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Oh Wonder Play Two at Brooklyn Steel

September 26th, 2017

Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West have been writing, recording and singing simmering R&B-influenced pop tunes in unison ever since forming Oh Wonder three years ago in London, writing a song a week. Their self-titled debut studio release (stream it below)—filled with what AllMusic dubs “unified-sounding, thoroughly mellow, wistful collection of bedroom keyboard-and-drum-machine tunes”—came out in 2015. Oh Wonder (above, performing “Drive”) returned this summer with their second full-length, Ultralife (stream it below), which received high praise. “What is so delightfully refreshing about this London duo is the utter effortlessness of their music,” says Rolling Stone. “This dreamy, polished album is a winner.” And currently working their way south from Canada, Oh Wonder play Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday and Wednesday. Singer-songwriter-poet-performer Jaymes Young opens both shows.

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Rostam Brings Debut Solo Album to Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 25th, 2017

The story of Rostam Batmanglij is one of continuation and staying on his creative toes. With an open mind and an open heart he’s thrown himself into each expression and partnership without getting bogged down. There was some level of redefinition in order when the instant but unsustainable starburst of his former band, Vampire Weekend, leveled out a bit, at least beyond their base following. But it was inevitable that he’d forge his own path. With inherent musical proclivity, it was just a matter of discovering new outlets. And he’s certainly found them. Along with lending his enlivening sense of melody and world rhythm to the production of acts including Frank Ocean, Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen—and oh, by the way, writing original music for the reprise of Kenneth Lonergan’s classic Broadway play This Is Our Youth—Rostam struck collaborative gold last year when he buddied up with Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser to gift us with the rollicking resplendence of I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (stream it below).

The volume of his work keeping him limber, he was prime to really hit a graceful, ground-covering stride on his first proper solo affair, Half-Light (stream it below). Just released this month, the effort carries that extraspecial glow and pop of every fifth firework. From the moment his Panda Bear–esque vocals sail into the album entrance of “Sumer,” a feeling of bright-eyed anticipation of what follows keeps afloat like an air-blasted ping pong ball. A youthful blend of vulnerability and moxie suspend in a seasoned weave of production that takes cues from all directions. There are even melodic allusions to the coiled-spring bop of Vampire Weekend, yet they’re shrewdly integrated, as in “Wood,” with cleanly bowed strings jumping into the gaps formed from the seductive Eastern percussion. When hearing the melodious, uplifting cheer of what can be construed as Rostam’s prideful retort to the chirping birds comes through his cry of “Please don’t let it get to you/ Even if you don’t realize it/ It’s still all up to you,” you’ll feel like running out buck naked to take on the world. He’s arrived at that point of confident eloquence, tightly embracing what made him and what moves him—and letting the tracks fall where they may.

Rostam once said that he’s interested in inclusion rather than exclusion, that his goal is to make music that can move anybody. His solo album easily surpasses this goal, and when performed live, the vibe pulses through the crowd. There’s that inestimable moment in time when a beloved honorary New Yorker who has contributed richly to this city’s music scene returns to play under a spotlight that is all his. That rare moment comes Wednesday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. You’ll be able to reach up and touch the electricity in the atmosphere on the night. Among the devoted and adoring Vampire Weekenders and newly blossomed fans of his duet album with Hamilton Leithauser, others, picked up along his musical path where the scenery has never been dull, will join in on the anticipation of a prolific artist, who many leap at the chance to work alongside, finally having his own moment in the spotlight. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

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Hear Some of the Bands You Can See This Week

September 25th, 2017

Hear some of the bands you can see this week.

