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

Crocodiles and Wymond Miles played Music Hall of Williamsburg

This is a repost from a review I put on My Social List, originally posted HERE.

Crocodiles wrapped up their current tour with a show at the Music Hall of Willamsburg on the 23rd of November. Although the band formed in San Diego, they spend most of their time split between New York and London, so there was a hometown vibe in the air.

Openers Young Boys set the tone early with their goth/synth/punk combination, if I wasn't paying attention I might have been convinced I was watching Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.

Young Boys
Wymond Miles, my Artist to Watch of the week, did not disappoint. His set had a good split between his two records, Under a Pale Moon and recent release, Cut Yourself Free. While the material from the former has a chilling acoustic sound, the songs are performed in full electric which makes for a good contrast. The only disappointment was that he didn't play longer. The words underrated and under-appreciated get bandied about far too often but this man should be on all the best-of 2013 lists.
Wymond Miles
Crocodiles have stepped up at least a couple of levels with their new record, Crimes of Passion (via French Kiss Records), which has suddenly become one of my favourite releases of the year. It's an assured, confident and impeccably produced 33 minute affair, which manages to trim the edges of their earlier lo-fi sound, but become more expansive at the same time.
They didn't play album opener I Like it in the Dark, which is a shame because its anti-superstition message is a real cause for celebration, featuring a rousing chorus:
there's no shining heaven, there are no fires of hell but those of our creation. When I'm crawling away from hell, storm the gates of heaven and be your own god

Whilst the band cherry-picked well from their back catalogue with the likes of Hearts of Love, Neon Jesus, Sleep Forever & Mirrors, the new songs really took centre stage. We got half the record over the course of the night, and selfishly, I'd have liked more, especially the aforementioned I Like it in the Dark and Virgin. Songs like Teardrop Guitar sound even more explosive live.
It was also the last show with bassist Marco Gonzalez in the band, who had just been accepted into medical school (maybe America will join the civilised world and have proper socialised medicine by the time he's done...). A cake was brought out.
They ended the night with a cameo from Brandon's wife, Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls, who provided vocals on I Wanna Kill.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Crocodiles -  if they can continue the upward trajectory and follow up Crimes of Passion with something even better, then they could be onto something very special.
Get notified of future Crocodiles shows here.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Live review: Benefit Concert for Yellow Dogs (Nada Surf and more)

This is a repost of an article I wrote on My Social List. Original post HERE.

Bands, artists, friends, fans, curious onlookers and just those who wanted to gather for the community attended Brooklyn Bowl last night for a tribute/benefit/memorial concert for The Yellow Dogs.

The tragedy surrounding the band has been well documented here, and just yesterday we ran two opinion pieces on the subject (here and here). Speaking as someone from England, gun violence is almost an entirely alien concept, and even seeing armed security guards (I saw a couple last night) fills me with dread. These issues simply don't exist where I'm from. I'm a fan of Yellow Dogs. They were my Artist to Watch just three weeks ago and I own both of their EPs, so what happened last week filled me with great sadness, as well as anger that any person, let alone someone mentally disturbed, can get their hands on such deadly weapons.

There was an odd vibe around the show beforehand, I lined up before the doors opened to see camera crews and journalists interviewing anyone they could.
To the side of the dancefloor was a memorial for band members Sourosh and Arash Farazmand along with their friend Ali Eskandarian. People wrote messages while images of the band projected onto the screens around the venue, candles were lit and I noticed many people embracing over the course of the night.
Nada Surf
I'm going to begin my recap with the headliners, Nada Surf, and then run through the rest of the night from start to finish. I would have come to the show regardless of the lineup just to show support, but I am also a complete Nada Surf fanboi. We all have bands that we feel that are ours, that hold a special place in our hearts, above others. Nada Surf are that band for me. They were the first band I feel like I truly discovered on my own, and they have been a constant throughout my teenage years and beyond. I love their music dearly.
I was wondering if they had any connection with the Yellow Dogs at all, or if they were just happy to help in the aftermath of a tragedy. After opening with Clear Eye Clouded Mind, bassist Daniel Lorca spoke of how he knew the band. It was the most heartbreaking speech of the night, and he played the rest of the set in tears. As a result, I often watched their set through my own tears. They were clearly deeply affected by what happened and they ran the gauntlet of emotions during their performance.
Nada Surf
Matthew Caws is a criminally underrated lyricist and has a penchant for delivering a particular line or two in each song that are just utterly brilliant, and they carried extra weight tonight. I always saw See These Bones as an atheist call for reality, that this life is all we have, but after hearing Matthew talk about the song it is even more than that; it's a humanist song and we should celebrate our commonality as human beings in this fleeting, and only time we share.

Look alive, see these bones
What you are now, we were once
And just like we are, you'll be dust
And just like we are, permanent

The rest of the night featured a good mix of acts but unfortunately had some problems, none of which came from the stage. I like Brooklyn Bowl, but had voiced concerns about coming here to watch more intimate sets, unfortunately I was right to be fearful. Heartfelt commentary and impassioned performances were almost downed out by the constant drone of idle chatter within the audience, along with the crashes of bowling balls knocking down pins. It seemed very disrespectful.
Johnny Azari
Johnny Azari got the night started, he told a story and read a poem his friend,  Ali Eskandarian wrote, before playing a song that Ali gave him confidence in. It was a sombre, but beautiful start.
Mitra Sumara
Next up was Mitra Sumara, a fellow Iranian who plays Eastern-twinged funk, I enjoyed their short set and the band was tight.
Helado Negro
Helado Negro's set was next, and whom I felt really sorry for because they were very quiet and the crowd were very loud. Helado would say how great it was to be in a room full of nice people in such a bad time, but even the people stood next to me at the front of the stage were talking. Helado had a fine voice and it's always good to hear a double bass, they didn't deserve to be ignored.
Sal P & 178 Improvisation Product
I think the Sal P & 178 Improvisation Product played afterwards, but I struggled to hear the name. They were earnest and gave a positive message, and their funky sound was a good pick-me-up.
Dirty Fences
Dirty Fences played a no-nosense rock and roll set and really gave it their all, maybe a little too much as they went over their allocated set time (I saw people at the side of the stage manically telling them to finish about two or three songs earlier than they did!) These guys would be right at home at Death By Audio or Shea Stadium If you haven't seen them before, I would recommend them.
Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat then came out and spoke a few words, including a message from David Byrne.
Luke Temple
I don't really know anything by Here We Go Magic, but I enjoyed Luke Temple's couple of songs. He had a really soulful voice.
Kyp Malone
I think TV On the Radio are probably the best band of this millennium, so it was a treat to see Kyp Malone play (albeit only one song.)
Hamish Kilgour
Hamish Kilgour played a couple of songs as a trio. I'm a fan of The Clean, but the talkers in the crowd meant I could barely hear anything at all coming from the stage. Frustrating!
Habibi were up next. I've seen them a couple of times before and I think they are developing into a fine band. If you're into 60's girl group sounds with a bit of surf and garage rock thrown in then you should definitely check them out.
James Chance
James Chance came out and noodled away over some backing tracks for about 5 minutes. It was hard to really get a sense of what he was playing and what was coming through the soundsystem, but he was into it.

And finally we had Nada Surf, who made all the previous frustrations wash away. I hope that the event raised plenty of money and maybe went a little way to helping anyone grieving during such an unimaginably difficult time. It's a shame that a large chunk of the crowd didn't seem that interested for the most part, but it was a good turn out. As Nada Surf say, "always love."

Minor Alps played Bowery Ballroom

This is a repost of a review of mine of My Social List. Original article here.

Minor Alps delighted fans at the Bowery on the 20th of November with a low-key acoustic set and what must be one of the most natural pairings in the music world: indie heavyweights Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.

Their record, Get There (on Barsuk Records), sounds just like what you would imagine if you put the two of them in a room together. The songs are immaculate, with melodies that are instantly gratifying but also get stronger with each listen and their voices combine perfectly. Take for example, lead single, I Don't Know What To Do With My Hands. Minor Alps is not the first time the pair have collaborated. They opened the night with a Nada Surf song that Juliana guested on, I Wanna Take You Home, which appeared on the bonus disc of their album, Lucky. Later in the set, the roles would be reversed with Such a Beautiful Girl, a song from Hatfield's 2008 record, How to Walk Alone, which featured Matthew Caws.
  Over the course of the night, most of Get There was played and we were also treated to some of Juliana's songs such as Candy Wrappers, Live on Tomorrow & June the 6th, as well as Nada Surf classics Inside of Love, Beautiful Beat, The Moon is Calling, The Way You Wear Your Head & Fruit Fly. I waxed lyrical about Nada Surf just a couple of days ago, of course. They also threw in a couple of covers, including The Everly Brothers' When Will I Be Loved.
 The acoustic format was refreshing, many of the songs on the record are recorded with a full electric band, but stripping the songs back gave them extra space to breathe and also reveal additional nuances.

Sylvan Esso opened the night and were an interesting electro-dance duo, although I found  that I lost interest in their set after a few songs as it became a bit samey. I'm sure they'd have gone down well at the recent Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival.

This was essentially a hometown show and it certainly had that vibe. Matthew is from New York and noted that his family are always watching from the balcony when he plays the Bowery, which he clearly has a lot of love for, Nada Surf always seem to play here (including two incredible shows in December 2012.) Side-projects and collaborations don't always work out, but Minor Alps seem to effortlessly combine the talents of both songwriters with an equal footing. It can be hard to gauge the longevity of these things but with one of the best and most understated records of the year under their belt and an obvious onstage chemistry, I certainly hope for more in the future.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Blouse Live Review: Glasslands 08/30/2013

Original post on My Social List here:

Blouse kicked off Captured Tracks' 5-year anniversary with their record release show at Glasslands in anticipation of Imperium, due for official release on the 17th of September.
I'd seen opening band, Writer, earlier in the summer at South Street Seaport supporting Fear of Men and I think their sound benefited from the more intimate setting that Glasslands provides. Brothers Andy and James Ralph create a fuzzed up racket that ultimately made for a nice contrast with the rest of the evening's offering. If they can continue the upward trajectory that latest single, I Make Neon, suggests, they will be one to watch.

Next up we had Donovan Blanc, whom I was completely ignorant of before they took to the stage. Musically I liked the dreamy acoustic guitar tones, reminiscent of The Go-Betweens without ever hitting the same heights, the songs were performed competently but I wasn't enthralled, these are clearly early days, however, so let's see how they progress.
Donovan Blanc
Blouse took to the stage a little after 10pm and began with the opening four tracks from Imperium, immediately showing off their new guitar-driven (and synthless) direction. They appear to have successfully changed whilst still sounding like themselves, a bold but rare and underrated quality where so many acts either completely sidestep to the point of being unrecognisable (not such a bad thing if the material is still good) or regurgitating the same song over and over. The one thing that unites all the material is Charlie Hilton's voice, which is delivered so gracefully with seemingly no effort at all.
The synths were brought out mid-set for a quickfire double of Time Travel and Videotapes from their self-titled debut, but these were not merely nuggets thrown out as crowd-pleasers, and the difference between the material helps build a varied set in sound and pace.
At this stage we hit a slight technical problem with a broken snare drum, which did take the momentum out of the show a little bit, but after Jacob Portrait (who was sporting a shirt featuring artwork from Seth Bogart of Hunx and his Punx) acquired a replacement we were back up to the present with new song, Arrested.
Blouse then breezed through the two songs that have been released for promotion, In a Feeling Like This, which does feature some electronic percussion and a delightfully simple lead guitar line, follwed up by the single No Shelter, which is just as delicious as anything on their eponymous debut.

The night ended with their flagship track, Into Black, which is one not many bands can claim to better this decade. It's always a bit of a kick in the teeth to see an encore scribbled onto a setlist and then not played. A trio of White, Shadow (their 7" single on Sub Pop) and the closing track from the new record, Trust Me, were due to be performed. There seemed sufficient enthusiasm from the crowd for an encore but New York audiences seem to give up very easily (or not even bother) and the house lights came up fairly shortly, this is in pretty stark contrast to shows back home in England (and yes I feel dirty for using the US date-format in the title...). Of course there are arguments for and against encores (they should be earned not expected, etc) but sometimes there seems to be an almost willful desire in this city for a band not to come out again and play more songs! It would have fleshed out the night quite superbly, as it was I felt that the show was a little too short for a headline act at a record release show.
Blouse should be applauded for not remaining static, and in any case their change in sounds feels feels natural from the perspective of this listener, unless you're hell-bent on only listening to songs with synths you won't be disappointed with the new material.