Haunted Hearts toured Japan last year, but stateside shows have been scant. On this night, billed as NY's "only opportunity to hear Initiation played in full," Haunted Hearts managed to succeed while bringing few surprises to the table. The five piece band played Initiation front to back, tracks one thru eight in order, while sounding as confident and tight as though they're the tour-tested road warriors that they aren't.
Heheheheheheh. Ah, 2014: another year where I tell myself 'this is the year my obsessive show-going addiction ends;' another year where I see more shows than anyone I know who isn't employed at a performance space / venue. WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!
A quick list of locations where I've seen shows this year:
--Brooklyn (double natch)
--on a boat circling Manhattan
--Commerce City, CO
--Miami (in 7 days!)
As of this very moment, I've seen 93 concerts this year, and I've got at least three more coming up - Uncle Ebenezer at Knitting Factory Saturday night, Television (first time seeing them) at Irving Plaza on 12/28, and a little up-and-coming rock band who I think are called Assface in Miami on New Year's. The following is my totally subjective, largely meaningless, and wholly amusing (to me) recap of the best stuff I saw in '14.
Oh, and Happy Holidays to all!
The Ten Best Phish Shows I Saw All Year:
1.) Phish, 10/31/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
2.) Phish, 7/13/14 Randall's Island, NYC
3.) Phish, 7/27/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
4.) Phish, 8/29/14 Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
5.) Phish, 11/2/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
6.) Phish, 10/22/14 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara
7.) Phish, 7/26/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
8.) Phish, 10/28/14 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Fran
9.) Phish, 7/11/14 Randall's Island, NYC
10.) Phish, 8/31/14 Dicks Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
An outstanding rock record in an era when such things are increasingly rare. Although Adam Granduciel's Tom Petty fetish is obvious throughout Lost in the Dream, he exhibits an uncanny ability to avoid sounding clicheed in a domain that seemingly has little virgin territory. Beyond his songcraft (and even his singing voice), this is Granduciel's greatest debt to Petty.
2.) Dope Body - Lifer
Those who simply lump Dope Body in with the new wave of 90s noise rock revivalists are missing a major point. Yes, there are plenty of AmRep and Touch and Go-indebted idiosyncracies embedded throughout Lifer, but I dare anyone to show me an album by the likes of Drive Like Jehu, Polvo or The Jesus Lizard that is anywhere near as hooky as this one.
3.) The Austerity Program - Beyond Calculation
Several degrees of magnitude more intense, furious, and generally awesome than two geniuses with a drum machine have any right being.
4.) Beck - Morning Phase
Taken as a companion piece to 2002's Sea Change, Morning Phase manages to deal with similar topics (heartbreak, loneliness, growin' old) without being as overbearingly morose as Sea Change. Much unlike its predecessor, Morning Phase actually winds up with a vaguely pleasant, positive overall tone.
5.) Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket - In a Dutch Haze
As the story goes, Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell was unable to make it to the gig at which this album was recorded, allowing Heavy Blanket's J Mascis (also of Dinosaur Jr, natch) and Graham Clise the opportunity to save the day in Mitchell's stead. What results is nearly an hour of pure, explosive, unbridled improv, even more berserk and unhinged than a typical Earthless live joint. Yes, there's some sloppiness and wheel-spinning on here, but the peaks on this match the most frenzied jamming from Earthless' proper catalog.
6.) The Raveonettes - Pe'ahi
While little has changed with the compositional style and framework behind Sune Rose Wagner's melodic surf-noir mini masterpieces, his eagerness to experiment with varied instrumentation gives Pe'ahi a different flavor than all previous Ravonettes releases. This time around, the subject matter touches on the recent passing of Wagner's estranged, alcoholic father, giving much of the material a particularly caustic bite.
7.) The Men - Tomorrow's Hits
After a bevy of releases featuring styles ranging from explosive noise to kraut-everything to acoustic folk, these shape-shifting Brooklyn punks (*former* punks?!) can credibly add "70s Classic Rock FM Radio" to the list of genres they've successfully conquered.
8.) Todd Terje - It's Album Time
If you're the type of bitter old curmudgeon who hates young whippersnappers *and* their crappy, soulless EDM, fear not - this is an electronic album that you can really (choose one: a.) sink your dentures into; b.) wrap your adult diaper around; c.) stir into your high-fiber supplement beverage so as to provide superior flavor). It's Album Time mixes legit bangers with cool downtempo shit and enough cleverness and humor to make even the most geriatric old-timer respect (and love!) our robot ovelords.
9.)Bobby Bare, Jr. - Undefeated
The perennially underrated alt-country lifer finds songwriting inspiration in love and loss (in particular, the dissolution of his relationship as depicted in the documentary, Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)), interminable, low-reward touring, and the inherent sadness of absentee fatherhood. But it's not all doom and gloom; "North of Alabama by Morning" is a tale of dogged perseverence, and album closer "Don't Stand at the Stove" is an undeniable barn-burning rocker.
10.) (the) Melvins - Hold It In
You'd think that the Melvins joining forces with Butthole Surfers Gibby Haynes and Paul Leary would result in some epic weirdness, but oddly the opposite happens. While Hold It In is one of the two or three least experimental / most straightforward studio efforts in the Melvins' 30-plus year history, something something bone-crushing riffs, something something hilarious song titles.
11.) Guided by Voices - Cool Planet
12.) Perfume Genius - Too Bright
13.) Haunted Hearts - Initiation
14.) Pelican - Arktika
15.) Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
16.) Hookworms - The Hum
17.) Mogwai - Rave Tapes
18.) Guided by Voices - Motivational Jumpsuit
19.) Early Man - Thank God You've Got the Answers for All of Us
20.) Floor - Oblation
21.) Queen - Live at the Rainbow
22.) Mogwai - Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1 EP
Holy schnikies, has it been nearly five months already since my last Jalepzerz post?! Sure, time has passed, seasons have changed, and adult beverages have been consumed en masse, but honestly I still have no friggin' clue how often I'm going to be able to write for this blog going forward. Sobeit. Regardless, this past weekend, when it's disgustingly humid out and I'm dealing with the tail end of a nasty case of WookFlu, might as well fire up some of the ol' keyboard tap-tap-taparoo.
Oh, yeah - I should have a bunch of show reviews from Summer Tour coming up in the weeks ahead, but for now I'm'a try to tackle some of the best non-Phish stuff of the year. As such, here's the 10 best albums of the year, in approximate best-to-least-best order. There's obviously a ton of potentially great albums coming out over these next few months (Death From Above 1979, Melvins, Perfume Genius, etc.), so it's pretty likely this list will look much different at year's end, yadda yadda yadda.
The 10 Best Albums of 2014, So Far.
The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream -- An outstanding rock record, during an era in which such things are increasingly rare. Although Adam Granduciel's Tom Petty fetish is evident throughout, Granduciel has an uncanny ability to avoid sounding clicheed in a domain that seemingly has little virgin territory. Beyond his songcraft (and even his singing voice), this is Granduciel's greatest debt to Petty.
Earthless - In a Dutch Haze -- As the story goes, at the last minute Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell was unable to make it to the show at which this was recorded, allowing Heavy Blanket's J Mascis (also of Dinosaur Jr, natch) and Graham Clise the opportunity to save the day. What results is nearly an hour of pure, explosive, unbridled improv, even more berserk and unhinged than a typical Earthless live joint. Yes, there's some sloppiness and spinning of wheels on here, but the peaks on this match the most frenzied jamming from Earthless' proper catalog.
Beck - Morning Phase -- Taken as a companion piece to 2002's Sea Change, Morning Phase manages to deal with similar topics (heartbreak, loneliness, growin' old) without being as overbearingly morose, actually winding up with a vaguely inspirational overall tone.
The Raveonettes - Pe'ahi -- While little has changed in the way that Sune Rose Wagner composes his melodic surf-noir mini masterpieces, his willingness to experiment with varied instrumentation gives Pe'ahi a different flavor than all previous Ravonettes releases. This time around, the subject matter touches on the recent passing of Wagner's estranged, alcoholic father, giving some of the material (in particular "Summer Ends") a caustic bite.
The Men - Tomorrow's Hits -- Although a few of the moments on Tomorrow's Hits seem a little bit trite (the horns on "Another Night," in particular) these shape-shifting (former??) Brooklyn punks can credibly add "70s FM Radio" to their list of conquered genres.
The Austerity Program - Beyond Calculation -- Infinitely more intense, furious, and generally awesome than two geniuses with a drum machine have any right being.
Todd Terje - It's Album Time -- To me at least, it's high praise to mention that several of these songs could be easily mistaken for alternate backing tracks from Gorillaz' excellent Plastic Beach album. It's Album Time is relentlessly diverse, reimagining the best work of contemporary electronic artists (Holy Fuck, Maserati, Ratatat before they jumped the shark), tipping its cap to classic '80s synthpop sounds, as well as indulging in other assorted playful goofiness.
Bobby Bare, Jr. - Undefeated -- The perennially underrated alt-country lifer finds songwriting inspiration in heartbreak (in particular, the dissolution of his relationship as depicted in the documentary, Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost)), interminable, low-reward touring, and the inherent sadness of absentee fatherhood. But it's not all doom and gloom; "North of Alabama by Morning" is a tale of dogged perseverence, and album closer "Don't Stand at the Stove" is an undeniable barn-burning rocker.
Sharon Van Etten - Are We There -- Three major features set Sharon Van Etten apart from generic confessional coffeehouse claptrap. First, her lyrics are so deeply evocative and self-deprecating that hearing them can, at times, be uncomfortable. Second, she possesses a singing voice gorgeous enough to swath her pointed words in soothing honey. Third, she has an uncommon gift for pop songwriting unmatched by other current artists with the dreaded "singer-songwriter" tag (this album would be worth it for the incredible "Tarifa" alone).
Guided by Voices - Cool Planet -- basically a toss-up here between Cool Planet and GbV's *other* 2014 release, Motivational Jumpsuit, this one gets the nod due to superior contributions from GbV second-fiddle Tobin Sprout. Yes, GbV's musical landscape is dotted with all manner of in-jokes and throwaways, but to those who have the necessary patience, that just makes discovering their diamonds in the rough all that much more rewarding.
Honorable mention: Guided by Voices - Motivational Jumpsuit; Haunted Hearts - Initiation; Floor - Oblation; Swans - To Be Kind; Pelican - Arktika; Low Fat Getting High - Poor Circulation; Mogwai - Rave Tapes; Death Vessel - Island Intervals.
After hearing The Men's new Tomorrow's Hits LP, it's not unreasonable to be at least a little bit concerned that the album's decidedly AOR direction would have some sort of effect on the band's live show. On the other hand, The Men have been a live powerhouse up until this point (I've seen them onetwothreefourfivesix seven times since late 2012), so why mess with a good thing, nahmean? Regardless, fear not, The Men still rule.
With the exception of the mini acoustic set at the Sandy Benefit concert and the occasional horn accompaniments at other shows, The Men's live formula has always been large, heaping portions of RAWK, whether they're channeling Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr., Spacemen 3, the Buzzcocks, the Stooges, the Stones, or all of 'em at once. This show featured plenty of that good, good stuff, with the setlist drawing from each of their full-lengths except, oddly, 2012's excellent Open Your Heart. Highlights for me were the Fun House-tastic "Supermoon" (see above for video) and the kraut-punky "If You Leave..." (see below for video).
This was the record release show for the aforementioned Tomorrow's Hits record, which came out just a couple weeks ago. I'd suggest checking that shit out - I'm enjoying it nearly as much as last year's very good New Moon album. At the present time, the Men's European tour continues through the end of the month, before they make their way back to the US in April for another few weeks of club shows. Their next NYC area show is May 10th at The Wick - get tickets for that show here. Listn to the first single from Tomorrow's Hits (and my crappy iPhone video of a live version of the song from last year here.
Great tunes for a great cause, at a great location (walking distance from my apartment). What else can ya ask for?!
This Uncle Ebenezer show was a benefit for The Mockingbird Foundation, and the early portions of the show saw a decent amount of people cutting some serious rug. By the second set a lot of the room had left, but the intrepid few who remained seriously fuckin' knew how to party. I'd imagine they were able to toss a nice chunk'a change Mockingbird Foundation's way, although that amount would've been dramatically higher if they'd had a percentage of drink sales - literally everyone I talked to (at least half the people in the room) was boozin' hardcore, brah.
Although Uncle E has only been on the scene for a few months (here's a show review from the first time I saw them at their second show ever), they definitely manage to do the music of Phish justice, no easy task. I'm particularly impressed with how deftly they go into and out of segues and teases within the jams. On this night, they were joined by a trumpet player - see above for video of the horn-augmented "2001" and see below for "Hood," also with horns.
In addition to the (awesome) music, what I'll always remember this show for occurred when about 20 police officers wandered into Club Europa, standing around sheepishly in the room (which smelled vaguely of pot smoke at that point). Needless to say, people were creeped the fuck out, but apparently the coppers only showed up to perform a routine building inspection. For those not in the know, Europa is located literally right next door to a police station, and I'm always dumbfounded by how many people just openly toke up right outside - a dude I met at the show apparently got nabbed at setbreak. Damn.
Anyway, highlights for me were the "Disease" (with "Manteca" jam), the "46 Days" > "Sally" jam > Jam > "Tweeprise" jam > Jam > "Carini" sequence (uh, obviously!), the "Mike's" > "Wilson" > "Paug" (with "Auld Lang Syne" tease) > "Wilson" reprise craziness, and the aforementioned "2001." Oh, yeah, and incredibly my buddy Salvador somehow called the "Twist" opener from nearly 3000 miles away, haha.
Until I get to see the real Phish in July, I'll be more than happy hopping around like a jackass to the music of Uncle Ebenezer. See below for the setlist.
Setlist: Uncle Ebenezer, February 21, 2014 Club Europa, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Twist Disease* Wolfman's YEM** 46 Days> Sneakin' Sally jam> Jam> Tweeprise jam> Jam> Carini Harry Hood Julius
Lizards Timber Mike's Wilson Weekapaug@ Wilson reprise Rift Sand Punch 2001
* with Manteca tease ** with Star Wars tease in intro @ with Auld Lang Syne tease
"Wanna hear us fuck up another new one?" grinned Torche main man Steve Brooks midway through his band's set at Vitus. Although Torche attempted a couple new jams during this show, aborting them both in humorously self-deprecating fashion, the focus at this show was squarely on Torche's (awesome) back catalog.
The set began with gusto behind a trio of classics from Torche's excellent Meanderthal album, "Grenades," "Healer" and "Across the Shields," before one of the new ones. "Pirana" and "Sandstorm" came later, along with a few from their more recent Harmonicraft album, including the uber-hooky "Kicking," "Letting Go," and "Kiss Me Dudely." "Harmonslaught," one of their heaviest jams, was played towards the end of the set, and elicited probably the most spirited reaction from the crowd, who generally seemed to favor the slower, sludgier shit played during the evening.
Props to opener Sannhet, too, and their hypnotic blend of black metal / noise / shoegaze / etc. etc. etc. See below for video from their performance.
Caracas Arepa Bar has been a favorite Williamsburg dinner destination for me since shortly after I moved here nearly six years ago. (Wow six years? Oy vey.) I hadn't been to Caracas since July '12, when my good friend Salvador Sriracha was in town, but this time a visit from my buddy Beafvy (of Beafv's Beerderdash fame, natch) and my brother just after Christmas had us on the hunt for some quality victuals.
For the uninitiated, arepas are a traditional Venezuelan food that feature baked flatbread pockets filled with various stuffings, including meats, cheeses, veggies, etc. At this meal, between the three of us, we split five arepas and an order of their excellent chips and guac and it was plenty of food - arepas are deceptively filling.
The arepas we chose were La Surena (grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado, spicy chimichurri sauce), La de Pernil (roasted pork shoulder, tomatoes, spicy mango sauce), Leek Jardinera (grilled leeks, sundried tomatoes, carmelized onions, guayanes cheese), Playa Deluxe (pan-seared tilapia with garlic-infused oil, sauteed mushrooms, avocado, pickled onions, herb mayo) and a weekly veggie special that I don't remember. No direct link to their menu, but find it here if you're interested in their other offerings.) I immensely enjoyed each except the La de Pernil, but I'm really not much of a fan of either mangoes or dressing pork with sweet sauces, so I guess I probably shouldn't've ordered the fuckin' thing in the first place, huh? <slaps forehead>
Caracas Arepa Bar also has a rum bar with over 30 types of rum from around the world, if that's your thing. They also make great specialty cocktails, seemingly authentic to the Central / South American theme. They also have a really nice little garden in the back, perfect place to enjoy a meal and some beverages during a lazy summer evening. And so forth.