New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: pj harvey

A Brilliant, Subtly Satirical New Video From Kira Metcalf

Watch very closely in the first few seconds of Kira Metcalf‘s video for her new single Hoax for a visual clue that packs a knockout punch.

This is how dissidents in the old Soviet Union had to protest. Looks like we’ve come to that here in the US.

Metcalf actually wrote the cleverly lyrical kiss-off anthem eight years ago, but it’s taken on new resonance since the lockdown began. Videowise, the esthetic is pure early 90s Garbage, as Shirley Manson would have mugged for the camera. Musically, the song is closer to early PJ Harvey with even more of a vengeful wail

Lynchian Menace and a South Williamsburg Gig From Noir Chanteuse Laura Carbone

Noir singer Laura Carbone’s voice ranges from purr to a soul-infused ache, somewhere between Ajda the Turkish Queen and Abby Travis. In the noir rock demimonde, she’s in good company. Her deliciously sinister, reverbtoned latest album Empty Sea is streaming at Bandcamp. She’s playing Baby’s All Right at midnight on Sept 22; cover is $15

Lead player Mark Lewis’ lingering Pink Floyd slide guitar hovers over a wash of ominously reverbtoned jangle and dense resonance in the album’s opening cut, Grace, a slow 6/8 dirge. Cellophane, a syncopated one-chord stomp driven by bassist Brodie White and drummer Jeff Collier, is a throwback to early 90s New York gutter blues bands like the Chrome Cranks. Carbone goes back to slinky 6/8 time with Carnival of Souls organ and a vast, bleak panoraman of guitar textures in the album’s title track: imagine the queen of Coney Island phantasmagoria, Carol Lipnik singing an Angelo Badalamenti Twin Peaks set piece.

Nightride is a sparse highway-of-death tableau – like the Dream Syndicate stripped to the bare bones – rising to a garagantuan, swirling coda. Old Leaves Shiver is a weird mashup of folk noir and distantly troubled postpunk, with a hint of corporate urban pop. The opening shriek and jagged, dense guitar textures of Crisis are total Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, matched by Carbone’s distorted megaphone vocals.

A dancing bass figure percolates through the blue velvet textures of Tangerine Tree, the album’s most distinctively Lynchian track – curiously, Carbone mispronounces “tangerine” as “tangrin.” The most epic cut here is Who’s Gonna Save You, a swaying, darkly blues-tinged fuzztone anthem that looks back to peak-era early 90s PJ Harvey. Carbone winds up this relentlessly bleak, gorgeously produced collection with Lullaby, a catchy backbeat-driven southwestern gothic tune. This album’s going to be on a lot of best-of-2019 lists at the end of the year.

Lorraine Leckie and Pavel Cingl Release Their Enigmatic, Witchy New Album at the Mercury on the 29th

Among rock songwriters, few are as capable as Lorraine Leckie in writing across a vast array of different styles. New Yorkers know her best as the leader of a whipcrack-sharp psychedelic Americana rock band that she fondly calls Her Demons. Yet as straightforward as her work with that group is, her other projects can be much harder to pin down. Her latest album, The Raven Smiled – a collaboration with similarly eclectic Czech violin star Pavel Cingl, streaming at Bandcamp – is her most enigmatic, her most beguiling and arguably her best. She and Cingl are joined by those Demons – lead guitarist and recent Blues Hall of Fame inductee Hugh Pool, bassist Charles DeChants and drummer Paul Triff – at the album release show on September 29 at 8 PM at the Mercury. Cover is $10, and you get a free copy of the cd with paid admission.

The influences on this album, through a glass darkly, seem to be PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, although the music here bears more reflection than resemblance to either artist’s work. As you would expect from the instrumentation – Leckie’s Telecaster or piano paired with Cingl’s violin – the sound is a lot closer to the folk noir of Leckie’s spare 2010 album Martini Eyes. However, Cingl’s judicious production frequently adds misty atmospherics and more ornate textures, in the same vein as Leckie’s haunting 2013 album with Anthony Haden-Guest, Rudely Interrupted.

The opening track, The Man That Walks in the Rain sets the stage, cryptic and mysterious, along the same lines as Dylan’s Man in the Long Black Coat. Leckie has made no secret that she is a devotee of the black arts, so it should come as no surprise that Climb Ya Like a Mountain would be a homage to Aleister Crowley (who, as Leckie tells it, was an avid mountain climber – and a surprisngly buffoonish persona for someone enamored with the dark side).

Leckie explores that light/dark dichotomy from the opposite angle with Dangerous Friends, its triumphant continental party narrative set against a hazy backdrop channeled via one of the unorthodox guitar tunings that she employs so often here. By contrast, the baroque-tinged piano ballad Story of Your Life has a lustrous, minimalist sheen, a homage to Prague, a city whose history and beauty clearly resonate strongly with Leckie.

Awake is even more minimalistic, Cingl’s lullaby violin gently building the somnambulistic ambience. By contrast, That Ain’t Nice is a launching pad for Leckie’s dissociative, noisy guitar explorations in tandem with Cingl’s blizzard of glissandos. Witches Heart tersely mashes up early PJ Harvey, witchy mid-70s Marianne Faithfull Britfolk and 80s goth, enhanced by the eerie close harmonies of backup singer Lisa Zwier. “My little doll, you were born under a broken star, I am sorry,” Leckie intones with a cool inscrutability as the album’s most distantly ominous track, Medicine Man, gets underway. The title cut, an enigmatic piano vignette, closes the album on a decidedly unresolved note. As with the rest of the songs here, there’s charm, but also menace, the defining characteristic of this allusively intriguing collection.

Haunting, Atmospheric, Blues-Infused Intensity from the Bright Smoke

The Bright Smoke is the more-or-less solo project from Mia Wilson, whose raw, wounded wail and menacing minor-key songwriting made her previous band the French Exit one of New York’s most riveting live acts for a couple of years in the late zeros. Her songwriting on the Bright Smoke’s new album Virginia Et. Al. is more blues-infused, in the same vein as a young PJ Harvey but more atmospheric. Likewise, her vocals here are more low-key and world-weary but no less haunted and intense. The recording quality is lush yet direct: organic instrumentation, darkly enveloping sonics. Along with Wilson’s guitars and vocals, producer Q. Ledbetter adds guitar and bass tracks over lo-fi percussion samples and loops.

Wilson’s stark blues lines resonate with a rustic, haunting quality on the opening track, God Willing. “God willing the creek don’t rise,” becomes a mantra. “My hands are shaking,” Wilson intones as simple, biting guitar layers linger in the background like a coiled snake that’s about to strike.

Sea Level is the rare song that’s Joy Division-influenced without being slavishily imitative. With its ba-BUMP beat and catchy, mournfully bluesy melody, it also brings to mind the Stooges classic I Need Somebody. “Do you know what it’s like to wake up after trying not to wake up again?” Wilson asks. Slow Burn is slightly more upbeat, like the Banana Album-era Velvets taking a stab at a classic country song. The ache in Wilson’s voice is visceral as she waves someone away for good.

Pure Light is the longest, most hypnotic track here, the low resonance of Wilson’s voice contrasting with the guitars’ overtones, gentle but uneasy slides and creepily tinkling piano overhead. “Can you feel the wind come to make you wild again?” Wilson asks on the next track – but the answer isn’t clear, and it’s as if the wind she’s talking about could freeze everything over, again with a minor-key, minimalist Joy Division intensity. The last track, Free, is ostensibly a demo, but Wilson obviously knew she had a gem when she recorded it. It’s a dirge, just simple guitar, vocals and a piano drenched in natural reverb and enough out of tune that it maxes out the horror factor: “What a beautiful means to an otherwise painful end,” Wilson muses, a vivid elegy for someone who chose to kill himself or herself by drowning. You want intense? The Bright Smoke’s next gig is at Lit on Second Ave. at 8 PM on Jan 18.

A Roaring, Haunting, Angst-Fueled New Album from Shannon Wright

One of the most distinctive and purposeful guitarists around, Shannon Wright has a new album, In Film Sound, due out May 7. It’s every bit as dark and intense as you would hope for. Wright’s world-weary, exhausted vocals channel doom and despair over overtone-drenched, buzzing, roaring sheets of poisonous lead-grey guitar sonics. Millions of bands have tried in vain to capture the surreal menace that Sonic Youth immortalized on Daydream Nation but this album achieves it. Wright’s writing is a lot more succinct and lyrically focused than Moore, Ranaldo & Co.: the presence of a defiant, mud-splattered young PJ Harvey towers over many of these songs.

The opening track sets the stage with its layers of guitar, absolutely satanic, chromatic central hook and tricky rhythms. The Caustic Light reminds of Randi Russo with its hypnotic, vamping verse and overtone-drenched chorus. Tax the Patients works the political as personal, and vice versa, evilly trumpeting guitar buildling to a prickly, circular waltz theme. As it reaches fever pitch, Wright’s mantra is “try to accept this just a bit longer.” But do we have to?

Who’s Sorry Now sets what could be either keys or a guitar synth tune over echoing, dirgey drums, rising to an apprehensive swirl fueled by misty cymbal crashes. Bleed begins as a trance-inducing piano piece and takes on a Philip Glass-inspired creepiness, while Mire reminds of Thalia Zedek and her band  Come, dirgy bludgeoning riffage lightened unexpectedly by what sounds like the woodwinds sestting on a mellotron.

“Burst into flames, pieces on the ground,” Wright murmurs as Captive to Nowhere begins, skeletally, then exploding in a blaze of distorted guitars. The best song on the album, Surely, They’ll Tear It Down brings back the Randi Russo edge, this time as a slow, towering art-rock anthem, stately organ juxtaposed against a smoldering guitar melody: “Such waste, such decay,” Wright snarls. It could be sarcastic: an anti-gentrification broadside? The album winds up with  a dark harmonium theme playfully titled Mason & Hamlin (do they make harmoniums as well as pianos?). Wright is at the Mercury Lounge on June 7.