Tag Archives: Jenny Lewis

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Karl Blau and Chris Forsyth Team Up to Take On Rough Trade NYC

January 9th, 2018

After years of recording, Karl Blau is finally having his moment. As a mainstay in the influential lo-fi folk scene built around K Records in the Pacific Northwest, he’s been churning out rock solid music that’s never followed the trends around him. Featuring his rich molasses-soaked baritone voice and effortless abilities to cross genres, each of Blau’s records is a rewarding journey that can just as easily bring listeners gratification as it can put you off guard. As great as these albums have been, Blau had been flying under the radar for far too long. But thanks to last year’s Introducing Karl Blau (stream it below), that all changed. With help from producer Tucker Martine and guests like Jim James, Jenny Lewis and Laura Veirs, Introducing found Blau reinterpreting classic songs by such artists as Townes Van Zandt, the Bee Gees and Link Wray. The results were absolutely breathtaking and the long-player brought him to a much wider audience, landing Blau (above, doing “Fallin’ Rain” live in studio for KEXP FM) a home with Bella Union for this year’s equally brilliant Out Her Space (stream it below). Comprised of all originals, the new album continues Blau’s winning streak and proves that one of underground music’s best-kept secrets is at the height of his powers. Blau plays Rough Trade NYC on Thursday with guitar mastermind Chris Forsyth—most known for his sprawling psychedelic work, like on this year’s Dreaming in the Non-Dream (stream it below)—and his Solar Motel Band, a truly great double bill that shouldn’t be missed. —Pat King | @MrPatKing




 

 

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The Cactus Blossoms Keep Mercury Lounge Cool on a Hot Night

July 13th, 2017

The Cactus Blossoms – Mercury Lounge – July 12, 2017


Honky-tonk noir anyone? Well you’re in luck because Minnesotan brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum are serving up just what you’re craving as the Cactus Blossoms. They resemble a blend of vintage sibling pairs, with the harmonies of the Everly Brothers and the bittersweet waltz of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk.” It’s not surprising that the two made their national-TV debut on the recently rebooted Twin Peaks: The Return, playing the melancholic “Mississippi” as the third-episode outro. After a string of Midwestern dates opening for Jenny Lewis, the duo returned Stateside following a quick European tour to grace Mercury Lounge with a late-night session on Thursday.

Playing to a sold-out crowd, Torrey hit the stage last apologizing for the late start as he was locked in the bathroom. Thankfully freed, the reunion produced an evening of sweet Southern charm as the Cactus Blossoms played a large portion of their debut full-length album, You’re Dreaming. The title track had the crowd soaring to the brothers’ harmonies, followed by the eerily haunting track featured on Twin Peaks. Drummer Alex Hall literally wheeled up to the stage with suitcase in hand to relieve his stand-in, Grant. Turns out Hall’s flight had been delayed 12 hours. But the consummate professionals rolled with the punches, noting that as musicians, it’s rare when things go as planned.

The Cactus Blossoms treated devoted fans to cuts from their back catalog, including the farewell tune, “Adios Maria,” which was less about a woman and more about parting with a place. After a new song, they covered the Kinks“Who’ll Be Next in Line,” paying homage to a fellow sibling pair, and dedicated “Happy Man on a Gloomy Day” to an unfortunately canceled Spain show. A previously requested “Spotlight Kisses” was happily applauded, and the country waltz of “Powder Blue” had everyone in the room swaying in delight. With the encore imminent, Torrey announced it was “too hot to rock,” instead concluding the evening with a slow one, “Travelers Paradise.” It was a fitting adieu on a steamy night. —Sharlene Chiu

 

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Springtime Carnivore Plays the Early Show Tuesday at Mercury Lounge

March 6th, 2017

After the breakup of prior bands, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Greta Morgan began artfully mixing psychedelia with sunny pop and folk rock as Springtime Carnivore a few years ago. A self-titled debut full-length (stream it below) came out in 2014. “This collection of warm, fuzzy indie pop, rock and psychedelic-tinged numbers represents a true new start for Morgan,” according to Paste. “The best of these songs transcend her previous work and hint toward new vistas that she’s clearly hoping to explore, and we’ll happily look in on her journey.” That journey continued with the 2016 release of Midnight Room (stream it below). The A.V. Club compared Springtime Carnivore (above, performing “Nude Polaroids” in studio for KEXP FM) to Neko Case & Her Boyfriends and Jenny Lewis and mentioned the album’s “beautiful, self-assured identity”—adding: “From the opening title track and its delicate blend of subdued synths, a brisk guitar rhythm and a lofty chorus, the record is emotionally adrift, wafting through comfortless heartbreak, warm nostalgia, and the alternative stargazing flourishes of fantasy and fatalistic wariness of delusion. The vehicle for all this is measured, glossy dream pop, polished with smooth, lush electronics and chilled with airy acoustic tones.” In mid-tour form, Springtime Carnivore plays Mercury Lounge tomorrow night. Terribly Yours open the show.

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Jenny Lewis Celebrates a Tenth Anniversary in Style

September 15th, 2016

Jenny Lewis – Capitol Theatre – September 14, 2016

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More than a decade ago in San Francisco, I patiently perched in a stairwell awaiting the live debut of Ms. Jenny Lewis’s initial solo effort, Rabbit Fur Coat. Sure I grew up watching Troop Beverly Hills, but what fascinated me was how she seamlessly dipped in and out of formidable bands like Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes and the Postal Service. Lewis always has been a thoughtful songwriter and it especially showed in her time with Rilo Kiley, however this next step pushed the singer into a career all her own. She and her backup singers, the Watson Twins, were late due to traffic but well worth the wait as they glided down the aisle holding candles to approach the stage—it was an unforgettable show in an intimate 250-seat venue. When word got out that the trio would take out the record for a 10th-anniversary spin, I had to be there. Previously selling out two Beacon Theatre shows last winter, Lewis returned with the twins to play Capitol Theatre last night.

The trio, donning the dresses from the album cover, entered stage right singing in harmony to open with “Run Devil Run,” candles in their hands just as they had years prior. The room was flooded with nostalgia as they played Rabbit Fur Coat in its entirety with a full band. Gems included lap-steel accompaniment on “Happy” and Lewis returning post-wardrobe change to croon the title track in a black embroidered jumpsuit complete with fringe. Although missing the backing vocals of M. Ward and Ben Gibbard, “Handle with Care” fleshed out the classic cover with additional guitar. The petite singer added a heavy dose of electric organ on “Born Secular” to fill the room, but it was her soaring vocals that sent chills to fans’ hearts.

After a brief intermission, Lewis emerged to play largely from her latest album, The Voyager. A gentleman politely asked if it was OK to stand for “Just One of the Guys” and was soon joined by another man. The catalog was broken by a cover of the Shirelles“I Met Him on a Sunday,” performed a cappella by the trio. But the real treat was a deep dive into the Rilo Kiley days for the soul-infused “I Never,” which Lewis dedicated to the Cap’s most frequent artist, Phil Lesh. The oldie was paired amongst her most recent work with New York City band NAF (Nice as Fuck), on “Door.” Dueling guitar solos concluded the evening on the crowd pleasing “She’s Not Me,” and there was no doubt that 10 years later, the storied album holds up. —Sharlene Chiu

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Nice as Fuck Connect with Sold-Out Crowd at The Bowery Ballroom

August 2nd, 2016

Nice as Fuck – The Bowery Ballroom – August 1, 2016

Nice as Fuck - The Bowery Ballroom - August 1, 2016
The band is called NAF—Nice as Fuck—a name that feels buried in layers of Twitter-ready hipster irony, but, maybe, quite possibly they really are that nice. The crowd at the sold-out early show at The Bowery Ballroom last night was certainly fond of the trio, a “supergroup” consisting of Jenny Lewis (vocals and keyboards), Erika Forster (bass) and Tennessee Thomas (drums). With the mid-summer sunlight still peeking in through the back windows, you might have said the show was “early as fuck,” but no matter, when the three took their places, not onstage but in the middle of the floor, all wearing the NAF uniform of Nice as Fuck T-shirts, army-fatigue jackets and black berets, the normally staid Ballroom security somehow became hype men, helping getting the crowd riled, the room was ready as fuck to party.

The performance was a run through of their self-titled album, nothing more, nothing less. “Runaway” opened the set, Forster’s bass filling the room from the center like some chocolate-bar nougat, Lewis’s vocals echoing from above and behind—and from where I was standing, as good a voice of God as you could ask for. She circled around throughout, making eye contact and sometimes physical contact with the crowd, like an indie-rock Oprah connecting with the masses. The audience, majority female, responded in kind: bouncing and singing and dancing along with Lewis and company.

“Cookie Lips” was introduced with the announcement that Forster was six-months pregnant, which made me appreciate what effect that rubber-band bass playing might have. The sound remained steady and simple throughout, bass and drums getting funky as fuck with Lewis imparting wisdom like “Get high, get low, get weird,” approaching a self-help mantra. Still, in this complicated world, the simplicity and fun of NAF was welcome. The set’s highlight came toward the end with “Guns,” Lewis and the rest of the crowd singing, “I don’t want to be afraid, put your guns away,” peace signs aloft, a message that was clear as fuck, in as nice a way as possible, of course. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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Up-and-Comer Lucy Dacus Plays Rough Trade NYC Tomorrow Night

June 1st, 2016

Richmond, Va., singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus (above, performing “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” for Audiotree Live) has been getting a lot of love this year. In January, Rolling Stone labeled her a New Artist You Need to Know, adding that she “has a knack for writing disarmingly open indie rock songs, with plainspoken lyrics that hit even harder thanks to her soft, sturdy alto.” And that was before her debut full-length even arrived. No Burden (stream it below) came out in late February to a flood of praise. NPR proclaimed, “The power-pop songs are naturally rootsy, embodying an authentic Southern soul. Yet the 20-year-old singer-songwriter’s voice transcends her locale and her age, a confident blend of Sharon Van Etten’s aching power, Jenny Lewis’ cool drawl and Courtney Barnett’s bright wit.” While Pitchfork added, “Lead guitar lines pour in the like slow columns of sunlight, and Dacus’ voice itself is a comforting blur.” Find out what all the fuss is about when she plays Rough Trade NYC tomorrow night. Local favorite Sam Cohen opens.

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Jenny Lewis and Friends Charm Sold-Out Beacon Theatre

February 5th, 2016

Jenny Lewis – Beacon Theatre – February 4, 2016

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Track-by-track celebrations of iconic albums have a way of turning into respectful museum visits: look, nod, appreciate the graceful aging, shrug. So perhaps the most remarkable thing about Jenny Lewis’s salute to Rabbit Fur Coat at the Beacon Theatre last night is how immediate, how engrossing and how alive and un-nostalgic it felt. The exceptionally charming Lewis was already indie-rock royalty by the time she joined hands with the Watson Twins and M. Ward for Rabbit, but to hear the reunited ensemble—Lewis and the Watsons, with Ward ducking in and out to color and shade certain songs—tackled its 12 selections a decade later suggested even greater layers of depth to a collection of music that was already cavernous.

Rabbit Fur Coat is an album you take your time with, and it’s interesting to note how many critics back in 2006 were respectfully pleased but not gushing in their initial praise. The LP has soul, country and antsy indie-rock shades. It has lovely bluegrass-style harmonies. It sounds pastoral, almost twee, but you listen through that initial reaction and you hear the humor, the melancholy and the haunted aspects. Flow-wise, the show was the same as it’s been all tour: performing Rabbit Fur Coat start to finish, followed by an intermission and then a second set drawing on other Lewis albums, Rilo Kiley material and a stray cover or two. Dressing up the Beacon Theatre beyond its usual majestic charms seems like gilding the lily, but not in this case: warm purples, vibrant, sparkly outfits, rainbow-colored and wave-textured this and that.

