Wye Oak, Pulling Teeth, Future Islands, Mullyman, White Life, and more.

Hey, finally a local top 10 with an

actual unifying factor: There isn’t a new band or artist on here. New names, sure, but White Life’s Jon Ehrens has been on his quest for perfect pop music for years under too many different handles to count. Even Dope Body’s been at its unique future-punk game for a few years. Meanwhile, old (by now) hands ranging from Wye Oak to Pulling Teeth to Mullyman deliver career bests and statements of maturity. Is that a reflection on what’s going on in post-hype Baltimore in the year 2011? Perhaps. The answer(s) will come soon enough. (The ranking here should be considered fairly subjective. Some weight was given to votes for local bands on ballots for the unrestricted music top 10 elsewhere in this issue, while most of the judgment came courtesy of the input of


City Paper

music writers, whose words you can find below.) (Michael Byrne)

1 Wye Oak,



People are always amazed by the amount of noise Wye Oak creates with a mere two people—a level achieved by Jenn Wasner’s rich vocals, the pummeling distortion of her guitar, and Andy Stack working drums, keys, and just about anything else he gets his hands on. Songs build and swell before all of these elements are let loose in a burst. The pair’s third—and arguably breakout—album,


, relies less on throwing in the kitchen sink in these loud-quiet-loud moments and instead finds catharsis in newfound subtleties and nuances in between. It’s less a wholesale change and more a band finessing its dynamic and finding its wheelhouse. (Brandon Weigel)

2 Pulling Teeth,



Pulling Teeth covered every heavy-music base with


—hardcore music cut with thrash metal soaked in sludge and served punk-side-up. And maybe that means little to a non-metal reader, which is always the problem with writing about this stuff. But most human beings have met the sort of things on



, and many know them very well: the sort of rage that threatens to turn you inside out, sadness like everything is dead and the air is gone from the world, the breathless gasping of violence. A music universe without extreme music/metal would be incomplete, dishonest even. Technical proficiency, song writing, and bare thrill aside,


gets this aspect, this place in the everyone-world of sense and feeling and haunts, perfect. (MB)

3 Future Islands,

On the Water

(Thrill Jockey)

There’s always been something of a contradiction in Future Islands’ music: vocalist Sam Herring spilling his guts over ebullient new wave-style beats tailor-made for dancing. With

On the Water

, an emotional equilibrium is reached, as bassist William Cashion and synth player Gerrit Welmers create soundscapes that rely less on bounce and tightness and more on range and depth. For his part, Herring is as intense and forthcoming as ever, but he is also able to shift his perspective beyond the breakup song onto the life of a touring band.

On the Water

serves as both Future Islands’ most adventurous collection of songs and its most complete. (BW)

4 Mullyman, Mullyman vs. the Machine (DJ Whoo Kid)

In 2010, Mullyman took a break from a steady stream of mixtapes to drop his long-awaited second album

Harder Than Baltimore

. In 2011, he ostensibly returned to the mixtape grind, but the result,

Mullyman vs. the Machine

, feels more like a followup album than a quickie mixtape, full of original songs produced by his favorite beatmakers, DJ Booman and MBAHlievable. But DJ Whoo Kid, who once upon a time helped make 50 Cent a mixtape legend, shows up as host to remind you that it is, in fact, a mixtape, and perhaps the one that will finally give Mullyman an overdue upper hand over the music-industry machine he’s worked so hard to dominate. (Al Shipley)

5 White Life,

White Life


Jon Ehrens once recorded a cover of “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears in the style of one of his many lo-fi indie-rock projects, the Art Department. But years later, his love of ’80s synth pop manifested itself in a different way, as White Life’s self-titled debut became his own

Songs From the Big Chair

. Singing his lungs out with help from his sister Emily Ehrens over lush, glimmering synthesizers and drum machines, Ehrens made a surprisingly soulful album, a culmination of everything dramatic and playful and nostalgic and original about his songwriting. (AS)


DJ Pierre,



Made up of only Pierre’s own futuristic productions and radio refixes,


links Baltimore club with the general global dance maximalism happening everywhere right now, regardless of region. Sometimes it feels like Lee Perry doing club music—noisy samples and echo stacked up, seemingly for shits and giggles—and other times, it just sounds like a young dude carving out his niche in the stalwart local sound laid down more than 20 years ago by guys like DJ Booman and Scottie B. The “Think” break is not necessarily guaranteed here, but that’s a good thing. (Brandon Soderberg)



TV Killed the Video Star


Not to make too much of the rapper formerly known as Midas’ coming out earlier this year, but there’s so much explosive, fuck-it-do-whatever personality rushing out of this little EP (nine songs, a little over 15 minutes), that it’s hard not to think he’s broken through and can finally just be his baroque three-dimensional self. Flipping Rick Ross quotables on

Golden Girls

tribute “Blanche and Dorothy,” DDm boasts, “If I die today remember me like Little Richard,” but the mix of swaggering confidence, goofball humor, and club-music energy has us conjuring up comparisons to Baltimore’s dearly departed Miss Tony. (BS)

8 Celebration, Hello Paradise (Friends)

When Celebration first embarked on its Electric Tarot project in 2009, the decision to release new songs online for free, one at a time, seemed like a way to shake things up and get away from treating albums as the end-all be-all of its output. But a funny thing happened this year after the nine songs had all finally trickled out and were assembled into a running order as

Hello Paradise

: It still feels like an album. And as an exotic, otherworldly journey through all the sounds the band and its powerhouse singer, Katrina Ford, are capable of, it may be its best yet. (AS)


9 E Major,

E Major Is . . . Better Than Yours

(Under Sound)

Wherein a rapper from the rigid underground, with one classic album to his name (2008’s

Majority Rules

) fully enters the ever-changing internet rap underground where anything goes. Too much Baltimore hip-hop seems to either sadly chase radio trends or mine an aging-out style ad nauseam, and that makes this confident release sound revelatory. Sponsored by a streetwear blog, put out as a free download, and featuring a freestyle over a Flying Lotus song, samples of Peter Gabriel and John Lennon, and a woozy single called “FTW,” this one’s both an assured sea change and very much in E’s sincere raps-over-sneaky beats wheelhouse. (BS)

10 Dope Body,



Dope Body built up over a number of years, working its way up in a fairly usual stew of tape releases and warehouse shows. A whole lot of people realized quickly that Dope Body wasn’t a usual band—there are actually “usual” warehouse bands as much as there are usual bar bands—and the trio was unearthing something different.


, Dope Body’s long-awaited proper full-length, doesn’t so much split once it hits the ear, following divergent tracks to the caveman smash-stuff brain and wherever in there one might decode something both technical and future-forward, but brings those lobes together into sci-fi garage-punk awesome. (MB)