Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Mark Growden – Saint Judas

File this one under “new noir songwriters” alongside Mark Steiner, the Oxygen Ponies and Mark Sinnis. Fans of those guys as well as the two who started it all, Tom Waits and Nick Cave, will enjoy Mark Growden’s new cd Saint Judas. Like Waits, Growden blends blues with a smoky noir cabaret feel; as with Cave, Growden projects a downtrodden yet randy gutter-poet facade. The Bay Area songwriter/accordionist/banjoist has a fantastic steampunk band behind him – recorded live in the studio, they turn in a passionate, rustically intense performance. Fiery blues guitarist/lapsteel player Myles Boisen, cellist Alex Kelly, horn player Chris Grady, bassist/organist Seth Ford-Young and drummer Jenya Chernoff all deserve mention here.

Most of this stuff, predictably, is in minor keys. The album’s second track, Delilah (no relation to Tom Jones) gets the benefit of a balmy trumpet solo from Grady that lights up the pitch blackness underneath. The title track is the best song here, an uncharacteristically jaunty, cynical, funny number which recasts Judas as a patron saint of the insolvent and dissolute: “Bottoms up to you, buddy, ’cause somebody has to take the blame.” They take it down after that with a slow country ballad as Nick Cave would do it: “If the stars could sing they would surely sing of you,” Growden intones.

They pick it up again after that with a swaying, stomping minor blues, Boisen’s electric slide guitar wailing against one of many tight, inspired horn charts here. Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man gets a slow, Tom Waits-ish blues treatment, followed eventually by a sizzling number that mingles fiery electric slide with Growden’s banjo, a mournful elegy told from the point of view of a coyote who lost his mate to a trap, and an extremely cool, thoughtful, Asian-tinged solo horn taqsim that gives Grady a chance to show off his mastery with overtones – it sounds like he’s playing a shakuhachi. They close with an ersatz gypsy waltz and a lullaby.

This album won’t be to everyone’s taste. As great as so many noir artists are, it’s a stylized genre. For vocals and lyrics, Growden doesn’t go outside the box – some will find his exaggerated drawl affected and his lyrics derivative and contrived. But the quality of the musicianship and the richness of the arrangements – the songs wouldn’t suffer a bit if they were simply instrumentals – offer considerable compensation. LA-area fans have the chance to see Growden play the cd release show for this one on March 16 at 8 PM at the Hotel Cafe, 1623 1/2 North Cahuenga in Hollywood.

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March 12, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Gabriel Sullivan – By the Dirt

Gabriel Sullivan knows a lot of styles and he’s adept at them. More specifically, his new cd By the Dirt runs through a whole bunch of stylized genres, pretty successfully – the playing is generally good, he’s got a good sense of melody and a feel for vintage Americana styles. Mixed by Craig Schumacher of Calexico and Friends of Dean Martinez renown, Sullivan’s going for a dusky southwestern gothic feel (a concept made clear by the cd cover, the songwriter posed sullenly against a photoshopped backdrop of a battered piano in the sagebrush), although the sound is more straight-up southern in a lot of places.

The album’s opening number reminds of Reid Paley, kind of a stripped-down ghoulabilly blues with banjo and harp. The title track is a swinging, memorable, Waitsh-ish tune: “We all live and die by the dirt,” Sullivan reminds ominously. Track three, the snide, defiant Life Is Fine has Sullivan affirming that “You ain’t never gonna see me die.”

How to Treat a Man reminds of Steve Wynn’s legendary Dream Syndicate with its slide guitar-driven, bluesy stomp. By contrast, Me & the Dog is ghostly, lowlit by some sweetly phosphorescent singing saw work. Of the country songs here, by far the most interesting and original is the metaphor-laden, nocturnal ballad The Gardens, its protagonist aching for some peace. There’s also a clanking noir blues, a Waits-style outlaw ballad and then more and more Waits, it seems – by this point, Sullivan seems to have run out of ideas of his own, and the overlong, pointless guitar solo out of the last number does nothing to change that. In terms of the three stages of artistry – imitation, emulation and originality – Sullivan’s passed the first and has command of the second – and there’s nothing wrong with having the ability to synthesize or move smoothly from one oldtime style to another, as he does effortlessly here. It’ll be interesting to see how his writing develops as he grows as a songwriter. In the meantime, fans of dark Americana rock and all the other retro styles he tackles here will enjoy most of this. Keep your eye on this guy – he knows what he’s doing, even if he could be confused with a whole lot of other people on some of the tracks here.

November 9, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/31/09

We do this every Tuesday (usually – remember a couple of weeks ago?). 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 every link here will take you to each individual song.

1. The Oxygen Ponies – Villains

Quiet yet venomous rock anthem dating from the waning days of the Bush regime. From their amazing new cd Harmony Handgrenade.

2. Christabel & the Jons – Florida

Dark, quirky, fun oldtimey swing tune in the Jolie Holland mode. They’re at the Jalopy Theatre on 10/1.

3. Taxi Amarillo – Donde Has Estando

Jangly rock en Espanol anthem. They’re at BB King’s on 9/7

4. Kofre – El Muerto

Ska en Espanol. Also at BB King’s on 9/7.

5. The Scratches – I Take the Shape of My Container

BOAC style pop – funny.

6. Mark Sinnis – That’s Why I Won’t Love You

Quietly snarling, gospel-flavored kissoff anthem recorded live at Pete’s. From his forthcoming 2010 cd.

7. Ninth House – Jealousy

Speaking of which…this is the album version with Randi Russo on harmonies. This is a psychedelic live version.

8. Kerry Kennedy – Golden Calves

Beautiful as-yet unreleased atmospherics from the NYC southwestern gothic chanteuse. She’s at Small Beast at the Delancey on 9/14.

9. Telephone – In Paris

A funny anti-tourist rant, in English, by the iconic punk-era French rockers. “In Paris we piss in the street.”

10. Smoothe Moose – War Pigs (remix)

Woozy electronicized cover, you can’t help but smile. Various members of the Tortoise-esque collective play the release show for their latest mixtape at Public Assembly on 9/3 at 9.

September 1, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/17/09

We usually do this on Tuesday but this week we’re doing it on Friday. Just to see if you’re paying attention. 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 every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. Daniel Bernstein – Joyless Now

He wrote this spot-on, manic-depressive account of madness and alienation with his old band the Larval Organs but he still plays it at shows. Unrecorded as a solo work – you’ll have to experience it live. He’s at Goodbye Blue Monday in Bushwick on 9/14 at 9.

 

2. The JD Allen Trio – Live at the Village Vanguard.

Did you know that NPR archives a ton of its live shows? This is a complete concert from the Village Vanguard (the 9 PM set on 8/12/09) and it’s transcendent, the band in particularly focused mode. There’s also a link to Neko Case at the Newport Folk Festival on the same page.

 

3. The French Exit – Your God

Joy Division recast as sultry trip-hop by this amazing, dark New York band.

 

4. Norden Bombsight – Help Desk

Majestic, anthemic, haunting art-rock dirge. They’re at Small Beast at the Delancey on 9/7.

 

5. TV Smith – Together Alone

“We love our life and we love our leaders, sound bites from the bottom feeders.” Anthemic postpunk brillliance from the legendary Adverts frontman – just randomly wandered onto his myspace to be reminded what a great songwriter he is.

 

6. Schaffer the Darklord – Night of the Living Christ

The Biblical rapture rewritted as a zombie movie. An undead messiah? Beyond funny. He’s at Bar on A at 9 on 8/30.

 

7. Witches in Bikinis – Witches in Bikinis

The horror-rock supergroup’s cool, funny signature song

 

8. Kariné Poghosyan – Excerpt from Manuel De Falla’s Fantasia Baetica

The pyrotechnic pianist shows off her spectacular chops live at Steinway Hall, NYC. You want adrenaline? Wow!

 

9. El Radio Fantastique – Tiptoe Suicide

Characteristically spooky noir New Orleans blues from this imaginative crew.

 

10. Lunch During Wartime – Rubulad

A New York moment. “Strange thoughts fill my head…”

August 21, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/10/09

We do this every Tuesday, even today as we lie low in the heat. 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 every link here will take you to each individual song.

1. The Oxygen Ponies – The War Is Over

Noir 60s pop redone as ferocious Bush-era antifascist rant. From their killer new cd Harmony Handgrenade.

2. Norden Bombsight – Snakes

Big dark noir rock tune like a lo-fo Botanica – magnificent stuff. They’re at Small Beast at the Delancey on 9/9.

3. Pray for Polanski – It’s a Lie

Scurrying noir blues, good stuff. They’re at Trash on 8/15 at 8.

4. Animus – Turkiko

AMAZING Greek/gypsy/Middle Eastern band. They will blow you away. They’re at Trash on 8/16 at 11.

5. Jesse Alexander & the Big Fatt – Pretty Promises

Boisterous, slightly Waits-ish oldtimey ska/ragtime inflected band w/horns and strings. “You’ll feel like you’re on drugs but in a good way.” At Trash on 8/15 at 11.

6. Kris Sour – LA Makeover

New Yorker shellshocked in El Lay – spot-on and catchy too!

7. Shonen Knife – Super Group

They’re back with a new bassist and sound exactly like they did ten years ago. And the song modulates! They’re coming to the Brooklyn Bowl in November.

8. Brother Joscephus & the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra – I Won’t Be That Man

Deliciously dark vintage 60s sounding New Orleans soul. They’re at Sullivan Hall on 8/14 at 10 opening for the Rebirth Brass Band

9. The DarlingsI’m Not Going

Sure, it’s a Jesus & Mary Chain ripoff, but it’s a lot of fun. They’re at Death by Audio on 8/14 at 11ish.

10. Willie Nile – House of 1000 Guitars

Sort of the NYC version of Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song, title track from the killer new album.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment