Friday, September 11, 2009

The Sugarcubes

From one of my favorite albums, Life's Too Good (1988), in honor of my cousin Lisa's Bjork sighting in NY this week.

My friends in high school teased me mercilessly about my musical taste after the Sugarcubes played on SNL. I was only 14, but I didn't back down, I knew I was right! HA!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Suns

Bat for Lashes w/ Other Lives

My niece, Keighlyn, and I heard the celestial Bat for Lashes, aka British musician Natasha Khan, and her stellar, instrument-swapping band a few weeks ago in DC at the 9:30 Club. Khan and co. were on a month-long US tour to promote "Two Suns," their Mercury-prize nominated second album.

While the album is primarily a requiem for a lost relationship (as in "we're two suns spinning at two different speeds" from the show's opener 'Glass'), the two suns also refer to earth-goddess Khan, and her blond, vixen alter-ego, Pearl. (Or perhaps to two similarly doe-eyed, self-possessed young women... Was it just coincidence that we spent the afternoon before the show at the Air and Space Museum?!) Natasha sang and played piano, guitar, and autoharp, and was joined by musicians Ben Christophers, Charlotte Hatherley, and Sarah Jones on percussion, bass, piano, autoharp, and backing vocals.

The coolest band from Oklahoma, Other Lives, opened the show with a great set of folk-rock, including a mean rendition of 'The Partisan' (a WWII-era song often played by Leonard Cohen).

Other Lives' Cellist Jenny Hsu

Jesse Tabish

Bat for Lashes' Natasha Khan

Like many of the musicians I've embraced lately, Ms. Khan is a child of the 70s. In some ways I think that's why her music resonates with me--we grew up with the same cultural references, listening to the same things. From the opening lines of 'Glass' I can imagine her singing 'If I only could, I'd make a deal with God, and get him to swap our places.' Besides that angelic yet fiery voice, with Kate Bush she also shares a mystical quality, and one that doesn't come across as pretense or corny. At one point during the show, we all even howled like wolves, but it totally works.

In addition to "Two Suns," the two hour show featured songs from their 2007 debut album, "Fur and Gold" (also a Mercury prize nominee). Of the albums' opener, 'Horse and I,' Radiohead's Thom Yorke (with whom she toured in 2008) said "natasha khan of bat for lashes ain't scared. i love the harpsichord and the sexual ghost voices and bowed saws. this song seems to come from the world of grimm's fairytales, and i feel like a wolf."

Although Khan's voice is often compared to Kate Bush or Bjork, there are hints of Polly Jean, especially in songs like 'Trophy' with it's lower register chorus of "heaven is a feeling I get in your arms." One of my favorite songs of the night was 'Siren Song,' with Natasha alone at the piano singing a beautiful song about ambivalence.

Ben Christophers (a bit of a Thom Yorke vibe, eh?)

Two Chucks (but mine are 20+ years old!)

The show's closer, the crowd pleasing 'Daniel', is a song about Mr. Miyagi's apprentice. Seriously.

Back home in Baltimore at the world's best record store...

Set List:
Sleep Alone
Horse and I
Travelling Woman
Siren Song
What’s a Girl to Do
Pearl’s Dream

Good Love
Moon and Moon
Two Planets

She's clearly a child of the 80s-look at that outfit!

And just for fun..

Friday, July 10, 2009

My new favorite musician...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Polly & John

Is it narcissism that my god is a tiny, dark-haired woman, reserved, yet full of fire?

PJ Harvey & John Parish
June 5, 2009
Warner Theatre, DC

With Eric Drew Feldman, Giovanni Ferrario, and Jean Marc Butty.

Set: (not necessarily in order!)
Black Hearted Love
Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen
Rope Bridge Crossing
Urn with Dead Flowers in a Drained Pool
Civil War Correspondent
The Soldier
Un Cercle Autour du Soleil
The Chair
Leaving California
A Woman A Man Walked By/The Crow Knows Where All the Little Children Go
Passionless, Pointless
Pig Will Not
Cracks in the Canvas
False Fire (John on vocals)

Monday, June 1, 2009

You don't know me I am an introvert, an excavator...

Santigold w/Amanda Blank and Trouble Andrew
Ram's Head Live, Baltimore

The innovator herself, Ms. Santi White (AKA Santigold-- previously Santogold before she was nearly sued by an infomercial star!), played to an appreciative but under capacity crowd at Ram's Head last night. (Her show at 9:30 Club next week is sold out--what up Baltimore?) She's quite the performer and perfectly adorable-- those Gap ads don't do her justice. (Like Karen O, she often dresses like it's the late 80s, so her loveliness goes unnoticed.) All I can say is that I danced like I was in my living room with the shades drawn. I even hit the stationary woman next to me (I apologized!), and got beer spilled down the back of my pants, but it was well worth it.

She played most of the songs from "Santogold" plus a fab tune from her days heading the Philadelphia-based band Stiffed. She was joined onstage twice by her two openers, Amanda Blank (whose set we missed), and Trouble Andrew, who was quite entertaining himself. During the show she was flanked by 2 back-up singers/dancers, who were as cool as members of the British guard, and who Santi described as "badass bitches." When she brought members of the audience onstage for one of the encores, she cautioned them to stay away from these humorless ladies. They were dressed like they stepped out of a bad 80s sitcom, but they pulled off their moves with aplomb.

It's challenging describing Santigold's sound to others. City Paper described it as "the Pixies fronted by MIA. " A friend said he imagined that's how Beck would sound if he took female hormones. While even Santi herself understands the MIA comparison, I do not. They're both women of color playing genre-bending music, but for me that's where the similarity ends. The Beck comparison is probably more accurate (who could dispute his genre-bending?). However, to me she sounds like Siouxsie Sioux if she was born in Philly instead of London. Sure, her self-titled debut album contains some rapping, but she's not rap or hip-hop. In an interview with the NME she famously called being labeled hip-hop racist. She's got a point. Like another Brooklyn band I love, TV on the Radio, she's an African-American woman playing indie rock. I'm not sure why that's confusing to music writers or music fans, especially considering that African-Americans invented rock 'n roll.
The evolutionary mechanism that's given us humans the ability to make quick categorizations is becoming quite a liability, especially given the increasingly global nature of the world. It's no longer safe or good to fit everything into a little box. Ms. White certainly doesn't fit in one.

I think that's why her music resonates with me. Even though it's an innovative blending of styles, it's somewhat familiar as well. Perhaps it's also because we're contemporaries (like TV on the Radio, or the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, or Beck) and we grew up listening to the same kinds of music. (It's cool to have been born in the 70s!!!)

So if you haven't heard her, check her out!

Trouble Andrew's "mascot, " complete with skeleton mask (?) ! He didn't play an instrument or sing, but occasionally honked an ear-piercing bull horn and scattered dollar bills in front of a fan... I could have done without the shtick, especially since they had a decent sound. They warrant further examination, I think.

Cool chicks, Crystal and Miriam, check out a door to nowhere.

Well you're a liar and your cues are all wrong, but I can't count all the ways you woo me...

And I like sometimes to wave it high, up where everyone can see...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sincerely, L. Cohen

Leonard Cohen
May 11, 2009
Merriweather Post Pavilion
7:30-11:00 PM

I need to see you naked in your body and your thought
-Aint No Cure for Love

I'm good at love, I'm good at hate, it's in between I freeze
-A Thousand Kisses Deep

All I ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you

Leonard Cohen played with Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters (vocals), Roscoe Beck (bass, vocals), Neil Larsen (keyboards & Hammond B3 accordion), Bob Metzger (electric, acoustic & pedal steel guitar), Javier Mas (bandurria, laud, archilaud, 12 string acoustic guitar), Rafael Gayol (drums, percussion), and Dino Soldo (sax, clarinet, dobro, keys).

Cutie pie sound guys in fedoras

Jack and Evelyn before the show

Another fedora

Mr. Cohen on his knees

Sharon Robinson

Whither Thou Goest

Dance Me to the End of Love
The Future
Aint No Cure for Love
Bird on a Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
Who By Fire
Chelsea Hotel No. 2
Waiting for the Miracle
("We're so privileged to be here with you when the world is plunged in chaos...we'll be back for the second half of the show")
Tower of Song
Suzanne (Leonard on guitar)
The Gypsy's Wife
The Partisan
Boogie Street
I'm Your Man
A Thousand Kisses Deep (spoken word)
Take this Waltz
I'm Your Man ("And if you want another kind of love, I'll wear this old man's mask for you.")
Encore 1: So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
Encore 2: Famous Blue Raincoat
Encore 3: If It Be Your Will (spoken word)
Encore 4: I Tried to Leave You
Whither Thou Goest