Tag Archives: Kate Bush


Jesca Hoop Proves to Be a True Original at Mercury Lounge

March 9th, 2017

Jesca Hoop – Mercury Lounge – March 8, 2017

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


Julia Holter Is Impossible to Pin Down at Rough Trade NYC

October 26th, 2015

Julia Holter – Rough Trade NYC – October 24, 2015


Onstage Saturday night at her sold-out show at Rough Trade NYC, Julia Holter opened with “Horns Surrounding Me,” her strong voice evoking a touch of Debut-era Björk, punctuated by flourishes of saxophone, violin and a driving drum beat, and she scanned the crowd with an intense gaze as she sang, as if to make eye contact with as many people as possible. There is a powerful force contained within Holter’s music, with lyrics both straightforward and enigmatic, and a stage persona that oscillates between these extremes. For example, in prefacing “Silhouette,” from her latest album, Have You in My Wilderness, Holter stated matter-of-factly, “At the end I go crazy—like insane.”

To be fair, this manifested in a quite measured, subtle way, through the repetition of layered vocals and violin crescendo, with the true insanity perhaps contained somewhere beneath the surface. Later on, Holter used equally evocative language to describe “Lucette Stranded on the Island,” (“a horribly tragic nightmare song”) and “Have You in My Wilderness” (“another sad song about losing my mind”). So, yes, there is a healthy sense of drama and intrigue contained throughout Holter’s music, and it’s clear why she draws comparisons to experimental artists like Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom.

Yet, it is also understandable why she took offense to a journalist’s recent question about whether “she whistles when she is alone,” as Holter recounted from the stage last night. “How patronizing,” she commented, as if by her lyrics or music style she could be pegged as some sort of whimsical/quirky archetype. Closing the show with a powerful pair of songs, “Betsy on the Roof” and “Sea Calls Me Home,” Holter further proved that her compositions and style of performing are at once singular, strange, beautiful and impossible to pin down. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK





Aurora Stuns Rough Trade NYC with Gracious Talent

May 28th, 2015

Aurora – Rough Trade NYC – May 27, 2015

If one word were to come to mind upon seeing Aurora play her first headlining NYC show, it would be precocious. And if two words were to come to mind, they’d be Kate Bush. Four words: Florence and the Machine. The 18-year old wunderkind, Aurora Aksnes, who goes simply by her first name, brought all the trappings of youth beyond its years—her excellence both uncanny and inexplicable, begetting manifold musings of what the hell it was you were doing at that age, how little you knew or could do then, how little you know or do now. Of course, youthful talent does this to us all, reminds us of our irrelevance, our incompetence. The audience arrived at Rough Trade NYC last night to witness an event, surely, but also to experience the grave and exciting shame that it is to see an 18 year old peek from beneath her blonde hair at a room filled with strangers from across the world.

Opening the show with her arms crossed in front of her torso, Aurora cast the figure of a daunted farm girl, belying her intensity. Relying heavily on water imagery, the vagaries of symbolic suicides, Aurora and her band played “Runaway” and “Awakening,” the latter of which must hold a Kate Chopin reference point. But it wasn’t all fatalism. The singer looked out into the stage lights, expressing her gratitude, saying, “It’s quite weird to play in the States—having people come to your show—it’s quite nice.” The crowd hushed to the sound of Aurora’s dulcet and powerful vocals as she sang a cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” accompanied only by an acoustic guitar.

The set’s closing movement contained her best songs, “Under Stars,” the stunning “Running with the Wolves” and an untitled one that sounded so much like first-album Florence and the Machine that it should warm the hearts of Aurora’s label, Glassnote. She closed her set with a shivering rendition of Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” and a member of the audience summed up what everyone else felt with an audible and breathless “Oh, shit” at the song’s conclusion. Aurora had suitably embarrassed us all, willingly, graciously. —Geoff Nelson | @32feet


Lia Ices Celebrates New Album Tomorrow Night at Mercury Lounge

September 16th, 2014

Lia Ices writes, sings and plays the piano. She grew up in Connecticut but began making music in Brooklyn. And thanks to her voice, she was quickly compared to Tori Amos and Cat Power. Ices (above, performing “Love Is Won” for indieATL) signed with Jagjaguwar in 2010 and the label released her second album, Grown Unknown (stream it below)— which featured a duet with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon—the following year. Spin proclaimed, “Ices’ lush melodies and dreamy voice will convert skeptics and mesmerize supporters of Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom.” But as she began working on her next batch of songs, Ices was in flux: “I was beginning a gradual move to California, constantly traveling back and forth from New York. I was experimenting. I was falling in love. Our studio in the Hudson Valley was full of electronics and computers and the sounds of future ships sailing through the vastness of space, and I sometimes forgot where I was. The first songs we wrote were called ‘Flying 1,’ then ‘Flying 2,’ and so on, which eventually evolved into songs on the album. Flight became a metaphor for the ignition of the imagination. The process created a lightness in me, a freedom and positive energy that I’d never before felt or explored.” And what she ended up with was her third album, Ices (stream it below), out today, which the Guardian, in a five-star review, notes for its “luxurious fusion of spacious electronica, playful tribal pop and layers of breathy vocals.” Lia Ices celebrates her new album tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge.


Agnes Obel Proves to Be Worth the Wait

August 15th, 2014

Agnes Obel – The Bowery Ballroom – August 14, 2014

Unusual for the popular music vernacular, Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel floats through a landscape of pop divas and indie bands. She trained in classical piano at a very young age and was ensconced in a house filled with music, including a mother who was a talented pianist and father with a habit of collecting instruments. Her current residence in Berlin houses not one, but two pianos—a Grotrian-Steinweg and a Berdux. As if the pair weren’t enough, she’s also got a vintage house organ for good measure. Obel released her sophomore album, Aventine, last fall following the success of her debut Philharmonics. Although she was slated to play The Bowery Ballroom this past March, visa delays prevented her from arriving Stateside, but not to fear as she returned for a small three-city tour, which concluded last night at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom.

Clad in an iridescent and sheer black shirt, Obel took her seat behind a black Steinway as she opened with “Louretta,” an instrumental piece worthy of a period drama musical score. A river of trembling keys introduced “Fuel to Fire” before the Dane produced Kate Bush–like choral cooing. The pianist apologized to those March ticket holders and promised a special evening. Cellist Anne Müller later confessed that she was the one who hadn’t gotten her visa to travel to the United States. All was forgiven as the trio, completed with violinist Mika Posen (Timber Timbre), effortlessly weaved through both albums.

From the fluttery keys on the song about a bad temper, “Beast,” to a waltz of title track “Philharmonics,” the women hovered amongst the delicately played pieces to the joy of fans. Obel saved the best for last, offering crowd-favorite “Riverside,” as well as the new love song “Words Are Dead.” Although “The Curse” closed out the set, the three returned to encore with a pair: the vocally requested “Pass Them By” and a reimagined cover of folk blues singer Karen Dalton’s “Katie Cruel.” —Sharlene Chiu



Wye Oak Wow Webster Hall with a New Album and a New Sound

May 8th, 2014

Wye Oak – Webster Hall – May 7, 2014

Wye Oak – Webster Hall – May 7, 2014
After heavily touring in support of their previous album, Civilian, Wye Oak, the indie-rock duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, retired to their respective homes for a much-deserved break. With Wasner in Baltimore and Stack in Portland, Ore., the distance provided a different way of collaborating and uncovered a new sound. Wasner traded in her guitar for a bass, while Stack assumed his place behind synthesizers rather than a drum kit.

With the time off, their roles reversed. As Wasner explained in an interview, “It basically inverts what we were responsible for. Andy was playing drone-y basslines on keyboard. Now he’s responsible for the more upper register stuff that guitar would normally handle, while I’m playing basslines on a bass guitar.” Tossing aside the indie-folk label, the pair returned with their audacious new album, Shriek, to a welcoming crowd at Webster Hall last night. Opening with the new tune “Before,” Wasner took to her bass while Stack added some darting synths. It was a grand introduction to their new sound, and it was quickly accepted by the audience.

Shriek could be the summer soundtrack for lazy, hazy afternoons lounging by a pool or laying out in the park—perfectly exemplified by the slow-burner “The Tower,” while the title track that followed offered choral-like vocals. Not to disappoint fans, the pair played “Holy Holy” and “Plains,” from their breakout, Civilian. Wasner expressed their excitement to play the renowned venue before launching into “Spiral,” a one-off for Adult Swim’s Singles Program. Digging even deeper into their back catalog, the duo treated old fans to “Take It In” and “That I Do,” off 2009’s The Knot. With a quick exit and prompt return for an encore, Wasner announced they’d do a cover, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” before closing the performance with crowd-favorite “Civilian.” —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Ahron Foster | ahronfoster.com


Pop Music to Warm the Soul

January 23rd, 2014

Diane Birch – The Bowery Ballroom – January 22, 2014

Raised in the church, the daughter of a preacher man, singer-songwriter Diane Birch infuses soul into everything she plays. Her debut album, Bible Belt, introduced an artist with a resemblance to Carole King, but on her sophomore effort, Speak a Little Louder, Birch employs shadows and dance beats against her newer compositions. It’s as if she’s morphed into Kate Bush’s or Florence Welch’s little sister. The ’80s have undoubtedly influenced her follow-up: “I’m supernostalgic,” said the 30-year-old to the New York Daily News. “I have a hard time with things that are new. I actually used to think I was from another time, trapped in the modern world.”

After postponing shows in Boston the night before due to Winter Storm Janus, the Brooklyn-based singer played The Bowery Ballroom last night as her first performance of 2014. Coming from a Late Night with Jimmy Fallon taping, Birch donned gold hot pants, which warmed up those in the crowd who had braved the wintry elements. Opening with “Pretty in Pain,” she set the venue back in time—straight to the era of Flashdance. Birch played largely from her sophomore album, including its title track, but she did offer one off her debut, “Nothing but a Miracle,” delighting longtime fans.

Birch continued with a pair of covers, Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” For the latter, the lady of the evening requested the lights be dimmed in order to set the proper mood. She dedicated “Superstars” to her fellow singer-songwriters that have yet to reach the limelight before ending her set with the dance-beat-heavy “Lighthouse.” With the audience begging for more, Birch returned with “It Plays On” before sending everyone off warmed with soulful pop. —Sharlene Chiu


Chromatics and Glass Candy Have Them Dancing at Terminal 5

September 16th, 2013

Chromatics/Glass Candy – Terminal 5 – September 13, 2013

Glass Candy

Chromatics and Glass Candy not only share a penchant for entrancing electronic dance music with an edge, but they also share a band member (multi-instrumentalist and producer Johnny Jewel), making perfect sense for the simpatico groups to coheadline Terminal 5 on Friday night. Chromatics, a four-piece helmed by singer Ruth Radelet, opened the show with “Tick of the Clock,” which many may recognize from the film Drive. The slow-burning, atmospheric piece captured the mood of much of the group’s recent output—a pop sensibility with an air of mystery, as Radelet’s ethereal vocals float on the surface of dreamy synths and drift along the ebb and flow of the drums. Songs like “I Want Your Love” and “The Streets Will Never Look the Same,” were well-received by the swaying crowd, as was Chromatics’ take on Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” For their encore, over a blanket of ambient tones, Radelet took the stage alone, performing a delicate rendition of the Rodgers and Hart classic “Blue Moon,” before being joined by her band for “The River” and “In the City,” closing on an upbeat note.

In contrast to Chromatics’ often understated atmosphere, Glass Candy’s music is a bit off-kilter, with smooth dance beats occasionally giving way to a shocking discordant element—an unexpected yelp or scream by singer Ida No, or a particularly aggressive beat. From the moment No pranced onstage, barefoot and twirling her long ponytail as she danced, the duo expelled a contagiously brash energy. While performing the chilly disco of “Feeling Without Touching,” No jumped down off the stage to sing directly to the crowd, before crossing over the barrier and crowd surfing gracefully atop the eager audience. Once she had been carried back onstage, No seamlessly launched into “Life After Sundown” and “Warm in the Winter,” never ceasing her lively gyrations and, in her words, feeding off the crowd’s “East Coast energy.” After closing with “Rolling Down the Hills,” Glass Candy left us in the able hands of DJ Mike Simonetti (who runs both bands’ record label, Italians Do It Better, along with Jewel), which is a good thing, as it seemed no one was ready to go home yet, and the crowd continued to dance even after the lights came on. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Chris Becker | www.artistsweetsbecker.us


English Psychedelic Quartet Play Mercury Lounge Tonight

June 18th, 2013

In the ’60s and ’70s, Canterbury, in the district of Kent in South East England, earned a reputation as an important music scene (think: avant-garde jazz, psychedelia and progressive rock). And now a current band from the same locale is being hailed as the heirs to that Canterbury sound. Thanks to their “psychedelic funk rock,” Syd Arthur—Liam Magill (guitar and vocals), Raven Bush (violin), Joel Magill (bass) and Fred Rother (drums)—have become a band to notice. Their debut LP, On and On (stream it below), came out last year and gained the group some famous fans, most notably Paul Weller and Bush’s aunt Kate. Find out what the buzz is about when the psychedelic prog-folk quartet (above, doing “Edge of the Earth”) play Mercury Lounge tonight, their lone scheduled North American appearance for the rest of the year.


Julia Holter’s Musical Journey

September 4th, 2012

Julia Holter – The Bowery Ballroom – August 31, 2012

Experimental. Pop. Ambient. Indie. Electronic. Julia Holter spans a wide range of genres, creating a musical journey drawing on influences from classical composition to Middle Eastern beats. On Friday evening, Holter took the stage at The Bowery Ballroom with a sparkly skirt and handbag on her shoulder. Playing largely from her latest album, Ekstasis, she commenced with “Our Sorrows” and “Fur Felix.” Moving from pop sensibilities to the more languid strings of chamber music, Holter’s choral arrangement on “Marienbad” was reminiscent of one Kate Bush.

Although not confirmed, “Try to Make Yourself a Work of Art,” from Holter’s first
album, Tragedy, could be a commentary on her days as an art student at CalArts, where fellow alums like Ariel Pink and John Maus also graced the halls. Over a chattering crowd and clanging cymbals provided by percussionist Corey Fogel, it felt like an artist trying to get the attention of her peers. On conclusion, a fan yelped, “Love art!” Ah, art kids! After that walk down memory lane, Holter went into “This Is Ekstasis.” The title track derived from the Greek word meaning “outside of oneself” perfectly described the otherworldly nature of the evening.

At the night’s apex, Holter crooned the torch song “Moni Mon Amie,” moving from bittersweet delicate speak singing to operatic highs. Whether people were in attendance only to say they saw her when or were confused by her myriad musical personas, half the audience remained as Holter was bathed in spotlight, singing the lyrics “From heaven” from “The Falling Age.” Upon cellist Chris Votek’s final pluck on “Goddess Eyes,” Holter exited the stage, only to return for a final encore of “Sea Called Me Home,” from her Live Recordings cassette. She welcomed audience members to join in on the whistling section, with Fogel and Votek ready to provide lip service. As upon her arrival, Holter thanked the fans and left with her handbag on her shoulder. Girl toted a whole lot of melody and dissonance on a memorable evening. —Sharlene Chiu