Sunday, January 27, 2013

METZ, live @ Six D.O.G.S (Athens, January 25, 2013)

Now that's what I call a great start to the year's live music agenda: 45 minutes of total sonic annihilation courtesy of Metz! The up-and-coming Canadian punk rock trio started its European tour this Friday in Athens with an explosive set featuring tracks from their ace self-titled record (one of our Top 20 albums of 2012) plus a couple of new ones.

As it is well documented on their debut album, Metz are capable of extreme levels of intensity but they somehow manage to take their sonic assault even further on stage, driving the noise capabilities of the guitar-bass-drums combination beyond its logical limits. What’s truly impressive though is that even when the music is driven to the brink of collapse, the band never loses control, forcing order to the chaos it is unleashing. A great show from start to finish from an amazing live band channeling the wild spirit of the '80s and '90s noise rock!

Here's Metz performing an extended version of "Wet Blanket", the track that closed their main set and one of the night's many highlights:

Metz - Wet Blanket, live @ Six D.O.G.S, Athens (Jan. 25, 2013)

Metz, live @ Six D.O.G.S

The show opened by local act Balzac Diva who prefer a more melodic approach to their music. Bass and keyboards play the most prominent role to their sound, creating an idiosyncratic, dark pop mix. The vocals are shared between bassist Vag and keyboardist Dana creating an interesting juxtaposition, with Dana bringing a sunny pop vibe to Vag's detached new wave tones. An appealing combination that has the potential to create intriguing sounds.

Balzac Diva, live @ Six D.O.G.S

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Killer Tracks: San Francisco by Foxygen

Immediately after listening for the first time to "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic", the second album by California psychedelic pop duo Foxygen, you'll probably want to listen to it all over again just to try to figure out the long list of influences and reference points hidden in plain view in its 9 tracks.

After the second listening, however, you'll find that you just can't stop hitting the play button again and again because you're hooked for good to the catchy 21st century pop sound that Foxygen are creating by using only the finest ingredients of 20th century's rock, from The Beatles and The Stones to Pavement. Or, at least, that's what happened to me this past week.

The album is out January 22 on Jagjaguwar and is currently streaming here. "San Francisco", the record's most obvious highlight, is accompanied by a fine video directed by Cameron Dutra. Check out bellow how Sam France tells us the tale of leaving his love in San Francisco:

Foxygen - San Francisco

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Listening Habits 11-12.12

Crystal Castles’ unholy mix of punk nihilism, digital noise and dance floor-annihilating beats brings the Toronto duo to the top of our current favorite albums list (and the number 10 of our 2012 Top 30). Their third album continues their journey into the heart of darkness, purging all the ugliness that lurks in there with fire-spitting electropunk. Crystal Castles are fighting darkness with darkness and the ongoing battle creates violent, yet wonderful music.

"Lost Songs", the eighth album by Austin’s …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, is not going to bring you any peace of mind either. The Texan noise-rockers lyrical inspiration comes from war, tyranny and apathy and the end result is a seismic punk rock explosion that equals that of "Source Tags And Codes", their 2002 masterwork. Richter scale madness, indeed!

But if you’re looking for the true soundtrack of the apocalypse, then look no further than "The Seer", Swan’s twelfth studio album. The two-hour drone-rock monolith is one of the most demanding records I’ve come across in recent years, a punishing but rewarding sonic journey that’s certainly worth undertaking. "The Seer", as Michael Gira has stated, is the culmination of every previous album he has ever made in the last 30 years, so a working knowledge of the Swans / Gira discography will certainly help you prepare for it. Personally, I am currently revisiting Swans mid-'80s period with the compilation "Cop/Young God/Greed/Holy Money" - wonderfully brutal stuff!

For your slightly less complicated indie-rock enjoyment, I would highly recommend Guided By Voices’ "The Bears For Lunch" and The Babies’ "Our House On The Hill".

The third GBV album of 2012 (and 19th overall) is the best release of the band's current run with its classic mid-'90s line up and one of the last minute additions to our year-end Top 20. It’s safe to say, had they decided to release just one album last year with the best bits from each of their three full-lengths, that record could easily have been in the run for our Album of the Year. "The Bears For Lunch" is the closest they have come so far to recreating their '90s magic and that's no small thing. Maybe this was just their way of warming up for even greater things to come in 2013?

The Babies, the band formed by Vivian Girls guitarist Cassie Ramone and Woods’ bassist Kevin Morby, have come a long way since their self-titled 2011 debut. Their sophomore full-length is a record jam-packed with memorable garage rock gems that bring some much-needed musical sunshine in the heart of the cold winter. At least as good as anything they've given us so far with their other, more high-profile bands.

Here's the list of our favorite albums and tracks of the last couple of months:

Top 15 Albums

3.   The Bears For Lunch - GUIDED BY VOICES
4.   The Seer - SWANS
5.   Our House On The Hill - THE BABIES
6.   Swing Lo Magellan - DIRTY PROJECTORS
7.   The Haunted Man - BAT FOR LASHES
8.   good kid, m.A.A.d city - KENDRICK LAMAR
9.   Toy - TOY
10. Oshin - DIIV
11. Strapped - THE SOFT PACK
12. Zeros - THE SOFT MOON
13. Researching The Blues - REDD KROSS
14. Melody's Echo Chamber - MELODY'S ECHO CHAMBER
15. Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture 12 - VARIOUS ARTISTS

Top 20 Tracks

1.   Fall Back - FACTORY FLOOR
2.   Avatar - SWANS
4.   Doused - DIIV
5.   Moonlight Mile - THE BABIES
6.   She Lives in an Airport - GUIDED BY VOICES
7.   Let It Bleed - GOAT
9.   Backseat Freestyle - KENDRICK LAMAR
10. All Your Gold - BAT FOR LASHES
11. Kopter - TOY
12. Flying to Berlin - SAVAGES
15. Ballad Of The Golden Hour - WIDOWSPEAK
16. Tallboy - THE SOFT PACK
17. Stay Away From Downtown - REDD KROSS
18. Suburban Home - FIDLAR
19. Machines - THE SOFT MOON
20. Endless Shore - MELODY'S ECHO CHAMBER

Factory Floor - Fall Back

(mp3s via stereogum and kexp)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Killer Tracks: Fall Back by Factory Floor

We're barely a week into 2013 and the first great single of the year is here!

After a very quiet 2012, Factory Floor return with new single "Fall Back", out on DFA Records next week. The track, a first taste from their upcoming, highly anticipated full-length debut album, follows in the footsteps of previous single "Two Different Ways" (their DFA debut), attacking your senses with trance-inducing, repetitive electro beats. Get into their groove now:

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 Review: Top 60 Albums of the Year (1 to 30)

Happy New Year to everyone! And what better way to start off 2013 than with the presentation of our 30 favorite albums of the year that was.

All the albums that occupy the first five positions of our list equally deserve the honor of being crowned "Album of the Year". In the end, we decided to make 2012 the year of the Cat and give our Number One to "Sun" (Matador), Cat Power’s ninth studio album, which quickly became my personal favorite of her outstanding discography (along with 2003’s "You are free"). Chan Marshal took the risk of trying a new, electronic-based sound for her first album of original material in six years and the end-result is truly refreshing. Despite the various personal troubles that she went through in that time, "Sun" turned out to be her most optimistic sounding record to date, showing us a more mature Chan, ready to deal with the problems of this ruin we’re all living on and to give out some good advice in her most soothing voice.

A good year for a record company is of course defined by its financial results. I have no idea how 4AD is doing in that department, but artistically the historic label has had an outstanding 2012, reflected by the fact that three of its releases are in our Top 5, between the second and fourth place:

"Visions" by Grimes earned much deserved high praise all around and ended up at the top of many year-end lists, while fellow Canadians Purity Ring have also done well with their debut album "Shrines" (our Debut of the Year). If you are looking for a fresh sound that defines 2012, I think the majestic synthpop hybrids concocted by both Grimes and Purity Ring have the answer. The sound of Mark Lanegan and his band, on the other hand, comes from the glorious past of guitar music. It is definitely not new but only a fool would take its classic quality for granted. Best guitar rock record of the year featuring perhaps the greatest singer of the last 25 years in superb form!

As for our fifth "Album of the Year", "Bloom" (Bella Union / Sub Pop) is the record that proves that Beach House are on their way to becoming one of the most important bands of this decade. The continuous evolution of the duo’s sound has driven them to new heights on their fourth and best album so far, a magnificent work that shows it is not impossible to improve on the perfection of "Teen Dream".

Here is the top half of Cool Music Central’s Top 60 Albums of 2012 (for the second half, click here):

Top 30 Albums of 2012

1.   Sun - CAT POWER

2012 was the Year of the Cat: Our Album and Single of the Year belong to Chan Marshal!
2.   Visions - GRIMES

"Grimes' vision for a perfect electropop future takes shape and form in the glorious 13 tracks of Visions" (complete post here)
3.   Shrines - PURITY RING

"Shrines is one of the albums defining the electronic sound of 2012" (more here)
4.   Blues funeral - MARK LANEGAN BAND

"All the different musical elements from Lanegan's many collaborations are weaved together in Blues Funeral, making it one of the most diverse sounding records of his career" (more here)
5.   Bloom - BEACH HOUSE

"A majestic record that may prove to be the duo's finest hour" (more here)
6.   Attack on memory - CLOUD NOTHINGS

"The intense, hard-hitting sound of Attack On Memory is inspired by groups like Wipers or Husker Du and this young band’s true achievement here is that they are able to follow in the footsteps of such legends without missing a beat" (more here)
7.   Silver age - BOB MOULD

"Bob Mould’s Silver Age is a return to the sound of his Sugar years, a record that proves he can still produce the same fire and fury that inspired the early '90s alternative rock explosion" (more here)
8.   Blunderbuss - JACK WHITE

Jack White 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.

9.   Kill for love - CHROMATICS

The sleeper hit of the year - a cinematic synth pop epic that gets better and better every time you decide to immerse yourself in its  lush sounds.

Their journey to the heart of darkness continues (more about (III) in our next "Listening Habits" post, coming soon).

11. Give you the ghost - POLIÇA
12. Cancer 4 cure - EL-P
14. Celebration rock - JAPANDROIDS
15. I bet on sky - DINOSAUR JR.
17. Metz - METZ
18. 2:54 - 2:54
19. A thing called Divine Fits - DIVINE FITS
20. The bears for lunch - GUIDED BY VOICES
21. The seer - SWANS
23. Reign of terror - SLEIGH BELLS
24. Lonerism - TAME IMPALA
25. Our house on the hill - THE BABIES
26. Twins - TY SEGALL
27. Open your heart - THE MEN
30. Swing lo Magellan - DIRTY PROJECTORS

For our Top 50 Singles of 2012 click here.

Highlights from our Top 20 Albums of the Year: