New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: pop music

Purist, Sharply Crafted Twin-Guitar Rock From Ratstar

The cover image of powerpop band Ratstar’s short album In the Kitchen – streaming at Bandcamp – displays an industrial-sized countertop that’s got to be twenty feet long. Next to the sink, there’s a blender overflowing with a suspicious grey substance that’s been blasted all over the floor. That’s truth in advertising. If searing layers of guitars and smart retro tunesmithing that brings to mind bands as diverse as the Stones, Squeeze, Cheap Trick and the British pub rock groups of the 70s are your thing, you should check them out.

The first track, Love You Again sets the stage for the rest of the record: Dave Hudson and Marty Collins’ tightly roaring guitars over a punchy, swaying beat that finally shifts toward reggae underneath a jagged solo. The bass uncurls to a slinky peak in the highest registers; these guys can really play.

The second cut, Stay a While starts out as a chugging, Stonesy tune, hits an unexpectedly lithe, funky groove from bassist Matt Collins and drummer Dean Mozian, then the band go back to It’s Only Rock n Roll territory. The band stay there for Unheavenly Dog, which is a little slower and brings to mind one of the great New York bands of the early zeros, the Sloe Guns.

The icing on the cake here, and the album’s punkest song, is No Encounter. Clustering drum breaks and high-tension lead lines rise to a spectacular exchange of solos between the guitars at the end, one of the best rock outros of the decade.

Azure Ray Return With a Gorgeously Lyrical Psychedelic Pop Record

It’s been twenty years since Azure Ray put out their debut album, a major influence on a generation of bedroom pop perpetrators which was finally issued for the first time on vinyl this year. In the years since, the duo of Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink have not been idle, and they have a brand new album, Remedy, streaming at Bandcamp. In general, it’s more lush and keyboard-oriented, without the group’s earlier Americana touches. The vocals are calm but strong and the lyrics are fantastic: there’s a persistent existentialist streak throughout many of these otherwise warmly shimmery songs.

“How do you say hello when you know there is no more? What do you dream about when you’re not swallowing swords?” the two ask in the opening track, a spare, Lennonesque piano ballad.

They revert to the loopy keyboard pastiches they explored on their debut album in the second track, Bad Dream, but with more of a spacy, dreampop-influenced feel. It’s a wake-up call, possibly referencing an abusive relationship.

Likewise, there’s a gentle spacerock sway to Phantom Lover, swirly keys and chilly guitar clang over a simple drum machine loop. “All we’ve got is what we’ve done,” the duo observe in Already Written, an allusive, bittersweetly devastating psychedelic pop gem that’s one of the best songs of the year:

I want to bite my tongue, I’m never great with decisions
Got a lot to be desired but never asked for permission
Thank god I was raised this way
Now I’m somewhere between what I hear and when I listen
Try to write it down but it’s already written
How I miss those days

The album’s title track has a lush hypnotic web of guitars and a lyric that seems to reference the Trump era:

Stand alone in an empty room
Scared to stay, stared to bloom
Little beast clawing at my door
I call for peace, they call for war…
I’ve disadmired old tendencies
A secret greed in the cemetery

“If you think about it long enough, you’ll question everything you know,” the two remind, over the surreal blend of acoustic guitar and drifting keys in Desert Waterfall. They stick with the spare/sleek dichotomy in Grow What You Want and How Wild: finally, seven tracks in, we get a pedal steel.

The Swan is the most sweepingly angst-fueled, orchestrated number here, a hauntingly allusive tale of a steep decline:

Another fight for the waking light
Did you lose your wings at a sacrifice
It’s impossible to understand
And what tore your fingers back from your closed-up fist
You closed your eyes with confidence
It’s impossible to understand

29 Palms, a strangely successful mashup of atmospheric Americana and balletesque chamber pop, is a soberly imagistic breakup narrative. They close the record with the techy, blippy I Don’t Want To Want To: “Inside part of me has died but I still have a photograph.” Who would have thought that Azure Ray would make an album in 2021, let alone that it would be one of the best of the year!

Classical and Rock Acts Shake Off the Rust at the Naumburg Bandshell

It was weird seeing a rock band onstage at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park last night. There hasn’t been any rock there since the early teens, when some promoter put on a stupefyingly awful disco night. Then again, it wasn’t always unusual for rock acts to play there: it happened a lot back in the 90s.

Twenty years earlier, the Grateful Dead did a show there. Now that must have been weird.

There were other aspects relating to yesterday evening’s show that seemed weird. But most of them were welcome, and reason for guarded optimism at a time when we desperately need it.

The rock band onstage was singer/guitarist Aoife O’Donovan and her low-key rhythm section. She was joined by a chamber orchestra subset of the Knights for a tersely symphonic, imaginatively arranged take of what seemed to a suite inspired by early 20th century suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt. Although O’Donovan’s roots are in Americana, and she was playing acoustic, the songs had more of a classic 60s pop feel, sometimes in a Jimmy Webb or Lee Hazelwood vein. O’Donovan’s work has never been more political, or relevant than this, another welcome development.

A number that quoted from a letter to Catt from then-President Woodrow Wilson had a mutedly rich, brass-infused chart. O’Donovan then led the ensemble into syncopated, Joni Mitchell-esque territory and closed with a more enigmatic, indie rock-flavored number. O’Donovan has obviously done her homework and is encouraging everyone to rise up and fight: a rousing amen to that.

The Knights shook off the rust of over a year of inactivity with conductor Eric Jacobsen leading them through a haphazard take of his arrangement of Kayhan Kalhor‘s exhilarating, Kurdish-tinged theme Ascending Bird. The way the low strings emulated the starkness and shivery intensity of an Iranian kamancheh was a tasty touch. The (presumably) new presence of brass and woodwinds seemed forced, and extraneous to the music’s ecstatic trajectory.

The orchestra left the bumps in that road behind for a sleek and empathetic version of George Walker’s Lyric For Strings, whose canonic cadences evoked the Barber Adagio with less angst, more fondness, and somewhat more modernist tonalities.

Violinist Gil Shaham joined them for the night’s coda, playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 from memory. This may have been just another day at the office for him, but the technique he put to use was just plain sizzling. Which is not to say that this piece sizzles per se: it’s a carefully orchestrated celebration. Needless to say, Shaham’s quicksilver vibrato, the quartz crystal solidity of the endless volleys of high harmonics, and his unassailably confident attack in the most robust moments reaffirmed his vaunted stature.

The first movement seemed fast, at least in the beginning, the orchestra clearly relishing the opportunity to reconnect with their soloist since they’d recorded this together a couple of years ago. The second movement was unusually muted and practically a lullaby in places. The conclusion, with its rounds of triumphant, anthemic riffage, ended the night on an aptly ebullient note. There was no encore.

In a stroke of serendipity, this was the day when Andrew Cuomo apparently caved to the pressure to relinquish some of the dictatorial powers he’d seized in the March 16, 2020 coup d’etat – presumably to give a last-gasp shot of hydroxychloroquine to a political career that’s on a vent and flatlining. The details are still shaking out. It’s not unreasonable to worry that the psy-op squads at the World Economic Forum, the Gates Foundation and the Bloomberg cartel, who have been pulling Cuomo’s strings over the past sixteen months, will attempt to sneak all sorts of New Abnormal surveillance or divide-and-conquer schemes into any so-called reopening plan.

Because the concert was arranged before yesterday’s unexpected events, the organizers had been giving out free tickets online. Trouble was, the ticketing system didn’t work. An anxious message at their webpage timidly asked for proof of needle of death or meaningless PCR test, presumably to satisfy Cuomo’s office: this isn’t the kind of demand the Naumburg organization, who have always been the epitome of genteel, would typically impose on an audience.

While ticketed patrons were being let into the seats – which never came close to reaching capacity – there was clearly no surveillance going on. As far as muzzle-mania goes, oxygen-deficient people generally took the seats, those of us breathing normally situated mostly in back. Standing five feet to the left of this blog’s owner was one of the world’s great cellists: she wasn’t muzzled, nor was one of the world’s great violists, a couple of paces behind her. Sea change, or sign of imminent New Abnormal apartheid? We’ll find out next time.

This year’s series of Naumburg Bandshell concerts continues on June 29 at 7:30 PM when the Ulysses and Emerson String Quartets team up for music by Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss and others. Since tickets for the performance have already been issued, rushing to the space early to score a seat – a winning strategy in years past – may not be worth the effort. You will probably be better off standing, taking a place on the benches immediately to the south, or on the lawn to the west where the sound is still reasonably audible. Bring a picnic and some wine!

Samantha Fish’s Hard-Rocking Retro Soul Stands the Test of Time

The last time singer/guitarslinger Samantha Fish played New York, it was at Highline Ballroom – that’s how long her album Chills & Fever (streaming at Bandcamp) has been sitting on the hard drive here. It’s a standout in the ever-increasingly crowded field of musicians (and what’s left of the music industry bottomfeeders) who’ve figured out that a lot of people whose lives aren’t dictated by what’s popular on Instagram really love going out to dance to oldschool soul music. 

Or did –  until the lockdown destroyed everything.

Fish and her purist band revisit those sounds with a lot more rock energy than most: everything on this record is louder than on your typical classic soul album, and the band benefit from using gear with more dynamic range than tinny, sixty-year-old Vox amps. There’s a lot of music here: fourteen tracks! The first one, Jackie DeShannon’s He Did It gets turbocharged with a horn section – Mark Levron on trumpet and Travis Blotsky on saxes – and Fish’s haphazardly edgy, blues-tinged guitar breaks. But it also has a 21st-century edge: Fish amps up the lyric about being shamed by a backstabbing dude.

Shivery baritone sax kicks off the title track, a backbeat-driven noir take on Ronnie Love’s 1961 soul anthem with eerily echoey Rhodes piano from Bob Mervak. The album’s longest track, Ted Taylor’s Somebody’s Always Trying comes across as an even higher-energy remake of that song, with a careening jam at the end. Fish obviously has a thing for darkly torchy soul: she revisits that simmering vibe later with It’s Your Voodoo Working, set to a soul-clap beat, and then the slow, brooding Either Way I Lose, with Fish’s ominous wide-angle tremolo guitar.

She reinvents the old Barbara Lewis 70s soul hit Hello Stranger by taking it doublespeed, with Steve Nawara’s dancing bassline and the horns balanced by trebly organ and rippling Rhodes fills. Just when you think that the Irma Thomas hit Hurts All Gone is a going to be a balmy southern soul ballad, the guitars kick in hard on the chorus. Then Fish picks up the pace again with You Can’t Go, its sharp staccato riffage in the background behind her long blues guitar solo played through a 80s chorus pedal.

Lushly swaying along in 12/8 time, Never Gonna Cry is a defiantly soaring breakup ballad, The band make an improbably connection between 60s go-go shuffles and bluegrass with the Detroit Cobras’ Little Baby, then hit a relative calm with an appropriately organ-driven, gospel-tinged version of Allen Toussaint’s Nearer to You.

They follow You’ll Never Change, a snippy minor-key soul-blues tune, with a southern rock version of the old murder ballad Crow Jane. The album winds up with I’ll Come Running Over, the poppiest number here, an Australian hit for blue-eyed soul singer Lynne Randell. Fans of artists like Lizzie & the Makers, who use oldschool soul as a stepping-off point for sounds that aren’t limited by the format, should give this a spin.

Subtle Protest Songs and Dark 80s-Influenced Sounds From Polish Chanteuse Brodka

In a review of Polish singer Monika Brodka’s 2016 album Clashes, this blog called her “an artist who’s found an original sound and is still experimenting with other ideas: may that experimentation continue and find a wider audience.” Fast forward to 2021: Brodka (who records under her last name) has taken her songwriting to a powerfully political new level with her new one, Brut, streaming at Spotify.

How far does she cast her musical net this time around? Clashes had a persistent 80s gothic sensibility, as this one often does. From time to time, Brodka moves forward into the early 21st century, around the time of Goldfrapp‘s heyday, with a similar dichotomy between wounded, ripe vocals and icy, airless, techy production.

Brodka sings exclusively in English this time out, more assertively and confidently than ever. Much of the material here is protest songs, no surprise considering how horrific the body count from the needle of death, and the lockdown itself, have been in Poland.

“Quarantine this heart of mine if I ever come back home,” Brodka’s fugitive narrator insists over a blippy, twisted faux-martial backdrop in The World Is You, the album’s most haunting track. The warpy, melancholy ballad Chasing Giants makes a good segue, Brodka’s voice hitting breaking point over a trippy quasar-synth background.

“Enough enough, capricious girl, you better follow the team,” Brodka intones in the cynical goth-pop anthem You Think You Know. Brodka seems potently aware that the lockdown is first and foremost an attack on women.

Trebly hollowbody bass contrasts with crunchy electro beats in Falling Into You, a pensively bouncy pop song which, beyond its anti-lockdown message, may also allude to the struggle for women to maintain their reproductive rights in her home country.

Fruits, an airy, warped psych-pop ballad, conspicuously mentions a “poison seed.” In My Eyes captures the ache and crushing isolation of the past sixteen months, with subtle dubwise touches. “How I’d love touch your hand in glove,” seems to be sarcastic to the extreme.

With the keys warping off pitch and back again, Sadness, the closing cut, doesn’t seem to have any political overtones. Other tracks are more lighthearted and less impactful. Brodka branches out into an exuberant Goldfrapp-hip-hop mashup in Hey Man. Imagination could be the Cure covering the Eurythmics with a good singer out front. There are also places where the iciness of the production overwhelms the content. Happily, that’s not the case with the protest songs. We need more artists like Brodka.

Ride the Cyclone: Funniest Album of the Year So Far

If Weird Al Yankovic, Boots Riley and Mel Brooks got together to write a musical, it might sound something like Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond’s Ride the Cyclone. In the original soundtrack’s twenty-two tracks, streaming at Spotify, no style of music is off limits to this duo’s merciless satire. American and foreign hip-hop, circus rock, corny G-rated Lawrence Welk church-parlor pop, macho Russian crooner balladry, cabaret, emo and EDM all get a good thrashing at the hands of an eclectically talented cast of singers and players.

In one typical number, the amazingly versatile band here chew up ELO, Zapp and Roger, Huey Lewis bar-band rock, 1970s top 40 ersatz soul music and then spit them out, hard. Another song starts by spoofing phony-sensitive Conor Oberst sweaterboy sounds and ends making fun of the Osmonds. The jokes are too good to give away and are not limited to lyrics. This is the rare comedy record that stands up to repeated listening because the snark and savagery comes at you so fast that if you try to multitask, you’ll miss the best parts.

The musical’s Greek chorus is Coney Island character The Amazing Karmack, whose job it is to predict the hour of a person’s death. Adding an amusing level of meta, he gets to deliver some of the most corrosively hilarious punchlines. The story begins as the St. Cassian Chamber Choir, of Uranium City, Saskatchewan arrive at the end of the train line for a roller coaster ride. As you might imagine, considering Karmack’s involvement, things are not going to be quite so carefree as the cheery Canadians expect. A headless body is involved.

The characters are straight out of central casting, with several twists: this is also a parody of musicals in general. The dorky boy dreaming of louche life in the big city; a whiny Veruca Salt type; an operatic piano-thumping wannabe Sylvia Plath; and an oligarch’s kid posing as hip-hop star all get what they deserve, right down to the minute details. Where does Misha Bachinsky, “the best Ukrainian rapper in northeast Saskatchewan,” take his entourage to drink Cristal and roll blunts? No spoilers.

If Bill Withers and Jeff Lynne had teamed up to write the worst song of their lives, it would be It’s Not a Game, It’s Just a Ride. One of the soundtrack’s funniest interludes, Be Safe, Be Good, has sobering resonance in an era of 24/7 fearmongering from the corporate media. The cruel punchline at the end comes in the form of an American Idol-style New Nashville singalong. In a year of relentless gloom and a likely holocaust looming on the horizon, we desperately need albums like this.

Live Music Calendar For New York and Brooklyn For May and June 2021

We’re taking baby steps toward getting back to normal: new calendar for July and August coming 7/1 with probably hundreds more listings. In the meantime, more and more free outdoor shows popping up all over town, so this calendar is being updated more frequently. A lot of shows are being announced at the 11th hour, so you might want to bookmark this page and check back on a night, or an afternoon, when you feel like going out.

