Saturday, July 28, 2012

Optimus Alive 12, live @ Passeio Marítimo de Algés, Lisbon - Part 2 (July 15)

In the second part of our Optimus Alive '12 coverage, we are presenting our favorite performances from July 15th, the sold-out third day of the festival which drew approximately 55000 people, most of them there for Radiohead’s first appearance in Lisbon in ten years.

But before we get to the festival’s big event, here are the three performances that really made my day that Sunday:


Once again, my favorite performance of the day was not on the festival’s main stage, but took place early in the afternoon at Palco Heineken, the smaller stage at the opposite side of the site.

A quarter past seven, just as they finished setting up their equipment, Warpaint kicked off their 45-minute set with an intriguing, groove-heavy new tune sung by Theresa Wayman who was kneeling on the floor, tweaking her guitar’s effects pedal for the most part of it. It was the first of just a few new songs that the band had in store for us, whetting our appetite for their upcoming album, but as expected it was the familiar older material from "The Fool" and "Exquisite Corpse" that elicited the loudest applause.

The fluid bass and drum rhythms provided by Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa form the strong backbone of Warpaint’s intricate song structures upon which singers Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman add their perfectly combined guitar melodies. The results are truly mesmerizing and tracks like "Bees", "Composure", "Undertow" or the extended version of "Elephants" captivated the audience who rewarded the quartet with enthusiastic cheers. With such inspiring performances, Warpaint should soon find their own place on the main stages of festivals like this.

The Kills

The Kills also played at the festival's second stage, but the bravado of Alison Mosshart’s and Jamie Hince’s performance would have you believe they were headlining at the world’s largest rock arena.

Supported by a small army of drummers (ok, they were maybe three, but they sounded like a marching army) and a few gospel singers on occasion, The Kills played a magnificent, hour-long, rabble-rousing set featuring a significant portion of last year’s "Blood Pressures" LP as well as a few choice cuts from their rich back-catalog (favorite moment: "Fuck the People").

It was the last set we witnessed at Optimus (Metronomy followed them at 3 am but there was no more gas left in the tank for us) and, frankly, I can’t think of a better way to say the last goodbye.

The Kills’ complete set list from here: No Wow, Future Starts Slow, Heart is A Beating Drum, Kissy Kissy, DNA, Satellite, Baby Says, Tape Song, Last Day of Magic, The Last Goodbye, Pots and Pans, Fuck the People, Monkey 23.

Mazzy Star

Mazzy Star played at Palco Heineken an hour before Radiohead’s headline slot at Palco Optimus (you guessed it, palco means stage) which meant that as their set progressed the audience began to thin out. All the better for me, of course, as I was able to get even closer to the stage and enjoy a better view of Hope Sandoval’s and David Roback’s band performance that took place in near darkness, with most of the light coming from the images projected in the background.

It’s been 19 years since the last time I had the opportunity to enjoy Mazzy Star live and for approximately an hour the band managed to take us back into the '90s with a masterful, slow-burning, psychedelic performance that included material from all three of their albums (with "Blue Flower", "Ghost Highway" from "She Hangs Brightly" and "Fade Into You" and the title-track from "So Tonight That I Might See" being my personal favorites) as well as a couple of new tracks ("Lay Myself Down" and "Flyin' Low") that leave the promise that the magic can continue in their highly-anticipated new work.

Mazzy Star’s set: Blue Flower, Disappear, Ghost Highway, Halah, Still Cold, She Hangs Brightly, Look On Down From The Bridge, Fade Into You, Lay Myself Down, Flyin' Low, So Tonight That I Might See.


I have to admit I have a rather unusual relationship with Radiohead’s music. I liked their debut album but lost interest with "The Bends" and I still cannot understand why the OK "OK Computer" is considered a masterpiece. Things began to change with "Kid A", as the band managed to surprise everyone with its unexpected turn into electronic-influenced, experimental pop territory and my Radiohead affiliation grew stronger with the records that followed.

Given my preference to their electro leaning '00s period, I have to say I was rather pleased to hear a live set culled mostly from the more recent material with "The King Of Limbs" having the lion’s share, although I suspect that the favorite part for most fans came closer to the end of the 90-minute performance, when they brought out the '90s big guns: "Climbing Up the Walls", "Exit Music (For a Film)", "Lucky", "Paranoid Android" - especially this one, and the closing  "Street Spirit (Fade Out)". Undoubtedly, Radiohead gave a solid performance which was enhanced by an elaborate light show, but the decision to not broadcast it on the video screens (they were used to display arty flickering images) made it rather difficult to follow what was going on on-stage and as a result part of the connection that a live show should create between a band and its fans was lost for a significant percentage of the large crowd.

Radiohead played: Bloom, 15 Step, Morning Mr. Magpie, Staircase, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, The Gloaming, Separator, Pyramid Song, I Might Be Wrong, Climbing Up the Walls, Nude, Exit Music (for a Film), Lotus Flower (with "Sun" Intro), There There, Feral, Bodysnatchers. Encore 1: Give Up the Ghost, Reckoner, Lucky, Paranoid Android, Everything In Its Right Place (with "The One I Love" intro), Idioteque. Encore 2: Street Spirit (Fade Out).

Caribou, live @ Optimus Alive '12 (July 15)

Other notable performances of the festival’s last and most full day included Caribou’s intelligent dance-fest at Optimus Stage, The Maccabees’ highly energetic britpop and SBTRKT’s Sunday night fever party at Heineken Stage, and Carbon Airways’ electro mayhem at Optimus Clubbing Stage that sounded like Crystal Castles gone disco.

The Maccabees,  live @ Optimus Alive '12 (July 15)

Watch below Warpaint performing "Composure", Mazzy Star playing their biggest hit "Fade Into You" and The Kills killing it with "Tape Song" at Optimus Alive '12:

Optimus Alive '12, day 3 playlist featuring Warpaint, Mazzy Star and The Kills

Click here for our coverage of the first two days of the festival.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Optimus Alive '12, live @ Passeio Marítimo de Algés, Lisbon - Part 1 (July 13-14)

Sights and sounds from the sixth edition of Optimus Alive '12, the music and arts festival which took place at Lisbon, Portugal between July 13th and 15th. In the first part of our coverage we bring you photos and videos from our favorite performances of the first two days of the event. The third day, which had the strongest line up of the weekend and Radiohead as the headliners, will be the subject of our next post.

Let's start with Friday the 13th; unlucky for some, but pretty cool for me as I got to see live for the second time one of my favorite new bands, the delightful Dum Dum Girls (do you remember the first time? - if not, check out here our Primavera Sound '10 story).

Dum Dum Girls (July 13th)

The Dum Dum Girls are growing up so fast! In the two years since their debut album, the awesome "I Will Be" which is already considered a classic in C.M.C.'s book, the band hasn't stopped touring and producing mind-blowing rock'n'roll. "He Gets Me High", from the same-titled 2011 EP, was the energetic start of their enthusiastically received early afternoon set at Palco Heineken, the festival's second stage, and what followed, was a well-balanced selection from their two full LPs, one track from their early days ("Catholicked") plus a taste from things to come ("I Got Nothing" from the upcoming "End of Daze" EP and "Lavender Haze").

Their performance reached its climax with a great cover of Pale Saints' late '80s obscure classic "Sight Of You" (originally from the 1989, 4AD EP "Barging into the Presence of God"). The 50-minute set included the following: He Gets Me High, Catholicked, I Will Be, Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout, Heartbeat (Take it Away), Rest Of Our Lives, Always Looking, Bedroom Eyes, Jail La La, Hold Your Hand, Wasted Away, I Got Nothing, Lavender Haze, Sight of You.

Other, not necessarily music-related, highlights from the Dum Dum Girls set: Dee Dee's platinum blonde hair, the incredibly cool bass-playing style of new recruit Malia (she's also a photographer and filmmaker, having directed videos, among others, for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and D.D.G.'s "Coming Down" - see also here) and the Dum Dum Girls flag that found its way onto the stage. Later on, all four Dum Dum Girls were spotted right at the front of the festival's big stage, enjoying The Stone Roses' set, while Malia was also there for Refused - great musicians and great music fans as well!

Zola Jesus (July 13th)

My second favorite performance of the day, however, was not that of the recently reformed Roses (as I've explained before, nostalgia is not my thing), but Nika Roza Danilova's late night set at Palco Heineken.

Nika, aka Zola Jesus, came onstage just before 2:00 am dressed in shades of white and sporting a feathery hoody, saying she was happy it wasn't Friday the 13th anymore. Accompanied by a three-piece band (keyboards, violin and drums) she presented a surprisingly high-energy set, involving a lot of dancing and even a daredevil climb up the stage - not at all what you'd expect from the new Goth Queen! The ace, but not as well attended as it should have been, 45-minute set relied on recent album, "Conatus", without neglecting older material. Set highlights included "Sea Talk", "Shivers", "Night" and the closing "Vessel" which you can watch at our playlist below.

The Stone Roses (July 13th)

The first and last time I've watched The Stone Roses live was a little before their break-up, at their best-forgotten 1996 Reading Festival appearance, which featured half the original line-up. If I'd had the chance to see them in their glory days, I would probably have stayed at the second stage for Santigold's performance, but since this was my first and probably only opportunity to see the real Roses in action, I made it to the front-right side of the Optimus Stage (close to the Dum Dum Girls posse as luck would have it - I wasn't stalking, honestly!) for their triumphant return.

Their warmly received hour-and-a-half set included everything that a Roses fan would like to remember from the Madchester heroes heyday, with the best ones coming of course from their stellar debut ("Made of Stone", "She Bangs the Drums" and obvious set-closer "I Am the Resurrection" were my favorites of the night) plus some of their earlier and later highlights with "Sally Cinnamon", "Love Spreads" and the sprawling "Fool's Gold" standing out. Without a doubt, a very enjoyable trip down memory lane; here's the complete set list: I Wanna Be Adored, Mersey Paradise, (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister, Sally Cinnamon, Ten Storey Love Song, Where Angels Play, Shoot You Down, Fools Gold, Something's Burning, Waterfall, Don't Stop, Love Spreads, Made Of Stone, This Is the One, She Bangs The Drums, I Am The Resurrection.

The best of the rest: Refused (July 13th), The Antlers, Here We Go Magic, Big Deal (July 14th)

Refused, live @ Optimus Alive '12 (July 13)
From the rest of the first day performances, reformed Swedish hardcore punks Refused stood out with a roaring set at the big stage, which brought their highly respected and influential '90s material to a new audience, too young to catch them the first time around. Although I did enjoy their set, I have to admit that I'm a bigger fan of charismatic front-man's, Dennis Lyxzén, next band, The (International) Noise Conspiracy. How about getting that gang back together as well?

The Antlers, live @ Optimus Alive '12 (July 14)

The second day of the festival had The Cure as the headliners who we have seen in better days, so we decided to get some rest and prepare for the much fuller third day. What we did see and enjoy however on July 14th, was the moving, emotional rock of The Antlers, the psychedelic, melodic pop of Here We Go Magic (both from Brooklyn, NY) and the romantic, hushed guitar tones of boy-girl London duo Big Deal.

Here We Go Magic, live @ Optimus Alive '12 (July 14)
Big Deal, live @ Optimus Alive '12 (July 14)
Coming up in part two of our Optimus Alive '12 report: Radiohead, Caribou, The Kills, Mazzy Star and Warpaint (not necessarily in that order).

Meanwhile, watch below a playlist featuring "Sight Of You" by Dum Dum Girls, "Vessel" by Zola Jesus and "Waterfall" by The Stone Roses:

Optimus Alive '12 playlist featuring Dum Dum Girls, Zola Jesus and The Stone Roses

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Best of 2012 so far

It's that time of the year again: the temperature's rising to dangerous levels (at least here, at Europe's Dirty South) and just before we take a brief summer break during which we'll fly over to Lisbon, Portugal for the Optimus Alive festival (check out the line up here and expect a full report next weekend), we have for you today our traditional mid-year report with our favorite albums and singles of the year so far. For even more recommendations, you can check out here the lists we post every two months in our Listening Habits series.

Keep in mind that the order in which we present these albums and singles is not random at all, but for these lists we prefer to avoid using numbers as the ranking is particularly fluid at this point in time, with new entries changing things around all the time (hello A Place To Bury Strangers and Metric). It's safe to say though that "Visions" by Grimes and "Bloom" by Beach House are clearly leading the album pack at this time and Cloud Nothings along with Mark Lanegan Band are following close behind. Cat Power's brand new song "Ruin" is our current obsession which brings it straight at the top of the singles' pile with a bullet, although there are several other equally worthy entries as you can see below:

Top 30 Albums (January - June 2012)

  • Visions - GRIMES
  • Bloom - BEACH HOUSE
  • Attack On Memory - CLOUD NOTHINGS
  • Blues Funeral - MARK LANEGAN BAND
  • Blunderbuss - JACK WHITE
  • Cancer 4 Cure - EL-P
  • 2:54 - 2:54
  • Kill For Love - CHROMATICS
  • Reign Of Terror - SLEIGH BELLS
  • Give You The Ghost - POLIÇA
  • Synthetica - METRIC
  • Django Django - DJANGO DJANGO
  • Ekstasis - JULIA HOLTER
  • Between The Times And The Tides - LEE RANALDO
  • Sweet Heart, Sweet Light - SPIRITUALIZED
  • Open Your Heart - THE MEN
  • Europe - ALLO DARLIN'
  • Manifest! - FRIENDS
  • The Only Place - BEST COAST
  • Nootropics - LOWER DENS
  • Animal Joy - SHEARWATER
  • Interstellar - FRANKIE ROSE
  • The Horror - POP. 1280
  • Let's Go Eat The Factory - GUIDED BY VOICES
  • With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery - MOONFACE
  • Port Of Morrow - THE SHINS
  • Master Of My Make - Believe - SANTIGOLD

Top 30 Singles (January - June 2012)

  • Ruin - CAT POWER
  • Genesis - GRIMES
  • Fineshrine - PURITY RING
  • The Gravedigger’s Song - MARK LANEGAN BAND
  • Love Interruption - JACK WHITE
  • Lazuli - BEACH HOUSE
  • Know Me - FRANKIE ROSE
  • Creeping - 2:54
  • The Only Place - BEST COAST
  • Youth Without Youth - METRIC
  • Stay Useless - CLOUD NOTHINGS
  • My Heart Beats - VERONICA FALLS
  • Capricornia - ALLO DARLIN'
  • Lay Your Cards Out - POLIÇA
  • Brains - LOWER DENS
  • Off The Wall - LEE RANALDO
  • Mind Control - FRIENDS
  • Default - DJANGO DJANGO
  • Chocolate Boy - GUIDED BY VOICES
  • The House That Heaven Built - JAPANDROIDS
  • Krokodil - ST. VINCENT
  • Leonard - SHARON VAN ETTEN
  • Little Girl - SPIRITUALIZED
  • The Rifle's Spiral - THE SHINS
  • The Full Retard - EL-P
  • Disparate Youth - SANTIGOLD

Grimes - Nightmusic ft. Majical Cloudz 

Beach House - Lazuli

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Listening Habits 05-06.12

Half-time for 2012 and just before we make up our mind and add our two cents on the trending subject of the best albums and singles of the year so far, here are the lists with our favorites for May and June 2012:
No surprises at the top of our albums list as the top two positions are taken up by perhaps the two most anticipated rock releases of the first half of the year that both manage to live up to the high expectations.

Beach House have admirably taken up the challenge of following up "Teen Dream", one of 2010's highlights, by delivering the glowing "Bloom", a majestic record that may prove to be the duo's finest hour yet.

Jack White finally made the decision to go solo with "Blunderbuss" (perhaps as a way of getting closure from The White Stripes?) and offers a record that musically may be a little more laid back than his previous work but is no less striking, exhibiting once again his admirable skill of making music firmly rooted in rock tradition that sounds fresh and forward-thinking.

El-P once again delivers the goods with "Cancer 4 Cure", one of hip hop's best releases of the year, while Londoners 2:54, one of the names in our shortlist of 2012's most promising new acts, make their spectacular debut with their self-titled album (Friends from the same shortlist also made it in the Top 10 although their "Manifest!" does not offer another track as catchy as "I'm his Girl", one of last year's best singles). The Top 5 is completed with "Kill For Love", Chromatics' cinematic synth pop epic, while we also highly recommend Poliça's debut "Give You The Ghost", a record that masterfully combines R'n'B, dub, electronica and indie rock.

Top 20 Albums

1.   Bloom - BEACH HOUSE
2.   Blunderbuss - JACK WHITE
3.   Cancer 4 Cure - EL-P
4.   2:54 - 2:54
5.   Kill For Love - CHROMATICS
6.   Give You The Ghost - POLIÇA
7.   Between The Times And The Tides - LEE RANALDO
8.   Sweet Heart, Sweet Light - SPIRITUALIZED
9.   Europe - ALLO DARLIN'
10. Manifest! - FRIENDS
11. The Only Place - BEST COAST
12. Nootropics - LOWER DENS
13. Interstellar - FRANKIE ROSE
14. Sees the Light - LA SERA
15. Master Of My Make - Believe - SANTIGOLD
16. Quarantine - LAUREL HALO
17. The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends - THE FLAMING LIPS
18. EP's 1988 - 1991 - MY BLOODY VALENTINE
19. Tally Ho! Flying Nun's Greatest Bits - VARIOUS ARTISTS
20. Experimental Imagination - LAw

Top 20 Tracks

1.   Ruin - CAT POWER
2.   Fineshrine - PURITY RING
3.   Creeping - 2:54
4.   Wild - BEACH HOUSE
5.   Love Interruption - JACK WHITE
6.   Drones Over Bklyn - EL-P
7.   Night Swim - FRANKIE ROSE
8.   Youth Without Youth - METRIC
9.   Mind Control - FRIENDS
10. The Only Place - BEST COAST
11. Capricornia - ALLO DARLIN'
13. Angles - LEE RANALDO
14.  Into The Black - CHROMATICS
15. I See My Mother - POLIÇA
16. Disparate Youth - SANTIGOLD
17. Drive On - LA SERA
18. Groundhog Day - CORIN TUCKER BAND
19. Candy - LOWER DENS
20. Class Clown Spots a UFO - GUIDED BY VOICES

Cat Power, sitting pretty at the top of our Top 20 Tracks list with comeback single "Ruin"

(mp3s via Stereogum and Consequence Of Sound

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

New Releases: June 2012

Round up of the most interesting releases of the month:


JAPANDROIDS - Celebration Rock
METRIC - Synthetica
FRIENDS - Manifest!
CROCODILES - Endless Flowers
GUIDED BY VOICES - Class Clown Spots a UFO
TY SEGALL BAND - Slaughterhouse
MAXÏMO PARK - The National Health
THE HIVES - Lex Hives
HOT CHIP - In Our Heads
JOEY BADA$$ - 1999
TWO WOUNDED BIRDS - Two Wounded Birds
WHITE MANNA - White Manna
BEAK> - >>
BEACHWOOD SPARKS - The Tarnished Gold
FIONA APPLE - The Idler Wheel...

Singles & EPs

2:54 - Creeping
PURITY RING - Belispeak
SAVAGES - Flying to Berlin / Husbands
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE - Gotham / Honeycomb
PAUL BANKS - Juan Plenti Lives EP (Summertime Is Coming mp3 via Matador)
SANTIGOLD - The Keepers
TILLY & THE WALL - Love Riot (mp3 via Stereogum)
MAXÏMO PARK - Hips And Lips
LADYHAWKE - Sunday Drive
HOT CHIP - Night And Day
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO - Put Your Hands Together
GOLD PANDA - Mountain / Financial District
TROPIC OF CANCER - Permissions Of Love EP
CASIOKIDS - Dresinen
CHEW LIPS - Do You Chew?
FEAR OF MEN - Green Sea
DEAD LEAF ECHO / SLOWNESS - Act of Truth / Race to Mars
THE PAELLAS - Lights / Long Night Comes