New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

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!

Singles for 10/29

Moving right along through the virtual stack until it’s finally done. Today is two catchy ones and one funny one.

Kin Ship’s Golden Dust is gorgeously jangly, clanging Byrdsy powerpop (soundcloud).

Sam Kogon’s Wake Up Your Kids/Sleeping Beauty has a soaring chamber pop A-side; the B-side is a trippy, waltzing Zombies-esque psych-pop tune with teens production values (bandcamp).

And Michael and Mardie’s Douchebag at the Bar is one of those songs that needed to be written: it’s a good thing these two did.

Arun Ramamurthy Radically Reinvents Ragas

Although violinist Arun Ramamurthy has extensive training in Indian carnatic music, he’s also a jazz guy. He’s got a lively, intriguing, cross-pollinating new album, Jazz Carnatica,streaming at Bandcamp. It’s an attempt to radically reinvent ragas with his trio, Perry Wortman on bass and Sameer Gupta – leader of Indian jazz band Namaskar, who reinvent old Bollywood themes – on drums. What does this music sound like? Because all but one of the tracks are based on classic ragas, it’s Indian classical music first and foremost. But the rhythms are lithe and dancing and full of pulsing energy, and far more terse than the frequently expansive, slowly unwinding themes of sitar music. If you’ve got friends who might confide something like, “Sure, I like Indian music ok, but it’s so meeeelllllllloooooowwwwww…” play this the next time you see them and they’ll have a change of heart. The trio are playing the album release show on Nov 1 at 8 PM at at Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow St. in the West Village; cover is $15.

As much as Ramamurthy’s violin moves around, and it’s always in motion, even when he’s at his most energetic he doesn’t stray far from a central tone. That tension fuels a lot of understated mystery here. The opening track starts out surprisingly funky, with a catchy turnaround and a very cleverly implied two-chord (or two-mode, if you must) vamp. The elegant intro of the second number quickly gives way to a dancing but hypnotic theme, which the band vamps on – Wortman often doubles Ramamurthy’s lines, providing a staccato contrast to Ramamurthy’s lingering sustain.

Marc Cary – who also plays with Gupta in Namaskar – guests on the album’s three central tracks. The first also features another cross-pollinating violinist, Trina Basu – it’s the closest thing here to a psychedelically rustic, Ravi Shankar-style raga, but built around a riff that’s pure blues. The second has Cary adding a little calypso jazz flair and the most traditional jazz vernacular of the tracks here.

The next two tracks build out of moody atmospherics to more lively interplay. Likewise, the seventh track – the one Ramamurthy original, and the best of them all – expands outward from a broodingly chromatic tune to a bouncy bass solo. As the album goes along, Ramamurthy goes deeper into the microtones, his rather severe, intense tone contrasting with Wortman’s bubbly bass on the eight number here. The final one is the closest to the kind of modal jazz that Gupta plays in Namaskar, Ramamurthy choosing his spots. All of the tracks clock in at more than five minutes, sometimes considerably more. Onstage, they’ll probably take them out even further into more psychedelic territory. This is an album that will grab a lot of people: Indian music fans in search of a shot of adrenaline, and jazz fans who thrive on the space between the notes.