Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Best Singles Of 2008

Time to see off 2008 with our very own Festive Fifty - our 50 favorite tracks of the year released as Singles in any shape or format (seven-inch, cd, digital download - choose your poison). This means that we have excluded album tracks from this list, but you can easily find out what songs stand out in our opinion from the various albums of this year by revisiting older posts with the tags "Best albums" or "Killer Tracks". The other rule for compiling this list was to include only one Single per artist for maximum variety.

And now that the rules of this game are clear, let's get down to the business of 2008's Top 50 Singles. It has been a tough battle for that prestigious "Single Of The Year" title between hopeful, fresh-faced youngsters The Duke Spirit and seasoned veterans The Gutter Twins. In the end, experience prevailed: Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan have concocted a timeless rock classic with "Idle Hands", fusing the best sounds from their glorious past with grunge heavy-weights The Afghan Whigs and Screaming Trees respectively. I'm convinced that the ghost of Kurt Cobain not only approves, but he might be tempted to briefly leave whatever dimension he currently resides in and pop up for a sing-along at this verse-chorus-verse...

Top 50 Singles of 2008

1. Idle hands - THE GUTTER TWINS
2. The step and the walk - THE DUKE SPIRIT
3. To fix the gash in your head - A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
4. Courtship dating - CRYSTAL CASTLES
5. Machine gun - PORTISHEAD
6. Devil’s trident - TELEPATHE
7. Swords of truth - THESE NEW PURITANS
8. Cheap and cheerful - THE KILLS
9. Paper planes - M.I.A.
10. Time to pretend - MGMT
11. Salute your solution - THE RACONTEURS
12. Dig, Lazarus, dig!!! - NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
13. Cassius - FOALS
14. Can't go back - PRIMAL SCREAM
15. Jigsaw falling into place - RADIOHEAD
16. Nothing ever happened - DEERHUNTER
17. Hit the wall - BRENDAN CANNING
18. Rat is dead (Rage) - C.S.S.
19. L.E.S. artistes - SANTOGOLD
20. 88 - THE COOL KIDS
21. Knickerbocker - FUJIYA & MIYAGI
22. Mercury - BLOC PARTY
23. I will possess your heart - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
24. Sequestered in Memphis - THE HOLD STEADY
25. You lie you cheat - SPIRITUALIZED
26. You bring me down - BLOOD RED SHOES
28. In a cave - TOKYO POLICE CLUB
29. Something is not right with me - COLD WAR KIDS
30. Hang them all - TAPES ‘N TAPES
31. Golden age - TV ON THE RADIO
32. Sex on fire - KINGS OF LEON
33. White winter hymnal - FLEET FOXES
34. Hurricane Jane - BLACK KIDS
35. The witch (made to measure) - CLINIC
37. Teen creeps - NO AGE
38. Souled out!!! - CONOR OBERST
39. Man sized wreath - R.E.M.
40. Love is noise - THE VERVE
41. The age of the understatement - THE LAST SHADOW PUPPETS
42. Half in love with Elizabeth - MYSTERY JETS
43. The devil - P.J. HARVEY
44. Gamma ray - BECK
45. Runaway - LADYTRON
46. Half asleep - SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS
47. Lovely Allen - HOLY FUCK
48. Council estate - TRICKY
49. Ready for the floor - HOT CHIP
50. Jump in the pool - FRIENDLY FIRES

Next up: the arrival of 2009 and the official unveiling of our Albums Of The Year... keep that champagne on ice!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Festive 50

It's good to see that the great tradition of the Christmas Festive Fifty, which started in 1976 by legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, lives on. The new home of the annual list of the best left-field songs of the year, as voted by the listeners, is now the fine internet radio station Dandelion Radio. Just finished listening to this year's selection, with The Fall claiming the top for the third time in the Festive 50's 33-year history. The track that impressed me the most though, was "Puzzle" by a new band called Das Wanderlust. It was the number two on the list, and you can watch the video for it here:

Das Wanderlust - Puzzle

To find out more about the Festive Fifty and, more importantly, what songs made it on the list in previous years, check out these links:

Festive 50 Home
Dandelion Radio

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tracks of the Year: M.I.A. - Paper Planes

...And a happy New Year!

M.I.A. - Paper Planes

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tracks of the Year: TV On The Radio - Dancing Choose

"Dancing Choose" is the forthcoming second single from "Dear Science", one of the best albums of the year by TV On The Radio:

TV On The Radio - Dancing Choose

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Best Debuts of 2008

It's not that I don't equally enjoy and appreciate a good second or even, in case of The Fall, a fine twenty seventh LP, but I always had a special place in my music-loving heart for debut albums. It is the all-important first impression that, although not always right, is able to leave a lasting mark and make or break a young band's career. And in the case of a truly great debut, it has the ability to define an era and become the landmark of the year it was released in: 2001 will always be remembered for The Strokes' "Is this it" and 2002 will always bring to mind "Turn on the bright lights" by Interpol. Although in 2008 we didn't have a debut release of similar impact, there was a wealth of excellent and varied new music around and it looks very likely that one-third of Cool Music Central's top 30 albums of 2008 (the list is slowly coming together as we speak) will consist of new-comers' first efforts. Here's the list of the 10 best debut albums of the year (based, of course, on what we've been able to listen to so far):

Top 10 Debut Albums of 2008

1. Antidotes - FOALS
2. Crystal Castles - CRYSTAL CASTLES
3. Beat pyramid - THESE NEW PURITANS
4. Oracular spectacular - MGMT
5. Box of secrets - BLOOD RED SHOES
6. Vampire Weekend - VAMPIRE WEEKEND
7. Partie traumatic - BLACK KIDS
8. Santogold - SANTOGOLD
9. The bake sale - THE COOL KIDS
10. Fleet Foxes - FLEET FOXES

And here's one of the Singles of the Year taken from our favorite debut of 2008 - it's "Cassius" off Foals' fine "Antidotes" LP and a video with a lot of "heart":

Foals - Cassius

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tracks of the Year: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Nick Cave is on a roll! The wining streak continues in 2008 with "Dig, Lazarus Dig!", hot on the heels of last year's equally awesome Grinderman album.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tracks of the Year: Portishead - Machine Gun

It was the most impressive comeback of 2008 (along with the reunion of My Bloody Valentine). Eleven years after their last album, Portishead returned with their "Third" redifining modern pop music once again. "Machine Gun" offered the triumphant gunshots announcing their return, the soundtrack to the most beautiful nightmare.

Portishead - Machine Gun

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tracks of the Year: The Kills - Last Day Of Magic

Actually, most tracks on The Kills super-cool third album "Midnight Boom" could be counted amongst the best tracks of this year, but I have decided to go with "Last Day Of Magic" simply because there is also a hilariously violent video that goes with it. Jamie and Alison must really love to hate one another or is it the other way round? Let the punching begin:

The Kills - Last Day Of Magic

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Best of November - December 2008

Cold War Kids' sophomore release "Loyalty to Loyalty" is the proud winner of our last "Album Of The Month" award for 2008 and its place in the Top 20 of our "Best Albums of the Year" list, which is currently under construction, looks certain. The young California band was one of the sensations of 2006 when their excellent debut "Robbers And Cowards" came out. Two years later they verify the potential shown with stunning early singles "Hang me up to dry" and "We used to vacation", delivering another fine collection of blues influenced indie rock. Recent single "Something is not right with me" (and one of our choices for the Tracks of the Year series of posts) is the dizzying sound of a panic-attack, while "Dreams old men dream" is another fine example of the captivating storytelling/songwritting abilities of these Kids.

Elsewhere in this month's eclectic list of albums, the beats-per-minute count rises with Bloc Party, Gang Gang Dance, The Bug and promising newcomers Friendly Fires, while prolific Athenians (of the one in Georgia) Of Montreal deliver a manic dionysian orgy of an album with "Skeletal lamping". And one of our very favorite female voices, the one belonging to Rilo Kiley crooner Jenny Lewis, returns with the alt-country "Acid Tongue", her second solo album featuring some very interesting collaborations, particularly the one with Elvis Costello on album highlight "Carpetbaggers".

Top 15 Albums

1. Loyalty To Loyalty - COLD WAR KIDS
2. Intimacy - BLOC PARTY
3. Saint Dymphna - GANG GANG DANCE
4. London Zoo - THE BUG
5. Skeletal Lamping - OF MONTREAL
6. Acid Tongue - JENNY LEWIS
7. Friendly Fires - FRIENDLY FIRES
8. Modern Guilt - BECK
9. You & Me - THE WALKMEN
10. OH (ohio) - LAMBCHOP
11. The Stand Ins - OKKERVIL RIVER
12. Knowle West Boy - TRICKY
13. Off With Their Heads - KAISER CHIEFS
14. The Way We Ride - FULTON LIGHTS
15. Xs On Your Eyes - +/-

Top 20 Tracks

1. Dreams old men dream - COLD WAR KIDS
2. Carpetbaggers - JENNY LEWIS
3. Mercury - BLOC PARTY
4. First communion - GANG GANG DANCE
5. Murder we - THE BUG
6. Council estate - TRICKY
7. Jump in the pool - FRIENDLY FIRES
8. Gamma ray - BECK
9. Id engager - OF MONTREAL
10. Poor man’s ice cream - TILLY AND THE WALL
11. Your control - CROOKED FINGERS
12. National talk like a pirate day - LAMBCHOP
13. On the water - THE WALKMEN
14. The way we ride - FULTON LIGHTS
15. Kiss me again - JESSICA LEA MAYFIELD
16. I came out of the wilderness - PETE MOLINARI
17. Lost coastlines - OKKERVIL RIVER
18. Never miss a beat - KAISER CHIEFS
19. Senses on fire - MERCURY REV
20. Strand the test of time - WILDERNESS

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tracks of the Year: Brendan Canning - Hit The Wall

The hit parade of 2008's Tracks of Year continues with "Hit The Wall" by Brendan Canning. A tidal wave of a song sweeping us to another dimension, taken from his album "Something For All Of Us..." - the latest offering from the extended and multi-talented Broken Social Scene collective.

Broken Social Scene Presents: Brendan Canning - Hit The Wall

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tracks of the Year: The Raconteurs - Salute Your Solution

The countdown continues with Jack White's and Brendan Benson's supergroup The Raconteurs and "Salute Your Solution", the first single from their second album "Consolers of the Lonely", one of the albums of the year. The complete list of the Best Tracks of 2008 coming soon...

The Raconteurs - Salute Your Solution

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2008 Review: Tracks of the Year

As the list of our favorite tracks of the year is starting to take shape, during the next couple of weeks we'll have a series of posts showcasing the videos for some of them. You can also check out previous posts with the Killer Tracks label to get an idea of what this list is going to look like. Mind you that both our "Best Tracks" and "Best Albums" of 2008 lists are going to be presented in full at the beginning of January, since we like to consider that poor December is still a part of the year. Most publications seem to think that the year ends in mid-November, but we like to follow the old calendar that says that 2008 started January 1st and ends December 31st! Anyway, to start the countdown for the musical festivities, today we have for your consideration the excellent first single off Cold War Kids' sophomore release "Loyalty to Loyalty", our album of the month for November (more on the subject soon). The track is called "Something is not right with me" and you can have a listen by clicking below. Enjoy:

Cold War Kids - Something is not right with me

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Public Enemy - Live @ Gagarin 205 (Nov. 30, 2008)

Public Enemy, one of the most important groups in the history of hip-hop, visited Athens for the third time in their illustrious 26-year career, for two shows presenting their seminal second album "It takes a nation of millions to hold us back" in its entirety. My memories from their first show here, way back in 1992 when the band was still at its peak, are a bit foggy as you can imagine but I'm sure that the 2008 shows were none the less powerful and explosive, simply because it is impossible to give a more intense performance than those two hours and a half we witnessed this time. The first half of the show was all about 1988's "It takes a nation..." classic album (no.4 in our "Best Albums of 1985-1989" list and possibly the best rap album ever), delivered with the same urgency and raw power as if it was released yesterday. The second half was a "best of" performance with highlights from all their classic albums, stretching from "Public Enemy Number One" to "He got game" and covering everything between, from "Fight the power" to "By the time I get to Arizona". A lesson in the history of hip-hop from the band that set the standards that no current rap superstar can even come close.

Public Enemy, live in Athens (Nov. 30th, 2008) - Still louder than a bomb!

Fight the Power - Public Enemy, live @ Gagarin 205 (Athens, November 30th, 2008)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tricky - Live @ Fuzz Club (Nov. 28, 2008)

After 5 years spent between New York and Los Angeles Tricky has returned with "Knowle West Boy", an album inspired by the place he grew up in Bristol. Perhaps not the strongest work of the trip-hop superstar, but Tricky is undeniably an extraordinary performer and his shows are always great fun. Despite the problematic sound of the venue and Tricky's injured leg, we witnessed a fired-up show, more rocking than trip-hopping or, to put it another way, closer to the spirit of Bad Brains than, say, Massive Attack. Tricky combined past hits with new material, doing his war-dance or hiding in the shadows giving the limelight to his co-vocalist, Francesca. The hour and a half set ended with an incendiary performance of Motorhead's classic "Ace of Spades", which you can watch below:

Tricky covering "Ace of Spades" - Fuzz Club (Athens, Nov. 28, 2008)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dälek & Fulton Lights - Live @ An Club (Nov. 15, 2008)

Dälek, live @ An Club (Athens, November 15th, 2008)
If you have ever wondered what kind of sound you could create if you mixed My Bloody Valentine's noise soundscapes with Public Enemy's hard rhymes and hip hop beats then New Jersey's Dälek is the group for you. And if you happened to be in Athens on November 15th, then An Club was the place to be, where the experimental rap trio launched their sonic assault. No time for hello and thank you between the songs, or any kind of pause for that matter, just relentless, ominous beats supporting the rap flow trying to penetrate the thick wall of noise. In last year's "Abandoned Language" LP, the group turned down the noise levels that were prominent in 2005's breakthrough album "Absence", their best effort yet for my money, and took a more straight (although, still, way far from the beaten path) hip hop approach. However their live sound on this night was all about the take-no-prisoners noise-hop attack of "Absence". Perhaps an indication of the direction of the forthcoming new album "Gutter Tactics"? We'll find out in January.

Dälek, live @ An Club (Athens, November 15th, 2008)
Meanwhile, the night opened quite peacefully by Andrew Spencer's one-man-show Fulton Lights. Minimal, experimental, lo-fi americana sounds created with just a guitar, some effects pedals and a laptop, from the recently released, atmospheric "The Way We Ride" LP. The album is definitely worth checking out (the title track is one of my current favorites) and you can do so by visiting fultonlights.com, where you can download it for free in high quality mp3 - take that Radiohead!
Fulton Lights, live @ An Club (Athens, November 15th, 2008)

Dälek, live @ An Club (Athens, November 15th, 2008)

Fulton Lights

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blast From The Past Vol.3: 1985-1989

It's been a long time coming and, finally, the third edition of the "Blast From The Past" series is here! This time we take a look at the second half of the '80s and choose our 50 (plus 10) favorite albums released between 1985 and 1989, keeping in mind the rule of including only one album from each artist or band. The common perception is that the first half of the decade in question was richer in innovative, groundbreaking music and produced more classic albums that defined the indie-rock world and continue to be highly influential today. However it would be wrong to downplay the importance of the music that came out in the late '80s, since, one one hand, we had the continuous rise of the underground experimental guitar sound that culminated with the release, in 1988, of arguably the best album of the decade, Sonic Youth's "Daydream Nation", and, on the other, this was the golden era of the hip-hop culture. Run DMC took the beat of the underground to the top of the charts and Public Enemy spearheaded politicized hardcore-rap, taking the rap game to another level. And let's not forget that at the tail-end of this period, a little known band called Nirvana released its debut album, recorded for about $600, on a hip new Seattle label called Sub Pop. And the rest is '90s history, coming in the form of a nice little list in the forthcoming "Blast From The Past, Vol.4".

Top 50 Albums of 1985 - 1989

1. Daydream nation - SONIC YOUTH
2. Surfer Rosa - PIXIES
3. This nation’s saving grace - THE FALL
4. It takes a nation of millions to hold us back - PUBLIC ENEMY
5. Songs about fucking - BIG BLACK
7. Meat is murder - THE SMITHS
8. Document - R.E.M.
10. Warehouse: Songs and stories - HUSKER DU
11. Mirage - MEAT PUPPETS
12. House tornado - THROWING MUSES
13. Life’s too good - THE SUGARCUBES
15. Gas, food, lodging - GREEN ON RED
16. Valley of rain - GIANT SAND
17. My invisible lantern - SCREAMING TREES
18. In the Spanish cave - THIN WHITE ROPE
19. The firstborn is dead - NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
20. Isn’t anything - MY BLOODY VALENTINE
21. I - A.R. KANE
22. The Stone Roses - THE STONE ROSES
23. Bummed - HAPPY MONDAYS
24. Raising hell - RUN DMC
25. Criminal minded - BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTIONS
26. The House of Love - THE HOUSE OF LOVE
27. Tallulah - THE GO-BETWEENS
28. Calenture - THE TRIFFIDS
29. Wild weed - JEFFREY LEE PIERCE
30. Charm world - YO
31. Bedtime for democracy - DEAD KENNEDYS
32. Mudhoney - MUDHONEY
33. Bleach - NIRVANA
34. Byram lake blues - 13 ENGINES
36. Paid in full - ERIC B & RAKIM
37. 3 feet high and rising - DE LA SOUL
38. Straight outta Compton - N.W.A.
39. Saturday night! The album - SCHOOLY D
40. Our favourite shop - THE STYLE COUNCIL
42. The eight legged groove machine - THE WONDER STUFF
43. Desperate fires - THE JET BLACK BERRIES
44. Hope against hope - BAND OF SUSANS
45. Frequency and urgency - SALEM 66
46. Lysergic emanations - THE FUZZTONES
47. First and last and always - THE SISTERS OF MERCY
48. Low life - NEW ORDER
49. Around the world in a day - PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION
50. Our beloved revolutionary sweetheart - CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN

And here is the "plus 10" part of the list; a selection of ten more albums that are equally worthy of inclusion, but will have to sit on the substitutes' bench for now: Mother Juno - THE GUN CLUB, Inky bloaters - DANIELLE DAX, Lick - THE LEMONHEADS, Buffalo Tom - BUFFALO TOM, The world by storm - THE THREE JOHNS, Let’s play domination - WORLD DOMINATION ENTERPRISES, Power - ICE T, Locust abortion technician - BUTTHOLE SURFERS, Land of the lost - WIPERS, The Young Gods - THE YOUNG GODS.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Best of the Month - 10.2008

Not long to go now for the end credits of 2008 and the traditional "Best Of" lists are starting to take shape. The latest addition to the shortlist for "Album of the Year" comes from TV On The Radio, one of the finest bands of this decade. It was just 5 years ago when they made their presence felt with the promising soulful indie-meets-doo wop sounds of "Young Liars" EP, a promise that was soon fulfilled with 2004's mesmerizing debut "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes". The supposedly difficult second album, where most new bands with a great start usually lose momentum by repeating themselves, was also a triumph. "Return to Cookie Mountain", Cool Music Central's Album of the Year for 2006, turned up the volume and cemented their maverick status by managing to improve on perfection. And now, with album number three, TV On The Radio continue their meteoric rise. The feat of "Dear Science" is that it manages to be the band's most accessible effort to date without sacrificing its experimental edge. Electro-new wave beats mix with afro-melodies, funky bass-lines and soulful singing creating an unapologetically euphoric dance-rock amalgam that reassures us for the coming of a golden age despite all today's troubles.
There is also a
TV On The Radio connection regarding the band with this month's top single. Brooklyn's Telepathe recently recorded their soon to come debut album "Dance Mother" with TV On The Radio's member and producer extraordinaire David Sitek. On the evidence of the hypnotizing charm of "Chrome's on it", along with the eery beauty of earlier single "Devil's trident", it seems likely that we have already discovered one of the best albums of 2009.

Top 15 Albums
1. Dear Science - TV ON THE RADIO
2. Conor Oberst - CONOR OBERST
3. Only By The Night - KINGS OF LEON
4. The Chemistry Of Common Life - FUCKED UP
5. The Bake Sale - THE COOL KIDS
6. Lightbulbs - FUJIYA & MIYAGI
7. Chemical Chords - STEREOLAB
8. Microcastle/Weird Era Continued - DEERHUNTER
9. Nouns - NO AGE
12. Carried To Dust - CALEXICO
13. Tha Carter III - LIL WAYNE

Top 20 Tracks
1. Chrome's on it - TELEPATHE
2. Red dress - TV ON THE RADIO
3. Knickerbocker - FUJIYA & MIYAGI
4. Nothing ever happened - DEERHUNTER
5. Down the line - THE GUTTER TWINS
6. I don’t want to die (in the hospital) - CONOR OBERST
7. Sex on fire - KINGS OF LEON
8. Victor Jara’s hands - CALEXICO
9. Cacophony - TILLY AND THE WALL
10. Electric arc - OXFORD COLLAPSE
11. Black albino bones - FUCKED UP
12. Here should be my home - NO AGE
13. Our bipolar friends - JOHNNY FOREIGNER
14. Tell the world - VIVIAN GIRLS
17. Valley hi! - STEREOLAB
18. Poison dart - THE BUG featuring WARRIOR QUEEN
19. Bassment party - THE COOL KIDS
20. 3 Peat - LIL WAYNE

Telepathe - Chrome's on it (live)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Trans AM Live @ Gagarin 205 (Oct. 28, 2008)

First of all, I have to admit that although Trans AM have been recording for the esteemed Thrill Jockey label since the mid-90s, I had only listened to just a few of their songs before this gig. After seeing their first ever performance in Athens and listening to 2007's "Sex change", their eighth album, my theory is that the sound of the band is the result of trying to imagine Kraftwerk as a punk band. Vocoder vocals and synthesized melodies are propelled by furiously pounded drums and occasional guitar-noise outbursts. Coming from Washington D.C. must have something to do with the band's punk dynamics, but there's also some unexpected prog-rock influences in there that keep the listener guessing as to what to expect next. The punk-rock element of their sound prevailed on this night's fine performance which you can sample below, by watching a clip of the space-rocking "Conspiracy of the Gods", from their latest album, as performed at the Gagarin 205 gig.

