Archive for March, 2008

Crystal Castles, Health, Team Robespierre, and Apache Beat @ The Mercury Lounge. Wednesday March 26th, 2008.

Posted in music, shows, Tom with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2008 by criticalreviews

So I was looking forward to this show for quite a while. Four bands, all with hype, and I hate to say it, but it peaked really early.

We got to the show and Apache Beat was already playing. We saw probably about four of their songs…and I was pleasantly surprised, but not totally blown away. It is always nice to see a really confidant strong female vocalist and Ilirjana Alushaj is just that. Apache Beat makes dark punky new wavey sounds. I know that it was early in the night, and I feel that this band might really continue to grow, and I do feel that Ilirjana has great potential with her wailing vocals and on stage dancing. I did have one complaint, and I hate to knock someone for trying, but the bass player in the band almost seemed like he was too into it, and trying to steal the show from Ilirjana (as well as Philip Aceto the guitarist/vocalist). It almost looked like he was playing in a completely different band. I didn’t get to see their whole set, and I am not sure that I would seek them out on their own, but I would definitely be interested in seeing them as an opening act again…Like I said, I think this band has a lot of room to grow.

Now this is what I mean about the show peaked early, Team Robeapierre (TR) stole the show. I have been listening to their myspace for a while, and even picked up their 10″ split (which sounds nothing like they do now), but have never seen them until this show. The pictures of this band look crazy, but seeing them open provided what I imagine to be a slightly more tame show from the TR. TR brings the positive vibe of Matt and Kim, but with the craziness of Tim Harrington and Les Savy Fav. TR’s band members were rotating on and off of guitars, bass, and several key boards…with everyone taking turns on the vocals. While Mercury Lounge has a stage, at any given time 1 to 3 members of TR were off the stage and in the crowd. There was no stage diving or moshing but everyone up front was dancing and having a good time. They put on an intense show, and I predict that they are going to be one of those bands that is playing tons of shows this summer, and I hope to see them many times. They only played for about 30 or 35 minutes, but it was really fun. I picked up TR new 7″ “Bad Habits” (limited to 750 copies on MaxMin Records…and it has been on my record play a lot), and asked if there are plans for Everything’s Perfect to be released on LP…I got the response that they want it to be released on LP, but they haven’t had a record label picked them up yet…I am totally surprised by this and French Kiss or No Idea Records if you are listening I think (not that my opinion matters) that TR would be a great addition to your roster…pick this band up (if I had more money I would love to put it out). I can’t wait to see this band at a Todd P show, or some other no-venue space…punk rock dance party (I plan to be drunk and singing along to every word)!

Up third was Health. I picked up this LP around the beginning of the year, and liked it enough to follow up with the Perfect Skin 7″. It was really interesting to see the fashion difference between Health and TR…one distinctly LA and the other distinctly Brooklyn (which can be just about anything). Health, while not able to show up TR, was really great live (and I look forward to seeing them again on Monday)…they were loud and noisy, and really rocked out. They played longer than their album which I found impressive, and were even more abstract than I expected. I was both intrigued and confused by the bass/synthetic drum/pedal player’s bass only had 3 strings (the fourth obviously missing)…it appeared that this was purposeful, but I really don’t understand the advantage of missing a string on your instrument. Health has a really intense stage presence, and I hope to hear more from them in the future…I wish I was going to be in SC in a couple weeks to see them play New Brookland Tavern with Henry and Thank God.

Crystal Castles was actually the most disappointing of the four band. I can’t say that they were bad, because they make really badass dark dance music…nor can I say that I thought they, as a band were bad live. They are both totally cute, and she is a super awesome front woman…but my problem with their preformance was their light show. During their preformance there was a non-stop strobe light! Ok I can see a strobe light being used during parts of songs, or even for like one specific song, but the use of it through out the whole set is just excessive. A strobe light can make anyone look cool for a while, but if it is on too long it ends up looking like the band is doing the robot the whole time (which it did). We stood right up front for about the first five or so songs, and then moved to the back for the next four or so…the strobe lights didn’t stop, and it was getting late so we headed out. I would have liked to stay, but I just couldn’t take the strobe light, and it just kinda ruined the live show for me…it made it feel tedious…now I just want to think of their music and the pictures (as you can see from this one the band totally looks great) rather than the show I saw. Actually the coolest part abotu the show was the focus lights of the cameras, from photographers, that were flashing non-stop…these provided the effect of part of her body moving, while the rest of her body was being chopped up by the strobe light…I really can’t explain this unintended effect, but it was pretty cool, and I wish that someone would use this on purpose.

This show, overall, really made my love for Team Robespierre grow as well as make me really excited to see Health (and High Places) on Monday! I am here writing this review tonight unfortunately because The Convocation Of… canceled their show at Cake Shop, but at least that didn’t inhibit me from seeing a whole lot of bands play this week!

Since Team Robespierre was the best part about the show, you should check these out:

All of the great photos from the show are from Ryan Muir’s Flickr (thanks Ryan for the rad photos!!!)

(Tom)

The Glorytellers @ Cake Shop. Tuesday March 25th, 2008.

Posted in music, shows, Tom with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2008 by criticalreviews

So I have been a Karate fan for a really long time (I got to see them once a long time ago at MacRock, but I have become an even bigger fan in recent years)…and when I saw that Geoff Farina was playing several small New York shows I knew I had to go. I have been kicking myself for not going to see him play solo at the Knitting Factory’s Old Office at the end of last month, and when I realized that the Glorytellers were playing Cake Shop this past Tuesday I knew I had to go.

So this Tuesday was a night out alone for me…I haven’t been to a show by myself in a while, and honestly I didn’t think that I would go to this one alone, but I don’t have any friends in NYC that would be willing to pay $10 to see Farina. The night was really refreshing for me…I got to Cake Shop (and by the way this is one of my favorite places to see a band in Manhattan) and browsed some records, waited for the doors to the basement to open, got a beer, read some Philip K. Dick, and then finally watched the Glorytellers. Actually the Glorytellers were the opening act…Ida was headlining, but I really never listened to them, and after seeing Farina’s new band I didn’t feel like watching anyone else play.

Cake Shop filled up slowly at first… Glorytellers were scheduled to go on at 9pm, but didn’t actually start until about 9:30. I was standing right up front (I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else when I am at a show by myself), with Geoff Farina right in front of me. I forgot how tall he was, his head almost touched the celling, and was brushing against the X-Mas lights that line the top of the Cake Shop. Going into this show I had only heard a few tracks off the record and I was a little skeptical. I’ll be honest with you, I was highly caffeinated and very happy to be so. Glorytellers make very calm acoustic rock (roughly more blues based than jazz), but at the same time extremely complex and technical. I might have found myself falling asleep if it wasn’t for the caffeine because of how soothing I find their music. Farina plays acoustic guitar, and I typically don’t see very many complex acoustic musicians (I tend to be drawn to more straight up folksy stuff), but Farina plays using finger picks on each finger. I am not a guitarist, but I couldn’t help but stair at his fingers, and the wonderful sounds that he made come out of his guitar. This man is totally amazing, and I will try to see him play as many times as possible from now on. He was backed by and electric guitar and drums. I would attempt to name these musicians, but I cannot. From the research I did it appears that the guitarist and drummer in the touring band will be changing, but at any point the band can consist of former and current memebers of Karate, Cul De Sac, Him, Mice Parade, and Ida. The backing guitar really brings to mind Karate, and if it was the main focus I could almost imagine Glorytellers just being a Karate reincarnation, but the fact that Farina takes up the acoustic really makes the differance. The drummer to me, was literally backing instrumentation. While it contributed to the show it was really just providing a back drop for Farina’s finger picking.

I have admired Farina and a musician since Bed is in the Ocean, and got a great preformance from the Glorytellers. I picked up the LP, and think it is wonderful music but specifically for late at night or extremely early in the morning.

Overall Tuesday was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have had by myself in a very long time. I can thank Farina and his band for making it possible.

Listen to the Glorytellers here!

(Tom)

The Mountain Goats and The Moaners @ Music Hall of Williamsburg. Wednesday March 19th, 2008

Posted in music, shows, Tom with tags , , , , , , on March 25, 2008 by criticalreviews

Ok, so for now there is going to be a barrage of concert reviews from me, but I can’t help it. I have kinda made a pact with myself to review every concert that I attend…so far this has been going really well, and we will see if I can keep up:

Today: Glorytellers at Cake Shop
Wednesday: Apache Beat, Team Robspierre, Health, and Crystal Castles at Mercury Lounge
Saturday: The Convocation of… at Cake Shop (unfortunately canceled)
Monday: Health, Ghengis Tron, and High Places @ Knitting Factory

I guess what I am trying to say is excuse the music heaviness of my posting over the next couple weeks (I will change it up music wise too with a mailorder review and a packaging/record review. I also have a couple restaurant and bar reviews coming as well).

But now back to the Mountain Goats show.

The Moaners have been opening for the Goats on this tour, and they were actually pretty fun to watch. They are a two piece band, with a guitarist and a drummer. These two women have a (at least one) record out on Yep Rock, and played a really nice set. Their music is kinda bluesy, and with a slight nod to Sleater-Kinney. Ok, I know comparing a girl group to Sleater-Kinney is kinda a cop out, but they actually had a couple songs that really reminded me of them (earlier stuff, you know Dig Me Out, ect). I also think they might be better at a smaller show…the singer seemed kinda shy with the large crowd…she was wearing really big sunglasses the whole show. Despite the little bit of shyness The Moaners rocked pretty hard, and although this is another one of those bands that I don’t think I would listen to at home they were a good opening act (which up until recently has been few and far between).

So I bought us tickets to the MHOW show, and I did this mainly because I hate Webster Hall so much. But after a review by the Village Voice blog of the Webster Hall show I know I made the right decision…ok now I don’t put much faith in the Voice, but it was clear by the set that John played at MHOW that he had read it, and wanted to give his fans a different experience.

To our surprise John walked out on stage all by himself. I expected to see Peter Hughes follow, but John just strapped on his guitar and began to play. He proceeded to give the sold out crowd at MHOW an almost 40 min long solo set, and then called for the rest of the band to come out. During this solo set John played from pretty much the entire catologue For this tour the Goats have added a third member, a drummer, Jon Wurster. The Goats have been using a drummer on the records since Tallahassee, and it was interesting to see it live.

Before the show started we (KLK and I) were discussing our history with the Mountain Goats(seeing him at least 10 times in the past five years…all of these shows were in NC, NYC, and SC…including some shows that I booked). I have to say that John has never disappointed me. I will admit that that I have had a little bit of a hard time getting into the past couple albums, but that is not because I don’t like them…it is just because the older four track recordings used to be on my stereo non-stop for so many years (I initally had a hard time getting into everything after All Hail West Texas, but now We Shall All Be Healed ranks in my favorite albums). This show really put John’s full body of work into perspective for me…it tied the older songs that I consider classics in with the newer. This show really impressed me, and any one who has been skeptical of the Goats experimentation should just listen to “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” about ten times in a row and it should click (damn that song is good, and my favorite off the new album).

The full band portion of the set ended up being about 40 minutes as well…and there were even two encores. They only played three or four songs off of Heritic Pride which was pretty surprising, but I’ll take old Mountain Goats anyday. So now I am going to be a hater…the first encore was a cop out where they played “No Children” and “Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton”. I know these are favorites, and I even really like these songs, but just by how John talked about them made me believe that he was really tired of playing them. During “No Children” he didn’t even sing into the microphone, or really at all, he just let the crowd sing. This is sad to me because I can remember the days when we would see him screaming so loud into the mic during this song that I thought his eyes were going to pop out. The passion just doesn’t seem to be there any more…almost like he is just going through the motions. “BEDMBOOD” was a little better, but these didn’t compared to their cover of “House Guest” by Nothing Painted Blue (see the video below…not from this show, but still really good).

This show was really great, and I would love to see them when they come back in May, but I think I am going to need to opt for the No Fun Fest (w/ Thurston Moore and Burning Star Core both playing the same night), and I think John would approve of this decision. I think this show will definitely hold me off on my Mountain Goats fix until next time, and maybe by that time the Goats will be covering High on Fire.

Go Pirates!

Photo of the Mountain Goats at MHOW by Bryan Bruchman

The Moaner’s photo comes from Yep Rocs website

(Tom)

Wilderness and Nat Baldwin @ Union Pool. Thursday March 13th, 2008

Posted in music, shows, Tom on March 22, 2008 by criticalreviews

I have only been to Union Pool one other time (to see Scout Niblett), but I have to say the show space is a beautiful spot to see a band. Union Pool has a pretty unique set up. There are two bars and a huge court yard. When you enter Union Pool you walk into the much larger bar (which has a huge bar, tables, tons of standing room, and even a photo booth…which was broken this time). To get to the show space you have to pass through a big courtyard. I can only assume that this is where a pool used to be. On this particular Thursday there was a fire pit burning to keep everyone warm. From this court yard you enter the other bar/show space. This space is set up like a theater. The stage is low, but it has a very classy feel to it. The space is small (I don’t believe that it could hold more than two hundred people (but I am a bad judge of these things), and even when really packed it still seems intimate. The stage is intricate and the lighting is actual light bulbs that frame the band on the stage, which to me is extremely pleasing aesthetically. There is a bar that runs down the right side of the room, and a little balcony where the sound guy sits. I was a little afraid that the show would sell out (I try to plan in advance), but Union Pool doesn’t sell advance tickets…so get there kinda early.

I do have to say that Thursday evening was wonderful. I got to hang out with good friends, starting the evening at Barcade, stopping by Union Pool to guarantee admission to the show, and then grabbing a drink at Spyten Duvil before Nat Baldwin went on.

I am sad to say that this was my first time seeing Nat Baldwin, because he played Charleston so many times while I was living there, and he was so good. I am really going to try to find some of his solo recordings. I don’t know how known it is, but he plays bass on some of the Dirty Projectors stuff (most recently Rise Above). And too my surprise his vocals sounded surprisingly like Dave Longstreth’s. He used the microphone in a very similar way…he plays on the distance between his mouth and the mic to give it the echo-ey, fading in and out effect that Longstreth also uses (if you have see either of them live you probably know what I am talking about). Baldwin played in a full band format (I hear that he typically plays solo), but they were very good together. But the sound during Baldwin’s set was not so good. Baldwin plays stand up bass, and you unfortunately could not hear it very well. I was not the only one to notice this problem with the sound (including a good friend saying that the sound guy should be fired), but luckily it did not stay like that for the whole show.

So I bought both of the Wilderness records when I was a senior in college, and I listened to them a lot while writing my thesis. I knew the band would be intense, they had to be because the singer has such a bizarre style, but I had no idea what I was going to get. I honestly had never looked into the set up of their band…they played as a four piece. Each of the individuals on stage were extremely intense and focused solely on playing the music. James Johnson, the lead singer, is unlike any other singer I have ever seen. He sang and danced like no one was watching (which is awesome…I’m not such a good dancer, but people like him are an inspiration to me)…including being on the floor (where most of the crowd couldn’t see him) for a good part of a couple songs. I really can describe him and even though I am attempting to do so it does not do him justice. It was almost like he was on drugs or something, definitely really into the music, and a great performer (please see the video below!). The rest of the band (Brian Gossman, Will Goode, and Colin McCann) were equally into the music, although they didn’t seem as crazy as Johnson, they still almost seemed like they were in a trance. Guitarist, Colin McCann, even took breaks from playing the guitar to swing it onto his back, and added to the percussion during a couple of the songs to make the bands sound even more immense. To my surprise Wilderness did not play a single song that I new, but that didn’t matter…their new material sounds amazing, and any fan of the previous albums will not be disappointed if and when they release a third.

If someone would ask me “What does Wilderness sound like?” I would be honest and tell them…I think they sound like the Talking Heads if you took away the dance part, and made them drone-ey. I was as impressed with their live preformance as I was their first two albums, and I hope this band tours again because seeing them once wasn’t quite enough for me.

Please check out the video from the show:

Video by Joshualivesinabox’s YouTube

Nat Baldwin photo from Broken Sparrow Records

Wilderness photo from Jagjaguwar Records

(Tom)

choward’s scented gum

Posted in candy, food, klk on March 20, 2008 by criticalreviews

I should preface this review by saying that, in general, I am not a big gum person. I think it’s pretty gross when people smack it real loud with their mouths open, and I don’t like the taste of most gums, and it’s kind of expensive, and I’m sensitive to that aspartame crap that they put in most gums today. Tom used to be a big gum chewer when we first started dating, so I guess I chewed a little bit then (maybe for fresh kissing-breath after all of those vanilla soy lattes we were drinking – HA!). But, I never buy gum. UNTIL NOW!!

I saw this gum at my pharmacist, which is right around the corner from our building. It’s the best pharmacy I’ve ever used, and one of the reasons why I love my neighborhood. When I went in for the first time, the pharmacist himself came out from behind the counter to shake my hand and tell me how nice it was to meet me. I tell you what – I will NEVER go to a Rite Aid or Duane Reade or Eckerd or whatever after this great experience. They even have our toothpaste at a reasonable price, which is kind of hard to find in Inwood.

Choward’s Scented Gum initially looked interesting to me kind of from an aesthetic standpoint. I really liked the little purple cardboard box, and the writing on it and the weird name and everything. It looks really old-school, which always appeals to me. And here it was up at the counter of my little independently owned pharmacy (“the corner druggist”), so I was pretty sold from the beginning. Also, since when is gum called “scented?” The outside of the box says, “FRAGRANCE THAT REFRESHES.” Yum! But, shouldn’t it say “FLAVOR THAT REFRESHES?” It’s weird to think of something that you eat having a scent. Needless to say, I was intrigued. I finally bought it during my third visit to the pharmacy, and popped a piece immediately after going outside.

The flavor was so surprising! It has kind of a clove-y, herbal, not really minty flavor. There’s a little bit of cinnamon in there in the beginning, but that fades pretty quickly. Most of the flavor fades pretty quickly, actually, but in a very pleasant way. The gum is very small, so you aren’t forced to smack it around loudly with your mouth open like most people do with gum (totes annoying!). The aftertaste is perhaps the most surprising part….patchouli. Yes, patchouli. I must say I have a sweet spot inside for patchouli-scented things because of my hippie days in college. It smells delicious and earthy. I actually enjoy having that flavor in my mouth! Weird, right?

Choward’s gum is kind of expensive at the drugstore, at $0.79/pack. One pack contains eight pieces. I am seriously considering buying a case directly from the company, at only $13.50 for 24 packs, that’s a pretty sweet deal. Less than $0.60 a pack! Sounds like a great graduation gift to me…..

love, klk.

TinyMixTapes.com

Posted in music, Tom, website on March 14, 2008 by criticalreviews

So everyone knows about Pitchfork Media, but where else do you get the latest music news? I have become a huge fan of Tiny Mix Tapes (TMT). While they break music stories as well as Pitchfork (but slightly less frequently), you also get a huge dose of humor, and usually some of the more obscure happenings around the world. I have been reading TMT for a couple years now, and I think I found out about it because KLK stumbled across it, but I have become a huge advocate.

Tiny Mix Tapes does about two album reviews a day. The amount of news stories vary, concert review, and there are always a couple weekly features. Not to mention the massive list of themed mix tapes, and the random quote generator at the top of the page!

While Pitchfork does “Best New Music,” a section of the website telling people what is the cream of the crop (most things that get higher than an 8.0 out of 10 in their rating system). As you probably already know this is the section that makes and breaks bands…most notably, in my opinion, responsible for the success of Arcade Fires’ debut. I personally find this questionable, and have even discussed it with a couple Pitchfork writers…how some releases get really awesome score, but don’t make “Best New Music”(apparently since these discussions, for some reason, Les Savy Fav’s Let’s Stay Friends has been removed from the section). It seems that “Best New Music” is aimed at what the most common reader of Pitchfork will find awesome, and for things that don’t quite make this section the have a “recommended” section(while other totally awesome things that get over 8.0, but don’t make either of these sections). TMT tapes comes to the aide of music with their “Eureka!” reviews. Here is a quote from them about what these reviews mean:

“Eureka is our attempt to reflect a sensibility that is not so common in the music world, one that emphasizes looking at ruptures in music, finding disjunctions while locating traditions, pointing to new forms and ways of receiving music. While many of these musics can potentially function as a reflection of personal mood, as pure entertainment, or as a sort of escapism (depending on the listener), others outwardly defy these conventional ways of receiving music and test the boundaries of what exactly discerns music from noise. Avant-garde, experimental, creative — call it what you want. We’re not here to mark boundaries, and we’re certainly not trying to polarize the underground music world. It’s not one versus the other; it’s one with the other. Yet at the same time, it’s music appreciation for sounds that are not already bloated with cultural meaning. Because of this semiotic ambiguity, these albums may require more ’effort’ on your part to find any personal worth. There has been a rich history of experimentation, and these newest albums either compliment or continue the tradition, in the most general, far-reaching sense of the word. Due to the vastness of this realm of music, the following list is very much specific to our tastes, and in no way should it be understood as a one-stop shop for ’experimental’ or ’avant-garde’ music. Enjoy!”

“Eureka!” is pushing boundaries, not to say that I don’t love a lot of what Pitchfork deems “Best New Music,” but I am always interested in hearing something that could potentially be ground breaking in a way I never expected. These “Eureka!” releases have tended to be much more obscure featuring bands doining very experimental things (like Purient, Yellow Swans, Boris, among others). I can’t say that I am into everything that makes this list, and TMT admits that some of it has to do with personal tastes (which I think is a given, but says a lot when they come straight up and admit it) but I have to admit that I think it is bringing to my attention somethings that might have slipped through my radar.

On top of tours, industry, and releases, some of their news posts are refered to as Shrimp Scampi and this is possibly possibly the best part about their news feed. These posts are not only informative, but typically cartoons, animated, or even interactive. (Please see these example above and to the left)

Overall TMT is much more than informative, they provide a light hearted side to music news, and I personally think that we can all learn a lesson from them. I personally am going to try to make an effort to intergrate a little more humor into my writing, and maybe Pitchfork should take a cue from their former writers too.

All images from Tiny Mix Tapes…please follow the links inside the pictures.

(Tom)

Earwax Records

Posted in music, record stores, Tom on March 11, 2008 by criticalreviews

NY Magazine (Tom) Earwax Records
218 Bedford Ave
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Earwax is one of the many record stores in Williamsburg, and in my opinion the best (possibly my favorite in NYC). I guess I might be biased because in brings back memories of my old haunt 52.5 Records in Charleston. Earwax is one of the smaller stores in the city, but that doesn’t stop them from having one of, if not the, best selection of new vinyl. I know that when ever I am looking for something specific, no matter the genre (indie, punk, noise, reggae, no wave, you name it), chances are Earwax will have it. The store is set up with the records in a small middle isle to the left once you walk in the door, and with CDs lining the walls. There is always at least a couple gems in the used section (this time those included Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, Echo and the Bunnymen’s Heaven Up Here, Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats), but you are going to pay what they are worth. As far as new vinyl they are on pare price wise with the rest of the city (there are so many stores that the prices seem to regulate themselves, at least from album to album).

There is an man that works in the store sometimes, probably in his 40s, that I can only assume is the owner, and several other employees (from what I’ve seem mostly guys), and the dynamic between the owner and the staff (from what I have witnessed) is wonderful. There is always some obscure music playing setting a nice atmosphere for shopping (I almost like record shopping best when I don’t know what is on the stereo, it lets me focus, and occasionally you will hear something that just grabs you).

I have concocted an imaginary feud in my head between the staff of Earwax and the staff of Soundfix, and it really makes me laugh. Two extremely different environments (ambiance and staff) selling essentially the same products (Earwax just tends to have the better selection), and they are just a couple blocks apart. A Soundfix review is probably in the near future…it’s not a bad store I am just hard struck to find anything I want there after going to Earwax.

I went to the store this past Saturday, and after perusing the 7”s I sifted through the new and used LPs. I ended up picking up Beach House’s Devotion and Soul Jazz Record’s New York Noise Vol. 2 (which was a total steal at $14.99…a good $7 or $8 cheaper than the usual price). There are several things I am torn about, and as always they are reissues…the Kinks and Blue Cheer ultimately got put back on the shelf. On another recent visit (probably two weeks ago) I found the Yellow Swans/Burning Star Core collaboration, which I had been looking for a while, and the Mountain Goats new album Heretic Pride (I can say John Darnielle is one of my favorite singer/songwriters , but am not totally into this one yet).

Thinking back on it, I probably should have snagged the Zappa record, but I usually feel that way about something after I leave the record shop. This is it until my next adventure in record shopping.

Photo Credit: NY Magazine

(Tom)