Posts Tagged 'Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy'

End of the year best, round one: Shows

I’m starting with this list because it is perhaps the easiest to compile. More to come.

There are 19 here. Deal with it. They’re also in descending order, for dramatic effect.
(The asterisks link to the appropriate show review.)

19. Warpaint – Music Hall of Williamsburg, December 2nd *
This was another surprise. Though I had heard the name Warpaint thrown around for a few months, I knew little about them going into the show, but they had me bewitched with their alternating vocals and mesmerizing minimalism.

18. Seabear – Mercury Lounge, March 25th *
I really can’t get enough of these quaint Icelandic bands, homespun sweaters and all. The harmonies and the impressive range of instruments in this large band leave me with an extra spring in my step. I want to get inducted into their family. You don’t think they’d notice if I joined in, do you? Maybe I could play the tambourine… or just pretend to sing.

Seabear (Photo Thomas Helbig)

17. Land of Talk – Bowery Ballroom, November 6th *
I really loved this album – the lyrics especially, so seeing Land of Talk this past November was a real treat.

16. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and the Cairo Gang, The Babblers – Town Hall, December 8th *
Surprisingly, this was my first time seeing B’P’B. It was a long time coming. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, however, was The Babblers – yet another of Will Oldham’s special projects, featuring the irresistible Angel Olsen on vox.

15. tUnE-yArDs – The Bell House, February 5th *
With her wild gaze and tribal-influenced songs, Merril Garbus is a force to behold. From what I heard, she stole the show from the Dirty Projectors when she opened for them. Somehow, that doesn’t at all surprise me.

tUnE-yArDs (Photo Jessica Amaya)

14. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Mercury Lounge, October 14th * (an interview with Owen)
I’ve seen Owen more times than nearly everyone else (3 or 4 times this year alone), and every time is a treat. This show was an extra treat because it was one of his last performances as CFTPA… ever! (I also attended his last NY show the next night, but the Brooklyn Masonic Temple was not the right environment, and too many people were there to see the other bands on the bill – ahem, Dan Deacon and Lightning Bolt). What a sweet man. I look forward to hearing his next musical project.

13. Scout Niblett and Holy Sons – The Mercury Lounge, October 6th *
After the disastrous Cat Power-esque performance in 2007, I’m certainly glad I gave you another chance, Scout (aka Emma). I love how raw her voice is and how she effortlessly shifts in tone from the sweet, innocent girl to the big bad wolf. Though I had never heard of them prior to the show, Holy Sons wowed me so much that I left with two albums.

Scout Niblett (Ian Crowther)

12. Lost in the Trees – The Mercury Lounge, August 23rd *
These guys from North Carolina are every bit as mesmerizing now as when I first saw them in 2008. Their moody orchestral arrangements and haunting lyrics make me shiver every time.

11. The Blow – Glasslands Gallery,  May 13th *
Oh, Khaela. Your banter about the lost album with the unnamed starlet (Lindsey Lohan) may not be true, but it makes for quite an entertaining schtick. I love her beautiful, awkward stage presence and the candidness of her songs.

The Blow (Photo Devyn Manibo)

10. Beirut – Music Hall of Williamsburg, July 5th *
The man has French horn tattoos. Enough said.

9. Belle & Sebastian – The Williamsburg Waterfront, September 20th *
This was perhaps my most anticipated show of the year. I’ve spent countless hours listening to Belle & Sebastian. They were just one of those formative bands for me. Too bad it took me like 6 years to actually see them. The show was good, and the band was charming. Sadly, it just never could have lived up to my expectations.

Belle & Sebastian (Photo Amanda Hatfield)

8. CocoRosie – Music Hall of Williamsburg, September 15th *
This was kind of the wild card of the year. I wasn’t sure if I’d want to storm out of the room or take the sisters home with me. The latter was more accurate. I was pretty much speechless by the end of the night.

7. Andrew Bird – The Guggenheim, August 5th *
Andrew Bird… at the Guggenheim. The set-up alone is drool-worthy. Then there was the ‘forest floor of horns’ and the multi-level rotunda, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Andrew Bird (Photo Macey Foronda)

6. The National – Radio City Music Hall – June 16th *
I’d say I preferred their show at the Bell House or BAM earlier in the year (whoa, I saw them 4 times)… except for the fact that this was the show when Matt Berninger left the stage, climbed over the seats in my aisle, and landed in mine. The feeling of his hand on my shoulder as he steadied himself and the knowledge that I could have easily reached across the three-inch divide and caressed his cheek, are almost too much to handle.

5. DM Stith + Silje Nes + Inlets – Littlefield, June 13th *
Again, a fantastic line-up and a small, intimate show (with seats!). This was my first encounter with the Norwegian beauty Silje Nes, and I hope to see her many more times. And David Michael, might we go on a picnic sometime?

4. Laura Marling – Le Poisson Rouge, February 12th *
I love this girl… even if her songs strongly suggest that she doesn’t believe in the emotion. She is miles in front of her British contemporaries (Noah and the Whale, Fanfarlo, Mumford and Sons). Laura, I foolishly invite you to ditch Marcus and trample on my heart instead.

Laura Marling (Photo kDamo)

3. Efterklang + Sam Amidon + Daniel Bjarnason – Le Poisson Rouge, March 3rd *
I loved each of these acts individually. Together, they made for one of the most memorable shows of the year. What a talented array of musicians. Even though shows at LPR can be a bummer due to the pesky 2-item minimum at tables, I’d gladly hulk in the corner for you any day, Sam.

2. Atlas Sound – The Bell House, February 3rd *
Remember when the Bell House consistently hosted great musicians? I really hope these winter shows become an annual tradition as Bradford hinted a couple of weeks ago. I love Deerhunter, but I feel like Bradford would be dead without Atlas Sound to channel his surfeit of creative energy. Wonderful, heartfelt show – a nice contrast to the cold, dark February night.

1. Sufjan Stevens + DM Stith – Beacon Theatre, November 14th *
How could this not be the best show of the year? One minute I was dancing and laughing with glee and a few songs later, I was silently sobbing. Simply amazing.

Sufjan and his ladies (Photo Tammy Lo)

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A week in review, a wintery mix for you

After reflecting on the artists I saw over the past week, I realized that they might make for a nice mix, so I put together a little something to accompany the dark days of winter. Cheers.

(Photo Marc Davidson)

1. “Terrarium” – Atlas Sound, Live at the Bell House 12/11 (3:10)
2. “Lonely Man” – The Babblers, Live at Town Hall 12/8 (4:54)
3. “The End of the World is Bigger Than Love” – Jens Lekman, Live at the Green Building 12/9 (4:13)
4. “Icarus” – White Hinterland, Live at Highline Ballroom 12/13 (3:41)
5. “Cursed Sleep” – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Live at Town Hall 12/8 (7:21)
6. “Broken” – S. Carey, Live at Highline Ballroom 12/13 (5:45)

Another alter-ego of Will Oldham, revealed

By this point, it’s no secret that Oldham likes to keep things interesting. The prolific singer/songwriter has collaborated with a myriad of talented musicians (Tortoise, Scout Niblett, Matt Sweeney), performed/recorded under a range of monikers, and has even tried his hand at acting (Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy).

His musical act evolves so rapidly that the surprise of the evening at Town Hall came not during the main act when he played with the talented backing band The Cairo Gang, but during the mysterious opener’s set. Earlier in an interview when asked about the band he shared a bill with, Oldham responded nonchalantly that The Babblers were simply an “obscure” band from Shreveport. But within seconds of seeing the group (and hearing the two vocalists), it became apparent that they were actually just a wild permutation of the main act, led by Oldham himself.

With his arm outstretched above his head and his eyes cast heavenward, Oldham’s alias had more than a passing resemblance to a cult leader. But instead of matching Reeboks, he and his backing band wore sunglasses and one-piece pajama suits (complete with a zipper, hood, and footsies). The stage itself was decorated accordingly with a mismatched collection of bedroom lamps.

Here’s The Babblers performing in Chattanooga on 11/30/10:

To read the rest of the review and to find out more about the mysterious group – The Babblers, hop over to Brooklyn Vegan.

Here’s a mash-up of some audio from the show:

I don’t think the Town Hall staff knew what they were getting into when they booked Will Oldham, but I’m certainly glad they took a chance and surrendered to the crazy pajama’ed gang and its fearless leader.


"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

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