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

No comments: