Monday, October 31, 2011

1987: Top 50 Singles

One of hip hop's greatest moments, Public Enemy's third single "Rebel Without a Pause", is at the top of our Best Singles of 1987 list which you can check out here.

Before the end of the year that Public Enemy made their groundbreaking debut with "Yo! Bum Rush the Show", the band was already aiming to raise the bar even further. The goal was achieved with the mind blowing "Rebel Without a Pause", a single that can proudly stand next to any radical highlight in the history of not just rap music but the whole of rock'n'roll. As Chuck D said it best, this is "soul, rock and roll comin' like a rhino".

Listen to our Top 50 Singles of 1987 in full here:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Friends - I'm His Girl

It deserves to become a massive hit - check out below the video for the superfunky "I'm His Girl", the second single by the very promising Brooklyn act Friends. It is released on October 31st by Lucky Number, while here you can find a free download of their debut single "Friend Crush".

Friends - I'm His Girl

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Listening Habits: The Fall 2011 Collection

I've said it before and I'll say it again: in 2011 the girls have all the best tunes. Case in point, the list with our favorite albums for the first half of autumn, where the female voice is ever present, with seven records in our Top 10 coming either from women or woman-fronted groups.

Our two top records for the current period (and a sure thing for the year-end Top 10 list) come from all-girl bands: the indie-rock powerhouse (a more fitting word, I think, to describe them than the tired “supergroup” tag) of Wild Flag and the awesome Dum Dum Girls, the ultimate embodiment, in my opinion, of the new girl-group guitar sound.

The idea of a group combining key members of Sleater-Kinney and Helium sounded great from the beginning. Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony had already given us a brief glimpse of what they could achieve together several years ago with their one-off single as The Spells. Now, with the added firepower of Janet Weiss’ fiery drumming and Rebecca Cole’s energetic presence behind the keyboards, the storming guitar melodies created by Brownstein and Timony and the superb combination of their voices never sounded this good. The chemistry that creates Wild Flag’s pure rock sound is truly a thing of great beauty. The end result is just what the doctor ordered: an astonishing record, brimming with passionate punk-rock energy, dizzying guitars, wild rhythms and melodies that stick to your brain for weeks.

The combination of bittersweet '60s girl-group melodies and rocking garage-punk guitars with a few twists of '80s lo-fi shoegaze buzz has become ever-present in today’s indie rock scene. The list is already quite impressive and growing, from Vivian Girls, to Best Coast to the just out-of-the-gate Veronica Falls, but, at least for my money, nobody has done a better record than the Dum Dum Girls’ astonishing debut “I Will Be”. At least not until now, that Dee Dee and her Dum Dum Girls return with their sophomore album, the exquisiteOnly In Dreams”.

The blueprint of the sound remains the same, but the year and a half spent on the road since their debut came out in spring 2010 helped the band to grow stronger and more confident as musicians, while the production by Richard Gottehrer and Sune Rose Wagner has given them an even fuller, more flesh-out sound, a long way from Dee Dee’s first bedroom recordings. Although the subject matter behind most of Dee Dee’s new songs is dark and painful, the record never succumbs to misery, with Dee Dee’s majestic vocals, the band’s soaring guitar melodies and the driving rhythm section giving the songs an optimistic, uplifting feel (with “Wasted Away” being one of the best examples). A great work that solidifies the Dum Dum Girls' position as the leaders of the girl-group pack.

The other amazing women in our music life this fall include Eleanor Friedberger, the voice of The Fiery Furnaces, in her first solo venture, the captivating “Last Summer”, Annie Clark and her third record as St. Vincent, the rightly highly acclaimed “Strange Mercy”, Nika Roza Danilova, aka Zola Jesus, with “Conatus”, her best album to date, Jonnine Standish, the hypnotic voice behind HTRK’s slow-motion haunting-dream sound that you can find in “Work (Work Work)” and Liela Moss, the stunning front-woman of The Duke Spirit who are back with their third record, the fittingly titled “Bruiser”. Our fall Top 10 is completed with the new albums by Stephen Malkmus (also a keen admirer of women’s musical talents as the Jicks line-up included both Joanna Bolme and Janet Weiss, before moving on to Wild Flag), Handsome Furs (where, now ex-Wolf Parade, Dan Boeckner joins forces for the third time with his other half, Alexei Perry) and The Rapture, the only all-dude band here. Girl-power indeed!

Here are Cool Music Central’s Top 20 Albums and Tracks for the first half of autumn 2011:

Top 20 Albums

1.   Wild Flag - WILD FLAG
2.   Only In Dreams - DUM DUM GIRLS
4.   Strange Mercy - ST. VINCENT
6.   Work (Work Work) - HTRK
7.   Conatus - ZOLA JESUS
8.   Sound Kapital - HANDSOME FURS
9.   In the Grace of Your Love - THE RAPTURE
10. Bruiser - THE DUKE SPIRIT
11. Skying - THE HORRORS
12. Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped - MOONFACE
13. I Am Very Far - OKKERVIL RIVER
14. Dye It Blonde - SMITH WESTERNS
16. Leisure Seizure - TOM VEK
17. Colour Trip - RINGO DEATHSTARR
18. E.S.P. - LOVE INKS
19. Badlands - DIRTY BEACHES
20. The Church Of Synth - THE CHURCH OF SYNTH

Top 20 Tracks

1.   Bedroom Eyes - DUM DUM GIRLS
2.   Romance - WILD FLAG
4.   Year Off - HIGH PLACES
5.   Eat Yr Heart - HTRK
6.   Vessel - ZOLA JESUS
7.   Surrender - THE DUKE SPIRIT
8.   Shit-hawk in the Snow - MOONFACE
10. The Valley - OKKERVIL RIVER
11. Cruel - ST. VINCENT
12. Repatriated - HANDSOME FURS
13. Weekend - SMITH WESTERNS
14. I Can See Through You - THE HORRORS
15. Imagine Hearts - RINGO DEATHSTARR
16. Blackeye - LOVE INKS
17. A Chore - TOM VEK
18. How Deep Is Your Love - THE RAPTURE
19. An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum - SHABAZZ PALACES
20. Der Fall von Leviathan - THE CHURCH OF SYNTH

Dum Dum Girls - Bedroom Eyes

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Found Sound 3 featuring The Church Of Synth, Casiokids, Anomie Belle, VUM

Time for the third installment of Found Sound, our column dedicated to the presentation of our latest music discoveries based on your suggestions. We'd like to thank everybody who has submitted mp3s or links to new music. Even though we don't always have time to answer to all of your emails, I can assure you that we'll always find the time to listen to anything that you send to us and the best of the crop will find its way in one of our Found Sound posts. So, let's see what we have this time:

The Church Of Synth - Der Fall von Leviathan / Das drohnen der Gottlichen Rader

   The Church Of Synth by Robot Elephant Records

Here's something that will be appreciated by all synth worshipers - The Church Of Synth has opened its doors and is awaiting for all the faithful! The man responsible for all services is a Hanover, Germany, based former techno producer and current student of psychological therapy who grew up surrounded by vintage analogue synthesizers collected by his father. His debut self-titled album has just been released on Robot Elephant Records and is an impressive mix of gothic, dark-wave atmospherics and slow and heavy witch house beats. Get your copy of the LP here.

Casiokids - Det haster!

   Casiokids - Det haster! by Polyvinyl Records

From Germany to Norway for Casiokids who have just released their new LP "Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen" on Polyvinyl. The title roughly translates to "The Revelation Over The Mountain", but you can rest assured that you won't need a dictionary to enjoy the infectiously melodic and highly danceable tunes on offer. The track "Det haster!" (available as a free downloaded here) relies on the sounds of the Casio synthesizer that gave the band its name, but on this album the band has expanded its sonic palette, trying out different instrumentation and recording techniques, resulting in their most varied and rewarding work to date.

Anomie Belle - It's a Crush

   Its a Crush by Anomie Belle

Seattle-based singer, composer and producer Anomie Belle has quite an impressive resume, having toured or shared the stage with artists such as Tricky, Little Dragon, The  Album LeafBonobo, Asobi Seksu, Kid Koala, Efterklang and Sea Wolf. "It's a Crush" is one of the standout tracks from her new album "The Crush", which also features collaboration with rapper Mr Lif and Jon Auer from The Posies. Slick, electropop grooves with a trip-hop flavor and a very soulful performance from Anomie Belle who has a truly unique vocal style (at times she reminded me of CocoRosie, another quite unique act, with a more prevalent soul influence).

Newtimers - Falling

   Newtimers - Falling by Newtimers

Next up an offering from Sweden; Newtimers are Andreas Cavaco and Tim Lundblad from Stockholm and the track "Falling" comes from the upcoming album "Ego". Funky, pop music with a debt to Prince, not so far away from what Of Montreal attempted last year with "False Priest". Alternative R'n'B music that can lure the indie-pop kids on the dancefloor.

Hectic Zeniths - Curtain

   03 curtain by hecticzeniths

And speaking of Prince, here's Adam Morgan Prince, aka New York-born, Philadelphia-based Hectic Zeniths. Hectic Zeniths' chilled, densely layered electronic compositions rely on original piano recordings mixed with chopped up samples, synths and live instrumentation featuring violinist Patrick Bailey, guitarist Dave Cohen, and The Yetti on drums. "Curtains" is the rare sort of ambient music that it's too good to keep in the background.

VUM - Night Sun

   Night Sun by VUM

"Night Sun" is the second release by VUM, a two-piece hailing from Topanga Canyon, California, featuring Jennifer Pearl (ex-Lion Fever, Lost Kids) and Christopher Badger (Grand Elegance). The album features twelve haunting tracks of minimalist psychedelia, recorded in Neil Young's '60s recording studio and in the jungles of the South Pacific. It's out on cassette on Living Tapes on October 21st and on limited edition vinyl in November on Secret Lodge. Get yourself a copy of the future collectible LP or download it from here.

Stereo Soul Future - The Freeze

"The Freeze" is the first single (and free download) from the just-released third album "Ghost in the Night" by Boston-based Stereo Soul Future. Back-to-basics, melodic guitar rock that looks up to bands like Wilco and Spoon but lacks the experimental edge that these two bands are capable of displaying. A good listen, nonetheless, if you're in the mood for something more laid-back and mellow.

Parties - Black Budgets

   Black Budgets by Parties

And if you feel like partying with something punkier and, frankly, quite crazy, here's "Black Budgets" from the mysterious Parties. They dropped me a line with just a link to their SoundCloud page and no other info about them, but since I really enjoyed this tune, I am going to share it here with you.

Keep those suggestions coming, Found Sound 4 is just around the corner!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dirty Beaches, A Victim Of Society, live @ Bios (Athens, October 11, 2011)

The spirit of primal '50s rock’n’roll was very much alive last Tuesday night at Bios, the venue that played host to Dirty Beaches’ first ever Athenian show. It hasn’t been long since the release of "Badlands", Dirty Beaches’ debut album, but it seems that the lo-fi nostalgic sounds of Alex Zhang Hungtai’s project have struck a chord with the local indie crowd that formed disorderly queues outside the club from early on and eventually filled it to capacity.

Dirty Beaches, live @ Bios (Athens, Oct. 11, 2011)
The night’s first invocations to rock’n’roll’s wild early days started even before Dirty Beaches took to the stage, with the energetic forty-minute performance of local act A Victim Of Society. Despite the two-piece band’s reliance on modern technology for beats and other sounds (a laptop computer), their main influence comes from primitive garage rock and surf music. A twin guitar assault, experimental attitude and vocals that sounded like the product of a telephone interception (they used an old phone’s headset instead of a microphone) completed A Victim Of Society’s very interesting sound puzzle that got even better towards the end of their set, when their beats started revealing electronic and dance music influences.

A Victim Of Society, live @ Bios (Athens, Oct. 11, 2011)
At a quarter to midnight it was time for Alex Zhang Hungtai’s band to take to the stage and fill Bios with the haunted jukebox sounds of "Badlands". For this European tour Dirty Beaches’ lineup is completed by saxophonist Francesco De Gallo who adds a jazzy dimension to Alex’s early rock’n’roll barebones guitar melodies. All other sounds and beats come courtesy of modern technology but the overall feeling of Dirty Beaches’ music comes from the era of Elvis Presley and Screamin' Jay Hawkins as filtered through the punk and garage rock influences of later day heroes like Suicide or The Cramps.

Dirty Beaches, live @ Bios (Athens, Oct. 11, 2011)
During the live performance some new elements, not evident in the album, come to focus. At times when Alex lays down the guitar and just sings and shouts to the beat, he brings to mind a rapper possessed by the spirit of James Brown, while at other moments, and especially during a cover of a DNA song, no-wave and noise rock influences come to play. The two-man set up is not always enough to do justice to some of the heavier tunes that would be better served with a drummer, but overall Alex with the help of Francesco did a great job of fleshing out the idiosyncratic sound of Dirty Beaches’ older and new material.

Here’s our video for "Horses", one of the highlights of the night, which was also featured in Dirty Beaches’ blog here, with the mention that this is Alex’s favorite version of "Horses" he has ever played live, with Frankie really nailing it on the saxophone:

Dirty Beaches - Horses, live @ Bios (Athens, Oct. 11, 2011)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

High Places: Sophia

Two of Cool Music Central's favorite groups come together for a new video: "Sophia" is one of the standout tracks off "Original Colors", High Places' latest album for Thrill Jockey, and for its video they have collaborated with Busy Gangnes from Telepathe who not only choreographed the whole thing but also performed all her own stunts as you can see below. The album, which is available for streaming here, is in constant rotation at C.M.C. headquarters as we speak. Listen responsibly - highly intoxicating beats included! 

High Places - Sophia from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It Sound returns

The second release by It Sound, the 7 track EP "Air Tosses", has just arrived and you can get it for free from End Up Records here. You can say that the new EP is the younger brother of "Hard Pop For Blue Trees", It Sound's 2010 debut LP, offering us another slice of the deliciously lo-fi, hard pop and experimental bop sound we had so much enjoyed last time. The cover art, once again, is by Pascal Le Gras whose handiwork will be very familiar to all Fall fans.

Here's the video for "An Approach", one of the new tracks that pops and bops on the winding path laid out by Wire:

An Approach from It Sound on Vimeo.

And here you can read our interview with It Sound mastermind Jesse Damm from last year.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

New Releases: September 2011

September was loaded with cool new releases. Below we have collected some of the most intriguing ones for your listening pleasure:


WILD FLAG - Wild Flag
DUM DUM GIRLS - Only In Dreams
ST. VINCENT - Strange Mercy
VERONICA FALLS - Veronica Falls
ZOLA JESUS - Conatus
HTRK - Work (Work Work)
BIG SEXY NOISE - Trust The Witch
WILCO - The Whole Love
THE DRUMS - Portamento
THE RAPTURE - In the Grace of Your Love
LADYTRON - Gravity the Seducer
MATES OF STATE - Mountaintops
TEETH - Whatever
†‡† (RITUALZ) VS. F8STERCARE - †‡† (Ritualz) vs. F8stercare
S.C.U.M. - Again Into Eyes
GIRLS - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
HOWLING BELLS - The Loudest Engine
PEGGY SUE - Acrobats
NEON INDIAN - Era Extraña
GRIMES - Geidi Primes
THE FIELD - Looping State of Mind
DEATH IN VEGAS - Trans-Love Energies
SPANK ROCK - Everything Is Boring And Everyone Is A Fucking Liar
CANT - Dreams Come True
BLITZEN TRAPPER - American Goldwing
MEGAFAUN - Megafaun
GROUPLOVE - Never Trust A Happy Song
SLOW CLUB - Paradise
BIG DEAL - Lights Out
HANNI EL KHATIB - Will The Guns Come Out
KASABIAN - Velociraptor!
MISFITS - Devil's Rain

Singles & EPs

ANNA CALVI - Suzanne & I
TUNE-YARDS - Gangsta
WARPAINT - Undertow (Night Plane / n!c Remixes)
OKKERVIL RIVER - Your Past Life As A Blast
BJORK - Moon
JANE'S ADDICTION - Irresistible Force
FOO FIGHTERS - Arlandria
WHITE DENIM - Is And Is And Is
THE FRESH AND ONLYS - I Would Not Know The Devil
WAVVES - Life Sux EP
JENS LEKMAN - An Argument With Myself EP
BON IVER - Holocene
PEGGY SUE - Song & Dance
FEIST - How Come You Never Go There
DJ SHADOW - I'm Excited
TORO Y MOI - Freaking Out EP
MOGWAI - Earth Division EP
GROUPLOVE - Tongue Tied
KASABIAN - Days Are Forgotten
MILES KANE - Come Closer
AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR - 7 Billion All Alive At Once
JUSTICE - Audio, Video, Disco

Without a doubt, in 2011 the girls have all the best tunes. Wild Flag, the indie supergroup featuring Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony from Helium and Rebecca Cole from The Minders has finally released its highly anticipated debut album in America (the European release is next week) and it's everything we have been waiting for: passionate punk-rock songs full of dizzying guitars, wild rhythms and melodies that stick to your brain for weeks. Here's the video for "Romance" plus the title track from the 1999 EP "The Age of Backwards", the fruit of the first collaboration between Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony as The Spells - just effortless cool:

Wild Flag - Romance

The Spells - The Age of Backwards

Listen to the Wild Flag album on MOG here.

(mp3s via stereogum and pitchfork)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

1986: Top 50 Singles

One of The Fall's classic tracks, their version of the 1966 single "Mr. Pharmacist" by San Francisco psychedelic garage-rockers The Other Half, is at the top of our "Best Singles of 1986" list which you can see in full at Cool Music Database. It is one of the precious few tracks from The Fall's ultra-prolific '80s period that the always forward-looking Mark E. Smith may still choose to include in the band's live set today. The b-side of the single, the brilliant "Lucifer Over Lancashire", is in itself "track-of-the-year" material and another worthy addition to our Killer Tracks Hall of Fame.

The Fall - Mr. Pharmacist

Click play at the widget below to stream a playlist featuring most of our Top 50 Singles of 1986 and go here, here and here to listen to the three missing entries.