Frontier Psychiatrist

Archive for August 2011

Stephen Bruner a.k.a. Thundercat

Many bass players are wallflowers. Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner is not one of them.

On his debut record, the 25-year-old bass phenom moves like Charles Mingus, bumps like Bootsy Collins, jams like Jaco Pastorious, and wields his electric fencepost like a weapon of mass seduction. Despite its ominous title, The Golden Age of Apocalypse is less like Hurricane Irene, more like The Weather Channel, and even more like Weather Report. The album is a swanky throwback to 70’s fusion and 90’s acid jazz, soft rock swank with a hint of hip-hop heat. Along the way, Bruner  appropriates aspects of acts in which he has played as a sideman: the soul of Erykah Badu, the ambience of Flying Lotus, and the fury of Suicidal Tendencies (which he joined at age 17).

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The summer was a slow time for new music releases, but it proved a spectacular time for new music videos.  There were so many outstanding releases over the past two months that we had to exclude clips from site favorites like St. Vincent, Fucked Up, and Bon Iver.  Given that we did not publish a column last month, this month’s entry includes ten videos.  The entries below feature religious cults, sock puppets, cherry-red Mustangs, and post-modern literary references.  Watch and enjoy.

10) Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Little Blu House”

Portland’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra is one of dozens of young bands cranking out psychedelia-inspired pop music in 2011.  Their self-titled debut, released this summer on Fat Possum, will make you nod your head, dance seductively, and wish you had some drugs.  The video for album-highlight “Little Blu House” is exactly what you’d expect it to be.

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The author at Arsenal FC's last game in Highbury, North London, its home for 93 years

Football’s a funny old game, as a reasonably famous television pundit in Britain once said. And he was right. One moment you can be beguiled by its beauty, the next you are mugged by its ability to frustrate and disappoint. I chose to support Arsenal Football Club having watched them lose a cup final. Yes, lose. Arsenal, who play at the Emirates Stadium in North London, are one of the English Premier League’s 20 teams. Founded in 1886, they have won countless league and cup competitions in their lifetime and are, arguably, one of the biggest clubs in Europe. You will sometimes hear Arsenal referred to as the Gunners, a nickname that originates in the fact that the club was started by workers at the Woolwich Arsenal Armament factory. Fans are known as affectionately as Gooners. Football, as you will probably have already guessed, also goes by the name of soccer.

In choosing to support Arsenal on the back of a cup final defeat, I learned a hard lesson early in my tenure as a football fan: The good times come with the cast-iron guarantee that there will be bad times that will last as little as a few games or as long as a few seasons.  Given this fact, I often ask myself why I put my support for the Arsenal above my mental wellbeing. After all, there’s something inherently masochistic in idolizing an organization that is utterly incapable of communicating with you in a meaningful way, in adoring a team that exploits your (at best) irrational and (at worst) misdirected emotional connections, in loving an entity that will slap you in the face and boldly state, “It’s not me, it’s YOU!”

Let’s just say it gets worse before it gets better.

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For six months I lived in Sevilla, Spain, with my very own temporary Spanish family.  My Spanish “mom” had very little in common with my real mom, but they both had a penchant for worrying about me, and feeding me.  Actually, I think the two (worrying and feeding) are inversely related for them both: worry decreases when feeding increases.  Needless to say, I ate a lot in Spain.

Once we established the ground rules of no mayo and lots of vegetables, everything I was served was delicious.  Smoky paprika sat sprinkled atop most dishes, luxurious olive oil coated every nook and cranny of fresh tomatoes, and fresh bread sandwiched fluffy, gooey tortilla Española.  It was heavenly.

Before I returned to New York, I requested a cooking lesson so I could take a little bit of the Spanish dream I had been living back home with me.  I looked over my Spanish mom’s shoulder, taking notes, as she made all of my favorites in a single afternoon: tortilla, lentil soup, spinach and garbanzos, and stuffed eggplants.  The eggplants had been a mystery to me.   They always came out creamy and gooey with melted, super sweet summer veggies and cheese, and a slight nuttiness.  For all the complexity of flavor, it’s a pretty simple concept: ratatouille, stuffed back into the vegetables from which it came.  Except in Spain they call the mixture pisto.

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Slave Ambient is out now on Secretly Canadian.

Adam Granduciel obsesses over the journey. His songs depict a nomadic life that exalts heading off into the unknown. What’s wonderful about the latest effort by his band, The War on Drugs, is its attempt to shed the undying romanticism with the road.

Ditching the Americana-label for a gazier, psychedelic drone, Slave Ambient suggests that not every mile is filled with breathtakingly beautiful scenery. The result is long stretches where signs counting down the miles to Joplin, Mo. are much-anticipated milestones. And when there’s nothing to see, all you can do is enjoy the ride.

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A Haven for Chickens in Brooklyn

We didn’t know very much about chickens when we received ours in May, but as with most things (a kitten or puppy, a 100-year-old house, and I assume human babies), a lot of the experience is learn as you go. Still, I wanted to make sure we were doing right by our hens. The friend who had gifted the chickens to us had emailed us a link to a chicken Meetup group in Brooklyn. Hey, we thought, there are Meetup groups for Howard Dean, Historical Fiction and owners of smushed face dogs. Why not check it out?

The Just Food City Chicken Meetup, run by nonprofit organization Just Food, is described as such: Meet other NYC chicken enthusiasts! Come together to explore chicken coops, attend workshops, share information and resources and celebrate city chickens. This group is for the beginner and experienced alike.

Are we enthusiasts? Sorta. And we’re beginners and kind of get off on bragging about our hens. So off we went!

The meetup was held at Imani Garden, a community garden in Crown Heights managed by the New York Restoration Project. In addition to growing fruits and vegetables, the garden also partners with BK Farmyards, who care for 60 free-range chickens, provide community education and also run a fresh egg CSA (community-supported agriculture, for those of you non-hipster/non-yuppies out there, which allows people to buy a “share” of locally-grown food).

Amazingly, the meetup was walking distance from our house. Living in central Bed Stuy, this almost never happens.  Who knew there were 60 happy free-range chickens of all sizes and colors living just across Atlantic Avenue?

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Twin Sister

Long Island’s Twin Sister have been gaining momentum.  Last year, their EP Color Your Life finished 13th in Gorilla vs. Bear’s best of 2010 list, and the band finished 3rd in the “Best Hope for 2011” category of Pitchfork’s Readers’ Poll.  2011 has arrived and, following a well-received set at the Pitchfork Music Festival, they are ready to release their debut LP In Heaven September 27th on Domino Records.  Drummer Bryan Ujueata was kind enough to take some time to answer some of our questions about the band’s past, present, and future.

Frontier Psychiatrist: A couple of things stand out whenever I read anything about you guys.  The first is that you are uniformly referred to as a “Long Island” band.  If you google “bands from Long Island,” all you find are Blue Oyster Cult, Twisted Sister, and Taking Back Sunday.  Which is to say: in the image-conscious indie world, it’s pretty ballsy to identify yourself as Long Islanders.  Is this a conscious, courageous decision, a secret that leaked out, or just a plain fact?

Bryan Ujueata: It’s just plain fact.  The reason the confusion exists is because a majority of us have lived in Brooklyn at different points in time.  Also, listing ourselves as a “Brooklyn band” was convenient early on in our career so we would get contacted about playing more NYC shows, which were the better ones.

FP: The second thing I notice is that I can’t get through a sentence without reading that you are an “indie-pop quintet.”  Yet if listeners grab Color Your Life expecting something like Cults or Tennis, they’re in for a surprise.  The songs on that EP are much more structurally complex than typical “indie pop,” they’re more danceable, and they’re just plain longer.  Do you feel that you’re an “indie pop” group, and if not, how would you classify yourself.  Or would you classify yourself at all?

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Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.