Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: HuDost – Trapeze

The second album by adventurous Montreal band HuDost was produced by Malcolm Burn (Peter Gabriel, Midnight Oil) who gives their ethereal, sometimes country-flavored, sometimes goth-inflected pop songs a sheen that underscores their rustic side rather than glossing over it. With her clear, soaring voice, frontwoman/keyboardist Moksha Sommer echoes a couple of NYC rock legends – she’s something of a cross between a more overtly sultry Paula Carino and a less boisterous Juliana Nash. Perhaps adding to the already wary edge in her voice is that she recorded this album after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, but before the operation.

The album opens with the goth-pop epic Trespasser, a cut that with a little exposure will be a fixture in the background wherever black robes and eyeliner are found. About half the songs here take a traditional country ballad feel and add an unexpected edge, whether that might be exotic instrumentation (harmonium, bouzouki, oud and bendir) or a more hypnotic vibe – one of them sounds like a more interesting update on the Rosanne Cash hit Seven Year Ache. The most memorable track is an understatedly haunting number sung in both English and French, recounting how greedy developers paved over a cemetery for the poor, ripped out the headstones, left the graves and with erosion the bodies came through the ground again. Of the other tracks here, there’s a catchy Beatlesque hit that morphs into new wave, a vivid, psychedelic midtempo chamber pop ballad, and the upbeat, tongue-in-cheek All My Guitars (sung by guitarist Jemal Wade Hines), an artsy pop song that wouldn’t be out of place in the Snow‘s songbook. It’s nice to see a band like this who don’t sacrifice content for commerciality yet have a theoretically almost limitless upside for hit potential: these songs are catchy, and thankfully, Canadian radio is mandated to push Canadian artists, so they ought to have at least one market locked up.

The best news of all here is that Sommer is in good health again and the band will be on US tour Sept 16-Oct 15, watch this space for NY dates.

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September 10, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 4/20/09

We do this every week. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Pretty much each link here will take you to the song; if not, you’ll have to check back here for live dates.

 

1. Juliana Nash – Love Song for New York

Classic, fiery, late 90s style underground NYC rock:  “It’s 6 AM and I’m drunk again…I turn incidents to habits!” Unreleased, as far as we know; watch this space for hopefully a live date or two sometime from the former Pete’s Candy Store proprietress.

 

2. Lenny Molotov – Brother Can You Spare a Dime

Updated for the new depression: stockbrokers become crackheads. Unreleased, watch this space for live dates.

 

3. Kerry Kennedy – Sons of Sons

Gorgeous NYC noir rock evocative of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s classic Deep One Perfect Morning

 

4. Moisturizer – The Kitchen Is Closed

Brilliant, counterintuitive bass goddess Moist Gina doing Larry Graham one better. They’re at Black Betty on 4/29 at 10 debuting their brand-new five-piece lineup!

 

5. The New Collisions – Ones to Wander

The Boston new wave revivalists have a ton of catchy, edgy three-minute gems and this is one of them. “Oh my eyes!” They’re at Arlene’s at 7 on 4/23 and the Delancey on 5/21

 

6. El Radio Fantastique – Riverbed 

Swaying, haunting, imaginative modern noir cabaret.

 

7. Linda DraperTime Will Tell

The great New York songwriter/lyricist has yet another new cd out, titled Bridge & Tunnel and this is a choice cut.  

 

8. Traquair – Perverted by the 21st Century

Scottish singer-songwriter – catchy, smart, terse.

 

9. This Spy Surfs – Spy Beach

Smartly virtuosic but tasteful guitar instrumental stylings. They’re at LIC Bar on May 15.  

 

10. King Django – Thirsty

Characteristically hypnotic but interesting dub reggae. They’re at Shrine on May 1.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson and Juliana Nash at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 3/10/09

A welcome return appearance by two very different, very conspicuously absent songwriting sirens. Jenifer Jackson has gotten a lot of ink here, justifiably: she’s simply one of the finest songwriters on the planet, someone who leaps effortlessly across boundaries, intermingling styles with a seemingly intuitive melodicism. Mixing old favorites with songs from a new cd which is three-quarters done, she said, she delivered a typically captivating set, playing her first three songs solo on guitar.

 

She opened with an unreleased, fetchingly catchy Americana pop number, In Spring: “Time goes fast, living in the past, maybe love will come again in spring,” she sang in her signature warm, wistful voice. On both of the next two songs, We Will Be Together and Whole Wide World, she waited til the last chorus and then improvised her way up the scale with not a little imploring and anguish and this was intense to say the least. 

 

Pianist Matt Kanelos then joined her on another new one, Words, a dark existentialist lament that transcends its pretty melody, contributing an aptly darkly glistening solo, Debussy meets Gershwin, when the time came. Jackson sang it impatiently: “Words, get out of my way, tripping me where I go…talk about the moment that is here!” The textural interplay between Kanelos’ sharp piano and Jackson’s warmly crescendoing fingerpicking was absolutely gorgeous in the relatively new, 6/8 ballad The Beauty in the Emptying.

 

The best songs of the set were dark, pensive new ones. “Yesterday the motion had no meaning, yesterday the seasons were careening,”  she related in the first, Groundward, ending up on a predictably brooding note: “Summer rain is falling.” The second, Maybe, was absolutely haunting, noir Bacharach-style bossa nova pop with a theme of restlessness, a recurrent topic in Jackson’s work. “Maybe this is as much sense as life will ever make,” she sang, half cynical and half resigned, Kanelos adding a brilliant, eerie chordal solo followed by Jackson’s la-la-la outro, ending unexpectedly and ominously with a minor-key flourish. The two encored with a hasty, happy-go-lucky cover of the old Delfonics’ doo-wop hit La La Means I Love You.

 

Juliana Nash is fondly remembered around these parts as the architect of the Pete’s Candy Store sound, and a den mom of sorts to scores of excellent New York acoustic bands who called the little Brooklyn bar home from the mid-90s to the early zeros. This was a striking reminder of how fun her own shows at her old home base used to be. A petite woman with a matter-of-fact, deadpan wit and a big, powerful soul voice, she told the crowd that this was her first-ever show featuring just guitar and piano (Kanelos back behind the keys again, unrehearsed but gamely following Nash’s smartly intiutive, catchy changes). Fighting off the rust (she hasn’t had many shows here in town recently), she held a lot in reserve tonight until the end of the show, working her way through a mix of pleasantly familiar, pensive, sometimes countryish pop songs. Like Jackson, she has an ear for a hook and an eye for a striking lyrical image: “Love’s a champion battleship, you need an ocean of tears to float it,” she lamented on the the blue-eyed soul ballad Love Is Heavy that opened the show. Another thoughtful ballad, Maybe Street, looked at life sardonically and metaphorically through the eyes of sisters named Hope and Joy. She used the pensive Built for Longing as an exercise in subtle shading rather than turning it into a big tour de force like she usually does.

 

She related a story of how she and Jackson many years ago celebrated a birthday by shoplifting a couple of tiaras out of a 99-cent store because they were too broke to afford them. And then launched into a hilarious and absolutely spot-on, somewhat Lou Reed-inflected riff-rock homage to the wee hours in New York: “It’s six AM and I’m drunk again, I turn incidents to habits,” she wailed gleefully. For anyone who’d ever walked home from the L at 14th St. after closing Pete’s, watching the newspaper trucks make their rounds, this hit the spot sweetly. She wrapped up the show with the passionate yet wary rocker Tiny Belladonna (written about her daughter), a darkly beautiful, elegaic number where she cautioned that “It’s ok not to be everything we thought we would be when we were young,” and another soul-inflected ballad, Everlasting Ache where she paced herself until the end before finally cutting loose with that voice of hers. And then encored with the tongue-in-cheek Rocks in Your Head, something she’d pulled fortuitously from the archives. Jenifer Jackson is back at the Rockwood on Mar 24 at 8; watch this space for Juliana Nash sightings.

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monica Passin/Sean Kershaw and the New Jack Ramblers at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 4/24/08

It’s no secret that New York has one of the most vital, thriving country music scenes anywhere. Forget any snide commentary you may have overheard about urban musicians playing country: if anything, the music coming out of the New York country scene is far more traditionally-oriented than most anything Nashville is producing these days. Tonight’s bill paired two of the more popular country acts in town. Monica Passin, frontwoman of long-running Rodeo Bar honkytonkers L’il Mo and the Monicats played mostly solo acoustic, with occasional help from a couple of women who sang harmonies, and the New Jack Ramblers’ amazing lead guitarist. She’s pretty much everything you could want in a country singer: pretty voice, good songs, good taste in covers and backing musicians. Her best song was a minor-key rockabilly number – the first one in that style she’d ever written, she said – possibly titled This Cat. The lead player used Passin’s ominous chord changes as a springboard for a riveting, intense, jazz-inflected solo that drew roars of appreciation from the crowd. On the last song, Passin invited Lisa, the bar owner up to sing harmonies, and as it turned out she’s actually good! Not since the days when Juliana Nash ran the show at Pete’s Candy Store has there been a bar owner who’s been able to show off such a soaring, fearless voice. Bands in need of a frontwoman ought to stop by the bar: she won’t embarrass you, and if all else fails you’ll always have a place to play.

Sean Kershaw and the New Jack Ramblers aren’t exactly under the radar, maintaining a hectic gig schedule in addition to the regular Sunday night residency they’ve been playing at Hank’s for what seems forever. They’re a rotating crew of some of the best players in town: the weekly Sunday show originated out of necessity, as this was the only night everybody in the band didn’t have a gig. Tonight, backed by just lead guitar and upright bass (their awe-inspiring pedal steel player Bob Hoffnar wasn’t available, and you really don’t need drums in a small room like Banjo Jim’s), Kershaw ran through a mix of what sounded like covers but probably weren’t. The guy’s a hell of a songwriter, a prolific, versatile writer as comfortable with western swing as honkytonk, rockabilly or stark, Johnny Cash-inspired narratives. Tonight’s show was the western swing show, driven by lead guitarist Skip Krevens, whose ability to burn through a whole slew of styles was nothing short of spectacular, everything from jazz to rockabilly to blues. He made it seem effortless. They gamely ran through the old standard Smoke That Cigarette in addition to a bunch of originals, some recorded, some not, closing the first of their two sets with what has become Kershaw’s signature song, Moonlight Eyes. Originally recorded with his first band, the fiery, rockabilly unit the Blind Pharaohs, it’s a genuine classic, something that sounds like a Carl Perkins hit from 1956. Kershaw has played it a million times, but still manages to make it sound fresh, the ominous undercurrent beneath its blithe romantic sway more apparent than ever tonight, stripped down to just the basics.

And what was even more apparent was that both of the acts on this bill would probably be big stars in a smaller metropolis: here, they’re only part of a widespread, talented scene.

April 25, 2008 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment