Sunday, December 11, 2011

Listening Habits 11-12.11

Just before we start unveiling our year-end lists for 2011 (debuts, singles and albums), let’s take a closer look at some of the best records we’ve listened to in the last couple of months.

Regular Cool Music Central visitors will not be surprised to find The Fall’s latest LP (their 29th to be exact) at the top of our album pile. Consistency and the uncompromising rock'n'roll vision of Mark E. Smith is what sets this band in its many incarnations over the years, apart and above all competition.

"Ersatz GB" is, in a way, The Fall's heavy metal album, proving that there is still room for surprises in the unique Fall sound blueprint. "Greenway" (adopted by a recording of Greek joke-metal band Anorimoi) starts with a behemoth of a guitar riff and introduces Mark’s death metal voice, while the slow and heavy "Monocard" steals a page or two from Black Sabbath’s book of doom. The unusual folk of "Happi Song", written and sang by Elena Poulou, throws another curveball by not sounding like a Fall song at all. Elsewhere, it is business as usual for Mark and his troops (David Spurr, Pete Greenway and Keiron Melling complete the rest of the lineup which amazingly remains stable for a third LP), with propulsive tracks like "Cosmos 7", "Nate Will Not Return" or "Age Of Chang" delivering the rough edged, raw and aggressive sound that the Fall faithful have come to expect from the band and the reason we’re keep coming back for more for as long as Smith sees fit to stubbornly keep going at it.

Veronica Falls and Soft Metals offer two new additions to our "Best Debuts of the Year" list (more on this subject in the coming week) with their eponymous albums. Veronica Falls put their own, particularly enjoyable spin to the whole girl group-garage rock-'80s indiepop combo we've enjoyed lately with a record filled with catchy, energetic, straight-to-the-point songs, while Soft Metals (as we've already pointed out here) draw inspiration from all sorts of  electronic sounds from the '70s and '80s with a twist of new wave's resplendent darkness added for good measure.

"Original Colors", High Places' excellent third long-player, is the L.A.-based duo's most dance-floor friendly release so far, with fluid rhythms and chilled out synth melodies accompanying Mary Pearson’s majestic vocals. The highly addictive nature of their enchanting sound looks certain to bring High Places for a second consecutive year among the highest places of our year-end album list.

More enchanting sounds and harmonies, in this case guitar-based, are to be found in Real Estate's sophomore work "Days". The New Jersey band follows the example of its recently reenergized neighbors The Feelies, creating the sort of majestic guitar soundscapes which could become the perfect companion for a road trip. And in case your road trip needs something a bit more psychedelic, try following "Days" with Wooden Shjips’ latest effort, "West", for your maximum trippy enjoyment. As for The Black Keys' just-released seventh effort, all I can say right now is that with every new spin of their "El Camino" this week, the album keeps climbing up in our year-end list, reaching higher and higher. Tune in around Christmas to see where exactly it will end up.

Top 18 Albums

1.   Ersatz GB - THE FALL
2.   Veronica Falls - VERONICA FALLS
3.   Original Colors - HIGH PLACES
4.   Soft Metals - SOFT METALS
5.   Days - REAL ESTATE
6.   El Camino - THE BLACK KEYS
8.   Creatures Of An Hour - STILL CORNERS
10. David Comes To Life - FUCKED UP
11. The Whole Love - WILCO
12. The Rip Tide - BEIRUT
13. Portamento - THE DRUMS
14. Endless Now - MALE BONDING
15. Lenses Alien - CYMBALS EAT GUITARS
16. Circuital - MY MORNING JACKET
17. Bon Iver - BON IVER

Top 20 Tracks

1.   I’m His Girl - FRIENDS
2.   Two Different Ways - FACTORY FLOOR
3.   Nate Will Not Return - THE FALL
4.   Lonely Boy - THE BLACK KEYS
5.   Bad Feeling - VERONICA FALLS
6.   It's Real - REAL ESTATE
7.   Banksia - HIGH PLACES
8.   Psychic Driving - SOFT METALS
10. Into the Trees - STILL CORNERS
11. Black Smoke Rise - WOODEN SHJIPS
12. I Might - WILCO
13. Santa Fe - BEIRUT
14. Holdin’ On To Black Metal - MY MORNING JACKET
15.  Bess St. - WHITE DENIM
16. How It Ended - THE DRUMS
17. Bones - MALE BONDING
18. Definite Darkness - CYMBALS EAT GUITARS
19. Total Decay - THE SOFT MOON
20. Dark Eyes - CRYSTAL STILTS

Veronica Falls - Bad Feeling

(mp3s via pitchfork and sub pop)

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