11 indie acts to watch in 2011

Chad Rad’s short list of Atlanta artists on the rise

Reptar may have moved to Athens for the semester, but the exaggerated dance-pop foursome still calls Atlanta home. Before the twee rockers released their debut 7-inch with producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Cee-Lo, Deerhunter) they’d already scored cred within the collegiate scene by creating an unlikely balance between Elephant 6-style whimsy and modern indie pop. Every show they play becomes a wall-to-wall dance party, thanks to their batch of catchy, unpretentious songs. Keep an eye out for an EP this year, followed by a full-length to be released on Allen’s Make Records Not Bombs imprint.

Reptar - “Stuck in my Id”

To realize the potential of Atlanta’s nerdiest and dirtiest rapper 4-IZE, look no further than the guest list on his latest download, Professional Ignorant. The irony of his theme song “Rap Sucks” aside, who else would have the vision to place B.o.B, De La Soul, Gucci Mane, Phife Dawg, Backbone, MF Doom and Señor Kaos side-by-side on the same album? It’s proof positive that 4-IZE is in a unique position to bridge mainstream and underground hip-hop in Atlanta. In the midst of his funny onstage banter, laced with banana double entendres and sex with animals, it’s easy to forget just how fluid the near-sighted rhymesayer can flow.

4-IZE - “Rap Sucks”

Balkans have been kicking around the Atlanta indie rock scene for a couple of years while cranking out jittery, melodic jams, but they aren’t content to stagnate in the lo-fi trenches. Set to drop in May via Double Phantom, the group’s self-titled debut is a clean revision of the blown-out but sophisticated hooks that have defined their sound thus far. The new record embraces clarity in songwriting and production to such a degree that it will be surprising if they don’t rise above the minor leagues this year.

Balkans - “Edita V.”

The selling point for Back Pockets has always been an over-the-top live show that crams mastermind Emily Kempf’s acoustic strumming against the group’s cacophonous roar and surreal performance art. It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment when all 16 members are in full swing. And now that they have a school bus, they can take the whole crew on the road and spread the gospel far beyond the Perimeter.

The Back Pockets - “Making Out is Great (Remix)”

When blogger, marketer and artist Señor Kaos released The Most Interesting MC in the World on New Year’s Day, his latest mixtape dropped like a cool hype bomb with production from Q-Tip, Applejac, Illastrate, and guest MC appearances from Homeboy Sandman, 4-IZE, Binkis Recs and more. If such a smooth collection of beats and rhymes is any indication of what’s in store with The Kaos Effect — due this summer on Vibe columnist Sucio Smash’s High Water Music label — Kaos may prove to be exactly what the title of his mixtape boasts.

Senor Kaos feat. 4ize - “Everywhere”

The return of GG King finds former Carbonas frontman Greg King embracing a jagged and supernatural new sound. King’s album debut, Esoteric Lore, due in April on Rob’s House/Scavenger of Death, tempers Sargasso punk energy with metallic riffs, demonic voices and warped field recordings. The death of Carbonas was a drag, but with Esoteric Lore King is poised to reveal a darker and more expansive sound.

When Clan Destined released the mixtape A Story Never Told, the supreme display of turntablism and day-in-the-life rhymes transcended typical mixtape fodder. There are no DJs hollering at you and no unnecessary beefs. It’s a concept record that comes together with contemplative Zen and postmodern wit, two things that aren’t often associated with Southern hip-hop. What’s most intriguing is that it’s just the teaser for the self-titled full-length, due Jan. 22.

Clan Destined feat. Stacy Epps - “Scream”

Hello Ocho became a local favorite in 2010, based on energetic performances and an amiable pop sound littered with electronic textures and arty weirdness. The prospect of the band’s forthcoming full-length, Ima Dance at Yo Wedding, due in mid-February, is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated Atlanta indie rock releases of the year.

Hello Ocho - “Ka-lie-da-scope”

Little Tybee has blown up since Building a Bomb dropped in November 2009. The group, under the direction of mastermind Brock Scott, has become one of Atlanta’s favorite sons by creating pure, orchestral pop with sparkling string arrangements and artful sensibility. The group’s second album, Humorous to Bees (due March 5 via Papergarden Records), will forgo traditional distribution by arriving as a poster featuring works by such artists as R. Land and Ann-Marie Manker. Each poster will come with a download for the album, featuring collaborations with Adron, Christ, Lord and more.

Little Tybee feat. Adron - “Passion Seekers”

Slumberland Records has always been a trademark of quality when it comes to American noise-pop and shoegazer sounds (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Dum Dum Girls, Black Tambourine). With only a handful of 7-inch singles to their name, Gold-Bears landed a deal on Slumberland last year based on the strength of a few songs. With their first full length due this spring, Gold-Bears can finally make good on their blitzkrieg fusion of melodic freak-outs and menacing pop dirges.

Gold-Bears - “Something To Think About”

After just a couple of live shows, Lucy Dreams (formerly Buffalo Buffalo) has filled the slot as Atlanta’s youngest indie rock band with a sound dense in jagged melodies and distortion. That honor carries with it a civic duty to impress the local music junta. After making a second stage appearance opening for Deerhunter and Black Lips, people are talking. The group’s perfect, primitive swan dive into fuzz and pop hooks has yielded some catchy songs, but as the next year unfolds, Lucy Dreams’ true personality will take shape as the band shows Atlanta just what kind of noise it’s capable of churning out.

Lucy Dreams - “11:32”