New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: indie rock

A Cool New Single and a Silent Barn Gig From Heroes of Toolik

Heroes of Toolik play deceptively catchy, hypnotically jangling post-Velvets grooves. They’ve got a new single, Aquarium School b/w Dances with Elsa just out and a show coming up at the Silent Barn (which in case you haven’t kept up, has relocated from Ridgewood to 603 Bushwick Ave. between Melrose and Jefferson in Bushwick) on July 21 at 10 PM: take the J or M to Myrtle Ave.

The A-side sets guitarist/frontman Arad Evans’ cool, nonchalant vocal to a catchy, rising riff colored with Jennifer Coates’ violin, Ted Ferguson’s accordion and ex-Lounge Lizard Peter Zummo’s soulful, lingering trombone: it wouldn’t be out of place on REM’s Chronic Town, but with a more lush, interesting arrangement than anything on that album. The B-side works a slow, swaying, burning glamrock vibe propelled by Ernie Brooks’ bass and Trip Kyle’s drums – it sounds like a more Celtic take on what Bowie was doing circa Aladdin Sane. Wharton Tiers’ production keeps everything in its place and at the same time lets the individual voices shine.

Tuneful, Noisy Intensity from Millsted

Millsted are way more tuneful and interesting than you’d expect a band who unassumingly call themselves “noise hardcore punk” to be. They’ve got a new album, Harlem – streaming at Bandcamp – and an album release show at Bowery Electric at 9:45 on July 18.

The album’s opening track, Perfume begins with a squall of icy high feedback and sheets of reverb, then Pete Belloli’s machinegun drums kick in along with the menacing, chromatic stomp from Christopher Carambot and Robert Dume’s guitars. It builds to a long, raging tremolo-picked peak that brings to mind Noir Desir or some of Jello Biafra’s more metal-flavored projects. Frontman Kelvin Uffre delivers a literally explosive ending before bassist Samuel Fernandez winds it out with a creepy little solo riff.

They keep the chromatic intensity going with Coyote, veering between a biting stadium rock pulse and a noisier, sideswiping sound. Benghazi is slow and deliciously abrasive in a vintage Live Skull/peak-era Sonic Youth vein, with twin reverb-drenched guitar lines that disintegrate into a skin-peeling of eerie, chilly textures.

The album’s best song, Televangelist brings back an uneasy, hammering pulse, built around murderously direct East Bay Ray-style horror-surf riffage that spirals out in acidic sheets of reverb, hits a misterioso interlude and then rises again. Raunchula opens with screechy feedback and then hammers along with SY-ish downstroke guitar: the way the two guitarists pair off midway through, one adding a funky edge, the other wailing up and down on the strings, is a cool touch.

Las Casas is a characteristically assaultive mashup of hardcore, prog and noiserock, ending with a nonchalantly savage pickslide. The album’s longest track, Seafoam Lovers, doesn’t mesh. The long drony outro is cool, but it feels like the band is just phoning it in up to there – New Order ripoffs are obviously not their thing. The rampaging, cumulo-nimbus closing track, Gypsy brings a headbanging focus. We need more good, loud, uncompromising bands like Millsted. Maybe the best thing about this album is that it’s available on transparent vinyl: a sound mix as rich as this deserves it.

Guitar Goddess Mary Halvorson Makes a Rock Record – Sort Of

The people who call themselves People – fiery jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson, irrepressible drummer Kevin Shea (of NYC’s funnest jazz group, Mostly Other People Do the Killing) and bassist Kyle Forester (from Crystal Stilts) have a new album titled 3xaWoman (The Misplaced Files) streaming at Telegraph Records’ site. It’s a riot, and it’s worth owning on vinyl, which is especially cool because it’s actually available in that format. The trio are playing what might or might not be the album release show at Death by Audio at 10 PM on July 2 if you’re in town.

Halvorson turns out to be an excellent singer, with a clear, balmy, attractive voice that contrasts with the snarl and menace of her guitar – any discussion of important guitarists in 2014 needs to have her front and center. Forester plays snaky, melodic lines along with Shea’s restless, tumbling, rumbling attack that sometimes provides comic relief against the guitar’s savage burn.

The album opens with a slow, moody, Twin Peaksian horn theme (that’s Peter Evans on trumpet, Sam Kulik on trombone and Dan Peck on tuba). The first of the funny numbers is called These Words Make Up the Lyrics of the Song, which quickly decays to a noisy improvisational interlude that becomes a very precisely choreographed exchange of ideas – and yet sounds completely random unless you listen closely. What’s So Woman About That Woman is a short, bristling hardcore tune, followed by A Song with Melody and Harmony and Words and Rhythm, which takes a brooding early 70s-style art-rock/Britfolk ballad and edges more menacingly toward noiserock. Lyrical jokes aside, just hearing Halvorson – one of the prime movers from Anthony Braxton’s avant garde circle – playing simple barre chords is funny all by itself.

The album’s most relevant song is the barely minute-long but cruelly spot-on Supersensible Hydrofracked Dystopia!!! The band follows that with a loopy oompah interlude, a snide acoustic parody of sorts and then Inoperable Intertrigo, a creepy, slowly marching blend of outsider jazz-inflected postrock and peak-era Sonic Youth.

Piles for Miles starts out suspiciously like a spoof of Bushwick meh-core indie pop and then works a dreampop/post-My Bloody Valentine vein. Another really short one, Psychic Recapitulation has some tasty, eerie guy-girl vocal harmonies. The Virtuous Relapse is one of the funniest numbers, with a punchline that’s too good to spoil. The Caveman Connection offers more dark punk rock humor, Halvorson’s calm vocals contrasting with a sludgy Melvins backdrop.

The funniest song here – and the funniest song of the year, bar none – is titled The Lyrics Are Simultaneously About How This Song Starts. Again, the jokes are too good to spoil – let’s just say that even if you don’t play music or write songs, it’s LMFAO good. The last song is an acoustic fragment that wouldn’t be out of place on Guided by Voices’ latest album. Who would have thought that such an unlikely lineup would end up having so much fun together, let alone make such a great record?

Enticing, Brooding, Pensive Cello Songs from Meaner Pencil

Take a look at art-rocker Lenna Pierce, a.k.a. Meaner Pencil busking on the Metropolitan Avenue G train platform. She’s imperturbable. A woman sits down next to her, completely oblivious, and Pierce doesn’t flinch. She keeps on singing, quiet and steady and resolute behind her blonde bangs and dollar store glasses. This is how you do it if you’re talented and not trustfunded and want to make a living in the subway in 2014.

With the elegant, sometimes spectacularly soaring voice of a chorister and eclectic chops on the cello, Pierce’s latest album, Senza Amanti is streaming at Bandcamp. The title has a double meaning Pierce obviously relates to – it’s Italian for “without lovers,” but is also the term for the tradition where a conductor’s instructions for classical music performance are given in Italian, i.e. “fermata” rather than “full stop”. Pierce is also emerging from the subway tunnel for a solo show at around 9 PM at Goodbye Blue Monday on June 27.

Most of Pierce’s songs here are sad and troubled. She uses her voice as an instrument just as much as her cello, often contrasting her nonchalantly breathtaking flights to the upper registers against murky, wounded cello atmospherics or simple, catchy riffs that she plays as live loops, more or less, or develops variations on them. When she’s at her most operatic, the lyrics tend to get subsumed by the music; the album is best appreciated as a mood piece. Ultimately, what she’s offering – especially in the subway – is solace amidst chaos. Which, when you think about it, is what music is all about, isn’t it?

The opening track, Lisa’s Knife, sets the stage: Pierce takes a simple, catchy blues lick and makes stately chamber pop out of it. She doesn’t even sing lyrics until it’s almost over. Her Name Was Nebraska has an apprehensively hypnotic, methodical pulse and some raga riffage as it goes along. The swooping Bar-fly, Turtledove is a springboard for Pierce’s spine-tingling vocal range. Several of the tracks alternate stark low-register washes with incisive pizzicato picking. Bits and pieces of lyrics percolate through the mist: “There was a time I needed help and no help came,” Pierce intones toward the end of Blue Bruise.

