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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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Torres Celebrates Her Birthday Early at The Bowery Ballroom

January 22nd, 2016

Torres – The Bowery Ballroom – January21, 2016

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Mackenzie Scott, better known as Torres, was brought up in Georgia as a Baptist and attended a Christian university. During that time, she recorded her first album, Torres. Scott then traveled to England to compose her sophomore full-length, Sprinter, the lyrics drenched in her religious upbringing. It’s exactly this openness that entices listeners to Scott’s haunting yet powerful voice. Torres’s bare, emotional pang harkens to singers like Sharon Van Etten (whom she’s opened for) and Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee). She wrote on her Tumblr, “Playing my favorite room in NYC, The Bowery Ballroom, two days before I turn 25. I am, to borrow the colloquialism, pumped.” So last night, Scott took to the stage of her choice venue, which she sold out, for an early birthday party.

Clad in white, Torres and her band opened with “Mother Earth, Father God,” from her self-titled debut. Apart from a two-year difference, the lyrics “In January I will just be 23” rang especially true on “New Skin.” Scott proceeded to hit her most recent catalog of songs from the pulsating, bass-heavy “Cowboy Guilt” to the crowd favorite “Sprinter.” The singer-songwriter seamlessly moved from heavy rock to hushed lullabylike coos. After a quick guitar change, delicate strums for a solo on “Strange Hellos” quickly blossomed into some serious shredding, causing the audience to erupt in applause. Torres couldn’t help but note that this was her favorite show and a homecoming of sorts making the evening extra special. A few fans punctuated the occasion with birthday wishes. Scott closed her set with “The Harshest Light” before returning to encore with an oldie but goodie, “November Baby.” Here’s to a most happy birthday, Ms. Scott. —Sharlene Chiu

 

 

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Waxahatchee Delight Music Hall of Williamsburg with New Music

April 10th, 2015

Waxahatchee – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 9, 2015

waxahatchee
“We’re almost ready,” said Katie Crutchfield, the real person behind Waxahatchee, having taken the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg last night in support of her new album, Ivy Tripp, her first on Merge Records. Crutchfield opened with “Breathless,” a methodical low-end keyboard progression featuring inscrutable lyrics like “Take what you want/ I’m not trying to be yours/ I’m not trying to have it all.” But even these limited ambitions wilted in the face of Waxahatchee’s very excellent new LP, named after an invented term that Crutchfield says stands for something like indecision, and a sold-out crowd waiting on whatever it was that the 26-year old singer would do. She may well live in half ways, the almost-ready, not-trying-to-have-it-all ideas that color her songs, but on this night, like so much of her recent career, Crutchfield enjoyed complete control and an audience willing to join her in whatever gray spaces she found between things.

Opening her set with “Under a Rock,” the Liz Phair–indebted second track from Ivy Tripp, and “Misery Over Dispute,” from her second LP, Cerulean Salt, Crutchfield transmuted Music Hall back to the mid-’90s. Fans with thick-rimmed glasses and sawed-off bangs nodded along. The set swelled behind “Lips and Limbs,” “Waiting” and “Lively,” all Cerulean Salt songs. Allison Crutchfield, Katie’s sister and bandmate, assisted on guitar and harmonies. The siblings leaned into each other invisibly on “Poison,” “Brother Bryan” and “Blue.” The latter two featured both sisters without an instrument, hands stridently at their sides, fists almost imperceptibly clenching and unclenching. The main set finished with Ivy Tripp’s closer, “Bonfire”—Katie Crutchfield has a thing for endings.

In the encore, she returned with her guitar but without the rest of the band. Someone in the audience yelled, “I love you,” and Crutchfield dryly responded, “You don’t know me.” And yet, in a limited sort of way, the crowd did know her. Her last three songs, “Grass Stain,” “Summer of Love” and “Noccalula” found the singer unadorned, alone, her best and barest self. The lyrics for that final number, the last song off Crutchfield’s first solo LP, American Weekend, rang out: “I’m going to New York/ I’ll be much better there.” When she wrote that, she couldn’t have known there would be hundreds of silent fans, some mouthing this very line, in the confines of the five boroughs. She wasn’t better last night at Music Hall than she would be elsewhere on the Ivy Tripp tour. But she was great in New York, as she said would be. She was ready, and for an hour, she had it all. —Geoff Nelson | @32Feet

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Two Nights of Don Giovanni Records Showcase in Williamsburg

February 8th, 2013

Joseph Steinhardt and Zach Gajewski were attending a Boston college when they founded Don Giovanni Records in 2004. The idea was to put out hardcore music they liked, with a specialization, according to Steinhardt, in “releasing music from New Brunswick, N.J., and the surrounding area (including Brooklyn and New York City), and attempting to level the playing field between those bands and bands on larger labels.” But these guys don’t just put out music—they also bring it to you. And this weekend, they’re bringing you plenty over two nights at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Tonight, Laura Stevenson (above, playing “Master of Art”) headlines alongside Jeffrey Lewis, Waxahatchee, Lemuria and Hilly Eye. And tomorrow you can see another packed lineup with Screaming Females, Black Wine, Stormshadow, Home Blitz and Shellshag.