New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Month: September, 2013

Video Dump Day: Emptying the Tank

One final day of videos and singles and then there’ll be a brand-new New York City live music calendar up here. That’s why all these videos! It literally takes days to pull the calendar together, which explains why so many videos and such have been stockpiled here over the past month. More concerts and albums coming on October 2. Til then:

Mike Rimbaud is one of the surprisingly few artists who realize that in a lot of respects, we’ve gone back to an age of singles instead of albums. That’s not to say that people don’t make albums anymore: he does that, too. His coolest single of late is The Ballad of Anthony Weiner, which does its best to humanize (well, semi-humanize) a serial sexter. And it’s not just joke-rock – that’s a neat, slinky latin soul groove he’s got going (itunes). The other one is Learning More About Less, a savage slap upside the head of teeenage textards and faceboogers (youtube). But all is not lost, Mike: the new generation is off Facebook, pays with cash instead of credit cards and is gaining traction for an overthrow of the surveillance state!

Another quintessentially New York group, the noir chamber pop duo Charming Disaster, serenade the virtues of public transportation with their East River Ferry Waltz (bandcamp).

Biggest news of the day is that snarling, twin-guitar Paisley Underground revivalists Mud Blood & Beer are offering their brilliant latest album The Sweet Life as a free download. A lot of this stuff is just as good and menacing as the Dream Syndicate or True West (bandcamp). They’re at the Way Station at 9 on 10/9.

Certain General guitarist Phil Gammage also has a noir thing going on much of the time. He’s got a new single, Giveaway (soundcloud).

Songwriter Melaena Cadiz offers up Bluestem Grass, a collaboration with another paisley underground type, Scott Collberg on dobro and other stringed instruments. It’s a gorgeous rock tune disguised as bluegrass from her single-a-month project (bandcamp).

And Icelandic band Mum have a pretty chamber trip-hop tune, Toothwheels, just out as a 7″ vinyl single (youtube).

Video Dump Day, Part 2

Every month, literally thousands of people send links to their videos here. Everybody seems to want their song to be the next Gangnam Style. What’s funny is that what was supposedly a completely organic, global response to a silly guy dancing to a song in Korean turned out to be fueled by a corporate marketing campaign. And aside from the first week when the video went viral, all of those millions of hits on Youtube turned out to be fake. So before they get stale, here are some videos and cool tracks that aren’t fueled by phony populism driven by corporate money. For some reason, most of this stuff is pretty dark.

All-female Portland, Oregon band La Luz share Sure as Spring, agorgeously creepy surf/dreampop hybrid (soundcloud). Ghost & Gale’s Nashville gothic Take Me to the Fire has the same kind of creepiness (youtube). Italian postpunkers Soviet Soviet have a similarly dark post-Joy Division stomp (soundcloud). And Roadkill Ghost Choir’s Beggars’ Guild adds menacing funeral organ to a highway rock groove with a touch of newgrass. New sound. Very cool (youtube).

Sun Angle’s Diamond Junk is totally 80s goth art-pop – a soaring bassline, layers and layers of guitar and catchy as hell (soundcloud).

Irresistibly charming all-female quirk-rock trio the Debutante Hour have one for their single Doo-Wop Girl (youtube).

Mike Rimbaud’s philosophical, politically inspired Slow Down to Get Ahead suggests we take the A train and maybe see Paris (youtube).

And for a big laugh, here’s the Fortissimo Show Choir doing Spanking Charlene’s Dismissed with a Kiss a-cappella (youtube)!

Nellie McKay Loses Her Pants At About 2:00

OK, got your attention. Lots of people send their videos here; most of them suck. Here are a few that don’t.

Nellie McKay singing reggae? Proof that vegans can laugh at themselves too. And since she’s a vegan, she looks good without her pants, about two minutes in.

Basia Bulat’s Tall Tall Shadows, a catchy electric piano anthem that builds slowly to a growl, is the title track of her forthcoming album. She’s Canadian, which explains why she’s good. She’s at Bowery Ballroom on 11/23.

Veronica Falls‘ Broken Toy is a plaintive downstroke janglerock number from the female-fronted British band’s forthcoming Waiting for Something to Happen. Don’t let the press about them being a goth band fake you out – they’re way more interesting, and original.

You want gothic? Check out Peri Mauer‘s magnificent, cinematically epic Illuminations of the Night as played by the NY Repertory Orchestra at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin this past May 18. What did this blog choose to cover that night? Ludovico Einaudi at the Town Hall. This was obviously the more exciting place to be!

And Steel Pulse has released Put Your Hoodies On [4 Trayvon], in memory of Trayvon Martin. It came out before the George Zimmerman trial was over (everybody presuming a guilty verdict, of course) and is available as a free download here.

Tribecastan Rocks the NY Gypsy Festival

The New York Gypsy Festival is still going on: there’s a ton of pretty wild, eclectic stuff happening through the end of the month, most of it at Drom under the loose rubric of Romany music. Tonight’s show featured kitchen-sink instrumentalists Tribecastan, who have four albums to their credit and literally span the globe, stylistically speaking. But onstage, the massive ten-piece band came across as a high-voltage circus rock act, driven more by horns than by the layers and layers of exotic stringed instruments they employ in the studio. What’s the likelihood of seeing Matt Darriau two nights in a row in two vastly different places? Not bad, if you know where to go. He was onstage here, playing clarinet and alto sax alongside a trombone, cornet, bass, drums, multi-percussion and multi-keys, with the band’s flamboyant frontman, John Kruth, firing off sizzling runs on electric mandolin when he wasn’t on mandola, banjo or flute. The other member of the band’s brain trust, Jeff Greene, stood nonchalantly in the corner, switching from a banjo-like lute that he sat and bowed, to what looked like a cajon with keys, to vibraphone (and was sadly not very high in the mix throughout the show.

They opened with a vigorously vamping soul organ groove and wound up with a couple of long, hypnotically funky, distantly Central Asian-tinged jams, the latter with a mantra delivered ecstaticaly by Kruth as he fervently egged on his bandmates to take the song completely over the edge. It took the festival’s prime mover, Serdar Ilhan, to finally give an emphatic signal that it was time for the next band. As psychedelic as all of this was, the songs in the middle of the set were the best. A similarly hypnotic, flute-driven waltz featured a rap interlude that didn’t go anywhere, but the tricky, reed-driven Macedonian-flavored dance afterward did. They followed that with an unexpectedly quiet detour and then an absolutely haunting, brooding bolero, Darriau’s alto sax hitting a big crescendo early on, Greene’s flute against fluttering, interwoven reeds as Kruth anchored it with his spiky banjo lines.

Greene open the next number with a droll jawharp solo, then the song built to an anthemic disco groove, something akin to Hazmat Modine (a band these guys often resemble) destroying a song by Chic. They took that vibe to the Balkans with a reggae-ish pulse, then hit the show’s high point with The Road to Koprivnica, another brooding but lively bolero with some sizzling clarinet from Darriau and even more sizzling, spiraling, intensely Middle Eastern electric mando from Kruth. The drummer broke his snare on the woozy but hard-rocking surf song Communist Modern – a standout track from the band’s latest album New Songs from the Old Country – then went as deep into the funk as you can go in, say, Uzbekhistan. Which is the irony of this band: if they actually were from Uzbekhistan instead of New York, all the blogs would be going nuts over how postmodern and paradigm-shifting this band is. Where this band needs to be, if they can afford it, is the jamband circuit and some summer festivals, where the hippie kids would go nuts over them as well.

Accordionist Uri Sharlin Mashes up Balkan, Brazilian and Israeli Sounds

Uri Sharlin is one of the first-call accordionists in several New York scenes, from folk to jazz to Balkan music. This evening he and his jazz-inclined Balkan/Brazilian band the DogCat Ensemble played an energetic, dynamic set of instrumentals at the Lincoln Center atrium from their forthcoming album Back to the Woods (which is available now if you go to one of their shows) . True to Balkan tradition, the Israel-born Sharlin loves rhythms that are considered exotic in the west: the group would do a couple of bars in twelve, then they’d sneak one in eleven instead. He also has a passion for south-of-the equator sounds, the most exotic of these being Monte Verde, a jungly Costa Rican rainforest tableau that the band opened and then closed on a droll note, playing birdcalls on little whistles, Sharlin leading the band into a warmly tropical theme with washes of chords from his accordion.

He has chops that can be spectacular, but in this band he leaves the pyrotechnics to the rest of the group. Matt Darriau’s sizzling, apprehensively trilling first solo on clarinet on the moodily pulsing, nuevo tango-inflected encore, Night Swim, was one of them, bassoonist Gili Sharett maintaining the suspense and tension as he took the handoff. Guitarist Kyla Sanna lit up the opening theme, another tango-inflected tune set to a trickily dancing rhythm, with a long solo that rose from edgy jangle to knife’s-edge intensity. Bassist Jordan Scannella would occasionally swoop up into a brief cloudburst of chords when he wasn’t providing a fat pulse in tandem with drummer John Hadfield and percussionist Rich Stein, who alternated between a couple of boomy clay pots (and soloed on them at one point during the lively, sunny, tropical Don Quixote), shakers and a big standup tapan bass drum.

The group took a couple of diversions into tersely playful free jazz on a version of Brazilian multi-instrumentalist composer Hermeto Pascoal’s Dia #342, then flew into darker Balkan terrain on the wings of Darriau’s bass clarinet and Sanna’s guitar on One for Frankie. They took vivid daytime and nighttime snapshots of a balmy, mellow northern Brazilian seaside town, Mundau, first with Sanna leading the way, calm and methodical on acoustic guitar, then with Sharlin switching to piano for an allusively furtive, jazzier nocturne that picked up steam as it went along. The catchiest tune of the night was The Real DogCat, a somber roots reggae tune set to yet another odd tempo with dub-like effects from the percussion toward the end. They ended the set with a joyously dancing, bubbly Brazilian tune, Baio, the drummer swinging a clave beat, bassoon paired off against the bass clarinet and guest Itai Kriss’ flute all the way up to a droll trick ending. All of these songs are on the album, which has a similarly energetic, live sound; Sharlin’s next gig is at Barbes on Oct 23 at 8 with classical mandolinist Avi Avital.

Jessica Hernandez Brings Her Smoldering Noir Soul to Rock Shop

Detroit bandleader Jessica Hernandez is a second-generation Mexican-American woman singing original, classic 60s style soul music. She’s got a big, powerful alto voice and an excellent band, the Deltas, behind her. The obvious comparison is Clairy Browne, considering Hernandez’ fondness for ominous minor-key noir 60s sounds. She’s got a new ep out, Live at the Magic Bag, a tantalizing glimpse of the band at the top of their darkly captivating game. The whole ep is streaming at Soundcloud; Hernandez is at Rock Shop at around 10 on Oct 3.

The opening track, Caught Up kicks off with a snarling garage rock guitar riff and honking baritone sax and builds to a big hard-hitting chorus, and then a creepy, atmospheric noir interlude before an all-too-brief, searing reverb guitar solo. Young Dumb & Drunk, an aptly woozy ballad, is a lot more plaintive than it is funny: “Quit telling me to change the way I’m walking,” Hernandez intones with a gin-soaked defiance. Sorry I Stole Your Man is a bitterly sardonic romp that wouldn’t be out of place in the Bettye Swan songbook. Gone In Two Seconds moves up and around a darkly swaying two-chord vamp, with a brief, aggressively animated conversation between trombone and bari sax. Hernandez has it all: strong voice, killer songwriting and a hot band.

Sister Crayon Bring Their Trippy Sounds to the Cameo Gallery

Sacramento band Sister Crayon’s latest release is titled Cynic; it’s streaming all the way through at their Bandcamp page. A cynic would say that this group is just trying to be Portishead, but while that influence is front and center, they put their own original, dreampop-inspired spin on 90s trip-hop. This is an album of nocturnes, some more energetic than others. The band is playing the Cameo Gallery on Oct 18 at midnight, which could be a chance to get completely lost in their pensively hypnotic, enveloping sonics.

The album’s title track is a teens update on Madder Rose, setting an echoey atmospheric loop over a trip-hop rhythm beneath frontwoman Terra Lopez’s airily bluesy post-Billie Holiday croon . With its looping shuffle beat and reverberating, minimalist electric piano, Floating Heads  builds to a big acidic vocal crescendo as the atmospheric textures grow thicker. Meager Leavings segues out of it with a low-key, moody neosoul edge. Headline picks up the pace and grows a lot more insistent: it reminds of Mattison‘s Kate Mattison in a particularly lively moment. The last song, Other sets an ethereal drone and more terse minor-key electric piano chords over a pounding, four-on-the-floor rock rhythm which ramps up the suspense factor.

Tribecastan’s New Songs from the Old Country: Their Trippiest, Best Album

Tribecastan’s fourth album New Songs from the Old Country is their best, most focused, and darkest release, one of this year’s most amazingly eclectic and trippy collections. The whole thing is streaming at the group’s Bandcamp page. Their 2009 debut Strange Cousin introduced them as a kitchen-sink band doing genre-smashing instrumental mashups of styles from the Mediterranean to the East Indies and all points in betweeen, employing a museum’s worth of exotic stringed and wind insturments. Their 2010 release Five Star Cave moved a little closer to jazz, while 2012’s New Deli went more in a rock direction. So this is a return to their roots, spread as far across the globe as they are, like a giant magic mushroom. As usual, the band’s brain trust, John Kruth and Jeff Greene take their pick of the choicest, most obscure insturments: mandocello, octave mandolin, yayli tambor, African raft zither, baglamas, charango: the list goes on and on.

Thre’s an awful lot to like here: sixteen tracks in all. The opening number, Bwiti is a dead ringer for Tuatara with its hypnotic clip-clop percusssion and spiky lutes, a catchy blues tune with Asian tinges and a lively horn chart with Claire Daly’s baritone sax anchoring Matt Darriau’s alto. Auto Rickshaw layers a thicket of lutes over Ray Peterson’s slinky bassline and Kenny Margolis’ swirly organ, with a break for sitar and a droll jawharp boinging underneath. Their version of Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1 nicks the Chicha Libre arrangement right down to the bolero rhythm, a wood flute replacing Josh Camp’s Electrovox; still, it’s a great song.

Dance of the Terrible Bear is a characteristically surreal mashup of Balkan brass, dixieland and bluegrass. Corned Beef and Sake does the same with an Irish reel, hi-de-ho jump blues and atmospheric Japanese folk. Communist Modern, fueled by Margolis’ sardonic keyboards and a lushly cinematic arrangement, is a dead ringer for surf rock legends Laika & the Cosmonauts.

Night Train to the Ukraine builds from a suspenseful, drony intro to a darkly scampering, chillingly chromatic woodwind tune. Gordana’s Dream brings back the Tuatara vibe with its gamelanesque, anxiously pointillistic ambience. Saloniki Reb marches along with a haunting Turkish melody played first on baglama (is that a baglama or another artifact from the museum?) and then clarinet, then suddenly the sun comes out and the tune picks up. The band stays on the Balkan track with the lively, pulsing, deviously catchy Road to Koprivnica

Adrian’s Leap is another mashup, this one blending bluegrass, the Balkans and the blues with a bit of an Indonesian tinge and a starkly searing solo on a fiddle of some kind. The Blue Sky of Your Eyes sets a bluegrass baglama tune to a bhangra beat, with bluesy harmonica. Natal Spring takes a bolero to the plains of South Africa, while.Kepaci Rain, the most hypnotic tune here, pairs off Gordana Evacic’s cimbalom against jaw harp and wood flute. Blame It on the Moon is not the jazz standard but a moodily strolling bolero with a lush blend of mandolin, lutes and horns. The final cut, Persian Nightingale, opens as a hypnotically clanging dirge and rises to majestically swirling heights  Among similarly inclined global jambands, only Hazmat Modine compare to these guys. Tribecastan play the album release show for this one this Fri, Sept 27 at 7:15 at Drom; advance tix are just $10.

Halloween Comes Earlier Every Year in NYC

Halloween’s on its way, and it’s gonna be hell in the East Village when every amateur from Cape May to Cape Hatteras comes into town to drink and puke. But for a taste of a more, um, tasteful Halloween, there’s a killer retro rock triplebill coming to Brooklyn Bowl on Oct 26, with ageless second-wave garage rockers the Fleshtones, the reliably entertaining Southern Culture on the Skids and the world’s most popular surf band outside of the Ventures and Dick Dale, Los Straitjackets. The three bands are pushing a new Halloween collaboration, Mondo Zombie Boogaloo, which is due out on Oct 1 on double gatefold vinyl in addition to the usual digital stuff.

It’s everything you would hope for from these three bands. Los Straitjackets get the creepy side of surf – they don’t get all cartoonish and cliched and ruin it. The Fleshtones are a party band, and they bring the party, as do Southern Culture on the Skids, and both of them steer clear of the cheese a lot more than you might think. It’s worth keeping around on vinyl, both as an annual playlist that’s got something for pretty much everyone you might want to invite over at the end of October, or just for something fun and guitarishly tasty to pick you up after a bad day at work.

As you would guess, Los Straitjackets’ songs here are the best. It’s Monster Surfing Time is a surprisingly low-key, swaying, midtempo number where the guitars finally go into machete mode a little on the third verse – in a way it’s kind of Walk Don’t Run ’13. Theme From Young Frankenstein turns out to be an elegant, slowly swinging, thinly disguised version of Harlem Nocturne. Theme From Halloween takes the coldly techy theme, amps up the menace with real instruments, then the band goes four-on-the-floor and rocks the hell out of it. Ghoul on a Hill only hints at the Beatles through a mist of reverb-tank noise, while their LMAO version of the Ghostbusters theme spoofs the original with a virtuosic sneer.

SCOTS’ songs are strong too. Rick Miller has some nonchalantly brilliant reverb guitar on a lot of their tracks, especially the ghoulabilly Tingler Blues. “I’ll take the house nobody wants,” he drawls over swaying, spaghetti western rock on The Loneliest Ghost In Town: “The violent nature of my demise has made all buyers run and hide, and here I stand confined to the scene of the crime.”  La Marcha De Los Cabarones is a ferocious Link Wray homage in 7/4 time, while their version of Goo Goo Muck is more of a straight up garage rock song than the famous Cramps version and a far cry from the feral Hasil Adkins original. And the feedback-drenched Demon Death has devious fun toying with a teen roadkill theme.

The Fleshtones’ Haunted Hipster might be the best song on the album. “Every day is Halloween for you,” Peter Zaremba sneers while Keith Streng plays Stonesy slide guitar and a droll, absolutely spot-on Beatles quote over Ken Fox’s growly fuzz bass. They also deliver (Sock It To Me Baby) In The House Of Shock, with its goodnaturedly poppy mid-60s vibe; Ghoulman Confidential, a roller rink organ soul shuffle; and Dracula A GoGo, a Flamin’ Groovies-style pub rock number. There’s also Que Monstruos Son, a very tongue-in-cheek Spanglish version of the Monster Mash featuring all three bands.

Patricia Kaas Reinvents Edith Piaf

Last year, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Edith Piaf’s death, French singer Patricia Kaas teamed up with film composer Abel Korzeniowski to create a multimedia spectacle, Kaas Chante Piaf, a program she debuted in New York last night at the Town Hall. Roughly twenty years since Kaas’ first appearance on that stage, she’s added nuance to the breathy, noir-tinged cabaret gravitas that’s been her signature over a career that spans the worlds of blues, jazz and artsy French pop. When Kaas first hit in the late 80s as a twenty-year-old with the voice of a woman twice her age, word on the street was that she was the closest thing to Piaf since Piaf herself. While the Little Sparrow was and remains Kaas’ most obvious influence (with plenty of Marlene Dietrich in there too), her voice is different: a gale-force contralto that she’s reined in a little over the years with dynamic results. Among New York singers, the Sometime Boys‘ Sarah Mucho is a good comparison.

Even if you’re a superstar in your home country, as Kaas is, the challenge of singing Piaf is a potential minefield. As the show opened, things did not look good, Kaas singing to a lavishly orchestrated backing track, video screen behind her. But her musicians – Johnny Dyke on piano, Nicolas Stevens on violin and Frederic Helbert on guitar, accordion and the mixing board –  played tersely and meticulously kept up with the big symphonic swells emanating from the mixing desk, even if that occasionally subsumed what was being played live. And the result turned out to be a brave and individualistic series of reinventions of predominantly iconic songs. How did the lithely muscular, graceful Kaas decide to reimagine La vie en rose? She turned it into a dance piece, as the screen projected a series of geometric images that were not pink but purple. This show has several visual components, including a handful of brief dance sequences, and here she let her shirtless, stoic partner Ezio Schiavulli spin her upside down after she’d gone down into a tendon-busting crabwalk pose. And the sold-out, mostly French, mainly fortysomething crowd responded explosively.

There was no shortage of drama throughout the rest of the show, from the anguished to the comedic. An attempt to get a guys-versus-girls singalong going fell flat on its face (as it had the first time Kaas played here), so she seized the opportunity to ham it up. She opened with an imploring, rather harrowing take of Mon dieu, dating from 1960 when all the drugs were really starting to take their toll on Piaf, and closed with a cannonball version of Non, je ne regrette rien which was successful in generating a rousingly spontaneous singalong from pretty much everybody while obvious drug imagery played up on the screen. Along with the dancing, several costume changes and some thoughtful commentary from Kaas (whose English has gotten pretty good over the years), there were a couple of minutes’ worth of droll, bittersweet home video footage of Piaf herself.

Kaas took the angst of being haunted by a lingering melody to its logical, towering conclusion with Padam, padam, went into the darker corners of her voice for the world-weary heartbreak of Milord, got rather coy with C’est un gars, creepily theatrical with the noirish cabaret number Mon vieux Lucien, and raised the bustling La foule and the rather epic Hymne a l’amour to full-throttle crescendos. She also did an extremely welcome version of one of her own songs, D’Allemagne, reinvented as a slowly building, grittily intense, nocturnal piano-and-voice overture, a far cry from the moody bluster of the stadium-rock version on her massive double live album from back in the 90s. This was the final stop on Kaas’ US tour this year; she plays a stand at the Olympia in Paris on Sept 26-27 and is back there on Oct 10, with a lot of European and Russian touring around those dates. The full schedule is here