Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Releases: February 2011

A selection of some of the most interesting releases of February 2011:


PJ HARVEY - Let England Shake
RADIOHEAD - The King of Limbs
BRIGHT EYES - The People's Key
LYKKE LI - Wounded Rhymes
LA SERA - La Sera
THE BABIES - The Babies
YUCK - Yuck
MOGWAI - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
ASOBI SEKSU - Fluoresence
- Music's Not for Everyone
RAINBOW ARABIA - Boys and Diamonds
TORO Y MOI - Underneath The Pine
NICOLAS JAAR - Space Is Only Noise
JAMES BLAKE - James Blake
THE STREETS - Computers and Blues
CUT COPY - Zonoscope
PURO INSTINCT - Headbangers In Ecstasy 
YOUNG GALAXY - Shapeshifting
TELEKINESIS - 12 Desperate Straight Lines
GRUFF RHYS - Hotel Shampoo
PAPERCUTS - Fading Parade
AKRON/FAMILY - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT
EAST RIVER PIPE - We Live In Rented Rooms
THE LOW ANTHEM - Smart Flesh
DAVID LOWERY - The Palace Guards

Singles & EPs

DUM DUM GIRLS - He Gets Me High  
VIVIAN GIRLS - I Heard You Say
LA SERA - Devil Hearts Grow Cold
THE BABIES - The Wilds
THE STROKES - Under Cover Of Darkness
THE KILLS - Satellite
LYKKE LI - I Follow Rivers
BRIGHT EYES - Singularity
BEACH FOSSILS - What a Pleasure EP
CAT’S EYES - Broken Glass EP
HOLD KISS KILL - Our last waltz
YUCK - Holing Out
J MASCIS - Not Enough
THE THERMALS - Not Like Any Other Feeling
MOGWAI - Mexican Grand Prix / Slight Domestic
TORO Y MOI - Still Sound
CUT COPY - Sun God
GRUFF RHYS - Sensations In The Dark
GLASVEGAS - Euphoria, Take My Hand
MILES KANE - Come Closer
YOUNG BUFFALO - Catapilah / Only We Can Keep You From Harm
MONA - Teenager
KANYE WEST - All Of The Lights
LUPE FIASCO - The Show Goes On

The big event of the month in the singles department was the return of The Strokes with their first new track in five years "Under Cover Of Darkness", a first taste from their eagerly anticipated comeback album "Angles", which surfaced as a free download for a couple of days for subscribers of their mailing list.

But as you might expect if you've been following this blog for the past year, the highlight of the month for us is the release of the brand new Dum Dum Girls EP "He Gets Me High", out this Monday for Europe and Tuesday for America from Sub Pop. The band who was at the top of our year-end Singles list for 2010 with the awesome "Jail La La" is returning with 4 new tracks including a stunning cover of The Smiths' classic "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out". Production duties were handled by front-woman Dee Dee along with girl group sound expert Richard Gottehrer (best known for composing the classics "My Boyfriend’s Back" and "I Want Candy" but also the co-producer of Dum Dum Girls debut LP "I Will Be") and Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes (their new album is coming in April). Get it here.

Another girl-related highlight in February's single releases is the first offering from Vivian Girls forthcoming album "Share The Joy". The track "I Heard You Say" is one of the girls' best moments so far and it certainly raises our expectations for their third full length which is expected in April from Polyvinyl (get the free mp3 here). But that's not all the Vivian Girls-related fun in store for us this month! La Sera, Katy Goodman’s side-project, just released a fine self-titled debut LP accompanied by the 7" "Devil Hearts Grow Cold", while Cassie Ramone along with WoodsKevin Morby just released their first full length as The Babies, a  lo-fi supergroup of sorts which also includes Bossy drummer Justin Sullivan and Stupid Party’s Nathanael Stark on bass.

Here's the video for "I Heard You Say" via P4K:

Vivian Girls - I Heard You Say

(audio via stereogum, pitchfork , altered zones, spin and the relevant record labels)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

8x8: PJ Harvey vs. Radiohead

This has truly been a great week for music! It started with the release of PJ Harvey’s eighth wonder of an album, the universally acclaimed “Let England Shake”, and concluded with the digital release of “The King of Limbs”, Radiohead’s also eighth offering, an album that seems almost everyone with an internet connection got to listen to merely hours from its Friday launch.

I was recently restating my admiration for PJ Harvey’s 2000 masterwork “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”, her fifth LP that topped C.M.C.'s “Best Albums of the ‘00s” list, but it is now obvious that Polly’s creative trajectory had yet to reach its peak. The two albums that followed “Stories…” may not have been as stellar as her previous body of work, but were still as original as anything she has given us in the past and stayed true to her commitment to reinvent herself with each new album.

With “Let England Shake” yet another metamorphosis is completed and the ever changing Polly Jean Harvey has now taken on the role of a war correspondent, detailing with a deceptively sweet voice the horrors she observes as she time-travels back to 1915 Gallipoli and proceeds to other war-torn places and self-destructive times. The gruesome subject matter is related with the accompaniment of some of the most beautifully melodic and effortlessly catchy music she has crafted in a long time - inventive and simple at the same time. Very soon you’ll find yourself whistling along to horrific tales from World War I’s battlefields as PJ Harvey with the help of her esteemed collaborators that include John Parish, Mick Harvey and producer Flood, weaves a delicate soundscape with the introduction of new instruments to her musical arsenal, most notably autoharp and saxophone, as well as sampling . Twenty years into her ever evolving, illustrious career PJ 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.

Each of the album’s twelve magnificent tracks is going to have a video made by war photographer Seamus Murphy and you can watch them all here. The latest clip to surface is for the album's title track and you can check it out below:

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

Radiohead’s “The King of Limbs” on the other hand, is not a radical departure from the band’s recent work; in fact my first impression is that it continues exactly where “In Rainbows” left off three and a half years ago. Thom Yorke’s recent collaboration with Flying Lotus seems to have been an influence on Radiohead’s approach on the new material with even more glitchy electronica and jazzy beats creeping in songs like the frantic opener “Bloom”. The beat goes on with “Morning Mr Magpie” which also has a whiff of “Remain in Light”-era Talking Heads and rarely lets off for the duration of the album. In fact, only the two tracks that slow things down (“Codex” and “Give up the Ghost”) are those that failed to impress me, in an otherwise strong whole that provides further proof that by embracing and incorporating left-field electronica to their sound Radiohead have become a much more exciting proposition than their star-making '90s output had suggested (no, I’ve never been a fan of “OK Computer”). Let the unhinged dance continue!

Here’s the video for the stand-out track “Lotus Flower” with some impressive dance moves from a disheveled looking Thom Yorke:

Radiohead - Lotus Flower

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Listening Habits 01.11 - Anna Calvi

The first edition of "Listening Habits" for 2011 features mostly albums from last year that I’ve been listening to between late December and early February. Some of them came just in time to be included in the first version of our "Best of 2010" list with Wild Nothing’s "Gemini", a shimmering indie-pop gem, achieving a Top 20 position as well as securing a place among our favorite debuts of the year. Another excellent Captured Tracks release, The Soft Moon’s self-titled early ’80s post-punk and new wave inspired debut, reached my ears a couple of weeks too late to be included in the year-end "Best Of", but this is exactly the reason why there is always a second, bigger and better version of the list that appears later on here.

The only 2011 release in this month’s Top 15 Albums is the amazing debut of Anna Calvi, an album that introduces a major talent that looks certain to leave her mark in the new decade. With P.J. Harvey’s frequent collaborator Rob Ellis co-producing and the approval and encouragement of such luminaries as Brian Eno, Nick Cave and Domino’s Laurence Bell, Anna Calvi created a timeless debut that combines classic rock ’n’ roll with classical music elements. The guitar playing of Django Reinhardt and Jimi Hendrix is just as influential on her sound as Maria Callas’ singing or the impressionistic compositions of Ravel and Debussy. These eclectic influences are intertwined into a unique blend that is characterized by Calvi’s powerful voice and her imaginative guitar playing that emulates the sound of an orchestra. From an almost faultless record the tracks that had the most lasting impact on me are the gorgeous, pop-friendly "Blackout", the burning passion of "Desire", the haunting "No More Words",  "I'll Be Your Man" where P.J. Harvey meets the Bad Seeds, "Suzanne & I", "The Devil" and the epic "Love Won’t Be Leaving".

Top 15 Albums

1.   Anna Calvi - ANNA CALVI
2.   Gemini - WILD NOTHING
3.   The Soft Moon - THE SOFT MOON
4.   Rough Trade Shops Synth Wave 10 - VARIOUS ARTISTS
5.   Relayted - GAYNGS
6.   My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - KANYE WEST
7.   Kills - JJ
8.   Hippies - HARLEM
9.   Personal Life - THE THERMALS
10. Northern Aggression - STEVE WYNN & THE MIRACLE 3
11. I'm Having Fun Now - JENNY AND JOHNNY
13. Here's To Taking It Easy - PHOSPHORESCENT
14. Strange Weather, Isn't It? - !!!
15. Mixed Race - TRICKY

Top 20 Tracks

1.   The words that maketh murder - P.J. HARVEY
2.   Blackout - ANNA CALVI
3.   Circles - THE SOFT MOON
4.   Chinatown - WILD NOTHING
5.   Faded high - GAYNGS
6.   I follow rivers (David Sitek remix) - LYKKE LI
7.   Two minutes - WIRE
8.   Machine gun blues - SOCIAL DISTORTION
9.   Big wave - JENNY AND JOHNNY
10. Calyer - BEACH FOSSILS
11. Stranger than kindness - FEVER RAY
12. One million year trip - LAETITIA SADIER
13. Hauntin' me - KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS
14. The cold world melts - SOFT METALS
15. Hell of a life - KANYE WEST
16. Murder weapon - TRICKY
17. I don't believe you - THE THERMALS
18. Resolution - STEVE WYNN & THE MIRACLE 3
19. Hej, me I’m light - PHOSPHORESCENT
20. Living is so easy - BRITISH SEA POWER

Here's a dazzling live performance of "Love Won’t Be Leaving" where Anna Calvi unleashes her inner Hendrix:

Sound sources: pitchfork, stereogum, spinner, one thirty bpm, altered zones. magnet

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Best Albums of the '00s

As you may or may not remember, back in December 2009 we presented our Top 20 Albums of the '00s in an epic 20-day posting marathon. Lists with the best of the decade were all the rage back then and Cool Music Central couldn't stay out of the fin-de-siècle fun. However, as I had pointed out then, I think it's good to have some distance from the period you're evaluating in order to have a better perspective and therefore better judgement. So, almost 14 months later, we return to the subject and this time we don't reveal just the tip, but we give you the whole iceberg - the complete, final (?) and most certainly very subjective list of our Top 200 Albums of the '00s.

The above link will lead you to Cool Music Database, the blog where we now have all our year-end lists from 1980 to the present day. For easier access to these lists, we have also implemented the new pages tab that you see at the top of this page, from where you can jump to each decade's own page and find out all our favorite albums by year and decade. The next step for Cool Music Database will be to start adding our Singles lists for each year.

Check out below the new version of our Top 30 Albums of the past decade (this time I have included entries from 2009) as well as our Top 25 Bands of the '00s (in parenthesis the number of albums in the Top 200 from each one):

Top 30 Albums of the '00s
  1. Stories from the city, stories from the sea - P.J. HARVEY
  2. Is this it - THE STROKES
  3. Turn on the bright lights - INTERPOL
  4. Return to cookie mountain - TV ON THE RADIO
  5. Songs for the deaf - QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
  6. Elephant - THE WHITE STRIPES
  7. Fever to tell - YEAH YEAH YEAHS
  8. Exterminator - PRIMAL SCREAM
  9. The unutterable - THE FALL
  10. Dig!!! Lazarus, dig!!! - NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS 
  11. Let’s stay friends - LES SAVY FAV 
  12. Franz Ferdinand - FRANZ FERDINAND
  13. Whatever people say I am, that's what I am not - ARCTIC MONKEYS 
  14. Good news for people who love bad news - MODEST MOUSE
  15. Silent alarm - BLOC PARTY
  16. LCD Soundsystem - LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
  17. Dance mother - TELEPATHE
  18. Source tags and codes - …AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD
  19. Throwing Muses - THROWING MUSES
  21. Funeral - ARCADE FIRE
  22. Yoshimi battles the pink robots - THE FLAMING LIPS
  23. The eternal - SONIC YOUTH
  24. Gimme fiction - SPOON
  25. One beat - SLEATER-KINNEY
  26. Coral fang - THE DISTILLERS
  27. Group sounds - ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
  28. Isolation drills - GUIDED BY VOICES
  29. Take them on, on your own - BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB
  30. Exploding head - A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
Click here for the complete Top 200. You can also find this list on rym here.

