George Chen's list of things that didn't suck in 2011

Helm: deemed not shitty.

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Musician and writer George Chen says, "2011: man, most of it was shitty, but here were the good things:"

1. Helm. Luke Younger from Birds of Delay, Halloween weekend in London. Best noise set I've seen in a while, it helped that there was a fan blowing his bangs out of his hoodie. He has an album called Cryptography out on Kye.

2. White Lung. Youngins from Vancouver B.C. playing sick, straight forward punk. Saw them in a bowling alley.

3. Village of Spaces' Alchemy and Trust album. It took a village to put this out, or at least four labels working in conjunction. Dan Beckman's (Uke of Spaces Corners) quiet folk masterpiece.

4. Divorce. A band from Glasgow that exists in kind of a cultural vacuum there, a bit like the early '00s trapped in amber, but then cracked open and given adrenal supplements. They are coming to America in July 2012.

5. Trash Kit put out an album in 2010, but I only got to see them once in 2011. Sadly, they have broken up. Finger-picky jaunty punk with weird rhythms.

6. Andrew W.K. This was not particularly "good", but distinct encapsulation of the zeitgeist. My band played a show with him at Dem Passwords. He didn't actually watch us or anything, he showed up right before going on with an entourage. Fans started force-feeding him bananas, Redbull, and whiskey and it turned into a freakish spectacle. I took a nap during his set, came back in, and he was still going for like two and a half hours, driving his fans away. Respect, the modern Andy Kaufman.

7. This Invitation. Chen Santa Maria went on a California tour with Warren in April and it was sparsely attended, but perhaps we're to blame for that. It's nice to see one of your oldest friends get some recognition for their work, which Aquarius did by giving their stamp of approval to his three (!) double CDs.

8. Cacaw from Chicago, a few ex-Coughs peeps project. They are now broken up, but this summer they came through and it was a monstrous sludge engine. Dark and fierce.

9. Anika. Technically a 2010 release, but she played at the Independent in October. The lady herself has a passive stage presence, but the music of the whole group (members of Portishead and Beak>) is best described as "Nico fronting PiL" (someone at the LA Times can claim that one).

10. SF Comedy. I still feel like an outsider at all this, but holy shit, there's good stuff going on right now. Perhaps it is a national, even international renaissance in comedy, but the energy and talent going on here feels as exciting to me as the music scene used to feel. I actually don't want to name names although the free show at the Rite Spot is a good place to start. I also noticed that none of the music I put on this list has anything to do with the Bay Area. Sorry, music. I just listen to podcasts now.

Young Canadian punk band White Lung: