This decade is already promising to be a stellar one. “Why?”, I hear you ask through your non-focal hipster glasses, as you flick through your homemade bootleg collection of bands from the 90s.
Let’s first look at the rise and rise of dubstep. Such a rise in an entirely different genre hasn’t been seen since around about the start of the new millennium with the rise and rise of metalcore, with bands like Bullet For My Valentine and Killswitch Engage being the big innovators of the first decade of the century. We saw the rise of emo and we saw it die away, so will dubstep do a metalcore and rise over the course of the decade, or will it cut its own wrists? Dubstep’s been around for longer than most of you reading this, but dubstep reached chart popularity pretty slowly and is now the selling point of nightclubs and DJs across the UK and the world. Chart hits like the Crookers remix of “Day ‘N’ Nite” by Kid Cudi and a handful Britney Spears singles are obvious examples of pre-2010 dubstep which have experienced a fair amount of success but with the rise of acts like Magnetic Man, James Blake, Nero and so on the 2010s are set to be the era which comes to make or break the dance music scene as we know it now. To see dubstep as a plethora of similar artists is perhaps somewhat narrow-minded, simply citing the gulf between Britney Spears’ brand of dubstep and the dubstep of acts on Doctor P’s Circus records.
The rise of Nero, an act who seem to have been around for as long as I’ve been interested in dance music, is one such case study. Nero began with successful remixes of various club tunes (see their remix of The Streets’ “Blinded By The Lights” for an absolute banger) and began to release fairly under-the-radar drum and bass tracks (see “Choices”). Their big break came in late 2010 with the release of the pioneering UKF’s double drum ‘n’ bass/dubstep albums with the exposure of ”Innocence”, followed by successful singles “Me And You”, “Guilt” and “Promises”. Nero have come to define a modern dance music audience (counterbalance that with the rise of LMFAO and we have a gulf emerging even in dance music).
While Nero have been pretty widely acclaimed by dubstep fans and pop fans alike, there’s acts around that really split opinion down the middle. I barely need to say the name Skrillex for the fangs to come out on both sides of the argument. The emo singer-come-producer has certainly won my affections, but continues to drive people to murderous anger with his ADHD “bass” music (a term I prefer when referring to Skrillex, as he certainly doesn’t adhere to the more slowed down, grime/garage-influenced dubstep rubric that is an industry staple), his image is one that divides even his fans.
2011 hasn’t just been the year of the raver, however, with massive releases from bands on both sides of the rock camp: The Strokes released Angles, a tremendous 80s-influenced return to form for the New York quintet which has tunes to rival their debut Is This It, but also reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Blink 182 returned with Neighbourhoods (an album I’m not going to pretend to have listened to) (Editor’s note: lucky you), as did Anthrax and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As well as EDM, I am certainly a fan of heavy rock and punk music, and as such it’s been a gift of a year: Mastodon’s The Hunter was mind blowing, Trivium’s In Waves recaptured the spirit of a 15 year old me, August Burns Red’s Leveler is one of my favourite albums of all time, and Protest The Hero’s Scurrilous did not disappoint.
Every year has its lows, musically – we’ve had the commercial success of Black Veil Brides, the fucking disaster that is Lulu (a disgracefully shit collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed that nearly reduced me to tears), and even fucking Cher Lloyd. I’m not going to act as though I was not affronted by these aural crimes. But overall, it’s been a terrific year for music, with the fads (OFWGKTA’s rise to “power”), the triumphant returns (Bon Iver’s absolutely breathtaking self titled album) and not to forget the biannual Dream Theater record that sounds exactly the same as the last. I give 2011 a musical 7/10, a point deducted for the 3 travesties listed above. Here’s to a terrific 2012.