Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Oxygen Ponies’ Exit Wounds Leaves a Mark

The Oxygen Ponies’ 2009 album Harmony Handgrenade was a ferocious, lyrical art-rock masterpiece, one of the best releases of recent years: you can find it on our Best Albums of All Time list. Written during the waning days of the Bush regime, it’s a chronicle of love under an occupation. On the band’s new album Exit Wounds, frontman Paul Megna revisits similarly tortured terrain, this time more personal than political. For the most part, this is an album of snarling kiss-off songs, with psychedelic, anguished epic grandeur juxtaposed against stark Leonard Cohen-esque passages. The band this most closely resembles is Australian art-rock legends the Church, both in terms of the stunningly catchy simplicity of Megna’s melodies, the hypnotic sweep of the production and the clever, literate savagery of his lyrics.

“The velvet rope around your neck pulled you away,” he intones in his signature rasp in the opening track, Hollywood, as the band pulses with a trancey post-Velvets sway behind him. “Did you sell your face so you could buy the farm out at Maggie’s place?” he asks. But this isn’t merely an indictment of a starstruck, clueless girl: it indicts an entire generation. As Megna reaffirms later on with the amusing I Don’t Want Yr Love: after a pretty hilarious Lou Reed quote, he makes it clear that he doesn’t “want to be anywhere you are ’cause all the people there are blinded by the stars.” The outgoing mantra of “nobody loves you anymore” is just plain brutal: it makes a great outgoing message for anyone in need of some post-breakup vengeance. And the cello-driven This Disaster offers a more expansive view of the wreckage leading up to the big dramatic rift, Megna musing that “If all we have left is one technicolor kiss, I’d rather be the standin than the star.”

Hope and Pray is pure schadenfreude – it could be the great missing track from the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Darklands, but with better production values. “Hope the further down you go, the higher is the climb,” Megna snarls. He follows that with the bitter lament Good Thing, crescendoing out of spare, plaintive folk-pop with a cynical fury:

This is a call to everyone
Wake your daughters, rouse your sons
Take your aim and shoot to kill
So your friends don’t hurt you
‘Cause others will

Hornet, a dead ringer for a Steve Kilbey song, offers a backhanded compliment to a femme fatale, “Dancing around like a flame in the fire/As hot as it gets you don’t have to perspire.” They revert to Jesus & Mary Chain mode for Wild Animals, a more subtle putdown: “You think you’re smart, that each work of art ended up a failure,” Megna taunts. The indomitable Drink Myself Alive packs a punch, its undeterred narrator only willing to change his wicked ways if the girl who’s bedeviled him will do the same. With a distantly Beatlesque swing, Land That Time Forgot wouldn’t be out of place in the Spottiswoode catalog: it works both as a tribute to an individualist and a nasty slap at trendy conformists: “You’re walking around ahead of the crowd, such happiness is never allowed,” Megna sneers. He reprises that theme on the sparse, more gentle Jellybean with its torrents of lyrics:

Everyone around me is just sharing the same brain…
I guess they find it’s easier to be part of the whole
Searching for a reason why they buy the shit they’re sold.

The album ends on a completely unexpected note with the pretty, backbeat pop hit Christmas Every Morning. The album is out now on insurgent Brooklyn label Hidden Target Records, the same folks who put out Randi Russo’s brilliant new Fragile Animal a couple months ago. This one’s in the same league: it’s hard to imagine a better album than this coming out any time this year. Watch this space for upcoming NYC dates.

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May 17, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 3/25/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #676:

Barbara Brousal – Pose While It Pops

One of the great voices of the last fifteen years or so, Barbara Brousal can pull more emotion out of a thoughtfully bent note than most people can with a whole album. A professional musician from Boston via Brooklyn, her background is Americana, and that’s one element among many in this diverse and intensely lyrical 2000 album, her second. The real classic here is the opening track The Human Arrow, a bitter and brilliantly metaphorical portrayal of love as a circus act. The slow, angst-driven country ballad Take These Tears wouldn’t be out of place on a Dolly Parton album from the late 60s; the carefree sway of Soap and Water contrasts with the stiletto dismissiveness of the lyric. Charm Bracelet and Picture Booth are offhandedly brooding without being maudlin; there’s also the irresistibly catchy, lyrical Throwing Bones, the hypnotic chamber-pop of Lay Down Your Soul and the long, intensely crescendoing Breathing Down Your Neck. Brousal’s excellent band here includes David Poe and Kevin Salem on guitars, John Abbey on bass and Jane Scarpantoni on cello. Awfully hard to find in hard copy form but still available from the usual download merchants, and myspace has several of her tracks streaming. If you like this one you might also enjoy her 2002 collection Almost Perfect, a collection of demos that frequently reaches the heights this one does.

March 25, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Randi Russo Releases the Best Album of 2011, So Far

For over a decade Randi Russo has lurked amongst the elite of New York’s rock underground. Her 2001 album Solar Bipolar, a cauldron of screaming, whirling guitars and anthemic lyrical intensity, achieved cult status among devotees of noise-rock. Since that time, her prolific catalog has grown to include skeletal, sepulchral folk-rock, janglerock, punk and most recently, psychedelia. Her latest album Fragile Animal is logical extension of the psychedelic direction she first began gravitating toward in the mid-zeros before breaking up her band and then slowly regrouping. This packs as much of a wallop as anything she’s done before, yet sometimes that wallop is a playful one. The one aspect of Russo’s songwriting that hasn’t always come through as clearly as her defiant, resolute individualism is her sense of humor, but it does here. Co-produced by Russo and the Oxygen Ponies’ Paul Megna and released on the insurgent Hidden Target label, this is a lush, swirling mix of guitar and keyboard textures, Russo’s velvet voice steady above the maelstrom. While it’s never wise to assume that an album released so early in the year will beat out everything else that appears between now and December, it’s going to take a miracle to surpass this one. Welcome to the best album of 2011, so far.

The first track is Get Me Over, setting the stage for what’s to come, Russo’s quiet desperation and need to escape muted by the whirling sonics, backward masking and unselfconscious backbeat beauty of the melody. Venus on Saturn is hypnotic, insistent post-Velvets rock, a scathingly funny slap upside the head of a drama queen: “Without it she’d be boring, and no one would care to listen; now, she’s just annoying – yet she’s getting all the attention.” With guitarist Don Piper’s crazed leads fueling its stampeding Helter Skelter stomp, Alienation is a study in paradoxes, the push and pull of the need to connect versus the fear of scaring people off by confronting them with reality.

Invisible is her September Gurls – hidden beneath its ethereal layers of vocals and multiple-tracked guitars is a classic pop song. In a way, it’s the ultimate outsider anthem: she may be invisible, but she’s also bulletproof. “No one can touch me now, no one can bring me down,” Russo asserts with a gentle steeliness. It contrasts with the hypnotic, Steve Kilbey-esque mood piece I Am Real, anchored by Piper’s harmonium, which contrasts in turn with the wryly cheery Beatlisms of Invitation, which follows.

Russo’s voice finally cuts loose on Swallow, a soaring, crescendoing portrait that will resonate with anyone who’s had to swallow their dreams as they run to catch the train to some dead-end destination or dayjob. With its mechanical drums balanced by simmering layers of guitar feedback and a mammoth crescendo out that’s part Led Zep and part Egyptian funeral procession, Head High offers a more optimistic outlook for would-be killer bees stuck in a deathly routine. True to its title, the dreamy Hurt Me Now is more sad lament than kiss-off anthem, lit up by Lenny Molotov’s vivid lapsteel leads. The album winds up with the haunting, relentless epic Restless Raga, twisting a Grateful Dead reference into an escape which could be completely liberating…or it could be death:

Heart’s all empty and I don’t care
‘Cause I can steal yours with my stare
And I’m gonna ride that final wave
Of excitement to my grave

The album is available exclusively for a week starting today at Russo’s bandcamp site (which is preferable to the other usual sites, where it will be in about a week, since bandcamp’s downloads are more artist-friendly, not to mention sonically superior). Randi Russo plays the cd release show for Fragile Animal on April 17 at 9 PM at the Mercury Lounge with another first-rate, lyrical Hidden Target band, the Oxygen Ponies.

March 23, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kasey Anderson’s Heart of a Dog Has Lyrical Bite

Kasey Anderson’s most recent album, Nowhere Nights was one of the best of 2010. The “nowhere nights” theme continues on his new one Heart of a Dog, except with the guitars turned all the way up, pretty much all the way through. Steve Earle is still the obvious comparison – if you’ve ever heard Earle play Nirvana, that comes closer to describing what this sounds like. It’s lyrical rock: Anderson still scours the fringes with a merciless eye for detail and an ear for a catchy, purist guitar hook. His monster band the Honkies includes Andrew KcKeag on lead guitar plus Eric Corson (of the Long Winters) on bass and former Posie Mike Musburger on some of the most effectively loud rock drums in recent memory.

These songs are dark. The album gets off to a great start with The Wrong Light, a big crunchy bluesmetal number that works a Born Under a Bad Sign vibe, thematically if not tunewise. “I got a handful of powder and a wicked grin, open your eyes and let the wrong light in,” Anderson entices in a leering stage whisper. It’s the first of several launching pads for some searing, bluesy lead work by McKeag, who delivers a mean late 70s Ron Wood impression with a slide on the cynical, Stonesy rocker Mercy. Building from an ominous piano intro to a big anthem, Exit Ghost is a grim, completely unromanticized girlfriend-lost-to-drugs story. Your Side of Town might be the predecessor to that one, a bitter kiss-off anthem:

You kept my pockets empty, I was keeping my eyes wide
You were dealing pride and envy, I got my other fix on the side

Another big, fast Stonesy tune, Sirens & Thunder is cynical, but with an unrepentant smirk: the time with that girl may have been crazy and ultimately it might have been hell, but some of the craziest parts were a lot of fun. Kasey Anderson’s Dream offers a considerably louder apocalyptic garage rock update on Bob Dylan’s Honest with You, namechecking Sharon Jones and staring straight into the future: “You want a brave new world, well that can be arranged – the ship’s still sinking but the captain’s changed.” The rest of the tracks include more doomed Dylanesque imagery in Revisionist History Blues; the crushing lucidity of a hangover unfolding in the slow, brooding For Anyone; some delicious organ and accordion work in another regretful ballad, My Blues, My Love; the fast, Springsteenish My Baby’s a Wrecking Ball, and a blazing backbeat cover of the 1983 English Beat frathouse anthem Save It for Later that blows away the original. Pop a Mickey’s Big Mouth and crank this.

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 2/22/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #707:

Lloyd Cole – Easy Pieces

The British janglerock songwriter made a splash in 1985 with his catchy Rickenbacker guitar-stoked debut, Rattlesnakes. Following up with this one a year later, just as Elvis Costello – the guy he most resembled at the time – had hit a barren period, it looked like the world of lyrical rock might have a new guy at the top. It never happened. Although Cole wrote some nice tunes after this one, he pretty much gave up on lyrics, which is too bad because these are ferociously smart and match the bite of the music. Rich, the stomping opening track, savages an old corporate type withering away in retirement; Pretty Gone takes no prisoners as far as lovelorn guys are concerned. Brand New Friend nicks a line from Jim Morrison and gives it some genuine intensity; there’s also the beautifully clanging Grace and Minor Character; the big college radio hit Cut Me Down, the morose and pretty spot-on Why I Love Country Music along with the chamber pop James and Perfect Blue, foreshadowing the direction he’d take later in the decade. If you like what you hear here, Rattlesnakes and 1989’s lushly orchestrated Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe are also worth a spin. Here’s a random torrent.

February 22, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter Koppes of the Church Offers the Scoop on the Band’s 2011 US Tour

Peter Koppes’ rich, darkly majestic lead lines, fiery riffage and judicious jangle alongside Rickenbacker guitarist Marty Willson-Piper’s incisive clang and frontman Steve Kilbey’s melodic bass have been a defining component of the Australian art-rockers sound for the better part of the band’s thirty-year history. The Church are currently on US tour, with stops in New York at the Highline Ballroom on February 16 and at B.B. King’s on the 17th. With his thousand-yard stare onstage, Koppes projects a restless intensity; offstage, his unselfconscious warmth and stinging wit come as a welcome surprise. With some rockers, trying to get their opinion is like pulling teeth. Not this guy:

Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: I understand that on this tour, you’re doing three of your classic albums – Starfish, from 1988; Priest = Aura, from 1991, and Untitled #23, from 2009, at each show. The buzz on the west coast where you are now is that you’re doing them in reverse chronological order – is that the same way you’ll be doing them in New York?

Peter Koppes: Yes. I thought in some ways that Priest = Aura would be a great culmination of the three album set. But funny enough, with the earlier albums in the later part of the set, you have a trajectory. In a live peformance, you have to have a climax, you have to knock the socks off the audience.

LCC: So are you doing the songs on the albums one after the other, as they appear?

PK: Yes. We’ve really never done anything like this – the Cure have, Trilogy, which I particularly enjoyed actually. Doing Untitled #23 first is like being our own support act. That leaves the nostalgia aspect to look forward to.

LCC: I actually think your idea of Priest = Aura to finish the night would send everybody home on a high note…

PK: Having Priest = Aura in the set is the artistic high point, the overlooked, monumental masterpiece of the band. So many of the songs are timeless – lyrically, they have as much resonance as they did when the album came out. The Disillusionist, for example. We were recording the album during the first Iraq war: all the images of the Kuwait bombing were a feeling for us at the time that still resonates throughout it…But then when we come back for Starfish we have an encore. You know, you have to have a reverie, and then a wake…

LCC: That’s an awful lot of songs. I’ve seen you jam out so many of your songs in concert over the years: is the jam aspect going to be constrained by the sheer volume of material?

PK: No. We jam Chaos; there’s the interlude on Destination where we improvise, and Hotel Womb, and Reptile – we take those a bit further just to push the dynamic. So that aspect of our show won’t completely change.

LCC: On recent tours you’ve been doing some pretty radical reinventions of your older songs, even some of the iconic ones, Under the Milky Way, Unguarded Moment, etcetera. Are there going to be moments where you’re playing piano, Steve is playing your Strat and Marty is playing bass, or are you going to stick with pretty much assigned roles?

PK: We try to maintain our particular instruments that we play on the albums. But on another tangent, we’ve freed up Steve from playing bass on some of the more intricately worded songs – on The Disillusionist, for example – so that he can carry the lyrics. Remember, Steve started out like that, as a lead singer without an instrument, in a band called Baby Grand in Canberra that I was in. We’re just trying to maximize the best possibilities for the band. There are other times where I play the keyboard because that was my part on the record, where Steve typically plays guitar. On Anchorage, Marty uses my guitar: I play both basses on the song on the record; now we have our roadie playing the other bass and the assistant manager onstage singing as well!

LCC: The most recent show of yours I saw was Irving Plaza in 07 I think, with a concert harpist sitting in. Anyone else along with you for the tour?

PK: Craig Wilson – he’s like having two extra people in the band, keyboards and guitar – he’s become a bit of a star, playing both at the same time sometimes.

LCC: How does he do it? Tapping the frets?

PK: He puts the pedal on and frets the chord and plays the keyboard at the same time.

LCC: How did you find this guy?

PK: Our drummer had a band he was producing, Astreetlightsong, and he’s the lead singer actually.

LCC: You have Tim Powles on drums. Steve has gone on record as saying he’s the best drummer you’ve ever had, do you agree?

PK: Tim Powles is one of the most important members of the band we’ve ever had. He managed the band with his wife’s production company at a time when we were trying to start up again. He’s a producer – he and I produced the “return” albums, Hologram of Baal, After Everything Now This, and so on. He’s also doing the upcoming show at Sydney Opera House, with the orchestra, which is really getting to be complicated, I was just on the phone about it before you called…

LCC: You’re playing with a full orchestra? I hope you’re recording that!

PK: We are, actually. It’s not the complete ensemble, with eight double basses, but we will have two double basses, a string quartet and a horn section.

LCC: Your shows on this tour, from what I understand, are routinely selling out. For a thirty-year-old band touring without a new album, unless you’re U2 or the Police doing a final tour, you realize that this is unheard of in America these days! Rock tours are tanking left and right: at Irving Plaza, where you’ve played a couple of times here in New York, cancellations seem to outnumber actual shows…

PK: I hadn’t realized how bad the economy is here. The response to the tour has really helped us – it’s an expensive tour, with all the extra personnel playing, and these sit-down venues…I’ve always said, “Lie by fashion, die by fashion.” We have a legacy of thirty years of playing music that hasn’t necessarily kowtowed to commercial markets…MTV seemed to think that their idea of music was better than our idea of music – and look who’s still around! I don’t think MTV should be allowed to do music awards!

LCC: MTV still has music awards? I haven’t watched MTV in ages.

PK: They are the barometer for what’s most wrong with combining music and business together…

LCC: How’s the merch table doing? Will you have any left by the time you get to New York?

PK: Believe it nor, we’ve doubled the amount of merch being bought. I think substance is style – that’s always been my motto. Style is vacuous and empty. Someone I know the other day said that fashion is infinite: it’s never complete, the beauty of is is that is always evolving. Music should be evolving too. I think that if somebody buys one of our t-shirts in a way that’s a statement that they share that kind of view…

LCC: As you may know, we have a daily gimmick around here to help draw traffic from around the web. These days we’re counting down the 1000 best albums of all time, and before that we did the 666 best songs. And we decided that the greatest song of all time was Destination by the Church. I think it deserves that because it captures the state of humanity in our time and place more perfectly, more poetically than any other song. Where do you think Destination fits in your catalog – is it one you take a measure of pride in, or is it just another song for you?

PK: That’s great. We don’t haggle about comments like that! I’m impressed that you would choose that one, it’s got a very progressive edge, more than a simple pop song. Musically and lyrically, it definitely was inspired. And Steve would agree.

LCC: Can I ask you how you get that amazing, eerie, sustained guitar tone? What kind of rig are you using onstage these days?

PK: I use Black Star amps with a Vox guitar amp, which has like an inimitable sound that’s kind of midrangy. For awhile I was doing Marshalls and things like that. I’ve found out how to replicate the sound out of the Leslie speaker boxes that I used to have on tour. The roadies didn’t like carrying them! So I reverted to Marshalls; now I have a couple of Black Stars for bottom and top – some are actually handwired like the old Voxes. The sound I get apart from a mix of overdrives is from a Leslie replicator pedal.

LCC: You mean one of those Boss boxes you can get at a guitar store?

PK: That’s the one. The big-part sound of the Church that sounds like a keyboard pedal is actually a harmonizer combined with a reverb unit. You know the horn part on Crash/Ride, on the Beside Yourself album? For that I put an ebow through this device. There are places on the records where I play the bass, the guitar and replicate an actual orchestra.

LCC: Does that mean that your music is going in a more complicated direction?

PK: Jazz is where we’re heading now, in a Burt Bacharach sense…

LCC: In terms of rhythm? Odd time signatures?

PK: Not so much odd time signatures but harmony. It’s a natural progression, we’re not the only band to have done it. For example, Hendrix used to use a flat 5 chord that was definitely jazz. He learned it from Eddie Kramer, who engineered all those records. Eddie Kramer was a jazz keyboard player – Hendrix heard it, copied it for Purple Haze, Voodoo Chile…likewise, Neil Young, on Cinnamon Girl with the double drop D chord changes the rest of the chords to jazz chords…that’s why we did the Pangaea ep. There were some songs that came out of the Untitled #23 session that didn’t gel with the album, with their jazzy aspects; they’re only on the double vinyl version of the album.

LCC: How have the relationships in the band changed over the years? There have been some rocky periods – how is the chemistry these days?

