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)