The Bell House, Brooklyn
The White Stripes and Black Keys trend of a guitar plus drums duo extends to Common Loon. Using The Cure and Nirvana as sonic examples, the two members of Common Loon write simple “alt rock” tunes. No wailing guitar solos, no foot-stomping drums, no standout vocals, just distorted chords, muffled vocals and straight-ahead drum beats. Not that these guys aren’t talented or pleasurable to listen to, but they don’t bring anything particularly new or exciting to the table—and watching them bring it is kind of boring.
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The Living Room, New York City
I’m an enthusiastic fan of Nickel Creek mandolin geek Chris Thile’s latest band, so being utterly transfixed by the shivering dynamics of the third movement from “The Blind Leaving The Blind” is a familiar feeling for me at this point. Equally impressive here were the new tunes: one billed as “both a celebration and an indictment of rye whiskey” and “Good Luck,” billed as “a Valentine’s Day/recession song (it’s a genre growing in popularity).” Bassist Paul Kowert’s occasional dashes into the foreground were a new twist—rumbling crescendo here, scalar run there, each time an unexpected highlight in the context of five sharply-dressed young shred hounds playing with such uncanny restraint. As one should expect with any venue in downtown Manhattan, the most enthusiastic cheers came with the Radiohead cover that gave them their big YouTube hit (“Packt Like Sardines In A Trendy L.E.S. Rock Club,” I think it’s called), but that’s just the familiarity factor, as it was no more or less fantastic than anything else they’d been doing all along. Which is to say, it was all fantastic. Thile’s roughshod percussive attempts to channel the glitchy side of the Brothers Greenwood—organically using his entirely unsuitable instrument—even prompted banjo player Noam Pikelny to comment: “Folks, you heard on that last song the sound of a warranty being voided on a mandolin.”
Partisan Records Showcase
Bowery Ballroom, New York City
The subtle, wiry tunes of David Strackany (aka Paleo) launched the Partisan Records showcase at the Bowery Ballroom last night. Reminiscent of the late Eliott Smith, Paleo’s warbly, delicate vocals stood out against his charmingly modest demeanor, also reminiscent of M. Ward or a less jarring Conor Oberst. Privileged onlookers parked themselves on the floor and were treated to an array of poetic acoustic sounds with torchy hints aplenty.
Piano’s, New York City
The Windish Agency showcase was eclectic in sound and personality, but it didn’t begin with Male Bonding. The UK trio’s rhythm section was tight and its drummer rigorous, propelling their songs at Slayer-speed. Vocals and intonation were at odds, but that seemed to be their MO. Sadly their dejected attitude made it seem like they were just trying to finish the set at soon as possible. Above it all, loud guitars and racing beats—not entangled pitch, however—made for a respectable opening.
Emmanuel & the Fear
The Living Room, New York City
It takes a lot of ambition to write rock songs that could serve as the score for a dramatic opera, but Brooklyn’s Emmanuel & the Fear do not shy away from it, nor do they fail to live up to the task. Intricate arrangements for an 11-piece rock orchestra are the driving force behind this band, which provide the groundwork for passionately sung lyrics. After only a year and a half together, it’s quite a feat to be at such a level of talent, and this accidental audience member is glad the Living Room’s schedule ran 45 minutes late so he could catch the show.