Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/3/10

Every day, we count down the best albums of all time all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #910:

Jenifer Jackson – The Outskirts of a Giant Town

Quietly and methodically, Austin songwriter Jenifer Jackson has built an eclectic and pantheonic catalog of songs. She started out as a teenager in Boston playing loud guitar rock, moved to New York and released the classic 1999 album Slowly Bright, a masterpiece of bossa nova tinged, Beatlesque psychedelia. Birds, in 2001 followed, stark and Americana-inflected, followed by a prized limited edition album of Brazilian and latin covers, the psychedelic pop of 2004’s So High and then her greatest one so far, The Outskirts of a Giant Town (reviewed here in 2007). Jackson’s gentle yet worldly, wounded voice, her gemlike lyrics and an even broader mix of styles take centerstage here: the wrenching Beatlesque ballad Saturday, the jaunty tropicalia of Suddenly Unexpectedly, the Philly-style soul of I Want to Start Something, the bitter noir Americana of Dreamland and the shapeshifting garage rock of For You. And from the look of  the material she’s been working up live over the past year, the follow-up to this one promises to be every bit as diverse and enchanting.

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August 3, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Robin Aigner – Bandito

“I can sing a song about any damn thing,” boasts Robin Aigner on her new cd Bandito. The song also asserts that she cooks a good dinner. If she’s as good in the kitchen as she is on the mic, she ought to open a restaurant – it would be a four-star affair. This album, Aigner’s second solo effort, is well titled. Aigner is mysterious: she has a thing about mistresses and even more of a thing for innuendo. Like the artist she’s most likely to be compared to, Laura Cantrell, Aigner is known best for her voice: highly sought after as a singer on the oldtimey/Americana circuit, she toured with the Crooked Jades and seems at this point to be a charter member of Pinataland. Her knockout punch is nuance – she can wrench an album’s worth of intensity out of a split-second’s hesitation or a typically understated, seductive melisma to wrap up a phrase. Yet it’s her songwriting that takes centerstage on this album, her second, a feast of historically-imbued, out-of-the-box steampunk imagination. Aigner switches between acoustic guitar and banjo, judiciously accompanied by Flanks bassist Tom Mayer, Chicha Libre’s Josh Camp on spinet, Charles Burst on Rhodes and Dean Sharenow of Kill Henry Sugar on percussion.

The cd opens with the jaunty Pearl Polly Adler, a tribute to FDR’s [possible, unconfirmed, hee hee] mistress who “knows where he parks his car,” and makes sure to cover herself in case trouble ever comes her way. Delores from Florence tells the surreal tale of a globetrotting flapper who had to come up with an innovative solution to the problem of having “too many lovers.”And Annie and Irving imagines an anxious romance between Annie Moore (first immigrant to make it through customs on Ellis Island) and Irving Berlin, creeping around the shadows out in the Catskills.

The rest of the cd alternates hilarity with pensive intensity. A poignantly perplexed lament, See You Around features Aigner at her most haunting, over a sad tango melody. Mediocre Busker is one of those songs that needed to be written, and it’s a good thing Aigner was the one to do it: this guy turns out to be bad at everything else too. Aigner uses the equally tongue-in-cheek Found to do justice to both the crazy packrats and the lucky rest of us who have a thing for stuff others have left behind. Wrong Turn memorializes a couple of clueless northerners getting lost in the Bible Belt, while Get Me Home – a duet – amps up the seductive vibe with characteristic allusive charm. The album ends with Great Molasses Disaster, a vividly somber requiem for the day in January, 1919 when a giant industrial tank of molasses in Boston’s North End burst and unleashed a literal tsunami on the neighborhood, demolishing buildings, pitching a locomotive into Boston Harbor, leaving hundreds injured and 21 dead. Steampunks and Americana fans alike will be salivating over this (the album, not the molasses) for a long time. Aigner’s next gig is on Feb 26 at 7 PM at the cafe at the 92YTribeca with Brady Jenkins on piano.

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review: Leslie Nuss – Round 3

Guitar-slinging southpaw siren who made her mark here in New York before finding acclaim and a prestige niche in the fashion world, then moving out to Indiana to start a family. She remains a potent force in rock. This album, Leslie Nuss’ fourth, may or may not be her best: the jangly Heliotrope, the lush, sensual Action Hero Superstar or the self-titled power pop tour de force that she put out after that one all have their moments. This is her most diverse effort to date, showcasing her redoubtable pop melodicism, political fortitude, keen sense of humor and even a goofy psychedelic side. It’s a loosely thematic collection of songs about conflict.

The cd opens with a deadpan, Lilith Fair style take on the 80s karaoke/action film chestnut Eye of the Tiger. It’s hard to tell whether this is a joke – Nuss is known for her wit – or if it’s an attempt to mine some genuine feeling or pathos from the song. Either way, it’s hilarious. Featuring a deliciously terse electric piano solo, the cd’s following cut, Saboteurs is a fiery, garage-inflected minor key broadside at toxic people: “Sometimes it seems that they’re the only ones around.” The next tune Landscape, with its swinging retro 60s piano melody and whispery vocals, sounds like classic Mamas & the Papas. We also get a blistering critique of all things zeros, cast as a hard-hitting early 80s new wave/punk hit (What’s Wrong With Me); a sunny, Farfisa-driven Carnaby Street-style 60s pop hit (Mermaid); a girl-power anthem (Sex Is Sex); the anguished tale of a Vietnam vet (Shell Shocked) and Drive, which is simply one of the sexiest songs ever written, this version far more sensual than the faster, percussive version that appeared on her previous album.

As usual, Nuss has a stellar cast of backing musicians, perhaps most notably bass goddess Anne-Marie Stehn, late of Skinny Ruth and notorious Starbucks house band Antigone Rising (who deep-sixed her because she was too much of a rocker). Fans of the A-list of rock sirens: Neko Case, Mary Lee Kortes, Erica Smith, Aimee Mann – will find plenty to feast on here. Leslie Nuss doesn’t play many shows in NYC anymore, but a return trip every now and then is always a possibility.

May 6, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments