Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 2/9/10

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #720:

Abby Travis – Glittermouth

Abby Travis is one of the greatest bass players in rock. She’s also a terrific songwriter, in a sultry, sinister noir art-pop vein: she beat the Dresden Dolls to it by ten years. Her solo debut, Cutthroat Standards and Black Pop, from 2000, is the critic’s choice. To be stubborn, we went with this one from six years later. It’s more diverse, and beneath the shiny veneer, just as menacing. The big stunner is Now Was, a towering, Jeff Lynne style art-pop ballad that makes a potent showcase for her breathy unease. There’s a lot of trip-hop here, like Portishead at their creepiest, along with the noir cabaret of Hunger, the gently ominous psychedelic downtempo pop of Chase Me, the big 6/8 anthem Roberto – a goth response to the Tubes’ Don’t Touch Me There? – and the off-center, surprisingly upbeat little goth waltz Shoot for the Stars: “Shoot for the stars, you might land on the moon.” Travis is sister to filmmaker Dave Travis, who has a very auspicious new documentary A History Lesson, about the California punk scene coming out. The album hasn’t made it to rapidshare or mediafire yet as far as we can tell but it’s still up at cdbaby.

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February 9, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Debutante Hour – The Birth and Death of Meaning

The Debutante Hour play oldtimey-flavored existentialist pop music. Clever and quirky but with an understated angst that sometimes goes straight down into the abyss, their soaring, soulful three-part harmonies deliver deadpan humor that’s sometimes completely black, other times totally absurdist and often hilarious. Their torchier songs remind a lot of Nellie McKay; their darker, more rustic stuff evokes the Dresden Dolls (whose drummer, Brian Viglione, guests here) as well as New York oldtimey stars Bobtown; World Inferno’s Franz Nicolay produced the album, squeezing every ounce of plaintiveness out of the songs. Pianist/accordionist Maria Sonevytsky and cellist Mia Pixley previously played together in indie harmony-pop band the Baby Pool, joined here by songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Susan Hwang. The trio romp, shuffle and sometimes tiptoe through an impressively diverse collection of styles.

There’s a couple of accordion oompah tunes, one a gentle kiss-off to somebody who takes himself a little too seriously, the other titled Watching Carrie Eat. The blackly funny Miracle Birth pokes fun at an impressive display of “origin stories” from around the globe, like the Roulette Sisters with an accordion, and a neat cello solo that leads nicely into guest Jonathan Vincent’s barrelhouse piano. Galax is an ominously chirpy oldtimey Nashville gothic swing tune about a couple on a doomed camping trip – and is that a theremin at the end? Sunday in the Trailer follows in the same vein, but even more creepy and more stream-of-consciousness:

As you pressed my shoulders
I thought of the claws of my feet.
I tried to hide them, but you found them eventually

What’s up with that?

Croak Hiss and Sputter, a swirling New Orleans reel, recounts a surreal road trip:

Wax dripped off the cylinders, frogs chirped like birds
The archive dust got windexed off by archive nerds

A tango, Organizing My Planner For Next Week transcends the mundane with the philosophical:

Can you plan surprises, like hope or skirting inevitable dread
The dread that killed your father, and all your mother’s regrets
That you swore would never get to you because you’re different from them

Other songs here tackle the zen of zombies as well as subatomic theory, along with a country waltz as Kurt Vonnegut might have done it; Scheherezade, which recasts the storytelling girl as a real schmoozer; and the chirpily sardonic Be Yourself:

So even if they assume you’re an Alyssa Milano
And you know you’re more like Jennifer Jason Leigh
Don’t let it affect what you do tomorrow

As much fun as this album is, it’s a likely bet that the band is just as fun live. The Debutante Hour play the Jalopy on June 15 at 8:45 PM, sandwiched between two other first-rate acts, ferocious New Orleans art-rock pianist Lady Baby Miss who kicks off the night at 8 and then irresistibly charismatic, deviously lyrical oldtimey siren Kelli Rae Powell at 9:30.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Miss Elixir at Rubulad, NYC 6/15/03

[Editor’s note: more new stuff tomorrow. Til then, here’s another oldie but a goodie]

The keyboardist/songwriter now known as Miss Elixir advised her fan base that she’d be performing around midnight: miracle of miracles, a shockingly quick L train made the trip from Williamsburg to the west side in 15 minutes. This time around the venue for this long-running traveling party was the Altman Building in Chelsea, three floors of fire twirlers, circus performers and random vendors selling everything from sweets to what was purportedly absinthe (it was green). It took forever to get inside and negotiate the labyrinthine space, finally finding the stuffy, unventilated, scorchingly hot side room where the performance would take place. Drink tickets for everyone; the singer nonchalantly addressed the audience holding a deuce deuce of Colt .45. There was an ice machine in the back of the room, and one of the clowns (the real kind, like you’d find at a carnival) who was apparently part of the show began throwing ice cubes at everyone, then sprinkling the crowd with ice water. It didn’t take long before everyone joined the fun. Finally, Miss Elixir – the only one who wasn’t drenched at this point – went back behind her electric piano and delivered a brief but frequently riveting show, accompanied by a talented multi-instrumentalist alternating between violin, guitar, accordion and a mini-glockenspiel built into his carrying case. The two played well, making the frequently jarring, horror-movie cascades in several of Miss Elixir’s artsy, pensive, somewhat Siouxsie Sioux-esque songs seem effortless, her vocals unaffectedly calm in stark contrast with the drama and intensity of much of the music. She closed with a pretty pop song that went over especially well with the audience, who persuaded her to do an encore. So she played it again.

[postscript: Miss Elixir still plays the occasional show in and around the New York area]

June 15, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment