Sunday, August 30, 2009

April Smith; Sping Standards: Bryan Dunn @ Bowery Ballroom

April Smith; The Sping Standards: Bryan Dunn
@ Bowery Ballroom
Brooklyn, NY - August 29, 2009

April Smith has a smoky disposition while singing a well-toned mix of vintage pop and a perky demeanor between the songs. This is some high craft, and about to be a big deal if people with taste have anything to say about it.

The Spring Standards are kids ready for their Itunes commercial. That's not a bad thing. That's how their Indie pop vibrates. Their country-blues stuff, therefore, comes a bit out of nowhere but they do that well too. Their real talent though are their harmonies...holy hell.

Bryan Dunn was on fire kicking off a long Saturday night at the Bowery. The band was tight, the vocals were perfect, and the genre-mixing was high and mighty. "Heart of Glass" was the cover of choice for the night, providing a disco interlude from the Americana-soaked and power pop-backed variety of clips. Also, this man cuts a ballad like no one's business.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Slowest Runner in All the World @ Glasslands

The Slowest Runner in All the World; The Baltic Sea
@ Glasslands
Brooklyn, NY - Tuesday August 25th, 2009

The Slowest Runner in All the World - who could be alternatively called Not Usain Bolt - are a prog-inspired Pandora's box of sound. If Murder by Death had unprotected sex with Dreamtheatre, this would be the baby.

The Baltic Sea are from Portland, Maine which in and of itself makes them stand-out. The auditory nuances of the band were fitting for the art gallery confines they played in.

On an unrelated but related note, take a walk down South 2nd Street between Kent and Wythe on a weeknight sometime. Just do it. And laugh. And laugh. And do these people live like this? I don't know...

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sonic Parthenon Playlist: Rest of the Summer 2009, Part 2

Lou Reed - "I Love You Suzanne" and "Dirty Blvd."
Damn you Pinfield! I'm trying to stay hip and current and instead Mr. Morning Man Matt Pinfield on 101.9 WRXP has to keep me hip and in the past with 2 oft-played old numbers from Bittersweet Lou. The former is off a commercial pop record Lou did in the mid 80's and the latter is from the exceptional New York a few years later.

The Replacements - "Alex Chilton"
Once again thanks to this sometimes amazing station called WRXP, I learned of this song and was finally motivated to hear out all of the Replacements. Except for "Bastards of Young", which I already worshiped, I'm not sure they did anything better.

Santigold - "Lights Out"
I had no idea that the girl who fronted the band Stiffed that opened for X back in 2003 in Philadelphia was Santi White/Santogold/Santi Gold. Who knew? I should have. She had the talent then and she has had it for 2 years running at least since. I doubt there was a gap in the middle. Stupendous summer single.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - "40 Days" and "Home"
A pair of heart-warming songs from this SXSW buzz band that grew out of Ima Robot. The hippie-look of this band is shticky and off-putting but the music is irresistible.

Regina Spektor - "Laughing With"
Regina has developed her niche, and she's not going to change for anyone. Keep it that way, sister.

Stellastarr - "Freak Out" and "Graffiti Eyes"
The vocals are annoying yet this works in that Talking Heads-ish sort of way.

Evan Voytas - "We'd Be Good Together"
A little ode of affection with a slightly cynical subtext. Another coup from Oh My Rockness.

Wilco - "You Never Know"
Wilco always does this. A minimum of one killer track off a new record. And it's always one where they sound completely vintage.

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The Sonic Parthenon Playlist: Rest of the Summer 2009, Part 1

Bat for Lashes - "Daniel"
Natasha Khan's first waves as Bat for Lashes came off a little creepy and bizarre and inaccessible without really being any of those things. This time around she's right up front in being inviting and charming. The pop sensibilities of this 80's style dark dance song make it easily digestible.

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
I've liked this legendary band for awhile but only in drips and drabs from what I heard over the years. I finally decided to give them a solid listen this summer and I wasn't let down. The solos. My god, the solos. And the riffs are nothing to sneeze at either. And it's not like Barlow and Murph aren't holding up their end of the bargain. The new LP, the second with the reformed original trio, is a solid display of the band's more accessible later period. Not sure how or why but Mascis's guitar skill seems to exponentially magnify in greatness as he gets older. "I Don't Wanna Go There" has the solo of the year.

Flamin' Groovies - "Shake Some Action"
What?! This isn't new! Doesn't matter. Thanks to Bob Boilen picking it as part of the All Songs Considered special on great record labels, I discovered the greatest song I never knew about before that moment.

Free Energy - "Dream City"
70's AM Gold lives! At least the good versions of it. I dare you to dislike this.

Benjy Ferree
I heard an archived performance of this joker at WOXY and "Big Business" alone was enough to make me a fan. I don't get...HIM...but I'm enjoying him.

Generationals - "When They Fight, They Fight"
Great title, excellent sounding Indie song. This is what Grizzly Bear should sound like.

Great Northern - Remind Me Where The Light Is
The follow-up record to Trading Twilight for Daylight is no fluke. Great Northern are THE great unsung band of Southern California. Eat it, Silversun Pickups! Go on tour with them, Airborne Toxic Event!

Hatcham Social - "So So Happy Making"
I haven't been bothered or have had the time to look up anything about the act behind this song but this 80's revivalist pop number is a pleasant romp.

Dave Matthews Band - "Why I Am"
It's sadness over the loss of Leroi Moore that's behind some of it, but there has been a re-embracing of DMB around these parts lately. In no small measure there is this insatiably catchy tribute to the Groogrux King that harkens back to those 90's hits where this band was something special.

Phoenix - "1901"
This is what a band this decade, OF its decade, should/would sound like. It's gleaming pop backed by steady rock-n-roll ethics. Phoenix won't leave a mark the way the Strokes did back in the early half of this decade but this track picks up the mantle.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dinosaur Jr.; The Walkmen @ Central Park Summerstage

Dinosaur Jr.; The Walkmen; Saviours
@ Central Park Summerstage
New York, NY - August 16, 2009

An Ode to Shred, by Elwood D. Pennypacker: Oh Shred. Oh inordinate amounts of Shred. How I love thee. Especially when thou art emanating from the fingers, guitar, and amplifiers of one J. Mascis. How thou art the ultimate sound of rock n' roll I can never relent from. I love thee.

Yeah so a good mood J. Mascis was tearing it up this afternoon at Central Park with Lou and Murph pounding it down at their respective stations. "I Want You To Know", "Imagination Blind", and "I Don't Want to Go There" from the new Farm LP were on display as were "Been There All The Time" (which surprisingly was lacking in the shred department, the downer of the day), and the band's cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven". When Mascis wasn't wailing away, he was chewing up the riffs. Greatest guitarist alive? Quite possibly...

2 very different opening acts complemented the roaring sound of Dinosaur Jr. The Walkmen, long anticipated to be one of the next big things, have found themselves comfortably flowing along as critical and Indie radio darlings with a decent-sized fan-base. These clean cut-by-design New Yorkers continue to play their Strokes-like rock, in fact sounding like a true band of this decade (if this decade has its own sound, it's bands like this and Phoenix) and they have sprinkled in some Vampire Weekend-like globalism since that band formed and eclipsed them in the intervening years.

Saviours are a straight-up hardcore metal band. Most of the songs are all reworkings of Sabbath's "Children of the Grave", but they all work. This isn't my genre, but if it was, I'd listen to this band a lot.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Blondie; Pat Benatar; The Donnas @ Asher Levy Park

Blondie; Pat Benatar; The Donnas
@ Asher Levy Park
Brooklyn, NY - August 13, 2009

The iconic band Blondie - the punk/new wave band that made its mark by being so eclectic and diverse in its tastes - would possibly be treading on its long history of cred with a free show at the Seaside Summer Concerts, a venue known for more late baby boomer pop and classic soul acts than legendary rock bands (though they did have the B-52's not too long ago). Have no fear. Debbie Harry - ageless in her talent and her appeal - led the boys in a romp through the classics, notably their slap dash thunder cover of the Nerves' "Hanging on the Telephone". "Rapture" sported a Henry Rollins-esque diatribe at the end. Closer "Heart of Glass" featured an affectionate tack-on of "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough". Chris Stein's blues solo was rather unexpected as the blues seemed to be the only rock-related genre this band has never attempted.

Pat Benatar also played her hits. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", "We Belong", and "Love is a Battlefield" are her obvious crowd-pleasers (the first of which has always been a great 80's pop-rock number) but it is "Innocent" that really displays Pat's ability to make a thoroughly sharp rock song.

The Donnas mercifully played for only ten minutes and were wise to play "Take It Off".

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Van Morrison Actually Does an Interview

I know, I can't believe it myself. It's so rare a moment, it just has to be shared:

...and yes, it is good that the interview was for Astral Weeks - the best album ever made? It's up there...

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Wave Pictures @ South Street Seaport

The Wave Pictures
@ South Street Seaport
New York, NY - August 7, 2009

By accident I listened to a few songs from the Wave Pictures at this week's free Seaport show. Affable blokes playing your standard modern-band pop-rock (when I come up with ways to actually describe this sound beyond "shimmering guitars", I will let you know).

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

M. Ward; Nels Cline & Mike Watt @ Central Park Summerstage

M. Ward; Floored by Four
@ Central Park Summerstage
New York, NY - August 1, 2009

M. Ward's voice is fuller than ever and even a little silky these days as the monster of folk maestro discovers his truly rockin' side. The ballads were kept to a minimum as Matt and his band tapped into some real barnburners, including a bust-out cover of "Roll Over Beethoven" which reminded everyone that song craft probably peaked in 1956 even if very stellar artists have come around since then. This is in addition to "Rave On" already being in the repertoire as part of the Hold Time record. He should have played Little Richard for the 50's Greatness trifecta.
On his own work, Matt continues to sing and play with a level of class and professionalism that few attain. He's no longer singing under his mic, shyly looking to the sky instead of the crowd. Instead, he is finally staring us in the eye, continuing to sing songs of deep reflection and haunted spirit. He's one of those melody makers that I put into the canon of "Writing the Soundtrack to Our Lives". A hokey burden to be sure, but maybe it's not Ward's fault - he was gallivanting around the Indie circuit with that actress last year. That's probably how he was motivated to look people in the face, he saw some of us can be quite pretty to look at.

Nels Cline and Mike Watt got together with two other folks, dubbed themselves Floored by Four (meh name), and made their debut opening up for M. The bulk of the long, trippy psychedelic jams were not very pleasing or ripe for the setting, but the P-FUNK "Maggont Brain" finale (a song I know through the Volebeats so I should have recognized it better) was amazing - Nels Cline is something to see and hear on the guitar.

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