Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Top Ten Songs of the Week 9/14/09

We do this every week, almost always on Tuesday – back on schedule again, yaaay! You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our 100 Best 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. Every link here except for #1 will take you to each individual song.

1. Jang Sa-Ik – This Is Not It

The Korean superstar is on the brink of going global: be the first to know who he is. This one’s a haunting carpe diem cautionary tale from his latest cd, impossible to find via English-language search, but watch this space.

2. The Bright Room – Amerigo

Slashing, brooding, smartly lyrical indie rock – a real original sound. They’re at Spikehill on 9/19 at 9.

3. Mark Sinnis – St. James Infirmary

A vintage New Orleans take of this standard by the ominous Ninth House frontman  – especially haunting.

4. Natalie John & the Fine Columbians – Song from a Greyhound Bus

Up-and-coming jazz trumpeter/chanteuse. Prediction: she’ll be headlining Dizzy’s Club in five years.

5. Roosevelt Dime – Rants & Raves

Funny smart original oldtimey country with a banjo – a lot like White Hassle. They’re at the Rockwood at midnight on 9/18.

6. The Sunday Blues – Tinted Windows

They call themselves the alt-country Wings but they’re way better – gorgeously anthemic songs and neat keyboards although the lyrics aren’t much. They’re at Spikehill on 9/27 at 7.

7. The Wandering Bards – Spam in a Can

An oldtimey bluesy tribute to the processed meat delicacy – hard to resist. They’re at Spikehill on 9/20 at 11.

8. Abby Payne – Bad One

She’s a bad girl…or she wishes she was. Catchy jazzy piano pop. She’s at Spikehill on 9/24 at 10.

9. Parias Ensemble – Nublando

Thoughtful pensive Sunday afternoon song without words from this Colombian-tinged groove jazz outfit. They’re at Spikehill on 9/26 at 9.

10. Amanda White – Monica’s Getting Her Tits Done

Generic but funny bar band rock.

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September 14, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Song of the Day 8/27/09

This hasn’t been a blow-off month for us – it’s been a fun month. We’ve been going out a fair amount, but not for the sake of creating content for Lucid Culture. Instead, this August has been a welcome chance to catch up with friends and to see some old favorites who’ve been reviewed ad infinitum. There’s still an ever-growing stack of cds here waiting to be reviewed and what looks like an amazing month of live music coming up in September, at least as far as NYC is concerned. Stay tuned and you’ll be able to find out about all that. In the meantime, as we do every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #335:

LJ Murphy – Bovine Brothers

Like a lot of the NYC noir rock legend’s other songs, this scathing anti-fascist broadside’s been through a lot of incarnations. The latest is a slow, 6/8 blues ballad. But the fiery, Costelloesque version he was playing circa 2002 or so is the best, a nightmare urban tableau where “a sermon blares from the roof of a radio car.” Unreleased, but there are bootlegs out there.

August 27, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Linda Draper – Bridge and Tunnel

Quietly and methodically, New York songwriter Linda Draper has climbed into the ranks of the elite: to rank her with Aimee Mann, Richard Thompson or Neko Case would not be an overstatement. To put that statement in perspective, consider that this new cd is her sixth consecutive consistently excellent album, a rare achievement. Bridge and Tunnel harkens back to the strikingly direct, tersely catchy acoustic pop feel of her 2001 debut, Ricochet, without compromising her utterly unique, brilliantly literate, characteristically dark lyrical voice. Brad Albetta‘s production here is beautifully minimalist, with terse bass, live drums and occasional organ looming behind Draper’s alternately soaring and hushed vocals and dexterously fingerpicked guitar. Staring from the shadows, haunted but resolute and defiant, she sounds something akin to Nina Nastasia with a broader sonic palette.

The album title is a New York reference: the phrase”bridge and tunnel” is a slur meaning suburban and unsophisticated. The song itself, a bitter, bluesy, minor-key number is, like pretty much everything else here, spiked with sharp lyrical gems. Refusing to budge, the narrator holds her ground, knowing she’ll have to struggle to stay where she is, whether that place is literal or metaphorical:

There’s no tunnel without a light

Still my vision is failing me now

Little girl what you gonna do

When the day comes and there’s no one left to run to,

You could stand, you could stall

Play dead in the middle of it all…

There’s no way I’d rather feel tonight

Though tomorrow I will pay the price…

The cd’s catchy opening track alludes to madness and confinement:

Through the bars of my window I see many lives…

Black turns into blue as the day turns into night

How low will you go?

But it turns warmer with Sharks and Royalty, a quietly confident anthem for nonconformists everywhere:

Among the sharks and the royalty

There must be room for you and me

Oh my dear have no fear of what you can’t see

Oh my dear have no fear for me

I’ll tell you just what happened here

We all begin and end and tears

The moral of the story’s in your dreams

Sometimes things are the way they seem

Among the rotten ones we’ll run free…

With its swinging backbeat, Time Will Tell offers a vivid autopsy for a doomed relationship: the narrator misses the guy, but only when she’s “not quite at my best. You are the shipwreck, I am the sea, you’re sinking right through me,” she charges, matter-of-factly. After that, the cleverly titled Pushing up the Days offers a similarly jaundiced view of how relationships inevitably decay:

Instead of clutching I will fold

The daylight lives in the hearts of those

Who give without expecting a gift to be given in return

You can smell as long as you want to smell those roses

But keep in mind they’re from another time

When you’re pushing up the days, pushing up the daisies

Close Enough, with its insistent, percusssive fingerpicking is a throwback to the hypnotic feel of much of her most recent work: “If your love is not enough to bring home tonight, I suggest you take your pulse to make sure you’re still alive,” Draper taunts. Then it’s back to the defiant feel with the bouncy, Rhode piano-driven Broken Eggshell:

Every corner I meet there’s two more empty streets

I’ve been walking down

And every step that I take there’s an eggshell to break

It’s the perfect sound

The cd wraps up with a playful, tongue-in-cheek Stones cover and the country-inflected outsider anthem Last One Standing: “Some will lead, most will follow, then there are the lucky few who find better things to do.” So many levels of meaning, so many nuances in Draper’s voice and a wealth of beautifully minute detail in the music as well. You can bet this will be high on our best albums of 2009 list at the end of the year; watch this space for upcoming September live shows.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 8/6/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #356:

Aimee Mann – Humpty Dumpty

The haunting George Harrisonesque opening track on Lost In Space, 2001, the pantheonic songwriter’s meticulously inflected voice both soothing and absolutely heartwrenching:

So let us take the keys

And drive forever

Staying won’t put these

Pieces back together

All the perfect drugs

And superheroes

Wouldn’t be enough

To pull me up to zero

August 6, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Kerry Kennedy at the Delancey, NYC 7/20/09

Faced with a laughably absurd amount of work catching up here in the wake of last week’s computer meltdown, Kerry Kennedy’s gig Monday night at Small Beast at the Delancey wasn’t the most disciplined choice of show to go see and write about afterward. She’s been reviewed here very favorably before, and given how ecstatic a response a shockingly big Monday night crowd gave her, she probably doesn’t need any more press. But this was transcendent. In the same spirit if not quite the same style as Neko Case, she’s taken a very stylized genre – twangy, noir, David Lynchian southwestern gothic rock- and puts a uniquely intense yet completely unselfconscious stamp on it. A lesser artist would put his or her personality centerstage; not Kennedy.

She’s a young woman with an old voice. But it’s her voice, not Nina Simone’s or Marlene Dietrich’s, two artists whose worn-down yet electric charisma resemble hers so closely. Kennedy has the added advantage of not only being a first-class songwriter but also a collector of great songs – in her case, she’s been going deep into the James Jackson Toth catalog with astonishingly powerful results. The towering, anguished 6/8 anthem More From the Mountain (see the top of Kennedy’s myspace page) grew with Walkabouts-class power to landslide-inducing volume, lead guitarist Nathan Halpern hacking volcanic torrents of sound from the chords and hurling them down the slope. By contast, the pensive ballad Sons of Sons took a melody very reminiscent of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Happy When It Rains deep into noir territory, stalking along on a suspenseful, staggered beat. Singing with her eyes closed and backed by Small Beast impresario and Botanica mastermind Paul Wallfisch on piano, she took the Little Annie noir cabaret angsthem Because You’re Gone pitch black, quietly, drummer Heather Wagner driving the dirge with the subtlest, wispiest accents.

The rest of the show ranged from a fast, eventually explosive rocker built around a catchy two-chord riff, a swinging, swaying, apprehensive version of the big audience hit Wishing Well, a mighty, Orbisonesque ballad and a co-write with Toth, Dive, a bitter and brutal kiss-off ballad that only gets better every time she plays it. Throughout the set, Kennedy struck a casual, resolute stance, swaying slowly, expertly working the darkest corners of the lyrics with a breathy delivery that ranged from exasperation to exhaustion to inextinguishable rage, all the while staying in a zone. At times it seemed like she’d almost gone into a trance, taking the audience with her – after she’d end a song, there would be silence for a few seconds before the crowd would start to burst into applause. Here in the blogosphere, it’s considered gauche to review the same artist again and again, but there’s simply no denying how good this show was. Every year, we put up a Top 20 NYC shows of the year list and while there’s no way we’ll be able to call this year’s anything remotely definitive, this one will be on it.

July 23, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch, Nathan Halpern and Thomas Simon at the Delancey, NYC 7/13/09

Why do we love Small Beast? Because we’re lazy. Small Beast will be happening every Monday at the Delancey until October, when it moves back to its original Thursday. Which from a music blogger’s perspective is good for so many reasons, particularly since there are almost always three or four first-rate acts on the bill who’ve never been profiled here before. So Lucid Culture gets four night’s worth of work done in a single Monday evening when there are  no conflicts with other shows. And Botanica frontman Paul Wallfisch always opens the night solo on piano. Imagine if you’d been able to see Bud Powell every week for free, in 1953 – completely different idiom, same vibe. It’s all about passion.

Since Wallfisch gets a good review here pretty much every week, suffice it to say that last night’s set was characteristically rich and multistylistic. He’d played a money gig earlier in the day, so he was all warmed up and got even warmer very quickly. He did lots of new material including some songs from the next Botanica album and some even newer than that – a soaring, classically-inflected ballad, a pretty, vivid pop song and counterintuitive covers of songs by Baby Dee, Little Annie, Aimee Mann and the Stones (Faraway Eyes done hilariously with faux-gospel piano).

Nathan Halpern really opened some eyes after that. The lead guitarist from Kerry Kennedy’s paisley underground noir band proved to be a first-rate songwriter as well, sort of Orbison seen through the warped prism of Pulp. Halpern is a crooner, likes a counterintuitive, sardonically literate lyric and a big countrypolitan sound gone somewhat apprehensively askew. As he does in Kennedy’s band, he’d build a crescendo to an unhinged tremolo-picking break, wailing up and down on the strings with a Black Angel’s Death Song style savagery. Backed by Andrew Platt alternating between piano, guitar and bass and drummer Heather Wagner adding marvelously subtle shades, Halpern made his way through a mix of big 6/8 anthems, a couple of jaunty, more overtly country-inflected numbers and closed with a towering, knowingly rueful number perhaps titled Darling When.

Viennese expat Thomas Simon closed the night on a frequently mesmerizing note with a long, practically seamless, improvisational set, something akin to Bauhaus doing a sidelong Abbey Road-style suite, fragments of songs segueing into each other while he and his extraordinarily good djembe player dug a murky sonic pit that swirled deeper and darker as the night went on with layers and layers of loops reverberating and pulsing throughout the mix. Simon’s guitar playing is very Daniel Ash – like the Bauhaus guitarist, he really has a handle how to build eerie tonalities using open strings. Frequently he’d start a segue with a single low, resonant bass note just as David J did on Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Simon moved to piano for a couple of interludes, using the same chordal voicings he’d been playing on the guitar for an intriguing textural contrast. At the end, they picked up the pace with an insistent, percussively hypnotic rhythm, then they took the drums completely out of the mix and Simon took all the effects off his guitar, letting the melody’s ominous, Syd Barrett-esque inflections speak for itself.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/10/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Friday’s song is #383:

Siouxsie & the Banshees – Bring Me the Head of the Preacher Man

Strong case for the argument that this band’s best period was around 1983-86 with Robert Smith from the Cure moonlighting on guitar. This is a marriage made in heaven, Siouxsie at the absolute top of her game as outraged witness, Smith tossing off one eerie Arabesque after another in this absolutely hypnotic, macabre, epic masterpiece from the Hyaena lp, 1983.

July 10, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 7/6/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. It’s been a  somewhat insane weekend around here. In the meantime, here’s Monday’s song, #387:

Patty Ocfemia – Misspent Youth

Fearless, majestic, absolutely unrepentant anthem that serves as the centerpiece to this vastly underrated New York songwriter’s excellent 2008 album Heaven’s Best Guest, her voice indomitable and resolute over a lush bed of acoustic guitars that fade out gracefully at the end:

 

Not like old lovers

No permanent scars

No fixed agenda

No calendars

No heavy hand

Or privileged truth

No guilt or shame

For my misspent youth

July 6, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/5/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Sunday’s song is #388:

Ellen FoleyIndestructible

Singer/actress Foley rode her famous cameo on the Meatloaf monstrosity Paradise by the Dashboard Light to considerable European top 40 popularity before hooking up with Mick Jones. He and Joe Strummer produced, wrote and played on her 1981 lp Spirit of St. Louis (she’s from there) – it’s the great lost Clash album. This is one of its most riveting moments, a slow, wrenchingly haunting ballad written by frequent Strummer collaborator and violinist Tymon Dogg. Foley continues to record and play the occasional New York show. The link in the title above is a video from Hungarian tv; mp3s are kicking around if you do some digging.

July 5, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment