Category Archives: minus

Just a deadbeat summer.

viaCRLS

In the most recent issue of the L Magazine, Todd Goldstein from ARMS says the following:

The C-word – chillwave – or whatever… I think some of it is so boring, The sounds are beautiful, and I think that’s what makes people excited, but they’re not actual songs, you know?

Now, ARMS are terrible, but there is some truth in this. A couple of days after the Grizzly Bear gig that cause me to leak effusion out of every journalistic pore, I returned to Governor’s Island with a crew to chill on the fake beach and see Neon Indian.

Chillwave is something that completely passed me by. It’s actually difficult to talk about it in terms that aren’t completely ripped from Hipster Runoff (who invented the name, to Pitchfork’s chagrin). I enjoyed Deadbeat Summer in the two weeks it sat on my car-shop €15 mp3 player, and I didn’t hate it when I heard it after that, but in general I’m with Mr. Goldstein. It’s the reason I get unreasonably angry with people who think Person Pitch is better than any Animal Collective album, too. Because something sounds nice when you’re barely paying attention doesn’t make it good music (though that’s unfair to Person Pitch, which is a great album in its own right).

So, in surroundings that, as evidenced by Morning Benders, Caribou and Grizzly Bear gig visits, would make almost anything seem a little transplendent, Neon Indian was shown up. The hype that surrounded the Neon Indian-Washed Out-Memory Tapes-general chillwave rise to “relevance” was the most self-aware imaginable, and it was factual proof that irony, while not in itself disagreeable, can end up lumping you with baggage you don’t want.

Five bands played this show. Miniature Tigers, Prefuse 73, Dom, Nite Jewel and Neon Indian. None of the above did anything to merit even listening to after the fact. Miniature Tigers were the best. Dom, easily, were the worst, and barely even knew their own set. But it was Neon Indian’s name on the top of the bill, and it was their show to disappoint.

Governor’s Island, as the name implies, is an island.It is thus relatively difficult to leave. It was full to capacity (c. 3.5k), or close, at about dusk. There were less than 500 actually in front of the stage by the time Neon Indian ended. Democracy doesn’t work a lot of the time, but when ears don’t hear what they want, feet walk, and that’s what happened.

There was some merit in sitting on sand, away from generally bored and sarcastic friends, and trying to ‘chill hard’ to Deadbeat Summer, while it lasted, but no amount of talking around it would make this a good gig. It might be easier to hear ten tracks of pseudo-tropical gloop on an iPod while you’re refreshing Facebook than it is to listen to (for example) Adebisi Shank, but it’s definitely not as rewarding, and there’s nothing like big speakers, a big stage and a big crowd to show that up.

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Do the Kurt Cobain and blow your brains out.

There is a story I wish I could tell you about something that happened at YACHT at the South Street Seaport. It’s a spectacularly unlikely tale that would make you laugh, think and question whether it ever really happened. But I can’t tell you that story, unfortunately.

I can tell you that YACHT aren’t very good, though. If you know YACHT, then you pretty much know that they’re camp as Dachau, with not a whole lot going on except DIY disco and some slogan shouting.

I’ve heard reports of them being a lot of fun, and I don’t deny that in certain situations, they could be a lot of fun. But on this day, at this place, with these climatic conditions and this geopolitical balance, YACHT weren’t a lot of fun.

Their songs are, for the most part, fluff, and despite the fact that maybe two or three could have been worth attention, everything was marred by a drummer who couldn’t keep time to what were obviously quantised beats, and a generally pretty low tightness:trying to make people have fun ratio.

Thumbs down to YACHT. Worth it only because of the thrilling, secret story I can’t tell you.

You’ve been living a while in the front of my skull

Every chance this was stolen from Brooklyn Vegan.

There are some, such as those involved in the maintenance and promotion of Hudson River Park, who will insist that Pier 54 is a park. It is not a park. See above. Grass seeds would not have any idea what to do if they ended up there. Neither do generators, apparently. More on that anon.

Still, it was the Antlers playing a free show overlooking the Hudson River and plain-but-sound New Jersey, and while the East River is great to overlook during gigs in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, it’s not even a real river, so what’s the point.

The East River: a tidal strait, not a river.

Dinosaur Feathers supported. They’re a drummerless indie pop group in the American lineage – Nada Surf, Hot Hot Heat, a touch of Vampire Weekend, say. They didn’t move far from their cultural context though, and while there are hummable melodies there, the milk teeth programmed beats make everything too soft to make an impact. Their harmonies seem like slabs of margerine lobbed onto something already fairly calorific, and the whole affair is a little cloying.

Which is convenient, because if they were good, it would have been more annoying when the generator blew.

Went for a walk. Spent fourteen dollars of twenty total dollars in my possession at the time (maybe I’ll do a really long self-pity post some time) on a packet of Newports in a gas station. Watched people eat crab. At a gig. Crab.

Sorry Brooklyn Vegan, my camera battery was low and it can't take worthwhile pictures from distance in the dark anyway.

Then it got fixed and The Antlers showed up. If you don’t remember every word typed on this blog for some reason, you might want reminding that I thought Hospice was “a work of fiction up there with a well-wrought novel” and other bent stuff like that, and that I enjoyed their gig in the Academy even though I felt that they were banging and crashing a bit much.

More of the same really. It was an enjoyable show, and it’s always impressive to stand in a silent outdoor crowd while a quiet, fragile band plays, and it’s even better if you can see a tidal strait. But while the songs on Hospice are hair-raising in the best possible way, live, they’re much more conventional emotional crescendos, even with horns for atmosphere and lyrics you know would be worth hearing if you could.

The few new songs played were still pretty bleak, so it’s not like Peter Silbermann, though he’s a cheery guy in reality, has taken a sunny turn. And they were good, maybe more so than the Hospice stuff because the rawness seemed less rehearsed.

But – if only because I’d seen it before and I saw it this time wedged between Caribou and Siren and (still to come, blog chronology-wise) Beach House and Sonic Youth – I think I’m going to have to give this a rare minus.

But first, an anecdote. Everyone loves anecdotes. Two rows in front of me were a group of guys who were definitely more bro than alt, and probably more meat than head. Gold chains, crew cuts, sports tattoos. You know the ones. But, against prejudicial odds, they knew every word to Two, and put their arms around each other to sing it, and when it was over, they all gave each other high fives. At the end, they did elaborate fist bumps and parted ways. Amazing.

Te quiero quiero quiero quiero…

Being a diplomatic traveller, I feel it incumbent upon me to network with the alternative musics of all the various cultures which intermingle in New York. Thus, with a briefcase and a set of broadly drawn proverbs with which to perform cultural exchange, I showed up at the Latin Alternative Music Conference’s outdoor showcase at Summerstage in Central Park.

Still on Irish gig time and not looking likely to develop better instincts in the near future, I missed the French-Chilean hip-hop duo who opened the gig. But I managed to show up before the thing I was really there to see (all that diplomacy stuff was just a front, don’t tell anyone) – El Guincho.

As he was setting up, an MC of the cookie-cutter type that end up shouting at the crowd at all of these free outdoor gigs came out with a microphone. If the gig was in Brooklyn, I wouldn’t even take bets on the likelihood of him saying the word Brooklyn within ten words. But it wasn’t, it was Central Park in Manhattan, so there was some suspense.

“Latinos!”

Cheers.

“something something futból!”

Cheers.

“Viva Espana!”

Cheers.

“Something elaborate in Spanish.”

Cheers.

From his position at the centre of stage plugging in his samplers, El Guincho leans in to his microphone.

“Catalunya!”

Ambivalent response. El Guincho, more political than Carles Puyol.

But so the point is that everyone was either new world Latino or actually Spanish. Right now before El Guincho this doesn’t make much of a difference, but it will later.

El Guincho plays. He has a guitarist and a bassist with him, both of whom make his songs different but not necessarily better, and his singing voice is pretty rough. The crowd, delighted about a recent Spanish victory and generally just up for a dance, try to lock into the grooves, but don’t manage it fully. It’s bright, Guincho’s not sounding great, and the energy of it alone isn’t enough to carry it. Even the genuine Alegranza hits like Palmitos Park fall a little flat. A disappointing gig.

But while El Guincho is the guy I was there to see, and the guy I dragged my friends there to see, he wasn’t the main event or even the main curiosity.

After some more MCing, someone rolls a four-part computer console along the lines of the Hal 3000 onto the stage. It’s flashing in various places. But wait, what is that being carried out? A tuba, maybe? No, it’s a sousaphone, apparently. But the type of horn you have to wear to play, anyway.

“Ola Mexicanos!”

Cheers.
“Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish”

Cheers.

“NORTEC COLLECTIVE!”

What followed was one of the most bizarre hours of my life. With two men playing tenorions in front of the computer console (which was just a prop, it turned out), and two men playing accordion and sousaphone/trumpet respectively, Nortec Collective played a reality-challenging Mexican folk vs. electronica mashup type set. Everything built up and then ended up in a break beat with the sousaphone going bomp-bomp underneath it Mexican-style.

It was ridiculous. But the crowd loved it. Dancing in ways that I didn’t know were ways of dancing. All of a sudden I’m feeling very anglo and wondering what to do with myself. I stand through the reverie, looking at the Tijuana-based visuals and trying to square the esoteric techno bits with the Cinco de Mayo parade bits. Hard to tell if you’re enjoying something like that or just rapt withal.

But no, it was terrible. Not necessarily a regret, showing up, but if I never heard Nortec again in my entire life, I wouldn’t be unhappy. A rare minus.

Crocodiles (and Wounds) upstairs in Whelans

wounds

One of the few funny things the hipster internet outside of Carles HRO has ever come up with is the concept of “hipster garabe”. It has its roots on last.fm, where somebody with hardly functional English left the comment “his music the hipster garabe i ever heard” on the Aphex Twin bio page. Fans of hipster garabe, if you can pin them down before the mise en abyme “I’m-not-a-hipster-but-he/she-is” claims recede into infinity, have adopted the term as their own.

Hipster garabe is the Venn diagram encompassing all hipster music from 2009’s chillwave scene to Hijokaidan shitting everywhere to Animal Collective banging a trolley to the woos in Wavves and the ohs in Xiu Xiu. It’s not really negative any more, it’s just a descriptor. Hipster music.

But sometimes it can be negative. Like for example when you want to trash something as utterly substanceless, pretentious wank. And/or when you want to review a Crocodiles show.

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Wellllllllllll I got friends in low places.

High Places.

What they do is not so much performance as a sort of twisted midwifery to a very obscured and confused baby. Man playing very low-volume drum pads and a woodblock. Woman talking (not even backwards), or singing without enthusiasm. A table covered in wires acting as a barrier between uninterested band and uninterested crowd. There is no aspect of this that comes across better live than on record. In fact, the most impressive member of High Places, Sampler, would probably prefer not to tour at all.

The best thing High Places have ever done was appear on Bradford Cox’s video guide to the Pitchfork festival. And I don’t even like Bradford Cox. May this band go away soon, and may their mp3s languish unheard in the mysterious ether of a thousand hard drives till the Great Computer Virus of the Future removes them from recorded history.

No catchy bits. Even their “one good song” was drowned in its own self-conscious muck. This is a totem pole made of its own hype, and it should never be given the twelve euro tribute I foolishly gave it.

music scene is crazy, bands start up each and every day

A summary is a shortened version of the original. The main purpose of such a simplification is to highlight the major points from the genuine (much longer) subject, e.g. a text, a film or an event. The aim is to help the audience get the gist in a short period of time.

Groom – Not impressed. A little bit OK Computer-y at times, but way less cool. And the song of theirs that kept coming on between bands is something I cannot imagine anyone who doesn’t watch rom-coms without irony ever liking.

The Hot Sprockets – I was expecting “folky” and “a whole different buzz altogether”, because the girl from Muzu said they’d be like that. But they weren’t.

Holy Roman Army – This band needs to get some visuals going, and figure out a more exciting way of playing live. Granted, they were on way too early for the kind of music they play, but being soporific is never a good trait in a live band.

The Vinny Club – Man pressed play on iTunes, then arses around.

Foxface – Their blurb was about ten times as exciting as they were.

Noise Control – 90s rap rock? Seriously?

Heathers – Can’t see why everyone is so impressed by these. They have a couple of lyrical turns that make you go “hmm”, but if you do everything using terms of reference derived from female American singer-songwriters from the 1990s you’re never going to be able to be new or impressive. I also couldn’t stomach the fact that they literally did not stop harmonising once in the first four songs.

Carly Sings – Too quiet, venue too loud. Couldn’t hear, had to leave.

So there you have it. Hard Working Class Heroes 2008.