Archive for October 2010
Congratulations, this is it, the final six new bands in our CMJ Music Marathon (from A to Z). Today we present letters U through Z. In case you missed the first twenty, link away:
Unicycle Loves You (Chicago) – “Justine”
This eclectic groovy throwback harnesses trippy California canyon rock, adds a vocal (James Carroll) who sounds like the National’s Matt Berninger and a polished pop sound that evokes a broad range from Black Sabbath (Justine) to the Velvet Underground (Highway Robbery) to the Killers (Hawaii). In the three years since Unicycle Loves You released its self-titled debut album, the band has grown up by slimming down and shedding its lineup from five to three and has recently released its second album, “Mirror, Mirror” (and YOU can be the first to review the album on iTunes). The pieces are in place for the Unicycles’ to get some love in return.
Vagina Panther (Brooklyn) – “Dave, You Are Killing Me”
What is in a name? For Vagina Panther, it seems, an awful lot. This howling, chord-pounding quartet could easy accompany O’Bannion as a trolled the street of Austin looking for 8th graders to paddle. Instead, they tend to stay close to home and regularly schedule gigs throughout Brooklyn in venues that embrace their rough-and-tumble tunes that presumably prompt the question, would a Vagina Panther by any other name sound so sweet?
Wise Blood (Pittsburgh) – “Solo (‘4’ Claire)”
Wise Blood is Christopher Laufman, who whimsically blends samples of pop hits of yesteryear from doo-wop to the Beatles with a broad variety of other genres. For example, we are reminded of some of Moby’s best work (from “Play”) on “4 Claire” which binds 50’s pop girl-group yearning with old-time gospel. Wise Blood, like Girl Talk and countless other sample/mashup artists is distributing his music independently with additional tracks due out in November.
Xylofaux (Brooklyn) – “Thumbelina”
Xylofaux is a mellow quartet that relies on dreamy Band of Horses-style lead guitar lines from Jon Neal to support Kyle Tigges’ clear, forlorn vocals. Their first full-length album, “Lifelike” was released earlier this month and they can be found performing around Brooklyn and Queens over the next few weeks (and it would be reasonable to expect more gigs to follow).
Your Vegas (Leeds, England -> New York) – “In My Head”
Sweet! A British pop band that formed in the mid-2000s that has been touring non-stop in the U.S. and Canada throwing around high-ranging vocals from Coyle Girelli and sounding like Keane, Snow Patrol (and others), such as “In My Head” and, well, most other tracks. Your Vegas is a veteran by CMJ standards and has opened for Duran Duran, appeared on Last Call With Carson Daly (2008) and has been a SXSW mainstay. Barring a featured track on Grey’s Anatomy or one of its kinswomen, Your Vegas has hit its ceiling with its perfectly enjoyable but unremarkable music.
Zowie (Aukland, NZ) – “Broken Machine”
Zowie! (exclamation point added) is the New Zealand electro project of Zoe Fleury that grabs your collar and slaps you, retains pop appeal (and still goes home with you). Fleury (like favorite Janelle Monae) presents herself as a bionic pixie from the future sent back in time to lead the state of music to salvation. She does this, however, by making music that fits comfortably among current bands that highlight electronic music and charismatic female leads. For example, Fleury manages to combine the tone and cadence of Ting Tings’ Katie White while being over-the-top flirtatious (“You turn your key inside of me and make me see what we can be . . . you’re the one for me, you fix my broken machine.”) So that’s fun.
PJ Bezanson practices law in New York (by day and by night) but catches as many concerts as he can. He recently reviewed Phoenix at Madison Square Garden and Of Montreal and Janelle Monae at Terminal 5.
Differing views about the meaning of the U.S. Constitution have been flying fast and furious these days, with certain camps supporting the proposition that what our founding fathers intended should control how we live today. One might point out the particularly unknowable nature of, for example, what the framers thought about the interplay between the internet and the purported free speech rights of corporations. But then, rather than try to figure out what the founding fathers would have thought, it’s much more fun to just try to drink what they drank.
In the late 18th century, the term “cocktail” had yet to be coined, and the classic cocktails we tend to focus on here at FP were still four score and seven in the future. Nevertheless, a myriad of punches and other drinks were compounded using the intoxicating liquors of the day: rum, whiskey, and brandies of all sorts including applejack. At the time, most spirits were less-than-professionally-produced, and the addition of fruit, honey, and spices often helped take the harsher edges off.
One of the most popular of concoctions of the day was the shrub, named perhaps from a bastardization of an Arabic term for “drink.” So trendy were these drinks that Martha Washington was known to serve them as First Lady. Think of the shrub as the mojito of the Old Dominion’s smart set.
But what were these once popular but now largely forgotten drinks? Well, shrubs combined liquor with a vinegar-based fruit syrup made from berries or other small fruit. As with many culinary wonders, e.g. sausages and pickles, shrub syrup was a way to preserve perishables before refrigeration. Don’t be aghast at the thought of vinegar in a drink, however. The tang is quite mellow, and you won’t feel like you’re taking a shot of salad dressing. The hardest part is getting your hands on some shrub syrups. There’s only one company in Pennsylvania that makes ‘em, but it’s easy enough to make your own, substituting whatever soft fruit you like, although raspberry is the classic. A recently reprinted circa 1900 recipe from the Times works well.
Raspberry Rum Shrub
1 oz. homemade raspberry shrub syrup
2 oz. rum
4 oz. soda water or ginger ale
Stir together syrup and rum in a wine glass; add ice, top with the soda, two more quick stirs and you’re done; garnish with mint and fresh raspberries if you’re fancy like that.
The ginger ale makes the drink too sweet for our tastes, but may appeal to some. It certainly would have been a big hit with people in the early 1800s, who couldn’t get enough sweet stuff. Anarchonistic as it is, we also like to lace it with a dash or two of Angostura bitters.
For those on the lookout for trends in drinks, people have been betting on vinegar-based syrups since 2008, but it still seems like a good wager. The vinegar’s acidity takes the place usually occupied by citrus juice, and, given the appeal of anything DIY, modified shrub syrups are an easy way to add a personal touch to a drink. Shrubs were once the toast of Williamsburg, and perhaps they will be again, but of another, quite different Williamsburg.
Here at Frontier Psychiatrist, we are often criticized for our lack of doom metal coverage and conservative punditry. Well, it’s time to put that judgment to rest with the following video clip:
Yes, that’s former Republican presidential candidate and current Capitol Offense bassist Mike Huckabee using his valuable airtime to stump for power trio Torche (who, properly speaking, are more of a sludge metal act). Meanwhile, as former political figures expand their influence into the world of popular culture, a couple of pop culture icons will be attempting to influence the political process this weekend as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert descend on D.C. for the Rally to Restore Sanity and the March to Keep Fear Alive (expect a full, on-site FP report). Here’s hoping that, like these media moguls, our faithful readers will influence the political process this week by exercising the rights given them through the 15th, 17th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments (not to mention Article I, Section 2).
What’s that you say? You fear the boredom of standing in line waiting check off your ballot? Never fear, FP is here to provide you with some music to occupy your mind:
*Troublemaking electro-clash duo Crystal Castles, whose second self-titled LP is easily one of the best electronic records of the year to date, released a new single this week in conjunction with Cure frontman Robert Smith, who you may remember from the 80s. As we’ve documented previously, 2010 will likely be remembered as 1980-11.
Crystal Castles Featuring Robert Smith – “Not In Love” (Platinum Blonde Cover)
*It’s hard to think of a more appropriate title for the upcoming record from tortured San Francisco loverboys Girls than Broken Dream Club. Yes, life is suffering. Still, the band’s debut LP was one of the best of 2009, and the new EP, due out November 22nd, promises a larger, more dramatic sound. Hear the band’s new single below:
Girls – “Heartbreaker”
*While Girls may have been the best new band of 2009, recently-profiled Cloud Nothing are on their way to earning the title for 2010. Led by Cleveland teenager Dylan Baldi, the band has written and recorded numerous tunes over the last year, now collected on their debut LP Turning On, released this week along with the four-song EP Leave You Forever. For fans of Guided By Voices, The Breeders, and good music:
Cloud Nothings – “Water Turns Back”
Cloud Nothings – “You Were Scared”
*2010 has been the year of the documentary film, and the indie music world has not been spared. Strange Powers, a new film chronicling the life of Magnetic Fields’ mastermind Stephen Merritt, was released in Manhattan earlier this week. Meanwhile, Ra Ra Riot, whose new record The Orchard we reviewed in August, released a short film on the making of the record earlier this month. The film can be seen in its entirety on Hulu.
*And, finally, it wouldn’t be an Indiephemera without a Kanye West update. In addition to unveiling the track list for his new record this week, and Yeezy released his new “video,” which is in fact a 35-minute short film encompassing 9 of the 12 songs on the new record (many of which have been streamed in this space). Hint: he gets down with a phoenix. Below the video, with a song-by-the-minute breakdown (track number on the album indicated) :
Really, you should watch the whole thing. And, while you’re at it, download the free new Kanye mixtape. Enjoy the weekend!
L.V. Lopez is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He lives in Brooklyn and wears hats. He writes the weekly advice column Ask a (Frontier) Psychiatrist and owns more records than is normal. He is currently growing a beard.
Today, we present our penultimate alphabetical roundup of the CMJ Music Marathon, brought to you by the letters P through T. For more new music, check out Part 1 (A-E), Part 2 (F-J), and Part 3 (K-O). And tune back tomorrow for six new bands, from Unicycle Loves You through Zowie.
Poofy and the Bus Boys (New York) – “Sunshine”
This band won our hearts when we compiled the 2010 CMJ Band Name Awards. As it turns out, their music is tougher than their name implies. Poofy and the Bus Boys play a fusion of hip-hop and rock in which the poofy-haired singer spits rhymes over funky grooves. The band acknowledges its debt to George Clinton and Parliament by quoting the chorus of “Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker).” Apparently, they want the funk.
Quest For Fire (Toronto) – “I’ve Been Trying to Leave”
“Quest for Fire” was a 1983 Iron Maiden song, which was based on the 1981 French film, La Guerre de Feu, which was based on a 1909 novel by Belgian writer J.-H. Rosny aîné, a founding father of science fiction, about Paleolithic man’s struggle to tame fire. Ontario’s own Quest For Fire takes up the torch, making epic guitar rock in the vein of Black Sabbath and Metallica, while Dusty Sparkles sings with a rasp that sounds like the reincarnation of Kurt Cobain.
Royal Thunder (Atlanta) -“Mouth of Fire”
Power trio Royal Thunder distills four decades of blues rock: from Led Zeppelin to Jack White’s band du jour, The Dead Weather. On “Mouth of Fire” bassist and lead vocalist Mlny Parsonz growls over a classic rock guitar part that sounds a bit like the riff from ZZ Top’s “Tush.”
Sun Airway (Philadelphia) – “Put the Days Away”
As Frontier Psychiatrist fans know, we like bikes. So we were hooked by the video for Sun Airway’s “Put the Days Away,” which stars a female urban cyclist. We also dig the music: a swooping soundscape of keyboards and talky vocals that sound a bit like Julian Casablancas of the Strokes. Check back on Monday for a review of Sun Airway’s debut album, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier.
Teenage Bottlerocket (Wyoming) – “Skate or Die”
If the band name Teenage Bottlerocket sounds like a throwback to adolescence in the 1980s, then wait until you hear their song “Skate or Die.” These boys from Laramie, Wyoming play singalong punk-pop, the kind that put Green Day’s American Idiot on Broadway. Clearly, Teenage Bottlerocket has a sense of humor. “Bigger Than Kiss,” mockingly declares the band’s greatness and name checks Kiss band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Add that to a cartoon video that recalls the Adult Swim show Metalocalypse and the joke is complete.
Today continues the Frontier Psychiatrist alphabetical breakdown of last week’s CMJ Music Marathon, focusing on all the letters between Knock and Out. Check out the previous entries, and stay tuned for the rest of the playlist.
Kids of 88 (Trenchtown, NZ) – “My House”
New Zealand has had quite a renaissance in the last 10 years, with successes from Peter Jackson, Flight of the Conchords and now Kids of 88. This pop-electro-dance twosome have enjoyed success in their homeland, going so far as earning a record deal with Sony Music and a spot at this year’s CMJ. Listing influences of “groove, mood, and slutty arrangements”, Kids’ first single, “My House” showcases all three. As of now, it remains to be seen if their potentially homogenous hipster-dance will catch on, but this track is quite infectious.
Lower Dens (Baltimore) – “Hospice Gates”
If MTV still played videos, “Hospice Gates” would have that little “buzzworthy” stamp at the bottom right. Fronted by Jana Hunter, who you may know from her frequent collaborations with freak-folk troubadour Devendra Banhart, the Lower Dens are oddly labeled as “dance”, but that should be taken loosely. If one were to groove to “Hospice Gates”, we imagine it would be more like the goth kids in South Park. Not to slight this track, the beat becomes a hypnotic build which eventually becomes chills on your neck. Also, they sound as if they’d be excellent live.
Milagres (Brooklyn) – “Glowing Mouth”
On paper, Milagres are perfect for FP: they’re from Brooklyn, are doing a Daytrotter session tomorrow, and know the merits of a six-and-a-half minute pop song. Formerly known as The Secret Life of Sophia, not much is known about Milagres. “Glowing Mouth”, the newest track on their bandcamp, is a well constructed psych-pop number that sounds like Jeff Buckley traded his guitar in for a less interesting synth. Not exactly new ground, but it’s still a decent jam.
Nightmare & The Cat (Los Angeles) – “Sara Beth”
Nightmare & The Cat are possibly the youngest band profiled in this series; smooth-voiced and babyfaced lead singer Django Stewart is just 19. Nightmare use their young ages to their benefit, however, giving their songs a certain freshness that isn’t often found. We dig the ethereal vibe these tracks have. If anything, Nightmare becomes a little too polished, but “Sara Beth” shows the band hitting all the right notes.
O’Death (New York) – “Fire On Peshtigo”
Folk rock and punk rock are perfect bedfellows. Mix in a little literary tongue a la The Decemberists and some gothic dissonance like Ugly Organ-era Cursive, and you have O’Death. Actually, it’s pretty hard to list the influences of O’Death, since they are so diverse, so we’ll leave you with this: looking for some swashbuckling this Halloween? “Fire On Peshtigo” is for you.
Of all the ghosts they whisper about in the bike shops across the city, the most terrifying is the Headless Cyclist of the Hudson Greenway.
They say that the Headless Cyclist was a racer, killed in a crash uptown in the 70’s, and that he cycles nightly in search of first aid and revenge. Those who have claimed to see him say that he is silent, looming, fast as the blink of a taillight. They say he rides a vintage drop tube shifter Colnago with Campagnolo derailleurs.
But let me start from the beginning, before the sun has set.
The Hudson Greenway by day is a busy, happy path. On weekend afternoons the path is crowded: tourists ride Bike and Roll rentals, puzzled pedestrians look for the Intrepid. The traffic rushes alongside. You can only see the river through cement park plazas, garbage truck depots, and mysterious wire-fenced construction.
But keep going. At 81st Street or so, the path will start to run right along the river. Here, New Jersey’s buildings are square and low across the Hudson, cushioned by the green-and-gold trees.
Gear up. Pass the cruisers. You’re around 110th. The path is changing, winding, reaching under trees. The pavement is bumpy with roots beneath. In the late afternoon light, uptown is dreamier than prosaic midtown, seems more given to ghosts.
Soon the sun lowers over New Jersey, dipping the silver buildings in other paint. Here, in the monolithic shadow of the George Washington bridge, if you dropped your bike on some grass and climbed down, you could have your ankles in the frigid water. But don’t. Dusk is almost upon you, and you have to make it before dark.
Past some asphalt volleyball courts, make a hard turn. Gnarled trees shadow this path. To your right are train tracks, grown with moss, dipped in gloomy green. Here is where the Headless Cyclist has been seen.
The terrifying part: he keeps his head, not on his neck, but in a frontpack at his handlebars. He races the shadowy sections of the Parkway on cold nights. He uses no lights. Some nighttime cyclists have claimed nothing more than a rush of wind pass them on an open stretch, a shiver, a sense of presence.
But there is the case of one Bernie Glassman, who liked to commute on his bike from Juilliard up to his comfortable Washington Heights apartment. His weeknights sometimes kept him late in the city, and he often found himself cycling home in the city dark.
Bernie was not what you’d call an intelligent man. He’d read the backs of many books, and spoke with authority on all of them. He was notorious for stealing the compositions of his students and selling them as his own to advertising agencies. He gave private piano lessons and overcharged the parents. I think he was involved in a love triangle with a college roommate. If he was, he was sure to have acted dishonorably.
One night, after a particularly raucous party with some friends, Glassman was coming home along the Hudson. Something he’d had, food or drink or other substance, made him more paranoid than usual. Nervously he biked up the busier lower Greenway. The conversation at the party had turned to things that no one could confirm but everyone believed: that the internet was actually a government intelligence system, storing your credit card numbers and shameful late-night Googles; that Lasik would ultimately cause blindness; that some apartment buildings were in fact totally and completely haunted.
Glassman’s natural credulity, combined with the darkness of the late hour, made him swerve, trembling, at every bicycle light that approached. He picked up speed as he hit the lonely rocky section of the path, in view of the George Washington Bridge. And when he sucked in his breath and took the turn into the deep shadows of the winding tree-lined path just a couple of miles from home, he heard the unmistakable whir of gears just a few feet behind.
Glassman’s heart pounded, and he was too frightened to turn around. He geared higher and pushed his legs. The whirring stayed close behind him, no matter how fast he went, but he heard no breathing except his own. Through the trees he raced, bent over his handlebars, the cyclist behind him shifting gears when he shifted, leaning when he leaned. They were in a nighttime race, with Glassman in the lead by a length, and his heart leaping out of his chest with effort and fear.
He finally glimpsed the Lighthouse through the trees, and the stars and the river opened up to him. Here the path forked briefly and then rejoined itself. Glassman yelled: “WHO ARE YOU?” as he took the right fork of the path, while his pursuer took the left fork. The cyclist was still, inexplicably, in the shadow of trees, tall, on a slender black road bike, WITH NO HEAD WHATSOEVER. Glassman saw that the rider’s frontpack bulged and he felt cold fingers of fear down his spine.
Suddenly the ghoulish cyclist reached into his pack and pulled his own head from the depths. He turned to Glassman, as they raced side by side, separated by a bit of grass, and threw the head with nightmare force. Glassman took the impact on his helmet and swerved off the path into the trees. The goblin rider passed by like a whirlwind.
In the morning, Glassman did not show up for class. Friends found him cowering in his apartment, eating ramen with shaking hands. Soon after, he moved to a much smaller apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, where he claimed the Devil could not reach him. He never rode again.
You can believe in the Headless Cyclist, or don’t: as you wish. But cyclists still warn each other about the dangers of the upper Hudson Greenway, and my advice is: if dusk is falling, and you’re still at 96th, turn back. Turn back! And wait for daylight.