Archive for May, 2010

Taken by Swedes

When I arrived at Le Poisson Rouge tonight and saw what appeared to be a movie playing on a screen on stage, I was afraid I had come on the wrong night. (Shoot. Did I just spend 12 bucks to watch a movie?) But before I could worry to much, the side door opened, and Victoria Bergsman (formerly of the Concretes and the chick from “Young Folk”) and her backing band walked on stage, bearing incense.

In the minutes leading up to Taken by Trees’ set, people sheepishly lined the walls, as if afraid to stand in the middle of the floor, but at Victoria’s request following the first song, the crowd stepped forward and closed the gap.

Victoria Bergsman of Taken by Trees

For a Swedish artist, Taken by Trees sounds fairly… worldly, and I suppose that’s only fitting. Her last album, East of Eden, was recorded in Pakistan. According to Victoria’s website, she has always been intrigued by ‘the rhythm, drums and flutes of Pakistani music.’ Her live show may not feature Pakistanis singing backing vocals like her album does, but her performance is still tinged by this disparate culture. Instead of your standard drum kit, the two percussionists incorporate various types of shakers and bongos.

The mood was right, the crowd reverent, and the music mesmerizing (1), but it all seemed to stop too soon. Taken By Trees’ set clocked in under 45 minutes, which seems like a more appropriate length for an opening band than for the main act. (And no, there was no encore.) Honestly, it was kind of a let down, but it did leave me wanting more…

Taken by Trees may not have played this cover song, but I’ll leave you with it for fun anyway.

Set List
1. To Lose Someone (listen)
2. Anna
3. Greyest Love of All
4. Day By Day
5. Too Young
6. Summer Sigh
7. Only Yesterday
8. Watch the Waves

(1) Elsa Chiao also sounded fantastic on backing vocals. Chiao’s angelic high voice complimented Victoria’s deeper tones.


Speaking of cover songs…

DM Stith just released a double disc on Asthmatic Kitty today that includes remixes and extras from last year’s moody masterpiece Heavy Ghost… in addition to some (odd) cover songs.

Heavy Ghost Appendices (Cover artwork DM Stith)

Take a listen to “Be My Baby” (originally done by The Ronnettes):

Heavy Ghost Appendices also includes covers of songs by Randy Newman, David Byrne, and Diane Cluck.

DM Stith kicks off his month-and-a-half-long summer tour with a  show at 92 Y Tribeca on June 12th (which happens to be my birthday in case you’re keeping track).

As if we needed another reason to love Sam Amidon…

he covered the Katrina and the Waves song “Walking on Sunshine.” Yes!

Sam Amidon

You can (and should) download or stream it here.

Phantogram… the new Sleigh Bells?

Phantogram + Light Pollution + Railbird – Bowery Ballroom – May 19

Ever since I saw Phantogram play at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night, I haven’t been able to get their song “When I’m Small” out of my head.

Given the experimental style of their music and their flashy appearance, it’s hard to believe that the duo practices in a barn in upstate New York and didn’t just step off the L train, but it’s fun to imagine chic singer and keyboardist Sarah Barthel wearing pumps and a skin-tight black ensemble, head banging next to some chickens.


To see a full review of Wednesday night’s show (including info on the two opening bands), check out  my write-up for Brooklyn Vegan.

Brooklyn Vegan – not a food-related site

Hey, guys. So a few days ago, I got an email from popular NY-based music blog Brooklyn Vegan, asking me if I’d like to write for them, and I decided to give it a try. This means that there will probably be fewer live concert reviews here, but the blog will live on! (Of course, Brooklyn Vegan is also just a click away).

If you aren’t National’d out by this point, I encourage you to check out my first post about Saturday night’s show at BAM. Exciting stuff.

I probably won’t link to BV every time I post something there, but I will mention it in my new Twitter feed. Follow me for the latest.

Where aliens… and Lindsay Lohan collide

The Blow + Acrylics – Glasslands – May 13

When Molly Shea and Jason Klauber of Acrylics walked on stage wearing their nearly-all-white outfits and donning solid white wigs, I actually thought to myself, Wow. Are you serious? Martians. Martians steeped in shoe-gazey, ambient space rock. Honestly though, if martians are going to be playing a show in Brooklyn, I can think of few better venues than Glasslands. Lining the stage and ceiling are these puffy white 3D creations – it kind of looks like a bunch of white tissue paper that has been sculpted into flower-like buds. Oh yeah, and they have rigged up lights to illuminate different parts of their patchwork sky, so the background flickers with a gentle off-white light. The effect was rather spectacular given the Acrylics’ look and accompanying repertoire.

Acrylics - in normal (hipster) garb (Photo Victoria Jacob)

Still, I couldn’t help but pondering the merits of the gimmick band. You know what I’m talking about. I once saw a band where every member wore large sunglasses on stage. Or you know – maybe they’re all wearing construction workers’ hats. Sure, maybe it’s interesting at first, but it can all get a little old. And who really enjoys a gimmick band more than once? Same schtick every time.

Acrylics – they weren’t bad per sé, but come on. Towards the end of their set, they threw silver-spraypainted beach balls into the crowd. Yeah. At Glasslands. The beach balls did little more than hit unsuspecting people in the face and distract me from the music being played, and make me long for outdoor summer shows.

When Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels” immediately started playing after Acrylics were done, I couldn’t help but grin. Standard weird 80s stuff. Perfect martian music.

An outdated photo of The Blow's Khaela (now she has long Charlotte Gainsbourg style hair)

Then… The Blow. I fell in love with Khaela Maricich when I saw her in 2007. Sure, her music may just consist of her vocals and pre-recorded dance beats, but it just seems real, and I always have been a sucker for lo-fi done right. Then, of course there are Khaela’s lyrics.

When you’re holding me,
we make a pair of parentheses.
There’s plenty of space to encase
whatever weird way my mind goes,
I know I’ll be safe in these arms.

You’re not a baby if you feel the world.
All of the babies, they can feel the world.
That’s why the cry.

I love it. And apparently, so does Lindsay Lohan.

OK, I admit Khaela never actually came out and said she had been hanging out with Lindsay and writing songs for her, but it was certainly strongly insinuated.

So I wrote this song for a celebrity. Someone you definitely would have heard of, but you probably have never listened to her. She went on to say that this unnamed celebrity had recently had a big downfall – her face was all over those magazines, she had been dating a girl (but it wasn’t a big deal in the media), she sometimes goes around comando, she apparently likes to sing “Parentheses,” and well, apparently she likes gold, strappy high-heeled sandals. hmm…

Sadly, the album Khaela had been writing for this mystery celebrity is no longer coming out. The thing that sucks is that it exists, but it’s locked in a vault and not in peoples’ heads. But I can still sing them here.

One of the new songs was all about owning disasters and personal meltdowns. All you have to do is make disasters sound cool.

Another was about making things up as  you went along. (Apparently, this unnamed celebrity (UC) had been telling her mother about her feelings for a girl, when her mother responded that she was just looking for attention and that she was making it up, prompting the UC to respond You know, you’re right. We are just making it up together. Kinda genius.

Khaela had had big plans for this album. She admitted that she often sang about boys instead of girls because for her, singing about being a lesbian wouldn’t be radical. I’m spastic. But if you get a ‘normal girl’ to sing about a radical topic, and if the ‘normal person’ does radical things and does it right, then these radical things can become normal.

It was a good evening. Sure, some people actually walked out or balked at Khaela’s sheer awkwardness and minimal music, but then there was also the group of girls near the front who sung along and listened appreciatively when she began telling a story… and I guess I was more aligned with the latter group.

Other highlights from the evening of ‘hits’ included: “Hey Boy,” “Parentheses,” “The Long List of Girls,” and “Come on Petunia.”

Also – apparently Khaela now lives in one of the five boroughs, so hopefully we’ll be seeing and hearing more from her.

Calling all twit wits

Sonic Smögåsbord now has a Twitter account! That’s right. It took long enough.

Now, shorter (but no less exciting) blurbs will have a home. Follow me. It will be fun. I only wish the Twitter handle could be one character longer…

"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