Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Do it.

Monster Eiffel Tower reminds you what rock feels like.
Tonight, March 19th at Galapagos!

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I was one of the lucky few (hundreds) to catch Sufjan Stevens‘ world debut of BQE – a multimedia extravaganza commissioned by BAM, featured in their Next Wave Festival.

I’d classify myself as a Sufjan appreciator, not a fan, but an enjoyer of. I have felt the illinoise. I was stoked on the night!

The approximately 30 minute piece is fully orchestral, with swelling crescendos, chilling tremolos, and thoroughly illing funkflexors. It was all accompanied by a grainy, three-paned video projection of Brooklyn-type images, and real live hula hoopers.

Basically, it was like some child was born who had only ever been exposed to the twee-est of the twee and the indie-est of the indie and (obviously) learned how to use a super 8 and learned that Brooklyn is cool and vomited up some stuff. And got a crush on a pretty, long-haired girl who hula hoops.

The music was enjoyable. I liked hearing the lush sounds of a full orchestra set to poppy tunes. I have been told that I took the accompanying video too seriously and that it was only meant to be a backdrop, but after staring at it for 31-odd minutes how could I not judge it? I mean really, have you ever sat across from chews-with-her-mouth-open and picks-her-teeth at a meeting? Try not judging her. It’s hard. It’s in our (my) nature.

So Sufjan’s synching up of movie’s scary parts with violin’s tremolos did seem sort of juvenile to me. And his “cool” effects like inverted colors and whatever-else seemed like “hey, I just got this cool thing called a computer and look what it can do!”


Sufjan’s tool of the trade.

To top it off, this piece is supposed to be about the BQE, right? He even wrote this whole freshman-in-college sounding essay in the program about the significance of its grittiness, and the whimsical juxtaposition of such a concrete monstrosity against hula hoopers. Pretty hula hoopers. But when his huge melodic climax coincided with some striking (and often seen) shots of Coney Island I thought to myself, “does the BQE even go to Coney Island?”


BQE bikers NOT on their way to the beach.

The answer is no, people. Coney Island is the EASIEST way to go Brooklyn and we all know it! It’s totally cool looking. It’s eerie and earthy and faux-modern and post-modern all at the same time! But it’s like putting on a rainbow-printed belt and calling yourself a gay rights activist. It’s like saying “in bed” after reading a fortune cookie and thinking it passes for a decent joke. It’s something we’ve all done, but that we hopefully grew out of. Or even if we didn’t grow out of it, we’re not getting comissioned by a major arts foundation to display it to crowds of thousands!

So, come on, Sufjan. Coney? Hip? Photogenic? You’re not telling me anything I didn’t already know there.

And maybe I’ve just seen too many undergrad modern dance shows (thanks sis) but glow-in-the-dark-hula-hoopers does not Art make. Get my drift? Say it forward or backward but at this level of performing I expect more. I just do. And I don’t care if that makes me a hater. It’s how I feel. My feelings.

Ahem. Anyway, nice try, Sufjan and BAM but do better next time. It’s only because I expect more from you.

Oh and to save me from total hateration (sorry Mary J, I know you don’t need this) the second half of the show was a straight up Sufjan concert and it was beautiful! I liked it and his weird, rambling story about running away from band camp and getting chased by an oboe-bird and learning the value of practicing. A totally pleasant evening marred only by the pain of wasted potential and the annoyance of hipster (metaphorical) jizz.


Sufjan is easy on the eyes (and ears and brains).


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Who’s ready for a Spice Girls comeback? Come on, raise those hands high…….?

Well, SOMEone is ready. And someone upstairs (at Victoria’s Secret) loves those girls. Their new ‘greatest hits’ album will be distributed EXCLUSIVELY at Victoria’s Secrets stores worldwide.

Wow. That is some deal. Why? Melanie B. explains…

“They do great bras, and every girl wears a bra. And they should – at some point in their life. Unless they don’t need to wear one,”

Yes! Well put, Scary.

You know, when I read this I ignorantly thought to myself, greatest hits? Why, they couldn’t have more than that one album which would by default be their greatest hits!

WRONG! Once I had done my research, I found that their extensive discography includes, in addition to their obvious hit Spiceworld, Singalonga Spice, the karaoke album, Viva Forever CD1 Enhanced, and Forever. Not to mention their DVD catalog: Zig-a-zig-Ahhh the unauthorized DVD. And Spice World. Obvs.

Then for a while I thought they were doing REALLY well, and even had their own channel. (NSFW) I was a little mistaken on that one.

But bringing your attention back to the original People article on this phenomenon, aptly titled Bra Power!!… they offer more news:

The partnership also extends to television: Baby (Emma Bunton), Ginger (Geri Halliwell), Scary (Mel B.), Sporty (Melanie C.) and Posh (Victoria Beckham) will perform during the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show, which tapes in Los Angeles on Nov. 14 and airs on CBS Dec. 4.

Posh is the only with whose name is live-linked! That a harsh commentary by the heartless bastards at people.com. scary-eddie.jpgscary-eddie.jpg


Scary is saying to herself, did I have Eddie Murphy’s illegitimate baby for nothing?


Ginger is saying, did I launch my solo career and get nominated for THREE Brit awards for nothing?


Baby is saying, did I appear on Strictly Come Dancing, the British precursor to Dancing with the Stars, for nothing?


Sporty is saying, did I record a cover of I Want Candy that peaked at no. 24 on the British Charts (um, ??) for NOTHING?!?!?

Please, People.com, do not ignore the successes and failures of the girls. They work hard for their lost fame. Even if they’re not scientologists, they are still worthy of html links in their names.

So I applaud you, Spice Girls of yore! But ladies, go with what you know! What the shit kind of promo shot is this? You need some pigtails, tube tops, and open screaming mouths, stat. See you at Vicky’s!



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Weezer followed their brilliant first album (the Blue Album) and arguably even more brilliant second album (Pinkerton) with a MAJOR fall-off in their third (The Green Album…5 years later) and exponentially worse albums following that one (Maladroit and Make Believe). Wes Anderson, to be fair, produced one excellent movie (Bottle Rocket), then two UNBELIEVABLE movies (Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums), and has followed them with two not nearly as good movies (The Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited) that still have some strengths. In both cases, critics have praised their mediocre work based solely on the brilliance of their previous greatness. But for me, enough is enough.

When Weezer stopped making albums for 5 years (from 1996-2001), I was devastated. Throughout high school and the beginning of college I was absolutely obsessed with them. Their first two albums were unequivocally the soundtrack to my life for the better part of six developmentally crucial years. When they announced that they were doing a comeback tour playing small venues across the country, I almost wet myself, and their performances did not disappoint. It filled me with hope that the band that had given me so much to sing along to and relate to had more to give…

Then came the Green Album. Critics praised it as a return to greatness for the band that they’d lambasted and then turned around and 69-ed. They were mentioning it among the best punk albums in recent memory.

The only problem was, not only wasn’t the Green Album a punk album (writing 2-minute songs does not a punk album make…Oi-sland in the Sun? No) … it wasn’t even good. At all. Pumped as we were for the heavy riffs of “Hash Pipe” and the sunny Beach Boys harmonies of “Island in the Sun,” the unfortunate truth was that these and the 8 other songs were all really F-ing boring. Rivers Cuomo even referred in interviews to creating a “formula” for writing his idea of perfect pop-songs…an OBVIOUS (read “totally beaten to death”) combination of early-Beatles songwriting with Nirvana’s distortion. But the pop formula fell flat, and the distortion did not make up for the elephant in the room, their total, utter lack of emotional substance.

Maladroit followed and was somehow even worse because they tried to re-capture the “darkness” of Pinkerton, but instead just made the sissiest nu-metal album ever. Make Believe I didn’t even buy. The first 2 minutes of “Beverly Hills” made me throw up in my mouth, and the Peter Frampton guitar solo made me spew it everywhere. Horrible. In just a few short years, my favorite band became a hollow charicature of itself and decided they liked it that way…

I’m older now, and I thought these kinds of attachments to my youth couldn’t have the same impact on me anymore, until I saw The Life Aquatic. For the previous 3 years, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums had been duking it out on my DVD player to claim the undisputed rank as my absolute favorite movie of all time. And then along came Life Aquatic, perhaps Anderson’s most visually stunning movie to date, and with an incredible all-David Bowie soundtrack played by the previously unknown Seu Jorge.

But watching the movie, there was a familiar feeling…much like what I’d gone through in college with Weezer…Anderson had created a formula for himself: beautiful sets, colors, costumes + memorable location + same cast of characters + daddy issues. The piece of the puzzle that he left out, is the piece that made me love his first three movies…that the characters used emotional absence to disguise their overflowing pain, jealousy, longing, etc. Instead, in Life Aquatic the characters were just…empty. The movie goes on and on, but all that really changes is whether the characters are walking in regular or slow motion.

= ?

I found the same to be true of Darjeeling Limited. This time around, I came into the theater with much lower expectations and found the beginning of the movie to be hilarious (Bill Murray’s cameo opening, Frances ordering the meal for everyone, Jack smashing the perfume bottle, etc.) … but their characters never change. The whole movie was just an excuse to use Anderson’s “look at all the people in the different rooms” shtick on a train (for that I could’ve just watched his new AT&T commercials…blech). And then the big “plot” payoff of the movie is revealed when in the very last scene of the movie the characters jump on the train and leave behind their emotional “baggage” (metaphorically represented by their actual baggage…barf).

So, Wes Anderson, hear me now…you’re mailing it in, my friend. Your movies look and sound beautiful, but your characters have lost their depth and it makes me wonder if maybe you have too.

But, in the immortal words of Royal Tenenbaum …

“that’s just one man’s opinion.”

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This has been a long in coming review, and I apologize for the length. You should really blame the concert for having these bands all together in one evening.

When I first began my trip to Randall’s Island to see the big Arcade Fire/LCD Soundsystem/ Blonde Redhead/Les Savy Fav concert on 10/06/07… (more…)

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Would you pay $15 to see a 4-film Lindsay Lohan “mid-career retrospective”? I definitely would.

Would you pay $15 to see 5 bands? (Antibalas, The Exit, Be Your Own Pet, Dirty on Purpose and the Heartless Bstards) … I definitely would.

How about $15 for both, plus DJs spinning all night, $3 beers and tons of other amazing crap going on following the last Sufjan Stevens performance at BAM on November 3rd…the only answer is YES, motherfucker. YES.


for real.

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About fifteen minutes into the Beirut show last night, a very enthusiastic guy in front of the stage yelled out “hallelujah!” during a pause between songs. Zach Condon, the lead singer and founder of Beirut smiled back before looking at the seated audience and announcing “You should all be more like this guy.” The crowd eventually responded by getting up and dancing at the front of the stage.

Oneiroi and I arrived at the Fort Greene Masonic Temple before the last song of the opening band was over. Calling them an “opening band” is not as accurate as it should be, however. We walked in to a small room where people were seated and listening to a five piece group called Fifth Veil, consisting of violins, a viola, a cello and clarinets. While the group played beautifully, it was not exactly what we expected upon entering. We quietly proceeded to the balcony section and found ourselves two seats towards the back of the room. The group finished, and before long Beirut came to the stage. I had never seen the band live before, and was taken aback by two things. First of all, there were eight of them. While this isn’t uncommon these days, between bands like Arcade Fire, Polyphonic Spree and Architecture in Helsinki, it’s still a shock to see that many people take the stage with various instruments. What really shocked me was how young Zach Condon was. He’s twenty-one. And he looks it. I bet he has trouble getting into R-Rated movies.

The show itself was fantastic, although, as Condon eventually pointed out, it was much more like watching a dress rehearsal. There were often periods between songs when the band members would putter around the stage, talking to each other and preparing their various instruments. At these times, Condon would often talk to the audience, who were incredibly responsive. At one point the music stopped mid-song when they screwed up the key to their own song. At another point the show was put on hold when a ukulele player (who also played the cello, mind you) couldn’t find a guitar pick. No one in the band seems content to play just one instrument. One member played so many that we lost count. They included the clarinet, oboe, saxophone, xylophone, ukulele, guitar and probably ten others. If the guy had brought out a didgeridoo, I might have collapsed. The group all danced around stage during the performance, often switching instruments mid-song. Condon, whose voice often sounds a lot like Rufus Wainwright, would switch between singing, dancing and playing the ukulele and various brass instruments.


They played a collection of songs from their previously released EP’s and albums (Lon Gisland and Gulag Orkestar) as well as their newest album The Flying Club Cup. They played for about an hour and a half before leaving for the first time. The audience began clapping and continued for a while, but the band did not emerge for an encore for a while. Finally, their cello player emerged from backstage, telling us that they had a lot of people in the band all of whom needed to “use the facilities” and that it might take a minute. Sure enough, a few seconds later they all returned to the stage and played another three songs. The fans rejoiced. Hallelujah indeed.

For a sample of last night’s performance…

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I make fun, but on the inside I’m actually superdeeduper excited about this upcoming event…

Indie folk dreamboat Sufjan Stevens, composer of the incredible albums “Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State” and “Come on Feel the Illinoise,” (who says he plans to write an album about each of the 50 states, which at the unrealistic pace of an album per year is a project that should be complete by the time he’s 80) is scheduled to perform his newest opus, “The BQE” in November at Emeril Lagasse’s favorite venue, the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

hubba hubba

Sufjan Stevens reveals the epic in the everyday in songs infusing the vernacular of Midwestern folk with a distinctly orchestral grandeur. Stevens pairs orchestrated selections of both new and old material with the 25th Next Wave Festival commission/world premiere of The BQE—a symphonic and cinematic exploration of one of New York’s least celebrated monuments: the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“Robert Moses’ controversial 11.7-mile roadway tears through neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens with the brute force of modern urban planning, and in Stevens’ hands becomes an evocation of the intersection of intimate experience and the American Dream. Merging a virtual road trip shot on film with a live band and orchestral ensemble, The BQE discovers abstract patterns and stories in the snaking traffic, potholed pavement, billboards, badly marked exits, and beautiful city views, revealing what happens when Manifest Destiny converges with urban blight.


Anyway, while I pitch my tent tonight to wait in a ticket line that will eventually wrap around Fort Greene (tix go on sale September 4th), I’ll start guessing song titles.

Track 1: Neverending (A)stori(a)
Track 4: Baby on Board! (Dear Park Slope, The Gowanus Canal Needs its Diaper Changed)
Track 8: Williamsburg (Where Crazy Hipsters Are Actually Naming Their Babies “Sufjan”)

P.S. – I really want to see this 50 states project get done, but I’m afraid I won’t live to see it, so I propose Sufeepoo contract some states out to other Americana acts…I reckon he should finish the midwest himself, give Iron & Wine the deep south, Calexico the southwest, Bonnie “Prince” Billy the Northwest, Brown Bird New England…and let Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi fight over the Tri-State area.

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I had heard about Bar 4 once or twice from a musician friend of mine who said the jazz scene was good there. Park Slope is a little jazz enclave and Bar 4 is one of its many hotbeds of creative production. Needless to say, I did not check it out until about a year later. I’m not actually cool enough for such scenes.

_mg_4744.jpgBut last Friday, a quick jaunt through South Slope/Windsor Terrace brought me and my friend to Bar 4’s door. Inside, it is small and dimly lit. It’s not dingy at all, but cozy and immaculate. Dustless bottles behind the bar were placed against the mirrored wall which emitted a flawless glow. Comfy couches filled the floor space and the walls were covered in local artists’ work. The centerpiece, of course, were the paintings of great musicians that plastered the wall behind the stage.

Upon a tip I received, I asked the bartender about the martinis. She slid a booklet my way. Inside was a selection of special martinis which are, apparently, the drinks of choice in this bar. I went for the Espresso Martini ($8). A little part of me died that night, knowing that if I followed my heart and drank nothing but Espresso Martinis all day long, I would probably get fired. So I left after my martini and I thought of its warm aroma and rousing taste for several days. Then I went back and got another on Sunday. Sweet Jesus and Mary.

My second visit was somewhat tainted by the deaf trombone duo that was gracing the stage that night, but I had the incredible luck of seeing a great Park Slope musician – Zach Williams – on my first visit. He was also joined briefly by Joely Pittman who sang backup on what is now my favorite song ever, Dirty Feet. Zach actually has a show coming up tomorrow, August 8th at 8:00pm at Bar Matchless, if you’re so inclined.

1003129803_l.jpgZach also mentioned that Bar 4’s Tuesday night open mic is one of the best in the city. This was independently confirmed by Plainclothesman, who was there at 2:00 AM and said the place was still totally packed. This is, at best, rare for the South Slope.



Bar 4
444 7th Avenue at 15th Street
Park Slope, Brooklyn

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Elliott Smith would be thirty-eight years old today. According to Pitchfork, a version of Angel in the Snow is available for free download off of indie label Kill Rock Stars. I would recommend purchasing all of New Moon, his most recently released album. Or just try to listen to a little Elliott Smith today if you have time.

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