The song titles reflect Pierce’s cynical sense of humor. Evanly Hevangelical seems to be a reflection on somebody who’s not exactly a saint. Subterranean Sympathy for New York City is an unlikely lullaby. Hooligan House 2012 recalls a march to Union Square with both friends and “assholes.” The album’s most sparse song, Love’s Loss is also its catchiest. The rest of the album ranges from skeletal and minimalist to a long, hazy shot at an anthem. It’s a great drifty rainy-day listen.

Moody, Morose Rainy Day Atmospherics from Belle Mare

Do Brooklyn duo Belle Mare bring to mind the beauty of the ocean? Not really, but their music is definitely watery. Their album The Boat of the Fragile Mind – streaming at Bandcamp – is a good rainy-day listen, part jangly rock, part dreampop and part pensive acoustic tunesmithing. Some of this brings to mind Linda Draper and her recordings with Kramer during her psychedelic period in the early zeros; others remind of Marissa Nadler, or sound like demos (remember those?) for some 80s 4AD band. Frontwoman Amelia Bushell sings with a muted, often wounded, occasionally utterly defeated nonchalance over guitarist Thomas Servidone’s web of shifting atmospheric sheets and reverb-drenched acoustic strumming, with swirling electric guitar lines and echoey keyboards flowing through the mix.

While the album has a nebulously linked theme of angst and abandonment, the point of the music seems to be more about setting a mood than tracing a narrative. Bushell varies her delivery from a subdued, stoic alto to soaring highs where she cuts loose with angst and sometimes echoes of sheer terror. Servidone is a one-man guitar orchestra: he puts a ton of reverb on everything, from the gentle acoustic chords that underpin pretty much all of the album’s eight tracks, to fluid washes of dreampop and the ever-present, dub-inflected, often sepulchral sonic bits and pieces that waft throughout the songs.

The opening track, Charade, is a more noir take on Phil Spector-ish pop, through the watery lens of dreampop. The Once Happy Heart builds from atmospherics and brooding contemplation to a big vocal crescendo over chiming keys – “I give myself over to hideous sights,” Bushell muses. The title cut, a diptych of sorts, ponders how “we hoped that we might make it out alive,” building to an unexpectedly anthemic outro with distant, ominously boomy drums. After that, Bushell shoots for an oldschool 70s soul ambience on All This time, a feel she maintains on the next track, Deep in Your Dark.

The duo wrap the jaunty if perturbed folk-rock of The City in a gauzy disguise with layers of fluttering vocalese and pinging electric piano. “If it’s all right I’d like to find a suitable time to let out my reheased lines, hope they don’t scare you,” Bushell intones on the next track, guitar and disembodied voices adding an especially ghostly edge in the background. The album ends with its most experimental track, So Long.

This album came out over a year ago. So what took this blog so long to get to it? Bad recordkeeping, plain and simple. If the sky overhead looks ominous, kick back and drift away with this…if you dare.

A Brief, Unhinged Masterpiece from the Skull Practitioners

Jason Victor is the best lead guitarist/sparring partner Steve Wynn‘s ever had. That’s high praise, considering Karl Precoda’s unhinged work in Wynn’s iconic 80s band the Dream Syndicate. Then there’s Chris Brokaw, whose uneasy riffage in the early days of Wynn’s Miracle 3 band was probably the most menacingly gorgeous that group’s ever had. And let’s not forget Rich Gilbert’s similarly paint-peeling playing in Wynn’s sinister, ferocious mid-90s band. But Victor stands alone as a master of both noise and tunefulness, shifting gears in a split second from savage to beautifully terse. For a taste of some of the wildest guitar jams ever attempted, let alone recorded, check out Wynn’s archive.org channel – you can get lost there for days.

But Victor also plays in other bands. There was an adrenalizing, sludgy unit called DBCR who recorded an ep a couple of years ago that you should hear if noise is your thing. What’s even better is ST1, the awesome ep by the Skull Practitioners, Victor’s band with Kenneth Levine and Alex Baker, which is also up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download (although what you really should own is the cassette recording – you have a boombox, right?). It’s as good as the best side on the Stooges’ Metallic KO.

This ep is so beautifully evil and assaultive and catchy despite itself that there’s really nothing that compares with it this year other than G.W. Sok’s album with Action Beat, and this is more tuneful. The first track evokes both Daydream Nation era Sonic Youth and 80s noiserock legends Live Skull, with desperate vocals from Ana Barie: “I’ll bring it down” is the mantra that she hits after every litany of doomed imagery. Victor hits a haphazard raga-ish solo that eventually echoes itself to death, then a vicious, Blue Oyster Cult-style progression as Barie wails to the end.

The second track, Nelson D (a reference to the New York Governor responsible for the state’s paleoconservative drug laws, maybe?) sounds like Arthur Lee on crank, an endless series of whistling, whirring, toxic guitar lines sputtering and chopping through riff-rock and then dreampop interludes: the Steve Wynn influence is everywhere. Foreign Wives is sort of their Psychotic Reaction: spiky icepick intro, sarcastically wailing guitar leads, brisk new wave beat. The final track is the longest, with an out-of-focus vocal from Tom Derwent, long drones, allusions to funk, sick bent-note mental asylum screams from the guitars going on for what seems minutes and an ending that the band finally allows to completely disintegrate - considering how tight they’ve kept everything this far, they’ve earned it. Crank this up whenever: getting up for work, coming home furious after a bad day at work, smoking up, it’ll hit the spot.

Guided by Voices’ Cool Planet: The Best Album of Short Songs Ever Made?

Guided by Voices’ sixth album (!!!!!!) since the turn of the decade, Cool Planet, is out today (this Spotify link should work once the album officially hits). As usual, Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout eschew conventional pop song structure. Is this the album that they didn’t have time to finish? Is it the collection of sketches that Pollard didn’t have time to flesh out? Here’s another theory: these songs were meant to be exactly as they are: most of them two minutes or less, a single verse and chorus at the very most. Meaning that this album will never bore you. Even if you don’t like what the band is doing – which is hard to figure, considering how deliciously tuneful pretty much everything here is – it will be over practically before you could reach for the fast-forward button. Is this the best album of short songs ever made? Probably. Has anyone even made an album with so many short songs, for that matter? Outside of hardcore punk (and that lame-ass Magnetic Fields hundred-song monstrosity), you have to go back a long ways, to the Minutemen and Young Marble Giants and the postpunk era, and this is infinitely more interesting.

There are eighteen tracks here, alluding to the Beatles and the Who and the Kinks and especially David Bowie and others from the glamrock canon but never completely embracing any of those artists’ styles. Pollard’s genius is that he’ll nick a tune or an idea from that period but never go over the top with it. And Sprout’s creepy folk-rock is characteristically excellent, if more stripped down here than ever. And there’s zero filler! That’s a big deal – over the ongoing album marathon, for every Trashcan Full of Nails, there’s been one of those half-baked 4 AM piano-and-drums interludes that you put up with from Pollard just because the other stuff is so good.

The ba-bump Beatlesque stomp of the Orwellian Authoritarian Zoo (an Animal Farm reference) opens the album. It would be the Move if it had a busy bassline, but bassist Greg Demos keeps things pretty low-key in tandem with Kevin March’s even simpler, hard-hitting drums, although what Demos does as the album goes along, spinning and soaring as chorus after chorus hits a peak, is awfully cool.

