New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Month: February, 2012

Cross-Pollination from the Toure-Raichel Collective

If you follow cross-cultural musical supergroups, you may have heard of the Toure-Raichel Collective: pyrotechnic Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure (son of Ali) in surprisingly laid-back acoustic mode alongside Israeli pianist Idan Raichel plus bassist Yossi Fine and percussionist Souleymane Kane. Grab a free download of their lush, watery, John Fahey-esque new instrumental, Bamba; they’re touring in support of their forthcoming album this spring, with two nights in New York at City Winery on April 13 and 14.

Album of the Day 2/18/12

New feature! The 1000 best albums of all time list countdown continues, a cross-blog collaboration with New York Music Daily’s older sister blog Lucid Culture. Saturday’s album is #456:

Mos Generator – The Late Great Planet Earth

The artsy metal trio’s 2005 quantum leap, ironically, remains their mellowest album, streaming at Bandcamp. Their earlier stuff is solid, but here they take their sound to the next level: this is a lush, atmospheric, genuinely haunting concept album about the apocalypse. The foreboding On the Eve kicks it off, followed by the epic dirge Crematorium; the rhythmically dizzying, manic depressive Six Billion People Dead; the aptly titled Opium Skies; The Myopic and its understated bitterness; the morbid Closed Casket; and the plaintive, Pink Floyd-ish Fall of Megiddo. Frontman/guitarist Tony Reed continued to assert himself as one of the underrated guitar heroes of the past couple of decades, while adding layer after layer of keyboards to the mix (which dominate as the album winds out, hypnotically). It winds up on a crushingly ironic, cynical note with the surprisingly funky title track and a mini-suite with a centerpiece titled Exit the Atomic Age.

More from Mike Rimbaud

At the risk of Mike Rimbaud overkill here – in case you’ve been paying attention, his two most recent albums are amazing – here’s his new video for You Make Love Like You Make War, a delicious blast of southwestern gothic from his Funeral Lover album. This guy just doesn’t stop.

Two New Bands to Keep Your Eye On

As many bands as there are here in New York, you’d think that finding good new ones would be like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s not – but isn’t it fun when you do? Two new acts who’re already good and seem like they’ll get even more interesting are Lucy Foley and Llama. Foley is a newcomer from Ireland, a confident, dynamic and often dramatic singer who’s equally at home with retro new wave pop and stagy noir cabaret. At a gig a couple of weeks ago at the Parkside opening for the perennially brilliant, inscrutably charismatic Tom Warnick, she was backed by a great band: her new husband Ross Bonnadona on guitar, Tom Pope on drums, Andy Mattina on bass and a guy who doubled on synth and tenor sax. Anytime a musician can get a supporting cast of that caliber, it’s an auspicious sign. Fans of Blondie and the Dresden Dolls should check her out; she’s at Fat Baby on March 22.

Llama isn’t a reference to the foul-tempered ruminant: the band name is Spanish for “call.” The nine-piece group plays what they call psychedelic salsa, with electric guitar and electric piano instead of a brass section. There have been plenty of other bands who’ve played punked-out electric salsa – Los Santos, who played the Coney Island boardwalk on Sundays for what seems like decades, were one of the best. But what makes this band unique is their dub arrangements: one of the women in the band adds layer after layer of oscillating, trippy sonic layers on a synth that she runs through a labyrinth of digital effects. The result is slinky and danceable and when the band is at the top of their game, it’s completely brain-warping. They’re still figuring out the sonics of their live show. But because they’re all excellent players, especially the killer three-piece percussion section – timbales, bongos and congas – they have the potential to be one of the most interesting bands in town. And they don’t just play straight-up classic salsa – there’s a little cumbia and some funk and maybe even some reggae in the mix too. Right now Barbes seems to be their home base.

Album of the Day 2/15/12

Back in 2009, New York Music Daily’s sister blog, Lucid Culture introduced its 1000 best albums of all time list. A spinoff of that blog’s well-liked Best 666 Songs of All Time list, it was designed as a countdown: a new album every day, all the way to #1. Trouble was, it never became anywhere near as popular as the Best Songs list did. How come? For one, the retard-room contingent on the web had more or less all migrated to Facebook by then – if you’re on the world wide web right now without being signed into Facebook, that makes you one of the cool kids! – so it’s safe to assume that some people who would have visited the 666 Best Songs list in 2007 wouldn’t have bothered to look for it a couple of years later. And by the time the Best Albums countdown started, Lucid Culture had morphed more or less into a jazz and classical music blog – so as an attempt to keep one foot in the rock world, it was a mistake. And it dated the blog, since fewer and fewer acts, particularly rock acts, bother to put out full-length albums anymore.

But here at New York Music Daily, there are no rules. So in an effort to cross-pollinate, here’s something from another time and another place. The list has been on hiatus at Lucid Culture since August of last year: consider this an attempt to defibrillate it. Today’s album is #457:

Neil Young – Living with War

From 2006, this is his best album, streaming at Spotify. A ferocious, electric response to the criminality and genocide of the Bush regime, it’s political rock at its most insightful and tuneful. After the Garden coldly and cynically sets the stage for the sarcastic title track, and the equally scathing The Restless Consumer. Shock and Awe and Flags of Freedom call bullshit on the regime’s endless lies, while Families looks sympathetically at those left behind when Cheney sent the troops off to Iraq, from where 55% of the survivors would come home to disability pensions, unable to work because they’d been poisoned by depleted uranium. Let’s Impeach the President is a classic – and maybe the most intelligent song about an American President ever written. Looking for a Leader suggests that “maybe it’s Colin Powell, to atone for what he’s done;” Roger and Out looks back to Helpless, an enlisted grunt grudgingly admitting “that’s when we needed the hippie highway.” The closing cover of America the Beautiful is pretty pointless, but after all that, it doesn’t matter.

Great Oldtime Country Sounds from the Weal and Woe

The Weal and Woe write great original oldtime style country songs, and play them with soulful expertise. The guy/girl close harmonies of guitarist Russell Scholl and bassist Barbara Ann have an unaffected southern charm, soaring over an early 1950s style backdrop with fiddle, lapsteel and occasional resonator guitar. Ex-Moonlighter Mark Deffenbaugh’s lapsteel steel playing is absolutely off the hook, whether adding smartly spaced accents or sly Leon McAuliffe-style swoops and dives – just his parts alone make their debut album The One to Blame one of the most enjoyable recent releases in Americana roots music. The Weal and Woe are playing the record release show at the Jalopy on Feb 18 at 9 – if really smart songwriting and great musicianship are your thing, you should go.

Most of the songs on the new album are short, clocking in at about three minutes or less. They get things going with the harmony-driven In the West, which has more of an oldtime, 19th century folk feel than anything else on this collection, with a tasty, sailing resonator solo that Deffenbaugh hands off elegantly to fiddler Jason Cade. The title track is one of those songs that sounds like a classic from about 1952, except that it’s new. Barbara Ann sings it with a sad, biting edge, from the point of view of a girl who’s thinking about going to the bottom of her neighbor’s pool, and staying there – and maybe taking the guy who broke her heart with her. Once again, the steel handing over a terse instrumental break to the fiddle is absolutely gorgeous. They Think We Don’t Know, a brisk shuffle with twinkling steel guitar, also has an element of mystery. Sung as a duet, it’s about a couple who are the talk of the town, but because everybody wants to set them up? Or because they’re on the fast track to some serious cheating together? “If wishes came true, I’d drive them crazy with my moves,” Barbara Ann croons: “I’d stay up late and drink their booze,” Scholl replies goodnaturedly.

The one instrumental here is Kings County Blues, a western swing number driven by swaying fiddle, steel in the background until Deffenbaugh busts out with a clever, wryly swooping solo. The longest song is a big, somewhat brooding ballad, Taking One on the Chin, which chronicles someone’s long decline to barroom dissolution, pensive lapsteel contrasting with Cade’s offhandedly bright lines. There are also two covers here: a vintage Grand Old Opry-style duet version of Frankenpine’s clever I Don’t Love You ‘Cause You’re Pretty, and a brisk bluegrass take on the country gospel song S-A-V-E-D. Fans of the Maddoxes, the Louvins, the Delmores, Hank Williams and also current country songwriters like Laura Cantrell who’ve found a home in an oldtime Nashville vernacular will love this record.

Catch the Fast Sails in Action

Here’s super-catchy, smart retro 80s Los Angeles band the Fast Sails  onstage at a recent gig. Frontwoman Simone Snaith’s gossamer voice (a dead ringer for Echobelly’s Sonya Aurora Madan in super-nuanced mode circa 1993) cuts through this mix like a knife through jelly. Cool Message in a Bottle-style Andy Summers guitar too…

Rob Sacher’s Luna Lounge Memoir Due Out March 1

It’s not every day that a Kickstarter project that’s as intriguing as this one comes along. Rob Sacher, now owner of Brooklyn’s Satellite Lounge, was the mastermind behind Luna Lounge, the well-loved Lower East Side hotspot that was ground zero for innumerable good New York bands for about ten years starting in the mid-90s (and then for a blip in Williamsburg before selling to the Knitting Factory). He’s got a memoir due out on March 1 titled Wake Me When It’s Over – from the teasers up at his site, it looks like it could make for a mighty good read (he nicked the title from a song by Longwave, one of the most popular of the Luna bands).

Unlike most club owners, Sacher isn’t all about self-promotion: instead, he had the good sense to keep his eyes open throughout his days in the forefront of a scene that hasn’t been very well documented up to this point. Anyone wanting to assauge their bourgeois guilt and help launch what promises to be a valuable piece of history should head over to to his Kickstarter site where there are all kinds of goodies available for various contribution levels.

In Memoriam – Whitney Houston

Poor Whitney Houston. She didn’t have a prayer. Found dead at 48 yesterday in her LA hotel room, presumably of a cocaine overdose, it was the end everybody expected.

It wasn’t always like that for “Nippy,” as she was known as a child for the way her nipples poked against her shirt. The daughter of the great soul/gospel/harmony singer Cissy Houston, her career got off to an auspicious start, singing harmonies in the studio alongside her famous mother at fourteen and then, at sixteen, supplying lead vocals for New York’s hottest no-wave funk band, Bill Laswell’s Material. With a stratospheric range, effortless nuance and technique, it seemed that she could choose whatever direction she wanted to follow.

Until Clive Davis got ahold of her. Terrified that a black superstar singer wouldn’t be commercially viable during the Reagan era, the record label bigwig insisted that she straighten her hair, and he had her skin tone bleached on her album covers. He also made sure that her material was as bland, and as white as possible. Houston’s biggest hit was a soporific cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You that made the original seem racy by comparison.

And there came a point where Houston, a closeted lesbian from a devout Christian family, simply couldn’t continue to maintain the image thrust on her. A sham marriage to former teen boy-band idol Bobby Brown marked her descent into crack addiction, to the point where she let a reality tv show film the atrocity exhibition that her life had become.

Late-career “comebacks” were outnumbered by public episodes of bizarreness. By 2012, with the major label mechanism that had propelled her to stardom dead in the water, she’d reached the end of the line.

Give a listen to Whitney Houston singing Memories with Material: a cruel inkling of what could have been but never was.

Today’s Batch of Goodies

Can you name a better NYC band than Spanglish Fly? There are a bunch of others who are just as fun: Chicha Libre, Rev. Vince Anderson and his funk band, the Roulette Sisters, LJ Murphy in his many incarnations, but is there anybody better? Check out their latest summery single and see for yourself. Spanglish Fly play bugalu, a wicked mix of Puerto Rican grooves and oldschool soul music that originated in the 60s when the Puerto Rican kids in Spanish Harlem started listening to soul music. Meanwhile, the black kids uptown were listening to Puerto Rican music – it was one of those gorgeous melting-pot moments that could have only happened here. They’re playing the release show for their new single on Feb 16 at Zebulon starting at around 9. The A-side, Me Gusta Mi Bicliceta has frontwoman Erica Ramos wailing like never before. The B-side, The Po-Po is absolutely killer, a sarcastic plena soul groove that explores a universal NYC phenomenon: kids getting busted for open containers by cops desperate to make their “quality of life” arrest quotas. Check out that cool baritone sax! Both songs are streaming here; the vinyl – this stuff is pure analog! – will be out on Electric Cowbell Records.

Wave Sleep Wave – the latest project from the Blam’s Jerry Adler – has a new free download, Hey What – hypnotic, jangly reverby Britrock that wouldn’t be out of place on Wire’s 154 record. A full album is scheduled for next month.

Another free download worth checking out is the Feeling Anxious PR Valentine compilation. Not everything here is worth uploading, but the good stuff is choice: Tatiana Kochkareva’s bouncy retro psychedelic pop, Hannah vs. the Many’s assaultive, hyper-literate noir cabaret and Bryan Dunn’s super-sly country drinking song, Flowers, an anti-Valentine song if there ever was one.

And in case you missed Either/Orchestra’s transcendent three-hour marathon show of mostly brand-new Ethiopian-flavored jazz at the New School last November, it’ll be airing on WGBO’s Jazz Set program on Feb 19 at 6 PM and then on Feb 22 at 6:30. Listening back to a recording of the show, it’s amazing: an eclectic new suite by bandleader Russ Gershon plus several Ethiopian pieces never played outside Ethiopia, performed for probably the first time since the 60s or early 70s.