Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Next Round - Episode 32: Jenny Owen Youngs

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  If you're not already drunk (and really, even if you are), you should listen to the latest episode of The Next Round with Jenny Owen Youngs.  Not only is it my longest interview yet; it's a contender for the best.  Ever wondered how Jenny gets her hair to look so nice?  What about the insect that almost ruined her cover of "Ring of Fire?"  Maybe you just want to know who she'd cast in a Drunk History version of the myth of Orpheus?  Well, the answers are all here, so listen as Jenny and I "podcast the hell out of this podcast."

Stream below, download directly, or subscribe on iTunes if you're awesome.

Visit Jenny's site for tour dates.
Buy Slack Tide on iTunesBandcamp, or blue & gold vinyl.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ex Cops Play a "Free" Show at Brooklyn Night Bazaar

If you're like me, you probably hadn't heard of Ex Cops before ten days ago.  That's when band member Brian Harding used Facebook to post an open letter to McDonald's as to why the band wouldn't be playing the multi-billion-dollar corporation's SXSW showcase for free.  The story quickly became national news, and ironically, the band now has more buzz than if they had played the showcase for exposure or if McDonald's had agreed to shell out some cash.  I'd wager it's probably the best thing that's happened to the Brooklyn indie band, and they probably secretly thank McDonald's every time they pass the one on Grand St. between Graham and Humboldt.

Ex Cops make hazy indie pop that's pleasant enough, but the fact is, it's not terribly unique.  While they definitely sound better on record than they did last night, over the less-than-optimal soundsystem at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, I wouldn't have minded continuing to play Area 51 and listening to them in the background.  The only thing I would've missed is the beauty of lead singer Amalie Bruun, a heroin chic Danish model whose vocals recall Lana Del Rey.  Harding's vocals were incredibly thin, forcing me to contrast Ex Cops to a few male/female indie duos (The Submarines, Club 8) that have already nailed this dynamic.  Most of the songs sounded similar too, notable exceptions being the '60s California flavor of "Tragically Alright" and the shoegaze-y final number, "Rooms."

While I still think performers should be paid for their work (I've been performing standup comedy for over eight years, and have been paid seven times, so you know I'm empathetic.), I sort of wish McDonald's had picked a more original band for their showcase.  Then maybe a more-deserving band could be relishing the national attention that Ex Cops are currently receiving.  But that's behind us now.  Mickey D's has agreed to pay its SXSW performers, which is undoubtedly a good thing.  I only hope that Ex Cops will continue to grow as songwriters, so their legacy isn't just "band who wrote an angry letter to McDonald's."

EX COPS - 03.13.15 - BROOKLYN NIGHT BAZAAR (38 minutes)

Spring Break (Birthday Song) / Separator / White Noise / Daggers / Black Soap / Burnt Out Love / Tragically Alright / Wanna Be / Rooms

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Jonny Fritz & Robert Ellis Laugh It Up at Rockwood Music Hall

Never mind the quality musicianship and songwriting; the banter alone was worth the price of admission.  Tonight's Robert Ellis and Jonny Fritz show at Rockwood Music Hall saw the pair of troubadours letting loose before they head to India to record Fritz's new album.

Robert Ellis took the stage first, accompanied by guitarist Kelly "the Tele" Doyle.  "We're from Houston," Robert informed the crowd, before correcting it to the pronunciation of the NYC street, "Houston, Texas I mean."  With minimal percussion from a tambourine by his right foot, Ellis captured the audience immediately with the admonitory "Only Lies."  At the song's end, Robert remarked, "I think I swallowed a mosquito.  Do you guys have mosquitoes in New York City?"  After downing a shot of whiskey, Ellis paused to pluck something from his tongue.  "It was a moustache hair.  You know what I'm talking about, guys.  Maybe ladies?  I don't know."  He continued with the pleading "Good Intentions."  "That one's about infidelity," he shared.  "You can ignore the line about my sister.  I have to explain myself when I come this far north.  I am not having sex with my sister."  "Anymore," quipped Jonny Fritz from a table down front.  "Anymore!" repeated Robert, rolling his head back to laugh.  Following "The Elephant in the Room," a tune about a struggling relationship, a request was shouted from the balcony for "A Good Year for the Roses."  A kindred spirit with "Elephant," this version was more George Jones than Elvis Costello.  Moving to the keyboard for new song "Maybe I'll Move to California," Robert cultivated that sexy '70s soul sound of a Rhodes electric piano.  Robert and Kelly took on Vern Gosdin's "Chiseled in Stone" next, though the drum machine's tempo seemed to hold them back from taking it where it wanted to go.  Doyle stepped offstage as Ellis invited Courtney Hartman to assist him on Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning."  Robert praised the crowd for its quietness, stating, "I don't want you to change.  Never change."  Doyle returned and the duo embarked on "Sing Along," a bluegrass scorcher so hot that the tentative audience couldn't keep from clapping and stomping.

Sporting a tucked-in t-shirt covered in labrador retrievers and a trucker cap emblazoned with gold letters reading "Who's that playing?" Jonny Fritz joined Ellis on the Rockwood stage.  The two clinked glasses, Fritz announcing, "This is our last U.S. show before we die next week in India."  Following a few Fritz fan favorites like "Goodbye Summer" and the ode to a Murfreesboro truck stop worker, "Holy Water," Fritz unveiled a new number, "I Love Being Ready to Go."  Not only did it feature the opening line "
All classical music is so clarinet-y / I love meatballs, but don't like spaghetti;" an expertly-timed "Dixie" horn honk from Robert on guitar was also a highlight.  Fritz performed "Stone Cold Daddy-O" stone-cold a cappella, and then he brought up Kelly Doyle for "Chevy Beretta" and "Fever Dreams."  Having spent most of Ellis' set silent, by now some people in the audience had gotten a little too comfortable with the laid-back vibe.  While Fritz introduced "My Humidifier" as a tale about Minneapolis, he was interrupted by a voice from the floor.  "Excuse me, I'm telling a story that does not matter," Jonny joked.  Crowdmembers began calling out requests.  Hell, it had worked with Ellis.  When "Night Rider" was echoed by a few people, Fritz said he would oblige.  "This'll be great," predicted a fan.  "Yeah, it might be alright," Jonny responded.  It went off without a hitch, so Fritz felt moved to play another new one, "Stadium Inn."  The ballad about a seedy Nashville hotel had the audience rolling with lines like "Brokeback Mountain playin' on the TV screen / Brokeback reenactment, room 213."  Clearly he'd written another keeper, as it fit right in with closers "Trash Day" and "Ain't It Your Birthday."  I can't wait to hear the Indian version.

I had a beer with Robert before the show for The Next Round, so be on the lookout for that.

ROBERT ELLIS - 03.08.15 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL (54 minutes)

Only Lies / Good Intentions / Steady as the Rising Sun / The Elephant in the Room / A Good Year for the Roses / Maybe I'll Move to California / Chiseled in Stone / 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (feat. Courtney Hartman) / Sing Along

JONNY FRITZ - 03.08.15 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL (51 minutes)

Goodbye Summer / Holy Water / Forever, Whatever / I Love Being Ready to Go* / 15 Passenger Van / Social Climbers / Stone Cold Daddy-O / Chevy Beretta (feat. Kelly Doyle) / Fever Dreams (feat. Kelly Doyle) / Have You Ever Wanted to Die? / My Humidifier / Night Rider / Stadium Inn / Trash Day / Ain't It Your Birthday

The World/Inferno Friendship Society Brooklyn Night Bazaar Setlist

Review to come.


Tattoos Fade > If I Were a Rich Man (tease) > Tattoos Fade / Lust for Timing / Annie the Imaginary Lawyer / Aquaman (Interlude) / American Mercurial / Second Chance Saloon / The Velocity of Love / I Can't Remember the Words (Interlude) / Dolce Far Niente / The Apple Was Eve > Me v. the Angry Mob / The Elegant Solution / The Politics of Passing Out / The Faster You Go, the Better You Think / Me & the Mad Monkettes / Don't Kiss Me, I'm Running Out of Lipstick / Thumb Cinema / Ladies & Gentlemen of the Road / When I'm Gone (Interlude) > This Packed Funeral

Zen & the Art of Breaking Everything in This Room

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Next Round - Episode 31: Howard

I know we're all waiting for everything to thaw out, but it's still wintertime.  So why not hole up with the album I've listened to the most this season, Religion by Howard?  It might even tide you over until the new Radiohead album comes out.  Blasphemy, I know, but trust me.  One song even took a whopping eight months to edit!  Admit it.  You're intrigued.  Check out the latest episode of The Next Round to learn more about how the record came together.

Stream below, download directly, or subscribe on iTunes if you seek your parents' love.

Like Howard on Facebook and buy the album.
Read a review of the album release show.