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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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Haim Pack Webster Hall

September 4th, 2013

Haim – Webster Hall – September 3, 2013


The iconic long blonde locks of Californian lasses have been idolized in music from the Beach Boys to Girls (Christopher Owens). However, a trio of brunette sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim, might be changing the West Coast lexicon. Playing collectively as Haim, these siblings evoke R&B into folk-pop heavy compositions. While fans await the release of their full-length album, Days Are Gone, later this month, the sisters headlined a sold-out Webster Hall last night. Having been to quite a few sold-out shows at the venue, I’ve never seen the rafters so overfilled with onlookers or a bottleneck at the entrance for the floor. The sisters definitely took notice, exclaiming “This is the craziest thing.”

Haim treated the crowd early on with fan faves “Better Off” and “The Wire.” The latter was reminiscent of M. Ward’s “Never Had Nobody Like You” with a noticeably similar rollick. There was no doubt that when Danielle’s guitar shredded the familiar chords of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” that this wasn’t any ordinary rendition. Her skills confirmed why the likes of Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas asked the middle Haim sister to tour with them. Early ’90s R&B influences were best heard on “Falling,” where the audience joined in to sing “Don’t stop, no one’s ever enough/ I’ll never look back, never give up/ And if it gets rough, it’s time to get rough/ But now I’m falling.”

The youngest Haim, Alana, couldn’t withhold her glee from announcing the gig was better than her 21st birthday to jumping around onstage to incite the front row. As the set neared its end, Danielle commanded for “the ceiling to fall down,” as she barreled into “Forever” and Este’s heavily laid basslines caused an eruption of claps. The trio returned for a one-song encore and delivered a venomous “Let Me Go.” The evening concluded with the sisters in a drum triangle, beating down on the skins as if they were taiko performers. There’s no question that Haim stamped their names on New York City. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com

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The Postal Service: Worth the Wait

June 17th, 2013

The Postal Service – Barclays Center – June 14, 2013


Ten years is a long time to wait, and regret burns deep. For this writer, not seeing the Postal Service back in 2003 at a small San Francisco venue still hurts—a lot. So I was psyched when rumblings of a tour were announced to celebrate the 10-year-anniversary reissue of Give Up. You might have heard the tale of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) meeting Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) on a fateful night in Los Angeles. What coyly began as a request for Gibbard’s vocals on Dntel’s “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” blossomed into an exchange of musical ideas through the United States Postal Service. The two lead members never would have thought their fledgling project would amount to one of the most successful albums for the Sub Pop label, but that’s exactly what happened.

Fast-forward a decade as a choral prelude welcomed Gibbard, Tamborello, Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and Laura Burhenn (the Mynabirds) to the stage of a sold-out Barclays Center on a Friday night. Gibbard offered a hearty “Hiya, Brooklyn!” before diving into “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” Lewis, accessorized with a puffy white cap and saddle shoes, promptly threw the hat into the crowd on “We Will Become Silhouettes.” And in a rare turn from his mixers, Tamborello closed out “Sleeping In” echoing the chorus: “Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in.” Gibbard took a moment to thank the audience, jokingly, “for coming to this tiny venue to listen to us play music from 10 years ago.”

Having a great time together onstage, old friends Gibbard and Lewis shimmied close for the duet “Nothing Better,” which he introduced as “three sides to every story.” And fans cheered the whirlpool of sound twinkling with drumbeats during “Recycled Air.” But the show didn’t just consist of material from their lone LP. The Postal Service also did songs like “Be Still My Heart,” from the We Will Become Silhouettes EP, and a cover of Beat Happening’s “Our Secret” before the crowd erupted for the beloved “Such Great Heights.” All kidding aside, Gibbard plainly laid out Give Up’s success: “This record still means something to you.” And as I received texts like “this album takes me back” and “I had chills,” from friends scattered around the arena, his point was proved again and again. And then with a mellifluous crescendo, the Postal Service ended their main set with “Natural Anthem,” burying my decade-old regret. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com

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A Second Chance to See the Postal Service Live

June 14th, 2013

Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and electronica musician Jimmy Tamborello (also known as Dntel) decided to make music together more than a decade ago. But since Gibbard was in Seattle and Tamborello lived in Los Angeles, they shared ideas, lyrics and instrumental tracks through the mail, which, ultimately, gave them the name of their band: the Postal Service. They put out one electronica- and indie-pop-filled full-length album, Give Up (stream it below), in 2003, which included backing vocals from Jenny Lewis
and Jen Wood, and received plenty of love from critics and fans alike. But despite a successful tour in support of the album, that was pretty much it. Or was it? Thankfully, SubPop recently reissued the album with a host of bonus tracks to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. And following a much-ballyhooed appearance at this year’s Coachella, the Postal Service (above, performing “Such Great Heights” at Coachella) have hit the road. Tonight’s show with Mates of State is sold out, but you can see them—with Ra Ra Riot opening—tomorrow night at Barclays Center.

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The Sky Is the Limit

December 17th, 2012

Haim – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 15, 2012


“This is the best birthday I will ever have in my life,” Alana Haim told Saturday’s sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd. It was her 21st, and she still hadn’t had her first legal drink. Along with playing guitar and keys, she’s the baby of Haim. “I don’t think I could breathe without everyone on this stage,” she later revealed. “Everyone on this stage” included oldest sister Este (bass and vocals) and middle sister Danielle (lead guitar and vocals). And with drummer Dash Hutton, they played the best show I’ve seen all year.

Haim’s destiny seems almost preordained. Their parents (known as “Mama and Papa Haim” by the sisters) were both musicians—Mama played acoustic guitar and sang while Papa was a drummer. For 10 years, the Haim sisters played in a cover band, Rockinhaim, with their parents. This experience proved integral to their development as accomplished musicians in their own right. (Este studied Brazilian music and percussion at UCLA, and Danielle has toured with Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas.) And it brought them all so close together that, to this day, Haim still bring Mama and Papa on tour with them.

This grounding influence readily appears onstage in a couple of ways. First, they’re incredibly comfortable under the lights. Este, Danielle and Alana are witty, charming and hilarious, and they banter like friends entertaining guests. Second, their live show absolutely rocks. Their two outstanding EPs display a penchant for electro pop, and live, they seamlessly blend classic rock, ’80s pop, country and rockabilly. They’ve opened for such diverse acts as Mumford & Sons, Florence and the Machine and No Age. Danielle especially impresses on vocals and guitar. She channels her inner Melissa Etheridge and shreds on her Gibson SG, the iconic axe used by legendary lead guitar players like Angus Young and Derek Trucks. Although stylistically, she sounds more like David Gilmour, picking and choosing each note with deliberate care.

But in the end, it was Alana’s night. And before they played what happened to be their first ever encore, Mama handed Alana a cupcake lit by a leftover menorah candle, and the family led the crowd in a verse of “Happy Birthday.” “It’s officially Alanukah!” announced Mama. Alana closed her eyes for a few seconds to conjure a wish. And after she blew out the candles, the band became Rockinhaim, playing a stunning rendition of “Mustang Sally,” with Mama impressing on lead vocals and Papa banging a heavily funky beat. Though we’ll never know what it was, Alana’s wish will almost certainly comes true: For this band, the sky is the limit. —Alex Kapelman

 

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Jenny Lewis – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 9, 2009

June 10th, 2009

Jenny Lewis - Music Hall of Williamsburg - June 9, 2009
Opening for Jenny Lewis last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Deer Tick plowed through a rollicking set of their roots-y, country-inflected rock. Though their sound may pull from a variety of retro sources, the four-piece remind us they have a foot planted firmly in the present by throwing in a nice John Mellencamp cover toward the end of their set. Though perhaps a little dated, there’s really nothing old-timey about the man who wrote “Jack and Diane.”

After strapping on her guitar, Jenny Lewis gave a small curtsy before beginning to play. Much like Deer Tick, Lewis’s songs pull from traditional musical styles—soul, gospel and country—but just when you think you’ve got her pegged as a throwback, one of her lyrics will catch your ear and stand out as the sentiments of an unmistakably contemporary woman. (This emerged most notably on the new song “Just Like Zeus,” a barbed evisceration of Hollywood’s young and vacant starlets.) As Lewis’s expressive voice wove through songs from her solo albums, Acid Tongue and Rabbit Fur Coat, her proficient backing band added harmonica and pedal-steel flourishes.

Before performing “Trying My Best to Love You” with her two female bandmates singing backup, Lewis explained that it was a gospel number and jokingly commented that it was “kind of weird” because all three singers are Jews. The rendition that followed was lovely and soulful. Her music may evoke the past, but as those three modern voices came together in that gospel number, it sounded current. It was a perfect example of Jenny Lewis’s fresh take on deep-rooted music. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | www.gregggreenwood.com