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Archive for September, 2011

Afternoon Playtonics,

Today you should check out my sixth post for Yotel NYC’s blog. I reccount my music shopping experience in midtown. Educational!

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

Stephen Malkmus is an elder statesman of indie rock. With Pavement, his first and best-known band, he achieved critical and (somewhat) commercial success. But more important, he influenced a generation of music. His snarky, hyperliterate lyrics matched with meandering and playful guitar parts embodied Generation X—sarcastic, laid-back and smart. But with the desire to be more than a singularly defined musician, Malkmus went on to play with Silver Jews, attempt a solo career and start a new band, his current project, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.

It’s with this lineup, a quartet featuring Malkmus on guitar and vocals, Mike Clark on guitar and keys, Joanna Bolme on bass and Jake Morris on drums, that Malkmus now focuses his energy. And on Sunday night at Webster Hall, Malkmus brought the group to promote their latest effort, Mirror Traffic. Now in the 2Ks (as the new song “Tigers” labels this period), Malkmus still composes himself as assuredly cool. Tall, lean and with a mop of shaggy brown hair, he looks like a well-preserved version of his younger self. And standing off to the side of the stage, he engaged with his songs as a veteran does: confidently and professionally.

While playing through songs both old (opening with “Baby C’mon” and closing with “1% of One”) and new (material from Mirror Traffic, highlighted by “Senator” and “Stick Figures in Love”), the band looked to be enjoying themselves, especially Morris. The drummer, the most animated of the bunch, head-banged, cracked jokes and skillfully provided fills in otherwise unoccupied musical spaces. Outside of his enthusiasm, everyone else in the group let their play, rather than their manner, communicate the songs’ pungent energy. Malkmus’s guitar solos certainly showed technical proficiency, although their effectiveness came more from playing the right notes at the right time. More than 20 years of musical excellence makes such play second nature.

Photo courtesy of Mina K

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

Girls are a considerably different band than the one I saw two years ago. The nucleus, Christopher Owens and JR White, remains intact, but the lineup now includes Matt Kallman on keyboards, Evan Weiss on guitar and brother Darren Weiss on drums. They’ve also added three backup singers, Makeda Francisco, Skyler Lucas and Tracy Nelson. This effect makes for a huskier, fuller sound because the band is now more capable of creating sonic swells and large musical moments. And on Friday night at The Bowery Ballroom, their grandeur was on display for the second sold-out night of their tour supporting their new album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

The stage had a romantic sentimentality, with flowers woven through microphone stands, a counterpoint to Owens’ lovelorn lyrics. It is the uniqueness and intrigue of his tortured past—expressed in song—that makes Girls’ music so compelling. Otherwise, you’d have ’60s pop rock, appropriated for the present. But, with a set filled with highlights from the band’s output, including “Hellhole Ratrace,” “Lust for Life” and recent single “Vomit,” the crowd appeared wholly satisfied by the experience. And if the band decides to change once more, they’ll certainly have their fans’ unwavering support.

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

To see Deerhoof live is to experience the effects of a roller coaster. Their songs propel forward, turn back and mercilessly pound against time signatures. A musical moment lingers and another speeds away. Guitar lines wind and bass notes rise while the drums keep you fastened to the beat. And, like the most adrenaline-inducing rides, there is the fear of things falling apart; a trick manufactured by the clever designers. They’re aware of the human desire for safety, but deny the impulse, building and resolving tension in a careful balancing act. It’s dizzying in one sense, thrilling in another.

But sometimes roller coasters malfunction, and Tuesday night’s concert shared this likeness too. During one song, guitarist Ed Rodriguez’s high E string snapped. Greg Saunier, the drummer and founder of Deerhoof, appeared to have multiple instrumental difficulties. And, while lesser bands would let these snafus affect their performance, Deerhoof barely missed a beat. As Rodriguez replaced his string, Saunier ad-libbed a hilariously disjointed story to stall. His sense of humor and logic defying drum play stood out as the most impressive characteristics of the night. But, like a roller coaster, individual moments stand out less than the ride’s unforgettable excitement, and over a full set and two encores, Deerhoof created an extraordinary ride.

Additional pictures I took from the show after the jump: (more…)

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Afternoon Playtonics,

Today you should check out my fifth post for Yotel NYC’s blog. I review acclaimed DJ, producer and sound architect for Yotel Tom Middleton’s set for the Sound of the Cosmos Party. The post includes pictures and a link to stream the set. It’s worth a look and listen.

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Check out my fourth post for Yotel NYC’s blog. I highlight Lucid NYC, “a social event series that mixes a smart dynamic crowd with cutting edge innovators, performers, and emerging visionaries.” If you’re smaht, you should read on.

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Afternoon Playtonics,

Today, my piece on “Be My Baby” by Ronettes was posted on the online music magazine Tiny Mix Tapes’ Delorean blog.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how drum beats and instrumental parts are recycled. “Be My Baby” is kind of the OG of drum beats. Naturally, I decided to write about the song. Check out my post here.

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