Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Top Ten Songs of the Week 9/27/10

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 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. Norden Bombsight – Raven

Macabre art-rock menace from the Brooklyn band’s brilliant album Pinto – the possibly only song ever to immortalize West Haven, Connecticut.

2. Ana Popovic – You Complete Me

Balkan blues guitar genius. Can’t believe she isn’t better known in the US – amazing stuff

3. Hot Rize – Diamond Joe

The bluegrass classic – the band are back together with a new guitarist after a ten year hiatus

4. The Thrift Store Cowboys – 7s and 9s

Southwestern gothic, Wilco meets the Walkabouts.

5. Open Ocean – Daydreaming

The Cocteau Twins visit Twin Peaks, Washington. They’re at the Convent of St. Cecilia’s, 21 Monitor St. in Greenpoint sometime on 10/23.

6. Jessica Pavone – I Must Have Done Something Karmically to Deserve This

Catchy/abrasive/ethereal violin rock groove – dynamics central.

7. Kyle Eastwood – Andalucia

Clint’s jazz bassist kid – music runs in the family. That’s Jim Rotondi on trumpet.

8. The Salesmen – She’s So Punctual

Funny retro new wave hit by these subversive, theatrical Pac NW rockers.

9. Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds – Just My Eyes

Country swing with a Memphis soul tinge. They’re at the big room at the Rockwood on 10/23.

10. Darker My Love – Backseat

Perfect Rutles-esque Beatles ripoff.

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September 27, 2010 Posted by | blues music, country music, jazz, 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 7/19/10

Our best 666 songs of alltime countdown has reached the alltime top ten. When we started this countdown, in the fall of 2008, we had no idea that we’d last long enough to get this far! Here’s #10:

Elvis Costello – Man out of Time

Sympathy for the devil – one of Costello’s greatest achievements is how he can both demonize and humanize at the same time, as he does with the utterly evil character in question here. The best version we know of is on the long out-of-print three-cd live box set Costello & Nieve, from 1996; here’s one from before the original album version (on Imperial Bedroom) came out, 1982.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Top 10 Songs of the Week 7/5/10

It’s Tuesday which means it’s Top Ten day. It’s just another way we try to spread the word about all the good music out there. As you’ll notice, every song that reaches the #1 spot on this list will be on our 100 Best Songs of 2010 list at the end of December. We try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone: sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. If you don’t like one of these, you can always go on to the next one.

1. The Larch – Tracking Tina

Sounds kinda like vintage Squeeze – a snide, tongue-in-cheek spoof of paranoid yuppie parents who have no problem snooping on their children. From the band’s latest and greatest album Larix Americana.

2. Sabrina Chap – Never Been a Bad Girl

Defiant, Rachelle Garniez-style cabaret tune – the video is killer.

3. Cumbia Villera – Pecho Frio

Slinky organ-and-guacharaca fueled punk cumbia tune.

4. The Nu-Sonics – Hello No Goodbyes

Sweet Big Star-influenced janglerock: Alex Sniderman on guitar, Scott Anthony (from Rebecca Turner’s band) on bass

5. Ivana XL – 2043

Noir minimal guitar and voice – Young Marble Giants for the 21st century.

6. Mighty High – Cable TV Eye

Brooklyn’s #1 regressive rock act have a message for all you Stooges wannabes!

7. The Black Angels – Bad Vibrations

Roky Erickson meets Syd Barrett somewhere in limbo. From their forthcoming album Phosphene Dream.

8. Just Another Folksinger – The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

That’s the name she goes by – but she’s actually pretty cool and funny.

9. James Parenti – It’s Almost Always Raining

Tinges of Elliott Smith – but not a slavish imitation – pensive and aptly titled.

10. Andy Love – Kara Cali

Funny, good-naturedly fake Middle Eastern music

July 6, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

Concert Review: The New Collisions at Arlene’s, 7/1/10

The New Collisions are Boston’s best band; from the small crowd lingering at Arlene’s, you wouldn’t know it. Although what’s obvious from the first few notes is how tight they are. In a classy black dress, midriff jacket and heels, platinum blonde frontwoman Sarah Guild is wiry, intense and inscrutable. She hardly talks to the crowd – mystery seems to be her thing, and she works it. The rest of the band is anything but. Bass player Alex Stern does most of the talking – he’s in a good mood. He ought to be. This is a dream gig for a bass player. Most of their songs motor along with fast eight-note basslines which he plays with a pick and a trebly, Bruce Foxton-esque tone, so he’s always way up in the mix and gets to take a few bubbly, ska-inflected solos as well (no surprise – his other gig is with the Void Union). A year ago this band was mining a totally 80s vibe; the new songs in the set tonight evade referencing any particular time period. They’re just catchy, with a powerpop feel that’s considerably warmer, somewhat gentler than the edgy intensity of their 2009 debut ep. The keys have shifted from minor to major – one of the new songs could have been a hit for the Motels in 1983, with its skeletal verse building to a big, crescendoing chorus.

Guitarist Scott Guild pogos around the stage – he can’t stand still. But playing this kind of music, that would be hard. Firing off his chords with a casual dexterity, by the fourth song he’s lost his glasses, something that seems to happen at every show. There’s an optician in Cambridge or Somerville who owes his livelihood to this guy. Casey Gruttadauria works his keyboards methodically, adding soulful organ swells on the newer songs in place of the blippy, oscillating 80s patches that he’s so adept at. Drummer Zak Kahn hints at a fullscale stomp but doesn’t go there – he feels the room, feels the music for what it is, knowing that if he went over the top some of it would be camp.

Sarah Guild holds something in reserve tonight – she isn’t belting at full volume, at least early on. “This one you know,” she tells the crowd, with just the hint of a smile. It’s a vaguely familiar melody – Missing Persons, maybe? – oh wait, this is Give Me Back My Man by the B-52’s! And they’re doing it completely straight, completely deadpan. And Sarah actually sells the lyric. “I’ll give you fish, I’ll give you candy.” She makes it seem normal to wonder what it would be like if she flipped you a sardine and a box of Mike and Ikes.

The band is on a roll. They segue from one song into another: the tersely scurrying outsider anthem In a Shadow, followed by a couple of new ones, one of them with a This Year’s Model-era Elvis Costello feel. The forthcoming album is titled Optimism, which makes sense. Another new one has bass and guitar locking in sync like a smarter version of the Buzzcocks’ I Believe – and then they do a hailstorm of a twin solo after the chorus. And follow that with an uncharacteristically slow ballad.

Sarah finally takes off her coat. She’s been wailing pretty much full-throttle for over a half an hour now, dealing with one bad mic after another and she looks drained, emotionally depleted. But she rallies, ending the next song cold with a caustic “Shut up!” And then Scott launches into a staccato, Friday on My Mind-style intro and the band joins him on their best song, The Beautiful and Numb. Outside the club, the streets are littered with overdressed tourists talking loudly about nothing to no one – or maybe to their phones. They spill out of bars, still yelling even when they’ve stepped beyond the roar of the crowd. Inside Arlene’s, the New Collisions have an anthem for the night, and it’s about the apocalypse. “We’re in denial, but we’ve got style…we’re in denial, and I’m overcome,” Sarah rails, her voice suddenly lower, taking on a darker nuance. “Isn’t it ironic, this is how the world ends…we are the Beautiful and Numb.” The band fakes an ending, picks it up and then takes it out with a booming crash, everything falling apart, Scott losing his footing, going down with his guitar in the middle of the stage while the world collapses around him. Tonight the New Collisions seized the moment and had the perfect song for it. The kind that rattles around your brain all the way to the train, throughout the train ride and then finally up the steps out of the subway into the temporary beauty of the cool night air.

July 2, 2010 Posted by | concert, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Cat Empire – Cinema

Back in the day they used to call this “good top 40.” Australian sensations the Cat Empire have a very 80s sound, but with values that go back another 20 years. With their anthemic songwriting, catchy chord changes, and high energy, unaffected vocals, they’re huge down under, now in the process of extending their fan base outside the Tropic of Capricorn. Interestingly, their lead instrument is Ollie McGill’s electric piano, incisive and bluesy like Rod Argent during his time with the Zombies. Frontman/percussionist Felix Riebl projects with a hoarse insistence that vividly evokes Peter Gabriel on his first solo albums. Drummer Will Hull-Brown gives the songs a big-room drama while the band’s turntablist Jamshid Khadiwala adds the occasional sample or scratch for a bit of a hip-hop/trip-hop tinge.

The album’s catchy opening track Waiting swings along with Zombies-esque electric piano. Trumpeter Harry Angus brings the hip-hop-inflected Falling up at the end with a big crescendo. The indomitable Feelings Gone sounds like Men at Work if that band had come out in the late 90s: “I think that I’m gonna wake up on your lawn,” announces Riebl, unperturbed. The best song on the album is the slinky, uneasy Only Light, building from a rousing gospel organ intro to a big roaring chorus. The next cut, All Hell pounds along, dark and Beatlesque, with an expansive and absolutely delicious organ solo. 

The Heart Is a Cannibal is the most overtly 80s of all the cuts here. Another standout track, Call Me Home is bouncy, ska-tinged and apprehensive: “Call me home, is there anybody there at all?” Riebl asks. On My Way follows that, reggae-tinged, with a blithe dixieland solo from Angus. Ballads don’t seem to be the band’s strong suit, but that’s not the point of the Cat Empire anyway. They sound like they’d be a lot of fun live (their most recent album, a live recording, went platinum in Australia). The Cat Empire play the Music Hall of Williamsburg on July 31 at 9.

July 1, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/1/10

Less than a month til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1! Thursday’s song is #28:

The Pretenders – Back on the Chain Gang

One of the greatest janglerock songs, a requiem for not one but two of Chrissie Hynde’s bandmates, guitarist James Honeyman Scott and bassist Pete Farndon:

Those were the happiest days of my life
Like a break in the battle was your part
In the wretched life of a lonely heart

A hit single at the end of 1982, it’s on the Learning to Crawl album.

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