New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: retro rock

A Purist Retro Rock Record and a Bushwick Release Show From New York Noir Icon Julia Haltigan

These days Julia Haltigan may be best known for her work as an actress in Sleep No More, the gothic Macbeth. But she’s never let the demands of her stage career derail her role as one of New York’s most torchily captivating singers and bandleaders. She can be lurid, seducive and downright macabre, frequently in the same song. Her lyrics paint uneasy urban tableaux, usually set somewhere on the Lower East Side where she was born and raised. She’s alaso a hell of a tunesmith, with a taste for retro sounds. Her latest and hardest-rocking album, Trouble, isnt up at her at Bandcamp page yet, but a bunch of the singles from it are. She’s playing the album release show at around 11 on Oct 24 at the Sultan Room (the old Starr Barr space at 234 Starrr St. in Bushwick). Cover is $10.

The core of the band this time out is longtime Jessie Kilguss sideman John Kengla on lead guitar, Andrew Raposo (who also produced) on bass, Morgan Wiley on B3 organ and  Caito Sanchez on drums. Haltigan opens the record with Earthquake, a Manhattan rooftop party senario set to a chugging Nick Lowe-style pub rock tune. “I don’t give a fuck, I’m tired of being hustled – is it something in the air or is it that we’re jaded?” she ponders. “if we don’t do it, who’s gonna run this city?”

The oldschool soul anthem You Don’t Even Know It is soberingly set in the here and now: “They raised your rent, but the neighborhood’s the same….You don’t even kow that they follow your feet, you don’t even know that the temperature’s rising”

Wool is a hazy. slowly swaying, noir-tinged nocturne where you can “Lose your mind in the summer heat, waltz yourself down the broken street…passing through scenes that I know too well.” Then Haltigan gets even more cynical, mashing up Blondie with Rockpile and some tasty, swirly organ in Debris of Love

With its layers of icy electronic keys and Wiley’s epic Jungleland piano at the end, Thunder is a surreal mix of third-gen Casket Girls new wave and imagistic Lynchian torch song.“You can watch me walk away, I’ll even let you hold the door,” Haltigan announces in Walk Away, another late 70s-style pub rock/new wave hybrid.

With Kengla’s spaghetti western guitars and the starry constellation of keys and percussion, Bad Habit is a noir soul tableau, Haltigan at her Lynchian best; Amy Winehouse’s shadow hangs over this one. Skeleton Dance is a spare, soul-infused requiem that wouldn’t be out of place in the Nicole Atkins catalog.

“I don’t even wanna stay connected,” Haltigan sings in Mind Eater, the most new wave of all the songs here, a relentlessly troubled look at a world on the express track to self-destruction. “Just like that, it’s gone,” she half-whispers in the synthy, Cure-influenced nightscape Be With You: from a heartbroken perspective, the personal really is political these days. There’s also a bonus track, Cindy, a wickedly catchy, sympathetic powerpop shout-out to a girl from out of town struggling to keep herself together in a new metropolis. Not a single weak track on this album: you’ll see it on the best records of 2019 page if we make it that far.

The Night Beats Bring Their Acid-Warped Soul and Garage Rock Vamps to Williamsburg

Has there been any album awash in and radiating as much reverb as the Night Beats‘ Who Sold My Generation released in the past…um…couple of decades? They put reverb on everything, except the growly bass. Otherwise, every other element in the mix, from the guitars to the drums to the vocals, takes about an extra second to filter out. The result is as trippy as the band’s songs are catchy, a throwback to the gonzo early days of mid-60s acid rock, equally informed by classic soul and garage sounds. And audiences have responded: if there’s ever been an example of how much filthy lucre there is in great music, consider the Night Beats’ success. They play good venues coast to coast, and are headlining a solid psychedelic twinbill on July 16 at 10ish at Rough Trade, with neo-Stooges rockers Acid Dad opening at 9. General admission is $12.

The album’s opening track, Celebration kicks off with frontman Danny Lee Blackwell’s multitracked guitars panning the speakers, and funny samples of some British guy commenting on how the tape recorder is a toy to be cast away with funny hats after the party. A searing, bluesy guitar solo builds behind the washes of fuzz and reverb, then segues into the strutting Power Child, a one-chord jam that explodes in a flurry of drummer James Traeger’s cymbals and reverb on the chorus, a shrieking wah guitar lead blasting over Jakob Bowden’s catchy, funky bass.

The band leaves the vamps behind for the hooky Right Wrong, a booze-soaked lost-love scenario that builds to an anthemically burning Brian Jonestown Massacre-style groove, up to the guitar solo out. Likewise, No Cops follows a pounding one-chord neo-Velvets pulse, a more ornate take on what the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion made their mark with twenty years ago. Porque Manana works a similar vamp with latin soul tinges and another rippling, purposeful guitar solo. And Sunday Mourning differentiates itself from the Velvets classic not only with a slight title change but also its anthemically crescendoing, bluesily shuffling drive and searing, sunbaked wah guitars.

Shangri Lah veers on and off a fiery spaghetti western gallop, pretty much a dead ringer for something from the Love catalog circa the Da Capo album. Burn to Breathe pairs unhinged Country Joe & the Fish guitars over a midtempo sway as the drums cluster and rumble: “You stare at the wall and your heart stops,” Blackwell intones nonchalantly. The band add punchy brass to Bad Love, an ominous soul-clap number with Tex-Mex touches.

Last Train to Jordan follows an endlessly echoey psychedelic strut tangent beneath toxic exhaust trails of guitar, while Turn the Lights picks up the pace with echoes of gutter blues. The album winds up on a high note with the pouncing, Middle Eastern-tinged Egypt Berry, a twisted mashup of Monkees and Paint It Black era Stones. Take a trip and never leave Williamsburg with these guys this Saturday night.

Jones Beach Bring Some Cool, Reverb-Drenched Surf Sounds to Bushwick

Jake Jones is a one-man surf band, at least on record. He’s sort of the Elliott Smith of surf, not in the sense that he’s ripping off Badfinger or George Harrison (or Elliott Smith, for that matter), but because he plays all the instruments himself, in this case just guitar multitracks and drums. His surf rock project, coyly titled Jones Beach, has a couple of eps up for free download at Bandcamp that you should grab if surf music is your thing. Jones Beach – presumably with at least one other person in the group at this point – also have a Bushwick show coming up on December 13 at around 9 in the back room at Pine Box Rock Shop, 12 Grattan St. just a couple of blocks from the Morgan Ave. L train.

The longer of the two ep’s is The Craze, and it’s pretty consistent all the way through. Jones likes the upbeat, major-key side of surf. The production is on the tinny, trebly side, which kind of makes sense since there’s no bass, just guitars and drums, and Jones has the reverb tank set to stun. His songwriting is distinctive and original: while he likes the classics, particularly the Ventures, it’s hard to think of anybody who’s writing this kind of stuff these days. Jones keeps it simple: he’s got a classic pop sensibility, likes to play on the beat and favors a clean, uncluttered guitar tone. The strongest tracks are Burn Out, a strutting, staccato Ventures-style two-chord space-surf vamp; Revenge, which unlike what the title would imply, isn’t horror surf or even minor-key but instead has hints of Orbison pop; Poison, with echoes of loping desert rock; and Fun Fun Fun, the most Link Wray-influenced track here, with some neat call-and-response between a couple of the guitar tracks.

The Lonely Boy ep has just three song: the title cut, Lemon Drop and the JB Shuffle. The first gets a really psychedelic echo effect going, with what sounds like a repeaterbox on the rhythm track: it’s the coolest song of all the Bandcamp tunes. The other two tracks surf up oldschool soul vamps. That back room at Pine Box is closed off from the rest of the bar, and the big meat-market scene that you have to muscle through to get back there tends to be oblivious to the fact that the place has music at all. But this band will probably draw an awful lot of people back there once the crowd hears what’s going on.

Dina Regine’s Soulful New Album Was Worth the Wait

What does it say about our society that Dina Regine has probably made more money spinning other peoples’ records than she’s made by playing her own unique blend of classic soul and rootsy rock? She was getting paid for playlisting long before just any random person could plug their phone into the PA system and then call it a night. But Regine’s greatest accomplishments have been as a songwriter, bandleader and singer. A well-loved presence in the New York club scene throughout the late 90s and early zeros, she still has an avid cult following, and an excellent, long-awaited new album, Right On All Right. And she’s got an album release show coming up on Nov 18 at around 8:30 PM at Bowery Electric. Ursa Minor, who have a similarly dynamic singer in Michelle Casillas – who also contributes to Regine’s album – are on the bill afterward at around 9:30. Cover is eight bucks.

On the album, Regine plays much of the guitars along with keys, mandolin and harp (!). Tony Scherr plays lead guitar on several tracks, along with Tim Luntzel on bass and Dan Rieser on drums. The opening track, Gotta Tell You is a gorgeously jangling, swaying 6/8 soul ballad, Jon Cowherd’s organ rising on the chorus with Regine’s impassioned vocals – and then they rock it out for a bit. The oldschool soul-funk number Dial My Number has a hot horn section (Erik Lawrence on tenor sax, Briggan Krauss on baritone sax and Frank London on trumpet) juxtaposed with Regine’s more low-key yet simmering vocals. By contrast, Can’t Find You Anywhere welds red-neon noir soul ambience to soaring, anthemic choruses, fueled by Scherr’s biting guitar multitracks.. Likewise, Hurt Somebody works the tension between blue-flame soul and brisk new wave-tinged powerpop – Regine likes to mix up her styles and this is a prime example.

Far Gone takes an unexpected and very successful departure into oldschool C&W with a tasty blend of Regine’s baritone guitar mingling with Scherr’s twangy lines. Then Regine hits a pulsing garage-soul vamp on Until Tomorrow and keeps that going with the gloriously guitar-driven, Gloria-esque Fences. The best track here is Broken, a brooding yet brisk latin-tinged groove with Steve Cropper-esque guitar: “You beat the wall for your past oppressor – sometimes spirits treat you real kind but most of the time they mess with your mind,” Regine sings with a gentle unease. How she varies her delivery from one track to another, from sweet to defiant and undeterred is one of the album’s strongest points.

The title track adds slink and suspense to a vintage go-go theme, with yet another one of Regine’s usual, crescendoing, anthemic choruses.  Shaky Dave Pollack’s hard-hitting blues harp drives the vintage Stonesy Nothing Here. The album’s final cut, Wildest Days, is also its most epic, and it’s surprisingly wistful, a snapshot of a deliriously fun time that threatens not to last too long. Fans of the creme de la creme of retro soul, from Lake Street Dive to Sharon Jones, will love this album. It’s not out yet, therefore no spotify link, but a lot of the tracks are up on Regine’s soundcloud page.

Boston Band Aloud Nails a Slew of Catchy Purist Rock Styles

If Boston band Aloud‘s new album It’s Got to Be Now had come out in, say, 1980, it would have been all over the radio. The same would have been true in 1970, or in 1965: their sound is that tuneful, and that timeless. The two guitars of bandleaders Henry Beguiristain and Jen de la Osa jangle and clang, the vocals soar and the rhythm section of bassist Charles Murphy and drummer Frank Hegyi is dynamic verging on explosive. Their songs are eclectic, ranging from 60s flavored garage and surf rock to classic powerpop spiced with psychedelia. And they don’t waste a note – most of the songs are done before the three minute mark (they’re streaming at Spotify). As you might imagine, Aloud are excellent live: they’re at Bowery Electric on April 28 at around 9.

The album kicks off with a triumphantly crescendoing powerpop number, Back Here with Me Again, with its guy/girl vocals, And Your Bird Can Sing bassline, and a tersely tuneful guitar panned in both  left and right channels. Don’t Let It Get You Down shifts nimbly back and forth between funky verses and the band’s signature, wickedly catchy choruses. The Wicked Kind sets a snide, politically-fueled lyric to distantly menacing, chromatically-fueled garage/psych rock, de la Osa singing coolly and imperturbably over the guitars and organ.

Jeanne, It’s Just a Ride! is a funny, catchy janglepop number about a girl who wants to make more of a one-night stand than she ought to. “The futility of existence requires not your assistance,” Beguiristain deadpans. They pick up the pace with the blistering A Little Bit Low and its burning Radio Birdman-esque garage-punk guitar hooks. Then they blend bittersweet twelve-string jangle with Lynchian 60s Nashville pop on Such a Long Time, following that with the new wave Motown of After the Plague, a surprisingly optimistic post-apocalyptic scenaro.

The album’s title track sets a devious variation on a classic garage riff to a vintage soul-clap beat: it’s like the kind of neo-garage that was coming out of the band’s hometown thirty years ago, but without the cliches. A defiant escape anthem, Complicity builds from punchy surf rock to a big roaring chorus. The Beatlesque Ballad of Emily Jane brings the album full circle. Aloud have been around for awhile and have messed with different styles: it’s good to see such an excellent band getting back to the kind of purist tunesmithing they do best.

Purist Psychedelic Tunesmithing from the Allah-Las

The Allah-Las play period-perfect 60s-style psychedelic pop, folk-rock and punchy garage rock sounds, but more tunefully than most of the bands who were playing that stuff over forty years ago. Byrds twelve-string guitar jangle? Check. Dark, surreal, hard-hitting Arthur Lee garage stomp? Doublecheck. Nonchalantly sinister Peanut Butter Conspiracy psych-folk? Some of that too. What makes the Allah-Las different from all of those bands, other than the Byrds, is that they jangle and clang their way through their songs rather than playing riffs or recycled blues and R&B licks. Their not-so-secret weapon is lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian’s twelve-string, although frontman Miles Michaud will sometimes play twelve-string as well for extra chime and clang. Their album – streaming at their Bandcamp page – is one of the best original retro rock efforts of recent years. They’re scheduled to play Rough Trade on March 27, but whether the venue has reopened or not, you won’t get a chance if you don’t already have a ticket because that show is sold out. What a heartwarming story these guys are: a year ago, when they made a stop in New York, they’d be at the Mercury. If there’s any proof that there’s a massive audience for good music in this town, these guys are it.

The album’s opening tune, Catamaran is a classic, catchy midtempo Ventures-style surf tune which they beef up with organ after the first chorus. The kiss-off anthem Don’t You Forget It sets Spencer Dunham’s trebly descending bassline over a gorgeous twelve-string hook, Siadatian’s solo spiced with eerily bluesy bends. Drummer Matthew Correia builds from a rumble to a steady backbeat on the wickedly tuneful, Byrdsy Busman’s Holiday. The surf instrumental Sacred Sands has a lush beauty that rises to a more incisive chorus with the twelve-and six-string guitars in tandem.

No Voodoo goes more in a trad garage rock direction, but with more lush sonics. The ominously echoey backing vocals on Sandy reminds of the Yardbirds, while Ela Navega could be Los Destellos playing a Brazilian tune, something the Peruvian psychedelic legends did frequently. “Tell me what’s on your mind, cause I can’t find it,” Michaud suggests on the jangly number afterward.

Catalina is clinic in tasteful, incisive twelve-string playing, followed by Vis a Vis, which sounds like the Church at their poppiest, with the two twelve-strings answering each other as the song hits a high point. Seven Point Five works a brooding psych-folk groove, while Long Journey, with its low, creepy Yardbirds vocal harmonies, slashing fuzztone breaks and murderous lyrics, is the darkest and longest track here. There’s reverb on everything, especially the guitars, and an underlying sense of unease throughout all of these songs despite all the catchy clang. If psychedelia and just plain good retro songwriting is your thing, keep your eyes out for when these guys make another trip through town.

Lurid, Lyrical Noir Americana from the Coney Island Cowboy

Baritone country crooner Sean Kershaw‘s new album The Aussie Sessions is arguably his best – and he’s been writing good songs for a long time. His first New York band, the Blind Pharaohs, hung out on the shadowy side of rockabilly. Since then, Kershaw has gone in more of a classic honkytonk and western swing direction with his band the New Jack Ramblers. This one goes deep into the noir, from Texas to Tennessee – except that it was recorded in that hotbed of edgy music, Melbourne, Australia. This sounds like a live-in-the-studio recording, Kershaw alternating between electric and acoustic guitar and backed by Justin Rudge on guitar, “Sweet Felicia” on bass and harmony vocals and Scott Bennett on drums.

The opening track, Grass Is Always Bluer is killer, a creepy, snarling, galloping, aphoristic southwestern gothic tale set in the here and now. It sounds like a Blind Pharaohs number. Kershaw traces his couple-on-the-lam story to this:

I’m blessed to roam this land of ours where all roads lead to Rome
And every frequency takes you straight to the Twilight Zone
All the green and empty spaces are full of my favorite things
And all the colors tell me true just what this season brings

Cleaning My Gun reminds of Jack Grace’s recent detour into Nashville gothic, and it’s even creepier. “When they pry open my fingers in the morning, will they say this whole thing happened without warning?” Kershaw muses. The contrast between the echoey electric guitar with the brushy acoustic and the cymbals enhances the menace. The straight-up catchiest song on the album is Daydream Deceiver, which is Tex-Mex with a lot of early Elvis flavor, a kiss-off directed at a fair-weather girl.

Kershaw is at his aphoristic best as a rockabilly prowler in Gigglin Madman Blues, set in a now-bulldozed, twisted Coney Island of the mind. “To believe the hype you’ve gotta have some hype to believe in,” he intones sarcastically. The band takes a turn into gritty swamp rock with So Proud, which could be Steve Wynn covering Creedence, with a couple of long, spacy stoner blues guitar solos. The gleefully lurid Pain the Town Red is ghoulabilly as Bushwick Bill might do it  – musically, it’s the missing link between Stray Cat Strut and LJ Murphy‘s only slightly less twisted Skeleton Key. And the final track, Forever My Darling, with its tersely unwinding, apprehensive guitar and bolero-tinged shuffle groove, could be Kershaw’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. Kershaw brings all this menace and gallows humor as well as some more upbeat but similarly sardonic songs to Rodeo Bar on New Year’s Eve starting at around 9.

Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas Bring Out the Demons

Detroit retro soul band Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas are on a roll. Maybe because they’ve been on the road a lot lately, maybe because recording in a real studio rather than on somebody’s protools in a bedroom somewhere is so expensive, they’ve been putting out single tracks and ep’s instead of working on a magnum opus. Their latest ep is appropriately called Demons: it’s as noir as noir soul music gets, and it’s luridly delicious. The whole thing is streaming at- believe it or not – Paste.

The title track is a false start, a good song masked by cliched, corporate production, a tentative misstep toward Dr. Luke territory. You hear this and you ask yourself, what in the world were they thinking? They’re such purists, and this is so far from that. But the rest of the songs are scary-good, starting with Caught Up. Hernandez has a distinctive voice that can be sweet and gently cajoling one second, but the next she’s flashing you the boxcutter up her sleeve. This one has a defiant feel. And it’s more of a dark garage rock song, sort of a cross between Clairy Browne and Sallie Ford, with an ominous bridge where the drums get mysterious and boomy, then a snarling guitar solo.

Big Town is noir to the core. It starts out with a simple bass/piano/baritone sax intro and builds from there to a gorgeously wounded turnaround, Hernandez glad that she has such a big city where she can hide away in her misery. The Hawaiian guitar solo out is completely bizarre, and just as creepy. Shadow Boy seems to be a darkly comforting shout-out to quiet, sad people whose lives are more interior than exterior; the band stalks almost imperceptibly up to an allusive ba-BUMP rhythm, lit up with apprehensive repeaterbox guitar and Hernandez’ lingering vocals. The last song is a pulsing, minor-key number where Hernandez’ character is so hot to trot that she’s been sleeping with somebody’s girlfriend AND somebody’s boyfriend  – she delivers this news as a come-on over a creepy funeral organ groove that takes a detour into reggae for awhile. There are a ton of bands rehashing mid-60s soul sounds, but none of them sound anything like Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas. Even with that dud of a first track, this is one of the best short albums of the year.

Spindrift Bring Their Ghosts of the West to Glasslands on November 8

Fronted by Kirkpatrick Thomas, formerly of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spindrift play a reverb-drenched, surrealistically stagy mix of Lee Hazelwood-esque spaghetti western rock laced with punk-era influences from the Gun Club all the way back to the Cramps. Thomas is a connoisseur of desert rock and can’t resist employing every trope in the book in what seems to be a lovingly satirical, playfully Tarantino-esque take on it. Thomas’ baritone can be on the campy side; once in awhile he reaches for a Mark Sinnis-style menace. The band is at Glasslands at around 11 PM on Nov 8, playing songs from their latest album Ghost of the West, a mix of originals and wry updates on popular Old West tunes from across the decades. Spindrift are very good live, and as you might expect, a lot more psychedelic than they are in the studio.

Some of the new songs are cartoonish: Buffalo Dream, which sounds like the early Gun Club channeling their inner Indian tribe;  Cowpoke Cowpoke, a cartoonish faux-noir cowboy waltz; and a wryly deadpan version of Blood on the Saddle. They do When I Was a Cowboy in super lo-fi mode, shooting for a retro 20s 78 RPM ambience, then make psychedelia out of it. Thomas goes into crooner mode forCool Water, its swaying Apache vibe fleshed out with layers of ominously jangling guitars and Sasha Vallely’s lushly lurid vocal harmonies.

The  mariachi-pop Ballad of Paladin, “a knight without honor in a savage land,” sounds like Johnny Horton with more punk production values. King sings the elegantly arranged Hanging Me Tonight with a stoic sadness, while Thomas’ faux Johnny Cash slapback vocals on Gunfighter are irresistibly over-the-top. The western swing-flavored Wanderers of the Wasteland is much the same.

But the best songs here are the instrumentals. The epic Matador & the Fuzz begins by keeping the mariachi rock vibe going with flamencoish acoustic guitar, moody brass and a robust choir of voices, and builds to an explosive cop-car bolero. Mudhead works a briskly guitar-fueled, Romany jazz-tinged pulse. And the funniest track here might be Paniolos on the Range, adding bizarre gamelan touches over its loping Tex-Mex beat; it wouldn’t be out of place in the Tribecastan catalog. The album winds up with Navajo Trail, part rockabilly, part 50s lounge pop and part punk, and then a take of Ghost Riders in the Sky that offers a tip of the pitch-black cowboy hat to the Ninth House version.

Jessica Hernandez Brings Her Smoldering Noir Soul to Rock Shop

Detroit bandleader Jessica Hernandez is a second-generation Mexican-American woman singing original, classic 60s style soul music. She’s got a big, powerful alto voice and an excellent band, the Deltas, behind her. The obvious comparison is Clairy Browne, considering Hernandez’ fondness for ominous minor-key noir 60s sounds. She’s got a new ep out, Live at the Magic Bag, a tantalizing glimpse of the band at the top of their darkly captivating game. The whole ep is streaming at Soundcloud; Hernandez is at Rock Shop at around 10 on Oct 3.

The opening track, Caught Up kicks off with a snarling garage rock guitar riff and honking baritone sax and builds to a big hard-hitting chorus, and then a creepy, atmospheric noir interlude before an all-too-brief, searing reverb guitar solo. Young Dumb & Drunk, an aptly woozy ballad, is a lot more plaintive than it is funny: “Quit telling me to change the way I’m walking,” Hernandez intones with a gin-soaked defiance. Sorry I Stole Your Man is a bitterly sardonic romp that wouldn’t be out of place in the Bettye Swan songbook. Gone In Two Seconds moves up and around a darkly swaying two-chord vamp, with a brief, aggressively animated conversation between trombone and bari sax. Hernandez has it all: strong voice, killer songwriting and a hot band.