Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/2/10

Here’s this week’s version of what Billboard should be paying attention to: we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone, sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. If you don’t like one of these, 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. The Larch – Strawberry Coast

Brooklyn new wave revival – but smart new wave revival. This has Squeeze overtones – and big brother watching on the spycam. From the band’s best album, the brand-new Larix Americana.

2. The Notekillers – Papers

This was avant composer David First’s instrumental noise/surf/punk band, a proto Sonic Youth circa 1981. This is a twisted surf tune; the band is back together and reputedly as energized as ever.

3. Dark Dark Dark – Wild Go

Tersely haunting and Radiohead-esque, live on Minneapolis TV. Thanks to Jamie of the Brooklyn What for the link!

4. Tris McCall – Sugar Nobody Wants

Expert tunesmithing and wordsmithing – this one’s a tribute to trespassing, which is always fun especially if you live somewhere that’s really boring.

5. Wintersleep – Black Camera

The Auteurs as done by Sloan in 7/8 time.

6. Ocote Soul Sounds – Tu Fin, Mi Comienzo

Dub cumbia! Yum! Like Chicha Libre but trippier.

7. Not Waving But Drowning – The Drowned Man’s Ball

Menacing, dramatic noir cabaret, like the Dresden Dolls but better.

8. These New Puritans – ???

Scroll down to the “live on the BBC” clip – trancey percussion driven chamber rock with a woodwind section!

9. The Giving Tree Band – Early to Bed

Bluegrass/Americana with a message: night owls unite! Free download.

10. Low Society – Girls Puke For Free

German hardcore band singing what could be an anthem for the entire Lower East Side now that the tourists have taken over.

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August 3, 2010 Posted by | country music, latin music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Tris McCall at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 3/30/10

Tris McCall was psyched to be playing the Rockwood, not only because of the great sound but because performers at the Rockwood don’t have to go through a metal detector. That’s what musicians and audience alike have to do at the Hudson County (NJ) Courthouse, where he’s played several times. McCall wears his New Jersey affiliation proudly on his sleeve; like most every other artist from there, his feelings for his home state are mixed. “I’m going to play a lot of wordy songs,” he warned the audience, but he held them rapt. McCall is just as good solo on piano as he is with a band, maybe even better, since his lyrics have more of a chance to cut through. And they cut and slashed with a wit and a poignancy on par with the one artist McCall covered, Elvis Costello (he snuck in a casually brilliant cover of All the Rage toward the end of the set).

As much as New Jersey is notoriously weird, dark, haunted and corrupt, McCall invariably sympathizes with his downtrodden characters, none of whom ever seem to be able to get out – his songs have a Ray Davies-class populism. The Ballad of Frank Vinieri recounted the sad end of a would-be housing preservationist’s political career, brought down in a witch hunt by greedy developers. An earlier song, We Don’t Talk About Teddy was a hauntingly allusive look at a convict abandoned in the prison-industrial complex, told from the point of view of his hopelessly scarred parents. “Ten different channels of cop shows to choose from, I’m gonna lock it up!” the father finally rages – meaning the tv.

The centerpiece of the show was the centerpiece of McCall’s new album Let the Night Fall (best album we’ve reviewed this year so far, by the way), the epic First World, Third Rate, a casually harrowing narrative of depersonalized stripmall hell. But McCall ended it on a passionately upbeat note: the mallrat at the center of the song isn’t about to go down with everything around him. By contrast, a ballad giving a glorious shout-out to “Hudson County by the sea” was not nearly that optimistic, its protagonist having “bartered away” his life in his own darkness on the edge of town.

Not everything in the set was that bleak. Musically, McCall mixed it up from his usual big, dramatic block-chord arrangements with a sarcastic state-of-the-economy minor-key blues, the joyous sixties soul of Baltimore (sort of an alternative to the Randy Newman song) and a vividly jazzy number about a housing inspector. And the song he soundchecked with, a deadpan, vaudevillian tribute to (or parody of) the New Jersey Department of Public Works made it impossible not to smile. McCall’s next gig is at Bruar Falls on April 1 – no joke – with his indie powerpop supergroup of sorts, Overlord.

In a welcome return to New York, Irish songwriter Andy White followed with a boisterous, tuneful set featuring some lushly processed twelve-string guitar work and White’s characteristically smart social awareness, best exemplified by his global-warning cautionary tale Last Long Night on the Planet.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Tris McCall – Let the Night Fall

As a tunesmith, keyboardist/songwriter Tris McCall (who also plays with Kerry Kennedy in indie powerpop supergroup Overlord) knows a catchy hook when he hears one. As a wordsmith, he is unsurpassed, on the same level as Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann or Paula Carino. If there’s anybody who knows the difference between sarcasm and irony, it’s this guy. There are loads of both here. His previous album was a refreshingly jaundiced excursion through trendoid indie Williamsburg; this time out, McCall turns an unsparing yet sometimes wistful gaze on the place he knows best, the state that actually once spawned a movement to make Born to Run its official anthem (death trap, suicide rap, we gotta get out, etc. – it happened). Springsteen hovers at the edge of the parking lot here, a distantly anthemic presence. Otherwise, the songs evoke Fountains of Wayne but with balls (hard to imagine, but try it), a defiant populism and much better tunes, McCall’s vocals casual, unaffected, often surprisingly cheery considering the underlying grimness.

The opening cut, WFMU builds from catchy trip-hop to a blazing chorus metaphorically loaded with unease, one rapidfire mot juste or double entendre after another. “The radio’s damnable when it’s programmable” is the keystone. At the end, McCall sends out friendly shout-outs not only to the long-running independent New Jersey station but also to WSOU (who knew?), WBGO, WFUV and even distant WPRN, halfway to Cape May. The Throwaway – “cut my neck and I bleed gasoline” – wonders why the neighborhood emo kids won’t accept him as one of their own, considering that all of them should have had the sense to get out, while The Ballad of Frank Vinieri harrowingly memorializes an up-and-coming populist ground down by the gentrifiers of Jungleland. Sugar Nobody Wants, an atmospheric nocturne, pays homage to the age-old anomie-driven sport of trespassing. The title track, an 80s-inflected powerpop stomp, paints a snide Fourth of July tableau set “where minutemen jump back and feign surprise when they get the tax bill.”

The centerpiece of the album, First World, Third Rate is a majestic, metaphorically charged kiss-off from a mallrat stuck working some ineffable fast-food salad bar. The poor kid’s life has been so barren that the best things he’s managed to live to eulogize are a Thomas Wolfe-esque litany of scuzzy chain restaurants – as the faux-Meatloaf arrangement grows more and more bombastic, an exuberant choir yells out their names in perfect time. It makes even more sense in the context of the next cut, You’re Dead After School, a creepy new wave-ish reminiscence of close encounters with pedophiles. Midnight (Now Approaching) follows with its guitars blasting, sort of a Meeting Across the River in reverse (this one’s actually set on the Staten Island Ferry), electric with both excitement and maybe imminent doom.

A gentle country song on the surface, Mountainside has the hometown folks contemplating a prodigal son’s return with bated breath – and cemetery plot ready, while We Could Be Killers layers one vintage synth patch over another in a big Pulp-style pop end-of-the-world epic. The album closes, coming full circle, with a hallucinatory early-morning roadside tableau. This one’s going to show up on a lot of best-of lists at the end of the year, including here. Tris McCall plays the Rockwood at 7 PM solo on piano on March 30, a good place for him to run through the album’s lone instrumental, a clever baroque-rock interlude.

March 25, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 5/11/09

We do this every week. 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. Every link here will take you to the song.

 

1. McGinty & White – Knees

Savagely lyrical kiss-off anthem from the duo’s excellent debut cd, possibly the only song ever written that fondly (sort of) eulogizes CB’s Gallery. Gotta love that Love Is the Drug outro. They’re at Bowery Electric on 5/21 at 11.

 

2. Overlord – The Daily Oblivion

Better than the New Pornographers – plus they have Kerry Kennedy in the band!

 

3. David Bridie – Going Out with the Enemy

Smart Aussie rock songwriter – this one sounds a bit like Midnight Oil.

 

4. Sr. Misterio – El Comienzo

Mexican surf rock is the best!

 

5. Stuffed Cupcake – Better at Rejection

“NJ’s premier dessert punk band.” Here’s an even funnier acoustic version.

 

6. Bern & the Brights – May in New York

22 degrees? Vigil at Union Square? When was this? Good song, though, dark and propulsive.

 

7. Tip Canary – Tough to Find One (Broke A$S Game)

Funny hip-hop-funk tune about dating a rich bitch

 

9. Waking Lights – Ice Cream & Vicodin

Enjoy, just don’t choke!

 

10. The Frozen Gentlemen – Peen

Deadpan retro 80s new wave. Is this about what it seems to be about?

May 12, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment