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WOLFMOTHER REIGNS VICTORIOUS
February 24, 2016 12:05 am

I have a playlist of songs that I’d listen to if I were ever on the front lines of a war. I’m pretty sure most of today’s soldiers blast music under their helmets, and I always wonder what I would want pumping through my ears in the heat of battle. What would push me to succeed? To fight harder or smarter or better. What if it was the last thing I ever heard?

So I made a war playlist, and Wolfmother was the first thing on it. Sprinkle in some MuseRATM, and the like and you got yourself something real, something awesome. I listen to it on the highway or while doing a particularly aggressive load of laundry. Every so often I add a song here and there, but not until Wolfmother’s new album, Victorious, did I consider adding all 10 songs from the album at once, but I seriously might.

Just check out the title track, a screaming headbanger, a triumphant, anthemic force of energy. Creative genius Andrew Stockdale (and whoever is playing around him these days) is back to the “rollicking, galloping beats and big riffs” that Wolfmother is known for. Many of these tracks could be your new favorite pump-up song. The notable exception is called Pretty Peggy, an acoustic ballad reminiscent of their previous “love-song,” Vagabond.

It’s as if Stockdale took all his most popular songs and rewrote them with different words and music, but the same look and feel. Like when you go to the west coast and realize their mayonnaise has a different name. Sure it feels a little off, but you still slather it around your sandwiches and whip it into your deviled eggs. New look, same great taste!

The most amazing thing about Wolfmother through the years is how they consistently sound like fifteen different bands all at once. Everyone from Black Sabbath to The White Stripes, Zeppelin to Jet, Kings Of Leon to Queens of the Stone Age. And somehow–despite numerous lineup changes and artistic bullshit–they maintain the same generic timelessness we’ve come to expect, even after a decade or so of aggressive, high-octane awesomeness. Impressive.

Wolfmother is currently on tour to support the album, stopping by NYC’s Webster Hall on March 4th. They’ll continue throughout the US and Canada until April 1st, play in Europe for 6 weeks, and then finish the tour in NJ at the end of May. See them before they go back down under!

THE WOMBATS HAVE LANDED AT TERMINAL 5
November 30, 2015 12:22 am

Let’s talk about last Tuesday night. The Wombats played Terminal 5. The honor of being able to make that statement has been a long time coming. The U.K.-based trio has been around since 2007, and has toured the U.S. extensively over the last couple of years, but until this night they hadn’t played a New York venue larger than Webster Hall.

American fans of British bands are often spoiled when it comes to touring stateside; it’s not uncommon for bands with top billing at festivals like Reading and Leeds to perform in New York at places like Mercury Lounge (capacity 250 people) or Baby’s All Right (280 people). In fact, The Wombats did play at Mercury Lounge earlier this year. Being able to see such great bands in such small venues can sometimes make fans wish the bands would stay “small” forever, but as the saying goes, “If you love something, let it go to Terminal 5.” And, for the record, the venue was packed.

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Photo by Sasha Maese

The first to perform on Tuesday was the Brooklyn-based POP ETC. The band has toured throughout the U.S. and Japan, and has performed with bands including Death Cab for Cutie, The Kooks, and X Japan. However, according to Spotify, they are most well known for their song “Speak Up”, from the Twilight film Breaking Dawn – part 2. That’s got to be frustrating. Regardless, their dynamic performance was well received by the audience. They performed songs from their upcoming LP Souvenir, as well as recent singles “Bad Break” and “Running in Circles”.

Royal Teeth was next, a five-piece band from Louisiana. They burst onto the stage dancing, with enough energy for every last person in the audience. If they were feeling celebratory, it’s with good reason; earlier this year, the group signed with Elektra records and are releasing their major-label debut in 2016.

Their set included a cover of the song “Heartbeats,” originally by The Knife, as well as their own songs “Mais La” and “Wild.” A cursory search through Wikipedia revealed that “Wild” has already been featured in ads for the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Buick Verano, State Farm, Bose, American Eagle, Metro AG, The Voice, 90210, ESPN, TLC, PBS, Yahoo, and Fox. Not bad for an indie band.

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Photo by Sasha Maese

When “Just Like Heaven” finally begins to play over the venue’s PA system, the audience knows it’s nearly time for The Wombats. They open with “Give Me a Try”, a song that’s in stark contrast to anything performed by the night’s two previous bands; “We could be gigantic/ Everything I need/ Vicodin on Sunday nights/ This could be worth the risk/ Worth the guarantee/ This could be the drug that does’t bite/ Just give me a try,” sings Matthew Murphy. This is followed by songs about one night stands (“Jump Into The Fog”), insomnia (“Moving to New York”) and longing for an adolescence that wasn’t all that great (“1996”).

It’s not that the first two bands to play on Tuesday weren’t great, it’s that they’re just so…clean. Nearly all songs by The Wombats share a feeling of alienation, of trying to fit in to a world that just doesn’t get you. Murphy often writes from his own experiences with depression, and it’s this approach to the creation of their songs that make them so relatable to people that have a hard time relating in general.

About halfway through the set, Murphy shares a story about the song “Pink Lemonade.” The writing of it involved drinking alone in Barcelona, and convincing himself that his girlfriend was sleeping with a random acquaintance. They beauty of it all is that as nuts as their lyrics can be, or the strange evolution of their songs, the audience knew every word. And they danced. And it was awesome.

The show closed the way all Wombats shows close; with “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.” It was the band’s first single, released in 2007, and probably their most beloved song. It remains the perfect encapsulation of the band’s ethos, “Let’s dance to Joy Division/ And raise our glass to the ceiling/ ‘Cause this could all go so wrong/ But we’re so happy.” Even after the band left the stage, that feeling was underscored with “You Can Call Me Al” playing from the PA system, and the audience continuing to dance until Paul Simon sang his last note.

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Photo by Sasha Maese

BROTHERTIGER + JR JR = MAGIC
November 6, 2015 3:39 pm

Wowzers. Great Scott. Holy Guacamole. All of these interjections could describe the show at Webster Hall Wednesday night, yet they barely would scratch the surface of the magnitude of awesomeness that Brothertiger and Jr Jr provided. The enormous ballroom was hazy with incense from the start (although they must’ve had a smoke machine too), and as ghostly stagelights pierced the fog above the crowd, Brothertiger took the stage.

IMG_91601Much of the crowd was unprepared for Brothertiger’s entrance, still busy ordering drinks or leaning against the far wall, but his hypnotic rhythms and angelic vocals quickly got their attention. The Brooklyn based solo artist seemed at ease in Manhattan, deftly engaging the growing crowd at his feet. While his original songs were sublime, the highlight of the set was a spellbinding rendition of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place.” With most of the crowd familiar with the song, it was a truly magical moment for everyone.

And then Jr Jr took the stage and blew everybody’s minds. From the moment stagehands unveiled the giant “JR JR” light up set-piece behind the stage, it was clear that the performance would be epic. They did not disappoint. Passionate energy filled the cavernous hall, as upbeat indie/electronic pop saturated the room. The Detroit foursome had the audience at hello, and continued their captivation throughout the night. Singer/multi-instrumentalist Daniel Zott’s insane hairdo contrasted nicely with other singer/multi-instrumentalist Joshua Epstein’s more subdued personality, although both of their energies were electric and contagious.

IMG_9172One recurring characteristic of their music is the use of some sort of vocal layering machine. Their song “James Dean” is a great example of the technique, but many of their songs made use of the technology, leading to a very thick, satisfying upper register. Contrast that with their well executed rhythm and bass sections (at one point Zott was going ham on a drum pad–it was awesome) and you’ve got yourself something special. You could even call it magical, if you were so inclined.

Jr Jr ended their set with a generous four song encore. The band came back out wearing these unbelievable matching jackets that glowed neon under overhead blacklights. As a pair of bubble machine pumped their little bubbly hearts out, the group went absolutely wild dancing in front of the enormous flashing JR JR lights behind them, much to the excitement of the audience. Jr Jr continues their tour this week, ending in Chicago on Saturday, and if you have the chance to see them you really should take it. They are magical.

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Slow Magic: Our Unknown Imaginary Friend
September 16, 2015 6:06 pm

slow_magic_djl_photographyWhile Last FM  stuck him within the genres of chillwave, electronic, glo-fi, and poptron, Slow Magic answers the genre query with a simple “no.” So who is the man behind the mask? In interviews he has done in the past, Slow Magic has never revealed personal details about himself and cordially fields reporters’ many questions on why he chooses to remain anonymous.     

In an interview with Huffington Post earlier this year Slow Magic explained, “When I started Slow Magic I wanted it to be separate from a place, face, or identity. It is interesting to be presented with just the art and experience that first.” Of course Slow Magic is not the first to don a mask and maintain a mysterious persona.  SBTRKT, DeadMau5, Lightning Bolt, Daft Punk, and others in the electronic scene also possess veiled identities.   

On tour with artists like Gold Panda and XXYYXX, Slow Magic’s music instantly connects with something visceral inside audiences.  Tribal beats and a myriad of synths and layered sounds create ethereal soundscapes that are easy to get lost in.  His latest album out last year is appropriately titled “How To Run Away” and it is like a dream for listeners to temporarily disappear into.    

His music has the ability to invoke in people childlike giddy feelings they may have lost or forgotten long ago.  A time where you felt wide-eyed, innocent, and alive, where imagination ruled your world and everything was new, exciting, and sometimes scary too.   

The feelings are addictive and contagious and those who have attended Slow Magic shows have likened them to a religious experience. After the first time seeing him live, most are converted into devout followers going to shows again and again whenever he plays anywhere near their vicinity.  

This past year Slow Magic has heavily toured the festival circuit and has been around the world and back.  He will be returning to New York this Fall to play Webster Hall on November 20th.  Which is a Friday by the way, so no excuses for holding back.
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New Music Seminar Takes Over the Big Apple
June 30, 2015 1:20 pm

“Do you want to be part of the largest movement to build the music business- to be part of the community that is affecting change?”

As a music enthusiast, it’s important that you know about one of the most important music events in the city. Being able to attend the New Music Seminar this year, I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of the music business movement and to be able to engage with colleagues of the same interest.

By attending panels that tackled discussions such as the role of artist managers and where indie labels stand in the industry right now, I was able to expose myself to a range of knowledge and ideas that I wouldn’t have been able to answer myself. It was motivational seeing important music business individuals express their informed opinions and give us advice on how to handle situations. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited sitting through these discussions and taking notes like I was back in college studying for a test.

While these mind boggling topics of the music industry kept me occupied during the daytime, I’d have to say that I was pretty impressed with the festival performances that went on in the evening. The opening night red carpet was helday1_DIY-movementd at Webster Hall with an extensive line up of talented musicians including Alessia Cara, Fictionist, Bad Veins, Belmont Lights, Jay Stolar, Grace Weber, and Melanie Martinez. Although Webster Hall is one of my least favorite venues in the city, NMS managed to glam it up with a beautiful red carpet. The show started later than expected and I was pretty exhausted from all the waiting, but I was blown by the amount of talent I saw that night.

I discovered Alessia Cara for the first time and was astonished by her soulful voice. I was also taken aback by Belmont Light’s powerful stage presence; so much so that it was impossible to think a record label hasn’t picked them up yet. Expecting Melanie Martinez to make a grand entrance on stage as a last act, she peacefully strutted her way on stage with no shoes on while hardcore teen fans raged. Although she seemed reserved at first, her confidence projected through the room when she started singing. Her songs may sound depressing with lyrics like “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” but it gets pretty contagious and you’ll be singing it to yourself the next few days.

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The next two nights followed with an overwhelming line up of musicians who performed at DROM, Cake Shop, Pianos, and The Delancey. I ended up staying in Pianos for the first night seeing Little Racer, Lewis Lane, and Dear Rouge. Tuesday night had a line up which was tough for me to choose since my favorite bands were overlapping with each other. Most venues were pretty close to each other except for DROM, in which I exhausted myself running back and forth. I started the night with mellow tunes from Frances Cone, and checked out the indie-pop sister band Chaos Chaos afterwards right next door. I traveled all the way to DROM to see the last set of The Collection and made my way back to the lower east to see some Fort Lean because that Northside Festival showcase wasn’t enough for me. I definitely didn’t want to miss City of the Sun because no matter how many times you listen to them, they will never disappoint. There’s something about their tunes that put you in a euphoric state that leave you with the chills.

All in all, the New Music Seminar was a successful evening bursting at the windows and walls with talent, successful professionals, and innovative artists who live, breath, and work the ever-changing music industry!

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