Tag Archives: Neil Young

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Marlon Williams Brings His Stellar Second Album to Williamsburg

March 26th, 2018

Influenced by bluegrass, country, pop, rock and soul, New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams (above, performing “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore” live on KCRW FM) has been making dark, atmospheric Americana music as a genre-spanning solo artist since his self-titled debut LP (stream it below) arrived two winters ago. “The national acclaim he’s had is hardly surprising: It only takes a split-second to be won over by the power of his unusually well-crafted country voice. He recalls the likes of Elvis, and Willie Nelson and Neil Young without aping any of them,” raved Drowned in Sound. While Paste added: “The fact that this record was made in the Aughts and not in the ’60s is mind-boggling. Williams’ voice may as well have time-traveled and spent an extended vacation with classic rock’s finest. It’s an album that leaves you wanting another nine songs so you can hear the end of the ‘story.’” Following a breakup, he returned last month with his second solo studio album, Make Way for Love (stream it below). “Williams explores the full gamut of emotions, and that rich and resonant voice is the perfect vehicle,” said Exclaim. “The result is a stunning work that will draw you back to repeated, if oft intense, listening.” The people at American Songwriter were also impressed: “It’s a bold, eclectic and audacious approach to the bulging catalog of breakup ruminations; one that emerges from the crowded field and shows Marlon Williams’ talents are just beginning to blossom.” In mid-tour form, he rolls into Brooklyn to play Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Another New Zealand singer-songwriter, Tiny Ruins, opens the show. (Marlon Williams also opens for Brandi Carlile at the Beacon Theatre 4/5-7.)

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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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Chad VanGaalen’s Unique Voice Is in Fine Form at Rough Trade NYC

December 7th, 2017

Chad VanGaalen – Rough Trade NYC – December 6, 2017


Since 2004, Canadian singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen has been churning out records on his own terms. He generally plays all of the instruments, records the songs and even does the artwork for his albums. In fact, he may be more well known for his art as he is an award-winning illustrator and has animated all of his own music videos, plus some for other bands like J Mascis, Timber Timbre and Love as Laughter. Both VanGaalen’s music and his artwork take on a morbid sensibility as you can spot one of his songs right away from its detuned guitars, homespun recording quality and his high voice that often quivers like Neil Young’s ghost haunting an off season waterpark. He is truly a unique voice in today’s indie-rock scene and has put out a tremendous body of work that deserves more recognition. Playing New York City is generally pretty rare for VanGaalen, so his sold-out stop at Rough Trade NYC last night seemed all the more special.

The soul and post-punk fusion group Un Blonde opened the show, led by the eccentric guitarist and singer Jean-Sebastien Audet, who would stop his band at the drop of a dime with a single gesture and could ring out every ounce of soul from each song’s melody. They were extremely tight and VanGaalen even joined them toward the end of their set on flute for an extended free-jazz jam. And as soon as he returned for the headlining set, you could tell VanGaalen and his band were there to have fun. “We went to an arcade and got fucking wasted,” he joked with a playful smirk on his face. “We didn’t even play pinball! So is it cool if we just chill out?” From that declaration, it would be safe to think that this might be an off night for VanGaalen and Co. As It turned out, it was anything but.

The band played loose and heavy giving his bedroom DIY songs Sonic Youth–styled makeovers. VanGaalen’s voice was also in tremendous form, eliciting chills when he hit the height of his register. The singer-songwriter treated the crowd to much of his new album, Light Information, as well as career-spanning hits like “Clinically Dead” and “Heavy Stones.” VanGaalen’s main set ended with an extended noise jam during the Diaper Island track “Peace on the Rise,” which felt transcendent and inspired. For the encore, he played two numbers off his 2008 album, Soft Airplane, “City of Electric Light” and “Rabid Bits of Time.” The latter’s chorus, “No one knows where we go/ When we’re dead or when we’re dreaming,” sounded more triumphant than on record and was a truly powerful way to end the night. —Pat King | @MrPatKing

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Lukas Nelson Goes Real and Raw at Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 21st, 2017

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 20, 2017

Lukas Nelson, yep, Willie’s son, mmm hmm, sounds remarkably similar in voice, yada yada yada. We get that out of the way because it’s a little cliché by now, although Nelson certainly had to know what he was signing up for in the wake of his dad’s more-than-60 year career as a legend of country and popular music—and sounding a little, or a lot, like dear old dad ain’t exactly something to sweat. But the even better news is that Lukas is doing a damn fine job carving his own path while staying true to his pedigree: His music goes deep, sounds great loud or soft, tugs at downright Willie-like strands of universal truth and heartache, and is a rollicking good time, through and through.

Nelson and his stalwart band, Promise of the Real, closed a slam-bang tour last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, showing he and they have learned a lot from two musical fathers, Willie, of course, and also Neil Young, whose been backed by Promise of the Real off and on for the last two years. But the takeaway is that Lukas isn’t the second coming of either Willie or Young so much as the first coming of Lukas Nelson. His was a gutsy, emotional, genre-hopping set, heavy with material from Promise of the Real’s outstanding eponymous 2017 album, and full feeling at just over an hour and a half. Behind the throttle of a six-piece band that incorporated soulful keys as often as it did gnarly pedal steel, it was possible to call this good-time rock and roll without further pinning it down, although the show had everything from country and soul to ragged blues and bar-band boogie.

“Set Me Down on a Cloud” soared like a gospel tune, while “Four Letter Word” and “Die Alone” were roughed-up rock, sometimes in an early ’70s Stones vein. “Fool Me Once” was a Lukas tune that seemed to straddle honky-tonk and R&B, shot through with gorgeous organ. “Just Outside of Austin” sounded like Willie, but perhaps even more like Glen Campbell, unpretentious and introspective. Throughout, Nelson and team showed a knack for set-list composition, including a mid-show acoustic set and also throwing in some Tom Petty (an acoustic, slow-swinging “Breakdown” with superb crowd accompaniment and a thrilling “American Girl”), and, in perhaps an early Thanksgiving nod to The Last Waltz, the Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek” and Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” with opener Nikki Lane and members of her band. If there was a standout, it might have been the stand-back-or-get-bowled-over “Forget About Georgia,” which sounded like what old Willie might if he were in a howling mood and fronting Crazy Horse. It began as a bleary-eyed honky-tonk croon and, over 10-plus minutes, mutated into a wailing guitar squall. It was raw and real, no promises needed. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

Photos courtesy of Marc Millman Photography | www.marcmillmanphotos.com/music

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A Margo Price Storm Blows Through Rough Trade NYC on Thursday

October 20th, 2017

Margo Price – Rough Trade NYC – October 19, 2017


Predicting the next big music star is just about as easy as predicting the weather. Even with a lifetime of knowledge and the best instruments, you still get it wrong just as often as you get it right. But sometimes the barometer, thermometer, hygrometer and the Doppler radar all point to one obvious conclusion: It’s gonna rain. And for the crowd lucky enough to make it in for her All American Made album-release show at Rough Trade NYC last night, there was no doubt about the forecast, that’s Margo Price coming over the plain, a drought-killing downpour of talent and charm. Opening with “Nowhere Fast,” she perhaps subtly, perhaps subconsciously, was dressed as the Woman in Black, a modern-day outlaw country, with a more-than-meets-the-eye mix of soul, gospel, blues and funk to go along with the band’s considerable honky-tonk roots.

Price led her secret-weapons-grade band through the new album, the track order shuffled expertly to maximize the live-show experience. Pedal-steel-infused boot stompers like “Weakness” mixed in with gorgeous ballads. “Learning to Lose” hushed the hepped up crowd to near silence with Price’s voice filling the room, complemented by pretty guitar and pedal steel solos. She sneaked in the caveat that it was the first time playing a lot of the material live, but there was little sign of tentativeness or rust, quite the contrary. The songs showed off a bit of depth, both in sound—“Cocaine Cowboys” was as much Little Feat as Willie Nelson and “All American Made” was as much in the tradition of Neil Young as Loretta Lynn—and subject matter, songs about love lost and found replaced by deep storytelling with some social commentary proudly thrown in.

The band picked up steam and Price’s voice gained some extra torrential-rain power as they built the set to a head, finishing the album material with strong versions of “Loner” and the title track and then offering some crowd-pleasers to the already-quite-pleased sold-out crowd in “Tennessee Song” and “Paper Cowboy.” Here the band really flexed their muscles, drums and bass providing the thunder and lightning in a set-closing maelstrom, Price leaving the stage to applause while they rocked out for several minutes, just in case you hadn’t already appreciated their effort throughout the performance. That storm had passed as quickly as it had come, but for Margo Price, it’s easy to predict that it’s still just getting going. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Weaves Bring Brand-New Album to Rough Trade NYC Tonight

October 17th, 2017

Upon bonding over music after meeting at one of her solo performances, Jasmyn Burke (vocals) and Morgan Waters (guitar) began recording demos in the former’s Chinatown apartment in Toronto. As they continued to flesh out more and more material, the twosome became a foursome with the addition of Spencer Cole (drums) and Zach Bines (bass), broadening their sound and launching Weaves with the release of several singles in spring 2013. The four-piece soon became an important member of TO’s thriving DIY scene, AllMusic calling their music “sharp and angular, but with a genuine sense of fun and exploration.” Their eponymous debut long-player (stream it below) arrived last year. “Exciting Toronto outfit builds on deconstruction, a remarkable feat of explosive chemistry,” said Consequence of Sound. “Weaves have put themselves at a compelling intersection of pop, noise and rock. They’ve created their own unique sound, and their self-titled record features more than a handful of fun, exciting songs.” Weaves (above, performing “#53” and “Walkaway” for Stiegl Hidden Sessions Studio) returned with their sophomore LP, Wide Open (stream it below), last week, finding the “quartet immersed in the world of stadium rock, cribbing plenty of influence from the likes of Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen,” said Exclaim. “It’s a fairly drastic change, but one they’re able to effectively reconcile with their latent avant-garde tendencies.” The good people at DIY were also impressed: “Flinging open the entrance to yet more invention, there’s no stopping this lot spinning their oddball yarn.” Weaves make their last U.S. stop on their North American tour in Brooklyn tonight at Rough Trade NYC. Tancred open the show.

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Alt-Rock Icons Pixies Fill Space at Westbury with Dark, Jarring Rock

September 25th, 2017

Pixies – the Space at Westbury – September 22, 2017


Pixies don’t banter. They don’t do it slick. They don’t waste time. You wouldn’t call them nihilist, but their music usually paints in life’s darker corners, and they don’t mind some mess and abrasion in it. Sure, there’s nostalgia in the inevitable airings of big Pixies songs—“Wave of Mutilation,” “Debaser,” “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Where Is My Mind?”— but the band doesn’t serve them nostalgically: They mix with newer-era Pixies songs in a forceful, workmanlike way that can leave you brooding, rocking out or losing your balance. It may be 1989 or 2017, but your mind is in the moment.

That Pixies can still do this despite a major transition in their lineup—the departure of Kim Deal and arrival of bassist and multi-instrumentalist Paz Lenchantin over the last few years—suggests their service is to the music, which, save for backlight drama or a fog-machine blast or two, doesn’t rely on (or need) much spectacle to feel huge. Pixies strain everything from psychedelia and noise pop to country and blues through what might be called a classic “alternative rock” sound, and then scuff it up good. This isn’t and never has been comfortable, slip-on rock and roll. And that’s true even with the sunnier, more upbeat tone of their post-reunion records, Indie Cindy (2014) and Head Carrier (2016), whose songs are of a piece with the band’s off-kilter legacy material and slot in appropriately throughout a 90-minute-that-only-feels-like-20-minute show, the cultured Pixies weirdness still apparent even when dressed up in happy melodies.

At the Space on Friday, they launched into “Wave of Mutilation” and from there didn’t take much in the way of pauses, peeling off songs one after another: rockers, stomps, chugging metallic boogies. All in all, they got through about 30 of them, with standouts like “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Head Carrier,” “Crackity Jones” and “Um Chagga Lagga” mixing as ingredients in a spiked cocktail with the likes of “Velouria,” “Cactus,” “Snakes” and their gnarly version of Neil Young’s “Winterlong.” In some cases, the songs blurred together, around different sounds, around Frank Black’s piercing screams or Joey Santiago’s mighty smashing guitar, and that seemed to be the intended effect—a Pixies set is ultimately a panorama. Kind of a fucked up–looking panorama, maybe, but that’s life, as Lenchantin, Black, Santiago and drummer David Lovering would probably remind you. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

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Patti Smith Celebrates and Pays Tribute at SummerStage on Thursday

September 15th, 2017

Patti Smith and Her Band – SummerStage – September 14, 2017

“Most of these songs I wrote for Fred, with Fred or about Fred,” said Patti Smith last night on Central Park’s SummerStage. It would have been the 69th birthday of Fred “Sonic” Smith, Patti’s late husband and the father of her two children, Jackson Smith and Jesse Paris Smith. Patti Smith has been part of New York City royalty for decades now, her role in the art world, contributions to music and writing, her ability to find herself by chance in the midst of history’s cool and famous since she first stepped foot here in the late ’60s. But the intimate knowledge of her personal life is relatively recent news for her fans. Smith’s memoirs, Just Kids and M Train, share stories about the love and loss of her best friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, and her husband. They also let in the world on the person behind the art, her uncanny ability to find the sacred in everything and even just a good cup of coffee in a local diner. Knowing this is how she experiences the world made a noteworthy performance to honor and remember her late husband all the more special and intimate.

With her son on guitar and daughter on keyboards, Smith played through a catalog inspired by or written with her husband, gone since 1994 but an inspiration ever since. “Fred, this is the product of many day dreams,” she said as an introduction to “Because the Night” (written with Bruce Springsteen). Smith shared how “Looking For You (I Was)” was penned for their anniversary, a love song written for the city of Detroit, her home in the early years of her married life, written while she was in NYC. The show was full of memorials for others, too. Smith dedicated “Ghost Dance” to the activists who took a stand at Standing Rock; “Dancing Barefoot” to Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 34 on Thursday; “Peaceable Kingdom,” to Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart, who passed away earlier in the day; “Pissing in a River” dedicated to legendary writer Sam Shepard, a close friend who passed away earlier this year. Despite all of these memorials, the performance never stopped feeling like a celebration. Messages sprinkled throughout were delivered with a sense of urgency: “We are free!” and “The people have the power!” Later, triumphantly holding aloft her guitar, Smith yelled, “This is the only fucking weapon we need!”

These are the messages Patti Smith was born to spread. Joined by her now adult children, she  took some moments to try to embarrass them a little, noting her daughter’s willingness to always give her mom her bobby pins. She’s also still wickedly funny, ending some stage banter with: “What am I talking about? I just turned 70. You know when you turn 70 your mind works … in mysterious ways.” But she remains the no-bullshit punk rocker she always was, bringing out the rock and roll animal inside her to dominate the stage for the set-closing “Land.” Even when performing other people’s songs, like Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” the message felt as much hers as theirs. R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, a longtime fan and friend, joined Smith to sing happy birthday to Fred and also to close the show with “People Have the Power.” It was a perfect way to end a night that remembered a powerful artist and reminded everyone there of the most powerful message of all—delivered by the woman he loved. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks


Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | www.saponarophotography.com

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Maggie Rogers Returns to The Bowery Ballroom as a Performer

April 12th, 2017

Maggie Rogers – The Bowery Ballroom – April 11, 2017

Maggie Rogers – The Bowery Ballroom – April 11, 2017
When Pharrell takes an eye to an artist (and I’m not talking about his stint on The Voice), ears perk up. The celeb producer was enchanted by American songwriter Maggie Rogers’ track “Alaska” while teaching a master class at NYU last summer. Her anticipated EP, That the Light Is Fading, released back in February layers Rogers’ folk sensibilities with newly examined dance tempos she acquired living abroad. Rogers has the swagger of an Amelia Meath (Sylvan Esso) and the hymnal quality of Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine). Last night at The Bowery Ballroom, the first of two sold-out New York City shows, the singer-songwriter took center stage donning a custom white denim suit designed by Christian Joy. The room was filled with the chirping of crickets as Rogers opened with “Color Song” and her frenetic dance moves were unleashed.

After the dance-pop track “Dog Years,” the recent graduate offered a slow jam written for a crush entitled “Say It.” Wise beyond her years, Rogers pensively acknowledged not only how much has changed for her in the past year, but also the world itself. “Global grief hangs heavy as summer heat,” the first lines of “Hashtag,” rang especially true for the sunny front earlier in the day and the current political climate. She revealed that “Little Joys” was the first song she wrote in NYC and admitted the opening was inspired by Sharon Van Etten. Light on the material, a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” was reimagined with dance beats ebbing and flowing into the folk-rock classic.

Before the final song, Rogers became teary and choked up recounting the times she had previously been to The Bowery Ballroom as an audience member. She pulled herself together, saying, “I really love making music,” and culminated the evening with the track that had left Pharrell virtually speechless. No longer a fledgling songwriter, the world awaits the next chapter of Ms. Maggie Rogers. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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Son Volt Bring a True Sound to The Bowery Ballroom on Friday Night

April 10th, 2017

Son Volt – The Bowery Ballroom – April 7, 2017

Son Volt – The Bowery Ballroom – April 7, 2017
The Bowery Ballroom was packed on Friday night as fans eagerly waited for alt-country pioneers Son Volt to take the stage. Jay Farrar and Co. were in town for two sold-out weekend appearances supporting their new album, Notes of Blue, which finds the band mixing their rough-around-the-edges heartland anthems with a more bluesy sound. Opening the show, singer-songwriter Anders Parker eased the crowd into the night with a set of slow-burning ballads and fiery rockers. He said that a new album called The Man Who Fell from Earth arrives this week, describing it as a somber affair with Parker backed by just a pedal-steel guitar and a string trio. But he and his band opted to put some muscle behind the new material live, suitably spreading out the songs with guitar solos reminiscent of Neil Young in all of his ragged glory.

When Jay Farrar walked onstage and stepped up to the microphone to sing, “Today’s world is not my home” in his whiskey-soaked croon there was no mistaking what he meant. Ever since the dissolution of his partnership with Jeff Tweedy in the seminal alt-country band Uncle Tupelo in the mid-’90s, Farrar has been making records with Son Volt that strive for a similar gold standard: records that seem like they’ve been etched into stone and remain timeless if not out of step with the times. The new album was given the lion’s share of the set, but Son Volt managed to weave in some old favorites including the majority of their classic debut album, Trace, which, two years ago, was reissued for its 20th anniversary.

The band’s encore found them reaching deep for some Tupelo classics and Trace’s opening track, “Windfall,” which inspired the biggest crowd sing-along as the chorus “May the wind take your troubles away” rang crystal clear from the choir of flannel-clad fans raising their drinks toward the sky. Just when we thought it was over, and the audience began to thin out, the band returned to the stage for one more encore and played an exuberant cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Happy.” It was a real cherry on top of an already perfect night of rock and roll. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing

Photos courtesy of Marc Millman Photography | www.marcmillmanphotos.com/music

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Leif Vollebekk Investigates the Blank Spaces at Mercury Lounge

March 1st, 2017

Leif Vollebekk – Mercury Lounge – February 28, 2017

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

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

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

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Don’t Miss Kurt Vile and the Violators Tomorrow at Terminal 5

December 27th, 2016

Ever since amicably parting ways with the War on Drugs, following the band’s tour in support of their debut album, Wagonwheel Blues, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Vile has made a name for himself with a series of stellar EPs and LPs—that have blossomed from fuzzy, lo-fi affairs into spacious, atmospheric endeavors—done solo and as Kurt Vile and the Violators. Wakin on a Pretty Daze (stream it below), out in 2013, built on his earlier work and became a word-of-mouth hit. And with widespread acclaim, Vile’s most recent full-length, B’lieve I’m Goin Down… (stream it below), made waves among critics and fans alike when it arrived last fall. The Guardian called it a “terrific slow-burner,” and the A.V. Club said it’s “easily Vile’s masterpiece to date…. Kurt Vile loosens up as he continues his astounding roll.” And while Kurt Vile and the Violators (above, performing “Pretty Pimpin”) have earned comparisons to Neil Young and Crazy Horse for their recorded material, it’s probably even more apt for their fiery live performances. Catch one of those terrific performances tomorrow night at Terminal 5. Brooklyn psych-folk outfit Woods and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bowles open the show.

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Damien Jurado Mesmerizes The Bowery Ballroom on Sunday Night

November 7th, 2016

Damien Jurado – The Bowery Ballroom – November 6, 2016

Damien Jurado - The Bowery Ballroom - November 6, 2016
Somewhat quietly, Damien Jurado has put out some of the best albums (in my opinion) of the past few years, and just as quietly, he took the stage at The Bowery Ballroom on a somewhat quiet Sunday night to run through a bunch of his songs. This time around he was performing solo, just his voice and an acoustic guitar. But before he began playing, he told the crowd he was “very relaxed right now,” and that more or less set the stage for a mesmerizing set of music. The show went through several phases: The short opening portion, set off by “Working Titles,” with Jurado singing, “Many nights you would hide from the audience,” was very introductory. His mellow, deadpan chitchat evoked a slightly hipper Steven Wright as Jurado explained that he hadn’t put on his “show clothes,” looking quite indie folk in ripped jeans and a Sub Pop sweatshirt. The next section was punctuated by vivid colors from the overhead lights, each song gaining an aura from the hue—heavy orange adding a glow to “Kola” as Jurado evoked imagery of “your name across my smile,” and a cosmic blue for “On the Land Blues.”

As the crowd fell into a pensive silence, the music picked up a hallucinogenic halo, Jurado’s vocals hazy with a natural reverb and his guitar crackling with a percussive energy. “TAQOMA,” off his latest album, Visions of Us on the Land, basked in orange and lime green, a transporting psychedelic sunshine. For the next phase, Jurado pulled back, almost channeling an alternate universe Neil Young, the songs almost playing themselves, intense and at times personal. The crowd loosened up toward the latter part of the show, somewhat emboldened by the relaxed atmosphere and the honesty from the stage, and the final portion felt like a conversation between Jurado and the audience, an extended back and forth bounced from daylight savings to New York City to unique kid names to Seattle and maybe back again. A request for “Rachel and Cali” was quickly granted and proved to be a highlight bathed in pinks and blues. The encore included “Everything Trying” with another stunning image of “I’ll be Sailing on your deep blue eyes,” and Jurado responding once more, quietly exclaiming, “We’re all so weird, isn’t it great?” —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.com

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Catch Damien Jurado at The Bowery Ballroom on Sunday Night

November 4th, 2016

Surrounded by a city bursting with grunge music, Damien Jurado rose up in mid-’90s Seattle making a name for himself as an acoustic-folk singer-songwriter. More interested in blazing his own path rather than following the trail, he’s modeled his career after musicians with unpredictable discographies, like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Randy Newman—his work often filled with what AllMusic calls “concise, literate tales of quiet, everyday despair.” Recently, Jurado (above, performing “Exit 353” and “Kola” for Bird on the Wire) has been delving more into psychedelia, as witnessed on the ’70s-influenced trilogy of Maraqopa (stream it below), Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (stream it below) and this year’s Visions of Us on the Land (stream it below). “As works of mood-altering music go, Jurado has upped the dosage with Visions. It’s a harrowing trip, led by a guide who’s all too familiar with the territory,” according to NPR Music. And AllMusic adds: “It’s an intense and trippy odyssey, one that should make fans old and new appreciative of Jurado’s depth.” Make your weekend last just a little bit longer with Damien Jurado at The Bowery Ballroom on Sunday night. Doug Keith opens the show.

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Neil Fest – The Bowery Ballroom – September 14, 2015

September 15th, 2015

Neil Fest - The Bowery Ballroom - September 14, 2015

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com