New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: indie rock

Haunting Noir Psychedelia and a Rare Williamsburg Show by Fernando Viciconte

“Everything you’re saying turned out wrong,” Fernando Viciconte muses. “Busted and broken or dead and gone.” Then a Farfisa keens, way back in the mix. And then the song explodes. The song is Save Me, the opening track on his new album Leave the Radio On, streaming at Bandcamp. And it’s killer. Sort of the lost great Steve Wynn album.

Viciconte hails from Argentina originally. Got his start in LA twenty-odd years ago, fronting a band called Monkey Paw. Eventually landed in Portland, Oregon. Wynn heard him and gave him the thumbs-up, as does his Baseball Project bandmate Peter Buck, who plays a lot of guitar on the album. You could call this noir psychedelia, for the sake of hanging a name on it, and you wouldn’t be off the mark, although there are a lot of different flavors here from both north and south of the border. It’s one of the best records of the year (and it is a record – you can get it on vinyl). Viciconte is making a rare New York swing, with a gig on November 27 at 9 PM at Pete’s. He’s also at the small room at the Rockwood tomorrow night, the 25th at 8.

The album’s second cut, The Dogs, is a lot quieter and vastly more surreal, with a similar sense of desperation and doom: Viciconte airs out his balmy, Lennonesque voice as the fuzztones come in with a swoosh of cymbals and a big exhaust fan blast of reverb. El Interior blends uneasy organ and mariachi horns into its Patagonian gothic resonance, an allusive tale of return and despair.

Icy, trebly layers of acoustic guitar mingle with eerily stately piano as So Loud gets underway, then picks up with a shuffling border rock groove up to a murderous series of drumshots out. The slow, brooding 6/8 anthem Friends and Enemies traces the last days of a dying relationship over Daniel Eccles’ elegaic guitar and pedal steel lines. Viciiconte hints that he’s going to take The Freak in a growling garage rock direction, but instead rises toward circus rock drama and desperation, David Bowie as covered by southwestern gothic supergroup Saint Maybe, maybe.

Paul Brainard’s pedal steel and then Buck’s mandolin sail woundedly above Viciconte’s low-key, defeated vocals and steady acoustic guitar on another elegaic number, the vintage C&W-inflected Kingdom Come:

Stay in pale moonlight
Stand your ground and choose your side
We don’t believe you anymore
We’ve all crawled on your killing floor

Then the band picks up the pace with the backbeat-driven Burned Out Love, part blistering paisley underground anthem, part wickedly catchy late Beatles. The gloomiest number here, White Trees takes a turn back down into spare folk noir:

When you left the table, who followed you home?
The knives and daggers left flesh and bone
The moon moon was shining on that cursed white stone
And you were crying and crying, trying to let it go

The catchiest yet arguably most haunting of all the tracks is the surreal In Their Heads, with its echoey blend of backward masking and ghostly narrative of childhood memories of an execution. One can only imagine what Viciconte might have witnessed, or heard about, during his early years in Argentina in the days of los desaparecidos. The album winds up on its most Beatlesque note with the title track: “Illusion is only skin deep, like raindrops on your wall,” Viciconte broods, “It all comes to an end in the blink of an eye.” Enjoy this dark masterpiece while we’re all still here.

Enigmatic Songwriter and Magical Singer Elisa Flynn Puts Out a Richly Nuanced, Eclectic Solo Album

Elisa Flynn‘s new album My Henry Lee – streaming at Bandcamp – picks up where she left off with her unselfconsciously haunting, historically-infused 19th Century Songs in 2011. Flynn has been one of New York’s most distinctive, poignantly powerful singers since the zeros, back when the founding member of Bunny Brains decided to study vocals with Shara Worden. If anything, this is Flynn’s most nuanced and dynamic album yet, maybe because it’s mainly just solo electric guitar and voice with the occasional echoey electric piano or guitar overdub. The music is both elegant and scruffy, and very catchy: Flynn likes to juxtapose enigmatic, simple variations on a spare guitar riff with more anthemic, sometimes majestic choruses. Flynn is also an irrepressible impresario: she’s playing one of her usual haunts, the Way Station tomorrow night, November 17 at 8 PM, leading “ an evening of songs of antagonism and rivalry” with Lys Guillorn, Maharajah Sweets, Dan Cullinan, Wifey, Sarah Bisman, Thee Shambels’ Neville Elder, John LaPolla, plus a reading by Kevin Kinsella (ex- John Brown’s Body).

The title track of Flynn’s new album sets the tone, a brooding, resonantly fingerpicked, carefully considered but also pretty radically reworked take of the classic murder ballad popularized by Nick Cave and PJ Harvey. Flynn follows that with the ominously picturesque My Blood, set to a hypnotically ringing, loopy guitar backdrop. Cheetah, the first of a couple of numbers celebrating animalian fearlessness, rises from a briskly strummy, fast 6/8 groove spiced with surrealistically echoey early 80s electric piano: it could be a demo from the Church circa 1983.

Likewise, Horse Race, with its weirdly echoey, lo-fi, bell-like guitar, except that this is Flynn at her sardonic, darkly amusing best: “There’s nothing rough about you, I’d just like to put that on you, I want you to be more like me…tell me what drugs you’re on,’ she poses to a complicated person who’s clearly vexing her. Keeper of Secrets is another number pairing unresolved minimalism against another wickedly catchy chorus, a possible elegy with hints of late Beatles as the music subtly builds from skeletal to lush. The final cut is a banjo tune that’s simultaneously stark and rustic and yet completely in the here and now: as ancient as this song sounds, it’s impossible to imagine it being recorded in, say, 1988. It’s an uneasy escape anthem that harks back to the Reconstruction-era milieu of much of Flynn’s previous album. There’s a lot going on here, lyrically especially – these songs grow on you. Watch this space for more full-length solo shows by Flynn, who’s just as funny a stage presence as she is an individualistic guitarist and rivetingly good singer.

A Balcony View of the Incredibly Popular Oh Hellos at Bowery Ballroom

In an era in New York when nobody leaves their neighborhood anymore, that the Oh Hellos sold out Bowery Ballroom on a rainy Monday night is a major achievement by any standard. Has anyone ever sold out Bowery Ballroom on a Monday? Maybe Patti Smith, if New Year’s Eve happened to fall on that day of the week. Of course, a cynic might argue that the rich southern white kids who packed the house are the neighborhood now, more or less. As was clear from the ecstatic pitch of the applause as the band hit the stage, this was date night: lots of fresh-faced guys and girls, college juniors and seniors and recent grads, from the looks of them.

How do you report on a show if you spend most of it shooting pics of random gaggles of girls who’ve wordlessly handed you their phones, beaming and breathless? You try to get a grip on what brought those girls out – other than some mad dash for fifteen seconds on Instagram, maybe. What the Oh Hellos did to clinch this blog’s interest was to record an aptly creepy, enigmatic newgrass-tinged version of Camille Saint-Saens’ famous late 1800s classical piece, Danse Macabre, on their brand-new album Dear Wormwood. Interestingly, frontman/acoustic guitarist Tyler Heath apologized in advance for a setlist that would take a dip into darker material, although, he hastened to add, it would emerge triumphant shortly thereafter and pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the show.

Which is what got the girls swaying and singing along. A lot of times it seemed that everybody in the band was singing, even if they didn’t have a mic in front of them, adding considerable lushness and bulk to what was often already a towering, anthemic sound, the Polyphonic Spree with more of an ecumenical feel and some real tunes for once. Something you get growing up in the church in Flyover America, maybe? With two drummers – one on a full rock kit, the other on a more stripped-down but heavier standup kit – a total of three guitars, bass, viola, banjo and Heath’s sister Maggie adding her soaring, occasionally operatically-tinged vocals, the peaks and valleys were about even,, but the former made the latter seem hours away. A couple of cheerily circling numbers early on seemed to reference Vampire Weekend;; by the end, they’d risen closer to cloudy Coldplay bluster. The banjo and viola grounded much of the material in a folk vernacular, but one that was closer to the Punch Brothers than, say, Doc Watson. In between, symphonic swells and lustrous washes of sound sat side by side with both pensively fingerpicked folk-rock interludes and rousing, stomping, Celtic-flavored choruses.

One of Tyler’s lines that seemed to go over particularly well with the audience was, “We are not all alone in the dark with our demons.” Those who might need that kind of assurance can get it tonight, Nov 11 at Terminal 5 on an eclectic triplebill, starting at 8 PM with fiery female-fronted psychedelic/garage/honkytonk hellraisers Those Darlins, the Oh Hellos afterward and then fire-and-brimstone Americana dude Shakey Graves. Hopefully you have $27.50 advance tix if you’re going; it’s more at the door.

Fever the Ghost Bring Their Droll Blend of Glam, Psychedelia and Art-Rock to Bushwick

The title of Fever the Ghost’s new album Zirconium Meconium – streaming at Bandcamp – basically means “fake shit.” Is that because their style springboards off a sparkly psychedelic sound that crystallized about a half-century ago? Whatever the case, the quality of the music is no joke, even if the album is full of them. Fever the Ghost have a gig tonight, November 7 at around 9 at Alphaville,140 Wilson Ave (Stuydam/Willoughby) in Bushwick, cover TBA, guessing around $10. Take the M to Central Ave.

Bobby Victor’s ornate, baroque-tnged piano kicks off the instrumental overture Metempsychosis, which segues into Rounder II, frontman Casper Indrizzo’s strobe guitar mingling with the organ for a high, High Romantic vibe with a touch of glam. If Spacehog was a keyboard band, they’d sound like this. From there the group segues into Hinterland, Indrizzo’s playful faux-Bowie vocals rising over pulsing waves of ELO keyb arpeggios, bassist Mason Rothschild and drummer Nick Overhauser providing an unexpectedly balletesque beat.

Peace Crimes has a mystifyingly out-of-tune synth underneath the balmy vocals, lingering guitar and Tschaikovskian tune. Surf’s Up!…Nevermind puts a droll prog-pop spin on Astronomy Domine-era Pink Floyd. Long Tall Stranger – a trippily twisted tale of a child kidnapping – reverts to a blend of blue-eyed Bowie soul and vintage symphonic rock.

Fathoms puts a third-wave glam spin on an old Status Quo garage rock classic. From there the band takes a techy-tacky, Pulp-ish detour into synthy disco with 1518, then bookends a nebulous interlude with new wave Motown in Sun Moth. Vervain (Dreams of an Old Wooden Cage) leavens the gravitas of mid-90s Blur with a wry Gringo Star sensibility. The album winds up with Equal Pedestrian – a not-so-successful parody of Disney autotune pop – and the George Harrison-esque piano ballad A Friend in Lonely Jesus. Like a lot of the best psychedelia, this music doesn’t take itself the least bit seriously, especially as far as the faux-operatic octave effects on the vocals are concerned. If the band can replicate any reasonable proportion of this studio grandeur, they should be a lot of fun live.

Reverb Monsters Thee Oh Sees Flip the Script in Their Return to Bowery Ballroom

Is Thee Oh Sees’ September 8, 10 PM show at Bowery Ballroom going to be a wash since it’s right after the Labor Day weekend? Probably not, since the band had been on hiatus for much of this past year while frontman John Dwyer took care of Castle Face label business. And most everybody who’s coming back to town will be back by then. So if assaultively glimmering, reverb-drenched psychedelic garage rock is your thing, you should plan on getting to the venue a little early; general admission is $20.

Thee Oh Sees’ latest album – their fourteenth release –  is Manipulator Defeated At Last (streaming at Soundcloud), and it’s a real curveball, an unexpectedly successful departure into retro 80s tropes. If you thought you knew this band, you’re in for all sorts of surprises – good ones. The opening track, Web starts out as a coy new wave strut until Dwyer comes in and throws lighter fluid on everything – is it a spoof? Maybe. Probably. The twin guitars doing a horn chart toward the end is period-perfect 80s.

Halloweenish whistling wind sonics and a slinky bassline explode into an early Joy Division stomp in Withered Head. Likewise, Poor Queen welds a lingering Daniel Ash-ish reverb guitar riff to a skittish 2/4 beat. Then Dwyer mashes up galloping garage rock with Syd Barrett and a tongue-in-cheek early 70s stoner rock riff in Turned Out Light.

Lupine Ossuary – you just gotta love this guy’s song titles – is Link Wray as Barrett would have done it,  a surrealistically squalling one-chord jam. In what has become a sadistic formula, Dwyer juxtaposes a dreamily cinematic, serpentine early 60s organ theme with crushing guitars in Sticky Hulks: it’s the most psychedelic track here.

Acoustic guitars – WTF?!?! – build a web in tandem with the organ as the uneasy motorik theme Holy Smokes gets underway and remains in the fast lane. By contrast, Rogue Planet is sort of Wire as done by Guided by Voices. The album winds up with the murderously lingering, shuffling Palace Doctor, an ambling, ominously vamping, latin-tinged take on vintage Bauhaus. Wow. We take this band for granted and they just keep putting out great albums, this being one of their best.

Young Marble Giants on Both Sides of the Pond

What’s the most unlikely band reunion ever? The Velvet Underground? Or when Pink Floyd got back together for that live tv cameo? How about this August 27 at 7:30 PM, when Young Marble Giants will play their cult favorite 1981 album Colossal Youth at London’s Royal Festival Hall? There’s karmic justice, and no little irony in the fact that thirty-five years after they first broke up, the band are playing one of their biggest gigs ever. What’s probably just as unlikely is that they’d be together to do it at all. £17.50 balcony seats are still available for budget-minded London postpunk fans.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, a stellar and similarly unlikely collection of downtown New York rock talent are getting together at the exact same hour at Hifi Bar to play the album in its entirety. Springboarded by Elk City’s Renee LoBue, the performers include folk noir chanteuse Erica Smith, janglerock mastermind Paula Carino, the Bush Tetras’ Cynthia Sley, Toot Sweet‘s acerbic Mary Spencer Knapp, Speed the Plow‘s John and Toni Baumgartner, along with many, many others. This is a gig where there may be as many band members as audience members in the house.

The album itself is quirky, very humbly and rather primitively recorded, and an acquired taste for some. A favorite of college radio dj’s when it came out, it’s considered one of the foundations of lo-fi music in general. As precious and prissy as so much so-called bedroom pop is, it wouldn’t be a stretch to file the record within that genre. Stuart Moxham’s minimalist, tentative guitar and simple yet saturnine keyboards made an apt backdrop for frontwoman Alison Statton’s distinctive, unassuming, low-key vocals, punctuated by Moxham’s brother Philip’s incisive if similarly simple bass work. You can check it out – or revisit fond college dorm memories – at Spotify.

Speaking of performers who’re doing the tribute show, Smith and Knapp most recently shared the stage at 2A at the end of May, on a fantastic quadruplebill with American Ambulance‘s Pete Cenedella and host Monica “L’il Mo” Passin. Passin distinguished herself with her ability to shift seamlessly between innumerable styles, from Brill Building pop, to latin soul, rockabilly, oldschool C&W and rootsy bar-band rock. Her guitar playing was just as eclectic: she’s the rare player who can do a song solo acoustic, stick a solo in the middle and have it seem perfectly natural even without bass and drums.

Knapp’s accordion work was just as diverse, running the gamut from torchy French chanson, to enigmatic bedroom pop (if anybody on this bill really GETS Young Marble Giants, it’s her), ornately theatrical art-rock and an unexpected and very successful detour toward the avant garde. Passin playfully needled Cenedella for his handful of references to ganja, in several numbers from American Ambulance’s cult classic Streets of NYC album, a bittersweet look at uneasy teenage romance in New York in the late 70s. Which was funny, since Cenedella’s blend of twangy Americana and biting Graham Parker-esque proto new wave songcraft is the furthest thing from stoner music.

The star of the show was Smith, who held the audience rapt with a mix of new material and old favorites. As she told the crowd, her songs typically fit into three distinct categories: death songs, seduction songs and despair songs. An unexpectedly seductive number was the chilling, nocturnal Nashville, Tennessee, a stark waltz from Smith’s Snowblind album. Along with similarly spare, plaintive versions of the folk standards Pretty Saro and Wayfaring Stranger, she spun quietly through the wrenchingly poignant River King, a gently swaying, Fairport Convention-ish art-folk number with a knockout punch, a metaphorically loaded tale of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. She also brought out a handful of new numbers: the night’s most impactful song was a brand-new one, Veterans of Foreign Wars, a brooding, suspensefully enveloping waltz with what could be a chilling allusion to the Eric Garner murder. Although Smith’s imagery is opaque and allusive – that’s the seduction thing going on – so you never know.

And after the four onstage had wrapped up their evening, the irrepressibly charming, ebullient, wickedly tight swing jazz harmony trio the Tickled Pinks lept onstage with their bassist and guitarist and kept the audience on the sunny side of the street with a brief set of standards. “They’re all the same song,” bandleader Karla Rose (of brilliant, psychedelic noir quartet Karla Rose & the Thorns) joked, but all that counterpoint, and all those harmonic leaps all over the place, aren’t exactly easy. But the trio sang as if they’d been doing this all their lives. Which they sort of have.

Passin’s next show upstairs at 2A is this August 30 at 9, where she switches to bass to play with countrypolitan chanteuse Drina Seay‘s fantastic noir-inclined band.

Ravi Shavi Bring Their Fun Update on Retro Rock and Soul to South Williamsburg

“You guys must love Radio Birdman,” the e-zine publisher and future blogger grinned.

“Huh? Who’s Radio Birdman?” the Disclaimers‘ frontman and guitarist Dylan Keeler responded, perplexed.

This was back in 2001 or so. The Disclaimers – esteemed in New York but criminally unknown outside of town – had just wrapped up their ferociously tuneful set at the now long-gone C-Note on the Lower East Side with a menacingly stomping, chromatically-fueled garage-punk hit. Which was a dead ringer for the Australian band…except that nobody in the Disclaimers had ever heard of Radio Birdman.

The punchline here is that you have to be careful attributing influences to bands or musicians. The wheel gets reinvented sometimes. So it’s probably fair to say that while Rhode Island band Ravi Shavi are often a dead ringer for sardonic 90s cult favorites Railroad Jerk, it’s also possible that they never heard of that group. What they share with them is a love for retro rock and soul sounds and a trash-talking sense of humor. Where Railroad Jerk blended atonal indie-ness into their 60s-influenced mashup, Ravi Shavi infuse theirs with lots and lots of reverb and more of a punk edge. Clear Plastic Masks are a good comparison – and a more likely influence. But you never know. Ravi Shavi have a gig at Don Pedro’s at 8:30ish on August 29 and a debut album streaming at Bandcamp.

Frontman Rafay Rashid works a sly come-on vibe on the opening track, the vampy two-chord Indecisions. Bloody Opus is a punk rock vignette with a Modern Lovers reference at the end. Guitarist Nick Politelli makes playful soul/garage/funk out of lots of ornate 7th chords on Hobbies, with a little Chuck Berry thrown in as well. Accidental takes liberties with a familiar Motown-style tune – the band rips the dance out of it and does it as four-on-the-floor rock with a little punk snottiness.

“I need a place to crash tonight, I need a place to be,” Rashid implores in Local News. Amphetamine – an original, not the Steve Wynn classic – has a Stonesy growl pushed along by bassist Bryan Fieldin and drummer Andrew Wilmarth – when the chorus kicks in, twin reverb guitars going full tilt, it’s pure sonic redemption.

Old Man rips off Dylan’s Just Like a Woman – which might be deliberate, and a joke. Problems – no, not a Sex Pistols cover – is the album’s best track, a shuffling, chord-chopping latin soul number: “Yeah, you had a lotta problems at home,” is the mantra. But there’s a happy ending. Critters has a strutting, practically disco groove: “Who’ll shoot the ones that love you?” is the operative question. ??? The album winds up with the redundantly titled Vacation Holiday – which may also be a joke, alternating between an anxious soul pulse and meat-and-potatoes bar-band rock. This isn’t heavy music, but it’s a lot of fun.

The Grasping Straws Set the Mercury Lounge on Fire

The Grasping Straws packed the Mercury Lounge for the album release show for their debut full-length cd a couple of nights ago, treating the crowd to a performance that even by their standards was pretty pyrotechnic. Intense singer/guitarist Mallory Feuer’s band, which began as a collective with a rotating cast of characters, has solidified with a tight, dynamically shifting rhythm section of former Beast Make Bomb bassist Sam Goldfine and drummer Jim Bloom. This time out, they had Feuer’s brother Harrison – of Nobody Takes Vegas – snarling and wailing and machinegunning his way through volleys of metallic menace, then descending to a suspenseful jangle that he’d explode out of in a flash for more fireworks. Meanwhile, the bandleader didn’t even play guitar on the first number, wailing and shrieking, twisting and undulating, eyes closed, a shaman either banishing or mind-melding with some mysterious demon, finally ending with a slinky flip of the mic cable behind her back and then back around. It was dangerous in a lot of ways, not the least being that she might have spent all her bullets in the first four minutes of the show. Was she going to be able to keep that up for a whole set?

As it turned out, pretty much. As a singer, Feuer sometimes wields her vibrato like a metal guitarist, shivering and bending through the wall in the least likely places to max out the otherworldly factor. When she does that, she’s the blues valkyrie that Robert Plant always wanted to be. But more often, she just bends the notes a twinge – and then holds them there in a strange purgatory, letting the unresolved, enigmatic ambience linger, ramping up the suspense. The band took their time building to a sunbaked sizzle from rainy-day jangle in Going Going Gone. They followed with another jangly one, On the Line, from their more jazz-oriented early days, then took a volcanic stomp through the wickedly catchy Just a Memory, part minor-key Randi Russo menace, part early Iron Maiden, maybe – with Heart’s Ann Wilson out front, outraged.

From there they stampeded through State of Affairs, a surreal, distantly terrorized Hurricane Sandy tableau, then took a vividly overcast detour into Home, which began as brooding Laurel Canyon psychedelia and then exploded in shards of distortion and reverb on the chorus. Enjoy the Trip and Sunshine balanced bittersweetly nebulous jangle and clang with jaggedly noisy crunch. They closed with Who Do You Think You Are, taking a long climb upward to a blissfully mighty payoff on the chorus.

They also played a cover, an aptly insistent, hard-hitting cover of White Rabbit, Bloom leading the band through some deliciously subtle, tricky syncopation at the end – as one astute longtime LES music maven observed, it wasn’t Elena Zazanis, but it was pretty close. The Grasping Straws kick off their North American tour on July 11; dates are here.

The Grasping Straws Release Their Savagely Intense, Tuneful New Album at the Mercury

New York band the Grasping Straws have been through a lot of changes, but their latest incarnation is absolutely spine-tingling. Their ambitious debut ep – streaming at Bandcamp – introducd them as a rainy-day, jazz-tinged, jangly project in the same vein the Cardigans or Comet Gain. Their forthcoming album takes the energy up several thousand volts – wow! Frontwoman Mallory Feuer blends an otherwordly, raw, bluesy edge with the fearlessness of pre-meltdown Courtney Love, both vocally and guitarwise, instantly putting this group on the map as one of New York’s most distinctive, individualistic, exciting new bands. They’re playing the album release show on June 30 at 10:30 PM at the Mercury/ Sultry punk-folk-soul siren Liah Alonso – formerly of politically fueled rockers Left on Red – opens the night at 9:30 PM. Cover is $10.

Although there are some identifiable influences in the band’s sound, Fiona Apple first and foremost, their sound is unique. Feuer’s chords ring out with a reverbtoned, enigmatic edge, her vocals wailing, murmuring or occasionally rising to a goosebump-inducing scream with a sardonic lyrical bite while hard-hitting drummer Jim Bloom holds the songs to the rails. Sam Goldfine – formerly of popular alternative rock road warriors Beast Make Bomb – completes the picture as the band’s latest addition. Recorded in analog to half-inch eight track tape, the album’s production has an immediacy that captures their rollercoaster live show.

The jaggedly catchy opening track, State of Affairs reflects the disarray left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the year Feuer, a native New Yorker, founded the band. She switches gears with the ghostly, stark intro to Home, building to an uneasy, acidic vintage Sonic Youth grit. Just a Memory welds wounded, blues-infused paisley underground psychedelia to a late 80s Seattle assault.

Bloom pushes How Will I Grow with a scrambling punk rock pulse; Feuer’s indignant vocals channel Heart’s Ann Wilson as second guitarist Rob Krug adds acid blues textures. Feuer takes Say It Ain’t So up to a frantic doublespeed attack, then flips the script with Your Face, which begins as a hauntingly spare reflection drenched in natural reverb, then rises to a shatteringly epic peak (listen to those multitracked screams at 2:17 – bone-chilling!). The final cut, Don’t Hold Your Breath, looks back to the enigmatic, jazz-inflected vein the band mined in their early days. First-class tracks wall to wall with this one: put it on the shortlist for best full-length debut of 2015.

Parlor Walls Entertain Bushwick, Then Hit Cake Shop with Their Goodies

Parlor Walls have a bracingly fun ep that for lack of a better word could be called noiserock, a free download at Bandcamp. But they’re way more than that – and they have a lot more material than just what’s up there. A couple of weeks ago at the laid-back new venue Alphaville in Bushwick, they did more onstage in barely half an hour than most bands could do in two. While there’s no predictable verse/chorus structure to their songs and they like noise as much as tunes, their material can be awfully catchy.: when they have to, they keep things simple. They’re playing at 9 PM on June 25 at Cake Shop; cover is $8 and worth it. They’re also at Trans-Pecos the following night, June 26 at 9, opening for no wave sax legend James Chance; cover is $10.

Even though the Bushwick gig was late on a work night, there was a good crowd in the house, and the band kept them there. Frontwoman/guitarist Alyse Lamb – better known as the leader of the very popular Eula – would switch in a split-second from throwing off shards of reverb, to apprehensive postpunk chromatics, a hint of Chris Isaak noir twang, and oldfashioned punk rock roar. Meanwhile, drummer Chris Mulligan held down a thunderously swinging pulse and anchored the songs with deep washes of organ at the same time. This band’s ancestor, lineupwise if not exactly stylistically, is cult classic dark blues duo Mr. Airplane Man.

Guest alto saxophonist Kate Mohanty added an element of surprise, switching between blustery postbop jazz clusters, trickily rhythmic indie classical circles, reverb-drenched no wave acidity, abrasive duotone washes and catchy, blippy, polyrhythmic phrases. There was a menacingly psychedelic, drony quality to a couple of songs, like the Black Angels on molly. Other songs introduced tricky tempos (if memory serves right, one was in 9/8), dreamy/biting organ/guitar contrasts; and half the time it was impossible to tell who was playing the high frequencies, Lamb or Mohanty, the sound was so immersive. Persistent Daydream Nation echoes surfaced and then resurfaced frequently, Lamb’s vocals somewhat less agitated than they can be in Eula. And the trio did all this within the constrictions of maybe three minutes per song at the absolute max.

And there were fringe benefits: Lamb had brought lots of delicious homemade oatmeal-banana cookies. A whole tupperware containerful! They were almost as good as the music. On a night when the trains were all messed up and there was no telling how long it was going to take to get home, and stopping at a deli might mean missing the last train and a long walk to Myrtle Avenue, that hit the spot. Not that there’s any guarantee that there’ll be free munchies at the Cake Shop gig, but…you never know. It is Cake Shop after all.


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