring Story of the Year's Ryan Phillips and Philip Sneed

Sounds Like: The best bits of classic rock and '80s-era rock and metal; its music hints at Queen's pristine vocal and harmonic layering, Cheap Trick's driving power-pop and every KSHE riff hero.

What It's About: Formed in May 2009, the band's profile has continued to rise in 2010 on the strength of hard-to-pigeonhole tunes and strong songwriting. Greek Fire has a three-song sampler EP for sale at shows and is currently writing new music; new snippets on MySpace reveal more piano flourishes and keyboards. The band recently opened My Chemical Romance's Chicago show.

Listen: "Doesn't Matter Anyway"
— Annie Zaleski

Half Gay
Who: The duo of Floating Laboratories founder Kevin Harris and multimedia artist Mike Stasny

Sounds Like: Deconstructed analog house music from the future with tornadic drums and synths

What It's About: After donning some massive and insane headdresses made by Stasny, the duo (and sometimes trio) creates...well, deconstructed house music from the future. Seriously, this is probably what popular music will become in 30 to 40 years, complete with costumes and accompanying dizzy-making laser lights. Our grandchildren will love it. It's loud, erratic and danceable, with punishing rhythms and an abrasive charm. You get the sense they're grinning wickedly under those masks.

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