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Tag: anthony haden-guest

A Corrosively Hilarious New Spoken-Word Album from Anthony Haden-Guest

Back in the early 80s, legendary journalist and gadfly Anthony Haden-Guest ran into Island Records honcho Chris Blackwell at a party in Cannes. Haden-Guest asserted that the hip-hop fad, as he called it, had run its course. That opinion might have been colored by having missed the opportunity to run up to the South Bronx with his buddy Malcolm McLaren to witness the birth of what McLaren called “scratch.”

Whatever the case, Blackwell’s response was, “Anthony, you are absolutely mad.” Thirty-five years later, Haden-Guest has released his debut hip-hop song,.“I always assumed you had to be in a studio up to your neck in hi-tech to do this,” he explains, over a wry faux Wu-Tang synth backdrop assembled by film composer Keith Patchel. “If this won’t kill hip-hop, nothing will.”

That number appears on Haden-Guest’s hilarious new spoken-word album The Further Chronicles of Now, streaming at Bandcamp. When he’s at the top of his game, his relentless, spot-on skewering of the ruling classes ranks with Michael M. Thomas’ Midas Watch, in its glory days in the pre-Jared Kushner era New York Observer. With a total of 24 tracks, a handful of them set to spare, surreal, quietly carnivalesque 80s synthesized organ or piano, Haden-Guest’s commentary is as grim as it is funny.

The apocalypse is a recurrent theme, as is art-world skullduggery. Haden-Guest doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has a bullshit detector set to stun. “So I’m siting in a Starbucks, listening to the blues, sound peculiar enough for you?” he poses early on, in his proper blueblood London accent.

A handful of tracks here were released earlier on Rudely Interrupted, Haden-Guest’s 2012 collaboration with darkly eclectic songwriter Lorraine Leckie. The Everywhere Man revisits the “strangely nihilistic bunch” who made it their job to get past the “clipboard Nazis from outer space” to crash Manhattan parties in the 1970s. Happy City, as Haden-Guest puts it, is his requisite drug song, a step out of character for a guy who “got a bit tipsy at age seven as a kilted pageboy at a wedding, which…unfortunately prefigured much of what was to come.” And Bliss,. the most plainspoken but possibly most harrowing piece here, is as poignant as Leckie’s glimmering remake.

The art world is where Haden-Guest really gets on a roll. The Secret History of Modern Art begins with Gustave Courbet,  “A slap in the face with a fat girl’s bush.” Haden-Guest saves his most venomous critique for Picasso:

Pablo switched styles like a man possessed
As if in some eerie way he’d guessed
The needs and the greed
The hunger he’d feed
Of collectors to come, a predator breed
From Picasso we got the shopping cart
And create a supermarket of art

A Song for Andy, a Seven Days of Christmas rewrite, is just as funny. Even the critics get what’s coming to them here, although “Viveros-Faune cannot be counted on and Roberta Smith should not be tangled with.” The rest are available at the right price – and Haden-Guest names names. And The New Avant-Garde are “the shock troops for developers now.”

The best of the apocalypse scenarios, Yesterday’s Snow is an update on Francois Villon’s famous, elegiac poem:

This may take a little while!
J. Edgar Hoover’s curdled bile
Lee Harvey Oswald’s bulging file
Jayne Mansfield in a speeding motor
Vic Morrow underneath a rotor
Mark Chapman outside the Dakota
Robert Maxwell got a floater…
The way that Enron made that pile
Bernie Madoff’s tiny smile

Frenemies, ex-girlfriends and old colleagues each get what’s coming to them here as well. The Tame Frontier draws its inspiration from a drive back to Manhattan from “an extremely aggressive Hamptons weekend”  where “nobody walks, they cross the street by car, where the city’s a bridge too faraway.” There’s also An Ordinary Day, whose implication is how endless terrorism alerts cry wolf to the point where they’re useless, and A Hymn to Intellectual Property Rights, with its wry allusions to a jazz standard. Now eighty, Haden-Guest shows no sign of slowing down. If there’s anybody who deserves to stay in the game long enough to chronicle the end of the world as it happens, it’s this guy.

Haden-Guest and Leckie celebrate the release of the album tonight, June 8 at around 7 at Anderson Contemporary Art at 180 Maiden Lane in the financial district.

Carol Lipnik and Matt Kanelos Get Magically Surreal…With Some Help from Penny Arcade

“I’m the Singing Mermaid,” chanteuse Carol Lipnik explained with a chirpy wink in the intimate back room at Pangea Sunday night, before soaring skyward to the top of her stratospheric four-octave range. “I carry my heart in a specimen jar…from this open wound shoots a human cannonball.” Of course, all this carnival imagery – until recently, Lipnik’s signature style – is loaded with subtext. Lipnik demurred that this number, dating back to her first album about fifteen years ago, happens to be a favorite of Penny Arcade. And in keeping with Lipnik’s tradition of bringing up a special guest midway through the set here, her performance artist pal delivered a characteristically searing, funny monologue touching on gentrification and its discontents, among other pressing topics. And a couple of days later – at the kickoff party for an art exhibit curated by Anthony Haden-Guest – Arcade stunned the crowd with an excerpt from her incendiary new show, Longing Lasts Longer, a corrosively funny critique of luxury condo-era New York and death by cupcake that runs from July 13 through 15 at 8 PM at Theatre for the New City.

Since February, Lipnik and pianist Matt Kanelos’ weekly residency at Pangea on Second Avenue north of 11th Street has been honed to a tightly glimmering, mesmerizing sheen. It’s music to get lost in. Of all the many ongoing weekly gigs in this city, it’s impossible to think of a more happening one right now than this show. Lipnik and Kanelos have a camaraderie that borders on the telepathic, each following the other, always ready go to just a little outside the lines, blurring borders and shifting the time just enough to raise the disquiet factor to redline. And the music is more lush, and plaintive, and terse than anything Lipnik has done before.

On one hand, the residency, and the duo’s repertoire, draws heavily on their new album Almost Back to Normal, reinventing the concept of art song for this era. On the other, it’s awfully fun to see how the two have also reinvented a lot of Lipnik’s older Coney Island phantasmagoria, pushing that material further toward art-rock. They took the ghoulishly vaudevillian Freak House Blues deeper into the night, muting the ominously cartoonish ambience of the original, and gave a hypnotically swaying trip-hop groove to Moth, the plaintive title track from Lipnik’s 2008 album. And they encored with a raptly morbid version of The Two-Headed Calf, which was all the more creepy for its gentle sympathy for the freak watching the stars and seeing double. There were also two covers: the Talking Heads’ Heaven Is a Place as Laura Nyro might have done it, and a gleefully deadpan, utterly macabre version of the Twist that looked straight back to Klaus Nomi.

And the newest material – the broodingly intense individualist anthem Crow’s Nest; the pensively soul-inflected hedonist’s tale Honey Pot; and the album’s mystically William Blake-influenced title track, among other songs, maintained the studio versions’ surreal lustre. Lipnik and Kanelos have moved their residency to Thursdays at 7:30 PM for July and August, starting on July 9 with another first-class, sympatico special guest, charismatic accordionist-singer Rachelle Garniez. If state-of-the-art songcraft and magical voices are your thing, miss this at your peril. Years from now, people will be saying they were here even if they weren’t.

New York Music Daily’s Sunday Salon: Blowing Our Own Horn

Sooner or later, every music blog seems to get into the business of booking bands. For this blog, that means coming full circle, having come out of booking into blogging and then back again. It makes sense: if you do your homework, you’re connected to a vast musical network. Some blogs do it for the money, booking acts everybody else does. The indie rock blogs do it for status. New York Music Daily does it to be part of history. That’s ultimately what this blog is about, anyway: an attempt to chronicle some of the most important musical things happening right now. Unlike the Bushwick blogs’ loft shows, the weekly 5 PM Sunday Salon at Zirzamin isn’t a clique. Quality artists are always welcome to participate, and anyone is welcome to watch the show. Today’s review is a shout-out to the core of brilliant New York artists who’ve kept the Salon going since its debut right after last year’s hurricane, with a look back at the last few weeks of shows by those acts and some others who’ve been featured on this page in recent months as well.

The Salon typically finishes with a 7 PM set.  Sunday Salon #27 was a cancellation, so the acts took turns working out new material and showcasing a few audience favorites. Acoustic blues singer/guitarist Lola Johnson was a highlight of this show, joined by her excellent washboard player, whose custom-built instrument had bells and all sorts of other percussion built into it. Working her way from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago, Johnson impressed the most with a gospel-fueled version of Fred McDowell’s You Gotta Move that was a lot closer to the original than the famous Stones cover. Songwriter Tamara Hey – who’s playing the 7 PM set on August 11 – also wowed her fellow songwriters with her wry, bittersweet, vividly detailed, quintessentially New York tales of playing gigs in Lower East Side dives and metaphorically-charged explorations of the dilemma between gluttony and self-discipline, with soaring, maple sugar vocals and intricate guitar fingerpicking. And Kelley Swindall treated the crowd to yet another creepy new murder ballad, this one a purist, oldtime country blues.

At that show, Lorraine Leckie did what she often does, opting to sit on a table with her acoustic guitar and belt to the audience without any amplification. A founding member of the salon, she’s never stopped growing as a songwriter. Her show here the first week of May spotlighted her elegant, brooding chamber pop songwriting, including many of her collaborations with journalist/gadfly/social critic Anthony Haden-Guest from her album with him, Rudely Interrupted. Her following two shows here, at Salons #30 and #34, featured her scorching rock band the Demons. Whether she’s playing ornate art-rock, Britfolk-influenced open-tuned pastoral themes, snarling retro glamrock or the Steve Wynn-esque Canadian gothic she made a name for herself with in the late zeros, there’s no one more interesting, or more at the top of their game as a songwriter than she is right now. Her band has been solidified by the addition of a regular bassist; her vocals, stronger than ever, have been bolstered by the amazing Banjo Lisa and her spine-tingling high harmonies. Her not-so-secret weapon is guitarist Hugh Pool, whose maniacal yet nuanced, Hendrix-inspired lead playing gives the songs a volcanic intensity.

Walter Ego is another songwriter who’s never sounded better. A mainstay of the Salon since it began, he likes to challenge himself, whether that’s playing solo on drums (an instrument he’s just picked up), or taking a stab at playing totally unamplified at Sidewalk after Salon #30. And it turned out to be a format that works for him. Without a mic, he had to pick up his cool, crisp vocals a little; his sardonic humor and tuneful songs, played both on acoustic guitar and piano, spoke for themselves. A couple of his best, recent numbers reminded of vintage Ray Davies. The most haunting one was 12/9 (subway code for “passenger under the train”); the funniest one was Mitterand’s Last Meal, a cruelly detailed account of the late French President’s final supper whose final course was an endangered species which in France is illegal for human consumption. Double entendres, puns and clever jokes met with catchy, sometimes Beatlesque changes throughout a mix of upbeat and more pensive tunes.

Chanteuse Carol Lipnik has also been a mainstay of the Salon. Since the late 90s, her four-octave voice has been stunning audiences across this city, yet she’s also grown in the past year: there is simply no diverse or captivating singer in New York right now. Her work spans the worlds of noir cabaret, the avant garde, British folk and art-rock. Her headlining set at Salon #32 featured her Ghosts in the Ocean project with pianist Matt Kanelos, mixing haunting, raptly atmospheric songs with more aggressive material including a machinegunning cover of Nick Drake’s Black Dog Blues. A couple of weeks before that, she treated the crowd at Barbes to over an hour and a half of her Coney Island phantasmagoria, backed by her band Spookarama with jazz pianist Dred Scott (Kanelos was also summoned from the crowd for a couple of unexpected and very welcome contributions). She’s been busy this year, with several shows at Joe’s Pub and le Poisson Rouge; she’s also appearing with her frequent collaborator, crooner John Kelly, at Joe’s Pub this Sunday, July 14 at 7:30 PM.

And the guy who’s arguably been the Salon’s most reliable anchor, John Hodel – the Bukowski of the New York acoustic music scene – plays a full set at 7 PM this Sunday the 14th.

A Month’s Worth of Nightcrawling, Part Two

Funny how this blog started out covering live music almost exclusively, then within weeks the torrents of albums began and never stopped. Remember when everyone was saying that the album was a thing of the past? Now you can record an album with your phone, and everybody’s doing it. There’s a pile – or a virtual pile – of more than fifty of them patiently waiting their turn here. And they’ll have to wait another day because today is part two of catching up on all the shows from the past couple of weeks or so.

Lorraine Leckie is as comfortable with elegant, brooding chamber pop as she is at unhinged noir Americana rock. Her most recent show at the big room at the Rockwood last month featured the former. Then headlining Sunday Salon 26 at Zirzamin this past week, Leckie and her band the Demons were at the absolute peak of their game, slashing and burning through a mix of retro glamrock, surreal downtown NYC narratives and an unhinged version of Ontario, her sideways Canadian gothic salute to her birthplace. At the Rockwood, pianist Matt Kanelos added a nonchalant menace to several of Leckie’s collaborations with Anthony Haden-Guest (from the duo’s recent, excellent collaboration, Rudely Interrupted), especially on Bliss, a cruelly sarcastic portrait of a marriage gone irreparably wrong. At Zirzamin, guitarist Hugh Pool fired off machinegunning riffage that evoked Hendrix without being slavishly derivative or drowning out the vocals. Harmony vocalist Banjo Lisa amped up the songs’ allusive menace, blending bewitchingly with Leckie’s ever-increasingly full-throated wail.

The following Saturday night, Kanelos was at Littlefield playing in his duo project, Ghosts in the Ocean with Coney Island noir siren Carol Lipnik, who continues to move further toward the avant garde. One perceptive musician in the crowd likened their hypnotically minimalist performance to a cross between early Jane Siberry and Philip Glass, and she was right on the money, other than that Lipnik has a four-octave range and uses every inch of it. The two reinvented Leonard Cohen’s Gypsy Wife as Radiohead-inflected art-rock, then Lipnik employed a magical theremin-like vibrato on a mesmerizing version of Harry Nilsson’s Lifeline. They brought out every ounce of menace in Dylan’s Man in the Long Black Coat, turned Nick Drake’s Black Dog Blues into an even more haunting, skeletal sketch – that dog is a lethal predator – and moved through Richard Thompson’s The Great Valerio with a bell-like, funereal pulse, Lipnik going down into the sinister depths of her low register. But it was the originals – the catchy, anthemic Sonadora Dreaming, the defiantly insistent Crows and the disarmingly sarcastic Oh the Tyranny – that were the most memorable. They’re at Zirzamin after the Sunday Salon this coming June 16 at 7 PM

Pete Galub followed them, playing the album release show for his fantastic new one, Candy Tears. Galub brings world-class, dangerous guitar chops to classic powerpop, with an often frenetic, menacingly noisy edge – the Steve Wynn influence has made itself more and more clear in his music in recent years. Appropriately, he had Wynn’s guitar sparring partner Jason Victor as a guest on the album’s next-to-last track (they played the whole thing through, in order). And counterintuitively, after he and Galub had reduced the song to a toxic, molten mess of overtones and raging reverb, Victor led the band back in with gentle washes of major chords. Before that, the songs ranged from what sounded like Yo La Tengo doing XTC, Roscoe Ambel doing the Beatles, Guided by Voices doing Syd Barrett, and on a suspensefully skeletal version of the album’s gorgeous title track, Wire doing Big Star. In over an hour onstage, Galub made his notes count, choosing his spots – space is just as important in his music as the actual notes. Guest Karen Mantler played plaintive art-rock piano on the bittersweetly psychedelic 300 Days in July; Greta Gertler lent her soaring multi-octave voice to one of the later numbers. Drummer Chris Moore swung the backbeats while bassist Tom Gavin varied his attack from growly and slinky to a deep, anchoring pocket that held the center while Galub plotted where he was going to go next. Galub is at Zirzamin after the Sunday Salon on May 19 at 7.

The 50 Best Albums of 2012

About five years ago, people were saying that the album was a thing of the past. How wrong that turned out to be! This year’s crop of albums was so absurdly good that it felt criminal to whittle it down to a hundred, let alone fifty. And the only way of getting it down to that number was to cut out all the “world music,” including reggae and Afrobeat and most of the gypsy sounds, because there was so much of that and it was all so good.

Bookmark this page and return often. Virtually all of these albums are streaming (click the links) or are available as free downloads: consider this your place to discover some amazing sounds that were too smart for the Bushwick and Wicker Park blogs, and too dangerous for corporate radio and tv.

1.  Ulrich Ziegler – their debut album
Dating back to the 90s,  guitarist Stephen Ulrich has been New York’s most distinguished noir composer. When he wasn’t writing film and tv music, he was leading the ferociously creepy instrumental trio Big Lazy. When that band broke up (the drummer left to join Gogol Bordello), Ulrich eventually teamed up with Itamar Ziegler from Pink Noise, and then released this haunting, reverb-drenched, surf/skronk/jazz/soundscape masterpiece. Stream it

2.  Chicha Libre – Canibalismo
Chicha Libre’s 2008 debut album Sonido Amazonico landed in the top ten and this one is arguably even better, a trippy, wickedly dub-influenced mix of Peruvian surf rock, slinky Andean and latin grooves, and surrealistic psychedelic rock. There is no more fun, or more danceable, band in New York than Chicha Libre. Band info and audio/video

3.  Raya Brass Band – Dancing on Roses, Dancing on Cinders
This fiery Brooklyn crew distinguish themselves from the hundreds of other excellent Balkan brass units by virtue of their long, scorching jams: nobody does that better. Stream it

4.  Botanica – What Do You Believe In
This era’s pre-eminent art-rock band’s most brooding, haunted album, a rich blend of gypsy-tinged melody, raw, roaring guitar, edgy piano and spooky organ. Stream it

5.  The Universal Thump – their full-length debut
The final and concluding installment of the most massive, richly orchestrated album on this list, a lushly symphonic double-cd mix of chamber pop, art-rock, psychedelia and quirky, theatrical indie pop. Stream it

6.  Rachelle Garniez – Sad Dead Alive Happy
The iconic, eclectic accordionist/chanteuse – who has sort of become the Dorothy Parker of underground rock – took a deep dive into soul and gospel sounds, with richly soaring results. Stream it

7.  The Japonize Elephants – Melodie Fantastique
One of the original gypsy bands, this enormous, theatrical circus rock crew took their game to the next level with this one. Stream it

8.  Lianne Smith – Two Sides of a River
An iconic presence in the New York Americana and rock scene since the late 90s, Smith’s debut album was legendary before it was finally released – and it’s as eclectic, psychedelic, haunting and funny as anything else on this list. And her amazing voice is better than ever. Stream it 

9.  Bobtown – Trouble I Wrought
Nobody writes more cleverly creepy acoustic Nashville gothic and bluegrass than Bobtown. With four first-rate songwriters, their sound is as diverse as it is dark. Stream it

10.  Jan Bell – Dream of the Miner’s Child
One of the great voices in Americana music, Bell made this into a concept album that linked British folk with the American country and bluegrass sounds that grew out of it  with a vivid sense of history and a tantalizing mix of classics and originals that sound like Appalachian standards. Stream it/free downloads

11. M Shanghai String Band – Two Thousand Pennies
The mighty eleven-piece Brooklyn acoustic Americana crew’s most lush, haunting, diverse and ultimately best album, ranging from gypsy and chamber pop to brooding Appalachian ballads and the rousing singalong songs they’re best known for. Stream it

12.. Love Camp 7 – Love Camp VII
An expertly wry, tuneful, catchy janglerock concept album looking at recent history through the prism of the Beatles, with a jaundiced eye and expertly labyrinthine polyrhythms. Given up for dead after the tragic loss of brilliant drummer Dave Campbell, the band has recently regrouped and is as playful and fun as ever. Stream it

13. Hannah vs. the Many – All Our Heroes Drank Here
Ferociously literate, white knuckle intense female-fronted punk and powerpop, with some noir cabaret and Jarvis Cocker-style art-rock thrown in for good measure. Stream it

14. The Larch– Days to the West
The follow-up to their 2010 masterpiece Larix Americana finds the Brooklyn retro new wavers sounding more psychedelic and more savagely lyrical than ever. Stream it

15. Lorraine Leckie and Anthony Haden-Guest – Rudely Interrupted
A blackly amusing, gorgeously orchestrated chamber-pop collaboration between the caustic social critic and the Canadian gothic rock siren.  Band info and a/v

16. Black Fortress of Opium – Stratospherical
Lush, roaring, darkly psychedelic Middle Eastern-tinged art-rock from this powerful, female-fronted Boston band. Stream it

17. Matt Keating – Wrong Way Home
The respected Americana rocker’s best single-disc album, a brooding, offhandedly menacing blend of classic soul, country and elegant chamber pop. Stream it

18. Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores  – Sister Death
Not to have this album in the #1 spot is pretty absurd: the Rhode Island band’s swirling, psychedelic, gypsy-tinged art-rock masterpiece is the most downright macabre collection on this list. Stream it

19.. The Sometime Boys – Ice & Blood
The second album from cabaret siren Sarah Mucho and art-rocker Kurt Leege’s sharply lyrical acoustic Americana project finds them funkier, more lush and more intense than ever. Stream it

20. Animation – Transparent Heart
As historically important as it is richly arrranged, saxophonist Bob Belden’s collection of cinematic instrumental themes traces the decline of New York over the past couple of decades, centered around 9/11 and the fascism that ensued. Band info and a/v

21. Tift Merritt – Traveling Alone
Marc Ribot’s guitar is amazing beyond belief, and Merrritt’s pensive Americana songs and nuanced vocals are as vivid as always.  Band info and a/v

22. Out of Order – Hey Pussycat
The loudest album on this list is by this assaultive all-female Long Island noiserock/punk trio, raw but richly produced by John Sharples. Stream it

23. Changing Modes – In Flight
With three keyboards and edgy lead guitar, these women and guys play biting, lyrical art-rock and new wave-influenced sounds. Stream it

24. Chris Erikson & the Wayward Puritans – Lost Track of the Time
Erikson has been one of the great guitarists in Americana for years, in other peoples’ bands. This is his long-overdue debut as a leader, a careening, gorgeously twangy mix of Americana, paisley underground psychedelia and riff-rock. Stream it

25. Marissa Nadler – The Sister
The Nashville gothic/noir cabaret chanteuse/songwriter’s most haunting and atmospheric album since her debut, a darkly nebulous, allusive gem. Stream it/free downloads

26. Spanking Charlene – Where Are the Freaks
Female-fronted Americana punk band with  powerful, intense lead vocals, hooks that run the gamut from the Stooges to X and a potently snide, sarcastic, spot-on worldview. Stream it

27. Frankenpine – In That Black Sky
Creepy original bluegrass, Appalachian ballads and elegantly dark acoustic sounds from this diverse Brooklyn band. Stream it/free dowloads

28. Choban Elektrik – their debut album
A side project by members of Zappa cover band Project/Object, they take classic Balkan and gypsy themes and make trippy psychedelic rock out of them. Stream it

29. Slavic Soul Party – New York Underground Tapes
The wildly popular Brooklyn Balkan brass band at the top of their funky, surprisingly eclectic, intensely danceable game. Stream it

30. Saint Maybe – Things As They Are
A throwback to the paisley underground bands of the 80s like True West and the Dream Syndicate, this project by a Patti Smith guitarist and Bob Dylan’s drummer mixes surreal, apocalyptic imagery and raw, surreal, psychedelic Americana rock. Stream it 

31. Mike Rimbaud – Can’t Judge a Song By Its Cover
The New York underground rocker – who also put out an excellent album of originals last year, and constantly releases video singles – puts his indelibly New York spin on politically charged classics by Phil Ochs, Dylan, the Stones and others. Stream it

32. When the Broken Bow – We, the Dangerous Weapons
A surreal, fearlessly political, apocalyptic concept album by this Oregon band  that runs the gamut from soul-pop to careening art-rock to goth and gypsy sounds. Stream it

33. Tim Foljahn – Songs for an Age of Extinction
Grimly lyrical, pensively psychedelic noir chamber pop and Americana-influenced songwriting. Stream it

34. Demolition String Band – Gracious Days
The well-loved New York Americana/bluegrass/rock twanglers’ best electric album, an intoxicating blend of guitars, mandolins, banjo and Elena Skye’s velvet vocals. Stream it

35. The Brixton Riot – Palace Amusements
Sort of the missing link between the Jam and Guided by Voices, this New Jersey band blast their way through a series of hard-hitting, swirling, lyrically biting three-minute songs. Stream it

36. L’il Mo & the  Monicats – Whole Lotta Lovin
Americana chanteuse Monica Passin’s most intimate and eclectic album to date, with soaring harmonies from fellow Americana siren Drina Seay. Song samples

37. Leigh Marble – Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows
Brooding, bitterly lyrical songwriting with a mix of hypnotically psychedelic and Americana-flavored tunes from the Portland, Oregon bandleader. Stream it

38. Eilen Jewell – Queen of the Minor Key
Truth in advertising – Jewel excels at noir Americana, ghoulabilly, garage rock and oldschool psychedelic sounds. Band info and a/v

39. Mucca Pazza – Safety Fifth
A characteristically high-voltage mix of short but sonically titanic gypsy punk and gypsy rock songs from the brass-heavy Chicago dance orchestra. Stream it

40. Chicago Stone Lightning Band – their debut album
With a raw, guitar-fueled edge, their twin-Gibson assault covers classic 60s style Chicago blues, riff-driven stoner rock, original soul and funk. Stream it

41. Emily Jane White – Ode to Sentience
Intense, broodingly lyrical, intricately orchestrated Nashville gothic and art-rock sounds. Band info and a/v 

42. My Education – A Drink for All My Friends
The Austin postrock/instrumental band have never sounded more lush or guitarishly intense on this mix of desert rock and cinematic themes. Stream it

43. Tom Shaner – Ghost Songs, Waltzes and Rock n Roll
That such a great album would be this low on the list attests to how amazing this past year was for music. The former Industrial Tepee frontman has never written more richly or lyrically than he does on this southwestern gothic gem. Band info and video

44. Jon DeRosa – A Wolf in Preacher’s Clothes
The Brooklyn crooner comes across as sort of a cross between Jarvis Cocker and Leonard Cohen, with a mix of lush chamber pop, Americana and 80s-influenced gothic art-rock. Band info and a/v

45. The Sweetback Sisters – Lookin’ for a Fight
This amazing two-frontwoman honkytonk band not in the top ten? How can that be possible? Take a look at the rest of the list. Stream it

46. Band of Outsiders – Sound Beach Quartet
The 80s psychedelic punk legends are still going strong, with a richly jangly, snaky new ep that evokes Television as well as the Jesus & Mary Chain, both groups whose careers they’ve now eclipsed. Stream it 

47. Mighty High – Legalize Tre Bags
The funniest album of the year blends roaring Motorhead-style biker rock with woozy stoner riffage and some of the best weed jokes ever put on vinyl. Stream it

48. The Weal and Woe – The One to Blame
Gorgeously harmony-driven oldschool honkytonk and 1950s style proto-rockabilly sounds from this wonderfully retro Brooklyn band. Stream it

49. Guided by Voices – The Bears for Lunch
Agelessly energetic, prolific indie surrealist Robert Pollard hasn’t lost a thing: this is the third and best release in the band’s incredibly productive 2012, not including Pollard’s own solo releases. Band info and a/v

50. Ian Hunter – When I’m President
Last but hardly least on this list, another ageless rocker from an even earlier era put out an album that could be the great lost Stones classic from 30 years ago. Band info/free downloads 

Reaching Altitude: Sunday Salon #3

First time was a washout due to the hurricane; second time was an excellent if intimate gathering despite the lack of subway service. The third week of the new Sunday Salon series at Zirzamin was the best yet, with contributions from both the new and established vanguard of New York songwriters and players. As he did the previous week, cellist Calum Ingram kicked things off, this time with a trio, playing his raw, high-energy blend of blues and funk, this time beginning with an intriguing jazz waltz groove.

John Hodel is not a polished musician but he is unsurpassed as a storyteller. His inimitable sense of humor refuses to quit. The Bukowski of the NY acoustic scene knows his subject matter like the bottom of his glass and he is authentic oldschool New York to the core. This time out he treated the crowd to his classic, surreal, dead-accurate Tuesday Morning in a Bar and the chillingly aphoristic Love Has No Home.

Jon LaDeau, an adept blues guitarist, followed with the distantly ominous Stonewall, a southern gothic travelogue of sorts, along with a couple of other bluesy tunes. The Salon’s very own Lauraly Grossman, a cellist by trade, picked up her gorgeous resonator guitar and revealed that she has a beautiful voice with brassy edges and knows her way around an oldtime swing tune.

Anthony Haden-Guest, who has a new collaboration with Canadian gothic rocker Lorraine Leckie just out, ran through his latest snarkily savage lyric, this one a kiss-off to someone. He dared the sound guy to accompany him on piano, which was either an unfortunate or brilliant idea depending on what your tolerance is for out-of-tune piano and rehashed Ran Blake licks.

Leckie then took the stage for a wickedly deadpan take of her classic Don’t Giggle at the Corpse as well as twisted versions of Getaway Car and one of the Haden-Guest collaborations, Bliss, a spot-on portrait of an old couple who have completely lost it in more ways than one.

Pretty much everybody agreed that the star of this evening was Kelley Swindall. The Americana songstress wowed the crowd with a couple of brutal new murder ballads, the second one long and mysterious with a wicked payoff. Swindall is southern by birth and sings with a charming natural twang but also a persistent unease: you wouldn’t necessarily expect nuance in a murder ballad, but that’s what she gave them. And she knows her blues on the guitar too.

The guest spot afterward was by Viking. Viking’s real name is Victor. He’s from Texas, and he doesn’t have a website (for a laugh and not much more, you can google “Texas viking”). He’s a good guitarist and a good pianist as well. He opened with a twisted number about a guy on a crack or ecstasy binge and the nice people (REALLY nice, actually) who took him in. From there he found the inner Buddy Holly in Roky Erikson’s Starry Eyes, then did a skeletal, full length version of House of the Rising Sun with all the lyrics and drove home how absolutely morbid that song is. He also took a terse and purist stab at R.L. Burnside’s Penitentiary as well as a Hank Williams tune. Viking’s quirky deadpan delivery gave the songs considerable extra menace.

The Sunday Salon happens every week starting at 5 PM at Zirzamin, the lowlit subterranean music parlor in the old Zinc Bar space on Houston and LaGuardia. The public is always welcome to come out and spectate, and admission is always free. This coming Sunday’s featured guests at 7 PM are Coney Island noir chanteuse Carol Lipnik with brilliant pianist Matt Kanelos, performing some of the songs from their haunting Ghosts in the Ocean project.

Sunday Salon #2 – Gaining Traction

Every Sunday starting at 5 PM, New York Music Daily presents the Sunday Salon at Zirzamin, in the old Zinc Bar space on Houston St. just west of LaGuardia Place. Last Sunday’s was Salon #2. Conceived as a place for elite songwriters to work up new material in a supportive milieu with the possibility of spontaneous interaction with their fellow A-listers, this one was more about individual contributions. The one unexpected turn came when Rick Snyder asked the sound guy to join him on bass for a trio of catchy, John Prine-ish Americana rock tunes and the sound guy obliged.

There were other highlights. LJ Murphy, who’s playing here on Dec 9, burned through a handful of relatively new versions including the lusciously new wave flavored Imperfect Strangers and a snarling Wall Street afterwork scenario, Happy Hour. Salon co-founder Lorraine Leckie, who played a soaring, rivetingly psychedelic set of chamber pop collaborations with Anthony Haden-Guest the following night at the Mercury, warmed up her pipes with a handful of creepy, sarcastic numbers. But the star of the evening, by pretty much everybody’s reckoning, was Molly Ruth. She too would go on to play an assaultively intense set at the Mercury the following night; this time out, she treated the crowd to a pretty hilarious look at a one-sided relationship, playing both voices in the conversation; a little later on, she did an absolutely morbid Robert Johnson-style blues set in the Rockies. She could have told the crowd that it was an obscure blues classic and nobody would have guessed it was an original.

Love Camp 7 followed with a set of their own. Seemingly finished in 2010 after the sudden death of their brilliant drummer and harmony singer Dave Campbell, the three surviving members have recently regrouped and have been playing a handful of semi-acoustic shows. This one was a mix of new tunes as well as a bunch from their absolutely brilliant 2012 album, Love Camp VII, part tongue-in-cheek Beatles homage and part cynical look at the 60s. Hearing these wickedly catchy, wickedly lyrical songs stripped down to just a three-piece was a revelation.

The Beatles stuff blended bittersweetness and a cruel sarcasm that was often just as unsparingly funny as the Rutles, bandleader Dann Baker’s acoustic guitar mingling with Steve Antonakos’ stingingly precise, staccato electric, Bruce Hathaway taking a handful of lead vocals when he wasn’t adding harmonies. They followed the wry Rubbber Soul with the bouncy Beatles 65 and its recurrent Hollies reference, its baroque guitar duet of sorts in the middle a possible parody of the Fab Four’s neoclassical adventures…or just an attempt to outdo them at chamber pop. Either way, it worked.

They did a request for an older song, The World Is Full of Dianas, its snarky lyric and catchy jangle juxtaposed with jazzy, Brazilian tinged sophistication, and tongue-in-cheek Society’s Child quote. Three of the set’s best songs were new ones: One Turquoise Afternoon, blending catchy vintage-60s psych-folk with teens bite, and an absolutely gorgeous number that built from a steadily pulsing, apprehensive, chromatically-fueled verse to a jazzy pensiveness. Horseshoe Canyon Road looked at a fast-disappearing childhood through the envious eyes of child star Mickey Dolenz, who never got to hang out and ride bikes with the rest of the neighborhood kids since he was always getting ready to go onstage or get off it.

They parodied early metal bands like the Pretty Things with Beatles 6, a corrosively riff-driven look at the record industry and made fun of themselves and fellow music snobs with Other Music, a backhanded tribute to the Astor Place record store and its ineffably hip clientele. Abbey Road turned the Youngbloods Get Together into an alienation anthem, while Help put the failings of everybody in the Beatles under the microscope – except for Ringo, since there’s no need for a microscope with him. They took unexpected detours into hardcore, surf music, faux-Indian raga rock and finally wound up on the catchy janglerock note where they started. They might be back here – watch this space.

The Sunday Salon at Zirzamin is free of charge and the public is always welcome to come and watch.

This Week’s Debut Sunday Salon at Zirzamin – Slow But Auspicious

This past weekend’s debut Sunday Salon at Zirzamin got off to a slow but promising start. Slow because there was only one subway line running between Manhattan and Brooklyn, promising because the playing was inspired. Cellist Calum Ingram saved the early part of the evening from being a total wash. Blues played on the cello always sounds good, but this guy’s blues are more funky than most. It’s obvious that he’s at least had an exposure to cello jazz, as well, as he and his cajon player spun through slinky polyrhythms and biting washes of microtones.

Then Rick Snyder made a welcome return to the New York stage; a prominent member of the old Banjo Jim’s scene, he’s been off the radar for awhile. But not anymore. On the spur of the moment, he invited Ingram up to join him for a bluesy Levon Helm-type number, and the cellist completely transformed the song with more of those lusciously uneasy harmonics.

Moments like that one are what the Salon is all about. The premise of the night is to give good songwriters and instrumentalists an opportunity to cross-pollinate and discover artists like themselves, in a supportive environment that operates on a high musical level without the endless parade of amateurs and creeps who tend to take over wherever there’s an open mic. There’s no cover charge for the Salon, and the public is always welcome to come out and watch the performance in the lowlit, Twin Peaks ambience of the club’s intimate back room.

After the salon, which runs from 5 to 7 PM, there’s a show by an invited artist or band. This past Sunday’s show featured dark Americana rocker Lorraine Leckie and Her Demons playing a rare acoustic set.

This time out, Leckie mixed it up. Backed by J Wallace on bass and Hugh Pool wailing as intensely on acoustic guitar as he typically does on electric, they opened with The Everywhere Man, a creepy serial killer chamber pop song from Leckie’s brilliant new collaboration with Anthony Haden-Guest, Rudely Interrupted. They revisited that offhand menace with the absolutely gorgeous, bittersweet piano ballad Happy City, channeled late-period Marc Bolan with Rainbow and You’re So Cool, and ripped through slightly quieter-than-usual versions of the snarling Canadian gothic Language of the Night and Ontario. Leckie and her band are playing the album release show for the new album on Nov 12 at 7 at the Mercury, with the excellent , intense Molly Ruth opening. The next edition of the Sunday Salon is on the 11th at Zirzamin (Houston and LaGuardia, downstairs) starting at 5 PM, followed at 7 by a rare acoustic performance by well-loved third-wave psychedelic rockers Love Camp 7.

Chilling Chamber Pop from Lorraine Leckie and Anthony Haden-Guest

Lorraine Leckie made a name for herself as the leader of a snarling, psychedelically inclined dark Americana rock band that she calls Her Demons. Then a couple of years ago, she put out a tersely creepy solo acoustic album, Martini Eyes. Maintaining the same kind of low-key menace, her latest album, Rudely Interrupted finds her collaborating with veteran journalist and witty social critic Anthony Haden-Guest. Here she sets his coldly sardonic, pun-infused, frequently scathing lyrics to alternately glimmering and gloomy chamber pop from the Demons: Hugh Pool on lead guitar, George Jackson on bass and the Smooth Maria’s Matt Kanelos on piano (fresh off a similarly dark collaboration, Carol Lipnik’s Ghosts in the Ocean).

Although he’s lived on the fringes – and sometimes in the center – of the celebrity world, Haden-Guest has nothing but contempt for it. Usually there’s humor in that, but also rage, notably on the album’s darkest song, Everywhere Man, a grimly quiet account of a party-crashing serial killer. The title track is more characteristic of the kind of wit here: “I burn harder than Paris, is Kim still here?…hello, I just joined the Stupid Club,” Leckie sings with just the wisp of a snarl against an elegantly brooding web of guitars, piano and cello.

Leckie takes Haden-Guest’s sardonic Little Miss X (possibly about Lady Gag or someone similar) and makes it sinister, Kanelos’ ghostly ragtime adding a sepulchral edge. This ingenue gets her fifteen minutes and then wants more – “Now she’s reading Rumi, and channeling Diana.” One of the most gently captivating melodies Leckie’s ever written, the sad nocturne Happy City is not exactly that: Leckie’s bittersweet piano is simple yet richly evocative. Kanelos’ impressionist upper-register chords against Pool’s washes of lapsteel give Leckie a moody backdrop for Bliss, a withering portrait of a high society couple gone down the tubes. And Formerly Fairly Famous, though the shortest and most minimal of the songs here, might be the most caustic: “I can’t remember your name, my mum kept all the magazines,” the unimpressed celebrity spotter muses.

The next song is Like Camelot. With a martial beat and a big crescendo at the end, it’s unexpectedly nostalgic. Haden-Guest’s only appearance on the album comes on Goodbye to All This, a sarcastically apocalyptic poem set to spacious solo piano – and as he insinuates, what he’d really rather say goodbye to is “Damian’s shark and the Jeff Koons bunny.” The album ends with Some Things I Know, a gently triumphant, unrepentant party animal’s anthem: he’s not ready to slow down yet. There’s only one miss on the album, and the title of that one pretty much says it all: it’s an attempt at harder rock than the rest of the songs and it’s out of place in this otherwise disarmingly beautiful, chilling collection, easily one of the best of 2012. Leckie’s at the Mercury Lounge on Nov 12, with the fearlessly intense Molly Ruth opening at 7:30 PM.

Usual and Unusual Suspects

Jazz writers do this all the time: the dreaded “roundup.” These roundups of albums or concerts usually have one kind of screaming subtext or another. Laziness and plain old stupidity often factor into the picture; resentment at being underpaid, the writer phoning in what would be otherwise be a plum assignment, could also be part of the equation. More disingenuous is the writer who saves up all the B-list and C-list albums for one of these, hoping to dispense with all of them in a single flush so as to clear the desk for the next batch…and pay lip service to the pesky publicists responsible for sending all this shit over the transom, whom one mustn’t piss off to the point where they shut off the endless supply of content, since once in awhile they actually send something really good.

On the music blog side, there’s a fine line between advocacy and fandom. On one hand, there are artists whose work demands coverage because it’s important: to ignore them would be…well, ignorant. On the other hand, there’s only so much that can be said about them, and besides, who wants to hear about the same acts over and over again? With that in mind, here’s a look at some events from the past month that haven’t been covered here for various reasons (quite possibly because they’re received a lot of ink here), or weren’t good enough to make the cut.

It was good to catch the tail end of Los Autenticos Decadentes’ set at Central Park Summerstage last month. It would have been even more fun to have caught the whole thing, but at this venue, it’s sometimes hard to gauge when a band is going to hit the stage, especially if there are a lot of inferior acts on the bill as there were this time around (the latin Beck wannabe who followed them was godawfully bad). But the big, sprawling, horn-driven band was as funny and sarcastic and edgy as ever, considering that this Argentinian group beat Gogol Bordello to the gypsy-punk thing by about ten years.

A couple of days later Lorraine Leckie and Anthony Haden-Guest offered a sneak peak of their forthcoming album Rudely Interrupted to a packed house at the Gershwin Hotel. Leckie has made a name for herself playing Nashville gothic rock for the better part of a decade; this is her first collaboration, and her first venture into chamber pop, and judging from how she and her usually high-voltage band the Demons played it, it’s a smash success. Watching guitarist Hugh Pool play eerie washes of sound over Matt Kanelos’ glimmering Debussy-on-opium piano while Leckie delivered Haden-Guest’s sardonic, creepy narratives with a gentle menace was a treat. The show was over too soon, in under an hour, Haden-Guest practically having to be persuaded to return to the stage at the end of the show to read an offhandedly savage dismissal of celebrity culture as Kanelos played jagged jazz behind him.

Another July highlight that slipped under the radar was a rare stripped-down acoustic show by LJ Murphy at the National Underground. Backed by lead guitarist Tommy Hoscheid and charismatic, eclectic percussionist Professor Jim Porter, Murphy silenced a chatty bar crowd with his lyrically intense, blues-infused tales of financial district happy hour hell, strippers and their fan base in upstate rust belt decay, and oversexed hedge fund types who make the mistake of wishing for a little too much. The Professor took centerstage with the homemade contraption slung around his neck, part washboard and part multi-tambourine, on which he tapped out a series of hypnotic, rattling, clip-clop rhythms with a menacing pair of metal claws. All this metal added both an extra jolt of adrenaline and a slinky groove to Murphy’s metaphorically-fueled intensity.

One of the few benefits of being in New York during the summer is the variety of unexpectedly good daytime shows, whether by solo buskers or full bands. Of all the live music series that take place in city parks during the sweltering months, one of the most eclectic and intriguing ones happens in July and August (this year, anyway) on Wednesdays at around half past noon at Lincoln Square just south of 72nd St. on the upper west side. Stumbling upon the Underground Horns’ show there was a lot of fun. They opened with a blend of New Orleans funk and hip-hop much in the style of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, then slunk their way through unexpectedly eerie Ethiopian and Balkan grooves before bringing back the funk. The drums and percussion were so tight that it almost seemed that they were playing with a drum machine…except that this machine swung like crazy, in tandem with the tuba’s fat basslines as the alto sax, trumpet and trombone soared, bobbed and weaved overhead.

To wind up the month of July on a low-key but very high note, Jerome O’Brien made a welcome return to the stage at Zirzamin with a rare solo show. Throughout most of the decade of the zeros, O’Brien fronted the Dog Show, a ferociously literate, tuneful band who veered from mod punk to vintage R&B-fueled, Stonesy or Elvis Costello-ish rock. This time out, playing solo on twelve-string guitar, he somehow managed to stay in tune, running through old favorites like Halcyon Days – a snapshot of an East Village now gone that’s taken on a special poignancy in these gentrification days – and Saturday Nights Are For Amateurs, which rings even more true now than when O’Brien and his rotating cast of characters used to sway their way through it at places like Tonic or the C-Note. The newer songs, like the scathing election-year broadside Black Eye, and a country murder ballad, packed just as much of a punch. Rumor has it that O’Brien will be back here on a semi-frequent basis; watch this space.

There were also a couple of concerts on the calendar here that didn’t make the grade. It was heartwarming to see that the octogenarian British blues legend on one of those festival bills downtown still has his harmonica and piano chops, but the Gary Moore wannabe playing garish lead guitar behind him was an embarrassment. And that popular country-flavored jamband who braved the clouds gathering over an installment of a popular outdoor concert series in SoHo should have stuck to their originals: all those covers, even the Willie Nelson one, made them sound like a Dead cover band. And putting that folkie banjo player on the bill was a big mistake: that brought everybody down.