Pop & Rock 2011: Sax-y Times

Pop & Rock 2011: Sax-y Times
"Saxophones are becoming this thing. I began to see a pattern forming. That's why we did it early. Next year everyone's gonna have a saxophone on their record because saxophones are just cool."

Those were the words of Deerhunter's Bradford Cox when he spoke to Exclaim! in the fall of 2010. At the time, it seemed like a self-assured statement to validate his decision to throw a honking sax on their album Halcyon Digest. Turns out, the guy's a psychic. As he predicted and demonstrated once again with his Atlas Sound project, everyone was having sax in 2011 ― from mainstream pop stars like Lady Gaga (R.I.P. Clarence Clemons), Katy Perry and Foster the People, to indie artists like PJ Harvey, Destroyer, Black Lips, tUnE-yArDs, Fleet Foxes and M83, whose breakthrough this year came with their baritone-laced earworm "Midnight City." Frontman Anthony Gonzalez says it was to feed his nostalgia. "As a kid growing up in the '80s, the saxophone was everywhere all the time: on the radio, TV and in commercials," he explains. "It made sense to me to pay tribute to this instrument that people don't really bother with anymore."

No one act benefited more from the sax's popularity than the once obscure and now sax poster boy, Colin Stetson (pictured). Aside from his own Polaris-shortlisted album, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, he also played bass saxophone on Bon Iver's self-titled album and fellow Polaris nominee Timber Timbre's Creep On Creepin' On. But ask a band like the Rapture, whose Gabe Andruzzi has been spitting away on the sax for almost a decade now, and they'll tell you the sax was cool all along. Well, kinda. "For the longest time we wanted Gabe to play [Gerry Rafferty's] 'Baker Street' as our intro, so we could come out to that, but he so wasn't into it then," admits drummer Vito Roccoforte. "However, things have changed and he's said he'd be open to it now."