Tag Archives: Sharlene Chiu

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Calpurnia Leave Them Screaming for More at Rough Trade NYC

January 16th, 2018

Calpurnia – Rough Trade NYC – January 12, 2017


If you’re Finn Wolfhard, life is pretty great. From playing Mike Wheeler on the Netflix binge-worthy series Stranger Things to a starring role in last summer’s cinematic reboot of Stephen King’s It, the 15 year old is riding high, but it doesn’t stop there. Boy signed a deal with Royal Mountain Records in late November for his band, Calpurnia. As they’re currently recording their debut EP, what they played at a sold-out Rough Trade NYC on Friday night was an evening of surprises. To fully set the scene, a gaggle of preteen girls lined the entrance to the performance space in the back. When the doors opened to the stage, the screams were palpable and would go on throughout the short, yet varied set. Although bassist Jack Anderson and rhythm guitarist Wolfhard took the lead addressing the crowd, lead guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe stood out thanks to her impressive prowess. Her look and skills had me thinking she could be the new baby Haim sister.

The Vancouver, B.C., quartet debuted material from their forthcoming EP, including the punky “Wasting Time,” and played a slew of covers. The Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now” was dedicated to Lou Reed and Hulk Hogan. I doubt half of those in attendance knew who Reed was. Certainly not the young ladies in the front swooning over the actor-singer, but perhaps their supportive parents in the back. Wolfhard confessed Calpurnia’s shared love for Twin Peaks before the band honored their label-mates with a take on “Butterfly.” The crowd sang along to Pixies“Where Is My Mind” in between extended squeals, of course. And Anderson throbbed the bass on a rendition of Weezer’s “El Scorcho” to close the set. A resounding “one more song” chant called the young band back to the stage to encore with a new original tune. Oh, what it’s like to be a teen again. —Sharlene Chiu

 

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The Killers Don’t Skip a Beat at Barclays Center on Tuesday Night

January 10th, 2018

The Killers – Barclays Center – January 9, 2018


Longevity in the music industry isn’t guaranteed, nor is a song that stays on the charts 13 years after its release. The Killers“Mr. Brightside” was the track that remained on the U.K. charts, and Noisy hypothesized a few theories why that might have been. It’s no surprise that frontman Brandon Flowers cited the U.K. as what broke their band during a time when the Strokes and the White Stripes ruled America. After more than 15 years of music together, the Las Vegas band released their fifth album, Wonderful Wonderful, last year to the glee of longtime fans. With guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer taking time off touring for family and to finish up college, longtime collaborators guitarist Ted Sablay and bassist Jake Blanton entered the lineup in their stead. Despite the change to the original quartet, the Killers didn’t skip a beat at a sold-out Barclay Center last night.

The stage converted into mirrored pyramid screens resembling an open shell perfectly displaying the band for the opener, the new LP’s title song. The staging played a big part in the performance with pink confetti showering the crowd during “The Man,” as old-timey neon Vegas signage projected in the backdrop. Flowers seamlessly weaved old favorites “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It” among more recent hits “Run for Cover” and “Shot at the Night.” He reminisced on the passing of the 10th anniversary of Sam’s Town, in which the Killers played to 1,500 people at the hotel/casino that provided the album’s name. The quartet covered Dire Straits“Romeo and Juliet” as an interlude before the appropriately paired “Runaways.”

Throughout the show, I marveled at hit after hit, especially my favorite, “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which I dare anyone to not chime in on the infectious chorus, “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” Flowers returned to the stage having changed into a gold suit and matching boots, as if channeling Elvis himself. With a recorded opening monologue by Woody Harrelson, the ageless singer climbed the stairs encoring with the downtown romp “The Calling.” It would not end there, rather deep cut “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” and the rousing “When You Were Young” were played before the closing song. You guessed it: the hit that managed to top the charts for over a decade. —Sharlene Chiu

 

 

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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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SZA Proves She’s Worth the Hype on Sunday at Brooklyn Steel

December 11th, 2017

SZA – Brooklyn Steel – December 10, 2017


The newly minted five-time Grammy nominee SZA has had a great 2017. Her response to her nominations on her Instagram account tells it all: “This entire thing puts my wildest dreams to shame. I️ dunno what to say cause I️ dunno how to accept its even happening to me lol ? I’ve never won anything in my life even until this week (THANK YOU SOULTRAIN AWARDS!!) it all just feels strange somehow BUT IM SO OVERWHELMINGLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS STRANGENESS!!” The singer only released her debut album, Ctrl, back in June, and it’s since gone gold, with two platinum-selling singles in tow. She performed both of them on SNL the evening before her very sold-out concert at Brooklyn Steel last night.

Jaunting onstage with a bright pink puffer coat, SZA opened the performance with “Supermodel.” She called upon a choir to join her, exclaiming that they might look familiar from their Saturday night debut. The singer then tossed off her coat to reveal a cropped tank, which, paired with yellow parachute pants, brought visions of TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. The discarded clothing was perfectly timed with the lyrics of “Drew Barrymore,” “Warm enough for ya outside baby, yeah.” After the first snowfall of the holiday season just the day before, the song resonated especially.

Prefacing “Normal Girl” with a poll of whether people in the audience knew they were popular in high school, SZA admitted she was not and that she tried to just be “normal.” The songwriter had an easy rapport with the crowd, even offering the front row bottled waters. The best were saved for last with SZA’s two platinum singles, the timely “The Weekend” and an extended version of  “Love Galore.” She capped off the night with the melodic lullaby “20 Something,” which was the age range of the majority of the folks piled into the former manufacturing plant. On the cool, crisp evening, fans flooded out onto Frost Street with an uplifted spirit from a truly gifted performer clearly at the cusp of breaking wide open. —Sharlene Chiu


Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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St. Vincent Shines Bright at Kings Theatre on Sunday Night

December 4th, 2017

St. Vincent – Kings Theatre – December 3, 2017


It’s been a decade since Annie Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent, released her debut album, Marry Me. In the span of 10 years, she’s released four more albums, not including Love This Giant, the collaborative record with David Byrne. Her latest, Masseduction, has St. Vincent revealing what she’s admitted is her most personal work, “I told you more than I would tell my mother.” After a breakup with model Cara Delevingne, Clark confessed she is in “deep nun mode,” focusing her energies into work promoting the album and touring. The enigmatic artist played the second of two sold-out shows at Kings Theatre on Sunday night.

Clark’s short film, The Birthday Party, precluded the performance, as a breadcrumb to the evening’s unveiling. The cinematic piece is all about the reveal. Beginning with “Marry Me,” Clark took her position to the left of stage with the curtain drawn ever so to the right. With each passing song through her back catalog, the curtain slowly opened to fully showcase a V-shaped setup with the singer at its center. The audience rose to their feet on “Cruel,” and remained so for the entirety of the show. The singer really seems to have found a home in New York City, and offered “where all the freaks come to be alright” to the crowd before barreling into “Digital Witness.”

There was a brief interlude for a wardrobe change and for a platform to be added to the stage before the latest album was played in order. Clark traded in a hot pink patent-leather bodysuit with matching thigh-high boots for a silver dress and sea-foam green armbands. Recent singles “Pills,” “Los Ageless” and “New York” commanded the strongest response, especially for the latter. Clarke personalized lyrics for Brooklyn, singing “Brooklyn isn’t Brooklyn without you, love/ Too few of our old crew left on Flatbush/ And if I call you from Graham Avenue.” Imposing video footage largely curated by collaborator Willo Perron framed the guitarist throughout the evening, further highlighting her command of the stage as unparalleled. No band. Just her. On the evening of the supermoon, it was arguable what shown greatest. —Sharlene Chiu


Photos courtesy of DeShaun Craddock | dac.photography

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Benjamin Clementine Proves How He Got to Carnegie Hall on Thursday

October 6th, 2017

Benjamin Clementine – Carnegie Hall – October 6, 2017


How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice—but for Benjamin Clementine it was more than just that. The British singer, poet and artist grew up in London before moving to Paris as a homeless teenager. While spending a considerable amount of time there busking on streets, he immersed himself in the French music and art scenes. His talents did not go unnoticed, eventually garnering a joint license contract with Virgin EMI, Capitol and Barclay. On the heels of the release of his sophomore album, I Tell a Fly, Clementine graced the hallowed stage of Carnegie Hall on Thursday, donning a fitted metallic suit. He and his accompanying band dressed in blue jumpsuits, ambling barefoot in circuitous routes around the sparse stage.

Clementine’s guttural opening of “God Save the Jungle” had the audience cheering from the start, and he followed that with the theatrically orchestrated “Phantom of Aleppoville.” Between songs, the meditative walking continued as the statuesque singer roamed between the guitarist and drummer platforms. Cellist Barbara le Liepvre was draped in an American flag during “Jupiter,” as Clementine sang, “Wishing Americana happy/ Wishing Americana free/ Ben’s an alien passing by/ Wishing everyone be.” The piece felt more like an art performance, and the band’s participation did not end there. The group linked hands on “Quintessence” as they rounded the stage.

There was no piano when the set began, but that was remedied during the encore as one was wheeled out. The best was truly saved for last, in fan favorites “Cornerstone” and “Adios,” but it was the Clementine-commanded sing-along on “Condolence” that unified the evening. Granting his request for the stage lights to go dim, Clementine led the room in a collective chorus of “I’m sending my condolence/ I’m sending my condolence to fear.” On an eve of a full moon, the night concluded with “I Won’t Complain,” which was the perfect review. —Sharlene Chiu

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Catch the Tallest Man on Earth with yMusic Live at Pioneer Works

September 18th, 2017

Although diminutive in stature, Kristian Matsson is the Tallest Man on Earth with a booming voice that commands even the biggest of stages. The Swede has a knack for luring in listeners with his delicate, composed songs that are often accompanied by just a guitar or a piano. It’s no wonder Justin Vernon plucked him out of relative obscurity to tour with him in 2008, an opening slot that led to the first solo Tallest Man on Earth American tour. Since then the singer-songwriter has produced four studio full-lengths and his latest release is a gem of an EP with the chamber ensemble yMusic, aptly titled The Tallest Man on Earth with yMusic (stream it below). The album revisits material from Matsson’s There’s No Leaving Now (stream it below) and The Wild Hunt (stream it below) LPs, as well as a cover of Joan Baez’s “East Virginia.” Matsson first played with the genre-straddling collective back at the 2015 Eaux Claire Festival in Wisconsin. (Watch the Tallest Man on Earth performing “Rivers” with yMusic, above.) He has no plans to release a new long-player this year or to do much touring, but he will make a rare live appearance with yMusic at Pioneer Works on Wednesday and Thursday (the latter is already sold out). —Sharlene Chiu

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Joseph Entertain Music Hall of Williamsburg with New Music

September 18th, 2017

Joseph – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 15, 2017


Sisterly vocals aren’t exactly a new thing. In fact, there’s already the Andrew Sisters, the Secret Sisters, First Aid Kit, the Staves, Haim and plenty more. So what’s another band of sisters to add to the ever-growing group? The sisters Closner—Natalie, Allison and Meegan—formed a trio when then solo Natalie (now Schepman) recruited her twin sisters to join her on the new project that birthed Joseph. Hailing from Portland, Ore., their namesake also comes from the band’s home state and the town where their grandfather lived. The sisters swung into Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night after a recent release of their Stay Awake EP earlier this month.

Against a backdrop featuring the band’s name, the siblings charged the stage with “All,” off the latest release, followed by the soaring harmonies of “Lifted Away.” The EP was played in its entirety, as well as several tracks from their sophomore full-length album, last year’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not. Whether intentional or not, the sisters dressed differently, perhaps to reveal their unique personalities: Allison in an oversized white button down and lined pants; Meegan in all black cropped top and high-waisted pants; and Natalie in a flowing blouse and ripped jeans. This mesh of fashion could be translated in their music from the dance-pop “SOS (Overboard)” to the bittersweet ballad “I Don’t Mind,” sung to aching perfection by Meegan. Natalie shined on protest-worthy “White Flag,” emphatically stamping her feet to the chanting chorus.

Newer material like “50, 60, 80” was welcomed, while two covers especially enraptured the crowd. A rendition of Tears for Fears“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was in response to our current state of affairs. Natalie explained in an interview to NPR: “In all honesty, it feels like the house is falling down around us, but the lyric ‘holding hands while the walls come tumbling down’ resounds in our minds. We hope that our music can be a force of togetherness when it seems like everything’s trying to divide us.” The sisters added their own lyrics to the ’80s hit to bring positivity to our embattled nation: “Make the most of freedom and pleasure/ All I know is take care of each other/ An open door, a seat at the table, there’s enough to go around.” After opening the show, Bailen returned to the stage for a closing cover of the Rolling Stones“Moonlight Mile,” and the sisters put the night to bed with an encore of “Sweet Dreams.” —Sharlene Chiu

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Aussie Trio Middle Kids Play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday

September 14th, 2017

After a solo stint, singer Hannah Joy joined forces with guitarist Tim Fritz and drummer Harry Day to form the deliciously addictive Middle Kids. In the spring of 2016, their debut single, “Edge of Town” (above, performed on Conan), made an impressive impact, garnering praise from none other than Elton John and heavy play on Triple J in their native Australia. The three have since released a self-titled debut EP (stream it below) earlier this year and have been busy touring Australia, America and Europe. Back in April, Rolling Stone shortlisted the group as one of the 10 New Artists You Need to Know, describing their sound as “heartfelt, clever ruminations at the intersection of indie rock and alt-country.” NPR listeners also placed the group on the recent “Your Favorite New Artists of 2017 (So Far).” So don’t sleep on your chance to catch this rising act before they release their forthcoming debut album. Middle Kids play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night. Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ski Lodge opens. —Sharlene Chiu

 

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Big Thief Close Out Two-Night Run Back at Home in Brooklyn

September 13th, 2017

Big Thief – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 12, 2017

Big Thief, a local Brooklyn band, have done a lot in two years, from releasing a debut album, Masterpiece, in spring 2016 to dropping their follow-up LP, Capacity, just this past June. Lead vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s song delivery anchors the band, while guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivchenia provide the exclamation marks. They’ve been touring nonstop this summer in support of the latest release, including their recent debut at the Newport Folk Festival and a swing through Europe.

Last night, Big Thief played the second of two shows this week at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Lenker wore denim overalls, while Meek favored a more traditional tweed vest and pants combo. The band had the crowd rapt early as they offered up two favorites, the slow-burning “Masterpiece” and the longingly aching “Shoulders.” There was little banter from the soft-spoken lead singer, but her musical voice said enough.

Lenker’s attempts to fill the space between numbers became odd ruminations on dinner, so instead she stuck to her plaintive songs to charge the room. A preemptive surge of applause greeted the first chords of “Mythological Beauty,” and the second album’s title song earned an equally fine reception. The set concluded with the delicate lullaby “Orange,” which was followed by an encore with a guitar-less Lenker crooning “Mary.” —Sharlene Chiu

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Gillian Welch Digs Deep at the Beacon Theatre

August 3rd, 2017

Gillian Welch – Beacon Theatre – August 2, 2017


Recently NPR released an article on the Top 150 Albums Made by Women spanning all genres of music from folk, soul, rock, pop and more. Gillian Welch at No. 39 was a particular gem sandwiched between the Staples Singers and Odetta. Welch’s rise came after a resurgence of country-blues thanks to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and has stood the test of time with her continuous touring. It’s been more than five years since the release of The Harrow and the Harvest, and that milestone perpetuated the singer to tour in support of a special vinyl release. Welch and longtime musical partner David Rawlings rolled into the ornate Beacon Theatre Wednesday evening to regale fans by playing the album in full.

Literally going from the opening track, “Scarlet Town,” to the fittingly conclusive “The Way the Whole Thing Ends,” the pair apologized for the many minor-key songs, but no one in the audience seemed to mind in the least. The singer charmed with her footwork on “Six White Horses,” as her two-step served as percussion for the rollicking number. A short intermission followed the conclusion of the album’s completion, and the duo returned to serenade the room with more woeful ditties, including “Wayside/Back in Time” and the ultimate crowd-pleaser, “Revelator.” Welch’s magic is truly in her partnership with Rawlings, whose mastery of the guitar perfectly phrases her heartbreaking lyrics. The guitarist took center stage to debut a new track from his upcoming release, Poor David’s Almanack, which the two will be touring behind next.

Many of their recordings have been touched by greats like Johnny Cash, who inspired “Dry Town,” and Doc Watson, whom the songstress addressed before performing the traditional “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor” during the encore. Welch saved the best for last with the aching “Orphan Girl,” and Rawlings’s fluttering guitar showcased on “Look at Miss Ohio.” The pair dug deep into their musical roots for the hymnal “I’ll Fly Away” by Albert E. Brumley, which evoked handclaps all the way up to the balcony. To wrap the evening with a proper farewell, the two covered the famed June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash hit “Jackson.” From one timeless country union to another, Welch and Rawlings continue their more-than-two-decade partnership with no end in sight. —Sharlene Chiu

 

 

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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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Jay Som Thrills Sold-Out Rough Trade NYC with New Songs

June 7th, 2017

Jay Som – Rough Trade NYC – June 6, 2017


Better known by the stage name Jay Som, DIY wunderkind Melina Duterte crafts melodic, fuzzy masterpieces from her bedroom in Oakland, Calif,—and she released her debut full-length album, Everybody Works, in March to glowing reviews. NPR described it as a “gorgeous and messy intimacy [that] has the capacity to forge connections with those who might be going through similar uncertainty and tough times.” After touring with fellow Asian-American female singers Mitski and Japanese Breakfast last summer, Duterte headlined a sold-out Rough Trade NYC last night in support of her latest release.

Guitarist Oliver Pannell, bassist Dylan Allard and drummer Zachary Thomas Elsasser joined the singer onstage to open with “One More Time, Please.” Her compositions really flourished with a full band, as Allard added heavy basslines on the Fleetwood Mac–sounding “Turn Into.” Four songs in, Duterte joked that “Take It” would be the last tune, eliciting a roomful of grumbling quickly followed by laughter. The Left Coaster continued her playful banter, asking folks about who was gainfully employed and lauded them with a “sick” reply in admiration, a nice segue into the title track.

“Baybee” played up the pop influences, which perhaps were derived from her listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion while writing her recent album. Fan fave “The Bus Song” had the packed crowd singing, “But I hate the bus,” before Duterte cooed the chorus of “Take time to figure it out.” The short but ethereal “Lipstick Stains” performed solo had the audience rapt, and the performance culminated with an encore featuring the uproarious “1 Billion Dogs,” in which Pannell and Duterte exchanged licks in a dueling guitar battle. —Sharlene Chiu

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Nick Hakim Celebrates New Album at The Bowery Ballroom

May 18th, 2017

Nick Hakim – The Bowery Ballroom – May 17, 2017


Brooklyn-based Nick Hakim grew up in Washington, D.C., and matriculated from the famed Berklee College of Music before settling in New York City. He has a throwback feel to his vocals, with R&B grooves and good ol’ Motown sensibilities. Jazz influences are also heard, which makes sense as he recently completed a short residency at the Blue Note. And his pair of EPs, Where Will We Go, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, have garnered considerable praise. Hakim’s upcoming full-length album, Green Twins, was born in a Brooklyn bedroom, and he’s described its influences as “if RZA had produced a Portishead album.”

Last night—two days before his LP’s release—Hakim graced the stage of The Bowery Ballroom. Opening with the title track, he quickly enraptured fans as his mellifluous voice lulled the room. The singer-songwriter managed to dip into his older material, producing “Cold” and the crowd-pleasing “I Don’t Know.” Hakim had lost his glasses and remarked that he couldn’t see, but who needs to see when you have an R&B voice that transmutes hefty doses of soul. Guitarist Joe Harrison took the “oldie” away with a soaring solo.

Midway through the set, pianist Jake Sherman offered up a heavily Auto-Tuned rendition of the Beatles“Yesterday.” The remainder of the performance was largely an introduction to his soon-to-be release, from the lilting “Needy Bees” to “Farmissplease,” which had the audience bopping to the percussion. There would not be an encore, but it’s plain to hear that the the Brooklynite’s neo-soul styling’s ushered in a unique take for this summer’s soundtrack. —Sharlene Chiu

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A Frenzied Thursday Night Goldfrapp Dance Party at Brooklyn Steel

April 28th, 2017

Goldfrapp – Brooklyn Steel – April 27, 2017


For well more than a decade together, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have crafted a lineage of dance music heavily drenched in synth pop. And their seventh album, Silver Eye, is no exception. “Silver Eye’s tracks have a sincere, blunt-force feeling that’s new and closer to the actual core of their musical identity. It’s like Kiss taking off the makeup, but, you know, good,” cleverly positioned Pitchfork. Goldfrapp followers are aware of a past that floated from disco beats to romantic pastoral hymns, but even more memorable are Goldfrapp’s performances donning a Marlene Dietrich look to dreamy frocks paired with long curly locks. For the group’s second performance at the barely month-old Brooklyn Steel, she graced the stage with an appropriately metallic ensemble.

A pair of tracks from her debut album, Felt Mountain“Utopia” and “Lovely Head”—had longtime fans in early elation before a survey of the latest album. Her newer pieces were nicely adorned with visuals ranging from the celestial for “Anymore” to ocular rings on “Ocean.” There was a fair amount of warning about strobe lights before going through the doors, and that was for good reason as the singer was backlit the entire evening with pulsating lights to animate her frenetic dancing. Goldfrapp paused the set to exclaim, “I’ve been here a week and love it. I wanna move here.” Yes please! A continuation of newer material rounded out the second half of the set with the robotic “Everything Is Never Enough” and tribal distorted voices on “Become the One.” The warehouse erupted for the recent single “Systemagic” as the sea of bodies pumped to heavy bass and were quickly lulled to a dreamy sway for oldie “Number 1.”

Despite a botched wardrobe change due to her current outfit being “stuck on,” the best was saved for last as Goldfrapp returned to encore with a quartet of fan favorites starting with the intoxicating “Black Cherry.” A keytar emerged on “Shiny and Warm,” and iPhone lovers held up their phones high for “Ooh La La,” which was featured in one of the product’s commercials. “Strict Machine,” with its thumping reverb, capped off the night sending a frenzied audience out onto the streets of East Williamsburg. —Sharlene Chiu