Lucid Culture


The Top 20 NYC Concerts of 2008

The first of our end-of-the-year lists is by far the most subjective one, and also the most fun to put together. If you really have to read the disclaimers and know all the whys and wherefores about this list, we’ve set up a page for them here. While we’re calling it quits early, what a great year it’s been for music in this town! Among us, we couldn’t decide on what was the best one of them all: the Dixie Bee-Liners at le Poisson Rouge are a strong contender, but then again so was the last-ever Tashi show at Town Hall. And back in August, the Brooklyn What played what was probably the funnest of them all. Whatever the case, rather than trying to rank these shows in any kind of order, here’s a chronological look at some of the most amazing concert moments of the year:


Jennifer Niceley at Rockwood Music Hall, 2/7/08

 A dark, sultry performance by the noir Americana chanteuse and her killer backing band.


The Greenwich Village Orchestra Play Brahms and Shostakovich at Washington Irving HS Auditorium, 2/10/08

This world-class orchestra tackled Brahms’ First Piano Concerto with a playful aplomb and then brought out every ounce of anguish and triumph in Shostakovich’s transcendent, redemptive post-Stalin masterpiece.


Sarah Mucho in Subterranean Circus at Don’t Tell Mama, 2/14/08

The System Noise frontwoman’s cabaret extravaganza was a riveting display of eerie surrealism, making for a perfectly counterintuitive Valentine’s Day.


LJ Murphy at the Knitting Factory, 4/2/08

The master of New York noir at the peak of his slashingly lyrical powers, with a careening, blues-fueled band behind him


Tashi’s Final Concert at the Town Hall, 5/4/08 playing Wuorinen, Takemitsu, and Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time

The legendary quartet went out on a high note – in what was probably their last-ever show, they delivered what was arguably the high point of the Messiaen centenary.


Ljova & the Kontraband at Trinity Church, 5/8/08

The multistylistic Russian/Balkan string band sizzled their way through a wild set, probably the most boisterous thing the church had seen in decades


Gail Archer plays Messiaen at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 5/29/08

The Barnard College Music Dept. chair mesmerized the crowd with a marathon performance of the Book of the Holy Sacrament – another highlight of the Messiaen centenary.


Barbara Dennerlein at the organ at Trinity Church, 7/10/08

It was a good year for organ shows, and the German jazz genius effortlessly blended groove, soul and epic classical grandeur.


Katie Elevitch at Rehab, 8/13/08

An astonishingly intense, powerful performance by the noir NYC siren and her fiery, improvisationally-inclined band.


The Brooklyn What at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 8/22/08

Definitely the funnest show of the year, these fearless old-school Brooklyn punk rockers put on a powerful, wickedly funny show.


The Disclaimers at Spikehill, 8/29/08

With the two women up front singing, their slashingly lyrical, soul-stoked guitar/keyboard attack has never sounded better.


The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Vivian Girls and Devin at South St. Seaport, 9/7/08

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble played ridiculously catchy jazz instrumentals over a hip-hop beat. The Vivian Girls we like not only for their beautiful harmonies and catchy, fun tunes but also because stereogum hates them. Devin and his endless supply of hilariously filthy hip-hop rhymes were the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon without tourists, the “hurricane” having apparently scared them off.


The Inbreeds at Freddy’s, 10/24/08

The country satirists made savage fun of everything redneck and right-wing, definitely the most amusing show of the year. 


Carol Lipnik at the Spiegeltent, 10/30/08

Lipnik walked into a sonic quicksand pit and with her sensational four-octave voice and amazing noir New York songs, sang her way out.


Little Annie and Paul Wallfisch at Santos Party House, 11/6/08

The noir cabaret chanteuse and the equally noir Botanica frontman/bandleader at the peak of their smoky, haunting powers together.


Escarioka at the Fortune Cookie Lounge, 11/13/08

Nonstop danceable intensity from this deliriously fun rock/ska en Espanol band.


The Brixton Riot and the French Exit at Mercury Lounge, 11/16/08

Smart, lyrically-fueled, post-Wilco indie rock and then a smoldering, evilly beautiful show by the Brooklyn noir trio.


Thy Burden, Across The Aisle and System Noise at the Delancey, 11/19/08

Exhilarating, virtuosic, improvisational bluegrass, a wickedly fun set of ska and then NYC’s darkest, most slashing and intense rock band at the top of their game.


Brooklyn Rider play Kayhan Kalhor, Bartok and Armenian folk songs at Barbes, 12/10/08

Originals, original arrangements and also a brilliantly macabre take of the first Bartok string quartet.


The Dixie Bee-Liners at le Poisson Rouge, 12/14/08

Careening intensity balanced with lush, sultry lyricism and vocals from Brandi Hart and her genre-blending band of bluegrass hellraisers



December 20, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, New York City | , , , | 1 Comment

About Our Best of 2008 Lists

This is strictly for background: don’t bother reading this unless it’s 2009 or later and you’re obsessed with how this was put together. To all the pissed-off musicians who didn’t see their stuff on our lists, if it’s really that good, chances are we didn’t hear it. And we’d love to! Click here for contact info.

About the Best NYC Live Shows List:

This one’s the most subjective, the one we like best, and ultimately the cruelest one. In no way do we mean this to be definitive, nor could it be, since there are more live shows in New York in a single evening than any organization, no matter how far-flung, could see in a year. Consider this instead to be a sounding of sorts, a snapshot of some of the best things happening in live music in New York City over the past year. Also bear in mind that in keeping with the spirit of Lucid Culture, we typically choose to review shows by lesser-known artists. And of those lesser-known artists, many who were reviewed here in 2007 weren’t in 2008 (we’re trying to cover as much ground as we can with limited time and a skeleton crew). Also keep in mind that since we don’t review shows that cost $40 or more, that automatically eliminates a small handful of bills that you may see at blogs that cater to the rich (obviously, we’re not exactly chasing that demographic).

Also, by contrast to recorded music, the quality of a live show is affected – often to a crucial extent – by factors completely beyond any musician’s control. A band may play their guts out onstage, but if the sound engineer is incompetent, the crowd drowns them out, or the overall experience is soured by hostility from club employees, overcrowding, lack of sightlines and the rest of a pandora’s box of potential problems, all that is going to consciously or unconsciously factor into how it rates as an experience. In putting the list together, it also became clear that doublebills and the occasional multi-band extravaganza always ended up squeezing out single-artist performances that on balance were just as good. To those musicians who’re feeling the squeeze here, sorry, keep playing and we’ll try to squeeze you in one of these days.

About the Top 100 Songs of 2008 List

As with our other lists, don’t consider this to be definitive by any stretch of the imagination. We do these lists for fun and to hopefully stir up interest in artists who otherwise might fall under your radar. For that reason, we deliberately look harder to find New York-based artists and bands than we do for artists who aren’t from here. You’ll also notice that this list isn’t limited strictly to songs released during calendar year 2008: rather, this is a list of what we discovered during the year. Although so far we’ve restrained ourselves from including all the great Peruvian chicha music and Italian symphonic rock from the 70s that we’ve been devouring lately on youtube and limewire.

And what constitutes a “release” these days, anyway? The day the cd goes onsale, even though it might have been recorded four years ago? The day the song goes up on itunes or myspace? The day somebody puts up a crude home video on youtube? What if we asked all these artists when these songs were “released?”  If they knew that their answer would determine whether they’d make this list or not, don’t you think they’d say this year? And how would we ascertain that, one way or the other?

In putting the list together, we did make an attempt to rank the top 20 or so. After that, the list is completely random, the difference, qualitywise, between #100 and #1 being pretty infinitesimal anyway. As with our other best-of lists, if the song you wrote, or the song you love is really all that good and it isn’t here, that means we probably didn’t hear it, or maybe it was already on our best of 2007 list…or maybe it’s scheduled for our best of 2009 list. It would take more than a small army of serf/scribes to hear more than a tiny fraction of all the music that came out in 2008: and if there’s something really special that fell under our radar, we’d love to know about it, click here for our contact info.

About the Top 50 CDs of 2008 list

Again, as with our Top 100 Songs of 2008 list, this is necessarily biased in favor of New York artists. Although most everything here was physically manufactured in calendar year 2008, a few of these may go back as much as a couple of years (who’s counting, anyway?). This is simply the best new stuff that we discovered during the year. Don’t consider it to be definitive: despite the “CDs are dead” myth, musicians are still making them, maybe in greater quantities than ever before, a reality that necessarily pretty much dooms any best-of list right off the bat since it’s impossible to hear more than a tiny fraction of everything released over a full year. If your cd, or the one you love isn’t here, that doesn’t mean it’s unworthy, it probably just means that we didn’t hear it…or we already listed it in 2007, or are going to list it in 2009. Or maybe it just isn’t that good after all. In putting this list together, we decided to include artists’ official releases only, which means no bootlegs or mix cds since they aren’t typically made available to the public. However, there are a small handful of limited-release albums here which were so good that we didn’t feel right excluding them. Like our other best-of lists, after you get past the top ten or so, we gave up on any attempt to rank them, the difference in quality between #50 and #1 being trivially slight in any case.

Careful readers will also note some cognitive dissonance, in that several of the year’s best cds are not represented in the top 100 songs list. Answer: many of those songs appeared on the list in previous years, whether here at Lucid Culture or in our predecessor e-zine’s annual best-of issue.

December 17, 2007 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Live Events, Music, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment