Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sonic Parthenon's The Year in Music 2008: Part 7

The Ting Tings
I'm not going to kid you. I loved We Started Nothing. They may flame out faster than even Vampire Weekend, but brother, this is a band. Everything felt good, everything sounded good (it certainly did from outside McCarren Park). Every song was a damn hit. Anyone who didn't feel like moving to this band really needs to lighten up a bit.

Titus Andronicus

Their nom-de-song is a keeper, one for the parties and the workouts, and their Maxwell's opening slot for the Dirtbombs was compelling enough.

TV on the Radio
No big shock that Dear Science is one of the best albums of the year. If any band demonstrated a keen ability to make a more open-arms record than what they had previously made it was this band. Essentially, this band can do anything it wants and probably do no wrong. Good on them. And good on Tunde especially for his sly role in Rachel Getting Married and good on Kyp for that hauntingly good opening over the summer for Celebration as Rain Machine, and good on Sitek for helping the Dirtbombs out in a gear jam in Austin last Spring.

Vampire Weekend
Like with the Ting Tings, if anyone truly went out of their way to dislike this band, they really need to consider the concept of loosening up. A band doesn't need to be the greatest thing ever to be good. They just need to be, at the bare minimum, conducive to having a good time. And Vampire Weekend fills that role smashingly. Another record where everything is a hit and so what? Good. They were really only a B+ band going into 2008, but the backlash was so out of proportion, it made them look like an A.

The Virgins
Their opening for the Hold Steady in the Spring at Webster Hall was a lightning bolt of polished pop-rock and the "radio edit" of "Rich Girls" should have been coming out of every car all summer long. 2009 should be a big year for these cats.

The XYZ Affair

With a scene-stealing performance at the Bowery Ballroom in February, and lending "Evening Life" to the soundtrack of our lives, the good, young lads in the XYZ Affair made a sparkling contribution to 2008.

Honorable mentions:
The Bird and the Bee - "Birthday" is such a cutie of a song.

Bound Stems - "Happens to us Otherwise" was the "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe" of 2008.

Brazilian Girls - "Good Time" is one of the best, if not the best, party songs of the year, and any band that tastefully covers the Talking Heads is a-ok in my book.

Don Cavalli - "New Hollywood Babylon" is a strange, spooky, captivating hybrid of India, folk, and hiphop.

Katie Costello - "Kaleidoscope" is a darn tootin' sweet pop single if ever there was one.

Katie Herzig - I know nothing about this woman except that "Wish You Well" haunts me everyday.

Holy Fuck - “Lovely Allen” was lovely indeed, an inspiring bit of instrumental heaven.

Honeyhoney – “Little Toy Gun” was an unexpected bit of Tex-Mex rock, a light version of something that belonged in a Tarantino movie.

Jaguar Love - They sounded terrible after literally 2 seconds at Siren Festival but then "Highways of Gold" turned out to be a humdinger of a single.

M.I.A. - Oh, "Paper Planes" - was there ever a better hiphop single that got a second life a year after its release?

The Notwist - once a metal band, now a provocative Indie pop band with "Good Lies". They could only be German.

Passion Pit - They are all over other lists but for purposes here, "Sleepyhead" was a truly great single. It would have been the "Paper Planes" of 2008 if "Paper Planes" hadn't come back. Instead it has to settle for the "D.A.N.C.E." of the year.

Saturday Knights - "45" was the funniest single of the year and sublimely smart too, and it's good that it came via rap.

The Stills - "Being Here" was one of those great Indie rock numbers, the kind you like to listen by your lonesome when feeling sappy, or at the very least, it didn't make you want to puke.

The Teenagers - "Starlett Johaanson" was the novelty hit of 2008. Moving on.

The Watson Twins - With "How Am I To Be" the Watson Twins sorta kinda proved that they were the secret to Jenny Lewis' solo success.

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Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 6

A spectacular live show at the Music Hall in February and the continued strength of "Waiting on the Stairs" really brought home the notion that Pela is one of the seriously good bands out there.

Jack Peñate
"Second, Minute, or Hour" and "Spit at Stars" were just two of the reasons that Jack Peñate was one of the good surprises of 2008 but they were all he needed. Insatiably catchy, Mr. Peñate's music should be a hit not just in his native England but here in the States as well. He ought to be bigger.

Ra Ra Riot
Without question one of the best albums of the year, The Rhumb Line showcased that the only thing more dramatic than Ra Ra Riot's story is their music. Picking up where Arcade Fire left off, these Syracuse cohorts may be even better than that generally considered Indie Pop Band of the Decade. So far, they've established a perfect record, nailing each and every one of their songs with the right texture, density, and pacing. Being one of the few genuine highlights of the Siren Festival this year certainly helped make their case.

Ray LaMontagne
"Meg White" was more creepy than good, but the soul-drenched "You Are The Best Thing" was one of the great stand-outs of the year.

"Supernatural Super Serious" was evidence that R.E.M. was coming back in a solid way and their show at Madison Square Garden proved it. One of the all time great live bands and one of the few who can tame big, bad, hollow, MSG.

Raphael Saadiq
His 2008 record, The Way I See It, is a wonderful romp through vintage 60's soul and R&B. "Love That Girl" is not just the standout, it's the best Soul song of the year and frankly, of the decade. Vintage and retro sounds may be growing tired to some, but no one can deny the power, spirit, and execution exerted by Saadiq.

She & Him
Few had a year quite like Zooey Deschanel, and by extension Matt Ward. Actually, it's a safe bet that no one else did. Their meeting on the set of The Go-Getter led to the birth of She & Him and the exceptional Volume One LP. Crass cynicism dictated Zooey would be weak and Matt would suffer for it. It turned out that Zooey has a tasteful devotion to quality American music, and a knack for how to write it and sing it herself, aided by the surefire hand of Mr. Ward. They put on a couple of more-than-decent live shows to boot, at Webster Hall and Terminal 5 respectively.
If that wasn't enough, The Go-Getter is still the best movie I've seen all year, fueled in part by filmmaker Martin Hymes' excellent soundtrack (that included artists like the Black Keys in addition to Ward), to say nothing of Zooey's sharp performance (arguably her best work). Hell, she even made Jim Carrey's weak-looking Yes Man movie appear halfway decent with the jokey 80's pop novelties that were released in advance of the film. Now if only she hadn't also starred in the Worst Movie Ever Made that also happened to come out this year (The Happening) and her 2008 would have been perfect.
Late breaking gossip news: Apparently, Zooey is now to be hitched to Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie who this year put out their first batch of music that did not put me instantly to sleep. It does seem now that with the exception of M. Night Shyamalan, Zooey indeed has the Midas touch.

Sons & Daughters
The great Scots came to NYC with some excellent shows in support of This Gift, and while "Rebel With the Ghost" was enough to keep people interested, it was "Gilt Complex" that cemented Sons & Daughters in our minds.

"You & Me & The Bourgeois" from Honeysuckle Weeks was a track to remember and their live show at the Merc was one of the sweeter nights of a roller coaster year. Seriously, what a single though.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 5

Magnetic Fields
"Nun's Littany" and "California Girls" - two examples of Stephen Merritt channeling the Jesus and Mary Chain and running away with it. Remember when the Raveonettes sounded like this? I wish they still did.

Maps of Norway
One song - "The Runout" and not much more is known about this Minnesota band. Just one compelling song, recalling the best of Blondie, New Wave, and the early 2000's revival. A beautiful female voice leading a crackerjack band. Thanks to MPR's Song of the Day for this.

Metric technically put out nothing in 2008 but that mattered none. With a late 2007 release of their Live at Metropolis DVD, and working on their new record for most of this year, the band didn't lose a step. The August concert at the Highline Ballroom may have been the show of the year for its consistency, for its absolute perfection. A month later, Emily and Jimmy showed up at Union Pool to play an acoustic set of the upcoming record, sans the much loved "Stadium Love". Late in the year, they gave Canadian radio "Help I'm Alive", a hopeful signature of a stellar album to come. If 2009 isn't going to be dominated by Metric, I'll be very surprised.

Murder by Death
With the stunningly good Red of Tooth & Claw, Bloomington's Murder by Death ended its long New York drought with a killer show at the Bowery Ballroom. They returned with an opening slot for Gogol Bordello at McCarren Park, and they'll be back again soon, making up for all the lost time. Considering how great Red of Tooth & Claw is, it should keep them going for a good couple of years.

MGMT owned 2008 in both the mainstream and Indie circles. And though their shows are impossible to get into their music is not. "Time to Pretend" became a real hit in 2008, while "Kids" backed it up with an even catchier melody. "Electric Feel" had both of those songs beat plus the rest of the record and most of the music of the year. In fact, one of the best songs of the decade and one of the best party songs of all time.

My Teenage Stride
On the strength of the exceptional "To Live & Die in the Airport Lounge", one of the great local bands kept the spirit of pop alive. Their show at Don Hill's was fun and they promise to keep making good music but it will be hard to top that instant classic.

The National
Unlike most years, in which a Best Album of the Year loses its title to something from the same year heard in the ensuing 12-24 months, the National are looking good to hold onto 2007's title with Boxer. They didn't need to do much in 2008 so they put out The Virginia EP, a pleasant collection of Boxer excess plus some other tidbits. Ignoring the pretentious and poorly-directed documentary made about them, and considering their exquisite show at the BAM Opera House, as well as their fine opening for R.E.M., the National are heading into 2009 with the signature of a band with one foot in the door of all time greatness.

Like a grimy snowball, the O'Death boys took their 2007 shenanigans and turned it into a full-on scuzzy hoedown in 2008, with extremely good opening slots for Murder by Death and Flogging Molly. And now they have the money to buy shirts so they have no excuses.

He may not play an instrument, he may not be able to sing, but Barack Obama either was part of or inspired a church of music that energized and emboldened a couple of generations to get together and elect the man President. With Stevie Wonder's "Sign, Sealed, Delivered" leading the charge, with Jay-Z and Will.I.Am keeping the youth involved and Will in particular making poetry of the man's words, with a couple of fellows named Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel playing TOGETHER for him, and a host of DIY tunes in the man's name spanning genres and continents, music never played such a big role in an election. Best moment: The use of U2's "City of Blinding Light" for his stage entrance at the Convention, capturing a slice of American history we will never forget and inspiring a re-evaluation of a forgotten gem from the band's last record.

The Okmoniks
Sexy, sexy, sexy. Oh and rock n' roll.

The Orion Experience
From their Luna Lounge performance early in the year to their CMJ jamboree at Public Assembly, the Orion Experience essentially introduced themselves in 2008 and aim to be sticking around. The band's album is a bevy of sexually charged bubblegum delight, led by "Sexy Dynamite", "The Queen of White Lies", and "Obsessed with You".

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Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 4

The Hard Lessons
A couple of quality gigs and toying around with some new tunes, and - even with the loss of the Anvil - Koko and Augie just refuse to surrender rock n' roll to the forces of evil.


This very low-key band from Illinois has the potential for very big things if they churn out well-crafted shows like the one in May at the Mercury Lounge.

The Hold Steady
What more can be said on this blog about the Hold Steady? Stay Positive was not perfect, in fact, there were at least 4 better records out this year, but what did work works better than just about anything else out there right now ("Constructive Summer" is without question the best song of 2008). Combine that with a continued excellence on the touring circuit and this band that refused to go away, whose infectious devotion to irony-free vintage rock proved to be too much to scoff at, is just impervious to negativity.
As we enter 2009, it is quite clear that in the review-of-the-decade-to-come, Craig Finn and the boys are going to be right at the top, sharing the spotlight with only a few other bands at most, and if they own 2009 like they did 2008, 2007, (and in hindsight, 2006 and 2005), they could make the case for being number 1 without any sharing.

Hot Chip
Hot Chip do not challenge you to like them like a lot of other bands but they are also not the most easily digestible. Made in the Dark was equal parts friendly and uninviting. But it all came together, and Alexis is leading an outfit that taps into a wellspring of creativity, making techno-nerd-rock groove in all the right places. "Ready for the Floor" and "One Pure Thought" prove that.

Joan as Police Woman
To Survive was Joan Wasser's contribution to 2008 and it was a sterling one. Though she's been working at it for years, it was only in 2008 that people seemed to finally get something that's not hard to figure out: soul music is invincible, and Joan's take on it - smoothed, seductive, sedate, and infused with a kink of folk - is ripe for perfection. And see her live to really get it.

Jukebox the Ghost
"Hold It In" was a quality cut of 2008 and this band's sensible live show is charming.

Langhorne Slim
Langhorne Slim finally broke into the big time this year with his solid self-titled LP, well deserving after years of toiling in the NYC-based muck. From all over NPR to David Letterman, everyone was finally getting a taste of what only a select few knew before. With a couple of dandy War Eagles backing him up, the only question one had to ask was "what took everyone so long?" And it always feels good when a sincerely nice person does well in this crazy world. Truly, 2008 was the year of the well-meaning slim, whether in presidential elections or country-fried rock n' roll.

Jenny Lewis
The title track of Acid Tongue and her collab with Costello on "Carpetbagger" alone were enough to remind us Jenny Lewis is probably better off without Rilo Kiley. Though now the debate will rage whether she is better off without the Watson Twins and that is a little harder to answer (actually it isn't - keep reading).

It was a quiet second half of the year for Looker but the first was pretty snazzy, what with a good Saturday night gig at the now gone Luna Lounge and one of the singles of the year with "Gates of the Old City".

Long Blondes
It was all going great, and then it was over. Of all of this year's sudden band-break-ups this one hurts the most. It's a damn shame. But before they closed up shop, the Long Blondes left us with a decent final record, including the stellar "Here Comes The Serious Bit", and a successful live tour that included a terrific stop at the Bowery Ballroom.

Lykke Li
"Tonight" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" were the two top tracks from this very divisive bit o' pixie dust.

Shwa Losben
Brooklyn girls may not be from Brooklyn and neither is Shwa but he's allowed to live here because his pop music is so damn catchy and he knows how to put on a show.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 3

Fair Game
The show was canceled in the middle of the year and it will be missed for two things: 1. The host, Faith Salie and 2. the music. Fair Game served as a live library of a lot of the great bands of our time, from Camera Obscura and the National to Clare & the Reasons and Magnetic Fields. How the Black Lips got on there I will never know, but I do know I miss Faith a whole hell of a lot :(

Flogging Molly
"Requiem for a Dying Song" and a reinvigorating live show at Pier 54 brought one of the marquee bands of the first half of this decade back from the bog and it felt very good.

Frightened Rabbit
"The Greys" and reports of solid live work were more than enough for this budding band from across the pond to make a mark in 2008.

The Gaslight Anthem
At the end of this year in review, you'll see a list of honorable mentions, pretty much all of which are about one songs with no real backstory. One of a few exceptions to this list, a band that gets a special extra bit of attention is the Gaslight Anthem for the title track from The '59 Sound. Take everything you like about anthem-heavy rock 'n roll, throw away all the excess and dead-eyes suburban inanity, and you have one of the great songs of the decade.

Laura Gibson
Sweet, wonderful Laura Gibson stole the show and pretty much all of the winter in early 2008 with her folk guitar, touching voice, and melancholic lyrics. She could have done near stole my heart too if wasn't for all the competition.

Sebastien Grainger
Right up there with the Gaslight Anthem and Maps of Norway, the one time one-half of DFA 1979 offered up one song that was enough to leave a lasting mark on the year and the decade. "American Names" is going to be one of those songs you give to your kids right off, to show 'em what it's like to make rock n' roll. And the best part of this very American song, is how Canadian the author is. Whatever "how Canadian" means. But oh yeah, he puts on a hell of a live show with some other songs to back it all up.

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Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 2

The pie-eyed idealistic lyrics may have been dopey even in our cynical-smashing Obama age, but "The News" and "Why Do Men Fight?" summoned the heart and spirit of Mick Jones' and Tony James' old bands, and served as anthems in this volatile election year.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Did the title track of Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! sound corny at first? Yes. Did it grow on you? Of course it did. Did the album turn out to be a smashing success, maybe the best of Cave's illustrious career? Seems like it. Did last year's turn as Grinderman have an effect on the Bad Seeds? One would guess so. Is not "More News From Nowhere" one of the best long songs ever made? Damn right it is. And you knew the live show was going to be good, no questions needed to be asked.

"Bruises" is certainly what this Colorado-based, naturally-Brooklyn-situated Ipod band is known for, but beneath the quick hype and sold out shows is a solid, little sweet natured pop band. Listen to "Planet Health" if you don't believe me, yah.

Based on one single performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in July, and nothing more, Celebration made their mark on 2008. Truly mesmerizing and intoxicating, Katrina Ford and company should be coming back very strong very soon.

Clare & The Reasons

The Movie came out in 2007 but no matter, Clare Muldaur is one of New York's signature songstresses, an ambassador of shameless, authentic love and love of sweet, elegant pop music, and the live set at Joe's Pub in June proved it.

Elvis Costello
"Stella Hurt" was the near-gem off of Momofuku, a record inspired by Costello's duet with Jenny Lewis on the fun and fancy free "Carpetbagger" from her Acid Tongue LP. And then Elvis went ahead and became the new great American talk-show host. Another good year for our man Elvis.

With A Mad and Faithful Telling, DeVotchKa returned to the scene but it was their sparkling live show at Terminal 5 that sealed the deal. With a strangely easy mix of showmanship and stealth, Nick and the gang will continue their run in support of the record well into 2009 and we're all better off for that.

The Dirtbombs
The Dirtbombs never really take time off, and they've had their slight share of attention in the past, but in 2008 there was a very strong sense that the band finally arrived. Thanks to We Have You Surrounded, there was a definite uptick in the number of people at shows, with a whiff of significant new fandom in the air. And deservedly so - some of Mick's best ever work now comes from We Have You Surrounded, an album that was too long in coming.
First going on their own triumphant tour before hitching rides with Spiritualized and TV on the Radio and finding time to do not one but two tours of duty in Europe as well as a run Down Under, the Dirtbombs never let up. They even found time to play extra shows in New York (FYI in case you didn't figure it out - despite whatever you may officially be told, New York is the home base for all intents and purposes). The Philly and Bowery shows during the April tour were two of the best nights in a history of amazing nights. Troy Gregory left the band marking the one sad spot in a year of full of highs. It hurt but as with all things Dirtbombs, things keep moving.

Drug Rug
Drug Rug kept popping up in unexpected places in various incarnations but the one thing that was consistent was their incorrigibility. Good for them.

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Sonic Parthenon's The Year In Music 2008: Part 1

The 1900’s
The Chicago pop band picked up right where they left off in 2007 with a swell show at Union Hall in January. Are they still together though?

With the very first notes of "Rock n' Roll Train" there was no fooling as to who was back and back as only they can be. Angus, Malcolm, Brian, Cliff, and Phil don't get together very often these years but when they do, the world is a little bit more fun.

Action Painters
Two reviewed gigs this year - including a Bowery gig that completely trounced the Siren Festival going on earlier in the day - established Action Painters as THE band to watch in New York City. The single "Supermarket" only helped that cause. And they'll be your band to take you into 2009 should you choose to attend their New Year's Eve gig at the Lit.

The Airborne Toxic Event

If there was a Best New Artist Award on this blog, here would be your winner, with little in the way of competition. Their debut LP is certainly the best candidate for Album of the Year (if there were to be candidates). And their live show is up there with the cream of the crop. The new master of the crafty hook, Mikel Jollet has put together the most exciting band to debut from west of the Mississippi in a very long time. They'll never play Pianos again but you can say you saw them when, before they blew the lid off the world.

Be Your Own Pet
They were a bit too much when they debuted (with the grand exception of "Damn Damn Leash"). Then they released a mainstream label record this year that featured "What's Your Damage?" and "The Kelly Affair" and it was all "woah this band is for real". They even generated a bit of punk rock controversy with their label over some content. Then they broke up. Just like that. Punk.

The BellRays
At long last, the BellRays returned to New York and with textbook precision (and a new record) made the case as one of the truly heart-pumping yet soul-satisfying acts to emanate from a now very healthy Southern California scene.

The Black Keys
I'm not going to kid you. I wanted to dislike the new Black Keys record, Attack & Release. This nice and very talented but nevertheless stoic duo from Ohio is one of the landmark bands of the decade but their energy seemed to have run its course after the disappointing Magic Potion and the Chulahoma EP. And the prospect of working with Dangermouse did not translate to automatic excitement. But as it happened, the Auerbach-Carney song-construction company recaptured its old glory and Dangermouse caught the band's sound like lightning in a bottle. Fittingly enough, they've become one of the bigger bands out there and they deserve it.

Black Kids
Along with Vampire Weekend, Black Kids burned the hype candle so bright and caught an insta-backlash so severe, that candle blew out before the LP even debuted. Unlike VW however, there was little love left for this pretty annoying band from Florida. But damn if the hooks on some of the cuts fight through the incredibly dumb lyrics. Anyone who dislikes "I've Underestimated My Charm Again" needs to relax. But it is probably a good thing I didn't see them live because there has yet to be a single positive review in that department.

The Blacks
Their 2007 record, Nom De Guerre, started to gain traction (and my attention) in 2008, and while the Hipstervese was too busy trying to have the Vivian Girls' babies, this trio out of Frisco reminded us what it is like to just appreciate a hook whilst absolutely shredding your amps to beautiful pieces.

Basia Bulat
"In the Night" was one of the singles of the year sung by a Canadian folk dame of the highest caliber, cute as a button, with a fine album (Oh, My Darling) and a beautiful supporting gig with DeVotchKa to boot. If the Grammys had any decency she'd have been the big nominee this year.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Where You Should Be On New Year's Eve: Action Painters @ Lit


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Monday, December 22, 2008

Ryan Keberle @ Brooklyn Lyceum

Ryan Keberle
@ The Brooklyn Lyceum
Brooklyn, NY - December 21, 2008

Jazz isn't reviewed here often but a second engagement with Ryan Keberle made the case for doing so. Reviewing Jazz takes a certain appreciation different from the linguistic nut of rock n' roll. But it all makes sense when you hear Keberle and his four friends do a Miles-esque ballad, "Little Fatty". It just feels right.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why I Stopped Listening to Sound Opinions

Jim DeRogatis. Plain and simple.

The idea and format of the show is fine, and it will stay in the links to the right. It's better to have such a show on the air than off. But for my own listening tastes though, I had enough starting about two months ago. After listening for a good year and a half, DeRogatis just proved to be too much. Even though I agree with him more often than I don't, his grating, annoying voice and often obnoxious attitude ruined my listening pleasure.
One of his biggest problems is his repeated citing of the same few artists over and over in comparing just about everything. VU, Brian Eno, Wire, and My Bloody Valentine are mentioned in some fashion practically every week. DeRogatis' partner, Greg Kot, is pretty guilty of this as well but he does it with a little more thoughtfulness and less bitchiness.
Another big problem is that his negative reviews grew increasingly nasty, petty, and redundant. It seemed that 9 out of every 10 negative reviews began with "I HATE this record" and some sort of explanation that this particular record now takes the cake as one of the all-time worst records, unlike anything he's heard in a long time (Vampire Weekend, the Juno soundtrack, Ra Ra Riot, The Walkmen, Black Kids, all come to mind).
It doesn't help DeRogatis that he's so fat. What? What does weight have to do with this (especially considering this is a radio show)? Well, this mammoth, obese whale of a man is so fat that you can hear it in his voice. He has breathing problems. He's so fat that it affects his ability to say certain words. It makes for bad radio. Top that off with a bad Jersey accent and you can't even hear him pronounce M.I.A.'s Kala without groaning while he speaks.

And he does stupid things like this (drummer bashing, not Doors bashing - I'm ok with that).

On the other hand there's stuff like this, which is worth it for the Ryantainment.

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The Music You Won't Read About in the Year in Music Review

This whole distorted psychadellic no wave revival thing going on. Just not my thing. Vivian Girls...Times New Viking...Parts & Labor....Love is All...it goes on and on. It's all the rage right now and has yet to receive a thorough backlash so let me be the first. Well...not really. It's not awful to my ears, it's just nothing I'm digging on. And since that's what's going on right now (besides the bands and sounds I've reviewed plenty on here)...that's also why things have gone a bit stale here.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008: What Happened?

Before the Year in Music review kicks off in the next few days or week, something must be addressed: why did the music content of this blog slacken off in the last half of the year, particularly the concert reviews?

It has been due to a few factors and the biggest one is: time management. As of August, Doc Pennypacker received a new daytime assignment, one that is (or was supposed to be) indefinite and full time. An actual, honest-to-goodness career-oriented occupation. So it was inevitable that the reviewage was going to have to be reduced - a man needs sleep after all, even ol' Pennypacker.

The shows I've been interested in going to just sold out too quickly for me to get my foot in. At the same time, there were fewer shows where I was itching to buy a ticket right off the bat. I never wanted this to happen, but it appears for the time being that there isn't enough fresh material per my tastes to mix up the reviews, and at the risk of being redundant, there's just been choice and selective gig skipping.

To a lesser extent, my increasing boredom and dillusionment with the concert scene played a role. As I discussed in the Definitive Essay on Hipsters, I'm sick of 'em. They are a drag. And they are definitely a drag at gigs. They take the fun out of it.

None of this has absolutely any role in determing the future of this blog. Pennypacker's Concert Blues may evaporate pretty quickly...or it could go on. The economic circumstances, both broad and actually quite specific as of last Friday, may also cloud the future content of this blog. There's related (and unrelated) personal stuff happening. Things are not good...and potentially getting worse. The euphoria of the Obama win last month - the biggest euphoria in my life that I can recall - has evaporated due to forces beyond my or its control. In short, there's just a whole lot of shit going on. And I am sure all five of you readers can understand.

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2009 Sneak-Peak (Airborne Toxic Event, Action Painters, Orion Experience, X, Black Keys, more)

2008 isn't quite over yet - the Year in Music review has yet to be compiled (though anyone who reads this page can gather it'll be a little slimmer this year than last) but we're already getting a taste of what's coming in the pipeline for 2009, at least in terms of some early gigs (see the concert calendar for details):
  • The Rosebuds and the Raveonettes are playing on January 16th, separately but hey.
  • If you can't go more than a few months without your Hold Steady fix, Franz Nicolay is playing with World Inferno Friendship Society on the 9th and a solo show on the 11th
  • Frightened Rabbit made a good mark in '08 with "The Greys" and they'll be at the Bowery B on Jan 17th.
  • SP faves Action Painters and the Orion Experience team up again at the Mercury Lounge on Jan 22nd...with Billy Joel's daughter opening. Yep.
  • Devotchka. Webster Hall. Saturday, January 24th. I may have an excuse but you won't.
  • In Feb, the Black Keys return to Terminal 5. In case you didn't hear, they are one of the biggest bands in the world.
  • On March 11 - the Airborne Toxic Event headline the Bowery Ballroom, going from playing Pianos to the Bowery in 13 months. That's not Vampire Weekend-fast but that is still pretty fast.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Why The Penguin Should be the Villain in the Next Batman Film

Listen to this episode of This American Life, and at the 20 minute mark, hear Jonathan Goldstein give what should be the origin story for the character that ought to probably be played by Philip Seymour Hoffman or Paul Giamatti.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Totally Obligatory Zooey News!: Zooey Does 80's Pop-Rock!

Stereogum got the word on this first but this wouldn't be Sonic Parthenon without some obligatory news of Zooey Deschanel.

Zooey is prettying up the otherwise really dull looking Jim Carrey vehicle called Yes Man. Though it marks the first time (that I can think of) that she plays a bona fide musician in a film, she departs from her recent real life incarnation as folk chanteuse with a turn as an 80's-inspired synth rocker (all the rage these days but curiously not really the rage at the time this film was being shot).

The phrase "booty call" never sounded so sexily cute.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Bill Murray: Williamsburg Scenester

I didn't buy it until the part where the hipster tries to lecture him.

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The Rise of Daptone Records

Daptone Records and its pointman, Gabriel Roth, were the focus of a Times magazine piece this past weekend. Roth is pretty pompous and elitist about music ("purist" is too soft a term) but he's making something good. The story also serves to point out that the tried and true tribulations of all the great record labels will probably strike Daptone sooner or later and we may have to talk about the Fall of Daptone Records someday.

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Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

  • By a complete coincidence today: Listening to the Writer's Almanac, I learn today is the birthday of Mary Gordon. Minutes later, I begin to read to A Room of One's Own by Virginia Wolf. Who wrote the introduction? Mary Gordon.
  • I am rather amused by the mad German who sends a dozen emails a day to work, mostly about how Denmark is run by drug addicts who are trying to kill him and his family. You know what he needs? Some SchneiderWeisse yah.
  • Bourbon-fermented stout is like a dark chocolate milkshake without the milk. It goes well with some dark chocolate and probably some black cherries.
  • I ate rabbit.
  • You can't really trust anyone but it appears to still be worth trying to trust at least some people if you are still committed to living and all that. Unfortunate but that's how it is.
  • The crazies are back, the random street thuggery is back, nothing is affordable and yet...where else would you rather be? OK, besides St. Lucia, where else would you rather be?
  • It took 8 episodes, but it turns Mad Men is all it is cracked up to be. It is some of the most emotionally insightful, reflective, and thoughtful meditations on the human psyche to come around in some time. Gender, class, responsibility, the network of relationships...the fact that it also has all the guilty pleasures of good looks and cattiness is a bonus. Don Draper is the most conflicted protagonist since Tony Soprano and, while the jury is still out (and season 2 is yet to be watched), it appears the latter may be more redeeming than the former, and that is really saying something. And yes, Paul is my favorite character, duh.
  • I am pretty sure I'm living in one of my typical dreams and I haven't woken up yet.
  • Conversely, I am also pretty sure I woke up about a month ago.
  • Speaking of dreams, what a whopper last night. An alien invasion...anime-like men and boys in pink and green halos that merge to form "starchild" war machines...and me running to the suburbs to find myself in some hostile American home...and realizing that the visitors seemed to have come in peace and that it was the human race that responded with war...I couldn't make this up if I hadn't already dreamed it. If anyone steals this, I will sue.

  • Labels:

    Sunday, December 07, 2008

    Rachel Getting Married

    A film about a delightful, multicultural, Indie artiste upper class wedding as directed by Jonathan Demme would instantly seem to have more in common with Demme's Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense, than Demme's most notable piece of work, The Silence of the Lambs. And yet, thanks to drilling, brutal dialogue written by Jenny Lumet and some stunning performances centered around a marauding substance abuse addict, Rachel Getting Married at times conjures up the emotional horror of that later film, even if the character of Kym is a far cry from Hannibal Lechter.

    Kym is detestation. Her reckless, irresponsible, and extreme behavior goes beyond that of the spoiled, privileged child and into realms and actions that few people rarely have to encounter. In modern, stable Americana, this is as bad as it gets. In spite of the tragedy, Kym's family perseveres. Her father, as portrayed with warmth and frustration by Bill Irwin, is a true patriarch but one whose family is held up by Popsicle sticks. Her mother, distant and cold, is physically removed from her family by divorce and by her own choice, and she is played with grace and ease by Debra Winger, who reminds us why it's such a shame she doesn't take more roles. And then there is Rachel, she of the title and Kym's sister, played with utmost magnificence and realism by Rosemarie Dewitt. Her moment, her time, is faced with the storm of a girl who finds it impossible to think beyond herself.

    Anne Hathaway steps into another level of the discipline that few of her generation will ever match. In the meta sense, the girls that grew up with her as a teen star are witnessing an evolution that began with her role in Brokeback Mountain. She not only taps into the vibes and waves of the case of a spoiled brat, a miserable addict, and a mental misfit, she seemingly lives it. Her chemistry with Dewitt is extremely natural. Maybe because they are both real New York area actresses who grew up in the specter of the city, they know and therefore fit very well into these very distinct roles. Why this movie is taking place in suburban Connecticut and not Park Slope (or at the family's original grounds on the Upper East Side) is a mystery...

    TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe brokers a good deal as an actor. Playing Rachel's fiance, Sidney, Tunde fits right into Demme's documentary-style filmmaking, requiring him only to play a little bit of pretend. He certainly seems to be enjoying himself and that certainly helps. His Adembimpeness is joined, in the musician-as-actor troupe, by Robyn Hitchock and THE one and only Fab Five Freddy. Cameos worth the price of admission alone (see the movie's official website for the rest of the story on the music and other musicians in the film).

    The one semi-problem in the whole affair is the too-Hollywood appearance of a dashing man played by Mather Zickel, who happens to be both Sidney's best man and a fellow addict Kym happens to find at a meeting. It's a bit of a sop to conventions, a pressure to attach a love interest and motivation for rectitude, but Zickel's performance is another naturally well-delivered one and that keeps the plot point in check.

    The last Jonathan Demme fictional piece was his remake of The Manchurian Candidate, a truly unmitigated disaster. That film was awkward and cheap. Here, with a look deliberately designed to be cheap, and a screenplay specializing in the familial strains of awkwardness, we have the complete opposite effect. And though this film's look, style, and flow probably could not have been sanctioned without the effect of films like The Squid and the Whale and Garden State (the retro-modern hybrid Indie thing), not to mention the obvious allusions to Woody Allen's stories of the neurotically elite, the versatility and range of the fillmaker provide a different window into this world.

    And if you needed any more reason to love Neil Young's music...wait till you get near the end.

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    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Insta-Analysis of the Grammy Nominations

    • I had no idea they were even being rolled out tonight in a prime time gig. Glad I missed it.
    • If previous years' awards are any indication, it's going to be a big night for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. The Grammy voters love to give old warriors recognition, and they have a well-placed love for authentic roots sounds, especially when Ms. Krauss and T-Bone Burnett are involved. They also love to split the difference between similar contemporary sounds, and award vintage.
    • Radiohead and Coldplay are competing for Album of the Year. The Brits who care about these things should probably feel awful proud of this. And prouder still that both bands are probably going to be beat by the lead singer of Led Zeppelin.
    • The theme this year seems to be a generational clash, especially in rock. In the Rock Band Single award, AC/DC and the Eagles are up against Kings of Leon, Coldplay, and the ever generationally mixed-up Kid Rock. Truly, this should be a showdown between AC/DC and Kings of Leon, and as "Sex on Fire" is more of a pop song, it should finally be the case that the Grammys award AC/DC, a sentence which I, nor millions of others, ever thought they'd be in a position to write. And the fact that AC/DC could do it in competition with the Eagles...that's bliss. The best arena band of the 70's vs. the second worst arena band of the 70's (right behind Wings though sometimes you just want to hate the Eagles more). The fact that AC/DC has notoriously joined the Eagles as a Wal-Mart band only slightly sullies the moment.
    • R&B has the age-clash dynamic turned on its head what with younger folks doing vintage and older folks trying to stay hip, and one hopes that Raphael Saadiq walks away with everything he's nominated for (including when he's up against Al Green - sorry Rev).
    • It's kind of sad that the Rock Album award should go to some (well-schooled) posers like Kings of Leon. But when faced against has-beens like Kid Rock and Metallica (and for that matter, Coldplay) and whatever the hell that Raconteurs record is - that's really all that's left. But this truly assures why the Grammys have no place in honest music merit awarding.
    • Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, Gnarls Barkley, My Morning Jacket, and Radiohead are the nominees for Best Alternative Album. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
    • Record of the Year should probably go to Leona Lewis but a win for M.I.A. would certainly make for one hell of an acceptance speech.
    • I have no idea who Lady Antebellum, Ne-Yo, and Jazmine Sullivan are. I only vaguely know who Adele is.
    • All the Pop nominations are offically terrible. Or I assume they are as I don't think I've heard any of these songs (except the Katy Perry song and I only know that one because I looked her up after someone told me she looked like you-know-who and speaking of....NOTHING? NOT ONE NOMINATION? NOTHING?!)
    • The Dance field is much more interesting than the pop field. Brazilian Girls and Hot Chip for the wins.

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    The Runaways: The Movie

    The best looking band in the history of rock n' roll is getting the biopic treatment. Joan Jett will be played by some girl who is big right now thanks to some vampire teen book adaptation that I never heard of before last week (though by the very nature of vampire vs. wizards, it has to be better than that Henry Potter buggaboo). I suppose our gal Zooey was a more obvious choice but somehow one cannot see Zooey playing such a tough chick. Now the question is...who will play Lita Ford? And maybe more importantly, who will play the presumably villainous role of Kim Fowley? (Probably Kim Fowley).

    If this seems headed for a typical Hollywood disaster (the traditional pointing out of which has itself become boring), the saving grace could be that the film is being scripted and directed by Floria Sigismondi, one of the best music video makers around. She has a consistently excellent vision, usually darkly glamorous (think the White Stripes' "Blue Orchid" video), right up the alley of the story of the Runaways.

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    New York Disaster: Love Saves The Day Closing

    In the new year, New York will be without Love Saves The Day, the original home for all things kitsch. I used to pick up all my Peanuts paraphernalia there. It will be missed.

    How many things opened before, say, 1995 or so, are still open in the East Village? Quick, someone do a head count.


    The Immigrant Dirges of Sebastien Grainger at Union Hall

    Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains; Josh Reichmann
    @ Union Hall
    Brooklyn, NY - December 2, 2008

    Way back when, for a very brief time, Death from Above 1979 was one of THE bands of this decade in the eyes of many critics, trendsetters, etc. (except me, though maybe I need to re-evaluate). Fast forward to 2008, and while one half of the Canadian duo has stuck to the DFA aesthetic with MSTKRFT, Sebastien Grainger (that's pronounced "Grain-ger" not "Grahn-yea" for you assumptive French types) has taken it back to the 70's and 80's in yet another (and in this case successful) spin on retro sounds. Drawing from an array of arena and punk inspirations, Grainger's basic goal is to make everything sound like an anthem. The flagship song is, without question, "American Names", described by Grainger at Union Hall as an "immigrant dirge" and it certainly does carry a lot of weight. Not that could you make out what he was singing (due to Union Hall's excessively loud speakers from hell), but Grainger does write some pretty deep stuff - his music may be simple and fun, but he's not singing "I wanna hold your hand".
    Fellow Canadian Josh Reichmann (an impressively-haired young man) leads five guys in a heavy soul rock revival, with a slight edge of punk and pop in the background. Incredibly catchy but not sugary by any stretch, Reichmann's music is exactly the kind of party music we need going into 2009. All it takes is a horn and a sax and a few extra lads.

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