Sunday, April 25, 2010

Killer Tracks: Best Coast - When I'm With You

Just stumbled upon the new video for Best Coast's 2009 single "When I'm With You" and I'm absolutely loving it! Seems that the whole '60s-style girl-group thing meets garage-punk guitars meets shoegaze (there's even an actual shoe/feet-gazing scene in the video!) is really taking off this year (see also the recent excellent  Dum Dum Girls debut LP).

We're expecting Best Coast's full-length debut to drop later in the year, while Bethany Cosentino and her band stay busy releasing new singles - "Something In The Way" is already out and there is another one on the way ("Far Away") for early May (but in a weird marketing ploy, you'll need to buy a pair of headphones to get it). Meanwhile, let's get a taste of summer with the breezy pop of "When I'm With You":

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wooden Shjips, Live @ An Club, Athens (April 23, 2010)

This weekend San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips set sail for Greece, for a short tour that includes shows in Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa. Their first stop was at An Club on Friday, where they played their first ever gig in the Greek capital in front of a small but wildly enthusiastic crowd.

Weirdly named local act Nechayevschina (no idea how it’s pronounced) played before the main attraction, offering a mainly instrumental 45-minute psych-rock jam, not too far away from the trippy drone of Wooden Shjips.

The four San Franciscans arrived on stage a little after 11 o’clock and for the next hour and a half took us on a wild space ride with the power of their repetitive, entrancing psychedelic sounds. Both of the band’s albums (“Wooden Shjips” and “Dos”) were well represented in the night’s setlist that also included several tracks from the recently released “Vol.2” rarities compilation. Some of the most memorable moments of the show included “We Ask You To Ride”, “Losin’ Time”, “Loose Lips”, “Vampire Blues” (amazing how they transform this Neil Young track into a Suicide - Kraut-rock hybrid), “Death’s Not Your Friend”, “I Hear The Vibrations (E-Z Version)”, “Motorbike”, “For So Long” “Fallin'” and “Aquarian Time”, my choice for best song of the night. Check out below a few more exclusive photos from Wooden Shjips' performance as well as a video playlist including “Loose Lips” and an unidentified, possibly new (?) track:

Wooden Shjips live @ An Club, Athens

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vintage Tracks 4: Hard Corps - Dirty

As the introduction of their website goes, this is "machine music for modern lovers". This month's addition to our Vintage Tracks Hall of Fame is "Dirty", the 1984 debut single from Hard Corps, a band that, unsurprising, very few people know about, given that they only released a handful of singles before they disappear in record company hell sometime in 1988.

Hard Corps were formed in 1983 in Brixton, London, when Hugh Ashton, Rob Doran and Clive Pierce met French vocalist Regine Fetet. The first fruit of their collaboration was the astonishing "Dirty", simply put, one of the finest electro tracks ever committed to wax. The punishing, Kraftwerk-influenced, machine beats violently slash through the fractured electropop melody, cutting it to pieces and reassembling it into an electropunk monster that obeys only to the sound of Regine's dominatrix voice. The feral intensity and sexual innuendo of "Dirty" was never recaptured in subsequent singles but the blueprint for the latter day electroclash sound was perfectly formed there and then, and, frankly, I'd be very surprised if, say, Crystal Castles have never heard of this track.
My white label 12" copy of "Dirty" is another one of my prized vinyl possessions that give the inspiration for this series of posts. Although I would imagine that it could prove quite difficult to obtain this single today, luckily there is another way to find Hard Corps music. As I found out at the band's MySpace page, the 1990 compilation "Metal & Flesh" recently became available for download and it consists of the majority of their recorded output, including "Dirty" and its more mellow, less dirty but equally sexy B-side "Respirer".

Here's the video for "Dirty" with footage from a live performance at the Fridge Brixton:

Hard Corps - Dirty

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Happy Record Store Day

Long before the outbreak of the global financial crisis, there was the global music crisis, with CD sales falling rapidly and panicking record companies suing their own customers and starting futile witch hunts against the "mp3 pirates".

The fact is that the ease of downloading (both legally and illegally), the inflated CD prices and the economic crunch combined with, perhaps, a decline in the quality of music on offer, drove many, big or small, record shops out of business.

In this climate, in 2007, the idea of Record Store Day was born in the U.S. in an effort to strengthen the small independent record shops - in America and internationally - so as to survive the adverse economic climate of the era.
Record Store Day is now celebrated on the third Saturday of every April (this year it's on April 17th of course), while the first celebration took place on April 19, 2008, with Metallica officially kicking it off at Rasputin Music in San Francisco.

According to the organizers: “This is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, djs spinning records and on and on.”

Record Store Day got bigger every year, with more and more artists from the alternative and mainstream music scene showing their support with both statements and collectible releases.

Some of the dozens of special releases of this year’s Record Store Day are:

Sub Pop Records has scheduled several releases such as: Beach House - "Zebra", 12" vinyl with 4 songs, Dum Dum Girls / Male Bonding split 7", Soundgarden’s first single since 1987 "Hunted Down"/"Nothing to Say"

Wichita Records has a series of reissues on vinyl, including Bright Eyes' "Fevers & Mirrors", the self-titled debut LP from The Cribs, Bloc Party's debut "Silent Alarm" and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' self-titled first EP.

4AD is releasing "Fragments From a Work in Progress", a 12" compilation including groups like Blonde Redhead, Gang Gang Dance and The Big Pink.

 • The Fall release "Bury Pts 2+4 /Cowboy Gregori" as a 7" single in just 750 copies.

Blur release a new song (their first since "Good Song" in 2003) as a 7" single in 1000 copies only.

• From Crystal Castles we have "Doe Deer" on 12", a first taste from their forthcoming second album.

Modest Mouse reissue the amazing "The Moon and Antarctica" for the album’s 10th anniversary.

Pavement's new compilation "Quarantine the Past" will be released with a different track list from the original version.

Bon Iver and Peter Gabriel have a split single where they cover each other’s song as part of Gabriel's "Scratch My Back" project.

The Thermals and The Cribs have a split single with new songs in 2000 copies only.

Rough Trade in association with British turntable manufacturer Rega will sell exclusively at the Rough Trade Shops a special edition turntable with the Rough Trade logo, while they will also be releasing a range of special, very limited edition vinyl records including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Mercy Seat" on white vinyl.

The full list of Record Store Day releases is here.

Greek record stores that participate in this effort where you may find some of the above releases are Rock & Roll Circus, Sonic Boom Records & and Vinyl Kiosk in Athens, Mister CD in Chalkis, Play Our Music in Kilkis, High Fideliy in Nafplio and Sticky Fingers in Patras.

For the Record Store Day website click here. Watch Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age below, the official ambassador of Record Store Day 2010, talking about this day and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth telling us all about the first album he ever bought.

"The 'cool' record store. It is where you can talk to people who are like you. They look like you, think like you and, most tellingly like the same music as you - the only comparable experience these days would probably be an art museum - an actual place where you can stand and simply be surrounded by your heroes." Wayne Coyne

"I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people that look up to them to a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music. What a shame to leave a child, or worse, a generation orphaned from one of life’s great beauties. And to the record stores, artists, labels, dj’s, and journalists; we’re all in this together. Show respect for the tangible music that you’ve dedicated your careers and lives to, and help It from becoming nothing more than disposable digital data." Jack White

The above quotes are from here. Perhaps today it's a good day for a visit to your local record store. Who knows what goodies await for you there?

Josh Homme - Ambassador of Record Store Day 2010

Thurston Moore Talks First Record, Major labels, and Record Stores

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Listening Habits 03.2010

Welcome to the redesigned Cool Music Central - I hope you like the new look and shiny colored background, courtesy of the brand new Blogger template designer. I find this blue-green theme strangely soothing and relaxing, although it’s possible that this unusual relaxation is due to my brief Easter vacation. Anyway, we’re back in business and we’re about to take a look at some of the finest records we’ve listened to in the past month, some soothing and relaxing, some tense and noisy as f*ck!

And talking about noise and tension, nobody does it better than Liars. “Sisterworld”, their fifth LP, unfolds like a well-made thriller, the tension building up track by track until its anticipated but still startling violent release. The noisy outbursts of “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant” and “The Overachievers” are two of the album’s highlights, along with the opening “Scissor” (which has the feel of an early Polanski film) and the hypnotic, kraut-rockin’ mantra of “Proud Evolution”, the album’s majestic centerpiece. Highly recommended is the special edition of the album that comes with a second cd of remixes/reinterpretations of all its tracks by artists like Alan Vega, Kazu Makino, Tunde Adebimpe, Thom Yorke, Devendra Banhart, Melvins or Atlas Sound. The results may vary here, but it’s still very interesting to hear, for example, how a Liars song would sound if it was turned into a bangin’ rap tune (“Scissor” as remade by Pink Dollaz, Lance Whitaker & Transformation Surprise).

High Places vs. Mankind”, the sophomore High Places album, finds the experimental duo of Rob Barber and Mary Pearson relocated from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and exploring darker lyrical themes than their more optimistic, nature-loving self-titled debut. The band moves away from the lo-fi, home-made sound of its earlier work and into a more melodic, dance floor friendly direction, a luscious sound hinted at by their debut’s closing track, the exquisite “From Stardust To Sentience”. The music still relies on dense layers of synthie sounds, unusual samples and polyrhythmic beats but guitars play a bigger part in the creative process this time, giving the album a richer sound. Mary Pearson’s ethereal vocals remain High Place’s most potent sonic weapon, giving an otherworldly beauty to the dreamy electronic pop of “High Places vs. Mankind”. The album’s only flaw, apart from a couple of nondescript instrumentals (why sideline your most valuable music instrument, i.e. Mary’s voice), is the omission of last year’s excellent single “I Was Born”, although there are several tracks here that match its quality, most notably “The Longest Shadows”, “On Giving Up”, “On A Hill In A Bed On A Road In A House” and “When It Comes”, one of the most uplifting songs about death I’ve ever heard.

And while we are one the subject of beautiful female voices, here comes Dee Dee, aka Kristin Gundred, with her Dum Dum Girls. I’ve already raved about the garage pop slice of heaven that is the single “Jail La La”, now I’m happy to report that “I Will Be”, the L.A. band’s debut on Sub Pop, is everything that an indiepop or garage rock fan could hope for. Gorgeous vocals in a ’60s girl group style, strong pop melodies, buzzing guitars and urgent drum beats combine to create a delicious half-hour treat that draws inspiration from the holy trinity of ’60s garage, ’70s punk and ’80s new wave and noisepop. The album is over before you realize it and the only option left to the stunned listener is to hit the repeat button again and again.

And if that hunger for delicious garage pop persists, then move on to The Soft Pack and their fine, highly flammable self-titled debut. For fans of the big and sexy noise, nothing is bigger or sexier than the formidable combination of Lydia Lunch and Gallon Drunk as Big Sexy Noise (last year’s release that’s not to be missed). Yeasayer move to the dance floor for their sophomore release, where they find Gorillaz having a party with their distinguished guests (from Mos Def and Bobby Womack to Mark E Smith and Lou Reed). James Mercer and Danger Mouse join forces as Broken Bells to offer eclectic, melancholic pop, but not as melancholic as the sad and beautiful “The Golden Archipelago” of Shearwater. Our March Top 10 is completed with the guitar-heavy “American Gong”, the seventh album by Quasi, now a trio with the addition of Joanna Bolme on bass, which finds the band invigorated and ready for more after 17 years in the game. A career retrospective compilation “So Far So Good” comes as a bonus with the album, making it a good starting point for new fans of the band formed by ex-husband and wife Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss.

Top 10 Albums

1.  Sisterworld - LIARS
2.  High Places vs. Mankind - HIGH PLACES
3.  I Will Be - DUM DUM GIRLS
4.  The Soft Pack - THE SOFT PACK
5.  Big Sexy Noise - BIG SEXY NOISE
6.  Odd Blood - YEASAYER
7.  Broken Bells - BROKEN BELLS
8.  The Golden Archipelago - SHEARWATER
9.  American Gong - QUASI
10. Plastic Beach - GORILLAZ

Top 20 Tracks

1.  The Longest Shadows - HIGH PLACES
2.  Proud Evolution - LIARS
3.  It Only Takes One Night - DUM DUM GIRLS
4.  Bloodbuzz Ohio - THE NATIONAL
5.  Latin America - HOLY FUCK
6.  Glitter Freeze - GORILLAZ feat. MARK E SMITH
7.  Pull Out - THE SOFT PACK
8.  Baby Faced Killer - BIG SEXY NOISE
9.  Skinny Little Bitch - HOLE
10. Repulsion - QUASI
11. Landscape At Speed - SHEARWATER
12. Mongrel Heart - BROKEN BELLS
13. Flash Delirium - MGMT
14. Tremel - GLASSER
15. Apparent Horizon - TRANS AM
16. Madder Red - YEASAYER
18. Found Love In A Graveyard - VERONICA FALLS
19. It Feels Alright - WOVEN BONES
20. Pillow Talk - DOUBLE DAGGER