Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Top Ten Songs of the Week Starting 1/5/08

Announcing a new feature at Lucid Culture: the weekly Top Ten list, our deliberately obscure blogosphere version of what Kasey Kasem used to do before he retired and that little sissy took over the mic. Which was just as well because there hasn’t been anything on the top 40 worth hearing in years. But as Jello Biafra so famously said, don’t complain about the media: BECOME the media. Therefore, our little hit parade. Ideally, this will help diversify what we – and hopefully you along with us – discover here. Our NYC live music calendar focuses on artists who play here; our Top 50 Albums of 2008 and Top 100 Songs of 2008 lists necessarily focus on the absolute creme de la creme. The game plan is to use our Top Ten lists to help spread the word about artists around the world who for one reason or another don’t play New York,  don’t yet have albums for us to review or play a style that for one reason or another we’ve neglected so far. We’re going to try to include something for everybody here: intense stuff, lighthearted stuff, loud stuff, quiet stuff. It’s also our chance to include some funny songs: the Top 100 Songs list has a whole lot of great stuff on it, but most of it is soooooo serious and we’d like to include some amusing stuff as well. We’ll archive these so if you forget to bookmark a link, you’ll be able to find it again.

 

American Top 40 used to air on Sundays, so we don’t want to be copycats. Mondays are busy. So we’re going to try doing this on Tuesdays. We’ve linked below to pages where you can hear each individual song. So here goes, Tuesday January 6 2008, happy birthday Monica!

 

1.  The Brooklyn What – Planet’s So Lonely

Our first #1 song is a fiery, wildly bluesy minor-key scorcher from the kick-ass band who brought you the classic I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg. It’s on their myspace.

 

2.  Post No Bills – GDDUMOA

One of the funnest things about youtube and myspace is the amateur stuff you find there. We stumbled across this hilarious acoustic song while looking for another band with the same name. The title is an acronym for God Damn Donut Under Mike Owens’s Ass. Apparently poor Mike Owens, whoever he is, needed an operation, and the recovery process included sitting on a glorified inner tube. “I’m the only cure for the hemorrhoid you got from a strap-on,” sings the inflatable ring in a lazy southern drawl. Until Mike Owens finds out about this and fires off an irate message to myspace to take the song down, here it is.

 

3.  Mascott – Fourth of July (video)

Kendall Jane Meade’s gorgeously jangly indie pop band’s latest cd Art Project has this song on it, but it’s the video that really makes it. It’s mostly just Meade romping around, but the setting is even more heartbreaking than the song: look in the background and you’ll see the legendary, recently shuttered Astroland amusement park at Coney Island. Kudos to videographer Debora Francis for having the foresight to shoot this before it was too late. Click the myspace link above, mute the myspace player and then click the video link to your left. Mascott play Cake Shop on 1/19 at 9ish.

 

4.  The Brixton Riot – Deal with the Devil

“Too many people in the Garden State/Too many rocking vanity license plates,” fume these ballsy New Jersey indie rockers. “You better deal with the devil or the devil’s gonna deal with you.”

 

5.  Across the Aisle – Beer Song

Characteristically fun, upbeat, tongue-in-cheek ska from this tight, catchy crew recently relocated to New York from Boston. 

 

6.  The Passengers – Overpass

Legendary in Australia, the Passengers were fronted by a hauntingly beautiful singer, Angie Pepper, who would go on to marry Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek. When the record label, who were just about to release the Passengers’ debut album, found out about the marriage, they cancelled the contract since they were afraid that Pepper would relocate to the States with her new husband (as it turns out, she did). To make matters worse, the original masters were subsequently stolen and have never resurfaced. In 2006, Pepper reunited the Passengers as an acoustic trio with bassist Jim Dickson and guitarist Jeff Sullivan. This particular track is a characteristically gripping excursion into Nashville gothic territory.

 

7.  Poor Bailey – Psycho Bitch

Somebody had to write this song and it’s a good thing this acoustic guy did instead of somebody with less of a sense of humor. Definitely good for a laugh. 

 

8.  Alexander Burnet – Black Water Soup Pt. 1

Southwestern gothic from Keene, New Hampshire. Go figure. Lo fi but good.

 

9.  The Big Takeover – Red Rum

Old-school roots reggae with a compelling female singer. They’re at Arlene’s this month every Wednesday at 10.

 

10. The Dead and Gone – Lounge Lizard Deluxe Take 1

An instrumental: upbeat minor-key punkabilly to end the list on a high note. We’ll be back with more next Tuesday. Stay tuned.

 

January 5, 2009 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Voxys – Bang Out of Order

Retro 60s psychedelic garage rock band who split their time between Dublin and New York and bear a far more obvious similarity to their influences – the Move, the Kinks or the Pretty Things – than current revivalists like the Coral. The Voxys are a lot more focused and consequently they bring the energy level up several notches as well. This tantalizingly brief ep, generously made available by the band for free download, leaves you wanting a whole lot more. It starts off with Sixth Floor, its catchy minor-to-major melody pulsing along on a fast shuffling reggaeish beat: “You’ll end up like your mother…less drunk and dead,” the singer deadpans, the band led by the bass in a sprint up the scale at the end.  Track two, Uncle’s Gaff is fast and bouncy and sounds like the Jam if they’d been around in 1965, pubbing it up with Dick Taylor and Phil May. The title track punches along on a predictable one-flat3-4 hook; the last of the four tracks, Dirty Protest layers a ridiculously catchy, fiery guitar hook over some jangly, Byrdsy chord work and it’s flat-out gorgeous, all the way through to its surprisingly sunny chorus. Happily, the Voxys do frequent NYC gigs: they sound like they’d be a tremendously fun live band. Watch this space for details.

January 5, 2009 Posted by | Music, Reviews | 4 Comments

CD Review: Jay Bennett – Whatever Happened, I Apologize

What a harrowing way to start the new year. This cd hits you with a gale force, bitter, brutal and direct. Even if you try to get out of the way, Jay Bennett – the talented multi-instrumentalist who for all intents and purposes was Wilco until he left the band and Jeff Tweedy decided to become Brian Wilson – will still knock the wind out of you. Most of this cd – Bennett’s fourth solo album –  is just voice and acoustic guitar, occasionally embellished with organ and bass that are so good that you’re left wanting more. While the songs on this album scream out for a full band to flesh them out, even if this is as far as they ever get, that’s fine: they still pack a wallop. Stylistically, Bennett evokes Matt Keating or Richard Buckner in particularly energetic mode: this is smart, terse, gorgeously melodic Americana rock with equally smart, tersely unwinding lyrics. It’s a concept album about a relationship gone awry, spectacularly: this one was doomed right from the start, and if Bennett is to be taken at face value, it’s something of a miracle he got out alive.

 

The cd starts with a road song, just a bit of ominous foreshadowing in the same vein as the Wilco classic Far, Far Away (from the Being There cd), followed by the matter-of-fact, dismissive I Don’t Have the Time. Bennett knows there’s drama coming down the line and he wants no part of it. “I don’t have the good looks, but I know yours won’t last,” he caustically tells the woman. With the next cut, I’ll Decorate My Love, the genie’s out of the bottle, Pandora’s out of the box and all hell breaks loose, setting the tone for the rest of the cd:

 

There will be no profit in protection

Even when you’re walking miles in the rain

I will curse the day I met you

And you will curse the day I lost control

And there will be no reward for your actions

Even when you’re trying to save your lover’s soul…

You were down before me

 

The themes that recur again and again here are missed opportunities and wasted time (go figure), notably on the cd’s towering centerpiece, the big, crescendoing 6/8 ballad The Engines Are Idle:
 
The engines are idle and the trees are all bare

And the issues are clouded and hang in the air

The best part of the story is the part that you missed…

The best part of the record is the part where it skips

And she lost the lyrics and the jacket is ripped…

Cos it’s ageless and timeless but beauty must fade

And you looked so much better when the picture was made

 

The pace picks up and emotions reach a fever pitch on How Dull They Make the Razor: Bennett wants to wait this one out, but he ends up getting dragged in anyway:

 

It don’t matter how dull they make the razor

You won’t feel it when you’re dead 

 

On the next track, Without the Benefit of Sight, Bennett likens himself to a block of ice on a Chicago rooftop in early spring, loosened just enough to become deadly. Exasperation and despair take over center stage:

 

If you want to weigh me down there’s just one layer left

I’ve been repainted so many times it’s anybody’s guess

 

And that’s pretty much where it’s left. Bennett muses on how Hank Williams might have written this story, then throws up his hands and lets that work as a smokescreen: he’s through with trying to cut through the smoldering underbrush, and the songs follow suit. “I lost my best friend last night, I’m working on number two/Won’t you give me a chance cause your chances are through,” he warns on the stark, mandolin-spiced ballad Talk and Talk and Talk. The cd ends with a lament for the world as a whole – the relationship seems to be a microcosm of something far worse – and then with the understatement of Little Blue Pills, “that don’t make you ill – someday they will.”

 

Intensely personal yet not the least bit self-absorbed, this is the best thing Bennett’s ever done. And the best thing about it is that the cd is absolutely free: Bennett is giving it away as a free download at rockproper.com, click here and then hang on, this is not exactly easy listening.

January 5, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments