Tag Archives: Cuddle Magic


Margaret Glaspy Gets Earnest at a Sold-Out Bowery Ballroom

February 17th, 2017

Margaret Glasper – The Bowery Ballroom – February 16, 2017

The cold and wind in New York City was pretty insufferable last night. But lucky for me, I got to slip into The Bowery Ballroom and join a sold-out crowd for the brilliant Margaret Glaspy and the dynamos of Cuddle Magic, a chamber-pop group whose members have some impressive names on their résumés (Beyoncé, Amanda Palmer and Okkervil River). The six-piece took the stage first and launched into a set of songs from their brand new album, Ashes/Axis. Layered synths, staccato beats and exquisite vocals make it a great listen. The bandmates hopped down into the crowd and went acoustic for part of the set amidst their beaming audience. They also used the night as an opportunity to film a music video for “Kiss You”—there was a kissing booth set up downstairs and everyone was encouraged to slide on in for a cameo. Speaking of cameos, Glaspy briefly joined them onstage for a song they wrote together.

The headliner and her band made their way onstage next for a first-rate set of songs from her critically acclaimed full-length, Emotions & Math. Glaspy’s sultry voice could make any space intimate. She’s magnetic and it seemed impossible to not take a few steps forward to soak in every one of her nostalgic lyrics and jagged guitar riffs. Highlights included “Somebody to Anybody,” a cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” and a soulful rendition of Lucinda Williams’ “Fruits of My Labor.” Glaspy brought out friend and collaborator Julian Lage to add to the guitar magic with a couple of exceptional solos. There’s affection, hurt and pride in her music, and she scrutinizes the highs and lows of love and heartbreak in a jaunty, approachable way. There’s no limit to this type of exploration, as musicians have proved to us for years. Here’s hoping Glaspy keeps on bringing us her earnest, gorgeous take on the matter. —Schuyler Rooth | @SchuylerSpeak




Joan as Police Woman Return Home to Brooklyn

May 7th, 2014

Joan as Police Woman – Rough Trade NYC – May 6, 2014
It was a homecoming show for Joan Wasser and her band—aka Joan as Police Woman—as they returned to Brooklyn after weeks on the road, playing to a full house at Rough Trade on Tuesday night. The crowd was an eclectic mix of people, spanning a wide range of ages and style, which was well suited for Wasser’s music. Dressed for an evening out in a shimmering gold top, she opened with “What Would You Do,” off her recently released album, The Classic. The band immediately pumped the room full of sound, Eric Lane playing both organ and Moog bass to counter Wasser’s electric piano. The heavy swinging soul hit the brakes with a practiced slow-down segue to a mournful outro, Wasser singing while Lane switched to saxophone for full dramatic effect.

As they continued to roll off songs from the new record, it was clear that Wasser and Co. were pros’ pros, making small changes in instrumentation or melody to impressive effect. The band would focus the musical spotlight on Wasser as she sang, always sporting a serious, soulful sneer on her face. Then the band would reclaim the focus, opening up things with mature grooves and controlled-burn rock-outs. Of course, Wasser was a part of this, too, playing electric piano, guitar and violin at different points throughout the set. “Witness” was a highlight, with Wasser singing, “I don’t want to be nostalgic for something that never was,” a grungy guitar from Matt Whyte matching Lane’s twist-of-lime organ riff. This blossomed into an extended two-guitar rocker, Lane’s key-bass and Dave De Rose’s drumming doing the dirty work underneath.

Midway through the set, Wasser invited her collaborator and member of opening band Cuddle Magic, Benjamin Lazar Davis, to fill out the band on bass. After they played a couple of songs from their side project, 2001, Davis stayed out to push Wasser’s best material over the top. The set was inevitably building to a powerful one-two punch of the final two numbers: “Shame,” off The Classic, and “The Magic,” from 2011’s The Deep Field. Here Wasser’s true strengths were revealed: two of the better songs you’ll hear anywhere, played at their full, growling, funked-up best. All that remained was an encore that included the band singing the new album’s title track in four-part a cappella doo-wop harmony, and Wasser playing one solo on her piano, as equally intriguing on her own as with that excellent band. Still, seeing as how good they made her sound all night, if I were Wasser, I’d keep them around. —A. Stein



Anaïs Mitchell: Heaven to Hades in 90 Minutes

December 4th, 2012

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