When it comes to talented singer-songwriter Nikki Lane, AllMusic says it best: “Nikki Lane reinvents the nostalgic sounds of 1960s country music for a modern audience, mixing Southern twang with lush orchestral arrangements and the occasional pop/rock hook.” She dropped out of high school in South Carolina before hightailing it to Los Angeles to work as a fashion designer. Later, she moved to New York City where she began making acoustic country songs following a bad breakup, before ultimately settling in Nashville, where her career would eventually take off. Her first full-length, Walk of Shame (stream it below), came out in 2011, earning her comparisons to Wanda Jackson and Neko Case. All or Nothin’ (stream it below), produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, followed in 2014. “If Lana Del Rey had pores, bodily fluids or even the rare hair out of place, she might be Nikki Lane, the East Nashville firebrand who understands sangfroid is a lot more explosive when you roughen up the edges and throw down a gauntlet,” raved Paste. Lane (above, performing “Jackpot” live in studio for WRLT FM) returned with her third full-length, Highway Queen (stream it below), just a couple of weeks ago. “Three albums into her career, Lane remains true to her vision of classic country by way of alt-rock—a pigeonhole she seems happy to inhabit,” according to Exclaim. “This is her best album yet.” Find out how it sounds live when Nikki Lane plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday night. A pair of singer-songwriters, Brent Cobb and Jonathan Tyler, open the show.
Tag Archives: Neko Case
The New Pornographers – Union Transfer – November 20, 2014
Last night at Union Transfer, I felt a collective sense of nostalgia. The sold-out crowd that came out to see the New Pornographers appeared to know many of the songs, but they mostly showed quiet appreciation for the music, rather than jubilant release. That seemed to suit the New Pornographers, too, as cofrontman AC Newman said, in a song break, “We’re all focused on rocking…. We’re in the zone.” And within that zone, they played a smattering of songs from their new album, Brill Bruisers, as well as selections from their formidable catalog, six albums deep.
Last night’s show played to the strengths of the other cofrontman, Dan Bejar—who goes by Destroyer in his solo project. Bejar, visually distinctive with his raised mess of curly hair, full beard and rumpled, unbuttoned shirt, crooned in his odd, high register. On the songs that featured his vocals, he walked out from stage right, sang with nonchalance, bowed deeply and then disappeared again to stage right. It was an excellent counterpoint to the otherwise straight-up power pop songs that are the staple of the New Pornographers.
What made the performance so enjoyable, though, was the balance. The New Pornographers are a supergroup, with essentially every member counting as a someone who fronts the band. The greatest example of this is Neko Case, an incredibly successful solo artist in her own right, who sacrificed most of her vocal duties to support Newman and Bejar in harmonies. She tapped the tambourine and clapped with the audience, but when she blended her voice, it made the whole thing work. It’s that attention to detail that shows the wisdom of experience. Seeing that from Case and the New Pornographers reminded me that there’s improvement to be had over time and endless good feelings in the small refinements of prolific talent. —Jared Levy | jaredlevy.contently.com
Katie Herzig and some friends formed Newcomers Come, purveyors of bluegrass- and folk-influenced pop—which she ended up fronting—in 1997 while Herzig attended the University of Colorado, but they broke up two years after her own debut album, Watch Them Fall (stream below), came out in 2004. Since then the singer-songwriter ditched the Colorado mountains for the Nashville music scene to go solo, continuing to record and tour ever since. She’s gained even more widespread exposure as a number of her songs have ended up on TV soundtracks with an eye for indie rock, thanks to her voice, which has been compared to Neko Case’s and Ellie Goulding’s, and her personal, quirky tales about life, sad and sweet. Over the years, Herzig (above, her video for “Walk Through Walls”) hasn’t been content to stick with her original lo-fi acoustic sound. She recently said, “I’m always wanting to try new things and as my influences change, so does my music. I love production and I use all the new digital tools to make music, so of course that affects the sound. I still love acoustic music, but I feel like I am always chasing a beast, meaning whatever moves me.” With that said, her newest album, the recently released Walk Through Walls (stream it below), has a decidedly more electronic sound. And you can hear it live tonight at The Bowery Ballroom. Brooklyn’s Elizabeth and the Catapult open the show.
Neko Case – Radio City Music Hall – September 26, 2013
Onstage last night at Radio City Music Hall, Neko Case and her band performed in front of a backdrop depicting a surreal seascape, with the outlines of eerie eels swimming among a barrage of sharp objects: scissors, swords and axes. The eels also surround Case on the cover of her latest album, The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight the More I Love You, and are perhaps an appropriate visual representation of the album’s fearless, highly personal songs—lurking in the deep waters of the singer’s darker moments and experiences with grief, depression and childhood traumas.
The intense subject matter of songs like “Bracing for Sunday,” “Night Still Comes,” “Wild Creatures” and “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” (particularly powerful and sad, which Case and longtime backup vocalist Kelly Hogan performed in stark a cappella) stood in contrast to Case’s easy charisma and sense of humor throughout the performance. It’s the ability to contain and convey these disparate emotions and moods in her music that makes the singer-songwriter such a compelling artist, able to craft a truly ominous atmosphere during songs like “Deep Red Bells” and “Red Tide,” and a tone of wistful nostalgia in the performance of “Set Out Running,” “Hold On, Hold On” and “That Teenage Feeling.”
For the final song of the evening, Case invited opener AC Newman (whom she also performs with in the New Pornographers) and his bandmates onstage to perform “Ragtime.” “It’s our happiest song,” noted Case. Indeed, the tune was joyful, its upbeat tempo punctuated by bells and tambourine jingles and with a catchy, sing-along chorus. Despite the presence of those looming sea creatures (and all they may represent) atop the stage, Neko Case ended the night on a triumphant, optimistic note. —Alena Kastin
Tags: AC Newman, Kelly Hogan, Neko Case, Radio City Music Hall, Review, the New Pornographers, The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight the Harder I Fight the More I Love You
Posted in House List, Reviews No Comments »
Smoky-voiced singer-songwriter Neko Case was first introduced to the world as part of the Canadian indie group the New Pornographers. She began releasing highly regarded solo material—first as Neko Case with Her Boyfriends and then solely under her own name—in 1997, making a winning mix of alt-country originals and covers and earning a reputation as an energetic live performer. Her most recent effort, The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight the More I Love You (stream it below), came out earlier this month. NME calls it a “gorgeously full offering” and “typically sumptuous and lusciously heart-rending.” And the best part is that Neko Case (above, performing “Night Still Comes” for Studio Q) will play cuts from the new album at the plushest room in town, tonight at Radio City Music Hall—and New Pornographers frontman AC Newman opens.
Tags: Neko Case, Neko Case with Her Boyfriends, Preview, Radio City Music Hall, the New Pornographers, The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight the Harder I Fight the More I Love You, Video
Posted in House List, Preview, Video No Comments »
Anaïs Mitchell – The Bowery Ballroom – December 3, 2012
Anais Mitchell began her 90-minute show at The Bowery Ballroom last night with an a cappella hymn, she and her bandmates singing gospel in a heavenly, monklike three-part harmony. It was utterly beautiful: a transcendent moment kicking off a show full of them. The hymn melted perfectly into “Dyin’ Day,” off Mitchell’s newest album, Young Man in America, her voice mixing with banjo, her sound a puree of Ani DiFranco, Neko Case and Lucinda Williams at the cusp of electric and acoustic. It was like if the sweet girl next door was filled with dark intensity.
Mitchell’s onstage presence was a generous one, sharing the limelight with her excellent backing band, sharing the stage with multiple appearances by the horn players from the opening act, Cuddle Magic, and sharing her emotions with the audience through her music. While her voice and delicate touch on the acoustic guitar could have carried the entire show on their own, she let the band stretch out, pausing between verses as banjo, Rhodes piano and bass stirred cinematic, bringing life to powerful imagery of her lyrics. The set leaned heavily on material from the album, with “Annmarie” and the title track becoming long, sweeping narratives. She explained that “Shepherd” is based on a book by her novelist father (whose face appears on her album’s cover). It is a chill-inducing song, haunting and beautiful and heartbreaking, and it was played to full chill-inducing effect, the crowd stunned into silence by its power.
Scattered throughout, punctuating the new material were more of those moments like the opening hymn. Mitchell paired in duo form with drummer-banjo player-everyman Ben Davis for a brand new tune, revealing a perfect, existential love song. Another track had her singing with keyboard-guitar player Rachel Ries, a tune off the Country E.P. Later the band extended their chops and showed they could handle a pop hook with a great cover of Robyn’s “Hang with Me.” The show closed with a swinging version of “You Are Forgiven,” Mitchell’s voice once again elevating and inviting. The encore perfectly displayed her two sides: starting with “Tailor”—strong, honest and emotional. Then the horns returned, the lights went to a dark red and the band played a deep, thoughtful “Why We Build the Wall,” off Mitchell’s Hadestown concept album. It wasn’t your typical uplifting show closer, but it was honest and felt complete. —A. Stein
Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com
Tags: Anaïs Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, Ben Davis, Bowery Ballroom, Country E.P., Cuddle Magic, Hadestown, Lucinda Williams, Neko Case, Photos, Rachel Ries, Review, Robyn, Young Man in America
Posted in House List, Photos and Review No Comments »
A.C. Newman – The Bowery Ballroom – October 22, 2012
Two days after the close of the CMJ Music Marathon, the celestial music solstice marking the independent-music calendar’s embrace of unknown and rising stars, The Bowery Ballroom reserved its confines for one of the Old Guard. Carl Newman, playing as A.C. Newman behind his third solo record, took the stage as the Establishment, a man prodigiously talented enough that he began releasing solo material to accent his work with his larger and more well-known collective, the New Pornographers. The question was: What made this not the New Pornographers? Newman seemed almost self-consciously aware—this is a singer who proved he remembers his fans’ different haircuts from show to show and year to year—of being simply an alternate version of his parent band. And apart from that band, he was, in some sense, a more intimate version of himself. Neko Case was replaced on tour with the resplendent bangs of Megan Bradfield, and Newman opened with “I’m Not Talking,” the first single from Shut Down the Streets, a definitively separate take on the power pop that made the singer deservedly famous.
While Newman’s solo career and shows remain distinct, the bond between singer and audience blurred from the start. Newman resembles his fans, and his fans resemble him, a coincidence that probably isn’t one. Middle-aged men with close-cropped hair and thick-framed glasses who knew all the words to “On the Table” and “Secretarial,” songs that Newman, a middle-aged guy with close-cropped hair, sang back (or first) with no sense that snake might have been eating itself. Of course, Newman, arguably the best ear and pen for rugged pop songs since Stephen Malkmus, paid this only passing mind. Following the whistled bridge of “Drink to Me, Babe, Then” the crowd applauded, and Newman, recognizing this recognition of some minor bit of brilliance commented, “It’s one of the great marvels of modern man, how I whistle in key,” pausing only to add, “Proof that there is a God,” much to the delight and murmuring of his hyper-literate and (possibly) largely atheist fan base. It was a bit of faux self-aggrandizement, a bit of sarcastic evangelism, a joke only these people could fully appreciate—a joke they themselves might have made.
Newman closed the main set with “Come Crash,” his best love song and one he “wrote for my wife, two years before I met her,” and “Miracle Drug.” The band returned after a stomping bit of encore applause to play “Strings” and “Town Halo,” the latter producing the closest moment to transfiguration behind pounding keys and its shuddering bridge. It was, of course, what these people came to see, a singer apart from his band, perhaps even a little closer to his fans than he, or they, would be entirely willing to admit. So he returned to his earlier comment, a quick eulogy for a fan’s Mohawk, now shaved off, a previous haircut cataloged and remembered by the singer. The fan yelled, “Things change,” although he and Newman were both still here. —Geoff Nelson