Monday, June 27, 2016

Listening Habits 05-06.2016

At the top of the list of our favorite albums for May - June 2016 we have Parquet Courts' "Human Performance", perhaps the best effort yet for the New York-based indie rockers who have had an excellent run in the last 4 years, offering us a string of outstanding releases starting with 2012' "Light Up Gold".

The same can be said for Woods, also from the Big Apple, who recently released their 9th album "City Sun Eater in the River of Light". Woods have been supplying us with an awesome blend of folk and psych rock for several years now and their latest effort finds them in top form, picking up right where they left off with 2014's excellent "With Light and with Love".

It's no alarm and no surprise that Radiohead's return is also among the best releases of the last couple of months, and the same is true for Bob Mould and Kristin Hersh's 50 Foot Wave, who both add terrific new chapters to an outstanding legacy that goes all the way back to the '80s and two of our all-time favorite bands, Hüsker Dü and Throwing Muses respectively.

We did have a few surprises lately though and perhaps the best one came from The Coral whose "Distance Inbetween" is not only their best job since resurfacing a few years ago, but also a record that can compete with their mid '00s output for the honor of being named their best effort yet.

White Lung have given us evidence in the past that they can rock as inspiredly hard as their '90s indie rock heroes and "Paradise" adds more fuel to their fire, while Frankie Cosmos, aka singer-songwriter Greta Simone Kline, excels at the two-minute pop song, singing elaborate tales that you simply cannot believe how they all have fitted in the brief but wonderful 28 minutes of her new album "Next Thing".

Lots more great staff on offer recently as you can see in our Top 15 Albums list below. Have a listen and make sure to pay us a visit next week to see what will make it in our Top 30 list for the first half of 2016.

Top 15 Albums

 1.  Human Performance - PARQUET COURTS
2.  City Sun Eater In The River Of Light - WOODS
3.  A Moon Shaped Pool - RADIOHEAD
4.  Distance Inbetween - THE CORAL
5.  Next Thing - FRANKIE COSMOS
6.  Paradise - WHITE LUNG
7.  Bath White EP - 50 FOOT WAVE
8.  Patch The Sky - BOB MOULD
9.  Strangers - MARISSA NADLER
10. Funs Cool - THE PRETTIOTS
11. Chaosmosis - PRIMAL SCREAM
13. Hold/Still - SUUNS
14. Stiff - WHITE DENIM
15. Punk 45: Chaos in the City of Angels and Devils. Hollywood From X To Zero & Hardcore On The Beaches: Punk In Los Angeles 1977-81 - VARIOUS ARTISTS

Top 15 Tracks

1.  Sun City Creeps - WOODS
2.  Burn The Witch - RADIOHEAD
3.  Chasing The Tail Of A Dream - THE CORAL
5.  Bath White - 50 FOOT WAVE
6.  Dead Weight - WHITE LUNG
7.  The End Of Things - BOB MOULD
8.  Sinister - FRANKIE COSMOS
9.  Janie In Love - MARISSA NADLER
10. Where The Light Gets In - PRIMAL SCREAM
12. Stabler - THE PRETTIOTS
13. Real Deal Momma - WHITE DENIM
14. Translate - SUUNS
15. Female Vampire - JENNY HVAL

 Parquet Courts - Dust

Monday, June 20, 2016

Live: Release Athens Festival 2016 - Highlights from June 7th and 13th

PJ Harvey, live @ Release Athens Festival
The first edition of Release Athens Festival offered 4 days of live music at Plateia Nerou by the seaside, between June 1st and June 13th, 2016, with an eclectic line up of artists led by PJ Harvey, Sigur Ros, Beirut and Parov Stelar.

We have already presented the highlights from the opening night with Beirut, Daughter and Cass McCombs; let’s have a look now at what happened on June 7th, the climax of the festival with the highly anticipated return of PJ Harvey to Athens after 8 years, and June 13th, the closing night of the event headlined by Sigur Ros:

June 7th, 2016: PJ Harvey, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Slowdive

PJ Harvey’s performance was the absolute highlight of the festival. Her live show transcends the confines of a typical rock performance and becomes a cathartic ritual, exposing the madness and exorcising the ills of today’s world.

The 90-minute set was based on the material from her latest album "The Hope Six Demolition Project", with its songs becoming more haunting and intense in their live incarnation, and it’s bolstered by some of the highlights from "Let England Shake" and a handful of '90s classics including "50ft Queenie", "Down by the Water", "To Bring You My Love", "Working for the Man" and "A Perfect Day Elise". Undoubtedly an unforgettable performance, not only the best of this festival, but one of the live highlights of the year!

PJ Harvey and her exceptional band (including John Parish, Mick Harvey, James Johnston, Terry Edwards and Alain Johannes among others) played the following: Chain of Keys, The Ministry of Defence, The Community of Hope, A Line in the Sand, The Orange Monkey, Let England Shake, The Words That Maketh Murder, The Glorious Land, Medicinals, When Under Ether, Dollar, Dollar, The Wheel, The Ministry of Social Affairs, 50ft Queenie, Down by the Water, To Bring You My Love, River Anacostia. Encore: Working for the Man, A Perfect Day Elise.

PJ Harvey - 50ft Queenie, live @ Release Athens Festival (June 7, 2016)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre, live @ Release Athens Festival
Earlier in the day, The Brian Jonestown Massacre added their delightful psychedelic colors to the sunset and Slowdive made their long overdue live debut in Athens channeling the breezy shoegaze guitar sound of the early '90s.

Slowdive, live @ Release Athens Festival
Anton Newcombe

For Anton Newcombe’s gang, this was their second gig in Athens after their successful (and also long overdue) live debut in the summer of 2014. This time they had to play for an audience that in its majority was not there for them, but the band put in an outstanding performance and I think by the time they left the stage (and came back to take photos of the crowd) they must have earned at least a few hundred new fans.

Slowdive never had the same level of recognition that other bands in their genre enjoyed in the early '90s, but as their recent reformation proves their material is strong enough to withstand the test of time. The crowd that had gathered early in the afternoon to see their first ever Athens show may not have been big, but included both older fans who knew them from back in the day, as well as a younger generation who is now starting to discover the joys of the fuzzed out, dreamy guitar sound that ruled the underground sometime between the late '80s and early '90s.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Nevertheless, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

Slowdive - Alison, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

June 13th, 2016: Sigur Ros, The Black Angels, Diiv

Sigur Ros, live @ Release Athens Festival
The impressive light show that complements the unique post-rock sound of Sigur Ros found an unlikely ally in the rainy weather of the closing night of the festival, as distant lightning added to the otherworldly listening experience that the Icelanders can create.

Admittedly the sound of Sigur Ros is an acquired taste, but the majority of fans in attendance on this night were there for them and they would not let a little rain ruin their fun. The band’s climactic 90-minute set received a warm welcome by the audience and despite not being a big post-rock fan myself, I have to admit that Sigur Ros' performance was certainly among the highlights of Release Festival.

The Black Angels, live @ Release Athens Festival
Different kinds of kicks were in offer earlier in the afternoon. The psychedelic freak flag flew proudly once more during the festival and this time it was the turn of The Black Angels to be the bearers.

The Texas band, which was playing for the third time in Athens in as many years (check out here what happened the first time), also boasts an awesome light show that contributes to the whole psychedelic experience and although some Sigur Ros fans were getting a bit anxious to see their favorite band, I think the rest of us enjoyed The Black Angels set enormously. As an added bonus, we also got a first live taste of some new material that sneaked in their 70-minute set next to the many old favorites and you can check out at the end of this post one of their new tracks titled "Hunt Me Down".

Alex Maas of The Black Angels

Diiv, live @ Release Athens Festival
Among the highlights of the festival was also Diiv’s very first performance in Athens. The Brooklyn quintet led by Zachary Cole Smith is responsible for one of the best rock records of the year and those who arrived early were treated to an energetic 60-minute set bursting with some fine guitar rock action.

Although rather few knew the band’s songs, there is plenty of excellent material on "Is The Is Are" to put a smile on the face of the discerning rock fan and hopefully after this performance the band with the strangely typed name will enjoy a greater recognition in Athens as well.

For the finale of our report, here's some more live music from the last day of the festival - check out below "Ný Batterí" by Sigur Ros, "Hunt Me Down" by The Black Angels and Diiv's "Dopamine": 

Sigur Rós - Ný Batterí, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

The Black Angels - Hunt Me Down, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

DIIV - Dopamine, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Live: The Last Shadow Puppets, Suede @ Rockwave Festival (Athens, June 5, 2016)

The Last Shadow Puppets, live @ Rockwave Festival 2016

It's been quite some time since my last visit to the Terra Vibe site for the Rockwave Festival, the longest lasting rock festival in Greece (now in its 21st year), which in recent times did not make the best of line-up choices, at least as far as new music is concerned.

Thankfully, in the last couple of years there is an effort to have at least one day headlined by some popular, "new rock" name and after bringing The Black Keys in 2015 to celebrate the festival's 20th anniversary, this time it was the turn of The Last Shadow Puppets to make their live debut in Athens as the headlining act of Rockwave.

The collaborative project of Alex Turner and Miles Kane has recently released its sophomore effort, "Everything You've Come to Expect", an album that might not have left as strong an impression as its 2008 debut "The Age of the Understatement", but added another batch of strong, melodic pop songs to the group's arsenal, including "Aviation", "Bad Habits" and "Used to Be My Girl". 

Add next to them the hits from their debut album, like "The Age of the Understatement", "Standing Next to Me" and "My Mistakes Were Made for You", plus a few cover versions including The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", Leonard Cohen's "Is This What You Wanted" and (surprise, surprise) The Arctic Monkeys' "505" and you have some pretty good material in your hands for at least an hour-long set. 

For the one hour and 45 minutes that actually lasted The Last Shadow Puppets appearance, I think it was inevitable to have some intervals that didn't exactly hit the spot, and although it is undoubtedly fun to watch the interaction between Turner and Kane on stage (now this is what I call a big "bromance"), the truth is that for once I wished for a shorter set from the headliner.

The Last Shadow Puppets, live @ Rockwave Festival 2016
On the other hand, '90s British pop legends Suede who played on the Terra stage right before the new Britpop heroes, made every minute of their set count. To be fair, Suede didn't have to base their performance on their last two records. Actually, only a handful of songs on their set list came from this year's "Night Thoughts" and 2013's "Bloodsports", the two albums of Suede's comeback after an extended hiatus.

Suede, live @ Rockwave Festival 2016
Brett Anderson, who was in truly magnificent form, and his band started off with a couple of new tracks ("When You Are Young" and "Outsiders") before launching with "She" what was essentially a greatest hits set, filled with some of the best songs of the '90s British pop scene.

I don't think that you have to be a devoted Suede fan (and I am not) in order to enjoy songs like "Trash", "Animal Nitrate", "So Young", "We Are The Pigs" or "Beautiful Ones", especially when played with such electrifying energy and conviction. For 70 minutes, including an encore with "New Generation", Suede played like they were the true headliners of the festival and despite the fact that there were some sound issues during their set, they undoubtedly won the day.

Suede, live @ Rockwave Festival 2016
Check out below the complete set lists of the performances by The Last Shadow Puppets and Suede at Rockwave Festival, in a line-up that also included The Dropkick Murphys (the crowd seemed to enjoy them, but I'll pass), Turbonegro, The Subways and The Callas

The Last Shadow Puppets: Black Plant, I Want You (She's So Heavy),The Age Of The Understatement, Used to Be My Girl, Calm Like You, Dracula Teeth, Everything You've Come to Expect, Only The Truth, Aviation, The Element of Surprise, Bad Habits, The Bourne Identity, My Mistakes Were Made For You, The Dream Synopsis, Standing Next To Me, Miracle Aligner, In My Room. Encore: 505, Sweet Dreams, TN, Is This What You Wanted, Meeting Place.

Suede: When You Are Young, Outsiders, She,Trash, Filmstar, Animal Nitrate, We Are the Pigs, Killing of a Flashboy, Sometimes I Feel I'll Float Away, Everything Will Flow, Can't Get Enough, By the Sea, She's in Fashion, So Young, Metal Mickey, Beautiful Ones.Encore: New Generation

The Last Shadow Puppets - My Mistakes Were Made For You (live @Rockwave Festival 2016)

Suede - Beautiful Ones (live @ Rockwave Festival 2016)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Live: Eleanor Friedberger @ Death Disco (Athens, June 4, 2016)

It's been 6 years since we've last seen Eleanor Friedberger on a stage in Athens with The Fiery Furnaces (check out our review of that show here). The band has been inactive ever since and Eleanor has embarked on a solo career, giving us so far three excellent records, with the most recent "New View" being among the best releases of the year so far.

On Saturday we had the pleasure to see Eleanor Friedberger and her band at the Dead Disco club where she presented us her latest work along with a few choice cuts from her previous records. Some of our favorite songs in her hour-long set included "My Mistakes", "Stare at the Sun", "He Didn't Mention His Mother", "Because I Asked You", "Sweetest Girl", a cover of Cate Le Bon's "I Think I Knew" and an acoustic version of "Cathy With the Curly Hair" which closed the show.

Check out below Eleanor Friedberger and her band performing "Sweetest Girl" from her intimate Athens gig:

Eleanor Friedberger - Sweetest Girl, live @ Death Disco (Athens, June 4, 2016)

The show opened with a set by Cypriot singer songwriter Lefteris Moumtzis who presented, with the help of Vassilis Vlahakos from The Cave Children, his new album "Now Happiness", a collection of down-tempo pop songs with a melodic heart.

Lefteris Moumtzis, live @ Death Disco

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Live: Release Athens Festival 2016 - Beirut, Daughter, Cass McCombs (June 1st, 2016)

After a slow period for live music in Athens, June promises to be a month of plentiful action. The beginning was certainly exciting with the launch of Release Athens Festival, a brand new event which started with what you might call a 4AD night, as the main protagonists of its inaugural day were two bands on the eclectic roster of the legendary indie label, Beirut and Daughter. The lineup also included California folk rocker Cass McCombs, while local acts Irene Skylakaki and Moa Bones kicked off proceeding early in the afternoon.

Beirut, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016
For Beirut this was their second visit to Athens, having made their live debut here in the summer of 2007! Back then they had opened for Calexico (a fitting pairing indeed), but this time the headlining spot belonged to them. The Balkan music influences of Zach Condon’s band have created a healthy fan base for Beirut in Greece, so it is rather strange that it took them so long to return here.

Beirut’s 80-minute set included, as expected, quite a few songs from their recent fourth album "No No No", with the title track being my favorite among them, while several of the bands older gems, including "Postcards From Italy", "Elephant Gun", "Santa Fe" and "Nantes" were among the standouts. In the encore they also covered "Serbian Cocek", a song written by their Albuquerque buddies A Hawk And A Hacksaw (the third band in the lineup of their 2007 gig). A good performance which closed the first day of the festival on a high note.

Beirut, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

Daughter, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

Earlier in the evening, the crowd's spirits were high but the tone of the music was certainly a lot darker. If Smashing Pumpkins hadn’t beaten them to it, I’m sure that at some point in their career Daughter would certainly make a record called "Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness" or something along these lines. You see Elena Tonra, the London band’s singer and lyricist, has the tendency to write some of the saddest lyrics you’ll ever hear in a pop song. The melancholic nature of Daughter’s music would have you believe it would work better in a club setting, preferably in the heart of winter, but as it turns out the combination of Tonra’s affecting voice and the sad but sweet melodies of her band can work wonders also in a summer festival!

The crowd’s warm reception of Daughter’s music put a smile on Tonra’s face on several occasions and the band seemed to enjoy themselves as they presented a set balancing material from their two albums, 2013’s "If You Leave" and this year’s "Not to Disappear", certainly one of the best records we’ve listened to in the first half of 2016. "Numbers", "Alone / With You", "Doing the Right Thing" and "No Care" were among the best of their new songs, while "Youth", a track which had most of the audience singing along with Tonra, and closing number "Fossa" stood out from their older material.

Cass McCombs, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016
Cass McCombs has a longer history than the two bands topping the day's bill but his music is lesser known to Greek music fans, so his early afternoon slot did not gather a large crowd. He presented a laid back folk rock set including a few songs from his yet to be released new album "Mangy Love" and selections from his older records. It was certainly a good effort but in his case the more intimate surroundings of a club would have been a more fitting environment for his music.

We'll have more from Release Athens Festival next week, as on Tuesday we're expecting the much anticipated return of PJ Harvey, along with The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Slowdive, while on June 13th the lineup includes Sigur Ros, The Black Angels and DIIV. Meanwhile, enjoy a taster from the performances we've witnessed on Wednesday, June 1st:

 Beirut - Postcards From Italy (live @ Release Athens Festival 2016)

Daughter - Doing the Right Thing (live @ Release Athens Festival 2016)

Cass McCombs, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016