Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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Monday’s Suggestion (01-03-11)

In Monday's Suggestion,Music,New York City,Rich,Uncategorized on January 3, 2011 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , ,

Asobi Seksu Release New Single “Trails”

Asobi Seksu

 

“Trails”, the first single off of Asobi Seksu’s upcoming fourth release starts off in a wall of dissonant, bagpipe-esque noise.  If this were to continue another ten seconds it would be annoying, but in its current incarnation it creates a ‘come hither’ allure that begs you to keep listening.

From there the song opens up into the sort of dream pop that has come to characterize the band’s sound.  Lead singer Yuki Chikudate sings and coos over carefully layered synth and a rolling drum beat heavy on tom work and accented with single shakes of a tambourine.

Overall, there is a sort of hope and wonder to the song that recalls Metricthe XX and Chairlift.  If the new record Fluorescence is full of this breed of expansive shoe-gaze, look for this album to finally push Asobi Seksu from darlings of the underground to mainstream contenders in 2011, similarly to how “Crystalised” did for the XX last year.

Asobi Seksu’s full length LP Fluorescence will be out February 15th on Polyvinyl Records, and the band will be supporting the release with a North American tour.  You can download Trails for free here and check out their tour dates on the band’s myspace.

Recommended If You Like: The XX, Metric, Chairlift

– Rich

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Monday’s Suggestion

In Matt,Monday's Suggestion,Music on December 20, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , ,

Nebraska, by Bruce Springsteen, In Particular, “Highway Patrolman”

Putting Springsteen in the title runs you the risk of turning off hand-fulls of readers at a time, which is why I’ve been waiting for the right set of circumstances to suggest this album, and in particular this song. (There’s just a general weirdness behind the dichotomy of this suggestion that I can’t really explain or justify. It’s like, in a remote way, when you have two people that you call your best friend. I don’t want to just pick one to suggest. I could just suggest the album and, that way, the song would be covered; or just sever ties and go solo with the song; and maybe that’s what I should do since there’s this impulse to highlight it. But I don’t want to. [Additionally, there’s a chance that you may be a reader to whom the top assumption about Bruce Springsteen repelling people sounds really off base because Bruce is first and foremost extremely popular, which means it’s more unlikely to come across someone who wouldn’t be at least interested in reading an article about him. In that case, all I can say is we probably come from different orientations, but we can ultimately agree on how good the Boss really is.])

Anyway, the circumstance is-

  1. it’s the Christmas season, which is steadily on its way to becoming longer than the calendar seasons, and means a lot of hassle, both functionally and psychologically, one driving the other;
  2. work has been overwhelming (not entirely unrelated to Christmas, but now I’m perseverating);
  3. additional pressures pinned to writing (that is to say, trying to keep head above water), and I have a headache tonight.

Now, the reason why this subject fits those circumstances, is that Springsteen is really easy. Everyone knows him and has an opinion that’s set and dried, although this latter aspect could be the cause of difficulty if I was planning on making this about trying to change people’s minds.

There is no reason to think differently about Bruce Springsteen. Or, at least there’s no reason for someone to try to persuade another person against his/her tastes. But despite being aware of this, it’s really hard for me to imagine anyone not liking this song, if not being really moved by it. It could fly pretty well on its own as a suggestion for the week. Structurally, it’s of craftsmanship-grade quality. And artistically, it’s like Cain and Abel set in 20th century America, with irony that is as tragic and profound as the works of Shakespeare. It’s Steinbeck.

But as soon as I listen to the song, I want to listen to the whole album. If you’re the type of person who is turned off by Bruce Springsteen, be apprised that this song and album are NOT what you dislike about Springsteen. It’s not Glory Days or Thunder Road. There’s no saxophone. It is made up of the songs you hear on the radio that turn off the background noise of traffic and stress, with the first thing you hear when your inner monologue starts again being “Wait, is this Bruce Springsteen?”.

Sony has blocked the original recording off of YouTube, which is the best version. But this is the best one I found on YouTube.

Here’s a version by Johnny Cash. So if you hate Springsteen, the odds are pretty high that you’re into, or at least respect, Cash.

Nebraska. This is the title track and probably responsible for the “haunting” descriptor that is probably used most commonly in descriptions of the album as a whole.

Johnny 99. Ok, this one fits more with the popular Springsteen persona. But it’s still fantastic.

-Matt

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Monday’s Suggestion (11-29-10)

In Monday's Suggestion,Music,Rich,Uncategorized on November 29, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Fences

If you’re currently in your mid to late 20s and were labeled an “emo kid” at some point in your younger days, chances are Fences, the recording alias of 27-year-old songwriter Chris Mansfield, captured your current mindset on his debut album.

Don’t know if this applies to you?  Let me provide a little more background.

Music: When you were young(er) you found solace in bands like Taking Back Sunday, Saves The Day and Thursday.  You thought the “Blue Album” was awesome, but Pinkerton was Weezer’s classic.

Books: You love Kerouac and Bukowski, Plath and Hemingway and there was a period of time where you obsessed over the idea of existentialism.

Film: With regards to film you had two dynamic duos you lived by (Wes Anderson/Jason Schwartzman and Tim Burton/Johnny Depp).  You made it your goal to find the happy medium between these two personas…and then marry Zooey Deschanel.  This is why you’re now incredibly jealous of Ben Gibbard (if you’re a girl replace Zooey Deschanel with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Ben Gibbard with whoever he’s dating).

If any of this sound familiar you’re probably going to relate to Fences.   If not there is still an aspect of your youth that could tie you in…you drove around aimlessly, often for entire nights.  You’d drink in parking lots and go to basement shows and house parties, but mostly you’d just drive around and listen to music, ending up at a diner in the waning hours of the night.

If you’re still reading this probably rings a bell to some degree, and the questions you strung yourself out on while staring out the passenger window of your friend’s 92 Volvo are the same ones you examined in your head as you stared out the subway window on your way to work this morning.  Questions like “where is my life going?” or “what did I do wrong to him/her?”.  These may be the same questions you had back then, but you definitely don’t approach them the same way.

Fences encapsulates this more mature approach.  You aren’t screaming anymore, you’re reflecting quietly.  Where Chris Carraba crafted Dashboard Confessional out of a refusal to move past his high school heartaches as he entered his late twenties, Chris Mansfield has constructed Fences out of a desperate need to get past that time in his life.

Fences self-titled debut album is full of the shoe-gazing self-reflection that so many of us have adapted as our comfort zone.  It’s the soundtrack to a late night drive or a long night at a dive bar.  In fact, I find something fitting about the fact that this album was conceived in Seattle.  Probably because it gives me the same feeling I used to get when watching the cult classic “Reality Bites”.

The bottom line is this album is as therapeutic to the listener as it likely was for Mansfield to write.  If you don’t have your life figured out yet, give it a listen.  You probably won’t figure out anything by doing so, but trust me you’ll still feel a little better afterwards.

Recommended if you like: Cassino, An Horse, Tegan & Sara

– Rich

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Monday’s Suggestion (11-01-10)

In Monday's Suggestion,Music,New York City,Rich on November 1, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

[The] Slowest Runner In All The World

When starting a band, if looking to give yourself a head start in achieving mainstream success, it is inadvisable to start a 6 piece ‘post-baroque’ instrumental outfit.  Brooklyn’s The Slowest Runner In All The World obviously didn’t get the message.

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon them while attending my friend’s poetry reading at a warehouse loft in Bushwick this past Friday night.  I was expecting hipster drivel. I instead witnessed a band that married thoughtfulness and originality better than any act I’ve seen since discovering Robbers two years ago.

The Slowest Runner marries contemporary rock with classical thought and what I can only describe as art-noise to create uninhibited soundtrack music.  The best comparison I could make would be to the emotive pop of  Explosions in the Sky, if it were layered with the eerie suspense of Jonny Greenwood‘s solo efforts.

This is not pop music.  At least not in the common sense of the word.  The Slowest Runner In All The World is clearly an artistic statement.  It is intense, and requires a thoughtful approach if you aim to really get the most out of your listening experience.  On the flip-side, it is also ideal to have on while studying or working on something that requires the majority of your attention, so don’t rule it out if you are looking for new background music that will spark intelligent thought.

The band has three releases, all of which are available at their bandcamp site, and are for sale at a ‘name your own price’ rate.  They can also be streamed free of charge in their entirety before being purchased.

Pick them up.

Recommended if you like: Explosions in the sky, Jonny Greenwood, Aunt Ange

-Rich

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Monday Suggestion

In Matt,Monday's Suggestion,Music on October 25, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

Ted Hawkins

American vagabond-troubadour type blues/folk singer born in Biloxi, MS on October 28th, 1936 and died from a stroke in Inglewood, CA on January 1, 1995.

There isn’t much information handy on Ted Hawkins that would leave you feeling comfortable believing that you know too much more about his life than whatever this one sentence above suggests. It’ll be his birthday in a few days.

The two that are the most prominent on the internet for being recycled, book sleeve Author Introduction style chunks of paragraphs, tell it like this: worn-out and down-trodden genius can never catch a break, or at least a break on which he could capitalize because whenever he did some unfortunate sickness, or the inherent restlessness in his soul that was the likely source (or married to the source of his genius) would unravel whatever preliminary success he was mounting before it swelled, so that the Venice Beach Boardwalk, where he earned his living busking, trapped in one sense, utterly free in another, defined him. And when it looked like he was going to finally take that next step into the fold of American musical consciousness, he died a sudden death.

These come from Wikipedia (which was tagged for not citing any references, although it had two meagre sources on the bottom) and CMT.com, both of which are full of sentences and summaries like (two from each, respectively)…

  • “Hawkins was an enigmatic figure through most of his career; he split his time between his adopted hometown of Venice Beach, California where he was a mostly anonymous street performer, and Europe, where he and his songs were better known and well received in clubs and small concert halls” 
  • “Hawkins claimed the rasp in his voice came from damage done by years of singing in the sand and spray of the boardwalk”- This one stands out specifically.
  • “Hawkins’ existence was no day in the park. Born into abject poverty in Mississippi an abused and illiterate child, Hawkins was sent to reform school when he was 12 years old”
  • “Roaming from Chicago to Philadelphia to Buffalo…Hawkins left the frigid weather behind in 1966, purchasing a one-way ticket to L.A.”

CMT replaces the term “dollar bills” with “greenbacks”, describes his voice as “melismatic”, and calls his death “a bout of cruel irony” because it happened the same year his album The Next Hundred Years came out, during what seemed to be his break through.

There’s a movie, released in ’98, that put together footage of him playing shows, and the synopsis delivers the same narrative in a quicker, more sweeping pace with a more convincing voice, the opening sentence of which ends with “he was often called the world’s greatest street singer.”

He wore a black glove on his fret hand because it would bleed from how hard and how long he played. He went to Parchman Farm, a.k.a. Mississippi State Penitentary in Parchman, when he was 15 for stealing a leather jacket.

An Overdose on Fingal Cocoa– “…the unwanted son of a prostitute and alcoholic mother and an absent father.”

He has a posthumous album titled Suffer No More that came out in ’98.

Batesmeyer.com– “Playing his acoustic Martin guitar and singing with a voice of sandpaper and honey…”

His name was harkened just last week in NY Times, to provide color to a feature in its Regional section on The Rent Is Too Damn High Candidate for NY State Governor, Jimmy McMillan, in a pretty transparent attempt at being smartly-hip, or hiply-smart, or professionally hiply-smart, or visa versa, that just comes off as flippant.

So, moving on from my long introduction explaining why I’m not going to try to explain this singer to you, just provide some examples of his singing; here he is performing an old country classic, There Stands the Glass, which was originally recorded by Webb Pierce, but has covered by people like Jerry Lee Lewis, Loretta Lynn, George Strait, and Conway Twitty, none of which, including Pierce’s, sound even close to the depth of Hawkins’. Taking the others seriously after listening to Hawkins is like reading a 19th century novel and trying to imagine the dialogue being spoken in a real conversation. His voice carries the despondency and total resignation to depravity of which the lyrics are symbolic. Most songs about drinking, that are supposed to be about the pains of drinking and alcoholism, usually ended up having the opposite effect that cautionary tales are supposed to have and become sexy and appealing in how they promise to make you feel overwhelming emotion. The emotion in Hawkins’ voice is overwhelming, but he also succeeds in actually conveying a despair that we’ve all felt that is damn near impossible to get across to another person.

In the beginning, Hawkins screams the opening lyric and it sounds just like some crazy old guy trying too hard to make his point. By the glass becomes this monolith standing over you, encompassing you in its shadow. There’s that odd wallowing sort of comfort, that makes you think you probably shouldn’t make a habit of playing it, however.

In this case, actually, the original CCR recording, and the way John Fogerty sings on it, is the better version. Hawkins voice just seems as though it would be perfect for this song. And even thought it’s not a good as the original, it still hits the mark that a cover should, which I guess means, it makes people who never liked a song begin to like that song.

According to all the sources I read, Hawkins had a following in England and Europe. This clip is from a session at the BBC Radio 3 with famous DJ Andy Kershaw.

-Matt

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Monday’s Suggestion (10-18-10)

In Monday's Suggestion,Music,Rich on October 18, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , ,

Angie Mattson

Angie Mattson is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter by way of Michigan, North Carolina, the Caribbean and a million other places (read a full bio here).  Her sound is reminiscent of Fiona Apple and Florence & The Machine, but she delivers a sort of down home bluesy charm that separates her from these two exceptionally talented songwriters.

Her most recent record Skeleton Arm is a perfect soundtrack for a sultry summer afternoon spent locked in your apartment with a lover.  Angie has a voice that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention, and a knack for arranging songs in a matter that caters to both the technical minded musician and casual pop fan equally.

If you are fortunate enough to catch Angie Mattson in a live setting, you will experience a hybrid of the traditional singer/songwriter with a few small twists.  Angie and her guitar are joined onstage by Jeff Mendel, who largely carries out Angie’s hauntingly ethereal sound, and a Reel to Reel player that holds down the rhythm section as well as the auxiliary instrumentation that would be other wise impossible to pull off on the shoe-string budget of a struggling touring musician such as Miss Mattson.

Angie Mattson has lived a truly fascinating life, and her music is full of the little knick-knacks of experience she has picked up along the way.  Even if you do not fall immediately in love with Skeleton Arm, it’s worth a couple of listens before you abandon it.  I’ve played the album for several people in the past week, some experienced love at first sight while others took a little time to become smitten with it.  Even if it was at their own pace, everyone I played it for eventually fell in love with the album.

You will too.

You can buy the album here.

– Rich

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Monday’s Suggestion (08-16-10)

In Monday's Suggestion,Music,Rich on August 26, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , ,

Robbers

Enter Robbers.  One of a handful of up-and-coming bands renewing my faith and interest in the Long Island music scene.

Robbers sounds as if Glassjaw was left stranded in Michel Gondry’ssubconscious, given a map and some heavy opiates and told to sonically translate the map in order to find their way out.

They can be both assaulting and reserved, often simultaneously, and there is something hauntingly engaging to their arrangements that tells you these guys are very deliberate in regards to their creative process.

Singer Andrew Accardi either rides along with or revolts against the laid back pulse laid down by the rhythm section, while a triple guitar attack and outside-the-box use of keyboard and synth sounds attack, giving a creepy urgency to each track.

In short these guys are artists.

If you’re a fan of ambitious attempts to move outside the rock genre and equally impressive live interpretations, then Robbers won’t disappoint.

They don’t have any New York dates currently posted on their myspace (they are now doing a month long stint of the midwest and southeastern US) but I imagine they will be back on stage in the tristate area sometime in the early fall.  Make sure you keep an eye out for them!

In the meantime you can pick up their record on Amazon or itunes.