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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best Of: Live Shows + Record Reviews - 2015

Although it seems now more than ever that we truly do live in "uncertain times," the globe that all of humanity resides on continues to spin on its axis.  For now, anyway.  As long as we continue to live, the "pursuit of happiness" remains the ultimate goal.  One of this blogs primary "pursuits" is attending meaningful live shows (most-often featuring life-long fave acts) as well as reviewing new recordings from emerging artists.  Year 2015 delivered more than a few of those occurrences, with proper attention being given to them now.


October saw the newly reunited, legendary New York City band Television play selected shows across the country with their home city being a primary stop on the tour.


Since being brought back together for the 2001 All Tomorrow's Parties festival at Camber Sands, England, the band continues to play shows around the world on a whenever-they-feel-like-it basis. Hence an opportunity to catch a band of this caliber should never be passed up.


Tom Verlaine remains the central figure in the group, even more so with the departure in 2007 of founding member and primary instrumental foil Richard Lloyd (who continues on with his own sporadic solo career).

Capably replaced by another Verlaine long-time sideman Jimmy Rip, the bands live dynamic with original drummer Billy Ficca and bassist Fred Smith maintain an equal level of sonic creativity.

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Though the above setlist shows only 4 songs played, the length given to each was substantial, with particular enhanced improvisational guitar explorations on second song played "Little Johnny Jewel." 

Two weeks earlier the band played a show in Pittsburgh that can be seen and heard right here:



An excellent sound and visual recording showing exactly the incredibly high level Television still plays at.  Included here are even more classic "Marquee Moon" tracks. 

The final, lengthy extended jam song at the Brooklyn show titled "Persia"  is a newer one that was announced to be included on a upcoming brand new Television album, currently in the works.  Looking very much forward to the eventual release of that.

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Shades of classic 90’s era dreamgaze can be found woven through the music of Brooklyn’s No Honeymoon.



Their most recent EP release “Together Alone” (the second one in quick succession after debut "I Wanna See Everything") presents three unique tracks recorded at Converse Rubber Tracks studio.

Lead cut “Yes/No” opens with Slowdive/Souvlaki-style looping, which soon gives way to a fuller band sound.



Fuzz-buzz guitars and fluid drumming fills that echo the band Ride are complemented with a female voice. Melodic guitar lines emerge between vocal segments, further enhancing the songs overall charm. Unlike premier role-model band of that era My Bloody Valentine, the vocals presented here aren’t buried under deep layers in the mix, but rather quite clear. Vocalist/guitarist Cait Smith exudes a level of passion and appeal with her semi-distressed delivery. The band has played a number of shows around town lately and this EP can be had at their bandcamp at the always popular name-your-own-price.


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October proved to be a month loaded with memorable shows attended.   A mere week after the annual live event orgy that is CMJ, another newly reunited act holding a significant place in the annals of 90's-and-beyond-era rock music appeared at new fave (especially for bigger shows) venue The Space At Westbury.

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The prodigious American-Scottish alternative rock group Garbage performed here on Friday the 23rd as part of their twentieth anniversary debut album tour.


The show opened with an introductory video compiled from footage of the band on their first tour and featured images depicting significant moments of the era - all sound-tracked by the bands largely-instrumental b-side "Alien Sex Fiend."


After the video concluded, they played "Subhuman" behind the curtain it was projected on, lit up in silhouette.


The curtain then dropped to the floor and the band kicked in to "Supervixen"


These seemingly ageless artists looked and sounded like everything you would expect from a top level concert experience.


Shirley Manson commanded the stage as only a consummate front-person can do.


Her image is dazzlingly brilliant.  Mastering the essential hybrid of rock and roll glamour with an off-beat alternative stance.


The show featured a set that included every song from their debut album, with select  b-sides from that era mixed in.


The songs in the order they played them (after the three mentioned above)
"Queer"


"Girl Don't Come"
"As Heaven Is Wide"


"The Butterfly Collector"
(The Jam cover)


"Not My Idea"
"Driving Lesson"


"Milk"


"Fix Me Now"


"My Lover's Box"


"Sleep"
"Vow"


"Dog New Tricks"


"A Stroke Of Luck"


"Only Happy When It Rains"

"Stupid Girl"


"Number 1 Crush"


For the encore they opened with a cover of  Vic Chesnutt's "Kick My Ass," followed by "Trip My Wire," "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)" from 2001's Beautiful Garbage and  "Push It" from the exquisite Version 2.0



Spotting the tour bus parked just outside of the venue.

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An initial listen to recently previewed track “Bubblegum” from Brooklyn-based British-born musician Mark Crozer may give the impression that perky retro pop is the only intended goal.



While the melody does speak to the pop canon, complete with handclap percussion and late 60’s sitar string accompaniment, lyrics outlining a dream-trip scenario suggest sweetness overload.



The clever inclusion of Munki-era MaryChain guitar chords embedded within the chorus (the overdriven second verse of “birthday” as direct tonal point of reference) shows the artist in full command of his influences.



That song will be included on the upcoming album 'Sunny Side Down' which will be out on vinyl (and digitally) in early 2016.


In the meantime, check out a number of great songs from this artist previously featured in this blog right here


Mark and his band The Rels performed as part of International Pop Overthrow festival at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn, New York on November 8th.



The festival has been in existence for the past seventeen years, created by David Bash initially in Los Angeles, and now being held across 12 US and Canadian cities, as well as select European locales.


Mark and his band of seasoned musicians blazed through the set of finely crafted pop songs striking the perfect balance between defined parts and improvisational forays. 




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Brooklyn four piece American Darlings latest EP release “Rubber Tracks” underscores the benefits of recording at the similarly named Converse sponsored studio.



You And I” comes off as an intentionally perky-pop track that points towards early Elvis Costello and perhaps even The Smithereens as songwriting inspiration. The inclusion of pitch bended guitars hooks between verses however, suggests something else. Has yet another sub-genre been established – “happy-gaze?” Extended bars of sinuey single note guitar riffs take things into further pleasing directions.


Time For Two” continues this thematic direction, confirming the gaze scene’s increasingly de rigueur Sonic Youth/MBV guitar hybrid. Vocals are delivered blending softer REM-like vibrato on the verses against a big shouted Foo Fighters-style chorus. Third song “Kimchee Princess” is a live track from one of their shows, showing what the band can do outside the controlled studio environment.


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Pairing a singer-songwriter loaded with creative ideas and a multi-instrumentalist recording/mixing engineer is a formula that more often than not produces winning results. This is precisely what you get with Brooklyn’s Citris and their recently released album “panic in hampton bays.”



Frontperson and band personality Angelina Torreano impresses with an alluring blend of come-hither bravado and lyrical nihilism. Quintessential complete musician Chris Krasnow contributes drums/bass/guitar/synths/horns/percussion and backing vocals along with recording, mixing and mastering the tracks.



Album opener “On The Sidelines" channels Daydream Nation era Sonic Youth and the way Steve Shelley’s tighter, more controlled drumming locked in with the single-note guitar riffing of Thurston  and Lee. The chorus vocals change all that with harmonizing far more evolved than anything SY ever put out, moving things closer to the ear pleasing fourths that Drew Citron and Frankie Rose did so well with Beverly. Universally relateable lyrics “maybe we’re just rejects, force fed concepts all the time” progress to a coping mechanism of how “maybe we can be friends, see through the same lens on the sidelines.”


 “Burn Into The Sun” drops jazz chords in places, which fits nicely around the wordy, impassioned vocals and busy drumming. Clocking in at over five and a half minutes, “Little Scars” ambitiously combines 90’s grunge Courtney Love angst with bombastic choruses and even a prog-rock tandem guitar interlude. “Here I am with the poison. I’ve given up, I’m not disappointed. Not looking for love, just want to hang out with you.” There are times when that’s all you need.


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