Here’s Lucid Culture’s list of the top 100 songs of 2007. A few disclaimers:
1. Since this page is basically – for better or worse – a New York live music blog, a lot of these songs are so new that they haven’t been recorded yet, and consequently some of the titles here may be wrong. Some of them may not even have a title yet. Corrections are always appreciated via the form at the bottom of the page.
2. The list isn’t limited only to songs released during calendar year 2007 (but who’s counting a year or two back, anyway?).
3. The list isn’t meant to be definitive, by any stretch of the imagination. The stuff we haven’t heard far exceeds what we have. Most of what’s here is rock or country – jazz, classical, hip-hop and a lot of other perfectly good genres aren’t represented.
4. If the song you wrote, or the song you love isn’t here, that doesn’t mean it’s no good. It just means that either we don’t know it, or we already listed it in the 2006 list (in a former incarnation), or we’re going to list it in 2008. Or maybe it’s really no good after all.
5. Aside from the top 10 or so here, the list is completely non-hierarchical. In other words, number 100 is just as good as number 11 and vice versa. We put this together by writing the names of songs on little strips of paper and then pulling them out of a Brooklyn Cyclones hat one by one.
6. Wherever possible, we’ve included a link to where the song can be heard. In the case of songs that don’t have links, we’ve linked to the artist’s website or their myspace. Some of the unrecorded stuff may be available as bootlegs, or on youtube, but you’ll have to track them down. Happy hunting!
1. Amy Allison – Turn Out the Lights
Her darkest, most devastatingly powerful song yet (even if the production leaves a lot to be desired) – and she has a bunch of them. And then there’s that uniquely beautiful voice. From her album Everything and Nothing Too
2. Nightcall – Blackwater
Bliss Blood’s latest side project, our favorite new NYC band, plays “crime jazz.” This one is a slap upside the head of the mercenaries killing innocent Iraqis.
3. Rachelle Garniez – After the Afterparty
A beautifully subtle and triumphant tale of rejection and revenge. From her new album Melusine Years
4. Rachelle Garniez – People Like You
A hilariously sarcastic swipe at the sons and daughters of outer borough wealth who are taking over New York. Also from Melusine Years
5. Randi Russo – Invisible
A gorgeously catchy, backbeat driven outsider anthem from the absolute master of the genre. Unrecorded.
6. Randi Russo – The Immigrant Song (silly tentative working title)
Another outsider anthem, this a fiery 3-part suite that ends up with a wild crescendo on a Middle Eastern theme. Unrecorded
7. Melomane – O Mighty Orb
Death from above via majestic and sarcastic art-rock song. Unreleased.
8. Melomane – The Ballot Is the Bullet
The most potent anti-Bush song written to date, a stark and direct hit. From their album Glaciers.
9. Amy Allison – Dreamworld
Another chilling, impeccably terse “Should-I-kill-myself-or-go-to-sleep” song, as Allison calls them, that she writes so well. Unrecorded.
10. Richard Thompson – Sneaky Boy
Fast, bouncy, mordant broadside which could be an attack on Tony Blair. From his album Sweet Warrior.
11. Richard Thompson – Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Vitriolic anti-Iraq war song with great guitar. Also from Sweet Warrior
12. Paula Carino – Grace Before Movie
Fast rockabilly tune and one of Carino’s trademark sardonic, literate lyrics, loaded with smart puns and double entendres. This is one of her best. Not sure if this is the right title. Unreleased.
13. Melomane – Going Places
One of the funniest anti-trendoid rants ever written. Unreleased.
14. LJ Murphy – Another Lesson I Never Learned
Another great lyric, a typically sarcastic parable of our times set to a potently crescendoing post-Velvets melody. Unrecorded.
15. Erica Smith – Firefly
Sounds exactly like a classic 60s pop hit, firing on all cylinders. From her forthcoming album Snowblind.
16. Amy Allison – Rose Red
A scary take on the Snow White myth, cast as catchy janglerock. Also from Everything and Nothing Too
17. Sloe Guns – This Far
Absolutely gorgeous, resigned, melancholy backbeat-driven Americana rock hit. Unrecorded.
18. Avengers – The Amerikkkan In Me
They played this punk classic at their Bowery Ballrom show last February. Originally released on a late 70s ep produced by Steve Jones.
19. Willie Nile – The Best Friends Money Can Buy
Scorching rock anthem, the thing this guy does best. From his album Streets of NYC.
20. Mary Lee’s Corvette – End of the Road
They played this beautiful country-inflected twang-rock song at their show at Rodeo Bar almost a year ago. From the classic 1999 album True Lovers of Adventure.
21. Big Lazy – To Hell in a Handbasket
The best song on their most diverse album to date (Postcards from X), it’s a blazing minor-key ghoulabilly instrumental.
22. Big Lazy – Thy Name Is Woman
Delectably noir soundtrack instrumental. Also from Postcards from X.
23. Melomane – Romans
Death from above finds Pompeii via fast, furious minor-key garage song. From their ongoing “disaster song cycle.” Unreleased.
24. Avengers – Car Crash
Another self-explanatory punk rock classic originally released in the late 70s. They also did this at the Bowery show.
25. Willie Nile – Back Home
Slightly dazed and twisted literate rock, sounding like the Wallflowers with a lyric by the old man. Brilliant. Also from Streets of NYC
26. Willie Nile – Cellphones Ringing in the Pockets of the Dead
An evocation of the Madrid train bombings with pyrotechnic guitar solo from Andy York to wrap it up. Also from Streets of NYC
27. Big Lazy – Pulsacion #4
Astor Piazolla cover done NY noir style. Reverb-licious. Also from Postcards from X.
28. Avengers – Desperation
At the Bowery show, Penelope Houston showed she’s an even better singer than she was almost 30 years ago, when she wrote this punk anthem as a teenager.
29. Erica Smith – Valentine
Superbly literate Livia Hoffman hit recast as a torchy jazz ballad. From the forthcoming album Snowblind.
30. Amanda Thorpe – For All I Care
Cover of the Steve Wynn classic that brings out every bit of angst in its minor-key tango melody. Unreleased. Thorpe is the Bedsit Poets’ frontwoman.
31. Nightcall – Bring Back My Love to Me
Macabre torch song. Unrecorded.
32. Rachelle Garniez – The Shoemaker’s Children
Sounds like a Charley Patton classic with modern apocalyptic lyrics. Matt Munisteri blazing away on various acoustic instruments. Also from Melusine Years
33. Big Lazy – Confidence Man
Short suite for crime flick, NYC style. Also from Postcards from X.
34. Melomane – Unfriendly Skies
A shot across the bow of corporate radio, sounding a little like a contemporary Roxy Music. Also from Glaciers.
35. Rachelle Garniez – The Best Revenge. Another sarcastic and somewhat scary smash, a beach song for the global warming era. Also from Melusine Years
36. Rachelle Garniez – Pre-Post Apocalypse
This is the requisite funny song – a very blackly amusing one – on Melusine Years
37. Willie Nile – Day I Saw Bo Diddley In Washington Square
This is the requisite Irish ballad from Streets of NYC. As evocative as a Weegee photo.
38. Avengers – Uh-Oh
Punk rock girl-power anthem from 1978 that resonates even more powerfully than it must have then. Also on the set list at the Bowery show.
39. Marcellus Hall & the Headliners – Back Where I Started
Wickedly literate Americana pop classic. Love that guitar intro.
40. Richard Thompson – Guns Are the Tongues
Art-rock epic with long guitar solo that’s set in Northern Ireland, but it could just as well be Baghdad. Also from Sweet Warrior
41. Richard Thompson – Mr. Stupid
Tongue-in-cheek folk-rock dance tune that takes a swipe at somebody’s ex-wife. Also from Sweet Warrior
42. Jan Bell – Leaving Town
Gorgeous, propulsive get-the-hell-out-of-here country anthem. Dig that soaring pedal steel.
43. Todd Satterfield – Dropping Names
Dunno if the title’s right: this is a broadside aimed at trendoids and their shitty music yet manages to avoid the nostalgia trap. Unreleased. Satterfield doesn’t appear to have a myspace, but there is one for his former band Your New Best Friend
44. Marcellus Hall & the Headliners – Vodka Talking & the Gin Listening
Dunno if we got the title to this one right either. It’s a talking blues, funnier than anything Dylan ever did in the early 60s, which is what it sounds like.
45. Big Lazy – Walk It Off
More blissfully dark noir soundtrack stuff. Also from Postcards from X.
46. Big Lazy – Naked
Yet another eerie, reverb guitar driven noir soundtrack piece. Also from Postcards from X.
47. Marcellus Hall & the Headliners – Neon & the Night
Like the Everly Brothers updated for the zeros, but darker. “You only see the neon/You don’t see the night.”
48. Amy Allison – Drinking Thru Xmas
A new solo acoustic recording of her old classic.
49. Rev. Vince Anderson – Deep in the Water
You could call it psychedelic gospel. This version, live at Black Betty last Spring featured a particularly apropos little sermon mid-song. From his album 100% Jesus.
50. Coffin Daggers – Caravan
Their recording of the Duke Ellington classic is excellent, but their new keyboardist absolutely owned this when she built it to a horror-movie crescendo at Rock Star Bar last April.
51. Custard Wally – Pretty Little Ponytail Boy
Hilarious anti-trendoid rant. From their latest cd Estrogennia Dementia.
52. Justin Timberlake – My Dick in a Box
This one you know.
53. Adam Masterson – Into Nowhereland
Haunting nighttime stroll among the down-and-out, somewhat Shane McGowan style. From his self-titled ep.
54. Rasputina – 1816 The Year Without a Summer
Volcanic activity in the Pacific turned the summer into winter in the northeastern US that fateful year. A sign of things to come, for sure. From their cd Oh Perilous World.
55. Country Joe McDonald – Support the Troops
Solo acoustic, live, at Coney Island. Unreleased, it seems. And not completely sarcastic, which made it so powerful.
56. The Snow – The Snow
Pierre de Gaillande’s disaster song cycle has crept over into his other band. This is about the snowstorm to literally end all snowstorms, a riveting art-rock epic. Unreleased.
57. Erica Smith – Cry Me a River
She’s always been a jazzcat at heart, and the version she sang at Parkside in November could draw blood from a stone. Unreleased but look for it on youtube.
58. Rachelle Garniez – Tourmaline
Semi-preciousness personified, but not preciously at all. A beautifully understated underdog anthem. Also from Melusine Years
59. Nightcall – Nightcall
Bliss Blood’s “crime jazz” band’s signature song.
60. Chicha Libre – The Hungry Song
Like most everything else the band does, it’s a wildly danceable, psychedelic, electric accordion-driven smash, a staple of their live shows. From Sonido Amazonico.
61. Chicha Libre – Sonido Amazonico
More hypnotic than most of their other stuff, and just as groove-driven.
62. Mark Steiner – Now She’s Gone
Darkly glimmering 6/8 ballad with piano and reverb guitar, as good as anything the young Nick Cave ever did.
63. Matt Munisteri’s Brock Mumford – T’ain’t So
Recorded by Bing Crosby in the 30s, the unrecorded cover they played last summer outdoors was vastly darker, driven by accordion and guitar.
64. Ghastly Ones – Double Agent 73
This and the following two are on this terrific monster-surf band’s myspace.
65. Ghastly Ones – Ghastly Stomp 2007
66. Ghastly Ones – Spooky 2007
67. Rasputina – Oh Bring Back the Egg Unbroken
Even more haunting than most of the two-cello-and-drums trio’s other stuff. From their new album Oh Perilous World
68. Greta Gertler – If Bob Was God
The Bob here is Dylan. Gertler at her most out-of-the-box surreal and brilliant on both vocals and piano. From her new cd Edible Restaurant.
69. Love Camp 7 – Jon Strange
Amazing reverb-driven late Beatlesque hit about a guy who stood up at a rally somewhere in Ohio and spoke truth to power. From their new one Sometimes Always Never.
70. Dr. John – Sweet Home New Orleans
Dark and stormy version of his latest N’Awlins blues classic, live in Hoboken in May.
71. Flatlanders – Julia
Sweet, three-guitar-driven acoustic version of this aching, backbeat-driven ballad.
72. Mark Steiner – Unbearable
Sounds exactly like the Walkabouts. Wow.
73. Greta Gertler – Edible Restaurant
More pianistic brilliance: when the place gets crowded, pandemonium ensues. Title track to the album.
74. Greta Gertler – Uniform
Slow, haunting antiwar number. Also from Edible Restaurant.
75. The Snow – Shadows Falling
Dunno if the title is right. It’s a torchy, jazz-inflected ballad written and sung by Hilary Downes.
76. Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars – Ginza Lights
The obscure Ventures classic which for a long time was to Japan what Stairway to Heaven is here, done brilliantly live at Lakeside this summer. Unrecorded.
77. Al Duvall – Reconstruction
Hysterically funny original banjo ragtime song about a sex change. Unreleased.
78. Richard Thompson – I’ll Never Give It Up
Defiantly British folk-rock hit. Also from Sweet Warrior
79. Delta Dreambox – TB Blues
Unreleased barrelhouse piano blues gem sung by Bliss Blood, live at Banjo Jim’s in November
80. Dina Dean – Soul Depletion
Not sure if this is the title – it’s a gorgeous, vivid, piano-driven soul ballad that could be Gil Scott-Heron at his 70s best. Unreleased.
81. Inbreeds – Memories
A spot-on parody of the nostalgic country ballad. Unreleased.
82. Paula Carino – Old People)
At the Parkside in November, she and band did a scorching version of her bitingly satirical ode to euthanasia.
83. John Sharples Band – Can’t Believe
A Paula Carino tune, not sure if it was ever recorded or released, recast here live as a quietly compelling country song.
84. Kristen Gass – Ziploc Torso
Brilliantly reworked solo acoustic cover of the Larval Organs’ punk/metal Xmastime rant
85. Tom Warnick & World’s Fair – 40 People
Arguably the funniest song ever written about being in a band in New York. Warnick slayed with this at the Parkside in November. Unreleased.
86. Maynard & the Musties – It’s Been a Great Life
Unreleased. A tongue-in-cheek country tribute to fiddling while Rome burns.
87. Greta Gertler – Veselka
A completely straightforward, gypsy-inflected art-rock tribute to the East Village pierogi slingers. Check out that amazing Michael Gomez guitar solo. Also from Edible Restaurant.
88. Devi – Howl at the Moon
Fiery straight-up minor key rock song, guitarist Deb DeSalvo at her most slashing. Unreleased.
89. Adam Masterson – My Only Way Out
Unreleased. Dark, somewhat desperate, Nick Cave-ish anthem by the British expat.
90. Inbreeds – Peckerwood
Another killer country song parody, this time taking on the Charlie Daniels-style clan-vs.-clan epic
91. Marcellus Hall & the Headliners – For Chrissake It’s Christmas
A song that needed to be written, by this guy. Unreleased.
92. Dina Dean – I’m Gonna Be There
Probably got the title of this unreleased song wrong. It’s a wrenchingly beautiful, slow Americana rocker that sounds like the great lost cut on Blood on the Tracks.
93. Serena Jost – I Wait
It morphs into a surf instrumental toward the end: what Jost and her bandmates did with this live at Banjo Jim’s this month was amazing. Unreleased.
94. Bodeans – Sometimes
Kurt Neumann at his catchiest and most compelling. The guy still has it and so does the band. From the cd Homebrewed.
95. Custard Wally – Front to Back
Definitely the dirtiest song on this list: it’s about how a woman should wipe after peeing. Too funny. Also from Estrogennia Dementia.
96. John Sharples Band – When Amy Says
Cover of the Blow This Nightclub hit, done to a crisp at Hank’s last summer. This version isn’t available, but the original is on Blow This Nightclub’s myspace.
97. Serena Jost – Vertical World
Very subtle yet very catchy piano pop hit that does the most with its allusions to how NYC is going to hell. Unreleased.
98. Bodeans – Crazy
Another anthemic Kurt Neumann hit, also from Homebrewed
99. 17 Pygmies – Sammy Hagar Saves Los Angeles from Godzilla
This is definitely not the complete title: it’s a surf rock hit with serious echoes of Misirlou. Who would have thought, from these guys.
100. No Police State Girl – No Police State
As advertised: hip-hop public service announcement. Over five minutes long, but stick with it: it’s worth it.
In this dream, I was living in Bushwick (trust me, it will happen to all of us sooner or later) and had to go get a check that I needed to deposit before the bank closed. And it had just started to rain. And as always happens in a case like this, I had no umbrella. For some reason I was way over in a pre-Grand Street Houses era LES, south of Delancey, running through the tall grass in back of a couple of big barns as the drops turned practically to hail and the lightning began to strike all around. I almost got killed by a speeding cab as I sprinted across Delancey. So I went down into the subway station where there were a bunch of trendoids all over the place. Nothing strange about that, except that these trendoids were setting up a CMJ show. Or a whole bunch of CMJ shows. In fact, they’d taken over the entire Brooklyn-bound J/M/Z platform as well as the tracks themselves. Lazing around, smoking weed and taking their time setting up a makeshift stage on the tracks. Apparently they were using power from the third rail: I almost got electrocuted tripping over somebody’s big bright orange power cable.
I waited and waited. Finally after asking a bunch of fellow straphangers, I determined that the Brooklyn-bound trains had been rerouted over the F line (in reality, this would have sent me straight to Brooklyn Heights, but stranger things have happened in Dreamland). So I go down to the F and of course I’ve just missed a train. And have to wait another half-hour. By now it’s about 4 and there’s no way I’ll be able to get to Bushwick and then back in time before the bank closes (in a strange bit of verisimilitude, in the dream there are apparently no banks in Bushwick, just as in real life). Finally, enraged, I exited the station, hoping to have some luck with one of the buses going over the bridge. A trendoid passed me on Delancey. Threatening words are exchanged and suddenly I find myself in a kickboxing match.
Now kickboxing is one of those things I have never even remotely contemplated: I have less than zero interest in “extreme sports.” Yet somehow I found myself kicking the living hell out of this pathetic character. And then his dumpy friend had to get into the act. Which pushed me even further, so I had to kick his ass too. Meanwhile, of course, there was no bus.
So if you ever wonder why this site is a little less than friendly toward the unwashed, trust-funded, bedheaded masses, this is what I have to deal with in my dreams. Reality is another story entirely.
One of the most exciting developments in the New York music scene in recent months is this weekly Sunday 8 PM hot jazz session at the Ear Inn run by trumpeter Jon Kellso and guitarist Matt Munisteri. This is the best deal in town for marquee-caliber jazz: for the price of a drink and a fiver or two for Philip the bucket, you can see an ever-rotating cast of star international players join the two anchors here and push it as far as it’ll go. That was Kellso and Munisteri’s plan from the start, and it was definitely working tonight. The material is traditional jazz (mostly oldtime stuff from the 30s or earlier) but the agenda, as Munisteri put it, is to see “see how far outside we can take it.” By outside, he didn’t mean obscure it or make it deliberately inaccessible. On the contrary, this crew does what all great jazz cats do at the top of their game, hitting a lot of peaks, taking the songs to the limit and sometimes beyond.
The interplay and chemistry between the players is remarkable. They sank their teeth into the old 30s hit Farewell to the Blues, upright bassist Danton Boller taking a solo, and Munisteri didn’t hang him out to dry. When Boller slowed down his run, giving the notes room to breathe, Munisteri picked up the rhythm, comping and punctuating it and it was clear that everybody here is on the same page. Everything sounds better when the band is a team and the song is the manager, and this crew knows that.
Kellso is a bluesman, straight up, no chaser, tonight alternating between gregarious dixieland licks, admirably minimal straight-up blues and a coyly magisterial Prez solo which Boller followed. The likelihood of hearing a Lester Young-inflected horn line played on the bass is pretty rare, but the guy did it. And later in the set he followed another Kellso solo, this time a boisterous, bouncy dixieland one, without straying from the genre. The band was joined this time around by a reed player doubling on clarinet and sax, often working in tandem with Kellso, holding down the melody while Munisteri or Boller were wailing away.
Munisteri is a great listener and expects the crowd to do the same: he doesn’t play very loud, but he doesn’t have to. At one point, he took a solo that was totally B.B. King at his most richly complex until he decided to play fifths on two strings down the scale in some jazz mode. It’s impossible to recall which one it was because the first part of the solo was so amazingly authentic and soulful. Munisteri has blazing speed and a fondness for whipping chords around, but he’s just as likely to mold the melody gently and sparsely (another solo found him tremoloing out his chords a la Bill Frisell, building his crescendo with a lot of suspense). Considering how good the crowd was here tonight in a rainstorm two days before Xmas, with Varick Street closed by police barricades at Charlton Street due to debris from the latest Trump monstrosity falling from several stories above, it would make sense to get here early to assure yourself a seat.
This series started early last summer and it’s picked up enough momentum to the point where it could explode. On one level, that would be fantastic, considering how good the music is and that the players deserve a bigger space. On another level, it’s perfect just the way it is. In the meantime, the Ear Inn – which has admirably designated itself a cellphone-free zone – is the perfect spot, an oasis of decency, good food and fairly reasonably priced drink way over on the west side, a mere couple of minutes walk from the train. Where they put butcher paper on the tables and supply crayons for your personal use.
Believe it or not, this is the only weekly hot jazz blowing session in New York at this time. In a city – or what’s left of it – that has springboarded the careers of so many thousands of great jazz players, it’s about time we had one. Bigtime props to Kellso and Munisteri for getting it going.
Rachelle Garniez’ dark vision never came to life so powerfully, and directly, as it did tonight. If you’ve been following this space for the last few months, you’ll notice that we’ve given her more space than we have just about anybody else. The reason is clear: the new album she was debuting tonight is fantastic, something you definitely should own, but her live shows are reliably riveting. Her previous cd release in this space was a deliriously lush, passionate affair with all kinds of orchestration and special guests. Tonight’s show was understated, driven by a very dark undercurrent: with the exception of one song, the encore, everything she played tonight was from the new album. She was accompanied on most of the songs by only guitarist Matt Munisteri and bassist Dave Hofstra (who doubled on tuba, and served as an effective reminder that if your low-end guy is good enough, you don’t need drums).
Munisteri absolutely owned the set’s first and last songs. His glimmering, jewel-like guitar arpeggios drove the opener, Mama’s Got a Brand New Baby and the charming 6/8 underdog anthem Tourmaline with an understated power. Red Red Nose, the final song on the set list, turned out not to be the love song that the album version appears to be, but a tribute to a street person who had once accosted Garniez one evening during her days busking at the corner of St. Marks and Second Avenue and presented her with a cross. Munisteri played acoustic twelve-string on that one, adding a lush, gorgeous bed of melody beneath it. He also played biting, incisive banjo on the apocalyptic, hypnotic blues Shoemaker’s Children.
Garniez likes to jam out the intros to her songs, inventing new lyrics to preface them. She didn’t do that much tonight, but she did jam out the outro to the brief time capsule Back in the Day:
That song was about the east side
And this one is about the west side
It used to be lots of fun everywhere
You could drive like a maniac and no one cared
You could knock down police barricades
At four in the morning with a giant Chevrolet
Back in the day
The glamorous and the homeless held hands together and danced all night
And everything was quite all right
Back in those days on the west side
Before everyone had a camera
You could get away with all kinds of stuff
And then she launched into After the Afterparty, which she played on piano. Tonight’s version had an unbridled anger, driven by a percussively chordal insistence missing from the version on the new cd. It’s a song about being let down and Garniez, who otherwise sang in the person of a whole grab bag of strangely compelling characters all night long, let her hair down for this one and the effect was subtle yet brutally intense. People Like You, which appears on the album as a blithely subtle swipe at the sons and daughters of suburban wealth who’ve turned much of New York into their personal VIP room, was delivered with a snarl. “I get down on my knees and thank you for letting me talk to you,” Garniez sneered. The crowd was a polyglot mix reminiscent of who you’d see in this neighborhood before any Dark Tower loomed over the Cube at Astor Place, and they loved it.
The only cameos tonight were brief but effective: clarinetist Doug Wieselman, blues harpist Wade Schuman (of Hazmat Modine fame) and trumpet/flugelhorn player Pam Fleming, the human crescendo, all added colors ranging from sweet pastel shades to spicy New Orleans red. Garniez encored with Swimming Pool Blue, ostensibly the first song she ever wrote: as she told it tonight, some old bandmates of hers asked her to write a Christmas song. What she came up with instead was a sultry, Marilyn Monroe-ish saloon blues number. “Until my dreams come true,” she sang at the end. “A thousand miles away,” she added off-mic, a comment that didn’t go unnoticed. And then, appropriately, the room went dark.
This review isn’t meant to be flippant: John Scott is a great artist, and he put on a masterful performance. Yet, it’s a wonder that at some point the church fathers didn’t convene and pose the obvious question: could it be possible that Messiaen was rooting for the other team? Note that the piece Scott played tonight is titled La Nativite du Seigneur (The Birth of the Lord, as opposed to The Birth of Christ). Could it be another Lord, one somewhat darker, that Messiaen was alluding to? This macabre, nine-part suite sounds nothing remotely like the typical Christmastime fare heard in churches across this city, and Scott was brave to play it. It would make a great soundtrack to a horror film. But not a Chucky movie – it would work best with something from Messiaen’s era, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre, perhaps. Satanists burn churches when what they should really be doing is sitting in the front row, rapt, as The Birth of the Lord roars from the pipes of the organ.
To add yet another element of the macabre, sirens wailed down Fifth Avenue during the two opening segments. As robustly constructed and insulated from outside noise as the edifice is, it was impossible not to hear them. If anyone had the presence of mind to record the performance, it could be astounding, a sort of accidental, highbrow counterpart to Simon and Garfunkel’s version of Silent Night, inevitably rooted in the here and now.
Scott is one of the world’s premier organists, an artist with an almost telepathic intuition for what he plays. La Natitive du Seigneur is not particularly melodic and quite difficult, yet there is substantial wit in this work and Scott treated the standing-room-only crowd to all of it. Olivier Messiaen was a strange bird, obsessed with the sounds of the avian world, and the greater part of his oeuvre is naturalistic to the point of being fussy and contrived. His organ works, especially the immortal L’Apparition de l’Eglise Eternelle (The Dawn of the Eternal Church) are anything but. Scott zeroed in on several themes that recur throughout the suite, including a fast upper-register flourish that he tossed off with unabashed glee, and brought out every bit of drama in an ominous, low-register pedal figure followed by a tritone (the so-called “devil’s chord”). The piece has two false endings, and Scott’s crescendos up to them were inexorably good. The final part of the suite ends almost as a mocking parody of the conclusion to Bach’s famous Toccata in D, this time a series of three rather than five chords, the last being a sustained major sixth that rattled the walls, ending the piece on a disquetingly unresolved note and earning Scott two standing ovations.
Arguably the best show we’ve ever seen her do. We’ve given Serena Jost a lot of space here this year, because she’s earned it. A cellist by trade, she did a long stretch in Rasputina before hanging out her own shingle. Tonight she started out on acoustic guitar, then switching to piano, then to cello and so forth. The songs in the set, a mix of new material and stuff from a long-overdue full-length cd were a richly melodic grab-bag of styles, from jazz to chamber-rock, with bits of gospel and surf music added for extra spice. Jost’s work is very intricate and very playful, and it was clear that the band of Julian Maile on reverb-drenched Fender guitar, Rob Jost (no relation) on upright bass and Rob DiPietro on drums were having a great time up there (after a crowd of fans, the bartender and another great songwriter each took a turn at the sound board, trying to get it working properly – the sound is always hit and miss here).
One accident of having dodgy sound was that it forced Jost to run her acoustic through the club’s little Peavey amp which was turned up to where it was about to break up into distortion. How fortuitous that was: suddenly the songs had a grit and a growl they’d never had before, and they liked it! One of the highlights of the night was the bouncy, irresistibly catchy piano pop hit Vertical World, which as it turns out may be about how New York is changing for the worse – Jost’s lyrics are very subtle, so it’s hard to tell – but at the end of the second verse, she ends up sardonically grinning, “here I am, in Krispy Kreme!” Another tune, I Wait, is something of a mini-epic that turns into a surf instrumental about halfway through. Maile played a mix of finely refined skronk and classic Ventures licks, ending his solo with some fast tremolo picking a la Dick Dale. Serena Jost jumped in and continued the solo, playing the same lick staccato on cello and the effect was mouth-watering. Her almost-namesake on bass (whose name is pronounced with a J instead of a Y) played sinuous, fast fills, sneaking in effortlessly to make a contribution to the melody whenever he had the chance. DiPietro felt the room perfectly and didn’t hit too hard, although he had plenty of opportunities to contribute to the songs’ crescendos and nailed all of them. It’s always more fun when the band themselves are clearly having a good time: tonight was a prime example. Serena Jost is doing a cd release show early next year, watch this space for details.
“They should do at least one song in Spanish,” remarked one of our crew. What a great discovery. James Apollo and his terrific band sound exactly like the late, great NY band Industrial Tepee in their more subtle moments. They do one thing and one thing only, and they absolutely nail it. They’re Southwestern gothic, with haunting, mariachi-inflected melodies, the occasional tango beat and a quietly dusky, otherworldly feel. We’d stopped in for a drink, still flying from another concert we’d just seen, feeling cynical to the point that we were all dreading whoever might be playing here tonight. Although Banjo Jim’s has had a good run lately – they’re picking up a lot of the spillover from the songwriters who are leaving the Living Room in droves – their stock in trade is still generally the kind of generic lite FM songwriters you hear piped over the PA in shopping malls.
Apollo sang and played acoustic, backed by an excellent lead player who played lush washes of sound on lapsteel, and occasionally on a Telecaster, using an ebow for sustain. From time to time, he’d flick on a percussion device that looked like a kick pedal but sounded like a rattle. Apollo’s rhythm section didn’t waste a single beat all night. His upright bassist delivered a pulsing, propulsive groove and his drummer, playing with metal brushes, set the haunting, hushed tone from which they never strayed. Every now and then he’d throw in a couple of judiciously placed thumps on the kick and the snare, or a rimshot or two, to keep things interesting, and he made them all count. Tonight was a great example of the best that can happen when guys with jazz chops decide to play rock: it was a clinic in subtlety and counterintuitive, smart musicianship.
With admirable restraint, they resisted the urge to turn one of the songs they played mid-set into straight-up rockabilly. The following cut, I’ve Got It Easy, from Apollo’s latest album Hide Your Heart in a Hive could have been early Calexico, or Friends of Dean Martinez with a vocal track, all sunburnt and slightly hallucinatory. They wrapped up the set – ten songs, all of them good – with a couple of numbers with a somewhat Tom Waits-ish, bluesy feel. Check out this band and share our delight in running into them, completely by accident.
[postscript: Banjo Jim’s happily grew edgier in the time since this review appeared, the Lite FM singer-songwriter types apparently staying home in Long Island or going back to the Living Room. We rated Banjo Jim’s Best Manhattan Venue in 2010]
According to a report yesterday in the Washington Post, the FBI plans to hire a private firm to assemble the world’s largest biometric database. The database will retain information already in the FBI’s system, in addition to fingerprints and other biometric information such as retina scans and digital photographs of immigrants, individuals whose employers have fingerprinted them, children and college students.
Note that the information will be maintained not by the FBI – who presumably have an interest in maintaining a database that could prove useful in investigations – but by a private firm, whose sole interest is profit, and who would have zero accountability to the citizens of the US – including anyone whose information lands in the database. Even in the most benign of circumstances, just think what a marketing firm could do with that information. Or how a HMO, or credit bureau, or lender might be able to use it.
Word to the wise: if you’ve been fingerprinted for any reason, proceed with extreme caution. What’s perfectly legal today may be a capital crime under the next Bush regime. And if you – or your children – have managed to escape the fingerprint net, make sure nobody gets their inky paws on yours.
[editor’s note – this is an actual email from the Knitting Factory to somebody who’s playing there in the near future. Read this and gag]
From: loser email@example.com
Date: Nov 14, 2007 1:30 PM
Subject: advance for XXX XXX
Here is the advance for [band]
Please confirm and let me know if you have any questions.
We have very strict sound level limits, please adhere to the levels that our club engineer and manager set.
XXX time doors
sounccheck before set
You receive 70% of your polled draw after the first 10 paid to see you
See the night manager for payment after the show.
The night manager will need to photocopy a photo ID at settlement. [editor’s note – CAN YOU FUCKING BELIEVE THIS – CAN YOU IMAGINE DR. NO FROM BAD BRAINS PRODUCING A FUCKING PHOTO ID TO GET PAID? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DAYS OF PUNK ROCKERS RIPPING APART VENUES WHO DIDN’T TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT!!!????]
1 guest per band member (please give guest list to the box office that night)
Please send me your instrumentation as well as any equipment requests.
All bands in the Old Office must use the house drums & bass amp provided.
We also have guitar heads & cabinets that you are welcome to use.
Guitar gear must be reserved in advance.
Specs for all backline is below.
Please tell me the number of people in your band.
All audio and video recording on the part of the artist must be cleared in advance and may be subject to a site fee. [Editor: so I have to pay these assholes $50 so I can record the show with my minidisc so the band can listen to it afterward and hear how badly they fucked up?!?]
We are located in a residential neighborhood, so please don’t hang-out outside the club after your show and keep noise to a minimum when outside the club. Please be respectful of this a nd our neighbors as they would love to see us shut down. [asshole luxury housing Wall Street scum who deserve to be shot]
Please load-out right after your show, but feel free to come back and hang out inside the club. [come back and spend whatever money you just made – assuming you made anything – but make sure you move your van so the worthless pieces of shit who inhabit the adjacent luxury building don’t call the cops]
I am not always at the club [translation: I cringe whenever I think about being at the club] but between the sound engineer and night manager [good luck, motherfuckers], they can take care of anything you need. Please introduce yourself to one of them upon your arrival. Thank you,
Please note –
We only have on street parking and are unable to reserve spaces.
Leonard St. is commercial loading & government permit parking from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm on Monday through Friday
If you leave your vehicle unattended during those hours you are likely to get a ticket.
The street is free and legal from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am Monday through Friday as well as all weekend long [shows at the Knit start around 8, go figure 🙂
Please note the current parking situation-
The city is digging up our street [in order to provide water, electric and sewage for the adjacent luxury building], which means there is no parking or double parking on the block.
This makes load-in very difficult, please leave extra time to get in.
PLEASE DO NOT PARK ON THE SIDEWALK ANYWHERE ON OUR STREET
Because you will not be able to park on our block, please do not leave any valuables in your vehicle.
[THIS IS WHY WE SHOULD GRAFFITI EVERY LUXURY BUILDING PROJECT IN NEW YORK BEFORE IT’S FILLED WITH ASSHOLES FROM NEW JERSEY!!!]
74 Leonard St.
New York, NY 10013
Dobson played solo on amplified acoustic guitar seated on a chair by the door. To their credit, none of the trendoids who frequent this upscale South Williamsburg bistro made her budge from her seat as they walked in (it was a relatively warm night). She’s equally adept at Brazilian samba – a style she’s clearly enamored with – as well as fingerpicked jazz songs. Vocally, the influence is clearly Billie Holiday, through and through although she didn’t overdo it. Which is exactly how to do it if you’re in a Billie mood. It was hard to tell the originals from the covers, which is a compliment. Singing into an old-fashioned ribbon mic, it was impossible to hear her over the crowds of independently wealthy recent postgrads a couple of tables away, which is basically understandable since the food here is so good and word has spread to every trust fund kid and their instant messenger list. We reviewed her set at Banjo Jim’s last spring, opening for Van Hayride – talk about a bizarre segue – and liked it, and it’s nice to see her continue to intrigue with that voice and those songs. You say derivative, I say traditional, a tradition she both respects and fits in with.