Saturday, 11 October 2014

Justin Currie Interview - New York 2014

I did this for Free Williamsburg, original piece here

Justin Currie City Winery

Justin Currie's current US tour just took in his first ever Brooklyn show, at Rough Trade in Williamsburg (20th of September), and also included a stop at City Winery (23rd of September). As singer/songwriter in Del Amitri and now into his third album as a solo artist, Currie has ran the gauntlet in a 30-year career.

A slight mix-up means we end up talking before the show at City Winery on Varick Street instead of Rough Trade, it's my first time to the venue and while I tend to prefer beer stained walls and sticky floors to refined wooden decor and expensive wine, it's readily apparent that the venue treats the artists well.

Del Amitri's self-titled debut album, released in 1985, is begging to be rediscovered by a new generation hungry for arty indie-pop (think Orange Juice meets The Smiths meets Television. I know, I hate lazy reference points too, but it's as good as all those band's best moments). If that pricks your interest, at the bottom of this post you can listen to the band's John Peel session from 1985.

After the debut, Del Amitri's sound moved in a more traditional direction and they scored a string of top-40 hits in the UK over the course of 5 albums (1989-2002) including Nothing Ever Happens, Always the Last to Know and Tell Her This. In the US, Justin is mostly known for Del Amitri's top-ten radio hit, Roll To Me; it's one of those time-old examples of "this song is not really representative of the band's output". Regardless, let's not downplay the beauty of a good pop song, however throwaway it may be. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Justin Currie's ability to write moving lyrics for the lonely, heartbroken, misanthropic and disenfranchised; sprinkled with just enough hope for us all to carry on.
It has been a fairly busy 18-months for Currie; recording and releasing his third solo album, Lower Reaches, in Texas with producer Mike McCarthy (who has produced the likes of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and Spoon) before a reunion tour with Del Amitri saw them play their first shows in 12 years. That tour has now spawned a live album (the band's first), which you can pre-order here.

Free Williamsburg: Was the show at Rough Trade the first time you’ve played in Brooklyn?
Justin Currie: It was, the first time we’ve really been in Brooklyn. I’ve done various bits of promo, but never wandered around and never had a hotel in Brooklyn which we do this time and was great. I walked the Brooklyn Bridge on a day off, which was hellish… packed with tourists. I just wanted a bit of lower Manhattan as it had been a while since I’ve been here. But I kind of wish I’d just stayed in Brooklyn, there’s enough real people still there and plenty of nice places to hang out. I ended up in a Polish neighbourhood on Manhattan Ave and thought “hey, New York, hello!”, and then I had a wee wonder around the wealthier neighbourhoods either side of where we were staying in Downtown Brooklyn and not all of it was completely up its arse. I saw some real beautiful tenements around Prospect Park.

FW: Certainly East of the Park is still fairly untouched.
JC: I was West of the park, obviously fairly rich people live there, but it wasn’t as insufferable as say, the Upper West Side and things.

FW: Obviously Williamsburg as well has changed a lot over the years…
JC: It was the hip place to be 15 years ago “Oh, Williamsburg, wow”…

FW: Yeah, unfortunately now my favourite venue in the city, Death By Audio, is closing in November, which is a real shame. It’s the nature of the city, really…
JC: It’s the nature of capitalism! If they don’t have good housing stock, they knock them down and build for the rich. The poor and the artists get moved around from pillar to post every decade.

FW: It’s almost like you can’t even have a music venue anymore – this venue (City Winery) is obviously a restaurant and a winery, you played Rough Trade the other night which is a record store and there are various other mishmashes. There’s a dwindling market for just going to see bands play.
JC: It’s not enough, it doesn’t have added value.

FW: You’ve talked about the virtues of boredom in the past. After recording a solo album, playing shows with Del Amitri and now a solo tour of the US, you must be having a terrible time!
JC: Haha, well, I still haven’t been that busy. Busier than normal, but I was supposed to come to the US in April so I would have come off the Del Amitri thing, got pissed for a week and then rehearsed for this. Which I did, and then it got postponed so I ended up with two months off, so I wrote a couple of songs but just went to the pub. So yes, I was sufficiently bored that I got bored of going to the pub! I do like being busy, but I do stand by the idea that being bored is an absolute pre-requisite for doing anything remotely interesting.

FW: Your third solo album, Lower Reaches just came out in the states on Compass Records and comes with a couple of bonus tracks, can you say something about those songs?
JC: Well I really hate putting bonus tracks on records, because there’s a reason why they’re not on the album. I spend a lot of time, as everyone does, over the sequence and that sort of stuff, it just buggers that up, but they insist on it. I’m glad they’re out there but I had to stick them at the end, because I wasn’t going to rejig the whole bloody thing. It’s a bit irritating because I still have that puritanical idea that Sgt. Pepper is Sgt. Pepper and you don’t put Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane on just because it was recorded at the same time, they aren’t part of that story. But, fuck it, what’s the point in being precious in this day and age.

FW: And there are a couple of new Del Amitri tracks that you just posted online, what time period are they from?
JC: It could be any time before 2008, me and Iain did bits of writing and recording from 2003 onwards. We started out trying to go real out there and making a radical sort of electronic record. To the point where Iain would randomly program bits of midi and then loop snippets of that, but the more we did that the more it started to just sound like Del Amitri with synths which was a bit odd. No-one really liked any of it apart from us so it never got released. I think we’ll just end up putting them on soundcloud. I mean, nobody listens to them but at least they’re sort of out there. The songs sounded like us but the production didn’t so no-one wanted anything to do with it.

FW: I remember some of the songs from the time; Thaw Freeze Thaw in particular was a great song.
JC: It is a great song, there’s a load of great songs, about 18 in total and I really like all of them, and Iain really likes them, but nobody within our structure relates to them. There’s tonnes of stuff in the vault from the late 90s and early 00s that we should really just put up there for our own amusement.

FW: I always thought you’d be a great box-set band, but I suppose the re-issues (Waking Hours, Change Everything and Twisted) from this year curtailed that?
JC: Yeah, there’s more of that stuff that has never been released but is now being released, much to my irritation. You meet people who have those things or know about those things and you feel a kinship with them because only a few people have got them. But eventually everything will be available all the time. Having any editorial process over what you release, and the status of what you release… that’s a b-side and there’s a reason why that’s a b-side… it’s impossible. It’s possible now that streaming media rules the industry that a really obscure track by a famous band could end up as the most played thing that they have. I suppose that’s ok, but it’s also odd if you’re anally retentive control freak like a lot of people are.

FW: It’s a bit of a double-edged sword as well, especially with Del Amitri fans. Not many people just like Del Amitri, if you like them at all they’re one of your favourites, if not favourite. The fans who were at last night’s show will be here tonight, singing along to all the obscure tracks.
JC: I really like all that, and as we were saying before, and I hope this doesn’t sound disingenuous because it isn’t… but I really love Del Amitri and I always have. Before we did the first gig on the reunion tour I almost burst out crying because the whole thing was filled with so much emotion. So when I meet people like that in bars, I’ll happily talk to them like a fan, because I know all that stuff as well. Iain not so much, he thinks a bit differently, maybe it’s because when you write the lyrics you have a bit more feeling for them. I think if I were to lay awake at night I can probably just about remember every lyric I’ve ever written, so I can always have those conversations with super-freak fans and quite enjoy it. It’s quite stimulating because you just think “oh, I’ve got the same tastes as you”, haha… strange.
Justin Currie City Winery 2
City Winery, NY - 23rd of September 2014
FW: If Every Song’s the Same is to be seen as a challenge or a wish to be impressed by something then you’ve certainly had that this year with Withered Hand (New Gods) and Sun Kil Moon (Benji). What is it about those records that really stand out?
JC: You’re the first person who has noticed that’s what the song is about, people think it’s about teaching people to write a fucking song! I just find... I don’t really listen to lyrics because I don’t find lyrics that interesting, but when they are really interesting your ears prick up, you think “fuck sake, I’d better give that a listen”. So this year has been unusual for me, I knew the Withered Hand record would be great because I loved the first record, but I was really surprised by that Sun Kil Moon record, it knocked me sideways. They’re very different lyrically, but they both sound autobiographical which I like. But you can go a decade without hearing a record with really good lyrics that you say to someone “listen to the fucking lyrics”. I’m not a particularly big hip-hop fan and I don’t know an awful lot about hip-hop, but part of the reason I was listening to it in the 90s was because no-one was writing lyrics except for hip-hop artists. Everyone else was writing Oasis-type hits. So yeah, Sun Kil Moon was a real surprise. Bill Callahan also usually writes interesting lyrics, a bit more abstract and mysterious but I do always enjoy those records, just something to think about.

FW: The Sun Kil Moon record is just… it’s a massacre! I’ve never known so many people to die on an album.
JC: It’s amazing, and you kind of think it’s all true, maybe it isn’t and doesn’t matter but it’s quite remarkable. He pulls it off as well, there are some funny bits on it too, like I Love My Dad… it’s just an astonishing record. It’s one of the few records that I’ve ever bought that I’ve listened to five times in a row straight away.

FW: Death is a theme in your lyrics at points but it’s not so in your face, is it a subject you’re deliberately subtle about?
JC: I haven’t experienced that much death, you think about it more as you get older I think. I’m 50 this year and one of the common themes with people I’ve spoken to around 50 is, you don’t really mind so much if you die than if you’re under 50. Certainly when you’re in your 30s you seem to have so much more to do that you’re really terrified of dying. Obviously I’m terrified of getting ill but I’m not terrified of dying because I feel like I’ve had an amazing fucking life. But everybody’s parents start dying so you do… it becomes a more frequent thing. You just try to turn it into a nice metaphor that people can hum rather than oh woe is me. It’s that poetic conceit; most poetry is concerned with love and death and beauty and that’s about it and at the end of the day so is songwriting really. A lot of the early rock and roll records, blues records especially are about dying, so it’s not a morbid thing, it’s just a very fascinating thing to get inside and finding ways of singing about it, you can write love songs about it.

FW: And some of the Withered Hand music is basically just pop.
JC: Yeah it’s really indie pop and great lyrics, it’s quite unusual.

FW: I think that’s the perfect combination, you have something that sounds beautiful but when you scratch under the surface a little…
JC: Yeah and that’s great because you can have hits, and the people that really get it will love you. Like REM’s Losing My Religion has a nice mandolin but the lyrics are quite elegiac. I wish I could do that, I’m at an age now where I find it almost impossible to write fast songs, I actively force myself to write fast songs and they often sound a bit shallow. So yes, I’m quite jealous of Withered Hand haha.

FW: You played with him recently didn’t you?
JC: I did! I did it because I was asked but it was a real honour and I got to hang out with him and he was dead funny, really nice, great night.

FW – In terms of writing songs, you seem quite prolific in the number of songs you write, but there is usually a few years between actual releases.
JC: I’m a lot less prolific than I was, I don’t really count how many songs I write. But I don’t obsess about not writing, so if I don’t write a song for a year I’m not going to beat myself up about it. If you don’t have a band or a record company waiting for you to deliver the material, you don’t write those songs that you feel that you have to write. And I’m quite happy not to write them. They might have commercial appeal but I’m not really concerned about that. I’d love to have hits for fucks sake, but I’m glad I’m not in a position where I feel I have to write hits, it’s a young man’s game because you’ve got that energy and desire to get yourself heard.

FW: Have you ever been asked to write for other people?
JC: No and I don’t think… the stuff I write doesn’t tend to get covered either because I don’t think it translates very well. I don’t think I’ve liked any of the covers I’ve heard. Although there are a couple of good ones of Driving With the Brakes On; one is quite a lot better than Del Amitri, it's by an Australian country singer. I’ve been stuck in rooms with people who don’t have commercial careers and it’s just painful and I just turn it down now. When there’s a co-write it just means that you write the song and they put their name on it, which I find galling.

FW: So at this stage are you looking to just record an album and then find distribution for it?
JC: What I do next I don’t know, don’t have a fucking clue what to do next. We spend less and less money on every record and we made less and less money, it’s like vanity publishing, it doesn’t have any validity really. I’m quite happy to make records for nothing.

FW: It seems like people have to perform these days to make money.
JC: Yeah, I mean I can only really make money in the UK and only once or twice a year but I can’t really do that forever so it’s a bit of a mystery as to how you turn it over. And I’m not complaining because I live off past glories and royalties, I feel sorry for people that didn’t have that stroke of luck. But those royalties eventually run out and I can’t really do anything else so I have to figure out a way of… whoring my ass to make a living because I really don’t want to do anything else, like working in restaurants, I’m too old for it. So yeah, fuck knows.

FW: You see a lot of bands these days just going the nostalgia route, which is fine, everyone has to make a living, but I personally tend to want to see bands doing new material.
JC:  Yeah, that Del Amitri thing we did we were really worried about that but we ended up finding the nostalgia quite gratifying. We thought about doing a new record but no-one would put any money up for it and we wouldn’t make anything back after the costs to record it, it would have felt really forced. But that being said, if we’d had a year’s work of Del Amitri stuff without new songs it would have gotten pretty stale pretty quickly. The three weeks we did was fine but even towards the end I thought even though we have a lot of material it could have gotten very old very quickly. It was great fun and we got paid pretty well for a couple of gigs and I’m very grateful for that, but yeah without doing one or two new songs you just start to feel like you’re a jukebox.

FW: I flew back to the UK for a couple of shows and I thought they were fantastic.
JC: Which shows?

FW: Oxford and London.
JC: Hammersmith was great, and the audience was quite drunk which was a good laugh.
del amitri hammersmith
Del Amitri - Hammersmith, London - 7th of February 2014
FW: Oxford can definitely be a bit sedate…
JC: Where was that… The Apollo?

FW: Yeah, well it’s the New Theatre now.
JC: I can’t really remember that show actually to be honest…

FW: hahaha
JC: The one disappointing thing about that tour was that only Hammersmith Odeon sold out, well Glasgow oversold but it’s a big venue so they just keep releasing tickets. But none of the other gigs sold out and we were hoping that if they did then we’d get put on some festivals in the summer and that would have been great but that didn’t happen. But we knew that was a risk and I’m glad we did it because it was really good fun.

FW: It must be hard to gauge after 12 years, what the demand would be like?
JC: Well we had no idea, we just didn’t know how many we would sell. The previous tour was tough in the south playing to half-empty theatres. We were fine in the North but Brighton was hard, Southampton, etc, so we really didn’t know. The Glasgow thing was a real surprise because it was the most people we’d headlined to ever and it was a frighteningly big crowd so we were kind of shitting ourselves. But we pulled it off, thankfully the audience all stood up and they were great in a difficult venue so in some ways it was a success, it depends on your view.

FW: How much thought do you put into your setlists each night? I remember on the Can You Do Me Good tour that a few people booed after you played Jesus Saves, do you worry about playing something like Falsetto somewhere in the middle of America, for example?
JC: Did they? Fantastic. No, I would never think about that at all. I just assume that someone who comes to see someone like me, even if they were a rampant republican they’d be liberal enough to understand the nature of free speech. The only time I’ve ever been barracked was in Belfast, we used to do the Undertones song You’ve Got My Number Why Don’t You Use It, and I introduced the song by saying it was by a band from Derry and someone throw a 50p coin that hit me right in the forehead, for not saying it was a band from Londonderry. That really infuriated me, fucked me right off, but yeah I never have to think about stuff like that, it’s not an issue at all.

FW: Obviously the referendum (a vote for Scottish independence from the UK) didn’t go the way you hoped…
JC: Well you say it didn’t but it did six months ago because I was really against independence. But the debate became way more political than I thought it would. I thought it would end up being about nationalism, patriotism and all that fucking shite. But it wasn’t, it was just politics, and the politics of the left, the proper left in Scotland, not the fucking labour party, the sort of radical and progressive left in Scotland including the greens and the socialist parties (not the unions), they were talking total sense. I couldn’t disagree with anything they were saying. So I did the opposite of what the UK national media were accusing scots which is “vote with your head and not with your heart”, my heart was saying stay in the UK, but politically the only way we could get what we want in Scotland is by being an independent country. So it was my head that said we’ve got to vote yes, it became so obvious. And it happened to huge swathes of my generation, who originally thought “no fucking way we’re voting for independence, fuck the nationalists”, but then we got into it big time. That sort of momentum made us all rather stupidly think “fuck, this might actually happen, this could be amazing”, in a way it has been amazing because people are joining the green party and I think it’s pushing the SNP party to the left. The Scottish Labour Party might be over now which is great because they’ve had a virtual hegemony in the councils and become very corrupt and not very representative of the people they’re supposed to represent. It’s really woken up the possibility that it’s not inevitable that we’re going down this ghastly, free-market liberal capitalist road to utter perdition, there might be another way. I’m just sorry that there wasn’t a landslide for Yes, which there would be if they held it in another 10 years.

FW: I was amazed at the turnout.
JC: The postal vote turnout was something like 97%, out of almost 750,000 who applied for postal votes, which is unbelievable. I didn’t vote in 1997 when I would have voted Labour but I was away in LA and I didn’t want to postal vote, and that was an important election, when the tories got kicked out. And the media were a bit slow to realize how big it was, in the last few weeks, everyone was talking about it.

FW: I feel like it’s a bit easier to run a positive campaign about something, saying “yes we can” is easier to sell than “no we shouldn’t”…
JC: Yes, and I was very skeptical about that as well, I didn’t buy into all that. I was asked to participate in a few debates representing No, which I was quite happy to do because I used to be a No. I didn’t in the end partly because I don’t do public speaking, I can’t really think on my feet, but also because I couldn’t find enough convincing arguments for No, most of them were emotional and my feelings towards England, which is a cultural and emotional thing but not a political thing. It was hard, there was no real vision in the No campaign, if there had been a better leader of the Labour party in the UK and could envisage what would happen in the next 20 years and say “look, Europe’s going to move to the left, you want to stay in the UK, don’t worry about UKIP” then I think I would have voted No, but no-one was saying that. Milliband didn’t do anything until the last 2 weeks, by which time he’d lost a third of the Labour vote in Scotland, and I supported Ed Milliband’s fucking leadership, how wrong was I!

FW: Yes, it’s sort of, not even the best of a bad bunch, there’s not really a lot to choose from right now…
JC: Well, a friend really liked Andy Burnham and thought he was the man to go for. At least it wasn’t David Milliband who was just another Blair-ite… but I don’t even know what Ed Milliband stands for or represents anymore.

FW: My only worry about the referendum was if Yes had won, England might fall into a perpetual Conservative leadership.
JC: That did worry me but then I looked at the figures and all of the Labour governments since the 50s would have had a majority anyway without Scottish votes. I don’t really see a divide between England and Scotland apart from a bit of a cultural one. And I felt I’d be betraying the English left by voting Yes, but then I thought that wasn’t true. If anything it would energise the left in England and actually wake them up, so that was another thing that convinced me.

FW: What’s the actual day-to-date like on this particular tour?
JC: It’s been pretty easy so far and we haven’t had any long drives just yet, we’re heading to Chicago tomorrow, but there’s been a lot of time for wandering around so it’s been quite pleasant.

FW: Chicago has always been a good city for you and Del Amitri.
JC: Yeah, Del Amitri always did well there and the last solo tour I did a place called Lincoln Hall which was really great, so I’m looking forward to it.

FW: Last tour you just played Joe’s Pub here and a couple of shows in LA, so this is your first full tour of the country?
JC: No no, the last tours I did technically tour for three weeks, but I did a few shows out East and then flew to Chicago and Milwaukee and then flew West. So I didn’t do anything in the South, but I’m not really doing anything in the South this time, other than Texas. So I have done both coasts and a few in between, but this time we’re driving which is good because we get to see the country.

FW: A friend of mine was impressed that David Garza appears throughout Lower Reaches.
JC: Yes, Daveed, he’s a lovely man, he gave me a copy of his latest solo record which is really good and has a couple of fucking brilliant songs on it. He was good company for me because he’s a bit nearer my age than the other musicians and gave some advice on (producer) Mike McCarthy and the way he works. He’s great, very talented.

FW: I’ve heard he’s quite an enigma when performing live, you never know what you’re going to get.
JC: As a session musician he never plays the same thing twice which is great because you record everything and choose what you want, everything he plays is very interesting. You can tell he’s quite a madcap. He had a couple of brilliant Bob Dylan stories that I will always thank him for which I won’t repeat haha

FW: Did you pick the players on the album yourself or was that Mike McCarthy?
JC: They were sort of run by me because they played on Craig Finn’s (The Hold Steady) solo record that Mike produced, which I enjoyed and noted him as a potential producer, so I knew what they sounded like and didn’t have any worries. Your major worry is if they’re going to cross that taste barrier into some area that you find difficult and how do you shepherd them back to something a bit more tasteful, but they were all great. The refreshing thing about younger players is that they’ll play something that sounds exactly like Keith Richards or Ringo Starr, and we won’t do that because we think “fuck, can’t do that”, but they don’t give a fuck. That’s refreshing because actually, that’s what I like about Ringo Starr because he does that. Getting a guy of my age to sound like someone else, they just won’t do it, even though they probably are playing like someone else and don’t know it, but if you ask them to play like Robert Fripp they just think “oh fuck off”.

FW: Would you go that route again or self-produce next time?
JC: I doubt it, it just costs too much money. I’ll probably go back to something like the first record but I honestly don’t know. Thinking about trying to collaborate with somebody...
*At this stage there is a knock on the door, we’ve already overran and Justin is due to record some songs in the basement of the venue, which you can watch below.*
JC: Oh, sorry…
FW: No, no, thank you very much. I feel bad that I’ve taken up your time!
JC: Not at all, not at all, I was enjoying that!

Follow Justin on Twitter and Facebook (both of which include a great tour diary). Purchase Lower Reaches here.
Justin is currently on tour in the US, remaining dates and ticket links are below:

Del Amitri Peel Session - 1985

Photos by @Chris_Quartly

Monday, 23 December 2013

My favourite shows of 2013 (and my list of 154 in total)

After listing my favourite albums of 2013 I thought I should list my favourite shows, and a complete list since I managed to get to 154 in total!

I won't elaborate too much but here is my top 10:

Deerhunter: 18th September - Webster Hall
I hadn't seen Deerhunter before despite being a fan for years, they were just perfect and what a setlist. I mean really, check this out, one could scarcely ask for a better setlist when popping your Deerhunter cherry.

Follakzoid / The Holydrug Couple: 21st March - Mercury Lounge
I've elaborated briefly on this show HERE. This show was significant as I discovered so many great acts from Chile this year and it was an amazing treat to see two of the best.

Fuzz:  13th of October - Death By Audio
Ty Segall is possibly superhuman, and Fuzz put on one of the best rock shows possible.

King Khan and the Shrines: 30th October - Webster Hall
I was in a bit of an "I can't be bothered" mood for this one, but sometimes music turns your mood around spectacularly. There was so much energy coming from the stage and the blend of the brass among the 60s nuggets-like songs were a perfect marriage.

John Grant: 2nd of December - MHoW
I reviewed this show HERE.

Vivian Girls: 15th of Feb - Music Hall Williamsburg
I reviewed this show HERE.

Mikal Cronin / Roomrunner / Shannon and the Clams: 20th of June - Bowery Ballroom
What a lineup! Both Mikal Cronin and Roomrunner released albums that made my top 10 of the year and are both great live acts. Something great and/or weird happens every time I see Roomrunner and Mikal Cronin was down to about 2 strings (starting with 12) by the end of his set.

Perfect Pussy / Total Slacker / Sisu / Hunters / Tweens / Lodro: 16th of October - The Flat
I reviewed this show HERE.

Fuck Buttons: 18th of October - Le Poisson Rouge
I reviewed this show HERE.

Medicine / Weekend: 16th of August - MHoW
It seems like once a year a band reforms that you really didn't expect to, this year Medicine made a comeback with a new record and some shows. I had fairly high expectations but I didn't expect them to be quite as good as they were, it really was an immense show. With support coming from Weekend, one of the best bands of the year, it just made things even better.

Some 2013 stats for the nerds...

The acts I saw the most were Hector's Pets (5 times, a support slot for King Tuff at Bowery is not listed in the table below), then Sisu, Pop Zeus, Weekend and Liquor Store, 4 times each.

The venue I went to the most was, surprise surprise, Death By Audio, 13 times, next up was Glasslands which I went to 10 times.

I only went to 1 venue outside of New York, which was The Windmill in Brixton, London.

In total I went to 58 different venues.

Here is my complete list of shows for 2013. Note that the dates are in UK format.

Holy Fuck12/01/2013Death By Audio
Diiv, Magic Trick13/01/2013Brooklyn Bowl
Yo La Tengo 14/01/2013Barnes and Noble - Union Square
John Darnielle (Mountain Goats)16/01/2013Studio X
Total Slacker18/01/2013285 Kent
Soundgarden22/01/2013Hammerstein Ballroom
Soundgarden23/01/2013Hammerstein Ballroom
The Growlers24/01/2013Knitting Factory
Cat Power29/01/2013Terminal 5
Ty Segall, Mac DeMarco01/02/2013Webster Hall
Memory Tapes, Teen06/02/2013Glasslands
Nuclear Santa Claust, California X, Brick Mower07/02/2013Death By Audio
Slutever09/02/2013Death By Audio
Bleeding Rainbow, Daytona11/02/2013Cake Shop
Total Slacker, Cassie Ramone14/02/2013Webster Hall Studio
Vivian Girls15/02/2013Music Hall of Williamsburg
Ken Stringfellow16/02/2013Mercury Lounge
Dada20/02/2013Highline Ballroom
Beach Fossils23/02/2013Bowery Ballroom
Roomrunner / Speedy Ortiz / Stats28/02/201359 Canal
Night Marchers \ Dan Sartain \ Mrs Magician02/03/2013Glasslands
Chelsea Light Moving03/03/2013Other Music
The Babies06/03/2013Knitting Factory
The Men07/03/2013Bowery Ballroom
Pop Zeus / Hectors Pets / A Rex & J Rex / Las Rosas08/03/2013Death By Audio
Girls Names10/03/2013Cameo Gallery
Spanking Charlene16/03/2013The R Bar
Beach Fossils20/03/2013Brooklyn Bowl
Follakzoid / The Holydrug Couple21/03/2013Mercury Lounge
Peach Kelli Pop26/03/2013Death By Audio
Meat Puppets03/04/2013Mercury Lounge
Jaill / Pop Zeus04/04/2013Knitting Factory
Redd Kross06/04/2013Santos Party House
Yeah Yeah Yeahs07/04/2013Webster Hall
Kurt Vile, Kurt Vile & the Violators 09/04/2013Apple Store, Soho
Diarrhea Planet, Wild Yaks11/04/2013Shea Stadium
King Khan & the BBQ / Bloodshot Bill13/04/2013Glasslands
R Stevie Moore15/04/2013Glasslands
They Might Be Giants16/04/2013Academy Records
Euroheedfest (GBV tribute festival)20/04/2013The Windmill, Brixton, London
Nobunny21/04/2013The Windmill, Brixton, London
Dead Skeletons / Night Beats / Cosmonauts08/05/2013Glasslands
Sisu / The Yellow Dogs / Young Boys10/05/2013Glasslands
Mudhoney / Pissed Jeans11/05/2013Music Hall of Williamsburg
Foxygen / Amen Dunes Lodro / Prince Rupert's Drops13/05/2013Knitting Factory
No Joy / Weekend / Grand Resort16/05/2013Glasslands
Yeah Yeah Yeahs / Flaming Lips / The Darkness17/05/2013Googamooga - Prospect Park
Sharon Van Etten / Lee Fields and the Expressions18/05/2013Googamooga - Prospect Park
JEFF the brotherhood19/05/2013Mercury Lounge
Haunted Leather20/05/2013Death By Audio
Natural Child / Liquor Store23/05/2013Brooklyn Bowl
Apache Dropout / Pop Zeus / Thee Tsunamis / Blank Realm28/05/2013Death By Audio
Weekend29/05/2013Brooklyn Denim Co
King Tuff02/06/2013Bowery Ballroom
Fuzz / Ex-Cult06/06/2013Red Hook Park
Wyatt Blair / The Lovely Bad Things07/06/2013Death By Audio
Heavy Blanket (shut down by police after one song)08/06/2013Union Pool
Los Straitjackets11/06/2013City Winery
Liquor Store12/06/2013Shea Stadium
Bleached / Butter the Children / Pop Zeus13/06/2013Knitting Factory
A Place to Bury Strangers / Iceage13/06/2013Music Hall of Williamsburg
Torche / Ken Mode / Lo-Pan14/06/2013285 Kent
Paws14/06/2013South Street Seaport
White Fence14/06/2013Knitting Factory
The Zombies15/06/2013Central Park
Spires16/06/2013Villains / Jamesons
The Teen Age16/06/2013Muchmore's
Nu Sensea / Destruction Unit / Big Ups / Psychic Blood16/06/2013Shea Stadium
Heliotropes / Bad Cop18/06/2013Glasslands
Mikal Cronin / Roomrunner / Shannon and the Clams20/06/2013Bowery Ballroom
Fear of Men21/06/2013South Street Seaport
Bear in Heaven22/06/2013Prospect Park
Femi Kuti23/06/2013Central Park
Cheap Time24/06/2013Pianos
Unknown Mortal Orchestra / Bass Drum of Death28/06/2013South Street Seaport
4Knots festival (Kurt Vile, The Men, Parquet Courts, Reigning Sound, The Babies, Fat Tony, White Lung)29/06/2013South Street Seaport
Os Mutantes29/06/2013Prospect Park
Big Star's Third30/06/2013Central Park
Speedy Ortiz/Roomrunner/California X06/07/2013Death By Audio
The Joy Formidable10/07/2013BAM Café
Waxahatchee / Generationals11/07/2013Hudson River Park - Pier 84
Cheap Trick12/07/2013Coney Island
The Mantles / Pale Lights13/07/2013Cake Shop
La Luz / Heliotropes14/07/2013Mercury Lounge
Father John Misty, Wild Nothing24/07/2013Terminal 5
OBN III's25/07/2013Death By Audio
Beck26/07/2013Le Poisson Rouge
Turbo Fruits27/07/2013Union Pool
Fletcher C. Johnson / Hector's Pets / Rozwell Kids, Boy Toy27/07/2013Shea Stadium
Pete Rock and CL Smooth28/07/2013Central Park
Rasputina30/07/2013City Winery
Hector's Pets / The Numertors / Juniper Rising31/07/2013McCarren Park
The Go-Gos01/08/2013Coney Island
Blue Hawaii02/08/2013285 Kent
Grand Resort04/08/2013Fulton Stall Market
Hunx and his Punx08/08/2013285 Kent
They Might Be Giants10/08/2013Prospect Park
Shuggie Otis11/08/2013Central Park
Medicine / Weekend16/08/2013Music Hall of Williamsburg
Japanther17/08/2013The Flat
Radical Dads18/08/2013Fulton Stall Market
Blanche Blanche Blanche / Son of Salami21/08/2013Silent Barn
Bent Shapes25/08/2013Fulton Stall Market
Mac DeMarco28/08/2013East River Park
Thurston Moore trio / bEEdEEgEE31/08/2013Union Pool
Neko Case04/09/2013Skylight West
The Babies07/09/2013Mercury Lounge
Will Sheff09/09/2013Other Music
Liquor Store12/09/2013Walker Street
Chromatics, Glass Candy13/09/2013Terminal 5
Zola Jesus14/09/2013Our Lady Temple of Lebanon
Crystal Stilts16/09/2013Other Music
Cassie Ramone17/09/2013Studio X
Deerhunter / Crystal Stilts18/09/2013Webster Hall
Laura Veirs19/09/2013Mercury Lounge
Mordus20/09/2013Sullivan Hall
Obits21/09/2013The Bell House
The Young Sinclairs22/09/2013Cake Shop
Colleen Green / The Memories / White Fang / Hector's Pets02/10/2013Death By Audio
Wavves / King Tuff / Jacuzzi Boys03/10/2013Irving Plaza
Funky Meters05/10/2013Brooklyn Bowl
Meat Puppets12/10/2013Brooklyn Bowl
Fuzz 13/10/2013Death By Audio
Joanna Gruesome / The History of Apple Pie15/10/2013Ran Tea House
Perfect Pussy / Total Slacker / Sisu / Hunters / Tweens / Lodro16/10/2013The Flat
The Beets / Hausu / Rose Windows / Moondoggies17/10/2013Death By Audio
Fuck Buttons / Lichens18/10/2013Le Poisson Rouge
Weekend / Odonis Odonis / Hunters / Hsy / Flashlights19/10/2013Muchmore's
Mac McCaughan19/10/2013Baby's All Right
Crocodiles / Bleeding Rainbow / Dream Boys / Punks on Mars19/10/2013Passenger Bar
Fidlar / The Orwells24/10/2013Bowery Ballroom
King Khan & the Shrines30/10/2013Webster Hall
Guantanamo Baywatch / Journalism02/11/2013Cake Shop
Fly Ashtray03/11/2013Cake Shop
Twin Peaks / Drowners08/11/2013Baby's All Right
Diarrhea Planet, Lovely Bad Things09/11/2013Glasslands
Anna Calvi11/11/2013Music Hall of Williamsburg
Steve Gunn11/13/2013Studio X
Wooden Shjips / Cave14/11/2013Knitting Factory
Nada Surf (Yellow Dogs Benefit)18/11/2013Brooklyn Bowl
Minor Alps20/11/2013Bowery Ballroom
Shannon and the Clams / Liquor Store23/11/2013Metropolitan Pavillion
Crocodiles / Wymond Miles23/11/2013Music Hall of Williamsburg
John Grant02/12/2013Music Hall of Williamsburg
Potty Mouth05/12/2013Converse Rubber Tracks Studio
Holograms / TV Ghost06/12/2013285 Kent
Iron and Wine, Nick Lowe, Beth Orton, etc WFUV Cheer10/12/2013Beacon Theatre
Mikal Cronin / The Entrance Band11/12/2013Webster Hall
Pizza Underground13/12/2013Baby's All Right
Diarrhea Planet / Purling Hiss / Big Ups14/12/2013Brooklyn Night Bazaar
Sisu20/12/2013Brooklyn Night Bazaar
Lightspeed Champion21/12/2013Cameo Gallery
So So Glos / California X / Palehound / Darlings21/12/2013Brooklyn Night Bazaar

Sunday, 15 December 2013

My favourite albums of 2013

It has been an excellent year for new music, and in the end I struggled to limit myself to just a top 10, but here goes.

1) Roomrunner - Ideal Cities: As I said here, "if riffs could kill then Roomrunner would be a weapon of mass destruction". Ideal Cities is a crushing, hook-ladened and sonically inventive record. They're also a fantastic live band where something memorable seems to happen each time I've seen them (4 times so far).

2) Föllakzoid - II: Not only is II one of my favourite records of the year (reviewed here), it spawned my interest in Chilean rock music, which has some of the most incredible bands of the last decade. There is a new space-rock champion and their name is Föllakzoid.

3) Anna Calvi - One Breath: Having been a fan since before her debut album came out (profile), I was pretty confident that Anna wouldn't suffer from second-album-syndrome and she justified my faith with the wonderful, One Breath. I managed to catch her recent show in New York as well which was fantastic. 

4) John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts: This one crept up on me a little bit, but Pale Green Ghosts is perhaps my most played album of the year, and contains some of the best, most bitingly sarcastic lyrics I've heard in a long time. I managed to catch his recent show in New York, which I reviewed here

5) Mikal Cronin - II: This is one of those records where every song is so consistently strong that there isn't really a focal point or highlight. He plays almost everything on the album, the melodies are instant, perhaps so instant that the depth of the lyrics are missed on first listen, with lines like "Faith is just a lover I don’t own. Love is just an answer I don’t know".

6) The Men - New Moon: I reviewed this album earlier in the year here, my enthusiasm has not waned since it was released back in March. 

7) Weekend - Jinx: Slumberland have a great roster of acts at the moment, with Joanna Gruesome, Veronica Falls, Girls Names all releasing material worthy of consideration for this list. The pinnacle however, is Weekend's second album, Jinx, an assured and meticulously crafted record with as wide a colour pallette as you'll hear. 

8) Sisu - Blood Tears: Sandra Vu is better known as the drummer in Dum Dum Girls, but Sisu's output is more impressive, imo, debut album, Blood Tears was released the previous EP also got a re-issue. The album is filled with what are essentially dark, post-punk pop songs, highly recommended (artist to watch profile here and live review here).

9) Wymond Miles - Cut Yourself Free: This shouldn't come as much surprise (artist to watch profile here, live mention here), Wmon is one of those people that can't seem to write a bad song.

10) Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaVelle - Perils from the Sea: Another album I reviewed earlier in the year, Kozelek moves out of his comfort zone to wonderful effect.

Top 10 gigs post coming soon...

Thursday, 12 December 2013

John Grant Played Music Hall of Williamsburg

Review originally posted on My Social List HERE.

John Grant played his largest New York show to date, but did so with an intimate and stripped down arrangement at Music Hall of Williamsburg on the 2nd of December.
Pale Green Ghosts is deservedly receiving a lot of traction as we approach the "best albums of the year" time. Rough Trade recently named it as the year's best, and they just might be right.

This was the first time I had been to the Music Hall with a seated configuration, which certainly felt odd, but it was also appropriate given the relaxed vibe.
Arc Iris
Arc Iris opened the show, playing as a duo for the first time in New York. They played in an often intricate cabaret-style, whilst also offering up some more traditional folky arrangements. It was interesting, with some hits and misses. It would be interesting to hear them as a full band, although when they mentioned it was their first show as a duo, I assumed that singer Jocie Adams was usually a solo performer, given the strength of her Bjork-like voice, which was certainly the centre-piece of their set.
With the modest stage setup there was little time to wait between acts, and John Grant entered a little after 10 pm. Whilst the material on Pale Green Ghosts is filled with synths and beats, the stage was claimed by no more than 3 people at any given time. It gave Grant's exquisite vocals even more of the limelight, and it was interesting to see his new material given a more organic flavour. His voice is like that first cup of coffee in the morning, smooth and delicious; it courses through your body as if you'd be a quivering wreck without it. In these winter months his performance literally and metaphorically warmed the cockles of our hearts. I've seen some great singers live in the last (almost) 20 years, and this was right up there with the best.
The set was mixed well between his two solo albums, with a slight leaning towards songs from his debut, Queen of Denmark, which probably lends itself slightly better to the stripped down setting. Whilst I think Pale Green Ghosts is his strongest work to date, the highlight of the night was probably an impeccable rendition of Marz, which I video'd.

It's hard to consider any song a highlight, however, as the whole show was utterly captivating, with Grant's between song banter swaying between poignant and hilarious, much like his songs. Few people have the ability to turn on a sixpence in lyrical tone. Glacier was delivered with all the pain the lyrics so vividly describe. He spoke about how the song can be about a struggle that anyone has gone through, but in his own case, it is about how the religious people of his childhood reacted to him being gay.
The show ended with an old Czars tune, Paint the Moon.

There is darkness and sadness in many of his songs, which are often tempered with awe-inspiring sarcasm and wit. They will appeal to any self-critic whilst also offering intelligent wordplay and outright silliness. Despite the darkness, his output has gotten increasingly better with each release, the future looks incredibly bright.
Sigourney Weaver
Where Dreams Go to Die
I Hate This Town
It Doesn't Matter To Him
I Wanna Go to Marz
You Don't Have To
Queen of Denmark
TC and Honeybear
Paint the Moon