Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 12/7/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #784:

Come – Gently Down the Stream

One of the small handful of truly great indie rock bands from the 90s, Come’s two-guitar frontline of Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw were that era’s Keith Richards and Mick Taylor, combining for a ferocious, intuitive maelstrom of growling, roaring, reverb-drenched, evilly smoldering noise. This is their last album, from 1999, and it’s their best. The songs are longer, more ornate and complex, foreshadowing the art-rock direction Zedek would take in the years following the demise of the band. There’s no other group that sound remotely like them: while Zedek would borrow a little of the noiserock she’d been drenched in as frontwoman of legendary New York rockers Live Skull in the late 80s, ultimately she’s more of a Stonesy rock purist. Brokaw invents new elements with his trademark leads, expertly negotiating an underworldly labyrinth of passing tones. The album opens with the epic One Piece, continues in that vein with Recidivist before going more punk with the slightly shorter Stomp and then eventually the loudest track here, the screaming, riff-rocking Saints Around My Neck. The most magnificent track is the kiss-off anthem New Coat, another scorching dirge. After the band broke up, Brokaw would go on to even greater heights as the lead guitarist in the original incarnation of Steve Wynn and the Miracle Three as well as a noteworthy career as a solo act as well as with first-class indie songwriter Jennifer O’Connor. Here’s a random torrent.

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December 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Typical Beastly Monday

So good to be back at Small Beast after a few weeks’ absence. Nothing has changed – New York’s most unpredictably fun weekly musical event was as edgy as always. This time around, Pete Galub opened the night while Botanica keyboardist and Small Beast impresario Paul Wallfisch furiously wrote out charts for his show later in the evening with Sally Norvell. Most solo shows are boring to the extreme, but Galub had brought along a gorgeous hollowbody electric guitar and gave a clinic in powerpop songwriting – and when the time came, guitar solos, playing along methodically as if he had his usual band behind him. Galub gets props for his playing, and deservedly so, but his songs are every bit as clever as his work as a lead guitarist for a cavalcade of A-list writers: Amy Allison, Serena Jost and others. He opened with a sardonic, Big Star inflected number possibly titled Exclusive Guest, following that with a gorgeously poignant, minor-key, somewhat Neil Finn-esque tune, Crying Time. A cover of the late former LA Trash frontman Alan Andrews‘ big 6/8 ballad Undiscovered Life maintained the poignant tone while adding a tongue-in-cheek vibe, segueing into a nasty, noisy riff-rocker that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Kevin Salem catalog – complete with an offhandedly savage solo. And then a real surprise, a pensive and heartfelt version of Any Major Dude by Steely Dan. When Galub opened his set, he’d hinted that he might take a detour into the Dan catalog, and this was a typically counterintuitive choice. Most solo shows are a clinic in how to bore an audience: Galub reaffirmed that if you have the chops, the material and a sense of humor, you don’t necessarily need a band.

Guitarist Thomas Simon and his drummer cohort were next on the bill, with a long set of swirling, atmospheric, effects-laden numbers that took the shape of a suite as they segued into one another. “A Spacemen 3 kind of thing,” one of the cognoscenti in the crowd murmured – this set had remarkably more aggression than Simon’s previous appearance at the Beast in July (very favorably reviewed here).

For one reason or another the women who play Small Beast turn out to be the night’s biggest stars, and an Austin punk legend, former Gator Family and Norvells frontwoman Sally Norvell maintained the tradition, backed by Wallfisch and erstwhile Big Lazy bassist Paul Dugan on a few numbers. Norvell is best known as a menacing noir cabaret femme fatale, but this set was a showcase in stylistic diversity, masterful subtlety matched by wrenching, raw intensity. Norvell can belt with anyone, but it’s how she holds back, how she works whatever emotion the lyrics call for that makes her such a captivating presence – and one sorely missed, at least around these parts. A few years back, right around the time that her duo with Kid Congo Powers, Congo Norvell was pretty much finished, she put out an amazing, sparsely beautiful album, Choking Victim, backed just by Wallfisch and occasional minimalist percussion or guitar. They opened with one of the songs from that one, One Gentle Thing, replete with longing and regret, Wallfisch obviously in his element and relishing the moment from its first few stately chords. A creepy, swaying Congo Norvell song pulsed along with a steady, ominous eight-note pulse from the bass. And then noir cabaret personality Little Annie joined them for an understatedly anguished version of her big audience hit Because You’re Gone – the contrast of Annie’s bitter contralto and Norvell’s breathy soprano, and the counterpoint between the two, was absolutely transcendent and the two women made it seem effortless. And unaffectly intense – it brought Norvell to tears. The rest of the set could have been anticlimactic but it wasn’t – a brief, menacing Paul Bowles song (Wallfisch worked with him for a time), a sad minor ballad in 6/8, a gorgeously dark lament, and then Norvell finally cut loose with a soaring version of the old spiritual Trouble in the World, imbuing it with a nihilistic fury. “You can’t have an apocalypse without Jesus,” she grinned gleefully.

Keyboardist and Americana soul stylist Matt Kanelos and then another keyb guy, frequent Thalia Zedek collaborator M.G. Lederman were scheduled to follow, but there were places to go and things to do. Next week’s Beast is a beauty, with Julia Kent, Carol Lipnik and Rebecca Cherry in addition to Wallfisch doing his usual set solo at the piano – if you’re in New York this coming Monday you’d be crazy to miss it.

October 7, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 3/2/09

Here’s this week’s hit parade! This is how we do every Tuesday: 

 

1. Jay Bennett – I’ll Decorate My Love

Opening salvo on the former Wilco multi-instrumentalist’s bitter, brooding new solo cd (available for free download here).

2. Edison Woods – Wind Song

A new one from the lush, atmospheric, often haunting chamber-rock group — minimalist, stark, haunting, with especially nice vocals from composer Julia Frodahl. Eventually this will be a part of a marvelous album called the Wishbook Singles.

3. Marissa Nadler – Mexican Summer

Ethereal noir shoegaze song from the haunting Boston chanteuse. She’s at Joe’s Pub on 3/4 at 9:30

4. Thalia Zedek – Hell Is In Hello

Another sweet intense guitar maelstrom from the former Come frontwoman.

5. The New Familiars – The Storm

Hypnotic delta blues gone grasscore – wild stuff. They’re at Public Assembly on 3/14.

6. The Mess Around – Drunken Words

“Bullshit I can’t? Bullshit, I care?” Whatever. Play this as loud as you can without going deaf or, if you’re at work, without getting fired. They’re at the Charleston on 3/20.

7. The Brooklyn What – Sunbeam Sunscreen

It wouldn’t be a Top Ten without a Brooklyn What song, would it. This is a tasty live version. They’re at Don Pedro’s on 3/5 at 10.

8. The Bombers – One Foot in the Grave

Sonic Youth meets Ted Leo.

9. Elextra – Afro Punk

Spooky surf dub en Espanol. They’re at Ace of Clubs on 3/11

10. Wet Coma – Song About Revenge

AC/DC parody, predictable but funny. They’re also at Ace of Clubs on 3/18 at 8.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Elisa Flynn – Songs About Birds & Ghosts

Listening to this cd – Flynn’s second solo effort – the first thing that hits you is what a damn good singer she is. The phrase “indie rock song stylist” may sound like an oxymoron, but that’s what Elisa Flynn is. Confident and matter-of-fact on the big rockers, she brings it down to a wounded mezzo-soprano on the quieter songs, with a casual vibrato that trails off effortlessly. Flynn’s thoughtful, frequently dark songwriting gives that voice plenty of opportunity to soar and glimmer throughout a mix of scruffily clanging, upbeat guitar-driven fare and slower, more sparse material, often in 6/8 time and minor keys. Lyrically, she balances wry, smartly literate, frequently sardonic humor with an undercurrent of unease. This is the kind of album you want to put on the ipod and let it grow on you as its layers fold back and reveal themselves. There’s a lot to get to know here.

 

The cd kicks off with Timber. It’s a big, bounding, characteristically wary anthem that builds on from Flynn’s sharp, incisive choral work to a fiery crescendo on the chorus, drummer Anders Griffen getting the next salvo started with an evil cymbal crash. “The house has fallen down around our ears but I still live here…I’m not afraid of the crashing sound,” Flynn resolutely insists. The album’s second cut, Normal is a requiem, its ghost skipping across the room along with the song on the record that plays in the background, Flynn explains. With its skittish rhythm and early REM-ish guitar, Kathleen is another ghostly tale, this one decidedly more playful.

 

I’m Afraid of the Way I Go Off Sometimes is actually a lot more direct, less tongue-in-cheek than the title would indicate. Big Sky follows, wistful and pensive with Jose Delhart’s minimalist banjo over a muted, twilit rhythm section and an absolutely gorgeous, optimistic vocal. The most striking song of the cd’s ten tracks is an Egon Schiele homage, a 6/8 noir cabaret number flavored with spooky, terse piano and bells. The plaintive ballad Lost at Sea gives Flynn a chance to cut loose and wail, and she makes the most of the opportunity. The cd wraps up with the beautiful harmonies of the aptly titled Shine, maybe the only song to namecheck Fourth Avenue in Manhattan (or is it the one in Brooklyn?). Songs About Birds & Ghosts ought to resonate with fans of the A-list of smart indie rock women: Feist back when she was a cool guitar player, Thalia Zedek, Jennifer O’Connor et al. Look for it on our 50 Best CDs of 2009 list at the end of the year. Elisa Flynn’s next NYC show seems to be Sidewalk on April 8 at 9 PM.

February 23, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment