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It’s the End of the Year as We Know It

December 28th, 2017

With 2018 fast approaching, The House List takes a look back at 2017.

Adela Loconte, Photographer @adelaloconte
Top Five Favorite Shows
1.
At the Drive-In, Terminal 5, March 22
2. Arca & Jesse Kanda Live, Brooklyn Steel, July 6
3. The Flaming Lips, Terminal 5, March 9
4. PJ Harvey, Brooklyn Steel, April 20
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings Theatre, November 7

Chad Berndtson, Writer @cberndtson
Top Five Favorite Shows
No music fan sees everything, and so much depends on the time, the night, the conditions—my ephemeral joys might be your disappointments. That’s part of the fun, right? Among scores of shows I saw in 2017, here are five nights that stuck with me.
1. Drive By Truckers, The Space at Westbury, February 10
One of the great live bands of the last 20 years has gotten leaner and meaner, unafraid of political jabs or paint-peeler guitar solos.
2. Explosions in the Sky, Capitol Theatre, April 22
Ominous music, loaded with portent, staring into the abyss or looking with a smile at some triumph high in the sky. Heavy, cinematic and deep.
3. Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons, Mercury Lounge, April 30
A master class in old-school, highly emotional rock energy. Still don’t understand why more people don’t know him, 30-plus years into a career of rough-scuffed folk rock delivered sometimes with tenderness and sometimes with Crazy Horse–like abandon.
4. The xx, Forest Hills Stadium, May 19
OK, I’m buying: Hipster as hell, but what they did was paint an outdoor venue in darkly beautiful soundscapes. The most fun I’ve had getting lost in a band in some time. They turn large, unforgiving venues into intimate listening rooms—and get you dancing.
5. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Music Hall of Williamsburg, November 20
Nelson has learned a lot from two musical dads: his actual dad, Willie, and also Neil Young, whom the Promise of the Real have backed on and off for years now. The type of show that defines the word swagger—a generous meal of rock, country, folk, blues and R&B by an old-school showman barely in his prime.

Dan Rickershauser, Writer @d4nricks
Top Five Favorite Albums
1.
Big Thief, Capacity
The one record I found myself returning to again and again. It was a shitty year, but something about this album soothed my sorrows. Adrianne Lenker’s songs feel personal yet completely pull you in. May she never let go.
2. Kendrick Lamar, Damn.
This may be my least favorite Kendrick Lamar record to date and yet it’s still the second best album that came out this year. The man’s a legend and the world seems to know it. It’s a good thing he’s so humble.
3. The War on Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
Adam Granduciel, the obsessive studio wizard, put out another beauty, this record even more gorgeous than the last. It’s the sound of rock perfection from a perfectionist.
4. Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm
Katie Crutchfield’s songwriting just keeps getting better. She comes out of the gates swinging with some dangerously catchy jams.
5. Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins
Of all the great indie bands of the late Aughts returning with new albums this year, Grizzly Bear’s takes the cake. Way too many critics slept on this one!

Pat King, Writer @mrpatking
Top Five Favorite Albums
1. Jens Lekman, Life Will See You Now
I had never really given Jens Lekman a chance as a songwriter, but this year it finally clicked for me in a big way. I got laid off from a job that I thought I loved early on in 2017 and was feeling pretty lost and listless in life. I was taking the train from the city to upstate New York to help my dad with a few big projects and was feeling incredibly low sitting alone on Metro North. All of the sudden, I heard “To Know Your Mission” and was completely overcome with emotion. It was the perfect tune for me at that time and each song that followed helped me understand my situation a little more clearly. I couldn’t believe how wise and endearing Lekman is as a lyricist.
2. Mark Mulcahy, The Possum in the Driveway
Whenever the discussion veers toward musicians who have not been given their just dues, I always think of Mark Mulcahy. As the frontman of Miracle Legion and the Nickelodeon-sponsored Polaris (“ay-yay-yay-yi, Hey Sandy”), Mulcahy had been known for a certain type of feel-good college jangle pop that was certainly a product of the ’90s. What many people may not realize is that his solo releases have been more emotionally and musically rewarding than either of those old projects, and he’s been one of few artists who each album he releases is better than his last. Over the past couple of decades he has reinvented himself as one of the great American balladeers, with lyrics and a voice that can cut you down to the bone. This year’s the Possum in the Driveway is a brilliant testament to his powers as a songwriter and one that proves he is in a league of his own.
3. Pallbearer, Heartless
Pallbearer have always shown promise of being one the best doom-metal bands around. But with their self-titled third album, they’ve transcended the genre and gelled into one of today’s most exciting rock bands. The songs are slightly shorter (although still around eight minutes) but have somehow intensified their scope in a more epic way. With this LP, Brett Campbell has made his case for being one of the best singers in heavy music. His lines never reach the outrageous heights of some of his peers in metal but bring enough power to stop you in your tracks. The same goes for this record’s instrumentation. The songs never feel like they have too many parts or get played out to the point of metal parody. It’s just a front-to-back banger that finally cemented Pallbearer as one of the best around.
4. Björk, Utopia
There aren’t many artists who you could say are peerless in popular music. Björk is definitely one of those artists. Every time she releases a new album, fans wait with anticipation to see where she if she will be able to clear the bar she set for herself on the one before. Utopia is such a statement as a complete work as she tries to understand and find happiness in her life after exploring decimating heartbreak on her last release, Vulnicura. It’s amazing to hear her reach the same breathtaking heights as a visionary artist this far into her career. Bow down and give respect.
5. Robyn Hitchcock, Robyn Hitchcock
Robyn Hitchcock delivered the back-to-basics Soft Boys–style album that many of his fans had been longing for for years. Teaming up with producer (and ex-Raconteur) Brendan Benson, Hitchcock turned up the amps and delivered 10 near-flawless rock songs that reminded us why he is one of the most inventive songwriters around. His wit as a lyricist is still ever-present, but hearing him deliver guitar parts reminiscent of Underwater Moonlight on songs like “I Want to Tell You What I Want” and “Mad Shelley’s Letterbox” was one of the most welcome surprises of 2017 for me.
Pat King’s Top 20 Best of 2017 Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/126049064/playlist/2idgUHVCiGSJqKkwkfex8v?si=wewT–RFRfWWxEVV3rmWsQ.

Sharlene Chiu, Writer
Top Five Favorite Shows with “New” Artists
1. SZA, Brooklyn Steel, December 10

So if you haven’t yet heard of SZA, you won’t be able to escape her name anytime soon. Riding a debut album that has already produced two platinum singles, the singer played a very sold-out Brooklyn Steel the night after performing on SNL. Her vibrant stage presence was supported by the Sing Harlem Choir. Girl’s going places and you’ll see her next year at the Grammy’s, where she’s the most nominated woman with five nods.
2. Maggie Rogers, The Bowery Ballroom, April 11
When a video of Pharrell’s reaction to Ms. Rogers’ demo of “Alaska” went viral, she was on the up-and-up. Her performance at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom was not only a homecoming, but it was also a beginning of bigger stages and larger audiences. She became teary and confessional near the end of the set, reminiscing about the previous times she’d been to the venue as an audience member. After her pair of Bowery shows, she set off on a whirlwind international tour taking her to Europe, Australia and Japan.
3. The Cactus Blossoms, Mercury Lounge, July 12
The first time I caught the Cactus Blossoms’ noir-infused honky-tonk was at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco last year. When I saw they would be playing a late show at Mercury Lounge, I had to be there. Friends, I do not go out late on school nights, but for brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey, I made an exception. Their languid waltzes were the perfect soundtrack for steamy July.
4. Jay Som, Rough Trade NYC, June 6
A triad of Asian-American songwriters, including Mitski, Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som have been self-producing music since last year. The latter rolled into a sold-out Rough Trade NYC to charm the crowd with not only her skilled musicianship, but also with her charming wit. Som was recently shortlisted by NPR’s All Songs Considered in their year-end best of 2017.
5. Violents and Monica Martin, Rough Trade NYC, April 26
OK, this one isn’t technically new, but the pairing was. Monica Martin, best known as the frontwoman for the now-on-hiatus Phox, and producer Jeremy Larson aka Violents teamed up for this rare tour. Larson has collaborated with female vocalists before, but this one was special. Songs were paired with cinematic footage ranging from scenes from House Party to sweeping black-and-white scenery. What still sticks in my memory was a haunting cover of Frank Ocean’s “Self Control.”

 

 

 

 

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Alison Wonderland Brings Her Dance Party to Terminal 5 on Thursday

September 20th, 2017

Alex Sholler entered the music world as a cellist in the Sydney Youth Orchestra, but she’s since been doing work as the EDM DJ and producer Alison Wonderland. The Australian’s initial single, “Get Ready,” dropped in 2013, followed a year later by her debut EP, Calm Down (stream it below), which “has a split personality—straddling trashy club release and clever EDM. Either way, listeners should find something to love between Alex Sholler’s use of adventurous, solemn strings and her punchy, stop-start beats,” according to the Music. Her first full-length album, Run (stream it below), featuring the Flaming LipsWayne Coyne, arrived in 2015. Per Rolling Stone, the LP hits “the sweet spot where dance-floor ready meets radio friendly.” Now crisscrossing the country, bringing her mobile dance party to the land of the free and the home of the brave, Alison Wonderland (above, performing “U Don’t Know”) comes to Terminal 5 on Thursday night. Los Angeles electronic-pop singer-songwriter Elohim opens the show.

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The Octopus Project Bring New Music to Mercury Lounge Tonight

April 11th, 2017

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, a statement that certainly rings true for the big-ass sound of Austin’s very own psychedelic slingers the Octopus Project. Think of them as the poppier stepchild of fellow Texans the Butthole Surfers. Their strain of psychedelia seems designed to not just expand your consciousness but to blast holes through it. Officially a band since 1999, the Octopus Project (above, performing “Sharpteeth”) have been fine-tuning their sound with each release ever since. Their latest, Memory Mirror (stream it below) out last Friday, is their first proper release since 2013’s Fever Forms (stream it below). Memory Mirror has the troupe of multi-instrumentalists at their shape-shifting best, with their rhythmic, arpeggiating sonic assaults firing into the cosmos like a well-oiled machine. Recorded with the help of legendary Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann, the album shares a mission statement with the Lips in seeing just how far pop music can venture into the weird while still holding on to its hooks (answer: very far). The album highlights everything you’d expect and then some from the seasoned vets of trippiness. It has the bliss-inducing bleeps and bloops of “Understanding Fruit,” the rapid-fire guitar shreds and diced-up vocals of “Woah, Mossman!!,” the bowel-punching bass booms of “Ledgeridge,” the grime beats laying down the foundation for “Small Hundred.” The band heads to Mercury Lounge tonight, with Brooklyn’s Brothertiger opening. So prepare your psyches and strap in for the ride. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

 

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The Flaming Lips – Terminal 5 – March 9, 2017

March 10th, 2017

The Flaming Lips - Terminal 5 - March 9, 2017
(The Flaming Lips play the Westburty Theater tomorrow night.)


Photos courtesy of Dana (distortion) Yavin | distortionpix.com

Contest

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See the Flaming Lips on 3/9

March 7th, 2017

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About three-and-half years since their last time through, the Flaming Lips return to play Terminal 5 this Thursday night. And just as with their previous visits, this show is also sold out. But not to worry because The House List is giving away two tickets. Don’t have any and 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 (Flaming Lips, 3/9) and a brief message explaining your favorite song off Oczy Mlody. Eddie Bruiser, who’s just begun playing the album, will notify the winner by Thursday.

(The Flaming Lips also play the Westbury Theater on Saturday night.)

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Benji Hughes Brings New Music to Rough Trade NYC Tomorrow Night

March 15th, 2016

Benji Hughes, out of Charlotte, N.C., has been in the singer-songwriter game (in addition to cranking out jingles) for more than a decade, earning comparisons to Beck (for his eclecticism) and the Flaming Lips (for his pop-based experimentation) along the way. NPR Music has labeled him a “groove master,” while two years ago, Vulture proclaimed him “the best songwriter you’ve never heard of.” And earlier this year, Hughes (above, his video for “Girls Love Shoes”) returned with a new studio full-length, Songs in the Key of Animals (stream it below), which, according to PopMatters, “caters to a wide range of audiences and there’s not one throwaway track to show for it. Suturing hooks and crafting theme songs has clearly given him a creative perspective unheard in quite awhile.” Hear those songs for yourself when Benji Hughes plays Rough Trade NYC tomorrow night. Brooklyn’s Kino Kimino open the show.

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Catch Alt-Folkie Andrew St. James Tonight at Mercury Lounge

January 20th, 2016

Inspired by Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter—and at just 18—alt-folkie Andrew St. James released his debut full-length, Doldrums (stream it below), in 2013. American Songwriter noted it for the San Francisco singer’s “great lyrics.” St. James (above, doing “Nightmares Pt. 17” for Balcony TV) put out a follow-up, The Shakes (stream it below), a year later. And according to Amazon Music, despite still a teenager “his music sounds like the work of a time-worn troubadour…. Fans of Ryan Adams and the Flaming Lips alike will find a kindred spirit in James.” Now winding down an East Coast swing, St. James plays Mercury Lounge tomorrow night.

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Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz – Terminal 5 – November 28, 2015

November 30th, 2015

Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz - Terminal 5 - November 28, 2015

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Miley Cyrus on 11/28

November 24th, 2015

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Perhaps you’ve heard that Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz play Terminal 5 on Saturday night. And perhaps you got shut out as tickets sold out crazy fast. Well you just might have something else to be thankful for this week because The House List is giving away two tickets to this very in-demand show. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. 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 (Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, 11/28) and a brief message explaining your favorite Thanksgiving food that isn’t turkey and why. Eddie Bruiser, who’s pretty particular about holiday grub, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.

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With a Revamped Band, Mike Gordon Goes over the Top at Cap

June 29th, 2015

Mike Gordon – Capitol Theatre – June 27, 2015

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With much of the jam world’s eyes focused on Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday night, a Mike Gordon show at the Capitol Theatre somehow felt a little bit under the radar, if that’s possible. Returning to the historic venue for the first time since Phish played there in 1992, Gordon and his revamped band gave the jubilant crowd plenty to keep them occupied with two stellar sets of jam-friendly music. After a warm-up opening of “Long Black Line,” the bassist led the band through a highlight-reel first set featuring standout versions of Gordon originals “Andelman’s Yard” and “Horizon Line,” the Phish rarity “Spock’s Brain” and two covers turned inside out. With the addition of Robert Walter on keyboards and John Morgan Kimock on drums, the band felt less like a spin-off side project and more like a high-quality jam-band hybrid: Walter utilizing his innate sense of the groove to get the crowd dancing, Kimock adding a daring ability to both follow and lead through uncharted passageways, Scott Murawski displaying a veteran hand on lead guitar and Gordon adding his unique Mike Gordon–ness to the low end.

While the Cap’s standard light projections often keep the crowd staring at the walls, Gordon’s stage production was an immersive trip on its own, perfectly enhancing the music. While the band took left turn upon left turn in “Andelman’s,” the lights paired colors in equally interesting combinations. During a space-funk version of Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream,” a geometry lesson of shapes illuminated the band, adding cosmic effects while the audience’s front row played sound effects on a giant interactive “keyboard” at the front of the stage. When the band seemed to hit a particularly ecstatic climax in a jam, LEDs in Murawski’s and Gordon’s guitars lit up like the metaphoric light bulb signaling a Eureka! moment inside your mind. Toward the end of the first set, Gordon took his group and audience deep into the Flaming Lips’ “Are You a Hypnotist?” while tie-dyed fractal tunnels appeared on the backdrops, providing a mass hallucination just in case.

After a short break, Gordon and company returned for a second set that opened with a dark “Surface” and followed a set-list script but seemed to spend more time meandering and exploring through high-level jamming. The band flexed their collective muscles through multiple levels of improv, awakening all sorts of ghosts in the Cap’s walls. Late in the evening, Luke Temple made a surprise appearance, adding indie credentials by singing along to Gordon’s cover of his Here We Go Magic tune “How Do I Know,” which pushed the show over the top, if it truly needed the extra boost. Temple returned during the encore for his “Make Up Your Mind,” Gordon and Co. perfectly at ease playing backing band, adding a groovy oomph and maybe helping earn a few new Here We Go Magic fans along the way. The night-ending “Sugar Shack” felt superfluous after the preceding show, but Murawski’s lighthearted playing provided a welcome return to ground for the crowd.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

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Mike Gordon Shares New Toys at Webster Hall

March 3rd, 2014

Mike Gordon – Webster Hall – March 1, 2014

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During his sold-out show at Webster Hall on Saturday night, Mike Gordon explained that he was like a kid in a candy shop thanks to all the new toys he had at his disposal. Some of them, he said, were the new songs off his recent release, Overstep, and others were the new visual technologies employed throughout the two-set show. The former included a first-set “Surface” with a syncopated-jam section and a show-closing “Long Black Line” with a long improvisation that settled on many themes between Gordon, guitarist Scott Murawksi and keyboard player Tom Cleary. The latter included light-up guitars and a set of oversized “keys” that front-row audience members got to “play” during one jam like some interactive exhibit at a children’s museum. While all of these toys were great to hear and fun to look at, it was clear watching the Phish bassist guide his solo project throughout the night that the band was one big plaything for Gordon.

Gordon not only got to satisfy his polymath urges, but he also got to be the frontman, banter included. So when there were some technical difficulties, Gordon tried to explain moiré patterns to the audience (which were employed on the arty walls onstage), quickly dropping into a homophone tangent about moray eels (acoustic or electric?) before flipping that into the more traditional thank-the-label thing. The set list with its myriad jams and straight bouncers zigzagged with equal dexterity. And the highlight cover of the night was
a rendition of the Flaming Lips’ “Are You a Hypnotist?”—a perfect fit for the band with its bass-driven, off-center melody, building the song out of bird whistles, keyboard electronica and ambient guitar.

The second set was anchored by three powerful jammers: “Morphing Again,” off 2008’s The Green Sparrow, began with a country bounce before a beautiful, full-band major-key jam took hold—while “555,” a new Phish song, went the opposite route, Murawksi leading a darker funk-rock excursion with a distorted-wah tone—and the aforementioned set-closing “Long Black Line.” But for the Phish fans in the room, the surprise of the night was a bust out of “Spock’s Brain,” a long-shelved rarity filled with prog-rock twists and changes that seemed to fit right in for Gordon and his band. The crowd ate it up as they had all night, clearly thankful that Gordon is the kind of kid who shares his toys with others. —A. Stein

 

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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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One Big Holiday Is Now Even Bigger

October 31st, 2013

As if My Morning Jacket’s four-night beach-destination concert adventure One Big Holiday at the Hard Rock Hotel in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera weren’t already shaping up to be pretty epic—with three “totally unique shows plus an off-the-hook dance party hosted by the band that promises plenty of surprises”—it’s recently gotten even bigger with the addition of the Flaming Lips (above, doing “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1”), Preservation Hall Jazz Band (MMJ with horns!), Mariachi El Bronx and Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza. Of course, it’s not totally about the music. There will also be plenty of other activities, like daily yoga classes, tequila tastings, theme nights and all sorts of off-site excursions. This is something not to miss: It’s One Big Holiday.

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Black Moth Super Rainbow Make Good on Their Name

December 6th, 2012

Black Moth Super Rainbow – The Bowery Ballroom – December 5, 2012

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

Having never even heard a note of their music, based on their name, you could take an educated guess at what Black Moth Super Rainbow might sound like and you’d probably be mostly right. The name alludes to both some grandiose psychedelia (Super Rainbow) and the darkness behind it (Black Moth). But there are some other components going on with this band that their name won’t reveal. Even for those familiar with their music, seeing it performed live exposes some nuances. So let’s tackle these observations one a time:

1. For a band that blasts out some heavy psychedelic beats, they’re awfully unassuming about it. This is especially true of frontman Tobacco, who performed behind a silver suitcase with a T-shirt draped over it, hiding his face behind it and a baseball hat. Most other psych-rock frontmen are much more outwardly extroverted (think: Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips), but Tobacco comes off as shy, so much so that even having watched him over the course of an entire show, I’m not sure I could pick him out in a police lineup.

2. All vocals go through a synth vocoder, but they don’t always sound the same. Even between songs, when an audience member yelled, “Thank you,” Tobacco shot back a “You’re welcome” through the vocoder. Filtering all vocals through such heavy effects removes them a step further from their human source. Maybe this makes it easier for an introverted singer to perform. Regardless, it also gives Tobacco the chance to make vocals expressive by the effects thrown onto them. All Black Moth Super Rainbow vocals have that synth vocoder fuzzy warmth to them, but they also fall into a broader spectrum, changing slightly from song to song.

3. They sound much more rock when performed live. Maybe it’s because snare drums carry better in a live setting, or because the bass and guitar were turned up higher in the mix, but last night at The Bowery Ballroom, their songs were much more hard hitting than the recorded versions. Material off their latest, Cobra Juicy, sounded particularly rock heavy.

4. There’s a restrained sense of humor with this band that comes out every now and then. There were several images of various scenic shots projected onstage, including a slow-burning nuclear facility or an overgrown roadway. If you watched long enough, someone would inconspicuously pop up out of each scene and walk toward the camera, staring at it. It broke that fourth wall between the band and audience in a subtle way. (Also, the drummer wore a ninja mask the entire night without explaining why—which is pretty hilarious and also pretty badass.) —Dan Rickershauser

(Black Moth Super Rainbow play Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight.)