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Archive for November, 2011

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

On “Swim Good,” one of the surprise hits from his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, Frank Ocean sings, “And I’ve got this black suit on/ Roaming around like I’m ready for a funeral.” The song, like most of his limited yet excellent output, is dark, complex and soulful. It also comes from an artist whose 2011 emergence rivals all others, going from unknown Odd Future crew member to almost instant popularity as a Watch the Throne collaborator.

Before a sold-out crowd at The Bowery Ballroom last night, Ocean performed in his aforementioned black suit with a red-and-white-striped bandanna. The hip and sophisticated costume drew attention, not only from fans but kingmakers in attendance. ?uestlove, seated on the balcony, felt compelled to comment on Twitter, saying, “@ffrank_ocean [sic] is a class act yo. Suit & Sade cover. Nice start.”

In addition to the Sade cover (“By Your Side”), Ocean sang a number of choice selections from Nostalgia, Ultra as well as a medley of his work on Watch the Throne (“No Church in the Wild” and “Made in America”). The diverse crowd knew most of his material, even unreleased songs familiar only to those who scour the Internet. But “Dissolution” and “Super Rich Kids,” both of which Ocean mentioned will be on his proper debut, are sure to be hits, and fans are right to take notice. So while Ocean was right about his outfit, he better not be ready for his funeral.

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

Early yesterday I watched the John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club. And of its distinctive elements, what grabbed me most was the music. Stylized and dated, it can now function only as nostalgia inducing. It would seem schmaltzy synth ballads no longer have a place in popular music. But the genius of M83 is its resurrection and retooling of that discarded period. Anthony Gonzalez, the man behind M83, finds a way to deepen and stretch the sound so much so that it sheds the ’80s and moves into the category of modern shoegaze—heavily affected and loud as fuck.

Last night at Webster Hall, Gonzalez, along with three additional musicians, created M83. I say create because on six studio albums—mostly recently Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming—the band is essentially a one-man job. But live, with a bassist, drummer and keys player, M83 is as expansive if not more so than its recorded material. From opener “Intro” to such songs off the previous album, Saturdays=Youth, like “We Own the Sky” and “Skin of the Night,” Webster Hall’s PA worked overtime to soak the room in sound. The ambition was audible.

Photo courtesy of Charles Steinberg

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Afternoon Playtonics,

Today you should check out my thirteenth post for Yotel NYC’s blog. I highlight some new music videos. Cool beans.

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

New is exciting. It breaks from routine and offers something different. When it comes to music, eager listeners latch onto new artists. This community supports potential, especially young talent. And on Tuesday night, a sold-out crowd poured into Mercury Lounge to discover Youth Lagoon. Trevor Powers, the band’s 22-year-old principal, speaks like he sings: softly and fragilely. Halfway through the set, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to visit New York City. Behind a keyboard, he, along with friend and touring guitarist Logan Hyde, played in near darkness, with only a dim red lightbulb to light their faces.

While Powers’ reverb-saturated vocals gave the illusion of being in a cave, dream-pop landscapes enveloped the room and a backing track supplied heft and driving purpose to wandering melodies. Performed live, songs from the debut full-length, The Year of Hibernation, received the acoustic space they deserve. Earnest songwriting isn’t new, and although I overheard an observer call Powers “an infantile Dylan,” he hardly fits the description. Excitement excuses genuine but misguided praise, and Youth Lagoon is for the moment.

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

As overused as the term psychedelic is when describing music, it’s worth noting that there’s a world of difference between music that might have a trippy-sounding synth line and music that carries listeners off into another world entirely. Wooden Shjips, drawing heavily on the latter, had its otherworldly sound on full display last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.

Specializing in hypnotic guitar drones that push listeners deep into the rabbit hole, the quartet takes psychedelic rock reminiscent of late-’60s California and gives it a noise-rock update. Their heady jams had much of the audience dancing in a limb-flailing go-go dance you might expect to see in footage from Andy Warhol’s Factory. The projections behind the band showcased the blend of these two worlds, replacing the usual multicolored swirls of ’60s psychedelic projections with black-and-white pulsating pixels that looked like a cross between television static and raining glitter. The projections at times seemed to swallow the band whole, displayed over its members’ white shirts and reflecting off what looked like a tinfoil cape hanging from Nash Whalen’s organ.

Showcasing a minimalist restraint, the real allure of Wooden Shjips’ sound wasn’t derived from any one part in particular but in how these sonic elements combined and interacted with one another. Distortion-heavy guitar solos ripped through the repetitive thuds of basslines, and Ripley Johnson’s reverb-drenched vocals cut through eerie organ lines like an incoming radio transmission. The expansive noise-hypnosis of Wooden Shjips contrasted nicely with the opener, Birds of Avalon. The Raleigh, N.C., foursome mesmerized the audience with jam-band grooves that took sudden and unexpected turns toward rock-the-fuck-out heavy guitar riffs. For a cold and rainy autumn night in Brooklyn, music invoking nostalgia for the sunnier yesteryear of the American West was a welcomed retreat.

Photo and Words by Dan Rickershauser

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For Yotel: Review: Breakbot

Afternoon Playtonics,

Today you should check out my twelfth post for Yotel NYC’s blog. I review Breakbot’s DJ set at Yotel. It was great!

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Afternoon Playtonics,

Today, my piece on Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels: Music From The Motion Picture was posted on the online music magazine Tiny Mix Tapes’ Delorean blog.

Lock, Stock is one of my favorite movies and I feel just as strongly about the soundtrack. Check out my post here.

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