New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: debutante hour

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)!

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Edgy, Fun, Lyrically Driven Americana from A Brief View of the Hudson

New York Americana rock band A Brief View of the Hudson are influenced by traditional sounds but not intimidated by them. They’re not afraid to be themselves, which is a very good thing. They have punk sarcasm and energy and purist chops: their jaunty ragtime song is a warning to stay the hell away, and their carefree nocturne, complete with Paul Duffy’s organ elegantly handing off to a soulful Stefan Zeniuk tenor sax solo, is the prettiest song about death you’ll ever hear. Their lyrics have wit and bite; the arrangements are smart, tasteful and intriguing. The songs on their new album Querencia – streaming at their Bandcamp page – are catchy and deceptively simple: there are all kinds of neat touches that pop out at you with repeated listening. They’re playing Bowery Electric this Thursday May 9 at around 11; if roots music is your thing, you should go see them.

Guitarists Nick Nace and Ann Enzminger join voices in some rich harmonies fronting the band. Nace’s vocals have a wry, sardonic edge; Enzminger alternates between a country soul wail and a clipped precision in the same vein as Sarah Guild of the New Collisions. The opening track, Where Are Songs sets the tone, Duffy’s swirly, lush organ blending with Sean Boyd’s banjo, Nace’s guitar back in the mix, oscillating through a flange. Wisconsin Window Smasher – a tribute to the legendary Mary Sweeney – has a Sticky Fingers-era Stones vibe, a sound they return to with a vengeance a little later on in the savage working person’s lament No Way Out. Likewise, the harmony-fueled Song About Rocks builds to a growling backbeat rock tune: “Don’t stones cry?” Enzminger ponders.

The banjo waltz My Love Is in Washington DC banjo waltz reminds of Curtis Eller at his most sureal and creepy, Enzminger adding disarmingly high harmonies, “Where angels are bullets and death is a clown.” The intensity peaks out with the angst-driven Somewhere Else, another case where the lyrics contrast with a comforting, familiar, catchy tune, in this case Creedence-flavored rock. Jonnie Miles’ tiptoeing drums give Tilly a suspenseful edge, while Until the Waters Go shuffles along with lively horns and piano. There are also a couple of straight-up gospel numbers, the organ-spiced Angels (a remake of the old standard Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down) and the stripped-down country blues-infused Lay Me Down.

Psychedelic Balkan Grooves from Choban Elektrik

Choban Elektrik made some waves last year when they debuted as Electric Balkan Garage, a psychedelic keyboard rock band playing traditional Balkan melodies. Since then keyboardist Jordan Shapiro and bassist Dave Johnsen (both formerly of Zappa cover band Project/Object) and drummer Phil Kester have made a mind-warpingly original album and have continued to play live around New York, with a gig this Thursday the 15th at 7:30 PM at Littlefield opening for the Debutante Hour, who’re doing their album release show. Choban Elektrik’s album is creepy and intense and like nothing that’s been made since probably the late 70s, maybe earlier. And the acts who were playing this kind of stuff back then, like Estonian acid rockers Suuk, were basically metal guitar bands. Music doesn’t get much more original than this.

And this isn’t fusion: it’s rock. 95% of the time, Shapiro carries the solos: no slaphappy Dave Matthews bass, no retarded brontosaurus drums. While the tempos here are sometimes cruelly tricky, Kester keeps it steady: he could go in a metal direction if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. Likewise, Johnsen plays warmly and melodically, sometimes doubling the keyboard line as the band hits a crescendo on a turnaround, occasionally firing off deep, earthtoned chords or tremoloing a note for extra menace. Shapiro is a monster player: fast and precise when he’s playing a clarinet line as he does on the album’s tenth track, dark and murky on the organ, surreallistically bright and edgy on Fender Rhodes. He also plays murderously slithery, roaring Balkan metal guitar on the album’s fifth track, similar to Eyal Maoz’s adventures in this kind of music but with a more nimble rhythm section and more of a corrosive noiserock edge.

The opening track sounds like the New York Gypsy All-Stars (or similar Turkish or Bulgarian electric gypsy jazz outfit) on opium, basically a one-chord jam with Shapiro’s organ doubling guest violinist Jesse Kotansky’s biting lines, the violin throwing off microtonal sparks before going off what sounds like a Macedonian tangent, the organ taking on a funky approach like Jimmy Smith gone to the Balkans. That’s just the first song on the album, by the way. A similar track later on begins with accordion carrying the melody and winds up with the organ swirling around.

Eva Salina Primack lends lush, otherworldly vocals to the echoey, dub-flavored second track, wah-wah electric piano giving way to sweeping organ and then back again. She also sings the poignant eighth track with aching but intricate microtonalities as it morphs from a pastoral violin tune, to funk, to echoey, prickly psychedelics. The darkest track here is amusingly called Mom Bar, trippy atmospherics rising to a torrential organ crescendo and a noisy outro that’s downright macabre. Their version of Steve’s Gajda, by Raif Hyseni goes from burbling to blippy to biting with a surprisingly bluesy organ solo and then downwardly spiraling violin, steadily speeding up to where everything eventually collapses on itself: it’s the most metal moment here. There are also a couple of bouncy Mediterranean-flavored numbers, one with trippy gamelanesque sonics, the other a funk song with growling bass and wah-wah Rhodes piano. The album ends with what’s essentially a big roaring powerpop instrumental with a tricky Balkan tempo. Right now cdbaby has it; watch for an album release show sometime this spring.

More Fun with the Debutante Hour

The Debutante Hour are an irrepressibly fun, irreverent, occasionally satirical hyper-literate harmony trio from Brooklyn with a theatrical stage show and a love of costumes. Their brand-new third studio album, An Awkward Time with the Debutante Hour is streaming at their Bandcamp site; they’re doing the album release show this Thursday March 15th at Littlefield at around 9:30, with the amazing Choban Elektrik and their psychedelic Balkan music opening the night at 7:30, followed by Schwervon.

Some of the Debutante Hour’s songs are satirical, but they can also be disarmingly serious. Sometimes quirky, sometimes coy, sometimes unexpectedly poignant, there’s no other band on the planet that remotely resembles them. Susan Hwang is typically the drummer in the group, but she also plays keyboards, as does Maria Sonevytsky, who also contributes baritone ukulele and drums. Cellist Mia Pixley usually plays the basslines but also gets to add the occasional austere string part or take a plaintive solo. Everybody in the band writes, takes a turn on lead vocals and contributes to the charming three-part harmonies which have become the band’s signature sound. If you have to hang a name on what the Debutante Hour does – which isn’t really fair, given the diversity of the styles they explore – you could call it new wave. They’re better musicians than, say, the Slits or the Raincoats, but they have a similar blend of edgy humor and bouncy melodies.

In case you’re wondering, the new album is too much fun to be awkward. The quirkiest song is the opening track, Doo Wop Girl, a catchy, surreal girlgroup soul tune with producer Peter Hess (who is sort of the fifth Beatle here) flavoring the mix with roto organ and a wry baritone sax bassline. Parking finds the noir cabaret lurking in the adventure that every urban driver knows by heart (c’mon peeps, give it up and take the train!). With its scampering Celtic accordion, Milestone is an inscrutable story told from the point of view of a country girl who can’t wait to get out: “The light that shines on the horizon is just another pair of headlights coming on strong,” she grouses.

The funniest song here is Sexy Sister, one of the more theatrical numbers. “She was quiet and melancholic and awkward when she was small…but magic things can happen thanks to puberty!” The ending is too spot-on to give away. Another track that’s almost as funny is Everybody Thinks I’m a Spy (But I’m Not), a creepy hypnotic ukulele trip-hop soul song – this band’s fearlessness about mixing up musical styles is one of the coolest things about them. “There is no camera taping you from my hat, I just like this hat and it’s cold, that’s what hats are made for,” the girl in the song explains emphatically: after all, she’s just an innocuous musicology student. Or not.

Illusions (Madame Bovary’s) is the most cynical song here, messing with the fourth wall: “I’ve got illusions, I’ve gotta lose them, that’s what they’re there for,” the doomed woman insists. There’s another song about her right afterward, a lush piano ballad that explores how she’s “never been good at being happy.” The album ends on an unexpectedly bitter note with another cabaret-flavored tune, A Book You’ll Never Read, whose author took seven years to finish it just as Michaelangelo, “possessed by either God or greed took seven years to paint the Sistine Chapel.” The rest of the songs include a torchy, dreamy country ballad and a tango [a Chabuca Granda cover?] with a whirlwind of cool contrapuntal vocals.

Xmas Misery from the Debutante Hour

Hope you don’t mind another Xmas song. The typically charming, deviously literate Debutante Hour’s new free single, I’m Afraid of Christmas is ghoulish and sad – just the way Xmas songs should be. At their Bandcamp, the the band’s three women tagged it “Christmas fear quirky Brooklyn” – truth in advertising. Download it free here.