PK: The band is a bunch of vectors and energies, and directions change, individuals as well. For example, Marty runs the business of the band now so he’s much more broadminded about why certain things are good to do for the greater picture. Everybody has to compromise to a certain extent, and Steve to his credit has realized that. If you remember the hall of fame speech that he made in Australia recently, he’s gone from being aloof to a sort of master of ceremonies!

The Church play Highline Ballroom on February 16 at 7 PM and B.B. King’s on the 17th. Tickets are still available as/of today.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | concert, interview, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jay Banerjee’s New Album Slashes and Clangs

Cynical janglerock heaven. Jay Banerjee may be best known at the moment as the creator of Hipster Demolition Night, arguably New York’s best monthly rock event, but he’s also a great tunesmith. On his new album “Ban-er-jee,” Just Like It’s Spelled, he plays all the instruments, Elliott Smith style (aside from a couple of a couple of harmonica and keyboard cameos, anyway). Drawing deeply on the Byrds, the Beatles, the first British invasion and 60s soul music, Banerjee offers a slightly more pop, more straightfoward take on what Elvis Costello has done so well for so long, crafting a series of three-minute gems with a biting lyrical edge. The obvious influence, both guitar- and song-wise, is the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn – like McGuinn, Banerjee plays a Rickenbacker. The tunes here are brisk, with an impatient, scurrying pulse like the Dave Clark Five, with layers of guitar that ring, jangle and chime, throwing off fluorescent washes of magically glimmering overtones as only a Rickenbacker can do.

Lyrically, Banerjee goes for the jugular, sometimes with tongue in cheek but generally not. These are songs for guys. Banerjee’s characters, if they are in fact characters, have no stomach for drama, no patience for indecisive girls holding out for men they’ll never be able to measure up to. And these women don’t get off easy. The funniest and most spot-on cut here is Long Way Home: what the Stooges’ Rich Bitch was to Detroit, 1976, this one is to Brooklyn, 2010, a brutal dismissal of a “dress up doll with a goofy drawl” who finds that she’s no match for New York heartlessness. By contrast, Just Another Day (not the McCartney hit, in case you’re wondering) is equally vicious but far more subtle. Banerjee lets the gentrifier girl’s aimless daily routine slowly unwind: finally awake by noon, “She tells herself if life’s a game, it isn’t hard to play/’Cause all you lose is just another day.”

A handful of the other tracks have obviously pseudonymous womens’ names. Dear Donna, the opening cut, sarcastically rejoices in pissing off the girl’s mother – via suicide note. Kate is rewarded for having “too many feelings” with a memorable Byrds/Beatles amalgam. Lindsay won’t be swayed by any overtures, and her shallow friends may be partially at fault: “They said you pray that I just find someone desperate/Lindsay, all that they say, already I could have guessed it.” Another cut manages to weld the artsy jangle of the Church to a Chuck Berry boogie, with surprisingly effective results. There’s also the early 60s, Roy Orbison-inflected noir pop of Leave Me Alone; See Her Face, the Byrdsiest moment here; and the clanging 60s soul/rock of No Way Girl. Fans of both classic pop and edgy, wounded rock songwriters like Stiv Bators have plenty to sink their teeth into here.

With his band the Heartthrobs, Banerjee rocks a lot harder than he does here: your next chance to see them is the next Hipster Demolition Night at Public Assembly on December 9, starting at 8 with the garage rocking Demands, then Banerjee at 9 followed at 10 by psychedelic rockers Whooping Crane and then oldschool soul stylists the Solid Set. Cover is seven bucks which comes out to less than $2 per act: did we just say that this might be New York’s best monthly rock night, or what?

By the way, for anyone lucky enough to own a turntable, the album’s also available on vinyl.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 10/4/10

This is sort of our weekly, Kasey Kasem-inspired luddite DIY version of a podcast. Every week, we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone: sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. We’ve designed this as something you can do on your lunch break if you work at a computer (and you have headphones – your boss won’t approve of a lot of this stuff). If you don’t like one of these songs, you can always go on to the next one: every link here will take you to each individual song. As always, the #1 song here will appear on our Best Songs of 2010 list at the end of the year.

1. Norden Bombsight – Never to Be Seen Again

Noir backstreet 4 AM menace, backup alarm on the garbage truck and all (turn down your headphone volume!) from the Brooklyn rockers’ excellent new cd Pinto.

2. LJ Murphy – Imperfect Strangers

Live at Theatre 80 St. Marks – a newly rearranged version by the king of NY noir rock.

3. Mike Rimbaud – Got to Sell Yourself

Characteristically edgy, catchy, sardonic new wave-tinged rock from a more underground version of Graham Parker or Elvis Costello.

4. Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk – MT2

Noisy dub/drone/downtempo stuff via thefmly, thanks bros.

5. The Listeners – Driving Without Lights

Dark minor 80s style janglerock- good stuff.

6. El Opio – Ella

A psychedelic chicha classic from Peru circa 1972. Peruvian surf music is the best!

7. Sarah Kirkland Snider – This Is What You’re Like

Moody art-rock from her Penelope song cycle. She’s at le Poisson Rouge on 10/18 at 7. Free download.

8. Rachel Rodgers – Summer After 7

Caught the 14-year-old jazz flutist playing on the street the other day and she’s badass. Not that there aren’t other deep, smart 14-year-old people out there, but she’s the real deal. She knows her way around Bird, and Miles, and more and plays piano, and composes, and has Ron Carter on her cd. Go Rachel.

9. Darker My Love – Split Minute

Bizarre catchy 60s folk/psych/pop like something that was so underground even Lenny Kaye didn’t catch on for the Nuggets compilation.

10. Carl Wayne with ELO – Your World

A blast from the past: the former frontman of the Move tries his hand at soul music.

October 4, 2010 Posted by | jazz, latin music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chip Robinson Is Back Like He Never Left

Chip Robinson got his start in the early 90s in careening Raleigh alt-country rockers the Backsliders, but he has not been dormant since. His new solo album Mylow is a lot different, a lot more diverse and it’s excellent all the way through. It’s sort of the missing link between Steve Earle and Richard Buckner, a mix of bruising, overdriven, twangy rock and rueful ballads. Robinson has an ear for a catchy hook, a memorable riff and a striking lyrical image to go along with a wry sense of humor. The rueful title track is definitely the best song ever written about a rabbit (it was an ex-girlfriend’s pet: she got custody). “Keep your chin up,” he tells the missing rodent, “I’ll keep my chin up too.” Another regret-tinged ballad admits that “The day I fell in love with you, I pissed off my wife and my girlfriend too.” The doomed romance of Story unwinds with two diverging points of view: he remembers whisking her across the dancefloor; she remembers him getting so loaded he couldn’t remember a thing. And the bizarrely compelling album intro, spoken word over oscillating distorted guitar noise, tells the tale of a guy who went down into a hole for “three long years” – but the drugs, and everything else, couldn’t kill him. And then it morphs into a faux-heroic tv theme type melody.

The rest of the album is a lot more serious and intense. Especially its best cut, Bee Sting, its battered narrator alternately distracted and smitten, “All my bridges burned just ashes in the wind, try to find the short way home.” Robinson works those images for all they’re worth over a fiery river of guitars, like something the Replacements might have done if they hadn’t been so sloppy all the time. The most Richard Buckner-ish track here is Wings, an alienation anthem with some hypnotic accordion work. Closer to the Light is a pretty ballad with the tasty layers of acoustic and electric guitars that you find on most everything Eric “Roscoe” Ambel produces (he also frequently plays shows with Robinson at Lakeside Lounge). That track has some distant Beatles allusions, which come front and center on the big ballad A Prayer Please, right down to a juicy George Harrison-esque guitar solo. The goodbye anthem Start is metaphorically loaded and vividly bitter; there are also a couple of roaring, Stonesy rock anthems here to pick up the pace, along with Mylow Sleeps, a lullaby for the missing bunny. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into here, lyrically and musically: an ipod album for sure, and one of 2010’s best, a welcome return to the studio from a guy who never went away but might have fallen off a few people’s radar in the years after the Backsliders broke up. Watch this space for upcoming NYC shows.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment