Monday, October 27, 2008

Five New York Bands You Should Really Know

Hi everyone,

I want to get the blog started with some lists, because I love lists. (I would probably marry lists if I could.) Anyway, here are five New York bands that everyone should know. Probably you've already heard of them, but if not, you really should check them out immediately!

The Bellmer Dolls

One of New York's only original bands these days, Bellmer Dolls play something between garage, punk and goth, but wait - the combination is better than it sounds! Basically it goes down like this: moustache-sporting bassist Anthony Malat lays down pounding, rhythmic riffs over Daniel Sheerin's sparse, sharp drum beats. On top of this, Peter Mavrogeorgis, the band's founding member, plays erratic, impassioned guitar phrases and sings dark but accessible melodies, punctuated by occasional dissonant organ.

The Bellmer Dolls are best heard live, where the emotive power of their music is most evident. Attractive in an off-kilter way, all three Dolls possess the stage in a way few bands can: Sheerin plays staring intensely ahead, cracking the drums with a coldly violent force, Malat spends a large part of every show bent backwards like a demonically-possessed Gumby, and Mavrogeorgis stumbles around, pulling down microphones, knocking over speakers and breaking equipment as he creates carefully calculated bursts of noise.

In the end, the Dolls' music is relentless and tense, bleak and nihilistic, but with an energy that would be the envy of most hardcore punks.

The Werewolves

No one is quite sure how to explain this band, because all anyone knows for sure as that they are so cool you will probably shit your pants when you hear them. You can hear hints of the Stooges, Kevin Shields, Sonic Youth, the Ramones and a host of others in their songs, but it all somehow boils down to a cohesive, badass, genreless rock and roll.

The Harlem Shakes

Probably the best-known band on this list, the Harlem Shakes are pop masters! They are better than most of the other NYC pop bands because they don't sound like anyone else. A lot of that has to do with the unique tone of the vocals, but their melodies aren't nearly as cliched as most pop bands' and they have a nice attention to detail in their arrangements. Recently, the Shakes have been a bit forgotten because they've been locked in a studio for almost a year (or so we think) - but maybe we can coax them out with positive reviews??

The December Sound

Unfortunately, the writing of well-constructed songs and the ability to forge a masterful sound rarely coexist in contemporary "shoegaze" bands, with bands erring towards either electro-poppy banality or exasperatingly boring, unvarying soundscapes. The December Sound are a welcome exception. Dark and dense, their music has heavy, catchy beats, excellent vocal melodies and marvelous sheets of sound. Their live show is consistently killer as well. But as with all good shoegaze - bring earplugs!

Beat Radio

Hailing from Long Island, this indie pop collective is everything an indie pop collective should be. Lo-fi with a touch of electronica, Beat Radio isn't sonically different from a host of other pop bands over the last fifteen years. What sets them apart is their consistently excellent songwriting, centered on frontman Brian Sendrowitz's superb sense of melody. Over the course of the LP and two EPs I've heard, only a small handful of tracks fell short of single quality. Each melody is brightly catchy without being trite or obvious, and the songs are backed with well-conceived arrangements. While I won't deny that this is wussy music, Sendrowitz and his collaborators know how to step on a distortion pedal and rock out from time to time.

Reminiscent of the best from Pavement, Yo La Tengo and Broken Social Scene, this band is definitely worth a listen, or two hundred.

Also, Beat The Devil would totally be in the top five if they hadn't broken up (boo hoo!)


Teresa said...

Totally agree with you on Beat Radio. As for The Werewolves - now I just HAVE to listen to them. I mean, they're "shit my pants" cool? Damn. Reviews don't get much more glowing than that!


kalvin said...

you were sure right about me shitting my pants.
really? the stooges? sonic youth? c'mon.

ceciestunblog said...

I heart beat radio and I heart you for introducing me to them.

radioflyer said...

Every time I listen to the Werewolves, I hear a different set of influences. I can't quite pin them down, it's very odd.