Tag Archives: Ponytail

All I know is that you’re perfect right now.

Coney Island’s great for a lot of reasons. It hosts the world famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, for example, the site of Takeru Kobayashi’s doubling of the original event record in 2001 and his ignominious fall to Joey Chestnutt is 2007 which ultimately led to his non-participation and bizarre Free Kobi campaign on this year’s July 4th event.

There’s other stuff, too. Candy apples. The “subway crowd”, according to a New Yorker who recommended keeping away. And once a year, for free, the Siren festival, put on by the Village Voice. To give a general idea of how great Siren is historically, here’s some examples of bands who’ve played since 2001.

2001: Guided By Voices, Quasi, Superchunk
2002: Sleater-Kinney, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars
2003: !!!, Modest Mouse, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
2004: The Fiery Furnaces, Blonde Redhead, Mission of Burma
2005: Q and Not U, Spoon, Saul Williams
2006: Tapes ‘n’ Tapes, Scissor Sisters, Art Brut
2007: MIA, Dr. Dog, Black Lips
2008: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Islands, Times New Viking, Broken Social Scene, Beach House, Jaguar Love, Annuals (FOR FREE! Fuck sake.)
2009: Built To Spill, Micachu and the Shapes, Future of the Left.

This year was the tenth anniversary and it was pretty great too.

The first band I got to, having had to rouse a household full of hungover delinquents with nothing but bare willpower and a promise that they’d probably like some of the bands, was Surfer Blood.

Surfer Blood are a band I like an awful lot, but live sound got the better of them, and with unwieldily booming subwoofers hiding the guitar melodies and killing the groove, they were only okay, and probably would have been worse than okay for someone without the melodies burnt into their head already.

Ponytail, or the second half of Ponytail’s set, was next. Ponytail are a preposterous and excellent band, and having never seen them live despite being in Dublin at the time of their visit, I was excited to see what they were going to be like.

They were sparser than I expected, and more punk. Whilst on record it comes off as slightly more composed, in a live setting the irrepressible Molly Siegel seems to be pretty much exclusively a really excitable cheerleader for the band’s naive, complex music. It works pretty well, and a moshpit forms. Molly says things like “golly”. Cos she’s Molly.

Show of the day came from the Pains of Being Pure At Heart, up next. I know they’re divisive, but as the all-knowing life judge and stone-tablet opinion hander-downer, that’s ridiculous. They’re great. Their debut album could not be more full of great indie pop songs, and all it takes is not screwing it up to transform that into a live show.

They didn’t screw it up. They played the hits, and plenty of new songs, and seemed genuinely delighted to be playing Siren. Their enthusiasm was contagious, really, and even if a Pains crowd is never going to do more than dance lightly, it was an enjoyable light dance. Highlight, for me, was Come Saturday, but then that’s always been my favourite song of theirs.

The God of Musicians More Respected Than Good will have to forgive me for this one: instead of going to Ted Leo, I brown-bagged it for a while in the carnival, watching an Italian ice-maker make Italian ices grumpily and generally surveying the point at which the hipster Siren crowd meshed with the “subway crowd” (I’m presuming they don’t have subways in Williamsburg. Right? Am I completely right on that point?)

So this sets up Holy Fuck, with the sun going down and the risk of living a week the colour of a cherry slushie just for the sake of seeing a few indie rock bands waning. Safe hands.

If you’ve never seen or encountered Holy Fuck before, you’re missing out. Listening to them on record is something, but not enough. Much like HEALTH but a bit more amenable to normal people (rather than ridiculous people) dancing, they fashion their conceivably programmable beats from real instruments, some conventional, some silly. The drummer is the driving force, taking whole songs up and down with him as he sees fit. Then there’s a bassist and two sets of keyboard/sample self-facilitating media nodes, one of which features a 20 euro Casio keyboard I still have a home, the default beat from which actually forms the basis for a Holy Fuck song.

On Coney Island at dusk beside the beach and boardwalk surrounded by people looking happy, a rollercoaster and a carnival in the summer, pretty much everything was great, but Lovely Allen, with its swells and forget-your-troubles-esque euphoric moments, was always going to be the high point of the day.

As they finished, I got another beer (in another brown bag) and headed towards the beach, passing a man in a Fermanagh GAA jersey who turned out to be from Queens and was found immediately out of his depth after he walked foolishly into the trap of asking my GAA fundamentalist (and Nordy) companion if he’d watched the World Cup.

He hadn’t. We continued on our path to night beach drinking.

++

The Year. 25-21

25. This Is The Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank
Richter Collective

Adebisi Shank emanate from one of the most productive scenes in Irish music, that of bands who seem to have spent adolescence listening to metal but have now discovered their inner maths geek. What sets Adebisi Shank apart from other purveyors of spastic, geometric rock is the direct connection between feeling and music. It’s like a print-screen of a hyperactive, manic depressive mind. They are not simply showing off rhythmic ability, rehearsing the different ways in which you can play fast in an unusual time signature. It’s much more measured than that. While at points, songs can seem like the individual band members are battling each other with their instruments, the whole is as tempered in its way as a piece of classical music. Nothing happens for longer than it has to, and the result is something intensely expressive and almost incandescent. I also saw, while sharemining for new music, a post on an American forum saying that this album was fantastic, and I felt a little happier in the knowledge that a song called ‘Mini Rockers’ is getting onto Floridian iPods. Fitting ambassadors.
This picture pretty much says it all, and then this collective commits it to wax.


24. Correcto – Correcto
Domino

Indie rock from the island of Britain is in ebb at the moment, and the cartoonised post-punk sound that launched a number of bands to the mainstream in the first half of the decade has tainted everything with its own descent into pastiche. That’s a pity, because Correcto, from Glasgow, make the kind of catchy but clever music that is almost ingrained enough in British music since 1976 as to be the new traditional at this point. On the upbeat songs, Danny Saunders’ flawed voice rides large Buzzcocks-esque guitars to places at least as interesting as the Postcard Records offspring of Glasgow circa 1980, and on the quieter arrangements he channels the pint-and-a-bag-of-crisps-at-the-battle-of-the-bands style of Half Man Half Biscuit. Self-awareness is the order of the day, with the self-portrait ‘Walking To Town’ carrying the refreshing admission “I look like a fucking goon”. Another perceptive observation on the next track: “No-one over thirty can do the Watusi”. And ‘Joni’ is one of the most criminally-overlooked pieces of pop genius in the last decade. A self-deprecating running commentary on popular culture is a welcome respite in a world where much of the good music is coming from the no-child-left-behind sincerity of North America.
Check out Joni if you haven’t heard its infectious strains, and then head to MySpace to commiserate with the band over the fact that no-one actually seems to care about them at all.


23. The Dodos – Visiter
FrenchkissI have never had much of a tolerance for Americana. Those straightforward, folky albums that tumble down through the filter of the make-or-break American indie axis have always been unavoidably naff to me, no matter how hard I tried to see what so many people were seeing. Years of this mean that I’m no longer excited by acoustic music. It needs to have a really big twist to win me over. The Dodos have. With an acoustic guitar and a drum kit, they paint layers and more layers, and then go digging in them for the elusive melody that no-one has found yet. The magically liberating tool that is the loop-pedal has been around for a while now, but few have avoided the potential for excessive meddling like Meric Long. His rapid strums, along with the outdoorsy drums of Logan Kroeber, provide a bustling backing for the introverted-extrovert songs he sings. The freak wins the battle with the folk, and the likes of ‘Red and Purple’ or ‘Fools’ are some of the most memorable songs of the year.
Ball it over to Pitchfork.tv for the fairly stunning video for Fools, and then stall the ball to Daytrotter for the old songs/new songs/demos/unreleased songs/explanations you’ve come to expect and love from them.

22. Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual
We Are Free
Ponytail are a band who have a lot of fun. This becomes immediately apparent at the 15 second mark, as Molly Spiegel releases forth a piercing, feral peal to conjure up the full glory of her Baltimore bandmates’ instrumental assault. Ponytail channel Cool bands like Sonic Youth and their lesser-known (or simply lesser) comrades at times, but they bring an enthusiasm to the table, often in the form of simply playing fast, that makes this effectively instrumental 8-song effort excitingly original. There is also a definite Japanophile tendency that goes a ways to explaining the unselfconscious mentalness of tracks like ‘Late For School’. It’s also fun to see that, just like post-Strokes bands began to show up in the aftermath of Is This It?, there is such a thing as post-Deerhoof in the world today.The cover art, trippy and hand-daubed, is a pretty good indication of how this sounds. But the real tell is the exclamation mark snuck in at the end of the title. ! pretty much sums it up.
Check Ponytail out on, looking exactly like they sound, on MySpace, and then check out the perpetually useful about.com for advice on how to sport your own.


21. Marnie Stern – This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That
Kill Rock Stars

More notes required. Exponentially more drums hit per bar required. More words per title required. Marnie Stern’s second album is an explosion of unrelenting excess from the first avalanche of music halfway through the opener ‘Prime’ to the last tapped arpeggios of closer ‘The Devil Is In The Details’. On first glance, Marnie’s music seems to reside in a bizarre psychedelic-perceptive cave within the milieu of Van Halen-esque classic rock, but better touchstones would be the life-affirming likes of The Mae Shi, the hemidemisemiquaver hi-hat proggishness of Battles, or the positive apocalypticism of Lightning Bolt. It’s rather refreshing to see guitar virtuosity of this magnitude attached to someone with their head in the real world. And though she has a tendency to declaim the poetry of whatever comes into her head, her stream of consciousness aphorisms make it all the more urgent.
Read Matthew ‘Fluxblog’ Perpetua’s interview with Marnie Stern at Pitchfork, then regret missing her kissing booth.