Life in the Dark, The Felice Brothers

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Here are some thoughts on some of the songs Life in the Dark, the latest record from the Felice Brothers. I’d say they got their Americana mojo back, but I don’t think they ever really lost it – more took a stroll down a different path for a while, and have now rejoined the original trail. Aerosol Ball: A Cajun-inflected delight that is dark commentary on consumerism in a bubbly, danceable disguise. I will never look at the St. Paulie Girl the same way again. Jack at the Asylum: I heard the first couple of bars and thought Oh, they did ‘Jack of Diamonds’ again?, which – yes, but also no. It’s Jack of Diamonds, done American Gods-style. The embodied voice of the frontier, slipping through time, hopscotching states; an American everyman, a rambler, a gambler, a long way from home, counting his cards and making his luck, long after his luck has run out, writing us all a note from the “looney bin” that is both warning and entreaty. Triumph ’73: Echoes of Vietnam, though “rich man’s war” could just as easily apply to activities in the Middle East. I like to listen to this one when driving through … Continue reading

Video: Ludlow Expectations, Butch Walker

Photo of Butch Walker by Noah Abrams

Esquire called Butch Walker‘s Ludlow Expectations a “love letter to New York” which I doubted at first – a love letter? for the title and one line? – but . . . having listened to it somewhat obsessively and also read about its creation, I get it now. Walker wrote this song walking around the Lower East Side in the middle of the night. That is one New York. Here is what this song is to me, which is my New York: coming up from the subway in Times Square after a heavy fall rain, giggling with someone I loved. It’s the burst of joyful adrenaline, of we made it! we made it! on the way to a late movie, the bright lights burning overhead in welcome and vindication. It’s diner food at 3 AM after a long night out. It’s the finest dance party in the city, which is held on the Coney Island boardwalk on New Years Day. It’s backflipping yourself into the slipstream and calling it as you come down, knowing the City will always take you back. This is the lyric video, which contains an image of the Great Orange Noise, so you may want to … Continue reading

Covers of Note: The Curly Wolf, Thirteen

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Hey, kids. I know it’s been kind of quiet around here. Promise I’m not dead. Nor is the blog. Only sleeping, babies, only sleeping. Today I have a video for you, from The Curly Wolf; it’s their rendition of Danzig’s Thirteen. Not going to lie, before I read the whole email I thought they had covered Big Star’s Thirteen instead, which, well, that would be a whole different adventure – one which I’d be willing to go on, for the record – but I’m also always in favor of flipping metal songs inside out and goosing the tempo. In this particular instance the result is probably best classified as “dark folk punk” or perhaps “but what if Willie Nelson and Lemmy had both taken a wrong turn at Bakersfield and started a band??” Anyway. It’s good. You should listen to it.

A Good Read A Good Listen and A Good Drink: Carter McNeil, Ghost King

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It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss. In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire. Ghost King is one of the bands I was sorry to miss at SXSW, not least because I arrived at the venue not two minutes after they got finished. SO CLOSE. AND YET SO FAR. However, in much happier news, their new record – Bones – has been turned loose upon the world, and we … Continue reading

A Good Read A Good Listen and a Good Drink: BANDITS

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It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss. In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire. One of the bands I saw at SXSW this year was BANDITS, a three-piece crew from Colorado. Members are Lulu Demitro, her brother John, and Andrew Oakley, and they play blues-inflected rock and roll, with the occasional burst of guitar-heavy jamming for spice. Here, as an example, is Kill Tonight, a musical foray into the … Continue reading

A Good Read A Good Listen and a Good Drink: Stephen Charouhas, Cetacean

Cetacean; Stephen Charouhas is on the far right in black. Photo by Erin Stone

It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss. In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire. Cetacean are from Los Angeles, CA, and their sound is an unusual fusion of black metal, prog rock and experimental jazz. In practice, this means that sometimes the first three minutes of a song will be experimental (but jazzy) ambient noise, the kind of thing that is good to put on low for background noise … Continue reading

Video: The Dirty Nil, Wrestle Yü To Hüsker Dü

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So before I started this post I skimmed back through all of my previous posts about The Dirty Nil (scrappy little band of my heart, Frozen North division) just to make sure I wasn’t about to tell the same story for the third time, and here’s what I realized: I maybe haven’t told enough stories. A side effect of following a band’s career for a while is you get to watch them evolve and grow. The first time I saw The Dirty Nil was their first New York show, at Glasslands in 2013. It was December (and freezing) and also, like, a Wednesday, so their crowd amounted to me and four other people (all dudes) over 35 stomp-swaying (mostly swaying) appreciatively. Still, they did their best to blow the roof off. My gut reaction was Oh yeah, this is the good stuff and Where is their pit? They need a pit. (Answer: At home in Toronto, where from what I can tell from the internet, their shows are glorious chaos, as they should be.) I’ve since seen them at a tiny filthy punk club and Warped Tour, with larger crowds for each excursion, and not only is everyone still stomp-swaying … Continue reading

Video: Orchid Collective, Lay Like A Stone

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Orchid Collective (love that name) are from Dublin, Ireland. I have watched three different videos for this song – Lay Like A Stone, their second single – and while I love all of them, I picked this one so you could actually see them playing. That it’s filmed in black and white adds some nice atmosphere and texture to an already melancholy song. The other two are: this one, which is the official video, and perfectly captures the loneliness of struggling in a big city (and is thus SUPER sad) and this one, which is actually my favorite – just the band and their back-up singers, standing in a circle in a largely deserted and possibly rain-damp public square, nailing those beautiful harmonies.

Three Songs From: Wintersleep

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One of the ways I find new music is to go to the Soundcloud pages of labels of bands I like and see who else they have on their roster. And thus I have stumbled over Wintersleep, who, like The Dirty Nil (scrappy little band of my heart, Frozen North division), are Canadian and signed to Dine Alone Records. I am extremely late to the party – Wintersleep have been a band since 2001 and have won a Juno award! – but, you know, better late than not at all. Their next record, The Great Detachment, will be out March 4, and they’re stopping through SXSW later in the month. Here’s a three song sampler, featuring Amerika, Santa Fe and Territory. All three songs are solid; I’m particularly partial to Amerika because . . . because I feel like it’s been a really long time since I’ve heard song like this, a little bit anthemic, a little bit of sledgehammer running through the bottom. All I can tell you is I think I’ve listened to it five times in a row and I’m still a little bit confused by the lyrics, but I also mostly don’t care. I’m vibrating on … Continue reading