Fast Crawl works a muted Syd Barrett vibe and then goes out with sputter barely a minute thirty seconds in. Psychotic Crush is sardonic early 70s glam and it’s over in barely over a minute. Sprout’s brooding acoustic frames Costume Makes the Man, the electric guitars (Mitch Mitchell and probably Pollard, who seems to be the one playing the occasional jagged, incisive lead here) coming in at the end.

Hat of Flames (a T.S. Eliot reference, maybe?) is arguably the most prototypical GBV number here – Sprout’s signature, roaring, reverb-drenched low register is the dead giveaway every time. These Dooms sets one of a litany of surreal lyrics to a simple reverb guitar track: it could be a demo, but then again, it’s fine just the way it is. Table at Fool’s Tooth is a clinic in how much 60s psych a band can throw at you in a minute fifteen seconds. By contrast, the album’s longest song, All American Boy blends Ziggy Stardust riffage with a steady All the Young Dudes anthemic pulse, stately piano and a woozily wistful aging rocker’s perspective.

The Bone Church goes unexpectedly and successfuly into early 70s Move/Sabbath riff-rock. Bad Love Is Easy to Do layers the guitars dynamically, with a very funny quote at the end. The No Doubters, a catchy glamrock tune, seems to be a low-key dis directed at haters. Cream of Lung, with its vintage 60s effects and enigmatically creepy tune, is the one song here that screams out the most loudly to keep going for another four minutes or so. But the rumbling, Beatlesque Males of Wormwood Mars, a puckish outer-space scenario with some of the album’s most luscious three-guitar sonics, makes perfect sense in under three minutes.

Ticket to Hide pairs Sprout’s wary acoustic against organ and electric guitar, with a funny mantra on the way out. The title cut, with its tumbling drums and catchy descending riff, is the closest thing to the Who here. There’s also You Get Every Game, a snidely deadpan one-chord miniature; Pan Swimmer, which perfectly crystallizes the band (catchy powerpop verse, nebulous turnaround); and Narrated by Paul, a woozy if simple piano-and-synth sketch. Do we know what Pollard’s droll stream-of-consciousness lyrics are about? That’s something to consider as the riffs kick in, one after the other. We take this band for granted: what they’ve done over the past couple of years is pretty amazing by itself. Add to that the fact that they’ve been making albums for over twenty years, Pollard for ten more than that. To put this in perspective: could the Stones have made one this good in 1994?

The Sound of the Fab Four Inspires Andrew Collberg’s New Album

Swedish-born, New Zealand-raised and now based in Tucson, Andrew Collberg is a connoisseur of many retro rock styles. He has a background in southwestern gothic, and a couple of years ago put out a killer single, Dirty Wind b/w Back on the Shore, a rich evocation of classic paisley underground rock in the same vein as True West or the Dream Syndicate. These days he’s mining sounds that evoke ELO and the Beatles, adding layers of the blippy faux-vintage keyboard textures that are all the rage in the Bushwick indie scene on his latest album, Minds Hits. The whole thing is streaming at Spotify.

The opening track, Rich, is totally ELO, a soul-tinged update on the sound Jeff Lynne achieved with Evil Woman, then morphing into something of a glamrock song with a fuzztone guitar solo before coming back to the wickedly catchy, funk-tinged verse. From there Collberg segues into Hole and its Penny Lane bounce, followed by Take a Look Around, a retro 60s soul tune with Abbey Road touches: la-la-la backing vocals, elegant broken-chord guitar lines, organ and a terse faux electric harpsichord solo. After that, the long, hypnotically vamping Pepper Peter keeps the Abbey Road vibe going, this time on the Lennon side of the street.

Tear has Collberg playing precise soul chords that rise to a swaying, ba-BUMP late-Beatles groove that grows more majestic as he adds layers of guitars and keys. Stars takes the sound about a dozen years forward into ornately catchy Jeff Lynne space-pop territory, while Snide Creepy Soul takes an insistent, similarly hooky ELO-style pop tune thirty more years into the future with a mix of vintage and fake-vintage keyboard voicings.

Easy Lazy Dome speeds up a Hey Jude ambience doublespeed and then takes a turn into unexpectedly ominous psychedelia, fueled by shivery lead guitar. Cantaloupe looks back to Sergeant Pepper, complete with tumbling Ringo-esque drums. The album winds up with Hit the Gas, which sets a classic Lennon-style tune over boomy lo-fi drums before it picks up with increasingly ornate layers of guitar/keyboard orchestration. Isn’t it amazing that fifty years after the Beatles first hit, artists and audiences alike continue to be obsessed with them? Fans of Elliott Smith, Abby Travis, and of course ELO and the Fab Four will have a good time with this.

The Baseball Project’s 3rd Album: As Much Fun As an Unassisted Triple Play

The Baseball Project‘s new album, simply titled 3rd, sends you straight to Retrosheet. Baseball may not be the national pastime anymore, but this album is as deep and rich as the lore and the lure of the game. For fans, it’s pretty close to heaven – and for those who aren’t, it won’t alienate anybody because the tunes are so memorable and the playing is so flat-out excellent. What began as a one-off Steve Wynn side project has grown from a well-conceived novelty into a perennial World Series contender. The band is Hall of Fame caliber: Wynn (the Stan Musial of rock) on guitars and most of the lead vocals along with REM’s Peter Buck and Mike Mills plus the Minus Five’s Scott McCaughey and Linda Pitmon, who reasserts herself as the best and most consistently interesting rock drummer out there. The album isn’t up at Spotify yet, but the band’s first two are, so keep an eye out for it.

What makes the Baseball Project ultimately so much fun is that their songs celebrate the weird, the obscure and the tragic rather than the obvious. So many songs about baseball are cheesy and don’t really have a lot to do with the game, but the Baseball Project plunge into the history and the personalities involved, as well as what it’s like to be a diehard fan (and these guys really, really are). Although Wynn, the bandleader, has adopted the Yankees as his team, he’s written insightfully and poignantly about the Boston Red Sox, among other teams, on past albums. This time out, players from the Evil Empire are represented by four songs, while the Atlanta Braves – Mills’ and Buck’s team – also get plenty of props.

The first track is Stats, a pseudo-Ventures spacerock stomp with a seemingly random litany of numbers recited by Pitmon: random, that is, until you realize that’s Nolan Ryan’s season-record 383 strikeouts, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak…and then the guessing gets really good. For those who don’t know, stats are crack for baseball fans and so is this song.

Two of the best songs here, neither of which namecheck the player involved, are the most depressing. From Nails to Thumbtacks traces the career arc of one of the early steroid casualties, Lenny Dykstra, who went from spare outfielder with the Mets to sudden and prodigiously beefed-up stardom with the Phillies, only to wind up behind bars after a long, long downward spiral. “You gotta be high to fall this far,”McCaughey intones over a backdrop that’s part Ramones, part new wave. And 13, arguably the best song on the album, looks at the A-Roid scandal with even more of a caustic eye than Wynn cast on Roger Clemens in the gorgeous Twilight of My Career, from the band’s first album Frozen Ropes & Dying Quails. Over a corrosively sarcastic spaghetti western tune, Wynn explains how Alex Rodriguez took #13 as his Yankees uniform number since Babe Ruth wore #3, but ultimately it was hubris rather than bad luck that scuttled the third baseman’s assault on Henry Aaron’s home run record.

Wynn evokes his classic 2001 riff-rocker Strange New World in Hola America, the brooding account of Cuban defector Orlando Hernandez, whose World Series stardom with the Yankees obscures the alienation he must have felt while estranged from his family in a new culture. McCaughey celebrates Dock Ellis, not for the Pirates pitcher’s acid-fueled no-hitter, but for his abbreviated start on May 1, 1974 when he decided to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds lineup as payback for what he perceived as hotdogging – and also to energize his lacklustre team, a ploy that actually worked! Mystified manager Danny Murtaugh pulled Ellis five batters into the first inning, but the hurler’s message had been heard loud and clear.

The mid-90s REM-style powerpop hit To the Veterans Committee makes a soaringly persuasive case for enshrining longtime Braves centerfielder Dale Murphy in the Hall of Fame. Not only was Murphy one of his era’s top power hitters, he made the tricky transition from catcher to centerfield – where he won more than one Gold Glove – and he also was (and maybe still is) a competent piano player!

Box Scores celebrates a great tradition that someday may only be accessible on your phone, but as Buck reminds, “Every summer, every day, the box scores keep me sane.” The only really obvious track here, The Babe, sends a shout-out to the Sultan of Swat over a regal Hey Jude pulse lowlit by some deliciously watery vintage chorus-box guitar. Another tribute to a home run king, They Don’t Know Henry makes haunting 60s style garage-psych rock out a tip of the cap to Henry Aaron.

McCaughey cynically ponders what makes the low-budget Oakland A’s so good – and connects the dots between Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter and the recently retired, mostly mediocre Dallas Braden – over a slinky Stones/T-Rex groove. Mills and Pitmon share vocals on Pascual on the Perimeter, memorializing the afternoon when the Braves’ eccentric righthander ostensibly got lost on the way to the ballpark – and wouldn’t you know it, Phil Niekro started in his place. Part Dream Syndicate, part True West and maybe part Yo La Tengo, it’s got some of the best snarling, burning guitar of any of the tracks here.

Larry Yount, a pensive folk-rock number by Wynn, recalls the older brother of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, whose single big league appearance ended before he’d thrown a pitch. He hurt himself while warming up after coming in from the Astros bullpen late in 1971 and never again appeared in a game.

The material gets funnier as the album goes along. The Baseball Card Song is a country patter tune rippling along with Buck’s banjo and a rapidfire rap by Wynn…see, he’d held onto the collection he’d amassed as a kid until this big Wall Street guy offered him some stock in a startup in exchange, and then the fun really starts. Another patter song riffs on both Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue and Heart’s Barracuda, a sideways look at a fireballing Red Sox righty who never won a single Cy Young Award despite his 511 career victories. Instead of the usual tired round-the-bases metaphors, the wry faux 70s boudoir soul number Extra Inning of Love looks at another kind of game you play at night from the perspective of a pitcher rather than a batter. And the album ends with Take Me Out to the Ballgame done Ramones style.

There’s also the They Played Baseball, a folk-rock rogues’ gallery of sorts: “Durocher had his lip, and Bob Welch his great big wine, Piniella had his temper, Mendoza had his line and it’s a fine line,” McCaughey grins. Which perfectly sums up this album, and this band: if you know who those guys are, this is for you. Now let’s get Steve Wynn to throw out the first pitch at a Mets home game sometime this year!

Alternately Catchy and Noisy Sounds from Brooklyn Art-Rock Trio Goddess

Goddess may not be the optimum choice of band name if branding is the issue. But this particular Brooklyn Goddess – a trio with single-string fiddle, dulcimer, Casio and calm, unselfconsciously warm, folk-tinged, two-woman harmonies – has an intriguing name-your-price ep titled Mind Control up at Bandcamp. If the artsiest side of art-rock is your thing, you’ll love this stuff. This group likes circular melodies and vamping out on them, which they do best on the opening number, Confinement. Their songs are all about contrasts and juxtapositions, calm versus agitation, smoothness versus abrasiveness: in this case, it’s stark overtones from the fiddle against an attractively stately piano melody that runs over and over. The lyrics are enigmatic: is it “All I could find,” or “I’ll occupy?” Maybe it’s both.

The second track, Candle Magick, paints a picture of an animated black magic ritual against a gentle lullaby melody with faux mellotron and Rhodes electric piano settings, and a flute that adds an off-center edge midway through: it’s so pretty that it might well be sarcastic. The title track sets the hint of a tune emerging from the dulcimer over an increasingly abrasive string drone. Once again, the lyrics are on the opaque side: “Catch some rays, free your mind…special rates, free your mind.” It gets more ominous as it goes along.

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