Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Daytrotter a Day #30: H.D. Harmsen & the Electrophones

So this is it.  The final day of my Daytrotter a Day series.  It's been fun, both discovering great new bands... and bashing awful ones.  Hope you've enjoyed the journey.

Daytrotter a Day #30: H.D. Harmsen & the Electrophones (Released 04.30.13)

Harmsen's nasal voice takes away from his fairly standard pop/rock songs.  "Strawberries & Milk" is the best one here because he splits vocal duties with a woman that sounds like Zooey Deschanel.  He has a decent band, but I wouldn't bother.  You don't have time to read a long review anyway.  You only have a few more hours to get a free vinyl when you sign up for Daytrotter!

Daytrotter a Day #29: Story Books

Daytrotter a Day #29: Story Books (Released 04.29.13)

Story Books sound a little like Brett Dennen fronting Coldplay.  But even if you hate Coldplay, which I do, you have to admit that they are able to write a hook.  Story Books aren't.  "Glory & Growth" is the closest they come, but close doesn't cut it when there are thousands of other sessions to try.







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Daytrotter a Day #28: Reptile Youth

Daytrotter a Day #28: Reptile Youth (Released 11.27.12)

The 1980s have become a fashionable cabbage patch for musicians to pluck ideas and sounds from, which is ironic since many consider it the be the most artistically devoid decade of music.  While most '80s revival bands are content to just incorporate elements, Danish group, Reptile Youth seem set on actually sounding like they're in the '80s.  Listening to "Black Swan," you can easily picture its early-MTV music video, with the band performing in a black box, colorful lights burning halos on the screen, intercut with the lead singer chasing a curly-haired sexpot through the dampened streets of Copenhagen.  Sadly, it's the crowning achievement of the session.  "Gimme Some Truth" reminds me too much of They Might Be Giants' "Money for Dope," and "Dead End" is laughably bad, with its grandiose biblical lyrics and disco drums.  Download "Black Swan" if you love the '80s, but toss the rest.

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Daytrotter a Day #27: Bryan Cates

Daytrotter a Day #27: Bryan Cates (Released 11.16.10)

According to Sean Moeller's essay, Bryan Cates writes his songs for himself.  If it weren't for friends like Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, who invited Cates to open some shows, we'd probably never hear his work.  Aside from one EP, this session is essentially all the Bryan Cates out there.  The standout track is "Wait Through the Night," a sweet slice of blue-eyed soul that should satisfy Mayer Hawthorne fans.  Cates' melancholy folk tunes are fairly straightforward musically, but I anticipate the lyrics will reveal new depth with repeated listens.



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Monday, April 29, 2013

Daytrotter a Day #26: The Ladybug Transistor

Daytrotter a Day #26: The Ladybug Transistor (Released 06.06.07)

I somehow missed this branch of the Elephant Six Collective even though they apparently record in my neighborhood!  They're not as experimental as some of their E6 brethren, but they make pleasant enough music.  Gary Olson's voice is reminiscent of Jonathan Richman, especially on "NY - San Anton."  The country-western guitar and trumpet are nice touches.  "Terry" would fit seamlessly on Nightmare of You's Infomaniac.  I'd like to check out some of their albums to see if they have a more definitive sound.




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Daytrotter a Day #25: Incan Abraham

Daytrotter a Day #25: Incan Abraham (Released 04.23.13)

When "Paper Army" began with an off-putting falsetto (Can we start calling falsetto voices we don't like false-etto?), I was skeptical of Incan Abraham.  The rim-heavy tribal drumbeat also reminded me a lot of Local Natives.  The next track, "Tuolumne," faired better, coaxed along by a farty keyboard sound until shimmery keys came in at the bridge to clear the air before the big finale.  The vocals improve greatly on "Springhouse," where they sing with an assuredness not found on the other tracks.  If you were disappointed in Local Natives' electronic shift for Hummingbird, this seems like the median between it and Gorilla Manor.



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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Daytrotter a Day #24: Pat Jordache

Daytrotter a Day #24: Pat Jordache (Released 12.13.11)

At the crossroads of TV on the Radio and Bloc Party is where you'll find Pat Jordache.  Unfortunately, he lacks the vocal chops of Tunde Adebimpe or Kele Okereke.  It's a shame too.  "Radio Generation" is original enough to forge its own subgenre (tropical prog), but the wailing that bookends it distracts from the song's originality.







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Daytrotter a Day #23: Mark Mallman

Sorry for the delay, but I've been sick (and still am).  I wanted to catch up on these, and remind you that you have until the end of April to sign up for Daytrotter and get a free vinyl.  So do it.

Daytrotter a Day #23: Mark Mallman (Released 08.06.12)

With "Bloodflow," Mark Mallman comes across as sort of a lo-fi Bruce Springsteen.  While you forgive his shortcomings as a vocalist in lieu of his excitement on that song, when he slows things down on "Get All the Money You Can," his voice can get pretty grating.  "Tell It to the Judge" features some interesting ambient keyboard work, but the vocals really ruin it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daytrotter a Day #22: Daniel Francis Doyle

Daytrotter a Day #22: Daniel Francis Doyle (Released 11.12.12)

I have to admit that I picked this one for its artwork.  It's proof in the old idiom about the book.  Set to noisy instrumentation that at times sounds like math rock by kids who weren't good at math, Doyle shout-sings with similarly untrained vocals.  It's almost tolerable when he calms things down a little on "Learning Things at School" and "Send You Away," but then he's back at it again on "There Are Two of You."  I hope he's better at making sandwiches than he is at making music.



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ALO and Ryan Montbleau Band Channel Prince at Highline Ballroom

When I found out that ALO were playing a show in New York the day before my birthday, I was stoked.  When I found out it was a double-bill with another artist on my iPod, Ryan Montbleau Band, I was even more pumped.  Then I found out it was at Highline Ballroom.  I'd been to two shows at Highline before, and it's one of my least favorite venues in the city.  The sound has always been awful, the aqua lights on the walls are too bright in your peripherals, and there are fucking candlelit booths scattered around the dancefloor.  It's time we call a spade a spade and recognize Highline for what it truly is: just another nightclub in the Meatpacking District.  Thankfully both of these bands have enough character that they were able to fill a room that doesn't have any.  And I'll be damned... the sound mix was good too, albeit a tad sterile.

As soon as I got out of work, I ran to the venue to make it to the meet-and-greet for members of ALO's fan service, the Hot Tub Club.  I gave Dave my input on his upcoming installment (How great would it be to hear a "Lies of the World" demo?), and chatted with Steve about the New York comedy scene.  Posing for a group shot, talk turned to photography.  "You're Blind Tony?  I love Blind Tony!  We use Blind Tony as an example of why Instagram is okay," said Zach.  It felt pretty cool to have my character Instagram (I take photos as if I were blind.) validated by my favorite band.  With all this going on, it was difficult to pay attention to the opening act, American Babies, but I heard some nice melodic jamming.  I also find it funny that you can't tell people you're into them without sounding somewhat racist: "I like American Babies."

A little before 9pm, ALO took the stage.  "How you guys doing?  You wanna have some good times?" tempted Zach before plunging into the opening chords of "Maria."  Dan Lebowitz ignited a fiery guitar solo, burning down the house on the very first song.  Ryan Montbleau's percussionist, Yahuba Garcia-Torres, sat in for a solid "Falling Dominoes."  "He'll be coming and going like a percussion ghost," informed Gill.  "Blew Out the Walls" had everyone gyrating until an extraterrestrial jam towards its end made us stand still in awe as eerie green lights danced around the stage.  Dan forgot to bring his steel to the stage, so Zach made small talk with the audience.  "It's always magical when I come to New York City.  Get one of those salads at that Pret place you have.  You've seen it all, New York.  What do you do when you've seen it all?"  "Go to California!" shouted someone.  "When you've seen it all, you have to pretend like you haven't seen it all."  I had to pretend when they started "Isla Vista Song," which I've seen them play at every ALO show I've been to but Farm Aid.  But I didn't have to use my imagination very long, because when they hit part two, Yahuba returned, and Steve moved to a small keyboard I'd never seen him play before.  Somehow they always manage to make the song sound fresh.

Zach seemed a bit more reserved than usual, but his mood picked up a little while scatting gibberish before "I Love Music."  They were joined on the song by Mitch Marcus, a saxophone player who used to play with them years ago in San Francisco.  Mitch traded lines with Dan and Zach, fitting in like he was a permanent member.  They followed it with a bizarre cover choice, the keyboard-drenched "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order.  I'd never heard the song before, so it was a little foreign to me.  I can only imagine how foreign "Haji Memashite" must've sounded to anyone unfamiliar with the J-pop-inspired anthem, which has been recently revived after Dan selected it for his edition of Hot Tub Club rare tracks.  After "Plastic Bubble" with a reprise from Mitch Marcus, they announced, "We have one more song for you guys tonight."  Disapproving "aww"s from the crowd.  "But we're gonna make it a good one; don't worry."  They chose the fail-safe "Barbeque," which found its way into a multi-layered euphoric jam before the mystery unfolded into Prince's "1999."  Towards its end, Lebo threw in this one tiny guitar flourish that made me laugh out loud it was so well-timed.  Morsels like this are why I go to concerts, especially ALO gigs.  

The first time I saw Ryan Montbleau was in 2006 at the Knitting Factory.  He played solo acoustic, so it was a treat to finally see him with his band.  They kicked things off with the funky "Head Above Water," which set the pace for new tune, "Pacing Like Prince."  Over a Meters-esque groove, Ryan spit lyrics referencing Purple Rain, bathed in violet light.  The colors changed to red, yellow, and green for the reggae stylings of "Songbird," complete with dub echo effects on Montbleau's mic.  The Western swing of "I Can't Wait" was a big hit with the crowd, the call-and-response in particular.  It made you wish you knew someone with a barn, so you could hire RMB to play your barn party.

Following a soulful cover of obscure Johnny "Guitar" Watson cut "Lovin' You," Ryan welcomed Zach to the stage.  "Nothing lightens the mood like a Zach Gill.  Such a pleasure to tour with these guys, and I get to sing with this wonderful human being over here," gushed Ryan.  "Oh, thanks, buddy," said Gill, plugging in his ukulele.  They covered the Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream," Ryan nailing it with some of the sharpest whistling I've ever heard.  It almost made me forget the Jeep Cherokee commercial with the Grim Reaper that I've forever come to associate with the tune.  After thanking Zach, Montbleau remarked, "That's the most relaxed song I've ever played in New York City.  It only took me 15 years, but I finally feel relaxed here."

Relaxation was needed on a day like that, after their drummer James Cohen was hospitalized earlier for severe dehydration.  Still sporting his ID bracelet, he made it back in time for the gig, and no one was the wiser.  "We were trying to get him to wear his hospital gown to the show.  Get like a Jon Fishman thing going on," teased Ryan.  Dave Brogan learned a bunch of RMB tunes as a backup option, so he manned the kit for "You Crazy You."  After "75 & Sunny," Ryan used his arms to conduct crescendoing cheers from the audience.  "Thank you for comin' with me on that," he said with a laugh.  It was clear he was having a blast, and so was keys player Jason Cohen, exemplifying the term "perma-grin."

After an extended guitar workout from Lyle Brewer during "Dead Set," Ryan invited ALO to the stage.  Zach, Steve, and Dave joined the ranks of percussion, while Dan readied his lap steel, and the newly enlarged band tackled Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place."  Well, they didn't so much tackle it as pick it up and hurl it into the cosmos, Jason's spacey synth lines inspiring Dan to take over with a whale song from his lap.  The show could've ended there, but the Wednesday-night troopers wanted more.  We clapped until the combo-band returned to the stage, this time for a nearly 12-minute-long jammed-out interpretation of Paul Simon's "Graceland."  Dave took drums on this one, with Ryan and Zach in the front, trying out some Temptations-style choreography.  As the song moved further and further from Graceland to Spaceland, Zach hit us with some of his trademark growl-scatting (a cross between a didgeridoo and Animal from The Muppet Show), and Ryan's cheering tutorial finally paid off, as he incorporated the crowd's screams into the finale.  Not a bad birthday present.



ANIMAL LIBERATION ORCHESTRA - 04.24.13 - HIGHLINE BALLROOM (1 hour, 33 minutes)

SET -
Maria / Falling Dominoes / Blew Out the Walls / Wasting Time (Isla Vista Song) / Dead Still Dance / Walls of Jericho / I Love Music (feat. Mitch Marcus) / Bizarre Love Triangle / Haji Memashite / Plastic Bubble (feat. Mitch Marcus) / Barbeque > 1999 > Barbeque

RYAN MONTBLEAU BAND - 04.24.13 - HIGHLINE BALLROOM (1 hour, 48 minutes)

SET -
Head Above Water / Pacing Like Prince / Songbird / I Can't Wait / Lovin' You / Daydream (feat. Zach Gill) / You Crazy You (feat. Dave Brogan) / 75 & Sunny / Hot Coffee in a Paper Cup / Heartbreak Road / Yeah Man / Inspired by No One / Dead Set / This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) (feat. ALO)


ENCORE -
Graceland (feat. ALO)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Generationals Sell Out Bowery Ballroom & Splashh Make a Splash


I got to last night's sold-out Generationals show at Bowery Ballroom in time to see a few songs from Pepi Ginsberg's new band, Companion.  Their penultimate number, "Swimming/Wave," was my favorite, with the rhythm section hitting a danceable groove as effects-heavy guitars swirled around on the surface.  It was the shining moment in a set where Ginsberg's vocals often went over the top.

"This is our first time in America.  We're really fucking excited to be here," admitted Splashh's frontman Sasha Carlson, looking quite young with his Snoopy t-shirt and floppy haircut.  His bandmate, Toto Vivian, donned a Sonic Youth longsleeve, and as they embarked on their guitar-centric first tune, the London band displayed a strong Daydream Nation-era SY influence.  Over the course of forty minutes, Splashh tore through nine feedback-drenched songs that some critics have pegged as shoegaze, but it's shoegaze cranked up to 11.  And cutting through all the noise, a strong pop sensibility that at times recalled Oasis.  An incredibly solid debut performance on this side of the pond.

Arrested Development's "Mr. Wendal" ushered Generationals onto the Bowery stage.  Speech dropped out, and the band dropped into the jittery "Ten-Twenty-Ten."  Generationals play the kind of music that makes you just sort of give up on the genre field in iTunes and resort to typing "Indie."  
 Put Phoenix, the Cure, and New Order in a blender and set it to "pulse."  I preordered their latest album, Heza, and though I hadn't listened to it much before yesterday, it gets better on every repeat.  I can see it becoming one of my go-to's this summer if it ever gets fucking warm out.

In front of an alternating web of Christmas lights, which gave the whole thing a slightly Winterfest of Lights vibe, they played several tracks from Heza.  Most got a good crowd response, especially harder rocking ones like "I Never Know."  It was a bit of a challenge to come down after the powerhouse of Splashh, but once Generationals settled into their back catalogue, the fans and the band fired up.  "Angry Charlie" and the crowd-pleasing "When They Fight, They Fight" were followed by a cover of Frank Black's "Headache," though that was lost on the mostly hipster audience.  They recovered with "Faces in the Dark" and "Trust."  "This is our first show at Bowery Ballroom.  We'll always remember this," said a gracious Ted Joyner before they left the stage.

Applause brought them back for an encore, Ted saying, "There are a couple more we could do, so thank you."  Then they played their best song of the night, "You Got Me" from the new album.  Synthesized claps blended with human ones from the crowd as Joyner sang, "Every single night, you got me aching all the time."  A nicely placed bit of maraca from their drummer gave it that little extra push into greatness.  Sometimes it's the little things.  Next came the juicy synth sound of "Yours Forever," which had fans singing and bopping along so much that it had to be the last song.  At its finish, I looked down to my phone to note the show's end time, and then peered up to see Joyner strapping on his guitar.  "We're gonna do one more for you guys.  This has been a very special night for us.  This is first song, first record," Ted announced, plunging into "Nobody Could Change Your Mind."  At the song's end, the band walked offstage.  Without skipping a beat, Biggie's "Hypnotize" came on over the PA, and the dancefloor erupted.  The effect was that someone had taped over your "best of hip-hop" mixtape, but instead of being pissed off, you had a new summer mix and a story to tell.

I went down to the merch table, where I found Toto from Splashh sitting on a chair.  "What time is your show at Pianos tomorrow?" I asked.  "It's early.  7:00.  But you should come," he said with a smile.  "I don't think I'll be off yet," I said, lamenting my new job.  "If not, we're playing Shea Stadium at 10:30 or 11.  Do you know that place?"  WHAT?!?  I'm a little ashamed to admit that I got all the way home before remembering that the Mets now play at Citi Field.  It turns out there's now a venue/recording studio in Bushwick called Shea Stadium.  Generationals will be at the Rock Shop in Park Slope tonight.  Go see either band.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.



GENERATIONALS - 04.22.13 - BOWERY BALLROOM (1 hour, 1 minute)


SET -
Ten-Twenty-Ten / Put a Light On / Lucky Numbers / I Never Know / Awake / Spinoza / Angry Charlie / When They Fight, They Fight / Headache / Faces in the Dark / Trust

ENCORE -
You Got Me / Yours Forever / Nobody Could Change Your Mind

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Daytrotter a Day #21: Miles Nielsen & the Rusted Hearts

Daytrotter a Day #21: Miles Nielsen & the Rusted Hearts (Released 02.15.12)

Miles Nielsen is the son of Cheap Trick guitarist, Rick Nielsen, although you'd never know it by listening.  In fact, I didn't know it until I googled him after the session.  "Dear Kentucky (You're Killing Me)" is a melodic slice of Americana topped off with a scoop of clarinet.  "Sirens" is clearly influenced by Sgt. Pepper's-era Beatles, but that's never been a bad thing.  Nielsen and band make radio-friendly roots music that could stand to be a bit grittier, but it's difficult to combine the theatricality of late-'60s Beatles music with mid-'90s alt-country, and not favor a side.  The session's only misstep is a cover of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," where Miles reaches into his highest octave, but never touches the emotion of Neil's original.  Vinyl enthusiasts can buy Miles' latest LP for only $10 (plus shipping) today in conjunction with Record Store Day.

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Daytrotter a Day #20: Mostly Bears

Record Store Day took most of my time yesterday, so this one's late.  Stay tuned for today's entry, and sign up for Daytrotter.

Daytrotter a Day #20: Mostly Bears (Released 12.27.08)

When the pounding drums and propulsive bass join the chiming guitar on "The Man," Mostly Bears remind me a little of Minus the Bear, which is proof that you can't judge a band solely based on their ursinality.  It's the best song of the session, with Brian Lopez caterwauling in and out like Thom Yorke.  The majority of "The Stationary Divide" is a build to its final release, but it takes them too long to get there (Stationary is right.).  Lopez sounds a lot like James Petralli of White Denim on "Silhouette Stain," but it's another slow burn to the climax.  "The Digital Divide," on the other hand, is consistently high-energy.  However, Lopez ruins it by screaming most of his lyrics.  This session was released in 2008, so I'd be intrigued to see how they've developed, but a Google search turns up no new music since their debut.

Daytrotter a Day #19: Nakia

Daytrotter a Day #19: Nakia (Released 08.23.12)

Nakia begins his session with "Dream Big," a personal account of his trials and tribulations as a musician, coupled with a positive message: While things don't always go perfectly, if you believe in yourself and your goals, you'll make it.  I just googled him, and it turns out he was on the first season of The Voice, so maybe take his advice.  For "Don't Bring Me Down," he reimagines the ELO classic as a blues vamp, and it works nicely.  He takes us on another personal journey on the Muscle Shoals-inspired "Tight," though this time the focus is on women.  While things aren't going as well for him in that department, at least he knows what he wants.  And with pipes like his, he should be able to snag a lady soon enough.  Just listen to him growl on the rollicking "California Gold" or "M.C.," where the guitar gets cranked up to that muddy, balls-out Black Keys level.  Clicking download now.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

It's Record Store Day! What Did You Get?

I went to four stores in Manhattan, and managed to get most of the titles I wanted, aside from Dave Matthews Band's Live Trax Vol. 1.  Where did you go?  What did you get?

Here's what I ended up with:
Trey Anastasio - Blue Ash & Other Suburbs
Blind Melon - Blind Melon/Sippin' Time Sessions EP
Blitzen Trapper - Blitzen Trapper
The Flaming Lips - Zaireeka
G. Love - Bloodshot & Blue
Jay-Z & Kanye West - Otis/Niggas in Paris (freebie)
Mad Season - Above
Page McConnell - Unsung Cities & Movies Never Made
Willie Nelson - Crazy: The Demo Sessions
Phish - Lawn Boy
Sly & the Family Stone - I Want to Take You Higher EP
South Park - San Diego/Gay Fish

Let me know if you have a turntable and would like to get in on a Zaireeka listening party.  No Crosleys, please.

Shuggie Otis Takes His Hat Off, Stays a Funky While at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Even if you don't know Shuggie Otis, you know "Strawberry Letter 23."  Though popularized by the Brothers Johnson in 1977, the song debuted on Otis' Freedom Flight album, released when he was only 17.  It's a brilliant song.  There are three different parts in it that could have each made a hit on their own.  But there they are, all in the same tune, all instantly recognizable: the xylophone intro, the "oooh ooh ooh ooh ooh oooh"'s of the chorus, the looping psychedelic guitar solo.  Though Otis' records are revered by many, he hasn't put out a whole lot.  That is, until last week, when he paired a reissue of his 1974 LP Inspiration Information with Wings of Love, a second disc of unreleased material recorded over the years.  He's currently touring in support of the double-album, and last night's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg was the second in a trio of NYC dates.

Anti-folk artist Jesca Hoop may have seemed an odd choice for the opener, even admitting it herself: "As you see, we are not funk R&B.  We'll try to put a little bit of soul in there for you."  Introducing each of her tunes with a little story in a voice similar to Molly Shannon's in SNL's "Delicious Dish" sketch, Jesca sang in a vibrato not unlike Regina Spektor or Björk, accompanying herself with her clean electric guitar.  Her vocal pitch wasn't the only thing constantly shifting though.  The lyrics in "Murder of Birds" went from referencing birds to brown recluses to homemade bread to love, but this wasn't just stream of consciousness; each item came to play its particular role in the theme.  She brought out Australian singer Emma Dean to join her for four songs, beginning with "Hospital (Win Your Love)."  She even name-checked each Beastie Boy in "Four Dreams."  I was captivated, as was the majority of the crowd.  After presenting us with the option of a quiet song or a more upbeat one, a very vocal audience member yelled, "Whatever you want!"  "Well, I'll play you a song that is contrary to the upbeatness," she said dryly, before starting "The House That Jack Built," the title track from her latest album.  A fan's request of "Seed of Wonder" was honored as the final number, and I bought her CD after the show.

"Brooklyn, beware of what you asked for.  If you have never been dominated, you have three minutes to exit," warned trumpet player Larry Douglas as Shuggie Otis tuned his guitar.  "Ladies and gentlemen, you made the right choice tonight," assured Larry as the band kicked into "Inspiration Information."  Unfortunately, the mix was off in the room.  The keyboards were too loud, the trumpet mic was ear-piercingly hot, and Shuggie's guitar and vox were too low.  But maybe his vocals should've been even lower on "Aht Uh Mi Hed."  Otis was definitely out of tune, and the song was only saved by James Manning's funky bass and the horn part at its end.  I began to worry.  Shuggie was a musical prodigy, but what if his talent had subsided?  "Island Letter" wasn't anything special, and "Me & My Woman" had its moments, but I didn't come here to see a has-been.  After a medley of "Sparkle City" and "Miss Pretty," Shuggie removed the hat and overcoat he'd been wearing.  Turns out he literally just had to warm up.  Digging into "Sweetest Thang" with a heart-wrenching blues guitar solo, Otis didn't let up from that point onward.  His voice was well-suited for the blues, and the sound team had finally fixed the levels.  New song "Wings of Love" built slowly until Shuggie's ferocious shredding urged the band to join him on a psychedelic funk odyssey.  Things got loud.  Things got chaotic.  Things got awesome.  Would they be able to top it?

Yes.  For the encore, the band returned with "Ice Cold Daydream."  Over the course of nearly nineteen minutes, they chugged through the beast, Shuggie ripping into solo after solo, his eyes closed, top row of teeth bared.  Larry pulled out a cowbell to add a little spice, and pretty soon, every member was throwing his best ingredient into the pot.  Otis even picked up his whammy bar to take his solo further over the edge.  The deafening noise coming out of the speakers was a thick tangle of funky sounds being hacked at by the sharp edge of an erratically screaming guitar.  It's my favorite type of jam.  It's the reason I go to P-Funk concerts.  Once Shuggie felt it had peaked, he retreated backstage.  Still playing, Larry introduced the members of the band one by one, each taking a solo.  It turns out the Otis legacy continues with Shuggie's younger brother Nick on drums and his son Eric on rhythm guitar.  "You made the right choice tonight," Douglas repeated as they left the stage once more.

The house music came on and the crowd began to clear out.  Are you fucking kidding me?    "Straw-berr-y!  Straw-berr-y!" began the chants.  Two minutes later, the band returned.  "Psych!" yelled Manning into the microphone.  "What were you saying?  Strawberry?  I forgot to play it," teased Shuggie.  Even though I would've been super let-down if they'd skipped it, compared to that "Daydream," it was just dessert.  And as Shuggie played that classic solo with his son, I knew that I had made the right choice that night.





JESCA HOOP - 04.19.13 - MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG (37 minutes)

SET -
Murder of Birds / Hospital (Win Your Love) / Four Dreams / Born To / The House That Jack Built / Seed of Wonder



SHUGGIE OTIS - 04.19.13 - MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG (1 hour, 37 minutes)

SET -
Inspiration Information / Tryin' to Get Close to You / Aht Uh Mi Hed / Island Letter / Me & My Woman / Sparkle City > Miss Pretty / Sweetest Thang / Picture of Love / Wings of Love / Doin' What's Right / Instrumental*


ENCORE I -
Ice Cold Daydream

ENCORE II -
Strawberry Letter 23

Friday, April 19, 2013

Daytrotter a Day #18: The Growl

Daytrotter a Day #18: The Growl (Released 04.18.13)

"3, 6, 9" grabs your attention with a solo upright bass, but the excitement dissipates quickly once you realize the Growl are attempting to be Australia's answer to the Black Keys.  And they're not bad, but I'd rather just listen to the Black Keys.








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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Daytrotter a Day #17: Cheatahs

Daytrotter a Day #17: Cheatahs (Released 04.17.13)


The first two songs sound like Cheatahs listen to The Bends by Radiohead a lot.  Unfortunately, they haven't listened hard enough because they've completely missed the hooks.  "Fall" is more reminiscent of Kula Shaker.  The final song, "Canadian Club," is an annoying instrumental that goes nowhere.  Skip this one.








Seriously, you don't have Daytrotter yet?  What are you waiting for: a free Deer Tick vinyl?  Done.

Daytrotter a Day #16: Vox & the Hound

Daytrotter a Day #16: Vox & the Hound (Released 06.28.12)

Looking at the title of the first track, "Mom's Origami," I had to ask, "Why the hell wouldn't you call the song 'Mommy's Origami?'"  Then I pressed play.  What starts innocently enough as midtempo keyboard-driven indie rock explodes into a double-time jam portion halfway through.  They keep up the pace for the remainder, adding in a croaky organ melody.  "Mary Got Married" had me nodding my head to the piano and tapping my feet to the drums.  "Cheap & Out of Place" feels like a Dr. Dog outtake until Daniel Ray rips into a wailing trombone solo before the final section.  I didn't pay as much attention to the lyrics as I normally would, but that's because I was grooving too much.  I'll download and listen again.  And buy their album.  And EP.

I had honestly never even heard of this band before today.  So if you'd like to try your hand at discovering some new music, sign up for Daytrotter now.

Daytrotter a Day #15: St. Paul & the Broken Bones

Sorry, but a job interview, taxes, and busy concert schedule had me in the weeds for a bit.  Watch me churn out three of these now.  If you don't know what Daytrotter is, buy an annual membership and fall in love.

Daytrotter a Day #15: St. Paul & the Broken Bones (Released 04.15.13)

When the electric guitar riff kicked off "Half the City," I thought to myself, "Oh great, another thing that sounds like everything else."  Seconds later came the horns.  Then Paul Janeway's soulful voice.  Each time I heard the guitar lick again, it sounded better and better.  They slow it down a bit for "Broken Bones & Pocket Change," Janeway embellishing his vocals like Aaron Neville, but who honestly hates Aaron Neville?  Towards the song's end, he loses his shit.  I can imagine seeing it live and the crowd cheering.  I have to admit that the initial surprise had worn off by the last two songs, but I'm definitely interested.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

They Might Be Giants Contemplate Amputation at Acoustic Brooklyn Instore

After a somewhat disappointing show two weeks ago at Rams Head Live, They Might Be Giants redeemed themselves as I'd predicted with a half-hour of "super-high-energy, super-high-voltage rock songs at an impossibly low volume" at Academy Records Annex in Brooklyn.

Facing the shop's back wall and funneled into three lanes around the record bins, fans anxiously thumbed through the LPs beside them to pass the time before the concert.  I only wished I'd picked better records to stand near, though I did find the soundtrack to Deep Throat hidden in COUNTRY T-Z.  The two bespectacled Johns emerged from the Employees Only door, and laid their eyes on the ranks of the crowd.  "These are the best sightlines on a rush hour subway," teased John Flansburgh.  "It's great to play at the place where I've spent one-third of my disposable income over the past ten years," he admitted before they launched into "How Can I Sing Like a Girl?" accompanied solely by Linnell's accordion.  It's always great to get a two-Johns performance, especially a song that hasn't been played in over a year.

They brought out the band to perform "When Will You Die," and revealed prior to its start that they had never played the song on these instruments (John F. and Dan M. on acoustic guitar, John L. on accordion, Dan W. on bass, Marty on drums) before.  "If you've seen 127 Hours, it'll be like that scene where he jumps into the chasm.  We might have to cut our arms off later in the show," offered Linnell.  The smile on Flansburgh's face during the entire number was proof enough that they nailed it, but the applause from the audience didn't hurt either.  "How does my guitar sound?" he asked.  The crowd approved, and Flans responded, "It's like a fuckin' slice of heaven here on earth."

"Lost My Mind" led directly into "New York City," which featured the "King Kong" lyric and an amazing acoustic breakdown by the band.  "Doctor Worm" was great as always, especially with some high-pitched monotone double-vox during the bridge.  Aside from "Sing Like a Girl," they'd played all these songs at Rams Head, but these arrangements wiped the floor with those ones.  The air circulation in the store was limited, and the heat began to take its toll.  During the "Mesopotamish sun is beating down" line of "The Mesopotamians," as if on cue, Flans used a napkin to wipe the sweat from his brow.  At the song's end, he questioned, "Is it hot in here or is it just Dan Miller on the acoustic guitar, ladies and gentlemen?"  "Is it hot in here or is it just breathy?" Linnell added, getting a laugh.  After two spot-on Nanobots tunes, "Tesla" and the title track, Flans introduced the band, concluding with himself, "My name is Clarence Thomas!"  "Happy birthday, Clarence!" cried Linnell.

Anytime TMBG are doing an instore, go.  Some of the best performances I've seen them do, they've been surrounded by books.  I'm also happy to report that both Johns still have their arms, though they probably lost some feeling after signing so many autographs.





THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - 03.16.13 - ACADEMY RECORDS ANNEX (30 minutes)

SET -
How Can I Sing Like a Girl? / When Will You Die / Lost My Mind > New York City / Doctor Worm / The Mesopotamians / Tesla / Nanobots

Matt Costa Regales with Tales & Tunes at Bowery Ballroom


Before last night's show at the Bowery Ballroom, the last time I'd seen Matt Costa was at Music Hall of Williamsburg.  My brother and his wife came up from Baltimore, and we had to reserve a table because my sister-in-law was six months pregnant.  The baby kicked for the entirety of Matt's set.  She was born three months later, and she'll be 5 in June.


When you start listening to an artist from the time they come out, you develop a relationship with them similar to that of a parent with a child.  You're immensely proud of them and you want to share them with all your friends.  As the artist continues on their career, some of their decisions may make you miss the baby sometimes, but you realize it's not entirely up to you.  For in fact, both a child and a singer-songwriter have minds of their own, so you can either respect that, or put them up for adoption.  Over the years, Matt Costa has evolved, from the acoustic folk of his debut, to the piano tracks of Unfamiliar Faces, to the baroque pop of Mobile Chateau, to his latest eponymous record, which sounds like Belle & Sebastian teaming up with T. Rex to play sea shanties.  After last night's gig, I'm pleased to report that I'm still proud of my "son."

I didn't get to see much of the opening act, Vandaveer, but the D.C. duo played songs in the classic American folk style.  How classic?  Well, they're releasing an album of public domain murder ballads the end of the month.  You can check them out here.

I did, however, catch all of the Blank Tapes.  The brainchild of Matt Adams, the Blank Tapes make California pop full of jangly reverbed guitar, big drums, and vocal harmonies, but with a lo-fi twist.  Since the start, Adams has been very DIY, from recording on cassette tapes to drawing his own album art.  He even used to play all the instruments, but in the past year, he's added D.A. Humphrey on bass and the adorable Pearl Charles to keep time with a mallet in each hand on drums.  "We're from the West Coast, so we figured we'd bring the beach party.  We know you guys have a nice beach yourselves," said Pearl.  "No, we don't!" yelled a crowdmember.  Even if our beaches have been significantly washed away by Hurricane Sandy, the Blank Tapes would also make an excellent soundtrack to a Brooklyn rooftop BBQ.  The set consisted mainly of songs from their upcoming album Vacation, but also a few too new even for that, like the psychedelic "1000 Leather Tassels."  I bought a vinyl to listen to on days when I wish it were sunny.

Matt Costa took the stage ten minutes earlier than the announced 10:30 set time (It seems fashionable to start early now.), and sat down at the keyboard for "Mr. Pitiful."  One of my favorite MC songs, it was taken to a different place with the addition of some spooky pedal steel by Jay Kardong.  Kardong was the unsung hero of the night, never stealing the spotlight, but adding just the right touches to the tunes, like putting an orchestral feel on "Early November" or supplying a supernatural intro to "Behind the Moon."  The band made every song sound fuller, providing the perfect environment for Matt's lilting voice.  "Golden Cathedrals" was absolutely beautiful, with all its layers coming together to create the sonance of hope.

When attempting to start "Clipped Wings," Matt halted, announcing, "We have a cymbal problem."  "What kind of symbol?  Like an equals sign?" said some girl in the crowd.  "Phases of the moon and things," responded Matt.  "What's your sign?" shouted the girl.  "This is like a first date right now," laughed Matt.  "What's yours?" he questioned.  "Virgo!" she exclaimed.  "You're a virgin?  That has nothing to do with it."  Someone suggested he tell a story, but he didn't know where to begin: "That's why I write songs.  So I don't have to tell very many stories."  The cymbal issue was fixed, but Matt revealed, "I've got a story on the brain now."  Six years ago, an ex-girlfriend had buried his 4-track recorder in the backyard of the place they were living, and he'd like to find it, but "It was just a rental.  I can't dig up someone's backyard."

Kardong grabbed a banjo, and the whole band gathered around a microphone center stage.  After a little harmonica from Costa, they jauntily made their way into "Miss Magnolia."  Remember when I saw that amazing Ken Stringfellow show two months ago?  Well, I incredibly found myself in the front row again once Costa descended onto the floor to sing.  It's a singalong, but no one wanted to overpower the unplugged Matt... save for one drunk drunk girl who slurred out a "Miss Magnolia" at the completely wrong time.  Matt gave her a friendly smile, and finished the song.  He made his way back to the stage, offering "Well, now that we're more acquainted," before playing "Sunshine" to the delight of the audience.  After "Sweet Rose," some girls up front asked, "Can we just say something?"  "Like collectively?" questioned Matt.  "We just wanted to say that it's been a long time since we've heard music this good."  Oh, drunk girls.  Matt replied, "I'm going to answer collectively.  You guys are the nicest people I've ever played to in my whole life." 

For the encore, Matt started with a story about stealing his father's bottle of Maker's Mark as a child.  Strumming an improvised tune, he told of how he took it to a nearby pier to drink with his friends.  As he cracked open the wax, his friends bragged, "'Oh, yeah, I've had that before.  I've gotten so drunk.'  But we were like 12 or 13."  After three shots, they stumbled off the pier, turning a 15-minute walk home into 5 hours.  It was a fun setup to "Whiskey & Wine," which he played solo.  He brought the band back for "Mobile Chateau," and said goodnight.  All in all, a great show that could've been a little longer, but hey, it was a school night.




MATT COSTA - 04.15.13 - BOWERY BALLROOM (1 hour, 20 minutes)

SET -
Mr. Pitiful / Loving You / Early November / Ophelia / Behind the Moon > Shotgun / Clipped Wings / Miss Magnolia / Sunshine / Astair / Laura Lee / Good Times / Sweet Rose / Witchcraft / Golden Cathedrals / Silver Sea

ENCORE -
Maker's Mark Story / Whiskey & Wine / Mobile Chateau