Trans AM - Conspiracy of the Gods (live@Gagarin 205, Athens, Oct.28, 2008)
Trans AM live@Gagarin 205, Athens (Oct. 28, 2008)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Introducing Cool Music Database

On October 31 AOL closed down the websites and journals hosted over there, a fact that, unfortunately, meant curtains for the original Cool Music Central website, the place where I first started posting my rants and raves about the music I'm into, way back in the summer of 1999. Putting aside my emotional attachment to the old site, the truth is that after I started blogging here in March 2008, the AOL hosted C.M.C. website had run its course and the only part of it that was still useful was Cool Music Database, the portal to all my "Best Of" lists with my favorite albums and singles from 1980 to the present day. To make up for that loss, I just started the Cool Music Database blog on Blogger and during the next few weeks all the lists will be restored there. Actually, since these lists are quite old, I' m taking this opportunity to update them with albums that I have discovered more recently and make new ones with favorite singles from the '80s and '90s that were not included in the original C.M.D. Also the Blast From The Past lists that I started posting here will be a part of the new C.M.D. and, if you have a look now, the first couple of posts are all about the '70s: my current Top 30 Albums from 1975 - 1979 (first posted here in September) and a brand new list with 70 favorite tracks from the '70s (the rule this time was no more than 2 songs per band/solo artist). To enhance this '70s fest, you can also stream a hand-picked playlist with punk rock classics from that era. Next stop - The '80s ... coming soon in Cool Music Database - now with added Blogger power!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Animal Collective Live @ Gagarin 205 (Athens, October 22, 2008)

Animal Collective is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing and unpredictable bands of this decade, constantly experimenting and mutating their sound, keeping their audience in a constant state of suspense. A year after releasing "Strawberry Jam" and just months before their eagerly anticipated eighth album "Merriweather Post Pavilion" the Collective was in Athens to offer us a taste of their genius/mad musical science. Repetitive, hypnotizing beats, tribal chanting, folk melodies melding with 60's surf sounds and layers of synthesized noise intertwined to create the evening's elaborate soundscape. A treat for the ears of the relatively few adventurous music fans present. Perhaps next time the organizers should avoid scheduling a concert on a Champions League night; who said that alternative music fans are not susceptible to the charms of the round godess (the ball, that is).

Animal Collective Live @ Gagarin 205, Athens (October 22, 2008)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

R.E.M. Live in Athens, GR (October 5, 2008)

Marking the launch of a well known music television station in Greece, R.E.M. played a free show in Athens last Sunday. It was just their second appearance in Greece ever, which took place in the historic Panathinaiko Stadium, aka the Kallimarmaron, the place where the first modern-day Olympic Games were held in 1896. In a place loaded with such history, R.E.M. unfolded their own, nearly 30-years long history, playing a vintage 90-minutes set. Their performance mixed the old with the new, covering a lot of ground from 1984's "(Don't go back to) Rockville" to 2008's return-to-form "Accelerate" hits, like set opener "Living well is the best revenge". R.E.M. proved once more that they remain the most relevant among the big-time rock bands of today, since the power of their shows does not rely just to past glories ("The one I love", "Losing my religion"), but they are always able to keep it fresh, mixing in lesser known, but just as great tracks from their astonishing back-catalogue ("She just wants to be"), along with brand-new future classics ("Living well is the best revenge", "Man-sized wreath"). Here's a taste from a triumphantly rocking show:

R.E.M. live at Kallimarmaron, Athens (October 5, 2008)

R.E.M. - "(Don't go back to) Rockville" live in Athens, sang by Mike Mills (October 5, 2008)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Best of the Month - 09.2008

Good pop music has become a rare commodity these days, so it's always a pleasure to discover a genuinely precious pop gem amongst all the mass-produced junk. The glorious pop record in question comes from Mates Of State, the husband-and-wife duo comprising of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel. They have been together for about a decade, creating beautifully eccentric indie-pop melodies based mainly on organ or synthesizer and drums. On their fifth album they have perfected their harmonious sound with the help of some notable contributors, including Peter Katis (on production and guitar duties), Chris Walla and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie, Jim Eno of Spoon and John Vanderslice. Undoubtedly one of the best pop albums of the year, indie or otherwise.

And speaking of records created with a little help from your friends, Brendan Canning is the latest member of the expansive Broken Social Scene collective to present his solo work. It is an outstanding, multidimensional rock album, made with the participation of most of the Scenesters, that easily lives up to the high standards set by his band. Other notable entries in this month's Top 10 list include two important debuts, the dance-rock soundclash of Santogold and the folk melodies of Fleet Foxes, and two comebacks, The Verve reuniting after a decade to try creating some brand new urban hymns and alt-country legend Howe Gelb with the redesigned in Denmark Giant Sand continuing his desert wanderings (look out for the third installment of Blast From The Past, where we're going to present our favorite albums from the second half of the '80s and Giant Sand's debut from '85 is certain to make an appearance). As for My Morning Jacket, their "Evil Urges" had us scratching our head for quite some time trying to decide what to make of it (folk rock gone Prince crazy?), but in the end the good moments have outweighed the plain weird ones and the album's chances for inclusion in the year's end "best of" list have certainly improved.

Top 10 Albums

1. Re-Arrange Us - MATES OF STATE
3. Santogold - SANTOGOLD
4. Fleet Foxes - FLEET FOXES
5. Provisions - GIANT SAND
7. Forth - THE VERVE
8. Como Te Llama? - ALBERT HAMMOND, JR.
9. Retribution Gospel Choir - RETRIBUTION GOSPEL CHOIR

Top 20 Tracks

1. Crawl - KINGS OF LEON
2. Stay positive - THE HOLD STEADY
3. Necro hex blues - PRIMAL SCREAM
4. Golden age - TV ON THE RADIO
5. Mississippi kite - KRISTIN HERSH
6. Danny Callahan - CONOR OBERST
7. Something is not right with me - COLD WAR KIDS
8. Love is noise - THE VERVE
9. You’ll find a way - SANTOGOLD
10. Get better - MATES OF STATE
11. Churches under the stairs - BRENDAN CANNING
12. Stranded pearl - GIANT SAND (with ISOBEL CAMPBELL)
13. Your protector - FLEET FOXES
15. All fours - WIRE
16. Burning up - LADYTRON
17. Give up - CSS
18. Pot kettle black - TILLY AND THE WALL
19. Somebody’s someone - RETRIBUTION GOSPEL CHOIR
20. Remnants - MY MORNING JACKET

Mates Of State - Get Better

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blast From The Past Vol.2: 1980-1984

In the second installment of our "Blast From The Past" series we focus on the first half of the 80s and present our 50 favorite albums from that period. I remind you that the rule of including just one album per band still stands, otherwise there would be like 5 Fall albums in here, turning this list into the Best of Mark E Smith (perhaps the subject of a future post).

Top 50 Albums of 1980-1984

1. Perverted by language - THE FALL
2. Remain in light - TALKING HEADS
3. Closer - JOY DIVISION
4. The Smiths - THE SMITHS
5. Sound affects - THE JAM
6. Zen arcade - HUSKER DU
7. Fire dances - KILLING JOKE
9. Crocodiles - ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN
10. Murmur - R.E.M.
11. The days of wine and roses - THE DREAM SYNDICATE
12. From her to eternity - NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
13. Over the edge - WIPERS
14. The fire of love - THE GUN CLUB
15. Violent Femmes - VIOLENT FEMMES
16. Before Hollywood - THE GO-BETWEENS
17. Playing with a different sex - THE AU PAIRS
18. Fresh fruit for rotting vegetables - DEAD KENNEDYS
19. Meat Puppets II - MEAT PUPPETS
20. Los Angeles - X
21. Pornography - THE CURE
22. Power, corruption and lies - NEW ORDER
23. Burning from the inside - BAUHAUS
24. Garlands - COCTEAU TWINS
25. The flowers of romance - PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED
26. Crazy rhythms - THE FEELIES
27. Damaged - BLACK FLAG
28. Double nickels on the dime - MINUTEMEN
29. Mommy’s little monster - SOCIAL DISTORTION
30. Let it be - THE REPLACEMENTS
31. Living in darkness - AGENT ORANGE
32. Atom drum bop - THE THREE JOHNS
34. The Pretenders - THE PRETENDERS
35. Psychedelic jungle - THE CRAMPS
37. Hex breaker - THE FLESHTONES
38. Native sons - THE LONG RYDERS
39. Treeless plain - THE TRIFFIDS
40. Desire - TUXEDO MOON
42. After the snow - MODERN ENGLISH
43. The Psychedelic Furs - THE PSYCHEDELIC FUR
45. World shut your mouth - JULIAN COPE
46. Underwater moonlight - THE SOFT BOYS
47. Solid gold - GANG OF 4
50. The crackdown - CABARET VOLTAIRE

And here's ten more album that could have been on this list, if I was compiling it on a different day: My life in the bush of ghosts - DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO, Sonic Youth - SONIC YOUTH, Sandinista - THE CLASH, Black sea - XTC, Computer world - KRAFTWERK, Sons and fascination - SIMPLE MINDS, War - U2, High land hard rain - AZTEC CAMERA, Gravity talks - GREEN ON RED, Curse of Zounds - ZOUNDS.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Killer Tracks: Mississippi Kite

Kristin Hersh is responsible for some of the most powerful and truly unique rock music of the last two decades, starting with the amazing Throwing Muses in the mid-80s and continuing to the present date with her adventurous solo career and 50 Foot Wave, her new band. Her songwriting is always unpredictable, covering the whole range from folk lullabies to punk screamers, sometimes even during a single song. After last year's excellent album "Learn to sing like a star", Kristin started to post a new song each month on CASH Music website which can be downloaded for free or for a small donation. These songs make up the "Speedbath" album and the latest instalment, "Mississippi Kite" (the tenth song so far), is one of the best of the bunch and our pick for inclusion in Killer Tracks, our ongoing series of posts showcasing the most special new tunes. Go here to read what Kristin has to say about it and here to download it.

And as there isn't a video for this track available yet, let's take this opportunity to watch a clip from her recent performance in Athens, playing one of her All-Time Killer Tracks, "Your Ghost":

Kristin Hersh - Your Ghost (live@Kyttaro Club, March 27, 2008)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blast From The Past Vol.1: 1975-1979

It's September, the new school season is beginning and Cool Music Central is proud to present Rock History 101, the Post Punk Years. For the "Blast From The Past" series of posts, we're going to dig deep in the dustier parts of our record collection and choose our favorite albums from ... you guessed it ... the past! We'll be looking at a 5-year period each time, starting with the second half of the '70s, the punk and post-punk years. Keep in mind that objectivity is not an option for this list; the only rule is including just one album from each artist or group. Ladies and gentlemen...(drum roll)... after 28 years in the making, we bring you the list of the...

Top 30 Albums of 1975-1979

1. Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols - THE SEX PISTOLS
2. Live At The Witch Trials - THE FALL
3. Unknown Pleasures - JOY DIVISION
4. Entertainment! - GANG OF FOUR
5. London Calling - THE CLASH
6. Ramones - RAMONES
7. All Mod Cons - THE JAM
8. This Year's Model - ELVIS COSTELLO
9. Fear Of Music - TALKING HEADS
10. Pink Flag - WIRE
11. Suicide - SUICIDE
12. The Modern Dance - PERE UBU
14. Real Life - MAGAZINE
15. Germ Free Adolescents - X-RAY SPEX
16. Damned Damned Damned - THE DAMNED
17. (I'm) Stranded - THE SAINTS
18. Cut - THE SLITS
19. Second Edition - PUBLIC IMAGE LTD
20. Marquee Moon - TELEVISION
22. Parallel Lines - BLONDIE
23. The B-52's - THE B-52'S
24. Drums And Wires - XTC
25. The Undertones - THE UNDERTONES
26. Radios Appear - RADIO BIRDMAN
27. Singles Going Steady - BUZZCOCKS
28. The Man Machine - KRAFTWERK
29. Horses - PATTI SMITH
30. Young, Loud And Snotty - DEAD BOYS

I'm sure there are different opinions on the matter and that's what comments are for...

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Best Albums of 2007 - Final Cut

Making a music album seems to be a dying art. Sales are plummeting as downloads are taking over but here, in Cool Music Central, we still have a lot of love for them and we try to do our part to keep them alive. Going to the record shop and searching for that elusive album has been an important part of our upbringing and there's no hard-drive or cool portable device full of mp3s that's going to replace the joy of holding a vinyl album or even a small plastic cd in our hands. Another pleasure of the album format is making the yearly list of your favorites. This is a task that we take so seriously, that the list we have ready every year by December 31st is never the final one, because there's always so many more albums to listen to. The final version of the 2007 list has been 20 months in the making and it's finally done! It includes more than 200 albums released last year and, as always, singles out our top 50 selections. You can see the final list here, and you can watch the video for "Patty Lee", one of the many killer tracks on our Album of the Year, Les Savy Fav's "Let's stay friends", below:

Les Savy Fav - Patty Lee

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summertime Blues ’08

Summertime is almost over and it’s time to present the albums and tunes that kept us cool in this hot season. One of the most anticipated releases this year, The Hold Steady's fourth LP "Stay Positive", delivers the goods and claims the top of our summer list. The Brooklyn band keeps up the frantic momentum of the excellent “Boys and Girls in America” and continues to spread its rock 'n' roll gospel with “Stay Positive”, managing to write another classic, anthemic album. CSS, one of the most fun live bands, release a more rocking but still very danceable second album, our choice for party album of the season along with the remarkable debut of the fast rising Black Kids from Florida (read more about it here). Primal Scream keep the party jumping with “Beautiful Future”, their proclaimed pop album. The band’s undisputed expertise in mixing dance with rock is put in good use here and their collaboration with CSS’s Lovefoxxx in “I love to hurt (you love to be hurt)” produces one of the anthems of this summer. To complete our Top 5 Albums of Summer 2008 we have some alt-country with plenty of rock twists, Silver Jews’ “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea”. David Berman’s stories are guaranteed to keep you amused and bemused, while “My pillow is the threshold”, one of the many highlights on the album, boasts one of the best lyric lines I've heard this (or any) year: “I throw my thoughts like tomahawks into this world which I disown”. Party on Dave!

Top 15 Albums

1. Stay Positive - THE HOLD STEADY
2. Donkey - CSS
3. Partie Traumatic - BLACK KIDS
4. Beautiful Future - PRIMAL SCREAM
5. Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea - SILVER JEWS
6. Object 47 - WIRE
7. Velocifero - LADYTRON
8. At Mount Zoomer - WOLF PARADE
9. The Lucky Ones - MUDHONEY
10. Directions To See A Ghost - THE BLACK ANGELS
11. This Is Not The World - THE FUTUREHEADS
12. Inherit - FREE KITTEN
13. Lie Down In The Light - BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY
14. Crossing Dragon Bridge - STEVE WYNN
15. The Evangelist - ROBERT FORSTER

Top 20 Tracks

1. I love to hurt (you love to be hurt) - PRIMAL SCREAM
2. Left behind - CSS
3. Hurricane Jane - BLACK KIDS
4. Aloysius, bluegrass drummer - SILVER JEWS
5. Language city - WOLF PARADE
6. Constructive summer - THE HOLD STEADY
7. I gotta fire - SPIRITUALIZED
8. Hard currency - WIRE
9. New meaning - MUDHONEY
10. Seasick - FREE KITTEN
11. Hit the wall - BRENDAN CANNING
12. 88 - THE COOL KIDS
13. Predict the day - LADYTRON
14. God doesn’t like it - STEVE WYNN
15. Touch me I’m going to scream pt.2 - MY MORNING JACKET
16. Half in love with Elizabeth - MYSTERY JETS
17. Sale of the century - THE FUTUREHEADS
18. You on the run - THE BLACK ANGELS
19. You remind me of something (the glory goes) - BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY
20. Let your light in, babe - ROBERT FORSTER

The Hold Steady - Constructive Summer

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Killer Tracks: I'm not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you

Black Kids - I'm not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you

...And we're back! Back from the relaxing part of our summer vacation that is. And to kick off the new blogging season, let's start with a glorious POP song. And when I say pop, I mean the sort of uplifting, instantly hummable pop music that they used to make in the '60s and not the mass-produced, mind-numbingly dull plastic byproduct that flourished in the '80s and keeps dominating the charts today. Black Kids use this exuberant '60s pop blueprint and mix it with Motown soul and indie rock. The result is one of the most accomplished debuts of 2008, the exhilarating Partie Traumatic, one of the best albums of this summer (more on this subject soon). "I'm not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you" was the track that introduced us to the Black Kids last year, as part of their "Wizard of Ahhhs" debut EP (it was among our Top 100 Tracks of 2007) and is one of the many highlights on their Bernard Butler produced LP ("Hurricane Jane" and "Hit the Heartbrakes" also possess similar Killer Track qualities).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Summer Live Action: Summercase Festival (Madrid, 18-19/7/2008)

Our last report from the summer festival front for 2008 (and the last post for a while as we are going on a proper summer holiday, the sort that you relax by the beach instead of running from one stage to the other trying not to miss the next big thing) comes from Spain's Summercase. It's a new festival (started in 2006) that takes place simultaneously in Barcelona and Madrid for two days, across four stages. Cool Music Central's fearless team decided to brave the hot spanish sun (it's actually just as hot in Athens, to tell you the truth) and take the trip to Boadilla Del Monte, a suburb of Madrid, to see the likes of Interpol, Kings Of Leon, Grinderman, The Breeders, Primal Scream, The Verve, Sex Pistols, Blondie, CSS, Mystery Jets, Glasvegas, Whitey, Shout Out Louds, Maximo Park, Mogwai and several others.

Before we proceed with the music, here's a small list of the pros and cons of this particular festival, for your consideration: Pros = No rain and no mud, no curfew (the music starts around 5 in the afternoon and continues until 5 the next morning), reasonably priced beer (3 euro). Cons = Scorching heat, dust and gravel (the only place with grass to lie down and relax was in a crowded tend - unless of course you happened to have some other kind of grass on you, in which case you don't really care where you sit), unreasonably priced water (2,5 euro). Oh well, you can't have it all I guess.

And now, the Top 5 performances of the event in pictures (taking of course into consideration only the bands that we managed to see across the four stages):

1. Interpol (19/7)

Seeing Interpol was one of the main reasons for visiting Madrid and they certainly didn't let us down. Sure, the sound could have been better (in my opinion the vocals were low in the mix) and they certainly deserved a higher place in the line up (they played below The Verve and Primal Scream but they had at least as many fans in the crowd), but the hour-long set was utterly enjoyable and packed with hits from all three albums (Obstacle 1, PDA, Evil, Slow Hands, C'mere, Pioneer To The Falls, The Heinrich Maneuver, Mammoth). Top marks also for showing up in suits in this heat. Now, that's what I call dedication!

2. Grinderman (19/7)

Nick Cave is certainly the number one Star of the Summer 2008 Live Action for me. After a magnificent performance with The Bad Seeds in Athens last month, here he is again, in fiendishly good form, with the lean mean rocking machine that is The Grinderman. They play last year's astonishing debut, an album that is already a classic in my mind. Can't wait for album number two, that's due for next year.

3. Kings Of Leon (18/7)

Kings Of Leon are steadily growing and by now they are at the best point of their career so far. Album number three, the rocking "Because Of The Times", is their biggest commercial and artistic success to date and naturally had the leon's share (pun intended) in the hour-long set (Knocked Up, Charmer, On Call), which also included a selection from their old hits (breakout single Molly's Chambers, The Bucket, Four Kicks).

4. The Breeders (18/7)

The Breeders' latest album, "Mountain Battles", is certainly not their best effort and they seem to know it. Their glorious 45-minute set included only a handful of new songs and the majority came from the three previous albums, as well as 1995's "Pacer", that Kim Deal recorded with The Amps (Empty Glasses, Tipp City). Other highlights included Iris, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Cannonball, Divine Hammer. Magnifico!

5. CSS (18/7)

Primal Scream could have taken the number 5 spot but thanks to the stage presence of Lovefoxxx, and her colourful cat-suit, CSS beat them to the punch. The new songs (from the just released "Donkey") sounded fine but it's the old hits off their excellent debut that did the job on this night. (By the way, Primal Scream are well aware of the lack of a Lovefoxxx amongst their ranks and that's the reason they invited her to sing on "I love to hurt (you love to be hurt)" on their fine new album "Beautiful Future".

The Best of the Rest

Primal Scream and The Verve were the headliners on Saturday and did a great job of mixing the old classics with new material from their coming albums ("Beautiful Future" and "Forth" respectively). Sex Pistols and Blondie tried to relive their 70s glory and had some success, thanks to the strength of the material. Still, I prefer to listen to their old albums and appreciate the enormous influence they have on modern music instead of seeing them live in 2008. Mogwai played "Mogwai Young Team" in its entirety and, among the young guns making waves in Summercase 2008, I'd like to give a shout out to Mystery Jets, Glasvegas, Whitey, Shout Out Louds, Los Campesinos! and Maximo Park. For the record Foals, The Raveonettes, Kaiser Chiefs, Edwyn Collins and Ian Brown were some of the other artists on the festival's bill, but unfortunately we didn't get to see much of their performances so we can't make any comments. If you were there, feel free to tell us your opinion.

Interpol - Obstacle 1 (Live @ Summercase Festival, Madrid, July 19th 2008)

Grinderman - No Pussy Blues (Live @ Summercase Festival, Madrid, July 19th 2008)

Kings Of Leon - On Call (Live @ Summercase Festival, Madrid, July 18th 2008)