Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 12/10/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #781:

Elliott Smith – Figure 8

Here’s somebody who never made a bad album. Elliott Smith’s albums from the 90s alternate gorgeously harmony-driven, George Harrison-esque pop with austere, sometimes charming but more frequently brooding little vignettes. This one, from 1999, is the only one of his albums that has a fully realized, lushly produced atmosphere from beginning to end, Smith playing virtually all of the instruments himself including the drums. There isn’t any obvious hit single here, but every single one of the fifteen tracks is excellent. Nobody wrote about drugs, or specifically heroin, more elliptically or poetically than this guy; here, he broadened his worldview and it paid off. Lyrically speaking, it’s the high point of his career. Junk Bond Trader was withering when it came out; these days it’s positively scathing, as is the anti-trendoid broadside Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud. There’s also the gently bucolic Someone That I Used to Know; the quaint tack piano pop of In the Lost and Found; the hypnotically crescendoing Everything Means Nothing to Me; the ragtime-tinged Pretty Mary K and LA, which quietly foreshadows the unrest and eventual doom that he’d meet up with there. Elliott Smith was murdered in 2003 in a vicious knife attack. William Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner whose most dubious achievement here was underreporting homicides in order to drive the official murder rate down, did the same thing in Los Angeles; Smith’s case was declared a suicide, even though he’d taken a knife through the chest twice. His killer remains at large. Here’s a random torrent.

Advertisements

December 10, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lucid Culture Interview: Tom Derungs of New Indie Label Weak Records

Unlike the other music blogs, Lucid Culture pretty much steers clear of showbiz news. After all, it’s the music that listeners are interested in, not who’s pushing it. Did you ever go into your local record store, if it still exists, and ask the bewildered clerk, “Do you have anything new from Universal?”

And in the indie rock world, vanity labels come and go as fast as the label owners’ parents can write a check – or stop payment on one. But once in awhile we get a news release that grabs our attention – like the relaunch of Ardent Records, Alex Chilton’s original label, or in this case the launch of a new Swiss indie label, Weak Records. Founded by songwriter Tom Derungs – who records under the name of Bobby Vacant and released a haunting, auspicious album last year on Luxotone titled Tear Back the Night, Weak Records isn’t your ordinary record label, as we found out quickly:

Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: Isn’t starting a record label in 2010 something akin to opening a blacksmith shop in 1920? Or a typewriter store in 1990? Can I ask a fundamental question: why?

Tom Derungs of Weak Records: Or a vinyl shop in 2010. Every artist needs a hook, a signifier to be signified to. Call it a desirous and symbiotic crucifixion. Most artists just need help. We at Weak come from the book business. Long ago we recognized the need for an outside source to support the little guy. Most bands or writers can’t afford it on their own. They are hopelessly inept at marketing and self-promotion. We started this to help them. It’s a non-profit label and a platform to get people’s work recognized. Nothing more. And a labor of love in a world of dead blacksmiths.

LCC: “Weak Records” sounds pretty sarcastic to me. Why that name? Is there any underlying philosophy behind the concept of the label?

TD: Again, the little guy. All the shy, trembling waifs writing songs and poems in their dirty bedrooms. We want to deconstruct the word “weak” and spit it out again with new energy and meaning. Empower it. Ennoble it. There are four physical forces in the universe and one is the weak force. The sun is fueled by it. Decay is a part of it. Our bodies are fused by it. We are all decaying. Every big bad-assed, bully one of us. You can watch it at the subatomic level. And as the biggest bully of them all once wrote: the meek shall inherit.

LCC: These days most musicians are making a go of it on their own without a label. Other than the positive association that comes with your name, what does Weak Records have to offer artists?

TD: We’ve got really cool badges. And free household objects for personal ritual use that come free with each one of our fanzines in zip locked bags. But seriously, we also support our artists with hard cash. It’s not a huge amount, but they can then decide themselves if they want to use it for quality mixing, production, mastering or packaging costs. Or just keep it outright. Our contracts are simple. Artists own copyright flat out and can move to a larger label at anytime and take their content with them. Weak is there to help. Not to make money.

LCC: Will you be producing physical product as well as distributing via the web?

TD: Yes. Both.

LCC: Where are you located? Will you be distributing where you are or worldwide, or are you going to license to other labels/distributors for various markets?

TD: We are located in Switzerland and will be working with distributors mainly in the US and Europe. As we know the indie shops are sadly having a tough time. Be they bookshops or record shops. We can also supply direct, but the logistics of working with a distributor is easier. Licensing with another label would be great, too.

LCC: In addition to your own album coming out next year, you’re also releasing albums by Riders of the Worm, a punk act; the Black Iron Brothers, whom I believe are a spinoff of Captain Ludd, an acoustic/Americana band; Police Bulimia, who from what I can tell sound kind of like Snakefinger; and the Jesus Taco, whom I only know as a takeout Mexican restaurant in Spanish Harlem here in New York. What can you tell us about these bands? Is there a common link between them, a specific reason why you chose to launch the label with this stable of acts?

TD: We’ve always been torn between folk and punk, blues and rock & roll. Like a Frank Black song that goes from light to heavy within just a few measures. But poetry is a huge part of it. Poetry is the main link among these bands. Whether it be a juvenile punk band from Reno Nevada like Police Bulimia or a hopelessly melancholic singer-songwriter like Bobby Vacant. There has to be rage and expression, depth and meaning, sadness and elation, textual substance. Angst. Weakness and vulnerability. We’ve got a large folk, post-punk and blues feel to our acts but poetry threads them all. Riders of the Worm is just plain wild, like the Minutemen meet Negativeland, and the Black Iron Brothers is pure blues, slide-guitar, ambient experimentation much like Califone.

LCC: You’ll also be launching a zine, Savage Laundry. What can you tell us about that, will you have a dead tree edition or just an online presence with that?

TD: Well, you won’t be able to download THIS! We’ll be hanging it up with clothespins at venues. Copy, paste, and print. The theme of Issue #1 is neo-hoboism. Traveling hobos had a code of ethics. Rule number one: “Decide your own life and don’t let another person rule or run it for you,” and also, “Don’t take advantage of another person who is in a vulnerable situation.” It’s all very beat-ific. Woody Guthrie. Kerouac. The homeless. We’ll also have lots of poetry in it. Rants. Reviews. The official “Squat to Pee” column. There might be a free PDF download but you need the real issue to get the free mystery object in the baggie. We have some graphic novel artists to contribute drawings as well.

LCC: If I can be completely harsh and cynical here, we get dozens of news releases a day from fledgling record labels. What makes you different?

TD: Poetry. We are perhaps the only indie label (I think) recording both music and poetry. We want to merge the two genres wherever possible. We will be issuing poetry EPs, full-length poetry albums, both on CD and on the web. Currently we are working on a Weak Poetry sampler with poetry/music combinations such as “Cancerland” which is a guitar-based and Patti Smith inspired poem/song and hugely critical indictment of motorway-exit ugliness and industrial, cancerous consumerism. There will also be cross-over with bookshops. Bobby Vacant has done a number of gigs in independent bookshops and we plan to distribute there as well.

LCC: Can I ask what your association with Luxotone, the marvelous little Chicago label that put out your previous album, will be?

TD: Luxotone is a fantastic indie label and we will be supporting them one hundred percent. The production on Tear Back the Night cannot be beat. There will be another collaboration down the road sometime, hopefully. Luxotone have done great things but haven´t got the recognition yet.

LCC: As Lucid Culture readers know very well by now, your 2009 album Tear Back the Night is very highly regarded here: it made the top ten on our Best Albums of 2009 list; it was  number one on my personal list, so I’m naturally interested in what we have to look forward to on your next one. Who will you be working with, is there a theme, whatever you feel like telling us about it. Unless you’re going to keep it a complete mystery until release date…

TD: Thank you for your support. The next Bobby Vacant album is tentatively called Pull Down the Clocks. It will still have the acoustic singer-songwriter whispery feel to it but with more of an edge. Less production. Some faster, punkier songs with just a little bit more distortion. The songs are written and ready to record. There will be extra vocals and some session musician work as well. The songwriting is more solid and only the best songs will make the cut, even if it´s only 10 songs. No fillers. Only the best songs. There’s about 20 songs ready to go. It’s all about the quality of the songwriting.

LCC: What will the initial release on Weak Records be and when is it coming out?

TD: The Black Iron Brothers are currently recording and the album should be released by this summer or in the autumn at the latest. Again, we are looking for the best quality here. Their first album Deliver was recorded in Zürich at a really good studio with really good session musicians, and we want to make the new one just as good. They still haven’t decided on the title yet. We would also like to do a Weak sampler but refuse at giving it any official FAC-style number but are hugely inspired by Factory Records, their graphics and packaging. Sandpaper sleeves are our favorite at the moment.

LCC: Ouch. I once had an album by the Feederz, an obscure punk rock band from the 80s who did a really funny cover of the Olivia Newton-John lite FM hit HaveYou Never Been Mellow. And that came in a sandpaper sleeve. I ended up getting rid of it, which I probably shouldn’t have. Can you send mp3s instead?

March 23, 2010 Posted by | interview, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Tall Tall Trees at the Postcrypt Coffeehouse, NYC 1/29/10

Tall Tall Trees didn’t play shit tonight. To be more precise, they didn’t play Shit, their funniest song – and they have many. If there’s one New York band that screams out SUMMER FESTIVAL, it’s Tall Tall Trees. On the coldest night of the year so far, they brought a sly, slinky midsummer cookout vibe to the comfy stone basement spot that if rumor is to be believed is threatened with extinction (stay tuned). Beyond the fact that it would be a shame – not to mention a considerable loss to the Columbia student community – if the makeshift club closed, it was especially nice to be able to see these guys play without having to peer over the shoulders of the usual hordes who come out to see them in Manhattan locations further south.

These guys’ sound is indelibly their own, part oldtimey blues/gospel revivalists, part bluegrass and part jam band. Bassist Ben Campbell played snaky, swaying lines while Matthias Kunzli stomped and pushed the band on a multicultural mix of percussion instruments, guitarist Kyle Senna and frontman/banjo player Mike Savino artfully and amusingly trading off licks. The one big jam moment of the night came early, a bubbling cauldron between the two on a blissful version of Spaceman, one of the more psychedelic numbers on the band’s debut album (very favorably reviewed here back in August). A new number,  the ragtime-inflected Walk of Shame, shamelessly chronicles the kind of stuff we do when we’ve had too much and we forget that we’re basically still at work.

“This is a traditional one,” Savino deadpanned, then led the band through another new song, Chocolate Jesus, a thoughtful digression on the kind of candy bar that even an Almond Joy can’t compare with. After a couple of easygoing, easy-to-like oldtime-flavored numbers, they wrapped up their too-brief set with a request, a fiery, incisive version of Sallie Mae. The album version is a smartly terse minor-key gospel-flavored song; live, the tale of the woman who left the poor guy with a house he couldn’t afford and a college loan he can’t pay resonated powerfully throughout the room full of undergrads, ending with a resounding boom as Kunzli smacked at his riq and practically knocked the little hand drum off its frame.

Tall Tall Trees play another even more incongruous small-room show at Banjo Jim’s at 5 (five) PM on Feb 5 for happy hour; it would make sense to say that you should get there early, which isn’t really much of an option unless you can sneak out of work somehow.

January 30, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Larkin Grimm and Martin Bisi at the Knitting Factory, Brooklyn NY 12/27/09

 Larkin Grimm’s solo show last spring at the Delancey was a dazzling display of imaginative vocal technique. This one was a lot more accessible, a mix of lush, smartly arranged, often rustic and unabashedly sexy songs. What Grimm does is closer to an update on folk-rock bands of the 70s like Fairport Convention, but more stark and sparse. Alternating between a miniature harp and acoustic guitar and backed by a concert harpist, two violinists (one of whom doubled on keys and then mandolin) and former David Bowie bassist (and producer to the stars) Tony Visconti playing some really excellent, interesting four-string work, Grimm was a strikingly down-to-earth presence even as her songs took off into artsy territory. The strings fluttered and flew off the beat as the harps’ lines interwined and Visconti moved from minimalist metronomic lines, to graceful slides, the occasional well-chosen boomy chord and even some harmonics. The songs ranged from the lush, dreamy, pastoral number that opened the show, to a sultry cabaret-inflected song about a hooker, a disquieting number inspired by “finding [your] inner child while fucking,” a one-chord Indian-style tune done with Visconti on recorder, another hypnotic song about waking up in a cornfield and having to dodge tractors, and an understatedly fiery retelling of a Greek myth about Apollo skinning some poor guy alive. That one Grimm wrote, she said, after she’d paid a visit to Dolllywood (she’d snuck in, too broke to pay for admission), thinking about her own disastrous experiences in the music business. She closed with a translation of a Hafez poem cast as a crescendoing anthem where a woman goes to bed with a guy, takes off her clothes and decapitates him. “But isn’t that…philosophy?” she asked, deadpan.

Martin Bisi played the first half-hour of his set as a suite, segueing from one part to another by frantically laying down one searing loop of guitar feedback on top of another.  This time Bisi’s band had lead guitar, bass, drums and a caped crusader wailing frantically on what sounded like a little Casio running through a million noisy effects, sharing the stage with a woman whose graceful miming quickly became the show’s focal point. In a strange twist of fate, Bisi, like Visconti, is best known for producing great albums for famous bands (Sonic Youth, Herbie Hancock, the Dresden Dolls, ad infinitum), but ultimately it’s his songwriting which is his strongest suit. This evening’s numbers had a distinctly early 80s, East Village feel, sort of Nick Cave as covered by Blue Oyster Cult, ornate and haunting but also with a sense of humor that ran from cynicism to unaffected amusement. About halfway into his suite he ran through the mythology-based Sirens of the Apocalypse (title track of his excellent 2008 album), barrelling through the lyrics without a pause to take a breath. A more recent track, Drink Your Wine came off with an irresistible sarcasm, a word of warning to a lightweight; a dedication to his daughter, far from being mawkish, was a dark garage rocker evocative of the Libertines but tighter. They finally closed their set with a big riff-rock anthem that threatened to burst into flame after it had finally gone out, but it didn’t. The audience wanted more but didn’t get it.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: 900X – Music For Lubbock, 1980

If you can get past the absurdity that laid-back, dub-inspired synthesizer instrumentals might have the faintest relevance to Lubbock, Texas, whether in 1980, before or afterward, this album of playful chillout soundscapes might make you smile. The obvious question is why the party/parties responsible for these nebulous, sometimes western-themed tunes didn’t pull a band together to play them. They’d sound good with tremolo guitar, accordion, and pedal steel maybe, and of course a real rhythm section. But you know how much more it costs to record a real band, especially with the drums. And obviously that’s not the point of all this –  its quirkiness would be lost along with the occasional LOL little tweak that hits you just to see if you’re paying attention. At first listen, this could be some trendoid thinking that a bunch of loops and basic programmed beats could be a substitute for the real thing – Friends of Dean Martinez it’s not – but a closer listen reveals it as more likely the result of several wee-hours bedroom sessions with a little herb, a laptop and a sense of melody matched by a sense of humor. Obviously, this was made for an indie audience, i.e.  the Black Moth Super Rainbow crowd, but could also extend to a more diverse, less rigid listener base.

A couple of tracks set blippy little Casio tunes over moody, swooping organ. A couple others introduce a dub feel, one with an actually effective, trippy electronic drum breakdown, the other, the aptly titled Sunscape doing it with an echoey electric piano loop. The cinematic Everything Feels Temporary works its way up from blue-sky southwest to a soul vamp with oh-oh vocals, funky guitar and bass patches. The next track layers an amusingly awful, cheesy 80s fake brass sound over atmospheric string synth. The closest thing to rock here is the utterly psychedelic 101805 with its various layers peeking around the corners of the mix. Pass out to this with your headphones on. It’s out now on Asthmatic Kitty.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Memoriam: Jay Bennett

Jay Bennett, the brilliant multi-instrumentalist who joined Wilco on tour in 1995, played on their 1996 Being There album and remained with the band through Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002, died at his home in Urbana, Illinois the night of May 24. An autopsy is pending. Bennett had been troubled by recurring hip pain stemming from a stage dive some ten years previously; he’d been recently scheduled for surgery. He was 45.

In many respects, Jay Bennett was Wilco, his inspired, tumbling piano, swirling organ and searing, incisive lead guitar giving the band’s songs an edge that vanished after he left. After departing Wilco, Bennett released four solo albums, the most recent, Whatever Happened, I Apologize released by pioneering Chicago label Rock Proper a few months ago (and very favorably reviewed here).  He also served as producer for several acts ranging from Blues Traveler to Leslie Nuss. An intense yet warm and engaging personality who seemed to take his virtuosity for granted, Bennett suffered for being a brilliant musician in a merely good band. A strong, passionate singer and a terse, sharply literate lyricist, his struggles within Wilco were painfully portrayed in the documentary film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. Earlier this year he filed suit against his former bandmate Jeff Tweedy for breach of contract and unpaid royalties. Bennett leaves behind an unfinished album, Kicking at the Perfumed Air, its title quoting the Boomtown Rats’ sardonic 1980 new wave suicide song Diamond Smiles.

May 30, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, obituary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Years After the Payola Bust, Major Labels and Corporate Radio Still Playing the Same Game

Repost from the Future of Music Coalition via Lefsetz:

Using playlist data licensed from Mediaguide, Future of Music Coalition (FMC) examined four years of airplay – 2005-2008 – from national playlists, and from seven specific music formats: AC, Urban AC, Active Rock, Country, CHR Pop, Triple A Commercial and Triple A Noncommercial. FMC looked at each playlist and calculated the “airplay share” for five different categories of record labels to determine whether the ratio of major label to non-major label airplay has changed over the past four years.

The data in the report indicates almost no measurable change in station playlist composition over the past four years. While this may lead some to conclude that payola is alive and well, and that the Spitzer and FCC agreements were ineffective, the report instead views these results through a broader lens, using the data to describe the state of radio thirteen years after the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The playlist data analysis underscores how radio’s long-standing relationships with major labels, its status quo programming practices and the permissive regulatory structure all work together to create an environment in which songs from major label artists continue to dominate. The major labels’ built-in advantage, in large part the cumulative benefit of years payola-tainted engagement with commercial radio, combined with radio’s risk-averse programming practices, means there are very few spaces left on any playlist for new entrants. Independent labels, which comprise some 30 percent of the domestic music market [editor’s note: actually less, considering the hundreds of thousands of independent, label-free releases every year], are left to vie for mere slivers of airtime, despite negotiated attempts to address this programming imbalance.

This report also confronts a practical challenge in measuring the effectiveness of the policies negotiated by the FCC, broadcasters and the independent music community in 2007. The ambiguous language of the Rules of Engagement and the voluntary agreements make it difficult to set specific policy goals and effectively measure outcomes. In this report’s conclusion, FMC puts forward three policy recommendations – improving data collection, refocusing on localism and expanding the number of voices on the public airwaves – designed to assist both broadcasters and the FCC in ensuring a bright future for local radio and for the music community.

Read the full report here.

May 7, 2009 Posted by | Culture, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Douce Gimlet and White Hassle at CB’s Gallery, NYC 3/9/00

[editor’s note – here’s another blast from the past. More new stuff tomorrow!]

Part of an “underground film festival,” in reality just a bunch of friends of videographer Jim Spring. Thus, the Douce and WH on the bill together again. A funny short film by Spring about misadventures in the East Village in the late 80s preceded the Douce’s excellent, highly electrifying 40-minute set. Violinist Josh Diamond was AWOL, which put the burden of melodic embellishment on frontman/guitarist Ben Plummer, and he rose to the occasion. They did the old and new intros back to back, Plummer playing tenor sax in tandem with baritone saxist Paula Henderson (of Moisturizer). Later, they did the strangely touching country ballad Little Lovers’ Society and then the high point of the entire night, a chilling, chromatically charged version of their best new song, The Well, Plummer wailing slowly and methodically through two powerful, blackboard-scraping, Keith Levene-esque solos. A bit later they returned to catchy, jazz-inflected pop territory with the propulsive, deliciously chordal Trudy, then eventually the walk-off instrumental where Plummer and Henderson left the stage with their saxes and while playing in tandem, slowly walked all the way to the front exit and then out onto the street while the rhythm section continued onstage.

After two films (one a hideous exercise in video masturbation, featuring a striptease from a sagging, sixtysomething woman, then Plummer’s frequently hilarious, dadaesque college film Juan Frijoles), White Hassle took the stage and wailed through an all-too-brief half-hour set. The punk/folk/country trio (just two guitars and drums) opened with an intro featuring a dj on turntables, then ripped through a tight, driven cover of the Robert Johnson classic Rolling and Tumbling. On their version of the Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe, lead player Matt Oliverio was painfully out of tune until he realized it about halfway through and wisely sat it out until the end of the song. Their big audience hit Life Is Still Sweet, set to a classic soul chord progression, was as warmly uplifting – and warmly received – as it always is. They closed with a wild, hyperkinetic version of their percussion-driven instrumental Futura Trance 2000, frontman Marcellus Hall putting down his guitar at one point to flail away on the empty beer keg, kitchen pots and the frame from a window fan that drummer Dave Varenka had brought along.

[postscript: Douce Gimlet broke up only a year later; their talented frontman would tragically die under very suspicious circumstances later in the decade. White Hassle seem to be on hiatus at this point, while their frontman continues his remarkably excellent solo career; however, they toured Europe last year and another doesn’t seem to be out of the question.]

March 9, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Review: AK Healey at Luna Lounge, Brooklyn NY 12/5/07

Always leave them wanting more, the saying goes, and tonight AK Healey did just that. In a classy (and savvy) piece of booking by the Luna people, Healey was handed a captive audience, the big room filled with oldsters from out of town who’d come to see headliner Steve Forbert. An odd segue, perhaps, the once-and-future Scout frontwoman followed by a folksinger from the 70s. But his crowd’s a lot more likely to actually buy cds instead of downloading all their music for nothing. That there were a gaggle of kids in the back by the bar who’d actually come out and paid the $20 cover to see her play for barely a half an hour says something about the loyalty of her fan base. Playing the vintage red Gibson she used in her old band and accompanied by just a guitarist singing harmonies and playing the same kind of minimalist melodic lines you’d find in Scout songs, it was more apparent than ever that Scout basically was Healey. She’s never sung better, her clear, unaffected alto cutting through without having to fight the din of a band behind her, once in awhile pushing just to where her voice would start to break up into grit, like an overdriven amp, when she needed to make a point. She was also remarkably at ease with the audience despite the intimate, stripped-down setting – there were rows of chairs set up for this show. At Luna Lounge, imagine that.

Healey’s rain-streaked, thoughtfully melancholy songs are like a windbreaker on a brisk, late fall morning: you’ll survive without them, but you might be miserable. Tonight it was triumphantly clear that Healey’s vision is undiminished: she’s nothing if not consistent. If you like Cat Power, Girl Friday, or Randi Russo’s quieter songs, you’ll love AK Healey. No notes are wasted, catchy hooks casually insinuated everywhere rather than being thrust in your face. Healey’s music falls under the vast, shaky tent that people call indie rock for lack of a better word, but her melodic sensibility is classic pop, if through the bottom of a glass, darkly. A lot of her songs utilize those moveable guitar chords that are both the backbone and the bane of indie rock, but she doesn’t rely exclusively on them: she has the technique to play whatever she needs to get the job done. Tonight she used a beatbox on a couple of them, which got a few chuckles. Her brief set included only one song dating from the Scout days, the big audience hit I’ve Got a Secret. On one of the later numbers, the lead player put down his beautiful two-tone Gibson Firebird and added organ tones with an Omnichord, a 70s artifact that looks like a miniature UFO and works something like an electrified autoharp. Healey’s best songs were the ones she used to open and close the show. The opener, Songs to Strangers (as in, “when you sing songs to strangers”) began darkly in a minor key; the closing number, with its insistent, harmony-laden chorus of “everything’s the same,” was as wistful as it was anthemic, two qualities that might seem at odds with each other, but Healey made it work. That these songs would stand up on their own without a band and just bare-bones arrangements testifies to how well Healey’s writing right now: she’s at the top of her game.

[postscript – AK Healey would go on to join popular, hypnotic, artsy rockers Hurricane Bells, the latest project from former Longwave and Scout guitarist Steve Schiltz]

December 6, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment