Sunday, March 11, 2012

Listening Habits 01-02.12

For the first installment of Listening Habits for 2012 we have compiled two neat Top 20 lists with our favorite albums and tracks for the first couple of months of the year as well as a few selections from 2011 that took us a while to get into. Let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights of our Top 20 Albums list:

The two most impressive albums we’ve listened to lately come from a decorated veteran of the grunge years and a fresh-faced, new band that clearly wishes for the return of the late ’80s - early ’90s glorious indie rock sound.

Back in those days, Mark Lanegan was the distinctive voice of Screaming Trees, one of the great bands of the American underground rock scene that had been around making awesome records long before anyone thought of using the term "grunge" to describe rock music. On the other hand, Dylan Baldi, the driving force behind Cloud Nothings, was not even born yet. Fast-forward to 2012, and these two characters are responsible for two of the best rock records around at the moment.

Dylan Baldi first caught our attention (check out here our Listening Habits from December 2010) with the track "Hey Cool Kid", one of the recordings he made alone on his home computer using the name Cloud Nothings. The self-titled low-fi debut LP that came at the start of last year was promising enough but far from impressive. But what a change a year can bring! For the writing and recording of "Attack On Memory" Baldi got the help of the members of his touring band, making Cloud Nothings a group in the true sense of the word. The heavier and more aggressive new tracks were recorded by the great Steve Albini, who certainly knows how to bring out the best in a band without much interference. The intense, hard-hitting sound of "Attack On Memory" is inspired by groups like Wipers or Husker Du and this young band’s true achievement here is that they are able to follow in the footsteps of such legends without missing a beat, producing a record that feels vital for the future of guitar music.

Mark Lanegan has been very busy in the seven years since his last solo record, collaborating with diverse artists like Greg Dulli, Isobel Campbell or Soulsavers. All the different musical elements from those collaborations are weaved together in "Blues Funeral", his seventh solo work, making it one of the most diverse sounding records of his career. Intense guitar rock, blues ballads, electronic influenced jams, all come together under the supervision of Alain Johannes who has done a great job as a producer here, creating the perfect accompaniment for one of the greatest voices in rock music today. A superb work from Mark Lanegan and his Band that we’re looking forward to enjoying live in less than a month’s time.

Another notable release of the January - February period was "Reign Of Terror", Sleigh Bells’ sophomore work, a record supposedly more pop influenced due to Alexis Krauss’ more active involvement in the songwriting process. Despite this fact, I thought this record is less immediate than "Treats", their debut album which didn’t take too long to sink under my skin. However the exquisite guitar noise and cheerleader chants are still ubiquitous and a few spins later "Reign Of Terror" proves to be just as addictive. It remains to be seen if this addictiveness will be as long lasting this time as it was the first time around.

Top 20 Albums

1.   Attack On Memory - CLOUD NOTHINGS
2.   Blues Funeral - MARK LANEGAN BAND
3.   Reign Of Terror - SLEIGH BELLS
5.   Let's Go Eat The Factory - GUIDED BY VOICES
6.   Future This - THE BIG PINK
7.   Something - CHAIRLIFT
8.   Onwards To The Wall EP - A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
9.   With Love from the Men’s Room EP - 50 FOOT WAVE
10. Rough Trade Shops Electronic 11 - VARIOUS ARTISTS
11. Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture 11 - VARIOUS ARTISTS
12. Parallax - ATLAS SOUND
13. The English Riviera - METRONOMY
14. Feel It Break - AUSTRA
15. Dedication - ZOMBY
16. Exmilitary - DEATH GRIPS
17. Arabia Mountain - BLACK LIPS
19. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will - MOGWAI
20. Gravity The Seducer - LADYTRON

Top 20 Tracks

1.   The Gravedigger’s Song - MARK LANEGAN BAND
2.   Serpents - SHARON VAN ETTEN
3.   Chocolate Boy - GUIDED BY VOICES
4.   Wasted Days - CLOUD NOTHINGS
5.   Comeback Kid - SLEIGH BELLS
6.   Genesis - GRIMES
7.   Know Me - FRANKIE ROSE
8.   Off The Wall - LEE RANALDO
10. Jump Music - THE BIG PINK
11. Amanaemonesia - CHAIRLIFT
12. Betty Wang - HOSPITALITY
13. Teary Eyes And Bloody Lips - MOONFACE
14. Mona Lisa - ATLAS SOUND
15. Everything Goes My Way - METRONOMY
16. Beat and the Pulse - AUSTRA
17. Natalia’s Song - ZOMBY
18. San Pedro - MOGWAI
19. Shallow - BEACH FOSSILS
20. Nowhere - WILD NOTHING

Mark Lanegan Band - The Gravedigger’s Song

(mp3s via Stereogum, Fader)

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