Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 2/12/11

OK, time to push the drinking songs down the page and replace them with something far more serious. Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #717:

The Larval Organs – Posthumous

This careening, intense New York punk/metal band put out a couple of lo-fi limited-edition ep’s during their brief 2004-06 lifetime and this is the better of the two. The original, long out of print, had just four amazing songs. The grand guignol dysfunctional holiday scenario Ziploc Torso and the explosively manic-depressive Devil Come Madness capture the band at their loudest. City Parks is a characteristically vivid portrait of angst and alienation; maybe ironically, the classic here is the uncharacteristically upbeat janglerock anthem Mansion of Your Skull, a rare example of a love song that doesn’t suck. The narrator’s “death machine rusts in the yard” while he reveals that “my heaven is a hall in the mansion of your skull that I wander through.” A recent reissue comes with welcome bonus tracks: the inscrutably bizarre, catchy anthem Israel, the hauntingly funny Wizard Gardenia, Heaven Is a Drag, and Close to the Bone. Frontman Daniel Bernstein a.k.a. Cockroach, a brilliant and prolific songwriter, would go on to front the equally assaultive Whisper Doll and then chamber-pop band Hearth before going solo, frequently collaborating with another brilliant, brooding songwriter, Erin Regan.

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February 12, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 20 Best Concerts in New York in 2009

Of all our year-end best-of lists (the 100 Best Songs of 2009 and 50 Best Albums of 2009 included), this is our favorite, because it’s the most individual (everybody has a different list) and it’s closest to our raison d’etre, live music in New York. Last year’s was difficult enough to narrow down to twenty; this year’s is criminally short. We could have put up a top 100 concerts list and it would be five times as good. 

This was the year of the Beast – Small Beast at the Delancey, New York’s most exciting weekly rock event. We caught onto this slowly – the concert series ran for about a month before we discovered it – but when we did we were there almost every week. Occasionally someone will ask, since you have a music blog, why don’t you start booking shows? With Small Beast, there’s no need: it’s your weekly chance to discover the edgiest, smartest rock-ish talent from Gotham and across the globe. You’ll see a lot of those shows on this list.

Yet 2009 was a weird year for us – running a New York live music blog and not being in town much of the time made it problematic, to say the least. Week after week, we watched from a distance, enviously as half the city got to see stuff we never did. In August, the Brooklyn What did a killer triple bill with Palmyra Delran’s garage band and amazing latin ska-punk-gypsy rockers Escarioka at Trash Bar, but we weren’t there. The second night of the Gypsy Tabor Festival just a few weeks later looked like a great time, but we missed that one too. As the year winds down and we finally (hopefully!) start to reap the rewards of a whole lot of hard work, it appears, pending some absolutely transcendent show exploding onto the radar, that this is it for our Best Shows of 09 list. Needless to say, we can’t wait for 2010.

Since any attempt to rank these shows in any kind of order would be an exercise in futility, we just listed them as they happened:

The Brooklyn What at Fat Baby, 1/15/09 – since we’d just reviewed a couple of their shows in the fall of 08, we didn’t even review this one, fearing overkill. But on what was the coldest night of the winter up to that point, they packed the club and burned through a characteristically fun, ferocious set, maybe fueled by the knowledge that one of their idols, Ron Asheton, had left us.

Kerry Kennedy at Rose Bar, 1/21/09 – the noir chanteuse was at the absolute top of her game as quietly resilient siren and southwestern gothic bandleader.

Paul Wallfisch and Larkin Grimm at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/9/09 – the Botanica frontman (who books Small Beast) turned in a typically fiery set, followed by the avant-chanteuse who battled and finally lashed out at a crowd of clueless yuppie puppies who just didn’t get what the show was all about.

Kotorino at Pete’s Candy Store, 4/13/09 – the quietly multistylistic, gypsyish band filled the place on a Monday night and kept the crowd riveted as they all switched instruments, beats and genres over and over.

The New Collisions at Arlene’s, 4/23/09 – Boston’s best new band blazed through an early 80s inflected set of edgy powerpop.

Paul Wallfisch, the Ulrich-Ziegler Duo and McGinty and White at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/23/09 – after Wallfisch had set the tone for the night, Big Lazy’s Steve Ulrich and Pink Noise’s Itamar Ziegler played hypnotic, macabre guitar soundscapes followed by the ferociously lyrical retro 60s chamber pop of Joe McGinty and Ward White.

The American String Quartet playing Irving Fine and Robert Sirota’s Triptych at Bargemusic, 4/26/09 – a sinister ride through works by one of the leading lights of the 1950s avant garde followed by a haunting, intense performance of contemporary composer Sirota’s 9/11 suite.

Paul Wallfisch, Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble, Spottiswoode and Steve Wynn at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/30/09 – after Wallfisch got the night started, Beren roared and scorched her way through a pummeling, macabre set. Then Spottiswoode impressed with a subtle set of nocturnes, setting the stage for Wynn, playing together with his friend and ex-lead guitarist Chris Brokaw for the first time in several years, a feast of swirling, otherworldly guitar overtones.

The Friggs and the Chrome Cranks at Santos Party House, 5/8/09 – a triumphant return for the popular 90s garage girl rockers followed by the equally triumphant, reinvigorated, snarling sonic attack of another one of NYC’s best bands of the 90s.

The French Exit at Local 269, 5/13/09 – NYC’s best new dark rockers playing one of their first shows as a four-piece, rich with reverb, tersely incisive piano, haunting vocals and defiant lyricism.

Chicha Libre on the Rocks Off Concert Cruise Boat, 5/15/09 – definitely the best party of the year that we were party to, a swaying excursion through psychedelic, surfy cumbia music, past and present.

Paul Wallfisch, Darren Gaines & the Key Party and Alice Texas at Small Beast at the Delancey, 6/4/09 – Wallfisch kicked it off, Gaines and a stripped-down trio impressed with gutter-poet, Lou Reed/Tom Waits style rock and then Alice Texas turned in a swirling, incandescent, gently assaultive show that reminded how much we miss Tonic, the club where she used to play before it was torn down t0 put up plastic luxury condos.

Paul Wallfisch, Marni Rice and the Snow at Small Beast at the Delancey, 6/22/09 – another Wallfisch night, this one featuring the great LES accordionist/chanteuse/cabaret scholar and then Pierre de Gaillande’s clever, haunting art-r0ck crew.

Ian Hunter at Rockefeller Park, 6/24/09 – the former Mott the Hoople frontman, at age 70, has simply never written, played, or sung better. This show was a real revelation.

Daniel Bernstein at Sidewalk, 7/9/09 – the underground songwriter/lyricist/tunesmith casually burned through one haunting, haunted, ridiculously catchy tune after another.

Randi Russo and the Oxygen Ponies at the Saltmines, 7/10/09 – another haunting show opened with the absolute master of the outsider anthem, who did double duty playing in Paul Megna’s equally dark, intense, lyrical indie band.

The Main Squeeze Accordion Festival: Musette Explosion, Suspenso del Norte, Hector Del Curto’s Eternal Tango Quintet, the Main Squeeze Orchestra, Roberto Cassan and John Munatore, Liony Parra y la Mega Mafia Tipica and Peter Stan at Pier One, 7/11/09 – squeezebox heaven.

Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble and the Dave Brubeck Quartet at Damrosch Park, 8/5/09 – cutting-edge Middle Eastern-inflected jazz followed by one of the great ones, undiminished and still inventive at 89.

Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, 11/19/09 – the panstylistic rock goddess played several good New York shows this past year, but this one with Matt Kanelos on piano and glockenspiel and Billy Doughty on drums and melodica was pure transcendence.

Carol Lipnik, Bonfire Madigan, Rachelle Garniez, Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble and McGinty and White at Small Beast at the Delancey, 11/23/09 – what seems at this point to be the single best show of the year (if only because it’s the most recent one on the list) matched Lipnik’s phantasmagoria to Madigan’s equally artful chamber pop, Garniez’ irresistible charisma and ferocity, Beren’s contralto classical punk assault and then Ward White took over where the sirens had been and sang what could have been his best show ever.

December 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/17/09

We usually do this on Tuesday but this week we’re doing it on Friday. Just to see if you’re paying attention. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Pretty much every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. Daniel Bernstein – Joyless Now

He wrote this spot-on, manic-depressive account of madness and alienation with his old band the Larval Organs but he still plays it at shows. Unrecorded as a solo work – you’ll have to experience it live. He’s at Goodbye Blue Monday in Bushwick on 9/14 at 9.

 

2. The JD Allen Trio – Live at the Village Vanguard.

Did you know that NPR archives a ton of its live shows? This is a complete concert from the Village Vanguard (the 9 PM set on 8/12/09) and it’s transcendent, the band in particularly focused mode. There’s also a link to Neko Case at the Newport Folk Festival on the same page.

 

3. The French Exit – Your God

Joy Division recast as sultry trip-hop by this amazing, dark New York band.

 

4. Norden Bombsight – Help Desk

Majestic, anthemic, haunting art-rock dirge. They’re at Small Beast at the Delancey on 9/7.

 

5. TV Smith – Together Alone

“We love our life and we love our leaders, sound bites from the bottom feeders.” Anthemic postpunk brillliance from the legendary Adverts frontman – just randomly wandered onto his myspace to be reminded what a great songwriter he is.

 

6. Schaffer the Darklord – Night of the Living Christ

The Biblical rapture rewritted as a zombie movie. An undead messiah? Beyond funny. He’s at Bar on A at 9 on 8/30.

 

7. Witches in Bikinis – Witches in Bikinis

The horror-rock supergroup’s cool, funny signature song

 

8. Kariné Poghosyan – Excerpt from Manuel De Falla’s Fantasia Baetica

The pyrotechnic pianist shows off her spectacular chops live at Steinway Hall, NYC. You want adrenaline? Wow!

 

9. El Radio Fantastique – Tiptoe Suicide

Characteristically spooky noir New Orleans blues from this imaginative crew.

 

10. Lunch During Wartime – Rubulad

A New York moment. “Strange thoughts fill my head…”

August 21, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Daniel Bernstein at Sidewalk, NYC 7/9/09

Even by Daniel Bernstein’s standards, this show was particularly transcendent. Like Luminescent Orchestrii, just reviewed here, Bernstein gets raves from his fellow musicians. No matter how he ends up putting his songs out there – as punk/metal in the great early zeros band the Larval Organs, as austere chamber pop in Hearth, in the ferocious, coyly named Whisper Doll or simply solo acoustic as he delivered them last night, they always pack a wallop. Railing more than he was singing, alternating between unleashed rage and kvetchy discomfort and backed by soaring harmonies from Erin Regan – an equally good songwriter in her own right – he nonchalantly burned through a nine-song set of bleak, brilliantly lyrical and very catchy existentialist angsthems. This may have been an acoustic show, but the sound was loud, the sound guy very impressively pulling a good mix together, Regan’s pitch-perfect wail in stark contrast with Bernstein’s haphazard snarl.

Death pervades his lyrics. Decaying carcasses, dying light and dashed dreams are so abundant as to be inescapable. As is a sense of being completely and overwhelmingly alone. To say that Bernstein channels Beckett in places would not be an overstatement: his lyrics are plainspoken yet profound and symbolically loaded. And as with Beckett, there’s plenty of stream-of-consciousness gallows humor to make things a bit more tolerable, if only momentarily before the plunge back into the abyss. The best of this stuff ranks with Ian Curtis, Roger Waters, Leonard Cohen and any other legendary dark songwriter you can think of. Bernstein’s catalog of songs is considerably deep, this show mixing new material along with a couple of genuine classics from his Larval Organs days. He opened with a characteristically anthemic number chronicling miscommunication, burned bridges and “summers spent in ashy crash.” The dark, forsaken Wizard Gardenia, an upbeat Larval Organs song was inspired, he said, by a brand of aerosol disinfectant: “Her skin is young like a dead man’s tongue…if I never wake up for a thousand years would you still be blowing those Pyrex tears?”

The forsaken vibe continued with another more recent tune, skeletal fingerpicking on the verse giving way to an upbeat chorus: “God thinks it’s treason if you ask why…a quarter ounce of truth is the only truth we divine…ain’t no way out of here, look how far we’ve come.”

In these songs, love is always fleeting, a momentary yet irresistible distraction that becomes a destructive obsession, vividly illustrated in the Larval Organs song City Parks:

Grey skin like the hue of rotten meat

That is cooking itself in the heat of its desire…

I know that love is not some sort of prize

And I am all alone on this ride

Still I wish that you would hold me in

They saved the best for last, the Larval Organs classic Joyless Now:

There’s gold in the hills

There’s a thousand bottles of pills…

We go on to John Brown’s grave

I’ve got a heartache the size of a great lake

I’m so faraway

I’m on the outside either way

I want to bring myself into a room

Pretend the lighting fixture is the moon…

I’m on the outside and I’m going insane

Let’s speed and drive all night

Into the diffused grey light

With that, he sent everyone off into the as-yet-undiffused, unseasonably cool black comfort of a relatively tourist-free Thursday midnight in the East Village. Watch this space for upcoming shows: if lyrical rock is your thing, you need to get to know this guy’s songs.

July 10, 2009 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/28/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Wednesday’s is #546:

The Larval Organs – Joyless Now

The Larval Organs were arguably New York songwriter Daniel Bernstein AKA Cockroach’s best project to date, a ferociously lyrical punk/metal outfit that played around circa 2002-04 and put out one classic ep, Posthumous. This is one of their more melodic numbers with a characteristically brilliant, desperate lyric, “with a heartache the size of a great lake.” Unreleased and unavailable at the usual sites, although there are supposedly bootleg versions kicking around – if you find one, let us know!

January 28, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , | 4 Comments