Miracles of Modern Science @ Southpaw 05/21/09

in shiny spacesuits. yeah!

Okay, people, I do have one thing to say: any band that takes to the stage wearing shiny spacesuits is pretty much going to get a vote from me. They may suck, but I’m going to say, ‘yeah’.

Luckily, Miracles of Modern Science, or MOMS (such lovely nerdy freakishness that makes me very happy indeed) happen to actually be talented.

What I particularly loved about them was they took to the stage (shiny, silvery, glittery spacesuits!!!) and played a bunch of instruments most people will never associate with rock or pop. Violin, double bass, cello and mandolin. Well, they also have a drummer, too, just to keep ‘em all in time.

Seriously, this band really grabbed the crowd’s attention. They played catchy tunes, and had an infectious vibe that moved through everyone (not the swine flu).

Redolent of Ra Ra Riot and Arcade Fire, I thoroughly recommend you checking out Miracles of Modern Science next time they play.

Which, incedently is going to be Wednesday 08/12/09, at Union Hall, Park Slope. 9pm. Go. You’ll like it. Quite possibly love it.

Mr Neil Seal of Approval? 4 Stars out of 5!

Golden Bones @ Southpaw 05/21/09

golden bones!

I walked in to the middle of Golden Bones’s set. And I was struck by how…good they were.

I don’t mean I was expecting them to suck, but as the first band up, I figured they would be the weakest link in the line up. But they were far from that. In fact this was an evening where the three bands proved to not only be very different from each other, not only in sound, but in stage presence, but also gave forth a high quality across the board musical experience. Which, in my experience, is rare.

Golden Bones is a pared back band and sound. Reminiscent of the old school pub band. They don’t have bells and whistles or a look or anything to capture the audience, anything, that is , except for their sound.

Their sound grabbed you. It’s their hook, they don’t need bells and whistles. They captured the audience with their deceptively simple but infectious melodies and tunes.

Their sound is bluegrass, blues, 70s movie honky tonk, and a decent dash of country, but they blend it with something else that I can’t quite put my finger on that’s almost magical, that particular ingredient that pulls a dish together and makes it into something really special.

And that, my friends, is what I found when I listened to Golden Bones.

Do yourself a favour. Check ‘em out on myspace, or, even better, head on down to Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn to hear them play every Friday for the rest of July.

Pete’s Candy Store. 709 Lorimer St. 8.30 pm. Free!

The Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.5 stars out of 5.

The Nightrats @ Southpaw 05/21/09

Before I launch into this review of one of the most innovative, exciting and fabulous bands running about the NYC area (well, I’m not sure if they run, but they do make some mighty fine music), Mr. Neil would like to say sorry for being so incommunicado.

Mr. Neil has been busy. This review and the other three following it, are, for want of a better few words, really bloody late. There’s no excuse, except for the fact I was busy. There are lots of sparkly bits and bobs and things to be…shined, in the Mr. Neil fiefdom. Sometimes these things are very important and they make the sharing of great musical experiences run quite late.

But I think we’re back on track.

ANYWAY, BACK TO THE NIGHTRATS @ SOUTHPAW!

OMG! The Nightrats!

Having a Thursday night headlining gig at an Indie Mecca spot like Southpaw was a great boon for The Nightrats, and I was excited for them. I got on my bike and trundled over to Park Slope.

They had two acts before them, Golden Bones and Miracles of Modern Science (MOMS). The bands were all very different, and for some reason that worked perfectly. The crowd grew as the night went on and by the time The Nightrats were ready to play, the audience was more than ready for them.

Last time I heard them, they had two other members. This time, it was just the two of them, Randy Frey and Chris McMillen… and old Mozart’s rusty squeezebox, supplying us with their samples to go with their songs.

Thing was, it didn’t matter. It just didn’t matter; in fact, it may have been more powerful because of this.

Whether it’s two people, or our two leading men and a whole ensemble supporting them, I’ve seen enough of their shows to know they are always true to their music while still being able to be free and organic in their musical growth and output on the night

I always go back to 50s Paris when describing them, but seriously, they invoke, no matter where they are, what the space or the mood and size of the crowd, an intimate musical experience that is at once pure art and fantastic entertainment.

The acoustics at Southpaw are great, but even if they weren’t this band would have still owned the crowd. People stopped talking and started listening when they took the stage.

They nailed it. The space was big, their musical style is intimate and yet they managed to fill the space with their sound and presence while still making everyone there think they were one of a few privileged people listening to something underground, hip, happening, ultra smooth-cool, and listening to it way before anyone else would be, for a while.

I don’t call them rock stars, or rock star wannabes. They have too much talent, integrity and artistic vision for that (not that there’s anything wrong with being a rock star, or wanting to be, these are simply very different visionistic styles and also different musical styles. But, it is very easy when you’re on the stage to launch into ego-assuaging moves without thinking once about what you want to give, only wanting the accolades).

The Nightrats are artists who have that factor to appeal to the general public, once they catch on.

The thing is, I say listen to them now when you have the chance before you find yourself having to fork over many a pretty penny to hear them play. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • The Nightrats are playing tomorrow night (Saturday!) at Public Assembly, in Brooklyn, at 8pm, sharp. It was meant to be in the back room, but now they’re taking the mainstage That’s 8pm, Public Assembly, 70 N 6th St, Williamsburg.

Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.89 out of 5 Stars.

Jesse Lent, Unplugged @ 25th & 1st, 25/04/09

Making sweet music for our earsby DJW

I happen to know of Jesse Lent, simply because he fronts one of my favourite NY bands, The Monte Vista, so when I was informed he was playing a solo acoustic (unplugged, if you will indulge me) show this past Saturday, I was both excited and apprehensive.

Excited because talent is always exciting. Apprehension, however, because some artists cannot provide that ‘X’ factor to something so honest and intimate.

And good acoustic must be honest and intimate. It must also be compelling. And we were in an outdoor setting, which sometimes doesn’t give a performer the platform to deliver the goods.

Luckily, Jesse Lent was more than able to deliver. He was honest, real, and yet larger than life. The thing you need to grab an outdoor audience. Lent commanded our attention through the organic flow of voice, instrument and the emotion he conjured through each song.

Lent‘s performance was Chris Isaak without all that angst, Dylan if he was born in the 70s, and also a splash of Neil – that crooner quality in his voice.

As I said, I love his band, but to be perfectly honest, I preferred him like this. It could be because I have a real love of this kind of music. Especially when it’s done this well. When it’s just the performer and their instrument, the ability to be organic and flexible with the sound, with your own mood and the mood of the room, is thrilling from the audience’s perspective. Think Nick Cave’s live acoustic performances (the man and his piano) in Berlin with his Bad Seed songs and you know exactly what I mean.

Playing familiar songs in an unexpected, fresh way is what keeps audiences coming back again and again. Even when you think you know what’s coming, each performance is injected with something new and that’s exciting.

Jesse Lent did just that. The Monte Vista songs I knew were presented to us in a fresh and new way. Lovely, unexpected, honest and real.

I can’t go without mentioning Lent‘s one cover song. INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart. It was fantastic. Lent owned the song, made it his without betraying the base truth of the song.

Mr Neil says, my hat off to you, young sir. Mr Neil also says, more solo shows, please!

The Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.75 out of 5 stars

Mr Macy Walks Alone – PT Walkley

another pilfering from someone's website. oh, when will it ever stop?by DJW

PT Walkley emerged from the Twitterverse and presented me with his new album along with the words “so proud of new album” (hey, twitter makes you tres frugal with words). And I must say, after listening to it, so he most definitely should be.

Mr Macy Walks Alone is like a complex novel or a poem, as in not only is it a concept album (one of those old fashioned things where the whole thing is like a story arc or at the very least, interconnected songs) that takes us on a journey, but it offers something new, deeper, more vulnerable and exhilariting and exposed at each listen.

For me, the most recent album like this is Kate Bush’s Ariel (which is brilliant).

