Biscuits, Triscuits…

Weekends Fall Like Stones Part 3!
July 28, 2009, 11:16 pm
Filed under: music and musings

And you thought it was over. But no. That weekend lasted forever and though I am over a week late, my last weekend was uneventful as far as music goes. Extremely eventful as far as families and babies go though.

At 2:00 pm on Sunday the 19th some friends and I headed to the Waterfront for the second pool party of the summer. It was disgustingly hot at the beginning of the day but we came early any way to get a good spot to sit by the stage. There were only three bands playing this time so I think things started a bit later.

The first band was Crystal Antlers, whom I saw previously at Bowery during CMJ 2008. Crystal Antlers have this amazing intense energy driven by their un-harnessed vocals. Their sound is not forced nor distracting but organic and provocative. The drums were clobbering and the guitar and keyboards add this experimental, dance-y portion to the music that co-exist with the raw vocals quite nicely. Though I’d seen them once before, I’d pushed them to the back burner just due to time and being busy but I definitely follow up with them and try to catch Crystal Antlers more often because the show was upbeat and awesome.

Magnolia Electric Co. performed second with their uni-brows and sad country tinged rock ballads. Someone said it was like a Neil Young cover band, which was pretty spot on, but it was still good music. It was nice to listen to, mellow and not infringing upon fraternizing with friends at the waterfront. I think there is definitely musical merit to Magnolia Electric Company, and their tunes warmly blew through the air at the breezy waterfront.

The final band of the night were Dirty Projectors. They entered as just two people, Dave Longstreth on guitar and female vocals that were thin and gentle. All of a sudden there were drums, two female vocalists, bass, and two guitars . Six people in total on stage creating this broken up and angular sound with a plucky, clear quality that rolled through the crowd. The vocals were sultry, the instrumentals swayed from slightly dub to stripped down ambient rock and layered soul songs. There was a subtle control to the outburst of musical genius that just kept flowing one song after another, but if felt so free-formed and open. They were all dressed in white, which felt pretty perfect for the summer-y evening as the sun slowly went down. I didn’t want it to end but unfortunately we had to be out of the park by 8:30.

It was a warming and uplifting show, Dirty Projectors is a band that I feel is going to if they haven’t already make a mark on the Brooklyn music scene and be a staple for new music to come out of the area. I was flying high as a friend and I headed to Sidewalk Café to catch Ryan Lee Crosby, a Boston musician playing with his backing band Elio DeLuca and Daniel Nicholas Daskivich . Crosby’s soothing Jeff Buckley-esque vocals were the most noticeable feature, but surrounding that were gentle guitar, harmonica, drums, harmonium, hand claps and piano (not all at once though, clearly). It was a little blues-y with a bit of a country twang to it but what struck me the most was how almost genre-less the sound was. There were a lot of snippets of sound that obviously were influenced from something but it just felt like this really intimate, jangly singer/songwriter music with vibrato vocals and jamming background music. His songs were extremely soulful but there was a beautiful sound of collaboration between Crosby’s songwriting and his two fellow musicians playing with him. The sound guy at Sidewalk Cafe really dug them as he passed around his mandolin tip jar and I certainly hope that someone put in something because they were pretty great to hear in a place where much of the music is generally sub-par.

We headed then to Pianos to catch the end of Quiet Loudly‘s set.  I had a drumstick accidentally flung at my arm and I needed ear plugs for just the one song. It was abrasive and soul-shaking though and a CD review of their new release will be coming soon.



City Center – “City Center”
July 27, 2009, 8:16 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Fred Thomas, previously of Detroit’s Saturday Looks Good to Me, seemingly took a hiatus from this band, moved to New York and began writing music with Ryan Howard. The two have put together this experimental group called City Center which I find to be absolutely amazing. I love reading their blog because they put up really fun summer mixes and thoughtful commentary. Needless to say I am extremely interested in what is to come of City Center.

City Center

City Center

This duo does something in their self-titled debut that is hard to do. They fit into a style that is very specific but they also spread wide their instrumental branches and begin to reach in many different directions without being offensive or obnoxious. There’s been speak of this album being a Brooklyn album but what’s the point? It’s a good album. The songs are poignant, creative, experimental and swimming in sound. Why call it anything other than what it is. I also think this is more accessible than a lot of music that is dubbed “Brooklyn” music. I could see being influenced and interested in a lot of the sounds going on in the neighborhood but this album isn’t just a combination of that. It’s very open and fluid; taking the ambient electronic, white-noise and collaborating with guitar and drums and giving it a real soul, which I feel like a lot of that style music doesn’t have, it just sounds good. I think saying this is Fred Thomas’ Brooklyn album is a cop-out for appreciating every strand of instrumentation that graces the record. It just leaves me wanting to hear it again, whereas some “Brooklyn” music leaves me wishing I’d hear something original for once.

These songs give me goose bumps with their chilling echoed vocals and wide-open watery combinations of guitar and electronics. . “Open/House” blows my mind with the gentle mellow vocals that enter through weird syncopated snare hits and blazing noises. Heavy breakdowns feel as if glass is shattering into white noise, sweet harmonies and rickety bone humming electronic parts blast heart beat drums. There’s a Grizzly Bear-esque quality in the warmth that emanates from their experimental sounds but then these squiggly lines get crossed with accelerating xylophones and wailing female vocal samples. And the wire-y quality of these bleeps and blurs blending into each other combined with the ambient noise and soothing vocals feels new and fresh with each song.

They all exit in a completely different way than it enters. “Bleed Blood” is six and a half minutes of multi-layered stages of sound from quick-paced vocals and hand drums to wailing female vocals and high-pitched wind instruments. There is a compassion and energy that flows from these songs like waves and clouds; rolling and fading in a way that is so natural and gentle that it’s almost like it barely hit you at all, which is why you continue to ask for more. While there is so much to focus on and listen to, the lyrics do strike a chord. They are simplistic and almost like models to live by: How do you feel when you aren’t yourself?/ You’re trying to catch up with a feeling/And then you are bleeding blood again. There’s nothing that throws you for too much of a loop lyrically, but it’s just the perfect amount of thoughtfulness that blends beautifully with the music.

“Young Diamond” throws in warming harmonies alongside shaking cymbals and banging bass drums. The song goes from clobbering and clanging to circular and harmonious with a buzzing fuzz in the background. It’s only five minutes but each piece fits together so nicely and beautifully, coming full-circle to the off-kilter chorus and chopping, plinking guitar.

City Center’s music lifts you up for a second. It all comes together, clanging and smattering, dissonant but enveloping you in this un-ending, bleeding together warmth. I know it’s not for everyone, perhaps those who need a steady beat or something to hold onto. These songs dance so poetically and rhythmically throughout the album, throwing out pieces of sounds and styles that we rarely put together. I want to feel the way this music sounds forever, it encapsulates the feeling between floating and drowning; you’re completely calm, totally alive but feeling something different then you’ve felt before. Or at least that’s what I’d imagine it to be.

-Lauren Piper

Weekends Fall Like Stones Part 2
July 26, 2009, 7:39 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Saturday, July 18th I attended two different shows but only caught some of the bands. I hit up Market Hotel, mostly to see Future Islands because of the eccentric and fun to watch lead singer who bounces around on stage with such energy and stamina. We caught the Beach Fossils, Talbot Tagora, and Future Islands before leaving to catch another show, and unfortunately missed Abe Vigoda and the So So Glos.

Beach Fossils has the same vibrant guitar sound as Oasis. They were fun to watch, not boring, but nothing spectacular as far as a live set goes. It was mellow and jangly, with wavy vocals and plodding bass lines. With another listen I like what I hear but perhaps the energy was low at the Market that night because it was just sorta stand and head-nod music.

Next was Talbot Tagora from Seattle and while I dig their myspace a little more than their live performance, I was really not into it at the Market. Perhaps the show was just off because I do like the wonky dissonance and off-kilter nature presented in their tunes online. Live I felt like the drummer couldn’t keep a beat and everyone was bored and I just left the room because it was almost painful to deal with. Giving it an online listen was always the plan though because sometimes music just sounds like shit for no reason. I didn’t get a sense of their live presence at all on stage either. Their female drummer seemed terrified or bored and everyone else was just there. But I do think there’s an interesting quality to their music now that I’ve given them a second chance and would love to try to see them again sometime.

Future Islands was pretty great, I love watching the J. Gerrit Welmers and I wished there was a more excited crowd because I totally would have danced.  The energy that flows from his almost growling singing carries the whole rest of the outfit. He doesn’t growl but the way he sings is so involved and intense that there’s no way to ignore it. Not that the upbeat, bass-y synth rock isn’t extremely catchy and enveloping but it’s really essential when the lead singer is bouncing up and down. I love charismatic bands and this one definitely rocked the stage with their charisma. Unfortunately I had to leave half-way through to set to catch the LAST New York show of Boston band This Car Up.

I’ve written a feature on This Car Up for Dig This Real and that was over two years ago. I still feel completely captivated by their music and them as people, and am really sad that they are breaking up. But Luckily it is on good terms. DJ Mojo was also bummed about the band’s break up and used every chance he could get to grab the mic and say so, or sing along with them, or play their guitars. It was an uplifting show but also a real heartbreaker as I felt those guys were really going somewhere. Of course though, it’s never really a good show until guitarist/singer Eric Glassman somehow hurts himself til he bleeds. This time he climbed up a latter in the back of the stage while DJ Mojo was playing his guitar and he hit his head or broke a bottle? Who knows. Needless to say, there was entertainment, good music and blood. Who could ask for anything more?

Seriously though, there is something to be said for bands like This Car Up. Their energy and diversity in sound from their album to their live show is absolutely amazing. It’s hard to think about them not existing as the unit they had become because as people, they fed off each other’s creativity and their personalities, their styles and general auras were This Car Up. It wasn’t just a band, it was an entity that captured all of their greatest and worst qualities in this messy, dizzying, explosive sound of raw emotion and pure talent. I will miss them greatly as a band and hope to god there are a thousand side projects spawned from them. This Car Up will hopefully become the proudest father, as they originally were all fathers of the band in one way or another. If you are in Boston on August 22, go catch their last show ever at Great Scott. I’m sure there will be tears and probably more blood.

Weekends fall like stones part 1
July 23, 2009, 10:46 pm
Filed under: music and musings

On Friday, July 17 I worked the door at a loft party in Bushwick. It was terribly hot and disgusting, I smelled awful afterwards and I was basically hated by most of the people who entered because who wants to pay money to go to someone’s house? I know I don’t.

It got me thinking though, because I’d started to wonder not why I go to shows but how I go to shows and still have a great time enjoying the music despite my height causing me sometimes to not even see the bands or get my ass kicked. During most of this show I was sitting and I couldn’t see, my back was mostly to the bands and I felt lost. I wished I could have been up there watching their faces and their fingers move or even just feeling the energy of the people in front of me (blocking my view) but alas I was stuck being door wench.

The first band of the night was Scary Living, a local four-piece who recently gained the magnificent drummer Sal Garro of Quiet Loudly. They had a really great full sound from what I could tell from being in the back of the loft.  There was wailing guitar, melodic and jangly with pinging drums to match the fluidity. I’ve learned that it’s hard to write about a band when you can’t pay that much attention and they don’t have a myspace page. But needless to say, I thought the vocals were pretty strong and was definitely interested in hearing more of them, possibly seeing them as well.

500 mA came on next with a distorted, noisy sound that could be completely overpoweringly loud were it not for the subtle details that grace their songs. The vocals are bathed in a bit of white noise and the guitar sounds winding and wire-y in a sparse way, despite the constant noise. The bass is low and fuzzy and mashes along wall with brutally tight drumming. Again I couldn’t see them at all, but I’ve seen them before and realized it took a couple songs at first to see that there is something there. Their myspace songs also barely do them justice, so it’s definitely worth seeing them live to get a feel for their sound.

San Francisco’s Trainwreck Riders was the following band, and by this point it was so gross and people were starting to get cranky at the door. People being me. There was this sweet twangy, quality to their tunes with heavy plodding bass and wailing vocals. There’s a slight Modest Mouse quality to the vocals and the chugging drums with twisty guitar parts but a more organic, roots-y feel to it. I wished I could have watched them, I feel like their live set is very different sounding than their album, which is clean cut and sounds awesome but live there felt like there was more action to the music.

I finally got to take a break, which was the deal that I would get to watch the next band, Mean Creek.  I have been following them for a while and I absolutely adore their sound. I think their new music is fantastic and they maintain this Americana, rock and roll, bold-folk style. Each song sounds epic, important and beautiful but not forceful or coarse in its message. Their tunes are soothing and explosive, harmonizing with male/female vocals and blasting thick drumbeats to break up their melodic, wailing guitars. With a slight Appalachian feel to their full-force vocals, the endearing four-piece never ceases to amaze me live.

Gunfight! performed last. I have written about them on numerous occasions, they are my best friends who wear bandanas, weird sunglasses and get practically nude on stage only to later embarrass themselves further by spitting beer at each other. The show though, was pretty great. They were totally on with their rocking post-country form. Newer songs with harmonies and an even more relaxed country rhythmic quality graced the walls of McKibbin. They keep their rocking, post-punk edge with heavy bass and clanging drums.

It was a bummer not being able to watch the bands and dance for most of the night. It was strange having my back turned to music and still being able to recognize something I liked in each band. I realized that though sometimes you may opt to sit down on the grass or a couch during a set instead of watching them, there’s still something about physically being a part of it, and I barely was on Friday night. But I still felt like everyone played a great set, and at least I got in for free! Zing!

Brooklyn Pool Parties are Back!
July 15, 2009, 7:54 am
Filed under: music and musings

I didn’t know how I was going to feel about the new Brooklyn Pool Parties hosted by JellyNYC this summer since the pool is no longer their location, but I was pretty surprised and happy about it. They moved right by the Williamsburg waterfront, there is grass for hanging out and lounging, as well as a huge cement area with a stage and standing room ans well as blocked off areas for beverages and food. It was much more spacious, there is a view of the Manhattan skyline and the lines were much less of a hassle.

Musically, the show was almost completely awesome. The first band Jemina Pearl would have been pretty unmemorable if not for the obnoxious stage banter presented by the lead singer.  They were just a catchy “Josie and the Pussycat’s” style band, with female vocals and slightly rowdy instrumentals.  The lead singer would not stop saying things like “Oh, we totally messed up on that one, we’re gonna play it again.” And “Blank (whatever the guitarist’s name is) totally messed up, he totally sucks, it’s like the worst day of his life.” It wasn’t enjoyable in the least and I was completely relieved and excited when Ponytail began and Molly Siegel was completely adorable on stage and only spoke to say things like, “You guys are awesome!”

I have always liked Ponytail but never had the chance to see them live and it was pretty awesome to say the least. I’ve had issues with many bands that have just a lead singer that doesn’t do anything but sing but I’m pretty sure the entire crowd was in love with Siegel’s demeanor and innocent joy that she displayed on stage. She jumped and danced and was smiling the whole time she performed and it spread throughout the crowd. The band includes two guitarists, a drummer and their energetic lead singer (well more like noise-maker). Their youthful sound kept the crowd captivated with howling, and wailing vocals, spastic, bass-y drums and spinning, wavy guitar parts. They followed up their oldest song with their newest song at one point and both were amazing displays of the band’s innovation and spontaneity. The newer song was busier and more experimental than the earlier but both were equally enjoyable and mind blowing with their beautifully happy energy. Siegel barely sings, she is more of an interspersed yelper and chanter but lyrics are inconsequential because of how the music itself comes together with the sounds Siegel creates.

I found this picture of Fucked Up playing the pool party on someone’s Flickr. So thanks Kurt Christensen for such a great shot, and thanks to the internet for providing me access to random Flickr accounts. Fucked Up was pretty awesome to see, not only for the amazing poses of Damian Abraham but because they seem to counter argue so much in their music. As much as I sometimes can’t stand the snarling throaty singing that graced so many popular hardcore bands of the 90’s, Fucked Up makes it tolerable with their roots-y hardcore drums and drone-y guitar sounds that verge on no-wave. The combination of bending, distorted progressions in unison with a melodic, more angular style was invigorating and feels almost solar in its fullness. Like the whole of the sound is blaring down on you with strength, loudness and glaring brightness as the same time. Wielding three guitars as well as a bass was pretty much the only way this sound is possible. As the drums wailed rhythmically, and Abraham screamed like a maniac, and the slamming guitar lines maintained the ingenuity and oddball structure that makes Fucked Up so fun.

As I waited for the final band, Mission of Burma, to grace us with their amazing presence, I thought about all the converse shoes, cotton, scoop neck tank tops and short shorts that were everywhere on both men and women throughout the park. I quickly forgot as I kicked off my shoes and sat on the grass in the perfect weather, awaiting Mission of Burma’s spectacular set.

Again not my picture

Seeing Mission of Burma  was like seeing a real rock and roll band, one that hasn’t aged and lost their edge/spirit. What I love about watching Mission of Burma is how they age with such beauty. Having formed in 1979 and reunited in 2002, the band performs with such grace and refinement that they seem to rock harder than any of the bands 15 years younger than them. With heavy bass and a raw, distorted sound, they still have an organic nature to them, a wholesome, pureness that can only come with experience and talent and don’t need anything flashy to prove that they know what they are doing. The intensity and fluidity that flowed from their music last Sunday was refreshing and exciting. The hollow drumming backed the sweltering solos and gruff, melodic vocals amazingly. The focus of the sound was an underlying, distinguishing quality of elegance and raw sound and yet while it can be thought-provoking it can also be dance inducing. The crowd was packed and their fanbase was probably expanded as the performance was flawless and just as upbeat as always.

In addition to the bands there were three kiddy pools, the mandatory dodgeball, basketball, and tents with food and beer. The food tents were as follows: one had mini-pancakes and fruit and one had bbq. They also only allowed beer to be drunk in the beer tent area, which may be the only downside if you need that much beer, but you can still see the bands and hear the music. The porta-potties were clean and there were many of them and in addition to soap and sinks there were hand sanitizer dispensers. I think it was pretty well planned out as well as executed. This was an A+ first pool party of the summer and while I won’t be able to make all of them, I will definitely cover the ones I can make.

Thoughts on MRIs
July 11, 2009, 4:38 pm
Filed under: music and musings

I had an MRI today. It’s been about five years or something since I’ve had one, and I forgot everything about them. I remembered you had to lie in a sterile looking tube but I forgot about the ridiculous sound and the tingling sensations that make you feel like your limbs are moving without you asking them to. The doctor asked me what radio station I wanted to listen to and I didn’t know any radio so he put on classic rock. Oddly though I found myself listening to the excruciating MRI screeches and feeling my body hum. I focussed on the glimpses of semi-beautiful sound I could find in vibrating cocoon I laid in. It just sounded like the basis for some noise band’s basement recordings.

In case you don’t know or remember, go here and check it out. It was a really trippy experience. I felt like my body was not mine and had to keep repeating in my head “Don’t move, don’t move,” but honestly don’t know if I could have if I tried. Though I kept feeling like parts of me were moving, my kneecaps, my thumb. I wonder if any one has sampled MRI sounds yet for their music, because that would be kindof awesome.

Reviews on Hot Box, Chris Garneau and City Center soon to come.

p.s. City Center has this awesome blog that you should check out

More Food
July 8, 2009, 12:08 am
Filed under: music and musings

I went to a workshop today for my friend James Ray  He is a health counselor of the holistic vain which I used to think was total hippie dippy bullshit, but as I moved to New York and felt a need for stability, I began to understand that food is really important not just for your body but for your mind, and your soul.  I can’t get into all of it, but I felt like James did an amazing job of talking about different food myths in a way that was not condescending, nor trying to force an opinion as many assume is the case.

I feel like even adults who have gotten to a point where they are very set in how they feel about food could talk to James and maybe not be convinced to be vegetarian or change too much but I think they’d think about it a lot. And perhaps change something about their diets, not for fear of dying sooner but out of the idea that they should enjoy every aspect of what they eat and how they eat it. And I like how I speak about adults as if I’m not one of them…

There’s something to be said about the idea of “You only live once so why not eat delicious things that may not be great for me.” It makes sense, why not say “fuck it”? But I think I’d rather have energy and feel good about myself and feel healthy and while it takes time and energy and sometimes money to get to this point, Ithink it is worth at least thinking about and doing somewhat, even if it’s in a half-assed fashion as I do.

Also, there’s something really great about cooking while listening to good music. I’ve found No Age’s Nouns is really great to cook to. It’s just this really great lo-fi energy to it, and keeps flowing as your cutting, saute-ing, or whatever it is you are making. It’s just exciting and happy enough to feel really great moving and doing something, but there’s still a raw quality that sort of fits the mood of turning something uncooked into something edible.

And one thing I’ve really enjoyed, for both cooking and eating things I’ve cooked to is Nashville band Eureka Gold’s self-titled album.  It’s got a great southern flair to it and a calm gentile-ness in their harmonizing vocals. The album is really spattered with a mellow laid back quality and it’s really awesome to eat a satisfactory meal with good friends or strangers while listening to it.

So check out James Ray, he has a lot of good things to say. He’s a thoughtful human being whom even if you do not want a health counselor is a pretty great person to know. And listen to fun, thoughtful music while cooking and eating, I think all factors combined turn you into a superhero or something. At least that’s what I read.