Top 25 Bands of the '00s
  1. The White Stripes (3)
  2. The Fall (4)
  3. The Strokes (3)
  4. TV On The Radio (3)
  5. Sonic Youth (4)
  6. Interpol (3)
  7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (3)
  8. Queens Of The Stone Age (3)
  9. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds (3)
  10. Modest Mouse (3)
  11. Sleater-Kinney (3)
  12. Arcade Fire (2)
  13. P.J. Harvey  (2)
  14. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (3)
  15. The Kills (3)
  16. Spoon (3)
  17. Franz Ferdinand (2)
  18. Arctic Monkeys (2)
  19. Bloc Party (2)
  20. Primal Scream (2)
  21. LCD Soundsystem (2)
  22. Blonde Redhead (2)
  23. The Flaming Lips (2)
  24. Bright Eyes (3)
  25. The Decemberists (2)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Hold Kiss Kill - Our Last Waltz

Here's a treat for fans of My Bloody Valentine/Jesus And Mary Chain: London four-piece Hold Kiss Kill are releasing their debut single "Our Last Waltz" today on super limited edition 7" flexi disc (how much more 1980's can you get?) and digital download. I have just stumbled upon the distortion-heavy track and I'm listening to it on repeat! Something tells me this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship - have a listen (or ten) here:


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Big Sexy Noise, Momus, Blaine L. Reininger, live @ Gagarin 205 (Athens, Feb. 4, 2011)

In the words of the Goth Godmother / No Wave Nostradamus herself: "It's time to stop complaining, quit your crying and embrace the coming End Times. Let's fucking rock." In order to do just that, Lydia Lunch joined forces with Gallon Drunk's Terry Edwards, James Johnston and Ian White and formed the aptly name Big Sexy Noise who unleashed a tremendous self-titled LP back in 2009.

Luckily for us, this successful collaboration continues and Friday night we had the opportunity to enjoy the swamp-punk sounds of Big Sexy Noise live on Gagarin 205's stage. Lydia Lunch's harsh, smoky voice blends perfectly with the dirty, violent sounds emanating from Johnston's long-sufferin' guitar, Edwards' sax and synths and White's derailed drums, achieving their stated mission to fucking rock - hard! The hour-long explosive performance featured the majority of their 2009 album, including "Gospel Singer", Lou Reed's "Kill Your Sons", "Baby Faced Killer", "Dark Eyes", "Another Man Coming" and "Your Love Don't Pay My Rent". Another highlight was their cover of The Seeds' classic "Pushin' Too Hard". Let's just hope that there is more to come from Big Sexy Noise in the near future - and that Courtney Love, who lost the plot completely last year with "Nobody's Daughter", starts taking notes again!

Big Sexy Noise live@Gagarin 205

Here's my shaky video of "Gospel Singer" (sorry, but the floor was shaking beneath my feet), a track co-written with Kim Gordon, from this big sexy noisy night:

Big Sexy Noise - Gospel Singer, live @ Gagarin 205 (Feb. 4, 2011)

Blaine L. Reininger
But that wasn't all. As a bonus, on the same night we had the opportunity to remember highlights from the long and winding careers of both Blaine L. Reininger and Momus.

Reininger, accompanied by local musician Tilemachos Musas on guitar, closed the night by playing tracks from his solo days as well as from his former band, the legendary Tuxeedo Moon, while Nick Currie, a.k.a. Momus, opened proceedings with an one-man synthpop-cabaret show that lasted over an hour, with tracks going as far back as the mid-'80s when he started his solo career with "Circus Maximus". From this album we got "Lucky Like St. Sebastian" (see lemonostiftis' video below), with a dancer appearing on stage to add a touch of dirty dancing, helping to make this song one of the night's highlights. From my personal favorite Momus album, 1989's "Don’t Stop The Night", he played "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous", while from "Tender Pervert", another favorite from his Creation years, we got "The Angels Are Voyeurs", "The Homosexual" and the excellent, acid-house influenced, "A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)". In the plus points I'll add his cover of Bowie's "Ashes To Ashes", in the minus the fact that all of the music was pre-recorded and played back from a portable device. Still, a fine performance from a gifted entertainer (check out his interesting story in this video interview). 

Momus live @ Gagarin 205

Momus - Lucky Like St. Sebastian, live @ Gagarin 205 (Feb. 4, 2011)