Sunday, December 29, 2019

Top 50 Albums of 2019

With only a couple of days left on the calendar for the end of the year and the decade, Cool Music Central closes 2019 with the list of our Albums of the Year, while lists of our favorite tracks of 2019 and our Albums of the Decade are under preparation and will follow in the New Year. As I have already hinted in our previous post, 2020 will bring changes for this blog as I feel that a fresh start is needed, but we will get into the details after we conclude our 2019 review.

2019 has been excellent for rock music, despite the fact that in terms of popularity guitar music has been in decline for the whole of this decade. However, in the last few years we have seen a new generation of young musicians turning to the raw power of rock 'n' roll to express themselves and I truly believe there is no better way to channel youthful energy and rebellion. A prime example is the Dublin band that tops our "Best Albums" list this year, the great Fontaines D.C., who nailed it in their first try with their excellent debut "Dogrel", a bold post-punk statement that takes its musical inspiration from the greats of the past, but it is all about the issues and concerns of the here and now.

Elsewhere in our Top 50 list (actually a top 52, as we had a couple of bands releasing two equally fine records this year, which we decided to group together), you will a few more great debuts from guitar bands, with black midi, The Murder Capital, Amyl And The Sniffers and Wives giving us further evidence of the enduring power of rock 'n' roll. Among the new (or relatively new) artists that stood out in 2019, perhaps the most impressive feat came from Big Thief, a band that had already turned heads with previous releases, but thanks to their two wonderful records of this year, "U.F.O.F" and "Two Hands", they have truly reached another level of excellence.

Among the more experienced practitioners of the rock arts who graced 2019 with their latest efforts, we were particularly impressed with The National and the way they enriched their sound and perspective by collaborating with a fine group of women vocalists for "I Am Easy to Find",  their best album since "High Violet" from the start of this decade, while Michael Gira's Swans delivered another awesome chapter to their unique body of work with "Leaving Meaning". The swan song of David Berman with "Purple Mountains" was both beautiful and heartbreaking, while Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen cemented their place among the best women voices of this decade, with albums that expanded their sound to new directions.

Here is the full list of all of our favorite albums of the past twelve months, based on what we were able to listen to so far, and to say goodbye to 2019 in style, press play to our "Best of the Year" playlist below:

Top 50 Albums of 2019

1.   Dogrel - FONTAINES D.C.

2.   I am easy to find - THE NATIONAL 

3.   U.F.O.F. / Two hands - BIG THIEF 


4.   Schlagenheim - BLACK MIDI 

5.   Leaving meaning - SWANS 

6.   Purple Mountains - PURPLE MOUNTAINS 

7.   Remind me tomorrow - SHARON VAN ETTEN 

8.   All mirrors - ANGEL OLSEN 

9.   Why hasn't everything already disappeared? - DEERHUNTER 

10. Stunning luxury - SNAPPED ANKLES 

11. White stuff - ROYAL TRUX
12. Somebody's knocking - MARK LANEGAN BAND
13. Sunshine rock - BOB MOULD
14. No home record - KIM GORDON
15. Designer - ALDOUS HARDING
16. When I have fears - THE MURDER CAPITAL
17. Amyl And The Sniffers - AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS
18. First taste - TY SEGALL
19. Deceiver - DIIV
20. The practice of love - JENNY HVAL
21. Anima - THOM YORKE
22. Serfs up! - FAT WHITE FAMILY
23. So removed - WIVES
24. The seduction of Kansas - PRIESTS
25. The center won't hold - SLEATER-KINNEY
26. Father of the bride - VAMPIRE WEEKEND
27. Humanworld - PETER PERRETT
29. Ex:Re - EX:RE
30. Lost girls - BAT FOR LASHES
31. Any human friend - MARIKA HACKMAN
32. Close it quietly - FRANKIE COSMOS
33. Boat - PIP BLOM
34. Everything not saved will be lost part 1 / Everything not saved will be lost part 2 - FOALS
35. Lux Prima - KAREN O & DANGER MOUSE
36. Ladytron - LADYTRON
37. This is not a safe place - RIDE
38. It's real - EX HEX
39. Help us stranger - THE RACONTEURS
40. These times - THE DREAM SYNDICATE
41. Dusty notes - MEAT PUPPETS
42. Trust in the lifeforce of the deep mystery - THE COMET IS COMING
44. Venus in Leo - HTRK
45. Birth of violence - CHELSEA WOLFE
46. Stuffed & ready - CHERRY GLAZERR
47. Beneath the eyrie - PIXIES
48. Psychedelic country soul - THE LONG RYDERS
49. Destroyer - BLACK MOUNTAIN
50. Act surprised - SEBADOH

Also recommended:

In the Morse code of break lights - THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, Stars are the light - MOON DUO, Patience - MANNEQUIN PUSSY, Eton alive - SLEAFORD MODS, About the light - STEVE MASON, The unseen in between - STEVE GUNN, Shepherd in a sheepskin vest - BILL CALLAHAN, Inside the rose - THESE NEW PURITANS, On the line - JENNY LEWIS, Let’s rock - THE BLACK KEYS, De facto - LORELLE MEETS THE OBSOLETE, The magical record of Blue Orchids - BLUE ORCHIDS, I used to be pretty - THE FLESH EATERS, Years to burn - CALEXICO / IRON AND WINE

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Listening Habits: 11-12.2019

In the last "Listening Habits" of the year, we present the 10 albums that we've listened to the most in the last two months of 2019 and select our favorite tracks from them. As we have always done in the 12 years of this blog, we'll close the year with the lists of our favorite albums and songs of the past 12 months, while in the new year we'll present the music and artists that stood out for us in the last decade. The new year will also bring changes for this blog. I haven't worked out all the details just yet, but the new decade will also usher in a new Cool Music Central. More on this subject, very soon...

The last batch of new arrivals for 2019 consists of some truly fine albums, some from dear old friends who we go a long way back with and who continue to brighten our days with their music creations, despite (or maybe because of?) the darkness that lies within (Swans, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Mark Lanegan, Pixies), some from artists who have established themselves in the course of the last decade and returned with excellent new chapters to their story (Bat For Lashes, Chelsea Wolfe, Jenny Hval) and some from relatively new names who we believe we are going to listen to a lot more in the 2020s (Big Thief, Bodega, Wives).

A special mention goes out to Big Thief who doubled their discography in 2019 with two wonderful albums of poetic, emotionally charged, folk rock music and who are also responsible for our Track of the Year for 2019 with the stunning "Not", an electrifying live version of which you can watch in the video below.

Top 10 Albums

1.   Leaving Meaning - SWANS
2.   Two Hands - BIG THIEF
3.   Somebody's Knocking - MARK LANEGAN BAND
4.   The Practice Of Love - JENNY HVAL
5.   So Removed - WIVES
7.   Lost Girls - BAT FOR LASHES
8.   Birth Of Violence - CHELSEA WOLFE
9.   Beneath The Eyrie - PIXIES
10. Shiny New Model EP - BODEGA

Top 10 Tracks

1.   Not - BIG THIEF
2.   The Hanging Man - SWANS
4.   Night Flight To Kabul - MARK LANEGAN BAND
5.   High Alice - JENNY HVAL
6.   The 20 Teens - WIVES
7.   The Hunger - BAT FOR LASHES
8.   The Mother Road - CHELSEA WOLFE
9.   On Graveyard Hill - PIXIES
10. Shiny New Model - BODEGA

Big Thief - Not (Live from The Bunker Studios)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Live: Plisskën Festival - Winter 2019 (Athens, December 7, 2019)

Snapped Ankles, live @ Plisskën Festival 2019
The Winter 2019 edition of Plisskën Festival was slimmed down in comparison to previous years, taking place in two different venues on a single night. As was also the case in recent editions of the festival, the focus has shifted almost entirely to dance and electronic music, with little on offer for rock fans, which explains why we've skipped a couple of editions since the Winter 2017 event.

However, the participation of Snapped Ankles this year, convinced me to pay a visit to Piraeus 117 Academy early in the afternoon, as the eccentric London-based quartet is responsible for one of the most enjoyable records of 2019, the magnificent "Stunning Luxury".

Dressed in their shamanistic costumes, looking like creatures inhabiting an enchanted forest, Snapped Ankles sprang into action on stage, unleashing their infectious, kraut rock-influenced, post-punk sounds and spreading their joyous, mad energy to the few faithful who came early to the festival to see them.

Their 50-minute set comprised of songs from both of their albums, played at maximum velocity, with the beat augmented by DIY percussive instruments, while at some point their singer ended up performing in the crowd, expanding the party to the whole of the venue.

The performance by Snapped Ankles, as expected, was the highlight of the festival for us, while earlier we also enjoyed the 40-minute set by Australian singer and songwriter Carla Dal Forno, who opened the night with an atmospheric performance, somewhere between Cocteau Twins, trip-hop and the soundtrack to David Lynch's cult TV series "Twin Peaks".

Carla Dal Forno, who recently released her second album "Look Up Sharp", dresses her folk melodies with dark, electronic sounds and trip-hop beats, a gentle construction which was recreated on-stage by her bass and a table full of electronic equipment handled by her band-mate.

Carla Dal Forno, live @ Plisskën Festival 2019
The festival's main stage was headlined by electronic music wizard Floating Points, while promising rapper Bishop Nehru and Quantic, William Holland's music project which combines electronic, jazz, soul and latin sounds completed the line-up at Piraeus 117 Academy. For those who enjoy clubbing, there was more on offer on Plisskën's Aquarium stage to dance the  night away, but as we were among the few early birds of the festival, we had to call it a night much earlier and leave just as the big white balloons started floating around towards the end of Quantic's performance.

Bishop Nehru, live @ Plisskën Festival 2019

Quantic, live @ Plisskën Festival 2019
Check out below Snapped Ankles performing "I Want My Minutes Back" and Carla Del Forno in "Blue Morning" from their sets at Winter Plisskën Festival 2019.

Snapped Ankles - I Want My Minutes Back (live @ Winter Plisskën Festival 2019)

Carla Dal Forno - Blue Morning (live @Winter Plisskën Festival 2019)

Friday, December 06, 2019

Live: Mark Lanegan Band @ Gagarin 205 Club (Athens, November 30, 2019)

This time it took a little longer than usual, but finally Mark Lanegan and his band returned to Athens for another great night of menacing rock 'n' roll, odes to sad disco and muddy water blues.

Dark Mark somehow managed to avoid the lights for almost the entirety of the 75-minute set (hence the poor quality of our photos), but his distinctive voice shone brightly throughout, while his band was in fine form, switching gears effortlessly from the driving electrorock of his latest material ("Disbelief Suspension", "Stitch It Up", "Night Flight to Kabul", "Penthouse High") to the haunting blues ballads of songs like "Burning Jacob's Ladder", "Bleeding Muddy Water" or "One Hundred Days".

In short, another great rock night courtesy of the Mark Lanegan Band, where the only complaint one might have is that it didn't last longer, despite the enthusiastic cheering that met the ending of "Harborview Hospital", the only song of the encore. It was certainly a pleasure though, and we're already looking forward to the next time.

Have a listen below to "Ode to Sad Disco" and check out the set list of the Gagarin 205 show:

Mark Lanegan Band - Ode to Sad Disco (live @ Gagarin 205, Athens, November 30th, 2019)

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

New Releases: November 2019

Roundup of November's most interesting new releases, featuring albums by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tindersticks, Bonnie Prince Billy, Jeffrey Lewis and the Voltage, Beck plus the latest singles and EPs by Lucy Dacus, Soccer Mommy, Hot Snakes and Deerhunter:


TINDERSTICKS - No Treasure But Hope
BECK - Hyperspace
OMNI - Networker
PUMAROSA - Devastation
JULIANA HATFIELD - Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police
FKA TWIGS - Magdalene
DJ SHADOW - Our Pathetic Age
UNDERWORLD - Drift Songs
KELE - 2042
COLD WAR KIDS - New Age Norms 1
THE WONDER STUFF - Better Being Lucky
TOY - Songs Of Consumption
VETIVER - Up on High
XYLOURIS WHITE - The Sisypheans
FENELLA - Fenella
WARMDUSCHER - Tainted Lunch
TR/ST - The Destroyer - 2
TUNE-YARDS - Sorry To Bother You: Original Soundtrack

Singles & EPs

Lucy Dacus
SOCCER MOMMY - Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes
DEERHUNTER - Timebends
CATE LE BON - Here It Comes Again EP
THE BIG MOON - Take A Piece / Your Light
CHERRY GLAZERR - Daddi (Reggie Watts Remix) / Self Explained (TuneYards Remix)
THURSTON MOORE - Spring Swells / Leave Me Alone
THURSTON MOORE - Pollination / Leave Me Alone
THURSTON MOORE - Three Graces / Leave Me Alone
FONTAINES D.C. - Darklands Versions
ANGEL OLSEN - Three Covers
SMOKE FAIRIES - Out Of The Woods / Disconnect
BJORK - Country Creatures EP
SLEAFORD MODS - Eton Alive Extras - B Sides and Demos
IMPERIAL WAX - Bromidic Thrills / Bloom and Wither
EX-VOID - Only One
YAK - Atlas Complex EP
SHE DREW THE GUN - Trouble Every Day EP
VILLAGERS - The Sunday Walker EP
THE DELINES - Eight Floors Up / Wait For Me
THE DIVINE COMEDY - Infernal Machines / You'll Never Work In This Town Again
VANISHING TWIN - Cryonic Suspension May Save Your Life (Extended Life Version) / Who Wants to Live Forever?
VIRNA LINDT - Avant-Garde (Pts 1 and 2)
LOUP GAROUX - Painter of Trophies
LES BIG BYRD - Sno-Golem
BOKOMOLECH - Bright New Darkness EP
HOT SNAKES - Checkmate

Soccer Mommy - yellow is the color of her eyes

Hot Snakes - Checkmate