Saturday, December 24, 2011

Top 60 Albums of 2011 (1 to 30)

Merry Xmas from Cool Music Central! In a slight break from tradition, this year we are presenting our year-end Best Albums list in our festive Christmas edition and we're keeping our favorite tracks of the year for the first post of the New Year.

To describe the year's music in just one sentence, I'll just repeat what I was saying back in October: in 2011 the girls had all the best tunes!

As early as February it became clear as day that with a masterpiece like "Let England Shake", it would be rather impossible for anyone else to claim the "Album of the Year" title from P.J. Harvey (and that makes it three for Polly if you care to have a look here and also here).

The unprecedented female domination of our Top 5 was ensured by early autumn when indie rock all-stars Wild Flag delivered their debut LP bringing back some much needed punk passion in an increasingly laid back and chilled-out music world (no dubstep for me, thank you very much), while Dum Dum Girls returned with more of that good ol' girl-group sound we've enjoyed so much over the last couple of years.

The stellar debuts by rising stars Anna Calvi and Erika M. Anderson, aka EMA (also responsible for one of the best gigs we've enjoyed this year), complete our 2011 all-girl Top 5. Here's what the top half of the list of C.M.C.'s 60 favorite albums of the year looks like:

Top 30 Albums of 2011

1.   Let England Shake - P.J. HARVEY

"...Twenty years into her ever evolving, illustrious career P.J. Harvey has delivered another masterpiece; "Let England Shake" is one of those all-too-rare records with the power to enchant on the very first listen and haunt the listener for a lifetime" (read the complete post here)

2.   Wild Flag - WILD FLAG

" astonishing record, brimming with passionate punk-rock energy, dizzying guitars, wild rhythms and melodies that stick to your brain for weeks" (more here)

3.   Only In Dreams - DUM DUM GIRLS

"...A great work that solidifies the Dum Dum Girls' position as the leaders of the girl-group pack" (more here)
4.   Anna Calvi - ANNA CALVI

"...An album that introduces a major talent that looks certain to leave her mark in the new decade" (more here)

5.   Past Life Martyred Saints - EMA

"...A highly addictive record that sounds better and better every time I listen to it" (more here)

6.   Ersatz G.B. - THE FALL

"..."Ersatz GB" is, in a way, The Fall's heavy metal album, proving that there is still room for surprises in the unique Fall sound blueprint." (more here)

7.   w h o k i l l - TUNE-YARDS

"...Garbus is really shining with "w h o k i l l", one of the most inventive recordings of 2011" (more here)

8.   Nine Types Of Light - TV ON THE RADIO

"...robust, impeccably produced dance-rock rhythms and pop melodies with will certainly move your body and your mind" (more here)

9.   Cults - CULTS

"...Madeline Follin’s voice is ideal for the sugar sweet, love struck, girl-group sound of the band while Brian Oblivion’s guitar adds just the right amount of distortion to avoid making the recipe too sweet" (more here)

10. Wounded Rhymes - LYKKE LI

"...Lykke Li's "Wounded Rhymes" is my definition of a great pop record" (more here)

11. Blood Pressures - THE KILLS
12. Suck It and See - ARCTIC MONKEYS
13. Here Before - THE FEELIES
14. Veronica Falls - VERONICA FALLS
15. Work (Work, Work) - HTRK
16. Original Colors - HIGH PLACES
17. Soft Metals - SOFT METALS
18. Days - REAL ESTATE
19. Kaputt - DESTROYER
20. Strange Mercy - ST. VINCENT
21. El Camino - THE BLACK KEYS
24. The King Of Limbs - RADIOHEAD
25. Conatus - ZOLA JESUS
26. Eye Contact - GANG GANG DANCE
28. Dynamite Steps - TWILIGHT SINGERS

The rest of our Top 60 Albums of 2011 is here.

And here is P.J. Harvey's "Let England Shake" in all its glory in 12 short films created by Seamus Murphy:

"Let England Shake" by P.J. Harvey

Want to find out what was the popular choice of the Greek blogosphere this year? Check out here a Top 20 created by the votes of more than 140 bloggers including yours truly. At least we agree on that all-important No. 1!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 60 Albums of 2011 (31 to 60)

C.M.C.'s "Albums of the Year" week continues with the first part of our Top 60 Albums of 2011 list. Check out below the albums from 31 to 60 plus some of those that came close but didn't make the cut, then come back on the Christmas weekend for the main course - our 30 favorites of the year.

Keep in mind that this list is actually a snapshot of an ongoing process. You'll get an idea of what made us tick in the past 12 months, but there will always be a few late discoveries that are going to change the picture slightly. As always, the final version of our "Best of the Year" list will appear in Cool Music Database, the central hub of all our year-end lists, sometime in 2012. Without any further ado, here's how the second half of our Top 60 currently looks like:

Top 60 Albums of 2011: 31 - 60

31. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two - BEASTIE BOYS
32. Cherish The Light Years - COLD CAVE
33. Angles - THE STROKES
34. The King Is Dead - THE DECEMBERISTS
35. Creatures Of An Hour - STILL CORNERS
36. Sound Kapital - HANDSOME FURS
37. Red Barked Tree - WIRE
39. Smoke Ring For My Halo - KURT VILE
40. In Love With Oblivion - CRYSTAL STILTS
41. Mazes - MOON DUO
42. Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped - MOONFACE
43. In The Grace Of Your Love - THE RAPTURE
44. Kiss Each Other Clean - IRON AND WINE
45. Apocalypse - BILL CALLAHAN
46. Collapse Into Now - R.E.M.
48. David Comes To Life - FUCKED UP
49. Skying - THE HORRORS
50. Yuck - YUCK
52. Bruiser - THE DUKE SPIRIT
53. Codes and Keys - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
54. Degeneration Street - THE DEARS
55. Glass Prayer - RELIGIOUS TO DAMN
56. The Rip Tide - BEIRUT
57. The Whole Love - WILCO
58.  I Am Very Far - OKKERVIL RIVER
59. Share The Joy - VIVIAN GIRLS
60. Endless Now - MALE BONDING

Close, but no cigar: Portamento - THE DRUMS, Dye It Blonde - SMITH WESTERNS, Lollipop - MEAT PUPPETS, Tao Of The Dead - …AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD, Lenses Alien - CYMBALS EAT GUITARS, Violet Cries - ESBEN AND THE WITCH, The People's Key - BRIGHT EYES, C'mon - LOW, Alela Diane & Wild Divine - ALELA DIANE, Helplessness Blues - FLEET FOXES, Bon Iver - BON IVER, Demolished Thoughts - THURSTON MOORE, Circuital - MY MORNING JACKET, Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes - SOCIAL DISTORTION, Wasting Light - FOO FIGHTERS, Colour Trip - RINGO DEATHSTARR, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? - THE VACCINES, Leisure Seizure - TOM VEK, Passive Me Aggressive You - THE NAKED AND FAMOUS, Badlands - DIRTY BEACHES

Before we reveal our Top 30 for 2011, let me remind you what happened last year: click here for the complete 2010 Album list.

And here is a fine single from one of the albums just below the Top 30: "Cuckoo" is taken from Still Corners' very promising debut album "Creatures of An Hour", one of our Top 10 Debuts of the Year. The good news is that the band is scheduled to play our hometown on March 3rd, 2012 (see all their forthcoming dates here).

Still Corners - Cuckoo

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Top 10 Debuts of 2011

Cool Music Central's "Albums of the Year" week starts here! The first installment, as usual, is dedicated to the best debuts of the year and between Wednesday and Saturday we'll unveil our Top 60 Albums of 2011 in two parts.

So let's start our year-end list-fest by giving props to the emerging new artists who offered us the most impressive debuts of 2011. For this Top 10 the focus is on newcomers who are starting to establish themselves with their first full-length efforts this year. New groups by already established musicians (Wild Flag or Shabazz Palaces for example) or first solo efforts by members of well-known bands (hello Eleanor Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces) are not eligible for this list, although it's no less admirable to reinvent yourself and make a new beginning. Here's what we think are the ten most promising debuts of the year (click on the names of the first five to find out what we had to say about them during the past 12 months):

Top 10 Debut Albums of 2011

1.   Anna Calvi - ANNA CALVI
2.   Past Life Martyred Saints - EMA
3.   Cults - CULTS
4.   Veronica Falls - VERONICA FALLS
5.   Soft Metals - SOFT METALS
6.   Creatures Of An Hour - STILL CORNERS
7.   Yuck - YUCK
8.   The Big Roar - THE JOY FORMIDABLE
9.   Glass Prayer - RELIGIOUS TO DAMN
10. Violet Cries - ESBEN AND THE WITCH

Honorable mentions: Colour Trip - RINGO DEATHSTARR, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? - THE VACCINES, Passive Me Aggressive You - THE NAKED AND FAMOUS, Badlands - DIRTY BEACHES, Living In Patterns - POLLYN (new entry! - more about them soon).

Anna Calvi was by far the most blogged about new artist in Cool Music Central this year. Her debut album already sounds like one of this decade's classics to my ears, a timeless record that expertly combines classic rock 'n' roll with modern classical music influences to create a unique sound dominated by Calvi's powerful voice and her imaginative guitar playing. Here's the video for "Blackout", one of the highlights of her debut and also one of our Top 10 Singles of the year:

Anna Calvi - Blackout

For a trip down memory lane, check out below our "Best Debuts of the Year" lists from the past three years:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Listening Habits 11-12.11

Just before we start unveiling our year-end lists for 2011 (debuts, singles and albums), let’s take a closer look at some of the best records we’ve listened to in the last couple of months.

Regular Cool Music Central visitors will not be surprised to find The Fall’s latest LP (their 29th to be exact) at the top of our album pile. Consistency and the uncompromising rock'n'roll vision of Mark E. Smith is what sets this band in its many incarnations over the years, apart and above all competition.

"Ersatz GB" is, in a way, The Fall's heavy metal album, proving that there is still room for surprises in the unique Fall sound blueprint. "Greenway" (adopted by a recording of Greek joke-metal band Anorimoi) starts with a behemoth of a guitar riff and introduces Mark’s death metal voice, while the slow and heavy "Monocard" steals a page or two from Black Sabbath’s book of doom. The unusual folk of "Happi Song", written and sang by Elena Poulou, throws another curveball by not sounding like a Fall song at all. Elsewhere, it is business as usual for Mark and his troops (David Spurr, Pete Greenway and Keiron Melling complete the rest of the lineup which amazingly remains stable for a third LP), with propulsive tracks like "Cosmos 7", "Nate Will Not Return" or "Age Of Chang" delivering the rough edged, raw and aggressive sound that the Fall faithful have come to expect from the band and the reason we’re keep coming back for more for as long as Smith sees fit to stubbornly keep going at it.

Veronica Falls and Soft Metals offer two new additions to our "Best Debuts of the Year" list (more on this subject in the coming week) with their eponymous albums. Veronica Falls put their own, particularly enjoyable spin to the whole girl group-garage rock-'80s indiepop combo we've enjoyed lately with a record filled with catchy, energetic, straight-to-the-point songs, while Soft Metals (as we've already pointed out here) draw inspiration from all sorts of  electronic sounds from the '70s and '80s with a twist of new wave's resplendent darkness added for good measure.

"Original Colors", High Places' excellent third long-player, is the L.A.-based duo's most dance-floor friendly release so far, with fluid rhythms and chilled out synth melodies accompanying Mary Pearson’s majestic vocals. The highly addictive nature of their enchanting sound looks certain to bring High Places for a second consecutive year among the highest places of our year-end album list.

More enchanting sounds and harmonies, in this case guitar-based, are to be found in Real Estate's sophomore work "Days". The New Jersey band follows the example of its recently reenergized neighbors The Feelies, creating the sort of majestic guitar soundscapes which could become the perfect companion for a road trip. And in case your road trip needs something a bit more psychedelic, try following "Days" with Wooden Shjips’ latest effort, "West", for your maximum trippy enjoyment. As for The Black Keys' just-released seventh effort, all I can say right now is that with every new spin of their "El Camino" this week, the album keeps climbing up in our year-end list, reaching higher and higher. Tune in around Christmas to see where exactly it will end up.

Top 18 Albums

1.   Ersatz GB - THE FALL
2.   Veronica Falls - VERONICA FALLS
3.   Original Colors - HIGH PLACES
4.   Soft Metals - SOFT METALS
5.   Days - REAL ESTATE
6.   El Camino - THE BLACK KEYS
8.   Creatures Of An Hour - STILL CORNERS
10. David Comes To Life - FUCKED UP
11. The Whole Love - WILCO
12. The Rip Tide - BEIRUT
13. Portamento - THE DRUMS
14. Endless Now - MALE BONDING
15. Lenses Alien - CYMBALS EAT GUITARS
16. Circuital - MY MORNING JACKET
17. Bon Iver - BON IVER

Top 20 Tracks

1.   I’m His Girl - FRIENDS
2.   Two Different Ways - FACTORY FLOOR
3.   Nate Will Not Return - THE FALL
4.   Lonely Boy - THE BLACK KEYS
5.   Bad Feeling - VERONICA FALLS
6.   It's Real - REAL ESTATE
7.   Banksia - HIGH PLACES
8.   Psychic Driving - SOFT METALS
10. Into the Trees - STILL CORNERS
11. Black Smoke Rise - WOODEN SHJIPS
12. I Might - WILCO
13. Santa Fe - BEIRUT
14. Holdin’ On To Black Metal - MY MORNING JACKET
15.  Bess St. - WHITE DENIM
16. How It Ended - THE DRUMS
17. Bones - MALE BONDING
18. Definite Darkness - CYMBALS EAT GUITARS
19. Total Decay - THE SOFT MOON
20. Dark Eyes - CRYSTAL STILTS

Veronica Falls - Bad Feeling

(mp3s via pitchfork and sub pop)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

2011 AD

I think 2011 has been quite a good year for 4AD. Listen in the widget below a track from each artist who released a record on 4AD this year (hint: at least 3 of these albums will be in our Top 30 of the year):


And while on the subject of 4AD releases, here's a brand new track from Mark Lanegan Band's forthcoming album "Blues Funeral". The album, Lanegan's first solo release since 2004's "Bubblegum", is out on February 6th 2012:

"The Gravedigger's Song" will be released as a single on January 2nd with "Burning Jacob's Ladder" as the b-side.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

New Releases: November 2011

With so many year-end lists around perhaps I should be starting this first December post by wishing you all a happy New Year! Yes, there is a first draft of our very own "best of the year" list somewhere in My Documents, but before finalizing anything, let's take a look at some of the latest interesting new releases and keep in mind that although December's release schedule is littered with useless festive compilations, we are expecting in the next few days new records by The Black Keys and The Roots.


THE FALL - Ersatz G.B.
ATLAS SOUND - Parallax
LOS CAMPESINOS! - Hello Sadness
THEE OH SEES - Carrion Crawler/The Dream
POLLYN - Living In Patterns
DRC MUSIC - Kinshasa One Two
BLOUSE - Blouse
OH LAND - Oh Land
CASS McCOMBS - Humor Risk
BLACK BELLES - Black Belles
KATE BUSH - 50 Words for Snow
LAURA VEIRS - Tumble Bee
OWEN - Ghost Town
TOM THE LION - The Adventures Of Tom The Lion
HALLOWEEN, ALASKA - All Night the Calls Came In
EVANGELISTA - In Animal Tongue
DAVID LYNCH - Crazy Clown Time
DRAKE - Take Care
SEPALCURE - Sepalcure

Singles & EPs

THE FALL - Laptop Dog
EMA - Marked / Angelo
FACTORY FLOOR - Two Different Ways
SALEM - I’m Still In The Night EP
GUIDED BY VOICES - The Unsinkable Fats Domino
GUIDED BY VOICES - Doughnut For A Snowman
KURT VILE - So Outta Reach EP
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - Stay Young, Go Dancing
THE BIG PINK - Stay Gold
WASHED OUT - Amor Fati
ATLAS SOUND - Parallax / Oh Ricky
FUTURE OF THE LEFT - Polymers Are Forever EP
MARK STEWART - Children Of The Revolution / Nothing Is Sacred
2:54 - Scarlet EP
J. MASCIS - Circle / I've Been Thinking
WILCO - Speak Into The Rose
RYAN ADAMS - Do I Wait / Darkness
TOM VEK - Someone Loves You
WILD BEASTS - Reach a Bit Further
OH LAND - White Nights
WU LYF - We Bros
KING KRULE - King Krule EP
SNAKADAKTAL - Snakadaktal EP
K-X-P - Easy EP
PANDR EYEZ - Eyes on You EP
GROUPLOVE - Lovely Cup
ZOMBY - Nothing EP
MARIA MINERVA - Sacred & Profane Love EP
BIG DEAL - Distant Neighborhood
GONJASUFI - The 9th Inning EP
CRAIG FINN - Honolulu Blues
ALABAMA SHAKES - Alabama Shakes EP

While on the subject of year-end lists, check out here the lists of more than 100 Greek bloggers who are voting for their 20 favorites LPs, revealing one album per day between the 1st and 20th of December. The first draft of our Top 20 has been submitted for inclusion in the final collective list which is expected on December 22, around the time that our complete Top 50 will be revealed here.

To close this post with something truly awesome, here's a brand new Anna Calvi video covering TV On The Radio's "Wolf Like Me". The studio recording of this track is available for free download here.

Anna Calvi - Wolf Like Me

(mp3s via pitchfork and matablog)