From the start, the mood was spiritual. Lewis and the twins walked to the stage, singing “Run Devil Run,” using the Beacon’s natural acoustics, and then proceeded to balance the sometimes-overlapping tones of the church and the barroom, whether in Ward providing spindly guitar on “Happy” (and the audience joining a sing-along during its reprise eight songs later), or the spooked waltz of the title track played with the barest accompaniment, or the country-gallop-’60s-girl-group-psychedelic-folk mélange of “You Are What You Love,” or the now-famous cover of the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care” that infused more Laurel Canyon soul into the original while keeping its edges rightfully burnt. As ever, Lewis sang lines like “Are we killing time?/ Are we killing each other?” like they couldn’t come from anyone else: sad, philosophical, determined, faintly wry, probably all of those things. The standouts among Lewis and team’s superb second frame included “I Never,” a beloved Rilo Kiley number, and “Red Bull and Hennessy,” a newer tune that’s been rightfully compared to Fleetwood Mac. By the end, it was a choose-your-own-highlight” kind of night—the best kind, with much to consider.
—Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

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Natalie Prass Comes to Music Hall of Williamsburg Tomorrow Night

November 9th, 2015

Natalie Prass grew up around Virginia Beach with an affinity for music and art, which led to her attending the famed Berklee College of Music. But it didn’t exactly take, so she left Boston and ultimately settled in Nashville. Music City ended up being the perfect home for the singer-songwriter, who, while biding her time, had ample opportunities to work on her craft. She’s previously hit the road backing Jenny Lewis, but back in January, Prass (above, performing “Why Don’t You Believe in Me” at SXSW for WFUV FM) saw her long- awaited, acclaimed self-titled debut full-length (stream it below) on Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb Records—although the album was actually finished in 2012. (Prass and White were childhood friends.) Despite the wait, critics have been absolutely knocked out. Pitchfork gave the LP its Best New Music label, and Paste magazine declared, “Over nine songs, Prass shows a range in songwriting, from anthems to confident R&B burners to whimsical prairie folk to theatrical grandeur. It is the debut of a songwriter not struggling to find a voice, but fully formed and confident as all hell. She makes knowing nods to Joni Mitchell, Lesley Gore, Diana Ross and Joanna Newsom, all while seeming natural and instinctual. She is the product of her influences and still original.” Currently winding down her most recent tour, Natalie Prass plays Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Loamlands, out of Durham, N.C., open the show.

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Don’t Miss Blake Mills Tomorrow Night at Music Hall of Williamsburg

July 29th, 2015

A musician’s musician, California native Blake Mills is a talented dude, ably working as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and composer. And even if you don’t know his name (yet), plenty of big names in music do. “Eric Clapton recently called him ‘the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal.’ The producer Don Was says he is ‘one of those rare musicians who come along once in a generation,’” according to the New York Times. Mills founded his first band, the Dawes precursor Simon Dawes, with high school friend Taylor Goldsmith. When the group broke up, Mills went on to play in Jenny Lewis’s band and to tour with Band of Horses, Fiona Apple and Lucinda Williams, while managing to find time to do session work with the likes of the Avett Brothers, Norah Jones, Kid Rock, Neil Diamond and Lana Del Rey. As a means to drum up more session work, Mills (above, performing “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me” for Public Radio International) put out his debut solo album, Break Mirrors (stream it below), in 2010, which led to him scoring producing work with acts like Conor Oberst, Alabama Shakes and Sky Ferreira. His sophomore effort, Heigh Ho (stream it below), arrived last year to some impressive reviews: “It moves through musical eras and genres without ever sounding out of place, too clever, or at all clumsy. Mills is as centered as a songwriter as he is a player and producer. There is nothing extra here and that’s as it should be. Heigh Ho puts on offer much of what he’s learned these past four years, and displays it all with acumen and openness,” per AllMusic. Currently winding down an East Coast swing, Blake Mills plays Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Local jazz guitarist Julian Lage opens the show.

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Natalie Prass Brings Acclaimed New Music to Rough Trade NYC

February 5th, 2015

Natalie Prass grew up around Virginia Beach with an affinity for music and art, which led to her attending the famed Berklee College of Music. But it didn’t exactly take, so she left Boston and ultimately settled in Nashville. Music City ended up being the perfect home for the singer-songwriter, who, while biding her time, had ample opportunities to work on her craft. She’s recently been out on the road backing Jenny Lewis, but even more currently, Prass (above, performing the catchy “Bird of Prey”) saw her long-awaited, acclaimed self-titled debut full-length (stream it below) arrive last week on Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb Records—although the album was actually finished in 2012. (Prass and White were childhood friends.) Despite the wait, critics have been absolutely knocked out. Pitchfork gave the LP its Best New Music label, and Paste magazine declared, “Over nine songs, Prass shows a range in songwriting, from anthems to confident R&B burners to whimsical prairie folk to theatrical grandeur. It is the debut of a songwriter not struggling to find a voice, but fully formed and confident as all hell. She makes knowing nods to Joni Mitchell, Lesley Gore, Diana Ross and Joanna Newsom, all while seeming natural and instinctual. She is the product of her influences and still original.” In a couple of weeks, she’s off to Europe, but you can still catch her tomorrow night at Rough Trade NYC. Lady Lady and Small Wonder open the show.

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Jenny Lewis Entertainingly Shows Depth at Terminal 5

November 6th, 2014

Jenny Lewis – Terminal 5 – November 5, 2014

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(Photo: Eddie Bruiser)

In the years since Jenny Lewis’s band Rilo Kiley broke up, she has become a bona fide solo artist, honing and sharpening her songwriting skills and delivering her lyrics with a signature hint of twang and melancholy. In support of The Voyager, Lewis’s latest solo record, last night the artist treated a sold-out Terminal 5 to a lively, rainbow-hued evening of material from the album, complete with crowd-pleasing detours down memory lane to some Rilo Kiley favorites.

As an onstage presence, Lewis is confident and eminently jovial—strutting and posturing playfully during “Just One of the Guys” and “The Next Messiah,” and regaling the crowd with a comedic story that inspired to the vacation-gone-awry song “Aloha & the Three Johns.” Lewis’s fun-loving stage persona during these moments was an interesting counterpoint to the themes within much of her musical output over the years—songs that explore a cynical or wistful take on love and marriage, personal insecurities and perceived failures. The inner life that emerged in these songs added a layer of depth and intrigue to the stage show’s cheerful pop veneer while also providing a nice hint of irony during certain moments, particularly when large colorful balloons cascaded down on the crowd like giant gumballs as Lewis sang “Love U Forever,” a song with subtext far bleaker
than the title suggests.

Lewis closed out the night with The Voyager’s “She’s Not Me,” a completely catchy breakup song with an easy-listening vibe that nonetheless simmers with a certain sadness on the album. Yet when Lewis performed the number last night, smiling and dancing with her band, it felt much more empowering, almost triumphant—another example of the performer’s many understated complexities. —Alena Kastin

(Jenny Lewis plays the Space at Westbury tonight.)

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A Top Five Look Back at 2013

January 10th, 2014


Ten days into the New Year, The House List looks back at 2013 with some Top Five lists.

My Top Five Favorite Shows
1.
The Postal Service, Barclay Center, June 14
My decade-belated live date with the Postal Service finally culminated at Barclays Center, where rabid fans, like myself, roared as Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello hit the stage. As if acting out lyrics from “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Jenny Lewis shimmied close for the duet. Old friends reunited onstage never felt so good.

2. Haim, Webster Hall, September 3
I was late to this bandwagon, as fellow House List contributor Alex Kapelman shortlisted Haim last year for his Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year. I knew I was in for a good one when I could barely find a spot in the rafters to catch the three sisters, who charmed with their onstage banter and wicked musicianship

3. Jessie Ware, The Bowery Ballroom, January 17
Straight off her Jimmy Fallon taping backed by the Roots, the British songstress elated the crowd with her effortless, down-to-earth stage demeanor. Her star quickly rose with American audiences, as she sold out shows at Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza throughout the year. I was glad to have caught her earlier in the more intimate venue.

4. Basia Bulat, Bowery Ballroom, November 23
I’ve been a fan of Basia Bulat since I heard her cover Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” This show on a cold night wasn’t sold out, which made me a little sad since she’s quite the talent. But those who were there were enraptured by her prowess on autoharp to the point that you could hear a pin drop during her solos.

5. Daughter, Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Somehow Elena Tonra manages to disguise heartbreak behind soulful lyrics and melody. She has a knack for turning happy dance songs into somber endeavors. The band mashed-up Bon Iver and Hot Chip’s “Perth/Ready for the Floor” that evening. Check out Tonra’s somber retake of Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” for further proof. —Sharlene Chiu

My Top Five Shows I Never Thought I Would See
1. Desaparecidos, Webster Hall, February 26

Desaparecidos (and really any Conor Oberst project) were my bread and butter back in the early aughts, and for a while they seemed to be a one-off, a politically minded side project firmly planted in the past. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the global state of affairs remains messed up enough for the band to regroup to write protest songs for a new decade. It was a nostalgic, sweaty and inspired performance.

2. Shuggie Otis, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 19
Shuggie Otis began putting out music in the mid-’70s, followed by a long period of laying low. Content to groove along to songs like “Ice Cold Daydream” at home, I never really thought about the possibility of a Shuggie Otis tour in 2013. But when I found out, I was there. And “Ice Cold Daydream” is even better in person.

3. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Bowery Ballroom, July 6
Instead of discovering the Flamin’ Groovies in a smoky San Fran club in the ’60s, I was introduced to their catchy psychedelia on a Nuggets compilation more than 30 years later. Who’d have thought they’d still be going strong in 2013 and that I’d be dancing right alongside some old school fans at this fun summer show.

4.  John Prine, Beacon Theatre, September 26
John Prine has been active since the early ’70s, but unlike Shuggie Otis, he never really went away, writing and recording songs at a steady pace throughout the years. But I still always thought of him as an artist too legendary for me to see in person—or that tickets would be too out of reach. But John Prine put on an amazing show, highlighting his singular skills as a songwriter and storyteller.

5. The Julie Ruin, Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 25
I was late to the party for the original riot-grrl movement, but I became an admirer of Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna during her time in Le Tigre. She’s dealt with some debilitating health issues in the past few years, but I had no doubt she’d continue to make art and music. So I was happy to learn of her latest project, the Julie Ruin, and her energetic show did not disappoint. —Alena Kastin

My Top Five Shows
1. Yo La Tengo, Town Hall, February 16

I don’t like to pick a favorite, but my last.fm account tells me I’ve listened to Yo La Tengo more than any other band since 2007. At Town Hall, they performed an acoustic set and an electronic one, doing two versions of “Ohm,” my favorite song of the year. And then I ran into Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! Had the Red Sox not won the World Series, this would’ve been my favorite night of the year.

2. Killer Mike/El-P, Webster Hall, August 14
I don’t care what anyone says: The best two rap albums of 2012 came from Killer Mike and El-P. And in 2013 they topped them, coming together as one entity, Run the Jewels. The night included a set from El-P, a set from Killer Mike and a combined set with both. El-P’s ingenious production plus Killer “I bleed charisma” Mike equals one concert I will never forget.

3. Foxygen, The Bowery Ballroom, October 21
With Foxygen it occasionally feels like shit could fall apart at any moment. And sometimes it does. But when their shows don’t come unhinged they deliver that sweet thrill of relief, like narrowly avoiding a car crash. And on this Halloween-themed night, the band made a weird show even weirder with homemade costumes and pseudo spooky vibes.

4. Steve Earle, Music Hall of Williamsburg, May 8
You can just tell some people are genuine, and Steve Earle is certainly one of them. Forever wearing his heart on his sleeve, that same energy bleeds right into his music, which he played alongside what he’s calling “the best band he’s ever had.”

5. Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, April 4
Not only are the Meat Puppets still kicking (after living through some serious shit), but also they’re thriving. And as much as I respect their legacy, seeing them play for more than two hours with the intensity you’d expect of a band 20 years their junior makes me respect them that much more. Long live the puppets of meat! —Dan Rickershauser

My Top Five Shows
1. Dessa, Union Hall, May 5

There are few performers I feel can move mountains with their vocal chords, and Dessa is one of them. This performance was an eruption of defiant lyrics and bold beats. A sizable crowd of young girls knew all of her lyrics, giving the show a chant-like feel. The only female member of Minnesota’s Doomtree collective practically vibrates with energy, and it’s completely contagious.

2. Kishi Bashi, Irving Plaza, September 12
Kishi Bashi sounds even better live than he does recorded. And he delivered a dazzling set with profuse vocal looping and an excellent backing band. Kauro Ishibashi has a supercharged, effusive aura, and his music embodies that persona. This set took a rowdy turn that involved crowd surfing, strobe lights and an outright jam session.

3. Panama Wedding, CMJ Music Marathon
I happened upon newcomers Panama Wedding three different times during CMJ: Initially, opening for NONONO at Mercury Lounge on the first night. Since the band had only released one song, “All of the People,” I was eager to see what would unfold onstage. Their set was so tight that I caught the fantastical pop group the following night at Pianos and then again at a showcase at Santos Party House.

4. You Won’t, Rockwood Music Hall, October 30
The live iteration of You Won’t is a spectacle to behold. I watched eagerly as Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri wielded a slew of instruments with ease, quickly fascinating the audience. The duo took their jaunty music into the audience a couple of times to break the barrier and enlisted some extra vocal support by encouraging us to all to sing along.

5. James Blake, Terminal 5, November 6
In this spellbinding live performance, complete with plenty of vocal looping and haunting electronica, James Blake made a cavernous room filled with people feel intimate. And that he’s such a dapper-looking fellow only helps boost his appeal. I’m still transfixed by this performance nearly two months later. James Blake’s music has some serious lasting effects. —Schuyler Rooth

My Top Five Shows with Regard to Lights, Visuals and Production
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Brooklyn Bowl, January 20

Kick-ass creative lighting
and Brooklyn Bowl don’t usually go hand in hand, but Umphrey’s McGee lighting guru Jefferson Waful turned the room into a thing of beauty.

2. Föllakzoid/Holydrug Couple, Mercury Lounge, March 21
What better way to enjoy some old school psychedelic music than with some old school liquid projections courtesy of Drippy Eye.

3. Plaza: Portugal. The Man, Irving Plaza, May 20
Freakin’ lasers!

4. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala, Terminal 5, October 1
It was almost as fascinating to watch the Lips’ spectacle getting set up as it was to see it in action—confetti, strobes, LEDs and, well, pretty much everything. And Tame Impala’s projections were no slouch either.

5. Phish, Atlantic City Boardwalk, October 31, November 2
Phish’s fall tour found lighting director Chris Kuroda playing the Willy Wonka of eye candy all over the East Coast. —A. Stein

My Top Five Albums
1. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
I’d only seen Phosphorescent once before listening to Muchacho for the first time. And while much of Matthew Houck’s previous work is country-tinged (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this album, ostensibly about a breakup, covers more territory, from the meditative sounds of “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, an Introduction)” and “Sun’s Arising (A Koan, an Exit)” to the jammy, driving “Ride On/Right On” to softer fare, like “Muchacho’s Tune,” all centered on Houck’s evocative voice. I still can’t stop listening to it.

2. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s third full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, comes off as a loving mash note to ’70s rock. You’ll hear bits of the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but the album expertly manages to sound like something whole and new rather than something derivative.

3. White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade
Upon the first couple of listens, I found White Denim’s latest, Corsicana Lemonade, to be too singer-songwriter-y, but I continued to give it a chance, and it opened up to something much bigger, with genre-hopping songs like “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” and “Pretty Green”—not to mention some searing guitar parts—grabbing me by the throat.

4. Futurebirds, Baba Yaga
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Futurebirds, out of Athens, Ga., before writing a preview of their late-May show at The Bowery Ballroom. But while listening to their second LP, Baba Yaga, as I wrote, I became totally enamored of the album—half twangy Southern rock and half spacey reverb.

 5. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I love Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze so much, that I can’t believe it’s only No. 5. Labeling it stoner rock, as many have done, is lazy. Although I supposed me calling it laid-back rock isn’t any better. But the fact of the matter is there might not ever be a better album to listen to while walking the streets of New York City with headphones in your ears. —R. Zizmor

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Haim Pack Webster Hall

September 4th, 2013

Haim – Webster Hall – September 3, 2013


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

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

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

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com

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The Postal Service: Worth the Wait

June 17th, 2013

The Postal Service – Barclays Center – June 14, 2013


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

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

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

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com

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A Second Chance to See the Postal Service Live

June 14th, 2013

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