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)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Found Sound 4 with Wise Lines, Alejandra O'Leary, The Cymatics, peopling, LAw, King Kong Company

In the fourth installment of Found Sound, the series of posts where we introduce our latest discoveries from emerging artists, we have put together an eclectic mix of synth and indie pop, garage and noise rock, electronica and '90s style big beat. Let’s start with something close to home:

Wise Lines - Towards The Sun

Wise Lines are two guys and a girl (Ted Sourvinos, Anthony Georgou, Niki Papagiani) from Athens, Greece who have just started their common sound explorations with the single "Towards The Sun", available as a free download from their bandcamp page. Now that Keep Shelly In Athens have put Athens on the global synth pop map with their ethereal mix of pop melodies and chilled out electro beats, here’s a new band that proves that there’s more of this sound to be found in these parts.

Both tracks on the single have a strong vocal melody supported by ethereal backing vocals with "Towards The Sun"’s slow beats getting support from a discrete guitar riff (video here) and "This Love" coming closer to dance-rock territory with its insistent bass line.

Alejandra O’Leary - Broken Mirror Baby

Broken Mirror Baby (mp3 link)

"Broken Mirror Baby" is the title track from Alejandra O’Leary’s recently released second album. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, singer and guitarist combines melodic pop with driving rock’n’roll, equally indebted to classic '60s rock and the alternative sound of the last couple of decades, from britpop to The Strokes. If you appreciated the childlike quality of Juliana Hatfield’s voice in her '90s work, you should definitely have a listen to Alejandra’s power-pop creations. Start with a visit here.

The Cymatics - One Way Ticket

"One Way Ticket" is one of the six tracks of the second batch of demos from The Cymatics recorded earlier in the month by Magnus Sellergren in one marathon fifteen hour session. The band is the new project from American ex-patriate Ross Kersten of The LaDonnas/Mochines (currently residing in South Africa), Magnus Sellergren from Sweden who has previous history in The Dialtones/Plastiques and Italian Allesandro Della Ratta from The Homebreakers. Sounds like an international noise conspiracy to me. For more of their noisy mix of garage punk and bubblegum pop go here.

peopling - Come Home Eccentric

Lead track from the debut self-released 6-track EP by Brooklyn, New York, noise-rock artist peopling. For the full experience of the "peopling EP"’s experimental chaos, go here and be prepared for some extreme noise terror! 

LAw - Music is Me

LAw (pronounced L-a-double u) is an independent musician from Los Angeles who mixes electronica and hip-hop along with elements of jazz and R&B. The free mixtape "Silence is Golden, So shut the F_ck up" is intended to be more of a message than just a few tracks put together, so it also features speeches and samples from diverse sources (from rapper KRS One to punk pioneers X-Ray Spex) that express the ideals and beliefs of the artist. The full mixtape is available here, while a new EP is expected on Christmas.

King Kong Company - Panic Button

King Kong Company, from Waterford, Ireland, is an electronic dance act who has shared stages with the likes of Orbital and Underworld. The band started its career in 1996, a good period for dance music, and disbanded in 2001, but this year the idea of doing a gig together again came up. Since February the band has been releasing one new music video each month which you can check out here and they are preparing for a live gig next year. Here’s the video for the dubby "Panic Button", one of their best new tracks, which was released in October:

King Kong Company - Panic Button

Friday, November 25, 2011

1988: Top 50 Singles

I don't like to dwell on the past too much but if I had to choose my favorite year for music, I'd go with 1988 without much hesitation.

This was the year Sonic Youth gave us "Daydream Nation", their masterpiece and one of the finest guitar rock albums of all time, Pixies left us stunned with their powerful full-length debut "Surfer Rosa", The Sugarcubes came out of Iceland's glaciers with "Life's Too Good", one of the most inventive pop records ever made, The House Of Love took indie-pop to another dimension, Happy Mondays perfected the indie-dance hybrid, My Bloody Valentine revealed their true potential for greatness, Public Enemy made the ultimate hip hop album, Dinosaur Jr. discovered new ways of combining raw power with pop melody and that's only half the story. In fact most records in our Top 20 of 1988 have "Album of the Year" potential while quite a few of that year's releases have played a major role in influencing the music that we listen today.

As you would expect from a year with so many great albums, 1988 also had a considerable wealth of killer singles to choose from. Click here to check out our Top 50 Singles of 1988 topped by Sonic Youth's definitive moment, the magnificent "Teenage Riot", and press play below to listen:

1988 Singles by ody on Grooveshark

PS.: Did I mention that there were not one but two great Fall albums that year?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

EMA, Monovine, live @ Bios (Athens, November 19, 2011)

Charmed beyond words but, hell, I’ll give it a try anyway.

Let’s take things from the beginning. I am sure glad that the time machine has not been invented yet. Just imagine how many millions of rock fans would love to take a trip to Seattle circa 1989 - 1990 to be at one of Nirvana’s early gigs. And imagine what that would have done to the brilliant but fragile mind of Kurt Cobain. The guy would have probably thrown it all away before he even got the chance to write “Nevermind”. What a catastrophic disruption to the time - music continuum would that be?

So, I guess, whenever we feel a little bit nostalgic about the grunge years, the only alternative we have nowadays to satisfy our desire to be deafened by the big and loud guitar noise is to catch a show by a band that shares a similar craving. And that band, if you live in Greece right now, is Monovine from Patras, the power trio that had the honor of opening for EMA  in her first ever Athens show, an historic event even if the attendance was not all that great. Yet again, I bet those early Nirvana gigs were not that crowded either.

Monovine, live @ Bios (Nov. 19, 2011)
Monovine, who recently made their debut with the album “Cliché”, are not trying to get any marks for originality (despite doing a quite mean live rendition of Madonna’s “Secret”) but they certainly make a loud noise. The grunge force is strong in them and tracks like “Odd” or “Come Out” are just perfect for anyone who longs for that early '90s Seattle sound but is not able to book that time trip just yet. And did I mention that they also do a fine job with that timeless Wipers’ anthem “Return of the Rat”, too? I think Greg Sage would approve - a fine racket indeed.

EMA, live @ Bios (Nov. 19, 2011)
But if time travel does become a possibility at some point in our lifetime, I do believe that there is going to be a time when many of my fellow Athenians, especially those that chose to spend this particular Saturday night elsewhere, who will be willing to pay dearly for a chance to go back in time and be at Bios for Erika M. Anderson’s first visit to our city.

I agree, it is a bit premature to label a show as historic only hours after it took place, but judging from EMA’s astonishing debut “Past Life Martyred Saints” and the absolutely captivating live performance we witnessed last night, my gut feeling is that Erika has what it takes to become an artist just as important as, say, Polly Jean Harvey. Imagine if Harvey had played Athens just a few months after “Dry”. Wouldn’t that be an unmissable show in our city’s (admittedly not that rich) rock history, worth travelling back in time to witness? This is exactly the kind of show that we had the rare opportunity to experience firsthand last night.

What if there were a few technical glitches that disrupted the flow of the show a couple of times? This wasn’t the Muses attempt to sabotage EMA’s performance, as she jokingly implied; it was just their way of demanding another solo number in her set. A set that started strongly with the brief “Dog” and a storming take of “Milkman”, one of my favorite tracks of the year, and went from strength to strength presenting all the highlights from her stellar debut in amazing renditions that surpassed their recorded versions.

Best among the best? The heartbreakingly beautiful “Anteroom”, “California”, a true tour de force that brought Erika in the audience, getting intimate with her fans, the shockingly raw “Butterfly Knife” and the startling declaration of devotion of “Marked”.  A brand new track (video below) gave us a first glimpse of things to come, while the cover of Violent Femmes’ “Add it Up” was also a welcome addition to the set (this track is an alternative classic for Greek rock fans, still getting airplay in local radio). The only thing that was missing for a perfect ten of an evening was her cover of “Endless Nameless”, but EMA is well on her way of building a set with nothing but her own classics. No covers are really necessary.

EMA’s set list for a night certain to be featured in future time-travel brochures:

Grey Ship 
Add It Up (Violent Femmes cover)
Butterfly Knife 
Solo (new track)
Encore: Breakfast, Red Star.

EMA - Anteroom, live @ Bios (Athens, Nov. 19, 2011)

EMA - New song, live @ Bios (Athens, Nov. 19, 2011)

 EMA - Add it Up, live @ Bios (Athens, Nov. 19, 2011)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keep Shelly In Athens vs. Soft Metals

This might have been The Fall Week here in Cool Music Central but that doesn't mean we've stopped listening to new music. Actually, a recent visit to my local record shop not only resulted in the enrichment my record collection with a couple of new vinyl gems, but it has also changed the soundtrack of my weekend to something a bit more electronic, laid-back and sexy.

Hit the play button to listen:

Keep Shelly in Athens - Our Own Dream EP (Forest Family)

The new 12" by Athens, Greece synth-pop act Keep Shelly In Athens is as beautiful as the exquisite photo on the cover suggests. The vinyl inside, one of 500 in existence, is also a thing of beauty in itself. The six tracks on it offer a magical mix of mostly down-tempo, chill-out grooves with ethereal melodies and a strong pop sensibility while Sharah's vocals is the secret ingredient that makes their recipe so special. Check out "Lazy Noon", one of their finest tunes to date, and the title track below (free mp3s for both here):

   Keep Shelly in Athens - Lazy Noon by Keep Shelly in Athens

   Keep Shelly in Athens - Our Own Dream by Keep Shelly in Athens

Soft Metals - Soft Metals (Captured Tracks)

Soft Metals is an electronic duo from Portland, Oregon now residing in Los Angeles, California and comprising of Ian Hicks and Patricia Hall. The pair introduced themselves last year with the 5 track EP "The Cold World Melts" and now they are returning with their self-titled debut album, one of the finest synth-pop releases of the year.

The ten tracks on offer here draw inspiration from all sorts of electronic music, mainly from the '70s and '80s, while the crucial touch of new wave's dark aesthetic is also added for good measure (their first ever recording was a cover of Siouxsie And The Banshees' "Red Light"). From Kraftwerk and early industrial music to film soundtracks like Vangelis' "Blade Runner" score, from italo-disco to Detroit techno and minimal synth, all these influences and more find a way to weave themselves into Soft Metals' sexually charged music. The end result is nothing less than captivating and breathtakingly beautiful. Lose yourself in their soft metallic kiss below:

   Soft Metals- Soft Metals (album 2011) by SOFT METALS

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Week: Shift-Work

On Monday we’re expecting the release of The Fall’s 29th LP "Ersatz GB", in the mean time here’s another highlight from their awe-inspiring 35-year career:

"Shift-Work", the band’s 14th studio album, was released on April 1991 and in our assessment of that year’s best releases, it was second only to Nirvana’s "Nevermind". It was the second of three albums that the band released on a major label (Phonogram) and showcased a more pop-friendly sound without sacrificing their trademark menace and uncompromising attitude.

Check out below the live performance of "A Lot Of Wind" for MTV, one of "Shift-Work"’s finest moments along with "Idiot Joy Showland", "So What About It?" and the title track:

The Fall - A Lot Of Wind (live on MTV)

Band line-up: Mark E Smith - vocals, Craig Scanlon - guitar, Steve Hanley - bass, Simon Wolstencroft - drums, keyboards, Kenny Brady - vocals, fiddle. Production: Robert Gordon, Craig Leon, Grant Showbiz. Artwork: Pascal Le Gras. Rating: Notebooks Out Plagiarists!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

She's Beyond Good And Evil

Could someone, please, convince this woman to record a covers album as soon as possible? After blowing our minds earlier this year with her stunning reinterpretation of Big Black, St. Vincent has started covering The Pop Group's "She's Beyond Good And Evil" in her recent concerts. Check out below her amazing performance of the track on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon:

St. Vincent - She's Beyond Good And Evil

Fall Week: Bend Sinister

Next up in our Fall Week a tip of the hat to The Fall's tenth studio album, "Bend Sinister", released September 29, 1986 on Beggars Banquet. Its 25th anniversary this year didn't receive the same kind of attention that "The Queen is Dead" got, although it is, without a doubt, a record just as important for '80s British rock music. Then again, what Fall record from that period was anything less than a masterpiece? Plus, who needs anniversaries when you still have a vital present and future. Album number 29 is out in 5 days and it's a scorcher!

"Bend Sinister" highlights? I'll go with opening track "R.O.D.", their classic cover of "Mr. Pharmacist", which remains a live set highlight to this day and is also our Single of the Year for 1986, and "U.S. 80's-90's" with its industrial funk beats and heavy bass over which Mark E. Smith showcases his mad rap skills!

The Fall - U.S. 80's-90's

Band line up: Mark E Smith - vocals, tapes, Brix Smith - guitar, keyboards, vocals, Craig Scanlon - guitar, Steve Hanley - bass, guitar, Simon Rogers – keyboards, guitar, Simon Wolstencroft - drums, percussion, Paul Hanley - drums. Production: John Leckie. Rating: Bend it like Smith!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Fall Week: Lie Dream of a Casino Soul

The latest single by The Fall (number 47 by this count) was released digitally and on limited 7" edition today (get them here). "Laptop Dog" is the first taste from "Ersatz GB", the legendary band's 29th studio LP, which comes out on Cherry Red next Monday and this gives me the perfect opportunity to make this the unofficial Fall Week and celebrate just a few of way too many great moments in the long and winding history of the mighty Fall.

Let's start with single no. 7, "Lie Dream of a Casino Soul", released 30 years ago, on November 13, 1981 on Kamera. Band line up at the time: Mark E Smith - vocals, Marc Riley - keyboards, Craig Scanlon - guitar, Steve Hanley - bass, Paul Hanley - drums, vocals, Karl Burns - drums. Production: Richard Mazda. Artwork: Savage Pencil. Rating: Classic!

The Fall - Lie Dream of a Casino Soul

Thursday, November 03, 2011

New Releases: October 2011

A look at October's most interesting new album and single releases:


HIGH PLACES - Original Colors
SUMMER CAMP - Welcome to Condale
STILL CORNERS - Creatures of an Hour
THE BATS - Free All the Monsters
M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
XENO & OAKLANDER - Sets and Lights
JANE'S ADDICTION - The Great Escape Artist
BJÖRK - Biophilia
MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND - All Things Will Unwind
FEIST - Metals
BIG TROUBLES - Romantic Comedy
BONNIE PRINCE BILLY - Wolfroy Goes To Town
RYAN ADAMS - Ashes & Fire
THE WALKABOUTS - Travels in the Dustland
VUM - Night Sun
LONEY DEAR - Hall Music
CASIOKIDS - Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen
THE CHURCH OF SYNTH - The Church Of Synth
DJ SHADOW - The Less You Know the Better
JUSTICE - Audio, Video, Disco
ROOTS MANUVA - 4everevolution
NEW LOOK - New Look
CROOKED FINGERS - Breaks in the Armor
TOM WAITS - Bad as Me
NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
JEFFREY LEWIS - A Turn In The Dream-Songs
ACID BABY JESUS - Acid Baby Jesus
FEATHERS - Hunter's Moon
STEREO SOUL FUTURE - Ghost in the Night

Singles & EPs

FRIENDS - I’m His Girl
ARCTIC MONKEYS - Suck It and See
THE HORRORS - I Can See Through You
THE SOFT MOON - Total Decay EP
ANIKA - No-one's There
THE KILLS - Baby Says
WHITE DENIM - Takes Place in Your Work Space EP
THE DECEMBERISTS - Long Live the King EP
- Common Burn / Lay Myself Down
THE DRUMS - How It Ended
GIRLS - Honey Bunny
SURFER BLOOD - Tarot Classics EP
GOITIA DEITZ - Romance / Coma
IT SOUND - Air Tosses EP
KATE BUSH - Wild Man
CASIOKIDS - Det haster!
GRUFF RHYS - Space Dust 2
JAMES BLAKE - Enough Thunder EP
HARD-FI - Bring It On

(mp3s via pitchfork, stereogum)

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!