Friday, March 30, 2012

Record Store Day Planned for April 21 & Shout Out to My Own Fave, Johnny's Records of Darien, CT


Mark your calendars -- this year's Record Store Day is in the works for April 21st with special releases and more.  It's an event to honor those independent record stores still in existence, not just a day of remembrance for the many past lives of such establishments.  For me, it could only mean Johnny's Records -- an iconic storefront in town where Moby used to decorate the bags using his favorite medium (a Sharpie).  You can check out the specials for Record Store Day and tons of collectibles offered online or in store at johnnysrecords.com.

Johnny’s Records
45 Tokeneke Road, Darien CT   (203) 655-0157

The brick front and cluttered window of Johnny’s Records has graced a side street in Darien, Connecticut since 1975.  It’s a small shop chock full of collectibles, clothing and music – both vinyl and CDs represented now.  If you’re lucky enough to visit with the man himself, John Konrad, there, he’ll happily point you the right direction to your favorite artist or recommend another. (I will be forever thankful for his recommendation of Spoon years ago.)  The place is full of history: members of Kiss were married there and former employee Moby used to draw cartoons on shopping bags, which became his “little idiot” alter ego character.

                               Johnny's Records local cable ad which ran on MTV in the 90s

                            Moby "Study War" Blip with info about The Little Idiot character

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Bear In Heaven Release on NPR's "First Listen"

Bear In Heaven Promo Photo by Nick Helderman
Alt fave band Bear In Heaven amassed some considerable buzz at this year's SXSW festival and now they're gearing up to release their fifth album I Love You, It's Cool, next week (April 3).  The trio actually began back in 1998 as a solo studio project for Jon Philpot down in Atlanta, until a group mentality amassed in Brooklyn by 2003. The trio now includes guitarist Adam Wills and drummer Joe Stickney.  This new collection of songs continues the synth-heavy approach with Philpot vocals buried among psychedelic sensibilities.  Simplistic pop treatments lurk in their lyrics such as "Feels like a thousand years have gone by without you" in "Reflection of You" and "Friends don't know what you've been through" in "Sinful Nature." But with soaring choruses, pulsing beats and majestic guitar lines, all is easily forgiven.


Listen to I Love You, It's Cool in its entirety or song by song, on NPR's "First Listen" program here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Music Seminar 2012 in NYC June 17 – 19


This year’s New Music Seminar 2012 (NMS) will take place at Webster Hall in New York City on June 17 – 19, to discuss the state of the music industry and “new music business resurrection.” It offers speakers and workshops covering all areas of the industry, along with countless networking opportunities.  The line up includes the SoundExchange Digital Broadcast Summit, the BMI Creative Conclave and keynotes from Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman and digital music futurist and Founders Fund Executive General Partner, Sean Parker.

There will be showcases for artists at night, including Artist on the Verge contenders.  NMS delegates will vote for a winner to receive $250,000 in marketing, promotion, musical equipment and services.   During the final day of the conference, Tom Jackson of Tom Jackson Productions will review the finalists in a “Live Performance Workshop – Making the Band.”  A popular forum at last year’s NMS in Los Angeles, Jackson provides honest, accessible feedback both in terms of musical arrangements and visual tips for a successful live show.  The presentation “Trends in A&R” will also review the top three Artists on the Verge acts, as top executive discuss the latest trends in A&R as well as what compels them to sign artists in today’s marketplace.

For the complete schedule and registration information, visit NewMusicSeminar.com.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SXSW 2012 Media Coverage Recap

Another SXSW has is now in the books. The festival celebrated 25 years with a ten-fold increase in size -- 2000 musical acts descended on Austin to play in 90 venues or even on the street until last call at 2 a.m. on Saturday (St. Patrick's Day no less!)  It's interesting to follow the coverage before and during, especially with more gigs streaming live online.  There was definitely a larger rap and hip hop presence this year, plus electronic dance music continues to enjoy its higher profile in the music industry.  In the process, I heard bands I barely knew get a nice mention and learned about countless new bands, which is exactly the point of this annual gathering.


A good point of introduction is the mix, "SPIN Presents Austin Power: Best SXSW Acts" 2012, available as a free download after handing over your email address.  (They already had mine so it was no big deal.  I enjoy their monthly playlists anyway, however the horrendous redesign of their print issues are another nail in the print publication coffin.)  With 36 songs lasting two and a half hours, there's bound to be something to catch your ear although I found myself skipping ahead more than a few times.  I'm always curious just to peruse listed band names: from the mundane (White Fence, The Coathangers) to witty (Class Actress) and extremely descriptive (Screaming Females).


NPR music also had a "All Songs Considered" preview show which listed my recent interview/review band Bright Moments as one to watch.  During the festival, the site offered a live feed to Bruce Springsteen's keynote speech which is here for those still wanting to bask in the glow of the rock star's presence online.  Basically he was brought in as the member of the old guard to inspire the new guard, reminding everyone that "There is no right way, no pure way of doing.  There is just doing."  Sounds more like a tag line for a sports company, but Mr. Bruce can do no wrong in this beleaguered industry.  I'm sure it was a thrill just to have him in town for a bit. 


Both the LA Times and the NY Times provided nice wrap up articles as stalwart news organizations in the traditional sense.  LA cited Bear In Heaven as the stand out newcomer along with the crowd pleasing honky tonk of Alabama Shakes, and there were props to Grimes for a heightened stage presence.  NY decided to shine a spotlight on the folksy sound of Colorado band The Lumineers as well as Georgia's Reptar (who I saw in a supporting slot last year and maybe I should revisit).  Although the write up by the Associated Press proclaimed that the entire festival show was stolen by the Austin High School marching band, appearing in an outdoor stadium at the University of Texas with Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show on the final night.  


Consequence of Sound (COS) required each writer to return with two new fave bands, making for an interesting list. One band chosen for this is Chairlift, who begins the latest Early Spring Playlist here. COS also provided an overabundance of photos which I find is like looking through another high school's yearbook, one that is way cooler than your school could ever be. The voluminous LATimes photo gallery is also way beyond necessary. My favorite photo actually came from blog brand PopMatters, where there is someone literally climbing the walls during Day 2's Burgerstock showcase presented by Burger Records.  Rolling Stone has a nice mix of videos and photos on their website, as does Pitchfork -- although obligated to assert their taste maker cred by anointing bands as "The Best (and Worst)."  Stereogum took it one step closer to high school behavior by listing "SXSW Superlatives 2012," from Best Beard and Best Wailer, to Longest Setup Time.


My fave online radio stations were also at the festival to broadcast live and provide coverage through their online blogs: KCRW, KEXP and WFUV's The Alternate Side.  These links will offer me plenty of new music sustenance going forward, along with the upcoming NPR music wrap up show.  NPR has already submitted some wrap up coverage, including a nice shout out to women rockers.  And for those who actually care about the latest fashions at such festivals, check out the scene via New York Magazine for shoes, eyewear and other trends. 






Monday, March 19, 2012

New Build @ Mercury Lounge March 13

When the balmy spring weather arrived early in NYC last week I strolled through Greenwich Village, taking my time to get to Mercury Lounge for New Build's early show at Mercury Lounge.  I had just met a friend/neighbor across the street from our old apartment building for a nice chatty happy hour catch up session, so it should have been no surprise that I would pass Rick Ocasek, another guy I used to see around the neighborhood when I lived there.  Some things never change I guess, even in NYC.

When I arrived at the venue, it was practically empty and the supporting slot of Reverend John Wilkins had not begun.  I spotted singer Al Doyle milling about and went up to say hello.  He admitted to being quite nervous that the place hadn't started filling up, so I told him how early shows in NYC aren't easy.  Doyle remarked how he hoped the scalpers didn't get all the tickets and I had to confess that's how I got mine (even though I'd be reviewing his band, I wanted to be sure I had a ticket).  The band added a second show the next night but that one sold out quickly as well!

I was thrilled to meet the guy after seeing him up on stage with two of my fave bands, LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip -- that night added another fun show, seeing Doyle performing with his latest band. 


PopMatters review here and another video below.

With Al Doyle before the show

New Build "Finding Reasons" @ Mercury Lounge, NYC 3/13/12

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fanfarlo @ Webster Hall March 6

Going to concerts back to back is something I try not to do, especially if it occurs early in the week.  But I really wanted to see Fanfarlo, a U.K. band at Webster Hall the night after the Bombay Bicycle Club gig.  I loved their debut album, Resevoir, playing it over and over back when it came out in 2009.  Their latest release, Rooms Filled With Light, sounded promising but it wasn't hitting me in the same way.  Things seemed more labored and while the music sounded livelier/looser in concert, the older songs still stood out in comparison.  Also I was happy to pass over the photographer duties again, this time to PopMatters Events Editor Sachyn Mital, as Webster Hall is crazy dark and hard to capture (see my sorry attempt on this page).

PopMatters review here and more videos below.

Fanfarlo "Comets" @ Webster Hall NYC 3/6/12


Fanfarlo "Tightrope" @ Webster Hall NYC 3/6/12

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Early Spring 2012 New Music Playlist


Why not jump into the spring season a bit early after the "winter that wasn’t" with a bunch of new tunes ready for the next playlist?  The time change forward is never easy, but releases from Chairlift, Porcelain Raft and Dr. Dog can help ease the transition.  Also much appreciated the free downloads from Pretty Lights and Converse’s latest collaboration, bringing together the Gorillaz, Andre 3000 and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem to round out the mix.  Link to listen here, enjoy! 

1.”Amanaemonesia” – Chairlift
2. “Sidewalk Safari” – Chairlift
Now a duo comprised of Caroline Polachek (vocals/synths) and Patrick Wimberly (bass/keyboard/drums), Brooklyn based Chairlift made a point of recording during the day to capture a bright energy with their indie synth pop and it shows.  These two sprightly songs are off the band’s sophomore release, Something. 

3. “Back of Your Neck” – Howler
This young quintet from Minneapolis updates the early rock ‘n roll sound on their debut release, America Give Up.  In a classic story, the group formed out of boredom to skewer all conventions -- piling up fans at their energetic live performances.

4. “Drifting In and Out” – Porcelain Raft
5. “Unless You Speak from Your Heart” – Porcelain Raft
Composer Mauro Remiddi, an Italian ex-pat now living in New York City, creates a fuzzy electronic pop vibe as Porcelain Raft.  These two tunes, off the release Strange Weekend, capture the varying moods of this band.

6. “DoYaThing” – Gorillaz featuring Andre 3000 and James Murphy
Converse’s latest foray into the music business put Damon Albarn of the Gorillaz in a studio with Andre 3000 and James Murphy.  This funky dance track was released as a free download on the Converse website, along with a sprawling, twelve-minute version.

7. “Champagne Coast” – Blood Orange
This spacious single is off the 2011 debut album, Coastal Grooves, by British singer/songwriter Devonté Hynes. He has penned songs for others such as Florence and Machine, but with this collection Hynes has full control of the final product with his own band.

8. “Lonesome” – Dr. Dog
9. “These Days” – Dr. Dog
Philly-based band Dr. Dog has a renewed commitment to their live jam sound as evidenced in these two songs off their latest release, Be the Void.  The raucous party continues for over a decade now, led by guitarist/singer Scott McMicken’s raw vocals.

10. “Origins” – Tennis
Tennis is a husband and wife indie pop duo featuring Alaina Moore (vocals/keyboards) and Patrick Riley (guitar). This song is off their sophomore release, Young and Old, which brings a welcome mix of expanded instrumentation to their music.

11. “Simple Song” – The Shins
Singer/songwriter James Mercer creates a new line up for the new release, Ports of Morrow, yet this single shows a return to the Portland band’s classic indie rock sound. The building melody finds space for a playful interlude, complete with choral harmonies behind Mercer’s crooning.

12. “Coastal Brake” – Tycho
Tycho is Scott Hansen’s ambient music project full of blissed out tracks of electronica, this one off the latest release Dive. Based in San Francisco, Hansen is also known as ISO50 for his photographic and design works.

13.  “Genesis” – Grimes
Montreal musician Claire Boucher creates indie dream pop, with her vocals floating over synths.  This is the single off her latest release, Visions.

14. “Dour Percentage” – Of Montreal
This song is from Georgian Kevin Barnes’ eleventh releases of musical visions, Paralytic Stalks.  His soulful singing compliments the band’s psychedelic groove in this meandering composition.

15. “Raw Umber/Twilight” – Walls
The U.K. electronic duo of Sam Willis and Alessio Natalizia layer the beats with guitars, synths and harmonies to create a musical glitch haven.  This song is off their second release, Coracle.

16. “We Must Go On” – Pretty Lights
Colorado native Derek Vincent Smith is the mastermind behind the electronic music of known as Pretty Lights. This soundscape was released with a self-produced video on the band's website, its hip hop vibe punctuated with an uplifting yet reflective vocal hook.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bombay Bicycle Club @ Bowery Ballroom March 5

I discovered Bombay Bicycle Club (BBC) years ago as my son was playing their songs around the house.  This U.K. quartet formed in 2005 as school mates at the age of fifteen, utilizing different monikers until settling on this one which refers to an Indian restaurant chain.  Their catchy tune, "Always Like This," was hard to ignore and I was eager to see them play their U.S. debut last March at Mercury Lounge.  They blasted through the walls of that tiny venue and were clearing having such fun doing so, playing songs off their first full length release, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose.  Since then, BBC have released two more, the folk-inspired Flaws (guitarist Jamie MacColl is the nephew of Kirsty MacColl and his folk guitarist father Neill helped produce the album) and A Different Kind of Fix.  Things seemed more measured on this latest collection of songs, with a additional layers of instruments and vocals (including a girl daring to enter the boys club!) 

Well no need to worry, these guys are still having fun cranking out the music live.  The newer songs sounded better -- looser, less restrained and closer in energy to the early tracks.  And with Jake home from college on spring break, I had someone to take on the photographer duties! 

Check out my PopMatters review here and more photos (by Jake Seymour)/videos (by Paul Seymour) below.







Bombay Bicycle Club "Cancel On Me" @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC 3/5/12

Bombay Bicycle Club "Lights Out, Words Gone" @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC 3/5/12

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bright Moments Interview & Review @ Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn Feb 23

Kelly Pratt came to NYC a decade ago to play jazz but fell into the indie rock scene instead, playing with such stellar fixtures such as the Arcade Fire, Beirut and LCD Soundsystem.  He's also written his own material on the side, but it wasn't until this new project called Bright Moments that Pratt took the time away from touring to focus on producing an album.  The result is Natives, a solid collection of indie music recorded with similarly accomplished musicians.  

This newly formed band appeared at the nice but tiny/dark Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg last month, and I was eager to seem them play the songs live.  Thankfully, Pratt's background in jazz allows an improvised approach to performance so things loosened up from the home studio creations.  It's always disappointing to hear things exactly as they sound in the recorded versions -- in my book you might as well stay home.  A band also needs to remember that any audience is looking to connect with not only the music but who's making it happen up on stage, something Pratt still needs to work on.  In an interview a few days before the gig, Pratt spoke with me over the phone about his transition to frontman as just moving a few feet over on stage but it needs to be more than that.  Not everyone needs to be an oversized personality like Mick Jagger or Wayne Coyne, but some sort of M.C. role would be helpful in performance, allowing fans to get to know the group.

With Kelly after the show
During our chat, I had to ask Pratt about the last week of shows of LCD Soundsystem and the new movie about it, Shut Up and Play the Hits.  I told him how it was just one big dance party in Terminal 5 when I went to opening night, how there were circles of people everywhere so if you wanted to move through them you had to dance as well (which I happily complied).  Pratt was up on stage in back with the horn section so he chuckled in hearing this.  At the last night at Madison Square Garden (MSG), Pratt said it didn't feel like a swan song, it just felt like a regular gig though not really since it was at the epic center of MSG.  "But then you watch the trailer for the movie and it makes you want to cry," he told me.  So I'm not alone!

Link to interview/review on PopMatters here.




Bright Moments "Milwaukee"@ Cameo Gallery, NYC 2/23/12

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Music Fest in NYC: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry May 3 - 5

Beirut, Photo: Kristianna Smith
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has announced plans for a new music festival, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, May 3 through 5.  Curated by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of Brooklyn band The National, headliners for the event include The Walkmen (May 3), St. Vincent (May 4) and Beirut (May 5).  Crossing Brooklyn Ferry will take over the three venues in the Peter Jay Sharp Building at 30 Lafayette Avenue. There's the grand Howard Gilman Opera House, a wide open party space in the BAM Caf√©, and the BAM Rose Cinemas for commissioned short films and accompanying scores.
St. Vincent, Photo: Tina Tyrell


A three-day Fest Pass costs a very reasonable $110 and tickets will go on sale to the general public March 6. Single tickets are $45 each and will be available on March 12.  Friends of BAM will be able to purchase either option a day prior to these dates. For more information visit CrossingBrooklynFerry.com

The Walkmen