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Mac DeMarco Kicks Off the Weekend on Friday Night at Radio City

September 21st, 2017

Goofy yet sensitive troubadour Mac DeMarco’s third full-length album, This Old Dog (stream it below), came out this past May to rave reviews. “With a fresh approach and a renewed outlook on life, DeMarco reaches a whole other level of cool, lush calm as well as an unprecedented degree of maturity and introspection,” says Exclaim. “But as he reflects deeply and meaningfully on family, love, relationships, life and near-death throughout his songs, DeMarco shows us that he’s a lot more complicated than he seems.” The singer-songwriter recently released the video for the new album’s title song (above), an innovative virtual reality eyeball-bender full of warped landscapes and floating Hypercolor images. For all the merits of virtual reality, there’s still nothing quite like a good old-fashioned performance in the flesh. Fans of DeMarco’s hazy, lazy melodies will get their chance to see the scruffy artist on the regal stage of Radio City Music Hall on Friday, supported by the punky SoCal twins who perform as the Garden. Despite the lack of VR effects that exist in plain old, regular reality, DeMarco is known for performing with plenty of antics up his sleeve—and coupled with the chance to hear songs like “Salad Days” and “My Kind of Woman” live, the experience promises to be just as mind expanding as any technological trickery may be. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK

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Alison Wonderland Brings Her Dance Party to Terminal 5 on Thursday

September 20th, 2017

Alex Sholler entered the music world as a cellist in the Sydney Youth Orchestra, but she’s since been doing work as the EDM DJ and producer Alison Wonderland. The Australian’s initial single, “Get Ready,” dropped in 2013, followed a year later by her debut EP, Calm Down (stream it below), which “has a split personality—straddling trashy club release and clever EDM. Either way, listeners should find something to love between Alex Sholler’s use of adventurous, solemn strings and her punchy, stop-start beats,” according to the Music. Her first full-length album, Run (stream it below), featuring the Flaming LipsWayne Coyne, arrived in 2015. Per Rolling Stone, the LP hits “the sweet spot where dance-floor ready meets radio friendly.” Now crisscrossing the country, bringing her mobile dance party to the land of the free and the home of the brave, Alison Wonderland (above, performing “U Don’t Know”) comes to Terminal 5 on Thursday night. Los Angeles electronic-pop singer-songwriter Elohim opens the show.

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Tei Shi Plays a Hometown Show at Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 19th, 2017

Singer-songwriter Valerie Teicher grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, and Vancouver, B.C., before heading to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music. She’s since brought her keen pop sensibilities to Brooklyn, recording and performing as Tei Shi. And after gaining notice with the release of several singles and a pair of EPs, her acclaimed debut full-length, Crawl Space (stream it below), was released this past March. “Loaded with vocal hooks, sassy, R&B-infused performances and textured, groove-powered tunes, it’s a hypnotic set that’s definitely got its own thing going on,” says AllMusic. “Her bijou brand of left-field R&B shares space with Chairlift or Little Dragon,” adds the Observer. Now out on the road in support of the LP, Tei Shi (above, performing “Say You Do” live in studio for KEXP FM) comes home to play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday night. Los Angeles singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lawrence Rothman opens.

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Catch the Tallest Man on Earth with yMusic Live at Pioneer Works

September 18th, 2017

Although diminutive in stature, Kristian Matsson is the Tallest Man on Earth with a booming voice that commands even the biggest of stages. The Swede has a knack for luring in listeners with his delicate, composed songs that are often accompanied by just a guitar or a piano. It’s no wonder Justin Vernon plucked him out of relative obscurity to tour with him in 2008, an opening slot that led to the first solo Tallest Man on Earth American tour. Since then the singer-songwriter has produced four studio full-lengths and his latest release is a gem of an EP with the chamber ensemble yMusic, aptly titled The Tallest Man on Earth with yMusic (stream it below). The album revisits material from Matsson’s There’s No Leaving Now (stream it below) and The Wild Hunt (stream it below) LPs, as well as a cover of Joan Baez’s “East Virginia.” Matsson first played with the genre-straddling collective back at the 2015 Eaux Claire Festival in Wisconsin. (Watch the Tallest Man on Earth performing “Rivers” with yMusic, above.) He has no plans to release a new long-player this year or to do much touring, but he will make a rare live appearance with yMusic at Pioneer Works on Wednesday and Thursday (the latter is already sold out). —Sharlene Chiu

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Hear Some of the Bands You Can See This Week

September 18th, 2017

Hear some of the bands you can see this week.

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Mutemath Bring New Album to Brooklyn Steel on Wednesday

September 18th, 2017

Influenced by the soulful sounds of the ’60s and ’70s and alternative rock of the past (think: Air, Radiohead, New Order), Mutemath (above, doing “War”) formed a decade-and-a-half ago in New Orleans. The band—now Paul Meany (vocals and keys), Jonathan Allen (bass) and Todd Gummerman (guitar)—has since been equally known for engaging live performances and their recorded output, including full-lengths, EPs and live releases. Their fifth studio long-player, Play Dead (stream it below), came out earlier this month, and their tour in support of it rolls through Kings County to play Brooklyn Steel on Wednesday night. Franklin, Tenn., four-piece Colony House and Toronto quartet Romes open the show.

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A Double Dose of the War on Drugs in New York City Next Week

September 15th, 2017

Philadelphia’s the War on Drugs craft songs with momentum. The synths underlying “Holding On” (above, performed live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert), off their latest release, A Deeper Understanding (stream it below), chug along like a runaway train. Over the band’s four full-length albums, songwriter Adam Granduciel and Co. have fine-tuned what was already a well-oiled machine right out of the gates. They enlisted the production help of L.A. engineer Shawn Everett, known for his work on the Alabama Shakes’ masterful Sound & Color, for their first major-label record. A Deeper Understanding takes the War on Drugs’ signature expansive sound and pushes it, well, deeper into new terrains. On “Nothing to Find,” the beats plow through gorgeous swirling soundscapes of analog synths, and Granduciel’s vocals at the end sound like he’s howling into a massive canyon the song’s just blown into the earth. The War on Drugs’ music feels both large and personal, with softer numbers still showcasing a tenderness that sounds just as grandiose. The album’s gorgeously produced, and any little snippet of its soundscapes risks working its way into your head and never leaving. As their sound has grown bigger, so too has the group’s following, snowballing off the success of 2014’s much-acclaimed Lost in the Dream (stream it below). One album later and the New Yorker is ready to propose that they’re rock’s next torchbearers. The War on Drugs will make their case and then some when they return to New York City next week to play Terminal 5 on Tuesday and SummerStage on Friday. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

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Two Chances to Catch the Horrors at Rough Trade NYC Next Week

September 15th, 2017

Inspired by garage rock, post-punk and New Wave, Faris Badwan (vocals), Joseph Spurgeon (drums), Joshua Hayward (guitar), Tom Cowan (keys) and Rhys Webb (bass) formed the Horrors more than a decade ago in Essex, England. Their debut full-length, Strange House (stream it below), officially announced their arrival upon its release in 2007. “The Horrors bring a dose of dark glamour to an increasingly anodyne British alternative music scene too heavily indebted either to Oasis and the Libertines, or earnest post-punk,” opined PopMatters. “They blend their twin influences of early ’80s Goth and ’60s garage to startling effect.” The Horrors (above, performing “So Now You Know”) have remained busy touring and recording ever since. The band’s fifth album, the aptly titled V—which, according to the Guardian, “drags their grand, gothic, garage-y noise from the shadows and recasts it in throbbing electronics, drum-machine pulses and the most fully formed pop of their career”—drops next Friday, but you won’t have to wait that long to hear the new tunes because the Horrors play Rough Trade NYC on Monday and Tuesday.

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Aussie Trio Middle Kids Play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday

September 14th, 2017

After a solo stint, singer Hannah Joy joined forces with guitarist Tim Fritz and drummer Harry Day to form the deliciously addictive Middle Kids. In the spring of 2016, their debut single, “Edge of Town” (above, performed on Conan), made an impressive impact, garnering praise from none other than Elton John and heavy play on Triple J in their native Australia. The three have since released a self-titled debut EP (stream it below) earlier this year and have been busy touring Australia, America and Europe. Back in April, Rolling Stone shortlisted the group as one of the 10 New Artists You Need to Know, describing their sound as “heartfelt, clever ruminations at the intersection of indie rock and alt-country.” NPR listeners also placed the group on the recent “Your Favorite New Artists of 2017 (So Far).” So don’t sleep on your chance to catch this rising act before they release their forthcoming debut album. Middle Kids play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night. Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ski Lodge opens. —Sharlene Chiu

 

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Spend the Weekend with the Afghan Whigs in New York City

September 14th, 2017

The Afghan Whigs formed while still in college and launched out of Cincinnati in the mid-’80s, making the kind of amped-up garage rock that would earn them comparisons to the likes of the Replacements and Dinosaur Jr.—and gain them a cult following thanks to what AllMusic calls frontman “Greg Dulli’s tortured, angst-ridden tales of broken relationships and self-loathing.” They released six albums between 1988 and 1998 before amicably breaking up three years later. But you can’t keep a good band down, and so the Afghan Whigs (above, performing “Algiers” for KEXP FM) returned in 2012. Their seventh long-player, Do the Beast (stream it below), arrived two years later. “Do to the Beast leaves you emotionally wrought. Where Dulli had previously played the sleaze we reveled in living vicariously through, here he has us choking back tears for him, the violent aggressor,” said the Line of Best Fit. “The album has an air of closure, the Whigs pull out all their musical stops and Dulli seems to find an end, albeit not the happiest one.” And this past May, the band put out another well-received full-length, In Spades (stream it below). “Bolstered again by the louche and ravaged voice of singer Greg Dulli,” said Pitchfork, “the latest from the indie rock icons is delightfully stuffed with romance and rancor.” Having just launched a new tour, the Afghan Whigs come to The Bowery Ballroom on Friday to play In Spades in its entirety followed by a second set and then hit Brooklyn Steel on Saturday. Former New Yorker Har Mar Superstar opens both shows.

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Blanck Mass Brings New Music to Rough Trade NYC on Thursday

September 12th, 2017

Benjamin John Powers is known as half of the English experimental drone duo Fuck Buttons. But he’s been doing his own electronic project as Blanck Mass (above, the official video for “Please”) since an ambient, droning eponymous debut full-length (stream it below)—recorded in his apartment and inspired by Carl Sagan and Ennio Morricone— arrived in 2011. “The shadow of his other band always feels like it’s on his shoulder, but that tension between his past and present guises is what makes this work so well,” said Pitchfork. “Blanck Mass is all about Power excavating new domains while still working wit.” The third Blanck Mass LP, World Eater (stream it below), dropped this past spring, winning over AllMusic: “Considering his legacy, it’s all the more impressive that Power found even more challenging places to go with his music, but World Eater’s focused chaos is some of his finest work yet.” In the middle of his North American tour, Blanck Mass plays Rough Trade NYC on Thursday night, and Egyptrixx opens the show.

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Don’t Miss Public Service Broadcasting at Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 12th, 2017

On paper, Public Service Broadcasting’s music might sound like a gimmick: They compose and perform sweeping instrumentals around bits of spoken word taken from historical audio recordings—archival tapes, newsreels, propaganda. Their 2015 album, The Race for Space (stream it below), featured a variety of tracks that covered the early history of space travel, and their newest, Every Valley (stream it below), charts the coal industry in South Wales. In practice, these songs prove the London trio, operating as J. Willgoose, Esq., Wrigglesworth and JF Abraham, to be expert documentarians. The music tells compelling stories, finding modern-day relevance and emotional hooks in the brief historical snippets delivered in a soaring post-rock package. Public Service Broadcasting (above, performing “Gagarin”) will bring their history-steeped instrumentals to Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. They’ll be rocking songs about space and coal and much more. And who knows, you just might learn something and have a good time. —A. Stein | @Neddyo