Thursday, July 30, 2009

Care of Wesleyan: Animal Collective, Jr.

"I wish I went to Wesleyan," I told a graduate of the university as we stood watching a show at Glasslands on Tuesday night. "Seems like a top one hundred band comes out of that school every year."

"Try top five hundred," he said. "But yeah."

In hindsight, maybe he's right (MGMT notwithstanding; Oracular Spectacular hit #1 on Billboard, maybe thanks to all the Hot Topic airplay). But the point remains; Wesleyan has produced or been otherwise affiliated with some notable bands in the past four years. Santigold, Suckers, Bottle Up and Go, Old Money, Das Racist, Boy Crisis, Amazing Baby, Francis and the Lights, Bear Hands -- the list goes on and on.

Now we can add one more to that roster: IN, a three-piece group that drew a small but enthusiastic crowd to Glasslands on Tuesday. Two of these guys come from Wes, but I've had a bit of trouble pinning them down -- difficulty that I blame on the fact that they have a last name ("STRONG LOOKS"), but only seem to use it on occasion. Confusing? A little. When Blink had to add a 182 to the end of their band name, they stuck with it. These young bloods might be advised to do the same.

Still, this is an interesting group, one that falls in more of the ethereal, psychedelic camp than other recent Wesleyan bands (again, MGMT notwithstanding). Sure, they wear their influences on their sleeveless tees -- I definitely heard at least one Glasslands-goer shout out the inevitable Animal Collective comparison -- but they do it in such a measured, . At times I felt like I was listening to a jam band (not an inappropriate comparison, given their MySpace URL); the intricately layered riffs and harmonies were like some sort of post-rock tribal chant. Simply put: IN was feeling their music. And even though the melodies occasionally veered into dissonance, it was impossible to tell if the jarring effect was intentional or mistaken. If a band gets the benefit of the doubt, though, that's a good sign. Plus, they put their drummer front and center, which was a great staging decision. He was by far the most entertaining member to watch, which I chalk up to his emotive, quasi-orgasmic facial expressions.

The strongest song on their MySpace right now is "BeBim Bop," but keep checking back -- they closed their Glasslands set with a new song called "Five Rings," which they've recorded and are in the process of mixing now. It's proof that the further they get from college, the better they're becoming.

Ironic? Don't ask me; I went to Oberlin.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Here We Go Magic to tour with The Walkmen, spurn New York

Brooklyn indie-sorcerers Here We Go Magic have already piggy-backed on the tours of more established acts like Grizzly Bear, and now they're pairing up with the Walkmen for a US whistlestop this fall. HWGM will open nine of the tour's fifteen shows; sadly, none of these will be in New York, although the Walkmen will be opening the tour with August shows at both the Guggenheim and Summerstage. Bah.

Maybe Luke Temple thinks he's outgrown this city. Or maybe he's shopping around for a place to record the next HWGM album; the grapevine has it the band is looking for a quiet spot to lay down their tracks. It should be away from any big roads, but within striking distance from New York, and should sleep six, since the five-person band is bringing along their sound engineer. Know of anything? I'm stumped, myself -- I just keep imagining rustic scenarios ranging from For Emma, Forever Ago to Misery. I'll be praying for them, either way. Very magnanimous of me, considering the tour-related slight.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pixies announce US tour; I get my hopes up, again

Good news for anyone who missed the Pixies reunion shows in 2004-2007; the band is coming to New York again, this time for three nights of shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom: August 23rd-25th. Tickets go on sale on the 14th -- maybe I'll have better luck with those than with the Nine Inch Nails tix that went up recently.

The tour is being billed as a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Doolittle's release in 1989. A hallowed occasion, to be sure, but not nearly as exciting as a brand-new album, which the band was apparently working on until something (perhaps their pronounced, irreconcilable differences?) put the kibosh on it. With new material apparently out of their reach, the Pixies have fallen back on their old material; first by repackaging their oeuvre in a collected-works box set called Minotaur, and now by going on tour to promote a twenty-year-old album. This is all well and good, and I'll be one of the first in line for the show -- but come on, guys. You've been fighting for years now, and it's making the wee ones (read: this writer) cry.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My, the sounds that come out of his beard

Kyp Malone, the marvelously hirsute singer/guitarist of TV on the Radio, has just released a track from his solo project, Rain Machine. It's called "Give Blood," and it's infused with the same jangly craziness that got me into TVOTR in the first place, but this time it's underlaid with some seriously amazing tribal percussion. I feel all tingly now -- maybe this calls for some hemoglobin. Also, how do I get my beard to look like this?

The full album is out on September 22nd. I haven't seen an advance copy yet, but hopefully that'll change post haste. (via Pitchfork)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Don't fear the Rubik

Take one listen to Rubik's new album Dada Bandits, and it'll come as no surprise that the band has named itself after Erno Rubik, inventor of the nefarious cube. These hirsute Finns straddle the line between electro-pop and experimental, choral indie rock; the album's first two tracks, "Goji Berries" and "Radiant," are perfect cases-in-point. Cascading, Animal Collective-esque synth lines intermingle with jazzy, Motown-influenced choruses and oddly folkish interludes that sound sort of like Thom Yorke practicing for an acoustic set. A puzzle, indeed -- but a pleasing one, unlike certain other geometric stumpers.

Having seen the most recent JellyNYC show at Williamsburg's East River State Park yesterday, I can't help but make another comparison -- to the Dirty Projectors, who share Rubik's manic, almost chaotic energy. Both bands just barely harness their effusiveness to catchy (if elusive) melodies -- but then again this isn't the type of music you'd listen to for its listener-friendliness or predictability. That said, though, there's a maddeningly subtle logic to Rubik's music -- just like (gasp! framing device!) the cube that shares its name.

A looker, sure, but deadly

What's the real difference between dollar-menu fast food and triple-digit gourmet? Not a whole lot, as the sorcerers at Fancy Fast Food show us. Here's the before:

Aaaaand the after:

You're looking at what amounts to a reconstituted value meal: alternating layers of bun paste, fry paste, and burger paste, molded in a French fry container and topped with a glazed cane-sugar crown, drizzled with a Coke-ketchup reduction, and garnished with bacon. Beautiful, perhaps, but it'll make you fatter -- and stupider. Oh well. It beats the nauseating-looking McDonald's pizza, (although it lacks the handgun flourish):

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Bonbons of mortality"

For all you morbid chocoholics out there: now you can have your fatal contusion and eat it, too. Steven J Shanabrook is an artist who splits his time between New York and Moscow, and I'm honestly not sure which city influenced him more -- given the Big Apple's seasonal uptick in murders, I'd guess here, but then again Moscow's supposed to be pretty crazy year-round.

But I'll cut to the chase, but not before warning off the faint of stomach: Shanabrook, who worked in a chocolate factory when he was younger, went around making molds of the fatal wounds and casting them in chocolate. Ever wonder what a gunshot wound tasted like? Well, me neither, but apparently it's delicious:

Eat Me Daily has a few other images that are even more stomach-turning, but I think I've seen enough to steer clear of chocolate for a while. I wonder if the weight-loss crowd has caught onto this yet? Seems like an untapped dieting method, in the negative-reinforcement vein.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

If self-promotion is timely, is it no longer shameless?

I've got a piece on Chris Garneau in this month's issue of The Brooklyn Rail, which went live today -- just in time for Chris's show tonight at Le Poisson Rouge. Heavens, what timing! I couldn't have planned it better myself.

P.S., if you think the above photo is too good to be true, then check this out: Chris has a cat named Party Time. He used to have another cat named Excellent. True story. Excellent is now dead. Also a true story. And a very, very sad one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Outside of Austin, a bonanza of beef

I never experienced a Texan summer before last Friday, and let me tell you something—I wasn’t missing much. Stepping out of the Austin airport at high noon, I suffered a quick, preemptory panic attack, like a spa patron who enters a dry sauna only to realize that the door has been kicked in behind him and wedged shut with a tire iron. Oh boy, I thought—it’s going to be a long weekend. Luckily, my friend Liz Tigar started things off right—with a trip to a veritable castle of meat.

The gal knows my tastes. Kreuz Market (pronounced “Krites,” actually a fair approximation of the original German word) is one of the better-regarded barbecue joints in Texas; it opened in 1900 as a meat market, and has been developing its reputation as a standalone restaurant ever since. A quick glance shows this transition process is ongoing: waiting in line to enter the pit room, patrons pass by “rules” signs on which more dated restrictions (like “no credit cards” and “no vegetarians”) have been struck through. Granted, it’s a relief not to have to worry about carrying cash, but you’ve got to wonder if Kreuz shouldn’t have kept the second ban on the books. After all, at a place where even the garnishes smack of meat (guiltiest side dish: the bacon-laden German potato salad), what options could a vegetarian possibly have?

As in other Texan barbecue restaurants, the centerpiece of Kreuz is its pits: a series of long brick caskets, as high as a man’s waist and clamped shut with a metal lid. Rows of ribs, sausage, and beef are laid out inside, stewing in their own juices over a blazing oak fire. It’s a beautiful sight to see, and a hot one; with the temperature outside topping a shirt-soaking 103 degrees, you can only imagine how hot it gets inside the pit room. Poor New England boy that I am, by the time the pit-master had laid out our order (a pound of pork ribs, a pound of beef shoulder, two jalapeƱo-queso sausages, and a pound of smoked country ham), I thought the time had finally come to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Thankfully, though, before I died of heatstroke, I would be granted a last meal -- in air conditioning! We schlepped the sweltering meat, swaddled in butcher paper, into the dining room, where we stocked up on sides (sliced tomatoes, potato salad, coleslaw, dill pickles, beans, and a helping of white bread) and beverages (sweet tea and Mexican Coke, the Texan name for Coca-Cola made with cane sugar), and set to work.

The best dish by far were the pork ribs: succulent and yielding, their glazed exterior mottled with hunks of cracked black pepper. But suffice to say the whole meal was amazing, and sloppy—Kreuz has a strict no-fork rule, but graciously supplies each table with a roll of paper towels for the grizzly cleanup process. By then my vision was blurred, my breathing labored, but I distinctly remember passing a massive yard of oak posts on the way out to the car. There was enough wood there to keep Kreuz’s pits burning for months, it seemed. My god, I thought as I struggled to maintain consciousness, that spread was just a drop in the bucket.

Next time I’m in the Lone Star State, I’m going to try to commune with the meat while it still has a pulse. I may not be as horrified as expect to be; the region around Austin is ranching country, so there’s no shortage of fine, grass-fed steers. Somehow, though, with that volume of meat crossing the chopping block every day, I’m sure Kreuz patrons ingest their fair share of CAFO output. But that’s another trip. And after the weather hit 108 on Sunday, I'll be sure to plan my next visit for the winter.