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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 5/26/11

As we do every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #614:

Live Skull – Snuffer

The best New York band of the 80s wasn’t Sonic Youth. It was Live Skull. They shared a producer, Martin Bisi, whose ears for the most delicious sonics in a guitar’s high midrange did far more to refine both bands’ sound than he ever got credit for. As noisy as this band was, they also had an ear for hooks: noise-rock has never been more listenable. By the time they recorded this one, guitarists Tom Paine and Mark C., fretless bassist Marnie Greenholz and drummer Rich Hutchins had brought in future Come frontwoman Thalia Zedek, but on vocals rather than guitar. It’s a ferociously abrasive yet surprisingly catchy six-song suite of sorts, Zedek’s assaultive rants mostly buried beneath the volcanic swirl of the guitars and the pummeling rhythm section. By the time they get to Step, the first song of side two, they’ve hit a groove that winds up with furious majesty on the final cut, Straw. Like Sonic Youth, their lyrics are neither-here-nor-there; unlike that band, they had the good sense to bury them in the mix most of the time. Very influential in their time, it’s hard to imagine Yo La Tengo and many others without them. Here’s a random torrent via Rare Punk.

May 26, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 4/5/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #665:

The Psychedelic Furs – Book of Days

Over the years, countless bands, from A Flock of Seagulls to the Editors, have tried to imitate Joy Division. All have failed, pathetically. Stylewise, it was probably only a matter of time before the Furs took their sarcasm to its logical, bleak extreme: this 1989 album remains the only one to ever reach the same extremes of existential angst that Ian Curtis evoked so well. It gets off to a false start with the pretty 6/8 ballad Shine before the title track, a chilling, atmospheric dirge that offers absolutely no escape. The shuffling acoustic requiem Torch maintains the funereal atmosphere, which lifts on side two, if only a little, with the manic depressive stomp of Shake This House. “This day is not my life,” frontman Richard Butler insists. There’s also the Jesus & Mary Chain-esque Should God Forget; the mystifying but catchy riff-rocker Mother-Son; the swirling Wedding, and Parade, evocative of the band’s early years; the sarcastic Entertain Me, and the noisy, thrashing, death-obsessed I Don’t Mine that drives the final nail in the coffin. Listen to this with the lights out. Here’s a random torrent.

April 5, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 2/3/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #726:

Bauhaus – Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape

Thirty years later, it’s easy to pigeonhole Bauhaus as the prototypical goth band, but at the time they came out they were nothing short of paradigm-shifting: they get too little credit for adding a noise-rock edge to the gleeful gloom. This 1982 live set captures them at their early creative peak: guitarist Daniel Ash can’t quite find what he’s looking for half the time, but it’s the search that’s impossible to turn away from. Meanwhile, the brothers in the rhythm section, bassist David J and drummer Kevin Haskins careen with a visceral chemistry behind Peter Murphy’s sepulchral croon. The iconic classic is the practically ten-minute version of Bela Lugosi’s Dead, with its funeral march bass and Holiday in Cambodia guitar sonics. In the Flat Field remains a concert favorite after all these years; The Man with X-Ray Eyes and Dancing are less energetically morbid than simply energetic. The Spy in the Cab and Kick in the Eye rock out while Hollow Hills and Stigmata Martyr mine darker corners. The 1988 cd reissue includes several bonus tracks from that era including an untight yet memorably Siouxsie-esque dirge cover of I’m Waiting for the Man featuring Nico on lead vocals. It would be one of her last moments on record. Here’s a random torrent.

February 3, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/28/11

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #732:

The Church – Of Skins and Heart

Who would have known that when the Australian rockers came out with this one in 1981 that they’d still be going, absolutely undiminished, thirty years later (with New York shows at the Highline on Feb 16 and at B.B. King’s the next day). Blending the epic grandeur of Pink Floyd, David Bowie surrealism and the luscious jangle and clang of the Byrds, Steve Kilbey’s warily allusive lyricism here distantly foreshadows the visionary, apocalyptic turn he’d take later in the decade. The Unguarded Moment (a cover, actually, written by a friend of Kilbey’s at the time) is the iconic hit, sort of the Australian equivalent of Freebird. Opening with a blast of guitar fury, For a Moment We’re Strangers strips a cheap hookup to its sordid bones, while the ghostly, gorgeous Bel-Air hints at the otherworldly side they’d mine on albums like Priest=Aura. Other standout tracks include the roaring epic Is This Where You Live; the glimmering country slide guitar ballad Don’t Open the Door to Strangers; the Kinks-inflected Tear It All Away, and the hook-driven janglerock smash Too Fast for You. Even the straight-up powerpop like Fighter Pilot/Korean War, Chrome Injury (a new wave take on Iron Man), the proto-U2 Memories in Future Tense and the riff-rocking She Never Said all have their moments. Here’s a random torrent; a cd worth getting is the brand-new reissue that combines both the Australian and self-titled American release’s tracks along with extensive liner notes from twelve-string guitar genius Marty Willson-Piper.

January 28, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/13/11

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Thursday’s is #747:

The Del Lords – Get Tough: The Best of the Del Lords

We’re going to stick with the Americana rock for a second day in a row, moving forward a couple of decades. Taking their name from the director of the Three Stooges movies, the Del Lords were led by Dictators guitarist Scott Kempner along with hotshot lead player Eric Ambel and a killer rhythm section of bassist Manny Caiati and drummer Frank Funaro. Critics and college radio djs in the 80s loved them, but despite a well-earned reputation for strong songwriting and killer live shows, they never broke through to a mass audience (this was at the end of the era when big record labels were signing good bands). This 2006 reissue is a strong representation of their recently resuscitated career. It’s got their best song, the luscious janglefest Burning in the Flame of Love, along with their rocking adaptation of the 20s blues song How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. Cheyenne is another rich, lush blend of jangle and clang; Judas Kiss is a gem of a powerpop tune, although this version pales next to Ambel’s own interpretation. There’s also the brisk, Dire Straits-ish Love on Fire; the Neil Young-influenced About You, foreshadowing the turn Ambel would take as a solo artist; Love Lies Dying, which blends 80s new wave with Americana; the Georgia Satellites-style riff-rock of Crawl in Bed, the comedic I Play the Drums and a ballsy version of Folsom Prison Blues. All of this is streaming at myspace (but be careful, you have to reload the page after each song unless you want to be assaulted by a loud audio ad). Here’s a random torrent; the band reunited in 2010, with a series of shows in Spain, hopefully some more stateside to follow.

January 13, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/4/11

Tons of new stuff in the pipeline here: the new NYC live music calendar for this month and February is up but still needs a few additions. In the meantime, every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s is #756:

Split Enz – Waiata

A period piece from 1981 that’s aged extraordinarily well. Go ahead and criticize the tinny, trebly production – it’s a wonder that producer David Tickle didn’t put a watery chorus effect on the drums along with everything else. While there are aspects of this that are soooooo 80s, the inspired fun and purism of the songwriting transcends just about anything you could possibly do to it. The classic pop hit is the defiant kiss-off anthem History Never Repeats, driven by one of the alltime great rock guitar riffs. Hard Act to Follow takes the kind of pop direction Genesis should have followed but didn’t; One Step Ahead, Ships, and the ethereal Ghost Girl mine a more mysterious vein. I Don’t Wanna Dance, Clumsy and Walking Through the Ruins hark back to the artsy post-Skyhooks surrealism of the band’s early years; keyboardist Eddie Rayner also contributes an abrasive noise-rock raveup and the balmy, cinematic theme Albert of India. In the band’s native New Zealand, the album was titled Corroboree (Maori for “party”); the tracks are the same. Guitarist Neil Finn would carry on in another first-rate artsy pop band, Crowded House, joined by his brother Tim off and on over the years (notably on the excellent, one-off Finn Bros. album). Here’s a random torrent.

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

Album of the Day 9/1/10

New NYC live music calendar for September and October coming later today! In the meantime, every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #881:

New Model Army – Raw Melody Men

The missing link between the Clash and Midnight Oil, British rockers New Model Army have built a thirty-year career on the fiery, uncompromising, anthemic, politically aware songwriting of frontman Justin Sullivan: they’ve literally never made a bad record. This 1992 double live album captures the band at the peak of their majestic art-rock fury (they’ve been through many different phases: currently, they’re just as likely to whip out a gentle acoustic folk-rock number as a straight-up punk stomp). The swirls of electric violin and occasional keyboards here add an eerie ambience above the din of the guitar. Sullivan doesn’t confine his razor-sharp critiques to globalization or the evils of monopoly capitalism: there are few more astute critics of the left, especially coming from a progressive point of view. This one has most of the band’s early 90s concert favorites: the anguished escape anthem Get Me Out; the eco-disaster atmospherics of White Coats; the spot-on examinations of leftwing cliquishness Purity and Better Than Them; and the towering, Middle Eastern inflected majesty of Lurhstaap, a warning in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall that “You can buy a crown/It doesn’t make you king/Beware the trinkets that we bring.” Over the years, a NMA “family” has sprung up, sort of a more conscious Deadhead crew whose common passions happen to be intransigence and defiance of rightwing authority rather than drugs. New Yorkers can look forward to New Model Army’s latest appearance at 8 PM at the Bell House in Brooklyn on September 3 and 4.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Song of Alltime

Our daily best 666 songs of alltime countdown is officially over: almost two years from the date we started counting these down, here’s the best song ever:

The Church – Destination

Why did we pick this one? Because it so tersely and succinctly captures our era. Great art is timeless: this macabre rock epic hasn’t aged a bit since 1988, when released as the first track on the classic, platinum Starfish album. It starts suspensefully, Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper’s guitars playing a fifth interval, neither major nor minor. Then Marty bends a string, an eerie minor third and the procession is underway:

Our instruments have no way of measuring this feeling
Can never cut below the floor, or penetrate the ceiling

All we can ever know is what we perceive: trapped within our senses, there is no exit:

In the space between our houses, some bones have been discovered
The whole procession lurches on, as if we have recovered…

All is not well: an understatement. Yet we pay no mind:

Draconian winter unforetold
One solar day, suddenly you’re old
That little envelope just leaves me cold
Makes destination start to unfold

The “Draconian winter” is the one line that dates this song: global warming hadn’t yet rendered that phrase obsolete. Yet it still works on a metaphorical leve. “One solar day,” a phrase from Indian mysticism, meaning an eon. And the drugs don’t work anymore – in fact they might kill you instead.

Our documents are useless, all forged beyond believing
Page 47 isn’t signed, I need it by this evening
In the space between our cities, a storm is slowly forming
Something eating up our days, I feel it every morning…

A reference to a recording contract? Probably – Steve Kilbey’s written some of the best diatribes about the music business. But maybe also a passport, a visa? Which means nothing to the corrupt officials or the Halliburton subcontractors at the border.

It’s not a religion, it’s just a technique
It’s just a way of making you speak
And distance and speed have left us too weak
And Destination looks kind of bleak

That’s a reference to the band themselves. But it could also be a lot of other things – including torture.

Our elements are burnt out, our beasts have been mistreated
I tell you it’s the only way we’ll get this road completed
In the space between our bodies, the air has grown small fingers
Just one caress, you’re powerless…Destination…

And we’re left incapable of changing course. Of course, we aren’t really: apocalyptic art is cautionary, it reminds us that this will happen if we don’t heed the warning. It’s in our hands now.

Tomorrow we start counting down the 1000 best albums of alltime.

July 28, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Song of the Day 7/12/10

Just a little more than two weeks til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Monday’s song is #17:

The Psychedelic Furs – Book of Days

Innumerable bands have imitated Joy Division over the years; the Furs’ 1989 album Book of Days is the only one that ever succeeded in capturing that band’s towering anguish. This brooding dirge is the album’s centerpiece, a requiem for lost time and lost hopes. If you’re going to listen to it, click the link above and don’t try to multitask – you’ll miss the full impact.

July 11, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/6/10

Lots of new stuff coming up in the wake of the long weekend – check back later today, or later in the week. In the meantime, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown will reach #1 in just over three weeks.  Tuesday’s song is #23:

The Church – Disenchanted

Janglerock guitar doesn’t get any more exquisitely beautiful than this, Marty Willson-Piper’s twelve-string Rickenbacker meshing with Peter Koppes’ Strat. And Steve Kilbey’s excoriating, cynical lyric about the pitfalls of celebrity is one of his best. From the Heyday album, 1986.

July 6, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment