Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 8/13/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #349:

The Avengers – Second to None

Classic San Francisco punk rock from 1979. Considered by many to be the American Sex Pistols (an apt comparison, considering that this song was produced by the Pistols’ Steve Jones), frontwoman Penelope Houston fortuituously resurrected the band in 2005 and has done frequent transcendentally good shows with them since. This is one of their most ferocious, defiant numbers, and Houston sings it even better now than she did thirty years ago.

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August 12, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Kris Sour – Desert Whale Ghosts

Thanks to the inimitable, charismatic Katie Elevitch for the heads-up about this

Acoustic songwriter Kris Sour had an avid cult following in New York back in the early zeros, managing to open for both Jeff Buckley and Patti Smith here before relocating to Tucson. His songs are tersely melodic and richly lyrical. His imagery is subtle yet vivid – like the best horror novelists, he takes the most mundane images and makes them menacing, especially when he gets surreal, which is a lot of the time. His nonchalant, often eerily deadpan vocals are backed by sometimes simple, sometimes lushly arranged acoustic and electric guitar with occasional trumpet and percussion. Some of the more tuneful songs here evoke the Eels; others remind of Bill Callahan back when he went by Smog.

The opening track LA Makeover is a deliciously subtle, catchy account of a New Yorker’s El Lay culture shock. The Day They Took Away The Breeze offers a haunting, minor-key, alternate view of global warming: in Sour’s version, the proliferation of windmills take all the wind, leaving the rest of the world without any. Panic ensues.

The tongue-in-cheek Yo Yoga Yoga toys with aging Gen Xers and their addictions. “I’m gonna miss me when you’re gone,” he relates matter-of-factly in the brief fragment Sunny AZ; Dry, which follows, surreal and hypnotic, makes it clear that his present location is less than optimal: “If I could take it all backwards I would.” There’s also the tongue-in-cheek tale of a novice contemplating whether or not to put the moves on a girl with a cleft lip: “I didn’t want to kiss her more than I did,” as well as New Salutation, chronicling some innovative if completely inappropriate ways to strike up a conversation; the funky, understated Apocalypse Now and the neighborhood psycho vignette Bertha. The songs give you pause, make you think and play in your mind (and with your mind) when you least expect it. Everything here is streaming at Sour’s myspace, but no doubt you’ll want to be able to enjoy the songs without being tethered to an internet connection.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review – Tall Tall Trees

This is a bunch of New York jazz cats playing their own original take on country and bluegrass. It’s way better than that designation might imply. Banjoist/singer Mike Savino and drummer Mathias Kunzli comprise the rhythm section in innovative pan-Balkan string band Ljova & the Kontraband; guitarist Kyle Sanna arranged Jimi Hendrix’s Machine Gun for chamber orchestra, among other achievements, and bassist Ben Campbell plays with the Double Down Swing Band. In addition to the expert musicianship you would expect from a crew like this, Tall Tall Trees deliver funny, rustic original songs with an up-to-the minute satirical edge: these guys have a hair-trigger bullshit detector aimed straight at posers and status-grubbers.

Their best one is a truly universal anthem that anybody who’s ever worked for a living can relate to: “You don’t need this shit!” Savino pointedly reminds us. “In the middle’s the blues, and the end is the place you will likely be screwed.” There’s also the bluesy, rustic Appalachian-tinged The Ballad of Sallie Mae: the woman who done him wrong pressured him into signing on the dotted line, and now she’s got the house. And his student loan’s ninety days overdue. But all he can think of is the good old days. Similarly, Bubble Gum is an amusingly irreverent, banjo-spiced slap at commercialism: “Let me take a ride on the bottom of your shoes!”

The Spaceman in the song here is a fish out of water who just wants to go home – but if he can’t get off this planet, he’s willing to mate with an earthling. The songs are as diverse as the band members’ projects: among the rest of the tracks are a bouncy, sarcastic slide guitar boogie; a silly faux early 80s new wave ditty; a gently swaying, hypnotically swirling Stereolab-style number, and a hilarious, minutely detailed ballad about romancing the girl working the counter at the local Chinese takeout joint. It’s all a lot of fun: play this at a party and expect to see smiles and get plenty of “who are those guys?” Tall Tall Trees play Pete’s on Fri Aug 14 at 10.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 8/12/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Wednesday’s song is #350:

The BoDeans – Idaho

Kurt Neumann’s savagely sardonic lyric about a rocker’s random encounter with redneck hell, set to a beautifully anthemic blue-sky melody. The best version out there is, believe it or not, a soundcheck that turned out so good it became the opening cut on the Americana rockers’ blissfully good 1995 double live cd Joe Dirt Car; the version on the live Homebrewed cd from 2006 is also pretty damn good. As is this 2008 live take in the link in the title above.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment