Saturday, July 30, 2011

Listening Habits 06-07.11

Just before we take our brief summer break, we’re making a checklist of our favorite albums and tracks of the last couple of months just to make sure we have everything we need for our trip in the sun.

Arctic Monkeys’ fourth album features some of their most melodic songs to date. The band’s effort to rediscover its sound continues with “Suck It And See” and this time the end result is more satisfying than before as they finally get the balance between their early supercharged, angsty sound and the more melodic, classic rock-leaning influences of “Humbug” just right. With “Suck It And SeeArctic Monkeys enter maturity without becoming boring or losing the freshness of their sound.

tUnE-yArDs first album was as lo-fi and D.I.Y. as you can get, being entirely recorded by its maker, Merrill Garbus, on a handheld voice recorder and mixed with a freeware program. The fidelity of that recording might have been low, but it left no room for doubting the talents of Garbus and her impressive vocal skills. With the help of a professional studio and a band of musicians to back her up and enrich the sound of tUnE-yArDs, Garbus is really shining with “whokill”, one of the most inventive recordings of 2011 so far, where African rhythms collide with hip hop beats, folk melodies work amazingly well with soulful R&B crooning and ukulele jams are boosted by saxophone riffs. You’ve got to hear it to believe it!

At the start of the summer we also got to hear two of the best debuts of the year so far, EMA’s “Past Life Martyred Saints” and Cults’ self-titled effort.

EMA, aka Erika M Anderson of the recently defunct drone-folk act Gowns, is making a remarkable new start with her first solo effort, a passionate, confessional recording that draws inspiration from the lo-fi folk of Cat Power, the guitar noise of '90s riot grrrls and the explicit narrative of “Exile in Guyville”-era Liz Phair. “Milkman”, the album’s pop diamond in the rough, brings to mind Sonic Youth’s experiments with Madonna’s music as Ciccone Youth. A highly addictive record that sounds better and better every time I listen to it - something I’ve been doing a lot lately.

Cults have made the perfect record for the summer. 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. The brevity of the record and the highly addictive nature of its sunny, steeped in ‘60s pop aesthetic melodies guarantee the repetitive listening of “Cults” all summer long. It remains to be seen if the record will sound just as perfect for the winter days ahead as well.

The Top 5 of June-July ’11 is rounded up with the most surprising and successful comeback of the year. Highly influential '80s indie rockers The Feelies return with their first recording in twenty years, the aptly titled “Here Before”, and pick up exactly where they left off last time they were around. The band’s sound, a unique mix of Velvet Underground, ’60s folk rock και late '70s post-punk, is untouched by the passage of time and remains today as essential and fresh as the first time they made their “crazy rhythms” in the early '80s. A classic sounding guitar-rock album in a year that desperately needs more quality in the guitar-rock department.

Top 16 Albums

1.   Suck It And See - ARCTIC MONKEYS
2.   Whokill - TUNE-YARDS
3.   Past Life Martyred Saints - EMA
4.   Cults - CULTS
5.   Here Before - THE FEELIES
6.   Eye Contact - GANG GANG DANCE
7.   Kaputt - DESTROYER
8.   Hot Sauce Committee Part Two - BEASTIE BOYS
9.   In Love With Oblivion - CRYSTAL STILTS
10. Codes And Keys - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
11. Smoke Ring For My Halo - KURT VILE
12. Apocalypse - BILL CALLAHAN
13. Lollipop - MEAT PUPPETS
14. Demolished Thoughts - THURSTON MOORE
15. C'mon - LOW
16. Passive Me Aggressive You - THE NAKED AND FAMOUS

Top 20 Tracks

1.   Gangsta - TUNE-YARDS
2.   Desire - ‎ ANNA CALVI
3.   Future Starts Slow - THE KILLS
4.   Mindkilla - GANG GANG DANCE
5.   Abducted - CULTS
6.   You Are A Tourist - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
7.   Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair - ARCTIC MONKEYS
8.   Two Against One (feat. Jack White) - DANGER MOUSE & DANIELE LUPPI
9.   Anteroom - EMA
10. Again Today - THE FEELIES
12. Shake The Shackles - CRYSTAL STILTS
13. Chinatown - DESTROYER
14. Make Some Noise - BEASTIE BOYS
15. Circulation - THURSTON MOORE
16. Society Is My Friend - KURT VILE
17. America! - BILL CALLAHAN
18. Try To Sleep - LOW
19. Face In The Crowd - CAT'S EYES

(mp3s via pitchfork, the fader, kexp and matador records)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

1984: Top 50 Singles

Upside Down - The Jesus And Mary Chain (Creation)

1984, the year of The Big Brother, turned out to be a vintage year for noise rock. It seems that underground music was getting more and more fierce and noisy as a reaction to the conservatism of the Reagan and Thatcher era and the tame, plastic pop that was dominating the charts of the time.

Right at the end of that year, the drilling guitars and out of control decibels of "Upside Down" introduced the world to the riotous, groundbreaking noise-pop of The Jesus And Mary Chain, a Glasgow gang of misfits fronted by the brothers Jim and William Reid. Their simple but effective method of songwriting buried catchy '60s pop melodies and primitive garage rock beats to a swelling sea of guitar feedback that mercilessly assaulted the listener’s ears. Once the three minute wild ride of "Upside Down" was over, the buzzing in your eardrums warned you against repeating this ungodly racket, but it was already too late - your brain was already hooked to the thrilling tunes hidden inside the formidable wall of noise.

In the almost three decades that followed, countless bands have based their careers in this glorious noise-pop combination that came fully formed in The Jesus And Mary Chain’s breakthrough 7inch and expanded upon a year later in "Psychocandy", their classic debut album. No wonder that the recent documentary on Creation Records took its title from this very single. Listen once again to "Upside Down", our favorite single of 1984 below and click here for the complete list of our Top 50 Singles of 1984 (most of which you can listen to in the playlist at the end of this post).

The Jesus And Mary Chain - Upside Down

You can also checkout here and here respectively our Vintage Tracks posts on two other top tracks of that year, Sonic Youth’s noise paean "Death Valley '69" and Hard Corps’ pioneering electro "Dirty".

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Found Sound 2: Hold Kiss Kill, Ritualz vs. Fostercare, Scumbag Philosopher, Love Of Everything

In the second installment of Found Sound we have an interesting mix of buzzing guitars, weird electronics, oddball humor and peculiar, yet catchy time signatures. Not to mention a very fresh bonus track (made its debut today at P4K) by our favorite girl group. Let's dive right in:

Hold Kiss Kill - Death Pleasures

   HOLD KISS KILL-'Death Pleasures' by HOLD KISS KILL

Hold Kiss Kill's debut single "Our Last Waltz" was an instant favorite of this blog back in February and it also made it in our Top 40 Tracks of the Year so far. "Death Pleasures" along with "Neon Girls" comprise the band's recently released second 7 inch / digital download and continues exactly where that killer first single left off. Expect even louder My Bloody Valentine-type guitars with dreamy vocal melodies trying to rise to the surface only to be drowned in the beautiful chaos.

†‡† (Ritualz) vs. Fostercare - III / Low

   Ritualz vs. Fostercare by Robot Elephant Records

Just as I thought that everything was getting suspiciously quiet on the Witch House front, here comes a split album by two of the most impressive acts on last year's excellent "Isvolt" compilation: Fostercare a.k.a. Brooklynite Marc Jason, and the mysterious †‡† (or Ritualz for those who cannot read hieroglyphics) from Mexico. "†‡† vs. Fostercare" is out at the beginning of September on Robot Elephant Records, meanwhile here's a first taste from the LP with Fostercare's spooky electro track "Low" and  Ritualz's techno-industrial instrumental "III", a track that seems to have escaped from the soundtrack of "Blade Runner".

Scumbag Philosopher - God Is Dead So I Listen To Radiohead

   God Is Dead So I Listen To Radiohead by scumbagphilosopher

Somehow I get the feeling that the members of Scumbag Philosopher are not huge Radiohead fans but they do have a taste for The Fall who they recently supported on a UK tour. The hilarious single "God Is Dead So I Listen To Radiohead" comes from the witty LP "It Means Nothing So It Means Nothing" which will be appreciated by fans of post-punk speak-singing who were disappointed by Eddie Argos's recent turn to plain simple singing on the latest Art Brut offering. Also recommended to those who remember fondly the mid-'90s Prolapse records or the late '80s period of I, Ludicrous.

Love Of Everything - Three Way Answers

   Love of Everything - Three Way Answers by Polyvinyl Records

"Three Way Answers" is the opening track of Love Of Everything's forthcoming 4-track single "Sooner I Wish". The band is the solo project of Joan of Arc bassist Bobby Burg whose recent divorce was the source of inspiration for the bittersweet yet very catchy guitar melodies that you're going to hear in his latest release.

And the bonus, come-down track: Give an email in the widget below and get "Coming Down", the first taste from the forthcoming, sophomore Dum Dum Girls' LP "Only in Dreams". Mark your calendars - the highly anticipated record is expected September 27:


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grinderman, live @ TerraVibe Park (Athens, July 6, 2011)

The TerraVibe Park gig was Nick Cave’s first ever visit to Greece with Grinderman, but his overall number of visits here since his early days with The Birthday Party is in the double digits. Although I didn’t have the privilege to be at one of his chaotic early '80s gigs, I have been to all of the Athens Bad Seeds shows since 1987 and taking into consideration the number of times I’ve seen him abroad (read here about my first Grinderman experience in Madrid), my encounters with Nick Cave and his tremendous bands have also reached a double figure by now.

His consistently amazing musical output is a good enough reason to go see a Nick Cave gig in every available opportunity, but what really makes his shows unmissable is his unique showmanship that seems to defy the passage of time. Every single one of his gigs over the years has been a one-of-a-kind experience and Grinderman’s primal blues-punk show last Wednesday was no exception.

Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man” that kicked off the set just after 9:30 was the equivalent of a test drive to see how quickly the band can go from 0 to 100. With “Worm Tamer” that followed, the intensity and ferociousness of the performance had already reached maximum levels and Cave was literally airborne; barely a minute into the song, Cave was singing among the adoring fans after performing a perfect, Iggy Pop-style, stage-dive.

Although the moon was far from full, Cave’s performance remained wild throughout the hour and a half set, in touch with his (frequently mentioned in the new songs) inner wolfman, while Ellis, Casey και Sclavounos followed suit, providing the rock solid support. By the end of the breathtaking 11-song main set we had already got all of  “Grinderman 2” minus one track, plus three of the first album’s highlights (“Get It On”, “Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars)” and “No Pussy Blues”). The encore kicked off relatively calmly with “Palaces of Montezuma” to complete the presentation of the new work and escalated to new heights with tracks off their classic debut, culminating with the dedicated to Athens “Love Bomb” and the slow burning blues of “Grinderman”, the band’s signature tune. “See you all again sometime” was Cave’s final words as he left the stage and it goes without saying that I’m already looking forward to it. I hear that it’s not long before the next Bad Seeds record!

 Support for the show came from local act The Callas, who played in front of a relatively small crowd (the show took place several kilometers outside of Athens and the majority of the fans couldn’t make it there early). The band’s material, a mix of Pixies-style rockers with minimal '60s garage tunes, is not characterized by its variety, but its tenacity is admirable and in the occasions that they manage to get the balance of their ingredients just right, the result is some of the finest moments of the local indie scene.

The Callas
Here's Grinderman's full set:

Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man, Worm Tamer, Get It On, Heathen Child, Evil, When My Baby Comes, What I Know, Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars), Kitchenette, No Pussy Blues, Bellringer Blues.

Encore: Palaces of Montezuma, Man in the Moon, When My Love Comes Down, Love Bomb, Grinderman

Grinderman - Get It On (live @ TerraVibe Park (July 6, 2011)

And here is the greek version of this review with more photos.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Best of 2011 so far: Top 40 Albums

You've already seen and listened to our Top 40 Singles of the year so far here; time now to sort out the list of our favorite albums of the past six months, based, of course, on what we've been able to listened to until now.

It has to be said that the first half of 2011 hasn't exactly been spectacular for new music. Rock releases (indie or otherwise) have been rather underwhelming so far and a casual comparison to what was going on in the same period last year, proves to be largely in favor of 2010. At the same time I am not hearing anything truly groundbreaking going on for electronic music or hip hop either (James Blake? - really?).

It's not all bad though. Actually, P.J. Harvey's "Let England Shake" is one of those rare masterpieces that don't come around too often and (spoiler alert!) I'll be very surprised if a finer record is released this year! Anna Calvi has given us the most promising debut of 2011 so far, while great first records also came from EMA and Cults (more about them soon). The female presence in the top ranks of our list is further strengthened by Lykke Li and Merrill Garbus, a.k.a. tUnE-yArDs, who both gave us excellent sophomore albums, while more first-rate music was released by some of the usual suspects of the '00s, namely TV On The Radio, The Kills and Arctic Monkeys. The surprise comeback of the first half of the year was that of The Feelies with the timeless "Here Before", an album that sounds as good as anything they've done in the '80s or '90s. Here's the complete list in a not entirely random order:

Top 40 Albums (January - June 2011)

  • Let England Shake - PJ HARVEY
  • Anna Calvi - ANNA CALVI
  • Nine Types Of Light - TV ON THE RADIO
  • Blood Pressures - THE KILLS
  • Suck It and See - ARCTIC MONKEYS
  • Whokill - TUNE-YARDS
  • Past Life Martyred Saints - EMA
  • Wounded Rhymes - LYKKE LI
  • Cults - CULTS
  • Here Before - THE FEELIES
  • Eye Contact - GANG GANG DANCE
  • The King Of Limbs - RADIOHEAD
  • Cherish The Light Years - COLD CAVE
  • Dynamite Steps - TWILIGHT SINGERS
  • Angles - THE STROKES
  • The King Is Dead - THE DECEMBERISTS
  • Kaputt - DESTROYER
  • Red Barked Tree - WIRE
  • Mazes - MOON DUO
  • In Love With Oblivion - CRYSTAL STILTS
  • Glass Prayer - RELIGIOUS TO DAMN
  • Kiss Each Other Clean - IRON AND WINE
  • Collapse Into Now - R.E.M.
  • Yuck - YUCK
  • Share The Joy - VIVIAN GIRLS
  • Smoke Ring For My Halo - KURT VILE
  • Degeneration Street - THE DEARS
  • Codes and Keys - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
  • The People's Key - BRIGHT EYES
  • Lollipop - MEAT PUPPETS
  • Alela Diane & Wild Divine - ALELA DIANE
  • Helplessness Blues - FLEET FOXES
  • Violet Cries - ESBEN AND THE WITCH
  • What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? - THE VACCINES
  • Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes - SOCIAL DISTORTION
  • Wasting Light - FOO FIGHTERS

P.J. Harvey - In The Dark Places

Friday, July 08, 2011

New Releases: June 2011

Just before we get down to the business of presenting our favorite albums for the first half of the year, here's the list of the latest new releases that got on our radar:


ARCTIC MONKEYS - Suck It and See
HANDSOME FURS - Sound Kapital
FUCKED UP - David Comes to Life
BLACK LIPS - Arabia Mountain
BATTLES - Gloss Drop
- Leisure Seizure
VIVA VOCE - The Future Will Destroy You
- Bon Iver
THE ROSEBUDS - Loud Planes Fly Low
TY SEGALL - Goodbye Bread
ONEIDA - Absolute II
JUNIOR BOYS - It's All True
MEMORY TAPES - Player Piano
FORD & LOPATIN - Channel Pressure
KAISER CHIEFS - The Future Is Medieval
DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR. - It's a Corporate World
WU LYF - Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
ICEAGE - New Brigade
SCUMBAG PHILOSOPHER - It Means Nothing So It Means Nothing
THE COATHANGERS - Larceny & Old Lace
CASHIER NO 9 - To The Death Of Fun
YACHT - Shangri-La
ATARI TEENAGE RIOT - Is This Hyperreal?
VETIVER - The Errant Charm
GILLIAN WELCH - The Harrow And The Harvest
ALINA SIMONE - Make Your Own Danger
OH LAND - Oh Land
THE ELECTED - Bury Me in My Rings

Singles & EPs

ANNA CALVI - ‎Desire
THE KILLS - Future Starts Slow
TELEPATHE - Throw Away This
THE RAPTURE - How Deep Is Your Love?
THE HORRORS - Still Life
BEIRUT - East Harlem / Goshenf
BON IVER - Calgary
ARCADE FIRE - Speaking In Tongues
YUCK - The Wall
BJORK - Crystalline
JAMIE XX - Far Nearer / Beat For
//TENSE// - Escape
DIVORCE - Love Attack / Meating
OH LAND - Sun Of A Gun
PLANT PLANTS - Plant Plants EP
SCUMBAG PHILOSOPHER - God Is Dead So I Listen To Radiohead
HARD-FI - Good For Nothing
RODDY WOOMBLE - Leaving Without Gold / Old Town
MOUNT KIMBIE - Carbonated EP
- Fjree Feather EP

"Desire", one of the standout tracks off Anna Calvi's excellent eponymous debut, was released as a single at the end of June - check out the official video below:

Anna Calvi - Desire

(mp3s via stereogum and pitchfork)

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Best of 2011 so far: Top 40 Singles

It's half-time for 2011 which gives us the perfect opportunity to make a couple more lists. We are starting today with the selection of our 40 favorite singles of the year so far and until the end of the week we'll have that tricky album list which is currently under debate, although it's quite clear who's going to be at the top. The rule for the list you see below is to include only one single per artist for a more varied selection, while the ranking is only indicative as it's always changing. Here's how our Top 40 looks like this week, a few days into the second half of the year:

Top 40 Singles (January - June '11)

1.    The Words That Maketh Murder - PJ HARVEY
2.    Future Crimes - WILD FLAG
3.    Blackout - ANNA CALVI
4.    He Gets Me High EP - DUM DUM GIRLS
5.    Under Cover Of Darkness - THE STROKES
6.    Will Do - TV ON THE RADIO
7.    Milkman - EMA
8.    ~ (R E A L L O V E) - FACTORY FLOOR
9.    Future Starts Slow - THE KILLS
10.  I Follow Rivers - LYKKE LI
11.  I Heard You Say - VIVIAN GIRLS
12.  Two Against One (feat. Jack White) - DANGER MOUSE & DANIELE LUPPI
13.  Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair - ARCTIC MONKEYS
14.  Uberlin - R.E.M.
15.  This Is Why We Fight - THE DECEMBERISTS
16.  Only The Lonely EP - UNKLE
17.  You are a Tourist - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
18.  Through The Floor - CRYSTAL STILTS
20.  Glass Jar - GANG GANG DANCE
21.  Yonkers - TYLER, THE CREATOR
22.  Make Some Noise - BEASTIE BOYS
23.  Throw Away This - TELEPATHE
24.  Love Song - HUSBAND
25.  Our Last Waltz - HOLD KISS KILL
26.  Holing Out - YUCK
28.  Post Break-Up Sex - THE VACCINES
29.  Face In The Crowd - CAT'S EYES
30.  Kaputt - DESTROYER
31.  A Chore - TOM VEK
32.  The Butcher / Supercollider - RADIOHEAD
33.  Ego / Mirror - THOM YORKE / BURIAL / FOUR TET
34.  Buy Nothing Day - THE GO! TEAM
35.  Villains Of The Moon - COLD CAVE
37.  Helplessness Blues - FLEET FOXES
38.  Calgary - BON IVER
39.  Hauntin' Me - KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS

Hit play below to listen to the Top 30 (for Hold Kiss Kill's missing "waltz" go here):