Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Listening Habits: Summer 2017

The time has finally come for our much needed summer break, but before we take our leave, let's have another listen to some of the best new albums and re-releases of the last couple of months:

At the top of our list of recommended albums for the period May - July 2017 we have the sophomore LP by Algiers, "The Underside of Power", a powerful protest statement for these dark times that manages to make its point without losing its tunefulness. The Atlanta - London - NYC four-piece rages against the powers that be with the fury of punk, adds uplifting melodies from soul and gospel, shakes the walls with hip hop beats and channels the spirit of the blues to produce one of the strongest collections of songs we've listened to this year.

Among the best albums of this season you'll also find the latest outstanding releases by several of our 80's - '90s indie rock icons who are here once again to show you how it's done, including Thurston Moore's "Rock N Roll Consciousness", one of his strongest solo efforts, Mark Lanegan's "Gargoyle" and "In Spades", the eighth album by The Afghan Whigs. '90s cult shoegazers Slowdive are also here with their first album in 22 years and so is Boss Hog, the blues-punk outfit featuring Christina Martinez and Jon Spencer, with "Brood X", another couple of additions to the long list of this year's excellent comebacks.

Add to the above the rightly acclaimed "DAMN." by Kendrick Lamar, great records by The New Pornographers and The Black Angels, as well as promising releases by up-and-coming new acts Priests, Cherry Glazerr and Girlpool, and our Summer 2017 playlist is shaping up pretty nicely:

Top 15 Albums

1.   The Underside Of Power - ALGIERS
2.   Rock N Roll Consciousness - THURSTON MOORE
3.   Gargoyle - MARK LANEGAN
4.   In Spades - THE AFGHAN WHIGS
5.   Whiteout Conditions - THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
6.   Death Song - THE BLACK ANGELS
7.   Slowdive - SLOWDIVE
9.   Brood X - BOSS HOG
10. Nothing Feels Natural - PRIESTS
11. Apocalipstick - CHERRY GLAZERR
12. Powerplant - GIRLPOOL
13. Occult Architecture Vol. 2 - MOON DUO
14. OK Computer / OKNOTOK 1997 2017 - RADIOHEAD
15. The Great Annihilator / Drainland - SWANS 

Top 15 Tracks 
1.   The Underside Of Power - ALGIERS
2.   Aphrodite - THURSTON MOORE
3.   Death’s Head Tattoo - MARK LANEGAN
4.   Demon in Profile - THE AFGHAN WHIGS
6.   High Ticket Attractions  - THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
7.   Hunt Me Down - THE BLACK ANGELS
8.   Sugar for the Pill - SLOWDIVE
9.   Formula X - BOSS HOG
10. Pink White House - PRIESTS
11. Told You I’d Be with the Guys - CHERRY GLAZERR
12. It Gets More Blue - GIRLPOOL
13. Sevens - MOON DUO
14. Celebrity Lifestyle - SWANS
15. Lift - RADIOHEAD

Algiers - Cleveland

Friday, July 21, 2017

Live: The Jesus And Mary Chain @ Ejekt Festival (Athens, July 14th, 2017)

The Jesus And Mary Chain, live @ Ejekt Festival 2017
The second day of the 2017 edition of Ejekt Festival was headlined by Kasabian, but the reason we paid a second visit this summer to Plateia Nerou was to witness the return of The Jesus And Mary Chain to Athens after nearly two decades.

The last time I saw them in Athens was actually exactly 21 years ago, on July 13th, 1996 when they appeared at the Rock Of Gods festival, near the port of Piraeus. A couple of years later they played one final show here, at Rodon Club, which was probably their last one before announcing their split. William Reid did not come to play at that gig and I didn't see the point of going either.

The years passed, the Reid brothers made peace and started touring again in 2007, but what was missing until recently was a new album, a statement that would prove that The Jesus And Mary Chain still had a part to play in today's music and they were not back as merely a nostalgia act, constantly rehashing past glories. 

Thankfully "Damage And Joy" was exactly the comeback album we were hoping for, masterfully picking up exactly where The Jesus And Mary Chain had left off in 1998 with the underrated "Munki", offering another stunning set of songs about their favorite subjects, like their love - hate relationship with the world of rock 'n' roll, and mixing sweet pop melodies with aggressive, noisy guitars, the sound blueprint they perfected in the '80s which is still influencing countless new acts.

The older, wiser Mary Chain is admittedly not causing riots any more, but still knows exactly what pedals to push to cause rock explosions. The pace of the show effortlessly switched gears and went back and forth between the new record and the old favorites, showing that songs like "Amputation", "Always Sad" or "All Things Pass" are worthy additions to the band's rich history.

Of course, most of the highlights of the 75-minute set were written before many of the festival-goers were born, making those of us who actually remember the '80s to feel a little bit old, but certainly happy to listen live once again some of the songs that shaped our musical minds: "Just Like Candy", "You Trip Me", "The Living End", "April Skies", "Blues From a Gun", "I Hate Rock 'n' Roll" and of course a magnificent "Reverence" that closed triumphantly their come-back performance.

Here's the complete set list and videos for two of the highlights of the night: Amputation, April Skies, Head On, Far Gone and Out, Between Planets, Blues From a Gun, Always Sad, Mood Rider, All Things Pass, Some Candy Talking, Halfway to Crazy, Nine Million Rainy Days, Just Like Honey, You Trip Me Up, The Living End, War on Peace, I Hate Rock 'n' Roll, Reverence.

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Blues From a Gun (live @ Ejekt Festival 2017, Athens)

The Jesus and Mary Chain - All Things Pass (live @ Ejekt Festival 2017, Athens)

Kasabian, live @ Ejekt Festival 2017
After such a set by The Jesus And Mary Chain, you will forgive me for not paying too much attention to the actual headliners of the festival. Kasabian are certainly a good festival band, they do have some memorable hits ("Shoot the Runner", "Club Foot") and know how to get the party started, but there isn't much else there for when the party is over.

Peter Hook And The Light, live @ Ejekt Festival 2017
Earlier in the day we saw Peter Hook And The Light, exactly the sort of nostalgia act I try to avoid at festivals. Hook remains a formidable bass player but a great singer he is not and I really can't see any good reason (except a financial one) for keep playing substandard renditions of everybody's favorite Joy Division songs.

Of Montreal, live @ Ejekt Festival 2017

There was however early in the afternoon a performance that added value to the second day of the festival and made it worthwhile to go to Plateia Nerou early and endure the heat. Kevin Barnes' Of Montreal have been going on for twenty years now but as their fine 45-minute set proved, they manage to retain their pure pop sparkle intact. The band skillfully and flamboyantly combined its electropop influences with its more adventurous psychedelic pop side and, to our delight, next to newer songs they also played several older favorites, among them a couple of tracks from one of their finest records, 2007's "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?", namely "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" (which you can watch below) and the epic "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal", the song that closed their set with a bang.

Of Montreal - Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse (live @ Ejekt Festival 2017, Athens)

Check out our coverage of the first day of Ejekt Festival 2017 featuring The Killers and The Kills here.