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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/4/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #544:

Pulp – Separations

The best British band of the 90s made a bunch of great albums. This one, from 1992, is their most theatrical. There’s a distinct A-side and a B-side, the first an update on noir 60s American pop, the second a cruelly deadpan parody of the era’s computerized disco music. Love Is Blind and Don’t You Want Me Anymore are Jarvis Cocker at his most glammy and sarcastic; She’s Dead, the title track and the absolutely creepy Down by the River aren’t particularly subtle, but they’re troubling nonetheless (Cocker has always dealt with death and tragedy by exposing others’ callousness and obliviousness to it, and these are prime examples). Side 2 is just plain funny, even if the joke starts to get old by the time they reach the end, with eight mindlessly throbbing minutes of This House Is Condemned. Leading up to it are the moronically repetitive Countdown, the catchy synth-pop of My Legendary Girlfriend and Death II, which revisits the morbid vibe of side one. Here’s a random torrent.

August 4, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 6/18/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #591:

Black Box Recorder – Passionoia

Possibly the most witheringly cynical album ever recorded. Bandleader Luke Haines (also of the Auteurs – see #744 on this list) has said innocuously that this 1999 release was his adventure in exploring keyboard textures, but it sounds suspiciously like a parody of 90s British dance-pop, albeit with better tunes and artsy flourishes. Frontwoman Sarah Nixey delivers Haines’ corrosive lyrics in an ice-goddess whisper over the glossy sheen. The School Song does double duty as Eurovision satire (a moment that will return again with a vengeance on When Britain Refused to Sing) and knowing chronicle of the kind of torture schoolkids have to endure. GSOH QED is an early satire of internet dating; British Racing Green quietly and cruelly alludes to Britain’s fall from first world power to third world irrelevance. Although much of this is a period piece, the songs stand the test of time – The New Diana mocks the Princess Diana cult, but it’s a brutally insightful look at the cult of celebrity, as is Andrew Ridgeley, the funniest song here, a reference to the guy in Wham who wasn’t George Michael. Being Number One, These Are the Things and Girls Guide for the Modern Diva are savage sendups of yuppie narcissism. The album ends on a surprisingly poignant, haunting note with I Ran All the Way Home, a gorgeously apprehensive omnichord-driven art-pop song straight out of the ELO catalog, told from the point of view of an abused little girl. All the songs are streamable at myspace, but wait fifteen seconds before you put your earphones on, AND refresh the page after each listen or else you’ll be assaulted by a loud audio ad. Won’t it be a good day when myspace finally dies? Otherwise, here’s a random torrent.

June 18, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 3/22/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #679:

Echobelly – On

Ferocious, fearless, sultry UK punk-pop from 1993. One of the most stunningly powerful voices in recent decades, Echobelly frontwoman Sonya Aurora Madan belts and wails over the roar and crunch of Glen Johansson and Debbie Smith’s guitars, through a mix of mostly upbeat, catchy songs lit up by the occasional George Harrisonesque lead line. Defiantly alluring, Madan romps through the irresistibly catchy, scorching Car Fiction, the similarly stomping King of the Kerb – a cynical tale of a pimp and his hookers – the unstoppable optimism of Great Things, the dismissive Go Away, the feminist-stoked Natural Animal and Pantyhose and Roses, and the sarcastic but swoony Something Hot in a Cold Country. Four Letter Word nicks an idea from the Sonic Youth playbook; the absolute classic here is the slowly simmering, psychedelic nocturne Dark Therapy, which winds up with an unreal crescendo delivered by steel guitarist BJ Cole, in what might be his best-ever cameo. There’s also the distantly X-influenced Nobody Like You and In the Year as well as the morbidly quiet, mostly acoustic closing cut. The band’s 1991 debut is also worth a spin. Here’s a random torrent.

March 22, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 3/7/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #694:

Portishead – Roseland NYC Live

To say that when this album came out in 1998, it was the last thing anybody expected from Portishead is an understatement. This is the only good album the band ever made – it sounds nothing like anything they recorded before or afterward. Recorded with an orchestra and a (mostly) live band at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, it’s more like the Cure with strings and a girl singer. Together, the live percussion, orchestra, moody synth and guitar combine for a tense 80s goth vibe that offsets the occasional doofy electronic blip or the annoying turntable scratching. It’s a mix of downtempo trip-hop grooves like Humming, Cowboys and Only You along with the orchestrated wah soul of All Mine, the mood pieces MysteronsOver and Half Day Closing, the fan favorite Glory Box and epic closers Roads and Strangers: slow, slinky stuff, sort of the equivalent of Isaac Hayes for white kids. Reputedly the band has since disowned this. Here’s a random torrent.

March 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/16/11

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Sunday’s is #744:

The Auteurs – After Murder Park

Vintage violence from 1996. One of the most underrated rock songwriters ever, Auteurs frontman/guitarist Luke Haines wrote most of this album after an unsuccessful stagedive that might well have killed him had he not been so wasted when he took it. This murky, slashing, often murderously psychedelic album is the menacing masterpiece that John Cale should have made in the 70s but didn’t. Haines sets lurid disassociative images of death, depravity and desperation to jagged, lo-fi distorted guitar, roaring organ, stark cello and a pounding rhythm section. The high point, ironically, is the blithe, deadpan Beatlesque pop of Unsolved Child Murder, which echoes potently in the title cut that closes the album. There’s also the snarling powerpop gem Light Aircraft on Fire, the savagely ornate Child Brides, Everything You Say Will Destroy You, Dead Sea Navigators and Fear of Flying. Buddha draws on no wave, Fear of Flying on Led Zep; New Brat in Town and Married to a Lazy Lover foreshadow the even crueler heights Haines would reach as a social critic in Black Box Recorder. The band broke up shortly after the album came out, reuniting three years later for the equally brilliant if considerably more terse How I Learned to Love the Bootboys. Haines continues to play and record under his own name. Here’s a torrent via shouldabeenhuge – thanks for this.

January 16, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 10/21/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #831:

The Wallflowers’ first album

While this list is devoted to brilliant obscurities, we also aim to include albums that are underrated, and this is a classic case. Jakob Dylan has always been a magnet for haters, not only because he writes so much like his famous dad, but because of the perception that his dad got him the record deal along with everything that came before and after. But his dad didn’t call up and ask us to put this album on this list: it earned this spot on its own merits. Fact of the matter is that the kid is a chip off the old block, in the best possible way: and not only is he a way better singer, he’s actually a very soulful one. And a sharp, sardonic lyricist, and a first-rate tunesmith…just like his dad. This one dates from 1992, when Jakob refused to answer interview questions about the old man, and seemed especially determined to avoid the inevitable comparisons: the weight of the family legacy seems to have spurred him to take his game to the highest level. The radio hit (the one thing that money bought here, in this case major label payola) was Shy of the Moon, which was sleepy on the album but really rocked out live. There’s also the seductively catchy, sly Sugarfoot; the vintage Springsteen-ish Sidewalk Annie; the individualist anthem Be Your Own Girl; the lyrical folk-rocker Asleep at the Wheel; the brooding, intense Another One in the Dark; the snide, scathingly epic Hollywood (a repudiation of any past that might come back to haunt him, it seems) and the absolutely vicious, towering Somebody Else’s Money. Behind him, the band play smart, edgy, blues and Americana-flavored rock, anchored by Ramee Jaffee’s fluid Hammond organ and Tobi Miller’s incisive lead guitar. Although the Wallflowers would do other good songs (the classic Sixth Avenue Heartache) and good albums (the vastly underrated Breach and Red Letter Days), they’d never string as many good ones together as they did here. Here’s a random torrent.

October 20, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Second Dan: Oasis for a New Generation

Second Dan sound like Oasis without the posturing – which means that if you like Oasis you’ll really like Second Dan. The Australian-American band write warmly catchy, anthemic songs that are easy to like, that linger in your mind. The production here is more terse, going for sort of a vintage pop vibe rather than the wall of guitars that the Gallagher Bros. relied on to disguise their weaknesses. Which testifies to the strength of the songwriting here. Frontman Dan Rosen plays guitar and keys, alongside smartly tuneful, eclectically skilled lead guitarist Adam Lerner and drummer Sonny Ratcliff (who also adds bass on some tracks).

The upbeat anthem Today sets the tone for the rest of the album with its gleaming powerpop chords. The swaying midtempo title track plays off a swoopy vintage synthesizer hook; Let It Go evokes the stomp of Definitely Maybe rather than the Beatlisms of What’s the Story Morning Glory. We Can is fast and optimistic in the midst of chaos: “We can, we can, we can start a revolution.”

Opening gentle and acoustic, More Than the End builds slowly with some tasty, mid-60s style soul guitar fills. Wake Up finally throws in some Beatles allusions: Paul’s hoarse vocals at the end of Hey Jude, the chorus of She Came In Through the Bathroom Window and a big drum explosion after the last chorus. The band switch it up at this point with Pretty, which is sarcastic and jangly like the Saints at their late 80s peak and follow that with a surprisingly understated, nocturnal soul/blues ballad, I Want It, I Need It. The last track, Advantage isn’t bad but after everything that came before, it’s pretty anticlimactic. If this album is any indication, Second Dan are probably even better onstage where they can unleash the guitars and stretch the songs out.

August 21, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/5/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #85:

The Walkabouts – Night Drive

Bloodcurdling organ-fueled Pacific Northwest noir anthem from the classic 1994 Setting the Woods on Fire album by the legendary Seattle band that took their show on the road, discovered that they liked Europe a lot more, that Europe liked them a lot more too, so they made their home there. Frontman Chris Eckman and his longtime collaborator Carla Torgerson (check out those amazing creepy vocals) continue as the similarly dark duo Chris and Carla.

May 5, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/12/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #108:

Midnight Oil – Mountains of Burma

The haunting, apocalyptic centerpiece to the Australian art-rockers’ possibly career-best 1990 Blue Sky Mining album is an epic touching on topics as diverse yet interconnected as genocide, womens’ rights and global deforestation, all in six-plus crescendoing, funereal minutes.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/24/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #155:

Richard Thompson – Mascara Tears

Big vicious rock anthem from the iconic British guitar god’s 1992 Mirror Blue cd, one of his best:

Mascara tears, bitter and black
Spent bullet through a hole in my back
Salt for the memories, black for the years
Black as forever, mascara tears

February 24, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment