Tag Archives: Review

cat_reviews

Jesca Hoop Proves to Be a True Original at Mercury Lounge

March 9th, 2017

Jesca Hoop – Mercury Lounge – March 8, 2017

tumblr_okt0mhUv4l1rccpkso1_500
Jesca Hoop was once a nanny to Tom Waits’ kids, and she’s worked with everyone from Blake Mills and Stewart Copeland to Sam Beam, with whom the singer-songwriter released a gorgeous duets album in 2016 and subsequently toured. Hoop has signed to Sub Pop, and she’s a touch mystical—a vocalist and soothsayer from some faraway, possibly not terrestrial place—but she can tell a bar joke with the best of ’em. She’s accessible and impenetrable at the same time. An artist like that, you’d think, would be someone more written about than listened to, but listening to Hoop’s music is only the beginning of the larger embrace. Live, she’s quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) devastating. She formed a deep and detailed bond with an audience over the course of a 75-minute set at Mercury Lounge last night, framed by the recently released Memories Are Now, a collection of new Hoop songs that reveal more with each subsequent listen.

What do we call this? Hoop arrived as part of a four-piece band that included drums, bass, harmony vocals and other effects. Her music could sound trance-folkie, as in the opening one-two of “Songs of Old” and “Animal Kingdom Chaotic.” It could sound bittersweet and kind of country, as in “Peacemaker.” It could creep up and then, well, overcome you, as in “The Coming,” which thanks to some spectral-sounding guitar in its intro sounded distant and then was upon you. It’s cinematic—panoramic even—as Hoop created little worlds out of lyrics. “I refuse to think that my best friend’s going to hell anymore” is what might be called a classic Jesca Hoop line. So is “And now you gotta get it with what you’ve got/ With what you’ve been given or not” (from the late-in-set standout “Born To”). And so is “You say it’s impossible/ But your dumb computer says no.”

Hoop’s an artist in whom you can hear what you want to in her forbearers and potential influences. The mind drifts to Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, Björk and plenty of others. When the mind settles, however—and you can really pause to hear and absorb the nuances when in the thrall of Hoop and band in the live setting—you feel like you’re hearing a true original. No one else quite sounds like this, and you’re thirsting for more when an unhurried set still goes by like a finger snap. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

cat_preview

Grandaddy Prove to Be Worth the Wait at Rough Trade NYC

March 3rd, 2017

Grandaddy – Rough Trade NYC – March 2, 2017

Grandaddy – Rough Trade NYC – March 2, 2017
There are albums that define an individual at a certain time of life, and for me it was Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump. I was a recent college graduate figuring out adulthood and working a “dream job” at my local radio station. Something about Jason Lytle’s specific lyrics laid across a series of bleeps and electronic haze struck a chord in me. I was first introduced to them when they opened for a then rising British band, Coldplay. That evening was highlighted by the special guest appearance by a barely recognizable Elliott Smith, whom Grandaddy had toured with prior. When the group disbanded back in 2006, there were morsels released in the form of a solo album by Lytle and side projects in Admiral Radley, but Grandaddy would not resurface until 2012 with a few local California gigs and select festivals in the UK. On the eve of their long-awaited fourth album, Last Place, the Golden State band played a sold-out Rough Trade NYC last night.

Opening their set with an abstract film filled with landscape juxtaposed with pixels, the quintet surfaced to the stage as if no time had passed. The crowd quickly got into it as Grandaddy opened with back-catalog gems “Hewlett’s Daughter” and “El Caminos in the West.” The evening would satisfy longtime fans, while introducing newer material like their first single from their latest, “Way We Won’t,” and follow-up single “Evermore.” The frontman was barraged with several requests midway through their set, but none of them were on the list. One fan graciously offered, “Your choice, Jason,” in which Lytle took the opportunity to segue into the spacey favorite “The Crystal Lake.”

The room erupted when the whimsical intro to “A.M. 180” signaled the audience to bop along to the melody, but it was near the end of the set that Lytle wrapped the night with an extra special bow. Going from new track “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore” to the slow-burner “Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground),” he initiated the climax with a revved-up “Now It’s On.” Although the set concluded with harp-like keys on “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot,” the enduring bandmates would return to encore with a pair, the new song “The Boat Is in the Barn” and oldie-but-goodie “Summer Here Kids.” Needless to say Grandaddy’s return was so worth the wait. Let’s hope there won’t be another decade-long hiatus. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

cat_reviews

Leif Vollebekk Investigates the Blank Spaces at Mercury Lounge

March 1st, 2017

Leif Vollebekk – Mercury Lounge – February 28, 2017

leif-vollebekk_joseph-yarmush_aug2016_02_color_hires
Leif Vollebekk opened his performance at Mercury Lounge on Tuesday recalling an earlier trip to NYC when his show sold exactly one advanced ticket and was canceled. That seems highly unlikely to happen again as Vollebekk and his trio kept the roomful of paying customers rapt and enthusiastic for the better part of 80 minutes last night. The set opened with “Vancouver Time” off of his just-released-album, Twin Solitude. Backed by just a bassist and a drummer, the band playing together for the first time in a crowded Mercury Lounge, doing brand-new songs, you could forgive him for being a bit nervous, but Vollebekk sounded at ease, beginning on the electric piano, his words taking center stage from the start. Throughout the night there were almost too many great lyrics, each song crammed with several phrases you just wanted to write down. The opening number featured lovely imagery, like “buffalo clouds over the plain,” and real emotions, like “I’m only leaving because I can’t stay.”

Often when songwriters are capable of delivering lyrics like Vollebekk can, the tendency is to cram as many words into a line as possible. But he is the opposite: His songs are filled with pauses, the blank spaces allowing the words to linger and to let the music seep in to accentuate, drums and bass adding weight while Vollebekk added electric piano or guitar or harmonica. He was equally adept at filling the spaces between songs, joking around and drawing in the audience with his banter, endearing himself to the room. A riff about Neil Young’s tuning became an impromptu half cover of “Cowgirl in the Sand” that actually sounded like it might have legs for a bit.

The set was mostly anchored by the new material and was better for it. The theme of many of the songs seemed to be that of place, not just the settings—Vancouver, Michigan, Telluride, Colo.—but of the coming and going to each. In a way, it was road-trip music, not necessarily music for listening to in transit, but more about it, the gaps and empty spaces to fill with thoughts and images and music. Vollebekk sang the word “Telluride” almost like it was three—“Tell you right”—and on “Michigan,” he sang, “You and me, Robert, we ramble on,” which I want to believe is a Zeppelin reference as well as the snow piling up behind him in the rearview mirror. The trio encored with “Into the Ether,” Vollebekk picking up a violin to add some atmospheric loops, the spaces between lyrics filled to capacity, the room equally so. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

cat_preview

Run the Jewels Kick Off Four-Night Run at Terminal 5 with Fiery Set

February 27th, 2017

Run the Jewels – Terminal 5 – February 25, 2017

Run the Jewels – Terminal 5 – February 25, 2017
While New York City was sweating out some of the hottest days on record for a February, on Saturday night, Run the Jewels kicked off their takeover of the city at Terminal 5, the first of four shows in the city El-P calls home. By now you should be well familiar with the group, the greatest buddy rap duo spitting rhymes poised to save the world from the guy with a “bad toupee and a spray tan.” Everyone in the crowd was ready for the takeover, losing their minds to the opening bars of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” as Killer Mike and El-P came to the stage. When the bass dropped in opener “Talk to Me,” it was powerful enough to bounce the crowd up off the vibrating floorboards. “Legend Has It” welcomed thousands of “RTJ” chants, raised finger pistols and fists.

An extra bass-y rendition of “Call Ticketron” had Mike and El-P running around, crisscrossing each other center stage and passing off their verses like a baton. “I’ve been imagining being here with family and friends all tour,” said El-P, nearly choked up. His mother was there for the night, no doubt proud of her son as he pantomimed lines like “You can run backward through a field of dicks” off “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry.” But it was Gangsta Boo who had both Mike and El blushing, coming out to absolutely murder her potty-mouthed verses on “Love Again (Akinyele Back).” She had the crowd chanting “pussy power” before returning the stage to Run the Jewels. “She makes me uncomfortable every night,” said El-P, adding, “I’m so ready to elect Gangsta Boo for President of the United States of America. At least she’s truthful!” Some thoughts were then shared on the current president as El-P introduced the charged “Lie, Cheat, Steal.”

The set ended with the song that began it all, “Run the Jewels.” Killer Mike retold the group’s story, meeting in El-P’s Brooklyn to record his own album, R.A.P. Music, and becoming inseparable ever since. “You done good, Ma,” exclaimed Mike, his arm around El-P. They returned to perform an encore of “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” and “Down,” a song about challenges conquered and overcome. The night must have felt like a victory lap for the duo, a return to where it all started just a few years ago, having since taken over the world. Don’t expect them to slow down anytime soon because rappers who speak truth to power are needed now more than ever. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com

(Some tickets remain to see Run the Jewels tonight and on Wednesday.)

cat_preview

Hamilton Leithauser’s Remarkable Friday Night in Williamsburg

February 27th, 2017

Hamilton Leithauser – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 24, 2017

Hamilton Leithauser – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 24, 2017
Call it New York City’s other sold-out Hamilton show, although this one showcases not a rapping founding father but one of the best voices in rock right now, the strained high range of Hamilton Leithauser’s, which will catch you off guard with its sheer power. “I use the same voice I always had,” he belted out in the closing lines of “Sick as a Dog,” the opener on Friday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It was the first display of his voice in full force, firing off like the starting pistol for a remarkable night of music, the second of three local sold-out shows. Multi-instrumentalist and collaborator Rostam Batmanglij, Eric Harvey of Spoon, Greg Roberts and Stephen Patterson of White Rabbits—whom Leithauser had met touring over the years with his previous band, the Walkmen—joined the frontman.

They sounded like they’ve been playing together forever, a band perfectly suited for Leithauser and Batmanglij’s bluesy rock songs that fit perfectly well within the American songwriting canon. “If the man that you need honestly wasn’t me, tell me honey who could that be?” sang Leithauser in a desperate pleading voice over a wavering organ. With its lush sound, his 12-string took the slow-building “In a Black Out” from simmer to a boil and back to a simmer. He told the audience a story about attending a wedding where the father of the bride made a toast and broke out into “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Apparently an awkward affair for everyone else at the wedding, Leithauser fell for the guy in the moment, writing the tender song “The Bride’s Dad” from the father’s perspective. Knowing the song’s background set an incredibly vivid scene of the affair.

The catchy “1,000 Times” followed with hundreds of voices joining in for the chorus. Free-jazz saxophone and Batmanglij’s piano rambling like a rolling river closed out the set with “Rough Going (I Won’t Let Up).” Leithauser’s wife, Anna Stumpf, and the opener, Lucy Dacus, came out for an encore performance of the dreamy “1959.” If the Walkmen were the first act of Leithauser’s career, this collaboration is a hell of a second act, one that shouldn’t see a curtain call anytime soon. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

cat_reviews

Khruangbin Get Spacey at Brooklyn Bowl on Wednesday Night

February 23rd, 2017

Khruangbin – Brooklyn Bowl – February 22, 2017

I7fXdlGp
NASA announced Wednesday that it had discovered seven new exoplanets, some of which could potentially sustain life. Is it a coincidence that on the very same day Khruangbin appeared in Brooklyn, laying down a set of their extraterrestrial grooves for a sold-out Brooklyn Bowl? Does seem suspicious. Looking otherworldly and playing music that might very well come from another solar system where love and peace reign supreme, the actually-from-Austin, Texas, trio were in fine form last night. From the opening slow funk of “August Twelve,” the crowd was locked in, beamed up into Khruangbin’s spaceship bathed in kaleidoscope hues, ready to be probed, prodded and fully funkified.

It’s no easy task to find a completely unoccupied space in the musical spectrum, but Khruangbin have always felt perfectly situated in a just-groovy-enough, not-too-loud/not-too-soft, not-too-fast/not-too-slow space that no one else seems to have discovered yet. On repeated trips back to New York City, each time hopping up a level in crowd size and intensity, the trio has found ways to shed their alien skin, revealing something more elaborate and exciting beneath. On Wednesday, guitarist Mike Speer was given room for hairier solos than the last few area gigs, drummer Donald Johnson Jr. and bassist Laura Lee showing tour-tested comfort in giving him full freedom to explore.

The set gained propulsive energy as it went along, mostly songs from their breakout album, The Universe Smiles Upon You, highlighted by the zigzag melodies of “People Everywhere (Still Alive)” and the out-of-plane weirdness of “Dern Kala.” In a room that can sometimes swallow the more subtle acts, Khruangbin were ferociously funky, overwhelming Brooklyn Bowl as if it were only a pit stop on the way to something bigger. Thankfully for the crowd, the band’s phasers were merely set to stun—because they might not be so lucky next time. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

cat_reviews

Lisa Hannigan Makes a Triumphant Return at The Bowery Ballroom

February 21st, 2017

Lisa Hannigan – The Bowery Ballroom – February 20, 2017

LISA-HANNIGAN(c)Rich-Gilligan-img_8067-1_web
Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan has a way of wrapping you in a warm woolen blanket with delicate vocals that seem to embrace you in a loving hug. Often known for her backing vocals while touring in the past with Damien Rice, she has forged on to release three solo albums after an abrupt break from her former collaborator. Her previous album produced with the National’s Aaron Dessner, At Swim, arrived last summer following a long five-year hiatus. Needless to say, fans were excited for her return to New York City as she arrived at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom last night, midway through her U.S. tour.

The room came to a hush as Hannigan took to the stage crooning the ever-haunting “Ora.” Although she was sparse with banter throughout the evening, fans didn’t seem to mind as they happily soaked up her ethereal melodies. Opener Heather Woods Broderick added her vocals on “O Sleep,” stepping in for Ray Lamontagne. Hannigan mentioned how her video for “Undertow” was recently released and that in the filming she had to sing the song backward. The singer playfully proceeded to share her backward trill, before introducing a protest song, “Fall,” which was an appropriate addition to the events of Presidents’ Day.

The band exited, leaving the stage to the lass for the music-box plucks of “Little Bird” and the wanderlusting “Passenger.” Her lilting brogue rang true on “We, the Drowned,” as Hannigan pumped her harmonium with extra zeal. Stalwart fans were delighted by “Lille,” an oldie from her debut solo, Sea Sew. An encore opened with an a cappella version of “Anahorish” accompanied by Broderick and her bassist before the performance concluded with the pair of “Barton” and the uplifting “A Sail.” —Sharlene Chiu

 

 

cat_reviews

Ryan Adams Thrills at Intimate Rough Trade NYC Show

February 21st, 2017

Ryan Adams – Rough Trade NYC – February 18, 2017

16722515_10154105370156431_4225958898453395462_o
Ryan Adams celebrated the release of his new album, Prisoners, with an intimate, sold-out show on Saturday night at Rough Trade NYC. Without question, the LP’s subject matter is heavy—it’s a breakup album through and through, and some of the lyrics are stark and painful (“Feel like I’m heading for a breakdown”; “I’ve missed you so much I shiver and I shake”). At times, the juxtaposition of the smiling and swaying crowd with such downtrodden sentiments felt almost subversive. Yet, to watch Adams and his band tear through Prisoners songs like “Do You Still Love Me,” “Haunted House” and “Outbound Train,” it was clear that the music and performance were creating a cathartic way for Adams to continue his healing process.

There was still a feeling of joy in room despite the heavy subject matter, mitigated in part by the buoyant, dynamic music that refused to be dragged down by sadness, often stretching into freewheeling extended jams, peppered with Adams’ intricate guitar solos. He was also mindful to break up any lingering tension between songs, and when he noticed the crowd was very quiet after his rendition of “We Disappear,” the singer-songwriter joked to his band in a stage whisper, “What if they’re texting each other?”

In addition to the new material, Adams and Co. dipped into his prolific back catalog for the second half of the show, treating the crowd to a well-loved songs like “Peaceful Valley,” “Magnolia Mountain” and “Let It Ride,” all from the period during which Adams recorded with his band the Cardinals, as well as more recent material like “Kim,” “Dirty Rain” and “Shakedown on 9th Street.” By the night’s end—following a stunning, jammed-out “Cold Roses” closer—Adams had accomplished the feat of sharing some of his feelings of misery without letting them bring down the mood, and although the crowd may have left with a better understanding of his inner turmoil, there was also the larger sense that Adams will be OK because his music will continue to lift him up. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK

cat_reviews

Drive-By Truckers Raise a Passionate, Poignant Racket on Friday Night

February 13th, 2017

Drive-By Truckers – Westbury Theater – February 10, 2017

93-exxl
In their earlier days, Drive-By Truckers were tagged alt-country, Southern rock and even country rock, but let’s call them what they are: no-bullshit rock and roll, anxious and unfiltered, and on their best nights, one of the best live bands of the last two decades. Still more remarkable is that despite major lineup changes, they seem to get better and better, the old songs aging gracefully but with more than a bit of veteran grizzle, and the new songs finding darkness, humor and poignancy in quotidian angst without sounding topical for topical’s sake or shading (too far anyway) into rock-protest sanctimony. Truckers characters are people you know: lived-in, loaded and lumpy. Their problems are your problems. Their shots at redemption are understandable and their failures disappointing.

This mature balance—the ability to be present and unflinchingly direct about news making matters of the age without being thin or pedantic—is so crucial to the current Truckers tour, filled with set lists that focus heavily on last year’s American Band, their most overtly political album. In Westbury, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Co. gave us hails of guitar, clattering drums and passionate vocals that came from somewhere deep to frame stories of shootings in Oregon on a beautifully sunny day (“Guns of Umpaqua”), an ill-fated Mexican teenager (“Ramon Casiano”) and the long-lingering ghosts of the Civil War (“Surrender Under Protest”). Some of these songs (“Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn” or “What It Means,” which addresses racism head-on) didn’t require much interpretation. Many were loud, with a sticking finger in your chest, although still others, such as Cooley’s “Once They Banned Imagine,” included acoustic guitars and had the world-weariness of protest-folk without decoupling from the band’s rambling, gnarly rock-ness. And it’s worth noting that politically potent Truckers tunes with a “to hell with this crap” edge aren’t anything new: “Puttin’ People on the Moon,” played fourth, is more than a decade old and its small-town family tragedy has never felt more acute. Same deal with “Sinkhole,” the Truckers’ epic of social class, murder and family values.

As they’ve gotten leaner—the band is now Hood, Cooley, drummer Brad Morgan, multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez and bassist Matt Patton—Drive-By Truckers have gotten meaner, filling more space with paint-peeler guitar solos and working up huge, rambunctious rackets. What’s never quite changed is how they pace a show—peaks and valleys of hard-rocking defiance and melancholy resignation that eventually give way to a runaway train of concert warhorses and an explosive finale. The last 30 minutes on Friday night served up the wry-sad “Buttholeville” with a dovetail into Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper,” along with “Zip City” and “What It Means.” “Love Like This,” Hood’s fist-pumping “Let There Be Rock” (greasy with the saluted nostalgia of the Truckers’ many forebears, from AC/DC to the Replacements) and the anthemic “Shut Up and Get on the Plane.” Hood told us there would be no encore—they haven’t played any on this tour, choosing to barrel through rather than pause, lest any of the loaded tension dissipate too soon—and the Truckers left with “Grand Canyon” and its protracted guitar meltdown. It was ragged and right, as the Truckers always are. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

 

cat_reviews

Bear’s Den Leave Them Wanting More at The Bowery Ballroom

February 2nd, 2017

Bear’s Den – The Bowery Ballroom – February 1, 2017

9mU_uQTY
The British folk rock band Bear’s Den wrap gorgeous compositions with a searing banjo ribbon. It’s not a surprise that they supported fellow countrymen Mumford & Sons, as both share similar musical sensibilities. They’re also no strangers to road-tripping across America, having jumped in a Volkswagen Campervan to tour with Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Staves in 2014. In support of their sophomore release, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, the lads played to a sold-out Bowery Ballroom on a crisp Wednesday night. The balcony was overflowing with spectators, as folks could barely get on the floor. Although the evening featured songs from the recent release, special attention was paid to the faithful when the rarely sung and mostly back-cataloged “Sophie” was played acoustically as the audience came to a hauling silence.

Band leader Andrew Davie admitted it was likely their “second-oldest song,” and fans, new and old, were grateful. They erupted for “When You Break,” a favorite from Bear’s Den debut, Islands. A pause in the set carved time for guitarist Christof to make his traditional bottle-flip attempt. The suspense was thick as the water bottle flew in the air, and Davie bear-hugged his bandmate upon success before wailing the sea shanty “Auld Wives.” Christof strapped on the banjo for another favorite, “Above the Clouds of Pompeii,” as clapping hands and stomping feet revved up the band before they exited the stage.

There was little doubt they would not return for an encore, and they did with horn accompaniment for “Napoleon.” Davie, bassist Kevin Jones and Christof made their way into the crowd with only instruments on an acoustic rendition of “Gabriel.” Back onstage, Davie explained that throughout their tour they have been playing covers that were of local artists or about the city they were in. Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” checked off both those requirements. The evening wrapped up with the anthemic “Agape,” which was a fitting soundtrack to lead folks into the night and onto a new day. —Sharlene Chiu

 

 

cat_reviews

Mogwai’s Message Is Impossible to Ignore at Town Hall on Sunday

January 30th, 2017

Mogwai – Town Hall – January29, 2017

12471431_1109784685722959_8282719060245064802_o
I can’t speak for the rest of the audience that packed Town Hall last night to bear witness to Mogwai perform their score for the documentary Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise, but anyone with any amount of identification whatsoever with humanity had to have been leveled. The 2015 documentary directed by Mark Cousins strung together archival footage of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and the Three Mile Island accident, also showing the subsequent protests and revelations of the Cold War era. Mogwai performed their score for the film live to close out the Edinburgh International Festival in 2016, and have been touring with it through North America to begin 2017. With an equally impressive magnitude of output and precision of timing, they played in lockstep with the large-screen projection of the film above and behind them last night. Two touring members joined the band’s core, guitarist Stuart Braithwaite, keyboardist Barry Burns and drummer Martin Bulloch.

I think I can unequivocally say, without hyperbole, that I’ve never before been impacted by art’s power to alter consciousness, both in the aspect of being sensationally evocative and also provocative of motivation. It quickly got to a point where my eyes were fixated on the utterly devastating footage of the by-products of the inception of atomic energy. The band appeared to just dissolve into the surrounding darkness. At times during the breaks in the score that made audible the remarks of people who lived during that time and dealt directly with its consequences, all onstage seemed as though they were bowing their heads in memory and silence. The music brought together an ensemble of electric guitar, keyboards and drums in one massive, scorching onslaught, blowing up the normal paradigm of the concert experience. It was no place for children or those faint of tolerance.

In my opinion, Mogwai have now passed into a rarified class of musicians who recognize the influence harnessed in their compositions and find applications to a cause larger than their own. The performance was all the more disquieting now that we are all that much closer to something going disastrously and irreparably wrong. Our newest president and anyone remotely associated with nuclear proliferation should be strapped down and made to see this show. Absolutely, Mogwai’s performance of Atomic is an agent for a message with enormous significance, escorting it to a place where it is impossible to ignore. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

cat_reviews

Phox Say Goodbye (For Now) at Music Hall of Williamsburg

January 30th, 2017

Phox – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 28, 2017

(Photo: Sharon Vanorny)

(Photo: Sharon Vanorny)

Amidst an indie-pop music landscape saturated with bands, the Wisconsin-based Phox spent half of a decade delighting fans with their whimsical melodies. Ascending a stage at a local festival, Boo Bash, the members played for the first time in May 2011 for what they thought would be a one-off performance. From there they became the darlings of Baraboo, Wisc., releasing the Confetti EP in 2013 and then their self-titled full-length, recorded in Justin Vernon’s studio the following year. Last fall the band announced that members had agreed to take a “hiatus” to allow for other creative pursuits, from film to graphic novels. For the occasion, the quintet embarked on their Goodbye (For Now) tour, which rolled into a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night.

Taking the stage to an opening composed by guitarist Matthew Holmen, the five-piece filed in with their phoxy lead singer, Monica Martin, clad in a shoulder-baring black top and high-waisted acid-washed jeans. She quickly began with the breezy “Leisure,” and keyboardist Matteo Roberts offered his vocals on the opening of “1936” before Martin took back the reins. The crowd participated in a chorus of “Wah oh oh” on “Evil,” which wouldn’t be the only time audience erupted. A cadence of claps was inevitable during fan-favorite “Slow Motion,” and many joined in, singing, “Everything I do, I do in slow motion.” The evening spotlighted Martin, who recently recorded the hypnotic “Equal Powers” with Jeremy Larson’s Violents.

A solo section showcased new material, including a ballad entitled “Make Believe,” and another song served as a cautionary tale about road trips with strangers. The little-sung “Laura” was hard to perform in the past Martin confessed because it was about the relationship with her mother. Saving the best for last, Phox covered the rhythmic chords of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and Holman offered a blistering guitar solo on “Noble Heart” to punctuate the set’s end. The band would return to encore with another cover. This time it was Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody.” The bittersweet farewell ended with “Espeon” dedicated to Martin’s younger sister in the audience. And as it neared midnight, fans left dreaming of Phox’s swift return in the (hopefully) near future. Sharlene Chiu

cat_reviews

Ryley Walker Doesn’t Waste Any Time at Rough Trade NYC

January 27th, 2017

Ryley Walker – Rough Trade NYC – January 26, 2017

(Art: Brian Blomerth)

(Art: Brian Blomerth)

Near the beginning of Ryley Walker’s show last night at Rough Trade NYC, he explained/joked/warned that half the price of the admission went toward getting to watch his “mental breakdowns.” The whole night was definitely a more-than-you-bargained-for show, but in altogether good ways. Things got started with J.R. Bohannon, who was referred to throughout the evening as “J.R.,” “John” and “Ancient Ocean.” Bohannon played both solo and accompanied by a mandolin player, using six-string and 12-string guitars as well as what I want to call a Dobro, to create gorgeous, amorphous instrumental exotica. Off-center tunings and doses of dissonance gave an otherworldly feel to the music, the guitars often feeling like ancient Asian equivalents. The middle set went to Sam Kogon who featured mostly material from his recently released Psychic Tears album. The set seemed like a musical time traveler, opening with an updated ’50s doo-wop and bouncing through the decades, offering up distorted ’80s New Wave and ’00s arty indie along the way. Propelled by the rhythm section, Kogon and his band built momentum, carving out their own musical space.

Opening with a long, fantastical jam equal parts airy and aggressive, Walker, backed by a second guitarist and a drummer, wasted no time finding the sweet spot. His playing had an avalanche effect: Each note seemed to chaotically gain more until an exponential torrent of acoustic guitar overwhelmed the room, Walker getting more out of his instrument than he seemed to be putting in. The opening half of the set featured multiple instrumental excursions, expertly centered on tour-tested songs, like “Primrose Green,” which served as an introduction to a furious guitars-and-drums rock-out. At one point, drummer Ryan Jewell moved to tablas, Walker moved to electric guitar, prompting a glorious drone raga with off-planet melodies striking the awestruck audience at oblique angles.

That jam eventually morphed into a free-ranging version of “Sullen Mind,” off last year’s Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. The second half of the set focused on newer material, in between bouts of brutal hilarity from Walker, which helped the lyric “It’s not very fun being a fun person” pop out to me. He finished the night with a couple of solo acoustic numbers, reminding everyone that beneath the mind-bender guitar jams, is an accomplished songwriter. “Halfwit in Me” closed out things, feeling lush and complex, multiple melodies and structures layered on top of one another to create new patterns of guitar and voice. Much more than the audience had bargained for. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

cat_reviews

Cate Le Bon Shows The Bowery Ballroom a Good Time

January 27th, 2017

Cate Le Bon – The Bowery Ballroom – January 26, 2017

vpSFTBcw
Welsh musician Cate Le Bon has a unique sound—a voice not unlike the rich throb of Nico’s, with the addition of some amped-up exuberance and a penchant for jangly guitars. Last night at The Bowery Ballroom, Le Bon and her band brought a focused energy to their performance, highlighting songs from 2016’s Crab Day, as well as crowd-pleasing material from its predecessor, Mug Museum.

Le Bon and her band’s precision and cohesion came through in particular during their version of Crab Day’s “How Do You Know?” a song that culminated with the singer-songwriter staring out at the crowd, rhythmically nodding her head, almost robotically, to the beat, as she and her bandmates strummed a repeated riff, slowing down bit by bit. As the speed decreased, so too did Le Bon, mimicking a machine shutting down and eventually stopping, head and body limply hunched over her guitar. Moments later, she was suddenly upright again, launching into the jaunty “I Can’t Help You” and even letting out a few excited yelps at the end.

After performing some new material and bringing out the night’s opener (and Le Bon’s frequent musical collaborator), Tim Presley, to accompany the band on a few songs, Le Bon treated us to Mug Museum’s “Are You With Me Now?”—an eminently catchy crowd-pleaser that featured lovely backing harmonies from the band. It was a sweet nightcap, and if I had to answer the song’s question based upon crowd response, I’d give it a resounding yes: We are with you, Cate Le Bon. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK

 

 

 

cat_reviews

Kyle Morton Goes Solo at Rough Trade NYC on Friday Night

January 23rd, 2017

Kyle Morton – Rough Trade NYC – January 20, 2017

83-atlg
The path from band member to solo career can often lead to a clear separation from the former, but Kyle Morton of Typhoon has managed to avoid that divide. Rather his solo album was birthed while he was working on the group’s next major release. It’s not surprising that Morton had qualms touring alone when there are 11 members in Typhoon. In an interview, Morton confessed his nervousness of going it alone: “I’m learning a lot more self-reliance, since I’m out here traveling by myself. I never really wanted to tour by myself because it seemed kind of daunting. But there’s something kind of nomadic and cool about it.” And so the frontman arrived solo onstage before a welcoming crowd at Rough Trade NYC on Friday evening.

Covering a large portion of his debut album, What Will Destroy You, Morton expertly mixed new material with Typhoon fan favorites throughout the set. His singing cadence, which resembled Conor Oberst’s on “Poor Bastard,” was especially punctuated by the morbid, melancholic lyrics. The crowd quickly joined in on the Typhoon track “Belly of the Cavern” by stomping along to provide percussion before echoing the refrain “I will be good though my body be broken” on “Common Sentiments.” Morton joked that one really only had to sing that bit to be part of the band, which endeared him to the audience even more. The mention that his wife, Wild Ones lead singer Danielle Sullivan, was in attendance served as a teaser for an inevitable duet.

Before she would take the stage, Morton sweetly dedicated “My Little Darlin’ Knows My Nature” to Sullivan. Shining a new light on the familiar “Artificial Light” and “Prosthetic Love,” the stripped-down Typhoon songs highlighted the painstaking lyrics that can get lost in the hefty band’s weight. When the words “last song” provoked grumbles, the songwriter discarded the pseudo exit of an encore to remain onstage, calling upon his wife to join him on a new Typhoon song. And if that weren’t enough to appease the crowd, the pair covered the John Prine and Iris Dement duet “In Spite of Ourselves” to cap off the night. —Sharlene Chiu