Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Amy Bezunartea Dishes on Restaurants and Bars

If you’ve followed this space at all, you’ve probably noticed that we very seldom cover singer-songwriters. There’s a reason for that. Your typical singer-songwriter plays one song over and over again. The melody, the beat or the lyrics may change, but it basically goes something like this: “I’m mad at you because you don’t pay attention to me.” And did you ever wonder why most folkie clubs have such an annoyingly uptight vibe? Because they’re filled with people who actually relate to songs like that. What those people don’t realize is that if they all got together and united, other people would pay attention to them. But they’re too narcissistic to do that.

In the far left corner of that field, or more likely behind the bar, is Brooklyn songwriter Amy Bezunartea. Although her music is typically gentle, acoustic-based and lyrically-driven, it doesn’t fit the typical singer-songwriter mold: if you have to put a label on her, acoustic rocker makes the most sense. Her new album Restaurants and Bars is just out on Jennifer O’Connor’s Kiam Records label and it’s excellent. Beautifully and warmly produced, Bezunartea’s unselfconsciously attractive, high soprano vocals shimmer with layers of harmonies that are often otherworldly. Her simple, tersely crystallized lyrics reflect the urban milieu of someone who’s supported herself working in the restaurants and bars of the title – and in the title track, she cynically wonders why no relationship that ever began in a place like that ever lasts. “But I long to believe you, I long to believe, too,” she affirms. Hope eludes the characters in her songs: maintaining faith in themselves is an everyday struggle. “I’m resigned to the turning of tables and waiting in line,” she sings on the album’s fastest, hardest-rocking track, I Lie Awake At Night (But That’s All Right). And on Doubles, a plaintive workingwoman’s ballad, she laments a loved one’s fading dreams:

Some girls they glow in darkness
But by our standards that’s not much
Some girls they’d like to win
But instead they’ll serve you lunch

The theme recurs just as vividly on the plaintive piano piece Mostly I’m Just Scared: “Mostly it’s the part of me that isn’t that I’m trying to get back,” the worn-down protagonist insists. The Light, starkly fingerpicked with a disarmingly beautiful mandolin break, longs for lost hope, “Many places to hide, further away away every time.” And the album’s concluding track, a live take of a strikingly jaunty oldtimey-flavored banjo tune, paints a similarly bleak picture: “People die younger and younger it seems, guys like you and girls like me…I hold you tight like a rope in the sky.”

There are more hopeful moments here as well. With its dreamy harmonies and harmonica atmospherics, Amy’s Spring Tune is striking and bittersweet:

Green leaves on your treelined streets
Fill me with such relief
Gather all the dark in me
And cast it off officially
Darkness in the afternoon
Holds the lights that filled this room
There are no brighter visions
No good conditions
Make the best of the decisions…

Bridges works both as a cityscape, and a metaphor for finding some kind of emotional footing. And the album’s opening track, All the Things We Were Supposed to Be, a shadowy, reverb-tinged solo piano piece, quietly and matter-of-factly dismisses the pressures of trying to conform to someone else’s standards: “Just brush them aside, each and everyone…not to compete is such a relief.” Words of wisdom from someone who’s been there: it’s one of many subtle gems here.

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December 14, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 9/20/10

This is sort of our weekly, Kasey Kasem-inspired luddite DIY version of a podcast. Every week, we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone: sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. We’ve designed this as something you can do on your lunch break if you work at a computer (and you have headphones – your boss won’t approve of a lot of this stuff). If you don’t like one of these songs, you can always go on to the next one: every link here (except for #1 this week) will take you to each individual song. As always, the #1 song here will appear on our Best Songs of 2010 list at the end of the year.

1. Klezwoods – Cuperlika

Centerpiece of the Balkan/klezmer/Middle Eastern band’s titanicallly good new cd Oy Yeah. Put it up on the web somewhere guys, you’ll sell a lot more records!

2. Serena Jost – Stay

Characteristically stark and compelling solo cello art-rock song from her forthcoming cd.

3. Band of Outsiders – Graveyard

Absolutely off the hook post-Velvets guitar madness, live at the Parkside this year. They’re at Bowery Electric on 9/23 at 10 opening for Richard Lloyd.

4. Ninth House – Down Beneath

Frontman Mark Sinnis was making this video in a cemetery in upstate New York when he noticed that the seemingly random grave he’d chosen to lie on belonged to one Mary Ann Larson, who died on Sinnis’ birthday in 1853. Coincidence? The band play the cd release show for their new one on 9/24 at at UC 87 Lounge, 87 Ludlow St. at 11.

5. Amy Bezunartea – Doubles

Hang with this – it’s worth your 3 minutes. Not your average girl with acoustic guitar, described by her label (Jennifer O’Connor’s project Kiam) as “kind of Joni meets Magnetic Fields” but better. Free download.

6. Zikrayat – Ish-Showq Mihayyarni

Classic obscure 50s Egyptian film music from the movie ‘Aziza’ starring Naima Akif, live at Galapagos last year. The song starts about 1:20 into the clip. They’re at Moustache (Lex and 102nd) at 8 PM on 9/24.

7. The Poludaktulos Orchestra – Rajkos

Brass band intensity – the missing link between Greece and Serbia, with Klezwoods’ amazing guitarist.

8. Gertrude Michael – Sweet Marijuana

Via night of the purple moon – precode movie music from 1934.

9. Amanda Thorpe – River Song

The dodgy sound reflects the crappy venue this was recorded at, but Thorpe’s voice transcends it – a classic that sounds as good as it did a couple of years ago.

10. Los Incas Modernos – Terremoto

An early Peruvian surf band – you can get lost in this stuff on youtube.

September 21, 2010 Posted by | funk music, latin music, lists, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment