New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: wilco band

A Dark, Noisy, Psychedelic Swedish Blend of 90s Indie Rock, Dreampop and No Wave

Kall are another one of those bands who sound like no other group on the planet. Their attack is part unhinged 90s indie rock, part no wave, with a little dreampop and a rhythm section that’s heavier but also busier than you typically find in any of those styles. Add lead vocalist Kim’s guttural black metal rasp and you have one of the most distinctively psychedelic acts around. They have a thing for loops and really like long songs. Their latest limited edition vinyl album Brand is streaming at Bandcamp.

The album opens with Rise, beginning with a sun-seared, disjointedly lingering solo guitar intro, building to an even more scorching, reverb-infused, careening minor-key drive. The band’s two guitarists, H. and Fix, team up for a roar that strongly brings to mind Thalia Zedek’s legendary 90s band, Come.

Fervour has contrasting, loopy, lingering rainy-day guitars over bassist Phil A. Cirone’s lithe, trebly lines until the distortion kicks in. Sax player Sofia blows noisy sheets of sound as the volcanic layers grow thicker.

Eld sounds like Yo La Tengo playing an early Wilco song, drummer Peter guiding its increasingly complex, Sonic Youth-tinged trajectory before everybody drifts away for a summery sax break.

The seventeen-minute epic Fukta din Aska has a hammering, hypnotic Astronomy Domine feel that rises and falls between noisy SY interludes and sparse, spacious sketches. When the sax wafts in, it’s very evocative of Brooklyn band Parlor Walls‘ early work,

Hide Below could be enveloping early zeros favorites Serena Maneesh, rising in thirteen minutes from drizzly and atmospheric to more gusty terrain as the bass bubbles and the drums pummel. The band wind up the album with Fall, shifting from a funereal bass pulse to elegantly brooding guitar variations, a long scream and a drift through hints of doom metal to a slowly swaying, psychedelic peak.

By the way, the lp cover illustration is also excellent: a real metaphor for this point in global history. The Swedes, who DIDN’T lock down, know this better than pretty much everyone else.

Catchy, Purist, Relevant Powerpop Songcraft From Elisa Peimer

It was about fifteen years ago that Elisa Peimer played a reasonably well-attended show at a long-gone Williamsburg venue, the Blu Lounge, as part of a multi-artist bill staged by the songwriters collective Chicks With Dip. It was early in her career, and she was one of the first of the acts to hit the stage that night, but it was obvious that she had a purist pop sensibility and a compelling blue-eyed soul voice.

In the years afterward, she’d contribute to a popular anthology celebrating the 40th anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s Blue album and then tour with the core group behind it. She’s also a founding member of the Sonic Youth and Wilco powerpop spinoff The End of Love, and has put out a series of solo albums as well. Her latest one, Navigator, is streaming at Spotify.

The opening track comes across as late 70s Pat Benatar without the cliched heavy metal guitar. In I’m Gonna Start, a defiant anthem about getting off the screen and staying off, the references are quaint: just tv and radio. But maybe Peimer’s already a step ahead of most everybody else in getting off of evil Facebook and Instagram too.

The second track, Shouldn’t I is a throwback to late 70s/early 80s CBs style powerpop. Peimer’s got a great, purposeful band behind her: Jay Deegan and Irwin Menken on guitars and a killer rhythm section of Whisperado’s Jon Sobel on bass alongside longtime Graham Parker and Mekons drummer Steve Goulding.

Cyrano has a Highway 61 Dylan sway and a telling lyric:

He thinks he isn’t pretty
But he’s being pretty blind
He doesn’t seem to know
That the girls, they always go for a beautiful mind

Adrift is a metaphorically loaded, electrified sea chantey, reflecting back on getting away from ever-present distractions and finding one’s own way. Peimer goes back to 6/8 time for the soul-tinged, ballad End of the Sunset and winds up the record with the bitttersweetly elegaic Slipped into a Dream. If catchy, purist tunesmithing is your demimonde, Peimer should be on your radar.

Grain Thief Bring Their Smart, Catchy, Picturesque Acoustic Americana to the Lower East Side This Weekend

Boston band Grain Thief distinguish themselves from the legions of fresh-faced East Coast kids packing mandolins and banjos, in that they use vintage Americana rather than emo or corporate American Idol pop as a springboard for their songs. And they tell some great stories, and have serious bluegrass chops. The five-piece group also have a new album, Stardust Lodge streaming at Spotify and a New York gig on Sept 15 at 8:30 PM at the third stage at the Rockwood. Cover is $10

The swaying opening track, Colorado Freeze strongly evokes the Grateful Dead doing their acoustic act in the early 80s around the time of the Reckoning album. The merry band in the song lyrics are riding in an old car: it’s got both a cd player and a radio in case the the other doesn’t work!

The lively, swinging Lonesome Highway finds the narrator in front of a girl behind the bar who stares right through him – the conversation that ensues will resonate with anybody who’s spent time in front of a glass that’s half empty.

I Got a Flower is closer to Wilco than bluegrass, although the interweave between the guitars of Patrick Mulroy and Tom Farrell, with Zach Meyer’s mandolin and Alex Barstow’s fiddle rising over Michael Harmon’s snappy bass, is especially tasty. As is the “hell, I’d rather drink alone” message.

The Jigsaw Outlaw is a killer instrumental that brings to mind the old folk tune Jack-a-Roe, the whole band getting into the act with some deep blues and steely picking. Irish Rose is mutedly gorgeous, a bittersweetly picturesque anthem akin to the missing link between Matthew Grimm and early Richard Buckner. “Dragged me from the world inside my phone…I drank in a supernatural bliss,” the group harmonize.

Plough Man is a rousing singalong shout-out to the guys who pull in extra bucks with their trucks in the wee hours when the snow’s coming down hard: “The truck is freezing when the heater ain’t working, just pack a jacket…when I dream I see the white and green, I suck it up with my diesel machine!”

The syncopated, animated compulsive gambler’s lament Stateline Hills is a western gothic, steel guitar-fueled take on the grim milieu of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. Then the band pick up the pace with the Dylanesque hillbilly boogie Cookin’ and follow that with the album’s funniest track, The Bottom Shelf. In a 99 percenter’s world, desperate times call for desperate measures!

Barstow’s fiddle propels the album’s hardest-rocking track, Jealous Girl, along with the steel guitar. The band wind it up with the most epic number here, Let It Roll, nimble fingerpicking contrasting with big rock swells.

In addition to the Rockwood gig, Grain Thief play Wednesday nights at around 9 at the Burren in Davis Square at 247 Elm St. in Somerville, MA.

Marah Reinvents an Amazing Collection of Obscure Pennsylvania Folk Songs

There’s a serious imbalance of folk music in this country: so much of what we hear is from the southern states. But there’s tons of great old songs from the northeast as well, which so often get overlooked. Credit Marah for rediscovering a whole slew of them and presenting them in a ramshackle, aptly high-energy package titled Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, streaming at Spotify. All these songs were originally collected over one hundred years ago by musicologist Henry Shoemaker; this is the first full-length recording based exclusively on the lyrics he collected throughout the region. Marah do here what Wilco did with Woody Guthrie, setting (and sometimes rearranging) the words to a mix of period-perfect folk melodies livened with harder-rocking and sometimes more modern arrangements. The band are going to air them out at Bowery Electric on July 12 at around 10:30; edgy, lyrically-driven, 90s-style alt-country band Butchers Blind open at 9:30 or so.

Marah have earned plenty of props for their meat-and-potatoes, four-on-the-floor rock anthems, but as it turns out they’re just as good at roots music from their home state. There are no sizzling solos or virtuoso moments in these songs: instead, the band seems to be shooting for the sound of a raw, celebratory family band, employing the usual Americana string band instrumentation in addition to dulcimer, glockenspiel, tuba, simple drums and piano along with occasional electric guitar that adds an offcenter psychedelic edge.

The album opens with a joyously swaying one-chord timber-cutting jam of sorts with fiddle, harmonica, banjo and jaw harp: “Prepare for the shanty life before your health declines,” singer David Bielanko insists. A Melody of Rain shuffles along witha brisk 60s pop feel – it’s the least archaic of all the songs here. The album’s hardest-rocking number, An Old Times Plaint offers more than a hint of circus rock, bringing to mind recent adventures in that style by M Shanghai String Band.

With its unabashedly romantic strings, insistent piano and harmonica, the most lushly orchestrated number is Luliana, a wistful love ballad: “If I could be anyone but myself, I would be the one who stands beside her,” the narrator affirms. By contrast, Sing O Muse of the Mountain is another mostly one-chord jam, akin to the White Light White Heat-era Velvets doing a Pennsylvania folk tune.

Glockenspiel and pump organ double each other, a la Springsteen, on Ten Cents at the Gate, which veers unexpectedly from country gospel to eerily phantasmagorical rock. Mountain Minstrelsy has the album’s most regionally-specific lyric set to a warmly catchy midtempo sway. A sad, vividly resigned waltz, The Old Riverman’s Regret looks back nostalgically on 19th century commercial river rafting. The album winds up with a raggedly rustic dance instrumental. There’s also a shambling, punk blues-inflected track and a brief, skeletal stab at a Celtic-tinged anthem. The way the album was recorded – live, in a Millheim, Pennsylvania church with lots of natural reverb – more than suggests that Marah has a great time onstage with these songs.

Haunting, Uneasy Psychedelia from Matt Kanelos

Matt Kanelos is one of New York’s most sought-after pianists. He’s half of Carol Lipnik‘s haunting Ghosts in the Ocean project, plays with psychedelic Americana chanteuse Jenifer Jackson and Canadian gothic bandleader Lorraine Leckie as well as in sardonic jazz guitarist Jon Lundbom‘s band. Kanelos’ original songs are as smart and distinctive as the artists he shares the stage with. His new album Love Hello – streaming at Bandcamp – is a masterpiece of pensive, allusively lyrical psychedelia. To paraphrase one of his bandmates (guess which one!), it’s part hypnotic Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, part metrically tricky, artsy Radiohead and part Terry Riley in ultra-minimalist mode.

Kanelos alternates between keyboards and guitars on this album, with a core band of Kyle Sanna on guitar, Ben Gallina on bass and Conor Meehan on drums. The album’s starkly opening track Where the Seed Grows sets the stage, Kanelos’ spare, lustrous piano lingering over a simple, distantly uneasy acoustic guitar pulse. It’s arguably the album’s most haunting cut:

I know the mountain and the shore
I don’t go there anymore
They’re fighting a ground war
I heard the message in the drum
I know the places they come from
I hit the wind chime with my thumb
I thought that it would give me some
I’ll wait for the wind to come

The second track, Wonderland is a variation on the same melodic theme, a psychedelic nocturne with similarly marvelous, sparse piano, hints of Americana and a slow descent into grey-sky atmospherics. Video Town, another variation, evokes Radiohead’s Pyramid Song with its rhythmically tricky vamps, wary ambience and long, insistent crescendo as it winds up and then out.

And the Line could be the Church at their most low-key covering Neil Young, a dusky, airy Indian summer theme lit up by Sanna’s casually intense tremolo-picking. By contrast, Island Animals has an eerie, surreal, noisy Daydream Nation anxiousness, a reflection on aging and imminent doom that morphs into a slowly swaying paisley underground vamp and then back up. “The country wears a green disguise and you’re spinning on the earth alone, no filter to protect your eyes, animals a headstone,” Kanelos intones.

The Brink mingles layers and loops of keys into a terse, nebulous lament that segues into a brief, slowly marching solo piano take of the Charles Mingus composition Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love. Earth Man is a broodingly sarcastic apocalyptic reflection set to a slow, stately, uneasily swaying rhythm, Gallina artfully raising the intensity with judiciously placed chords behind Kanelos’ chiming electric piano, blippy layers of keys and a chorus of wordless vocals. Kanelos ends the album with its most skeletal track, North, a guardedly optimistic mood piece. The cd comes in a cool full-color package with surreal, thought-provoking photos by Kanelos and Marie Lewis, an apt visual counterpart to the music. In its quietly provocative way, it’s one of the best albums to come over the transom here so far this year.

Butchers Blind Revisits Edgy, Vintage Alt-Country

You watch your friends either sell out or get pulled under by the demands of the dayjob, or the marriage and the kids, and then you don’t see them anymore. Maybe that happens to you. Do you blame them – or yourself? Do you feel bad for them – or yourself – and wish that all of you could get your old lives back, fighting the system, going out and raising hell? Butchers Blind frontman Pete Mancini contemplates those questions on his band’s debut album Destination Blues, streaming all the way through at their Bandcamp page.  He sets his plainspoken, politically aware lyrics to a guitar-driven backdrop that evokes the early 90s alt-country of bands like Wilco, part classic country, part amorphous indie rock. That Mancini would have such a spot-on political edge comes as no surprise considering that he played lead guitar on Matthew Grimm‘s latest brilliant album. A Grimm bandmate, bassist Mick Hargreaves, co-produced (with Billl Herman).

The bitter country waltz Nobody Hears What I Say Anymore sets the stage for what’s to come, and it’s not optimistic: aging ex-punk rocker watches his marriage fall apart and his thirty years of steady employment go adrift as the self-medication gets the better of him. Tear It Down addresses the same kind of doomed anomie with a more aggressive, middle-period REM-ish vibe. The wryly titled OPP is not the Naughty By Nature hit but an original that sarcastically examines other peoples’ problems (rather than pussy) with a strong nod to Wilco. By contrast, the title cut, one of the album’s musically strongest, follows a janglier, more optimistic tangent that reminds of the early days of Australian rockers the Church.

Honestly goes back to the blend of country lead guitar lines over uneasy indie changes, with a venomously sarcastic lyric:

Always have to scream to make a sound
I hear the things you say whan I’m not around
Took your left and drew blood with your right
I was counting cards in the dark,  taking my time

College Town keeps the cynicism at redline, a knowing look at how wide-eyed idealism goes to hell as graduation and then the inevitable dayjob loom on the horizon. Drowned, with its rustic Appalachian bite, is even angrier, a dis at a guy who’s sold out and thinks that makes him better than his friends from his younger, wilder days. Young Again is a lot gentler, with jangly Velvet Underground echoes.

Mancini brings the edge back again with the slow, intense 6/8 ballad  Selfish Silent Films:

Your future heaven
Is giving you hell
A repeat performance
Scripts you can’t sell

Then the band picks it up again with Enough Already Anyway, a sideways salute to a nameless rocker who was obviously an influence although they never got to meet. The album winds up with its most stereotypically indie track, Burn Up Bright (Lower East Side), told from the deliriously exhausted point of view of someone who wishes his nights out in Manhattan didn’t end so soon, waiting for the last Long Island Railroad train out of Penn Station. Butchers Blind’s next show is at the Parkside next January 9.

A Smart, Wickedly Tuneful Project from Anders Parker and Kendall Meade

Anders Parker and Kendall Meade had such a good time making Wild Chorus, their album together, they named it after the Knoxville studio where they recorded it. Parker and Meade have a long history working together, going back to the 90s when he fronted Varnaline and shared the stage with Son Volt’s Jay Farrar in Gob Iron while she led the vastly underrated Juicy and then went on to the absolutely brilliant Mascott. All the while, she was being sought out as a collaborator since she has a reputation for elevating every project she touches: this one joins the ranks of Sparklehorse, Helium and the Spinanes, among others. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

What’s interesting about this is that it’s a true collaboration: while the duo trade off on vocals when they aren’t duetting, the album isn’t a case of having “his songs” and “her songs” – the tracks are a showcase for both songwriters’ strengths, Meade bringing a welcome craftsmanship to Parker’s more roughhewn style, Parker adding a haphazard edge to Meade’s polish and sheen. The opening track, We’re on Fire, Babe sets the stage, lingering distorted guitar pairing off against echoey Rhodes piano, swooshy organ and a rhythm section, Meade’s reassuring, reflecting-pool vocals blending with Parker’s twang and polishing down the rusty edges. The nonchalant backbeat acoustic gem City of Greats blends a bit of a vintage C&W feel wth a low-key 80s vibe that evokes Laura Cantrell’s recent work: “What you got isn’t what you would choose, you’re the master of all that you lose,” the duo harmonize with an elegaic matter-of-factness.

Just when it seems that Let’s Get Lost is one of Parker’s gruff tunes, Meade comes in with a knowing coyness and confectionery harmonies. Across the Years layers sweeping slide guitar and gospel-tinged piano and then hits a gently galloping riff before an unpredictable series of interludes that sound like a female-fronted middle-period Wilco. They follow Sleepwalking, a bittersweetly jangly, hypnotically nocturnal ballad with the luscious Dreamers on the Ground, its layers of distorted guitars ringing and clanging artfully against each other in the left and right channels, Parker’s refusal to give in to an eay resolution finding a perfect foil in Meade’s anthemic hooks.

Gettin’ Ready nicks the intro from Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart but quickly goes in the opposite direction of that song with an optimistic anticipation fueled by nonchalant, distorted guitar. Oh Love hits a bullseye with its quietly torchy Lynchian country-soul vibe, while Play It vamps on a psychedelically-tinged organ loop that reminds of Mike Rimbaud. The album ends with The Sun Will Shine Again Someday, a swaying anthem for the current depression that recalls Son Volt: “Times are hard for dreaming eyes, I’d like to sit and watch it all go by,” Parker muses, “I’d like to see them blown away.” That wish notwithstanding, this is not a particularly edgy album, but it’s not shallow, and much of it is ridiculously catchy. Who is the audience for this? Pretty much anybody with a taste for low-key tunefulness. Let’s hope this isn’t the last collaboration between these two. A big shout out to the folks at Nine Mile Records for the good taste to get behind it.

Ambrosia Parsley Continues Her Noir Comeback

Singer Ambrosia Parsley got off to a pop-oriented start with Shivaree, best known for the noir pop hit Goodnight Moon from an early zeros Tarantino soundtrack. But her most memorable work to date has been for Air America, the network that braved the airwaves as a sane counterpart to wingnut radio during the mid to late part of the past decade. Much as Parsley’s acerbic, Phil Ochs-ish takes on the news of the day won her a wide audience back in 2004, she has not been idle since, with a new album in the works and an ep, I Miss You, I Do, to show for it in the meantime. She’s playing the big room at Rockwood tonight, 1/28 at 7:15 PM with some pals from her radio days including similarly politically-fueled comedienne Lizz Winstead and others; advance tix are $12 and available at the big room. Intriguing ambient/indie classical composer/violinist Christina Courtin follows afterward at 9:30 PM.

The ep bridges the gap between synthily textured indie rock and a more melodic, retro noir style. It opens with The Other Side, woozy vintage synth on the intro, a backbeat and an echoey wall of resonant guitars. There’s a bit of a Dolly Parton lilt in Parsley’s voice – undernearth all the rock trappings, this is a country song. Parsley follows that with Whispering Pines, a slow piano ballad with low, watery synth organ, sort of an update on creepy, Lynchian Julee Cruise pop.

Nighttime, with its ethereal acoustic guitar hook and gentle guy/girl vox, works a hypnotic post-Wilco Americana-pop vein that contrasts with the restlessness of the lyrics. Losing the Holiday slowly works a growling, guitar-fueled Americana rock vamp with twinkling electric keys overhead. The final track is The Answer (Tim & Becky’s Wedding, the most Lynchian cut here, an atmospheric take on wistful, angst-fueled Orbison pop. Imagine Dennis  Hopper gasping “Candy-colored clown!” to this helps fill out the picture.

Sunday Salon #4 – What Tryptophan Overdose?

Every Sunday at 5 PM, New York Music Daily hosts the Sunday Salon at Zirzamin in the old Zinc Bar space at Houston and LaGuardia. The previous week was a hotbed of dark songwriting activity; this one began with a small sampling of the A-list, some of whom will be performing here in the weeks to come. Beyond the inevitability that this music blog would start booking shows, why this format, and why here? Because it’s one of Manhattan’s best-sounding rooms. And since there are upwards of a thousand groups and musicians across all styles who comprise this city’s elite, it’s a daunting task to keep up with each and every one of them individually. From a blogger’s point of view, the salon is a step closer to one-stop shopping, a chance to stay on top of what at least a portion of the most important artists in town are doing.

LJ Murphy, who’s playing here at 7 on Dec 9 with his band the Accomplices, opened the evening with a trio of characteristically vivid, savage, catchy songs including the big crowd-pleaser Barbed Wire Playpen (about a Madoff type who likes to get spanked) and Sleeping Mind, a nonchalantly chilling, soul-infused chronicle of clinical depression. John Hodel did a couple of surreally aphoristic, grimly funny numbers, followed by the Salon’s own Lauraly Grossman, who unearthed a rustic Laura Marling rarity as well as a bluesy, rustic one of her own which she sang a-cappella. Lorraine Leckie, who’s here this coming Sunday at 7, then took over the piano. While it’s amazing how simple yet resonant her dark chamber pop songs are, her upcoming show here is with her careening Canadian gothic rock band the Demons, featuring Hugh Pool on lead guitar.

After the salon, chanteuse Carol Lipnik and pianist Matt Kanelos (who also fronts Americana soul band the Smooth Maria) treated the crowd to a luminous, magical, otherworldly set. Lipnik had brought her famous vocal pedal but used it judiciously for just an extra touch of creepy reverb or echo. Though she can wow a crowd with her four-octave range, she only went up that high a handful of times throughout an eclectic mixof originals and covers that nonethless came across almost as a single piece. Kanelos’ judiciously resounding chords and hypnotic, percussive attack took the trancelike quality of the music several steps up, through Leonard Cohen’s The Gypsy Wife, an utterly minimalist version of Harry Nillsson’s Life Line and then Wilco’s War on War, stripped bare to its inner juxtaposition of hope and dread.

They elegantly elevated an Emily Dickinson poem to New England gothic territory, following with the high point of the evening, two new Lipnik originals, the ethereal Crow’s Nest and the toweringly mysterious Oh, the Tyranny. Kanelos reinvented Nick Drake’s Black-Eyed Dog as a deadly, ravenous beast with his hammering cross-handed counterrythms, then taking the mood back to deep ethereality with two songs of his own, With the Sum and The Brink. The biggest hits with the crowd were a trance-inducing take on Richard Thompson’s gloomy The Great Valerio (where Lipnik did a bit of wirewalking, consciously or unconsciously, to drive the lyrics home). They closed with Neil Young’s There’s a World (which as Lipnik explained could be part of a much bigger picture…or just about smoking pot), freak-folk icon Michael Hurley’s Troubled Waters, and then, persuaded to do an encore, ended the night on a chilling but transcendent note with Kanelos taking over the lead vocals on a minimalist yet lushly haunted version of the Smiths’ There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.

The Sunday Salon happens every week starting at 5 PM at Zirzamin, the lowlit subterranean music parlor in the old Zinc Bar space on Houston and LaGuardia. The public is always welcome to come out and watch, and admission is always free. This coming Sunday’s featured guests at 7 PM are Canadian gothic rockers Lorraine Leckie and Her Demons.