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Tag: indie rock

Psychedelia, Jagged No Wave and Big Stadium Sounds at a Williamsburg Guitar Shop on the 9th

There’s an intriguing triplebill coming up at 8 PM on March 9 at an unexpected out-of-the-way spot, Main Drag Music at 50 W 1st St. at Kent Ave. in Williamsburg, where polymath guitar god Pete Galub opens the night, followed by a couple of anthemic yet acerbic and sometimes abrasive acts, Woodhead and Mustafina

Galub is probably the only artist who’s shared a stage with both Americana icon Amy Allison and art-rock mystic Carol Lipnik. But he’s also a solo artist who’s just as adept at straight-ahead powerpop as he is at psychedelia, a guy who can find the inner James Brown in Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 3. It’s been awhile since the last time this blog was in the house for a Galub show. That was a low-key set with multi-instrumentalist Matt Kanelos in the fall of 2017, at a little Williamsburg spot that four years later would throw away its storied past, and will be remembered for its ugly complicity in a divide-and-conquer-and-possibly-murder scheme.

Galub has put out some good records over the years, but he also has a delightful Soundcloud page where he collects his more uncategorizable material. For starters, there’s Artificial Weather, a catchy rainy-day folk-rock ballad with acoustic guitar and and electric piano, an aptly metaphorical theme for the era of chemtrails.

A solo electric version of Brave Words by the Chills is a lot warmer and louder than the originals, with a strange Jerry Garcia-style interlude tacked on. In typical, puckish Galub fashion, his cover of the Feelies’ It’s Only Life is much more terse and low-key. His wryly psychedelic, Dylanesque take of Roxy Music’s A Really Good Time is also pretty classic, if insider rock humor is your thing.

Other rarities include a funny little cartoon of a tune, Have Yourself a Really Crappy Christmas; Raga Against the Machine, a pretty hilarious evocation of a sitar, and the best song on the page, Psycho Seder, a klezmer horror surf instrumental.

Woodhead’s new single is part skronky new wave, part 80s King Crimson and a little stadium rock. The one before that, a “lockdown version” of Walking Uphill has all kinds of tasty layers of ugly noise, evil tritones and frontman/guitarist Vern Woodhead’s declamatory 80s vocals over Dmitry Ishenko’s snappy bassline. The band’s most recent album, El Inmortal, goes back to 2016 and features the same improbably successful blend of noisy abrasion, punchy anthemic choruses and spoken-word vocals.

Mustafina make a good segue: they mix up 70s acid rock, noiserock, guy/girl metal vocals and the same kind of tricky tempos that Woodhead sometimes negotiate. Their Reverbnation page has a small handful of songs: click the big six-minute second track, Good Times and the Scars to Prove It, to see what they can do with a big stadium anthem. This is the kind of lineup you might have seen at the late and badly missed Bar Matchless – where Mustafina used to play.


A Look Back at Amy Klein’s Icy, Anthemic Pre-Lockdown Dreampop Gem

Amy Klein is a rarity, a guitarist with a distinctive style in the icy wetlands of dreampop. She grew up in public as a sidewoman in a forgettable indie project, but really blossomed when she went solo. She had the good fortune to release her latest album Winter/Time – streaming at Bandcamp – about five months before the 2020 global coup d’etat. If your taste in rock runs toward music that delivers a tingle and chill, this is your shot of aquavit.

The opening track is titled Nothing, with buzzsaw guitar and imploring early Siouxsie-esque vocals, Will Chang’s bass rising and intertwining amid the increasingly dense swirl.

Snappy bass octaves and slow, resonant, Lushlike chords introduce Winter, then drummer Colin Brooks flurries and picks up the pace, leading to a real stomp underneath Klein’s enveloping, quasar textures. Klein and guitarist David Andreana leads the band elegantly through rustic resonator guitar chords to a stately spacerock sway in Daisy, a reference to the Gatsby character.

Her spare, soaring lines shine out over the layers of reverb crash and clang in White Wind, the album’s most angst-fueled anthem. The chorus-box shimmer of the guitars grows more emphatic in Daisy II (Days), Klein’s voice reaching toward the top of her formidable range, up to a raging guitar solo out. It’s the most Kate Bush-oriented song on the record.

A drifting intro leads to an explosive, punching forward drive in Come to You: imagine the Church circa the Remote Luxury album with a woman out front. Klein closes the album with One More Time, a burning minor-key charger with unexpectedly reflective interludes. The last gig listed on Klein’s gig page is a 2019 Bushwick album release show; let’s hope there will be more.

A Brave, Haunting Reflection on Lockdown-Era Alienation and Angst From Lily Desmond

Lily Desmond released her latest album Beast – streaming at Bandcamp – on Halloween in the dead of the 2020 lockdown. As a portrait of that year’s alienation and atomization, it packs a wallop. Desmond is a dynamic and versatile singer, rising form a wisp to a wail in a succession of intriguing, subtly detailed songs with elements of ambient music, indie rock and dark folk. With the exception of “noise guitar” played by a nameless person called “Distancing,” Desmond handles all the instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, drums, keys and a web of violin. She’s playing the downstairs room at the Rockwood on March 4 at 10 PM; cover is $10.

“Put on your shoes and get in bed,” Desmond intones, querulously, in the opening track, Burner. “Been doing hard time under my sheets, no one wants to hear anything about it….it’s all the same, the echoes roll in from last year, trying to get back where they came.” Simple downstroke acoustic guitar and an increasingly dense haze of violin and guitar completes this troubled picture.

Desmond shifts to an acerbic clarity in track two, Giulia, a surreal, allusive bedroom trip-hop tune: violence is only a half-step away in this fragmented world. She rises from gloomy folk noir to scruffy, opaque electric rock over a tumbling beat in Haunt: Elisa Flynn‘s darkest songs come to mind.

Desmond captures a claustrophobic, relentless solitude in Mess, with its staggered blend of guitar and violin loops and fleeting, jaunty bluegrass references: triumph remains behind an impenetrable and constantly shifting wall.

First is a twisted vaudevillian narrative: the party may be next door, but Desmond wishes it would stay there instead of seeping through the wall: she grips the edge of the sink and considers suicide. The album’s final and most straight-up cut is Red: over steady, emphatic rainy-day acoustic guitar, Desmond poignantly chronicles “years of struggling under streetlights, bled me dry…” Yet somehow she finds the strength to keep going. This will resonate with anyone who suffered through what New York became three years ago. Let’s hope Desmond can give us more where this came from.

NYC Noiserock Legends From the 80s Play a Rare Brooklyn Show This Saturday Night

You could make a strong case that Live Skull were the best New York band of the 1980s. They pushed the envelope with weird, acidic tonalities, but where the first wave of postpunk and no wave bands were art-for-art’s-sake, Live Skull had a grim political edge. And where their contemporaries Sonic Youth drifted into an indie slacker vibe over the noisy guitars, Live Skull reflected a Reagan-era punk anger.

They were a ferociously good live act. Their 1985 live album, Don’t Get Any On You only hints at the feast of overtones and psychedelic squall they could conjure onstage. And despite their legacy as a noiserock band, they were catchy despite themselves. This blog was in the house in the winter of 2016 at BC Studio for the band’s first show since 1988, a tantalizingly brief set where they basically picked up where they left off without missing a beat. Since then they’ve returned to recording and playing: their next gig is on Jan 14 at 8 PM at St. Vitus. Aggro-instro two-piece the Austerity Program open the night at around 7; cover is $20.

To be clear, this isn’t the complete original lineup, but founding guitarist Mark C and drummer Rich Hutchins – who took over behind the kit after the departure of James Lo in 1985 – remain, joined by ex-Holy Ghost bassist Kent Heine. Singer Thalia Zedek and bassist Marnie Greenholz also contribute to their big comeback album, Saturday Night Massacre, streaming at Bandcamp (there’s a more recent one, but it’s partly paywalled). While the sound is much more straight-ahead and doesn’t have the group’s signature two-guitar imterplay, it’s still amazing how fresh and edgy they are.. You can even hear the lyrics, which in the band’s heyday were typically half-buried in the mix.

The opening number, Saturday Night Massacre – a reference to the Nixon administration’s final days – is a lot more riff-oriented and straight-up punk than the band’s iconic early work, with simple, catchy single-note leads in lieu of paint-peeling swirl and jagged attack. Greenholz sings Nova Police: at this point, we can hear some of the insistent roar and defiant unresolve in the wall of guitars.

Up Against the Wall is a real change of pace: it’s just lo-fi string synth, a syncopated 1-4-5 fuzz bass riff and drums until the end of the first chorus. Memory Time Sleep is an ambitiously successful blend of the slashing skronk the band mined so memorably in the early 80s, hitched to an ominous, lingering chorus – and that has to be Greenholz sliding and slithering on her fretless bass.

“Everything that breaks has been broken…in this thought control experiment,” Mark C intones in Identical Skies, a pouncing anthem with a surprisingly optimistic conclusion. We hear an approximation of the twin-guitar contrast, sinuous leads and roaring rhythm in Details of the Madness, which quotes liberally and hauntingly from a Joy Division classic.

Mark C fires off some lingering PiL broken chords and then insistent, slashing riffage in Shadow War, the synth hovering over the steady, gritty drive down below. With its tumbling syncopation and bass/guitar interweave, Never Kill a Client could be a standout track on, say, the band’s Cloud One album from 1985. “I don’t want to live in your world,” Mark C asserts.

Zedek takes the mic on the slow, simmering, swaying aptly titled Midnight Zone, a web of surreal sci-fi synths expanding over a blue-flame bassline and eventually some completely unexpected, forlorn blues harp. The band wind up the record with The Date, a straightforward, stomping, slightly more powerpop-oriented take on the band’s peak-era sound.

A Catchy, Tantalizingly Textured New Album From Dot Dash

On their Bandcamp page, Dot Dash provide a long list of artists they’ve shared the stage with over the years, from the Psychedelic Furs, to the Brian Jonestown Massacre, to straight-up punk acts like the Dickies and 999. But the Washington, DC power trio have more of a melodic 90s sound that comes across as a psychedelic pop take on peak-era REM…without the Georgia band’s pretentions. Their new album Madman in the Rain proves they still have plenty of catchy hooks and vocal harmonies left in the tank. And they always leave you wanting more: few of these songs clock in at more than three minutes.

Hunter Bennett’s snappy, counterintuitively melodic bass propels the first track, Forever Far Out, frontman/guitarist Terry Banks building an enveloping blend of textures over Danny Ingram’s hard-hitting, straight-ahead drums.

Track two is Space Junk, Satellites, a pulsing, chiming, bossa-tinged tune with roller-rink organ from mystery sideman Geoff. Tense & Nervous has an aptly skittish drive that brings to mind the early 80s Boston scene, then Banks turns up both his reverb and his treble over Bennett’s gritty, swaying drive and the keening organ in Animal Stone.

That same dynamic persists in the interweave of guitar multitracks and growly bass on the album’s gorgeously pensive title track

Banks hands over the melody line from his icy chorus-box lead to a wry early 80s bass riff in Airwaves. Then with Trip Over Clouds the trio put a trebly, pouncing 90s-style take on late Beatles psychedelia.

With its bounding, rising bassline, Saints/Pharaohs is the closest thing here to vintage REM, Ingram peaking out with his surfy drum rolls. The band make a return to wistful territory, but with layers of bristling jangle and clang in Lonesome Sound: it could be an East Coast version of the early Long Ryders.

Imagine a young Matt Keating fronting the Who and you get Everything = Dust. Wokeupdreaming could be REM covering a late 80s Jesus & Mary Chain song, with a good singer out front. The band wind up the record with a cheery, Happy Mondays-style romp, Dead Gone. If classic tunesmithing from the past thirty years is your thing, roll down your windows and crank this thing.

Drifty, Starry Sounds in Ridgewood on the Sixth of the Month

In Chinese astrology, each lunar year is assigned to one of a dozen animals. January 22, 2023 marks the first Year of the Hare since 2011. In a distant preview of what might be coming, Queens band Year of the Hare – who have an interesting, intricate sound that falls somewhere between spacerock, shoegaze and psychedelic folk – are playing on Dec 6 at 8:30 PM at Bar Freda in Ridgewood. Cover is $10.

Like innumerable New York bands, it’s been awhile since their last recording. But their most recent release, a self-titled 2018 ep streaming at Bandcamp, is intriguing. From what they have up there, it seems there may have been some turnover in the band, but that’s no surprise considering how much has happened since they released it.

The first track, In Faulkner Co. has a sparkling but enigmatic web of electric and acoustic guitars. Axemen Ian Milliken and Ryan Hopper blend voices with a similar freshness as the drums finally kick in – that’s either Matt Nelson or Zach Fisher behind the kit. The autotune interlude is an unwelcome interruption

Leon Johnson’s slide steel enhances the drifty dreampop ambience of the second track, Hunters. The most atmospheric yet also most energetic track here is Two Lights, with Johnson adding violin to the shimmery mix: guitarist Meera Jagroop is in there somewhere as well. Then the band wind up the album with its most delicate cut, Architrave. Given an engaged crowd and a decent sound system, this could be music to get lost in.

Minibeast Open a Dark, Gritty Twinbill in Bushwick This Sunday Night

As this blog celebrates Halloween month, there aren’t a whole lot of particularly dark shows around town coming up. But there is one on Oct 9 at 9 PM at Our Wicked Lady, where Minibeast – the latest project from Peter Prescott, of Mission of Burma and Volcano Suns – opens for the explosively theatrical A Deer A Horse, who have gone in a more grittily postrock/industrial direction lately. Like a lot of trendier venues, the club seems oblivious to #cashalways and has embraced the nickel-and-dime electronic ticketing fad. That presumably means that cash customers will have fork over $14 even at the door.

Prescott got his start behind the drumkit in Mission of Burma, so it’s no surprise how percussive Minibeast’s new album, On Ice is. Their pounding, minimalist, icily noisy posrtock brings to mind Can, Savage Republic, Mogwai and Saucerful of Secrets-era Pink Floyd. There’s surreal spoken word in places behind the steady, hard-hitting, often hypnotic forward drive of bassist Niels LaWhite and drummer Keith Seidel. The album also features sax cameos by Either/Orchestra’s Russ Gershon on a surreal, uneasily drifting, loopy organ piece and Morphine’s Dana Colley on a funkier mid-70s Can-style jam. The best song on the record is a long, undulating noiserock raga.

But more apropos to this month here is Prescott’s solo album Horror & Suspense Themes For the Hole Family, which he put out last year and is also up at Bandcamp. It has a similarly loopy quality, but there are more darkly lingering, drifty cinematic tableaux as well. Shards of reverb guitar flit into the mix or mingle with simple, forebodingly circular synth or fuzz bass riffs. One interlude sounds like an early New Order instrumental; others are more dystopically ambient. They’d make good between-song segues at the Bushwick show.

A Lusciously Layered, Anthemic New Art-Rock Record From Charlie Nieland

The 2020 totalitarian takeover didn’t stop Lusterlit mastermind Charlie Nieland from making another album: he pretty much did it himself, with a little help from outside. His latest release, Divisions – streaming at Bandcamp – is much more lush and majestically textured than you would expect, considering the circumstances. Predictably, it’s more guitar-centric than Lusterlit, although the songs are just as darkly luminous, with echoes of 80s goth and 90s Britrock. And they’re catchy as hell.

His trebly guitar through a cheap amp explodes into a majestic roar in the slow, swaying opening anthem, Always on Fire. Kleptocrats in basic black populate this grim, arson-infested gentrification-era Brooklyn tableau. Nieland is a one-man band, blending all the guitars, bass and keys, with a rotating drum chair shared by Brian Geltner, Billy Loose and Lusterlit’s Susan Hwang.

Nieland’s icy chorus-box chords and keening slide lines linger over hypnotic, suspensefully droning bass in the album’s title track: if Wire played long songs with an American accent, this might qualify as such.

Exploding is a catchy, bulked-up, artfully layered powerpop ballad. Violinist Heather Cole and cellist Patricia Santos build a lushly orchestrated coda in The Falling Man, which could be the Jayhawks taking a stab at a mid-90s Blur song. Then Nieland strips down the sound for I Refuse, a buzzy fuzz bass-driven new wave tune that wouldn’t be out of place in the Dada Paradox catalog.

He builds an insistent, minimalist menace before bringing the echoey guitars into The Land of Accidents, a broodingly rhythmic existentialist exploration. Meta Incognita, a metaphorically loaded explorer’s tale, has a tricky 15/4 beat and lush synth orchestration over insistent guitars.

Another Night on Earth is slower and starrier: the Eels meet Stereolab. Tightrope is not the ELO classic but an original, and it’s the album’s catchiest anthem, Hwang a one-woman choir wafting overhead.

Then Santos becomes the orchestra in Skin, a dreamy ballad, the Smiths without the pout. Nieland turns up the chilly guitars in So Few Have So Much, a swaying, syncopated dreampop song.

The allusively ominous Some Things You Keep to Yourself and the album’s closing cut, Pawns, could be late-80s Siouxsie with a guy out front – and superior production.

Serious Fun: News and Songs for July 8

Because we don’t live in a bubble, today’s playlist is part funny and part really scary. The Covid shot is dead in the water and the pivot to monkeypox (which is really shingles from the Covid shot) isn’t catching on. So now it looks like Marburg virus is being floated as the next plandemic. Let’s keep our eye on it. In the meantime, tonight we have some awesome news, some snarky memes, some more sobering information to ground us, and then let’s close with a mix of songs which are all over the place stylistically but also a lot of fun. Literally something for everybody today: click on artist or author names for their webpages, click on titles for audio and visuals.

On the good news front, in the wee hours of July 6 the Georgia Guidestones were struck by lightning, taking out one of the obelisks and destabilizing the rest of the structure. The remaining pieces of the notorious edifice – erected under a cloak of secrecy in 1980 as a monument to future global genocide – were demolished by a bucket loader the next day. Celia Farber offers a characteristically smart, succinct take on it.

Dr. Monica Hughes has the best memes about it: ever notice how closely the structure resembled the World Trade Center?

Speaking of meme-meisters, here’s the latest from illustrator Bob Moran on the removal of WEF puppet Boris Johnson.

One more funny one before we get to the nitty gritty: the 2030 Food Pyramid, courtesy of El Gato Malo

Now we get serious. Brooklyn’s own Brucha Weisberger, one of this city’s leading freedom fighters, has put together a brilliant flyer comparing the events of 1942 with 2022: “You are a conspiracy theorist, a wacko and an antigasser!”

Dr. Pam Popper, author of the very first plandemic expose, Covid Operation and founder of Make Americans Free Again, has a very succinct video about the myth of cat-to-human Covid transmission…and how first the Nazis came for the Jews’ pets. The meat of the video starts at about 8:00.

Now for some tunes! At the top of the list is Johnny Bitcoin doing Take This Jab and Shove It: “The CDC can KMA for all the things they did, they’re guttier than hell to think they’re gonna shoot that crap in our kids.”

Van Morrison, who has reinvented himself as the hottest protest songsmith in the North Atlantic, admits that he’s Dangerous: “Somebody said I was dangerous, I must be getting close to the truth!”

Alice Cohen keeps the scary vibe going with Wild Wolf, a trip-hop tune with jangly folk noir guitar grafted on. On one hand, this is totally 90s, on the other it’s completely in the here and now.

Most Amy Winehouse imitators can’t compare with the original, but Long Island City soul singer Jennah Vox picks up where she left off with a cool hip-hop edge in her single, Cannibal. Scroll down the page a little for the audio: “Spent all these years trying to read these strange men.”

Aubrey Haddad’s Future Boxes is a calmly defiant mashup of icy 80s new wave and late 90s neosoul with an understated message: don’t buy the false dichotomy,

Blixie Perestroika’s latest, Everything and Nothing makes a good segue: hazy trip-hop explodes into fierce darkwave, with a creepy gothic video. The gist of it is coming to grips with finding out that your idols are really hollow illusions

The charge continues with some classic CBGB style punk rock in Vixen77‘s witchy, chromatic single Your Love.

Let’s end this on a positive note with the Let’s Go Brandon mug, which is a predictable kind of funny, but will be a collectible once we get to the other side of this insanity – and it benefits a good cause. Thanks to Libs of Tik Tok for passing this along.

A Catchy Free Twinbill in Williamsburg on the 12th

Considering how almost all of the remaining New York City concert venues allowed themselves to be weaponized for plandemic divide-and-conquer schemes and much worse, there’s hardly reason to single any one of them out for special treatment considering that they wouldn’t do that for us during the time when the New York Governor’s office was imposing apartheid restrictions.

“But we had to comply! Otherwise we would have gone out of business!”

No. When someone tries to take your rights away, you stand up and fight. If none of us had complied, none of this ever would have happened.

Be that what it may, right now this group of cowards still run the majority of the spaces for live music in this city. One such is Union Pool, which for years had an on-and-off series of free shows during the summertime, often in the back courtyard by the taco truck. The series is back this summer, although, maybe predictably, there’s been a considerable dip in the quality of the bands. One of the highlights of this month’s shows is on June 12 at around 3 PM with Savak, who play a shapeshifting blend of 90s jangle, 80s postpunk and more indie-flavored sounds. The buzzy 3rd-gen post-Velvets/no wave-ish Messthetics follow at around 4:30.

On one hand, Savak’s vibe is quaintly retro. On the other, it’s very much in the here and now. Their latest album Human Error/Human Delight is streaming at Bandcamp. The band have two main songwriters and guitarists: Sohrab Habibion, whose frequent sense of menace reflects his time fronting Obits, and Michael Jaworski, whose songs tend to be on the brighter side. Either way, Wire is the pervasive influence here. Matt Schulz plays drums; on the record, there’s a small army of guest bassists when Jaworski isn’t playing it.

The great Josh Sinton adds a tasty layer of baritone sax on the opening track, No Blues No Jazz, a catchy, hard-hitting, cynical post Lou Reed number as Marc Ribot might have done it. Track two, Empathy is a wistful blast of downstroke 80s REM clang, followed by My Book on Siblings and its motorik, declamatory take on late 70s Wire.

The group keep the pink flag flying through the next track, Cold Ocean. Nick Sewell’s catchy bass loop anchors the driftingly insistent psychedelia of Set Apart. The group the Obits sound, if a little more quietly, in Oddsmaker, Jaworski’s snapping, strolling bassline underneath the guitars’ distantly lingering menace. It’s the best song on the album.

Trashing the Ghost is an opaquely indie take on the 13th Floor Elevators, then Habibion’s anxious Wire-y chromatics take over in Recanted (Free the Singer). The unease is in the lyrics in the punchy, anthemic Baltimore Moon.

The group work a tersely layered one-chord vamp over a percolating bassline in Adolescence Obsolete, then they hit a gorgeously ringing Fender Twin attack in Dealers, the catchiest track on the record. They close with Dumbinance, which starts out with a surfy nocturnal atmosphere and grows more dense and postpunk.

This blog has never caught Savak live. The last time anyone here saw Habibion onstage, he was flinging out reverbtoned shards during a lusciously evil set with Obits at this very same venue, way back in 2014. Good to see him as vital as ever in this project.