Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Katzenjammer – Le Pop

Katzenjammer’s new album Le Pop is pretty amazing, a strong contender for best of 2010. With their gorgeous harmonies, old-fashioned instrumentation and frequently lush production, the accordion-driven all-female Oslo quartet sound like the Dresden Dolls but better (more energetic, less cutesy and a whole lot darker as well). The self-styled “queens of sultry sound” balance an eerily rustic noir edge with tongue-in-cheek humor, and lyrics in English. On the new cd, multi-instrumentalist Solveig Heilo, accordionists Anne Marit Bergheim and Marianne Sveen and bassist Turid Jørgensen – who plays the largest four-string instrument in all of rock – bounce, scamper and blast their way through a mix of tempos and styles that evoke such diverse acts as the B-52s, Gruppo Sportivo and Gogol Bordello.

The album opens on a surprisingly pensive note with an instrumental “overture,” followed by the scurrying Keystone Kops vibe of A Bar in Amsterdam, which amusingly morphs into a Pat Benetar-style power ballad on the chorus. With its jaunty gypsy swing, Demon Kitty Rag evokes satirical New York trio the Debutante Hour. Tea with Cinnamon is an absolute delight, a vintage Toots and the Maytals-style rocksteady number with accordion and a surprisingly wistful lyric. The title track, a snidely exuberant Gruppo Sportivo-style satire of American corporate music is great fun, and the outro is absolutely priceless.

The darker material here is just as captivating. Hey Ho on the Devil’s Back sets charming harmonies and barrelhouse piano to a Nashville gothic arrangement with a funny but disquieting edge, and a series of trick endings. The big, anguished crescendo on the lushly orchestrated suicide anthem Wading in Deeper packs a visceral punch; the violin-driven To the Sea showcases the band’s harmonies at their most otherworldly, with an off-center, Icelandic vibe. There’s also the sternly tongue-in-cheek Mother Superior, with its eerie carnival organ; Der Kapitan, a macabre-tinged surf instrumental done oompah style; the coy country bounce of Play, My Darling; Ain’t No Thang, an oldtimey banjo tune; and Virginia Clemm, a sad, eerily atmospheric waltz. The depth and intelligence of the songs matches their good-time appeal: it’s been a long time since we discovered a band who could do that as consistently as Katzenjammer do. The group are currently on US tour (at Milwaukee’s Summerfest on July 3 and 4, opening for Elvis Costello), with a date at the Mercury Lounge on July 6.

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 6/28/10

We very reluctantly suspended this popular weekly Tuesday feature about nine months ago when we went semi-dormant and didn’t tell a soul. It’s about time we brought it back. When we debuted our weekly Top Ten, we figured it made about as much sense as Billboard’s (it doesn’t). Like the corporate hit parade, this is totally random – it has absolutely nothing to do with sales or airplay. It’s our way of casting a wider net, spreading the word about artists that you might see on our live music calendar or in our album reviews, but more likely that you wouldn’t,  maybe because they don’t have albums out or they’re not playing New York anytime soon. We’ve designed this as a self-guided tour of sorts, something where you can click the links here randomly, or one by one on your lunch break at work or school, chill out and discover something new. We try hard to put up something for everyone here, some loud stuff and some quieter stuff too; if you don’t like one of the tracks, you can always move on to another.

1. Kasey Anderson – Torn Apart

Anderson, being a very smart songwriter, is offering a free digital audio sampler of any four of his songs. So if you wanted, you could get this potent Americana janglerock escape anthem from his killer new album Nowhere Nights for nothing: send an email with the subject line “Sampler” to nowherenights[at]gmail.com, and include your four choices in the body of the email. It’s a trick other artists should use.

2. Loyola – Cage

Pensive acoustic pop song about the aftereffects of a military coup. Not often you see something this smart in a style like this.

3. My Favourite Things – Summer of ’91

Majestic anthem through a reverberating prism of shoegaze guitar – like the Church with the singer from Lush.

4. The Human Hearts – Pilot Light

Smartly detailed, evocative down-and-out scenario from the pen of the occasional Village Voice music writer. Better than you would think.

5. Hurricane Bells – The Winters in New York

Moody, jangly, vaguely Elliott Smith-esque stuff from former Longwave singer Steve Schiltz.

6. The Inner Banks – For the Turnstiles

Atmospheric slide guitar-driven, noirish Americana.

7. The Mikal Evans Band – To All the King Kongs

Edgy, crescendoing janglerock. This band plays Spike Hill a lot.

8. Carrie Erving – The Rains

Pensive rustic acoustic ballad that turns electric and nasty.

9. Evelyn Evelyn – Campaign of Shock and Awe

Hilarious stuff from the Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer with Jason Webley.

10. You Scream I Scream – Dog

Funny faux hip-hop – like Garbage but not quite as dumb.

June 29, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/29/10

Only thirty more days til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1! Tuesday’s song is #30:

The Church – For a Moment We’re Strangers

Opening with a blast of guitar fury uncommonly intense even for this band, it’s the most disquietingly accurate portrait of a one-night stand ever set to music:

In the empty place the souls strip bare
Of skins and heart
And they come apart
In your icy hands
I forget my role
As I stare into your soul

A title track of sorts from the iconic Australian art-rock band’s 1981 debut album.

June 29, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment