Funny how this blog started out covering live music almost exclusively, then within weeks the torrents of albums began and never stopped. Remember when everyone was saying that the album was a thing of the past? Now you can record an album with your phone, and everybody’s doing it. There’s a pile – or a virtual pile – of more than fifty of them patiently waiting their turn here. And they’ll have to wait another day because today is part two of catching up on all the shows from the past couple of weeks or so.
Lorraine Leckie is as comfortable with elegant, brooding chamber pop as she is at unhinged noir Americana rock. Her most recent show at the big room at the Rockwood last month featured the former. Then headlining Sunday Salon 26 at Zirzamin this past week, Leckie and her band the Demons were at the absolute peak of their game, slashing and burning through a mix of retro glamrock, surreal downtown NYC narratives and an unhinged version of Ontario, her sideways Canadian gothic salute to her birthplace. At the Rockwood, pianist Matt Kanelos added a nonchalant menace to several of Leckie’s collaborations with Anthony Haden-Guest (from the duo’s recent, excellent collaboration, Rudely Interrupted), especially on Bliss, a cruelly sarcastic portrait of a marriage gone irreparably wrong. At Zirzamin, guitarist Hugh Pool fired off machinegunning riffage that evoked Hendrix without being slavishly derivative or drowning out the vocals. Harmony vocalist Banjo Lisa amped up the songs’ allusive menace, blending bewitchingly with Leckie’s ever-increasingly full-throated wail.
The following Saturday night, Kanelos was at Littlefield playing in his duo project, Ghosts in the Ocean with Coney Island noir siren Carol Lipnik, who continues to move further toward the avant garde. One perceptive musician in the crowd likened their hypnotically minimalist performance to a cross between early Jane Siberry and Philip Glass, and she was right on the money, other than that Lipnik has a four-octave range and uses every inch of it. The two reinvented Leonard Cohen’s Gypsy Wife as Radiohead-inflected art-rock, then Lipnik employed a magical theremin-like vibrato on a mesmerizing version of Harry Nilsson’s Lifeline. They brought out every ounce of menace in Dylan’s Man in the Long Black Coat, turned Nick Drake’s Black Dog Blues into an even more haunting, skeletal sketch – that dog is a lethal predator – and moved through Richard Thompson’s The Great Valerio with a bell-like, funereal pulse, Lipnik going down into the sinister depths of her low register. But it was the originals – the catchy, anthemic Sonadora Dreaming, the defiantly insistent Crows and the disarmingly sarcastic Oh the Tyranny – that were the most memorable. They’re at Zirzamin after the Sunday Salon this coming June 16 at 7 PM
Pete Galub followed them, playing the album release show for his fantastic new one, Candy Tears. Galub brings world-class, dangerous guitar chops to classic powerpop, with an often frenetic, menacingly noisy edge – the Steve Wynn influence has made itself more and more clear in his music in recent years. Appropriately, he had Wynn’s guitar sparring partner Jason Victor as a guest on the album’s next-to-last track (they played the whole thing through, in order). And counterintuitively, after he and Galub had reduced the song to a toxic, molten mess of overtones and raging reverb, Victor led the band back in with gentle washes of major chords. Before that, the songs ranged from what sounded like Yo La Tengo doing XTC, Roscoe Ambel doing the Beatles, Guided by Voices doing Syd Barrett, and on a suspensefully skeletal version of the album’s gorgeous title track, Wire doing Big Star. In over an hour onstage, Galub made his notes count, choosing his spots – space is just as important in his music as the actual notes. Guest Karen Mantler played plaintive art-rock piano on the bittersweetly psychedelic 300 Days in July; Greta Gertler lent her soaring multi-octave voice to one of the later numbers. Drummer Chris Moore swung the backbeats while bassist Tom Gavin varied his attack from growly and slinky to a deep, anchoring pocket that held the center while Galub plotted where he was going to go next. Galub is at Zirzamin after the Sunday Salon on May 19 at 7.