New York Music Daily

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Tag: noir music

The Best New York Rock Show of 2014 and Its Aftermath

The best New York rock show of 2014 was a couple of weeks ago at Bowery Electric – there’s  no way there’s going to be anything this good coming up in the next few weeks, end of story. The triplebill of folk noir singer Jessie Kilguss, lit-rock songwriter/bandleader Ward White (the two playing the album release shows for their latest ones) and Americana vet Matt Keating made for a transcendent and surprisingly thematic night of hard-hitting, emotionally potent songcraft. Much as their styles, and sets, were vastly different, they share a power and individuality as singers, as tunesmiths and lyricists.

Kilguss played first, backed by a terse, expertly tuneful band with Jason Loughlin on lead guitar, Andrea Longado on acoustic guitar, John Kengla on bass and Rob Heath on drums. Kilguss has one of those voices you hear maybe once every ten years: it’s that affecting, and sad, and unselfconsciously deep. It’s a little misty, yet direct to the point of being scary. Her new album is titled Devastate Me, but ultimately it’s the listener who’s devastated – in a good way.

Kilguss went up high when a chorus would kick in, because that’s where her songs are the most anthemic, but she doesn’t belt very hard – or at least didn’t seem to. She opened with the new album’s title track and its regretful “I let myself fall” refrain. Then she played the the single best song of the night, Red Moon. On one level, it’s a Hunger Games milieu, rebels hiding from an unseen gestapo, but on another it’s a chilling portrait of personal decline as vivid as anything Bukowski ever wrote.

The rest of the songs were just as memorable if not quite as intense: Loughlin’s guitar, always hovering around a central tone, fueled a lingering sense of unease. Kilguss followed the downcast resignation of I’m Your Prey with the indelibly catchy Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight – on the surface a wistful reminiscence of a country childhood, but ultimately a tale of urban claustrophobia. The band added a resonantly psychedelic edge to A Safe Distance From You, and a couple of louder, more powerpop-oriented earlier songs, then took that to a peak on Train Song, with its towering Pink Floyd grandeur and cynically eerie narrative inspired by the time Kilguss passed out on the subway.

You might think that someone who writes songs like hers might be distant and introverted, but when she talked to the crowd she was conversational and funny. She told the crowd that recently, she finally broke out her guitar for a live show – at a hospital ward. And Wynton Marsalis was there – visiting, not convalescing, as it turned out. So her attempt to make her debut with the guitar in a low-pressure situation kind of fizzled when the famed jazz trumpeter heard her play…and he invited her to a rehearsal at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the kind of endorsement that just falls into your lap. Kilguss and band are at Red Hook Bait & Tackle on a twinbill with Matt Keating on Dec 12 starting at around 9.

Where Kilguss is disarmingly direct, nobody writes songs that stand up to more repeated listening – or for that matter require more repeated listening – than Ward White does. The images and changes in narrators in the songs in his all-too-brief, roughly fifty-minute set flashed by in rapid succession, to the point where it made the most sense just to enjoy the suspenseful builds to the anthemic choruses, the jokes that would jump out, and the raw yet ornately orchestrated power of the band onstage. The night’s single most intense musical moment was toward the end of the fiery, pounding Bikini, where violinist Claudia Chopek built a shivery crescendo evoking the nuclear holocaust on the uninhabitable island of its title. Keyboardist Joe McGinty’s elegant electric harpsichord (yeah, harpsichord, just like on all those old Doors albums) gave both surprising gravitas and tongue-in-cheek drollery to the surreal Bacharach S&M pop of Alphabet of Pain and the jazzy Rash, which had its own torture references.

Bassist Bryan Smith supplied the equivalent of a second lead guitar to bolster White’s own sometimes searing, sometimes aching lead guitar lines over Everet Almond’s crushing drums while Victoria Liedtke’s backing vocals added another layer of punch and poignancy. Meanwhile, White teased the crowd with one narrative voice after another. There was the narcissistic gay boss (Rudy Giuliani? Michael Bloomberg? Bill DiBlasio?) kicking the male hooker out of his place over a faux-disco beat on I’ll Make It Up to You; the quiet sadist ready to grill his prey in the Lynchian Dolores on the Dotted Line; and the dotty, aging protagonist intent on buying a mylar balloon for a granddaughter? girlfriend? The answer wasn’t clear. That’s not White’s style lately. For more intrigue, he’s playing Mercury Lounge at 7 PM on Dec 2 with this band.

Matt Keating brought the night full circle, both with his band and his songs. Lead guitarist Steve Mayone echoed Loughlin’s defiant refusal to resolve, to allow any easy answers, throughout Keating’s restless, uneasy but explosively crescendoing songs. There was a lot of new material on the bill, no surprise since Keating has a new album due out early next year. Bassist Jason Mercer and drummer Greg Wieczorek alternated between a steady backbeat and a slinky soul groove as Keating opened with an angst-fueled narrative focusing on a woman who did some time behind bars for “giving the finger to a uniform” – Springsteen and Tom Waits only wish they wrote stories of the down-and-out this vividly.

From there Keating led the group through the metaphorically-charged Maker of Carousels – a devastatingly sad waltz – to a searing, anthemic take of his concert favorite Lonely Blue, then a departure into Coney Island soul, then lushly gorgeous janglerock with the airy but chilling Saint Cloud and Louisiana, a biting post-Hurricane Katrina narrative. Keating joins Kilguss on the bill in Red Hook on Dec 16.

Brilliant, Sometimes Haunting Lapsteel Player Brings His Genre-Smashing Instrumentals to Freddy’s

To New York audiences, lapsteel virtuoso Raphael McGregor might be best known as a key ingredient in Brain Cloud, Dennis Lichtman’s western swing band. Before that, McGregor served as the source of the vintage country flavor in Nation Beat‘s driving mashup of Brazilian maracatu and Americana sounds. But he’s also a first-rate, eclectic composer and bandleader in his own right. In addiiton to his more-or-less weekly Monday 7 PM Barbes residency with Brain Cloud, he has a monthly residency at Freddy’s, where he’ll be on Nov 20 at 8 PM.

His most recent show at Barbes leading a band was a quartet gig with with Larry Eagle on drums, Jim Whitney on bass and Rob Hecht on violin. They opened with a moody oldschool noir soul vamp and quickly built it into a brooding rainy-day theme over Eagle’s tense shuffle beat. Hecht took his time and then went spiraling and sailing upwards. Why is it that blues riffs inevitably sound so cool when played by strings? McGregor had a hard act to follow so he walked the line between Lynchian atmosphere and an express-track scurry, then handed off to Whitney who picked up his bow and took the song all the way into the shadows.

McGregor began the night’s second number with a mournful solo lapsteel intro that moved slowly toward C&W and then shifted uneasily into moody swing. It was like a more animated take on the Friends of Dean Martinez doing oldtime string band music. After that, they put a swinging southwestern gothic spin on a Django Reinhardt tune.

They also did a couple of straight-up western swing numbers, a brisk trainwhistle romp and a fetching version of Waltz Across Texas With You: much as they were a lot of fun, McGregor was pleasantly surprised to find that the crowd was more interested in hearing his originals. They opened their second set with a piece that began as an Indian-inflected one-chord jam that morphed into a bluesy duel between violin and bass, followed by a Frisellian pastoral interlude and then back to trip-hop Indian funk – all that in under ten minutes. All this is just a small sampling of what McGregor could pull off at Freddy’s.

An Enticing Gutbucket Stand at the Stone and a Characteristically Edgy Album From Their Bandleader

Since the late 90s, Gutbucket have distinguished themselves as purveyors of moody, sardonic, cinematic instrumentals that combine jazz improvisation with noirish rock themes. You could call them a more jazz-inclined version of Barbez, and you wouldn’t be far off. If you miss the days when Tonic was still open and edgy sounds were an everyday thing on the Lower East Side, you’ll be psyched to know that Gutbucket are doing a stand at the Stone from Nov 18 through 23 with two sets nightly at 8 and 10 PM; cover is $10. As you would expect from pretty much everybody who plays there, the band are doing several interesting collaborations and are making a live album in the process. The most enticing set of all might be the early show on opening night when the music will have some added lushness via the strings of the Jack Quartet.

Frontman/guitarist Ty Citerman also has a wickedly fun, tuneful, genre-defying sort-of-solo Tzadik album, Bop Kabbalah, out with his Gutbucket bandmates Ken Thomson on bass clarinet, Adam D. Gold on drums plus Balkan trumpeter Ben Holmes. Although the themes draw on traditional Jewish music, jazz tropes and rock riffage take centerstage. The first track, The Cossack Who Smelt of Vodka (possible ommitted subtitle: what cossack doesn’t smell of vodka?) follows a tensely cinematic, noirish trajectory to a long outro where Citerman’s tensely insistent guitar pairs against Thomson’s calmness.

Conversation with Ghosts works a catchy minor-key theme punctuated by droll leaps and bounds up to a long Holmes solo, then the band reprises it but much more loudly and darkly. Snout moves from squirrelly free jazz into a brief Romany dance, then the band refract it into its moody individual pieces, transforming what under other circumstances would be a party anthem into a fullscale dirge.

The Synagogue Detective bookends a tongue-in-cheek cartoon narrative with alternately biting and goodnaturedly prowling solos from Citerman, Holmes and Thomson. Likewise, they liven the skronky march After All That Has Happened with squalling Steven Bernstein-esque flourishes. In lieu of hip-hop flavor, Talmudic Breakbeat has an unexpected lushness, neatly intertwining voices, some drolly shuffling rudiments from Gold and the album’s most snarling guitar solo.

The album’s most deliciously epic track, Exchanging Pleasantries with a Wall moves up from echoey spaciousness, through a disorienting, funereal groove that brings to mind low-key Sonic Youth as much as it does Bernstein’s arrangements of old Hasidic nigunim. The closing cut puts a clenched-teeth, crescendoing noir dub spin on a broodingly austere old prayer chant. Now where can you hear this treat online? Um…try Citerman’s soundcloud page and youtube channel for starters; otherwise, the Stone is where it’s at, next week.

Another Creepy Masterpiece and a Bell House Show by O’Death

O’Death are one of those great bands who sound like no other group on the planet – and yet, they’re one of the most widely imitated acts around. Part Nashville gothic, part oldtimey, part circus rock and part noir cabaret, like all successful bands these days they make their living on the road. And they just had their tour van stolen – with all their gear in it. They’re in the midst of crowdsourcing an emergency fund to get some new gear, an effort that’s happily been pretty successful, but what’s been especially problematic is that the kind of vintage instruments they typically play aren’t available off the shelf. In the meantime, they’re got a characteristically excellent new album, Out Of Hands We Go – streaming at Northern Spy Records – and a New York show coming up at around 11 PM on Nov 14 at the Bell House. General admission is $15 – if there’s any band that could use your support right about now, it’s these guys.

Frontman/guitarist Greg Jamie’s voice is as menacingly quavery as ever, throughout a typical mix of creepy Edward Gorey-esque tableaux and disquietingly befuddling narratives. Arthur Lee is a frequent reference, especially on All Is Light, with its delicately orchestrated Forever Changes vibe, and the off-kilter Apple Moon, with its delicious blend of steel guitar and what sounds like a mellotron. Neil Young is another, most obviously on Go & Play with Your Dead Horses – but in this case it sounds like Neil Y on some obscure but powerful mushrooms.

The slowly shuffing Herd, which opens the album, takes the point of view of someone who’d like to stray – but Jamie only implies that. That’s what makes his songs so interesting – much as some of his images can be flat-out-ghoulish, he always draws the listener in with them. Likewise, the bluesy circus rock tune Wrong Time, which might or might not be about cannibalism, swaying its way up to a hypnotic Magical Mystery Tour psych-rock pulse.

“Maybe we’ll burn this house together and drag our corpses cross the floor,” Jamie muses on Roam, the hardest-rocking track here. “Like sleeping naked in the rain – wouldn’t have bothered anyone, but would have rendered me insane,” Jamie’s narrator nonchalantly intones on the understatedly morbid, Tom Warnick-esque Wait for Fire. The longest track here, We Had a Vision, blends layers of stark strings with Gabe Darling’s banjo and Jamie’s gracefully picked minor-key acoustic guitar.

“Don’t tell me I don’t know what I saw, crushed leaves on the morning fire – I’ve stoked all I can from your desire,” Jamie casually explains in the ominously dancing waltz Heal in the Howling. The most ornate, and arguably most menacing track here is Isavelle, a murder ballad fueled by Bob Pycior’s icepick violin. The album ends with another macabre waltz, its narrator pondering what to do with his victims – it brings to mind Bobby Vacant at his most uneasy. As usual, O’Death have turned in (dug up? exhumed?) yet another great album, one of the best of 2014. And if you want the band to make more, if you know of anyone who’s got a vehicle they could borrow to finish their East Coast tour, or who might be selling a decent quality used guitar amp, bass amp or maybe a bass head or cab, put them in touch with the band.

Mesiko Reincarnate a Dangerously Delicious Psychedelic Sound

Two thirds of Mesiko – frontwoman/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Raquel Bell and guitarist David Marshall – first came together in Norden Bombsight, a relentlessly intense psychedelic art-rock crew destined for cult status in future decades. That band was together for a couple of years, played maybe a couple dozen shows, put out a single, brilliantly careening, noir-splattered album and then called it quits. Undeterred, Bell and Marshall went on to team up with another multi-instrumentalist, Ray Rizzo – a Randi Russo alum who’s one of the most sought-after drummers in rock – and created Mesiko to keep their distinctive, eerily surreal, psychedelic sound alive. Their bandcamp page – where their new album Solar Door is streaming – is tagged “rock chant folk noir psychedelic Brooklyn.” But they go a lot further than any of those categories would suggest, often in a single song: Marshall’s guitar multitracks are terse and elegant but also menacing, bordering on macabre. The Walkabouts make a good comparison. Mesiko are playing the album release show at around 11 at Bowery Electric on Nov 9 for a measly ten bucks.

Yellowbirds bassist Annie Nero plays the punchy, syncopated no wave-funk hook on the album’s catchy opening track, Hamptons BJ. “My magic number is infinity”, Bell deadpans as Marshall skronks around, early 80s style. Then they go all dreamy and echoey, then pull it all together with a late 70s glampunk strut. All that in just under five minutes.

Metronome mingles rustic acoustic and rippling electronic textures into a psych-folk groove that looks straight back to the Grateful Dead. Swamp builds from a slowly stalking, insectile intro to a nocturnally hypnotic sway that’s part Dead and part Norden Bombsight, then a creepy reverb-fueled southwestern gothic interlude.

Clint contrasts Bell’s stark vocals with Marshall’s more low-key delivery over brooding Americana-flavored psychedelia: “Is that how you got that ribbon and that scar?” Bell asks pointedly, Marshall ripping the lid off with a snarling reverb guitar solo a little later on. Lies takes a familiar Lou Reed theme and reinvents it with a punchier beat via Rizzo’s menacing tumbles and rolls, Nero’s neo-Motown groove and Marshall’s diamond-cutter tremolopicking.

Daphane’s Counter builds from spare, nocturnal country-blues ambience to a hypnotic paisley underground sway: the mantra is “that particular shadow looks like you.” I’m Harry Cleveland takes a brief, breathless departure into X-style punk rock; then the band methodically work their way from spacey atmospherics to an unhinged, funky pulse with Grey Room. From there they make their way through an unexpectedly poppy number spiced with jaunty baritone sax, then an equally successful detour into oldschool soul. They close the album with the distantly disquieting Mockingbird and its early 70s Pink Floyd resonance: “Put away the mockingbird inside your lungs, keep your cellular calls to a minimum,” Rizzo sings as the band rises to a squall. As psychedelic art-rock in 2014 goes, it doesn’t get any better than this. Is this the best album of the year? It’s one of the best half-dozen or so, no question.

An Understatedly Devastating Masterpiece and a Bowery Electric Album Release Show from Jessie Kilguss

What’s the likelihood that two of the best albums of 2014 would be released within an hour of each other on the same night at the same venue? Unlikely as that might seem, it’s happening this Nov 11 at Bowery Electric when dark Americana songwriter Jessie Kilguss kicks off the night at 8 PM with the album release show for her latest one, Devastate Me (streaming at Spotify). And her crowd has the good luck to be able to stick around and see Ward White play the release show for his similarly tuneful, menacingly literate new album Ward White Is the Matador about an hour later. If that’s not enough ominously lyrical rock for you, Matt Keating is playing at 10. It’s hard to think of a better triplebill in this city this year – and it’s only ten bucks.

Kilguss has made other good albums, but this is her quantum leap. The title is apt, but in a quietly devastating way. Kilguss’ voice has a matter-of-factness that gives her wounded narratives an intensity that’s all the more shattering for its nonchalance, through an understatedly riveting mix of crescendoing, jangly, purist Americana rock and Nashville gothic tunesmithing.

The title track sets the stage, guitarist Jason Loughlin, bassist John Kengla and drummer Rob Heath keeping a terse, even skeletal pulse as Kilguss builds her narrative to a sudden, creepy noir chord change and then the soaring chorus where the layers of guitars begin to build. The band adds all kinds of artful touches, from how Kilguss sails all the way to the top of her range as the chorus kicks in, to where the glockenspiel takes it out.

The album’s best song – and one of the best songs of the entire year – is Red Moon. It could be a Civil War tale, or a present-day account of freedom fighters on the run from the gestapo, fueled by Loughlin’s searing slide work. And it’s all the more powerful for Kilguss’ portrayal of the political as personal:

If you want a happy ending
It depends on where you stop your story
Me, I started at the top
I’ve been working my way down
Such a long way down

I’m Your Prey is the biggest rock anthem here, again following a steadily upward trajectory as Kilguss gives voice to a girl who couldn’t resist temptation even while she was staring trouble straight in the eye. The muted sadness and longing in her voice on the wistful Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight – referencing the Alexandra Fuller memoir- will rip your face off, crepuscular organ mingling with the web of guitars underneath. And You Didn’t Do Right By Me takes an old country waltz theme and makes purist janglerock out of it, ending with an achingly vivid blend of wordless vocals and slide guitar.

A Safe Distance From You keeps the noir atmosphere going, from its opening bass/drums pulse to its big, anthemic chorus and choir of ominously reverberating slide guitars – again, Loughlin keeps the flames flickering with an intensity to match Kilguss’ voice. Likewise, Train Song works lingering, nocturnal, Pink Floyd resonance all the way to a big psychedelic outro. “It’s a beautiful day to lose control, leave this life for a little while,” Kilguss muses, leaving the listener to figure out what she means by that. The final track, City Map builds a moodily dreamy, resigned midsummer ambience, her narrator’s placemap defined by”people I’ve loved, victories and their declines.” All of this proves that it’s actually possible to transition from the theatre to music – as an actress, Kilguss has shared the stage with Marianne Faithfull, among others.

A Distinctive Album and a Couple of Intriguing New York Shows from Irish Songsmith Lisa O’Neill

Irish songwriter Lisa O’Neill likes waltzes. Almost everything on her latest album Same Cloth or Not – streaming at Bandcamp – is in either 3/4 or 6/8 meter.You can see O’Neill listening to Marissa Nadler – or for that matter Marissa Nadler listening to her. Where Nadler goes for the noir right off the bat, O’Neill goes for the folk, but in the end the result is much the same. She’s got a couple of New York shows coming up, at the Irish Arts Center, 553 W 51 St. in Hell’s Kitchen on Nov 1 at 8 PM for $30 and then at the third stage at the Rockwood at 8 PM on Nov 3 for about the same price, $15 plus their strictly enforced two-drink minimum.

The album features her current band, Stina Sandstrom on harmony vocals and Mossy Nolan on bouzouki, plus some lush arrangements from string duo the Geese (Emma Smith & Vincent Sipprell). The first track, England Has My Man is a bit of a red herring, a gently dancing, pretty waltz contrasting with O’Neill’s understatingly biting delivery: “England has my man/My body is cold/England’s so lucky/I’m not sure they know.”

The second track, Coward’s Corner – a big, defiantly brooding ballad with strings and a surreal tinge – is where O’Neill bares her fangs and keeps them out for much of the rest of the material here. She brings back a warmly wistful ambience for the farewell ballad Neillie’s Song, with its rich interchange of acoustic and electric guitars, then follows that with Apiania, a dreamlike piano piece that seems to be a dissociative old woman’s reminiscence.

The stately, ominous Come Sit Sing has a rich blend of guitar and bouzouki and a long, dramatic crescendo that reminds of the Waterboys at their mid-80s peak. Unlike what its title would imply, Speed Boat is a slow waltz, a requiem for an affair before its end. O’Neill brings back both the surrealism and the defiance with No Train to Cavan, the tale of someone “smuggled across the border in a wheelbarrow, and I’m doing grand.” The album’s title track, basically a one-chord jam, comes across as sort of a folk take on the Stones’ Moonlight Mile, but told from a woman’s defiant point of view. The album winds up with the slow, lingering lament Darkest Winter, followed by Dreaming, a lush, swaying art-rock anthem that recalls the Strawbs at their early 70s peak. O’Neill has a very distinctive, rustic voice that she varies from quiet and reflective to towering and intense, and the band matches the mood. She sounds like she’d be a lot of fun live.

A Scorching New Rock Record and an Album Release Show at the Mercury by Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons

Lorraine Leckie is one of New York’s most eclectic and prolific songwriters. Her previous album Rudely Interrupted, a collaboration with legendary/notorious social critic Anthony Haden-Guest, was an elegant blend of chamber pop. The one before that, Martini Eyes, was an acoustic album. In the meantime, Leckie has been dividing her time onstage between the chamber pop and the ferocious electric rock of Her Demons, the name she’s bestowed on her group with lead guitar monster Hugh Pool, bassist Charles Dechants and drummer Paul Triff. And they’ve got a new album – one of the final projects to be recorded at the legendary Excello Recording, at least in the studio’s original Williamsburg space – titled Rebel Devil Devil Rebel. Leckie and the band are playing the album release show on Nov 13, appropriately enough, at 8 PM at the Mercury. Leckie’s longtime tourmate Kelley Swindall, who alternates between oldschool talking blues, murder ballads and pensive acoustic Americana, opens the night with her band at 7; advance tix are $10.

The creepy video for the album’s first single, Watch Your Step (that’s actress Celina Leroy in the role of the doomed girl) is over at No Depression. Leckie digs in with her vocals for a surprising amount of grit behind Pool’s snarling, resonant lines. The title track, a joyous shout-out to New Orleans and its temptations, is even more bristling, Pool channeling Hendrix when he’s not veering between Stones roar and classic Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Likewise, Always Got a Song blends Texas shuffle blues, 60s psych and vintage CBGB-era gutter rock.

Leckie wrote the uneasy Laurel Canyon ripper Paint the Towns Red while marching against the Iraq war during the peak of the past decade’s protests. Come A Dancin’, which shifts between Nashville gothic and psychedelic menace,  has quite the backstory: Leckie had a dream about a film titled Blood and Sand, starring Tyrone Power and Rita Hayworth. The following day, she went to the video store and, on a lark, asked the clerk if such a movie existed. Not only did the film actually exist – Leckie, who’d had no idea that there was any such thing, rented it and discovered that it’s about a woman who seduces men with her guitar!

The ominously lingering Beware, with its distant early Alice Cooper vibe, was inspired by friends lost to drug overdoses. Leckie switches from guitar to piano on the lithely dancing, string-infused Blink Blink, which she was inspired to write by her late dog Killjoy: “‘The dog would go sit in the yard for hours and stare like she was saying goodbye to the world,” Leckie explains. And the delicate Fly Away Little Sparrow is a dedication to her late brother, a suicide.

By contrast, Rainbow has a jaunty, glam-infused feel, like Warren Zevon on mushrooms. There’s also a much harder-rocking, eerily psychedelic take of the serial killer tale The Everywhere Man, which originally appeared on the Rudely Interrupted album. It’s another triumph for Leckie and her bleak yet resiliently individualistic vision. The new album’s not out yet but will be at all the usual spots in the next couple of weeks along with the rest of her darkly intense catalog.

Good Cop and Bad Cop Revisit a Mysteriously High-Voltage LJ Murphy Show

Good Cop: You watch the game last night?

Bad Cop: Now what on earth would make you think that I’d be interested in two mediocre third-place clubs duking it out this late in the season?

Good Cop: It’s in character. It’s what you’d do.

Bad Cop: It’s like 1997 all over again but not quite that absurd. Do you know what the pitcher who’s starting for the Giants tonight had for a won-lost record this year? Nine wins, thirteen losses. The post-EY Junior Tim Hudson isn’t the guy he was a dozen years ago.

Good Cop: I don’t get the reference.

Bad Cop: You should. It’s a Mets reference.

Good Cop: I haven’t followed the Mets lately. Although I do remember when they won the World Series.

Bad Cop: You were alive that far back?

Good Cop: Yup, I think I was in kindergarten that year. My brother was so psyched. He was in little league. He made my dad get him a Gary Carter jersey. He wore that thing out. All the boys had them.

Bad Cop [wistfully] Kid. RIP.

Good Cop: You mean he’s dead?

Bad Cop: Yup. And he didn’t even do steroids like all the players now. At least not as far as I can tell.

Good Cop: That’s too bad. You’d think my brother would have mentioned it. Although he hasn’t followed the Mets much lately, either.

Bad Cop: I don’t think anybody has. I don’t even think LJ Murphy has.

Good Cop: Speaking of which, we’re going to go see him with his band the Accomplices this Saturday, November 1 at 8 at Sidewalk, right?

Bad Cop: If you say so. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. We saw him earlier this summer. Right?

Good Cop: You were there!

Bad Cop: I think you’re gonna have to take this one for me because I don’t remember much about that show.

Good Cop: You were already half in the bag by the time you got there. You must have started really early!

Bad Cop: Hey, the guy has a great band and puts on a helluva show. It’s a party, and I meant to take full advantage. And Sidewalk has that shot-and-a-beer special…

Good Cop: Which didn’t take you long to take advantage of…

Bad Cop: So shoot me. I had a good time. Or at least I think I did.

Good Cop: This puts the burden on me to remember what happened and I was hoping you could help out with that. It was awhile ago. Mid-July when he was here last.

Bad Cop: Let’s just talk about the songs. I think we can piece together something. He did Pretty for the Parlor, right?

Good Cop: Yeah, his Long Island serial killer narrative. What a great storyteller this guy is. “You found your sanctuary/In this living mortuary/But be careful what you bury/Underneath the house…” As sick as the guy in the song obviously is, you end up rooting for a serial killer because where he comes from is just as bad.

Bad Cop: What is it with you Long Island people, anyway, all these serial killers?

Good Cop: Bad water, overcrowding, all the good stuff in the gene pool got left back in Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Bad Cop: Or Queens. That’s where LJ’s from, right?

Good Cop: Yup. He’s got it in his voice. That, and the New Orleans.

Bad Cop: Where did that come from?

Good Cop: Charles Brown, Dr. John, Lee Dorsey – a century of jazz and blues. That’s what I like about this band: rock songwriting, jazz values. He’s like a jazz guy, always somebody new in the band, always something different every time even if the songs and the lyrics are the same.

Bad Cop: And a sense of humor. And that’s part of the music too. I seem to remember the bass player, Nils Sorensen, having a lot of fun, a lot of jokey riffs.

Good Cop: Everybody has fun in this guy’s band. I mean, I would if I was in it.

Bad Cop: What would you do, play castanets?

Good Cop: Sure, why not? He had a girl in the band once. Remember?

Bad Cop: Supposedly there was more than one but I don’t go back that far with his music.

Good Cop: Neither do I, which is why [elbows Bad Cop] I was hoping you could help me out with this one, but instead you got completely trashed…

Bad Cop: Why the hell not? What this guy plays, ultimately, is party music. Sure, the lyrics are very clever, all kinds of double meanings and so forth, but he’s got sort of a jump blues band. You can dance to this stuff. Not that anybody’s gonna be dancing at Sidewalk…

Good Cop: Well, don’t be surprised if it happens. Let’s see, if I can go way back in my mind and remember what else was on the set list…I think he did Blue Silence, that’s that romping blues tune that had the trick ending. And Nowhere Now, which I can’t make any sense of, it’s sort of Chuck Berry but more stripped down. And of course Happy Hour, which is one of my favorites, that’s one everybody can relate to…

Bad Cop: A classic. And a distinctively New York song…

Good Cop: You don’t think that just about anybody who’s stuck hanging out with losers from the office after work could relate to it?

Bad Cop: Hmmm…maybe you’re right. I can’t really distance myself from it: that song completely nails what it’s like in the Financial District after five. Ugh.

Good Cop: And they also did Comfortable Cage, which is a really pretty, bittersweet soul song.

Bad Cop: Another one of his portraits of damaged women. Worthy of Almodovar, if I say so myself.

Good Cop: God, that sounds so pretentious. And LJ doesn’t just write about women…

Bad Cop: True. Although women factor into the music, at least to the extent that you would expect from a blues singer…

Good Cop: Tangentially. LJ’s songs are about trying to maintain your sanity even while you’re surrounded by idiots, it seems to me…

Bad Cop: Spoken like somebody from Long Island…

Good Cop: You mean Queens.

Bad Cop: You’re not from Queens.

Good Cop: I meant LJ…

Bad Cop: Uh, right. So I meet you at Sidewalk at 8? And six months later we revisit this same scenario when I can’t remember a thing?

Good Cop: This time I’ll get it all on my phone. See you there!

Two Killer Singles and Some Comic Relief

Parsing the torrents of singles and videos that have come over the transom here in search of the very best ones: you’ll see some here every day until the tank is finally empty. Today’s first gem is a ten-minute art-rock epic, Call It Whatever by London band Santa Semeli & the Monks. It starts out like it might be just another moody Radiohead wannabe number, but hang with it as it hits a punk-inspired noir cabaret peak. Lots of eclectic stuff on this same soundcloud page, from quirky postpunk to more ornate material like this.

Joanne Weaver’s Golden Earrings is a luridly Lynchian three-minute masterpiece, torchy Vega noir pop with unexpected sonic flourishes like an eerie guitar track running through a watery Leslie speaker (youtube).

And for some comic relief, what would you think of a reggae song by Oasis? The Jackals offer one possible answer (soundcloud).

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