Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sitcom Serf Showcase @ Northside Festival

For the first annual Northside Festival, we will be co-sponsoring a showcase with our trusty production partner Thru Windows at Bar Matchless on Saturday night. Here is the lineup:

11:30pm - Wild Yaks (Brooklyn) -
10:30pm - Susu (Brooklyn) -
09:30pm - The Boy Bathing (New York) -
08:30pm - Adam Arcuragi (Philadelphia) -
08:00pm - Doors

Bar Matchless will have 30 spots reserved for badge holders; the rest will be charged $5, which goes directly to the bands. This is Northside policy, over which we have no control. That's not to say it is a bad idea. I applaud them for trying something new. And don't forget, badges to Northside are only $45. Buy a badge here and support local music!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cake @ Terminal 5

With one foot out of a cab at 11th and 56th, the thought of braving Terminal 5 - something I swore I would never do again - was itself enough to make me reconsider. The carnival that could not be contained within had spilled on to the street in a wave, and as it touched my one outstretched foot, my first instinct was to dive back into the car. Cautiously, I moved to the door, where a very male crowd throbbed in a semi-circle around the ticket checkers. On the outskirts, a man with an ipod in his mouth and his eyes locked downward was kicking rocks around while a different man, obviously an employee of the venue was weaving around him sweeping up the adhesive backs to the sticky wristbands with a half broom and dustpan. His method was fascinating; he meticulously swept each individual "back" into the pan. One sweep, one less little white square on the pavement. He even grew annoyed at pairs stuck together, prying them apart with the satellite fronds of the broom, before pushing them in one at a time, satisfied. Of course there was no shortage of squares snowing down from the ID-checkers standing only a few feet away. When I asked the gent putting my wristband on about it, he exhaled and muttered only one word, "Sad."

I made it inside, had a couple of Stellas to calm myself, and then pushed into the man-tangle just before the band came on. The only trouble is that I was deceiving myself from the beginning. There was no way I was ever going to enjoy this show, no matter what the crowd was like or how much the beer would cost or how many insane people I was to encounter in the first 5 minutes. The reason is simple: To me, Cake is not really a band anymore. They are fantastic musicians. They played flawlessly. But they felt more like a cover band playing the Cake catalog. What is interesting to me here is that moment of transformation. Is it gradual? Is it a conscious monetary choice? Does a young band's songwriting impetus disappear as more and more people scream for established songs, or does playing what the people want leave no time for anything else? I guess as I get older I don't want to hear anything I already know, see anything I have committed to memory, etc. The band's choice to transition may be more about the audience than anything else: away from the fickle towards the loyal. I can understand that. We the fickle are starving for artists to keep pushing and feeding us new brilliant, intelligent fodder for our own experience. I guess that's a lot to ask.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ocean Colour Scene - A NEW RECORD

According to a post on the OCS homepage from Simon Fowler, the band is going into the studio to record a new album, which should be released in February 2010. A tour to support the record will start in January, and although the chances are slim, those of us in the provinces can't help but fantasize that we might receive a visit.

I heard that OCS literally named themselves by picking out three random words from the dictionary. Religious zealots call this a "bible dip", except you know, with the bible. I guess that sort of thing flew in the 90's. I discovered them much later, when someone put some tracks from "Marchin' Already" on a mixtape for me. They were still unknown mostly in the U.S., but they became a favorite of mine and of the other people in my circle. I just assumed that they were too small to tour to the US, that we had discovered a gem. When I subsequently moved to London, I had the displeasure of discovering that my favorite little English band sold out stadiums with Oasis and Paul Weller. I hate large venues, so there went that, as they say. I had to wait for the day I would be back in the U.S. and I could sneak in on them, sort of like Canadians who marvel when they can see The Tragically Hip in a normal bar in the U.S. That was almost three years ago, and no tour.

Anyway, as I realize people won't read this unless there is some insight or booty: Before OCS formed, a bunch of the members including Simon were in a band called "The Fanatics". I found some mp3's of their only record "Suburban Love Songs," which is quite rare on Here they are:
"My Brother Sarah" by The Fanatics download mp3
"Suburban Love Songs" by The Fanatics download mp3
"Tight Rope" by The Fanatics download mp3
"1234" by The Fanatics download mp3

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jeff Buckley "Grace" Video

Holy Shit. So it appears there is a new video of Jeff Buckley performing "Grace" on the BBC late show. I say holy shit, because it isn't some video from Sony produced in 2004, with a Miwa Yanagi-style elevator girl wandering around the Tokyo airport, but a solid rock performance on TV from what appears to be one of the original promo tours Buckley took to the UK. I never look at youtube or vimeo or any of that (despite using both), so if I am wrong and the thing has been around forever, I bow humbly. If I am right, it is still sort of a "big whoop." I think we have all seen so many images of Buckley from this time, a long siege waged on us by Sony/Columbia/BMG and his estate, neither of which seem to tire of new greatest hits rearrangements and B-sides. This could just be a new type of shell falling on us from a different vantage, though obviously with the same trajectory. There are few bigger Buck fans than myself - this video made me initially excited and then empty and depressed. BUT CHECK IT OUT!!

BBC Show: Jeff Buckley (on MySpace)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Here We Go. Magic.

Ahh, the "secret show." The only secret being how news can actually travel so fast. Here We Go Magic - I assume as a gesture to all of their friends and fans left sad and ticket-less for the Grizzly Bear dates - put on a free show last night for rogues and penny stinkards alike at Union Pool. The crowd was dense; only in an NFL huddle are heads closer together. Through these many consciousnesses came what I can only describe as concert-going bliss. HWGM are almost the perfect live band. They have a great span with their catalog, though it is essentially only two albums worth of material. The band opened with a lot of new songs (which bodes well for their second record), but eventually they managed to cover almost everything. I climbed to the top of the stairs in order to film a song or two*, and looking down, it was as if we were all in the galley of a ship. The live music show seems to be the last beautiful place where people don't feel entitled to anything, and strangely, the ache in my bones and the sting in my eye made the experience sweeter. A great band, great musicians, great art. I don't really want to analyze this one or say anything else; I just want to enjoy it. Buy their record (I could only find it on Amazon) and get some tickets to go and see them with Grizzly Bear.
"Fangela" by Here We Go Magic download mp3

* My camera suffered a deathblow. RIP Sonny the Sony.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Isle Of White

Isle of WhiteI am not sure how this ended up in my review folder, as there doesn't seem to be a record or an EP or anything released by these guys. Anyway, Isle of White is both my favourite vacation spot when I was 9 and a band that sounds sort of like Green Day meets The Stills. Basically, this is straight-up rock n' roll. When it's good (Jen Young, Far Away), it's good. When it's not, it's a little conventional. Self-confessed classic rock geeks, these guys do cave to some of the more tried and true rhyming pairs, and I think the band itself is new-ish - so lets wait and see how their sound settles. Just to compare, I listened to a few tracks from Think Lizzy's "Jailbreak" mixed in. Romeo and The Lonely Girl put this into perspective very well. If you do head to the Isle of WIGHT, don't miss Blackgang Chine; they have a wicked tiny model village.
"Jen Young" by Isle of White download mp3 (with permission)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"A Dream I Used To Remember" - Opsvik and Jennings

photo: Michelle Arcila

So If you hadn't gathered, I am catching up on a few album reviews. I am really lucky to have a stack of great records in need of ears - it isn't always the case. A DREAM I USED TO REMEMBER is the third record from Opsvik & Jennings, who I only discovered recently, but who continue to impress me. Not to dance about architecture here, and although I will admit that I think O&J must be seen live, the new record is a treat.

ADIUTR takes a much more "band" approach the O&J sound, meaning that there are less electronic elements to this record, which to me makes it sound a little more like a jam, but not at the expense of the dynamics that continue to makes the songs build within themselves and as an album. At the highlights (Canada, Swimming Back Into The Picture) it is as good as anything they have done before. The moments that I found to stagnate a little bit (Sleepy Rush, The Good Eye) are at worst great background for the highlights. I have done a few excellent things this week with Opsvik & Jennings in the background, urging me along with an almost pedagogical nudge to pick up the pen or the guitar myself. Something in it is just really lovely; I am irrationally attached to it.

More impressive even than all of that, from May 1st until the release date (May 26), you can download the entire album for free. That's correct. Either these are some extremely generous gents, or someone at Loyal Label has been huffing paint. Here's "September and Starry-Eyed" and a link to the free download (for a limited time):

"September And Starry-Eyed" by Opsvik & Jennings download mp3 (with permission)

Opsvik and Jennings FREE ALBUM

So download the album, go and see them play at Nublu on May 25th and tell them how much you like the record - with some cash.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cocktails and Counterpoints

Kimball Gallagher performing Prokofiev's Suggestion Diabolique

Music in Manhattan comes in all shapes: pointy and tough-to-swallow, barbed and difficult to escape, sleek and penetrating. For music to really sit on, you should try and swing an invitation to "Cocktails and Counterpoints," an informative salon-style concert series, organized by David Rosensweig and Kimball Gallagher, a couple of mensches who want you to stop cowering in the face of classical music, as if it is some lengthy homework assignment. I have attended two of the concerts so far, which are held in various apartments around the city. Due to the typical format of "grand piano, studio apartment," space is finite and attendance is by invite only. But as part of the mission of C&C is to revive salon culture ubiquitously, you should reach out to the guys if you want to add your keister to the cuddle puddle, or perhaps even host.

Michael Shinn performing Liszt's Etude of Transcendental Execution

The players themselves are Juilliard teachers and performers mostly, obviously very talented but more importantly very knowledgeable. After each piece, the floor is opened up to questions and discussion among experts and novices alike. At each session, one logistics-minded listener does ask a question related to moving a grand piano into an apartment (the C&C equivalent of yelling for Freebird), but except for that, no question is too dumb to ask. Both Michael and Kimball are thrilling to watch, especially up close. The interaction between the crowd and the player in this setting is unlike anything else; performers move from the energy of the listeners, booze flows. I can't wait for the next one.

Cocktails and Counterpoints facebook group

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sorry OK Yes

So these guys sent me a digital copy of their upcoming release DOING MORE WITH LESS, and I really dig it. It's retro-rock from Italy basically: strong guitars, a 30 ton back-beat with woo-hoo's and the whole bit. In fact, it's making me feel quite up. They have been compared to an updated version of the Kinks;* I hear some Hives / PB&J / Big Star in there as well.

- Teeth clench in unison as I compare one band to another -

I will concede that Big Star might be a stretch, but I think Sorry OK Yes has Chris Bell fans in the bag. DOING MORE WITH LESS consists of 5 guitar-driven hum-alongs tackling (among other things) self-reliance, cinematic escapism and pinpointing the exact best time of the day to feel good (in case one has several options). The songs beckon from section to section, somehow always building. Put this record on during speed-induced cleaning binges, ice hockey practice, and when you are editing your own amateur skateboard mishaps for youtube.

On the "live show" front: Sorry-OK-Yes seem to be doing some great "career" things, which means they might be playing in New York at some point soon. I imagine these two put on a fantastic live show. I have listened to the EP about 12 times in a row now. I might go and have a rambunctious skip in the park.
"No Soul" by Sorry-OK-Yes Download mp3

* Kinks reference: Exitfare

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Steve Forbert @ Joe's Pub

photo: Lisa Birnbach's Blackberry

Perhaps its something about Joe's that makes every show feel like you are going to see someone you know. "Let's all go and see Steve play at Joe's Pub." Steve who? - A rare stone against first-name familiarity is unavoidable - It doesn't matter. "He's some friend of Lisa's, I imagine."

But no one knew Steve at all, despite calls of "How you holdin' up, Steve?" etc. from the audience. And his reply: "Good." Steve's fans of 20 years had come out to cheer and chomp 30 dollar steaks. They had autographs on their minds, and boomer cash for as many of the 28 studio albums that might be served up at the merch table buffet after the show. I was one of the few seeing him for the first time, perhaps a little younger than the average, more likely to come home and download some free tunes (see below), certainly unwilling to slurp orechiette during a performance.

photo: Lisa Birnbach's Blackberry

And the performance was exactly what you would expect from a veteran: almost automatic control over his guitar and vocals, but with a flare that showed nothing was over-rehearsed. The songs are a little hard to qualify, as they span the 1980's and 1990's (Forbert had a #11 hit in 1980 with "Romeo's Tune", back when the charts still existed). I think he has retained a very youthful and impassioned stage persona, which adds such a spark to the emotional lyric moments of the tunes. He also looks exactly the same as when he played the boyfriend in Cindy Lauper's 1983 video for "Girls Just Want To Have Fun." But the tunes DO have emotion - perhaps at times in place of being ironic or aloof. Indie rock isn't so much into that right now, but from a guy like Forbert I both believe and enjoy it. I wouldn't be shocked if that sensibility came back again in the future. Let's face it, it's all very cyclical.

I happened to be at the show with some newer converts. When Lisa yelled for "There's Everybody Else And Then There's You," he obliged. This obviously unleashed the crowd to do the same, and he did his best. I began to consider "music careers." There were some 150 souls at Joe's that night. Sold out. How lucky he is, really. Judging by the way music fans are evolving, it's not as certain that some of today's young guys will be able to earn the same type of cabbage 30 years into the future.

With only one other musician on stage (didn't catch his name), Forbert played the entire show in cowboy boots perched atop an inch-thick wooden mat, complete with microphone. This combined with chewing and "SHH" noises from the audience created an interesting percussive backdrop. I nursed a hope that an overzealous stomp might loose a burger into a front row lap, but it never happened.

"Romeo's Tune Live" by Steve Forbert Download mp3
"Barbara Allen" by Steve Forbert Download mp3

Monday, May 11, 2009

Glass Ghost's PHYSICAL EP

I was impressed the first time I saw Eliot Krimsky and Mike Johnson play a late night set at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn, although I was fatigued and only really took away that Eliot was a really talented keyboardist with a unique sound. My more astute partner had a reserve of wits remaining, and as a result was much more appropriately excited about Glass Ghost. Some 6 months later, I remember a great show at Goodbye Blue Monday, which caught me up. Sitting outside afterward, I was in such a contemplative haze that I nearly wasn't frightened when a man walking his bike, his nose recently bloodied, dribbled past us like a zombie, his gaze fixed at some point far off, perhaps where he wished to be.

The band's live show is impressive; Eliot has a very commanding stage presence, despite being soft-spoken and slightly reticent in person. His refusing to put me on the mailing list (is there a mailing list?) has left me a little in the dark about what has gone down since that scary Blue Monday gig and the release of PHYSICAL, but I gather that GG have been playing and recording. The 4 songs from PHYSICAL are enchanting and very astute. "Mechanical Life" beats a quiet warning into the listener by lulling him/her with an extremely tragic theme. The song is subtle, but the images of daily distraction and the mundane movements of men is sort of chilling, especially when at moments the veil is lifted. "Like A Diamond" is slow and repetitive, with the narrator expressing his own resignation about being characterized certain ways; it's a very melodic statement about the limits of language and our tendency to reduce our thoughts. All four tracks are really great - well worth a close listen.

Glass Ghost are currently recording a full length record, to be released in October on Western Vinyl. I can't wait to hear it. In the meantime, you can get the "PHYSICAL" EP (with hand-painted cover) from their myspace page to tide you over.
"Mechanical Life" by Glass Ghost Download mp3 (with permission)

They will be playing the following upcoming NYC dates:

May 23 7:00P - Highline Ballroom w/ Motel Motel and We are Country Mice
Jun 10 8:00P - Death By Audio
Jun 13 8:00P - Northside Festival @ Trophy bar
Jun 17 8:00P - Public Assembly w/ Emile Simon