Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 7/17/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #562:

The Modern Lovers’ first album

We’re trying hard not to duplicate the two best-known “best albums” lists on the web, but this one pretty much everybody agrees on. Recorded in 1972 (back when Jonathan Richman still had an edge, before he turned into a parody of himself), not released until 1976, enormously influential and still a great party album after all these years, it’s a mix of scurrying second-generation Velvets vamps and poppier janglerock. The iconic one here is Roadrunner (memorably butchered by the Sex Pistols). Richman may have held hippies in contempt (the hilarious bonus track I’m Straight), but he goes in that direction on Astral Plane. Otherwise, he’s cranky and defiantly retro on Old World and Modern World, hauntingly poignant on She Cracked and Hospital, LOL funny on their cover of John Cale’s Pablo Picasso (who really was an asshole), and only gets sappy on Someone I Care About. The early zeros reissue comes with a bunch of bonus tracks which include the Boston classic Government Center but otherwise aren’t up to the level of the John Cale-produced originals. Extra props to the band for contributing members to both the Talking Heads and Robin Lane & the Chartbusters. Here’s a random torrent.

July 16, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Album of the Day 7/8/11

Our exhaustive July-August NYC live music calendar is finally, finally 99% complete…at least as complete as it ever gets, considering that we update it every day.  More new stuff coming soon! Also, as we do every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #571:

Penelope Houston – Pale Green Girl

Best known as the leader of late 70s punk rockers the Avengers – who were sort of the American Sex Pistols – Penelope Houston subsequently forged out a brilliant career as a much quieter, mostly acoustic tunesmith. She’s literally never made a bad album. Among the many cult classics in her catalog, this 2004 release gets the nod, if only for its consistency all the way through. Aside from the Avengers, it’s her hardest-rocking effort to date, with a late 60s psychedelic pop vibe fueled by gorgeous twelve-string guitar. As you would expect, it’s eclectic, ranging from the hopeful, jangly Take My Hand, to the sad, ghostly Aviatrix, the disarmingly poppy, metaphorically-charged Flight 609, and the quietly savage outsider anthem that serves as the title track. Bottom Line veers from dark reggae to jangly Byrdsiness; Privilege & Gold, Walnut and Snow are bitterly vivid, lyrical Britfolk-inflected laments; the album ends with Soul Redeemer, the searing account of a rape survivor, and a lushly beautiful cover of John Cale’s Buffalo Ballet. This one hasn’t made it to the sharelockers, surprisingly, but the whole thing is streaming at myspace (don’t forget to reload the page after each song or else you’ll be assaulted by a loud audio ad) and it’s still available from Houston’s site.

July 8, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/27/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #855:

Florence Dore – Perfect City

These days she’s a Kent State professor, a Faulkner scholar and author of The Novel and the Obscene: Sexual Subjects in American Modernism (Stanford University Press, 2005) which makes the somewhat iconoclastic argument that early 20th century American writers’ embrace of forbidden subjects lagged behind the loosening of prudish obscenity laws. She was also the cool professor on the NYU campus in 2001 when she was playing clubs and released this, her only solo album (which she didn’t tell even her students about until late in the semester). Produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and backed by a terrific, jangly Americana rock band featuring Chris Erikson on electric guitar, Scott Yoder on bass and the Smithereens’ Dennis Diken on drums, she runs through a tuneful, tersely literate mix of upbeat janglerockers and quieter, more country-tinged fare lit up by her honey-and-vinegar Nashville twang. There’s the unaffectedly gripping country ballad Early World (the most captivating song ever written about job-hunting in higher education); the raw, riff-rocking title track and the even rawer, early Who-style Framed; the absurdly catchy Americana pop of Everything I Dreamed; the sad, elegaic Wintertown (a sort of prayer for closure for the Kent State massacre); the brooding No Nashville and its vividly evocative dysfunctional family hell; and Christmas, arguably the finest, saddest and most satisfying December kiss-off song ever written. The original album has been out of print for years, although there are still used copies floating around, and amazon still has it as a download.

September 28, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/21/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #861:

Amy Rigby – 18 Again

Everything Amy Rigby ever recorded is worth owning. She was ten years ahead of her time as a member of obscure alt-country pioneers the Last Roundup and then with the irresistible, irrepressible all-female country harmony trio the Shams before breaking out on her own with the landmark Diary of a Mod Housewife in 1996. So why did we pick this one, a greatest-hits album from 2003? Because the songs were so well-chosen. It’s got most if not all of the best stuff from her first three albums through the year 2000, along with some savagely good bonus tracks which have become big crowd-pleasers, notably the blackly funny murder-conspiracy ballad Keep It To Yourself. With her wounded, nuanced voice always on the edge of either crushing heartbreak or ruthless wrath, her love of puns and double entendres, purist pop sensibility and populist politics, she recounts the last delicious months before family and responsibility took over on the wistful, Beatlesque Summer of My Wasted Youth; delivers a withering sendup of marriage and its equivalents on Cynically Yours; peels the facade off her drunken cheating man with 20 Questions; catalogs the spirit-crushing struggles of a single mom on Raising the Bar, and those of the pink-collar crowd on The Good Girls; casts a scathing glance at guys who would insinuate that this diva is over the hill on Invisible; and offers one of the funniest yet most chilling looks at alienation in the lands far outside the comfort of city limits with Rode Hard. There is a happy ending here: in 2008 she married another first-class musical storyteller, Wreckless Eric, with whom she’s also made two first-class albums.

September 20, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Dadi – Bem Aqui

Who’s your Dadi? If you’re Brazilian, it’s probably Eduardo Magalhaes de Carvalho. Over the course of a long and eclectic career as a sideman, he’s worked with everybody from Marisa Monte to Caetano Veloso to Mick Jagger. This new album, his second as a bandleader is recently out on Sunnyside, and unlike what you might expect from that label it’s not a jazz release but instead a tersely arranged, irrepressibly sunny, indelibly Beatlesque collection of sixties-flavored three-minute pop songs. For those who were smitten by Os Mutantes, whether the first time around or later, this is considerably more direct yet equally cheery and captivating. Carvalho sings in Portuguese with a casual, thoughtful understatement.

The album kicks off with a Stax/Volt style shuffle transported to even balmier surroundings, followed by a fetching duet with Monte over swaying, vintage 70s style janglepop  driven by tasteful electric guitar and organ. The title track is sparse nocturnal bossa-pop with acoustic guitar, piano and cello; likewise, Passando echoes hypnotically with distant piano in a Jenifer Jackson vein. Nao Tente Comprender (You Don’t Get It) nicks the chords from the Beatles’ You Won’t See Me; the strikingly minimalist, swaying 6/8 rock ballad Quando Voce Me Abraca (When You Embrace Me) blends tropicalia with deliciously glimmering layers of guitars and piano.

There’s also an ominously swinging, 6/8 Os Mutantes-inflected psychedelic number capped by fat blues guitar solo; another Beatlesque tune that could have been a Brazilian version of a top 40 hit from Let It Be, right down to the watery, George Harrison-esque chorus box guitar; and another Harrison-inflected song, the gorgeous, slowly crescendoing  jazz-pop anthem Por Que Nao (Why Not). The album ends on a surprisingly dark note with a fiery, bluesy, early Santana-esque one-chord rock jam, hinting that this guy may rock harder than he lets on here. If Dadi’s lyrics were in English, he’d be huge with the American indie pop crowd, the Shins et al. As it is, it’s a breezy, fun album, the kind you find yourself humming and wonder what that tune could have come from.

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: New Madrid at Shea Stadium 10/2/09

Let the record show that Brooklyn rockers New Madrid did in fact play Shea Stadium and won over a small but enthusiastic crowd – crowds tend to be small, after all, considering how depleted the Mets were this season. New Madrid are a trio right now. They have a guitarist, bassist and a drummer who fronts the band, in the tradition of New Order (when Steve Morris was the singer), Terry Anderson’s OAKTeam and Marmalade (the New York indie pop band, not Ian Matthews’ 70s Britfolk act). Throughout a roughly 45-minute set, it was clear that their recent four-song ep (very favorably reviewed here) was no fluke – they hit you with one catchy, anthemic hook after another, but they deliver them casually and methodically without hitting you in the face with them. New Madrid’s live sound has an overall pensive, thoughtful feel despite frequent and dramatic shifts in volume: let it wash over you and you can get lost in this, as their fans seemed to be doing. One similar band that immediately came to mind was Australian art-rock legends the Church, or, although New Madrid don’t have as much of a deliberately latin feel, Mexican anthem-meisters Jaguares. Their guitarist didn’t waste notes, varying his textures from a seemingly effortless roar to various shades of juicy jangle and clang, his terse, often reverberating fills and accents filling the space. Likewise, the rhythm section was terse and in the pocket – they don’t like to waste notes either. They varied their tempos, from a big, crunchy riff-rocker to several swaying, ominously crescendoing midtempo tunes, one ending with an unexpected and very effectively bracing blast of feedback – if this was intentional, it was resoundingly successful, if not it still brought the sound to a pretty intense peak. And it was quite a contrast with the drummer’s understatedly soulful baritone delivery. This is the kind of band you want to see in the spacious confines of a small club, where you can focus on the subtleties because this crew has plenty. Their next gig is on Oct 9 at 9 PM at the Castle in Hell in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, 842 Myrtle Ave., G train to Myrtle-Willoughby.

The opening band also made a mark with their catchy 80s gothpop feel. There are still a million Cure wannabes out there, but Demander transcend that label. To say that they’re like Paramore without the cliches is an oxymoron, but try anyway. Their frontwoman stayed within herself and didn’t overemote, the fast new wave beat kept the heads bobbing and their songwriting proved as full of hooks – if not as rocking – as New Madrid’s is.

And if you’ve read this far down, or if you follow the Brooklyn music scene closely, you’ll know by now that the venue where all this happened was actually the remote Bushwick loft space known as Shea Stadium rather than the lovable dump where Seaver, Koosman, Piazza and all the rest played their best years. RIP Shea, and kudos to the crew with the loft for carrying on the name. Memo to the band manager: this headline’s for you, bro.

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review from the Archives: The Railway Children at the Marquee, NYC 11/21/90

[editor’s note: since we’re off for Thanksgiving, we’re putting up stuff from the archives each day while we’re away. Maybe you were there for some of these!]

Jangly Manchester band the Railway Children’s new CD Native Place is a slick and trebly overproduced mess, with synthesizers where the band would ordinarily use layers of guitars, so the game plan tonight was to find out how well they would play the songs if left to their own devices. Pretty well is the answer. The concert consisted of virtually all new material plus songs which are either brand-new, bonus cuts from the cd or from some hitherto unknown ep. They opened with It’s Heaven, which really rocks live without the stupid synth hook on the album. They continued with new material until about a third of the way through the show when the sound was suddenly boosted to earsplitting levels, bass and vocals distorting, drowning out the other instruments and turning the sound into a painfully fuzzy soup. After this happened, the anthemic Over and Over and A Pleasure were anything but that: the latter song’s deliciously recurrent Rickenbacker guitar arpeggios were for all intents and purposes inaudible. A real disappointment, especially in the wake of their excellent Staten Island performance earlier this fall. But it wasn’t the band’s fault.

[postscript: the band, a post-Smiths, 2-guitar unit put out three albums before imploding in the early 90s. Their first record, Reunion Wilderness, was a bracing, jazz-inflected effort, although with its incessant 2/4 dance beat, it was pretty monochromatic. Their second, Recurrence was their high-water mark, filled with pretty, major-key songs including the obscure classic A Pleasure (which became a live concert staple). The overproduced album they were promoting on this tour gained them a big club hit but alienated their core audience, a gaffe from which the band never recovered. The venue, a hangar-like former warehouse space in Chelsea, closed in about 1993, outlasting the band by barely a year. ]

November 22, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Sputnik – Shine on…

Sputnik‘s new cd is an Indian summer album: bright, shiny, shimmery yet wistful. Most of it is catchy, upbeat, major-key janglepop with breathy, often totally sultry vocals from frontwoman Genie Morrow. It seems to have been written in the wake of a breakup, considering that a lot of the songs lament the end of a relationship. They’re pretty affecting, too, especially the album’s fourth cut, 2541, which is a street address, the only one shared by a couple prior to their split. The boyfriend apparently kept it: “It’ll probably not be the last time that I have to be out by the first,” Morrow muses. But her songs aren’t sad: there’s a resilience and optimism underneath, and the music bears this out.

There are a ton of supremely catchy numbers on this album: the title track, the rousing Brightest Day of Summer and Ridin’ in My Car, the bouncy Rappaport Account and an impressively fiery cover of the Grass Roots hit Temptation Eyes: Joe Drew’s layers of trumpet, in tandem with the keyboards, give it the feel of an entire horn section blazing away. The album’s best track is Shoot the Curl: “They’ll never ever hurt me,” Morrow sings over and over again, an impressively decisive mantra. The band is effortlessly tight and inspired: guitarist/keyboardist Mic Rains, bassist Pem Roach and former Scout Nigel Rawles on drums have an easy camaraderie with the songs. Since Rawles is involved, you can count on the usual dadaesque between-song found footage, strange studio patter and the like. The album’s silliest moment is the cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love, which one one level makes perfect sense: the band is called Sputnik, after all. But one suspects Rawles wanted to do it just so he could do the “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday with Harry, Mark and John” bit. And it’s as funny as you would expect. Rains adds a shamelessly grotesque heavy blues coda just like the Jack Wagner solo on the Rock N Roll Animal version. This is a good party album, a good driving album, a good ipod album too. Four bagels from Essa Bagel (the best in town).

September 21, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review: Leslie Nuss – Round 3

Guitar-slinging southpaw siren who made her mark here in New York before finding acclaim and a prestige niche in the fashion world, then moving out to Indiana to start a family. She remains a potent force in rock. This album, Leslie Nuss’ fourth, may or may not be her best: the jangly Heliotrope, the lush, sensual Action Hero Superstar or the self-titled power pop tour de force that she put out after that one all have their moments. This is her most diverse effort to date, showcasing her redoubtable pop melodicism, political fortitude, keen sense of humor and even a goofy psychedelic side. It’s a loosely thematic collection of songs about conflict.

The cd opens with a deadpan, Lilith Fair style take on the 80s karaoke/action film chestnut Eye of the Tiger. It’s hard to tell whether this is a joke – Nuss is known for her wit – or if it’s an attempt to mine some genuine feeling or pathos from the song. Either way, it’s hilarious. Featuring a deliciously terse electric piano solo, the cd’s following cut, Saboteurs is a fiery, garage-inflected minor key broadside at toxic people: “Sometimes it seems that they’re the only ones around.” The next tune Landscape, with its swinging retro 60s piano melody and whispery vocals, sounds like classic Mamas & the Papas. We also get a blistering critique of all things zeros, cast as a hard-hitting early 80s new wave/punk hit (What’s Wrong With Me); a sunny, Farfisa-driven Carnaby Street-style 60s pop hit (Mermaid); a girl-power anthem (Sex Is Sex); the anguished tale of a Vietnam vet (Shell Shocked) and Drive, which is simply one of the sexiest songs ever written, this version far more sensual than the faster, percussive version that appeared on her previous album.

As usual, Nuss has a stellar cast of backing musicians, perhaps most notably bass goddess Anne-Marie Stehn, late of Skinny Ruth and notorious Starbucks house band Antigone Rising (who deep-sixed her because she was too much of a rocker). Fans of the A-list of rock sirens: Neko Case, Mary Lee Kortes, Erica Smith, Aimee Mann – will find plenty to feast on here. Leslie Nuss doesn’t play many shows in NYC anymore, but a return trip every now and then is always a possibility.

May 6, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CD Review – Amy Allison – Everything and Nothing Too

Her best, strongest collection of songs. That’s quite an achievement for someone who already has a couple of genuine classic albums under her belt, The Maudlin Years and Sad Girl. Amy Allison is a master of the mot juste, the double or triple or quadruple entendre: no wonder Elvis Costello likes her so much. Until lately, she wrote country songs imbued with an inimitably droll wit and charm: it’s hard not to fall for the elegantly phrased klutz in all things romantic that she played to the hilt earlier in her career. But it’s never easy to tell whether she’s laying it on the line, messing with your head or doing both at the same time, and that’s the secret to her success. That, and that exquisite voice, which has taken on a darker tone recently, with a gravitas that didn’t used to creep into her often sidesplittingly funny lyrics. Technically speaking, she’s a terrific singer with soaring range and surprising power for someone whose twangy timbre falls thisclose to cartoonish. That she took that voice, ran with it and made it a thing of such strange, unique beauty testifies to her smarts as a musician (probably runs in the family: her dad is saloon jazz legend Mose Allison, without whom Tom Waits probably wouldn’t exist, or at the least wouldn’t be so popular).

Like her criminally underrated previous album No Frills Friend, this one is basically pop songs set to jangly, mostly midtempo guitar rock arrangements, a style Allison has mastered as she did country music, ten years ago. The cd kicks off with Don’t Go to Sleep, a jazzy pop gem that sounds like a dead ringer for something from mid-60s London. The next two tracks, Don’t You Know Anything and the album’s title track highlight Allison’s knowingly wise, terse lyricism. The fast, bouncy Out of Sight, Out of Mind wouldn’t be out of place on one of her country albums.

Right about here, it gets dark in a hurry. The next cut Troubled Boy, a snapshot of a (predictably) failed romance between a couple of troubled people, only hints at what’s to come. After that, Allison takes no prisoners on the what-on-earth-do-you-see-in-that-loser diatribe Have You No Pride? Then the sun sinks under the horizon, with Rose Red:

Snow White, Snow White
I’m Rose Red
Keep the wolf from my door
I will be a hothouse flower
And I’ll never go out anymore

It’s one of her most affecting and powerful songs, as is the album’s centerpiece, the depressive anthem Turn Out the Lights.

In my room
Far from the crowd
My bed’s a tomb
My quilt’s a shroud
I’ve had my fill
Of restless nights

I’d just as soon
Turn out the lights

It’s arguably her best song, an apt companion piece to the equally haunting title track from her previous album (sung from the point of view of a woman who’s so lonely that she’s willing to go out with a guy who literally won’t say a word to her). But just as everything seems to be ready to fall into the abyss, the album picks up with a rousingly guitarish cover of the Smiths’ vitriolic classic Every Day is Sunday, and concludes with a charming duet between Allison and her dad on his song Was – peep her myspace for the youtube video.

Allison is hilarious onstage: if you haven’t seen her you owe it to yourself, you are in for a treat. She plays Banjo Jim’s on Sat Apr 14 at 6 PM, then Mo Pitkins at 7:30 PM downstairs on Apr 19 and upstairs on Apr 26 at the same hour. Cds are available online and at shows.

April 11, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment