Look at these guys. They’re totally great, right? Their “About” section on Facebook reads simply, “fRiEnDs 4oReVeR.” And somehow that nonsensical mix of numbers and letters has the grammar stickler inside me smiling instead of cringing.
Check them out:
Brief and delightfully upbeat, Celestial Shore’s songs rarely hit the three-minute mark, but their pleasant melodies and quirky arrangements pour out of my speakers like cool, refreshing sweet tea on a summer day.
The changing weather has me trading in my weepy winter jams for sunnier fare. Here are a few songs to help get you in the mood for the long, hot days.
Nate Martinez of Thieving Irons (photo courtesy of the artist)
The solo project of Brooklynite Nate Martinez, Thieving Irons crafted his upcoming album (Behold, The Dreamer!) from dreams and a found book. “We spend our whole lives amassing various experiences,” Martinez writes on his site. “Some traumatic, hopefully many more joyful. This album serves as a testament to my own.”
“So Long” by The Thieving Irons:
Eleanore Everdell and Jason Friedman of The Hundred in the Hands (photo courtesy of artist)
Named after a bloody battle in 1866 in which Crazy Horse led his warriors to conquer and slay 100 men, The Hundred in the Hands is a Brooklyn-based duo that specialize in dreamy electro-pop.
“Killing It” by The Hundred In The Hands:
Owen Ashworth of Advance Base(photo Marc Krause)
You fell in love with Owen Ashworth when he played under the cumbersome but endearing moniker Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Owen’s back with a fresh project and a new album, A Shut-In’s Prayer, which just dropped this week. Close your eyes and picture yourself as a peanuts character as you listen to the intro to this catchy little ditty.
“New Gospel” by Advance Base:
Jessica Baldouf, Leif Anders, and Dwayne Paul Cullen of Orca Team (photo Ryan Furbush)
With their pleasant lo-fi/garage aesthetic , it’s not hard to see how Seattle’s Orca Team managed to nail a spot on the bill with veteran Ann Arbor group Saturday Looks Good to Me this Friday. Their new EP “Restraint” will be out this June.
“Vancouver B.C.” Orca Team:
Crinkles (photo courtesy of the artist)
Vermont-turned-Brooklyn 4-piece Crinkles have been making music together for years but just released their first LP in April. These guys impressed me when I saw them at opening night of Rooftop Films, and I look forward to hearing more from them.
Twenty-one-year-old Aly Spaltro may play under a cute, storybook-like moniker, but don’t let the name fool you. Her songs have more in common with the original tales of the Brothers Grimm than with their G-rated Disney reincarnations.
Perhaps a more fitting descriptor for Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s music can be found in the title of her latest album: Mammoth Swoon. There’s a startling intensity to Spaltro’s deep voice. It will sweep you up and send you hurtling into a vivid world of bad dreams, ghosts, and yes, even wolf attacks.
Aly Spaltro aka Lady Lamb the Beekeper (photo Shervin Lainez)
Of course, Spaltro sings about more conventional themes like heartbreak and longing, but even then, her striking lyrics prevent her songs from becoming trite. For Spaltro, the need to be close to someone translates to, “I wish to fall asleep in your marrow.”
But as evidenced by the odd syncopation in “Penny Licks,” Mammoth Swoon isn’t without its quirks. Occasionally, the production value takes a dip or a chord is missed. But instead of faltering under the weight of its flaws, it somehow emerges more sure-footed and engrossing. Spaltro’s voice, though raw and ragged one minute, pours forth like honey the next.
Well, kids, it’s that time of year again. Northside Festival kicks off in New York tonight and runs through Sunday. You can catch the full line-up (more or less) here, thanks to L Magazine. But allow me to list a few of my top picks.
EDIT: The artists that are in color are the ones I managed to see.
Bruar Falls 11:00 Eternal Summers 10:00 Reading Rainbow
9:15 The Secret History 8:30 Seapony
St. Cecilia’s Church 9:15 Atlas Sound 8:15 White Rainbow 7:30 Lichens
Webster Hall (not part of Northside)
6:00 Architecture in Helsinki
Union Pool 8:20 Lady Lamb the Beekeeper
Cameo 10:15 MINKS
McCarren Park 8:30 Beirut 7:20 Sharon Van Etten 6:30 Yellow Ostrich
Piano’s 10:00 Sea Pony
Prospect Park (free show, not part of Northside)
7:00 The Books, Junip, Doveman
Irving Plaza (not part of Northside)
9:00 Noah and the Whale
Music Hall of Williamsburg 11:30 Twin Sister 10:30 Allo Darlin 9:45 Ava Luna
10:00 The Smith Westerns
285 Kent Ave. 9:30 Monogold
Europa 11:00 Diamond Rings 10:00 Porcelain Raft 9:00 BELL
8:30 Jose Gonzalez at Rooftop Films
St. Cecilia’s Church 7:30 Wyrd Visisions
8:15 Nicholas Krgovich
9:15 Mount Eerie
You can also read my reviews on Brooklyn Vegan:
here for Lichens, White Rainbow, Atlas Sound, Reading Rainbow, and Eternal Summers
here for Yellow Ostrich, Sharon Van Etten, Beirut, and Seapony
here for Twin Sister, Allo Darlin’, Wyrd Visions, Nicholas Krgovich, and Mount Eerie
“This is a sexy, desperate program,” Rooftop Films host Mark Elijah Rosenberg said by way of introducing the evening’s theme: The Pursuit of Love. While opening night had been a bit on the chilly side, last Friday’s event seemed to mark the season’s official foray into summer.
On the roof at the New Design High School (photo Irwin Seow)
But before the shorts began, Widowspeak took the stage for a short set. Having missed their recent performance at Glasslands, I was thankful for another opportunity to see the Brooklyn band play. I’ve been listening to their single (as of yet the only thing they’ve officially released) on repeat.
Sometimes, new bands you love recorded let you down. Widowspeak does not fall into this category. From their first song, I was hooked, but it took me a minute to figure out why the music seemed to resonate with me so deeply. Then it hit me. “Oh man! The singer from Widowspeak is totally adorable and sounds like Hope Sandoval!” I eagerly texted a friend. With her long flowing floral skirt, soothing voice, and seductive sideways glances, singer Molly Hamilton exuded just the right combination of innocence and sexiness. Consider me a fan.
Widowspeak (photo Nicholas Gazin)
Closing with Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” (tag line “I’ll never fall in love”) turned out to be the perfect segue to the shorts.
Each year’s romantic shorts program is one of my favorite Rooftop Films events. This year, the theme made it even more fun. From a town full of headless villagers to a bizarre underwater manifestation, the shorts revealed that love is just as twisted as it is rewarding.
Julianna Barwick + Helado Negro – Glasslands – May 10th
I used to have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the label Asthmatic Kitty. The music was a bit zany, largely upbeat, and maybe even slightly religious. (Sufjan Stevens of course has a large roll in the label.) So artists like Fol Chen, DM Stith, Half-handed Cloud, Shapes and Sizes, and The Curtains made sense.
But when I found out that Julianna Barwick was on Asthmatic Kitty, I confess I was a bit surprised. Here was a Brooklyn-based artist who specialized in creating complex layers of haunting vocals and sparse instrumentation. There’s nothing really funny about the music. Nothing totally weird. And as far as I can tell, no religious undertones.
That’s about the time when I saw that Helado Negro was also signed to the label. Wow. Spanish vocals? I thought to myself. Interesting. I was definitely curious to learn more. It looks like Asthmatic Kitty is finally taking a step out of its comfort zone. Now, I’m curious to hear more.
Tuesday night’s show at Glasslands marked the record releases for both Helado Negro and Julianna Barwick – two artists who don’t seem to necessarily have a lot in common other than their ties to Asthmatic Kitty.
Helado Negro (photo Eve Sussman)
First up was Helado Negro (“Black Ice Cream”), whose music I had never heard. As a student, I listened to a lot of international music to prevent myself from becoming distracted by the lyrics while writing papers, but in a live setting, it can be difficult for me (former English major) to get a grasp on an artist without knowing the subject matter of the songs. That said, Helado Negro definitely grew on me over the course of the 40-minute set.
Take a listen to “Regresa” from Helado Negro:
Then. Julianna Barwick. I was almost jealous of the people in the crowd who were totally unfamiliar with Barwick’s music. Just imagine if this was your introduction:
What would be going through your head?
Julianna Barwick (photo Jody Rogac)
To me, the thing that’s striking about Barwick’s music is that each layer of vox seems to carry a different emotion, so that by the time she’s done assembling a song, it’s simultaneously mournful, content, hopeful, and full of yearning.
Apart from its technical aspects, describing Barwick’s music poses a challenge. It is something that is best experienced. I wish I could have seen her perform in Central Presbyterian Church at SXSW. I can only imagine the setting complimented her music perfectly.
In closing, take a look at this video of Barwick making music in her bedroom, courtesy of WNYC.
During CMJ, I happened upon the Danish-born artist Oh Land. In a sea of indistinguishable bands, Oh Land’s Nanna Øland Fabricius certainly stood out. I was so intrigued by her short set during CMJ that I decided to check her out again. Though I wrote this review with the intent of posting it on Brooklyn Vegan, it has not surfaced yet, so I’ll make a home for it here in the meantime.
Oh Land, The Canon Logic, Arms – Brooklyn Bowl – November 8th
By the time I arrived at Brooklyn Bowl, I had missed Fatty Acid and The Courtesy Tier. With five bands on the bill, I (perhaps unfairly) decided that 3 out of 5 wasn’t too bad.
Based on the enthusiasm and size of the crowd, it may have made more sense to save Oh Land for last, but the recent Brooklyn transplant was third on the bill. Luckily, I made it in time to check out the Danish vixen’s set.
The gorgeous Nanna Øland Fabricius of Oh Land (Photo Joseph D'Arco)
Oh Land’s performance unfolds like a music video. At the beginning of each song, Nanna Øland Fabricius taps out a few notes on the keyboard or on her electronic drum kit just to show us that she can. But then she walks away, and the music magically continues (despite the fact that no pedals seem to factor into the equation). For an artist whose act seems to rely heavily on eye candy like light-up drum sticks, talking balloons, and whimsical outfits, Oh Land’s slower songs drag a bit, but she shines during her dancier numbers. Oh Land’s drummer, Hans Hvidberg-Hansen, may play an integral role in the music, but with Fabricius parading around the stage, his presence hardly registers.
Oh Land’s electro-pop stylings may not exactly be groundbreaking, but her music and accompanying presentation are definitely worth a listen (and a look). After being pleasantly surprised by Oh Land’s performance during CMJ, her equally short set time on Monday night (just 24 minutes) was a bit of a let down, but she still managed to wow the crowd in the short time she had. (An exchange between two girls nearby: A: “She’s going to be so famous.” B: “I know. She’s so cute.” A: “Should we start hyping her up?”) And so it begins.
In the bubblegum afterglow of Oh Land, I confess my recall of the other two The Canon Logic’s short set is limited aside from their sonorous group vocals. I do, however, remember being charmed by a cute couple near the front of the stage who seemed to know every word of their songs.
Though I was tempted to leave after catching Oh Land’s set, I’m glad I stuck around long enough to see Arms, the final band of the evening. The crowd may have thinned out noticeably by the time Arms took the stage, but Todd Goldstein (you may remember him as the guitarist from Harlem Shakes) and his backing band didn’t let that sour their performance. There were smiles all around.
Check out Oh Land’s attractive video for the single “Sun of a Gun.”
I recently had the chance to check out the dreamy lo-fi husband/wife duo Tennis over at the Cake Shop (write-up here). It’s hard to believe that last week marked their first time playing in New York and harder to believe that they weren’t headlining the show, and I don’t think I was alone in this assessment. In a strange perversion of the norm, there were far more people present for Tennis (the first opener) than for the subsequent two bands – Family Portrait and Ducktails.
I think this one is fairly self-explanatory
Their story is pretty cute, too. I absolutely love the band’s description on last.fm, which reads:
The idea for the project began one day a couple of years ago when Alaina made fun of Patrick for playing Tennis in college, which is an elitist rich man’s sport. A year later the two fled their hometown Denver to spend eight months sailing and exploring the North Atlantic coast. During their adventures they began writing music together documenting their experiences.
Take a listen to their recent single, “South Carolina.” (video slightly NSFW, but nothing crazy)
I’m not going to lie. As a South Carolina native, this one holds a special place in my heart.
[Note: Sorry for the unexplained hiatus. At long last, Verizon has finally decided to restore Internet service to my apartment. Hooray!]
Rooftop Films – Old American Can Factory – July 2nd
A lot of summer festivals rely on bands who have already proven themselves and are perhaps already past their peak. Rooftop Films has a knack for picking up Brooklyn indie acts on the rise.
Last Friday marked my second time seeing the duo Bow Ribbons. The first time was at the small DIY Brooklyn venue Shea Stadium last April with High Places. From the first few notes uttered by “Bow,” I was intrigued and curious to see more. After seeing them perform a second time, I admit I’m still not sure if Bow’s dramatic stage presence and deep, (often painfully) husky voice is an act or if she is truly moved by the music they make. I can definitely see why they might grate on some peoples’ nerves. Their music is quite a shtick.
But then for better or worse, part of me wonders what good music is if it’s universally liked. Shouldn’t it be challenging? Should some people balk at the sound? Or have I just been tainted by my work with Brooklyn Vegan and all the haters who love to defend the crap and rail against bands that actually put in the time and effort in the studio and out (think Grizzly Bear and The National).
Again, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Bow Ribbons, but I do think that their moody music somewhat fit the ghostly post-industrial landscape depicted in the evenings’ shorts… even if Bow Ribbons is a band the probably thrives more in small, intimate settings instead of on a rooftop full of 9-5′ers who sadly come more for the view and the booze than the main events.
Of course, the music was not the only thing that interested me about the evening. I simply couldn’t resist to see how Werner Herzog would voice a plastic bag as it blew around, wandering the world in search of its maker.
Rooftop Films is only getting warmed up. Visit their site for more info on upcoming events.
The Williamsburg Waterfront opened its gates for the first show of the 2010 summer concert series with Karen Elson, Grizzly Bear, and Band of Horses tonight… that is if you bought a $30+ ticket.
would-be concert-goers kicked to the curb (photo Matt Karp)
I understand that the ticket money for the paid shows is slated to go toward the restoration and preservation of north Brooklyn’s parks, but the idea of such expensive tickets (over 50 bucks for Belle & Sebastian once the convenience fees were factored in) certainly seems to be a bit much… especially since listening for free doesn’t really seem to be much of an option this year.
Last year, fans and casual listeners alike could sit in the adjacent park to take in the sites and sounds for free. This year, that is no longer an option. As I found out tonight, the ‘public’ park is no longer open to the ‘public’ when it comes to the paid waterfront shows.
In addition to closing off the park, they also rotated the stage this year so that the band faces the water, making it all but impossible to catch a glimpse of the stage from outside of the fence – especially after event members hung up huge banners to block any remaining connection to the music.
"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."
- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being