Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Krista Detor’s Chocolate Paper Suites Are Dark and Delicious

Krista Detor’s album Chocolate Paper Suites has been out for awhile this year – but who’s counting. It’s a dark lyrical feast. Images and symbols rain down in a phantasmagorical torrent and then reappear when least expected – and the pictures they paint pack a wallop. This is first and foremost a headphone album: casual listening will get you nowhere with her. Detor’s carefully modulated alto vocals land somewhere between Aimee Mann and Paula Carino over a bed of tastefully artsy piano-based midtempo rock/pop that downplays the lyrics’ frequent offhand menace. While Detor sings in character, a bitterness and a weariness connects the dots between the album’s five three-song suites. Allusion is everything; most of the action is off-camera and every image that makes it into the picture is loaded. Not exactly bland adult contemporary fare.

The first suite is Oranges Fall Like Rain. The opening track swirls hypnotic and Beatlesque, essentially a one-chord backbeat vamp in the same vein as the Church. Detor’s heavy symbolism sets the stage: a green umbrella, the rich guy in the title pulling out a knife to cut the orange, a desire for a “white car driving up to the sun.” Its second part, Lorca in Barcelona mingles surreal, death-fixated imagery with a dark, tango-tinged chorus. Its conclusion is savage, a rail against not only the dying of the light but any death of intelligence:

Poetry is dead, Delilah said,
Maybe in a pocket somewhere in Prague
That’s all that’s left of it
Are you a good dog?

The Night Light triptych puts a relationship’s last painful days on the autopsy table. Its first segment, Night Light – Dazzling is an Aimee Mann ripoff but a very good one, its slowly swinging acoustic guitar shuffle painting an offhandedly scathing portrait, a snide party scene where the entitled antagonist acts out to the point where the fire department comes. What they’re doing there, of course, is never stated. Night Light – All to Do with the Moon is a stargazer’s lament, all loaded imagery: “It’s the synchronous orbit that blinds my view.” It ends with the slow, embittered, oldtimey shades of Teeter-Totter on a Star, Mama Cass as done by Lianne Smith, maybe. The Madness of Love trio aims for a sultry acoustic funk vibe, with mixed results. Its high point is the concluding segment, gospel as seen though a minimalistic lens, the narrator regretting her caustic I-told-you-so to her heartbroken pal, even though she knows she’s right.

By Any Other Name opens with a pensive reflection on time forever lost, Joni Mitchell meets noir 60s folk-pop; set to a plaintive violin-and-piano arrangement, its second segment is another killer mystery track, a couple out on a romantic two-seater bicycle ride with some unexpected distractions. The final suite was written as part of the Darwin Songhouse, a series of songs on themes related to Charles Darwin: a very funny if somewhat macabre-tinged oldtimey swing number told from the point of view of an unreconstructed creationist; a live concert version of a long Irish-flavored ballad that quietly and matter-of-factly casts the idea of divine predestination as diabolical hell, and a lullaby. New Yorkers can experience Detor’s unique craftsmanship and understatedly beautiful voice live at City Winery on October 18.

September 23, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Lianne Smith at Soundfix Lounge, Brooklyn NY 11/21/08

“This place used to be my closet,” Lianne Smith told the hushed crowd in the backroom bar in the old Beacon’s Closet space. “If I didn’t want to wear something anymore I could just come down here and trade it. Now they don’t take my clothes, I guess I’m not cool enough anymore!” she laughed. Coming from someone who represents some of the best that oldschool Williamsburg’s ever had to offer, that spoke volumes. “I go to the new place and I think to myself, I can’t believe they bought that!”

 

Fashionwise, Smith may go for classic East Village chic, but musically she defies categorization. The former teenage rockabilly siren and frequent Nada Surf collaborator blends Americana with indie rock and a little 80s new wave influence without fitting squarely into any of those genres, which is her saving grace: she’s nothing if not original. While her voice – a powerful, crystalline soprano that sometimes soars into the uppermost registers with spine-tingling intensity – has always been her drawing card, ultimately it’s her writing that separates her from the rest of the pack. Fun, and a counterintuitive sensibility define her. Fond of minutiae but not precious about it, a born storyteller but not a longwinded one, she can keep an audience in stitches if she’s in the mood. Last night was all about the music. Playing her Strat with a characteristic touch of reverb, she was backed by Greg Peterson, who delivered tightly uncoiling lead guitar as well as vocals on several songs, a mix of fan favorites and new ones.

 

The set started auspiciously with Thief, a knowing and ridiculously catchy country-flavored tune about cutting someone too much slack and paying the price. She followed with the best song of the night, Hit and Run, a gorgeously dark, intense, percussive minor-key tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on the first New Order album. By contrast, an older song, Marianne was all slowly glimmering ambience.

 

Peterson took over lead vocals on a stark version of the traditional English folksong Butcher Boy. The tongue-in-cheek kiss-off tune Bon Voyage, a big crowd favorite, was as playful as ever, followed by Weatherball, a hypnotic, somewhat Mazzy Star-flavored number in 6/8 time. They closed with a newer tune, Saturday, fast but equally hypnotic, Americana meets 80s Manchester. Persuaded by the enthusiastic crowd to take the stage for an encore, they pulled out a torchy version of the pop standard Again. 

 

Smith’s long-awaited recording project continues; in the meantime, you can hear her on the latest Nada Surf cd. The marvelous Bedsit Poets (playing again at Bowery Poetry Club on Dec 6 at 8 PM) were next on the bill, but we had places to go and things to do.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing the Auto Dropouts!

As you can see, we haven’t exactly been practicing what we preach here for the last few days. Nasty as it’s been outside, there’s no better time to catch a live show: in the dead of what’s left of winter around here, you’re never brushing elbows with anybody, and the bands, usually frustrated because of the lousy turnout, take it out on their instruments, with frequently amazing results. So we missed what was probably an excellent Lianne Smith show, and more stuff, and were just about to dig into the archives to see if there’s anything in there that happened on the 29th of February that would be fun to put up here…when this came over the transom. Wow. The Auto Dropouts are a Swedish two-guitar rock band with awesomely catchy pop tunesmithing. They claim to be big Only Ones fans, which seems plausible, but the lyrics actually make some sense, the hooks are bigger and catchier and the songs are faster. Like a lot of their Nordic countrymen they sing in somewhat heavily accented English, but that doesn’t detract from songs. Occasionally they’ll throw in a lick from a classic obscurity from the 60s or 70s: see if you can find them. This is great stuff, some of the best songs we’ve heard this year.

Of the songs on their myspace, Viva For Ever is very catchy with lots of vocal harmonies. Myrna Minkoff is a very clever tribute to the character from A Confederacy of Dunces. It reminds of Echobelly with its fiery guitar stomp that only picks up the pace as the chorus kicks in. C’mon Stranger has country swing and a sweet series of chord changes The Boy with the Restless Eyes starts out by nicking an old Beatles lick; it’s a fast danceable number with deliciously sparse reverb guitar. She Ain’t Gonna Flip Burgers is propulsive, defiantly recounting the trials and tribulations of a woman who’s determined to make in music at all costs despite getting boilerplate rejection letters from big labels. If you’re on myspace, add them to your friends!

Also, here’s an insanely good Willie Nile youtube clip, Vagabond Moon live in Buffalo along with Nile being his usual wiseass self as the band tunes up.

And since it’s usually impossible to leave youtube without running into something new and distracting, here’s Michael Martin (WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY??? It’s not the country singer, at least it doesn’t look like him), doing a surprisingly good, mostly acoustic cover of Willie Nile’s classic Black Parade, one of the most exhilarating and vengeful songs ever written.

March 1, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Linda Draper at Cake Shop, NYC 5/26/07

Linda Draper played the cd release show for her latest and fifth effort, Keepsake. Playing solo on acoustic guitar as she virtually always does, she fingerpicked with imagination and agility and made it look effortless. She still sings with the bell-like clarity of a chorister, which she once was, but she’s utilizing her lower register more and it suits her material. As a lyricist, Draper is unsurpassed. While her new material backs away from the intricate rhyme schemes and deliciously off-the-wall metrics that were all over her last couple of albums, she hasn’t lost the ability to deliver a knockout double or triple entendre. As much as her songs tend to be melancholy, she writes mostly in major keys, and serves them up with considerable humor, even on the haunting, ghostly Traces Of, from the new album. She’s also reverted to the catchy pop sensibility of her first album, as opposed to the hypnotic fingerpicking style that she’d been mining until recently: you can hum her stuff for hours after hearing it. Despite this being Memorial Day weekend, the house was full, the audience was ecstatic and wouldn’t let her leave without an encore.

 

Kat Heyman and her rhythm section opened the show with a soporific set of generically narcissistic, tuneless Lilith fare.

May 30, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment