Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ted Leo, the Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Holy Fuck and Earl Greyhound Played Siren Festival, July 17

Coney Island had one of its best years ever,  if you measure it by visitors. The city took over seven acres of land, with the intention of preserving the character of the neighborhood and brought in Italian amusement operator Zamperla to run a new Luna Park. But the controversy is far from over, as long-time business owners, Zamperla and the city continue to clash over the future of the storied amusement park and neighborhood.

But as I wrote over at HuffPo, Siren Festival is an annual reminder that the area is far from done. It's a celebration of the vibrant culture and beauty of the area, and also a tremendous showcase for indie stalwarts and rising stars. It's a hope that Coney's future will be as bright as its past.

Beach Fossils and Woven Bones Played The Seaport, July 2

The South Street Seaport was a staple of the past summer, as it's been for much of the last three years. The atmosphere is  incredible - it's a tremendous way to give everyone a reason to come downtown, indicative of the continued transformation of Lower Manhattan, and the city as a whole. Huge credit to the civic groups and, yes, corporate sponsors, who make it possible.

The Friday before the 4th of July, I made my way down to see Beach Fossils and Woven Bones (headliner YellowFever was unable to make it at the last moment), and as usual, it was a great night: jangly guitars under a darkening sky, the East River breeze teasing the air.

A couple months after the show, Beach Fossils played a Daytrotter Session, which you can find here. Rest of the photos after the jump.

Snowpocalypse 2010: The Aftermath

So, we had a bit of a storm earlier this week, and while the remnants slowly melt, here's a quick photographic tour down Fifth Avenue as it was on Monday. Also, it's a great reason to post one of the best winter songs ever.

Sleigh Bells, Gang Gang Dance and the Rapture Played Creators Project, June 26

One of the most unusual events of the year was Creators Project, a music and art extravaganza that seemed to come out of nowhere. Sponsored by heavyweights Vice and Intel, the series kicked off in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, before globe-trotting to London, Brazil, Seoul and Beijing. I was fortunate enough to snag a pass for New York through the open signups, and while the festival had some symptoms of exclusivity and corporate sponsorship - open bars, a private penthouse, free food - there was a refreshing focus on creativity, rather than consumerism.

The location was at Milk Studios at 450 West 15th Street, right by the High Line and a Diane von Furstenberg store, two symptoms of the rapidly changing neighborhood. Although rents have skyrocketed, there's also a pretty vibrant local art scene, and Creators capitalized on the environment by bringing a slew of visual and media installations, including work by Nick Zinner, Mira Calix and the xx. But the main draw was the music, which had some nostalgia-inducing locals like the Rapture and Interpol. "House of Jealous Lovers" and "Obstacle 1" have as much kick as they did in the early 2000s, and it was great to see veteran bands killing it.

On the other side were upstarts like Neon Indian and two of the biggest bands of 2010: Die Antwoord and Sleigh Bells. At the latter, I felt an intense deja vu - it was pretty much Justice 2.0, a sweaty, strob and bass-heavy affair, with an astonishing number of cameras clicking away (see above). Although it was all a bit overwhelming, I'm thankful that Alexis Krauss's saccharine vocals provide real hooks, even if they're often obscured by fuzz.

The signs at the event read "Welcome to Year One" - hopefully there will be many more.

(And yes, M.I.A. also played, but I was exhausted and went home. Sorry.)

Check out photos of Interpol here, rest of the shots after the jump

Yeasayer, Keepaway and Delicate Steve Played Governors Island, June 5

As the year comes to a close, I'd like to take a chance to look back and post some photos from the summer that were taken before I started blogging again. Here's the first installment.

One of the first shows of the summer was the kick-off of the "Gone To Governors" series, sponsored by Bowery Presents and the ubiquitous Converse. Having never been to Governors Island, I was looking forward to checking out the tiny landmass, and after enduring a couple hours on line to the ferry, I was greeted with a sandy beach stage, very similar to the ones by the Seaport and Long Island City.

Openers Delicate Steve and Keepaway played energetic sets, but the real attraction was Yeasayer, who have grown by leaps and bounds since their CMJ days. This band can truly command a big stage - their sweeping multi-part harmonies and battery of instruments proving to be quite a match for the ambitious lighting rig and huge crowd. My one regret is that I didn't make it down to Governors for any other shows, as the heat and daunting lines were both pretty rough, but I'm glad I made it to this one.

As a gift to fans, Yeasayer just released a live recording of their gig at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, which you can download for a price of your choosing here. You can also grab a free mp3 of "O.N.E." by signing up for their mailing list below.

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ducktails, Cassie Ramone, Sultan and Friends Played the Showpaper Gallery, Dec. 21

I had been meaning to check out the Showpaper Gallery on 42nd Street, and last Tuesday's show provided the ideal opportunity. It's a weird place to see a show, just down the street from Capital Grille, Grand Central and, incidentally, in the vicinity of the most expensive office submarket in the city. But with the help of non-profit Chasama, promoter Todd P managed to secure the space for an indie rock venue and arcade by video game collective Babycastles, creating a cultural interloper in the white collar neighborhood.

As previously reported, the location is a nexus of sorts for Showpaper, the free, weekly guide for all-ages shows around the city. The gallery served as the headquarters for an ambitious drop-off operation of specially designed Showpaper boxes throughout the city, and its walls are still covered in the publication's artwork. The installation's games have a retro, nostalgic feel - Rumble Box, which was projected in the front room, was a good example.

On the music end, it was a fantastic lineup: newcomers Friends started things off, the ensemble playing their varied instruments, and singer Samantha Urbani cooing and shimmying on stage, before descending to the crowd's level for the second half. This band could be going places next year - and not just opening for Darwin Deez around the country. They'll also be playing Shea Stadium on Jan. 7.

Next was Sultan, Kayla Cohen's guitar-and-pedals project, saturating the room with reverb and washes of guitar. The songs were long, instrumental pieces, each flowing into another, with a sprinkling of Cohen's ghostly vocals. I'd call it a more eclectric version of Grouper - which is to say, a pretty good thing. (Disclosure: I worked with Kayla at WNYU for a few semesters.)

Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls played a high-spirited acoustic set, along with two friends. The prolific songwriter, who also plays in the Babies, reiterated relatively simple themes of love and loss. But the music never real sinks into pure despair, as her high, distinct voice is more inclined to yearn than brood.

Ducktails finished things off, with Matt Mondanile setting up with a sampler, keyboard and eventually guitar. It was a woozy, comfortably paced set, building melodies out of minimal elements and stacking Mondanile's vocals on top. He got a little tambourine help from my friend Andy (who drums in Toro Y Moi) on the last song, a nice end to a fun night.

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Shows Tonight: Chairlift at the Knitting Factory, Ducktails at the Showpaper Gallery

Chairlift (via

Although the year is winding down, and the rest of this weeks looks pretty dormant, there's some amazing stuff happening tonight. Chairlift is playing at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn for free, which feels like their first show around these parts in quite a while. (Co-singer Aaron Pfenning has been touring under his Rewards.)

Over at the Showpaper Gallery on 42nd Street is a great lineup: Ducktails' Matt Mondanile, also of Real Estate, is playing a solo set, along with Cassie Ramone from Vivian Girls, Sultan (Kayla Cohen, a long-time DJ at WNYU) and Friends, who were recently profiled here. Suggested donation is $5.

Both shows start around now, so get going!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

EMI Headed To Citigroup; Will Warner Step In?

In the wake of Terra Firma's failed lawsuit against Citigroup, the private equity firm appears ready to surrender the smallest major label, EMI, to the bank, according to the Post. Hypebot speculates that the transfer could come as early as Christmas. While EMI's finances have actually improved over recent years, Terra Firma looks unwilling to invest the another £200 million by next June to retain control.

Citigroup isn't particularly known for its love of music, and the bank's next probable move would be to liquidate the record company, which has a lucrative back catalogue. A month ago, it was reported that Warner Music would make a $750 million bid, although EMI CEO Robert Faxton wrote at the time that a move would be "utterly idiotic" and devalue the label's long-term health. Sadly, Citigroup's goal isn't to keep EMI healthy - it's to get rid of it for as much money as possible.

Hopefully, something good will come out of this mess.

(Disclosure: I interned at Astralwerks, an EMI-owned label, over the summer of 2008. There were layoffs.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Superpitcher Played Mister Saturday Night, Dec. 11

After spending recent nights in sweaty dives and mega-clubs, it was a breath of fresh air to return to Mister Saturday Night's cozy loft. The key word is comfort, with residents Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter keeping things melodic and groovy, but not too loud, for the first part of the night. Unfortunately, projectionist Sam Wiehl, who worked past parties, is back in Liverpool, so the lighting was just the disco ball and a couple of lights, but the DJ selections kept things warm.

The night's guest was Superpitcher, born Aksel Schaufler, a Kompakt stalwart with a playful take on disco and techno. He was all over the place, dancing around, tweaking knobs in the mixer and running to grab the next piece of vinyl for the turntables, which were suspended from the ceiling to prevent vibrations. His set was agile and fun, although not quite as immediate as some of his recorded stuff.

In related news, Kompakt is currently celebrating the holidays with daily giveaways and Resident Advisor published a recent feature on throwing the ideal party, with quotes from Mr. Carter.

Mister Saturday Night and Superpitcher will do it again tonight at the Standard on 848 Washington Street in the West Village. The residents will also be throwing what should be a tremendous party on New Year's Eve with Kyle Hall and Martyn, details here. Flier for tonight and Superpitcher's "Heroin" below.

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Village Voice Web Awards, Dec. 7

Four years and a few months ago, as a college freshman, I walked into a record store near St. Mark's and asked for a good place to see concert listings. The guy at the store, which sadly isn't around anymore, recommended the Village Voice, which happily still is. Although I've never had the pleasure at working at the weekly, a number of friends have, and their offices were just a few doors away from N.Y.U.'s journalism department.

The Voice has gone through some changes in the last few years, but their consistently entertaining culture coverage and excellent long-form features have made the paper a mandatory read for me. And they've boosted their online presence, with Runnin' Scared, Sound of the City and Fork in the Road offering daily goodness. So, with its current blog focus and the rapid rise of social media in recent years, it was a good time for the paper to hold its first annual Web Awards on Tuesday night at Santos.

Astronomical Kid, a 14-year-old rapper with a song about his mother, kicked things off, and then it was on to the winners. Host Todd Barry kept a dry sense of humor throughout the night, and while the internet can be a pretty ridiculous thing, it's also got an undeniable grip on this town. From music heroes like Oh My Rockness and East Village Radio to Deadspin to Four Loko advocate Eddie Huang, the web is the record, as well as the playground, of the city.

Christopher Weingarten offered an abbreviated version of his rant on online music coverage halfway through the event, and then it was on to the big awards. Particularly pleasing was the recognition of the two (fake) sides of former Observer editor Peter Kaplan, a frequently hilarious and sometimes poignant chronicle of life in the city, and a fitting tribute to cats at the end. Until next year!

Rest of the photos, including Astronomical Kid, Todd Barry, Christopher Weingarten and most of the winners below. For a complete list, look here.

PS - We're on TwitterFacebook and RSS, too!

DJ Koze, Cassy and Isolée Played Santos Party House, Dec. 4

Wrapping up a two day stretch last weekend, I made my way down to Santos Party House in Chinatown to catch the end of Blkmarket Membership's birthday party for resident Fahad. The lineup was diverse, although I unfortunately missed Isolée, of "Beau Mot Plage" microhouse fame. The Hamburg DJ will be releasing a new album, Well Spent Youth, on Feb. 7, appropriately enough on DJ Koze's label.

Koze was holding court in Santos' main room when I entered, his beats and the pulsing red lights making the space resembling the chamber of a heart. His restrained style of techno has splashes of the exotic - "I Want To Sleep" is a recent example - and the addition adds a funkiness to the sometimes bare genre.

But the real action was downstairs, with Cassy Britton, a regular at Berlin's Panoramabar, part of the legendary Bergain, absolutely tearing it up. A pounding, perpetual beat was a welcome sound after nights of minimalism. Cassy's also a singer, and while she didn't perform on this night, she used a generous amount of vocal tracks, keeping a bit of humanity with the machinery.

Check out Cassy's haunting voice on Swayzak's "Smile and Receive."

More pictures at Resident Advisor. Rest of my photos below.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Yo La Tengo, Syl Johnson, Peter Wolf, Jon Glaser and Ira's Mom Played Maxwell's, Dec. 4

After celebrating Christmas the night before, Saturday was an opportunity to commemorate Hanukkah at Yo La Tengo's almost-annual bash at Maxwell's. I had been to Hoboken a few times before and, while Jersey has that reputation, I think Hoboken is a vibrant town with a neat restaurant district. Alas, Maxwell's was a bit of a hike from the PATH station, particularly in the blistering cold, but I arrived just as it was filling up. The venue places its bar and restaurant up front, with a pretty tiny concert space in the back. It can get pretty cozy, but it was a treat to catch such a renowned band in an intimate space.

One of the great mysteries of Yo La Tengo's eight-night residence is the identity of the guests. (BrooklynVegan has been keeping score.) The anticipation only grew when Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, who played M.C. throughout the night, came on stage to introduce the first performer. I'm ashamed to admit that I had no idea who Syl Johnson was, but any ignorance was soon irrelevant, as he launched into a brilliant, soulful performance with a full band. What a voice!

Listening now to his records - which date back to the 1950s - I'm struck by how great he still sounds, at age 74. Moreover, he threw in guitar and harmonica, along with some effortlessly hilarious banter, and his band was awesome as well, particularly the full brass section, which included a trumpet, tenor saxophone and horn. Amazing.

Johnson has a boxed set out that mines his many hits and the Times has a profile of him.

Next, comedian Jon Glaser, as "Rabbi Attitude," had a mercifully brief monologue about putting his cat to sleep, finding out it could talk and then admitting it was all a lie and cursing out the crowd. Quite a few people thought it was funny, but I'd rather get my laughs elsewhere.

Finally, it was time for Yo La Tengo. The set was comparable to their CMJ show at Brooklyn Bowl, as an eclectic mix that spanned everything from gargantuan, feedback-drenched epics to sharp, taut indie pop to lovely acoustic meanderings. Again, Ira Kaplan, Gorgia Hubley and James McNew's vocals were all on full display, weaving together on the fuller arrangements and each member singing lead on a few tracks each.

It was a bit of a family affair, with McNew dedicating a song to his wife, who was celebrating her birthday, and Kaplan inviting his mother on stage to close the set. During the encore, the band also enlisted Peter Wolf, an old school Massachusetts rocker who was in the J. Geils Band and Glaser, who hid his face in a mask.

As the band said themselves, despite growing up in relatively secular households, they've really transformed Hanukkah, and the holidays as a whole, into a special time. Going beyond the boldfaced names of the guests and the songs that were played. Yo La Tengo's Hanukkah marathons are a reminder of how generations can come together and share a moment. And that, at the risk of getting sentimental, is the greatest gift of all.

Update: The Voice is reporting Wednesday night's guest is the National.

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Magda and Marc Houle Played District 36, Dec. 3

Exiting the subway station at Herald Square, I was struck by an immediate feeling of displacement. Midtown South, with its mid-rise office buildings, skyscrapers and proximity to Times Square, is a weird, weird place to see minimal techno. But to their credit, Blkmarket Membership and District 36 are betting that Manhattan is ready for a big, new venue dedicated to electronic music. I really hope they're right.

The building is near Fifth Avenue on 36th Street, with the Empire State Building peaking out a couple blocks south. Barricades and ropes corral the entrance from the street, and bouncers flank the doors. Middle-aged pedestrians walked by in the night, glancing curiously at the black-clad smokers and the throbbing bass escaping the walls. Once inside, another bouncer frisks each patron thoroughly, and then it's up another set of stairs to the ticket booth, another ticket check, and finally into the club proper.

The space is enormous. The sound system is robust, enveloping. Bass reverberates like thunder and dozens of strobe lights flicker and pirouette, hitting an enormous disco ball and forming a splash of colors and images on the imposing walls. It is a venue built for maximum effect, a two-level arrangement that recalls the aircraft hanger aesthetic of Terminal 5. But instead of an expansive stage, DJs are suspended over the crowd in a booth, confirming District 36's monogamy with electronic music, but displacing the intimacy of warehouse and loft parties.

Magda and Marc Houle are dominant names in techno, and their sets were suitably physical affairs, pummeling the speakers with brutal force, but also with a certain anonymity. In a recent conversation on Resident Advisor, their new albums were afterthoughts. Although such works encapsulate their styles - Magda's fascination with cinematic noir and dark disco, Houle's more rockist leanings - the mettle of a DJ is demonstrated in his or her ability to command a dance floor, rather than recording original material. Their particular style is pretty much devoid of those one-hit "bangers," creating an overall mood over the span of tracks, rather than fist-pumping through recognition.

It's dark, often difficult stuff, and I still struggle to fully enjoy the music, as much as I respect the people and the concepts. The technical expertise is astounding - Magda's She's A Dancing Machine makes Girl Talk look like child's play - but accessible, it isn't. So, I left District 36 feeling satisfied, but not entirely at ease. And perhaps that's the point.

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Xray Eyeballs, Dream Diary and Eternal Summers Played Shea Stadium, Dec. 3

The holidays are an extended season, stretching from mid-November to the end of the year. So, it wasn't too much of a stretch to celebrate Christmas last night at Shea Stadium with Kanine Records for a special holiday gig. I was introduced to Kanine years ago through Crashin' In, a weekly party at Public Assembly (then called Galapagos - I feel old!). Sadly, Crashin' In no longer around, but the spirit of unknown bands in cool Brooklyn spaces lives on.

I got there for the second band, Roanoke, Virginia's Eternal Summers, whom I had missed just a couple weeks back at 285 Kent. The duo of Nicole Yun and Daniel Cundiff have a simple organization: guitar and drums, with Yun singing lead and Cundiff adding vocals here and there. Shea's sound system tends to add a searing immediacy to instruments, so despite the lean setup, the band filled up the venue. They call themselves "dream punk," a pretty concise description, although the set was more about impact than hooks.

Dream Diary was next, and I can't think of a more appropriate name for the band. They take the jangly guitars and airy boy-girl vocals of a Pains of Being Pure at Heart and push it to an even more delicate place, strumming shimmering, gauzy riffs. I eat this stuff up and really enjoyed the set, which included a cover of Tom Petty's "Christmas All Over," complete with glockenspiel accompaniment. Check out the cover below, via BrooklynVegan.

MP3: Dream Diary - Christmas All Over (Tom Petty Cover)

Afterwards, there were some awesome and surprising selections for inter-set music, including Ride, R.E.M., Nine Inch Nails (!), and also one of the best songs ever.

Finally, before heading out to Magda, I saw Xray Eyeballs, an ensemble that played bass-heavy grooves. Although there were a couple of guitars and synth in the mix, what struck me was the relentless thunk at the bottom, pretty much dominating the vocals of singer O.J. Thus, it was kind of difficult to discern what the songs were about, exactly, although "Ice Cream Sundae" was definitely the title of one track, which can only be a good thing. Check them out on WFMU.

Rest of the the photos after the jump.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Juan Maclean, Tim Sweeney, Magda, Marc Houle, Mary Anne Hobbes and Toro Y Moi Will Make You Dance Tonight

Whoa, is it going to be a spectacular weekend for dance music!

The action kicks off tonight, with DFA's Juan Maclean and Tim Sweeney of Beats in Space on WNYU teaming up at 287 Kent Avenue. Not sure if that's the same as 285 Kent, but close enough. Expect melodic, funky house and disco all night, and catch a preview with Maclean's guest mix on Sweeney's show. Maclean will return next Thursday, Dec. 9, to Tammany Hall - details on the space, formerly known as the Annex, over at BrooklynVegan.

On the more minimal end, Minus' Magda and Marc Houle will play at Blkmarket Membership's party at District 36, the new midtown spots. I'm really excited to check this place out - here's hoping a large new dance venue can work! No advance sales - tickets are at the door, $20 before midnight and $30 afterwards. Check out a revealing conversation between the two at Resident Advisor.

Finally, English DJ (and journalist) Mary Anne Hobbs will take over Music Hall of Williamsburg, along with Toro Y Moi's Chaz Budnick, who is known to get down under the moniker Les Sins. Tickets are $20 at the door. (Disclosure: Andy, the drummer for Toro Y Moi, interned with me at Astralwerks a couple years back and is totally awesome.)

So, it's a tough choice between the three, but they all start late and end late, just as we like it, and it's definitely feasible to hit up a rock show first (I'll be at Shea Stadium). And this is just the beginning! More to come on Saturday...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tennis, Family Portrait and Miracles of Modern Science Played Mercury Lounge, Dec. 1

Alaina Moore, Tennis

After a calm week of Thanksgiving, it was good to hit the concert circuit once again. The destination was Mercury Lounge, one of the best intimate venues in the Manhattan, and a great spot to see an up-and-coming band. It was a pretty sprawling lineup, spanning the better part of four hours, although I unfortunately missed opener La Big Vic.

As they began setting up, it was clear that Miracles of Modern Science were not your typical rock band. They had a full string quartet: double bass, mandolin, violin and cello, along with drums. And while most pop groups use strings as a flourish, MOMS, as they're known by, use them to lay a foundation. On top was double bassist Evan Younger's baritone, a strong voice that was joined during particularly intense parts by the rest of the band. As the set progressed, things got looser, less reliant on vocals, and more beat-driven, culminating in one last blast.

There are a bunch of free songs on the band's official site, and as they told the crowd at the end of the show, they're raising money for the mixing and distribution of their debut full-length album on the website Kickstarter. So far, they've raised almost $14,000 of the $15,000 that they need, but if they don't hit their goal by next Thursday, Dec. 7, they don't get any of it. So, by all means, if you like them, support them.

After seeing Family Portrait over CMJ (has it really been almost six weeks?), I had a rough idea of what to expect. But their set was a total reversal of the raucous density of the Shea Stadium show. For one, there were only three of them, and the keyboards and electronics were front-and-center, with a sampler displacing the drum kit. I didn't even realize at first they had started playing after a looping beat entered the speakers, until I saw that they were, in fact, moving.

But I actually really enjoyed them more than the last time - the repetitious, woozy notes and Evan Brody's filtered voice really hit a sweet spot. Apparently a lot of this was new material - Brody called it the "death" and "rebirth" of Family Portrait - and I'm definitely interested to see where they go.

The good times only got better with Tennis. As the story goes, husband and wife Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley took a seventh-month sailing trip, and the experience influences all of their songs. Their set was a journey to a lush destination, with Moore's achingly pretty voice as buoyant as a sailboat. She was also sweet and personable, responding gracefully to random shouts from the crowd and helpfully naming most of the songs before the band did its thing.

On the other side of the stage, Riley and drummer James Barone kept pretty fixed positions, with the former in a perpetual crouch. When an eager person in the crowd wanted him to add some banter, he said, away from a mic, "I don't have a voice," but his agile guitar-playing created a nice dialogue with Moore's singing. The pace was mostly a brisk trot, although a few selections were set aside for "slow dancing," and a few in the crowd did just that.

The band played pretty much every song they had and covered Brenda Lee, clocking in at around 35 minutes with no encore, but the warmth lasted for hours, despite the freezing night.

Check out Tennis' fantastic Daytrotter Session and their MySpace. Also, someone was pretty awesome and recorded the entire Tennis performance. The sound quality is really good, too! Check out "Marathon."

More reviews and photos at BrooklynVeganDeath + Taxes and New York Press. Rest of the photos after the jump.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lykke Li Brings Her Swedish Pop To LPR Tonight


For a while there, it looked as if the Swedes were going to rule the world. From the creepiness of the Knife to the effusive pop of Air France to the hushed tones of José González, the Nordic country seemed to have it all (along with good health care!).

Lykke Li has actually spent a decent chunk of time in Portugal and Nepal and India, according to her bio at Le Poisson Rouge, where she'll be playing tonight. But she definitely has Swedish cred, with Björn of Peter Björn and John producing her first album, a nice mix of acoustic and electronic.

The show's sold out, but since she just announced her second album, Wounded Rhymes, out March 1 in the U.S., expect a return.

Video for "I'm Good I'm Gone" below. Also check out the Friendly Fires cover.

Update: There's a review and photo set up at Spin and some gorgeous photos and a writeup at BrooklynVegan.

Matthew Herbert Muses Newspapers With "One Day"

Print may be dying, but every day, newspaper presses churn out miles of copy, creating a sketch of what happened. Matthew Herbert, producer extraordinaire, transformed the idea further, creating a musical piece out of the Guardian's print edition on Sept. 25. I have to admit I'm more into his dancier stuff, but this is really interesting, up there with Matmos.

A review of the show is at the Guardian, as well as a video (via Prefix) below. Way meta.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Free Feist! Grab A Live Take Of "My Moon My Man" On Amazon

Prefix helpfully lets us know that Amazon is currently offering a free download of a live version of Feist's "My Moon My Man," at least for a little while longer. Grab it here, although you'll need an Amazon account to complete the process. It's a very restrained version, subtracting the thump and swells of the original track, but keeping that lovely voice, of course.

On the other end of the spectrum, I'm quite partial to this remix by Boys Noize, guttural robot sample and all.

As previously mentioned, Feist is releasing a documentary, Look What The Light Did Now, which is out next Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Radio Dept. Visit East Village Radio Tonight, Play Two NYC Shows This Week

In a satisfying pairing, the Radio Dept. will visit an actual radio station tonight, appearing on East Village Radio's Guilty Pleasure show at 8 pm. They'll talk about their current tour, upcoming releases and debut some new tracks. You can listen here. The Swedish shoegazers will play two sold-out local shows later this week, first at the Knitting Factory on Nov. 30, and then Bowery Ballroom on Dec. 1.

Speaking of local radio stations, Washington Square News (my first reporting gig!) has a reminder in today's paper that WNYU (my first DJing gig!) exists.

Anyhow, here's my favorite Radio Dept. song, which happens to be track seven in a singles compilation that the band will be releasing on Jan. 25.

Profile: Friends, A Band Living Up To Its Name

L-R: Lesley Hann, Samantha Urbani, Nikki Shapiro, Oliver Duncan, Matthew Molnar (via Facebook)

On a frosty Thursday in October, Friends entered the CMJ vortex.

The quintet - singer Samantha Urbani, Lesley Hann, Nikki Shapiro, Oliver Duncan and Matthew Molnar - had only been a band for about six weeks, formed after members worked together at Angelica’s Kitchen, a vegan restaurant in the East Village.

The gig came about, like much of their development, from a branching network of, well, friends. Molnar had an acquaintance who booked shows at the Delancey, and on the Sunday beforehand, they were slotted into the showcase. The band rushed down in a car after playing in Connecticut, getting lost in the process, but eventually arriving a few steps from the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side.

Under a glaring red light, they played their self-described “weird pop,” with what Urbani calls African-inspired rhythms and a tropical dash (“We nicknamed it Tropicool,” she says with a laugh). Some bands members swapped between instruments from song-to-song, a result of their expertise with different instruments, and underscoring the communal style of the group.

“It’s just another aspect of our performance that makes it more interesting and more dynamic,” says Hann, who plays bass and keyboard.

While many see the annual CMJ festival as a platform for quick publicity, it was more of a first step for Friends, which has since played throughout the city’s D.I.Y. circuit. They opened for Darwin Deez last week at Mercury Lounge, and played hotspots like Silent Barn and Death By Audio. They will return to Death By Audio on Dec. 9, followed by Shea Stadium on Dec 11, and then hit the road for an national tour with Darwin Deez in January, finishing at the Bowery Ballroom in Feb. 19.

Lesley Hann at the Delancey

Urbani is the vivacious leader of the group, as likely to be seen performing her own material as dancing furiously at another band’s gig - an example that she hopes inspires others. “There’s nothing worse than playing to people with their arms crossed,” she says. “Apathy is not that cool.”

Like many of her peers, she’s embraced the free-spirited enthusiasm of the Brooklyn of recent years, having moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant when she was 20, and recently to artist commune Market Hotel. On the other hand, Urbanski is driven and focused. She recently quit her videography studies at Lang College, the New School's liberal arts school, to focus entirely on the band.

“I always have to live in a way that feels right to me,” she says, describing education as something that she could return to.

So far, Friends has established itself quickly, amassing over 500 fans on Facebook, despite having just six songs. At the Delancey, the band didn’t have any music to sell, and instead handed out buttons. The band is currently unsigned, but has a deal in the works with an "mystery label."

Although it’s still early, Urbani is wary of compromising artistic integrity for profit. But in a licensing-happy music industry, where a group can be plucked out of obscurity and into the next iPod commercial, it’s a delicate balancing act.

“I have a lot of serious ethical issues with giant, evil corporations,” she says, but doesn’t entirely dismiss a commercial use of music. She has a bit of experience in that world, having modeled for a Best Buy ad campaign.

Kopi, Berlin (via Flickr)

Friends started as a solo project from Urbani, who had been writing songs since childhood, but she only recently summoned the poise to perform in front of intimate crowds.

“In the springtime, I had all these songs that were bubbling out of my brain,” says Urbani, who recorded demos on GarageBand in the early part of this year.

Over the summer, Urbanski spent two months studying in Berlin, living in Kopi, a graffiti-etched commune that has housed around 50 legalized squatters since the early 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In addition to the residents, Kopi has regular cultural events in its two concert halls and a free cinema - making it a sort of Deutsch Market Hotel.

It was an experience that Urbani describes as a “fertile living situation,” and as her first trip to a foreign country, one that expanded her horizons. Eating at a communal table and experiencing new subcultures instilled a sense of sharing and creativity in her, one that seems to inform her current project.

After returning from Germany, Urbani and her soon-to-be-bandmates were stuck in her apartment following  a bedbug infestation, a situation that turned into their first band practice. The group was briefly called Perpetual Crush, but they eventually settled on Friends.

“I am hoping we will dominate the search engine,” says Urbanski.

Following a few more practices and the memorizing of six songs, their first real gig was in front of around 30 people, right before Urbanski moved out of her old apartment.

The band's activity in the last couple months is indicative of the velocity of today's music industry, as well as the vibrancy of the city's D.I.Y. rock scene. And with any luck, this is just the beginning.

“I have a lot of confidence that we can take this pretty far,” says Urbanski. “There’s definitely space in pop music right now for something more genuine.”


Check out Friends on MySpace, Bandcamp and Facebook.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ad Age Thinks MTV Should Buy Vevo, But Is It Selling?

There's an interesting story over at Advertising Age that argues that MTV should buy Vevo, a Universal Music Group, Sony and EMI venture that has quickly become one of the largest streamers - and advertisers - of music videos. Writer Mike Henry says that MTV, owned by media giant Viacom, should write a big check to the labels and recapture its ability to "influence youth culture."

But such a deal seems pretty unlikely. Vevo is essentially an effort from the major labels to regain control over   the streaming market, and it's one of the few bright spots in an incredibly bleak industry. So it's hard to imagine that the majors would want to cede control of such a valuable platform with actual growth potential. In August, Universal pulled its videos from MTV's sites (but not television channels), after the two companies couldn't come together on advertising terms, a move that was only possible with the existence of Vevo.

With such a vibrant environment for independent music, sometimes it's easy to forget that pop music still dominates eyeballs. Music videos from independent artists usually (thankfully) don't have ads, but indie labels might also have to consider monetizing videos, as they look for additional revenue streams. While they don't have the advantages of such massive scale, every penny helps.

Until then, we can enjoy videos like this, ad-free.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Richie Hawtin and Gaiser Played Highline Ballroom, Nov. 21

The choice was between sleep and techno on Sunday, and I think I chose wisely.

The party, put on by Blkmarket Membership, was originally supposed to be a warehouse affair the night before, but because of concerns following some issues with police over Halloween, they moved it to Sunday night and to a licensed venue in Highline Ballroom. Although the time was unfortunate, the venue happily accommodated the around 1,000 fans who showed up for Richie Hawtin, his labelmate Gaiser, and Droog.

I arrived shortly before midnight, thankfully with tickets still available, and arrived as Droog was finishing up. The spirit of minimalism was alive and well, austere beats with limited accompaniment vibrating through the room. Gaiser threw in some build-ups and breakdowns, enticing the crowd to move harder. The tension between restraint and movement is key to this sort of music, and the best DJs are the ones who can create dynamic arrangements with a limited palette. Gaiser demonstrated as much with a creative set.

Richie Hawtin brought the thunder. With relentless, consistently danceable selection, Hawtin melded the ambient leanings of his early days with a fluid modernism. Although ostensibly a tour supporting the release of the Plastikman Arkives, his set was informed by the decades since those releases.

"People want to feel a part of something," Hawtin says at the beginning an interview with Spinner, and despite the coldness of the music, there's an intense sense of community that seems largely absent in the guitar world. Hearing music is one thing - responding is another. Apparently Hawtin was feeling the crowd so much that he extended his set until 4:30, which definitely beats the canned three-song encore.

Here's some live footage from the event. More on YouTube, and check out some Hawtin mixes here. But as the man says, nothing replaces being there. Speaking of which, Blkmarket has some stellar stuff coming up, including Magda and Marc Houle at District 36 on Dec. 3, and DJ Koze, Isolée and Cassy at Santos Party House on Dec. 4.

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Portishead Curate ATP, Plan U.S. Tour Next Fall

Portishead just announced that they will be co-curating All Tomorrow's Parties in London on July 23 and 24, with the likes of the Books, Swans, Beach House and Liars already booked. Even more exciting is the news that the band will be touring Europe in the summer, and plan to visit the U.S. around September or October.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Geoff Barrow a couple years back for Wireless Bollinger and can't wait for more details.

Here's one of the last times they played New York.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Song of the Moment: Compuphonic & Kolombo - "Emotion"

Music can be a relic, a reminder of a time long unremembered, but such relics can be unearthed.

In that vein, I was digging through some folders the other day and came across Jennifer Cardini's Feeling Strange, a great little mix on Kompakt. It has an eye-opening tracklist and really sparked in me a growing interest in this sort of electronic music when it was released a couple years back. Although it got panned by Resident Advisor, and didn't really make much of a mark on the electronic landscape, I think it's a beautiful piece of work.

One of the mix's most striking moments is Compuphonic & Kolombo's "Emotion," a distillation of much of what I like about electronic music - a thumping beat, foreboding synths and a vocal sample that puts an accent on the whole thing. The track is a collaboration between two Belgians (Compuphonic and Kolombo), and their other work is rather good as well.

And the best part? You can grab a free mp3 of the track at RCRD LBL. Get to it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Beets, Total Slacker and the Babies Played 285 Kent, Nov. 19

"Fichael J. Mox" of Total Slacker

I find myself going south of Metropolitan Avenue more and more these days. Although the lure of Music Hall of Williamsburg and Public Assembly is still strong, there's a particular D.I.Y. vibrancy to Glasslands, Death By Audio (which I still need to visit) and, on Friday, 285 Kent. I was actually first there at a Mister Saturday Night party featuring Efdemin, which was a pretty sweaty affair, but it seems to have aired out since then. I unfortunately missed openers Eternal Summers and Night Manager, and arrived to a packed room.

The Babies is headed by Kevin Morby of Woods and Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls, making it a sort of Brooklyn super-group. Morby tends to lead on vocals, but their set was less about lyrical interplay and more about blistering guitarwork, a pleasing, crunchy focus that kept things moving. Grab an MP3 over at Pitchfork.

It was Total Slacker's bassist Emily's 21st birthday, and the band's set had a celebratory tone. The crowd up front danced throughout the frantic set, although it was a bit lacking in the melody department. Things ended quite spectacularly with singer and guitarist Fichael J. Mox and drummer Ross leaping into the crowd and smashing a guitar into the ground, and then through an amp. Happy Birthday!

As the Beets assumed the stage, the lights dropped almost entirely, casting the venue in a dense gloom. It was a fitting accompaniment for their minimalist rock, flecked, like their home of Jackson Heights, Queens, with hints of foreign lands (they use a piccolo!). It was a deliberate, brief set - not my favorite style, but a striking one nonetheless. Some live footage from the Beets below, and you can also check them out at Daytrotter.

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Richie Hawtin, Gaiser Play Highline Ballroom Tonight, Kicking Off Techno Spurt

The techno goodness keeps flowing. Minus boss Richie Hawtin and Gaiser will DJ at Highline Ballroom tonight, headlining a Blkmarket Membership party that also features Los Angeles' Droog. (Maybe Hawtin will stream it?) The show coincides with the announcement of Arkives, a comprehensive collection of his work as Plastikman, including an 11-CD edition with a 64-page book. A release date is set for Feb. 28.

Tickets for tonight are available here and at Halcyon in Dumbo.

Tonight is just the start of a whole lot of great electronic music. On Monday, Nov. 22, the illustrious Carl Craig will appear at François K's long-running Deep Space residency at Cielo, tickets available here.

And on Dec. 3, Magda and Marc Houle will take over District 36, the new club on 29 West 36th Street, a stone's throw away from the Empire State Building. Both are coming off of new albums: Magda just released From The Fallen Page, and Houle put out Drift in September. More details on that show to come, but the Voice reports that the new venue is generously sized, with a 900-person capacity and, thankfully, "minimal pretension."

Looks like a great couple of weeks!

Plastikman - "Plasticine"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lindstrøm, JDH and Dave P Played LPR, Nov. 13

Le Poisson Rouge has been killing it recently with a slew of diverse electronic acts, and last Saturday saw the Norwegian disco maestro Hans-Peter Lindstrøm take over the decks. But first up were JDH and Dave P, the two gentlemen behind the long-running series FIXED, which celebrates its sixth anniversary tomorrow. They kept the energy high, blasting divas and basslines that kept the crowd in motion. Here's a nice montage of their set.

Perhaps because of the boisterous prelude, Lindstrøm felt like a sharp drop, starting with frosty, atmospheric beats. Unfortunately, things didn't ever reach the sustained peaks of his studio work, and the set meandered, rather than coalescing into something really special.

Lindstrøm's recently been collaborating with singer Christabelle on more pop-centric tracks, but she wasn't there, and he instead murmured into the microphone at various points, attempting a sort of centrist approach between pop and dance music. But the crowd didn't really respond, and it was sadly almost a relief when JDH and Dave P took over again.

It's kind of a shame, because he's definitely capable of working the crowd, but tonight, it just wasn't really there.

Lindstrøm - "I Feel Space"

Rest of the pictures after the jump.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Pipettes Return, Take On Earth

The Pipettes released their new album in the U.S. today. Entitled Earth vs. the Pipettes, the sophomore effort sees the group shrink from a duo to trio, with Rose Elinor Dougall and RiotBecki leaving the band to start solo careers. The new lineup has singer Gwenno Saunders paired with her sister, Ani, and ex-drummer Joe Lean is replaced by Alex White, while the songwriters and backup band remain intact.

Preliminary listens suggest that they've shifted from the bombastic girl group sound into a sleeker, more electronic sound, which has its upsides and downsides. No stateside tour dates yet, but we'll keep a look out.

Here's the video for "Stop The Music." There's also a smooth Justus Köhncke remix here.

Emily Watson Surveys Grand and Lorimer

Photographer Emily Watson captures the musicians and venues of the Williamsburg of the late 1990s (along with some nearby places) in her new photo book, Grand and Lorimer. It's a an intimate look at the early days of the now ubiquitous scene, featuring the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio and Sonic Youth.

Watson sorted through hundreds of old photos to create the collection, and raised around $3,000 to pay for the printing through Kickstarter, which is about as D.I.Y. as you can get.

The musical vibrancy of the last decade may have dissipated somewhat, with glassy new condos replacing industrial warehouses in the area, and Watson now lives in Hell's Kitchen, telling the Brooklyn Paper that she barely recognizes anyone when she visits. But the spirit definitely still lives on - it just may have shifted south and east.

Flavorwire has a gallery of the photos, and you can pick up the book here. There will also be a book release party on Nov. 20 at Pete's Candy Source, located at - where else? - 709 Lorimer Street.

Remember this?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Daedelus and Samiyam played LPR; Kate Simko Played the Delancey, Nov. 4


Thursday was a striking contrast of two styles of electronic music. While the genre is a second fiddle - or turntable - to the city's plethora of indie rock, there's plenty of action bubbling below the surface.

I started the night off at the always enjoyable Le Poisson Rouge, checking out the late show, which opened with Sam Baker, aka Samiyam, an Ann Arbor, Mich. native who's done work with Warp's Flying Lotus. In the same vein, Sam spun an abstract mix of hip hop, infused with bass booms and party-ready rap. There were some 8 bit bleeps and a little sprinkle of stuff from Baker's neighbor, Ghostly International, and the set warmed the crowd up nicely.

Daedelus, the guise of Los Angeles producer Alfred Darlington, crafts sample-heavy albums that veer from 2006's Denies The Day's Demise, a cinematic, avant garde work, to 2008's Love To Make Music To, which entered pop song territory. But Daedelus live is a whole other beast, with Darlington resembling a mad scientist as he furiously worked his monome, a white pad of flashing buttons, each corresponding to a sample. He collapsed and jerked alongside the music, flinging himself with the crashing beats and stuttering vocals.

It was a rollercoaster set, surprisingly loud and bolstered by a crowd that was continuously freaking out. In retrospect, it's hard to pick out individual parts, aside from the synth hook of "Fair Weather Friends," which is a repeating motif in most of his performances. It was less about particular moments, but rather more about a constant, mutating construct, an incredible production infused with raw, live energy.

Daedelus - Live on KEXP

Afterwards, I hurried over to the Delancey for Kate Simko. As previously mentioned, the party was a bit of a make-up for Blkmarket Membership, and having wanted to see the Chicago DJ for ages, it was a real treat. Simko plays elegant, meditative techno, an immediate mood setter under the glaring red lights. Clean kick drums that underpinned her set, while understated female murmurs faded in and out. Alas, she was about halfway through when I arrived, and another DJ, I believe Burnski, took over soon after, although he kept the minimal aesthetic going. Hopefully, I'll get the full experience next time.

Check out a bunch of Kate Simko tracks below via Beatport.

Go to Beatport.comGet These TracksAdd This Player

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Jeff the Brotherhood, Ninjasonik and Liquor Store Played Music Hall of Williamsburg, Oct. 28

Last Thursday, I returned to Music Hall of Williamsburg, albeit for a very different show than the one a couple days before. I missed the first opener, Elks, but arrived to catch Liquor Store. The foursome's bottom-heavy grooves were unrelenting, forming the backbone of a set that emphasized rhythm and power stances over vocals.

Ninjasonik - last seen on a magical summer day two years back - were the unlikely bridge between two rock bands. The mischievous rap trio of Reverend McFly, Telli Gramz and DJ Roofeeo unleashed vulgar rhymes that were more absurd than aggressive (Sample title: "Somebody Gonna Get Pregnant"). The two rappers spent a good chunk of time down with the crowd, flipping out and, um, handing me wet, black objects.

MP3: Ninjasonik - Tight Pants
MP3: Ninjasonik - Holla For A Dolla

Jeff the Brotherhood are Jack and Jamin Orrall, actual brothers from Nashville who play grungy, garage-y rock. It's pretty straightforward stuff: drums, guitar, vocals, although they would receive a little help from a backing track, an alien and a monkey. The lean setup allowed for a fluid, impressive sequence of songs, and crowd was in an absolute frenzy, crashing into one another up front, crowd surfing and stage diving. It's been a while since I've witnessed such energy at an indie rock show - I might have to go back to the heydays of McCarren Pool - and it was quite a blast.

Grab "Diamond Way" below, via RCRD LBL.

Here's a new song from the show.

Rest of the photos after the jump. More at BrooklynVegan.

Booka Shade Played Music Hall of Williamsburg, Oct. 26

Booka Shade defy the notion that live electronic music is encapsulated with the push of a button. The Berlin duo of Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merziger are the antithesis of DJs, eschewing vinyl and Serato for the visceral sounds of real instruments. There's still heavy use of programmed beats and samples, but when Booka Shade plays live, it's a performance. Their set at Music Hall of Williamsburg last week was a forceful reminder that the group can fill arenas, while still conveying the subtlety of their earlier work.

As always, it was Kammermeier on percussion and Merziger handling samples and electronics, with the occasional vocodor-warped singing. They wove classic tracks from Movements with newer material from 2008's The Sun and the Neon Light and this year's More!, tilting between bittersweet electro pop and moody tech house.

The most satisfying tracks were inevitably the classics. They dropped "Darko" early on, and later transitioned beautifully from "Charlotte" to "Night Falls," the understated masterpiece that opens Movements. The anthemic "Body Language (Interpretation)" had the crowd chanting the bassline, which has become a sort of tradition, and "Mandarine Girl" was, as always, spectacular. Sadly, "In White Rooms" either wasn't played or was overlooked.

Alas, with such a daunting back catalog, embracing the newer stuff is an uphill battle. The effusive, jittering climax of "Regenerate" and the stuttering beats of "Teenage Spaceman" were enjoyable enough, but don't quite reach the heights of Booka's club essentials. The group's new focus on lyricism is also a bit questionable, but thankfully new songs like "Bad Love" were about beats, first and foremost.

The crowd was great throughout the night, with hands in the air and bodies leaping. The high energy level was reciprocated, with the band adding on an extra song to the encore, and graciously thanking the audience throughout the set.

Both as producers and founders of the seminal label Get Physical, Booka Shade is one of the most influential electronic artists of the last decade, and the set demonstrated that they're still one of the most engrossing performers.

Here's another review from the show at my alma mater, Washington Square News, and the amazing Jon Pareles checked them out back in May at the same venue. Video from Lost in Sound, and rest of the photos after the jump.

Booka Shade - "Mandarine Girl" (Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Dears Unveil Degeneration Street

The Dears will play their new album, Degeneration Street, in its entirety at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory tonight and tomorrow. The album will be released on Feb. 15, and the lineup's changed quite a bit since 2008's Missiles. Degeneration Street actually started out as a solo project for frontman Murray Lightburn before turning into another Dears effort. Like fellow Montreal group Stars, they play romantic, dramatic indie rock, although there's a bit more anguish here.

They were pretty solid when they played New York back in 2007, and it should be a good show.

Here's live footage from Mexico City of "Omega Dog."

More Shenanigans As EMI Trial Closes

There were some last-minute fireworks in the EMI lawsuit before the testimonies closed today. The dispute, which centers on Terra Firma's claims that Citigroup was a deceptive advisor during Terra's acquisition of EMI, has already had plenty of personal attacks and questions of character.

Things got even crazier yesterday, when juror Donna Gianell was dismissed after it was revealed that her name appeared in the credits of Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, which has some anti-Citi footage.

Gianell - all five feet and two inches of her - spoke with the Times, and said that she was actually dismissed because Judge Jed Rakoff thought she was talking to her fellow jurors in the elevator, something she denies. Also, she didn't even know she was credited in the film - her husband works as a Santa Claus and was contacted by the film's producers for an interview, but the footage didn't make the cut.

Meanwhile, Judge Rakoff has rejected Terra Firma's bid for punitive damage, limiting them to $2 billion, and called the case a "cat fight between two rich companies."

Well, make that two rich companies and one rather poor one - at the time of the sale, a Citi employee called EMI a "terribly ill cancer patient."
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