Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Metric - Gimme Sympathy, Gimme Fantasies

Today is the official release date of Metric's fourth album "Fantasies", an excellent work that takes the dynamic rock direction of previous album "Live It Out" to the next level. While the album is not lacking in more mellow ("Twilight Galaxy", "Collect Call") or pure pop ("Gimme Sympathy") moments, for the most part it boasts a big, explosive sound dominated by James Shaw's fierce guitar playing and Joules Scott-Key's and Joshua Winstead's propelling rhythms. But, as usual, the most important ingredient that elevates Metric to a class of its own is the sensual voice and fiery performance of Emily Haines, who returns renewed after a brief stay in Buenos Aires in search of songwriting inspiration. Almost half the tracks on the disc are among the best moments of the band's career: "Help I'm Alive", "Sick Muse", "Front Row" and the epic finale of "Stadium Love". Visit the band's site to preview/purchase the album, take a look at a brief overview of the Metric story here and enjoy the video for second single "Gimme Sympathy" below:
Metric - Gimme Sympathy

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The '80s Strike Back - Episode C86

At the start of the current decade it was the spirit of late ’70s punk as well as early ’80s post-punk and new wave that became the dominant influences on most of the new bands of the time (The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol) that came to shake things up and bring the indie-rock sound back into the spotlight. As we come closer to the end of the Zeros, it is the underground guitar sound of the mid-80s that comes to the forefront as the main inspiration of the new breed. Bands like Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Manhattan Love Suicides, Love Is All or Glasvegas demonstrate an obvious adoration for a sound that flourished around 1986 in the UK and was captured in the historic cassette compilation C86 released by the N.M.E.

To catch up with the storyline of the mid-80s UK indie scene, let me remind you that 1985 was the year that saw the release of one of the most influential albums of that decade, "Psychocandy" by the Jesus And Mary Chain. Creation Records, Alan McGee's company that was responsible for unleashing J.A.M.C. to the unsuspecting pop world, was releasing some of the singles that wrote the '80s indie-pop history book, songs like "Up the hill and down the slope" by The Loft, "I'm alright with you" by The Pastels or Primal Scream's debut 7" "All fall down", while in Leeds a new band going by the name of The Wedding Present was making its presence felt with first single "Go out and get 'em boy!". All this was happening while the limelight was on The Smiths who were at the pinnacle of their career.

As you can understand, this burgeoning independent music scene was the joy of the British music press, and in 1986 N.M.E. decided to release the infamous C86 cassette compilation featuring some of the most promising new groups of the era. Next to Primal Scream and Wedding Present who found wider fame soon enough (coincidentally the bands opening and closing this compilation) we find groups like The Pastels, The Shop Assistants, The Mighty Lemon Drops, The Soup Dragons, Age Of Chance, Half Man Half Biscuit, McCarthy (where Tim Gane got his start before forming Stereolab) or Close Lobsters that although never enjoyed the same level of success, their value is evident by the influence they had on the groups that started making waves shortly after (the late ’80s - early ’90s "shoegazers") as well as on those of the current generation.

Add to all this the fact that My Bloody Valentine were also taking their first steps in the same period, a band that basically created its own school with many followers even in today’s music scene (School Of Seven Bells, Asobi Seksu, Howling Bells to name but a few) and you can easily understand why 1986 is the new 1966 or 1976, namely the new cool year from the past ripe for plundering (as you can also read in this Guardian article about Crystal Stilts).

For further evidence of the ’80s influence on the new hot names of 2009 (and for your musical enjoyment of course) here’s a vintage 1987 video from The Pastels for the single "Crawl babies" (from their excellent debut "Up for a bit with The Pastels") and two from a couple of New York’s finest new bands, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Crystal Stilts. It’s "Everything with you" from the former’s 2009 self-titled debut and "Departure" from the latter’s 2008 debut "Alight Of Night":

The Pastels - Crawl Babies

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Everything with you

Crystal Stilts - Departure

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Killer Tracks: Fever Ray vs. The Knife

Karin Dreijer Andersson, the singer of outlandish Swedish electro duo The Knife, is about to release her debut solo album under the name Fever Ray. "When I grow up", the second single off the album, is one of those rare tracks that is simply impossible to comprehend initially and yet something compells you to go back to it again and again. After two or three listens I still couldn't make up my mind if I liked it or not, but after a while it was impossible not to admit that I was simply hooked. Dark and beautifully irrational like the best of David Lynch's films, the song is accompanied by a similarly haunting video. Repeated watching is advised:

A good opportunity to remember another highlight of Karin's unique musical output, the track "We share our mother's health" - one of the best singles of 2006. It is taken from The Knife's last album so far, "Silent shout":

Link: http://feverray.com/

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Listening Habits 02.2009

After an impressive start of the year, with mind-blowing albums like Telepathe’s "Dance Mother" and Animal Collective’s "Merriweather Post Pavillion", February's releases may seem less impressive in comparison, but we did get to listen to a few quite strong records. Morrissey, the godfather of sensitive '80s indie-pop, easily claimed the “Album of the Month” title with “Years Of Refusal”, an album that keeps the momentum going for his revitalized career in the '00s. Some of his students have also found a place in this month’s list: The Dears with the prog-rock inspired "Missiles", from the end of last year, and newcomers The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, from New York, with their excellent self-titled noise-pop debut. The Wedding Present, Sarah Records and the early ’90s shoegazing scene must have also left a lasting impression on them.

For more noise-pop thrills you can also listen to the full-length debut of Land Of Talk from Canada. The band, led by Elizabeth Powell, released the excellent "Some Are Lakes" at the tail end of 2008 (it was proceeded by the mini LP "Applause Cheer Boo Hiss") with Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver, lending his musical talents and helping out on production. For even more noise, but less pop, check out Titus Andronicus from New Jersey and their debut “The Airing of Grievances”. Derailed punk that gets drunk with The Pogues and shows appreciation for other art forms including Shakespeare’s plays, Camus’ literature and Bruegel’s renaissance paintings.

The Top 10 also includes another eclectic compilation from the Rough Trade Shops, a couple more good records from last year that I finally got around to listening (the mind-boggling mix of hip hop and folk by Why? as well as the second collaboration between Isobel Campbell and our recent visitor Mark Lanegan), Grand Dutchy, namely the ubiquitous Mr. Black Francis - or is it Frank Black this week? - and his lovely wife in a more pop oriented effort, and last but not least N.A.S.A. (which stands for North America South America) and the sprawling hip hop of “The Spirit of Apollo”. N.A.S.A. is the collaborative project created by producers Sam Spiegel, a.k.a. Squeak E. Clean (brother of director Spike Jonze), and Ze Gonzales, a.k.a. DJ Zegon. The backbone of their music may be banging hip hop beats but all sorts of elements are thrown in the mix as you can easily guess from the amazing list of collaborators: David Byrne, Chuck D, KRS One, Kool Keith, Tom Waits, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O and Nick Zinner, M.I.A., Santogold, Spank Rock, Kanye West, half of the Wu Tang Clan - the list goes on and on!

Top 10 Albums

1. Years Of Refusal - MORRISSEY
2. The Spirit of Apollo - N.A.S.A.
3. Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture 08 - VARIOUS ARTISTS
4. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART
5. Some Are Lakes - LAND OF TALK
6. The Airing of Grievances - TITUS ANDRONICUS
7. Petits Fours - GRAND DUCHY
8. Alopecia - WHY?
9. Missiles - THE DEARS

Top 20 Tracks

2. Brother sport - ANIMAL COLLECTIVE
3. Michael - TELEPATHE
4. Temporary famine ship - INDIAN JEWELRY
5. When I grow up - FEVER RAY
6. All you need is me - MORRISSEY
7. No you girls - FRANZ FERDINAND
8. Give me back my heart attack - LAND OF TALK
10. Titus Andronicus - TITUS ANDRONICUS
11. Whachadoin? - N.A.S.A.
12. Airport surroundings - LONEY DEAR
13. People got a lotta nerve - NEKO CASE
14. Money babies - THE DEARS
15. Easy answers - THESE ARE POWERS
16. Ride the tide - NATIVE
17. Lovesick - GRAND DUCHY
18. Black balloon - THE KILLS
19. Blood bank - BON IVER
20. Fitz and dizzyspells - ANDREW BIRD

Threatmantics - Big Man, taken from the 2008 album "Upbeat Love", another fine addition to our Killer Track series.

Mix Grill Site

News flash: The Mix Grill site has launched on 3/3/2009 containing all sorts of opinions/ideas/interviews/reviews/news/rants on musical and non musical matters. Yours truly has undertaken the demanding task of promoting the sort of highly entertaining left-of-center quality music that you read about in this here blog, in a weekly (inspiration permitting) column wittily titled "That's Entertainment" (Sundays at 5-ish pm). Read all about it here. Please note that the tireless Mix Grill team is working around the clock to bring you both a greek and an english version of the site, because we may act locally but we think globally!