Please don’t patronize venues that continue to enforce  lockdown restrictions. Let’s all do our part to make sure New York doesn’t turn into an apartheid state!

5/8, 4 PM brilliant resonator guitarist/bluesmama Mamie Minch in front of the Wild Project, 3rd St between Aves A + B. She’s also at High Dive on 5th Ave and Carroll Street in Park Slope on 5/29th at 2

5/13, 5 PM  hard-hitting bassist Dawn Drake & Zapote‘play psychedelic Afrobeat and funk at the corner of Fulton and Bond in downtown Brooklyn

5/15, 3 PM ish powerhouse tenor saxophonist Mark Turner leads a chordless trio with Vicente Archer on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/15, 4 PM composer-collective Oracle Hysterical premiere their new song cycle Terra Nova outdoors at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza

5/15, time TBA avant garde chanteuse Jane LeCroy’s new punk cabaret duo project Shelter Puppy outdoors at City Reliquary, 370 Metropolitan Ave off Havemeyer, Williamsburg, free

5/16, 1 PM ish drummer Antonio Sanchez leads a trio with Donny McCaslin on alto sax and Matt Brewer on bass in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/16, 3 PM luminous, visionary vocalist/dancer Luisa Muhr, multi-reed legend Daniel Carter and a posse of many more improvise outside 166 N 12th St. in Williamsburg

5/16, 5 PM the SEM Ensemble play Petr Kotik’s Letters to Olga (1988) with text by Václav Havel for two narrators, winds and guitars at in the yard adjacent to the Willow Place Auditorium, 25 Columbia Place (Joralemon/State), downtown Brooklyn, closest train is the A/C to High St.

5/17, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra brass quartet play works by Tcherepnin, Carlos Chavez, Strauss and others at Bryant Park. The program repeats on 5/19.

5/18, 5:30 PM oboeist Alexandra Knoll leads a wind trio playing an all-French program with works by Poulenc, Francaix and others at Bryant Park

5/20, 5 PM dynamic, sometimes atmospheric jazz violinist Charlie Burnham and band at the corner of Fulton and Bond in downtown Brooklyn

5/21, 5 PM cellist Marika Hughes‘ New String Quartet with Charlie Burnham on violin, Marvin Sewell on guitar, and Rashaan Carter on bass in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side. 5/27, 5 PM she’s at the corner of Fulton and Bond in downtown Brooklyn

5/22, 3 PM ish tsunami drummer Johnathan Blake leads a wild quartet with Mark Turner and Chris Potter on tenor sax and Dezron Douglas on bass, wow, in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/23 starting at half past noon an outdoor jazz festival starting at half past noon outside at 18 Whitwell Pl in Gowanus with saxophonist Ole Mathisen‘s Take Off Collective trio at 4:30 F/R to 4th Ave

5/23-24, 1 PM ish drummer Nasheet Waits leads a high-voltage quartet with Mark Turner and Steve Nelson on tenor sax, and Rashaan Carter on bass in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/26, 1 PM lustrous singer and badass cello-rock bandleader Serena Jost in a rare solo show at Bogardus Plaza, Hudson Street between Chambers & Reade, Tribeca

5/26, 7 PM, tunefully scruffy pastoral jazz guitarist Tom Csatari leads his  noir-tinged Uncivilized band at the Flying Lobster, 144 Union St off Hicks, just over the BQE, outdoors, F to Smith/9th

5/31, 2 PM drummer Michael W. Davis leads his trio with Lucas Pino on tenor sax, Martin Nevin on bass; at 3 trumpeter Jason Palmer leads his Quartet with Mark Turner on tenor sax, Edward Perez on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums in Central Park about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side; take the trail up, to the right of the bridge

6/1, 3 PM, tenor sax titan Mark Turner leads a quartet with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Joe Martin on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums in Central Park about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side; take the trail up, to the right of the bridge

6/2, 1 PM Celtic-inspired pianist Will Armstrong‘s Trio at Bogardus Plaza, Hudson Street between Chambers & Reade, Tribeca

6/2-4, 1 PM ish pyrotechnic tenor sax player Mark Turner records a live album with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

6/5. 4 PM  the world’s creepiest, slinkiest, most psychedelic crime jazz/film noir band, Big Lazy at a front-porch show at 182 Argyle Rd (Beverly/Albemarle). in Ditmas Park Brooklyn, Q to Beverly Rd.. 6/26 at 6:30 they’re at West Side Arts Concert series in Lincoln Park in Jersey City

6/6-8, 4 PM ish saxophonist Darius Jones records a live album with Dezron Douglas on bass and Gerald Cleaver next to the Catacombs in the middle of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, R to 25th St.

6/6, 4 PM  amazing string quintet Sybarite5– who are also the world’s coolest Radiohead cover band – on the steps of the Grand Army Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library

6/6 and 6/13, 2 PM a Scandinavian orchestral and chamber music festival with performers TBA on the Billings Lawn at Ft. Tryon Park. Artists associated with the late, great NY Scandia Symphony may be involved.

6/10, 7:30 PM bhangra-klezmer mashups with Sharabi with trumpeter Frank London & Deep Singh with singer Sarah Gordon at Wagner Park just north of the battery CANCELLED DUE TO THREAT OF RAIN

6/10, 7:30 PM perennially popular jazz bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding with drummer Teri Lyne Carrington and keyboardist Leo Genovese outdoors at the Clemente Soto VélezcCultural & Educational Center, 114 Norfolk St., LES

6/13, 2 PM carnivalesque Balkan punk monstrosity Funkrust Brass Band outdoors at 98 Dikeman St, (Richards/Conover) Red Hook

6/13 , 2 PM tenor sax player Danny Walsh leads a trio with bassist Yoshi Waki and dummer Richie Morales in Central Park about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side, take the path up the hill to the left of the bridge

6/15, 7:30 PM orchestra the Knights with Gil Shaham, violin and Aoife O’Donovan, vocals play works by O’Donovan, George Walker and Beethoven at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, there may be restrictions, be prepared to linger on the fringes

6/18, 9 ish  torchy cumbia/swing singer and accordionist Erica Mancini at Sunny’s. She’s back on 6/25.

6/19, 4:30 PM intense Balkan chanteuse Jenny Luna‘s haunting, traditional Turkish band Dolunay outdoors at Barbes

6/19, 4;30 PM wildfire electric blues guitarist Celisse Henderson at the block party at Astor Place east of Lafayette

6/19, 6 PM House of Time play works by JS Bach, CPE Bach & Telemann; Suzanne Lorge sings azz with John Di Martino (piano) and Sophia Reyes (flute); pianist Evelyne Luest plays Schubert outdoors at the B-C Courtyard at Hudson View Gardens, 116 Pinehurst Ave, Washington Heights, A to 181st St., free

6/19, 8 PM fearless, psychedelic jazz trumpeter Jaimie Branch and band at San Pedro Inn, 320 Van Brunt St, Red Hook

6/20, 1 PM ish an allday outdoor jazz extravaganza with trombonist Bryan Drye’s Zodiac Quintet, Steven Bernstein’s Millenial Territorial Orchestra, drummer Jeff Davis’ quintet and Brooklyn psychedelic funk legends Groove Collective in front of I-Beam

6/20, 2 PM join some of the prime movers of the NYC pro-freedom movement for a summer solstice celebration in the park on Roosevelt Island with a picnic and activities, dedicated to the late great activist Rosa Koire. Tour starts at 2 at the café at Cornell Tech, 2 West Loop Road, a 10-minute walk south from the Roosevelt Island subway station.

2:00 – “Transhumanist dream” by art-rock singer/investigative journalist Tessa Lena (at Cornell Tech)
2:30 – “The biomedical roots of the Covid plandemic” by psychiatrist Dr. Karin Burkhard (Smallpox hospital ruins)
3:00 – “The evisceration of our freedoms” by investigative journalist/healer Cat McGuire (FDR Four Freedoms Memorial)
3:30 – gong-bath storytelling performance by Mary Ann Schmidt and Michael Jay
4:00 – acceptance celebration and healing circle
4:00-7:00 – percussion improvisation by Africa Forestdance

6/20, 3 PM alto saxophonist Abraham Burton leads a trio with Dezron Douglas on bass and Eric McPherson on drums in Central Park about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side; take the trail up, to the left of the bridge

6/20, 5 PM repeating 6/23 at 6:30 PM clarinetist Bixby Kennedy, cellist Madeline Fayette and pianist/salonniere Yelena Grinberg play works by Beethoven, Ries and Mendelssohn at Grinberg’s now-resusciated monthly upper westside salon, email for deets here., convenient to 1/2/3 trains, $35 includes wine, munchies and good conversation afterward

6/21-24, half past noon lyrical jazz pianist Deanna Witkowski plays solo at Bryant Park

6/21, 6 PM dark psychedelic acoustic blues/klezmer/reggae/soca jamband Hazmat Modine under the Manhattan Bridge archway in Dumbo, F to York St.

6/21, 6:30ish the NY Mandolin Orchestra at Needle Park at the triangle at Broadway and 65th St.

6/21, 7 PM Zach Layton and Nick Hallett lead a performance of Terry Riley’s “In C” at Brooklyn Bridge Park Harborview Lawn on Pier 1, south of the old roller rink, walk up and west and you’ll find it

6/24, 6:30 PM surreal, rustic, lyrical klezmer from the Beary Brothers featuring Psoy Korolenko, Zisl Slepovitch and Ilya Shneyveys at Wagner Park just north and west of the Battery

6/26, 4 PM cinematic, psychedelic quirk-pop keyboardist Michael Hearst and his Songs for Unusual (fill in the blank: creatures, vehicles, you name it) at the Old Stone House in Park Slope

6/26, 7 PM clever, fiery, eclectic ten-piece Balkan/hip-hop/funk brass maniacs Slavic Soul Party  under the Manhattan Bridge archway in Dumbo, F to York St.

6/26, 8 PM tunefully scruffy pastoral jazz guitarist Tom Csatari leads his  noir-tinged Uncivilized band at San Pedro Inn, 320 Van Brunt St, Red Hook

6/27, 7 PM Charu Suri Raga Jazz w/ Sufi Maestro Umer Piracha at Drom, $15

6/29, 7:30 PM an oldtimey swing dance party with the Silver Arrow Band at Drom, free

6/29, 7:30 PM the Ulysses and Emerson String Quartets team up for music by Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/5, 7 PM wryly retro, period-perfect classic 60s style female-fronted honkytonk band the Bourbon Express at Cowgirl Seahorse

7/6, 7:30 PM chamber orchestra A Far Cry play works by Grieg, Part, Jessie Montgomery and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/11, 3:30 PM the Noga Band featuring amazing Middle Eastern oudist Avram Pengas at Wagner Park north and west of the Battery

7/16, 7 PM  sizzling salsa dura band the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at Bryant Park

7/20, noon classical ensemble the Sterling Strings play a program TBA at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn

7/20, 7:30 PM the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra play works by Purcell, John Blow and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/23, 7 PM orchestra the Knights play music by Jessie Montgomery, Anna Clyne, and Christina Courtin, alongside Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik. at Bryant Park

7/24, 7:30ish the Sun Ra Arkestra at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park

7/31, 7 PM salsa romantica crooner Tito Nieves at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park

8/3, 7:30 PM the East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Mozart, Golijov and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

8/6, 7 PM trumpeter Terence Blanchard with the Turtle Island Quartet at Bryant Park

8/14, 9:30 PM  this era’s most consistently interesting jazz pianist, Vijay Iyer at Prospect Park Bandshell. Listen from outside (try around the back) since the arena may still have restrictions

8/18, 5 PM the Harlem Quartet at Times Square. Where? Follow the sound, it seems

8/21, 7 PM legendary second-wave Afrobeat band Antibalas at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park

8/24, 6 PM the Donald Harrison Quartet with the Harlem Orchestra play Charlie Parker’s Bird with Strings at Marcus Garvey Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because there may be restrictions

9/18, 7:30 PM Trombone Shorty at Prospect Park Bandshell. We might have to listen from outside since the arena may still have restrictions

9/19, 7 PM Patti Smith at Central Park Summerstage, maybe listen from outside because the venue may still have restrictions

A Legend of 80s Metal, Still Going Strong

Who knew how prophetic Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime would become, thirty years after it came out? Did the band have a sleeper agent in Davos, keeping an eye on developments in predictive policing and data mining? Or did the group just have a healthy cynicism about transnational elites and their drift toward Orwellian totalitarianism?

And who knew that in 2021, the band’s frontman would still be going strong? Geoff Tate‘s vocals have weathered the storm well. In addition to fronting the Operation Mindcrime touring band, he also has a new album, Relentless, with his Sweet Oblivion project streaming at Spotify. His sound hasn’t changed much over the years: NWOBHM rock with cinematic keyboard ambience.

The opening track, Once Again One Sin immediately hits an ornate, symphonic drive, keyboardist Antonio Agate fueling it with his elegant minor-key piano and wafting string synth, much as he does with the rest of the album. The band reach for a steady, storm-brewing backbeat atmosphere in the second track, Strong Pressure, driven by bassist Luigi Andreone and drummer Michele Sanna’s leaden thump. Guitarist and main songwriter Aldo Lonobile contributes a careening, blues-infused solo.

It takes a lot of balls to name your own song Let It Be – this stomping, midtempo minor-key ballad is infinitely better than the one you’ve been subjected to on the Beatles’ worst album. Another Change, a breakup anthem, has some wild tapping from the guitar – it’s not clear if that’s Lonobile, Walter Cianciusi, or Dario Parente, the latter two also being Operation Mindcrime members.

Wake Up Call has a suspicious similarity to a famous Pink Floyd tune: “How do we get beyond the lies?” Tate wants to know. His wintry vocals hit an unexpectedly operatic peak in Remember Me: imagine the Psychedelic Furs playing metal.

The art-rock alienation anthem Anybody Out There is built around a familiar David Gilmour riff – but it’s not the delicate acoustic one you might be thinking of. As you might expect from a bunch of Italians, there’s a tune here titled Aria…and Tate sings it in dramatic Italian, with a twin guitar solo to match midway through. The album winds up with I’ll Be the One, a pretty generic, mostly acoustic ballad which could have been left on the cutting room floor, and then Fly Angel Fly, the darkest and heaviest track here and a strong coda.

Funny and Troubling Songs For a Funny and Troubling Time

Good things come in fours today: here’s a mini-playlist of videos and streams to get your synapses firing on all cylinders

The woman who brought you the devious Tina Turner parody What’s Math Got to Do With It, singer/sax player Stephanie Chou has a provocatively philosophical new single, Continuum Hypothesis. It’s sort of art-rock, sort of jazz – a catchy, dancing, anthemic duo with pianist Jason Yeager, dedicated to mathematician Paul Cohen. According to this hypothesis, there is no set whose cardinality is strictly between that of the integers and the real numbers. This seems self-evident, but, based on Cohen’s work in set theory, Chou sees it as essentially unknowable, at least with what we know now. Snag a free download at Lions with Wings’ Bandcamp page while you can.

Here’s Erik Della Penna – the guitar half of erudite, lyrical superduo Kill Henry Sugar with drummer Dean Sharenow – doing a very, very subtle, rustically shuffling, Dylanesque acoustic protest song, Change the Weather:

I’m gonna make predictions
I’m gonna make it rain
I’m gonna put restrictions
On hearing you complain…
I’m gonna change the language
To make you change your mind
I’m gonna make predictions
That you can get behind

Swedish songwriter Moneira a.k.a. Daniela Dahl has a new single, The Bird (Interesting to See) It’s almost eight minutes of minimalist, anthemic art-rock piano and mellotron vibes, an oblique memoir of a troubled childhood, “a bird trapped in an open cage.” Sound familiar?

Natalia Lafourcade sings a slow, plush, epic take of the brooding Argentine suicide ballad Alfonsina y El Mar with Ljova orchestrating himself as a one-man string ensemble with his fadolin multitracks. You’d never know it was just one guy.

Theme From a Twisted Summer Place

Irene Pena‘s new single The Summer Place – streaming at Big Stir Records – is a venomously hilarious powerpop gem, the missing link between LJ Murphy’s Pretty For the Parlor and that famous Squeeze song. Behind the chalet, this holiday is never complete with some sick drama.. If JD Salinger had been a janglerock guy, he would have written this. “Injuries fade but the memories last a lifetime.”