Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Peace out, 2008. SS chucks deuce.

Ok, so I did a big yee-haw 2008 round up, but f*ck that. Here are a handful of records I want to give a little personal tickle to:

BLOOMSBURY by Princeton

This little four song EP was the most exciting thing for me this year. The reason is a combination of how great the music is and how unknown the guys from Princeton still seem to be. Vampire Weekendy some say. Sonic Youthy. I don't know about that, but you know how music industry people are: they rely on the epic list more than Homer.
"The Waves" by Princeton Download mp3 (with permission)


IN EAR PARK by Department of Eagles

Two dudes in college at NYU started this duo and they came to nothing, never playing a gig. Of course they were extremely popular among NYU students. My GF played me their first CD a few years ago in the car upstate. Then one of them joined Grizzly Bear and of course, everyone raised an eyebrow to the old "side project." 2008 had their second album and their first gig! (I could be wrong about that) Getting tickets for it was impossible. In Ear Park is set for super-fame.

SEA LION by The Ruby Suns

Yeah. So they are on a Microsoft commercial. What of it? If they only knew that Gates killed their beloved Apple "Lisa", they might have refused to let "Oh, Mojave" be on TV. At least they were compensated. Did Microsoft name the fake product (Vista) after the song? I am pretty sure they did. Sea Lion is so freakin' good, and live, the dude plays a guitar and the drums at the same time (see pic - this is all during the same song).



HIAWATHA TALKING MACHINE EP by Phonograph

I love this record. I am a sucker for bands with no keyboards live that can still get a great prog rock sound when they want to. Sort of like Ambulance LTD (bassist John Davis actually produced several Ambulance tracks). In this case, mixed with some of he most authentic classic rock sound around. I like this EP even more than the band's first record (S/T).
"Somewhere Between" by Phonograph Download mp3 (with permission)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

SUSU and $3.00 Records!

brooklyn band SUSU
photo: Brooke Weeber

A couple of months ago, on a Monday, with no theater and an itch for some live music, my companion and I sauntered over to the Mercury Lounge. No line really. Punky but sweet girl at the door. "Who are you here to see?" I glanced at the list, trying quickly to process and speak the name of one of the opening bands with no tally marks. Instead I noticed that the headliner Day for Night had relatively few scratches in comparison to the group SUSU, on immediately before them. Odd. "Day for Night" I said, feeling a little sting as the opportunity to do some good seemed to have flitted away.

ASIDE for non-NYC readers - clubs in Manhattan are anal about headcounts, and a band's "draw." They can be extremely brutal if a band doesn't meet their expected quota; sometimes they won't have them back! Ridiculous. What ever happened to a built-in audience? What ever happened to taste-making? There are only a few places left that you can just wander into without having to declare exactly what brought you in. When you say, "I'm here to see all the bands," they look at you like you're clueless or insane.

Brooklyn band SUSU, despite recently having been named emusic.com's blah-blah number one download pick for upcoming whatever, were completely unknown to me at the time. I was one of those members of the crowd "waiting to be impressed," as drummer Oliver puts it.1 Now my not knowing a band, as we all know, doesn't mean jack. SUSU have been around for years, kicking around Brooklyn and Manhattan, playing strip shows and mud wrestling contests etc., all by accident, mostly.1 When I heard them start the first song, I was excited. When they started the second, I was nodding enthusiastically to those around me. By the time Day for Night came on, I was more concerned with getting a copy of SUSU's CD than I was anything else.


After Day for Night's set (which was also great), we headed out to the bar, where Andrea Havis was selling records .. .. for $3.00! Now, I happen to know how much it costs to press some vinyl, and I was blown away. When I told the barmaid about it, she went and bought one. And why not? One can either buy a half pint of lager or a 3-song record! The band isn't losing money (since it's not on a label) and they are selling cheap to a group of potential fans who have just seen them rock out! Granted, the same strategy doesn't work on the internet, but I would imagine that like me, most of the people who bought the record listened to it at some later date. Perhaps when the memory of the live show had faded slightly, reduced to a sort of "thumbs-up" without any real supporting detail. For example, I put the record on last week, as my turntable was broken for a good while, and now I am right back in SUSU's pocket. Hence this blog. Hence my going on and on. Here is what I heard the second time:

The call and answer / male and female vocals are such a great tool for any band, adding a dynamic that really can't be done the same any other way. Add to that shredding and often rythmically defiant guitar parts played with a sort-of loving and delicate touch, drums that separate your membranes from their respective internal organs, and each song's mantra delivered concurrently with an encompassing group of lyrics, rather than a transcription or otherwise-on-the-nose browbeating. It really is a fun record to listen to. I find myself smiling and taken to imaginative places of my own, like a good read almost. Strange, I know, but that's what it does for me. I wouldn't be surprised if everyone else who left with a record that night has experienced something completely different. Great progressive records will do that. Here's a track from the WIN EP.
"Part Bloodhound" by SUSU Download mp3 (with permission)

Buy SUSU's Records!

When I read that guitarist Andrea Havis doesn't read or feel particularly fond of blogs, I laughed. I sort of feel the same way. From the emusic interview:

Andrea: Yeah, I don't read blogs. My boyfriend does — he's obsessed. I just can't handle it. Music that I like has always found its way to me.

The first person to comment on this blog will WIN a free WIN EP 12 inch record. Just include or email your mailing address.

B&W photos: Ibru Yildiz
1. interview from emusic.com, read it here

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Come and Gone: The Letter 3

The Letter 3
A Retrospective: I was going through a stack of demo CDs the other day, and I stumbled upon a two song demo from an indie funk band called "The Letter 3." These guys were friends of mine back at university, and the band (in the iteration of this demo) was around from 2002-03. Not long, but they quickly created a rabid following. Anyway, a wave of nostalgia washed over, and I thought I would post the tracks for the handful of TL3 fans still out there who miss it.

maskuliniSubsequently, the amazing bass player, Thorsten moved back to Berlin and revived the band with two new members, which lasted until earlier this year, I believe. Not to worry, his new band, Maskulini (left) is full throttle funk-rock, in German! The other guys: Russell Huie is playing solo in Texas; he just released a new EP called "Cheer The Bombs On". As for the drummer, Eric Blews, I haven't found any mention of him. Anyone seen Eric?

"Tomorrow Never Lives" by The Letter 3 Download mp3 (with permission)

"Bloody Hands" by The Letter 3 Download mp3 (with permission)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry XMAS

Inner DOG DEMOS and Lovetheonlyway
What did I get for Xmas? Well, I indian-gifted a couple of great records to my girlfriend: ACID TONGUE by Jenny Lewis, NEW ENGLISH by Ambulance Ltd, and MOMOFUKU by Elvis Costello. But I actually didn't receive a single record myself *sighs*. I suppose I am hard to buy for in that respect. Knowing this would happen, I did buy myself two records: DOG DEMOS EP and LOVETHEONLYWAY, both by Inner, who are a recent discovery of mine. For those of you who don't know, Inner is an early 2000's band, fronted by Jen Turner (now in Joseph Arthur's band, The Lonely Astronauts). She started Inner after leaving a band called Furslide in 2000 ish. Other than that, all you need to know is that Inner is f*ckin great. If you are already a fan, and you have been bummed and empty since 2002, as a result of no more Inner records, I happen to know that you will have something to look forward to very soon. More on that later.

"Marry Me" by Inner - Download mp3 (with permission)

Truly, the most interesting thing about Xmas is what you give to other people. The Hieronymus Bosch cover of the Fleet Foxes album, combined with the fact that the music is so great made that a perfect gift for my GF's father (along with a copy of LIE DOWN IN THE LIGHT by Bonnie "Prince" Billy). He has such great taste, I try only to get him the best stuff of the year. I also bought MY father a copy of ACID TONGUE, as his taste is very traditional classic folk-rock. He'll love Jenny Lewis. Strangest other gift: A copy of Mark Oliver Everett's new book, Things Grandchildren Should Know. He's the guy from the Eels, and apparently growing up with a mad genius scientist father is a trip.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Best Music 2008 Round Up. Yee Haw.


For the best music released in 2008, I used the poll of a small group, wedged firmly and wetly in the rear-central part of Texas, called "MSC Town Hall". Don't look them up, they aren't much to look at. I will tell you that they are a student organization at Texas A&M University, whose members spread after graduation, like butt-cheeks, all over the country. ** That last bit could be a CAKE lyric ** Each year at Christmas they relay their favorite albums into the abyss that is the former member listserv. Egos flare up and older members sweat over how uncool they have become since graduation in 1996 - all for naught most of the time, as listserv messages are channeled directly into most members' trash folders. A dozen or so still take the time, though, and this year at least one person read every entry. The Results:

Top 5:

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Department of Eagles – In Ear Park
Bon Iver - for emma, forever ago
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Self Titled
Dr. Dog – Fate

Honorable Mention:

The Walkmen – You and Me
The Dodos - Visitor
Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us
black keys - attack & release
Bonnie Prince Billy - Lie Down in the Light
Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Verse - Aggression

The Rest (in alphabetical order by artist)

Adam Arcuragi - Soldiers for Feet EP
Beach House – Devotion
The Bellfuries - Palmyra
The Black Angels - Directions To See A Ghost
Black Mountain - In the Future
The Briggs - Come All You Madmen
crystal castles - s/t
Delta Spirit – Ode to Sunshine
El Guincho - Alegranza
Energy - Invasions of the Mind
Brian Eno & David Byrne - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Fucked Up - the chemistry of common life
The Gaslight Anthem - The 59 Sound
Ghostland Observatory - Robotique Majestique
H20 - Nothing to Prove
Have Heart - Songs to Scream At the Sun
Russell Huie - Cheer The Bombs On EP
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
Man Man – Rabbit Habits
Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling
The Naked and Famous - No Light EP
New Found Glory - Tip of the Iceberg
No Age - Nouns
nomo - ghost rock
Passion Pit - Chunk of Change EP
Phonograph - Hiawatha Talking Machine EP
Princeton - Bloomsbury EP
q-tip - the renaissance
"Quote" - The Pace of Our Feet
The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
Santogold – Santogold
Ron Sexsmith - Exit Strategy of the Soul
She & Him - Volume One
Richard Swift - Ground Trouble Jaw

SUSU - Win EP
Sybris - into the trees
Syd Matters - Ghost Days EP
Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances
tv on the radio - dear science
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Vetiver - Thing of the Past
Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

The Boy Bathing @ Rockwood Music Hall

video

David Hurwitz, front man of The Boy Bathing - all solo and shit - played a show Friday night to debut some new material and tinkle on the keys a little bit amidst the hummin' and strummin' of his normal format. This - "Hey, I know I've been locked away writing, and I haven't been playing very much lately, so I'll let you in a little bit on what I've been up to." - sort-of-a-show was a real treat for me and the other TBB fans in the crowd.

The band's debut album "A Fire To Make Preparations" was released independently this year, but we didn't hear anything from that record, which was the underlying material of two 2008 tours. Instead we got to see where the band is going. Anyone familiar with AFTMP would have noticed a change in Hurwitz's song-writing. Choruses!! WTF!!

That's right, some songs with choruses. But I don't want to make a big deal out of it. There was a lot of the sound we know and love also, and I would implore the reader not to confuse choruses with "pop" or anything like that. I am simply delighted to see a song-writer exploring, and in this case, finding something worthwhile in the process. Check out the video of "House Song."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Major conflict of interests

So I have this friend, who's dating someone that I have met a couple of times and who my girlfriend and I get along with quite well. Enough said about that. The guy also happens to be a musician, and we went to see his show on Monday night, at a packed venue in Midtown. He's a very talented singer, just signed, who is recording his debut CD in California. The same old major label story that we all thought doesn't happen anymore. It does, apparently. I have never been to a pop concert before, with the exception of I think Hootie and The Blowfish, when I was the age at which I had to be driven there by my mom.

So I saw the show, and I am very pleased for this guy's success. I like him. But I am also totally enraged by pop music, and I feel sort of bad saying so. The show was supposed to be a "night off" on a mini-tour that has stretched the country, but since none of the suits from the label that signed him had seen him perform yet (WHAT!?), it was arranged that he would do a small club set on his night off for them and a select group of CRAZY WOMEN. Granted, women make up the main fan base, but I am really not used to this sort of fan. If anyone acted like that at a Mercury Lounge show, I am certain someone proactive would call an ambulance. Back to the show: the songs are sung well, but I was constantly fighting off a grimace, even when I was feeling genuinely happy for the guy on stage. I guess people think it's harmless to sing pop songs. I think it is one of the more pervasive and malicious things people can do, rolling back the clock on everything, and perpetuating all of the subtle and not-so-subtle control mechanisms that prey on the lazy and stupid. Sigh.

Anyhoo, so I am a little down, having come so close to the big bad machine. And trust me, it really is big. And it really is bad.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Frederik go on an hour late, I nearly pass out

fredrik (band)
Last weekend I heard a demo of Fredrik, a band from the southern tip of Sweden. What I know about Sweden, other than the word "Schmootz" and that a band from there can tap into some relatively easy cash from the government, is that a diverse lot of great bands calls it home. Armed with the knowledge that at least one of their songs is good, I took note of their show on my iCal.

We rolled into Cakeshop about 5 minutes before Fredrik's 10:00pm set to catch the very end of Macgregor Burns, a pleasant enough acoustic duo from Baltimore. We assumed Fredrik was next, but the band going on was clearly not from Sweden, no matter how weak your sense of stereotyping is. It was Cinemasophia first, who were good, but for most of the set, I was outside smoking and getting some air; Cakeshop had reached a new level of hellish heat. By the time Fredrik came on, I seemed to forget myself, and I was lulled into a happy state. I won't say too much about the music, as I find it hard to classify. It is definitely pretty and slow-moving, but I am still sort of at a loss about it. Sometimes it reminds me of Elbow, and the first track, "Black Fur" reminds me of an obscure Travis song (see download below). I have been listening to their album, NA NA NI all day, and it stands up really well. "Hei Hei" is probably my favorite. At the end of the show, satisfied but suddenly aware, I clutched and crawled out into the night, getting a fresh blast that felt arctic upon alighting.

Download their song "Black Fur" from bandweblogs.com

Friday, November 7, 2008

Joseph Arthur in Williamsburg

Joseph Arthur at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Last night I ventured to Williamsburg with a couple of friends to see Joseph Arthur, a guy whose music I have liked for a while, even though I have never seen him live or really crossed paths with anything to do with him anywhere. I know very little about him: he makes a ton of albums, Peter Gabriel likes his tunes, he paints. I was very impressed when I heard OUR SHADOWS WILL REMAIN, but I confess that it is the only album I know.

Joseph Arthur and the lonely astronautsWe arrived early in the set, and the band was fully into the performance. A 4-piece band backs up Arthur, allowing him to frontman more effectively. Live, his vocal range is even more impressive than on his recordings, and more raw. I was especially moved by how warm and fat the tones in the lower end of his range are. Arthur's catalog is as diverse as his vocal range, and his songwriting taps into a real reverence for recent musical history. I think for instance that the first song he performed solo during the encore was the best Neil Diamond song that Neil Diamond wishes he could have written. For those of you who are tempted to stop reading as soon as "Neil Diamond" is mentioned, let me say also that all of Arthur's songs have an authenticity to them that I think comes from Arthur allying himself to the classic, fundamental questions that a popular music genre like rock addresses best, diverting the audiences attention from the "message"/"meaning" of a particular song to the journey itself that the songwriter/performer is going through. You really get to watch him, without being confronted by opinions etc. marring the music. It makes for an endlessly entertaining evening, especially with such talented musicians in tow (Jen Turner on guitar is a show all by herself).

Joseph Arthur Paintingsimages copyright Joseph Arthur, from museumofmodernarthur.com

Joseph's visual art , which until recently could be seen at his gallery, the Museum of Modern Arthur (MOMAR) in DUMBO and on his album covers, is an achievement of a completely different sort. Unfortunately, the gallery is closing. I saw a slew of the paintings at the gallery's closing party, and it really is a shame that they will only be exhibited online from now on. Those rabid fans of Arthur's (of which there are many) would often come and hang around the gallery, just waiting for Joseph to show up! Amazing. I ran into one such crazy fan in the bar. When I let slip that I didn't have to pay for my ticket, her eyes became sort of possessed. I assumed she thought I could help her get close to Joseph (which I couldn't), and her enthusiasm caused me to hide in the bathroom until she left. I did see her scouring the merch table, and with Arthur averaging about 50 albums a year, she should have plenty of fodder for her home shrine.

Monday, November 3, 2008

CMJ 2008. Crap, I'm glad that's over.

Sitcom Serf CMJ Music Marathon

The plan - For CMJ this year, I am taking 6 years of SXSW experience to finally visit the festival that literally happens in my neighborhood. With hotel costs in Manhattan at ridiculous peak levels, this makes the fest a little less tourist-friendly than SXSW, but in most other ways, it is a strikingly similar journey for you and your meat-suit to go on. Day parties with free booze, somewhat annoyingly rammed official showcases at night, and after parties that I almost never see, although for those who can regulate their daytime intake, I hear they are great.

A CMJ badge is 495.00 USD. The only notable thing about this is that CMJ has managed to create a badge that is vastly more useless than any other festival. Ticket holders for venues trump badge-holders in line for around 15 USD paid the night before through ticketmaster.com, and day parties never require the badge. In fact I only saw one badge the entire time I was at CMJ, and that was a freebie for a major music company employee. Even over-seas visitors I met knew not to bother with a badge.

I was thinking about buying one anyway, to support the festival, but instead, I took the 500 bucks and purchased a pair of tickets for every venue I might have been tempted to enter, and then I spent the rest on CDs and Vinyl from every band I saw that I didn’t hate. The result was that I spent about 240.00 USD, not including alcohol, and I got some great booty.

Tuesday:
3:00 Princeton @ Cake Shop (Pop Tarts Suck Toasted Showcase)
3:45 The Lisps @ Cake Shop (Pop Tarts Suck Toasted Showcase)
9:15 Ruby Suns @ The Delancey (New Zealand / Magnum PR Showcase)


I arrived at the Cake Shop so jazzed to see Princeton that I didn’t really notice that I had missed the show. Everyone there seemed to be in complete disbelief when I mentioned what time it was as this is the only time in festival history that a band has gone on 25 minutes early! The place was full and no one really cared in the end. I met the organizer, a very nice Staten Island blogger (POP TARTS SUCK TOASTED), and we did a collective shrug and went back to our lagers. I had my full beer and my first disc (BLOOMSBURY by Princeton – $5). Up next were the Lisps, a Brooklyn quartet, with a great live show and a diverse group of songs, every one of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I can honestly say that The Lisps are a very talented, and UNIQUE band. I don’t say that very often. It turned out we had a mutual friend who introduced me to Sammy, the petite melodica player, and I enthusiastically bought their disc (COUNRTY DOCTOR MUSEUM by The Lisps - $10). At this point, I got sidetracked chatting etc. with some long-lost music industry buds, and I didn’t get back into the music until 9ish, when I dragged a couple of people to see The Ruby Suns @ the Delancey. A very drunk, very funny Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) was hosting, Jagermeister bottle in hand, while the Suns set up. The Ruby Suns are one of my favorite bands, after seeing them at SXSW 2008 (Fader Party), and this show was a thrill for me, so I called it a night after a high point. I already own all of their music.


Wednesday:
3:45 The Naked And Famous (The Levi's® FADER FORT)
4:30 Chairlift (The Levi's® FADER FORT)
5:15 The Muslims (The Levi's® FADER FORT)
8:00 Plushgun @ OS Art House / John Street Bar (CMJ event)

Wednesday was the first day of the Levi’s / Fader party, held in a gallery space on the Bowery, converted and decorated by the artist Mr. Brainwash to look like an expressionist pop-art music temple. Needless to say, there is always a great lineup, free beer, and no room to breathe at the Fader Fort. The Naked and Famous played an amazing set before the crowd reached choking capacity. I had heard a track or two from them somewhere, so I was anxious to see what they had live. Their 2 EPs have a lot of great material on them, so I picked a couple up from their manager, who had actually emailed me in response to my trying to buy them online, which you can’t. Lead singer Alisa Xayalith sang and swayed, lulling us all in the first few rows, despite the jagged, powerful musical elements being thrust forth all around her. I took in a great 8 songs set, 2 CDs (NO LIGHT EP & THIS MACHINE EP by The Naked and Famous - $15) and a hand stamped 7”, which guitarist and vocalist Thom Powers was very proud of (rightly so Thom! - SERENADE - $10). Unfortunately, until an American label gets wise, you will have to buy their songs digitally. After a quick set-change, by the time Chairlift came on, I was fully entwined in prodding elbows and tangled feet, spilling my drink with no where to go. High from the last set, with plenty of reserves, I managed to soldier on. Chairlift carry a great aesthetic, with sweet lyrics reminiscent of the 1980’s, before love songs stopped being sweet and turned into two people hating themselves together. Caroline Polachek’s voice is so lovely to listen to live, with moments channeling Dolores O'Riordan and even Chrissie Hynde. Wow. I couldn’t get close to them, so I had to buy the record from Kanine Records online (DOES YOU INSPIRE YOU by Chairlift - $13). At 5ish I had been squirted to the back of the venue, with all of the other drinkers, but I had a nice view of The Muslims for the next half an hour. They are a pretty great poster-band for low-fi retro rock, which is one of my favorite live genres. After a walloping, I snuck out the door, and bought their 12“ w/ CD online from InSound (THE MUSLIMS by The Muslims - $15). Fans can download a free track at 1928recordings.com. After some dinner and a little sobering up, we went to see some friends play called Plushgun, an ourstage.com discovered band, recently signed to Tommy Boy, and kitted out for live shows. The OS Arthouse is the strangest venue in New York City. What looks like a pool-table dive bar in the financial district has a full room in the back for rock shows. Not the best sound, but this was an official event. Plushgun are very pop dance, with songs like “How We Roll” etc. I definitely sort of drifted off a little. The guys I was with didn’t really understand it either. Oh well. The first band I didn’t buy a CD from probably won’t need the help. I can already see an army of Focus-driving teenagers jerking violently behind the wheel, one hand raised as they screech off to high school.

Thursday:
3:00 Princeton @ Crash Mansion (IndabaMusic.com Party)
4:30 Passion Pit (The Levi's® FADER FORT)
5:30 All The Saints @ Crash Mansion (IndabaMusic.com Party)
6:20 Motel Motel @ Crash Mansion (IndabaMusic.com Party)
7:00 Sarah Fullen @ Rockwood Music Hall (CMJ event)
8:00 A Brief Smile @ Crash Mansion (IndabaMusic.com Party)


Passion Pit at CMJ 2008
Passion Pit - Photo: Joe Pepin

On Thursday I finally saw Princeton do an early show at an empty Crash Mansion. I personally feel sort of privileged when the music is so great but the day shows are still relatively empty. Princeton are amazing songwriters AND performers with a cool, distinct sound. Their disc, called Bloomsbury, features 4 songs about the Woolfs, even though the band is from L.A. Oh well, The Thrills are still the best band to write solely about California since the Beach Boys, and they’re from Ireland! I had already listened to the disc, and I plan on buying several more copies to give away as XMAS presents. A quick handshake with the manager and I was off to the sea of humans at the Fader fort again. I managed to get one eye between a shoulder and a hipster hat to get a glimpse of Passion Pit, who was my Fader contact’s pick of the week. Though I was very impressed, standing in safety at the rear, I don’t know that it was the best show at Fader. Their disc though, which I bought online from Frenchkiss Records, is going to tickle several fancies (CHUNK OF CHANGE by Passion Pit - $9). At this point I was relatively aimless, so I just went back to Crash Mansion to support the organizers, whom I know and whose taste I respect. It was quite with no set up going on. All the Saints showed up 30 minutes late for their set, but before you grumble, know that they set up thinking they only had time for one song. Luckily for everyone, some time was scraped together, and the band even did a one-song encore. Loud and powerful, serious psychedelic rock from a three piece was just what I needed to get me up again. I grabbed a copy of their disc, while I listened to a little bit of Motel Motel’s opening two songs (FIRE ON CORRIDOR X by All The Saints - $10). Perhaps my ears were sore, but I had to go outside for a cigarette break in the middle of their set, and I never came back. Outside I met a friend, who promptly decided to whisk me away to Rockwood Music Hall to catch “this really hot girl who sings like an angel.” A rule I have always obeyed at festivals is to say, “YES” to as much as you can. If someone is enthusiastic about a band and he/she pays the cab fare, I don’t see why not. A young, sultry soul-singer, Fullen delivers an impressive vocal performance. Muted and heart-felt, she suited the space perfectly. Wine and cocktail seating was a nice change of pace for half an hour. Sarah Fullen and the Stanleys don’t have a physical recording that I saw (I don’t buy digital music), but I am sure they will soon. Rockwood is the sort of place where major labels still look for talent to sell to the elusive adult music-buyers of the world. It was packed, so when the set was over, I raced out for some air and back to Crash Mansion to catch the last band of the night, A Brief Smile. A Brief Smile came recommended by Princeton’s manager, and I am having a hard time categorizing them. It is definitely indie-rock, but I found myself focusing on, and enjoying all the voices in the music. Not the singing alone, but the shifts and instrumental accents everywhere. As confirmed by their CD, A Brief Smile can boast a very solid song-craft (NOW WE ALL HAVE HORNS by A Brief Smile - $10). Lead singer DL even gave me a second CD for free (R.E.S.T. by A Brief Smile). What a nice bloke!

*Note – I went and had a good listen to Motel Motel on MySpace after CMJ had finished, and I loved it. They are a diverse instrumentation with a Wilco soul, and they are unsigned! (NEW DENVER by Motel Motel - $15)

Friday:
3:00 Blonde Acid Cult @ (The Levi's® FADER FORT)
4:00 Tally Hall @ Rehab (This Side Up Sounds, iRock iRoll, Filter Magazine)
5:00 The Broken West @ Arlene’s Grocery (Team Clermont Party)
7:00 Brent Amaker And The Rodeo @ National Underground (CMJ Event)
8:00 – Caitlin Moe @ Rockwood Music Hall (CMJ Event)
10:00 – The Giraffes @ Le Poisson Rouge (CMJ Event)

According the drummer of The Cold Cold Hearts, Blonde Acid Cult was the best band of the festival. That’s not a difficult opinion to agree with. If you like BRMC, then Blonde Acid Cult will excite you to the point of evacuation. I like BRMC very much, so I remained comfortable happy during BAC’s set, while BRMC addicts squirmed and screamed at a fever pitch. I grabbed a 12” and headed out of the Fader Fort while still at a respectable capacity (SHAKE IT LOOSE / KICK THE FUNK by Blonde Acid Cult - $10). Tally Hall was next at the This Side Up party, and they put on a wild, funny, and ultimately impressive live performance. If you don’t know them, think Beatles meets Tenacious D, locked in a basement with only Ben Folds and Young MC records to listen to. The result is better than the sum of its parts though, I assure you. A great comedic band, where the main joke is that it is not a joke! Had to order their CD online, as the Team Clermont party was dangerous near its conclusion (MARVIN’S MARVELOUS MECHANICAL MUSEUM by Tally Hall - $5). We made it to the party in time to see the headliner, The Broken West. TBW are a solid rock four piece, but they fall victim in my opinion to the Keyboard plague that is hitting a lot of bands now. I feel like since a lot of bands are legitimately using keys to push the genre boundaries, a lot of more traditional bands feel compelled to throw in some keys to avoid appearing backward. The result is that a lot of accompanying parts that used to belong to the lead guitarist or backing singer are now just transferred to the keys, and it makes the music a little droning. That being said, I enjoyed the show, despite the less than stellar-keys performance. From there we went outside to regroup when we saw 5 sharp dressed cowboys, all in black head into the National Underground with guitars and mic stands. Either the most disciplined roadie core on earth or a band worth investigating. The result was a Johnny Cash inspired group called Brent Amaker And The Rodeo, who until recently used to show up to gigs on 5 boss hogs. The music is flat, but I almost enjoyed it never the less, with Brent dawning a cape and leaving the stage at the end of last song, while the band rocked on. In the midst of a festival, with progressive rock, psychedelic bands etc. it’s hard to get excited about 6 songs in the same key at the same tempo, with the same beat. If I were at the VFW in Soda, TX, I probably would have felt differently. From there the evening only got worse. A second but watered down soul singer named Caitlin Moe at the Rockwood Music Hall, and a venue called Le Poisson Rouge in the West Village that made me feel like I had entered a parallel universe, which I quickly escaped, before The Giraffes even came on stage. The venue has a great sound system apparently, but it was just too huge for my mood. I will see The Giraffes another time.

*Note – Blond Acid Cult’s upcoming single, KICK THE FUNK is rockin! Preview it on their MySpace page.

Saturday:
3:00 – Jukebox the Ghost @ The Delancey
3:40 – Seth Kallen @ The Delancey
4:30 – DL Tashjian @ The Delancey

Seth Kallen - Photo: Alyssa Lesser

Seth Kallen at CMJ 2008By Saturday morning, I was debating whether to go out at all. Friday night’s music ended early, but the rest of the night seemed endless. Jukebox the Ghost and Seth Kallen were playing back to back at 3:00, so I figured I could see a small set or two and then retire. Jukebox is a tight indie-pop 3-piece from D.C. They are one of the bands I mentioned earlier who use the piano in such a way as to guilt and shame other bands to add keys, whether they need it or not, two singers, guitar, keys, drums and one energetic live show. I already own their album, so I trotted upstairs after to see Seth Kallen play an intimate set on the roof-jungle, accompanied by his band, with Ben Thornewill sitting in on keys. Ben was perched on a plant, playing a tiny keyboard, and he looked exactly like Schroeder from Peanuts. Seth Kallen has a strong voice with an almost country-folk twist to it. Almost. His rock songs are melodic and catchy, and I always enjoy his live show, even if he does cover early Oasis (which makes me feel ancient). I own his old CD, but I believe he has a new EP coming out soon. Although I am starting to feel every MySpace page claims that. Following Seth, I had a couple of free drink tickets and I recognized DL as the lead singer of A Brief Smile, so I stayed to watch him play a solo set. I liked the songs stripped down, even though he refused to play some of the ABS songs solo. At 5pm or so, I realized my CMJ was over. For those bloggers who can do 10 shows a day every day, my hats off.

Sunday:
7:00 Terre Roche and Sidiki Conde @ The Living Room (not CMJ)

Terre Roach and Sidiki Conde
Terre Roche (The Roches) is sharing the stage at the Living Room with her friend Sidiki Conde to sing a combination of African and Western songs, each with elements added from the other. Terre adds insightful translated English phrases and background vocals to Sidiki’s traditional African songs, and vice versa. The match produces an astounding performance, relaxed and uplifting. Sidiki himself is a fascinating guy. The audience instantly fell in love with him. Terre is such a great songwriter and lyricist; she really latches on to the pertinent and ironic with her lyrics, and blows you away with her solid, graceful guitar playing. Both have beautiful voices that meld together wonderfully, and I shouldn’t forget Pablo on Banjo, who must be periodically called to the stage, as he is clearly the most laid back man on the planet. A non-CMJ event, but as I was still in the same clothes as the previous day, I felt like it belongs in this recap. And if you live in New York City, you can see this show, which is running for the next 3 Sundays at 7:00pm at the Living Room.

A sparse, meager blog, comfortably situated

sitcom serf at the Residents

Don't get excited. Close that other tab. There will be no need to go to insound.com right after this. Just relax. Most of the stuff I write about here will be safe and sound, away from the cutting edge. The jagged, frightful edge. I am going to write about music, in Manhattan. By the time it gets to me here, you can rest assured those middle-twenties rockers will already have toured to your borough. Perhaps a multi-borough tour. They'll be big local stars in the Red Hook used-car warehouse district by now. I am sure banana vs lucmo has a 2 pager in the archives, images exclusive for 3 weeks. Their mp3's are abundant, in need of thinning-out. Even the amateur iso-hunter should have no trouble bagging a few. We'll be buying and stealing a lot of music around here, enjoying it all, even if we are in the rear guard. About this blog: nepotism, favoritism, narcissism, all the tools required to do something this self-indulgent. Hopefully with a touch of class and word-craft on the days one is feeling the most nimble.