Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Blue Rabbit – Separate

“Modern Baroque pop that falls on the Bjork side of Arcade Fire,”says their press kit. Not exactly. This strikingly smart, tuneful, harmony-driven, female-fronted San Francisco band isn’t particularly quirky or the least bit precious. Nor are they a tenth-rate Echo & the Bunnymen ripoff. Rather, Blue Rabbit come across as something akin to the long-lost  mystery sister of Feist and Rasputina, with a catchy pop sensibility that’s remarkably schlock-free. Although a devious programmer at Clear Channel (could such a person actually exist?) could slip some of the songs on this cd into the mix without alienating all the ten-year olds waiting for that Miley Cyrus song that pops up every 40 minutes.

 

Blue Rabbit love minor keys and intricate, imaginative vocal arrangements, sometimes using counterpoint and two sets of lyrics. The cd is a diverse mix of upbeat fare and slower, darker material. It kicks off with the defiantly funny, new wave-inflected Sleep, haunting organ in the background against the cello and a pounding drum roll evocative of the Joy Division classic Atrocity Exhibition. “I’m so tired tired tired/I’d like to sleep sleep sleep.” Then they bring it down with a trip-hop beat on Getting Away, a pop song with a twist, leaping into doublespeed on the chorus with a minor-key ragtime feel. The title track is a somewhat bitter but catchy dance tune with incisive piano:

 

Lift the rat trap, free the mouse…

Take your lips from the back of my hand

And end separate as we began

 

Another minor-key tune, Missing Piece begins in 6/8 time with sparse cello accents, climbing to a fingersnapping cabaret chorus. The song builds methodically and inescapably to a beautiful crescendo with lush harmonies and orchestration. Other standout tracks include the bouncy, snide Stupid Flag (“Raise the stupid flag, raise it high, wave it wide with all you have), and the gorgeous Love Secret, another big 6/8 ballad to close the album. Beginning with dark, rustic cello over plaintive broken chords on the guitar, it morphs at warp speed into a classic 60s style pop song on the chorus. What might be most impressive is that Blue Rabbit delivers live, too, those beautiful voices soaring over the darkness and drama. This band could appeal to just about anybody, from the American Idol crowd to those with vastly more purist or cynical taste. Blue Rabbit are at the Canadian Music Fest in Toronto sometimes in the March 12-14 window; Bay Area fans can catch them at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market Street between Church and Sanchez in San Francisco on March 21.

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February 10, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 2/9/09

Here’s this week’s hit parade. All of the links here lead to the individual song except for #9 which you’ll have to see live since the band hasn’t recorded it yet. But it was so good we had to include it anyway.

 

1. The Brooklyn What – We Are the Only Ones

Yet another smash from the Brooklyn What’s sprawling, multistylistic, funny and furious debut cd. This one’s absolutely right for the here and now: a call to the cool kids to overthrow everything that’s keeping everybody down and start something new. What’s this make, six #1 hits from the album, by our reckoning? If this was 1978, that would be the case. They’re at Red Star on 2/20 at 11.

 

2. Botanica – Who You Are

Absolutely gorgeous, majestic, wickedly sardonic art-rock anthem from this era’s greatest art-rock band. They’re at Joe’s Pub on 3/21 at 7, early, after getting back from a whirlwind European tour.

 

3. Edison Woods – Finding the Lions

Warm, reassuring, hypnotic art-rock ballad with gorgeous harmonies from one of New York’s most unique and captivating groups, equal part classical and rock. They’re at Galapagos on 2/19.

 

4. King Khan & the Shrines – Live Fast Die Strong

This band is completely insane but they’re a lot of fun. Bizarre, completely over-the-top funny garage rock, like Emmett Kelly sharing the stage with Jesse Bates’ Flying Guitars, recorded live at a record store. 

 

5. Pearl & the Beard – Vessel

Disquieting, dark, slow and artsy with melodica, cello and guitar. They’re at Union Hall on 2/18.

 

6. The JD Allen Trio – iD

Is it id or ID or…? Typical of this guy. He makes you think. From his latest, magnificent jazz trio album I Am I Am (reviewed here recently), this is as catchy as it is haunting.

 

7. The Latin Giants of Jazz – Trip to Mamboland

This is serious oldschool stuff, essentially what’s left of Tito Puente’s band playing a sizzling, upbeat salsa gem that sounds like something Machito could have done but with better production values.

 

8. The Dirt Luck Outlaws – Whiskey Song

Punkabilly, cowpunk, country punk, whatever you call it, it’s a lot of fun. This is one of those songs that every band is tempted to write and it’s a good thing these guys did. 

 

9. The Disclaimers – The Damage Is Done

Typical Disclaimers song: killer tune, killer hooks, sardonically brooding lyric and a gorgeously jangly two-guitar tune by rhythm player Dylan Keeler.

 

10. Jerry Teel & the Big City Stompers– Sugarbaby

Hypnotic Howlin Wolf style blues as done by one of the legends of Lower East Side noir glam rock. It always brings down the house when they play it live. They’re at the Mercury on 2/20.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Dmitri Atapine and Hye-Yeon Park at St. Paul’s Chapel, NYC 2/9/09

A captivating, frequently fascinating duo show by the Mexican-born cellist and Korean-born pianist. Dmitri Atapine has a warm, vividly coloristic touch on the cello and seemingly effortless command of any stylistic device he chooses: booming chords, stark washes of sound or a frenetic staccato attack. He used all these and more for considerable emotional impact throughout the hourlong performance. Pianist Hye-Yeon Park provided sturdy yet highly nuanced accompaniment while Atapine was carrying the melody, and when she took over impressed with a lyrical feel that was most apparent during the program’s most overtly Romantic moments, particularly during the second movement of their Beethoven selection and then one by Tschaikovsky.

 

The opening piece, Luigi Boccherini’s Sonata for Cello and Continuo in A Major, G. 4 gave Atapine a chance to explore the totality of the cello’s dynamic range: Boccherini, being one of the foremost cellists of his era, wrote frequently for the instrument. The two followed with Beethoven’s for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 102. No. 1 that gave Park the spotlight for some affecting cascades once the second of its five movements got underway was a big crowd-pleaser; a rearrangement of a Tschaikovsky’s Pezzo Capricioso, Op. 62  was effective in maintaining the feeling of longing and anticipation left behind by the Beethoven.

 

The first of two real eye-openers was a student work by Ligeti, the Sonata for Cello Solo which in fact went unpublished til the 80s, big plucked chords striking amidst uneasy ambience. The second was another rearrangement, the “Silence” section from Bartok’s The Woods, a work for piano and four hands, remarkably consonant, traditional and warmly accessible. They closed with Atapine dexterously handling some lightning-fast staccato work in cello etude specialist David Popper’s Dance of the Elves, a catchy melody something akin to Flight of the Bumblebee for cello. As with that piece, there ought to be a surf band somewhere to turn it into the rock song just bubbling under its hook-strewn surface.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/10/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s is #533:

Howlin Wolf – I’ll Be Around

Name another more powerful male singer. No, you can’t. This one features perhaps his most anguished, bitter vocals: “Yeah, I’ll be around, to see what you’re puttin’ out.” The ferocity of Willie Johnson’s lead guitar matches up. Mp3s are out there; the 1954 vinyl single is strictly a collector’s item, although MCA reissued it on the More Real Folk Blues album in all formats in the mid-80s (download the whole thing with the link above).

February 10, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , | Leave a comment