Monday, September 28, 2009

Counting Down The '00s: The Best Of 2001

Our countdown of the ’00s continues with the presentation of our favorite albums and singles of 2001, a year that will always have a futuristic glow in the eyes of 20th century children since this was the year that usually signified the future in sci-fi literature and cinema.

The new music that dominated in 2001, however, was anything but futuristic. The main influences of the new rock aristocracy were deeply rooted in last century's sounds: garage echoes from the '60s, punk energy from the '70s, new wave and electropop from the early '80s. The major difference between them and the bands of previous decades that had also based their sound on a similar blueprint was the existence of a larger audience willing to listen this time around. A new generation of music lovers who grew up in the '90s listening to Nirvana and with easier access to information, thanks to the internet and the mp3 revolution, was ready to embrace groups like The Strokes or The White Stripes and lead them to a level of success that was unthinkable for the bands that came before them.

The album of the year for 2001 was one of the most impressive debuts of the ’00s, the calling card of New York’s coolest new gang, The Strokes. As I was writing at the time "…"Is This It" is one of the best debut albums in years and one that reminds us how exciting punk rock was 25 years ago, when it started. But we are not talking about nostalgia here. The Strokes, along with other new bands like The White Stripes, The Hives and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are reintroducing raw, powerful, back-to-basics rock music to a new generation, bringing rock'n'
roll into the 21st century".

Next to this new rock breed, we also had several astounding efforts from older bands that, in most cases, didn’t receive the attention that they deserved but their importance is evident by their influence on the new scene. Guided By Voices, the kings of lo-fi from Ohio who count The Strokes among their fans, were in top form in 2001 and in a more power-pop mood than usual. Rocket From The Crypt took no prisoners for their powerful last record and the same is true for Fugazi. Mercury Rev and Spiritualized presented their finest records for the decade while Pavement front-man Stephen Malkmus kicked off in style his solo career with his eponymous album.

Top 30 Albums of 2001

1. Is this it - THE STROKES
2. Group sounds - ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
3. Isolation drills - GUIDED BY VOICES
4. All is dream - MERCURY REV
5. Let it come down - SPIRITUALIZED
6. Stephen Malkmus - STEPHEN MALKMUS
7. White blood cells - THE WHITE STRIPES
8. Black rebel motorcycle club - BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB
9. The argument - FUGAZI
10. Iron flag - WU-TANG CLAN
11. Ancient melodies of the future - BUILT TO SPILL
12. Are you are missing winner - THE FALL
13. No more shall we part - NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
14. Ease down the road - BONNIE PRINCE BILLY
15. It's a wonderful life - SPARKLEHORSE
16. Get ready - NEW ORDER
17. 604 - LADYTRON
18. Souljacker - EELS
20. Behind the music - THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES
21. The cold vein - CANNIBAL OX
23. Song yet to be sung - PERRY FARRELL
24. Sound-dust - STEREOLAB
25. The red thread - ARAB STRAP
26. Rain on lens - SMOG
27. Sunny border blue - KRISTIN HERSH
28. Girls can tell - SPOON
29. When do we start fighting - SEAFOOD
30. The photo album - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

Top 30 Singles of 2001

1. Glad girls - GUIDED BY VOICES
2. Whatever happened to my rock 'n' roll (punk song) - BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB
3. Hard to explain - THE STROKES
4. Hotel Yorba - THE WHITE STRIPES
5. Street gang - A.R.E. WEAPONS
6. NYC's like a graveyard - THE MOLDY PEACHES
7. Souljacker pt.1 - EELS
8. Piano fire - SPARKLEHORSE
9. Capitalism stole my virginity - THE (INTERNATIONAL) NOISE CONSPIRACY
10. The hook - STEPHEN MALKMUS
11. Love detective - ARAB STRAP
12. As I sat sadly by her side - NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
13. Last nite - THE STROKES
14. Furniture - FUGAZI
15. Splinter - SEAFOOD
16. Imitation of life - R.E.M.
17. Crystal - NEW ORDER
18. Clint Eastwood - GORILLAZ
19. Nite and fog - MERCURY REV
20. Out of sight - SPIRITUALIZED
21. Hashpipe - WEEZER
22. Song yet to be sung - PERRY FARRELL
23. Uzi - WU-TANG CLAN
24. Androgyny - GARBAGE
25. Grace - RUBY
26. Playgirl - LADYTRON
27. Bang bang you're dead - EXPERIMENTAL POP BAND
28. Any day now - ELBOW
29. New York, New York - RYAN ADAMS
30. It is important throughout your life to proclaim your joy - MARK EITZEL

Monday, September 21, 2009

Killer Tracks: Die Slow by HEALTH

HEALTH, from Los Angeles, is one of the most blogged about bands at the moment and rightly so, since their recently released second album "Get Color" is one of the most exciting records of the year so far. The cataclysmic noise of their 2007 self-titled debut is now kept under control, creating the building block of their well-structured industrial-electro assault. "Die Slow", the first single of the album, is perhaps the best track in the band's brief history, a massive noise wave that rises driven by hurricane-force gusts of electro beats and My Bloody Valentine siren vocals. Let the death-disco dance start here...

HEALTH - Die Slow

Sunday, September 13, 2009

MGMT & Future Of The Left - Live @ Technopolis, Athens (September 8, 2009)

MGMT, live @ Technopolis, Athens
MGMT has been one of the biggest sensations of 2008, with their major-label debut "Oracular Spectacular" finding its way in all the respectable end of the year "Best Of" lists and their singles "Kids" and "Time to pretend", getting non-stop airplay everywhere. While the recording of their next album "Congratulations" is underway, the band hit the road for a few shows this summer and we were lucky enough that this road led them here in Athens for their first Greek show at the Technopolis venue.

The night started with local act Cyanna playing an energetic set that included cover versions of The Stooges classic "I wanna be your dog" and The Dubrovniks 1989 cult hit "Like fire" (mixed with a bit of Franz Ferdinand's "This fire").

Future Of The Left, live @ Technopolis, Athens

After Cyanna, it was time for Welsh punk-rockers Future Of The Left who have recently released their fine second album "Travels with myself and another". It was this album's opening track "Arming Eritrea" the one that also started the band's first ever performance in Athens. Unfortunately, they were playing for an audience not familiar with their music who had come for the headliners and was not in a punk rock mood. As a result, and despite the band's best efforts, crowd participation was minimal, leading them to wryly observe "you guys dance a bit better than the Swiss" and to express the wish to play in more intimate surroundings next time they are in town. The few of us who do appreciate their edgy punk sound, enjoyed a tight 45-minute set which included some of the best tracks from their two albums, most notably "Small bones, small bodies", "My gymnastic past" and current favorite "You need Satan more than he needs you".

Future Of The Left, live @ Technopolis, Athens

The much anticipated main act came on stage about a quarter past ten to loud cheers from the sizable audience and kicked off their 70-minute set with "The Youth". As expected, almost all the songs from "Oracular Spectacular" were included in the set along with a few new ones, with "Song for Dan Treacy" being the most notable among them (apparently a tribute to the Television Personalities leader). The loudest cheers were reserved for the hits "Time to pretend", "Electric feel" and of course the triumphant main set-closer "Kids" which drove the fans into a frenzy. MGMT's impressive performance ended with an extended 15-minute jam as the encore, leaving their fans entirely satisfied and hoping to see them again as soon as the Pete Kember (Sonic Boom) produced new album drops in 2010.

MGMT, live @ Technopolis, Athens (Sept. 8, 2009)

MGMT - Kids, live @ Technopolis, Athens (Sept. 8, 2009)

Future Of The Left - My Gymnastic Past, live @ Technopolis, Athens (Sept. 8, 2009)

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Counting Down The '00s: The Best Of 2000

Not much to go for the end of the decade and various "best of" lists are already starting to appear. Our own album list for the '00s is going to be finalized early next year because we feel that we should concentrate on 2009's music for now. However, starting this month, we shall dedicate two or three of our monthly posts to the presentation of our 30 favorite albums and singles for each year of the '00s (detailed lists for these years are going to be posted on Cool Music Database as soon as we finish with the '90s).

Starting our countdown of the '00s, we have today the best of 2000, a year dominated by some of our favorite artists of the past two decades. It didn't take much thought to give P.J. Harvey's "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea" the "Album of the Year" title and I don't think it is much of a spoiler to say that this timeless rock record is also a strong candidate for "Album of the Decade". To quote myself when I was ranting and raving about it at the time: "...This is her best work since the 1993 classic "Rid of Me", a more mellow and mature effort that sounds just as captivating and powerful. The 50ft Queenie is growing up in style. "Good fortune", one of the many highlights of this record, is also one of Y2K’s greatest singles. Definitely the most uplifting album of the year".

Similar raves were in store for the next two records on the list, Primal Scream's "XTRMNTR" (their best work ever, for my money) and The Fall's "The Unutterable" (their best for the '00s along with "Fall Heads Roll"). Quoting from the old Cool Music Central site (before its reincarnation here on Blogger): "..."XTRMNTR" is truly the first 21st century-sounding album. A chaotic, mind blowing head-on disco-punk collision that can make you dance ’til your ears bleed...The best ever Primal Scream record and also the perfect ending to the Creation legacy". As for "The Unutterable", this is what I had to say at the time: "...The Fall phenomenon continues. It is truly amazing that after 24 years and thirty-something albums, Mark E Smith can still marshal his latest recruits so masterfully and deliver an album as astonishing as this. "Two Librans" and "Serum" are just two of the instant Fall classics included here. The sound of a rejuvenated band that is determined to remain a force to be reckoned with in the new century".

Other notable releases of 2000 included the second Queens Of The Stone Age album (Josh Homme taking his work with cult '90s desert-rockers Kyuss to the next level), the last one for At The Drive-In (one of the greatest punk records of the '00s) and the fifth for Sleater-Kinney (as I wrote in Blast From The Past Vol.5, they were perhaps the best new band of the late '90s and continued being amazing in the '00s). Sleater-Kinnney also had some involvement in the album that proved to be the most important comeback of the year and, perhaps, of the '00s (which says a lot, in a decade that was full of comebacks and reunions). Robert Forster and Grant McLennan rejoined powers for the first Go-Betweens record since the '80s (with Janet Weiss providing the beats) with the end result being among their finest moments. Modest Mouse released "The Moon and Antarctica", the record that made me realize just how great Isaac Brock's band really is, while Grandaddy and Idlewild reached their pick with their 2000 releases. The best debut of the year was the electroclash classic "The Teaches of Peaches", Peaches' naughty introduction to the world, equally shocking and exhilarating - just like great sex. Here's what the Top 30 albums and singles of the year look like:

Top 30 Albums of 2000

1. Stories from the city, stories from the sea - P.J. HARVEY
2. Exterminator - PRIMAL SCREAM
3. The unutterable - THE FALL
5. Relationship of command - AT THE DRIVE-IN
6. All hands on the bad one - SLEATER-KINNEY
7. The friends of Rachel Worth - THE GO-BETWEENS
8. The moon and Antarctica - MODEST MOUSE
9. The sophtware slump - GRANDADDY
10. 100 broken windows - IDLEWILD
11. The teaches of Peaches - PEACHES
12. Automatic midnight - HOT SNAKES
13. More light - J MASCIS + THE FOG
14. Good news for modern man - GRANT HART
15. God says no - MONSTER MAGNET
16. Thirteen tales from urban bohemia - THE DANDY WARHOLS
17. Golden lies - MEAT PUPPETS
18. The W - WU-TANG CLAN
19. Got it made - BRASSY
20. Will save us all! - CHICKS ON SPEED
21. Melody of certain damaged lemons - BLONDE REDHEAD
22. Dongs of sevotion - SMOG
23. And then nothing turned itself inside-out - YO LA TENGO
24. NYC ghosts and flowers - SONIC YOUTH
25. 1000 hurts - SHELLAC
26. Pound for pound - ROYAL TRUX
27. Whiteout - BOSS HOG
28. Stankonia - OUTKAST
29. Good looking blues - LAIKA
30. Chore of enchantment - GIANT SAND

Top 30 Singles of 2000

1. Good fortune - P.J. HARVEY
2. Going blind - THE GO-BETWEENS
Kill all hippies - PRIMAL SCREAM
4. Little discourage - IDLEWILD
6. One armed scissor - AT THE DRIVE-IN
7. The lost art of keeping a secret - QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
8. You’re no rock'n'roll fun - SLEATER-KINNEY
9. Bohemian like you - THE DANDY WARHOLS
10. Whiteout - BOSS HOG
11. Work it out - BRASSY
12. Kaltes klares wasser - CHICKS ON SPEED
13. Hip hop - DEAD PREZ
14. Lovertits - PEACHES
15. Uneasy - LAIKA
16. The crystal lake - GRANDADDY
17. Up with people - LAMBCHOP
18. Son of Sam - ELLIOTT SMITH
19. Melodie citronique EP - BLONDE REDHEAD
20. Radio video EP - ROYAL TRUX
21. B.O.B. - OUTKAST
22. Gravel pit - WU-TANG CLAN
23. A song for the lovers - RICHARD ASHCROFT
24. Ballad of Cable Hogue - CALEXICO
25. Disillusion - BADLY DRAWN BOY
26. You can have it all - YO LA TENGO
27. Forbidden love EP - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
28. Mr. E’s beautiful blues - EELS
29. Music is my radar - BLUR
30. The Coney Island of your mind - THE WISDOM OF HARRY