Tag Archives: James Blake

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Cold War Kids Headline Diverse CMJ Lineup at Rough Trade NYC

October 23rd, 2014

Cold War Kids – Rough Trade NYC – October 22, 2014

Cold War Kids – Rough Trade NYC – October 22, 2014
Rough Trade NYC hosted a flock of impressive acts last night, and concertgoers who caught this show on the second night of CMJ 2014 lucked out, as the lineup provided such a satisfying variety befitting the festival’s spirit. Fresh off tours supporting Sylvan Esso and My Brightest Diamond, Brooklyn native Doe Paoro and her band entranced early arrivals with celestial electro soul. Australia’s Little May followed with their subdued rock sensibilities. The band had many an audience member swooning with material from their self-titled debut album. Little May’s gorgeous, resonant sound is full of husky whispers and hook-y choruses, and they played up their songs’ melancholic beauty throughout their set.

Moses Sumney took the stage next and quickly mesmerized the crowd with his velvety voice and artful looping skills. The Los Angeleno stood alone onstage and built vast choral phrases out of lilting, angelic tones and subtle beat-boxing. Sumney could sing every word in the dictionary and make it sound interesting—his voice is just that good.  The 20-year-old electro rocker Elliot Moss and his band continued the night with a dynamic set of songs from Moss’s 2013 album, Highspeeds. His music is mercurial, with elements of Radiohead, James Blake and Bon Iver popping up here and there. Having successfully wooed the audience to move superclose, Moss and Co. graciously left the stage to make way for the night’s headliners.

The much-loved members of Cold War Kids meandered onto the stage as the audience roared with excitement. The band’s career has spanned nearly a decade, and the five-piece has some serious discography to show for it. From their 2006 debut record, Robbers and Cowards, to the just released Hold My Home, the band has made a big impression on their fans. The gentleman barreled through an extensive set featuring songs from all over their repertoire. Nathan Willett’s valiant vocals drove “All This Could Be Yours” and “Miracle Mile” at the top of the set. All-time favorites like “Hang Me Up to Dry” and “Hospital Beds” got the crowd howling. The guys in Cold War Kids have an astounding sense of synchronicity. They’re constantly making contact with one another, whether it’s a hand on a shoulder or an intense glance during a chorus. Their set was a spectacular burst of energy, proving that Cold War Kids aren’t losing steam. Rather, they’re louder than ever. —Schuyler Rooth

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

(Cold War Kids play Terminal 5 on 3/20.)

(Elliot Moss plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday and Terminal 5 on 3/20.)

(Moses Sumney plays Rough Trade NYC tonight.)

(Little May play Mercury Lounge tomorrow and Pianos on Saturday.)

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Christopher Taylor Makes a Different Name for Himself as SOHN

May 12th, 2014

SOHN – Rough Trade NYC – May 10, 2014

SOHN – Rough Trade NYC – May 10, 2014
Hailing from South London but now calling Vienna home, Christopher Taylor, aka SOHN, immersed himself in the mountainous setting of Austria and its burgeoning electronic- music scene. Although his early training was on piano and guitar, Taylor has since traded in those classical instruments in favor of analog drum machines and synths. Having worked his production prowess for fellow countrymen Kwabs, Disclosure and BANKS, he has set aside time to foster his own songwriting.

With the recent release of his debut, Tremors, the Brit graced a sold-out Rough Trade NYC on Friday night to enamor the Brooklyn crowd with his latest. Hooded and cloaked in black, Taylor took his place behind his array of loops, pads and knobs as he tucked into “Ransom Notes.” Taylor didn’t waste any time before digging into his back catalog to unearth “Red Lines” from his EP, The Wheel. Appropriately, the forest of upright fluorescent lights glowed bright red for the tune. Lighting was a main fixture for the evening, as white lights drowned the producer-singer during his debut’s title track.

Following a pair of oldies, “Bloodflows” and “Oscillate,” the James Blake–like ethereal falsetto intro to “Tempest” entranced onlookers. Midway through the set, Taylor sincerely thanked everyone for coming and supporting his new album. And then pulsating illumination matched the beats of “Lights,” while his command for Brooklyn to move sent a sea of bodies into motion. A cadence of claps ensued for the set’s final song, “Lessons,” before an encore with fan-favorites “Artiface” and “The Wheel.” It’s clear that Taylor has eclipsed his behind-the-scenes role as a producer and that he should assume a position at the forefront as a bona fide talent in his own right. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Lina Shteyn | www.linashteyn.com

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Broods Just Might Be the Next Big Thing in New Zealand Music

March 4th, 2014

Broods – Mercury Lounge – March 3, 2014

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Last night at Mercury Lounge you could have run directly into the future with the New Zealand band Broods making their debut New York City appearance. Two of the vice presidents for alternative and Top 40 radio promotion from Capitol Music Group stood in the back, almost unavoidable if also hidden in plain sight. Representing the two pathways forward for the band—alternative radio and heavy-rotation at Top 40—a Capitol signee at the close of last year, these two wizards of the radio dial likely control as much of the group’s future as a major commercial act as the duo themselves. It was hard to avoid this sense of becoming from a group that by virtue of sharing producer Joel Little, Oceania and a digital snare drum, recall something of the mercurial, stupefying success of Lorde.

R&B aesthetics in alternative circles may well be a bubble, but Capitol has already doubled down on brother-sister-act Broods. Although for the 200 new converts packing the room, theirs was a different sort of business, a chance to buy low on—to buy intimacy from—a band seemingly about to head for your radio dial and living room. This was like listening to Chvrches in Glasgow two years ago or Lorde in Brooklyn last spring. Everyone arrived chasing some form of the future. Broods opened with “Never Gonna Change,” Georgia Nott’s vocals oozing fecundity if not outright sex, a mixture of footnotes from Dido to Imogen Heap. The sound registered somewhere between the aforementioned Ella Yelich-O’Connor and James Blake—slow-dance music for kids who hate to slow dance. Broods moved through “Pretty Thing” and “Sleep Baby Sleep,” the first owing much to Moby’s Play, the second featuring stirring vocals that would easily be at home on No Angel.

The closing movement of the set, a pithy eight songs, was highlighted by “Taking You There” (think: Avicii’s “Wake Me Up filled up with cold medicine), “Coattails,” another Dido-indebted jam, and “Bridges,” the song that earned the Capitol Records signing. “Coattails” featured the lyric of the evening, “a hit between the eyes,” before the whirring downbeat engaged, one of those literal and figurative direct hits that lays the foundation for buildings like Capitol’s 5th Avenue headquarters. Despite only one more day in America, Nott said they loved it here and would return. The feeling proved mutual, this much was obvious. Nott and the audience were both right, the set closed with a quiet new number, the future lying inside for a moment before it moved out there to Houston Street and into the American commercial night. —Geoff Nelson

 

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A Top Five Look Back at 2013

January 10th, 2014


Ten days into the New Year, The House List looks back at 2013 with some Top Five lists.

My Top Five Favorite Shows
1.
The Postal Service, Barclay Center, June 14
My decade-belated live date with the Postal Service finally culminated at Barclays Center, where rabid fans, like myself, roared as Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello hit the stage. As if acting out lyrics from “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Jenny Lewis shimmied close for the duet. Old friends reunited onstage never felt so good.

2. Haim, Webster Hall, September 3
I was late to this bandwagon, as fellow House List contributor Alex Kapelman shortlisted Haim last year for his Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year. I knew I was in for a good one when I could barely find a spot in the rafters to catch the three sisters, who charmed with their onstage banter and wicked musicianship

3. Jessie Ware, The Bowery Ballroom, January 17
Straight off her Jimmy Fallon taping backed by the Roots, the British songstress elated the crowd with her effortless, down-to-earth stage demeanor. Her star quickly rose with American audiences, as she sold out shows at Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza throughout the year. I was glad to have caught her earlier in the more intimate venue.

4. Basia Bulat, Bowery Ballroom, November 23
I’ve been a fan of Basia Bulat since I heard her cover Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” This show on a cold night wasn’t sold out, which made me a little sad since she’s quite the talent. But those who were there were enraptured by her prowess on autoharp to the point that you could hear a pin drop during her solos.

5. Daughter, Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Somehow Elena Tonra manages to disguise heartbreak behind soulful lyrics and melody. She has a knack for turning happy dance songs into somber endeavors. The band mashed-up Bon Iver and Hot Chip’s “Perth/Ready for the Floor” that evening. Check out Tonra’s somber retake of Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” for further proof. —Sharlene Chiu

My Top Five Shows I Never Thought I Would See
1. Desaparecidos, Webster Hall, February 26

Desaparecidos (and really any Conor Oberst project) were my bread and butter back in the early aughts, and for a while they seemed to be a one-off, a politically minded side project firmly planted in the past. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the global state of affairs remains messed up enough for the band to regroup to write protest songs for a new decade. It was a nostalgic, sweaty and inspired performance.

2. Shuggie Otis, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 19
Shuggie Otis began putting out music in the mid-’70s, followed by a long period of laying low. Content to groove along to songs like “Ice Cold Daydream” at home, I never really thought about the possibility of a Shuggie Otis tour in 2013. But when I found out, I was there. And “Ice Cold Daydream” is even better in person.

3. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Bowery Ballroom, July 6
Instead of discovering the Flamin’ Groovies in a smoky San Fran club in the ’60s, I was introduced to their catchy psychedelia on a Nuggets compilation more than 30 years later. Who’d have thought they’d still be going strong in 2013 and that I’d be dancing right alongside some old school fans at this fun summer show.

4.  John Prine, Beacon Theatre, September 26
John Prine has been active since the early ’70s, but unlike Shuggie Otis, he never really went away, writing and recording songs at a steady pace throughout the years. But I still always thought of him as an artist too legendary for me to see in person—or that tickets would be too out of reach. But John Prine put on an amazing show, highlighting his singular skills as a songwriter and storyteller.

5. The Julie Ruin, Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 25
I was late to the party for the original riot-grrl movement, but I became an admirer of Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna during her time in Le Tigre. She’s dealt with some debilitating health issues in the past few years, but I had no doubt she’d continue to make art and music. So I was happy to learn of her latest project, the Julie Ruin, and her energetic show did not disappoint. —Alena Kastin

My Top Five Shows
1. Yo La Tengo, Town Hall, February 16

I don’t like to pick a favorite, but my last.fm account tells me I’ve listened to Yo La Tengo more than any other band since 2007. At Town Hall, they performed an acoustic set and an electronic one, doing two versions of “Ohm,” my favorite song of the year. And then I ran into Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! Had the Red Sox not won the World Series, this would’ve been my favorite night of the year.

2. Killer Mike/El-P, Webster Hall, August 14
I don’t care what anyone says: The best two rap albums of 2012 came from Killer Mike and El-P. And in 2013 they topped them, coming together as one entity, Run the Jewels. The night included a set from El-P, a set from Killer Mike and a combined set with both. El-P’s ingenious production plus Killer “I bleed charisma” Mike equals one concert I will never forget.

3. Foxygen, The Bowery Ballroom, October 21
With Foxygen it occasionally feels like shit could fall apart at any moment. And sometimes it does. But when their shows don’t come unhinged they deliver that sweet thrill of relief, like narrowly avoiding a car crash. And on this Halloween-themed night, the band made a weird show even weirder with homemade costumes and pseudo spooky vibes.

4. Steve Earle, Music Hall of Williamsburg, May 8
You can just tell some people are genuine, and Steve Earle is certainly one of them. Forever wearing his heart on his sleeve, that same energy bleeds right into his music, which he played alongside what he’s calling “the best band he’s ever had.”

5. Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, April 4
Not only are the Meat Puppets still kicking (after living through some serious shit), but also they’re thriving. And as much as I respect their legacy, seeing them play for more than two hours with the intensity you’d expect of a band 20 years their junior makes me respect them that much more. Long live the puppets of meat! —Dan Rickershauser

My Top Five Shows
1. Dessa, Union Hall, May 5

There are few performers I feel can move mountains with their vocal chords, and Dessa is one of them. This performance was an eruption of defiant lyrics and bold beats. A sizable crowd of young girls knew all of her lyrics, giving the show a chant-like feel. The only female member of Minnesota’s Doomtree collective practically vibrates with energy, and it’s completely contagious.

2. Kishi Bashi, Irving Plaza, September 12
Kishi Bashi sounds even better live than he does recorded. And he delivered a dazzling set with profuse vocal looping and an excellent backing band. Kauro Ishibashi has a supercharged, effusive aura, and his music embodies that persona. This set took a rowdy turn that involved crowd surfing, strobe lights and an outright jam session.

3. Panama Wedding, CMJ Music Marathon
I happened upon newcomers Panama Wedding three different times during CMJ: Initially, opening for NONONO at Mercury Lounge on the first night. Since the band had only released one song, “All of the People,” I was eager to see what would unfold onstage. Their set was so tight that I caught the fantastical pop group the following night at Pianos and then again at a showcase at Santos Party House.

4. You Won’t, Rockwood Music Hall, October 30
The live iteration of You Won’t is a spectacle to behold. I watched eagerly as Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri wielded a slew of instruments with ease, quickly fascinating the audience. The duo took their jaunty music into the audience a couple of times to break the barrier and enlisted some extra vocal support by encouraging us to all to sing along.

5. James Blake, Terminal 5, November 6
In this spellbinding live performance, complete with plenty of vocal looping and haunting electronica, James Blake made a cavernous room filled with people feel intimate. And that he’s such a dapper-looking fellow only helps boost his appeal. I’m still transfixed by this performance nearly two months later. James Blake’s music has some serious lasting effects. —Schuyler Rooth

My Top Five Shows with Regard to Lights, Visuals and Production
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Brooklyn Bowl, January 20

Kick-ass creative lighting
and Brooklyn Bowl don’t usually go hand in hand, but Umphrey’s McGee lighting guru Jefferson Waful turned the room into a thing of beauty.

2. Föllakzoid/Holydrug Couple, Mercury Lounge, March 21
What better way to enjoy some old school psychedelic music than with some old school liquid projections courtesy of Drippy Eye.

3. Plaza: Portugal. The Man, Irving Plaza, May 20
Freakin’ lasers!

4. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala, Terminal 5, October 1
It was almost as fascinating to watch the Lips’ spectacle getting set up as it was to see it in action—confetti, strobes, LEDs and, well, pretty much everything. And Tame Impala’s projections were no slouch either.

5. Phish, Atlantic City Boardwalk, October 31, November 2
Phish’s fall tour found lighting director Chris Kuroda playing the Willy Wonka of eye candy all over the East Coast. —A. Stein

My Top Five Albums
1. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
I’d only seen Phosphorescent once before listening to Muchacho for the first time. And while much of Matthew Houck’s previous work is country-tinged (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this album, ostensibly about a breakup, covers more territory, from the meditative sounds of “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, an Introduction)” and “Sun’s Arising (A Koan, an Exit)” to the jammy, driving “Ride On/Right On” to softer fare, like “Muchacho’s Tune,” all centered on Houck’s evocative voice. I still can’t stop listening to it.

2. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s third full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, comes off as a loving mash note to ’70s rock. You’ll hear bits of the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but the album expertly manages to sound like something whole and new rather than something derivative.

3. White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade
Upon the first couple of listens, I found White Denim’s latest, Corsicana Lemonade, to be too singer-songwriter-y, but I continued to give it a chance, and it opened up to something much bigger, with genre-hopping songs like “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” and “Pretty Green”—not to mention some searing guitar parts—grabbing me by the throat.

4. Futurebirds, Baba Yaga
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Futurebirds, out of Athens, Ga., before writing a preview of their late-May show at The Bowery Ballroom. But while listening to their second LP, Baba Yaga, as I wrote, I became totally enamored of the album—half twangy Southern rock and half spacey reverb.

 5. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I love Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze so much, that I can’t believe it’s only No. 5. Labeling it stoner rock, as many have done, is lazy. Although I supposed me calling it laid-back rock isn’t any better. But the fact of the matter is there might not ever be a better album to listen to while walking the streets of New York City with headphones in your ears. —R. Zizmor

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Terminal 5 Fits James Blake’s Music Like a Glove

November 7th, 2013

James Blake – Terminal 5 – November 6, 2013


As the stage lights began to blaze last night at Terminal 5, James Blake strolled out with a pair of bandmates. Fresh off winning the 2013 Mercury Prize for best album with Overgrown, he had a comfortable, confident air about him. The crowd fixated on the talented electronic-music producer and top-notch singer-songwriter as he and his band slid into a haunting rendition of “I Never Learnt to Share” and flashbulbs ignited the stage. “Life Round Here” followed with sirenlike sound effects and howling synths. “Hello, how you doing? Good to be back,” said Blake with a grin between songs. “We’re here for the same reason you are.” Mystery is the name of the game when it comes to his music: Sparse lyrics, distorted vocals and entrancing beats cast a veil of lulled intensity over cavernous Terminal 5 throughout Blake’s entire set.

“To the Last,” “CMYK” and “Overgrown” electrified the air with lush synths and resounding beats. Blake pulled back for a subdued, almost whispered version of “I Am Sold.” “Digital Lion,” a track Blake created with Brian Eno’s help, came next, filling the air with writhing drumbeats splashed with hallowed, melancholic vocals. The lullaby-esque “Our Love Comes Back” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” followed—and then “Lindisfarne I” and “Lindisfarne II,” both off Blake’s self-titled debut album, featuring the sparse, distorted vocals of his upper range. Masterful live takes on “Limit to Your Love” and “I Mind,” which alternated steadily between subdued crooning and exuberant beat-making, got the audience gyrating. Next, Blake introduced live looping with a sultry version of “Retrograde,” filling the room with love-struck lyrics.

“The Wilhelm Scream” closed the set, and Blake and Co. took polite bows before exiting the stage. But the crowd was determined to hear an encore, and cheers swelled steadily until Blake returned alone to perform “Measurements.” Before recording the live loops that would build the foundation of the gospel-inspired song, he entreated everyone to be as quiet as possible. And slowly but surely, all of Terminal 5 hushed as the sound of Blake’s voice filled the newly silent void. The loops continued and his vocals faded into the darkness as he made another humble exit to uproarious cheers from the crowd. Blake certainly knows how to cast a spell over a live audience and make even the largest venue fit his melancholic music like a glove. —Schuyler Rooth

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

(James Blake plays Terminal 5 again tonight.)

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A Simple Twist of Fate

July 1st, 2013

David Byrne and St. Vincent – The Capitol Theatre – June 29, 2013


Do you believe in fate? For me, a series of chance encounters over the years has led to a live performance by the collaborative pair David Byrne and St. Vincent. Back in May 2009, I spotted Byrne in the rafters of Webster Hall enjoying Annie Clark’s guitar prowess in support of her sophomore release, Actor. Fast-forward two years, the starstruck folks ahead of me in line for a James Blake show at Le Poisson Rouge were gushing about a walk-by encounter with Byrne and Clark. And Saturday night at the grand Capitol Theatre, a belated musical date started with the delicate chirping of birds welcoming audience members to their seats and spotlights framing several brass instruments strewn across the stage.

Filing in, a noticeably blonde Clark joined a headset-donning Byrne as horns blared on the opening number, “Who.” The evening intermixed songs from their joint effort, Love This Giant, with Talking Heads and St. Vincent standards. Heavily produced with playful choreography by Annie-B Parson, the brass band along with Byrne formed lines as if ready for a roll call on “Weekend in the Dust.” Clark spent most of her time shimmying back and forth across the open floor, toting her electric guitar. Byrne offered his own dance moves with some soft-shoe on “I Am an Ape.” As if stripped from the trash-compactor scene in Star Wars, Clark was walled in by the band moving dangerously closer and closer as she sang-spelled, “H-E-L-P, Help me, help me” on the strobe-light-inducing “Marrow.”

Byrne ditched his blazer to reveal suspenders on “Ice Age” and demonstrated his skills on the bugle. He called on Clark to join him front and center for “Like Humans Do,” to which she jokingly inquired, “What did we win?” But in all seriousness upon concluding “Lightning,” she sincerely remarked, “We’re superglad to be here.” And judging from the vocal responses from the crowd, so were those in attendance. Byrne revealed that “Wild Wild Life” was originally written for a video karaoke contest before everyone in the band joined in on the Talking Heads favorite, each singing a line from the song. For more fun, everyone but Clark lay down on the stage as she slowly crooned “Cheerleader.” Later she would battle against Byrne playing the theremin on “Northern Lights.” And saving the best for last, the pair returned for not one, but two encores, treating the audience to “Cruel,” “Burning Down the House,” “The Party” and “Road to Nowhere.” —Sharlene Chiu

Contest

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See James Blake on 5/9

May 7th, 2013

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With the release of his second album, the heralded Overgrown, in April, talented singer-songwriter James Blake has taken his act on the road, heading out from London town to bring his new tunes across the world. The North American leg of that tour is winding down now, and Thursday’s show at Terminal 5 is already sold out (although tickets remain to see him tonight). However The House List just so happens to be giving away two tickets. So if you’d like to go, try to Grow a Pair. Make sure to fill out the form below, including name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (James Blake, 5/9) and a brief message explaining why live music is much better in May than in April. Eddie Bruiser, who’s recuperating from Jazz Fest, will notify the winner by Thursday. Good luck.

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James Blake – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 11, 2012

December 12th, 2012


Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com

(James Blake’s show tonight at The Bowery Ballroom is sold out, but you can try to Grow a Pair of tickets from The House List.)

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Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See James Blake on 12/12/12

December 11th, 2012

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James Blake brings his soulful electronic music to New York City this week. He’s got sold-out shows tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg and tomorrow at The Bowery Ballroom. But if you don’t have tickets and would still like to go, you may be in luck because The House List is giving away two to see him tomorrow night. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (James Blake, 12/12/12) and a brief message explaining the cosmic importance of Wednesday’s date. Eddie Bruiser, who’s still trying to wrap his head around it, will notify the winner tomorrow. Good luck.

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Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See James Blake on 10/6

October 4th, 2011

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James Blake has a new EP coming out next week. But this week he’s in town for two sold-out shows, tomorrow at Webster Hall and on Thursday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. And you’ve still got a chance to go to Thursday’s show even if you don’t already have tickets, because The House List is giving away two of them. So try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, including your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (James Blake, 10/6) and a brief message explaining why electronic music does it for you. Eddie Bruiser, who would genuinely like to know, will notify the winner on Thursday. Good luck.

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A Night of Unburdened Music

July 14th, 2011

James Blake – Webster Hall – July 13, 2011


Concentrated expressions flickered in and out of visibility. Eyes fixed on a stage bathed in often-clever lighting. Never mind the forced intimacy, strangers pressed shoulder to shoulder. Only pauses broke the imaginative spell, whereby the sound of a laboring wall fan cut through vital silence. The space intended for rest, balance to bass-heavy vibrations, felt as musical as any melody, and the man who crafted these moments showed increasing confidence in his instincts. Even when the house lights periodically darkened, his presence lingered, voice echoing with processed intonation.

James Blake, one part songwriter, one part sound sculpture, shows restraint, the ability to produce unburdened music. This sets him apart. But what connects him to tradition is his voice, painstakingly beautiful and subtly emotive. Voices such as Blake’s draw adoration the same way athletes do. Others want to experience one using his talents extraordinarily well. And on Wednesday night at Webster Hall, Blake, joined by Rob McAndrews (also known as UK producer Airhead) on guitar and sampler and Ben Assiter on drums, justified his capacity crowd.

Drawing from his debut album, James Blake, and previous EPs, Blake presented the best of his material. When the enigmatic lyrics “My brother and my sister don’t speak to me/ But I don’t blame them,” sounded, fans, recognizing it to be “Never Learnt to Share,” gave appreciative applause. Similarly well received were other James Blake highlights, “To Care (Like You)” and the Feist cover “Limit to Your Love.” But perhaps the best moments came when Blake and company fleshed out “CMYK,” an earlier dance track converted into an expansive live version. Four months ago, Blake didn’t have the practice or inclination to include such a song in his set. Now, he couldn’t possibly exclude it. —Jared Levy

Contest

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See James Blake on 7/13

July 12th, 2011

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Over the span of James Blake’s short career his popularity has continued to grow, which means his show tomorrow night at Webster Hall is sold out. But in the spirit of giving, The House List is offering up two tickets. Want to go? Then try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, including your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (James Blake, 7/13) and a brief message offering tips to fight this humidity. Eddie Bruiser, who’s been sweating uncontrollably, will notify the winner tomorrow. Good luck.

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Bass! How Low Can You Go?

May 12th, 2011

James Blake – The Bowery Ballroom – May 11, 2011

James Blake - The Bowery Ballroom - May 11, 2011
If you’re ever looking for a party with more bass than a room knows what to do with, look no further than James Blake. He will take you to church, of the dubstep variety. His set mixed heavy bass with disjointed beats, vocoders and lyrical repetition, so it was easy to get lost in the music and not realize when one song ended and another began.

Catching the crowd’s cheers in his loop pedal, Blake said it hadn’t been since the last time he played in New York City that he’d “been to a gig like this because this feels like I’m at one, not just playing one.” With a wonderfully distinct and versatile voice, he brought out his Feist cover of “Limit to Your Love” to the delight of a packed Bowery Ballroom. It’s hard to pick between his softer moments and his bass-heavy ones as he does both so well, but if I had to, I wouldn’t mind losing a bit of bass to hear some more of that beautiful voice. —Lauren Glucksman

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg

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Welcome Ashore

March 15th, 2011

James Blake – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 14, 2011

James Blake - Music Hall of Williamsburg - March 14, 2011

Much is said of the “special relationship” between the US and the UK. We share history, culture, and, politically, it feels as if we’re each other’s last allies. But, perhaps most affectionately, we embrace each other’s music. Blues from the Deep South inspired British rockers, from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin, and we’ve subsequently traded sounds, forging today’s pop landscape. Although one genre is being disproportionately received rather than sent: dubstep, a form of electronic dance music originating in South East London. Many extol its greatness and few genuinely understand its properties, but most on these shores have come to regard James Blake, the 21-year-old London-based prodigy, as the poster child of the movement.

Blake landed at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Monday, his first trip to and performance in this country. While some still haven’t caught on to the critically praised producer, the show sold out quickly. And such overwhelming support continues to build from Blake’s string of EPs, released in 2010, to his newly minted self-titled debut album. The LP showcases the soft-spoken twentysomething’s soulfulness, matching his delicate yet evocative voice with sparse electronics and varied rhythms. But whereas his debut is the work of a single mind, last night’s show featured Blake, on keyboard and lead vocals, aided by schoolboy pals Rob McAndrews (also known as the producer Airhead) on guitar and sampler and Ben Assiter on drums. The cumulative effect both brought to life the solitary sounds on the album and revealed the wizardry of Blake’s production.

The three musicians, positioned closely to one another, barely communicated but, over the course of the show, their coordination brought complex studio arrangements to life, carefully and powerfully. The set began with James Blake opener “Unluck,” met with tremendous applause and from there, the group used most of their time onstage to explore the rest of the album. Blake’s craft, expert piano work and deft vocal manipulation figured prominently, especially on the enthusiastically received single “The Wilhelm Scream” and “I Never Learnt to Share,” where Blake constructed a three-part harmony by layering his vocals. It was also fascinating to experience how the band used silence, creating minimalism with negative space. During one such pause, Blake rather comically took a sip from what looked to be a cup of noodles and grinned. This humble and affable attitude, crystallized in a breathtaking solo encore performance of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” endeared fans to Blake throughout the night. This looks like a relationship we ought to nurture. —Jared Levy

Photos courtesy of Diana Wong | DianaWongPhoto.com