Monday, December 30, 2013

Top Albums of 2013: 31 - 60

We’re sending off 2013 and welcoming the New Year the best way we know how: with the list of our favorite albums of the past twelve months.

As always, the objective of this list is to give an honest and, certainly, subjective opinion on the records that stood out the most among the many that we’ve listened to in the year. Of course, as I always like to point out when presenting this first version of the year-end list, the process of discovering music never stops. This means that if we were to revisit this list a few months from now, the selection could be different. However, what makes the December version special is the fact that it gives an accurate picture of the new music we’ve been listening and enjoying the most during the year.

So, after a reminder that compilations, EPs and reissues are not included in our list, let’s take a look at the albums that comprise the lower half of our Top 60 selection of the year plus a few more that also deserve a mention. All good stuff, without a doubt, that just didn’t fit in the one record bag we’re allowed on the trip to 2013’s desert island:

Top 60 Albums of 2013: 31 - 60

31. Defend yourself - SEBADOH
32. Run fast - THE JULIE RUIN
34. Right thoughts right words right action - FRANZ FERDINAND
35. Personal record - ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER
36. Wakin on a pretty daze - KURT VILE
37. Last night on earth - LEE RANALDO AND THE DUST
38. Chelsea Light Moving - CHELSEA LIGHT MOVING
39. Fade - YO LA TENGO
40. Back to land - WOODEN SHJIPS
41. Images du futur - SUUNS
42. Matangi - M.I.A.
44. Cruise your illusion - MILK MUSIC
45. The argument - GRANT HART
47. Ghost on ghost - IRON AND WINE
48. Nature noir - CRYSTAL STILTS
49. English little league - GUIDED BY VOICES
50. Modern vampires of the city - VAMPIRE WEEKEND
51. Yeezus - KANYE WEST
52. Bitter rivals - SLEIGH BELLS
53. Strange pleasures - STILL CORNERS
54. Herein wild - FRANKIE ROSE
55. The worst things get, the harder I fight, the harder I fight, the more I love you - NEKO CASE
56. Coming out of the fog - ARBOURETUM
57. Almanac - WIDOWSPEAK
58. Monomania - DEERHUNTER
59. The terror - THE FLAMING LIPS
60. ...Like clockwork - QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE

Also recommended: Comedown machine - THE STROKES, Specter at the feast - BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB, Run The Jewels - RUN THE JEWELS, FIDLAR - FIDLAR, You're nothing - ICEAGE, Girls like us - PINS, Wash the sins not only the face - ESBEN AND THE WITCH, Desire lines - CAMERA OBSCURA, One track mind - PSYCHIC ILLS, New moon - THE MEN, Vanishing point - MUDHONEY, Change becomes us - WIRE, An object - NO AGE, Out of view - THE HISTORY OF APPLE PIE, The new life - GIRLS NAMES, You owe me nothing but love - COMANECHI, Rat farm - MEAT PUPPETS, The invisible way - LOW, Excavation - THE HAXAN CLOAK, The bones of what you believe - CHVRCHES, Body music - ALUNAGEORGE, Olympia - AUSTRA, Hard coming down - GUN OUTFIT, Am I vertical? - THE CALLAS, A long walk - TANGO WITH LIONS, At home - KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS.

The "final" version of this list, with all the new discoveries that will undoubtedly come along in the next few months (with the help of the many other lists out there), will be posted in Cool Music Database, the place for all our year-end lists from the '80s and beyond.

Stay tuned for Cool Music Central's Top 30 Albums of 2013 in our first post of the New Year...

And to bid farewell to 2013, here's our last jam of the year, the track "The Desert Babbler" off Iron & Wine's LP "Ghost on Ghost", the #47 of our list, a great song to listen to on New Year's Eve:

Iron & Wine - The Desert Babbler

Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 50 Singles of 2013

After revealing our favorite debut, sophomore and comeback albums of the year in the previous post, it’s finally time to proceed to the main course of our 2013 review - the lists of our top singles and albums.

We’ll begin today with the Top 50 Singles of the Year and between December 30 and January 2 we’ll unveil in two parts the albums that made it in the Top 60.

Before checking out our favorite singles for 2013, let me remind you the rules of this game:

1) All tracks included here were either released as singles in some shape or form (digital or physical) in the past 12 months or offered as free mp3s. This means that we’re excluding album tracks from this list, but you can easily find out all our favorites by checking out our Listening Habits posts of the year here.

 2) Only one track from each artist or group is included in the Top 50 for a greater variety in the final selection.

Time to start the music! These are Cool Music Central's Top 50 Singles of 2013:

Top 50 Singles of 2013

1.   Full Of Fire - THE KNIFE
2.   Fall Back - FACTORY FLOOR
3.   Sacrilege - YEAH YEAH YEAHS
4.   San Francisco - FOXYGEN
5.   Jubilee Street - NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
6.   Javelin Unlanding - BILL CALLAHAN
7.   She Will - SAVAGES
8.   Eliza - ANNA CALVI
9.   Teenage - VERONICA FALLS
10. Avant Gardener - COURTNEY BARNETT
11. Stare At The Sun - ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER (mp3)
12. Don’t Play With Guns - THE BLACK ANGELS (mp3)
13. Reflektor - ARCADE FIRE
14. My Number - FOALS
15. High Road - CULTS
16. Coast To Coast - WAXAHATCHEE (mp3)
17. Oh Come On - THE JULIE RUIN (mp3)
18. Tiger Tank - SPEEDY ORTIZ (mp3)
19. Song For Zula - PHOSPHORESCENT
20. In The Green Wild - JULIA HOLTER
21. Don’t Swallow The Cap - THE NATIONAL
22. Just Make It Stop - LOW (mp3)
23. I Will - SEBADOH
24. Borrowed Time - PARQUET COURTS (mp3)
25. Chain My Name - POLIÇA
26. 2013 - PRIMAL SCREAM
27. Do I Wanna Know? - ARCTIC MONKEYS
28. Ohm - YO LA TENGO
29. Noble Insect - GUIDED BY VOICES
30. Sir William Wray / Jetplane / Hittite Man - THE FALL
31. Paul's Not Home - GIBBY HAYNES
32. Man - NEKO CASE (mp3)
33. Diane Young - VAMPIRE WEEKEND
35. Bitter Rivals - SLEIGH BELLS
36. Black Skinhead - KANYE WEST
37. Brainfreeze - FUCK BUTTONS
39. Design - GLASSER
40. Right Action - FRANZ FERDINAND
41. Do It Again - CAMERA OBSCURA
42. Sticks & Stones - CRYSTAL STILTS
43. Back To Land - WOODEN SHJIPS (mp3)
44. Wakin On A Pretty Day - KURT VILE (mp3)
45. California - MAZZY STAR
46. Fear Of My Identity / Who Have I Become - BEST COAST
48. This Time I Got A Reason - FUZZ
49. All The Time - THE STROKES

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Game of Lists 2013: Debuts, sophomores and comebacks

The last week of the year is here, which means it's time to officially declare the start of our Game of Lists for 2013!

As usual, one of our year-end lists is dedicated to the Debuts of the Year, but since we feel that 2013 was also notable for its strong sophomore efforts and its long-overdue, impressive comebacks, we decided to give props to these records as well by compiling separate lists for them. Let's start with the newcomers first:

Top 10 Debut Albums of 2013

You cannot really say that Factory Floor are newcomers as they have been releasing singles since 2008 and they even have a mini-LP under their belt, but this year's self-titled record on DFA was their first full-length release and as such it qualifies as a debut album. And what a debut album that was... 

Perhaps the fans of the band's early noise experiments didn't get exactly what they have been waiting for, but those who were turned on to Factory Floor by their more recent, relentless dance-floor adventures, namely the 2011 singles "(R E A L L O V E)" and "Two Different Ways", they certainly got their money's worth and then some. Repetition never sounded this good...

The other debut of 2013 that already deserves the term "classic" is "Silence Yourself" by Savages.

The London-based quartet's record is rightfully present on every list with a fondness for guitars this year as its urgency and passion was contagious, while its explosive music channeled the spirit of the era that birthed post-punk. A truly remarkable beginning from a band that convinces it is capable for much more.

Here are the Top 10 debuts of 2013:

1.   Factory Floor - FACTORY FLOOR

2.   Silence Yourself - SAVAGES

3.   Inform - Educate - Entertain - PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING

4.   Light Up Gold - PARQUET COURTS

5.   Major Arcana - SPEEDY ORTIZ

6.   The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas - COURTNEY BARNETT

7.   Cruise Your Illusion - MILK MUSIC


9.   Girls Like Us - PINS


Top 10 Sophomore Albums of 2013

And here are the difficult, sophomore efforts that stood out this year for us, proving that those debuts we were going on about in previous years were no flukes. Some of them were overlooked in other lists as they were deemed too similar to the first efforts, but I feel it is rather unrealistic to expect leaps and bounds from one record to the next. Once in a long while it does happen, but bands like Nirvana don't come along too often. You shouldn't hold that against someone, especially when they are able to give you an album that has so many of the qualities you were admiring before.

Nevertheless, the album at the top of the sophomore list is certainly a great leap forward for the band that made it. Foxygen's "We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic" was certainly a magical album, one that was able to conjure so many musical memories from the past and recreate them in a totally unique and original manner. Amazingly talented musical thieves beyond any doubt...

Here are the Top 10 sophomore efforts of 2013:

1.   We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic - FOXYGEN
2.   Waiting For Something To Happen - VERONICA FALLS
3.   One Breath - ANNA CALVI
4.   Interiors - GLASSER
5.   Cerulean Salt - WAXAHATCHEE
6.   Static - CULTS
7.   Shulamith - POLIÇA
8.   Images Du Futur - SUUNS
9.   Strange Pleasures - STILL CORNERS
10. Almanac - WIDOWSPEAK

Top 5 Comebacks of 2013

And last, but no least, in a year full of remarkable comebacks, here are the five that pleased us the most, presented not in order of preference but by how many years it's been since their previous full-length effort:

1. M B V - MY BLOODY VALENTINE (22 years)
2. Seasons of your day - MAZZY STAR (17 years)
3. Defend yourself - SEBADOH (14 years)
4. Purgatory / Paradise - THROWING MUSES (10 years)
5. Shaking the habitual - THE KNIFE (7 years)

Three lists, 25 albums for the beginning of our Game of Lists 2013. Are all of these records going to be in our final Top 60? Who's going to make it in the prestigious Top 10? Find out the answers to these questions (and many more you didn't know you had) in our final posts of the year...

Merry Xmas!

Foxygen - No Destruction

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Blouse, live @ Six D.O.G.S (Athens, December 16, 2013)

Just before we start posting our various year-end lists, here’s a look at Blouse’s first ever gig in Athens, our last live report for 2013.

The Portland, Oregon, band’s Greek live debut was the last date on its December European tour and took place just a day after the Dum Dum Girlsconcert in the city, the band that they will be touring with next year (and which we spotted in the audience on this night).

Blouse presented tracks from both their albums, the more electronic-leaning self-titled debut from 2011 and the more guitar-friendly new one, "Imperium". Regardless of what instruments take the upper hand in each track, it’s Charlie Hilton’s soft, melodic voice that lures the listener in and captivates attention. It’s the type of singing that would fit perfectly at the heart of a shoegaze guitar storm, but Blouse’s sound tends to lean more towards the new wave and synthpop darkness of the early '80s, defined by driving bass lines and metronomic drum rhythms that propel the atmospheric guitar or synth-based melodies.

Blouse’s thoroughly enjoyable hour-long set included the following songs: Imperium, Eyesight, They Always Fly Away, Firestarter, In a Glass, Fountain in Rewind, 1000 Years, No Shelter, Time Travel, White, Arrested, Into Black, Videotapes. Encore: Shadow 

Check out below Blouse performing "In a Glass" for their fans in Athens:

Blouse - In a Glass (live @ 6 DOGS, Dec. 16, 2013)

And since this was the year’s final gig for us, here is the reel of our live highlights for 2013, including performances by Metz, The Twilight Sad, Paul Banks, Psychic Ills, The Men, The Soft Moon, Anika, Prince Rama, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Savages, Swans, Girls Names, Fucked Up, Death Grips, Light Asylum, Allah Las, The Last Drive, The Dream Syndicate, Parquet Courts, Beach Fossils, Iceage, Esben and the Witch, Still Corners, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Black Angels, Dum Dum Girls and Blouse - a pretty good line-up, methinks. Enjoy 2 hours of live music from Athens and London through Cool Music Central's lenses:

2013 Live: The Gigs of the Year

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dum Dum Girls, live @ An Club (Athens, December 15, 2013)

It was about time… After three years of chasing the Dum Dum Girls around the Mediterranean (check out here our impressions from our first encounter at Barcelona’s Primavera Festival in 2010 and here our 2012 review from their appearance at Lisbon’s Optimus Alive) the band finally paid a visit to our part of the world for the live presentation of their forthcoming third album "Too True", out at the end of January 2014.

2013 was an unusually quiet year for Dee Dee and her band but judging from the new songs that we had the opportunity to listen live on Sunday, it’s obvious that it was time well spent. The sound of the Dum Dum Girls is evolving, taking inspiration from dark '80s pop while slower, sensual psychedelic rhythms fight for domination with the garage rock drive of the early days.

The mix of new and old material worked very well on stage and despite some technical issues with the sound (there were three guitar players on stage, but at times the guitar sound was too low in the mix) and a couple of false starts, the band easily won over the audience with its energy and pop hooks.

From the old favorites that remain in Dum Dum Girls’s set list I particularly enjoyed "I Will Be", "It Only Takes One Night" and "He Gets Me High" while I certainly missed "Jail La La", our 2010 Single of the Year. From the "Too True" songs, "Rimbaud Eyes" is the obvious new killer hit, while "In The Wake Of You" and new single "Lost Boys & Girls Club" also stood out.

For the finale, they played once again their excellent cover of the Pale Saints’ "Sight of You" (check it out here from their Lisbon set), a song we’re certainly hoping they’re going to put down on record soon, and "Lord Knows" as the encore. In conclusion, a great gig to see out 2013 from a band that we cannot get enough of… already looking forward to our next encounter, somewhere in the world!

Dum Dum Girls played: Bedroom Eyes, I Got Nothing, In The Wake Of You, He Gets Me High, Are You Okay?, Under These Hands, I Will Be, It Only Takes One Night, Rest Of Our Lives, Rimbaud Eyes, Season In Hell, Lost Boys & Girls Club, Sight of You (Pale Saints cover). Encore: Lord Knows

Here's their new single "Lost Boys & Girls Club" from their Athens live debut at An Club:

Dum Dum Girls - Lost Boys And Girls Club (live @ An Club, Dec. 15, 2013)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Listening Habits 11-12.13

The top of our last "Listening Habits" album list for 2013 is shared by Arcade Fire and Throwing Muses, the world renowned alternative rock superstars hand in hand with the revered indie rock survivors who never got the commercial success they deserved.

Nevertheless, Throwing Muses have managed to make their comeback a full decade since their last record, with the impressive book/cd "Purgatory / Paradise", an album recorded with the help of Strange Angels, the band’s dedicated fans who financed the recordings. In a year with several great comebacks (we’ll get back on this subject very soon), "Purgatory / Paradise" certainly stands out with its 32 "fractured" songs, "imperfect in its imperfection" as was the band’s catchphrase during its making. The brief songs are often divided in parts, but each of these song "fragments" never sound unfinished, instead they complement each other and become the building blocks of a whole that is greater than its parts. Some of these parts, though, certainly shine brighter than others and tracks like "Sunray Venus" or "Slippershell" are testaments to Kristin Hersh’s unique songwriting craft. Some 30 years down the line, her muse never fails to inspire and amaze!

In the ten years between the last two Throwing Muses albums, Arcade Fire have risen to fame thanks to their infectiously anthemic songs. With "Reflektor", the Canadians' fourth effort, the band has teamed up with James Murphy to try a more rhythmic, dance floor-friendly sound, without straying too much from their rock roots. The experiment is a successful one, producing a solid double album that balances the band’s new dance-rock influences, showcased by the recent singles "Reflektor" and "Afterlife" (indebted not only to the LCD Soundsystem man, but to the '80s sound of Talking Heads and New Order as well), with their tried and tested sound which is improved upon by tracks like "Normal Person" and "It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)".

The music of 2013 is not marked only by the many notable comebacks, but by the strength of certain sophomore records as well. Anna Calvi, Cults and Polica started the current decade with impressive debuts and with their recent, equally strong second albums are providing us with proof that they can live up to their high promise. Pay no mind to certain reviewers who seem to think that it’s mandatory to make a radically different second record in order to give praise to an artist. More often than not, in order to grow you’ve got to fully explore the possibilities of your current sound first and this is exactly what these three are doing with their sophomore works.

Among the rest of our recommendations for November - December '13, a special mention is necessary for Courtney Barnett’s amazing debut "The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas", a record that collects the first two EPs of the Australian singer-songwriter. A listen to "Avant Gardener", "History Eraser" or "Lance Jr." will be enough to convince you of Barnett’s musical talent and story-telling prowess. Looking forward for her proper debut LP sometime in 2014.

Check out below our 15 favorite albums and tracks of the last couple of months of 2013 and take them for a spin in our spotify playlist:

Top 15 Albums

1.   Reflektor - ARCADE FIRE
2.   Purgatory / Paradise - THROWING MUSES
3.   One Breath - ANNA CALVI
4.   Static - CULTS
5.   Shulamith - POLICA
6.   The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas - COURTNEY BARNETT 
7.   Dream River - BILL CALLAHAN
8.   Defend Yourself - SEBADOH
9.   Last Night On Earth - LEE RANALDO AND THE DUST
10. Back To Land - WOODEN SHJIPS
11. Nature Noir - CRYSTAL STILTS
12. Herein Wild - FRANKIE ROSE
13. Fade Away - BEST COAST
14. Girls Like Us - PINS
15. The Bones Of What You Believe - CHVRCHES

Top 15 Tracks

1.   Sunray Venus - THROWING MUSES
2.   Avant Gardener - COURTNEY BARNETT
3.   Eliza - ANNA CALVI
4.   High Road - CULTS
5.   Chain My Name - POLICA
6.   Reflektor - ARCADE FIRE
7.   Javelin Unlanding - BILL CALLAHAN
8.   I Will - SEBADOH
9.   Sticks & Stones - CRYSTAL STILTS
10. Sorrow - FRANKIE ROSE
11. Back To Land - WOODEN SHJIPS
13. Get With Me - PINS
14. Who Have I Become - BEST COAST
15. Lies - CHVRCHES

Courtney Barnett - Avant Gardener

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Black Angels, live @ Fuzz Club (Athens, December 4, 2013)

The timing couldn't have been better. The Black Angels' first ever gig in Greece came at a time when "Indigo Meadow", their fourth and probably best album, appears all the more frequently in the various "Best of the Year" lists of local blogs and sites (it’s certain to pop up in our forthcoming list as well) and their popularity has risen to an unpredictable peak.

Actually, the psychedelic sounds of the Austin, Texas, band seem to have found proportionally much greater favor with the rock audience of Greece than with those of other countries. The proof came when their Athens’ gig at Fuzz Club, became sold out a week in advance and tickets started exchanging hands at inflated prices outside the venue on Wednesday night. Take into account the country’s economic state and the fact that the club’s capacity is a bit bigger than that of London’s Electric Ballroom where the band played earlier in the year and you get a clear picture of The Black Angels’ popularity in Greece right now.

The almost two hour gig that we witnessed when we finally made it into the venue covered a lot of ground, introducing The Black Angel’s older material to their new fans and including several highlights from the more pop oriented but no less psychedelic "Indigo Meadow" ("Don't Play with Guns". "Holland", "Evil Things",  "I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)" and of course the title track).

Their performance opened with "The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven", a track off their 2006 debut album "Passover" that channels the heavy sound of '60s psych rock and continued with the musically and thematically similar "Broken Soldier" off "Indigo Meadow", one of their new songs that show that although the band’s sound has evolved over time with the inclusion of influences from other decades ("Don't Play with Guns", for example, brings to mind The Jesus And Mary Chain’s "Blues from a Gun"), their roots remain firmly planned in the psychedelic '60s.

Their main set reached its climax with two more tracks from the band’s past, the majestic "Bad Vibrations" off 2010’s "Phosphene Dream" and "Young Men Dead", "Passover"’s powerful opening track (and my personal introduction to the band all those year’s ago). For the three-track encore we were treated with extended versions of "Black Grease", "Manipulation" and "Black Isn't Black", a fittingly "black" themed ending to an exceedingly colorful psych rock performance.

The Black Angels's set list from the Athens show: 

And a couple of photos, courtesy of Nikos, from the band's performance the following night at Thessaloniki's Principal Club:

The Black Angels - Indigo Meadow (live @ Fuzz Club, Athens, Dec. 4, 2013)

The Black Angels - Evil Things (live @ Principal Club, Thessaloniki, Dec. 5, 2013)

Sunday, December 01, 2013

New Releases: November 2013

Round up of November's most interesting album and single releases:


Back to Land
WOODEN SHJIPS - Back to Land
MAGIK MARKERS - Surrender To The Fantasy
TOY - Join the Dots
TESS PARKS - Blood Hot
BLOOD ORANGE - Cupid Deluxe
SWEARIN' - Surfing Strange
HOWE GELB - The Coincidentalist
MIDLAKE - Antiphon
SHEARWATER - Fellow Travelers
THE LIMINANAS - Costa Blanca
CATE LE BON - Mug Museum
THE WARLOCKS - Skull Worship
YVETTE - Process
THE KVB - Minus One
DEATH GRIPS - Government Plates
M.I.A. - Matangi
SKY FERREIRA - Night Time, My Time
MINOR ALPS - Get There
LUKE TEMPLE - Good Mood Fool
MICK TURNER - Don't Tell the Driver
MELVINS - Tres Cabrones

Singles & EPs

The Remainderer
THE FALL - The Remainderer EP
YO LA TENGO - Super Kiwi (mp3 via stereogum)
MAZZY STAR - Seasons Of Your Day / Sparrow
LEE RANALDO AND THE DUST - Revolution Blues / Bushes And Briars
THE HISTORY OF APPLE PIE - Don't You Wanna Be Mine?
KURT VILE AND THE VIOLATORS - It's a Big World Out There (And I Am Scared)
JOHN GRANT - Gets Schooled
DESTROYER - Five Spanish Songs EP
NO JOY - Pastel and Pass Out EP
ICEAGE - To The Comrades / Jackie
MAJOR LEAGUES - Silver Tides
MTNS - Salvage EP
GATEKEEPER - Young Chronos EP
CASUAL SEX - Bastard Beat EP
SUMMER CAMP - Fresh / Two Chords

Listen to to our November 2013 playlist on Spotify:

"The Remainderer", The Fall's new EP, will be in shops on December 9. Here's the title track as performed live at Nantes' Festival Soy:

The Fall - The Remainderer (live @ Maison de quartier de Doulon, Nantes)