Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 11/23/08

The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. At the risk of incurring everybody’s wrath with two mainstream songs in a row, today’s is #611:

REM – Camera

Typically obtuse Michael Stipe lyric, but what a gorgeously slow, watery janglerock ballad this is, less jangly than it is fluid. It drips alienation. At all the mp3 sites. From the 1983 album Reckoning which is easier to find than you might think: check your local vinyl source.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Lianne Smith at Soundfix Lounge, Brooklyn NY 11/21/08

“This place used to be my closet,” Lianne Smith told the hushed crowd in the backroom bar in the old Beacon’s Closet space. “If I didn’t want to wear something anymore I could just come down here and trade it. Now they don’t take my clothes, I guess I’m not cool enough anymore!” she laughed. Coming from someone who represents some of the best that oldschool Williamsburg’s ever had to offer, that spoke volumes. “I go to the new place and I think to myself, I can’t believe they bought that!”

 

Fashionwise, Smith may go for classic East Village chic, but musically she defies categorization. The former teenage rockabilly siren and frequent Nada Surf collaborator blends Americana with indie rock and a little 80s new wave influence without fitting squarely into any of those genres, which is her saving grace: she’s nothing if not original. While her voice – a powerful, crystalline soprano that sometimes soars into the uppermost registers with spine-tingling intensity – has always been her drawing card, ultimately it’s her writing that separates her from the rest of the pack. Fun, and a counterintuitive sensibility define her. Fond of minutiae but not precious about it, a born storyteller but not a longwinded one, she can keep an audience in stitches if she’s in the mood. Last night was all about the music. Playing her Strat with a characteristic touch of reverb, she was backed by Greg Peterson, who delivered tightly uncoiling lead guitar as well as vocals on several songs, a mix of fan favorites and new ones.

 

The set started auspiciously with Thief, a knowing and ridiculously catchy country-flavored tune about cutting someone too much slack and paying the price. She followed with the best song of the night, Hit and Run, a gorgeously dark, intense, percussive minor-key tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on the first New Order album. By contrast, an older song, Marianne was all slowly glimmering ambience.

 

Peterson took over lead vocals on a stark version of the traditional English folksong Butcher Boy. The tongue-in-cheek kiss-off tune Bon Voyage, a big crowd favorite, was as playful as ever, followed by Weatherball, a hypnotic, somewhat Mazzy Star-flavored number in 6/8 time. They closed with a newer tune, Saturday, fast but equally hypnotic, Americana meets 80s Manchester. Persuaded by the enthusiastic crowd to take the stage for an encore, they pulled out a torchy version of the pop standard Again. 

 

Smith’s long-awaited recording project continues; in the meantime, you can hear her on the latest Nada Surf cd. The marvelous Bedsit Poets (playing again at Bowery Poetry Club on Dec 6 at 8 PM) were next on the bill, but we had places to go and things to do.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Lenny Molotov at Pete’s Candy Store, Brooklyn NY 11/21/08

Both a throwback and a pioneer, Lenny Molotov is perhaps best known as a brilliant guitarist equally adept at rock (he’s been noir indie rock siren Randi Russo’s lead player for a few years) and delta blues, but he’s just as good a songwriter. Last night at Pete’s he and his excellent band blazed through a beautifully rustic, bluesy set featuring a lot of his best material. In something of the same vein as Richard Thompson, Molotov sets acerbic contemporary lyrics to oldtimey melodies embellished with often sensationally incisive fingerpicked guitar as well as other instruments. Tonight he had his usual backing crew of JD Wood on upright bass and Jake Engel on chromatic harp as well as Ray Saperstein guesting on trumpet.

 

They opened with a bitter, cynical real-life blues story chronicling the ever-increasing difficulty in being an outlaw. The song’s protagonist, a kid from the Brookyn projects, goes out to buy some weed, ends up shooting the undercover cop who was trying to bust him, runs into trouble at every turn and eventually ends up shooting himself in his girlfriend’s project apartment. It’s a vividly accurate commentary on what passes for law and order here these days. Engel punctuated the song with an eerie solo straight out of the Little Walter playbook.

 

Faded Label Blues, a tribute to Jelly Roll Morton was an aptly bleak chronicle of the great jazz pioneer’s decline and fall featuring some gorgeously melodic bass work from Wood. A new blues tune, perhaps titled I Ain’t Your Savior Anymore was a tongue-in-cheek, exasperated chronicle about giving up on a relationship with a woman with particularly crazy needs. “That was the most romantic song I ever heard in my life,” one enthusiastic woman in the crowd exclaimed after the quartet had run through a bittersweet version of Vida Blue, Molotov using the turbulent career of the once-unhittable lefthanded pitcher as a metaphor for his own woes. Then they reverted to minor-key blues mode with nice solos around the horn on another new tune, a Dylanesque number maybe called I See Your Name, Molotov at his characteristically sardonic best: “They’ve got you like a painting at the Met, hung up and framed.”

 

The show closed with a big crowd-pleaser, Ceiling Fan, another Dylanesque tune from Molotov’s cd Luminous Blues which namechecks both Henry Miller and Anais Nin, Molotov ripping into an evilly slinky snakecharmer solo mid-song. The crowd wanted more, but the next band’s equipment was overflowing the corridor connecting the bar and the smoking area outside, so Molotov graciously called it a night.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 11/22/08

The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Today’s is #612:

U2 – Another Time, Another Place

At the risk of alienating the diehard obscurantist following here, we give you something popular but perhaps not so obvious. This is by far the best song – maybe the only good song – that the band ever recorded. It’s a strangely jangly, uncharacteristically melodic anthem that for one reason or another sounds a whole lot like Television – and like absolutely nothing else U2 ever did before or subsequently. Available at all the mp3 sites and also in the dollar bins at your favorite vinyl retailer – it’s on the Boy album, from 1980.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment