My Favorite 2011 Discoveries in the Free Downloads Section on

Posted by Amoebite, December 30, 2011 05:23pm | Post a Comment
I love being in a song's clutches, whether it's a new single by an established band or the first track from a new artist I've never heard. I know a song has grabbed me when I hit repeat immediately after its final notes wafted through my ears. I especially love it when this happens with artists with whom I wasn't familiar before. It makes me want to dig into the rest of their music, learn a bit about their history, find out where they've been all this time and why haven't I heard of them until now?

This happened with quite a few tracks I first discovered this year in the Free Downloads section of Since it's the season of "Best Of" lists and looking back at 2011, I wanted to share some of my favorite discoveries (in alphabetical order):

2 Hearts and Chemicals
2 Hearts and Chemicals - "Coming Home"

2 Hearts and Chemicals is a bi-coastal band featuring childhood friends Eli Lhymn (who is based in LA) and Stephen Biebel (who is based in NYC). Through the magic of the Internet they exchanged tracks created in their individual studios to produce the Coming Home EP. The title track is an ‘80s synth meets ‘90s shoegaze pop soundscape featuring female background vocals by Iameve.

XD Records released Coming Home on November 11, 2011. Download "Coming Home" by 2 Hearts and Chemicals.

- "For Sake"

I love the mixing of elements in music that don't normally go together, and I have a particular affinity for acoustic guitar in electronic productions. Geoff White (a.k.a. Aeroc) creates instrumental pieces that feature his own acoustic guitar work that he then alters, amplifies and maniupulates. "For Sake" is a quiet, soft electronic piece. You can hear the guitar strings and the glitches, but they work together harmoniously. 

Aeroc released R+B=? on Ghostly International on December 13, 2011. Download "For Sake" by Aeroc.

Gary Clark Jr
Gary Clark, Jr
. - "Bright Lights"

When I first heard that Austin blues rock guitarist Gary Clark Jr. was signed to Warner Bros after a performance at Eric Clapton’s 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival I thought it probably wouldn't be my thing. But then I listened to “Bright Lights” and I loved it. It's a powerful, rockin’ blues guitar-driven song that sounds at home next to The Black Keys or The White Stripes. In fact, I heard it on KCRW this morning played right before "Sister" from the latest Black Keys album El Camino

Warner Brothers released the Bright Lights EP on December 13, 2011. Download "Bright Lights" by Gary Clark, Jr.

The Head & The Heart
The Head & the Heart
- "Down In the Valley"
The Head & the Heart formed in Seattle, although their members have roots in California and Virginia which I personally hear in their music more than Seattle. But then again, I'm not from Seattle. Regardless, you can hear the craft and attention to detail they put in their music. "Down In the Valley" begins quietly and softly on guitar, then it's joined by male vocals ("Lord have mercy on my rough and rowdy ways"), and then a violin enters the mix, followed by piano and drums. The song builds slowly, patiently, and beautifully until you are enveloped in it. 

The Head & the Heart's self-titled debut full-length was released April 16, 2011 on Sub Pop. Download "Down In the Valley" by The Head & The Heart.

Holy Ghost
Holy Ghost!
- "Wait and See"

This was the first track I'd ever heard from NY production team Holy Ghost!. I love electro pop so this was right up my alley. From its opening notes which cascade upwards into keys, followed by the beat and the synth line leading to its catchy chorus..."When you promised to be honest with me / Were you being honest, tell me honestly." I practically wore out the play button with this track. 

Holy Ghost!'s self-titled debut full-length album came out April 26, 2011 on DFA Records. Download "Wait and See" by Holy Ghost!

Hooray for Earth
Hooray for Earth - "No Love"

This one is a bit of a cheat because I first discovered New York synth-pop band Hooray for Earth through a Green Room Session we filmed with them in 2011. Their single "No Love" is a synth-pop feel-good jam with layers of vocals, screeching guitars, and a good hook. Also check out a video of them performing a cover of Kanye's "All of the Lights" which is pretty rad. 

Hooray for Earth's debut full-length, True Loves, was released June 7, 2011 on Dovecote Records. Download "No Love" by Hooray for Earth.

MemoryhouseMemoryhouse - "Quiet America"

I was introduced to Memoryhouse through two tracks this year. The first was a remastered version of "Quiet America" from their self-released EP, The Years. The second was "The Kids Were Wrong," a new track from their forthcoming album, The Slideshow Effect (due out on Sub Pop on 2/28/2012). I actually prefer the older track because it's so sparse. It reminds me of an open winter landscape: vast, quiet, and powerful. They are from Toronto, so maybe winter inspired the song?

Sub Pop released the remastered version of The Years EP on September 13, 2011. Download "Quiet America" by Memoryhouse.

Phantogram - "Don't Move"

Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter are electronic pop duo Phantogram. I was captivated by "Don't Move" from its first notes. I love the ethereal quality of Barthel's vocals over the carefully distorted, bent, and manipulated male background vocals. 

Phantogram released their mini-LP Nightlife on Barsuk on October 24, 2011. Download "Don't Move" by Phantogram.

Strange TalkStrange Talk - "Climbing Walls"

This one is ridiculously catchy. Strange Talk sounds sort of like a hybrid between Friendly Fires, Phoenix, and Passion Pit, but these guys are Australian (the home to another similarly danceworthy electro pop outfit Cut Copy), so there's a bit of that Down Under electro touch thrown in. Strange Talk also did something very unique this year with their video for "Climbing Walls" and a partnership with Cheer detergent. Read more about their groundbreaking interactive video

Strange Talk's self-titled debut album was released on May 2, 2011 on Neon Gold. Download "Climbing Walls" by Strange Talk.

- "Hazel"

San Francisco band Weekend released the Red EP this fall as a holdover between full-length albums. “Hazel” is a gem of post-punk with cascading bass chords, guitar clangor, and a catchy melody and chorus.  

Red was released September 20, 2011 on Slumberland. Download "Hazel" by Weekend.

- By Rachael McGovern

Relevant Tags

Best Of 2011 (17), Free Downloads (5), Hooray For Earth (1), The Head & The Heart (1), Phantogram (5), Gary Clark Jr. (5), Holy Ghost (3), Strange Talk (5), Aeroc (1), Ghostly International (2), Sub Pop (18), Neon Gold (1), Barsuk (1)