New York Music Daily

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Tag: psychedelic pop

Whimz Put an Update on Hazy, Catchy, Drifting Late 80s and 90s Sounds

Whimz is the side project of Sunny Faris from Blackwater Holylight and Cam Spies of Night Heron. Spies seems to be a bigger part of the picture than Faris, who typically gravitates toward heavier and darker psychedelic sounds. Both sing and share guitar, bass, keys and drums duties. They file their new short album PM226 – streaming at Bandcamp – under “sludge pop.” It’s actually a surprisingly lighthearted, catchy record.

The first track is AM1, a slow, catchy, hazy dreampop theme set to a 90s trip-hop beat. AM2 is slower, slinkier and more mysterious, a mashup of 80s Clan of Xymox and dark orchestral Portishead.

The album’s centerpiece is the instrumental I Wanna, a warpy take on ethereally catchy Big Thief minimalism fueled by insistent raga guitar riffage. They build a more minimal, gritty take on late 80s Lush and Cocteau Twins in the album’s most epic number, titled PM1. The album has both a full-length and a single version of the closing cut, PM2, a morose but upbeat bedroom pop backbeat number with contrastingly icy textures.

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Rogers & Butler Bring Their Erudite, Classic Riffage and Guitar Anthems to the Chelsea Piers

In terms of purist, catchy rock craftsmanship in 2022, Rogers & Butler’s new vinyl record Brighter Day – streaming at Bandcamp – is as good as it gets. Guitarist Stephen Butler’s American powerpop sensibility makes a good anchor for singer Edward Rogers’ more artsy, psychedelic blend of 70s Brummie rock, Bowie surrealism and more towering European-flavored sounds, from the Church to Oasis. Their six-stringer bandmate Don Piper’s production puts luscious guitar up front with the vocals, bass and drums in the back where they belong. The duo are opening for the brilliantly lyrical Amy Rigby on a killer twinbill on Oct 3 at 7:30 PM at City Winery; you can get in for $15.

Notwithstanding the bright chord changes and singalong melodies, there’s a frequent undercurrent of unease here, echoing Rogers’ work over the past several years. Although it’s likely that a lot of the songs here date from before the plandemic, themes of alienation and despair filter to the surface in places. They open with the title track, which comes across as beefed-up Big Star: “Six feet apart or six feet underground, the choice is yours to make,” Rogers rasps sarcastically.

Where Does the World Hide rises from a skittish midtempo new wave tune to a big nocturnal alienation anthem: “Every second’s a lifetime when no one ever returns your calls,” Butler confides. They follow with Last Reply, a distantly elegaic, Beatlesque piano ballad, Chris Carmichael overdubbing himself into a one-man string orchestra.

Spiced with Joe McGinty’s Fender Rhodes, Learn to Live Again is a more lithe, sparely arranged take on Willie Nile-style powerpop, a cynical chronicle dotted with plandemic imagery, “scarred stale reminders of where we’ve been.” It’s hardly optimistic.

Marmalade Eyes, a cautionary tale about a femme fatale, begins as a wary acoustic-electric waltz, then the band morph it into a steady powerpop update on 60s psych-pop. Over layers of guitar jangle, spare piano and floating mellotron, Rogers chronicles a carefree stroll along a main street of junk shops and t-shirt vendors in A Perfect Market Day. Yet beneath the surface, in the context of the events after March 2020, it’s heartbreaking. Who knew we would ever miss something as mundane as browsing in a vintage store?

The band follow Butler’s burning garage rock-tinged stomp Desire with Cabaret, a wistful Spanish guitar waltz by Rogers that wouldn’t be out of place on an early 70s Al Stewart record. The best song on the album is The Sun Won’t Shine, a haunting, death-fixated backbeat anthem that could be ELO from the latter part of that decade but with harder production values.

The band close the record with Oh Romeo, a Celtic ballad with an elegant interweave of acoustic guitar and mandolin, and then A Brand New Tomorrow, a Daytripper knockoff with extra guitar multitracks. It was fun to watch an early incarnation of the band pulling their show together about three years ago; it’s validating to see how well these two veteran tunesmiths complement each other.

Greta Keating Brings Her Catchy, Eclectic Tunesmithing to the Lower East Side

Although there’s a long history of family legacies in folk music around the world, and plenty of cross-generational jazz pollination, rock tends to die with the first generation. The good rock legacies are a very short list: the Dylans (Bob and Jakob), the Rigbys (Amy and Hazel), the Lennons (John and Sean), with the Allisons (Mose and Amy) at the top of the list if you count brilliance that transcends jazz and Americana.

Add the Keatings to that list. Greta Keating is the daughter of Matt Keating – whose prolific and darkly lyrical songwriting career spans janglerock and soul, and goes back to the 90s – and his wife Emily Spray, a somewhat less prolific songwriter but an equally breathtaking singer. In this case, the apple didn’t fall far. Greta Keating has a soaring voice, writes catchy, anthemic songs, has a flair for the mot juste and like her dad plays a number of instruments. She’s bringing those songs to the small room at the Rockwood on Sept 23 at 7 PM.

Also like her dad, she writes a lot of songs. Her Soundcloud page has a bunch, some which could fall into the bedroom-pop category, others which are more fleshed out with acoustic and electric guitars, judicious piano, organ and occasional synthesized strings.

Keating has a thing for starry, drifting Julee Cruise-like tableaux, and there are a bunch here, including It’s a Drug, Ain’t It Strange and Hungry Dog. My Perfect Man is torchier, in waltz time, as is The Cold Makes Me Think, a hazy, spacious piano ballad that brings to mind A. A. Williams.

Keating goes into opaque trip-hop in Betwixt and Between, then reaches for quietly venomous, cynical Lynchian pop vibe with 15-Year-Old Boy. Too Late to Lay could be an early Everything But the Girl song with more delicate vocals, while Head Down to My Toes is a determined adventure into big assertive anthemic stadium rock.

How Could You Be But You Were is a bittersweet, swing-tinged stroll. The best song on the page is Small As I Felt, where she raises the angst to redline over Orbisonian crescendos: it screams out for sweeping orchestral strings and a kettledrum.

A Girl With Cheeks Damp is another stunner, a brooding plunge into jazzy 70s soul. The funniest tune on the page is Adderall Song: crystal meth makes people do the craziest things, huh?

The rest of the many songs in this long playlist range from soul (Hard to Please), to driving, sarcastic rock (My Body Is Allergic); dreamy Stereolab sonics (Out of Nowhere) and fingersnapping Peggy Lee jazz (Shadow Shadow).

There’s even more on Keating’s youtube channel, including a Telecaster-driven powerpop shout-out to girl-bonding empowerment. If the future of New York rock tunesmithing is your thing, Keating’s songs will resonate with you.

A Gorgeous New Album and a Williamsburg Gig by Purist Tunesmith Alice Cohen

Alice Cohen plays purist, often gorgeously melodic, artsy rock anthems and sings with an unpretentious delivery that’s sometimes cheery and sometimes borders on conspiratorial. On her new album Moonrising – streaming at Bandcamp – she plays most of the instruments herself, building a lush bed of acoustic and electric guitars and vintage synths over an unobtrusive drum-machine beat. Multi-reedman David Lackner and multi-percussionist Adrian Knight flesh out Cohen’s elegant arrangements. She’s playing Union Pool on August 24 at 9 PM. Since the venue has fallen under the spell of surveillance-state digital ticketing, the cover charge there lately has been measured in dollars and cents. It stands to reason that the door girl will round it up to sixteen bucks for those of us who are ahead of the curve and have gone to #cashalways.

Cohen opens the record with Wild Wolf, a swaying, twangy, Lynchian trip-hop ballad: this “eight-track Cadillac cruising through the milky way” seems to be on its way back from the Black Lodge. Then she looks back to the bittersweet starriness of 80s janglerock in Bodies in Motion. It could be a track from the Church’s Seance album, with a woman out front.

Cohen picks up the pace with Life in a Bag, an insistent, 90s-flavored downstroke anthem spiced with neoromantic piano flourishes. After the starry keyboard instrumental Inner Galaxies, she goes back to a pensive, richly textured sway with Under Chandeliers, her watery guitars and glimmering keys mingling with Knight’s vibraphone and Lackner’s echoing, spiraling soprano sax.

Baby’s Fine is a surreal mashup of early 80s new wave pop with hip-hop lyrics: it’s hard to figure out where the sax stops and what could be an old Juno synth kicks in. Vanilla Tea is a glistening backbeat stadium rock nocturne without the bombast – an oxymoron, sure, but just try to imagine.

The driftiest, most opaque song on the album is Telepathic Postcards. Cohen follows that with Queen Anne’s Lace, a breezy, jazz-inflected ballad in a Stylistics vein that she takes ten years forward in time – or forty years forward, depending on how neo-retro it seems to you. She closes the record with Fragile Flowers, following a serpentine series of chord changes with Lackner’s sax floating above. It’s been a slow year for rock records, at least compared to what we were used to before March of 2020, but this is one of the best of 2022 so far.

Allusive, Intriguingly Lyrical Songs and a Long Island City Gig From Singer Sofia Rei

Singer Sofia Rei has carved out an individualistic niche somewhere between the folk music and nueva cancion of her native Argentina, jazz, and the techier side of the avant garde. She has a thing for pastiches, loops and surrealism, although there’s often a very serious undercurrent beneath the lively vocal acrobatics. Her latest album, Umbral – streaming at her music page – hit the web just before the fleeting few weeks of freedom here in New York in June of last year. She sings in Spanish with her usual blend of disarming directness and constant dynamic shifts.

The opening number, Un Mismo Cielo is loopmusic as Bjork might have done it in Spanish, with Martin Vejarano’s gaita flute throwing off rustic overtones before Leo Genovese’s swirly psychedelic synth and steady, spare piano enter the mix behind the cheery, enticing vocals. It’s a “when will I see you again” scenario – symbolism much?

The loops grow swirlier and more hypnotic as the second track, La Otra coalesces, then Rei shifts into a trickier, more emphatic rhythm with her charango. It’s quite a contrast with the creepy, mythologically symbolist lyrics.

Escarabajo Digital (Digital Beetle) is a blippy, soaring, metaphorically loaded mashup of 80s electropop and Argentine plains folk:

Herencia de otros tiempos
Difícil cambiar la ecuación
La sílaba equivocada del poema
[Inheritance from another time
Hard to change the equation
Wrong stanza of the poem]

The backdrop is much the same in Helvetica 12, a playful, stream-of-consciousness salute to the fine points of language. Rei’s charango mingles with JC Maillard’s spare ukulele in La Caida (The Fall), her anguished, elegaic vocals again contrasting with an alternately atmospheric and blithely rhythmic background.

La Quinta Pata (Fifth Leg) is a snide dis, Rei’s collage of multitracks flitting over Jorge Roeder’s dancing bass and Tupac Mantilla’s bounding but restrained drums. As upbeat as the album is, the final cut, Negro Sobre Blanco (Black on White) is downright chilling, with its spare, stark layers of charango, guitars and cuatro from guest Jorge Glem. Is this a portrait of a lockdown suicide, or a death from the lethal Covid shot?

Comenzó en la mañana de hoy
Sin saber
Percibió que el aire le era hostil
Algo rondaba su corazón
Algo decía que iba a explotar por dentro
[It started this morning
Not knowing
He felt the hostile air around him
Something haunted his heart
Something said it was going to explode inside him]

Sofia Rei’s next gig is outdoors at 7 PM on August 16 at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City. Take the to 7 to Vernon-Jackson or the G to 21st/Van Alst and walk to the river.

A Subtle, Soaring New Art-Rock Gem From Carol Lipnik

Singer Carol Lipnik‘s career was derailed by the lockdown in more ways than one. By March of 2020, she was already putting the icing on the sonic confections on her album Goddess of Imperfection, She ended up in limbo until March of this year, when she finally released that long-awaited follow-up to her 2015 art-rock masterpiece Almost Back to Normal in  But there’s more. She had two other albums in the can! She wrote the second of the three, Blue Forest – streaming at her music page – in an 1893 stone tower at the Yaddo artist retreat, where she’d been invited. It was worth the wait.

Lipnik may be a streetwise Coney Island-bred New Yorker, but her songs are galactic. Where Goddess of Imperfection is lavish and orchestral, Blue Forest is more intimately ethereal. Lipnik’s practically five-octave range mingles within a sometimes swirling, sometimes cascading mix of Kyle Sanna’s guitar alongside her longtime pianist Matt Kanelos, with Mathias Künzli on percussion.

The loosely connecting thread between the songs is the imperiled state of our natural world, a persistent theme throughout Lipnik’s music. She opens with the title track, a gorgeous, ELO-tinged mini-anthem with a towering, glistening coda from Kanelos.

“While our world was coming apart, we dreamed,” she intones soberly in the second song, All the Colors of the Sky, Kanelos’ stately, rippling, baroque-tinged piano behind Sanna’s spare fingerpicking. “Will we miss it when it’s gone?” she asks, on the way to one of her signature, breathtakingly operatic crescendos.

“There’s radiant energy, fire in the sky, darkness is coming to open our eyes,” she sings in the stately, similarly baroque Birds of a Feather. You want prophetic or what?

Sanna’s chiming guitar and drifting synth provide a starry backdrop for I Don’t Work Hard, an elegantly soaring cabaret number. The album’s only cover is Thrice Toss These Oaken Ashes, a rare gem by Elizabethan composer and poet Thomas Campion, Lipnik channeling both grit and poignancy over Sanna’s elegant lute-like ukulele work.

She goes back toward a sly, knowing cabaret ambience as Sanna and Kanelos supply bouncy cheer in Tick Bite: “The flame that burns within you is the same flame that burns you,” Lipnik observes. The final cut is A Pure Dose of Mercy, a spacious, minutely nuanced meditation on the pros and cons of staying on the sunny side of the street…including when it gets dangerous. It’s a characteristic blend of deceptively simple, straightforward songcraft and vocal pyrotechnics. and an apt way to close the record. Even better, there’s another one on the way!

Brilliant Bassist Yula Beeri Brings Her Upbeat New Duo Project to Long Island City

Yula Beeri played bass in wildly influential circus rock band World Inferno. That group met a tragic demise with the death of their frontman Jack Terricloth, murdered by the Covid shot just over a year ago. However, Beeri has always stayed busy with other groups, from the sizzling, slinky Israeli-tinged Nanuchka, to a rotating cast of characters she calls Yula & the Extended Family. Her latest project is Y&I with drummer Isaac Gardner. Their debut album Holy Vol. 1 is streaming at Spotify. They’re playing outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City on July 16 at 5 PM.

It was a lot of fun watching the two working up this material over the course of a series of shows at LIC Bar at the top of the street in the months before the 2020 lockdown. There aren’t many bassist-fronted bands, let alone singers who can play Beeri’s serpentine, melodic lines at the same time. Throughout her shows there, she’d sometimes play along to a loop pedal, sometimes adding layers live and building a song on top of them while Gardner played low-key funk, and shuffles, and dancefloor beats behind her.

The new album is a lot more lighthearted and techy than Beeri’s harder-rocking earlier work. The first track, Cub sets the stage with its tricky tempo, woozy processed layers of vocals and flurrying drums. The duo follow with Slip & Slide, a cheery, aptly slithery trip-hop tune with dub echoes, some icy raga guitar licks and a lickety-split ska outro

Gate (as in “finish gate”) has playfully syncopated layers of vocals over a muted, galloping beat where Beeri’s guitar and bass tracks pick up with her signature chromatic edge. The duo go back to trip-hop with a more minimalist, loopy, skronky Goldfrapp/Garbage edge in the next track, Wire.

Beeri hits her chilly vintage chorus pedal for an icy strobe in the album’s title track, Gardner rattling the traps vintage one-drop style at the end of a phrase. The last song is This House, Beeri’s disembodied sci-fi vocal multitracks and a sly hip-hop interlude over Gardner’s loose-limbed swing beat. There’s plenty of room in the parking lot in Queens to dance to this.

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.

Playful Cosmopolitan Songs and a Falafel Hill Album Release Show From Eclectic Chanteuse Ourida

Algerian-French-American singer Ourida was making tracks in the small-club scene in New York before the 2020 lockdown crushed the arts here. The good news is that this irrepressible, genre-defying songwriter is back in action, with a new album, Wings, which hasn’t hit her Bandcamp page yet. She’s playing the album release show on June 21 at 7:30 at a new venue, Atlantic Brooklyn at 333 Atlantic Ave. just off Hoyt. Cover is $15; it’s about equidistant from the Atlantic Ave. station and the F at Bergen St.

On the album, she sings in expressive English and French, and plays both keys and ukulele, joined by Jonathan Levy on guitar and bass, Eli Crews (who also produced) on EWI, theremin and optigon, and Joe Hertenstein on drums.

The first song, simply titled Blues, is a more psychedelic, dubwise take on dark Amy Winehouse soul that draws a line straight back to Nina Simone. Ourida and band go for a cheerily minimalist trip-hop vibe in the second track, Don’t Talk. She sticks to a similar 90s groove, switching to French for track three, Deux Guitares, lightly spiced with violin from Ernesto Llorens.

Kane Mathis adds warily spare oud in Berlin, a surreal, shadowy rai-cabaret number with an unexpectedly towering, intense coda. Ourida returns to the piano for the hypnotically vampy Bees and follows that with G Train, a catchy, stomping uke-rock salute to the lure of deep-Brooklyn nightlife.

Siren Song, a coyly swaying nocturne, has two basses on it: that’s Panagiotis Andreou on electric and Or Bareket on acoustic. Levy’s film-noir reverb guitar trades off eerily with Mathis’ oud in Porte de la Chapelle, a shout-out to the Paris neighborhood. She stays in broodingly catchy North African/Parisian mode for the next track, Joker.

Ourida and the band rise from a brisk hip-hop groove to a whirling circus rock atmosphere in L’emeute (“Uprising”). The longest and trippiest number here is a mysteriously cut-and-pasted, dubby take of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love. The album’s final cut is Home. a benedictory gospel tune that wouldn’t be out of place in the Rachelle Garniez catalog. This record grows on you: the arrangements are stark and imaginative and Ourida’s joie de vivre is infectious.

Bounce Away into the Ether with Night Palace

Night Palace play catchy, dreamy singalong tunes. Frontwoman/keyboardist Avery Leigh Draut’s songcraft is an individualistic blend of early zeros stadium rock and clever, bouncy, often psychedelic 60s pop with jaunty classical flourishes. Their debut album Diving Rings is streaming at Bandcamp.

The first track, one of a handful of diptychs, is Into the Wake/Mystified, a swooshy stadium-dance tune with some neat touches like a jagged reverb-guitar break and a ELO-pop chorus. That dynamic sets the stage for much of the rest of the record, starting with the second cut, Strange Powers, with an enveloping/biting contrast between Draut’s string synth, Zack Milster’s snappy bass and Dillon McCabe’s surreal, warpy guitar.

Enjoy the Moon is aptly titled, with Draut’s lush, bright, nocturnal sheets of keys and fluttery clarinet over drummer William Kissane’s skittish beat:

When the room is full of men in hats
Cardboard conversations
I talk to the cat

The band bail on what’s rapidly developing into a catchy, swaying anthem in the next track, Sleeptalk Interlude, then segue into Jessica Mystic, a bittersweet sunshine pop song which with more retro production would have been a big hit if this was 1978. They go back to drifting, spacy chamber pop for Fig Dream, awash in cleverly arranged baroque synth-and-clarinet orchestration.

They open Nightshade with a loopy, Vivaldiesque intro, then McCabe kicks off Nightshade with his tasty, reverbtoned, surfy lines before Draut brings in a balmy, bittersweet theme spiced with bright clarinet work. The album’s dreamiest track is Titania, floating on a cloud of alternately spacy and twinkly synth and spiky guitar fingerpicking.

They close the record with a final diptych: the brief music-box theme Fig Dream and then Silken Ilk, akin to a mashup of Chicano Batman and Sean Lennon, with a woman out front. Close your eyes, feel the warm twilight breeze and the stars smiling down on this comfortable, secluded sonic cove.