Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Top Ten Songs of the Week 10/18/10

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 – Altercation

Nightmarish, twisting, turning art-rock anthem, another killer cut from their Pinto cd.

2. Randi Russo – Battle on the Periphery

A 2006 classic, newly streaming on hew new bandcamp site, where you can hear 25 more of the intense rock siren’s songs. Her forthcoming album Fragile Animal promises to be as wild and intense as her 2002 classic Solar Bipolar.

3. LJ Murphy – Another Lesson I Never Learned

Radically yet subtly reworked version of one of the literate, NYC noir rockers’ songs that topped the charts here in 2007. Scroll down for the video

4. Victoire – Cathedral City

Lush, swirling, psychedelic, atmospheric title track to Missy Mazzoli’s art-rock band’s deliriously enjoyable new album.

5. Los Shapis – El Aguajal

Classic surfy Peruvian chicha rock number from the early 70s, re-released on the Roots of Chicha 2 compilation.

6. The Moonlighters – I’m Still in Love with You

Charming, romantic oldtimey harmony swing: cool video by Nina Paley of Mimi & Eunice fame.

7. Benjamin Verdery plays Couperin’s Mysterious Barricades.

The pianist has a Carnegie Hall gig coming up and this is typical.

8. The Mast – Wild Poppies

Smart, edgy, jangly, minimal Randi Russo style literate rock from rocker Haale’s band.

9. Spectrals – Peppermint

The Smiths gone noir – the swishy singer is kind of annoying but the surfy guitar is delicious.

10. The Giving Tree Band – Red Leaves

More tasty retro acoustic Americana from these guys.

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October 19, 2010 Posted by | classical music, latin music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Introducing the Pre-War Ponies

A fixture of the New York music scene, Daria Grace got her start playing bass in recently resuscitated art-rockers Melomane, and was one of the original Moonlighters – fans of that band took to calling her replacement “the new Daria.” But with a voice like hers – a warm, clear, billowy soprano with just the slightest hint of grit that tails off sometimes with a subtle vibrato – there can be only one Daria Grace. While holding down the bass spot in her husband Jack’s terrific country band, she found her way back to oldtime steampunk swing with the Pre-War Ponies. They should be far better-known than they are – this beautifully sunny cd is completely and unselfconsciously romantic and one of the best albums of the year so far. Grace shies away from standards – she’s far more at home with obscure sheet music rescued from junk shops, a reliable source for much of her material. She plays baritone ukelele in this band just as she used to do in the Moonlighters along with rambunctious trombonist J. Walter Hawkes, former Cocktail Angst pianist Jon Dryden and Doug Largent on bass, with fellow New York retro chanteuse Sasha Dobson providing harmonies on one track.

Grace follows the Connee Boswell version of All I Do Is Dream of You, Dryden adding jaunty barrelhouse piano beneath Hawkes’ wry muted trombone accents. It’s something of a shock that at least until now, the swaying, breezy Give Me the Moon Over Brooklyn never became the borough’s official theme (once Marty Markowitz leaves office, the band can approach the new Borough President). Hawkes joins Grace here on uke to up the vintage ambience. Got the South in My Soul – a concert favorite and a Lee Wiley hit from 1932 – features a period-perfect, balmy trombone solo. Two Sleepy People (a Frank Loesser/Hoagy Carmichael hit from 1938) absolutely nails the cozy, endorphin-stoked ambience for two lovers who’ve been out all night and are out of thing to say but not to do with each other.

The band recasts Heart and Soul, the lone standard here, as a brisk 1920s style proto-swing strut. The darkly tender Under the Russian Moon, floating on the waves of Dryden’s accordion, is the most delightful obscurity of the whole bunch. The album winds up tantalizingly with The Gentleman Just Wouldn’t Say Goodnight, another junk shop find that Grace credits as “one of the most beautiful songs that nobody has ever heard of.” Grace weaves through its tasty major/minor changes with a wistful, late-night feel that is pure soul. With the Jack Grace Band’s killer new cd hot off the press, that group has been gigging up a storm lately; the Pre-War Ponies’ next scheduled gig is at Rodeo Bar on July 26.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Asylum Street Spankers – What? And Give Up Show Business?

In case you don’t get the reference, the album title is the punchline of an old vaudeville joke: the guy shovels shit, gets the short end of the stick every time, really has nothing to do with what’s happening onstage, but he just can’t quit the job. This sequence of tracks taken from their stagy, vaudevillian series of shows last year at the Barrow Street Theatre captures the band at the absolute peak of their consistently hilarious, raucous, virtuosic powers. In a lot of ways the Asylum Street Spankers are sort of the Dead Kennedys of oldtimey music, fearlessly aware, politically spot-on and funny as hell, especially in a live setting. This sprawling two-cd set intersperses several skits among a grand total of 25 songs. Smoking pot figures heavily in a number of them; sex is abundant, and there’s also one about beer. In other words, this is a party album guaranteed to clear the room of tight-assed yuppies and young Republicans in seconds flat.

Trying to choose which song is funniest is not easy. Everybody will get a kick out of their acoustic cover of the Black Flag hardcore classic TV Party, updated with contemporary references to emphasize the fact that the trendoids vegging out to Adult Swim or the Daily Show are no cooler than the bozos in the original, glued to Hill Street Blues. My Baby in the CIA is blackly funny, offhandedly managing to mention every CIA-sponsored coup against a democratically elected government around the world over the past half-century. The Medley of Burned-Out Songs, designed to placate rabid fans who can’t wait til the band plays their favorite, overplayed number is something that more bands should do. There’s also Christina Marrs’ deadpan Hawaiian swing number Pakalolo Baby, sounding something like the Moonlighters on good weed (or Pakalolo, for all the Hawaiian speakers out there). Winning the War on Drugs takes a quizzical, red-eyed view of prohibition, posing the logical question of why, if there’s a war on, are drugs so easy to find (My Baby in the CIA has the answer). The most technically dazzling number of them all is the medley My Favorite Records, kicking off with an absolutely perfect acoustic evocation of Black Sabbath, moving to Zep, Marrs eventually bringing down the house with her choice. And then they work a complicated contrapuntal vocal vamp to a crescendo where they replicate the sound of a stuck record without missing a beat.

Most of the skits are also funny, especially the Gig from Hell which any musician who’s spent any time on the road can relate to: not enough inputs for all the vocals, a stage that smells like vomit, the house manager trying to rip off the band like he did the one before…the list goes on and on. There’s also some remarkably straight-up and soulful blues and ragtime here too. The show finally ends with a full-length version of one of the heretofore Burned-Out Songs, the well-loved Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV (this having been recorded during the waning days of the Bush regime, there’s an undercurrent of righteous wrath just fractions of an inch below many of the jokes). The Asylum Street Spankers play the Bell House on May 19 with oldtimey/delta blues siren Mamie Minch opening the night auspiciously at 8:30 or so.

May 18, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 3/16/09

We do this every Tuesday. It’s a mix of new favorites and random discoveries made while researching our constantly updated NYC Live Music Calendar. Very possible that you will see some of these songs here on our Top 100 Songs of 2009 list at the end of the year, if the world hasn’t ended by then…every link here will take you to each individual track except for #s 1 and 10.

 

1. System Noise – Hair & Nails

Deliriously catchy, typically eerie fare from these ferocious rockers, like the Talking Heads gone completely phantasmagorical. Is this about a woman beautifying herself…or is is about the two parts of the body that continue to grow after death? Sarah Mucho’s gleefully eerie voice provides a hint. Unreleased, but they’ll probably play it live tomorrow at the Delancey at 9.  

 

2. Beluga – Cowboy Boots

This is a song that needed to be written.  “Everybody hates you, everybody hates you, everybody hates you because you’re such a bitch.” The ferocious all-female rockers play the cd release show for their new one at the Loving Cup Cafe on N 6th in Williamsburg (in the back gallery) on 3/20.

 

3. The Moonlighters – Night Smoke

New York’s reigning oldtimey band have some delicious new stuff up on their myspace and this is one of them, a bossa beat, characteristically beautiful harmonies from Bliss Blood and Cindy Ball and Mark Deffenbaugh’s stinging steel guitar.

 

4. Abby Barrett – Stillborn

Big, dark, uneasy, oldtimey-flavored 6/8 ballad flavored with reverb guitar, banjo and piano from the Boston chanteuse. And then it morphs into a big art-rock song like the Church or Pink Floyd. Wow.  

 

5. The Passengers – I Bend but Do Not Break

Characteristically wrenching, haunting vocals from Angie Pepper and a resolute, defiant song. This is a new one from the regrouped acoustic version of the legendary Australian band.

 

6. Royal Chant – Petrograd

Another Aussie band. How do we find these people? So random, it’s hard to explain. This is nice post-REM jangle and clang. Also check out Bellevue, their tribute to life in the loony bins.

 

7. Lullapop – Unstable

Gorgeous acoustic triphop from the Polish-American siren, sort of a more guitarish take on what Madder Rose was doing back in the 90s.

 

8. Sam Ben-Meir – Impressions

Solo piano from this Israeli composer. Its theme is the ravages of war, a haunting, compassionate Chopinesque evocation.

 

9. Mike Viola – Good Ideas Grow on Trees

This is the Candy Butchers’ frontman doing his singer-songwriter thing. Hang in there for this one: it takes awhile to get going, but it’s worth it. “Good ideas will blow you away.” No doubt. Cool video by Michael Arthur.

 

10. Jenifer Jackson – Words

Not to be confused with the gorgeous Whispering Words (up on her myspace), this unreleased gem has the same existential intensity as Pink Floyd but with vastly more warmth and subtlety. And a playful synth solo. She’s at Rockwood Music Hall on 3/24 at 8.

March 17, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review – The Wiyos

Like any other style of music that’s currently played, oldtimey music keeps evolving, maybe as much as it did eighty years ago before it went out of vogue, then eventually started leaking out of the archives, became retro and in demand again. Plus ca change. At the front of the parade are New York expats the Wiyos, best known for their frenetic live shows, but they also put out good cds and this one, their latest, is excellent. Recorded live to two-track tape, it maintains the energy and immediacy of 1920s blues and hillbilly music. Main songwriter Parrish Ellis’ playing on resonator guitar, five-string banjo and banjo uke is spiky and inspired, matched by his bandmates Michael Farkas on harmonica and washboard, Joseph Dejarnette on upright bass and Teddy Weber, mainly on acoustic guitar. Lyrically, their songs typically take on a period vernacular, particularly with the catalog of funeral requests on the rather eerie Dying Crapshooter’s Blues and cd’s opening track, the tongue-in-cheek hellraising anthem Jack and Boone.

 

The cd’s strongest suit is its diversity, matching the stark, minor-key stuff with the rueful country string band ballad Hudson Valley Line – “You were gone before you came through the pines” – and the gorgeous, more-apt-than-ever workingman’s lament Silver Spoon. To the band’s further credit, the cheese factor is kept at a minimum – while this is a band that isn’t above using as kazoo for a solo, this isn’t a silly cd (although that song about ants in pants is). Fans of all the A-list, popular retro people – Tom Waits, AA Bondy, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Moonlighters will all dig this. The Wiyos play Joe’s Pub on Mar 7 at 7:30 PM

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 11/15/08

Counting down the top 666 songs of alltime one day at a time all the way to #1, like we do every day here.

Here’s #619:

Nightcall – Blackwater

Moonlighters frontwoman Bliss Blood started this short-lived “crime jazz” side project toward the end of the Bush regime: this is a tersely scorching, noir 60s style broadside about the mercenaries from Blackwater, Halliburton and other private armies getting away with murder in Iraq. Available at Nightcall’s myspace

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Moonlighters at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 10/16/08

Before we get started, have you seen the Palin as President site? It’s hilarious. Click on the various objects on Palin’s desk and around the room. Now back to the show:

 

Ukelele night at Otto’s was awfully tempting, with Sweet Soubrette and others on the bill, but ultimately the lure of the Moonlighters – and the good sound at Spikehill – were too much to resist. Checking in to see what condition New York’s best old-timey band was in revealed they were as good as ever. They ought to trademark the phrase “effervescent charm.” But what they play isn’t blithe, zippity-doo-dah BS: for a band that can be so sweetly romantic, they’ve got considerable bite, and not just from Mark Deffenbaugh’s steel guitar. Frontwoman/uke player Bliss Blood keeps on writing songs that sound like irreverent swing hits from the 1920s – for someone who’s just discovered the band, it must be hard to figure out which songs are hers and which are covers, unless she explains them to the audience. She was in particularly acerbic mode tonight: “This is for McCain,” she grinned, as the band launched into the scurrying instrumental Train to Moscow.

 

“Here’s a song about free trade,” she remarked, introducing the dark, minor-key tango Dirt Road Life, a tale of destitution and exhaustion in the maquiladoras along the Mexican border. The band also did two characteristically effervescent yet edgy new songs: the somewhat pensive ballad Winter in My Heart and the fast, bouncy Don’t Baby Me, which had the bracing feel of a brushback fastball.

 

Guitarist Cindy Ball, who’d been providing gorgeous harmonies all night long, took a lead on an old sex song from the 20s, Same Old Moon, and it was pure bliss (pun intended) – her voice has the same crystalline warmth as her bandmate’s. They’re an awfully good team. They closed the set with Ball’s favorite, Blue and Black-Eyed, their darkest number. Bassist Peter Maness introduced it, bowing eerie lower-register washes of sound. It’s the absolutely haunting tale of a prostitute who flings herself from the fire escape at the old McGuirk’s Suicide Hall on lower Bowery (a building that stood until a few years ago when it was razed to make way for cheap plastic-and-sheetrock luxury housing). When it came time for the solo, Deffenbaugh seized his opportunity to get bracingly sinister.

 

The Moonlighters’ next show is at the Cupping Room on West Broadway on Oct 30 at 8 PM, no cover but there’s a $20 minimum (which you’d probably spend anyway).  Then Bliss Blood’s off to do a solo show as part of a uke night with Craig Chesler and others at Matchless, guessing around 11ish.  

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment