Archive for October, 2010
We’re playing a bit of catch-up here at TNJ, so here’s a review of the Belle & Sebastian show at the Williamsburg Waterfront back on September 30. CMJ reviews coming soon, I promise!
The weather people had been predicting rain all day so my excitement level was down from 500 to 499, but somehow the rain never came and the gusts coming off the river were actually quite pleasurable in the warmth. Openers Teenage Fanclub prepared the audience for the poppy tunes that made Belle & Sebastian famous. They took the stage in good spirits, with Stuart Murdoch noting that they always have good luck with the weather. Thanks Stuart!
The show was part of their tour for their latest album Write About Love, which came out October 12. I was nervous they would play a bunch of songs I didn’t know (yet), but they actually barely played any new songs (only 4 out of 20), peppering the setlist with songs from their various albums, including If You’re Feeling Sinister, The Life Pursuit, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and The Boy with the Arab Strap. Murdoch and co. talked to the audience a lot, and even threw out autographed footballs to the kids in the audience and called up a bunch of people to dance on stage and then gave them medals, like it was the indie rock Olympics.
Songs played from the new album included “Write About Love,” which features actress Carey Mulligan on the recording, but alas, she was not there to sing it live. Oldies but goodies included “Piazza, New York Catcher,” “Like Dylan in the Movies,” “The Boy with the Arab Strap,” and “Judy and the Dram of Horses.” The encore was met with glee when they began playing “Me and the Major” and then went into my personal favorite, “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying.” Belle & Sebastian took quite a hiatus, with their last album The Life Pursuit, coming out almost five years ago and that also marking the last time they were in New York. Hopefully the next break won’t be so long!
Before we dive into the CMJ coverage, it seemed like a good time to (finally) reflect on two great shows I saw earlier in the month. Both are bands signed to the Sub Pop label, but that is where their similarities end. Let’s start with Foals.
A UK-based band, Foals came onto the scene with their mathy-prog debut Antidotes in 2008. Their follow-up, Total Life Forever, which I have already praised on this blog several times, came out this year to much critical acclaim. It is a much less mathy take on indie-rock, less influenced by bands like Q & Not U and more influenced by post-rock bands of the late 90’s/early 00’s. Their live show featured a great mix of both records, and was an extremely lively and entertaining affair.
The band was constantly moving on stage; vocalist/guitarist Yannis Philippakis was the most active. He bounded around the stage energetically, stopping at points to play guitar or to jump on top of the stack of speakers at either side.
The fans, as you can tell from the above photo, fed off of the energy exuded by the band, almost to the point of delirium. And there was much to be excited about. The set list included songs from Antidotes (“Cassius,” “The French Open,” “Balloons”) and from Total Life Forever (“Spanish Sahara,” “Miami,” “Total Life Forever”).
We actually had a great view, because Yannis decided to hang from a bar right above where my friends and I were standing. It was very up close and personal, which we loved. He did fall right on top of a girl standing next to us, but gave her a big hug afterwards. The band then invited everyone up on stage to dance for their last song. A very good Saturday night had by all.
Next weekend, my boyfriend and I saw Seattle post-punk/noise-rock band The A Frames at Cake Shop. Because they don’t tour much, and haven’t put out an album in several years, we were extra-excited to see them. Aside from a vinyl comp, 333, that they released this July, nothing has come out since the epic Black Forest in 2005.
Unfortunately, they didn’t go on until almost an hour after they were scheduled. Because my boyfriend and I are full-time workers/students, a show at 12:30 AM on a weeknight was taxing. They were, however, fantastic for the 35 minutes we did manage to stay for. They played a bunch of songs from their debut self-titled album, and from the follow-up (A-Frames 2) including “Surveillance Camera” and “Chemical”.
Because of the layout of Cake Shop, I wasn’t able to get great photos, so I had to borrow from Sub Pop. This photo feels pretty accurate of their vibe the night of the Cake Shop show. Everything was remarkably tight, and as the night went on, and the drinks flowed, the band got a little looser. Because of our exhaustion, we couldn’t stay long enough to hear the entire set, but we can only hope that they played some of our favorites from Black Forest. If the A Frames ever come through your town, and you’re into post-punk and/or noise rock, be sure to catch them live.
[My boyfriend’s comments: openers Pop. 1280 were excellent and he wants “Surveillance Camera” to be the song we dance to at our wedding.]
Sad news of the day: Ari Up, lead singer of seminal UK punk band the Slits, passed away yesterday at age 48.
Ari (real name: Arianna Forster) founded the Slits in 1976 with Paloma Romer, aka Palmolive, Viv Albertine, and Tessa Pollitt. She was 14. The band was brash and raunchy and aggressive—a bunch of hellions just as raucous as the all-male punk bands of the late 70s. (In fact, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols is her stepfather.)
Their debut album, Cut, with its WTF punk ethics and reggae grooves, inspired both the future of punk rock and the riotgrrrl movement of the 80s and 90s. The cover image alone is iconic: Ari and two band members appear in nothing but loincloths and mud.
The first single, “Typical Girls,” took aim at culturally imposed gender roles, wherein girls “don’t create, don’t rebel, have intuition, don’t drive well.” On top of the scathing lyrics, though, the song is a helluva lot of fun—playful, giddy, weird. The Slits brought their fuck-you party attitude to their live shows and videos too, as seen below.
The Slits’ record label, Narnack Records, posted the band’s latest video today, respecting Ari’s wishes for a posthumous release.
For those not in the know, the CMJ Festival begins tomorrow in good ol’ New York City. The festival is put on by CMJ, or College Music Journal, and is similar to SXSW in that it takes over various venues all over the city and puts on fabulous shows of many under-the-radar and/or unsigned bands. The industry folks all come out to play, but you don’t need to be an insider to enjoy the music! Many shows are free, and if you don’t have a badge not to worry, you can also buy tickets to lots of shows or just pay at the door. We here at Toast ‘N Jams are super excited for lots of bands but here are our top ten:
The single “Go Outside” by Cults has been playing nonstop on blogs for the past few months, and it makes sense because they are such a summery, upbeat band. The duo is young (21) and they sound it, but their youthful nature is what makes them so charming. Their 7” is available through Forest Family records, and word on the street is that their full length will drop in January 2011.
This hip hop duo took the internet by force and drilled their single, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” into thousands (perhaps millions) of heads on repeat, deservedly so. Not for a long time has hip hop sounded this fresh, interesting, intellectual, and relevant. Check out their free mixtape on their website before seeing them live at CMJ. They’ve got 3 shows that we know of–make sure to catch one!
Brooklyn band Diehard has been playing live locally for the past year, and finally put out their first official EP this Fall. The indie power-pop quartet plays fun, upbeat, and not-over-saturated songs that are good for dancing, or even a comfortable sway.
Gotta love the Swedes! Sister duo Johanna and Klara Söderberg use folksy harmonies to create beautiful music as First Aid Kit. Check out their video for their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.”
The latest, hottest thing to come out of Baltimore, Lower Dens have the added cache of having Jana Hunter as a frontwoman, and she brought her musty, dusky, lusty voice with her. They have no less than 10 shows during CMJ (and possibly more) so you have no excuse for missing them!
A Montreal band with ties to Miracle Fortress, Bell Orchestre, and Arcade Fire, the Luyas use unconventional instruments like a French horn and a 12-string electric zither. They haven’t played that many US shows yet, so hear ‘em while their still somewhat under the radar.
Rarely does one band have such an excellent package: kick ass guitar riffs, a spitfire of a female lead singer, and a live exuberance that makes every show exciting. If you haven’t ever seen NJ’s Screaming Females live, don’t miss them.
Another sister group, these young women hail from Seattle and have been playing music since they were wee little girls, recording their first album when they were 10 and 12 and opening for the likes of Cat Power, Pearl Jam, and Sufjan Stevens. Their latest has a more mature and less poppy sound, with lush vocals and sweeping melodies, as well as younger sister Maia on bass.
No pretentions here; Turbo Fruits are pure punk fun. Originally a member of the now defunct Be Your Own Pet, band leader Jonas Stein decided to trek out on his own, to (pardon the pun) fruitful results. Turbo Fruits are full of energy, and have a modern, rowdy take on the punk genre that will thrill any music fun-seekers.
Virginia’s Jack Tatum lets loose in a fuzzy, dreamy, classic 80s kind of way. Paying homage to bands like the Smiths, Cocteau Twins, and My Bloody Valentine, Wild Nothing’s dream pop will have you shoe gazing the night away.
Other bands worth checking out: Beach Fossils, Gold Panda, Marnie Stern, Matthew Dear, +/-, The Photo Atlas, Surfer Blood, Drums, the Ramblers, Francis & the Lights, the Mynabirds, French Horn Rebellion, Ava Luna, Tamaryn, John Vanderslice, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, Red Wire Black Wire, La Sera, Violens, Braids, and Dark Dark Dark.
For an (almost) complete schedule, check out Oh My Rockness.
Recently I had the pleasure of accompanying some friends to Flushing, Queens, home to the second largest Chinatown in NYC. Luckily, we had a friend/native guide with us who was originally from Taiwan and had grown up in Flushing. Sometimes it honestly felt like we were in another country!
We started our day with breakfast at a small place called No. 1 East Restaurant. I would have had no idea what to order, so our friend went ahead and ordered what he said was a traditional Chinese breakfast (which is not dim sum as many may think). This included two different soy milk porridges, one sweet and one savory (or salty as it’s called on the menu), as well as crullers and sesame cakes. We also got some flaky radish su bing, spinach dumplings, and scallion pancakes (not traditional breakfast items, but yummy nonetheless).
The soy milk porridges were very interesting. The sweet one was simply soy milk heated with sugar, and not quite as thick as what we think of as porridge. It was comforting though, reminding me a little of a thinner cream of wheat. The savory one was a completely different animal though. We’re not quite sure what was in it, but definitely soy sauce and green onions and maybe some sesame oil and definitely something that made it thicker–I’ve read it’s vinegar. It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted before, and definitely nothing I’ve had for breakfast, but it was delicious.
The other traditional elements, the Chinese crullers and sesame cakes, were combined to make something of a bread sandwich. A Chinese cruller is neither sweet nor savory; the dough is very plain and it is fried up to a nice crisp. They are served in long sticks. The sesame cake is a little flat cake of flaky dough covered in sesame seeds. We watched as our friend/guide proceeded to rip open the sesame cake and stuff the folded cruller inside, creating, as I said, a bread sandwich.
On its own the sandwich was a bit flavorless, but it tasted delicious when dipped into either of the soy milks, especially the savory one.
The flaky radish su bing were two little flaky buns covered with sesame seeds. Inside it was full of slivered radishes, which sounds weird but it was really delicious–who knew radishes could be so tasty?
The spinach dumplings were soft and pleasantly chewy, filled with freshly chopped spinach. According to Serious Eats, spinach dumplings are somewhat of a rare breed. The scallion pancakes were good, but pretty much on par with what I’ve had at other Chinese restaurants. I was still questioning whether the soy milks, crullers, and sesame cakes were traditional, until I walked through the restaurant to the bathroom and noticed that nearly everyone else in the restaurant, all of whom were Chinese, had at least one of these items on their table. If you are feeling adventurous, head out to Flushing for a unique breakfast experience!
No. 1 East Restaurant
41-27 Main St
Flushing, NY 11369 (718) 460-8686
Portland, OR based Wax Fingers, who do a mathy-prog take on indie rock, are debuting their first LP this month. The band released an EP two years ago entitled Ones and Threes which piqued my interest, and I’ve followed their progress ever since. They’ve been playing often in Portland, where they have gained press acclaim, and have done multiple tours on the West Coast.
The new album, which is self-titled and self-released, takes a slight left turn from the EP. The change feels consistent, though; there is more of an emphasis on vocals and harmonies, and less on the noodley guitar work. The intricate mathy-Don Cabellero guitar lines are still there: see “20/20” and “DJ3G” for prime examples. Vocalist Pete Bosack wavers between a Tim Harrington-esque howl (“Knees and Toes” and a Doug Martsch-esque whine (“Sticky Bees”).
The album is available for purchase through their website. And let’s hope that they come to the East Coast soon!
Thank gawd for NEET label head) M.I.A. makes a cameo.Just in time for this gloriously sunny weekend (on the eastcoast, at least), the 19-year-old Baltimore native gives us the first single and video from her LONGGG-awaited debut album Go! Pop! Bang!. “Sunshine” is all hand claps, school crushes, and sassy firecracker raps. Rye Rye’s buddy (and