Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

In celebration, here is a list of the ten bands I am the most thankful exist right now. In alphabetical order because I love them all equally(ish).

The Antlers - Definitely the wimpiest band on this list, but wimpy doesn't necessarily mean unedgy. This music explores the traumas of abuse and loss with nearly unparalleled honesty. It's the kind of music that will save lives. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Fucked Up - This band is, as I've previously explained, the superman of punk rock. They give closet punks like me hope. [RFR Review] [Unofficial MySpace]

Jeff the Brotherhood - This is what rock music is about. Great songs, aggressive guitars, powerful drums and sheer awesomeness. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Marnie Stern - Marnie proves that electric guitar can still be groundbreaking, if you play it weirdly enough. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Ponytail - Ponytail is one of the most refreshingly original bands of the decade. After half a century of rock music, it's hard to sound totally new, but there's just no one else on earth who sounds like this. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Pterodactyl - Pterodactyl are on this list for mostly the same reason as Ponytail. They don't sound like anyone else. There is no reference point. Unlike Ponytail, they keep the song/melody-orientation of most popular music, but they've found a way to be exciting while still accessible. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Screaming Females - If anyone can save rock music from the disaffected, icy grasp of the hipsters, it's these guys. They pretty much take everything that's ever been good about rock music, distill it into great pop songs with raging guitars, and somehow make it sound relevant to 2009. And their passion for their music is the ultimate anti-hipster statement. Anyone who hears them will have to admit rock is better this way. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Stupid Party - This band has a truly independent spirit. You can tell from watching them on stage, they just don't give a fuck about any bullshit. They want to make their songs come out of their instruments and probably to drink some beer afterwards. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Titus Andronicus - This band restored my faith in hardcore punk. While the thrashy Fucked Up is thoroughly experimental, Titus Andronicus keep it more old school at the core. Still, it's not outdated. Songs about classic paintings and the New Jersey suburbs are definitely post-2000. And while many bands touch on subjects like these, most do it in a despicably unaware celebration of their personally privileged backgrounds. Titus Andronicus comes from an entirely different angle, expressing themselves with intelligent questioning, raw emotion and a truly worldly perspective. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Wavves - The indie scene was in bad need of another band like Wipers or Flipper. And we got it with Wavves. All distorted guitars and brilliant melodies, no hyper-selfawareness and no crap. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Upcoming Shows: Screaming Females, Meat Puppets + more

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

TOMORROW!!! Wednesday, November 25

Meat Puppets @ Bowery Ballroom | LES, Manhattan | $16 adv. / $18 dos.
The Meat Puppets formed in the earliest years of hardcore punk and were immeasurably influential on the West Coast scene. Their countryfied punk is the best of its kind. And don't be scared of the word "countryfied" (unless you're scared of made up words), because it's so punk in spirit, with a steady stream of bright, major-key guitar riffs, that it won't bother even the worst country-music hater. Seriously, the Meat Puppets!!! [MySpace]

Screaming Females, So So Glos @ Bell House | Gowanus, Brooklyn | $8 adv. / $10 dos.
Screaming Females are single-handedly saving rock music from the hipsters. This NJ trio is fronted by guitar hero (and literal screaming female) Marissa Paternoster, with two non-screaming non-females making up a masterful rhythm section. The band is simply writing the best rock music of anyone around - solid riffs, great tunes and, well, screaming. They will remind you of everything good about punk rock, everything good about the early 90's and everything good about electric guitar. The So So Glos are a great hardcore punk band, so you get even more bang for your buck. [SF MySpace] [SF RFR Review] [SSG MySpace] [SSG RFR Review]

Sonic Youth @ Music Hall of Williamsburg | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | SOLD OUT!
If you aren't going to see Sonic Youth tonight to free up tomorrow for either of the shows above, I think you're making a mistake. Anyway, this show is sold out but I'm sure it's worth a try to see Sonic Youth in such a good venue.

The Pixies @ Hammerstein Ballroom | Midtown, Manhattan | SOLD OUT (I think)
If you didn't go to see the Pixies at their other Doolittle shows this week, and you have to miss Meat Puppets or Screaming Females to see them, that's your own fault. They also have a 1 AM show that's not sold out and costs over $60. I have no idea what's up with that.

Friday, November 27

Fuck Buttons, Growing @ Market Hotel | Bushwick, Brooklyn
This is some great experimental music involving lots of loud electronics (both bands). I mean, really great. Go see it! [FB MySpace] [Growing MySpace]

Saturday, November 28

Stupid Party, Shellshag @ Death By Audio | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Are there two punk NYC punk bands I love more than these two? Stupid Party are as cool as their name implies. They play their songs like they are mad at them. Shellshag, who are also playing my December 4 show at Monster Island Basement, are a duo who write really good pop songs and then annihilate them with distortion and yelling. [SP MySpace] [SP RFR Review] [Shell MySpace]

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

The long view...

The Mountain Goats @ Bell House

Radio Flyer Review presents Shellshag, Sisters, Big Troubles & the Sundelles @ Monster Island Basement!!!!!!

Jeff the Brotherhood, Dinowalrus, Sisters, Coin Under Tongue + DJ set by Stupid Party @ Mercury Lounge <<certainly the best line-up since Woodstock. Actually, better, because Sha-Na-Na isn't playing.

Reagan Youth @ Trash Bar

Fiery Furnaces @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Forgetters (mems Jawbreaker, Against Me) @ Market Hotel

Fiery Furnaces @ Bowery Ballroom

Blank Dogs + Silk Flowers @ Monster Island Basement

The Slits + Sisters, Sundelles @ Highline Ballroom

The Antlers @ Bowery Ballroom

Raekwon @ The Fillmore

The For Carnation @ Knitting Factory
Black Dogs, Led Er Est @ Death By Audio
Pterodactyl @ Cameo

Patti Smith @ Bowery Ballroom

Gang Gang Dance, DJ/Rupture @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Dinosaur Jr @ Bowery Ballroom

Dinosaur Jr @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Cheap Trick @ The Fillmore

Mission of Burma @ Bowery Ballroom

Residents @ Webster Hall

Magnetic Fields @ Brooklyn Academy of Music

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Live: Coyote Eyes, Mary Onettes + Art of Shooting, Midnight Spin

When: 11/8/09
Where: Mercury Lounge

So my longtime obsession Werewolves cancelled their Mercury Lounge show opening for the Mary Onettes. Their replacement was a band called Midnight Spin. I knew as soon as I walked in the room what kind of music it was going to be. Really young guys, nice guitars, drummer with long hair and no getting the picture?

I don't really know how to review a band like that without being extremely patronizing, so I'm gonna be pretty patronizing. It's just that rock'n'roll bands full of enthusiastic young men always make me nostalgic for the guys I knew in high school who dreamed of major label record deals and some huge arena full of shrieking, scantily clad young women. But come to think of it, is that any worse than what we're hoping for now? Ultracool indie label deals and DIY clubs full of good-looking hipsters.

Granted, most indie bands try to be (or at least to appear) somewhat arty and original. Midnight Spin is the opposite of original - they are a living cliche. But there is a reason cliches exist, after all. People have fun making this kind of music and many more people have fun listening to it. It's not in my taste, but at least they aren't pretentious or fake.

Still, I don't think Midnight Spin is gonna make the cut, at least not any time soon. Their songs were fine and they played well. They were clearly well-rehearsed and probably had some formal training not only in playing but also in music theory or composition. But they aren't above average, let alone outstanding. They just don't have what it takes to move beyond bar-band status.

Coyote Eyes were the real highlight of the show. I've been drooling over their arty post-punk for months now and catch them almost every chance I get. But it had been a while this time around, and their set had changed significantly. Most immediately, they've gotten more mellow. Their newer songs were mostly slower and more meandering than the first songs I heard by the band. On the one hand, this adds a lot of variety and maturity to the set and opens up a lot of space for experimentation. On the other, the music lost a lot of punch and the band struggled to get the full attention of the audience - no more than most bands struggle, but more than a band this good should.

The band has yet to properly balance their vocals between bassist Marta DeLeon and guitarist Manny Nomikos. DeLeon's voice is rich, melodic and mostly in tune (which I don't mean as cheap shot at anyone, it's just not that common in indie music). In contrast, Nomikos has a thinner voice and doesn't concern himself with hitting the right pitch. That's a perfectly legitimate aesthetic and the juxtaposition of the two voices could be a powerful tool. Sometimes it is, but too often, the difference is just jarring and the two styles fail to find a common ground. Until they figure out and agree upon their musical identity with regards to vocals, DeLeon and Nomikos risk clashing, not complementing.

Once again, when the band hit the song "Yellow Red" near the end of the set, they had the audience captivated. If they could get that rapt attention from the beginning, they'd make quite an impact. I'd like to see the band start their sets with something more aggressive. Their unconventional pop, with its outstanding rhythms, noisy sonic experiments and curiously infectious melodies, should have their audience transfixed from the first note. Just got to make that first note impossible to ignore. [MySpace]

The Art of Shooting played next and I stepped out for most of their set. This band is just too weird, and not in a good way. There are two women singing in front, very dramatically, and some semi-spacey instruments in the background. Basically, if Blondie and Spacemen 3 had a bastard child, it would look and sound like this - but not in a good way. Maybe they get some novelty points, and guitarist Gavin Dunaway sounds like a young Billy Corgan, but the awkwardness far outweighs any appeal. [MySpace]

Last up were the headlining Swedes The Mary Onettes. I've seen them before and found them enjoyable but unremarkable, an 80's rock throwback. However, their new album has generated a lot of positive press, so I thought I'd give them another chance.

Lyrically, the band has come a long way. It takes some courage for Philip Ekstrom to sing about his aging body, and I admire him for that. Facing the fact that your youth is gone, and admitting that that breaks your heart, it's interesting if a little melodramatic.

However, musically, the band is still an 80's rock throwback. And that's that. I wouldn't avoid them, but I wouldn't seek them out, when there's more exciting things happening all over the place. [MySpace]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Upcoming Shows: Sonic Youth, the Pixies + more

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

TONIGHT! Wednesday, November 18

Big Star @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple | Fort Greene, Brooklyn | SOLD OUT!
If you don't already have tickets to this, you're unlikely to find anything. It looks like upwards of 95% of the posts are craigslist are "tickets wanted." So I put this here mostly to cheer you (ok, myself) up - Big Star, though one of the greatest bands of all time, is really just 60-year-old Alex Chilton. Co-leader Chris Bell died over three decades ago and bassist Andy Hummel (who wrote a song or two, I think) is not involved. Jody Stephens is still on drums, but frankly, who has even noticed him back there? On the other hand, if you have tickets, AWESOME. One of the best bands of ever.

Papa M @ Knitting Factory | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | $12
Papa M is David Pajo, who probably has the most impressive resume of anyone from the late 80's/early 90's hardcore/post-hardcore/math-rock/post-rock/experimental scene (tied with former classmate David Grubbs). A member of Slint, Tortoise, the For Carnation and Dead Child (and less impressively, Zwan), Pajo has also played with Stereolab, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Will Oldham (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and others. I don't think any of that means anything to non-indie-geeks, or even indie geeks who aren't pretty old school. But what it all adds up to is that Pajo is one of the most highly respected and influential guitarists of American indie rock's golden age. His style of playing is eerie, dark and distant, with unsettling rhythmic irregularities. It's experimental and sometimes very minimal, but an educated listener will pick up on the sound's faraway roots in hardcore punk. You know what, forget all that, it's just fucking weird, good music. Go see it. [MySpace]

Thursday, November 19

True Womanhood @ Cameo Gallery | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
True Womanhood sound eerie and rhythmically complex like Radiohead. The bass is slammin, the drums are fascinating and the guitar is off in outerspace making noises that could give you bad dreams. [MySpace]

Saturday, November 21

The Beets, She Keeps Bees @ Death By Audio | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The Beets are a much-beloved garage back band. She Keeps Bees are a blues band disguised as an indie rock band. They both write good songs. You will like both of them. [Beats MySpace] [SKB MySpace]

Sunday, November 22

Talib Kweli @ Brooklyn Bowl | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | $10
Talib Kweli is one of the most universally respected rappers on the planet. His music is smart and thoughtful, but hardhitting. This show costs $10. What's the catch?? [MySpace]

Monday, November 23

The Pixies @ Hammerstein Ballroom | Midtown, Manhattan | $48
The Pixies are performing their classic album Doolittle a bunch of nights in a row. Personally, I wouldn't pay $50 for this, but I've already heard them play all of Doolittle live (except for, by lucky chance, the few songs on the album I don't like), plus at least half of Surfer Rosa and the best from Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde, all on one glorious night at the Pixies birthplace, the University of Massachusetts. What I'm trying to say is, this is a lot of money, Doolittle is a short album, and you'll have other chances to hear the band. However, this is about the experience of hearing Doolittle live, so if you happen to have an extra $50 lying around, it would be well enough spent on this. If not, don't cry, the Pixies don't seem to be ending their reunion any time soon. Oh, if you don't know who the Pixies are, they are one of the most important indie rock bands of the late 80's and early 90's and influenced the hell out of everyone, like Nirvana and Weezer. They basically play the kind of pop songs you'd expect a mental patient to write. Which is pretty much what they are. HOTT.

Tuesday, November 24

Sonic Youth @ Music Hall of Williamsburg | Williamsburg, Broklyn | SOLD OUT!
I'm pretty sure Dino Jr and Cold Cave were on this bill when I bought my ticket, and now it's just Talk Normal, who are weird hyper-experimental stuff that's good but no Dino Jr. Anyway, the point is that it's Sonic Youth, the band that brought art rock and noise to millions. One of the most improbable stories in rock history, Sonic Youth's odd, discordant guitar noise and abrasive, abstract vocals got them signed to a major label for two decades of their three-decade career. After returning to the indie world earlier this year, Sonic Youth are still going strong, still pushing boundaries and rocking out hard on stage, just with grayer hair. Thurston Moore still seems like a lanky, hyperactive kid. Yeahhhh.

The Pixies at Hammerstein Ballroom | Midtown, Manhattan | $48
Same deal. (No pun intended!)

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

The long view...

Meat Puppets @ Bowery Ballroom
Screaming Females @ Bellhouse
The Pixies @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Sonic Youth @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
what a night!!!

Fuck Buttons + Growing @ Market Hotel

The Mountain Goats @ Bell House

Wye Oak @ Bell House

Radio Flyer Review presents Shellshag, Sisters, Big Troubles & the Sundelles @ Monster Island Basement!!!!!!

Blank Dogs + Silk Flowers @ Monster Island Basement

The Slits + Sisters @ Highline Ballroom

The For Carnation @ Knitting Factory

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


December 4 @ Monster Island Basement

I am so excited about this show! We've got four kick-ass bands who make really loud noise and write great songs. They're among the very best punk/lo-fi/pop music you'll find these days.

Shellshag - "The White Stripes on steroids and crack" (Jersey Beat 2007) [MySpace] [Official Site]

Big Troubles - "Big Troubles is Ian and Alex, two guys from Ridgewood, New Jersey looking to give you a sonic shoulder rub if you can stand it. Just as their fellow Ridgewoodians Real Estate tend to dunk theirs underwater, Ian and Alex blanket most melodies in loads of fuzz and distortion. Lots of kids are doing it these days, few are doing it as well as these two." (The Tripwire) [MySpace] [Official Site]

Sisters - "The Brooklyn duo Sisters pull nineties alternative rock into the twenty-first century, skillfully tempering Gen X slacker aesthetics with an earnest optimism and youthful vigor." (The New Yorker [!!!]) [MySpace] [RFR Review]

The Sundelles - "The band's sound is as classic garage as you can get and there is something reminiscent of Sid Vicious in the singer's voice. This track is filled with youthful exuberance and defiance. Definitely mixtape worthy!" (Rock Insider) [MySpace]

It's at Monster Island Basement a.k.a. Secret Project Robot art gallery a.k.a. 210 Kent Ave., at the corner of Kent and Metropolitan. Doors at 8 PM, costs $7.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Live: Mount Eerie (Microphones) + Liturgy

When: Halloween
Where: Market Hotel

I gotta start by saying, I recently had a dream that Phil Elverum wasn't actually the guy singing on my copy of The Glow, Pt. II. Apparently, in dreamland, he only sang on the UK release. For some reason, this was a real bummer of a dream.

Anyway, who puts these bills together? It would be like Todd P to book a black metal band before an indie pop band, but I'm not sure this one is his fault. In fact, I think Elverum might be behind it, since their last album was apparently Mout Eerie's "black metal" album, or so he loved telling people. And while I commend him for trying to open indie minds to some music with a backbone, I think this line-up was off-target. Microphones fans from back in the day were horrified by Liturgy's post-thrash freakshow. And Liturgy fans (along with the rest of the Halloween scenesters) talked loudly throughout Mount Eerie's oft-hushed set.

I may have been in the 2% of people there who enjoyed both bands. Liturgy is definitely not my usual style, but they made so much noise while vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix screamed morosely into the microphone! I didn't even know you could scream morosely until I saw this show. The music also had some structural integrity to it - it wasn't "death metal" snooze fest hammering away on minor seconds and growling about eating dead bodies, it was musically complex with sound harmonies and a certain biting momentum. Someone in the band has a good ear, a good education or both. Pulsing frantically, the noise was rich and cavernous but distinctly unsettling. It's not something I plan to seek out in the future, but if I do get into black metal, these guys can definitely take some credit for my conversion. [MySpace]

Despite having put out a supposed "black metal" album, Mount Eerie (f.k.a. the Microphones) don't sound drastically different from what you hear on their 2001 masterpiece, The Glow, Pt. II. Even then, they had intense, ear-splitting sheets of noise. Now, the static may wash over more subtle complexities, but it's hardly a huge leap. And like always, the blasts of static and massive guitar roars frame understated and intensely sad indie pop and folk songs.

Sadly, Elverum and co. only played songs off this latest album, not treating us to even one cut from the The Glow. That was disappointing, but seeing these guys live is still such a mindblowing experience, I can't get that bummed about it. If their melodies aren't quite as consistently beautiful as they were in the old days, their noise is at its best. With two drummers crashing on cymbals and gongs at the back of the stage, the music sounded like Eleverum's usual sonic bulldozer, destroying everything in its wake.

The rise and fall of Mount Eerie's noisy attack is reminiscent of the mountains and valleys that always form a backdrop for Elverum's sound. I'd love to see them in the rainy Northwest, instead of uprooted in the least pastoral city on earth. But we had to make-do.

And even in this setting, hearing Phil Elverum sing his delicate, mumbling tunes - over a din of horrid hipsters jabbering in the background - I was overwhelmed with an inexplicable desire to throw myself at the man's feet. Honestly, I don't even understand my reaction - it was as though I'd been hypnotized. And maybe I had, but I did make it home without far as I remember! But despite the potential dangers, I'd gladly be put under that spell again. A black metal-influenced indie folk band on the classic twee label K records - they are a band of contradictions that sound like no other. [MySpace]

Live: Stupid Party

When: Halloween
Where: Bruar Falls

I went to see Stupid Party play on Halloween, which is an indication of how much I love them - I missed much of the Yankees game, during the friggin' World Series. Right there, that should tell you this is a band worth seeing.

Their set was pretty much what their sets have been in the past. They write great little songs and then pound them out like they are furious at the great little songs and want to kill them. They aren't technically inept but seem always to be playing music on the cusp of their abilities. The whole thing sounds like it could fall apart at any second. Which is exactly what makes this one of the best bands in NYC.

The performance was their usual, which means awesome. They make some poorly enunciated jokes between songs and although they don't have as much physical movement as many bands, when they play, you feel like they are subtly wrestling their guitars to death. Not smashing them, just strangling them without making a big fuss.

I wish I had something new or more insightful to say about this band, but it's just so simple. They are punchy and raw, they have great tunes and great musical chemistry. And they don't give a fuck. It really does not get any better than this.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Album: Real Estate - s/t

Real Estate (s/t)
Album: Real Estate
Woodsist, 2009
Rating: ******* (7/10)

Real Estate popped onto most radars last winter due to some positive mentions from Stereogum and Pitchfork. After months of building a reputation, the band is set to release their full-length debut on Woodsist next week.

Now, it's not a secret that I was extremely bored by Real Estate when I first heard them. And I was also put off by their constant beach references - in the last year or two, everyone and their grandma has formed at least one shitty fake surf band, so song titles like "Beach Comber" and "Let's Rock the Beach" don't exactly warm my heart.

However, I was kind of misunderstanding Real Estate. Though they come from a scene dominated by lo-fi punks and lo-fi indie poppers and lo-fi garage rockers, Real Estate are a psychedelic pop band that borders on slowcore. When you come in expecting dreamy slowcore, it all makes a lot more sense. Their mellow, lazy tunes are reminiscent of fellow-New Jerseyians Yo La Tengo on a chill day, or even of Galaxie 500. Real Estate is all about druggy, spaced-out simplicity.

And they do that very well. Their vocals blend perfectly with gently ringing guitars and measured, muted drums. In the context of the album, the beach references are also secondary to general references to the suburban life of carefree New Jersey youth.

Unfortunately, like suburban life, Real Estate's music often does generate more boredom than enjoyment. The songs I first listened to by the band, "Fake Blues" and the highly-praised "Black Lake," are among the worst offenders on the album. If you're into extremely mellow stuff, I'm sure they're great but they don't hold my attention. The more uptempo "Beach Comber" and "Snow Days" are the standout tracks for someone like me.

Ultimately, I have to lament that yet another non-edgy band will make it into the spotlight this year. There is nothing unpleasing to the ear and nothing truly emotive in this music except maybe a vague nostalgia. Sure, it's enjoyable music to put your feet up to, but I'm gonna have to start organizing an airlift to drop distortion pedals over Brooklyn and North Jersey if I hear anything more relaxed than this. Wear a helmet?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Live: Lightning Bolt + Black Dice

When: 10/30
Where: Above the Auto-Parts Store

My first trip to Todd P's new space, just around the corner from Market Hotel, was a bit disappointing. The space is huge, which I suppose isn't inherently bad, but I got into indie/DIY shows to get away from places quite that big. Not that it's an arena, but it looks like it could hold about 1,000 people. That's a lot.

It's on a second floor and the few small windows at one end of the room may not be opened, lest the music disturb the neighbors. With a low ceiling and brick and concrete walls, the room got pretty warm, even for a cold night. And by warm, I mean you'd be drenched in sweat (yours or someone else's) after about two minutes. The same factors also mean bad acoustics, especially since, for no apparent reason, they put in a corner stage. With the harsh angles, the low ceiling and the rough, hard building material, the sound is as much din as it is music. But oh well.

Lightning Bolt and Black Dice are either the two best bands for this kind of acoustics or the two worst. I'm not sure. Both bands work more with noise than with tunes or even beats. And that's not all they have in common - Hisham Bharocha of Black Dice was an original member of Lightning Bolt during its brief days as a trio. Apparently, they were too musical for his tastes.

Black Dice are the kind of experimental band I can't get behind. They just make loud noise. Sometimes there is a pulse, but never really a beat. There is never a melody, and the extremely rare riff is usually just repeated eight hundred times. It might be good for what it is, but it's not music.

There were clearly some people in the audience who connected with Black Dice and were genuinely thrilled about it, so clearly they are not failing. While there's always a degree of Emperor's New Clothes syndrome* with any experimental band, that doesn't explain all the crazy kids pushing to the front. So good job, Black Dice. I can't be a fan or even understand what's good here, but clearly, the band is doing what they want to, and if it's getting folks excited, that's rad. [MySpace]

Lightning Bolt are more up my alley. They are noisy and chaotic but there are both riffs and beats, even if they are jarring, violent, asymmetrical ones. They play a drumset and a heavily distorted bass, both really loud, and sometimes the drummer makes vocal noises with a microphone he holds on or in his mouth with a mask. Niiiice.

The half of the room towards the stage was PACKED with moshers. Unfortunately, the mosh pit was just too big. With rather poor visibility and the mosh pit achieving critical mass and just moving in unison left, then right, it was kind of hard to enjoy the show. People climbed up on everything they could find to see the duo destroy their set, including one gentleman who watched wrapped around the top of the room's one beam holding up the ceiling.

There's nothing that can be done about shows like this. Sometimes a lot of people want to go see a band, and when that band is as adventurous and brilliant as Lightning Bolt, that's a good thing. And if people want to mosh and have fun, that's an extra good thing. But in a room that large and hot and sweaty and crowded, especially with chaotic acoustics, it's impossible to really watch or enjoy a band, no matter how awesome. [MySpace]

*Emperor's New Clothes syndrome occurs when a large number of people become convinced that if they do not like a band, they have unsophisticated taste. They then overcompensate by praising the band's wacked-out bullshit, convincing those around them that if they don't like it, they have unsophisticated taste. You can see it's a cycle.

If you don't know the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, this dude comes to town and is like "hey Emperor, for a gazillion dollars, I can make you the best robes ever, and they have the magical quality that they are invisible to fools." Well, as you might guess, the emperor ends up paying the guy and walking through town naked because everyone (His Majesty included) thinks everyone else can see the clothes, and that they must be fools. (Incidentally, when I was a kid, this story inspired the most mortifying Halloween costume my mother ever made me wear. I'll leave the details to your imagination.)

Upcoming Show: Shonen Knife, Jeff the Brotherhood

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

Tuesday, November 17

Shonen Knife, Jeff the Brotherhood @ Brooklyn Bowl | Williamsburg, Brooklyn | $12
Apparently I was suffering from a massive stroke when writing my last upcoming show list, because I listed Dinowalrus as the alternative show to Jesus Lizard next Tuesday. Dinowalrus is mad awesome, but they live here and play around NY all the time. The must-see show for those not at Jesus Lizard is Shonen Knife with Jeff the Brotherhood at Brooklyn Bowl.

Here is what I wrote about Shonen Knife in a listing last time they stopped in town: Formed in the 1980's in uber-conservative Japan, Shonen Knife consisted of three women who worked as secretaries by day and led secret lives as indie pop musicians at night, unbeknownst to their families and employers - it was considered unseemly for a woman to play rock or pop music, but Shonen Knife gave chauvinism the finger and kicked out some jams, motherfuckers. [MySpace]

Here is what I wrote about Jeff the Brotherhood after I saw them play a few weeks ago: Their music has hooks and doesn't try to sound quaintly spare or incompetent. For only two guys, they make a rich, full sound and don't try to hide the fact that they are fuckin good at guitar and drums. Come to think of it, I can't thing of a single bad thing to say about the band. There's no gimmick, there's no detached posturing, there's just rock music at its best. [MySpace]

And do go see Dinowalrus another time soon!

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Live: Woods, Silk Flowers + No Age

When: October 14
Where: Le Poisson Rouge

So ages ago, I went to see No Age play at Le Poisson Rouge because I couldn't go to their weekend shows. It may have been a really late show on a weeknight, I may have had the swine flu, but nothing was going to stop me from seeing this band.

I got to LPR in time for Silk Flowers, who at first seemed to be some gangly young men playing around with droning, monotonous synthesizers, which looked fun for them, but I couldn't figure out why anyone would think it was a good idea to put them on a stage in front of an audience. However, eventually, one of the gangly youths slouched over a microphone and performed what sounded like a drunk gorilla doing an imitation of Ian Curtis. It was awful, but I think it was intentionally awful, and at least awful in an interesting way. With only a very loose sense of pitch and no annunciation, the baritone drawl slobbered spastically over the songs.

The synth parts were boring and the songwriting sloppy, but the vocals were just weird enough to really excite a small part of me. Over all, I don't think I can recommend this. I think it's just a disaffected imitation of a bunch of trendy bands. But I'm not entirely sure. [MySpace]

Woods, one of my favorites, were up next. Their set was really mixed. It started and ended with obscenely long, self-indulgent jam sessions. This kind of stunt is rude, even when once-good legends like the Grateful Dead do it. It's certainly not a right earned by Woods, whose success is moderate and recent. Anyway, Woods aren't particularly great at their instruments and they aren't particularly amazing noise-makers - their appeal is based on their extraordinary songwriting coupled with a bit of weird sound and delivery. The songwriting is more than half the equation, so what's the point of fucking around for fifteen minutes?

In the middle, though, Woods played like the band I love. Their melodies, new and old, are still captivating, and their sound still weirdly distant and otherworldly. They fixed up their old songs with some well-conceived adjustments, cranking the volume in some parts and adding new vocal harmonies to songs like "Rain On" (which pleased me, since whenever I end up working late, I end up sitting in my office trying to harmonize with that chorus). The band has tightened up, no longer struggling with tempos and locking in seamlessly - months of shows will do that for you!

Unfortunately, they ended on another ridiculous jam. Guys, keep that to five minutes, tops, especially as an opening band. The sound guy appeared to be trying to signal to the band to stop, but they just droned on and on and on. It didn't ruin the set, but still, a bad move. [MySpace]

By the time No Age took the stage, my H1N1 got the best of me (did you think I was kidding?), and I couldn't really enjoy much of the set. It was noisy and good and the band's two members seemed like really nice guys, but I was keeling over in a corner so I don't think I'm qualified to write a proper review. Let's just hope they come back to NY soon.

News: New York Magazine has a sense of humor?

If you haven't seen the new issue of New York Magazine, that's good. The cover story, written by Hugo Lindgren, is about the Brooklyn music scene and specifically, about how much he wants to bone David Longstreth. It starts out by saying "It's a scene marked by wild inventiveness, and at its center is one of the most risk-taking groups of all - Dirty Projectors." This is, I assume, some sort of dry sarcasm, an unusual technique for a feature article in a popular magazine. But pretty hilarious.

As everyone knows, the only risk Dirty Projectors has ever taken is risking getting the snot beat out of them by Henry Rollins. I will post the YouTube link when that happens.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Album: Pants Yell! - Received Pronunciation

Received Pronunciation (Pants Yell!)
Album: Received Pronunciation
Slumberland, 2009
Rating: ******* (7/10)

After a slew of really disappointing albums, it was nice to finally come across one that exceeded my expectations. Of course, it helped that my expectations were fairly low - I have tried to get into Boston-based indie poppers Pants Yell! a number of times and have always ended up bored and confused. I'd heard good things about the band but never managed to find a worthwhile melody among their songs.

But on Received Pronunciation, you'd have to try pretty hard to find even a minute without a strong melody. This is unmistakably what indie pop should be, sweet and understated, but catchy, youthful and fun. There's nothing edgy here, not even the seamless distortion of their labelmates, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart - in fact, there's no distortion at all. Sure, that means this album isn't really my thing, but it succeeds in what it sets out to do. Andrew Churchman's voice is clear and in-tune but unextravagant, in the best of indie-boy tradition.

My main complaint about the album has to do with the lyrics, which should be a clue that I don't have any big complaints - lyrics, as long as they aren't unbearable, are pretty irrelevant to my enjoyment of music. But with such clear, out-front vocals, it would be nice if Churchman would just tell us what he's talking about. His songs seem like straightforward stories, but stories I couldn't quite follow, and I was left wondering if certain lines were related to one another or just happened to rhyme. On the other hand, he addresses one very empathetic song to a spider ("Spider"), so it's not all bad!

I wouldn't call this music twee, though a lot of people want to. It's just not that young or playful. It's mostly about liking girls who have boyfriends who are assholes, but not about kittens, rainbows and cupcakes. It may be young and innocent, but it doesn't play at being childish. And that's a good thing.

This ain't the album of the year, but for people who like lovely little restrained pop songs, it's a small treasure-chest without a bad song in the bunch.


Guest Review: My Parents - "Happy Birthday to You"

Jasper sent me a review over IM of the limited edition single "Happy Birthday to You," a cover of the classic Orem and Forman song performed a capella by husband-wife outfit My Parents.

Song: "Happy Birthday"
Voice Mail Records, 2009
Rating: ******** (8/10)

I just listened to a voicemail from my parents. As soon as I saw whom it was from and the length, I knew exactly what was going to be on it. It was 44 seconds long and from their home phone.

They did a pretty good job of it though, sang in approximately the same key. My dad even did a little harmony thing at the end. My mom was not quite prepared to hold down the melody so she dropped out, but still, on a scale with most covers of the song, quite respectable. I guess that is not saying much.

Wow, I think I just wrote musical criticism of my parents singing me "Happy Birthday."

I post this as a cautionary tale for those thinking of pursuing music criticism as career or hobby. Kids, you don't want to end up like this.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Upcoming Shows: Jesus Lizard, Shilpa Ray + more

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

Thursday, November 12

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers + Soft Black @ Death By Audio | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Shilpa Ray has more balls than all the men in Williamsburg put together. She's a badass lady who plays a handpowered harmonium without making that gimmicky. She plays slick rock and roll and yells a lot of obscenities. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Friday, November 13

Pterodactyl @ Death By Audio | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Pterodactyl are one of the only bands around doing something new. They don't sound like anyone else, and somehow they still rock hard and have amazing melodies. Their audience usually alternates dancing around nicely and crashing into each other, because their music makes you want to do both. Plus, this is a Showpaper benefit, and things with "benefit" in them are usually extra good, be they charitable concerts or hot friends. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

Saturday, November 14

Slumberland anniversary show: Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Crystal Stilts, Brown Recluse, Frankie Rose + more @ Bell House | Gowanus, Brooklyn | $15
At first, Slumberland billed this show as having a secret "special guest" headliner. But then the rest of the bill listed most of their roster, at least on the east coast. I guess they realized anyone with half a brain would be able to figure out who was headlining, so they added the Pains to the list. The Pains are fuzzy indie pop with sheets of distorted guitar and saccharine melodies, adored the world round. The Crystal Stilts are gloomy, disaffected, poppy post-punk with a lot of bass and reverb and bouncy, baritone melodies. The rest of the bands are pretty much somewhere between these two ends of the post-punk-indie-pop spectrum. With such an extensive bill of mostly good bands, $15 is a deal. [Pains RFR Review] [Pains MySpace] [CS RFR Review] [CS MySpace]

Monday, November 16

Jesus Lizard @ Fillmore at Irving Plaza | Gramercy-ish, Manhattan | SOLD OUT
The Jesus Lizard are one of the best post-hardcore bands ever. They came out of that era when that shit was good - people were playing really loud, angry, metal-influenced indie music with great musicianship and a punk rock attitude.

Tuesday, November 17

Jesus Lizard @ Fillmore at Irving Plaza | Gramercy-ish, Manhattan | $25
Same deal, only not yet sold out.

Dinowalrus @ Glasslands | Williamsubrg, Brooklyn
If you go to see Jesus Lizard on Monday or the Tuesday show sells out before you get tickets or you don't have $25 + Live Nation fees (firstborn child or equivalent in gold), go see Dinowalrus at Glasslands. Dinowalrus are an experimental rock band based on doing a lot of drugs (or sounding like it). They drone and groove and make loud noises. It's hard to explain. Like Sonic Youth doing acid and trying to play Krautrock...or something. [RFR Review] [MySpace]

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

Album: CFCF - Continent

Continent (CFCF)
Album: Continent
Paper Bag, 2009
Rating: ** (2/10)

The first time I heard CFCF must have been last spring when part of the Panesian Nights EP mysteriously showed up on my hard drive. I gave it a listen and though I wasn't blown away, I was reasonably impressed, especially by the club-inspired dark ambiance of "Crystal Mines." It was just an EP by an artist early in his career (one Michael Silver), and I figured by the time an LP came around, we might have something worth at least a short-term obsession.

Apparently, I was overly optimistic. Sometimes when I'm bored and often spaced out with a migraine, I pull out my keyboard, turn on some cheesy synth sound and plunk out little chord progressions and riffs with club-style rhythms. Although I have fun making dark, ominous chords bounce out in a head-bobbing rhythm, I've really never thought it was worth recording even to subject my friends and family to, let alone to put into an LP and foist on the world at large. Perhaps if I had, I'd have a small record deal and some lukewarm reviews on Pitchfork - it worked for Silver.

Yes, folks, what I'm saying is that I can write music this good in my sleep. And the kicker is, I'm really not a synth player at all. Yeah, ouch.

For one thing, I think I misunderstood the purpose of CFCF. While I thought it was experimental ambient in a dark way, this album is like electronic easy-listening, with synthesized saxophone, guitar and fucking pan pipe solos. Even when the music starts with something good - the guilty-pleasure pop of "Invitation to Love," the breaking beat and half-phrase synth lines of "Letters Home" and the sweeping dynamics of "Break-In" - he ruins it with the aforementioned fake saxophone and pan pipe shit or by just dragging it out waaaay too long. Vocals randomly pop up on a few tracks. In a pitchfork interview, Silvers said "I wouldn't consider myself a very strong songwriter or vocalist, so most of the time I try and then fail so I just don't bother." Yeah, we can tell.

The best track of the album is probably "Come Closer," one of those adorned with vocals. Though it wears on far too long, it's got more force to it. It's a much bolder, clearer statement than the rest of the album and comes closest to what I heard from Panesian Nights. Still, I can't even say that track is worth a buck to download. When surrounded by the far-less-than-half-baked monotony of the rest of the album, it's a nice break, sounding almost like a completed thought. But on its own, it doesn't have much to stand on either.

A celebration of self-indulgent rambling electronica, Continent is an album only a mother could love. Or so I hope.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Live: Fucked Up + Titus Andronicus

When: November 5
Where: Brooklyn Masonic Temple

This is gonna be a long one...

Last night, I headed out to Fort Greene to hear experimental hardcore band Fucked Up perform their already-classic 2008 album The Chemistry of Common Life. I got to the venue just in time to catch the first notes of the opening set by Titus Andronicus, the band that restored my faith in punk a year ago.

But things have changed a lot for this band in the space of a year. They've been frequently hailed as one of the best hardcore bands of this generation, they've got some snazzy invites to play with rad bands (like Jesus Lizard and Bad Brains at the private Vice party on Halloween). They've toured extensively and saw their killer 2008 album The Airing of Grievances rereleased on XL records, part of the indie behemoth Beggars Group. They've also changed their line-up. The two guitarists I last saw them with are both gone, replaced by "indie heartthrob" Pete Feigenbaum.*

Being down one guitarist kept frontman Patrick Stickles tied to his guitar, curbing some of his previous antics and eliminating the harmonica from the set. However, I think it's a net positive - the band sounds more focused than ever before. The band's recent success also apparently afforded them enough for haircuts and a visit to the laundromat, maybe even for new t-shirts entirely. That sounds awfully snarky, but I love a good hardcore band no matter how dirty or clean their clothes, how scraggy or tidy their hair. It gave the show a slightly different feel from Titus shows I've been to in the past, not better or worse, just different.

Fitting with their slightly cleaned-up appearance, Titus Andronicus have polished up their sound. Don't think that takes off the edge, though. They are loud and fast and make me want to move to Ireland and go to a pub with people I will come to call "the lads" every night just so that we can stumble home shouting drunken renditions of every Titus Andronicus song we know. But Titus Andronicus has always been a technically sophisticated band and now their guitar-work can really shine. They've rearranged their songs to include some enormous, glittering walls of sound, some stunning embellishing riffs and some crazy, crazy noise. They are more loud and cool and fun than ever. [MySpace]

And then the headliner, the enigmatic Fucked Up, who are living proof that you can't judge a book (punk band) by its cover (appearance). There are six people in Fucked Up. The two of the left side of the stage are clean-cut young men that look like the guys your parents wish you brought home to meet them. The three on the right are slightly more unkempt, but they definitely look more like kids you'd expect to see working in your college library than ones you expect to run into at a seedy hardcore show. Meanwhile, the frontman is a heavy-set, bald, bearded guy who came out on stage last night in baggy athletic shorts, a big t-shirt and a baseball cap askew on his head. Even knowing the band, I half expected him to start rapping on the spot.

But this is neither nice-boy rock nor quirky indie, and it's certainly not gangsta rap. It's one of the most innovative, most confrontational hardcore bands on earth. Starting with the name, Fucked Up are in your face. They've generated a myriad of rumours about themselves, don't keep a myspace page (though fans keep a detailed one including concert dates) and don't really give a fuck what people think or say - they did little, for example, to quell rumours that they had an underhanded neo-Nazi message. (They don't.)

Calling Fucked Up a "hardcore" band can be a little misleading, however. With three guitarists, along with bass and drums, and songs on average clocking in well past the three-minute mark, their music has a complexity that seems the antithesis of punk. On recordings, they literally layer dozens of guitar tracks. Still, their music has the fast-loud punch of hardcore, the same thrash-style shouting vocals and the same "fuck off" attitude. Fucked Up are without a doubt a hardcore punk band, they've just redefined what that means.

But for all their aggression, Fucked Up is one of the most loving, lovely bands I've ever seen. Their music inspires such a sense of camaraderie that it inspires hundreds of attention-starved teenagers to take turns jumping on stage to hug or attack a band member, shout into a microphone or bang a cymbal (or in this case, gong). Now, if it were me, I'd lose my temper quickly and send the kids home with notes to their parents begging them to take some time out to spend with the lonely youths. But Fucked Up is bigger than me, and even when someone acts particularly inappropriately, they make the best of it, grabbing the offending kid to shout in the microphone for a few lines before hurling them good-naturedly back into the crowd. Meanwhile, frontman Pink Eyes is up front handing the microphone around, grabbing kids for high-fives, hugs, kisses and affectionate rough-housing.

Fucked Up
Fucked Up

All evening, the crowd, though moshing and dancing wildly, seemed uninterested in helping crowd-surfers, so one kid after another bellyflopped off the stage onto the floor below. And not long after I thought to myself, "at least this band has a frontperson who can't stage dive" (I mentioned he's a heavy dude), Pink Eyes himself took the plunge. Even if the audience had been supporting people, I'm not sure they could have handled his mass and he dropped straight to the floor. After a bit of crawling and thrashing around, he climbed back on stage. "Thanks for catching me, guys," he said. "Real cool." He flashed a big thumbs-down and then chided the crowd, telling us that "little kids" in China had once carried him. Personally, I'd like to see some photographic evidence of this alleged occurrence.

Performing much of the material from their outstanding album The Chemistry of Common Life, the band brought special guests Andrew W-K, the Vivian Girls and singer Katie Stelmanis on stage. Though the Vivian Girls enraged me by unprofessionally peering out from behind the curtains at the wings when not on stage, I have to admit, I really liked their performance. This is definitely the first time I've said something positive about the band, and grudgingly so, but I gotta hand it to them - fingers jammed in their ears, they sang mostly the right notes (not an easy task in all that noise) and the songs they performed were definitely among my favorites in the set. Equally surprisingly, I highly disliked Andrew W-K's part in the set. The one guest who did not actually play on the album, his keyboard synth parts sounded clinky and didn't blend. I respect him immensely as a musician and maybe it was just bad mixing from the sound engineer, but I found him nothing more than distraction.

Watching kids go wild for the band, it dawned on me how powerful this band is. Just by their very existence, by the fact that they don't get outlandish haircuts and clothes, by the fact that they vary from wiry to overweight (and the overweight one ends the show nearly naked), by having a girl in the band who's there for musicianship and not at all for sex-appeal, Fucked Up are the essence of punk at its best - a refuge for anyone who has ever felt out of place in the mainstream. "Come as you are," a great punk band once said.

But it's more than that. These guys don't look like punks. They also all have stage names. Rumour or truth, part of the Fucked Up legend is that the band adopted these names to hide their association with the band from employers, colleagues and maybe even certain relatives. Fucked Up is the Superman of punk rock. Like Clark Kent, they could be some guy in the next cubicle over, some girl you run into at the grocery store, or even little ol' you. They're the everyman as rock hero. Punk is way more than a musical style, it's a powerful identity and an underground community that's served as a family to outcasts and freaks for decades. Just because we might not see a lot of mohawks and safety-pins when we walk down the street, doesn't mean we're alone. Punk isn't dead. It's as vibrant and strong as ever. And it's all over the place, if you know where to look. [MySpace (fan site)]

*I found Pitchfork's Dinowalrus review extremely amusing. That fact that Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal - a fan of people like Bon Iver, Dirty Projectors and St. Vincent - didn't care for them is probably a stronger recommendation than any I could offer. Dinowalrus fucking ROCKS.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Live: Ponytail + Javelin

When: 10/10
Where: Bell House

Many ages ago, Ponytail played a set at the Bell House, and I went to see them because they are awesome. Javelin opened up. They were some guys doing run-of-the-mill electro stuff . If you like jumping around to run-of-the-mill electro stuff - and who doesn't? - they are not a bad band to jump around to. But if you're not a jumper-arounder, you should definitely find something more interesting to feed your ears.

Something like, say, Ponytail, one of the most boldly experimental, creative bands to emerge in the last few years. Basically, two guys have amazing noise-guitar frenzies (the kind that take a lot of technical skill) and another guy freaks out on the drums at 1,000 mph, while young frontwoman Molly Siegel whoops and hollers gleefully into the microphone and jumps up and down around the front of the stage. And they're all smiles and energy, almost as if they are having fun. (WOAH!)

I've said before that Ponytail reminds me of a rodeo. It's not just the whooping, and guitarist Dustin Wong's ridin-a-bronco imitation when he plays guitar. It's that the only way to keep up with the music is to jump in and cling on for your life. If you like your music simple, melodic and structured, you'll hate Ponytail. If you like your music as a completely untamed burst of youthful energy channelled into sonic form, well, then, you're in luck.

Ponytail's records are good but nothing compared to their live show. Siegel always jumps into the crowd at some point, to crowd surf or just pogo around in people's faces. Meanwhile, Wong and his fellow guitarist Ken Seeno grin at each other from opposite sides of the stage every time they get ready for a particularly exciting part. And there is no other band on earth that sounds like this.

I can't say whether the show at Bell House was particularly amazing, because the band is always an awesome experience. But the crowd, moshing like crazy - but nice crazy - and dancing, headbanging and shouting along, was definitely hooked, and the band was pretty hooked on the audience too. It gives an musty old soul like me hope to see a hundred and fifty kids losing their shit for music this cutting-edge. If youngsters have this much fun with this music, I think we're all going to be okay.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Album: Brilliant Colors - Introducing

Introducing (Brilliant Colors)
Album: Introducing
Slumberland, 2009
Rating: ****** (6/10)

I have to say, the new album from Brilliant Colors, out today, was pretty disappointing. I'd heard a few promising songs and a few promising recommendations from other folks. Not that it's reasonable to expect much from a DIY, fuzzy indie pop band these days - you can hardly throw a rock without hitting one (though why you wouldn't want to hit one with a rock is a mystery to me).

San Fransisco's all-female trio Brilliant Colors is a late-comer to the movement, and though it's clear they want to be sorta punk, they are a pretty far cry from their real punk counterparts. That's not a huge surprise - after all, this album is on the indie pop label Slumberland, not one of its its punkier sisters like Siltbreeze, Woodsist or In the Red. It's ok to not be punk, but here, the lack of aggression makes the album kind of bland. There's certainly no flares of joy or sadness, let alone anger or mania.

The album isn't bad, and if you're into fuzzy little pop songs, it's not a bad addition to your collection. Most of the songs are well-written. Still, I'd rank this well below the Manhattan Love Suicides' Burnt Out Landscapes or even Cause Co-Motion's It's Time!, both like-minded releases. The one thing that makes Brilliant Colors slightly distinct from such peers is that the vocals draw a little more from ROCK'N'ROLL, rather thank punk. Most indie pop uses the basic Ramones model for melodies, but Brilliant Colors let loose more aaaah-eeeiy-aaah's and oooohwee's. That's a minuscule detail, though, barely worth noting.

Although the songs are all pretty similar, there are a few highlights. The awkward oooh's in "I Searched" and uh-ow's in "Short Sleeves at Night" are endearing and "Absolutely Anything" is an especially charming indie earworm. Things get a little heavier midway through, starting "Mystic," the album's most in-your-face moment. "Motherland" has a little bit of punch to it, too. The closing track, "Should I Tell You" is pretty normal except that it periodically sounds like a Boeing is taking off in the background. I can't figure out if that's a good thing or not.

For fans of the genre, you'll find some nice songs on Introducing, but if you're looking for something artistic, edgy or fresh, you'd be wasting your time. We've heard this before, better, many times.


Upcoming Shows: Fucked Up, Werewolves, Coyote Eyes + more

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

Thursday, November 5

Fucked Up + Titus Andronicus @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple | Fort Greene, Brooklyn | $18
Hardcore band Fucked Up is performing their acclaimed album Chemistry of Common Life in its entirety. The bad news is that Vivian Girls (!!??) are singing back-up vocals and it costs $18. On the other hand, Titus Andronicus will be opening with their excellent less thrash/metal form of hardcore. [FU MySpace] [TA MySpace]

Friday, November 6

Girls + Real Estate | Bowery Ballroom | SOLD OUT!
I have mixed feelings about Girls, who have recently been determined to be the shit. The band's backstory is such that if I harsh on them, I'm afraid it will look like I'm in favor of creepy cults and against smiles. (In fact, I am against both cults and smiles.) But let's face it, Girls is anti-edgy, Beach Boys-inspired pop. And the lyrics are some of the most blatant, unoriginal attempts to get laid in the history of rock. From the words, we learn that Christopher Owens is a really nice guy who wants to innocently love and be friends with girls and smile and make the best of his terrible life, but he's just heartbroken and lonely. I'm mean, come on!!! (Note: if we discounted all music that was created for the purpose of the musician getting laid, we'd be without 98.5% of music, but at least you don't have to be so obvious and uncreative about it.) On the other hand, his voice is really interesting, not quirky at all but not like anyone else's, awkward but very rich and full. And the melodies and songwriting are unarguably Great - with a capital G. [MySpace]

Sunday, November 8

Werewolves, Coyote Eyes + Mary Onettes @ Mercury Lounge | LES, Manhattan | $10
It's no secret that my favorite two canine-related bands in New York City are Werewolves and Coyote Eyes. Werewolves play an amazing blend of psychedelic music, drawing from the Doors, My Bloody Valentine and everything in between for great melodies and thick, druggy noise. Coyote Eyes play rhythmically fascinating post-punk with unusual and entirely lovable melodies. Headlining are 80's-esque Swedes the Mary Onettes, who I've heard live before and can say are decent but nothing super special. [WW MySpace] [CE MySpace] [MO MySpace]

[Upcoming Shows Playlist]

Monday, November 2, 2009

Album: Cold Cave - Love Comes Close

Love Comes Close (Cold Cave)
Album: Love Comes Close
Matador, 2009
Rating: ******** (8/10)

I'm not sure what to make of the Cold Cave debut album, to be (re)released on Matador this week. Though I normally scoff at press releases, the one accompanying this album actually put a finger on a quality of the music I couldn't quite describe myself: "equal parts of romance and nihilism." That's the essence of Cold Cave and what sets them apart from any other band around.

I first heard Cold Cave nearly a year ago, when I caught the tail end of a set they did opening for someone or other at Bowery Ballroom. I enjoyed them, especially because their sheer volume threatened to make my ears bleed, but I didn't think they were anything special. It wasn't until the spring, when I stumbled upon the track "Sex Ads," that I came around to thinking of Cold Cave as something outstanding.

"Sex Ads," which is not featured on Love Comes Close, is one of the noisiest tracks I've ever heard. It sounds like a synthesizer apocalypse and in its unforgiving attack, reminds me more of the no wave movement than of anything contemporary. The most obvious reference point is Suicide, for those who are familiar with the history of synth music, but ultimately, the splintering shards of static and roar of icy, inhuman noise burying a desperate and inaudible vocal melody - well, they aren't much like anyone else at all.

Sadly, no song on Love Comes Close is quite as as bold as "Sex Ads." The album contains a collection of nine rather more accessible tracks which, if not as striking, have a similar intrigue. The opener, "Cebe and Me," creeps forward at a morbidly measured pace, while synthesizers blink unnerving squalls of dissonance and a distorted voice mumbles an undecipherable speech. The tension breaks over the dark pop of the title track. The somber-yet-catchy baritone melody is reminiscent of bands like New Order and Depeche Mode, but stripped of all hints of 80's polish.

There aren't any bad tracks on the album, so picking highlights is a little tricky. "Heaven was Full" is a classic centerpiece, with a memorable title, a heavy, full sound and single-worthy tune. However, the real highlight of the middle stretch is "The Trees Grew Emotions and Died." The simple, rhythmic vocals and ascending synth riff seems too basic to be the album's best track, but it had me on my knees.

From the dance pop of "Life Magazine" to the would be 80's radio hit "Youth and Lust" and the krautrock-inspired "Laurels of Erotomania," the album is mysteriously refreshing. The sounds are dated and could come straight from the earliest digital synthesizers of the late 70's and early 80's. This is cheesy and gives the whole album a campy sound. Further "campiness" is added by the fact that the actual synth parts are, for the most part, incredibly simple and obvious. But that's not to say the band is just some sort of Duran Duran throwback - the level of noise and the indie rock-influenced imperfection are distinctly modern. Couple this with great songwriting, and you've got something very worth listening to.

Check it out! [MySpace]