Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Album: Wu-Tang Clan - Chamber Music

Chamber Music
Album: Chamber Music
E1 Entertainment, 2009
Rating: ********* (9/10)

As the album title suggests, Wu-Tang Clan's new LP is a return to the group's roots, their 1993 debut, 36 Chambers. And being sixteen years older and short one Ol' Dirty Bastard, the WTC's new project does remarkably well at recapturing the raw, independent spirit of that first release.

Of course, this isn't nearly that album's equal, but who could expect that? Their debut was hands-down the greatest rap album of the 90's and better than anything in the last decade as well. Kinda hard to top.

The stylistic return could come off as a sad attempt of the group to relive its past glories, or worse, like a childish response to the accusations that the group had gone "soft" with it's last release, 8 Diagrams. But Chamber Music doesn't ignore the last sixteen years. It doesn't ignore the fact that the group has grown up musically and personally, and that the context surrounding their music has also shifted dramatically.

It also doesn't ignore the fact that in addition to ODB's death, several original members have left the fold - the absence of Method Man and GZA is glaring, though the rest of the core crew returns. Any gaps in the group are filled in by a well-selected set of guests, many old-school luminaries predating even the WTC's earliest work. Outstanding contributions from such legendary MCs as Masta Ace and Kool G Rap certainly soften the blow.

The album may be "retro" in its sound, but it is self-consciously so. The beats are largely built around contributions from soul group the Revelations and under RZA's heavy production, the samples sound like a throwback to the 1970's - that is, a throwback to the last time mainstream R&B was actually good. And don't worry that the R&B backing is overkill, there are plenty of stretches of minimalist beats to keep the album from sounding cramped or overwrought. There's still that pure, primal attack that makes fans of early hardcore rap (like me!) very pleased.

The album does include an all-out soul cut, "I Wish You Were Here," but doesn't include the muddle of rapping and sing-song that has plagued so many recent hip-hop releases. This may be because, as in the beats, the soul components in the vocals hearken back to the glory days of soul and R&B instead of mimicking the banal top-forty whiners.

In a way, the vintage sounds unearthed and combined in Chamber Music provide a stunning cross-section of the music's history. Unlike most modern hip-hop, even most modern music in general, Chamber Music not only acknowledges its roots but fully incorporates them. Instead of sounding like a washed up effort to recapture some glory past, the Wu-Tang sound more relevant than ever in the context of the evolution of hip-hop music and culture.

If there was any doubt, consider it gone: Wu-Tang Clan can still do it harder and better than any post-2000 kid. Sixteen years down the road, they still ain't nothing to fuck with.

Live: Steve Soto, X

When: 5/30
Where: Bowery Ballroom

So I have a small backlog of live reviews that never got published because things got so messed up this month. Here's the first:

Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts appear to be a reasonable opener for X, Steve Soto himself having once been in not one but two of LA's finest punk bands, the Adolescents and Agent Orange. But five minutes of his new band, and my only reaction was "what were they thinking?" What were X thinking? What was Soto thinking? I don't mind hardcore punks growing up and calming down. I don't even mind them playing country music. There's nothing inherently wrong with country music! But to see one of the leading figures in early hardcore play mediocre-at-best formulaic country-rock - it just doesn't make sense. Not only was it some of the least edgy music imaginable, the songwriting and performance weren't even good. Not terrible either, but Soto is not someone who should be aiming for the middle.

If you were there, I was the person at the back loudly calling for "Kids of the Black Hole." I don't think he heard me, but if he did, he certainly didn't honor the request. After the set, I noticed someone on stage was wearing an Adolescents t-shirt and I just found it depressing.

When X took the stage, things got a lot better. First of all, the band had allowed the audience to somehow select the set list before the show - I don't know how this was done, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a mix of the band's poppier material and their most classic punk cuts.

Front-couple Exene Cervenka and John Doe were in fine form. Though they do look a bit weathered (X formed more than thirty years ago, after all), they had a lot of energy for old fogeys. The lanky and still boyish Doe really put his heart into playing, lurching and jumping and holding nothing back. Cervenka was a more stable presence, friendly and grounded in center stage. Her performance was cool, comfortable and straightforward, but not without a lot of passion as well. Sadly, her mic was too low in the mix, but her focused delivery carried her parts when the volume couldn't.

Billy Zoom cut an odder figure on stage. Like the others, he was clearly having fun, but his wide smile remained entirely unchanged throughout the set. He played amazingly, as one would expect, and he definitely rocked out, but in comparison to the others on stage, he seemed the furthest removed from the band's youthful punk beginnings.

No matter what, the chance to see a band like X live in incredible for those of us who were in diapers or even just a twinkle in our parents' eyes when X rocked L.A. After Steve Soto's depressing performance, it was nice to see someone who was keeping the spirit alive.

This person put up a ton of pictures from the show, if you're interested.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Upcoming Shows: Woodsist Festival, Germs + more

Wednesday, July 1

Jay Reatard @ Stuyvesant Oval | StuyTown, East Village, Manhattan | FREE
Punk/lo-fi master Jay Reatard has written so many mess little pop songs in the last few years it's hard to keep up. You should go to this show. But be advised it starts on the early side (officially 6 PM, though my guess is Jay goes on at 8 PM). TV Smith (see below) might be opening, that is not clear. [MySpace]

Hunters @ Cake Shop | LES, Manhattan | $6
I really liked Hunters last time I saw them. Aggressive, arty punk music that's surprisingly free of cliche. [MySpace]

Thursday, July 2

Jay Reatard, TV Smith (ex-Adverts) @ Music Hall of Williamsburg | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | $15
Well, I just told you about Jay Reatard (see above). TV Smith was one of the key founders of British punk. His band, the Adverts, were contemporaries of the Sex Pistols and certainly have a place alongside the Clash, X-Ray Spex, the Buzzcocks and a handful of others in the pantheon of pioneering English punks. [JR MySpace] [TVS MySpace]

Germs @ Mercury Lounge | LES, Manhattan | $14 adv/$16 doors
This week is Independence Day, so perhaps it's better not to support old British punks like TV Smith. A more patriotic option is to check out the Germs, one of LA's original punk bands, contemporaries of bands like X and Black Flag. The reunited Germs, however, are missing founder and singer Darby Crash, who committed suicide in 1980, at age 22. [MySpace]

Friday, July 3

Sonic Youth @ United Palace | Washington Heights, Manhattan | $38-$45
I don't think you should pay this much to see Sonic Youth. But if you really wanna...

Grooms @ Bruar Falls | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | $7
Grooms, fka Muggabears, are pretty awesome gloomy-but-melodic post punk. They follow the American tradition, sounding far more like Sonic Youth than Joy Division. They are one of NYC's best. [MySpace]

Woodsist/Captured Tracks Festival @ 979 Broadway Backyard | Bushwick, Brooklyn| $15
+ Crystal Stilts - Despite being lazy and self-entitled, this band sounds like Joy Division and I love their music. Like Joy Division, there are a lot of understated riffs in the bass line with repeating guitar over the top and morose, baritone vocals. [MySpace]
+ Blank Dogs - This lo-fi goth didn't impress me last time I saw it live, but I've become increasingly impressed by the recorded material. I'm hoping the show I saw live was just a fluke and that they will actually be awesome. [MySpace]
+ Psychedelic Horseshit - Not a personal favorite, due to their pretentiousness, but they have some merit, for sure. Their name describes their sound better than I could. [MySpace]
+ CAUSE co-MOTION! - C-86 revival with brilliant lo-fi pop numbers under two minutes. [MySpace]
+ Little Girls - Highly recommended. [MySpace]
+ more

Saturday, July 4

Woodsist/Captured Tracks Festival @ 979 Broadway Backyard | Bushwick, Brooklyn| $15
+ Thee Oh Sees - Shamefully, I'm not that familiar with this band's music, but they are considered to be one of the best of the recent noise punk movement. I have high hopes. [MySpace]
+ Vivian Girls - Yawwwwwn. This set will be a good time to go grab a bite. [MySpace]
+ Kurt Vile - Lo-fi folkster and recent signee to Matador. [MySpace]
+ Woods - One of the best bands around. Haunting psychedelic folk that I've written loads about already. [MySpace]
+ Tyvek - Awesome punks from Detroit. I liked them last I saw them. [MySpace]
+ Dum Dum Girls - These guys are a somewhat less boring version of the Vivian Girls. [MySpace]
+ Fresh & Onlys - Another band I have heard great things about but haven't had a chance to listen to properly yet. All I know is that they are psychedelic and people like them. [MySpace]
+ more

Frankie Rose, Fresh & Onlys, Pink Reason, Babies (members of Woods, Vivian Girls) @ Market Hotel | Bushwick, Brooklyn | $5 with Woodsist stamp / $8
Frankie Rose is the drummer of Crystal Stilts. I don't know what she does solo. Hopefully not just pound on a floor tom. Fresh & Onlys I described above. This show starts at midnight, well after the end of the Woodsist festival.

Monday, July 6

Peter Murphy @ Highline Ballroom | Chelsea, Manhattan | $35
Pete Murphy is the original goth, the frontman of Bauhaus.

Tuesday, July 7

Peter Murphy @ Highline Ballroom | Chelsea, Manhattan | $35
See above.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

News: More DIY Crackdowns

Beluga just tipped me off that the new DIY venue "The Jungle" in Bushwick got raided and shut down by the cops last night. Last I heard, the venue's owners were planning to invest the money to make the space legal, so hopefully it will be up and running again in the future.

This is all rumor, of course, but given the recent crackdown on DIY spaces, it's sadly not a big surprise.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Five Bands to Watch in [the rest of] 2009 + Overrated Bands of 2009!

Six months ago, I posted my list of bands to watch in 2009. A few have proven me right, a few have been disappointing and the rest, well, we'll see. But over the last six months, I've come across or become more familiar with some other bands that merit your attention, and just because I found them in February instead of November doesn't mean they shouldn't make the '09 list.

Coin Under Tongue - For some reason, when I first learned of this band, I got the impression they were some sort of chilled out Americana thing - in fact, I distinctly remember listening to such music, but apparently, I was listening to a different band entirely (no idea what). Coin Under Tongue are LOUD and HEAVY, with the most massive distortion since A Place To Bury Strangers emerged a few years ago. You shouldn't be surprised to learn that I am NOT a metalhead at all, but with their relentlessly screaming vocals, this lumbering post-hardcore is well worth checking out.

Coyote Eyes - I've been increasingly smitten with this band since I first saw them in January. Their post-punk betrays a strong Sonic Youth influence, but they don't sound like Sonic Youth at all. Their perfectly-balanced rhythms, enticing melodies and enthusiastic live shows show they have what it takes to be a big name in the Brooklyn scene. [MySpace]

Pterodactyl - If you read this blog regularly, you'll have noticed that it's pretty much all about Pterodactyl these days. My mother thinks the high-speed arpeggiated guitars sound like French ambulances, but in combination with the jolting rhythms, jackhammer drumming and wild multipart vocals, Pterodactyl are more like riding strapped to the front of a French ambulance than just hearing one go past. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single band that has balanced mature musicianship and manic, youthful energy more effectively. Their music may not have much mainstream appeal, but among true lovers of edgy music, they deserve to be considered one of the most exciting emerging bands of the last few years. [MySpace]

Sisters - I know, Death By Audio Records (also home to Coin Under Tongue) is cleaning up here! After being moderately impressed by Sisters at Dead Herring House this spring, I got my hands on some of their tunes, and I got a whole lot more excited. The pair garners a lot of not-undue comparisons to No Age, last year's noise pop/noise punk duo. But Sisters are a little more down to earth - their songs are shorter and more straight-forward. On the one hand, this means they are rather less sophisticated than No Age, but on the other hand, they sure pack a punch. They sound a heck of a lot like Sonic Youth's punkiest side and that's a very good thing to sound a heck of lot like. The guitar's heavy distortion and the drums' primal minimalism compensate for the decent-but-unexceptional melodies. Plus, how can you go wrong with songs like "Lust Is Just" and "Everybody's So Fucked Up"? This band is just plain cool. [MySpace]

Jasper recommends (and so far, I agree):
Little Girls - Little Girls sound like Blank Dogs if they came off their high horse of rock star snottiness. (Also, they are a rock band in the purer sense of the word without the synthesizers or electronica influences.) All of the noise, all of the melody, none of the pretension. - "Jasper" || Little Girls play lo-fi noise pop, but with a darker, gloomier undercurrent than their punky peers (No Age, Wavves, Times New Viking, etc.). - RFR || [MySpace]

An update on my early 2009 lists: A Sunny Day in Glasgow's album is rumored to be all I hoped it would be. I don't have my copy yet, but rumors are encouraging.

And as a supplemental list...
The Most Overrated Bands of 2009 (so far):

7. Magik Markers - They aren't terrible, but really, Thurston Moore? You couldn't have found someone better to dote on? I have some suggestions (see above).

6. Home Video - So much buzz, and all this is is generic new wave? I think they're the new Violens (and that's not a compliment).

5. Real Estate - All the hype around this band got me pretty excited. They were playing shows with Woods and Wavves and all of those bands I love so much. I downloaded some of the songs and promptly fell asleep. These guys might have even fewer melodies than the Vivian Girls.

4. An Horse - This is one of the worst bands I have ever had to sit through a set by. Perhaps more tolerable than Naked on the Vague (their fellow Australians) but still nothing short of painful. The melodies seldom contain more than three different notes and the words could be taken directly from the diary of a particularly lame twelve-year-old. I couldn't leave the show (no re-entry) and I think I pulled a muscle cringing.

3. St. Vincent - She makes me want to get my head run over by a semi-truck.

2. Suckers - This band is appropriately named. They suck. All show, no substance.

1. Dirty Projectors - I disliked this band in principle for a long time before realizing I should actually give them a fair chance. So I did. My mind was wide open, at least for a few minutes. They strike a balance between boring and annoying few have achieved so well.

News: Michael Jackson Just Died

After reports that Michael Jackson was rushed to an LA hospital earlier today, the Associated Press just released this news. It's not confirmed, but it seems that Jackson, 50, died of a heart attack.

I'm not sure what to even say about that news so I'll leave it at that.

News: Bowery Presents Loses What Little Dignity It Had Left

So Bowery Presents has partnered with Jet Blue and Superfly Marketing in sponsoring a contest where your band could win a chance to play at the airport. Cause, you know, that's where every band wants to play.

You can find the details here. And the kicker? "The top artist as determined by JetBlue and Superfly will also perform as the opening act for a headlining artist at Bowery Presents' Terminal 5, the popular concert venue in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, or another Bowery Presents show" (italics mine). So that means, if you win this contest, you could, you know, get to play at 7 PM at Mercury Lounge on a Tuesday. And the airport. Hot DOG!

Thanks for the tip, Jasper.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

News: Antlers release remastered Hospice online

After their self-released LP Hospice generated massive acclaim from a bunch of bloggers like me, the band got themselves signed to the excellent Frenchkiss Records. They are rereleasing the album in remastered form in August on CD and vinyl, but it's available digitally starting today.

Here's a few sentences from the review/dissertation I posted back in February (in case you don't have the patience to get through the whole thing):

Hospice is not only an outstanding album, it's one of the most exciting releases since the 90's. On the surface, it's a concept album that intertwines stories of terminal cancer, mental illness and dissolution of a relationship into dysfunction and cruelty. Where these tales intersect is the painful truth that love does not conquer all. Sonically, it's a creeping ambient lo-fi, as if Radiohead had recorded OK Computer in Thom Yorke's basement. It's an imperfect work, of course, but it's still a rare and exciting accomplishment. It's musicians like these who will lead us out of indie rock's dead ends and on a personal level, who will help us mend from life's damages and carry on.

Upcoming Shows: Kurt Vile, Pterodactyl + more!!

TOMORROW! Wednesday, June 24

Asa Ransom, Spanish Prisoners @ Southpaw | Park Slope, Brooklyn | $8
Asa Ransom are such a cool band. They play art-punk with lots of keyboard and lots of energy. It's been ages since I've seen them, but when I last did, they were outstanding. [MySpace]

Thursday, June 25

Dinosaur Jr @ Music Hall of Williamsburg | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | SOLD OUT
Dinosaur Jr made their reputation in the 80's by simply playing way louder than anyone else. Their music was probably the most important factor in the advent of shoegaze. They also cleared the way for technically skilled lead guitar playing in American punk. In sum, their impact on indie music has been profound. Plus, they hate each other so there's the thrill of seeing if the show will end in homocide. [MySpace]

Friday, June 26

Kurt Vile, Real Estate, Girls @ Secret Project Robot | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | $8
These are some of the hottest bands out of the lo-fi movement. Headliner Kurt Vile (now Matador label-mate of Sonic Youth) is at the folk end of the spectrum. The other two are pretty trendy at the moment too, so check them all out while you can still see them in a small venue. [KV MySpace] [RE MySpace] [Girls MySpace]

Antlers @ Rooftop Films, Open Road Rooftop | LES, Manhattan | $9-$25
Well, it's nice to hear bands play on roofs. And there's no doubt the Antlers will be considered one of the best bands of 2009 after their rerelease of Hospice this August. Their music is sad but breathtaking, like a lo-fi version of Radiohead. Then again $9 minimum for a half hour of music and having to show up at 8:30 PM for the band kinda makes me not inclined to go to this one. [MySpace]

Balmorhea @ Le Poisson Rouge | Greenwich Village, Manhattan | $15
If you are looking for something more conservative, something your grandparents would approve of and that won't give you a horrible headache, check out Balmorhea. Despite the terrible name (or am I the only one who pictures a really horrifying STD?), the band is very lovely, playing ambient classical folk music, mostly instrumental. It's post-rock minus most of the rock, but it is extremely beautiful music. [MySpace]

Saturday, June 27

Pterodactyl, A Sunny Day in Glasgow @ Death By Audio | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Two Three of my favorite bands, one of my favorite venues, what could be better? Pterodactyl are one of the best NY bands I've discovered recently, and definitely one of the most original. Their post-punk barage is nothing short of thrilling. If you want more info, read my recent live review. It's been much longer since I've heard electrogaze kingpins ASDIG; in fact, I haven't seen them since my very first post on this blog. At that point, they were getting more agressive and even louder, so let's hope they've kept on in that direction. [Ptero MySpace] [ASDIG MySpace]
**UPDATE** Somehow, I overlooked the fact that Grooms are also playing this show. That or they were just added to the line-up. Either way, now it's even more important that you go to this show. Grooms (fka Muggabears) are some fucking cool post-punk. At once angular, gloomy and melodic. Mmmmm... [MySpace]


Hey, thanks for everyone who came out Saturday, it was a great night! And thanks especially to the bands, who played totally kickass sets. I'm not gonna review my own show, obviously, but I do want to mention that 28 Degrees Taurus finished (pre-encore) with the sickest version of "Crash and Burn" imaginable.

And one last time, thanks so much to our hosts at McKibben for letting us use their space and helping us promote the show. And to Vanishing Point, who were generous with their equipment and time - these guys rock and everyone should check them out and go to the shows they put on around town.

Here's the annotated playlist, if anyone is interested:

I Believe - Skywave
Flying - Telescopes
It's You - Heavenly
Stomach Worm (Stereolab) - It Hugs Back
A Great Divide - Parts and Labor
No Fun - Lovvers
See/Saw - Jay Reatard
Useless Inventions - Guided by Voices
The Year without a Summer - Coltrane Motion
[^This is my new favorite shameless pop band, only recently heard them for the first time.]
Everyone Knows Everyone - The Helio Sequence
[^I may have got a little carried away with the pop thing.]
I'm Ok You're Ok - Let's Wrestle
Starrsha - Ringo Deathstarr
[The best shoegaze band of its/our generation]
Glue - Sisters
[^Since reviewing this band, it's really sunk in that they are one of New York's most promising new bands. Delightfully minimalist poppy garage rock.]
Teenage Super Party - Wavves
Clusterfuck - The Manhattan Love Suicides
[^The MLS are every shoegaze/noise pop/indie pop DJ's dream. Dozens of perfect pop songs clocking in at well under three minutes.]
How Will the Others Survive? - Tears Run Rings
[^The second best new/contemporary shoegaze band, after Ringo Deathstarr.]
See You Shine - Alcian Blue


Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside) - My Bloody Valentine
Like Flowers at Night - Panda Riot
Sweet Girl - Ringo Deathstarr
Love Is a Wave - Crystal Stilts
Sky Ghosts - Depreciation Guild
One Plus One Equals Three Or More - Mahogany
Here Should Be My Home - No Age
Death Ray - The Brother Kite
Come Saturday - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Way Too High - Secret Shine
My Aquarium - Drop Nineteens
A Silent Tide - Flying Saucer Attack


My Weakness - A Place to Bury Strangers
Why Don't We Do It in the Road - Lydia Lunch
Cigarette in Your Bed - My Bloody Valentine
Fever - Screen Vinyl Image
Teen Angst - M83
So Long - Brief Candles
Supervitesse (Robin Guthrie remix) - Mahogany
Sunday Night - Ren
Sweet Abyss - Ecstasy of Saint Theresa
Detroit Diesel - The Manhattan Love Suicides
Noise-Bleeding Girl - Werewolves
[^Werewolves helped set up this show, but I didn't play their song to pay them back, I played it because they are awesome.]
Swallow - My Bloody Valentine

[[28 Degrees Taurus]]

Somehow my playlist got changed around after the show, I think. Which is fine, it wasn't really a great playlist to start with. (To be totally honest, I snuck out during 28 Degrees Taurus's encore, so I'm not sure what happened.) Based on my "last played" list, this is what was played:

Tak! Attack! - Black Affair
Bomb the Surf - The Vandelles
Pleasure and Pain - Soundpool
What New York Used to Be - The Kills
First Communion - Gang Gang Dance
Missing You - A Place to Bury Strangers
Balloons - Foals
You Can't Be Funky - Bush Tetras
Darklooming - The Depreciation Guild
...and after that, I don't know what happened, as that's as far as the "last played" list goes. VP said they had to leave, so I guess this is when they did so and took my laptop with.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Radio Flyer Review Presents New York No-Gaze

[Click for higher quality version]

The show tomorrow is all set, please come out!

The loft is at 255 McKibben St., apartment 507. To get there, take the L to Montrose, then walk south three blocks on Bushwick Ave. (If you cross Meserole, you're going the wrong way.) When you come to McKibben, take a left. It's about halfway down the long block, on the left side. If the door downstairs is closed, just buzz. It's on the fifth floor.

Or, if you prefer, take the L to Morgan. Walk one block west on Harrison Pl., then take a right and immediately take a left on McKibben. After you cross White St., it's about halfway down the long block on the right side.

Here's the line up:
Doors at 8 PM
9 PM - Gracefully
10 PM - IfWhen
11 PM - 28 Degrees Taurus

The door charge is suggested donation only, but please pitch in so the bands can get paid! They work very hard!

Massive thanks to Rachel and roommates for letting us use their loft and Vanishing Point for letting us use their PA.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Upcoming Shows: New York Dolls, Secret Machines + more

Sorry for the absence and generally being flaky on the blog recently. Regular posts will resume after this weekend's show.

TONIGHT - Wednesday, June 17

Jonathan Richman @ Bowery Ballroom | LES, Manhattan | $15
Jonathan Richman is the guy from the Modern Lovers. If you don't know the Modern Lovers, I'd describe them as an unpretentious version of the Velvet Underground. Richman was indie before there was indie, he was straight-edge before there was straight-edge, he was twee before there was twee. In other words, he's one of the great innovators in American pop and has been for about 40 years. [MySpace]

TOMORROW - Thursday, June 18

Twee As Fuck: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Cause Co-Motion!, Crystal Stilts @ Cake Shop | LES, Manhattan | $10 / $8 (students)
Nevermind that only one of these bands (The Pains) could remotely be called twee, this is an amazing line-up. And the bands will probably be on the ball, given how often they've played Cake Shop and how much they love the place. The downside is that it's going to be crammed full, wall to wall, with indie pop kids, and you undoubtedly won't be able to move or see anything. So, I'd personally stay home, but if big crowds in small rooms are your thing, you couldn't choose a better set of bands. [Pains MySpace] | [CCM MySpace] | [CS MySpace]

Friday, June 19

Secret Machines, A Place to Bury Strangers @ Santos Party House | Chinatown, Manhattan | $10
Secret Machines are shoegaze-inspired wash-ups trying to make a comeback after the decline of a middling career that saw them flicker on the Billboard 200 in 2006. The band is kind of past its prime, but they're still better than most of what's out there. And APTBS are just fucking amazing. Ten bucks for both? Don't think twice. [SM MySpace] | [MySpace]

Saturday, June 20

Radio Flyer Review Presents: New York No-Gaze - 28 Degrees Taurus, Ifwhen, Gracefully @ 255 McKibben St. | Bushwick, Brooklyn | $5-8 suggested donation
I picked these bands because I think they are amazing and I really admire what they do. They all play experimental, uncompromising shoegaze-influenced music. And they're all great live acts. Booking them for my first RFR Presents show is the highest recommendation I could give. [28DT MySpace] | [Ifwhen MySpace] | [Gracefully MySpace]

Monday, June 22

The New York Dolls @ Music Hall of Williamsburg | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | $32.50
If any pre-punk band was directly responsible for the rise of New York punk, this was it. Though still glammy hard rock, the Dolls raw music and image were one of the most important influences on the inventors of punk proper on both sides of the Atlantic. Without them, there may have been no Ramones, no Richard Hell, no Sex Pistols, at least not as we know them. And the recently reunited Dolls aren't getting any younger, so pay up and get your ass to MHOW on Monday or live a life of shame and regret.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


It's my first ever Radio Flyer Review show! The bands are truly brilliant and I'm thrilled to have them on my bill. Though shoegaze - and honestly, rock itself - often seem washed up, bands like these three prove that not everything has already been done. All three are pop bands, but none of them sound at all like anyone I've ever heard.

This is the cutting edge.

[Click for higher quality version]

Oh, and I'll be DJing between sets.

I'll put up directions and a few more details closer to the date. I hope you can make it out!

Thanks to Vanishing Point for lending equipment and sound expertise and our very gracious hosts who have opened up their home for this event!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Upcoming Shows: SUMMER SHOWS!

So, after all that (i.e. this weekend's listings), I'm going to give you a quick list of the bigger shows coming up later this summer. Many are outdoors and free. I'll give more details as the dates approach.

Jonathan Richman @ Bowery Ballroom ($15)

Jonathan Richman @ Bowery Ballroom ($15)

Twee As Fuck: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Cause Co-Motion!, Crystal Stilts @ Cake Shop

Secret Machines, A Place to Bury Strangers @ Santos ($10)

Crocodiles @ Mercury Lounge ($10)
Health, Kid Congo Powers (ex-Cramps, ex-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) @ 979 Broadway Backyard

The New York Dolls @ Music Hall of Williamsburg ($32.50)

Dinosaur Jr @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (SOLD OUT)

Blonde Redhead @ Prospect Park (FREE)

Dr. Dog, Phosphorescent @ Prospect Park (FREE)

MGMT @ Prospect Park (SOLD OUT)
Jay Reatard @ Stuyvesant Oval (FREE!)

The Germs @ Mercury Lounge ($14)
Jay Reatard @ Music Hall of Williamsburg ($15)

Sonic Youth @ United Palace ($38-$45)
Woodsist Festival: Crystal Stilts, Blank Dogs @ 979 Broadway Backyard

Woodsist Festival: Woods, Dum Dum Girls, Real Estate + more @ 979 Broadway Backyard

Allen Toussaint @ Joe's Pub

Peter Murphy (of Bauhaus) @ Highline Ballroom ($35)

Peter Murphy (of Bauhaus) @ Highline Ballroom ($35)

MC Lyte @ Von King Park (FREE)

River to River: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ the Seaport (FREE)
The Yardbirds, the Zombies @ Hammerstein Ballroom ($37-$73)

Japandroids @ Pianos

Parts & Labor @ 979 Broadway Backyard
Mission of Burma, Fucked Up, Ponytail @ Williamsburg Waterfront (FREE)

Sugar Hill Gang @ Queensbridge Park (FREE)

Wavves, Woods, Real Estate @ Bowery Ballroom

Kronos Quartet @ Prospect Park (FREE)

Q-Tip @ Central Park (FREE)
Siren Festival: Raveonettes, Frightened Rabbit, Japandroids, Bear Hands + more @ Coney Island

Jackson Browne @ Prospect Park ($45-$200)

Buckwheat Zydeco @ Prospect Park (FREE)

Method Man, Ghostface Killah @ Nokia Theater
CMA Songwriters @ Joe’s Pub

River to River: Polvo, Obits @ the Seaport (FREE)
All Points West: Beastie Boys, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fleet Foxes, National, Q-Tip, Telepathe, Heartless Bastards + more @ Liberty State Park
Mekons @ Bell House ($15)

M. Ward, Mike Watt @ Central Park (FREE)
Dean & Britta, Crystal Stilts @ Prospect Park (FREE)
All Points West: MBV, Tool, Tokyo Police Club, Kool Keith, Chairlift + more @ Liberty State Park

All Points West: Echo & Bunnymen, MGMT, Coldplay, Black Keys, Silversun Pickups, Lykke Li + more @ Liberty State Park
Deerhunter, No Age, Dan Deacon @ Williamsburg Waterfront (FREE)

Depeche Mode @ Madison Square Gardens

Depeche Mode @ Madison Square Gardens
Los Campesinos! @ Webster ($17)

TV on the Radio @ Prospect Park ($30)

Friendly Fires @ Le Poisson Rouge

Friendly Fires @ Music Hall of Williamsburg ($15)

Animal Collective @ Prospect Park (SOLD OUT)

Animal Collective @ Prospect Park ($30)

Antlers (album release party) @ Mercury Lounge ($10)

Upcoming Shows: Northside Festival + more

This weekend has so many awesome shows, it makes me sick! Most of that is due to L Magazine's Northside Festival. Now, I don't really trust L Magazine, given their picks for "eight NYC bands you need to hear", but they've got a lot of cool people doing showcases and it's really going to kick ass. This is also the weekend of Todd P's big outdoor acoustic BBQ party, so clear your calendar of anything that isn't music-related. You aren't going to have time to do anything but go to shows.

TOMORROW, Wednesday, June 10

Elvis Costello @ Beacon Theater | UWS, Manhattan | SOLD OUT(?)

Thursday, June 11

Meat Puppets @ Mercury Lounge | LES, Manhattan | $15
Meat Puppets were one of the best of the early 80's American punk scene, the scene that eventually became hardcore. But Meat Puppets aren't hardcore, they play pretty, twangy cowpunk and just put out a great album this year.

NORTHSIDE FESTIVAL (Strength In Numbers): Marnie Stern @ Shea Stadium | Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Best album of 2008. [MySpace]

Friday, June 12

Meat Puppets @ Mercury Lounge | LES, Manhattan | $15
See above.

NORTHSIDE FESTIVAL (Pop Tarts Suck Toasted): Grooms (fka Muggabears), Sisters, Home Video + more @ Public Assembly | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Grooms (fka Muggabears, or ex-Muggabears, depending on how you think about it) sound a lot like Sonic Youth when they are being moody. Sisters sound a lot like Sonic Youth when they are being punky. Home Video...I don't know what they sound like, but I've heard very good things. [Grooms MySpace] [Sisters MySpace] [HV MySpace]

NORTHSIDE FESTIVAL (Ear Farm): Shilpa Ray, The Secret Life of Sofia, Coyote Eyes, Pow Wow! @ Spike Hill | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Shipla Ray rocks. TSLOS is a noise-folk band that can be depressing, but also extremely lovely. Coyote Eyes are my newest indie-rock crush, and I just wrote about them. Pow Wow! are a good if unnotable lo-fi pop buzz band. [Shilpa MySpace] [TSLOS MySpace] [CE MySpace] [PW MySpace]

NORTHSIDE FESTIVAL (Panache Booking): Pterodactyl, Aa @ Union Pool | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Now, I can't miss a chance to plug Pterodactyl. I'd put this on a short list of bands in NYC that I think are truly original and actually contributing to the development of pop/rock. As for Aa, well, I've heard the name and I didn't want Pterodactyl to feel lonely up there in the heading. [MySpace]

Saturday, June 13

Coathangers, Mika Miko @ Market Hotel | Bushwick, Brooklyn
Two female punk bands from out of town. Two of the best punk bands around. And I mean punk in that lo-fi, pop sort of way. Thanks, Todd P! [CH MySpace] [MM MySpace]

NORTHSIDE FESTIVAL (Less Artists More Condos): Grooms, Woods, Kurt Vile@ The Shank | Greenpoint, Brooklyn
I just explained about Grooms (fka Muggabears) and how they sound like Sonic Youth. Woods are one of the best bands around, otherworldly lo-fi folk-pop. And Kurt Vile does a similar thing, but less otherworldly, heavier on the lo-fi and the folk, and slightly lighter on the pop. [Grooms MySpace] [Woods MySpace] [KV MySpace]

Sunday, June 14

NORTHSIDE FESTIVAL: The Dodos @ Studio B | Greenpoint, Brooklyn | $8
**Afternoon show** The Dodos are a really nice folk band who put out an amazing album last year. [MySpace]

NORTHSIDE FESTIVAL: Ponytail @ Studio B | Greepoint, Brooklyn | $12
Ponytail is a really nice experimental, noisy pop band who put out a great album last year. (This show is in the evening, after the Dodos show.) [MySpace]

FORT TILDEN BEACH BBQ (Todd P): Kurt Vile, So So Glos, Shilpa Ray, Phosphorescent, Pterodactyl, Mika Miko, Ponytail, Homosexuals, Real Estate, Coathangers + many, many more @ Fort Tilden Beach | Rockaways, way the hell out there | FREE
Wow, pretty much everyone you'd want to hear is playing an acoustic set at this free all-ages barbecue. Almost makes two hour trip (by subway, then bus) worth it. (more info)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Live: These Are Powers

When: 5/21
Where: Glasslands

Ages and ages ago, I went to check out These Are Powers at the Vice Magazine party at Glasslands, and I meant to run a review, but then totally forgot. Better late than never, right?

Somewhere, someone must have amassed a huge amount of scientific data on all the shit hipsters love. Then, this genius ran all that information through a complex algorithm, and the result was These Are Powers. It's the pure distillation of all hipster trash and of course, the kids are crazy for it. The band takes edgy elements of hip-hop and makes them less scary to a white, suburban-born audience by, you know, not being hip-hop. Throw in some unrefined noise rock and crank up the bass so you can only really hear the beat, and you've got yourself a recipe for success.

And the band has an image to match - hipster-adored stereotypes all. Aspiring Bohemian Anna Barie comes clad in vintage clothes and an asymmetrical, arty haircut, while drummer Bill Salas is "urban" without being threatening. And Barie seemed obsessed with seeing exactly how many times she could mention Williamsburg between songs. The answer is, a lot.

These Are Powers (photo by Maxyme Delisle)
These Are Powers (photo by Maxyme G. Delisle)

According to the band's wikipedia page, they use "polyrhythm," but from what I heard, I'd have to contest that claim. Three on two is hardly a polyrhythm, and I didn't hear the band attempt anything more complex than that. And believe me, I'm very tuned in to rhythms.

That said, Salas is an exceptional drummer. His skills, spread over a large, part-acoustic, part-electro set-up, are very impressive indeed. Such high-speed playing and sick, heavy beats aren't so easy to come by. Founder Pat Noecker's bass playing is strong, but he seems to get in his own way - keeping the beat going, keeping the crowds' heads bobbing, seems to smother more interesting inclinations. Barie's playing, on the other hand, looked like stabs in the dark to me (and I was standing quite close to her) so I almost think her instruments are more for show than for sound. She's a fine singer, though, with a strong (but not melodious) voice.

As bilious as this review sounds, I honestly salute the band for playing the game this well - if I could create the ultimate hipster algorithm and make a lot of money off of it, I totally would, so how can I blame them for figuring out the formula before I had a chance? The performance may be affected and frankly, void of musical merit (drumming aside), but they are technically proficient and they also get some points for originality - they really don't sound like anyone else on earth. And their pogo-ing and headbanging enthusiasm on stage is admirable and really gets the party mood going.

Personally, I will be avoiding this band in the future at just about any cost. But if kids are having fun listening and dancing, well then, more power(s) to them!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Live: Coyote Eyes + Anabolics

When: 5/30
Where: Flytrap Festival

I've never been to a Flytrap event before, but I decided to check it out, mostly to catch up with Coyote Eyes, whom I haven't been to see for a while. From the looks of things, Flytrap is more of a social event than a music event, which is fine but I don't think I'll be back - too hard to concentrate on the band with three-fourths of people there engaged in high pitched conversations about how happy they are to see one another. I'm not happy to see anyone, as I am a curmudgeon and a total nerd and music is my only friend.

But that's neither here nor there.

Since the show was running later than scheduled, I arrived in time for a set by the Anabolics. I didn't know anything about the band, and I quickly realized that's for good reason. The band isn't bad, but their songs were formulaic pop-rock with adequate but unmemorable melodies, predictable chord progressions and unvaried 144 BPM tempos. The music was pleasant (it's called "pop" for a reason) and everyone was quite good at their instruments. But the whole was nothing more than the sum of its parts. The only components I found interesting were the mobile major-key bass lines. Other than that, if the band was aiming for average, they hit a bullseye.

That said, the trio was have absolutely massive fun on stage. They seemed so genuinely pleased when their friends went wild after each song, it's hard not to warm up to them a little bit. After all, if you're making decent-sounding music that your friends love and having the time of your life playing it, there's nothing wrong with that. That's part of what being in a band is all about. [MySpace]

Next up was the main course, Brooklyn's Coyote Eyes, a band that has been slowly but steadily accumulating hype around the city since last year. When I first saw them, I was impressed but not blown away. But after that show, I found myself increasingly obsessed with getting my hands on a copy of their key song to date, one "Yellow Red." (Thankfully, the band must have telepathically sensed my desperation, as they kindly sent me a set of mp3s including the song. Disaster averted.)

At this show, the band was noticeably stronger. Acoustics were more on their side this time and more importantly, they have a few more months under their belts. Not that they were lacking in confidence or focus back in January, but this time, they appeared to have no doubts at all about who they are as a band.

I may be imagining things, but I think this time around, bassist Marta DeLeon had a higher proportion of the lead vocals. If so, it's a smart move - she has an outstanding voice and a rare ability to write catchy but still unique melodies. The vocals by guitarist Manny Nomikos sounded better Saturday than at the show January - maybe because he's improved, or just maybe because he could hear himself better. His parts are still amelodic (it's a word if I say it's a word), but that adds an entirely appropriate and interesting contrast to DeLeon's style.

As I remarked in January, one of the band's most impressive feats is its use of rhythm. By paying attention to space as well as sound, the instruments and even the vocals create subtly fascinating syncopation. Drummer Jeremiah McVay is exceptionally talented. I'd be willing to bet he has a background in more than just rock music - his style incorporated some tricks drummers learn most often in jazz, various "world" styles, etc. Those little hints aren't dominant in his beats, but even as lightly as they are used, they considerably broaden the band's indie-rock horizons.

The only downside of the band's unconventional use of rhythm is in DeLeon's vocals. The parts she writes are unlike any other singer that comes to mind. But the tricks she uses to accomplish this mostly involve leaping big intervals to create a rhythmic flow - highs and lows add emphasis to different beats while maintaining a strongly melodic current. And using such tricks in so many songs leads to a striking similarity between melodies. No matter what you change between songs, if the melodies are close, the songs will sound alike.

On stage, the band was comfortable, welcoming and entertaining. It's great fun to watch them get caught up in one song after another, and it's refreshing to see a band that gives a shit about playing their best - that's shockingly uncommon. When they finally did arrive at "Yellow Red," the second-to-last song of the set, they kicked everything up a notch, and became nothing short of captivating. If they can muster that energy earlier in their set, they'll be well on their way to becoming one of Brooklyn's best new bands. [MySpace]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dust It Off: A Minor Forest - Inindependence

Album: Inindependence
Thrill Jockey, 1998

I know I'm prone to a lot of nostalgic comments about really obscure math rock bands from the early 90's. And it's time to tell you about one of those bands in more detail!

Math rock is a pretty narrow little genre in indie rock, mostly inspired by Slint, whose masterpiece, Spiderland, was the subject of a previous "Dust It Off." It involves complex, changing time signatures and rhythms, little to no vocal melody and extreme loud-soft contrast. Math rock songs rarely follow conventional song structures; they are more often winding compositions drawing from classical, jazz and prog influences. The genre embraces dissonance, distortion and sheer volume.

OK, enough of that! A Minor Forest are a little-known math rock band (as if there was any other kind!) from San Francisco, far-removed from the Louisville scene that gave rise to their main influences. But musically, they aren't such outliers. No, they didn't invent much new or revolutionize music. What they did was simply to hone a style, put their own little stamps on it and then play it better than pretty much anyone since Slint.

Inindependence is the closest thing to a proper release the band ever had, even if it wasn't out until the very time the band called it quits. Only seven songs long, at times it feels like an extended EP, but due to a twenty minute song in the middle, it runs to nearly an hour.

Though not an instrumental band, AMF puts little emphasis on singing. There are some good melodies, but there's just as much yelling and even more without vocals at all. I know that sounds boring, but it's not - the guitars are crisp and heavy, the drums tight and intense. The songs jolt between hushed beauty and discordant freak-outs with no warning - when they're nice, they're very, very nice, but when they're nasty, they're nasty.

It's an indirect album that's best heard while your mind wanders - too much concentration and you'll be frustrated with the lack of structure, but if you're patient, moments of stunning beauty will surface, one after another. From the satisfying crash at the close of "Erik's Budding Romance" to the swelling soundscapes of "Discoier," there are amazing parts around every corner.

The album's finest moment may be the massive dissonance supporting the vocal melody about two and a half minutes into "...It's Salmon!!!" But it's hard to pick - unlike math rock's offspring "post rock," AMF isn't afraid to blast your eardrums at full force when the time is right, and the perpetual contrasts (harmony-dissonance, loud-soft, syncocopated-steady) keep it interesting. Unlike later Slint-imitators like Mogwai (ughhhhh), AMF has control over their use of contrast, taking it just far enough, while keeping beats and melodies going. Well, that and they have balls.

Though maybe not for everyone, Inindependence is a remarkable accomplishment and remains one of the best albums of its genre.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Live: Animal Collective (Guest Review!)

This just in from our LA correspondant, Jasper!

When: 5/29
Where: The Wiltern, Los Angeles

What I love most about this band is their unabashed quirkiness; not self-conscious eccentricity, mind you, just a few weird dudes fearlessly being nothing but themselves (or are they just blissfully oblivious to anyone's judgment?). This comes across even more strongly in their shows than on their albums.

AC don't play songs so much as a continuous hour long DJ set of drums and psychedelic synths that unexpectedly yet seamlessly gives way to the Beach Boys-caliber melodies for which they are so famous. As soon as the band emerged it was obvious that these guys were not the cool kids in high school: Panda Bear bends intently over his drums and soundboard while Avey Tare bounces, hops and jerks to the beat. The plainness of their outfits contrasted with the overwhelming intensity of the multicolored lights and rapidly cycling surreal imagery projected onto a huge globe suspended above the band, not to mention the power of the music. There is something awesome about three guys awkwardly hunched over their instruments blasting an ecstatic audience of thousands with a deafening deluge of tripped out melody and pounding percussion.

Animal Collective (picture from animalcollective.org)
Animal Collective

As soon as the first recognizable melody emerged (Avey Tare's "Summertime Clothes") I realized something not totally apparent on the impeccably produced albums: there is nothing pretty about Avey Tare or Panda Bear's voices. (I began to understand more concretely why allmusic lists Björk among their influences.) Rather than detract from the power of their the music, however, the contrast of the roughness in their voices, punctuated with piercing shrieks, against such exquisite harmonies is nothing short of breathtaking. If the even the artiest of punk rock draws visceral thrill of loud electric guitars, then AC similarly draw on the even more primal thrill of a good yell.

While the less melodic sections did become excessively drawn-out and repetitive at times, the joy of finally being caught-off guard by your favorite AC tunes made the wait seem worthwhile. And if the band did get a little self-indulgent, with such an incessantly enthusiastic audience (that included both the hippest and dorkiest people in LA) loving every minute of it, who could blame them? With their inclination to make the wild and unpredictable musical, AC have become widely adored by speaking to the weirdos in so many of their fans.

Upcoming Shows: PJ Harvey, Titus Andronicus + more

Oddly, there aren't a whole lot of great shows in the next week or so, though stay tuned - things are going to pick back up around June 11. In the meantime...

Thursday, June 4

Real Estate and Pow Wow @ Santos Party House | Chinatown, Manhattan | $10
Up-and-comers Real Estate and Pow Wow have scored opening slots this Thursday at Santos. Real Estate are part of that lo-fi crowd that's so popular these days. I've found their recorded material kind of boring, but they're better and more focused live. Pow Wow are lo-fi but in a very different way - a bright, poppy, catchy way. Both bands are overhyped at the moment - they're not as super-special as some would have you believe, but they are enjoyable. Ten bucks is a lot, but if you've got money and nothing better to do, definitely give it a try. [MySpace] [MySpace]

Friday, June 5

TV on the Radio + Dirty Projectors @ Central Park | Central Park, Manhattan | SOLD OUT!
This show is SO sold out, so good luck. TVOTR have generally been hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread since 2007. Ultimately, I find the band a bit disappointing, but they definitely deserve the praise - just because they fall short of their own potential (sonically) doesn't mean they don't surpass pretty much everyone else. If you can get tickets, do it. [MySpace]

Saturday, June 6

Titus Andronicus and the So So Glos @ Music Hall of Williamsburg | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | $15
If I say this is a hardcore punk show, please don't think I mean a bunch of thrashy pseudo-metalhead teenage boys. Titus and the So So Glos are what punk rock should be - fast, loud and fun. Titus always puts on an amazing show. [MySpace] [MySpace]

Tuesday, June 9

PJ Harvey @ Beacon Theater | UWS, Manhattan | $37.50 - $75
I'm not sure anyone should pay this much to see a show, but then again, PJ Harvey is one of the best and she hardly ever plays in the US. If you don't know who she is, go get your hands on Rid Of Me right now. She's an angry and very badass songwriter who you never ever ever want to cross: "I'll make you lick my injuries / I'm gonna twist your head off, see / till you say don't you wish you never, never met her." Etc. [MySpace]

Monday, June 1, 2009

Album: Blank Dogs - Under and Under

Under and Under
Album: Under and Under
In the Red
Rating: ******** (8/10)

My last experience with Blank Dogs was being underwhelmed by their performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in March. Of the ultra-lo-fi movement of the last year or so, Blank Dogs don’t quite equal the very best of the pack – Woods, Wavves, Crystal Stilts and a few others – but they definitely aren’t at the bottom of the pile either. The ranking among this crowd comes down to songwriting, and while Blank Dogs don’t have nearly the gift of a band like Woods, they do have some pretty nice tunes.

Blank Dogs is the solo project of Mike Sniper, a purposefully enigmatic figure who has been forced to remove his mask (literally and figuratively) by recent success. His new album, Under and Under, comes out tomorrow, and if you’re into little pop songs that are completely obliterated by distortion, I’d have to recommend picking up a copy.

Where Blank Dogs stray from the typical lo-fi template is in the band’s obvious nods to the music of the early 80’s. Their songs are styled after British post-punk (e.g. the Joy Division-esque "L Machine" and "Open Shut"), early synthesizer-based new wave ("Falling Back"), and even goth itself ("Face Watching"). It’s a simple idea, but pretty smart – to my knowledge, translating these styles to lo-fi has yet to be done. By taking songwriting cues and beats from the 80’s, but entirely subverting the era’s emphasis on clarity and polish, Under and Under deserves some distinction.

The album opens up with a trio of strong tracks: the heavy pop of "No Compass" followed by a tense, driving song called "L Machine" and the faintly western "Night Night." The album’s key centerpiece is "Setting Fire to Your House, " a dark, synth-heavy song with creeping, creepy vocals that somehow get more disturbing as they shift from minor key to major, and from understated verse to catchy chorus.

Other highlights include "Falling Back," which manages to withdraw even further into the fuzz than the rest of the album, and "Tin Birds," whose sloppy hooks provide a glimmer of brightness in the midst of an overwhelmingly dark album. And towards the end of the record, the massive gothic soundscapes of “Face Watching” do Robert Smith proud.

However, at fifteen songs, the album feels a little padded. I’m generally a fan of long albums, but only if the material is consistently album-worthy. There aren’t actually any bad songs on Under and Under, but some of tracks in the second two thirds of the album seem just like less-good versions of ideas already expressed. Ultimately, these songs only dilute the album’s quality and make it sound "samey, " when in fact, there’s plenty of diversity here to support a more tailored LP.

Ultimately, Under and Under is a well-conceived and brilliantly executed album, and its successes more than compensate for its flaws. Taken as a whole, it’s not the best record ever, but it’s got more than enough truly great songs to earn my very discriminating respect. And to make me hope that Sniper is just getting started.