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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008
Words and Pictures by John Bohannon

Hip-Hop Renaissance: A Cultural Rebirth @ NYU Kimmel Center (Ft. Q- Tip, Jon Carmanica, Amanda Diva, Chuck Inglish, Nekessa Moody, Mikey Rocks, & Asher Roth


Although the panels weren’t at the top of my priority list this week, a chance to see Q-Tip and the Cool Kids speak together about the cultural rebirth of hip-hop is a no-brainer. The most interesting aspect they tackled was the impact of the internet within hip-hop, and how it can create illusions of grandeur—i.e. with the Cool Kids. They spoke about how, despite all their MySpace hits and the hyped reviews of their record, going out into the real world and playing was the actual test for them. Q-Tip spoke a lot about wishing hip-hop would get back to the music and stop being so much about the big business and the empire it has created. All in all, a worthy first stop in the CMJ Marathon.



Tagged as: cmj
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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

The Swedish siren Lykke Li arrived at CMJ on a wave of anticipation and praise. Her debut album, Youth Novels, was produced by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John, warranting some attention. So her headlining showcase—emphasis on headlining—was greeted by throngs of teenage girls eager to sing along with their musical muse.  (Fittingly she dedicated her last song “Breaking It Up” to all the girls, and gay men, who had dumped bad boyfriends.)


Though Li’s album—aside from her voice—is full of wistful but stripped-down melodies and rhythms, live she was as rhythmic as a Stomp understudy, marching around the stage in ankle boots and trashing an adjacent cymbal during “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Let it Fall”. (She had a drum stick in her hand for the first half of the set.)  The music was also noticeably rhythm oriented, with a resounding live drummer. Still, her three band members propped up Li’s innocuous vocals so that they could shine in their doll-like idiosyncrasies. Onstage, however, Li is dominating, showing sass and control, even whipping out a bullhorn at one point into which she sweetly sung for a rotary-speaker type effect.


If anyone questioned whether her album had enough depth or not, this live performance quickly silenced them by showing off her fragility, playfulness, and might all at once.  Moreover she ended the night with “Can I Kick It?”, a surprising cover for a Swedish pop starlet, winning over the home crowd.



Tagged as: cmj, lykke li
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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

What can I say, except that Friendly Fires took the Bowery Ballroom by complete surprise and ran away with the show. Completely maximizing their allotted time, the group was in it to win it from the downbeat of “Photobooth” to the last echo of their dust-buster-fueled feedback (you can’t make this stuff up!). And the crowd was both awed and thrilled to see such maniacal dancing by lead singer Ed Macfarlane after a comparatively listless performance by Miles Benjamin. Relentless in their energy and hip shaking, they charged through catchy tune after catchy tune from their eponymous debut album.


Most electrifying was “On Board”, which seemed to charge the lead singer both sexually and emotionally, leading him to jump and thrust uncontrollably yet perfectly in time with his drummer—not to mention the percussionist with whom he always made time for a cowbell breakdown. Macfarlane was also intent on getting the audience on board with Friendly Fires and their infectiously concocted sound that mixed Prince, LCD Soundsystem, and Beck’s Midnite Vultures aesthetic and tropical beats, airdropped onto the dance floor and was readily devoured. 



Tagged as: cmj, friendly fires
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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

It’s the “sound that you hear in the moment…” sang Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson on the opening number of his seemingly impromptu set. But it wasn’t improvised, just hastily thrown together amid spilled beers and cocktails. Announcing that he and his band, the Family Robinson, were going to play “some stuff you’ve probably never heard before,” there was an air of uncertainty throughout their brief set. One could feel the audience grimace as Robinson treated the performance as a time slot, as opposed to opening band, and they didn’t necessarily warm up to his jester-like stage presence. 


Overall Robinson abandoned the grizzled folk sound of his eponymous debut, opting for grunge, guitars, and feedback to accompany his aged vocals. Despite some shoddy sound mixing, his earnest, weathered, jaded vocal style alleviated any angst in his grungy new tone. Mostly a pounding bass drum persisted in each of his songs, suggesting more new wave than folk. But Robinson and his band did sound good when everything chilled out and he could play around with inebriated or just phantom guitar lines, where only his left hand made shadows of actual plucked notes. That, and also when he sang rusty vocals with a damning conviction over a simple chord.



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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

As Jamie Lidell’s musical style comes full circle, one thing remains clear: It’s all about the beat. In his beginnings he was a techno master, mixing vocable-fueled beats into dub-like rhythms and melodies. Though he chose Prince as a middle-school idol—an un-cool decision that countered Morissey’s then popularity—it was only until high-school, when he bought a sampler and became the controller of his own musical destinies. Buying it, he says, was one of the best decisions he ever made.


Fast-forward to 2005 when the then-Berlin resident evolved his beatbox-techno style into a one-man soul show, with friends Gonzales and producer Mocky helping fill in the instrumental and inspirational gaps. The resulting Multiply became an underground sensation, tapping into the demand for retrograde soul melodies with an electronic twist.


It’s Lidell’s latest release, Jim, that he was – still—touring in support of that found him back in New York City. The album, in its recorded form, is the manifestation of Lidell’s throwback maturation: Handclaps, hooks, harmonies, and beats that make one long for roller-skates and disco-balls. With producer Mocky—who shares production and writing credits—Lidell was able to shed his electronic identity, forging a new one in the Jamiroquoi-esque blue-eyed soul direction.


After a lengthy PA prelude of disco-era classics, Lidell and his band took the stage and room by storm with “Where D’You Go”. Always the zealous performer, Lidell was at once dancing at all edges of the stage, sharing backup vocal duties with the front row, and helping get his four-piece band even more riled up (including simultaneous double horn playing from saxophonist Andre Vida and an Elvis-clad guitarist). Adding to his bouncy character of a skinny-white Brit singing soul was his ruffled tuxedo, thick frames, and greasy hair—a fashion nod to Neil Hamburger perhaps.


On “Figured Me Out” the band had a beatboxing face-off so intense that they jumped into the crowd leaving the victor, Lidell, to expound the beats in his head—which he would resuscitate later in a solo DJ portion of the set. But first he crooned out “Rope of Sand”, showing surprising flexibility and agility in his soothing voice.


Flexing some live variability, “Another Day” slipped into whisper quiet verses only to vigorously revive itself each chorus. Encore “Multiply” threw another wrench into his traditionally minded laid back sound, shooting the song into a heated double-time.


Though Lidell proved himself musically precarious, he was always entertaining, provoking the audience into going along with him. His solo beatboxing-sampling exhibitions meandered, resulting in a mashed up metal-noise disco sound. But because he was equally content at his console or cowbell, his unbridled funk-energy rivaled that of King Khan and paid tribute to his schoolboy hero Prince.



Tagged as: jamie lidell
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