It’s a strange and risky move, this whole making of a concept/story album. Yes, it’s a step back into nostalgia (if we can say the 60s et al, are nostalgic? Oh, my, why do I have the feeling we can? I know it’s not the drugs…) but it’s also done here and now, in a time when the masses have basically the attention span of a gnat.

However, like any good story, whether it be in bookish, film or music format, the good story will always shine through. Talent shines through.

And the beauty of music is you can choose to listen to it unfold as this artist wanted it to be, or you can jump around, listen and decide which songs you like and which ones you’re not so moved by, like you do on any album.

One thing, though, on the talented Indie stuff I’ve been listening to, is there is usually not much filler like on the (now dying) commercial offerings. You may not like something because it strikes a chord within you, but you are almost always left with that feeling of ‘it’s not my particular cup of tea, but it’s certainly very talented tea’. And yes there are a few songs on this album that really don’t do it for me.

However, I do find those songs sliding into their rightful place when I listen to the album yet again. In a concept piece, like a novel, like a jigsaw, they all have their place and they all work in a symbiotic way.

I think you definitely should give PT Walkley a listen or two.

There is a not-quite-folksy feel, a definite psychadelic 60s groove, a skittering of the Beatles, just for good measure. There’s even a hint of rag time in a couple of songs! Vocally he reminds me of Elliot Smith, James and even a little touch of Damien Rice.

Basically, if you didn’t listen to me when I told you to get your sweet self over to Southpaw a week or so ago, then you were dumb. This man is talented and his music is really quite beautiful. Lyrics and melody and vocals are all meeting quite wonderfully.

Give PT Walkley a listen. Go buy some music. If you’re out and about in NYC, and he’s performing, then go along.

Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Filthy Boy

filthy boy, stolen from their myspace page. by DJW

When a band with the name Filthy Boy adds you as a friend on Myspace, you feel compelled to  check them out.

Filthy Boy, hailing from Mother England, are, according to to their brief bio on their Myspace page, a very young band. Aged between 16 and 17.

They don’t sound it.

With a voice that’s part Nick Cave, part Ian Curtis, with a little tinge of our old friend, Mr Tom Waits, singer Paraic Morrissey definitely commands attention and gives the aura of a man who’s lived life long and hard and still around to tell you all about it.

Their sound is part Nick Cave, and that slight tongue-in-cheek taste of The Magnetic Fields. They are definitely British, a throw back to the late 60s and early 70s, with a nice touch of grunge and a splash of almost (dare one say it?) honky-tonk thrown in for good measure. Like you’ve been transported to Texas in the midst of a kitschy Vampire film of yore.

While there are only three songs on their page, their music is strong and very listenable. So why not click on the link and give them a listen?

The Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 3.65 stars out of 5.

Pauline Kyllonen

picture from her websiteBy DJW

I came across Pauline Kyllonen via Twitter. She sent me a link to her website and I checked it out.

I’m pleased I did.

Although there’s only four songs on her website, they’re a nice showcase of her talent. This Canadian singer/songwriter clearly has roots in country music. It’s that clear, simple weaving of story, melody and a voice that can communicate the emotional undercurrent of the situation being outlined in the song.

When listening to the music, I could see myself in a bar somewhere in the middle of nowhere, having wandered in in the middle of the day for a cold beer and stumbling across Pauline singing on a bare-bones stage.

Her voice is strong and clear, reminding me of Australian singer, Deborah Conway. A strong woman who won’t take any crap, but one who’s been through a lot, seen many things in her life and is willing to share.

The melancholy sounds bring Chris Isaak to mind, and they are the kind of tunes to listen to when sipping a cold beer or glass of white wine, most certainly on a balcony somewhere, alone, to immerse yourself in the images and emotions her songs conjure up.

I don’t know if Pauline Kyllonen is ever heading to NYC for a gig, but if she is, I’ll be there to check her out. If you’re in Canada and happen to be where she’s playing, you should check her out…

The Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 3 out of 5 stars.

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